Saturday, 30 April 2011

Turkish Government Issues List of Banned Words in Domain Names

The Turkish Telecommunications Directorate has sent internet service providers in the country a list of words it says are banned in domain names. Any existing websites which use these words in their domain names should be shut down, it says. ISPs have been threatened with punishment if they do not comply with the directive, even though it is not clear what the legal basis for the directive is. It is estimated that tens of thousands of Turkish websites could be forced to close if the instructions are implemented.

The effect of the TİB’s request could see the closure of many websites that include a number of words. For example, the website “” ( could be banned because the domain name has the word “animal” in it; likewise, “,” ( could be closed down because of the word “anal.” Websites will also be forbidden from using the number 31 in their domain names because it is slang for male masturbation.

Some banned English words include “beat,” “escort,” “homemade,” “hot,” “nubile,” “free” and “teen.” Some other English words would also be banned because of their meanings in Turkish: “pic,” short for picture, is banned because it means “bastard” in Turkish. The past tense of the verb “get” is also banned because “got” means “butt” in Turkish. Haydar, a very common Alevi name for men, is also banned because it means penis in slang.

“Gay” and its Turkish pronunciation, “gey;” “çıplak” (naked); “itiraf” (confession); “liseli” (high school student); “nefes” (breath) and “yasak” (forbidden) are some of the other banned words.


Erdogan's Bizarre Sharia-Influenced Economic Policy

Speaking to a congress of Turkish businessmen, Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan recently announced that his government intended to reduce both inflation and interest rates and that its goal was to eventually reduce real interest rates to zero.

“We aim to cut the real interest rate in the long run, so people will increase their incomes through working, not through interest,” said Erdoğan. “Eventually we aim to equalize the interest rate and inflation rate.”

Although he did not explicitly refer to it in his speech, Sharia law prohibits the earning of interest on money. It is impossible to believe that Erdogan's bizarre notion of zero real interest rates - a policy that would have dramatic effects on saving behaviour, foreign investment and exchange rates if ever implemented - has not been influenced by these religious considerations.

Friday, 29 April 2011

Turkish President Demands Austria Teach Turkish In Its Schools

In an interview with a newspaper based in Austria, where he is due to make a state visit next week, Turkish president Abdullah Gul demanded that Austria improve conditions for its immigrant Turks and teach the Turkish language in its schools.

"In nurseries, schools and universities, the options must be extended. It is very good to learn both languages, German and Turkish."


Thursday, 28 April 2011

Erdogan Calls for Turkic World To Create Its Own Schengen Area

While signing an agreement for visa-free travel with Kyrgyzstan, Erdogan called for the "Turkic" people to create a Schengen Area of their own, referring to free movement area within Europe comprising 25 distinct countries. Note that the Schengen Area represents much more than visa-free travel between its members; there are effectively no border controls at all. Did Erdogan really understand and mean what he was saying?

Turkic countries should create a visa-free travel zone to enhance connections and trade, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said Tuesday following the signing of an agreement to lift visa restrictions between Turkey and Kyrgyzstan.

“Turkish citizens will be able to visit Kyrgyzstan with their passports without a need for visas and vice versa. The trucks of our countries will be able to travel [across borders] more easily from now on,” Erdoğan told reporters late Tuesday at a press conference with visiting Kyrgyz Prime Minister Almazbek Atambaev.

The other Central Asian republics need to follow Kyrgyzstan’s lead in helping to create a Schengen-style visa-free travel zone in the region, Erdoğan said. He noted that while Turkey does not demand visas from Uzbek or Kazakh citizens, both Tashkent and Astana require Turks to obtain a visa when traveling to those countries.

“We hope we can get over the problem [with the other Central Asian countries] after we take this step with Kyrgyzstan,” Erdoğan said.

Lifting visas with neighboring countries and others in the region constitutes an important element of Turkish foreign policy as embraced by the current government. Last year’s abolition of visa restrictions with Syria provided a boon for local Turkish economies close to the border, but the current unrest could now prompt a wave of Syrians to flee to Turkey.


Wednesday, 27 April 2011

Turkey Dismantles Armenia Friendship Statue

Work has begun to dismantle a giant sculpture in the Turkish province of Kars, near the border with Armenia, which was meant to promote reconciliation over the loss of Armenian lives in the first world war.

The 35m stone sculpture, featuring two figures symbolising a single divided human, has been criticised in Turkey for overshadowing an Islamic shrine. On a visit in January, the prime minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, called it a "freak".

Artists campaigned to save the monument, and last week a prominent painter was stabbed after a speech condemning the plan to tear it down.


Serbia, Turkey and Bosnia Vow to Help Each Other on Road to EU

Leaders of Turkey, Serbia and Bosnia-Herzegovina on Tuesday vowed to intensify cooperation and to help each other in efforts to join the European Union, which is a common goal of all three countries.

At a trilateral meeting in a Serbian hunting resort Karadjordjevo, north of Belgrade, Serbian president Boris Tadic hosted his Turkish colleague Abdulah Gul and three members of Bosnia’s rotating state presidency Nebojsa Radmanovic, Bakir Izetbegovic and Zeljko Komsic.

The countries signed a declaration in Istanbul last year to intensify cooperation, without interfering in each other’s affairs. The move was criticized by Serbian opposition for allegedly opening the door to Turkey, which had occupied the Balkans for over five centuries, to play a key role in the region again.

Some Bosnian leaders opposed the site of the meeting. Karadjordjevo is where former Croatian and Serbian presidents Franjo Tudjman and Slobodan Milosevic discussed the partition of Bosnia during 1991-1995 war that followed disintegration of the former Yugoslavia.

But the meeting was held in a constructive and friendly atmosphere, Tadic said. He pointed out that the region had been an area of conflicts in the past, which has to be replaced by mutual trust and cooperation.

“We must jointly fight the prejudices of the past, otherwise we will be confronted by numerous problems in the future,” Tadic said. He vowed to oppose referendum on independence threatened by Bosnian Serbs, which was pleasing to ears of Muslim and Croat members of Bosnia’s presidency Izetbegovic and Komsic.

“We want the entire region to be integrated into the EU as soon as possible and that is the most important political goal which will bring benefits to all citizens, Tadic said.
“Our goal is to transform this area, once the scene of conflicts, into a region of togetherness which should lead us in the future,” Gull said. Serb member of Bosnian presidency, Nebojsa Radmanovic, said “all three countries were EU aspirants and determined to help each other on that road”.

“It seems that we have managed to defeat evil ghosts and vampires of the past and there is hope that we can expect new relations in the region,” Komsic said.

Izetbegovic said Tadic’s position on Bosnia’s integrity has shown that “it was worth coming to Karadjordjevo”, once favored hunting grounds of former Yugoslav president Josip Broz Tito.

“Disintegrations in the Balkans are over, now is time for integrations,” Izetbegovic concluded.

It was agreed that the next meeting should be held in Bosnian capital Sarajevo next year.


Tuesday, 26 April 2011

Turkish Association in Germany Calls for Autonomous Government for Turks

This is my translation of statements made by a Turkish association in Germany calling itself "Generation Zukunft e.V." (Future Generation). The association is organising a protest against Thilo Sarrazin in Berlin on June 21.

