What “Republic” means to us?
Author: Eda Özden Günyüz
As Türkiye turns 100 on October 29, 2023, we take a look at why this momentous occasion is so dear to us.
Those of us who live in as delicate geographies as us are raised to be hyper-aware of the impact politics and global affairs have in our daily lives. Around our kitchen tables, in WhatsApp groups, during dinners with friends – we discuss the news constantly. We celebrate our national holidays for the actual reasons of their existence, in our schools and in our streets – in parades and ceremonies, not only in parties. Because we know how blessed we are to live in a Republic.
We cherish our Republic because we know 100 years ago how our relatives lived. Collapse of the Ottoman Empire had given birth to dozens of countries and occupations, dividing families, communities. Illiteracy was endemic, religion was abused, people didn’t have surnames let alone the right to vote. Poverty was at improbable levels and women were inferior citizens. Minorities didn’t have any rights, neither did children, nature or animals. Our historical heritage wasn’t protected (see so much of the treasures of Türkiye in the best museums of the world…)
Our Founder Mustafa Kemal Atatürk was a man beyond his time, or anytime. What we admire the most is that he believed in progress and never shied away from boldly actualizing his vision. In the span of a decade, Türkiye became independent but more importantly… Became one of the worlds first countries to adopt women’s suffrage (in 1930), education became a mandatory right (only co-ed allowed), raised millions out of poverty. Domestic production was encouraged not by tariffs but by research & development. Religious minority rights were enshrined in the Constitution, sports were given reverence.
Religion on the other hand was entirely separated from governments affairs by adopting secularism, constitution was formed on contemporary European judicial systems. Our constitution still protects women in all family matters, anti-discrimination laws are vibrant including to sexual orientation. Land reform empowered the farmers, railroads energized the now revolutionized industries.
These happened less than 100 years ago, 3 of my (author, Eda’s) grandparents were born before Republic was founded (to put that into context, I am 38). Upon their births none of them had any of the rights or opportunities Republic bestowed on those born after 1923. So next time you wonder why Türkiye has over 80% voter participation on average (No, it isn’t mandatory), or why so many of us volunteer at elections and fervently celebrate our national holidays, remember… 100 years is not that long ago. We remember.
HAPPY BIRTHDAY TÜRKIYE! WE LOVE YOU!