New Turkey Protests Taking Arab Spring Overtones

Following the death of a young protester in a Turkish city by police, a new wave of protests in Turkey are giving off hints of the Arab Spring.

Turkish police facing off against demonstrators in Ankara

Turkish police respond to fireworks while confronting protesters in Ankara, following the death of a protester.  (Image Source:  Hurriyet Daily News)

Early this morning, in the southern Turkish city of Hatay, a young man was killed during anti-government protests, likely by police.  Despite a police autopsy and video stating Ahmet Atakan died from a fall, evidence suggests that police fired a tear gas straight at Atakan's head, with the blunt trauma killing him.  Now, Turks are taking to the street in greater numbers in defiance of the government led by Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, giving off the familiar feel of the Arab Spring.

Ahmet Atakan's death happened during a protest in Hatay showing solidarity to students at Middle East Technical University (ÖDTU) in Ankara, who were protesting against the development of a road that would cut through their campus.  The protests run an eerie parallel to the recent mass protests against the demolition of Gezi Park in Istanbul for a shopping mall.  Atakan was also protesting in support of protester Abdullah Cömert, a Hatay local who was also killed by Turkish police during the beginning of the Gezi Park protests in early June.

Now, protesters around Turkey are stepping up their demonstrations against police and the Erdogan government.  Notably, while there have been previous deaths by police of protesters, that Ahmet Atakan's death has struck a chord among protesters shows parallels to the aftermath of Mohamed Bouzazizi's self-immolation in late 2010, the trigger event to the Arab Spring.

The Turkish police, for their part, are pointing to video footage claiming that Ahmet Akatan had fallen from a building following while protesters were attacking police from above, supplied to the local Turkish press.  The authenticity of this footage remains dubious at best, given it provides the Turkish police a cover.  It also seems like it has done little to dampen protests.

While many of Turkey's protests, in particular the Gezi Park and ÖDTU, lack the same reasoning to them that the Arab Spring used, and that even Prime Minister Erdogan supported the Arab Spring protests, the two events are starting to become more and more similar as time goes along.  Prime Minister Erdogan's solution to these protests, that of suppression and the continuation of projects regardless of popular concern, will likely mean that protests and senseless deaths will continue in Turkey for some time.