Tuesday, 28 June 2011

Freedom Flotilla Coming to Turkey

In response to the Gaza Flotilla, a Freedom Flotilla is to set off from New York on a round-the-world tour. It will visit countries where non-Muslims have faced or are facing persecution from Muslims.

According to the organisers, it intends to commemorate the Greek and Armenian genocides in visits to Greece and Turkey.

The first stop will be Greece, in recognition of the Greek victims of jihad in Anatolia for well over a thousand years. The Freedom From Jihad Flotilla will then sail along the Turkish coast, where speakers will pay homage to the millions of victims of the Armenian and Greek genocides in Turkey.


Monday, 27 June 2011

Turkey’s veil of silence over murdered Brit

A spate of thefts in which tourists are robbed after their drinks are spiked is being covered up by the Turkish authorities, according to the family of a British man who died last year after a visit to a nightclub.

The body of Andrew Smyth, 32, an electrician from Swindon, Wiltshire, was discovered on September 12 in a forest outside Manavgat, near the popular Turkish holiday resort of Antalya. Forensic tests suggest his drink was spiked, and video taken shortly before his death showed him dazed and unstable as he was forced to withdraw all his money from a cash machine. His body was found a few miles away, indicating that he was left to die in the forest.

Tourism workers on Turkey’s Mediterranean coast say the spiking of tourists’ drinks is a much bigger problem than is officially admitted. Many cases end in robbery or sexual assault. Fatalities are rare, but Smyth’s death suggests the victims’ families can expect little support from either local authorities or the Foreign Office.

Nine months after his death little has been done to find those responsible. His family have the impression that the Turkish authorities want to hush up his death for fear of damaging tourism, and that the British government is reluctant to strain relations by pushing for justice.

A Foreign Office statement said: “We can confirm the death of a British national, Andrew Smyth, in Manavgat, Turkey, in September 2010. Consular staff are in contact with the family and are providing consular assistance at this difficult time.”

This was news to Smyth’s family. “We flew to Turkey and met Jane Baz, the British consul in Antalya,” said Chris Smyth, Andrew’s 63-year-old father, a retired soldier. “We wanted to generate some publicity to try to persuade witnesses to come forward, but Jane Baz told us not to go to the press. She said it would jeopardise the investigation.”

“She said we had to take the officer in charge of the investigation, Metin Kaya, out to lunch,” added Lynne Cannon, Smyth’s 61-year-old companion. “She said that we had to be nice to Metin or he wouldn’t do anything.”

Baz dismissed suggestions that she could be doing more to help Smyth’s family. “I’m not a detective,” she said.

“Andrew was my only child,” said Smyth. “I still can’t come to terms with it. And the indifference, the lies and false promises have made it all so much worse.”

A toxicology report said a combination of heroin, morphine and codeine was found in Smyth’s blood. Footage from a camera outside the nightclub showed him leaving at 3am and someone in a T-shirt, identified as a club regular, tapping another man on the shoulder and gesturing for him to follow.

Over the next 20 minutes, video footage of the cash machines shows Smyth surrounded by several men, being made to take out money, until he gestures that there is no more. It is the last image of him alive.

“I have never loved anyone like I loved Andy,” said Maria Jones, his ex-girlfriend, who had a 10-year relationship with him. “We were thinking about getting back together. But now I will never know what could have been. All I know is that I will never get over this.”

Source: Sunday Times

Sunday, 26 June 2011

UN Report on Mavi Marmara Incident Said to Be Highly Critical of Turkey

Turkey has asked Israel to agree to a toned-down version of the UN Secretary-General's report on last year's flotilla to Gaza, according to a senior government official in Jerusalem.

According to the official, the Turks are "very worried" about the harsh criticism of Turkey they expect the report to contain, and want Israel to agree to a softened version as part of a package deal to end the crisis between the two countries over the flotilla, which took place in May 2010.

The director general of the Turkish Foreign Ministry, Feridun Sinirlioglu, conveyed Turkey's request in a secret meeting early last week in Geneva with Vice Prime Minister Moshe Ya'alon.

A draft of the report, due to be released within two weeks, was given to Israel and Turkey about six weeks ago. The committee determined that Israel's naval blockade of Gaza is in keeping with international law, and therefore its actions to stop the flotilla were also legal.

According to a senior government official in Jerusalem, the report criticizes the Turkish government and highlights the relationship between it and IHH, the group that organized the flotilla.

Source: Haaretz

Saturday, 25 June 2011

Court Judgements Take AKP Closer to Constitution-Changing Majority

A Kurdish deputy has been barred from assuming his seat in parliament, provoking a Kurdish boycott. Deputies from other parties have also been blocked by courts; in one case, the deputy who actually won the election was replaced by an AKP candidate.

ISTANBUL - A Turkish court ruled on Friday that a retired general should not take his seat in parliament because he was in custody on charges related to an alleged plot to topple the government.

The ruling, which follows the disqualification of three other opposition members who won seats in the June 12 election, could bring Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan's party closer to obtaining the 330 seats needed to call a referendum on constitutional change without the support of other parties.

General Engin Alan won a seat in Istanbul for the far right Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) despite being held in Silivri prison with close to 200 others charged in the "Sledgehammer" case, which centers on an alleged military plot in 2003.

Alan's disqualification came a day after another court decision to stop two elected candidates from the main opposition Republican People's Party (CHP) from taking their seats.

Source: Jerusalem Post

Friday, 24 June 2011

Turkish Military Rations Found in Libya

Rumours that Turkey has been continuing to trade with Libya despite the NATO military campaign against it have been circulating for some time. The discovery of recently-produced Turkish military rations at abandoned Libyan army bases appears to confirm the suspicions.

Turkey has dismissed a suggestion that it may be breaching United Nations sanctions on Libya after Al Jazeera reported that Turkish food rations were feeding forces loyal to Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi.

The Turkish foreign ministry said on Thursday it has no knowledge of any Turkish company exporting food rations or any other supplies to the Libyan government since UN Security Council sanctions were imposed on March 17.

Among the supplies at three different bases, Al Jazeera discovered military rations which - according to their labels - were manufactured in Turkey.

