Memorial for Atatürk stirs fresh debate
Potential tensions loom ahead of the 74th anniversary of the death of Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, the founder of the Turkish Republic, on Nov. 10. The General Staff has announced that ordinary citizens will be allowed entry to Anıtkabir, Atatürk’s mausoleum, only after 10.00 a.m., despite demands from NGOs that a minute of silence be observed in the area at 9.05 a.m., the exact moment Atatürk passed away.
Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan will not be attending tomorrow’s ceremonies in Ankara. He was expected to be back in Turkey for the commemorations but is paying a surprise one-day visit today to Brunei at the invitation of its sultan, Hassanal Bolkiah.
The General Staff, who are responsible for the security of Anıtkabir, announced on Nov. 6 that the mausoleum would be closed to visitors on Nov. 9 due to preparations for the official ceremonies of Nov. 10. Ordinary citizens will be permitted to visit Anıtkabir starting at 10 a.m. on the anniversary of his death, as in previous years.
The statement from the General Staff came after NGOs lead by the Turkey Youth Union (TGB), which was the primary organizer of the Republic Day rally in front of the former Parliament building on Oct. 29, called for a minute of silence in Anıtkabir at 9:05 a.m. on Nov. 10.
Over 50,000 people gathered in Ankara’s Ulus Square in front of the former Parliament building to celebrate the anniversary of the foundation of the Republic, despite the Governor of Ankara’s ban. Police used pepper gas and water cannons to disperse the crowd as they marched toward Anıtkabir.
Official ceremonies are normally held in Anıtkabir every Nov. 10, as dignitaries led by the President observe a minute of silence at 9:05 a.m. Visitors are not allowed access to Anıtkabir for security reasons until 10.00 a.m. However, this year, NGOs demanded to be allowed to observe a minute of silence at Anıtkabir and the TGB announced that they will be there at 9:00 a.m.
Anıtkabir security officials reportedly denied that there was a ban on visitors, indicating that they are applying the same procedure as they did previous years.