Not the Turkish model
By Vahid Isabeigi
December 27, 2002
Especially after September 11, the approval of the United States of the Turkish Model mounted substantially wherein some major Media Foundations like the long-extolled TIME magazine started to denote Turkey as an exemplary model that should be followed by all the Muslim countries in order to allegedly achieve Democracy and Economical Prosperity.
On the surface, although Turks themselves are endeavouring very hard to conceal the adversities of the inept functions of their system, which is on the brink of encountering a large-scale convulsion, the ill-advised feature of the Turkish System is very evident and explicit in retrospect as far as the status quo of Democracy and Economical Prosperity are concerned.
These were very well manifested in the latest elections held in Turkey recently, whereby Ak Party, a party noted for its Islamic tendencies, managed to attain the leadership without even needing to form a coalition government. This denotes the discontentment of a sizeable portion of the Turkish population with the imposed Secularism, which, in the Turkish Model, has translated into the restriction of religious freedoms of its populace.
Accordingly, the consequent implications of this attempt has been quite instrumental at alienating masses from Secularism and at the instillation into their minds the fact that Secularism is evil due to the high incidence of the corruptions breaking out during the leadership of Secular Governments.
On the other hand, despite these perceptible adversities of the Turkish System, whose task of ingratiating its population with the institution of Secularism and of attaining a Western Style Democracy still appears to be a rather grandiose and mammoth one, some of our Iranian compatriots have been advocating the felicity of the already abortive Turkish Model pleading that it would resurrect the so-called dignity Iran and Iranians forfeited. Fine, but what has Turkey gained ever since its very foundation in, officially, 1923?
The founder of the so-called modern Turkey, Ataturk, who is highly revered by the proponents of the Turkish Model, has reportedly (based on the accounts of Turkish Historians) gone through an immense amount of travail to attain his dream of the Turkey, which, as a result of some social and political facelift, has been through a spate of alterations, in the wake of which the cultural identity of the country faded into oblivion.
The consequent implications of this facelift, the aura of trying to look European while having a generally ignorant population that has completely proven very unseccessful at reconciling the East with the West, have all produced its own unfavourable outcomes.
For instance, although Turks have ostensiblybeen granted Democracy in 1923 (which means much earlier than most European Countries), Turkey has always been severely castigated by Europe for some notorious outrages and human rights violations perpetrated within the confines of the country.
Despite some intermittent attempts of industrialising the country, the Turkish Industry has not been able to achieve any commendable and significant breakthroughs apart from the field of textile. Despite the steady aid of European Countries and Usa to brush up on the economy, the Turkish economy has always been stagnant, riddled with corruption, and on the verge of floundering.
In fact, apart from a brief period of a few years during the presidency of Turgut Ozal, Turkey has never seen stability. The recent economical havocs, whereby the growth rate has been minus 9%, are indicative of the ill-fated nature of the Turkish Economy. Alternatively, have you ever thought at what state the Turkish Economy would have been provided the revolution had not broken out in Iran?
In fact, if the revolution hadn't occurred in Iran, the attention of the West wouldn't have shifted from Iran to Turkey and Turkey, despite still having a battered economy, wouldn't be able to receive the huge amounts of European and American investments. That signifies that Turkey would have remained in a much worse plight than it is in now.
There was a period of time during which the shah of Iran imported some of the changes employed in the policy of Ataturk. The most mind-numbing and controversial misdemeanour was the abolition of hejaab overnight (kashfeh hejaab), a brazen act which elicited an overwhelming amount of reaction from Iranians.
In fact, this unjustifiable act impelled thousands of Iranian Women to take to the streets to voice their criticism of this inconsiderate decision. What exactly went wrong? Why did this act trigger such an unprecedented amount of brickbat and discord? The answer lies in the nature of this resolution: Both leaders, the shah and Ataturk, were unfamiliar with their societies and were also of the opinion that changes could be introduced by means of force.
For years, Turkey systematically suppressed its devout citizens, an act that also continued in Iran up until 1979. As a result, we Iranians have faced a revolution, which didn't live up to our expectations and have grown so astute that we are endowed with the most Secular Population in The Middle East despite the nature of our state.
As a matter of fact, as in the demonstrations held by the opponents of kashfeh hejaab, Iran saw large-scale demonstrations held by Secular Women to protest the imposition of mandatory dress code. Apropos Turkey, statistics indicate an ever-increasing popularity of fundamentalism in Turkey.
This illustrates the fact that forcible decrees, notably those made in social fields, made by leaders ruling out the endorsement of their populace arguably precipitate hefty collisions within the large strata of the society.
One of the other comprehensive cultural novelties brought to Turkey by Ataturk was the abolition of the Arabic Script to be superseded by the new Latin Alphabet under the pretexts that it would proliferate the literacy rate as well as augmenting the integration of the Turkish Population with Europe.
In fact, majority of the cultural changes made in the Turkish Society were intended to move the country closer to Europe by totally erasing the past of the country for which Turks still have an unduly pride despite having renouncing it (a sheer inconsistency). More than 70 years have elapsed since the initiation of cultural changes introduced in the Turkish Society.
There still hasn't been an iota of rapprochement with the European Countries, nor has the country been profoundly Westernised. As a matter of fact, the country has been plunged into a cultural darkness riddled with people who are foreign to their culture and identity.
The cultural changes, notably the introduction of Latin Alphabet, had been intended to enable Turks to embrace modernity of Europe much faster. Yet, have you noticed why there has always been a huge vacuum of people speaking English fluently within the Turkish Society?
Furthermore, how well aware are Turks of other European Societies apart from their workers being despised by each host country due to their aberrant and non-integrating stance? There had previously been a debate of utterly abolishing the Arabic Alphabet Iran is using during the reign of the outgoing Pahlavi's father.
However, his suggestions of introducing Latin Script, inspired from Turkey, to the Iranian Society was met with a considerable amount of confrontation by Iranian Scholars, who maintained that the loss of our current alphabet would have a retrograde effect in the cultural direction of the country and would totally raze the grandeur of our language and literature.
In fact, one of Ataturk's motives of changing the Alphabet was the low literacy rate of Turkey and that the Arabic Script was hard to learn. However, after a period of 70 years, when we juxtapose the literacy rates of both Iran and Turkey, we would see that Turkey's literacy rate stands at 85% and that of Iran is around 80%.
Evidently, there is a minor difference of just a mere 5%. In that case, Iran seems to have managed to increase its literacy rate to 80% without even going through so much of hassle Turkey did. What is more, Iran still hasn't been chucked at a culturally disoriented state at the presence of our current alphabet. So does that really postulate a change of alphabet? If Turkey was intended to be a Democracy, shouldn't that change of Alphabet have been decided by means of a poll?
In conclusion, based on economical, social, and political indicators, the Turkish Model has been proven to be ineffectual and ill-suited since it perceptively underestimated the needs of its populace. Hence, the implementation of the Turkish Model, which lacks a huge multitude of the accepted Democratic features, in Iran would be totally inadvisable. Hence, how should Iran slake its thirst of Secularism and Democracy?
One should bear in mind that Secularism doesn't require you to sell your culture and become culturally blind. In fact, the acquisition of Secular Democracy by retaining the splendorous facets of our Iranian Culture is quite possible and we Iranians should be in pursuit of our own Secular System.
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