Unofficial marches mark Republic Day in Turkey

Unofficial marches mark Republic Day in Turkey

Unofficial marches mark Republic Day in Turkey

Although the official ceremony was canceled, some 3,000 people marched together in the Thracean province of Edirne. DHA photo.

Thousands of Turks ignored the prime minister’s circular canceling Oct. 29 Republic Day celebrations because of last weekend’s deadly earthquake in Van to participate in events marking the holiday either in opposition-led marches or through spontaneous initiatives.

Crowds flocked to Ankara’s Anıtkabir, the mausoleum of modern Turkey’s founder, Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, after parades, receptions and commemorations at schools were canceled when Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said that only wreath-laying and greeting ceremonies should proceed following the temblor.

The circular drew the ire of the main opposition People’s Republican Party’s (CHP), whose members led Republic Day marches in some of Turkey’s largest cities, charging that the cancellation of celebrations demonstrated that the ruling party was not truly committed to the Republic.

“We will celebrate the Republic both in days of mourning and joy. What mindset is banning ceremonies at schools? Those who are bringing up the ban are themselves going to weddings,” CHP leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu said in the Central Anatolian province of Eskişehir before he attended a second march in the Marmara province of Bursa.

Republic Day, he said, was a day to demonstrate unity both over the devastating earthquake in Van and a recent series of deadly attacks by the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).

The largest event was held late in the evening in Istanbul’s Kadıköy district, where an estimated 30,000 people marched, holding torches, Turkish flags, Atatürk posters and pictures of soldiers slain in recent PKK attacks. Another 5,000 people rallied in İzmir earlier in the day.

President Abdullah Gül led the official events in Ankara, which consisted of a wreath-laying ceremony at Anıtkabir and a greeting ceremony at Parliament, attended by Erdoğan, opposition leaders, military commanders and other senior officials.

“We are in great pain because of the earthquake in Van. But at the same time we take pride in the Republic’s achievements over the past 88 years,” Gül said