Ataturk memorial

  • Published
  • By Mehmet Birbiri
  • 39th Air Base Wing Host Nation Adviser
The Turkish people pay tribute to the father of their modern republic, Mustafa Kemal
Ataturk, with nation-wide memorial services Nov. 10. 

During the day, which marks the 68th anniversary of Ataturk's death, the entire country
will stop for two minutes at 9:05 a.m., the moment of his death. This includes all vehicles and pedestrians. 

The beginning of silence is announced by blowing sirens, car horns, and train, ship and
factory whistles. Flags are lowered to halfstaff and the national anthem is played at
ceremonies in schools, military units, government offices and factories. 

Programs on Ataturk's life and accomplishments are broadcast by the Turkish media
all day long. 

Ataturk, the founder and first president of the modern Republic of Turkey, was born in
1881 in Salonica, Greece, then a part of the Ottoman Empire. Ataturk was young when
his father, Ali Riza died. His mother, Zubeyde, had to leave Salonica and move to
her brother's farm. 

Instead of school, Ataturk worked on the farm, and his mother worried about his lack
of schooling. Eventually he returned to Salonica for junior high school. 

He successfully took the military school entrance exams in 1893 without telling his

Once there, Mustafa developed a special interest in mathematics. He attempted problems well advanced of those taught in class. 

One day the teacher said to him, "Look here , my son. Your name is Mustafa, so is
mine. We can't let things go on like this. There must be some distinction between us. I
suggest you call yourself Mustafa Kemal from now on." He did; Kemal means perfection. 

Mustafa Kemal entered the military academy in 1899. He graduated from general Staff
College as a captain in 1905 and was assigned to the 5th Army in Syria. There he
saw the disorganization of the army and civilian administration and realized that something must be done to save the country. 

In 1909 when a mutiny broke out in Istanbul, Mustafa Kemal was an army officer
who helped suppress the reactionaries. The same year, the Italians attacked Libya, then a part of the Ottoman Empire. He assumed the duty of organizing the local people against the invaders. 

He went from one battle to another. During World War I, the Ottomans joined the
war on Germany's side, fighting against the British, French, Italians and Russians.
Mustafa Kemal's defeat of the British armada at Gallipoli made him a hero. In 1915, he was in Diyarbakir and stemmed the Russian advance. 

In 1916, he was fighting in southern Palestine. Being on the losers side, the Ottoman
armies were disarmed and dispersed. More than that, Adana, Maras, Antep and Urfa
were occupied by the French; Konya and Antalya by the Italians; and Istanbul by British
troops. On May 15, 1919, Greeks landed at Izmir. 

Mustafa Kemal went to unoccupied Ramsun near the Black Sea on May 19, 1919,
and ignited the War of Independence. Wherever he went, every body -- young and old,
men and women, officers and civilians -- followed him as the only savior of the country.
The Turkish Grand National Assembly opened April 23, 1920, under his chairmanship.
A new army was formed and started fighting the occupying armies on all fronts. 

Three years of occupations finally ended with the defeat of all enemies by the National
Forces under Mustafa Kemal's leadership. 

The Lausanne Treaty was signed which gave full recognition and credit to the new
state. On October 29, 1923, Mustafa Kemal proclaimed the modern Republic of Turkey
and became its first president. Convinced that military victory was not sufficient, he
felt the revolution had to be followed by profound economic, social and cultural reforms.
During his 15-year administration, the nation moved forward to western standards. He
set up schools in every village and town and changed the Arabic alphabet to Latin.
He separated religious affairs from state affairs. Legal and modern reforms began.
Women were granted equal rights. A completely new economic system was constructed
and surnames were adopted. 

In recognition of his efforts , Mustafa Kemal was given the last name Ataturk
which means father of Turks. 

In the short span of his life, this one man achieved the rebirth of a nation. He died in
Istanbul November 10, 1938. He was 57 years old. 

Today he lives on in the minds and hearts of Turkish people. He represents a brave history, and the future and pride of Turkey. The ceremony on the base will be held in
front of the Turkish Headquarters building on Nov. 10 starting at 8:30 a.m. and ends about 9:30 a.m. The ceremony is open to Turkish and American public. You can take pictures and film the ceremony. You don't need to have special permission for photography or filming the ceremony.