Turkey has, for some days now, been caught up in a wave of violence as protesters take to the streets to make their feelings known against the policies of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan. The rallies and meetings, often organised by young people over the social media, have spread across the country, with another demonstration staged by trade union workers on June 5 in Istanbul.
This time, less violence was used than before, with the deputy prime minister making an apology for previous attacks on protesters using rubber bullets and other weapons. However, those engaged in raising their voices against Mr Erdogan’s government maintain the gesture is a merely cosmetic one. The initial protests were directed against the bulldozing of a park in Istanbul in order to construct a shopping mall in its place. The highhanded response by the authorities to this protest resulted in them spreading across the country and people demonstrating against other alleged repressive policies of the Erdogan government, including attempts to enforce a stricter religious code in a country, which is constitutionally secular. Secularism is a tradition Turkey has held onto for a very long time and over which many in the country pride themselves.
Mr Erdogan has appealed to people to remove themselves from the streets and instead, wait for elections next year. Of course, peaceful means are best to settle disputes. But it has become clear that many in Turkey vehemently oppose Mr Erdogan’s approach. The government would do well to tackle the situation with calm. Force will only aggravate matters and add to the anger running through Turkey, worsening the situation. The Erdogan government needs to demonstrate that it has the ability to sort out problems with acumen and show respect for the wishes of all groups in a currently troubled nation. It is necessary that it succeed before further damage is caused and there is a growth in rage.
Published in The Express Tribune, June 7th, 2013.
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