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.

Turkey’s opposition calls for vote to be canceled after ‘irregularities’

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE SHANGHAI DAILY NEWS)

Turkey’s opposition calls for vote to be canceled after ‘irregularities’

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.

Referendum Inflames Concerns Over Turkey’s Grip in Germany

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE NEW YORK TIMES AND REUTERS)

The Cologne Central Mosque in Germany is covered in windows that allow outsiders and Muslims to have a view of each other’s worlds. CreditThilo Schmülgen/Reuters

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.

Yet it is what lies beneath the surface these days that concerns both Germans and Turks as Turkey prepares to vote on Sunday in a referendum that could vastly expand the powers of its already authoritarian president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, whose reach into Germany — both open and concealed — has become an increasing point of friction.

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.

Continue reading the main story

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.

As it has for years with members or supporters of the outlawed P.K.K. movement for Kurdish independence, Turkey has handed German officials dossiers with the names of more than 300 people in Germany whom Ankara sees as working against Mr. Erdogan’s Turkey.

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.

Photo

Voters waited last week at the entrance to a polling station in the General Consulate of Turkey in Berlin. Almost 49 percent of Turks who live in Germany voted in a referendum that would greatly expand powers for Turkey’s president. CreditFelipe Trueba/European Pressphoto Agency

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.

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.”

Turkey detains 5 Islamic State suspects over planned attacks: Anadolu

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF REUTERS)

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)

Migrants in Turkey pray for return to Syria, work farms to survive

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF REUTERS)

Migrants in Turkey pray for return to Syria, work farms to survive

By Tuvan Gumrukcu | REYHANLI, TURKEY

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.

SEASONAL LABOR

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)

Netherlands Bars Turkish Foreign Minister’s Plane From Landing

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF CNN)

The Netherlands bars Turkish foreign minister’s plane from landing

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan compares the Dutch to Nazis in a rally Saturday in Istanbul.

Story highlights

  • Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu was set to address political rally in Rotterdam
  • Turkish President has provoked controversy with his comparisons of allies to Nazis.

(CNN) The Netherlands barred a plane carrying Turkey’s foreign minister from landing to stop him from addressing a political rally Saturday in Rotterdam.

The Dutch government announced that Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu’s flight permit was revoked amid concerns over public order at the expected large gathering of Turkish expatriates.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan reacted angrily to the news, comparing the Dutch government to Nazis.
Addressing crowds at an opening ceremony in Istanbul, Erdogan said: “They are timid and coward. They are Nazi remnants and fascists.”
Earlier this week Erdogan had angered German Chancellor Angela Merkel by making similar remarks about Nazism in her country.

Turkish referendum

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'

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.

Increased tensions

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.”
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.”

Negotiations failed

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.

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)

It Was Okay To Kill Them, They Were Sinning

 

This is a short editorial about the New Year’s massacre at a nightclub in Istanbul Turkey. Even though it is my belief that the President of Turkey Mr. Erdogan is the single biggest reason for the turmoil in Turkey because of his policies, I do not wish to make this particular article about his personal evils. This article is about people like the person who was the shooter and anyone who had prior knowledge of his actions or post knowledge of his whereabouts who have not turned him into the police.

 

The Demonic Sunni Islamic group in Syria who calls themselves ISIS as well as many other names has taken “credit”  for the murder of those 39 people in the nightclub as well as the 40 whom were injured. Credit, think about the theology behind that statement. In a civilized society when someone murders a person or persons, they try to keep it quiet, they don’t want the police to know that you murdered that person or persons. Civilized is the key word in that last sentence. A civilized culture, it does not appear that the Arabian Desert of 1,400 years ago was a civilized culture.

