A Tahrir Square in the Making

When the Turkish Government planned to redevelop Taksim Square in Istanbul, Turkey's financial capital, no one expected that it would lead to a national crisis of such magnitude that it grabs headlines across the world. But the Turkish PM Reccep Tayip Erodgan has managed to do this and strike nails in his own coffin.

The Turkish PM and his party, the Justice and Development Party have been ruling since the 2002 elections and in a winning streak have stayed in power throughout these years. The party and it's government have been widely credited for having pulled Turkey out of the crippling financial crisis it faced in 2001 and making it the poster child of the economic prowess of the Muslim World.

Turkey's annual GDP growth has ranged over 5% for most of the past 10 years. In 2005, talks between Turkey and the European Union regarding Turkey joining it, something that Turkey sought for years now but couldn't obtain. The Government even began peace talks with the Kurdish Community, the largest minority group in Turkey. It's biggest achievement however, has been to spread the wealth, earlier concentrated in the hands of the Istanbul elite into the hinterlands of Turkey.

It's highly surprising that in fact of all the good work carried out by this Government, it is facing mass protests today. In countries like Libya and Tunisia, misgovernance and corruption were the key reason behind the protests. In Syria, it was mainly the suppression of the majority community by the Alawite community of Bashar al-Assas.

In Turkey, the main factor has been the authoritarianism and brutality of the Prime Minister. Throughout his reign, the Turkish Government has promoted and carried out programmes which while boosting economic growth are a growing threat to the environment. Thus, when the Government decided to redevelop Taksim Square and construct a shopping mall there, environmentalists raised a huge hue and cry.

On it's own, the protests wouldn't have had any effect. But this is where the Prime Minister's fatal flaws- authoritarianism and brutality- came into play. He ordered that the protest be crushed brutally. The police came with their tear-gas and water cannons and began making efforts to evict the protesters.

To add fuel to the fire, the media didn't cover these events. All news channels were busy showcasing food shows and documentaries on penguins. This is of course, thanks to the Prime Minister's policies which forced the press into self-censoring. The Prime Minister managed this by throwing journalists into jail for frivolous reasons. In fact, Turkey today has the highest number of journalists in jail, even more than China.

The fact that the media didn't cover these protests sparked the flames in the minds of thousands of urban middle-class Turkish. They came out in full force and began to demand the resignation of the Prime Minister, who meanwhile stubbornly refused to concede that the protesters were normal citizens angered by the Government's actions. He continues to claim that they were funded and supported by foreign elements.

While Mr. Erodgan managed to deliver good governance, it has clearly not been enough. The protesters will not give up any time soon. The Prime Minister must take care to avoid further antagonizing the protesters and instead take damage-control measures. If he refuses to do this, well, Taksim Square does have the potential to become a Tahrir Square.

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