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Mustafa Kemal Ataturk

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Kemal Ataturk

Mustafa Kemal Ataturk

Mustafa Kemal Ataturk (1881-1938) was the founder of modern Turkey and the Turkish republic. He was born in the Kocakasım ward of Salonika, then under Turkish rule. He had the single name of "Mustafa." The name Kemal was added by his elementary school teachers. It means perfection or maturity. The appellation "Ataturk" means "father of Turkey." Little Mustafa Kemal was to become an extraordinary soldier and statesman.

Mustafa's  parents were Ali Rıza Efendi and Zübeyde Hanım. His paternal grandfather, Hafız Ahmed Efendi was descended from the Kocacık nomads who settled in Macedonia several hundred years earlier. His mother Zübeyde Hanım was the daughter of an Old Turkish family who had settled in the town of Langasa near Salonika. Ali Rıza Efendi, who worked as militia officer, title deed clerk and lumber trader, married Zübeyde Hanım in 1871. Of his five siblings, only one sister, Makbule (Atadan) survived to adulthood, and died in1956.

Ataturk's father died in 1888. Young Mustafa stayed at the farm of his maternal uncle for a period and returned to Salonika to complete his studies. He registered at the Salonika Mülkiye Rüştiye (secondary school) but soon transferred to a military school.

Ataturk attended the Manastır Military School between 1896 - 1899 and later the Military School in İstanbul, He graduated in 1902 with the rank of lieutenant. He  entered the Military Academy and graduated on January 11, 1905 with the rank of major. Between 1905 - 1907 he was stationed in Damascus with the 5th. Army. In 1907 he was promoted to the rank of "Kolağası" (senior major) and was posted with the III rd Army , which was stationed in Manastır.

Kemal was one of the officers who took part in the Young Turks revolution of 1908. He eventually became disillusioned with the "Young Turks" and his relations with Enver Pasha were strained. Thus, Mustafa Kemal was excluded from the center of power once Enver Pasha had emerged as the foremost military leader after 1913.

In 1910, Atatürk participated in the Picardie army maneuvers in France, and in 1911, served at the Ministry of War (Harbiye Nezareti) in Istanbul. Later in 1911, he was posted to the province of Trablusgarp (in present-day Libya) to fight against the Italian invasion. After the successful defense of Tobruk on December 22, 1911, he was appointed the commander of Derne on March 6, 1912.

Kemal Ataturk returned to Istanbul after the outbreak of the Balkan Wars in October 1912. During the First Balkan War, Kemal fought against the Bulgarian army at Gallipoli and at Bolayır on the coast of Thrace. He  played a crucial role in the recapture of Edirne and Didymoteicho during the Second Balkan War. In 1913, he was appointed military attaché to Sofia. By March 1914, while serving in Sofia, Kemal was promoted to the rank of lieutenant colonel.

Mustafa Kemal Ataturk in World War I

Ataturk favored Turkish neutrality in World War I, with the possibility of eventual Turkish intervention on the side of the allies, but he was overruled by Enver Pasha. Ataturk fought under the German "advisor" Otto Liman von Sanders, who was in charge of the defense of the Gallipoli peninsula. This long and pitched confrontation was one of the greatest disasters of the allied armies. Gallipoli guarded the Dardanelles, which provided an potential trade route for Russia through the Black Sea. Russia was desperate for foreign currency that could be had by selling its wheat, but it had no way to export it. Therefore, the opening of the Dardanelles was thought to be crucial to allied success. The British and French lost their nerve and failed to carry through an attempt to take the Dardanelles by sea, whereupon the Turks had time to fortify both land and sea positions before the allies could divert troops from the Western front and mount a land expedition. Successive allied landings were repulsed with heavy losses. Each side lost about 250,000 men at Gallipoli. The allied disaster was due to underestimation of the Turks, incompetence, failure to learn the terrain, and poor judgment and over-caution of naval officers. It was also due to the incredible bravery of the Turks and the leadership of Ataturk. Allied forces that had  landed at Arıburnu on 25 April 1915 were stopped by 19th Division under Mustafa Kemal  at Conkbayırı. Mustafa Kemal was consequently promoted to the rank of colonel. English forces attacked at Arıburnu once more on 6-7 August 1915. Mustafa Kemal, as the Commander of the Anafartalar Forces, repulsed them on 6-7 August 1915. This victory was followed by the victories of Kireçtepe on August 17, and the Second Anafartalar victory on August 21. Though the allies gave much of the credit for the victory to von Sanders, subsequent events seemed to indicate that von Sanders was at best a mediocre general. Mustafa Kemal is said to have addressed his soldiers with the words "I am not giving you an order to attack, I am ordering you to die!"  

