Turkish forests seek to restore Ottoman glory
President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has taken his veneration of Turkey's heritage a step further by ordering forests to plant plane trees in honour of the Ottoman Empire.
Forestry Minister Veysel Eroglu told Hurriyet newspaper that "the plane tree was the symbol of the Ottomans, and we are launching a planting campaign on the orders of our president in the town of Sogut, where the Ottoman state was founded." He says President Erdogan will plant the first sapling there next year, with another 100,000 to follow in Istanbul - which as Constantinople was the last Ottoman capital.
Mr Eroglu emphasized the historical significance of the plane tree by recounting the story of how Sultan Osman, the founder of the Ottoman state in 1299, saw one rise to the sky in a dream. But the minister also sought to justify the decision with ecological considerations, highlighting the shade the trees would provide in parks, hospitals, and schools. He said the government would provide local councils with saplings free of charge, and on demand.
Hurriyet says this is not only a matter of Islamist President Erdogan's effort to rehabilitate the Ottoman era, which ended in 1923 when nationalist leader Kemal Ataturk abolished the monarchy in favour of a secular republic. Since the public outcry over plans to redevelop Istanbul's Gezi park area in May 2013, which came close to toppling the government, the authorities are keen to say that three trees will be planted for every one cut down in what is still Turkey largest city.
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