Demonstrations in Turkey: trees that were hiding a forest

Written by Rukïye Tinas, doctor attached to CNRS’s Triangle laboratory and searcher associated to MEDEA Institute. Translated from French by Amal El Gharbi

For several days, Turkey is encountering troubles. Preserved internally from regional and geopolitical transformations, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s AKP, in power for ten years, has been shaken. It all started from several major projects in Istanbul and a new law on the restriction of alcohol advertising. In fact, the reasons are deeper. If we put the agitators aside, and analyze the other groups, we can see indignation among the middle classes regarding the will of control on their way of life. The economist Ahmet Insel explains that the society’s indignation is “to save its dignity”.

The desire to create a religious youth (dindar nesil) to create a perfect society without any defaults, in accordance with his worldview, imposing the majority’s way of life to the minority, the consideration of abortion as murder and the desire to limit the number of caesarean sections for various reasons, the language and the contemptuous and authoritarian style adopted by Prime Minister Erdoğan at the beginning of his third term in 2011, are so many factors showing that the identity of the conservative AKP took over from its democratic identity.

Furthermore, we cannot deny that the protests were a great opportunity for those who cannot get rid of the AKP or Erdogan through elections. Above all, it is the case of CHP (Republican People’s Party) which does not seem to be innocent as he had approved the Taksim Square project. The other two opposition parties, the MHP and the BDP, they chose not to be swept away by the current and remained wiser. The first leader Devlet Bahçeli showed honorable conduct stating that « the only place where the AKP will be defeated is the ballot box. Whatever happens, the solution is democracy. » There are also Twitter users who disseminate disinformation rather than information, « An armored police vehicle ran over a person, » « The police used live ammunition », « The police did sleep with protesters water « , » Access to social networks has been blocked « , » If the protests continue 48 hours yet the EU will bring down the government « , » The protesters attacked the veiled women « , to cite just few of these tweets.

Appeared on the political scene with a political identity combining traditional and liberal values, the AKP has been very successful, in many areas, including economic and foreign affairs. Thanks to him, Turkey has become the sixteenth largest economy in the world and the sixth largest economy in Europe and was able to overcome the IMF becoming a country that lends money to the latter. Besides, Erdogan owes an important part of the electoral successes to his charisma. His determination brought him to make many reforms to democratize the country and devote himself to resolve a thorny issue as the Kurdish question. That said, it is still his stubborn and authoritarian personality that upset the other half of society, which does not vote AKP and sometimes feels humiliated and despised. Although he came to power after seven consecutive elections by increasing votes in every election, Erdogan is the Prime Minister of electors who voted for another party. He must be much more listening to them and maintain the balance between the two conservative and democratic identities. This balance is much less visible in his third term, the AKP now giving the image of an ideological party difficult to distinguish party in the system, which gives rise to the qualification of its leader Erdoğan as authoritarian and despotic ruler.

This calls into question the initial claim of not being a political party based on any ideology, but on principles that may be those of all. The government has taken an important step 4 June: Deputy Prime Minister apologized to the people protesting government to protect the environment due to abuse of police violence and received the next day representatives of the group Solidarity Taksim to listen to their demands. They will be received by the Prime Minister on his return from North Africa countries. Finally, the good news is that the Turkish youth of today can no longer be described as apolitical. It has proven its commitment since the beginning of the movement.