Messing with national holidays
ALTAN ÖYMENNational holidays are related to significant incidents in the history of the countries that celebrate them. Most are related to national independence or to a time when regime better than the previous one came to power.
For example, the national holiday of the United States is July 4, when, in the year 1776, Americans officially declared their independence from British rule.
France’s national holiday is July 14, the day regarded as the beginning of the 1789 revolution. Even though reveolution continued for years afterward, the French celebrate the day when the first steps were taken toward this major change.
Another day was added to the roll of French national holidays in the 20th century, celebrating another beginning. This commemorates “D-Day,” June 6, 1944, when the Normandy landings took place, and is celebrated as a holiday of liberation.
Let’s take a look at our own Turkish national holidays. The history behind them is that of a country invaded by enemies achieving independence, after a long period of war. They also celebrate the forming of the Republic, in place of the regime of the sultans. From this history, four national holidays have emerged.
One commemorates May 19, 1919. This is the day we regard as the start of the War of Independence, when we commemorate Atatürk and celebrate Youth and Sports Day. The second historic date is April 23, 1923, the opening day of the Turkish Parliament during the War of Independence, and now celebrated as National Sovereignty Day. This day is also celebrated as Childrens’ Day, and has become an international event, with children coming from all around the world.
Going chronologically, August 30, 1922 comes next. That was the day when the army of the Parliament was victorious against the invaders in the War of Independence. It is our “Victory Day.” And finally, October 29, 1923, the day the Republic of Turkey was formed. Who can deny the importance of any of these days?
I referred to Americans declaring their independence from British rule and the French liberation from the German invasion. When the Americans began their struggle against the British with the “Boston tea party” of 1773, they were in control of the natural resources in the colonies. It was not difficult for the American troops, under the command of George Washington, to win the cities under British control.
The beginning of the liberation of France in 1944, after the country was invaded in 1940, was not difficult for the French. The landings at Normandy were successful primarily thanks to American and British forces. The French liberation fighters were not alone.
Now look back and remember our War of Independence between 1920 and 1922. Who else was there, other than the sons of Turkey, serving in the army of the Grand National Assembly, under the command of General [Pasha] Mustafa Kemal? Did any troops come from another country? On the contrary, the support of the powerful nations of the time was behind the invading forces entering from İzmir and proceeding to Ankara.
And then came the removal of the sultanate, which was a de facto prisoner of the invading countries that were in control in Istanbul, and the declaration of the Republic. This was followed by revolutions in law, education, and women’s rights, and other initiatives on the road to modernization, and finally by a transformation to democracy. And even though there were unfortunate periods in between, even though it is facing serious problems at the moment, we have been living under a democratic system for 66 years.
Now, is there any reason to make a discussion point, out of the blue, of the celebration of our national holidays?
Altan Öymen is a columnist for daily Radikal, in which this piece was published on May 9. It was translated into English by the Daily News staff.