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Why Erdogan now embraces Ataturk

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is not claiming to undo Ataturk as many believe. He is rather re-doing Ataturk.

Every year on Nov. 10, Turkey commemorates the death of Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, the founder and first president of the Turkish Republic. At 9:05 a.m., the moment he took his last breath, sirens ring loud across the county, as people stop in the streets or stand silently at their workplaces to remember the “Father of the Turks,” as his surname literally means. At Anitkabir, the iconic mausoleum of Ataturk in Ankara, an official ceremony, attended by droves of citizens, is held while the media and social media are flooded with messages emphasizing Ataturk’s greatness.

This year, all these classic rituals took place. But there was something new and unusual: The political camp entrenched behind President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, which traditionally has identified itself with Islam rather than the staunchly secular Ataturk, proved more “Ataturkist” than ever before.

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