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Turkey - Military issues harsh warning over secularism
In an unusually strong statement, the Turkish Armed Forces say it is the defender of the republic's secular system. “It should not be forgotten that the Turkish armed forces are a side in this debate and are a staunch defender of secularism. "When necessary, it will display its attitudes and actions very clearly. No one should doubt that,” the statement says.
The powerful Turkish military said late Friday that it was watching a parliamentary presidential vote with concern and issued a harsh warning against questioning the country's secular system and said it would “openly display its position and attitudes when it becomes necessary.”
Hours earlier, the ruling party's presidential candidate failed to win enough votes in a first round of balloting in Parliament, reflecting the deep rift between the Islamic-rooted government and the secular establishment.
“The problem that has recently stood out in the presidential election process has focused on the issue of questioning secularism. The Turkish armed forces are following this with concern,” the general staff said in a statement late in the evening.
The military also complained about a series of public events where it said Islam had encroached on secular traditions. In particular, it mentioned a competition for children to memorize the Quran during the April 23 Children's Day, a festival initiated by the country's founder Mustafa Kemal Atatürk as a secular event. The competition was cancelled after the program was publicized.
The military statement also said girls dressed in Islamic outfits were seen reciting prayers at an Islamic event in the southeastern city of Şanlıurfa on April 22, as the organizers attempted pull down Turkish flags and pictures of Atatürk.
“Those who are engaged in such activities do not refrain from exploiting our people's holy religious sentiments and try to hide their real intentions, which amount to challenging the state, behind religion,” the military statement said.
“This radical Islamic understanding, which is against the Republic and has no goal but to erode the basic qualities of the state, has been expanding its span with encouragement” from politicians and local authorities, the statement claimed.
The European Union (and I hope this is naivety on their ill informed part and not an agenda) has warned Turkey's military not to interfere in politics, amid a row over the Islamist-rooted ruling party's candidate for president.
EU Enlargement Commissioner Olli Rehn said the controversy was a test case for the military to respect democracy.