The great historian puts it all down to ‘yet another example of the politician’s 10-year itch. If, as they said of Margaret Thatcher, he had given up office on his 10th anniversary earlier this year, he would have gone down in history as one of the great Turks.' (Evening Standard, Protests show the frailty of Turkey’s ‘progress’, June 4,). ‘All of this has come to a head with the vast demonstrations in Istanbul. People from almost all sections of the country have come together, outraged at the initial police brutality against some harmless souls who wanted to stop the building of yet another shopping mall over one of central Istanbul’s few remaining green places. The demonstrations have spread to every sizeable place in the more advanced parts of the country... They fear that, if Erdogan proceeds in his present mood, the whole country will come to resemble Trabzon on the Black Sea coast – a place with a magnificent natural situation and splendid monuments, buried in a mass of hideous concrete...’ Read more
In The Spectator, (What's Eating Turkey, June 8), Prof Stone again gives credit where credit is due, comparing the early years of AKP rule with that of Italy's Christian Democrats – 'The party’s representatives were often approachable and took a joke; Zaman, the intellectual Islamic newspaper, is well edited and has columnists with varied opinions. The currency was stabilised – no more of these million notes that made foreigners titter and Turks cringe – and exports boomed.' Then all of a sudden, 'instead of recognising differences, and allowing dissenters to support who they choose, an Islamic absolutism has taken hold. The details are grotesque.'
'The government has dug its heels in, and the silly puritanism goes on and on: injunctions in the Tube stations to ‘behave morally’, and internet censorship (if I search for Daily Mail in my internet café the word ‘forbidden’ comes up, because someone mistakes ‘Mail’ for ‘male’). There are plans for a gigantic concrete mosque on the last remaining green hill on the Asiatic side of the Bosphorus. It will be a universally visible eyesore… and yet another nice earner for the construction companies who form this government’s brigade of guards...' Read more
Norman Stone is the author of Turkey: A Short History (Thames & Hudson, £9.95)
Also see Rod Liddle Specator blog on the BBC's coverage, Turkey redux (June 8)