We are Turks or Turkish-descended students, employees, employers and academics who live and work in Germany. Just as other citizens feel attached to their home, citizens of Turkish descent also feel attached to this country, their country of origin. Within the framework of the laws of this country, we are proud to say: "Happy those who call themselves Turks." We are aware that we bear a responsibility not only to ourselves, but to Turkey. For this reason we have come together to call "Generation Zukunft e.V." (Future Generation Registered Association) into being.


Best regards,
Generation Zukunft e.V.
Frankfurt (...)

(...) The organisation of young Muslim intellectuals "Generation Zukunft e.V." calls on all Turks in Germany:

You hired us as guest workers. We built your streets; set up your companies; repaired your houses. We worked day and night for the well-being of Germans, risked our health, served them, and today they want to hold us to account for it, saying it would have been cheaper if we had never immigrated to Germany as guest workers... They drum into us that we are not allowed to speak Turkish when we're sitting with our brothers and sisters in the playground. We are forbidden from living in a Turkish spirit or practising our centuries-old culture. They take our identity and force us to eat disgusting pig meat. German children always get the best toys and enjoy more freedom than our children of Turkish descent. A torture without comparison, a machinery of oppression and assimilation policy - planned and controlled by the revolting German establishment in order to crush Turks year after year for decades and to break their will and individuality. We are your slaves and prisoners, your prey animals...

We want autonomy for the Turks in Germany with the objective of independent government. We want place signs in Germany to be in Turkish. In supermarkets the information must be written in Turkish script... We want North-Rhine Westphalia to be the first federal state to become an autonomous Turkish republic. At a later stage, Berlin should also become an autonomous Turkish territory and the federal government should move to Bonn.

From a demographic perspective, Turks represent a considerable part of the new generation of the German population. Seen in this way, we are the future of Germany... The German government should slowly start to think deeply about who is sitting in its lap...

(Hompage of Generation Zukunft e.V., cited in "Kurier der Christlichen Mitte" (Courier of the Christian Centre), monthly periodical for religion and politics, March 2011 – No. 3).

This sounds almost too over-the-top to be true. But it does appear to be a genuine, registered association in Germany. You can see its registration here. Representatives of the organisation have previously been quoted in the Turkish press. And the coordination committee of the Turkish association wrote the following to the German organisation Christliche Mitte (Christian Centre), whose periodical brought this to light here.

Don't forget. As Germany lay in rubble and ashes, the foreigners came to build the country back up. The foreigners (Turks) brought the Germans prosperity. Without the foreigners, Germans would still be standing in their rubble today. From that follows the logical conclusion: the land belongs to those who built it. Foreigners are nationals. We want: to vote here, to work here, to participate in decisions here. Therefore: the next federal chancellor and ministers must be Turkish!!! The cross must disappear! Islam is the strongest force; Islam will prevail.

Monday, 25 April 2011

Even the Queen Doesn't Want Turkey in the European Union

From the Sunday Times yesterday:

A woman called Joan Smith was on Newsnight last week explaining why she favoured the abolition of the monarchy. Apparently, the Queen had ignored her at a social function.

“She just cut me dead,” Smith announced.

Worse, a few moments later Joan heard the Queen say something “inappropriate ... and reactionary” about Turkey’s possible membership of the European Union.

The Telegraph has some more detail on the story. The woman is the former girlfriend of the grotesque Labour MP Denis MacShane (aka Denis MacShame), whose real name is Denis Matyjaszek.

...a Labour minister’s former girlfriend has made public what she claims is the monarch’s opinion of the expansion of the European Union.

“I was present when the Queen made a comment that was both reactionary and unconstitutional,” alleges Joan Smith, an author and broadcaster, who split up with Denis MacShane, a former Europe minister, last year.

“It was at a Christmas party at Buckingham Palace. It was mostly MPs and ex-ministers.”
Smith, who refused to make a curtsy for the monarch and the Duke of Edinburgh, tells Mandrake: “Before the Queen came in, a small group of us were asked to stand in the corner and wait to be introduced. I smiled and said 'hello’ and she looked at me with almost disbelief and passed on to the next person. It was a nice Conservative MP and his wife, who, he said, was Turkish. She immediately said: 'Philip and I have been on a state visit to Turkey.’

“The woman was very polite and said how pleased people were that she had visited. Then, the Queen turned to another person in the group and said: 'The EU is getting awfully big with 28 countries.’ They said that, actually, it was 27, 'but we are hoping Turkey will come in soon’, to which the Queen said, 'Oh, we don’t want Turkey to come in for a long time.’

Sources :

Sunday Times (may require subscription)


Sunday, 24 April 2011

Armenian Genocide Commemoration Day

Today is Armenian Genocide Commemoration Day. Events are being held across the world to remember those who died in the first great genocide of the modern era. Turkey still refuses to acknowledge the genocide and cowardly western leaders decline to pressure them to do so.

Before ascending to the presidency, Barack Hussein Obama promised to recognise the Armenian genocide when in office. He has refused to do so. Earlier this week, he described the events as "horrific" and used the Armenian term "Meds Yeghern", disappointing Armenian Americans who had hoped for more.

Obama said:

Contested history destabilizes the present and stains the memory of those whose lives were taken, while reckoning with the past lays a sturdy foundation for a peaceful and prosperous shared future.

His remarks provoked anger from both Armenians and Turks:

The Armenian National Committee of Americans called Obama’s use of the phrase contested history "deeply offensive" and "shameful."

Meanwhile, Turkey's ambassador to the US said:

President Obama's statement is a wrongful, distorted and unilateral political description of the history. We deeply regret it.

The video presentation uses a song from the Armenian-American band, System of a Down. You can see more images of the Armenian Genocide here.

Friday, 22 April 2011

"EU needs Turkey more than we need them" Says Turkish Official

Do you feel the need? The need for Turkey? No, neither do I. But this kind of arrogance will hopefully be their undoing.

The European Union needs Turkey more than Turkey needs to be part of the bloc, Turkey's chief negotiator for EU talks said Thursday in Istanbul.

“Turkey is not a candidate for the EU just for the sake of it,” State Minister Egemen Bağış said, adding that Turkey did not desperately need to join the 27-member union.

The EU is facing many problems, such as energy crisis, old population, and economic problems, Bağış said. “Unemployment is at the highest level in their history, they are suffering from economic problems and the population is aging; they are also dealing with an energy crisis.”


Former Judge Warns of Dictatorship of the Erdogan Clique

Emine Ülker Tarhan, formerly a highly placed judge, has resigned her position and signed up as a candidate for the opposition CHP party. She claims that members of the judiciary who are seen as being independent of the government are spied on and wiretapped routinely and warns of a "dictatorship of the Erdogan clique".

Turkey's 'Realm of Fear'

A Former Judge Takes on Erdogan's Heavy Hand

By Daniel Steinvorth, Der Spiegel

Until recently, Emine Ülker Tarhan was a justice at the Court of Appeals in Ankara. But now she has discarded her robes and is aiming to take a political office. Prime Minister Erdogan, she alleges, is establishing a surveillance state and is "becoming more dictatorial every day."

There are days on which Emine Ülker Tarhan isn't constantly worried about bugs and wire taps. They are days when Tarhan, tall and blonde with metal-rimmed glasses, gets her 1964 VW Beetle out of the garage and puts on a CD by Zülfü Livaneli, the Turkish balladeer whose voice reminds her of "clear air."

