Turkey turns 100: how is Atatürk’s legacy faring?

Turkey celebrated the 100th anniversary of the founding of the Republic on Sunday. President Erdoğan honoured the state’s founder Atatürk with a wreath. There were military parades and firework displays, but other celebrations were cancelled against the background of the war in the Gaza Strip. Starting in 1923 Atatürk pushed through Western-style secular reforms which critics accuse Erdoğan of reversing step by step. Europe’s press takes stock.

Cumhuriyet (TR) /

Before there was only inherited cronyism

Even Atatürk’s enemies owe their careers to his reforms, Cumhuriyet points out:

“If the Republic had not existed, all the people who have made Turkish history, for better or worse, including President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, would have continued their lives as peasant children. Since they would not have been able to break away from their status as subjects, they would not have attained any of the offices and positions they hold today. In their place would sit the children of the members of the sultanate who had divided up the state among themselves, people with pasha titles passed down from father to son. ... We have turned our backs on Atatürk, both as a nation and in politics.”

Murat Ağırel
T24 (TR) /

A struggle between the mutually excluded

By excluding conservative religious circles the Republic created its own enemies in the long run, T24 laments:

“The Republic opened up a new horizon, especially for children, young people and women. ... With many advantages for those times and many shortcomings for today’s standards. The biggest problem was that it could not be ‘everyone’s republic’. Then, one day, 22 years ago, after those who felt excluded came to power, we arrived, first step by step and then at a run, at a 100th anniversary in which those who were excluded now exclude those who are not affiliated with them.”

Umur Talu
The Spectator (GB) /

Stability is cause for celebration

The problems should not be allowed to completely overshadow the celebrations, author and Turkey expert Jeremy Seal writes in The Spectator:

“President Erdogan’s vision for Turkey’s future appears profoundly at odds with that of Ataturk. The media is largely controlled by the state. The judiciary has a hateful record of imprisoning writers, human rights activists and opposition politicians. But at least the electoral process appears to function. ... Perhaps some Turks, mindful of the transformative pace Ataturk set from the 1920s, might have expected more of their country on its 100th birthday. But given the degree to which other parts of the former Ottoman Empire are currently unravelling, I will raise a glass to Turkey today.”

Jeremy Seal
Der Tagesspiegel (DE) /

No room for minorities

Atatürk is still wrongly glorified as the representative of a modern Turkey, writes Der Tagesspiegel:

“As early as the 1930s, founding father Mustafa Kemal Atatürk pursued a rigorous policy of Turkification that made it impossible for minorities to preserve their language, culture and traditions. ... It is no coincidence that the saying ‘Ne mutlu Türküm diyene’ (happy is he who may call himself a Turk) is still regarded today as a harmless, often even honourable expression of a national pride which is conveyed as legitimate. There has never been room for minorities in the Turkish Republic, not in a single year of its 100 years of existence.”

Büşra Delikaya
Observador (PT) /

Third way in danger

Political scientist Jaime Nogueira Pinto analyses the nature of political Islam in contemporary Turkey:

“Erdoğan and the AKP have set out to reconcile the popular religion of the masses with the nationalism of Atatürk and the Young Turks. ... Erdoğan represents a kind of third way in the Islamic world, between the reactionary factions of Iranian Shiism and Saudi Salafism; a political-religious synthesis, conservative and democratic, nationalist and Ottoman, which on the 100th anniversary of the Turkish Republic is confronted with the side effects of the Arab-Israeli crisis. Will it be able to withstand them?”

Jaime Nogueira Pinto