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Prominent liberal Can Dündar is a columnist in the centrist Milliyet , one of the major newspapers in Turkey. Known for his clear, crisp, buoyant, and confident voice, Dündar has established himself as an outstanding journalist, documentarian, and prose and lyric writer in the Turkish media and public. His prolific work varies from political commentary, books, and documentaries on Turkish historic, political, and public life, to lyrical accounts. His views, poems, and cultural critique represent the modern Turkish mind as well the spirit of his time.


Born on 16 June 1961 in Ankara, he was the only son of Ali Riza Dündar. His parents were both civil servants. He attended the Mimar Kemal elementary and middle schools, and went to the Atatürk Lisesi (high school) in Ankara. He studied social sciences and journalism at Ankara University and graduated in 1982. His career as a journalist began in 1979. Dündar worked for various Turkish newspapers, magazines, and TV programs such as Yanki (1979–1983), Hürriyet (1983–1985), Nokta (1985), Haftaya Baki? (1987), Söz (1987–1988), and Tempo (1988). During this time, he also completed his education at the London School of Journalism in 1986. He has an M.A. and a Ph.D. in political science from the Middle East Technical University in Ankara. The first he received in 1988, the latter in 1996. From 1988 onward, Dündar established a reputation for independence and excellence, and his editorial career in broadcast journalism progressed quickly, landing him in TV programs such as 32. Gün (The 32nd Day; 1989–1995), Çapraz Ate? (Crossfire; with Mehmet Ali Birand, 1993–1994), 40 Dakika (40 Minutes; 1996–1998), and Neden (Why; since 2006). Since 1995 he has been working independently as a documentarian and, since 2001, as an editorial staff member for the renowned Turkish newspaper Milliyet for which he writes political columns.


A great deal of Dündar’s work has undergone the translation from journalism to book. He reins in his style; his language is rich and flows naturally. His writings capture readers’ attention with their passionate but fearless and detailed analyses. Much of Dündar’s work traces Turkey’s evolution into a modern nation and provides historical and political detail regarding crucial events, debates, and conflicts. For example, Demirkirat: Bir Demokrasinin Dogu?u (1991), a collaborative work with Mehmet Ali Birand and Bülent Çapli, investigates the roots of Turkish democracy covering the time from the 1930s until the 1960s. Through the eyes of several contemporary witnesses it gives an account of the challenges the young Turkish nation had to face during this time, its transformation from a one-party to a multiparty system, and the rise and fall of the Turkish Democratic Party (Demokrat Parti), which was overthrown and banned after the first military coup d’état on 27 May 1960. The book title “Demirkirat” refers to an iron-gray horse, which according to old legends represented Turkish leaders since the Middle Ages. When the word democrat was adopted into the Turkish language and affixed to a political party, illiterate peasants confused it with Demirkirat, the legendary horse. The Turkish prime minister Adnan Menderes, who was the leader of the Democratic Party and was executed after the military coup, used this symbol in order to create a meaningful connection between Turkish heroism and his political party.

Dündar’s expertise is also evident in his biographical treatments of significant historical and political figures in Turkey. Among his work are titles profiling Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, founder of the Turkish republic ( Sari Zeybek , 1994; Gölgedekiler , 1995; Yaveri Atatürk’u Anlatiyor: Salih Bozok’un Anilari , 2001; Yükselen bir Deniz , 2002; and Mustafa Kemal Aramizda , 2003); Ismet Inönü, commander during the Turkish War of Independence, diplomat, and Turkey’s first prime minister ( Ismet Pa?a , 2006); Nazim Hikmet, distinguished and exiled Turkish poet ( Nazim Hikmet , 2005); Sedat Alp, Turkey’s first specialized archaeologist in Hittitology ( Sedat Alp: Ilk Türk Hititologun ya?am öyküsü , 2004); Nejat F. Eczaciba?i, the pharmacist who established the first pharmaceutical company in Turkey and founder of the Istanbul Foundation for Culture and Arts ( Bir ya?am iksiri: Nejat F. Eczaciba?i , 2003); Vehbi Koç, one of the wealthiest men in Turkey and founder of the Koç Group ( Özel ar?ivinden belgeler ve anilariyla Vehbi Koç , 2006); and Turkish politician, writer, poet, and journalist Bülent Ecevit ( Karaoglan , 2006).


