I’m a International Relations and Political Sience student. I publish my essays and this is one of them. I want to explain democray timeline in Turkey. I hope it can be helpful for you.

Sorry for my mistakes.


Turkey met democracy in 1923. After that, Turkey lived trouble with democracy. Turkish people survived military interventions and some problems. Does Turkey become more democratic or less democratic from 1923 to 2014?

Keywords: Turkey, Democracy, TBMM, Turkish Independence War, TBMM, Ataturk.


In 1800’s Ottoman Citizens demanded more democracy. The Ottoman government published the Tanzimat Edict. Also, Ottoman Empire had tried take some steps until 1918 however demands were not met. After first World War, Turkey occupied by France, Italy, UK, Armenia, Greece. Ataturk started to struggling and it become Independence War. When Turkish people war with other nations, Ataturk saw the future and he took a shape in the his mind new Turkey. In 23 April 1920, TBMM was openned. It was first Turkish parliament. Turkish people won the Independence War and Atatürk declared Republic of Turkey in 1923. In that way, Turkish people were the first time met with democracy. However Turkey managed by single party policy to 1946. Party was CHP (Cumhuriyet Halk Partisi – Republican People’s Party). In single party period, there were people with opposing views in CHP. After 1946, people who had opposing views, created opposition party which is DP (Demokrat Parti – Demokrat Parti). CHP won the elections in 1946. After than in 1950, DP won elections and in 1960 Turkey met military intervention. After that time Turkey has experienced; military memorandum in 1971, military interventions and in 1980, there was an event in 1997 and some people called it post-modern coup and last of all, chief of staff of Turkish Armed Forced published an edict on their website and it was about election of head of state in 27 April 2007, some people called it e-coup. Erdoğan won 2002’s elections and Erdoğan has conservative views. While he developed economy at the other side he destroy liberty, freedom, justice, equality and human rights. Some Turkish people believed Turkey took damage on democracy. Because of that reason, Gezi Park protest occured in Turkey and 8 children killed by police force in 2013 summer. Does Turkey become more democratic or less democratic ?

Before 1923[1]

Ottoman terrory, Osmanlı sınırları haritası

Turkish people met democracy as a first timein 1923. Before that,  Turkish people had lived under the empire regime which it is name was Ottoman Empire[2]. One of the Ottoman policies was on keeping freedom of the people, where they invaded any land or country, allow them to live their culture, religion and national activities[3][4]. That means, people had freedom about religion and national culture. This enabled them to protect their identity. It should be said that, United Kingdom intend to change the culture where they invaded a country. However, Ottoman didn’t want to make big changes on people’s culture. In that way, Ottoman managed over 600 years part of Bulgaria, Greece, Romania, Iran, Syria, Israel, India, Tunusia, Libya, Cyprus etc[5]. That means, Ottoman consisted a mix of different culture, nation, religion. France revolution had triggered nationalism in Europe[6]. Nationalism brought about the end of Ottoman[7]. People who came from different nationalities and religions and lived under the Ottoman ruling, started to demand more freedom.


Ottoman Empire didn’t meet to demands of those resistants. Tanzimat term began 1839 and ended with first constutional era in 1876. The Tanzimat reform era was characterized by various attempts to modernize the Ottoman Empire and to secure its territorial integrity against nationalist movements from within and aggressive powers from outside of the state[8]. Tanzimat’s idea and structure inspired by French Revolution[9].

Tanzimat included reform in law, economic, military, education and industry8. Most important element was about citizenchip and nationality. Everyone was accepted ottoman citizen, regardless of their religion8. That had lead to removed discrimination. Also homosexuality was removed as a crime8-[10].



Islahat was an important part of Tanzimat term. The purpose of the Islahat was completely remove discrimination and make all people Ottoman citizen. In that way, non-muslim would be free for being officer or join to military school.

First Constitutional Era (1. Meşrutiyet)

Bulgaria and Bosnia and Herzegovina riots for demanded for their independence in 1875-1876. Also Serbia and Montenegro declared war to Ottoman in 1876. Draft had 59 article and they translated from French Constitution. This draft sent to constitutional commission. There were 2 soldiers, 10 ulemas, 13 Muslims, 3 Christians for a total 28 people. Sultan accepted this draf in 23 December 1876[11][12]. However, Russo-Ottoman was approach in 1877. Sultan said that, closed parliament and citing social unrest in 1878. That means 1. Meşrutiyet comes to the end.

