Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Opposing Erdogan

Since 2003, Turkey has been led by Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan and the AKP, a political party often described as "mildly Islamist."  Its base is in rural Turkey and the east, and outside of Turkey the best-known source of opposition is the secular leftist old guard of the CHP and their claim to carry the torch of Kemal Ataturk's militantly secular nationalism.  When one talks to CHP voters, they genuinely believe that it is a short step from accepting religion into the public sphere to having it dominate that sphere, and that Erdogan is paving the way to religious tyranny. 

Another criticism of the government mentioned to me by Turks and reported in the Western media is the decline of civil liberties in Turkey mentioned by the U.S. State Department:
"Broad laws against terrorism and threats to the state, political pressure, and inadequacies in the judicial system limited access to justice, as did lengthy pretrial detention and lack of transparency in the prosecution of cases related to state security. The time lag between arrests and presentation of indictments; leaks of information, evidence, or statements; restricted defense access to evidence put forward by the prosecution; and the secrecy of the investigation orders also fueled concerns about the effectiveness of judicial protections for suspects...
"The penal code and antiterror law retain multiple articles that restrict press freedom and public speech on politically and culturally sensitive topics. The arrest and prosecution of journalists, writers, and Kurdish intellectuals and political activists, coupled with condemnatory speeches by political leaders, had a chilling effect on freedom of expression. Politicians, including the prime minister, sued their critics for defamation at all levels. More than 100 journalists remained imprisoned at year’s end, with most charged under antiterrorism laws or for connections to an illegal organization. Intellectuals, writers, journalists, and media outlets increasingly report practicing self-censorship to avoid prosecution, although the media continued to criticize government leaders and policies daily and in many cases adopted an adversarial role with respect to the government. The government and the courts limited access to a broad range of Web sites based on their content."
A third complaint I heard, though, and one I haven't read much about, was opposition to the government's economic liberalization.  I don't know the details, but going back into Turkish history, the government managed much of the economy, including through the promotion of state industries.  From what the gather, the AKP is privatizing some of this, which their opponents see as selling off national resources.

This may not may not also relate to what I found along the Turquoise Coast near Antalya.  There lots of formerly accessible public beaches have been given over to private development, and are now the property of expensive hotels.  I tried to ask the tour guide if a particular political party was associated with this, but despite being politically and economically aware, he did not seem to understand my question.  Either way, it does show another example of what scholars of urban studies, at least who study the Middle East, call "neoliberal urbanism," or the taking of public space by private interests for the use of people other than the locals.



Anonymous Kalkan Villas said...

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3:51 AM  

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