Iran: Commentary Says Turkey, Brazil `Not Listening` to People`s Criticism
Monday, June 24, 2013
Police fire on protesters in Brazil
Commentary by Nilufar Qadiri: “Roots of Protests in Brazil and Turkey”
Nowadays, protests, demonstrations, street clashes, and seeking to overthrow governments are no longer unique news in the world.
From north to south, from east to west, we can find few nations not in protest. This news no longer rouses much sensitivity or interest. But street protests in two countries have surprised analysts and have become the topic of the day. These two countries, meaning Brazil and Turkey, have many similarities and, due to the economic situation, social conditions, and political popularity of their leaders, no one foresaw that (these countries) would become the scene of such widespread street protests with slogans about overthrowing the government.
Brazil and Turkey both are among the developing countries that in the past decade and through the admirable policies of their rulers have come out of economic crisis and severe recession and are now among the top 10 economies in the world. In Turkey, Recep Tayyip Erdogan from the Justice and Development Party has so far won three rounds of elections with over 50 percent of the vote and up until these last few days everyone thought that because of his economic successes, reining in of the military power, and successful foreign policy, he is the Turks` favorite man.
In Brazil, Lula da Silva, the former president, took power from the beginning of the 2000 decade, and, during one decade, over 40 million persons in the country came out of poverty and joined the middle class. Because of these successful policies, Da Silva was called Brazil`s most popular president, and at the peak of popularity handed over power to Ms Dilma Rousseff, his close coworker and fellow party member.
Two years into the presidency of Ms Rousseff, with 70 percent popularity and favorable reception, stability and economic success of Brazil has become a model for Latin America. The nature of street protests in Brazil these days differs from Turkey. In Turkey, the protests are political in nature, but, in Brazil, people`s demands are economic. But what has pulled hundreds of thousands of individuals onto the streets, is the wrath of that group of citizens who feel they have been forgotten, and want, through these street protests, to remind the democratically-elected government of their presence.
In Turkey, the demonstrations were sparked by the objection of an environmentalist group against the demolition of a park at the corner of the Taksim Square. The demand to not demolish the green area, within two days, turned into a movement to overthrow the Erdogan Government; so even after the government caved in regarding the park`s demolition, these protests still continue. The hundreds of thousands of individuals who have, in the past three weeks in different Turkish cities, demonstrated against the person of Erdogan and shouted slogans, accuse him of unilateralism and authoritarianism and say that he has put on his agenda the demands of those who belong to and vote for the Justice and Development Party, and want to impose these demands on all the people of Turkey.
Street protesters in Turkey are mostly the secular. Of course, human rights groups advocating freedom of expression and civil liberties, journalists, and media activists also are among those opposed to Erdogan. In Brazil, the demonstrations were sparked by protests against the nine-cent rise in bus-fare in the city of Sao Paulo. This protest suddenly within two days led to the largest demonstration in the last two decades in several cities in Brazil. The demand for improved transportation system suddenly turned into the demand to impeach the president on (charges of) corruption.
When people of Sao Paulo were protesting the rise in the bus-fare and the exorbitant costs of hosting the Confederations Cup, the mayor was not in Brazil, and was, kilometers away in Paris, seeking to win the hosting of another global event, that is the World Expo for 2020. However, next year Brazil will host the World Cup, and in 2016 also the Summer Olympics. These same successive hosting that has incurred heavy costs for Brazil is one of the main reasons behind widespread protests during past days.
One of the protesters` slogans in recent days was this: “First-world stadiums, third-world schools and hospitals.” Youth unemployment in Brazil is very low, and, in current world circumstances, is considered a record. People`s standard of living in Brazil has had a remarkable growth in the last decade and millions of individuals have come out of poverty and joined the demanding middle class. This middle class, while admiring the past years` advances, scrutinizes all government behavior and protests over all mistakes. Brazilians pay high taxes and are, in this respect, among the rich countries of the world.
