Friday, 30 March 2012

Turkey Passes Bill Extending Access to Islamic Education

Turkish lawmakers have approved a controversial education bill that allows middle school students to attend religious courses.

The legislation passed Friday with 295 votes in favor and 91 against.

The reform extends compulsory education from the current eight years to 12. It also reverses a 1997 law backed by the military, which closed Islamic middle schools and allowed only high school students older than 15 to attend such institutions.

The new law allows students in both middle and high schools to attend elective courses on the Islamic holy book, the Quran, and the life of the Prophet Muhammad.

A large segment of urbanized Turks fears that the conservative government of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan seeks to reinforce the Islamic religion in the education of Turkish youth and gradually dismantle the secular republic.

Opponents of the reform have demonstrated for days in Turkish cities. Police in the capital, Ankara, have used water cannon to disperse crowds that wanted to march on parliament while the bill was debated.

Turkey is a Muslim-majority nation that also has a strong secular tradition.

Debate on the bill in parliament has resulted in scuffles among lawmakers.
Source: Voice of America

Thursday, 29 March 2012

Freed Turkish Journalist at European Parliament

Journalist Ahmet Şık sharply criticized Turkey’s anti-terrorism laws and the religious Fethullah Gülen community while addressing the Liberal Democrat Group in the European Parliament in Brussels yesterday, only 16 days after his release from prison.

“Many a journalist who assumed a critical stance toward the AKP [Justice and Development Party] and the Gülen community, the government’s invisible partner, [or] attempted to maintain a dissident outlook toward their policies either lost their job or had to keep quiet through auto-censure,” journalist Şık told his audience at the European Parliament.

Other journalists
Şık cited the names of Ruşen Çakır, Nuray Mert, Çiğdem Anad and Mehmet Altan as some of the journalists who were fired after slight criticisms, and went further to elaborate on the elusive nature of the Gülen community. “The Gülen community is a phantom. They are everywhere but nowhere. They are the cause of fear in society because they control the police,” he said.

An explanation is warranted as to why the Gülen community is so eager to organize within the police and the military, Şık said, adding that he had also been targeted by the community because he asked such questions. “This system has to distort everything, as it has been enslaved by its own lies. It distorts the past. It distorts the present. It distorts the future,” Şık said, paraphrasing a 1978 article by former activist and late Czech President Vaclav Havel.

The Gülen community is both avenging the past and trying to destroy its political opponents by organizing within the judiciary and the police, according to Şık. “The Anti-Terrorism Law [depicts] everyone who is a dissident or exhibits unfavorable behavior as a ‘terrorist,’ through a mentality that is based on protecting not the interests of citizens but of the state. The State Security Courts, which were allegedly abolished, have changed only in name. The legal but lawless order of the past still rules the day under the [guise] of specially authorized prosecutors and courts,” he said.

The ongoing Ergenekon probe and other related trials are also nothing but a farce intended to prosecute individuals and institutions targeted by the Gülen community, according to Şık. Şık also rebuffed claims that journalists jailed in Turkey are not under arrest for their professional activities, and said the prosecutors and judges who questioned them primarily asked about their journalistic activities and sources.
Source: Turkish Weekly

Tuesday, 27 March 2012

Largest charter network in U.S.: Schools tied to Turkey

By Sharon Higgins

The largest charter school network in the United States is operated by people in and associated with the Gulen Movement (GM), a secretive and controversial Turkish religious sect. With 135 schools enrolling more than 45,000 students, this network is substantially larger than KIPP, the well-known charter management organization with only 109 schools. A lack of awareness about this situation persists despite it being addressed in a national paper and in articles about Gulen charter schools in Utah(also here), Arizona, (also here), Illinois, Tennessee, Pennsylvania (alsohere), Indiana, Oklahoma (and here), Texas (also here), Arkansas,Louisiana (also here), New Jersey, Georgia, and North Carolina. It was also reported that the FBI and the Departments of Labor and Education are investigating practices at these schools.

