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Turkey’s Moral Majority Tests Its Power

With a series of moves such as the limitation of alcohol sales and a kissing ban, perceived as strong signs of social paternalism following the military tutelage, Turkey is being dragged into a refreshed Kulturkampf.
People shop in a shopping district in Hatay May 17, 2013. Turkey hailed its second investment grade rating on Friday, seeing it as a seal of approval from international markets for a decade of economic reform. Investors joined in, driving sovereign bond yields to record lows. Government enthusiasm was tempered, however, by some concern that the move, coinciding with a visit by Turkey's Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan to Washington, might trigger over-large capital inflows into the lira currency. REUTERS/Umit
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Political drifting and the lack of strategic vision on democratization is forcing the stitches of Turkey’s social fabric. Those stitches are hardly as strong as they are thought to be, no stronger than the commitment of social actors to democratization. Given the tensions along the Iran-Iraq-Syria belt, they are in fact as thin as a hair.

A series of developments that occurred in quick succession has sharpened social polarization in an equally short time: the restrictive law on alcohol sales and consumption that the government rushed through parliament, the “ban on kissing in public” resurrected suddenly by municipal authorities, the 14-month jail sentence for “insulting religious values” ruled against Turkish-Armenian intellectual Sevan Nisanyan, following a similar ruling against pianist Fazil Say, and the demolition of the iconic Emek Cinema amid violent street protests.

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