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The struggle for Turkey

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  • #16
    During its nearly five years in office, the AKP government, led by the charismatic, incorruptible Erdogan...
    Nothing like unbiased detachment, is there? lol



    • #17
      IZMIR, Turkey (AP) - At least 100,000 secular Turks demonstrated in Turkey's third-largest city on Sunday, keeping up pressure on the Islamic-rooted government that they fear is working to raise the influence of religion on society.

      Police deployed thousands of officers, a day after a bomb at an Izmir market killed one person and injured 14 others. There was no claim of responsibility for the attack, nor evidence that it was linked to the demonstration.

      Izmir is a port city on the Aegean coast that is a bastion of secularism, and Islamic parties fare poorly there.

      The rally follows similar demonstrations by hundreds of thousands in Ankara and Istanbul last month. The rallies were staged to pressure Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan's government, which nominated a presidential candidate deemed to be Islamist.

      The candidate, Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul, was forced to suspend his bid after the opposition boycotted the voting process in Parliament.

      "These rallies have been useful in forcing the government to take a step back,'' said protester Neslihan Erkan. "The danger is still not over. These rallies must continue until there is no longer a threat.''

      Protesters, many of whom traveled to Izmir from other cities, gathered under sunny skies on the seafront. They carried anti-government banners, red-and-white Turkish flags and pictures of Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, the revered leader who founded the secular republic in 1923. Turkish flags hung from balconies and windows, as well as buses and fishing boats in Izmir's bay.

      "I am here to defend my country,'' said Yuksel Uysal, a teacher. "I am here to defend Ataturk's revolution.''

      Thousands were still trying to reach Izmir and traffic choked highways leading to the city, local media reported.

      Gul, Erdogan's close ally, abandoned his presidential bid after pro-secular lawmakers boycotted two rounds of voting in Parliament, creating a political deadlock.

      Erdogan's government called early general elections for July 22 and passed a constitutional amendment to let the people, instead of Parliament, elect the president. The amendment must be endorsed by the current president, Ahmet Necdet Sezer.

      Gul has indicated he could run for president in a popular vote.

      Secularists fear that if Gul becomes president, the Islamic-rooted ruling party could challenge the country's secular system unchecked. Sezer, a staunch secularist, had acted as a brake on the government by vetoing numerous bills and blocking the appointment of hundreds of officials.

      The ruling Justice and Development Party, which commands a strong majority in Parliament, came to power in 2002 as Turkey struggled to emerge from a financial crisis and quickly established a strong reform record. The opposition, viewed by detractors as an elitist group resistant to change, now seeks to overcome internal differences ahead of the July polls.

      Erdogan spent time in jail in 1999 for reciting a Muslim poem that prosecutors said amounted to a challenge to Turkey's secular system. However, Erdogan's government has done more than many other governments to advance Turkey's EU membership bid, and rejects claims that it has an Islamist agenda.

      Turkey's secularism is enshrined in the constitution and fiercely guarded by the judiciary and by the military, which had threatened to intervene in the presidential elections in order to safeguard secularism. The military has ousted civilian governments in the past.

      Last edited by Guest 123; 14th May 2007, 09:44.


      • #18
        "Turkey's secularism is enshrined in the constitution and fiercely guarded by the judiciary and by the military, which had threatened to intervene in the presidential elections in order to safeguard secularism. The military has ousted civilian governments in the past" .....Al Khiyal.

        Here, I think, lies the clue to contain Islamisation of Governmet and to safeguard secularism.

        Yes, the military will be a powerful tool to check the religionist.

        But I wonder what is the meaning of secularism, if a country has more than 95% of the population belonging to one religion!


        • #19
          The great danger of non-secular governments is that
          the nations of the world will be divided & regrouped into
          Christian States, Islamic States, Hindu States etc.,

          The natural belligerence, animosity and non-tolerance between religions will then permeate into the psyche of the nations.


          • #20
            In the biggest show of people power yet, more than a million self-proclaimed Turkish secularists poured into Izmir yesterday, gathering along its seafront, to protest against what many described as the creeping Islamisation of the country by its conservative Muslim government.

