Although Anatolia (the western portion of Asian Turkey) is one of the oldest inhabited regions of the world, the history of Turkey as a national state began only with the collapse of the Ottoman Empire in 1918. For the earlier history of the region now constituting Turkey, see (for the ancient period) Asia Minor; Ionia; Pontus; Thrace; Byzantium; (for the medieval period) Byzantine Empire; Armenia; Turks; Konya; Karaman; Nicaea, empire of; Trebizond, empire of; (for the modern period before 1918) Ottoman Empire; Eastern Question.
The Ottoman Empire, which had been tottering since the Treaty of Kuchuk Kainarji in 1774, was dealt its death blow in World War I. By the Treaty of Sèvres (1920; see Sèvres, Treaty of) the victorious Allies reduced the once mighty empire to a small state comprising the northern half of the Anatolian peninsula and the narrow neutralized and Allied-occupied Zone of the Straits. Sultan Muhammad VI accepted the treaty, but Turkish nationalists rallied under the leadership of Mustafa Kemal (from 1934 known as Kemal Atatürk) and organized their forces for resistance.
In Apr., 1920, even before the Treaty of Sèvres was signed, a Turkish national government and national assembly began to function at Ankara. The nationalists defied the authority of the sultan, took the offensive against the Allies in Anatolia, and concluded (1921) a treaty of friendship with the USSR, which restored the Kars and Ardahan regions to Turkey in exchange for Batumi. In the meantime the Greeks, encouraged by the Allies, launched an offensive against the nationalists from their base at Izmir. The Turkish counteroffensive, beginning in Aug., 1922, ended with the complete rout of the Greeks and with the Turkish capture of Izmir (Sept., 1922). On Nov. 1, 1922, the Ankara government declared the sultan deposed, but it allowed his brother, Abd al-Majid, to succeed to the spiritual office of caliph.
Shortly afterward, a conference opened at Lausanne (see Lausanne, Treaty of) to revise the Treaty of Sèvres. The Treaty of Lausanne (1923) established the present boundaries of Turkey, except for the disputed region of Alexandretta (Iskenderun; see Hatay). Turkey was to exercise full sovereign rights over its entire territory, except the Zone of the Straits (see Dardanelles), which was to remain demilitarized. Under a separate agreement negotiated at Lausanne in 1923, approximately 1.5 million Greeks living in Turkey were repatriated to Greece, and approximately 800,000 Turks living in Greece and Bulgaria were resettled in Turkey.
Turkey was formally proclaimed a republic in Oct., 1923, with Kemal as its first president; he was reelected in 1927, 1931, and 1935. The caliphate was abolished in 1924, and in the same year a constitution was promulgated that provided for a parliament elected by universal manhood suffrage (extended to women in 1934), and for a cabinet responsible to parliament. However, Kemal governed as a virtual dictator, and his Republican People's party was the only legal party, except for brief periods. During the 14 years of Kemal's rule, Turkey underwent a great transformation, which changed the religious, social, and cultural bases of Turkish society as well as its political and economic structure.
In 1925, the government intensified its antireligious policy, abolished religious orders, forbade polygamy, and prohibited the wearing of the traditional fez. In 1926, Swiss, German, and Italian codes of law were adopted and civil marriage was made compulsory. In 1928, Islam ceased to be the state religion and the Latin alphabet was substituted for the Arabic script. In 1930, Constantinople, which had been replaced as capital by Ankara in 1923, was renamed İstanbul.
At the death (1938) of Kemal, Turkey was well on its way to becoming a state on the Western model. In the economic field, Kemal aimed at obtaining self-sufficiency for Turkey without the aid of foreign capital. Foreign investors had virtually taken over the finances of the Ottoman Empire, and one of the major problems of the Turkish republic was to pay off the old Ottoman debt; the refusal of foreign loans thus was a basic point in Kemal's nationalist program. The difficulties of establishing basic heavy industries without foreign investment and in the absence of much domestic capital required the government to assume a large role, and state ownership became the rule in the new industries.