Name: Can Dündar

Birth: 1961, Ankara, Turkey

Family: Married; one son, Ege

Nationality: Turkish

Education: London School of Journalism; B.A. in Social Sciences and Journalism, Ankara University; M.A. in politics from the Middle East Technical University; Ph.D. in politics from the Middle East Technical University (1996)


  • 1979–1983: Appears on television program Yanki
  • 1983–1985: Writes for Turkish newspaper Hürriyet
  • 1985: Becomes political writer for Nokta
  • 1986: Joins London School of Journalism
  • 1987: Appears on television program Haftaya Baki?
  • 1987–1988: Appears on television program Söz; writes for political magazine Tempo
  • 1989–1995: Appears on TV program 32. Gün
  • 1993–1994: Appears on TV program Çapraz Ate? with Mehmet Ali Birand
  • 1994–1998: Works as columnist for newspaper Yeni Yüzyil
  • 1994–2004: Works as columnist for magazine Aktuel
  • 1996–1998: Appears on TV program 40 Dakika
  • 1999–2001: Works as columnist for newspaper Sabah
  • 1995–present: Works as independent documentarian
  • 2001–present: Becomes columnist for Milliyet
  • 2006–present: Appears on TV program Neden?

At the same time, Dündar’s politically themed books ( 12 Mart: Ihtilalin pençesinde demokrasi , 1994; Hayata ve Siyasete Dair , 1995; Benim Gençligim , 1999; Köy Enstitüleri , 2000, Nereye? , 2001; Sava?ta ne yaptin baba? , 2003) raise questions about current political and social affairs by putting history back under the microscope. These stories also form the platform for Dündar’s documentaries in which he untangles the secularist ideas and struggles of a time and topic through interviews and archival footage.


Dündar is a fervent defender and advocate of secularism in Turkey. He questions the dwindling of secularist believers in the political spectrum of the Middle East. The principle of secularism, which has been at odds with many neighboring and European countries’ perceptions of Turkey, is continually publicly endorsed by Dündar who argues:

Turkey is not a model only to countries of the region but to the entire world. Turkey demonstrates its difference to the world by welcoming the pope, who once fomented a fanatical conflict between the two faiths. Even if it has some problems, Turkey’s secularism is not a weak one. Even if Europe excludes Turkey, it will continue with it in peace with traditional values. And I’m sure that the world will need this type of secularism more than ever in a clash of civilizations. From the Vatican to Iran. ( Milliyet , 4 December 2006)

In the early 2000s, Dündar’s writings have emphasized Turkey’s prospects of becoming a part of the Western world. Turkey’s entry into the European Union (EU) as the first Muslim nation has become the most controversial issue on Turkey’s and the Europeans’ agenda. The negotiations regarding Turkey’s membership, in tandem with Europe’s negative responses, have fueled fears and uncertainties in the Turkish public life. The consequence has been a national backlash and a growing tendency towards isolationism. Dündar poignantly expresses the disappointed and disillusioned mood in Turkey about the European dream:

The train we took with enthusiasm has derailed only after a few kilometers. We are so hurt that we are ready to take the first train back into the opposite direction. For 150 years we praised Europe. The West was a kind of dream land. We admired and imitated them, we learned their languages. We imported their dresses. We imported their letters, their hats, and their constitutions in order to become like them. We joined beauty and music contests and when we did not win, we were devastated. Because we believed more in Europe than probably the Europeans themselves did. Now this admiration has made way to a disappointment, which is typical for lovers whose affections weren’t returned. ( Milliyet , 14 October 2006)

The disappointment stems not from the belief that democratic roots are firm within Turkish society, but rather the hope of Turkey’s compatibility with “Europeanness.”


Dündar shares his opinions and beliefs through a rich repertoire of knowledge, using the language of a historian and journalist. His intellectual goal is to resolve and uncover through various archival records the manners, the truth, and the lives lived in his culture. He has emerged as a public figure whose purpose and inspiration is deeply connected to democratic ideas that value human life.


If Turkey has not been an instrument for the bloodshed in its neighbour in an unfair occupation, it can only feel pride but not an embarrassment because of that … US Foreign Secretary Condoleezza Rice asked for the assistance of Prime Minister (Tayyip) Erdogan to ‘correct the negative opinion of the Turkish people about the USA.’ My modest suggestion for them is to end the occupation in Iraq…. The defeat of Bush fundamentalism will be a good lesson for the occupationist policies. This is what will correct the USA’s relations not only with Ankara but with the whole world.

Dabney, Wendell P.(1865–1952) - Editor, Chronology, Establishes Newspaper [next] [back] Döbereiner, Johann Wolfgang

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