Why the new generation says «no» about Erdogan’s economic model?

taksimden-tahrir-cikar-mi-taksim-gezi-parki-_649468_720_400INTERVIEW | By Thomas Sideris
I met Arda Ish last February, at his mother’s art lab in Touzla, a rapidly expanding city, about sixty km from the center of Istanbul. The Prime Minister, Erdogan, is planning to turn Touzla into a strong financial as well as naval centre. » this is where the heart of Istanbul will be beating» were an official’s words.
Arda is a 28-year-old young man, his ear pierced, having studied finance at Istanbul’s university, Isik, and with post graduate studies in Business Administration at Rouen University in Paris. Today he is employed with a perfume company in close proximity to his house. 
When I met him again, late April, and we started chatting, he turned and told me: » Many people around you don’t rally believe in God. Their wives wear headscarf and they go to pray at the mosque just for others to see them. They try in every way to be liked by the state so as to enjoy certain privileges».
Arda took part in the Taxim Square protests. What could such a young and educated generation, having studied at the best private universities of Istanbul with Honors from academic institutes around Europe and the USA, be really asking from the Erdogan Government? Is it just a natural reaction to the conservative turn in the turkish society aimed by the Party of Justice and Development, or is it that this generation wants to raise its voice and have an active role in the financial model of development so much acclaimed by Erdogan?

The demonstrations marked as «Turkish Spring» – in line with the «Arab Spring.» Is this true?

We can’t compare what had happened during the Arab Spring in Tunisia, Libya and Egypt and what is going now in Turkey, Istanbul because these are completely different things. In Arab Spring, the people were already ruling by dictators or at least high level of restriction on the democracy. In Turkey the riots are the reactions to the government’s recent policies and under after ten years of right-wing Development and Justice Party ruling, people realized that Erdogan’s government has started to change the way of life of the people. Especially young generation, who is affected mostly by the western culture, they didn’t accept the pressure on them. However this is not an extension of Arab Spring. You should read the people’s reaction as a call of freedom and justice.

It is a revolution of a new generation with education and international experiences?

Revolution in technology brought many pros and cons either negative or positive. In this movement also, the social media played an important role to union young people in the streets and Taksim Square in Istanbul. And of course the young generation who were born into this technology and progress are the main actors of the movement. But still, I can’t say that this is a revolution, this is more like a resistance over the government’s policies. But new generation showed that they are aware of everything which goes around them, and they won’t keep their silence but instead they will defend their rights no matter what it will take. The higher the education, people get more conscious and egalitarian about their freedom and life styles. But for this movement, there were other parameters too which had indicated people’s reactions such as over-autocratic structure of the government, and foreign media’s reaction.

You have done Masters in Paris. What are the differences in lifestyle but also in ideas among young people in Turkey and in Europe?

Well; I have to say that People in Europe, in developed countries; France, U.K, or Germany, there is a democratic and respectful system over decades. The education system, political structure and the laws are underlined and defined more clearly. But the uncertainty in the Middle-East area and the Secular-Islamic structure of Turkey had brought some difficulties over the life style of the people. In many European countries also there are so many ethnic groups as Turkey has and different beliefs. However, even there are conflicts between people, they may show their reaction without harming the environment and other people. But in Turkey, especially ethnicity is the main factor which determines people’s life style. I think many young people feel them in the middle of western culture and Islamic traditions. In Europe whatever you believe, you may still defend your ideas and keep your life style. But in Turkey, on the contrary the life style depends on the majority’s thoughts. Actually the last movement also showed that the people in Turkey may live together without regarding the ethnicity or beliefs. But still we have a long way to go to reach over developed countries life standard.

The international media reported that Prime Minister Erdogan seeks a conservative intervention in Turkish society. What is your opinion?

I do not agree with that. This is right that Erdogan’s party (Justice and Development Party) is an Islamic right-wing party but he could have done this during his 11 years ruling period. Of course he has some applications and discourse over the people who don’t support his party but this is a political issue, if you have the power in your hands, so sometimes you can’t act over the majority’s needs but instead you support your people. Erdogan’s biggest mistake during the demonstrations, he always defended himself and his actions. He separated people into groups and labeled normal citizens. For example alcohol restriction was discussed for days, and he said “Who drinks alcohol is an alcoholic and I won’t let this country in the hands of alcoholic people. “His rhetoric in his speeches is getting rude and unacceptable for the people both who voted for him and not.

Is it a conflict between secular and Islamic state?

As I told; of course the people are confused between a right-wing government rules and Secular state laws. The main problem is here that the mutual lack of empathy of who defends Islamic rules and who defends secular, democratic laws. The republic of Turkey was founded upon the idea of freedom, justice and independence. People, who are demonstrating and protesting the government currently, are actually afraid of losing these values. There is also the debate of Kemalist thought which defend the reforms of Atatürk and which defend the freedom of beliefs. Furthermore there is also other realties in Turkey, I try to see the situation in the big picture; for example women with scarf cannot work in governmental institutions, or some people cannot be present some places because of their beliefs. I think people should have more respectful each other’s beliefs and traditions. In the end, what we became today as a society is that separated people into believers and non-believers. I think this is dangerous for the future of Turkey.

Which is your opinion about force by police and the killed three protesters?

The prime minister deputy Bülen Arınç also has admitted that the police used over force against protestors. But the thing is that the government officials could stop the violence and the overuse of force before it becomes a mess. The protests could prevent without any death and injury. There were some provocateurs inside the protestors and the police both. The normal citizens just wanted to react by going Taksim Square and in other cities and they didn’t want to involve any illegal activity. But the excessive use of teargas by police and violence toward protestors is concluded by mass demonstrations all over Turkey. I think the responsible for the deaths and damages should be put behind the bars and judged.

Prime Minister Erdogan says that Turkey is a model of economic development. What is the status of young people in this model?

Turkey’s economy is going well, that’s true, and during his 11 years, we have made a lot progress, but there is still a long way to reach to the point of a welfare state in terms of economy and finance. Unemployment rate is still high among young people. The employment and participating in the work force should be increased and the injustice in education system should be removed, if the government really wants to show its application and policies work. The new generation has no trust neither to government nor the economic stability in Turkey.

Are There limitations and restrictions about coverage of protests by Turkish media?

Yes there were… Unfortunately Turkish media and the bosses of the media groups, because they take incentives from the government, they hide and didn’t show the protests over a long time of period. A media boss apologized from its employees and people, and he said “We had betrayed to our audience and we lost their trust.” This speech shows that some forces limit and ban media tools, TVs and radios. If within a country there is a pressure on ideas and freedom of thought, there should be something wrong. If I cannot reach the relevant information and news about what’s going in my country, If we meet with censorship in everything they broadcast on TV, so I suspect either the media is bribed or the government put pressure on them. As a columnist also, my local newspaper told me not to write down about what happened in Reyhanlı and terrorist attack 2 weeks ago. This kind of limitations and to hide of information from people is a huge problem for the freedom of speech, thought and act. There are still some journalists in the prison because they wrote against the government. We don’t want that people imprison just because they express themselves.



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