Events for Youth Week, an occasion to mark the start of Turkey's fight for independence and celebrate the youth, kick off today and will culminate on May 19 Youth and Sports Day.
This year marks the 100th anniversary of a turning point in the history of Republic of Turkey: The arrival of Mustafa Kemal to Samsun, a Black Sea city, from Istanbul, then capital of the Ottoman Empire. Mustafa Kemal, who came to be known as Atatürk, would go on to lead the country to the War of Independence and serve as the founder of the Republic of Turkey that replaced the collapsed empire. It was from Samsun that Atatürk launched his campaign for independence, mobilizing the nation and uniting a fragmented opposition to the country's invasion by foreign powers.
The week will start with a ceremony to remember Atatürk in the capital Ankara. Officials will join the youth from around Turkey for remembrance ceremony at Anıtkabir, Atatürk's mausoleum. On May 16, a group of youth will travel to Samsun from Istanbul aboard a ship like Atatürk did a century ago. The ship will host events like poetry readings, arts workshop, conferences by historians and screenings of films related to the youth and Turkey's struggle for independence. The ship will be welcomed by President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan in Samsun. Erdoğan will lead a parade in Samsun for the events that will continue with aerial stunts by the Turkish Armed Forces. A musical based on Atatürk's voyage to Samsun will also be performed on May 19 in Samsun.
Since 1938, the day originally dedicated to the War of Independence has also been celebrated as Youth and Sports Day, much to the chagrin of the youth, who would reluctantly take to stadiums across the country to perform bizarre feats, such as forming human pyramids, in scenes which critics described as reminiscent of North Korean national celebrations.
In recent years, the gymnastic feats have largely been scaled down, and sporting events such as races have replaced them in most parts of the country. For instance, 15 athletes started to paddle to Samsun from Istanbul on May 1, hoping to arrive in the Black Sea city in 19 days.