Iran, Turkey, and the Non-Arab Street

Protestors clash with Turkish riot policemen on the way to Taksim Square in Istanbul on June 5, 2013

To Western eyes, Middle East politics have again been stood on their head. Iran’s theocratic mullahs allowed the election of Hassan Rowhani, a man who announced in his first speech as President-elect that his victory is “the victory of wisdom, moderation, and awareness over fanaticism and bad behavior.”

Iranians, apparently surprised that the candidate whom a majority of them had backed (over six harder-line candidates) had won, poured into the streets and hailed a victory “for the people.” To be sure, it was a carefully controlled election: all candidates who might actually have challenged Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei’s authority were disqualified in advance. But, within those limits, the government allowed the people’s votes to be counted.

Why Are Turks So Angry?

Security Personnel prepare to disperse protestors in Turkey.

Turkey’s Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and his Justice and Development Party (AKP) have had significant successes since coming to power in 2002. Erdoğan rescued Turkey’s economy, which had been reeling. He established Turkey as a world power, increasing its influence on the world stage. He also brought Turkey’s abusive military and bureaucratic establishment to heel. Turkish voters welcomed Erdoğan’s charismatic leadership and gave the AKP a mandate in three national elections. So, it was a surprise when demonstrations over a commercial development project in Istanbul’s Taksim Square spiraled into violent protests in 60 cities across the country. Why are Turks so angry?

Erdoğan’s polarizing personality is largely to blame. His arrogance and hubris make him a lightning rod for controversy. Police brutality, including the use of tear gas and water cannon, has enraged protesters adding fuel to the fire. Instead of taking on board their concerns, Erdoğan impugned them as thugs, hooligans, and looters. Erdoğan has become increasingly authoritarian, acting more like a sultan than a public servant.


Notes from BRISMES

Tawakkol Karman, the women who sparked the Yemen protests into life.
Tawakkol Karman, the women who sparked the Yemen protests into life. Change Square, Sanaa, Yemen, 15 April 2011. Photo: Kate B Dixon/flickr.

The final outcome of the political unrest that continues to shake the Middle East remains far from certain. With that in mind, on 11thJune more than 140 young scholars and students met at the London School of Economics and Political Science’s Middle East Centre for the Annual Graduate Conference of the British Society of Middle Eastern Studies. Change and Continuity in the Middle East: Rethinking West-Asia, North Africa and the Gulf After 2011 – sponsored by the International Relations and Security Network (ISN) and other donors – provided a forum for their views on a number of key issues.

Government Vs Protester: The Year Ahead

Image: Tony Fischer Photography/Flickr

The 6-month anniversary of the Occupy movement in the United States brought much rhetoric along with promises of the blossoming of an American Spring. From elections to high-profile summits, 2012 will be a busy year for protesters. Meanwhile, the U.S. government and local governments will no longer be caught flat-footed in response, and are gearing up for a year of civil unrest.

Nowhere will local restrictions on protest be more publicly displayed than in Chicago next month. As the city prepares to host the NATO Summit, Occupiers are making plans for hundreds of thousands of protesters to descend on the city in order to speak out against international displays of violence by NATO forces and the “effects of the economic crisis caused by the leaders” who will be gathering in the city.

Tibetans end hunger strike in New York

Three Tibetans are recovering in a New York hospital after breaking a 30-day fast meant to call international attention to what they describe as “China’s inhumane crimes towards Tibetans.”

The men were visited by two UN officials on Thursday and presented with a letter from United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay.

“I wish to bring to your attention that the human rights mechanisms of the United Nations are actively engaged in your concerns,” Pillay wrote, also expressing her concern about the health of the three men.