A most weird Turkish debate

A most weird Turkish debate

The Muslim world is currently celebrating its most sacred feast. In Arabic it is called Eid al-Adha, in Turkish it is called Kurban Bayramı, or “Feast of Sacrifice,” as it involves the sacrifice of animals with two hoofs such as cows, sheep, camels, and goats. The delivery of these animals’ meat to those in need is one of the major obligations of being a faithful Muslim.

There are no limitations to the celebration of the Feast of Sacrifice in Turkey. The government, governors and municipalities do their best for people (such as providing free local transport and free motorways) during the Feast days, in order to make it easier for people to come together.

There is nothing weird so far, as Turkey has a predominantly Muslim population.

The weird part comes later.

In a few days time - on Monday, Oct. 29 - the biggest national day of Turkey will take place, celebrating the 89th anniversary of the foundation of the Turkish Republic. Following the announcements that a number of civil society organizations wanted to celebrate the day in front of the First Assembly Building in the Ulus district of capital Ankara, the governor of Ankara declared it illegal and said the police might use force to disperse it and that legal investigations could be opened against those who joined it.

The opposition reacted immediately. Stating that according to the Constitution no permission was required for peaceful public demonstrations - even if the gathering is not celebrating the Republic Day on a public holiday - deputies from the parliamentary opposition CHP and MHP declared that they would attend the street celebrations instead of the government-organized ones.

A while ago, the government also introduced limitations to celebrations attempting to show gratitude by placing flowers on the statutes of Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, the founder of the Republic, which exist in the city squares of almost all towns throughout the country.

The logic behind these limitations was to prevent the exploitation of national day celebrations by ultra-nationalist groups. The ruling Justice and Development (AK Parti) government has bitter memories of “republic rallies” in 2007 that turned into anti-government demos, supposedly linked to conspiracies to overthrow the government. A number of the organizers of these rallies are being tried in the Ergenekon case and are still in jail. But as a typical over exaggeration “alla Turca,” it has reached to a point where the government is even trying to stop its citizens who want to celebrate the Republic Day.

Imagine that Turkish President Abdullah Gül (whose middle name is Cumhur, in reference to the Republic “Cumhuriyet” Day on which he was born in 1950) was prepared to give a big reception on the evening of the Republic Day. Imagine that during the day the governor appointed by him tried to prevent Turkish citizens - using force if the police thought necessary - trying to gather in front of the historical Parliament building (now a museum) with flags in their hands. Gül is actually expected to intervene and sort this issue out.

Never a dull moment, never in Turkey. Have a nice holiday.