The Turkish Inverse Spring


Here is an excellent article providing some background to the recent surge in Turkish anti-government protests. Notably, the author also takes a stand against those who like to jump to the conclusion that we are witnessing “the seeds of a Turkish spring”. I would contend that one may even go one step further in saying that we are witnessing the inverse of an Arab spring. Whereas the Arab springs were fed by discontent over decades of stagnation, this protest focusses on the rapid change taking place in Turkey both in its economy and in society. Whereas Mubarak and Ben Ali, were toppled by a population fed up with their global/Western orientation, the Turkish protesters are attacking Erdogan for being overly Anatolian. Whereas the former rulers of the “Arab Spring” countries were chided for being too secular, the AKP is regarded as too religious (the Taksim protest being directed, in part, against Erdogan’s long-time pet project of rebuilding a mosque in the square).

One thing both protest movements appear to target is cronyism by the ruling party. Then again, it will be hard to find a country were that is not high on the list of popular qualms.



15 thoughts on “The Turkish Inverse Spring

  1. Great points. An additional difference is that where in the Arab Spring at least supposedly the aim was to give a voice to ‘the masses’, essentially the aim of the Turkish protests seems to be to silence that voice. Turkey already is a democracy; most of the non-Istanbul elites voted for the AK party and can be presumed to more or less like the developments. So there’s no grounds for a Turkish ‘spring’ of any kind; if the Istanbul elites want to stop Erdogan, they need to come up with a more popular platform and defeat him in elections.

    • I think it’s a bit harsh to say that the “elites” are “silencing” the majority-opinion. Considering the increase in curbs on freedom of speech including the muzzling of journalists – funny fact from BramVermeulen’s twitter: CNN Turk featured a program on penguins when the demonstrations were at their fiercest – has been quite effective in erasing a public opinion on the one hand and on the other hand populist but unsustainable economic policy manages to content the masses. The people protesting are certainly moved by this, but the difference with the Arab Spring is of course that they will have a hard time reaching out to other layers of society as long as the economic boom doesn’t falter.

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  2. Yeah good points. What I suppose I meant, generally, was the the value-set supported by the protestors is not, in this case, the value-set shared by the masses. Where in the Arab Spring the idea (though clearly not all protestors figured what the consequences would be) was to have policy be democratic in reflecting majority views, the Turkish protestors are advancing minority views, in an attempt precisely to stem a tide that results from majority views. In this sense the Turkish protests resemble the ones currently in Egypt, where the majority supports Brotherhood values, but a minority does not.

    • I think that is definitely closer to the truth. Difference is, of course, that in Egypt these are fuelled by economic recession – bread and butter remaining the most effective revolutionary cause.

  3. Yeah it’s definitely good to point also to the economic and societal differences in these ‘revolutions’; as you say, they really couldn’t be more different

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