Second Constitutional Era (2. Meşrutiyet)

After 29 years, intellectual people made a big pressure to Sultan. At the end of this attempt, the Sultan declared 2. Constitutional era in 1908. However constitution was same and Ottoman downfalled[13].

Ottoman adopted defeat in World War 1 because Ottoman’s Allied Germany defated. Ottoman had small part of land and Sultan collaborated with the enemy.

Begining of Turkish Revolution

In 1919, Mustafa Kemal Atatürk started to Turkish Independence War. When Independence War, Atatürk was thinking about Turkey’s future. He saw democracy would solve national riots and religon discrimination. For that, he achieved to opened Grand National Assembly of Turkey (TBMM) towards end of the Independent War in 23 April 1920[14]. After 3 years, Turkey won Independence War. After that Ataturk try to keep peace in his professional life, he knew very well on politics and he was very successful politician as much as his success as a soldier and as a leader. He successed to establish Republic of Turkey . However it was not sufficient for him. He was thinking that he should start to revolution from Turkish people’s mind. He also did it very well. Turkey become a democratic country after 1923 thoes his steps.

Atatürk’s Era in Turkish Democracy (1923-1938)

Grand National Assembly of Turkey, TBMM, First Parliament, Atatürk

After the democratic revolution, Turkey has a parliament (TBMM) and single party. That means Ataturk decleared Republic of Turkey however, there was not completly representative democracy. Because this was a long proccess and Turkish people needed to adopt to the revolution. Ataturk took some steps for that. There is some of these steps [15][16][17][18];


Political Revolutions

  • Abolishment of the Sultanate (1 November 1922)
  • Abolishment of Caliphate (3 March 1924)
  • Proclamation of the Republic (29 October 1923)
  • Multi-party regime experiments (Progressive Republican Party in 1924, Free Republican Party in 1930)

Education and Cultural Revolutions

  • Closure of madrassas (1924)
  • Integration of education (3 March 1924)
  • About the Ministry of Education Organization Act (1926)
  • The opening of public schools (1928)
  • Letter Revolution (1 November 1928)
  • Fine art of innovation (1928)
  • The establishment of the Turkish History and Language Institutions (April 12, 1931 July 12, 1932)
  • Language Revolution (1932)
  • University Reform (1933)

Economical Revolutions

  • İzmir Economy Congress (1923)
  • The abolition of the tithe (February 17, 1925)
  • Encouraging farmers (1925)
  • Establishment of model farms (1925)
  • Establishment of Agricultural Credit Cooperatives (1925)
  • Cabotage Law (July 1 1926)
  • Industry Encouragement Act (May 28, 1927)
  • Land Reform (1929)
  • and II. Development Plans (1933, 1937)
  • The establishment of the Higher Institute of Agriculture (1933)
  • Establishment of Trade and Industry (1935)

Breakthroughts in the Field of Law

  • I Esasîy Organization-Law (1921)
  • Ratification of the Constitution (1924)
  • Closure of Sharia courts (1924)
  • Abolishment of the Canon (1926)
  • Turkish Civil Code (1926)
  • Turkish Penal Code (1926)

Social Revolutions

  • Hats and Clothing Revolution (25 November 1925)
  • Abolition of Titles and Appellations (26 November 1934)
  • Surname law (21 June 1934)
  • Secularism (1928)
  • Calendar, clock and measure changes (26 December 1925 – 26 Mar 1931)
  • Dervish lodges and shrines closure
  • Giving women the right to vote and be elected (the right to participate in municipal elections in 1930-.1933-.1934-right to participate in village elections right to participate in parliamentary elections)


Atatürk said “Sovereignty unconditionally belongs to the nation”. He believed, democracy is most logical option for Turkish people. One of the Ataturk’s principles is Republicanism. It is related to democracy. Other principles are ; populism, secularism, revolutionism, nationalism, statism[19][20]. When we look Ataturk’s republicanism, these values support it[21];

  • Sovereignt, should belongs to the nation.
  • Nation should be completely independence.
  • National integrity. That means, people should accept their nation without looking other’s religon, nation and other views.
  • Becoming contemporary. Nation should be civilized.
  • Government and religon should separate.
  • In every field, peace must be provided. Ataturk’s most famous word is “peace at home, peace in the world”.

