Major Turkish - American Relationships Conference at
the Stevens Institute of Technology -
May 13 - 14, 2004
now in the midst of its third revolution
Presentation by Stephen KINZER
Photographs by Marta CURRY
What is happening in Turkey today is more important
than what is happening almost
anywhere else in the world. 2004 is the most important
year in the Turkish
history since 1923. Turkey is now in the midst of its
Ataturk revolution created modern Turkey, but none of
the great reforms that
Ataturk imposed would have been possible had there been
a democratic system
or referendums in Turkey. We all know this -- the reforms
had to be imposed
from the top.
second revolution in Turkey was the one directed by
Turgut Ozal. That revolution
was, I think, more popular.
The people of Turkey wanted to open doors
and windows that had been closed for too long, and that
is what Ozal helped
them do. But
there was also resistance to the Ozal revolution. Some Turks didn't want to compete economically
with the rest of
the world. Part
of the political class was also a bit fearful.
a lot of taboos, such as when he said in a speech that
there are Kurds
in Turkey and then added, "In fact, my mother is
one of them." Most people
in the audience had never heard such a thing in Turkey.
Ataturk turned slaves into individuals
Ataturk turned slaves into individuals.
Ozal opened the economy.
Now we are
in the midst of a third revolution. How did it come
about, and what does
it consists of?
all know that young people in Turkey for generations
have been indoctrinated
with Kemalist ideals.
These are the ideals of westernization,
secularism, and what Atatuk called "universal
values" -- what
we today call human rights and individual freedom.
very profound happened in 1990s.
A new generation grew up in Turkey
that was the product of revolutions in transportation,
and Internet. This generation posed a sudden and very
to the ruling ideology in Turkey. Essentially what the
said to the older generation was: "You have been
trying to indoctrinate
us since we were babies into this Kemalist idea. Every
we were in school, we had to pay homage to Kemalist
principles. Every general, every prime minister, and every president tried
to hammer these ideals into us. And you know what happened? Your indoctrination
We now embrace those principles.
in the Ataturk's project. So why are you not allowing
us to fulfill
are we still putting journalists in jail? Why do we
are there still taboos in Turkish society, things
that we are not supposed to discuss? Why have we not
been able to complete
our progress toward democracy?
And how can the military, which is the
institution most fervently committed to Ataturk's ideology,
now be the one
that is preventing us from realizing it in its full
challenge was a very profound.
I think it caused a great deal of self-examination
in the military leadership, and also in the leadership
important institutions in Turkey.
the same time, some other processes were evolving in
Turkey. First, many Turks
became increasingly disgusted with the old political
leadership. I am not
going to give the names of the people against whom this
outrage has been
directed, but you all know them and you have heard their
names too many
times. Those are the people that held Turkey back during
the years when
so many countries from Spain to Thailand surged forward
and prosperity. That group of politicians faded away
just as the young
generation was rising up with its fundamental challenge. At the same time,
civil conflict and economic troubles began to recede. These factors combined
to make Turkey more open to democratic change than it
has ever been.
during the 1990s, a new realism came over Islamic political
order. All of
you know that being an Islamist in Turkey is nothing
like being an Islamist
in place like Pakistan or Saudi Arabia, but the Islamic
has nonetheless been quite frightening to many secular
Turks. Over the last few years, partly as the
result of court cases that were
launched against Islamic political leaders in the 1990s,
a new realization,
a new consciousness reshaped the Islamic political leadership.
leaders became much more realistic.
They came to understand that to protect
their freedom and that of every other Turk, Ataturk's
need to be fully realized.
KINZER, National Correspondent of the New York
Times, with Alaaddin Yuksel, Governor of Antalya,
during the conference at the Stevens Insitute
of Technology in Hoboken, New Jersey on May 14,
new political class emerged in Turkey...
The final piece that has brought us to this momentous
moment has to do with the European Union.
As we all know, the leaders of EU countries will
be meeting in December of this year to decide
whether to give Turkey a date to begin
the negotiations to join the EU.
Every country that has been given such
a date and has wanted to join has ultimately joined.
all these reasons, a new political class emerged in
Turkey after the 2002
national election and consolidated itself in the recent
municipal election. It is very different from the political
class that has ruled Turkey
all ever since the Menderes era.
revolution that is now shaking Turkey is centered around
the country's efforts to meet what the EU
calls the "Copenhagen Criteria." That is the new phrase that
we have all learned. Very simply, it is the list of
conditions that Turkey must fulfill if it
wants begin negotiating to join the EU. If that phrase had existed 85 years ago,
I can guarantee you that Ataturk would have
used it. He wouldn't have said that Turkey needs to
move toward "universal values."
