Thousands of people packed the centre of the Turkish capital Ankara, to defend their secular state and to accuse their government of creeping Islamicisation. Attendance figures varied – some said 20,000, local television put it at 100,000 – but the opinions were clear.
“The country is split, national values are being destroyed, that is why we are here. We must stand up for the republic. We must express our democratic rights.” “I’m here because I love this country, and we must show the country has its defenders. I am here with others who think the same, to show we are not alone. We have the numbers and we won’t be silenced.” Turkish flags and emblems were everywhere, along with pictures of Kemal Ataturk, the founder of modern Turkey and a staunch defender of secularism. Similar demonstrations have been held since 2007, amid growing popular concern that Turkey’s ruling Islamist-based AK Party and its Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan want to erode the traditional separation of religion and state.