Former Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu made a formal comeback on Dec. 13 with the new party he founded, the “Future Party.” Former Finance Minister Ali Babacan’s new party is counting down the days to its launch and is due to take off either by the end of December or in the early days of January. There is also a surprise movement making its debut in Turkey: the pan-European movement DiEM25-Democracy in Europe Movement 2025.
December 18 2019
Just as 2019 is ending, the political scene in Turkey is starting to welcome some newcomers. Former Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu made a formal comeback on Dec. 13 with the new party he founded, the “Future Party.” Former Finance Minister Ali Babacan’s new party is counting down the days to its launch and is due to take off either by the end of December or in the early days of January. However, there is also a surprise movement making its debut in Turkey: the pan-European movement DiEM25-Democracy in Europe Movement 2025.
Diem25 was founded by the economics professor and former finance minister of Greece Yanis Varoufakis and Croatian philosopherSrećko Horvat. The official launch ceremony took place on February 9, 2016 at the Volksbühne Theatre in Berlin, where Varoufakis announced that “Europe will be democratized, or it will disintegrate, and it will do so quite fast,” and that DiEM25 would “shake Europe — gently, compassionately, but firmly.” The launch also saw speeches delivered by Barcelona’s mayor, Ada Colau, and philosopher Slavoj Žižek, as well as the virtual attendance of (now jailed) WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange. The theatrical setting was not coincidental: as Miguel Urbán Crespo, European Parliamentarian for Spain’s Podemos party said, “When parliaments become theatres, we have to turn theatres into parliaments.”
DiEM25 describes itself as “a pan-European, cross-border movement of democrats.” And it reiterates the following:
“We believe that the European Union is disintegrating. Europeans are losing their faith in the possibility of European solutions to European problems. At the same time as faith in the EU is waning, we see a rise of misanthropy, xenophobia and toxic nationalism.
If this development is not stopped, we fear a return to the 1930s. That is why we have come together despite our diverse political traditions — Green, radical left, liberal — in order to repair the EU. The EU needs to become a realm of shared prosperity, peace and solidarity for all Europeans. We must act quickly, before the EU disintegrates.”
Just as support for the European Union is decreasing (hanging around 44 percent as of November 2019) and nativist rhetoric increasingly dominates the national political agenda in Turkey, DiEM25 is also taking root here. The movement’s local branch will be established in January, and it will be the third country to participate outside the borders of the EU, joining the U.S. and Serbia.
In fact, the “DiEMers” of Turkey have been active since the beginning of 2019. They number around 100 people now. Almost all are “ordinary folks,” unrelated to any other political movements. They were inspired by the idea of DiEM25 and started becoming engaged in its activities. As DiEM25 was created as a “transnational movement,” a lot of its activity is online; it is easy to become an active member of the movement without having to travel and be physically present in its activities.
The DiEMers of Turkey connected with the larger movement without knowing each other and met for the first time last February. After that, in May, they started conducting regular meetings. Some of these meetings were face-to-face and others were online. As a side note, as members do not want to be restrained by established technological firms and existing internet frameworks and programs, the movement created its own software and technological tools.
In November 2019, Turkey’s DiEMers presented a piece of art they created at the ARTIST fair of Istanbul: a constellation of concepts and words written in black, green and red. The ones in black belonged to the “populist domain” and ones in red were those DiEM25 embraced. The ones in green highlighted the climate crisis.
By now, there are three DiEM25 networks in Turkey that conduct regular meetings — one in Izmir and two in Istanbul. These networks have just concluded their first formal meetings at the beginning of December. And from December 15 to 16, they had a visitor: DiEM25’s founder Yanis Varoufakis, who visited participants at the Istanbul meeting. He also gave two conference talks, one at Boğaziçi University and the other at Kadir Has University. Varoufakis also participated at a closed roundtable that included experts, journalists and academics. There was not much debate about DiEM25’s future activities in Turkey at these events: rather, Varoufakis presented the philosophy of the movement and debated the sociopolitical context that led to the foundation of the movement.
