In light of the Gaza War: Turkey celebrates the centenary of the founding of the Republic, and Erdogan says, “Israel is a war criminal.”

The Republic of Turkey celebrates the first centenary of its founding on Sunday. On the eve of the celebrations, and during a solidarity event with Gaza, the Turkish President described Israel as an occupier and invader.


On Sunday, Turkey celebrates the centenary of the founding of the republic in light of the fierce war between Israel and Hamas in the Gaza Strip, without the splendor that the Turks had hoped for. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan opened the celebrations on Sunday morning by laying a wreath at the shrine of Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, “Father of the Turks,” in Ankara. On this occasion, he declared, “Our republic is safe and in safe hands more than ever before. Rest in peace.”

The program of celebrations, which was revealed just a week before the anniversary, includes a fireworks display, a marine show on the Bosphorus, drone flights in the sky of Istanbul, and the illumination of historical landmarks such as the Hagia Sophia Mosque, the Greek site of Ephesus, and the rock formations in Cappadocia.

However, the reservation of the government and the ruling conservative Islamic Party to celebrate the century anniversary of the establishment of the secular republic did not prevent the Turks from raising national flags above their cars, on storefronts, and in front of public and private buildings, where red flags are mixed with pictures of Ataturk.

Two military parades will take place in front of the National Assembly in the capital and in Istanbul, followed by a naval parade on the Bosphorus. Erdogan will deliver a speech at 19:23, a time reminiscent of the year the republic was founded in 1923, before fireworks displays and drone flights. The public television network TRT announced the cancellation of all its scheduled entertainment programs due to the war in Gaza.

On the eve of this historic anniversary, Erdogan joined a huge gathering on Saturday organized by the Justice and Development Party, which he leads, “in support of Palestine” at the old Ataturk Airport in Istanbul. He delivered a fiery speech in front of a large human crowd that he himself estimated at one and a half million people, who were waving Turkish and Palestinian flags. He denounced the West, which he accused of being “the main culprit in the Gaza massacres” and of seeking to provide “a new atmosphere of crusades.”

He said, “You cried for the children in Ukraine. Why this silence regarding the children killed in Gaza?”, criticizing Israel by saying, “You are occupiers and invaders.”

“Israel is a war criminal”

Regarding the devastating Israeli bombing on the Gaza Strip, Erdogan said, addressing the Hebrew state, “We announce to the entire world that you are a war criminal.” Bayram Balcı, a researcher at the Institute of Political Sciences in Paris, pointed out that this severity of tone contradicts Erdogan’s contentment with calling for restraint in the first days of the war, at a time when Turkey had just restored its relations with Israel.

Balci saw that “his neutrality has become impossible due to the traditional position of Ankara and his party, the Justice and Development Party, which supports the Palestinian cause,” recalling the presidential party’s closeness to the Muslim Brotherhood, from which the Hamas movement emerged when it was founded, and Turkey’s historical relations with Jerusalem, which remained for four centuries under the control of the Ottoman Empire.

Erdogan also accused Israel of committing “genocide” after the bombing of Al-Ahly Arab Hospital in Gaza, which killed hundreds of people, and attributed it, like the Hamas government in the Strip, to the Hebrew state, while Israel denied responsibility, stressing that the strike resulted from a missile launched by the Islamic Jihad movement that deviated from its path.

Sule Ozel, professor of international relations at Kadir Has University in Istanbul, asked, “Couldn’t (the gathering) have waited until next week? The centenary comes once every century.” The university professor saw at this time a clear desire on the part of the president to divert attention a little from honoring Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, who is working to undermine his secular legacy little by little.

Additional sources • AFP/AP

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