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PROFILE - Turkish nationalist leader commemorated 23 years on

Founding father of Turkey's Nationalist Movement Party, Alparslan Turkes remembered on 23rd death anniversary

Buket Guven and Firdevs Bulut   | 04.04.2020
PROFILE - Turkish nationalist leader commemorated 23 years on


The leader of the nationalist movement in Turkey and a prominent figure in Turkish political history, Alparslan Turkes was on Friday commemorated on the 23rd anniversary of his death.

Before his birth, Turkes's family was caught in a land feud in the city of Kayseri -- now in central Turkey -- resulting in their exile by then-Ottoman Sultan Abdulaziz. Turkes was born on the island of Cyprus on Nov. 25, 1917.

He was educated by major Turkish nationalists, such as Husnu Bey, Selahattin Bey, Mehmet Asim Bey, Ragip Tuzun Bey, Turgut Bey, Osman Zeki Bey, and Faiz Kaymak. One of his teachers changed his name to Alparslan from Ali Arslan, inspired by Sultan Alparslan, the second sultan of the Seljuk Empire.

Turkes came to Istanbul with his family in 1933, receiving a military education before going on to become a lieutenant.

Together with two other prominent Turkish nationalist thinkers, Nihal Atsiz and Nejdet Sancar, he was put on trial for charges of racism and espousing a pan-Turkic ideology. Imprisoned for nearly 10 months, he was discharged from prison in 1945, and freed from charges in 1947.

Turkes was part of Turkey's NATO Delegation Committee in the Pentagon in 1955. He studied economics while in the U.S.

He was sent to the Atomic and Nuclear Academy in Germany in 1959 from which he successfully graduated and became a colonel. 

May 27, coup d'etat

Turkes was part of a group of military officers who orchestrated the first coup d'état in the history of Turkey in 1960. He made the radio announcement that the National Unity Committee -- led by himself and 38 other military officers -- had taken over the government.

In the coup d'état government, he was named prime ministerial undersecretary. During this post, he founded the State Planning Organization, the Turkish Statistical Institute, and the Turkish Culture Research Institute.

Due to disagreements between members of the committee, he and 14 others were forced to retire on Nov. 13, 1960. They were appointed -- exiled in practice -- to various parts of the world, with Turkes sent to India as an undersecretary in the Turkish embassy.

He returned to Turkey in 1963 and was arrested due to claims that he was planning to topple the government. Turkes was imprisoned for four months, put on trial and released.

Republican Villagers Nation Party

In 1965, Turkes joined the Republican Villagers Nation Party (CMKP) and was elected as chairman. He was voted into the parliament that same year.

Taking part in various coalition governments in 1975-1977, he served as deputy prime minister and state minister. He was also head of the opposition Nationalist Movement Party.

Amid an increasing number of Marxist and communist youth movements in universities, he gave seminars to young people on Turkish communitarianism and nationalism. From among these young people, Nine Lights Movement was born.

Sept. 12 military coup

Turning himself in three days after another military coup on Sept. 12, 1980, Turkes was imprisoned for over four years. Throughout his sentence, the military government demanded the execution of 218 nationalists, including Turkes. He was released from prison on April 9, 1985.

Turkes resumed his political career in 1987 after a ban on his participation in politics was lifted. He was elected as head of the Nationalist Working Party (MCP). He was re-elected as a lawmaker from the central Yozgat province in 1991.

In 1992, the MCP's name was changed to the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP), and the current symbol of the party (three crescents) was introduced.
Turkes died of a heart attack on April 4, 1997.

Memorial service canceled due to COVID-19

The memorial service for Turkes, planned for April 4, 2020, was canceled due to measures against the novel coronavirus outbreak.

"As part of the fight against the coronavirus, to preserve our social distance, the memorial service for our founding leader Alparslan Turkes, which was planned for April 4, has been canceled," the party said in a statement.

The MHP's current chief, Devlet Bahceli, shared a written message to commemorate.

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