Mustafa Kemal was stationed at Edirne and Diyarbakır after the Gallipoli campaign  and was promoted to the rank of Lieutenant General on 1 April 1916. He fought against the Russian forces and recaptured Muş and Bitlis. Following short assignments at Damascus and Allepo, he came to İstanbul in 1917. He traveled to Germany with Vahdettin Efendi, the heir to the throne. He returned to Allepo on 15 August 1918 as the Commander of the 7th army. Ataturk inherited the Turkish armies that had been under the command of Liman von Sanders after these collapsed in Palestine before the advance of General Allenby. Turkey had signed an armistice at Mudros on October 30, 1918. Kemal Ataturk became commander of von Sanders' Yıldırım Orduları (Thunderbolt army) one day after the armistice was signed, only to disband the army. 

When this army was disbanded, he came to İstanbul on November 13, 1918 and started to work at the Ministry of War.

Mustafa Kemal Ataturk Founds the Turkish Republic

Turkey was falling apart. Mustafa Ataturk saw that the terms imposed by the allies were probably unenforceable and unbearable for Turkey. At the same time, he understood that the Turkish disaster in the war required a drastic rethinking of national strategy. Turkey must give up its ideas of empire and confrontation with Russia, and become a national state in Asia minor, instead of trying to be a regional empire.

There ensued a war to drive out the occupying forces, which the Turks call their "War of Independence." Presently, the Greeks became over-ambitious and attempted to invade Asian Turkey, occupying Izmir. The British, Italian, French and Greek forces began to occupy Anatolia, and it looked as though they did not intend to leave much of Turkey intact. The occupation of Istanbul along with the occupation of Izmir triggered the establishment of the Turkish national movement and the Turkish War of Independence.

Mustafa Kemal was assigned  to oversee the demobilization of the remains of the 9th army in Eastern Turkey. He landed at Samsun, a port city on the Black Sea coast of Anatolia, on May 19, 1919. Instead of disbanding the army, Mustafa Kemal began organizing resistance to the treaties and in effect, to the Turkish government that had signed them.  In a pamphlet published in June 1919, he declared that " The freedom of the nation shall be restored with the resolve and determination of the nation itself" and called the meeting of the Sivas Congress. He pointed out that the Turkish government was now under foreign control  

The British were alarmed by Mustafa Kemal's revolt. They immediately pressured the Ottoman government, which issued a warrant for the arrest of Mustafa Kemal,  later condemning him to death. Mustafa Kemal Ataturk resigned from the Ottoman Army on July 8, in Erzurum. He successfully called for a national election to establish a new Turkish Parliament that would have its seat in Ankara.  On 12 February, 1920, the last Ottoman Parliament gathered in Istanbul and declared the Misak-ı Milli (National Pact). Parliament then was dissolved by the occupying British forces. Mustafa Kemal  established a new National Assembly in Ankara. The first session of the "Grand National Assembly of Turkey" gathered on April 23, 1920, with Mustafa Kemal as its president. The declared goal was to "liberate the Sultan". Effectively there were now two governments - one in Istanbul and the other in Ankara.

The Sultan signed the Treaty of Sèvres with the Allies on August 10, 1920. This put in place the detailed plans for partitioning of Anatolian Turkey and was a hopeless capitulation. The Ankara government led by Ataturk disavowed the treaty. The treaty and the events which followed it discredited the Sultan and his government in Istanbul, and caused a shift of power in favor of the Turkish Grand National Assembly in Ankara.

Mustafa Kemal persuaded the assembly to give him more or less dictatorial powers. The assembly was called upon to recognize itself as representative of the nation, and then to delegate its powers to Kemal and his government.

