Turkish police use aggressive force against citizens of Istanbul on the anniversary of Occupy Gezi (31Mayıs 2014)
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31 May 2014- the one year anniversary of the occupy Gezi Park movement.
Unlike the scene one year ago in Taksim Square, the government was prepared for demonstrations. The prime minister of Turkey took massive precautions by maximizing his force by flexing his muscles- his police force. Prime Minister Erdoğan announced a public warning on Friday that he gave strict orders to his security forces and anyone not corresponding to his imposed fear by staying home will face the consequences. Erdoğan closed the roads as well as stopped all public transportation on Saturday to block access to Taksim Square. This complete shutdown of transportation (including all ferry services and the Bosphorus bridge) disconnected the city’s two continents and separated the city into two isolated halves.
he Turkish prime minister applied the same tactics on both halves of the city, but focused more attention towards the European side in which contains the infamous Gezi Park. All over Istanbul, P.M. Erdoğan deployed more than 25,000 police officers, 50 TOMA water cannons, as well as stronger tear gas all in an attempt to stop demonstrators from gathering in Turkey’s commercial capitol.
Most of the action took place on the European side, focused on Taksim- the heart of the Gezi movement. Due to the severe precautions taken by Turkish authorities, Taksim Square was not a battlefield mirroring last year’s successful energy but, rather, it was a territory occupied by the government’s armed men which highlighted the unresolved tensions that has continued to build among Turkish citizens’ dissatisfaction with the actions, policies, and attitudes of the government. The objective of the protestors on the anniversary was peaceful- to simply place flowers in Gezi Park to commemorate all the events that have taken place since the initial protests one year ago as well as to pay tribute to those individuals that lost their lives in the battle against the authoritarian ruling paradigm. The acting authorities and police played a strong defensive position to maintain their guard and occupation of the symbolic park. While the protestors all over the city were executing their traditional methods of displaying their dissatisfaction with the AKP government chanting by “her yer Taksim, her yer direniş” (translation: everywhere is Taksim, everywhere is resistance) and banging pots and pans with kitchen utensils, the police responded harshly by firing tear-gas canisters and spraying water cannons to disassemble the demonstration.
While the defensive mode and corresponding tactics of Turkish security forces were uniform in all neighbourhoods in Istanbul, the protest in Kadıköy (the center of the half of the city that resides of the Asian continent) was much different from its sister demonstration in Taksim. Like most of the anti-government protests occurring in Kadıköy, the crowd of protestors was significantly smaller but was much more aggressive. Throughout the afternoon and night, there were highs and lows. Earlier in the evening, police made a preempted strike with tear gas by attacking locals attempting to enjoy their Saturday evening to scare them into going home and clearing the streets. Later, protestors marched down Moda Caddesi and met at the Kadıköy Boğa and continued to initiate attention and hostility from the police by vandalising public property, burning garbage, yelling as well as making fun of Erdoğan and his police muscle, and banging on everything that was metal. As well as their attempts at directly trying to intimidate the police, other demonstrators made attempts to rally more people by open firing live rounds on Sakız Gülü Sokak- one of the main streets in Kadıköy filled with popular cafes, bars, restaurants, and cinemas. Still, with the preparations and strictly implemented government orders as well as the oppositional forces being greatly outnumbered, the one year marker of Gezi was quieter than other anti-government protests.
Despite one year’s worth of anti-government demonstrations, six deaths, countless injuries and endless violence, Turkey continues to be dominated and corrupted by Erdoğan’s authoritarian regime. After one year of demonstrations and violence without even a slight budge from the religious conservative prime minister, one must ask: is there still hope that the many dissatisfied Turkish citizens will see their desired change?
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After diving deep into the politics in Turkey, it is even more apparent that its existence is merely a complicated clusterfuck that bleeds into many arenas of chaos, corruption and controversy in which contaminants opinions with censorship and confusion. My attempt has been to significantly organise factual evidence, data and statistics to better comprehend the situation for myself as well as get it to a functional form in which I can share my research with the Turkish people as well as foreign media outlets.
My opinion has been requested regarding the topic of the Turkish Prime Minister Erdoğan from both Westerners and Turks.
It’s a game: regime change and regime installment.
Marketing is everything, and everything is marketing.
My understanding can best be illustrated in the context of marketing:
One could have the best product engineering, financial backing, operational mastery, et cetera, but the success of the product is ultimately determined by perception- how the customers perceive your product; it’s branding. This same idea from marketing can be applied to politics and politicians, both in domestic and international arenas. In the context of the U.S. Empire, this principle governs one of its main operations: regime construction and puppet installation as well as deconstruction and reverse marketing engineering. The U.S. uses the same principle of marketing to bring down entire regimes they built and take down their own puppets. The current reversal of both Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan’s domestic and world image can best be conceptually understood with this idea of reverse marketing engineering.
For the past twelve years, the U.S. has aided in the branding, marketing, and promoting of Turkey’s AKP (justice and development) Party and its leader, Erdogan. The U.S. helped to paint the image of the AKP’s Turkey as being democratically sound, fair, just, and as being the ideal model of a democratic government for the Islamic world.
