For the first time in Turkey's contemporary history, a state leader attended and delivered a speech to an Ashura gathering. In his speech on December 16, the day of Ashura commemoration this year, Turkish PM Rajep Tayyip Erdogan stressed Islamic Unity and said that Imam Hussain was for all the Muslims.
The attendance no doubt was a powerful political gesture and is indicative of the current 'anti-Israel, pro-Iran' stance of not only the PM but also tens of thousands of common people in Turkey, and beyond. In the latest poll carried out by Zogby International and the University of Maryland in the summer of 2010, the people in Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, Morocco, and the United Arab Emirates were asked to name the world leader they admired the most. Erdogan was among the most popular ones this year, whereas just a couple of years ago he had close to nil votes. The diplomatic ties between Turkey and Israel soured in the last two years, especially after the Israeli onslaught on Gaza in Dec 2008-Jan 2009 and the May 2010 attack on Gaza aid flotilla that killed nine Turkish citizens.
Former Iranian foreign minister Ali Akbar Velayati was also present on the occasion and spoke to the crowd.
Erdogan says we still feel the pain of Karbala
Tehran Times, Dec 18, 2010
ISTANBUL - Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan and former Iranian foreign minister Ali Akbar Velayati attended an Ashura ceremony in Turkey on Thursday.
Velayati, who is currently a senior advisor of Iran’s Supreme Leader, attended the ceremony in Istanbul on the invitation of the leader of Turkey’s Shia Muslims, Salah al-Din Ozgunduz.
Thousands of Turkish Shia braved freezing temperatures to commemorate the day of Ashura, which is the anniversary of the martyrdom of Imam Hussein (AS) and his 72 companions, with a procession through the streets of Istanbul.
Erdogan attended the ceremony this year for the first time since his AK party came to power in 2002.
Erdogan, who is a follower of the Hanafi school of the Sunni branch of Islam, delivered a speech at the ceremony, in which he discussed the importance of unity between Shia and Sunni Muslims.
“We have been feeling the pain of Karbala for 1,370 years. We have to feel that pain in our hearts. We remember (Imam) Hussein (AS) whenever an innocent person is killed,” the Turkish prime minister said as he began his speech.
“This country is ours, these lands are all ours, this history, this civilization is ours. Nobody can claim superiority to any other. We are equal to each other and we are all brothers in these lands. We are all first-class citizens of this country. The problems of all religious groups in my country are mine. That's why we are struggling to address century-old problems through consensus. Aren’t there those who oppose us? Of course, there are. But we will overcome this with patience,” Erdogan added.
Erdogan’s participation in Ashura ceremony is a sign of Islamic unity
Addressing the Ashura mourners in Istanbul, Velayati described Erdogan’s participation in the ceremony as an extremely significant symbol of Islamic unity.
He also pointed to Turkey’s role in defending Islamic values and foiling plots against Muslim countries.
Ashura symbolizes unity among Muslims, justice, devotion, and the struggle against oppression, Velayati added.
He stated that all Muslims shoulder the responsibility of defending the principles of Islam and fighting against the enemies.
Elsewhere in his remarks, Velayati commented on the Palestine issue and called on all Muslims to stand with the Palestinians.
On Thursday, Velayati held a meeting with Erdogan in which they discussed the latest regional and international developments as well as issues of mutual interest.