However, compared to the high taxes, they do not receive good public services. Meanwhile, transportation costs in big cities like Sao Paulo are very high. In this city, a worker, in order to use the crowded, polluted transportation system without an air conditioning or cooling system, has to pay one sixth of his monthly salary. Brazilians have chosen these days to demonstrate their objection to the government, because the hosting of the Confederation Cup has placed Brazil before the cameras of the global media and many foreign journalists are stationed in the country.
The governments in Brazil and Turkey, due to their high votes and popularity of the past years, had become presumptuous and would not listen to criticisms from the media and their opponents regarding those parts of their policies that were wrong and costly. In Turkey, they responded to their opponents with prison and punishment, and, for that reason, the country this year had the largest number of journalists in prison. The street protests these days reminded Ms Rousseff and Mr Erdogan that their policies have serious opponents who will not wait till next year`s elections to express their objection.
(Description of Source: Tehran Hamshahri Online in Persian -- Website of daily owned by Tehran municipality; editorial line shifts to reflect views of mayor; currently conservative Mohammad-Baqer Qalibaf who at times opposes President Ahmadinezhad; founded in 1991; www.hamshahrionline.ir)
© Compiled and distributed by NTIS, US Dept. of Commerce. All rights reserved.
Turkish Interior Ministry issues statistics on Gezi Park protests
Report by Tolga Sardan
BBC Monitoring European
June 24, 2013
Protesters holding flags from Brazil and Turkey participate in demonstration against the Brazilian government in Porto, Portugal, Tuesday June 18, 2013. Brazilians living and studying in Portugal took part in a protest in Lisbon and Porto condemning the current political and social situation in Brazil. (AP Photo/Paulo Duarte)
The Interior Ministry has issued a balance sheet regarding the Gezi Park protests. According to the report, 2.5 million people participated in the demonstrations, 4,900 individuals were detained, and close to 4,000 were injured. No protest demonstrations were held in Bingol and Bayburta.
The Interior Ministry has issued the balance sheet of the protest demonstrations that started in Taksim Gezi Park on 31 May and spread to many other provinces in Turkey. According to the information received by the Interior Ministry, the Gezi Park protests that turned into actions of “standing man” were held in 79 of 81 provinces. In the protest process of almost a month, while the majority of the demonstrations were held in Istanbul and Ankara, only in Bingol and Bayburt no protest demonstrations were held.
It was determined that about 2.5 million people took part in the Gezi Park protests. During the protests, close to 4,900 protesters were detained as “suspects,” and over 600 policemen and close to 4,000 protesters were injured.
50 “Standing Men” Daily
It was also determined that an average of 50 persons a day “individually” joined the “standing man” protests initiated by performance artist Erdem Gunduz in Taksim. The overall number of “standing men” protesters could not be determined. While some of those protesters were detained, the number of individuals who became the “standing man” the day before last was 40 in Taksim, 11 in Caglayan, and five in Kadikoy. In Ankara, there were 30 “standing men” in Kugulu Park, and 15 in Kizilay Guvenpark.
240 Police Vehicles, 45 Ambulances
According to the damage assessment report based on information given by governors` offices, 58 public buildings, 68 city surveillance cameras, and 337 workplaces were destroyed, and 90 municipality buses, 214 private vehicles, 240 police vehicles, and 45 ambulances became inoperable. It was determined that during the protests, 14 buildings of political parties among them the CHP [Republican People`s Party] building, were damaged, and that the total damage stood at 140 million Turkish Liras. It was further stated that approximately 90 per cent of that damage took place during incidents in Istanbul, Ankara, Adana, Izmir, Antalya, Artvin, Bursa, Edirne, Eskisehir, Hatay, Kocaeli, Mersin, Samsun, Kayseri, Manisa, and Tunceli.
Source: Milliyet website, Istanbul, in Turkish 23 Jun 13
© 2013 The British Broadcasting Corporation. All Rights Reserved.
