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Friday, November 10, 2006

In Memoriam [3]

Part Three

Atatürk's Essence: Keeping the secular faith

If Turkey will cling so steadfastly to Atatürk's image, it will need to remember that while images can be defaced very easily, the essence of something is harder to kill.

Atatürk was a dictator in name and in certain actions; his life should be open to scrunity and criticism. I will be the first to defend that right. However today, having the world's greatest power with a "decider" - who was a dictator in all but name until the blessed workings of democracy - shows us that life is far too complex for sweeping, emotive labels.

Turkey has helped in forming the glue for these labels to stick and ironically - by not really understanding what Atatürk's true legacy was and making moves to protect that - has given much ammunition to those that still can't stomach the fact that Turkey exists, even after nearly a century has passed.

If Turkey is being berated by the EU on rights for women, when its founder said "Everything we see in the world is the creative work of women," and gave the female citizens of his country the right to vote even before British women had to fight tooth and nail to get their own voting rights, then what more proof is needed to show that Turkey has failed in keeping true to the legacy of this forward looking statesman?

What more proof indeed, when today a Turkish novelist wins a Nobel laureate attached to a wave of anti-Turkish sentiment, while Atatürk was nominated for the 1934 Nobel Peace Prize by Greek premier Eleftherios Venizelos, elected leader of a country he had been at war with only a decade before.

But Mustafa Kemal was always a man that had gained much respect from his former enemies for his chivalry in victory. The Mustafa Kemal Atatürk Memorial has an honoured place on ANZAC Parade in Canberra, Australia. It includes his words commemorating the loss of thousands of Turkish and ANZAC soldiers at the battle of Gallipoli during the First World War.

"Those heroes that shed their blood and lost their lives... you are now lying in the soil of a friendly country. Therefore rest in peace. There is no difference between the Johnnies and the Mehmets where they lie side by side here in this country of ours... You the mothers who sent their sons from far away countries, wipe away your tears. Your sons are now lying in our bosom and are in peace. Having lost their lives on this land they have become our sons as well."

Atatürk knew only too well that men divided by war, were united in death.

A call to Turkish Youth

So, on this day, as Atatürk did once in a widely mis-interpretated speech, I call to the Turkish youth. Atatürk is not in his pictures or portraits or statutes. Don't look for him there. Atatürk is not in Turkey, or in the ambitions of Turkey, either. Don't look for him there.

You'll find Atatürk in the respect for life, respect for freedom, respect for humanity, and remembering the horrific responsibilites of war.

Don't idolise his life, don't whitewash his life - live up to his values in word and action. In doing that you will have given Atatürk life, more than any lifeless image or bust.

Keep these ideals true in yourself, and Atatürk will live forever - and you will realise that this day will come to be celebrated not just by Turks worldwide, but by the world herself.

Part one | Part two | End of part three

Main Index | Chapter 1 | Chapter 2 | Chapter 3

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