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Turkey Celebrates the 94th Anniversary of the National Anthem

Literary figures, students and statesmen marked the 94th anniversary of the Turkish national anthem “Istiklal Marsi” (Independence March) in Turkish capital Ankara on Thursday

The Turkish National Anthem was written in 1921 during the War of Independence as Turkey battled against occupation by foreign forces after World War I.

It was penned in order to encourage the fighting army and to motivate the struggling nation. It was also the official anthem of the new Republic which would be founded two years later in 1923.

Mehmet Akif Ersoy was a Turkish poet, author, academic and member of parliament. He passed away in 1936.

In 1921, a nationwide contest was organized for the composition of a national anthem. At first, Mehmet Akif Ersoy refused to participate as he was opposed to the idea of a national anthem contest that offered a monetary prize. However, Hamdullah Suphi, Minister of National Education, later managed to convince him.

Suphi read Ersoy’s anthem in the First Assembly to a standing ovation, and it was accepted as the national anthem on March 12, 1921. Ersoy dedicated the anthem to the Turkish army fighting against foreign occupation, and donated the 500 Turkish liras of monetary prize to a charity organization offering professional training to women.

The symphony of the anthem was composed by Osman Zeki Ungor in 1930.

Ersoy, called in Turkey the 'national poet' for authoring the Istiklal Marsi, is best known for his 1911 work entitled “Safahat”, a collection of 44 poems. He took the themes for his poems from numerous problems faced by society, as well as from faith-related issues.

       Turkish National Anthem
Fear not; For the crimson banner that proudly ripples in this glorious dawn, shall not fade,
Before the last fiery hearth that is ablaze within my homeland is extinguished.
For that1 is the star of my people, and it will forever shine;
It is mine; and solely belongs to my valiant nation.
Frown not, I beseech you, oh thou coy crescent!2
Smile upon my heroic nation!3 Why the anger, why the rage?4
Our blood which we shed for you shall not be worthy otherwise;
For freedom is the absolute right of my God-worshipping5 nation.
I have been free since the beginning and forever shall be so.
What madman shall put me in chains! I defy the very idea!
I'm like the roaring flood; trampling my banks and overcoming my body,
I'll tear apart mountains, exceed the Expanses6 and still gush out!
The horizons of the West may be bound with walls of steel,
But my borders are guarded by the mighty bosom of a believer.7
Bellow out8 , do not be afraid! And think: how can this fiery faith ever be extinguished,
By that battered, single-fanged monster you call "civilization"?9
My friend! Leave not my homeland to the hands of villainous men!
Render your chest as armour and your body as bulwark! Halt this disgraceful assault!7
For soon shall come the joyous days of divine promise;
Who knows? Perhaps tomorrow? Perhaps even sooner!
View not the soil you tread on as mere earth - recognize it!
And think about the shroudless10 thousands who lie so nobly beneath you.
You're the glorious son of a martyr - take shame, grieve not your ancestors!
Unhand not, even when you're promised worlds, this paradise of a homeland.
Who would not sacrifice his life for this paradise of a homeland?
Martyrs would burst forth should one simply squeeze the soil! Martyrs!
May God take my life, all my loved ones, and possessions from me if He will,
But let Him not deprive me of my one true homeland in the world.
Oh glorious God, the sole wish of my pain-stricken heart is that,
No heathen's hand should ever touch the bosom of my sacred Temples.
These adhans and their shahadahs are the foundations of my religion,
And may their noble sound prevail thunderously across my eternal homeland.
For only then, shall my fatigued tombstone, if there is one, prostrate11 a thousand times in ecstasy,
And tears of blood shall, oh Lord, spill out from my every wound,
And my lifeless body shall burst forth from the earth like an eternal spirit,
Perhaps only then, shall I peacefully ascend and at long last reach the heavens.12
So ripple and wave like the bright dawning sky, oh thou glorious crescent,
So that our every last drop of blood may finally be blessed and worthy!
Neither you nor my kin3 shall ever be extinguished!
For freedom is the absolute right of my ever-free flag;
For independence is the absolute right of my God-worshipping5 nation!


1 A white crescent and star superimposed on a crimson background comprise the Turkish flag - the poet here is referring to the crimson flag's star, and is declaring that it belongs to the hearts of those comprising the Turkish nation, who cherish it deeply, and refuse to be deprived of it (and hence, their freedom and liberty) by anyone.

2 A white crescent and star superimposed on a crimson background comprise the Turkish flag- the poet is invoking the curvilinear image of the crescent and comparing it to the furrowed eyebrows of a frowning face, and anthropomorphises the flag by suggesting that its "sulky face" is an outward expression of its resentment of the invading foreign armies. The poet elaborates upon this imagery by suggesting that the flag is not only being surly, but also coy. He depicts the flag (and the spirit of freedom which it embodies, under threat from invading nations against whom victory initially seems impossibly difficult to achieve, hence "coy") as a demure maiden with a sulky face (symbolically, the resentment of the invasion) who is playing hard-to-get. That is, the "coy" flag is being "playful" about letting Turkish troops achieve ultimate victory and thus, freedom.

