Turkey: Lessons of Gezi Park events

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Baku, 31 July 2013 –

Assessments from the media; the authorities "conspiracy theory” blame

The way the media assesses what is taking place in Turkey can provisionally be divided into two groups: 1. the attitude of the foreign media; 2. the Turkish media`s approach and coverage of the events. The Turkish media has been strongly influenced by leading Western media since the start of Gezi Park events (we will gradually provide an insight into the reasons behind this conclusion). So it would be more logical, if we start from assessing the role of the leading Western media outlets in the Turkish events. It`s about media giants as CNN, BBC, the Washington Post, the Financial Times, and others.

What attracts attention is that the Western media is watching these events with an extraordinary interest and covering them zealously. In this context, CNN International`s airing an eight-hour live uninterrupted coverage of the events from Taksim Square is not an ordinary event.

When a Turkish TV presenter asked one of the renowned Western journalists to comment on CNN`s unusual flurry of activity he tried to explain it referring to journalistic professionalism. According to him, given the fact that Taksim is one of the famous places in Istanbul any extraordinary event happening there is important news for any journalist and reporting this is his professional duty.

At first glance the answer seems quite logical. But there is one critical reservation: CNN has taken a different approach to similar events in other parts of the world. The foreign media has been trying to build an opinion that Turkey is far from democratic standards by creating an impression that the Turkish police is violently cracking down on protesters and breaching freedom of thought and speech. However, the police crackdown on protesters in Greece and activists of Occupy Wall Street protest movement in New York recently was much more severe and violent. But why did not the Western media handle these events with similar sensitivity? CNN did not even refrain from overtly promoting false information about the police intervention in Taksim protests, adding fuel to the fire.

This means that the Western media`s attitude to what is happening in Turkey is at least selective (if not biased), and their coverage of the events serves certain dark goals. But another feature of the Western media`s behavior allows throwing light on these dark goals. What is the goal behind labeling the Turkish government as non-democratic exactly at present? A recently coined "Turkish spring” phrase helps us find an answer: recent events in Turkey appear to be a continuation of the Arab Spring. And it’s apparent that this comparison is inappropriate and far from reality. The countries hit by the Arab Spring either totally lacked traditions of parliamentarism and democratic institutions or, even if they had them formally, these traditions did not prevent the same political party and persons from keeping power in their hands for more than 30 years. Turkey has had nothing of the kind in its past 50-year history, and it`s clear as day. The country has firm and continuous tradition of free and democratic power transition. So trying to find signs of the Arab Spring in Turkey is, at least, unfair.

Apparently the Western media outlets are still living in a state of the Arab Spring euphoria, which hinders them from seeing the things like they really are. However, the aforementioned media giants` professionalism and their awareness of the region brings this possibility to nought; there is nothing else for it than to admit that the Western media is covering the Turkish events in a biased and purposeful manner.

But it`s not double standards that put big question marks over the Western media`s behavior because the existence of double standard is an old-established fact. The most surprising and regrettable is incomprehensible attitude of the media outlets in Turkey that call themselves independent because their position did not differ much from biased stance of the Western media. Take the following video report of CNN Turk from Taksim (it should be noted that all reporters were Turkish citizens) for example: in a video report from a balcony of a high-rising building adjoining to Taksim Square, two journalists wearing gas masks try to explain how difficult it is to capture what is happening on camera because of smoke billowing in the air after riot police used pepper spray against "peaceful” protesters. Cameramen show from different angles water cannons used by police to disperse the protesters, trying to present this as something extraordinary (violence!). Following every step of the police, who were fulfilling their professional duty, and taking the advantage to smear them, these journalists, for some reason, are not that sensitive when it comes to video footages showing "peaceful” protesters throwing stones at police and setting fire to cars.

Since the clashes began, these representatives of the Turkish media as though have been competing to accuse Mr Erdogan. Let`s try to summarize the essence of these accusations: the successes that Mr Erdogan has achieved over the 10 years of his rule turned his head; he thinks that he can do everything and disregard citizens` opinion; he downplays any opposition views, takes a tough stance towards those who are against him and humiliates their dignity; his severe treatment of peaceful protesters was a crucial factor that fuelled the events in Gezi Park making them go beyond control; for Mr Erdogan, democracy is limited to elections, and he doesn`t understand that protecting freedom of expression and freedom of conciseness is the core principle of democracy as much as - and maybe to a greater degree - elections are. The media says it is exceptionally Mr Erdogan`s "grave mistakes” that fuelled the events to spiral out of control, and completely neglects the claims by the Prime Minister and other representatives of the authorities that the Taksim Square events are a provocation of the external forces that are jealous of Turkey`s development and seek its weakening. The media believes that the Turkish government`s claims are unfounded and far from reality, and nothing but an unproven conspiracy theory (the Turks call it komplo teori).

If it`s really so, then how one can explain the existence of so many arguments testifying to external intervention? Turkey`s special services have evidence that Otrop, an organization which encourages anti-government protests in Ukraine, Georgia, Egypt and other countries, has had a role to play in the Turkish events. If claims that Otrop has nothing to do with any country are right, then how can one understand the fact that the organization-held events attract strong support from the Western Media?   

Are claims that there are superpowers, which want to weaken Turkey, are an unproven conspiracy theory. Given that today Ankara has good relations with most of them, that Turkey is one of the leading members of NATO, the world`s most powerful military-political block, which also groups countries that represent these superpowers, and that Turkey considers joining the European Union its strategic goal, then why must these powers be interested in weakening Turkey? Unfortunately, many people share this opinion in Turkey. However, the point is that Turkey`s relations with leading European countries and, especially, with the USA are unstable and calculated to serve their political, economic and other utilitarian interests. These relations are not enough to build a strong moral unity with shared world views and ideologies. Turkey is a predominantly Muslim country, where Islam represents an inexhaustible source of power despite pressure. The West, which lacks such a spiritual potential, has put its financial and technical power against it. But it isn`t enough...

What spiritual power is capable of the West knows well from its recent history. Fascism, which brought Europe to its knees in the middle of the last century, had its ideological foundations originate from national-socialism. This ideology, for its part, was the last and most severe response of culture to continuous pressure and violence exerted by the Western civilization. And the Western culture itself, having suffered a serious moral decay as a result of the civilizational coercion, sanctioned violence giving birth to Fascism. In this sense, although ridiculous, Fascism, caused by the spoiled Western spirit, was fed from a moral source.

For Turkey, the spirit of "great nation” and "great state”, which the Turks have kept in their subconscious since the Ottoman era, is much greater moral power factor than Islam. So it`s at least unacceptable to label the views that superpowers want to weaken Turkey as "komplo teori”. How one cannot see the West`s continuous efforts to establish Great Kurdistan with the aim of weakening not only Turkey, but also the entire Islamic world? Taking into account that the majority of Kurds are influenced by PKK`s ideology, one of whose core principles is atheism, it`s easy to understand what goals lie behind the Great Kurdistan project of the West, and, first and foremost, of the USA.

Analyzing the Turkish media`s accusations against Mr Erdogan and his government one gets an impression that the media representatives are not aware of what country they live in. They want to transfer democratic standards, which are typical of developed Western societies, to Turkey neglecting the historic, political and geographic realities of the country and the region it is located in. So it would be appropriate to remind them of bitter, but not to be forgotten truth: none of the Western societies, which Turkish scholars and journalists are inspired from in terms of democratic imaginations, is under the sword of Damocles that is ready to destroy Turkey at any time. Anyway, the reasons behind Mr Erdogan`s tough methods could have been considered in cold blood.

Zakir Mammadaliyev,

Doctor of philosophy, professor

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