And then are days, she says, when she feels like a character in George Orwell's tale of a surveillance state, "1984." That's when she sees the thought police on patrol, and when she is afraid to say the wrong word in her own home.

Today is one of those days. It's a Monday morning in the embassy district of the Turkish capital Ankara, and Tarhan, wearing a black blazer over a blue blouse, is sitting in a friend's law office, where the two are exchanging knowing glances. Could this office be bugged, too, they wonder? "Our country's government is becoming more and more dictatorial every day," says Tarhan. "This isn't paranoia."

It seems odd to hear this 48-year-old woman speaking as if she were at the mercy of a despotic government. Five weeks ago Tarhan, a career jurist, was herself a member of the country's power elite. She was a judge on the Court of Appeals in Ankara and, since 2006, the president of "Yarsav," a decidedly secular professional association of judges and prosecutors. But then, in early March, she stepped down from both posts and decided to go into politics.

The reason for her decision, she say, is the increasingly open attempt by the Islamic conservative administration of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan to destroy the independence of the Turkish judiciary. A closer look, says Tarhan, is enough to see that Erdogan is currently in the process of eliminating the separation of powers in Turkey. "If he gets his way, judges and public prosecutors will no longer serve as a check on the executive branch, but instead will become his agents. I refuse to play along with this."

The Turkish judiciary, of course, does not have a particularly strong reputation, neither domestically nor abroad. Many believe that judges and prosecutors feel less committed to the rights of the individual than to "protection of the state," and that they often hand down draconian prison sentences against supposed enemies of the state. Green Party politician Daniel Cohn-Bendit has characterized them as "terrible jurists." Many human rights activists see the Turkish judiciary as perhaps the biggest obstacle on the EU accession candidate's road to true democracy and freedom of opinion.

Tarhan disagrees with these assessments, pointing out that it isn't the judges but the politicians who ultimately make the laws. She adds that it is Erdogan's Islamic conservative governing party, the AKP, which bears the responsibility for Turkey's current criminal code -- a code that, for example, practically requires judges to lock up stone-throwing Kurdish youths for years.

Is Erdogan's Administration an Opponent of Freedom?

The real opponents of freedom, says Tarhan, are to be found in the ranks of the administration. And the administration, she says, has already begun to undermine the judicial system.

Tarhan was particularly alarmed by a law under which judges and public prosecutors are no longer to be called to account for abuses of office. The law is part of a set of legal reforms that also reconstituted the panels that appoint judges and prosecutors. This reform, Tarhan claims, gives preference to candidates who are agreeable to the regime.

"Compliant judges appointed by the justice minister can freely go about their business," she says. "But judges and prosecutors who are critical of the government are still being routinely wiretapped whenever the justice ministry feels it necessary."

A historic constitutional referendum in September made this possible. The Turkish people were to vote on whether their old constitution, dictated by the military junta of the 1980s, should be reformed. But from the outset, many Turks were troubled by the fact that the changes weren't just limited to the military's position in society. That of judges and prosecutors was also a focus of the constitutional revisions. Critics cautioned that Erdogan would use the reform of the judiciary to expand his power.

Today, there are few who would deny that he has been successful.

In his eighth year in office, on the eve of parliamentary elections slated for June 12, Erdogan remains more entrenched and unchallenged in his position than any Turkish politician since the days of Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, the founder of the Turkish republic. Many have challenged him, but he has managed to sideline them all: the military officers who intimidated him in 2007 by launching the threat of a coup on the Internet; the prosecutors, who sought to ban his party in 2008; and the media, which reported on corruption within the AKP.

The generals seemed paralyzed as the government pushed forward an investigation against the suspected coup leaders, many of which landed in prison. Cartoonists who have tangled with Erdogan have been showered with libel suits; the media company Dogan was even threatened with billions in tax penalties. And in the judiciary, officials unwilling to toe the government line have been replaced en masse.

In 2010, for example, a colleague accused Ilhan Cihaner, a prosecutor, of "membership in an illegal terrorist organization." While investigating an Islamist organization, Cihaner had uncovered business ties between the organization and the governing party AKP. Soon afterwards, Cihaner himself landed in pretrial detention, and he was removed from the case.

In early March, journalists Ahmet ik and Nedim ener were arrested on terrorism charges. They had been investigating the growing influence of the Islamist Fethullah Gülen movement within the Turkish police. [Fethllah Gulen lives, enjoying all the protections afforded by the American Infidels, in a bucolic and luxurious compound in rural Pennsylvania] Tarhan's judges' association, Yarsav, was also described as a terrorist organization. "Just imagine," she says, "the prime minister even compared us with the PKK!" Bugs were installed in the offices of Yarsav at the instruction of the justice minister, but Tarhan wasn't surprised. "Sooner or later we'll all be spied on," she says.

Tarhan spoke of a "realm of fear" when she was invited to speak in the German state of Hesse in early April. When asked what was wrong in Turkey, she replied: "It's the deep state of the AKP."

In Turkey, the term "deep state" refers to the criminal ties among politicians, the judiciary and organized crime. The "Ergenekon" network, uncovered in 2008, which was allegedly planning to stage a coup against the Erdogan government, is considered a part of the "deep state." In Turkey's tense political climate, the claim that Erdogan's AKP has established a state within a state is seen as a monstrous accusation. But can it be proven? Or is simply a case of overblown rhetoric being used to garner support?

The election campaign began in Turkey last week. And after decades of decline, a party that was considered hopelessly outdated is suddenly in the ascendant: the Republican People's Party (CHP), founded by Atatürk himself, a melting pot of the old secular government elite that has been overrun by the dynamic Erdogan.

The CHP has its headquarters on the outskirts of Ankara, in a postmodern building with something that resembles a space capsule on the roof, meant to convey the image of modernity. The mood is buoyant inside the building, now that the CHP has gained a prominent and media-friendly candidate in Emine Tarhan. Party Chairman Kemal Kiliçdaroglu, nicknamed "Kemal Gandhi" because of his mild character, has just greeted her with great enthusiasm.

The now former Judge Tarhan, brushing a lock of hair out of her face, insists that she never wanted to become a politician. The many photographers embarrass her, and she is appalled by the posturing of many Turkish politicians.

But in light of an impending "dictatorship of the Erdogan clique," says Tarhan, she wants to campaign for a different and more modern Turkey. "In this country, religious leaders are now declaring women who have been raped to be partially culpable, because they showed too much cleavage. They see women as nothing but baby-making machines. Do you really think that I can just sit there and do nothing?"

Translated from the German by Christopher Sultan

Source: New English Review

Thursday, 21 April 2011

Turkey and Iran Declare Eternal Friendship

Iranian and Turkish officials opened a new border crossing over the weekend, as the Turkish side highlighted the presence of a friendship for eternity between the peoples of the two countries.

The new crossing, between Kapıköy in eastern Anatolia's Van province and Iran's West Azerbaijan province, was inaugurated on Saturday by Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu and his Iranian counterpart, Ali Akbar Salehi.


