Erbay Bardakcioglu, a professor at Adnan Menderes University (AMU) in Aydin Province in western Turkey, was suspended after posting a tweet, in which he criticized the conquest of Constantinople, present-day Istanbul, in 1453.
Professor Bardakcioglu's tweet, on May 29, read, "Today is the anniversary of the invasion of Constantinople, the capital of the Eastern Roman Empire, a magnificent civilization, by a barbaric and fanatic tribe."
After the tweet caused outrage on social media, Bardakcioglu deleted it.
The professor is now under a disciplinary investigation launched by the university's rector for his tweet. The university's rector, Cavit Bircan, on his Twitter account, also condemned the professor and declared that he was laid off from his job.
Describing Bardakcioglu's tweet as "unacceptable," Bircan wrote:
"After our terrorism-loving academics, we now have Byzantium-loving academics. Let them know that the sons of the Hira Mountain [where Muslims believe Muhammad received his first revelations from Allah] will definitely and once again defeat the sons of the Olympic Mountain."
The association of veterinary surgeons of the city of Aydin also issued a written statement that "strongly condemned" Bardakcioglu, who used to teach at the school of veterinary medicine. The association's officials said that "they cannot even call Bardakcioglu their colleague."
After losing his job and being condemned and ostracized by his community, Bardakcioglu defined his deleted tweet as "an ugly and wrong expression that was not my own view." He went on to apologize: "Before the great Turkish nation, I apologize to the people whose sentimental values I have offended, and to my university."
The professor, sadly, apologized for telling the truth.
Byzantium (330-1453 AD) was a great civilization. And the Byzantine ideas on legislation, literature, theology, philosophy, art and architecture, among others, greatly influenced Western civilization.
Constantinople also did witness barbaric and fanatic actions at the hands of the invaders after the city fell.
"They slew everyone that they met in the streets, men, women and children without discrimination," according to the historian S. Runciman in The Fall of Constantinople 1453.
"The blood ran in rivers down the steep streets from the heights of Petra towards the Golden Horn. But soon the lust for slaughter was assuaged. The soldiers realized that captives and precious objects would bring them greater profit."
"They looted whatever they considered valuable," wrote the scholar Constantine Tzanos,
"and they destroyed or burned whatever treasures could not appreciate including valuable library books, icons and mosaics.
"What was the motive of the conquest? It was the lust for power and riches by slaughtering, enslaving and taking the belongings of others.
"Why a people would celebrate today, and with such a passion, an event like the conquest of Constantinople which not only by itself was a great human catastrophe, but it was also the precursor to many such catastrophes up to the very recent past?"
Meanwhile, at a public meeting in Istanbul on May 29, 2016, to celebrate the 563rd anniversary of the fall of Constantinople, Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan once again shared with his supporters his admiration for the "conquest":
"The conquest is to climb over mountains that the West thought were impassable. The conquest is for a 21-year-old Sultan to bring the millennial Byzantium to its knees. The conquest is the peak of military genius and technology of the time. The conquest is to take root in a continent, which was thought that it would not be possible to be permanent there even if one set foot there. The conquest is to escalate the fire of a civilization, which was savagely put out in Al-Andalus [Muslim Spain], on the other side of the continental Europe, in the East again."
Apparently, the norm in Turkey is to praise the "achievements" of the Ottomans, which included massacres, rapes, plundering and sexual slavery of their victims. But publicly debating historical events recognized by most scholars in free societies is, in Turkey, a criminal offense. You can lose your job, your freedom or even your life.
Discussing these incidents in a way that contradicts the official ideology of the Turkish state is a deadly "taboo."
As Turkey has never faced its history of bloodshed, ethnic cleanings -- and has even excused these crimes -- they continue to commit them. Turkish state officials constantly claim there is nothing in Turkey's history that they should be ashamed of, so they continue persecuting and jailing journalists or professors who express differing ideas, and slaughtering non-Muslims and non-Turks.
The author Speros Vryonis Jr. described the 1955 Istanbul pogrom against Christians:
"On the evening of September 6, and in the early hours of September 7, 1955, the Turkish government carried out the most destructive pogrom that had been enacted in Europe since the infamous Kristallnacht which Hitler and the Nazis inflicted upon the Jewish communities, businesses and synagogues on the eve of World War II.
"The Turkish government had unleashed the mobs on the Greek community of Istanbul, on its churches, houses, businesses, schools, and newspapers... This resulted in the ultimate destruction of Turkey's oldest historical community, about 100,000 Greek Orthodox Christians who were the heirs of Byzantium."
In this photo from September 1955, a government-instigated mob of Muslim Turks in Istanbul is destroying stores owned by Greek Christians.
According to Professor Alfred de Zayas:
"The Istanbul pogrom can be considered a grave crime under both Turkish domestic law and international law. In the historical context of a religion driven eliminationist process accompanied by many pogroms before, during, and after World War I within the territories of the Ottoman Empire, including the destruction of the Greek communities of Pontos and Asia Minor and the atrocities against the Greeks of Smyrna in September 1922, the genocidal character of the Istanbul pogrom becomes apparent."
What is criminal is murdering and raping people, destroying their neighborhoods, pillaging their property and driving them out of their homes.
Robert Jones, an expert on Turkey, is currently based in the UK.