Mohammed bin Salman to Ataturk

Leadership in History

There have been many great leaders throughout history who have helped their countries become the prosperous nations they are today. Turkish politician Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, who transformed his nation into what it is today, is one of history’s most illustrious leaders.

Society and Leadership

Prince Mohammed bin Salman of Saudi Arabia is attempting to follow in the footsteps of Ataturk, who altered Turkey’s society and made it a secular, liberal, and democratic state. Salman has worked to combat corruption and implement various local and international programs. Although not much has been accomplished, there is some faith in the leader. Salman lacks the characteristics and skills that Ataturk possessed. Decidedly, it is hard for Mohammed bin Salman (MBS) to transform Saudi Arabia through domestic and foreign policies the same way Ataturk did in Turkey due to his clear lack of the qualities that Ataturk had and the different nature of their societies and countries’ visions.

Domestic Policies

MBS, just like Ataturk, has been pursuing and implementing essential policies in Saudi Arabia. One of those is the purge on corruption which has seen several elites and the royal family members arrested for allegations of corruption. In November of 2017, Salman formed an anti-corruption committee which commenced work just a few hours after its formation. It carried out the arrest of several high-profile individuals in the country and froze their bank accounts (Leber and Christopher 1). Over a hundred individuals have since been arrested, and some have been released after agreeing to pay huge amounts of money to settle the corruption allegations against them. Fighting corruption is one of the right paths towards a healthy and transformed Saudi Arabia. Corruption is known to cripple progress, and that has been the case in Saudi Arabia.

On the other side, Ataturk transformed Turkey, not through power but charisma. For him, he did not need to use the disciplined forces to keep the people of Turkey in line. The people loved and adored him making his leadership duties easy. Among his domestic policies that transformed the country was the secularization of the nation and the abolishment of the caliphate allowing the country to modernize. All this was done with the approval of the people who followed the charismatic leader. In the case of Salman, however, although fighting corruption is a good way of transforming the country, it has not gained the approval of the people, and the exercise is, in fact, viewed with suspicion. It is viewed not as a fight against corruption but as a way of consolidating power in the hands of Salman. For this reason, it would be hard for Salman to realize the same achievements as Ataturk due to the lack of trust and the questionable nature of his actions.

Foreign Policy

Another reason for Salman’s imminent failure in achieving what Ataturk achieved in Turkey is his failed foreign policies towards Qatar, Yemen, and Lebanon. When compared to those of Ataturk’s, Salman policies compare both similarly and differently. For both leaders, their foreign policies involved the use of force. Notably, the making of Turkey into a state required the shrewdness of Ataturk in foreign policy. Ataturk had to defy the Ottomans and the British and fight for the country’s independence. The war of independence lasted for a few years after which Ataturk emerged victorious. While forming the state of Turkey, Ataturk believed in the right of independence. He believed that the people of Turkey had the right to be independent. However, to gain this freedom. He believed that force had to be used albeit limitedly (Rustow 797). Despite the need for using force, Ataturk also recognized the need for negotiation. Treaties were important to him, and he used them for the benefit of his country (Rustow 801). His foreign policy also involved protecting the nation from outsiders.

The foreign policy of Salman is more similar than different to that of Ataturk. Salman has been using force to implement its foreign policy towards Yemen. Regarding Qatar and Lebanon, however, force is yet to be employed. Instead, the country is using other actions such as economic sanctions and boycotts as well as negotiations. However, unlike Ataturk’s foreign policy which was successful, Salman’s policies have failed. In Lebanon, nothing has been achieved considering that a member of the Shia community which is in opposition to the Saudi Arabia’s Sunnis is now the president of Lebanon (Nasr 233). In Yemen, the war has not borne any fruits. Therefore, although the two leaders used the same policies, they are different in that those of Ataturk were successful while those of Salman have not been successful. This goes to show the unlikelihood of Salman achieving what Ataturk achieved in Turkey.