He would have said, "Turkey needs to move
toward the Copenhagen Criteria," because
that list of conditions is exactly
what Ataturk had in mind in when he had his great vision
could do and what Turkey could mean in the world.
if Turkey never becomes a member of the EU, the
process of moving towards membership, the
process of fulfilling the Copenhagen Criteria,
would be very positive anyway because it
embodies what the majority of Turks
want. The fact that EU membership could lie at
the end of this road, however,
is a wonderful prospect.
EU membership is probably the closest
can get in our world to a permanent guarantee of stability
believe that the government now ruling Turkey reflects
the great desire of
the vast majority of Turks to proceed towards this goal.
If it proceeds in
this direction, and if it resists the temptation that
exists within the ruling
elite to move toward more traditional Islamic principles,
be on its way to a new era.
Turks will be living in a more secure, more
prosperous, more open and more democratic society than
they have ever had.
countries in the world face problems that they are trying
to overcome, but
in most of those countries, success or failure is only
going to affect their
If Turkey can succeed in its reform
If Turkey can succeed in its reform process, however,
it can have huge influence
on the world.
Right now, a hateful message is surging through
It is that message from the cave that we heard
from Afghanistan a few years ago.
Even those who detest that message
are forced to respond to it. Why? Because there is no
strong counter-concept. What is the opposition to this idea? What
is the opposite?
is poised to provide that counter-example.
This is one reason why the decision
that the EU is going to make in December is profoundly
not just for Turkey, not just for EU, but for
the whole world.
EU is fundamentally a stabilization project.
And of course, the part of the world that
is in the most desperate need of stabilization now is
neighborhood. If EU leaders are wise enough to
welcome Turkey into their
club, that will send a surge of excitement through the
more than 50 countries
that are predominately Islamic. People in those countries
that what fundamentalists and violent radicals have
been telling them
all these years is not true.
They have been saying, "The West hates us,
the West is never going to embrace us.
To try to become modern in the Western
sense is a mistake.
What we need to do is to turn inward, away from
the outside world."
If Turkey is embraced by the EU, that
be destroyed. Turkey will become a country that many
Muslims will look at
very carefully, and when they do, they will see prosperity,
can have profound impact on the Islamic world, and if
it can do that,
it can help change the whole world. The obstacles that
have prevented Turkey
from playing this role in the past are melting away.
The old political
leadership is gone. The economic crisis that erupted
a few years ago
is ending. Terrorist campaigns are over.
European leaders are very conscious
these leaders meet in December to decide on Turkey's
application, they will consider two things.
First of all, they will have to recognize the
positive impact that admitting Turkey would
have on Turkey, on Europe, and on the whole
world. Second, they will have to consider
what the effect would
be of saying no to Turkey. That would mean that the
EU, which was founded
as a stabilization project, would become a destabilizing
force in the
Middle East. This
would only strengthen the position of those people who
have ever been arguing, "The West will never admit
us whatever we do, and
there is no point in democratizing or modernizing because
we will never be
embraced by the outside world."
Turkey, for the first time, longstanding obstacles to
evaporating. The government now reflects the desire
of the great majority
of the Turkish people to
towards the fulfillment of Ataturk's dream.
Minister Erdogan has been pointing out in his speeches
that the year 2023 will be 100th anniversary
of the founding of the Turkish Republic. He is
using this point as an organizing principle.
What I think he means is that by 2023,
Turkey will have done everything that South Korea has
done, that Spain has done, that Thailand
has done. He
means that by 2023, Turkey will
be in the EU and a thriving, prosperous democracy.
is finally poised to complete its long march toward
democracy, to realize
the dream that Ataturk had so many years ago.
That is something to which
all of us can look forward with great pride and excitement.
May 14, 2004
Hoboken, New Jersey
by Gokce Ilsever and Hande Ilsever for the Light Millennium.
-- A Profile of Stephen Kinzer
The Major Turkish - American Relationships Conference
at the Stevens Institute of Technology in Hoboken, http://www.stevens.edu/main/home;
between May 12 - 14, 2004 was
organized incorporation with
Beykent University, Istanbul; http://www.beykent.edu.tr