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Erdogan’s Responsibility for the Arab Spring 4 juin 2013

Posted by Acturca in Middle East / Moyen Orient, Turkey / Turquie.
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Dar Al Hayat (Lebanon) Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Elias Harfoush

Regardless of what we think about the latest turmoil in Turkey, it is hard to view these events independently from the context of the region’s events and the revolutions staged against a number of regimes within the past two years all the way to the present explosion faced by the Syrian regime.

The streets of the Turkish cities saw massive protests objecting to the government’s policies. Some events went as far as to call for toppling the cabinet of Recep Tayyip Erdogan. This was reminiscent of the calls for toppling the regimes in the capitals of the « Arab Spring. » Some of the Turkish protests had direct causes pertaining to the project aiming at re-structuring the beautiful Taksim Square at the heart of Istanbul. This project was presented by the Justice and Development party as part of its electoral plan. The project was approved by the voters back then. There were also some other reasons for the protests, some of which had to do with objecting to Erdogan’s politics that are known for being anti-secular and for transforming the state into an Islamic one and stirring it away from the principles of Ataturk. The opposition’s Republican Party has been leading this protest movement ever since Erdogan’s party accessed power more than ten years ago. Thus, one would be naive if one were to ignore the external element that served in launching these events at this specific time and on the backdrop of the Turkish involvement in the Syrian crisis. The external involvement clearly manifested through the latest bombings of the border town of Rihaniyeh.

For this reason, the Turkish events are being magnified and looked at through their regional dimension rather than just their local domestic aspect. There have been similar confrontations previously in a number of European cities including Paris, London, Rome and Berlin for reasons pertaining to protesting the government’s policies. These protests were confronted by the police clubs and water hoses; and large numbers of protestors were arrested for attacking private and public properties.

The Turkish turmoil is linked to the Arab events thanks to the role played by Turkey and the Justice and Development party in supporting the coups against the Arab regimes. The Turkish position was further enhanced through the escalatory stands that Erdogan took against his old friend, the Syrian president. Thus, the remaining supporters of the fallen Arab regimes thought that the Turkish turmoil represents a golden opportunity to gloat against Erdogan and his party. They went on to dub the confrontations of the Turkish cities a « Turkish Spring » while the Syrian Minister of Information did not hesitate to call on Erdogan to step down over his « oppressive » politics against his people! This is beyond arrogance!

The campaigns carried by the Turkish police against the protestors constituted an additional reason for criticizing what was deemed the « dictatorship » of Erdogan. The circle of criticism expanded to include the ruling Islamic parties in Tunisia and Egypt that look up to the Justice and Development party as a model regime and there were also warnings about how things might turn out for Syria if the regime were to fall there! This kind of twisted reasoning thus concludes that the regimes that fell under the effect of the Arab Spring were actually « democratic » regimes while the party that reached power three times via the elections is deemed a « dictator! »

Regardless of this twisted « analysis » that some Arab media outlets are sadly employing, Erdogan’s party is greatly responsible for the success of the Islamic rule experience in Turkey as well as in the Arab countries that view Turkey as a good role model. Thus, one must focus on how the Justice and Development is dealing with the domestic protests and the external criticism. When Erdogan described the protestors as « thugs, » when he accused his opponents of fabricating lies, and when he threatened that one million supporters of his can take to the street to respond to his opponents, he actually did his criticizers a major favor and severely damaged the ruling experience that he is leading in his country as well as the other Islamic experiences that are looking up to his.

For the Turkish regime now, the main question is about the extent to which this regime can bear the opposition voice and coexist with it. Erdogan has so far been successful in this regard and this successful experience is not supposed to crumble under the internal and external pressure.

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