The rations are produced by UNIFO, a Turkish company which specialises in portable rations and meals ready-to-eat, according to its website. Labels show that bread packets from inside the rations were produced in March.

In a statement issued on June 24, UNIFO denied any wrongdoing, saying that its products "can not be classified as military products" and that the company has "not made any sales contract with [the] Government of Libya".


Thursday, 23 June 2011

Turkey Veers West?

Various commentators are expressing the view that, with the election behind it, Turkey is now seeking a rapprochement with "the West" or with Israel. The IHH pulling out of the Gaza flotilla with the notorious Mavi Marmara ship could be interpreted as a sign of this, for example, although the Turkish government has always (not very credibly) claimed it has no influence over the IHH. Now there are reports that Israel and Turkey are conducting secrets talks with a view to re-establishing an amicable relationship:

Israel and Turkey have been holding secret talks at several levels to end their diplomatic crisis, Haaretz newspaper reported on Tuesday, quoting a senior Israeli official.

The report, for which there was no confirmation, said an official representing Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Feridun Sinirlioglu, undersecretary at the Turkish foreign ministry, were involved in the discussions.

Talks were also being held between the Israeli and Turkish representatives on a UN panel investigating Israel's deadly raid on a Gaza-bound flotilla in May 2010 that left nine Turkish nationals dead, the paper said.

The two representatives -- Israel's Yosef Ciechanover and Turkey's Ozdem Sanberk -- have been working together on the flotilla inquiry for the past several months.

But they have also been onpassing messages to their respective governments and even drafted understandings to end the crisis, according to the Haaretz.

"Israel is interested in the restoration of healthy and positive bilateral relations, which are in the interest of both parties," a senior Israeli official told AFP, although he declined to comment on the report.


Even if this is all true, what does it say about the moral character of the Turkish government that it is willing to engage in rabble-rousing anti-western and anti-Israeli rhetoric to help it win an election? And what does it say about the Turkish people that they respond to such rhetoric? At a minimum, the only reasonable conclusion to draw from this cynical episode is that Turks are not fit to be members of the European Union.

Tuesday, 21 June 2011

Amnesty International: New report reveals discrimination against Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender people

People in Turkey are often compelled to conceal their sexuality from employers, officials and their own families due to fear of violence and prejudice, according to a new report launched by Amnesty International today (21 June). Hate crimes, including violent attacks and murders, are prevalent but largely ignored by the authorities. Transgender women are at particular risk of such attacks says the report, which highlights the discrimination faced by lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people in a country where there are no provisions to prevent it.

Amnesty International is calling on the Turkish authorities to amend the constitution to prohibit discrimination on grounds of sexual orientation or gender identity. Laws should be brought into force that will protect LGBT people from widespread discrimination, including from officials in health services, education, housing and the workplace.

At Pride marches across the UK this summer, Amnesty will be asking people to take action in solidarity with LGBT people in Turkey, by adding a picture of themselves, holding up the message “Turkey: Human rights are my Pride!” to a Flickr photo petition at http://on.fb.me/fightdiscrimination.

Andrew Gardner, Amnesty International’s researcher on Turkey, said:

“The pervasive prejudice against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people in Turkey and the fear of ostracism and attacks, means that many feel compelled to conceal their sexual orientation, even from their families.

“Homophobic statements by government officials have encouraged discrimination against individuals. Rather than repeat past failures, the new government must respect and protect their rights through words and actions.

“It is the responsibility of all the parties in the Parliament to ensure that any new constitutional settlement in Turkey outlaws discrimination on grounds of sexuality or gender identity.

“Comprehensive legislation to counter discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation and gender identity is a must – and it should come as soon as possible. However, the authorities must also show the political will to combat discrimination by demonstrating that homophobic public discourse is unacceptable.”

Amnesty’s 50-page report, “Not an illness nor a crime: Lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people in Turkey demand equality”, also reveals how transgender women can suffer particular abuse. Of the 104 transgender women who took part in a survey conducted by the LGBT solidarity organisation Lambda Istanbul in 2010, more than 89 per cent said that they had previously been victims of physical violence in police detention.

Arbitrary fines issued by police officers against transgender women going about their daily lives amount to systematic harassment and a punishment due to their gender identity. Those who challenge this practice can face threats and violence from the police.

Andrew Gardner said:

“Unable to find a job, transgender women are often forced into illegal sex work where they are additionally harassed by law enforcement officials. They are also the most likely target of hate crimes yet the issue remains largely ignored by the authorities.”

LGBT people are also discriminated against when they are the victims of violent crimes.
In 2010 alone LGBT associations documented 16 murders of individuals believed to have been killed due to their perceived sexual orientation or gender identity. Many hate crimes are not reported and even when they are, such acts are not often registered as crimes. The motivation for the crime is routinely not investigated, and in many cases those responsible are not brought to justice due to shortcomings in the investigation and prosecution of these crimes.

Numerous laws, while not being explicitly discriminatory, are applied by the judiciary in a way that leads to discrimination.

In the face of government inaction, LGBT solidarity associations are the ones that try to combat such abuses. However, they themselves have faced civil law cases brought by the authorities aimed at their closure, and other discriminatory attacks on their rights to freedom of expression and association.

Andrew Gardner added:

“LGBT solidarity associations need protection and respect. Now is the time for political figures to come forward and speak openly in support of them.”

Eylül is a 24-year-old transgender sex worker from Eskisehir and a founder member of a local network of LGBT activists. On 1 February 2011, at around 9.30pm, she received a call from a man claiming to be a client but who she recognised on arrival in her house as the man who had been allegedly involved in assaults and thefts against other transgender women and gay men. She asked him to leave but the man refused and after many threats of violence, Eylül was raped. She made a criminal complaint and was referred to a forensic medicine department for a physical and psychological assessment. On 17 February 2011, she told Amnesty International that another transgender woman sex worker had been assaulted by the same man and had needed six stitches on her stomach after being attacked with a knife.