The concerns raised about the charter schools in the GM network have related to questionable admissions practices; the channeling of school funds to close associates; abuse of contractors; participation in biased, GM-created competitions; incidents of bribing; using the schools to generate political connections; science fair projects being done by teachers; unfair hiring and termination practices; and more. Still, authorizers continue to approve charter applications, ill-informed parents continue to use them, and taxpayers keep funding the schools – all without much discussion.

The Gulen Movement originated in Turkey in the late 1960s and has become increasingly powerful. Its members are followers of Fethullah Gulen (b. 1941) a self-exiled Turkish preacher who has been living on a secluded compound in rural Pennsylvania since 1998. Members call themselves hizmet, meaning “volunteer services” movement. The GM conducts four primary activities around the world: a media empire, business organizations, an enormous number of Turkish culture-promoting and interfaith dialog organizations, and a network of schools in over 100 countries, a large portion of which are U.S. charter schools.

After the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991, the GM began to establish schools outside of Turkey, first in the newly established republics of Central Asia and then beyond. One expert noted that the “...worldwide extent of Fethullah Gulen’s educational network testifies to the internationalist, even imperialist, nature of the movement.” Last year an analyst viewed the raison d'être for the schools “spreading across the globe” in this way: “Students will learn how to speak Turkish, the national anthem, how to be the 'right kind of Muslim', etc. In essence, it buys [the GM] loyalty.”

The first Gulen charter school was opened in 1999. U.S. officials have known about the movement’s involvement in charter schools since at least 2006 when our Istanbul consulate noticed that a large number of Turkish men, suspected to be GM-affiliated, were seeking visas to work at charter schools. A company specializing in geopolitical analysisreported in 2010 that the GM was running “...more than 90 charter public schools in at least 20 states.”

Board members of Gulen charter schools are primarily Turkish or Turkic and often can be tied to other Gulenist organizations. GM schools around the world emphasize math, science, and technology, and always provide Turkish cultural instruction, as these are the subjects favored by Fethullah Gulen. Turkish or Turkic individuals, almost all male, are imported (referred to as “international” teachers) to teach those subjects and serve as school administrators. They sometimes transfer to other schools, but only those within the movement’s network. Around the world, local teachers are usually hired for elementary grades and the non-Gulen favored subjects. The charter schools have been criticized for importing so many teachers, but defend their practice by claiming that they are unable to find qualified Americans.

Although there is little awareness in the United States about the GM’s charter schools, major daily Turkish newspapers have acknowledged their existence for some time. Readers of Milliyet were informed in 2010 that the Walton Family Foundation had given $1 million to Gulen’s charter schools in California (translation here). And in 2009, readers ofSabah were presented with an account of GM insiders discussing how the U.S. charter schools serve the movement’s goals: “...through education, we can teach tens of thousands of people the Turkish language and our national anthem, introduce them to our culture and win them over. And this is what the Gulen Movement is striving for.” GM-associated news agencies periodically feature reports about Gulen charter school students participating in movement-sponsored cultural events (e.g. here, here, and here).

School operators have been asked if their schools are tied to the Gulen Movement. The responses have always been ambiguous (also here,here, and here) or flat denials (also here, here, and here). Strategic ambiguity and being secretive are noted GM operational styles.

The movement’s secretive nature has been troubling to outsiders, and even “mindboggling” to some who know them well. As one expert stated, “... [the Gulen Movement’s] structure, ambitions, and size remain opaque, making assessment of its impact and power difficult...,” and added, “Fethullahci are often loath to declare themselves openly as such.” Another noted, “...some [Fethullah Gulen Community] members publicly deny affinity or membership with the movement.” And a Turkish observer remarked, “No society would tolerate this big of an organization being this untransparent.” When the GM has been exposed involuntarily or criticized, it has been known to respond with evasive measures or defensive attacks.

Because of our charter school system, the United States is the only country where the Gulen Movement has been able to establish schools which are fully funded with public money. In other countries the movement’s schools are private, supported with tuition and himmet. A researcher explained that himmet is a religious donation collected from members who are assured “...that it goes to a ‘faithful’ cause (e.g., to pay for a student's scholarship, to provide start-up capital for a new school, to send a group of influential Americans on a two-week trip to Turkey, to sponsor an ‘academic’ conference devoted to Fethullah Gulen, etc).”

