We are a few days away from jumping on the plane to Istanbul, so have been following events on the streets there with great interest. There are continuing large demonstrations in Taksim Square and other areas of Istanbul and across Turkey. Our apartment in Kabatas is not that far from the epicentre of the action in Taksim. At this stage, we are alert but not alarmed!
For those interested in the background to the direct political action, here is a link to a recent article in the New York Times, When the middle class strike back.
In short, the AKP with Recep Yayyip Erdogan as Prime Minister has ruled Turkey for over ten years with a constituency largely based in the conservative regions rather than in the big cities. The commentators suggest that Erdogan has failed to realize that he is dealing with a new Turkey. Many Turks fear the AKP is trying to wind back the secular nature of the modern republic of Turkey, initiated by Mustafa Kemal Ataturk after the First World War.
The AKP has faced severe public opposition to some of its projects, including legislation that limits the sale of alcohol as well as the catalyst for the protests: his plan to uproot hundreds of trees and turn a park adjacent to Istanbul’s largest square into a shopping mall. Yet in both cases the AKP leadership simply ploughed ahead. For them, steamrolling opposing voices was just business as usual. But when the police moved in to crack down on the environmentalist sit-in organized in downtown Istanbul to save the city park, tens of thousands of middle-class citizens poured into the streets in the middle of the night.