The Turkish minister announced that a fourth crossing between Esendere, Hakkari and Sero, Orumeyeh, would be opened in June and that the Maku crossing will follow. A fifth will follow at Dilucu, Iğdır, in the coming months, Davutoğlu added. “In this way, all doors between Iran and Turkey will be opened. In this way historical friendships will solidify and will be transferred on to future generations,” he said, calling on both Iranians and Turks to use these border gates to mingle with one another.


“Our prime minister has set a target of $30 billion” in annual trade with Iran, he also said. “That is why we are opening this border crossing. We are declaring to the world that Turkey and Iran will remain friends for eternity."


Wednesday, 20 April 2011

Turkey Excluded From EU's 2014-2020 Budget Plans

Turkey has been excluded from the draft EU budget plans for the 2014 - 2020 period. Because new members of the EU are entitled to special payments for the first few years after joining, it is customary to include candidate countries that are expected to join in the near future. Croatia, for example, currently a candidate country, has been included in the budget. But Turkey has not been, despite diplomatic pressure from Ankara.

This is interpreted as a sign that Turkey is not likely to join the EU within the next few years, although it does not strictly preclude Turkey from joining before 2020.

Monday, 18 April 2011

Erdogan's Plan to Split Istanbul

The Guardian today reports that Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan is considering splitting Istanbul up into two cities, one on the European side of the Bosphorus and the other on the Asiatic. Perhaps the new city on the European side could be called Constantinople, or even Byzantium?

The news of this reminds me of an interesting proposal made by the British Conservative MEP Struan Stevenson. He was one of a few MEPs I wrote to expressing opposition to Turkish membership of the European Union. All of the others seemed clueless about the issue. He was the only one who seemed well-informed. It was clear that he had grave misgivings about admitting Turkey to the EU but, at the same time, he felt that we had an obligation to offer them something following decades of promises. His plan was to offer EU membership only to the 3% of Turkey that is in Europe, in other words the European part of Istanbul.

So perhaps Erdogan's plan to split the city will bring Struan Stevenson's plan closer to reality.

Sunday, 17 April 2011

Turkey's Cautionary Tale

Today’s Turkey is a cautionary tale for the West. But Western leaders are loath to consider its lessons.

By Caroline Glick

Ever since Turkey’s Islamist Justice and Development AKP party under Recip Tayip Erdogan won the November 2002 elections, Western officials have upheld the AKP, Erdogan and his colleagues as proof that political Islam is consonant with democratic values. During Erdogan’s June 2005 visit to the White House, for instance, then-president George W. Bush praised Turkish democracy as “an important example for the people in the broader Middle East.”

Unfortunately, nine years into the AKP’s “democratic” regime it is clear that Erdogan and his colleagues’ embrace of the language and tools of democracy was a mile wide and an inch thick. They used democracy to gain power. Now that they have power, they are systematically destroying freedom in their country.

Turkey ranks 138th in the international media freedom group Reporters Sans Frontieres country index on press freedom. Sixty-eight journalists are languishing in Turkish jails for the crime of doing their job. The most recent round-up of reporters occurred in early March. And it is demonstrative of Turkey’s Islamist leaders’ exploitation of democratic freedoms in the service of their tyrannical ends.

As Der Spiegel reported last week, veteran journalists Ahmet Sik from the far-left Radikal newspaper and Nedim Sener from the highbrow Milliyet journal were among those rounded up. As radical leftists, both men oppose the AKP’s Islamist politics. But they shared its interest in weakening the Turkish military.

The Left opposed the military’s constitutional role as the overseer of Turkish democracy because the military used that role to persecute leftists. The AKP party opposed the military’s power because it blocked the party’s path to Islamizing Turkish society and politics. When the AKP turned its guns on the military it used leftist journalists to support its actions.

This collusion came to a head in 2007. In a bid to destroy the legitimacy of the military, the AKP regime has engaged in unprecedented levels of wiretapping of the communications of senior serving and retired generals.

This wiretapping operation preceded the exposure in 2007 of the so-called Ergenekon conspiracy in which senior military commanders, journalists, television personalities, entertainers and businesspeople have been implicated in an alleged attempt to topple the AKP government. As part of the Ergenekon investigation, over the past four years, hundreds of non-Islamist leaders from generals to journalists have been arrested and held without trial.

Ironically, Sik, who is now accused of membership in the Ergenekon plot, was an editor at the leftist weekly magazine Notka that “broke” the conspiracy story.

As Der Spiegel notes, the arrest of Sik and Sener shows that the AKP’s early embrace of investigative reporters and championing of a free press was purely opportunistic. Once Sik, Sener and the other 66 jailed reporters had finished discrediting the military, the regime had no need for them. Indeed, they became a threat.

Both Sik and Sener have recently written books documenting how Turkey’s version of the Muslim Brotherhood, the Fetulah Gulen network, has taken over the country’s security services.

In an interview this month with the opposition Hurriyet Daily News and Economic Review, former Turkish president Suleyman Demirel warned that the AKP has established “an empire of fear” in Turkey.

TURKEY’S DESCENT into Islamist tyranny has not simply destroyed freedom in Turkey. It has transformed Turkey’s strategic posture in a manner that is disastrous for the West. And yet, in this arena as well, the West refuses to notice what is happening.

Earlier this week the US Ambassador to Ankara Francis Ricciardone gave an interview to the Turkish media in which he romantically upheld the US-Turkish partnership. As he put it, “Our interests are similar. Even if we have different methods and targets, our strategic vision is the same.”

Sadly, there is no way to square this declaration with Turkish policy.

This week it was reported that NATO member Turkey is opening something akin to a Taliban diplomatic mission in Ankara. Turkey supports Hamas and Hizbullah. It has begun training the Syrian military. It supports Iran’s nuclear weapons program. It has become the Iranian regime’s economic lifeline by allowing the mullahs to use Turkish markets to bypass the UN sanctions regime.

In less than 10 years, the AKP regime has dismantled Turkey’s strategic alliance with Israel. It has inculcated the formerly tolerant if not pro- Israel Turkish public with virulent anti-Semitism. It is this systematic indoctrination to Jew-hatred that has emboldened Turkish leaders to announce publicly that they support going to war against Israel.

The Turkish government stands behind the al- Qaida- and Hamas- linked IHH group. IHH organized last year’s pro-Hamas flotilla to Gaza in which IHH members brutally attacked IDF naval commandoes engaged in a lawful mission to maintain Israel’s lawful maritime blockade of Gaza’s coast. With the support of the Turkish government, IHH is now planning an even larger flotilla to assault Israel’s blockade of Gaza next month.

Actually, in a sign of the intimacy of its ties to the AKP regime, this week IHH announced it is considering postponing the next pro-Hamas flotilla in order to ensure that its illegal pro-terror campaign will not harm the AKP’s electoral prospects in Turkey’s national elections scheduled for June.

American and other Western officials have argued that it would be wrong to distance their governments from Turkey or in any way censure the NATO member because doing so will only strengthen the anti-Western forces in the anti- Western government. Instead, Western leaders have done everything they can to appease Erdogan.

The US even allowed him to invade Iraqi Kurdistan.