In foreign policy, Turkey sought friendly relations with all its neighbors. It entered the League of Nations in 1932, guaranteed its European borders by joining (1934) with Greece, Romania, and Yugoslavia in the Balkan Entente, and signed (1937) a treaty (the Saadabad Pact) with Afghanistan, Iran, and Iraq. Although Communism was severely suppressed at home, relations with the USSR were cordial until World War II. Turkey was able to obtain a revision of the Straits Convention by the Montreux Convention of 1936 and gained a satisfactory solution of the Alexandretta dispute through an agreement with France in 1939.
Ismet Inönü, who succeeded Kemal as president in 1938, warily steered a neutral course through the first five years of World War II, although Turkey received lend-lease aid from the United States after 1941. Despite considerable Allied pressure, Turkey declared war on Germany and Japan only in Feb., 1945; as a result of its declaration of war, Turkey took part in the conference (Apr.–June, 1945) at San Francisco that founded the United Nations. Relations with the Soviet Union became acrimonious after the USSR denounced (Mar., 1945) its friendship pact with Turkey and demanded a thorough revision of the Montreux Convention and joint control of the Straits. Turkey rejected all Soviet demands, and in 1947 it became, with Greece, the recipient of U.S. assistance under the Truman Doctrine (see Truman, Harry S.).
In the elections of 1950, the government party was defeated and Celal Bayar, leader of the Democratic party (established in 1946), succeeded Inönü as president. With Adnan Menderes as prime minister, the new government followed a policy of firm alignment with the West. Turkish troops fought with distinction in the Korean War, and in 1952 Turkey became a full member of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization; U.S. air and missile bases were subsequently established at Izmir and Adana. Turkey concluded a military defense pact with Yugoslavia and Greece (the Balkan Pact) in 1954 and played a leading part in the creation (1954–55) of the Central Treaty Organization (CENTO; until 1959 known as the Baghdad Pact). Tension with Greece over the island of Cyprus, whose population is mostly Greek but includes a sizable Turkish minority, began in the mid-1950s and continued after Cyprus became independent in 1960.
Partly as a result of aid under the Marshall Plan, the Turkish economy expanded considerably after 1950, and foreign capital was attracted by favorable investment laws. The Menderes government was returned to power in 1954 and 1957, although a serious economic crisis had developed. Growing discontent led to the enactment of restrictive laws by the government. Many leading journalists were jailed, and tension erupted into the open in Apr., 1960, when university students demonstrated against the government. The attempts to suppress these outbreaks led directly to a coup in May by an army junta headed by Gen. Cemal Gürsel. The junta, which favored a return to Kemalist principles, placed Menderes, Bayar, and several hundred other Democratic party leaders on trial for having violated the constitution; Menderes and several others were executed.
In 1961, a new constitution providing for a bicameral legislature and a strong executive was approved in a referendum, thus establishing the second Turkish republic. General Gürsel was elected president and Inönü became prime minister at the head of a coalition government. During the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962, the Turkish government strongly supported U.S. President Kennedy's refusal to close down the U.S. bases in Turkey in exchange for the dismantling of Soviet bases in Cuba; thus, close U.S.-Turkish ties were reaffirmed.
Following a reversal in parliament, Inönü resigned in 1965 and was succeeded as prime minister by Suat Hayri Ürgüplü. After the center-right Justice party won a majority in the lower house of parliament in the general election of 1965, Süleyman Demirel replaced Ürgüplü as prime minister. Gürsel died in 1966 and was succeeded as president by Cevdet Sunay. In 1969 the United States and Turkey signed a military agreement under which Turkey gained some influence over the number of troops and types of weapons the United States deployed in Turkey.
Demirel won the 1969 general elections handily, but his government was soon undermined by civil unrest caused by conflicts between leftists and rightists and by a separatist movement among the Kurds. Western Turkey suffered severe earthquakes in 1970–71. Civil strife continued and Demirel was followed by a succession of prime ministers in the early 1970s. In 1973, Fahri Korutürk succeeded Sunay as president of the country. Bülent Ecevit of the Republican People's party became prime minister in 1974.
