Turkey 2015

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2015

Erdoğan cites Hitler’s Germany as example of effective government
Turkey’s president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan is pushing to change his ceremonial role to chief executive as in US and Russia
Turkey’s president has been pushing for some time for a new presidential system to govern the country, sparring with critics who accuse him of attempting a power grab.
Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s latest comments in favour of greater executive powers are unlikely to help him bring those critics round. On Friday he was quoted by Turkish media as citing a striking example of an effective presidential system – Germany under Adolf Hitler.
Asked on his return from a visit to Saudi Arabia whether an executive presidential system was possible while maintaining the unitary structure of the state, he said: “There are already examples in the world. You can see it when you look at Hitler’s Germany.”
[See also: Erdoğan plan for super-presidency puts Turkey’s democracy at stake — The Turkish president’s attempted power-grab is slated from within his own party as divisions between the country’s executive and legislature deepen (25 March 2015)]

Turkey UN mapTurkey’s past and future collide: Why 2015 is a critical year
ISIS, Syrian refugees and Kurdish unrest all factors in the year ahead
(CBC) This year marks the centenary of the killings of Armenian Turks in 1915. In recent years, the Turkish government has taken steps to improve relations with Armenia. It offered formal condolences, but will not use the word genocide. On the home front, Turkey is also grappling with a resurgence of Kurdish violence in the southeast, the threat of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) at its border and a Syrian refugee crisis.
Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu is currently at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, ending Erdogan’s long-standing boycott of the summit, which helps pave the way for the G20 summit, which Turkey is hosting this year. President Erdogan confronted concerns over ISIS in an address to international Muslim leaders in Istanbul on Wednesday, asking rhetorically where these extremists are “getting the authority” to commit murder in the name of Islam, given that the Muslim faith does not support such acts. (23 January 2015)
Syrian Refugees in Turkey: The Long Road Ahead
(Migration Policy Institute) Turkey now hosts the world’s largest community of Syrians displaced by the ongoing conflict in their country. According to United Nations estimates, Turkey’s Syrian refugee population was more than 1.7 million as of mid-March 2015, and the large unregistered refugee population may mean the true figure is even larger. Turkish reception policies at the outset were predicated on the assumption that the conflict would come to a swift conclusion, allowing the  displaced Syrians to return home, but as conditions continue to deteriorate in Syria and the conflict stretches into its fifth year, it has become clear that a shift in policy to encompass longer-term solutions is needed. (April 2015)

4 December
Turkey takes a hit from the Russian hammer
The latest conflict with Russia deprives Erdogan of the autonomy in foreign and security policy he was seeking against Turkey’s Western allies.
(Al-Monitor) In 2014, Erdogan had gone the extra mile during the G-20 summit at St. Petersburg and had asked Putin in their joint press conference, “Why don’t you let us in to the Shanghai Group, so we could be liberated from our ties to the European Union?”
There were enough signs that he had wanted to emerge as the leader and spokesman of the Islamic world, a position that would not be compatible by being a faithful and regular member of the West.
Downing the Russian fighter jet put such ambitious objectives of Erdogan in jeopardy, if not made them impossible to realize.
Turkey once again finds itself under the Russian hammer while, this time, resting on the Western anvil.
Russian allegations of Turkish leadership’s transactions with IS will continue. The rejection of Turkey’s Western partners and primarily of Washington will have credence only if Erdogan contributes to the anti-IS fight much more than he has done and also if he toes the line with the Western coalition partners on many fields.
Such a trajectory, most probably, was not what Erdogan had envisaged in his term as Turkey’s president.
3 December
Russia Says Turkey’s President Erdogan Benefits From ISIS Oil Trade
(AP via World Post) Russia’s top brass on Wednesday accused the Turkish president and his family of personally benefiting from the illegal oil trade with Islamic State militants.
The accusations follow Turkey’s downing of a Russian warplane near the Syrian border last week, which has set off an angry spat between the two nations that had developed close economic ties.
Speaking to dozens of foreign military attaches and hundreds of reporters in Moscow, Russian Deputy Defense Minister Anatoly Antonov said Russia has evidence showing that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his family were linked to the IS oil trade.
Antonov claimed that IS militants make $2 billion a year from the illegal oil trade. Lt.-Gen. Sergei Rudskoi of the Russian military’s General Staff said Russian airstrikes on the IS oil infrastructure in Syria had halved the militants’ profits.
