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.
October 28 2019
Eric Clapton is singing: “Little man, you’ve had a busy day / Put away your soldiers, the battle has been won / Enemy is out of sight / Come along now soldier, and put away your gun / War is over for tonight / Time to stop your scheming, time your day was through.” And I am listening while going over the details of the Sochi Memorandum of Understanding (MoU).
The more it changes, the more it’s the same thing, I am thinking: Since the initial republican constitution of 1921 gave way to the second one in 1924, since the “Mosul Question” is solved on paper in 1926, since the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) took up arms in 1984, since 1991 when the Iraqi Kurds achieved de facto autonomy with the U.S. support and then since federal Kurdistan region in Iraq became a reality in 2005 but failed its independence bid in 2017. Down here, history is never past but is now, always. Here, history is the unwanted guest that refuses to leave your home.
Let’s get started then; first, as per the heading: Following VP Pence’s visit, Turkish and American sides adopted a “joint statement”. After Sochi, we have a “MoU” at hand. If form and legalese still does matter in diplomacy, that is a fact in itself. As per content, the U.S. engineered “security mechanism” is now taken over almost fully by Russia.
The main motive though, appears still to appease Turkey under numerous layers of constructive ambiguity. Here, the ill-fated joint U.S.-Turkish operation center (in Akçakale) is replaced by a Russian-Turkish monitoring and verification mechanism. Joint patrols are back, to be conducted in 10km deep inside the Syrian frontier strip.
In short, the operation “Peace Spring” folds after fifteen days as announced first -or dictated by according to others- the Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov. In other words, no more kinetic action will will be allowed on the ground. Which in turn means that Ankara relinquishes per se the threat to resorting to further military power in case the MoU is not fully implemented.
By the same token, the implementation of the deal is passed on to both the Syrians and the Russians. Although a “150 hours” clause exists, the Turkish Armed Forces can not realistically take on both the Syrian and Russian armies as that will mean a full-fledged war and not a crossborder counter-terrorism operation.
Furthermore, much to the chagrin of Ankara as one is lead to believe, YPG/YPJ is not explicitly qualified as a “terrorist organisation” in the text. Adana Agreement is reminded as the inevitable legal straitjacket to abide by. Manbij and Tel Rifat are further added to the hodge-podge wish list with no strings attached either.
The fact that the domestically vilified (in Turkey) but globally praised SDF commander Mazloum Kobane (“nom de guerre”) having U.S. president Trump on the phone and then the same day talking with the Russian Defence Minister Shoigu accompanied by the Chief of General Staff Gerasimov through video-conference, speaks for itself. Is the YPG a terrorist organization that Turkey will eradicate from now on shoulder to shoulder with Russia, or is it a militia force for Russia to partner with on the ground?
Russians will put up 15 monitoring posts along the border. What does Putins’s spokesperson Peskov try to achieve by threatening the YPG that neither Russian military police nor the SAA will stand in between the Kurds and the Turkish Armed Forces in case the YPG refuses to withdraw from the 30km border strip? Is it a scheme to accelerate the talks between the YPG and Damascus and for the YPG to change uniforms?
The emphasis on territorial integrity means that Russians are keen to see the presence of the Turkish Armed Forces in Syria end at some point in time and not become permanent. Combating separatist terrorism inside Syria together is translated by Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov as having to do with Idlib: “Here is looking at you, kid” he seems to say.
Besides, Mr.Putin talks of the Kurds as being an inherent part of the future pluralistic state of Syria. Deputy Foreign Minister Bogdanov declares his hope for the YPG/YPJ to guarantee on their own their obedience to the deal by redeploying to the 30km interior of the border.
Return of refugees issue is shelved as two million Syrians will not be voluntarily squeezing into a 120 by 30 km rectangle. Mr.Erdoğan time and again repeated that Turkey will not be shouldering the burden of hosting four millions Syrians in Turkey on its own, hinting that flood gates will soooner rather than later be open towards the Balkans unless EU coughs up the necessary sums.
Taking that hint seriously, Germans bent almost backwards to table at least “an idea” at the NATO ministerial to salvage what is left of their credibility. Defence Minister Kramp-Karrenbauer admitted the fact that Europe is long absent from the Syrian theater.
To cut a long story short, Erdoğan and Putin emerge as the immediate victors after Sochi. Erdoğan shut the Rojava shop down; sent the Americans home packing; garnered 71.5% public support for the operation; drove a deep wedge between the HDP and the main opposition bloc; smashed the two new parties that were suppose to be born out of AKP. Putin, further peeled Turkey away from the West, the U.S. and the NATO; turned himself into the sole playmaker in Syria; further advanced Russia’s diplomatic role in the Middle East.
