Friday, June 7, 2013

Turkey burns with riots, but Erdogan's grip on power is as strong as ever

ISTANBUL AND ANTAKYA − Burcin Altensai, an architect from Istanbul, wandered around Gezi Park in Taksim Square on Monday afternoon, watching the tens of thousands thronging the area, doing folk dances and eating picnics on the grass, with a worried smile on her face. For the last year, Altensai has been a member of a small group of academics and environmental activists fighting the government’s plan to build on the park a shopping center in a faux-Ottoman building. Yes, of course she is happy that their tiny group spawned a national movement sweeping dozens of cities in Turkey, and calling upon democratically elected Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan to change his authoritarian ways, but she is also sad.

“We had to tell Erdogan that you can’t force things on people,” she says. “But there has been so much needless violence, and I am worried there will be more.”