What is happening in Taksim Square is not new to Turkey, yet this time the social, political and economic context is very different. The protests which began as a “green movement” to protect Gezi Park from being replaced by a huge mall, and ended up being anti-government and anti-Erdoǧan, constitute a benchmark for both the domestic and foreign politics of Turkey.
Fifteen, ten, or even five years ago the social unrest currently under way in Turkey, and particularly Istanbul, would probably cause the intervention of the military. In the past social turmoil had always been one of the things that preceded the military coups in 1960, 1971, 1980 as well as in the “post-modern coup” of 1997. Beyond that, the pro-Islamic policies of the government were also a factor that led the military to intervene as it had the historic role of safeguarding the secular character of the nation since the establishment of the Republic of Turkey in 1923.
Young people are once again leading the protests although in general the people participating range in age, class, ideological and education background. The numbers of the protesters may not be as significant as they could or should have been but the resilience of this movement in face of the brutal police crackdown has been remarkable. To be sure the Gezi Park events and the Taksim movement shook the Turkish political system so much that, even if political change does not come about, things can never be the same again. Continue reading