Turkey will mark the 100th anniversary of the foundation of its parliament through day-long events across the country, following social distancing rules due to the coronavirus, in an important milestone as the nation is poised to celebrate the centennial of the foundation of the Republic of Turkey in 2023.
The celebrations will also focus on children as April 23 is celebrated as the National Sovereignty and Children’s Day.
“Up until today, we, as a nation, celebrated the parliament’s foundation with great enthusiasm and excitement. Nevertheless, this year, our hearts are broken. We are sad that we cannot [celebrate April 23] in [city] squares, in scope of measures taken against the COVID-19 pandemic,” Parliament Speaker Mustafa Şentop said in a written statement on April 22.
“This year, we will celebrate the National Sovereignty and Children’s Day in our homes. Hopefully, as of next year, we will continue our celebrations with more enthusiasm and excitement. We will strongly express the will and belief of the Turkish nation to live freely and independently till forever,” Şentop said.
Official ceremonies will be held in the current parliament, the first parliament building, and Anıtkabir, the mausoleum of Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, the founder of the Turkish Republic. Lawmakers will gather at the Parliament at a special session where the party leaders are expected to address the General Assembly.
Ahead of the special session of parliament, Şentop, top government officials and politicians will attend a ceremony held at Anıtkabir. The special session will begin with Şentop’s inaugural speech.
President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan will not attend the gatherings due to the COVID-19 outbreak. But in line with a call by the parliament speaker, he will sing the national anthem from the balcony of his residence in Istanbul at 9:00 p.m. local time.
Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) leader Devlet Bahçeli and main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu will also attend at the assembly. İYİ (Good) Party leader Meral Akşener will follow the special session as she is not a lawmaker, while the co-leader of the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), Mithat Sancar, will also be present in parliament.
Atatürk’s dream for democracy
Kılıçdaroğlu, in a written statement on April 22, recalled that the opening of parliament one hundred years ago was a reflection of Atatürk’s devotion to democracy.
“Mustafa Kemal says, ‘I am one of those who expect every miracle from the Parliament.’ And the power behind this miracle lies in the principle ‘Sovereignty rests unconditionally with the nation’,” recalled the CHP leader.
The main job of parliament is to help Turkey to move forward by boosting democracy, secularism, social state and rule of law, he stressed, underlining that parliament will still be the symbol of the Republic of Turkey in 2023 despite attempts to make it less efficient.
Children to celebrate day at home
The April 23 celebrations focus on children after Atatürk, the first speaker of parliament, dedicated the day to children, seeing them as the nation’s future. Education Minister Ziya Selçuk told the private broadcaster NTV that a special celebration will be aired through the television channels dedicated to the distance learning due to curfew.
The Grand National Assembly or parliament met for the first time in 1920 in Ankara, the city that would later become the capital city of the republic, during the War of Independence to lay the foundations for an independent, secular and modern republic.
Although Sovereignty Day is being marked for the 98th time this year, it was 1979 when the day started to be called “International Children’s Year” and the state-run Turkish Radio and Television Institution (TRT) started a festival called “TRT International April 23 Children’s Festival.”
In its first year, Turkey hosted children from the Soviet Union, Iraq, Italy, Romania and Bulgaria, and went on to host thousands of children from 150 different countries over 39 years.
Hurriyet Daily News