The Societies

Decidedly, it would also be difficult for Salman to achieve what Ataturk achieved in Turkey due to the differing societies found in Ataturk’s Turkey and Salman’s Saudi Arabia. The Turks in Turkey, unlike the Arabs in Saudi Arabia, were not overly religious. In Saudi Arabia, there is an exaggeration of sectarianism which hinders political progress (Al-Rasheed 513). Also, the Turkish society present during the time of Ataturk was more united than the society in Saudi Arabia. In addition to being united, the Turkish society was also loyal to Ataturk, unlike Salman whose family has faced insurrections severally during its dictatorship. Notably, Ataturk has always been regarded by historians as a charismatic leader. It is this aspect of him that enabled him to transform the Ottoman Empire into Turkey. A charismatic leader is one who arouses devotion among his followers like Ataturk did (Rustow 794). Through this devotion and commitment to him, Ataturk was able to transform the Turkish society since it willingly followed his leadership. The Turkish society was also open to westernization and was are that for it to become modernized, it had to be westernized.

In Saudi Arabia, the society was completely different. First, it has always been divided on religious grounds. There are Sunni and Shia Muslims in the country who are divided on religious grounds. Looking into this group further also shows the disunity within them which cannot allow for the effecting of positive change. For instance, some Shia leaders who represent this minority community in the country have been on the forefront opposing calls for change by members of their community (Lacroix 35). Just like the Turkish society, the Saudi Arabian society has been yearning for change. This idea is advised by the various mobilizations that have been experienced in the country. This is due to the social discrimination and inequalities that have affected the Shia people in the country (Jones 180). Although they have not been successful, several reformists have been pushing for change in Saudi Arabia. Salman is likely not to be successful due to these divisions and the fact that it is a regime that the people are seeking change from.

Vision and Country

Lastly, the visions of Ataturk and Salman for their countries are different, and their countries are, themselves, different. While Salman is a leader of a nation that has been in existence for several years, Ataturk was the founder of a new nation. Accordingly, it would be hard for Salman, with an old nation, to achieve what Ataturk achieved with a new nation. One of Ataturk’s visions was to establish an independent nation. In this pursuit, he saw it necessary to use force albeit limitedly. Force was meant to help them achieve their rights. Also, Ataturk envisioned a nation that was in harmony with other nations and a modern nation for that matter. He wanted a country that would be independent of the precepts of Islam. Salman, on the other hand, has an economic vision for his country. Economically, he dreams of helping his country to stop depending on oil profits and explore other economic channels. However, his vision does not include bringing the country together, a thing which might make him unsuccessful in trying to emulate Ataturk.


Ataturk of Turkey is among the great leaders who elevated their countries to the prosperous nations they are today. Saudi Arabia’s, Prince Mohammed bin Salman, is trying to emulate Ataturk to achieve the same transformation in his own country that Ataturk achieved in Turkey. Salman’s efforts have been in the areas of fighting corruption and other domestic and foreign policies. However, least has been achieved, and people have a little trust in the leader. What is more, as shown in this analysis, a little is likely to be achieved in the future. The Saudi Arabian Society, unlike the Turkish society present during Ataturk’s era, is divided along religious and other grounds making it impossible for achieving change. Also, policies of Salman are overly different from those of Ataturk and might never accomplish much.

Works Cited

Al‐Rasheed, Madawi. “Sectarianism as Counter‐Revolution: Saudi Responses to the Arab Spring.” Studies in Ethnicity and Nationalism 11.3 (2011): 513-526.

Jones, Toby Craig. Desert Kingdom. Harvard University Press, 2010.

Lacroix, Stéphane. “Is Saudi Arabia Immune?” Journal of Democracy 22.4 (2011): 48-59.

Leber, Andrew, and Christopher Carothers. “Is the Saudi Purge Really About Corruption?” Foreign Affairs, 15 Nov. 2017,

Nasr, Vali. The Shia Revival. WW norton & Company, 2016.

Rustow, Dankwart A. “Atatürk as Founder of a State.” Daedalus (1968): 793-828.

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