İnönü’s Term – National Chief (1938-1946)

Atatürk’s successor after his death on November 10, 1938, was Ismet Inönü. During the Inönü presidency two forces struggled for dominance. One group wanted to increase the control over state functions, while the other group wanted to debate domestic and foreign affairs. Inönü’s main legacy was the method he left to Turkey to balance these forces[22].

İnönü’s most important succeed is kept peace during second World War.

Multi Party Term

In 1946 2 party join the elections. CHP won elections in 1946. It was Turkey’s first multi-party general election. Open vote, confidential counting used in this election[23].

Democrat Party Term (1950-1957)

  1. period deputies choose in that elections. Opposions party won elections and Adnan Mendered become prime minister of Turkey. Adnan Menderes tried to controlled opposition party (which is CHP) after become prime minister. Also Adnan Menderes pass the azan law. That means to recite the azan will be Arabian language again[24]. Mr. Menderes become to closer with Soviet Union[25].

1957 Elections and First Military Intervention (in1960)

Democrat Party tried to stop opposition parties. Took some restrictions, reason was Adnan Menderes and DP didn’t want to opposition’s coalition. Because they would won election[26]. DP won election however, DP become minority across oppositions. This leaded to political unrest in Turkish people.

Students started to fight eachother. Democrat party took decision about curfew in 1 May. After these, Democrat Party become threat for Republic of Turkey and democracy. In 27 May 1960, Turkey military staged a coup. Adnan Menderes executed[27].

1961 Elections and 1971 Military Memorandum

After military coup, this was a first election. From 20 November 1960 to 20 Feburary 1965, İsmet İnönü and CHP lead the government.  From 20 February 1965 to 27 October 1965, Suat Hayri Ürgüplü and Adalet Partisi (Justice Party) lead goverment. From 27 October 1965 to 26 March 1971, Süleyman Demirel and Adalet Partisi (Justice Party) lead the government[28].

Turkey Workers Parti (Türkiye İşçi Partisi – TİP), lead politicial unrest. In 16 February 1969,  76 youth club tried to protest American 6. Fleet. They took permissions from the governer. Before that day, Communism Prevention Association warned people. People took stone, stick and knife then they had to wait protesters. They prayed together. After that they attacked protesters. Police didn’t stop attackers[29]. 2 young person died[30].

Adalet Partisi tried to change union law. They passed law. Workers Union protest them and over 75.000 workers joined the protests[31]. That night, the Council of Ministers has declared a 60-day state of emergency. Many of the DISK and its union leaders were arrested and were tried by a court martial. In the event that the squares of two workers, one policeman was killed and one trades[32].  On 12 March 1971 at 13:00 TRT radios read the memorandum. Memorandum was said ; Adalet Partsi (Justice Party) made anarchy, fratricidal strife, social and economic unrest and Turkey’s future become dangeours[33]. After Memorandum, soldiers wanted to nonpartisan person[34]. They agree with Nihat Erim and he resign from CHP, he become nonpartisan person. He lead until 15 April 1973.

From 1973 to 1980

Left-right conflict become very dangerous in Turkey. Students started to died in fight or attacked with gun. There was anarchy, economical crisis, high inflation. Before the military intervention, last prime minister said “we be in need 70 cents”. In that picture, soldiers become restless. 12 September 1980, Turkish Armed Forces intervened third time. Political parties closed, political leaders to be kept under surveilance and they judged by military courts.

1997 Military Warning

After military intervened, right political views become stronger. Right political parties lead to Turkey government. In 1997, Necmettin Erbakan becom prime minister. He was conservative and islamic views. Kayseri mayor Şükrü Karatepe (Refah Party – Welfare Party) said “scheme should be change muslim brothers. Muslims from within cave this ambition, resentment, hatred, and do not skimp on this belief. It is we feel obligated”.  On 6 October 1996 in Ankara Kocatepe Mosque “We wanted sharia” shouted the bearded, robed and noble made ​​the Aczmendi shows [35]. Necmettin Erbakan give iftar dinner in Prime Minister’s Residence to cult leaders and sheikhs in 11 January 1997[36].  Naval Forces Commander Admiral Güven Erkaya said ‘islamic reaction more dangerous than the PKK (which is biggest terorist group in Turkey)[37]. Soldiers show of strength in Sincan with 20 tanks and  15 armored military vehicles in 4 Feburary. On February 5, President Süleyman Demirel, Erbakan has sent warning letters. Some groups in green flag their hand (represent sharia), after the pray the exit Fatih Mosque and they said “we want sharia”, “thumbs up Hezbollah” with their slogans. Islamist journalist Yaşar Kaplam said “if necessary, we would be marty for islam”[38].

