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Crowd gathers at Halifax monument to honour Atatürk

Turkish-Haligonians find comfort in remembering the man who formed their nation

3 min read
caption This war monument has stood outside Pier 21 since 2016. It honours both Turkish and Canadian soldiers who fought against each other in the Battle of Çanakkale (Gallipoli). The monument quotes Kemal Atatürk saying, "You are now lying in the soil of a friendly country. Therefore, rest in peace. There is no difference between the Johnnies and the Mehmets to us."
Hannah Sangster

Halifax’s Turkish community gathered outside Pier 21 on Friday to celebrate the father of modern Turkey.

“I have been here for 5 years, and I have been coming here every year for all the events – especially today. I came with my brother – it’s really important for us to come here,” said Ceren Bal, a local student and active member of the Turkish community in Halifax.

Bal, along with over 20 others, stands in front of the monument dedicated to Turkey’s former president, Mustafa Kemal Atatürk. Both the Turkish and Canadian anthems are sung, and a Turkish flag is hung on the tree that shades the monument. 

“This is the anniversary of the death of Atatürk the father of Türks. Big, big day. We love him and it’s more than a love I guess. It really means a lot to be here to remember his great commitment,” she said. 

A Halifax census profile from 2021 reveals that 590 people in the city claim Turkish heritage. Some of them are very passionate about this day.

“Usually (back home) the flag you see there will be everywhere in Turkey. You will see it in schools, off balconies of homes, in-store shops, people wear pins, decorate their cars,” Bal said.

Atatürk, meaning Father Türk when translated, was the founding father of the Republic of Turkey. Atatürk served as Turkey’s president from 1923 until his death in 1938.  

Atatürk rapidly secularized Turkey through changing laws such as lifting bans on alcohol, changing the Turkish alphabet from Arabic letters to Roman ones, and prohibiting the wearing of headscarves.  

caption Burcu Kaptan, president of the Turkish Society of Nova Scotia, points with a young boy to a picture of Kemal Atatürk on a monument in Halifax.

A day of recognizing those who lost their lives for peace

“It is remembrance,” said Burcu Kaptan, president of the Turkish Society of Nova Scotia.

“Not only remembering Atatürk but everybody who lost their lives for peace.” Kaptan has been living in the city for over 20 years. She is passionate about bringing the culture of Turkey to Halifax.

Kaptan has led activities like galas for local university students, which people like Ceren Bal, who attends Saint Mary’s University, have attended. 

“This ceremony for me and for all the Türks means a lot because this is one of the special days for us, especially in Halifax too. It’s great to have this feeling here in Halifax because it’s not technically our home, but we can still have this feeling here,” Bal said as the ceremony came to an end. 

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