The following are examples of branding and marketing tactics executed by the U.S. media outlets as the crucial actors strategically planning and constructing the perspective most beneficial for the U.S. Empire:
1. CNN: One of the top media sources marketing the perception of Turkey in favour of the U.S.
“Turkey, led by Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s Justice and Development Party (AKP), as a model of a modern, democratic and Islamic nation nurturing pluralist ideals.”
“Rather than viewing Turkey’s increasing currency in the region as a challenge, America should see it as an opportunity. From its free-market economic system, which is registering Chinese-level growth, to its compatible ideals, the promotion of the Turkish model is in America’s national interest. Turkey effectively counters militant groups by challenging them from within Muslim society while also representing a crucial bridge between the West and the Muslim world.”
“America can immediately take practical steps to promote the Turkish model by encouraging the Egyptian army to move the nation toward a genuine, civilian-elected government.”
2. NPR: Another top media outlet that functions uniquely through its disguised perception as being independent and non-profit.
3. Middle-of-the-road sources
“Turkey’s rising trajectory was highlighted by the rock-star reception accorded to Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan during his recent tour of the Arab Spring states of Egypt, Tunisia and Libya and his high-profile meetings during the annual session of the United Nations General Assembly.”
“Many find the Turkish model enticing, with the moderate Islamic Justice and Development Party, known as AKP, in office; a secular constitution in place; a strong military that is subservient to the elected civilian authority; and an economy that has been expanding.”
“Overall there’s hope that a new democratic era in the Middle East and North Africa will enable Arabs to develop a new paradigm for relations with the West. This paradigm would be based on equality and partnership – a position that Turkey has already achieved.”
4. BBC: International marketing outlets also played a key role in expanding the brand as a globally accepted concept.
5. The White House: Symbolic figures also played a unique role in justifying and promoting alliances and legitimation of the brand and advertising it with a stamp of approval and confirmation.
“I just want to say how much I appreciate the opportunity to once again meet with my friend and colleague, Prime Minister Erdogan. I think it’s fair to say that over the last several years, the relationship between Turkey and the United States has continued to grow across every dimension. And I find Prime Minister Erdogan to be an outstanding partner and an outstanding friend on a wide range of issues.”
The U.S. Empire spent over a decade marketing its ideal puppet in the Middle East and promoted the AK Party and Erdoğan as being the model for democracy in the Islamic world. Abruptly, sentiments changed and the AK Party reached their expiration. Almost over-night, the party went from democratic to despotic, from democracy-loving to dictator, from squeaky clean to utterly corrupt, from moderate to extremist. What the hell happened?
The following are some examples of the sudden reversal in branding and marketing in which is best presented by comparing and contrasting the language and sentiments from those of the examples from above. (Keep the dates in mind, for the time sequence between the decade-long branding/marketing and the now reverse branding/marketing.)
“Erdogan ‘is offering unfortunate proof that it is possible to be both elected and authoritarian.'”
“Many journalists say press freedoms in Turkey have declined under his rule. Reporters Without Borders says Turkey ‘is currently the world’s biggest prison for journalists, especially those who express views critical of the authorities on the Kurdish issue.'”
“Many secular Turks complain that the Islamist-rooted government is intolerant of criticism and diverse lifestyles, as evidenced by the recent enactment of tight restrictions on the sale of alcohol, Fadi Hakura, manager of the Turkey Project at the London-based think tank Chatham House, said in a CNN.com column.”
2. Wall Street Journal
3. The Jerusalem Post
4. The London Economic
6. Commentary Magazine
8. The Times
Seriously, how did this 180 turn happen? No one can be transformed from democratic to fascist dictator in a matter of few months. No person can switch from fair and squeaky clean to utterly tainted and corrupt. Nobody can convert from being a moderate Islamist to an extremist bigot in less than a year.
What is even more peculiar is the fact that the U.S. has even resorted to using the “Terrorist” label in the reverse branding-marketing of their previous puppet prodigy. You know what it means when they play the terrorist card, right?
The following is an article that establishes Erdoğan’s ties with a famous man designated as a terrorist (but only when it is convenient for the U.S.):
“Turkey’s political crisis took a dark turn this week. Photos of Prime Minister Erdoğan’s son meeting a suspected al-Qaeda financier in an Istanbul hotel were leaked to the press. The photos allegedly show Bilal Erdoğan meeting Saudi Arabian businessman Yasin al-Qadi, whom the US blacklisted in April 2013 as an al-Qaeda funder. According to media reports, Qadi, who visits Turkey frequently and was escorted by the Prime Minister’s security men, met Bilal to discuss a deal for a juicy piece of real estate worth $1 billion in Istanbul’s Etiler neighborhood.”
Note: The refuge of Al Qadi in Turkey and his ties to Erdoğan, along with other high-level figures in Turkey, had been known for more than a decade.
