Since 2017, the Justice and Development Party (AKP) government that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan belongs to, has spent $46 million on infrastructure for a national park in memory of the Battle of Manzikert that took place in 1071.
This battle paved the way for the Seljuk Turks to enter Greek controlled Asia Minor and was the key to Turkish rule in Anatolia for centuries to come. It was crucial for the Turks and helped spread Turkish influence throughout the region, in which centuries later the Ottomans rose up out of.
Emperor Romanos Diogenes IV was betrayed by Andronikos Doukas, who commanded the reserves and marched away from the battle with 30,000 men instead of covering the emperor. The political duel for control in Constantinople gave the Turks the right to invade Asia Minor.
Erdoğan visited the park in 2017 and held an event to celebrate the Seljuk victory.
Facilities were built after $23 million tender won that constructed checkpoints and entrances, parade grounds, meeting places, landscaping and a helicopter pad. In addition, $13 million was spent in 2019 on the park itself. A third tender, held in February this year for less than $10 million involved a mosque, a building, a fountain, a bridge and a cafe in the park.
As this extravagance is being spent, 13.9% of Turks in 2017 lived in poverty with 41.3% at risk of poverty or social exclusion. These were the statistics before the 2018 currency crisis and the 2020 economic crisis, partly fuelled by Turkey’s failed wars in Syria and Libya, so the true number today is likely to be much higher.
As of 2020, 9.3% of Turkey’s population lived on less than $5.50 day, yet, it is among these socially disadvantaged people that Erdoğan finds significant popularity.
Even as 2.5% of Turks lived in starvation in 2016, meaning about 2 million people and something that has surely since the 2018 and 2020 crisis, Turkey still has money to embark on these extravagant projects.
With coronavirus gripping Turkey, with over 150,000 cases from government data, and those disputing the official numbers and saying they’re much higher being arrested and prosecuted, it has devastated the economy. Despite this, Turkey has not yet slowed down its invasion attempt of Syria, its support of jihadists around the world including Libya, nor end the daily violations of Greek airspace or its occupation of northern Cyprus.