Diplomacy
Turkey's ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) spokesperson has said that the Donald Trump administration needs to take measures against the U.S. Congress' moves that target Turkey or otherwise the ties between the two countries will worsen. Ömer Çelik made the remarks while commenting on Trump's recent approval of a $738 billion defense bill which includes provisions calling for sanctions against Turkey.
An Istanbul court has ordered the confiscation of part of the assets belonging to the dissident writer Ragıp Zarakolu as part of an ongoing trial. The court said the purpose of the confiscation order is to "have Zarakolu come to the hearings" as the writer has been living in Sweden since 2013.
Russian-backed Syrian forces have gained ground in Idlib after a week-long renewed assault against the last rebel enclave in Syria's northwest, gaining more than 20 villages and hilltops and coming close to one of 12 Turkish observation posts in the northwest. Syrian troops neared the observation post outside the village of Surman from three sides and an activist collective has said the government troops were now about 2.5 miles from the Turkish post.
President Erdoğan has said that Turkey cannot handle a fresh wave of migrants from Syria, adding that more than 80,000 people were currently on the move from Idlib. "If the violence towards the people of Idlib does not stop, this number will increase even more. In that case, Turkey will not carry such a migrant burden on its own," Erdoğan said, adding that Turkey was doing everything possible to stop bombardments in Idlib.
Saudi Arabia's public prosecutor said on Dec. 23 five people had been sentenced to death and three more to jail terms totaling 24 years in the case of the killing of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi in Istanbul in October last year. Saudi Public Prosecutor Shalaan al-Shalaan, reading out the preliminary verdict in the trial, said Saud al-Qahtani, a former high-profile Saudi royal adviser, had been investigated but was not charged and was released.
Unknown assailants set the car of a Turkish consulate employee ablaze early on Dec. 23 in the northern Greek city of Thessaloniki, amid tense relations between the two countries over several issues, including mineral rights in the Aegean Sea to Cyprus. "There was extended damage," a Greek official said about the incident that took place around 3:30 am. There were no injuries.
A group led by the Humanitarian Relief Foundation (İHH) in the southeastern province of Urfa knocked down several cardboard boxes to pretend that they're demolishing the Great Wall of China in support of Uighurs. Also on the same day, thousands of protesters marched in support of China's Uighurs in Istanbul and voiced solidarity with Arsenal midfielder Mesut Özil after the furore caused by his criticism of China's policies.
Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova has slammed new U.S. sanctions against the Nord Stream-2 and TurkStream pipelines, saying that a state with a national debt of $22 trillion forbids creditworthy countries from developing the real sector of their economies. "The American ideology of life did not withstand global competition," Zakharova said.
Turkey's parliament on Dec. 21 voted 269-125 in favor of a security and military cooperation deal signed with Libya's internationally recognized Government of National Accord (GNA) last month. A senior U.S. State Department official described the maritime agreement between Ankara and Tripoli as "unhelpful" and "provocative."
A National Libyan Army forces naval combat vessel seized a Grenada-flagged ship with a Turkish crew on Dec. 21 in Libyan territorial waters off the eastern city of Derna and towed it to Ras El Hilal port. It was not immediately clear what the ship was carrying. Turkey has been backing the Libyan Government of National Accord led by Fayez al-Serraj as it fights off a months-long offensive by Khalifa Haftar's forces.
The United States will not deliver F-35 fighter jets to Turkey due to the latter's decision to purchase the Russian-made S-400 missile systems, U.S. Secretary of Defense Mark Esper has said. “They have accepted the S-400s which means they won’t receive the F-35s,” Esper told reporters at the Pentagon on Dec. 20.
U.S. President Donald Trump has announced his approval of a massive $738 billion defense spending bill that calls for sanctions against Turkey over its purchase of Russian S-400 missile defense systems. The bill includes a prohibition on transferring the fifth-generation F-35 joint strike fighter, or its parts, to Turkey and calls for Trump to implement sanctions on Turkey over the acquisition under the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act.
Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP) co-chairs Sezai Temelli and Pervin Buldan met with U.S. Ambassador to Turkey David Satterfield in the party's headquarters in the capital Ankara on Dec. 19, where they discussed relations between Turkey and the United States, as well the latest developments in the region. HDP deputy chair Hişyar Özsoy was also present during the meeting that took place as a courtesy visit.
