İstiklâl Marşı

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İstiklal Marşı
English: Independence March
Atatürk schoolroom wall.jpg
Classroom wall with the lyrics of İstiklal Marşı (far right).

National anthem of  Turkey
 Northern Cyprus

Lyrics Mehmet Akif Ersoy, 1921
Music Osman Zeki Üngör, 1930
Adopted 12 March 1921
Music sample

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The İstiklâl Marşı (English: Independence March) is the national anthem of Turkey and Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus, officially adopted on 12 March 1921 - two and a half years before the 29 October 1923 establishment of the Republic of Turkey, both as a motivational musical saga for the troops fighting in the Turkish War of Independence, and as an anthem for a Republic that was yet to be established.

Penned by Mehmet Âkif Ersoy, ultimately composed by Osman Zeki Üngör, the theme is one of affection for the Turkish homeland, freedom, and faith, of sacrifice for liberty, and of hope and devotion, explored through visual, tactile and kinesthetic imagery as they relate to the flag, the human spirit and the soil of the homeland.

The manuscript by Ersoy, between the title line İstiklal Marşı and the first text line, carries the dedication Kahraman Ordumuza – "To our Heroic Army", the army that won the Independence War. The lyrics reflect on the sacrifice of the soldiers during the War.

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

Of the ten-stanza anthem, only the first two quatrains are typically sung. A framed version of the national anthem typically occupies the wall above the blackboard in the classrooms of every public – as well as almost every private – school in Turkey (accompanied by a Turkish flag, a photograph of the country's founding father Atatürk, and a copy of Atatürk's famous inspirational speech to the nation's youth).

The anthem was the subject of a brief copyright dispute in 2010, when GEMA, the German music copyright society, attempted to collect royalties on the anthem.[1] The composition has also been adopted as the National Anthem of the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus.[2]

A scroll displaying the first two quatrains of the anthem was depicted on the reverse of the Turkish 100 lira banknotes of 1983-1989.[3]


Even before the dissolution of the Ottoman Empire, in 1921, a nation-wide competition was organized to select an original composition for a National March- for which a total of 724 poems were submitted. Mehmet Akif Ersoy, a very well known poet of the time, refused to participate due to the monetary prize of the competition. He was then called and convinced by parliament to submit a poem, disregarding the prize of the competition. This ten-quinteto-long poem written by Ersoy was recited to the National Assembly by Hamdullah Suphi, on March 1, 1921,[4] and it was unanimously adopted by the Deputies, following evaluation by a parliamentary committee; the prize of the competition was granted to a society of veterans.

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 Committee, which was only able to convene in 1924 due to the Turkish War of Independence, adopted the music composed by Ali Rıfat Çağatay. This composition lasted only six years. In 1930 a new composition by Osman Zeki Üngör was adopted.[5] Edgar Manas made the arrangements for the orchestra.[6][7][8]


The lyrics of the Turkish National Anthem consist of a long poem which has 50 lines of verse. Only the first 10 lines are performed in official ceremonies.

