Tag Archives: Turkey

Turkey Turned Into ‘Middle-Earth’ Under Erdogan, Opposition Says

Turkish politics is having another run-in with the inhabitants of “Middle-earth.”

Meral Aksener, leader of the opposition Iyi Party, has invoked British author J.R.R. Tolkien and his epic fantasy novel “the Lord of the Rings” in rounding on President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s almost absolute grip on power.

“The Ring is the executive presidency,” Anadolu Agency cited Aksener as saying on Tuesday in Ankara, referring to Turkey’s presidential system of governance that’s been widely criticized for weakening the state’s separation of powers since it was introduced last year.

Aksener also likened Erdogan’s son-in-law, Finance Minister Berat Albayrak, to Gollum — Tolkien’s fictional character who was corrupted by the power of the Ring. Big construction companies, meanwhile, are the Nazgul, the wraiths who obtained immortality as servants of the main antagonist in the saga, she said.

In 2016, a court found a family doctor guilty of insulting Erdogan via a social media post that appeared to compare him to Gollum. The Lord of the Rings director Peter Jackson weighed in on that case, saying that the pictures posted were rather those of the character’s alter-ego, Sméagol.

Erdogan pursues “absolute power,” while Turkey is on the brink of an abyss, Aksener said, reflecting the joint opposition’s repeated condemnation of his authoritarian rule.

Her nationalist Iyi Parti commands 39 lawmakers out of 589 in total. The party won almost 10% of votes in the 2018 general election.


Turkish-backed militants loot historical artifacts in northern Syria: SOHR

The so-called Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) says Turkish-backed militants are plundering historical artifacts in Syria’s northwestern province of Aleppo and smuggling them over the border to sell in Turkey.

The Britain-based war monitor group, citing reliable sources requesting anonymity, reported on Tuesday that the militants have been systematically looting antiquities in the Afrin district, particularly in the city of al-Nabi Hori – also known as Korsh — ever since Turkish military forces and their Syrian proxies launched an operation to push Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) militants away from a “safe zone” along Syria’s border with Turkey.

The SOHR highlighted that Turkish-affiliated militants, namely members of the so-called Soqoor al-Shamal terror group, have been carrying out indiscriminate excavations by heavy machinery in the area, seriously damaging cultural layers at numerous archaeological deposits.

The operations have also led to the destruction of fragile historical artifacts such as glassware, porcelain ware, pottery and mosaic paintings.

On November 6, 2019, a worker at an illegal excavation site posted on Facebook pictures of three mosaics and other artifacts.

“The publisher made no mention of the location of the paintings or the identity of people shown in the picture. The paintings, nevertheless, strongly indicated that they have been recovered from a mountainous site controlled by Turkish-backed militants.

“The fact was later corroborated after a number of people pressed the publisher to reveal the exact location of the findings, and he said they had been recovered in al-Nabi Hori,” the sources said.

He had to remove the Facebook post a few days later after a journalist tried to communicate with him to investigate the originality of the paintings.

On October 9, Turkish military forces and Ankara-backed militants launched a long-threatened cross-border invasion of northeastern Syria in a declared attempt to push YPG militants away from border areas.

Ankara views the US-backed YPG as a terrorist organization tied to the homegrown Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which has been seeking an autonomous Kurdish region in Turkey since 1984.

On October 22, Russian President Vladimir Putin and his Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan signed a memorandum of understanding that asserted YPG militants had to withdraw from the Turkish-controlled “safe zone” in northeastern Syria within 150 hours, after which Ankara and Moscow would run joint patrols around the area.

The announcement was made hours before a US-brokered five-day truce between Turkish and Kurdish-led forces was due to expire.


Turkey to send 11 Daesh/ISIS members back to France

As part of Turkey’s policy of repatriating foreign Daesh/ISIS members to their home countries, 11 French national members of the terror group will be sent back to France at beginning of December, said Turkish officials on Thursday.

Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu made the announcement at a conference on migration in the Aegean province of Izmir.

Several European countries have resisted Turkey’s efforts to repatriate Daesh/ISIS terrorists, but Turkey has vowed to press forward.