The defense ministry officials showed the journalists what they said were satellite images depicting thousands of trucks carrying oil from IS-occupied areas in Syria and Iraq into Turkey. They did not, however, provide any evidence to back up the claims of personal involvement of Erdogan and his family in the illegal oil trade.
And this from a Russian propaganda source
Turkey-Daesh Criminal Ties Extend Beyond Oil Smuggling, Stretch Across EU
(Sputnik) Turkey and the Islamic State’s collaboration on oil smuggling only scratches the surface of a much deeper and broader criminal partnership, one that oversees a variety of illicit activities ranging from human trafficking to financial scams with operations that stretch from Ankara to Amsterdam, experts told Sputnik.
Russian Deputy Defense Minister Anatoly Antonov said on Wednesday that Turkey is the main consumer of illegal oil from Syria and Iraq, accusing Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his family of direct involvement in the oil business of the Daesh, also known as ISIL/The Islamic State.
“Daesh is entirely an organized crime operation in partnership with the Erdogan family,” security consultant and Veteran’s Today senior editor Gordon Duff told Sputnik on Wednesday. “The Erdogan family and their friends run organized crime in Austria, in Germany, in the Netherlands… which includes human trafficking on a massive scale, narcotics trafficking [and] credit card fraud.”
2 December
Russia says it has proof Turkey involved in Islamic State oil trade
Russia’s defense ministry said on Wednesday it had proof that Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan and his family were benefiting from the illegal smuggling of oil from Islamic State-held territory in Syria and Iraq.
Moscow and Ankara have been locked in a war of words since last week when a Turkish air force jet shot down a Russian warplane near the Syrian-Turkish border, the most serious incident between Russia and a NATO state in half a century.
Erdogan responded by saying no one had the right to “slander” Turkey by accusing it of buying oil from Islamic State, and that he would stand down if such allegations were proven to be true. But speaking during a visit to Qatar, he also said he did not want relations with Moscow to worsen further.
At a briefing in Moscow, defense ministry officials displayed satellite images which they said showed columns of tanker trucks loading with oil at installations controlled by Islamic State in Syria and Iraq, and then crossing the border into neighboring Turkey.
Proof that the world has gone completely mad
Turkish president GollumA Turkish court appointed five ‘Lord of the Rings’ experts to figure out whether this Gollum meme is offensive
Turkish doctor Bilgin Çiftçi lost his job. He’s been put on trial. And whether he goes to prison hinges on one thing:
Is Gollum a good guy?
According to the Turkish news agency DHA, Çiftçi was expelled from the Public Health Institution of Turkey in October after sharing a meme comparing Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan to the creepy creature from “The Lord of the Rings.”
24 November
Turkey and Russia in war of words over downed jet
NATO urges a de-escalation in tensions between Ankara and Moscow after Turkey shoots down Russian warplane
(Al Jazeera) Turkey, Russia and their respective allies have entered a war of words about the downing of a Russian warplane near the Turkey-Syria border – raising tensions in a region struggling to cope with the ongoing Syrian conflict.
The Russian Sukhoi Su-24 warplane was  shot down  for violating Turkish airspace on Tuesday morning, Turkish officials said, angering Russia’s President Vladimir Putin, who likened the incident to being “stabbed in the back”.
The plane crashed in Syrian territory in Latakia’s Yamadi village.
“Today’s loss is linked to a stab in the back delivered to us by accomplices of terrorists. I cannot qualify what happened today as anything else,” a visibly angry Putin said in televised comments.
ANALYSIS: Downing of Russian jet hardly a surprise
Nato and UN seek calm over Turkish downing of Russian jet
Vladimir Putin claims incident was ‘a stab in the back’ while Recep Tayyip Erdoğan says ‘everyone should respect the right of Turkey to defend its borders’
Speaking before a meeting with King Abdullah II of Jordan in Sochi, Putin said: “Our military is doing heroic work against terrorism … but the loss today is a stab in the back, carried out by the accomplices of terrorists. I can’t describe it in any other way. We will never tolerate such crimes like the one committed today.”
In Ankara, the Turkish president, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, summoned his top generals to an emergency national security meeting to decide Turkey’s next step. The Turkish government said the Russian plane had been warned 10 times to turn back as it approached the border, but had still flown into Turkish airspace for a few seconds. Ankara stressed the incident had followed a string of Russian incursions in recent weeks.
3 November
Turkish President’s Push For A New Constitution Sparks Heated Debate
A new constitution could change the government into a U.S.-style presidency.
