Turkey’s Idol Worship

The Beloved Two

One of the things you can’t help but notice in Turkey is its patriotism.  In traveling around the world, I’ve never seen any place with as much of a flag fetish as America has, that is until I went to Turkey!  Bright red flags adorn pretty much everything in Turkey.

More interestingly, there is a historical figure whose features are nearly as common as the flag itself.  This man is Mustafa Kemal Ataturk.  He was first (bizarrely) introduced to us as we were listening to a podcast which included a Turkish woman who had been organizing tours for foreigners in Turkey for more than a decade.  So we are driving along, listening to bits and pieces about Turkish history, clothing, religion, etc. when the lady pulls out this quote:  ” For a long time I stayed single because I thought I could never love another man because I was so in love with Ataturk.  ”    Keep in mind that the man she refers to was dead before she was born.

This certainly perked up our interest in this figure.  One of the things which didn’t remain a mystery for long was his appearance.  The man is literally everywhere every time you turn around.  Shops have his picture, cars and buses have his face and/or signature, buildings have his profile, mountains carry his likeness.  The only (non-religious) figure I can remember being this popular is the king of Thailand, who frequents about 25% of all walls in every building I was inside in Thailand (once per room).

Ataturk is beloved by many of the Turks for single handedly wrestling Turkey into the modern age and building a modern secular democracy.  Kudos to a great statesman.

However, Ataturk is so beloved by the Turks that they interpret attacks against the great man as defamatory attacks on Turkey itself, punishable as a crime laid out in the Turkish constitution itself.  This kind of infatuation is somewhat less fun, but has had at least one rather amusing knock-on effect in Turkey.

Resting in Peace?

The Greeks, famously belligerent to Turks and knowing just exactly how to irritate them, got wound up during a Greece v. Turkey football match and decided to have a little singsong suggesting that the great man was gay.  Someone posted this little ditty on YouTube and so the government of Turkey decided that this couldn’t be allowed to continue and so banned YouTube. That’s right, thanks to Turkish sensitivities and the Greek willingness to poke the Turks where it hurts, all Turkish ISPs block access to YouTube in Turkey.

I’m wondering if some enterprising Greeks are right now figuring that it would be pretty sweet to try and trigger additional Turkish internet bannings with a bit more Ataturk shenanigans.  Anyone for starting a new Facebook group???

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