As we discussed in class, there are currently many social and political changes taking place in Turkey right now. For those of you that might recall, about three weeks ago a park in Istanbul known as Taksim Square was being claimed by many locals living in Istanbul as a "green space," and many people wanted to protect it from being destroyed. In many ways, this park seems to have served locals in many ways like our very own Central Park in N.Y.C. has. For example, children frequent the park to picnic, occasionally there are outdoor concerts and perhaps most of all, it is claimed by all as a refuge to the bustling streets of Istanbul. It's not too surprising that many of the locals grew quite upset when they heard that the Prime Minister, Tayyip Erodgan, was planning on building a new shopping mall in the park, which would ultimately result in the park's destruction.
Since then much of the tone of the conversation has changed, and at times people grew frustrated that their voice was being silenced and new ideas emerged about what it means to be democratic in Turkey.
Turkey became a democratic country in 1923, and Mustafa Kemal Attaturk became the key figure that led a change to a more participatory form of government. This revolutionary change, from a dictatorship to a democracy, took place as the first World War came to an end. After the war ended, many dictatorships and monarchies looked to include more voices in their governance. 1923 marked the official end of the Ottoman empire, which was one of the longest lasting, most expansive and unique empires that the world had ever seen, and since then, its people have worked to shape a society that sits at crossroads of the "East" and the "West."
Turkey's modern history has been one that is too familiar to our own early history. As many of you may know, I am from Philadelphia, which has a rich colonial history rooted in our very own American Revolution, and I look forward to being a keen observer about this moment in their democratic history.
In the meantime, I encourage you, as I normally do, to watch the news, collect the facts, grapple with them and create an informed opinion. Here are some sources that I recommend:
I'll leave you with this to ponder:
"As I would not be a slave, so I would not be a master. This expresses my idea of democracy."
Questions for comments: (Feel free to post comments and answer these questions. I look forward to seeing your thoughts!)
- Do you agree or disagree with Lincoln's idea of a democracy? Explain.
- How is Turkey's change to a democracy similar and different to our own? Compare the American revolution to the current events in Turkey.
I fly out tomorrow afternoon. More updates to come.
With Traveling Butterflies In My Belly,