Ataturk and the Creation of Modern Turkey,Part 2

| July 17, 2011 | Comments (3)

This is Part 2 of the life and adventures of Mustafa Kemal Ataturk.He was the ruler of Turkey for only 15 years,from 1923-1938, but in that short time he revolutionized the country by force.Part 1 is here:

Another radical action of Ataturk

Since 1453 the capital had been Istanbul but he moved it to Ankara.Have you ever heard of the Angora rabbit,the Angora cat and the Angora goat?Well,they are all from the Ankara region.

Educational Reforms of Ataturk

In effect he installed a secular,non-religious education for the nation’s children.In 1924 he invited American educational reformer John Dewey to Ankara,the new capital of Turkey, to advise him on how to reform Turkish education.Dewey presented recommendations designed for developing societies that are moving towards modernity in his “Report and Recommendation for the Turkish educational system.”

Ataturk’s public education reforms aimed to prepare citizens for roles in public life through increasing literacy. He wanted to institute compulsory primary for both girls and boys.He pointed out that one of the main targets of education in Turkey had to be raising a generation nourished with what he called the “public culture”.

The state schools established a common curriculum which became known as the “unification of education.”Unification of education was put into force in 1924 by the Law on Unification of Education (No. 430). With the new law education became inclusive, organized on a model of the civil community.All schools submitted their curriculum to the Ministry of National Education.He made the clergy subordinate to the department of religious affairs.The unification of education under one curriculum was not the end of religious schools in Turkey,they were moved to higher education till later governments restored them to their former position in secondary schools after Ataturk’s death.

Who was John Dewey(1859-1952)?

He was probably the greatest philosopher to be born in the US and was also a psychologist and educational reformer whose ideas have been influential in education and social reform. Dewey was an important early developer of the philosophy of pragmatism and one of the founders of functional psychology. He was a major representative of the progressive philosophy of education during the first half of the 20th century in the USA.He was one of the three major figures in American pragmatism, along with Charles Sanders Peirce, who invented the term, and William James, who popularized it.Art as Experience (1934) is Dewey’s major writing on esthetics.The theme of Dewey’s works was his profound belief in democracy, be it in politics, education or communication.

The Educational Ideas of Dewey

He wrote a famous book on progressive education called Democracy and Education (1916) and later came Experience and Education (1938).He makes a case for the importance of education for knowledge, but also to learn how to live.The purpose of education should not be just the acquisition of skills but the realization of one’s full potential and the ability to use those skills for the greater good.Education and schooling are instrumental in creating social change and reform. Dewey became one of the most famous proponents of hands-on learning or experiential education.The teacher becomes a partner in the learning process, guiding students to independently discover.

Reform to make Turks adopt Western Fashion

In 1925, Mustafa Kemal encouraged Turks to wear modern European attire,like the Panama hat.The fez was established by Sultan Mahmud II in 1826 and the the Hat Law of 1925 prohibited the fez for Western-style hats.He made the Western hat compulsory for civil servants.The guidelines for the proper dressing of students and state employees were passed during his lifetime; many civil servants adopted the hat willingly. In 1925, Mustafa Kemal wore his Panama hat during a public appearance in Kastamonu, one of the most conservative towns in Anatolia, to explain that the hat was the symbol of civilized nations.The last part of reform on dress emphasized the need to wear modern Western suits with neckties as well as Fedora and Derby-style hats instead of antiquated religion-based clothing such as the veil and turban in the Law Relating to Prohibited Garments of 1934.

Even though he personally promoted modern dress for women he never made specific reference to women’s clothing in the law, as he believed that women would adapt to the new clothing styles of their own free will. He was frequently photographed on public business with his wife Lâtife Uşaklıgil, who covered her head in accordance with Islamic tradition. He was also frequently photographed on public business with women wearing modern Western clothes.

Closing the Mevlevi Order of Sufis

He outlawed it and its center became a museum.The Mevlevi order had been founded by disciples of the famous Persian Sufi and poet Rumi(1207-1273).They are famous for their whirling dervishes.All the Sufi orders were closed and Sufism became illegal in Turkey and he closed the sacred tombs of Muslim saints.It is important to say that the Sufis are mystical but they are not pacifists,they are in favor of war for X reason,they are not against violence in principle,they are not Quakers or Mennonites or Buddhist monks.In the West there is the myth that they are pacifists.

In fact,the greatest of all Sufi thinkers was Al-Ghazzali(1058-111) and he wrote a book called The Incoherence of the Philosophers where his views are very intolerant. Ghazali bitterly denounced Aristotle, Socrates and other Greek writers as non-believers and said those who employed their methods and ideas were corrupters of Islam.

