Turkey: Istanbul mayoral re-run: Erdogan’s ruling AKP set to lose

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE BBC)

 

Istanbul mayoral re-run: Erdogan’s ruling AKP set to lose

Ekrem ImamogluImage copyright REUTERS
Image caption Ekrem Imamoglu hailed the result as a “new beginning” for the city

Turkey’s ruling party is set to lose control of Istanbul after a re-run of the city’s mayoral election, latest results show.

The candidate for the main opposition party, Ekrem Imamoglu, has won 54% of the vote with nearly all ballots counted.

He won a surprise victory in March which was annulled after the ruling AK party complained of irregularities.

His opponent, former Prime Minister Binali Yildirim, has conceded.

The result is a major setback for President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who has previously said that “whoever wins Istanbul, wins Turkey”.

In his victory speech, Mr Imamoglu said the result marked a “new beginning” for both the city and the country.

“We are opening up a new page in Istanbul,” he said. “On this new page, there will be justice, equality, love.”

He added that he was willing to work with Mr Erdogan, saying: “Mr President, I am ready to work in harmony with you.”

Mr Imamoglu’s lead of more than 775,000 votes marks a huge increase on his victory in March, when he won by just 13,000.

Who were the candidates?

Mr Imamoglu, 49, is from the secular Republican People’s Party and is mayor of Istanbul’s Beylikduzu district.

But his name was barely known before he ran for mayor in the March election.

Binali Yildirim on his final campaign before the election on June 23Image copy right EPA
Image caption Binali Yildirim is an Erdogan loyalist

Mr Yildirim was a founding member of Mr Erdogan’s AKP and was prime minister from 2016 until 2018, when Turkey became a presidential democracy and the role ceased to exist.

He was elected Speaker of the new parliament in February and before that served as minister of transportation and communication.

Why was the previous result annulled?

Mr. Imamoglu’s narrow victory of 13,000 votes in March was not enough for Mr Yildirim to accept defeat.

The ruling party alleged that votes were stolen and many ballot box observers did not have official approval, leading the election board to demand a re-run of he vote.

Critics argue that pressure from President Erdogan was behind the decision.

Why is this election so important?

Mr Erdogan, who is from Istanbul, was elected mayor in 1994.

He founded the AKP in 2001 and served as prime minister between 2003 and 2014, before becoming president.

President Erdogan voting in Istanbul election - 23 JuneImage copy right AFP
Image caption Mr Erdogan, seen voting, is a native of Istanbul and a former mayor of the city

But cracks in the party are now beginning to show and analysts suggest these could be exacerbated by this loss.

“Erdogan is extremely worried,” Murat Yetkin, a journalist and writer, said ahead of the vote.

“He is playing every card he has. If he loses, by whatever margin, it’s the end of his steady political rise over the past quarter of a century,” he added.

“In reality, he’ll still be president, his coalition will still control parliament – although many will perceive his defeat as the beginning of the end for him.”

Erdogan Orders A Do-Over Election Because He Lost: Turkey; No Hint Of Democracy

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF TIME.COM)

 

Turkey Orders a Do-Over of Istanbul Election Narrowly Won by Opposition

(ANKARA, Turkey) — Turkey’s top election authority voided the Istanbul mayoral election won by an opposition candidate and ordered a do-over, ruling Monday in favor of a request by the president’s party to throw out the vote it narrowly lost.

Opposition leaders said the Supreme Electoral Board’s decision to invalidate the results from Istanbul’s election raises concerns about President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s grip on power and Turkish democracy in general.

A top aide for Erdogan told The Associated Press that the voiding of the mayoral election in Turkey’s biggest city amounts to “a victory for Turkish democracy” by ensuring the results reflect the voters’ choice.

Ekrem Imamoglu of the opposition Republican People’s Party placed first by a slim margin in the March 31 mayoral election, defeating the ruling party candidate, former Prime Minister Binali Yildirim. Erdogan’s conservative and Islamic-based Justice and Development Party then charged that a series of election irregularities made the results illegitimate.

Turkey’s state-run Anadolu Agency said the Supreme Electoral Board revoked Imamoglu’s mandate and called a new election for June 23. As grounds to annul the March 31 results, the board said that some ballot station heads were not civil servants as required by law, the news agency said.

Yildirim, the loser in the election, said he hoped the decision would lead to “beneficial and beautiful results for Istanbul.”

In a statement to the AP, presidential communications director Fahrettin Altun said: “Having held free and fair elections for nearly seven decades, Turkey will complete this process in a transparent, lawful and orderly manner.”

Leaders of the Imamoglu’s main opposition party held an emergency meeting in the capital of Ankara late Monday.

Addressing thousands of his supporters in Istanbul, Imamoglu accused the electoral board of bowing to pressure and threats from Erdogan’s party. He vowed to use “democracy” to win back the “rights” that he said were taken away by force. The crowd called for the electoral board members to resign and accused Erdogan of stealing the vote.

