Turkey commemorated the 80th death anniversary of Mustafa Kemal Ataturk yesterday – the secular, nationalist founder of the Turkish Republic and the man who abolished the Islamic Caliphate.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan visited Ataturk’s mausoleum – Anıtkabir – in Ankara and placed a wreath on it. Then a moment of silence was held and Turkey’s national anthem was sung by Erdogan and the delegation.
He also left a written message in the book of commemoration to pay tribute to Atatürk.
“Despite malicious attacks at home and abroad, we are walking on the path with a determination to make Republic of Turkey one of the strongest and prosperous countries in the world. Rest in peace,” Erdoğan said.
Meanwhile, a separate commemoration was held in the Turkish parliament as several lawmakers, including deputy speaker Levent Gök and parliament staff members, attended the event.
At 9.05 a.m. sirens wailed to mark the exact moment of Atatürk’s death at the age of 57 in Istanbul’s Dolmabahçe Palace. Around the country, people stopped in the streets or stood silently at their workplaces to remember Ataturk.
And several commemorations were held in Istanbul Atatürk Airport and Istanbul’s Taksim Square.
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In a commemorative message marking the day, Erdogan said, “Gazi [Veteran] Mustafa Kemal, who managed to unite our nation around a common ideal in the difficult path he took with endless confidence and belief in the nation, has crowned our war of independence with the foundation of our republic.”
Although a lot of Turks do indeed revere Ataturk it is unclear how many have differing views because it is illegal to insult him in Turkey. And in the wider Muslim world Ataturk is generally considered in a negative way because of his role in attempting to destroy Turkey’s Islamic heritage.
Mustafa Kemal Atatürk was born in 1881 in Salonika, Greece, in what was then the Ottoman Empire.
He made his military reputation repelling the Allied invasion at the Dardanelles in 1915.
In May 1919, Atatürk began a nationalist revolution in Anatolia, organising resistance to the peace settlement imposed on Turkey by the victorious Allies. This was particularly focused on resisting Greek attempts to seize Smyrna and its hinterland. Victory over the Greeks enabled him to secure revision of the peace settlement in the Treaty of Lausanne.
In 1921, Atatürk established a provisional government in Ankara. The following year the Ottoman Sultanate was formally abolished and, in 1923, Turkey became a secular republic with Atatürk as its president. He established a single party regime that lasted almost without interruption until 1945.
He launched a programme of social and political reforms to modernise Turkey. These reforms included the supposed emancipation of women, the abolition of all Islamic institutions and the introduction of Western legal codes, dress, calendar and alphabet, replacing the Arabic script with a Latin one.