In its June 8 cover story, The Economist writes: ‘It began with a grove of sycamores. For months environmentalists had been protesting against a government-backed plan to chop the trees down to make room for a shopping and residential complex in Istanbul’s Taksim Square. They organised a peaceful sit-in with tents, singing and dancing. On May 31st riot police staged a pre-dawn raid, dousing the protesters with jets of water and tear gas and setting fire to their encampment. Images of the brutality – showing some protesters bloodied, others blinded by plastic bullets – spread like wildfire across social media...’
One can see why The Economist’s witty rendition of Konstantin Kapıdağlı’s famous portrait of Selim III was irresistible, though it is perhaps a little hard on a particularly enlightened sultan. Selim III's administrative and educational reforms set the country on the road to modernisation. He was also one of the finest composers of his age. Looking down on us today, he would also have felt for the victims. In July 1808, he was murdered in his apartments in Topkapı Palace by Janissaries.