Books
Luke Frostick writes: Burhan Sönmez has been quietly building up a reputation for writing really good novels and his latest offering, Labyrinth, further cements that he is one of the most interesting writers working today. The story follows Boratin, a young jazz musician who has lost his memory after a failed suicide attempt from the Bosphorus Bridge.
Luke Frostick writes: In April 1957 US Ambassador Fletcher Warren burst into Prime minister Menderes’s cabinet meeting to try and prevent him from taking military action in Syria. Menderes had to make a hard choice. This is one of the more dramatic moments in Egemen Bezci’s new book Turkish Intelligence and the Cold War: The Turkish Secret Service, the US and the UK.
Latest
Rahşan Ecevit, wife of late Turkish Prime Minister Bülent Ecevit, died at the age of 97 at a hospital in the capital Ankara on Jan. 17. She was the founder and first leader of Turkey's Democratic Left Party (DSP).
The environmental impact assessment for the controversial Kanal Istanbul project has been approved, Minister of Environment and Urbanization Murat Kurum said. The project has caused a public outcry due to its environmental effects on the local fauna and flora and for its consequences in a potential earthquake. Istanbul residents formed lines at the Provincial Environment and Urbanization Directorate to object to what President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan calls his dream.
A more than two-year block on online encyclopedia Wikipedia was lifted on Jan. 15 at around 10.30 p.m. local time, putting an end to the ban put in place in April 2017 due to entries that accused Turkey of having links to terrorist organizations. Justice Minister Abdülhamit Gül said last week that the website would be reopened once the Constitutional Court reveals its justified decision on the ruling.
One of four employees of Turkey's state-run Anadou Agency detained in a raid by security forces in Egypt earlier this week has been released, the agency's general manager said on Jan. 16 evening. Şenol Kazancı said he expects the remaining employees of the agency to be released soon.
Turkey’s central bank cut its benchmark rate for the fifth time in six months, as its new governor continued to ease policy. The bank cut its key rate to 11.25 percent from 12 percent.
Politics
A court has ruled to keep former Democratic Regions Party (DBP) co-chair Sebahat Tuncel and former co-mayor of the southeastern province of Diyarbakır Gültan Kışanak in jail. Lawyers of Kışanak and Tuncel said that their clients are politicians and their political acts can't be accepted as PKK membership or propaganda, while also demanding their release.
Başak Demirtaş, the wife of Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP) former co-chair Selahattin Demirtaş, has sparked a controversy for attending a play adapted from one of her husband's books along with opposition party members. Following the play, a debate arose over Demirtaş's book being sold on the Postal Service website.
British Embassy in Turkey hosted a panel discussion on media in the digital age titled "Media in the Digital Age: Challenges and Opportunities" that was supported by the Chevening Alumni Programme Fund (CAPF). The panel was hosted by British Ambassador Dominick Chilcott at the British Embassy Residence.
According to a poll carried out by the Republican People's Party (CHP), the CHP receives support from the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) and its ally Nationalist Movement Party (MHP). "The psychological barrier against the CHP has started to be overcome," said the party in its evaluations of the survey, adding that interaction with a wider spectrum of voters is more likely when compared to previous elections.
A 46-year-old was taken into custody for allowing his 10-year-old son drive a semi-trailer truck on the highway.
Two soldiers died during shooting practice in the southeastern province of Hakkâri. Two other soldiers were transported to the hospital to receive treatment for injuries inflicted during shooting practice.
A magnitude 4.8 earthquake shook Istanbul on Jan. 11, causing panic among residents of the megacity. Istanbul Mayor Ekrem İmamoğlu said so far authorities were not yet aware of any "negative impacts."
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin have launched the TurkStream pipeline, which will deliver Russian gas to Turkey and further to southern European states. The pipeline project, stretching 930 km across the Black Sea, reinforces strong energy ties between Moscow and Ankara, which have also increased defense cooperation after Turkey bought advanced Russian missile defenses.