Kati Piri, the European Parliament’s rapporteur on Turkey, said on Twitter: “This ends the credibility of democratic transition of power through elections in Turkey.”

Police set up barricades around the electoral board’s headquarters in Turkey’s capital, but there were no immediate signs of major demonstrations. Protesters banged pots and pans in several Istanbul neighborhoods, the opposition Birgun newspaper reported.

Howard Eissenstat, a Turkey expert at the nonprofit Project for Middle East Democracy and a Middle East history scholar at St. Lawrence University in New York, said Monday’s ruling “removes the last fig leaf of competitive elections” hiding the erosion of democracy in Turkey.

“Turkey wasn’t democratic yesterday and it’s not democratic today,” Eissenstat said.

He noted that Erdogan’s party previously invalidated election results in Turkey’s mostly Kurdish-populated regions after a pro-Kurdish party won and replaced elected mayors with government appointees.

“Erdogan cannot afford to lose in the second round. It would a disastrous display of weakness,” Eissenstat said.

The local elections held across Turkey on March 31 produced setbacks for the president. His party lost city hall in the capital as well as in Istanbul, ending 25 years of the Justice and Development Party and its Islamist predecessor governing both cities.

The loss of Istanbul, the country’s commercial and cultural capital, was particularly hard for Erdogan. He began his political ascent as Istanbul’s mayor.

At pre-election rallies, the president had repeatedly told crowds, “Whoever wins Istanbul, wins Turkey” and “Whoever loses Istanbul, loses Turkey.”

Istanbul, with its 15 million residents and strategic location straddling Europe and Asia, accounted for 31% of Turkey’s GDP of $851 billion in 2017 and draws millions of tourists.

The city government had a budget of $8.8 billion last year. The municipality has awarded lucrative contracts to businesses close to the government over the years and offers huge financial resources and employment opportunities.

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Turkish Annual Inflation Falls 1.44% in November

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE SAUDI NEWS AGENCY ASHARQ AL-AWSAT)

 

Turkish Annual Inflation Falls 1.44% in November

Monday, 3 December, 2018 – 11:00
Vendors arrange fruits and vegetables at a green grocery in central Istanbul, Turkey October 9, 2018. REUTERS/Murad Sezer
Istanbul- Asharq Al-Awsat
Turkey’s consumer price index fell 1.44 percent month-on-month in November, official data showed on Monday, bringing the annual inflation rate down from a 15-year high as a stronger lira, tax cuts, and discounted products helped to trim prices.

A plunge in the lira’s value fueled the inflation surge this year, triggering a massive central bank rate hike, but one analyst said the sudden downturn in prices now brought with it the risk of an early loosening in monetary policy.

As it grapples with high inflation, one of the main economic concerns for investors, the central bank has at the same time faced pressure from President Tayyip Erdogan, a self-described “enemy” of interest rates, to lower borrowing costs to spur growth.

Year-on-year, consumer inflation stood at 21.62 percent in November, data from the Turkish Statistical Institute showed. A Reuters poll forecast a 0.75 percent monthly decrease in November and annual inflation of 22.6 percent.

In its battle against inflation, Ankara has cut taxes on consumer products such as vehicles, furniture and white goods and encouraged shops to offer at least 10 percent discounts until the end of the year.

“Tax cuts for automotive, white goods and furniture sectors were the key factor bringing down inflation,” said Muammer Komurcuoglu of Is Investment. “We expect a limited increase in December inflation as the initial impact of tax cuts wane.”

Transportation prices slid 6.46 percent while food and non-alcoholic beverage prices fell 0.74 percent, the data showed. The producer price index fell 2.53 percent in November for an annual rise of 38.54 percent.

Stoked by the weak lira TRYTOM=D3, whose decline against the dollar this year peaked at 47 percent in August, inflation surged to 25.24 percent in October.

Finance Minister Berat Albayrak, Erdogan’s son-in-law, said the downward trend in inflation would continue.

“We will continue to carry forward the structural steps that we have started in the fight against inflation with all our ministries,” Albayrak said on Twitter.

The lira has recovered in recent months after a massive 6.25 percentage point rate hike in September and an improvement in relations with the United States. It was steady at 5.2 against the dollar on Monday, still down more than 26 percent this year.

Turkey’s economy is seen shrinking 1.4 percent in the fourth quarter and officially entering a recession – defined as two consecutive quarters of negative growth – in the first three months of 2019, a Reuters poll showed in October.

As the economy slows and inflation falls, prospects for further rate hikes are now off the table, said Jason Tuvey, senior emerging markets economist at Capital Economics.

“With political pressure on the central bank to loosen policy likely to mount, there’s a growing risk that policymakers decide to loosen policy even earlier, and more aggressively, than we currently anticipate,” he said.

