The Chairwoman of the Association for the Support of Contemporary Living (CYDD), Prof. Turkan Saylan died beginning of the week after a long illness. Only a month ago police had raided her house and seized her computer discs and documents related to CYDD, including lists of students that the association was providing scholarships. The raid had taken place on the orders of the prosecutor investigating the Ergenekon case.
If it were not for the police raid, Saylan’s funeral on May 19, would have not reached the proportions of such a massive demonstration with the participation of tens of thousands of people carrying Turkish flags, Ataturk posters and slogans in support of secularism. Opposition politicians like Republican Peoples Party (CHP) leader Deniz Baykal, high-ranking military officers, writers, artists, stage personalities, university professors, journalists and people from all walks of life were present at the courtyard of the Tesvikiye Mosque where the funeral prayers were held. There was nobody representing the government, not even a wreath with the name of President Abdullah Gul or Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan on it.
There were women who came from the provinces as far as Van. To the television cameras they explained their presence at the funeral as the expression of gratitude for Saylan’s help for educating girls and her fight against leprosy.
“She used to tell us medicine is not enough to combat leprosy, you must touch the hearts of patients. She was a dreamer, a fighter and had the spirit of a child,” said a nurse from the Lepra hospital that Saylan helped found, at the memorial ceremony held at the Dr. Lutfi Kirdar Conference Center before the funeral.
Her associates and friends denounced articles printed mostly in the Islamic press before Saylan’s death accusing her of being a Christian missionary or positioning herself against pious believers of Islam.
At the mosque, Ihsan Ozkes, the imam who conducted the religious ceremony, also delivered a speech reprehending such publications against Saylan and quoting from the Koran and Prophet Mohammad’s sayings that everybody should respect the dead. “Those who have accused her unjustly must feel shame now,” he said.
From the mosque it took two hours for the procession to reach the Zincirlikuyu cemetery hours only four kilometers away.
Prof. Ibrahim Kaboglu from the Marmara University School of Law, described the search at Saylan’s house as “a legal scandal,” and asked the representatives of the government to apologize for such an act after her death.