Excerpt from Ayhan Kaya (2014) ‘Islamisation of Turkey under the AKP Rule: Empowering Family, Faith and Charity’, South European Society and Politics, DOI: 10.1080/13608746.2014.979031

Unlike its predecessors, conservative political parties like the Democrat Party (DP), Motherland Party (ANAP), and unnamedTrue Path Party (DYP), the AKP claims to represent excluded societal values, such as Islamic values, and to return these values to power. The aim is to create a perception of resemblance between the lifestyle of the nation and that of those occupying political power (Saracoglu 2011, p. 44). Rather than using an elitist jargon in their everyday language, the leaders of the AKP have always been very meticulous in using language that is also used by the masses. The use of slang by AKP leaders is very common…

Furthermore, the AKP successfully employed a very strong political discourse of victimisation to mobilise the masses around its own political and societal agenda. Continuing the former Milli Gorus¸ line, the party elite often represented Muslims as having been victimised by the Kemalist–laicist regime since the beginning of the Republic in the early 1920s. In this regard, laicism was always regarded and represented by pro-Islamist political parties, including the AKP, as anti-Islam and anti-religion…

The AKP has not only lifted the headscarf ban in higher education and popularised the Imam Hatip Schools, but also Islamised the national curriculum through the addition of certain optional courses at secondary school level, and with the transformation of the school textbooks on Religious Culture and Morality in 2007 and 2008 (Turkmen 2009). In 2012, a new regulation was introduced increasing compulsory education from eight to 12 years (Law No. 6287)…

In April 2012, together with the extension of compulsory education from eight to 12 years, a new structure was introduced (four years of primary school plus four years of secondary school, then four years of high school). The amended Education Law allows families the flexibility to choose among different types of secondary schools, including general and vocational schools and religious Imam Hatip schools (Karakas¸ et al. 2014). However, secular families and various civil society organisations, such as the Education Reform Initiative (ERG), the Turkish Industrialists and Businessmen Association (TUSIAD), and the Women Entrepreneurs Association of Turkey (KAGIDER), have a different perspective. They maintain the new law is an attempt to Islamise primary education through the growing number of Islamic-based optional courses (ERG 2013). Also in 2012, two optional courses for years 6 to 8, Civic Education (Vatandaslık ve Demokrasi Egitimi) and Agriculture (Tarım), were removed from the curriculum while three religion-based courses were introduced: Quran (Kur’an-ı Kerim), Prophet Muhammad’s Life (Hz. Muhammed’in Hayatı), and Fundamentals of Religion (Temel Dini Bilgiler)…

The AKP still attracts almost half the voters. In the presidential elections of August 2014, Erdogan won an absolute majority in the first round and became the new president, replacing Gul. For some, the attraction of the AKP springs from their faith-based approach towards Erdogan, even perceiving him as the ‘last Prophet’; for others, what primarily matters is the profit-based local politics of the AKP, continuing the process of capital accumulation which dates back to the early days of AKP rule. Whatever the motives of AKP voters are, it is clear that Turkish society has become even more polarised along societal and political divides of secularism and Islamism. Turkish democracy is on the verge of creating new societal and political alliances to come to terms with the growing impact of Islamisation. In fact, such alliances have been experienced on different occasions. An example was the nomination of a joint candidate for the 2014 presidential election by the two main opposition parties.

Another critical moment, partly meant to be the formation of a societal alliance against the neoliberal governance and Islamisation rhetoric of the AKP rule, was the #Occupygezi movement. The movement – or rather the moment – took place in Istanbul and the rest of Turkey in June 2013, and lasted around three weeks. Similar to predecessors such as Tahrir Square, Occupy Wall Street, and Indignado movements in Europe, the #Occupygezi protests provided some segments of the Turkish society with a prefigurative form of politics, symbolising a rejection in all walks of life of Erdogan’s vanguardism and engineering of the lifeworlds of Turkish citizens.

