A teacher has been briefly detained in southern Turkey for allegedly targeting “Turkey’s Century,” an election campaign promise made by President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan to elevate Turkey to global prominence, in a speech during the 100th anniversary celebration of the Turkish Republic, the ANKA news agency reported on Tuesday.
Turkey on Sunday marked the 100th anniversary of the foundation of the republic by Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, on October 29, 1923, after a war of independence.
According to ANKA, the teacher, who is identified only by the initials E.K., was detained in Antalya province after videos of her speech were shared on social media throughout the day and some users accused her of targeting “Turkey’s Century.”
“While on one side are those who sacrificed their lives a century ago to inscribe ‘Republic’ in the constitution, on the other side are those today trying to abolish it, attempting to make everyone believe in the ‘Turkey’s Century’ fairytale. So where are you in the midst of all this?” E.K. said in her speech.
The teacher had criticized the political climate in Turkey, the presence of a high number of refugees in the country and an ongoing economic crisis.
E.K.’s detention was announced on Monday in a written statement by the Antalya Police Department, which said the teacher “displayed a divisive attitude, undermining unity and togetherness” in her speech that targeted “Turkey’s Century” and is accused of “provoking hatred and enmity among the public.”
According to a report by the Gazete Duvar news website, she was released and put under judicial supervision on Tuesday.
Ümit Özdağ, leader of the far-right and anti-refugee Victory Party (ZP), commented on the development on social media, saying his party stands by the teacher.
“‘Turkey’s Century’ is the name of the AKP’s [ruling Justice and Development Party] election campaign. There’s no crime in criticizing ‘Turkey’s Century.’ Has the Antalya police force started implementing North Korean laws?” Özdağ said.
TED Antalya Kolejinde 29 Ekim’de yaptığı konuşmadan ötürü öğretmen Emine Karakuş bugün polis tarafından gözaltına alınmış ve yarın mahkemeye sevkedilmesi üzere nezarete atılmış. Antalya Emniyet Müdürlüğü açıklamasında Emine Karakuş’u Türkiye Yüzyılını hedef almakla suçlamış.… https://t.co/jOEAY93blG pic.twitter.com/AZCMM4p55p
— Ümit Özdağ (@umitozdag) October 30, 2023
“This is a punishment that we should all react to, especially the TED community… There you have ‘Turkey’s Century’…” exiled journalist and author Can Dündar also said on X, formerly known as Twitter, referring to TED Antalya College, where E. K. works.
— Can Dündar (@candundaradasi) October 30, 2023
Erdoğan and Atatürk have become the seminal figures of modern Turkey, their contrasting styles and visions defining the shape of society and the country’s place in the world.
While Erdoğan, who is now Turkey’s longest-serving leader, is overseeing a massive modernization drive that has sustained his popularity in poorer and more religiously conservative provinces since 2003, Atatürk drove out foreign armies and built a new, staunchly secular republic on the ruins of the Ottoman Empire.
Erdoğan is now walking a fine line between paying respects to the man who created the country and building his own legacy — one that critics fear is pulling Turkey back into its Ottoman past.