Who Lost Turkey?

Written by Daniel Pipes


Turkey_Islam_IstanbulCross-posted from National Review Online

Two main explanations are circulating that address this now-burning question:

I reject these explanations (Turkey hardly met Western snubs; and its turn to Islamism is a solitary case, not proof of anything about Islam). Instead, I offer a third explanation:


Center-right and center-left parties excluded from parliament had 9.5, 8.3, 7.2, 6.2 and 5.1 percent of the vote, amounting to 36.3 percent in all. Add their percentages to the CHP's 19.4 and they controlled 55.7 percent of the chamber. Had the gaggle of selfish party tyrants combined efforts, they all would have been represented in parliament and secularists would likely still be running the show.

Comment: This disagreement has major implications. If either of the first two explanations are correct, Turkey is lost for good. But if mine is correct, Turkey's going Islamist resulted from an accident of personalities and regulations which can be undone. The country can return from the abyss. We who appreciate the Turkey of old must not give up on the country but work to bring it back by pressuring it carefully while working with Turkish allies. (June 10, 2010)

June 10, 2010 update: There's yet another explanation, forwarded by Michel Gurfinkiel, that focuses on demographic changes. As he explains:

The rural areas of central and eastern Anatolia had enjoyed strong growth under Atatürk and Inönü, and were primarily responsible for the rise in the Turkish population from 14 million in 1923 to 21 million by 1950. Since then, the overall population has more than tripled to 70 million, with most of the growth occurring in the rural areas or among first-generation rural migrants to the big cities. As a consequence, the political heirs of [the Anatolian-based opposition party,] the Democrats-they include Süleyman Demirel's Justice party in the 1960's and the 1970's, Turgut Özal's conservative Motherland party in the 1980's, and finally the Islamists-have enjoyed an ever-growing edge over the old CHP and its heirs.

Comment: Gurfinkiel's compelling thesis points to larger changes in Turkish life. But Islamists are a special form of "Anatolian" and their 1/3 of the electorate in 2002 reached power only due the reasons enumerated above.

Daniel Pipes is founder and director of the Middle East Forum, a Philadelphia-based research institute. Although there is coordination between www.DanielPipes.org and the sites belonging to the Middle East Forum (www.MEForum.org, www.Campus-Watch.org, www.Islamist-Watch.org, www.Legal-Project.org), this site is the private, personal property of Daniel Pipes. It is registered in his name, it is owned by him, and it is legally unconnected to the Middle East Forum.


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