Why the Arab World Needs Democracy Now

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE NEW YORK TIMES)

(BY JAMAL KHASHOGGI)

Why the Arab World Needs Democracy Now

In April Jamal Khashoggi gave this speech, saying the dangerous idea of the benevolent autocrat, the just dictator, is being revived in the Arab world.

By Jamal Khashoggi

Mr. Khashoggi was a Saudi journalist.

Image
A Saudi flag at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, where Jamal Khashoggi was killed. Credit Ozan Kose/Agence France-Press — Getty Images

Jamal Khashoggi, the Saudi Arabian journalist who was killed by Saudi agents inside the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on Oct. 2, was the keynote speaker at a conference in April organized by the Center for Middle East Studies at the University of Denver and the Center for the Study of Islam and Democracy in Washington. Excerpts from his speech, edited for clarity and length, are below.

I am from Saudi Arabia, where the issues of democracy and Islam are very much relevant. When a Saudi official wanted to brush away the question of democracy, in the past, he would always raise the question of whether democracy is compatible with Islam.

The debate about the relationship between Islam and democracy conclusively ended with the coming of the Arab Spring, when the people of the Arab world, — especially the youth, and even the Islamist, including some Salafis, who were always critical of democracy — supported the protests for democratic and political change. Other Salafis remained very critical of democracy, viewing it as “kufr,” or un-Islamic, based on the belief that democracy represents a rejection of religious values.

The long voting lines during the 2012 elections in Tunisia and Egypt clearly demonstrated that the people of the Arab world were ready for change. They enthusiastically participated in democratic elections, including Islamist parties that had often been the focus of the debate on Islam’s compatibility with democracy.

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Those images from Egypt and Tunisia of men, women, young, and old going to the polls should be contrasted with the sham elections we see today in Egypt and in other parts of the Arab world. This is an argument we can use against anyone who might claim that “Arabs are not ready for democracy.”

Today, Saudi Arabia is struggling with different aspects of modernity — with cinemas, art, entertainment, mixing of the sexes, opening up to the world, rejecting radicalism. The tight grip that the religious establishment has had on social life is gradually loosening.

But while we’re pursuing all these forms of modernity, the Saudi leaders are still not interested in democracy, They aren’t advancing the old, lame excuse that democracy is not compatible with Islam, however. Instead, as Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman told Jeffrey Goldberg in The Atlantic they’re saying that absolute monarchy is our preferred form of government.

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Indeed, we are living in the age of authoritarianism. Some people believe that it is a better form of political rule. They argue that societies need a great leader and that democracy will undermine the ability of the great leader to guide his people to a better future.

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Today around a dinner table in Riyadh, Cairo or Amman, you are likely to hear intellectuals who were once considered liberals, who once supported liberty, political change and democracy, say, “Arabs are not ready for democracy.” If you push back against this argument, you would be told: “Even if Arabs are ready for democracy, they don’t know how to take advantage of it. They always make the wrong choice.”

A related argument is, “The Islamist and the Muslim Brotherhood have kidnapped the Arab Spring.” In my country, a variant of this argument is: “The Saudis don’t know how to choose. If we have democracy, they will not vote out of their conscience, they will vote based on their tribal loyalties.”

A popular argument in the Arab world is that we need a strong leader. You can hear it in Egypt from an Egyptian businessman who supports the ruling regime. You can hear it from a doubtful Jordanian, maybe even a doubtful Tunisian who seeks a return to the old order.

A Saudi friend of mine who was raised abroad openly defends the term “benevolent autocracy.” He is prepared to write about the value of benevolent autocracy in an American newspaper and thinks it is the best choice for Saudi Arabia.

It is the old notion of the “mustabidu al-adl,” or the just dictator, that died with the rise of Abd al-Rahman al-Kawakibi, a late-19th-century Arab-Muslim reformist of Syrian origin. The Arab and Muslim intellectuals who followed Kawakibi supported democracy or at least some variant of it.

Regrettably, though, the idea of the benevolent autocrat, the just dictator, is being revived in the Arab world. A chorus of anti-democratic Arab and non-Arab voices are using the media and the lobbyists to oppose democracy. I’m told that at the Riyadh International Book Fair in March, which I was not able to attend, one of the books on display was called “Against the Arab Spring.”

Democracy in the Arab world is also under attack from radical Islamists who are making a comeback as the so-called Islamic State or as the Salafis fighting in Libya alongside Khalifa Hifter (who was a general in Muammar Gaddafi’s army and is now backed by the United Arab Emirates and Egypt). They preach against democracy in the mosques — and through acts of violence.

We must reassure people in the Arab world who either have lost hope in democracy because of its perceived failures or because they fell victim to the concentrated propaganda about democracy coming from television networks run by states and the intellectuals aligned with them.

When I use the term “democracy” I mean it in the broader sense of the term that overlaps with values such as liberty, checks and balances, accountability and transparency. We were aiming for these goals in the form of good governance, equality, and justice in the Arab world. There is another reason we need democracy now in the Arab world: to stop mass violence.

