On the 23rd of April every year, the streets of Istanbul, Ankara, Izmir and other large cities, towns and villages across Turkey will be full of local school children. Decked out in brightly clean school uniforms, with the neatest hair and straightest socks, they march proudly alongside fire trucks, police marching bands and other municipal vehicles. Songs about the Turkish Republic are sung, famous moments from modern Turkish history are re-enacted and small boys recite poetry as loudly as humanly possible.
Known as National Sovereignty and Children’s Day, it was gazetted as a public holiday in honour of the first ever gathering of the Grand National Assembly (the Turkish Parliament), which took place on this day in 1920. Ataturk dedicated the Turkish Republic to children, and starting from 1923, a whole week was put aside to promote activities for them. Even now, Turkish schoolchildren take seats in parliament for the day, elect their own leader and govern the country and even ‘fly’ planes belonging to government-owned Turkish Airlines. Since 1979 the state-run Turkish Radio and Television Corporation (TRT) has run a Children’s Festival, bringing children from different countries to Turkey to experience Turkish hospitality and appear in gala performances on April 23.