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Ataturk--Father of Modern Turkey and a Great Humanitarian

I practised as a solicitor in London, mainly in all areas of family law and my studies gave me an interest in psychology, and human rights


To Understand Turkey, You Need to Know About the Founder of Modern Turkey--Ataturk, Turkish General, Politician, Statesman, Humanitarian and Reformer

I had vaguely heard of the name Ataturk, but knew nothing else about him until I read Snow by Orhan Pamuk, a book about revolution, religious ideology and the various factions in Turkey. This raised my curiosity sufficiently to Google "Ataturk" and what I found out swept me away.

I was so impressed that I kept the information, with no particuar purpose other than my gut feeling that one day I would use it in some way as a reference to write about him. And, of course, that's what I'm doing now.

Bear in Mind That This Article is Strictly a Historic Perspective of Ataturk's Influence on Turkey

It does not touch on the Turkish genocide of the Armenian people, or the fast-moving recent political events in modern Turkey, which are very much in the news at present.


Three Reasons to Admire Ataturk

Called the Father of Modern Turkey

  • He was an enlightened reformer believing in the separation of state from religion--he turned Turkey from the religious Ottoman Empire into a modern secular state
  • He was a great humanist and introduced universal education
  • He believed in equal rights for women and equal rights for all people under the law

More Quotations by Ataturk

On Peace:

"Mankind is a single body and each nation a part of that body. We must never say 'What does it matter to me if some part of the world is ailing?' If there is such an illness, we must concern ourselves with it as though we were having that illness."

On Ideology and Spreading the Word:

"There are two Mustafa Kemals. One the flesh-and-blood 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."

On Sovreignty:

"Sovereignty belongs unconditionally to the people."

On Modernising the Legal System:

"We must liberate our concepts of justice, our laws and legal institutions from the bonds which hold a tight grip on us although they are incompatible with the needs of our century"

On Social Reform:

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" the new Turkish State is a state of the people and a state by the people."

"We are a nation without classes or special privileges."

" The true owner and master of Turkey is the peasant who is the real producer."

On the Economy:

"to achieve independence we must observe the following rule: National sovereignty should be supported by financial independence."

On Education:

"The government's most creative and significant duty is education."

" We shall emphasize putting our women's secondary and higher education on an equal footing with men."

All ThingsTurkish on Amazon

You can get all sorts of Turkish things on Amazon, including Turkish Cooking, Turkish Delight, a Turkish Hookah, Turkish Language Software and an English/Turkish Turkish/English Dictionary.


Just a few major dates as an overview

source of information on this website: Wikepedia and

Mustafa Kemal Ataturk - His Life

Atataturk (1881 - 1938 ) dedicated his life to his nation, Turkey. His father died when he was young. He attended a traditional religious school and later a modern school.

1893-1905 Military high school excelling at mathematics. He graduated from the War Academy in Istanbul with the rank of Staff Captain. With several colleagues, he started a clandestine society "Homeland and Freedom" to fight against the Sultan's despotism in the Ottoman Empire.

1908 Helped the group of officers who toppled the Sultan. His military career flourished.

1915 Dardanelles campaign - he became a national hero by winning successive victories and finally repelling the invaders.

1916 Promoted to General at age 35, he was instrumental in overthrowing the Ottoman Empire and the despotic Sultan's government, liberated two major provinces in eastern Turkey and in a major victory stopped the enemy advance at Aleppo.

1919 Started the War of Independence.

1920 The Grand National Assembly was inaugurated and he was elected as President. Led his forces to victory against rebels and invading armies and became Commander-in-Chief with the rank of Marshal.

1922 The Turkish armies liberated and the Turkish mainland and the rule of the Ottoman dynasty abolished.

1923 The National Government signed the Lausanne Treaty with Great Britain, France, Greece, Italy, and others. Ankara became the capital of the new Turkish State, the Turkish Republic was proclaimed and he was elected President.

1923 Married. Divorced in 1925.

Ataturk 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 traditional attire, and advanced the arts and sciences, agriculture and industry. In 1934, when the surname law was adopted, the National Parliament gave him the name "Ataturk" (Father of the Turks).

1938 Died aged 57.

Ataturk--Founder of the Turkish Republic

Ataturk was responsible for sweeping reforms to modernise Turkey

1923 he proclaimed the Republic of Turkey, dedicated to the sovereignty of the national will, ending the dynasty and theocratic Ottoman system, with its Sultanate and Caliphate. Its basic principles stress the republican form of government representing the power of electorate, secular administration, nationalism, mixed economy with state participation in many of the vital sectors, and modernization.