Since its establishment, DiEM25 has organized across the European Union and by now they have around 125,000 members. The movement participated in the May 2019 European elections: they just barely missed the single seat they were about to gain. While DiEM25 is pan-European, the EU Parliament elections do take place within national frameworks, so MeRA25, the European Realistic Disobedience Front was founded in 2018 as a political party in Greece and a part of DiEM25. While MeRA25 did not win seats in the EU Parliament, they got 3.44 percent of the vote in the national Greek elections, which resulted in a gain of nine seats.
DiEM25 has a system that is more like a civil society organization than a political party: it has four constituent parts that are connected to one other through a checks and balances mechanism. All policies and candidates are approved by all members, so now the members from Turkey will have a say in determining MeRA25 candidates running in Greece’s elections and all other DiEM25 candidates — for example, those competing in the EU Parliament elections.
Right before participating in DiEM25’s events that featured Varoufakis, I was in Greece, where there was a lot of talk about an impending war with Turkey. While Turkey’s public is not very aware of a possible Greek-Turkish war on the horizon, there was unease among those of us participating in the roundtable of DiEM25. As the winds of war blow across the Aegean and Mediterranean, it was refreshing to be inspired by transnational ideals. Today may be bleak, but tomorrow might be recreated from scratch based such ideals.
Who is Sezin Öney?
Sezin Öney is a journalist and a political scientist. Her interest in her subject area populism was sparked about a decade ago; she focuses specifically about populist leadership, populism in Turkey and Hungary. She studied International Relations, Nationalism, Jewish history, Austro-Hungarian history, Linguistic Rights, Comparative Politics and Discourse Analysis. As a journalist, her specialization is on European affairs and global politics; with a comparative angle to Turkey. She is based in Budapest, Thessaloniki and Istanbul.
Amid the coronavirus outbreak several European leaders have called launching an all-encompassing Marshall Plan-style public investment program to mitigate the economic impact. Turkey was a part of the Marshall Plan as it was automatically considered to be a part of Europe and the Western bloc back in 1951. How about now?
Hungary’s new “COVID-19 State of Emergency Law” allows Prime Minister Viktor Orbán to rule by decree indefinitely. he COVID-19 crisis may pass, but the dagger in the back is there to stay. And Hungary’s new legislative turn may prove to be the real “epidemic”: draconian systemic changes going viral.
Schengen is one casualty of COVID-19, but not the only one. The European Stability Pact, which requires member states to uphold a less than three percent budget deficit is another casualty. The EU had to lift the budget cap on March 20, guarded by the European Stability Pact.
Is the first casualty of the coronavirus the European Union itself? There are now more confirmed cases of coronavirus globally than there are in China, and Europe has been defined as the “epicenter of epidemic crisis” by the World Health Organization. And when it comes to facing the crisis, it’s almost as though the European Union does not exist as an institution.
Money is an important part of the issue for Ankara; but so is its safe zone plan. The polls indicated that the public supported the military incursion into Northern Syria first and foremost because they believed that a safe zone for Syrian refugees to return may be created. As Turkey’s public opinion sours vehemently on the refugee issue, the “promise of sending back the Syrian refugees” is political gold in terms of returns in political capital.
This is our darkest hour with Europe and the European Union. And I do not think that either the public in Turkey or Turkish politicians in general are aware of the grimness of the situation. Turkey’s public psyche has gone berserk with all sorts of negative emotions, and are unable to recognize that relations with Europe are completely wrecked beyond repair.
While Ankara may not receive the solid backing from NATO that Turkey is seeking against Russia now, dialogue channels with NATO are stronger compared to other international institutions — for example, the European Union. Despite all the conflicts of interest and tensions that Turkey and European states, as well as Ankara and Washington, have endured, their links with NATO are still intact.