At the Battle of Navarino on Oct. 20, 1827, Britain and France had teamed up with Russia to effectively demolish the Ottoman Navy, from which catastrophe the recovery is perhaps still not complete even in our time. Yet, less than thirty years later the same two imperial powers had had a thorough change of heart when they fought and won the Crimean War against Russia with the ailing Ottoman Empire on their side as their indispensable ally.
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.
True, Syria does not count on the map as much for the U.S. as it does for Russia. It is also true that now Russia will need to enlargen its military footprint with a land operation in Northeast Syria much larger than previously conducted and will have to deconflict the airspace with the U.S.. But what about Turkey ? Neither the U.S. nor the EU have coherent policies to keep Turkey’s western anchor in place.
Today the frequently asked question is “who betrayed the Kurds?” Half of the 35 to 40 million strong global Kurdish population are Republic of Turkey’s citizens. Tomorrow, when the hangover clears, the pertinent question may remain the same: “Who lost Turkey?”
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 imam too is apologetically in a hurry. I try to appear comforting in reiterating over and over again that everything is in order according to Islam. I even attempt to reassure him by patting his shoulder but my hand remains hanging in the air as the wide-eyed imam is aghast of this potential physical contact.
At the end of the day, Ankara’s undisclosed three-way bet appears to the naked eye as resting first on a hybrid mitigation approach as opposed to the full throttle suppression. Second, that the storm will pass quicker than others expect. Third, that Turkey will find itself on the winning end once the skies clear.
The Moscow Protocol puts the task on Ankara’s shoulders of stopping the armed militia like the HTS and the Turkey backed SNA from endangering traffic on that road to be jointly controlled. By the same token, while effectively offering the use of the road on a plate to Damascus, it allocates the burden of preventing the SAA to take it over and make a northbound push to Russia.
Not quite. One can safely assume that Moscow dictates the, call it “new order” or the “new status quo” in Idlib. And at that, effectively getting in between the Turkish Armed Forces and the Syrian Arab Army. No more, no less and temporarily. Compared to a potential full-blown Turco-Syrian war, encouraged first and foremost by the U.S., it is no small feat either.
The assumption of those who predicted a sudden death to Erdoğan-Putin bromance is proven to be only wishful thinking. The two leaders, as shared with the public by Kremlin’s spokesperson Peskov are slated to meet in Moscow either on the 5th or the 6th of March. How many more Syrian Air Force Soviet made attack jets will be downed by then is anybody’s guess. The tally stands at three at present time.
Title is from a song by Sheffield band Pulp’s well known 1995 debut album: “Mis-shapes, mistakes, misfits / Raised on a diet of broken biscuits, oh…” With a sleight of hand replace “biscuits” with “promises” and there you have it, a concise executive summary of Erdoğan’s Syria and Libya policies.
The art of diplomacy, among other things, is to create time and space for a rationale within the possible outcomes. That would be in this case, for the recently heavily fortified TAF observation posts establish a new frontier line leaving the control of the M4 and the M5 highways together with all the towns along them to Damascus and keep a much narrower pocket including the Idleb town to host the almost a million Syrian IDPs and hence allowing them conditions not push for the Turkish border.
Bana, on her term, travelled numerous times from Istanbul to Misrata than to Genoa and so forth. Recently though, the French aircraft carrier Charles de Gaulle sailed through the disputed eight parcel declared by Greek Cyprus and, “to add insult to injury”, also topped its flag displaying mission by monitoring the same Bana being escorted by Turkish navy fregates to Libya. Before AFP had time to break the news, President Macron had already denounced Turkey as breaching the UN imposed arms embargo to Libya.
I have no single bit of sympathy at all for this ridiculous Trumpian unilateral MEPP that makes a mockery of diplomacy and the Palestinian land. But I do worry about the fact that Turkey carries no weight to dictate its will upon all the rest of the world. For that matter, no other power, be it regional or global, not even the U.S. enjoys that sort of latitude. There is no need for Ankara to constantly pick unnecessary fights while in the meantime there is no shortage of conflicts that Turkey’s national security all around it.
Today, a shaky hodge-podge opposition coalition of sorts seems to have emerged following the metropolitan municipality victories in 2019, first and foremost winning the prized duchy of Istanbul among them. Now, the secularist nationalists and muslim democrats with the Kurds and leftists suspiciously eyeing but soldiering on with them have a quite clear shot at the presidency in 2023 the latest -in ceteris paribus conditions.
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.
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
Şafak Göktürk writes: Once the dust settles, the governments -and the perceived role of the states- will inevitably come under greater scrutiny. National governments may be the official standard units for international interaction. But, as this outbreak has highlighted and in fact bolstered, the network of people across the globe is far more intense and substantial.
Turkey’s state-owned Halkbank on March 31 pleaded not guilty to criminal charges in a federal court in Manhattan that it helped Iran evade US sanctions, in a case that has strained relations between the United States and Turkey. The plea – to charges including conspiracy, bank fraud, and money laundering – was entered by the bank’s US lawyer at a hearing conducted by telephone conference because of the coronavirus pandemic.