Ahmet Yýldýz, a 26-year-old openly gay man living with his partner in Istanbul, was shot dead on 15 July 2008 in front of his house in what many believe to be an “honour” killing. In the months leading up to the shooting Ahmet had been receiving threats of violence from his family. He made a criminal complaint against his family and asked for protection. After the murder, it emerged that the complaint was not investigated and the state prosecutor transferred the complaint to another office on the grounds that it fell within the jurisdiction of the neighbouring district, where it was not followed up. Activists regard the actions of the authorities as reluctance to confront homophobic violence. Ahmet’s partner told Amnesty International that the criminal investigation was not carried out effectively – leads were not followed and the father, the main suspect, was not questioned.

Asil, a 21-year-old gay man from Izmir, told Amnesty International that he was subjected to verbal abuse, solitary confinement, threats of violence and humiliating and discriminatory medical examinations before he was able to be exempted from performing military service. All men in Turkey aged between 18 and 40 are obliged to perform compulsory military service. As no civilian alternative is available and gay man are at risk of violence in the military, many resort to the discriminatory provision enabling them to be exempted from military service on the grounds that their sexual orientation represents a “psychosexual disorder”.


Monday, 20 June 2011

Is Angela Merkel Getting Ready to Betray Europe?

Michael Spreng, a German politics blogger has claimed that German Chancellor Angela Merkel may be getting ready to revise her policy on Turkish accession to the EU. Merkel has been extremely sceptical of Turkish EU membership thus far and has spoken of offering a "privileged partnership" instead. Now, claims this blogger, sources close to the Chancellor have given signals that she is getting ready to revise the policy towards an acceptance of Turkish membership. Spreng claims that the wave of Arab revolutions have convinced Merkel that Europe needs Turkey as an intermediary to the Middle East.

Spreng formerly worked as a journalist on the Bild newspaper and served as an election adviser to Edmund Stoiber, who preceded Angela Merkel as leader of the CSU/CDU and stood unsuccessfully for the German chancellorship. Therefore it is reasonable to assume that he has highly-placed contacts within the CDU/CSU hierarchy.

If the prediction proves to be an accurate one, it can be expected to cause major ruptures within the ruling CDU/CSU where scepticism of Turkey entry has long been deeply engrained.

Ironically, Angela Merkel recently acknowledged that immigrant-origin youth in Germany were disproportionately involved in violent crime; and most of those violently criminal youths are Turks.

Sunday, 19 June 2011

Legal Manoeuvres Underway to Stop Gaza Flotilla

Shurat HaDin (SH), the Israeli Legal Center, is implementing several strategies to stop the international flotilla against Israel. One is a civil lawsuit against 14 ships set to participate in this flotilla. A second action is Shurat HaDin's legal warning to Inmarsat that under U.S. law they will be open to charges of aiding and abetting terrorism if they provide services to these Gaza-bound ships. A third action by SH is their letter to maritime insurance companies informing them that by insuring sea vessels used by terrorists their company will be liable for any future attacks carried out by those terrorists.

More information here.

Friday, 17 June 2011

Senior NATO Sources Confirm Turkey Has Stopped NATO Attacking Key Gaddafi Targets

In a Telegraph article today, Con Coughlin, the paper's military correspondent, often regarded as little more than a mouthpiece of the armed services, confirms that Turkey has stymied the effectiveness of the NATO military action in Libya.

That strained relationship was certainly in evidence at the start of the Libya crisis, when Ankara opposed Nato’s plans to launch a UN-backed military intervention to protect anti-Gaddafi rebels. Senior officers say the Turks have frequently intervened during the bombing offensive to prevent key Gaddafi targets from being attacked.


Wednesday, 15 June 2011

Video Presentation on the Fethullah Gulen Network

Source: EuropeNews

PM poses as a Mideastern rather than a European leader

Just as we Turks have turned our eyes to Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s speech to see whether he would replace his aggressive rhetoric with a reconciliatory tone, the movers and shakers of the international community have also tuned in, to see the first glimpse of how the ruling party’s landslide victory will affect its foreign policy.

In his victory speech, which has come to be nicknamed the “balcony speech,” as he addressed his followers from his party headquarters’ balcony, the prime minister did not mention even once Europe, the European Union or the West.

Well aware that he will be watched by international audiences, he preferred to address the world as a Middle Eastern leader, rather than a European or Western leader.

He started his speech by saluting “all friendly and brotherly nations from Baghdad, Damascus, Beirut, Cairo, Sarajevo, Baku and Nicosia.”

Later on he said, “The hopes of the victims and the oppressed have won,” and, “Beirut has won as much as İzmir. West Bank, Gaza, Ramallah, Jerusalem have won as much as Diyarbakır. The Middle East, the Caucasus and the Balkans have won, just as Turkey has won.”

The fact that he mentioned Sarajevo, while avoiding mention of Europe, clearly shows that he sees himself as the leader of the Muslims and that of those Muslims who are oppressed, not by their regimes, in the view of Erdoğan, but by the Christian West. So, Erdoğan’s world view, based on juxtaposing the oppressed East vis-à-vis the imperialist West, is here to stay.

Source: Hurriyet

Tuesday, 14 June 2011

Vote Fraud in Turkish Elections?

The possibility of vote fraud was being discussed before these elections occurred. Barry Rubin has some interesting observations in light of the results:

Daniel Pipes wrote an article asking if the June 2011 election would be the last free and fair election in Turkey. But perhaps it was the first non-free one. I definitely cannot prove this but questions should be raised about government fraud. The questions revolve around the phenomenal and suspicious massive increase of voters and include the following points:

–Why have hundreds of voter records belonging to dead people been discovered before the elections?

–Why were 69 million ballots printed when the maximum number of voters was 52 million?

–How did local AKP governments use threats on companies and voters that they would suffer if the government wasn’t reelected?

–How was it possible for the number of voters to increase so dramatically: eight million in four years or more than double what one would expect from Turkish statistics?

There is not enough enough evidence to charge massive fraud but there’s enough evidence to investigate it. Turkish media might be too intimidated to do so.

I think that the government would have won the election any way. But it had a big incentive to try to steal some extra seats in order to have the two-thirds’ majority needed to write a new constitution without anyone else having a say or at least the needed minimum to write a constitution and then submit it to a referendum for which it came very close.


Monday, 13 June 2011

The Islamisation of the Turkish Military

Barry Rubin notes the islamisation of the Turkish military.

