Ankara’s political fault line
Yusuf KanlıTurkey was commemorating yesterday its founder Mustafa Kemal Atatürk on the 73rd anniversary of his passing away.
The foremost “Kemalist” Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan was speaking at a special ceremony at the Atatürk History Institute, picking quotes from the founding father of the republic that best suit his political agenda. At the same meeting President Abdullah Gül was drawing an almost totally different image of Atatürk; a leader who devoted his life to the independence of the country and creation on the ashes of the Ottoman Empire a republic based on the principle of “There is no supreme power than the will of the nation.”
On one of the nation’s leading news channels, an eminent writer who authored a book describing Atatürk as a personality quickly adapting to changing conditions and the needs of the country. He was explaining that Atatürk might be considered as an Islamist if his speeches at a certain period were to be taken into consideration, or a socialist or even a communist politician should his speeches at a later war of independence period were taken as a basis.
As painful as it might be to accept, it is a fact that there are many Atatürk perceptions in this country. To what extend these perceptions correspond the real Atatürk? Who cares, everyone at every period developed his/her own Atatürk perception and this tradition is continuing on.
Foreigners and the new generations might be puzzled to read it but the hardcore Kemalist Republican People’s Party (CHP) government headed by Atatürk’s comrade in arms, second president İsmet İnönü spared no time in replacing Ataturk’s portraits on the Turkish lira with that of İnönü. Similarly, it was interesting that it was the Democrat Party (DP) that ruled the country for more than 10 years, which not only brought back the portrait of Atatürk on the Turkish lira banknotes, but also legislated a special law for the protection of Atatürk and laid the foundation stones of a Kemalist cult, which was cultivated well by the consecutive military coup administrations.
The country’s “most Kemalist” for some time was considered to be the military, but in the land of secular and democratic republic founded by Atatürk, it was the Turkish military that promoted Islamists most – with the encouragement of the U.S. government applying Zbigniev Brezinsky’s “Green Belt doctrine” – assuming that by doing so the expansion of socialism could be best prevented. Present day Afghanistan, Pakistan and Iran, as well as the advance of political Islam in Turkey, indeed were the direct products of that “wise” strategy to contain socialism.
With people reading Kemalism with a patriotic, leftist or at least social democratic lenses mostly banished to the Silivri concentration camp and those reading it with an Islamist glasses occupying all top seats of the state becoming more and more conservative and autocratic, 73 years after his death Atatürk apparently remains to be a valid PR tool. While all the ceremonies planned to mark the anniversary of the establishment of the republic were cancelled last Oct. 29 on grounds of surge in terrorism and the Van quake, despite a new killer quake Nov. 9-10 night, the neo-Kemalists of the country commemorated Atatürk on his death anniversary.
Perhaps it is high time to remove Atatürk as a political fault line of the country.