Is there a ‘Turkish model’ for Arabs to consider on their march to democracy? One thing is certain, as you’ll read in our Special Report on Turkey in this issue of the Cairo Review: a century after the collapse of the Ottoman Empire, Turkey is back as a formidable actor in the Middle East. And it is a return largely welcomed in Arab countries. A Zogby survey last year gave Turkey a stunning approval rating of 64 percent in Egypt, 80 percent in Morocco, 93 percent in Lebanon and 98 percent in Saudi Arabia. When Turkish leaders visit the region, they are greeted like rock stars. Crowds gather and chant, “Turkey! Islam!”
One of those frequent Turkish travelers to the Middle East is Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu, who kindly agreed to answer an extensive range of questions for The Cairo Review Interview. Writer and analyst Hugh Pope authors our lead essay, a close look at the rise of Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and his Justice and Development Party—viewed by many as the purveyors of a moderate brand of political Islam with far-sighted leadership that could be emulated by emerging Islamist parties in Egypt and other Arab countries. Aslı Aydıntaşbaş, a columnist for Milliyet, gives a Turkish perspective on Turkey’s re-engagement with the Middle East, and researcher Ebru İlhan provides an insightful report on the key domestic issue of education policy reform.
And, yes, of course, we have an essay entitled “The Turkish Model,” written by Mustafa Akyol, deputy editor of the Hürriyet Daily News. Weighing the contributions of secular and conservative legacies to modern Turkey’s remarkable rise to power, Akyol reminds us that Ottoman caliphs embarked on the road to modernity centuries before Atatürk introduced secularism. Given the particular evolution of the Turkish Republic, it is impossible to say that there is a ‘Turkish model’ for Arabs to simply copy. But much will be learned from studying Turkey’s experience. Likewise, perhaps, much can be gained from Turkey’s return to the Middle East.