First, Turkey is not an Arab Country. Its citizens are primarily Muslim; however, other religions are tolerated. Turkey is a secular, democratic and Capitalist State. It’s cities appear much as they do in Europe, with Western dress, Women in the workforce, hotels and restaurants serve alcohol; etc. In fact, hijabs (headscarves) are banned in public, in Turkey.

Prime Minister Recap Tayyip Erdogan has been in office since 2003. He had been ousted from his previous post, as Mayor of Istanbul, when he was imprisoned in 1998 for inciting religious hatred. The Military has checked his preference for the inclusion of Conservative Islamic policies since he has been Prime Minister.

Recently, it appears that he might have moved sharply toward the Right, reportedly imprisoning political opponents, pressuring the Media to take his side on issues and, as always seems to be the case, accusing any opposition as being terrorists. This has led to the riots, which started in Gezi Park, have taken over Taksim Square and spread to other cities in Turkey.

Any comparison with other Middle East countries would be totally wrong. Turkey is a vibrant Developing Economy, with a reasonably high per capita income, low unemployment and an educated workforce. But, it’s hard to foresee how far to the right that Erdogan might wish to take his country. Also, during his ten years in office, has he replaced key Military officers with his loyalists?

Trudy Rubin’s column, in The Philadelphia Inquirer, provides a good overview, But, let’s look beyond the story, which you can read in your local newspapers, to what the consequences could be–both for Turkey and for the West.

The Progressive Turkish Economy and Society could be stifled if Erdogan phases in more conservative policies and, perhaps, Sharia Law. Just as has happened in the past, in countries like Iran, Iraq, and Russia, when governments became more authoritarian, there could be an exit of talent–engineers, managers, doctors, scientists, entrepreneurs, educators, etc. That could definitely bring the Turkish Economic Miracle to a real Melt-Down. Also, in the process, Civil War might potentially break-out.

Currently, Turkey is a Member of NATO and the G-8, and had been considered to potentially join the European Union, especially since France had withdrawn it’s objection. Also, many in the West had believed that Turkey could play an important role in dealing with rogue Muslim countries, such as Iran and Syria. What will Plan B be?


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