Ataturk: Father of the Republic of Turkey
By Staff Sgt. Oshawn Jefferson, 39th AIr Base Wing Public Affairs
/ Published November 10, 2006
INCIRLIK AIR BASE, Turkey -- About 300 Airmena and families with the 10th Tanker Air Force and 39th Air Base Wing commemorated Mustafa Kemal Ataturk's memorial at 9:05 a.m, Nov. 10, in front of the 10th Tanker headquarters building. This year marked the 68th anniversary of Ataturk's death.
Mustafa Kemal Ataturk is the revered founder of the Republic of Turkey and is the centerpiece of the republic's history.
The name Ataturk means father of the Turks and is a title conferred to him by the Turkish National Assembly. His name, statues and image should be treated with respect.
Eighty-three years after he came to power and 68 years after his death, Ataturk's many social and cultural reforms are still intact, and his memory is strong among the Turks.
Following World War I, in which Turkey's Ottoman leaders sided with Germany and Austria, Allied Powers occupied Turkey. Ataturk, a general who fought with distinction during the war, began a resistance movement in 1919 after the Treaty of Sevres reduced the Ottoman Empire to a minor state.
Starting with Turkey's capital, then at Istanbul, Ataturk moved through eastern and central Turkey, building popular support for his campaign. He picked Ankara, a small rural town, as his capital and formed a new legislature.
He led provisional forces to victory in a war of liberation, defeating the Greeks in a decisive battle at Dumlupinar Aug. 30, 1922. This day is known as Victory Day and is now an official holiday.
In 1923, Turkey established peace with the Allies by signing the Treaty of Lausanne, which fixed the country's boundaries.
Ataturk declared the nation the Republic of Turkey Oct. 29, 1923, known today as Republic Day. Turkey then elected its Grand National Assembly and drew up a constitution.
Ataturk exercised an authoritarian power, which he used to create a modern, progressive state. He set forth to educate the people in liberal democratic ideas and thinking.
Ataturk's decrees revamped the entire fabric of Turkish life. He eliminated the Sultanate and Caliphate, the joint political and religious arms of the Ottoman Empire. He declared Turkey a secular state and separated religious and state affairs.
A European civil code, drawn from several countries, replaced the Moslem Koranic law. He gave women full political and social rights. He also abolished polygamy and harems.
He prohibited wearing of the fez - a tasseled, cone shaped traditional hat, and ordered men to wear western headgear. He replaced Arabic script with the Latin-based alphabet. He decided all Turks should have surnames, not previously known in Turkey. Before, people were known by their occupation. He started a nationwide system of compulsory education, set up the beginnings of a modern industrial system, and built a modern European-style capital in Ankara.
Most important to the United States, he established a foreign policy rooted with the West, a movement which culminated with Turkey's acceptance into NATO in 1952.
Ataturk is buried in a mausoleum in Ankara atop a hill visible throughout the city. There are other reminders of his contributions also. Every city and village has a main street named for him. Statues of him dominate market centers and city parks.
On Turkish holidays, his face is everywhere. Huge murals adorn government and private buildings. In every home and business, his picture hangs in a place of honor. Foreign dignitaries and private citizens lay wreaths at his tomb, honoring the memory of his contributions to the entire country.
Born in Salonica, Greece, in 1881, then the capital of the Turkish-European province under the Ottomans, he died at the Dolmabahce Palace in Istanbul Nov. 10, 1938 at 9:05 a.m.
Throughout his mausoleum, all clocks are set at that time. Each year, on Nov. 10, the Turkish people hold memorial services in his honor.
At Incirlik, there is a memorial to honor Ataturk. Americans and Turks throughout the country observe two minutes of silence beginning at 9:05 a.m. on the anniversary of his death.
Such is the respect that Ataturk's memory still commands. (Story complied by Staff Sgt. Oshawn Jefferson, Senior Airman Patrick Clarke and Mehmet Birbiri)