This is how Turkey won the Republic
The photograph titled “This is how we won the Republic” is one of the famous symbols of Turkey's War of Liberation.
It was shot in 1933. The poor province that celebrates the Republic with small means but big pride is Uşak, my father’s homeland.
His father – my grandfather – Asım Bey, won four medals in the War of Liberation. As was the custom from those years, his nickname is Mücahit (Mujahid) Asım. Those were the years when jihad meant fighting courageously for the independence of this country. It did not mean wrapping oneself with bombs and killing innocent people as it means today in the Middle East.
My grandfather has a cloak with 33 bullet holes in it. It was later donated to the History Institute.
Let me tell you about the story of the photograph. It was shot on Republic Day in 1933 by the first photographer of Uşak, Hüsnü Kazım Özler. The man you see with the tie and jacket is my father’s cousin, Kamil Kabalak, who was the mayor of Uşak.
How was the photograph found?
My father found this photograph in the early 1990s at home. He sent it to Ankara to Hasan Kabalak, the son of Kamil Kabalak. They sent it to the archives of the General Chief of Staff. But in the archives it was mistakenly registered as having been shot in Ankara in 1929. In 2007, Brig.-Gen. Zeki Güngör, the cousin of Kamil Kabalak, saw the picture in a military establishment and filed a legal case for its correction. It was then established that the photograph was taken in Uşak.
Each family that lives in these lands has dozens of similar memories about the War of Liberation.
But I need to say this: These days there are some who differentiate citizens, who try to chase away the ones they dislike, calling this one a traitor and another a White Turk and so on. My dear brother, no one cares about it. You just stand like that with your futile efforts in an effort to make people see each other as enemies.
That is because we truly won the Republic just like it was said in the picture. With those with a hat, a headscarf, a tie, a beard; with some whose hair you can see and some whose hair you cannot; with some sporting a traditional outfit and some a modern outfit. With men and women of different nature. With millions of people who do not look alike but are all patriotic.
We are celebrating a religious holiday. We will go on vacation, we will sacrifice livestock, we will visit friends and family, we will offer each other candy. All of that is thanks to Atatürk and these people.
Of course, those who want to establish another country by carving out a piece of land from this country and who acquire arms and engage in terrorism for that purpose should go beyond the borders and try their endeavor in any other place they like. But leave them aside; all other citizens, regardless of their views, lifestyles, race, sect and the parties they vote for, are all from us. They are very national and local.
Sometimes I and people like me are called White Turks, and they even try to call us “whites,” in a condescending and humiliating way. When the War of Liberation was taking place, we did not go have a drink and eat white chocolate with the French or the British. They used to “eat” bullets; and if they could, corn cob. For instance, the father of my mother survived from hunger in the war by finding a corn cob in a field. Thanks to that cob, he could continue to walk and join his military unit. Am I making myself clear? Let’s stop discriminating and otherizing people, asking which one of us is a more valuable citizen for the sake of politics. Because as seen in the picture, we won the Republic like that: in a very hard way.
If we start telling each other things like “they will get the hell out,” “he or she is the kin of Byzantium,” the person in which you tag a name will get a picture out and you’d stand speechless.