What is going on in Turkey

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Gezi Park Protests:

What is the “Gezi Park Protest” in Turkey? Maybe it is better to ask: What is the Gezi Park Protest not? It is not for or against any religion or sectarian conflict, it is not about human rights abuses, it is not about the Government’s economic or foreign policy, it is not about women’s rights, it is not about ethnic conflict; and, it is not about regime or democratic system.

So, is it just about the environment?

Gezi Park protest was an environmental protest until the police woke the protestors by using tear gas and water cannons at 5:00 in the morning on May 30, 2013. The protests grew rapidly after some protesters were hospitalised and many others received head and body injuries including one MP.  Still, the number of demonstrators had not yet reached one thousand.

More and more people arrived at Taksim Squire (Gezi Park). The demonstration in Taksim Square escalated and grew in size to more than 10,000 people. As the Police continued to use unwarranted violence against the protesters the number of protestors snowballed. Shortly thereafter demonstrations flared up in other cities in Turkey and around the world, including Ottawa. The protests continue.

Is it Turkish Spring?

No, to me it is neither a Turkish Spring nor an occupy wall street.  Turkey is a second wave democratic country with established democratic institutions and has an elected democratic government by free and fair elections. Prime Minister Erdogan implemented numerous reforms, has had economic success and still has a large percentage of the Turkish people’s support.

Then is it Turkey’s version of Occupy Wall Street?

I don’t believe so. Occupy Wall Street and other occupies (including Occupy Ottawa) were not about the environment and democratization although there are some similarities such as: both had protesters occupying the parks staying in tents, both wanted to be heard, both did not have leaders.

What is it all about then, what do the people want?

The protesters demands are two-fold.

The first set of demands are as follows: Cancellation of the current project(s) about Gezi Park and Ataturk Cultural Centre; dismissal (from their post) of every agent responsible for the thousands of injured people and the three deaths; the use of tear gas bombs and other similar materials must be prohibited; immediate release of detained citizens who participated in the resistance across the country; the abolition of all bans on meetings and demonstrations in all of their squares and public areas; and, all the removal of de facto blockades and barriers to expression of freedom.

The second and larger group of demands are criticizing Prime Minister Erdogan’s political arrogance and his authoritarianism; they are worried about religious meddling in their private lives such as alcohol regulations, the red lip-stick ban on Turkish Airlines, anti-lewdness campaigns, urging the families have at least three children, restrictions about abortion and caesarian section, the punishment of opinions deemed to offend religion and sacred values.   Strong pressure on the mass media have triggered fears that the government is interfering in its citizens’ lifestyles and trying to shape society top-down.

Yalcin Diker Ph.D.

Carleton University

Special Student