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Jun 02 2013

Malls and mosques

Turkey has erupted in demonstrations and protests over the last few days. The precipitating event was an effort to demolish an historic town square to build commercial properties, but it seems to be an expression of long resentment over a corrupt and autocratic leadership, and the growing tension within a country that was founded as a secular nation but is facing a rising Islamist faction. What happens when you try to mix capitalism and theocracy, modernism with traditionalism? We’re finding out.

The scenes carried the symbolic weight of specific grievances: people held beers in the air, a rebuke to the recently passed law banning alcohol in public spaces; young men smashed the windshields of the bulldozers that had begun razing Taksim Square; and a red flag bearing the face of modern Turkey’s secular founder, Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, was draped over a destroyed police vehicle.

turkishdeclaration

The people are more than a little annoyed with Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

Many of the protesters, some of whom voted for Mr. Erdogan, said his leadership had become increasingly dictatorial. In a Twitter message late Saturday, Mr. Erdogan appeared to mock the protesters, saying he could mobilize a million people to support him in Taksim Square, while putting the number of protesters at 100,000.

“When he first came to power, he was a good persuader and a good speaker,” said Serder Cilik, 32, who was sitting at a tea shop watching the chaos unfold. Mr. Cilik said he had voted for Mr. Erdogan but would never do so again.

An older man standing nearby, overhearing the conversation, yelled, “Dictator!”

Mr. Cilik, who is unemployed, continued: “He brainwashed people with religion, and that’s how he got the votes. He fooled us. He’s a liar and a dictator.”

Now it’s tear gas and bullets and angry mobs swarming the streets.

defiance

teargasistanbul

I think I love these people. 90 demonstrations in 48 cities, hundreds injured or arrested, two have been killed, all in the face of extreme police action, and they keep on fighting for what is right. They are actually standing against an increasingly authoritarian, conservative, and religious government.

I wish we Americans had that kind of courage.

40 comments

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  1. 1
    Lofty

    Big Money or Big Religion, always the trouble. Arseholes the lot of them.

  2. 2
    Alex

    I’m really impressed with our “semi”-European Neighbours.

  3. 3
    kevinalexander

    Sad to say but I expect to see the tanks next. When reason is your guide, the other guy is just mistaken. When you’ve got god on your side, the other guy is evil and needs to be crushed.

  4. 4
    Draken

    If Erdogan still cherishes any hope of full EU membership, this is his critical moment.

  5. 5
    Ing

    If he could mobilize that many followers, why did he resort to voilence?

  6. 6
    hillaryrettig

    Great post, PZ. Here’s my usual pitch to encourage people to get their news from

    http://www.democracynow.org

    which always does a *tremendous* job, especially with on-the-scenes reporting of freedom movements.

    also, to please donate to same. I never give to PBS or public radio anymore – sorry, too wishy-washy middle-of-the-road. I donate to bloggers and Democracy Now.

  7. 7
    imnotspecial

    P.Z be careful what you wish for!

  8. 8
    Ing

    How many are going to see this secular action for democracy as violent Muslims?

  9. 9
    Greg Amann

    Glad I visited Turkey back in the 80s when Attaturk was the gold standard.

  10. 10
    coragyps

    We tried back in 1968, PZ. And my elders tried in 1963. They got some results, and we got a very few results ourselves.

  11. 11
    Pteryxx

    More pics at the #occupygezi tumblr and Twitter hashtag of the same name. Also roundups on Buzzfeed and Storify.

    Comments via Storify:

    They’ve just cut the cables of the broadcasting vehicles at the square, and watered down some of them so all their equipment is damaged. Multiple groups have plans to start marching towards Taksim at 7pm, and now the law enforcement will behave much more comfortably, with no eyes watching.
    Share
    Fri, May 31 2013 09:39:08

    b9AcE@b9AcE
    Politicians speaking about #OccupyGezi, say protesters attacked cops. Don’t realize we saw live? What, they attacked while asleep in tents?
    Fri, May 31 2013 08:25:46

    meyrem@myriamonde
    protestors are ridiculously diverse right now. ranging from ultra nationalist turks to kurds, extremely apolitical ppl, footbal fans…fun!
    Fri, May 31 2013 09:08:58

    Some of the English statements on protest signs:

    [quoting Tayyip] “I am not a king. I am a prime minister elected by my nation’s votes. I am your servant, not your master.”

    The WORLD is watching, Tayyip. Are you a man of your word? Will you HEAR OUR VOICES?

