Yasar Okutan, a former government minister, accused Erdogan in a television interview of using them to increase votes in presidential and local elections in 2019 and questioned whether the president would say the same for his own granddaughter.
This is a short commentary on the events at the Communist Party’s Leadership Congress this week. As almost all folks who pay any attention to the events concerning China know by now there was no ‘next Leader’ chosen at their 19th Congress. President Xi Jinping who has now completed 5 of the 10 year stent as President cemented his leadership role by putting his own people in about 70% of the Congress. President Xi has broken tradition by not selecting his successor at the half way point of his term and he has also been granted authority unseen since the founder of China’s Communist party Chairman Mao. To me, it is very obvious why Mr. Jinping has not selected his successor and that is because there will be no successor until after his death. If I were a betting person I would bet the farm on the fact that he is now “President/Dictator” for life just like President/Dictator Erdogan of Turkey is. One of the new laws that is as of now in place is that it is now a crime to even say anything negative about President Xi or any of his policies. How do you get rid of a Dictator when you know that if you have any complaint that you will be buried in a prison work camp? There is now only two ways for the people of China to get rid of Mr. Jinping and they both end with his death. One is that he dies in office as a very old man, or two, you put him in his grave yourself. This Dragon is a Devil with a constant smirk on his face toward the people of China and the rest of the world.
Like this post? Spread the word and share it on social media.
Turkeys Dictator Erdogan has blasted German politicians for bowing down to the wishes of the German people. To me, that sounds exactly like a man who has his own position through fraud, in other words, a Dictator. He is just like Russia’s President Putin when it comes to free open and honest Democratic elections because as Mr. Putin said “you never know who is going to win.” A little over one year ago there was a Coup in Turkey as some members of the military tried to over throw Erdogan while he was out of the country. Many think that this was a coup designed by members of Erdogan’s inner circle to draw out the Presidents opponents so that they could be eliminated. Whether this is true or not, who really knows? One thing that is for sure though is that Mr. Erdogan has used that event to totally crackdown on anyone that he personally does not like. Mr. Erdogan has proved without any doubt that he does not care what the people of his or any other country want.
What Mr. Erdogan is upset about is that the German leadership including the Chancellor Mrs. Merkel are singing a different tune concerning continuing to allow many thousands of people from Islamic countries to filter through Turkey into Europe. As most people in Europe have learned that way to many of the people flooding into their countries through Turkey are bringing their strict versions of Islam with them causing havoc on their countries legal and welfare system. The world is learning that the Islamic culture is not compatible with European culture, religions or laws or anywhere else in the world for that matter. When people move into your country and form their own communities then insist that the people of the host country change their laws and customs to conform to the Islamic culture there is always going to be friction. Host countries have two main options here, one tell the visitors that it is they who will conform to the host countries cultures or two, get out and go back to your home country. The will of the people in Germany is not the will of Mr. Erdogan and this obviously upsets him. How dare the political leaders of Germany bow down to the wishes of the lowly citizens.
There is one other main issue being discussed throughout Germany, Brussels and throughout the rest of Europe and that is the politicians and the citizens of Europe and the European Union do not want to allow Turkey to join the EU. When Tony Blair was Prime Minister of England a decade or so ago he was asked about Turkey joining the EU and he said “no, their not part of Europe so why should they be allowed into the EU?” This is the view that I have held ever since I first heard of this idea being broached. You can not allow a country that is ruled by a Dictator to become part of your country’s monetary, or legal system because their system is a deadly cancer to democracy. This would apply to countries like Russia also as long as they are ruled by the current Dictator Mr. Putin. This long Chess game that has been played between the EU and Turkey is about to come to a close and it is not going to end in Mr. Erdogan’s favor. The reason I say this is because if it did, the current politicians will be voted out of their political positions by those dastardly lowlife citizens. This is a concept that people like Mr. Putin and Mr. Erdogan makes sure cannot happen in their countries. The same goes for countries like Venezuela, North Korea, Cuba and China, places that the will of the people mean nothing.
Like this post? Spread the word and share it on social media.
For the first time since the country gained independence in 1992, a Macedonian court has applied the lèse-majesté (royal insult) portion of the Criminal Code in order to protect a president — though not the president of Macedonia.
In their ruling, which concerned a Facebook post referring to Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, the court found the citizen guilty of posting “ironical statements and insult[ing] a leader of a foreign country.”
According to reports by Anadolu Agency and local media, the person, known only by the initials EA, bears Macedonian and Turkish citizenship. EA will have to either pay around 400 euros or serve a prison sentence.
