Well its because to many in Turkey it was the straw that broke the camels back. They’ve seen increasing efforts from the Islamic conservatives to roll back Turkey’s long cherished secularism, from curbs on the sale of pork and alcohol, to further government censorship. Now the government wants to take away a park where young people, of both sexes, like to go and hang out (something which conservatives are of course against).
One could compose an Islamic version of the Blur song “Park Life” to explain it all:
I get up when I want except on Friday’s when I’m rudely awakened by the Imam’s call to prayer…..Me and the girl friend go to Taksim, sometimes we hold hands….the Islamists come and beat us for it, it seems to give them an enormous feeling of well being and satisfaction… :))
Jokes aside, what these protests perhaps represent is Turkey at the cross roads. They can opt for further “de-secularisation” which will likely lead to further isolation from the West and quite possibly (when you consider what a patchwork quilt of ethnic groups Turkey is) the break up of the country. Or they can continue down the path of secularism, which will likely lead to entry into the EU (not any time soon mind, I think Turkey’s still some way to go and one can only imagine what the UKIP brigade would say!).
And of course the message from Iran, a country that originally choose the Islamists route suggests there is good reason for Turkey to do a U-turn. In Iran the people have just elected a reformer, clearly sick of the same tired dogma from the Mullah’s and fed up with people playing word association with “Iran” and getting “pariah“.