“Qadi’s relationship with Turkey and the Erdoğan family goes back a few years. In 2004 the Wall Street Journal uncovered transactions worth more than $1 million between Qadi and Maram, a Turkish front company that funded terrorists in Yemen. Associates of Qadi’s, including managers at Maram, are known funders and founders of al-Qaeda. Qadi has frequently and vehemently denied the accusations and spent a lot of money trying to clear his name. But at the very least, his dealings in Turkey are suspicious. According to opposition lawmakers, his presence in the country is illegal.”
Old news, but it doesn’t matter- dirt is dirt and can be exposed only when it is convenient. It also doesn’t matter that the U.S. government did not have problems with al Qadi and several other high-level terrorists operating out of Turkey for over ten years. Really, it doesn’t matter at all and the branding-marketing branch of the U.S. empire will continue to use the terrorist card:
“According to findings by investigators leaked to Turkish media, Yasin Al Qadi is suspected of involvement in a scandal over the sale of land in an upmarket neighborhood in Istanbul. His alleged meeting last year with Bilal Erdogan could implicate the prime minister’s family in the affair. The allegations could not come at a worse time for Mr. Erdoğan, whose government is reeling from a series of corruption allegations.”
“Not everyone agrees with this picture of Al Qadi. ‘I know Mr. Qadi,’ Turkish Prime Minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan told a local television news station in July 2006. “I believe in him as I believe in myself. For Mr. Qadi to associate with a terrorist organization, or support one, is impossible.”
“Back to Turkey: Al Qadi is not just a friend of Prime Minister Erdogan, but he’s close to a group of Islamic businessmen and politicians around the prime minister. It has already been widely reported in the press, mostly notably in a Wall Street Journal article in August 2007, that Al Qadi was a major and early investor in BIM, a food retailer originally founded in the mid-1990s by entrepreneurial brothers Aziz and Cuneyd Zapsu. According to Al Qadi’s lawyer, the Saudi exited BIM in 1999, despite reports to the contrary, and well before his controversial U.N. listing.”
“Kacar’s 2004 Al Qadi report, delivered under what the investigator said was intense pressure to complete his probe, cited evidence that Al Qadi’s companies in Turkey were transferring funds between 1997 and 2001 far in excess of both companies’ net incomes, and were still operating at the time of the report. Wired funds he traced from various companies and individuals went to, among others, a ‘charity’ and other individuals branded terrorists or terrorist fronts by international investigators; there was reason to continue his investigations, Kacar wrote.”
I strongly recommend that you to read the entire investigative article. Prior to the terrorist attacks in September 2001, the F.B.I. was fully aware of Al Qadi’s operations with key al Qaeda figures. On top of this, there were several investigations along with operations that targeted the activity of Al Qadi and his network in the United States prior to 9/11 (some of these investigations were based in the F.B.I.’s Washington Field Office, while others were being conducted from the FBI’s Chicago Field Office).
The State Department and the C.I.A. pressured the F.B.I. before and after 9/11 to close and cover-up those investigations pertaining to Turkey and Al Qadi, because exposing those operations would have resulted in exposure of covert CI.A.-N.A.T.O. operations in Central Asia and the Caucasus during the period between 1996 and 2002.
The terrorist card is being played as a marketing tool, and it will continue to be played. The favourite puppet, who was previously characterised and openly promoted as being an ideal, moderate and democratic leader has been reshaped is Erdoğan is now being reintroduced to the public, in Turkey and abroad, as despotic, a dictator, corrupt, and a terrorist. Here is the million lira question: why?
The downfall of Turkey’s Erdoğan began with a feud between him and the C.I.A.-created Muslim Preacher, Imam Fethullah Gülen. One cannot truly comprehend the downfall of Erdoğan without knowing the importance and power of C.I.A.’s Fethullah Gülen. Not much has been analysed, reported, and exposed of the Imam and his multi-billion dollar Islamic network and correlating operations around the globe (which has been fully orchestrated as well as backed by the C.I.A.
The following is a recent article that delves into Erdogqan countering the C.I.A.’s Mullah Gülen’s operations and network in Turkey:
“Turkish police raided offices of a government-backed Islamic charity in six provinces on Tuesday and detained at least 23 people accused of having links with Al Qaeda, local media reported. The coordinated operation against the Humanitarian Relief Foundation, or IHH, prompted the leadership of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan to sack the senior police official responsible for conducting the raid at the charity’s Kilis headquarters, the Hurriyet Daily News reported.”
For Erdoğan, the feud with Imam Fethullah Gülen transcends to a a rift with the C.I.A. This tension anticipates doom in terms of expiration. Once a puppet is considered expired, the reversal branding and marketing begins in which all old skeletons are dug out of the deep closets and leaked to the media. Erdoğan;s previously overlooked human rights violations are observed and scrutinized under a microscope.
All U.S.-installed puppets and regimes must commit to the U.S.’s commandments- this is the political reality. If you don’t play by the Imperial rules, you get thrown out of the game by being disgraced, exposed, uninstalled, and possibly be sentenced to death. Just look at the history of the past century. When an installed puppet gets too confident and and ignores at least commandment, their images is reconstructed as dictators, despots, human rights violators, and terrorists. This is the time when their backyards get dug up to find a microscopic trace of weapons of mass destruction.