Human Rights Watch on March 31 said Turkish authorities’ failure to ensure adequate water supplies to Kurdish-held areas in Syria's northeast is compromising humanitarian agencies’ ability to prepare and protect vulnerable communities in the COVID-19 pandemic. Turkish authorities have interrupted water pumping several times since the start of the year, with the latest interruption on March 29, it cited aid organizations as saying.
More Turkish residents aged 18 to 35 are worried about losing their jobs than they are about the coronavirus, a survey conducted by private pollsters. Some 68 percent said they are worried about unemployment, while 63 percent said they are worried about the pandemic.
Turkey’s presidential palace spent 4.5 million lira in 2018, a report by the Court of Accounts revealed. Annual spending at the palace totaled 1,648,678,000 lira, 705 million of which was not itemized in the report.
Water consumption in Turkey has become under scrutiny as authorities urge people to wash their hands frequently amid the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic that led to millions of people staying home to prevent the spread of the highly contagious virus. The General Directorate of State Hydraulic Works released a written statement on March 27, saying that "water has become more precious than ever" since consumption has increased since the beginning of the outbreak.
Former deputy prime minister Ali Babacan’s new Democracy and Progress Party (DEVA) announced its board of directors March 31, revealing 18 women among the 50 directors and some seven women out of 21 members of its Central Board of Presidency.
There has not been a confirmed case of coronavirus case in Greek refugee camps, but that is a catastrophe waiting to happen, the UNHCR warned. In refugee camps where asylum seekers are poorly fed and suffer from various diseases, the results could be extreme, according to Dimitris Patestos, the head of the Lesbos branch of the Doctors of the World.
A Russian Navy cargo ship transited the Bosphorus Strait en route to Syria on March 24. The Russian Dvinitsa-50 ship, part of Moscow’s auxiliary fleet, was carrying at least three military ambulances along with a shipping container on its deck.
Iran said on March 31 its natural gas exports to Turkey have stopped after an attack on a pipeline inside the neighbouring country, Mehdi Jamshidi-Dana, director of National Iranian Gas Co., told Iran's state news agency IRNA. "The pipeline has exploded several times in the past. It is also likely that the PKK group has carried out the blast," he said.
Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu has criticized the Constitutional Court for issuing rulings belonging to Norway and not Turkey when he was talking about the widespread operations against those determined to be sharing "provocative" social media posts. Some of the rulings issued by the Constitutional Court don't belong to Turkey, they belong to Norway," Soylu told broadcaster A Haber on March 26.
Turkey's Constitutional Court has ruled for a right violation in the case into a protester hit by a gas canister fired by police during Gezi Park protests of 2013, as it also fined the state to pay 10,000 Turkish Liras to the complainant as compensation. It also questioned whether police officers who used tear gas received the necessary training, concluding that the complainant was wounded as a result of uncontrolled use of tear gas.
The Turkish government is going ahead with the controversial Kanal Istanbul project, despite widespread opposition and the current crisis stemming from the coronavirus outbreak. On March 26, it held a tender for the reconstruction of two bridges on the route of the project.
Nuray Pehlivan reports: Thousands of migrants who remain at Turkey’s borders in hopes of crossing over to Europe are now being told to leave the area due to the coronavirus pandemic. Ankara’s recent instructions about the coronavirus directly contradict their Feb. 28 decision that allowed migrants crossings, leaving them once again in limbo.
Two Turkish soldiers were killed and two others wounded after a mortar attack by PKK militants in northern Iraq's Haftanin region on March 25, the Turkish Defense Ministry said. Shortly after, the ministry said in a separate statement that Turkish warplanes had hit four targets in the region, killing eight PKK militants.
Bosses close to the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) have forced workers to take unpaid leave amid the increasing number of coronavirus cases in the country. According to the workers at The Ankara Hotel, which is owned by Cengiz-Kolin-Limak, those who have annual leaves are forced to use them, while those who don't have any leaves are obliged to take unpaid leave between March 23 and April 15.
Twenty two journalists were sent to jail, nine others were detained, while 20 journalists appeared before the courts in Turkey in March, according to a report prepared by CHP MP Utku Çakırözer. The deputy demanded that imprisoned politicians, prisoners and human rights activists are not excluded from the government's plan to release thousands of prisoners.
Turkey's High Election Board (YSK) has annulled the mandate of a mayor from the main opposition CHP on the grounds of his previous conviction of two offenses. Kadir Aydar said that the YSK had previously seen his criminal record while registering him as a mayor candidate and had not raised an objection to his application.
In a letter addressed to Rıdvan Duran, the general director of Turkey's Public Advertising Agency (BİK), ten members of the European Parliament (EP) called for the immediate end to the public advertising ban that has been imposed on daily Evrensel since September 2019.
