NATION PAYS ITS RESPECTS TO FOUNDER ATATÜRK
Seventy-nine years after his death, Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, the founder of the Republic of Turkey, remains a revered figure, and life once again came to a standstill in the country on Friday to mark the anniversary of his death, with leaders and the public
TURKEY ground to a halt on Friday at 9.05 a.m., as million across the country observed two minutes of silence to pay their respects to the founder of the country, Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, who died exactly at that time 79 years ago. Commemorative ceremonies began at Atatürk’s mausoleum in Ankara, Anıtkabir, where President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan led dignitaries. Afterward at the ceremony at the Presidential Complex, Erdoğan said: “In the tumultuous period of the past century, every country brought up leaders and sought liberation through them. Very few leaders met their country’s desired victory. There is no doubt that Atatürk is one of them.”
“ONE DAY, my mortal body will turn to dust, but the Republic of Turkey will stand forever,” Atatürk reportedly said after he escaped an assassination attempt in the early years of the Republic. Today, both his memory and the Republic stand strong 79 years after his death with modern Turkey’s first president still a beloved figure for millions.
On Friday, the public and the country’s leaders commemorated the man who led the War of Independence after the fall of Ottoman Empire on the anniversary of his death.
As is annual tradition, daily life stopped as sirens wailed throughout the country at 9:05 a.m., the time he passed away in 1938, at the age of 57, and people observed two minutes of silence.
Thousands flocked to Atatürk’s mausoleum in Ankara to commemorate him.
President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, Cabinet members, main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) Chairman Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu, Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) Chairman Devlet Bahçeli and Chief of General Staff Gen. Hulusi Akar also attended the commemoration ceremony at the mausoleum, Anıtkabir.
“We are once again remembering our first president, Mustafa Kemal Atatürk,” Erdoğan wrote in the commemoration book. “We are working day and night to bring Turkey to the level of contemporary civilization. May his soul rest in peace,” he wrote, in reference to Atatürk’s ambitious plan to make the country as prosperous and developed as Western societies.
Following the ceremony at Anıtkabir, a commemoration program was held at the Presidential Palace complex. In his address, Erdoğan praised Atatürk’s efforts during the War of Independence and foundation of the modern Republic.
“In the tumultuous period of the past century, every country brought up leaders and sought liberation through them. Very few leaders met their country’s desired victory. There is no doubt that Atatürk is one of them,” Erdoğan said.
The president later criticized several ideologies and cliques, including the main opposition CHP for trying to capitalize on Atatürk’s values and goals, saying that after his death, the CHP has changed its discourse.
As the leader of the pro-Republic First Group in the Grand National Assembly during the War of Independence between 1919 and 1922, Atatürk was the chairman of the CHP from its establishment on Sept. 9, 1923, until his death in 1938.
In addition to Ankara, hundreds of people gathered in front of Istanbul’s Dolmabahçe Palace, where Atatürk had spent his final years and passed away.
In many cities including Istanbul and Adana, human “chains of respect” stretching for kilometers were formed as people held hands to mark the 79th anniversary. The chain of people in Adana trailed 14 kilometers.
Parachutists jumped with Turkish flags trailing, and in Toroslar, a district in the southern city of Mersin, 7,700 people came together to form an image of Atatürk’s face.
Atatürk was born in 1881 in Thessaloniki, Greece, which was then part of the Ottoman Empire.
His distinguished military career included repelling the Allied invasion of Gallipoli in 1915, and rallying Turkey to withstand the Allies’ attempt to carve up Turkey after World War I in the War of Independence.
“The heroic Turkish Armed Forces, which honorably carry the torch of independence and sovereignty that Atatürk lit, continue their dedication to fight against every kind of risk and threat,” Gen. Akar said in a statement published online.
As Turkey’s first president, he transformed the country through a wide-ranging series of modernizing reforms.
People carry Turkish flags and pictures of Atatürk in front of his mauseloum, Anıtkabir, Ankara, Nov. 10.