Monday, April 09, 2007

Turks to protect late dictator online

Fresh from their ban of YouTube, the Turkish government is set to filter out websites that are deemed "insulting" to founding father Mustafa Kemal Atatürk. As usual, the justification comes from a provision of Turkish law that outlaws "insulting Turkishness". Most western readers would ask - how is insulting a dictator who's been dead for nearly 70 years tantamount to insulting the entire concept of "Turkishness", and more to the point, who cares if anyone insults "Turkishness" to begin with?

In Turkey, the answer is simple: Atatürk created, nearly from whole cloth, the modern Turkish identity when he dismantled the corpse of the Ottoman state. Therefore, when Turks assert that an assault on Atatürk is an assault on Turkey and Turkish identity, they actually may have a point insofar as both would not exist as we know them today without Atatürk. What the Turks also seem to realize is that they're fighting a losing battle by expecting the rest of the world to revere the late dictator. While Atatürk is the only dictator on my Top 10 list that I actually credit with doing something positive for their nations, I can understand why Kurds and Armenians, for example, might not be as enamored with the man who created the modern Turkish state.

At any rate, it's only a matter of time before Turkey's European Union aspirations collide with their efforts to stifle criticism or insults of Atatürk, but I have to wonder: will my blog be banned in Turkey as well?


Anonymous said...

While I respect your right to hold any opinion you choose, unfortunately, your article on Ataturk only illustrates how little you've read or know about Turkish and Ottoman history.

Your assertion that Turks would "not exist as we know them today" is amusing as the same can be said about Washington, Lincoln, or another other great leader. In fact, that is the MARK of a GREAT LEADER. His vision of Turkey as being a modern, secular democracy is the shining light that continues to guide the many Turks who love him. But Turkish identity has always been around and is not tied to Ataturk. Turks have built many great states, including the Ottomans and Seljuks, Gokturks and have been around for a long, long time, thanks. We have many famous architects, scientists, astronomers, and philosophers...the fact that you may not be fully aware of Turkish history does not diminish my people's value or identity.

It is ironic that some try to limit free speech in the name of "protecting" Ataturk because that is exactly the opposite of what he advocated. If you read his writings, you will see that he wanted Turkey to be a democracy but that he couldn't open up the nation to multi-party politics in his lifetime due to the many ideologies that would have driven Turkey into people who wanted Islamic law, or communist rule, etc. This is why the Turkish people don't even consider him to be a dictator - because that was not the ideal for which he fought for.

And as for the rest of the world revering him - NO, I don't expect that, because it was the European Allied counties which fought to erase the Turkish nation from the face of the earth, and it was the Turkish people, under Ataturk's leadership, which kept us free from colonization. Europeans ethnically cleansed the Balkans of Turks after 1912, millions of Turks were massacred and became refugees. Armenians themselves slaughtered over 500,000 Turkish and Kurdish civilians...So of course we don't expect the "world" (i.e. Europe) to like him...

Nor do we expect Armenians to either because he squashed their dreams of creating an Armenian stated on Turkish soil (yes, Turkish soil, because in lands that Armenians claim they were are definite minority of 20-25% BEFORE World War I).

As for Kurds, Turks and Kurds are like blood brothers, aside from language differences and the fact that tribalism persists in Kurdish culture, there is not much difference between the two. Our history and fates are intertwined. Turkey's representative in Lausanne, Ismet Inonu, was of Kurdish heritage. In fact, 99% of Kurds were avid supporters of Ataturk because don't forget Kurds also fought against Armenians and Russians.

Later leaders have used Ataturk's name to justify many of their policies, but how true they are to his legacy is up for debate. Some of the Kurds have a problem with today's policies, but that should not be confused with Ataturk, the person.

I recommend that you read Andrew Mango's biography on Ataturk, as well as the work of Prof. Shaw on the history of the Ottoman Empire. Then I think you will understand Turks more and your opinions will change.

Anonymous said...

Mr. Williams,
One technical person to another, we must begin a thesis ("Dictators of the World") with definitions of the words we use.
I like to see your definition of a "dictator" so that I can make sense out of the entries you have made to your list (of dictators).
I can then comment on your original post. I am looking for consistency which is vital for coherency.
Thank you.

Anonymous said...

Looks like we have found the Achilles heel in this site: inconsistency. We have waited for a response, invain.

Mr. Williams likes Wikipedia links. Please use these for the sake of consistency:

Which "dictator", for that matter which national leader in human history has spoken of an invading army in the following manner?

“Those heroes that shed their blood and lost their lives... you are now lying in the soil of a friendly country. Therefore rest in peace. There is no difference between the Johnnies and the Mehmets where they lie side by side here in this country of ours... You the mothers who sent their sons from far away countries, wipe away your tears. Your sons are now lying in our bosom and are in peace. Having lost their lives on this land they have become our sons as well.”

Cultural literacy takes time and effort to appreciate personalities and their essence. It takes a lot of objective reading.

If it is justice you seek you must begin to use scales of knowledge.

Anonymous said...

All leaders want these which are strong army and modern society in their countries and they work to them. These cannot demonstrate that the leaders or presidents are dictator. Yes, he strong armed his reforms because soldiers were not enough educated and ottoman empire was occupied.

Lidia Aurora said...

This is such a wonderful coincidence! I am an American living in Turkey, I just moved here two weeks ago to live with my boyfriend and I started a blog to keep my family and friends up to date. I was just writing a new post explaining why I can't access youtube here which lead me to explain the sort of "first amendment" equivalent they have here, which naturally lead me to endeavor to explain to my American readers the phenomenon of Ataturk in Turkish culture. To test the internet limits of Turkish govt bans I started entering radical things into my google search bar such as "Armenian genocide", and "Ataturk dictator"-- which is how I found your blog-- so they haven't banned you yet! I read an excellent book by an American journalist on Turkish culture/national identity called Crescent and Star, that is where I found the most honest impartial information on Ataturk. Yes, of course he was a dictator, he had to be to install democracy in a culture that wasn't ready for it. Unfortunately (unlike Lincoln or Washington as was mentioned before) he did an enormous amount of good in his life but his legacy after his death (I really hope soldiers don't come to my apt and throw me in jail after saying this) is crippling the nation he fought so hard to build up. His hopes and dreams for Turkish identity have been grossly misinterpreted by subsequent leaders, which is what makes him such a controversial figure and so taboo in Turkish society. It was a pleasure to read your post!