ANKARA-Thousands of people Thursday flocked to the mausoleum of Mustafa Kemal Ataturk in Ankara to commemorate the founding father of the Republic of Turkey, who passed away 78 years ago.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Prime Minister Binali Yildirim, and other senior political figures also attended the commemoration ceremony at the mausoleum, known as Anitkabir.
In a commemorative message marking the day, Erdogan said that Ataturk was a great hero and statesman who started Turkey's War of Independence in 1919 and founded the republic in 1923.
According to the president’s office, Erdogan said in his message:
“The honored veteran Mustafa Kemal is one of the shared values of this country and our nation. Unfortunately, for many years certain circles have claimed him and made him a tool for their own marginal ideologies and the vicious cycles of their daily political arguments. However, owning the memory of Ataturk requires owning our independence, our homeland, our flag, our republic, and our country’s millennial heritage of civilization with the spirit of the War of Independence."
He added, "Turkey has proved this by adopting extensive reforms as well as the policies making the state embrace the nation."
Prime Minister Binali Yildirim said that today the Republic of Turkey, which Ataturk called his “greatest work," is a country whose friendship is sought and which plays an active role in resolving international problems.
"Our government exerts maximum effort to strengthen our republic and democracy," Yildirim said in his message.
In his message, Turkish Chief of General Staff Gen. Hulusi Akar also said: "As members of the Turkish Armed Forces, we follow in Ataturk's footsteps and we are at the service of the Turkish nation with devotion to our nation and country, respectable power, and superior discipline."
The commemoration ceremonies are taking place across the country, but the center of attraction is the grand mausoleum complex, which also houses a museum.
Daily life stopped for two minutes, beginning at 9.05 a.m., local time [0705GMT], the time of Ataturk's death. Sirens wailed throughout Turkey, and people observed two minutes of silence.
Ataturk was born in 1881 in Thessaloniki, in what was then the Ottoman Empire. He made his mark in the military in 1915 when he led forces to repel the allied invasion in Canakkale, known in the West as the Dardanelles.
Following the collapse of the Ottoman Empire after the First World War, Ataturk led the Turkish War of Independence, which defeated European powers. When he became president, Ataturk transformed the former empire into a modern and secular country.
Ataturk passed away on Nov, 10, 1938, at the age of 57.
By Burcu Arik (AA)