Gulen charter schools regularly take students to Turkey. The movement’s interfaith dialog and Turkish culture-promoting organizations also provide Turkey trips to academics, journalists, politicians and other public officials (e.g. here, here, here, here, and here). Tours include sightseeing as well as visits to GM-affiliated institutions (news outlets, schools, etc.).

A special feature of these guided “cultural immersion” trips is at least one visit to the home of a Turkish family, with up to three different home visits within nine days. A GM insider once explained that hosting visitors is a way for members to contribute to the cause. It is extremely likely that American travelers don’t realize that their experience in Turkey has been carefully designed to be a concentrated and sustained exposure to the social and political views of one religious group. It’s also likely that they do not understand exactly why their trips were made to be so inexpensive, or even free.

Gulen’s official website contains many articles about his teachings and opinions, including those on education and secrecy. The movement portrays itself as a promoter of dialogue, tolerance, and understanding, but it is intensely controversial in Turkey. Controversies include the movement’s involvement with creationism and other issues connected to its conservative religious agenda, claims about framing political opponents, intimidating the press, infiltrating police and military forces, and being connected to the arrest of prominent journalists (also here).

Concerns about this group have arisen in other countries, too, especially about their schools being used to recruit members, and spread Turkish culture and fundamentalist religious ideas (e.g. here, here, and here).

There has been wide speculation on what the Gulen Movement really wants (e.g. here and here).

Although the topic is extremely complicated and sensitive, there are good reasons for Americans to learn about the Gulen Movement and its involvement with so many charter schools. That, and the time to insist that U.S. public officials address this situation, has most definitely arrived.

Source: Washington Post

Turks Systematically Burning Christian Buildings in Vienna

For much of this year, Vienna has been obsessed with a prolific arsonist known as the FeuerTeufel (Fire Devil). Now the indications are that this Fire Devil is in fact two Fire Devils - and they are Turks.

The Turkish Fire Devils were spotted by several people on their last escapade: setting fire to the laying-in hall next to the cemetery in Josefstadt. All the eye-witnesses agree that the perpetrators were Turks. A photofit of the two fire-raisers is expected. Hopefully, it will not have Swedish-style pixellation.

One of the arsonists' previous targets was Neustadt Cathedral, shown burning in the images.

From the choice of a cemetery and a cathedral, it is reasonable to conclude that these Turks had jihad-style, anti-infidel motivations.

Another of their targets - one that they set fire to an astonishing eight times - is known as the WBO Siedlung. As far as I can tell, this is just a housing estate with some blocks of flats on it, containing 1000 residents in total. I'm not sure why the Turkish fire devils would single it out for such special attention. Perhaps it's one of the few remaining indigenous enclaves in the increasingly islamised Vienna? Could the arson campaign be like the burglary campaign in Copenhagen, where the Muslims were trying to drive out the last remaining non-Muslims?

Sources: SOS Heimat, OE24

Here's what the cathedral looked like before the Turks came:

Monday, 26 March 2012

Germany: Turks Scorn Minute of Silence For Toulouse Victims

When the anti-Islam Pro NRW movement held a demonstration recently to protest against the construction of a giant mosque in the German city of Remscheid, it called for a minute of silence in honour of the victims of the shooting in Toulouse. As you can see, the Turkish counter-demonstrators had other ideas. They praised Allah, waved their national flag, shouted "Turkey! Turkey!" and screamed anti-Semitic slogans.

Source: PI

Sunday, 25 March 2012

Turks Start to Rename the Parts of Germany They are Colonising

Turks colonising the German city of Mannheim have decided to rename a part of the city where they have come to predominate. Turkish associations and others recently met in the town hall to discuss the new name.

Peter Kurz, the burgomeister, proposed the name "Little Istanbul". Other suggestions included "Beyoglu” and “Kücük Istanbul”. The plan is to narrow the list of proposed names down to three then put the matter to the vote in a referendum.

Source: Via: PI

Friday, 23 March 2012

Turkey Flays US Report On Religious Freedom

Turkey has taken umbrage at a U.S. report on religious freedom that listed the country among the world's worst violators of religious freedoms and said it treats the document as "null and void."