Turkish soldiers started to though, secularism took damage. In national security council, Turkish Armed Forces said sternly ; “secularism is under the danger”. After that, some they took some restrictions about secularism, democracy, freedom and stop the islamist movements[39].

Bülent Ecevit

Bülent Ecevit lead government from 1 January 1999 – 18 November 2002. In that period, Mr. Ecevit had modernized many law. Turkey become strongest 20 economy in the world[40]. After 2002, AKP (which is leading part – Adalet ve Kalkınma Partisi, Justice and Development Party) made propaganda about that, thay said “Turkey’s economy be in 20 strongest economy, we made it”. Also Bülent Ecevit changed a lot of law in 1982 military constitution. However they was not enough.

AKP Term

AKP become leading party in 2002. AKP’s leader Recep Tayyip Erdoğan is conservative and islamist. He said “one can not be both secular and Muslim”[41]. He was student of Necmettin Erbakan and he came from Refah Party. While AKP leading, Turkish people divided camps. Anarchy and hostility increased. Erdoğan knew Turkey’s history and affriad to military intervention. For that reason, a lot of Turkish soldiers put jails without evidence. Courts can’t give any result and they stayed more than 5 years. After that, Supreme Court give decision about them and evacuate them[42]. Erdoğan made referandum for controlled justice. Cases such as Ergenekon and Balyoz were result of referandum. Judges took political decisions.

AKP also tried to controlled media. Freedom House published a report. For that report, Turkish media is not free[43]. They said there is crisis of democracy in Turkey[44]. In that report, journalist was not free in Turkey[45]. Some journalist in prison because they wrote against government. Turkish justice give political decisions. That means Turkish democracy took a lot of damage.

Gezi Park Protest

Gezi Park Protest Turkey Democracy

Gezi Park Protest Turkey Democracy

Turkish people feel pressure from goverment. AKP took islamic steps on government. Also every AKP’s decision and step, divided Turkish people. When Turkey’s economy growth, democracy took damage. All these problems and more, increased political tension.

2013 summer, some business machines cut trees in Gezi Park where is in Taksim. Taksim is the biggest square in European part of İstanbul. There are not to much trees in, some groups and academicians tried to stop them. Polis used gasses and to much force. Young people saw that photos and learn what happened in Taksim. However, Turkish media is not published anything 4 days. After police force, people and groups called more people in social media. A lot of people join them. Next days, police used force again and that was more than before. When police use force, more people started to came Gezi Park. They set up a tent in Gezi Park, they read book, played guitar, sing a song. In 5 am, police attacked them and burn thier tent. After that, more people went to Gezi Park. Gezi Park protests began like that[46]. First, it was about stop cutting tree, then become protest of police force after that  it became protest AKP and thier politics. Erdoğan support police force and said, Gezi Park protesters are terroist. This triggered AKP supporters and they took sticks like protest 6. Fellet and they attacked protesters. Some young people died. This was a smilar situation before 1971 military memorandum. Gezi Park protest made a coalition anti-AKP supporters. Different kind of people were in Gezi Park and they protect eachother. There is no important nation, religion, political view, age etc. There was a demand from people to government and AKP ; they wanted to more democracy, equality, secularism, human right and free justice. However AKP, AKP supporters and Recep Tayyip Erdoğan chose to ignore people’s voice.


All these events show that ; Turkey was not taste democracy more than 20-30 years. There were military intervened and islamic threat, political tension. Military allways tried to kept democracy. For this reason, Kemalists (who are support and believe Atatürk’s view in politics, economics, and cultural) can’t learn how to deal with democracy threat. Because when democracy took a damage, Turkish Armed Forced save democracy. When AKP stoped military intervention threat, democracy supporters saw that reality. After that, they started to struggling police forced, islamic pressures, non democratic steps. Gezi Park protests was first step of “learning and struggling democratically”.

As we saw, when secularism and justice took damage, democracy become more dangerous. Democracy is not “majority’s dictatorship”, minority’s rights should protect from majority.

