Dozens arrested in Turkey for protesting in favor of secular education system

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Published Saturday, December 20, 2014

Dozens of demonstrators were arrested on Saturday in the Turkish capital Ankara as police used pepper spray and water cannon to disperse a protest in favor of secular education.

Police moved in on the protest, organized by labor unions, in the Kizilay district of Ankara with protesters forced to take cover from the jets of water and pepper spray, an AFP photographer reported.

Some reports said as many as 100 people may have been arrested, including the head of the Egitim-Is education union Veli Demir.

Many activists have been angered by the interventions of the Islamic-rooted Justice and Development Party (AKP) in the Turkish education system which they allege have undermined the country's secularity.

Opponents accuse Erdogan of behaving like a modern-day sultan, his Islamist ideology and intolerance of dissent taking Turkey far from Ataturk's secular ideals.

Erdogan said last week that Ottoman, an old form of Turkish using a version of Arabic script replaced by Mustafa Kemal Ataturk with the Latin alphabet upon founding the secular Republic in 1923, should be taught in schools to prevent younger generations from losing touch with their cultural heritage.

"Erdogan's concern is not teaching the Ottoman language...His real aim is a settling of accounts with secularism and the Republic," said Akif Hamzacebi, spokesman for the main opposition CHP in parliament.

His government lifted a ban on female students wearing the Islamic headscarf in high schools and has encouraged the opening of Imam Hatip schools which mix religious education with a modern curriculum.

Furthermore, Erdogan in October unveiled a new presidential palace – built at a reported cost of $350 million to $650 million – on the outskirts of Ankara, a move seen by many as a vivid symbol of what Erdogan touts as his drive towards a "new Turkey."

The palace is the new home of the Turkish presidency, marking an historic break with the Cankaya presidential palace in downtown Ankara.

The Cankaya has been the seat of the Turkish president ever since the modern republic's founder Ataturk became president, and for many has been a symbol of Turkey's modern history as a progressive secular state.

The founder of modern Turkey Ataturk based the post-Ottoman republic on a strict separation between religion and state.

Critics accuse Erdogan, who last month moved to the post of president after over a decade as prime minister, of seeking to undermine Ataturk's legacy, a charge he denies.

(AFP, Al-Akhbar)


Good on him, I hope he takes it all the way!

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