Like all governments around the world, the Turkish government has a number of tough calls to make during this time of public health turned economic crisis. So far, the Turkish government seems to have opted to keep up economic activity as long as it can, before it imposes a total lockdown.
March 27 2020
Like all governments around the world, the Turkish government has a number of tough calls to make during this time of public health turned economic crisis. The trade-off is straightforward. Governments must keep an eye on two curves. The first one shows the number of infected patients. That curve is a function of the number of people tested on daily basis. So it may or may not increase depending on the number of tests that are being undertaken. Yet official figures are now somewhat irrelevant.
By now, we know how the curve evolves under various mitigation scenarios. Depending on how strict and wide-reaching the rules of isolation are, this curve can be one that is concentrated over a shorter period of time thereby putting tremendous stress on the health system or a one extending over a longer period of period, allowing some respite for the health system. Under that scenario, the death toll is inevitably high. The other possibility is a curve that extends over time, thereby allowing some respite for the health system. This is where the second curve comes into play: that of an economic growth or recession. As the government starts imposing more restrictions on economic life, the infected peoples’ curve will spread over time, but the recession curve will deepen due to the continued stagnation of economic activity.
So far, the Turkish government seems to have opted to keep up economic activity as long as it can, before it imposes a total lockdown. The public is not provided any information regarding the government’s decision-making process. It has been claimed, on a normal day, without the Covid-19, intensive care units in Turkey run at a 75 % capacity. Thus, some doubt the health system can in fact accommodate the influx that will be caused by the virus. Publicly unavailable data also include the distribution of the tested, the infected and the dead by province, which makes it rather difficult to evaluate the situation.
In anticipation of impacts the Government announced an economic “shield” package to help businesses survive the crises. There is quite a bit of criticism but the package does provide some relief for SMEs. I believe it fails to provide relief for the most vulnerable part of the society.
In a poll we did at TurkiyeRaporu.com between March 16-17, we asked respondents across Turkey, how they invest their savings. The most striking result in our survey is that 50% of the participants stated that they do not have any savings. So almost half the population does not produce a surplus. The do not have a buffer to make it through rough times. This is not surprising, as almost 10 million employees are estimated to make close to the minimum pay.
Another important result of our survey is that 10% use their cash saving to pay debts. This means that there is a very significant part of the population that either depends on a monthly pay check or daily revenue generated from which ever work field they are active in. The shrinking of the economy, even without the lockout, puts this group of people under tremendous stress. This is not only a humanitarian issue but it is also an economic issue going forward, as once this crisis is over the sociological residual will be too costly.
Who is Can Selçuki?
Can Selçuki holds a MSc degree in Economics from University Bocconi. Before co-founding Istanbul Economy, a public opinion and big data firm, Can worked as an economist at the World Bank Ankara Office working both with the public and private partners in private sector development. His work at the World Bank focused on regional development, competition and innovation policies. Prior to working at the World Bank, Can worked as an economics researcher at the Brussels based think tank the Centre for European Policy Studies (CEPS) for three years. He is the author of several papers and reports on trade competitiveness, regional development and innovation policy in Turkey. He is frequent commentator on Turkey and the region in print and visual media such as BBC World and FT and regularly writes on Turkish economy and politics in Turkish and international print such as Foreign Policy.
In the early days of March, our polling results suggested that 46% of the population in Turkey would not get vaccinated if a vaccine was developed against COVID-19. Luckily, this indifference to the virus has evolved for the better between March and now. As we enter the most critical two weeks of the pandemic in Turkey, the numbers with respect to self-isolation and precautions offer more hope.
The move by the government to freeze the donation accounts of municipalities will not benefit anyone.It is not the public that is getting polarized, it is the politics. And those who polarize will lose this race.
Only one in two people in Turkey are worried about Coronavirus, while close to 20 percent stated that they were “neither worried nor unworried”. More strikingly, despite the warnings only 48 percent do not shake hands while only 49 percent do not kiss when seeing someone.
Amid growing tensions between Turkey and Russia on the Syrian battlefront, we asked respondents to rate the countries and international organizations based on how much they trust them. The bottom line of this story is that Turkish society has lost faith in its allies and neighbors.
The Turkish public is focused on Idlib. Naturally so. The rising number of martyrs and the difficulty to see an definitive end in sight to conflict worries many people. The risk of losing Turkish soldiers is the chief concern by 47.1% among Turkish public. If the heavy Turkish casualties continue to rise, the government might risk losing domestic support.