Turkish lyrics English translation
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;
Kim bilir? Belki yarın? Belki yarından da yakın!
Bastığın yerleri "toprak" diyerek geçme, tanı!
Düşün, altındaki binlerce kefensiz yatanı!
Sen şehit oğlusun, incitme, yazıktır atanı;
Verme, dünyaları alsan da bu cennet vatanı.
Kim bu cennet vatanın uğruna olmaz ki fedâ?
Şüheda fışkıracak toprağı sıksan, şühedâ!
Canı, cananı, bütün varımı alsın da Hüdâ,
Etmesin tek vatanımdan beni dünyada cüdâ.
Rûhumun senden, ilâhi, 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, ilâhi, boşanıp kanlı yaşım,
Fışkırır rûh-i mücerret gibi yerden nâşım;
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, Hakka tapan milletimin istiklâl!
Fear not, the crimson banner that proudly ripples in this glorious dawn, shall not fade,
Before the last fiery hearth that is ablaze within my homeland is extinguished.
For that is the star of my people, and it will forever shine;
It is mine; and solely belongs to my valiant nation.
Frown not, I beseech you, oh thou coy crescent,
Smile upon my heroic nation!1 Why the anger, why the rage?2
Our blood which we shed for you might not be worthy otherwise;
For freedom is the absolute right of my God-worshipping nation.3
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; trampling and overflowing my stream bed,
I'll tear apart the mountains, fill up the expanses4 and still gush out!
The horizons of the West may be surrounded with walls of steel,
But my borders are guarded by the mighty bosom of a believer.
Let it howl5 , do not be afraid! And think: how can this fiery faith ever be killed,
By that battered, single-fanged monster you call "civilization"?6
My friend! Leave not my homeland to the hands of villainous men!
Render your chest as armour and your body a bulwark! Halt this disgraceful assault!
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 shroudless7 thousands who lie so nobly beneath you.
You're the noble son of a martyr, take shame, grieve not your ancestors!
Unhand not, even when you're promised all the worlds, this paradise of a homeland.
Who would not die for this heavenly piece of land?
Martyrs would gush out should one simply squeeze the soil! Martyrs!
May God take my life, all my loved ones and possessions from me if He will,
But let Him not deprive me of my one true homeland in 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, prostrate8 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 kin1 shall ever be extinguished!
For freedom is the absolute right of my ever-free flag;
For independence is the absolute right of my God-worshipping nation!


1 Although "ırk" means "race" in contemporary Turkish, it had different associations in Ottoman Turkish. In Ottoman Turkish it also carries the connotations of 'generation,' 'offspring' and 'family linage in short 'kin'.'[9] Also note that the poet was of Albanian and Uzbek origin.[10]

2 A white crescent and star superimposed on a crimson background comprise the Turkish flag- the poet is invoking the image of the crescent and comparing it to the frowning eyebrows of a sulky face. 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.

3 This is actually a wordplay on the words hak (right) and Hakk (God).

4 A Turkish poetical word (with no direct English translation) that may refer to anything perceived by Man as a boundless expanse: the heavens, the oceans, the horizon, the Universe, etc.

5 This is actually a wordplay on the word Ulusun. Ulu-mak means to howl and ulu means grand, sublime, noble. -sun, -sin, -sün, -sın suffixes mean you are in Turkish if they are preceded by an adjective, Ulu-sun may be interpreted in both ways: let it howl or you are noble

6 What is being said in essence that the vast superiority of the West in terms of technology, 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 can be matched by the unassailable spirit of the Turkish people.
Thus, the poet is calling out to the Nation, saying, as it were, "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'".

7 In Turkish, shroud-less is a metaphor used for martyrs. In Islamic tradition, the dead has to be washed and then clothed in shrouds before the burial to have a safe passage to Heaven. Except martyrs, this ceremony is unnecessary for them since it is believed that their souls are still present in this realm till the Judgement Day and their place in Heaven is promised by the God

8 Prostration is the act of laying one's forehead on the ground as part of Muslim sacred ritual (see Namaz, As-Sajda or salat). 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.

Notes and references[edit]

  1. ^ "Turkey Scrambles to Protect National Anthem". Der Spiegel. Retrieved 2011-08-08. 
  2. ^ "Turkey: İstiklal Marşı". Retrieved 2011-08-08. 
  3. ^ Central Bank of the Republic of Turkey. Banknote Museum: 7. Emission Group - One Hundred Turkish Lira - I. Series & II. Series. – Retrieved on 20 April 2009.
  4. ^
  5. ^
  6. ^ Vefatını 72. yılında Mehmet Âkif Ersoy bilgi șöleni 3 : Mehmed Âkif edebî ve fikrî akımlar. Ankara: Türkiye Yazarlar Birliği. 2009. p. 54. ISBN 9789757382409. 
  7. ^ "İstiklal Marşı’nın Bestelenmesi Çalışmaları" (in Turkish). Retrieved 11 December 2012. 
  8. ^ Külekçi, Cahit (2010). Sosyo-kültürel açıdan Ermeniler ve Türkler: İstanbul Ermenileri (in Turkish). 432: Kayihan. p. 340. 
  9. ^
  10. ^

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