Coronavirus
Employees of the Turkish Health Ministry’s hospital appointment call centers have been suffering from a lack of basic cleaning supplies like soap in their offices around Turkey amid a coronavirus outbreak. Wishing to stay anonymous out of fear for their job, employees have reported they’re not offered soap and paper towels in the offices where thousands of people work.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel released a video about social distancing, the practice of avoiding human interaction to prevent the spread of coronavirus, with Turkish subtitles. The government spokesperson shared the video with a message in Turkish.
A total of 19 people were detained over sharing "unfounded and provocative" posts on social media about coronavirus, Turkey's Interior Ministry has said. The interior ministry statement said there were social media posts which were targeting officials and spreading panic and fear by suggesting that the virus had spread widely in Turkey and that officials had taken insufficient measures.
Dozens of pilgrims taken into coronavirus quarantine in a student dormitory in the Central Anatolian province of Konya confronted police during their attempt to escape. The incident was slammed on social media, with Twitter users saying that the escape attempt is reckless. When asked about the incident, Health Minister Fahrettin Koca said that "a more detailed plan was prepared on the issue."
Following demands from healthcare professionals due to coronavirus threat rising in Turkey, the Ministry of Health has began to prepare regulations that will limit the number of applications for emergency healthcare service and initiate an incentivized appointment-based system. Doctors warn that at the moment family health centers and their practices are not enough to respond to frustrated patients which might fuel violence against healthcare workers.
Some 29 more people have been diagnosed with the novel coronavirus, bringing the total in Turkey to 47, Health Minister Fahrettin Koca said late on March 16.
Turkey's Health Ministry has produced public service announcements (PSAs) that urge hand-washing, social distancing and other best practices to combat the deadly coronavirus. The messages were delivered by two famous actors Timuçin Esen and Taner Ölmez.
TV travel presenter Burak Akkul late on March 16 tweeted that he has tested positive for the novel coronavirus. Akkul had earlier in the day said that he could not receive his results despite having taken a coronavirus test five days prior.
Turkey has expanded its travel ban to six more countries, making the total number of countries 20, Health Minister Fahrettin Koca said. The United Kingdom, the United Arab Emirates, Switzerland, Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Ireland have been added to the list of banned countries, Koca said.
Turkey's Directorate of Religious Affairs (Diyanet) has suspended all congregational prayers in mosques, including traditional Friday prayers, amid coronavirus fears. “Including the Friday prayers, congregational prayers will be suspended in mosques. During this period, instead of Friday prayers, [Muslims] can perform noon prayers [at home],” Diyanet head Ali Erbaş said.
The president of the Turkish Medical Association (TTB), Sinan Adıyaman, has said that the association has been receiving unconfirmed information that the number of coronavirus patients in Turkey is much higher than 18. He also called on the Heath Ministry to increase the number of health centers performing coronavirus tests.
Starting early on March 17, Turkey is closing all cafes, cinemas, theaters, restaurants, gyms and other venues, the Interior Ministry said. All gatherings and activities by non-governmental organizations will be also postponed.
Turkish citizens studying abroad report lacking clear instructions from their schools and government regarding whether they must return to Turkey. Some students abroad were told by their universities that Turkey’s Council of Higher Education had told them to return to their home country, but an official from the institution refuted that such a directive was given.
Following the first confirmed cases of the coronavirus in Turkey, many people have rushed to supermarkets and stores to purchase bulk supplies of pasta, flour, cooking oil, lemon-scented cologne, and other staples, though medical experts say that a two-week supply is sufficient. The doctors warn that wearing masks or stockpiling cologne and pasta does not protect one from the virus, but changing one's lifestyle and daily habits will. The best way to limit spread of the disease is to limit contact with other people.
Main opposition Republican People's Party (CHP) held its 14th Istanbul Women's Branch Congress March 15 amid worldwide cancellations due to the coronavirus. CHP Istanbul Provincial Chair and physician, Canan Kaftancioglu, was the target of criticism for insisting on holding the event and for giving a former party member a hug at his mother's funeral March 15.