Annual conference: Syria: Moving Beyond the Stalemate

Date:1- 3 July 2015     Venue: the University of St Andrews

Organizer: The Centre for Syrian Studies (CSS)


The conference aims at attracting scholars at all career levels, including post-graduate students, from a broad range of disciplines. Original research based on empirical data and/or new theoretical approaches are encouraged. Contributions by Syrian scholars are especially welcome. Papers may cover a variety of topics and are not confined to the following suggestions:
• The nature of the Syrian war: actors, identities and interests
• The Silent and Marginalized voices: Is there a ‘third force/way”?
• The Islamist opposition and the evolution of Syrian Islam amidst the conflict
• Regime survival
• State collapse, violence and the disappearance of borders: the rise of ISIS, sectarian transnationalism,
and international intervention.
• The future of Syria: Is a diplomatic solution viable? Is an Iranian-Saudi détente over Syria possible?
Is a power-sharing formula (or consociational democracy) possible?

Outstanding contributions will be considered for publication in the Syrian Studies Journal and for inclusion in an edited volume to be published by Routledge. Eminent scholars, journalists, and policy-makers will also be invited to present their insights on the ongoing war in Syria and to consider a solution to the conflict. Senior guests are expected to include Prof. David Lesch (Trinity University), Prof. Yezid Sayigh (Carnegie Middle East Centre, Beirut), and Lord Michael Williams of Baglan.

Accommodation and meals will be provided for presenters. Limited travel grants may also be available on the basis of need and the quality of the paper draft (hence decisions on this will be made on receipt of participants’ conference papers; assistance will normally take the form of reimbursement for full or part of pre-purchased tickets; those needing pre-purchase financial help should plan to submit their draft paper earlier). At a later date the conference will be open for those not presenting papers who wish to attend at their own expense.

Proposals for papers should comprise the paper title, an abstract (max. 350 words) and a brief CV. Applications should be sent by email to Adham Saouli (syrstud[at]st-andrews.ac.uk). The deadline to submit abstracts is Monday, 19 January 2015. Successful applicants will be notified by Monday, 20th March 2015. All contributors will be expected to provide a full paper draft by Monday, May 18th 2015.

A one-day postgraduate workshop:

Rethinking regions: Transnational and global perspectives

Date: Thursday 23rd April 2015            Venue: Egham/Surrey (UK) 

Organizer: Centre for Global and Transnational Politics,

Royal Holloway University of London

Workshop Rationale

Regions and regional integration are often analysed from a perspective that emphasizes the specificity of a region compared to others, focus on the boundaries of the region, or the shared identity of the region in comparison to others. This workshop aims to open up the study of regionalism by exploring the global and transnational dimensions of regions. Themes of interest to the workshop organizers  include:
- the integration (or fragmentation) of regions as one outcome of economic and political globalization
- transnational migration and regional integrity
- the significance of regions for global politics and society
- new perspectives on comparative regionalism
- the interplay of regions and world politics
- regional and global identities
- regional and global history

Please submit a 300 word abstract to Alistair.Brisbourne asap: Alistair.Brisbourne.2011[at]live.rhul.ac.uk.

Support for travel and/or accommodation is available for a number of delegates. Papers presented at the workshop must be original and not previously published or under consideration for publication. The organizers aim to publish an edited collection comprising papers presented at the workshop. The book series ‘Routledge Studies in Global and Transnational Politics’, edited by the organizers, would be an appropriate venue for the proposed volume.


CGTP feb 13

Panel title: “The Exceptional States of the EU: Iceland, Britain & Turkey”

Conference title: the UACES’s 45th Annual Conferenceuaces Date: 7-9 September 2015            Venue: Bilbao, Spain

Organizers: Dr Gulay Icoz (King’s College London) & Dr Natalie Martin (Loughborough University/Nottingham Trent University)


This panel would like to explore the relationship between three states characterized as “exceptional” – Iceland, Britain and Turkey – with the EU. They are “exceptional” in that they have a “love/hate” relationship with the EU institutions which makes the future course of their involvement hard to predict. This is particularly salient at the current time: the Icelandic government put Iceland’s accession negotiations with the EU on hold in May 2013, the current British government is pledging to hold an in/out referendum on British membership of the European Union in 2017, and, on other hand, Turkey is adopting an aggressive eastward looking foreign policy, despite having begun the accession negotiations with the EU in 2005. The panel will address how and why Iceland, Britain and Turkey treat their relationship with the EU the way they do. It will also examine what formal and informal institutions have contributed to these exceptional relationships and what the prospects are for Iceland’s, Britain’s and Turkey’s European policy.

