UPDATES WITH CHIEF OF GENERAL STAFF's COMMENTS
By Kubra Chohan and Satuk Bugra Kutlugun
ANKARA (AA) - People came to a halt for two minutes' contemplation on Friday as Turkey marked the 79th anniversary of the death of the country’s founder Mustafa Kemal Ataturk.
At his mausoleum in Ankara, thousands flocked to pay their respects to the deeply revered first president of the republic.
At 9.05 a.m. (0605GMT) sirens wailed to mark the exact moment of his death at the age of 57 in Istanbul’s Dolmabache Palace.
Around the country, people stopped in the streets or stood silently at their workplaces to remember Ataturk.
At the Anitkabir mausoleum overlooking the capital, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan was among those to lay a wreath at Ataturk’s resting place.
“We are once again remembering our first president Mustafa Kemal Ataturk,” Erdogan wrote in a book of commemoration. “We are working day and night to bring Turkey to the level of contemporary civilization. May his soul rest in peace.”
Kemal Kilicdaroglu, leader of the main opposition Republican People’s Party, and Parliamentary Speaker Ismail Kahraman also took part in the annual ceremony alongside other senior politicians and military officers.
“The heroic Turkish Armed Forces, which honourably carry the torch of independence and sovereignty that Ataturk lit, continue their dedication to fight against every kind of risk and threat,” Chief of General Staff Gen. Hulusi Akar said in a statement published online.
Ataturk was born in 1881 in Thessaloniki, then part of the Ottoman Empire.
His distinguished military career included repelling the Allied invasion of the Gallipoli peninsula in 1915 and then rallying Turkey to withstand the Allies’ attempt to carve up Turkey after World War I in the War of Independence.
As Turkey’s first president, he transformed the country through a wide-ranging series of modernizing reforms.
Sport federations and clubs marked the day with messages of commemoration.
The Turkish Football Federation mentioned Ataturk’s emphasis on sport while Hidayet Turkoglu, chairman of the Turkish Basketball Federation, commemorated “Ataturk and his brothers in arms, as well as all our martyrs and veterans with appreciation.”
The country’s “Big Three” sports clubs -- Fenerbahce, Galatasaray and Besiktas -- also issued messages of respect. “We once again grieve his death and commemorate him with love, longing and respect,” Besiktas said in a statement.