3 Although the word used here, "ırk", means "race" in contemporary Turkish, it had different associations in Ottoman Turkish. In Ottoman Turkish, it also carries the connotations of 'generation,' 'offspring', and 'family linage; in short, 'kin'.'[8] Also note that the poet was of Albanian and Uzbek origin.[9] Thus, the correct translation would be "Smile upon my heroic kinfolk!", rather than "Smile upon my heroic race".

4 The poet elaborates upon his earlier anthropomorphization of the flag by suggesting that it contain its rage and resentment, and resume its noble and honorable self in order to validate the efforts of Turkish patriots in protecting it.

5 There is a wordplay here that is difficult to translate. The play is on the homophonic words "hak" (justice, right) and Hakk (God), and thus the line can be perceived as both "my pious countrymen are deserving of freedom", or "my justice-loving countrymen are deserving of freedom".

6 The original word used ("Enginler"), which can be translated as "the Infinites" or " the Great Expanses", is a Turkish poetical word (with no direct English translation) that refers to anything perceived by Man as a vast, boundless expanse: the heavens, the oceans, the horizon, the Universe, etc.

7 The verse here alludes to the well-funded military might of the invading foreign powers, i.e. "the West", and compares it to the exhausted bodies and limited resources of the rag-tag team of patriots comprising the Turkish resistance army. The poet asserts that the men and women who are fighting to defend the nation from invading powers must not be daunted by these countries' superior firepower and technology, because the strength of spirit that comes from heartfelt optimism and faith are just as strong as any "walls of steel" the enemy might have around them.

8 There is a difficult-to-translate wordplay here on the word "ulusun", which can be broken down into a root, "ulu", and a suffix, "-sun". The verb form of the root "ulu", means "to howl, to cry out, to bellow", while the adjective form means "grand, sublime, noble". The suffix -sun serves to modify the adjective-form of this root to give it a second-person singular connotation, while it modifies the verb-form to give it a third person connotation. Thus, the phrase "ulu-sun" may be interpreted in two ways: "let it howl/cry out" (let your mighty voice echo across the land!) or "you are noble"

9 The term "civilization" here is used as a synonym for "the West", and the imagery of the "single-fanged beast" is in reference to the severe battering delivered to foreign armies by Turkish forces, the patriotic fighters of which have knocked out all but one of the ferocious monster's (the invaders') teeth - hence the expression, "single-fanged". In essence, the poet is building upon his earlier message to the Nation about showing patience and endurance against seemingly-impossible odds. He states that the vast superiority of the West in terms of technology, equipment and manpower to the war-stricken, undermanned, and underfed Turkish forces (that were hastily assembled by patriotic civilians and ex-military officials following World War I) can not only be matched, but actually overcome and even defeated for good by the unassailable spirit of the Turkish people.
Thus, the poet is calling out to the Nation, saying, "While 'the lands of the West may be armed with walls of steel', i.e., while these European armies may have seemingly impenetrable/unbeatable modern technology and weaponry, do not be fooled/discouraged by their apparent superiority. Look at what we have accomplished so far with virtually non-existent arms and supplies! We are horribly fatigued, and at a disadvantage in every conceivable way, yet we still are able to succeed in our battle for liberty! This seemingly undefeatable 'monster' has had almost every one of its teeth knocked out (hence, 'single-fanged') by our victorious campaign! Our motivation, faith, and internal drive is what has and will continue to carry us through, and that is something that our enemies cannot remotely match. All we need for ultimate victory is the ability to recognize our true 'innate strengths': a 'fiery faith' and the 'mighty chest (i.e. heart) of a believer'".

10 In Turkish, shroud-less is a metaphor used for martyrs, i.e. those who have sacrificed their lives for their country and their faith. In Islamic tradition, the dead have to be ceremoniously washed and dressed in linen shrouds before burial in order to have a safe passage to Heaven. Due to the chaotic nature of war, this practice is often unavailable to the battle-fallen, who may lie "shroudless" and exposed on the battle-field.

11 Prostration is the act of laying one's forehead on the ground as part of Muslim sacred ritual (see Namaz, As-Sajda or salat).

12 The image being painted here is that of a battle-fallen and pain-stricken patriot, who becomes ecstatic following the victorious end of the War of Independence. Despite not having a headstone at his final resting place, this is a man whose mind, body and soul have at long last found peace, and may thus finally ascend and reach the heavens, knowing that his homeland is safe and sound once and for all, and that all his suffering was worth it in the end.

Source: Wikipedia

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