Ruling AK party seeks two-thirds majority in parliament, aiming to replace parliamentary system with a presidential one.
Al Jazeera, By Umut Uras, June 7
Voters in Turkey are casting their ballots in a parliamentary election that could lead to fundamental changes in how the country is governed.
Sunday’s election is being held amid strong economic promises and debates on the Kurdish issue.
The polls are to open at 8am local time (0500GMT) and close at 5pm (1400GMT), with non-official results expected by the end of the day.
The political atmosphere is tense, with bombings targeting the country’s Kurdish-oriented left-wing party and harsh rhetoric emanating from party leaders and the country’s president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
NBC News, May 1
Istanbul — Istanbul went into a security lockdown on Friday as thousands of police manned barricades and closed streets to stop May Day rallies at Taksim Square, a symbolic point for protests.
Citing security concerns, authorities shut down much of the city’s public transport and dispatched riot police to block Taksim off from demonstrators. A traditional rallying ground for leftists, the central square saw weeks of unrest in 2013.
Hundreds of flag-waving protesters gathered in the nearby Besiktas neighborhood, where they were held back by lines of police. Thousands of protesters also gathered to march in the capital Ankara.
Critics say President Tayyip Erdogan and the government have become more authoritarian ahead of June elections.
“This meeting is peaceful and is not armed,” opposition politician Mahmut Tanal, holding a pocket-sized book of the Turkish constitution, told Reuters in Istanbul. “People want to express their problems but the government doesn’t want those problems to be heard ahead of elections.”
AFP, By Irakli Metreveli, April 23
Yerevan – The Armenian Church prepared Thursday to canonise up to 1.5 million Armenians massacred by Ottoman forces as tensions over Turkey’s refusal to recognize the killings as genocide reached boiling point.
The ceremony, which is believed to become the biggest canonisation service in history, comes ahead of commemorations expected to see millions of people including heads of state Friday mark 100 years since the start of the killings. The Armenian Apostolic Church announced the canonisation service for the “martyrs of the Armenian Genocide,” calling for a “prayerful participation in this historic event.”
The service will be held in Armenia’s main church, Echmiadzin, an austere fourth-century edifice believed to be the Christian world’s oldest cathedral. The ceremony will run from 1300 GMT and end at 1515 GMT to symbolize the year when the massacres started during World War I.
“Today’s canonisation unites all Armenians living around the globe,” Huri Avetikian, an ethnic Armenian librarian from Lebanon who arrived in her ancestral homeland to attend the service, told AFP.
The Independent: System Of A Down perform in Armenia for the first time to mark genocide’s 100th anniversary
NPR: System Of A Down, Armenia’s Favorite Sons, On Facing History
Hurriyet Daily News, By Erdinç Çelikkan, December 28
Ankara – With 2014 soon coming to an end, potentially the year’s biggest archeological discovery of an underground city has come from Turkey’s Central Anatolian province of Nevşehir, which is known world-wide for its Fairy Chimneys rock formation.
The city was discovered by means of Turkey’s Housing Development Administration’s (TOKİ) urban transformation project. Some 1,500 buildings were destructed located in and around the Nevşehir fortress, and the underground city was discovered when the earthmoving to construct new buildings had started.
TOKİ Head Mehmet Ergün Turan said the area where the discovery was made was announced as an archeological area to be preserved.
“It is not a known underground city. Tunnel passages of seven kilometers are being discussed. We stopped the construction we were planning to do on these areas when an underground city was discovered,” said Turan.
The city is thought to date back 5,000 years and is located around the Nevşehir fortress. Escape galleries and hidden churches were discovered inside the underground city.
Hasan Ünver, mayor of Nevşehir, said other underground cities in Nevşehir’s various districts do not even amount to the “kitchen” of this new underground city.
