Weekend or Friday? The Future of the Weekly Public Holiday in Turkey


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Last November (2020), President R.T. Erdogan announced that 2021 will be the year of economic and judicial reforms in Turkey. Suddenly in early February he stressed that Turkey needs, even in 2021, to adopt a new political constitution, as the existing one, reformed by him in 2018 with increased presidential powers, is from 1982, as well as from 1961, i.e. constitutions resulting from the deep military state of Turkey, a regime which belongs to the past after Operation Sledgehammer (2006) and the failed coup of 2016. These developments, combined with the landmark year of 2023, which Erdogan himself and AKP have repeatedly set as a benchmark for Turkey’s future political system, highlight Turkish leadership’s reform intentions for this year.

At present, the areas of the economy and reform-related legislation are not known. The reforms were initially expected to take place within the existing constitutional framework, but after the recent statement of the Turkish President, a fundamental change of the constitution cannot be ruled out, whatever such a reform implies for the future political system of Turkey in relation to the emerging and central role of political Islam vi-a-vis the secularized western type of democracy that officially exists in Turkey since 1923.

One of the reforms of the economy that may be of particular interest is the weekend holiday, combined or not with a change in the Turkish calendar. Established by Kemal Ataturk in 1926 in the context of Turkey’s westernization, the weekend holiday remains valid to this day. Given that in Islam the weekly holiday is Friday and given the orientation of the Turkish leadership towards political Islam in the last two decades in increasing areas of the socio-economic life of Turkey, the question arises whether there will be an Islamic reform on the subject of the weekend holiday. There are various aspects involved in such a move.

A key aspect for the Turkish leadership’s review of the weekend holiday reform is the combination of its domestic obligations to Islam and the synchronization of the Turkish economy with the rest of the world based on a possible return to the Friday holiday. The practice of the Friday holiday in other Islamic countries has shown that initially there would be a loss of working time in Turkey’s trade relations with the western world but there will be a gradual modus operandi adjustment of the Islamic Friday holiday in Turkey to that of the weekend in the western world.

Another aspect is which extra day may be chosen before and after Friday to facilitate the transitional connection of Friday to the rest days of the week. In Iran e.g. the weekly holiday is on Friday while Thursday is half-holiday. In the majority of Muslim countries, the Islamic holiday of Friday coexists with the Jewish holiday of Saturday. The question therefore arises as to whether the Turkish leadership would initially prefer to replace the weekend with Thursday-Friday or Friday-Saturday holiday schemes. For instance it may be the case for Ankara to prefer Friday-Saturday first as a transitional holiday and then to shift to Thursday-Friday holiday.

Technology is expected to be an ally of the Turkish leadership in such an Islamic reform, as digitization helps to absorb the methodological shocks that would result from the change of the holiday scheme. In the first phase, and based on the experience of the corona-virus pandemic, Turkish private companies, or even the state sector, would be able to ask their employees to work a few hours from home to reduce the losses that will result from the lack of synchronization with the western public holiday.

As a whole the significance of the possible reform of the replacement of the weekly Christian-Jewish weekend with the Islamic Friday holiday would be special for the Islamic worldview of Muslims in Turkey. With the implementation of various Islamic reforms in the last twenty years in Turkey, such as the restitution of religious monuments from secular museums into mosques (e.g. the Hagia Sophia), the dress code and the role of women, the treatment of minorities, the change of state of increased political responsibilities of the President, justice, etc. it is expected with particular interest whether the forthcoming reforms in 2021 would include the Friday holiday or whether this reform would be postponed for later.

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The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of The Duran.

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