Turkey maintained its close ties with the United States in the early 1970s and at the same time cultivated better relations with the USSR. Largely as a result of U.S. pressure, the growing of opium poppies in Turkey was banned in 1971 (effective 1972), although in 1974 the government announced it would allow cultivation of opium poppies under state control for medical purposes only. In mid-1974, Turkish troops invaded Cyprus following a Greek-oriented coup there, and they gained control of 30% of the island. Also in the early 1970s, the discovery of oil on the continental shelf under the waters surrounding the Greek Islands caused further conflict between Greece and Turkey. Largely because of the diplomatic intervention of the United States, Great Britain, and the United Nations, war between the two countries was averted.
Between 1975 and 1980, Demirel and Ecevit alternated as heads of minority governments while economic and social conditions worsened. In 1980 martial law was declared after civil violence claimed over 2,000 lives. Gen. Kenan Evren seized control of the government and forcibly restored order, harshly repressing opponents. A new constitution was approved in 1982, reestablishing the unicameral parliament with the proviso that Evren would remain head of state until 1989. The constitution also gave the military influence over civilian matters and autonomy in military affairs. In 1983 the conservative Motherland party won an overall majority, and its leader, Turgut Özal, became prime minister. By 1987 martial law had been lifted, except in the four Kurdish-dominated provinces in SE Turkey where a guerrilla campaign by the separatist Kurdistan Workers party (PKK) had begun in the mid-1980s. In 1987, Özal was reelected.
In 1989, Özal succeeded Evren as president. In the same year about 300,000 Muslim Turks crossed from Bulgaria into Turkey to avoid government attempts to forcibly Bulgarianize them. During the Persian Gulf War (1991), Turkey allowed the United States to launch air strikes against Iraq from Turkey. Although the war caused a massive dislocation of Kurds in Iraq, Turkey kept its borders closed in an effort to avoid an increase in Kurdish nationalism.
Parliamentary elections in 1991 ousted Özal's Motherland party from government and Demirel, now leader of the conservative True Path party, became the new prime minister. When President Özal died in 1993, he was succeeded by Demirel, and Tansu Çiller of True Path became prime minister, the first woman to hold that post. After an economic boom in the late 1980s, high inflation, a large foreign debt, and the impact of deficit spending led to a financial crisis in 1994. Social stability was disrupted, and Islamic fundamentalists became increasingly popular. Turkey continued periodic assaults on Kurdish guerrilla bases in Turkey and N Iraq, with heavy casualties on both sides. Human-rights groups accused Turkish forces of atrocities against civilians, including the razing of villages to deny Kurds safe harbor and the use of torture and summary executions. In 1995, Turkey joined in a customs union with the European Union.
A close parliamentary election in Dec., 1995, gave the Welfare party (an Islamist party), the largest single share (21%) of the vote, with the Motherland and True Path parties each winning 19%. A series of attempts to form a government resulted in a Welfare–True Path coalition in June, 1996, and Welfare leader Necmettin Erbakan became prime minister, ending 75 years of exclusively secular governments. Erbakan's overtures to Libya and Iran, as well as his support for Muslim education and culture, alarmed the secular military, and he was pressured to resign in June, 1997; Mesut Yilmaz of the Motherland party became the new prime minister. The Welfare party was banned in 1998, and Erbakan was forbidden to participate in politics for five years. Although other Welfare officeholders were allowed to retain their positions as independents, many of them reorganized as the Virtue party.
Yilmaz lost a confidence vote in Nov., 1998, as a result of a bank privatization scandal, and President Demirel appointed Bülent Ecevit, now head of the Democratic Left party, to form a government. Following elections held in Apr., 1999, Ecevit continued as prime minister, heading a three-party coalition government. High inflation persisted into the late 1990s. There were increasing disputes with Greece over territorial waters, airspace, and especially the partition of Cyprus. Conflict with Kurdish nationalists also heightened; by the late 1990s, the Kurdish rebellion had cost some 30,000 lives. PKK leader Abdullah Ocalan was captured in 1999 and sentenced to death for treason (later commuted to life imprisonment). The PKK announced in Feb., 2000, that they would end their attacks, but the arrest in the same month of several Kurdish mayors accused of aiding the rebels threatened to revive the unrest.