 Accordingly we would welcome papers on the following broad themes:

  • The role of formal institutions: pro-European/Eurosceptic political parties and pro-European/Eurosceptic interests groups
  •  The role of informal institutions: identity; political culture; the mass media; the state of the economy; and public opinion
  • Prospects for Britain’s EU membership status and for Turkey’s and Iceland’s status in the accession process

The panel welcomes theoretical and empirical approaches to these questions from scholars working from a EU and/or Icelandic, British and Turkish standpoint. Equally we would welcome studies done from perspectives such as foreign policy analysis, comparative politics and area studies. Scholars with an interest in New Institutionalist perspectives are particularly encouraged. The intention is to provide new perspectives and approaches to a question that is increasingly prominent.

If you would like to contribute to this panel please send a 250 word abstract to gulay.icoz[at]kcl.ac.uk by 9th January 2015. A panel will then be submitted to UACES by 16th January 2015.



As ChangingTurkey.com, we would like to inform our audience about Turkey’s policy towards the civil war in Syria. With this motivation, we expect you to send your informed opinion in one or two paragraphs (maximum 1000 words).

Below are some of the questions you might want to tackle in your piece. You are, of course, not limited to these questions.

  • Do you consider Turkey’s Syrian policy as a success or failure? Why?
  • Is Turkey’s approach to the Syrian civil war driven by strategic considerations (e.g. national interests) or is it normatively-oriented (e.g. humanitarianism and ideology)?
  • Is Turkey’s Syrian policy a continuation with the past or a break-up with the historical relations between Turkey and Syria?
  • Does Turkish public opinion influence the approach of Turkish foreign policy-makers to the Syrian civil war?
  • Is Turkey’s Syrian policy in harmony with the foreign policy of other global actors (e.g. the European Union, the United States, Russia, China, Iran and so on)?

We would be delighted to publish your opinion on Turkey’s Syrian policy. The pieces must be written in an efficient journalistic or academic format with proper referencing. We expect high linguistic standards from prospective contributors.

Please send your views to ChangingTurkey@gmail.com

Important note: Please note that this call is exclusively for scholars, PhD students, and experts

78604002_kobane_20141007_map624_29_10_14                                                                       Image Source: BBC

Catherine Macmillan (2013) Discourse, Identity and the Question of Turkish Accession to the EU: Through the Looking Glass, Surrey: Ashgate. 

Reviewed by Dr. Didem Buhari-Gulmez

As an expert of Turkey-European Union relations, Catherine Macmillan offers a constructivist account of the EU’s diverse attitudes towards Turkey’s membership. Turkey-EU relations seem to have returned to ‘normal’ as themacmillan_gen 04 cover.QXD_discourse, identity Turkish government found the latest Turkey progress report of the European Commission as ‘balanced and fair’. Turkey’s membership prospects are still very unclear. In spite of this uncertainty, Turkey’s reform process that is guided by the EU membership criteria continues –albeit on a selective basis. However, the European opposition to Turkey’s membership remains a serious obstacle against Turkey’s accession in the near future.

It is difficult, if not impossible, to understand the European opposition to Turkey’s accession without taking into account the ‘identity factor’. By emphasizing the constructivist turn in European studies and the related focus on identity as a social construction, Macmillan hits the nail on the head in a broader debate about civilizational and religious differences. One of the most important contributions of Macmillan’s study is its successful attempt to problematize and categorize different aspects of the European opposition based on identity claims. First, European scepticism towards Turkey’s membership is not limited to identity conflicts associated with the current era. It also reflects the historical perceptions of the Turk and the East in European past, ranging from enmity, to indifference and from a feeling of inferiority to a complex of superiority. The book provides different sections about historical images, including the ancient Greek images of Persians, the Medial images of the ‘Saracen’, and the images of the Ottoman Turks in order to capture different types of Self-Other relationship.

Second, identity-based arguments are also used in Europe to support Turkey’s EU membership. There is a difference between the view of Europe as a value-based community and the view of Europe as a rights-based post-national union. While some see Europe as an exclusive civilizational community that promotes a strictly European culture and identity, others see Europe as diffusing universal values and norms codified by international law to any country regardless of religious, cultural and civilizational differences. According to Macmillan, this difference of view (an exclusive European cultural club vs. an inclusive Europe of universal norms) is not only influential upon the question of whether one is in favour or against Turkey’s EU membership but it also determines one’s attitude towards the EU’s general policies of  deepening and widening.

