For decades, the legacy of Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, the Republic of Turkey’s first president, has served as the country’s guiding force. Yet, amidst an unprecedented debate on the role of secularism, has Turkey begun to steer away from Atatürk?
Hero-worshipped like a Vladimir Lenin or George Washington, Atatürk, even more than 70 years after his death, remains an inescapable feature of daily life in Turkey – his portrait omnipresent, his eyes ever watching.
If “you ask for someone [among Turkey’s political leaders] who you can put in a Hollywood movie there is really only Atatürk,” commented Atilla Yeşilada, an Istanbul-based consultant for Global Source Partners, a political and economic consulting firm, and a frequent government critic.
Atatürk set in motion “a cultural revolution because he saw no value in Islamic tradition,” said Andrew Mango, the author of “Atatürk: The Biography of the Founder of Modern Turkey.”
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Justin Vela is a freelance reporter based in Istanbul.