Thousands of Turks defy ban to mark Republic Day

AFP , Monday 29 Oct 2012

Thousands of secular Turks march into the streets of the capital Ankara to celebrate the Republic Day, challenging a ban imposed by the Islamist government

Residents attend a ceremony to mark the 89th anniversary of Republic Day in central Antakya, in the southern border province of Hatay, October 29, 2012 (Photo: Reuters)

Thousands of pro-secular Turks marched Monday in Ankara to mark Republic Day, defying a ban by the moderate Islamist government

Carrying national flags, demonstrators shouted slogans, "Fully independent Turkey," and "We are soldiers of Mustafa Kemal Ataturk," referring to the republic's founding father.

The rally organised by dozens of civil society organisations and backed by some opposition parties began outside the first parliament building in the historic Ulus district.Police used pepper spray after a group of protesters shouting anti-government slogans attempted to break a police barricade, a witness told AFP.

Some 3,500 police officers were deployed in the area, according to media reports

The Ankara governor's office has banned the Republic Day rally, arguing that the state's security services received intelligence that groups might be planning "provocative" actions

Republic Day is a national holiday in Turkey but it has in recent years become a platform for opposition groups worried that the current regime is expunging the country's secular tradition.

The main opposition Republican People's Party (CHP) and other government opponents have voiced outrage that celebrating the republic's 89th anniversary should be made into a criminal act

CHP leader Kemal Kilicdaroglu, who attended the Ankara rally, said: "We will mark the Republic Day despite the pressure."

The Turkish republic was founded on October 29, 1923 from the ashes of the Ottoman Empire, which spanned six centuries and at its peak stretched from southeast Europe to the Middle East and North Africa.

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