Analyzing the Turkish Protests

I’ve long complained, broken-record style, that when something big happens in Israel, observers who aren’t close Israel watchers or well versed in its history and politics leap to provide commentary and draw conclusions. This leads to poor analysis, misperceptions about the country, misguided implications.

There is some of that when it comes to Turkey, but there have been a considerable number of very good analyses of the recent protests based on sharp observations. All of them build on Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s illiberal and non-democratic style of policymaking, and most seem to agree that the demonstrations might harm Erdoğan’s position but not undermine him completely. Many worry about what this means for the future of Turkey. But each emphasizes something different, and so a compendium of what’s been written so far might be useful.

If there’s anything to add, let me know.

In chronological order up to June 4:

June 1: The Monkey Cage: “A Breakout Role for Twitter

• An analysis of Twitter’s role in the demonstrations. See also the June 3 update: “Twitter and the Turkish Protests—A Weekend Update

 June 1: Hugh Pope, Dining with al-Qaeda: “A Ringside Seat as Istanbul Protests

• On the varied motivations behind the protests.

June 1: Me, Mideast Matrix: “Was Taksim Inevitable?”

• An argument for thinking of the protests as part of a long-term process in Turkish politics.

June 1: Aaron Stein, The Atlantic: “Protests Show Turks Can’t Tolerate Erdogan Anymore”

• First big piece out on the genesis of the protests. Still very good for understanding them.

June 1: Zeynep Tufekci, Technosociology: “Is there a Social-Media Fueled Protest Style?”

• Compares social media and protest from Taksim to Tahrir.

June 2: Sinan Ulgen, Foreign Policy: “Erdogan’s Dilemma”

• On the de-democratization of politics under Erdoğan and the AKP.

June 3: Claire Berlinski, City Journal: “Erdoğan Over the Edge”

• On the details of the demonstrations.

June 3: Steven Cook and Michael Koplow, Foreign Policy: “How Democratic is Turkey?”

• This piece lays out the reasons why Turkey was never, under the AKP, as democratic as Washington thought—which is a problem.

June 3: Alexander Christie-Miller, Bülent Journal: “Gezi Park: Towards a New Political Consensus?”

• More on the “perfect storm” of issues that drove the protests.

June 3: Gareth Jenkins, Tablet: “Obama’s Turkey”

• On Erdoğan’s metamorphosis into an autocrat, which coincided with a nostalgia for Ottomanism.

June 3: Shashank Joshi, The Telegraph: “Hubris and Nemesis, with a Turkish Accent”

• Emphasis on understanding the protests as something other than secular vs. Islamist, with a tie-in to Turkish foreign policy.

June 3: Michael Koplow, Ottomans and Zionists: “Why Turkey is Erupting in Protest”

• An examination of the contours of the protests as they occurred to this point.

June 3: Joe Parkinson, Wall Street Journal: “Conflict Redraws Fault Lines”

• Drawing on interviews, the piece concludes that the protests represent the emergence of a new popular middle class politics.

June 3: Jeremy Pressman, Mideast Matrix: “US Policy in Turkey: White House and State”

• Building on Steven and Michael’s piece, Jeremy asks whether the US really has let Turkey off the hook when it comes to expressing concerns for its illiberal democracy.

June 3: Claire Sadar, Atatürk’s Republic: “What Can We Say About Occupy Gezi?”

• A collection of thoughts on events thus far.

June 3: Justin Vela, Foreign Policy: “The Struggle for the Heart of Istanbul”

• An explanation of how the violent police response turned the protests into a broad-based demonstration against the government.

June 4: Henri Barkey, The National Interest: “All the Prime Minister’s Yes-Men”

• “At the root of the problem is the combination of both his personality…and the emergent de facto one-party, one-man political system.” There’s no-one to provide alternate advice.

June 4: Steven Cook, Foreign Affairs: “Keep Calm, Erdogan”

• An argument that Erdoğan really has little to fear from the protests, because he’s just so much in command of Turkish politics. Still, things may be changing—too soon to tell.

June 4: Me, The National Interest: “Erdoğan’s Democracy”

• An examination of the conditions that shaped the AKP’s understanding of politics and democracy, and how this complicates American policy toward Turkey.


3 thoughts on “Analyzing the Turkish Protests

  1. Pingback: Academics, the Media, and the Turkish Protests | Mideast Matrix

  2. Pingback: Turkish Politics is Exciting Again | Mideast Matrix

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