Today, there are two kinds of Arab countries. Some countries, such as Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Morocco, need democracy for good governance and the checks and balances it brings.

But for war-torn countries like Libya, Syria and Yemen, democracy would lead to some form of power sharing. It can be along the lines of the Afghanistan arrangement, where you bring all of the factions in one huge room and force them into an agreement on how to share power. The chief reason the wars in these countries are continuing is the lack of a mechanism for power sharing.

The immediate need for Libya, Syria and Yemen is not good governance, but a mechanism to stop the killing. Inevitably, the question of good governance will emerge. There is great hope for democracy in other countries that have not been mired in civil or internal conflict, such as Tunisia, which is struggling toward a lasting democratic system.

Many of my Tunisian friends, despite the progress they have made, are also worried about democracy. They do not want to appear to be preaching to the rest of the Arab world. They simply want to be left alone. Yet I still think that Tunisians have an important responsibility.

News channels that are supportive of freedom and political change in the Middle East should spend a considerable amount of time covering even municipal elections in Tunisia. Every Saudi, every Egyptian and every Syrian should see what the Tunisians are enjoying. I hope it will inspire the rest of the Arab world to work for a similar form of government for themselves.

We need to defend the rights of the Arab people to have democracy in our own countries, in our own localities, but at the same time we must speak to foreign leaders, foreign powers and foreign parliamentarians. They have a role to play and many of them have begun to lose hope in the prospects of Arab democracy.

Some of them are now repeating the old racist statement, “Arabs are not ready for democracy [because they are Arabs].” The Trump administration has zero interest in supporting democracy in the Arab world. Even the French president, Emmanuel Macron, has suggested that there will be little political change in Egypt or in Saudi Arabia.

People are losing hope in democracy because of the failure of the Arab Spring revolts. They’re afraid of ending up like Syria. Many Arab regimes, their television networks, their writers, their commentators, are trying to scare people off democracy by actively promoting this idea.

Both Arab citizens and foreign leaders are affected by the limited reforms that Arab leaders are pursuing. In Saudi Arabia there are serious reforms that Prince Mohammed is leading. Many of my Saudi colleagues are saying I should support them. I do support them.

My position is that we should take what we have and build on it.

When Mr. Macron stood next to Prince Mohammed, he made this point and he was correct to do so. We need to support the crown prince in his effort to reform Saudi Arabia because if we let him down, he will come under pressure from radical elements who are not willing to reform.

These limited reforms and the general political condition of the Arab world today are adding strength to the argument of the anti-democracy forces. This unfortunate reality puts more responsibility on our shoulders to resume our work and to redouble our efforts to push for democracy in the Arab world as a realistic choice for people and a solution to the failure of many Arab states.

Jamal Khashoggi was a Washington Post Global Opinions contributing columnist.

Women In Iran Are Removing Their Head Scarfs

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE WASHINGTON POST)

 


Vida Movahed takes off her headscarf and holds on a stick in Tehran in late December, protesting Iran’s hijab rules. (Abaca Press/SalamPix/Sipa USA/AP)
 March 8 at 4:01 PM 
 Iranian women have been raising a new challenge to their Islamic government, breaking one of its most fundamental rules by pulling off their headscarves in some of the busiest public squares and brandishing them in protest.

While these guerrilla protesters number only in the dozens, Iran’s government has taken notice of their audacity. On Thursday, planned demonstrations to coincide with International Women’s Day were preempted by a heavy police presence on the streets of the capital, Tehran.

Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, marked the day with sharply worded tweets skewering Western countries for the immodesty of their women and trumpeting the virtues of the headscarf, or hijab.

“By promoting modest dress (#hijab), #Islam has blocked the path which would lead women to such a deviant lifestyle,” Khamenei tweeted in English. “Iranian women today, declare their . . . independence and export it to the world while preserving their ­#hijab.”

It was precisely the opposite message that one young woman hoped to send when she climbed atop a tall, metal utility box on a Tehran sidewalk in January and took off her headscarf, hoisting it overhead on a stick for all to see.

 1:15
Women wave hijabs in protest in Iran

An activist group posted videos in February of women in Iran with their hair uncovered, waving garments in protest. 

“I was really stressed,” said the woman, an artist who because of safety concerns asked not to be identified by her name. Instead, she called herself “Azadeh,” which means “one who is free” in Farsi. “At the same time, I felt powerful. People aren’t used to seeing women without veils.”

As she held her headscarf aloft, passersby snapped photos on their phones and urged her to come down before police arrived. Headscarves are mandatory, and her lone protest was against the law.

She escaped without incident, but not before her photo spread across social media, inspiring others to do the same.