So, what was Erdoğan’s crime? Did he get too confident? Did he violate a commandment or two? The media would like to paint it like he did:
“Turkey has said that it is likely to buy a new missile defense program from a Chinese firm, unnerving NATO and American diplomats. A Reuters report from earlier this month said that Turkey is ‘highly likely’ to buy the $3.4 billion program, from a firm under American sanctions, no less.”
“Washington has reacted with concern over the decision of Turkey’s Defense Industry Executive Committee (SSIK), the absolute authority on the country’s defense projects and procurement, to acquire China’s FD-2000 system to fill the NATO member’s high-altitude and long-range air defense gap. The committee met on Sept. 26 with Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan to enter into contract negotiations with the state-owned China Precision Machinery Export-Import Corporation.”
Another majour rule violation:
“During a trip to Russia in November, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan once again said that Ankara would abandon its quest to join the European Union if it was offered full membership in the Shanghai Cooperation Organization.”
“Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan dropped that bomb on Jan. 25. With Turkish hopes for the EU membership diminishing, he declared the SCO to be a viable alternative to the European Union. ‘I said to Russian President Vladimir Putin, ‘You tease us, saying, ‘what [is Turkey] doing in the EU?’ Now I tease you: Include us in the Shanghai Five and we will forget about the EU.’”
Three majour commandment violations:
- Thou shalt not buy weapons from China or Russia regardless of quality or price advantage.
- Thou shalt only feed the U.S.’s own fat Military Industrial Complex players.
- A puppet shall only be a member of clubs solely owned and operated by the U.S.; joining others’ clubs, even thinking of joining others’ clubs, shall come with severe retribution. (A rule that has been written with in-erasable ink).
Three strikes, you’re out. Erdoğan’s expiration clock is running out. It is impossible for one with such a row with the C.I.A. to maintain legitimacy and control. While he still has seconds on the clock, this doomed man should use his final fragments of power to seek shelter- a refuge.
The fabled ideal conception of “democracy” has been defined as being a form of government in which all eligible citizens participate equally which is supposedly done either directly or through elected representatives. This idea encompasses social, economic and cultural conditions that enable the “free” and “equal” practice of self-determination in terms of politics.
This concept is arguably controversial in all contexts where it has been executed and in its various abstractions, interpretations along with all of it corresponding glories , short-comings and failures.
In my observations abroad, the pillars of debate in regards to Turkey (with additional respects to Egypt and Tunisia) are as follows:
Majoritarian versus Representative forms of democracy.
This concept refers to the form of democracy that is based upon the majority rule of a nation’s citizens and is the “conventional form” that which is used as the basis of political social structure in many modern states.
This common form is not universally accepted for it has been greatly criticized posing the threat of becoming a “tyranny of the majority” whereby the majority (ruling class) of a society could oppress or exclude minority groups. Contrasting this fearful idea, consensus democracy was developed as an antithesis of such for it emphasizes rule by as many people as possible tin order to promote the ideal to make the government inclusive (this is executed with a majority of support from society merely being a minimal threshold). It differs from trends of fascism for the it assumes equality of citizens and they claim that it is a form of authoritarian democracy (that represents the views of a dynamic organized minority of a nation as opposed to the disorganized majority).
2. Representative (republican) Democracy
Contrasting the former is representative democracy (also referred to as “indirect democracy or “republican democracy”) which based on the principle of elected officials representing a group of people, as opposed to direct democracy. This variation transcends to all modern “Western”-style democracies such as theUnited Kingdom (a constitutional monarchy) and Poland (a parliamentary republic). This contains elements of both the parliamentary and presidential systems of government as well as is it is generally curtailed by constitutional constraints such as an upper chamber. As it modifies certain aspects of the ideal definition of democracy as I first states, this has been further described and identified by some political theorists as being a polyarchy.
Keeping the terms defined in mind, it goes without saying that the road to democracy is a process rather than being an event that occurs instantly overnight– it requires an ongoing struggle.
Struggles, conflict, and confusion are, unfortunately, all inevitably linked. Within the political atmosphere that clouds the Middle East is a distinguishable fog that rains an undeniable conceptual confusion of conceptions that on wets the acute political alienation of the societal elements that feel subject to both a governmental leadership as well as a policy agenda that bleeds the ideal color s of democracy and leaves hostilities to their particular interests and values as residue. The worst environments for such a glum forecast are where they are most prevalent– in the “one-man shows” that consequently allows for the correlation of both adoration and demonization.
Specific national contexts reflect history, culture, values, and such referring to an ideal zeitgeist in which empowers and unites the nation’s identity and resonates in its psyche. Paralleling these are the relating sense of common experiences and similarities that are both skeptical and critical of certain Western “hegemonic” conceptions of modernity, constitutionalism, and governance. I have found the archetype of such abstraction in the illustrated representation in Turkey.
