I woke this morning on the north coast of North Cyprus, close to the port of Kyrenia, where I live, and looked across the Mediterranean towards the coast of Turkey on the horizon. Most times you can’t see Turkey at all, but in the right atmospheric conditions the coastline suddenly appears like a mirage and in winter you can even see the snow on the Taurus Mountains.
The appearance of the Turkish coastline usually heralds a change in weather, usually for the worse. This morning all you could see was a murky haze of cloud and a murky layer of dust from the strong winds which have been blowing from the African continent this week.
It seemed pretty symbolic of the murky situation in Turkey this past week with demonstrations across many cities and large towns in the country. I don’t want to pretend I know all the ins and outs of the current situation. That would be quite wrong. But it’s been apparent for some time that Prime Minister Erdogan has been getting increasingly dictatorial and that there is anger and resentment at his high-handed actions and attitude.
Turkey was established as a secular state with particular respect for Islam by Mustafa Kemal Ataturk in 1923. He instituted cultural, social and economic reforms, with the independence of Turkey his priority. Ataturk’s legacy, particularly the secular nature of Turkish society, has been of great importance to Turkish people and Ataturk himself is widely respected. Here in North Cyprus which has a very tolerant Islamic society, there are loads of photos and statues of Ataturk too because he basically laid the basis of Turkey today – modern, democratic and secular.
It’s Prime Minister Erdogan’s creeping Islamisation of this secular state which is getting people angry (Erdogan, by the way, is pronounced “Erdowan” as the “g” is silent). These include efforts to bring in the wearing of the veil for women; the declaration of ayram (a yoghurt-based drink) as the national drink instead of the well-known raki (an aniseed-flavoured alcoholic drink); urging women to have three children; trying to outlaw the morning-after pill; trying to make abortion more difficult; describing anyone who drinks alcohol as an alcoholic (Turkey has a very low alcohol consumption; pressure on Turkish Airlines to make uniforms more drab; objections to kissing in public; having too close a relationship with big business; interfering in the war in Syria and so causing the car bombing on Syrian soil; intimidating the press and jailing far too many reporters; cosying up too much to the US. And being overwhelmingly arrogant in his response to the demonstrations which have erupted across Turkey.
Well, the last one sounds a bit familiar, doesn’t it? Environmental activists initially occupied Gezi Park to protest at plans to replace one of the few green areas with a shopping mall. Erdogan is close buddies with one of the developers. Actually – pause for thought – Erdogan is pretty close to a lot of big business in Turkey with economic development going gangbusters in the past decade or so. When police responded with disproportionate force, you might say the cauldron of various resentments which had been simmering boiled over.
Of course, the Western media started its usual babblings of “Turkish Spring”, much as they’ve spruiked the “Arab Spring” and various revolutions such as “rose”, “yellow” and any other colour which sound trendy and smart. Anyone remember these revolutions, by the way? They’re like passing fads – ooooh, yes, let’s talk about the “Arab Spring”, Tunisia, Libya, Egypt, and so on, and then these places fade from the daily trumpetings of the commercial media panting onwards for fresh meat for its daily witterings.
So now we’ve got Syria as the revolution-du-jour, and Turkey as the next revolution cooking and perhaps hot off the barbeque. Well, the reality is that Erdogan is quite popular with a lot of the population whose lives have improved under the rule of his People’s Party. But his contempt for protests and calling protestors “bums” “marauders” and “looters” infuriated many who’d been resentful for Erdogan’s growing authoritarianism and were incensed at his arrogant response to the demonstrations. That, however, doesn’t mean that people are calling for the overthrow of the whole kit and caboodle.
Erdogan’s problem is the old one that besets rulers who’ve been in power for a long time, who don’t have a strong opposition and who surround themselves with “yes” men and women. They lose touch with the people. To describe social media as “the worst menace to society”, as Erdogan has done, is to betray a fundamental disconnect with the people and their justifiable grievances, as well as their fury at the over-the-top response of security forces. Like others before him, Erdogan may well hang on to power for a while if he pursues some sort of dictatorship, as he’s hinted he’d like to do by turning Turkey into a presidency (with him as the President, of course) and downgrading parliamentary democracy, but sooner or later dictators or aspiring dictators come a cropper. Because people resist. And fight back. And rebel.
Which is what is happening in Turkey at present. But as I’ve just said, from what I’ve seen, it’s not a call to overthrow the system in Turkey. The people demonstrating are calling for respect for the 50% who didn’t vote for Erdogan’s Justice and Development Party. They are calling for an end to the cronyism and the creeping Islamisation which is undermining the secular nature of Turkey. So where it will head is anybody’s business.
But ignoring the demonstrations or increasing repression will lead Erdogan right up the garden path to the sort of revolution in which his erstwhile pal in Syria, President Assad, is embroiled. Syrian media, by the way, had a grand old time gloating over developments in Turkey, trumpeting back to Erdogan his own words as Syrian ministers have accused Turkey’s government of “terrorising” its people, and described the days of protests in Istanbul and beyond as a “real Spring”.
It might be easy to describe the Turkish protests as something out of the blue or a flash in the pan but they do tie in with developments across many nations – people fed up with corruption, the power of big business, nepotism, lack of real democracy, and so on. I’ve mentioned before that Uranus in Aries (revolutions, uprisings, new beginnings, innovation) coupled with Pluto in Capricorn (exposure of dirty dealings in governments, big business, banks, plutocracies, etc) is tied in with all the unrest around the globe, not just in Turkey. But how the planets influence earthly happenings is a moot point – is it the chicken or the egg? My own view is that it at least shows us how tied up we are with galactic energies and we aren’t just an isolated, super-species here on Earth, immune to outside influences.
The one thing you can say is that unrest, demonstrations, rebellions, uprisings, riots and so on are unpredictable. So if anyone wants a safe, steady life in the next few years, it might be like pushing the proverbial uphill with a lolly stick. Best to jump on the inflatable raft, grip the sides, fix on a grin, and hang on for the ride of your life! Good luck!