Atypical day of protest at Gezi Park with religious ceremony, Quran reading in Turkey
ISTANBUL - Hurriyet Daily News
The day in Taksim Square started with the distribution by volunteers of the delicious 'kandil simidi,' especially baked on religious holidays. DAILY NEWS photo, Emrah GÜRELAs the 9th day of demonstrations against plans to redesign Istanbul’s iconic Taksim square coincided with the Lailat al–Mi’raj - known as Miraç Kandili in Turkish - protestors decided to mark this religious event with several activities.
The day in Taksim Square started with the distribution by volunteers of "kandil simidi”, a simit that is baked for this specific religious day.
Social media campaigns also declared the park a no-alcohol zone for the night, to further deepen solidarity with all sections of society. Concerns that ignoring the religious event and consuming alcohol could be used as a counter propaganda to demonize the demonstrations by conservative and pious supporters of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) also played a role in the decision.
The protestors are believed to be largely made of the younger generation with a secular world view, which earlier prompted Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan to declare: “There is another 50 percent [that voted for the AKP] that we are having difficulty keeping at home.”
Social media posts have been calling for a peaceful ceremony for days, warning protesters against drinking in order to “embrace everyone” during the demonstrations.
All through June 4 and 5, people shared and posted announcements that encouraged protesters to bring snacks and pastries, including the “kandil simit,” and to take part in a peaceful celebrations of the Islamic event, for which a Quran reading was set to take place at the park.
The plans came several days after conservative publications published photos of empty beer bottles allegedly left inside a Beşiktaş mosque, where around 100 protesters had taken refuge on June 3, turning the religious site into a temporary hospital and treating protesters who were wounded at the hands of police. Some reports have accused protesters of drinking and smoking in the mosque and of causing severe damage to the building. The imam of the mosque told daily Radikal that the protestors behaved well, he had not seen anyone drinking, and he did not know how the single bottle of beer found later entered the mosque.
'Protesters welcoming crowd: Islamic scholar'
Islamic scholar İlhan Eliaçık, part of the “Anti-Capitalist Muslims” group, warned conservative crowds against possible provocations ahead of the gathering at Gezi Park, dismissing such accusations as “attempts at keeping conservative people away from the park.”
Eliaçık said the Taksim protesters had been a welcoming crowd from the start, which contained believers and atheists alike. “They are trying to make it look like non-believers are there. That is not the case. Football fans are at the park, girls with headscarves are there. There is a respect for belief at Gezi,” he said.
“I encourage everyone to look into the crowd and pick out someone who seems different than themselves, and then go say hello,” Eliaçık said.
The Gezi protests have been unique in their nature, combining various sections of society, bringing together people of different beliefs and political allegiances. Declarations of solidarity have been dominating social media since the protests began on May 27.