Gov't wants to erase names of Turkey's founding fathers

A debate has been triggered after Education Minister Ismet Yılmaz's Jan. 13 announcement that a new curriculum would be open to "public suggestions" until Feb. 20.

Still, there wasn't much debate on the exclusion of Charles Darwin's theory of evolution from biology books, as it was something already expected. A few years ago, also under the current ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Parti) government, the Scientific and Technological Research Council of Turkey (TÜBİTAK) had suspended the editor of its monthly magazine over its cover featuring Darwin and evolution theory, after which the issue was never mentioned again. Since then, the conservative-nationalist school teachers' union Eğitim-Bir-Sen has proposed the exclusion from school textbooks of even mention of evolutionary theory.

Debate now rages over another proposal from the same union, which demands the exclusion from the curriculum of the political principles of Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, the leader of the War of Independence and the founder of the Turkish Republic following the fall of the Ottoman dynasty.

The ministry does not want to erase the name of Atatük or his principles, which are actually the founding principles of the Republic. But it has decided to "reduce" them, affording them lesser space in the national curriculum. Meanwhile, the ministry recommends the removal from history books of the name of Atatürk's successor, İsmet İnönü.

İnönü is particularly important in terms of the Second World War, which he managed as president to keep Turkey out of until its final months. That still marks perhaps the biggest diplomatic success in the history of the 93-year-old republic.

The young Turkish republic was at the time still struggling to recover from the...

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