Two major earthquakes hit NW Turkey in 1999, killing thousands. Greece sent aid to Turkey, and when Turkey did likewise after an earthquake in Greece, it marked the beginning of an improvement in bilateral relations. Late in 1999, Turkey was invited to apply for membership in the European Union (EU); the action reversed a 1997 rejection of Turkey's candidacy that was prompted by Turkey's human-rights record. President Demirel sought a second term in 2000, but the constitutional amendment that would have permitted a second term failed to win the required votes in parliament in early April. Ahmet Necdet Sezer, the president of Turkey's highest court, was elected to succeed Demirel later the same month.
An yearlong effort in 2000 to bring Turkey's long-standing inflation under control began to undermine weaker banks late in the year, causing a drop in the stock market and requiring a $7.5 billion International Monetary Fund (IMF) loan in December. Disagreements over the pace of reform between the president, who favored stronger moves, and the prime minister aggravated the crisis, and when the Turkish lira was floated in Feb., 2001, it sank more than 30%. In March and May, as Turkey's economy continued to falter, agreements were reached with the IMF on additional economic aid and an economic reform package. Although the immediate crisis was stemmed, economic difficulties continued into 2002; the recession was the country's worst since World War II.
The Virtue party was banned by Turkey's high court in June, 2001, on charges of pro-Islamic and antisecular activities; its members in parliament were, however, allowed to keep their seats. The center-right Justice and Development party (AKP) was subsequently formed as its successor. A split in Ecevit's government over whether to pass reforms needed to join the EU paralyzed the government in 2002 and led to the defection of many high-ranking members who supported passing the reforms. The erosion of the coalition forced (July, 2002) the ailing Ecevit to call for new elections. A reform package, including legalizing the use of Kurdish in private education and in broadcasts, was passed in August, and emergency rule in the four Kurdish-dominated provinces was ended in stages in 2002. (The changes, however, did not end the fighting between Turkish government and Kurdish rebel forces.)
The parliamentary elections in Nov., 2002, resulted in a landslide victory for the AKP, which won 34% of the vote and 66% of the seats in the national assembly; the Republican People's party was the only other party to win enough votes to qualify for representation. Abdullah Gül became prime minister because the AKP leader, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan had been banned from running in the elections. The new parliament, however, passed a constitutional amendment permitting Erdoğan to run, and he was elected to parliament in a Feb., 2003, by-election and became prime minister. Gül became foreign minister.
In Dec., 2002, the EU refused to set a date for the start of negotiations for Turkey's admission to that body. The decision was prompted by EU uneasiness concerning the state of Turkish democracy and human rights and, many Turks believe, by EU discomfort with the fact the Turkey is an Islamic nation. Relations with the EU further soured in early 2003 when UN-sponsored Cyprus reunification talks collapsed, due in large part to Turkish Cypriot rejection of the proposed terms. Subsequently in 2003, however, the parliament passed a series of reforms designed to facilitate Turkey's admission.
In Mar., 2003, the Turkish parliament refused to grant the United States permission to invade N Iraq from bases in Turkey, despite the Turkish government's having negotiated a multibillion-dollar aid package in exchange for such rights; most Turks opposed U.S. military action against Iraq. Although permission to overfly Turkey was subsequently granted to U.S. forces, U.S.-Turkish relations were strained, and the situation was aggravated by Turkey's considering invading N Iraq to forestall any attempt by the Kurds there to move toward independence.
Erdoğan's government supported renewed UN-sponsored negotiations on reunifying Cyprus, and pressed for ratification of the accord (Apr., 2004) by Turkish Cypriots. Rejection of the accord by Greek Cypriots, however, left the situation on the island unresolved. In May, 2004, Congra-Gel, the PKK's successor, announced that it was ending its cease-fire because of government attacks against it, and by 2006 there was renewed violence and unrest in Kurdish areas. A new cease-fire was declared in Sept., 2006, and again in June, 2007, as the government mounted a vigorous offensive against Kurdish separatists.
