A Brief Overview of Turkey and its History of Instability

Turkey has a long and complex history, dating all the way back to the age of the great Ottoman Empire in the 1300s. Modern Turkey didn’t emerge until 1923 when Mustafa Kemal, known as Ataturk or “Father of the Turks,” founded the Turkish Republic. The highly revered national hero began widespread social, legal and political reforms and helped transition the country into a more democratized state (CIA). In 1950, after a period of one-party rule, the country successfully transitioned into multi-party politics with the peaceful transfer of power to the Democratic Party (CIA). Since then, however, the country has struggled to maintain peace, with frequent military coups and periods of instability.
The official language of Turkey is Turkish, a Ural-Altaic language that originally used Arabic characters. In 1928, Mustafa Kemal changed the language to adopt a Latin based script; the Turkish alphabet now consists of 29 letters, 8 vowels and 21 consonants. Kurdish, as well as a handful of minority languages such as Abkhaz, Adyghe and Laz, are also spoken throughout the country. However, the controversial Article 42 of the Constitution of Turkey states that “no language other than Turkish shall be taught as a mother tongue to Turkish citizens at any institutions of training or education” (“The Constitution of the Republic of Turkey”). The Kurds of Turkey, roughly 18 percent of the population, have long demanded the right to education in their own mother tongue but have always been met with strong opposition from Turkish leaders (Cassano). The conflict arising from the Kurds is Turkey far surpasses this language disagreement, with a long history of repression of the Kurds in Turkey. The Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), under leader Abdullah Ocalan, fought against oppression of the Kurds as a revolutionary organization, but turned to terrorism in 1984. Violence in this Kurdish conflict has left more than 35,000 dead (Haney).
Turkey joined the United Nations (UN) on October 24, 1945. According to the Republic of Turkey’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the country has adopted a much more proactive approach in the organization. As a member of the G-20, Turkey’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs argues that Turkey’s increasing official development aid and role as host of the 2011 UN Conference on the Least Developed Countries in Istanbul has helped Turkey emerge as a supportive player in international policy and the UN (“The United Nations Organization and Turkey”). However, human rights violations and terrorism continue to create suspicion and darken the reputation of the often political unstable nation in international affairs.
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Turkey joined the International Monetary Fund (IMF) on March 11, 1947 and became a member of the World Trade Organization (WTO) on March 26, 1995. Turkey’s economic growth and its boom in the 1980s can be attributed to  Deputy Prime Minister Turgut Özal’s economic liberalization program (Watkins). This program consisted of eight major parts: abandonment of the import-substitution strategy of economic development, devaluation of the Turkish lira, tighter control of the money supply and credit, maintenance of positive real interest rates, decontrol of prices, elimination of subsidies, reform of the tax system, and encouragement of direct foreign investment in Turkey (Watkins). While this program helped to increase export earnings and decrease national debt, political unrest throughout the time kept Turkey in constant insecurity.
Ever since 2002 when the AKP, the current ruling party, took power, Turkey has been on an incline. In the past decade, the Middle Eastern country has made great progress in stabilizing into a healthy economy. Recently, the main challenge Turkey is facing today—along with many European countries like Germany—is an influx of refuges from the crisis in Syria.
Works Cited:
CIA. “Turkey.” The World Factbook. Central Intelligence Agency, n.d. Web. 12 Sept. 2015. <https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/geos/tu.html&gt;.
“The Constitution of the Republic of Turkey, Part II_3.” The Constitution of the Republic of Turkey, Part II_3. HRI, 2014. Web. 12 Sept. 2015. <http://www.hri.org/docs/turkey/part_ii_3&gt;.
Cassano, Jay. “Turkey: Kurds And The Constitution.” Alahkbar English, 25 May 2012. Web. 11 Sept. 2015. <http://english.al-akhbar.com/node/7685&gt;.
Haney, Elissa. “Understanding the Turkey-Kurd Conflict.” Infoplease. N.p., 22 Mar. 1999. Web. 11 Sept. 2015. <http://www.infoplease.com/spot/kurds1.html)>.
“The United Nations Organization and Turkey.” Republic of Turkey Ministry of Foreign Affairs, 2011. Web. 11 Sept. 2015. <http://www.mfa.gov.tr/the-united-nations-organization-and-turkey.en.mfa&gt;.
Watkins, Thayer. “Economic History of Turkey.” San Jose State University — Department of Economics, n.d. Web. 11 Sept. 2015. <http://www.sjsu.edu/faculty/watkins/turkey.htm&gt;.

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