Macmillan successfully provides a comparative analysis that helps to grasp whether European attitudes towards the enlargement in general and the EU’s enlargement to Central and Eastern Europe in particular, differ from the attitudes towards Turkey’s membership. While analysing attitudes, Macmillan’s book prioritizes elite discourses but it also devotes a chapter to review the available public survey data about how Europeans perceive Turkey’s membership to the EU and the EU in general. She correctly emphasizes the contestations over an emerging European public sphere and the elite’s predominance in shaping public opinion about EU affairs, given the increasingly clear public apathy or indifference towards the EU. A research project led by European scholars from Oxford and Science Po –including, Sophie Duchesne, Elizabeth Frazer, Florence Haegel, and Virginie Van Ingelgom– published its results that confirm Macmillan’s assumptions in the 2013 book entitled Citizens’ Reactions to European Integration Compared: Overlooking Europe. While Macmillan provides two chapters focusing on elite discourse, she devotes Chapter 4 to a European-level discourse analysis whereas Chapter 5 relies upon Foreign Policy Discourse Analysis that considers national differences within Europe. In Chapter 5, Macmillan studies how national identity is understood and defined in France, Britain and Turkey in order to argue that there is a relationship between the conception of national identity and the attitude towards Europe and Turkey’s accession to the EU. This book is strongly recommended to scholars and students of Turkey-EU relations due to its sophisticated analytical framework and its good reviews of the literature about identity, Othering, European integration and public sphere (with a special focus on constructivism) in addition to its empirical findings based on elite discourse analysis. The categorization of EU conceptualizations as a problem-solving entity, a value-based community, and a rights-based post-national union is proved helpful to refine thinking about varying attitudes towards Turkey’s EU accession. The book may benefit from the developing scholarship on Multiple Modernities, post-westernization and world society in order to better conceptualize the model of EU as a post-national rights-based union. Overall, Discourse, Identity and the Question of Turkish Accession to the EU: Through the Looking Glass is an important and timely contribution to the literature on Turkey-EU relations.

David Klein from Drexel University interviewed Dr C. Akca Atac for ‘Changing Turkey in a Changing World’ followers.

Dr. C. Akca Atac is an Associate Professor of Political History at Çankaya University in Ankara. She di376530_10151224946016586_1280253743_n (1)d her PhD in History at Bilkent and pursued postdoctoral studies at the UCLA. She has publications in journals such as History of Political Thought, Turkish Studies and Perceptions, and she has contributed chapters to books published by Brill, I.B. Tauris and Honore Champion/Paris, among others. She won second place in the 5th International Sakıp Sabancı research Awards in 2010. Her latest article which is a comparative reading of Niall Ferguson, Amin Maalouf and Ahmet Davutoğlu with respect to their takes on civilization is currently under review for publication.

David Klein/CT: Could you tell us a little about your research interests?

Dr. C. Akca Atac: I am interested in Turkish foreign policy from a historical perspective and I am trying to understand some of the phrases and terms in use today, what they mean and how they relate to the same phrases in the Ottoman Empire and Ottoman foreign policy.

CT: Could you give us a few examples of the phrases you find intriguing and the people who use them?

Dr. C. Akca Atac: Mostly we are all very interested in [current Turkish Prime Minister and former Foreign Minister] Ahmet Davutoğlu’s speeches, but it seems like his speeches are not enough and we need to go back to his academic articles and scholarly publications [to understand]. He published a lot while he was a university professor in Kuala Lumpur/Malaysia and while he was a professor of political science at Marmara University. So there are quite a few scholars nowadays who are going back and studying his writings to understand how he uses certain phrases with such emphasis like “restoration” or “great restoration”. What this means is obviously that Turkey needs a restoration but it implies a return to something that was before; so we are trying to figure out what he was talking about and what era of Turkish history he actual wants to restore. When asked now what “great restoration” means, he says it is 1923 that he wants to restore. But when we focus on his articles, we see that that is not actually what he wants; it seems more likely that he wants [to return to] the era of Abdul Hamid II.

CT: Are there any other phrases he uses that are worth mentioning?

