The History of Turkey
Updated: Oct 14, 2019
In order to fully comprehend the complexities of modern-day Turkey, some historical context is needed. After the dissolution of the Ottoman empire post World War 1, the Treaty of Sevres and the partitioning of the empire almost wiped (what is now called) Turkey off the map. However, after triumphing in the “War of Liberation” - which saw Turkish troops fight off proxy Allied powers - Mustafa Kemal, Turkey’s most successful military leader and the face of the Turkish National Movement, announced the creation of the Turkish Republic in 1923. He became its president shortly thereafter. Kemal’s government undertook a series of reforms which “modernized” the country, including the unification of education, adopting a new Turkish alphabet, granting full political rights to women and banning Islamic influence within politics and governance. Mustafa Kemal, often nicknamed “Atatürk” (Father of Turks), died in 1938, leaving İsmet İnönü in charge. The single party system was abandoned in 1945 in favor of a multi party democracy.
Turkey remained neutral in World War 2, but formed an alliance with the USA and joined NATO in 1952, becoming an important ally for the US in the region due to its geographic location. In the following years, Turkey experienced three separate military coups - one in 1960, another in 1971, and a third in 1980. A new political force arose in the new millennium: Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s Justice & Development Party (AKP), which sought to improve economic conditions and cease military interventions. Political instability has plagued Turkey for quite some time, and a major component of this instability stems from Turkey’s Kurdish population.
The Kurds are Turkey’s largest ethnic minority, composing 15-20% of Turkey’s general population. Starting in 1984, the Turkish military began fighting with the PKK (Kurdistan People’s Party), but Kurds have been periodically subjected to massacres and disenfranchisement throughout the region’s history.
This article was written by Marwan Abdelhamid.
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Special thanks to Professor Juergensmeyer for the insight.
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