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article imageTurkey celebrates freedom Special

By Lonna Lisa Williams     Oct 31, 2012 in World
Antalya - On October 29 the Turkish people celebrated Republic Day and freedom despite threats from repressive Turkish President Erdoğan and attacks by his police.
On Monday millions of people all over Turkey celebrated Republic Day. On October 29, 1923, the first President of Turkey, Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, helped establish the secular democratic Republic of Turkey. Also known as Freedom Day (or Cumhuriyet), this is a time for all Turks, young and old, to celebrate the freedom of speech, religion, assembly, and the press that Atatürk fought so hard to establish.
In cities all over Turkey, from Istanbul in the northwest to Antalya in the south and Van in the far east, people gathered to remember Atatürk and the values he embraced. In the capital city of Ankara, 100,000 people assembled despite the fact that the current Turkish President, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan of the Islamist Ak Party, declared that public celebrations for Freedom Day would be illegal.
Turkish Television, such as Haber Türk, showed live broadcasts of the peaceful assemblers being attacked by police water guns and pepper bombs. CHP Party leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu gathered with the people and walked among them, unprotected as even he received a little pepper spray. CHP, the Republican People’s Party, was Atatürk’s party and has been trying to prevent Turkey from becoming an Islamic police state under Erdoğan. Touted in the Turkish press a close friend of U.S. President Barak Obama, Erdoğan and his Ak Party have recently received criticism over human rights issues from European countries. Many writers, journalists, academics, students, and even ex-army generals have been condemned to years in prison for speaking or writing against the current regime.
On Tuesday, October 30, Kılıçdaroğlu gave a powerful, televised speech regarding Monday's activities and reports that he would be prosecuted for hosting the rally in Ankara.
"Who will prosecute me for honoring Atatürk, the Father of the Turkish people?" he asked. "A court in Africa?"
The Associated Press covered the situation in Ankara. In Istanbul, thousands turned up at night with flashlights to form a living lighthouse. In Izmir, people paraded by the famous clock tower near the Aegean Sea. In Antalya, a group placed flowers near a statue of Atatürk in the old city of Kaleiçi by the Mediterranean Sea. Police watched, and some took notes about who placed the flowers. People of all ages waved flags and attended a patriotic concert. Students marched, carrying banners and chanting “We are Atatürk’s Soldiers for Freedom” to the cheers of bystanders.
One Mediterranean University student declared, “Turkey will never forget Atatürk. We will never forget freedom!”
Writer's Note: See my "Faces of Freedom" photo album about Antalya Republic Day celebrations here.
More about Turkey, Human Rights, Ataturk, Republic Day, Peaceful rally
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