Photo Credit: Hadas Parush/Flash90

I would add the civil society and liberal progressive forces  in Turkey should also assert and prevail over their government in Ankara to accept the historical fact related to the Armenian genocide and move forward They must be heroic and condemn any crimes against humanity .  They have a tough battle ahead. Unfortunately, their government in Ankara is not taking the Vatican statement on the Armenian genocide in the right spirit . It has so far insisted that the event was not a genocide and continued branding the deaths of the Christian Armenians in the previous century merely as part of the partisan fighting. 

Ankara has been furious ever since Pope Francis described the killings as “the first genocide.” Recently, it has summoned the Vatican ambassador in Ankara over the remarks and recalled its own envoy to the Holy See.   Ankara has also been critical of the statements made by some Western leaders . It has even recalled its ambassador to Austria in protest over Austrian lawmakers’ condemnation of mass killings as “genocide.” 


Pertinently, the behavior of the Turkish regime is hardly surprising . Ankara has of late increasingly been straying away backward from the path of its legendary founder Mustafa Kemal Atatürk. The influence of reactionary forces is growing in the country. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan hardly believes in  women’s right to equality . In a speech at Turkey’s Women and Democracy Association last year , he said ,  “You cannot put women and men on an equal footing … it’s against nature. They were created differently.. You can’t get a woman to work in every job that a man does, like they did in communist regimes in the past… You can’t put a pickaxe and a shovel in their hand and get them to work.   Earlier , Erdogan has  expressed his staunch opposition to abortion and  declared that women should have at least three children . This amounts to an infringement on women’s basic rights to make choices about their bodies and families.. ( )

A Middle East researcher says that since  the rise of the Justice and Development Party (AKP) under  Erdoğan in 2002  religion has ceased to be strictly in the private domain . It has come to intervene in the fields of education, marriage and evenone’s diet, dress and other activities.  After the abolition of the Caliphate and the Ministry of Sharia and Charitable Foundations (Office of the Sheikh al-Islam) in 1924, Diyanet was established only to provide religious services to the public. Today  Diyanet’s  share in the government’s budget is 5.4 billion Liras ($2.3 billion).  It has its own  TV channel,  radio station, satellite, cable and internet broadcasts,  Facebook ,  Twitter account, and  YouTube to spread its version of Islam .  Diyanet officials operate a hotline service which issues decrees (fatwas) related to one’s diet, dress and several other activities .

Head  of Diyanet Mehmet Görmez is for making a religious marriage officially equivalent to civil marriages; in 1926 it was banned after it was viewed as promoting polygamy.  Recently Diyanet has declared acts like feeding a dog at home and abortions for women as haram (sin) and  wearing an earring for men as mekruh (nearly haram). Diyanet has approved measures to allow courses in religion to be held in public schools and universities . Diyanet  has launched  “Qurʾan Kindergartens,” where children 4 to 6 years old are taught to read in Arabic and learn the fundamentals of its version of Islam .

The researcher says Görmez wants that the Hagia Sophia ( Eastern Orthodox cathedral, the seat of the Patriarchate of Constantinople,  turned into an Ottoman Mosque in 1453,  transformed into a museum in the 1930s and declared a UNESCO heritage site in 1985) be declared a mosque . Görmez also wants “the liberation of Al-Aqsa Mosque from the invasion of the occupiers,” for “Jerusalem belongs to Muslims .”


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Jagdish N. Singh is an Indian journalist based in New Delhi.