The controversial Kanal Istanbul project could jeopardize Montreux Convention, former chief of staff İlker Başbuğ said. Başbuğ noted that in the case of a change in conditions, which this project would create, member states could annul or choose not to abide by the convention.
Allegations that Turkey used white phosphorus in northern Syria during Operation Peace Spring must be investigated, U.S. Congresswoman Ilhan Omar has said, while criticizing James Jeffrey, U.S. Representative for Syria Engagement, for failing to follow up on statements he made during a House Foreign Affairs hearing on Oct. 23, when he said he was “looking into” allegations of chemical weapons use against civilians.
Editor's Picks
Ahmet Murat Aytaç writes: The recent inhumane attack against migrant workers that took place in the Mazıdağı district of Sakarya should be analyzed within the framework of economic oppression. No matter what triggered the assaults, the general tendency in Turkey right now is to deny the ethnic dimension of the conflict.
duvar englis podcasts
In this week's episode, Duvar English Editor-in-chief Cansu Çamlıbel hosts American political scientist Wendy Pearlman to talk about her latest book "We Crossed a Bridge and It Trembled: Voices from Syria," which was recently published in Turkish. Pearlman spoke to hundreds of Syrian refugees, collecting human stories from one of recent history's biggest humanitarian crises.
Politics
A Turkish court has sentenced Halis Bayancuk, who is described as the leader of ISIS in Turkey, to 12 years and six months in jail. Bayancuk, who goes by the name Abu Hanzala, has been detained several times before in Turkey, but only to be freed later because of a lack of evidence or problems involving the charges against him.
Gli the Hagia Sophia cat has fallen ill two months after the site was converted into a mosque and will live away from people in a private room. Caretakers of the 16-year-old cat, who was born at Hagia Sophia, previously warned worshippers to not overwhelm Gli after footage of them taking pictures of Gli with flashes and feeding him unhealthy food emerged on social media.
Islamist cult leader Ahmet Mahmut Ünlü has said that he is ready to name a total of 150 Salafi associations taking up arms as part of their preparations to fight in Turkey. "I've made a list of these associations and in which provinces they are located. If the prosecutors summon me and ask me what I know, I'm ready to name at least 150 of them," a journalist cited Ünlü as saying.
İYİ Party leader Meral Akşener has slammed President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan for "giving the youth a massive prison," as she commented on the unemployment figures and the economy. "You gave them unemployment, hopelessness and depression," Akşener said. Your gift to the youth is a country that they don't feel belonging to and that they can't breathe in," she added.
AKP Group Deputy Chair Bülent Turan has praised President Erdoğan for "making" French President Macron tweet in Turkish. "Macron tweeted in Turkish and said that he is ready for dialogue. The name of the man who made a French President tweet in Turkish is Recep Tayyip Erdoğan," Turan said. Erdoğan also responded to Macron's gesture, saying that Turkey intends to listen to all sincere calls and make room for diplomacy.
Turkey has strongly condemned a Greek daily for insulting President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, with presidential spokesperson İbrahim Kalın deeming the move "a provocation." Another government official to condemn the headline was Defense Minister Hulusi Akar, who said that the headline "will remain as a document of shame" in the history of the Greek press.
The HDP has said that its MYK member Serhat Aktemur was abducted in the southeastern province of Diyarbakır by individuals claiming to be National Intelligence Organization (MİT) members. Aktemur said that the three individuals in question threatened to kill him by saying, "If we see you around, we'll shoot you."
Turkish paraglider Hasan Kaya took to the skies in southern Turkey with a bed pretending to sleep. Kaval has previously attached a metal-framed red leather sofa with wheels and a television to a parachute and took to the skies in Turkey’s southwestern Ölüdeniz neighborhood.
Some 40 medical chambers affiliated with the Turkish Medical Association (TTB) have released a joint statement reiterating their support for the organization. “We are fortunate to have our professional organization that prioritizes and defends the right of public health, and does not compromise when it comes to scientific and free thinking," the chambers said, following MHP leader Devlet Bahçeli's call for the TTB's closure.
Since early summer, forest fires have been raging in the Cudi Mountains in Turkey's southeastern province of Şırnak amid claims that the blazes erupted due to deliberate military operations in the area. Ecologist Asrın Keleş from the People's Democratic Congress (HDK) said that it was abundantly clear that the fires did not erupt due to natural causes. "We received information that the forests were being shot with gunfire at night,” Keleş said.