Compare the election results from voters in the Turkish army general staff to that of the overall population: 138 CHP (Kemalists); 50 MHP (Nationalists); 46 AKP (Islamists); 2 SP (even more radical Islamists). So on one hand while the population gave 50 percent to the Islamists, the high-ranking military gave them just 20 percent. On the other hand, such a high vote for Islamists even in that fortress of secularism indicates the gradual infiltration of Islamist supporters into the army. They might be sincere or opportunistic, of course, but in a sense it doesn’t matter. Four years from now, after another term for the AKP, it might well be far higher.

The Face of the Enemy

It's good to look into the face of the enemy once in a while, so you know what you are up against. This article from Javier Solana shows that these people are simply impervious to rational argument. His disdain for democracy is apparent when he talks about 'facing down the populist movements in Europe that would shun “outsiders.”'

MADRID – Just five months ago, Osama bin Laden was alive, Hosni Mubarak was firmly in control in Egypt, and Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali ruled Tunisia with an iron hand. Today, popular rebellion and political change have spread throughout the region. We have witnessed brutal repression of protests in Syria and Yemen, Saudi troops crossing into Bahrain, and an ongoing battle for Libya.

For Europe, the “Arab Spring” should refocus attention on an issue largely ignored in recent months: the benefits of Turkey’s full membership in the European Union. Given the tremendous opportunities present in the current circumstances, the advantages for Europe of Turkey’s accession should be obvious.

With Recep Tayyip Erdoğan now elected to another term as Turkey’s prime minister, and with Poland, a country well acquainted with the importance of Europe’s strategic position in the world, assuming the EU presidency at the end of the month, now is a time for the Union and Turkey to “reset” their negotiations over Turkish membership.

The good that Turkey can bring to Europe was visible even before the “Arab Spring.” Europe is, by definition, culturally diverse, so diversity is the EU’s destiny. And, if Europe is to become an active global player, rather than a museum, it needs the fresh perspective and energy of the people of Turkey.

Europe today is both larger and different compared to the Europe of 1999, when Turkey was invited to begin the accession process. It is also experiencing a profound economic crisis, which erupted around the same time that the Lisbon Treaty – aimed at accommodating EU enlargement – was finally approved. Had the treaty been approved in 2005 as intended, it would have been in place for six years, and the strain placed by the crisis on EU economic governance – so visible in the eurozone’s recent problems – would have been much more manageable.

But the EU always faces problems, resolves them, and moves on. Today, we don’t have a treasury, but we are about to have something similar. Similarly, the European Central Bank has capacities today that no one imagined in, say, 1997.

A major challenge that Europe must still face is migration, which will only become a bigger problem over time. Between now and 2050, Europe’s workforce will decrease by 70 million. Maintaining our economy requires migration and open EU borders – and facing down the populist movements in Europe that would shun “outsiders.”

Today’s Turkey has also changed dramatically since 1999, both politically and economically, and this has much to do with the EU accession process. Indeed, without the attraction of the EU – its “soft” power – such changes would not have occurred.

Economically, Turkey is now in the G-20 – and playing an effective role there. And, politically, Turkey has emerged as a regional leader, a role that it takes extremely seriously.

With just-concluded parliamentary elections, and a new constitution to be approved, Turkey is approaching an epochal moment. I was a member of the Spanish Constitutional Commission that wrote the Spanish constitution in 1975 and 1976, following the death of Franco, so I know what it is to move from dictatorship to democracy – and how important it is that a constitution be framed by consensus.

The EU-Turkey relationship began with an association agreement signed in 1963. Now the accession negotiations have started, and 35 “chapters” – covering everything from agriculture to energy, competition, environment, employment, social policy, and beyond – must be opened. We have already opened 19 chapters – fewer than we would like. But the real problem is that we have closed only one, and, worse, the pace of negotiations has slowed. In fact, in the second half of 2010, nothing happened. I hope that meaningful progress comes in 2011.

Turkey and the EU need each other. The EU now accounts for 75% of foreign investment in Turkey and roughly half its exports and inward tourism. Likewise, Europe’s energy security depends on cooperation with Turkey on transit of oil and natural gas from Central Asia and the Middle East.

We need each other politically as well. Turkey’s neighborhood is our neighborhood; its problems are our problems. The security benefits and strategic advantages for the EU with Turkey as a member would be many, starting with the relationship between the EU and NATO, of which Turkey has long been a member.

Likewise, the EU’s involvement in today’s problems in the Mediterranean region would be much easier in concert with Turkey. In Bosnia-Herzegovina, EU-Turkey cooperation is fundamental to achieving a durable solution.

In 1999, Turkey did not want to become an accession candidate, because its leaders thought that the conditions would be too tough. I was there; I talked to Prime Minister Bülent Ecevit at midnight, then to President Süleyman Demirel. And, two days later, Ecevit was in Helsinki to declare formally Turkey’s wish to become an EU member. And we said: Turkey will be an EU member. I supported the signature of that document; I would do the same today.

In these times, difficult and unpredictable but full of hope, the world needs Turkey and the EU to work together. That does not mean meeting every now and then to decide how to handle a certain problem. It means something much deeper and well defined. It means Turkey’s admission to the EU. That is my dream, and I will continue to fight to make it a reality.

Javier Solana formerly the European Union’s High Representative for Foreign and Security Policy, and a former Secretary General of NATO, is a Distinguished Senior Fellow in Foreign Policy at the Brookings Institution and President of the ESADE Center for Global Economy and Geopolitics.


Erdogan says his victory is a victory for Gaza, Palestine, and "al-Quds"

The party emerged from the Islamist Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan won a landslide victory in Sunday’s parliamentary Turkey, ensuring a third consecutive term, after the counting of nearly all ballots.
After counting 99% of the votes, the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) of Prime Minister Erdogan, in power since 2002, won 50% of the vote, according to the TV.

This party will be able to form a government only because it has largely absolute majority of 550 seats in parliament with 326 deputies.

This party won 47% of the vote in 2007 parliamentary and won 341 seats in Parliament. In 2002, his score was 34%.

“Today once again democracy, national will have won,” shouted Mr. Erdogan, accompanied by his wife Emine, from the balcony of his party headquarters in Ankara to address a crowd of several Thousands of people waving the flags of the AKP.

