Human Rights
In their "Freedom in the World 2020" report, the US government-funded organization Freedom House said Turkey has been the second country to limit freedoms and human rights the most in the past decade. The country's human rights score on the Freedom House scale was cut in half over the past decade when the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) has governed uninterruptedly. For 2019, the re-run of the Istanbul mayoral elections and the unwavering pressure on the opposition were deemed the biggest blows to freedoms.
Around 300 migrants at Ankara's Akyurt Repatriation Center were transported to the border against their will on the night of Feb. 29, Ankara Bar Association's Migrant Rights Center Chair Sadık Onur Gelbal said on March 4. According to a migrant still in the center, only 7 migrants stayed in the center after resisting deportation. Attorneys have not been allowed to visit it.
HDP lawmaker Ömer Faruk Gergerlioğlu said the chair of the parliament's Immigration and Integration Sub-Committee, Hakan Çavuşoğlu, prevented its members from interacting with the migrants whilst visiting the Pazarkule Border Gate on the Greek border. "He acted as if we were there on an excursion. We went to talk to people but were pressured to rush and make a statement to the press," he said.
One person was killed and five others were wounded when Greek police opened fire on migrants on the Turkish border. Speaking about the incident, Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP) deputy Ömer Faruk Gergerlioğlu said that the scene is a disgrace. "We asked the [Edirne] Governor's Office whether they distributed tents to people sleeping in the cold. They said, 'No.' People are in miserable conditions," he said.
Following Turkey's announcement that authorities would no longer prevent refugees from leaving the country for Europe, large numbers of refugees rushed to Turkey's border with Greece and Bulgaria. Many also left on boats for the Greek islands, uninhibited by the Turkish coast guard. Yet many of Turkey's refugees wish to stay in the country, and some are worried they will be forcibly deported.
The Istanbul Governor's Office has banned anti-war rhetoric, meetings and propaganda until March 10 to ensure "peace and safety in the city." The official statement from the governor's office said that such ideology could lead to public unrest amid the government's military operations in Idlib.
As Turkey's Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu claims over 130 thousand migrants have left the country through Edirne, the encampment near the Greek border remains crowded, encouraging police to redirect migrants to seaways as a crossing into Europe. Some 21 migrants were injured when a bus collided with a car on the highway to Çanakkale, some 42 migrants were rescued from a stranded dinghy near Lesbos and migrants already on the Greek island are camping out on the beach.
Police are the first to give migrants bad news in Edirne where they've arrived in hopes of crossing over to Greece. "You can't cross," police say before advising migrants to go to Doyran Village where they can cross the river easily, adding that this is a better way to enter Europe. Meanwhile, a human trafficker sits down to negotiate and bargain with migrants in the encampment next to the police. He boasts that he transports migrants to the Greek side safely, accompanied by soldiers.
Jailed Kurdish politician Alınak has sustained an injury to his head after slipping on ice and falling in the prison. After regaining consciousness, Alınak did not consent to wearing handcuffs while being escorted to the hospital. His wish was eventually accepted by the jail management, but there are many political prisoners who are denied of health services due to refusing to be handcuffed, said Alınak.
Houses and business places of Syrian refugees in Turkey's Kahramanmaraş province have been attacked by a group of locals. The racially motivated attack came following the death of at least 34 soldiers in Syria's Idlib last week.
The UN has said that actions of Turkey and Russia in Syria may amount to war crimes in a report covering the period from July 2019 to February 2020. The report called on Turkey to investigate whether it carried out an air strike on a civilian convoy near Ras al Ain that killed 11 people last October. Turkey has denied a role in the strike, which the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said was conducted by Turkish aircraft.
Greek police batter refugees who manage to cross the border at the Pazarkule Border Gate in the Thracian province of Edirne, Istanbul Bar Association's Human Rights Center said March 1 in a report about the camp area at the border. Some 200 to 300 migrants "were beaten up with thick sticks, and that their money and mobile phones were seized by Greek police," the report said.
Turkey's Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu urged Greece to provide asylum to the migrants waiting at the border between the two countries, particularly the Pazarkule Border Gate where crowds have been piled at for five days. Meanwhile, Soylu said over 100,000 migrants have crossed over to Europe in Edirne as clashes continue between the crowds and Greek border patrol that's getting increasingly stricter.
Turkish security sources told Reuters that a Syrian refugee was shot dead by Greek border police on March 2, as he was trying to cross Turkey's western border -- a claim denied by Athens. Separately, the Greek coast guard said that one child died after being pulled from the seat when a boat capsized off the Greek island of Lesbos.
Over 60 intellectuals from Turkey have signed a petition calling for military retreat in Northern Syria and for troops to return home after 36 soldiers were killed in Idlib Feb. 27. Among the intellectuals are academics, authors, journalists and artists.
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
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.