(World Post) Turkey’s current constitution was drafted under military rule decades ago, and was designed to limit the power of civilian governments. Turkey’s political parties have previously agreed on aspects of a new constitution that would prevent military coups, for instance, but are split when it comes to sticky issues like Turkish identity and citizenship. The biggest point of disagreement, however, is the AKP’s proposal to change Turkey’s parliamentary government system into a U.S.-style executive model that would consolidate power at the top.
2 November
Erdoğan’s Second Chance
By Sinan Ülgen, Chairman of the Istanbul-based Center for Economics and Foreign Policy Studies (EDAM
(Project Syndicate) In the run-up to the latest election, Erdoğan and the AKP emphasized the importance of the party’s parliamentary majority for Turkey’s political stability. The opposition countered with the argument that a coalition government would counter the country’s deep political polarization, while helping to establish stronger checks and balances. The promise of stability proved to be the more resonant message. …
Turkey’s new government has been provided with a broad enough mandate to address some of the country’s most difficult and imminent policy challenges – most notably the peace process with the Kurds. A previous effort had been suspended ahead of the election, as the PKK returned to violence and the AKP’s leadership adopted increasingly nationalist and hawkish rhetoric. With the election over, however, there is hope that the new government will restart the negotiations. If successful, the talks would have a major impact not only domestically, but also on the ongoing fight against the Islamic State.
The AKP’s majority will also enable it to continue to recalibrate the country’s foreign policy. Turkey’s policies following the Arab Spring had led to a loss of influence and friends in the region; but recently the country has begun to adapt its approach to the realities on the ground. For example, Turkey has lifted its objections to a role for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in negotiations to end the civil war in Syria. Similarly, a new commitment to the struggle against the Islamic State has eliminated a core point of friction with Turkey’s Western partners.
The main trap the new government must avoid is a return to a heavily paternalistic style of governance. The AKP should take comfort in its large majority and start to view minority views and even peaceful dissent more benignly, in a way that befits a country negotiating accession to the European Union. The lesson of the two elections is clear: Turkey’s voters want a strong, stable government, but not one that runs roughshod over its opponents.
1 November
Turkey’s AK Party wins back majority in snap election
Ruling party reverses June election results, securing nearly 50 percent of vote with stronger-than-expected performance.
(Al Jazeera) The Justice and Development Party (AK Party) is set to lead Turkey alone once again after a five-month break, easily regaining its parliamentary majority in what Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu called a victory for democracy. … President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said the outcome of Sunday’s vote was a vote for stability, and a message to Kurdish fighters that violence could not coexist with democracy.
15 October
Mustafa Akyol: A Perfect Storm: The Syrian Civil War Is Spilling Into Turkey
Turkey’s governing elite lives in a world of conspiratorial fantasy, while the society is bitterly divided between Erdoğan lovers and haters. Only wise leadership can diffuse tension, build reconciliation and follow a sensible policy of national security in close cooperation with Turkey’s Western allies. But the current leadership is not that.
the recent bombing in Ankara, shows that ISIS is a major threat not just in the ever-tense southeastern cities, but even now in the very capital of the country. There is no sensible reason to think that the government is mastering this threat in an imagined conspiracy of gathering votes out of instability, as many opposition voices seem to believe. But the Turkish government is responsible for not doing enough against the ISIS threat.
Turkey Is Heading Into the Abyss, Thanks to Erdogan
By Suat Kiniklioglu
Turkish democracy has never been so fragile in recent memory. Erdogan has divided the country on ethnic, sectarian and lifestyle levels in an unprecedented manner. The Turkish opposition is weak and divided. The sole arbiter of Turkey’s future remains the electorate. It is crucial to get out of this mess through democratic means.
(World Post) Turkey’s already fragile peace has been shattered. The nation is utterly traumatized. Turkey had been experiencing renewed fighting between the PKK and the security forces in recent months but the heart of the capital has never been witness to such a deadly terror attack, which constitutes the deadliest terror incident in the Republic’s history.
Turkey has always been a divided nation but the rise of Recep Tayyip Erdogan in 2003 has fueled the polarization in the country. Throughout the years, Erdogan has made polarization and consolidation of his own camp an enduring political strategy. Things particularly worsened after the 2011 election, which marked the third consecutive win of Erdogan’s Justice and Development Party (AKP). In 2011, he ousted dozens of centrists and liberals from the party and adopted a more assertive conservative agenda. He also decided to change the Constitution so he could become an executive president running the country for another ten years from the presidency.
12 October
Turkey was hit by the worst terror attack in its history. More than 100 people, many of them Kurds, were killed by suicide bombers in Ankara. The event rattled Turkey ahead of its national elections next month and sparked protests against the government. Turkish prime minister Ahmet Davutoglu pointed the finger at ISIL.
