Today was the 89th anniversary of the founding of the Republic of Turkey, and I observed the holiday by paying my respects to its founder, Mustafa Kemal Ataturk.
At the end of World War I the Ottoman Empire was carved up, cutting Turkey back to basically just a stump. Foreign forces occupied parts of Turkey Turkey considered part of its homeland. Turkey didn’t like seeing that and decided to “renegotiate” the terms of its surrender. The Turkish War of Independence ensued. That war was led by Mustafa Kemal, who would later take the name Ataturk.
On 29 October, 1923, Mustafa Kemal Ataturk declared the founding of the Republic of Turkey. After the declaration the Grand National Assembly unanimously picked Ataturk as the Republic’s first president. Turkey had been something of a republic for a few years already, what with a functioning government and all, but the public declaration of its founding came on 29 October, 1923, and the anniversary is celebrated on that date.
Ataturk died on 10 November, 1938. He is entombed at Anitkabir, “Memorial Tomb.” Anitkabir is on top of a hill near the center of the city of Ankara.
I went to Anitkabir early to beat the crowds. I am glad I did, because about the time I was leaving Anitkabir protests were getting underway less than a mile away:
(Photo courtesy of Anadolu Ajansi and Today’s Zaman newspaper)
In Turkey perhaps the deepest ongoing “third rail” schism in political life is ownership of the mantle of secular government. As far as I can tell, the debate is not about whether Turkey should HAVE a secular government, it’s about who is going to protect that secularism, and can a group that has a religious background be trusted with the reins.
I have my opinions, but I don’t have a dog in this fight, so I’m not going to say more on the subject. There are already plenty of people doing that. Here’s an article on the protests.