Post War Iraq And Afghanistan

Post war Iraq and Afghanistan are seen by many as hopeless regions destined to have continued tribal conflicts. It may be. It does not have to be. There is in the Muslim world an example of a state once in a similar condition that overcame it. The transition was led by the man named by Time magazine as the greatest leader of the Twentieth Century. Most Americans don’t even know his name.

Kemal Ataturk led Turkey out of the Ottoman culture to become a cohesive republic. It was as socially, culturally, tribally, and racially diverse as Afghanistan. Not all of his dealings in doing so would be smiled upon by Westerners but were actually mild compared to what he was dealing with.

Being on two continents its largest cultural groups were Kurds, Arabs, Circassian, and Armenians. There were large colonies of Russians, Greeks, Mongols, and Jews also.

Language diversity and a primitive language more suited for a former era were a challenge. Ataturk did away with the Arabic alphabet and replaced it with a completely phonetic Roman alphabet very much like ours.

Turkish women had no rights and were in all things subservient to their fathers and/or husbands. They too wore veils in public and were uneducated. Today men and women have equal rights. A large proportion of women serve in its parliament.

Now public education is mandated. Compulsory education applies to all under age 15. I asked one teacher in Kusadasi if they had discipline problems in their schools. The answer was no. Teachers are highly respected and revered. Students look upon them as their hope for a better life. They idolize their teachers.

Though ninety-eight percent of the population is Muslim there is religious freedom. Most Muslims are Sunni, the orthodox branch of Islam. Emperor Justinian built the awe inspiring cathedral of Saint Sophia in the 500’s. During the Ottoman era it was converter into a mosque. Under Ataturk it was turned into a museum for use by all faiths.

When the Ottoman Turks conquered Constantinople in 1453 they plastered over the Christian mosaics of Saint Sophia. After the building was made a museum in 1933 work was begun to restore the Christian mosaics.

In general the Turkish people are among the most warm and friendly of any country I have visited. They are much more open and conversant with people they don’t know than Americans. Children are courteous and adults polite. Like all nations they have a minority of radicals and extremist but the government works to control them.

Many repressed Iraq and Afghanistan people are Western educated and very capable of giving leadership to that torn society and even making it open to Christian aid workers like those recently imprisoned there. Then a new Phoenix will have arisen from ashes.