In my short trip to Istanbul last week, I stayed in Taksim, a neighborhood known for its soulful public protests as well as its raucous nightlife. On the first night, walking back to our hotel on Istiklal Cadessi, the main shopping street, we saw a small group of neo-nationalists protesting the recent constitutional provision allowing headscarfs in universities. These Kamalists generally cling to Ataturk's secular legacy, and think that any turn away from secularism is not a gain for civil liberties, but the first step on a slippery slope towards Islamism. Calmly lined up across from this group of protesters were several dozen police in riot gear.
Most of my time in Istanbul was spent talking to amazing people about whether the internet has a positive effect on democracy, a negative effect, or no effect at all. The question wasn't posed in an academic sense, but in true Berkman fashion, by talking to technologists and activists who are experimenting with ways to use the internet to organize, promote ideas and help improve lives. Check out a full summary of the event on the I&D blog.
Labels: Internet and Democracy