Which Turks?

Yesterday, I mentioned the importance of listening to Turkish descriptions of the events unfolding there, ironically shortly after the Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan told domestic and local press that “There is now a menace which is called twitter. The best examples of lies can be found there. To me, social media is the worst menace to society.” While I wasn’t precisely pointing to Turkish twitter users as the ideal news source on the still developing situation, I built my larger point around what one famous Turkish writer and activist had explained on her wordpress account.

Heading Erdoğan’s request that we ignore certain sorts of Turkish voices wasn’t what I had in mind when I urged “listening to Turks’ voices”. In any case, there is something else that’s striking in his statement besides a leader of a country silencing his own people. He quite literally labeled the discussions, images, and arguments made on twitter concerning recent political events in Turkey to be a social danger rooted in falsities. Is that really a deserved label given the picture of the protesters painted by the picture, spread on twitter, that’s posted below?


(A Turkish protester dressed in traditional Sufi clothing and dancing in a tradition way used by that mystic Islamic sect, but while wearing a gas mask to ward off crowd-dispersing chemical weapons. It was originally posted here.)

There’s a poignant idea of the protests illustrated above – it’s a whole series of opposing political statements to that of Erdoğan’s government. Rather than an aesthetic force for unambiguous modernization, the protester is wearing clothes associated with a largely Turkish tradition and engaging in an iconic performance of that group. Rather than celebrating the leveling of a space of political and social organization at the heart of Istanbul, he is either in or has joined the protests against that and the broader economic situation in Turkey at the moment. Rather than containing his Islamic identity to a highly specific and politically useful context (such as the regulations on women’s behaviors which I noted Suman mentioned previously), he has connected his Islam to his activism.

The fundamental nature of the currently governing AK Party in Turkey is supposed that it has both Islamic or more specifically traditionally Turkish roots married to a modern political ideology. But what that seems to have engendered in Turkey is a sort of snide social conservatism, undemocratic decision making, and economics poisoned with commercialism and corporatism. What at least this one sliver of what’s been said online about the current situation suggests is that a different Turkey – better on all of those issues – is possible. No wonder Erdoğan wants that ignored.

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One thought on “Which Turks?

  1. […] have said before that the movements in Turkey seeking to strengthen their democracy aren’t incompatible with […]

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