Erdogan, a former Islamist activist, also said that with the victory of the AKP, “Gaza, Palestine and Jerusalem were also won,” showing once again his sympathy for the Muslim world, especially because PA. [...]

Erdogan didn't say "Jerusalem"; he said "Kudüs" -- that is, "al-Quds," the Islamic name for Jerusalem.

Source: Jihadwatch

Sunday, 12 June 2011

AKP Denied Constitution-Changing Majority

It looks like the AKP has won 327 seats in the Turkish elections. It would have needed 330 to call a referendum to change the constitution and 367 to change the constitution directly from parliament. Of course it's still possible that the AKP will seek to change the constitution in cooperation with other parties.

In a way, I'm sorry they didn't get what they needed to change the constitution on their own because then they might have let the mask slip and we would have seen their true nature. With all pretence abandoned, even the dhim-wits in western governments might have been forced to confront reality. For now, though, it looks as though the game goes on.

Victory in the general election has given Turkey's ruling AK Party a strong mandate to pursue its reform agenda, but it will need to seek consensus to push through a planned new constitution.

Based on a preliminary count, Prime Minster Tayyip Erdogan's party scored some 50 percent of the vote, and was set to win around 327 seats in the 550-member parliament, less than the 330 needed to send a new constitution to a referendum.


Saturday, 11 June 2011

Turkey Claims it Needs the EU Less and Less

Turkey’s chief negotiator for European Union membership says that the country needs the EU “less and less”. Egeman Bagis, the minister for European Union Affairs, told The Times: “The Turkish public is getting more and more discouraged and frustrated by the attitude of certain EU leaders towards Turkey. We are no longer a docile candidate waiting at the gates of the European Union. Turkey is the rising star of its region, a source of inspiration for the ‘Arab Spring’.”

Turkey asked to join the EU in 1959 and began accession talks in 2005 but the process is now at a standstill.

Of the 35 policy areas that candidate-nations must negotiate, Turkey has opened talks in only 13, with eight chapters frozen over Ankara’s refusal to open Turkish ports to Cypriot vessels and another five blocked by France.

The issue of EU membership has hardly figured in the Turkish election campaign. It appears only on page 151 of the ruling AKP party’s 160-page manifesto.

A recent survey found 69 percent of Turks support their country’s EU bid, but only 36 percent think it will become a member in the next 10 years.

Many in Muslim-majority Turkey complain that the EU wants to remain a “Christian club.” Mr Bagis said the main obstacle to Turkish EU accession was prejudice.
“Unfortunately there are prejudices against Turks and Turkey stemming from a myriad of reasons,” he said.

But he argued that the bloc would benefit from Turkey’s dynamism.
“European Union’s main problem today is economic stagnation. Europeans need economic dynamism. Imagine the power of European Union when the continent’s fastest growing economy and youngest working population joins it,” he said.


Erdogan Threatening Journalists By Name

The Times has a story on the Turkish elections today that is far more critical of Turkey than the stories we typically see in the western press. It mentions the crackdown on journalists, the Imam's Army story, Ergenekon, and Erdogan jihadist background. Almost all of it will be familiar to anyone who reads this blog, but it's good to see some of this information reaching the mainstream at last.

The report contained one interesting detail I hadn't previously come across:

On the hustings, an increasingly aggressive Mr Erdogan has been denouncing by name journalists who are critical of him or his party, saying that they will pay a price.

Gareth Jenkins was also quoted on the topic of Ergenekon:

Many doubt, though, that Ergenekon exists. Gareth Jenkins, a senior fellow of the Central Asia-Caucuses Institute at Johns Hopkins University, in Baltimore, Maryland, has read the thousands of pages of indictments and concluded that Ergenekon is a figment of the imagination. “Of 300 charged, my estimate is 15 to 20 are really dirty. Some are mafiosi. Others are real Deep State operatives. They have been thrown in to tarnish the others,” he said.

Sik, in his pursuit of the Deep State, co-authored a two-volume guide to Ergenekon. He apparently fell foul of prosecutors because he was writing a book, alleging that the police had been penetrated by an Islamic secret society headed by Fethullah Gülen, a spiritual leader who lives in exile in America and preaches a mix of Turkish supremacism and moderate Islam.

Sik’s book, The Imam’s Army, was seized when he was arrested in March, but the rough draft later appeared on the internet, where it has been downloaded more than 100,000 times.

Mr Jenkins added: “It’s like The Emperor’s New Clothes. So many people know the case is absurd but it takes an idiot child to say it’s absurd.”


Friday, 10 June 2011

Turkey on the Brink

Sobering words from Barry Rubin as the Turkish elections approach.

On Sunday, June 12, Turkey will hold what might well be its most important elections in modern history. It may also be the worst thing that’s happened to the country in modern history. If the current regime is reelected—and it could do so, given Turkey’s electoral system, with less than thirty percent of the vote, the emboldened Islamist regime will hit the accelerator in transforming Turkey into as much of an Islamist state as possible.

The ruling AK Party has been cautious, concealing its aims and pretending to be a "center-right" reform party. Many Turks have also accepted this notion. Roughly only 12 percent want an Islamist state and around 30 percent will also vote for the current regime in the belief that it won't give that to them.

Yet as the AK has entrenched itself in power, put its cadre into institutions, undermined democracy, and paid virtually no international cost for doing so it has become more confident. One might better say, arrogant. This election could well be the last straw pushing Turkey over the edge of the cliff.

Whether or not anyone in the U.S. government recognizes it now, that development will spell the end of a U.S.-Turkish alliance that has endured 55 years. Turkey, arguably the Muslim-majority country with the most advanced infrastructure and greatest military capability in the world, will be in the enemy camp.

Already, the Turkey-Israel alliance is long over and will not return under this regime in Ankara. The Turkish government supports Iran, Syria, Hamas, and Hizballah. The regime officially sponsors antisemitic hatred. The hatred of the regime for Israel and Jews is pathological. Nothing like it has been seen in Turkey during all of the centuries since the Turks arrived in Anatolia. Many Jews are leaving or are getting prepared to do so.

If the regime gets a big enough majority it will rewrite the Turkish constitution. Turkey, as we have known it, a secular democratic state since the 1920s, will no longer exist. Of course, not everything will be obvious and happen overnight, but the repression we have already seen will increase. The courts, the armed forces, and other institutions will be taken over by this Islamist government.

