The Arab Spring Comes to Turkey

The Arab Spring continues

For the last five days, Turkey has been experiencing a revolt the likes of which have not been seen for long while. Fueled by the vicious assault by the Turkish police force, a humble and peaceful protest against the destruction of trees in the city center of Istanbul transformed into a massive anti-government demonstration. The revolts in Istanbul have been supported by similar demonstrations throughout the rest of the country. Overnight, Turkey has become a hellish bowl of smoke and fire. The police force has been attacking the protesters as this lines are being written and the protesters are dedicated to sting in their positions at all costs, it seems.

The first impression might lead one to think that this is an environmental protest gone astray. Far from it. Although the timing is somewhat surprising, many in Turkey have been expecting something like this to happen.

First of all, the government has been increasingly impinging upon the private. The latest law have gone some length to affect habits all the way from the cafe table to the bedroom by restricting the sale of alcohol and effectively bringing its consumption to a virtual halt and changing the laws that regulate the sales of contraceptives. While could think of these as minor annoyances they have been compounded with much more substantial matters. Recently the government of Erdogan attempted to cover up the two major massacres that happened recently: the one in Roboski, a village to the South-East of Turkey mainly populated by Kurdish citizens, and Reyhanlı, a town near Turkey-Syria border.

The people of Turkey have realized that they had enough when the prime minister seemed to show a more urgent concern with drunken youth and the country’s apparently dire need of more shopping malls while the country stood at the brink of war with its neighbor. These protests are the clear expression that the people will not tolerate the status quo any longer.

However, everything has a price. In this case, the Police attacks with unmatched ferocity in a European capital. Security forces have been pumping gas into every single building they sould find indifferent to the fact that the elderly, children or sick might be there. Rumors circulated early Saturday that the security forces may have been using Agent Orange. Meanwhile the Turkish mainstream media remains mute. This is not surprising considering that media holders have spent the better part of the last twenty years in which the ruling party has been in the ascent making business deals in the corridors of Turkish power.

There is a certain sweet irony in seeing the man who criticizes Assad for being a tyrant becoming a tyrant himself. The riots in Turkey remind us that the mechanisms that prompted the Arab Spring are still at work: the downfall of aggressive capitalism, conservative authoritarian government and a sense of a crisis of political legitimacy. Turkey is merely a link in that long chain. 

Ali Nejat Kanıyaş is our guest blogger writing from Turkey. You can follow his Tweets @dolovar_vres



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  1. Turkey had much bigger protests a few years ago against Erdogan’s growing Islamisation. Subsequently Erdogan had hundreds of journalists and military personnel charged or arrested in the fabricated Ergenekon case. Bottom line: Erdogan has already won. The military no longer seems capable of mounting another coup to protect secularism. Turkey, like most other Arab states, is reverting to type. The archetype being the warlord prophet Muhammad.

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