What will Erdoğan say when he’s back?
That is the ten point question not only in Ankara among cabinet ministers, but also among demonstrators in Istanbul’s Taksim square and even the supporters of Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, with their growing anger against the protestors who have been calling on their leader to resign for ten days now.
To be frank, everyone has been doing their best to contain the Taksim protest crisis since Erdoğan left for a four-day trip to North Africa, four days ago on June 2.
President Abdullah Gül intervened to end the excessive use of police force against the demonstrations, who actually were about to calm down after his first intervention on May 31, but became agitated again when Erdoğan described them as “marauders.” (That means “çapulcu,” read ‘cha-pool-joo’ in Turkish, and instantly the insulting word was adopted by protestors as a praising nickname; Noam Choamsky declared himself a “çapulcu” yesterday, as Ergun Özen had, then CEO of one of Turkey’s biggest banks, Garanti, a day before.)
Gül had a meeting first with the main opposition CHP leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu, then with Deputy Prime Minister Bülent Arınç, and later with the Kurdish problem-focused BDP deputy Sırri Süreyya Önder, who has been alongside the demonstrators from day one as the member of parliament from the Taksim constituency.
Arınç first made a public self-criticism saying that the protests had gone out of control because of the police’s use of excessive force and gas on day one. He then apologized to demonstrators who were injured because of the police brutality and clashes later on (three people lost their lives and a few thousands got injured in the unrest so far), and said that he, on behalf of the government, respected everyone’s right to live their lifestyles freely. Then he agreed to get into a dialogue with the demonstrators, as suggested by the opposition parties as well as the official voices from the European Union and the United States.
He kept his promise. Yesterday on June 5, Arınç meet with a group of NGO leaders on behalf of the protestors. (The delegation consisted of five middle-aged men with serious looks, in contrast to the women and youngsters of all genders who took to the streets in Istanbul and 47 other cities across Turkey who made up the majority of the crowds, but this is a story for another time.)
In the meantime the Taksim protestors said that they would respect the Miraj night on June 5, one of the holliest nights of Islam, they would not deliver alcoholic drinks in the square and freeze the festival-like demo during the prayers in mosques for that night.
Finally the CHP announced that they had cancelled a big demonstration against the government on the 8th, which had been planned long before, so as not to escalate the political tension.
Yet, there is one big unknown in this multi-parameter equation: What will Erdoğan say when he is back on Thursday night?
Will he carry on with his “çapulcu” line and ignore the “leave us alone with our – modernist – lifestyles” and “don’t try to behave like our fathers” kind of demands of the masses, or will he tone down to a moderate “style” as hinted by Arınç? So, nobody can foresee the next day, since nobody can predict what will Erdoğan say when he is back to Turkey.