Children and adults of all ages marked April 23, National Sovereignty and Children’s Day, yesterday but the expected joyous occasion was dampened slightly by the stony silence between top politicians while children were left standing in the cold.
The day, marking the 89th anniversary of the foundation of the Turkish Parliament, began with Parliament Speaker Köksal Toptan leading a delegation of politicians, including Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and opposition Republican People’s Party, or CHP, leader Deniz Baykal and Nationalist Movement Party, or MHP, leader Devlet Bahçeli, to the mausoleum of the country’s founder, Atatürk, yesterday morning.
The solemn atmosphere was especially glum due to the fact that Erdoğan, Baykal and Bahçeli uttered not a single pleasantry to one another during proceedings, reported daily Hürriyet.
In a ceremony held afterward at the building that housed the first Parliament, Erdoğan and Baykal were missing. In previous years, no matter how bad their political battles were, both leaders showed up at the ceremony in the old Parliament and shook each other’s hand, noted Hürriyet.
Despite the cancellation of April 23 ceremonies at schools in Istanbul due to cold weather, at the official ceremony in Taksim Square, attended by Governor Muammer Güler, Mayor Kadir Topbaş and First Army Commander Gen. Ergin Sangün, the students from Taksim Primary School showed up. While officials wore thick wool coats, the kids were taken to the square wearing only t-shirts.
When approached by the NTV news channel, most of the children had only one thing to say about their day: "We are very cold," said one; "We left our clothes back at school and I’m shivering," said another. The principal, Muzaffer Kılıç, when asked why the students were brought to the ceremony wearing only T-shirts, said he was told the students had to wear matching clothes. In many other provinces swept by the cold front, ceremonies at schools were canceled. At a ceremony held in a stadium in the central Anatolian province of Eskişehir, children were seen crying due to the cold, reported Doğan news agency yesterday. Similar reports of children freezing in cold weather at ceremonies marking Children’s Day came from all over the country.
In the Black Sea province of Kastamonu, children as young as 5 and 6 were dressed in thin shirts with short sleeves in order to participate in ceremonies. Only after their show did their mothers rush to put coats on them.
Mayors boycott functions in Southeast
Meanwhile, during an official ceremony to mark April 23 in the southeastern city of Diyarbakır, an Air Force commander reacted furiously to the absence of the city’s mayor.
After Mayor Osman Baydemir, from the Democratic Society Party, or DTP, failed to show up at the ceremony, Lt. Gen. Rasim Arslan kicked the name tag that said "municipal mayor" in the protocol area and reportedly said to Governor Hüseyin Avni Mutlu: "These people don’t even show up for a children’s festival."
Strong security measures were in place for the ceremony in Diyarbakır. DTP mayors in the southeastern cities of Batman, Siirt, Tunceli and Şırnak did not participate in official April 23 ceremonies either.