Monday, April 16, 2007

Turkey protests focus on religious issues

"A presidential election is approaching in Turkey, and the protesters were voicing their opposition to the head of the leading party in parliament, with its Islamist roots, taking the post.

"We don't want to become another Iran, another Afghanistan," said Hanife Sahin, a retired nurse, stooping under the red tent formed by a Turkish flag that ran like a river over the crowd."

"More women are wearing head scarves, said Ecem Karanfil, a 17-year-old in a T-shirt and jeans. "We want to feel comfortable dressing the way we want," she said.

Her friend said she sensed something suspicious in the attractive new design of religion textbooks being given out in their high school. "I am wondering why," she said, as a pretzel seller squeezed by, his wares stacked in a pyramid on his head.

A 65-year-old woman who had come from Izmir, a town in western Turkey, said she was annoyed at what she saw as the new state laxness allowing state workers to take time off for prayer on Fridays.

"I go to the post office on Friday, and I can't see a single person at their desk," she said, sounding indignant.

A small thing had caught Sahin's attention. A government official had recently suggested increasing the number of letters in the Turkish alphabet to 32 to allow the language to better accommodate Arabic sounds. "I've done pretty well with 29 so far," she said, smiling."
Times Argus: Vermont News & Information

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