There is still so much we don’t know about Kanal Istanbul. But one can assume that it is a huge real estate project through which allies of Erdoğan will get richer while the rest of Istanbul will suffer — permanently.
Ignoring more than a hundred thousand pleas, the Minister of City Planning and Environment hastily accepted the Environmental Impact Assessment (ÇED) report for Kanal Istanbul. Some changes have been made on the report, according to Medyascope. President Erdoğan had said “only housing for 500,000” will be allowed, but the figure has already been changed to 1 million.
On Monday, Cumhuriyet newspaper led with the headline, “The son-in-law knows the drill.” In a move that was supposed to be confidential, Finance Minister and President Erdoğan’s son-in-law, Berat Albayrak, had purchased 13 acres of land in 2012 along the Kanal Istanbul route.
His lawyers claimed that Berat Albayrak’s father started to buy land in 2003 and the minister bought some as well, since “he didn’t want the land to end up in foreign hands.”
Which foreigners could this be referring to? Independent media outlets have reported on several land investments that Saudi, UAE and Kuwaiti businessmen have purchased along the Kanal Istanbul route.
Çiğdem Toker from Sözcü newspaper recently wrote that Arab investors have purchased 300 acres of land so far. Journalists are not allowed to view land registrations, and Toker could obtain this information from a secret source. Whilst Erdoğan proudly defended the purchase of land by the mother of a Qatari prince, there has been no word on other foreign investments.
Meanwhile, well-known economists have questioned how Kanal Istanbul will be financed, but they haven’t yet received any answers. Prof. Dr. Haluk Levent from Bilgi University believes that Kanal Istanbul is a Ponzi scheme, but with a difference: in a Ponzi Scheme, everything must be on the record, but this is not the case for Kanal Istanbul. The scheme is changing the town planning and zoning.
“There is no feasibility study for this project. The cost of the Kanal is unclear, changing between 8.5 billion and 20 billion dollars. However, our colleagues have calculated that a minimum of 35 billion dollars is needed only for the excavation. One hundred and fifty thousand acres of land is to be expropriated. Some obviously knew and positioned themselves along the Kanal’s route. In my view, Kanal Istanbul is a huge dispossession project,” says Prof. Levent.
Prof. Levent believes that the Kanal cannot be finished, because it cannot be financed. He thinks that after the first excavations, investors will give up their land and leave.
Kanal Istanbul will be an ecological disaster for Istanbul and for the whole region. But it will have an enormous impact on local people as well. “Istanbul will get much poorer,” says associate professor of sociology, Ayfer Bartu Candan of Boğaziçi University, who analyzed the social impact section of the ÇED report.
“Kanal Istanbul will affect a huge area, where hundreds of thousands of people are living. As the report states, 52 percent of them are farmers, and this the only way for them to make a living. The canal project will destroy their land and the means to survive.”
The ÇED report actually states that the impact of the canal on the local population will be “highly negative” and “permanent” on many accounts. The only positive social aspect noted in the report was the “employment during construction.”
Professor Candan believes that this assessment is not true, since the construction period will not last, and not everyone can become a construction worker.
Both professors believe that financially and socially, Kanal Istanbul is a total waste. Istanbul — actually, Turkey — has a tremendous problem of wasting its resources. Instead of solving its problems and talking about climate crisis, the government is creating new problems such as this canal project.
Just as Kavala was preparing for his release after 840 days spent in the Silivri Prison, the prosecutor’s office announced the philanthropist would be questioned on “attempting to overthrow the constitutional order." This proves how partial, arbitrary and politically involved the Turkish judiciary is. Yet the dynamics of this process remain unclear.
It’s hard to voice opposition to war when the coffins of slain soldiers are being sent back from Syria and when the nationalist mood is in full swing. However HDP deputy and former journalist Ahmet Şık, who has been jailed twice and is still tried on the Cumhuriyet case, says that they have the responsibility to question why so many young people are dying for.