Revisions to the penal code, the final part of the package of reforms sought by the EU, were passed by the Turkish parliament in Sept., 2004. Despite that, however, it was evident that there was strong sentiment against admitting Turkey in a number of EU countries, and a suggestion of possible new conditions for Turkey's admission to the EU elicited a strong protest from Turkish leaders in Dec., 2004. At the same time, there were also many nationalists in Turkey who objected to its joining the EU. The EU nonetheless agreed to begin negotiations in 2005 with Turkey on its admission, and they were officially opened in Oct., 2005.
The killing, in May, 2006, of a high court judge by an Islamist sparked secular, sometimes antigovernment, protests in Turkey; the military's open approval of the demonstrators brought criticism from Prime Minister Erdoğan, who accused the chief of the army of encouraging ongoing protests. A Turkish law that makes
insulting Turkishness a crime led to several highly publicized controversial court cases (2005–6) against well-known authors, but most of the cases were dismissed. However, the law and other human rights issues, as well as Turkey's relations with Cyprus, were sticking points in negotiations with the EU. The latter issue led to a partial suspension of the accession negotiations in Dec., 2006, as Turkey refused to open its ports to trade with Cyprus unless the EU eased its trade restrictions on North Cyprus. An EU report on the accession process (Nov., 2007) said that Turkey still needed to make progress on a number of reforms. Despite some progress on reforms, a report three years later again focused on shortcomings in political and civil rights as well as Turkey's relations with Cyprus, and there was little subsequent movement toward accession.
In Apr., 2007, the AKP nominated Foreign Minister Gül for the presidency, but his election was defeated through parliamentary maneuvering. The party then sought to change the constitution so that the president would be popularly elected, but President Sezer vetoed the measure. A referendum on the amendment, which should have been forced by the passage of the amendment a second time, was stymied when the president vetoed (June) legislation that would have scheduled the vote in July, during the general election. Sezer's term meanwhile expired in May, but he remained in office until a new president was chosen.
The political battling over the presidency sharpened the tensions between the Islamists and secularists, but the AKP again won a sizable parliamentary majority (with 47% of the vote) after the July, 2007, elections. Gül was subsequently (August) elected president when the several smaller opposition parties refused to boycott the vote in parliament. Voters subsequently approved the direct election of the president by popular vote. Escalating fighting in between Turkish forces and Kurdish separatists in the second half of 2007 led Turkey to threaten to invade N Iraq in an attempt to destroy PKK bases there. Beginning in Oct., 2007, and continuing through 2008, Turkish forces mounted generally small-scale strikes into N Iraq.
In Feb., 2008, the government passed constitutional amendments that eased the ban against the wearing of headscarves by female university students; the amendments were challenged in court as contrary to Turkey's secular constitution. The following month, partly as a result of those amendments, a prosecutor brought a case before Turkey's constitutional court that sought to have the AKP closed and its leaders banned from politics for five years for antisecular actions. The move was widely regarded as an attempt by secularists to remove the government by
judicial coup. In June the headscarf reform was blocked by the constitutional court, which ruled that it was in violation of the constitution's secular principles.
More than 80 persons were charged in July, 2008, with attempting to provoke the overthrow of the government; the trial began in October. A second major indictment in Mar., 2009, charged more than 50 persons with plotting a coup, and by 2010 some 400 people had been arrested and put on trial in connection with plot, allegedly masterminded by a secret secular nationalist group called Ergenekon. The continuing probe into the alleged plot, which led to the arrest of journalists, politicians, and lawyers as well as military officers but no convictions by early 2012, led to charges by the opposition and criticism from abroad that the government was using the case to silence its secularist critics. In Aug., 2013, more than 250 people were convicted in the case, including a former head of the armed forces, İlker Başbuğ, but in Apr., 2016, an appeals court overturned those convictions and ruled that there had been no Ergenekon group.
