Who is Aydın Selcen?
Born in Istanbul in 1969, Aydın Selcen graduated from Saint Joseph High School and the International Relations Department of Marmara University. Selcen has taken up several positions at the Foreign Ministry between 1992 and 2013, his latest post being the Erbil Consul General of Turkey between 2010 and 2013. Upon his return to Ankara, he resigned from the civil service and served as a political advisor at the General Energy oil company for one and a half years. Since 2015, he has been writing independently, with a focus on Iraqi and Syrian issues. Selcen is a member of the Galatasaray Football Club congress.
The outcome of the Berlin Conference on Libya is anybody’s guess and whether it will make any difference is anybody’s guess as well. The safest bet is to claim that we are just starting a long de-escalation period with its inevitable ups and downs unless General Hafter manages to upend it militarily.
President Erdoğan’s combative foreign policy appears to let off steam and slow down on both Syrian and Libyan fronts. It is too early to tell whether finally reason had found a foothold in Ankara. For Mr. Erdoğan the hardest bit to tackle in 2020 will be the U.S. President’s repeated invitation for the NATO’s mission to be expanded to the Mid East and namely to Iraq.
Turkey, if it stops short of going all in in Libya and taps into its long forgotten diplomatic arsenal, has a unique opportunity to step forward with its home brew de-escalation efforts. President Erdoğan already had both Mr. Rouhani and Mr. Saleh on the phone. Briskly, Ankara can step forward and play on both its hundreds year long relations with Teheran and its half a century old NATO membership.
Mr.Erdoğan went to Tunisia but came back empty handed following his meeting with his counterpart Mr.Saied. The joint diplomatic, military, intelligence team that was dispatched to Moscow got no deal after three days long talks. Italy, Britain, France and Germany are seriously considering imposing a No Fly Zone which will definitely put a hold to armed drones provided by Turkey to GNA.
Vienna, no need to be a historian to reach that conclusion, is an imperial capital. Coming from Istanbul, I can’t help but think about the parallelism of these two cities being amputated of their respective empires almost simultaneously at the end of World War I.
Ankara went ahead and put the pedal to the metal in all files. No restraint, no consultation, no foresight: Just jump in head-on wherever, whenever you see trouble. Why? Simply because it almost always paid off at the ballot box. Second, there was no payback, no price tag attached to any of all these reckless foreign policy moves, manoeuvers and adventures.
So here I was back at heart of the blob. Or alternately, here I was knee-deep back in the swamp. Ten years ago this city was sort of abuzz. This time though, if President Macron kindly allows me to borrow the description he recently used for NATO, DC appeared to me sort of “brain-dead”. A good friend who had navigated these treachourous waters for decades had warned me that I would come to witness “the demise of an empire.”
Never in the history of mankind, less than ten richest persons in the world possessed more than half of the global wealth. But also, never in the history of mankind, humans lived so long and a billion people to global population was added in such a short span of time. Statesmen are in short supply in our time and at the same time all the public upheaval from Santiago to Najaf can be understood as a global rejection of being lead by anyone anyway.
It seems like Erdoğan’s Turkey not only wants to go it alone almost in all foreign policy issues but also actually expects almost all other countries, friend or foe, to, at best, applaud its acts and decisions or to understand them and to remain silent, at worst. That’s not a realistic goal.
What is the secret of the “Kılıçdaroğlu Doctrine”? That’s “winning with a disappearing act”, in a nut-shell. That is, now you see Mr.Kılıçdaroğlu and he dexterly shuffles the deck of cards lurking in the shadows, and now you don’t, the cards are open on the table with brand new names facing the voter. Ergo, CHP rises as the legendary phoenix from its ashes.
Where will Iraq go from here, I do not know. The historical process triggered by the U.S. military that toppled the most brutal dictator of its era in 2003 does not yet appear to have arrived at its final destination. It is perhaps a good enough thing to be alive for some of us, but then again, for some of us to merely survive is not enough. The brave young generation of Iraq, unlike the frequent traveler that your humble servant was, plays this game for their lives: They want to live, to be free and pursue their happiness as they see fit.
