Istanbul
This step involving the Hagia Sophia has totally destroyed the deception that Turkey has preserved its multi-religious, multicultural and multi-identity features as a country. Since we have passed the expiry date of lies, what is next now? Is there another topic of victimization left?
A regional Greek governor has said that Greece cannot stay indifferent to Turkey's Hagia Sophia move and demanded that ongoing restoration works at the historical Valide Mosque on Lesbos island be stopped. The 17th-century Valide Mosque is being restored under a 1.2 million euro grant from the EU regional development fund for the Aegean islands.
President Erdoğan has said that Turkey's conversion of iconic Hagia Sophia into a museum back in 1934 was a “wrong decision” and the government is now “correcting a mistake.” Erdoğan also said that Hagia Sophia’s cultural heritage will be preserved.
Greece has described Turkey's decision to convert Istanbul's iconic Hagia Sophia to a mosque as "unnecessary and petty" and said it is "considering its response at all levels." "With this backward action, Turkey is opting to sever links with western world and its values," Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis said on July 14.
Finance Minister Berat Albayrak's lot on the route of Kanal Istanbul, the president's artificial canal project, was opened up to commerce. Albayrak will be allowed to build commercial structures on up to 40 percent of his land.
In 2008, then-Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan vowed to “save Sulukule from its state of monstrosity” invoking the same word for monstrosity (ucube) he later used to describe the Statue of Humanity, a sculpture built in the eastern province of Kars to symbolize friendship between Turkey and Armenia. Like Sulukule, the statue was torn down.
Erdoğan pledged to Putin during a telephone conversation that everyone wishing to attend the iconic Hagia Sophia will be admitted there, and the Christian relics at the ancient structure will be preserved, the Kremlin said on July 13.
Swiss company SICPA reportedly holds the operating rights of Istanbul's Hagia Sophia as a museum for seven more years. , SICPA won a tender that was held in 2018 for operating some 54 museums and archaeological sites for nine years with a $3.9 billion bid and holds the right to run Hagia Sophia as a museum for seven more years, daily Dünya reported on July 13.
Turkey's metropolitan cities Istanbul, Ankara and central Anatolian Konya are leading in the number of COVID-19 patients who are intubated or who need intensive care.
Six members of the Union of Turkish Bar Associations have resigned to protest its head's stance against their colleagues. "It's clear that we can't continue our duties with the current union head when taking Metin Feyzioğlu's passivity and stance against our colleagues in the recent process into account," the lawyers who resigned said in a statement.
A forest fire broke out on one of Istanbul's Princes' Islands, Heybeliada, on July 12. An investigation was launched into the fire, which was extinguished with the help of the residents. "We extinguished this fire with minimum damage of around five hectares [12.3 acres]," Agriculture and Forestry Minister Bekir Pakdemirli said.
The mosaics and frescoes in Istanbul's Hagia Sophia will reportedly be covered up with laser lights, as Turkish authorities are making preparations for the opening of the museum-turned-mosque. Erdoğan's spokesperson İbrahim Kalın commented on the issue, saying that the religious iconography will be preserved, adding that they will remain "untouched" for the viewing of people of all faiths.
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.
Pope Francis said on July 12 he was hurt by Turkey's decision to make Istanbul's Hagia Sophia museum a mosque, the latest religious leader to condemn the move.
Diyanet head Ali Erbaş has urged the opening of of an Islamic school in Hagia Sophia following its conversion into a mosque on July 10. "I think the decision is very meaningful. May it host a lot of worshippers. Praying in it is not enough, there should be a madrasah [Islamic school] in it," Erbaş said on July 11 in the Black Sea province of Rize.
Coronavirus Updates
Only four percent of Turkey's health workers are immune to COVID-19, a recent series of tests conducted by the Turkish Statistical Institute (TÜİK) revealed. Meanwhile, immunity among Istanbulites measured around three percent.
Turkey will be resuming flights to and from Russia as of July 15. The country is the latest addition to a list of 31 others that Ankara allows travels to.