10 October
Ankara peace rally rocked by deadly explosions
8 September
The bell tolls for Turkey and the PKK
(Al Jazeera Opinion) As the armed conflict deepens in Turkey, political leaders are burning political bridges needed to end the violence.
Clashes and curfews cast doubt on free election in southeast Turkey
(Reuters) – Daily clashes between Kurdish militants and security forces in southeast Turkey have cast doubt on whether a credible election can be held in two months’ time, with the fear of violence likely to haunt campaign rallies and voting day itself.
Kurds seemed to hold the keys to Turkey’s political future three months ago when the pro-Kurdish opposition won enough votes to enter parliament as a party for the first time. That election ended more than a decade of single-party rule by President Tayyip Erdogan’s AK Party.
Since then, the failure of coalition negotiations means the country will have to vote all over again on Nov 1
Now there are questions over whether many living in the largely Kurdish southeast will be able to attend rallies and vote. More than 100 temporary military zones have been declared in the region as fighting rages between militants from the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) and the armed forces.
Syrian refugees swarm Turkish port city hoping to catch boats to new lives
31 August
Turkey’s Kurdish Guerrillas Are Ready for War
(Foreign Policy) With peace negotiations in tatters, the insurgency’s leaders are preparing for a long and bloody conflict against President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s government.
Over the past six weeks, southeast Turkey, where the PKK wants to set up self-rule, has been wracked by violence unseen since the early 1990s, when clashes shut down cities after dark and thousands of villages were forcibly evacuated by the military. Turkey says it’s killed more than 900 suspected rebels in northern Iraq and inside Turkey since late July. The rebels, who dispute that number, in turn say they’ve killed hundreds of Turkish soldiers (Turkey put the number at closer to 65). What’s clear is that neither side is holding back.
The fighting has marked a brutal end to the two-year cease-fire between the PKK and the Turkish state. The cease-fire, which Ocalan agreed to in early 2013 after secret talks with Turkish intelligence chief Hakan Fidan, was expected to lead to formal negotiations to end the 30-year insurgency. The PKK wants legal and constitutional changes to liberalize Turkey and give Kurds ethnic-based political and cultural rights, including regional autonomy and ultimately freedom for Ocalan, while the Turkish government wants the disarmament of the guerrilla group.
But no formal negotiations were held and no change occurred.
23 August
As fight with Kurds heats up, Turkey’s president calls elections
Recep Tayyip Erdogan hopes his party will do better this time than it did in June
(The Economist) TURKEY entered uncharted political waters on Friday as its president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, announced he will call a snap election this autumn—provided that an even more senior authority agrees. “God willing, Turkey will experience repeat elections on November 1st,” Mr Erdogan said. Mr Erdogan’s confidence was disappointed in the previous elections on June 7th, when the Islamic-oriented Justice and Development (AK) party that he co-founded was denied the majority it needed to rule alone for a fourth term. The caretaker AK government reluctantly entered coalition talks, first with the secular Republican People’s Party (CHP) and then with the right-wing National Action Party (MHP), but on August 18th it said no coalition could be formed. Under the Turkish constitution, the winner of an election has only 45 days to negotiate a coalition. But this is the first time that an election has failed to lead to the formation of a government.
Meanwhile, governing the country will be confusing. Turkey’s constitution requires a power-sharing interim government, with all parties taking part, ahead of an election re-run. But the CHP, the largest opposition party, blames Mr Erdogan for torpedoing coalition negotiations and says it will not take part. The MHP has taken a similar stand. …  If CHP and MHP refuse to take part in an interim government, the constitution offers few pointers on how their cabinet seats should be filled. Ahmet Davutoglu, the prime minister, acknowledges that the process is open to interpretation. Rather conveniently, he wants to simply choose the cabinet ministers himself. In Turkey’s viciously polarised political climate, such impasses make paralysis and further instability all the more likely.
19 August
Turkey In Political Crisis As Violence Spirals
(Reuters) – Gunmen opened fire on Turkish police outside an Istanbul palace and eight soldiers were killed in a bomb attack in the southeast on Wednesday, heightening a sense of crisis as the country’s political leaders struggle to form a new government.
The unrest in the NATO member state comes weeks after it declared a “war on terror,” opening up its air bases to the U.S.-led coalition against Islamic State, launching air strikes on Kurdish militants, and detaining more than 2,500 suspected members of radical Kurdish, far-leftist and Islamist groups.