    TURKISH MEDIA BLOCK-OUT! Nürnberg SUPPORTS ISTANBUL

    CITY TO CITY AGAINST FASCISM

    ISTANBUL – You’re not alone – EDINBURGH is with you #occupygezi

    YOU ARE NOT ALONE TURKEY

    Thanks for making us feel like home, Tayyip – Syrian Refugees

  12. 12
    timgueguen

    There were sympathy protests here in Canada, although the participants in one protest I saw footage of chanting “Secular Turkey” made me chuckle a bit.

  13. 13
    Steve LaBonne

    Neoliberalism and religion: two bad tastes that taste awful together.

    Draken @4:

    If Erdogan still cherishes any hope of full EU membership, this is his critical moment.

    They’ve lost their leverage by slow-walking the negotiations to appease bigots. The authoritarian turn of his government- i.e. his feeling free to reveal his true colors- is the predictable result.

  14. 14
    Jadehawk

    I’ve been following this since early Friday, when the German part of my twitterfeed was RTing stuff from German-Turkish filks who were either there or had friends/family there and were relaying information.

    Some of the images and videos I’ve seen were seriously disturbing.

    The images with the ubiquitous “made in USA” teargas containers are a pretty good reminder on which side of these kinds of conflicts the USA effectively stands (regardless of where the individual US citizen might stand on the issue) :-/

  15. 15
    Steve LaBonne

    The images with the ubiquitous “made in USA” teargas containers are a pretty good reminder on which side of these kinds of conflicts the USA effectively stands (regardless of where the individual US citizen might stand on the issue) :-/

    No doubt about it. If it’s not already clear that Erdogan is “our guy”, it will become crystal clear if things get further out of hand. Despite our nauseatingly hypocritical rhetoric, as between genuine democracy and human rights on the one hand, and a strongman who promotes our interests on the other, there is never any doubt how the US will choose.

  16. 16
    michaelolsen

    I just got back from Turkey about a week ago and I’ve beeen going there for years and have several friends there. Ad you don’t mess with Ataturk. Especially among the young. My heart and beginning skin-cacer belongs to Alanya.

  17. 17
    David Marjanović
    and a red flag bearing the face of modern Turkey’s secular founder, Mustafa Kemal Atat[ü]rk, was draped over a destroyed police vehicle.

    That’s it, they’ve won, it’s over. Mark my words, the AKP (Erdoğan’s party) is toast.

    If Erdogan still cherishes any hope of full EU membership

    Nope, see comment 13. Between Turkey being still too poor, him being too Islamic, lots of people in the EU being way too xenophobic, and possibly the US being too pushy about it (I’m not sure why, but the US has been pushing the EU to let Turkey in since Clinton), he seems to have given up and has instead turned to making a regional power out of Turkey, with him as the Sultan.

    If he could mobilize that many followers, why did he resort to voilence?

    Did he say “followers”? I’m sure he meant police or soldiers.

    protestors are ridiculously diverse right now. ranging from ultra nationalist turks to kurds

    Wow. I hope that goes well. :-S

    Thanks for making us feel like home, Tayyip – Syrian Refugees

    Ooh, burn.

    the participants in one protest I saw footage of chanting “Secular Turkey” made me chuckle a bit

    Read up on Atatürk, then.

  18. 18
    maxdevlin

    “I wish we Americans had that kind of courage.”

    Screw you, PZ, speak for yourself. Because the police don’t kill protesters therefore Americans lack courage? If I were you I’d edit that last line out, and screw the people who will call you a coward for doing it.

  19. 19
    Ing

    Because the police don’t kill protesters

    Our police don’t kill or randomly assault people?

    News to me

  20. 20
    Nick Gotts

    Sad to say but I expect to see the tanks next. – kevinalexander

    and

    Did he say “followers”? I’m sure he meant police or soldiers. – David Marjanović

    Unless it has changed radically in the past year or two, the Turkish army is unlikely to back Erdogan and his police in crushing the demonstrations, as they regard themselves as the guardians of Kemal Ataturk’s secularist legacy. I have heard, though I can’t find a source online, that they refused to let the police into a hospital to arrest wounded demonstrators.

  21. 21
    kevinalexander

    Nick, I sure hope that you are right and that the army are secularists. The religious right have made inroads into the American military, I hope the same hasn’t happened in Turkey.

  22. 22
    Azuma Hazuki

    Shit like this needs to happen here in the US. Unfortunately, our “Ataturk” was arguably Thomas Jefferson or James Madison, and very few people who even know who those two are have any idea about their religious leanings. The US is not only huge, it’s fuckin’ dumb.

