Turkey’s ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) has cancelled April 23 National Sovereignty and Children’s Day celebrations over the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic that claimed the lives of over 600 people in Turkey.
“We had to postpone the celebrations that people would gather on April 23. Let’s sing the national anthem at 9 p.m. on April 23 in our homes,” Parliament Speaker Mustafa Şentop said on April 6, adding that the government asked media outlets to play the national anthem at the said date and time.
The country celebrates the establishment of parliament with National Sovereignty and Children’s Day on April 23 every year, as it was bestowed by Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, the founder of the Republic of Turkey, at the opening ceremony of parliament in 1920.
Although this year’s celebrations were cancelled over the pandemic, the debate over the cancellation of national day celebrations have been ongoing for years.
Repeated cancellations have been sparking criticism against the AKP’s stance on national holidays and the country’s founding father.
In 2011, then-Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan cancelled the Nov. 29 Republic Day receptions, citing a deadly earthquake in the eastern province of Van.
Although the reason was cited as the earthquake disaster and the mourning state of the country, Erdoğan and then-President Abdullah Gül attended the wedding of then-Economy Minister Zafer Çağlayan’s son on the same day.
During his presidency, Gül was known to fall ill on national holidays, resulting in him not attending receptions or celebrations. He missed a number of receptions, including those held to mark Aug. 30 Victory Day in 2012 and 2013.
In 2015, then-Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu cancelled Victory Day celebrations, citing “acts of terror in recent days.” The day was also cancelled the next year, with then-Defense Minister Fikri Işık citing the “traumatic” aftermath of the July 15, 2016 failed coup attempt.
Earlier the same year, April 23 celebrations were cancelled over “terror and fallen soldiers” in reference to the soldiers killed in the fight against the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).
In 2014, President Erdoğan announced the cancellation of the Republic Day celebrations, citing a mine disaster in the Ermenek district of the Central Anatolian province of Karaman.
The May 19 Commemoration of Atatürk, Youth and Sports Day was also not celebrated the same year over another mining disaster that killed over 300 miners in the Soma district of the Aegean province of Manisa.