The Republic of Turkey is a democratic, secular state of law with a historic, deep-rooted and wealthy culture dating back 2,500 years, the continuation of numerous regional states established in a swathe of territory extending from Asia to the European interior and from the Mediterranean to the Indian Ocean.
Two great states founded by our nation, the Seljuk and Ottoman empires, became models for the world. With its unbounded tolerance and love, it adopted the principle of Peace in the Homeland, Peace in the World, on matters such as liberty, human rights and justice. The Turkish state and nation want peace, tranquility and love in the world.
Of course, like many other states, our country has overcome hard times and has undergone intense struggles for democracy. The republican administration is in its 90th year, and the transition to a multiparty democracy took place 67 years ago. As of 2002, the country has been enjoying a new spring and is governed according to the legal and democratic norms in European Human Rights standards. The Turkish spring, with its pluralist democracy, is reflected in the parliament and local administrations with substantial majorities' votes in consecutive elections.
An environmental rearrangement scheduled for Gezi Park in Taksim, Istanbul turned into a protest action for reasons such as the lack of proper public relations works, the planned project not being submitted for the approval of the residents of the city and some of our citizens not regarding the steps being taken as acceptable. Our valuable young people making use of their democratic right to protest freely were exposed to a mistaken and harsh attitude on the part of the police in the first days of the protests. Some illegal organizations that regarded this as an opportunity and have for decades been trying to incite the public to take to the streets and that wanted to give the impression of an uprising against the state immediately sheltered behind this environmental protest. They burned around a thousand vehicles, attacked hundreds of shops, set fire to buildings and led to thousands of policemen being injured. From that point, environmentalist protests that began for innocent and justified reasons, turned into a terror activity.
In brief, no action using terror and violence, that raises tensions in Istanbul and the entire country and that damages public order and peace is acceptable in this country, as it would not be in any other democratic country. The fact that in public opinion polls 83% of the public demand an immediate end to the street protests verging on anarchy is highly significant.
It is perfectly possible for Gezi Park to be protected, as the environmentalists want, or even made more attractive. Moreover, I think that this is very necessary for our people in terms of style and art because Taksim Square is the center and symbol of the city.
The Italian artists can be invited. A large pool could be built in the square. A large pool with statues on which swans and ducks paddle about, as in London, Rome, Vienna and Paris. There could be bronze statues of lions or statues of people. Young people could dangle their feet in it, play guitars, sing and have fun. Pigeons can fly about. The park can be expanded downward and to the sides with more green areas, and large trees can be planted. If so desired, cafeterias and restaurants can be built, so long as they do not impair the greenery. The project could even be expanded with the demolition of some buildings in the area, and these areas could be added to the park.
Taksim Gezi Park could become a global center. A park that springs to mind whenever Istanbul is mentioned.
To consider the matter in religious terms, the Prophet Muhammad prohibited statues on a temporary basis as a precaution against idolatry. Sculpture is not prohibited in our religion. Temporary bans can always be imposed. The Koran says that the palace of the Prophet Solomon was decorated with statues and works of art. The Torah also speaks of statues of lions and cherubim. There were statues of children. The holy books provide detailed descriptions. Therefore, faith encourages art and beauty as it does science. And the world becomes a lovelier place with these fine things.
In the same way, the AKM (Ataturk Culture Center) that stands in Taksim could be turned into a very large cultural center, with a splendid external appearance befitting Istanbul, where all kinds of cultural activity can be held inside, such as opera, theater, fine arts and exhibitions. That project can be put to the public with ideas from all sections of society, and the world's most renowned architects.
Young people with sincere environmental beliefs involved in the Gezi Park protest, fine young people, young people with broad horizons, intelligent young people, these are our people. They have a modern conception of Islam. They are against extremism and bigotry. They are ultra modern. They are people of love. They are compassionate, they feel affection for dogs and cats and trees, and feel sorry for the poor. They enhance their own culture. They are kind and respectful toward one another.
Turkish people attach great importance to these characteristics, liberty and democracy. The whole world knows this is what makes Turkey different from the Middle East. Indeed, is that not why the Western world points to Turkey as a role model for eastern countries?
The verse of the Koran that reads "There is no compulsion in the religion" (2:256) shows that the faith foresees the most highly developed democracy.
In the last decade in particular Turkey has made great progress in human rights and democracy, compared to the past. Western countries have admired and encouraged this progress. The analyses being made through the Gezi Park events should also be similarly constructive. In particular, the way for the democratic structure we all want to see to flourish in the Middle East is for Turkey's progressive and enlightened character to be shown them as a role model.