The significance of Children's Day in Turkey

  • Published
  • By Mehmet Birbiri
  • 39th Air Base Wing Public Affairs
Children are our hope and our future.They are like the flowers blooming in April--a sign of new beginnings.

Turkey emphasizes the love, hope and future of children by proclaiming a national holiday for them. As far as I know, Turkey is the first country to proclaim a national holiday just for children.

We celebrate the holiday every year on April 23, and it is officially known as National Sovereignty and Children's Day.

There is a lot of history behind this day. When the Ottoman Empire was defeated in World War I, England, France, Italy, Greece and Russia's winning forces occupied Turkey. The country's ruling sultan was only a figurehead because the occupying forces--mainly England--dictated orders to him in Istanbul, the capital of the empire. The occupying British forces closed the Ottoman Parliament; some parliament members fled, some were exiled and others were put in prison.

Mustafa Kemal, later named Ataturk, refused to stand still. Out of belief in his nation he left Istanbul and ignited the War of Independence in Anatolia. He set up resistance forces and organized congresses at different locations.

In order to succeed, he knew the nation had to be united, so he sent messages throughout the country asking for support. Representatives traveled to Ankara to help make decisions on the nation's future. Ankara was in a central region of Anatolia and was not occupied by the foreign forces; it was later proclaimed as the country's capital. The first Grand National Assembly opened April 23, 1920, under Ataturk's chairmanship.

The vital decisions of the Grand National Assembly saved the country and led to the foundation of the Republic of Turkey. During the War of Independence, many children had been left homeless orphans. Ataturk's concern for these children led to the foundation of the Institute for the Salvation of Children. Ataturk later dedicated the new republic's most important day--the day of the opening of the Grand National Assembly--to the children of Turkey in recognition of the fact that children are the future of the country.

Saturday, April 23, 2011, marks the 91st anniversary of that happy and important event.

Major ceremonies and celebrations are planned in Ankara, Istanbul and major cities. Throughout the country, elementary schools will be decorated and children will wear special uniforms to commemorate the day. One special activity is to have a child symbolically in charge of every administrative position from president to mayor on that special day for the children. Children usually give orders like opening new playgrounds or schools.

The ceremony in Adana will be at the stadium April 23 starting at 9:00 a.m. Ceremonies will also be held at Incirlik village.

In 1979, the United Nation's Year of the Child, the Turkish Government proposed that April 23 be declared a holiday for the children of the world. That same year, Turkey began inviting children from every country to come and participate in its Children's Day festivities. Turkish Radio Television, the state-run radio and television corporation, has sponsors an annual international Children's Day festival where hundreds of children from different countries march in the streets of Ankara, Istanbul and Izmir and other major cities of Turkey in their national outfits, performing their native dances. Every year children from more than 60 countries come together to celebrate the event and plant the seeds of peace and brotherhood.