Isis says that this nightclub was a target because it is a place where Pagans/unbelievers celebrate their Pagan holidays. CNN reported this morning that 24 of the 39 dead were actually believers of Islam, that is about 2/3, they didn’t give the numbers on the wounded. In reality ISIS sent one of their Demonic goons to a nightclub to kill as many people as possible, reality is that somewhere around 2/3 of the people in that club worshiped the same ‘God’ as the ISIS folks do. But you know, that is okay. Do you know why it is okay? It is okay because those ‘Arab’ folks in that nightclub were sinning. These people were drinking alcohol, listening to music and dancing, with infidels (unbelievers) no less, so they obviously were openly sinning. You know, ISIS was only carrying out the Commandments of Allah, so, they were putting themselves in the place of God as God is the only one who has the right to pass judgement on people like that. Who knows, these Muslim people who were murdered may have turned their lives around and started following the strictest versions of Islam later this year or later in their lives. But the gunman and ISIS decided to ‘play God’ and execute them now, before they had a chance to change their ways. It is the gunman and ISIS who put themselves in the place of God by executing these people, thus condemning them to Hell forever. The gunman and ISIS decided it was up to them to be the Judge, Jury, and the Executioner for these people. Who knows, maybe even people of other religions that they murdered would have changed their religions and have started worshiping Allah before they died, but they, the ‘God players’ didn’t give them that chance. Obviously it was okay to kill them, they were sinning. I guess that this means that the ISIS folks are perfect and never sin themselves, we know this because otherwise they would all be dead now from suicide.

Presidents Putin, Erdogan discuss Russia-Turkey relations on phone

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF AZERNEWS AGENCY)

Turkey’s President Erdogan Blasts U.S.-Led Campaign Against Islamic State

 

While Defense Secretary Ashton Carter prepared for his trip to Turkey, a senior Iraqi general on Wednesday called on Iraqis fighting for the Islamic State to surrender as a wide-scale operation to retake Mosul entered its third day. Story.
– The Washington Times – Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Defense Secretary Ashton Carter will be walking into diplomatic buzz saw Thursday when he arrives in Turkey a day after President Recep Tayyip Erdogan launched a blistering critique of the U.S.-backed campaign to oust the Islamic State group from neighboring Iraq and demanded a bigger role for Turkish military forces.

Mr. Erdogan’s remarkable outburst was the latest sign of difficulties the Obama administration faces in keeping the various members of its regional coalition pushing in the same direction in the fight to oust the Islamic State from its strongholds in Iraq and Syria and find a way to end Syria’s bloody civil war.

The Obama administration has long sought to control Turkish involvement in the Iraq fight amid fears of a clash with American-aligned Kurdish forces near Mosul, but Mr. Erdogan threatened Wednesday to take unilateral action ifTurkey’s interests were threatened by chaos spilling from the battle to reclaim Iraq’s second-largest city.

“From now on, we will not wait for problems to come knocking on our door, we will not wait until the blade is against our bone and skin, we will not wait for terrorist organizations to come and attack us,” Mr. Erdogan said in a fiery speech from his presidential palace in Ankara.

His comments prompted concern among U.S. officials already wary about a series of provocative moves by Mr. Erdogan that analysts say have been driven — at least in part — by a desire to pressure Washington into giving Turkey its way against Syrian and Iraqi Kurds. Mr. Carter’s visit will also be his first to Ankara since a failed military coup nearly ousted Mr. Erdogan and his ruling AKP party from power this summer.

While Turkey remains a major NATO ally, Mr. Erdogan raised eyebrows in the West last week when he suddenly invited Russia to bid on providing his nation with its first-ever long-range air and anti-missile defense system.

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The Pentagon declined to comment Wednesday on whether Mr. Carter will raise the issue during his visit to Turkey. But it is likely to add to the thick tension over the Kurdish issue. Turkey has long battled the separatist Kurdish PKK movement in its south and fears an independent Kurdistan across the border in Iraq will only inflame the fight.

The Obama administration has relied on Kurdish militias to fight the Islamic State in both nations, but the Erdogan government views many of them as terrorists no less threatening than the group that has held Mosul and other territory in northern Iraq and Syria for the past 2 years.

Erdogan is trying to leverage political gain, and he wants Turkish troops in northern Iraq,” said Michael Rubin, a scholar with the American Enterprise Institute and a former Pentagon official.

“He clearly wants to be in Mosul,” Mr. Rubin said Wednesday. “He wants Turkish boots on the ground so he can help determine the future of what happens there.”

Muscling the Pentagon?

Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim made headlines Tuesday by claiming the country had reached an agreement with U.S. commanders to allow Turkish fighters to carry out airstrikes in Mosul against the Islamic State, also known as ISIS and ISIL.

Turkish F-16 fighters based out of Incirlik Air Base, near the country’s southern border with Iraq, would execute airstrikes in Mosul under the command of the country’s military command node in Kuwait, Mr. Yildrim told the Hurriyet Daily News. The Iraqi government of Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi has protested Turkish military actions inside its borders.

