Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Is Turkey the next Arab Spring?

Taksim Square is Istanbul's equivalent to Cairo's Tahrir Square or London's Trafalgar Square and it is now the epicenter of demonstrations triggered by construction plans for a shopping center in one of the city's few remaining green spaces.

What was initially a small sit-in has morphed into a major series of protests due to -- in the words of Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan -- "excessive force" by the police.

These protests reflect, in part, the deep ideological polarization between secular, liberal-minded Turks, and the more religious Turks, representing a quarter and two-thirds of the population respectively based on the 2011 general election results.

Many secular Turks complainthat the Islamist-rooted government is intolerant of criticism and the diversity of lifestyles. So far, Erdogan's robust and muscular stance vis-à-vis the demonstrators has reinforced those perceptions.