mead cohen berger shevtsova garfinkle michta grygiel blankenhorn
Unrest Deepens in Turkey


After a week and a half of violent clashes between protesters and police throughout Turkey, things don’t seem to be cooling off. Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan announced today that the government will not halt its controversial plans to develop a park. This morning riot police and demonstrators clashed again around the contested Taksim Square in Istanbul, with police firing tear gas and water canons while some protesters hurled stones and Molotov cocktails.

Speaking hours later to Parliament, Erdogan accused the protesters of trying to damage the country’s economy and, as the FT reports, pledged not to waver:

“A big game is being played … They are trying to damage the Turkish economy.” […]

“They say the prime minister is very tough. Do you want me to bend my knee and say raise up these terrorist organisations’ banner? Sorry, but this Tayyip Erdogan will not change,” he said, comparing the events of the last few days with those that preceded bloody military coups in 1960 and 1980.

Meanwhile, the lira has hit a three-year low, and Turkish stocks are slumping. The Turkish Central Bank announced that it plans to intervene directly in the currency market to stabilize the lira and calm the markets.

There is little indication there will be a quick or forthcoming resolution to the protests. Erdogan remains massively popular, especially among the country’s rural conservatives. Over more than a decade in power, Erdogan has made strides in religious freedom, rapid economic development and improved relations with country’s Kurdish minority. Nonetheless, the protests and the government’s heavy-handed reaction suggest that much of the country is not completely satisfied with the regime. While the protesters aren’t a cross-section of Turkish society, they don’t fall neatly into the Islamist and secularist divide as depicted in so much Western media.

All of this comes at a time when the Obama administration needs Turkey’s help as it looks to address the civil war in Syria, instability in Iraq and Iran’s nuclear ambitions. The continuing unrest in a country that American officials have held up as a model for other Middle Eastern countries points to greater trouble ahead.

[Turkish protestors and riot policemen clash on June 1, 2013, during a protest against the demolition of Taksim Gezi Park. Photo courtesy of Getty Images]

Features Icon
show comments
  • wigwag

    Is it just me or are the President and his foreign policy team a bunch of idiots? He dumps Mubarak and watches Egypt fall into the hands of Islamist morons who destroy the country’s economy while he studiously maintains radio silence as another authoritarian Islamist autocrat, Prime Minister Erdogan, takes his country down the path of totalitarianism. He intervenes in Libya where no American interests are involved setting off a series of consequences that unsettle the Middle East and North Africa while he refrains from action in Syria while watching as Asad, Hezbollah, Iran and Russia all become more dominant. And while all of this is happening, his dimwitted Secretary of State is making almost weekly appearances in Jerusalem and Ramallah because an impossible to achieve peace agreement between Palestinians and Israelis is at or near the top of the Administration’s agenda.

    It’s time for Democrats (of which I am one) to face the facts; when it comes to foreign policy at least, President Obama is a disaster.

© The American Interest LLC 2005-2016 About Us Masthead Submissions Advertise Customer Service