The analyses of what's happening in Turkey are all over the place: urban vs. rural, secular vs. religious, publicly vs. privately controlled space, feminism and LGBT issues, denial of the Armenian genocide, May Day protests, Kurdish oppression, the income gap. It has obvious similarities to Occupy Wall Street—a protest that started with a park and broadened into a general critique about politics, the economy, and power across the country.
But is that similarity just superficial? Here's a roundup of opinions about what's going on:
From the New York Times:
Mr. Erdogan’s attempt to forge a Muslim moral majority is evident also in his government’s stance on abortion, which, until recently, had prompted no theological or political controversies. Islam, like Judaism, gives priority to the mother’s life and health over that of the fetus, but Mr. Erdogan, borrowing a page from America’s Christian right, has introduced legislation to curb the availability of abortion through Turkey’s national health insurance system. And he has compounded such measures, which would hurt poor women more than the wealthy, with nationalistic calls to increase the population of the great Turkish nation by recommending that all women have at least three children.
From Open Democracy:
It was one month to the day since the Turkish government – without any international attention – mobilised 40,000 police and stopped public transport, in order to suppress turnout for Istanbul’s May Day demonstration...
Seven protesters are unofficially reckoned to have been unofficially killed. One woman crushed under an armoured police vehicle, a man dead from his injuries having been hit in the head with fire from a water cannon. Stop a moment, that doesn’t quite cut it, because they aimed the water cannon at his face. I say ‘they’, and yet, as is so often so in Turkey, we know the perpetrator. The ‘they’ will be the police. The police, every time, and always, the police. Western readers have heard about eyeballs pulled from sockets by water cannon, the man beaten until his scrotum split has also grabbed a few column inches for the cause. Aside from these grotesque titbits, the details will remain hazy, and we should take no consolation in the fact that the official death toll, having belatedly crept to one, will likely remain low. On a day when a wave of people took and crossed the vehicle-only Bosphorus bridge to march on Taksim, the Turkish media were still reporting minor skirmishes at the Syrian frontier. Hundreds of incarcerated journalists, and the overlaps between government ministers and media conglomerates, are the combination of hard and soft power that has stopped the mouthpiece of Turkey’s civil society from articulating its own trauma. Those inside Turkey say consistently that social media has become their best information source.
Also from Open Democracy:
One mainstream perception is that events developed unpredictably, spontaneously and without any particular organizing. Was it really unpredictable? It is partly true that mass social events are unpredictable; but only partly true. Yes, exactly when it will happen is unpredictable, but that it will happen is not. For instance, does one need to be a Marxist to see that the EU elites are sitting on a social time bomb? Not really.
In the case of Turkey, the revolutionary leftist press has been swarming with analyses pointing to the fact that the AKP is increasingly alienating not only social groups like LGBT, religious and ethnic minorities, students, artists, Kemalist and liberal secularists, and so on,but also people from its own electoral base. Look at the Tekel resistance, look at Reyhanli, look at public and private sector workers disillusioned with extreme outsourcing, the relentless assault on worker rights, the widening income gap!
From the Guardian:
Calling the recent events a "Turkish spring" or a "Turkish summer", as some commentators were quick to do, is not the right approach. It is true that Turkey has lots of things in common with many countries in the Middle East, but it is also very different. With its long tradition of modernity, pluralism, secularism and democracy – however flawed and immature it might be – Turkey has the inner mechanisms to balance its own excesses of power. If this cannot be achieved, however, there is concern that the demonstrations could be hijacked by extremist groups and turn violent. The same concern has been voiced by the country's president, Abdullah Gül, who gave a constructive statement saying the people had given the politicians a clear message, and the politicians should take these well-intentioned messages into account.
Also from the Guardian:
There is a lot of confusion among the International community regarding what's going on in Turkey. Why is the public so outraged against a government that came to service by democratic election?
Here is a sampling of what the ruling party AKP is doing to create so much reaction from its own public.
1) The constitutional amendment they are trying to pass moving Turkey to a US based Presidential system - This will give AKP another 10 years of electability. Convenient timing as under the current regime Erdogan won't be eligible to run for PM in the next elections. on.wsj.com/OM2UPQ
2) Restriction on alcohol use. It started as a bill for a full ban but under public pressure was passed as "restrictions". Oh and did you know our national drink is now Ayran (Watered down yogurt) instead of Raki? (Anice based liquor widely popular in Turkey). Yup cause Erdogan said so. Because with 1.5 litres per capita consumption a year, the Turkish youth clearly needs to be put in an AA program. bit.ly/1aHmKY2.
3) Turkish Airlines ban on red lipstick for hostesses. bit.ly/165xTnP
From Al Jazeera:
As demonstrations in Turkey enter a fifth day, the country's deputy prime minister has apologised for "excessive violence" against protesters trying to save a park in Istanbul.
It is unclear whether the remarks made on Tuesday by Bulent Arnic, who is standing in for Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan while he is out of the country, were towing an official government line.
Despite facing the biggest challenge to his rule since he came to office in 2002, Erdogan left Turkey earlier on Monday on an official visit to Morocco, where he insisted the situation in his country was "calming down".
He earlier rejected talk of a "Turkish Spring" uprising by Turks who accuse him of trying to impose religious reforms on the secular state, and dismissed the protesters as "vandals", stressing that he was democratically elected.
Also from Al Jazeera:
Twitter has become a useful source of news for the Turkish public in recent days - and months. The protests have largely been untelevised, with some of Turkey's news networks airing cooking shows and penguin documentaries at the height of the tensions...
Government supporters, however, reject accusations that it has exerted control over Turkish media.
From the Jerusalem Post:
After his third consecutive election victory in 2011, Erdogan began to abandon civic pluralism. He instead focused on empowering his core constituency through a crony capitalism and pushed through a series of polarizing measures for state enforcement of conservative religious mores. In the month prior to the outbreak of massive demonstrations, Turkey witnessed the banning of Turkish Airways flight attendants from wearing red lipstick, legislation restricting the sale and consumption of alcohol and the Ankara subway authorities using closed-circuit television surveillance to prevent passengers from kissing.
Most egregious has been Erdogan’s program of grandiose construction projects designed to enrich AKP-affiliated businesses and artificially boost the Turkish economy. Imposed over objections by local residents, many of these heavy-handed projects also attempt to erect edifices glorifying the Ottoman Empire and Sunni triumphs instead of Turkey’s pluralist heritage.
And from Jadaliyya:
On the one hand, unlike Occupy Wall Street and other similar movements throughout the West, many of the activists do not reject traditional forms of political organization and calculation (even though such sentiments are widespread among some of the younger leading protesters in Taksim). Such abstentionism from formal politics cost dearly to Western movements of the last couple of years. Unlike Arab protesters, on the other hand, Turkish and Kurdish activists have been living and breathing under a semi-democracy, so have a lot of everyday political experience under their belts. In short, “the leaderless revolution” has not arrived in Turkey. The disadvantage of Occupy Gezi, though, is that it is facing a much more hegemonic neoliberal regime when compared to the Western and Arab regimes. Turkish conservatives have been much more successful in building a popular base and a militant (but pragmatic) liberal-conservative intelligentsia (when compared to their fanatical and shallow counterparts in the West, not even to speak of their inexperienced counterparts in the Arab world). This consent is multi-dimensional and integrates compromises and articulations at ideological, religious, political and economic levels. The demobilization and counter-mobilization that neoliberal hegemony could generate cannot be taken lightly.
If the Turkish and Kurdish activists find innovative ways of overcoming these hurdles, Turkey will have the potential of adding a new twist to the post-2011 global wave of revolt.