The protests and Erdoğan
Although the events that began in Gezi Park have calmed down, the problem is not yet resolved. The dimensions of the events, which were local and apolitical in the beginning, changed with the involvement of the international media, which did not have any qualms about appearing biased at times. This marked the first time in a long time that Iranian, U.S., Russian, Israeli and European media had a similar perspective on a story. A caricature published in Le Monde displayed an Erdoğan who made a weapon out of a minaret, with the support of the headscarved women and an Ottoman soldier holding a sword pictured behind him, was attacking masses that held a banner that read “laicite.” Le Monde is the perfect instance of the orientalist and Islamaphobic take of the Western media on the events in general. The only thing changed in other countries was the phrase on the banner.
The recent event was the perfect opportunity to declare Erdoğan, who called for elections almost every other year and won all of them, a dictator. The groundless accusations of totalitarianism began when Erdoğan came out of the 2010 referendum with the crushing majority vote of 58 percent. In other words, the AK Party faced accusations of totalitarianism just when the military-judiciary tutelage was pushed back and the AK Party came close to being really in power, as it deserved. It would be telling to assess the Gezi Park events in this context.
Erdoğan faced the accusations of totalitarianism with only one response: “Do not come to me with abstract accusations that are outside the realm of politics. Can you give me specific and tangible examples?” This simple question does not have a tangible response other than, “We are afraid and we feel repressed.” Similarly, Erdoğan asks the same question to those who stated that they don’t want intervention in their lifestyle. Those who want to lead Western and secularist lifestyles cannot point out to a structural instance that impacted their lifestyle. In fact, it could be easily stated that the standards for socialization and consumerism for those who would like to lead such lifestyles have vastly improved in the last few years.
When the above questions do not produce any concrete results, they focus on one question alone: We would like to partake in decisions that involve our city, we want participatory democracy. Erdoğan, then, asks, “Who are you?” This question does not have a tangible answer either, because the Gezi Park protests are no one and everyone at the same time. Erdoğan states one more fact. The Taksim project that you are protesting against passed the city council unanimously, in other words with 100 percent of votes. The project was announced before the elections and received 50 percent electoral support. More importantly, for the last year, no objections were raised against the project that has been known for a year and a half. Nevertheless, the protestors still claim that they were not consulted on the project. So the government says, “Let’s have a referendum.” The Taksim Platform responds: No, because scientific facts (read: the platform’s argument) cannot be decided in referendum! If Erdoğan can overcome 19th century positivism, then we can have our participatory democracy and Erdoğan can finally be free of accusations of totalitarianism.