“The return to Ataturkism!”

Ali Sirmen wrote...

04 Eylül 2018 Salı, 16:26

The lead headline in Sunday’s Cumhuriyet was as above and told of the new goings-on in the Ministry of National Education.

Let me state at once that the news which appeared to meet the expectations of those who had placed their hopes in him since Ziya Selçuk took up the post of Minister of National Education came as no surprise. But, a careful reading reveals that it is not fully and clearly apparent what is entailed.

What are we to understand by the return to Ataturkism? Whose “Ataturkism” is this that is being returned to? The Chieftain’s? That of former Parliamentary Speaker İsmail Kahraman? That of Minister of National Defence Hulusi Akar? Given that “Ataturkism,” whose content has been indeterminate for years in Turkey’s political life and is a concept that can be pulled in all directions, lacks clarity as to what it stands for and is deceptive, it is not at first glance very apparent what the aim is.

Recent times have seen a public anti-Ataturkism that shouts from the rooftops take the place of a concealed, bashful anti-Ataturkism. But, with this seen to provoke great outrage, there has now apparently been a change of style and a new roadmap has been drawn that revives old habits.


The national holidays whose overshadowing by the Holy Birth Week, Birthday of the Prophet and Kut Al-Amara Victory caused outrage have been put back on the chart and it has been decided for scrapped lessons about Ataturkism to be retaught.

The very newsworthiness of this development suffices to show the extent things had reached in the Ministry of National Education.

While noting that I find the style, different to that of his predecessors, of the new Minister of National Education, Ziya Selçuk, to be interesting, there still does not seem to be much possibility of attaching hope to the new developments. For, the option to deviate from the basic educational philosophy of the Republic, which is sceptical, encourages debate, excludes taboos, has no place for dogma, does not accept the culture of homage and opposes sexual discrimination, and take the precisely opposite path is not the result of error. Those who have embedded themselves in the Ministry of National Education and directed it since Reşat Şemsettin Sirer saw very well that changing the nature of the secular Republic would only be possible through destroying the secular education that constitutes its basis, robustly concentrated their attacks on that point and continued their efforts to this end unabated over the years.

In short, there exists no error that needs to be reverted from or mistake that needs to be corrected. It comes down to the changing of a line that was adopted knowingly, willingly and purposefully. The changing of this line cannot be conceived of, let alone carried out, without a fresh orientation of the political will.

I do not imagine it is necessary to clarify that, in speaking of the political will, I am not referring to Minister of National Education Ziya Selçuk about whose good intentions I wish to say nothing.


It is an act of futility to seek solace in the narrative of a return to “Ataturkism” in “education” by today’s rulership that wishes to eliminate the Republic’s secular education not just through religious vocational high schools but by activating its entire organism that has penetrated as far as the Ministry of National Education’s veins and aims to replace the Unification of Education with the Unification of Religious Orders.

We know there is a wish to fob off Ataturkism to society as an empty cliché that those who so desire try to make willing use of in the political arena and that can be pulled in all directions. To this end, we need to say, “We have had our fill of empty words” and look more closely at what is being done.

The basis of the Republic is Ataturkist education, secular education.

Secular education is a mixed education that rejects dogmas, taboos and superstitions, is sceptical and questioning, encourages debate and respects sexual equality.

Can you imagine that this rulership will open the way to such an education system?

There will apparently from now on be an attempt to dish up, labelled as Ataturkism, a “national” education that serves the aim of instilling the culture of homage, is dogmatic, rote- based and full of taboos and champions superstition.

If you are taken in!