Turkey's Interior Ministry on March 23 appointed trustee mayors to eight more municipalities run by the HDP in the southeastern provinces. Including this latest move, the government has appointed trustees to a total of 40 municipalities won by the HDP since the 2019 March local elections.
MHP Group Deputy Chair Erkan Akçay shared a picture of a man badly beaten by a group of ultra-nationalist MHP supporters, as he also bragged about the incident. "Who is this handsome man?" Akçay asked sarcastically in his Twitter post. "They say that his test for being undignified was positive," he also said.
Ankara's removal of eight mayors from the pro-Kurdish Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP) is an example of the government using the coronavirus outbreak as an opportunity, HDP Co-Chair Mithat Sancar said in a press conference March 23. He also criticized the government's economic stimulus package for failing to fulfill the needs of healthcare workers.
Children in Turkey were on March 23 shown an animated cartoon depicting the execution of former Prime Minister Adnan Menderes as part of their home schooling during the coronavirus outbreak. Following widespread criticism, the Education Ministry has launched an investigation into the incident.
Tezcan Karakuş Candan, head of the Ankara branch of Turkey's Chamber of Architects, has said that a company has been constructing a wedding hall on the land of the city's iconic Atatürk Forest Farm under the disguise of "landscape design." "Coronavirus opportunists are working. Everyone's concerned on their health, but they are still after land rent and looting," Candan said about the Pusay Tourism Logistic Co. Ltd.
Pro-government businessman Ethem Sancak's brother-in-law Mehmet Akarca was elected as the head of the Court of Cassation on March 24. A total of 332 court members cast votes in the elections that took place under coronavirus precautions. Akarca gained 267 of the votes.
A report by the Turkish Statistical Institute (TUİK) published on March 18 revealed that the segment of the Turkish population that is above the age of 65 had increased by 20% since 2014, reaching 9.1 percent of the general population. However, it noted that 62.8% of the elderly population was below 74.
There are still more than 5,000 migrants waiting at Turkey’s border with Greece to cross over into Europe. Ankara maintains that some 145,000 migrants have crossed over to Europe from Turkey, a number that Greece vehemently refutes.
Turkey's Banking Regulation and Supervision Agency (BDDK) has approved an application from Turkish billionaire Aydın Doğan's holding company to start a new investment bank in the country. The bank will be named “D Investment Bank A.Ş.” and will have a starting capital of 200 million Turkish Liras ($28.5 million).
President Erdoğan said on March 18 Turkey would postpone debt payments and reduce tax burdens in various sectors under a 100 billion lira ($15.4 billion) package to support the economy and lessen the impact of the coronavirus pandemic. Erdoğan also advised citizens not to leave home unless necessary for three weeks and to minimize social contact.
The former co-chair of Germany’s Green Party Cem Özdemir, who is of Turkish descent, tested positive for the coronavirus, he said in a Tweet on March 19. “I’m okay and no one should worry about me,” Özdemir said in a video he published on Twitter.
The United States believes Russia has killed dozens of Turkish military personnel in the course of its military operations in Syria, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said on March 17. Pompeo did not specify where or during which incident the Turkish soldiers were killed.
Russia and Turkey cut short their first joint patrol in Syria's Idlib on March 15 after rebels and civilians opposed to a ceasefire agreement cut off a main roadway to block its path. Hundreds of civilians and rebels cut off the roadway, rejecting the presence of Russian forces and what they said was an agreement that did not guarantee their re-settlement after being pushed out by violence.
Turkey's Chamber of Agricultural Engineers head Özden Güngör said that Turkey may face a desert locust outbreak, saying that it's possible for the outbreak to reach the country since it's already in Iraq and Iran. Pointing to the fact that desert locust swarms can consume food enough for up to 40,000 people in a day, Güngör noted that Turkish authorities need to take action. "This is a greater danger than coronavirus. They destroy food sources completely," he added.
The Ankara prosecutor’s office has demanded aggravated life sentences for eight defendants accused of being involved in the killing of the Russian ambassador to Turkey Andrei Karlov in 2016. The Kremlin said on March 5 Russia wants to ensure that both masterminds and perpetrators in the murder are found and brought to justice.
Ninety-six people were killed in Turkey during the month of February, according to a human rights report prepared by main opposition Republican People's Party (CHP) deputy Sezgin Tanrıkulu. The report also stated that 115 people were tortured or improperly treated while in prison, and 227 people were taken into custody at 64 events, including press conferences, meetings, flyer distributions, and demonstrations.
Former Land Forces Commander Gen. Aytaç Yalman died at the age of 80 in a hospital that he was receiving treatment late on March 16. Yalman's name made headlines frequently with the Balyoz (Sledgehammer) coup plot case, which was marked by top generals accusing each other. Former army general Özkök accused Yalman of formulating the idea of issuing a memorandum against the AKP, while Yalman questioned the portayal of Özkök as being the sole actor in preventing the coup plot.
