Soldiers who stand guard at the Anıtkabir, the mausoleum of Turkey's founding leader Mustafa Kemal Atatürk in Ankara, undergo a meticulous selection and training process to perform their tough ceremonial role before dignitaries and millions of visitors.
The vast complex in the heart of the Turkish capital is administered by the Turkish General Staff’s Anıtkabir Command, which includes the Guard and Ceremony Company.
There are many requirements for these guards, who are specially selected from among the volunteers of the training units of Turkey’s land, air and naval forces, including being at least 1.8 meters (5.9 feet) tall and not having tattoos or scars on the visible parts of their bodies.
The guards who pass the first examination undergo rigorous training such as endurance testing and walking long distances. “During the selection phase, we pay attention that our soldiers have proper diction and do not have any physical or psychological problems,” Air Force Infantry 1st Lt. Murat Yıldız explained.
“Besides the physical examinations, we meticulously choose the privates who can internalize the moral value of the duties and ceremonies,” he added. The guards stand motionless during their one-hour watch in seven different areas of the mausoleum. If ceremonies are to be held in Anıtkabir, the number of guards is increased according to the requirements of the ceremony.
One of the soldiers on the guard duty in Anıtkabir said, "You know, there are some moments that you cannot put into words, serving in Anıtkabir is one of them. It is a different source of pride to serve before our founding father.”
People who visit the mausoleum take photos with the motionless guards while watching them in admiration. The change of guards also arouses great interest among local and foreign visitors.
Anıtkabir is visited by millions of visitors every year. Thousands of people wishing to pay their respects to Turkey’s founding leader visit the mausoleum on his death anniversary on Nov. 10. Last year alone, more than 2 million people visited the complex, whereas pre-pandemic annual visitor numbers were well over 5 million to 6 million.
The complex also houses ceremonies for official holidays and other important occasions, as well as visits from foreign dignitaries who are in Ankara for official visits.