In recent months, dozens of Iranian women like Azadeh have staged similar demonstrations against the compulsory veil, standing bareheaded atop raised utility cabinets and concrete benches in some of Iran’s most popular squares. They have been arrested, harassed and even charged with crimes — but also celebrated by reformists and other Iranians who have been sharing the women’s photographs on social media.

Iran is one of two countries that legally require women to wear head coverings in public, along with Saudi Arabia, though the practice is widely followed in other Middle Eastern and South Asian countries.

The hijab protests, which come amid general discontent in Iran over the economy and other social ills, have fueled the debate over the treatment of women and strict moral codes inside Iran.

Iranian activists had called for demonstrations Thursday, but activists and journalists described a large deployment of police in central Tehran, where officers conducted body searches and security vehicles blocked some streets. Social media reported some arrests, but these were not independently confirmed.

In his tweets, Khamenei praised Islam for keeping women “modest” and in defined roles as educators and child-bearers. “The features of today’s Iranian woman include modesty, chastity, eminence, protecting herself from abuse by men,” Khamenei tweeted. In the West, he said, “the most sought after characteristics of a #woman involve her ability to physically attract men.”

The stakes for both sides of the debate are high. The veil has served as one of the most potent and visible symbols of the Islamic republic, a system in which ultimate authority resides with unelected theocrats.

But for many in a post-revolution generation that is more educated and tech-savvy, such restrictions are discriminatory and oppressive.

“The compulsory veiling of women in public — be they religious or not — has been a hallmark of Iranian political and social life since 1979,” said Behnam Ben Taleblu, senior Iran analyst at the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies in Washington. “As life in Iran continues to be punctuated by political and social protest, mandatory veiling has been a popular target.”

In the 1930s, Iran’s ruler, Reza Pahlavi , banned the hijab, or veil, as part of a modernization drive. But when a cleric-led uprising ousted Shah Reza’s son in 1979, Iran’s Islamic revolutionary leader, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, announced an edict mandating the hijab. On March 8, 1979, in the midst of the revolution, tens of thousands of women marched against what was then a new law requiring modest dress.

Since then, all women have been required by law to wear a headscarf and long, loose clothing in public. They are also “subject to entrenched discrimination” in daily life, Amnesty International says, “including in access to divorce, employment, equal inheritance and political office.” Iranian women, for instance, are banned from singing in public, cannot attend public sports events and need a husband’s approval to get a passport or travel outside the country.

In recent years, however, women have pushed the boundaries of the hijab, allowing their headscarves to slip and reveal much of their hair, especially in cosmopolitan Tehran.

President Hassan Rouhani, a moderate who has championed change, has urged Iran’s ruling clerics to relax the social restrictions.

In December, Tehran’s police chief said his deputies would no longer arrest women for violating the Islamic dress code, and the government also recently rolled out a public relations campaign targeting the harassment of women on the street and the subway.

In February, Rouhani’s office released a 2014 report on Iranian attitudes toward the hijab. According to the study, 49.8 percent of Iranians oppose government intervention to enforce the veil, which they consider to be a private matter.

But as more and more women have staged individual protests, Tehran’s police chief, Gen. Hossein Rahimi, again took a hard line, saying late last month that his forces “will not tolerate this kind of behavior.”

Since the first woman, 31-year-old Vida Movahed, was photographed publicly unveiling in late December, more than 35 women “have been violently attacked and arrested” for demonstrating against the veil, Amnesty says. Her protest coincided with the nationwide demonstrations over poor living conditions and repression.

One woman, Shaparak Shajarizadeh, is being held in solitary confinement on charges of “inciting corruption and prostitution,” a crime punishable by up to 10 years in prison, Amnesty reported.

“This is a deeply retrograde move by the Iranian authorities,” Magdalena Mughrabi, Amnesty’s deputy director for the Middle East and North Africa, said of the charges in a recent statement. “It places many women at serious and immediate risk of unjust imprisonment, while sending a chilling message to others to keep quiet while their rights are being violated.”

Another woman, Narges Hosseini, was sentenced to more than two years in prison for her protest, according to her attorney, Nasrin Sotoudeh. A statement from Tehran’s prosecutor general did not name Hosseini but said a woman had been sentenced for “encouraging moral corruption.”

Iranian women “don’t put all their hope in a government that has never taken a single step” to improve their rights, Sotoudeh said. Sentences such as the one against Hosseini “will only increase solidarity among women in the movement,” she said.

In addition to the protests, women have also launched social media campaigns to raise awareness of daily discrimination.

On the eve of International Women’s Day, Iranian women started the #WeAreEqual hash­tag, sharing accounts of harassment, discrimination and violence.

“When I was in high school, a man tried to harass me in the street. I started shouting and two women approached me telling me to keep silent for the sake of my reputation,” Iranian journalist Nahid Molavi posted on Twitter. “It took me a long time to learn I shouldn’t keep silent,” she said. “And that objection does not equal the loss of reputation.”

For Azadeh, the artist, the protests mark a “turning point,” and she doesn’t know how far they may spread.