The pro-Kurdish Peoples' Democratic Party has formed a committee to work on the formation of a "democracy alliance," a concept that was brought up in the fourth national congress Feb. 23. "There are many left, democratic and socialist forces outside of the HDP," said Emin Orhan, co-representative for the newly formed committee.
Former deputy prime minister Ali Babacan launched his long-awaited Democracy and Progress Party (DEVA) in a ceremony that was marked by emphasis on freedoms in Turkey. "It breaks our hearts to see that our country keeps losing ground in all areas. The people are worried about their future. The people of this country have been saddened and hurt over the past few years. Everything was taken away from them, but they showed patience," Babacan said.
Metin Topuz, a Turkish citizen who worked as a liaison for the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) in Istanbul, faces up to 15 years in prison over being a member of the Gülen movement. Topuz has repeatedly rejected the allegations. "I have no contact with any of the organizations or individuals of FETÖ," Topuz told the court in the hearing on March 10.
Turkey's Foreign Ministry summoned the Greek ambassador to Ankara, who was told that Greece must stop "violations of Turkish waters and the detention of journalists," state-run Anadolu Agency said. The journalists were reporting on the humanitarian situation of migrants in Lesbos and Rhodes islands, Anadolu Agency said, without elaborating.
İbrahim Gökçek and Helin Bölek, two members of Grup Yorum who have been on a death fast with the demand for the ban on their concerts to be lifted for 268 and 265 days, respectively, were taken to a hospital by police officers, prompting concerns on whether a forced intervention process is underway. "No one can silence Grup Yorum. It's either victory or death," Gökçek said.
Renowned philanthropist and human rights activist Osman Kavala criticized the successive court rulings to keep him in jail, saying that they are maneuvers to keep him in prison. "I get acquitted and another court case is brought up urgently to keep me in prison. When it drops, a third case is brought up! I'm ashamed on their behalf over what has been happening," Kavala told CHP deputy Utku Çakırözer.
Social media users in Turkey have pointed to the ages of politicians after the country imposed a partial curfew on March 21 for citizens over the age of 65 and those with chronic diseases. Dozens of politicians are above the age of 65 in Turkey.
Former Diyarbakır Mayor Selçuk Mızraklı from pro-Kurdish Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP) was sentenced to nine years and four months in prison March 9, a year after he was elected by a landslide and six months after he was replaced with a trustee. "The ruling on Selçuk Mızraklı will show the Kurdish people that they don't have the right to elect their own government," said Mızraklı's lawyer Mehmet Emin Aktar.
Some 13 actors who were laid off from their jobs at the Istanbul Municipality City Theater were reinstated after three years and seven months. The actors were laid off during the state of emergency declared after the botched coup attempt of July 15, 2016 in an attempt to cleanse state institutions of supporters of U.S-based Islamic cleric Fethullah Gülen, Ankara's top suspect for the failed takeover.
Police used tear gas and rubber bullets to disperse the crowd gathered on Taksim's Istiklal Street to mark International Women's Day. Images on social media showed women being dragged by their hair, as well as being battered by police officers. Violence against women and femicides are in dire levels in Turkey, with hundreds of women getting killed each year, in addition to thousands who get beaten by men.
A minibus driver in Turkey’s capital has dressed his vehicle in a surgical mask to draw attention to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. The driver covered the bus’ front bumper in a white cloth that he attached to the side mirrors.
A Turkish soldier and three local Syrian security personnel were killed in a car bomb attack in Ras al-Ayn in northern Syria, the governor's office of Şanlıurfa said on March 12. The attack occurred within the area of Turkey's "Peace Spring Operation."
Only 30.7 percent of Turks see the Turkish military presence in Syria's Idlib as a "necessity," according to recent survey. Asked if the presence of Turkish military in Idlib is a “necessity,” 30.7 percent of the survey participants said “Yes,” while 48.8 percent said “No” and 20.5 percent chose the option of “I do not have an opinion/No answer.”
A hearing scheduled for March 3 in the case against Turkey's state-owned Halkbank has been adjourned. In a letter to Judge Berman, the bank's lawyer Andrew Hruska asked for more time to obtain a written authorization from Halkbank indicating that he has been given permission by the bank's general manager to enter a plea on its behalf.
Turkey has exempted citizens of 11 European countries from tourist visas for visits under 90 days and no more often than once every 180 days. The exemption will be applicable for tourist travel and transit passage.
The investigation into the death of James Gustaf Edward Le Mesurier was completed after nearly 3,5 months, with Istanbul Chief Public Prosecutor's Office concluding that the former officer died as a result of falling and ruling for nonsuit. Le Mesurier was found dead in Istanbul’s Beyoğlu district early on Nov. 11, 2019, prompting suspicions on whether he was murdered.
