Hagia Sophia
A brawl erupted between deputies of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) and the main opposition Republican People's Party (CHP) over Turkey’s sovereignty, as tensions mount amid the opening of Hagia Sophia to Muslim prayers on the peace treaty's anniversary on July 24. CHP deputy Özgür Özel slammed a refusal to allow the Atatürkist Thought Association (ADD) to visit Mustafa Kemal Atatürk’s tomb.
Former deputy Prime Minister Ali Babacan said that he never used religious terminology in his political career, majority of which he spent with the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP). Babacan also said that his recently-formed Democracy and Progress Party (DEVA) didn't identify with labels like "left, right, liberal, conservative."
President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has recited Quran in Hagia Sophia, marking its opening as a mosque on July 24. An imam began the formal prayer service at 1.45 pm, after Erdoğan read out a Quranic recitation and the call to prayer rang out from the mosque's minarets.
Social distancing was completely forgotten around Istanbul's Hagia Sophia ahead of its opening as a mosque, prompting concerns on the spread of coronavirus (COVID-19). Health Minister Fahrettin Koca shared warnings on Twitter, urging people to follow precautions. "First comes precautions, then takbir," Koca said, referring to the Arabic term for the phrase God is great.
Turkey minted a special coin to mark the first mass Muslim prayers held in Istanbul's iconic Hagia Sophia on July 24. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan recently opened the ancient structure, formerly a museum, to worship after decades.
Thousands of people flocked to Istanbul's Hagia Sophia for the first Friday prayers at the site. On July 24, the interior echoed to the sound of Koranic recitations from clerics, sat on blue carpets freshly laid this week ahead of the prayers.
Many Muslims, American Muslims included, no longer see world affairs through the lens of traditional notions of dominance and conquest. Islamic history now lends itself to alternative interpretations.
Russian President Vladimir Putin and Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis stressed preserving Istanbul's Hagia Sophia as universal heritage in a phone call requested by Athens. "[They] emphasized the unmatched cultural, historic and religious significance of that unique World Heritage Site and noted the importance of preserving it as universal heritage and a symbol of peace and cohesion," the Kremlin said.
The convention was introduced here, in Istanbul, back in 2011, and ratified in the parliament a year later. What changed in the last eight years that the AKP came to the point of withdrawing from the Convention? The answer lies in the drastic change in the political agenda, the growing oppression, and the undermining of basic human rights.
Istanbul's Hagia Sophia, which will officially open as a mosque on Friday, is being outfitted with thousands of square meters of turquoise carpeting, the fibers of which are designed to point in the direction of Mecca.
Ezgi Başaran writes: French political scientist Professor Olivier Roy, who, since the mid-‘90s, has argued that the Islamist project has failed, says Atatürk's secularism won in Turkey. While analyzing President Erdoğan's decision to reconvert Hagia Sophia to a mosque, Roy argues that Erdoğan could not Islamize minds, so he is trying to Islamize stones.
Prior to the Hagia Sophia controversy, Turkey was already a “hot potato” issue both for the EU Commission and Germany. Some serious brainstorming has already been going on regarding what to do with Turkey as far as some EU countries are concerned.
The ancient mosaics in Istanbul's Hagia Sophia will be covered up with curtains during Muslim prayer, but will remain available to visit at all other times, presidential spokesman İbrahim Kalın said on July 19. Meanwhile, the floors will be carpeted ahead of the July 24 opening.
President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has visited Istanbul's Hagia Sophia ahead of its opening as a mosque on July 24. Erdoğan was accompanied by Presidential Communications Director Fahrettin Altun, Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu and Religious Affairs Directorate (Diyanet) head Ali Erbaş.
Dinçer Demirkent writes: Comparisons between July 15 and the Turkish War of Independence, attempts to define it a “new war of independence” or brand it as a symbol of the new regime have all failed. President Erdoğan's efforts to establish political hegemony and found new institutions had already expired by the time of the attempted coup.
