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29 October is the day Turkey celebrates the founding of the republic in 1923; three months after July’s attempted coup to topple the government, there were no nationwide celebrations. The propaganda like element of Daily Sabah’s English story is telling:

During Erdoğan’s tenure as president and previously as prime minister, Republic Day celebrations became more centered on the public’s participation rather than a pompous display of military might and an occasion almost exclusive to the secular elite as it was in the past.

The news outlet even subconsciously lets readers know that the AKP is a development of Turkey’s democratic heritage (and in their opinion, as they make clear, distinct from Ataturk’s legacy as well):

Atatürk was elected the first president of the Republic by a unanimous vote by the newly established Parliament after the Republic’s declaration. However, a multi-party democracy would take another 27 years to take hold in the new republic.

In recent years under the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP), many national holiday celebrations and traditions have been scaled back. It is part and parcel of recent economic developments; as has happened in other countries that have embraced neo-liberal economic policies under the aegis of globalization nationalist displays and traditions have been replaced by homogenizing forces that aim to make all citizens devoid of any feelings tied to a national past. In a Brave New World-esque sense, the citizenry are to become individuals focused on nothing more than preforming their roles as consumers and producers, beholden to the capitalist dreams of their leaders.

In such an environment where having an affinity for the nation is offensive, as one sarcastic commentator notes, people do not even have any political thoughts anymore; they care much more about their football teams then they do about even their politics. Much of Mr. Kalemkar’s sarcastic piece points out how, gradually, all meaning has been taken out of politics. A small excerpt appears below:

29 Ekim tarihine özel bir anlam yüklemek ekim ayının diğer günlerini incitir. Biri zamanın birinde Cumhuriyeti ilan etmiş diye ekim aynın diğer günlerini, bırakın ekim ayını, diğer 11 ayı küstürmeye ne gerek var?

 Having special meaning for 29 October is hurtful to the other days of October. Just because on one day a republic was formed then why should we offend October’s other days, or even the other 11 months?

The piece goes on to show some of the strange contradictions that have appeared in Turkish foreign policy over the last few years. Turkey quarrels with Israel for years…then makes up. For months they are bitter enemies with Russia…then make up. Instead of going out on the streets with the a [national] flag, the writer asks people to go out on the streets with their team’s flags—after all, he points out, most people probably know the last goal that was scored in a recent match but not the name of the latest Turkish soldier to fall victim to terrorism and war in southeast Turkey… Indeed, the form of political support in Turkey—and even, to a degree, in the United States—has come to take on the form of sports fandom. People support their political parties/positions (or, in Mr. Kalemkar’s estimation, Ataturk’s legacy) the way they would a sports team: unquestioningly, unwaveringly, and with an intense dislike—bordering on hatred—for what their opponents support. This, of course, is not the best climate for bridging divides, of which there are many.

Of course, there are others who—despite the best efforts of the state—are willing to show their opinions and emotions. In contrast to the Daily Sabah’s bland piece of propaganda, Turkey’s three major football teams Besiktas, Fenerbahce, and Galatasaray made statements recognizing the Republic Day. All three teams underlined Mustafa Kemal Ataturk’s role in creating a country characterized by “unity” and “togetherness”. Galatasaray winger Olcan Adin also made headlines for his Tweet at 00:00 which read “Happy 29 October REPUBLIC day. I cannot be pals with someone who does not like ATATURK…”. Even in an era where personal recognition of the ideals of an era before rampant capitalism and unfettered economic development, it is refreshing to see sports teams stand up in recognition of the nation. That it happens also in the context of industrial football should, of course, not be forgotten.

I wish a happy Republic Day to everyone out there/Cumhuriyet Bayramimiz Kutlu Olsun!

 

 

 

 

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