I wrote a piece for CNN about Turkey’s uprisings. You can find it here.
So what are the issues?
Invasion of privacy: Just as pious Turks once were incensed by restrictions on Islamic expression and wearing of headscarves in certain public places and on other personal expressions of piety, Turks today are enraged by government intrusions into their private lives, what they should wear, what they should drink, and what they should do with their bodies (for instance, government urging that women should have three children and stay at home, and fiats restricting abortions and Caesarian section) and the increasing arrogance of AKP supporters in demanding that only their norms be represented in society (confronting men and women kissing in public or strolling in a park together).
Getting the majority of the vote doesn’t mean the government thereby has a license to intrude into people’s private lives or public issues like environmental activism — saving Gezi Park, urging public discussion and environmental impact studies on public works projects like the nuclear plant, 3rd Bosphorus Bridge, dam networks, and scorched-earth urban renewal projects that destroy entire historic areas and grandiose development schemes (the biggest mosque, the biggest airport, a canal bisecting European Istanbul…) that the government has been bulldozing through without listening to public input.
Bringing foreign jihadis onto Turkish soil. The government is supporting Qaeda-linked and other radical jihadis who are allowed to enter Turkey and cross into Syria at will. Their presence has caused the Syrian conflict to become more and more a fight between Sunni and Shi’i factions. This has begun to turn Sunni Turks against their fellow Alevi citizens as well. Many Alevis are fleeing the Turkish border areas, afraid of the jihadis and increasingly of their fellow Sunni citizens.
Bought, Sold, and Cowed Media, and Journalists in Jail. Under government orders Turkish media did not initially cover the Gezi Park uprising, so social media took its place as news and information organs. Turkey has more journalists in jail than any other country in the world.
Arbitrary Arrests, Lack of Justice. The judiciary system has been used as a club against those with whom the government (and the private citizen) disagrees. Given the loose definition of the terror laws and other laws about insulting the nation, etc,. almost anything can and is be used to cause someone to be arrested and jailed. Journalists, academics, authors, publishers, trade union members, grandmothers, children, students, cartoonists, and even some generals all are behind bars for “offenses” that in most countries with Turkey’s pretensions to democracy would be considered freedom of speech issues. And there they languish, sometimes for years, while the courts amass evidence to determine whether or not they are guilty.
Arrogance of Power: Prime Minister Erdogan’s increasing authoritarianism, autocratic leadership, abrasive and insulting interaction with citizens. Many are disturbed by PM Erdogan’s desire to become president after his term as PM ends — after changing the Turkish political system into one that gives the president much greater powers. That would eliminate checks and balances on power in Turkey for which AKP members have openly expressed disdain. It would be the Putin-ization of Turkey.
The Solution: As Soli Ozel put it,
It is about Turkey’s future identity. It is about creating a genuinely secular, democratic republic that is comfortable with all the constituent elements of its identity and the institutionalisation of the rule of law, independence of the judiciary and respect for citizens’ private lives.