TURKEY: Fight against Authoritarianism

V. Arun Kumar

Masters in International Relations, South Asian University,
As part of International Student Week in Ilmenau, Germany, we few participants produced a short video in solidarity with Turkish Movement.

Turkey is now onto the path of revolution. Streets of Istanbul, Ankara and other major cities bears the mark of resistance and courage of thousands of people amidst tear gas cannisters, water cannons, police vehicles, police personals in full riots gear. It’s like state under police occupation and Taksim square looks like a war field. On June 16th, Turkish police were successful in clearing protesters from the Taksim square in an overnight raid after warning from Deputy PM that Army may be called in. Though Taksim square has been made now a police bastion, the resistance refuses to die down. A new wave of protest has gripped the city, inspired by performance artist Erdem Gunduz, who stood silently for hours in Istanbul’s central Taksim Square.

The protest started on May 28th when few environmentalists started a small sit-in protest against the proposed shopping mall in Gezi Park. Gezi Park is the last green area left in Istanbul. What turned this small sit in into a mass movement was the police brutality on the protesters. But the protests that followed after the brutal crackdown on environmentalists were not just a spontaneous act of frustration. Prime Minister Erdogan’s government was becoming more and more authoritarian in its policies, especially its move towards ‘Islamization’ and suppressing any dissenting voices. The Police brutality on protesters during Gezi Park was manifestation of Erdogan’s authoritarian policies which till that time were in latent form.

The protests in Turkey can be said as one of the longest sustaining protests against the government in a democratic state. And looking into the police brutality on protesters in Turkey, one will feel that this is happening in some country with dictatorship regime. The police actions on protesters are controlled by Prime Minister Erdogan himself, his authoritarian tentacles have reached deep inside the state machineries.

Turkey Protest

Erdogan claims that he has the support of more than 50 percent of the population and the protesters are influenced by “internal and external extremists”. Well, the point here is not that how much support he has; the point here is how his government treats the rest those who dissents, even if they are less than 1%. A government loses its legitimacy if it brutality crushes the dissenting voices (doesn’t matter how big or small), even if the government has support of 90 percent of its population. Erdogan’s speeches itself speaks of his totalitarian and authoritarian tendencies. His speeches given to state sponsored media were filled with hatred spewing words referring to protesters like “looters”, “terrorists”, “external agents”, “hang the protesters from the trees they are defending!”

The protests in Turkey have a unique picture of itself. The protest is happening cutting across various political ideologies. For the same reason it is quite hard to predict the outcome.

If one looks into present flow of the protests, it seems Nationalists are gaining upper hand. The problem with Nationalists in control of protests is that it may get anti-Kurdish flavour. Kurds are also participating in the protests, even though many are still sceptical. For 30 years Turkish people ignored the sufferings and subjugation of Kurds. But it is evident that more and more people in protests are now critically thinking about the Kurdish issue and injustices done of Kurds. At the same time nationalists are trying to propagate anti Kurd feeling.

Another outcome can be a coup attempt by secular sections of Turkish military. Coup attempts are not a new phenomenon in Turkey. But as of now Turkish military has not shown any signs of such move. A coup attempt may bring in a regime change but it will disastrous for the Kurdish people. Coup by military will give a mileage to nationalists and thus jeopardising the Kurdish interests.

One of the necessary outcomes can be fall of Erdogan regime. After such police brutality and authoritarian attitude of Erdogan it will be totally unacceptable that he continues in power. For the same reason one may see situation in Turkey getting worse.

Whatever may be the outcome, it will be better than the existing scenario. Take the case of Egypt, no doubt the present Muslim Brotherhood government will bring not bring any radical or sweeping changes in Egypt. But in every aspect it is much better than the previous dictatorship regime. At least the space for freedom, democracy and dissent have grown larger . History is evident that such protests may have not changed the whole system towards a perfect one but it has always helped in moving towards a better one.

Today, the whole protest is not just about a park, it’s about freedom and democracy. It’s about resistance against an authoritarian government and its policies. It’s about humanity!

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