Turkey's daily new COVID-19 cases dropped below 1,000 for the first time in 33 days, Health Minister Fahrettin Koca said on July 14. Koca made the remarks as Turkey registered 992 new cases and 20 new fatalities from the virus.
Politics
Turkey's main opposition CHP has called on Iranian authorities to stop execution of three protesters, two of whom were last year extradited by the Turkish government. "Turkey handed these young people over to the Iranian security forces, in contravention of its international obligation of non-refoulment to a country where one faces death penalty and/or torture,” Kaboğlu said on July 15.
Turkey’s Chamber of Architects has said that the Council of State's last week ruling on Hagia Sophia should set a precedent for their argument that the constructions on Atatürk Forest Farm are in violation of the conditional donation of the estate by Atatürk. The Council of State last week said that Ottoman Sultan Mehmed the Conqueror registered iconic Hagia Sophia as an endowment which could be used only a mosque and for no other purposes.
Turkey has further backslided from democracy and the rule of law during the COVID-19 period, with the government increasing its levels of repression against the pro-Kurdish HDP and Kurdish people, according to a new report released by the party. The HDP said that the coronavirus has given the AKP government a cover to expand its authority, likening the current implementations to those of 1990s, during which the state staged a heavily discriminatory policy towards the Kurds as a whole.
U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said on July 15 that companies involved in construction of the TurkStream pipeline will be subject to the U.S. penalties unless they stop their works. “It’s a clear warning to companies. Aiding and abetting Russia’s malign influence projects will not be tolerated. Get out now or risk the consequences,” he said.
A specialized sergeant has been arrested in the southeastern province of Şırnak for attempting to sexually abuse a 13-year-old girl. Eyewitnesses told the police that the specialized sergeant had pulled a gun after they wanted to question him regarding the sexual abuse incident.
Greek Foreign Minister Nikos Dendias said that Athens urged European Union (EU) states to have "crippling sanctions" against Ankara ready in case the latter continues drilling in waters claimed by Greece.
A Turkish court has upheld a nine-year prison sentence given to jailed former Diyarbakır mayor Selçuk Mızraklı. Lawyers will now appeal to the Court of Cassation, which is the last instance for reviewing verdicts given by courts of criminal justice.
Since the failed July 2016 coup attempt, around 150,000 people in Turkey have been suspended or booted from their positions in the state apparatus. A recent report based on several thousand people, who have been dismissed from their jobs via government degree, highlights the mass economic misery and social isolation they have experienced.
Turkish Presidential Spokesperson İbrahim Kalın has said that the United States' decision to not extradite Fethullah Gülen undermines the spirit of alliance between the two countries. "Allowing FETÖ members to live without serving sentences following the July 15 coup attempt, mainly in the U.S. and Europe, harms our bilateral relations," he also said.
Part of Istanbul's ancient city walls collapsed in the historic Sulukule neighborhood. The collapse is the second in the past two months, with another part crumbling on May 3.
Istanbul Mayor Ekrem İmamoğlu submitted an official complaint against President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan's Kanal Istanbul project. The artificial canal project would split Turkey's European land in half, and has been criticized for severe environmental risks.
A regional Greek governor has said that Greece cannot stay indifferent to Turkey's Hagia Sophia move and demanded that ongoing restoration works at the historical Valide Mosque on Lesbos island be stopped. The 17th-century Valide Mosque is being restored under a 1.2 million euro grant from the EU regional development fund for the Aegean islands.
The western province of Düzce is experiencing water outages even though it's home to 80 percent of Melen Stream that provides water to Istanbul.
A former district governor who got removed from his post for insulting a local was promoted to deputy governor of Bilecik. The local that the former district governor insulted was protesting the expropriation of their land.
