Some good reads on the Turkey protests

At English PEN, we’ve been following the health of free expression in Turkey very closely all year.  Here’s a round-up of excellent Turkey analysis from some of the people we have been working with.

Ece Temelkuran writing in the New Statesman – ‘People have killed their fear of authority – and the protests are growing‘.

It was never just about trees, but the accumulation of many incidents. With the world’s highest number of imprisoned journalists, thousands of political prisoners (trade unionists, politicians, activists, students, lawyers) Turkey has been turned into an open-air prison already. Institutional checks and balances have been removed by the current AKP government’s political manoeuvres and their actions go uncontrolled. On top of this growing authoritarianism, the most important reason for people to hit the streets in support of the Gezi resistance was the arrogant tone of the Prime Minister, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.

English PEN Turkey specialist Alev Yaman expands on this theme of arrogance:

Erdoğan unabashedly wields that most dangerous of rhetorical weapons – the Will of the People – when he speaks, and his casting of the protesters as ‘extremists’, ‘alcoholics’ or ‘opportunistic provocateurs’ gives a clear insight into his psychology. His opponents are marginal, irrelevant and contemptible; while he represents Turkey. And perhaps it’s this dismissive attitude towards the rest that is the biggest factor in the unrest. For many in Turkey, there is a growing sense that their views don’t deserve to be heard or listened to. It is Erdoğan’s contempt for those outside his electoral base that is the biggest cause for concern of all.

Meanwhile, the Free Word Centre’s translator-in-residence Canan Marasligil has written a series of posts on the current crisis: An overview of the protests; some of the issues around translating the protestors statements for foreign consumption; and the role that satircial cartoons have played in the week of protests.

Leman cover

On the Paralympic Boos

Apparently, the booing of Conservative politicians as they present medals to Paralympians has become a bit of a Thing. First George Osborne, then Teresa May (apparently, Boris Johnson got a big cheer, but then, he’s a Veblen Politician to which normal political rules do not apply).

I’ll say first off that it makes me a bit sad. It must be uncomfortable and odd for athletes receiving the medals. Not what they imagined when they set out on their Paralympic journey.

However, that does not mean that the jeers were wrong or should be condemned.

First, is there not a cynicism to the politicians presenting the medals in the first place? It feels like they are trying to piggy-back on the goodwill that the Olympics generated. If this is the case then they deserve whatever reception they get!

Second, I think it is an example of people using whatever means are at their disposal to dissent. I am reminded of a couple of things: Obama 2008 supporters misusing the features on the My Barack Obama website to protest his FISA policy. Or, the Jeff Goldblum speech from Jurassic Park: “Life Finds A Way”. In the absence of a good method to express disapproval of a Government, people will use what ever means are available, be that the arrangement of Teddy Bears, the licking of ice-cream, or the shouting of a common religious phrase from roof-tops.  I am not saying that the British political system is comparable to the authoritarian regimes in Iran or Belarus, but even in an advanced social democracy people can still feel alienated and disenfranchised by the political system.

Finally, these boos cannot be dismissed as the co-ordinated actions of an already partisan group (as a slow clap at the Women’s Institute or the Police Federation or at the TUC might be described). These are a diverse group of citizens from every demographic in the country. The jeers are part of a real and widespread sentiment: that they happen to the extreme discomfort of both the politicians and the Paralympians is part of the message.