Activists in Ankara hold massive kissing protest

Demonstration held in response to public announcement at subway station requesting passengers to behave morally.

Couple kissing 370 (photo credit: Reuters)
Couple kissing 370
(photo credit: Reuters)
Two hundred Turks held a mass kissing protest at Ankara’s Kurtulus subway station on Saturday as opposition protesters tried to intervene, according to a report in the Turkish Hurriyet Daily News.
There was a heavy police presence that tried to block protesters from entering the station. The demonstration was called in response to a public announcement at the station – requesting passengers to behave morally, targeting young couples that were “acting inappropriately.” A conservative religious group shouted religious slogans and the police worked to prevent clashes between the groups, according to the report.
Mustafa Akyol, a Turkish columnist for Hurriyet and the author of the book, Islam without Extremes: A Muslim Case for Liberty, told The Jerusalem Post that the AKP dominated government is “pursuing a policy of moral conservatism,” but “it would be far-fetched, at this point, to say that this is tantamount to ‘Islamization,’ let alone the imposition of Islamic law."
Rather, it is more similar to Christian moral conservatism in the US “which has similar takes on abortion, education and public intoxication,” he said adding, “nobody argues that women should be forced to wear a veil or that adulterers should be stoned,” thus contrasting Turkey with stricter Islamic societies such as Saudi Arabia or Pakistan.
Michael Rubin, a scholar at the American Enterprise Institute and a former Pentagon official, who is currently traveling in Turkey, said that political Islam has little respect for individual liberty, imposing “its religious dictates on the wider society, whether or not they ascribe to its beliefs.”
Hence, Rubin finds the comparison to evangelicals by Akyol to be inaccurate because in Western democracies there is a separation of powers and constitutionalism, an institution that has been declining in Turkey over the last decade “under the guise of reform.”
He went on to add that in 2005, Bulent Arinc, then Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s deputy, warned judges against vetoing the prime minister’s legislation as unconstitutional. The AKP, Erdogan’s party, he said, had a super-majority, which could simply dissolve the constitutional court.
This follows other instances of Islamization in Turkey such as the report on Friday that Turkey banned advertising alcohol and tightened restrictions on its sale. Perhaps reflecting this trend, an Israeli cruise to the country was canceled for security reasons, according to a report in Hurriyet on Saturday.
Rubin says the context of what is happening in the country is important. The AKP government has brought a dramatic decline in freedom of the press and drastically changed the education system by making it more Islamic. For example, the minority Alevis attend mandatory Koran classes taught by Sunnis.
“According to Turkey’s own judiciary, the murder rate of women has increased 1,400 percent between 2002 and 2009. Increased reporting does not really explain that jump; rather, the feeling among Erdogan’s Islamist constituency that they can act with impunity upon their own religious mores does,” said Rubin.
On the foreign policy front, Turkey has supported the al-Qaida linked al-Nusra Front, denying that jihadism has anything to do with terrorism, Rubin said.
“Turkey does not have a drinking problem; Erdogan has a problem with drinking,” said Rubin. “Erdogan has a tolerance problem and a tendency to believe not only that he knows best, but that there should be no impediment to imposing his will on the public.”