Don’t Romanticise the Kemalist Legacy!

Hits: 976

The political situation in Turkey is clearly dramatic, but it is also equally complicated. Turkish President Erdogan has succeeded in securing levels of power unique in the nation′s history. But is this situation really unique? No – for 15 years, the father of the nation Ataturk ruled alone over the early Republic, which was a one-party nation at the time. Only his untimely death in 1938 deprived him of that power.

Up to that point, Ataturk alone ruled over every conceivable dimension of domestic and foreign policy. Even clothing and music were tailored to his ideas. The aim was the creation of a totally homogenous society: “One people, one language, one flag, one state” – Ataturk′s policies were also moulded by his slogan. Today, this is one of Erdogan′s favourite quotations. The streamlining of one′s own ranks is also not Erdogan′s idea – in Ataturk′s day, even his closest allies could expect to be sacked or even punished should they have opposed their leader.

Ataturk′s political bequest

It is not only Ataturk′s authoritarian legacy – inclusive of a leader cult surrounding his person akin to the religious veneration of saints – that is indivisible from current developments in Turkey, but also his political bequest. This manifests itself in a superficially strict division of state and religion, which at the same time elevates Sunni Islam to the national religion and main pillar of the national character.

For example, during the Ataturk era, Alevism was not even mentioned by name. The widely popular images from the 1930s of women wearing chic mini-skirts should not give rise to the impression that true secularism existed in Turkey – let alone democracy or freedom of speech in any form.

Haunted by the past: it is not only Ataturk′s authoritarian legacy – inclusive of a leader cult surrounding his person akin to the religious veneration of saints – that is indivisible from current developments in Turkey, but also his political bequest. This manifests itself in a superficially strict division of state and religion, which at the same time elevates Sunni Islam to the national religion and main pillar of the national character

Hostility towards Kurds and Christians are also among the core elements of Kemalism. All these aspects – leader cult, the merging of Sunni Islam and Turkishness, xenophobia, respect for authority – are elements beneficial to Erdogan′s power expansion plans.

Although Europe should be aware of all this for the most part, an increasing number of commentaries, articles and reports are appearing in German and western media in general, in which the pre-Erdogan Turkey is romanticised as a democratic state – for example in a recent article published in the Frankfurter Rundschau, which extensively quotes two former Turkish NATO generals.

The issue of torture comes up several times, a threat faced by purported rebels in Turkey at the present time – with no mention of the crimes of the Turkish military and a tally of victims that far exceeds figures so far clocked up during the Erdogan era. This is a blatant mockery in view of the hundreds of thousands of victims of the extremely brutal military regime, “the guardian of the secular values of the Republic” – and its torture practices.

Painting a highly romanticised picture

The documentary film “Haymatloz”, which has been given a consistently positive reception in Germany, draws a highly condensed and romanticised picture. The film is about the mainly German-Jewish academics and artists who sought refuge from conditions in Germany in Ataturk′s republic and found working conditions there to be very rewarding.

But Turkey did not accept these people because it wanted to help them, but rather it wanted to become “western” at any price and relied heavily on support from European professionals. The early republic was not the knight in shining armour suggested by the film and also in the official writing of history.

The early Republic was anti-Semitic, anti-Christian and highly nationalistic. Apart from the afore-mentioned individuals and their families (no more than a few hundred people in total), Turkey did not take in any European Jews fleeing from the Nazis and the country′s Jewish citizens were themselves systematically marginalised, driven into poverty and their language and identity repressed.

Yet in the film “Haymatloz”, the descendants of those refugee academics and artists from Germany – who are naturally very grateful to Turkey – are allowed to air their views without comment as they heap praise on the policies of Ataturk.

Even the daughter of Ismet Inonu, Ataturk′s equally authoritarian successor nicknamed Milli Sef, or “National Chief”, is allowed to praise Kemalist Turkey to the heavens and rant about how bad things have become. Imagine: the wife of Bashar Assad is consulted as interview partner on the situation in Syria – and her views are aired without criticism or comment, underscored with romantic images.

