The days before May Day were marked by presidential protests in Turkey, but somehow with the coming of the new month, those peaceful protests became marred by violence. This week on Turkey is Typing we discuss the lasting impressions of the presidential protests, May Day, and the reform that the country is talking about.
Let's begin with Carpetblogger who sums up her impressions of marches, of any type:
In ripening and mature democracies, I hate marches. I think they are pointless tactical efforts that divert energy and resources from more productive organizing activities. They look good on teevee, especially when there are lots of women and pretty flags, but strategically, they accomplish very little.
I make a huge exception in repressive places where public gatherings require serious courage. In the old Ukraine, Belarus and Azerbaijan, gathering in a large groups can help move the ball down the field, provided there's a strategic objective……..
The worst part about marches like the one in Istanbul on Sunday and in Ankara a few weeks back is that they give participants the false impression that they are actually doing something to change the situation. No one got organized as a result of those marches. Not one nurse in Izmir or office worker in Bursa decided, “well, AKP had done a lot to improve the economy, but I've been told secular values are important and those Istanbul secularists can organize a pretty good march, so I guess they deserve my vote.” It's like a bunch of smug San Francisco liberals holding anti-war march on Market Street. Breaking! San Francisco Liberals oppose the war in Iraq!
As the only functioning Muslim democracy with a growing economy in the region, there's a lot at stake here. The prospect of Sharia scares me and so does the prospect of a military coup. What scares me the most, however, is that the secularists are allowing this opportunity to slip out of their hands.
If either scenario develops, Turkey's secularists have no one to blame but themselves and their marches.
The question is, were the Presidential protests a waste of time? Erkan's Field Diary lists all of the international news coverage on the subject, so in that sense Turkey's citizenry was heard. Ignore Me If You Can fills us on in on the new found action of the parliament and the news that the general elections have been moved up:
It looks like we’re getting the elections that we’ve been waiting for sooner than we thought. This is when we will see what the people really want. Hopefully, more than 30% of Turkey will have finally gotten the message and will go use their legal right and voice their opinion at the ballot. This time there is no room to screw this up.
Any good that was done with the Presidential protests was damaged by the May Day riots in Istanbul, where just days earlier marches were peaceful, now hundreds have been detained by police. Talk Turkey posts about the negative press this generates:
Distress calls’ are going out in Turkey once again, and the country is definitely in chaos mode. It seems like everytime Turkey makes front page news in the global media (and I mean really makes the headlines, not the ones Turkish press makes it sound ike the whole world is talking about us when they're not,) it's all negative. And the Turks then think the whole world is out to get us. I guess the Turks of Turkey don't realize they're more guilty for making the news than those who report it, even if it is biased.
Negative press…and as Turkey and My Foreign Perspectives points out, negative traffic:
Can you imagine a city the size of Istanbul having the main arteries of travel cut off during morning commute traffic? On purpose! This is exactly what happened when the police closed transportation corridors on the ferries and Metro and added to it the thoroughfare to the Bosphorus Bridge along with closure of Besiktas, an area which sits on the Bosphorus and leads to Taksim Square.
Not only did it create mass traffic problems, but many employers told their employees to stay home, so no work today (or rather yesterday).
We have recently seen two weeks of thousands in the streets here in Istanbul, making it seem to outsiders that Turkey is on meltdown with everyone running riot in the streets. This is just not true!
And of course, as Me and Others illustrates, not all public opinion on the recent marches is the same:
my father in-law had asked the most ridiculous question to my wife when he learned that we attended the caglayan rally in Istanbul. he asked “what were you doing there? are you a commy? you were like that when you were a kid too.”
even though it is the most ridiculous comment, it is perfectly understandable. there is a very solid image in this country that only the leftists and communists attend street demonstrations. the fields were left to people who demanded things which didn't necessarily meet with the demands of the public which is the consequence of the simple fact that the leftists failed to understand the real nature of the Turkish people for most cases. so, even though my father-in-law prefers to define himself as a democrat, he seems not to understand what we were trying to do in the rally, because I am quite sure that he would appreciate it if he understood. but the thing is, it was really better that I didn't go to that barbecue party because my father-in-law is too old to accept anything new in his political views, and he would just refuse to listen to me when I said his comment was not even close. That's why I don't like getting into political debates. Nobody cares to listen but only wants the others to accept his views as the ultimate truth.
We will end today with the White Path who outlines the latest “Jewish conspiracy”, you will probably find it as hard to believe as he did:
Did you know that Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdoğan and his wife are crypto-Jews who secretly collaborate with the Mossad? And that they are trying to cook-up “moderate Islam” and destroy Turkish secularism for the sake of serving the elders of Zion?
Well, I had no clue about that terrible conspiracy either, until I went into a major Istanbul bookstore last weekend and checked the bestsellers list. There were a few usual titles telling stories about how the beloved Secular Turkish Republic is targeted by internal and external plots — a highly popular and powerful paranoia in the country these days — but none of them were as informative as the one penned by a die-secularist named Ergün Poyraz.