Sunday, June 2, 2013

What do the Turks want?

Until now, Turkey’s governing Islamist and conservative Justice and Development Party (AKP) saw itself as immune to the political and economic turmoil which shook Europe, Americas and the Middle East. Having regulated its economy, especially its banking sector prior to the global meltdown of 2007-2008, AKP government believed it was on the right track. Having subsided the Kurdish insurgency in a rather peaceful manner, it thought it avoided a possible Kurdish Spring. And having dealt with the Syrian war in tandem with the international community, it was careful enough to avoid being sucked into it.

But, there was one thing AKP forgot. Popular discontent towards toward the selling off the country’s economic assets, be it land, natural resources, or heavy industry, especially those which were previously managed by the state and therefore belonged to the people, continued to grow at an accelerated speed. Along with a number of austerity measures it introduced, AKP government followed the good old neo-liberal economic policies. It became a partner in crime to the US, UK and the EU political and economic elite. And after having paid its debt to the IMF and donating $5 billion to the World Band, it even become a member of the G20, although its current foreign debt is above $200 billion.

Today what is happening in the streets of Istanbul, Ankara, Izmir, Bursa, Antalya, and numerous other Turkish cities is no different than what had happened in Tunisia, Egypt, Italy or Greece. Neo-liberal economic discourse is dead. The notion of free cash for the well connected and tight budget for the masses, free capitalism for the global elite and curbs for the human, animal and ecological rights is no more. The protests in Turkey are not just about a park, a group of trees, a group of people or an isolated ecology. They are an episode of the end of neo-liberalism on a global scale.

So far, Turkish Prime Minister, Tayyip Erdoğan still believes he is in control. But there is every sign out on the streets that these people won’t go home until he resigns.

Murat Cem Mengüç is an Assistant Professor of Middle East History at Seton Hall University, New Jersey. He is a writer, a blogger who maintains the International Turkish Digests and writes for Mühim Hadiseler Enstitüsü, and an artist.


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