In a statement on Thursday, the Turkish Foreign Ministry said the report, prepared by the bipartisan U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF), failed to acknowledge steps Turkey had taken in recent years to protect religious freedoms and minority rights.

"No impartial observer could take allegations in this report, which intentionally turns a blind eye to the steps forward and the political will that has constituted the basis for the reforms, seriously," the statement said, adding that "this report is null and void for us."

The report grouped Turkey among 15 other nations in its "countries of particular concern" category for "systematic and egregious limitations" of religious freedoms. The ranking was a sharp downgrade from Turkey's less-severe status as a watch-listed country in years past.

The report also listed Tajikistan, Myanmar, North Korea, Egypt, Eritrea, Iran, Iraq, Nigeria, Pakistan, China, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan and Vietnam in its "countries of particular concern" category.

Tuesday, 20 March 2012

Turkish Diplomat Caught Smuggling Wine

Turkish police have seized nearly 1,000 bottles of wine allegedly smuggled from France into Turkey by retired Ambassador Daryal Batıbay.

Istanbul / NationalTurk – Daryal Batıbay, Turkey’s current permanent represantative to the Council of Europe and a former ambassador illegally acquired around 2,000 bottles of wine.

An investigation launched in Strasbourg by Turkey’s Ethics Council confirmed the wine smuggling claims, which resulted in police raiding two separate warehouses owned by Daryal Batıbay in Turkey.

Wine Smuggling : French Wines valued more than 200k € smuggled to Turkey

Police seized a total of 937 bottles of wine and six bottles of champagne they found at both of the warehouses. The estimated market value of the seized wine bottles was around 200,000 Euros, the police declared. Batıbay avoided paying customs duties for the bottles by declaring them as ‘ household items,’ Turkish TV’s has reported.

Turkish Foreign Ministry has launched an probe into Batıbay, who was reportedly residing in Turkish Cyprus.

Daryal Batıbay had stated he was ‘surprised’ when the allegationss were first published in a Turkish daily newspaper, adding he knew nothing about the incident.
Source: NationalTurk

Monday, 19 March 2012

US report criticizes Turkey for serious limitations on religious freedom

By Associated Press, Published: March 19

WASHINGTON — An annual U.S. government report is adding U.S. ally Turkey as well as Tajikistan to a list of the worst violators of religious rights.

The report to be released Tuesday by the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom cites Turkey for “systematic and egregious limitations” on religious liberty. Turkey and Tajikistan are among a total of 16 nations listed by the commission as countries of particular concern.

The Turkish ambassador to Washington, Mamik Tan, dismissed the commission’s action as unjustified.

“Any unbiased eye will immediately realize that that’s not where Turkey belongs in the USCIRF annual report,” Tan told The Associated Press.

He said the Turkish government began action last year to restore impounded goods to non-Muslim foundations. “The categorization of Turkey as a ‘country of particular concern’ is naturally unexpected as much as it is unfair,” Tan said.

Among other problems, the report criticizes Turkey for regulating non-Muslim groups by restricting how they can train clergy, offer education and own their places of worship.

Congress established the commission in 1998 to compile the reports for use by the president, the secretary of state, and lawmakers. Aside from Turkey and Tajikistan, the report also listed: Myanmar, North Korea, Egypt, Eritrea, Iran, Iraq, Nigeria, Pakistan, China, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan and Vietnam.

While the commission recommends action the U.S. government should take to encourage improvements in religious freedom in the various countries, the State Department usually narrows down the list to a smaller group it cites for particular concern in its own annual report on religious freedom. Those countries can be subject to sanctions.

As a NATO ally, Turkey stands out among the other countries cited by the commission and is unlikely to incur repercussions from the U.S. government. Indeed, the report seems at odds with the State Department’s assessment of Turkey. When the department released its report last year, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton praised Turkey for taking “serious steps to improve the climate for religious tolerance.”

Late Monday, five members of the commission released a statement saying that one member had changed his position from recommending Turkey as a country of particular concern to recommending it for the commission’s watch list, a lower-level designation.

