The Erdogan Revolution in the Turkish Curriculum Textbooks

By Impact-se in conjunction with The Henry Jackson Society

We are delighted to have worked with Impact-se on this timely report, exploring the state of Turkey’s new curriculum.

As outlined in the report, this is the first time that President Erdoğan made significant changes to Turkey’s state approved school textbooks since taking power in 2003. This report is the fourth undertaken by IMPACT-se into the Turkish curriculum and a distinct trend line of deterioration can be drawn from this latest research in regards to meeting UNESCO defined standards of peace and tolerance.

This is the first time that President Erdoğan has targeting textbooks in his gradual overhaul of Turkish society. The Islamization of the curriculum is a direct attempt by Erdoğan to shape future generations to fit in with his grand narrative of an Islamic Turkish revival.

The insertion of jihad into religious studies and the characterization of it as a nationalist pursuit are deeply worrying and run contrary to any supposed human rights education. Textbooks can be seen as a primary site for Erdogan’s slow revolution of Turkish society.



The report covers a variety of issues, including:

Islamization and insertion of jihad – The curriculum is gradually introducing elements of Sharia law. Previously included courses on Darwinian theory have been removed. Jihad is also represented as a fundamental pillar of Islam, with students being taught that a Muslim cannot be a true believer unless they fight in the name of Allah.

Ethno-nationalism, Pan-Turkism and Neo-Ottomanism – Jihad is framed in nationalist terms in order to “protect the homeland”. Geography textbooks references the “Turkish Basin”, expanding from the Adriatic Sea to Central Asia as a zone of influence of the pan-Turkish and Ottoman legacy. Furthermore Ataturkism is gradually being removed from the curriculum and Greece is denounced for its hostility to the Turkish language and looting Turkish properties.

Discrimination of Minorities and non-Muslims – Kurdish language is not offered as an option in most schools. All populations are divided into three categories: the believers (Muslims), the hypocrites (described as Muslims who tempt believers with sin) and infidels, which are characterized as all non-Muslims. Textbooks also contain subtle antisemitic messaging as all conflicts and problems in the Middle East are attributed to Israel.

Failed 2016 coup – The first week in the academic year is dedicated the condemnation of the 2016 coup attempt and celebrating its failure through Turkish literature, history, social studies and religious studies.

Democracy and Human Rights – Students are discouraged from taking part in demonstrations and given the example of the Gezi Park Protests, which are characterized as a rebellion rather than a democratic demonstration.

Anti-American messaging and justification of terrorism – America is described as supporting the military coups in 1971 and 1980 in order to intentionally punish Turkey. The curriculum also describes the US as funding terrorism through its support to the Syrian Kurds.

Anti-Israel messaging – Students are encouraged to identify with the Palestinian cause as part of the Turkish role as protectors of the Islamic people, and the establishment of Israel is described as being a destructive force in the Middle East.




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