A Question Of Respect - Why The Protests In Turkey Are Different

A whirling sufi protesting in Ankara on June 2
A whirling sufi protesting in Ankara on June 2
Ahmet Hakan

ISTANBUL - This does not look like the semi-official demonstrations that preceded the May 27, 1960 Coup d’état where chants of “the military and the people walk hand-in-hand” were heard.

This does not look like those political rallies intolerant to the lifestyle of religious people, where the demand of “We do not want a headscarved first lady” was voiced.

This does not look like the demonstration with those brutal “the army called to duty” banners, demanding another coup.

This does not look like the merciless actions aimed at the elected rulers that drew strength from the military.

This does not look like those illegal groups vandalizing the public space with Molotov cocktails, iron weapons and thrown stones.

This does not look like the charmless noises made by a small group of elites eager not to lose their privileges.

This does not look like the Ergenekon demonstrations, actions promoted by the so-called "deep state" or the calculated rallies with secret agendas.

This does not look like the churlish demonstrations in which the most unjust people chant wild slogans.

This is something different…This is something completely different.

What is this then, the past four days of spreading unrest on Turkey's streets? Just what sort of phenomenon are we witnessing?

Something like this, more or less:

This is the cry of those who say “don’t say ‘I have decided this and it will be done’ by relying on your majority status; hear what I have to say too.”

This is the plea of those who say “Speak kindly to me, do not look down on me and treat me with care.”

This is the reasoning of those who say “I do not intervene in your lifestyle, do not intervene in mine.”

This is the rage of those who say “You may not love what I love, but you have to show me respect.”

This is the roar of those who say “Do not perceive yourself as the Prime Minister of the 50% only, be my Prime Minister too.”

This is the people who say “Do not be stubborn, do not use force, learn to take a step back,” and by doing so, standing tall.

This is the call from those who say “Do not say I know what is best; pay attention to the sensitivities of the people who are not with you, even if they were just one percent.”

This is the warning of those who say: “Put regulations on alcohol but do not look down on those in front of you while doing so.”

This is people standing up and saying: “Enough! Stop with the pepper spray…You have practically changed the climate of the country.”

This is the bursting out of those who say: “If you only care about the freedoms of those like you, then I stand up for my freedoms.

In short…

This is not a matter that can be explained by saying “ideological things”, “deep state”, “provocateurs”, “illegal organizations” or “CHP” (Republican People's Party).

Like I said: This is something else; something completely different…

June 1 protests and violence in Ankara - Photo: Sabri76


LESSON 1: The terrain that is called “social media” is an uncontrolled space. The news there is subjected to no filters. People who provoke things by saying “50 people were murdered” have the same voice as people trying to calm things down. Therefore, you should not let social media be the one and only news source. It gets to play the leading role in an atmosphere in which the television channels and televisions cannot cover the events properly. In such a situation, what is the meaning of (Prime Minister Tayyip Recep Erdogan) whimpering about “They tweeted lies, created chaos, caused provocation?”

LESSON 2: I was in the streets. I observed, listened to the slogans and tried to understand the target of the rage. Nobody I saw was reacting to President Abdullah Gül, or to Deputy Prime Minister Bülent Arinç or the chief of police. Nor were they reacting to the governor or mayor. A single name was spoken everywhere: Tayyip Erdogan. Why? I think it is because Tayyip Erdogan talks about a project to be built in Istanbul more than the city’s mayor. Exactly like Tayyip Erdogan talking about the Syrian issue more than the foreign minister. Is it not natural for one person to be the target of all the rage when one person is perceived as the single decision-maker?

Keep up with the world. Break out of the bubble.
Sign up to our expressly international daily newsletter!

What It Means When The Jews Of Germany No Longer Feel Safe

A neo-Nazi has been buried in the former grave of a Jewish musicologist Max Friedlaender – not an oversight, but a deliberate provocation. This is just one more example of antisemitism on the rise in Germany, and society's inability to respond.

At a protest against antisemitism in Berlin

Eva Marie Kogel


BERLIN — If you want to check the state of your society, there's a simple test: as the U.S. High Commissioner for Germany, John Jay McCloy, said in 1949, the touchstone for a democracy is the well-being of Jews. This litmus test is still relevant today. And it seems Germany would not pass.

Incidents are piling up. Most recently, groups of neo-Nazis from across the country traveled to a church near Berlin for the funeral of a well-known far-right figure. He was buried in the former grave of Jewish musicologist Max Friedlaender, a gravesite chosen deliberately by the right-wing extremists.

The incident at the cemetery

They intentionally chose a Jewish grave as an act of provocation, trying to gain maximum publicity for this act of desecration. And the cemetery authorities at the graveyard in Stahnsdorf fell for it. The church issued an immediate apology, calling it a "terrible mistake" and saying they "must immediately see whether and what we can undo."

There are so many incidents that get little to no media attention.

It's unfathomable that this burial was allowed to take place at all, but now the cemetery authorities need to make a decision quickly about how to put things right. Otherwise, the grave may well become a pilgrimage site for Holocaust deniers and antisemites.

The incident has garnered attention in the international press and it will live long in the memory. Like the case of singer-songwriter Gil Ofarim, who recently claimed he was subjected to antisemitic abuse at a hotel in Leipzig. Details of the crime are still being investigated. But there are so many other incidents that get little to no media attention.

Photo of the grave of Jewish musicologist Max Friedlaender

The grave of Jewish musicologist Max Friedlaender

Jens Kalaene/dpa/ZUMA

Crimes against Jews are rising

Across all parts of society, antisemitism is on the rise. Until a few years ago, Jewish life was seen as an accepted part of German society. Since the attack on the synagogue in Halle in 2019, the picture has changed: it was a bitter reminder that right-wing terror against Jewish people has a long, unbroken history in Germany.

Stories have abounded about the coronavirus crisis being a Jewish conspiracy; meanwhile, Muslim antisemitism is becoming louder and more forceful. The anti-Israel boycott movement BDS rears its head in every debate on antisemitism, just as left-wing or post-colonial thinking are part of every discussion.

Jewish life needs to be allowed to step out of the shadows.

Since 2015, the number of antisemitic crimes recorded has risen by about a third, to 2,350. But victims only report around 20% of cases. Some choose not to because they've had bad experiences with the police, others because they're afraid of the perpetrators, and still others because they just want to put it behind them. Victims clearly hold out little hope of useful reaction from the state – so crimes go unreported.

And the reality of Jewish life in Germany is a dark one. Sociologists say that Jewish children are living out their "identity under siege." What impact does it have on them when they can only go to nursery under police protection? Or when they hear Holocaust jokes at school?

Germany needs to take its antisemitism seriously

This shows that the country of commemorative services and "stumbling blocks" placed in sidewalks as a memorial to victims of the Nazis has lost its moral compass. To make it point true north again, antisemitism needs to be documented from the perspective of those affected, making it visible to the non-Jewish population. And Jewish life needs to be allowed to step out of the shadows.

That is the first thing. The second is that we need to talk about specifically German forms of antisemitism. For example, the fact that in no other EU country are Jewish people so often confronted about the Israeli government's policies (according to a survey, 41% of German Jews have experienced this, while the EU average is 28%). Projecting the old antisemitism onto the state of Israel offers people a more comfortable target for their arguments.

Our society needs to have more conversations about antisemitism. The test of German democracy, as McCloy called it, starts with taking these concerns seriously and talking about them. We need to have these conversations because it affects all of us. It's about saving our democracy. Before it's too late.

Keep up with the world. Break out of the bubble.
Sign up to our expressly international daily newsletter!