April 23, actually our most precious holiday
Americans celebrate July 4, the French celebrate July 14. The first is the American colonies’ declaration of their independence from the British Empire; July 14, 1789, is the day of the French Revolution.
We have four main national holidays, not one.
We celebrate May 19, the day Atatürk stepped on the Black Sea town Samsun at the start of the War of Independence. We celebrate April 23 because it is the inauguration of the parliament in Ankara, granting a national identity to the War of Independence; August 30 is celebrated as the anniversary of the final victory of the war and finally, October 29 is celebrated because it is the day our republic was officially declared.
These four dates that we celebrate are the anniversaries of exceptionally important, decisive days; however, it is as if there is hierarchy in our national holidays. It feels as though October 29 is our biggest holiday and the others are somehow “secondary.”
I don’t mean to underestimate the founding of the republic or the final victory or Atatürk’s Samsun journey; all of them are extremely important days for our current existence but I think if we were to celebrate one out of the four, it should be April 23.
This is because April 23 is the day that the will that won the War of Independence and later formed the republic was institutionalized and taken a parliament identity. If we did not have the national assembly, the war could not have been launched nor would we have a republic.
Since the day he set foot in Samsun, Atatürk considered the nation itself, the nation’s will, as the source of legitimacy in the national liberation fight. Exactly for this reason, he convened the Erzurum and Sivas congresses; the liberation movement in Anatolia was to be united and infrastructural preparations to be started for a parliament to open in Ankara that represented the nation.
If we had an “Anatolian revolution,” it happened on April 23, 1920. The day the National Assembly was opened is the day when the sovereignty that belonged to the sultan was transferred to the people, the will of the nation. I think it is the day today’s modern Turkey was founded, that day of April 23, 1920.
Nobody was surprised when the republic was declared three and a half years later on Oct. 29, 1923, because Turkey had been a de facto republic since April 23, 1920, based on the people’s sovereignty, a republic fighting for its independence to make the world and the Istanbul government accept it.
As I said, there is no need to have a hierarchy among our holidays, but if there was, I would think April 23 would be the most important.
I think the current debate should be how April 23, in time, became the lesser national holiday whereas we have made October 29 the biggest one.
Come to think of it, even the parliament, the walls of which are encrypted with one of the best Atatürk quotes (“Sovereignty unconditionally belongs to the Nation”), did not quite protect its own heritage. It did not stand up adequately for its own importance, its own pioneering mission and somehow has tacitly accepted to stay in the background.
Those who are scrutinizing the roots of our democracy problems that we have still not overcome today should actually look into the fact that only a few people find it strange that April 23 celebrations are cancelled on grounds that “We have funerals; we cannot have any entertainment.” Also the fact that April 23 celebrations are regarded as entertainment…
As a matter of fact, the answers we are looking for are all there.