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article imageInterview with Turkish protester: 'Erdogan wants absolute power' Special

By Lonna Lisa Williams     Jun 6, 2013 in World
Istanbul - A Turkish government employee speaks about Turkish history and what's really happening in Prime Minister Erdogan's government.
He looked meticulous in black: a tailored black suit, gray shirt, and black silk tie. He seemed a little nervous as he sat across from me at the table, as if someone in the small, closed room might be listening.
"I sympathize with the protesters, but I can't join in the protests," he explained. "I have a fairly high position in the Turkish government, and my life would be made into a hell if I even spoke about my feelings."
This last statement made him sad, and I could see his dark brown eyes become a little watery. He reached up and straightened his wavy black hair back into its well-cut lines.
"I used to speak out. But my coworkers gave me so much pressure about my opinions that now I remain silent."
He leaned a little toward me and lowered his voice.
"You see, Erdogan is trying to consolidate all of the government's power under his control. He wants absolute power, like a dictator. He even reorganized my division. Although his act may be overturned in the courts, it will be too late by then to matter. The damage to my division has already been done."
"Do you think that the protesters will be able to stand against Erdogan?" I asked him.
"I hope so. The problem is that we have no strong leader, like Ataturk, to run against Erdogan in the elections and come up with a good alternative plan."
I could not help but think that the man before me, who had studied at two universities and understood Turkish history, might be a lot like Ataturk.
"Why do you worry about what people think of you?" I asked.
"My political views have alienated me from my coworkers in the past, and my friends are not good. I feel lonely," he declared. He paused, and again I noticed a darkening in his eyes.
"But, yes, I should not think so much about what people think. But that's easy for you to say; you're an American."
"True," I smiled. "Do know what Patrick Henry said just before America fought England for independence over 200 years ago?"
"Yes," he readily answered. "Ataturk quoted it. Patrick Henry said 'Give me liberty, or give me death.'" He smiled, somehow cheered by the brave words.
As he left, I wondered if those words would be prophetic for protesters in Turkey in the coming days. And I realized that the man I had just interviewed was not as timid as I had supposed. After all, he was wearing black, the color union strikers have been wearing this week in support of Turkish freedom protests.
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