What started as a little demonstration to protect some trees in a park in the capital of Turkey has blown into a full-grown national public resistance against the government. The police brutality continues as hundreds of thousands of people gather in the streets to demand Tayyip Erdogan, Turkey’s Prime Minister, to leave his post. What’s happening is huge, so we decided to give our readers a quick-and-easy background and introduction to the current situation in Turkey.
All eyes are on Turkey. The very heart of one of the greatest cities in the world is being torn and turned upside down, and the riots that started in Istanbul are spreading fast across the country. Is this some kind of an “Arab Spring” in Turkey? Or is it more like the London and Paris riots that pop up every once in a while? The answer is NO! Turkey is very much doing its own thing, and you don’t have to look outside to figure out what’s happening on the inside.
First of all let’s take a look at Tayyip Erdogan, the prime minister and leader of Turkey. It’s a classic story where a poorly educated man wins the heart of the people in a troubled time but instead of keeping his promise to save the world he becomes a corrupt Islamist who turns the country into a police state to secure his own power position. It sounds like the beginning of a love story, I know.
However, this is not a new phenomenon; Turkey’s had a unique system of protecting itself against internal corruption like this for centuries. OK, It was a bit different when they ruled the world, but to break it down:
Atatürk basically picked up the scattered pieces of what was left of Turkey after WWI and shaped modern Turkey as we know it today (1923). This put him in a close-to-God like position. Atatürk’s face, as much as the Turkish flag, has become the core symbol of Turkish pride ~ which is not to joke around with. (Europeans have been killed in public for insulting turkey’s flag before.)
After Atatürk the main job of the army was not only to protect the borders anymore, but also to protect the constitution (which guarantees a secular state). Whenever the politicians fucked it up due to their own greed and power trips, the army would step in and give the country back to its people. This happened in 1960, 1971, and 1980, and it should have happened now.
But modern times take modern political systems, and there is no point in dictating a country if you always have to worry about the army fucking it up for you. So even if Tayyip doesn’t come across as the smartest dude in Turkey, at least his team figured out a way to wrestle the power out of the hands of the army. The generals that didn’t want to play on team Erdogan quit, got fired, or left in protest, meaning that Turkey slowly lost its constitutional protection.
Over the past ten years Turkey has seen a great economic growth, but it has also gone through a severe anti-democratic Islamization process, and the government’s general trend of cracking down on anyone who dares to open their mouths against them is alarming.(1)
A lot of people are in general getting more and more pissed off as nothing really seems to get better, that is to say the rich are getting richer and the poor are getting poorer in Turkey. On the contrary it’s just getting more and more expensive (for everyone who doesn’t have a ton of money).
As a tourist you would notice that alcohol is getting harder to find at the same time as the prices are increasing dramatically. Now you may say that this is normal as Turkey is a Muslim country, but you have to know that alcohol is an important part of Turkish culture.
Another thing that’s slightly annoying is that every single little green spot in the city has been turned into a mosque (there are about 3,000 mosques in Istanbul), which brings us close to the current situation.
The Current Situation:
The government wants to build a shopping mall in one of the very few last green spots in the middle of the city, something that a handful of hippies wanted to stop by putting up tents and, well, occupy the space to protect the trees.
The reaction to this “anti-government” resistance was brutal, and police started shooting teargas at the peaceful protesters and burned down their tents at 5 in the morning last Wednesday (when no one was looking at their tellies).
This brought more people to the park the following day to show their support, but when night came the police upped their game, trapped the protesters, fired teargas and burned the tents – again. By 10:30 the police had taken control over the park. The people did not like that, so on Friday around 30,000 protesters gathered to show their support for the people– and their distrust of the government. The following night was a street battle that went on till midday Saturday. That afternoon more than one hundred thousand people gathered in Istanbul’s centre, as well as in other city centres all over the country.
What started off as a peaceful demonstration to protect some trees has turned into a nation wide anti-government movement where people can finally voice their opinions denouncing the prime minister and his new laws.
He answered with more violence, but the shit didn’t really hit the fan until the police stood waiting to gas people getting off the ferry en route to Taksim, the busiest place in the city. That’s when busloads of people started coming in from all over the country, and the People reclaimed the park. At this current moment citizens are using all of their resources to block the police and their armored vehicles from entering this part of town. Erdogan is not happy.
This is essentially a dictator’s worst nightmare. In a moment of panic, Erdogan accused the two first lawmakers in Turkey of being “drunkards” perhaps to justify his own laws and regulations. By referring to Atatürk, the Father of Turkey, as an alcoholic he shamelessly insults the entire population
He’s also shutting down 3G connection, as “Social media is the worst menace to society”. (He banned youtube in 2007 as Greece used it to insult… ehh… Atatürk.)
However, maybe for the first time in, like, ever, Turkey seems to be uniting. People from all backgrounds are coming together; Kurds, Turks Marxists, conservatives and liberals are fighting, singing and chanting side by side. This is a public resistance against an unjust government, and the people demand their prime minister to leave.
And maybe it’s good, or bad timing that he is leaving now, for a business trip to North Africa for a couple of days. So Inshallah, maybe his visa is not valid when he returns.
(1) (It’s kind of Europe’s fault as well. Only a few years ago Turkey desperately wanted to be part of E.U., but general racism and ani-islamic forces in Europe made that very difficult: each time Turkey met the standards set for them, new (more impossible) ones would be set. At the end Turkey decided that they didn’t really need Europe to make it, and turned to their Arab brothers for partnerships instead. It most certainly worked out. Turkey has tons of investors from the Gulf, while Europe is begging for nickels. This has contributed in giving Erodgan the self-confidence he has today, but it will also make hes head roll in the gutter one day. You can’t rule your country the Arab way. It’s not gonna work.)
Pictures by “Our Man” In Istanbul
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