İstiklâl Marşı

The İstiklâl Marşı (Independence March) is the Turkish National Anthem, officially adopted on March 12, 1921 - two years before the October 29, 1923 establishment of the modern day Republic of Turkey, both as a motivational musical saga for the troops fighting in the Turkish War of Independence, and as a heroic anthem for the Republic that was to be established once victory was achieved.

Penned by Mehmet Akif Ersoy and ultimately composed by Osman Zeki Üngör, the overall theme is one of undying love for the Turkish homeland, the love of freedom, the sacredness of faith, the sacrifice it takes to achieve true liberty, and the power of hope and unyielding devotion to a noble cause, which are explored through visual, tactile and kinesthetic imagery as they relate to the flag, the human spirit and the soil of the homeland.

The Anthem is regularly heard during state and military events, as well as during national bayrams, sporting events, and school ceremonies.

Of the ten-stanza anthem, only the first two quatrains are sung, with an upright, immobile and solemn composure.

As a gesture of gratitude, a framed version of the national anthem typically occupies the wall above the blackboard in the classrooms of every public as well as most private schools around Turkey, along with a Turkish flag, a photograph of the country's founding father Ataturk, and a copy of Atatürk's famous inspirational speech to the nation's youth.

The composition has also been adopted as the National Anthem of the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus.


Following the dissolution of the Ottoman Empire and the slow-rising success of the newly-organized civilian and armed forces around Anatolia fighting against invading European powers, it was decided that an inspirational, soul-stirring and dramatic composition was needed to invigorate the ailing spirits of an exhausted people fighting for their freedom, which would also act as a foundation stone on top of which a new nation could be built.

A nation-wide competition was subsequently organized to find and select the most suitable original composition for a National March, for which a total of 724 poems were submitted. Particularly striking due to its literary merits as well as the manner with which the poet had successfully infused patriotic fervor with spiritual passion, a ten-verse poem written by the renowned poet Mehmet Akif Ersoy was unanimously adopted by the Turkish Grand National Assembly following an evaluation by a parliamentary committee.

Shortly thereafter, twenty-four composers participated in another competition arranged for the selection of a musical composition that would suit the elected National Anthem best. The Council, which was only able to convene in 1924 due to the Turkish War of Independence, adopted the music composed by Ali Rıfat Çağatay.

The words of the National Anthem were sung to this music until 1930. Thereafter, the music was changed to a symphonic arrangement written by Osman Zeki Üngör, conductor of the Presidential Symphonic Orchestra, and a new harmonization supplied by Edgar Manas. The original words have been sung to this musical accompaniment ever since.

Turkish lyrics

Korkma, sönmez bu şafaklarda yüzen al sancak;
Sönmeden yurdumun üstünde tüten en son ocak.
O benim milletimin yıldızıdır, parlayacak;
O benimdir, o benim milletimindir ancak.

Çatma, kurban olayım çehreni ey nazlı hilâl!
Kahraman ırkıma bir gül! Ne bu şiddet bu celâl?
Sana olmaz dökülen kanlarımız sonra helâl,
Hakkıdır, Hakk'a tapan, milletimin istiklâl!

Ben ezelden beridir hür yaşadım, hür yaşarım.
Hangi çılgın bana zincir vuracakmış? Şaşarım!
Kükremiş sel gibiyim, bendimi çiğner aşarım;
Yırtarım dağları, enginlere sığmam, taşarım.

Garbın âfakını sarmışsa çelik zırhlı duvar,
Benim iman dolu göğsüm gibi serhaddim var.
Ulusun, korkma! Nasıl böyle bir imanı boğar.
"Medeniyet!" dediğin tek dişi kalmış canavar?

Arkadaş! Yurduma alçakları uğratma sakın!
Siper et gövdeni, dursun bu hayasızca akın.
Doğacaktır sana vaadettiği günler Hakk'ın;
Kimbilir, belki yarın, belki yarından da yakın.

Bastığın yerleri "toprak" diyerek geçme, tanı!
Düşün, altında binlerce kefensiz yatanı!
Sen şehit oğlusun, incitme, yazıktır atanı;
Verme, dünyaları alsan da bu cennet vatanı.

Kim bu cennet vatanın uğruna olmaz ki feda?
Şüheda fışkıracak toprağı sıksan, şüheda!
Canı, cananı, bütün varımı alsın da Hüda,
Etmesin tek vatanımdan beni dünyada cüda.

Ruhumun senden, ilahi, şudur ancak emeli;
Değmesin mabedimin göğsüne na-mahrem eli!
Bu ezanlar ki şahadetleri dinin temeli,
Ebedi yurdumun üstünde benim inlemeli.

O zaman vecd ile bin secde eder varsa taşım;
Her cerihamdan, ilahi, boşanıp kanlı yaşım,
Fışkırır ruh-i mücerret gibi yerden na'aşım;
O zaman yükselerek arşa değer belki başım!

Dalgalan sen de şafaklar gibi ey şanlı hilâl;
Olsun artık dökülen kanlarımın hepsi helâl!
Ebediyyen sana yok, ırkıma yok izmihlâl.
Hakkıdır, hür yaşamış bayrağımın hürriyet;
Hakkıdır, Hakk'a tapan milletimin istiklâl!

English translation

Fear not! For the crimson flag that proudly ripples in this glorious twilight, shall not fade,
Before the last fiery hearth that is ablaze within my nation is extinguished.
For That is the star of my nation, and it will forever shine;
It is mine; and solely belongs to my valiant nation.

