Tuesday, June 04, 2013

Turkish Protests Not Like "Arab Spring"

As you may have heard there have been large scale protests in Istanbul and other large cities in Turkey against Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan and his ruling moderate Islamist AKP Party. Many are now comparing these protests to the so-called "Arab spring" two years ago.

However, there is a crucial difference. "The Arab spring" was more like an "Arab winter" as it was dominated by Islamist forces who opposed the current regimes because they were too secularist and too friendly to the West and Israel.

By contrast, the Turkish protests are explicitly anti-Islamist opposing the attempts by the AKP to gradually undo the secular heritage created by modern Turkey's founder, Kemal Atatürk, by for example more draconian alcohol restrictions. The secular anti-Islamist nature of the protests is illustrated by the fact that not only are a large portion of these protesters female, but virtually all of these female protesters don't wear a hijab (headscarf), as can be seen in the below pictures from the protests.

By contrast, the few female protesters that you saw in Egypt's uprising against Mubarak usually looked more like this:

If there is a historical precedent to the current protests against Erdogan's Islamist government, it would be the  attempted uprising against Iran's Shia Islamist theocracy, which was violently surpressed by the Revolutionary Guard military forces directly loyal to the dictator Ayatollah Khamenei. True, Erdogan is a lot more moderate and isn't totalitarian as Ayatollah Khamenei is, so Erdogan's regime is far less evil, but he has tried to gradually move Turkey in a Islamist and partly authoritarian direction, which is to say he has tried to make secular democratic Turkey more like Iran. And just like the 2009 protesters in Iran,  today's protestors in Turkey are pro-freedom and pro-secularism. 

Of course, Obama and most Western leaders gave barely any support to the anti-Islamists in Iran, while supporting the Islamists during the Arab winter. Will they now abandon their buddy Erdogan just like they abandoned their former ally Mubarak?. Let's hope so, but I wouldn't bet on it.


OpenID fri2012 said...

That is total nonsense. The arab spring in Egypt was young desillusioned people who was tired of Islam, just as much as it is in Turkey.

However, when the security institutions wavered and Mubarak was ousted, what came after as a political force was Islamic.

That is why the struggle continues to this day.

I know because I spent more than 50 nights in Egypt and had and still have frequent contact with people who were the people of Tahir sq.

10:58 PM  
Blogger stefankarlsson said...

fri2012, esepecially considering the fact that I really don't know who you are, your alleged anecdotes have virtually no value as evidence.

What we do know was that the Mubarak government for all its many deep flaws was relatively secular by Arab standards, so it makes little sense to believe that the protests against him had secularist motives. By contrast, Erdogan and the AKP represents the islamist side of Turkey's politics.

What we also know is that opinion polls show great differences in public sentiment between Egypt and Turkey. In Egypt, 84% supported death penalty for people who leave Islam and 82% supported death penalty for adultery and 77% supports cutting the hands of thieves. By contrast, "only" (of course any number above zero is too high for such proposals) 5% of Turks support death penalty for people who leave Islam, only 16% support death penalty for adultery and only 13% support cutting the hands of thieves. It should be obvious that any public revolt against a government is likely to be pro-islamist in Egypt and pro-secularist in Turkey.

7:02 PM  

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