Mustafa Kemal Ataturk

Mustafa Kemal Ataturk

We recently had the amazing opportunity to take a two-week guided tour of Turkey. My spouse is a Kiwi and was most interested in visiting the Gallipoli and the memorial documenting the ANZACS. I was aware of this WW1 debacle where Churchill planned for the Aussies and Kiwis to attack the “soft” underbelly of the enemy en route to the Sea of Marmara and onto the Black Sea.

I was impressed that the Turks have memorialized and commemorated the ANZACs (as well as their own troops) despite the fact that they were invaded. It was at this location that Mustafa (his only name at the time) gained prominence for his heroism. His actions were recognized as significant in the eventual Turkish victory in this battle.

I admit my ignorance of Mustafa Kemal’s importance to Turkey. Kemal was a name that was attributed to him by his comrades sometime after Gallipoli and it means fullness, perfection & maturity.

After our trip, I purchased the book “Ataturk” written by Andrew Mango. I found the biography a tough read. It was difficult for me to consume more than 20 or 30 pages in a setting. The level of detail and length of sentences was excruciating. That said, I was happy that I finished the book. I believe that the offer did an outstanding job of presenting Ataturk’s life in a fair and accurate manner. He did not sidestep Ataturk’s deficiencies (of which there were many) or his efforts that were failures.

Ataturk was the surname that was bestowed on him by his comrades soon after establishing the Turkish Republic. It means father of the Turks.

If you have an interest in learning more, but not the energy to wade through 600 pages I would recommend reading the last two chapters as they do a great job of summarizing the contents.

Ataturk may be best internationally known for his 6-day speech:

Following are a couple of passages from the book that I found interesting:

 “I have no religion, and at times I wish all religions at the bottom of the sea. He is a weak ruler who needs religion to uphold his government, it is as if he would catch his people in a trap. My people are going to learn the principles of democracy, the dictates of truth, and the teachings of science. Superstition must go. Let them worship as they will; every man can follow his own conscience providing, it does not interfere with sane reason or bid him act against the liberty of his fellow men”

“In spite of everything, I am certain we are moving towards the light. The strength that animates my faith derives not only from my infinite love for my dear country and people but from the young people I see, who are moved purely by a love of country and of truth in their efforts to find and spread light amid today’s darkness, immorality, and fraud.       (Ataturk was a competent commander, a shrewd politician a statesman of supreme realism. But above all, he was a man of the Enlightenment. And the Enlightenment was not made by saints.)”