About "Fishy" Demonstrations

— Protesters in Taksim Square —

Whenever someone tells me that the mobilisation of large numbers of people is “fishy”, my blood starts to boil. Perhaps because I remember all too well when in March 2005 we were being called agents of Israel and the west when we were protesting in Beirut. Or perhaps because I remember very well how Gaddafi was dismissing tens of thousands of protesters as “cockroaches” and “gnats”.

Today, I am constantly being disappointed by people, people I otherwise like and respect, because they keep telling me about how the demonstrations in Turkey are “fishy”, with more than a hint that Syrian and Iranian hands are behind this.

I understand why they love and respect Prime Minister Erdogan of Turkey for standing by the Syrian people. I also understand that his supporters in Turkey greatly outnumber the protesters on the street, but that will not change the golden rule I believe in regarding large protests:

“When a large number of people demonstrate, it is always because of a legitimate perception of injustice committed against them”

It sounds simple and straightforward, and yet many people keep ignoring that rule and insisting that there must be some sort of conspiracy designed to mobilize those people. That is unbelievably condescending and patronising to entire groups of people who are being beaten and gassed simply for showing up and protesting.

Just because these people are protesting against someone you like, it doesn’t mean that you’re in a position to judge the legitimacy of their cause.

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  • http://teacalls.com Tala Ghalayini

    I’m not up to speed with all the details in turkey, and honestly – I reserve the right to critique their motives because I’m neither turkish nor live there, which tells me, let the ppl involved decide their own course. I will, however, humbly criticize ur statement: “That is unbelievably condescending and patronising to entire groups of people who are being beaten and gassed simply for showing up and protesting” and say, it is EQUALLY patronizing and condescending to say ” It sounds simple and straightforward, and yet many people keep ignoring that rule” as if anyone with a different opinion is “simply” superficial and unsympathetic. I’m just arguing that for someone so ardent against making judgements and not being able to follow “simple rules”, you sound pretty judgmental. just saying.

    • http://beirutspring.com Mustapha

      Fine, I’ll give you that :) , in my mind it sounded more like a strong-worded opinion than a judgment of people’s mental abilities..

  • http://wordzwizard.wordpress.com WordzWizard

    I’d “simply” like to add that whilst you have different views than mine regarding this, I was not disappointed with what you had to say. I don’t think there are external elements to this situation, but rather, internal Turkish political opponents who are using this opportunity to their advantage, no conspiracy there. March 14 used the situation to their advantage in 2005 to drive the Syrian troops out, political precedents abound. There are also political precedents to ghost coups, I’d recommend “The Revolution Will Not Be Televised” a video documentary which chronicles “protests” against Hugo Chavez in 2002 and his overthrow for 47 hours, Mossadeg’s overthrow in 1953 is another historical fact, and not conspiracy. While the right to protest is a sacred right and violence against those protesters by the state is unacceptable, attacking legitimate claims and labeling them as the product of simpletons is equally unacceptable.

    • http://beirutspring.com Mustapha

      Ok you guys are giving this “simply” word way too many unintended overtones…

  • Nadine

    “When a large number of people demonstrate, it is always because of a legitimate injustice committed against them”

    I would recommend that to drop the “legitimate” and switch to “perceived”. The legitimacy of a complaint is often debatable. For example, look at the French protests against gay marriage. The protesters might complain an injustice, but I would say that the decision is on the right side of history and human rights. This is of course the debate in itself.

    Closer to home, would the Hesbollah demonstration against the first March 14 one qualify in your opinion to the same principle?

    However, I do agree that people tend to look for conspiracies underneath every rock.

    • http://beirutspring.com Mustapha

      Hey Nad,

      I was expecting that someone will make that point as I was thinking of it in my head… I had thought that “legitimate perception of injustice” was implied, but now that I’m reading again, I think I should add it…

  • Bronxman

    The protests in Istanbul started out against the construction of a shopping mall and replacing a park in the heart of the city. The decision to build was enacted by the PM himself (nothing better to do). This decision followed a recent decision, again by the PM, to restrict alcohol consumption after 22:00. Such items are normally handled at municiple level and the people directly affected are consulted. Non violent protests resulted and the police reacted in overdrive (probably under orders). What you have here is amateur planning compounded by overreaction. As in similar cases in the neighborhood the usual suspects were blamed – opposition party, unnamed foreign influences, looters, terrorists, etc. So, a “demonstaration” can be for a legitmate reason, even if you don’t agree. At least in a democracy a government should be aware that many voters are both involved and reasonably intelligent.

  • Anonymous

    Although I understand your point, people turning to conspiracy theories is a recurrent trend in the region that seems immune to generation changes.

    It much more bothers me the lightness with witch people have begun to compare the Turkish events and the government’s repressive reaction there to what happened in Tunisia or Egypt. One thing is to be, by now, used to the unbearable political lightness of people commenting on the ME. But, frankly, when I heard that the hyenas who didn’t hesitate to bomb entire cities of their own country to rubble in Syria had the nerve to ask Erdogan to quit the country for using too strong water canyons, I just wanted to vomit.

  • Anonymous

    Maybe the demonstrations in Turkey are about problems in Turkey (an overreaching government and no credible opposition) and have nothing to do with Syria?