The Commemoration of Atatürk, Youth and Sports Day

  • Published
  • By By Mehmet Birbiri host nation advisor
  • 39th Air Base Wing

May 19 is celebrated as the Commemoration of Atatürk, Youth and Sports Day.

May 19, 1919 marks the beginning of the Turkish War of Independence, a turning point in Turkey’s history.

Ottomans joined World War I on the side of the Germans. Since the Germans lost the war, the Ottomans were also considered on the losing side. The Turkish army was disarmed and dispersed. Turkey was occupied by the wining states. Istanbul was occupied by the British, Adana and the southeastern region by the French, eastern Turkey by the Russians, and Antalya by Italian forces.

Upon the Greek landing in Izmir on May 15, 1919, the hero of Gallipoli war, General Mustafa Kemal decided to leave Istanbul and go to Anatolia and launch an independence campaign. He left Istanbul on a ship on May 16 and landed in Samsun on May 19, 1919.

After a long and harsh struggle, Mustafa Kemal Atatürk drove all the occupying forces out of the country and founded the modern Republic of Turkey on the ashes of the Ottoman Empire that previously lasted for six centuries.

Atatürk was born in 1881, but his birthday was not known. When the officials were preparing a new ID card for Atatürk, they asked him his birthday. Atatürk said “You can write May 19 as my birthday.” In fact, May 19 is not the birthday of Atatürk, but is the birthday of the modern Republic of Turkey.

Atatürk dedicated this day to the Turkish youth, and May 19 has since been celebrated as the Commemoration of Atatürk, Youth and Sports Day. In honor of this day, schools of all levels, as well as military colleges and units, will organize sports and athletic events throughout Turkey.