To date 370,000 Syrian refugees who were hosted in Turkey have returned to their country, Soylu added.

Turkey hosts some 3.6 million refugees from neighboring Syria, more than any other country in the world.

Since 2016, it has conducted operations along its borders to eliminate terrorists there and also create safe conditions for the return of Syrian refugees.

Soylu also said that while 268,000 irregular migrants were held in Turkey in 2018, so far this year, some 430,000 have been held.

Since recognizing Daesh as a terror group in 2013, Turkey has been attacked by Daesh/ISIS terrorists numerous times, including 10 suicide bombings, seven bombings, and four armed attacks which killed 315 people and injured hundreds.

In response to the attacks, Turkey launched anti-terror operations at home and abroad, neutralizing 3,500 Daesh terrorists and arresting 5,500.


Turkey, Sarraj’s GNA Sign Military Deal

Turkey signed a military deal late Wednesday with the head of Libya’s Government of National Accord (GNA) following a meeting with President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in Istanbul, his office said.

Erdogan met with Fayed al-Sarraj to sign agreements on security and military cooperation, as well as maritime jurisdictions. 

“We are confident that we will improve the security situation for the Libyan people together,” Fahrettin Altun, communications director at the Turkish presidency, wrote on Twitter.

He called on other countries to support the GNA. 

“Stability of Libya is critically important for the safety of Libyans, regional stability, and prevention of international terrorism,” Altun tweeted.

The deal comes despite calls from the Arab League — which includes Libya — to end cooperation with Turkey in protest at its military offensive against Kurdish forces in Syria last month. 

The Libyan National Army led by Khalifa Haftar has repeatedly said that Turkey has been providing military support to Sarraj’s forces.

Last week, the LNA said it had carried out air strikes on the port city of Misrata, targeting armored vehicles delivered from Turkey and a munitions depot.

The LNA has been on the offensive since early April to take the Libyan capital Tripoli.


Turkish police fire teargas to disperse women’s day rally

Turkish police fired tear gas to disperse protesters marching in Istanbul on Monday to demand and “end to impunity” for those guilty of violence against women, a problem endemic in Turkey.

Some 2,000 people, mostly women, took part in the march to mark the UN-backed International Day for Eliminating Violence against Women.

They brandished placards reading “End impunity” while others held up the names of women killed by their current or former partners.

The banner at the head of the march read, “We can not tolerate the loss of one more woman.”

After an initially peaceful gathering, the march turned up Istiklal Avenue, a busy shopping hub, where they were quickly blocked by a wall of police in riot gear who used force to break up the demonstration.

An AFP photographer saw officers fire tear gas and plastic bullets to disperse the crowd.

Ayse Baykal, a teacher, told AFPTV that she had joined the rally to protest against “the enemies of women” and to “end the murder of women”.

Fellow marcher Ozge Cekcen, 25, said, “the killing of women in our country has risen sharply and, throughout society, we are being silenced”.

Turkish media have in recent weeks reported on several cases of women being killed by men.

A Turkish court on Monday handed a life sentence to a man who was convicted of murdering a woman in front of her 10-year old daughter in a high-profile case which sparked outrage, state media reported.

The murder of 38-year-old Emine Bulut in August caused a furore after a video went viral of the moments after she was stabbed.

A total of 378 women have been killed in Turkey so far this year, according to a local women’s rights group. Last year the figure was 440, against 121 such deaths in 2011.

Women’s rights groups regularly accuse the Turkish justice system of handing out insufficent penalties to those found guilty of violence against women.

Although Turkey has ratified the Council of Europe’s 2011 Istanbul Convention on preventing domestic violence, rights defenders criticise the fact that killers or abusers can receive reduced sentences for “good behaviour” or if they claim “provocation”.


Turkey to reopen Iraqi consulates closed after ISIL invasion in 2014

Turkey will reopen its consulates in Iraq’s Basra and Mosul provinces, which were closed after an invasion of the Iraqi cities by Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) terrorists in 2014, Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu said on Monday, according to the Hürriyet Daily News.

