By Emin Avundukluoglu
ANKARA (AA) - The leader of Turkey’s main opposition party said Tuesday that Mustafa Kemal Ataturk was commonly cherished by all the people of Turkey
Speaking to his party’s lawmakers, Republican People's Party (CHP) leader Kemal Kilicdaroglu said that Ataturk, the founder of modern Turkey, did not belong to any particular political party but to all of them.
"In recent days, there have been a flood of emotions towards Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, which makes us happy," Kilicdaroglu, whose party was founded by Ataturk, said.
Ataturk’s legacy was in the spotlight last Friday, the 79th anniversary of his death.
"Ataturk is held dear by all of us. He is not [just] held dear by party A or party B, but... 80 million people," Kilicdaroglu added, referring to Turkey’s population.
The CHP leader called on the Turkish people to protect Ataturk and his contributions to Turkey’s modernization.
"Even his enemies respected Gazi Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, because he waged war by the rules," he said, using a term for revered veterans to honor Ataturk.
He added: "He never allowed a flag of another country to be stepped on. For this reason, he is held dear by the world. The world revered him."
Ataturk was born in 1881 in Salonica, then part of the Ottoman Empire.
His distinguished military career included repelling the Allied invasion of the Gallipoli peninsula in 1915 and then, in the War of Independence, rallying Turks to withstand the Allies’ attempt to carve up Turkey after World War I.
As Turkey's first president, he transformed the country through a wide-ranging series of modernizing reforms.