Mr. Erdogan reiterated the claim regarding Turkish air operations over Mosul, saying Baghdad “thought they could keep us out of Mosul by bothering us with the PKK and [the Islamic State].”

He said Iraqi leaders strove to “shape our future with the hands of terrorist organizations.”

U.S. defense officials told The Washington Times on Wednesday that no such agreement had been reached withAnkara on military air operations in Mosul.

“It’s not true,” one defense official said, noting there had been only one instance of Turkish aircraft entering Iraqi airspace — a surveillance drone — since the country’s forces deployed to northern Iraq.

Additionally, Russia has warned Turkish forces advancing through the Syrian border town of Jarablus to halt their advance south or risk being targeted by Russian aircraft operating in the country, the official added. Russia is allied with Syrian President Bashar Assad, a longtime adversary of Turkey.

Even if a military coordination deal included Turkey, it would require Iraq to sign off because any offer of foreign military support in the campaign against the Islamic State needs Baghdad’s approval, a second U.S. defense official told The Times.

Army Maj. Gen. Gary Volesky, commander of U.S. and coalition land forces in Iraq, said at the Pentagon on Wednesday that there were no orders directing Turkish fighters to take part in the fight for Mosul.

Roughly 300 to 400 Turkish soldiers are stationed at a small training camp outside Bashiqa, northeast of Mosul. Reports say smaller Turkish units are scattered across the city’s northern and eastern borders.

Turkish units have been training and equipping Sunni militias in the region, preparing them to defend against any threats posed by Kurdish members of the People’s Protection Unit, also known as the YPG, the armed faction of the Kurdish Workers’ Party in northern Iraq. Ankara considers the group to be on par with the Islamic State and other terrorist organizations.

U.S.-Turkish ties in the fight against the Islamic State began to fray in June, when Washington rebuffed an offer byTurkey to conduct joint operations to retake the strategically critical northern Syrian district of Manbij.

Since then, U.S. diplomats and defense officials have repeatedly tried to engage with their Turkish counterparts to quell any tensions among Washington, Baghdad and Ankara, the second defense official said.

But Pentagon officials say Mr. Erdogan’s recent tough talk is aimed less at the U.S. and Mr. Carter than at concerns over the fallout once the Islamic State is driven from Mosul. The caustic rhetoric coming out of Ankara over the past several weeks did not start “until [Mr. al-Abadi] announced the operation” to retake Mosul, one official added.

Footsie with Moscow

Turkey’s demand for a role in the Mosul fight has overshadowed its outreach toward Russia, which has generated growing concern among officials in Washington.

According to a Defense News report, Mr. Erdogan made the surprising move last week to invite Moscow to bid on a contract to provide a long-range air and anti-missile defense system for Turkey — three years after Ankara disqualified a Russian bidder.

Turkey’s pursuit of the system has been bumpy since 2013, when Ankara took bids from U.S., French and Chinese companies before selecting the China Precision Machinery Import-Export Corp. to provide the air defense architecture.

But the deal with the Chinese was suddenly canceled amid heated criticism from Washington and other NATO allies.

One American official who spoke on the condition of anonymity Wednesday said U.S. officials were warily monitoring Mr. Erdogan’s call for a Russian bid ahead of Mr. Carter’s visit.

However, the official suggested that the Obama administration thinks it is highly unlikely that the Turks will go through with deal with the Russians.

“Obviously, we were concerned three years ago when Turkey decided to try to buy an air defense system from China,” said the official. “So we walked them off of that, telling them that if they were interested in getting an air defense system that could be interoperable with NATO and linked to intelligence aspects of the NATO network, then they would have to buy a NATO system, not a Russian or Chinese system.”

While the official lamented that the Turks have “invited the Russians to bid again,” they added that “there’s a big difference between Turkey doing things for optics and actually signing contracts.”

But Turkey’s overtures toward Russia may be more than just posturing, Mr. Rubin said.

“On one hand, Erdogan is trying to leverage political gain,” he said, but Turkey appears poised to take “a turn away from NATO.”

Mr. Erdogan, he noted, went out of his way after this summer’s failed coup to fire scores of Turkish military officials “simply because they had experience working with NATO.”

In addition to Turkey, the Pentagon said, Mr. Carter will stop in the United Arab Emirates, France and Belgium to meet with “key partners in the campaign to deliver [Islamic State] a lasting defeat.” He plans a major speech on the future of NATO next week in Brussels.

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