Turkey’s PM Fails To Form Coalition Government
(Reuters) – Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu formally ended attempts to form the next government on Tuesday after weeks of coalition talks failed … Davutoglu officially handed the mandate back to President Tayyip Erdogan at an evening meeting in the capital Ankara.
12 August
With Kurdish militant leader sidelined, Turkey risks deeper violence
Sidelined on his island prison, the one man who might have helped quell a surge in violence in Turkey’s Kurdish southeast appears increasingly powerless as a three-year-old peace process teeters on the brink of collapse. Abdullah Ocalan, whose Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) first took up arms against the Turkish state in 1984, had been Ankara’s main counterparty in talks launched in 2012 by President Tayyip Erdogan to try to end the insurgency. But as Turkish war planes bomb PKK camps in northern Iraq and Kurdish militants step up their attacks on Turkish soldiers and police, leaving in ruins a ceasefire called by Ocalan in March 2013, his voice is nowhere to be heard.
Pro-Kurdish opposition politicians who acted as intermediaries in the talks have been prevented by the state from visiting the PKK leader, imprisoned on Imrali island in the Marmara Sea, since before a June parliamentary election.
5 August
Hon. David Kilgour: Turkish President’s Cynical Maneuvers Weaken Fight Against ISIS
(Epoch Times) Tragically, by aiding ISIS to replace al-Qaeda as the Sunni jihadists in Syria, Erdogan has upped the local ISIS uprising into a full-scale war between Sunnis and Shiites. Obama and NATO imprudently have agreed with him that the coalition will support only Turkey, withdrawing support from the Kurds.
It is time for the international coalition fighting ISIS to cease yielding to Erdogan’s cynical political maneuvers
David T. Jones: Turkey and the Middle East Cauldron
(Epoch Times) Ankara appears to have gotten the United States to implicitly look the other way with regard to Turkish strikes against anti-Ankara Kurds. Since virtually all Kurds are anti-Ankara, that could lead to some fatalities among Kurds who, right now, are effectively fighting ISIS. And finally there are the “unknowns.” Just how much in the form of military equipment, economic support, and so on, has the U.S. government promised Ankara as one element of the extended negotiations?
1 August
Erdogan’s dangerous gambit
By bombing the Kurds, as well as Islamic State, Turkey is adding to the chaos in the Middle East
(The Economist) Many hope Mr Erdogan has at last had a moment of clarity about the IS menace. So far, though, he has only added to the murk of the region’s wars. His air force has mostly bombed the Kurds who, in various guises, have proved to be the most resolute fighters against IS. The Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which has been fighting an on-off insurgency against Turkey for decades, invited retribution by breaking a two-year ceasefire and killing several policemen and soldiers, in reprisal for Turkey’s supposed collusion in the Suruc bombing, which hit a Kurdish cultural centre. But Mr Erdogan is being reckless, too. By deliberately stirring nationalist, anti-Kurdish sentiment, he is endangering the chance of a lasting settlement of the Kurdish question and weakening the fight against IS.
30 July
Turkey’s Unlikely Path
(Stratfor) How, then, can we explain a week’s worth of events in which Turkey launched airstrikes at Islamic State forces and Kurdish rebels while preparing to extend a buffer zone into northern Syria — actions that mark a sharp departure from the timid Turkey to which the world had grown accustomed? We must look at the distant past, when Alexander the Great passed through the Cilician Gates to claim a natural harbor on the eastern Mediterranean (the eponymous city of Alexandretta, contemporarily known as Iskenderun) and the ancient city of Antioch (Antakya) as an opening into the fertile Orontes River Valley and onward to Mesopotamia. We move from the point when Seljuk Turks conquered Aleppo in the 11th century all the way up to the crumbling of the Ottoman Empire in the wake of World War I, when a fledgling Turkish republic used all the diplomatic might it could muster to retake the strategic territories of Antioch and Alexandretta, which today constitute Hatay province outlining the Syrian-Turkish border.
We must simultaneously look at the present. A contemporary map of the Syria-Turkey border looks quite odd, with the nub of Hatay province anchored to the Gulf of Iskenderun but looking as though it should extend eastward toward Aleppo, the historical trading hub of the northern Levant, and onward through Kurdish lands to northern Iraq, where the oil riches of Kirkuk lie in what was formerly the Ottoman province of Mosul.
