Türkiye'nin en iyi köşe yazarları en güzel köşe yazıları ile Hürriyet'te! Usta yazarlar ve gündemi değerlendiren köşe yazılarını takip edin.

National sovereignty

Many countries have "national sovereignty" celebrations in various forms. Some mark it as "constitution day," while some celebrate it as a "national day" marking the end of the occupation, or some as the start of their independence campaign. It is a very important term, of course, for those who can understand or who are aware of how painful the absence of national sovereignty might be.

Is there any other country in the world that marks this day as "National Sovereignty and Children’s Day"? What is the correlation between national sovereignty and children? To understand the true importance of this day for the Turkish people and state, how and when the Turkish Parliament was established must be examined. The Turkish Parliament was established in the middle of the War of Independence, and it was perhaps the sole Parliament the world has ever seen which not only struggled to build a new republic on the ashes of an empire but which itself commandeered the national struggle for regaining the independence of the occupied motherland.

Headed by Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, the founders of the modern Turkish Republic preferred to transfer sovereignty, which until that day was considered divine, to the nation. Instead of imposing themselves as "absolute rulers" they established a legislature in the middle of the war and allowed the national will to enlighten the road to independence. It was the government and the military forces of Parliament that waged the war and won the country’s independence. It was how the Turkish Republic was established.

Thus, April 23 is the day when all the characteristics we identify today as those of modern Turkey were laid down stone by stone, step by step. It was that Parliament that proclaimed Ankara the capital of the new state and secularism the guarantor of freedom of conscience, declared equality of all before the law, and most important of all, introduced the modern and landmark principle: Sovereignty rests unconditionally with the people.

Supremacy of the national will
So easy to say now. So easy to talk about now. But consider the conditions of that period, when part of the country still respected the sultan's government and what was left of the once-gigantic Ottoman Empire: the powerful mullahs insisting on the upholding of Sharia and the divine powers of the sultan and a mostly illiterate fatalist population that believed whatever happened came from Allah and had to be accepted as such. Still, a handful of brave men and women under the leadership of Atatürk managed to change the ill fate of this state and nation. They did not allocate lifetime posts to themselves. They did not set up dynasties. They established a secular republic respecting the supremacy of law and adhering to the principle of the supremacy of national will.

April 23 was not just a revolution. It was not just a change of the administrative and legislative system of a country. It was the day the Turkish nation started to emerge from the darkness of the past into a bright future. It was the date when the Turkish nation said even if the entire world united their might against the Turkish state, there were sons and daughters of that nation who were ready to sacrifice their lives to rescue their "ill-fated mother," as Mehmet Akif Ersoy wrote in the national anthem.

Turkey is now at a new threshold. For the first time since those very difficult times, we have a government headed with a power-obsessive understanding, aspiring to the powers of a sultan. We have cadres in top posts of the republic who share a different worldview and a rather sui generis interpretation Ğ if not outright rejection Ğ of the secularism principle that was so far considered in this country as the central pillar of the success of Turkey having democratic governance in a predominantly Muslim society. In the new period and in full conformity with global trends, it is obvious that Turkish society will become more conservative and, compared to the past, there will be a surge in religious sensitivities. This is a new period that we will hopefully survive without compromising democracy and will emerge out of it in the long too distant future by further consolidating the democratic tradition in this country.

This is a challenging test that the Turkish democracy should not fail.