The commission’s report also includes a watch list of countries it says require close monitoring because of violations committed or tolerated by their governments. Nine countries made that list in 2012: Afghanistan, Belarus, Cuba, India, Indonesia, Laos, Russia, Somalia and Venezuela.
Source: Washington Post

Sunday, 18 March 2012

Thousands Protest in Germany Against Tolerance Award for Erdogan

More than 20,000 people have taken part in a protest against the Turkish prime minister in Germany. They were undeterred by the fact that Recep Tayyip Erdogan canceled his appearance to collect an award for tolerance.

Police said around 22,000 people participated in a protest march against Turkish premier Recep Tayyip Erdogan in the western German city of Bochum.

Alevi Muslims made up the majority of the demonstrators as they protested against oppression of minorities in Turkey, according to police. The Alevi, who believe in a distinct form of Shi'ite Islam, primarily live in Turkey.

"We do not feel like we are represented by Erdogan," the secretary general of the Alevi community in Germany, Ali Dogan told news agency DPA. He is a full-fledged anti-democrat who should not receive any prize for humanity and straightforwardness."

Hundreds of Kurds and Armenians also protested.

The demonstration was meant to coincide with Erdogan's visit to the city to receive the Steiger Award for tolerance. However, the awards' organizers announced earlier on Saturday that Erdogan had canceled his evening appearance due to a Turkish helicopter crash in Afghanistan that killed 17 people.

The Steiger Award stems from a private initiative and honors personalities for tolerance, humanity and a record of social advancement. Now in its seventh year, the current laureates include Sweden's Queen Silvia, former German President Horst Köhler, fashion designer Wolfgang Joop and rock musician Lou Reed.

Erdogan was due to collect the award as a representative of the Turkish people in honor of 50 years of Turkish-German friendship.

'Opposite of tolerance'

Conservative and Green politicians had on Friday criticized presenting the award to Erdogan.

Erdogan was supposed to represent the Turkish people at the awards ceremony

The secretary general of the CSU, the Bavarian sister party to Chancellor Angela Merkel's Christian Democrats, Alexander Dobrindt, described bestowing the award on Erdogan as "tasteless" and "bizarre."

"The gross opposite of tolerance prevails in Erdogan's country, namely repression of religious and ethnic minorities, insufficient press freedom and an absence of equal opportunities for women," Dobrindt said.

Green party spokesman Memet Kilic said Erdogan neither promoted improved ties with Europe "nor tolerance and religious freedoms."

The German journalists' association DJV was also critical. Erdogan carried "the political responsibility for permanent violations of press freedom in Turkey, for reprisals against journalists critical of the government and for arbitrary arrests of reporters," said DJV head Michael Konken on Freitag in Berlin. Honoring Erdogan amounted to ignoring the fundamental right to freedom of expression, he added.

The organizers said the Steiger Awards ceremony would still be held on Saturday despite Erdogan's absence.
Source: Deutsche Welle

Friday, 16 March 2012

Angry Turk's Message for Europe: "We are Coming"

Angry Turk's Message for Europe: "We are Coming"
by Soeren Kern

March 16, 2012 at 5:00 am

"Whether or not you want us in the European Union, our influence in Europe is growing. We are more numerous. We are younger. We are stronger."

A second-generation Muslim immigrant in Austria has authored a provocative new book in which he argues that Europe's future is Turkish, whether Europeans like it or not.

The book's short, sharp and confrontational title says it all: "We are Coming."

The thesis is: "Regardless of whether or not you [Europeans] like us [Turks], whether or not you integrate us, whether or not you want us in the European Union, our influence in Europe is growing. We are more numerous. We are younger. We are more ambitious. Our economy is growing faster. We are stronger."

The author, a 25-year-old Austrian-Turk named Inan Türkmen, says his objective in writing the book is to change the terms of the debate about Muslim immigration in Europe.

Türkmen -- who was born in Austria to Kurdish migrants and speaks fluent German -- says he is sick and tired of the way Turkish immigrants are being portrayed in the European media. He believes the time has come for Turks to fight back.

Taking a page from the playbook of the American Tea Party movement, Türkmen says he wants to establish an "angry citizen movement" (Wutbürgerbewegung) in Europe. His Turkish Tea Party would unite Turkish immigrants in Austria, Germany and other European countries to protest against European "arrogance."

