Istiklal March – Turkey’s National Anthem

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Have you heard the Turkish National Anthem yet?

On the 12th of March, 2021, Turkey’s national anthem the Istiklal March – the Independence March – turned one hundred years old. The Istiklal Marşı is performed frequently in Turkey, at state and military events, on assorted national holidays and in all Turkish schools. If you’ve spent any time here at all you’ll have no doubt heard the rousing words and stirring music. However you might be less familiar with the way the Istiklal March came about. In 1921 the Turkish Grand National Assembly held a competition to find a motivational song to encourage troops fighting in the Turkish War of Independence. The Independence March, written by poet Mehmet Akif Ersoy, was voted the unanimous winner out of a total of 724 poems, both as a war song and as a national anthem even though the republic wasn’t declared for another two and a half years. A subsequent competition was held to choose the music for a national anthem. The winning piece was composed by Ali Rifat Çağatay and on 29 October 1923 the Istiklal March was officially adopted as the national anthem of the newly formed Turkish Republic. The anthem was sung to Ağatay’s tune for six years before being replaced in 1930 by an arrangement written by Osman Zeki Üngör, a composer and the first conductor of the Presidential Symphony Orchestra. In 1932 composer, conductor and musicologist Edgar Manas was commissioned to harmonize and orchestrate Üngör’s melody, and this is the version of the Istiklal March played today.

Ersoy dedicated the anthem to the Kahraman Ordumuza – To Our Heroic Army – in reference to the soldiers who fought during the Turkish War of Independence. He used imagery of the Turkish flag, the human spirit and the soil of the homeland to explore themes such as affection for the Turkish homeland, independence, war, freedom and faith and to praise hope, devotion and sacrifice in the pursuit of liberty. More detail about the choice of words, imagery and symbolism Ersoy used in penning this great work can be found here.

The Istiklal March is 41 lines long and has ten stanzas although usually only the first two are sung. Between 1983 and 1989 these eight lines were displayed on the reverse of the 100 Turkish lira bank notes and scrolls containing the words adorn public offices throughout the country. Click here to download the score or to listen to it being sung and played by the Presidential Symphony Orchestra.

Here are the words to the national anthem in Turkish if you’re inclined to sing along next time you hear it performed.

Turkish version of the Istiklal Marşı

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 hilal!
Kahraman ırkıma bir gül; ne bu şiddet, bu celal?
Sana olmaz dökülen kanlarımız sonra helal…
Hakkıdır, Hakk’a tapan milletimin istiklal.

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 afakını 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 hayâsızca akın.
Doğacaktır sana vadettiği 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 feda?
Şüheda fışkıracak, toprağı sıksan şüheda.
Canı, cananı, bütün varımı alsın da Hüda,
Etmesin tek vatanımdan beni dünyada cüda.

Ruhumun senden İlahî, şudur ancak emeli:
Değmesin mabedimin göğsüne namahrem eli.
Bu ezanlar, ki şehadetleri dinin temeli,
Ebedî, yurdumun üstünde benim inlemeli.

O zaman vecdile bin secde eder, varsa taşım,
Her cerihamdan, İlahî, boşanıp kanlı yaşım,
Fışkırır ruhumücerret gibi yerden naaşım,
O zaman yükselerek arşa değer belki başım.

Dalgalan sen de şafaklar gibi ey şanlı hilal!
Olsun artık dökülen kanlarımın hepsi helal.
Ebediyen sana yok, ırkıma yok izmihlal.
Hakkıdır, hür yaşamış bayrağımın hürriyet;
Hakkıdır, Hakk’a tapan milletimin istiklal.

English words of the Istiklal March

Fear not; for 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! Why the anger, why the rage?
Our blood which we shed for you shall not be worthy otherwise;
For freedom is the absolute right of my God-worshipping 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; trampling my banks and overcoming my body,
I’ll tear apart mountains, exceed the expanses and still gush out!
The horizons of the West may be bound with walls of steel,
But my borders are guarded by the mighty bosom of a believer.
Let it bellow out, do not be afraid! And think: how can this fiery faith ever be extinguished,
By that battered, single-fanged monster you call “civilization”?
My friend! Leave not my homeland to the hands of villainous men!
Render your chest as armour and your body as 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 shroudless thousands who lie so nobly beneath you.
You’re the glorious son of a martyr – take shame, grieve not your ancestors!
Unhand not, even when you’re promised worlds, this heavenly homeland.
Who would not sacrifice their life for this paradise of a country?
Martyrs would burst forth should one simply squeeze the soil! Martyrs!
May God take my life, my loved ones, and all 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 and their testimonies are the foundations of my religion,
And may their noble sound prevail thunderously across my eternal homeland.
For only then, shall my fatigued tombstone, if there is one, prostrate a thousand times in ecstasy,
And tears of blood shall, oh Lord, spill out from my every wound,
And my lifeless body shall burst forth 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 kin 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!


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  1. Thank you for posting this, Lisa. After I read it, I went to Spotify and listened to the march – very inspirational! First I heard this kind of music was in 1996 when I visited the Military Museum in Istanbul where they hold daily performances of an army orchestra.

    1. I’m glad you enjoyed it. It is very stirring isn’t it, although the story behind it and the loss of life is rather sad I think.

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