freedom of expression in Turkey
Ali Babacan, the former deputy prime minister from the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) who founded the opposition DEVA in March, has said that critics of the government are being arrested or left unemployed for just expressing their opinions. “People are being detained just for speaking, for writing. You cannot consider a thought a crime. If you want just one opinion to persist in this country, this cannot happen. It is impossible,” Babacan said.
A Turkish court has blocked access to the Turkish website of Erbil-based news media group Rudaw. The ban was announced by Free Web Turkey, which tracks access bans in the country. Rudaw is based in Iraqi Kurdistan and broadcasts in multiple languages.
Freedom of expression in Turkey is effectively nonexistent, although it's a constitutionally protected right, a report by the German Foreign Ministry said. Deutsche Welle reported that the document noted Ankara's mass prosecution policies, and the inconsistencies in the judiciary.
A Turkish court sentenced former co-chair of Democratic Regions Party (DBP) Sebahat Tuncel to 11 months in prison on charges of "insulting" the president, because she said Erdoğan was "an enemy of women and Kurds."
Turkey's ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) has submitted a bill consisting of nine articles to regulate social media to parliament. If passed, the bill would require large social media providers to set up an office in Turkey and respond to orders to remove "offensive content" within 48 hours.
Turkish daily Evrensel was issued a 45-day ban on all advertisements as a result of a May 5 column titled "No escape from ill fate." The opinion piece is also the topic of a criminal investigation launched by the presidency on the charges of "targeting the constitutional order through messaging about a coup d'état."
duvar englis podcasts
In this edition of Turkey: The Long View, Duvar English columnist Luke Frostick is joined by the president of P.E.N. Turkey, an international organization dedicated to protecting the rights of writers around the world.
CHP Istanbul deputy Sezgin Tanrıkulu has prepared a report on rights violations in Turkey in April, saying that there were 271 instances that the right to life was violated. Tanrıkulu, in his report, also cited violations related to COVID-19, mainly stemming from the government's bans on opposition municipalities from carrying out aid campaigns.
MHP deputy Halil Öztürk has submitted a draft bill to parliament that suggests accessing social media with ID numbers. The draft bill added to the concerns in the country on censorship and the freedom of expression, with thousands of people being subjected to fines and jail sentences each year for criticizing the government on social media.
Turkey ranked at 154 in a ranking of press freedoms in 180 countries, in decreasing order. Turkey's "the world’s biggest jailer of professional journalists," press freedom organization Reporters Without Borders (RSF) noted in their annual World Press Freedom Index.
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.
Six journalists, who were arrested last week over a report covering the funeral of a member of Turkey’s National Intelligence Organization (MİT) killed in Libya, are being kept in isolation, main opposition Republican People's Party (CHP) deputy Utku Çakırözer has said upon visiting them in Silivri Prison. "I call on the prison authorities and the Justice Ministry to end this practice," Çakırözer told Duvar on March 11.
Osman Kavala has deemed new "political or military espionage" charges against him "more ridiculous" than the previous accusations. "It's clear that this baseless allegation, which is more ridiculous than the previous ones, aims to invalidate the ECHR's violation ruling and the limitation on imprisonment before the preparation of an indictment to two years that was introduced by the judicial reform package," Kavala said.
Turkey's former deputy prime minister Ali Babacan has said that a group of 15 to 20 university students would govern the country better. He also said that the lack of freedoms is the biggest problem in Turkey. "If I were to list Turkey's problems, I would put the lack of freedoms, especially the freedom of expression, on top. When people can't talk and say, 'There are problems,' you can't begin finding solutions to them," he said.
Editor's Pick
Soner Çağaptay and Raffaella A. Del Sarto write: The EU often praises itself as a promoter of democracy and regional stability by highlighting the power of its enlargement process to include new members in the “neighbourhood.” Yet in the case of Turkey, its ill-conceived policies may well have contributed to the opposite. A clumsy EU has repeatedly gotten its policy toward Turkey wrong, often inadvertently helping Erdoğan at key points during his rise while creating preventable tensions with Ankara.
Politics
The Turkish Lira further lost its value on Oct. 27, measuring more than 8.1 liras on the dollar as a result of more than 35 percent depreciation this year. The depreciation is a result of Ankara's increasingly strained relationship with the European Union, as well as the United States.
The German government has said that the Erdoğan regime has in recent years increased its support for Milli Görüş, an Islamist group monitored by German intelligence services due to alleged extremist leanings. In its response to a parliamentary question, the German government has also emphasized the links between Milli Görüş and Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood.
The ruling AKP has turned down the opposition's demand for budget discussions to be aired live on the official channel of parliament, called TBMM TV. The opposition deputies have said that these talks need to be conducted in a “transparent” manner as it concerns the people, with a CHP lawmaker saying that Turkey has not experienced such a “dark period” in its history before.
An employee of the United States’ Istanbul consulate was handed five years and two months in prison on charges of aiding the movement of the U.S.-based Islamic preacher Fethullah Gülen. The court did not arrest Nazmi Mete Cantürk, meaning he will be free pending appeal.
HDP co-chair Mithat Sancar has said that the party condemns extremists' abuse of Islam to justify their violent actions, but also slams France's treatment of Islam in a row about cartoons of the Prophet Mohammad published by satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo.
Many prisoners in Turkey, particularly political prisoners, are held in facilities hundreds or thousands of kilometers away from their families, making it very difficult for visitation. Requests by prisoners for transfer to a closer penal institution are now being rejected by the authorities on account of the coronavirus.
As coronavirus cases surge in Istanbul, Governor Ali Yerlikaya said that he can be a "scapegoat" if anyone's looking for someone to blame. The governor also said that he has been working closely with Istanbul Mayor Ekrem İmamoğlu. “My job is not politics, it is service. To that end, I am continually in contact with İmamoğlu. You should know that we are working very well [together]. There is no problem whatsoever,” he said.
