gul 1 (Photo: President Abdullah Gül and his wife Hayrünnisa Gul at the Republic Day reception in the Presidential Palace  Cankaya in Ankara, October 29, 2010/Umit Bektas)

Turkey’s staunchly secularist military shunned the president’s Republic Day reception on Friday evening, attended for the first time by his headscarf-wearing wife, in a snub to the country’s pious rulers.

In the past President Abdullah Gül had given two separate parties, pandering to secularist sensitivities by conducting the higher-profile evening affair without his spouse, but this year he held just one event, which she co-hosted.

The military held a separate party, Turkish media reported, demonstrating the lingering divide between the secularist old guard and the rising class of conservative Muslims, epitomised by Gül and Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan.

“The military should have come here. The place for a reception tonight is the presidential palace,” broadcaster CNN Turk quoted Erdogan, who added he opposed the idea of a reception elsewhere.

ataturk (Photo: Turkish military officers attend a Republic Day ceremony at the mausoleum of Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, founder of secular Turkey, in Ankara October 29, 2010/Umit Bektas)

Republic Day commemorates the founding of a secularist, modern Turkey on the ruins the Ottoman Empire by Mustafa Kemal Ataturk in 1923. It is traditionally a day in which the presence of Ataturk, Turkey’s revered first President, looms large.