    Here’s hoping the secular cohort wins.

  23. 23
    Jadehawk

    Because the police don’t kill protesters

    since when?

  24. 24
    garydargan

    The Islam of the current Turkish government is more “Islam Lite” than Islamist. Much of it has been about restoring basic rights which were outlawed by the previous military governments. The demonstrations are not entirely a protest against a shopping mall. Many of the protestors are from the same political groups that agitated against previous governments. The heavy-handed police tactics are not specifically Islamist tactics they are similar to the ones used against the occupy movement in the U.S., and are nearly identical to those used by the previous military regimes in Turkey although somewhat less severe at this stage. Still not good in a region whee a lot of vested interests would benefit from destabilising Turkey.

  25. 25
    garydargan

    Damn it “where” not “whee”. Street battles are not a roller coaster ride.

  26. 26
    maxdevlin

    “Our police don’t kill or randomly assault people?

    News to me”

    Generally, no. Are you incapable of seeing the difference between the USA and Stalinist Russia?

  27. 27
    maxdevlin

    #23: about forty years ago. Have you been asleep? Was it more than an isolated incident? Are you really so filled with hatred for your own civilization?

  28. 28
    Jadehawk

    Are you really so filled with hatred for your own civilization?the US is “my own civilization”? Since when?

  29. 29
    Jadehawk

    Are you really so filled with hatred for your own civilization?

    the US is “my own civilization”? Since when?

  30. 30
    Jadehawk

    Was it more than an isolated incident?

    love that one. really, i do. because it pre-emptively allows dismissal of any amount of killings by police, even outright premeditated “oh he must have shot himself” murder, to be brushed off as “anecdotes”

  31. 31
    laurentweppe

    Are you incapable of seeing the difference between the USA and Stalinist Russia?

    One country is a so-called democracy fucked up by a corporation of thugs dedicated to the preservation and expansion of the privilege of a corrupt ruling class which has yet the gall to pretend that they are a political party serving the masses… A country where most journalists are the power-that-be lackeys, where every citizens is being watched by a continent-wide spying apparatus, where one can be sent to gulags specializing in degrading treatment of prisonners at the most flimsiest suspicion and where even the well meaning sincere reformers are trapped by a kafkaesque system.
    The other country is the which won the battle of Stalingrad

  32. 32
    =8)-DX

    @laurentweppe

    Don’t overdo it. And don’t belittle the problems people have and had in actual oppressive totalitarian states by making a direct comparison to modern-day US. Yes, western governments do lots of bad things, as do big corporations, but the comparison you’re trying to push makes you look an ignorant jackass.

  33. 33
    Thumper: Who Presents Boxes Which Are Not Opened

    @ING #8

    How many are going to see this secular action for democracy as violent Muslims?

    A significant enough number to drive me to drink, of that I have no doubt.

  34. 34
    Steve LaBonne

    And don’t belittle the problems people have and had in actual oppressive totalitarian states by making a direct comparison to modern-day US.

    Fuck you. Don’t belittle the oppression and slaughter the US has inflicted on other people. (Including the ones who were here long before we “Americans” were.) What, it’s somehow better when you fuck over foreigners worse than your own people?

  35. 35
    Steve LaBonne

    Adding, there are no innocent countries on this planet. We are all responsible, to the extent possible,for trying to improve our own country’s behavior- not for making excuses for it. That goes much more – NOT less- for those of is in countries that allow some scope for public dissent.

  36. 36
    Ing

    I love the cold war histrionics. wre not as bad as russia and why do you hate America

  37. 37
    =8)-DX

    What, it’s somehow better when you fuck over foreigners worse than your own people?

    I never said anything like that. laurentweppe was comparing life in the US with life in Stalinist Russia, *as citizens of those countries*. Comparing attrocities commited by the US in Afghanistan/Pakistan/Vietnam/Wherever to the brutality of Stalinist Russia might make sense, but talking about goulags and journalists as lackeys in the US is just stupid, you might as well go full out Godwin and talk about Obama/Bush/US gvt as Stalin and Hitler and Mao combined. It’s conspiracy nut rhetoric and I don’t see any validity in it, it obscures actual criticisms, despite being untrue.

  38. 38
    =8)-DX

    *as well as being untrue.

  39. 39
    Steve LaBonne

    It’s not about comparisons, fuckhead. I am responsible for MY country’s atrocities, and I will not be detoured from speaking out about them by the kind of horseshit people like you love to peddle.

  40. 40
    Steve LaBonne

    Or in other words, read my #35 and stop wanking.

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