KATHRYN JEAN LOPEZ: Are the protests in Turkey more Arab Spring or Occupy Wall Street?
BARRY RUBIN: The idea that this is some far-Left thing is a slander by Islamists. Those involved include a wide front of social democrats, liberals, and conservatives — usually called center-right in Turkey — and all sorts of people who are tired of a ten-year-long march toward Islamism. This is the kind of thing we should be supporting. Instead, unfortunately, the Obama administration is on the side of the democratically elected dictator, so to speak.
LOPEZ: What is this exposing about Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan?
RUBIN: His vicious, oppressive side. He’s the man who said that democracy was like a streetcar and you just decide where to get off. He has intimidated the once-free media, harassed the courts, and supported Iran and terrorist groups abroad. This week he was busy trying to destroy the Turkish republican tradition of beer drinking. He is trying to undo 70 years of social progress in Turkey.
LOPEZ: Do words like “dictator” and “tyranny” overdramatize the situation?
RUBIN: The Western mass media have not covered what’s been going on in Turkey during the last decade. Listen to what millions of Turks say. The media-economic power of the regime is incredible. There are many anecdotes: a television journalist practically trembling while talking to me about repression in his office; the billing of a newspaper for hundreds of millions of alleged tax debts unless it toed the regime line; the women who fear to walk through Istanbul neighborhoods unless dressed in Turkish-style “Islamic garb”; the anti-American propaganda; the knowledge of government officials that you will be promoted faster if your wife wears a headscarf; the thousands of political prisoners; the Jewish family firm told that, after almost a century of providing equipment to the government, they shouldn’t bother to put in bids any more; the anti-Semitic website that, behind the scenes, was sponsored by the ministry of education; a retired general sentenced to a year in prison for telling a villager that the government had betrayed the country. A lot of the truth was reported by the U.S. embassy, as we can see in the Wikileaks.
LOPEZ: Is there any chance of this ending well?
RUBIN: I don’t think so. The army is finished; opposition politicians are fools at worst and incompetents at best. Maybe these demonstrations will mobilize a new opposition. Maybe it will make the ruling AKP go slower, or maybe it will become more openly oppressive. Moderates and pro-Western forces in Turkey know they cannot depend on accurate media reporting or Western assistance.