We then take a long look out into the future. Turkey’s interest in northern Syria and northern Iraq is not an abstraction triggered by a group of religious fanatics calling themselves the Islamic State; it is the bypass, intersection and reinforcement of multiple geopolitical wavelengths creating an invisible force behind Ankara to re-extend Turkey’s formal and informal boundaries beyond Anatolia.treaty-of-sevres-borders-1920-1
29 July
The Sultan of Swing’s Dangerous Gamble
It appears Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is taking his country to war in order to win an election. It could be the biggest miscalculation of his political career.
The ink had barely dried on the “game-changer” headlines proclaiming Turkey’s much delayed entry in the war against the Islamic State, when Kurdish activists began sounding “game-unchanged” warnings on Twitter. The hashtag, #TurkeyIsAttackingKurdsNotISIS, started making the rounds before dawn on Saturday, July 25, just hours after Turkish warplanes began bombing Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) positions in northern Iraq.
Turkish authorities never said they would be exclusively striking Islamic State targets in their latest bombing raids. Announcing the campaign last week, Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu indicated that including Islamic State targets on Ankara’s hit list did not mean the real enemies — the PKK and Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s regime — were sliding down the foes scale. “Turkey cannot stand by as Kurdish, leftist, and Islamic State militants target Turkey,” said Davutoglu. “We will take necessary measures against whoever constitutes a threat to our border.”
Note the priorities there: Kurds, leftists, and then the Islamic State.
Has the U.S. Just Sold Out the Kurds?
The most effective ground force against the Islamic State could become collateral damage under a U.S. deal with Turkey.
(Foreign Policy) The United States has been pushing Turkey for nearly a year to throw its full weight behind the war against the Islamic State and for months was denied permission to stage airstrikes out of Incirlik Air Base, near the border with Syria. But now, as a consequence of winning Turkey’s permission to use the base for airstrikes, Washington may be allowing Ankara to batter the only forces on the ground that have proved effective against the Islamic State.
Turkey launches heaviest air strikes yet on Kurdish group.
27 July
Turkey denies targeting Kurdish forces in Syria
(Al Jazeera) Reports of shelling of YPG-held villages across border “being investigated” amid Turkish offensive against PKK and ISIL.
(Foreign Policy) In the wake of a major policy shift last week, Turkey has stepped up efforts to fight the Islamic State, targeting the group with air strikes and allowing the United States to fly bombing missions against the militants from a key Turkish air base. The move against the Islamic State came simultaneously with a renewed campaign against Kurdish militants that oppose Turkey but that are also involved in opposing the Islamic State on the ground.
3 July
Dreams of Kurdistan — A journey through Kurdish identity.
(Al Jazeera Magazine) … as the forces sweeping across the Middle East pull communities in Iraq, Syria, Turkey and Iran further apart, are Kurds still dreaming the same dream?
7 June
Turkish President Erdogan’s Triple Defeat
Voters struck back at the ruling AK Party in parliamentary elections Sunday, depriving it of a majority and likely stopping the president’s latest power grab.
(The Atlantic) While Erdogan himself was not on the ballot, his Justice and Development Party (or AKP) lost its hold on parliament. The AKP was still clearly the leading party, garnering around 41 percent of the vote in preliminary returns, but it failed to win an outright majority. A second defeat was that one reason for the AKP’s struggles was a surge by the Peoples’ Democratic Party, or HDP. For the first time, the party—a liberal group whose traditional base is Turkey’s Kurdish minority—crossed the magical 10 percent threshold required to actually earn seats in parliament. It did that in part by campaigning against the president. All that combined to produce what might be most galling of all to Erdogan: It means his hopes at changing the constitution to produce an executive presidency more like the U.S. setup are likely dead.
Voting ends in Turkish parliamentary elections
Economics, alleged corruption and Kurdish issue considered by voters in poll that can lead to more powers for president.
(Al Jazeera) The AK party, the ruling party for the past 13 years, is seeking to secure two-thirds of the 550 seats in the parliament in order to change the constitution to replace Turkey’s 92-year-old parliamentary system for a presidential system. However, the majority of surveys suggest that a victory with such a large margin is unlikely for the party
Hagia SophiaThe Hagia Sophia is a domed monument built as a cathedral and is now a museum in Istanbul, Turkey.
Credit: Tatiana Popova

Khaled Diab — Hagia Sophia: A symbolic bridge or wedge?
If Muslims and Christians worship in this single space, it would send out a powerful message of coexistence.