Unfortunately, this appeasement policy has only harmed the West and NATO. Take the behavior of NATO’s Secretary-General and former Danish prime minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen. As Denmark’s prime minister, Rasmussen stood up boldly to the Islamists when they demanded that he apologize for the Danish newspaper Jyllands Posten’s publication of caricatures of Muhammad in 2005. Yet when Turkey threatened to veto his appointment as NATO secretary-general in 2009 over the Islamists’ rejection of free speech, Rasmussen abandoned his strong defense of Western liberal values to placate the Turks.

In a humiliating speech Rasmussen said, “I was deeply distressed that the cartoons were seen by many Muslims as an attempt by Denmark to mark or insult or behave disrespectfully towards Islam or the Prophet Muhammad... I respect Islam as one of the world’s major religions as well as its religious symbols.”

Rasmussen then proceeded to appoint Turks to key positions in the alliance.

Far from reining in Turkey’s anti-Western policies, by maintaining Turkey in NATO Western powers have been forced to curtail their own defense of their interests.

NATO’s incoherent mission in Libya is case in point. It can be argued that Germany’s large and increasingly radicalized Turkish minority played a role in German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s decision to risk her country’s good ties with Britain and France and refuse to support the Libyan mission. So, too, it was reportedly due to President Barack Obama’s deference to Turkey that the US failed to support the anti-regime forces until Gaddafi organized a counteroffensive against them. So if as appears increasingly likely, Gaddafi is able to survive the NATO-backed insurgents’ bid to overthrow him, he will owe his survival in no small measure to Erdogan.

TURKEY IS a cautionary tale for the West, which is now faced with the prospect of AKP-like regimes from Egypt to Tunisia to Jordan to the Persian Gulf. And the real issue that Western leaders must address is how things in Turkey were permitted to deteriorate to the point they have without any US or European official lifting a finger to stem the Islamist tide? The answer, it would seem, is a combination of professional laziness and cultural weakness. This mix of factors is also on display in the US’s behavior toward the revolutionary forces active throughout much of the Arab world.

Professional laziness stands at the root of the West’s decision not to contend with the unpleasant truth that the AKP is an Islamist party whose basic ideology has more in common with Osama bin Laden’s values than with George Washington’s. This truth was always available. Erdogan and his colleagues did not make any special efforts to hide what they stand for.

The West chose not to pay attention because its senior officials knew if they did, they would have to do something. They would have had to distance themselves from Turkey, remove Turkey from NATO and seek to contain the power of the Erdogan regime. And this would have been hard and unpleasant.

So, too, they knew that if they noticed the nature of the AKP they would have to throw themselves deep into Turkish society and defend the superiority of Western values over Islamist values. They would have had to locate and support Turkish leaders who are willing to adopt Western values and then cultivate, fund and empower them. This also would have been hard and unpleasant.

Likewise, in post-Mubarak Egypt, it is easier to believe fairy tales about Facebook revolutions and Westernized student leaders than face the harsh truth that from Amr Moussa to Mohamed ElBaradei to Yousef Qaradawi there are no leaders in post-Mubarak Egypt who support the peace with Israel or believe that Egypt has common interests with Israel and the US. There are no potential leaders in Egypt who share Western values of individual liberty and human rights.

And as in Turkey, the price for recognizing these inconvenient facts is taking effective action to counter them. As in Turkey, the West will be forced to do hard things like develop a policy of containing rather than engaging Egypt, and of identifying and cultivating forces in Egyptian society that are willing to embrace John Locke, John Stuart Mill and Adam Smith over Hassan al-Banna and Qaradawi.

Rather than do any of these hard things, Western leaders have lied to themselves about the nature of these forces and regimes. They have told themselves that there is no problem with the likes of Erdogan and his Egyptian cohorts, and opted to limit their meddling in the internal affairs of others to endless attempts to undermine and overthrow successive pro- Western, democratic, non-leftist governments in Israel. These governments, they have argued, must be replaced by leftist parties in order to feed the West’s fantasy that all the problems of the region, all its Qaradawis and Erdogans, will magically become Thomas Jeffersons and John Adamses if Israel would just cut a deal with the PLO.

This fantasy is convenient for lazy Western cultural cowards. They know that there will be no pushback for their policies. Israel won’t attack them. And by pretending the Islamists share their values and strategic interests they are free to take no action to defend their values and strategic interests from Islamist assault.

But while this strategy has been convenient for policymakers, it has done great damage to their countries. The growing menace that is Islamist Turkey teaches us that professional laziness and cultural squeamishness are recipes for strategic disasters.

Source: Jerusalem Post

Saturday, 16 April 2011

Honour Killings in Turkey Rise 14-Fold in 7 Years

Key facts:

Honour killings in Turkey have rised 14-fold in 7 years

On the World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap index, Turkey is ranked 126 out of 134 countries

A drastic rise in reported "honor" killings and fatal domestic violence in Turkey has sparked a vigorous debate about the government's recent attempts to address the problem. It also highlights the clash of conservative values with the country's rapid modernization.

Government figures released in February suggest murders of women increased 14-fold in seven years, from 66 in 2002, to 953 in the first seven months of 2009. In the past seven months, one rights organization has compiled more than 264 cases – nearly one per day – reported in the press in which a woman was killed by a family member, husband, ex-husband, or partner.

“There’s been an incredible increase," says Gulhan Yag, a young activist who recently attended a funeral for a teenage girl killed for eloping with her boyfriend. "This feels like a genocide against women.”

Amidst a surge of public outrage, the Islam-rooted ruling party is being cast as both villain and hero. While some argue it has fueled social conservatism, others claim that for the first time, a problem that has long plagued Turkish family life is finally being uncovered – in part because women are asserting their rights and drawing attention to the issue.

“We know that violence against women has been a longstanding bleeding wound of the society,” Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan told a convention last month on the eve of International Women’s Day. “It is being reflected by the media as a growing issue when it is simply the hidden and unspoken truths being uncovered.”

On paper, progress for women

On paper at least, Mr. Erdogan's government has an impressive record for fighting the problem.

Since 2006, police officers have undergone training to combat violence against women, and now a specialized domestic violence police unit is being set up. Penal and civil codes were changed in 2004 and 2005 to increase sentences for honor killers.

Meanwhile, amendments to the family protection law currently in parliament will for the first time allow judges to impose restraining orders in relation to non-married couples.

“More women know their rights, people are more aware than before, and for the last five years police have been trained in these issues,” says Meltem Agduk, United Nations Population Program Coordinator for Turkey.

Are police willing to help?

But others question both the effectiveness of the legislation, and the government’s own commitment to the problem.

“Laws have been made but they are not being applied,” says Canan Gullu, chairwoman of the Turkish Association of Women’s Federations. “Police stations don’t work as they should and there are not enough safe houses for women.”

The government passed a law in 2005 recommending that municipalities with more than 50,000 people should have a women’s shelter. Few have paid attention to the vaguely worded, noncompulsory legislation, and so far only 65 are operating, compared to the 1,400 that would exist with proper implementation.

Activists claim police are unwilling or unable to help vulnerable women. In February, Arzu Yildirim, a mother of two, was murdered, allegedly by her ex-boyfriend after having requests for police protection rejected. Hers was one among many similar cases.

The funeral Ms. Yag attended was for 19-year-old Hatice Firat, who was killed Feb. 28 after running away to live with her boyfriend – an offense her relatives saw as staining the family's honor. Local media said her brother was the prime suspect.