Supporters of the right-wing, anti-Kurdish MHP: “many, especially from the secular-nationalistic camp, had for a long time accused the AKP of being too lax in its dealings with the Kurdish movement. The AKP has fulfilled these demands for a return to war,” writes Tayfun Guttstadt

In focusing on Erdogan, it is all too often overlooked that the entire Turkish political spectrum expressly supports the highly repressive policies against the Kurds – many, especially from the secular-nationalistic camp, had for a long time accused the AKP of  being too lax in its dealings with the Kurdish movement. The AKP has fulfilled these demands for a return to war.

Pursuing the same path

The decidedly anti-western course involving consideration of an alliance with Russia and Iran (a direction referred to “Eurasian” in Turkey), pursued by Erdogan for some time now, is taking place in co-operation with and with the goodwill of extreme nationalistic, secular forces.

If one considers policy approaches to the millions of refugees from Syria, the AKP even appears to be the only party offering something largely sensible, despite all the political point scoring.

All other parties, including left-wing movements, believe that all Syrians are jihadists and should be deported back to Syria as soon as possible, because they are simply hanging around in Turkey at the cost of the taxpayer and Assad could never ever be that bad.

For the reasons outlined here, it is my view that the narrative of an “enlightened” and generally democratic Turkey that is in the process of being destroyed by Erdogan (this also includes the “other 50%” invoked by Can Dundar), should not go unchallenged.

This is not about defending Erdogan, the AKP, Islamism or its supporters or denying their responsibility for the catastrophic conditions in Turkey. It is much more a case of having to draw a more complex picture, in which broader connections and fundamental problems become visible. This is vital for a democratic and enlightening perspective on the developments in Turkey.


About the author: Tayfun Guttstadt studied music and Islamic studies in Hamburg and after several years in Turkey, now lives as a freelance journalist and musician in Berlin. He is currently studying for a Masters in religion and culture at the Humboldt University in Berlin. His books “Capulcu” and “Gestrandet” are published by Unrast.

Source: Qantara

Translated from the German by Nina Coon.

Read our Disclaimer/Legal Statement!

Donate to Support Us

We would like to ask you to consider a small donation to help our team keep working. We accept no advertising and rely only on you, our readers, to keep us digging the truth on history, global politics and international relations.