(Al Jazeera) … hundreds of protesters … recently took part in a rally to demand that the Hagia Sophia museum be converted into a mosque – the latest step in a sustained campaign which has pitted Turkey’s Islamists against its secularists. The mufti of Ankara, Mefail Hizli, believes that Pope Francis’ decision to recognise the mass killing of Armenians during World War I as “the first genocide of the 20th century” would “accelerate the process for Hagia Sophia to be reopened for [Muslim] worship”. …
At a time when Christians in the Middle East need the support and solidarity of their mainstream Muslim compatriots, this would constitute a slap in the face and may further embattle their increasingly precarious and vulnerable position.
At a time when Islamophobia is on the rise in Europe, a highly symbolic move like this can be exploited by anti-Muslims to further stigmatise and marginalise European Muslims, including three million people of Turkish origin in Germany alone.
In these troubled times, it would be best for Turkey to take a leaf out of the annals of Islamic tolerance rather than its chapters of intolerance, and fulfill its long-standing potential as a bridge between “East” and “West”, between “Islam” and “Christendom”.
… if it must again become a place of worship, then this magnificent space should reflect its long history as both a church and a mosque.
If Muslims and Christians both worship in this single space, it would send out a powerful message of coexistence at a time when the forces of intolerance are mounting a major assault on our common humanity.
Hagia Sophia: Facts, History & Architecture
4 June
Erdogan’s Kurdish Chickens Are Coming Home to Roost
The president’s peace process with his country’s Kurds could be the very thing that prevents him from coming out on top in the coming elections.
(Foreign Policy)  President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, revered and reviled in almost equal measure in Turkey, is at risk of becoming a victim of his own success. His political opponents, fearful of losing yet another election to him, have united around the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) in the upcoming parliamentary vote. And ironically, it is precisely Erdogan’s peace process with the Kurds that has made this coalition against him possible.
It is no secret that Erdogan is trying to amend the constitution to establish a presidential system. This will only be possible if the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) wins 330 seats or more, which will allow it to call for a referendum on the issue. The HDP — often affiliated with the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), due to its politicians’ close ties with the organization — will be a game-changing actor in determining the distributions of seats in the Turkish parliament. If the HDP manages to pass the 10 percent threshold for representation in parliament, it will be almost impossible for the AKP to win enough seats to call for a referendum to amend the constitution.
29 May
Off The Ballot But With Much At Stake, Turkey’s President Fights For More Power
(World Post) Turkey’s June 7 election will elect 550 members of parliament, but it’s really all about one man who isn’t even on the ballot: President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
The election could make history as Erdogan pushes for unprecedented power. Erdogan ran for president last summer, faced with the end of his three-term limit as prime minister, and now seeks to change the constitutional order. Under Erdogan’s vision, his newly elected position as president, a mostly ceremonial role, would become the most powerful ruling position in Turkey.
7 May
Turkey Officials Confirm Pact With Saudi Arabia To Help Rebels Fighting Syria’s Assad
(World Post) Casting aside U.S. concerns about aiding extremist groups, Turkey and Saudi Arabia have converged on an aggressive new strategy to bring down Syrian President Bashar Assad.
The two countries — one a democracy, the other a conservative kingdom — have for years been at odds over how to deal with Assad, their common enemy. But mutual frustration with what they consider American indecision has brought the two together in a strategic alliance that is driving recent rebel gains in northern Syria, and has helped strengthen a new coalition of anti-Assad insurgents, Turkish officials say.
24 April
Greece to make international protest over Turkey reserving Aegean air space
Foreign Ministry spokesman Constantinos Koutras says Turkey has unilaterally issued a Notice to Airmen, or NOTAM, reserving an extensive airspace over the Aegean Sea from March 2 to December 31, 2015, for military use.
Why Turkey doesn’t use the word ‘genocide’ for Armenia
The Turkish government has rejected the term “genocide” to describe the mass killing of Armenians 100 years ago, a stance that has sparked criticism and protest. For two perspectives on the history and meaning today, Jeffrey Brown talks to Soner Cagaptay of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy and Hrach Gregorian of American University.
Kyle Matthews: It’s time for Turkey to acknowledge the Armenian Genocide
The country of Armenia and the Armenian diaspora are marking the centennial by holding commemorative ceremonies around the world. They are also seeking justice from the government of Turkey in the form of an apology and official recognition of what was done by the Turkish-led Ottoman authorities a century ago.
Unfortunately, the Turkish government has dug in its heels. It claims Armenians died as a result of civil conflict and unrest — the First World War was underway at the time — and not because of genocide. However, history provides many cases of governments taking advantage of war and chaos to eliminate particular ethnic and religious groups they see as undesirable.
