Ataturk Mustafa Kemal Pasha – Great Leader of Turkey
Mustafa Kemal (Ataturk) was born in 1881 into a family of modest means in Salonica, then an Ottoman port city in what is today a city in Greece. He died in Istanbul on 10 November 1938. His father, _Ali Riza Bey, was a progressive person and worked at the customs house. His mother, Zubeyde Hanim, was a devout Muslim who instilled Islamic values in young Mustafa. Only seven years old at the death of his father, he was raised by his mother and completed his early education at local schools. In 1893 he began his studies at a military secondary school where his teacher gave him his second name, Kemal (perfection), owing to Mustafa’s outstanding performance in mathematics. Two years later he attended the military academy in Manastir and later entered the War Academy. He graduated in 1905 with the rank of staff captain, and in 1906 was assigned to the Fifth Army in Damascus. In 1907 his duties took him to Macedonia where he established connections with the Young Turks. He participated in the defense of Tripolitania at Tobruk and Derna against the Italian invasion (1911–1912), was appointed as a militaryattaché to Sophia, and returned to Istanbul to distinguish himself at the Dardanelles in 1915. During World War I, he served on various fronts such as the Caucasus, Palestine, and Aleppo.
Rejecting the Mudros Armistice (30 October 1918), which the Allied powers had imposed on the Ottomans, Mustafa Kemal moved on to Anatolia in May 1919 to begin his nationalist struggle against the invasion and partition of the country. That same year, at the congresses of Erzurum (23 July) and Sivas (4 September), he defined the nationalist demands and goals for independence. It was during this period that he molded various regional paramilitary defense associations into a nationalist army. On 23 April 1920, he established the Great National Assembly in Ankara, claiming exclusive legitimacy in representing the Turkish interests. He was unanimously elected the first president of the assembly.
During the War of Independence, Mustafa Kemal served as the commander in chief of the armed forces. The Armistice of Mudanya (11 October 1922) sealed the victory of the Turkish forces. Within days, the assembly abolished the sultanate (1 November 1922), though leaving the caliphate in the Ottoman House. The Lausanne Conference (November 1922–July 1923) recognized Turkey’s full independence and defined its borders. On 23 October 1923, the Second Grand National Assembly, controlled by Halk
Firkasi (People’s Party, later Cumhuriyet Halk Partisi— Republican People’s Party) proclaimed the republic and elected Mustafa Kemal its first president. Thus a six hundredyear- old political tradition was brushed aside, and sovereignty placed directly in the hands of the people.
The early years of the republic witnessed fundamental political and social changes. Determined to modernize and secularize his country, and intent upon breaking away from the past, the assembly, under Mustafa Kemal’s guidance, passed a number of laws that brought revolutionary changes. In 1924, the same year that the caliphate was abolished, the Ministry of Seriat (Islamic law) was dismantled and replaced by the Ministry of Justice. In 1925, the Gregorian Calendar replaced the Islamic one, and the fez, which had come to symbolize Islamic headgear, was banned. The wearing of the veil by women was strongly discouraged. The dervish (Sufi)orders were dissolved. The adoption of Swiss Civil Code in 1926 completely negated the Islamic laws of marriage, divorce,
and inheritance that had been in practice for centuries. The replacement of the Arabic script with the Latin script in 1928 closed the door to the Ottoman past, and compelled the Turks to look to the future. The passage, in 1934, of a law requiring Turks to use family names further underscored this trend; indeed, Mustafa Kemal’s own surname of Ataturk (Father of Turks) was bestowed upon him by the National Assembly. In the same year, women were given the right to vote. In foreign policy, Turkey followed Mustafa Kemal’s dictum: “Peace at Home, Peace in the World.” Mustafa Kemal’s reforms were revolutionary. The policies of his Republican People’s Party were expressed in six principles: republicanism, nationalism, populism, etatism, secularism, and revolutionism. Within these principles Turkey was transformed from a traditional society into a modern nation state. Secularism received particular attention. The Kemalist regime relentlessly pursued secularist policies and dismantled the Islamic institutions. In view of the founder of the new Turkish Republic, centuries-old Islamic institutions and laws could not sufficiently serve the needs of a modern society. Mustafa Kemal believed that Islam would be best served if it were confined to belief and worship rather than brought into the affairs of the state. In his address to the nation on the tenth anniversary of the Turkish Republic in 1933, he promised further progress and asked Turks to “judge time not according to the lax mentality of past centuries, but in terms of the concepts of speed and movement of our century.”