Just as Tahrir Square became a symbol for the ongoing revolutionary process in Egypt, Taksim Square is now a symbol for the beginning of the second wave of the struggle for democracy, social and economic equality and individual freedom pioneered by the Turkish masses. Whoever thought that Gezi’s 400 trees would give birth to a flood of protests across Turkey? The events of the past four weeks show the integral relationship between the environment, politics, economics and social issues.
State institutions, public policy and decision-making processes are at the heart of governance. Shifts, however subtle, in the infrastructure of state institutions affect decision-making processes and the way in which public policy is carried out. Ideology determines the trajectory of state practices, which, in turn, impact society’s wellbeing.
In Turkey a confluence of interests in opposition to state practices under the AKP ultimately led to protests against creeping Islamization of the state and the undemocratic practices of the Erdoğan government, including its role in the Syrian conflict. To better appreciate the AKP’s current political direction and the wave of protests it engendered, it would be critical to have a look at the global context.
The US geopolitical agenda calls for domination of the global capitalist market. In the Middle East, it has tried to sell the Turkish model of «moderate” Islam to Arab societies such as Egypt under Mubarak, but there were no takers save for the Muslim Brothers (MB). The MB rule in Egypt clearly demonstrates the failure of the model in bringing stability and economic progress to the country. Instead, Egypt’s political economy is in crisis and its future does not look promising. The situation in Tunisia, the Sudan, and Libya further demonstrates the bankruptcy of the «moderate” Islamists in bringing about justice and development to their respective societies. That situation further casts a dark shadow on the real intentions of the US and its Western and regional allies in their support of Islamism in the states where recent uprisings have occurred. Those intentions may be summed up in bringing about pliable regimes to serve US interests.
It is noteworthy to point out that the model itself is being challenged at home as evidenced by the wave of protests across Turkey. That citadel of democracy and «moderate” Islam has unveiled its Islamization agenda in opposition to the secular traditions of the Turkish state and society. Current events there demonstrate clearly, as they have already done in Egypt, the incompatibility of Islamism with democracy and individual freedom.
Upon further reflection, questions arise: who rules in Turkey? Is it the AKP or does the neoliberal elite rule through the AKP? Creeping privatization of the public sector, including universities, would give a preliminary answer to those questions. The 400 trees at Gezi expose the neoliberal trajectory of the Turkish political economy. While the protestors come from multiple political persuasions and organizations, it appears that protestors are opposed to more than the threat to secularism and the natural environment.
In this connection, it seems that Turkey’s regional role is being questioned. The triad on which that role rests is a «no go” for the peoples of the Middle East: Turkey is a NATO country; a strong ally of the US; and a friend of Israel’s. Despite the act of Israeli piracy on the Mavi Marmara and Erdoğan’s theatrics protesting that act, The AKP government maintained its trade relations with the Zionist state and later reconciled completely with it after Obama’s recent visit to the apartheid state. The AKP’s Syrian policy has destroyed relations with a neighboring country in favor of developing stronger relations with pro-US states such as Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Egypt. The Turkish masses have suffered those consequences.
The US agenda is being challenged from Tunisia to Bahrain and from Lebanon to Turkey. The protests in Tahrir and Taksim have the potential of drawing the Turkish and Arab masses closer in their struggle against obscurantism, garbed in fake religiosity. Neoliberal capitalist policies that have nothing to do with justice and development, but have much to do with serving the interests of the ruling elites, are now being unveiled in Gezi and Taksim as they are in Tahrir.