Clearing the Air in Turkey (latest update July 14)

Taksim Square, Istanbul (Wikimedia Commons)

For anyone caught unawares by the political protests now roiling Turkey, you’re not alone. But for those looking for simple analogies between the demonstrations sparked by plans to bulldoze an Istanbul park and the regime-splitting Arab uprisings, you’re probably seeking a revolution too far.

As an antidote to this confusion, I’m pleased to recommend a thoughtful, nuanced and extensive discussion between blogger Mark Maynard and my friend Ebru Uras. I met Ebru while while we both served on the NATO International Staff in Brussels and before she joined the U.S Foreign Service. As she explains in this wide-ranging interview, she is a first-generation Turkish-American with an understandably close interest in affairs in the “old country” – and the language ability, cultural background, and family contacts to understand it better than many reporters on the scene.

You can read the interview at Maynard’s web site here. Ebru has also made her Facebook page publicly available with the intent that more people learn about what is happening in Turkey.

It goes without saying that Turkey is an important country – populous and economically dynamic, with deep cultural and religious roots and the potential to redefine the contemporary Islamic community. At the same time, vestiges of authoritarianism latent both from the early days of the post-Ottoman republic and more recent military rule remain in this evolving democratic and secular country with European aspirations. These contradictions seem to be precipitating in these demonstrations and clashes with security forces.

To draw this into my larger understanding of politics, the protests over Taksim Square in Istanbul are part of an important, inherently political dynamic –intrinsically separate from formal institutional, governmental and democratic processes – that will help define Turkey and its political and social culture for the future.

My thanks again to Ebru for sharing her interview, and her knowledge, with the wider community.

UPDATE July 14: More information from Ebru:

“For those of you on Facebook – you can follow the updates at http://lnkd.in/GrxD85 I try my hardest to only repost what is noninflammatory and verified.”

UPDATE JUNE 11: From Ebru…

Dear friend/arkadaslar,
For those of you not on Facebook or who don’t check it that often – I wanted to forward some of the links that I found the most powerful as an FYI. The last few days have been extraordinary in terms of what has happened in Turkey. I never expected to feel the range of emotions that I experienced, and it has been moving to see some in the Turkish-American community coalesce around a nonpartisan vision, wanting the best for Turkey without a political or nationalist agenda. Fingers crossed that the movement continues with minimal violence and bloodshed. Also for you Ann Arbor area folks, I’m organizing a fundraiser on Sunday the 23rd for the Turkish Human Rights Watch. Look for the invite to come.
Picture galleries, video and perspective articles:
 
 
song by New York Turks – very, very moving but only in Turkish (every Turk/Turkish-American I know has cried when watching this, myself included, from the lyrics)
 Women and the protests – Article by Time Magazine
Very, very very witty protest in front of THY by air hostesses –
 
And finally here is a great overview article from the Huffington Post on how the protests movement have been truly creative under dark circumstances –
 
Of course there are many, many more articles and editorials out there. I wanted to share some that were just a bit more off the beaten path.

UPDATE JUNE 8: Ebru’s Facebook site for OccupyGeziMichigan: https://www.facebook.com/OccupygeziMichigan

She adds:

“Here is the second part of what I am struggling to express: I truly hope that the grassroots and inclusive nature of these protests and this movement will help Turkey embrace the diversity within its borders and view that as a source of strength and pride. Occupy Gezi is inspiring because it is of and from ‘the people,’ including gays and lesbians, greens, Kurds, religious minorities and more. This presents such a unique opportunity for Turkey to move beyond a retrograde definition of self and embrace a more inclusive vision.”

###

About James Thomas Snyder

U.S. Foreign Service Officer, writer, translator and former NATO and U.S. Congressional staffer. All opinions expressed here are my own. My work has appeared in the International Herald Tribune, Military Review, Joint Force Quarterly, Internationale Politik, Dissent, The New York Times and Los Angeles Times, among other publications. In 2013, Palgrave-MacMillan published my book, The United States and the Challenge of Public Diplomacy. In 2004, TAMU press published my translation of Pierre Hazan's Justice in a Time of War, a history of the Yugoslav war crimes tribunal in 2004. I earned a joint JD-MA from American University in 2001 and a BA from UCLA in 1995. I also studied European and international law at the University of Paris X-Nanterre and international security at Meiji Gakuin University in Yokohama, Japan.
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One Response to Clearing the Air in Turkey (latest update July 14)

  1. Ebru says:

    James – one thing on my mind a lot lately – I have no doubt that there is a -huge- outpouring of support and some truly amazing things going on as part of the occupy gezi movement and, most specifically, at the Gezi Park in Taksim. This could truly be a moment when Turkey’s democratic institutions are tested and strengthened It could bring a more transparent government and inclusive political process. I sincerely hope.

    However, in no way, shape, or form is this one big happy party. Three protesters died. Hundreds (at least) are severely injured. Many more people are detained, including 25 yesterday for the crime of tweeting. And at least one policeman has died so far. The protests and the violence continue outside of Taksim and have spread to most major cities. We seem to be forgetting the fact that this is an ongoing reality for many people and the outcome is not yet clear.

    I would love thoughts and comments from those who are actually in Turkey right now as it is incredibly hard to be on the outside looking in. My observations and analysis has been based on the experiences of people I personally know and what can be verified. I would love to be wrong on this one.

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