Thursday, June 13, 2013

Istanbul: Dark days ahead for Turkey?

This months cover by Aleksandar Ares,
with layout by K.K.W.
Cover image is from the project
Rise Of The Young Ones.
"Diren Gezi" - Turkey; dark days ahead? By K.K.W

"...big things have small beginnings..." (David - "Prometheus" Directed by Ridley Scott)

Biking up 3rd Ave in Manhattan last week, I saw a small but boisterous group of people, signs held high, protesting for solidarity with Turkey.
Prime minster  Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
Image courtesy of Wikipedia 
Along with Istanbul, demonstrations spread to 67 provinces within the country. The initial protest held by about 50 environmentalists opposing the replacement of Taksim Gezi Park with a reconstruction of the historic Taksim Military Barracks (demolished in 1940).
One of the logo's of some protesters. 
For a brief while the they halted the bulldozing of the park. However on the morning of May 28, the protesters, camping out in Gezi park (along with others) were routed by the Zabita municipal police with tear-gas, water hoses with their tents then burned. Like many other countries Turkey has a history of police brutality.  
Photo courtesy of Media-center/
The park is one of the few remaining green spaces left in the European side of Istanbul. Despite the anger sparked by the Gezi incident, the current government leadership under Prime Minister Erdogan (AKP - Justice & development party) has increased restrictions on freedom of speech, the press, internet use, television content and the right to free assembly (1).   
Photo courtesy of
At the same time, especially since 2011, the AKP party have pushed forward an Islamist agenda, aimed @ a more "pious generation"
The party has developed and increased its links with Turkish media groups to help further its agenda. It has used administrative and legal measures (in one case a 2.5 billion tax fine) against critical media groups and journalists (2).  
Photo credits unknown
Restrictions on alcohol consumption have been pushed through Parliament, many have been given jail sentences for blasphemy. The government have also tried to make abortion virtually unobtainable and opposed extension of LGBT rights in the country (3). 

The main thing to note is that the AKP has govern since 2002, then won elections in 2007 & 2011 by large margins.

Under its rule the economy of Turkey has recovered from the 2001 financial crisis, driven in part by a construction boom.
And while construction has been a major drive, this has involved little local consultation, being opposed by widespread coalitions of diverse interests. Despite this fact the government has turned a deaf ear & blind eye to most if not all opponents to these projects (4). 

The construction boom has even spread to Macedonia - with Cevahir Holding investing some 300 million euros to build four 4-storey skyscrapers in the capital, Skopje (5). This has raised numerous concerns within Skopje given Turkeys political problems, and its past historical dealings with the Balkans.

While economic gains are something quite positive for a nation, and the stability that comes with it, this is not enough to blind those with open eyes. Democracy and the secular gains via leaders like Mustafa Kemal Ataturk are under siege, in a nation where some wish to exist in the modern world, with stern elements of its non-secular past.

Nothing lasts forever, all protests come to an end, either with both sides satisfied or not. Though for the time being, its a dark time for Turkey, with the protesters one of the only lights urging the country back towards Democracy.     
Image courtesy of AP Photos - Kostas Tsironis
One of the more peaceful demonstrations:
a Sufi dancer wearing a gas-mask.
Image courtesy of Wikipedia.
If you would like to know more go to :,

(1) "Charges against journalists dim the democratic glow in Turkey" - New York Times Jan 4th 2013,  

"In Erdogans Turkey, Censorship Finds Fertile Ground" - Al Monitor Jan 2013

"Erdogans Visit to Berlin Betrays Tensions", Der Spiegel 2013 

(2) "How Democratic Is Turkey", Foreign Policy - June 2nd 2013

(3) "Main opposition urges protection of LBGT's, ruling party calls them immoral", Hurriyet Daily News May 29th 2013

(4) "How Democratic Is Turkey", Foreign Policy - June 2nd 2013

(5) Sinisa Jakov Marusic - Balkan Insight 2013.

"Art is the reason, art is the way"  

1 comment:

Anthony Hopper said...

I think it is difficult to predict what will happen in Turkey over the next few weeks...