End of the day, %10 of Turkish people are educated university. I believe Turkish education system provide the diplomaed for ignorant people. A lot of student pass courses with cheating and finish university without learning. If intellectual which are %10, are like that ; can we thing other %90 ?

Is Turkey Become Less Democratic Country ? I think Turkey never taste real (representative) democracy.


[1] http://global.tbmm.gov.tr/index.php/EN/yd/icerik/12

[2] History of Ottoman Empire (1301-1922) : http://www.bbc.co.uk/religion/religions/islam/history/ottomanempire_1.shtml

[3] Ottoman Empire – Religion and the legal system (wikipedia)


[4] Confessional Community


[5] List of Cities Conquered by Ottoman Empire

[6] Frenc Revolution’s Long Term Impact


[8] Tanzimat Era in Ottoman

[9] http://tr.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tanzimat

[10] The Ottoman empire’s secular history undermines sharia claims – The Guardian

[11] First Constitutional Era in Ottoman Empire

[12] 1. Meşrutiyet

[13] Second Constitutional Era

[14] TBMM : http://global.tbmm.gov.tr/index.php/EN/yd/icerik/12

[15] Nutuk

[16] Atatürk’s Reforms

[17] http://www.atam.gov.tr/dergi/sayi-06/ataturkun-ekonomik-gorusu-devletcilik

[18] http://www.istanbul.gov.tr/?pid=398

[19] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kemalism

[20] Portland State University : http://www.pdx.edu/turkish_studies_center/atat-rk-ilkeleri-ataturks-principles

[21] http://www.atam.gov.tr/dergi/sayi-36/cumhuriyet-kavrami-ve-ataturkun-cumhuriyet-anlayisi

[22] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Single-party_period_of_the_Republic_of_Turkey#1938.E2.80.931950:_.C4.B0n.C3.B6n.C3.BC_.28National_Chief.29

[23] Cumhuriyetin 75. Yılı, C. 1, Yapı Kredi Kültür Sanat Yayıncılık, İstanbul, 1998 page 291

[24] http://tr.wikipedia.org/wiki/T%C3%BCrk%C3%A7e_ezan

[25] http://tr.wikipedia.org/wiki/27_May%C4%B1s_Darbesi#D.C4.B1.C5.9F_politika_bazl.C4.B1_etkenler

[26] http://tr.wikipedia.org/wiki/27_May%C4%B1s_Darbesi#1957_se.C3.A7imleri

[27] http://tr.wikipedia.org/wiki/27_Mayıs_Darbesi

[28] http://tr.wikipedia.org/wiki/T%C3%BCrkiye_h%C3%BCk%C3%BBmetleri_listesi

[29] http://tr.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kanl%C4%B1_Pazar_%281969%29

[30] “Istanbul Protests”. Turkish Daily News. 17 Şubat 2001. Erişim tarihi: 2008-04-25.

[31] http://www.ensonhaber.com/12-mart-muhtirasi-nedir-2012-03-27.html

[32] http://www.1001masal.com/node/416

[33] http://tr.wikipedia.org/wiki/12_Mart_1971_Muht%C4%B1ras%C4%B1#Muht.C4.B1ra

[34] http://tr.wikipedia.org/wiki/12_Mart_1971_Muht%C4%B1ras%C4%B1#Muht.C4.B1ra_Sonras.C4.B1

[35] http://webarsiv.hurriyet.com.tr/1997/10/10/13261.asp

[36] http://dosyalar.hurriyet.com.tr/fix98/75yil/1995.htm

[37] http://www.milliyet.com.tr/1997/08/12/siyaset/erbakan.html

[38] 24.02.1997, Milliyet, page 3

[39] http://tr.wikipedia.org/wiki/28_%C5%9Eubat_s%C3%BCreci#28_.C5.9Eubat_kararlar.C4.B1

[40] http://www.odatv.com/n.php?n=akp-ecevit-donemine-rahmet-okuttu-2610131200

[41] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x5XgqU50c_Y

[42] http://www.milliyet.com.tr/anayasa-mahkemesi-nden-flas-balyoz-gundem-1899138/

[43] http://freedomhouse.org/report/freedom-press/freedom-press-2014

[44] http://www.freedomhouse.org/sites/default/files/Turkey%20Report%20-%202-3-14.pdf

[45] http://www.freedomhouse.org/blog/why-turkey-media-environment-ranked-not-free#.U6iJ-rGtx5c

[46] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2013%E2%80%9314_protests_in_Turkey