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

Thursday, July 18, 2013

From Cynicism to Protest: Reflections on Youth and Politics in Turkey

By Ayça Alemdaroglu

Jadaliyya - July 18, 2013

The recent uprisings in Turkey indicated a transformation of youth cynicism into a widespread protest against the Adalet ve Kalkınma Partisi (AKP) government’s conservative and autocratic policies. This transformation demands a new way of thinking about youth and politics in the country. If nothing else, young people can no longer be easily characterized as politically apathetic.
In June 2013, Turkey witnessed young people going out onto the streets to defend trees, solidarity, and freedom against the AKP's profit-driven, socially conservative, autocratic rule. The number of protestors (whose average age is twenty-eight, according to a Konda poll) grew exponentially as they were met with police brutality and the government's marginalizing, polarizing, and terrorizing discourse.
It all began as a peaceful sit-in against the government plan to build a shopping mall in Gezi Park in Istanbul's central Taksim Square. The police attack on protestors turned a small-scale local protest into a city- and country-wide uprising. Plenty of analysis has appeared in domestic and foreign media about the causes, methods, and effects of the events. While government supporters insist on portraying protests as a product of a foreign and domestic conspiracy to weaken Turkey’s successful economy and its increasing role in world politics, many analysts have emphasized the democratic nature of protests. Some have analyzed the role of the autocratic policies of the ruling AKP in pressuring the society to rebel; others examined the novelty, diversity, and humor that protestors displayed.

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Reframing the agents of resistance at Gezi Park

By Alparslan Nas

Open Democracy - 17 July 2013

As the bearer of an underlying democratization process in Turkey with all its paradoxes, AKP still goes unchallenged insofar as the different groups of opposition who became visible in Gezi Park still cannot put forth convincing arguments to win the “50 per cent”.

The word, “resistance” has not been widely heard in Turkey till recently, and the unfolding of the Gezi Park events. We have been pushed into a universe of discourse which interprets these events as ‘black and white’, especially with reference to the deeds of Erdoğan. Envisaging a third way has never seemed so difficult, especially within the frame of a leftist perspective. Yet certain questions await unanswered; who is really speaking through resistance?

Erdoğan: dictator or saviour?

Leftist politics in Turkey has always been closely aligned with the Kemalist modernization process, since both construed “Islam” as “the uncivilized other”. In the past eleven years of the AKP government, those who have intrinsically close ties with the modernization process have difficulties in comprehending the ways in which Erdoğan’s government has managed to improve the level of social welfare for the silent majorities. As columnist Markar Esayan noted in his essay in Turkish, members of the privileged classes cannot comprehend how people’s lives have changed since the price of a simple medication fell from 100 liras to 10 liras.

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Chapuling at the Gezi Commune (I)

An Analysis of Factors Behind What Happened in Turkey

Gönül Pultar

This piece of writing started in June in response to the queries of the many friends outside of Turkey who were anxious about my family and myself, and has been altered and restarted many times as events took different turns. We are already in the middle of the month of July, and although incidents do keep flaring up every now and then (sometimes provoked consciously by the government, it is said), life seems to have returned to normal on the whole—except for those who were wounded, those who are still under arrest (with new arrests that keep taking place), and of course for the families of those who lost their lives during what has come to be called the “Gezi (Promenade) Park events” or the “June Resistance,” as well as for those rare members of the mainstream press who preferred to lose their jobs rather than follow directives they disapproved. Although many of us do not believe that the crisis has been resolved, and are still on edge, this may be a good time to review the events—that have also touched me: an international workshop for which I had been preparing for over a year was postponed to an indefinite date by the university where it was to take place..

What happened and why it happened are the two questions most on the minds of people who are not in Turkey. What happened was recorded live most of the time, and video clips and photographs alongside reports from observers and commentators abound on the internet. (What's more, many people are busy at present collating the footages for mass publication, and there will soon be a whole publishing industry on Gezi.) What led to the events is another matter and that is what I wish to touch upon here (leaving my own reminisces of “chapuling” at the Gezi Commune to a sequel to this text). I must explain that there are a number of factors at play, some of which are unrelated to each other but they have all coalesced to create the “explosion.” I will discuss below the period of time the current regime has been in power; the present state of the economy in Turkey; the existence of the Gülen movement; a distinct function of the Erdoğan regime; new social movements in the world; and the “peace process” Erdoğan has initiated. What I do is reflect public opinion on these; I would like to argue that these are “angles” from which the events have to be viewed.
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Saturday, July 6, 2013

Gulenism: The Middle Way or Official Ideology?