The European Union will be imposing sanctions on two top executives from Turkish Petroleum (TPAO) for the country's drilling activities in the east Mediterranean that it deemed illegal, the Official Journal of the EU said on Feb. 27. Vice President Mehmet Ferruh Akalın and Deputy Director of the Exploration Department Ali Coşkun Namoğlu will see their EU assets frozen and be forbidden to travel in EU countries.
The European Parliament's former Turkey rapporteur, Kati Piri, has said in a statement on Twitter that the European Union failed to uphold its end of the 2016 migrant deal with Turkey after several EU countries have criticized Ankara's recent move to ease border restrictions.
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.
German Chancellor Merkel has criticized Turkey's move to ease border restrictions and accused Turkish President Erdoğan of pressuring the EU “on the back of the refugees." Meanwhile, EU interior ministers will hold an extraordinary meeting on March 4 to discuss the situation at the EU's border.
Over 2 tons and 384 kilos of heroin were seized by Turkey's narcotic police and its Dutch counterpart in an international operation carried out in five countries, Turkish Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu told CNN Türk on March 4.
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.
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.
The president of İGAM, an Ankara-based immigration think tank, has warned against possible cases of Alan Kurdi in the Aegean Sea if refugee crossings are to increase following Turkey's statement that it will no longer stop refugees from reaching Europe.
The U.S. has imposed new sanctions on Turkish company Eren Carbon Graphite Industrial Trading Co Ltd. because of its support for Iran's missile program. "These measures underscore that Iran’s missile program remains a significant proliferation concern," the State Department said Feb. 25, adding that it is "consistent with our efforts to use all available measures to prevent Iran from advancing its missile capabilities."
A group of people on early Feb. 28 protested outside the Russian Consulate General in Istanbul against an attack that targeted Turkish troops in northwestern Idlib, Syria. “The whole world knows that Russia and [Syrian] regime forces were behind the attack,” said Sezgin Çelik, one of the protesters.
A 14-day quarantine was lifted for Turkish citizens that were brought from Wuhan to Ankara with a cargo plane, Turkey's Health Minister Fahrettin Koca said on Feb. 14. He added that no trace of the virus was detected in any of the patients that were placed under quarantine. Koca also said that Turkey is manufacturing coronavirus detection kits in accordance with World Health Organization standards and that some countries have already stated a demand for the kit.
The HDP has renewed 80 percent of its party assembly during its fourth congress in the capital Ankara on Feb. 23. The reshuffle stemmed from the party's strict two-term rule, which led to former co-chair Selahattin Demirtaş, who has been in jail since Nov. 4, 2016 to be left out as well. The new party assembly also included 12 lawmakers, including Meral Danış Beştaş, Garo Paylan, Feleknas Uca and Filiz Kerestecioğlu.
According to a recent research conducted in Turkey's eight eastern and southeastern provinces, Kurdish parents mostly speak in Turkish with their children. Majority of these parents want Kurdish to be included as a language of instruction in public schools and 72 percent of them want the government to recognize Kurdish as an official language besides Turkish.
A Turkish court has banned access to the online version of a cartoon by Leman which makes a reference to Finance Minister Berat Albayrak's land purchase on the route of the controversial Kanal Istanbul project. Leman's Jan. 22-dated cover depicts Bayrak as he stands along the route of the Kanal project and utters his famous phrase of “Here is very important.”
Turkey's former President Abdullah Gül has suggested returning to a parliamentary system. "I would prefer a fully democratic parliamentary system," Gül said, while voicing support for Ali Babacan. "I, of course, support him and his party. I trust and think highly of Babacan's character, education, knowledge and wording in politics," Gül said.
An American couple hunted two mountain goats in the southeastern province of Adıyaman. The mountain goats in the southeast of Turkey are sacred in the Alevi faith, adhered to by a majority of the local population. While the illegal hunting of mountain goats is fined with 26,000 Turkish Lira (about $4,500), some 19 goats were hunted down in December 2019.
Turkish President Erdoğan has issued a decree to open 14 millions square meters of pasture lands to construction. Public infrastructures and buildings can be built on these pasture lands if the constructions will “serve common good and are of necessity,” says the presidential decree.
Jailed mafia leader Kürşat Yılmaz said that he was shown a picture of Armenian-Turkish journalist Hrant Dink in the past in order for him to murder Dink. "İsmail Issız, Ömer Küçükyurt and Hüseyin Albay came to me for the murder. I don't remember who but one of them showed me a picture of Dink and said, 'Murder him too. We will protect you,'" he said.
A secret witness testifying in the trial of a man accused of being a follower of the US-based Islamic preacher Fethullah Gülen said that Gülen's followers tried to kill President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan by having him fall off a horse in 2003. The secret witness, known as 'Zaman,' testified that Gülenists poisoned a horse named Cihan that Erdoğan rode and fell off of during the opening of a park in the Bayrampaşa district of Istanbul.
