Sun 28 May 2023 2:15 pm - Jerusalem Time
Türkiye in five points from Ataturk to Erdogan
Turkey is a Muslim country located at the crossroads between Europe and Asia and has been led since 2003 by the conservative Islamist Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who is running a second round of the presidential elections on Sunday from a position of strength.
On October 29, 1923, after the fall of the Ottoman Empire during World War I, Mustafa Kemal Ataturk ("Father of the Turks") proclaimed the Republic of Turkey, which he led until his death in 1938.
Ataturk put Turkey on the path of rapid "Westernization" and included secularism among its founding principles with the abolition of the Caliphate and the abolition of religious education institutions.
The landslide victory in 2002 of the Justice and Development Party, emanating from the Islamic trend, ended an era of governmental instability, but it aroused great concern among circles adhering to secularism.
Recep Tayyip Erdogan, one of the party's founders, became prime minister in 2003 and then president in 2014. He came to power with a conservative Islamic project that recalls the glory of the sultans of the past.
Political life in Turkey witnessed three military coups, each of which was followed by harsh repression (1960, 1971 and 1980). The Turkish army, which considers itself a guarantor of secularism, forced the resignation of Islamist Prime Minister Necmettin Erbakan, Erdogan's sponsor, who tightened his grip on the army as soon as he assumed power.
On July 15, 2016, Recep Tayyip Erdogan escaped a coup attempt that left 250 people dead and 1,500 injured. It was led by military personnel, but Erdogan accused the Islamic preacher Fethullah Gulen, who resides in the United States, of masterminding it, and launched an unprecedented purge during which tens of thousands of Kurdish soldiers, judges, intellectuals, journalists and dissidents were arrested.
In 2017, predominantly Sunni Turkey, with a population of 85 million, transitioned from a parliamentary system to a presidential system that greatly expanded the powers of the head of state.
Having become a leading regional power, Turkey has recently resumed its diplomatic relations with Israel, contacted Saudi Arabia, and moved closer to the United Arab Emirates. It is militarily involved in the conflicts in Libya, Nagorno-Karabakh and Syria.
Turkey has been a member of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) since 1952, and it has the second largest army (numbers) among the alliance countries after the United States, with which it disagrees on a number of points, including Washington's support for the Syrian Kurdish militias and Ankara's acquisition of a Russian missile defense system.
Its relations with the European Union deteriorated after the coup attempt in 2016 and the subsequent authoritarian leanings of Erdogan.
Negotiations on Ankara's accession to the European Union are at an impasse.
On the other hand, since the start of the Russian war against Ukraine, Ankara has succeeded in maintaining good relations with Kiev and Moscow and has offered its mediation in the conflict between them.
In the first decade of Erdogan's rule, Turkey joined the group of twenty richest countries. The "economic miracle" man modernized the country by building airports, roads, bridges, hospitals and hundreds of thousands of homes.
However, in 2013, growth weakened due to the deteriorating international situation.
In the summer of 2018, the diplomatic crisis between Washington and Ankara and the lack of confidence in the market led to the collapse of the Turkish lira. Inflation reached 85 percent in October 2022, the highest level in 25 years.
The February 2023 earthquake killed at least fifty thousand people and caused damages exceeding $34 billion, exacerbating the economic crisis.
When it came to power in 2002, Erdogan's Justice and Development Party was popular with Turkey's largest minority Kurds, seeking a deal to end their armed struggle for autonomy.
But the failure of the talks in 2015 led to the resumption of the armed conflict between the Turkish state and the PKK. Ankara and its Western allies have included this group, which has waged an armed rebellion since 1984 that has killed tens of thousands of people, on the list of terrorist organizations.
Selahattin Demirtas, head of the largest pro-Kurdish formation, the Peoples' Democratic Party, has been imprisoned since the end of 2016 on charges of "terrorist propaganda".