Gun Ceremony deepens fears of growing nationalism

Gun Ceremony deepens fears of growing nationalism

February 12, 2007, Monday/ 20:20:00/ TODAY'S ZAMAN
Prosecutors have launched an investigation into a controversial oath taking ceremony by an ultranationalist group after recent footage was broadcast showing its members swearing over a gun to protect the "homeland."The head of the group has played down possible court action, vowing to go ahead with similar oath ceremonies across Turkey.

The footage, broadcasted on a satellite channel, shows members of the Kuvayı Milliye Association (National Forces) taking an oath by putting their hands over two pistols and holy Koran in a ceremony held at a public building generally used for wedding ceremonies in the Mediterranean province of Mersin. Chairman of the group, retired colonel Fikri Karadağ, quotes from a speech made by the founder of modern-day Turkey Kemal Atatürk and says, "Dear friends; you may get killed, you may kill in this endeavor."

Prosecutors in neighboring Antalya have launched an investigation into the group after the footage was broadcasted.A similar ceremony took place in the Kemer district of Antalya late last year, but prosecutors then did not take any action.

The footage comes amid fears of rising nationalism, something experts say had a role to play in the murder of Turkish-Armenian journalist Hrant Dink by a 17-year-old assailant. The assailant reportedly told the police he had killed Dink because he had “insulted Turkish blood.” The Kuvayı Milliye members say they are pure Turks “born from a Turkish father and a Turkish mother and have no converts among their ancestors.”

“I am aware of the historic responsibility I take on my shoulders. I swear on my honor and dignity that I shall work determinedly for the peace, wellbeing and eternal existence of my nation and my state in order to make the Turkish nation the master of the world… and to willingly sacrifice my life when necessary for the homeland, the Republic and the flag.”

In a statement published in a local newspaper in Mersin, Kuvayı Milliye Association provincial representative Kemal Canay said Karadağ had identified some 13,500 “traitors” across Turkey and vowed to make them account for their actions.

Canay also quoted Karadağ as saying that “Mersin has been invaded by Zionists and the outlawed PKK.” Karadağ also said 90 percent of criminals in Mersin come from southeastern Anatolia because “Turkish children don’t commit crimes.” Responding to accusations in the media at a press conference on Saturday, Karadağ said these 13,500 people were “important people” and that he would not announce their names before confirming certain information.

Karadağ also said the guns used in the ceremony were air guns. He said the oath taking ceremonies would continue across Turkey. “I don’t understand why this bothers you,” he told reporters at the press conference. “One day we will see tens of, hundreds of thousands of people take this oath.”

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