Remembering Atatürk

November 10th was the 73rd anniversary of Atatürk's death. It was commemorated in a variety of ways - guards at attention in Taksim, pins on the lapels of small children, and so on. It was also marked in various ways in the daily press. Passing by a newsstand, I was fascinated by the front page of Sözcü, an Atatürkist daily paper (though while Sözcü is a national paper, it seems to be less widely read than the bigger dailies like Milliyet, Hurriyet, Sabah, and HaberTürk).
Front page, Sözcü, 10 November 2011
The main headline reads, "On the 73rd anniversary of Atatürk’s death we remember him with longing. If the Peerless Leader Atatürk, the founder of the Republic of Turkey and its number 1 citizen, were living today, look what he’d say."

Below the main headline, you find six images drawn from current events: (1) The ongoing debates about the incarceration of elected representatives on the basis of their association with the Ergenekon investigations; (2) the cancellation of the official ceremonies for Republic Day on October 29th; (3) the aftermath of the quakes in eastern Turkey; (4) the contested relationship between the BDP, a political party generally identified with 'Kurdish' identity, and the PKK; (5) protests about the future of education in Turkey; and (6) the still unresolved match-fixing scandal involving Fenerbahçe.
Detail, front page, Sözcü, 10 November 2011
Translated, the text reads:
“Our elected representatives are still in prison, my Respected President.”
“The length of incarceration is quite long, my Respected President.”
“It can’t be that way… In any case, let universal law be applied.”
“They are going to change the first four articles of the Constitution and take out Turkishness, my Respected President.”
“I placed one state, one flag, one language, and Turkishness in the Constitution, do not change them.”
Detail, front page, Sözcü, 10 November 2011
“BDP representatives take their salary from the state and go to PKK funerals, it aches inside us to see this life.”
“Traitors martyr our children, their advocates are in Parliament.”
“Those in power bargain with those who reek of the stench of terror.”
“The military must travel a civilian route. This topic must be solved immediately [bir an önce]. Terror is defeated not with discussion but with struggle. Concessions must not be given. Wheresoever a terrorist goes he must be crushed.”
An analysis of the cover could go in several different directions, but I want to focus briefly on two issues: (1) The way in which these images collectively represent a certain version of what 'Turkey' is; and (2) the way they signal a very specific mobilization of the past for the present. If we think about a nation (or national identity) not as something fixed but as something that needs to be reproduced, mediated, and transmitted, we might read this cover as an attempt to mobilize a national community around these six images. These images have a clear politics - laicist, Atatürkist, and committed to a 'Turkish' Turkey - but it's precisely because their politics are so clear that they ought to be taken seriously.

Second, it's noteworthy to see the way that the images take a historical figure - Atatürk - and reinsert him into a present. It seems to echo something Esra Özyürek identified in her Nostalgia for the Modern, namely the recent tendency to deploy images of Atatürk in new (and often smaller, more portable) ways.


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