By Cihan Tugal

Jadaliyya – June 5, 2013

As a result of excessive repression of the Gezi protests, the legitimacy of the new Turkish regime took a serious blow during June 2013. Coupled with the government’s inability to make progress in its peace negotiations with the Kurds, the repression and its aftermath resulted in a political crisis. Debate now centers on whether this is a crisis of the Prime Minister, of the governing party, or of the whole regime the party established during the last decade (in cooperation with liberal intellectuals and the Gülen community). Some proponents of the new regime, at home and abroad, are looking for a way to fix the damage through sidelining Erdoğan, restoring the prominence of the liberals, and shifting the balance of religious forces in the country.

The proclamations of the globally influential Turkish cleric Fethullah Gülen, as well as the writings of pro-Gülen intellectuals, seem to present a middle way between the allegedly “marginal” position of the Gezi movement and the authoritarianism of Prime Minister Erdoğan. Can these really constitute a basis for resolving the crisis? An analysis of the pro-Gülen and pro-Erdoğan discourses throughout the protests might provide some clues.

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Tuesday, July 2, 2013

In Turkey's pious heartland, protests seem world away

By Jonathon Burch

Reuters - June 21, 2013

KONYA, Turkey (Reuters) - "This Nation Is With You" declares a small billboard in the center of this conservative central Turkish city, the words emblazoned on an image of Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan and a sea of his flag-waving supporters.
Cosmopolitan Istanbul or the avenues of the capital Ankara, rattled by weeks of anti-government protest, seem a world away from Konya, an industrial city in Turkey's pious Anatolian heartland, where support for the premier appears resolute.
The wave of riots has highlighted an underlying tension in Turkish society between a modern, secular middle-class, many living in Istanbul or on the Aegean and Mediterranean coasts, and a more conservative, religious population that forms the bedrock of support for Erdogan's Islamist-rooted AK Party.
Konya, a city of 1.1 million with a dynamic economy steeped in Islamic tradition, epitomizes Erdogan's reformist vision.
Few restaurants serve alcohol, the Islamic headscarf is more in evidence than in the main cities, and tourists are drawn to the tomb of Rumi, a 13th century Sufi mystic, rather than to any wild nightlife.

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Turkey is Occupy not Spring

By Alexander Key

Arcade - 06.23.2013

The #Taksim protests in #Turkey should IMHO be read as part of #Occupy, not as analogous to the #Arab_Spring. The same is true of the protests in Brazil: Occupy not Spring. Discourses that link Istanbul to the Arab Spring are not good for any of the parties involved, and that includes "us" (or at least "me", an Englishman in Northern California).
What is being protested in Turkey is democratic deficit, the overreach of elected politicians, attacks on the freedom of expression, police and state brutality, the injustice at the heart of the form of capitalism being practiced, and a lack of due process. These are failures of the state to do what it promises. A similar set of accusations might be made by the protestors in Brazil. This is criticism analagous to the Occupy movement; analagous and equally justified. 

What happened in the Arab world in 2011 (and is still happening today) is qualitatively and quantitatively of a different order. People who lived in failed and failing states that had denied them any freedom to control their own destinies for generations decided, one after another (both one state after another and one person after another) that the end had come, and had to come. Muhammad Bouazizi burnt himself to death, hundreds of thousands risked their lives (and thousands died), and the institution of the Arab President for Life (who manipulates both the neo-liberal means of production and his international relations with the goal of passing on the regime to his son) came to an end in Tunisia and Egypt.

The problem with conflating the Arab Spring and the protests in Turkey and Brazil is that it conflates revolution with protest. This is not to disparage protest (without the Chartists where would I be?), nor to defend the justice of the systems protested (Old Sarum anyone?) but rather to draw attention to the fact that calling the protests in Turkey and Brazil revolutions elides the existence of functional democracies in those two countries. It also conveniently lumps Turkey and Brazil into a non-white, non-Western, non-democratic world where revolutions might needed to get where France (1789) and America (1783) are today. Calling Turkey and Brazil part of Occupy forces a more uncomfortable comparison between the state of their democracies (and the health of their capitalisms) and the state of ours.

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