Flag of Turkey

Flags are important and valued in every country, but in Turkey, the flag is relatively having greater importance. This value and importance assigned to the flag are due to how this flag was designed, and what it has experienced and witnessed in history. It is a figure used on special occasions and holidays, celebratory events, and protests.

The Turkish flag is characterized by its blood-red color, crescent, and star figure. The story behind this design is heartbreaking yet so powerful. There are different flags of different countries that are similar to the flag of Turkey, but the flag of Turkey discriminates itself with its stories and meanings. The flag has assigned both religious and national meanings to it in history. Yet since Turkey is a secular country, the national meanings are far ahead of the religious meanings.

What does the flag of Turkey look like?

The Turkish flag is consisting of a white crescent moon and a pentacle star figure on a red-colored base. It has a rectangular shape, and the crescent moon and star are placed in the middle of this rectangle.

Design of the flag of Turkey

There are different stories about how the flag of Turkey was designed, and it is not exactly known how it was designed, but the most popular one is about the Battle of Kosovo. It has been said that the floor was full of the Turkish army’s blood, and you cannot see the floor because of the blood. And in the nighttime, the crescent moon and a star figure had reflected the blood on the floor, then this symbol inspired the flag of Turkey.

Other theories about the design of the flag of Turkey is about Islam. The crescent moon and star have always been a symbol of Islam like the cross is a symbol of Christians. It was used in history by Turkish and Islamic states.

What does the flag of Turkey symbolize?

The flag of Turkey symbolizes freedom, democracy, the memory of the martyrs, and all the occurrences that happened until Turkey become a republic. As in all countries, the flag of Turkey symbolizes the independence of Turkey first of all.

What does the crescent moon and star symbolize in the flag of Turkey?

There are various stories and theories about what does the crescent moon and star symbolize in the flag of Turkey. The most popular story about the crescent moon and star in the event that happened in the battle of Kosovo. Yet, the sky at that exact date (June 28, 1389) has been investigated by astronomers and it has been determined that indeed, the moon was in the shape of a crescent that day but what was next to it was not a star, it was Jupiter.

Modern Flag of Turkey

The closest version of the Turkish Flag to its current use was in the 18th century, Sultan of the Ottoman Empire Selim III. Under this circumstance, the story of what happened during the Kosovo War cannot go beyond a rumor. Because there is no explanation for the intervening 400 years.

Since many of the Muslim countries have this crescent moon and star figure on their flags, there are theories about Islam about the flag of Turkey. Some say that the crescent moon represents Islam and the Muslim world, the star represents the Turkishness, and the red color represents the blood that mixed with soil. According to another theory, the star and crescent moon represents the Turkishness that came from Middle Asia, and the red represents the homeland. Crescent moon means to be renewed, and the star represents Turkishness, to another theory.

Some say that the crescent moon represents God, and the star represents Prophet Mohammad. Some say that the star represents democracy, independence, and equality, whereas the crescent moon represents Islam. And according to some, it is just a changed version of the Ottoman flag.

A motif resembling the moon and star used today and was representing the conjunction of the day and the moon in the sky was seen on the “head flag” of the Proto-Turkic Chou (1028-281 BC) in the BC 1000.

The star and crescent moon figure on a flag is first seen in the Turkish flag, and many other Muslim countries adopted those symbols and used the crescent moon and star figure on their flags.

If looked in the history, it can be observed that the first version of the today’s Turkish flag, which was used by Selim III in the 18th century, had an 8-pointed star. This 8-pointed star was aimed to illustrate the victories of the Ottoman Empire in history. Also, in the Ottoman empire, that 8-pointed star was officially accepted in the year 1793.

8-pointed star Turkish Flag

In 1839, many reforms were implemented in the Ottoman Empire during the Tanzimat Period. One of them was that in 1842, Sultan Abdülmecid decided that the 8-pointed star would turn into a 5-pointed star from now then. Thus, the shape of the Ottoman flag was precisely recognized as a 5-pointed star. Thus, it can be inferred that the flag with a 5-pointed star, which is still used as the Turkish flag today, first started to be used during the period of Abdülmecid. The 5-pointed star was thought to represent the people at that time.

Why is the flag of Turkey red?

