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.
France24, February 6
Turkish lawmakers approved legislation late on Wednesday that will tighten government controls over the Internet, in a move roundly criticised as a fresh assault on freedom of expression, access to information and investigative journalism.
The text notably permits a government agency, the Telecommunications Communications Presidency (TIB), to block access to websites without court authorisation if they are deemed to violate privacy or promote content seen as “insulting”.
The legislation will also force Internet providers to keep records on web users’ activities for two years and make them available to authorities when requested, without notifying the users.
The proposals come amid parallel moves by Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan to push through contentious judicial reforms as he fights to keep the lid on a deeply damaging corruption probe entangling some of his closest allies.
Reuters, By Parisa Hafezi
ANKARA, Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan visited Iran on Wednesday to bolster trade and energy ties, state TV said, in what also looked like a bid to defuse tensions over Syria by capitalizing on Tehran’s diplomatic opening to regional rivals and the West.
Iran has been a strong strategic ally of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad since the start of the uprising against him, while Turkey has been one of his fiercest critics, supporting his opponents and giving refuge to rebel fighters.
But Iran’s election last June of President Hassan Rouhani, a relative moderate who says he wants to thaw its ties with the West, and shared concern over the rise of al Qaeda in Syria, have spurred hopes of a Turkish-Iranian rapprochement.
While deep divisions remain between Ankara and Tehran over the conflict in Syria, diplomats and government officials say both sides want to mend a relationship that could be pivotal to the fast-changing political map of the Middle East.
The United States believes detente between Turkey and Iran is important to wider stability in the Middle East, a strategic breakthrough Washington hopes to achieve from talks that world powers are pursuing with Tehran to curb its nuclear program.
More at the link
Turkey’s President Gul is making a bold move to calm the political chaos in Turkey. Will he succeed or will the paranoid Prime Minister Recep Erdogan decide that Gul’s efforts are part of the conspiracy to remove Erdogan from power? (Image: Turkish Presidential Seal)
Since December 17, scores of Erdogan cronies have been arrested for graft and corruption. This included his hand picked ministers and key political supporters. The Prime Minister found this intolerable and began firing prosecutors and police. Dismissals are now in the hundreds. The PM maintains that a state within a state is attacking him. Supposedly masterminded by Fethullah Gul (no relation to the president), a Muslim scholar residing in the United States, the plot explains the corruptions charges.
PM Erdogan is assuming dictatorial powers. Turkey’s Constitution has clear rules about the separation of the judiciary and law enforcement from the executive branch. Erdogan doesn’t care about the rule of law. He made sure that prosecutors and police, many from his AK Party, were summarily dismissed after they brought corruption charges against Erdogan appointees and cronies. He said he’d like to prosecute the Supreme Council of Judges and Prosecutors when that group questioned the legality of the mass firings of prosecutors. The council makes “decisions on appointments, promotions and assignments of those working under the judge class,” which includes prosecutors. Read More
Turkey continues its crisis of governance and personal power. There seems to be no good outcome at this point given the conversion of Turkey to a dictatorship. PM Erdogan is changing laws and stopping police investigations. When corruption charges were brought against dozens of Erdogan officials and friends, the poice and prosecutors who brought the charges were fired, at Erdogan’s orders. Replacement police are now investigating those who “conspired” against the state (i.e., PM Erdogan). The Turkish supreme court ruled that this dictatorial rule was illegal. The court was ignored other than the PM saying he’d like to prosecute the judges.
How did this happen so suddenly? Or, was it sudden. This interview with Turkish journalist Sedat Ergin sums things up nicely. It’s published in Hurriyet Daily News, one of the few sources left in Turkey that’s not intimidated by the governments policies against a free press.
Hurriyet Daily News Dec 6, 2014 – Interview with Sedat Ergin
There is an assumption that the change in Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan towards authoritarianism started in 2011. But this does not correspond to facts. The change started back in 2008. We could see from that time how Erdoğan was shifting to an illiberal mindset. This went hand in hand with his shifting away from EU perspectives. The tax fines on the largest media group of the country, aiming to silence independent media, were a flagrant indicator of this. You can elaborate the list. Unfortunately, the Europeans and the U.S. failed to detect this deviation early enough. Read More
The Republic of Turkey is consumed by intense conflict, conspiracy charges, and underlying financial problems that simply won’t go away. A perfect storm is brewing in Turkey.
Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s government and supporters are charged with a secret gold-for-oil deal with Iran. The deal, in violation of trade sanctions against Iran, enriched the PM’s ministers and other key supporters involved (including the PM’s son), according to prosecutors. The deal also involved misreporting billions of dollars in trade, which, in turn, resulted in Turkey overstating national income and understating its current account deficit.
A more ominous charge focuses on Erdogan’s open support of a wealthy Saudi known for funding al Qaeda and the PM’s alleged support of Al Qaeda fighters engaged against the Syrian government. Just today, we saw this headline: Turkish governor blocks police search on Syria-bound truck reportedly carrying weapons . Erdogan is a strong supporter of the Syrian rebels, assumed recipients of the weapons.
The crisis started on December 17, 2013 when dozens of Erdogan’s close associates were arrested for corruption. The arrests included the CEO of Turkey’s state bank caught with million in euros stuffed in shoeboxes. Charges and arrests continued. Prosecutors and police who handled the case were fired at the behest of the Prime Minister. The Turkish supreme court ruled that the government couldn’t interfere with police investigations through firings and intimidation. Undeterred, Erdogan fired more prosecutors claiming the charges were an attack on the Turkish state. To top it all off, authorities banned reporters from police stations and pressured the media to stop focusing on the scandals. Read More
Turkish gold for Iran’s natural gas – this is the end for Erdogan WikiCommons
Hurriyet Daily News columnist Mustafa Sonmez broke a story that should define the outcome of the Turkish crisis. If he’s accurate about the Erdogan government’s scheming, the crisis in Turkey is over. It is just a matter of time for the full scope of the fraud and corruption to come to public attention. There is no reason to doubt his story since much of it is public record.
Under Erdogan’s AKP government, Turkey has engaged in financial manipulation on a grand scale. The manipulation involves overstating national income and understating the nation’s current account deficit. The country could soon lose its current terms for access to the international financial system and credibility with those who regulate that system.
While the focus to date has been on charges of personal enrichment by Erdogan’s ministers and associates, the real problem for the current government is financial fraud in reporting its current account deficit and national income. These figures are the basis for access to international financing. Intentional, inaccurate reporting constitutes fraud that understates the risk to lenders and provides a more favorable interest rate for the borrower than is warranted. That bell cannot be un-rung. The reporting of the events in the Sonmez narrative are in the public domain. It is just a matter of time before the dots are connected and the scheme glimmers in the light of public awareness. Read More