Sığırtmaç Mustafa meets Atatürk. (16.09.1929)

Photo source: Atatürk Gazi Mustafa Kemal, Photo by Cemal Işıksel, Turkish Historical Society Press, Ankara 1969. Page:51
Photographer: Cemal Işıksel
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The story of Sığırtmaç Mustafa from Yalova, who was protected and raised by Atatürk in 1929.

Sığırtmaç Mustafa

Sığırtmaç from Yalova, who was protected and taught by Atatürk in 1929, told a journalist about his encounter with Mustafa Kemal Atatürk:

"I was only eight years old at that time. It was one day in the summer of 1929 (September 16)... I was coming to the farm, grazing the cattle. Then about twenty horsemen appeared in the distance. The first horseman was coming towards me. He was asking where he was going. I gestured with my hand:

- "You've come the wrong way... The way to the farm is over there!"

This horseman asked me to know my name:

- "Mustafa!" He smiled when he replied:

- "My name is Mustafa too... So we are namesake!"

Then all of a sudden:

- "Do you know Gazi?" asked.

- "I don't know!" I said.

- "Do you like him?"

- "I like!"

- "Why do you like it?"

- "I like it because he is Pasha!" He started laughing again.

I was a skinny, frail, sick child. "This man seems to be having fun with me..." I said. But He did not stop at his interrogations; a range asked:

- "What do you do?"

- "Here I herd those cattle you see!"

- "What do you gain?"

- "Three lira a month..."

- "Well, tell me, how much is three lira a month, how much a year?.." With the help of him and his friends, I answered by calculating what three liras a month means in a year:

- "It's thirty-six lira!"

- "What would you do if I gave you these thirty-six liras?"

- "Never!...I wouldn't..."

- "Why do not you take?"

- "Thirty-six lira is a lot of money..." Then I added with some thought:

- They ask, "Why did you take it?" The passenger, whom I do not know, smiles again:

- "Well done son, he said, it should be like this..." "But, I'm giving you this money for guiding! No one will say anything!"

I still thought I was being mocked. I agreed to accept thirty-six liras on one condition. There was half an okka of walnuts that I brought to eat on the way:

- "If you buy these walnuts, I'll take your money!" I said. He gave me a handful of money, I gave him a handful of walnuts. So we're even. As he was leaving, he asked my name again:

"I said Mustafa."

- "Mine is Mustafa too, but," he said, "He has Kemal with him. What happens if Mustafa and Kemal get together?"

My little head was suddenly confused. For the first time to myself:

- "Behold, I said, this horseman is not Mustafa Kemal Pasha?..." Then, remembering the respectful gestures shown by those around him; I made my decision:

- "He is!...He is!...Gazi Pasha!" But I didn't let him know that I knew him. On the way he asked:

- "Would you recognize me if you saw me somewhere else?..." I nodded.

- "Don't I know... You are Gazi Mustafa Kemal Pasha!" They galloped off their animals.

So I took my cattle and returned to the farm. The next day (September 16) they called me to the hot springs. When I walked in the door, I was not at all surprised. I immediately went and kissed his hand:

- "Mustafa... he said, I'll make you the steward of my farm! Do you want to?.."

I asked:

- "What do you mean butler?"

- "He is the greatest of the shepherds!" I did not answer. He asked again:

- "Is it enough if I pay four liras a month for the steward's job?"

- "You know!" I said. He smiled.

- "No, Mustafa... I will not make you a steward, I will send you to school. You will learn to read and write there!"

I am pleased:

- "Send it to school!... This is better ..." I said. Twenty-four hours later, I found myself in the Himaye-i Etfal (Children's) Hospital in Şişli. They looked after me very well there. In four months I've changed beyond recognition. The yellowness of my face disappeared, my appetite came back.

One night, I will never forget, he came to the hospital (21/22 September). He went straight into the room where I was sleeping. I was surprised to see him. I wanted to stand up. Atatürk blocked it with his hand:

- "You stop getting up and think about how you're going to get out of here!" she smiled. Later:

- "Hey, he said, we made a bargain with you, you agreed to a monthly salary of four liras! Now give me the hospital money.." I was small, I was a herdsman. But, I realized he was joking:

- "You are a huge Gazi Pasha. Of course, you can pay for the hospital!" I said.

After leaving the hospital, Atatürk called me again and enrolled me in the 19th Primary School in Beşiktaş. After attending school in Beşiktaş for about a year, Atatürk enrolled me in Fevziye High School in Maçka. When I was in the ninth grade of high school, I passed the exam and went to Kuleli Military High School." 1

In front of the Dolmabahçe Palace with Mustafa the cattleman, whom he knew and took under his protection in Yalova, and his teacher.  (September 19, 1930)

In front of the Dolmabahçe Palace with Mustafa the cattleman, whom he knew and took under his protection in Yalova, and his teacher. (September 19, 1930)

Journalists, writers and poets of the period expressed sensitivity and expressed his adventure.

Sığırtmaç Mustafa was the subject of stories and poems as well as newspapers.

Mehmet Selahattin's poem is one of them:


Mustafa Kemal's hand

Sigirtmac Mustafa, Sigirtmac Mustafa

What the farmer forgot on the mountain

Sigirtmac Mustafa, Sigirtmac Mustafa


It was the cattle and cows you herded in the fields

What you ate was a piece of blackened bread

Saving the solid, was that a little effort?

Sigirtmac Mustafa, Sigirtmac Mustafa


The one who puts Gazi on his way

Talin is the tali of the nation, O shepherd

Look, there's blood in the gasoline, cure your knee

Sigirtmac Mustafa, Sigirtmac Mustafa


Your little mind, who is this? you tired

Then you realized that your home is the greatest

You sat on your knees with your veteran namesake

Sigirtmac Mustafa, Sigirtmac Mustafa


You too will be a civilized person

You will be called and asked during

You will be kneaded with the dough of knowledge

Sigirtmac Mustafa, Sigirtmac Mustafa


The trace of the nation erased from history

Gazi, who is the head of our scattered herd

He gathered us from the mountain like you

Never forget this, Sığırtmaç Mustafa

Mehmet Selahattin

In front of the Dolmabahçe Palace with Mustafa the cattleman, whom he knew and took under his protection in Yalova, and his teacher. (September 19, 1930)

Note: Sığırtmaç Mustafa (Demir) became an officer in 1941, retired in November 1960 for health reasons and settled in Yalova. He died on January 15, 1987 while he was in retirement in Yalova.

Source: 1-"On Yedi Milyondan Biri - Atatürk'ün Öksüz Bıraktığı Çocuk Neler Anlatıyor?" Selahattin Güngör, Cumhuriyet Gazetesi, Sayı: 5213, 15 Kasım 1938, Sayfa:3

2- A.A.M. Atatürk’te Çocuk Sevgisi. Cemil Sönmez. 2004 Yılı. ISBN: 975 -16-1746-4. Sayfa:91-102

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Sığırtmaç Mustafa meets Atatürk. (16.09.1929)