Five things to understand about Turkey's protests

The unrest is unlikely to become a “Turkish Spring,” but it is testing democracy in Turkey.

4. Are the protests more about Islamization?

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    A man sits facing the Ataturk Cultural Center during a protest at Taksim Square in Istanbul, Wednesday, June 19.
    Marko Djurica/Reuters
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For 90 years, Turkey has pursued a number of policies to make the nation more secular and democratic. Beginning in the 1920s with Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, considered the founder of modern Turkey, a number of Turkish figures have sought to incorporate a more Western-style system of government in Turkey.

Erdogan and his AKP party are seen as trying to centralize power and impose conservative Islamic values on Turkish society. Many of those who are now at odds with the government see Erdogan as trying to control their lifestyle choices and undo reforms that took decades to achieve.

This is particularly upsetting for those who viewed Erdogan as an admirable reformer for the first several years after he took office in 2002. Under his leadership, the Turkish economy has tripled in size. He made a number of reforms to improve the chances of Turkey’s European membership bid, and he actively tried to make a peace deal with Kurdish militants. 

Coming after these popular reforms, his conservative shift has jarred his opponents even more severely.

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