It will be a disaster for Western interests. And coupled with the same thing happening in Egypt, these events will catapult the region back a half-century or more into strife.

Meanwhile, the West snores on. Western media coverage of the Turkish regime is glowing. Yet if one actually looks at what’s happening in the country, reading the Turkish-language media and talking to the many Turks horrified by these developments, the picture is horrifying.

Here is an example of life in contemporary Turkey. The town of Hopa received a visit from Prime Minister Erdogan. Opposition banners are removed by the police. When local people resisted, the police attacked. A retired teacher who had been trying to negotiate with the police died.

Scores of journalists have been arrested and thrown into jail. One-third of the media has been bought up by the regime; much of the rest intimidated. Military officers, college professors, union leaders, activists, and peaceful critics of every description are thrown into jail on trumped up charges and kept there for months, years. The waiting time for a trial during which people are jailed is now three years. Yes, three years without proof of any wrongdoing.

A respected investigative journalist is arrested and accused of terrorism. His crime? Writing a critical book on Fathi Gulen, Turkey’s leading Islamist cleric. All of the copies of the manuscript are confiscated. Gulen controls the police.

Two other journalists are arrested. Their crime? Saying that they were about to publish documentation showing that the government’s claims of conspiracy, used to arrest so many, are bogus. Gareth Jenkins, a serious scholar, has gone through thousands of pages of court documents and shown that the hundreds of people imprisoned have not even been accused of any specific act. I know of a half-dozen journalists fired for daring to criticize the government. There are many more.

How to intimidate the media? Tax officials arrive and take over offices, going through all of the documents trying to find some technicality on which to bring charges. The largest media group in Turkey, the Dogan Group, was told that it owed $2.5 billion in penalties. That is not a typographical error. It is several times the worth of the entire company. The government demanded that they pay the fines first and then if they wanted they could go to court. To provide a partial payment and bank guarantees, the Dogan Group had to sell two newspapers.

People feel that they are watched, wire-tapped, and spied on. Turkey was never a perfect democracy. Yet this atmosphere is closer to that of a country under Communism than the Turkey they have known all their lives.

As a Turkish professor writes to me:

“There has been an air of terror where people are afraid to talk anymore, in public or over the phone or even behind closed doors against the government or Gulen movement. Who knows [whether] your words will be used against you in the future?”

Four prominent parliamentarians of the MHP party, the nationalist opposition, were forced to withdraw their candidacies in the forthcoming election after a mysterious website published video and audio of their involvement in illicit sexual activity. America has had its scandals recently. But the government using its intelligence assets to destroy its opponents systematically is something quite different.

Actually, since the process has not advanced so far, one can read about all of these things and more in some Turkish newspapers or be told of events by credible sources. The campaign of anti-Americanism is in the open. The daily preaching of hatred against Jews and Israel is in the open. The tightening links with Islamist movements and regimes is in the open.

As we know from leaks, the U.S. embassy in Turkey has reported many of the kinds of arguments and analysis I’m making. Yet the White House and the president are blind. On that reporting, check out Okan Altiparmak and Claire Berlinski, “The Wikileaks Cables on Turkey: 20/20 Tunnel Vision,” MERIA Journal, Vol. 14, No.4 (December 2010).

I don’t want to overstate the threat so feel free to assume I’m exaggerating. Subtract the proportion you want, take another look, and you’ll still see a great deal to be alarmed about.

The View from the White House

Perception of this revolutionary Islamist threat by Obama White House: Close to zero.

Actions taken by the Obama White House to counter it: Zero.

Principal enemy according to White House: Al-Qaida, which rules no population.

Main problem in the Middle East according to White House: Israel’s presence on part of the West Bank, ruling about 30,000 Palestinians directly (in Hebron) and the existence of settlements with about 300,000 Israeli settlers.

The View from the Middle East

Egypt has 82 million people; Iran has 78 million people. Turkey has 79 million people. Total: By the end of this year, almost 240 million people in those three countries alone will live under Islamist or radical anti-American regimes allied to them. Adding in the Gaza Strip, those under Hizballah control in Lebanon, and Syria brings the total to about 250 million. One-quarter of a billion people are going to be—many of them involuntarily--in the enemy camp. Call it the Crescent Curtain if you wish.

These countries and groups will not work together in every respect but they will work against the West, stability, democracy, and Israel’s existence.

The loss of Turkey—yes, I said it, loss—would be a tragedy of tremendous proportions to the West and, of course, the loss of liberty and democracy in Turkey would be most of all a tragedy for the Turkish people.

The event would be a tragedy; the failure to see what’s happening is shameful. In policy and analytical terms, it is the equivalent of criminal.


Thursday, 9 June 2011

Austrian Foreign Minister Says Turkey Is Lying

In a newspaper interview, the Austrian foreign minister, Michael Spindelegger, says that he had a gentleman's agreement with his Turkish counterpart, Ahmet Davutoglu, that neither country would veto the other's candidate for the Secretary-Generalship of the OSCE and that therefore he was extremely surprised when Turkey did so. He also said that the Turkish president Abdullah Gül, while on a state visit to Austria a few weeks ago, explicitly promised that Turkey would not block the Austrian candidate. Moreover, according to Spindelegger, this promise was made in front of witnesses, including Spindelegger's wife and Cardinal Schönborn. "I ask myself how foreign policy can be conducted when promises that are made are not kept. That is unprofessional." The Turkish government denies that these promises were made.

Wednesday, 8 June 2011

Erdogan Claims the Economist is Israeli-Controlled

The Economist recently endorsed the main opposition party in Turkey, the CHP, in the hope that it would be able to provide a counterbalance to the AKP, which is expected to easily win the upcoming Turkish elections, and prevent it gaining the two-thirds majority that would allow it to amend the constitution.

Erdogan's response was predictably bitter, but also astonishingly childish for a supposed international statesman. He implied that the leader of the CHP had ties to the Economist and to Israel and that this influence is what had caused the Economist article to be written.

