Disturbances Continue, Schism in Society Intensifies
Dmitriy SEDOV | 21.06.2013 | FEATURED STORY

Disturbances Continue, Schism in Society Intensifies

The events on Istanbul's Taksim Square are presented in the world media as the consequences of an «ecologically incorrect» decision by the government to clear a landscaped area in a park located on the square. This is far from the truth and raises questions about the real interests of the West in the spreading conflict.

In fact, the landscaped area plays but a minor role in the civil clash. This is really about Recep Erdoğan's intention to demolish the Mustafa Kemal Atatürk Cultural Center, which is located there, and also to remove the monument to the founder of the secular Turkish Republic. In place of the Cultural Center Erdoğan has decided to build a mosque, even though there is already a mosque on the square, Taksim Mescid Camii.

It is this intention which has united the secular part of society in protesting against the prime minister. A wide variety of community groups, including those which were previously irreconcilable, have united in opposition to Erdoğan's policy of actively destroying Atatürk's political legacy.

Of course, the consistent Islamization of the country over the past 10 years was causing an undercurrent of discontent among many societal forces before this. The potential for protest was gradually building.

So when society learned of Erdoğan's attempt to demolish the Atatürk Center, a symbol of the secular order, there was an explosion.

The cult of the Republic's founder is unshakable among the Turkish people. There are few political figures in the world who enjoy such unconditional respect as that which surrounds the figure of the founder of the modern Turkish state.

Only a politician who imagines himself to be Atatürk's equal could publicly encroach on his authority.

It seems that Recep Erdoğan imagines himself to be some kind of «Anti-Atatürk». He is planning a historical accomplishment on the same scale, but the other way around; he wants to turn Turkey from a modern secular state to an Islamist regime.

To this end it is necessary to remove symbols connected with Mustafa Atatürk, and that is why Erdoğan is so stubbornly and ferociously holding on to the idea of demolishing the center and the monument. For him it will be an ideological victory at a crucial moment in history. But the protesters also see the fight for the monument as a fight for the path Turkey will take.

Erdoğan has already done a lot to eradicate Atatürk's legacy.

At one time, Mustafa Kemal, with the support of the army, purged Turkey of any attributes of a «Muslim state» and turned the core of the former feudal Ottoman Empire into a Europeanized secular country. According to Atatürk's precepts, the army was the buttress of the secular authorities and their protector against Islamization.

Erdoğan has devoted all 10 years of his administration to depriving the army of its cementing role in society, replacing the officer corps with imams. In recent years there has been a growing «epidemic» of dismissals, criminal cases and scandals in connection with Turkish officers and generals, who have been accused of attempting coups d’état, corruption and much more.

Erdoğan himself has been speaking of the «inevitable Islamization» of the country since 2007. He has also been supporting Islamists abroad, especially in neighboring countries. Chechen, Ingush and Dagestani rebels to this day often receive supplies from Ankara. In the Chechen Wars there were «Turkish amirs» («amir bilal»). Among the rebels liquidated by federal forces there were as many Turks as there were Saudis.

In his own country Erdoğan has been conducting a policy of neo-Ottomanism, which is a mixture of national socialism and Sunnism.

Erdoğan has achieved recognition both among the lower social classes of Turkey and in Europe. Among European countries, the most active supporters of Turkey's current policy are Spain and Germany, the latter of which has very close ties with Turkey. Overall, Erdoğan is a favorite of the European socialists who are in power. To them he is the personification of their idealistic notion of «rational Islam».

Erdoğan began storming Kemalism on the crest of his influence within the country and abroad. Turkey was developing economically at an enviable rate and was strengthening its positions in the region. The war in Syria was a long-awaited chance for Erdoğan to show himself even more boldly. The irony of the situation is that he heatedly accused al-Asad of «undemocratic» methods of dealing with the opposition.

Now the mass dispersals and arrests of demonstrators in Turkish cities are showing what a «true democrat» he is himself.

The coverage of the events in Turkey in the Western media is worth examining separately. It is difficult to shake the feeling that these media have no interest in the truth about what is happening. They do not know how to present information on Erdoğan's Islamist «irresistible force» meeting the «immovable object» of the Kemalist opposition.

It doesn't fit in with the concept of the civilized Islamization which was supposed to make Recep Erdoğan the authorized representative of Western interests in the region. A month ago Europe was providing all possible support to Turkish Islamization, and the Western media were acting accordingly. And suddenly an openly anti-Islamist movement, behind which stand the army and broad social strata (and possibly some groups of the Turkish elite) has appeared in the country.

Nationwide solidarity, declaration of will through peaceful means and consolidation via Facebook and Twitter are taking place according to all the canons of neoliberalism. But it's directed against the interests of the West. A «color revolution in reverse» is in the making, and the results for the European capitals could be unpredictable. After all, forces which advocate a foreign policy governed by the precepts of the «Father of the Turks» could end up in power; such precepts include «No problems with neighbors,» which first and foremost means Syria. This would be a big surprise for NATO strategists.

For that reason many things are being kept quiet in the Western media, and the few stories that appear try very hard to pass over the anti-Islamist rhetoric of the protesters, but they are not very successful at it. Not a word is mentioned about Atatürk.

In the meantime, the conflict is spreading.

On Sunday 300,000 supporters of Recep Erdoğan, organized by the government, came out on the streets. It was meant to be a demonstration of the forces which support the prime minister. And such forces undoubtedly exist. However, in order to turn the situation around with their help, Erdoğan must de facto be equal in authority to Atatürk. But it seems that he has overestimated himself, because in response the protesters came out again and are fighting with the police. The prime minister summoned 1,000 special forces agents to Istanbul, and rather unexpectedly the powerful Turkish labor unions, which are threatened with extinction if Islamic norms are introduced, joined the conflict.

Reuters reports that one of Turkey's largest labor unions, the «Confederation of Unions of State Employees» (KESK), called for the organization of a general strike on Monday, June 17. The leadership of another Turkish labor union, the «Confederation of Revolutionary Labor Unions» (DISK), held an emergency meeting at which it decided to join this action.

Observers are following sentiments in the army attentively. Something unexpected could take place here as well.

It seems that the price Recep Erdoğan will have to pay for his attempt to banish Kemal Atatürk from Turkish history is becoming higher and higher. Soon rapidly developing events will show whether or not he will be able to pay it…

Tags: Middle East  Turkey  Erdogan 

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