19 May is one of the most important national holidays in the Republic of Turkey. It commemorates the day in 1919 when Mustafa Kemal set sail from the occupied Ottoman capital, Istanbul, to the Black Sea port of Samsun. That day is taken as the beginning of the national struggle to assert Turkey’s independence against imperial forces bent on dividing its territory and subjugating its people.
After a four-year struggle, the new Republic was founded in 1923. Mustafa Kemal became its first President, subsequently acquiring the honorific “Atatürk” after a law was passed requiring all citizens to adopt a surname.
In our newspaper today, among large advertisements inserted by commercial enterprises keen to demonstrate their loyal attachment to the founder of the Republic, was one paid for by the Beşiktaş Borough Council, announcing that the government had forced them to cancel their planned celebration of the day. The ad featured shadowy silhouettes of ordinary citizens, children, elderly and wheelchair-bound going about their business behind bars. I assume the implication was that you never know in Turkey these days when you will be arrested. I have been hearing the same from other people in our social and work circles – commemorating Atatürk’s achievements and celebrating national events has been banned by the AKP government.
So I did a little search online, and I found the following:
Kadıköy’de 19 Mayıs Coşkusuyla Kutlanacak – 19 May will be joyously celebrated in Kadıköy
As it does every year Kadıköy City Council is organising celebrations on May 19 Youth and Sports Day. The Council has prepared a magnificent program featuring everything from sport to music.
The program includes a 12-km Bicycle Tour, an evening rock concert with popular musicians and a DJ dance. A variety of sports events will be staged including women’s rugby and lacrosse matches, a frisbee competition and a skateboarding performance.
A shuttle bus service will be put on free of charge to transport festival-goers to the various venues.
Reports in other Turkish sources:
And one in English:
Turkey will celebrate Atatürk, Youth and Sports Day on May 19, with various events planned in the capital Ankara and around the country.
In Ankara, official ceremonies will be held in parliament and Anıtkabir, the mausoleum of Atatürk. The ceremonies will continue today in the city, with the Turkish Air Force’s aerobatic demonstration team, the Turkish Stars, set to perform an air show at 4 p.m. There will also be a flag parade at 6:30 p.m. in which a 1,919-meter-long Turkish flag will be carried by the participants.
Meanwhile, police detained seven of nine suspected members of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) in four cities yesterday for “planning a sensational attack” on the May 19 ceremonies.
So who to believe? The sad fact is that Turkey is located in a dangerous part of the world. It has borders with Iraq (in state of lawless chaos since George W Bush destroyed most of its infrastructure in 2003); Syria (where a vicious civil war has been going on since 2011); and Iran, not to mention several other problematic neighbours.
There has been a state of emergency in force since a violent military-sponsored coup attempted to overthrow the democratically elected government in July 2016. My people at the NZ Embassy in Ankara send me frequent warnings about the dangers of terrorist attacks and the risks of living and traveling in Turkey.
In spite of this, most of us in Turkey continue to go about our lawful business confidently in safety and security, without noticing any oppressive signs of military or police heavy-handedness.
Milli Bayramınız Kutlu Olsun!