The sugarcoated Gezi Park 'Revolution'

The recent hubbub throughout Turkey has become a global sensation, with some international media associating it with a struggle for freedom and equality, and resistance against oppressive rule.

The sugarcoated Gezi Park 'Revolution'

World Bulletin-Seleme Baştürk / İstanbul 

The recent hubbub throughout Turkey has become a global sensation, with some international media associating it with a struggle for freedom and equality, and resistance against oppressive rule. However, after moving to Turkey a year ago, I find all the articles and analyses I have read in English to be insufficient, not because they do not represent “my side,” but because none of them can convey to people who have not had enough exposure to the Turkish way of thinking the dynamics of Turkish society and politics. When people have asked my opinion about Turkey, I would try to divert the issue by replying that Ankara is like an overcrowded suburb. Now after seeing the deceptive enemy identities, are actually what have made Turkey a headache for me, erupt and be misrepresented by all sides for their opposing purposes, I can comfortably from now on respond “Nothing is what it seems, everything is screwed up.” As an American citizen with no interest in making a long-term career out of a political-identity affiliated journalism, I am lucky to be in a position where my judgments and identity are not derived from the side I take on these issues. I personally, and selfishly, want nothing to do with it. I simply wish to express that, if someone with a mind-frame which does not understand the distortions of Turkish society takes a position on these protests based on articles in the international media like those which I have read, they have unknowingly sided with certain hateful groups (because even normal group identities here unfortunately derive their strength from hate) and are lending legitimacy to their pursuit of power, which will no doubt be just as repressive as the authorities which they appear to be fighting. An overly simplistic reading which associates the protests in their entirety with a struggle for noble humanitarian values such as freedom and rights is a naïve—or rather manipulative—interpretation as the values which will being sought if certain groups have their wayare limited to certain freedoms for certain people. So the hyperbolic claims of a “civil war” may not be completely inaccurate, but the war is not between rights and oppression, but rather who has the power to protect the rights they value while suppressing those valued by their opponents.

I am not defending the ruling AK Party or the force used by police, I merely intend to indicate that the way that this issue has been presented in international media legitimates the claims of certain political groups. And while they seem to oppose the excesses of government powers and the violations of rights, what they actually oppose is that such power is currently in the hands of Erdogan. Even though it may have been staged as a struggle against the system, it is actually a fight over who controls the system.

These protests are being framed according to the image and mold of the Arab Spring and the participants have clearly learned how powerful a tool media can be—yet associating them with the Arab Spring, and Occupy movements, underminesthe justified revolutionary vision of the latter two. This is not meant to be a comparison, but some apparent dissimilarities must be indicated as news sources have dived to equate the Arab Spring and the protests in Turkey—whether it be for political motives or journalistic sensation. In the Arab Spring countries, hundreds to tens of thousands of people lost their lives as the majority of the country revolted against dictators who had ruled for decades without being held accountable by such democratic measures as elections. The death toll, the dictators who had no hesitation to mow down their people, the risks undertaken by society all make it inappropriate—even insensitive—to draw too much of a parallel between the two cases for to do so makes a mockery of the people who sacrificed themselves in the Arab Spring countries.

No doubt the participants, with certain groups joining and leaving at certain times depending on the shifting faces assumed by the protests, consist of various kinds of people including supporters of the AK party: those with constructive causes they believe in, desperately misguided pawns, elements which serve as gunpowder and dynamite waiting to be ignited by the master match. Furthermore, the excessive adoption of social media also indicates that for others, this less-than-lethal hot-topic has become a means by which some individuals can earn a trophy for their identity, despite their usual preference for consumerism over politics (I’m sure most Turk’s Facebook accounts can vouch that this revolution has become the hippest club in town for some circles). While these individuals cannot necessarily be used as an excuse to ridicule the entire situation, they are nonetheless representatives of social media-driven political involvement in our current times. I simply wish to express my awe that these individuals have become such cut-throat revolutionaries overnight. I guess the Turkish Spring requires a different kind of courage than that necessitated by the Arab Spring. Nonetheless the obsessive use of social media and the international media’s reaction to it have been the illusionist’s touch in giving these events the look of a courageous revolutionary for democracy.

But let’s focus on the activists, pawns, and various explosive elements. The articles which have provoked this text emphasized the excesses of the government in drawing this comparison. Yet uprisings in the Arab countries were understood in the context of decades in which the dictators which the people desired to topple had ruled. In the case of Turkey, which has also had an immensely traumatic past of which most people are not aware, the issue is only looked at in terms of the last decade, during which the AK Party was democratically elected despite the outrageous obstacles which stood in their way. If this larger context were taken into account, some justified doubt would be cast on the optimistic eagerness with which these protests are being accepted as a positive sign throughout the world.

