Turkey marks its 100th year of parliament amid coronavirus

1010 WINS Newsroom
April 23, 2020 - 5:39 am

Local residents, in their flat due to the coronavirus, watch celebrations ahead of the National Sovereignty and Children's Day, in Istanbul, Wednesday, April 22, 2020. Turkey will mark Thursday, April 23, 2020 the 100th anniversary of the foundation of its parliament, as the nation is in a 4-day curfew declared by Turkey's government in an attempt to control the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic. (AP Photo/ Emrah Gurel)

ISTANBUL (AP) — A Turkish Airlines plane has flown over the country drawing the Turkish flag in its flight path to mark centennial celebrations for the founding of the nation's parliament.

The celebrations Thursday for Turkey's National Sovereignty and Children's Day were changed due to the coronavirus pandemic, with authorities replacing parades and school ceremonies with observances in line with social distancing efforts.

Flight tracking website Flightradar24 showed a crescent and a star over Turkey outlined by a Boeing 777. Turkish television stations showed children with flags on their neighborhood streets. The government has also asked Turkish citizens to sing the national anthem in the evening. Officials wearing masks visited the mausoleum of Turkey's founder.

The latest health ministry figures show 1,814 people have died from the coronavirus in Turkey, which ranks seventh in the world in the number of confirmed infections, which are nearing 100,000, according to Johns Hopkins University.

Experts say the true toll of the pandemic around the world is much higher than the Johns Hopkins tally, due in part to limited testing and difficulties in counting the dead in the midst of a crisis.

To stem the spread of COVID-19, Turkey closed schools, restaurants and other public spaces, barred people under 20 and above 65 from leaving their homes and instituted weekend lockdowns for all, expanding that to four days this week from Thursday to Sunday.

In past years, the day was marked with parades, celebrations and school children acting out ministerial roles with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, the founder of the Republic of Turkey, called for an election amid the war of independence after the Ottoman Empire’s defeat in World War I, which saw Allied powers split up its territories. On April 23, 1920, the Grand National Assembly held its first session.

A referendum in 2017 changed Turkey’s system of governance from parliamentary to an executive presidency, giving Erdogan wider powers.