Today, Ankara does not accept anyone challenging the official narrative. Two weeks ago, Pope Francis made a public statement calling the massacre of Armenians “the first genocide of the 20th century” and called on other governments to do the same. Turkey immediately recalled its ambassador from Vatican City and claimed the pope was spreading “hatred.”
1 March
Jailed PKK leader calls on his followers to disarm
(Al Jazeera) Rebel leader Abdullah Ocalan asks Kurdish leadership to make a historic decision to end 30-year-old conflict.
Abdullah Ocalan, the jailed leader of Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), has called on his followers to lay down their arms, as part of a peace process to end a 30-year insurgency, according to Turkey’s main Kurdish party.
“I invite the PKK to attend an extraordinary congress in the spring months in order to make the strategic and historic decision to abandon the armed struggle,” Sirri Sureyya Onder, a politician from pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), said quoting Ocalan. …
Turkey began talking to Ocalan in 2012 with the aim of ending the conflict that has killed tens of thousands of people since 1984.
President Recep Tayyip Erdogan welcomed the call as “very, very important” but cautioned that earlier calls made by the Kurdish fighters had failed.
Timeline: PKK attacks in Turkey — More than 37,000 people have died since the PKK’s armed struggle started and millions have become refugees.
26 February
Turkey’s coming police state
Turkey’s new security bill curbs freedom of expression and legalises suppression of dissent
(Al Jazeera) In the wee hours of Sunday morning, Turkey’s parliament passed the first 10 articles of a controversial, 132-article domestic security bill that had in recent weeks sparked fistfights among parliamentarians and silent protests from the opposition.
On Monday, as security bill discussions resumed in parliament, the government released altered plans for one of Turkey’s most controversial and expensive projects – a man-made canal cutting through the European side of Istanbul to link the Marmara and the Black Sea and provide a new shipping lane. The new plans offered greater detail, yet had near-zero news value. Officials have yet to determine a geographical course for the canal, which means the latest design is far from final and construction remains years away.
22 February
Turkish troops pass smouldering Kobane to save shrine
Ottoman tomb too important for Erdogan to abandon but move signals no major policy change on ISIL.
Turkey’s decision to relocate the tomb of Tomb of Suleyman Shah – a piece of Turkish territory in Syria and the grandfather of Osman I, the founder of the Ottoman Empire – should come as no surprise, but it should not be interpreted as a change in Turkish policy on Syria. Instead, it should be seen as a marked continuation of Turkey’s policy of fence-sitting and reluctance when it comes to dealing with the threat ISIL poses to the region. Relocating the tomb is in line with what to expect from Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. For a leader who sees Turkey’s role in the region through the lens of the Ottoman Empire, and for someone who sees himself as a neo-Ottoman sultan, the tomb is simply too important to abandon. The tomb has been under the control of Turkey for 700 years, and Erdogan does not want to be the one to go down in history as the leader who lost the tomb forever.
23 January
Russian and Turkish conspiracy theories swirl after Paris attacks
(Financial Times) Although political leaders in Turkey have repeatedly condemned the attacks on the Charlie Hebdo magazine, a Jewish supermarket and a policewoman, a parallel narrative has emerged in the country, with conspiracy theorists blaming the murders on foreign intelligence agencies rather than radical Islamists.
A similar phenomenon has occurred in Russia, which sent Sergei Lavrov, foreign minister, to Sunday’s march.
Some such theories have been endorsed by pro-government figures — highlighting the growing resentment and suspicion of the west in two strategically important countries at a time of rising tensions over Ukraine and the Middle East. …
Ali Sahin, a member of Turkey’s parliament and foreign affairs spokesman for the AK party, last week set out eight reasons why he suspected the killings were staged so that “the attack will be blamed on Muslims and Islam”.
11 January
In winter freeze, Turkey clears capital of Syrian shanty towns
(WEN) Turkey rounded up more than 300 Syrian refugees in Ankara on Friday, tearing down makeshift shelters, eyewitnesses said, in what authorities described as an operation to send vulnerable families to camps as winter temperatures plunge.
Turkey has removed 3,000 refugees nationwide and sent them to a specially built camp in Gaziantep in the south east, Dogan Eskinat, spokesman for Turkey’s disaster management agency AFAD told Reuters, without giving a time frame. He said the aim was to ensure that only those able to sustain themselves remain outside of camps.
AFAD says Turkey hosts 1.7 million Syrian refugees, of whom 230,000 are in camps, with access to facilities such as schools, supermarkets and even cinemas. (11 January)

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