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Not A Goodbye

Every year on November 10th, the death of our dear leader is commemorated and this year is the 85th year of his commemoration. What did he do on his last days? We want to know the details about where he was put down. Here are the unknown realities about his passing.

Women in tears in Dolmabahçe Palace for their last duty upon the news of Mustafa Kemal Atatürk’s death on November 16, 1938.

His symptoms started early in the year 1938. Mustafa Kemal was sick. The man who brought down an empire was now brought down by an unknown and ruthless malady. His nose was bleeding constantly, he didn’t have his usual appetite, his face changed tremendously compared to a few years ago; it became pale and his features became sharper, but all these signs kept getting ignored until it was too late. One other symptom was that strong itchiness occurred on different parts of his body. It was claimed that these itching were caused by the red ants in Çankaya Köşkü and the place was subjected to disinfection. Doctor Nihat Reşat Belger suspected it was liver disease due to Atatürk’s constant smoking and drinking and therefore diagnosed him with cirrhosis (a chronic disease of the liver marked by degeneration of cells, inflammation and fibrous thickening of the tissue. It is typically a result of alcoholism or hepatitis).

A photograph of Atatürk taken after his passing

The seriousness of Atatürk’s health condition also alarmed the government and Celal Bayar suggested bringing two doctors from Europe. Atatürk refused the suggestion, stating that he thought it would be best for his illness to not be heard outside due to the then ongoing Hatay issue (It emerged in 1936 upon France’s decision to grant independence to Syria and resulted in the annexation -addition of land, territory- of Türkiye in 1939.) but agreed to let Turkish doctors do a comprehensive examination. On March 6, 1938 at Çankaya Köşkü, five doctors made a consultation to Atatürk and re-diagnosed him with cirrhosis. They said that he shouldn’t drink alcohol and requested that he reduce his intense work tempo, at least a little. Atatürk responded positively to these suggestions. On the advice of prime minister Celal Bayar, Prof. Dr. Noel Fiessinger from the National Academy of Medicine was invited to Ankara. He put a diagnosis that overlapped with all of the other doctor’s recommendations. After the first diagnosis, Fiessinger said “Sir, you may have won great wars but in this you are the case and I am your commander, please don’t forget this.” to Atatürk and this caused Atatürk to be satisfied with the doctor’s attitude and implemented all his advice seriously.

Professor doctor Noel Fiessinger’s examination of Atatürk in Çankaya

Atatürk’s illness and the bringing of doctors from Europe caused wide repercussions around the world. Upon the news saying he would die soon and who he would give his heritage to, Atatürk decided to show the world he was healthy by making a public appearance. On May 19, 1938 (on the 19th anniversary of his landing in Samsun) he faced the people of Ankara for the last time in Ankara Stadium. The celebrations were very joyful and bright and as a result the name of Ankara Stadium was changed to 19 May Stadium in memory of that day.

Atatürk’s last May 19

He made appearances in other cities such as Mersin and Adana, hence stopped the accusations of him dying on foreign press. As an awful consequence, these trips caused Atatürk’s illness to worsen. On May 26, 1938 he left Ankara for the last time and departed to Istanbul. He stayed at the Savarona Yacht for a while but headed back to Dolmabahçe Palace because of the summer heat.

The Savarona Yacht was bought by the Turkish government as a present for Atatürk

He wrote his will on September 5, 1938 and left all his assets to the Republican People’s Party (Cumhuriyet Halk Partisi) of which he was the president. He stated that financial aid should be given to his sister, his adopted children and İsmet İnönü’s children. He also wanted certain amounts of financial aid to go to Turkish Language Association (Türk Dil Kurumu) and Turkish Historical Society (Türk Tarih Kurumu).

Mustafa Kemal Atatürk with Ülkü Adatepe, one of his eight adopted children

His sickness kept getting worse and he fell into a deep coma on October 16, 1938. He woke up 5 days later on the 21st of October. Although he wanted to, he couldn't attend the fifteenth anniversary of the republic because his health condition didn’t allow him. As a result, prime minister Celal Bayar read his speech addressed to the Turkish Army at the ceremonies held in Ankara. He also read Atatürk’s speech for the opening of the Grand National Assembly of Türkiye (Türkiye Büyük Millet Meclisi) on November 1, 1938.

Celal Bayar delivering Atatürk’s speech in TBMM

He was entering his last days. He couldn’t speak or understand the doctor’s instructions clearly. He asked for the time because he didn’t see very well. Doctor İrdelp wanted examine him but it was worthless, he looked at Doctor İrdelp slowly and said “Aleykümselam” which is a type of salutation. That was his last word. On his last word he saluted us. That was neither a goodbye nor a farewell. As he stated before “One day my mortal body will turn to dust, but the Turkish Republic will stand forever.” Yes, his body may have turned to dust but the Turkish Republic will stand forever. Turkish citizens will keep his soul alive forever by applying his principles and teaching them to future generations, by learning and studying, by doing sports and arts and by remembering and honoring him in every aspect of life. He will never be forgotten because we will never let him be. This is not a goodbye as long as we keep him alive.

Works Cited:

Sarı Zeybek, 32. Gün, Accessed 10 Nov. 2023

Wikipedia, Mustafa Kemal Atatürk’ün ölümü, Accessed 11 Nov. 2023

Euronews, 10 Kasım 1938, Accessed 11 Nov. 2023



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