Taksim Square Protest: Will the Turkish Regime Fall?


Turkey is embroiled in bitter conflict as the Turkish people protest against the repressive authoritarian government of Prime Minister Erdogan. But even with the massive brutality being reported in the country, is it likely that the Turkish regime will fall?

Not quite yet.

Yes, the conflict occurring right now is at unprecedented proportions, but that doesn't mean that the government isn't capable of subduing the situation violently. They've already been using water cannons, tear gas, and rubber bullets to cause the most damage possible, and few Turkish media are reporting on it for fear of persecution. Erdogan has also been Prime Minister since 2002, and his political party is by far the strongest in Turkey right now. With all this power at his fingertips, his rule isn't as unstable as one might think. And the example of Bahrain's failed Arab Spring revolution (also organized around a public space and lasting weeks) proves that not all such revolts are successful.   

Still, it would also be wrong to underestimate the Turkish people and write it off just yet. It is incredibly impressive that despite the unforeseen police backlash, the protesters have not let up. After over 1000 arrests, hundreds of injuries, and even some deaths, protests are continuing into day four of this conflict, fueled mostly by the people's sentiments and their social media journalism.

Looking just at the intra-country dynamics of Turkey, it is hard to predict a winner, but international factors, particularly if and how other countries respond, could play a huge rule in the way this conflict is resolved.

The West, for right now, is mostly looking on in quiet shock. The U.S. in particular has been an ally of Turkey, championing the country as a Muslim democracy and also a partner in combating the violent Syrian regime. In fact, Erdogan visited the White House just last month to discuss Syrian strategy. Therefore, while the U.S. has an ideological interest in rule of the people, it also has a strategic interest in a stable Turkey. The West will likely stay neutral on the conflict for now, which will embolden Erdogan and probably hurt the Turkish people.

But the Arab world is just as important. Even though Erdogan is interested in Western projects like a bid for the Summer Olympics and entrance into the EU, much of Turkey's economy has grown because Arab investors have poured money into Turkey as the only stable market during the Arab Spring. If Erdogan manages to control this revolt, no matter how violently, it will further confirm to big businesses that Turkey is the place to invest in, which will also confirm Erdogan's belief that he is doing right in repressing the protests.

Whether these Turkish protests are really the "Turkish Spring" or merely another violent chapter in the country's long history is yet to be determined. What is undoubtable is that Erdogan is "essentially calling about 40% of the population marginal," and that will have grave consequences. All that remains to be seen is who will be the ones bearing the brunt of it.