            In a third week of mass rallies, the demonstrators crammed into boats, massed on rooftops, and peered from balconies to convey a message, summed up with deafening ferocity in the single chant: "Turkey is secular and will remain secular." Such was the mood, according to CNN Turk, that by 9am more than 200,000 people, often draped in carpet-sized flags, had been whisked to the shores of this Aegean city by caique and ferry. By high noon, the shoreline was a sea of giant red and white flags despite fears that a fatal bomb blast the previous day had been the work of government supporters desperately trying to disrupt the event.

            "We're here for our children because we want them to be able to live in a democracy, not in a land with sharia rules," said Yusuf Ozsoz, a mechanical engineer who flew from Ankara for the protest.

            "The AK party got into power with 34% of the vote. It has tried, every which way, to introduce Islam to our country even though it does not represent Turks. We are not willing to be the silent majority anymore. We are determined to uphold the principles of [Mustafa] Kemal Ataturk."

            The demonstration, the biggest of four so far, comes in the wake of what analysts have called the worst political crisis to hit Turkey in a decade. The trouble, temporarily put on hold with the government's decision to call early elections in July, erupted when the prime minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, nominated his trusted foreign minister, Abdullah Gul, whose Islamist beliefs he shares, for the post of president.

            Formally the seven-year term of Turkey's outgoing figurehead, Ahmet Necdet Sezer, ends this week. But the staunch secularist was forced to extend his time in office after Mr Gul withdrew his candidacy amid uproar following a warning from the military and the decision of the country's highest court to annul the vote.

            For outraged republicans, the prospect of the devout diplomat and his headscarf-wearing wife, Hayrunnisa, moving into the presidential palace breached Turkey's sacred separation of state and religion and was tantamount to treason. "You can't have these 'covered' women representing Turkey abroad," said Humeyra Aktay. "We're not Iran, we're a modern country whose women were liberated by Ataturk in 1923."

            For two years after their election in 2002, the culturally conservative Muslim Democrats were able to unite voters by determinedly pursuing EU accession. Although 75% of pious Turks want the ban on the headscarf lifted, according to polls, the government played down the issue.

            Now, secularists fear the neo-Islamists are showing their true colours, focusing on religious matters to appease their traditional, grassroots supporters. The tensions have fuelled fears that Turkey could be heading for polarisation if the ruling neo-Islamists are re-elected with an even bigger majority.


            • #21
              Izmir, May 13th:


              • #22
                That is a great show of people's power & determination.
                Reminds me of the French Revolution.

                I am really amazed!


                • #23
                  Mohammed Ayoob:

                  19 May 2007 -- The current political crisis in Turkey, couched by Kemalist circles as a conflict between Islam and secularism, goes far beyond such simplistic formulation.

                  It's as much a tussle between the country's democratic imperatives and the autocratic impulses of the military top brass long used to dictating terms to Turkey's civilian rulers. It's, above all, a struggle between the new social and political forces represented by the AKP, or Adalet ve Kalkinma Partisi, and the entrenched political and economic elite denoted by the epithet 'Kemalist'.

                  The issue of secularism versus Islam is, therefore, just one element in the standoff between the ruling AKP and its civilian and military opponents. This was demonstrated in particular by the memorandum on the military website that all but threatened a military coup if Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul were elected to the presidency.

                  The memorandum underscored the symbiotic nature of the relationship between secularism and authoritarianism, as conceived by Kemalists. Consequently, it threw into sharp relief the close relationship between democracy and the free expression of religion, including the wearing of the headscarf by the prospective first lady.

                  The rise of AKP to power in 2002 sent a clear message to the broader Middle East that Islam and democracy are compatible and that, in fact, a party with Islamic roots could come to accept secular political values while retaining commitment to an ethical code that drew inspiration from Islam. It also signalled that Islamist parties elsewhere, as in Egypt or Algeria, can moderate if the right circumstances prevail and regime repression ceases.

                  In a surprise turnaround, AKP also became the primary proponent of Turkey's entry into the EU. Its advocacy of Turkish accession to the EU resulted in part from its attempt to consolidate democracy in Turkey by using the Copenhagen criteria to force the military to desist from intervening in politics. That advocacy was also, in part, a response to interests of the new provincial bourgeoisie, beneficiaries of economic liberalisation and the financial backbone of AKP.

                  The emergence of the AKP as a post-Islamist, conservative democratic party out of the womb of an Islamist movement is a sign of the maturity achieved by Turkey's Islamists, thanks largely to their incorporation into what was becoming a relatively open political system.

