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WikiLeaks: 2006-02-06: 06ANKARA468: Prophet Mohammed Cartoons Prompt Constructive Turkish Government Reaction, Mostly Peaceful Protests

Posted: Wednesday, November 09, 2011 at 07:52 PM CT


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Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
06ANKARA468 2006-02-06 13:50 2011-08-30 01:44 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Ankara
This record is a partial extract of the original cable.
The full text of the original cable is not available.
C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 ANKARA 000468 
E.O. 12958: DECL: 02/07/2015 
Classified by Ambassador Ross Wilson, E.O. 12958,
reasons 1.4 (b) and (d). 
1. (C) Summary:  Turkish public reaction to European 
publication of cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed has so far 
consisted of generally peaceful protests and media 
condemnation, mostly in the pro-Islamist media.  Government 
reaction has been moderate and constructive, with officials 
condemning the cartoons, while calling for restraint and 
nonviolence.  Both FM Gul and PM Erdogan are reaching out to 
international colleagues in an effort to help calm the 
situation.  Turkish police have done a good job of protecting 
Danish diplomatic facilities.  Interfaith leaders have 
condemned the cartoons as well and called for calm.  Though 
the visual images of the Istanbul protests may not play well 
in Europe, the AKP government's message should.  End Summary. 
Small, Peaceful Demonstrations 
2. (U) Protest demonstrations at Danish diplomatic facilities 
in Turkey have been small and peaceful, with a larger and 
more raucous Istanbul demonstration February 5, but 
substantial police presence in each case.  The demonstrations 
-- On February 1 and 4, groups of 10-25 protestors gathered 
in front of the Danish Embassy in Ankara; one group 
consisting of workers from the GOT's Religious Affairs 
Directorate (Diyanet) placed black wreaths in front of the 
Danish and Norwegian Embassies. 
-- A February 3 demonstration at Istanbul's Danish Consulate 
drew about 150 from the Islamist Saadet Party. 
-- There were also February 3 demonstrations at Danish 
honorary consulates in Izmir (250 people) and Mersin (50, 
mostly from the Islamist Saadet Party). 
-- On February 5, a crowd of several hundred, mainly 
nationalists, demonstrated at the Danish Consulate in 
Istanbul, throwing eggs and other objects.  In a separate 
demonstration at the Danish Consulate, approximately 2,000 
protestors burned a Danish flag and an effigy of Danish PM 
Rasmussen, but caused no damage to the consulate building. 
3. (C) The Danish DCM told us February 4 that reaction in 
Turkey has been much calmer than in Arab countries.  He 
described police cooperation as good -- Turkish police have 
generally outnumbered demonstrators two-to-one.  The Danish 
Embassy has received faxes, e-mails and phone calls 
protesting the cartoons, but nothing threatening.  However, 
the Danes decided to close the Istanbul Consulate February 6. 
 A Danish soccer team is continuing practicing in Antalya 
despite the protests. 
4. (U) According to media reports, similarly peaceful 
demonstrations have occurred throughout Turkey, including in 
the cities of Konya (where protestors burned the Danish flag) 
Diyarbakir, Van, Kocaeli, Erzurum, and Elazig. 
GOT Criticizes Cartoons, Urges Calm 
5. (U) GOT leaders have criticized the cartoons, while also 
warning Muslims not to respond with violence.  PM Erdogan 
told reporters on February 5 that he had warned the Danish PM 
months ago that the cartoons would stir conflict, but at the 
same time, urged calm. "You must not let certain groups act 
under the justification of freedom of expression," Erdogan 
said.  "We love and respect the prophets of other major 
religions.  We will not tolerate any disrespect or attack on 
Jesus Christ or Moses.  No one should be free to attack 
Mohammed."  Erdogan stated that the problem should be 
addressed through diplomacy.  "There cannot be a solution 
with weapons or guns.  This is what the opponents of the 
Alliance of Civilizations want." 
6. (U) As a further response, Erdogan and Spanish PM Zapatero 
published a joint "Call for Respect and Calm" in the February 
5 edition of the International Herald Tribune.  Noting that 
their countries are collaborating in the Alliance of 
Civilizations Project, the two leaders stated their support 
for both freedom of speech and respect for religious beliefs. 
 "Freedom of Expression is one of the cornerstones of our 
democratic systems and we shall never relinquish it," the PMs 
stated. "But there are no rights without responsibility and 
respect for different sensibilities.  The publication of 
these caricatures may be perfectly legal, but it is not 
indifferent and thus ought to be rejected from a moral and 
political standpoint." 
7. (U) FM Gul, for his part, reportedly met with MFA 
officials at his residence February 5 to discuss what could 
be done to prevent a further escalation of the crisis.  One 
possibility is to create a forum at which Islamic and 
European countries can discuss the issue.  Gul, according to 
the press, phoned OIC President Ihsanoglu and conveyed this 
proposal to him as well. 
Religious Affairs Officials Take Same Line 
8. (C) After the February 1 and 4 protests by Diyanet 
workers, the Danish ambassador contacted the MFA and 
expressed hope the Diyanet would not sponsor any anti-Denmark 
actions.  FM Gul called State Minister Aydin, who oversees 
the Diyanet, to make certain the Friday February 3 sermon 
would not mention the cartoon controversy (the Diyanet writes 
all Friday sermons); it did not.  In addition: 
-- The Diyanet issued a February 3 statement expressing 
"sorrow" over publication of the cartoons, calling for 
respect for all religions as a vital part of freedom of 
worship, and asking that Muslims all over the world refrain 
from violence and keep reactions "within reasonable and 
legitimate limits." 
-- In a television interview the same day, Diyanet President 
Bardakoglu called for respect for religion, termed the 
cartoons "regrettable," condemned their publication, but 
added that the Islamic world should react "within a 
reasonable framework, without resorting to violence or 
Interfaith Support 
9. (U) Condemnation of the cartoons coupled with calls for 
calm have also come from an interfaith group in Istanbul. 
The press reported February 3 that an interfaith group 
consisting of Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I, the 
Armenian Patriarch, Istanbul's Syriac Metropolitan, Catholic 
Conference representative Georges Marovich and the head of 
the Commission for Dialogue Among Religious, Yusuf Sag, had 
signed a statement condemning the publication of the 
cartoons.  Bartholomew told the Turkish press at the Istanbul 
airport that he hoped these "ugly things" would stop.  He 
underscored the importance of living together in brotherhood 
and respect for other religious without incitement.  All 
groups have a right to expect this, he stated. 
10. (C) Comment:  Danish flags have been burned in Turkey and 
the controversy has dominated the media.  The crowds, 
however, have been relatively small, and law enforcement has 
been both very present and effective, allowing people to 
express their views without damage to property or persons - 
the mark of a culture accustomed to both controversy and a 
substantial measure of democracy.  The pro-Islam AKP 
government has reacted with statesmanship, condemning the 
caricatures and, at the same time, reaching out to European 
and Islamic colleagues in an effort to forestall an 
escalation of the crisis.  The fact that the PM and the FM 
are both personally pious may not resonate outside of Turkey, 
but likely will have an impact here.  The images of the 
Istanbul protests will not play well in Europe, but the 
reality is that the GOT is trying to exert leadership, 
exercise diplomacy and prevent further conflagration, at home 
and abroad.  End Comment. 


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