“They are trying to turn us into another Iran or some kind of neo-Ottoman Empire. We are against this.” But they are winning.
“Turkish police fire tear gas at banned secularist march,” by Jonathon Burch for Reuters, October 29 (thanks to Block Ness):
(Reuters) – Turkish police fired tear gas and water cannon to disperse thousands of secularists protesting at a banned rally in the capital on Monday against what they see as an increasingly authoritarian and Islamist government.
The scenes of chanting men and women draped in Turkish flags and carrying banners portraying the country’s founding father Mustafa Kemal Ataturk highlight a longstanding division in Turkish society between staunch secularists on the one hand and more conservative religious Turks on the other.
Although Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan won a third term in power last year with 50 percent of the vote, many secular Turks fear his socially conservative AK Party has Islamist tendencies that threaten the secular republic founded by Ataturk.
“They are trying to turn us into another Iran or some kind of neo-Ottoman Empire. We are against this,” said retired 64-year-old Erdem Sevinc.
“We are here today to send a message to those who are trying to destroy the principles of this republic,” he said.
The local government in Ankara, also controlled by Erdogan’s AK Party, banned the rally citing “intelligence” it would be used for “provocation”, a move protesters said was designed to silence government opponents.
“Why have they banned this march? Because they are scared. They are scared of course,” said 68-year-old Metin Alkan, sporting a black tie emblazoned with Ataturk’s face.
“Look at us, do we look like a danger?” he said, laughing.
Waving Turkish flags several thousand people gathered outside the old parliament building in the city center to try to march to Ataturk’s mausoleum to mark the 89th anniversary of the founding of the Turkish Republic in 1923.
“Resign government! Damn you Tayyip!” the crowd chanted, referring to the prime minister.
“The day will come when the AK Party will give account to the people,” they shouted.
“We are Mustafa Kemal’s soldiers! Turkey is secular and will remain secular!” others shouted.
But the marchers were kept back by a barricade of riot police who began firing tear gas and water cannon into the crowd, which included children and elderly men and women, as some people tried to storm the police blockade….
Kemal Kilicdaroglu, leader of the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) set up by Ataturk in 1924, joined the march and later criticized the police’s handling of the event.
“Those people only had Turkish flags in their hands. The state had police, tear gas, water cannon and tanks. Hey, where are you going? Are you going to war? You don’t need permission to celebrate the republic,” he said.
Maybe a celebration isn’t in order. Maybe it is time for the supporters of the secular Turkish republic to wear on their sleeves the crepe of mourning for a civilization that had the promise of joy.