Editor's Pick
Soner Çağaptay and Raffaella A. Del Sarto write: The EU often praises itself as a promoter of democracy and regional stability by highlighting the power of its enlargement process to include new members in the “neighbourhood.” Yet in the case of Turkey, its ill-conceived policies may well have contributed to the opposite. A clumsy EU has repeatedly gotten its policy toward Turkey wrong, often inadvertently helping Erdoğan at key points during his rise while creating preventable tensions with Ankara.
Politics
Russia's President Vladimir Putin called on Oct. 29 for an immediate ceasefire in Nagorno-Karabakh and peace talks that would review proposals from many countries including Turkey.
Turkey's testing of Russian S-400 missile defense systems continues to draw rebuke from the United States. "That risk is very real because they… continue to pursue the S-400. And, of course, with the testing of it, sanctions is very much something that is on the table," R. Clarke Cooper, the top State Department official in charge of arms sales, said on Oct. 28.
A 120-year-old woman living in Turkey's southeastern province of Şırnak has beaten the novel coronavirus. Following a 15-day-long treatment, Menica Encü was discharged from hospital accompanied by applauds on Oct. 28.
A Turkish court has sentenced a high school teacher to 52 years and five months in jail for sexually abusing five of his students. Child advocates have been calling for better sex abuse prevention for years. The Turkish government says it will work on prevention but has not specified how.
Twelve women who were violently detained by police during a femicide protest are now facing charges of battery from police officers, the indictment against them revealed. The women are primarily accused of holding an illegal assembly in protest of the brutal murder of 27-year-old Pınar Gültekin.
Some 210 migrants were discovered inside the trailer of a freight lorry in the eastern province of Van on Oct. 29. Migration officials reportedly searched the lorry during routine road controls and detained the lorry driver. Some 18 of the migrants were children.
Unmonitored and extensive mining in eastern Turkey threatens to destroy all life in the area, an environmental activist said. Divriği Life and Nature Platform has launched a social media campaign to organize locals against mining.
Turkey's parliament, hampered by the increased authority granted to the presidency after the country transitioned to a presidential system two year ago, has received a budget hike of 8.4 percent for the upcoming year. Parliament Speaker Şentop said that parliament had been working at full speed in spite of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Some 20 non-governmental organizations slammed Istanbul Municipality's search for a landscape design for the city's iconic Taksim Square on the grounds that the process didn't allow for "democratic input" from all stakeholders. Istanbul Municipality held a design contest for potential landscapes for Taksim Square that yielded three final projects on Sept. 20, which were offered up to the public for voting.
Turkey's largest mining union Maden-İş blasted miners who are members of the organization and who are striking for severance pay as "provocateurs." Laborers from two mines in Turkey have roused up attention recently by marching to the capital of Ankara in protest of being denied their rights.
An ancient church in the southeastern province of Mardin once belonging to Turkey's dwindling Assyrian community is being sold by its owner. The owners of the property gave up on selling the ancient church in 2015 after fierce reaction mounted against the sale, though realtor Mahsum Altay said there were no legal obstacles to selling the church.
President Erdoğan has said that Armenia employed PKK and YPG militants to fight against Azerbaijan in Nagorno-Karabakh. "They say, 'You're sending foreign militants to Azerbaijan from Syria.' I told Mr. President [Putin] that around 2,000 PKK and YPG militants are fighting for Armenia with 600$ salary," Erdoğan said, to which Putin reportedly responded by saying, "I don't know about that."
AKP spokesperson Ömer Çelik deemed CHP leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu's call on First Lady Emine Erdoğan to burn her Hermes handbag following calls to boycott French goods "violence against women." President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan had a harsher tone, saying, "If you have the guts, talk about me."
Turkish Health Minister Fahrettin Koca on Oct. 28 raised the alarm about a 62 percent weekly surge in number of COVID-19 cases in the country's most populated city Istanbul, describing the infection rate as "frightening." "If we don’t get the situation in Istanbul under control, the outbreak will spiral out of control,” Koca said in a press conference, following a meeting of the government's science board.
