The following article was submitted to Muftah today, June 2, 2013, under the name “Istanbul Protests.” While we have been unable to verify author identity, it appears to be written by one or more persons inside Turkey.
For its value in presenting one perspective on the on-going protests in the country, it is being reproduced here in its original form, with the exception of basic copy editing changes.
It may be strange to hear for a person outside Turkey that people are protesting a government over a few trees and a park. But that is the diluted story.
The protests in Taksim Square go beyond a few trees in Gezi Park.
It is important to understand what is at stake and what the big deal is at Gezi Park. This brief document provides a short summary of the underlying issues so that you can place the protests into perspective.
[The destruction of Gezi Park] is the latest in a series of changes in Turkey. All these changes are aimed at changing the secular and democratic aspects of Turkey.
The Erdogan government has been targeting the secular basis of Turkey since it took office over 10 years ago.
One of the most important targets of the Erdogan government is the independent media. Very large numbers of newspaper journalist and TV commentators have been arrested for criticizing the government, and these journalists have been kept in prison without any charges filed.
This has resulted in a big suppression in the media. Journalists and commentators have completely stopped criticizing and commenting on important issues.
Due to this media suppression, important stories are not covered at all or are covered from the government’s perspective. This is one reason there has been a “media blackout” in Turkey about recent events.
The Erdogan government, as stated by the Prime Minister’s chief adviser Ibrahim Kalin, suggests it did not issue a media blackout. This is because it did not need to. There has been so much media suppression in recent years that the media has not even attempted to cover the protests at all.
As a result, when we turned on the TV this morning, we did not find any news about the protests. Instead, there were programs about how to control your diet. When we look out the windows, however, we can see a large number of protesters clashing with the police. Almost unreal and Orwellian-like, but it is true.
Due to this lack of coverage, the international media is also lacking an important information flow outside of social media. It is essential for the international community to make sure that the lack of information out of Turkey does not result in the same kind of coverage on these events that we see in Turkey.
Other changes being made by the Erdogan government include suppression of the historically secular military, judges, and the other members of the judicial system.
Top military commanders have been arrested and kept in prison without any charges filed or based on unproven claims. Members of the judicial system also encountered similar problems.
More recent developments coming out of the government include a ban on alcohol and an attempt to change Turkey’s constitution.
In a recent speech, Erdogan referred to Turkey’s constitution as a document written by “two drunks”, which unmistakably refers to the country’s founding father, Kemal Ataturk, and his habit of drinking.
Once Erdogan changes the constitution, there is not much left that can stop his agenda. His goal is to change the fundamentals of the Turkish republic, starting with changes to the title and duties of the president.
The removal of Gezi Park is a highly symbolic gesture because of its significance to Ataturk and secularism.
Before the creation of the Turkish republic, there was an Ottoman cannon barracks at the site of Gezi Park. In the 1940s, these barracks was demolished, and Gezi Park was born. Erdogan’s main goal is to tear down Gezi Park and rebuild the barracks.
Similarly, one of his next goals is to tear down the Ataturk Cultural Center in Taksim, and create some other kind of cultural center in its place, possibly with an alternative name.
These are all systematic attempts to change the foundations of a secular and democratic Turkey.
Erdogan illustrated his agenda clearly in a televised speech about 20 years ago, when as the mayor of Istanbul, he said that Turkey’s secular regime will change for sure – the question was whether the change would be bloody or not.
Looking outside now, we see the blood. The only question that remains for us is whether there will be change in the regime.
For the global community, the protest movement currently unfolding in Turkey is extremely important.
Until the Erdogan government, Turkey has been the only truly secular government in the Islamic world.
Erdogan’s policies have attempted to change this. In the first part of this agenda, he converted Turkey from a secular government to a moderate Islamic government.
If Western governments and other respected allies do not protest Erdogan, he will continue to carry out his agenda.
Was Obama considering these issues when he warmly welcomed Erdogan to the White House? One would think not! But now it is time to realize what is going on.
Please protest the Erdogan government and put pressure on the Prime Minister.
After all, if Turkey becomes a true Islamic regime, the world will have so much to loose.