10th of November
Today marked the anniversary of Mustafa Kemal Atatürk’s death in 1938. I was not aware of this date until one of my colleagues mentioned it on Friday saying she would be going to her daughter’s school to attend some kind of ceremony. Indeed, this morning I heard quite some car honking and when I left the house there were a lot of kids around on their way to somewhere.
Mustafa Kemal Atatürk is an important figure in Turkish society and is celebrated as a national hero. He was the founder of the Turkish Republic and its first president after the Ottoman Empire ceased to exist. He used to be an officer who gained fame protecting the Gallipoli peninsula (near Ҫanakkale) from the allied forces during World War 1 and fighting the Greek army that was approaching from the West from 1921 onwards. He also led a war with Armenia in the East. Long story short, he basically shaped Turkey’s national identity and contributed to the country’s modernization taking Europe as an example. Even though his procedures are criticized by some, most Turks adore him, literally. I have seen his signature on cars, cell phone covers, earrings and tattooed on people’s arms. His picture is all over the place: on flags, in schools and any kind of social and political institution. For someone with a German background, given its historical past, such a kind of adoration may seem disconcerting at first. By now I have gotten used to it though and I smile when visitors ask me: Who’s that guy? He’s just everywhere!
Atatürk means father of the Turks and this last name was added to his civil name (Mustafa Kemal) in 1934 by the Turkish Parliament. As I was walking to the metro today, I noticed a poster with his picture and his living dates: 1881 – 193∞. The “8” having been turned around into an infinity sign.
I just returned from a day trip to Nazar Köy near Kemalpaşa, which has been named after Atatürk. A funny coincidence, don’t you think?