Turkish politicians broke the rules of social distancing during a ceremony held to mark the April 23 National Sovereignty and Children’s Day, as the country continues to struggle against the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.
Millions of Turkish citizens are marking the day with a limited number of celebrations or events being held this year amid the pandemic, with state officials urging people to mark the day at home.
Parliament Speaker Mustafa Şentop attended a ceremony held at Anıtkabir, the mausoleum of the Turkish Republic's founder Mustafa Kemal Atatürk in the capital Ankara, alongside Vice President Fuat Oktay, main opposition Republican People's Party (CHP) leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu, Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) leader Devlet Bahçeli, İYİ (Good) Party leader Meral Akşener and a number of ministers and lawmakers.
The ceremony was held under coronavirus measures, with state officials wearing masks, except Şentop. There were moments that the officials broke the rules of social distancing despite repeated calls for the necessity of them.
National Sovereignty and Children's Day is a public holiday in Turkey commemorating the foundation of the Turkish Grand National Assembly on April 23, 1920.
The celebrations focus on children after Atatürk dedicated the day to children, seeing them as the nation’s future.
Şentop and the accompanying officials also visited Atatürk Statue, with the parliament speaker laying a wreath to pay respects.
The day also marks the 100th anniversary of Turkish Parliament and a special centennial session is set to be held.
The session will begin with Şentop's speech and will be followed by lawmakers from all political parties addressing the General Assembly.
President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan won't attend the ceremonies over the pandemic.
A day earlier, Şentop urged Turkish citizens to mark the day in their homes.
"I hope to see all our citizens enthusiastically taking part in celebrations from home," Şentop said on April 22.
He urged the public to sing the country's national anthem on April 23 at 9.00 p.m. from their balconies and windows.
"Let's show our love for independence and liberty by singing our independence anthem in a strong voice," he said.
Erdoğan will sing the national anthem from the balcony of his residence in Istanbul.
He also released a message to mark the day.
"One of the most important symbols of our glorious history, the Turkish Grand National Assembly, will be the manifestation of our national will forever as it has been for 100 years," Erdoğan said.
"Turkey will rise on the shoulders of our children and our youth, their dynamism and enthusiasm will carry Turkey to its 2023 and 2071 targets,” he added.