Father of the Turks

Imran Garda explores Ataturk’s extraordinary – and contested – legacy.

The meeting place of East and West, Turkey has an almost entirely Muslim population. Yet for more than 80 years, the country has been governed by strict secular principles. Principles opposed to Islam and introduced by the republic’s founding father, Mustafa Kamal Ataturk.

Amid an increasingly tense standoff between the ruling AKP party – and the opposition supported by the military – Father of the Turks explores Ataturk’s extraordinary – and contested – legacy.

A former division commander who fought against the Allies, Ataturk abolished the Islamic caliphate on March 3 1924, sending the Ottomans Sultan, God’s representative on earth, into exile.

Relegating Islam to the private sphere and changing the alphabet, Ataturk’s image and influence still pervades all aspects of national life.

Celebrated as having created a dynamic and peaceful democracy out of the ashes of a fallen empire, but the secularism for which he is so famous has arguably become a quasi-religion which cannot be publicly challenged.

This film examines why he is loathed by some and revered by many, while others claim the state is manipulating his memory for its own oppressive purposes.

Editor’s note: Father of the Turks first aired on 16 July 2007.