Turkey celebrates Atatürk, Youth and Sports Day

Turkey celebrates Atatürk, Youth and Sports Day

Turkey celebrates Atatürk, Youth and Sports Day Turkey celebrated Atatürk, Youth and Sports Day on May 19, with various events in the capital Ankara and around the country. 

The day marks the 98th anniversary of the beginning of the Turkish War of Independence after Turkey’s founder, Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, traveled from allied-occupied Istanbul to Samsun on the Black Sea coast on May 19, 1919, to launch Turkey’s War of Liberation against occupying powers.

In Ankara, thousands of visitors flocked to Anıtkabir, the memorial tomb of Atatürk, with many waving Turkish flags and holding pictures of the country’s founding father.

Among the attendees were Turkish Sports Minister Akif Çağatay Kılıç, who laid a wreath at the mausoleum to pay respect to the founder. 

“Beloved Atatürk, the voyage you started 98 years ago in Samsun reached its target with the foundation of the Republic in Ankara, with the faithful march under your leadership. Our sacred people filled the [streets] with the calls of our esteemed president and prime minister on July 15 [2016], and protected your relic at the cost of their lives. Our youth has once again proved that they can be the future’s guarantee by taking their place on the front lines of this resistance,” Kılıç wrote in Anıtkabir’s guestbook.

The minister also took photos with students who were waiting in front of the tomb. The public was only permitted into the tomb area after the official ceremony ended. 

Meanwhile, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and outgoing Prime Minister Binali Yıldırım hosted a delegation of youths to mark the day. The group was welcomed at Erdoğan’s presidential palace in Ankara.

“Dear youth, we want to see you more in every area of life, in the front ranks. This is a responsibility you have to your family and nation. During the 16 April referendum, the age of candidacy [for a parliamentary seat] was lowered [from 25] to 18. We have done the necessary due to our faith in you, and now it is your turn,” Yıldırım said. 

Later Erdoğan took the stage, telling the youth that they would be the ones to “revolutionize.” “By the means of these revolutions, you will show the world how powerful the Turkish nation is. Look, I am not talking about a coup; I am saying revolution, reform. Some are keen on a coup. … We, on the other hand, will be busy with reforms. Our revolution will be a ‘silent revolution,’ as they say in the West,” the president said.  

Separately, the Ankara provincial organization of the Republican People’s Party (CHP) gathered at Güven Park in central Kızılay district to march to Anıtkabir together with locals. CHP leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu was also present at the gathering. 

Kılıçdaroğlu previously marked the day with a social message posted on Twitter, saying: “Happy 98th anniversary of the beginning of our country’s War of Liberation. This honored date is the most precious inheritance given to our youth.”

In Istanbul, a ceremony was held in front of the Republic Monument in Taksim Square. The Istanbul provincial director of youth and sports, İlhami Koç, laid a wreath at the monument, after which attendees observed a minute’s silence and sang the Turkish national anthem to pay their respects to Atatürk and the nation. 

CHP lawmaker Sezgin Tanrıkulu, party representatives, teachers, students and Azerbaijani veterans, who were invited by the Turkish War Veterans Association as guests, were among the other attendees of the ceremony. 

“May 19 is the day when the national independence struggle started. It started in Istanbul and spread to all of Anatolia as an unprecedented struggle in the history,” Tanrıkulu said.

“May 19 is the only holiday in the world dedicated to the youth. And now, they want to detach this holiday from its meaning and ban it,” Tanrıkulu said, referring to the government’s recent decision to ban Istanbul’s Beşiktaş Municipality from holding May 19 celebrations for security reasons.

In Samsun, all the ceremonies, apart from the half marathon race, were postponed until May 20 due to adverse weather conditions. 

Accordingly, the ceremonies in front of the governor’s building and the Tütün pier, at which Atatürk landed in the city on May 19, 1919, as well as parachute shows, search and rescue show by the Turkish Coast Guard, and a parade by the Turkish Stars, the Turkish Air Force’s aerobatic demonstration team, were delayed for one day. 

Atatürk landed in Samsun at the start of a political and military resistance developed by Turkish people against the allied partitioning of the Ottoman Empire after its defeat in World War I. The war ended on Oct. 29, 1923, after which Atatürk dedicated May 19 to the country’s youth.