Islam
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has slammed his French counterpart Emmanuel Macron over his comments from last week pledging to fight “Islamist separatism,” accusing the French leader of “impertinence” and "provocation." "Speaking about Islam's structuring as the leader of France is overstepping and impertinence," said Erdoğan. "Who are you to utter a phrase like Islam's structuring?"Erdoğan asked.
Like France, Turkey too is a secular republic. Secularism is one of constitutional principles that even to propose changing is banned. Yet, judging the paths taken by the two presidents Mr. Erdoğan and Mr. Macron they are going at almost diametrically opposite directions.
Run by Turkey's Directorate of Religious Affairs (Diyanet), the Islamic Research Center (İSAM) has seen a 600-percent increase in its budget over the last 16 years. Known for holding a symposium about Islamic fatwas on medical issues, the foundation is chaired by a founding member of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP).
A group of fundamentalists have marched on Istanbul's streets after praying at Hagia Sophia. Footage on Twitter showed men in robes chanting "God is great" as they marched.
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.
The interim secretary-general of the World Council of Churches, Ioan Sauca, has penned a letter to President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan to express his “grief and dismay” over Turkey's decision to change the status of Istanbul's landmark Hagia Sophia from a museum to a mosque. "I am obliged to convey to you the grief and dismay of the World Council of Churches – and of its 350 member churches in more than 110 countries, representing more than half a billion Christians around the world – at the step you have just taken," Sauca said.
President Erdoğan has said that it is a "great concern" for words that fuel animosity towards Islam "to be used freely." Erdoğan made the comments on July 11 while marking the 25th anniversary of the Srebrenica genocide.
The U.S. has criticized Turkey over deportations and entry bans of non-Muslims in its report on religious freedoms. The State Department cited community sources as saying that some of the deportations and entry bans during the year targeted foreign-citizen members of the community who had lived legally, as long-term residents, in the country for decades and who had previously not experienced any immigration difficulties.
As millions of people in Istanbul and throughout the country have been confined to their homes during the COVID-19 epidemic, the balcony has acquired a new status in urban Turkey.
Relations between Turkey and the European Union may indeed be back on track, but which track is that exactly? Just when I had given credit to EU-Turkey rapprochement, despite my usually pessimistic self, the usual flare-ups with Greece started up again.
President Erdoğan has reiterated Turkey's support for Palestine, saying that the Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem is a red line for all Muslims. "I would like to reiterate that al-Quds Al-Sharif, the holy site of three religions and our first kiblah, is a red line for all Muslims worldwide," Erdoğan said. "We will not allow the Palestinian lands to be offered to anyone else," he added.
Politicians have exchanged Eid al-Fitr celebrations through video conferences amid a tense political environment in Turkey. The ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) said it won't exchange greetings with the Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP), Future Party and the Democracy and Progress Party (DEVA). A similar stance was adopted by its ally Nationalist Movement Party (MHP), which won't talk to İYİ (Good) Party in addition to the aforementioned three.
This year, the May 19 celebrations in Turkey were held within homes due to the coronavirus lockdown. Nationalist and neo-nationalist accounts called for a united celebration at exactly 19:19 in the evening. Even Atatürk as a symbol seems to have been partially adopted by the AKP regime in order to create total control over the public.
Turkish photographer Fırat Erez was detained on May 17 over "insulting religious values" in a social media post. "Islam is immorality," Erez said on Twitter, prompting authorities to detain him over "insulting religious values and inciting hatred and enmity."
The lawyer of Halis Bayancuk, dubbed Turkey's ISIS leader, has said that his client must be freed "since his speeches are based on Islam." "ISIS and al-Qaeda say, 'Democracy is kuffar' and call the rulers who don't rule with Islamic principles 'taghut.' My client also accepts non-Islamic governance as 'taghut' and says democracy is 'kuffar.' However, he says these because these concepts are included in the Quran," the lawyer said.
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Ankara's conflict-oriented foreign policy has received the public's support for military operations, but public opinion often fails to translate into votes. While Ankara's "enemy" in military conflict is ever-changing, the northern Syria conflict was revealed to be the only intervention that expanded the government's voter base.
Selahattin Demirtaş writes: You have re-arrested us after six years. You say we are the instigators of the Kobane massacres when we were actually the victims. Do you think you will be able to make us responsible for this through conspiracies based on secret witnesses and be saved from responsibility? You must genuinely believe that the fascism you rely on today will always exist.
Politics
Refugee children are isolated to a single school in the central Turkish province of Kırşehir, daily Evrensel reported. The school has reached enrollment figures of more than 1,000 elementary and middle school students, all of whom are refugees. Smaller numbers of refugee children coming from relatively well-to-do families were reportedly able to enroll in regular schools alongside Turkish students.
Turkey's three opposition parties have denounced a recent proposal by the AKP for the establishment of the Turkey Environmental Agency, which they claim will pave the way for corruption and nepotism. "It runs parallel or even rival to the Ministry of Environment and Urban Planning in terms of its inspection authority but it itself is exempt from both internal and external inspection,” the CHP said.
Turkey's Deputy Interior Minister İsmail Çataklı has said that reports of Ankara mulling re-imposing curfews are "completely baseless." Çataklı's comments came after Reuters, citing a senior official, said that the government is weighing the re-implementation of lockdowns to stem rising coronavirus cases in the country.
President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan's salary has been raised by 8.3 percent to a total of 88,000 Turkish Liras, as part of a budget proposal submitted by the ruling AKP government to parliament. Erdoğan's new salary will be effective as of January 2021. Earlier in October, Erdoğan had urged the believers of Islam to have “patience” in the face of financial problems.