READ MORE!
A State for the Kurds?
It was in 1916, in the midst of World War I, that Britain and France (pitted against the Germans, Austrians and Ottoman Turks) made their infamous Sykes-Picot agreement. In grand imperial style, they used this agreement to divide up the Middle East between them. It was a daring move, considering that the war was at a stalemate and the two allies did not know if they were going to win the struggle. Nonetheless, they went ahead with the agreement and in doing so made a number of decisions that continue to shape the region to this day.Besides bringing traditional European imperialism ...
READ MORE
100th Anniversary of the Pontic Genocide
May 19, 1919 has different and even opposing meanings in Turkey and Greece, just as May 15, 1948, marks both the establishment of Israel and, for Palestinians, the start of the Nakba (“catastrophe”).In Turkey, this date marks the first step that led to the establishment of the Turkish Republic, while for descendants of Ottoman Greeks and Greece it marks the end of the centuries-long Pontic Greek presence on the shores of the Black Sea. Whereas Turks celebrate May 19, Greeks mourn it.   Researcher Tamer Çilingir summarised the issue in a 2016 interview with the Turkish-Armenian daily Agos:“The Pontic Genocide is the ...
READ MORE
Syria: Should Turkey Trust the U.S. Gangsters?
Last week, the Turkish Armed Forces entered Afrin in Syria’s Aleppo. According to the Syria-based Kurdish Hawar News Agency, Turkey also intends to deploy troops near the Raju area and place its armored vehicles there. Many Syrian experts believe that Ankara cooperates with the U.S.-backed Harakat Nour al-Din al-Zenki. Earlier, Spokesman of the armed opposition group Abdulsalam Adbulrazaq reported that Harakat Nour al-Din al-Zenki had reached an agreement with the Turkish troops over the deployment of Turkish soldiers at monitoring positions in Western Aleppo. According to preliminary estimates, Turkey will provide opposition militants with all necessary weapons, and Harakat Nour al-Din al-Zenki ...
READ MORE
The 95th Anniversary of the Destruction of Greeks and Armenians in Smyrna
Tehmine Martoyan is lecturer at the University of Economy and Law (Yerevan, Armenia). She is also the president of Lazaryan Institute scientific and educational NGO.Martoyan is the author of books and articles on the Armenians in Safavid Iran, and she has participated in international conferences and meetings in Armenia and abroad. She also translated into Armenian the book by Theofanis Malkidis titled The Greek Genocide: Thrace, Asia Minor, Pontus.She has made two films dedicated to the Greek and Armenian populations in Smyrna. Her forthcoming book is titled Psychological and Political Causes of Annihilation of the Armenians and the Greeks in ...
READ MORE
President Erdogan, a Menace to the World
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has become a serious danger not only to his own nation, but to many others as well. His actions and statements in recent years should seriously worry his neighbors and the entire world. The last tyrant ignored by the international community was the genocidal butcher Adolf Hitler, who unleashed World War II, invading scores of countries and killing millions of people. Regrettably, Western leaders have tried to appease Erdogan, thereby creating a monster. Strangely, some nations in the Islamic world have treated him respect, while many Western countries consider Turkey as one of their key allies. To ...
READ MORE
Israeli Historians’ New Study Claims 30-year Genocide against Anatolian Christians
The Christian population that had made up one fifth of the Ottoman Empire’s population was wiped out in waves of violence by successive Ottoman and Turkish republican governments that left Christians a tiny minority in Anatolia, two Israeli scholars have said in a new study.The controversy over the killings of the Armenian Christian minority living in Anatolia during the last days of the Ottoman Empire is already well known – while the majority of the scholarly community and many international states recognise the killings as genocide, Turkey accepts that killings took place but rejects they constituted a genocide.Israeli historians Benny ...
READ MORE
Turkish Position at the “Southern Wing” of the NATO and Turkey’s Relations with the EU
The present-day Republic of Turkey is a legal successor state of the former Ottoman Empire (Sultanate). The Republic was founded and proclaimed by Mustafa Kemal Atatürk on October 29th, 1923 as a result of the collapse of the Ottoman Empire after the lost WWI. A republican Turkey originally was based on the following six principles: Republicanism – Republic instead of a monarchical sultanate. Nationalism - An aggressive anti-minority policy within the state especially against the Kurds. Populism – It was attended in the atmosphere of the absence of a multiparty democracy to gather as much as popular support for the ...
READ MORE
“Megali Idea” and Greek Irredentism in the Wars for a Greater Greece, 1912−1923
The origins of Megali IdeaEleftherios Venizelos and a Greater Greece (1910)Greece became the independent state (from the Ottoman Empire) in 1829−1833 with the crucial diplomatic, political, financial and military assistance by the UK and Russia. It was a very fact that the Kingdom of Greece incorporated at that time only around 25% of the Greeks who were living at the Balkans and Asia Minor (the Near East). Such situation created tensions between Greece and the Ottoman Empire as the Greeks wanted their total national unification what was possible only under the conditions of the destruction of the Ottoman Empire. Therefore, ...
