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Turkey Violence: More Complex Than Arab Spring

In some ways, it's easier to explain what the last few days' protests in Turkey are not about, rather than what they are.

The Turkish Stock market plummeted Monday morning, falling more than 9 percent as protests continued for a fourth day. What began as a small group occupying Istanbul's Taksim Square in an effort to stop the development of one of the city's last few green spaces, Gezi Park, mushroomed into something much more widespread, with more than 100,000 participants. By Sunday, there were protests in 67 out of 81 provinces, and the Turkish interior minister said more than 1,700 people had been arrested.

According to reports from the area, the protesters had two main concerns: first, too much development without urban planning to preserve some of the natural beauty in the city, and second, that the current government, with its Islamist roots, was trying to impose social engineering on society, most recently by introducing a restrictive liquor-sales law.

(Read More: Thousands Take to Streets on Third Day of Turkey Protests)

While some are calling the protests a "Turkish Spring," or an offshoot of the "Arab Spring," the two situations aren't necessarily analogous—Turkey's political and economic realities are vastly different from the situations of many of its Arab neighbors.

Ongoing protests are not a fight for democracy, as Turkey is already democratic. They're also not a complaint about the economy, as the country has grown steadily for the last few years. In fact, Turkey has outshined many other parts of the world.

That said, domestic Turkish critics accuse the government of becoming increasingly authoritarian by, for example, curtailing freedom of the press. The Committee for the Protection of Journalists cited the "mass imprisonment of journalists in Turkey and the criminal prosecutions of numerous others, and the use of governmental pressure to engender self-censorship."

Turkey is seeing effects in the markets, however. Istanbul's stock exchange took its biggest one-day hit in a decade. The country's yields rose Monday as bond investors expressed nervousness, and the Turkish Lira fell 2 cents against the dollar.

—By CNBC's Michelle Caruso-Cabrera. Follow her on Twitter: @MCaruso_Cabrera

Contact World Economy

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