Centennial of Turkish Parliament
Many foreigners might miss the fact that the Turkish Parliament is far older than the Turkish republic and indeed it was the first-ever national legislative that not only created a new state from the ashes of a dying empire, but also served as the headquarters and commanding power of a national liberation movement.
Today Turkey is celebrating the centennial of the establishment of the Turkish Grand National Assembly in Ankara. One hundred years ago, many parts of the country were under occupation, and greedy enemies were progressing to share amongst themselves the Ottoman lands like hordes of hyaenas.
Under such conditions why Mustafa Kemal and his comrades in arms gathered parliament and why they placed above themselves the will of the nation might be rather easy to understand these days. But don’t forget the date was 1920, a time when totalitarianism was preparing to take most parts of the West in his grip. Why Mustafa Kemal risked opposition from loyalists of the Ottoman sultan – who by the way was preparing to free the country onboard a British military vessel – the caliphate supporters, political opponents and established a parliament while he could have continued with a junta.
As painful as it might be to accept, it is a fact that there are many Mustafa Kemal Atatürk perceptions in this country. To what extend these perceptions correspond the real Atatürk? Who cares, everyone at every period developed his/her own Atatürk perception and this tradition is continuing on even though these perceptions might contradict or even clash with each other.
No one can ignore that irrespective how benevolent we might want to embrace today the Atatürk era, it is a fact that it was founding period of a new state, unity was required and dissent could not be tolerated. Yet, a parliament was created not only to legislate, but also to supervise the government, military and bureaucracy while at the same time to lead the war of liberation.
Today, Turkey is marking the 100th anniversary of a new parliament convening in Ankara to represent the national will opposed to a parliament and government in Istanbul under occupation and collaborating with the enemy.
The foremost target of the new parliament was to organize the country and achieve liberation of the homeland within “national borders” already declared by the Ottoman parliament. The second immediate goal was to create a new independent and fully sovereign state.
The war of liberation was led by that revolutionary parliament. Rebuilding the war-devastated economy of the dying Ottoman empire, the management of the huge foreign and domestic debts inherited from the empire period, reorganizing the Turkish state and bureaucracy were all undertaken by that parliament in full commitment to the ideal of a free and independent Turkey as at the same time it was leading the independence war.
Those were the times of the progressive, revolutionary, determined sons and daughters of the country. “Sovereignty rests unconditionally with the nation” is inscribed behind the rostrum of the parliament. That was the key phrase summing up the difference between the old and the new, between the absolute rule and the new enshrined on the will of the nation.
It was in that parliament where the foundations of the modern Turkish republic were laid.
The founding day of parliament, April 23, was dedicated by the founding father, Atatürk, to Turkish children. Later it was changed to become “National Sovereignty and Children’s Day.”
In this centennial of the foundation of the Turkish Parliament we have to salute in all respect and gratitude the memory of Atatürk and all those who opened that day parliament and paved the way towards a new and independent Turkish state with a goal to become a democratic state.
Long live the Turkish Parliament. Long live the hope for democracy.