The conflicting sentiments of above in the context of Turkey has generated turmoil as well as it has highlighted both the dangers and passions of lethal polarization.This was formulated, initially, within the drama of Gezi Park and its repercussions and has now grown into the incomprehensibly enormous clash between Prime Minister Erdogan and the exiled Islamic leader Fethullah Gulen.
Turkey’s situation is very unique in a peculiar way for two distinct reasons:
1. The economy of Turkey has grown exponentially within the past eleven years. The development has subsequently produced a flourishing middle class as well as a dominant business community that has a lot at stake if both investor confidence and currency exchange rates steeply drop. This reality is complicated by the fact that part of those that have gained economically have been aligned with the AKP, and by the degree to which the Turkish armed forces are also major stakeholders in the private sector.
2. Another critical achievement of the past eleven year reign of the AKP leadership has been to depoliticize the role of the Turkish military. This has been partially justified to protect itself against interference as well as another factor being that of meeting the standards of the EU accession criteria.
From Turkey’s situation, which applies to mutual tensions in nearby Islamic nations, are elements of absence of common, political community, past preoccupations and
With these distinctions that shape Turkey, alienation fused with emotional distress have become symptoms (rather than explanations) for justifying the existence of such a strong political charge.
These conflicts are about religion, social stratification, class, status, political style, and varied opinions of governmental control. Complimenting this is an additional source of public antagonism that is the unresolved (and sketchily unacknowledged) debate about the true nature of democracy as the ideal for “good” governance. One perplexing element is language, especially its use by politicians concerned with public opinion.
One side of the argument contains the strong desire to base the legitimacy of governmental on pleasing the citizenry while the other side insists upon constitutionalism as well as fidelity to law. Both sides are motivated by stubborn, unchangeable convictions and they both refuse to take into account the others position as being valid or legitimate which makes compromise a far-fetched whim. In synthesis, “good governance” is virtually impossible without a sense of community. From this, social unity is currently unattainable in the presence of the sort of alienation that grips the public sector of Turkey and beyond.
Other aspects of the controversy are simplified into the difference of opinion over the ideal nature of democracy and which elements are necessary to make a government legitimate. The two opponents in Turkey being those of majoritarian and representative distinctions of democracy.
The central tension within this is as follows:
The publicly conceived myth (in all countries that deem themselves to be “modern”) is that legitimacy lives in endorsing the republican tradition of “limited government” as well as internal checks and balances. Political culture says otherwise for it is decidedly ambivalent for it can spontaneously legitimize the majoritarian prerogatives of a popular leader with strong societal backing. Those displaced, lament authoritarian tendencies that never troubled them in the past when they held the reins of governmental authority.
An element of the most recent confusion entails that, on occasion, the authoritarian tendency gets corrupted to the breaking point where it loses support with the people that share both its class and ideological outlook; from this, a reformist enthusiasm emerges. This has not happened in zTurkey but nearby Egypt, the tenure was short lived as its adherents (whom were drawn from the ranks of the urban educated elites) quickly realized that their values along with their interests were dangerously jeopardized by the “new” order– more so than it had been by the excesses of the “old” order. This was not, however, the case in Turkey. In Turkey, the situation is more subtle yet exhibits analogous features. Despite the outcome of elections that brought the AKP to power initially in 2002, it was subsequently reinforced by the stronger electoral mandates in both 2007 and 2012 (although the majority of the opposition never accepted these results as legitimate). In the background of this alienation, there was an implicit and feared belief that the AKP was mounting a challenge to the strong secularist legacy of Kemal Ataturk (an under-ratedly powerful idea). With political acumen, the AKP acted pragmatically and created a rapid-growing economy where it proclaimed its fidelity to the secular creed. From this, it gradually subjected its armed forces to civilian control. Despite the magnitude of these achievements the AKP , the prime minister never gained respect from the anti-religious opposition. Strangely, this “alienated opposition” was never able to present a platform for responsible opposition that could give a possible positive alternative to the Turkish public.
To further the understanding of Turkey’s political roots, it is appropriate to mention that the legacy of Ataturk’s nation includes an acceptance of “procedural democracy” in the form of free and fair elections that are accompanied by the apparently implied assumption that the outcome would be faithful to a modernist appetite. When the AKP disappointed those expectations in 2002, the opposition became quickly fed up with the workings of “democracy”. Erdogan’s harsh style of discourse is particularly irritating to an already alienated opposition, reinforcing their belief that any alternative is better for Turkey than the AKP. Similarly, the still obscure public falling out between the AKP and the “hizmet movement” has inscribed a new dimension in Turkish politics. It is not extreme to suggest that Turkey is currently experiencing some of the mishaps associated with keeping a political party in power for too long. Such prolonged control of government almost inevitably produces scandal and corruption, especially in a political culture where both the rule of law and the ethics of civic virtue have never been strong.
So, the debate of which form of the Western conceptualization of democracy is legitimate prevails. In reiteration and synthesis, the majoritarian form of democracy allows for the leadership to be essentially responsible to the electorate and (f its policies reflect the will of the majority) the perspective and values of opposed minorities do not need to be respected. Critiques of such call for such forms of government to be treated as susceptible to the “tyranny of the majority”. Such is arguably the case in Egypt (Morsi in 2012).
