1,700 Arrested in Anti-Government Turkish Protests

Is Turkey's leader attacking freedom? Illustrative. Photo Courtesy of UN Photo/Marco Castro

Is Turkey’s Prime Minister attacking freedom? Illustrative. Photo Courtesy of UN Photo/Marco Castro

Sometimes raw numbers tell quite a story, and the numbers in the protests against the Turkish government are reaching surprising levels. The BBC reported that over 1,700 arrests have been made in 67 towns in connection with the protests. The number of locations for demonstrations highlights the widespread nature of the anti-government sentiment and raises questions about the stability of Turkey.

What does this matter to you? Because Turkey wants to join the European Union and is currently a key ally for the West in dealing with the Syrian conflict. In other words, Turkey is an important cog in a big machine—and right now it’s jammed.

The BBC reported that the protests, which have stretched on for days, started as people were upset that the Turkish government planned construction in a famous city park. But that angst tapped into a deeper worry: the takeover of Turkey by Islam.

Turkey has been an officially secular country for decades, and the BBC reported that people in Turkey are worried the Islamic government is trying to force the religion on the country. Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has also long been accused of threatening democratic freedoms in the country, which is adding fuel to the fire now.

On top of all of that, Turkey’s police forces are being accused of excessive force by the human rights group Amnesty International. In particular, the use of tear gas has raised concerns.

John Dalhuisen, Director of Amnesty International for Europe, said in a report on Amnesty’s website, “It is clear generic klonopin names that the use of force by police is being driven not by the need to respond to violence—of which there has been very little on the part of protesters—but by a desire to prevent and discourage protest of any kind.”

This should stand out for Europeans, since Turkey has long-range desires of joining the EU. A country known for curtailing freedom and fomenting unrest may not be the best candidate. An EU passport grants access to all of Europe, which is already dealing with economic concerns across the continent.

Germany certainly isn’t happy with what’s happening in Turkey, according to one German official. “I am following the developments in Istanbul and other cities in Turkey with concern. In a democracy, freedom of expression and assembly are central and fundamental rights which must be upheld and protected. Level-headedness and de-escalation on all sides are what is needed now,” Federal Government Commissioner for Human Rights Policy Markus Löning said in a press statement.

What’s more, the unrest may also undermine Turkey’s involvement with Syria. Turkey, which shares a border with Syria, has been an important home for refugees fleeing the Syrian civil war. It has also been a key regional friend to Syrian rebels. With Turkey’s government distracted by chaos at home, the rebels in Syria may lose important support.

That’s bad for you, since the ongoing Syrian conflict is costing you money and increasing the risk that terrorists will use the fighting to acquire dangerous weapons. In general, Middle East conflict is also bad news for oil prices.

(By Joshua Spurlock, www.themideastupdate.com, June 3, 2013)

What do you think?