Safiye Ayla

At their protest they carry a portrait of Safiye Ayla. She passed away ten years ago, ninety years old, but in her young years she was Atatürks favorite singer. She became successful also because of her performances on TRT, the Turkish state broadcaster. The portrait says everything about the unrest that has built up at TRT and that pushes the employees to go on to the streets in protest. A new boss has been appointed, and as usual in state-related institutions in Turkey, it’s a man (rarely a woman) who has close connections with or is a member of the governing party. Nowaday’s, that’s AKP, the religious-conservative party that makes every traditional state institution shake to its foundations. The new boss has announced a reorganisation because TRT, he says, is bankrupt. Yeah yeah, say the employees, you just want to get rid of us, non-religious people, so you can appoint your own friends. They are not so much afraid of losing their jobs, because they are employed by the state and probably some other job will be found for them. They fear that step by step the TRT will become a religious broadcaster, losing its old, Turkish-cultural face. And that this is part of a bigger plan to transform Turkey from a secular state into a religious one. So that’s why they carry a portrait of Safiye Ayla. She symbolizes the modern, secular, culturally rich Turkey that the TRT employees fear to lose.

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