Gezi Park Resistance Article Series – No. 9

Erdoğan: A Religious Dictator or Rational Politician?

Starting on May 27, Turkey has witnessed some of the most violent clashes between security forces and the public in major cities such as Istanbul, Ankara, and Izmir. Everything started when a small group of environmentalists gathered in Taksim Gezi Park to protest the demolition of the park. This event turned into countrywide protests after the police attacked these protestors with tear gas and removed their tents from the area forcefully. Similar to the Arab Spring that started with a small spark when Mohamed Bouazizi set himself on fire to protest police behaviour in Tunisia, a minor environmental protest became a major challenge to the ruling government. In this case, it is the Justice and Development Party (Adalet ve Kalkinma Partisi, AKP hereafter) and its powerful leader Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. According to one writer, this small event may “sow the seeds of a Turkish Spring.”[1] Observers in Western countries are inclined to explain the reasons for this so-called “spring” with Erdoğan’s ideological and personal characteristics.

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