In one of the first official acts as Turkey’s new president, former foreign minister Abdullah Gul lays a wreath at the Ataturk Mausoleum in Ankara. Ataturk created the modern secular state of Turkey over eighty years ago based on the separation between religion and state. The country’s powerful military fears a creeping subversion of Turkey’s secular order under Gul, a former Islamist.
He has pledged to uphold the principle of secularism. Gul is the first politician with a background in political Islam to to win the symbolically important post of president in Turkey’s modern history.
Several hundred secularists protested in front of the heavily guarded presidential palace but they were kept some two hundred metres from the building. One of the youths in the crowd said the reason they were not let get nearer were the words of Ataturk on his T-shirt:“We wanted to take part in the farewell programme which is organized by NGOs for outgoing president Ahmet Necdet. But because we are wearing these T-shirts with the words “democracy is my character” written on them we weren’t allowed to walk.”
Gul has praised the predominantly Muslim nation’s secular system and has pledged impartiality.