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13 juin 2013 4 13 /06 /juin /2013 06:34

"A week in the shadow of Taksim"
 
           The fact that I spent last week in Turkey -- a pure
           coincidence, I was not one of the "foreign agents"- allowed me
           to witness some of the demonstrations and riots at first hand
           (in Izmir and Ankara) and follow the daily conversations in
           the country. The following is my take on the situation:
 
           On the surface, the issue that set Turkey's cities ablaze this
           week seems a small one: the destruction of a small and not
           particularly beautiful park in the heart of Istanbul to make
           way for a shopping mall disguised as a modern reproduction of
           a late-Ottoman artillery barracks. But the issue touches on a
           number of contested areas in contemporary Turkey on different
           levels. The first, small, group of protesters that occupied
           the camp, resisted the fact that the government of the Justice
           and Development Party is executing an extremely neo-liberal
           agenda, working hand-in-glove with big business and
           particularly with the real estate developers who have been
           such a big part of Turkey's economic boom of the last decade.
           Everywhere the remaining nature in the wider Istanbul area has
           fallen prey to new shopping malls, high rises and even a
           Formula 1 circuit. This issue is one about which many
           environmentalists in Turkey feel deeply, but they are only a
           small minority.
 
           What turned the small environmentalist protest into a
           mass-movement among the young was two things: extreme police
           brutality and the authoritarian attitude of the political
           leadership. Pictures of the police brutality displayed on
           Friday and Saturday last in Istanbul (with teargas, water
           cannons, plastic bullets and truncheons being used) against a
           peaceful protest spread over the internet like wildfire and
           mobilized masses of people, initially mostly students but
           later also older people who were deeply angered. Many people
           talked about the police acting as an occupying force against
           the children of their own country. Particularly nasty was the
           way unidentified men in civilian clothes attacked the
           protesters with wooden clubs, something I witnessed in Izmir
           on Saturday night.
 
           In the protests and demonstrations that followed (and are
           still going on) all the pent up frustration of the educated
           middle class youth against the authoritarian and paternalist
           policies with which the AKP seeks to impose a uniform
           conservative and conformist culture on the country , burst
           out. This modern, well-educated middle class section of
           society, the product of Turkey's rapid development, wants a
           society in which there is place for diversity and debate.
           Although militant Kemalist groups with a strong secularist
           agenda are part of the movement, what most demonstrators seem
           to want is a country where a student is free to wear a
           headscarf to school just as much as others are free to kiss in
           public or drink beer; where women decide on abortion and
           couples on the size of their family -- all of it without
           interference from the state.
 
           While President Gül and opposition leader Kiliçdaroglu did
           their best to manage the situation by calling for restraint
           and dialogue, Premier Erdogan made things appreciably worse,
           when in his first official reaction he said that the
           government would not bow to "criminals" and that he did not
           need the approval of the opposition to rebuild the Taksim
           square. Adding insult to injury, he said that the Atatürk
           Cultural Centre on the square would be demolished as well and
           that a mosque would be built on the square. The Atatürk
           Culture Centre, built in the seventies is a hugely important
           symbol for secularists in Istanbul. So, in one go, Erdogan
           again raised the spectre of islamization and showed that the
           government will not listen. It got worse, when, on his return
           from a trip to North Africa he told his audience that the
           government would not budge -- the new building in Taksim might
           not become another shopping mall -- it would still be built
           (and the park demolished).
 
           Increasingly, over the past week PM Erdogan, actively
           supported in this by the state television, has tried to
           criminalize the demonstrators as "vandals" and "drunkards." He
           has fed conspiracy theories (never far under the surface in
           Turkey) by references to the hidden hand of "foreign
           agitators" who want to weaken Turkey and -- this is a new one
           -- to speculators who are after a rise in interest rates. In
           so doing he delegitimizes the protestors and comes close to
           calling them traitors.
 
           This is at the heart of the problem. The government, and
           particularly the prime minister see democracy in very simple
           terms: the fact that they have won the elections (time after
           time) gives them the right to execute their program without
           any regard for minorities of any kind. Ten years of success,
           both political and economic, have reinforced this belief. Not
           everyone in the party is happy with this. It is very
           significant the President Gül made the remark that "democracy
           is more than just elections." This was widely reported. What
           seems to have escaped notice is that both Ibrahim Görmez,
           Turkey's highest religious authority and the Islamic leader
           Fethullah Gülen have called for dialogue, openness and
           self-criticism and have condemned the violence. This may
           indicate that the protests may yet lead to a process of soul
           searching in Ankara.
 
           That is Turkey's best bet, because, impressive and emotional
           as the demonstrations are, they are the expression of the
           feelings of a minority in this country of 76 million: the
           young, urban, well-educated middle class. They are enraged,
           they are frustrated, they are articulate -- but they have no
           political strength. Even with the support of important social
           groups like the Alevis, organized labour, the bar association
           and the Kurdish opposition, they probably cannot force out the
           government. Any speculation that this wave of protest spells
           the end of Tayyip Erdogan as political leader are premature.
           He may be an authoritarian and intolerant leader, but his
           record of stable and rather able government and high economic
           growth has given him a loyal following. There is little doubt
           that his party can win the municipal elections in 2014 and the
           next general election as well.
 
           Beyond the support of the mass of Turkey's voters there is
           something more sinister as well: on his return from Tunisia
           the PM was greeted by ten thousand almost hysterical
           supporters, who literally offered to kill the demonstrators,
           if he would only let them. Erdogan has so far restrained
           these militants who would like to reconquer Taksim, but they
           are ready. One of the most ominous moments this week was when
           a press conference by Ataturkists who supported the protest in
           Erdogan's home town of Rize was attacked by a violent mob.
           The mayor of Rize managed to defuse the situation with some
           difficulty.
 
           For those, like myself, who see in the Taksim demonstrations
           an important opening and a new phase in Turkey's development
           towards a mature democracy, the hope must be that there comes
           a moment when a significant part of the ruling elite, perhaps
           in conjunction with the business world, starts to see Tayyip
           Erdogan's confrontational and authoritarian policies as a
           liability, something that endangers Turkey's social cohesion
           and economic stability. The hope must also be that this
           happens before state violence is replaced with mob violence.
           Erdogan will not lose the elections, but he still has to go,
           because the Turkey that he, more than anyone else, has turned
           into such a success story in the last eleven years, has
           outgrown him."
 
           Erik-Jan Zürcher

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Recherche

Pour suivre l'actualité des libertés en Turquie

http://www.susam-sokak.fr/ (Blog d'Etienne Copeaux, historien de la Turquie)

http://istanbul.blog.lemonde.fr/ (Blog de Guillaume Perrier, correspondant du Monde en Turquie)

http://turquieeuropeenne.eu/ (site d'actualité et de traductions d'articles)

https://akgonul.wordpress.com/2011/12/ (Blog de Samim Agkönül, historien et politiste)

http://www.imprescriptible.fr/  (sur le génocide arménien)

(liste non exhaustive)

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