Nation marks 100th year of parliament amid pandemic
Turkey marked National Sovereignty and Children’s Day on April 23, the centennial of the foundation of the Turkish Parliament, with official ceremonies held and attendees abiding by social distancing and curfew rules amid the novel coronavirus pandemic.
The country celebrates the establishment of parliament with National Sovereignty and Children’s Day on April 23 every year, as it was bestowed by Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, the founder of the Republic of Turkey, at the opening ceremony of parliament.
Although Sovereignty Day is being marked for the 100th 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.”
On its first year, Turkey hosted children from the USSR, Iraq, Italy, Romania and Bulgaria, and went on to host thousands of children from 150 different countries over 39 years.
“I congratulate the 100th anniversary of the foundation of the Turkish Parliament, and the Children’s Day of all children in Turkey and around the world,” President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said on Twitter.
In a video message, Erdoğan addressed children, saying, “In a world darkened by wars, conflicts and hunger, one thing that makes the world beautiful is the smile of a child. You are our future and our hope.
“You will be the artists, politicians, scientists, teachers of the future. You will build a fairer world. I congratulate your day once more, and commemorate Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, who gifted this day to our children.”
Even though this year’s nationwide celebrations in city squares and stadiums have been suspended to the virus outbreak, many statesmen, government officials and politicians still participated in traditional ceremonies.
The ceremonies kicked off as government officials, statesmen and politicians attended a ceremony held at Anıtkabir, the mausoleum of Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, the founder of the Turkish Republic.
After Parliament Speaker Mustafa Şentop left a wreath made of red and white carnations at Atatürk’s monument, participants observed a moment of silence and sang the national Independence Anthem.
The event was kept limited as a precaution against the novel coronavirus, with participants donning face masks.
Vice President Fuat Oktay, main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu, Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) chair Devlet Bahçeli and opposition İYİ (Good) Party head Meral Akşener also attended the ceremony.
Some ministers and lawmakers, along with the parliament’s deputy chair and administrative personnel were also present in Anıtkabir.
Education Minister Ziya Selçuk also attended the ceremony in Anıtkabir, walking along the Road of Lions and visited the Atatürk mausoleum.
The participants also attended a ceremony in the first parliament building, established in Ankara.
Lawmakers also gathered at the parliament at a special session where the party leaders addressed the General Assembly.
Kılıçdaroğlu, Bahçeli and Akşener attended the assembly in parliament.
The parliament’s special session kicked off with Şentop’s speech. Erdoğan did not attend the gatherings due to the COVID-19 outbreak.
“A hundred years ago Turkey was not even able to find tincture of iodine and instead used naphthalene for the wounds of its soldiers. Today, Turkey has been making medical assistance to the countries that are desperate in the face of a global pandemic,” Şentop said at the assembly.
“A hundred years ago, when it was completely exhausted, Turkey stood up with perseverance and determination, almost reborn from its ashes, and now it is more powerful, more enthusiastic and more alive,” he said.
Addressing parliament, main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu emphasized that Turkey should reshape its constitution, whose current state he called a “coup charter.”
Turkey has now been facing some difficulties and the majority of these problems derives from the putschists of the coup attempt in 2016, measures taken against them and the “coup constitution” it has caused.
A new constitution should rely on the separation of powers and be based on checks and balances, he said, stressing that a new parliamentarian system should be established.
“As the [ruling Justice and Development Party] AKP, we struggled to offer a better life to our society. Our main principle has always been to reduce our flaws and increase our merits,” the group chair, Naci Bostancı, said.