Turkey's opposition Good (İYİ) Party leader Meral Akşener urged the president to respond to "adolescent-like European leaders with statesmanship" instead of the "same adolescent attitude." The chairwoman's comments are in reference to President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan's brawl with French President Emmanuel Macron over the latter's strong stance against "Islamist separatism."
A new metro line running between Istanbul's neighborhoods of Mecidiyeköy and Mahmutbey on the European side opened on Oct. 28. Istanbul Mayor Ekrem İmamoğlu announced that the new line will be at the service of Istanbulites for free for the first 10 days.
Ali Babacan, the former deputy prime minister from the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) who founded the opposition DEVA in March, has said that critics of the government are being arrested or left unemployed for just expressing their opinions. “People are being detained just for speaking, for writing. You cannot consider a thought a crime. If you want just one opinion to persist in this country, this cannot happen. It is impossible,” Babacan said.
Turkish police on Oct. 28 detained five people over their alleged involvement in the suicide bombing that shook Hatay's İskenderun district earlier this week. İskenderun was rocked by an explosion on Oct. 26 which the authorities blamed on the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).
President Erdoğan has asked whether people believe that "anyone can't bring home the bread." "Do you believe that anyone can't bring home the bread? Do you think such thing exists in Turkey? Turkey is ahead of many countries in terms of its minimum wage and salaries," Erdoğan told reporters, adding that Turkey is "at a great spot" when one looks at data from the IMF and OECD.
Economy
Turkey's Central Bank Governor Murat Uysal said that it has no target on exchange rates as the lira touched a new low for a third day on Oct. 28. Uysal said higher import costs, with the lira tumbling to record lows beyond 8.3 to the dollar, rising food prices and strong credit growth were the main causes of the upward revision.
Treasury and Finance Minister Berat Albayrak has said that the economy is growing despite the tumbling Turkish Lira. The lira weakened to a record low on Oct. 26, hit by investor unease over the central bank's decision last week to keep its policy rate on hold and various sources of geopolitical concern. Strains in ties with the United States, a row with France, a dispute between Turkey and Greece over maritime rights and the conflict in Nagorno-Karabakh have all unsettled investors.
Turkish monthly inflation was almost four times greater than the official rate in September, according to a new model developed by a group of academics and researchers. According to the independent Inflation Research Group (ENAG)'s first published finding, consumer prices in September rose 3.61 percent from the previous month, compared to the official Turkish Statistical Institute (TÜİK)'s calculation of 0.97 percent increase.
Turkish Energy Minister Fatih Dönmez said on Oct. 22 Turkey will operate the gas field which it recently discovered in the Black Sea on its own, but it may cooperate with foreign firms in terms of detailed work and equipment. The minister's comments came after President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said on Oct. 17 Turkey had raised the estimated reserves of the field to 405 billion cubic meters after finding an additional 85 bcm.
The Turkish government has said that it "laughs off" boycotts imposed on Turkish products in Saudi Arabia, Morocco and United Arab Emirates. "We laugh off some countries' boycotts against Turkey. They should first learn to stand as independent countries," AKP deputy leader Numan Kurtulmuş said on Oct. 18.
Urban Beat
Turkey's southeastern city of Diyarbakır is nestled in Mesopotamia and has a deep legacy spanning millenniums and civilizations. A recent discovery on the 8000-year-old Amida Höyük archaeological site has unearthed an 1800-year-old heating system that was quite sophisticated for the time.
Kurdish artist Zehra Doğan's work that she created during her two prison sentences between 2016 and 2019 are on display in Turkey for the first time. The artist was jailed on terrorism charges and gained international fame after finishing her second sentence and holding a show at London's Tate Modern.
Turkey's Presidential Symphony Orchestra will thrive thanks to the completion of its long-awaited music hall, Conductor Cemi'i Can Deliorman said. Having been in the works for 25 years, the music hall's large auditorium can seat more than two thousand viewers.
Alterations on Istanbul's iconic Hagia Sophia reportedly violated guidelines mandated under the site's "UNESCO World Heritage" status. Converted within two weeks of the legal ruling that allowed Muslim worship, the ancient structure's mosaics were unlawfully covered up, and any work on it was deemed practically impossible, architectural publication Mimarlık Magazine reported.