Ask Mehmet: What is Children's Day?

  • Published
  • By Mehmet Birbiri
  • 39th Air Base Wing Public Affairs
Children are our hope and our future, and the nation of Turkey emphasizes the love, hope and importance of children by observing a national holiday for them.

We celebrate the holiday, officially known as National Sovereignty and Children's Day, every year on April 23. There is a lot of history behind this day.

When the Ottoman Empire was defeated in World War I, victorious forces from England, France, Italy, Greece and Russia continued to occupy 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. When the occupying British forces closed the Ottoman Parliament, some parliament members fled while other were exiled or put in prison.

Mustafa Kemal, later named Ataturk, didn't stand still. Knowing and believing 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.

He knew the nation had to be united in order to succeed, 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.This is where the first Grand National Assembly opened in April 23, 1920, under Ataturk's chairmanship. Ankara was later on proclaimed the capital of the country.

The vital decisions of the Grand National Assembly saved the country and led to founding the Republic of Turkey.

During the War of Independence, many children had been left as orphans. Ataturk's concern for these children led to the foundation of the Institute for the Salvation of Children. Then, because Ataturk recognized that children were the future of Turkey, Ataturk dedicated the day - the young republic's most important day - to the children of the nation in celebration of the opening of the Grand National Assembly.

Tuesday marks the 93rd anniversary of that happy and important event; and now, a national holiday.

Ceremonies and celebrations take place in Ankara, Istanbul and major cities. Throughout the country, elementary schools are decorated and children 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 starting at 9:00 a.m. Ceremonies will also be held in 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 Corp. has been sponsoring an annual international Children's Day Festival. 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, celebrate this happy event and plant the seeds of peace and brotherhood.

Within the scope of Children's Day, 10th Tanker Base Command holds a festival on Sunday, April 21, between 3:30-7 p.m. at Arkadas Park on Incirlik Air Base.

With the focus on children, the festival will have competitions, shows, bouncy castles, ponies, food and drink, games, fun, and cultural activities.