What unifies, or at some point unified, these protestors is their opposition to what they consider the authoritarian activities of the ruling AK Party and Prime Minister Erdogan. And thus international media has depicted them as another spring striving for freedoms and equality. The primary complaints of the protestorsinclude Erdogan’s government’s crackdown on opposition,privatization and consumerism, the imposition of a certain lifestyle, and police brutality. While these criticisms may have some basis due to some of the government’s actions, these ills were not born out of the AK Party rule which is being protested against, nor are they necessary threatened by the protests. These oppressive ills have a long history in the Turkish republic and have been abused by the various ideologies. The AK Party has in a way become the scapegoat for the sins of the fathers of the republic (and before someone tries to silence me by accusing me of insulting the founders of the republic, they should be informed that is a Biblical phrase). Actually previously unforeseen reforms have been carried out during the past decade. Butgiven that the disputes now are being waged not for the sake of freedom, but who ought to have the power to allow and restrict freedoms, these same protestors would no doubt be fine with their opponents being silenced by the same means which they accuse Erdogan of using. After all, these measures have been applied for decades to even more severe degrees, and now those formerly content with them are rising against them in their attack on the current ruling government.

As for the Syria issue, that is where the hatred and hypocrisy of this “revolution” becomes manifest, and is the actual motivator being this article. A majority of these committed protestors,who have assumed the look of the Arab Spring, are those condemning the Turkish government for the Syrian refugees who were forced to flee their homes and for the support toward the Syrian rebels. Over the last few months, some groups supporting these protests have even adopted a positive stance toward Bashar al-Assad. If there was any appreciation for a revolution, it would have to be for Syria. No explanation or argument is even necessary. The daily death toll is in the hundreds. These Turkish protestors, who have no sympathy for the rebels who sacrifice themselves for their people and for the civilians who have no option but to flee in order to prevent the deaths of their families, expect the world to sympathize with, and glorify, them. In fact, their claims mock the severity of an actual civil war which has leveled cities. Not only do they express contempt for the Syrians, but they are insensitive enough to constantly compare Erdogan to Assad. This attempt to make the opposition in Turkey appear more worthy than it truly is also makes very light of the horror of the Syrian crisis in which civilian lives have no value. Those who have no sympathy, and actually harbor resentment toward, suffering Syrians have no right to be self-pitying as they flaunt themselves as resistance forces to the world, especially given the anti-Arab discourses in which they typically engage.

The battle over who determines which freedoms which lies beneath the veneer of liberation is one which resembles the rise of, not the Arab Spring, but the KKK in the United States. This is, of course, not to say that these protestors are equivalent to the KKK; simply their similarity lies in that the masterminds behind both movements were able to rally people to their threatened causes by appealing to a meaninglessand discriminatory sense of privilege and supremacy. The KKK emerged after the defeat of the Confederacy in the American Civil War. Prior to the abolition of slavery, a White man in the South proved his power, wealth, and status by owning slaves and thus the poor Whites aspired to become slave owners as that would signal their worth. After abolition, this possibility of obtaining an artificial sense of superiority was no longer an option and the KKK emerged to restore the past order, gaining popularity among poor Whites who were horrified at finding themselves in a system which no longer arbitrarily placed them above colored people. Such a superficial sense of superiority, and the crisis it is now facing, relates to the secularism in Turkey as the idea that secular people, who prove their identities through such arbitrary symbols as drinking alcohol and dressing immodestly, are more evolved is being challenged. As the Turkish approach to secularism is coming under threat, so is the potential to prove one’s worth, and other’s inferiority, through such meaningless standards. Thus those with more power have responded, mobilizing the others for whom an easy access to artificial “power,” with which the elites of the past fooled them, will likewise be denied if its hollow claims are no longer accepted as givens. The core ideas behind these protests do not seek an egalitarian freedom for all, but to preserve an approach which allows certain rights while restricting others in a way which preserves the sense of superiority which reigned supreme in past periods, and which they hope will continue to do so.What unites the participants is a mutual enemy which they must continue to keep bogged down.

While the language and images with which this resistance presents itself depict it as one which strives for the same values, and against similar dictators, as the Arab Spring, one must not be satisfied with, and fooled by,surface level appearances which are illusionist tricks. Why are the wrongs of the AK Party not addressed, those wishing to refute these points may ask. The answer is that the party’s potential wrongs were warned of in abundance in international media well before the party even dared to take stepswhich displayed initiative. So whatever flaws the party may (have) show(n), the international media has already been waiting in eager expectation for a decade for them to be committed. People wishing to read such articles can find an innumerable quantity of them, as well as articles falling for this imitation revolution.

Güncelleme Tarihi: 02 Temmuz 2013, 18:43