                  Their transition from Islamism to post-Islamism entailed a shift from emphasising implementation of Shariah law to accepting the secular state while infusing society and polity with moral values based on Islam, what anthropologist Jenny White has termed 'Muslimhood.' A similar trend is visible in the other major democracy in the Muslim world, Indonesia, where Islamically inclined political formations have had little hesitation in accepting the secular character of the state.

                  Kemalist elite are entrenched in the military, the bureaucracy, the legal system and the upper echelons of the academia. They regard both democratic consolidation — entailing the political empowerment of the hitherto economically deprived, politically disempowered and religiously observant population of Anatolia — and Turkey's eventual entry into the EU as threatening to their economic and political interests.

                  Kemalists used the Gul candidacy as the ideal opportunity for raising the slogan of 'secularism in danger,' in an attempt to hide other major contradictions in Turkish society, namely, those between democracy and authoritarianism as well as the new and the entrenched social forces.

                  Derailing the democratic process and returning to the semi-authoritarianism characteristic of the Kemalist state was the only way the elite could retain privileges. Hence the midnight memorandum threatening military intervention if AKP went ahead with Gul's election to the presidency.

                  The major thrust of the AKP agenda is threefold: democratic consolidation, economic liberalisation and Turkish accession to the EU. These goals threaten entrenched elements of the Turkish elite.

                  Democratic consolidation as well as accession to the EU could adversely affect the corporate interests of the military, which has projected itself as the guardian of Kemalist ideology that espouses a centralised state, a conception of Turkish nationalism that does not permit ethnic or cultural differences, and a definition of secularism that makes religion subservient to the state.

                  Not many people outside Turkey realise that the Directorate of Religious Affairs appoints and controls all religious functionaries in the country and vets Friday sermons. DRA is the second largest public employer after the armed forces in Turkey.

                  Unfettered democracy would upset many of these equations, above all by permanently sending the military back to the barracks and making the general staff subservient to civilian rulers. It is no wonder that the military and its civilian supporters, long presented as the vanguard of modernization, have become lukewarm about Turkey's entry into the EU. They have attempted to derail this process by adopting ultranationalist positions on entry-related issues to embarrass the AKP government.

                  The Kemalist elite are also wary of economic liberalisation and Turkey's integration into the international economy on a free-market basis. State handouts pamper the elite. Beyond a bloated defense budget, state subventions concentrated in Istanbul and Ankara in a largely statist economy shield the elite from international and even domestic competition, a root cause of Turkey's economic malaise for several decades.

                  With World Bank pressure and the election of AKP, this Gordian knot was cut and the country launched on a healthy economic trajectory reflected in the GDP growth of 8.9 per cent in 2004 and 7.4 per cent in 2005 with inflation down from about 60 per cent in 2000 to 8.2 percent in 2005.

                  The AKP could usher in needed economic reforms because its base includes the provincial bourgeoisie comprised of entrepreneurs who do not depend on state subvention and are not afraid to compete in the international arena. That the base is more religious and conservative was a bonus for the 'Muslim democrats' of the AKP. However, this should not blind anyone to the fact that the AKP has come to represent new economic forces in Turkey, radically changing economic and social balance in the country. Consequently, economic dynamism has shifted from the metropolitan centers, such as Istanbul and Ankara, to the provinces in Anatolia. Cities and towns of the interior, such as Kayseri and Konya, have become powerhouses of the Turkish economy further threatening state-dependent economic actors.

                  Couching the debate in terms of secularism versus Islam and highlighting the issue that Gul's wife wears a headscarf allows the Kemalist elite to hide real intentions that relate to the preservation of economic and political privileges and only incidentally to safeguarding secularism.

                  The ban on the headscarf in government offices can be traced to Turkish laws prohibiting the use of Islamic dress except for religious functionaries. However, the headscarf has been embroiled in controversy since the 1980s when in the wake of a military coup the attempt was made to ban it in educational institutions to depoliticise the student body.

                  If the Kemalists really believe that a prospective first lady's headscarf poses mortal danger to the secular state, then they demonstrate a mammoth lack of faith in the secular foundations of the Turkish state. If one headscarf-wearing woman residing in the presidential palace can shake these foundations to the core, then they were never as deep as they were made out to be. Fortunately, this is not the case. Turkish secularism is healthy and robust — and the AKP's transformation into a post-Islamist, conservative democratic party, — la the Christian Democrats of Western Europe, is testimony to this fact. The accession of an AKP figure to the presidency will complete the evolution of the AKP into a post-Islamist party.

