ANKARA – Turkish opposition groups plan to defy a government ban of a rally outside parliament to mark Turkey’s Republic Day.
The Oct.29 rally has been banned by the Ankara Governor’s office, who claim to have received intelligence that warns of mass provocation at the rally.
If the banned protest takes place as planned, legal action will be taken against the participants, the Governor’s office said in statement. “In line with the intelligence that it has received, the Governor’s office did what it should have done,” said Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan at a press conference last week.
Erdogan’s statement has aroused a heated debate among the opposition, who have said they continue to mark Republic day -- which marks Mustafa Kemel's 1923 establishment of the modern Turkish republic -- in front of the country's historic parliament building.
Main opposition leader, Kemal Kilicdaroglu says he will attend the rally at whatever cost. “What ministry or governor can say: “I’m going to ban this rally?” He asked in an address to his Republican People’s Party [CHP.] “Our party will celebrate the foundation of the Republic with people in a glorious way while being open to all other political parties that wish to participate.”
The rally has been organized by the Kemalist Thought Association (ADD), which invited people to gather in front of the old parliament building in Ankara’s Ulus neighborhood in celebration of the day. The government has said that the venue is not appropriate for this occasion.
CHP deputy chair Gokhan Gunaydin said the party is not asking for further permission from any authority for this celebration. “If there is a notice banning the celebration we will tear it down and throw it away,” he said at a Thursday press conference at CHP headquarters.
Citizens do not require permission from authorities to conduct a democratic march, according to Gunaydin who cited relevant clauses of the constitution.
“Turkey strongly maintains the will which established its Republic,” he said. “People will celebrate the Republic however and wherever they want. We will define all the excuses and pretexts aimed against this as “anti-Republican” and respond [appropriately]. We will once more show this to Turkey.”
The Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) has also expressed its opposition to the banning of the rally. “The AKP has revealed that it has problems with Republican values,” said said MHP Secretary-General Ismet Buyukataman. “The AKP shows an inexplicable approach, as if they are settling scores with Republican values.”
This is not the first time the AKP has canceled celebrations for secular republic holidays. In recent years the traditional Victory Day celebrations marked on Oct. 1 have been cancelled. This year, the April 23 National Sovereignty and Children’s Day and May 19 War of Liberation holiday celebrations were cut short, and ceremonies confined to indoors, noted Hurriyet columnist Yusuf Kanli.
“ Despite the ban, thousands will gather in front of the first Parliament building on Oct. 29,” Kanli predicted. “At least as a journalist, I will be there. Hopefully the government and local government of the Republic won’t order the police of the Republic to attack, beat up, gas, or soak people with water cannons.”