In an interview with the Vienna-based newspaper Die Presse, Türkmen says he decided to write "We are Coming" after getting "hot under the collar" over a recent book about Muslim immigration by the renowned German economist Thilo Sarrazin.

Sarrazin's best-selling book, "Germany Does Away With Itself," broke Germany's long-standing taboo on discussing the impact of Muslim immigration. The book, which was first published in August 2010, is now on its 22nd edition. At last count, more than two million copies have been sold, making it one of the most widely read titles in Germany since the Second World War.

Sarrazin's book has resonated with vast numbers of ordinary Germans who are becoming increasingly uneasy about the social changes that are transforming Germany, largely due to the presence of millions of non-integrated Muslims in the country.

The following are some excerpts from Sarrazin's book:

"In every European country, due to their low participation in the labor market and high claim on state welfare benefits, Muslim migrants cost the state more than they generate in added economic value. In terms of culture and civilization, their notions of society and values are a step backwards."

"No other religion in Europe is so demanding and no other migration group depends so much on the social welfare state and is so much connected to criminality."

"Most of the cultural and economic problems [in Germany] are concentrated in a group of the five to six million immigrants from Muslim countries."

"I do not want my grandchildren and great-grandchildren to live in a mostly Muslim country where Turkish and Arabic are widely spoken, women wear headscarves and the day's rhythm is determined by the call of the muezzin."

"If the birthrate of migrants remains higher than that of the indigenous population, within a few generations, the migrants will take over the state and society."

"I do not want us to end up as strangers in our own land, not even on a regional basis."

"From today's perspective, the immigration of guest workers in the 1960s and 1970s was a gigantic mistake."

The roots of Germany's current problems with Muslim immigration can be traced back to October 30, 1961, with the signing of a labor recruitment agreement between West Germany and Turkey. At the time, West Germany's post-World War II economy was booming and similar treaties with Greece, Italy and Spain were insufficient to supply Germany's seemingly endless demand for labor. By the end of 1969, more than one million Turkish "guest workers" had arrived in Germany to work in the "host country's" industrial zones.

The initial idea was that the Turkish laborers would return home after a period of two years, but the so-called "rotation clause" was removed from the German-Turkish treaty in 1964, partly due to pressure from German industry, which did not want to pay the costs of constantly training new workers. The predictable result was that many Turks never returned home.

Today, the Turkish population in Germany has mushroomed to an estimated 3.5 million, and Turks now constitute the largest ethnic minority group in the country. Demographers expect that the Turkish population in Germany will increase exponentially in coming decades, largely due to a high birth rate and Germany's continuing high demand for foreign workers.

Germany's demand for foreign labor is being fuelled by a demographic crisis in which the German population is not only ageing, but also shrinking, at a rapid pace. According to projections by the German Federal Statistics Office, Germany's current population of 82 million, the largest in the European Union, is set to decline by as much as 20%, to 65 million, over the next five decades. At the same time, 34% of the population will be older than 65 and 14% will be 80 or more by 2060, up from 20% and 5% respectively in 2009.

The twin challenges of depopulation and aging will have major consequences for the financial sustainability of Germany's cradle-to-grave social security system. For example, the number of pensioners that will have to be supported by working-age people could almost double by 2060, according to the Federal Statistics Office. While 100 people of working age between 20 and 65 had to provide the pensions for 34 retired people in 2009, they will have to generate income for between 63 and 67 pensioners in 2060.

This implies that in the future, Germany will become more, not less, dependent on immigrants. And Turks will continue to be a major source of labor, considering that the birth rate among Turkish immigrants in Germany is 2.4, nearly double that of the native German population (which at 1.38 is far below the replacement rate of 2.1 children per couple).

Time is on the side of the Turks and Inan Türkmen knows it. In a highly confrontational essay titled "You Germans Need the Turks more than the Turks Need You" which was published by the Financial Times Deutschland, Türkmen writes: "Our consolation is that Turkish influence in Europe is growing and there is nothing you Europeans can do to stop it. Of course, Turkey has always exerted influence on Europe. Mozart, Hayden and Beethoven were all inspired by Turkish music. Soon you will not even realize it because you will all be a little Turkish. People mix into cultures and I am planning to contribute something to make this happen. Up until now, all of my girlfriends have been European, not Turkish. In the future, freckles will become increasingly rare sight in Europe. The point is: The future belongs to Turkey."

