Turkey to mark National Sovereignty and Children’s Day amid debates

Turkey to mark National Sovereignty and Children’s Day amid debates

Turkey to mark National Sovereignty and Children’s Day amid debates

DHA photo

Turkey will mark National Sovereignty and Children’s Day on April 23, the anniversary of the Turkish parliament’s foundation, amid a debate over the cancellation of the parliamentary reception for the occasion. 

The reception was cancelled due to the rising death toll in anti-terror operations in the country’s southeast, but other official ceremonies will still be held, according to a statement released from the Turkish parliament speaker’s office.

“Differing from previous years, it was decided to cancel the reception taking the sensitivity of the public towards the sacred memories of the martyrs and terror incidents into account,” the statement released on April 20 read, while adding that some of the news about the cancellation of the official ceremonies was inaccurate. 

“Contrary to allegations in the news, the official ceremonies on April 23 are not cancelled and will take place as they are carried out each year. Only the reception was cancelled,” said the statement.

The day is celebrated as a children’s festival because children were awarded a special place in the April 23 festivities by Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, the founder of the Republic of Turkey.

The decision to cancel the reception started a debate, with the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) criticizing the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) over “perception management.” 

“We can’t accept this decision as a party that was involved in the foundation of the republic,” CHP parliamentary group deputy chair Özgür Özel said April 18, adding that a reception would take place on the day of the parliament’s foundation and CHP leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu would gather with children from all over Turkey in the party’s group meeting room.   

Özel also said that Parliament Speaker İsmail Kahraman took the decision to cancel the reception without consulting the parliamentary groups.

“We will share the importance of April 23, the parliamentary system and the importance given to parliament by veteran Mustafa Kemal Atatürk with our children,” Özel added.

Meanwhile, Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu and his wife Sare Davutoğlu hosted a group of children from 20 countries who will participate in the 38th International April 23 Children’s Festival organized by Turkish public broadcaster TRT. 

“Today the Çankaya Presidential Mansion is living its happiest day. The most beautiful hearts in the world are here. The children, who will construct the world’s future in the best way, are here,” said Davutoğlu on April 20 during a meeting at the Çankaya Presidential Mansion in Ankara.

Davutoğlu was given two child bodyguards as a special practice to mark the day. 

President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan also hosted the same group of children in the Presidential Palace in Ankara on April 20, thanking the children for sharing the “joy” of April 23.

“I can’t imagine how meaningless, dry and lifeless the world would be without children. You are the name of uncalculated, candid, honest love,” said Erdoğan, while adding that he wished he could hug all of the world’s children separately. 

Erdoğan will also host a group of 200 children, including the children of fallen soldiers and gifted children, in the Presidential Palace on April 23.