(AFP) – A Turkish newspaper report that the adopted daughter of Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, the founder of the modern state, was of Armenian origin provoked the ire of the army on Monday, which described it as an affront to national values.
Sabiha Gokcen was adopted by Ataturk in 1925 when she was 12 years old. She later became Turkey’s first woman pilot and died in 2001.
On Saturday the daily Hurriyet reported that Gokcen was the daughter of a man who died in the mass slaughter of Armenians by the army in 1915, in the last years of the Ottoman empire. It quoted her niece as saying that she was born in Bursa, western Turkey, and it gave her original name as Hatun Sebilciyan.
The Turkish military general staff said that questioning the origins of Ataturk’s adopted daughter “is not conducive to social peace or national unity.” In a statement to the press, it said that “Ataturk’s nationalism was not based on ethnic or religious foundations” and added that “it is a mistake to open a journalistic debate which mocks national values and feelings.”
The military has shown itself to be highly sensitive about the reputation of Ataturk, who rebuilt the army, abolished the Islamic caliphate and founded the modern, secular state after the collapse of the Ottoman empire at the end of World War I.