                  It will also send a message to moderate Islamists in countries such as Egypt and Algeria that there is a constitutional route to power and that their success in taking this route depends as much on their willingness to transform themselves as it does on changing the nature of regimes currently in power in those countries.


                  • #24
                    SAMSUN, Turkey, May 20, 2007: Tens of thousands of Turks filled a square in this historic Black Sea coast city to rally in favor of secularism and to protest against an Islamic-based government that they fear threatens Turkey's secular system.

                    The demonstration in Samsun followed huge pro-secular protests in the three largest cities in Turkey - Istanbul, Ankara and Izmir - and precedes general elections set for July 22 in which Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan's party is running against the secular opposition.

                    The protest in Samsun, a city of 1.2 million inhabitants, drew smaller crowds than previous protests, but was highly symbolic: It was in Samsun that Turkey's secular founder, Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, began the Turkish war of independence against occupying powers after World War I, on May 19, 1919. "Turkey is secular and will remain secular!" the demonstrators chanted.

                    "I owe my identity, my rights as a woman, everything to Ataturk," said Sezer Ozdogan, a retired teacher. "I am here," she added, to tell the government "that they cannot undo what he did."

                    The leaders of Turkey's two main secular parties, which formed an election alliance last week, attended the demonstration in Samsun together in a show of unity.

                    Police estimated the crowd at between 50,000 to 60,000, according to the private Dogan news agency.


                    • #25
                      ISTANBUL, May 22, 2007: Two simmering problems threaten to boil over in Turkey this summer with greater international consequences than ever before.

                      First is the relationship between the Islamic religion and the state that Mustafa Kemal Ataturk founded in 1923 and whose secular nature the army has protected ever since. Second is the raids against Turkish troops by terrorists from Turkey's minority Kurdish population who are now camped across the border in Iraq.

                      Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan ignited the current political controversy by signaling his desire to succeed the retiring secularist, Ahmet Necdet Sezer, in the presidency. Faced with stiff resistance to his candidacy, Erdogan tried to deliver the post to his close associate, Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul, himself a devout Islamic believer.

                      That prospect aroused fears that the loss of checks and balances could lead to an Islamization of the state, if not by the current Justice and Development Party (AKP) leadership then by more fervent successors. The army, responsible for four coups in the last five decades, warned against the selection.

                      Erdogan then reprimanded the army, moved up parliamentary elections from the fall to July 22 and proposed a referendum to switch the election of a president to a direct popular vote.

                      The most dramatic reaction to Erdogan's divisive thrust has been the peaceful but massive street demonstrations, several of them numbering more than 1 million participants.

                      Erdogan's record of the past four years in office has been markedly moderate - with a few exceptions, such as his short-lived effort to make adultery a crime. He enacted fiscal and structural reforms that spurred economic growth. And he passed civil rights and penal legislation to strengthen Turkey's application for membership in the European Union. In short, Erdogan and the AKP produced the most efficient and effective Turkish government in decades.

                      So how to explain the fears that generated a military warning and the public protests of unexpected size and diversity?

                      Part of the reaction can be attributed to the radical secularism of Turkey's traditional social and economic elite. Despite Erdogan's record of moderation, some of the radical secularists claim the AKP has a "secret agenda" to impose harsh Islamic constraints on Turkish life once it has amassed monopoly power. But their reaction hardly accounts for the outpouring of protest from a broad segment of the society.

                      More significantly, women played a key role in the demonstrations. As the most liberated women in the Islamic world, active in business, culture and politics, Turkish women have a lot to lose. When they contemplate greater Islamic influence on their public lives, the specter on their minds is neighboring Iran, once cosmopolitan and now theocratic.

                      Concerning the revival of Kurdish terrorism, the army is privately warning that it will close down the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) camps in neighboring Iraq if no one else does.

                      It faults the Kurdish regional government in Iraq, and the United States occupying forces, for not suppressing the cross-border raids. By year's end, a scheduled referendum may deliver control of Iraq's oil-rich city of Kirkuk to the autonomous regional government. That could trigger action by the Turkish Army, which fears the impact on Turkey's Kurds of a strong and essentially independent Kurdish entity next door.