The relations between Turkey and the U.S. are beyond repair. The bilateral relations are either going to look like “operational” as in U.S.-Egypt relations for example, in which case people who consider themselves democrats will definitely go under the bus. Or, another option may appear to be, as it derives from the dominant narrative of Erdoğan, a character similar to the U.S.-Russia relations: Turkey playing the part of an equal and indispensable but difficult partner.
Turkey is anchored in the West since the Paris Peace Conference in 1856 that ensued the Crimean War. Today, over the control of a godforsaken piece of land of 120 to 32km, Putin is invited to kill too many birds with one stone.
As the U.S. pulled out, Bashar al-Assad’s Syrian Arab Army (SAA), supported by Russia, moved into Manbij and Kobane to the west and to the Qamishli axis to the east of the said rectangular field of ongoing operations. Hence, there is no reason why the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) should heed the U.S.-Turkish Joint Statement, and there is no reason why the congressional sanctions effort should stop—it didn’t.
Last week marked the fourth anniversary of the Ankara Train Station massacre. The pain caused by the hundreds of dead and injured subsists. The victims simply demanded peace. But they paid a high price for it.
Turkish Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu said, rather ungrammatically, that they would 'raggedy' Istanbul Mayor Ekrem İmamoğlu if he doesn't mind his own business. He openly and directly threatened him with these words
Editor's Picks
Murat Yetkin writes: Merkel might present a list of German citizens who are either in prison or banned from leaving Turkey, probably knowing that a similar list could be presented by Erdoğan about the extradition of certain names in Germany who were granted shelter following the 2016 military coup attempt, indicted to be masterminded by the U.S.-resident Islamist preacher Fethullah Gülen.
Luke Frostick writes: Turkey's foreign policy is in a muddle. Turkey's relationship with its NATO allies is strained to the point of crumbling. It has failed to build new alliances in the Middle East, quite the opposite in fact, and has shown its vulnerability to Iran and Russia, its traditional regional rivals. In his new book Erdoğan’s Empire, Soner Çağaptay breaks down the geopolitics of the AKP era in forensic detail.
Taner Akçam writes: Why did they not kill Hrant Dink in front of his house? Or, why did they not kidnap him, kill him and throw his body somewhere, as they did in other unresolved murders? If they had wanted, they would have done each of these easily. But instead of those actions, they killed him in front of Agos, on the street, in broad daylight, before the eyes of everybody. The reason is that they wanted to take revenge on the Armenians by avenging the death of Talat Pasha.
Politics
The staff of İncirlik military air base in Turkey’s southern Adana province is being reduced by 424 employees. The U.S. company handling maintenance services on the air base cited “the U.S.' reducing its presence in Syria” as the reason of the staff reduction, according to an official of the Turkish Defense Workers' Trade Union.
The Ankara First Heavy Penal Court has released its justified decision on ruling for the acquittal of 19 suspects, including former Interior Minister Mehmet Ağar, in the case into 18 unsolved murders that were committed in 1990s, deeming all reports by Turkish Intelligence Agency (MİT), parliament, ministries and commissions "insufficient" to convict the suspects.
The manufacturer Boeing had fault in the crash of a Boeing 737-NG from the Turkish Airlines fleet in 2009, The New York Times reported. The aircraft was an earlier version of the Boeing 737-Max, the grounded plane that killed 346 people in crashes in Indonesia and Malaysia. Expert reports that are unavailable to the public revealed "risky design choices and faulty safety assessments" on the part of Boeing.
As the row over the AKP and the main opposition CHP over Kanal Istanbul continues, a report by daily Cumhuriyet said that Finance Minister Berat Albayrak purchased land on the route of the controversial canal a year after President Erdoğan announced the plans to build it. Albayrak's lawyer Ahmet Özel released a statement shortly after Cumhuriyet's report, saying that "it was an ordinary purchase."
Researcher Elif Sandal Önal was one of the many "Academics for Peace" - a group of more than 2,000 people who signed a controversial petition that was released in January 2016 and that condemned the Turkish military's heavy use of violence in certain southeastern, predominantly Kurdish districts of Turkey. Like many of the signatories, Önal was fired from her job and sought exile abroad. Now settled in Germany, the academic says he "has no intention of returning to Turkey."
After meeting with jailed philanthropist and businessman Osman Kavala at Silivri Prison, Süleyman Bülbül, a lawmaker from the main opposition Republican People's Party, has said that Kavala feels his right to a fair trial has been violated. Kavala has been jailed pending trial for over two years. Bülbül also spoke with lawyer Selçuk Kozağaçlı and musician İbrahim Gökçek about their time in prison.