“We are reopening the consulates in Mosul and Basra in line with our aim to respond to the needs of all parts of Iraq. We are also working on opening consulates in Najaf and Kirkuk,” the minister said, speaking during budget discussions in parliament.

Turkey had closed its Mosul and Basra consulates due to threats posed by the ISIL terrorist group. The Turkish Consulate General in Mosul was taken over by ISIL on June 11, 2014, holding captive 49 consulate personnel and their families.

The hostages were safely returned to Turkey after 101 days of captivity.


Spotlight: Trump-Erdogan summit far from eliminating problems in ties: analysts

The recent meeting between the Turkish and U.S. presidents at the White House simply served to temporarily decrease strain in bilateral ties without settling any of the major problems between the two NATO allies, Turkish analysts said.

“I don’t think this meeting would have any significant impact, positive or negative, on bilateral ties,” said Haldun Solmazturk, who chairs the Incek debates at the Ankara-based 21st Century Turkey Institute.

“The problems remain as before,” he told Xinhua.

In a bid to sort out the growing problems in bilateral relations, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan met with his U.S. counterpart Donald Trump on Wednesday.

“The encounter ended with little progress to show, yet the leaders succeeded in giving an appearance of harmony and agreement,” said Faruk Logoglu, a former senior diplomat.

Turkey-U.S. ties have soured in recent years due largely to Ankara’s purchase of Russian-made S-400 air defense system, rapprochement between Ankara and Moscow and Washington’s military support to the Kurdish militia in Syria.

A cross-border military operation Turkey launched last month against the U.S.-backed Kurdish militia in Syria, which Ankara sees as terrorists, further heightened tension in ties.

“The visit gave the two leaders a temporary respite, useful at home but it is one that simply delays the ultimate day of reckoning,” Logoglu told Xinhua, saying nothing concrete appears to have come out of the summit.

Addressing a joint press conference following the summit, Trump said Turkey’s acquisition of the S-400 “creates some very serious challenges” for Washington, while Erdogan did not touch on the issue.

The bilateral ties cannot flourish unless the S-400 issue is settled, a written White House statement said later in the day.

The only way for Turkey to avoid U.S. sanctions is to keep the S-400s inactivated, stated Solmazturk, a former general.

In his view, Erdogan may now change attitude regarding the Russian missiles.

The U.S. signaled earlier that it may be acceptable for Washington if the S-400s would remain out of service.

However, Erdogan’s spokesman Ibrahim Kalin indicated on Friday that Ankara’s attitude would not change.

“There is no stepping back. Turkey will activate the S-400,” he told the state-run TRT Haber news channel, underlining that the missiles would not be integrated into the NATO system.

“The possibility of a modus vivendi reached on the S-400 issue in a one-on-one meeting between the two leaders is not to be ruled out,” remarked Logoglu.

Jim Risch, chairman of the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said on Thursday that it would be best for the Senate not to pass a sanctions bill on Ankara for the moment amid talks on the Russian missiles between the two sides.

“We think that there’s going to be movement relatively soon on the S-400s,” he said.

In response to the arrival of the S-400 system on Turkish territory in July, Washington kicked Ankara out of the stealth F-35 fighter jet project in which Turkey was a production partner.

It also put on hold the scheduled delivery of four F-35 jets to Ankara, while the U.S. Congress has passed sanctions bills against Ankara since July.

Ankara announced in early November that the delivery of a second batch of the S-400 system may be delayed amid talks on joint production and technology sharing.

It looks as if Turkey may give up on buying the second batch by stating its expectations as regards technology sharing are not being met by Moscow, said Solmazturk.

During the press conference, Erdogan once again tried to convince his U.S. counterpart to give up militarily supporting the Syrian Kurdish militia known as the People’s Protection Units (YPG).

Trump said, however, the U.S. has great ties with the Kurds in Syria and he talked as if Ankara’s military operation targeted the Kurds as a whole rather than the YPG, a distinction to which Turkey is very much sensitive.

Washington continues to see the YPG as an ally and a legitimate actor in Syria rather than a terror group, said Solmazturk.

“The U.S. got what it wanted,” he said, arguing Washington’s main objective was to dissuade Ankara from continuing with the military operation so that the YPG could emerge as a Kurdish political entity in Syria.

