Is this a Turkish Spring?

Things are quiet in Turkey, the quiet of police control. Taksim Square and Gezi Park are occupied, by riot police and unbreathable air. But on their cell phones, on Twitter and Facebook, Turks are talking about how to get out from under the government's thumb.

There are some resemblances to the Solidarity movement of the 1980s in Poland, especially with a meeting tonight of major Turkish trade unions to consider how to support what has become a general rebellion against the autocratic behaviors of their prime minister. 

A potentially closer analogue is the putative "Arab Spring," that was proudly announced by President Obama several years ago. That movement for social and political change fizzled in countries such as Egypt, Tunisia, Libya, and Syria.

At issue here is the conflict between democracy and rule of law pitted against central control and the government's attempt to reverse Ataturk's secularization/modernization of Turkey. While the protesters are probably not homogeneous (as mentioned in a comment on a previous blog), they clearly have common cause: freedom versus control by their government. 

Listening to Prime Minister Recep Erdoğan on the radio yesterday harkens back to the speeches of Hitler in the late 1930s -- the same intonation and timing; the same call to emotion and fervent assertion of outright lies; and the same control of the media and the crowd. Erdoğan says this is a small group of hoodlums and agitators in Istanbul, when in fact it is a widespread uprising throughout the entire nation.

A truly terrifying thought is what Prime Minister Recep Erdoğan could do if he had American domestic surveillance capabilities. Were that technology available to Erdoğan, I have no doubt that thousands of ordinary people who simply want to protest peaceably would find themselves in jail, alongside many Turkish generals. 

On three occasions in the past century, the Turkish Army has disbanded its own government when that government showed a reversion to autocratic rule. None was a "coup" in the usual sense. The military took temporary control as specified in the Turkish Constitution, maintained control briefly, then held elections, and withdrew as the people made known their choices.

To avoid a recurrence, Erdoğan changed the constitution. He made such Army takeover illegal, and then imprisoned many generals in order to assure compliance. 

Things are quiet -- a false quiet of suppressed anger. Foot traffic is minimal through Istanbul, for fear of beatings or arrest. The water cannon is not in sight but could come out again tonight when the trade unions hold a mass rally. The "quiet" is ominous, like the calm before the storm. National TV (controlled by the Ankara government) says, "Gezi Park [in Taksim Square where it all started] is now open to the public, but no one is allowed in." That is a direct quote.

So the chatter continues electronically, communication that could be stopped if the Turkish autocrat had Obama's spying capability to access to phone records. As an American, I must warn my fellow citizens what this could mean. I see the danger very clearly from this vantage point. In Turkey (and, I fear, the USA), that is not paranoid ideation. It is simply facing reality. 

Much of the e-talk here is practical: stay off such-and-such the streets or you will be beaten by the police; so-and-so was arrested and might be found at XX jail; Turkish medical society warnings about affects of tear gas exposure; and then were some tweeters.

Twenty-two (that number is unconfirmed) people in Izmir were arrested for "libel" on Twitter. What were they tweeting about? They were giving information about where aid stations could be found for gassed or injured people through the area, as the hospitals were swamped. 

What will unfold in this sham of a democracy remains to be seen. Is this the Turkish 'spring' or a tear-gas twilight?

Postscript. I need to correct an error in a previous blog. I wrote that the police shot a water cannon into a mosque being used as a first aid station. That was incorrect. It was a hotel.

The author, a regular contributor to American Thinker, prefers to remain anonymous. He fears possible reprisals by Turkish government against his son who is and will remain a resident of Istanbul.

Things are quiet in Turkey, the quiet of police control. Taksim Square and Gezi Park are occupied, by riot police and unbreathable air. But on their cell phones, on Twitter and Facebook, Turks are talking about how to get out from under the government's thumb.

There are some resemblances to the Solidarity movement of the 1980s in Poland, especially with a meeting tonight of major Turkish trade unions to consider how to support what has become a general rebellion against the autocratic behaviors of their prime minister. 

A potentially closer analogue is the putative "Arab Spring," that was proudly announced by President Obama several years ago. That movement for social and political change fizzled in countries such as Egypt, Tunisia, Libya, and Syria.

At issue here is the conflict between democracy and rule of law pitted against central control and the government's attempt to reverse Ataturk's secularization/modernization of Turkey. While the protesters are probably not homogeneous (as mentioned in a comment on a previous blog), they clearly have common cause: freedom versus control by their government. 

Listening to Prime Minister Recep Erdoğan on the radio yesterday harkens back to the speeches of Hitler in the late 1930s -- the same intonation and timing; the same call to emotion and fervent assertion of outright lies; and the same control of the media and the crowd. Erdoğan says this is a small group of hoodlums and agitators in Istanbul, when in fact it is a widespread uprising throughout the entire nation.

A truly terrifying thought is what Prime Minister Recep Erdoğan could do if he had American domestic surveillance capabilities. Were that technology available to Erdoğan, I have no doubt that thousands of ordinary people who simply want to protest peaceably would find themselves in jail, alongside many Turkish generals. 

On three occasions in the past century, the Turkish Army has disbanded its own government when that government showed a reversion to autocratic rule. None was a "coup" in the usual sense. The military took temporary control as specified in the Turkish Constitution, maintained control briefly, then held elections, and withdrew as the people made known their choices.

To avoid a recurrence, Erdoğan changed the constitution. He made such Army takeover illegal, and then imprisoned many generals in order to assure compliance. 

Things are quiet -- a false quiet of suppressed anger. Foot traffic is minimal through Istanbul, for fear of beatings or arrest. The water cannon is not in sight but could come out again tonight when the trade unions hold a mass rally. The "quiet" is ominous, like the calm before the storm. National TV (controlled by the Ankara government) says, "Gezi Park [in Taksim Square where it all started] is now open to the public, but no one is allowed in." That is a direct quote.

So the chatter continues electronically, communication that could be stopped if the Turkish autocrat had Obama's spying capability to access to phone records. As an American, I must warn my fellow citizens what this could mean. I see the danger very clearly from this vantage point. In Turkey (and, I fear, the USA), that is not paranoid ideation. It is simply facing reality. 

Much of the e-talk here is practical: stay off such-and-such the streets or you will be beaten by the police; so-and-so was arrested and might be found at XX jail; Turkish medical society warnings about affects of tear gas exposure; and then were some tweeters.

Twenty-two (that number is unconfirmed) people in Izmir were arrested for "libel" on Twitter. What were they tweeting about? They were giving information about where aid stations could be found for gassed or injured people through the area, as the hospitals were swamped. 

What will unfold in this sham of a democracy remains to be seen. Is this the Turkish 'spring' or a tear-gas twilight?

Postscript. I need to correct an error in a previous blog. I wrote that the police shot a water cannon into a mosque being used as a first aid station. That was incorrect. It was a hotel.

The author, a regular contributor to American Thinker, prefers to remain anonymous. He fears possible reprisals by Turkish government against his son who is and will remain a resident of Istanbul.

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