Ceremonies were held early yesterday morning throughout Turkey to remember the founder of modern Turkey, Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, and his legacy. Flags flew at half-mast, car horns and sirens sounded and two minutes of silence were observed throughout the country. Daily life came to a halt at 9:05 a.m. yesterday, the exact moment of Atatürk's death, as most people in big cities stopped their cars and paid a moment of respect to the leader, who died 71 years ago. Even trains stopped at 9:05 a.m.

Thousands flocked to Anıtkabir, Atatürk's mausoleum in Ankara, where an official ceremony was scheduled for the morning and led by President Abdullah Gül, who laid a wreath at Atatürk's tomb. Prime Minister Tayyip Erdoğan said great leaders' ideas, works and sacrifices should be remembered rather than focusing on their deaths and that therefore Nov. 10 should be a day for celebrating Atatürk's life instead of mourning his death.

“Nov. 10 should never be a day of mourning. Let’s not forget that important people are remembered for their ideas, works, sacrifices and endeavors; not through mourning,” Erdoğan said in Ankara, where he participated in a program to commemorate Atatürk’s death.

Quoting Atatürk, Erdoğan said, “Seeing me does not definitely mean seeing my face and it is sufficient if you can understand my views and feelings,” adding that he sees Nov. 10 as an important opportunity to commemorate, understand and improve Atatürk’s main philosophy and works.

Erdoğan also said remembering Atatürk and his legacy is possible by working to make Turkey a stronger, more democratic and more developed country and by making Turkey progress beyond the level of contemporary civilizations. At the ceremony Prime Minister Erdoğan also remembered all “legends” of the War of Liberation and said the Turkish people are grateful for their efforts to establish the Republic of Turkey.

During his presidency, Atatürk embarked upon a program of political, economic and cultural reform. An admirer of the Age of Enlightenment, he sought to transform the former Ottoman Empire into a modern, democratic and secular nation-state. The principles of Atatürk’s reforms, upon which modern Turkey was established, are referred to as Kemalism.

Meanwhile, ceremonies in the Aegean province of İzmir were interrupted as a man shouted in front of a bust of Atatürk that he is God and he is against religion. Officials said the man, identified as Gökmen Ersoy, 27, was mentally unstable. Police took Ersoy away from the area where high-ranking officials were participating in the Nov. 10 ceremonies.

Another ceremony in Fethiye in the province of Muğla was marked by a protest by the Families of Martyrs and War Veterans as they laid a wreath in front of an Atatürk bust stating, “See our situation, our great leader.” Speaking on behalf of the families, Namık Ünal said they were making a complaint to Atatürk about the government’s democratic initiative which involves expanding the rights of the country’s Kurdish population.

Photos: AA