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Mustafa Kemal Atatürk (1881-1938)

He is the founder of the Turkish Republic and its first President. He is an outstanding figure of the 20th Century because he  achieved so much in so short period and changed the life of a nation completely.

A National Savior
“This nation has never lived without independence. We cannot and shall not live without it. Either independence or death.”

Ottoman Empire was declining when Western Powers started to divide it. Mustafa Kemal Pasha became the leader of Turkish independence war in 1919 and he managed to repel the invading enemy forces with a small army but without proper and up-to-date weapons and equipments.

The Founder of the Republic
“Sovereignty belongs unconditionally to the people.”

On October 29, 1923 Mustafa Kemal Pasha, announced the Republic of Turkey. It was the first Muslim nation to become a Republic.
Basic principles were a republican government , secular administration, nationalism.

The Legal Conversion

“We must liberate our concepts of justice, our laws and legal institutions from the bonds which hold a tight grip on us although they are incompatible with the needs of our century.”

The young Turkish Republic managed to succeed in a legal conversion between 1926 and 1930 which could be take much longer time in many other countries. Religious laws were removed, and a secular system was implemented.

These changes were the new Civil Code, Penal Code, and Business Law and they were based on the Swiss, Italian and German models.

This new legal system made everone to be equal before the law and it created a solid base form to make the Turkish nation to be a societyof justice and equal rights.


Social Reforms

“The major challenge facing us is to elevate our national life to the highest level of civilization and prosperity.”

Atatürk aimed to modernize Turkish life  so that Turkish nation could have a new sense of dignity, equality, and happiness.

In this context, he introduced  a series of reforms. The fez was replaced with hat, women started wearing modern clothes and stopped wearing the veil, each citizen took a surname and Islamic Calendar was replaced with Western Calendar.


The New Language

“The cornerstone of education is an easy system of reading and writing. The hey to this is the new Turkish alphabet based on the Latin script.”

A language reform is the most difficult change in a society. Under the leadership of Ataturk, Turkey managed to adopt its own alphabet in a short period. This enabled everyone including children and adults learn to read and write in a few months.

This resulted an increase in literacy level from 9 % to 33 % in 15 years.

Women’s Rights

“Everything we see in the world is the creative work of women.”

Ataturk was aware of the vital importance of women in society, thus he started a series of reforms giving Turkish women equal rights and opportunities with men. The new Civil Code, banned polygamy and gave equal rights to women in divorce, custody, and inheritance. Women were also given full political rights and soon 18 of them were elected to the national parliament.

Turkey had the first women supreme court justice in the world.

Peace at Home, Peace in the World

“Mankind is a single body and each nation is a part of that body. We must never say ‘What does it matter to me if some part of the world is ailing?’ If there is such an illness, we must concern ourselves with it as though we were having that illness.”

Ataturk spent most his life at the war sites. Although he was a hero who won numerous victories he knew the meaning of peace very well. This is why he did his best to secure and strengthen the  peace throughout the world when he became a President..

To recognize Ataturk’s great efforts to establish peace, the League of Nations paid tribute to him at his death in November 1938 as “ a genius international peacemaker“.

In 1981, on the occasion of the Centennial of his birth, the United Nations and UNESCO honored the memory of the great Turkish Statesman. His way of creating modern Turkey and the contributions he made to the world have made Atatürk an historic figure with continuous influence.

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