The watchmen will not operate under a specific law or the constitution but under the government’s direct orders. Opposition parties thus warn of a “parallel police force” that enjoys unprecedented powers. At night, the watchmen could well turn into the state’s moral police.
Although the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) ruled for his immediate release on Dec. 10, 2019, Osman Kavala remains as the only defendant under detention at the Gezi trial. So the question is whether the Council of Europe (CoE) and member states will stand up. If they will not do that, what is the function of the ECHR and why should other states bother to follow its rules?
The media almost totally neglects or misinterprets cases related to July 15 in fear of being targeted themselves. On the other hand, high-ranking Gülenists, who have long fled the country, are in fact using the cases and prison sentences for their own PR.
Despite the government's pledge to combat femicide and domestic abuse, 474 women were murdered by men in 2019 in Turkey. Women’s rights advocates have repeatedly said the system is too weak to protect women.
Data from the last two years in Turkey points to a steady decrease in almost every aspect of a functioning, healthy democracy, such as freedom of speech, quality of education, gender and income equality, and the rule of law. It’s no surprise that society has become unhappier compared to 2017. Surely the AKP-MHP alliance is responsible for this great social, economic and political collapse.
Two days ago I went to the forth hearing of the Gezi trial in Silivri, where Kavala is the only imprisoned suspect among 16 civil society activists accused with ‘organizing and financing Gezi protests to overthrow the AKP government’ back in 2013. These trials are top examples of how rule of law is undermined and how human rights abuses are executed.
Kanal Istanbul is not only critical for Erdoğan financially. It also represents a political battlefield in which he wishes to beat his opponents, in this case the new opposition Istanbul Metropolitan Mayor Ekrem İmamoğlu.
General elections appear to be on the agenda in 2023. That is what statements from President Erdoğan and his alliance partner, the MHP leader Bahçeli, suggest. Yet, the prospect of snap elections also looms. Many politicians, economists and journalists claim snap elections will be held in 2020. While snap elections may not seem logical, logics don’t apply to Turkish politics.
The severe violations of sick prisoners rights are against the law and contradict with international agreements Turkey partakes in. Human right advocates accuse the government of being unwilling to address these problems and point to the The European Council, which remains silent.
Just a few hours before police teargassed women in the streets of Istanbul, Emine Erdoğan, wife of President Tayyip Erdoğan, was giving a speech that denounced violence against women on the occasion of the International Day for Eliminating Violence against Women. However, Mrs. Erdoğan has also stated that the rise in violence against women is just a perception and that today, thanks to the AKP, women can ask for their rights.
As a journalist, I find it to be embarrassing and paradoxical that President Trump, not known to be a supporter of the free press, mocked the Turkish press.
Yet his words, “You sure you’re a reporter? You don’t work for Turkey with that question?” reflect the truth regarding the group of people Erdoğan took along with him to Washington. These words sum up the status of the Turkish mainstream media.
Turkey generally does not rank high in suicide rates. One reason is religion; in Islam suicide is a sin. Culture and family ties also are among strong reasons why people refrain from taking their lives according to experts. However figures show that there is a rise in suicide rates in Turkey. The society does not only suffer from economical crisis and neo-liberalism, but also a harsh transformation from a hybrid democracy to a more authoritarian state.
Last week, another bunch of journalists were sacked from daily Hürriyet newspaper, which is still considered as the “flagship” of the mainstream media. In fact, Hürriyet lost its prestige long while ago. It doesn’t really matter who the editor in chief is now. Or why and how journalists were sacked. It is the final nail in the coffin. The mainstream media resembles the living death.
By looking at mainstream media, military salutes of popular figures or twitter trending topics, one might assume that Turkish people were heavily supporting the military operation in Northern Syria -officially called “Operation Peace Spring” ending in 8 days- no matter what the rest of the world says. When there is any military action in Turkey or outside its borders, it becomes even harder for critical voices to be heard.
Associate Professor Şık was the deputy director of the Food Safety and Agricultural Research Center at Akdeniz University. Then, due to his scientific research, he became an enemy of the state.