Children in northern Turkey forced to perform religious re-enactment for officials

At a Quran school in the northern Turkish province of Rize, a ruling party stronghold, children younger than six were forced to re-enact the conquer of Mecca for local religious and political officials.

Duvar English

Children as young as four years old were subjected to a religious re-enactment of the conquer of Mecca by local officials at a Quran school in the northern Turkish province of Rize, according to reporting by journalist İsmail Saymaz. 

At a mosque in the Güneysu district of Rize, a ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) stronghold, children aged 4-6, from the Sıbyan Quran school, were dressed in traditional garments and young girls covered in full hijab for the event. As local officials - including the district mayor and other political figures - looked on, children circumambulated a replica of the Ka'ba, the most important site of religious pilgrimage in Sunni Islam.

The event was held with the support of the local educational foundation, the Güneysu foundation for learning and knowledge. The event seems to have been part of a longer event held by the local governor - the previous day, he held a conference in the mosque.

When asked why the event was held in a religious facility and not the school, and if the event was of a religious nature, the governor said that the conference was about the “challenges” of the governorship. The local high school had a hall big enough to hold the event, but the governor chose to hold it in the mosque.

This is another step in the confluence of governmental authority in recent years under the AKP-led government. As the religious directorate (Diyanet) has gained power, its role in both education and policymaking has swelled.