Meanwhile, in July, 2008, the constitutional court narrowly decided not to ban the governing party, instead imposing financial sanctions on it as a warning; the court later specifically accused the prime minister of antisecular activities. The government subsequently abandoned its attempt at headscarf reform. The AKP's failure to win as large a share of the vote (39% instead of 47%) in the Mar., 2009, local elections was seen as a setback for its policies.
Turkey and Armenia in Oct., 2009, signed protocols normalizing their relations, to take effect when ratified by both nations' parliament. Unresolved issues relating to the mass murder and deportation of Armenians in the Ottoman Empire during World War I (see Armenia) and Armenia's occupation of Nagorno-Karabakh and surrounding Azerbaijani territory stoked opposition to the accord in both nations, and neither ratified the accord. In Dec., 2009, the constitutional court banned the Democratic Society party (DTP), the largest legal Kurdish party, for alleged links to Kurdish rebels; a number of Kurdish politicians were arrested subsequently. The moves raised tensions with Turkey's Kurds and led to several days of unrest. In Feb., 2010, however, DTP lawmakers formed the Peace and Democracy party (BDP).
Revelations in Jan., 2010, concerning a second alleged coup plot, this one dating to 2003 and known as Sledgehammer, led to dozens of arrests in February; among those arrested and charged were serving generals and admirals. In Dec., 2010, nearly 200 people were put on trial in connection with the alleged plot; by the time of the trial's end in 2012, more than 350 defendants were involved. Some of the documents supposedly associated with the plot contained clear anachronisms, and the trial was denounced by government opponents, but 326 officers, including the former chiefs of the air force and navy, were convicted of plotting a coup. In 2013 more than 80 convictions of lower-ranking officers were overturned on appeal. In 2014 the release of, and new trials for, the rest were ordered after the constitutional court ruled that their rights were violated, and the defendants were acquitted in 2015.
In May, 2010, the government passed a package of constitutional changes that were challenged in the constitutional court by the opposition; although the court rejected some changes that would increase presidential influence over the appointment of judges, it otherwise allowed the package to be voted on in a referendum, and the amendments were approved in September. Also in May, Turkey's increasingly independent foreign policy was shown by its ultimately unsuccessful attempt with Brazil to mediate a solution to the standoff between Iran and the UN Security Council over Iran's nuclear policies. Relations with Israel were strained by a deadly Israeli raid at the end of the month that seized a convoy attempting to break the Israeli blockade of Gaza; the convoy had been organized by a Turkish group. Israeli-Turkish relations were not fully normalized until late 2016.
The university headscarf ban ended in Jan., 2011, when the government announced it would support any woman disciplined for wearing one. In June, 2011, the AKP, benefitting from Turkey's significant economic growth since it first took power in 2002, won about half the vote in the parliamentary elections, and again won a sizable majority in the parliament, though not the two thirds of the seats required to amend the constitution. The following month the military chiefs of staff resigned in protest against the arrests of senior officers accused of plotting against the government, in apparent attempt to provoke a political crisis. Occurring relatively uneventfully, the resignations were instead seen as a marker of the military's loss of influence.
The Turkish government was critical of the Syrian government's increasingly repressive response during 2011 to opposition Syrian protests (and was supportive of Syria's Turkmen minorty, who generally opposed Assad). The crisis in Syria strained relations with Iran, which was a strong supporter of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. Tensions with Syria sharply increased in mid-2012 after a Turkish military jet was shot down by Syria while flying along Syria's sea border, and later in the year Turkish forces regularly returned fire whenever Syrian fire landed in Turkey. Turkey shot down a Syrian helicopter in 2013 and a Syrian fighter jet in 2014; it said both had violated Turkish airspace
There were increased tensions with the Kurdish minority beginning in the second half of 2011, and fighting intensified with Kurdish rebels based in Iraq, leading Turkey to send sizable forces across the border; significant fighting with Kurdish rebels in Turkey continued into 2012. The government also moved against Kurdish politicians, journalists, and academics in Turkey after Turkish Kurds announced plans to establish democratic autonomy.
