By now you will have seen pictures of police battles, burning tires, riot shields and tear-gas – stricken protesters. These images have become so familiar to us that we are almost immune to them. But what you can't get from the pictures is the extraordinary transformation that took place in Istanbul.
What began as a protest against the demolition of one of the few remaining green spaces in Istanbul has become a beacon of radicalization for the whole country. Suddenly many demonstrations against the government started all over Turkey for numerous grievances, including Prime Minster Erdogan’s alleged abuse of power, his regime’s arrests of journalists, his “Islamist” agenda, and his push for a new constitution that will concentrate power in an expanded presidency . What is particularly interesting about this new development is that it blurs religious and ideological boundaries!
But there isn't a coherent plan, rather a cry of pain. The greatest problem in Turkey right now is the lack of political opposition.
This is a crossroads for the country. If the government realizes that it represents those who have not voted for it just as much as those who have; and celebrate diversity through more democracy, freedom of speech and human rights, Turkey could become an exemplar state throughout the Muslim world. If the government takes the other path, however, and uses today's tensions as convenient propaganda material for the forthcoming elections, not only will Turkish democracy be badly bruised, but the entire region will also be affected.