Turkey is commemorating the 78th anniversary of the death of Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, the founder of the modern Republic of Turkey, on Nov. 10.
Thousands of people flocked to Anıtkabir, Atatürk’s mausoleum in the capital Ankara, while local municipalities throughout the country also prepared day-long commemoration events.
Atatürk passed away on Nov. 10, 1938 in Dolmabahçe Palace in Istanbul at the age of 57, 15 years after establishing the Turkish Republic.
The main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) had announced last month that it would organize a march to Anıtkabir on the anniversary, after Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu announced that the ban on public gatherings and marches imposed in the city until the end of November excluded the event planned for the day.
In addition to the CHP’s event, the Turkish Armed Forces announced on its website on Nov. 7 that it would hold an event with the participation of the chief of general staff and the commander-in-chief of the Armed Forces at Anıtkabir to commemorate Atatürk.
The statement said the event was open to public and the ceremony would include the release of 1,881 pairs of red and white balloons into the sky by visitors, marking the year of Atatürk’s birth.
Local municipalities throughout Turkey will also hold day-long events to mark the occasion.
Istanbul’s Beşiktaş Municipality announced that it would hold a march to Dolmabahçe Palace with the expected attendance of thousands, who would carry a 1,011-meter-long Turkish flag.
The Kadıköy Municipality on the Asian side of the city, meanwhile, will hold a march on its coast for all locals to join.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan also issued a message on Nov. 9 to mark the day.
“The veteran Mustafa Kemal is one of the common values of this country and our nation. Unfortunately, some spheres who have advocated him for many years have made him a tool for their own marginal ideologies and the vicious cycles of their daily political arguments. Claiming the memory of [Atatürk], however, means claiming our independence, our land, our flag, our republic and our country’s 1,000-year-long civilizational heritage, with the spirit of our Independence War,” said the statement.
Atatürk was born in 1881 in the now Greek city of Thessaloniki, which was then part of the Ottoman Empire. He made his mark in the military in 1915 when he led Ottoman forces repelling the allied invasion of Çanakkale, known in the West as the Dardanelles.
Following the collapse of the Ottoman Empire after World War I, Atatürk led the Turkish War of Independence, which defeated European powers hoping to invade the crumbled empire. When he became president, Atatürk transformed the former empire into a modern, democratic and secular country.