Turkey’s Contemporary Political History (1923-2018)

20 April, 2021

The Arab Center for Research and Policy Studies has published Yusuf Hussain Omar’s Turkey: Modern and Contemporary Political History (1923-2018), a compendium of research that draws upon fundamental original sources. This book is the fruit of the author’s methodologically judicious approach to history, meticulously objective in shunning jingoistic nationalist or fanatically sectarian dogmas.

The book’s first chapter narrates Turkey’s history from the Ottoman Empire until the Declaration of the Republic and from the entry of the Ottoman Empire into the First World War alongside Germany up until the entrance of the Grand National Assembly forces under Shukri Naili Pasha into Istanbul. The second chapter discusses Ataturk's abolition of the Ottoman Sultanate and measures he took to secularize modern Turkey up until his death. The third chapter examines the election of Mustafa İsmet Inönü as President of Turkey, World War II and subsequent European pressure on Turkey to counter propagation of communism with democracy, leading to the 1950 elections won by the Democratic Party. The author also takes time to discuss Turkey's foreign relations and relationship with NATO and other regional alliances along with the advent of the (unresolved) Cyprus problem.

In the fourth chapter, the author delves into the Second Turkish Republic (1960-1980) and the reappearance of democratic discourse in Turkey, culminating in the Justice Party’s landslide victory in the 1965 elections and Suleiman Demirel’s arrival to power. The chapter concludes by examining the mounting political violence, massacres of Alevis, the Second Turkish Republic’s foreign relations, and the growth of Armenian terrorism. Chapter Five takes up the 1980 military coup that extirpated the existing political system to usher in the Third Turkish Republic (1980-2002) which equally suppressed opposition and proclaimed a new Turkish of the constitution. He examines ensuing attempts to restore democracy and touches on the role played in Turkish political life by salons of “enlightened” currents of thought, the growing influence of Islamism and the return to nascent democracy that brought Suleiman Demirel back to power in the 20 October 1991 elections. With the 1993 death of Turkey’s eighth president Turgut Özal, Islamists triumphed in the 1994 municipal elections, provoking a revival of Kemalism in the military’s 1997 “post-modern coup”.

The sixth chapter the author discusses Turkey’s domestic policy and the war against Kurdish Workers Party (PKK), as well as the status of human rights in the Turkish deep state. He then turns to Turkey's status vis a vis both the United States of America and the European Union and its accession or “Copenhagen” criteria. Chapter Seven documents a new phase of political life with the Justice and Development Party’s 2002 success in general elections, and the controversies that followed. Chapter Eight then turns to address the AKP government's foreign policy and relations with the European Union and the United States in the 2002-2018 period. In closing, this chapter turns to Turkish-Russian relations and the recent downing of a Russian Sukhoi Su-24 over Syria.

In the ninth and final chapter the author first takes up Turkey’s regional relations, including the relationship with Iran and the Arab Spring countries, and the cooperation on the Kurds. The author looks at the deterioration of Turkey-Israel relations with Erdogan's criticism of Israel at the Davos conference, the “Mavi Marmara” events, subsequent Turkish measures against Israel (2012-2013) and then a settlement agreement and normalization of relations, but with a return of tense Turkish-Israeli relations in the wake of US recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. Finally the chapter concludes with an assessment of Turkish efforts to resolve the Syrian crisis and end the civil war through the Astana conference. 

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