A military diplomatic source told TASS that the deal signed between Ankara and Moscow regarding the S-400 missile defense systems doesn't include technology transfers, even if it's partial. The source also said that more than 120 surface-to-air guided missile have been supplied by Russia to Turkey along with a regiment set of S-400 systems.
President Erdoğan has said that Somalia has invited Turkey to explore for oil in its seas and Ankara will take steps in line with the Somali invitation, without elaborating further. "There is an offer from Somalia. They are saying: 'There is oil in our seas. You are carrying out these operations with Libya, but you can also do them here.' This is very important for us," Erdoğan said on Jan. 20.
The European Union is working on a list of names to enforce sanctions on Turkey for searching and drilling for natural gas in the Eastern Mediterranean, the bloc's foreign affairs commissioner Josep Borrell has said. Borrell noted that Greek Cyprus Foreign Minister Nikos Christodoulides gave a briefing on the matter.
The assailant who targeted the HDP's Istanbul headquarters last week has been arrested on charges of “using unregistered firearm” and “disturbing the public peace.” The gunman told the authorities that he had come to Istanbul from the Central Anatolian province of Kayseri just to undertake this attack and had scouted the area for two days prior to the incident.
According to a poll carried out by Metropoll research company, the gap between the popularity ratings of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and Istanbul Mayor Ekrem İmamoğlu is closing. Erdoğan topped the list with 50.2 percent popularity rating, while İmamoğlu ranked second with 48.6 percent. Ankara Mayor Mansur Yavaş ranked third on the list with 38.8 percent.
Residents of the Gürgen village in the Black Sea province of Rize's Güneysu district--the hometown of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan's father--protested against the construction of a hydroelectric powerplant. “The operation here is against the law and has no legal basis, leave our village, we will not give you permission to take our land and destroy our river,” the villagers said.
Turkey rapporteur for the European Parliament (EP) Amor has congratulated Istanbul Mayor İmamoğlu for winning last year's mayoral election "twice." “I congratulate you twice, because you won the election twice. This process means a new political expansion for your country. And you, in an unexpected way, became a political figure,” Amor told İmamoğlu during their meeting.
The new ISIS leader has reportedly been identified as Amir Mohammed Abdul Rahman al-Mawli al-Salbi, one of the founding members of the group, the Guardian reported. While Salbi became head of the group hours after the killing of former leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the group had initially released what turned out to be a nom de guerre in order to protect Salbi's identity.
Due to anti-vaccination sentiment that has increased in Turkey in recent years, the number of those refusing to vaccinate their children has skyrocketed from 183 to 23,000 in only 7 years. The consequences for public health have also quickly revealed themselves, as the number of those catching measles during the first 9 months of last year increased fivefold compared to the same period in 2018, reaching 2666.
Founder of Turkey's first environmental association and nicknamed "Grandpa Earth," Hayrettin Karaca died at the age of 97. Best known for establishing the Turkish Foundation for Combating Soil Erosion (TEMA), Karaca was awarded the Forest Hero Award from the United Nations in 2013. “We are deeply sorry for the loss of our Founding Honorary President and our Grandpa Earth, Mr. Hayrettin Karaca.” TEMA said on Twitter.
Unknown assailants have broken into Istanbul's Pir Sultan Abdal Cemevi, spraying threats on its walls and ground such as "It is not over" and "Die." Authorities on Jan. 20 announced that an investigation was launched into the incident.
Former Lt. Gen. Metin İyidil was arrested on Jan. 16 two days after he was acquitted and released from prison. "All of my activities on the night of the coup were aimed at preventing the coup," İyidil told the court on Jan. 16, adding that he served the state for 44 years. Three people were detained on Jan. 16 over attempting to help İyidil escape, including TFF Chair Nihat Özdemir's son Batuhan Özdemir.
Pharmacies in Istanbul have been unable to sell vaccination against HPV - a virus that can cause genital warts, cervical cancer and penile cancer. Erdoğan Çolak, the Chair of the Pharmacists' Association of Turkey, says this has to do with the fact that exporters are unwilling to sell products for low-marked prices and delay deliveries.
