“Long live Atatürk. Your name will be written on a precious stone.” Just a snatch from the lyrics of the Izmir March. The song dates back to the Independence War and has its roots here in Izmir, Turkey’s most modern city.
In recent months, the song has become a part of people´s everyday life again – like here in one of the oldest taverns of Izmir. The March is a symbol for secularism, freedom and the parliamentary system, brought into the country by Atatürk, the founder of the republic. For the oppressed opposition it is an indirect way to express themselves. Especially now, just shortly before Turkey’s constitutional referendum, that could change so much that Ataturk established.
Ersin Kuskanat is a singer who gets many requests for the number.
“There is a quote by Atatürk: ´The artist is the first who sees the light.´ For us, Atatürk was an artist as well. And he saw that the light was born in Izmir. Thats why it is not necessary to say a lot. Everyone understands what we want to express,” he says.
The tavern is visited also by parliamentarians of the Republican People´s Party, Turkey’s main opposition party, which believes strongly in the founding principles and values laid down by Atatürk.
“Izmir is republican and secular. A place where nobody cares about your appearance or how you dress. It is a different place. Guests here come and sing the Izmir March, they come in the name of democracy and freedom and here they sing and say whatever they want,” says CHP member of parliament for Izmir Tacettin Bayir.
The Izmir March went viral in the last months. The world famous Turkish pianist Fazil Say, a prominent critic of the AKP government, posted three different versions of the melody on his Instagram account. Other Turkish musicians have followed suit.
He says out loud what many are afraid to say. Every day Ekrem Onal is on the streets and informs people about the proposed constitution and why it is a threat to democracy. Here in the region of Cesme, 70 kilometres from Izmir, Ekrem organizes for the “No” Campaign.
“The Izmir March developed as a silent protest. Or it is better to say, that it became very obvious for which political side it stands. The Izmir March is on the streets, in concert halls, stadiums, tens of thousands of people sing it. But this ´No´ front is not only belonging to the CHP. Everyone who believes in the parliamentary system, the independent judiciary, in the republic that Atatürk founded, belongs in this ´No´ front,” says the CHP’s boss in Cesme.
The Izmir March is a song for everyone. It was written in an attempt to unite the country rather than split it. It is a call for more democracy and freedom.
“The Izmir March enshrines Ataturk the founder of the republic, who brought a parliamentary system, modernity and secularism to the nation. For many people the upcoming referendum is a threat to this legacy,” reports euronews’ Senada Sokollu.