Removed student oath was dictatorship tool

The decades long tradition of the controversial student oath at Turkish schools was also implemented by Germany’s Hitler and Italy’s Mussolini.

Removed student oath was dictatorship tool

Ömer Aymalı - World Bulletin / History

The oath taken by students in Turkish schools has been the subject of much debate lately, with some saying that it is time for the oath to be lifted. On the other hand, there are those who disagree with this opinion. So this begs the question – what is the history behind the oath?

The tradition was born in 1933, when the then Education Minister Reşit Galip made a speech to children who were celebrating the 23 April Children’s Day holiday. As of 10 May 1933, this oath was read every day in schools all over Turkey.

This was in line with a similar tradition that was simultaneously developing in Europe. Declaration of allegiance to the state, regime and leader was common in one-party nations, especially in Germany, Italy, Spain and Russia. Education was seen as the key factor in increasing the nation’s bond to their leader. It was a tool used to raise a nation of subjects loyal to their leader.

Hitler and Mussolini were probably the most successful leaders in using this tactic. From the moment children first entered the German education system, they were taught that allegiance to Hitler was almost something holy. They would stand in front of a picture of Hitler every day for ten minutes. Furthermore, supplementary and extra-curricular camps were also set up for this purpose. There, the children aged between 6-18 would be taught to hate National Socialism, Fuehrer and Jews. Originally started on a voluntary basis, these camps became compulsory in 1936.

A similar system was being enforced in Italy. Italian dictator Mussolini also gave importance to indoctrinating the youth to the state via the education system. They were taught the following oath: ‘In the name of God I promise to obey the commands of my leader. If necessary I will follow them to the last drop of my blood. Long live the fascist revolution!’

However, as if it wasn’t enough for them to force this on their own states, they also tried to force this ideology onto neighboring states as well. Despite the fall of fascist dictatorships during one of the bloodiest wars in human history, World War II, their memory has left a scar on many people.

This was also a turbulent time for Turkey, who was at that time going through the transition from an Ottoman state to Turkish republic. While democracy in Europe was falling apart, Turkey was also developing a one-party system. In the process of many revolutions, many writers began to emerge from Turkey attempting to unite these revolutions under one umbrella called ‘Kemalism.’ Falih Rıfkı Atay lead the way in demonstrating the principles of fascism to Turkey. Meanwhile the Minister of Justice Mahmut Esat Bozkurt taught that fascism was a direct copy of Kemalism during his seminars in Istanbul University. Atatürk’s third in command, Recep Peker proposed founding a committee of fascist nations to Atatürk in 1937. While some of these suggestions were approved by Atatürk, some were rejected.

However, Turkey was unlike the blood-thirsty fascist dictatorships of Germany and Italy. Needless to say the wave of fascism sweeping through Europe in the later 1930s did affect Turkey. This includes the student oath.

After World War II one-party fascist regimes in Europe were replaced with a democratic system and Turkish politics saw a gradual normalization. However, while student oaths were dropped in Europe, the tradition still continued in Turkey. 

Güncelleme Tarihi: 30 Eylül 2013, 14:52