The Battle of Taksim: Turkish Police Won, Democracy Lost


By Emre Kızılkaya

As I tweeted earlier in the day, Ottomans had around 60.000 soldiers in the Battle of Vienna.

Today 40.000 Turkish policemen besieged Taksim to stop laborers organize a mass demonstration in the historically symbolic square of Istanbul, shutting of almost all public transport options, including drawbridges, metro, metrobus and ferries.

The Ottoman army had failed, while Turkish police were victorious, as they have better warfare technologies today:

First of all, I mean tear gas. Lots of tear gas, as can be seen from the photo above. (More photos)

And a tear gas canister that broke the skull of an 17-year-old girl at a house…

Also, water guns… But imagine using them to attempt murdering a few people, instead of just dispersing a crowd, like they did today. Five journalists were also injured.

It is rather ironic that the use of tear gas in warfare is prohibited by various international treaties, while it is free to use them for riot control.

Especially ironic in the context of what happens in Syria nowadays…

* * *

Surely, Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan is not a dictator like Bashar Assad. He is elected and still being supported by millions of citizens.

But still, democracy is not the rule of majority. First of all, it is the rule of law. And Turkish laws say that a citizen has a right to travel and demonstrate. Today, both of these rights were severely violated by the state.

Besides security concerns, local authorities cite the continuing renovation of Taksim Square for the May Day restrictions. The most ominous sign lies near that square, where Turkish laborers couldn’t reach today.

Erdogan had announced earlier in the week that the only park in Taksim with some trees inside would be turned into a shopping mall and a residence. Just a few months ago, his aides had denied that such a development plan was on agenda. A mosque construction is also planned.

This is the most dangerous side of Erdogan: Arbitrary decisions that are not based on popular demand, but just wild capitalism with an Islamic sauce.

One must be really naive to think that Turkey would be a better democracy if Erdogan can further solidify his power with the presidential system that he tailor-made for himself.

“We are not strangers to this concept (presidential system). Ottomans had experienced something similar in the past,” Erdogan had told during the same speech that he declared his plans about Taksim’s new shopping mall/residence.

In Taksim and beyond, he’s got better troops compared to Ottomans at the gates of Vienna.

Still, for democrats, watching Turkish police being as successful as Bahrain’s in suppressing political demonstrations is just a dismal signal for a possible future:

A police state under a post-modern sultan with a nation that can shop freely, but can’t speak up…


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