MUSTAFA AKYOL > Three ways to get your New Turkey

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The other day, I was chatting with a friend of mine on the fate of our country, Turkey. With regards to the political transformation that we have gone through in the past ten years, he suggested that people tend to see it in very black and white terms. I agreed, but added that some also see the nuances of grey, which gives us at least three different views of the “New Turkey” that has been built up in this AKP (Justice and Development Party) decade.

The first of these views is that of the Kemalists, or the dedicated followers of Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, the founder of the republic. Theirs is simply a very black view of what Turkey has become. All the wonderful principles and policies Atatürk established, they believe, are being unraveled one by one.

Secularism is being defanged, as “tightheads” — a derogatory term used to insult veiled women — can freely enter universities. “Atatürk’s nationalism,” a constitutional principle, is being eroded, as the AKP government speaks freely about the non-Turkish identities in Turkey, such as the Kurds. “Statism” is almost totally destroyed, as many state enterprises are being sold to private companies and market forces dominate the economy. 

The all-wonderful “Old Turkey” is being replaced by a terrible one, this view holds, and there is little room for hope, as the guardian of the old establishment, the military, is now tamed and subdued by the democratically-elected government. 

The second view is the one that is shared by most conservatives, most of whom support the AKP. For them, New Turkey is simply a bright new country, something like post-Apartheid South Africa. All the parts of the society that have been suppressed by the Kemalist elite — especially the conservatives themselves — are being freed from their chains and getting their share. Issues that have been taboos for a long time, from the Kemalist persecution of Islamists and Kurds to the tragic fate of the Ottoman Armenians, is being freely discussed for the first time. Turkey is also having an economic boost, and a much more significant role in world affairs.

New Turkey, in this new, is again in a full contrast with the old one: but it is pure white, whereas the golden age of the Kemalists is pure black.

The third view is the one shared most commonly by the liberals, and it sees not just change but also continuity between the old and the new versions of Turkey. Despite all their differences, this view holds that the Kemalists and the conservatives have a lot in common, especially when it comes to political culture. Both camps, for example, have little understating of freedom of speech, and can easily ban ideas that they find disrespectful to their respective values or “harmful to the nation.”

Even the liberals have their shades and grades, though. Some of them believe that nothing has changed for the better, and that Kemalist authoritarianism has simply been replaced by conservative authoritarianism. Others are more optimistic. While they see disappointing commonalities in the old and new versions of Turkey, they think that considerable progress has still been made, and the country is ultimately learning something real on this bumpy road of democracy.

I guess I would place my humble self on this more optimistic side of the liberal view, and therefore feel hopeful about Turkey’s future. Time, of course, will show us which of these views is right, which is wrong, and which one is perhaps just naïve.


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Notice on comments

US Observer

9/5/2012 2:40:12 PM

@ Naddie, seems my post was too negative to post as well. Appropriate for the AKP propaganist to censor....

ilker avni

9/5/2012 2:23:52 AM

@ Mara General macarthur Loved Ataturk they were great frends..UNESCO award 1981.Recalling that he was the remarkable promoter of the sense of understanding between peoples and durable peace between the nations of the world and that he worked all his life for the development of harmony and cooperation between peoples without distinction of color,religion and race"Ataturk whose objectives was to promote world peace,international understanding and respect for human rights".

Nadide Gunduz

9/4/2012 11:07:42 PM

My comments are too hostile to print it seems. My previous comments hinted that Mr. Akyol is less than tepid in his attitude towards Kemalists and they refused to publish it in this blog. Perhaps an enlightened expatriate Turkish woman living in America is too much to handle? Maybe I should cover my head for them to print my comments!

mara mcglothin

9/4/2012 4:25:06 PM

DAVID CUTTRELL You are spot on!!! Let the people directly elect their representatives and let those reps be beholding to the actually people they represent, then when they decide to boycott a parlimentary session? they can be thrown out of office. Direct elections is much better than now. ILKER I do wish MKA had had more time to impliment his dreams for Turkey!!!

ilker avni

9/3/2012 10:02:04 PM

@ Philpot Ataturk said " i Ihave NO Religion,and at times i wish all Religion at the bottom of the sea.He is a weak ruler who needs Religion to uphold his goverment.My people are goint to learn the principals of Democracy,The dictates of Truth and the teachings of Science".


9/3/2012 9:38:17 AM

ilker - sorry I couldn't help have a dig at the spelling mistake. However I wish my Turkish was as good as your English and I know the history and have deep respect for Ataturk.

Tekion Particle

9/2/2012 9:51:22 PM

Mustafa akyol for all his intent and purposes is a mole of AKP, while he makes it sound like a political analyst who have an unbiased approach he is perpetually and inconspicuously demonizing Kemalism and its followers. Aim is to gradually eradicate and eliminate the influence of Ataturk from Turkish society. I have a news for you Mr Akyol, nothing you and your party can say or do will remove the great man from our hearts and minds. Mustafa Kemal Ataturk is for ever!....

sam stevens

9/2/2012 8:24:22 PM

I'm having such a laugh here with Turkey's ,pheasants peasants & phartriges ........ maybe they meant..... fartridges !!!!

David Cuthell

9/2/2012 6:22:19 PM

I think you are going up a blind alley here. Secularists vs Islamists, whatever that means is largely the blind man's elephant, you get different views based on where you are. Turkey has progressed mightily during the past decade. Where it has not is in the political system, where the guys, repeat guys, still call all the shots. Have pols stand locally and not come from lists.

ilker avni

9/2/2012 6:03:28 PM

@ Murun hahaha lol Please forgive my spellings and thanks for putting a smile on my face. @Philpot Yes Ataturk did say Turkeys true master is the "peasants".Ataturk was a very cleaver man,and a fair man.Loved children, and his people and the people loved him.He was not regarded a dictator by his people.
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