President Erdoğan has filed a criminal complaint with Turkish authorities against prominent Dutch far-right leader Geert Wilders saying that he had insulted him on social media. "Even though the crime was committed directly against the person in the presidential seat, the value that is being violated is the state's political government structure," Erdoğan's lawyers said.
Turkish police have apprehended seven ISIS militants who were preparing for attacks in the capital Ankara in the latest round of operations against the jihadist group. According to authorities, the militants were seeking to attack Oct. 29 Republic Day celebrations and Nov. 10 ceremonies that are held each year to commemorate Turkey's founding father Mustafa Kemal Atatürk.
The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) has found main opposition Republican People's Party (CHP) leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu right in his case against President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. While Turkish courts ruled that Kılıçdaroğlu "attacked Erdoğan's personal rights" in two separate speeches in 2012, the ECHR ruled that the country violated the main opposition leader's freedom of expression.
A coal thermal power plant in the Central Anatolian province of Eskişehir is predicted to make more than 11 million people ill over the course of 35 years, a health impact report for the project revealed. The Right to Clean Air Plaform reported that the pollutants from the Alpu Coal Thermal Power Plant will spread to 24 provinces and destroy local farming land.
A group of miners from the Central Anatolian district of Ermenek set off once again on their march to demand unpaid wages, only to be met with a gendarmerie blockade on Oct. 26. In a video showing the miners' exchange with officers, one of them is heard saying "We are angry. We are hungry, that's why we're yelling. You can't yell!"
One of downtown Istanbul's last remaining green spaces was rezoned to allow construction despite the protest of locals. Also designated as an emergency meeting point, the green space was permitted for the construction of a 10-story building.
Turkey's southernmost province of Hatay was rocked by an explosion on Oct. 26 and authorities said that two militants of the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) were nabbed following the blast. Hatay Governor Rahmi Doğan said that the two militants were a part of a group of four who had flown from the Syrian town of Manbij to the Amanos Mountains in Hatay using paramotors.
A report prepared by a number of civil society organizations regarding trials in Turkey prosecuting conscientious objectors to mandatory military service in the country has influenced the Council of Europe's Committee of Ministers to pressure Turkey on recognizing the right to conscientious objection.
President Erdoğan and the newly-elected Turkish Cypriot President Ersin Tatar on Oct. 26 voiced their support for a two-state solution on the divided island of Cyprus. "We believe a two-state solution must now be brought to the table with a realistic proposal," Erdoğan said. Erdoğan also said that he would visit Turkish Cyprus on Nov. 15 and expressed his desire to have a picnic at Varosha.
The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights has said that at least 78 Turkey-backed Syrian rebels were killed and dozens more were injured in Russian airstrikes on a military training camp in Idlib. Those targeted were in a camp belonging to Faylaq al-Sham, the monitor said, adding that it was the deadliest attack since the ceasefire came into force in March.
The second indictment against human rights defender and businessman Osman Kavala presents no new grounds to justify his detention and is politically motivated, said Human Rights Watch (HRW) and the International Commission of Jurists (ICJ) in a statement.
Economy
Treasury and Finance Minister Berat Albayrak has said that the economy is growing despite the tumbling Turkish Lira. The lira weakened to a record low on Oct. 26, hit by investor unease over the central bank's decision last week to keep its policy rate on hold and various sources of geopolitical concern. Strains in ties with the United States, a row with France, a dispute between Turkey and Greece over maritime rights and the conflict in Nagorno-Karabakh have all unsettled investors.
Turkish monthly inflation was almost four times greater than the official rate in September, according to a new model developed by a group of academics and researchers. According to the independent Inflation Research Group (ENAG)'s first published finding, consumer prices in September rose 3.61 percent from the previous month, compared to the official Turkish Statistical Institute (TÜİK)'s calculation of 0.97 percent increase.
Turkish Energy Minister Fatih Dönmez said on Oct. 22 Turkey will operate the gas field which it recently discovered in the Black Sea on its own, but it may cooperate with foreign firms in terms of detailed work and equipment. The minister's comments came after President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said on Oct. 17 Turkey had raised the estimated reserves of the field to 405 billion cubic meters after finding an additional 85 bcm.
The Turkish government has said that it "laughs off" boycotts imposed on Turkish products in Saudi Arabia, Morocco and United Arab Emirates. "We laugh off some countries' boycotts against Turkey. They should first learn to stand as independent countries," AKP deputy leader Numan Kurtulmuş said on Oct. 18.
Urban Beat
Turkey's southeastern city of Diyarbakır is nestled in Mesopotamia and has a deep legacy spanning millenniums and civilizations. A recent discovery on the 8000-year-old Amida Höyük archaeological site has unearthed an 1800-year-old heating system that was quite sophisticated for the time.
Kurdish artist Zehra Doğan's work that she created during her two prison sentences between 2016 and 2019 are on display in Turkey for the first time. The artist was jailed on terrorism charges and gained international fame after finishing her second sentence and holding a show at London's Tate Modern.
Turkey's Presidential Symphony Orchestra will thrive thanks to the completion of its long-awaited music hall, Conductor Cemi'i Can Deliorman said. Having been in the works for 25 years, the music hall's large auditorium can seat more than two thousand viewers.
Alterations on Istanbul's iconic Hagia Sophia reportedly violated guidelines mandated under the site's "UNESCO World Heritage" status. Converted within two weeks of the legal ruling that allowed Muslim worship, the ancient structure's mosaics were unlawfully covered up, and any work on it was deemed practically impossible, architectural publication Mimarlık Magazine reported.