Turkey Is Still Broiling


This morning (NYT), one day after Erdogan scheduled a meeting with the demonstrators, riot police rushed into Taksim Square and subdued the lingering protestors with tear gas and water canons. By all accounts so far, police were provoked by a few people throwing rocks and molotov cocktails:

Amid Tuesday’s clashes, Erdogan made it more than clear that he had come to the end of his tolerance. “To those who … are at Taksim and elsewhere taking part in the demonstrations with sincere feelings: I call on you to leave those places and to end these incidents and I send you my love. But for those who want to continue with the incidents I say: ‘It’s over.’ As of now we have no tolerance for them,” Erdogan said, speaking in the capital, Ankara.

Can Oz, “the owner of the biggest literary publishing house in the country,” was there and fled the scene:

Some say the protesters’ firebomb attack was staged, and while I don’t have certain proof that this was the case, it wouldn’t surprise me: over the past few days I have witnessed so many lies from the police and government that I don’t think I can ever trust them again.

I have spent days with the protesters – withstanding another gas attack, cheering, singing chants and sharing food in the park – and I haven’t encountered any signs of weapons or violence on their behalf. These people made me feel like I’m living a dream.

The purpose of my visit to Taksim Square was to listen to the press conference the Taksim Solidarity movement had prepared; and I was confident that I could trust the chief of police and Istanbul mayor’s assurance that the park would not be attacked. Then, right before the press conference was about to start, gas rained down over our heads once again. It was a moment of crushing disappointment. Coughing, wiping tears out of my eyes, practically blind, I realised that our government would never understand the meaning of the passive resistance that Martin Luther King Jr and Mahatma Gandhi were famous for. That’s when I ran out of the park.

At this point it seems the government is more concerned with economic blowback than the unrest itself. The Turkish stock market has taken a dive while the lira “has dropped to an 18-month low”:

Citing the “excessive volatility” caused by “the international and domestic developments during the last month,” the Turkish Central Bank announced today that it would take steps to stabilize the lira. The announcement triggered a rebound for the currency, but it came as police unexpectedly reentered Taksim Square, igniting clashes with demonstrators.

The Turkish government’s inability so far to bring the protests to a peaceful end is likely to have more far-reaching impacts on the economy than new bank policies. Stability has long been one of Turkey’s most attractive features to investors. Without it, the nation’s economy could face growing challenges. These economic shortfalls may also erode support for Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his Justice and Development Party (AKP).

Michael Koplow looks ahead:

It is tough to see which side is going to give here. Erdoğan does not want to back down, but my instincts tell me that as he is reminded of just how much his popularity depends on the economy and as he faces the prospect of losing the bid for the 2020 Turkish Olympics, he will try to come up with some sort of solution to end the chaos in the streets without having to go so far as to issue a formal full-blown apology. The fact that there is no opposition party poised to take advantage of the situation makes backing down slightly easier for him to do, and even Erdoğan understands just how crucial it is for his and his party’s longterm political future to make sure the Turkish economy keeps humming along.

(Photo: A protestor wearing a gas mask walks in front of a burning car on Taksim square on June 11, 2013. Turkish police fired massive volleys of tear gas and jets of water to disperse thousands of anti-government demonstrators in Istanbul’s Taksim Square on June 11, after earlier apparently retreating. The gas sent the crowd scrambling, raising tensions on a 12th day of violence after Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan warned he had ‘no more tolerance’ for the mass demonstrations. By Bulent Kilic/AFP/Getty Images)