The Voice of America, By Scott Bobb, October 19
Suruc, Turkey -The offensive by Islamic State militants against the northern Syrian city of Kobani has caused hundreds of thousands of residents to flee to Turkey. They receive help from Turkish authorities and individuals, but say much more is needed.
Morning in Suruc, southeastern Turkey. Rojava camp – one of several in this town of 20,000 – is a new neighborhood of refugees who arrived following the seizure of parts of Kobani by the Islamic State, or IS.
Some 400,000 people from Kobani and its surrounding villages, mostly Kurds, fled after IS militants executed hundreds of local residents saying they were infidels, according to Shaheen, a farmer who will give only his first name out of fear of reprisals against relatives still inside.
“They bombed and destroyed everything. They executed my cousin then they shared the photo of his head on Facebook. His name was Zuhir,” he said.
New York Times, By Ceylan Yeginsu & Sebnem Arsu, August 10
Istanbul – Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who has led Turkey for more than a decade, is set to become the country’s first popularly elected president, apparently cruising to a victory on Sunday that positioned him to be the dominant political figure here for at least five more years.
The news media declared the victory even though official results will not be published for several days. It came after the most tumultuous year of Mr. Erdogan’s tenure in national politics, when he was challenged by sweeping antigovernment protests and a corruption investigation focused on him and those around him. He has emerged not only as a survivor but as someone who, analysts predict, will look to expand his power from the office of the presidency.
Mr. Erdogan took 52 percent of the vote, the highest percentage in his political career, according to provisional results published by the semiofficial Anadolu News Agency, which proclaimed him the winner. Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu, a former diplomat who was the candidate of the main secular and nationalist parties, received 38 percent.
Seymour M. Hersh on Obama, Erdoğan and the Syrian rebels h/t Michael Collins
LRB – …Why did Obama delay and then relent on Syria when he was not shy about rushing into Libya?
The answer lies in a clash between those in the administration who were committed to enforcing the red line, and military leaders who thought that going to war was both unjustified and potentially disastrous.
Obama’s change of mind had its origins at Porton Down, the defence laboratory in Wiltshire. British intelligence had obtained a sample of the sarin used in the 21 August attack and analysis demonstrated that the gas used didn’t match the batches known to exist in the Syrian army’s chemical weapons arsenal. more at the link
The Lebanon Daily Star, April 4
Ankara – Turkey on Friday fired artillery into Syria to retaliate after cross-border shelling hit its territory without causing injuries or damage, the army said.
“Six shells hit in Yayladadi in Hatay province and caused no damage,” said the Turkish armed forces in a statement.
“In accordance with the rules of engagement, Turkish artillery shelled the area where the fire originated.”
Turkey, a staunch opponent of the Damascus regime, hosts about 800,000 refugees from the three-year-old Syrian conflict, many of them in camps along the border.
A week after turning off Twitter access, Turkey has now blocked Youtube following the release of a foreign policy crisis meeting earlier this month, discussing war with Syria. It’s espionage.
Is it internal destabilization prior to the elections, or a continuance of the Israeli / Iranian game? Erdogan sees enemies everywhere. He is following some say Putin Politics, crushing dissent whilst believing he has popular support. I call it autocratic.
This is wishful thinking. As I noted on twitter a few days back: The Turkish Left is a disorganized, heterogenous rabble, incapable of tying their own boots. Erdogan has given them ample opportunity to define themselves against him, at the bare minimum. They have declined to do so. And will continue to do so.
Why Gulen is important? He’s not. He’s only included in the story for American click-bait. So we can tut-tut about an anti-science, anti-evolution Islamist and feel good about our own superiority. Gulen is important in America. One of his schools is here in San Antonio. But that’s beside the point. Turks don’t give two shits about Gulen, never have. The rank and file of the AKP never liked him either.
Finally, it’s simply fantasy to think an armed forces emasculated by Erdogan can save the Turkish Left. The Turkish Left will have to settle its differences and unify around a single candidate to save itself. Until then Erdogan will continue to divide and rule. And win.