Kemal abrogated the treaty of Sevres and raised a National Army from remnants of the Ottoman army and scattered militia. This army, under his command,  faced the Allied occupation forces and fought on three fronts: in the Franco-Turkish, Greco-Turkish and Turkish-Armenian wars.

On the Armenian front, the Turks ultimately won control over areas where Turks constituted a majority, and signed treaties with Armenia and with the successor Bolshevik government.

The main event of the war however, was the Greek invasion. After a series of battles, the Greeks had advanced as far as the Sakarya River, eighty kilometers west of the seat of the Grand National Assembly in Ankara. Mustafa Kemal, leading the  Turkish Army, defeated the Greeks in the Battle of Sakarya, which lasted from August 23 to September 13, 1921. Mustafa Kemal returned in triumph to Ankara, where the Grand National Assembly made him Field Marshal of the Army and gave him the title of Gazi, or "Fighter of the Faith against the Infidel".

The final battle for the control of Anatolia was fought in August-September 1922. The Turks launched a counter-attack on August 26th, the "Great Offensive" (Buyuk Taaruz). Kemal Ataturk launched an all-out attack on the Greek lines at Afyon Karahisar, aimed at smashing a hole in the Greek defenses, cutting the Greek supply lines and opening the road to Izmir and to the sea. The major Greek defense positions were overrun the day of the initial attack. On August 30, the Greek army was defeated decisively at  Dumlupınar, with about half of its troops captured or killed and all of its equipment lost. By September 10, the Greek forces had completely evacuated Anatolia, the Turkish mainland.

The Treaty of Kars on October 23, 1921, settled the conflicts at the eastern border of Turkey and returned Kars and Ardahan to the Turks. These cities had been captured by the Russian Empire during the Russo-Turkish War of 1877-1878.

Mustafa Kemal Ataturk's daring gamble had paid off, both because of his skill as an organizer and military and because of his luck. He was the type of general who seemed, like Caesar and Napoleon and Robert E. Lee, that he could make his own luck. Ataturk had taken on a foolhardy and impossible task, since "everybody knew" that Turkey was rotten, and her armies had folded up before the British advance. But the Greeks had been foolish to invade Turkey and overextend themselves. The allies were generally bankrupt and not in a position to support them. Britain was only interested in demobilizing its armies, and the United States was not going to extend support to Britain for further adventures in Asia. The Armenians were weak, and the USSR had its own problems and desperately needed peace. The Turks came away with a modest but impressive series of victories that put an end to idea of carving up Turkey. They came to the Lausanne peace conference in a very different position from the other central powers, holding a royal flush, and could make their own terms, despite their abrogation of former treaties.  At the conference of Lausanne, which began on November 21, 1922. Ismet Inönü, later President of Turkey,  led the Turkish delegation. Inonu represented the basic position of the Ankara government that it had to be treated as an independent and sovereign state, equal with all other states attending the conference, rather than as an occupied and defeated power. In accordance with the directives of Mustafa Kemal, while discussing matters regarding the control of Turkish finances and justice, the infamous capitulations, the right of navigation in the "Turkish Straits" (the Bosporus) and other issues, he refused any proposal that would compromise Turkish sovereignty.

The allies had little choice but to agree. On July 24, 1923, the Treaty of Lausanne was signed. It confirmed the objectives that Ataturk had promulgated, with a few exceptions. Turkey had claimed  sovereignty over Mosul and Kirkuk in Iraq, and had also claimed Antioch (Antakya) and Alexandretta (Iskendroun) in Syria. Turkey was given a share in the Kirkuk and Mosul oil revenues. Alexandretta and Antakya were ceded to the French Syrian mandate, but returned to Turkey in 1939.

The Republic of Turkey was declared on October 29, 1923. Mustafa Kemal was 42 years old. At the declaration, the public cheered: "We are returning to the days of the first caliphs," but Mustafa Kemal Ataturk had very different plans for Turkey. He placed Fevzi Çakmak, Kazım Özalp and İsmet İnönü in the important positions, where they helped him carry out his radical innovations.

