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World View: Deja Vu in Turkey as Riots Threaten Erdogan Regime

World View: Deja Vu in Turkey as Riots Threaten Erdogan Regime

This morning’s key headlines from GenerationalDynamics.com

  • Déjà vu in Turkey as riots threaten Erdogan regime
  • Greece’s disaster du jour: Privatization of natural gas firm collapses
  • Greece’s citizens shocked when state broadcaster is shut down

Déjà vu in Turkey as riots threaten Erdogan regime

Turkey's Erdogan addresses supporters and denounces demonstrators (Reuters)
Turkey’s Erdogan addresses supporters and denounces demonstrators (Reuters)

What began as peaceful protests by a few dozen people in Gezi Park inIstanbul, Turkey, two weeks ago have now grown to anti-governmentprotests by tens of thousands of people in Istanbul’s Taksim Square,with additional protests in cities across Turkey. On Tuesday,Turkey’s prime minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan toughened hisrhetoric, said he would show “no more tolerance” for themassive protests, and sent in the riot police, who usedtear gas, rubber bullets, water cannons, and bulldozersto drive the protesters out. The situation is reminiscentof the small protests that began in Tunisia and Egyptand ended up as huge protests that overthrew the countries’leaders. In addition, Erdogan has to be careful not toallow too much violence, or he’ll be unfavorably comparedto his next-door neighbor, president Bashar al-Assad of Syria.

Unlike the leaders of Tunisia, Egypt and Syria, Erdogan cameto power in Turkey ten years ago by winning an election,and he’s been reelected twice since them, making him a popularleader.

But Erdogan’s leadership has opened up a major political fault line inTurkey, the Islamists versus the secularists. After the mightyOttoman Empire was destroyed in 1922 in the aftermath of World War I,Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, the founder of modern Turkey, ended the MuslimCaliphate and declared Turkey to be a secular state. For example,since the 1920s it was actually illegal for women to wear headscarvesin public buildings, until Erdogan reversed that rule in 2007. (See “More than a million of secularists rally in Turkey” from 2007.)

The area around what is now called Taksim Square was only partiallyinhabited, housing a military barracks and military training ground.It became Taksim Square in the early 1920s and is a symbol ofAtaturk’s secularist revolution. Now Erdogan wants to enlarge TaksimSquare, to rebuild the old Ottoman era military barracks and a mosqueon the grounds, and Turkey’s secularists see that as just one moreexample of Erdogan’s determination to destroy all symbols of Ataturkand secularism, and to turn back the clock to the days of the OttomanEmpire.

It’s been only two weeks since the protests started. Perhaps Erdoganwill be forced to step down, or maybe the army will become moreviolent, or maybe the political fault line will turn into a moreviolent fault line. Turkey is in a generational Crisis era, and so areplaying of the 1908 Young Turk’s Revolution is in the air. It willbe interesting to watch what happens next. AFP and CNN

Greece’s disaster du jour: Privatization of natural gas firm collapses

Barely a day goes by when the news about Greece’s economy doesn’tworsen, and Tuesday was no exception. The plan was that Greece wouldprivatize its government-owned natural gas firm DEPA, raising as muchas 1 billion euros, to help offset the country’s massive debt, andsatify the terms of the bailout agreement with Greece’s Europeancreditors. However, Greece did not get a single bid for DEPA, and thefailure became apparent on Monday when Russian energy giant Gazpromwithdrew from the bidding. This throws Greece’s entire privatizationprogram into chaos. Now Greece will (theoretically) have to findanother way to make up for the 1 billion euros, if it’s to meet itsbailout terms. Reuters

Greece’s citizens shocked when state broadcaster is shut down

Greece’s prime minister Antonis Samaras took a desperate decision onTuesday when he announced that he would shut down the publicbroadcaster ERT and dismiss some 2,700 employees. The shutdownaffects television stations, radio stations, and magazines. Theshutdown takes place immediately at midnight on Tuesday. The decisionwas met with derision from opposition parties and TV and radioemployees, and dismay from the European Broadcasting Union. Kathimerini and Kathimerini

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