The Turkish government muted celebratory events marking the republic's 100th anniversary, in respect of the atrocities in Gaza. Nevertheless, major military demonstrations were held on Sunday in the Bosporus and Şırnak (Şırnex).
— MedyaNews (@1MedyaNews) October 31, 2023
Turkey’s 100th anniversary celebrations on Sunday, which the government promised to keep “low key” in respect of ongoing conflict in Gaza, featured major military demonstrations, with drones, artillery fire and a parade of one hundred warships in the Bosporus, as well as huge fireworks.
With the absence of an official state reception and the cancellation of planned TV coverage of concerts and festivities, the celebrations fell short of public expectation. The Turkish government’s decision to cancel these events was attributed to the ongoing “alarming human tragedy in Gaza” and the devastating earthquakes that hit in February and claimed the lives of 50,000 people.
The centenary celebrations, devoid of a grand reception, raised concern among sections of the Turkish population who view President Erdoğan’s government, rooted in Turkey’s Islamic movement, as seeking to undermine the legacy of the secular republic. In response, secular opposition parties and opposition-led municipalities organised their own celebrations.
In his speech, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan reiterated a need for a “new constitution”, stating: “Our main goal in the coming period is to free our democracy from the constraints of the military coup constitution and to establish a modern, inclusive and civilian constitution worthy of the 100th anniversary of our republic.”
However, Erdoğan’s insistence on establishing a new constitution is seen by Turkey’s opposition as a means of curtailing rights and freedoms. Prior to the elections, the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) had proposed a constitutional amendment to include the phrase ‘marriage is only between a man and a woman’, arguing that this change would protect the ‘integrity of the Turkish family structure’ and prevent same-sex marriages.
At the other end of the spectrum, the pro-Kurdish People’s Equality and Democracy Party (HEDEP) stressed a pressing need to democratise the republic, saying: “As the republic completes its first century and enters its second, the reconstruction of a democratic republic is an important historical task.”
Meanwhile, in Şırnak (Şırnex), one of the south-eastern provinces of Turkey with a Kurdish majority, commando units and a significant deployment of Turkish troops and tanks were paraded, with few civilians visible on the streets.