Ziya Essays

Ziya Gökalp, pseudonym of Mehmed Ziya, (born March 23, 1876, Diyarbakır, Ottoman Empire [now in Turkey]—died Oct. 25, 1924, Constantinople [now Istanbul], Turkey), sociologist, writer, and poet, one of the most important intellectuals and spokesmen of the Turkish nationalist movement.

While Gökalp was a student at the Constantinople Veterinary School, his active membership in a secret revolutionary society led to his imprisonment. After the Young Turk revolution in 1908, he took part in the underground Committee of Union and Progress in Salonika (now Thessaloníki, Greece) and settled there as a philosophy and sociology teacher in a secondary school. He played a major role as an intellectual leader in this organization, which later virtually ruled the country. During that period he contributed to the avant-garde periodicals Genç Kalemler (“The Young Pens”) and Yeni Mecmua (“New Magazine”), both vehicles for the dissemination of revolutionary nationalist ideas. In 1912 he was appointed to the chair of sociology at the University of Istanbul.

At first Gökalp espoused the ideas of Pan-Turkism, an ideology that aspired to unite the Turkish-speaking peoples of the world. Later, however, he limited his dream to an ideology that essentially embraced only the Turks of the Ottoman Empire and was concerned with the modernization and Westernization of the Turkish nation. Although he was interested in developing his countrymen’s awareness of Turkish history, customs, and beliefs, he thought that the Turkish nation could adopt many of the ways of Western civilization without destroying its Turkish heritage.

After the 1918 armistice, Gökalp was exiled to Malta with a number of leading Turkish political leaders. Freed in 1921 after the nationalist victory, he returned to Diyarbakır briefly and then went to Ankara, where he worked in a government translation bureau. He was elected a member of the Parliament of the new Turkish republic in 1923 but died soon after.

As a spokesman for Turkish nationalism, Gökalp greatly influenced the politicians and writers of his generation. His best-known works include the verse collection Kızıl Elma (1915; “The Red Apple”). The title poem deals with an ancient Turkish myth in which universal sovereignty, symbolized in the apple, devolves on the Turks.

Other writings are Yeni Hayat (1918; “The New Life”), an anthology of poems; the prose work Türkeşmek, İslamlaşmak, Muasırlaşmak (1918; “Turkification, Islāmization, and Modernization”); fables in prose and poetry, Altın Işık (1923; “The Golden Light”); the prose work Türkcülüğün Esasları (1923 and 1970; Principles of Turkism, 1968); his unfinished Türk Medeniyeti Tarihi (“A History of Turkish Civilization,” vol. 1, 1925); and Malta Mektublar (1931; “Maltese Letters”). Some of his essays have been collected and translated into English by Niyazi Berkes in Turkish Nationalism and Western Civilization: Selected Essays of Ziya Gökalp (1959).

Ziya Meral is a British and Turkish researcher. He specialises on politics and foreign policies of Turkey and Middle East, and thematic issues surrounding interaction of religion with global affairs, and issues of defence and security. He is a Resident Fellow at the UK Army's new Centre for Historical Analysis and Conflict Research - a civilian and military think tank providing independent analysis and research on defence and security based at the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst.  He is also the founding Director of the Centre on Religion and Global Affairs, based in London, Accra and Beirut. He regularly serves as an advisor and consultant to various projects, companies and as a board member to charitable initiatives in the UK and Middle East. 

He is a frequent commentator in international and British media, including live television interviews on Al Jazeera, France 24, MSNBC, BBC programs; and interviews on BBC World Service radio and BBC Radio's flagships programs including the Today Programme, and have been interviewed by leading newspapers including the Financial Times and the New York Times. He travels widely to lecture and delivered talks at leading diplomatic and academic institutions and conferences around the world. These have included expert statements and talks at the UK House of Commons and House of Lords, the U.S. Congress, Danish Parliament, US Sate Department, UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office, UK Department for International Development, and the NATO Defense College. 

He holds a 1st Class BA Hons from Brunel University in London, MDiv from International School of Theology in the Philippines, where he lived for more than 3 years, and MSc in Sociology from the London School of Economics. He studied Russian Literature at Ankara University. His PhD thesis at theUniversity of Cambridge looked at ethno-religious violence in a global age, with a focus on Nigeria and Egypt. He has undertaken short-term studies and research in a wide range of countries, including Iran, Egypt, China, Canada, Nigeria, Israel, Turkey, USA and Jordan. He worked as a human rights advocate with a focus on religious freedom in the Middle East and North Africa, ran advocacy campaigns and lobbied various governments on individual cases and thematic issues. During 2010-2011, he was a Joseph Crapa Fellow at the US Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) in Washington DC, conducting research on ethno-religious violence in Nigeria and Egypt. 

His first book in Turkish, Ve Tanrı Ağlıyordu (And God was Crying; Essays on Life, Hope and God) was published by GOA publications in 2006. His comparative study of Nietzsche's and Dostoyevsky's lives, thoughts and beliefs was published in Turkish as Budala: Nietzsche ve Dostoyevski Karşı Karşıya (The Idiot: Nietzsche and Dostoyevsky Face to Face) by Kaknüs publishing in 2011. He has also contributed to edited volumes. In 2012, Yale University Press published "Abraham's Children: Liberty and Tolerance in an Age of Conflict", which featured an essay by Ziya Meral alongside a leading group of Muslim, Christian and Jewish voices, including President Jimmy Carter, President Abdurrahman Wahid,  Abdulkarim Souroush. He is the author of various briefings and special reports on specific countries and thematic issues in the Middle East. These include the 2011 report "Prospects for Turkey" published by the Legatum Institute and the report on Islam and human rights, No Place to Call Home: Experiences of Apostates from Islam and Failures of the International Community, which is based on in depth field research in 6 countries, legal surveys of Muslim-majority states and theological surveys of current and traditional Islamic thought. He co-authored the official reports, "Article 18: An Orphaned Right" and "Aslum Claims in the UK on Religious Freedom Grounds" of the All Party Parliamentary Group on International Religious Freedom at the British House of Commons. A play he has written, Kohelet, has been produced by Tiyatro 6 Unsur for stage in Istanbul in 2010.

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