I had the opportunity to hear Didem Danish, a professor of urban sociology, speak about the current events in Turkey. Like my friend I spoke to at the beginning of my trip, she is extremely excited about the recent activity. This is despite the fact that she does not think it will change the electoral balance. “It is very difficult to disrupt the right wing – 50%-60% of Turks are right wing. The only thing that would do it, and I don’t think this will happen, is the rise of another right wing party to split the vote.” She thinks long term, however, that the engagement of youth in the political process and the higher profile of issues of freedom of the press, protection of urban public spaces, freedom of assembly, etc., will be good for Turkey.
Professor Danish also made an interesting distinction. She argued, “I don’t see the Occupy Gezi movement as related to the Arab uprisings. Turkey is not Egypt. Tayyip Erdogan has authoritarian tendencies, but he is not Mubarak.”
Speaking of the Arab uprisings, I had an unexpected conversation with an acquaintance who goes to Syria quite a bit. A friend who goes to Syria quite a bit. “At first I was very sympathetic to the Syrian rebellion. But now, and I am embarrassed to admit this, I am almost privately in favor of the regime. The rebellion is so divided and is made of so many different people. 50% of the Syrians favor the regime. At least under the regime there was order. Also, whenever external groups get involved I get suspicious. Especially the American Republicans. They ruined Iraq, absolutely ruined it. So when John McCain wants to come in, I figure I likely should be opposed to it.”