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Ataturk on Women

Mustafa Kemal Ataturk

Mustafa Kemal Ataturk was born in 1881 in Thessaloniki in what was then the Ottoman Empire. When Ataturk was 12, he was sent to military school and then to the military academy in Istanbul, graduating in 1905. In 1911, he served against the Italians in Libya and then in the Balkan Wars (1912-13). Ataturk made his military reputation repelling the Allied invasion at the Dardanelles in 1915.

In May 1919, Ataturk began a revolution in Anatolia organising resistance to the victorious Allies. In 1921, Ataturk established a provisional government in Ankara. The following year the Ottoman Sultanate was formally abolished and, in 1923, Turkey became a republic with Ataturk as its first president. He established a single party regime that lasted almost without interruption until 1945. In 1935, when surnames were introduced in Turkey, he was given the name Ataturk, meaning Father of the Turks. He died on 10 November 1938.

The reforms of Mustafa Kemal Ataturk included a new Civil and a new Penal Code adopted in 1926. This put an end to Family Law based on the Sharia. Ataturk also encouraged women to enter professions. His vision was reflected in numerous speeches which are still widely quoted in Turkey today.

"Our nation has made up its mind to be a powerful nation. One of the requirements of today is that we should ensure the advance of our women in all respects. Therefore, our women, like our men, will be enlightened and well-educated. Furthermore, having an equal share in social life, Turkish women will walk side by side with Turkish men, each helping and supporting the other." (1923)

"There can be no logical reason for disqualifying women from political life. The hesitance and the negative mental attitude in this respect are the doomed remnants of a social order already buried in the past." (1930)

"Our enemies accuse us of having remained under the influence of religion; it is to this that they attribute our regression and our fall. This is wrong. Never has our religion demanded that women fall behind men." (1923)

"I must only add that as I knew the Turkish race to be the most beautiful in the world, I took it for granted that a Turkish woman would be selected Miss World." (1932)

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