Friday November 10th is the 68th anniversary of the passing of Turkey’s founder and the first President of the Turkish Republic, Mustafa Kemal Ataturk.

Friday November 10th is the 68th anniversary of the passing of Turkey’s founder and the first President of the Turkish Republic, Mustafa Kemal Ataturk.

At 9:05 a.m. air-raid sirens and car horns will sound across Turkish cities, morning rush-hour traffic will halt and pedestrians and school children will stand to attention. The nation will then observe a minute’s silence to mark the anniversary of the death of Ataturk, founder of the Turkish Republic. The first official ceremony honouring Ataturk will be held at his mausoleum in Ankara and is usually televised live across Turkey. Turkish President Ahmet Necdet Sezer will lead members of the government and armed forces in the national remembrance ceremony that has been held every year since the death of Ataturk in 1938. Similar ceremonies will take place in towns and villages all over the country.

President Sezer has gone on record as saying that in order to protect and preserve Ataturk’s legacy, one needed to constantly guard the independence of the country and the secular republic and that despite his passing away 68 years ago, Ataturk remains in the hearts and minds of all citizens, and continues to enlighten the path forward. “Great nations produce great leaders. The Turkish nation is right to be proud of the fact that it produced Ataturk” President Sezer said and noted that Ataturk’s love and belief in the nation resulted in his achievements and set an example to all nations that wanted to become independent.

Ataturk, who died aged 58 from cirrhosis of the liver, has certainly stood the test of time better than many of the other great revolutionary leaders of the last century. He was no ordinary leader. After winning a series of bitterly fought battles to wrest Turkey’s independence from occupying armies he went on to formulate a cultural revolution which changed the face of Turkey, including introducing the Latin alphabet and giving women the vote.

During his rule, Ataturk borrowed enthusiastically from Western countries in modernising Turkey, for example utilising the German commercial code and Swiss laws on bankruptcy.

In foreign policy, he courted the Western democracies, notably Britain and France, and had little time for the communist and fascist ideologies then gaining ground. Ataturk was also a nationalist, but eschewed ideas of territorial expansion.

As Turkey continues to aspire to become a member of the European Union and encompass the values of Western democracy, Ataturk remains secure in the affections of his countrymen, a mentor for pro-Western liberals and conservative nationalists alike.

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