Atataturkism introduced to Turkey, the first Muslim nation to become a Republic, the process of parliamentary and participatory democracy.

Religious laws were abolished, and a secular system of jurisprudence introduced, with a new Civil Code, Penal Code, and Business Law, based on the Swiss, Italian and German models respectively.

All citizens--men and women, rich and poor--were given equality before the law, the foundation for a just society with equal rights.

Social Reform

Reform of the backward social and economic system of the Ottoman Empire

Believing that religious faith is matter of individual conscience, secular government and education played a major role in Ataturk's program of modernization and Turkey became truly secular, with freedom of worship, and religion separated from state.

A vast transformation took place in urban and rural life--women stopped wearing the veil and men the fez; all citizens took surnames; and the Western calendar replaced the Islamic calendar .

Language Reform

Swift and extensive language reform

In 1928, the Arabic script used by the Turks for a thousand years was replaced with the less complex Latin alphabet, enabling people to learn to read and write more easily.

In the 1920s written Turkish language was 80 percent Arabic, Persian, and French. Thousands of words, and some grammatical devices, borrowed from the Arabic and Persian, were eliminated and replaced by revived original centuries-old Turkish words. Provincial expressions and new coinages were introduced. and by the 1980s the ratio of borrowed foreign words had declined to a mere 10 percent.

Women's Rights

Ataturk's reforms of Turkish women's rights and opportunities

Ataturk launched many reforms to give Turkish women equal rights and opportunities. The new Civil Code, adopted in 1926, abolished polygamy and recognized the equal rights of women in divorce, custody, and inheritance.

The entire educational system from school to university became co-educational.

He gave women the same opportunities as men, including full political rights. In modern Turkey there are now tens of thousands of well-educated women who are doctors, lawyers, engineers, teachers, writers, administrators, executives, and creative artists.

Reform of Education

"The government's most creative and significant duty is education."

Ataturk, regarding education as the force that would galvanize the nation into social and economic development, stimulated and expanded education at all levels and for all segments of society. There was an ambitious program of schooling for children and adults, with women's education on an equal footing with men.

Education was made free, secular, and co-educational. Primary education was declared compulsory. The armed forces implemented an extensive program of literacy and Ataturk personally instructed children and adults in schoolrooms, parks, and other places.

Literacy rose from less than 9 percent in 1923 to more than 33 percent by 1938.

Economic Growth

A dynamic program of economic development was initiated

A dynamic program of economic development was initiated to remedy the new Turkish state's lack of capital, industry, and know-how. Successive wars had decimated manpower and agricultural production, and there were huge foreign debts.

From 1923 there was agricultural expansion, industrial growth, and technological advancement. There were also improvements In mining, transportation, manufacturing, banking , exports, social services, housing, communications, energy, mechanization, and other vital areas, increasing the gross national product five-fold within ten years.

Ataturk--Genius International Peacemaker

A world order based on peace, and the dignity of all human beings

Military hero Ataturk knew the value of peace and did his utmost to secure and strengthen it throughout the world. He believed in the vital need to create a world order based on peace and the dignity of all human beings, and on the constructive interdependence of all nations, stating that "peace is the most effective way for nations to attain prosperity and happiness" and, on another occasion, "Turks are the friends of all civilized nations."

Turkey established cordial relations with all countries, did not pursue a policy of expansionism, and avoided any act that was contrary to peaceful co-existence. Ataturk signed pacts with Greece, Roumania and Yugoslavia in the Balkans, and with Iran, Iraq and Afghanistan in the East. He maintained friendly relations with the Soviet Union, the United States, England, Germany, Italy, France, and other states.

On his death in 1938, the League of Nations paid tribute to him as "a genius international peacemaker". In 1981 the United Nations and UNESCO honoured his memory as the great Turkish Statesman who abhorred war.

The veil and religion versus secularism are still up for discussion in modern-day Turkey

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2010 Diana Grant

You Can Comment Here--Say Something About Ataturk!--Whatever Comes to Mind After Reading This Web Page

Diana Grant (author) from United Kingdom on October 17, 2014:

Thank you Miz Leyla for your interesting contribution - this is something which very few people outside Turkey would know about. Turkey is in deep turmoil at present. I was also contacted by a reader who told me that Ataturk was good for Turkey but harmed or wiped out a lot of people outside Turkey - he was, of course, a famous and powerful general in the army.

