There has been “water wars” in Turkey recently. But this war is not the kind that we see in science fiction movies which are due to the global warming.
A company affiliated to Istanbul Metropolitan Municipality ‘Hamidiye Water’, while it had been used in many governmental institutions, banks and associations for many years, the contracts with the company began to be canceled one by one.
Although the institutions explain it with different reasons, the real reason is obvious. With the re-election held in June 2019, the ruling AK Party lost the metropolitan city to the main opposition Republican People’s Party CHP. Moreover, the elected mayor Ekrem İmamoğlu is considered as the most powerful candidate for the next presidential election by the opposition. Therefore, it is intended to reduce one of the sources of income of the municipality ruled by the mayor that is considered as the most powerful competitor for President Erdoğan, and put him in a difficult position.
So far it can be seen as the economic reflection of political competition, but it is not that simple.
Hamidiye Water takes its place in history as it was founded by the Ottoman Sultan Abdulhamid II with his own prayers in order to meet the water needs of the city, as a spring water in 1902.
Sultan Abdulhamid has a significant role for the ruling party than other sultans. He is known in the official history for his rule of tyranny and the importance role he attributed to informants; it is widely argued that he was a ruler who suffered injustice, who made great contributions to the Ottoman Empire and who had been subjected to international conspiracies because he loved his country. Even a TV series about him was made on state broadcaster TRT and is still on the air. Erdoğan even occasionally calls for the audiences to watch this series. Hamidiye Water, which is currently being boycotted by state institutions, the event that it was founded by Sultan Abdulhamid, and inviting his people to protect their water, was even portrayed in an episode. The reflection of ‘Abdülhamid propaganda’ in daily life can be seen as the Sultan’s posters and the signatures on the walls and vehicles of the ruling Justice & Development Party AKP’s centers, some official institutions and even the shops of tradesmen supporting the government.
The fact that Erdoğan and Abdulhamid posters stand side by side is the biggest symbolic indicator of the significance given to the Ottoman figure by the government.
Another historical significance of Abdulhamid is his struggle against the parliamentary monarchy regime with the Young Turks movement established by the Ottoman intellectuals and the Union & Progress Party. The transition period of the Ottoman Empire from monarchy to constitutionalism with the introduction of constitution and parliament was during the reign of Sultan Abdulhamid, who had been in power for 33 years. Another remarkable fact is that Mustafa Kemal, whom the Erdogan regime wants to erase, is coming from the Young Turks movement, the Sultan’s greatest rival.
Hamidiye Water, which was founded by Sultan Abdulhamid and named after him, which had a great symbolic significance for the government and Erdoğan, is boycotted by the state and its supporters when the metropolitan municipal administration is in the hands of the opposition. Previously opposition and critical voices are now campaigning on social media to endorse Hamidiye Water. The political Islamic government, which opposes the 200-year-old Ottoman westernization, opens up its most important ideological symbol to discussion, in such a water war with the opposition representing the western, secular sector.
Moreover, the official and semi-official institutions of the Erdoğan government, who say that they will overcome the economic crisis by using domestic and national products and constantly accuse the opposition of not being ‘authentic & national’, prefer the water of the companies sold to foreigners instead of the municipality’s subsidiary company.
Turkey’s political agenda witnesses another example of dark humor.
Translated by Atakan Hüyük