By keeping secularists at bay and riding on his popularity in Turkey’s heartland, President Erdogan is trying his best to shake off Ataturk’s long shadow
The Hindu - December 13, 2014
There are two sights that the eye grows accustomed to in Istanbul: Turkey’s red flag that flutters just about everywhere and paintings and portraits of the man responsible for this overt display of nationalistic pride, the country’s first President Mustafa Kemal Ataturk.
Turkey is a proud nation and a land of paradoxes — and both for the same reasons. For despite 99 per cent of its population being Muslim, the country has secular credentials; despite society, much like India, being collectivistic and traditional, cities are Westernised and modern, and despite being located near war-torn Iraq and Syria, Turkey is a relatively peaceful bridge between Europe and Asia.
Everywhere we go, Istanbul, Safranbolu or Ankara, the Turks are always ready with a joke or a Bollywood reference when we tell them that we are from India — or what they call “Hindistan.”
“The Turks seem a happy lot,” we tell a cheerful looking tea shop owner in Cappadocia. “Not at all,” he shrugs as he offers us hot salep. “We have lots of problems. And they are only growing.”
The sentiment seems to be shared by other Turks too. Concerns regarding the erosion of secular values by a pro-Islamist government and the inability to fully adjust to modernity can be found in some pockets of the country.
Over the past two months, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Turkey’s 12th President, has, true to his style, courted more trouble with some controversial statements that point towards a vision far flung from Kemalism — more than ever before.