Friday,21 September, 2018
Current issue | Issue 1151, 6 - 12 June 2013
Friday,21 September, 2018
Issue 1151, 6 - 12 June 2013

Ahram Weekly

Is Taksim becoming Tahrir?

The protests in Istanbul started off with legitimate concerns but were hijacked by communists bent on bringing anarchy to Turkey, writes Aylin Kocaman

Al-Ahram Weekly

Last week Turkey celebrated the 560th anniversary of the conquest of Istanbul by Sultan Mehmet with stunning displays of dances and fireworks.

Now, however, there are tanks on the streets of Istanbul where they had not been witnessed for decades.

Free expression and exposition of ideas is fine. Islam indeed insists upon this, because where ideas cannot be openly expressed, there you have hypocrites. People who adhere to cunning ideas they cannot express openly, but who pretend to be friendly when they are hostile, are most the despicable of people in the eyes of the Quran. That is why Islam advocates full and genuine democracy. This is the kind of democracy applied in my country for many years now.

The protests in Taksim Square also began with that conception of democracy. They were a reaction to the uprooting of trees in a park. There were peaceful protesters everywhere. That was good — a symbol of liberty and democracy. Such protests have been held hundreds of times in Turkey. Freely. Openly.

But this time, other things happened.

Protests may sometimes be used for ulterior motives in a climate where love is forgotten. Those who use them are generally marginal groups who adopt terror and aggression, since that is what their ideologies demand. They are generally communists.

Those communist groups were among the peaceful protesters on the streets of Istanbul. To protect the trees? Not at all. Communists care about anarchy, not trees. Provocation is one of the main tactics to be used for anarchy.

An environmentalist protest was first turned into the propaganda of hatred because of these groups. Exaggerated reports were spread all over social networking sites and government supporters were insulted. Then the violence began. The supposed purpose of the protest was to protect the park and its trees. But at the same time, trees were being uprooted and the park burned. Police and press cars were burned. It was not, of course, environmentalist protesters doing this; it was communists seeking violence.

Propaganda is important for communists. That is why social networks were immediately set into action. It was said that tens had died, though nobody had actually died at all. It was said that live rounds had been used, whereas only pepper spray had been employed. The picture of someone injured in a yachting accident in America was shared tens of thousands of times on Twitter as an image of a “police killing”. Once this fraud was exposed, the picture of a Turk who had died in a traffic accident years before was shared instead. They claimed he died in the demonstrations. So the possibility might work on people.

They said that access to social media had been blocked. Yet apart from the immediate area around Taksim Square there were no such cuts anywhere in Istanbul. False reports to the effect that thousands of police had spontaneously resigned and that the head of security had been fired followed one after the other, but these reports were also lies.

When a picture emerged of a police officer spraying a dog with pepper spray, their rage and foul language knew no bounds. When the picture became a bit clearer, the word “policia” on the officer’s back showed that the officer was not Turkish and the photograph was not taken in Turkey at all. Lies to the effect that the police used narcoleptic gas, sarin gas or even orange gas, banned by the UN, were shared countless times. A picture of a large group crossing the Bosphorus Bridge, intended to portray the demos as very strong, actually belonged to last year’s Eurasian marathon. A picture of Tahrir was also spread as a purported photo of the demonstration in Taksim on the first day for the same purpose.

Every time these false reports were published, thousands of people were convulsed by rage. This is a familiar tactic. Was it not similar to the tactics used by Lenin, Mao, Pol Pot and even the fascist Hitler? Were not millions convinced of a lie and then slaughtered? The same powerful tactic has also served the purpose of a handful of communists in democratic Turkey.

A few days later, the peaceful circles that had initiated the protest began departing the scene. They set their reasons out on Twitter: “Provocateurs are everywhere, the protest has exceeded its aim, do not fall for their trickery!” But the communist groups had already taken the protest over. Even as the police were withdrawing from Taksim Square, they showered them with stones and even balls with nails embedded in them. They burned cars and scrawled communist slogans on the police vehicles they destroyed.

This protest, which began properly and with a perfectly legitimate concern by the peaceful protesters, turned into a vile tactic used in order to drag the country back into strife and inflict terror upon it again, just when the communist terror organisation was leaving Turkey. But the world is unaware of this.

Some of the foreign press is making a mistake. This action in Istanbul is not another Arab Spring. Arab countries suffered for years under the leadership of Marxist dictators. The Arab Spring was a justified uprising against that oppression. It was a call for true democracy. In Turkey, however, the threat of communism is being imposed against democracy.

People who are unhappy with the government in Turkey can make their voices heard at the ballot box. They can remove a leader they do not like and vote another one in. The current government was voted in by the Turkish people from among more than 20 competing parties. The public have the right to support and elect another party instead; it is impossible in democracies to succeed with brute force in something that has failed politically.

Regimes in democracies cannot be brought down by nail balls, burning cars or injuring the police. Democracies listen only to the voice of the people at the ballot box.

What we need to do is to make good this lack of love with self-criticism. Love feeds and strengthens the democratic climate. Therefore, democracy on its own is not enough. It always needs to be nourished with love.

What could have been done? It would have been good if our government could have issued a detailed statement about the park to those who were worried before things got out of hand. Setting out the plans, providing guarantees that public green spaces would always be protected, and doing so in pleasant language, would have produced positive results that would have left no room for the communist groups to manoeuvre. Yet we only learned long after the demonstrations began that the trees in the park had not been cut down, but had been simply uprooted and planted elsewhere in Istanbul.

The police need to know and love the public, and vice versa. If they know and love one another, the result will be a fertile and delightful one. Love is, after all, a psychological need. We need to bring true democracy to the world with love. That is what Turkey and the world now need most of all.

The writer is a commentator and religious and political analyst on Turkish TV and a peace activist.

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