The current spate of demonstrations against the Turkish Government come at a time when the Islamist based Justice and Development Party are undermining both parliamentary democracy and the secularist constitution of the country. A more dictatorial system is being sought by Prime Minister Recep Erdogan as Le Monde reports:
Erdogan wants to conquer the Presidency in 2014. He wishes to do this after having reformed the constitution in the direction of a Presidential system. Many fear this will mean yet further clampdowns
When the rioting broke out, Erdogan was at a press conference speaking out against smoking, another of his steps towards the Islamisation of Turkey. Already attempts are being made to restrict the sale of alcohol and prevent "public displays of affection" which follow the continued censorship of not just the press and TV, but even the soaps and dramas that form a much needed export to the rest of the Muslim world.
The Sunday Times tells us that these demonstrations are already being described as the "Turkish Spring" by some commentators. Evidence of this is that members of the armed forces (who have been the natural defenders of the country's secular constitution) have been witnessed refusing to help the police and according to the Sunday Times even handing out gas masks to protesters.
Le Monde further reports that:
This electoral stranglehold allowed Erdogan to get rid of all those inside the state who might be opposed to the government. The army , the bureaucracy and the judiciary, the press, which had previously opposed him, have become instruments of the AKP, the ruling party and its leader.
Since Erdogan has been purging the armed forces in recent years it should be no surprise that there remains considerable consternation amongst their personnel. It also explains why there has been a three-fold increase in the numbers of police, though reports suggest some police have actually joined the protesters!
The evolution of Erdogan and his Islamist Government into an authoritarian regime should come as no surprise. In the nineties he had a reputation as a Islamic firebrand, being jailed in 1999 for reciting a poem calling for the overthrow of secularism in Turkey. Despite presenting himself as a "moderate" and a "democrat", he has proved himself to be neither.
This should serve as a warning to those foolish enough to have believed that the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt or the Ennahda Party in Tunisia could be trusted with the reins of power. In all three countries the regimes have not just attacked secularism, but also the basic tenants of democracy right down to the trade unions.
The Salafists, allies of Ennahda have been physically attacking the trade unions for months. The Turkish Government have launched mass arrests of trade unionists (see: http://howiescorner.blogspot.co.uk/2013/02/act-now-arrested-turkish-trade.html) and despite the seeming retreat of police from Gezi Park the threat remains to not only the protesters but all democracy activists across Turkey.
One has to ask why the Erdogran feels it necessary to destroy a public park and build a replica of an Ottoman-era army barracks in its' place? Is this part of a growing desire to promote the days of an Islamic empire as part of his growing desire to expand his version of Islamic hegemony through alliances with Tunisia & Egypt via a conflict with both Syria and the Kurds?
Whatever Erdogan's motive, democrats, human rights activists and the trade union movement in Turkey must be supported against yet another clerical fascist regime.