Archive for February 2014
Yesterday there were protests in at least 3 major cities in Turkey (Istanbul, Ankara and Antalya). Protesters in Istanbul gathered to oppose the creation of more hydroelectric dams outside a hydroelectric power convention. They were met with tear gas when they tried to enter the convention center. The Minister of Forestry and Waterworks, who gave the keynote address at the opening of said convention, stated without any irony that “It’s impossible to understand those who oppose [Hydroelectric Power Plants]…It’s not right to oppose [these plants].” In Ankara, protesters angry over the extended detention of suspects in the Ergenekon and Sledgehammer cases marched toward the parliament building. Police intervened in the protester’s progress with water cannons, some of which were almost certainly filled with a mixture of water and noxious chemicals. Photographs of these clashes between police and protesters in both Ankara and Istanbul bear an eerie similarity to some of the most iconic images from Gezi last year.
Though these protests are certainly significant expressions of the continued frustrations of a significant slice of the Turkish population, they are far smaller and less coordinated than the Gezi protests of last summer. That being said, given the volatile atmosphere in Turkey right now, it would not be surprising if another series of coordinated protests broke out in the near future. A trigger point like Gezi park could spark such protests, but the organic spontaneity of an event like Gezi makes it difficult to forecast. However there are some Turkish holidays which are often the occasion for protests and could serve as a jumping off point for another round of nation-wide, coordinated demonstrations. The most notable is May 1, Labor Day, which is widely marked by leftists in Turkey. Commemoration of the holiday has historically centered on a rally in Taksim square. Last year the Taksim rally was banned by the local government but unions and left-leaning Turks gathered anyway. The resulting police-protester clashes were arguably a preview of the Gezi protests that started less than a month later.
The other 50% of Turkey has still not found a political outlet. The continued police clashes with protesters critical of the government and suppression of the press has only added to the embattled mentality among those who don’t walk the AKP line. The political, social and media outlets that should serve as a release valve for those with minority and opposition view points are being closed off. Given this increasingly authoritarian atmosphere, it is certain there will be no shortage of protests in Turkey for the foreseeable future.