In Turkey’s case, beyond Ankara and Erdoğan’s foreign policy line, perceptions are changing, and the West is clearly not winning when it comes to public perception. A recent survey by MetroPOLL showed that Russia is the “most trusted country” in Turkey, followed by Japan, China, and Hungary, respectively. While love of Japan and Hungary extend back to Ottoman times and might be due to imagined cultural affinities, trust in Russia and China are novel developments in Turkey.
Várhelyi’s statement on a “revised methodology” for EU enlargement and the official document for this new approach do not even refer to Turkey. Or, in other words, as far as enlargement is concerned, Turkey is not remotely on the mind of the EU.
Since March 2018, obtaining a visa through the Ankara Agreement got increasingly harder. The UK Home Office made an unexpected announcement at midnight on March 16, 2018; declaring that new applications will not be accepted until further notice.Real impact of Brexit over Turkey may be on trade front though: Britain has signed 18 free trade agreements with 55 countries so far.
2020 seems already to be ridden with unexpected crises erupting all around the world: Turkey had to face one of its worst fears, an earthquake. The warmest responses came from the EU countries with which Turkey has the coldest relations: France, and at a far warmer level, Greece.
One of the most tangible outcomes of the Berlin Conference turned out to be worsening Greek and Turkey relations. Already the Eastern Mediterranean question was the elephant in the room in relations between two countries; now the state of crisis has become permanent and “East Med” issue is right in middle of everything. Troubles with Greece will lead to worsening of already dreadful relations between Turkey and the European Union institutions, too.
U.S.-Greece relations are on track despite Trump’s reluctance to condemn Ankara. Perhaps military sales compensate for that by producing tangible results that reduce Greece’s anxieties concerning Turkey.
Clear goal of the EU and the major European states is saving the nuclear deal. As Trump was threathening to bomb 52 sites in Iran in allusion to the same number of diplomats taken the 1979 hostage crisis in Tehran, the EU’s new foreign policy chief Josep Borrell invited Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif to Brusells. However, at the moment, there seems to be no clear European vision ahead or roadmap.
Can local governments and municipal leaders counter centralized, majoritarian populist national governments by creating an alternative “spaces to breathe” for politics? Looking at Budapest, Warsaw, Bratislava, Prague and Istanbul’s determined struggle for “freedom”; it looks like we will comeback to this question more and more in 2020-and beyond.
While Turkey’s public clearly stands by the protection of human rights, they do not actively engage in any tangible act to actually support human rights organizations. They are neither willing to donate nor take part in advocacy campaigns.
At first glance, Turkey may seem to be missing the “climate activism” heyday that’s on-going in Europe. Afterall, it is not the best of the times for any sort of grassroots activism in Turkey. But if you probe deeper, you will come across a diligent and robust climate activist movement budding all over the country.
According to Sept. 2019 data, almost 90% of the public believes that violence against women has increased in recent times. And the public holds the judiciary and the political sphere culpable for increasing violence against women. Around 65% believe that the judiciary is not working effectively when it comes to cases violence against women, and 66% think that politicians are not doing enough to prevent such cases.
As Budapest’s new mayor (and also a political scientist by profession) Karácsony pointed out, maybe the cities are winning at the expense of the populist center specifically because “the correct answer is to strengthen representative democracy, complement this with the institutions which are part of the participative democracy and involve people more in decision-making.”
At the end of the day, the gist of the Erdoğan-Orbán camaraderie is displaying an image of strength to the EU. Their policies regarding Europe, popular domestically, aim to push their own agenda at the expense of Brussels.
The speed at which Germany’s “international safe zone plan” was thrown off the table was only matched by the speed at which it was proposed in the first place. While the proposal became passé almost as soon as it hit the headlines, it was useful for one thing: reflecting on the current state of political affairs in Germany and the relationship between Germany and Turkey.