The Mevlevi Military Group

During World War I there was a Mevlevi Regiment that served in Syria and Palestine.It had been formed in 1914 with some 800 Mevlevis.It was disbanded in 1918.

Reform that Abolished Islamic Courts and Adopted Western Civil and Penal Codes

In 1926 the Turkish penal code was passed. It was modelled after the Italian Penal Code.Islamic courts were closed.Polyamy was prohibited and civil marriage became obligatory.The inclusion of the principle of laïcité or secularism was added on 5 February 1937.In 1926 he also implemented the new Civil Code,copied from that of Switzerland.

Plot to kill Ataturk

In 1926 a plot to assassinate Mustafa Kemal was uncovered. It originated with a former deputy who had opposed the abolition of the Caliphate.Thirteen people were hung.

Improving the Position of Women in Turkey

Mustafa Kemal needed a new civil code to establish his step of giving freedom to women. The first part was the education of girls and was established with the unification of education. Also in 1926, the new Turkish civil code passed. It was modelled after the Swiss Civil Code. Under the new code women gained equality with men in such matters as inheritance and divorce. According to his view, society marched towards its goal with men and women united. He believed that it was scientifically impossible for him to achieve progress and to become civilized if the gender separation continued as in Ottoman times.

With the University Law of 1933 he introduced mixed-sex education to the academies, colleges and universities in Turkey later established Ankara University in the capital city.And in 1934 Turkey granted full political rights to women, before several European nations.

Changing the Alphabet from the Arabic one to the Latin-Western Alphabet

In 1928 he introduced the Latin alphabet and abolished the use of Arabic script. Then only 10% of Turks could read and write.Ataturk himself travelled the countryside with a blackboard in order to teach citizens the new alphabet. The country’s adaptation was very quick and literacy in Turkey jumped from 10% to over 70% within two years. Beginning in 1932, the People’s Houses opened throughout the country to meet the requirement that people between the ages of four and 40 were required to learn the new alphabet.

Why he established One-Party Rule

It was because he saw that if there was real democracy his reforms,rational for us be utterly radical for most Turks,would have been impossible.

A Law that all Turks had to have Family Last Names like the Europeans

Before his times few Turks had last names and when the law was passed it was decided that his last name would be Ataturk(Father of the Turks).

More on Ataturk and Religion

1.The evidence is he had left Islam.Justinian was the greatest emperor of the Byzantine Empire and in 537 he completed the best church in the world at the time,that of Holy Wisdom(Hagia Sophia).He said:“O Solomon,I have surpassed you!”You see king Solomon had built the first Temple of Jerusalem and the phrase refers to it.It was a Christian church from 537 till 1453.Then it was a mosque from 1453 till 1935 when Ataturk turned it into a museum.

2.In 1928 Islam was declared to no longer be the official religion of Turkey.

3.Sunday(the Christian holy day) replaced Friday(the Muslim holy day) as the day of rest in 1935.

His Personal Life

He drank alot of liquor and before his marriage had a lover who later commited suicide.His marriage itself only lasted 2 years from 1923-1925 and he never remarried.He adopted 12 daughters and a son.He was diagnosed with cirrhosis of the liver due to heavy alcohol consumption and died in 1938.Based on this and other details it is apparent he did not believe in Islam,for example,drinking alcohol is prohibited in the Koran.

After his Death

1.He has become the symbol of Turkey and his statues are erected in every town of Turkey.

2.There is the Atatürk International Airport in Istanbul, the Atatürk Bridge over the Golden Horn in Istanbul,the Atatürk Dam, and Atatürk Stadium.

3.His face and name are seen and heard everywhere in Turkey; his portrait can be seen in all public buildings, in all schools and classrooms, on all school books, on all Turkish bills and in the homes of many Turkish families.

4.At the exact time of his death, on every 10 November, at 09:05 am, most vehicles and people in the country’s streets pause for one minute in remembrance.

Outlawing insults to his Memory

In 1951 the Turkish Parliament issued a law outlawing insults to his memory or destruction of objects representing him. A government website was created to denounce the websites that violate this law.In 2007 YouTube, Geocities, and several blogger webpages were blocked by a Turkish court due to the violation of this law. The YouTube ban in the country lasted for 30 months, in retaliation for four videos on Atatürk.In 2010 the French-based NGO Reporters Without Borders declared that the Turkish laws to protect the memory of Kemal Ataturk are in contradiction with European Union standards of freedom of speech in news media.

To read a good summary of his reforms:


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