Mustafa Kemal Atatürk: The Man Who Refused to Surrender

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As an intense storm raged off the coast of Anatolia, Mustafa Kamal’s little ship stumbled towards the landing stage at Samsun. It was in Amisa that he contacted Ali Faut, a small army commander based in Ankara, and set up covert meetings of the patriots and laid out his resistance strategy. To begin, guerrilla groups must keep the Greeks hostage. At the same time, patriots, backed by these irregulars, form a national army—all without the assistance of Mehmet IV or anyone else in Istanbul. We have to establish a temporary administration in Anatolia because the Sultan and the central government are in the hands of the enemy. Delegates from the actual, free Turkey should be summoned as soon as feasible for a congress. While this was happening, Mustafa Kamal began a tour of the countryside, preaching resistance and selecting leaders to build patriotic rebellion centres in each location. Even Mustafa Kamal’s charisma and enthusiasm would not have been so successful if the Greeks had not advanced.

When Mehmet learned of these acts, he directed Mustafa Kamal to return. The patriots’ response was a long personal telegraph to the padishah imploring him, as a leader of his people, to travel over to Anatolia and take the lead against the Greeks and all foreign enemies—it would be Mehmet’s final opportunity to preserve himself, his forefathers’ throne, and the Turkish country. However, Mehmet’s view of Turkey’s most significant interest was cooperation with the powerful invaders. In the circumstances, the only reasonable response to Mustafa Kamal’s offer was a peremptory mandate; the rebel must go to Istanbul immediately. Mehmet IV saw no other option to reclaim Anatolia for the crown except via deception. With a swift movement, he suddenly declared himself willing to assemble a government acceptable to Nationalists.

Patriots, who could not conceive their state without a sultan as its ruler sooner or later, bought these promises—almost all save Mustafa Kamal, who battled hard for Anatolia’s parliament. He proposed that it be located in the highland town of Ankara, where it would be centrally located, highly secured, accessible, and utterly independent of the allies in a genuinely Turkish town linked with the Turks’ and their forebears’ past. But, for the first time, he was beaten, and Mustafa Kamal was nearly alone when, on January 19, 1920, the national parliament convened in the ‘City of Sultan’ and started the impossible job of trying to build resistance beneath the very eyes and guns of the Allies.

While the delegates spent their time on the Bosphorus talking, Mustafa Kamal made the most of his opportunity to think without interruption. The Allied Army of Occupation, scattered along the coast, was in a precarious situation. Activities of regular troops of the former Imperial army, peasant militia, and women carrying food and ammunition were all reported by Allied operatives for several weeks in the interior of the country.

New soldiers and equipment were brought in daily. The allied forces began to leave the interior. The patriots promptly turned the railway warehouses at Estishehir, a critical Baghdad railway junction, into munitions factories when they were evacuated. The Allies placed Istanbul under collective imprisonment, and the “national assembly” was dissolved. Leading nationalists fled to Anatolia and joined Mustafa Kamal in Ankara, where they hid or escaped. Mustafa Kamal was elected president of the revolutionary Turkish great national Assembly on April 23, 1920. First and foremost, it sought to make the new Turkish government’s stance known to the rest of the world.

The fall of the “Sick- man of Europe”

As May 1920 drew to a close, the Allies finally announced the peace terms they were ready to negotiate with Mehmet IV. A small and helpless Ottoman Empire was supposed to be supervised by allied powers; all Arab provinces were to become mandated territories; all of eastern Anatolia was to be added to the state of Armenia; around Izmir was to be a large Greek district; Cilicia was to go to the French; and the ottoman capital was to become an international centre under the control of Britain, France, and Italy. The once-extensive “Turkey in Europe” would be reduced to Istanbul and its surrounding environs.

In the late 18th century, this empire began to lose political control and military advantage after nearly 600 years of existence. The Ottoman Empire attempted a modernisation and secularisation reform to regain lost influence during the middle of the 19th century. These efforts were mostly ineffective, and by the outbreak of World War I, the empire was in terminal collapse. The Ottoman Empire fought against Great Britain and its allies during the conflict. After the war, the empire was destroyed. According to historical sources, the Ottoman Empire formally ended in 1922.

Turkish war of independence

It was from 1919-1923 that the Turkish nationalist movement waged war against the Allies’ proxies—Greece on the Western front; Armenia on the Eastern; and France and Italy in Constantinople (now Istanbul)—as the Ottoman Empire was defeated in World War I and some parts of Turkey were taken and partitioned. There were just a few of the stationed British, French, and Italian forces in action.

During the Greco-Turkish war, the Greek army pushed to the Sakarya River, barely 80 kilometres west of the GNA, after several engagements. The GNA promoted Mustafa Kemal as military commander in chief on August 5, 1921. As a result, the Greeks were defeated at the Battle of Sakarya from August 23 to September 13, 1921. The Grand National Assembly conferred the rank of Mareşal and the title of Gazi to Mustafa Kemal Pasha on September 19, 1921, following his victory. The Allies wanted to impose a modified version of the Treaty of Sèvres on Ankara as a peace settlement despite the scope of Kemal’s accomplishments, but the plan was rejected. In August 1922, Kemal launched an all-out attack on the Greek defences at Afyonkarahisar in the Battle of Dumlupnar, and Turkish forces reclaimed Smyrna on September 9, 1922. Mustafa Kemal informed the League of Nations the next day that the Turkish people were so enraged that the Ankara government would not be held liable for any atrocities that took place that day.

On April 23, 1920, the Turkish Government in Ankara, which had declared itself the country’s legitimate government, began formalising the legal transition from the old Ottoman to the new Republican political system. By September 18, 1922, the occupying soldiers had been removed. To end 623 years of Ottoman rule, the Turkish Parliament in Ankara dissolved the Sultanate on November 1, 1922. Following international recognition of the newly constituted “Republic of Turkey” as the Ottoman Empire’s successor state by the Treaty of Lausanne (also known as the Lausanne Convention) on July 24, 1923, the republic was declared on October 29, 1923, in Ankara, Turkey’s new capital. It was agreed upon in the Lausanne treaty that 1.1 million Greeks would leave Turkey in exchange for 380,000 Muslims who would return to Turkey. Ottoman Caliphate ended on March 3, 1924, when the last Caliph was exiled.

Mustafa Kemal presidency

Turkey’s first president, Mustafa Kemal, ushered in a series of bold changes aimed at emancipating the country from its Ottoman heritage and establishing a new secular republic. To begin with, the new government implemented Atatürk’s Reforms, which included unifying education and abolishing religious and other titles. They also closed Islamic courts, replacing Islamic canon law with a civil code modelled after Swiss law and a penal code modelled after Italy’s. They also recognised gender equality and gave women the right to political participation, which was an important step toward secularisation. This honorary surname, “Atatürk” (Father of the Turks), was bestowed upon Mustafa Kemal in 1934 by the Turkish parliament.

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