Turkey and Iran: Same and Different
Posted April 27, 2009on:
Turkey and Iran: Same and Different (April 25, 2009)
hroughout antiquity till our modern days, three main empires dominated the landscape of the Middle East. Turkey, Iran, and Egypt were vast empires and advanced urbanely and economically before the advent of Islam.
Turkey and Iran managed to enjoy a semi-continuous existence of empires but Egypt had large vacuums of many centuries in between empires since the Pharaohs.
Egypt enjoyed special status during the Greek, Roman, Arab, and Ottoman empires and was a world apart as wheat basket and advanced civilization. Turkey and Iran could benefit from stable “national” entities but Egypt experienced foreign leaders as kings or sultans and relied on foreign officers to lead its armies, the latest dynasty was from Albania with Muhammad Ali.
The three empires are currently mostly Moslems and they were in general lenient with the minority religious sects.
The three empires have vast lands, rich in water, and have currently about the same number of population of around 70 millions and increasing at high rates, especially Egypt (90 million).
The Iranian empires relied on the Afghanistanis and the central Asian tribes for their armies. As the frequent Mogul raids descended on Persia its armies went on the defensive.
The Turkish and Ottoman empires relied on the Caucasus tribes from current Azerbaijan, Armenia, and Georgia States, and also from Albania and Romania. As Russia started to expand southward and occupied many of these regions then Turkey curtailed most of its vast military campaigns and went on the defensive.
The Caucasus triangle of Azerbaijan, Armenia, and Georgia is still a hot spot for domination among Russia, Turkey, and to a lesser extent Iran, especially with the oil and gas pipelines that pass through them. My post “Cursed Cities: Kars” would shed detailed historical accounts on that tragic triangle.
In around 1920’s two military dictators ruled over Iran and Turkey.
Rida “shah” in Iran and “Ataturk” in Turkey were attempting to modernize their infrastructure and civil administrations by emulating the European examples. Ataturk went as far as changing the Turkish alphabet to Latin and abolishing the Caliphate in Islam.
Both dictators confronted the religious clerics for establishing secular States with unequal long term successes. Iran has reverted to religious oligarchy after Khomeini came to power.
While Iran was historically more clement with its minorities it appears that Turkey is practically taking steps to outpacing Iran in that advantage. For example, Turkey is translating the Koran into the ethnic languages such as Kurdish.
Women in Turkey are prominent in businesses such as Goler Sabanji; 9% of women are represented in the Parliament. In Iran, Shireen Abadi is Nobel laureate for defending women’s rights; Iranian women represent only 3% in the Parliament though they represent 65% in universities.
In the 70’s Iran was flush with oil revenue while Turkey was struggling to establish an industrial infrastructure. It appears that in the long term oil is definitely a curse for emerging nations because wealth is not invested on the human potentials and stable modern political structure.
In 2008, foreign investment in Turkey was 14 billions dollars and increasing while it amounted to just one billion in Iran. Turkey has expanded its representation in Africa by opening 12 new Embassies and 20 new consulates.
Nisreen Ozaimy is from Iran by origin and fled to Turkey; when her family lived in Turkey it was impressed by the confidence that the Turks valued their various ethnic nationalities and they implicit feeling that Turkey is in fact a bridge between East and West. The Turks managed to blend harmoniously the secular and religious inclinations.
The current crisis in the middle-east is changing the landscape: Turkey has alienated most of the Arab world by getting involved and engaged in “Arab” spring upheavals, siding with the Moslem Brotherhood movements, while Iran is heading the resistance front against extremist islam.