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Deconstructing the Discourse of Models: The ‘Battle of Ideas’ over the Post-Revolutionary Middle East

Since the beginning of the Arab Spring, the so-called ‘Turkish model’ has become a key ingredient of the discourse of democratization in the Middle East. In this study, first, the assumption of the necessity of a ‘model’ for the emerging democracies in the Middle East will be discussed. This will be followed by a comparative analysis of the Turkish and Iranian models because of their potential to affect the policies of emerging states in the region. The study will acknowledge the fact that the full application of the model may not be possible, however, I will conclude that the Turkish model is much more applicable to the emerging democracies in Tunisia and Egypt than the Iranian model and it has a lot to offer to those societies in terms of guidance in areas such as the state-religion relations, economic development, and democracy building.

Deconstructing the Discourse of Models The Battle of Ideas over
Turkey's Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan (L) meeting with Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi at the presidential palace in Cairo on November 17, 2012. AFP
 

In recent years, Turkey and Iran, two non-Arab countries emerged as key actors in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region with their rising influence. The Arab Spring has intensified the ongoing discussions over the roles of Turkey and Iran within academic and scholarly literature. Hence, ‘neo-Ottomanism’ and the ‘Shi’a Crescent’ have become popular concepts associated with pro-active foreign policies of these regional powers.1 Debates over the applicability of the ‘Turkish model’ and the ‘Iranian model’ have evolved in parallel to the aforementioned literature. Especially after Islamist-oriented parties, such as Ennahda and Freedom and Justice Party, emerged victorious from general elections and formed governments in post-revolutionary Tunisia and Egypt, the so-called rivalry between two different types of governance based in Turkey and Iran have gained wide attention, sparking the interest of media, academia and policy-makers in the MENA region and beyond. This article will start its analysis by questioning the necessity of a model for post-revolutionary societies.

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