19 May is in Turkey an important day. On this day in 1919, Mustafa Kemal (Atatürk) arrived in Samsun which marks the beginning of the War of Independence. Therefore, Turks celebrate this day every year as Atatürk Commemoration and Youth and Sports Day.
To explain the importance of 19 May in Turkey, we’ll have to start with the War of Independence. This war was meant to free Turkey from the foreign powers occupying the country after the Great War. It was Mustafa Kemal who led the Turks to independence and after the victory, on 29th October 1923, he declared the Republic of Turkey.
He was elected as the first president of the republic and began the radical transformation to modernise the country. For his accomplishments he received in 1934 the honorary title Atatürk, which means Father of Turks.
Because at the time Atatürk was born – in 1881 – often the exact birth dates and months were not kept. Atatürk himself once said: ‘I was born on May 19’. This day is therefore also seen as the birthday of Atatürk. Atatürk always saw the children as the Future of the Republic. As a present to them, he dedicated his birthday -19 May- to the ‘Youth and Sports’.
Every year, 19 May (Atatürk’ü Anma & Gençlik ve Spor bayramı) is celebrated throughout the country with various festivities. Many people also pay their respect to Atatürk at Anıtkabır in Ankara, his mausoleum.