Some 32 deputies in parliament failed to take the stand except to take an oath, daily BirGün reported on Oct. 21. A total of 27 of said deputies were members of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP), receiving more than 500,000 liras in annual salaries when combined.
The trial into the murder of prominent Kurdish human rights lawyer Tahir Elçi started on Oct. 21, amid further obstacles to securing an effective investigation into the killing. None of the three defendant police officers attended the hearing in person in the courtroom, but instead appeared via the video system. Elçi family's lawyers said that this is against the normal procedure and the case was being handled in a “negligent” and “impartial” way.
Turkish police have seized 879 animal and plant fossils worth $10 million from two houses owned by Islamic televangelist cult leader Adnan Oktar. Officials said the fossils would be delivered to a museum in Ankara.
The Istanbul 15th High Criminal Court has rejected exiled journalist Can Dündar's appeal against the seizure of his assets. The court has said that it has found the 14th High Criminal Court's Oct. 7-dated decision “in accordance with procedure and law.”
In a parliamentary question addressing Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu, HDP lawmaker Ali Kenanoğlu has asked what kind of legal proceedings the ministry has run against the assailants of 36 publicly known hate crime incidents that were committed against Alevis in the last eight years. Kenanoğlu's inquiry came after unidentified assailants on Oct. 20 painted threatening messages on an Istanbul apartment building housing Alevis.
Turkey said it would not hesitate to send soldiers and provide military support for Azerbaijan if such a request were made by Baku. "There is already a military cooperation agreement between Turkey and Azerbaijan. If there is a need and Azerbaijan makes such a request, then Turkey would do it openly [provide military support]," Vice President Fuat Oktay said on Oct. 21.
Unidentified assailants have stabbed a 14-year-old Syrian child to death in Turkey's Central Anatolian province of Konya. Vail El-Mansur was on his way to the tailor shop he was working at when he was murdered brutally.
Turkish authorities seized 220 kilograms of cocaine on a ship that arrived at a port in the country's southern coast from Brazil. Police in the coastal province of Mersin found the cocaine hidden in a container carrying packages of paper.
Istanbul University's Cerrahpaşa Medical School has been observing twice as many patients, the dean said on Oct. 20. Turkey's official numbers receded to early May levels on the same day, observing some 2,026 diagnoses. "There's almost a doubling of the number of cases and patients seeking help in Cerrahpaşa. The winter might be rough for all of us," the dean said.
Turkey will send some 110,000 tons of grains and flour to countries in need, primarily Syria, a presidential decree in the Official Gazette said on Oct. 21. While the grains will be handed out by Ankara's Disaster and Emergency Management Authority (AFAD) and the Turkish Red Crescent, any wages related to the operation will be taken out of the Treasury's budget as well.
During a recession that has dealt a deep blow to agricultural producers across Turkey, potato farmers are struggling to get by while retailers purchase produce cheap and sell at high prices to consumers. "I don't like the AKP anymore,” said one 70-year-old farmer, who has grown potatoes in Niğde for 45 years.
A controversial social media legislation has enabled the Turkish government to swiftly block access to scores of news reports from critical newspapers and websites within the past month. "What we are facing is a heavy censorship mechanism,” cyber-rights expert Yaman Akdeniz told the daily Cumhuriyet.
The death of Serkan Tumay in a prison raised concerns on the prison conditions in Turkey once again. While Tumay's family says that he was tortured by prison guards repeatedly and died as a result in Kırıkkale F-Type Prison, opposition deputies Ömer Faruk Gergerlioğlu and Gülizar Biçer Karaca asked Justice Minister Abdülhamit Gül to explain how he died.
The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) has found Turkey guilty of violating the right to free speech of Prof. Baskın Oran and Prof. İbrahim Kaboğlu, who faced prosecution in 2005 for publishing a report on the country's minorities. The ECHR said that the legal proceedings against the two academics had “inevitably created pressure" on them leading to “self-censorship.”
The Coalition for Women in Journalism has launched a petition demanding that Turkey immediately drop charges against journalist Ayşegül Doğan, who prosecutors accuse of "being a member of an armed organization." "Today, Ayşegül Doğan has become the target of the government due to her journalism, which touches on social issues such as the struggle for peace, women's struggle and labor," read the petition.
Economy
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.
The International Monetary Fund (IMF) projected that income per capita in Turkey would drop to 2005 levels, an annual average of $7,720. The IMF also predicted a five percent contraction in the Turkish economy until the end of 2020, despite Ankara's 0.3 percent growth projection.
Turkey's net international investment deficit grew by $20 billion from the end of 2019 to reach a total $365.8 billion at the end of August. Turkey's international assets shrunk by 10.2 percent to reach $227.4 billion in the same period.
President Erdoğan on Oct. 17 announced the discovery of an additional 85 billion cubic meters of natural gas in the Black Sea, following a similar find in August. As a result of testing, analysis and detailed engineering work, another 85 billion cubic meters were added to the reserves we had discovered. The total amount of natural gas reserves in the TUNA-1 well of the Sakarya Gas Field reached 405 billion cubic meters," Erdoğan said.
Data from the Turkish Statistical Institute (TÜİK) revealed a dip in real estate sales vis-a-vis last year in September, dropping by 6.9 percent for some 136,744 residences sold. Meanwhile, the total volume of sales between January and September was larger than the number in 2019.
Urban Beat
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.