Newington Green’s Turkish community marks centenary of Mustafa Kemal Atatürk’s landing at Samsun – birth of country’s modern independence movement
PUBLISHED: 11:02 22 May 2019 | UPDATED: 10:33 23 May 2019
More than 500 members of the Turkish community came together on Newington Green on Sunday to commemorate 100 years since the start of the war of independence.
The afternoon featured dancing, live music, speeches and an assortment of home-cooked food.
Six different non-profit organisations put on the event to mark May 19, which is also Youth and Sports Day in Turkey.
President of Turkey Youth Union UK Hatice Ballikaya, 33, said: "We are trying to do our bit for our country.
"We've been working non-stop day and night for probably about eight to nine weeks now.
"We've got the flame from Atatürk [the founder of the modern Republic]."
"We will do everything it takes to further his legacy because we believe in an independent secular Turkey.
"As Turkish youngsters we want our community to believe in us and support us for this great cause."
A pop-up exhibition of the historical development of the modern Turkish republic was on display at the event.
The republic was declared on October 29, 1923, by Mustafa Kemal, who is widely referred to as Atatürk [father of the Turks].
His face adorned a flag hung on the trees surrounding the park as well as on many attendees' T-shirts.
Mustafa Kemal was a military general who was already celebrated as a hero for defending Gallipoli from British, Australian and New Zealand forces during the First World War.
Istanbul, capital of the Ottoman Empire, was occupied by European powers from 1918, as were other cities.
Mustafa Kemal was appointed to Anatolia, the mainland, and sailed across the coast of the Black Sea to a town called Samsun.
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May 19 marks his landing there, which is considered the beginning of the fight for independence.
Arda Akartuna, 22, said: "I would say it is quite unique in terms of the fact that we managed, after the First World War, to gain back our independence through the incredible military strategic leadership of Mustafa Kemal Atatürk and his fellow commanders.
"It is not just the military victory but also what came after when he was President of Turkey.
"He initiated a load of reforms which made Turkey a modern secular democratic state."
These included ensuring every student had access to education, women's rights and suffrage and the creation of a Grand National Assembly, the Turkish legislature.
Mr Akartuna said the day has a special place in the hearts of Turkish people and described the event as a great way for expats to come together and take pride in their heritage.
Hackney councillor M Can Ozsen (Lab, London Fields) was there, and described the event as fantastic for the community.
"It is needed, especially for the youth, to create awareness of how the Turkish Republic was set up," he said.
Board member for the Atatürk Society, Cigdem Yilmaz, 36, mentioned the importance of education for families in the community and hoped the organisers had met visitors' expectations.
She said: "Turkish people want their children to be cultured and educated."
It was the first year six non-profit charity organisations came together to put on the event; the organising committee was made up of members from the Atatürk Society, Turkish Youth Society UK, +1 Turkey, the Anatolian Cultural Centre, the Turkish Cypriot Cultural Association and the Azerbaijan House.
Many arrived dressed in red and white, the colours of the Turkish flag, while some sported football shirts and traditional outfits.
Dilek Altunkas, 53, owns Hoş Seda, an arts and culture centre that runs a Turkish classical music choir.
She said: "Our aim is to introduce our culture to the Turkish youth and at the same time we want to introduce our culture to the British people."
She claimed establishing these lines of communication will result in greater understanding and better relationships.
"We will be more friendly and the world will be more peaceful," she said.
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