Interior Minister Soylu got a nosebleed on live television reportedly because of the cold he was exposed to on Jan. 12 in Kastamonu, where, in a speech, he slammed a play based on former HDP co-chair Selahattin Demirtaş's book. Soylu said that Demirtaş was responsible for the violent protests of Oct. 6-8, 2014 that resulted in the deaths of over 30 people. "You can't wash the blood off your hands with theater," he said.
Greek Prime Minister Mitsotakis was welcomed to the White House's Oval Office on Jan. 7 by U.S. President Trump. Greece is "very much interested" in participating in the F-35 program and the country is a reliable U.S. partner in the region, Mitsotakis told Trump during their meeting.
The new headquarters of the National Intelligence Agency (MİT) was opened on Jan. 6 in a ceremony attended by President Erdoğan, MİT chief Hakan Fidan and government officials. Erdoğan praised MİT in his speech repeatedly, saying that the agency assumed a leading role in combat zones via preparing the ground for security forces. "Likewise, they are fulfilling their duties thoroughly in Libya," he said.
Trans woman Ajda Ender, an Istanbul resident, has issued a plea for justice from her Twitter account after not being able to enter her own home for months due to the transphobic physical violence and death threats she has received. Ender's lawyer, Human Rights Association (İHD) co-president Eren Keskin, said that Ender is a victim of transphobic violence and discrimination, which has become commonplace in Turkey.
An employee at the Istanbul Municipality was sacked for being homosexual, the LGBTI+ news portal Kaos LG reported. Erkan Altay was asked during a routine health check why he had been exempted from military service and said he had a doctor's report for homosexuality. Soon after, he was laid off.
Berfin Özek, who lost an eye following Ozan Çeltik's acid attack on her face, slammed a court ruling that sentenced the perpetrator to a total of 13.5 years in prison instead of life in prison. "One of my eyes is blind. Tomorrow if he is released how can I go out on the street? Will I live with the fear that something could happen at any moment? I have no security of life," she said.
Kanal Istanbul is a land rent project just like all the other projects built by the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP), Transport and Infrastructure Minister Cahit Turhan said, while asking "Why would we do projects that are not profitable?" "Our projects aim to bring income to this country. What does land rent mean? It means profit," Turhan said.
The AKP is unsure about what to do with a bill stipulating security checks for those who are going to be employed in the public sector. The government is currently considering two options, which are making some changes in the regulation or canceling it completely. AKP lawmakers specialized on law said that statements such as "loyalty to the state" need to be based on solid evidence when carrying out security checks.
Adnan Tanrıverdi, a close advisor to President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and member of the Presidency's Security and Foreign Policy Committee, has resigned from his post. He had recently raised attention for claiming the Mahdi - a "redeemer" in Islam who is to descend on earth and rule on judgement day - will return.
A fishing boat clashed with a tanker in Northern Istanbul, resulting in the death of three fishermen.
In the Eğil district of the predominantly-Kurdish, southeastern province of Diyarbakır, due to the fact that studetns in the Şehit Mehmet Aygün Middle School lack an actual computer class, they have built their own from cardboard and paper. Their teacher, Orkun Şahin, in spite of the successful project, his students' biggest dream was to be able to access and use real computers.
Turkey's Saturday Mothers gathered for a symbolic 772nd time, demanding an impartial investigation into the Güçlükonak massacre in 1996. "Concerning grave crimes in which the security forces are alleged to have been involved, if the relevant perpetrators and the ones who are responsible are not determined and punished following an independent judiciary process, the state is the one to be blamed for these crimes,” said Gülseren Yoleri, a prominent human rights activist.
President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has dropped lawsuits against two children charged with “insulting” him on social media after they issued an apology. One of the children was also required to memorize the 10-stanza Turkish national anthem, whereas the other was required to memorize a poem consisting of 34 stanzas.
