Turkey’s Misdiagnosed Kurdish Problem

Turkey can sometimes look like a bad joke. Turkey sits in the lowest ranks of any credible index measuring press freedoms and the rule of law.

Reporters Without Borders, for instance, in its 2016 report, put Turkey into the 151st place out of a list of 180 countries — ranked below Pakistan, Russia and Tajikistan.

In this year’s Rule of Law Index, released by the World Justice Project, Turkey ranked 99th out of 113 countries, scoring worse than Nigeria and Myanmar.

Turkey’s leaders, nevertheless, recently condemned the state of press freedoms in Europe and the United States. An official statement claimed that press freedoms had a problematic and restrictive state in “Western democracies such as, France, Germany, England, Sweden, Spain, Netherlands and the USA.”

But not all Turkish news is equally amusing. On Dec. 10, a twin bomb in Istanbul killed 44 people and injured more than 150. The perpetrators were an urban branch of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which has been fighting for a Kurdish homeland since 1984. The conflict has already taken nearly 40,000 lives.

Source: for MORE

Erdogan’s Private Youth Army

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has good reasons to be living in constant fear. Only a few months ago, on July 15, hundreds of military officers, including several in his own security detail, attempted to topple him in a coup d’état. But the way he thinks he can best fight and win a future attempt at his governance — and life — exposes Turkey to the risk of civil war.

Erdogan’s fight against coup-plotters is legitimate. His paranoia is understandable. But his efforts to build a private army of devotees is not. The level of paranoia surrounding his 1,100-plus-room palace is reaching new heights. One of his chief advisors, Yigit Bulut, recently accused foreign chefs on cooking programs shown on Turkish TV stations of being foreign spies. Bulut claimed that foreign chefs are touring Anatolia merely to gather intelligence and are collecting information about military bases and industrial facilities in Turkey. Bulut may sound amusing, but he is one of Erdogan’s chief advisors.

This paranoia is pushing Erdogan and his men into an abyss of paranoia — and civil war. There are signs, also, that Erdogan’s adventurism will not be confined only within the Turkish borders. In a shake-up of the national intelligence agency, for instance, Erdogan’s government created the position of a deputy undersecretary in charge of “special operations.” Pinar Tremblay, a Turkey expert, says:

“The establishment of this unit tells us that Turkish adventurism is not to be quelled any time soon. To the contrary, it will expand because now we see the government is willing to spare more funding and human resources to special operations. The institutionalization also tells us that Turkish presence in Syria and involvement in Iraq will be coordinated from this center and that this unit is set to grow in the coming months.”

There are also signs that Erdogan wants to fight an all-out war inside Turkey against any and every enemy he may be facing.

Source: for MORE

Erdogan’s Gritted-Teeth Peace with Israel

Modern Turkey has never been so disconnected from its Western allies. Its Islamist president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, recently accused the West of helping the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS). His evidence? Because, he said, ISIS is fighting with Western weapons — overlooking, of course, that they were probably captured or stolen.

This dislike and hostility is not unrequited. On November 24, the European Parliament voted overwhelmingly for a motion calling to suspend Turkey’s membership talks with the European Union (EU), citing “disproportionate, repressive measures” taken by Erdogan’s government. The motion, although non-binding, passed 479 to 37 in favor. In retaliation, Erdogan threatened that “if the EU goes further,” Turkey will open its border gates and let refugees stream toward Europe.

The Turks, too, are distancing themselves from the idea of EU membership. According to a survey by the pollsters ANDY-AR, 75.3% of Turks believe that their country is drifting away from accession, while only 19.9% believe it is not. Forty-four percent think freezing membership talks would be a positive development.

Confirming the growing anti-Western mood, Erdogan’s spokesman, Ibrahim Kalin, wrote in a newspaper column: “With its internal problems, micro-nationalisms and the Brexit process, Europe is narrowing down its strategic outlook and losing its relevance.”

Against this backdrop, Turkey is normalizing its relations with Israel — in theory, at least. Ankara and Jerusalem agreed to appoint ambassadors to each other’s country after an absence of more than six years. Two prominent career diplomats, Kemal Okem and Eitan Na’eh, will struggle to improve ties in Tel Aviv and Ankara, respectively. They will have a hard job. The diplomats may be willing, but with Erdogan’s persistent Islamist ideological pursuits, they would seem to have only a slim chance of succeeding.

Source: for MORE

A Relentless Cycle of Terror Threatens to Tear Turkey Apart

The country is turning on itself as attacks by ISIS and Kurdish militants grow in frequency

A cold rain fell outside Istanbul’s Reina nightclub on Friday afternoon, six days after a gunman burst into the crowded bar and killed at least 39 people celebrating New Years Eve. Heaped against a police barricade at the club’s entrance were tributes laid in mourning: Flowers, portraits of the dead, and Turkish flags. A young woman walked up to lay a handful of red flowers on the pile, and then paused in silent prayer.