Just days before leaving for Washington D.C., Erdogan implied that Ankara could go ahead with the military operation as the YPG failed to honor a cease-fire deal concluded by Turkey and the United States on Oct. 17.

While at the press conference, the Turkish leader said Ankara would continue to respect the deal with Washington.

Still, Ankara may relaunch the military offensive if Erdogan thinks it would politically strengthen his hand at home, maintained Logoglu.

To punish Ankara for the cross-border operation, the U.S. House of Representatives passed highly offending resolutions against Ankara at the end of last month.

One is the recognition of the mass killings of Ottoman Armenians during the First World War as genocide, which, though legally non-binding, is the first in the history of the U.S. Congress.

A bill passed by the House calls for financial sanctions against Turkey’s state-owned Halkbank and instructs the U.S. State Department to prepare a report on the personal finances and dealings of Erdogan and his family around the world.

“Coming at a critical time in the wake of two different House of Representatives resolutions targeting Turkey, it was in a sense a make-or-break summit for the two sides,” stated Logoglu.

Erdogan’s visit had more to do with fending off the sanctions targeting himself and the Halkbank, maintained Solmazturk. “With the visit, Erdogan appears to have eliminated the threat of an investigation into his and his family’s financial assets,” he said.

However, both analysts feel the larger sanctions threat against Turkey is always there, waiting to be reactivated in case of fresh disagreements with Washington.

Erdogan expressed resolve to open a new page in bilateral ties with Washington, but the analysts are skeptical about it.

Trump’s vision of increasing bilateral trade volume to 100 billion U.S. dollars, up from around 20 billion dollars, is not realistic either, according to the analysts.

“The 100-billion-dollar trade volume target or Trump’s call on Europe to help Turkey with the Syrian refugees are niceties with no real chance of realization,” said Logoglu.


Turkey sends American ISIS fighter to US after stalemate with Greece

A suspected US extremist, trapped for days between the Turkish and Greek borders, was sent back to the United States Friday, Turkey’s interior minister said.

“The American on the shared border with Greece has just been expelled from Istanbul by plane to the United States,” Suleyman Soylu was quoted as saying by Turkish media.

The man, identified as Muhammad Darwis B, a US citizen of Jordanian descent, was captured in Syria on suspicion of ties to ISIS, according to state news agency Anadolu.

Turkish authorities say the US had initially refused to accept him, and that he chose deportation to Greece, only for Greek authorities to refuse him entry on Monday.

He was trapped in no-man’s land between the borders, next to Turkey’s northeastern province of Edirne, though Turkish border guards gave him food and a car to sleep in at night, according to Anadolu.

There was an apparent breakthrough on Thursday, when Turkey said the US “committed to taking him back.”

Turkey has criticized Western countries for not taking back captured members of ISIS, and has lately publicized its efforts to deport extremists back to their countries of origin.

It follows criticism of Turkey’s offensive last month against Kurdish militants in northern Syria, which Western governments complained would undermine the fight against ISIS.

Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu said last week that Turkey had nearly 1,200 foreign members of ISIS in custody, and had captured 287 during the offensive in Syria.

The Hurriyet newspaper said Wednesday that 959 suspects were being prepared for deportation, with the largest numbers coming from Iraq, Syria and Russia.


Turkey ‘neutralizes’ 8 PKK terrorists in northern Iraq

Turkish security forces “neutralized” eight PKK terrorists in northern Iraq, the Defense Ministry said on Thursday.

“With the coordinated work of the Turkish Armed Forces and National Intelligence Organization, eight PKK terrorists were neutralized in an air-backed operation in the Metina region of northern Iraq,” the ministry said in a statement.

Turkish authorities often use the word “neutralize” to imply the terrorists in question surrendered or were killed or captured.

PKK terrorists often use northern Iraq to plan cross-border terrorist attacks in Turkey.

In its more than 30-year terror campaign against Turkey, the PKK — listed as a terrorist organization by Turkey, the U.S., and the EU — has been responsible for the deaths of over 40,000 people, including women, children, and infants.