President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has urged deputies of his ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) to have at least three children. "You stick with having one child. I'm saying at least three. I don't want one child for the vitality of our country," he said, before turning to the deputies with a single child to ask, "Am I right?"
Detention warrants were issued for more than 750 people over their suspected links to the movement of the U.S.-based Islamic preacher Fethullah Gülen. Gülen movement, an ally-turned-foe of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP), is widely believed to have been behind the July 15, 2016 failed coup attempt.
Turkey's population has increased by about 1.5 million and reached 83,154,997 citizens in 2019, the Turkish Statistical Institute said. While Istanbul remains the most populated city with over 15 million residents, the metropolis also has a population density of about 27 times the national average. The number of people per square kilometer is 108 nationally, whereas the same figure for Istanbul is 2,987.
An Istanbul court has acquitted renowned novelist Aslı Erdoğan of the charge of membership of an armed "terror organization" for writing for pro-Kurdish daily Özgür Gündem that has since been shut-down. The court also acquitted Erdoğan’s colleagues Bilge Aykut and Necmiye Alpay. The trial against other co-defendants, including human rights lawyer Eren Keskin, is to continue.
The German economy ministry said in its answer to a recent parliamentary question that the government has authorized arms exports to Turkey, Qatar, the UAE and Egypt worth 4.3 million euros during the period of Jan. 1 – Feb. 4. The Left Party’s ("Die Linke") MP Sevim Dağdelen has criticized Germany's move, saying: “Arms exports to countries involved in the Libya war should completely end.”
An Istanbul prosecutor has presented his final sentencing opinion regarding the case of Deniz Yücel, demanding a prison sentence of up to 15 years and three months in jail for the journalist. Yücel was jailed in Turkey from February 2017 to February 2018. After his release, he returned back to Germany.
Syria's parliament has backed a resolution condemning the mass killings of Armenians by the Ottoman Turks in 1915 as genocide, in a move that came amid increased tensions between Ankara and Damascus in Idlib. In the past, Syria allowed the recognition of the genocide inside the country, but the government did not officially recognize it due to ties with Ankara.
Greek far-right MEP Lagos has been suspended from joining the European Parliament's activities for four days and deprived of seven days of daily allowance after tearing up a paper copy of the Turkish flag during a session in January.
A U.S. federal court has denied a request made by Turkey to dismiss a civil suit by protesters who were violently beaten while staging a demonstration against Turkish President Erdoğan in Washington D.C. in 2017, The Hills has reported. “Defendant Turkey points to no indication that an attack by the protesters was imminent,” US District Judge Kollar-Kotelly wrote in her judgement.
Following the deadly earthquake in the province of Elazığ that killed 41 people last month, geologist and earthquake expert Dr. Naci Görür wrote in a series of tweets that the expected major Istanbul earthquake will be at least a 7.2 on the Richter scale, with an epicenter in the Kumburgaz area of the western suburb of Büyükçekmece.
The Confederation of Turkish Trade Unions urged all employers March 31 to temporarily ban layoffs to prevent unemployment during the coronavirus outbreak. The confederation also called for a 15-day pause in production, except for urgent goods, and for the allocation of Turkey’s unemployment fund to workers in need.
Turkey is not among the non-EU emerging economies in Central and Eastern Europe that has applied for emergency assistance from a $50 billion pool available via the IMF’s rapid financial support facilities, the organization’s European Department Director Poul M. Thomsen said.
Turkey's economy will face a “sharp” contraction in the second quarter of 2020 amid coronavirus outbreak, according to Douglas Winslow, primary analyst on Turkey and director of the Sovereign Group at Fitch Ratings, in London.
Turkey's Central Bank provided more stimulus for the financial sector and economy on March 31, saying it would ramp up government debt buying and offer new pools of cheap funding to stem the fallout from a growing coronavirus outbreak. The Central Bank also extended 60 billion lira ($9 billion) worth of rediscount credits and added more lending options well below its 9.75% policy rate. It said the moves would provide much needed credit to companies and liquidity to government debt markets.
Turkey's economic confidence index fell 5.9% month-on-month in March to 91.8 points, data from the Turkish Statistical Institute (TÜİK) showed on March 27, marking a downturn after five straight months of gains. The confidence in real sector deteriorated the most, going down 7.6%.
Moody's revised its growth forecasts downward for 2020 amid the coronavirus pandemic. "We expect Turkey’s [B1 negative] economy to be hit the hardest, with a cumulative contraction in second- and third quarter GDP of about 7.0%. The shock will likely take a large toll on Turkey’s tourism-related sectors through the summer," it said in its Global Macro Outlook 2020-21.
Turkey’s financial “shield package” against the blow of the coronavirus might be forcing small businesses into more debt. Turkey’s preventative measures will allow for 100 billion Turkish Liras’ worth of loans and debts to be deferred with interest for three months.