                      Turkey's geopolitical importance has grown as it has become stronger and more stable while its surrounding region has regressed. It is a critical bridge between Europe and Asia, a model for harmonizing Islam and democracy, and a key factor in Iraq's future. Yet at this critical juncture, the United States and Europe find their leverage on Turkey markedly diminished. Anger at America and Europe is rampant because of the U.S. occupation of Iraq and Europe's vocal reluctance to grant Turkey EU membership.

                      The Bush administration has rightly voiced support for a political, not military, solution to Turkey's impasse. The United States must press for tougher measures against cross-border raids by the PKK that, since the beginning of last year, have accounted for the deaths of 600 people, including many troops.

                      On both counts, time is short and the summer months may be critical to forestalling what are now clearly looming catastrophes.


                      • #26

                        May 22, 2007 -- A powerful explosion in the Turkish capital has killed five people and injured more than 60.

                        The blast, suspected to have been caused by a bomb, took place in Ankara's Ulus district, known for its tourist attractions and traditional markets.

                        Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Turkey's prime minister, said the dead included four Turks and one Pakistani.

                        CNN-Turk television reported that several bodies could be seen lying at the site of the explosion.

                        At least 15 people, some of them foreigners, were taken to a hospital nearby, hospital officials told the television channel.

                        The blast occurred outside one of the oldest shopping centres of Ankara.

                        "We have seen a vicious, ruthless terror attack at Ankara's busiest time," a visibly shaken Erdogan told reporters after visiting the blast site.

                        Police have detained seven people in connection with the bomb, private NTV television said.

                        Footage broadcast on the channel showed police removing mutilated body parts and a bloodied man being taken to an ambulance.

                        Windows of nearby buildings had been blown out by the force of the blast.

                        Although NTV television earlier quoted a senior official as saying that an "accident" may have caused the blast, the station later quoted police sources saying the most likely cause was a bomb.

                        Police were considering the possibility of a suicide attack, CNN-Turk and NTV television reported.

                        "Police officials are investigating the cause, announcements will be made following the inspections," the Mehmet Ali Sahin, the deputy prime minister, said.

                        Kurdish separatists, left-wing radicals and hardline Muslims have all launched bomb attacks in Turkey in the past.

                        In 2003, 30 people were killed and 146 wounded when suicide car bombs hit two synagogues in Istanbul. Five days later, 32 people were killed in similar attacks on the British consulate and HSBC bank in the city. The bombs were blamed on al-Qaeda.

                        Kurdish fighters launched a series of bomb attacks on tourist sites in Turkey last year, killing more than a dozen people.


                        • #27
                          ANKARA, May 23, 2007 (AP) - A suicide bomber carried out the attack on a busy shopping mall in Ankara that killed six people and wounded dozens, the governor of Turkey's capital said Wednesday.

                          Gov. Kemal Onal identified the attacker as the 28-year-old Guven Akkus, and said the type of the attack was similar to those carried out by Kurdish rebels.

                          Akkus spent two years in prison for hanging illegal posters and resisting police but it was not clear if he was affiliated with the separatist Kurdish rebel group, the Kurdistan Workers Party, or PKK, that has been fighting for autonomy in the country's southeast.

                          ''The type of the explosives and equipment used is similar to those used by the separatist group,'' the PKK, Onal said.


                          • #28
                            May 29, 2007 -- Turkish MPs voted overwhelmingly yesterday in favour of a bill to allow the country's president to be elected by a popular vote, rather than by the parliament. However the measure still needs to get past another vote in the house as well as the opposition of the current president.

                            The vote by 367-1, was the second time that MPs had taken up the issue, after President Ahmet Necdet Sezer vetoed the bill last week, saying the changes were incompatible with Turkey's democratic system. He was also critical of the way the bill was rushed through the parliament without allowing time for public debate.

                            Mr Sezer said the change could cause instability by pitting a president with a strong popular mandate against the prime minister.

                            A second and final round of voting is scheduled for Thursday. Mr Sezer cannot veto the legislation a second time, but can call a referendum on the issue. He could also ask the constitutional court to review whether legislators followed the correct procedures.

                            Earlier in the day, legislators from the secular opposition and MPs from the Islamist-rooted government exchanged punches after one member spoke strongly against the president, which the opposition said amounted to insulting the head of state. The parliament adjourned proceedings briefly.

