The wrong guys did something good again!
Saturday was May 19, the 93rd anniversary of the beginning of Turkey’s War of Liberation by the country’s visionary founder, Mustafa Kemal Atatürk.
Officially, the aim of Atatürk’s trip to Samsun on board the aged “Bandırma” freighter was not to organize a national movement for the liberation of the homeland from occupying forces and to build a new republic on the territory that remained from the shrinking “ill man of Europe,” the Ottoman Empire. Indeed, that was what the founder of modern Turkey launched the moment he arrived in Samsun. Therefore, May 19 is the anniversary of the beginning of the transformation of the resistance of scattered groups of patriotic people against the occupation forces into a full-fledged national mobilization and struggle, the motto of which was “Independence or death.”
“Independence is my character,” said Atatürk in describing himself and the Turkish nation. May 19, therefore, was the anniversary of the demonstration by the Turkish nation of its determination not to accept occupation or domination even at a time when its armies were dissolved, weapons were confiscated, the forces of all major world powers were united in aggression against it and the government of the country, including the sultan, was collaborating with the occupying enemy forces.
Unlike the past 92 years, this year there were no parades or military-dominated or militaristic ceremonies to mark the anniversary of May 19.
Was I shocked? Yes, indeed… “The wrong guys did something good again” was my initial reaction. Why were we using militaristic flavor to mark the most important anniversary or the anniversary of the “mother event” that led us to the birth of a set of consecutive developments which, altogether, enabled Turks to declare the modern Turkish Republic four years later?
The worshipful master of the country, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, for a change, was indeed right. “This is how bayram ought to be… The others [previous May 19 celebrations] were practices reminiscent of Iron Curtain countries…” Well, even a broken watch shows the correct time twice a day.
Years ago, just after the restoration of “democratic governance” in 1983, I happened to be in the Black Sea town of Bafra where I witnessed for the first time in my life a totally civilian celebration of May 19 in the evening hours after a full day of militarism, the then-routine parades, orations, wreath-layings and such… All political parties – then there were almost no NGOs in the country – and labor and business organizations in the small town lent support to the mayor in a non-partisan understanding in organizing a night of civilian celebrations of May 19. It was just great.
Since then I have been supportive of the “civilianization” of the ceremonies marking the anniversaries of important dates of the glorious National War of Liberation of the people of Anatolia. Yes, these “wrong guys” might have implemented this “civilianization” with some other motives. I could care less; it was a step in the right direction. The nation has started marking May 19…