A Turkish court sentenced former co-chair of Democratic Regions Party (DBP) Sebahat Tuncel to 11 months in prison on charges of "insulting" the president, because she said Erdoğan was "an enemy of women and Kurds."
Turkey's Court of Cassation, the top appeals court, has found a male employee at fault for using the women's toilet at the store where he was working at. The court rejected the employee's demand for a compensation after he was fired from his job.
The Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry has determined that dozens of firms and restaurants in Turkey use fake ingredients in their products to cut down on costs. With the Turkish lira continuing to decline in value as the country experiences a serious economic downturn, some food producers and restaurants are cutting on costs and cutting corners, and deceiving their customers in the process.
Several Turkish citizens have sent petitions to the parliament, raising their concerns about the safety of 5G technology. The parliament's committee on petition has asked the issue to the Information Technologies and Communication Authority (BTK) and was told that Turkey was “working to produce the 5G infrastructure locally.”
Bursts of steam rising from Mount Nemrut have raised concern among locals, amid speculations that the dormant volcano can become active again if triggered by earthquakes. “There are many fault lines arund Mount Nemrut. If these fault lines are ruptured, theoretically a [volcanic] movement can occur in Mount Nemrut. This is always a possibility,” Prof. Dr. Aydın Büyük Saraç said.
Enis Berberoğlu's lawyer has called for the reinstatement of his client's deputy status after the Constitutional Court ruled that the former CHP lawmaker's rights were violated when he was dismissed from parliament earlier this year.
President Erdoğan has said that the government is preparing to introduce new measures to curb the spread of the coronavirus, since "people have not complied with the rules." The virus infections began increasing after Ankara loosened restrictions on public activity, starting in June. Critics have also accused the government of hypocrisy with regards to the measures, pointing out that social distancing measures were being overlooked in several occasions, such as the rallies of the AKP.
Islamic communities that are known to have close ties to the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) have recently speeded up efforts to establish their own foundations. On Sept. 17, two more such foundations have been established, one of which has close ties to the İsmailağa community, while the other has close ties to pro-government KİHMED.
President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said on Sept. 18 Turkey was saddened by news that Libya's internationally recognized Prime Minister Fayez al-Sarraj wants to quit next month. "A development like this, hearing such news, has been upsetting for us," Erdoğan told reporters in Istanbul, adding that Turkish delegations may hold talks with Sarraj's government in the coming week.
Various rights groups have said that human rights violations recorded in prisons have spiked during the COVID-19 outbreak. As a recent example of the rights violation, the groups said that authorities had confiscated several personal belongings of a group of inmates during their transfer to two newly opened Diyarbakır prisons.
The mother of a murder suspect was found dead with a single bullet to the back of her head on Sept. 17. Her son, a suspect in his girlfriend's death, her husband and the family's attorney blamed her death on TV host Müge Anlı because she had said the mother had "failed to raise a son."
Economy
Turkey's state-owned Halkbank has urged a judge to dismiss a U.S. indictment accusing the bank of helping Iran evade American sanctions. At a hearing in Manhattan federal court on Sept. 18, a lawyer for Halkbank said its status as a Turkish “instrumentality” shielded it from prosecution because of sovereign immunity.
Turkey's unemployment rate rose to 13.4 percent. and participation edged up in the May-July period in which a coronavirus lockdown was lifted and a ban on layoffs remained in place, data showed on Sept. 10, painting a clearer picture of the pandemic's fallout.
Turkish Airlines (THY) observed a drop of almost 65 percent in the number of August travelers compared to the year before. Domestic flights saw a smaller drop of 47.1 percent, while international flights shrank by 75.4 percent, THY said.
Urban Beat
The 48th Istanbul Music Festival will be held online, streaming pre-recorded performances in historical venues. Starting on Sept. 18, the Istanbul Foundation for Culture and Arts (İKSV) will make available the performances that honor composer Ludwig van Beethoven.
Ali Demir writes: So the property of the local non-Muslims collapsed, and what happened? Nothing! The whole country is now composed of non-local foreigners. The greedy tailor apprentice that murdered his master could not sew a jacket, and will never be able to.
The tomb and gold jewels of a woman dubbed the "Carian Princess" can now be seen in the Aegean province of Muğla's Bodrum Castle. Recovered in 1989, the body is thought to belong to a woman in her 40s.
Turkey's news agenda has focused on "renovations" that resulted in dramatic results, often adding incoherent elements. Most recently, footage of "renovation" in Istanbul's Galata Tower had shown workers drilling into original walls.