Soeren Kern is Senior Fellow for European Politics at the Madrid-based Grupo de Estudios Estratégicos / Strategic Studies Group.
Source: Stonegate Institute

Tuesday, 13 March 2012

Turkish MPs Fight, Showing us How Civilised They Are

Turkish MPs fighting over an education bill, showing us how civilised they are.

Thursday’s parliamentary commission was discussing a bill on extending compulsory education from eight to twelve years when the brawl broke out.

When education commission Chairman Nabi Avci announced that discussions on Article 3 of the bill were completed, deputies from the main opposition Republican People's Party (CHP) walked towards him and said that the talks had not been completed. Afterwards, deputies from Justice and Development Party (AK Party) responded to CHP lawmakers, and a dispute involving harsh words and fist fight erupted among some 30 deputies.

Arrested Journalists Freed in Turkey

Friday, 9 March 2012

EU Governments Call for Border Controls Until Flood of Immigrants from Turkey is Stemmed

Theresa May, the Home Secretary, on Thursday joined Germany, France, Austria, Holland, Belgium and Sweden to demand EU intervention to plug a hole that is allowing illegal immigration via Greece into the rest of Europe.

A joint paper agreed by the seven countries urges Greece to "live up to its responsibilities" and "keep its house in order" by securing the Greek border with Turkey, which is also the frontier of the EU's free movement Schengen zone.

"We believe our combined efforts will help ensure that the EU is taking practical steps to combat illegal immigration, and help reduce the numbers travelling unlawfully to the UK," said a British diplomat.

Passport-free travel within Europe, outside Britain and Ireland, is regarded as a major achievement but what applies to European travellers also applies to illegal immigrants allowing them entry to any EU country without showing identity papers.

British officials have identified evidence that the loophole has led to a sharp increase in attempted asylum shopping and the abuse of sham marriages as Pakistani and Afghan illegal immigrants take advantage of the EU's open borders policy to head to Britain from Greece.

Asylum applications in Austria are up 41 per cent this year, with an influx of illegal immigrants traced back to the lack of controls on the Greek-Turkish border. German asylum applications were up 19 per cent last year.

Hans-Peter Friedrich, the German interior minister, has called for passport controls to be introduced between the EU and Greece unless the Greek government, reeling from a debt crisis and economic crash, can manage its borders.

"The question is still open on what happens when a country is not in a position to sufficiently safeguard its borders – as we are currently experiencing in Greece," he said.
Johanna Mikl-Leitner, the Austrian interior minister said: "The border is open like a barn door."

The problem is made worse because of EU court rulings that asylum seekers or illegal immigrants entering Europe from Greece cannot be deported back there because of concerns over "inhuman and degrading conditions" in Greek detention centres.

Nicolas Schmit, Luxembourg's immigration minister, called on the EU to help, not to punish, Greece. "The Greeks are in a deep crisis and we must help the Greeks – and not just economically, financially. We have to solve this problem together," he said.
Source: Telegraph

Thursday, 8 March 2012

Turkey Marks International Women's Day Amid Concerns About Domestic Violence

Celebration of International Women's Day in Turkey is overshadowed by the news that so far this year, one woman was killed nearly every day in Turkey as a result of domestic violence. The government on Thursday passed legislation to combat abuse directed against women, but concerns remain about the implementation of the reforms.

Domestic violence
In the heart of Istanbul, semi-naked women covered in artificial blood protested against domestic violence to mark International Women's Day. The demonstrators, members of the Ukraine-based women's rights group Femen, were quickly arrested. Turkish women took part in other more low-key demonstrations across the city.

A report this week revealed that in 2012, one woman in Turkey has died nearly every day as a result of domestic violence. International Women's Day was no exception - a divorced woman was shot dead in Istanbul, allegedly by a relative of her divorced husband.

