Secularism targeted twice every day in Turkey during 2023: Report

Secularism was targeted almost twice a day in Turkey during 2023, mostly by the government, the Laicism Assembly's report revealed.

Duvar English

Secularism was attacked in Turkey in 479 different incidents throughout 2023, according to the Laicism Assembly's report. In other words, principles of secularism were violated nearly twice a day. 

According to the Article 2 of the Turkish Constitution, Turkey’s official stance is laicism, which based on separation of state and religion while also allows the state to regulate religious realm with institutions such as Directorate of Religious Affairs (Diyanet).

"The increasing reactionary regulations and calls for the re-establishment of the caliphate within the government, especially within the Education Ministry, and the increasing anti-secular and anti-Republican activities reveal the characteristics of the regime that the government is trying to establish,” the Assembly stated as reported by the daily BirGün.

The report listed the practices targeting the secularism in Turkey out by official state organizations, ministries, municipalities, universities, and legislative organs.

In the section where court rulings were listed, the report stated that Erzincan Chief Public Prosecutor's Office on Jan. 1, 2023 issued a decision of non-prosecution within a week on the complaint against the visit of Halil Konakcı, an imam known for his call for caliphate, to Erzincan Governor in his office wearing a religious attire.

A university student on March 15, 2023 was beheaded with a cleaver in an illegal student dormitory run by a religious cult in Antalya province.

It was revealed on June 21 that pro-government Islamist Turkish Youth Foundation’s (TÜGVA) Iğdır Provincial Representative deceived and harassed many female theology students by saying that he was an National Intelligence Organization (MİT). Although there were audio recordings of the harassment, “no investigation was opened so that TÜGVA would not be harmed.”

In February, an official massage sent by the state-run Turkish Post and Telegraph Organization (PTT) General Directorate to the provincial organizations asked the employees to inform the number of prayers read by them for the earthquake victims, listed in the section on the activities of the government.

The report also stated that President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan in April "made statements that exploited religious feelings" over a prayer rug that opposition candidate Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu had accidentally stepped on in the run-up to the presidential election. Erdoğan's usage of religious themes in his propaganda during elections and his propaganda speech in a mosque were also mentioned in the report.

The ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) formed a coalition with the radical Islamist Just Cause Party (HÜDA-PAR) and New Welfare Party (YRP) during general elections, leading to their entry into the Parliament, the report noted.

President Erdoğan awarded the State Medal of Outstanding Sacrifice to the Beşir Association affiliated to the Menzil cult.

There was a power struggle between some powerful religious cults within the government to fill the five vacant seats on the Supreme Electoral Council during January, according to the Assembly. It also stated that same religious cult was effective during the Constitutional Court’s presidential elections.

On 7 April, a protocol was signed between the Education Ministry, Youth and Sports Ministry, and Diyanet as part of the "I am sensitive to my environment, I embrace my values" project (ÇEDES), paving the way for imams to enter schools as “partners.”

"The budget of the Diyanet, which was 36.4 billion Turkish liras in 2023, will reach 91.8 billion liras in 2024 with an increase of 151 percent. The same Diyanet exhausted its budget before the middle of 2023 and was allocated an additional budget of 15 billion liras in August and it became the most important ideological apparatus in the consolidation of the new regime in the social sphere,” the report underscored.