The Battle of Taksim and beyond
The heart of the matter is hidden in just two lines:
“Dictatorship does not run in my blood or in my character,” Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, June 2.
“To me, social media is the worst menace to society,” Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, June 2.
All in all, it looks like Prime Minister Erdoğan’s ambition to raise sin-free, all sober and devout generations could take longer than he hopes. All the same, the opposition should not rub its hands in anticipation of “the beginning of an end;” Turkey’s anti-Erdoğan masses did not grow; but their anger did.
Once again, Mr. Erdoğan looked amusingly unconvincing when he tagged hundreds of thousands of protesters as “looters, marginal and members of illegal organizations;” or when he blamed nationwide protests on “foreign enemies who envy Turkey.” But for the deaf, useful and disposable idiots, Mr. Erdoğan once again clarified his understanding of democracy: Dissent is legal only when expressed at the ballot box! (His words).
The past four days were no doubt “scary” for Mr. Erdoğan and his men, although one government MP shrugged off the protests, saying “they think they can start a revolution with their drunken heads.” Honorable members of parliament; the drunken heads made the headlines all around the world except Turkey where “top news channels” preferred to broadcast cooking programs at the same moments their foreign colleagues were covering the protests in every detail. Self-censorship could not have been exposed better.
Gentlemen, have no worries; this is not going to be the beginning of the end of your elected autocracy. Nor is it going to be a game-changer. But have worries, because days of disquiet and months of discontent are anxiously awaiting your governance. Meanwhile, try to keep your young loyalists under control if you don’t want your glittering country washed with blood and increasingly looking like your ex-boy friend Basher al-Assad’s Syria.
The protesters are so sorry that the shining image of your jewel city Istanbul looked weary and badly tarnished this weekend. They are sorry they dirtied your streets with their blood. Meanwhile, you obviously ponder how much tourism revenue will be lost this summer; for much longer the stock market will plummet and how badly all that may have affected Istanbul’s bid for the 2020 Olympic Games. You will learn soon.
You also wonder how badly the Battle of Taksim can further snowball into other Turkish cities. But you will not sit down and think about where you may have gone wrong. Instead, I bet, you will start devising plans on how to crush the next wave of protests with minimum possible publicity around the world. This is precisely where you are wrong.
A blackout on Twitter? If only you did not fear a western backlash. Apparently Mr. Erdoğan put Turkey into the group of countries it deserves to be put in when he called Twitter “the biggest menace to society.” Now he must explain why all of Turkey’s state offices, including his own, the President’s and the Foreign Ministry are keen users of that “menace.” But that, too, unveils Mr. Erdoğan’s understanding of democracy: mere vote-casting, vote-counting and an unpleasant governance based on the strictest form of majoritarianism. But Twitter is a lucky enterprise. Had it been headquartered in Turkey, its executives one fine morning could be handed a tax fine with a dozen zeros on it.
The Battle of Taksim was a psychological victory for the protesters. Now they are more confident than before that in the next battle the police will have to kill them, not just spray them with tear gas – unless of course the police launched a discreet witch-hunt in the days ahead and arrested thousands of dissidents on charges of being members of various unheard of terrorist organizations. We know from his own statements that there is hardly a very thin line between what dissent and terrorism mean to Mr Erdoğan.
Most ironically, one of the most seriously wounded protesters was a Turkish lady of Palestinian origin. And I searched in vain for one single Islamist protesting because a Palestinian protestor had been seriously wounded by the police. What’s up, lads? When will you find out the crypto-Jewish infiltration into the Turkish police force?