Mustafa Kemal Ataturk

Mustafa Kemal Ataturk was a revolutionary and forward-looking leader who helped build the Republic of Turkey. He was Turkey’s first president and his reforms revamped the country. Ataturk was born in 1881 in the former Ottoman Empire. He was involved with the Young Turks, a revolutionary group that discrowned the Sultan in 1909. He was an Army officer who led the Turkish war of independence and signed the Treaty in 1923, resulted in Turkey a republic. He then became the first president of the Republic Turkey and remained the president until his death.

Mustafa Kemal belonged from a middle-class Muslim family, grew up in Salonica- which is now in Greece- at that time was a part of Ottoman Empire. He attended several military schools including a War College in Istanbul. In 1908, he played a role in Young Turk Revolution, which restricted the power from Sultan and restored the constitutional monarchy. He fought several wars including Italy-Turkish War, Balkan War and later World War I where Turkish army allied with the Central powers. He organized his army as the front-line commander. He was the only Turkish General in the war who never suffered a defeat.

Mustafa Kemal wanted to modernize and secularize the country. He studied Western government system and adapted their structure for the people of Turkey. He established a policy of state secularism in the constitution and separated the government from the religion. Under his leadership, the role of Islam in public life shrank drastically, European law codes introduced in the judicial system, the office of Sultan was abolished and new language and dress requirements were mandated. He closed all religious courts and schools, prohibited wearing of headscarves among public sector employees and gave women rights to vote, lifted a ban on alcohol, adopted the Gregorian calendar in place, made Sunday an official day off instead of Friday, even changed the call to prayer in Turkish rather than Arabic. Although he believed he was driving the country towards modernization, but not all of his reforms were warmly received. His policies to build a secular state were particularly controversial and he was blamed of humiliating important cultural traditions.

Foreign issues were resolved by peaceful methods during his presidency, he followed his motto, “peace at home, peace in the world”. He formed good relations with USSR, Greece and Eastern neighbors. He performed well on social and economic reforms, which was very crucial part of his strategy.

Ataturk died on 10 November 1938 in his Dolmabahce Palace in Istanbul. He has no children. Ismet Inonu, who continued his policies of westernization and secularization, replaced him.