After World War I, the important and contradictory process of modernization of Middle Eastern countries could be observed. One of the most interesting examples is the political evolution of Iran, where the conservative clerical elite tried to conduct a technical modernization of the country. Another example is the complicated development of Turkey, in which radical policy was gradually replaced by the restoration policy of traditional Islamic values.
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After being defeated in World War I, the Ottoman Empire was dislocated and almost all the territory was taken away from it. As a result of the Treaty of Sevres in 1920, Turkey was turned into a relatively small, semi-independent country, and was practically devoid of any prospect of development (Cleveland and Bunton 150). Turkey was able to enhance its situation through the national movement led by Kemal Ataturk. He was able to preserve the independence of the country, as well as return its lost territories, with the help of his extraordinary military capabilities and successive diplomatic victories. The elimination of the sultanate in 1922 should be considered the beginning of the Turkish modernization process (Cleveland and Bunton 178).
After that, a system of secular education was introduced, and in 1926, new criminal and civil codes were applied. Other changes occurred as well. The Latin alphabet was introduced, and it was decided to separate religion from the state. In order to form a competitive political system in the country, the Liberal Republican Party was strengthened, through representatives from the conservative party.
In addressing the history of the Liberal Republican Party, it becomes evident that conservatives followed a similar political pattern. The logic was the same, as the development of liberal democracy was viewed as a mechanism for the formation of authority. Moreover, the restriction of military force took place to ease the execution of authority. From this perspective, democracy served as a platform for conservatives to exercise power. This approach is related to the prospects of political system development, not only in the case of Turkey, but in that of Iran as well.
Iran’s actions regarding the country’s modernization during that time are the leading aspects of the political context. The consequences of these actions should not be underestimated, as they enabled changing the future political landscape of the region and subsequently initiated a new historical phenomenon in the Islamic world, which was revolutionary Islamic fundamentalism (Cleveland and Bunton 441).
Iran’s approach toward modernization was different from that of Turkey. During World War I, Iran was occupied by Britain and Russia, but remained neutral in its political stance. However, the battles between the troops of the Entente and the forces of the Ottoman Empire took place within the territory of Iran. After the war, Iran joined the League of Nations and later signed a trade agreement with the United Kingdom, in which Britain formally confirmed the independence of Iran, meanwhile trying to establish complete control over it (Cleveland and Bunton 172).
Further, the government announced a policy of large-scale modernization and industrialization of the country, and delegated experts to study in Europe and other countries to improve the infrastructure and the education system, as well as to be able to build railways and roads. Thus, industrialization and urbanizing commenced, while the country strove to obtain its full sovereignty.
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However, Iran’s attempt to modernize the country was not a consequence of the country’s collapse, which in the case of Turkey was the result of defeat in World War I, but the desire to establish a regional authority. Moreover, this attempt was not preceded by the overthrow of the regime; on the contrary, the collapse of the regime was its direct consequence.
Cleveland, William L., and Martin P. Bunton. A History of the Modern Middle East, Boulder: Westview Press, 2013. Print.