But her case was not without sympathy. Yag and a group of other women arranged for a funeral after Firat's family refused to pick up her body. And a crowd of 150 people bore her coffin through the streets of the southeastern Turkish city of Mersin chanting slogans against the murder of women.

Police detained 11 relatives as well as her boyfriend, and two days later, 22 members of Parliament urged the government to investigate the reason for the rise in women's murders.

Prime minister's comment draws ire

Some see the government as part of the problem, however, claiming that the Islamic values espoused by Turkey’s leaders have fueled the violence. Erdogan particularly drew the ire of women’s activists last year when he said at a conference in Istanbul that he "did not believe" in gender equality, a comment that was widely reported in Turkish news outlets. (He went on to say that "that's why I prefer to say 'equal opportunity.' Men and women are different in nature, they complete each other.")

“If our prime minister says men and women aren’t equal, it affects men. There’s no positive example for them. They are now thinking that they can do anything they want,” says Gulsun Kanat, a volunteer social worker for the women’s charity Mor Cati.

Though it is impossible to substantiate such claims, Turkey’s statistics on gender equality remain abysmal by almost any standard. While in recent years the country has made tremendous strides economically, improved the situation of its ethnic and religious minorities, and is increasingly enjoying greater political clout on the global stage, it has languished near the bottom of the World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap reports since the index was created in 2005. It is currently ranked 126 out of 134 countries – lower even than Iran.

Since 2006, police officers have undergone training to combat violence against women, and now a specialized domestic violence police unit is being set up. Penal and civil codes were changed in 2004 and 2005 to increase sentences for honor killers.

Meanwhile, amendments to the family protection law currently in parliament will for the first time allow judges to impose restraining orders in relation to non-married couples.

“More women know their rights, people are more aware than before, and for the last five years police have been trained in these issues,” says Meltem Agduk, United Nations Population Program Coordinator for Turkey.

On the question of the rising violence, some suggest the rapid urbanization of the past two decades, twinned with the growth of civil society movements, have given rise to a gender war.

“A lot of the honor killings in Istanbul are being committed by people who moved from villages in the southeast,” says Vildan Yirmibesoglu, head of Istanbul’s Human Rights Council. “Women who didn’t previously go out on the streets are part of community life in a way they didn’t used to be. They want to study to go to school and to express themselves, and families don’t approve of this.”

Meanwhile, a growing number of women activists like those who buried Hatice Firat are intensifying their own fight against the killings and the patriarchal system that still grips Turkish family life.

“Men killed her, and we didn’t allow men to bury her,” says Yag, whose fellow activists carried out the funeral rites traditionally performed by mosque officials. “I’m at a point now where I draw power from the fact that I know we have to fight against this crime.”


Friday, 15 April 2011

Erdogan Boorishly Insults France

At a meeting of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe in Strasbourg, intended to promote friendship between peoples, Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan grossly and gratuitously insulted France, the host nation.

Asked an unrelated question by a Dutch deputy, Erdogan bizarrely launched his first attack on France:
Here, in France, I see that the Roma are being expelled. Is that democracy? In France, today, there is no respect for individual religious liberty. Is that religious liberty? Those who want to judge Turkey should take a look at themselves first!

At that point, no French representative had spoken at all in the debate.

The French parliamentarian, Muriel Marland-Militello, who is herself of Turkish (Orthodox) descent, her mother hailing from Istanbul, asked Erdogan a question about the protection of minorities in Turkey. He replied:

In Turkish, when somebody does not know something or speaks out of context, it is said that they are from France. Mrs. Marland-Militello is clearly from France.

The French representative later said that she was absolutely astonished at the disrespectful and aggressive tone and content of Erdogan's reply.

She also said that she was very attached to her Turkish roots because of the Turkish Muslims who saved her (Armenian) family from death during the Armenian Genocide in 1915. Some would note that it is rather curious to be grateful to a people for saving one from a genocide that they themselves were committing. No doubt there are still lingering traces of dhimmitude in her psyche.

Finally, I note with curiosity that so far none of the major French papers seem to have reported Erdogan's remarks.

Thursday, 14 April 2011

Turkish Government Tries to Suppress Free Speech in Europe

The Flemish nationalist party Vlaams Belang, together with the Austrian FPÖ, the Sweden Democrats and the Italian Lega Nord, recently held a conference called "Netherlands, Denmark, Switzerland, Italy - a firm immigration policy works!". Among other things, the possibility of holding a Europe-wide referendum on Turkish accession to the European Union was discussed.

At the conference the poster shown above was released. It shows a "black sheep" bearing the colours of Turkey and Morocco being ejected from Europe. This is one of the many variants of a poster first used by the Swiss People's Party when Switzerland held a referendum on deporting foreigners who had committed crimes.

The Turkish ambassador to Belgium has issued a formal protest to the Belgian government and has called for the poster to be banned, claiming it is racist and xenophobic.

Filip Dewinter, one of the leaders of Vlaams Belang, has demanded that the Turkish ambassador be reprimanded, saying "We have no lessons to learn from the fundamentalist Turkish government...Clearly, the Turks have a problem with liberty of expression, which forms an indissoluble part of our democracy."


Wednesday, 13 April 2011

Accession of Turkey Would Bankrupt EU

The German CDU MEP Markus Pieper recently commissioned a consultancy firm which specialises in studying the EU's structural and regional policies to examine what effect the accession of Turkey would have on the EU's budget. The answer was astonishing: in the period 2007-2012 Turkey would be entitled to €124.5 billion in structural assistance funds. The total amount of structural funding available over this period is €343 billion, so Turkey alone would consume more than one third of the entire structural assistance budget. Of course this would mean that current recipients would get far less.

According to EU Commission statistics, Turkey has already received around €3 billion since 2007 to help prepare it for EU entry. In the current year it will receive €781,9 million and this is due to rise to €900 million in 2012.

Tuesday, 12 April 2011

Is Turkey Stifling NATO Action in Libya?

France and Britain have today been complaining about NATO's lack of effectiveness in Libya. French Foreign Minister Juppé told France Info radio, "It's not enough."

He said NATO must stop Gaddafi shelling civilians and take out heavy weapons bombarding Misrata. In a barbed reference to the alliance command of the operation, Juppe added: "NATO must play its role fully. It wanted to take the lead in operations, we accepted that."

British Foreign Secretary William Hague also said NATO must intensify attacks, calling on other alliance countries to match London's supply of extra ground attack aircraft in Libya.


The Libyan rebels are in no doubt about who is to blame for NATO's lack of effectiveness: Turkey.

Earlier this week, the rebels turned back a Turkish ship carrying food and medical aid to Benghazi, and on Wednesday they physically attacked the Turkish Consulate in the eastern city.

“Turkey is blocking NATO attacks” on Col. Gadhafi’s forces, Guma el-Gamaty, coordinator for the rebels’ Interim National Transitional Council in Britain, told The Washington Times in a phone interview from London.

“We believe the reason why NATO attacks have come down in the last four or five days is because Turkey is vetoing a lot of them,” Mr. el-Gamaty said.


There is intense anger among the rebels about Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan's perceived friendliness towards Gaddafi.

...hundreds of protestors took to the streets in Benghazi last week chanting slogans against him and protesting Turkey’s position on Libya.