All eyes were on Ankara’s relations with Washington after Turkey launched its “Operation Peace Spring,” and speculation abounded that the once-allies had parted ways for good. But in fact it is Turkey’s relations with the EU and Europe that took the real and probably most lasting blow.
Murat Yetkin writes: Fu Ying, one of the most prominent figures of Chinese foreign policy, said that the coronavirus epidemic taught a hard lesson and Chinese people would expect further reforms from the Communist Party administration. She denied the allegations of the Uighur community living in Turkey for ill treatment of their people in China and defended that people in Xinjiang are living in peace, and the economy is prospering.
The nationwide coronavirus donation campaign launched by President Tayyip Erdoğan and the block placed by the Ministry of Interior over municipalities of Istanbul and Ankara in order to prevent them from holding separate donation campaigns are among salient items of this week's episode. Duvar English's editor-in-chief Cansu Çamlıbel and pollster Can Selçuki look for answers to why the Turkish government still persists in not calling a total lockdown in major cities, especially in Istanbul.
An Istanbul court has rejected the appeal against the arrest of OdaTV journalists Barış Pehlivan, Barış Terkoğlu and Hülya Kılınç, who were jailed in March over a report covering the funeral of a member of Turkey's National Intelligence Organization (MİT) killed in Libya.
Former HDP co-chair Selahattin Demirtaş's doctor has urged his patient to be released from prison, saying his health problems make him vulnerable against the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. "Demirtaş is among one of the groups that's under highest risk. Prison conditions bear major risks in terms of getting infected," Cegerxun Polat told Duvar.
Grup Yorum's Helin Bölek has died on the 288th day of her death fast in Istanbul, the group said on April 3. Thousand of people took to Twitter to share messages of condolences, including HDP deputies and CHP deputy Sezgin Tanrıkulu, with many criticizing the government and asking whether their demands were so hard to meet that she was left to die.
Turkey’s first digital strike will be the Global Digital Clime Strike today. Moved to the digital world with the hashtag “this household is on strike” to help curb the spread of COVID-19, the strike is part of the global climate movement that started with 16-year-old Greata Thunberg. Local Turkish activists demand that Turkey adopts the Paris Agreement, becomes carbon-free by 2030 and declares a climate emergency.
A center for Kurdish language and culture research, the Kurdish Institute of Istanbul, received some 1,048 applications within 24 hours of announcing that they would be opening up new spots for their online classes in the Kurmancî and Kurmanckî dialects of Kurdish. The institute will open 27 new classes of about 40 students for the online courses that will start April 15.
Some 40 Kurdish musicians have prepared a video clip showing themselves performing the Kurdish version of the Italian folk song "Bella Ciao" in an attempt to show solidarity with Italy amid the coronavirus outbreak.
The ruling AKP wants the opposition parties' support to extend the scope of an upcoming early parole law to include prisoners sentenced for child sexual abuse – on the condition that the offender is married to his victim. The AKP's proposal seeks to benefit 270 inmates.
Turkish police have urged citizens to stay at home in a bid to curb the spread of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic by writing "Stay home" using synthetic drugs seized in a narcotic operation. A week earlier, police in Istanbul's Beyoğlu also shared the same message by writing it with seized marijuana packages.
Turkey has sent medical aid packages with Jalaluddin Rumi's words on to Italy and Spain, the countries worst hit by the novel coronavirus in Europe, to help their fight against the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. "There is hope after despair and many suns after darkness," read the banners placed on the aid packages.
Duvar reporter Aynur Tekin spent 11 days in hospital with COVID-19 symptoms. In this piece, she takes the reader through the different stages of her illness and the treatment she received at hospital. She also offers a few suggestions on how to talk to a COVID-19 patient.
A group of Turkish firms have collaborated to undertake the domestic mass production of medical respirators, which are critical in treating COVID-19. One of these firms is Baykar, a company co-owned by Selçuk Bayraktar, the son-in-law of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.
