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Ataturk Printable Version PRINTABLE VERSION
by Ardavan Bahrami, United States Oct 30, 2004
Peace & Conflict   Opinions
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October 29th marked the 81st anniversary of the Turkish Republic. A secular country that has succeeded to survive, progress and to remain loyal to the principles introduced by its founder Mustafa Kemal Pasha, otherwise known as Atatürk – the Father of Turks. A framework in which under no domestic or international pressure the Turkish authorities have compromised on.
The Turks today are celebrating and deserve to be congratulated for their untiring efforts and their love for their country. At the same time my ancient land has sunken in the darkest period of its history since the Arab invasion of Iran in 640 A.D.
Secularism, the key to Turkey’s survival and prosperity has been used and mentioned over and over by those Iranian activists outside and inside Iran particularly more than ever before in the recent years. After the death of the man who introduced its concept to us - Reza Shah the Great, it was never paid much attention to until his grandson reintroduced it to our daily vocabulary.
However, what I find disheartening is yet again the usage of a word without many political leaders or activists defining its concept – not similarity but in details, in a context to revolutionize our society. A society whose majority are Shi’a with strong religious beliefs and in some cases even still are awaiting for the reappearance of a hidden Imam at the dawn of the 21st century. Who had apparently descended down a well - some thousand years ago, and they believe that he will be reincarnated again and bring their world prosperity and purity.
Today more than ever before Iran is badly in need of a school of thought like that of Turkey’s Kemalists which could guarantee its future democracy, secularism and nationalism; if we ever achieve such noble goals! Iran needs a doctrine so that our true secularists could stand by it, otherwise, the general expression that ‘people themselves will be the guarantee of our future democracy’, is simply naive.
What Iran of post-Islamic terror needs are visionary, truly secular men and women with modern thoughts to mould a new foundation for a modern nation to lead a proud life among the progressive nations of this world. Iran does not need people who are typical oriental romantics. Pragmatic, realists, radicals and forward-looking leaders are what we need to bring our country to the modern age.
Atatürk’s principles backed by the Turkish secular elite and an army that never declares neutrality at times of domestic crisis can be the role model for those Islamic societies, which have finally reached the maturity and realized that the only path to prosperity is to break free from dogma, ignorance and superstitions.
Atatürk’s modern look at life made him to believe that humans are products of nature, enjoying the intelligence to survive, thus, preserving themselves from oriental fatalism. He also never believed in luck. He said; “Luck is only the approach of events which we have not been able to calculate beforehand.”
One of the features that distinguishes the Kemalist movement from other modernizing movements in the Islamic world is the extend to secularism – that biggest enemy of fanatic Moslems, was emphasized in republican Turkey.
Unlike our former constitution where religious leaders had to be present to make sure legislations passing through the Majlis were under no circumstances contrary to the Islamic teachings, thus, immediately eradicating the concept of secularism, the Turkish constitution does not allow any form of appeasements when it comes in dealing with religious issues. The articles 19 & 57; Penal Code Art 163 of the Turkish Constitution forbid political, social, economic or legal order based even partly on religious principles.
Though such strong secular laws may seem excessive to some of Atatürk’s critics, its radical nature never intended to eradicate Islam in Turkey. What Atatürk aimed for was privatization of religion in order to make it an individual’s rather than the organizing principle of the society. Therefore, he respected freedom of religion at the individual level while strictly forbidding organized political manifestation of Islam in any shape or form or under any name or structure.
Atatürk’s followers - the Kemalists, managed to create a school of thought based on principles of republicanism, nationalism, populism and secularism. These key elements have since remained the backbone of the Turkish state; without which Turkey would have stood no chance today, to be even considered for joining the European Union of Nations.
Mustafa Kemal’s ambition to bring the Turkish society into a modern world was to carry out his reforms into every aspect of the Turkish life. He believed that to seek anything other than science in life was to be ignorant. “The aims of the reforms we have already carried out and are continuing to carry out,” he said, “is to bring Turkish society into a modern society in every aspect. This is the basis of our reforms.” He continued, “Up until now, the nation has been dominated by concepts which are disabling to the functioning of the mind.’

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Ardavan Bahrami

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