In the center of Turkey, in its capital, on a hill at Ankara Anitkabir, rests the national heart of Turkey. This is the mausoleum of Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, the father of all Turks, born 1881 in Thessaloniki (Greece). A particularly brave soldier during World War I, he rebelled against allied forces on 23 April 1920, while establishing a new parliament (Grand National Assembly) in order to defend the remains of the Ottoman Empire against Greek and Armenian occupying forces advancing from the west and east. Emerging victorious as commander in chief of the Turkish army, he declared independence on 29 October 1923, and the Turkish Republic was born.
In the 15 years to follow before his death from liver cirrhosis on 10 November 1938, Mustafa Kemal Ataturk profoundly changed the country and laid the foundation for today’s modern state. He linked educational reform to the liberation of the nation from dogma, abolishing the caliphate and separating religion from state, banning polygamy, introducing a new Turkish alphabet which he thought himself travelling the countryside, promoting the emancipation of women and replacing the Turkish fez by the western Panama hat (The Hat Law of 1925).
At the exact time of his death, each year on 10 November at 09:05, most vehicles and people in the country’s streets pause for one minute in Mustafa Kemal Ataturk’s remembrance. Still everyday hundreds of visitors arrive at Anitkabir to pay tribute to the father of the nation at his last resting place and thus fulfill his prophecy “My mortal body will turn into dust, but the Republic of Turkey will last forever”.