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SEMİH İDİZ > Turkish youth continue to inspire

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Turkish youth are proving to be an international inspiration with their determination and creativity in protesting the government’s heavy-handedness. The “Standing Man” protests started by 34-year-old performance artist Erdem Gundüz are only the latest example of “disproportionate creativity” deployed against “disproportionate police force.”

What can the police do if you are just standing there and looking intently into the middle distance? Well, they can arrest you in Turkey. There are funny stories circulating about standing protestors asking arresting policemen what charge they are being detained on and getting answers like, “I don’t know, but the prosecutor will find a reason.”

Meanwhile Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s fury, rather than diminishing, is increasing. In addition to the EU and the Council of Europe, not to mention most Western countries, he has a new enemy in the U.N. now, which, according to his odd mentality, has joined the ranks of the “interest rate lobby that is out to undermine Turkey’s great achievements under the Justice and Development Party (AKP).”

The U.N.’s High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillar, issued a statement June 18 expressing concern about the use of excessive force by Turkish police, and called on the perpetrators to be punished and the rule of law to be restored. Egemen Bağış, Turkey’s “Minister for Snappy (albeit childish) Answers to Critical Statements” will undoubtedly have some response to Pillar, especially now that he has more time on his hands because his job as EU minister is all but defunct.

As for Erdoğan, he answered Pillar before she even issued her statement. He indicated June 17 that the Turkish police had done an excellent job against antigovernment protestors and added that his government would introduce new measures that would make the police’s hand even heavier than it is today. A simple glance at international headlines, however, shows what Erdoğan has really achieved for Turkey.

Scores detained in Turkey police swoop – Al Jazeera
Turkey Vows to Strengthen Police Powers - ABC News
Turkey govt. warns it may use army to quell unrest - Press TV (Iran)
Unions march in Turkey as Erdogan threatens force - USA TODAY
Turkey threatens to deploy Army against protesters – RT (Russia)
Dozens Detained in Crackdown in Turkey - Wall Street Journal

The odd thing is that none of Erdoğan’s sensible advisers – and there must be some - have the courage to tell him that this negative image of Turkey is not part of an international conspiracy but is of the government’s own making for mismanaging what started off as a simple protest to protect trees.

Erdoğan is convinced of a grand conspiracy against himself and his mission and is furiously determined to do what he thinks is necessary to counter this by not just turning the country into a police state but also, “if necessary” as Deputy Prime Minister Bülent Arınç put it, using the army. One cannot help but wonder if Erdoğan is turning into a different version of Robert Mugabe, having far surpassed Mahathir Mohamed in terms of bellicosity at this stage.

In his column in Radikal June 17 Cengiz Çandar, the veteran journalist who once lauded Erdoğan for the good he appeared to be doing at the time, quoted the well-known sociologist Nilufer Göle, who was also supportive of Erdoğan in the past for his seemingly democratic deeds. Here is what Göle reportedly said:

“We are in the month of June 2013. Can you imagine, after the three weeks we have just lived through, that Tayyip Erdoğan will be elected in 2014, moreover that a Tayyip Erdoğan who has fallen tired after 11 years as prime minister will be elected twice as president and govern a Turkey that has been placed in this state with an iron fist until 2024?”

I for one cannot imagine such a thing, but those that can have to explain just how this is going to be without police brutality and, “if necessary,” military forces.

June/20/2013

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