Turks are really proud of Kemal Atatürk, the man who led the country to independence after the post-Ottoman land grab by European powers. He also firmly established the secular values of the new republic, whereby people practise whatever religion or superstition they like at home, but keep it out of the public arena, and certainly out of any state function. Sound principles, in my opinion.
You see pictures of Atatürk everywhere: in shops, hotels, restaurants, even in buses taxis. There are buildings, roads and public utilities named after him. This is something he has in common with the current great leader, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. This wannabe sultan's face is all over the place! And his name is appearing disturbingly frequently on the name plaques of new public constructions.
He is a very wealthy man, his fortune allegedly coming from kick-backs from builders. Planning laws are no problem when it comes to building what he convinces the people they need: more mosques and shopping centres.
Recent protests have shown that people are on to him, however. He wanted to demolish one of the few green spaces in Istanbul – Gezi Park, the small garden in Taksim Square – and build a shopping centre. As if the city needed another one!
Now that he's going to be elected president he will probably achieve his goal of building the "Recep Tayyip Erdoğan Shopping Mall" on the site of Gezi Park.
At least Atatürk had the decency to die before buildings were named after him.