Turkish protests could turn into fight over identity of country, says historian

June 3, 2013

Turkish protests could turn into fight over identity of country, says historian

Mostafa Minawi is an assistant professor of history at Cornell University focusing on Turkish and Middle Eastern history. He comments on the daily protests currently sweeping Turkey.

He says:

“The divisions in the group of protesters, originally unified in their anger against the actions of the Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and his government’s policies, are starting to show. Old ideological divisions between an amalgam of groups on the left side of the political spectrum — socialists and minority group advocates — are vying with the old Kemalist elites and right wing nationalists with strong fascist elements.

“The real danger is that the fight of Turkish citizens to dismantle the authoritarian regime and take back their cities, their towns and their personal freedoms will turn into a fight over the identity of Turkey.

“The AK Party’s policies of ‘blind capitalism,’ combined with a perceived arrogant disregard of public opinion, have caused a feeling of creeping disenfranchisement. In addition, dozens of journalists and academics have been jailed or detained on trumped up charges as a form of silencing voices of decent or criticism of the current regime.”

“The use of excessive force to quell protests in Turkey is not new. It has been done for years, but it has usually been deployed against Kurdish protesters in east and southeast Turkey and Istanbul and has received very little attention in the press. What is new here is how wide spread the protests have been and the increasingly indiscriminate use of violence, massive detentions, and physical assaults.”

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