News / Europe

Erdogan's Rule at Center of Turkey's Mounting Protests

An anti-government protester waves a Turkish flag depicting the founder of modern Turkey Mustafa Kemal Ataturk as thousands of protesters gather in Istanbul's Taksim square, June 9, 2013.
An anti-government protester waves a Turkish flag depicting the founder of modern Turkey Mustafa Kemal Ataturk as thousands of protesters gather in Istanbul's Taksim square, June 9, 2013.
Dorian Jones
Turkey's Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan waves to his supporters next to his wife Emine Erdogan in Ankara, June 9, 2013.Turkey's Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan waves to his supporters next to his wife Emine Erdogan in Ankara, June 9, 2013.
Turkey's Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan waves to his supporters next to his wife Emine Erdogan in Ankara, June 9, 2013.
Turkey's Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan waves to his supporters next to his wife Emine Erdogan in Ankara, June 9, 2013.
In a series of speeches condemning ongoing unrest, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has evoked memories of previous secular-based protests against his government - protests that were strongly backed by pro-army groups. But analysts say this latest unrest appears more civic based with youth protesting for individual freedom.  

Gezi Park in Istanbul is the eye of a political storm that is raging across the country.

What began as a protest to save the park from being demolished has galvanized the protesters around the country who are criticizing the prime minister's governance, which protesters say is increasingly authoritarian.

One demonstrator, Ayse, who works as a librarian, said, "Everything started from many things. It was first you can't kiss on the street. You can't drink. He is changing the education. He is not asking, "do I really want my child to be happy?" instead of thinking if she has to go religious school. So it means that he will do anything he wants to do. It's like clapping hands. Change this! Cut this! You also you have to listen to these people as well."

Observers say the protest movement appears to be made up of Turkey's largely apolitical young middle class.
In the center of the protest park, Ihsan Eliacik holds Friday noon prayers. Surrounded by TV cameras, 100 faithful prayed under the baking sun. Eliacik, who heads a left-Islamic civil rights group, said this protest is heralding a new Turkey.

He said they completed Friday prayers in Gezi Park a day after celebrating an Islamic holy night there. He said no one drank a sip of alcohol that night. He said women in headscarves walk freely in the park. Eliacik adds that the social division in Turkey is between those who exploit power versus the rest of society.

It's not the first the time Mr. Erdogan has faced mass protests.

A decade ago, hundred of thousands mobilized in support of secularism, carrying flags and banners showing secular state founder Mustafa Kemal Ataturk. There were calls for the pro-secular military to intervene against changes pushed by the Islamist-rooted government.

But analysts say the current unrest appears different. There have been no military demands and images of Ataturk are few in Gezi Park.

Analyst Istar Gozaydin of Dogus University has devoted much of her academic life to the battle between Islam and secularism and said this latest unrest is very different.
"These groups are not relying on prior ancien [old] regime supported by the military. This is more of personal freedoms, more personal lifestyle. They have the common point of not being able to cope with the single lifestyle that the current government is trying to impose," Gozaydin said.

"However," Gozaydin added, "just being religious believers has not made them a target by the uprising groups. It's not this polarization of believers - non-believers or whatever, secularists and Islamist, kind of thing. That is a very significant change in society."

On Sunday, Mr. Erdogan toured the country addressing a series of mass meetings of his supporters. He warned protesters. He said Turkish officials are going to show patience, but warned that patience has a limit. He said the time of coups is over, alluding to past interventions by the Turkish military.

Analyst Gozaydin said the current protest movement offers Turkey a chance at improving social dialogue.

"These processes that have been taking place seem to be leading to another understanding; that different understandings, different approaches, different lifestyles are able to exist together," Gozaydin said. "If that happens to be achieved, that means a long way has been taken in this path to a democratic society."  

But Monday, there were renewed clashes between protesters and security forces in the capital, Ankara. And the head of the opposition Republican People's Party, Kemal Kilicdaroglu, accused the prime minister of escalating tensions and dragging the country "into the fire."

Analysts predict that the current unrest shows little sign of abating.

You May Like

Yemen Brings US, Iran Closer to Naval Face-off

US sending two more ships to waters off coast of Yemen to take part in 'maritime security operations' More

Minorities Become Majority Across US

From 2000 to 2013, minorities became the majority in 78 counties in the United States. Here's where those demographic shifts are happening More

Japan's Maglev Train Breaks Own Speed Record

Seven-car 'magnetic levitation' train traveled at more than 600 kilometers per hour during test run Tuesday More

This forum has been closed.
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
New Brain Mapping Techniques Could Ease Chronic Paini
Shelley Schlender
April 20, 2015 7:03 PM
Pain has a purpose - it can stop you from touching a flame or from walking on a broken leg. As an injury heals, the pain goes away. Usually. But worldwide, one out of every five people suffers from pain that lasts for months and years, leading to lost jobs, depression, and rising despair when medical interventions fail or health experts hint that a pain sufferer is making it up. From Boulder, Colorado, Shelley Schlender reports that new methods for mapping pain in the brain are providing validation for chronic pain and might someday guide better treatment.

