Two days after at least 36 Turkish soliders were killed in Syria, President Erdoğan bore a sarcastic smile as he explained his discussion with Trump on Feb. 29 at Istanbul’s Dolmabahçe palace. Erdoğan was met with widespread laughter from the audience. His fiery speech moved from the number of martyrs to tourism data. Whilst explaining his decision to direct the refugees to the war front, the president discussed economic growth figures.
“Thank God we have collected the fruits from our efforts, from democratization moves to major infrastructure investments. A general improvement in economy and basic service infrastructure have risen our citizens' living standard.”
But what really happened was that for the investment year 2020, contractors who built and managed 10 city hospitals were to be paid 10.4 billion Turkish Liras annually as rent and service income. Likewise, for the Osmangazi and Yavuz Sultan Selim bridges and for the Avrasya Tunnel, the money to be paid to builders and managers in one year amounts to 3 billion liras.
“We will ensure the rule of law is enforced," Erdoğan said. For their perpetuity, we will fight wherever and whatever is necessary and pay whatever price needs to be paid.”
Berat Albayrak, the Finance and Treasury Minister, and son-in-law of the president, has already banned access to numerous news stories about himself. He has banned all news stories and caricatures about his land purchase around the Kanal Istanbul region. He also blocked access to the stories about the ban.
As Turkey deployed troops for its operation in Syria, the Red Crescent (Kızılay) scandal erupted. One of Erdoğan’s classmates from his former Imam High School has a company named Torunlar GYO. It turns out this company has transferred 8 million dollars to Kızılay through Ankara’s natural gas distribution company Başkentgaz which Torunlar had purchased through a questionable tender in 2013. This money was later transferred to a controversial Foundation named Ensar. Let alone opening an investigation to this scandal, one of the top actors in the scandal, the head of Kızılay, Kerem Kınık, was photograph in Idlib smiling alongside an ISIS member.
In his speech, Erdoğan also commented on the young people who took part in Gezi Park demonstrations back in 2013, saying, “They are not bright or anything. They are totally deceived young people. These are the best words I have chosen. The dimension of the incident is very big.”
Young people, according to February data released by the Turkish Statistical Institute (TÜİK), is the number of unemployed youth between the ages of 15 and 34 that has reached 2,562,000, of which 856,000 are university graduates. Some 10,200,000 young people are not included in the workforce according to official figures. Similarly, since 980,000 university graduates are not counted as unemployed because they have given up looking for work. In the past 10 years, the gross salaries of university graduates has eroded by more than 40 percent.
“They say that Turkey should surrender to terror organizations and to an enemy regime, this is what they do. Now, I am asking my nation: Should we surrender to terror organizations?” Erdoğan said.
That same week, it was disclosed that Burhan Kuzu, a ruling AKP deputy and a constitution professor, had worked to save a key name of international drug trade, Iranian Naci Şerifi Zindaşti. Judges and prosecutors admitted how they were under intense pressure from Kuzu to release Zindaşti.
“All data confirm that the recovery period is over and that the economy is picking up again. We have closed 2019 with almost 1 percent of growth, which offers a lesson to the pessimists.”
Growth rates have shown Turkey is rapidly impoverishing. In 2019, income per capita almost collapsed. That figure which was 12.5 thousand dollars in 2013 is now around 9.1 thousand, thus making Turkey fall back behind Lebanon, Kazakhstan and Bulgaria. Turkey’s total national income has gone back from 950 billion dollars to 754 billion dollars.
In February only, 2,221,094 enforcement files have been processed for unpaid debts. In 2019, 2.5 million people could not pay their individual loans and 2.7 million people could not pay their credit card debts.
“We have broken another record in the January of this year. The number of foreign tourists visiting our country has increased 16 percent reaching 1.8 million people compared to the same month last year. God willing, this year we are expecting 58 million tourists and a tourism revenue of 41 billion dollars,” Erdoğan said.
After the construction sector, the new target was the tourism sector. The omnibus bill that has been approved in parliament last month introduced amendments to 11 different laws and all the country's coasts are now under the President's supervision. The new concept of “national gardens” that are to be built on coastal areas are free from zoning laws. Dozens of marinas to be built at the Black Sea, Marmara, Aegean and the Mediterranean can now be freely built. While the Constitutional Court had decided that Lake Van cannot be opened to development, a particular clause was added to the law, making an exception for the President’s Office.
“These territories are not ordinary territories. They have been shed with martyr’s blood. They are the land of martyrs,” Erdoğan said.
Two days before these words were uttered, thousands of square meters of land was sold from İzmir to Ağrı with the President’s approval, the Official Gazette wrote. A plot belonging to the Treasury at Istanbul’s Büyükçekmece district of 8,892 square meters was sold to the private company BİMS Construction for 2.3 million liras. Another one of 400 square meters at Istanbul’s Kartal district was sold to Kaya Construction for 611,000 liras, while a larger one at İzmir’s Torbalı district was sold to Çatkaya Real Estate. In the provinces of Ayfon, Tokat and Ağrı other public lands were put out to tender as well as in the province of Sivas, to build the controversial HES dams.
With regards to the Istanbul Finance Center – the one that the infamous contractor Ali Ağaoğlu left unfinished - a deal has been signed with Yıldızlar Construction for 509 million liras. Turkey’s Mass Housing Administration (TOKİ) granted the construction of 781 units in Elazığ, the earthquake-stricken province, to the builder of the Presidential Palace, Rönesans Holding. In the past five years, this company has won construction bids worth of 3 billion liras.
Above were some of the incidents that were discussed in Turkey as Erdoğan said the Idlib operation had been ongoing for the past 20 days. Here is part of the answer as to why they do not want to leave the "martyrs' hill" vacant.