The proceedings before of the Macedonian Criminal Court opened after the Turkish ambassador to Macedonia, Tulin Erkal Kara, filed charges against EA in late 2016, when Macedonia’s previous government was still in power. The court issued its ruling in mid-July and the ruling became public on August 24.
Article 181 of the Macedonian Criminal Code protects the “reputation of a foreign country” and stipulates that “a person who has the intention to publicly ridicule a foreign country, a flag, a coat of arms, an anthem or a head of state or a diplomatic representative will have to pay a monetary fine.”
But not a single judge in the history of the country’s independence has used this article to sentence someone for insulting a foreign country, flag, coat of arms, anthem or a head of state. On social networks, Macedonian citizens reacted to the news about this case with outrage and dismay.
A Macedonian Court has sentenced someone for insulting Erdoğan? Because of a Facebook post? This is a joke??
Filip Medarski, a prominent lawyer from Skopje, tweeted that Macedonian Criminal Code Article 181 and the verdict from the judge are inconsistent with the practices of the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR):
In a statement for the Meta News Agency in Skopje, Medarski said that such a crime may exist in the Macedonian Criminal Code, but in another form because in principle, it should defend the symbolic aspect of flags, coats of arms and other representations of a state, in deference to the institution of the state — not to the individual who holds office.
“But here it is not about insulting the president as an institution, but an insult to the actual person currently in office, in this case – Erdoğan”, Medarski said, adding that this was also noted by the ECHR and in the verdict that he cited in his tweet.
In 2013, the European Court of Human Rights heard Eon Vs. France, a case that concerned the 2008 visit of now former French president Nicolas Sarkozy to the French city of Laval, where a citizen named Hervé Eon waved a small banner reading “Get lost, you prick” (Casse toi pov’con). Sarkozy himself had used the same phrase earlier that year at an agricultural rally, for someone that wasn’t so keen on greeting him. It later became a frequently used banner at different demonstrations and on the internet.
Eon was arrested and prosecuted for offending the President. He was found guilty and made to pay a fine of 30 euros. Later that decision was confirmed by the Court of Appeal in France and even by the highest court in the French judiciary, the Cour de Cassation. The applicant was immediately arrested and prosecuted for offending the President, an offense under the 1881 Freedom of the Press Act.
Consequently, Eon asked the European Court of Human rights to recognize that his sentence infringed his right to freedom of expression guaranteed by Article 10 of the European Convention of Human Rights. Eventually the ECHR confirmed that his freedom of expression had been violated. The Court concluded that by echoing the phrase used by the president, Hervé Eon had used “satirical impertinence” to express his criticism.
Unlike France, Macedonia has a record of high levels of corruption in all segments of society, low levels of respect towards the rule of law and undeniable attempts to restrict media freedoms and interfere with the judiciary. This was highlighted in the last report from the US State Department’s Bureau for Democracy, Human Rights and Labor. “Political interference, inefficiency, favoritism toward well-placed persons, prolonged processes, violations of the right to public trial, and corruption characterized the judicial system,” the report read.
In May 2017, Macedonia ushered in a new government that introduced a bold and optimistic reform plan in order to expedite the country’s processes of integration into NATO and the EU, that were stalled by the previous rule of right-winged VMRO-DPMNE party and their inclination towards Russia. A major aspect of these plans is comprehensive reform of the judiciary.
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.
Like this post? Spread the word and share it on social media.
(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE SHANGHAI DAILY NEWS)
Turkey’s opposition calls for vote to be canceled after ‘irregularities’
Source: AP | 00:01 UTC+8 April 18, 2017 | PRINT EDITION
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan greets his supporters as he leaves the Eyup Sultan mosque in Istanbul yesterday. Erdogan won a landmark referendum that granted him sweeping new powers, with 51.4 percent saying “yes.” The final results will be declared in 11-12 days. — Reuters
TURKEY’S main opposition party yesterday called on the country’s electoral board to cancel the results of a landmark referendum that granted sweeping new powers to the nation’s president, citing what it called substantial voting irregularities.
An international observer mission who monitored the voting also cited irregularities, saying the conduct of Sunday’s referendum “fell short” of the international standards Turkey has signed up to. It specifically criticized a decision by Turkey’s electoral board to accept ballots that did not have official stamps, saying that hurt the fight against fraud.
Turkey’s electoral board confirmed the “yes” victory in the referendum and said the final results would be declared in 11-12 days.
