Turkey marks Commemoration of Atatürk, Youth and Sports Day

Turkey marks Commemoration of Atatürk, Youth and Sports Day

Turkey marks Commemoration of Atatürk, Youth and Sports Day

DHA photo

Turkey today marks the Commemoration of Atatürk, Youth and Sports Day, a national holiday, with low-key ceremonies amid security warnings about imminent attacks by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) targeting the celebrations. 

The day, which symbolizes the start of Turkey’s War of Independence when the founder of the modern Turkish Republic, Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, set foot in the Black Sea province of Samsun to initiate the struggle on May 19, 1919, is celebrated across the country with events organized for the youth. 

A group of youths gathered at the Uğur Mumcu Park in Samsun on May 17 and marched to the city’s Cumhuriyet (Republic) Square, passing through İstiklal (Independence) Avenue carrying torchlights and Turkish flags accompanied by a marching band. Folklore dances were also performed in the celebration, joined by 500 scouts and 300 folk dancers from all 81 provinces of the country. 

Official ceremonies were also held, as Youth and Sports Minister Akif Çağatay Kılıç and Parliament Speaker İsmail Kahraman hosted youths from all provinces yesterday, to mark the occasion of May 19. 

Meanwhile, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and outgoing Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu are set to host a delegation of 400 youths to mark the day. The group will initially visit the presidential palace and later be welcomed at the Çankaya Mansion in Ankara. 

Anıtkabir ceremony for Nobel laureate

The mausoleum of Atatürk, Anıtkabir, is also open for visits throughout the day, between 9 a.m. and 4 p.m., and between 7 p.m. and 10 p.m., as thousands usually flock to the commemorate Atatürk. 

A special ceremony will be held between 4 p.m. and 7 p.m. for Professor Aziz Sancar, who will donate his original Nobel Prize in Chemistry medal to Anıtkabir. The Nobel laureate said when he won the prize last year that his success was “thanks to Atatürk.”

“I always repeat this. I am a child of Atatürk, his revolutions and the republic. I was brought up by village institute graduates,” Sancar said on May 14, referring to Turkey’s pioneering system of rural education launched more than 70 years ago which introduced coeducational learning and courses on farming, technology, Iiterature and music in some of the country’s most underdeveloped regions.

“I am their product. I gained [the Nobel Prize] through them. The Nobel Prize belongs to Atatürk and the republic,” he added. 

US issues security warning

Meanwhile, reports of intelligence regarding imminent attacks targeting celebrations and security buildings across Turkey on May 19 have cast a shadow over the day, along with ongoing security operations against the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) in the country’s southeastern provinces, which have been ongoing for months. 

The U.S. Embassy in Ankara released a warning to its citizens of threats by international and local terrorist groups in Turkey on May 19, national Youth and Sports Day, amid reports of possible attacks targeting metropolitan areas.

“The U.S. Embassy is aware of media reports suggesting the possibility of terrorist incidents in Turkey on Thursday, May 19, Ataturk Memorial, Youth and Sports Day. Foreign and U.S. tourists have been explicitly targeted by international and indigenous terrorist organizations in Turkey and the possibility of a terrorist incident without warning remains a concern. Therefore, the U.S. Embassy encourages U.S. citizens to read the existing Turkey Travel Warning and Security Messages to ensure you are following best practices for personal safety,” the Embassy said in a statement issued on its website.

It also urged citizens to monitor the media for developments linked to the ruling Justice and Development Party’s (AKP) upcoming extraordinary congress, which will be held in Ankara on May 22.

“U.S. Embassy Ankara also informs U.S. citizens that the AK Party will be holding a congress on May 22, 2016 at the Ankara Arena located near Gençlik Park and Ulus Metro. The congress will begin at 10:00 AM and last throughout the day. We remind citizens to monitor the media for any developments related to disturbances or demonstrations associated with the congress. Even demonstrations intended to be peaceful can turn confrontational and escalate into violence,” the Embassy said.

Turkish police had previously sent a “confidential” document to provincial security directorates requesting additional security measures against possible attacks by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) that are said to be planned against security authorities on May 19.

The document underlined that ISIL perceives Turkish soldiers and police as “infidels” and informs its militants that it is “permissible” to engage or kill them. 

It also added that that the jihadist group had planned attacks at the Anıtkabir mausoleum of Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, the founder of the Turkish Republic, on May 19, in addition to a military compound in the Cebeci neighborhood and the U.S. Embassy in Ankara.

The PKK was also alleged to be planning an attack on May 19. A total of 722 kilograms of explosives were seized in the southeastern province of Siirt, allegedly planned to be detonated during the May 19 celebrations.