Atatürk's Life and His Principles
"There are two Mustafa Kemals. One is the flesh-and-bone Mustafa Kemal who now stands before you and who will pass away. The other is you, all of you here who will go to the far corners of our land to spread the ideals which must be defended with your lives if necessary. I stand for the nation's dreams, and my life's work is to make them come true."
Atatürk stands as one of the world's few historic figures who dedicated their lives totally to their nations.
He was born in 1881 (probably in the Spring) in Selanik, then an Ottoman city, now in Greece. His father, Ali Riza, a customs official turned timber merchant, died when Mustafa was still a boy. His mother, Zubeyde, a devout and strong-willed woman, raised him and his sister. First enrolled in a traditional religious school, he soon switched to a modern school. In 1893, he entered a military high school where his mathematics teacher gave him the second name Kemal (meaning "perfection") in recognition of young Mustafa's superior achievement. He was thereafter known as Mustafa Kemal.
In 1905, Mustafa Kemal graduated from the Military Academy in Istanbul with the rank of Staff Captain. Posted in Damascus, he started, with several colleagues, a clandestine society called "Homeland and Freedom" to fight against the Sultan's despotism. Mustafa Kemal's career flourished as he won fame and promotions because of his heroism in the farflung corners of the Ottoman Empire, including Albania and Tripoli. He also briefly served as a staff officer in Selanik and Istanbul and as a military attache in Sofia.
When the Dardanelles campaign was launched in 1915, Colonel Mustafa Kemal became a national hero by winning successive vistories and finally repelling the invaders. Promoted to general in 1916, at age 35, he liberated two major provinces in eastern Antalia that year. In the next two years, he served as commander of several Ottoman armies in Palestine and Aleppo, achieving anotherr major victory by stopping the enemy advance at Aleppo.
On May 19, 1919, Mustafa Kemal landed in the Black Sea port of Samsun to start the War of Independence. In defiance of the Sultan's government, he rallied a liberation army in Anatolia and convened the Congresses of Erzurum and Sivas which established the basis for the new national effort under his leadership. On April 23, 1920, the Grand National Assembly was inaugurated. Mustafa Kemal was elected to its Presidency.
Fighting on many fronts, he led his forces to victory against rebels and invading armies. Following the Turkish triumph at the two major battles at Inonu in Western Turkey, the Grand National Assembly conferred on Mustafa Kemal the title of Commander-in-Chief with the rank of Marshal. At the end of August 1922, the Turkish armies won their ultimate victory. Within a few weeks, the Turkish mainland was completely liberated, the armistice signed, and the rule of the Ottoman dynasty abolished.
In July 1923, the national government signed the Lausanne Treaty with Great Britain, France, Greece, Italy and others. In mid-October, Ankara became the capital of the new Turkish State. On October 29, the Republic was proclaimed and Mustafa Kemal Pasha was unanimously elected President of the Republic.
The account of Atatürk's fifteen-year presidency is a saga of dramatic modernization. With indefatigable determination, he created a new political and legal system, abolished the Caliphate and made both government and education secular, gave equal rights to women, changed the alphabet and advanced the arts, sciences, agriculture and industry.
In 1934, when the surname law was adopted, the national parliament gave him the name "Atatürk" (Father of Turks).
On November 10, 1938, following an illness of a few months, the national liberator and the Father of modern Turkey died. His legacy to his people and to the world endures.
Atatürk's principles can be summed up in six fundamentals:
Republicanism: The Kemalist reforms represent a political revolution; a change from the multinational Empire to the establishment of the nation state of Turkey and the realisation of national identity of modern Turkey. Kemalism only recognises a Republican regime for Turkey. Kemalism believes that it is only the republican regime which can best represent the wishes of the people.
Populism: The Kemalist revolution was also a social revolution in term of its content and goals. This was a revolution led by an elite with an orientation towards the people in general. The Kemalist reforms brought about a revolutionary change in the status of women through the adoption of Western codes of law in Turkey, in particular the Swiss Civil Code. Moreover, women received the right to vote in 1934. Atatürk stated on a number of occasions that the true rulers of Turkey were the peasants. This was actually a goal rather than a reality in Turkey. In fact, in the official explanation given to the principle of populism was stated that Kemalism was against class privileges and class distinctions and it recognized no individual, no family, no class and no organization as being above others. Kemalist ideology was, in fact, based on supreme value of Turkish citizenship. A sense of pride associated with this citizenship would give the needed psychological spur to the people to make them work harder and to achieve a sense of unity and national identity.
Secularism: Kemalist secularism did not merely mean separation of state and religion, but also the separation of religion from educational, cultural and legal affairs. It meant independence of thought and independence of institutions from the dominance of religious thinking and religious institutions. Thus, the Kemalist revolution was also a secularist revolution. Many Kemalist reforms were made to bring about secularism, and others were realised because secularism had been achieved.
The Kemalist principle of secularism did not advocate atheism. It wa s not an anti-God principle. It was a rationalist, anti-clerical secularism. The Kemalist principle of secularism was not against an enlightened Islam, but against an Islam which was opposed to modernisation.
Reformism: One of the most important principles that Atatürk formulated was the principle of reformism or revolutionism. This principle meant that Turkey made reforms and that she replaced traditional institutions with modern institutions. It meant that traditional concepts were eliminated and modern concepts were adopted. The principle of reformism went beyond the recognition of the reforms which were made.
Nationalism: The Kemalist revolution was also a nationalist revolution. Kemalist nationalism was not racist. It was meant to preserve the independence of the Republic of Turkey and also to help the Republic's political development. It was a nationalism which respected the right to independence of all other nations. It was a nationalism with a social content. It was not only anti-imperialist, but it was also against the rule of a dynasty or of any particular social class over Turkish society. Kemalist nationalism believes in the principle that the Turkish state is an indivisible whole comprising its territory and people.
Statism: Kemal Atatürk made clear in his statements and policies that Turkey's complete modernisation was very much dependent on economic and technological development. The principle of statism was interpreted to mean that the state was to regulate the country's general economic activity and that the state was to engage in areas where private enterprise was not willing to do so, or where private enterprise had proved to be inadequate, or if the national interest required it. In the application of the principle of statism, however, the state emerged not only as the principle source of economic activity but also as the owner of the major industries of the country.
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