READ MORE
The Kurds, Terrorism and Kurdistan
A blast caused by a suicide car bombing hit the centre of Ankara on Sunday evening (March 13th, 2016) resulting in over a hundred casualties. The Turkish authorities were very quick to announce the identity of the suicide person: A Kurdish woman in close relation with the Kurdistan Workers Party. Nevertheless, this terror act in Ankara once again opened the “Kurdish Question” which is in direct connection with the question of Kurdistan’s independence and terrorism as the political instrument in the realization of the national projects and ultimate goals. Prologue There are many the so-called “stateless nations” or better to say “stateless ...
READ MORE
The Nazi Glorification of Ataturk
Historical research into the Nazi era rarely throws up many surprises any more. German historian Stefan Ihrig, however, is an exception to this rule. By studying long-published sources, he has uncovered the fascination that Ataturk's modern Turkey held for the German far right, which has been seriously underestimated until now and which set an example for Hitler and the National Socialists. From a right-wing viewpoint, what Ataturk had achieved was an unattainable goal for Weimar-era Germany. Using force of arms, he had managed to reverse the Treaty of Sevres, which had been forced on his country by the Entente in 1920, ...
READ MORE
South-East Europe in the International Relations at the Turn of the 20th Century (I)
Preface At the beginning of the 20th century the Great European Powers,[i] divided into two totally antagonistic political-military alliances, were preparing themselves for the final settling of accounts among each other concerning the new division of political-economic spheres of influence and the redistributing the colonies around the world. Their different interests overlapped upon the territory of South-East Europe, much more look down at the other parts of the globe, for the reason of the exploitation of the regional natural wealth and to take advantage of the military-strategic importance of South-East Europe as the strategic hinterland of East Mediterranean and the most ...
READ MORE
Greece in the Mediterranean Security System
With respect to Greece’s role in the Mediterranean security system, the multilateralist formula applied to the region including the Balkans as well as is the orienting principle for the Greek foreign policy since the end of the Cold War. Since 1994, the opportunities for NATO’s and EU’s initiatives were more than apparent for Athens when Greece (wrongly) understood the Euro-Atlantic community as a fundamental security player for the extending the values of security and co-operation into this structurally unbalanced region. During the Cold War, the Greek policy-makers also found (wrongly) since 1952 that the US-led NATO offered allegedly excellent opportunities ...
READ MORE
Kosovo’s Great Martyr
The Battle and the Nation The consciousness of a distinct Serbian ethnic identity had been present among the Serbs since the times of the founder of an independent medieval Serbian state, veliki župan (Grand Duke) Stefan Nemanja (1166−1196).[1] These consciousnesses were further strengthened by both when Serbia became a kingdom in 1217 and with the establishment of an autocephalous archbishopric in 1219 as a national independent (Christian Orthodox) church.[2] However, the Battle of Kosovo (on the morning of June 28th, 1389)[3] which the Serbs de facto lost to the Ottoman Turks and the death of a Serbian ruler, Prince Lazar Hrebeljanović ...
READ MORE
Turkey: A Criminal State, a NATO State
It is now openly discussed even in mainstream media the fact that Turkey has been intimately involved in fomenting and supporting the war on Syria, with its ultimate goal of the overthrow of the Syrian government and its replacement by a compliant proxy aligned with Turkish President Erdogan and the Muslim Brotherhood. That this is no longer a ‘conspiracy theory’ but a conspiracy fact not only vindicates my analysis over the last four years, but it also brings to the fore the nefarious role of a NATO member in stoking a brutal and bloody war for its own ends. Beyond just ...
READ MORE
Turkey’s Political Agenda in the Balkans: Erdogan’s Islamic Influence in Bosnia
As Turkey’s President Erdogan runs out of money, he is now, more than any time before, using religion to exploit the Balkans, especially the states that are more susceptible to Islamic influence. Bosnia is at the fore of Erdogan’s ambitious Islamic agenda, where he is sparing no political capital or financial resources, even under his current economic hardship, to assert his influence and distance the country away from the EU’s reach. Obviously, the Bosnians cannot survive simply on being devout Muslims, with the youth unemployment rate at almost 60 percent. Turkey is unlikely to economically recover anytime soon, and Erdogan’s ...
READ MORE
Greeks in Turkey on the Verge of Extinction
The current Greek population in Turkey is estimated at fewer than 2,000.  But this population decline was not due to natural causes; the Greek community has become nearly extinct due to many state-sponsored attacks and pressure. The largest attacks took place during the last years of the Ottoman Empire with pogroms and discrimination continuing until the present day. In 2007, the International Association of Genocide Scholars (IAGS) announced that “the Ottoman campaign against Christian minorities of the Empire between 1914 and 1923 constituted a genocide against Armenians, Assyrians, and Pontian and Anatolian Greeks.” The destruction of Greek heritage and institutions, including schools, continued ...
