The 79th death anniversary of Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, the leader of the Turkish forces in the War of Liberation and the founder of the Republic of Turkey, was marked by ceremonies throughout the country.
As is the 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 the mausoleum of Atatürk in Ankara to commemorate the founding father of the Republic of Turkey.
President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, cabinet members, main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) Chair Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu, Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) Chair Devlet Bahçeli and Chief of General Staff General Hulusi Akar also attended the commemoration ceremony at the mausoleum, known as Anıtkabir.
“We are once again remembering our first president Mustafa Kemal Atatürk,” Erdoğan wrote in a book of commemoration. “We are working day and night to bring Turkey to the level of contemporary civilization. May his soul rest in peace.”
Following the ceremony in Anıtkabir, a commemoration program was held at the Beştepe Presidential Complex. In his address, President Erdoğan praised Atatürk’s efforts during the War of Liberation and foundation of the modern republic.
“In the tumultuous period of the past century, every country brought up leaders, 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 Republican People’s Party (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 Liberation between 1919 and 1922, Atatürk was the chairman of the CHP from its establishment on Sept. 9, 1923 until his death in 1938.
Erdoğan also said that criticizing Atatürk’s policies would only contribute to achieving goals left unfinished during that period, specifically mentioning the chaos in Syria and Iraq.
“Turkey could not uphold its National Oath, declared before the War of Liberation. Now in Syria and Iraq, I say we stood behind the National Oath through Euphrates Shield, and our actions in Idlib and Afrin,” said Erdoğan, referring to the set of decisions adopted by the Ottoman Parliament in 1920 for peace conditions after the empire’s defeat in World War I. The National Oath sought self-determination to Turks in areas previously occupied or expected to be occupied by the Allies in a peace treaty, and demanded northern Iraq’s Mosul and Kirkuk, northern Syria, Georgia’s Batumi and Greece’s western Thrace be included inside the country’s borders.
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.
The Turkish Football Federation mentioned Ataturk’s emphasis on sport while Hidayet Turkoğlu, chairman of the Turkish Basketball Federation, commemorated “Atatürk and his brothers in arms, as well as all our martyrs and veterans with appreciation.”
The country’s “Big Three” sports clubs — Fenerbahçe, Galatasaray and Beşiktaş — also issued messages of respect. “We once again grieve his death and commemorate him with love, longing and respect,” Beşiktaş said in a statement.
Atatürk was born in 1881 in Thessaloniki, then part of the Ottoman Empire.
His distinguished military career included repelling the Allied invasion of the Gallipoli peninsula 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,” Chief of General Staff Gen. Hulusi Akar said in a statement published online.
As Turkey’s first president, he transformed the country through a wide-ranging series of modernizing reforms.