‘Democracy is like a train’: Turkey protests for dummies

Protestors throw back tear gas canisters as they fight police to occupy Taksim Square June 1, 2013 in Istanbul, Turkey. Credit: Getty Images
Protestors throw back tear gas canisters as they fight police to occupy Taksim Square June 1, 2013 in Istanbul, Turkey. Credit: Getty Images

What’s happening with the Turkish protests?

The protests that started last week in response to the government’s plan to abolish Istanbul’s last green space to make space for a replica of 19th century Ottoman barracks are continuing. Now they’re not just a protest against the construction plans but also against the government. However, the protests haven’t gained momentum as dramatically as the Arab Spring protests in Tunisia and Egypt did.

How has the government responded? 

First with excessive force, then with apologies, and now it’s trying to justify its actions. But even though the government seems to have the stronger position right now, the protests have exposed widespread dissatisfaction with the government among the population.

Isn’t Prime Minister Erdogan’s government democratically elected?

Yes, but since being elected 10 years ago, Erdogan has ruled with a heavy hand. He famously stated that “democracy is like a train. You take it where you have to go, and then you get off”. And while Turkey is a secular state, Mr. Erdogan and the government are accused of trying to make it Islamist. His youngest daughter, who wears a headscarf went to university in the US because, as Mr. Erdogan explained, “there she’s allowed to wear a headscarf”. Turkish universities ban headscarves.

Is there any evidence to support the accusation that the government is trying to make Turkey Islamist?

It depends on whom you ask. But in a cause célèbre earlier this year, the world-famous Turkish pianist Fazil Say was given a 10-month suspended jail sentence for blasphemy, stemming from tweets like this one: “I am not sure if you have also realized it, but all the pricks, low-lives, buffoons, thieves, jesters, they are all Allahists.” (Say will be retried later this year.)



News
Entertainment
Sports
Lifestyle
Local

MTA announces service changes for Sunday

The MTA has announced service changes ahead of Sunday's People's Climate March, which will be held from 11:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Sunday. Riders using…

Local

NYPD launches Twitter account for L train

The NYPD recently launched a Twitter handle dedicated to the L train and its riders. According to @NYPDLtrain, officers went underground Thursday morning to hand…

Local

Bushwick community space offers activists a place to…

A new Bushwick community space offers community activists to meet, create, learn and throw back a few cold ones. MayDay, located 214 Starr Street in Bushwick,…

Local

Activists gearing up for Sunday's "historic" People's Climate…

If all goes according to plan, more than 100,000 people will gather near Central Park West on Sunday morning and march through midtown to raise…

Movies

Kevin Smith makes peace with the Internet

I was thinking about Ain't It Cool News and Harry Knowles last night, wondering if anyone from Ain't It Cool had reviewed my new movie…

Movies

Art imitates life in 'Swim Little Fish Swim'

There's a certain comfort to be taken in finding that young artists are still moving to New York and trying to make it — and…

Movies

Review: Terry Gilliam's 'The Zero Theorem' is better…

Terry Gilliam's latest, "The Zero Theorem," concerns a reclusive malcontent (Christoph Waltz) struggling with the search for the meaning of life.

Music

Esperanza Spalding and a being called Emily get…

Esperanza Spalding is about to spiral off in a brand new direction that may or may include an alter ego named Emily.

NFL

Oday Aboushi ready for increased role, and to…

Oday Aboushi might feel comfortable enough to engage in some trash talk the next time he is on the field.

NFL

Giants vs. Texans: 3 things to watch

The Giants host the surprising Texans (2-0) in what may already be a must-win game for Big Blue.

NFL

Eric Decker misses practice again, could miss Monday

Jets wide receiver Eric Decker missed practice Thursday as he continues to rehab a hamstring injury suffered last Sunday.

MLB

Derek Jeter still focused on baseball as final…

Derek Jeter has effectively hid his emotions for 20 years in the Bronx.

Parenting

A sneaky way to serve kids fruits and…

"My First Juices and Smoothies" gives smoothie recipes for kids.

Style

3 things we love from Day 1 of…

The highlights from Day 1 of Milan Fashion Week.

Sex

Why don't more couples use condoms?

  Call it the “condom moment.” That’s the name the authors of a new study have given to the pivotal conversation every couple should be…

Sex

Need an idea for a first date? Here's…

Picture your idea of a nice first date. Is it dinner and a movie? A visit to an interesting museum exhibit? Instead, an expert on…