In the Ottoman Empire, the Janissaries were an elite military group made up of men who had as children been taken forcibly from their Christian families and converted to Islam. The Janissaries were often used against their own ancestral people — for jihad attacks against Christian areas. Here, they have become a symbol of rapidly re-Islamizing Turkey’s rejection of the Christian and post-Christian West.
Amid increasing anger at official and popular levels at the supposed Christian aspects of New Year’s celebrations in Turkey, members of the far-right Great Unity Party (BBP) symbolically ran Santa out of town Dec. 31 in the northwestern province of Bolu.
In a skit performed on the city’s central İzzet Baysal Avenue, Santa began distributing gifts to passersby, prompting the “sultan” – who happened to chance upon the scene – to ask his vizier what was occurring. After being informed, the sultan shouted, “Throw him out of the city,” precipitating a chase as Santa attempted to elude pursuing Janissaries.
“Citizens are celebrating because they’re entering a new year,” said BBP Bolu Chair Mahmut Alan. “We’re against the celebration of [new year]. We wanted to express this with a play.”