Over 600 academics and rights activists, including world-renowned intellects such as Noam Chomsky and Judith Butler, have signed an open letter and expressed their solidarity with Turkish food engineer Bülent Şık, who was sentenced to 15 months in jail for revealing the cancer risks posed by toxic pollution in western Turkey. The signature campaign has called upon the Turkish Court of Appeals to nullify Şık's conviction.
Abbas Karakaya writes: While Istanbul's Anatolian-side suburb of Çekmeköy may be adjacent to the city's northern forests, it is among the most lacking in active green areas out of all of Istanbul's 39 districts. Forests and parks in the district are seen as a means of creating tenders and generating wealth. One of the most typical examples of this approach by the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP)-led Çekmeköy municipality is the observation point project.
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.
The United States believes Iran's Ministry of Intelligence and Security was directly involved in the killing of Masoud Molavi Vardanjani last November in Turkey, a senior administration official told Reuters on April 1." Given Iran's history of targeted assassinations of Iranian dissidents and the methods used in Turkey, the United States government believes that Iran's Ministry of Intelligence and Security (MOIS) was directly involved in Vardanjani's killing," a senior administration said.
Turkey's Transport Minister Mehmet Cahit Turhan has been removed from his post by President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. Several social media users alleged that Turhan was removed from duty over criticism of the timing of a recently held tender related to the controversial Kanal Istanbul project.
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.
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.
A Turkish court has ordered the release of rights activist Osman Kavala in an investigation linked to a 2016 failed coup attempt; however, Kavala will continue to remain behind bars as he also faces espionage charges.
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.
Neşe İdil reports: Unions and performers have urged the suspension of TV series' sets amid the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. Şebnem Sönmez, a renowned Turkish actress who is also a member of the Actors' Union of Turkey, said that all the sets must be suspended, including commercials, movies and TV series. Another prominent Turkish actress, Tilbe Saran, pointed to the fact that one person can infect 2.6 others, so the continuation of the sets pose a threat to public health.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
According to a report prepared by the CHP, over 5 million people were left either temporarily or permanently unemployed amid the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic .Some 144,690 workplaces were temporarily closed as part of the measures to curb the spread of the pandemic, resulting in a significant increase in the number of people unemployed, the main opposition said.
Turkey's Central Bank has become the largest gold purchaser in the world in January and February of this year, with 41 tons of gold. Turkey was followed by Russia (19 tons), the United Arab Emirates (5.9 tons), Kazakhstan (2.8 tons) and Mongolia (1 ton).
Turkey's gas stations have lost 60 to 75 percent of sales during the COVID-19 outbreak, daily Sözcü reported April 8. Limitations on intercity bus travels have furthered victimized petroleum workers in Turkey, Union of Gas Station, Petroleum and Gas Employers said.
Turkey's exports are expected to drop around 17% in March, as the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic leads to a decline in trade with some of its biggest partners, Trade Minister Ruhsar Pekcan said on April 1. Pekcan also said that exports to Iran declined by 82%, those to Iraq by 48%, to France by 32.5% and to Germany by 14%.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
An Istanbul court has rejected the metropolitan municipality's request for the cancellation of a concession tender on the rental of unused warehouses at the symbolic Haydarpaşa and Sirkeci train stations. "It is very meaningful to announce this decision, which has been put on hold for months now, at the time of the coronavirus epidemic,” Mayor İmamoğlu said.
During these unusual times, life in the world’s largest cities has come to a screeching halt and Istanbul’s Istiklal Street is no exception. The only people walking on the street, lined with closed shops, are tourists and locals who have urgent business.
Eren Topuz writes: COVID-19 has resulted in a great deal of social distancing and efforts for meeting basic needs at home to the greatest extent possible. To that end, many Istanbulites have turned to baking their own bread at home. According to Istanbul Baker's Chamber, bread sales at bakeries and markets have declined by 35 percent since the outbreak reached Turkey.
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.
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.