Turkey was still living in the 17th or 16th centuries in most fields. Following the Napoleonic wars, the Ottoman government had begun to train a Western style army, but it was not supported by a Western administrative system, an industrial system or an educational system, and its Westernization was in large part limited to a change of uniforms.

Mustafa Kemal Ataturk understood that democracy required an economic basis and economic independence. To pay its debts and to garner Western support against Russia, as well as to appease Russia during its long 19th century decline, the Ottoman empire had granted trade concessions, called "capitulations" to various Western powers. Each imperial power vied with the others to get the biggest piece of Turkish trade and of economic rights. Kemal  began working on the abolition of the capitulations during the Conference of Lausanne, and insistent that the capitulations, all unequal concessions to foreigners and minorities, and all outside interference had to be eliminated. Kemal Ataturk deadlocked the Conference of Lausanne on this issue until the French and Italians had to give up their economic demands.

Ataturk's marriage

Mustafa Kemal married Latife Uşaklıgil on January 29, 1923. The marriage lasted only about two years until August 5, 1925, and was broken up under mysterious circumstances. The couple were childless.  The circumstances of their divorce were not revealed. A court order banned the publishing of his former wife's diaries and letters, which may have contained information on the issue. Upon expiration of the court order, the head of the Turkish History Foundation, where the letters are kept since 1975, said Latife Uşaklıgil's family had demanded that the letters remain secret.

Atatürk adopted his daughters Afet (İnan), Sabiha (Gökçen), who later became the first female combat pilot in the world, Fikriye, Ülkü, Nebile, Rukiye, Zehra and his son Mustafa. Additionally, he had two children under his protection, Abdurrahim and İhsan.

Mustafa Kemal Ataturk: Constitutional Issues and Secularism

The new Republic was buffeted both by forces of Turkish of reaction and by European ideologies, including communism inspired by its northern neighbors and Fascism, then the rising star and "wave of the future," which attracted many in the Middle East. Instead, Ataturk provided his own "Kemalist" ideology, a pragmatic modernization program. Like most "guided democracies," his government was more guided than democratic. He experimented with direct government by an assembly, but discarded it in favor of a more conventional Western model that included an executive. The governments that are created by great men often are tailored for their rule only. Ataturk's achievement has survived its creator. In fact, it survived all the fascist and communist systems that were created in that period, and is proving itself to be extraordinarily resilient, despite fears and complaints that Turkey is in effect ruled by the military.  By 1923, the Ataturk government had created a  backbone of legislative, judicial, and executive structures.

Kemal introduced the principle of secularism, much resented by the Turkish religious establishment and later by Islamists. He presented it in terms of "independence," a continuation of the war for physical and economic independence. He stated, "We must liberate our concepts of justice, our laws and our legal institutions from the bonds which, even though they are incompatible with the needs of our century, still hold a tight grip on us"

The major reforms instituted by Mustafa Kemal  included the complete separation of government and religious affairs and the adoption of a strong interpretation of the principle of laïcité in the constitution. This was implemented in practive by closing the  Islamic courts and replacing Sharia (Islamic religious law) with a secular civil code modeled after the Swiss Civil Code and a penal code modeled after the Italian Penal Code.

The most far reaching break with the past, symbolically, was the abolition of the Caliphate. In reality, the Caliphate was dead long before, and what remained was a symbol that had nothing to do with the Arab Caliphate of yore, but it had remained as symbol.  On March 1, 1924, Mustafa Kemal told the national assembly,  "the religion of Islam will be elevated if it will cease to be a political instrument, as had been the case in the past." Alone among the Muslim countries of the Middle East, Turkey took the root of genuine Western-style democracy.

The Assembly transferred the powers of the Ottoman Caliphate into itself (see Abolishment of the Ottoman Caliphate). On March 3, 1924, the Caliphate was officially abolished and its powers within Turkey were transferred to the Turkish Grand National Assembly.