While one usually knows what people like about their preferred political parties, one tends to be less aware of what voters dislike about their parties. An investigation into this by TurkiyeRaporu.com showed that Turkey's two largest parties also have the most disgruntled base.
In a country that has more than 50 million registered voters, a single vote does not carry much influence. Yet voter turnout in Turkish elections remains over 80%. So why do Turkish people vote? In fact, fulfilling one's duties as a citizen matters more than having an impact on the election results.
Even though the majority of the society did not conduct an earthquake test, 66.4% of society believes that their home is earthquake resistant. In fact, 43.7% of attendants stated that they believe their homes are earthquake resistant even though they never conducted an earthquake test. Statistics demonstrate that Turkey is not prepared for earthquakes at both an infrastructure and individual level.
Following a significant earthquake and amid a turbulent political conjuncture, Turkey's citizens are worried. Yet rather than politics or economics, people are mostly concerned about their individual security and that of their families.
Speculation regarding the potential of new parties are abound. According to our September 2019 polling across Turkey, the potential for the new parties that would be established by former prime minister Ahmet Davutoglu and former economy chief Ali Babacan stood a little over 17% combined. This number in line with the 15-20% of the electorate who are looking for something new. We will have to wait and see whether the new parties will be able to realize this potential.
A nation-wide poll, conducted during the first week of January, showed that 58% of the population is against sending troops to Libya. A breakdown of the result according to party supporters is telling. The AKP base itself is opposed to it and a divergence prevails between the AKP and the MHP bases.
Turkey is now sending military support for the Government of National Accord (GNA) to aid in its fight against General Hafter. The potential benefit of this decision is too distanced from the public life. Particularly, if the mission turns into an operational one, it will be very difficult to explain to the public why we are indeed in Libya.
Turkey is locked into a single issue and it is not the new wave of Turkey bound refugees from Idlib. It is the mega Canal İstanbul project. However, public does not have adequate knowledge of the project according to a recent poll.
Finally, last week, former Prime Minister and chief of foreign policy, Ahmet Davutoğlu’s much anticipated Future Party was inaugurated. Analysts are rushing to deem his party’s chances slim. I see that there is a fundamental flaw in that analysis.
For a long time now, all our polling points to two main sources of dissatisfaction among the public. First is the economy. Second is the Syrian refugees and the Syria policy. Both are policy areas where Mr. Babacan and Mr. Davutoğlu were responsible for at the highest level of public office. It would have been much easier and strategically correct for President Erdoğan to link today’s woes to the wrong doings of the two during when they were in office.
Most recently, an event transpired likely to be seen in scenarios of an absurd comedy piece. With the “pro” votes of MHP and AK Party MPs, the bill postponing the requirement for filtration in thermal power plants, was approved in the parliament. The decision caused an uproar in the opposition ranks but also in a large section of society. Then, something quite unexpected happened; President Erdoğan vetoed the bill. The irony is of course, that the very same law that was tabled by Mr. Erdoğan’s AK Party was vetoed by President Mr. Erdoğan himself.
Last Tuesday, former Deputy Prime Minister, Mr. Ali Babacan for the first time appeared on national television as an opposition politician. Mr. Babacan did not object when the host of the talk show host suggested he appears as more of a “political organizer” than a “political leader”. It shows that his movement is not organized in the typical political hierarchy that voters are used to see.
A couple of months ago, when three HDP mayors were removed from office, I had predicted that this increased the chances of early elections in the fall of 2020. Looking at the economic sentiment of the house hold, it is safe to say chances for an early elections has slimmed since. Because, right now economy is the number one priority of the Turkish electorate and they are not happy.
According to a latest poll, President Erdogan's Justice and Development Party (AK Party) appears to have lost 1.2 points of support whereas Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) increased its support by 3.1 points after Turkey's "Operation Peace Spring" in northern Syria.
In Turkey and across the world, the voting behavior of the young is changing. Turkey hosts close to 5 million citizens comprised between the ages of 14 and 17. By 2023, this entire group will vote, constituting close to 10% of the entire electorate.
Day-to-day events and inconsistent messages that have been coming from Turkey's traditional Western partners over the past decade have fostered negative sentiments. Yet the majority of the Turkish public values a long-term partnership with the West.
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.