In contrast, representative democracy spawns from a generally skeptical view of human nature and it consequently seeks for procedures and support to nurture a specific political culture– one that favors moderate government over both efficiency and transcendent leadership. Par example: the American adoption of “republican democracy” that is a classic instance of sculpting a constitutional system that was threatened by majorities and protective of minorities as well as of individual rights (although initially totally blind to the human claims of slaves and native Americans). Secularization has tarnished the link between religious claims of certainty with the consistent republican sensitivity to the flaws of human nature and the general ethos behind “power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely”. Over time, every political system faces crises– it is inevitable. the American founders realized that the envisioned arrangements would only survive the tests of time if two conditions were met: first, reverence for the constitution by both lawmakers and citizens, and second, judicial supremacy to override legislative and executive swings towards either implementing the momentary passions of the mob or aggrandizing power and authority, and thereby upsetting the delicate balance of institutions.
It need hardly be argued that neither Turkey (nor Egypt and others) are remotely similar to the United States, but the superficial embrace of democracy might benefit from closely examining the menace of majoritarian democracy in a fragmented polity as well as to make note of the difficulties in establishing a representative democracy in political cultures that have been controlled by militarism and authoritarianism for a long time.
At current, Turkey is attempting to preserve both sufficient stability and consensus to enable the self-restrained persistence of “procedural democracy” and a subsequent successful process of constitutional renewal that would rid the country of the 1982 militarist vision of governance, and move it towards establishing the institutional and procedural frame and safeguards associated with representative democracy. Visions relating to an ideal, democratic future for Turkey greatly call for a process, not an event. Such an objective will require an on-going struggle that is inevitably distracted by the crises of legitimacy to be adequately obtained. The general hope is that calm minds and soft power will prevail which would mean for the serving of long-term interests of a state that transcends into a greater potential of being a true role model for the region and for the world.
Of course, the world is filled with 7 billion souls with different ideological orientations– where the western and progressing majorities fall mostly somewhere on the traditional measuring continuum of liberal and conservative orientations. By inhabiting one of the biggest cultural hubs of the world, I became very interested in understanding different approaches and methodologies of political life as well as of citizenship. In Istanbul, I have had the pleasure of exploring a cultural experience as well as conducting independent studying and analyses of identities from both psychological and sociological perspectives. It may come as a surprise to some, but psychological dispositions and personality traits may have a much stronger influence on political ideology than any other means regarding factors of intelligence, religion, or even the interpretation of political facts.
The following are various characteristics and personal qualities that greatly affect one’s outlook upon worldview and ideology.
1. Openness to Experience
A person’s openness to new experiences (as well as to “foreignness”) is a personality trait that has been measured by several respected personality tests. People who are more open tend to be more adventurous, thrill-seeking, and novelty-seeking. They also tend to be more likely to change their minds when given new information. While there are certainly thrill-seeking conservatives, people who are open to new experiences are much more likely to be liberal. This may be because liberals tend to favour progression and lean towards changing traditions That which is thrilling and exciting to to some is absolutely irrational and terrifying to others. Conservatives, by contrast, favor predictability and order, which accounts for their desire to maintain traditional, pre-existing beliefs.
As a corollary, people who have had a wide variety of novel experiences are more likely to become liberals. Many conservatives lament the liberalising of university students, but this phenomenon may be due to the fact that university tends to open people up to novel experiences and perspectives. This phenomenon occurs frequently in the west, but has an interesting occurrence in Turkey. The majority of Turkey in old world conservative based on a vast historical background and a focus of preserving the traditions and values of such. The exponential development and growth of Turkey in the past decade (by the conservative AKP) has consequently creating a rising class of young Turks growing with liberal and western sentiments but are being pulled back by their conservative creators.
2. Respect for Authority
People who respect authority tend to value rules, law, and order. Respect for authority is a powerful predictor of conservative political beliefs. Interestingly, an authoritarian personality (one which seeks respect and obedience) is also a predictor of conservative political beliefs. While conservatives are certainly capable of questioning authority, liberals are more likely to prioritise this behaviour as both a political and personal objective.
Religion is a huge source of authority. Turkey is a highly religious nation. Religiousness, piousness, and spirituality are popular tendencies in both liberals and conservatives. However, the divide comes for conservatives are more likely to fully accept religious authority, whereas liberals may question religious authorities and challenge beliefs.
3. Compassion, Empathy, and Equality
A study published in the Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin (2010) found that liberals (as a group) are more likely to value qualities such as compassion, empathy, and equality and, therefore, tend to vote for candidates whose political platforms give these values primary importance. Contrasting this sentiment, conservatives are more likely to value ideals such as justice and individualism. The liberal emphasis on equality may help to explain why liberals are generally more likely to see inequality. Liberals have a strong desire to uproot inequality, which gives them a motive to seek it out. On the other hand, conservatives strongly value individual autonomy and are more likely to attribute success or failure to individual characteristics.
