As part of the achieving of normalization and the elimination of military influence from the education system, the Ministry of Education issued a circular early this year canceling the May 19 celebrations -- which mark the anniversary of the beginning of the War of Independence -- claiming that students were being negatively affected by the ceremonies. High school students practice for many days in preparation for the May 19 celebrations and then parade in military formation around stadiums across Turkey to celebrate the day. According to the new regulation, the celebrations will not be held in stadiums but in public squares, to provide a chance for widespread public attendance.
Following the change, the way in which May 19 is celebrated has come under the spotlight. In written statement released on Sunday, the Education Ministry announced that it will no longer organize ceremonies for the May 19 celebrations and is passing the responsibility to the Ministry of Youth and Sports.
An official at the Ministry of Youth and Sports who declined to be named released some details regarding the ministry’s plan for the celebrations to Today’s Zaman. The official said the ministry plans to eliminate all traces of the Sept. 12, 1980 military coup from May 19 ceremonies. “With this intention, university students, who were excluded from the celebrations during the Sept. 12 military coup era, will be involved in the ceremonies again. Up until now, only high school students have participated in the ceremonies, but now university students will also take part,” the ministry official noted. The official further revealed that May 19 would be commemorated with seminars, panel discussions and symposiums as well as at commemorative concerts, stage plays, sports competitions and dance activities at universities.
Stating that formerly the celebrations were restricted to a sole day or a few hours celebrated in stadiums, the official said the celebrations will be expanded to a week in which various ceremonies and activities will be organized across Turkey and added that May 19, Atatürk Commemoration and Youth and Sports Day, will be celebrated as “Youth Week.” In commemoration of Atatürk, a birthday cake will be distributed to participants in honour of Atatürk’s remark that “May 19 is my birthday” in Samsun, where the Turkish War of Independence began, on May 19, 1919. Atatürk’s visit to Samsun in 1919 to launch the war will also be re-enacted in the celebrations of Samsun.
“May 19 will no longer be celebrated in the form of a ritual, but a nationwide festival which will last for a week,” the official noted. The official also stated that sports were neglected in the former celebrations, even though May 19 is also Youth and Sports Day; the ministry will therefore be involving sports in the celebrations. As part of this plan, sports federations and clubs will conduct activities in all 81 provinces across Turkey in which national sport teams and renowned Turkish sports figures will come together with young people. Football, basketball, volleyball and athletic activities will be held throughout Youth Week. The Turkish Motorsport Federation will also organize motorcycle shows at the Atatürk Cultural Center in Ankara.
A youth council in which more than 10,000 Turkish youths from Turkey’s 81 provinces, the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (KKTC) and Europe will participate will be held in Ankara within the scope of the Youth Week. The problems of young people in Turkey will be discussed during this council. One representative from each province, two from the KKTC, four for disabled young people and three for working young people will meet politicians and talk about problems facing young people.