Some historians argued that Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, founder of the Republic of Turkey, and Reza Shah Pahlavi, the preeminent Shah of Iran, were ‘men of order’ who took their countries down the path of authoritarian modernization in the first half of the 20th century. Mustafa Kemal Ataturk was a staunch nationalist who sought to transform the defunct Ottoman Empire into a secular and modern state. He also sought the political and economic support of the West which was essentials to his reforms. Reza Shah Pahlavi was also a staunch advocate of nationalism, secularism, and statism.
In order to modernize Iran, he organized the army, strengthened government control over major industries, and restored government finances. There were however differences. Kemal’s platform of governance was the total restructuring of the Turkish government based on the principle of complete independence. In order to strengthen the new Republic, he stabilized the legislative, judicial, and executive structures of government. To achieve this goal, he had to curb the power of the Islamic priests who opposed secularism. As president, he approved unilateral treaties with Western countries.
In his view, Turkey was part of the West, and thus shared in the heritage of the West. Reza shah’s hold of Iran was much weaker than that of Kemal. His modernization program was met with stiff opposition from religious leaders. His little project, Women’s Awakening, failed to opened opportunities to women. In March 1928, the shah beat an Islamic cleric for reprimanding the shah’s wife. In December of the same year, he issues a law requiring citizens to wear Western clothes. This was again opposed by many Muslims. Indeed, many of the shah’s reforms were either discredited or changed after his death in 1944.