A Turkish court has ordered former HDP co-leader Figen Yüksekdağ to pay 1,740 Turkish Liras ($291) for “insulting” President Erdoğan. "As a politician, I can make harsh criticisms. This should not be a crime,” Yüksekdağ told the court on Jan. 7.
After criticizing Islamist writer and Yalova University lecturer Ebubekir Sifil for defending polygamy, the Youtube news channel Babiali TV has been temporarily prevented from broadcasting after copyright complaints from Sifil and another prominent Islamist. Sifil had previously stated that men have the right to have multiple wives in different provinces.
A majority of the Turkish population thinks that Turkey should remain a NATO, a survey by private polling company Metropoll revealed. The poll also asked participants how they think Turkey should position itself between the US and Russia, and half of the participants said Ankara should remain neutral.
Turkish authorities have fined 11 women for “violating” Cizre curfews in 2016. The women, risking their lives, had gone out on the streets holding white flags, in an attempt to help the injured taking shelter in basements during the state's military operations. One of the women was imposed a fine of 5,861 liras ($993) after losing her husband in the "basement massacre," as it is known among Cizre residents.
Some 94 women have been killed while under state protection between 2015 and 2019, the Turkish Interior Ministry said. The ministry also said that over 1 million incidents of violence against women occurred between 2014 and 2019, leading to the death of 1,890 women.
The winner of a 20,000-lira lottery consolation prize burned his ticket because it was "sinful money." The minimum wage worker said he bought the ticket because his child wanted him to and that he didn't "touch the money."
Water prices have increased by up to 330 percent in Diyarbakır. This raise was introduced by the municipal council formed by the trustee who replaced elected Mayor Selçuk Mızraklı. The price hikes were decided during a municipal council that was held Dec. 27. The public wasn't informed of the changes.
President Erdoğan's criticism of young people for “getting married late” has stirred the social media, with several people saying that people first need to be financially independent before thinking about marriage. The opposition also criticized Erdoğan's remarks, saying that first the government should tackle the high unemployment level among the youth before suggesting them to get married.
Patriarch Sahak Maşalyan, the new leader of the Armenian Orthodox Christians in Turkey, has said that the population of Armenian community in the country is gradually decreasing. "As the loyal citizens of this country, we'll continue to contribute to Turkey. But, when we have problems, we cannot say that we don't have [them],” Maşalyan said during an interview to the newspaper Milliyet that was published on Dec. 14.
An Istanbul court has ordered the arrest of five suspects as part of an investigation into ex-Nissan boss Carlos Ghosn's transit through Turkey after fleeing Japan. Meanwhile, Turkey’s MNG Jet has confirmed that two business jets it operates for charter flights were used by Ghosn to stage his daring escape.
In publication since 2016, Psychology Kurdi is the first magazine to cover the discipline of psychology from the perspective of the Kurdish language. It provides a place for important articles on the trauma that Kurds have experienced. "Our purpose is to open the door for Kurdish as a scientific language to be used in the field of psychology," says the magazine's editor Abdulsıttar Özmen.
A footage of Russian President Vladimir Putin joking about inviting U.S. President Donald Trump to Damascus surfaced, a week after his visit to Syria to meet with the country's leader Bashar al-Assad. In a video of the conversation, Assad mentions the Apostle Paul’s conversion to Christianity after a vision at the gate of Damascus. “If Trump arrives along this road, everything will become normal with him too," Assad said. "Invite him," responded Putin.
Selahattin Demirtaş's life is at risk, according to a report prepared by the Human Rights Association (İHD). Speaking at a press conference to share the report that they prepared after visiting Demirtaş, İHD lawyer Zeynep Ceren Boztoprak said that the former co-chair lost a lot of weight and that the damage inflicted by prison conditions was obvious. "His appearance show the damage inflicted by his illness," Boztoprak said.
A mega yacht once belonging to the inventory of the Turkish navy has been restored and added to the inventory of the Presidency. Vice President Fuat Oktay told the yacht was transferred to the Presidency on March 16. It was previously used by the navy to transport personnel.
