While Turkey’s national flag is red, that’s not the red flag we’ve been waving about Turkey for years now. Yet, magically, now that riots are being met with government force in Taksim Square, the light is finally starting to go on for a few people.
Via The Economist:
BROKEN heads, tear gas, water-cannon: it must be Cairo, Tripoli or some other capital of a brutal dictatorship. Yet this is not Tahrir but Taksim Square, in Istanbul, Europe’s biggest city and the business capital of democratic Turkey. The protests are a sign of rising dissatisfaction with Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Turkey’s most important leader since Ataturk. The rioting spread like wildfire across the country. Over 4,000 people have been hurt and over 900 were arrested; three have died.
The spark of protest was a plan to redevelop Gezi Park, one of the last green spots in central Istanbul. Resentment has been smouldering over the government’s big construction projects, ranging from a third bridge over the Bosporus to a crazy canal from the Black Sea. But only after this first protest was met by horribly heavy-handed policing did the blaze spread, via Twitter and other social media. A local dispute turned national because its elements—brutal police behaviour and mega-projects rammed through with a dismissive lack of consultation—serve as an extreme example of the authoritarian way Mr Erdogan now runs his country (see article).
For some observers, Turkey’s upheaval provides new evidence that Islam and democracy cannot coexist. But Mr Erdogan’s religiosity is beside the point. The real lesson of these events is about authoritarianism: Turkey will not put up with a middle-class democrat behaving like an Ottoman sultan.
That third paragraph reveals a rather ignorant author(s). It’s denial and misdiagnoses like that which helps to explains why writers of such an editorial are just beginning to pay attention to this side of Turkey ten years after Erdogan became Prime Minister.
A little bit later, we see a bit more of the same:
The problem is not Islam but Mr Erdogan. He has a majoritarian notion of politics: if he wins an election, he believes he is entitled to do what he likes until the next one. Sometimes, as in defanging the coup-prone army, he has used power well. But over time the checks on him have fallen away. AK nominees fill the judiciary and AK people run the provinces; their friends win the big contracts. Mr Erdogan has intimidated the media into self-censorship: as the protesters choked on tear gas, the television networks carried programmes about cooking and penguins.
Didn’t Egypt’s Mohammed Mursi do the same thing? Is Mursi the problem with Egypt, not the Muslim Brotherhood? It’s also interesting that it has apparently not crossed the authors’ minds that the reason Turkey had a “coup-prone army” was to prevent Islamists like Erdogan from coming to power. One of those “checks” referred to by the author(s) was the military itself. The “checks” didn’t “fall away”. They were removed by an Islamic regime, led by Erdogan.
Identifying Erdogan and not Islam as the problem is like identifying Al-Qaeda as the only enemy after 9/11.
The good news is that the typically liberal-minded Economist has taken notice of what’s going on in Turkey.
The bad news is they still don’t understand what’s going on there.