“I feel optimistic about this moment,” she said. “There are people like me who won’t turn back.”

Bijan Sabbagh contributed to this report.

Turkish Opposition Leader Ends 25-Day March With Istanbul Rally

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF TIME.COM)

 

Turkish Opposition Leader Ends 25-Day March With Istanbul Rally

2:49 PM ET

Addressing huge throngs of people at a rally in Istanbul on Sunday, the leader of Turkey’s mainstream opposition, Kemal Kilicdaroglu, issued a thunderous demand for an end to an ongoing government crackdown.

The rally represented the largest public display of opposition to the clampdown by government of President Recep Erdogan since he survived a failed military coup attempt nearly a year ago. More than 47,000 people have been detained since the government suppressed the attempt seize power by a faction of the armed forces on July 15, 2016.

“This the era of dictatorship. This is the era of 1940s Germany,” said Kilicdaroglu, addressing a huge throng of demonstrators at a parade grounds along the Sea of Marmara. “With this rally we witness that we are not alone. Each one of us represents hope,” he also said.

Kilicdaroglu spoke at the rally after walking about 280 miles from Ankara in protest of the crackdown which has lead to the arrest journalists, academics, and members of parliament. Kilicdaroglu set out from the capital on June 15, a day after a member of parliament from his Republican People’s Party (CHP) was arrested, joining at least 11 other opposition lawmakers who have been detained in recent months.

After marching through the Turkish countryside for more than three weeks, Kilicdaroglu arrived in Istanbul on Saturday leading a throng of thousands of protesters. The protest raised fears of a confrontation when the crowd arrived in the city, but there were no signs of violence. Police had provided security for Kilicdaroglu and the protesters during their long walk from Ankara. On Sunday, Kilicdaroglu chose to walk alone on the final stretch to the rally.

“’I reached the end of my walk, but this is not the end. It is the beginning of a new era,” he said, speaking to a cheering crowd that chanted “Hak, hukuk, adalet!” (Rights, law, justice!) Though it was organized by the CHP, the organizers of both the march and rally eschewed party insignia, instead distributing signs reading “adalet,” justice. The crowd waved Turkish flags.

Kilicdaroglu has been criticized in the past for failing to organize a credible opposition to the crackdown in the aftermath of the July 15 coup attempt. However, his march across the country captured Turkey’s national political conversation. The demonstration in was a show of force for Turkey’s mainstream opposition, and CHP supporters were heavily represented in the crowd. The protest also attracted support from members of the broader Turkish public.

“I want justice for everyone in this country. I want justice for my children,” said Saime Zirik, 55, as she stood in in the afternoon sun awaiting Kilicdaroglu’s arrival. She said she had been unable to find work for five years.

A populist leader who has dominated Turkish politics for about 15 years, Erdogan is a deeply polarizing figure, equally loved and hated by rival political camps within Turkey. In recent years, he has sidelined other leaders within his own party and moved to restrict political opponents. The coup attempt lead to an acceleration of the clampdown, including the closure of dozens of news organizations and the firing of top military officers and tens of civil servants.

In April, Erdogan also won a disputed victory in a referendum on a constitutional overhaul to replace Turkey’s parliamentary system of government with one dominated by a powerful presidency. The government argued the changes were needed to impose stability, while the opposition denounced it as a power grab. The vote itself was also marred by widespread claims of fraud. The referendum marked another step in a larger struggle over the future Turkey’s democracy.

In his speech on Sunday, Kilicdaroglu issued a list of demands including freeing the judiciary from the influence of the ruling party, releasing journalists from prison, and greater prosperity for all Turks. He did not articulate a specific plan to achieve those goals, and even some of the protesters in the crowd expressed skepticism about whether the demonstration would result in concrete changes.

“Unless Erdogan says ‘yes,’ nothing will change in this country,” said a 60-year-old teacher from Istanbul who also stood in the crowd. She asked for her name to be withheld, for fear that she could lose her job for criticizing the government.

Others, however, left the demonstration energized.

“I feel like I’m more hopeful for the future. I feel like a new person now,” said Fahri Gokdal, 61, a retired civil servant who came to the rally from the town of Burhaniye, about a five-hour drive south of Istanbul.

Russian Intelligence Ship Sinks After Collision With Merchant Freighter In Black Sea

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE WASHINGTON POST)

April 27 at 11:18 AM
A Russian naval intelligence ship sank Thursday after colliding with a merchant freighter in foggy conditions on the Black Sea near Istanbul, the Turkish coast guard said. All 78 crew members on the Russian vessel were rescued.The crew of the freighter Youzarsif H, a Togo-flagged ship traveling from Romania to Jordan and carrying 8,800 sheep, was unharmed and the ship suffered slight damage to its bow, according to local media reports.

In Moscow, Russia’s Defense Ministry issued a statement confirming that the vessel, the Liman, went down after the collision tore a hole in the hull below the waterline.

