The “Idealist Quarters,” an ultranationalist organization known as “Ülkü Ocakları” in Turkey, have staged country-wide protests against the lifting of the student oath and partial liberalization of the use of Kurdish as part of a democratization package unveiled by the prime minister.
The nationalist protestors described the package as an initiative to damage the name of “Turks” and the “Turkish language” and accused it of “being in accordance with the demands of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party
Convening in many cities on Oct. 1, Ülkü Ocakları members and supporters read the student oath and sang the national anthem to protest what they called the “exploitation of the fundamental values of the Turkish nation.”
Participants in the demonstrations chanted one of Mustafa Kemal Atatürk’s most famous maxims, which is also the last sentence of the oath, “Ne mutlu Türküm diyene” (How happy is the one who says I’m a Turk), while marching.
The organization expressed particular anger at three items: the permission to conduct political activities in different languages and dialects, permitting co-chairmanship in political parties and lifting the ban on usage of letters that are not in the Turkish alphabet, specifically the letters “q,” “w” and “x,” which are used in Kurdish.
The group, affiliated with the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) despite not having direct organizational links, asserted that Turkey’s language was Turkish and accused the government of “selling the country to Turkey’s enemies.”
“This betrayal process, in which to say ‘I’m Turkish’ on Turkish soil has turned into a crime, will turn on its owners,” according to a press statement read at the protests.
MHP leader Devlet Bahçeli also labeled the package as “a so-called democratization package” while claiming the measures were the outcome of the PKK’s demands on the government.
“Prime Minister [Recep Tayyip Erdoğan] is attempting to pull the wool over our nation’s eyes with democratization packages. He is meeting the demands of the PKK
one by one,” he said Oct. 1.
The MHP and Ülkü Ocakları have harshly criticized the government for negotiating with Kurdish groups and attempting to divide the country during the ongoing peace process.
Kurds, however, have also expressed disappointment with the content of the reforms, declaring them insufficient.
“The Kurds wished to solve the Kurdish problem, to solve the belief difficulties of the Alevis ... We wish to clearly state that this package has not met any of these wishes. This is not a package that addresses Turkey’s need for democratization,” Gültan Kışanak, co-chair of the Peace and Democracy Party (BDP), said after the release of the package.