Judging by what is coming out of that city – where the provisional National Council is based – many members of the anti-Gadhafi opposition feel that Erdoğan and Turkey are indirectly supporting the Gadhafi regime and prolonging its life.

Erdogan has absurdly insinuated that France was behind these protests:

Erdoğan was quick, of course, to blame outside agitators for the demonstrations in Benghazi against himself and Turkey. “We have noted who is behind this,” he said in a loaded manner, in what many interpreted as a dig at France whose flag was seen during the demonstrations.

This is paranoia worthy of a third world despot. It seems Turkey may not even get its expected financial reward from Libya as the Libyan government has sent letters to Turkish contractors who have quit the country, demanding that they resume work immediately, which, of course, they will not do. This has been interpreted as a prelude to a refusal of payment.

Sunday, 10 April 2011

Discrimination remains at forefront of Turkish society

Discrimination based on ethnic or religious background remains persistent in all facets of Turkish state and society, according to Rakel Dink, the widow of slain journalist Hrant Dink.

“A schoolbook in Armenian has been [introduced] to the curriculum for primary schools, but [it is not enough],” Dink said Saturday at the Building Peace conference at Istanbul Bilgi University.

“The Kurdish language, which I speak, is still politically banned. Being a Christian is another concern in this country, nobody knows what is said to Christians every day,” she said.

Dink, like her late husband, is a Turkish-Armenian. During Saturday’s conference, she spoke from the same rostrum that her journalist husband had spoken at during a conference on Armenians in 2005. During that event, Hrant Dink was called “an enemy” for his work, which challenged the pervading nationalist discourse on the Armenian question.

“How will discriminatory and racist speeches, moves, plans and projects be collected, removed, wrapped up and thrown into the garbage can in this country?” Rakel Dink asked, adding that all pressure against people made them turn in upon themselves, thus shutting themselves off from society.

Dink also said nobody intended to apologize for terming the participants in the 2005 conference as “enemies.”

“They might even say ‘enemies have gathered’ for this meeting. As long as an apology won’t be made, everything can happen again,” she said, referring to the Sept. 6-7 events of 1955, in which shops, houses, and churches belonging to the non-Muslim minorities, especially Greeks, were targeted in a coordinated pogrom.

“Fears, anger, rage, jealousies, hatreds, prejudices and insecurity makes all of us even smaller,” she said, adding that people in Turkey were “poisoning” themselves with lies they try to believe. “There will be no change without maturity, although it might be painful and frightening.”

Justice means not only punishing the guilty but also giving back the rights to the injured party.

“How can there be the thought of peace of without justice?” she said, adding that deferred punishments encouraged criminals and provided incentives for crimes to be committed. “We [know] the rapists and killers in our country. Do not show off by saying we are a social and a democratic state, a state of law.”

Turkey is also a global “expert” in writing “reports full of lies” in the wake of catastrophic and painful social events, Dink said.


Saturday, 9 April 2011

Arrested Turkish journalist answers accusations from prison

There is a “deep state” in Turkey known by many names, but the Ergenekon investigation and the ongoing trials are not an effort to eliminate it – it’s just a changing of the actors, according to recently journalist Ahmet Şık.

Şık made the comment as he shed light on the accusations regarding his book draft in an interview conducted via postal mail with the monthly Express magazine.

According to Şık, the police and prosecutors who run the investigation are connected to the Fethullah Gülen religious community. As mentioned in the Ergenekon book “40 satır 40 katır” (Between a rock and a hard place) he co-wrote, and his court testimony before arrest, Şık said although he believes in the “deep state,” often also known as Ergenekon, is real; this investigation is not the cure.

The content of Şık’s latest work, “İmamın Ordusu” (The Imam’s Army), has been the hottest topic in Turkey since his arrest on March 3. At the time of his arrest, he told reporters, “Those who touch them, burn.” The demand of Şık’s release by his lawyers was denied by court a second time Friday.

Şık has been accused of writing his book under orders of Ergenekon and the notes found on drafts of his book have been offered as proof by various Turkish columnists who argue that his arrest is just. Şık said that while he was being questioned by prosecutors he was asked only about the notes on the draft allegedly found during a raid on news portal OdaTV offices on Feb. 17 and that the notes were his. Once more, Şık stated he is a socialist and had no relation to the ultra-nationalist news portal and is unaware of how a digital copy of the draft ended up there. The notes found on other copies belonged to a source that he sent the draft to for checking the information that the source had provided, Şık said. “It is no different than a reporter sending the text to an interviewee to check.” He also said “İmamın Ordusu” was a draft title suggested by a friend that he found “provocative” and was looking for another one.

Ergenekon is an alleged ultranationalist, shadowy gang known accused of planning to topple the government by staging a coup initially by spreading chaos and mayhem. It is allegedly an extension of the “deep state;” an unofficial organization within the state that operated above the elected governments since the Cold War.


Thursday, 7 April 2011

Turkey is the Globe's Leading Jailer of Journalists

As Professor of Journalism, Roy Greenslade, recently noted in the London Evening Standard, Turkey does not just have a press freedom problem. It is, in fact, the "globe's leading jailer of journalists". According to the organisations that compile figures on such things, Turkey has imprisoned more journalists than any other country: more than Iran, more than China, more than North Korea! How can this country seriously be considered a candidate for membership of the European Union?

The OSCE recently issued a statement denouncing the lack of press freedom in the country.

Dunja Mijatović, the OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media, today asked Turkish authorities to bring the country's media legislation in line with OSCE commitments on media freedom following the release by her Office of a study that shows 57 journalists are imprisoned in Turkey.

“At present, 57 journalists are in prison in Turkey and the number of ongoing trials that can result in imprisonment of journalists is estimated to be from 700 to 1000,” said Mijatović, who commissioned the study after receiving a number of reports about imprisoned journalists.

In a letter to Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu, she wrote that the survey intended to show the need for media legislation reform in Turkey. She also offered her Office's support in developing such reforms.

“The sheer number of cases poses fundamental questions about the legal provisions governing journalism in Turkey, and it raises concerns that the number of journalists in prison can further increase,” Mijatović added.

“The OSCE participating States, including Turkey, have reaffirmed on several occasions the importance of free expression and the need to protect it. The OSCE commitments stress that everyone has the right to freedom of expression. This right includes freedom to hold opinions and to receive and impart information and ideas without interference by public authority. Turkey reaffirmed the need to protect these values as recently as at the 2010 OSCE Astana Summit.”

She said that though governments have a legitimate need to fight the threat terrorism poses to national security, such security challenges should not be used by governments to curb media freedom. Criminalization of speech should be restricted to clear instances of intentional incitement to terrorism or other forms of violence.

“It is very important that authorities protect objective reporting even on sensitive topics such as terrorism or national security. The public’s right to know includes such issues,” Mijatović said.

She also noted that certain details in the study could not be determined precisely as the justifications for the imprisonment of journalists were not always in the public domain.


The table of imprisoned journalists can be accessed here.

Wednesday, 6 April 2011

Turkey rocked by alleged cheating on college exam

Bearing in mind the recent Wikileaks revelations that Gulenist-friendly candidates were given the correct answers for the Turkish Police exam in advance, it's tempting to speculate that something similar was going on here:

ANKARA, Turkey (AP) — Turkish prosecutors are looking into allegations of possible cheating and favoritism in a rite of passage for young Turks nationwide: the annual university entrance exam.

