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The Clash of ‘Nations’ in Turkey: Reflections on the Gezi Park Incident

This article argues that the devastating mass demonstrations triggered by a humble environmentalist protest in the Gezi Park of İstanbul cannot be understood without taking into account the notion of ‘culture’. The driving force behind the demonstrations, which turned into an extensive social outburst, is cultural and rooted in the worries of the secular people of the country about the shrinking ground of their lifestyle as a result of government pressures. What happened during the weeks of Gezi Park demonstrations was actually a reaction of these people to the ‘official’ trend of intensification toward religious morality in daily life and the public space.

The Clash of Nations in Turkey Reflections on the Gezi
People stand on the flashpoint Taksim square in Istanbul during a wave of new alternative protests. EPA
 

“One cannot flatly deny the probability that there will arise two nations in Turkey, one secular, the other Islamic. The possibility of a violent confrontation between these two clusters seems distant but might become realistic in the future.”1

Professor Şerif Mardin made the above spine-tingling prediction about the future of Turkey nearly 25 years ago, and he very well might feel that time has confirmed his warning.2 Indeed, the recent social outburst in Turkey, which stemmed from a small park in İstanbul and spread to all major cities of the country, has many indications that it can be taken as a proof for Mardin’s ‘far-sightedness.’

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