Turkey on Thursday will celebrate the 100th anniversary of the foundation of its Grand National Assembly or parliament as well as National Sovereignty and Children’s Day. Established on April 23, 1920, the Grand National Assembly of Turkey paved the way to the foundation of the Republic of Turkey. This makes its foundation one of the most important steps in the history of Turkey’s liberation struggle. Following the Ottoman Empire’s defeat in World War I, on May 19, 1919 Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, founder of the Republic of Turkey, left for the Black Sea province of Samsun to start a national liberation campaign. Then, on June 27, he went to the eastern province of Sivas. In a meeting there, the situation of the country was discussed and it was decided to convene a national congress in the city as soon as possible.
The pivotal weeklong congress of the Turkish National Movement was held on Sept. 4, 1919 when Turkey was fighting its War of Independence. Another congress held in the eastern city of Erzurum on June 23, 1919, led by Ataturk, aimed to reunite separate political parties and plan out the national struggle. After the elections of fall 1919, the Ottoman Chamber of Deputies convened on Jan. 12, 1920, with the participation of 162 of its 168 members. After the invasion of Istanbul on March 16 and the arrests of supporters of the National Struggle, lawmakers and intellectuals started to flee to Ankara, Turkey’s future capital. The Ottoman parliament convened for the last time on March 18 before it was dissolved for good.
In a March 19, 1920 circular, Ataturk announced that a new extraordinary parliament would be founded in Ankara. The circular urged the calling of a parliament to be given extraordinary powers to implement the independence of the nation and take measures to protect the state. It also called for the members of the dissolved Ottoman parliament to come to Ankara and join the new parliament. Thus, 84 members of the dissolved parliament and other members who would later be elected took part in the new country’s first parliament. Ataturk remarked in his circular declaring the foundation of the Grand National Assembly on April 22, 1920 that it would be “the highest degree where all civil and military authorities and the entire nation will take orders.”
On April 23, 1920, the first parliament was founded in central Ulus district of Ankara. Since its foundation, Turkey’s parliament has been the symbol of the national will. “Gentlemen! In front of the nation, before its deserved independence, before its desire to develop and renew, every force can live only on the condition that it complies with the will and goals of the nation,” Ataturk said in his opening speech for the fourth legislative year on March 1, 1923. He added: “The fate of those who do not comply with the will and aims of the nation is frustration and collapse.”
National Sovereignty and Children’s Day
April 23 was marked as National Sovereignty Day exactly one year after the opening of the First Grand National Assembly. On April 23, 1929, Ataturk started the April 23 festival as a gift to the children of the world. In 1929, it was also celebrated as Children's Day for the first time. In 1979, children in many countries of the world began to come to Turkey, making the day internationally recognized. Turkey is the first and only country to give a national day to its children to share with them.
April 23 National Sovereignty and Children's Day, which holds a key place in the heart of the Turkish nation as an unwavering expression of its independence, is celebrated every year by government bodies, schools, and the public nationwide and abroad and represents the united spirit of the national unity.