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 Journalists Union of Turkey and its LGBTİ+ Commission have launched a book campaign and are receiving donations for female journalists in prison. Melike Aydın, Ruken Demir and Sadiye Eser have been imprisoned for over 40 days. They have yet to see a judge or have their trial set. "Our fight will continue until journalists gain their freedom," the Union's press release said.
Turkish and Syrian heads of intelligence met in Moscow on Jan. 13, in the first official contact in years, a senior Turkish official and Syrian news agency SANA said. Turkey's intelligence chief, Hakan Fidan, and his Syrian counterpart discussed the ceasefire in Syria's Idlib, and possible coordination against the Kurdish presence in northern Syria.
Anadolu Agency employees, who were detained by Egyptian police earlier this week in Cairo, were released on Jan. 19, the agency's head said. Anadolu Agency Director General Şenol Kazancı said that three Egyptian citizens of Anadolu Agency staff were released for some $600 bail on each.
As thousands of passengers suffered from delays and cancellations in flights during last week's storms at Istanbul's new airport, Atatürk Airport continued to function properly, with Russian President Vladimir Putin using it. Atatürk Airport started to be used for cargo planes following the transfer of flights to the new airport - a move the opposition continues to criticize due to continuing disrupts in flights at the new one.
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.
A Turkish court on Jan. 14 released Assyrian priest Sefer Bileçen on judicial control, four days after his arrest on charges of "aiding and abetting" the outlawed PKK. Bileçen is said to be the only caretaker of the Mor Yakup Monastery in Turkey's southeastern province of Mardin.
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.
A five-century old pitcher was stolen from the house of Koç Holding Board Chairman Ömer Koç. The theft was immediately reported to the police and an official report was written. The pitcher was determined to be of 5,000 Turkish Liras worth and to date back to the 16th century.
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.
Turkey's Mosul Consul General Mehmet Küçüksakallı said that Turkey's consulate in the northern Iraqi city will be reopened later this year, after having been out of operation since 2014 when ISIS stormed the consulate and took dozens of employees hostage. "Within 2020 the consulate will be open again and start to provide visa services. I am encouraging our businessmen to take on important infrastructure projects," he said.
President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has carried out two unannounced visits to Islamist İsmailağa community leaders late on Jan. 12. Pictures from his visit were shared by one of the members of the group, prompting criticism on social media over the government's relations with Islamic cults in Turkey.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Turkey's National Women's Volleyball Team has earned a ticket to the 2020 Tokyo Summer Olympics by beating Germany 3-0 at the CEV Tokyo Volleyball European Qualification. The women's team won second place at the European Championship last summer, and the Turkish women's team was last at the Olympics in 2012.
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 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.
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.
Economics
Officials from Turkey's Competition Authority visited several banks late on Jan. 17 to analyze computers as they opened a wide-ranging probe of trading in the financial sector, according to three bankers. The competition authority said it was conducting “preliminary research” into banks, adding it could not say more about the effort until the process is completed.
Turkey's private sector was in more than 210 billion dollars of foreign debt at the end of November 2019, revealed the Central Bank. While $10.2 billion of the total is floating debt, almost $200 billion of the total debt is in long-term loans. While 60.9 percent of the foreign loans were in dollars, the second largest slice was euro, making up 33.7 percent.
Total assets of the Turkish banking industry have decreased by over 21 billion liras in the beginning of the year, revealed weekly money and banking statistics by the Central Bank of the Republic of Turkey (TCMB). The dip represents a decrease of about 0,8 percent of assets. Turkish Lira assets took majority of the hit with a 0,71 percent decline while foreign currencies dropped by a mere 0,32 percent.
Housing sales have decreased by 1.9 percent in 2019, the Turkish Statistical Institute revealed. While 1,348,729 residences were sold in 2019, one third of these sales were mortgages. Istanbul was the city with the highest number of residences sold with 237,675 sales, followed by Ankara and İzmir. Residential sales to foreigners went up by 14.7 percent, reaching 45,483.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
The Istanbul Municipality has announced that within 20 years there will be no space left in the city to bury the dead. “A solution needs to be found, and the best solution is to ensure that they are transported to Anatolia,” the municipality's cemeteries bureau head Dr. Ayhan Koç said.
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.”
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.