The state-run Anadolu agency said the “yes” side stood at 51.4 percent of the vote, while the “no” vote had 48.6 percent support.
The margin could cement President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s hold on power in Turkey for a decade and is expected to have a huge effect on the country’s long-term political future and its international relations.
“I suspect the result was narrower than Erdogan expected,” said Howard Eissenstat, associate professor of Middle East History at St Lawrence University in Canton, New York.
“Erdogan has ruled with a narrow victory before. He does not see a narrow victory as anything less than a mandate.”
Erdogan, 63, initially sounded conciliatory in his remarks, saying the result was a victory not just for those who voted “yes,” but for “the whole 80 million, the whole of Turkey.”
But his more abrasive style quickly returned.
“There are those who are belittling the result. They shouldn’t try, it will be in vain,” he told cheering supporters in Istanbul. “It’s too late now.”
Opposition parties still cried foul. Bulent Tezcan, deputy chairman of the Republican People’s Party, or CHP, cited numerous problems in the conduct of the vote.
An unprecedented electoral board decision to accept as valid ballots that didn’t bear the official stamp led to outrage.
Normally for a ballot to be considered valid, it must bear the official stamp on the back, be put into an envelope that also bears an official stamp and be handed to the voter by an electoral official at a polling station. The system is designed to ensure that only one vote is cast per person and to avoid the possibility of ballot box-stuffing.
The board announced on Sunday, however, that it would accept unstamped envelopes as valid after many voters complained about being handed blank envelopes.
“There is only one way to end the discussions about the vote’s legitimacy and to put the people at ease, and that is for the Supreme Electoral Board to cancel the vote,” Tezcan said.
Tana de Zuleta of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, which monitored the vote, said the ballot decision undermined important safeguards against fraud and contradicted Turkey’s own laws.
The monitoring group described a series of irregularities, including a skewed pre-vote campaign in favor of the “yes” vote, the intimidation of the “no” campaign and the fact that the referendum question was not listed on the ballot.
De Zuleta said that overall, the procedures “fell short of full adherence” to the standards Turkey has signed up for.
Electoral board head Sadi Guven rejected claims of foul play, saying none of the ballot papers declared valid was “fake” or fraudulently cast.
Guven said the decision was made so voters who were by mistake given unstamped ballot papers would not be “victimized.”
“The ballot papers are not fake, there is no (reason) for doubt,” Guven said.
Tezcan said any decision that changes Turkey’s political system to such a vast extent should have been passed with an overwhelming endorsement.
“This is not a text of social consensus but one of social division,” Tezcan said.
The referendum approves 18 amendments that will replace the parliamentary system with a presidential one.
The changes allow the president to appoint ministers, senior government officials and half the members of Turkey’s highest judicial body, as well as to issue decrees and declare states of emergency. They set a limit of two five-year terms for presidents.
The new presidential system takes effect at the next election, currently due in 2019. Other changes will take effect sooner, including an amendment that scraps a clause requiring the president to be impartial, allowing Erdogan to regain membership of the ruling party he founded‚ or even to lead it.
COLOGNE, Germany — The impressive Islamic complex here, Germany’s largest, boasts towering minarets and a soaring prayer hall. But what Turkish officials here seem most proud of are the hundreds of windows, which allow outsiders and Muslim worshipers to glimpse each other’s worlds. The idea, they say, is transparency.
Since Turks arrived for work in the 1960s, Germany has maintained the largest Turkish diaspora in Europe, now some three million people. For many years, Germany was happy to let the Turkish state provide and pay for prayer leaders and other provisions for its emigrants. This now includes overseeing more than 900 Muslim associations and training and appointing many of Germany’s imams. The large mosque complex here is a part of that network.
But Turkey’s resulting grip in Germany is coming back to haunt both sides. German intelligence agencies and politicians now charge that Mr. Erdogan is using the decades-old arrangement to hunt down and punish opponents as he pursues a desperately wanted victory that would make his authority all but unchallengeable. Roughly half of the Turks who live in Germany hold Turkish citizenship and are eligible to vote.
The Germans have accused some imams sent by Turkey of spying on Turks living in Germany and of denouncing individuals and institutions critical of the president — right down to kindergartens. Such spying, the Germans said, has allowed the Turkish government to track down, detain and harass their targets’ families and associates back home in Turkey as part of a sweeping purge of Erdogan opponents.