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Duvar English’s editor-in-chief Cansu Çamlıbel and pollster Can Selçuki discuss the underlying factors behind the recent moves of Turkey's ruling alliance which paves the way for further polarization in politics as the country enters the final months of 2020. They also analyze the effects of the sharp decline of the Turkish Lira against foreign currencies over public's perception.
Dinçer Demirkent writes: Interior Minister Soylu said that the head of the Constitutional Court would be unable to commute to work without his protection team. What he meant was that he was the Minister who assigned the security team to the judge, implying he might just remove them. By doing so, Süleyman Soylu openly violates the article 138 of the Turkish Constitution; basic principle for the independence of the judiciary.
Politics
The New York Times reported on Sept. 28 that Trump Towers Istanbul has netted U.S. President Donald Trump $1 million in 2016 and 2017. Trump has long had business ties in and with Turkey, the most visible example being the Trump Towers Istanbul, which licenses the Trump name.
Turkish prosecutors have launched an investigation into Tele1 TV editor-in-chief Merdan Yanardağ over his reports that Ankara Chief Public Prosecutor Yüksel Kocaman paid a visit to President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan following his wedding ceremony. The court ruled for Yanardağ's release, but imposed judicial control measures involving regularly reporting at his local police station as well as overseas travel ban.
Halk TV, a broadcaster that's critical of the government, blacked out on Sept. 28 following a ruling from Turkey's Radio and Television High Council (RTÜK). The five-day blackout is a first in the council's history, as such harsh sanctions haven't been issued before.
The Turkish presidency has prepared a video and an anthem on the occasion of the anniversary of the Naval Battle of Preveza which took place near the port of Prevaza in northwestern Greece in 1538. The video is a historic recreation of the battle but also includes various shots of Turkish naval officers.
A one-year-old toddler has been tortured to death in Istanbul, daily Birgün reported on Sept. 28. The toddler named “Hayat” (which translates as “Life” in Turkish) was reported to have bruises and burn scars on the body. The police reportedly detained the father whereas the mother is currently missing.
A fake "scientific publication" robbed some 50 people, mostly academics, of a total one million liras in southeast Turkey. The fraud allegedly offered users publication, and created an online space by copying legitimate websites.
Deputies and officials of pro-Kurdish Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP) protested the detention of dozens of members last week, on charges related to the October 2014 Kobane protests. The HDP members are accused of inciting violence in the events that lead to the deaths of 37 people, as members of Turkish Hizbullah also took to the streets.
Turkey's first coronavirus vaccine was administered on Sept. 28 in Istanbul University. A 53-year-old health worker volunteered to receive the shot, and said that he hoped it would eliminate the pandemic soon.
Daily BirGün released video showing the crime scene of Nadira Kadirova's alleged suicide, revealing signs of a struggle in the suspicious death of ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) deputy Şirin Ünal's help. Meanwhile, the daily released a video of Kadirova's mother at her grave, accusing the deputy of killing the young woman.
Kurdish singer Cesim Başboğa said that he was threatened by gendarmerie officials and MİT members to not sing in Kurdish in Bitlis' Tatvan district. According to Başboğa, a MİT official "banned" him to sing in Kurdish, saying, "I'm warning you for the last time. You'll be in trouble in the smallest mistake."
Turkish police have denied that three HDP politicians, including Mayor Ayhan Bilgen, were hospitalized over food poisoning while under detention. According to the police statement that was released after the HDP's claims on the issue, Bilgen was taken to a hospital over an infection in his body. Deputy Hüseyin Kaçmaz earlier on Sept. 28 said that Bilgen, İsmail Şengün and Can Memiş were taken to a hospital over food poisoning.
Turkish prosecutors have prepared a second indictment in connection with the 2018 murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi in Istanbul. The indictment against the six suspects, including two consulate workers and four other Saudi nationals, was sent to the court to be combined with the main case.