Turkey has suspended tax payments for millions of people in the country, Treasury and Finance Minister Berat Albayrak said on March 24. "We have identified business sectors which fall under force majeure provisions," he said, adding that some 1.9 million taxpayers, who have income from agriculture and commence or who are self-employed, will also benefit from force majeure provisions.
A recent survey by pollster Ipsos revealed that Turkey’s lemon-scented cologne has become the most-demanded consumer good amid the coronavirus outbreak in the country. Vinegar and pasta followed, along with non-perishable foods and cooking essentials like flour and salt.
Treasury and Finance Minister Berat Albayrak said on March 19 that uncertainty about the global supply chain generated by the pandemic represented an opportunity for Turkey. He also said that he had "no concerns" about Turkey's ability to meet its economic growth, budget and inflation targets for 2020 despite expectations of a potentially severe global recession due to the coronavirus.
Turkey's lira weakened to 6.52 against the dollar on March 19, hitting its weakest level since September 2018. In August and September 2018, Turkish Lira hit record lows against the dollar when relations between Turkey and the United States significantly deteriorated over the imprisonment of a U.S. pastor in Turkey.
Four major Turkish clothing companies announced they were closing their stores indefinitely as of March 19 in an effort to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. The internationally-renowned Turkish denim manufacturer Mavi Jeans and the luxury boutique chain Beymen were among the four firms.
The unemployment rate among Turkey's young population, ages 15 to 24, has surged to 25 percent in December of 2019, higher than the past six years' rates, the Turkish Statistical Institute (TÜİK) revealed March 10. The average unemployment rate has also risen from 2018 to reach 13.7 percent.
Turkey's Competition Board has ultimately fined tech giant Google 98.3 million Turkish liras for violating the terms of fair competition due to unfair access to advertisement space. Last March, the board opened an investigation into claims that Google uses abusive tactics to quash its rivals.
Turkey's Banking Regulation and Supervision Agency (BDDK) ruled that Turkish banks are allowed to swap only 10 percent of their legal capital. In August 2018, The BDDK had already lowered the limit of swaps, futures, forwards and options with a foreign currency and a Turkish Lira leg to 25 percent of the banks’ legal capital.
HSBC is considering selling its Turkey business amid concerns about the country’s volatile currency and economic outlook, sources familiar with the matter said, according to a news report released by Reuters on Jan. 29. The bank’s retreat from Turkey, where it has operated since 1990, would be one of the biggest exits from a country it has made in recent years as it shrinks its once globe-spanning empire.
McDonald's Turkey's managing company Anatolian Restaurants Management was sold to Birleşik Holding ("United Holding") for a little over 280 million Turkish Liras, approximately $46 million. Previously the property of one of Turkey's largest conglomerates Anadolu Group, the company stocks will change hand after the approval of the Turkish Competition Board.
Turkey is set to receive information on its citizens' assets in foreign countries as part of the Multilateral Competent Authority Agreement (MCAA) that aims to prevent tax evasion in accordance with the Standard for Automatic Exchange of Financial Information in Tax Matters. The system came into force in Turkey on Jan. 1 after it was published in the Official Gazette.
Istanbul's legendary Atlas and Rexx cinemas have been shut down amid financial difficulties. They were both popular meeting points of Istanbulites and one of the few movie theaters that were not parts of big chains.
The historic Prinkipo Greek Orthodox Orphanage - located on Istanbul's Büyükada island and considered to be Europe's
largest wooden structure and the world's second largest - is rotting and at risk of collapse. The Greek Orthodox Patriarchate announced that it could not come up with enough funds to protect the building. People's Democracy Party (HDP) deputy Tuma Çelik called upon the Turkish Ministry of Culture and Tourism to take immediate action.
Nobel Prize-winning author Orhan Pamuk described love as a car crash, while speaking about his 2008 book The Museum of Innocence. "In my book, I described love as if it were a crash, something terrible that has happened to us, something dark, incomprehensible, and out of our hands,” Pamuk said.
Hagia Sophia was the most popular touristic site of 2019 with a total of 3,727,361 visitors, Turkey's Culture and Tourism Ministry said. Remodeled as a mosque under the Ottoman Empire, Hagia Sophia was converted into a museum in 1935. The second most visited touristic destination in 2019 was the Mevlana Museum in Rumi's birthplace, the central Anatolian province of Konya.
Turkey was revealed to be Europe's second most affordable country to live in by CEOWORLD Magazine. According to a ranking that measures the cost of living, rent, groceries, eating out and purchasing power, Turkey is the 102nd cheapest of 132 countries worldwide.
Turkey has six cities in user-generated database Numbeo's safety index rankings for 2020. Student-populated Eskişehir ranked number eight on the list with a safety rating of "high." Bursa, Ankara, Izmir, Antalya and Istanbul were also on the list with safety rankings of "moderate" and higher.