Turkey celebrated the Commemoration of Atatürk, Youth and Sports Day amid security concerns due to recent warning issued by Turkish police and the US Embassy in Ankara about possible terrorist attacks that might target metropolitan areas on May 19.
The Commemoration of Atatürk, Youth and Sports Day is celebrated across Turkey to commemorate Turkish Republic’s founder Mustafa Kemal Atatürk’s landing at Samsun on May 19, 1919, which is regarded as the beginning of the Turkish War of Independence in the official historiography.
“The U.S. Embassy is aware of media reports suggesting the possibility of terrorist incidents in Turkey on Thursday, May 19, Atatürk Memorial, Youth and Sports Day. Foreign and U.S. tourists have been explicitly targeted by international and indigenous terrorist organizations in Turkey and the possibility of a terrorist incident without warning remains a concern. Therefore, the U.S. Embassy encourages U.S. citizens to read the existing Turkey Travel Warning and Security Messages to ensure you are following best practices for personal safety,” the Embassy said in a statement issued on its website to warn its citizens.
The day was celebrated across Turkey as ceremonies were held in a number of provinces that include Ankara, Samsun, Kocaeli, Adana, Sivas, Bolu, Kahramanmaraş, Balıkesir, Kayseri and Zonguldak.
Official ceremony in the Ankara capital started at 9 a.m. with Youth and Sports Minister Akif Çağatay Kılıç and other officials walking on the Lion Road (Aslanlı yol) that leads to Anıtkabir — Atatürk’s Mausoleum — together with students from various schools and sport clubs.
Kılıç and the officials placed a wreath at the Mausoleum of Atatürk and stood in silence for a minute after walking on the lion road. Then Turkish national anthem were chanted. Minister Kılıç left Anıtkabir after signing the official Anıtkabir memorial book.
Main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) chairman Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu also walked towards Anıtkabir together with thousands that gathered in Güvenpark, Kızılay neighborhood for the commemoration.
Kılıçdaroğlu also placed a wreath at the Mausoleum of Atatürk while the crowd around him shouted slogans “We are soldiers of Mustafa Kemal Atatürk” and “Turkey is a secular country and it will stay that way.”
“We are figthing together to reach the level of contemporary civilization that Atatürk set for us. This is the holiday of the youth and I am so happy to be here with them,” he said to the press.
President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan released a statement to mark the day. “To celebrate the beginning of the of the Turkish War of Independence as the Commemoration of Atatürk, Youth and Sports Day is a manifestation of our trust in the youth, to whom we count on to [protect] our republic,” Erdoğan said.
Prime Minister Davutoğlu also celebrated the youth’s day, saying “I believe the youth of Turkey will be outstanding in showing their devotion to the nation and you will leave a more prosperous country to next generations.”