READ MORE
A Geopolitical Importance of the Mediterranean Sea Area in Global Security During and After the Cold War (1949-1989)
Preface The current war conflict in Syria and constant warfare between the Israeli state and the Palestinians which recently erupted once again in Gaza strip brought the region of the Middle East to the world attention once again. However, the Middle East is a natural-geographic continuation of the Mediterranean Sea basin and, therefore, it is a part of the broader Mediterranean geopolitical game. Nevertheless, the geopolitical and geostrategic importance of the Mediterranean Sea basin is probably of the highest level from the global perspective. An importance of the Mediterranean Sea area in geopolitical and geostrategic standpoint one can understand from the very ...
READ MORE
Khashoggi vs. 50,000 Slaughtered Yemeni Children: Europe has no Morals, no Ethics no Nothing
The European Parliament has asked yesterday (25 October) for an immediate embargo on the sale of weapons to Saudi Arabia, hence sanctioning the Kingdom of rogue Saudi Arabia which is joining the United States and Israel as the main purveyor of crime throughout the Middle East and the world. France still said they will apply sanctions only if it is proven that Riyadh was indeed involved in the killing of the controversial Saudi journalist. Madame Merkel at least days ago said that Germany would no longer supply the Saudis with arms – as a result of the heinous crime committed ...
READ MORE
Mustafa Kemal Atatürk (1881-1938): The Perpetrator of the Greek Genocide
Mustafa Kemal ‘Atatürk’ was the consummator of the Greek Genocide. He was born in 1881 at Salonica in Greece (then part of the Ottoman Empire).  He attended the Ottoman Military School in Constantinople and graduated in 1905. Around 1908 he joined the Committee for Union and Progress (CUP). Kemal was an officer of the Turkish Army and founded the Turkish Nationalist Movement (the Kemalists) by regrouping the Ottoman Army, Turkish irregulars and the remnants of the CUP. He continued the genocidal policy engineered by the Committee for Union and Progress.Ottoman Greeks were persecuted throughout Asia Minor and Eastern Thrace under ...
READ MORE
An Interview with Dr. Jacobs on Genocide in the Ottoman Empire
Dr. Steven Leonard Jacobs holds the Aaron Aronov Endowed Chair of Judaic Studies and is Associate Professor of Religious Studies at the University of Alabama-Tuscaloosa. An ordained rabbi, Professor Jacobs is a specialist on the Holocaust and Genocide, Biblical Studies, Jewish-Jewish Christian Relations, and is one of the foremost authorities on Raphael Lemkin (1900-1959), who coined the term “genocide” and devoted his life to the enactment of an international law on the punishment and prevention of genocide.Among his numerous publications, Prof. Jacobs is the author of the chapter entitled, “Lemkin on Three Genocides: Comparing His Writings on the Armenian, Assyrian, ...
READ MORE
A State for the Kurds?
100th Anniversary of the Pontic Genocide
Syria: Should Turkey Trust the U.S. Gangsters?
The 95th Anniversary of the Destruction of Greeks and Armenians in Smyrna
President Erdogan, a Menace to the World
Israeli Historians’ New Study Claims 30-year Genocide against Anatolian Christians
Turkish Position at the “Southern Wing” of the NATO and Turkey’s Relations with the EU
“Megali Idea” and Greek Irredentism in the Wars for a Greater Greece, 1912−1923
The Kurds, Terrorism and Kurdistan
The Nazi Glorification of Ataturk
South-East Europe in the International Relations at the Turn of the 20th Century (I)
Greece in the Mediterranean Security System
Kosovo’s Great Martyr
Turkey: A Criminal State, a NATO State
Turkey’s Political Agenda in the Balkans: Erdogan’s Islamic Influence in Bosnia
Greeks in Turkey on the Verge of Extinction
A Geopolitical Importance of the Mediterranean Sea Area in Global Security During and After the Cold War (1949-1989)
Khashoggi vs. 50,000 Slaughtered Yemeni Children: Europe has no Morals, no Ethics no Nothing
Mustafa Kemal Atatürk (1881-1938): The Perpetrator of the Greek Genocide
An Interview with Dr. Jacobs on Genocide in the Ottoman Empire
Policraticus

Written by Policraticus

SHORT LEGAL DISCLAIMER: The website’s owner & editor-in-chief has no official position on any issue published at this website. The views of the authors presented at this website do not necessarily coincide with the opinion of the owner & editor-in-chief of the website. The contents of all material (articles, books, photos, videos…) are of sole responsibility of the authors. The owner & editor-in-chief of this website is not morally, scientifically or legally responsible for any inaccurate or incorrect statement in the contents of all material found on this website. The owner & editor-in-chief of this website is not responsible for the content of external internet sites. No advertising, government or corporate funding for the functioning of this website. The owner & editor-in-chief and authors are not morally, scientifically or legally responsible for any inaccurate or incorrect statement in the text and material found on the website www.global-politics.eu

Website: http://www.global-politics.eu