Yeliz Osman, a Turkish Cypriot and Londoner, goes over the current situation in Turkey, post ‘Arab spring’. Photography from the Huffington Post.
While the world’s eyes have moved onto Ukraine, the social and political unrest continues in Turkey, with further restriction and censorship imposed by the autocratic prime minister. Thousands of Turkish people are left worried about the future of their nation state and concerned about the future of their own lives. Hundreds of people are being imprisoned, injured and even killed as a result of the prime minister’s decisions.
May 2013 has been described as a turning point in Turkish domestic politics; a period of protest that began with the intention of protecting the Gezi Park, one of the only last green spaces in Beyoğlu which was arranged to be demolished in order to build yet another shopping mall in the city centre. The demonstrations mushroomed beyond the original aims and became a larger form of resistance against Prime Minister Erdogan’s authoritarian style of governance. Hundreds of thousands of peaceful protesters filled the streets of Turkey chanting anti-government slogans in a bid to end the anti-democratic, manipulative regime that has set out on a path to undo what many Turks see as being “Ataturk’s legacy”. Ataturk’s was a legacy that transformed Turkey, gave women the right to vote, allowed the nation to have their own flag, national anthem, a modern dress code and most importantly it separated politics and religion.
Erdogan’s regime intended to reverse this life style and has forced people to live under policies based on an Islamic doctrine, banning alcohol after a certain time, tightening access to abortion and controlling people’s everyday lives; even attempting to influence the number of children they should have. Gözde Kansu, a T.V presenter, is one of the victims of the dictatorship in Turkey, fired after the MP for the ruling AK Party found her clothing “too revealing” and “not suitable”, in accordance with his own parties’ ideology.
The level of censorship was so high during the protests that the official media focused on news about penguins, when millions around the country were on streets protesting and chanting anti government slogans. Even journalists and media owners self censored in fear of losing their jobs due to the pressure coming from government advisors.
Recently documents that illustrate how the censorship worked during the protests were leaked after a wiretap uncovered the call that the Prime Minister made to the Haberturk news channel, suggesting that he was irritated by a journalist reporting comments by the opposition Nationalist Movement Party leader, which were immediately removed during the call. The prime minister even went on to blame political enemies for “abusing” social network sites with fabricated internet postings, which he is planning on banning if he wins the municipal elections that are will be held on the 30th of March, in only a few days time. Numerous other tapes regarding the explosive corruption scandals, which are now known as Turkey’s biggest eavesdropping scandal of all time, were leaked in December. Erdogan was caught on tape ordering his son to get rid of millions of dollars of incriminating cash. Sons of three AKP government ministers and several high profile businessmen were also arrested after the corruption scandals were revealed.
In March Berkin Elvan, a 14 year old teenage boy died after being shot by a police gas canister while going to buy bread for his family. The cause of this death was once again Tayyip Erogan who said that the police officers have displayed “legendary heroism” against the anti-government protestors after killing 8 young men at the protests nationwide. He even went on to say that the protestors were “anarchists, terrorists, atheists and vandals” and accused the 14-year-old Berkin Elvan of being a terrorist rebel.
The results of the municipal elections last week, in which Erdogan was controversially re-elected, and the presidential poll later this year will have an immense effect on the future of Turkey. Resistance may be possible but so far it looks as though Turkey may be trapped under Erdogan’s ominous management for the twelfth year running.
Yeliz will be showing “The Beginning” documentary, based around the Gezi protests at RHB Cinema on 5th of April 2014 at 1 O’clock. All welcome.