The basic trappings of a democracy: elections, assembly, government with a Prime Minister and President were established under Mustafa Kemal's leadership. In his time, Turkey was not democratic however. The political system was based on one party politics, characteristic even now of much the Middle East. The  party was the Republican People's Party ("Cumhuriyet Halk Fırkası" in Turkish) founded by Mustafa Kemal Ataturk on September 9, 1923. Actual power remained in the hands of Ataturk and of his followers regardless of elections. Ataturk was initially president of the Republic, and later he was Prime Minister, with Ismet Inonu as President.

The major problem in Turkish politics since the foundation of the republic has been the struggle between secularism, represented by followers of Ataturk, and Islamist and traditional Islamic views. Ataturk had created a cultural revolution,  not only abolishing the establishment of Islam as a state religion, but also forcing changes in dress and education, eliminating the Arabic alphabet and generally trying to throw Turkey into the modern western world with even more vigor than Peter the Great had evinced in Russia.

Mustafa Kemal's cultural revolution aroused opposition. In 1925, Ataturk asked Kazım Karabekir to establish the Progressive Republican Party as an opposition party in the Assembly, in order to ease tensions. The new party was  quickly taken over by people Atatürk considered to be Islamic fundamentalists. In the same year, partly in response to the Rebellion of Sheikh Said Piran ("Sheikh Said rebellion), the "Maintenance of Order Law" was passed, giving Atatürk the authority to shut down subversive groups. The Progressive Republican Party was shut down soon after.  d

On August 11, 1930, Mustafa Kemal Ataturk asked Ali Fethi Okyar to establish a new party that would be a secular opposition. The  Liberal Republican Party was an initial success, but it too began showing fundamentalist tendencies. Ali Fethi Okyar apprently understood what was required of him: he abolished his own party.

Mustafa Kemal Ataturk: Economic Policies

Kemalist economics tried consciously to create an industrial middle class that was needed to support democracy and modern society. Industrialization was difficult, primarily due to the lack of  political institutions and social classes that were needed t catalyze these changes.

Lacking private investment, Atatürk established state-owned factories throughout the country for agriculture, machinery, and textile industries. Many of these into successful enterprises and were privatized during the latter half of 20th century. Atatürk also set up a modern railway network and other infrastructure. During the depression, when other countries began leaning toward more government intervention, Turkish politicians blamed the economic malaise on too much government intervention in the economy and the socialist-style economic programs were modfied.

Mustafa Kemal Ataturk: Reform of Education

Mustafa Kemal's idea of national development was all-encompassing, see Atatürk's educational reforms. Besides general education, he was interested in forming askill base through adult education. His adult education ideas were implemented through centers called "People's Houses (Halk Evleri)." Turkish women learned child care, dress-making and household management and also skills that would make them employable in industry.  

Kemal also linked educational reform to the liberation of the nation from religious dogma, which he believed was even more important than the Turkish war of independence. In the summer of 1924, Ataturk invited the American education reformer John Dewey to provide advice.

Turkish had been written in Arabic characters and had a large vocabulary of Arabic and Persian loan words. Turkey had an illiteracy rate of about 90%.

It was found that the Arabic writing and reading took far too long to learn, so a modified Western alphabet was adopted instead, a rapid changeover being made in 1928. Kemal instituted universal education in Turkey and promoted the modern teaching and learning methods in elementary education based largely on Dewey's ideas. One of the hallmarks of his rule was that he liked to go about the country teaching the new alphabet in the countryside.

Ataturk's educational reforms were only partly successful. In 1927, about 11% of the population were literate. The "universal education" law only provided for four years of compulsory education. By 1960, however, 40% were literate, and currently about 87% are literate, with literacy at better than 94% among men. Lower literacy among women indicates that women's equality, another goal of the republic, was not attained. These figures are somewhat better than were obtained in some other Middle Eastern countries, including oil rich Saudi Arabia, but Jordan and the Palestinian authority have literacy rates of over 90% and in Israel literacy is over 95%.

Social and other innovations of Ataturk

Mustafa Kemal commissioned the translation of Quran into Turkish and he read it in  public in 1932. According to strict Islamic law, the Quran must be read only in Arabic for religious purposes. The Arabic of the Quran is archaic and highly literary and not always understood.

