A modified rebellion

There are some stories that as controversial as they may be, do need to be told.  Before I begin, it’s important that you know a few things about the subject matter of the post.  First off, the current Republic of Turkey wasn’t always a democratic nation.  The area known today as Turkey was home to one of the earliest human settlements.  Over the centuries many empires have risen and fallen, with the most notable being the Ottoman Empire, which ruled over 6 centuries until WWI.  Following the first world war, and the defeat of the Ottoman Empire a military commander named Mustafa Kemal Atatürk led the country to become a democratic and secular nation.  The Ottoman Empire had previously ruled under Islamic law, and when Atatürk became the first president of Turkey he moved towards the western style of democracy with the separation of Church and State.  In the years following the foundation of the new Turkey, Atatürk pushed through a great many reforms to every aspect of life in Turkey.  Civic courts replaced Islamic courts, women were grated equal status, and the official language was changed from Arabic to Turkish.

In the decades following Atatürk’s death, he has been acclaimed time and time again for his contributions towards cultural reforms.  As for the Turkish government, it continued on following in the footsteps of it’s first leader.  Over time the parties in power have changed, and currently the party in power wishes to revert the changes that Atatürk made, and return Turkey to an Islamic republic.  The conservative Justice and Development (AKP) party has presently put forth a motion for a constitutional referendum that would allow them to alter the structure of the government.

As for which side in the debate is right, it is not my position to judge.

What I am here for is to share with you the reactions that of some of the Turkish people are having to these proposed changes.


More and more Turkish people, from all walks of life and socio-economic standings, are emblazoning their appendages with the signature of the controversial Turkish trailblazer Mustafa Kemal Ataturk who made Turkey the secular nation it is today. The tattoo reads simply enough “K.Ataturk” in a scripted text.  The history behind the specific Ataturk signature that is used for the tattoos is as politically charged as the man himself. According to popular belief, it was the same signage that Ataturk used when he signed legislation to annihilate the Ottoman alphabet, which was in classical Arabic, in favor of a Latin alphabet that was in line with secular European nations.

The resistance to the AKP is so fierce in Turkey, that many tattoo parlors offer discounted prices for the Ataturk tattoo and some offer it entirely for free. Apparently the price for government-supported religious freedom is a price that some people are willing to pay for in blood.

I think this is the first nation-wide protest that I’ve heard of that is being spread through tattoos.  Whether you agree with the position that the protesters have or not, the key thing to remember is that these people are showing to the world what their beliefs are, in the form of a permanent modification.  As someone who has attended protests in the past, I’ve seen varying levels of commitment to the causes.  From extremists who smash window and light cars on fire, to grandmothers holding up a sign on a lawn.  I honestly can say I don’t think many of the people I have met are so passionate about their causes to have them tattooed on their bodies.

The thing to remember is that these tattoos are not just being done in protest.  Many of the people getting them feel that Atatürk was the man that brought their country to the place it is now, and for them, their national identity is as much a part of them as their own skin.

Like I mentioned before, this subject isn’t one I can comment on, but what I can comment on is the level of commitment these people are displaying.  Would you be willing to get a tattoo for similar reasons as these people?

13 thoughts on “A modified rebellion

  1. I’m not the type to get a tattoo to support a rally I attend, but when it comes to your government changing that drastically, I think that’s a different story. I am 50% Latvian, born and raised in America, but still half Latvian. I grew up speaking Latvian, eating Latvian food, singing Latvian songs, and learning the Latvian traditions. For those who don’t know, Latvia is a small country (about the size of West Virginia) on the Baltic Sea next to Russia. Russia has taken Latvia over by force many times throughout history. Even though Latvia is an independent nation now, there have been varying amounts of Russian influence on the governmental level. I must say that last time Russia had full control, it was brutal. Latvians would be shot on the spot for singing traditional folk songs. It was genocide, mass genocide. So in response to this post, what I can say, is if Russia tried to take over the Latvian government again and Latvians were getting a tattoo of the signature of the first Latvian president… you best believe I’d be at the closest tattoo shop waiting in line…

  2. Not your position to judge eh? That seems to me to be a cop out, everyone judges everything that they encounter in their life, now to decide if what is going on is right or wrong is not may not be your place but the right to have a thought about it is. Not having an opinion about it is a gutless way of thought. My thoughts are seemingly counter to most of america anymore, that religion has absolutely no place in the governing of a country and to interject it has nothing but a detrimental effect on those who are not a part of the theocracy in charge and a crime of the highest sort against people as a whole and saying you can’t comment on something seems to be bred out of a fear of offending anyone at all(not directed at the author but in general, I digress been one of those days). I may be wrong and pray ardently that I am in this assumption, but such actions do nothing but allow those who would confine others to their desire the opportunity to do so with impunity.

  3. Just plain idiocy. Apparently he haven’t read about Turkey more than the article he wrote.

  4. @TheOgreZwie: I do hold a personal opinion towards this issue, but my responsibility is to present the information that I have without bias. Some stories warrant a personal interjection, while others don’t. In this case I wanted to rely the story of the tattoos, as well as a VERY brief history of the meaning behind them, without adding my own feelings to the issue. The simple point is that this is a news piece and not an opinion piece. Unfortunately the major news outlets world wide have completely removed the line between opinion and news, so much so that people expect their news outlets to tell them how to feel about a subject. I prefer to relay what information I have and allow the reader to make their own opinions.

    In situations that are sensitive like this, I have to take into account that while my posts are written by me, they must represent BME as a company, and if I were to state my position it could easily be construed that my thoughts are those of BME.

  5. I would lik to make a correction:

    The language during Ottoman Empire was not Arabic. In fact, the people on these lands has never used Arabic as a language. What was Arabic was the alphabet. This is a crucial point, because people talked Turkish, they only used ArAbic letters to write it. You can guess how confusing this might be.

    The fact that all the writings you see belonging that era is in Arabic letters, this makes people think the language was Arabic. But when you start to read it it’s all Turkish. Even a young person can understand it when he hears now.

    Of course there were a big number of Arabic words used in the language. This is all because of the effect of Islam. Same as the effect of French as a language in the late eras of the Empire. At that time, French was the popular language in literature and intellectually in general. So, as an effect of this there are hundreds of French words used in Turkish right now.

  6. you can’t believe how many people has Atatürk’s signature or portrait tattooed on their arms, shoulders and chests.. hundreds of them! wow! it amazes me although I’m Turkish…

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