Writing Copy: Hard News.
Although it might seem like a distant memory, when the Syrian riots erupted out more than two years ago, it had begun with peaceful intent; following in the footsteps of Egypt and Tunisia, a series of protests began around Syria, in defiance of its Government, whom had arrested, and supposedly tortured, fifteen school children whom had written anti-government graffiti on a wall. Whilst the protests began peacefully, calling for the release of the children, the Government quickly devolved it into violence, opening fire on the protesters, killing four people, only to fire again at the mourners of the deceased the next day. It’s of no surprise that a public uproar erupted, resulting in a two year long conflict. On the second anniversary of its civil uprising, General Salim Idriss published a statement regarding Syria’s gruelling, yet crucial, revolution:
“As you all know the Syrian revolution started peacefully. The only thing the Syrian people asked for was freedom, justice and reform. The regime of Bashar al-Assad responded with violence, torture, killings, massacres and bombing of our cities. Today nobody is safe anymore, men and women, elderly people and children…We all know that the regime will fall, it’s just a matter of when.”
Over two years since Syria’s civil war erupted, the short-lived history seems set to repeat itself, continuing on with the chain of anti-government conflicts spreading from the Eastern World.
What began as a small group of environmental campaigners, not unlike Syria, defending Istanbul’s main Taksim Square from government plans to tear down the parks trees, has exploded into a display of defiance against the Islamist-rooted Justice and Development Party (AKP). The crisis spiralled, however, when force was used to evict the campaigners; thousands of Istanbul’s citizens have taken to protests and have supposedly spread to 67 cities nationwide, with more than 1,700 people having been arrested for their anti-government actions. What began as a peaceful campaign quickly descended into violence, with the police forced to use tear gas and water cannons in response.
When compared with the once peaceful conflict in Syria, are we about to see another two year-long revolution erupting in the streets of Istanbul?
In the early hours of Friday morning, 10,000 supporters of Mr Erdogan’s AKP party descended upon Istanbul’s Ataturk airport. Mr Erdogan urged for the ‘illegal protests’ to come to an ‘immediate halt’, whilst warning that those out on the streets risked being manipulated by terrorist organisations.
Recep Erdogan, whom was elected to Prime Minister of Turkey back in 2003, has openly blamed social media for the protests and subsequent riots, and although he received a 10,000 strong welcome back to the country, his words seem to have done little to quill the now violent protests, which have spread to some 67 cities throughout Turkey. He’s directly opposed the social media site, Twitter, which has been speculated as a way for the protesters to organise themselves across the country, declaring it to be a place for ‘the worst lies’. This attempt to censor the media, however, has only seemed to further the cause of the protesters, whom also demand for a free media, unrestrained by what the Government deems as ‘acceptable’. This isn’t the first time that Erdogan has been opposed by the masses; he’s often been referred to as a Prime Minister for the ‘fifty per cent’, regarding his 2011 win with fifty per-cent of the public vote.
With 500 police offers injured through the weeklong clashes with the protesters, it’s difficult to see a quick end in sight, especially when this isn’t the first outbreak of riots in the region.
‘There are two sides to the same coin,’ C.Higgot, spoke about the conflict, ‘half of the population being left out [in regards to the ‘fifty per cent’] spells revolutionary action…there must be a fair option and more than one choice in every situation.’ Conversely, T.Ralston claimed that ‘conflict isn’t inevitable,’ when discussing the same issue, and that ‘it’s how the people are treated as a whole that spells conflict.’ If only one point comes across as a certainty, however, it’s that the conflict we are now seeing in Turkey comes down to the fundamental issue of how the Government is run. From a strictly statistical point of view, it’s completely reasonable for Mr Erdogan to be elected into power, even with a slight majority of the votes. But when a large portion of the population feel this strongly about their governing body, it’s bound to lead to some form of conflict, peaceful or otherwise.
Scheherazade Rehman, director of the European Union Research Centre at George Washington University, spoke out about the initial hours of the Governments retaliation on the peaceful protests, stating that, ‘People were in disbelief and panicked. They were running and looking back, running and looking back – at Taksim Square – not believing that the government had fired upon the crowds. The air began to smell funny – of tear gas.’ Rehman has gone as far as to declare it the ‘biggest anti-government demonstration in Turkey in over a decade’, after adding that there have been over ‘3,000 arrests’, ‘1,500 injured’, and now, ‘Turkey’s largest trade union groups are staging a strike’. Visiting Istanbul with her class of 30 George Washington University MBA Students, Rehman was in Taksim square on the Friday night when the ‘first tear gas canisters were fired into the crowd’, showing that not only was it Turkish protesters that felt the brunt of the Governments retaliation, but the tourists and students visiting the Square and its peaceful protest.
So what’s the coming weeks, or even days, hold for Turkey and Erdogan’s leadership? Comparing it to Syria takes it to a worst-case scenario, but with military force already in play, and the protesters only spurned on by the force used by its Governing body, you can’t help but draw up the similarities between the two once peaceful protests, turned anti-government conflict. Only time will tell if this spurns into another of the seemingly ceaseless conflicts occurring throughout the Eastern World, or a soon to be forgotten protest in a long history of political unrest.
Readers, G. (n.d.). What’s cause the protests in Turkey? Retrieved from http://www.guardian.co.uk: http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/blog/2013/jun/04/turkey-protests-whats-happening-open-thread
Rehman, S. (n.d.). The View From Takism Square: The Fight For Modern Turkey. Retrieved from http://www.usnews.com: http://www.usnews.com/opinion/blogs/world-report/2013/06/06/eye-witness-account-of-anti-erdogan-istanbul-taksim-square-protests
Voorhees, J. (n.d.). What the heck is happening in Turkey? A FAQ for the Rest of Us. Retrieved from http://www.slate.com: http://www.slate.com/blogs/the_slatest/2013/06/03/turkey_faq_what_s_happening_in_istanbul_will_recep_tayyip_erdogan_be_outsed.html