Takin' it to the Streets

Austin Bay is in Istanbul and interviewed Emre Kizilkaya, foreign news editor of the Turkish daily Hurriyet. Here’s an excerpt:

Austin Bay: Emre, you’ve just returned from Taksim Square. What did you see?

Emre Kazilkaya: Thousands of people from all demographics were protesting the government, while nearby, police used tear gas on another group. The smoke (gas) reached us. I couldn’t breathe or see for a while. I found milk at a protest tent and put it on my eyes. That helped.

AB: What started the Istanbul protests?

EK: Erdogan announced that an old military barracks would be rebuilt at Gezi Park, a wooded park near Taksim Square. When he said it would be a shopping mall, people got angry. They saw this one-sided decision as the last straw. Erdogan makes many one-sided decisions, like restricting alcohol.

AB: Erdogan has restricted public alcohol consumption, right?

EK: Yes. People saw the alcohol restrictions as another (Islamist) Jacobin attempt to change the lifestyles of the citizens.

I’d quibble with Austin’s description of Erdogan’s government as “moderate.” It’s been moderate in the pace of ending Kemalism, but the end goal of an Islamic Turkish State isn’t moderate at all. It’s funny though what can set off such a wave of protests across a nation — a shopping mall, really?

Read the whole thing.