Already, Mr. Erdogan’s long shadow over Germany’s Turkish communities is palpable. On the heavily Turkish Keupstrasse, a street in Cologne, some Erdogan critics voiced apprehension about posting opinions on social media. They waited until they were alone with reporters to express their opinions, speaking freely but then declining to be identified by name.
“Do not underestimate the danger,” said Lale Akgun, a former Social Democratic member of the federal Parliament, an Erdogan opponent and a longtime observer of German-Turkish relations. “This is like a mini-Turkey. Everything they have there, we have here, too,” she added, alluding to Turkey’s many potentially explosive political rifts.
The tensions and the turn toward a more authoritarian Turkey carry worrying implications not only for Germany, but for all of Europe.
In neighboring Belgium, the Flemish authorities this month shut down a Turkish mosque — the second biggest in the country — over its alleged ties to Mr. Erdogan’s governing party. Since then, Belgium’s intelligence chief said, Turkey has halted intelligence cooperation.
In Germany, the spying accusations surfaced in February. Afterward, Turkey’s state religious authority, Diyanet, said it had quietly withdrawn an unspecified number of imams “in order not to damage 40 years of relations.”
Nonetheless, the matter is roiling relations across the board. Turkish-Germans who have lived here for decades said they had trouble recalling a tenser time between Turkey and Europe.
Germany’s foreign minister, Sigmar Gabriel, recently held urgent meetings with Turkish community leaders, worrying aloud that 20 to 30 years of “successful work at living together can get broken.”
Mr. Erdogan and his associates hurled charges of Nazism at leaders in Germany and the Netherlands after those countries, sometimes citing sudden security concerns, banned rallies by Turkish ministers ahead of Sunday’s vote.
German leaders have denounced a retreat of democracy in Turkey, citing especially the detention — so far, without charges — of the German-Turkish journalist Deniz Yucel.
Allegedly, many of those who were named support the movement of Fethullah Gulen, a former Erdogan ally now accused of orchestrating last summer’s failed coup in Turkey. Mr. Gulen lives in Pennsylvania.
The dossiers included material obtained by illegal Turkish espionage on German soil, German officials said.
“It is certainly one of the most difficult phases in Turkish-German relations,” said Michelle Müntefering, who heads the Turkey committee in Parliament and was named in one of the dossiers.
“The Turkish government is increasingly following a course that leaves little room for discussion,” Ms. Müntefering said, referring to Turkey’s growing litany of complaints — from last year’s vote in Germany’s Parliament recognizing the Armenian genocide to a crude satire of Mr. Erdogan by the German comedian Jan Böhmermann.
The rise of a populist right wing in Germany does not help, she noted. “Integration requires moderation, not populist, illusory solutions,” she said.
But it is Germany’s largest Muslim association, known as the Ditib, and its close association with Diyanet that is being singled out for special concern.
“Ditib must become independent of Turkey and its religious authority,” Ms. Müntefering said. And its imams, who also have a social function, should learn German and train at least in part in Germany, she added.
The chairman of Ditib, Nevzat Yasar Asikoglu, is counselor for religious and social affairs at the Turkish Embassy in Berlin. He was also directly appointed by Diyanet. Below him is a hierarchy of attaches who visit and advise Turkish-Muslim communities across Germany.
The Interpreter Newsletter
Understand the world with sharp insight and commentary on the major news stories of the week.
Receive occasional updates and special offers for The New York Times’s products and services.
One way of avoiding the suspicion, said Zekeriya Altug, a Ditib spokesman, is to be more open and active. “We must make ourselves much more visible in this society,” he said in an interview at the Cologne mosque.
Others urge training of imams in Germany, “so that dispatching imams becomes superfluous,” said Haci Halil Uslucan, professor at the University of Duisburg-Essen and head of its respected Turkey institute.
But few universities in Germany offer Islamic studies. To a large extent, the root of the problem is a failure to acknowledge that the Turkish “guest workers” and their families who came here in the 1960s would stay. The result was delayed integration and an obstructed path to German citizenship.
In Turkish communities, therefore, Ditib is crucial, said Yildirim Petek, 59, manager of the Ankara Supermarket in Cologne. He cited the need for support and guidance if families raising children in German schools “get badly treated.”
“You see Turkish children here eating pork and wearing Christian crosses because it’s fashionable,” his wife, Eylul, said as she prepared a traditional breakfast at their three-bedroom home in a suburb of Cologne. “The situation is completely out of control.”
“We feel a part of the German community and make an effort to fit in,” she said. “But when we set foot inside this door, shoes come off and it’s a purely Turkish household.”
