Monday, May 07, 2007

Turks show massive support for secularism

As the presidential elections draw near, demonstrations have been increasing. The crescent and star, an Islamic symbol, is also the national flag of Turkey, which has been displayed prominently as Turks rally in support of their secular democracy.

I've wanted to post about this for a while now. Turks have been taking to the streets in massive demonstrations, in support of keeping their government secular. Here are a selection of posts and photos that have been appearing on

No Hijab for these Turkish ladies.

Demonstrations by Secular Turks Spread Throughout Turkey
[...] Tens of thousands rallied yesterday, May 5, in cities in western Turkey to protest against the AKP party and Islamist fundamentalism, and to assert that the Turkish people desires a secular, democratic Turkey.

Following the giant demonstrations in Ankara (April 14) and in Istanbul (April 29), the protests have spread throughout Turkey. The western Turkish cities of Amasya and Canakkale witnessed today the largest demonstrations in their history. These protests, like the previous demonstrations, were organized and supported mainly by women’s organizations.

A third protest rally took place yesterday in Marmaris, a resort town on the Aegean coast. The messages delivered by demonstrators there were the same as protestors expressed in previous rallies: "Turkey is secular and will remain secular," "No imams and mullahs in Cankaya," "No to Shari’a."[...]

I had wondered these photos some of the demonstrators were carrying. The explanation is given below:

[...] Among the tens of thousands of flags that filled the streets with red was a large poster showing a 1986 photo of Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan kneeling before terrorist leader Hikmetyar, with the caption "This is You [AKP]," alongside a 1930s photo of Ataturk with the ruling government of his time, in modern Western attire, with the caption "And This is Us."[...]

This is just the latest, there have been earlier demonstrations as well:

Mass April 14 Demonstration in Ankara Against Erdogan Presidency
Hundreds of thousands of people demonstrated peacefully to protest against Turkish PM Erdogan as president, the policy of the AKP government, and the Islamization of Turkey, and in defense of the core values of the republic and of the reforms of Mustafa Kemal Ataturk. The crowd included large numbers of women and children, and the streets were red with Turkish flags – some of them miles long. All the speeches were by academicians and officials of NGOs.

Signs carried by demonstrators read: "We don't want an imam in Cankaya (the presidential residence)"; "Turkey is secular and will remain secular"; "I am aware of the danger and I am here" (see relevant clips at Turkish Elections Ad ; More Turkish Elections Ad) [see article for links]; "We are aware of the danger and of our strength"; "No mullahs in Cankaya"; "The road to Cankaya is closed to shari'a"; "Those who kneel at the feet of Gulbettin Hikmetyar cannot sit in Cankaya"; "We respect faith but not fundamentalism"; "Democracy is not tolerance of fundamentalism"; "No military boot and no takunya [slippers worn by Islamists]; "Canyaka belongs to the [Turkish] people"; and "The Turkish people are called to duty!" [...]

There were also demonstrations against the murders of three Christians by Islamist extremists:

The signs say: "We Are All Christians".

Turkey Shocked By "Savage" Triple Murder of Christians
Turkey's mainstream media is headlining its front-page stories on yesterday's murders in Malatya "Savagery" (see "Turkish Daily: Three Dead in Grisly Attack at Bible Publishing House").

Protestors at a demonstration in Istanbul hours after the murders carried signs saying "We Are All Christians" (see photo).

While foreign media have been attributing the execution-style murders to increasing Turkish nationalism, the Turkish press is pointing fingers at the growing Islamism and intolerance over the last few years.

The three Christian victims, two Turks and a German citizen, worked in the city of Malatya at a branch of the Zirve publishing house, which prints and distributes Christian Bibles. According to reports, five assailants entered their third floor office, bound the victims' hands and feet, and slit their throats. [...]

(bold emphasis mine) This is all quite amazing. While Turkey is hardly a liberal paradise by Western standards, it IS liberal by Muslim standards; it is unique in the Muslim world.

The Turks, the majority hopefully, value their secular government, and they know they have to fight the extremists to keep it. There have been increasing attempts to curb free expression in Turkey. The Turkish courts seem to be ruling mostly in favor of the defendants thus far. The people are aware of the danger. My hopes are with them for success.

Here is video footage, via YouTube:

What is that music? Turkish "rock"?

2 comments: said...

im from Turkey and we know the fact of this demonstrations.
Here is the facts:
There isnt any secularism threat at this country.Many social prosefors claims this.
This is a war of Power.Akp has rised so much.Turkish people loves akp 2002 elections they had reached %34.At this elections akp hopes will rise to %44..
They are so much reformist.During the akp eu condidates starts.
There is many reformist things done..They have never been secularism threat.
There is some people who dont wants them just because of they are not at president.
They lose alot power and want to to take this again ..
Turkish Army cut into democratic and political process every 10 years.We Want democracy,we want human rights.We dont want the armys cut.
turkish army is a big political power at turkey.We just want army is army not a political power or army.
İ didnt vote to akp at 2002 elections couse of my afraid about secularism.but at this elections i will give them.they are so much democratic.
Turkish army and his political parti chp is not democratic.
you can check this news..

Chas said...


I find it hard to believe that all these protests are happening for nothing. Many people seem to fear that secular government is threatened. You may claim that their fears are unfounded, but clearly they aren't convinced.

I don't doubt there is a power struggle underlying it all. Thats politics. But what are these "reforms" that AKP stands for? Bringing more Islam into government? That is what many people seem to think.

You talk about Democracy. Democracy by itself is no better than mob rule, and always self-destructs. A lasting Democracy requires the rule of law to protect and stabilize it.

The Turkish courts thus far seem to be fulfilling that function. Wouldn't the army interfere only if the government refused to follow the courts rulings?

That said, I admit I can't pretend to understand all the nuances and powerplays of Turkish politics; no doubt it's a bigger topic than can be covered in the comments section of my blog.

I appreciate the link you provided, with the editorials there that reflect your views. There is always at least two sides to every story. Even if the two sides never agree completely, that's democracy in action. Let's hope it survives, because no matter how messy it is, it's still better than the alternative.

I see that at the link you posted to Today's Zaman, there is an article showing Condi Rice supporting the AKP.

She's a smart woman in many ways, but I've sometimes wondered if she's really suited to the position she now holds. I fear that she is often too academic in her approach to foreign affairs. I could be wrong. I guess history will be the final judge of that.