He linked The Economist to Israel and his political rival CHP chairman Kemal Kilicdaroglu: "Obviously the greeting that the CHP chairman sent to Israel found its response. An international magazine, I announce its name too -- The Economist -- publishes an analysis. Not indirectly, but directly, it says 'Vote for CHP.' How careless is this? How tactless is this?"

Another leading AK Party candidate, former Interior Minister Besir Atalay, was quoted in the Turkish newspaper Today's Zaman saying "We all know about the impact of the Israeli lobby in international media institutions. I consider this a reflection of Turkey's policies in regards to Israel and the Palestinian people."

This is the kind of sick paranoia that is widespread in the autocracies of the Middle East. But Turkey is above all that, so modern and European, isn't it? Obviously not. Turkey is just a Middle Eastern Muslim country like any other. Erdogan's rhetoric is no different to what we would expect from someone like Ahmadinejad.


Tuesday, 7 June 2011

The Guardian Has a New Friend: Fethullah Gulen

The Guardian, for long the standard bearer of the British left, has an incongruous new friend: Fethullah Gulen, leader of a cult-like network of schools, companies and media organisations that is under investigation for "brainwashing" in the USA. He has been called "the most dangerous Islamist on planet Earth". Perhaps not such an incongruous companion for the Guardian after all then, which in recent years has abandoned many principles traditionally cherished by the left, the better to embrace Islam.

Today the Guardian announced the Guardian Comment Network, which will feature articles from newspapers and blogs around the world. One of its partners in this is the Turkish newspaper 'Today's Zaman', which is part of the Gulen network. So Gulen network articles will now be featuring on the Guardian website. Today's Zaman, liked the AKP party it supports, pretends to support enlightened liberal, reform-oriented politics. This is exactly the spiel that was offered by the editor to the western journalist Andrew Finkel when he was recruited a few years ago:

It was a bit over three years ago that I was recruited to write this column for this newspaper (Today’s Zaman). I remember the conversation well. The editor-in-chief anticipated that I might be hesitant to associate myself with a press group whose prejudices and principles might not always coincide with my own. He explained what I knew already, that the Zaman Group supported and was supported by the Fetullah Gülen Community and that I would have to take that on board. However, he explained the paper's mission was to fight for the democratization of Turkish society – that Turkey was no longer a country which should be ruled by military fiat. He also impressed upon me that he was committed to liberal values and to free discussion.

That article was published in April this year. Not in Today's Zaman however, whose editor refused to publish it and immediately sacked Finkel for having written it. It instead saw the light of day in rival newspaper Hurriyet. The thrust of the article was a gentle rebuke of journalists for tolerating the authoritarian excesses of the AKP party. Police had just mounted raids to confiscate copies of the book "The Imam's Army" by Ahmet Şık. The book had not yet been published and the clear intent of the authorities was to ensure that it never would be. However, it eventually leaked out on the internet. The book alleged that the Turkish national police was virtually controlled by the Gulen network. One of the movement's cardinal principles is to avoid overt confrontation and take control by infiltrating state institutions from within. If the book is to be believed, that approach has worked extraordinarily well in Turkey.

I have already expressed my concern that the fight against anti-democratic forces in Turkey has resorted to self-defeating anti-democratic methods. This in turn has led to a polarization in Turkey. If your side loses power then the natural fear is that they will use your methods against you. In case this sounds like I am speaking in riddles, I am referring to the aggressive prosecution of people who write books. These may be bad books, they may be books which are written with ulterior motives, they may be books which contain assertions which are not true. But at the end of the day, they are books – and there are libel courts – not criminal courts – designed to protect individuals from malicious falsehood. In short, writing a book offensive to the Gülen community is not a crime.

It may be in bad taste, it might be off beam. It might every bit as nonsensical as the conspiracy theories that fill the shelves of Turkish book stores. But it might not. And until we actually read it we cannot know. More to the point, we can only question the motives of those who don’t want us to read it. It blackens the names of the censors, increases the credibility of a book which no one has even read.

Today's Zaman, however, supported the raids on the journalists who had tried to expose the Gulen network. Several of them were subsequently charged with being a part of the largely mythical Ergenekon plot, as have others who tried to reveal the truth about the Gulen network in Turkey. The investigation into the alleged Ergenekon plot, which alleges that the military planned to overthrow the civilian government, has resulted in vast numbers of AKP opponents, including many members of the military, facing criminal charges. Today's Zaman has supported the Ergenekon investigations throughout. Hardly surprising as the AKP and the Gulen network are closely linked. On the evidence of the Wikileaks cables, even the US government accepts this.

Like the ruling AKP, Today's Zaman also sided with the Iranian regime when it faced fierce anti-government protests last year. The Guardian was sympathetic in its coverage of the protesters, however. How can the Guardian editors possibly justify allying with a newspaper that had supported the imprisonment of journalists in Turkey and the repression of pro-democracy protesters in Iran?

Monday, 6 June 2011

Turkish Veto of OSCE Candidate Provokes Outrage in Austria

The Turkish veto of Austria's candidate to become Secretary-General of the OSCE, Ursula Plassnik, the former Austrian foreign minister, has provoked outrage across the spectrum of Austrian politics.

Austria's current foreign minister, Michael Spindelegger, has demanded a written explanation from the Turkish government. He also says that Austria will not simply accept the veto, but is maintaining Ursula Plassnik's candidacy. He has asked for a special session of the OSCE's Permanent Council to be called to discuss the matter. In relation to Turkey's EU candidacy, he added that Turkey's decision would not lead to euphoria, but rather the opposite.

The foreign affairs spokesman of the FPO, currently the largest party in Austria according to opinion polls, has called for the negotiations on Turkey's EU candidacy to be brought to an end; and the European Affairs Spokesman of the smaller BVO party, Ewald Stadler, agreed.

The Kleine Zeitung newspaper also published an article in which it declared that Turkey had shown it was not mature enough to be a member of the EU.


Sunday, 5 June 2011

Turkey Vetoes Former Austrian Foreign Minister as OSCE Head

Turkey has vetoed the candidacy of Ursula Plassnik, a former Austrian foreign minister and Austria's current ambassador to Paris, for the Secretary-Generalship of the OSCE. She was supported by around two-thirds of the OSCE members but, because the organisation operates by consensus, any country is effectively able to veto any candidate. The Turks resented her behaviour when Turkey's EU candidacy was first formally initiated; she was said to be obstructive and insistent that options other than full EU membership be explored.

