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In Turkey, Erdogan is temporary, but Ataturk is forever

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Turkey has long been perceived to be undergoing a struggle between the secular and the religious. The population in its Anatolian heartland and east is generally more religious and conservative, while people in the coastal areas and major cities tend to be more liberal. The local election results in March this year bore this generalisation out, with President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s more “religiously-aligned” AK Party holding power in its traditional strongholds while the more secular parties such as the CHP grabbed control of the coasts and even Erdoğan’s once trusted city of Istanbul.

However, there is a deeper aspect which transcends this polarising debate that many do not realise; the figure of founder of modern Turkey himself: Mustafa Kemal Ataturk. The man’s statues can be seen occupying the squares and monuments of every city in the country, and his picture gazes at you in every classroom and office you happen to walk into. His all-pervading presence was particularly felt last weekend, when the 81st anniversary of his death was commemorated across Turkey.

It is understandable why Turks hold Ataturk in such high esteem as the dominant figure of modern Turkish history: his military genius and political aptitude resulted in the recapture of the entire Anatolian and Bosphorus regions at a time when the imperial powers were dividing the territories of the Ottoman Empire between them. With the French, Armenians and Russians on one side and the Greeks, Italians........

© Middle East Monitor