Takim Square Protests: Does Erdogan Really Think a Dummy Committee Can Convince Protesters to Give in?
It looked like Erdogan had turned over a new leaf when he announced his willingness to meet with those hooligans and troublemakers in Taksim Square. But no, he's still the same old Erdogan we know and love.
Instead, he will be meeting with 11 hand-chosen people to act as "mediators" between the Prime Minister and protesters. Eyup Muhcu, the leader of Taksim Solidarity — the group credited with organizing the protests — said that he and his group had not been approached about talks and that they would refuse even if asked. They also do not recognize the 11 so-called mediators, a group composed of artists, architects, an actress, a columnist, and a social media expert.
Rather than talking to the protesters as their democratically elected leader, Erdogan had the square cleared out by the police with massive amounts of tear gas, water cannons, and stun guns. The prime minister's chief advisor, Ibrahim Kalin, said that the police actions are no different than those used by security forces at the Occupy Wall Street demonstrations in America.
"Were we supposed to kneel before them?" the prime minister said Tuesday. "They can call me harsh, but this Tayyip Erdogan won't change."
"Not only will we end the actions, we will be at the necks of the provocateurs and terrorists and no one will get away with it," he added.
Before Erdogan continues on this stubbornly heavy handed path, maybe he should look at other recent examples of leaders who refused to compromise with their protesting populations:
In Tunisia, Ben Ali did not meet with protesters. Like Erdogan, he imprisoned lawyers who chose to speak out against police brutality, sparking a coalition of lawyers that went on strike and rallied against the government. Within two months, Ben Ali and his government were taken out of power.
In Egypt, Hosni Mubarak refused to acknowledge the dissatisfaction of his people. Just like Erdogan, he blamed external influences as the source of protests. Mubarak stepped down from power less than a month after the protests started.
In Syria, Bashar al-Assad authorized harsh police crackdowns on relatively peaceful and mild protests. As in Turkey, protesters were met with excessive force through water cannons, tear gas, and beatings. Assad's refusal to concede to demands led to an escalation of violence between the government and protesters. Syria has now been in a civil war for two years, and there's no feasible path for Assad to retain power.
While the circumstances that sparked the protests all varied, it is a leader's reaction to unrest that affects the outcome. If Erdogan continues to ignore the concerns of his people, he will have to resort to extreme force to remain as prime minister.