Ataturk, Mustafa Kemal


Ataturk, Mustafa Kemal
(1881-1938)
   Ataturk remains revered by Turks as the founder of the modern Republic of Turkey out of the ashes of the defeat and disintegration of the Ottoman Empire following World War I. Kurds, on the other hand, see Ataturk as the author of the racist and assimilationist policies pursued against them to this day by Turkey.
   During World War I, Mustafa Kemal established a reputation at the Battle of Gallipoli as one of the very few successful Ottoman leaders. After the war he broke with the sultan and brilliantly led the Turkish War of Independence against the invading Greeks. He abolished the sultanate in 1923 and the caliphate in 1924. His ultimate goal was to establish a modern and secular Turkish nation-state and achieve the "level of contemporary civilization." Famous reforms included establishing a secular state, adopting the Latin script, abolishing the fez, adopting surnames, and establishing women's rights. In foreign affairs he pursued a policy of conciliation and neutrality.
   To implement and secure his reforms, however, he established a unitary state that had no place for a Kurdish presence that might divide and destroy his new state. In 1925, Ataturk crushed the Sheik Said rebellion and deported many Kurds to the West in an effort to dilute their presence and begin to assimilate them. A decree banned all Kurdish schools, organizations, and publications, as well as religious fraternities and madrasahs, which were the last source of education for most Kurds. During the 1930s, the basic principles of Kemalism led to an extreme form of Turkish nationalism that had no place for Kurdish ethnic consciousness. Indeed, the very words Kurds and Kurdistan were abolished from the official state discourse. The term Mountain Turks when referring to the Turkish Kurds served as a code term for these actions. Thus, the heritage of this great man for nationalist Kurds is largely one of degradation and racism.

Historical Dictionary of the Kurds. .

Look at other dictionaries:

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