Turkey: Another Rally Against Sharia Law
Ahead of a general election, everyday Turks are demonstrating against the creeping of religion into their secular state. The government denies any shift towards Sharia law, however. This is the latest in a series of protests breaking out across Turkey.
Tens of thousands of people waving red Turkish flags filled the streets of the Black Sea city of Samsun on Sunday to protest against the Islamist-rooted government ahead of a July election.
"No to Sharia [Islamic law]", "Turkey is secular and will remain secular", the crowd chanted in the main square.
The rally, the latest in a series of protests, was billed by organisers as a way of uniting the divided opposition against the government, which they accuse of trying to undermine the secular state in overwhelmingly Muslim Turkey.
The latest protest follows a pact on Thursday between the main opposition Republican People's Party (CHP) and the smaller left-wing DSP to contest the July 22 election together.
The leaders of the two parties arrived at the demonstration together. Two right-wing parties have also merged.
There was a heavy police presence but a carnival atmosphere.
"We are here for an enlightened Turkey. We are here so that the future generations of our children can see good days. We are here so that they can see a totally independent Turkey, free of backwardness and Sharia," said retired teacher Ahmet Altunkus.
Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan's ruling AK Party, which denies any Islamist agenda, has called a general election ahead of schedule to resolve a conflict with the secularist elite over a presidential election.
The secular establishment, including the military, judges and opposition parties, derailed the government's plan to elect Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul as president, fearing he might weaken the official separation of religion and state.