Despite the Islamic prohibition against alcoholic beverages, Ataturk encouraged domestic production of alcohol and established a state-owned spirits industry. He was known to have an appreciation for the national beverage, rakı, and enjoyed it in vast quantities.

The most visible of Kemal Ataturk's reforms was the dress code, reminiscent of the reforms of Peter the Great in Russia. The Decree on dress targeted the religious insignia used outside times of worship. A series of laws beginning from 1923 reformed Turkish dress. The most famous was  the Hat Law of 1925, which introduced the use of Western style hats instead of the fez, The Law Relating to Prohibited Garments of 1934, mandated modern suits instead of antiquated religion-based clothing such as the veil and turban. Guidelines for the proper dress of students and state employees  were passed during his lifetime. Mustafa Kemal regarded the fez (in Turkish "fes", which Sultan Mahmud II had originally introduced to the Ottoman Empire's dress code in 1826) as a symbol of oriental backwardness and banned it. He encouraged the Turks to wear modern European attire. . After most civil servants had adopted the western hat with their own free will, in 1925 Mustafa Kemal wore his "Panama hat" during a public appearance in Kastamonu, one of the most conservative towns in Anatolia, to demonstrate that the hat was the headgear of civilized nations.

Kemal Ataturk Liberates Turkish Women

The sequestration of Turkish women and their lack of rights had been one of the most salient and lampooned features of Turkish society. Kemal Ataturk had a definite philosophy of social revolution that had evolved before the beginning of the republic, with an emphasis on liberation of women. He constantly discussed with his staff on issues like abolishing the veiling of women and integration of females to social life, and developed conclusions. In November 1915, Mustafa Kemal wrote in his diary that " social change can come by (1) educating capable mothers who are knowledgeable about life; (2) giving freedom to women; (3) a man can change his morals, thoughts, and feelings by leading a common life with a woman; as there is an inborn tendency towards the attraction of mutual affection."

Mustafa Kemal did not consider the gender to be a factor in social organization. He believed it was impossible for Turkey to achieve progress and to become civilized if  gender separation continued as in Ottoman times. He said "everything we see on Earth is the product of women,"  and declared that "there was no logical explanation for the political disenfranchisement of women. Any hesitation and negative mentality on this subject is nothing more than a fading social phenomenon of the past. ……Women must have the right to vote and to be elected; because democracy dictates that, because there are interests that women must defend, and because there are social duties that women must perform."

Kemal Ataturk's reforms instituted legal equality between the sexes and granted full political rights to women on December 5, 1934, well before several other European nations. Though initially women were not elected in large numbers, Turkish women went on to occupy as prominent a place in politics as their counterparts in other countries.

Kemal did not believe in forcing dress reform, contrary to modern Turkish practice. Though he personally advocated modern dress for women, no laws were passed on the subject. He was often photographed on public business with his wife Lâtife Uşaklıgil, who covered her head. He was also frequently photographed on public business with women wearing modern clothing.

He wrote: "The religious covering of women will not cause difficulty.... This simple style [of headcovering] is not in conflict with the morals and manners of our society." He married Lâtife Uşaklıgil in a civil ceremony however, a daring step in the 1920s.

Ataturk and the Arts

Mustafa Kemal declared that "culture is the foundation of the Turkish Republic." His view of culture included both his own nation's creative legacy and what he saw as the admirable values of global civilization, emphasizing humanism.

In 1934, "Özsoy," composed by Adnan Saygun, the first ever Turkish opera work, openned at the People's House in Ankara.

Atatürk stressed the need to utilize the elements of the national heritage of the Turks and of Anatolia, including its ancient indigenous cultures,  as well as the arts and techniques of other world civilizations, past and present, to create a synthesis. Likewise, he emphasized the study of earlier civilizations, foremost of which being the Sumerians, after whom he had named the "Sümerbank", and the Hittites, after whom he established "Etibank", as well as other Anatolian civilizations such as the Phrygians and Lydians. He encouraged extensive research into the pre-Islamic culture of the Turks. Atatürk also stressed the folk arts of the countryside as a wellspring of Turkish creativity.