Iran Commentary: Turkish Protests Due to Social Restrictions, `Disregard` for Religious Minorities
Sunday, June 23, 2013
A demonstrator kisses a Turkish flag in a show of solidarity on Paulista Avenue where crowds gathered to celebrate the reversal of a fare hike on public transportation, in Sao Paulo, Brazil, Thursday, June 20, 2013. After a week of mass protests, Brazilians won the world`s attention and a pull-back on the subway and bus fare hikes that had first ignited their rage. Protesters gathered for a new wave of massive demonstrations in Brazil on Thursday evening, extending the protests that have sent hundreds of thousands of people into the streets since last week to denounce poor public services and government corruption. (AP Photo/Nelson Antoine)
Commentary by Hamid-Reza Arianpur: “`Turkish Renewal` Instead of `Arab Spring`”
In a way, the protests in Turkey constitute a hope for the Middle East liberals since these are the first protests since 2011 when democracy was its most major motivation. Protesters in many countries who were enraged with the poverty and unemployment, took the streets with slogans calling for freedom. However, during the past decade, the Turks have experienced a high level of economic growth, flourishing trade, and a reduction in inflation and unemployment. And if today more than 60 percent of Turkish cities are scenes of protests, it is because the people are tired of the behavior of the leader of the Justice and Development Party (AKP).
Since the year he came to power, Recep Tayyip Erdogan has been using his popularity more and more each day to beat on his drum of egotism, forgetting that for centuries when the only manifestation of democracy was the ballot boxes, now respect for the rights of opponents is among the most important aspects of, especially when opponents constitute half the population of a country. Formation of a Party These days the AKP is suffering from Erdogan`s behavior, even though the party too is involved in incorrect policies. This party was established with a wide range of politicians of various political parties, some of whom like Erdogan came from banned Islamic parties. The stances of both Abdullah Gul and Bulent Arinc during the past few days have been softer than Erdogan`s stances. The core of the party was formed from the reformist faction of the Islamist Virtue Party, including people such as Abdullah Gul and Bulent Arinc. Another founding group consisted of members of the conservative Motherland Party, the Democratic Party of Turkey, and even some nationalists. A large number of people joined the party after its formation. 2002 Elections In 2002 the party won two-thirds of the seats in parliament, becoming the first party since 1991 to win an overwhelming majority. Because of a 1994 conviction for (publicly) reading a poem (of Islamic content), Erdogan could not assume the post of prime minister. As a result, Abdullah Gul assumed the post.
With the US attack on Iran, the party split over allowing the United States use Turkey`s airspace. However, it survived until with the help of the Republican People`s Party (CHP), it revised the law to open up the way for Erdogan`s premiership. Erdogan won a seat in parliament for Siirt in the mid-term elections and assumed the prime ministerial post without any problems.
The AKP`s liberal economy managed to address issues, and although its social conservatism had not been able to gain much support, it was able to win 42 percent of the votes in local elections in 2004. This success granted the party observer membership in the European People`s Party, the conservative party of the EU.
However, concerns began gradually. The party`s conservative behavior gradually emerged and on 14 April 2007, some 300,000 people demonstrated against Erdogan`s candidacy in the presidential elections. Although the party announced that Abdullah Gul would run as presidential candidate, the protests continued over the next several weeks, culminating with over one million people protesting on April 29 in Istanbul, and other extensive protests in May in other cities. These differences cast a shadow over the parliament and led to disagreement among the parties on the presidential post. It was this obstructionism by the parties opposing Erdogan that he began to think seriously about reforming the Constitution. 2007 Elections In July 2007, the party won 46 percent of the votes and 341 seats in the 550-seat parliament. The 2007 elections were significant in that even in some of the Kurdish areas, the AKP was ahead of the Kurdish parties. The CHP was defeated once again. However, the AKP won 12 percent of the votes in Tunceli, where the Alevi form a majority. At any rate, after two rounds of efforts, Abdullah Gul was elected president with a simple majority. The party then started to follow up the Constitutional reform package it had in mind and was approved after some difficulties. According to the reform package, the quorum of lawmakers needed for parliamentary decisions was reduced from 367 to 184, leaving the AKP a free hand in focusing its attention on the other major parts of society. Thus, with increased concerns over the AKP`s religious outlooks and given the changes in the law, efforts to push the party aside by resorting to the principle of secularism started. However, with EU pressure on Turkey`s Chief Prosecutor and the Supreme Court, the AKP was not banned. Despite its past record, the party won the 2009 elections as well, but with only 39 percent of the votes. In the 2004 local elections, the party had won three percent more than this.