Views on sex greatly impact political ideology. In voting trends, some citizens primarily based on issues of sexual morality and sentiments regarding roles of gender. In western contexts, a liberal might support a candidate solely because he is pro-choice, while a conservative might choose a candidate who opposes gay marriage. These correlations are more extreme in amplified in a progressing, Islamic state (such as Turkey). Like conservatives of the west, they tend to be critical of unusual sexual practices, but the modesty of the women in the public realm as well as their domestic roles in the private, family sector of society are one of the biggest elements of Islamic-influenced culture and social infrastructure. Turkish liberals share the western tendency to view sex as an important path of human expression as well as sentiments of gender equality. Views on gender significantly separate the two approached to critical thinking and of politics for liberals prioritise the abolition of gender traditionalism, while conservatives support traditional gender roles. This often affects voters’ support for political measures that affect women’s equality as well as sexual privacy.
While both liberals and conservatives have supported and started many wars, conservatives are generally viewed as the more hawkish political group for they are keen on prioritising “hard power” (force, coercion). Contrasting this sentiment, liberals tend to put importance of “soft power” that being of diplomatic measures as well as persuasion and libertarians frequently wish to avoid intervening in international affairs entirely. Highly dominant personalities (those who tend to resolve interpersonal conflict by force) are much more likely to become conservatives. Similarly, other dominant personalities also tend to be less tolerant of conflict between groups and consequently are more likely to view another person’s behavior as threatening. This individual trait can affect a person’s perception of the threats posed by different ideologies and beliefs of other individuals, groups, and countries.
3 November 2013
(Photograph: Hürriyet Gündem Her türlü hakkı saklıdır.)
Thousands of Turkish citizens gathered in Kadıköy İskelesi for a rally promoting “Eşit Yurttaşlık” (Equal Citizenship) hoisted by Alevi Dernekleri.
Alevism (Alawite) is a Shi’a sect of Islam that uniquely combines traditional Anatolian values of Shi’ism with elements of Sufiism. This religious minority group is predominantly a Turkish faction but has even smaller fellowships in surrounding countries. Alevism is also seen as a group identity which is interpreted as being cultural (e.g. traditions of poetry, music, dance, etc.) and/or political (leftist or Kemalist).
The Alevi group set the tone as well as the purpose of the rally with its slogan “İnkarcılığa, asimilasyona karşı eşit yurttaşlık ve inanç özgürlüğü” (Denialism, equal citizenship, and the freedom of religious belief against assimilation.”
Noon was the time the citizens were called to the pier at Kadıköy, and responded they did– in the thousands. Within appromiximately two hours, the rally reached its peak. The energy has highly charged with frustration and emotion, but calm in terms of peace.
Citizens chanted the following:
“Devletin Alevisi olmayacağız”
(The state will not be Alevisi)
“Aleviyiz haklıyız, kazanacağız”
(Alevis are in the right, we will win)
“Haksızlık karşısında asla boyun eğmeyeceğiz”
(We will never bow in the face of injustice)
The Alevis rally had a cause of its own in promoting equality from the standpoint of a religious minority group. Their dissatisfaction and frustration with the government is a reoccuring theme among various walks of life in Turkey. The president of the Federation of Alevi Associations, Hüsniye Takmaz, preached:
“Türkiye’de yaşayan tüm insanların inançlarını, kültürlerini eşit koşullarda yaşayabilecekleri her türlü ayrımcılıktan uzaklaştırılmış toplumsal uzlaşmanın içinde, laik, demokratik hukuk devletinde eşitce, özgürce yaşamalarının arzusu içindeyiz. Bu özlemi gerçekleştirmek Türkiye’deki bütün insanların boynunun borcudur”
(Beliefs of all people living in Turkey, when when they are removed from any form of discrimination, all cultures can live on equal terms of public consensus in secular, democratic state of law equally and they desire to live freely. To accomplish this aspiration is the duty of the neck of all the people in Turkey “
This sentiment of equality and rights of all Turkish citizens has deeper connotations within recents times. Shortly after these remarks made by Takmaz, the rally commemorated those who lost their lives during the events at Gezi Park. The names of the victims were read out one by one, and the thousands of people present at the rally shouted “Burada!” (Here!).
The co-chairman of the Halkların Demokratik Partisi (Peoples Democratic Party), Sebahat Tuncel was a lively contributor to the rally. She expressed her thoughts behind the idea that Democratization in Turkey is a serious problem. She justifies this but addressing the key issue of the government’s failure to properly secure the freedoms of all its citizens. In the specific context of Alevi citizens, they have struggled with this for a long time. The HDP are promoting the call for equal citizenship through the removal of compulsory religious education for they would like their religious beliefs to be shown respect. From this, the frustration became apparent in her remarks as she changed the tone from thoughts of negotiation to the call for immediate action from the Prime Minister and the AKP.
Last month, there was controversy over a traditional head scarf ban which was resolved. Incidents like this influence the call to action for restructuring the framework for freedom of belief and drive the Alevi’s plea for immediate action. The proposed democratization package seems to be a good alternative solution to the problem, but it has not been taking into realistic consideration from the ruling AKP. The Alevi organizations have been working on negotiations regarding the preparation of a new package that will be less transparent and will benefit all.
