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Letters from Tokyo
Turkey & Discontent towards Premier Erdogan: Istanbul, Ankara Hit by Demonstrations
By Lee Jay Walker
Tokyo Correspondent
Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey

The government of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan is witnessing mass discontent towards his political leadership which is alienating many people within Turkey. It is clear that the protest against the destruction of Taksim Gezi Park was the initial trigger in Istanbul but the underlying factors are much deeper. This applies to major internal issues whereby Erdogan ignores many sections of society and externally. External issues apply to the growing presence of NATO forces within Turkey; supporting chaos against neighboring Syria; allowing dangerous terrorist and Islamist Salafi ideologies to enter parts of Turkey in order to destabilize Syria; creating tensions with neighboring Iraq; and a plethora of other issues. At the same time, it appears that secularism is under threat because of the underlying Islamist agenda of the Erdogan government.

It is reported that demonstrations and unrest also reached Ankara, Bodrum, Konya and Izmir. Therefore, the political leadership in Turkey is bracing itself for a second day of major tensions between the state apparatus and Turkish citizens. Erdogan immediately senses that protests may increase therefore police officers from other areas are being sent to areas of mass discontent. The ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Party) under Erdogan is intent on challenging secularism and replacing areas of society by implementing Islamist policies. However, given the delicate nature of Turkey then the AK Party knows that it must tread carefully but Erdogan often neglects diplomacy.

Erdogan stated that he vowed “…to ensure the safety of people and their property….Police were there (Taksim Square) yesterday; they’ll be on duty today and also tomorrow because Taksim Square cannot be an area where extremists are running wild…”

Kemal Kilicdaroglu, leader of the Republican People’s Party (CHP), is taking a very different approach. He states “Don’t confront the people with police. Withdraw the police immediately from the Taksim Gezi [Park] area. People are defending their city. That’s why they are resisting.”

America was quick to voice concern because Jen Psaki from the State Department stated “We are concerned about the number of people who were injured when police dispersed protesters….Turkey’s long-term stability, security and prosperity is best guaranteed by upholding the fundamental freedoms of expression, assembly and association, which is what it seems these individuals were doing.”

Clearly Jen Psaki isn’t mincing her words despite the strong bonds between America and Turkey based on Turkey’s role within NATO and the geopolitical significance of this nation for America. It remains to be seen if Erdogan will take heed but this comment would imply that America believes that you have genuine concerns within Turkey towards the way the country is being ruled under Erdogan. Therefore, the State Department and other powerful bodies within America don’t want to see the crisis develop further by militancy within the Erdogan government. Given this reality, then the blunt words by the State Department will be aimed at the need to nip the crisis in the bud.

If Erdogan believes that he is untouchable because of being elected three times then he may make the situation worse. Erdogan is either loved or loathed throughout Turkey – just like Margaret Thatcher who led the United Kingdom several decades ago. However, given the volatile nature of the region then America, the United Kingdom, and other friends of Turkey; want to see a reasonable approach taken by the Erdogan government.

Reuters reports that “Turkish police fired tear gas and water cannon on Friday at demonstrators in central Istanbul, wounding scores of people and prompting rallies in other cities in the fiercest anti-government protests in years.”

Further down in the same article it states that “Riot police clashed with tens of thousands of May Day protesters in Istanbul this month. There have also been protests against the government’s stance on the conflict in neighboring Syria, a tightening of restrictions on alcohol sales and warnings against public displays of affection.”

It remains to be seen if multiple anti-Erdogan forces will materialize in the following few days given the array of areas where many Turkish citizens feel alienated; or if demonstrations will gradually peter out by early next week. Either way, it is clear that political elites in Ankara, Washington and London are all watching carefully. After all, the anti-Syrian alliance was stoked up heavily by the Erdogan government and NATO’s eyes are firmly on the Russian Federation. Therefore, while demonstrators are heavily focused on domestic issues it is also abundantly clear that international concerns are also very powerful given the policies of Erdogan.

http://www.hurriyetdailynews.com/capital-city-rocked-by-police-crackdown-on-solidarity-protest-with-gezi-park.aspx?pageID=238&nID=48014&NewsCatID=341

http://www.hurriyetdailynews.com/main-opposition-leader-calls-on-pm-to-order-withdrawal-of-police-from-taksim.aspx?pageID=238&nID=48011&NewsCatID=338


The above story was written by Nuray Lydia Oglu and Lee Jay Walker.
leejay@moderntokyotimes.com

The above article is from Modern Tokyo Times.
http://moderntokyotimes.com



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Lee Jay Walker serves as Tokyo Correspondent of The Seoul Times. He specializes in int'l relations and geopolitics. He is also involved in analyst work and research on business. After finishing BA degree in East European Studies at the University of London, he earned MA degree in Asia Pacific Studies at Nottingham Trent University. His website is at http://www.leejaywalker.wordpress.com

 

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