As mentioned before, the red color of the flag of Turkey represents the blood of the martyrs in the war. An important point is that, in Turkey, there is a synonym for the word red, and instead of the commonly used word for red, the synonym of it is preferred while mentioning the color of the Turkish flag. The synonym word for red is commonly used in Turkish history, and it represents more than just a color (the Turkish word for red is “kırmızı”, the synonym mentioned here is “al”). The color “al” had always been representing the change and the transformation. This meaning assigned to the color al is associated with the light and heat given by the creator (God). It has been said that the al color of the Turkish flag is due to this belief as well as the blood of the martyrs.

Turkish flag law

On May 29, 1936, the Turkish flag began to be protected by law in terms of its shape and use. As mentioned before, all countries value and respect their flags but the flag of Turkey is protected by law due to its value. The shape, length, and width of the flag are described in this law in addition to how it will be used on special occasions. Besides, in the law, it is stated that the flag of Turkey cannot be put into a public place if it has any damage such as tears, dirt, or excess wrinkles. It is a necessity to put the flag of Turkey in every public institution and organization. This rule is specified in the law by “the flag cannot be torn, burned, thrown to the ground, or used without proper care”.

The flag of Turkey on special occasions

In Turkey, the flag is used on various occasions in specific ways. For example, on national holidays such as republic day, or April 23 national sovereignty and children’s day, you can observe the flag of Turkey in most of the balconies. Besides individuals’ houses, classrooms and schools are also decorated with the flag of Turkey. These are not an obligation; it is because of people’s enthusiasm about those national holidays. At some weddings, you can also observe the flag of Turkey.

Children with Turkish Flag on April 23 National Sovereignty and Children's Day
Children with Turkish Flag on April 23 National Sovereignty and Children’s Day

If a soldier becomes a martyr, their coffin would be covered with the flag of Turkey. Additionally, there is a specific ritual about the flag of Turkey on November 10, which is the death anniversary of the founder of the Turkey Republic, Mustafa Kemal Atatürk. On any other occasion, the flag of Turkey needs to be on the top of the flagpole, but on this day, it must only be in the half of the flagpole as a sign of respect and grief.

Turkish Flag at Tomb of Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, Anıtkabir

The national anthem of Turkey, and other poems about the flag of Turkey

In the national anthem of Turkey, which is named the “Independence March”, there are various references to the flag of Turkey. It is referred to as the “crescent” in the Independence March. The flag of Turkey having a place on the Independence March further highlights its symbol of independence and its value. The writer of the Independence March, Mehmet Akif Ersoy’s words about the flags “What makes flags a flag is the blood on it. A homeland is a homeland only if there are those who die for it.”

There are numerous poems that mention the flag of Turkey or even solely dedicated to the flag of Turkey. One of the most popular poems written about the flag of Turkey is the famous Turkish poet Arif Nihat Asya’s poem. He described the flag of Turkey as “the white and red ornament of blue skies”, “the last cover of the martyr”, “my sister’s wedding dress”

Country flags that are similar to the flag of Turkey

As I mentioned earlier, Turkey is not the only country that uses the figures of crescent and stars in their flags. There are different countries in which figures of crescent and stars are used. The following are some of the country flags that are similar to the flag of Turkey.

The flag of Azerbaijan 

In the flag of Azerbaijan, there is also a crescent and a star shape just like the flag of Turkey, but the star is 8-pointed instead of 5-pointed and the background has 3 colors including blue, red, and green. It has been said that the sky-blue color represents Turkishness, the green color represents Islam, and the color red represents civilization.

Flag of Azerbaijan

The flag of the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus

The flag of the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus has the same crescent and 5-pointed star figure. In addition, it has two lines, one of them being at the top of the flag and the other one being on the downside. Those lines are horizontal, and they represent Firat River and Nile River. Different from the flag of Turkey, the flag of the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus’ background is white, and crescent, 5-pointed star and the lines are red.

Flag of Northern Cyprus

The flag of Turkmenistan

In the first look, the flag of Turkmenistan may not seem similar to the flag of Turkey, but they both have similar components. Like the flag of Turkey, it has a crescent. Different from the flag of Turkey it has 5 stars instead of one. The background of the flag of Turkmenistan is green, and on the left-hand side, there is a line with Turkmenistan carpet patterns.

Flag of Turkmenistan

Other flags that have crescent and star

Flag of Tunisia
Flag of Pakistan
Flag of Malaysia
Flag of Uzbekistan

İsmail Çamönü

Hi! I am Ismail. I am a digital nomad from Turkey. I lived in many cities around Turkey during my life and I am passionate about traveling. At Nomad's Guide to Turkey, I share travel tips for nomads, expats, and tourists who would like to visit Turkey.

You may also like...