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The Turkish Armed Forces are the main buyer of Atatürk statues.
Author Aylin Tekiner says TSK main buyer of Atatürk statues
Sculptor Aylin Tekiner has turned her dissertation on Atatürk statues into a book titled “Atatürk Statues: Cult, Aesthetics, Politics.” The book, published by İletişim Yayınları, focuses on the artistic and ideological aspects of Atatürk statues in Turkey.
According to an interview with Bir+Bir magazine, published in its November-December 2010 edition, Tekiner said the Turkish Armed Forces (TSK) was the main buyer of Atatürk monuments in Turkey. Noting that 12 monuments of Atatürk were erected between 1946 and 1960 and that the number of monuments increased during coup and memorandum periods, the 32-year-old sculptor said, “A total of 59 monuments were built between 1960 and 1970 after the coup of May 27.” During that period even the Milliyet daily started a campaign to erect monuments in provinces that lacked statues of Atatürk. Recalling that statues were sent to provinces in the East and Southeast and that the March 12, 1971 memorandum was a turning point in restoring the wave of Kemalism, Tekiner said: “The TSK began an effort to indoctrinate Kemalism. In the end there was a shift from the ‘reformist, liberal’ Mustafa Kemal to the ‘eternal chief’ Atatürk.” An example of this mentality is a statue of Atatürk erected in Yalova in 1971, where Atatürk’s hand is curved like a claw. Tekiner explains that the statue is on a high mount and has an “overbearing power” over the viewer.
Noting that the TSK allocated a large budget for Atatürk statues and monuments during the Sept.12, 1980 coup period and on Atatürk’s 100th birthday, the young sculptor said many monuments were erected in the East and Southeast and featured quotes, such as “Happy is he who says I am a Turk” and “Turk! Be proud, work and trust” in efforts to communicate with those in the region.
During the Feb. 28 process, Atatürk’s “Great Speech” became a popular feature on monuments. Tekiner notes that the reason for that was to convey that the state is “against reactionaryism” and highlighted that many companies, universities and nongovernmental organizations ordered Atatürk statues. During the Feb. 28 process, then-2nd Armored Brigade Commander Doğu Silahçıoğlu erected a monument of Atatürk wearing a military uniform in İstanbul’s Sultanbeyli neighborhood. Tekiner said the monument was guarded by military personnel around the clock. Noting that in 2006, the Justice and Development Party (AK Party) mayor had the same sculptor, Necati İnci, build a civilian monument, Tekiner said it was identical to the Atatürk monument in Kaş.
Glassware sellers take part in Atatürk statue bids as well
According to “Atatürk Statues: Cult, Aesthetics, Politics,” one of the main factors in the TSK being the biggest buyer of Atatürk monuments is former Ministry of Culture Fine Arts Director Mehmet Özel, who is the longest-serving bureaucrat in Turkey. Tekiner notes that Özel, who coordinated celebrations for the anniversary of the 100th birthday of Atatürk in 1981 and is still a fine arts adviser for the General Staff, even interferes in the way statues are shaped.
Tekiner once took part in a bid for Atatürk statues where she discovered that even glassware sellers are interested in tenders for the statues. Sharing her experience, she said: “We took part in the military’s tender for an Atatürk bust because that is the most important part of the sculpture business in Turkey. They wanted 80 Atatürk busts. I met someone who was taking part in the tender and I asked, ‘Are you a sculptor?’ to which the person replied ‘No, I sell glassware. I took part in a button tender this morning, too.’ That is the way things work in Turkey.”
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