Russian officials did not immediately provide any information about the Liman’s mission. The Russian state-run Sputnik news agency reported in 2016 that the Liman had been deployed in the Black Sea to monitor the joint Sea Breeze naval exercises between Ukraine and several NATO countries, including the United States. Russian officials had complained that the joint exercises were provocative.

Turkey’s prime minister, Binali Yildirim, called Russian President Dmitry Medvedev to express “sadness,” Turkey’s semiofficial Anadolu news agency reported.

Russia and Turkey have developed increasingly warm ties over the last year, putting aside bitter differences over the war in Syria to cooperate on brokering a political solution to the conflict. The relationship reached a low point in 2015, when Turkey shot down a Russian warplane that Ankara said had strayed over the Syrian border.

The collision occurred about 20 miles northwest of the Bosporus Strait, one of the world’s busiest waterways connecting the Black Sea to the shipping lanes leading to the Mediterranean.

At the time of the accident, the Bosporus was closed because of poor visibility, the Reuters news agency reported, citing the shipping agency GAC.

The Liman had also previously been deployed for three months to the coast of Syria in the Mediterranean Sea, where Russia is in the second year of an intervention to back President Bashar al-Assad against a wide array of rebel groups, including Islamist fighters and others with U.S. backing.

Ship spotters in the Bosporus photographed the ship traversing the strait near Istanbul under heavy snow in January.

It is not clear whether the ship was headed toward Syria on Thursday.

The Liman was built as a hydrographic survey vessel in the Gdansk shipyards in Poland in 1970 and later converted for military service in 1989, shortly before the fall of the Soviet Union. The ship is outfitted to capture signals intelligence, largely communications, using an array of Soviet and Russian-made sensors that have been retrofitted onto the ship.

Roth reported from Moscow

In an era of profound cultural transformation, elections and referendums have very real consequences

 

THE WEEKEND ROUNDUP 

In an era of profound cultural transformation, elections and referendums have very real consequences ― such as the repeal of environmental regulations or crackdowns on press freedom. But as much as they reveal how markedly divided societies are at this historical moment, they settle little. For those who are nostalgic for an ideal past, the challenges of a complex future wrought by globalization, digital disruption and increasing cultural diversity remain unresolved. For those looking ahead, there is no going back. The present political reaction is only the first act, not the last. It is the beginning, not the end, of the story of societies in fluid transition.

The recent Turkish referendum, like Brexit and U.S. President Donald Trump’s election, fits a pattern of a territorial divide. Residents in large cities and coastal zones linked to global integration and cosmopolitan culture represented just under half of the vote; rural, small-town and Rust Belt regions linked more to the traditions and economic structures of the past were just over half. But there is also a major difference. The populist, nationalist narrative that won the day in Great Britain and the United States championed the “left behind” and splintered the unresponsive mainstream political parties. In Turkey, the day was won by a conservative, pious and upwardly mobile constituency already empowered by some 15 years of rule by President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s Justice and Development Party. The cultural duel there, backed up by neo-Islamist and nationalist statism, will thus be more intense than elsewhere.

In an interview following the historic vote in her country, novelist Elif Shafak says, “The referendum has not solved anything. If anything, it deepened the existing cultural and ideological divisions.” She also laments the decline of Turkey’s long experiment as a majority-Muslim country attempting to balance culture, secularism and Western democracy. “This is the most significant turning point in Turkey’s modern political history,” she declares. “It is a shift backwards; the end of parliamentary democracy. It is also a dangerous discontinuation of decades of Westernization, secularism and modernization; the discontinuation of Atatürk’s modern Turkey.”

Writing from Istanbul, Behlül Özkan explains the details of the constitutional referendum, how the playing field was tilted in Erdoğan’s favor and how it will have massive implications for Turkey’s future. He also emphasizes the historic importance of Turkey’s reverse. Özkan cites the political theorist Samuel Huntington who, in an essay decades ago on transitions from authoritarian rule, once defined Turkey as a clear example of a one-party system becoming more open and competitive under the constitution put in place by Mustafa Kemal Atatürk. It is rare in history to move in the other direction, as Erdoğan has now accomplished.

Also writing from Istanbul, Alev Scott believes Turkey is in for “a decade of paranoia under a modern-day Sultan” who was unnerved by the slim margin of his victory. Noting a widely circulated photograph of the president at his moment of triumph, she saw a man not “celebrating victory” but “a man alarmed by near-defeat.”

Even as critics within Turkey and others abroad expressed concern over the extinguishing of democracy, Trump again showed his affinity for strongman politics by calling to congratulate Erdoğan on his victory. Yet, as with other countries from India to Argentina, there is likely another element as well to this potentially budding bromance. Sam Stein and Igor Bobic report on ethical issues raised by Trump’s business ties with Turkey. In 2012, Erdoğan joined Trump and his family to mark the opening of Trump Towers Istanbul.

