Tuesday, November 14, 2006

#76 The Turks love Ataturk

In lectures on Turkey history, we learn the rags-to-riches story of Mustafa Kemal Ataturk. But it isn't until we arrive in Istanbul and see memorial after memorial dedicated to Ataturk that we begin to understand the ongoing love affair Turks have for “the father of modern Turkey” who died nearly 70 years ago.
  • Ataturk’s picture is on all Turkish paper money.
  • You fly into the Ataturk airport in Istanbul. Ataturk Street passes under the historic city aqueduct.
  • Street vendors make a business selling a single product: Ataturk photos.
  • Trophy shops sell Ataturk plaques with a 3D version of his face.
  • On a Times Square-like electronic billboard atop one of the city’s tallest buildings, a tightly cropped picture of Ataturk’s piercing eyes look down on the masses.
  • Grade schools put his statue by the entrance.
  • And each time we leave our ship, we pass a nautically themed Ataturk shrine in the port building.

4338f Ataturk flags and banner at Taksim
Friday marked the anniversary of Ataturk’s death. Mid-morning at the precise time of his passing, sirens sounded across Istanbul, all vehicles stopped where they were, drivers stepped out of their cars, city buses unloaded, pedestrians stood at attention, and for two minutes all of Turkey stopped in silent respect.

Towering temporary banners with Ataturk’s likeness were draped from many public and private buildings including the Conrad Hotel. Television stations inserted a small picture of Ataturk in the upper right corner of the screen all day long. Turkish soldiers stood at attention as an honor guard around a well known Ataturk statue surrounded by flowered wreaths. All flags flew at half staff. This impressive display makes me want to learn more about Ataturk.

Yours in researching Ataturk,

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