The head of the Security and Defense Committee in Iraq’s parliament, Muhammad Reza Al-Haider, has accused Turkey of breaching a 2007 security accord by deploying troops 15 kilometers inside the Iraqi territory. “Iraq refuses to have an armed faction within its territories attacking a neighboring country, as it refuses attacks on its sovereignty from any other country," he said.
Main opposition CHP leader Kılıçdaroğlu has claimed that President Erdoğan has been accumulating significant financial assets in the United States since he and his family are thinking about moving there should Turkey enter a new era. Kılıçdaroğlu said that Erdoğan could not stand up against the U.S. as otherwise his financial assets in the country could be exposed.
An Ankara court on July 14 ruled that former Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP) co-chair Figen Yüksekdağ will remain in prison pending trial. However, one of the judges in the court board expressed a dissenting opinion saying that as there is no “flight risk” or a risk of “tampering with evidence,” the continued imprisonment of Yüksekdağ has no legal benefit.
Turkey's state-run TRT2 has censored the word 'sex' in a dialogue of an episode of the Swedish/Danish TV show Bron/Broen. “It is a mystery why they would buy and bring to the screen a show where they have chopped up all of the 'explicit scenes' with a butcher's knife,” film critic Tunca Arslan said.
Finance Minister Berat Albayrak's lot on the route of Kanal Istanbul, the president's artificial canal project, was opened up to commerce. Albayrak will be allowed to build commercial structures on up to 40 percent of his land.
A roadside bomb planted by Syrian militants detonated near a joint Russian-Turkish patrol in northern Syria early on July 14, injuring three Russian soldiers, the Russian Defense Ministry said. The Russian statement said an unspecified number of Turkish troops were also hurt. Two sources said there were no Turkish casualties in the attack.
Police have detained over 20 women, including a journalist, politicians and activists, in the southeastern province of Diyarbakır. A statement was released from the TJA on the issue, saying that the "attacks on women increased five fold under the current government."
Economy
The Turkish Petroleum Refineries Corporation (TÜPRAŞ) ranked as Turkey's largest industrial business with 87.9 billion liras in annual production revenue. The oil company was followed mostly by automotive producers.
On the second anniversary of Turkey's transformation into a presidential system, the main opposition Republican People's Party (CHP) has prepared a report detailing how the country stands in the ensuing years, finding that the Turkish lira has lost four times its value since 2007.
Finance Minister Berat Albayrak said that Turkey was an exception to the global financial crisis emerging in the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic. The minister said that Turkey has been outperforming other countries in "all measures of economic success."
Foreign investment in Istanbul's stock exchange fell below 50 percent for the first time since 2004, daily Sözcü reported. Almost four billion dollars have reportedly been sold out of the exchange in the first six months of 2020.
Turkey's foreign trade deficit doubled between January and May as exports fell by 20 percent. The monthly trade deficit also doubled in May, surpassing $3 billion.
Urban Beat
A jeweler in the southeastern province of Kahramanmaraş embroidered masks with gold. A local professional chamber chair said that they thought a regular mask created a visual disaccord in a wedding.
Fossils discovered by a nature enthusiast in mountainous eastern province of Iğdır revealed that the area, now completely landlocked, used to be a shore and underwater. The fossils contained palm leaves, which grow in hot areas by the water.
Turkey's Culture and Tourism Ministry will be turning the iconic Galata Tower into a museum. The ministry will also launch a "culture route" that spans from the tower, along Istiklal Avenue and to Taksim Square. Minister Ersoy also said that the construction of the AKM would be completed within a month, ongoing since February 2019.
The United States' National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) likened railroads and highways in Turkey's capital Ankara to arteries in an eagle-eye shot of the city at night, dubbed "photo of the day" on June 28.
Istanbul Mayor Ekrem İmamoğlu on June 25 announced that the municipality purchased a portrait of Ottoman Sultan Mehmet II at a London auction. According to the London-based world-famous Christie's auction house, the municipality's winning bid amounted to £770,000 ($955,000) for the oil painting, which is believed to be the work of Italian painter Gentile Bellini in 1480.