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Tens of thousands of Turks protest Islamic-rooted government

Tens of thousands of Turks protest Islamic-rooted government

Tens of thousands of secular Turks gathered in Istanbul on Sunday, chanting slogans against the pro-Islamic government, which has faced severe criticism from the powerful military for allegedly tolerating the activities of radical Islamic circles.
It was the second large demonstration against the government in just two weeks and shows a deepening division between secular and Islamist camps in Turkish society. More than 300,000 secular Turks staged a similar rally in Ankara two weeks ago.
"Turkey is secular and will remain secular," shouted thousands of flag-waving protesters, who traveled to Istanbul from across the country overnight.
The demonstrators sang nationalist songs and demanded the resignation of the government.
Aerial television footage showed a sea of red flags in the packed meeting area in Caglayan district, which was cordoned off by police.
Small girls wore red headbands that read "We are following your footsteps," in reference to the founder of the modern republic, Mustafa Kemal Ataturk.
The rally was organized more than a week ago but it came a day after Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan's government rejected a stern warning from the military over the country's disputed presidential election, calling its interference unacceptable in a democracy.
The ruling party candidate, Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul, failed to win a first-round victory Friday in a parliamentary vote marked by tensions between secularists and the pro-Islamic government. Most opposition legislators boycotted the vote and challenged its validity in the Constitutional Court.
The military said Friday night it was gravely concerned and indicated it was willing to become more openly involved in the process _ a statement some interpreted as an ultimatum to the government to rein in officials who promote Islamic initiatives.
Starting in 1923 in the ruins of the Ottoman Empire, Ataturk, a soldier, set about a series of secular reforms that imposed Western laws, replaced Arabic script with the Latin alphabet, banned Islamic dress and granted women the right to vote.
The military, one of the most respected institutions in Turkey, regards itself as the guardian of the secular system.
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Associated Press Writer Selcan Hacaoglu in Ankara contributed to this report.


Updated : 2021-05-16 05:57 GMT+08:00