Society, Politics, and Economy in Modern Turkey: Sociology of Turkey - Maintained by Tugrul Keskin
We are at a point in our work when we can no longer ignore empires and the imperial context in our studies. (p. 5)
― Edward W. Said, Culture and Imperialism

Sunday, June 30, 2013

Obsessed with Turkish Models in Egypt

By Hesham Sallam

Jadaliyya - Jun 30 2013

Shortly after the outbreak of Turkey’s Gezi Park protests, Egyptian public forums were flooded with a variety of expressions that drew parallels between the respective situations in each of the two countries. The trend reinforced international media’s initial characterization of protests in Turkey as the manifestation of a region-wide backlash against ruling Islamist parties. Scholars and researchers immediately responded with meticulous explanations for why Turkey is not Egypt, highlighting the stark differences between the two contexts, and offering nuanced arguments for why popular mobilization in Turkey is neither an extension of the so-called “Arab Spring” nor a prelude to a second round of uprisings in the region.

Missing from this debate, however, is the context in which various political actors in Egypt have long competed to appropriate and mold Turkey’s democratic experience (or what has been dubbed the “Turkish model”) in a broader struggle to define the acceptable parameters of the emergent political system in Egypt. It does not take much to reach the conclusion that Turkey and Egypt represent vastly distinct political arenas, and that public debates in Egypt about the “Turkish model” have done great injustice to the nuances of Turkey’s dynamic experience with democratic institutions over the past three decades. Yet, however simplified, portrayals of the so-called Turkish model in Egyptian public discourse—before and after the outset of the Gezi Park protests—reveal a great deal about the character of longstanding struggles for revolutionary change in the Egypt.

In many ways, what the “Turkish model” constitutes exactly has been an important arena of political contestation in Egypt over the past two years—one that elucidates ongoing conflicts between various revolutionary and counter-revolutionary forces in the country. More specifically, over the course of the past two years, different wielders of power in Egypt have selectively used Turkey’s experience with democratic institutions to justify and advance a variety of counter-revolutionary initiatives. It is for this reason that many activists, political leaders, and commentators were quick to draw (or in some cases dismiss) parallels between Turkey’s protests and the confrontations between the ruling Muslim Brotherhood and its challengers. More broadly, a reading of the political battles and compromises that the “Turkish model” has embodied over the past two years in Egypt underscores some of the enduring challenges that partisans of the January 25 Revolution face today in light of the 30 June protests and calls for President Mohamed Morsi’s resignation.

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