Some 50 sick inmates died in prisons throughout 2019 in Turkey and no information on the health condition of sick prisoners can be obtained from the Justice Ministry, human rights groups said, adding that rights violations deteriorated following the July 15, 2016 failed coup attempt and the subsequent state of emergency. "Eighteen prisoners are bedridden and can't fulfill their needs on their own," a human rights activist said.
Turkish pop star Demet Akalın complained about her husband playing too much backgammon on his phone to President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan during a meeting at Dolmabahçe Palace. Akalın noted that the president made her husband Okan Kurt to delete his mobile backgammon app immediately.
A Kurdish-language weekly started publication in the southeastern city of Diyarbakır. Its name, "Xwebûn" refers to "self", "identity" and "individuality". Publisher Kadri Esen said the publication "would not belong to individuals, but to the Kurdish people".
A foreign cargo ship ran aground in Istanbul's Bosphorus strait on Dec. 27, requiring a rescue operation and prompting authorities to temporarily close the picturesque and crowded waterway running through Turkey's largest city. There were no injuries or casualties, the governor's office said, adding that the ship had reported engine failure shortly before its grounding near the shore.
Turkey's Constitutional Court has ruled that a ban on Wikipedia that has lasted for 2.5 years to be a rights violation, and has called for the ban to be removed. Other popular websites like Booking.com and Paypal also remain banned in the country.
Istanbul Mayor Ekrem Imamoğlu paid a visit to the memorial museum of the assassinated Turkish-Armenian journalist Hrant Dink, meeting with Dink's late wife Rakel and daughter Delal and leaving a note on a message panel with the words “everything will be just fine,” which was the mayor's campaign slogan and message of hope during the local elections last year.
President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has confirmed that Sheikha Moza bint Nasser, the mother of Qatar Emir Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, purchased land from the area on which Kanal Istanbul will be built. "Why are they bothered when the mother of Qatar Emir makes such a purchase? There are places that the Emir himself bought here. We opened the doors for it," Erdoğan said.
The governor's office in the southern province of Adana has cited “terror threat” as the reason for cancelling an annual festival. The festival's name was previously changed from “World Rakı Festival” to “Adana Kebap and Şalgam Festival” due to complaints from Islamic groups, but the event continues to be known popularly by its original name.
Economics
According to data obtained from General Directorate of Land Registry and Cadastre, a total of 6,694 foreigners obtained certificates of conformity in order to become Turkish citizens via purchasing real estate. The lower limit for granting citizenship via real estate purchases was decreased to $250,000 in September 2018 from one million dollars in 2017, prompting an increase in foreign investments.
Istanbul's stock exchange Borsa Istanbul will remain open until 11 p.m. soon, said President Mehmet Hakan Atilla, adding that the late hours of operation will allow for investors in different time zones to trade.
Shafali Sachdev, the head of BNP Paribas' Asia-Pacific Forex Advisory and Execution, said investors should buy gold and sell currencies from oil-importing countries to protect their portfolio from Iran-US tensions.
Foreign capital have taken over Turkish industry in the past 17 years, during which privatization processes have harmed local enterprises in a stark difference from what the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) puts forward as its slogan - being "domestic and national." When the data regarding the top 10 and 20 industrial enterprises are examined since 2002, the increase in foreign capital can be seen.
Prices have seen an annual surge of 11.84 percent, the Turkish Statistical Institute said on Friday. An inflation rate of 0.74 percent was also observed between November and December 2019. As a result, the government is to raise retiree pensions. That of public officials will be raised by 5.49 percent, while that of labor retirees will be 6.49 percent.
The prototype of Turkey's first indigenous electric car was unveiled during a ceremony on Dec. 27. President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan later took one of the cars for a spin in Gebze near Istanbul.
Turkey’s biggest trade union confederation Türk-İş has calculated the hunger threshold – which indicates the minimum amount of money needed to save a four-member family from starvation a month – as 2,163 liras and the poverty threshold as 7,054 liras. The government announced on Dec. 26 that the net monthly minimum wage in the country will be 2,324 liras in 2020, up from 2,021 liras in 2019.
