Mustafa Kemal Atatürk
Mustafa Kemal Atatürk is universally acknowledged as the founding father of the modern state of Turkey. He was also his country`s first President. He was a visionary statesman and a military leader par excellence. His surname, Ataturk, means the father of Turks. This name was given to him by the first Turkish parliement for his accomplishments and for his invaluable contributions to the birth and modernization of the Turkish Republic.
In May 1919, Atatürk began a nationalist revolution in Anatolia, organising resistance to the peace settlement imposed on Turkey by the victorious Allies. In 1921, Atatürk established a provisional government in Ankara. The following year the Ottoman Sultanate was formally abolished and, in 1923, Turkey became a secular republic with Atatürk as its president.
Mustafa Kemal Atatürk embarked on a regime of radical reforms. His reforms encompassed a wide spectrum of the socio-political and cultural issues.
On the political front, his reforms ushered Turkey into the era of Republicanism for Kemal ardently believed that it is only a Republican authority, which can fulfill the aspirations of the citizens and instill a sense of oneness among the people.
Kemal was a socialist to the core and during his reign, the betterment of women was uppermost in his mind. He placed great importance to female education. He worked towards improving the status of women in Turkey through the adoption of Western Codes. A landmark in Women Rights was reached in Turkey, when during his rule; they received the right to vote in 1934.
He was all for taking education to every nook and cranny of the country. He believed that education was the only means of enlightening the people, which in turn, would lead to an improvement in their quality of life. It was with this idea that he made primary education compulsory.
He adopted a populist policy whereby all special class privileges were abolished. Atatürk often quoted that no one rose above the state and acknowledged the supremacy of the Turkish citizenry. His nationalistic ideas were staunchly opposed to imperialism.
In the cultural sphere, Atatürk took upon himself the amendment of the Turkish language. In 1928, he did away with the Arabic script and integrated Latin alphabets into the Turkish language.
Between 1926 and 1930, Atatürk initiated many legal reforms, which paved the way for the emergence of Turkey as a secular state. His dream was a state where religion did not interfere with administration, education and law and where religious dogma did not obstruct free thinking and free institutions.
Kemal`s principle of secularism was never akin to agnosticism. Rather it was a drive to banish clerical fundamentalism and irrational beliefs and take Turkey towards modernization.
He undertook a massive economic development program, which incorporated agricultural expansion, and industrial and technological advances.
Mustafa Kemal Atatürk died on 10th November 1938. His name remains etched in the hearts of the Turkish people as military leader who led from the front to give them independence and a statesman, a revolutionary and a reformist who constantly strove to build a modern Turkey.