                            The government of the prime minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, pushed for the amendment as a way out of a political impasse sparked by pro-secular MPs' boycott of the presidential election.

                            The secular opposition objected to Mr Erdogan's choice for president, the foreign minister, Abdullah Gul, fearing that his party would consolidate its powers and increase the influence of religion on politics in the country, which is predominantly Muslim but officially secular.

                            The proposed constitutional amendments also include reducing the presidential term from seven years to five, allowing the president to stand for re-election for a second term, holding general elections every four years instead of five and reducing to 184 the number of MPs needed to pass decisions.


                            • #29
                              SAMSUN, Turkey, May 20, 2007: Tens of thousands of Turks filled a square in this historic Black Sea coast city to rally in favor of secularism and to protest against an Islamic-based government that they fear threatens Turkey's secular system.
                              umm... wow

                              May 22, 2007 -- A powerful explosion in the Turkish capital has killed five people and injured more than 60.
                              double what the- suicide mission in Turkey??
                              It seems as if one fails to conceive
                              The meaning my name strives to achieve

                              To a biological form you cannot relate-
                              Because a reproductive cell is a gamete not gamate!

                              It means to unite, -to become consolidated
                              So without me in, is there hope we'd be amalgamated?


                              • #30

                                DENIZLI, Turkey, May 29, 2007: The little red prayer book was handed out in a public primary school here in western Turkey earlier this month. It was small enough to fit in a pocket, but it carried a big message: Pray in the Muslim way. Get others to pray, too.

                                "The message was clear to me," said a retired civil servant, whose 13-year-old son, a student at the Yesilkoy Ibrahim Cengiz school, received the book. "This is not something that should be distributed in schools."

                                This leafy, liberal city would seem like one of the least likely places to allow Islam to permeate public life. But for some residents, the book is part of a subtle shift toward increasingly public religiosity that has gone hand-in-hand with the ascent of the party of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

                                The phenomenon is complex: The party has not ordered changes, but sets examples through a growing network of observant teachers and public servants who have been hired since it came to power in 2002.

                                The shift goes to the heart of the question that has gripped this country for the past two months: As the party settles more deeply into the bureaucracy, will it bring Islam with it? Or will it keep its roots in the past, and leave the public sphere as nonreligious as before?

                                The answer is as complex as Turkey itself. In more-religious Turkish cities, the party has had a moderating influence, persuading deeply conservative residents to support the European Union. But here in Denizli, a city situated closer to Greece than Iran, which never voted for pro-Islamic parties before Erdogan's, the party's new recruits seem to be laying the groundwork for a more pious society.

                                The mayor, Nihat Zeybekci, a charismatic businessman and a member of Erdogan's party, strongly disputes claims that the party has limited freedoms. Alcohol is still sold near mosques. His party has women in local government. The opposition parties do not.

                                "I get offended when a lady says to me, 'When you have absolute control, will I still be able to swim at the beach?' " he said. "It's like asking if I'm a thief."

                                But secular residents say that they see changes, and that they are the inevitable outcome of several decades of economic transformation. "In a very quiet, deep way, you can sense an Islamization," said Bedrettin Usanmaz, a jewelry shop owner in Denizli. "They're not after rapid change. They're investing for 50 years ahead."

                                At the heart of the issue is a debate about the fundamental nature of Islam and its role in the building of an equitable society. Turks like Zeybekci argue that their country has come a long way since Mustafa Kemal Ataturk's secular revolution in 1923, and that it no longer needs to enforce controls such as of women wearing head scarves.

                                "It's like locking everybody in a stadium, when you know that only three are thieves," Zeybekci said in his office, hung with pictures of Erdogan and Ataturk.

                                But secular Turks argue that Islam will always seek more space in people's lives, and therefore should be reined in. They look to the military as secularism's final defender.

                                "Islam is not like other religions," said Kadim Yildirim, a history teacher in Denizli from an opposition labor union. "It influences every part of your life, even your bedroom."

                                Yildirim is part of a number of concerned teachers who say that the new teachers hired in recent years, often from conservative backgrounds, are adding up to a change in the education system.