Turk President Er- Dog’ The Dictator Dares To Threaten EU Countries About Democratic Values?

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF REUTERS NEWS AGENCY)

By Ercan Gurses and Humeyra Pamuk | ANKARA/ISTANBUL

Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan on Tuesday warned the Netherlands that he could take further steps in a deepening diplomatic row, while a government spokesman in Ankara said economic sanctions could be coming.

Incensed by Dutch and German government bans on his ministers from speaking to rallies of overseas Turks, Erdogan also accused German Chancellor Angela Merkel of siding with the Netherlands in the fight between the NATO allies.

Turkey suspended high-level diplomatic relations with the Netherlands on Monday, banning the Dutch ambassador from the country and preventing diplomatic flights from landing in Turkey or using its airspace.

Those steps were taken after Erdogan branded the Netherlands “Nazi remnants” at the weekend for muzzling his ministers.

“The cabinet took action yesterday but there are many other things that could be done against the Netherlands,” Erdogan said in a speech broadcast live on television.

“We will show those who think they can get away with an apology that they are making a mistake,” said Erdogan, who is campaigning for an April 16 referendum on boosting his powers and has been looking to the large number of Turks living in Europe to help secure victory.

Deputy Prime Minister Numan Kurtulmus later told broadcaster CNN Turk that economic sanctions could be in the works.

“Pressure will continue against the Netherlands until they make up for what they did. We’ve started with the political, diplomatic sanctions, and economic sanctions may follow,” he said.

Erdogan has threatened to take the Netherlands to the European Court of Human Rights over the ban on his ministers, which both the Dutch and Germans have imposed citing fears of unrest.

Dutch police used dogs and water cannon on Sunday to disperse hundreds of protesters waving Turkish flags outside the consulate in Rotterdam. Some protesters threw bottles and stones and several demonstrators were beaten by police with batons, a Reuters witness said. Mounted police officers charged the crowd.

SAARLAND, BELGIAN BANS

The small western German state of Saarland said on Tuesday it would ban political campaigning by foreign politicians.

“Internal Turkish conflicts have no place in Germany. Election appearances which put at risk domestic peace in our country must be banned,” State Premier Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer said in a statement.

“The atmosphere that has been created by Nazi comparisons and insults must not be allowed to escalate,” she said.

The Belgian city of Antwerp said it would not allow a politician from the nationalist MHP party to speak at an event, although Ali Guler was still set to appear on Sunday at a Turkish restaurant in Genk, in the east of the country.

While Turkish law forbids election campaigning abroad and in diplomatic missions, ministers are circumventing the ban by holding what they say are cultural events with Turkish citizens.

Erdogan has said that those who oppose the referendum, are aligning themselves with terrorists. He has also accused European states, including Germany, of harboring terrorism, an allegation they deny.

SHARP WORDS FOR MERKEL

EU states are also unhappy with what they see as an increasingly authoritarian tone from Turkey and the spat is likely to further dim Ankara’s prospects of EU membership.

EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini and EU enlargement commissioner Johannes Hahn called on Turkey to moderate its language and avoid further escalating the dispute.

Erdogan renewed his attack on Merkel after she criticized his “Nazi remnants” jibe against the Dutch.

“The countries that have embraced this thuggery have lost all their credibility. The Chancellor of Germany has come out and said she supported the Netherlands. We know that you are no different from them,” Erdogan said.

Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte said the Turkish sanctions, while “not too bad”, were inappropriate as the Dutch had more to be angry about.

Ankara’s foreign ministry said the European Union was exercising democratic values selectively.

“It is very grave for the EU to hide behind member country solidarity and stand by the Netherlands, which has clearly violated human rights and European values,” it said.

(Additional reporting by Tuvan Gumrukcu, Ece Toksabay and Tulay Karadeniz in Ankara, Daren Butler in Istanbul; Toby Sterling in Amsterdam; Madeline Chambers in Berlin and Robert-Jan Bartunek in Brussels; Writing by David Dolan; Editing by Jon Boyle and Toby Davis)

Turkey’s Dictator Erdogan Chastises Germany About Democracy

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF REUTERS NEWS AGENCY)

 

Erdogan compares German cancellation of meetings with Nazi period

President Tayyip Erdogan said on Sunday German actions in stopping political meetings of resident Turks that were due to be addressed by Turkish officials “were no different to those of the Nazi period”.

German authorities withdrew permission for two meetings in German cities last week that were part of a government campaign to win the 1.5 million-strong Turkish community’s support for sweeping new powers for Erdogan going to referendum in April.

“Germany, you have no relation whatsoever to democracy and you should know that your current actions are no different to those of Nazi period. When we say that, they get disturbed. Why are you disturbed?” he said at a rally in Istanbul.

(Reporting by Ece Toksabay; writing by Ralph Boulton; editing by Louise Heavens)

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