Mustafa Kemal Atatürk

Mustafa Kemal Atatürk (d. 1938) was a Turkish military officer who led the Turkish army during the war of independence, and subsequently became the first President of the Republic of Turkey. He championed a series of striking nationalist and secularist reforms, known as Kemalism, which significantly altered the Turkish political, cultural, and religious landscape, and initiated longstanding tensions between Turkey’s secularist Kemalists and its pious Muslims, particularly those among the rising Muslim political and social elite represented by the AKP.

Atatürk is remembered as more than a national hero; his image decorates public spaces, private homes, cars, and references to Atatürk are even tattooed on people’s bodies. In 2008, Turkey banned YouTube after officials discovered videos mocking Atatürk, and reopened as a private Turkish site with strict government control. Turkish law 5816 criminalizes “insults” to Atatürk, which has been used to target individuals who criticize both Atatürk and Kemalism, such that this and similar laws are sometimes used to silence political opposition figures.


Ozge Ozbilgin, “YouTube opens Turkish site, giving government more control,” Reuters, October 2, 2012, accessed October 31, 2013.

Image Credits:

"Atatürk shirt," Quinn Dombrowski, from Flickr Creative Commons.

See also: Turkey