Military and Opposition Party Boycott Presidential Reception

Photo from Hurriyet

Such an innocent scene — the receiving line of a reception at the presidential residence in Ankara… Yet contained within this image are the powerful contradictions of Turkish political and social life.

On Oct. 29 the Republic of Turkey celebrated the 87th anniversary of its founding. Representatives from the Turkish Armed Forces (TSK) and the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) boycotted the traditional reception held by President Abdullah Gül on the occasion…

This is the background of the bizarre event: Prior to the 80th anniversary of the republic, the presidential residence in Ankara was not part of the so-called “public space” where headscarved women were not allowed according to the authoritarian secular policies of the state. Following the coming to power of the Justice and Development Party (AKP) at the end of 2002, however, former President Ahmet Necdet Sezer, distinguished for his commitment to hard-line Kemalism, included the presidential residence in this “public space,” thus barring headscarved women, including the wives of most of the AKP leadership, from receptions.

President Abdullah Gül, who replaced Sezer, chose during the past three years of his presidency to hold separate receptions on Republic Day, one for guests with spouses and another for those without, offering a way out for those who refused (on ideological grounds) to shake hands with his headscarved wife. Gül changed his mind this year, perhaps encouraged by the passage of pro-democratic amendments to the Constitution in the referendum last month and by the discourse of the new leader of the CHP, Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu, about solving the “headscarf problem.” He decided to hold a single reception on Republic Day where he would welcome all guests together with his spouse. This was enough for the generals and the CHP to boycott the reception. The chief of General Staff held a separate reception, and the CHP leader flew to İstanbul to attend a demonstration organized by a branch of his party…

This is the introduction to Sahin Alpay’s column about the reception incident. Click here to read the rest of his cogent analysis of what this standoff tells us about the state of Turkey today.

3 Responses to “Military and Opposition Party Boycott Presidential Reception”

  1. This analysis is nothing but a bunch of old, tired cliches that only gullible “liberals” can take seriously. It is funny like a formerly respected and genuinely liberal columnist like Sahin Alpay spends a whole column dwelling on a reception, yet fails to utter a word about the AKP attack against the freedom of expression and media. This is typical of the so-called “liberal intelligentsia” of Turkey. What this people don’t seem to understand it is that the death of Kemalism will not herald Turkey into a new and happy era of liberal democracy. But Sahin Alpay is really a hopeless case.

  2. Prior to the 80th anniversary of the republic, the presidential residence in Ankara was not part of the so-called “public space” where headscarved women were not allowed according to the authoritarian secular policies of the state.
    .
    Is this what they call a “tortured” sentence or what? Is it even possible to fact-check it?

  3. Nihat, it is possible:
    .
    Prior to the 80th anniversary of the republic,
    .
    In other words prior to 2003. The 2002 elections were in November.
    .
    the presidential residence in Ankara was not part of the so-called “public space”
    .
    He’s talking about the ‘kamusal alan’ thing the judiciary came up with. Not quite ‘public space’ perhaps but that’s what he means. How would someone living abroad know this, you ask? I haven’t checked the article, perhaps he does define it.
    .
    where headscarved women were not allowed according to the authoritarian secular policies of the state.
    .
    This we already know. Not secular perhaps but definitely authoritarian.

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