                                Last month, the Education Ministry relaxed requirements for appointing new school principals. It was later annulled, but in the brief period it was in effect approximately 4,500 people in 40 cities across Turkey were appointed as principals and deputy principals, two-thirds of whom were affiliated with Erdogan's party, according to an analysis by Egitim-Sen, an opposition education labor union.

                                According to a report to Parliament by the education minister, 836 people from the government's Religious Affairs Directorate have been transferred to the ministry's offices during Erdogan's tenure. That has also led to lifestyle changes in the bureaucracy: In Denizli, during the month of fasting in Ramadan, the lunchroom in the Ministry of Education no longer serves food, in an assumption that all workers are religious, employees said.

                                Staff changes are a common feature of any change in government administration. But in Denizli, as in other more secular Turkish cities, the shift is potentially society-changing. Most of the new workers are from an entirely different social class, having come to the city from the surrounding towns and villages to work in new textile mills that started in the 1980s. In 40 years, the population of Denizli has grown ten-fold, according to Zeybekci.

                                "They are coming to power, and it scares the hell out of the established elite," said Baskin Oran, a professor of international relations at Ankara University. The two groups "have nothing in common," he said. "Try to find a similarity."

                                The mixing has caused friction, which, in Denizli, burst painfully into view last month, when the Turkish military, the backbone of the secular elite, publicly warned the local government that it had strayed too far from secularism. Its sins? Organizing an Islamic singing performance of schoolgirls in full head scarves and a running women's religious study group in a public school in a village south of Denizli, called Nikfer.

                                For Zeybekci, the transgressions were so minor that the rebuke had to have been about power, not religion. The military was simply trying to remain relevant, he said.

                                "They are very aware of what kind of power they are going to lose," he said.

                                But power has already changed substantially under Erdogan's party, despite attempts by the secular establishment to stop it. Government candidates that were vetoed by the president have continued in the prospective positions as "substitutes," including the head of the public television and radio, the Education Ministry director in the city of Izmir, and the director of research and training at the Ministry of Culture. In the Education Ministry alone, 536 are working without approval, according to the minister.

                                In Nikfer, the school principal who allowed the religious study group was a religion teacher. He has since been transferred to another town, a punishment that Asiye Sozeri, a 33-year-old housewife there, regrets: Her teenage daughter no longer has a religion tutor.

                                Koran classes in Nikfer have proliferated in recent years, Sozeri said, but far from being politics-related, the reason can be found in the deteriorating state of farming.

                                As villagers migrated to Denizli to work they tried to put their children in its schools, which were far better than rural ones. Many could not afford apartments, and as a result, the student hostel became a central feature of city life. Often supported by donations from religious groups, the hostels were places where poor students lived and studied, but had religious undertones: Chaperones, often devout college-age Turks, were the role models.

                                "Education is where the religious communities concentrate their efforts," said Gulay Keysan, a 31-year-old English teacher in Denizli. In a school in the city's Karaman district, where she taught several years ago, a quarter of her students lived in hostels.

                                Perhaps the most sensitive point for teachers like Yildirim are the changes they say are occurring in textbooks. Changes were already under way, part of an upgrade needed to join the European Union, but some officials say that as the nationalism is taken out, a new conservatism is being put in.

                                One of the country's primary eighth-grade science books, for example, "Science Knowledge," has lost its detailed description of Darwin's theory of natural selection, and gained a reference to a theory that holds that living beings did not evolve but came into being exactly as they are today, attributed to several ancient Asian scholars. The reference was not there before, nor was the word Islamic to describe them.

                                All education material, once vetted centrally, is now checked in a far looser fashion, according to one senior Ministry of Education official in Ankara, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because he was afraid for his job. A point system to rate textbooks has been loosened. The red prayer book, illustrated with pictures of small children praying, would probably not have been distributed in past years.

                                It is still unclear where today's changes will lead the country. Oran argues that although the ideology of Erdogan and his allies "is inevitably Islam," they are workers and tradesman who are ultimately motivated by profit. "They are very rapidly becoming bourgeois," he said.

                                "There must be a distinction between those who give the public service and those who receive it," he said. "The first cannot wear head scarves. But the second can go as they want."

                                Yildirim draws hope from a recent exchange among his students he overheard. One posed a dilemma: If you were rowing a boat with only one extra seat and passed by a deserted island with the Prophet Muhammad and Ataturk, whom would you save? Another answered: "Ataturk is resourceful. He can save himself. Take Muhammad."


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