Turkey Protests: Union Strikes Planned As Demonstrations Rage On


For over two weeks violence has erupted in the streets of Istanbul, Turkey, due to the tension between government officials and trade union protesters. It began when Turkey's five major unions (representing the public sector, doctors, architects, workers in the fields of transportation, construction, media, and engineering) began demonstrating and protesting on the streets for a "major move" in the country; the main unions protesting were the Confederation of Public Worker’s Union (KESK) and the Confederation of Progressive Trade Unions (DISK). However, when human rights groups became aware of the government's violent reaction on the protesters, thousands of more protesters joined the fight. The military used tear gas, rubber bullets, and water cannons, and has also detained over 116 protesters. Regardless of the violence, most of the daily life in Turkey has not been affected by the protests; except, of course, that of the protesters themselves and residents close to Istanbul. Turkey's conservative Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has threatened to use stronger military force after five people have died and 5,000 have been injured. In a speech to the international community, Erdogan blamed these protests on a plot to destabilize his government and also criticized reports by foreign and social media.

As more citizens join the protests and they continue to endure despite the crackdowns, Turkey's government will become more pressured to compromise or give in to what the public wants. The international community is a factor in itself that will force Turkey to reevaluate its policies and government structure. Throughout the last few years, Turkey has been seen as the rising democratic majority-Islamic nation, and has even applied for European Union membership. The state has made many efforts to become a more modern, democratic state and has had intentions on expanding its economy, especially with regard to trading with the West. However, human rights violations and an undemocratic reputation are not going to create good diplomatic relationships.

Even if this protest is unsuccessful, it will still be a good test to see how Turkey's government and military functions, and if the government has actually become more liberal. If the government chooses not to change its behavior, it will give Turkey an international reputation of not following democratic ideals and participating in military human rights violations. This could potentially cause other states to restrict trade agreements with Turkey, which would hurt their national economy. This may be a reason that Turkey chooses to negotiate and stop the violence.