Ataturk’s legacy

Dr Ramesh Kumar Vankwani
Friday, Nov 11, 2022

Every year on November 10, Turkey holds Ataturk Remembrance Day to mark the death anniversary of the founder of the modern Turkish state and the first president of Turkey, Mustafa Kemal Pasha.

On November 10, 1938, at 9:05am, Pasha, also known as Ataturk (father of Turks), died while performing his official duties. His indelible effects have earned him followers in different regions of the world, including Pakistan. The Ataturk Avenue highway located in the Red Zone of Islamabad is an example of the Pakistani people’s devotion to the great Turkish leader.

Historically, the great Ottoman Empire of the Turks, once the ruler of three continents for around 700 years, was rapidly declining at the start of the 20th century. The devastation of World War I (1914-1918) changed the political landscape of the world and brought the Ottoman Empire to its end. Due to the domination of the imperial powers of France and Great Britain, the Turks had to face the challenge of their survival.

In this critical time, the greatest achievements of Ataturk were to safeguard his nation from falling into despair and give them a new hope. Under his dynamic leadership, the Turkish war of independence was won successfully and the Republic of Turkey was established on October 29, 1923. The new Turkish country, after getting the occupied territories back from the imperialist forces, was based on the modern ideologies of promoting democratic values, protecting human rights and women’s empowerment.

To strengthen a new legislative, judicial and economic structure based on democratic values in the new country, Ataturk led extensive reforms relating to social, cultural, educational and economic aspects. He was convinced they had to compete with the regional players in the economic field instead of indulging in any tussle or confrontation.

According to Ataturk, the introduction of a modern unified system of education across the country was the most important task. In this regard, he invited several American educationists to Ankara to make their recommendations for reforms in the field of education so that through increasing public literacy, Turkish citizens can be able to play their due role for national development.

Ataturk struggled to empower the newly-established republic for making decisions independently in the interests of the Turkish people, elaborating that “ complete independence, we mean of course complete economic, financial, juridical, military, cultural independence and freedom in all matters.”

According to him, to lose freedom in any of these matters is similar to being deprived of all its independence to the country. He introduced an interesting red banner with six arrows to popularize the demands of a new era among the Turkish people. In this banner, each change that took place as a result of his reforms was presented as an arrow. This national philosophy based on the concept of patriotism, modernism and pragmatism is also called ‘Six Arrows’ and Kemalism, and includes six principles for a successful modern state of Turkey: (i) republicanism, (ii) populism, (iii) nationalism, (iv) laicism, (v) statism, and (vi) reformism.

Originally formulated to ensure the survival of Turkey, which had been defeated by the imperialist forces, these principles also guided the subsequent Turkish leadership to achieve a prominent position in the modern age. Ataturk defined the ‘Turkish nation’ as all Turks who constitute the Republic of Turkey. The Kemalist concept of Turkish nationality is integrated in Article 66 of the constitution of Turkey, under which a citizen is recognized as a Turkish national regardless of race, creed and gender, etc.

Undoubtedly, Ataturk was a legendary world leader who transformed his country into a successful role model of the modern era. Today, I would like to pay tribute to him by concluding my column with one of his famous sayings: peace at home, peace in the world. It emphasizes that internal peace ultimately leads towards world peace.

The writer is a member of the

National Assembly and patron-in-chief of the Pakistan Hindu Council.

He tweets @RVankwani