The allegations were raised this week after a lawyer discovered a formula to reach the correct answers for multiple-choice math questions on one exam.

In a country rife with conspiracy theories, the discovery fueled suspicions by some media, students and teacher unions that the state agency which makes the exams devised the alleged code so that students deemed to be pro-government could score high points.

The government vigorously denied such a scheme, but the prosecutor's office in Ankara, the Turkish capital, launched a probe Wednesday into the allegations.

The scandal feeds into mistrust between supporters of Turkey's ruling Islamic-rooted party, which has a strong electoral mandate, and those who fear the government seeks to expand its power so as to undermine secular ideals protected by the constitution.

Some 1.7 million students took the exam March 27, and those who pass will take another exam in June.

Ali Demir, head of the examination institution, insisted that the formula for reaching the correct answer was only valid for a copy of the exam questions that was made available to the media after the test. The formula would not have worked for students taking the exam, he said, without explaining why the media copy was coded in such a way.

Ayla Varan, the lawyer who discovered the formula, realigned the five answer options — from the smallest to the highest in number — beneath the five options printed on the exam. In an easy comparison, it emerged that the correct answer was the option whose position did not change in the realignment.

Varan said she decided to look into the questions after some students who took the exam said the numbers in the multiple-choice answer options were printed in a seemingly random order, instead of the usual ascending or descending order.

It was not clear how many, if any, students benefited from the alleged scam. The exam encompasses several subjects in its 160 questions — 25 percent of them are math-related.
Small groups of high schools students have staged demonstrations in several cities against the state-supervised examination board, known by its Turkish acronym OSYM. In one city, a lawyer petitioned a court to scrap the exam results and devise a new system.

"I believe there will soon be a clarification from prosecutors that these claims are not true," Education Minister Nimet Cubukcu said.

Later, in an address in parliament, Cubukcu said: "I would like to address our students, their parents and all sections of the community who have concerns over the exam: I want you to trust us."

She accused opposition parties of using the allegations for political gain ahead of elections in June.

Last year, an exam to select employees for the civil service, also run by the OSYM, was canceled following a cheating scandal that came to light after an unusually high number of people scored the highest possible mark. Inspectors concluded that the questions were stolen and distributed to some contestants before the exam. The scandal forced the former OSYM head to resign.

The examination board determines which students go to university, based on a two-stage, three-hour exam in March and June on subjects including language, history, biology and mathematics. The process is highly competitive, reflecting a relative dearth of opportunities in higher education in Turkey.

The pressure is so intense that a newspaper columnist once described students who took the exam as "war veterans."

In 2006, a Turkish teenager made a video of himself lip-synching a punk rock song that blasted Turkey's tough system of university enrollment and put it on YouTube. The band that released the song ended up being prosecuted on charges of insulting state employees but were eventually acquitted.

Copyright © 2011 The Associated Press.


Tuesday, 5 April 2011

Austria Demands Recall of Turkey's Ambassador


The ambassadorial crisis has escalated between Turkey and Austria in the weeks before Austrian President Heinz Fischer's scheduled visit to Turkey in May.

In the messages sent to Ankara through diplomatic channels, Austria demanded that Turkey summon its ambassador, Ecvet Tezcan, in
Vienna, who caused a problem with an interview with Die Presse newspaper last November.

The Austrian government said otherwise the president's visit to Turkey might be in danger. In his interview, Ambassador Tezcan criticized Austrian government's policy toward foreigners, and said "Turks in Austria were forced to establish ghettos."


Monday, 4 April 2011

German Primary Schoolchildren Forced To Learn Turkish

There is a shocking report in DiePresse today about a primary school in Hamburg where the children are taught both German and Turkish. Only about half of the children are of Turkish background, so there are traditional German children having their education compromised by being forced to learn an alien tongue. A respect for Turkish culture (sic) is also inculcated into them. A map of Turkey hangs on the wall alongside a picture of the brutal dictator and mass murderer Mustafa Kemal Ataturk! A teacher boasts that this indoctrination promotes "cultural openness" in the pupils.

DiePresse also reports that the Austrian government intends to introduce Turkish tuition in secondary schools soon. Apparently plans are already being made for this to begin within the next few years, but the political parties have made no public announcement about it for fear of a hostile public reaction.

Sunday, 3 April 2011

Suppressed Book About Gulen Network Leaked on Internet

The Imam's Army by Ahmet Sik, the book the Turkish state tried to suppress by conducting raids to confiscate all copies of it, has been leaked on the internet using Google's online document-sharing service. Authorities in Turkey claimed the book, which describes the Gulen network's infiltration of the Turkish police, was linked to the Ergenekon investigation. More than 100,000 people have now downloaded the book.

A court order previously deemed it illegal to possess digital copies of the manuscript, leading to the carrying out March 24 of raids at the book’s printing house and among people who had digital copies of “The Imam’s Army.” The copies were deleted and the people involved were warned that they might be accused of aiding an illegal organization.


Acts of civil disobedience were meanwhile started Thursday by groups that featured the book on several websites. Members of one of these, the Anti-Thought-Crime Initiative, went a step further and informed on themselves to prosecutors. The initiative posted a petition on its website encouraging people to join the action.

Saturday, 2 April 2011

Argentine judge rules that Turkey committed Armenian genocide

BUENOS AIRES, Argentina — An Argentine judge says "the Turkish state committed the crime of genocide against the Armenian people" between 1915 and 1923.

The ruling Friday also says Turkey should help an Armenian descendant living in Argentina learn the fate of more than 50 of his relatives who disappeared nearly a century ago.

Many international experts say the killing of up to 1.5 million Armenians by Ottoman Turks around the time of World War I was genocide. Turkey maintains that far fewer died and due to civil war and unrest, rather than genocide.

The Turkish Embassy in Buenos Aires has not immediately responded to a request for comment.
Judge Norberto Oyarbide says his ruling is "declarative" only, with no value other than the truth.

Copyright © 2011 The Canadian Press. All rights reserved.


Friday, 1 April 2011

PM David Cameron Says Case for Turkish Membership of EU is Clearer Than Ever

At a press conference with Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan, whom he called a "friend", British Prime Minister David Cameron declared that the case for Turkish membership of the EU was "clearer than ever".

We also discussed Turkey’s aspirations to join the European Union, aspirations that in my view are simply undeniable. The case for Turkish membership of the European Union, in my view, is clearer than ever for increased economic prosperity, for a bigger market for our goods and services, for more energy security and for real benefits for the EU’s long-term stability. I also believe the accession process itself is a catalyst for change. I will continue to champion Turkey’s accession.

Erdogan used the occasion to complain that Turkey wasn't being invited to EU summits any more.

Since 1959 Turkey has been talking to the European Union, applied to the European Union, and it is not very proper to see this kind of treatment. As I always say, the European Union until the negotiations began, until the summit on 14th December 2004, we were invited to all of the EU summits, but then, we don’t know what happened. All of a sudden Turkey as an accession country was no longer invited to the summit meetings. We were invited to those summits before we began our accession talks, but we are no longer invited since we began our accession talks and we are sorry to see this happen.

[Photograph is Crown copyright] Source