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Inside Story

Is Turkey in turmoil?

As anger over plans to develop city park fuel nationwide protests, we ask if these tensions will tarnish Turkey' image.

Last Modified: 03 Jun 2013 22:37
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Anger over plans to develop a city park has escalated into nationwide protests against the Turkish government.

It started as a protest over a park, but plans to redevelop a public open space in Istanbul have sparked wider civil unrest.

Tens of thousands have joined nationwide protests, directed at the government.

Dozens of demonstrations have taken place in 48 cities across the country and rights groups have accused police of being heavy-handed. 

The protests in Istanbul and all around Turkey are about [an] oppressive and uncompromising rule of prime minister … [he is not] compromising on our most peaceful wishes, instead he is provoking the society  … we just want him to listen ...

Cengiz Temil, a protester

They say two people have been killed and more than a thousand injured - although this has not been confirmed.

Prime minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has admitted that mistakes were made.
 
But he is also accusing opponents of using Friday's initial protest over the park to stir up wider unrest.

"They are talking about a shopping centre," Erdogan said.

"What we are referring to is not a usual shopping centre. You can't build it there.

"There hasn't been a decision for this centre. Maybe we will build a city museum there or a venue for different activities.

"Have you got any documents about what will be built there? No, but they bring people to protest anyway."

Erdogan was elected prime minister in 2003 as leader of the Justice and Development Party, known as the AK Party, which has its roots in political Islam.
 
Throughout much of the next decade he steered the country through a period of strong economic growth. And he also improved Turkey's international stature - both regionally and globally.
 
AK Party was elected to a third term in 2011. But in recent years  government has faced growing accusations of authoritarian rule and so-called Islamisation - critics cite concern over the intimidation of journalists; laws restricting alcohol; and banning kissing in public.

And hints that Erdogan may be looking to change the constitution to allow him to run for another term have strengthened that perception.

So will these protests tarnish Turkey's image as a model for the melding of Islam and democracy?

To discuss this, Inside Story, with presenter Jane Dutton, is joined by guests Mustafa Akyol, a columnist for the leading Turkish newspaper Hurriyet Daily News; Fadi Hakura, an associate fellow at Chatham House and a Turkey specialist; and Cengiz Temil, one of the protesters.

"Erdogan is a democratically-elected leader .... However, he has been too defiant, too threatening to the people who do not support him … and in the past few months especially by his new regulations on limitation of alcohol use ... by naming a bridge after a controversial Ottoman sultan, he just flamed the culture war that is in this country. So he is legitimate there ... but he is not acting very liberal, and not very participatory. I think he should take a lesson from this incident and move on, and to try to listen to those who don't agree with him … he should be able to build consensus ... "

- Mustafa Akyol, a columnist for Hurriyet Daily News

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Source:
Al Jazeera
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