Part 2 of Arzu Geybullayeva piece: Where does religion end and politics begin in Turkey: through the prism of The Gezi Park protests-

Part 2

Beyond the Gezi Park protests


Protesting (Photo credit: vpickering)

Back at the Gezi protests, it was clear AKP misread what triggered the country- wide non-violent demonstrations. The ruling party not only misread the causes of the unrest but also the protesters themselves. It was easier for the ruling power to blame the cause of these protests on the third powers rather than recognize that the policies adopted in the past were bound to trigger popular dissent sooner than later. The remarks on a minimum number of children, C-section and abortion bans, prohibition of alcohol, raising religious generation and even a brief stunt in 2004 to criminalize adultery to name a few of these policies.[i]


For starters Erdogan quickly dismissed the protesters as hooligans, terrorists, agents of the West, even calling the protests an act of well- planned intervention of the ?external forces? all the while failing to see them as people, citizens of Turkey whom he also represented even if many of them did not vote for him. It was evident from the start that the protesters had no issue with religion, what they demanded instead were rights, freedoms and a democracy. All throughout the protests people stood hand-in-hand albeit religious preferences, sexual orientations and political affiliations. In fact when one looks at the make up of the Gezi protesters one can see a diverse group of people bringing together the Kemalists, religious minorities, liberal-minded secular citizens, revolutionary socialists, anarchists, feminists, LGBT groups, highly politicized activists and young people who simply opposed police violence and the government?s policies, and all sharing mutual respect towards religious citizens. Everyone had their own message- the liberals were unhappy with the imprisoned journalists; the secularists were opposing the recent restrictions on alcohol sale and consumption; ethnic groups as Kurds were opposing the anti- terror laws under which thousands of Kurds were trialed and jailed. At a closer look, there was a clear message indicating that these protests were not about Islamists vs. secularists as the government chose to see but about pluralism vs. authoritarianism[ii].


The failure of Erdogan government to see beyond the protests stemmed from a dominant position to pursue an agenda shaped by own ideology- the religious victimhood- and the beliefs of his conservative support base while totally disregarding the concerns of those who shared different lifestyles.[iii] As a result a crack was coming, it just wasn?t clear how and when.

[i] Louis Fishman, ?The Gezi Park protests, the Middle East and the secular- religious divide?, June 16, 2013, last accessed on July 19, 2013,

[ii] The Economist, ?Turkey erupts: The new young Turks?, June 8, 2013, last accessed on July 23, 2013,

[iii] Amanda Paul, Demir Murat Seyrek, ?Gezi Park one month on: what lies ahead?, European Policy Center, June 27, 2013, last accessed on July 19, 2013,

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