The public mood in Turkey is turning darker as the rate of internal violence increases. Days after the club shooting, a car bombing killed at least two people in the coastal city of Izmir, in an attack attributed to Kurdish militants. In December, a deadly car bombing killed more than 40 people at a major Istanbul soccer stadium, and a police officer shot dead Russia’s ambassador in Ankara. The bloodshed has become endemic over the past year and a half, as Kurdish separatist militants and Islamic State jihadists have slaughtered hundreds, and an abortive military coup attempt left more than 200 people dead and sparked a wave of repression by President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

Source: for MORE

Turkey: Child Rapists to Go Free, Journalists Not?

Turkey, officially, is the world’s biggest jailer of journalists. But its ruling Islamist party has drafted a bill that would release about 3,000 men who married children, including men who raped them. Public uproar has only convinced the ruling conservative Muslim lawmakers to consider revising the bill.

Muslims in general have a confused mind about the permissible age for marriage. The Quran does not mention a specific minimum age. But most Muslims believe that their prophet, Mohammad, married Aisha when the bride was nine years old — although there are some sources that claim the marriage took place when Aisha was 19 or 20 years of age. Some modern sources of Islamic authority, however, especially Wahhabi, have in recent years issued “extreme” fatwas. In 2011, Salih bin Fawzan, a prominent cleric and member of Saudi Arabia’s highest religious council, issued a fatwa asserting that there is no minimum age for marriage and that girls can be married “even if they are in the cradle.”

In 2014, the Saudi Grand Mufti allowed marriages with girls under 15 and avoided mentioning a minimum age. Turkish conservatives are no exception to having an inclination to marry little girls.

Earlier in 2016, the head of a department of the Supreme Court of Appeals revealed that nearly 3,000 marriages were registered between female victims of sexual abuse, including rape, and their assailants. Speaking to a parliamentary commission, the senior judge testified that children between the ages of five and 18 could be subjected to sexual abuse in the country, and that girls between the ages of 12 and 15 were more easily tricked by abusers. He mentioned a particular case in which three men kidnapped and raped a girl, then one of them married her and the sentences for all three were lifted.

Source: for MORE

Turkey: Lies, Cheap Lies and Cheaper Lies

Reading his public speeches, one may think that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan must be joking; that he is a celebrity stand-up comedian, the best in his profession. In reality, he is not joking. He believes in what he says. And he does not want to make people laugh. He is just an Islamist strongman.

Visiting Minsk, the capital of Belarus, in the first week of November for the opening of a mosque in a dictatorial country where there are 100,000 Muslims, Erdogan accused Western Europe for “intolerance that spreads like the plague.”

Erdogan described Belarus, which Western countries describe as a dictatorship, as “a country in which people with different roots live in peace.” In Erdogan’s view Belarus is decent and peaceful, but Western Europe is not. Merely because Belarus’s dictator, Alexander Lukashenko, agreed to open a mosque to lure some Turkish investment.

Source: for MORE

Trump’s Difficult Ally in Ankara

Bilateral relations with NATO ally Turkey are probably not on president-elect Donald Trump’s top-50 priority list. All the same, when Trump’s diplomats will have to work with Turkey on issues that may soon gain prominence — such as Syria — they will have to deal with a man who says he does not mind being called a dictator.

Instead of resembling a Western democracy in the European Union — to which Turkey has long been struggling to join as a full member — Turkey increasingly looks like Kim Jong-Un’s North Korea. Most recently, the World Justice Project placed Turkey 99th out of 113 countries on its Rule of Law Index 2016, performing even worse than Myanmar and Iran. The index measures nations for constraints on government powers, absence of corruption, open government, fundamental rights, order and security, regulatory enforcement and civil and criminal justice.

Turkey is also now the world’s biggest jailer of journalists and academics.

It also claims the title of the world’s biggest jailer of opposition politicians. A dozen lawmakers from the pro-Kurdish, opposition Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) were detained on November 4 because they refused to give testimony in criminal proceedings. Prime Minister Binali Yildirim said that democratically elected officials normally can only be forced from office in an election, but those officials who mix with and encourage “terrorism” must face legal proceedings. Turkish prosecutors began probing more than 50 HDP members of parliament after the legislature voted to scrap immunity in certain cases. Turkish officials say HDP lawmakers were detained because they refuse to testify in their cases.

On the same day that Turkish police detained Kurdish lawmakers, Turkey restricted access to multiple social media services throughout the country, including Facebook, Twitter and YouTube. Restrictions on the messaging services WhatsApp, Skype and Instagram were also detected, validating widespread user complaints about WhatsApp service failure in Turkey. Iit was the first time Turkey imposed nationwide restrictions on social media.

Source: for MORE