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Who is Mehmet Akif Ersoy?

mehmet_akif_ersoyMehmet Âkif Ersoy was born in Sarıgüzel quarter of Fatih District, Istanbul on December 20, 1873.

His mother was Emine Şerif Hanım, the daughter of a family moved from Bokhara to Anatolia; his father was Mehmet Tahir Efendi born in Kosovo, one of the moslem seminary masters of Fatih Mosque. His father gave him the name "Ragif" referring to his birth date in terms of abjad calculation. However, his friends and his mother called him with the name "Âkif" because of hard pronunciation of his original name, he adopted this name.

He started his preschool education in Emir Buhari Local School in Fatih. Two years later, he was transferred into primary school and began to learn Arabic from his father. He started his secondary education in Fatih Central Junior High School (1882). At the same time, he attended Persian lessons in Fatih Mosque. Mehmet Âkif always had the highest grades in languages such as Turkish, Arabic, Persian and French during his education in junior high school.

After completing the junior high school, he enrolled in the Civil Service in 1885. While he was attending the higher section of the school, his father passed away. The following year, fire in their house in Fatih drove the family into poverty. A student of his father, Mustafa Sıtkı built a small house on the same field for the family.

Mehmet Âkif dropped out of Civil Service in order to have a profession and to study in a boarding school. He enrolled for Agriculture and Veterinary School, newly established and first civil veterinary college during those years.  He was interested in sports during school period; he joined primarily wrestling and swimming, also hiking, running and shot put races; his interest in poetry increased in the last two years of his school period. He graduated from the department of veterinary surgeon ranking first in the class in 1893. Afterwards, he served as a Turkish Teacher in this school. In Official Gazette, Servet-i Fünun Journal, his poems and writings would be published.

In the same building where Mehmet Âkif was both a student and a teacher, today there is Istanbul Sabahattin Zaim University serving for students. Mehmet Âkif and his friends' dining hall is today used as Istanbul Sabahattin Zaim University Mehmet Âkif Ersoy Foyer Hall, and inner entrance surfaces and the area over the door are completely decorated with verses of the Turkish National Anthem and a big portrait of Âkif. In the same campus, Mehmet Âkif Ersoy Agricultural Museum is located and at every turn the young students remember our great poet.

Effected by the Second Constitutionalist Period, he became the editorial writer of Sırat-ı Müstakim Journal firstly published on August 27, 1908 which was prepared by his friends Eşref Edip and Ebül’ula Mardin’in. He conducted several duties during the periods of Balkan War, Çanakkale Battles and the War of Independence, went to Balıkesir on February 06, 1920 and made a seething speech in Zağnos Paşa Mosque. As a result of unexpected interest from the public, he made several additional discourse, speeches and returned to Istanbul.

In 1921, he settled in Taceddin dervish convent in Ankara; he did not entered to contest for writing Turkish National Anthem with a prize of 500 Liras early at the beginning. He was persuaded by his friend Hasan Basri Bey for entering the contest following the request of Education Minister Hamdullah Suphi Bey. The Turkish National Anthem which he dedicated to the army was published on Sırat-ı Müstakim ve Hâkimiyet-i Milliye on 17th of February. Read by Hamdullah Suphi Bey in the Assembly, the anthem was accepted as the National Anthem at 5:45 PM on Saturday, March 12, 1921. Âkif donated the prize of 500 Liras to a charity organization.

Lived in Egypt for a long period after the War of Independence and victory, our Nation Poet Mehmet Âkif Ersoy returned to Istanbul for treatment on June 17, 1936. He passed away in Mısır Apartment on December 27, 1936, in Istanbul, now he is resting in Edirnekapı Martyrdom. Two of his foremost works of art are the National Anthem and Safahat in which he collected his poems in seven books.