A strong earthquake in Oct., 2011, killed more than 600 and caused extensive damage near Lake Van in E Turkey. Erciş and Van were among the cities that suffered the greatest damage. In Jan., 2012, former president Evren was arrested on charges relating to his role in the 1980 coup; he was convicted and sentenced to life in prison in June, 2014. The arrest of Evren, of those in the two coup cases (including a former head of the army in Jan., 2012), and of Turkish Kurds increased the perception that Prime Minister Erdoğan was using the justice system to settle scores and silence critics, and led to increased criticism of his government abroad. Negotiations with imprisoned Kurdish leader Ocalan, which began in late 2012, led in Mar., 2013, to a Kurdish guerrilla cease-fire and, later, to the gradual withdrawal of guerrilla forces to Iraq. The withdrawal halted in September, and the guerrillas accused the government of failing to make progress to resolution of the Kurdish problem.
In early 2013 a number of generals, include a former chief of the general staff, were detained and questioned concerning the forced resignation of Erbakan in 1997; subsequently some 100 officers were charged with overthrowing Erbakan and put on trial later in the year. Protests in late May, 2013, against proposed development in İstanbul developed into nationwide protests and strikes in June that were directed against Erdoğan; the government responded with a crackdown against the demonstrations and mounted counterdemonstrations of its supporters. In Sept., 2013, Erdoğan announced a package of human-rights reforms, including some language concessions to Kurds and an end to the ban on headscarves on female workers in government offices.
In Dec., 2013, revelations of a corruption investigation involving the families of cabinet ministers and others associated with the government led Erdoğan to accuse the moderate Islamic Gülen movement (see Gülen, Fethullah), a former political ally, of attempting to undermine his government. In response, his government purged police and prosecutorial officials throughout the country (some of whom were also arrested and charged with crimes in 2014 and 2015), blocked additional investigations, passed legislation establishing tighter control over the judiciary and increasing police powers, and during the following years targeted businesses associated with the movement and other perceived opponents, including critical media companies. The revelations and government reaction also had economic repercussions, as the crisis caused the Turkish currency to drop in value and the government's actions were criticized by the EU; the measures the government adopted also aggravated the stalled EU accession talks. In local elections in Mar., 2014, the AKP largely retained the support it had had in the last parliamentary elections.
The European Court of Human Rights in May, 2014, ordered Turkey to pay Cyprus
In the June, 2015, elections the AKP lost its majority but remained the largest party in parliament; the pro-Kurdish People's Democratic party (HDP) attracted support from left-wing voters and placed fourth. A government that enjoyed majority support in parliament, however, was not established. New elections were held in November, when the AKP secured a majority of seats (with 49% of the vote).
The end of the Kurdish militias' cease-fire in July, 2015, led to a surge in clashes between Kurdish militias and government forces as well as air strikes against Kurdish forces in Turkey and Iraq. Government forces subsequently mounted an offensive that led to the worst fighting in parts of SE Turkey since the 1990s. Turkey also began air strikes in July against IS forces in Syria. In late 2015 Turkey also sent troops into N Iraq to train anti-IS forces, a move that led to tensions with Iraq; the forces remained there into 2016. Subsequently, a number of bombings and attacks associated with both conflicts occurred in Turkish cities; a suicide attack in Istanbul in June, 2016, that was attributed to the IS killed dozens and wounded many more. In Aug.–Sept., 2016, Turkish troops crossed into parts of Syria and then maintained a presence there to keep IS forces from the border and assist Turkish-supported Syrian rebels. Turkey and its Syrian Arab allies also seized the Kurdish-controlled region around Afrin in NW Syria in early 2018. Some 3.7 million refugees fled Syria for Turkey as a result of the Syrian civil war.
