I don't understand why non-Turks like Ataturk

I understand why Turks like Mustafa Kemal Ataturk so much but I don’t understand why non-Turks like him as well.

1-) The government under Mustafa Kemal Ataturk massacred Kurds in Dersim.
2-) He used nationalism as a reason for the expulsion of parts of the population from the nation-state’s territory ( Greece-Turkey 1923)
3-) He did not apologize for Armenian genocide.
4-) The military forces under his rule massacred Greeks in West Anatolia.
5-) He silenced all the political opposition.
6-) A lot of Muslim were abused because of being religious and not accepting Westernization.

If Turkey and Turks wants to join EU and/or become “really” Westernized, they should really start to become a critical of him.

He managed to make Turkey one of the few truly secular countries in the Middle East.

You just hit on reason #1 a lot of Westerners think well of Ataturk. Well not the direct abuse part, but the fact that he secularized and nationalized the state, forcibly or not. Also he at least partially modernized it. Westerners tend to like secularism, westernization AND nationalism ( well typically their own, not other folks :wink: - but I suspect there is some sneaking admiration for allied “father of their country” types ). In addition once the smoke cleared from the post-WW I Turkish wars he increasingly steered towards a more pro-Western political orientation.

So you get in the popular imagination:

1.) Underdogism - he fought off attempts at quasi-colonial land grabs post WW I.
2.) Modernized and westernized his society.
3.) Once the fighting was over he sought rapproachment with the west, moving Turkey towards a direction that eventually landed it in NATO.

This is balanced in western minds by:
1.) Was essentially a dictator.
2.) The west tends towards a sort of weak philhellenism, which has always resulted in a sceptical eye vis-a-vis stormy Greek-Turkish relations. But truly Turkey with its more strategic position and larger military was generally a more valuable NATO ally, so even here pragmatists tended to shrug a bit.

Ataturk was a complex bugger, but seems to sorta fall into that kind of odd category of “respected semi-benevolent dictators” for a lot of people, much like the late Tito in Yugoslavia. People recognize his abuses, but handwave them away in the face of his ability and the fact that his country ended up an ally ( or in Tito’s case a politically useful armed neutral ).


Ataturk basically turned Turkey into a secular state that was traditionally and culturally Muslim. This paralleled countries like the US and France - countries that were (and still are, to some extent) traditionally and culturally Christian but that incorporated religious freedom and institutional secularism into their governments and cultures.

Good point. My experience growing up in the US was that Americans generally perceive Greece rather favorably. Certainly, if you did a poll here asking, “If Greece were to be invaded, would you support the US sending troops to help defend it?”, most Americans would answer yes, recent Greek fiscal issues notwithstanding.

We see Greece as:

  1. White
  2. Christian, at least in culture if not actual belief
  3. Not Muslim
  4. Not Communist

that certainly matches much of what Americans see themselves as.

Also, the way world history is taught here generally portrays Classical Greece as civilized, enlightened, just (to the extent reasonably possible), and “good guys” in general.

As a linguist, I like his reforms for the orthography of the Turkish language-- they finally got an alphabet well-suited to writing the language.

It was his menagerie named “Abdul”.