In 2010 the party continued to follow up the reform package. Given the ADP`s opposition with major changes and given the previous changes that had been made, the AKP was unable to approve any new laws and a referendum was proposed. The reform package included a number of good issues, such as the right of individuals to appeal to the highest court, laws in favor of women`s rights, the creation of the ombudsman`s office, the possibility to negotiate a nation-wide labor contract, positive exceptions for female citizens, the right of civil servants to go on strike, and most important of all, the ability of civilian courts to convict members of the military. 2011 Elections The referendum was agreed by a majority of 58%. On the one hand this weakened the military more and more each year leading it to the current phase where it is under the jurisdiction of the government, and on the other hand, it opened up the way for Erdogan`s authoritarianism. Given all this, the dictatorship of the majority continued in 2011, and in June the AKP won 49 percent and 327 seats in parliament and gained the majority of seats for the third consecutive time. Since then Erdogan has not paid any attention to opponents. Some of the opponents, like the extreme nationalists who call for the repression of the Kurds, do not conform to human rights` values. However, the major part of today`s opponents in Turkey has noteworthy concerns. The restrictions on social freedoms and complete lack of consideration to religious minorities and, in particular, the Alevi minority, are not in line with the progressive principles of democracy.
With the economic flourish, Erdogan has assisted in the strengthening and widening of the pro-democracy middle class. However, his approach on insisting on the demands of the conservatives in society and even other personal programs have upset the other members of the party. Arinc, who was one of the founding members of the party, was the first person to apologize to the protesters in the park in Taksim Square. Following his apology, some pro-party newspapers -- even Zaman, which is close to the conservative clergy -- openly criticized Erdogan. However, Gul is Erdogan`s biggest rival within the party. Intraparty Rivalry If Gul decides to run in the 2014 presidential elections, Erdogan, who is unable to retain the premiership after two rounds and may want to run for president, will face a challenge. It should be noted that when Erdogan urged the people to not seek democracy on the streets, just a few hours later Abdullah Gul announced that democracy is more than the ballot box. It was (only) after this statement that Turkish media started covering the demonstrations. Nevertheless the protests in Turkey are not a Turkish Spring. There, the democratic mechanisms are more prevalent than in the Arab countries. However, the extensive protests and their continuation, during which many slogans are being heard against Erdogan, will undoubtedly affect Turkey`s future. Turkey`s protests are more a manifestation of efforts for a revision of democracy and making the government more committed to the new principles of democracy and, more important still, respecting opponents and not trampling on their civil rights. These days many critics, journalists, and professors are in prison. (Ellipses as published)
There is no doubt that the people of Turkey are happy with their economic situation. Although with the crash in the stock market and insuring public sector debt against default may create challenges, the AKP will not be able to neglect civil rights despite its economic achievements. Erdogan`s future is directly and fully linked with his approach on the protests in Taksim Square and other cities. In order to remain on Turkey`s political scene, Erdogan`s sole alternative is long-term true republicanism, and in order to remain popular, the AKP`s sole alternative is to reform leaders such as Erdogan or pushing them into the margin.
(Description of Source: Tehran Sharq Online in Persian -- Website of reformist daily that has been subject to intermittent bans that has eroded its quality and circulation. The most recent ban, in September 2012, was lifted in December 2012. Launched as a weekly in 1998, it became a daily in 2003; URL: www.sharghdaily.ir)
© Compiled and distributed by NTIS, US Dept. of Commerce. All rights reserved.