The Austrian Vice-Chancellor claims that when Turkish president Abdullah Gül visited the country recently, they reached a mutual agreement that neither country would veto the other country's candidate for the soon-to-be-vacant position in the OSCE. This promise has clearly been betrayed, although the Turks are now denying that it was ever made.

Austrian Foreign Minister Michael Spindelegger has called the move "improper and completely unjustified" and warned that it will cast a significant shadow over relations between the two countries.

Along with the Mavi Marmara incidents and its follow-ups, the row over NATO action in Libya, this is yet another illustration of the spectacular childishness of Turkish diplomacy. This is simply not a country that deserves to be a member of clubs designed for grown-ups, clubs like the EU, NATO or the OSCE.


Egyptian Women's Rights Activist Calls Erdogan An 'Extremely Despicable' Man

In this television interview, the Egyptian women's rights activist, Iqbal Baraka, talks about whether the 'Turkish model' would be desirable for Egypt. She says she is not impressed by the Turkish model; that Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan is a 'dangerous' and 'extremely despicable man'. The Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, she believes, 'learned from Erdogan how to conceal what they really believe. They wear a peaceful, civilian mask on their faces.'

Source: MEMRI

Saturday, 4 June 2011

Turkey to be Offer Role in Mid-East 'Peace Process' to Stop Mavi Marmara 2

Various newspapers are reporting that the US government is planning to offer Turkey some role in the negotiations between Israel and the Arabs who call themselves Palestinians in return for stopping the so-called peace flotilla that is due to arrive, or not, in Gaza later this month, one year after a similar flotilla led to violence that resulted in the death of nine rather aggressive Turkish 'peace activists' aboard one of the ships, the Mavi Marmara.

The Obama Administration may soon present the Turkish government with a proposition to stop the upcoming flotilla to Gaza and restore relations between Ankara and Jerusalem, Turkish daily Today's Zaman reported on Friday.

The offer, first reported by Turkish newspaper Hurriyet, would involve Ankara hosting peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians, according to the report. The White House is expected to soon officially make the offer to Turkey.


The Turkish government, of course, has always claimed that it has no influence over the IHH flotilla, so it will be interesting to see how it responds to this overture.

In a sense, the proposal is rather extraordinary. Its implication is that national vanity is the main driver of Turkish government policy even in life-and-death matters of great international significance. But that would indeed appear to be an accurate assessment. After all, Turkey obstructed the NATO operation in Libya for a while and its primary motivation for doing so appears to have been pique about having been excluded from the Paris meeting that preceded the military action; after some soothing diplomatic words were uttered, Turkey seemed to abandon its recalcitrance. Nothing of substance changed. It was all about nationalistic vanity. Erdogan acted like some gangsta worried about his 'rep' or a street thug obsessing about his 'honour'.

Friday, 3 June 2011

Soldiers Get Paltry Six Months Sentence for Passively Facilitating Hrant Dink's Murder

A Turkish court on Thursday sentenced two military officers to six months in prison for ignoring intelligence that may have prevented the killing of a prominent ethnic Armenian journalist, the state-run news agency reported.

Hrant Dink, chief editor of the minority Armenian Agos newspaper, was fatally shot by an alleged hardline nationalist teenager outside his office in Istanbul on Jan. 19, 2007. He had received death threats because of his comments about perhaps the darkest episode of Turkey's history, the massacres of Armenians during World War I.

The teenager and two other suspects are on trial in Istanbul for Dink's murder.
The court in Trabzon, northern Turkey, found Col. Ali Oz, a former gendarmerie commander, and Capt. Metin Yildiz guilty of neglecting their duties, the Anatolia news agency reported. Four other officials were each given four-month sentences.

The officers were accused of not acting on intelligence indicating that one of the three suspects now on trial, Yasin Hayal, was planning to kill Dink.

The officers, who denied any wrongdoing, were expected to appeal their convictions.


Thursday, 2 June 2011

Austrian Freedom Party Leader Greets Recall of Turkish Ambassador

Heinz-Christian Strache, the leader of the anti-immigration Austrian Freedom Party has welcomed the recall of Turkey's ambassador to Austria, Kadri Ecvet Tezcan, who is to be re-assigned to Israel later this month. He deplored the fact that it had taken so long, however, insisting that the ambassador should have been recalled immediately last November after he had "insulted the Austrian people in a scandalous way" and acted "like a colonial lord". Strache called on the new ambassador to immediately distance himself from his predecessor and to denounce his remarks.

For an indication of how much anger the Turkish ambassador managed to provoke last year, take a look at the YouTube video above, which shows a debate in the Austrian parliament in which the MP Ewald Stadler fiercely denounces Kadri Ecvet Tezcan and Turkey, and highlights the persecution of Christians in Turkey.

Wednesday, 1 June 2011

The Liberal Democrat Friends of Turkey

The Liberal Democrat party in Britain (also known as the Lib Dems and, sometimes, the Lib Dhims) has an intra-party group dedicated to advancing the interests of Turkey; of course it pretends that this is also somehow in complete harmony with advancing the interests of Britain. Many of the members are themselves Turkish colonists.

They don't publish a definitive membership list anywhere. Their website has almost nothing on it. However, as far as I have been able to tell from reading various things on the web, the members or sympathisers of the Liberal Democrat Friends of Turkey include:

Jonathan Fryer

David Austin

Geoffrey G J Payne

Dr Turhan Ozen

Hakan çolak

Peter Hillier

Reuben Thompson

Phil Stevens

Stephen Rule

Dina Turner

John Louis Oakes

Jeremy Hargreaves

Riza Polat

Karl Murphy

Marisha Ray

Salim Mamdani

Lee Daniel Hughes

Julian Douglas St Michael Porter

Pinar Woodbridge

Cherry Phillips

Meral Hussein-Ece

Rhodri Jamieson-Bell

Bridget Fox, PPC

Lucy Watt, Cllr

Baroness Sarah Ludford, MEP

Graham Watson, MEP

Andrew Duff OBE, MEP

Sue Doughty, MP

Fiyaz Mughal, Cllr