Between Germans and Turks, indignation often runs high, and social mixing tends to be low. Peter Pauls, a senior columnist for the local newspaper Kölner Stadt-Anzeiger, recalled a Turkish wedding he recently attended. He was one of just a few native Germans among hundreds of guests, he said.
The ostracism Turks feel in Germany (whose bureaucracy can easily baffle and alienate natives) has helped fuel support for Mr. Erdogan. In past elections, Mr. Erdogan’s A.K.P. party, which has governed Turkey since 2002, has prevailed among Turks in Germany.
Fully aware of that support, Mr. Erdogan’s government sought to campaign vigorously here and elsewhere in Europe before the referendum. It wanted to make sure diaspora Turks voted, which they were entitled to do in the two weeks up to last Sunday.
Almost 49 percent of the Turks living in Germany and eligible to vote did so, an increase from about 41 percent in parliamentary elections in 2015.
Free buses ferried voters from Turkish neighborhoods to the Cologne Consulate, where several voters explained why they favored Mr. Erdogan.
“We have been treated well by the Germans, but now I must think of my daughter and son,” said Erdem Tasdelen, 47, a textile company manager. He said he had lived here more than 20 years and only recently became a supporter of the president.
“There is discrimination against Muslim communities here,” Mr. Tasdelen added, “and the only person sticking up for us is Erdogan.”
In earlier years, Mr. Erdogan wanted to guide Turkey into Europe, but Germans and other Europeans ignored him, said Aysegul Parlak, 38, a fashion designer from Adana, in southeast Turkey, who came to Cologne six years ago to work with her sister.
“They feel threatened by his potential and power, and they cannot handle the idea of a Muslim country progressing to their level,” she said of Germany and other European governments.
Echoing sentiments widely expressed among Germany’s Turks of late, Ms. Parlak said she did not feel as welcome as she once had felt.
“When I tell people I’m from Turkey, all they do is vent about Erdogan and talk about his authoritarian ways,” she said. “They should look in the mirror. If they faced as many internal and external threats as he does, they would also be firm.”
“There is a lot of hypocrisy,” Ms. Parlak concluded, “and the Turkish community here is becoming very resentful.”
Like this post? Spread the word and share it on social media.
Turkey detains Islamic State suspects over planned attacks: Anadolu
Police in Istanbul have detained five Islamic State suspects, some of whom were believed to be planning an attack in Turkey ahead of Sunday’s referendum, the state-run Anadolu news agency said on Friday.
Anadolu said three of the detained people were suspected of planning an attack in the name of Islamic State. Two others, including one of Tajik origin, had traveled to “conflict zones” and carried out operations for the jihadist group.
Islamic State has been blamed for at least half a dozen attacks on civilian targets in Turkey in recent months, including a New Year’s Day attack on Istanbul’s Reina nightclub which killed 39 people.
NATO member Turkey is part of the U.S.-led coalition against Islamic State and launched an incursion into Syria in August to drive the jihadist group and Kurdish militia fighters away from its borders.
Turks will vote on Sunday on changing the country’s political system and giving President Tayyip Erdogan sweeping new powers. Two opinion polls on Thursday showed a narrow majority of voters would vote in favor of the changes.
Security efforts have been heightened ahead of the vote, but Kurdish militants on Wednesday claimed responsibility for a bomb attack on a police compound in southeast Turkey that killed three people.
(Reporting by Tuvan Gumrukcu; Editing by Dominic Evans)
Like this post? Spread the word and share it on social media.
Ahmad Mustafa fled northern Syria to Turkey four months ago, badly injuring his hand along the way.
But while the free healthcare he gets as a refugee is helping him heal, Mustafa and many of the nearly 3 million Syrian migrants who have fled to Turkey are gradually losing hope for their war-ravaged homeland.
“We have no hope for Syria at this stage. Russia, Iran, and the United States are all hitting us from different sides,” Mustafa said, his right arm still in a sling.
“Our hope is that God will change things,” he said, speaking through a translator.
Mustafa is part of what Ankara says is the world’s largest refugee population, many of whom barely eke out a living in places like Reyhanli, a dusty border town in the southern Hatay province that teems with Syrian refugees and where some signs in shop windows are printed in both Arabic and Turkish.
Ankara has also set up refugee camps on the Syrian side of the border and the Turkish Red Crescent estimates it is providing aid to around 5 million people inside Syria.
But while a U.S. missile strike against a Syrian government air base this week may have kindled some optimism that Washington could step up pressure on President Bashar al-Assad, nobody in Reyhanli expects to be able to go home soon.
