I notice a peculiar slant in the reporting of recent protests in Instanbul. While we could be framing these events as a Western, European nation struggling to maintain its long-standing traditions of personal freedom and democracy instead we seem bent on tying these events to the Middle East and the Arab Spring. I think that this reveals our biases as Americans regarding Muslim nations. I think that if this was the people of Canada or Great Britain taking to the streets objecting to a Prime Minister implementing policies outside of the democratic norm we would be up in arms; literally. But because Turkey is a country that we associate with the Middle East, we assume that the people protesting are used to severe forms of rule, that they have no rights to begin with, and that their government is not an elected body. Moreover, we assume that the Turkish people themselves have low expectations for quality of life, governmental behavior, and civil rights. None of these things are true.
Modern Turkey is a busy, vibrant, and democratic society. It is a European country with a parliamentary democracy. The Turkish people are generally outspoken about their role as a neighbor to the Middle East and do not consider themselves a part of the larger regional context or conflicts. That the Turkish people have taken to the streets means that there is something not well in their government. They are an important part of Europe that cannot be allowed to destabilize politically or economically and a stabilizing and charitable neighbor to the Middle East.
The people of Istanbul have something to say and why not listen? They are saying it in perfect English.