Dr. C. Akca Atac: Yes, another one he uses is the term “100 year parenthesis”. He seems to have decided that there is Davutoglu_in_Brazil2a hundred year parenthesis that is about to be closed, so the question from us –scholars- is: which hundred years is he talking about, from 1923 till 2023?  It should be mentioned that the abolishment of the caliphate was after 1923.  Now he says he is talking about theoretical nation-state structures and modernization in the Middle East in the wake of the Arab spring. In his writings he talks a lot about the working “authentic” national structures that existed in the Middle East for hundreds of years that have been ignored by modernization and Westphalian structures. So now when he talks about the Middle East after the Arab spring he is not discussing [about] trying what worked in Australia or the UK but what had worked in the Ottoman empire before the last hundred years.  He believes that the Ottoman Empire was a peaceful society and that all of the problems of the Ottoman Empire were the result of Western imperialism and Westphalian structures; so, he argues that if those non-Westphalian systems could be re-established, there could be a real chance of peace in the region.

CT: Is it just Davutoğlu using these phrases or is it widespread across the political spectrum?

Dr. C. Akca Atac: Those who agree with Davutoğlu’s discourse use the same phrases, such as “restoration”, without really questioning them. The problem is these people do not really have access to Davutoğlu to ask him what he really means by these phrases; that’s why, we are going back to his previous writings for the answers.

CT: What about the concept of “New Turkey”?

Dr. C. Akca Atac: It is actually used very similarly to how restoration is. Because the former Prime Minister, now President of Turkey, claims that Ataturk used the phrase “New Turkey” and so it is part of that push claiming to bring Turkey back to what it was a hundred years ago. And by using a phrase Ataturk used they are trying to convince people that their ideals are not actually incompatible with Ataturk’s. The truth is though; nobody actually knows what “New Turkey” means.  Many people use it as if they know but in the history of its use there has never been a definition given for what this “New Turkey” is, and that is why people are suspicious.

CT: You study foreign policy, but it seems like all of these phrases deal with domestic policy?

Dr. C. Akca Atac: I think there is no distinction anymore; Turkish foreign policy rhetoric is entirely used to influence the domestic audience rather the rest of the world. For example, the government is trying to rebrand itself as a sort of, I’m not sure of the English word, but like a “guardian state of the poor or oppressed”, so they have started to talk about Africa and how Turkey should have a special connection to Africa. The Turkish foreign policy discourse claims that Africa has been ignored previously by the Turkish Republic but now they are starting a new approach, and that Turkey will be the only country that only wants to help Africans, not colonize, invade or oppress them.

CT: So it seems that for all of these phrases they [current Turkish political elites] are using, they claim they were previously used by other leaders. How does the current use differ than the old one, in your opinion?

Dr. C. Akca Atac: They claim this but actually they have created an entirely new language, with these words “Restoration” and “New Turkey.” I think Davutoğlu is doing this on purpose. Every time he introduces a new term, there are people who are just waiting to pick it up and begin using it as if it [the term] has always been used. Another example is “authentic”: Davutoğlu talks about “authentic civilizations” that haven’t bowed to the West or Westphalian systems. But when he discusses authentic civilizations and cultures he is only worried about Islamic civilizations and cultures. He doesn’t consider the Far East to be any more authentic then the West. And there are people who have been waiting to pick up his phrase/term “authentic” and are using it in this way now.

CT: Is there any material you can recommend for our readers on the topic?

Dr. C. Akca Atac: Yes there is a dictionary that the research center of the Turkish Ministry of Foreign Affairs (SAM – Center for Strategic Research) published: “A Dictionary of Turkish Foreign Policy in the AK Party Era: A Conceptual Map” by Murat Yeşiltaş and Ali Balci. It isn’t perfect but if you want to understand in an official sense what many of these terms mean and when the politicians use them, then basically this is the dictionary for it. Also there is an article which has elicited a huge reaction, authored by an associate professor at Marmara University, Behlül Ozkan who thinks that what we think about Davutoğlu is also not actually true. We think that he is neo-Ottomanist but Ozkan says that he is actually pan-Islamist. If you go back and look at Davutoğlu’s writings when he was a professor, we see they all have a very strong Islamist tone but when he became Foreign Minister, he toned down that tone. [Ozkan’s article titled “Turkey, Davutoglu and the Idea of Pan-Islamism” appeared at Survival: Global Politics and Strategy in August–September 2014].


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