THE BLOG

Neo-Ottomanism At Center of Istanbul Clashes

ISTANBUL -- Police and protestors reignited clashes in Istanbul after a period of relative quiet. Gas and water cannons were used to keep protestors out of Taksim Square and the major roads leading thereto. Police pressed through into side streets attempting to completely clear neighborhoods from foot traffic.

The crowds felt increasingly rough this Saturday and clashes continued into the night. Similar to previous protests, many unknowing participants have been caught up in the clashes. Police chased after protestors on the same streets where moments later families attempted to make their way back to homes and cars.

In the past the Prime Minister has roused his supporters with heated rhetoric, intentionally characterizing the protestors as violent, anti-Islamic, alcoholics. On June 16, many party supporters took to the streets with weapons after Erdoğan gave two such colorful speeches in Istanbul: one planned rally in Zeytinburnu and another at the 'Turkish Olympics' in Şirinevler.

The 'Turkish Olympics' event speaks to the larger issue of neo-Ottoman zeal in Turkey and specifically in Erdoğan's AKP party. At the event children from Turkish schools worldwide compete in song, poetry and literature contests conducted entirely in Turkish. This year massive crowds overflowed a stadium for several days of events. Spectators were thrilled to see young children flown in from all ends of the earth to speak, sing and read Turkish.

World peace through learning Turkish is emphasized by the heavily religious network, which has been quickly expanding throughout the globe. The school maintains a confusing network that is led, or they like to say 'inspired' by, a religious leader in exile.

An over-emphasis on Turkey's Ottoman past has been a persistent complaint against the current AKP government. The plan to build Ottoman era barracks in Gezi Park was curtailed by the current protests. Similarly, an architect designing a tandem mosque to be built adjacent to the park heavily disputed requests that he emphasize an 'ottoman style'. Recently Istanbul got its own Ottoman-style Disneyland fitted with free days for disadvantaged youth and historical ottoman history lessons.

A specific characterization of the Ottoman empire sparkled with a heavily Islamic flare seem to be the order of the day here in Erdoğan's group -- and exactly what the secular protestors seem to be rallying against.