No kidding. “Turkey military: Secularism under attack,” by Christopher Torchia for the Associated Press:
ISTANBUL, Turkey – Turkey’s military issued a stern warning on Monday about the
threat to secularism on the eve of an expected triumph of the Islamic-oriented government: the election of a loyal “” and devout “” president.
There were no signs that the military planned to disrupt Parliament’s vote on Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul, but the statement describing “the centers of evil” arrayed against secular Turkey was a reminder of its past interventions to enforce the separation of mosque and state. This time, the military is dealing with a government that renewed its mandate in a resounding election victory in July and an emboldened prime minister who has urged the generals to stay out of politics.
Gen. Yasar Buyukanit, chief of the military, said in a note on the military’s Web site: “Our nation has been watching the behavior of those separatists who can’t embrace Turkey’s unitary nature and centers of evil that systematically try to corrode the secular nature of the Turkish Republic.”
The military often condemns separatist rebels who have been fighting for decades in the predominantly Kurdish region of southeast Turkey. But the potent reference to “centers of evil” and the timing of the announcement just before the presidential election suggested the conflict over the role of Islam in politics was its immediate concern.
The military, which has ousted four civilian governments since 1960, said its statement was issued to mark the 85th anniversary on Aug. 30 of a military victory that was
crucial for the establishment of modern Turkey.
Gul, whose earlier bid to win election as president was blocked by the secular
establishment because of concerns about his background in political Islam, was expected to
win the post on Tuesday. He has pledged to uphold secular principles enshrined in the
constitution, and to use his contacts in foreign capitals to promote Turkey’s role on the
The military-backed secular establishment, however, fears Gul is so loyal to Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan that he would not use the presidency’s veto powers as a traditional check on the government. The secular incumbent, Ahmet Necdet Sezer, vigorously
used his authority to block the promotion of officials deemed to have Islamic leanings.
“Nefarious plans to ruin Turkey’s secular and democratic nature emerge in different forms everyday,” Buyukanit said in his statement. “The military will, just as it has so far, keep its determination to guard social, democratic and secular Turkey.”