Miz Leyla on October 16, 2014:

Thank you so much for this. Unfortunately, the Tayyip Erdogan is destroying what Ataturk built. I visit Turkey often and have seen for myself the destruction of Ataturk's values. I can provide you an example. One is now (unofficially) not allowed to leave flowers as a sign of respect on any Ataturk statues or memorials, if you do, they are removed immediately by the police. It is no longer acceptable to hang Ataturk flags from your home - often your home is vandalised by Erdogan supporters.

I am not exaggerating this. It is an issue only those living in Turkey or those who visit often enough can see.

The Gezi protests had more to do with Ataturk than a park - a protest of the liberties, freedoms and knowledge Ataturk set up, which, slowly is being pushed out by parliament.

Snakesmum on May 22, 2013:

You have added to my knowledge of Ataturk. Very interesting lens. Have been to Turkey a couple of times, and there is much to thank him for.

goldenrulecomics from New Jersey on May 22, 2013:

Very nicely done! I knew the general history of Ataturk but this filled in the gaps. Thanks.

Diana Grant (author) from United Kingdom on May 19, 2013:

@SusannaDuffy: I didn't know there was a special day to celebrate him.

Diana Grant (author) from United Kingdom on May 19, 2013:

@Gypzeerose: Thank you so much. I wasn't particularly good at history when I was at school, but once I left, I began to understand how past events affect the present and future.

Diana Grant (author) from United Kingdom on May 19, 2013:

@BLouw: I knew nothing about him either, until I did some research after reading a reference to him in a novel.

Barbara Walton from France on May 19, 2013:

My husband is Turkish and thinks Ataturk is a hero. I don't really know much about him so this lens is a good starting point.

Rose Jones on May 18, 2013:

Love this - thanks for all this information about Ataturk - fun read. Pinned to my history board, and blessed.

Susanna Duffy from Melbourne Australia on May 18, 2013:

He was a great man and not often recognised for his contributions. He's much admired where I live and May 19 is the day we celebrate

Diana Grant (author) from United Kingdom on October 30, 2012:

@MomwithAHook LM: I'm really pleased about that. I only started researching Ataturk because he was mentioned with such respect by a Nobel Prize winning author, Orhan Pamuk

Sara Duggan from California on October 30, 2012:

So much information. I guess growing up I didn't pay much attention in my world history classes. Thanks for the information, have bookmarked it as my 6th grader will be studying it later this year.

Diana Grant (author) from United Kingdom on October 19, 2012:

@Paul Ward: We could do with a few more like him!

Paul from Liverpool, England on October 19, 2012:

A giant of a politician.

Işın Tuzcular from Istanbul on October 03, 2012:

A very good lens about our hero Ataturk. He built a modern Turkey. As a Turkish woman I am especially thankful to him as he gave importance to women rights. Thanks for sharing.

anonymous on February 28, 2012:

We need more leaders like Ataturk. Great info and photos!

Lemming13 on February 21, 2012:

Splendid lens about a truly inspiring leader.

Edutopia on February 14, 2012:

Ataturk really was a true statesman who had the best interests of every person in his country at heart, not just a select group of them. He sets a great example for heads of states the world over.

TeacherSerenia on January 01, 2012:

WOW. I had heard of Ataturk but had no idea he was so open minded - very unusual for a muslim man of his time. I LOVE his quote on religion - "Religion is an issue of conscience. Everyone is free to conform to the commands of their conscience."

If only other nations would follow the same thinking....Blessed by a passing angel.

justholidays on March 31, 2011:

Informative and well detailed! You did a great job on this page about Ataturk! Blessed by a passing angel on Squidoo.

RinchenChodron on October 17, 2010:

I hate history, but support peace and religious equality. I do admire Ataturk - an enlightened man.

Diana Grant (author) from United Kingdom on July 19, 2010:

@norma-holt: Thank you so much - I've only just seen your comment!

norma-holt on May 17, 2010:

The Aussies fought the Turks at Anzac Cove during WWI and thousands died. The respect for Ataturk afterwards, however, has never waned. He was a great leader and his people are great also. Blessed and featured on Sprinkled with Stardust

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