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Ataturk tattoos rise in popularity in Turkey

Ataturk signature tattoo a symbol of opposition

Tattoos of Mustafa Kemal Ataturk’s signature, founder of the modern day secular Turkey, is becoming more of a popular choice among secular Turks.

“This tattoo is getting more and more popular every day, especially among young people,” Murat Arti, a tattoo artist and the owner of Tattoo Murat in the Sisli district of Istanbul, told the UAE-based THE NATIONAL newspaper.

“They think the government is trying to make them forget Ataturk. The government is even trying to change the constitution now.”

Fears

The Justice and Development party (AKP), the current ruling party in Turkey has its roots in political Islam, and has exacerbated fears among opposition secular members that the party holds long-term plans to transform the country from its secular establishment to an Islamic republic.

“Just like it happened in Iran,” Arti said. “They got rid of the shah and it became more religious and conservative. AKP is trying to do the same in Turkey.”

The increased frequency of young Turks asking tattoo parlors for Ataturk’s signature, “K.Ataturk”, tattooed on their bodies comes as a reaction to the upcoming June constitution referendum in Turkey.

AKP proposed the referendum in order for constitutional amendments to take place, and by doing so, it only made the opposition more wary that the referendum if voted “yes” will give AKP too much power over the Constitutional Court and the supreme board of public prosecutors and judges and further the party’s consolidation of power.

Ataturk tattoos for free

Arti and his tattoo parlors counterparts are offering free of charge tattoos or at a lower price to make the opposition to AKP become more visible.

“Turkey is going down,” said Cihan Demir, 21, who is planning to get the tattoo. “Ataturk was trying to make Turkey better than the old Turkey. Today, nationalism is up and terror is back. Religion is coming from the government.”

Daniel Garcia, the owner of Inkstanbul Tattoo shop, offers free Ataturk tattoos every November 10, the date Ataturk died and the day he is traditionally remembered. His three tattoo artists have to work all day to accommodate the number of customers.

According to Garcia, whose mother is Turkish and father Spanish, the signature comes from the document Ataturk signed to abolish the old Arabic-based Ottoman alphabet for Turkey to start using the Latin-based one; a well-understood step to make Turkey more similar to Europe.

“Sixty per cent of the people that get the tattoo don’t have any others,” he said. “They don’t usually like tattoos, but they like this sign so it has to be small and it has to be somewhere special.”

Most people request the tattoo on their arm or hand. Others prefer it over their heart.

“You know we have two types of people here in Turkey,” Garcia said. “The people that adore Ataturk and the ones that adore fundamentalism. I think it’s a great tattoo for anyone that wants to give a message.”

According to a poll this month by the Istanbul-based research group Sonar Arastirma, the Republican People’s Party (CHP), Turkey’s main opposition party, has received 33.5 percent of the respondents’ votes, while AKP's poll results stood at 31.1 percent.