EK: I don't think this movement is so much about culture. I see protestors who have very different lifestyles, including young women with headscarves and old war veterans who admire Ataturk. (Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, founder of modern Turkey and the man who put Turkey on the path to secular, parliamentary democracy.)
AB: Turkey's economy continues to produce. That helps Erdogan politically, doesn't it?
EK: Surely. But in the long term, there might be troubles. Turkey's economy is not import-based. And it still didn't adapt itself to new technologies. With this trend, it will fail to use the advantages of its educated young population.
AB: Are the protests changing Turkey's political landscape?
EK: Definitely. It won't force Erdogan to resign, but he'll probably get the message: "Don't try to be president if you'll continue behaving with such authoritarianism."
AB: Last question. Let me quote from a speech I gave in New York, at a December 2011 UN symposium on Ataturk's legacy. "Arab Spring 2011, unsettled as it is, may have given the world an unexpected gift by clarifying the extraordinary value of Ataturk's legacy. The democratic structure he created, the social and political process he authored, are Turkey's most valuable foreign policy tool and greatest domestic asset." In 2013, is Turkey in danger of losing its greatest asset?
EK: Turkey was shown as a model to Arab Spring countries, and this image is surely stained now. Erdogan advised the Muslim Brotherhood (in Egypt) to support a secular democracy and pushed for pluralist democracy in Syria. Now many Arabs in these countries may say to him: "Then, firstly, you gotta practice what you preach, Mr. Erdogan."
Austin Bay is the author of three novels. His third novel, The Wrong Side of Brightness, was published by Putnam/Jove in June 2003. He has also co-authored four non-fiction books, to include A Quick and Dirty Guide to War: Third Edition (with James Dunnigan, Morrow, 1996).
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