Frown not, I beseech you, oh thou coy crescent,
But smile upon my heroic race! Why the anger, why the rage? ¹
This blood of ours which we shed for you shall not be blessed otherwise;
For Freedom is the absolute right of my God-worshiping nation.

I have been free since the beginning and forever shall be so.
What madman shall put me in chains! I defy the very idea!
I'm like the roaring flood; powerful and independent,
I'll tear apart mountains, exceed the heavens ² and still gush out!

The lands of the West may be armored with walls of steel,
But I have borders guarded by the mighty chest of a believer.
Recognize your innate strength, my friend! And think: how can this fiery faith ever be killed,
By that battered, single-fanged monster you call "civilization"? ³

My friend! Leave not my homeland to the hands of villainous men!
Render your chest as armor and your body as trench! Stop this disgraceful rush!
For soon shall come the joyous days of divine promise...
Who knows? Perhaps tomorrow? Perhaps even sooner!

View not the soil you tread on as mere earth - recognize it!
And think about the shroudless thousands who lie so nobly beneath you.
You're the noble son of a martyr, take shame, hurt not your ancestor!
Unhand not, even when you're promised worlds, this paradise of a homeland.

What man would not die for this heavenly piece of land?
Martyrs would gush out should one simply squeeze the soil! Martyrs!
May God take all my loved ones and possessions from me if He will,
But may He not deprive me of my one true homeland for the world.

Oh glorious God, the sole wish of my pain-stricken heart is that,
No heathen's hand should ever touch the bosom of my sacred Temples.
These adhans, whose shahadahs are the foundations of my religion,
May their noble sound last loud and wide over my eternal homeland.

For only then, shall my fatigued tombstone, if there is one, prostrate a thousand times in ecstasy,
And tears of fiery blood shall flow out of my every wound,
And my lifeless body shall gush out from the earth like an eternal spirit,
Perhaps only then, shall I peacefully ascend and at long last reach the heavens.

So ripple and wave like the bright dawning sky, oh thou glorious crescent,
So that our every last drop of blood may finally be blessed and worthy!
Neither you nor my race shall ever be extinguished!
For freedom is the absolute right of my ever-free flag;
For freedom is the absolute right of my God-worshiping nation!


1: There is a literary element being employed here that may not be immediately noticeable. The Turkish flag is comprised of a white crescent and star superimposed on a crimson background. The poet is creating an imagery of a crescent and comparing it to the frowning eyebrows of a sulky face. To be specific, the flag (and the spirit of freedom which it embodies, under threat from invading nations against whom victory initially seems impossibly difficult to achieve, hence "coy") is being treated as a coy maiden with a sulky face (symbolically, the resentment of the invasion) who is playing hard-to-get. That is, the "coy" flag is being "playful" about letting the troops achieve ultimate victory and thus, freedom.

2: A literal translation of this word would be "the infinites" - a Turkish poetical word (with no direct English translation) that refers to everything that is perceived infinite by Man: the heavens, the oceans, the horizon, the Universe, etc.

3: Again, some explanation is required. What is being referred to as "civilization" is the invading European nations (France, Britain, Italy and Greece, to be specific) and their modern armies, which were superior in terms of equipment and manpower to the war-stricken, undermanned, and underfed Turkish forces that were hastily assembled by patriotic civilians and ex-military officials following World War I. This tight collaboration between civilians and former armed officials was due to the Ottoman Imperial Court's internal corruptions and the presence of individuals in power who preferred to protect their own interests rather than the interests of the greater public. (see Sultan Vahdeddin and Damat Ferid Pasha) This self-preserving behavior manifested itself as political inaction, an openness to foreign manipulation, trecherous collaborationism and the much-protested acceptance of an unjust treaty - actions that ultimately resulted in a hurt national pride, widespread feelings of resentment and humiliation, as well as the anarchic dissolution of the Empire. It was at such a grim point in time that a defiant new organization of armed and civil forces, led by Ataturk, gave the people hope for the future through a series of successful battles and liberation campaigns, which gradually turned into an increasingly successful War of Independence.
Thus, the poet is calling out to the Nation, and saying that while "the lands of the West may be armed with walls of steel", i.e. "while these European armies may have seemingly impenetrable/unbeatable modern technology and weaponry, do not be fooled/discouraged by their apparent superiority. Look at what we have accomplished so far with virtually non-existent arms and supplies! We are horribly fatigued, and at a disadvantage in every conceivable way, yet we still are able to succeed in our battle for liberty! This seemingly undefeatable 'monster' has had almost every one of its teeth knocked out (hence, 'single-fanged') by our victorious campaign! Our motivation, faith, and internal drive is what has and will continue to carry us through, and that is something that our enemies cannot remotely match. All we need for ultimate victory is the ability to recognize our true 'innate strengths': a 'fiery faith' and the 'mighty chest (i.e. heart) of a believer'.

4: Prostration is the act of laying one's forehead on the ground as part of Muslim sacred ritual (see Namaz, As-Sajda or Salah). The image being painted here is that of a battle-fallen and pain-stricken man, who becomes ecstatic following the victorious end of the War of Independence. This is a man whose mind, body and soul have at long last found peace, and may finally ascend and reach the heavens, knowing that his homeland is finally safe and sound and that all his suffering was all worth it in the end.


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