Republic Day crisis

Republic Day crisis

A new crisis is brewing in this ever-dynamic country with its fast-changing agenda. Shall Turks celebrate the Republic Day with a gathering in front of the first Parliament building in the downtown Ulus neighborhood of Ankara, or shall the day be marked with some official and restricted ceremonies?

The ruling Islamist government has made it a habit to limit - if not cancel - celebration of the secular republic’s important days. For some time, for example, it has become a tradition to cancel the traditional Oct. 1 reception in Parliament marking start of the legislative year. Every year, for some awkward reason, Victory Day celebrations are cancelled (this year it was the president’s ear problem). The April 23 celebrations have long been held under the shadow of weeklong so-called “Sacred Birth Week” religiosity, marking the birth of the Prophet Muhammad. Because of the disparity in calendars, events celebrated with the Islamic calendar (the religious holidays for example) move ten days earlier every year. Still, somehow (for obvious reasons) the “Sacred Birth Week” celebrations are fixed to take place around April 23.

Anyhow, this year the April 23 National Sovereignty and Children’s Day celebrations, as well as the celebrations to mark the May 19 start of the War of Liberation, were virtually castrated - like most other celebrations - with a magical touch. Regulations on national celebrations were changed and ceremonies were confined to indoors.

The latest controversy started when a number of NGOs invited people to celebrate the anniversary of the proclamation of the Republic in front of the first Parliament building, where the Turkish Republic was proclaimed. Citing security concerns, the Ankara Governor’s Office banned the gathering and in all antagonism declared that whoever participated in such an unauthorized rally would be subjected to legal punishment.

If thousands of people are gathering at a place it is obvious that there might be some serious security challenges. After all, this is a country that has been battling terrorism for the past three decades. However, the duty of local administrators must be to respect the constitutional right of citizens to demonstrate and also take the necessary and adequate measures to provide security. Otherwise, banning events citing security challenges would be considered as officious attempts to please the Islamist government – anyhow, that’s anyhow how the governor’s ban has been perceived.

Now, despite the ban, thousands will gather in front of the first Parliament building on Oct. 29. At least as a journalist, I will be there. Hopefully the government and local government of the Republic won’t order the police of the Republic to attack, beat up, gas, or soak people with water cannons, and allow for the celebration of the Republic Day.

I wish all Muslim readers a happy Eid al-Adha, or Feast of Sacrifice.