In Nov., 2015, Turkey shot down a Russian fighter jet that it said had strayed from Syria into its airspace, leading to tensions with Russia; relations did not begin to improve until mid-2016, but late in 2016 both nations began cooperating militarily and diplomatically in Syria. Also in 2015, thousands of Middle Eastern migrants passed through Turkey to Europe; in November the European Union offered Turkey
In July, a faction in the military attempted a coup that quickly collapsed in the face of widespread popular opposition; more than 200 died in confrontations and fighting. In the aftermath the Turkish government blamed Gülen and his followers for the coup, declared a state of emergency that lasted two years (and then was largely extended for three more years by a security law), and used the coup as an excuse to remove more than 200,000 perceived enemies from the military, police, courts, educational system, civil service, and private organizations and businesses into 2019. Some 77,000 were arrested and held for trial, and the government seized control of hundreds of private companies suspected of being linked to Güen's followers. Gülen was indicted for his alleged involvement, and Turkey sought his extradition from the United States. The government also moved against Kurdish party leaders, lawmakers, and mayors, arresting or dismissing them on terrorism-related charges, and shut opposition media outlets, largely eliminating critical reporting.
In Jan., 2017, the AKP, with the support of the smaller National Movement (MHP), secured passage by parliament of constitutional amendments creating a more powerful executive presidency, abolishing the prime ministership, and reducing the independence of the courts. The changes were approved with 51% of the vote in a referendum in April, but the government dominated media coverage during the campaigning and the vote was marred by irregularities and accusations of possible fraud (including lopsided progovernment voting in some opposition areas and the recording of votes that had been deemed invalid). Also in April, the Council of Europe voted to resume monitoring Turkey over concerns about democracy and human rights; the council had suspended its monitoring in 2004. In May, 2017, Erdoğan replaced Yıldırım as AKP leader.
In early elections in June, 2018, the president was reelected with 53% of the vote. Media coverage was again dominated by the government. The AKP and the allied MHP won a majority of the seats; the Kurdish HDP placed third. Concerns about the Turkish economy and Turkey's foreign debt and about the effects of a trade dispute with the United States caused the Turkish lira to drop significantly in value in 2018, and in September Turkey's central bank raised interest rates sharply to stabilize the currency. Ultimately, the result was a recession in the last half of 2019.
The Oct., 2018, murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul led the Turkish government to denounce and discredit the Saudis repeatedly, and already poor relations worsened as the Saudis first denied that any killing had taken place and then several times changed their story concerning the killing before announcing arrests in the case. Turkish elections in Mar., 2019, resulted in the AKP-led coalition winning the most votes nationally, but despite the government domination of the media the Republican People's party (CHP) won Ankara and a number of large cities, including a narrow victory in İstanbul, which the CHP won in June by a large margin after the AKP secured a rerun.
In July, 2019, Turkey's purchase of a Russian missile defense system led to tensions with the United States, which removed Turkey from participation in manufacturing an advanced U.S. fighter jet. In August, Turkey and the United States agreed to create in N Syria a so-called safe zone, in which Kurdish forces would be withdrawn, along part of the E Syria-Turkey border, and Kurds later began withdrawing from some areas. In October, however, after Turkey again threatened to invade Kurdish-held border areas, U.S. President Trump abruptly ordered U.S. forces allied with the Kurds to withdraw. Turkey and its Syrian Arab allies invaded the border areas; they were accused of committing war crimes during the fighting. A U.S.-negotiated pause in the fighting to allow Kurds to withdraw from the border was followed by Russian-Turkish agreement to establish an 18-mi (30-km) safe zone along nearly all of the border E of the Euphrates, with Turkey retaining control of areas it had seized.
In Nov., 2019, Turkey signed a maritime border agreement with Libya's Tripoli-based government that was denounced by Greece, Egypt, and Cyprus for ignoring their territory and claims; at issue were potential oil fields in disputed areas. A military agreement with Libya was also signed, leading Turkey to deploy troops there in early 2020. Turkey also moved several thousand Syrian fighters aligned with it to Libya to aid the Tripoli-based government. In early 2020 Turkey again permitted refugees from Syria to flee to Greece, leading to a confrontation between Greek forces and refugees on the Greece-Turkey land border.
Sections in this article:
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2023, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.
See more Encyclopedia articles on: Turkey Political Geography