The Turkish Post (PTT) has totaled a loss of 1,5 billion Turkish liras over the past two years, following its transfer to Turkey Wealth Fund (TVF). At the time of the 2017 transfer, the PTT vault had a positive balance of 650 million liras and is at a negative of 900 million liras today. The TVF bought 5 million liras worth of air fresheners bought for PTT branches. 600,000 units were bought even though the PTT only has 3,800 branches.
A U.S. judge has denied a request by Turkey's state-owned Halkbank to stop a federal prosecution accusing it of taking party in a multibillion-dollar scheme to evade U.S. sanctions on Iran. “Simply stated, the court rejects Halkbank’s efforts to avoid and delay appropriate district court proceedings,” Judge Richard Berman said.
Some of the Turkish defense contractors involved in the F-35 program are preparing to establish alternative sources of supply in Bulgaria in the face of potential sanctions from Washington, Dünya newspaper reported on Jan. 2. Such a move of the companies will also be supported by the Turkish government, the newspaper said, citing an anonymous source from the defense industry.
Turkey’s central bank has launched a dollar-to-lira swap auction -- in a first since August -- to help boost its foreign reserves, while the banking watchdog has limited banks’ swap operations with non-residents. The result was Turkey's lira sliding to its weakest level in daily trade since May on Dec. 19.
Turkey's Central Bank announced on Dec. 17 that the country's short-term external debt stock totaled $118 billion as of October. Half of the country's short-term foreign debt stock was in U.S. dollars, followed by 30.6 percent in euros, 13.4 percent in Turkish liras, and 6 percent in other currencies. The public sector's short-term debt, mainly of public banks, hit $21.7 billion, up 3.7 percent.
The total area of real estate bought by Arab investors in the last 16 years exceeded 11 million square meters, according to figures released by Turkey's Environment and Urbanization Ministry. Investors from Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Iraq have topped the list.
Russia delivered its first batch of exported sugar to Turkey and Greece in November. The Turkey shipment was 1,400 tons and the one to Greece was 591 tons. Russia is expected to set a record for production levels with more than 7 million tons this year, according to the Russian Ministry of Agriculture.
Urban Beat
Istanbul’s last remaining three fish sandwich boats are soon to be shut down by authorities as the legal saga over the issue has come to an end. An Istanbul court has rejected appeals made by the owners of the three boats to continue their operations in the historic neighborhood of Eminönü.
Provided they are vaccinated, pets will now be allowed to travel aboard commercial bus rides, Turkey's Official Gazette reported on Jan. 10.
Passengers can now rent 'sleep pods' in the International Departures area of the Istanbul Airport. The pods are nine euros an hour and come with clean sheets, USB and electric sockets, and a special luggage compartment.
Istanbul Mayor Ekrem İmamoğlu will answer the municipality's urban hotline where residents can report issues they have in the city.
The Istanbul Airport's security commission has banned people from welcoming arrival passengers with pickup signs. Those who do not know the person they are waiting for are required to pay a certain fee and wait for their guests at the “meeting lounge.”
A three-month ban has been imposed on horse-drive carriages operating on Istanbul's Princes' Islands, following a protracted controversy surrounding the poor conditions of the horses. The decision was made after it was determined that 81 horses on the islands were recently buried on the islands after succumbing to Glanders, a respiratory disease specific to horses, donkeys and mules.
Japanese author İkumi Nonaka and a friend will introduce the local point lace technique from Kastamonu in their home country. Following a seven-day training on the art, the duo have learned to make unique lace figures like cloves and violets.
The founder and head chef of Anatolian restaurant Çiya won the highest cookbook award with his book Turkish Cookbook. Musa Dağdeviren won the Gourmand award, which is considered the equivalent of a Nobel for cookbooks. The book was published by world-renowned publishing house Phaidon.