Video New Brain Mapping Techniques Could Ease Chronic Pain

From Boulder, Colorado, Shelley Schlender reports that new methods for mapping pain in the brain are providing validation for chronic pain and might someday guide better treatment.

Video Hope, Prayer Enter Fight Against S. Africa Xenophobia

South Africa has been swept by disturbing attacks on foreign nationals. Some blame the attacks on a legacy of colonialism, while others say the economy is to blame. Whatever the cause, ordinary South Africans - and South African residents from around the world - say they're praying for the siege of violence to end. Anita Powell reports from Johannesburg.

Video Italy Rescues Migrants After Separate Deadly Capsize Incident

Italy continued its massive search and rescue operation in the Mediterranean Monday for the capsized boat off the coast of Libya that was carrying hundreds of migrants, while at the same time rescuing Syrian migrants from another vessel off the coast of Sicily. Thirteen children were among the 98 Syrian migrants whose boat originated from Turkey on the perilous journey to Europe.

Video New Test Set to Be Game Changer in Eradicating Malaria

The World Health Organization estimates 3.4 billion people are at risk of malaria, with children under the age of five and pregnant women being the most vulnerable. As World Malaria Day approaches (April 25), mortality rates are falling, and a new test -- well into the last stage of trials -- is having positive results in Kenya. Lenny Ruvaga reports for VOA from Nairobi.

Video Are Energy Needs Putting Thailand's Natural Beauty at Risk?

Thailand's appetite for more electricity has led to the construction of new dams along the Mekong River to the north and new coal plants near the country's famous beaches in the south. A proposed coal plant in a so-called "green zone" has touched off a debate. VOA's Steve Sandford reports.

Video Overwhelmed by Migrants, Italy Mulls Military Action to Stabilize Libya

Thousands more migrants have arrived on the southern shores of Italy from North Africa in the past two days. Authorities say they expect the total number of arrivals this year to far exceed previous levels, and the government has said military action in Libya might be necessary to stem the flow. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.

Video Putin Accuses Kyiv of ‘Cutting Off’ Eastern Ukraine

Russian President Vladimir Putin, in his annual televised call-in program, again denied there were any Russian troops fighting in Ukraine. He also said the West was trying to ‘contain’ Russia with sanctions. Henry Ridgwell reports on reactions to the president’s four-hour TV appearance.

Video Eye Contact Secures Dog's Place in Human Heart

Dogs serve in the military, work with police and assist the disabled, and have been by our side for thousands of years serving as companions and loyal friends. We love them. They love us in return. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports on a new study that looks at the bio-chemical bond that cements that human-canine connection.

Video Ukrainian Volunteers Search for Bodies of Missing Soldiers

As the cease-fire becomes more fragile in eastern Ukraine, a team of volunteer body collectors travels to the small village of Savur Mohyla in the what pro-Russian separatists call the Donetsk Peoples Republic - to retrieve bodies of fallen Ukrainian servicemen from rebel-held territories. Adam Bailes traveled with the team and has this report.

Video Xenophobic Violence Sweeps South Africa

South Africa, long a haven for African immigrants, has been experiencing the worst xenophobic violence in years, with at least five people killed and hundreds displaced in recent weeks. From Johannesburg, VOA’s Anita Powell brings us this report.

Video Apollo 13, NASA's 'Successful Failure,' Remembered

The Apollo 13 mission in 1970 was supposed to be NASA's third manned trip to the moon, but it became much more. On the flight's 45th anniversary, astronauts and flight directors gathered at Chicago's Adler Planetarium to talk about how the aborted mission changed manned spaceflight and continues to influence space exploration today. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports.

Video Badly Burned Ukrainian Boy Bravely Fights Back

A 9-year-old Ukrainian boy has returned to his native country after intensive treatment in the United States for life-threatening burns. Volodia Bubela, burned in a house fire almost a year ago, battled back at a Boston hospital, impressing doctors with his bravery. Faith Lapidus narrates this report from VOA's Tetiana Kharchenko.

Video US Maternity Leave Benefits Much Less Than Many Countries

It was almost 20 years ago that representatives of 189 countries met at a UN conference in Beijing and adopted a plan of action to achieve gender equality around the world. Now, two decades later, the University of California Los Angeles World Policy Analysis Center has issued a report examining what the Beijing Platform for Action has achieved. From Los Angeles, Elizabeth Lee has more.

Video Endangered Hawaiian Birds Get Second Chance

Of the world's nearly 9,900 bird species, 13 percent are threatened with extinction, according to BirdLife International. Among them are two Hawaiian honeycreepers - tiny birds that live in the forest canopy, and, as the name implies, survive on nectar from tropical flowers. Scientists at the San Diego Zoo report they have managed to hatch half a dozen of their chicks in captivity, raising hopes that the birds will flutter back from the brink of extinction. VOA’s George Putic reports.

Video Exhibit Brings Renaissance Master Out of the Shadows

The National Gallery of Art in Washington has raised the curtain on one of the most intriguing painters of the High Renaissance. Mostly ignored after his death in the early 1500s, Italian master Piero di Cosimo is now claiming his place alongside the best-known artists of the period. VOA’s Ardita Dunellari reports.

VOA Blogs