Since Friday riots have been carrying on in Turkey, starting from Taksim, they’ve now spread to different cities. The protests started with Erdogan wanting to build a mall in Gezi Park, Taksim. Taksim is one of the most touristic areas in Istanbul and Gezi Park has been there for about 75 odd years. So, people protesting for their park to remain were reasonable, understandable and respectable.
However, now the aim of the riots has changed. These riots have now become a “we’ve had enough” movement and are clearly responses to the governments new proposal of prohibiting alcohol sales from 22:00-06:00, which may also seem reasonable. But lets have a look at what Erdogan has achieved, not only since becoming PM in 2003, but since the last general election (2011) where the Justice and Development Party (AKP) gained 46.6% of the vote and 341 seats in the Turkish Parliament. This was a massive victory, a landslide victory.
(Results of the 2011 general election)
Described as an ‘Ottoman grandchild’ the left in Turkey and groups that follow the teachings of Ataturk have always feared that Erdogan was going to re-introduce Islam in Turkey after repression in the 20th century. Some argue that he has done this by building more mosques in Turkey and introducing prohibition of alcohol sales. However, another argument is that he is a “moderate Muslim”; he isn’t forcing anyone to abide by Islamic teachings and in fact has mentioned that AKP are not a party based on the Sharia Law.
Some people have taken the issue further and compared Erdogan with dictators such as Hitler and Mao. I just want them to do one thing: go look at your history and read how many people Ataturk has killed in order to create an autocratic state and then compare that number with the 0 Erdogan has murdered. Unfortunately, the only reason why people are out in the streets today is because they believe the moderate conservative policies of Erdogan are against the policies of Ataturk. A man who has literally contributed to a nation falling out with each other has been named a national hero, but a man who since becoming PM has reformed schools, improved Turkish-Kurdish relations and has improved Turkey’s economy is been labelled an enemy and rather an American agent. Pretty funny isn’t it.
Erdogan was criticised for sitting at the table with the Peace and Democracy Party (BDP), who are the legal representatives of the terrorist group PKK, while trying to resolve the issue of terrorism and trying to improve Turkish-Kurdish relations. However, we see today that the protestors have become a fist with the BDP as together they protest against the government. Bit of irony there.
One criticism of the government in handling these protests is that the police are too violent. The use of pepper spray and cold water to dismantle the protestors are being condemned not only by the left but also by a vast majority of the Turkish public. It seems that the police have become the puppet of the government, where as there ultimate role is to abide by peace and protect the citizens. I would agree with this argument, if it weren’t for those un-peaceful protestors who have contributed to the death of 2 people already and have burnt down various government buildings. They’ve even burnt down 2 schools that are run by the Hizmet Movement, who are also perceived as enemies as they follow the teachings of Said Nursi and Fetullah Gulen, and have nothing to do with the government. But that’s a total different story.
If the riots had taken place in the East of the country, which is a Kurdish populated area, the West of the country would’ve easily named it terrorism. But because they don’t live in that area they don’t interpret their riots as terrorism, rather they interpret it as a democratic movement. Ha!
To conclude, my views on the riots are clear. They’re wrong, they’ve got to stop and they’ve got to stop immediately. The media, the West in particular, have over-exaggerated these riots and even the government of SYRIA have “warned their citizens about entering Turkey.” Imagine that, the “government” of Syria, they never fail to make me laugh. These riots are not that bad, we’ve seen worse. If people want democracy they’ve got to negotiate in a democratic way. Burning down buildings and interfering with peoples peace is not democratic
Aysegul Gurbuz, A2 Politics Student.