A year ago, my wife and I were staying at the small hotel whose entrance you can see in this video of an armored police van pursuing protesters heading down a street near Taksim Square yesterday. Tear gas wafted into the buildings, including the home of my friend Joe Malloy, whose apartment is next door to the hotel. Malloy, who has been living in Turkey for a decade, says he’s hopeful that the protests will bring about a change in Prime Minister Tayyip Erdoğan’s Sultanoid leadership style. I have my doubts, but then what do I know?
What I’m struck by is the Erdoğan regime’s combo platter of neo-liberalism and Islamism. Contradicting Tom Friedman’s thesis in The Lexus and the Olive Tree, it’s not the traditional values crowd that’s protesting Turkey’s flat-world-by-fiat economics. It’s the secular urbanites who should be embracing it.
Of course, Istambulitans have long been attached to their rakı and their Efes beer, and secularism has, thanks to Ataturk, been the tradition for nearly a century. Still, when you think of it, an American should be the last person to be surprised by the neo-liberal Islamism of Erdoğan’s Justice and Development Party.
Our own GOP likewise staked its fortunes on marrying laissez-faire economics to the old-time religion. And even if the couple is looking a good deal less than frisky after more than three decades together, there’s no sign of an impending divorce.