Turkey's Industry and Technology Ministry falsely advertised opening a factory in a mass opening event, only to be refuted by the facility's board who said they'd been in business for 45 years. It was later claimed that the name was erroneously added, and that some of the factories had merely been invested in, and not built from scratch.
Police in the southeastern province of Şırnak are refusing to release the numbers of arrests for selling and using drugs amid a surge in illegal substances in recent years. "It has been determined that such information cannot be accessed on an individual basis," police responded to an inquiry by Duvar.
The 39th Istanbul Film Festival will offer viewings both online and in-person, the Istanbul Foundation for Culture and Arts (IKSV) noted. While tickets will become available on Oct. 2, showings will start a week later and last for 10 days.
City water in a district of western Kütahya was revealed to contain levels of arsenic 350 times higher than the acceptable standards set by the World Health Organization (WHO). The water also reportedly contains 8,000 times the acceptable level of boron, and deaths from cancer in the Emet district are three times as high as the other districts of Kütahya.
The Turkish government's restrictions on card and board games are hurting business for old-fashioned coffee houses. Old-fashioned coffeehouses are an important part of social life, especially for retired and unemployed men in Turkey, and board and card games are among the primary activities.
Amnesty International has called on Turkey to investigate the throwing of two men from a military helicopter in the eastern province of Van. It also said that it's very concerned on the "allegations of torture and mistreatment," adding that international human rights law and standards must ensure that Turkey prevents torture under all circumstances.
Greece on Sept. 27 called on Turkey to condemn and investigate what it said was an "insult" to its national flag on the Greek island of Kastellorizo. "We expect Turkish authorities to immediately condemn and investigate the incident, so that the culprits are brought before justice," it said. "Such unacceptable actions only seek to torpedo prospects for easing tensions between the two countries."
Economy
Turkey's Central Bank unexpectedly hiked interest rates on Sept. 24, triggering an improvement in the lira's value against the dollar. The Turkish Lira has sunk to record lows over the past month as Ankara's currency interventions proved futile.
Turkey's state-owned Halkbank has urged a judge to dismiss a U.S. indictment accusing the bank of helping Iran evade American sanctions. At a hearing in Manhattan federal court on Sept. 18, a lawyer for Halkbank said its status as a Turkish “instrumentality” shielded it from prosecution because of sovereign immunity.
U.S. tech giant Amazon offered up its speed-delivery subscription to Turkish consumers on Sept. 15. The monthly subscription fee was set for 7.99 Turkish Liras, about one dollar with the current exchange rates.
Turkey's unemployment rate rose to 13.4 percent. and participation edged up in the May-July period in which a coronavirus lockdown was lifted and a ban on layoffs remained in place, data showed on Sept. 10, painting a clearer picture of the pandemic's fallout.
Urban Beat
Istanbulites will select the new face of Taksim Square from among three projects as part of the Istanbul Municipality's plans to renovate the area. Şerif Süveydan, Bünyamin Derman and Kutlu İnanç Bal were the winners in the contest that was held by Istanbul Planning Agency and Istanbul Municipality's Department of Cultural Assets.
The Odunpazarı Modern Museum in western Eskişehir won the award for "international project of the year over £1m" at the London Museums+Heritage Awards. The museum opened its doors just over a year ago in the city's ancient Odunpazarı neighborhood.
The 48th Istanbul Music Festival will be held online, streaming pre-recorded performances in historical venues. Starting on Sept. 18, the Istanbul Foundation for Culture and Arts (İKSV) will make available the performances that honor composer Ludwig van Beethoven.
Heavy presence of the Asian tiger mosquito was detected in four Istanbul districts, concerning locals as the bug can carry malaria, the Zika virus and encephalitis. The invasive species have been increasing in population around Istanbul in the past decade, an Istanbul University veterinarian said.
Ali Demir writes: So the property of the local non-Muslims collapsed, and what happened? Nothing! The whole country is now composed of non-local foreigners. The greedy tailor apprentice that murdered his master could not sew a jacket, and will never be able to.