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Middle East Brian Dispatch

For His Eyes Only:
The Adventures of Secret Agent 006.5

March 8, 2000

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Contacting  Odyssey headquarters to get the 411 on Ataturk

Notes from the book of secret agent 006.5, education specialist and gumshoe:

It all started a few weeks ago with my first assignment in Turkey. Everywhere I went I kept seeing a picture of the same man. I couldn't shake the feeling that he was following me. It seemed that he was everywhere I looked. Step into a bakery - there he was. A bookstore - there he was. This guy was on me like a tail on a dog. Every time I looked back he was still there. What does he want from me? Those eyes; those intense eyes give me the shivers. I decided to call Odyssey headquarters and determine his identity.
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All this Ataturk investigation is making this sectret agent hungry

I flipped out my pocket transmitter and dialed the secret code, and within seconds special agent K was on the line. "Greetings agent 006.5, I hope you have a good reason for using this special secret line." "Yeah, K, I think I'm being followed and I need your help. Wherever I go there are pictures of this man staring down at me.... I need to know who he is." I proceeded to describe him; piercing eyes, bushy eyebrows, while she typed the information into her computer at home base. "Okay, it looks like we found the guy you're looking for. He is known as Kemal Ataturk, the Father of the Turks.....kksssssssshhhhhhhhhhhhkkkk....."
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Ataturk seems to be

I gasped as the signal dissolved into static. They don't make top secret transmitters like they used to. Well, at least I had a name to build on. Kemal he like, the Godfather or something? I started to make my way to the nearest Internet café, scanning the crowd for signs of this mysterious Ataturk fellow. He was nowhere to be found, but my roving eyes did seize upon an inviting restaurant that promised delicious food inside. My grumbling stomach convinced me that I could follow up on this Ataturk fellow some other time. Besides, the food in Turkey is worth the trip alone. As I stared at the menu, I began to get the feeling that I was being watched. I looked up and, yikes! -there he was again, smiling down at me from a picture on the wall! I yelped with surprise and fled down the street.

This guy is everywhere!

I darted through the streets until I finally reached an Internet café. Okay, I thought to myself, now I will get some answers. I headed straight for the computer and began searching for information on my mysterious pursuer. After a few clicks and whirs I got the information I was looking for. "Hmmm, Kemal Ataturk. Formerly known as Mustafa Kemal (see SIDEBAR). Led troops to victory as an officer in the Turkish Army in World War I, most notably at Gallipoli. Organized the revolution and resulting Turkish War of Independence that lasted from 1920 to 1922, and overthrew the sultan of the Ottoman Empire. Is known as the Father of the Turks. Wow, this guy has been around the block."

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The more I read, the more I realize the Father of Turkey isn't such a bad fellow
The hair on the back of my neck began to tingle, and I looked up to find a picture of Ataturk, staring out with that familiar iron gaze. With a gasp I bolted from the chair and fumbled for some money to pay for my time on the computer. I nearly dropped the bills when I saw that same face staring back at me from the face of the Turkish lira.

It was beginning to get late, and the light slanted through the streets as I tried to put the café behind me. Just as I turned a corner, a figure stepped from the gathering shadows. My breath caught in my throat as the figure moved to pull back a hood from its face. This is it, I thought, now we will meet face to face. The hand slowly pulled back the hood and to my surprise it was.......Abeja, otherwise known as secret agent 003.14!! My knees turned to jelly with the relief of seeing her. Between gasps of air I told her of my pursuer; this Kemal Ataturk who commanded armies and overthrew sultans and who now seemed to be following me. When my saga concluded, Abeja raised her eyebrows and began to laugh.

"You still have a lot to learn, secret agent 006.5. Kemal Ataturk was quite a powerful man indeed, but he has been dead since 1938. He is not going to jump out at you from any street corner. The pictures and statues you see everywhere are an indicator of the lasting impression that he left on this country."

"What do you mean?"

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Can you see the resemblance to Ataturk
"In many ways Ataturk is the father of the Turkey that you see today. The Ottoman Empire was going to be divided between the victorious Allied countries after World War I, and Ataturk began the revolution that culminated in the institution of the new Turkish Republic. "

"So he was an Army general?"

"No, he was much more than that. After the republic was declared in 1923, he resigned his military post and became the President."

"That's not a bad trade-off," I said.

"No, not a bad deal at all. Once Ataturk took the Presidency he began to completely reform the society from the ground up. Almost every aspect of Turkish society today bears some signs of Ataturk's reforms. He wished to change many of the "backward" ways that were left by the rule of the Ottoman sultans and elevate Turkey in the eyes of the world. And he did a pretty good job of it, I must say. He abolished polygamy, gave women the right to vote and serve in parliament, instituted new civil codes and replaced the Arabic alphabet with a modified Latin one."

"Wow, it must have been strange for a whole country to learn how to write all over again. How did he pull that off?"


Sultan - a king or sovereign, especially of a Muslim state
allied countries - nations united against Germany and its allies during World War I
polygamy - a situation in which you can be married to more than one spouse at a time

"Well, Ataturk felt that it was very important for Turkey to use a Latin alphabet like most of the world. He traveled to villages and towns and gave lessons himself so that this new knowledge would spread. He also outlawed the fez, which was the traditional hat of males in the days of the Ottoman Empire. You've probably seen them; they are round red hats with a flat top and a tassel. Men wore a fez, and Ataturk's decision to outlaw them met much resistance. Some men were even jailed when they refused to relinquish their fez."
Do you know how Mustafa Kemal got the name Kemal Ataturk? Well, you must first know that family names are a relatively new practice in Turkey. Yes, before 1935 all Muslims had only one given name, and a family name (or surname) was purely optional. In 1935, Mustafa Kemal decided that all Turkish citizens should adopt a family name, and so they did! The Turkish parliament officially gave him the name 'Ataturk,' which means 'Father Turk.' From that time forward his name was Kemal Ataturk.

I scratched my head in confusion. "You are telling me that this whole country loves a guy who outlawed hats and the alphabet?"

Abeja shook her head patiently.

"Agent 006.5, I am afraid that the scope of Ataturk's foresight exceeds your comprehension. From his first days in the battlefields of World War I, to his last near the eve of World War II, he seemed to have his finger on the pulse of this country struggling to gain international respect." With a twirl, Abeja vanished into the evening shadows.

"Geez," I muttered to myself, "they never taught me that move in secret agent school."

I put on my secret agent earmuffs and mittens and began walking home. "So he wasn't following me after all, and he sounds like an amazing man," I thought to myself. Suddenly my heart skipped a beat as his face loomed out from a wall, carved in granite. But as I looked closer, I thought I detected the hint of a smile. I bid him farewell and continued into the night, ready for my next mission.


p.s. - Please e-mail me at

Monica - Mevlana Rumi: Divine Love Throughout all Things
Kavitha - Whirling, Whirling As Fast As You Can!
Monica - Father of the Nation, Builder of the Capital
Abeja - London, Paris, New York, Istanbul
Jasmine - Black History Month continues...Dare to Dream!

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