diumenge, 30 de desembre de 2007

Worshipping a man, Mustafa Kemal Atatürk

(llig-ho en català)

After only one day in Turkey it is easy to see that the streets are crowded with national flags, red-coloured with the star and the moon. They hang from almost every balcony and sometimes they are huge. You will find them as stickers attached to the rear of cars, or hung up from walls of shops and restaurants. One could say that it is not surprising, as it is the country’s flag. What attracts my attention is the Turkish people’s strong need to assert their personality. The thing is that in Izmir, where I spent most of my time in Turkey, it was almost impossible to walk down the street without bumping into a Turkish flag. It reminds me (maybe now you can figure it out) of Valencia during the ‘Falles’ celebrations.

The thing is that it is not only the flag that is a common element in Turkish day to day life. Together with the flag, or maybe even superimposed to it, you will find the picture of a man: Mustafa Kemal Atatürk; the founder of the Turkish Republic. You will find dozens of images of him, an assorted of images in which he appears with his hair combed backwards or untidy, with or without a moustache. I found the highest degree of over elaboration in a restaurant: in a space on the wall no wider than 1 metre and a half there were hung 5 different pictures of him, in a row!

I was surprised to see such adoration for a figure that died almost seventy years ago. I am not able to find a Spanish equivalent. To be honest it arouses my suspicions. To find so many flags does not seem a positive sign to me. Later I found out that it has an explanation more or less logical on a given context. Atatürk, besides being the founder of the Republic, is a symbol of a secular state in a country where Islamic movements exist. Henceforth, this national display is a reaction against Islamic forces. Although I still find it strange, I promise to keep investigating it.

Have a look at a very interesting article about how Atatürk is understood today.