If a proper democratization package with a focus on equality is not passed into legislation, it will lead the nation into an even more tense political situation for the developments in Turkey mirror those in the Middle East in terms of the Alevi (Shi’a)-Sunni conflict.
This past Tuesday marked the 90th anniversary of the Republic of Turkey. This holiday celebrates the new era of the Turkish identity from Ottomans to Turks. The keystone of this remarkable transformation that unites Turks still today is the most famous man in Turkey, even 75 years since his death, is Mustafa Kemal Atatürk.
To address the progression as well as the evolving political identity of Turkey, one must address the Kemalism (Kemalizm, Atatürkçülük, Atatürkçü düşünce)- the founding ideology of modern-day Turkey. Also known as the Six Arrows (Altı ok), this selective composition of thought defines progressional political, social, cultural and religious reforms in which all Turkish citizens are declared equal. This was quite a liberal and controversial sentiment back in 1923, for this mantra of equality was seen as a citizen’s right without reference to religion and subsequently established a secular, national, unitary state from the Ottoman Empire (empire of Faith). Kemal’s ideology emerged from within the Turkish traditional context of Comtean scientific positivism which creates the political futures according to human –rather than divine design– so it embodies both secular and modern properties in the fulfillment of many political goals. With a main focus of individualism, freedom, equality, rationality, and accountibilty as well as putting the primary focus on both education and political structures. In the context of the post-WWI world, this brought about European modernity in an Islmaic context, which still applies today both in political make-up and geographic placement. The man responsible for linking the eastern world with the west is Turkey’s founding father and first president Mustafa Kemal Atatürk.
In regards to the national hero and icon himself, I refer you to the following article: http://www.badassoftheweek.com/ataturk.html (badass sums him up quite well)
Note: although this article is written in a comical light, it highlights the ironies behind the man as well as seemingly paradoxical values and attributes.
The worldwide political activist group promoting feminism “Femen” has established a branch in Turkey and has begun to spread in influence. Grabbing attention from the start, it opened it’s Twitter account yesterday with the following post:
“Türk kadınları birleşin! Haklarınız için mücadele edin! Göğsünüzde politik mesajınızın yazılı olduğu üstsüz bir fotoğrafınızı bize gönderin!” (Turkish women unite! Fight for your rights! Your chest is a political message so send us a topless photo!)
This idea, not only of feminism but of “sextremism,” captures the attention in openly liberal societies (e.g. Eurocentric and western societies) so one can only imagine the impact in traditional, conservative nations- like Turkey.
As an observer of both societies, as well as being a woman, I am fascinated by the tactics of Femen’s movement as well as uncertain of it’s intended effectiveness versus the reality of the response it receives. I am critical and find that despite the attention grabbing, not all attention is good attention. Some responses to Femen have been violent and, in some contexts, has actually brought about more oppression which is the exact opposite of its ideal intentions of liberation.
Femen’s goal is to promote women’s freedom and rights, but their approaches are equally rejected as they are accepted amongst women. Turkey is a great example for not only is it an Islamic culture, it is part of the European Union and has been growing more liberal and, to an extent, westernised. This creates an interesting scene of Muslim feminism countered by western images of Muslim femininity.
Femen’s approach of topless protests are radical and cause a greater uproar to more eastward you head, especially in Islamic societies. The significant correlation between worse patriarchal oppression and the harsher response to these types of radical expression is no mystery. The best example I can think of to compare the reaction of a moderate Islamic republic (Turkey) to a more conservative Islamic republic that encompasses Shari’a law: Tunisia.
Tunisian activist Amina Tyler sparked outage amongst when she posted a topless picture of herself online with the words: “my body belongs to me and not your honour.” To this, she received numerous death threats, as well as the head of the “Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice” in Tunisia called for the teenage activist to be punished with 80-100 lashes but, he went on to say, with the severity of her crime, she deserved to be stoned to death.
This event triggered Femen’s response of the promotion of “International Topless Jihad Day” back in April (2013). This Day was intended to encourage to fight against patriarchy in its three manifestations: “sexual exploitation of women, dictatorship and religion.” This was conducted with the objective that the infamous tactic of “sextremism” would serve to protect women’s rights.
This caused a wave of responses by Muslim women rejecting Femen’s tactics and circulated online in a movement entitled #MuslimahPride.
The PROS of Femen’s controversial protestation:
Attention. Let’s be blunt, tits are effective attention grabbers for both females and males. They draw wide spread attention to the cause through networking and various means of media outlets.
The people involved in Femen are passionate and truly care about the issues regarding women’s rights and freedoms. They actively try to promote their passion for women’s justice and try to make a difference.
The biggest CON I have is presented in the form of a question:
How effective are these protests really? The tactics are extreme and, in some previous examples, have caused more harm and hostility than progress in achieving their ideal objective.
With Femen’s establishment of a branch in Turkey, I am quite interested in seeing the public’s reaction here and how the promotion of their message will effect the protests here.