Ataturk also encouraged the visual and the plastic arts, banned, limited or suppressed under Islamic regimes as idolatry. Many museums were opened, architecture began to follow modern trends, and classical Western music, opera, and ballet, as well as the theatre, also took greater hold. Several hundred "People's Houses" (Halk Evi) and "People's Rooms" (Halk Odası) across the country allowed greater access to a wide variety of artistic activities, sports, and other cultural events. Book and magazine publications increased as well, and the film industry began to grow.

Backlash and critique of Araturk's reforms

Atatürk's reforms were more popular in the prosperous cities than in the conservative and backward countryside.  In particular, Atatürk's secularization generated opposition, and made it easy both in his time and later, for demagogues to harness religious unrest to be used against the regime. In the past, politicians who showed anti-secular leanings like Adnan Menderes (1960) were overthrown by the army. The election of Abdullah Gul as President, as of this writing (August 2007), has precipitated a fresh crisis of this type, because Gul's wife wears a headscarf, seen by the military as an emblam of Islamism.

The Kurdish problem under Atatürk

Turkey has always been an agglomeration of all the ethnic groups under its sovereignty, even within Asia minor, and the groups have not always got on together. Kemal Ataturk's attempts to deal with the ethnic problem, particularly that of the Kurds, were not altogether successful, though this was not necessarily his fault. During the War of Independence, Atatürk recognized the multiethnic character of the Muslim population in Turkey.

On February 13, 1925  a rebellion for an independent Kurdistan broke out in the Dersim region, led by Sheikh Said of Piran, the rich hereditary chieftain of the Nakshibendi dervishes. Sheikh Said emphasized the issue of religion rather than Kurdish nationalism. He stirred up his followers against the abolition of the Caliphate and the anti-religious policies of the Kemalist government. Following their green Islamic  banner, the Sheikh's forces roamed through the country, seized government offices and marched on  Elazığ and Diyarbakır. In a bit more than a month, the revolt was put down. Said and 36 of his followers were condemned to death for treason and hanged. Several other large-scale Kurdish revolts occurred in Ağrı and Dersim in 1930 and 1937. The Turkish Air Force bombed the Kurdish uprisings. Sabiha Gökçen, the first female combat pilot in the world and the adopted daughter of Atatürk, took part in the bombing raids against the Dersim Kurds.

Atatürk's nationalities policy was expressed in the manual of civics which he dedicated to his adopted daughter Afet İnan in 1930:

"Within the political and social unity of today's Turkish nation, there are citizens and co-nationals who have been incited to think of themselves as Kurds, Circassians, Laz or Bosnians. But these erroneous terms have brought nothing but sorrow to individual members of the nation, with the exception of a few brainless reactionaries, who became the enemy's instruments."

Death of Ataturk

During 1937, it became obvious that he was ill, and thereafter he was found to be suffering from cirrhosis of the liver.  

In his last will and testament, written on September 5, 1938, he donated all of his possessions to the Republican People's Party, on condition that, from the yearly interest on his funds, his sister Makbule and his adopted children will be looked after, the higher education of the children of İsmet İnönü will be funded, and the Turkish Language Association and Turkish Historical Society will be given the rest.

Atatürk died at the Dolmabahçe Palace in Istanbul, on November 10, 1938, at the age of 57. Atatürk's funeral called forth both sorrow and pride in Turkey, and seventeen countries sent special representatives, while nine contributed with armed detachments to the cortège. He was temporarily buried in the Ethnography Museum of Ankara.

On November 1953 his Mausoleum was completed.  Mustafa Kemal's remains were taken from the Ethnography Museum of Ankara by 138 young reserve officers in a procession that stretched for two miles including the President, the Premier, every Cabinet minister, every parliamentary deputy, every provincial governor and every foreign diplomat, while at the same time 21 million Turks stood motionless all over the country. One admiral guarded a velvet cushion which bore the Medal of Independence; the only decoration, that Atatürk like to wear.

His lifestyle had always been strenuous. Alcohol consumption during dinner discussions, smoking, long hours of hard work, very little sleep, and working on his projects and dreams had been his way of life. As the historian Will Durant had said, "men devoted to war, politics, and public life wear out fast, and all three had been the passion of Atatürk."

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Kemal Ataturk