I grew up really interested in history, the Fertile Crescent and the entire Mediterranean region. I also love the evolution of culture and cultures- from Paleolithic to Late Bronze Age; from the Hittites to the Akkadians to the Ephesians and the Ottomans.
Many of the folks I've been touring with (who are well-educated, -traveled and -read) have all shared the same thought with me, and I with them. We have been continually asking each other if we had ever been taught about what we are seeing, over and over! This country is so diverse and historical, yet also so relevant to modernity and progress; yet we are exposed to nothing but Troy, and the fact that Constantinople became Istanbul...
I've had some excellent revelations and teachings on this trip; our guide, Isa, is quite interesting and very well read in history - he and I keep getting side-tracked in arcane turn-of-the-common-era mysticism, love it!
However, the first real revelation for me is Ataturk - I knew he was the 'Father of the Turks' and united the nation into modern Turkey at the end of WWI... what I was never taught, or what didn't seem important enough to make time for (instead of teaching me all about Colonialism, Churchill, Chamberlain and the like) was how extremely progressive, intelligent and passionately driven this man, Mustafa Kemal Ataturk was. He is, hands down, one of my new heroes.
In the years following 1926, Mustafa Kemal introduced a radical departure from previous reformations established by the Ottoman Empire. For the first time in history, Islamic law was separated from secular law, and restricted to matters of religion. Mustafa Kemal said:
“ We must liberate our concepts of justice, our laws and our legal institutions from the bonds which, even though they are incompatible with the needs of our century, still hold a tight grip on us."
On 1 March 1926, the Turkish penal code was passed. It was modeled after the Italian Penal Code. On 4 October 1926, Islamic courts were closed. Establishing the civic law needed time, so Mustafa Kemal delayed the inclusion of the principle of laïcité until 5 February 1937.
Ottoman practice discouraged social interaction between men and women in keeping with Islamic practice of sex segregation. Mustafa Kemal began developing social reforms very early, as was evident in his personal journal. He and his staff discussed issues like abolishing the veiling of women and the integration of women into the outside world. The clue on how he was planning to tackle the issue was stated in his journal on November 1915;
“The social change can come by -
(1) educating capable mothers who are knowledgeable about life;
(2) giving freedom to women;
(3) a man can change his morals, thoughts, and feelings by leading a common life with a woman; as there is an inborn tendency towards the attraction of mutual affection."
To unite what were then hundreds of tribes, nomads and ethnic groups, he created a national language and alphabet out of the predominant dialects, and worked diligently for social justice and the advancement and development of his citizens - through peaceful measures and iron will and investing in those who build a country, one citizen at a time - the women...
"There is no logical explanation for the political disenfranchisement of women. Any hesitation and negative mentality on this subject is nothing more than a fading social phenomenon of the past. ...
Women must have the right to vote and to be elected; because democracy dictates that, because there are interests that women must defend, and because there are social duties that women must perform."
Not to mention that we weren't taught about Aspendos, or Perge - both of which are mind-numbing... a few quick notes, links for more!
Aspendos has a fully preserved and complete Amphiteathre that seats 15,000, with perfect acoustics. For those of y'all in ATX, I think the Erwin Center seats 17,000 for reference!
Perge is an incredibly well preserved Bronze age Greek city in Turkey - I have been to a lot of ruins of Roman and Greek cities, and I barely exaggerate to suggest that they would ALL fit into the site here, which is almost completely excavated and visible... you don't have to do much imagining of it's former glory, you can walk it.
Considering that this country that spans Europe, Asia and the Fertile Crescent, where many others have turned insular, have turned intolerant, have destroyed antiquities and archaeological and cultural sites because of their religious convictions, Ataturk is unique among liberators and nation-builders!
"I have no religion, and at times I wish all religions at the bottom of the sea. He is a weak ruler who needs religion to uphold his government; it is as if he would catch his people in a trap. My people are going to learn the principles of democracy, the dictates of truth and the teachings of science. Superstition must go. Let them worship as they will; every man can follow his own conscience, provided it does not interfere with sane reason or bid him against the liberty of his fellow-men."
"Mankind is a single body and each nation a part of that body. We must never say 'What does it matter to me if some part of the world is ailing?' If there is such an illness, we must concern ourselves with it as though we were having that illness."
"The nation has placed its faith in the precept that all laws should be inspired by actual needs here on earth as a basic fact of national life."
Amazing visionary, and an amazing country filled with amazing people of all sorts. Excellent cuisine, great music and a language that I am fascinated by and still struggling with - it is more related to Mongol, Japanese and Korean than it is to Sanskrit or Romance languages!!
Having a blast, feeling stupid, learning a lot, and eating some great food! Every day I find something more beautiful than the last - and, foriegnors can buy land here - very inexpensively.
Who knows - perhaps! Sorry for the ramble, wanted to share!! Only one week left, so let me give thanks and praise!