Every year on November 10, at exactly 9:05 a.m., Europe’s biggest city comes to a halt. Air raid sirens begin to blare. Pedestrians freeze in their tracks. Schools, factories, and government offices suspend work to observe two minutes of silence. On Istanbul’s massive thoroughfares, cars, buses and trucks screech to a stop, their drivers and passengers spilling out onto the street, many of them teary eyed, to stand to attention.
Only a handful of world leaders are said to be able to stop traffic while in town. The founder of the modern Turkish republic, Mustafa Kemal Ataturk–for it is his memory that Turks honor each November–continues to do so more than 70 years after his death.
With a résumé like his, small wonder. It was Ataturk who stopped the Western powers from carving the Ottoman Empire into pieces after the end of the First World War. Triumphant, endowed with near absolute power, and convinced that Turkey would have to adapt or die, it was also he who engineered its transformation from a crumbling Islamic empire to a secular republic. In the process, Ataturk did away with the 1,292-year-old caliphate, traded the Arabic alphabet for the Latin one, and ensured that Turkish women would earn the right to vote well before many of their counterparts in the West. Conservative Turks might privately resent Ataturk’s imposition of a system that relegated religion exclusively to the private sphere and made it not separate from but subservient to the state–a brand of secularism even harsher than France’s–but they still worship him as their country’s hero and savior.
Source: The Atlantic