“They are hitting us from the air, killing civilians in cities,” said Samial Dude, a former truck driver from the area around rebel-held Idlib, who also now lives in Hatay.
“We don’t have guns. We don’t even know who’s bombing us, we are just being bombed. Even animals are treated as more important than Syrian people,” he said.
The United States fired missiles at a Syrian air base on Friday in retaliation for a chemical attack that killed 87 people, including children, in the northwest Idlib province.
Both Washington and Ankara blame the Syrian government for the poison gas attack, but Damascus has denied responsibility.
Six years of civil war have killed an estimated half a million people and set new standards of savagery for civilians, with half of Syria’s population uprooted in the world’s biggest refugee crisis.
In Turkey, where Ankara provides the migrants with some aid, many work as seasonal laborers on farms to survive.
“I have been paying rent for six years and all my earnings go to pay it off,” said Mohammad Hammadi, adding that he spends much of his time working with an aid organization to help migrants who are even worse off than he is.
President Tayyip Erdogan, long one of Assad’s most vocal critics, is popular with the migrants in Hatay, who say he opened Turkey’s borders to them when leaders in the Arab world did not. Erdogan has called on the West should do more to help Turkey shoulder the humanitarian burden.
Turks will go to the polls on April 16 for a referendum on whether to change the constitution and give Erdogan sweeping presidential powers. Although they will not be able to vote, some Syrians migrants hope that Erdogan does secure more power.
“Of course we want Erdogan to become stronger, maybe then he can help us more. Maybe then he can build homes for us here,” said Gaceel al Awaad, who earns about 30 lira ($8) a day working in fields, almost all of which goes to pay rent.
“We just pray to God that we can return as soon as possible. This is the only concern for Syrians in Turkey.”
(Writing by David Dolan; editing by Alexander Smith)
Like this post? Spread the word and share it on social media.
Cavusoglu was due to address Turkish expatriates in Rotterdam to win support for an April 16 referendum vote on the Turkish Constitution.
Pushed by Erdogan’s ruling Justice and Development Party, or AKP, these sweeping constitutional changes would grant new powers to Turkey’s President and transform the way the country is governed.
Erdogan: Germany using ‘Nazi practices’
Turkish politicians have sought to address rallies in European cities and towns with large populations of Turkish expatriates, but the authorities in several countries have blocked their plans.
Around 1.5 million Turkish nationals living in Germany are eligible to vote in the referendum, according to Turkish news agency Anadolu.
In the latest twist in the row, Cavusoglu angered the Dutch by threatening “severe sanctions” if he were banned from traveling to the Rotterdam rally.
“If the Netherlands cancels my flight, we will impose severe sanctions on them that will affect it economically and politically,” the foreign minister said in remarks in a TV interview on CNN Turk.
He added, “If tension will increase (between the two countries) because of my visit, then let it increase.”
Dutch leader Mark Rutte says Turkish threats of sanctions made a “reasonable solution” impossible.
In a statement posted on his Facebook page, Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte said: “Many Dutch people with Turkish heritage are voting in the referendum on the Turkish constitution. The Dutch government has no objection to meetings in our country in order to inform them about that.
“But these meetings cannot contribute to tensions in our society and everyone who wants to contribute to an event must comply with instructions from the authorities so that public order and security can be guaranteed. It should be noted that, in this respect, the Turkish government does not want to respect those rules.”
Rutte said there had been discussions with the Turkish authorities to try to find a way to hold a smaller-scale meeting in a Turkish Consulate or Embassy.
However, he said, a public threat of sanctions made by the Turks before the negotiations were complete made it impossible to find a “reasonable solution” — so the Netherlands banned the foreign minister’s flight.
The Dutch will vote Wednesday in national elections in a campaign that has focused heavily on the issue of immigration from Muslim countries.
Far-right presidential candidate Geert Wilders praised the decision to bar the Turkish minister from speaking in Rotterdam, taking credit due to the influence of his party, the Party For Freedom, or PVV.
“Great! Thanks to heavy PVV- pressure a few days before the Dutch elections our government did NOT allow the Turkish minister to land here,” Wilders wrote.
Meanwhile, the Turkish Foreign Ministry summoned the Dutch charge d’affaires Saturday following the decision to bar Cavusoglu’s flight.
CNN’s Schams Elwazer, Isil Sariyuce and Mick Krever also contributed to this report.
Like this post? Spread the word and share it on social media.