A study on domestic violence by the Turkish-based International Strategic Research Organization reveals a disturbing picture. One of the report's authors is Dilek Karal.

"Forty-two percent in Turkey have been subject to physical or sexual violence, and also official statistics reveal that 90 percent have not reported cases of abuse," she said. "One of the reasons is cultural perception. People think that is a shame to denounce domestic violence in public. And also the second reason, previous experience incidents show authorities do not react to this violence. So they think that police will not do anything about the domestic violence and also the lawmakers cannot do anything [about] this domestic violence."
Increasing problem

An activist of the women's rights group Femen prepares for a protest against domestic violence in Istanbul, March 8, 2012.Turkey's ruling AK party has pledged to deal with the problem. But under its 10-year rule, according to its own statistics, murders of women have increased 1,400 percent in seven years, with nearly 1,000 killed in 2009.

Minister of Family Affairs Fatma Sahin introduced legislation that was passed by parliament Thursday. The new law is aimed at offering better protection to women and enhanced support for victims. The legislation widens the scope of protection. Up until now, Turkey's domestic violence law has only applied to married women. Pinar Ilkaracan of Women for Women's Human Rights cooperated with the ministry on drafting the legislation. She says there are some important changes.

"Now the police has [have] the right for a mandatory arrest, if a man is exerting serious violence, threats, to the life of the women," said Ilkaracan. "Then now the police have right for a mandatory arrest, which is a good point."
Weak legislation

The new law, which still has to be ratified by the president, also provides for courts to electronically tag men deemed to be a threat.

But controversy has surrounded the new reforms, with women's groups and other non-governmental organizations angered by changes already made to the new law. Ilkaracan says the legislation has been weakened.

"The draft, which was prepared by the ministry and women's organizations, was cancelled by other institutions, for example, in the last case by the prime ministry," she said. "A very striking example, wherever there was a term 'gender equality,' or 'women's human rights,' all these were deleted. The paragraph to give the ministry authorization to train the police or to establish violence intervention centers [was] deleted. Now the law has become half-good, bittersweet. For me, it signals the government is not serious about eliminating violence against women."

Minister of Family Affairs Sahin acknowledges the concerns and criticisms but argues it remains an important reform.

She says this is a strong law and Turkey is entering into a new system that defends a woman's right to live and protects victims of violence.

There also are concerns about whether the necessary infrastructure will be created to support victims of abuse. Turkey currently has around 70 shelters for a population of more than 80 million. Germany, with an equivalent population, has 366. The budget for provision of such services has been cut nearly in half in a last-minute amendment to the law.

Implementation of the new law also remains a concern. U.S.-based Human Rights Watch, while welcoming the legislation, has voiced concerns about Ankara's troubling record of enforcing laws aimed at protecting women.

Gauri van Gulik authored a report last year on domestic violence in Turkey for Human Rights Watch.

"There is a credibility gap," van Gulik said. "On one hand, you have this amazing progress in terms of legislation, so you have the penal code reform, the civil code reform. They have set this system of protection in principle, in law. On the other hand, none of that is implemented properly."

Protection of women's rights remains a key part of the European Union, which Turkey is seeking to join. The government has committed itself to confronting domestic abuse, but critics argue there is a worrying gap between its rhetoric and implementation of the reforms.
Source: Voice of America

Thursday, 1 March 2012

Turks Flock to Film Celebrating Conquest of Byzantium

These days the answer to “they don’t make ’em like that anymore” is “Conquest 1453,” the new spear-and-molten-pitch swashbuckler movie that has Turkish viewers storming their local cinemas in record-breaking numbers. It tells the story of the Ottomans’ successful siege of Constantinople through the eyes of Sultan Mehmet II, with a neat subplot about a cross-dressing female cannon maker who made victory possible.

“Conquest 1453” (or “Fetih 1453” in Turkish) is remarkable not just for its $17 million budget — which is enormous by Turkish standards — and for the size of the biceps on those thousands of extras. It’s also remarkable for the entirely unselfconscious way it celebrates war and conquest.

The film manages to combine blood and battle with a feel-good factor. We shed not a tear for the end of Byzantium. The Greeks lose the city after too many late nights spent with dancing girls. The Turks take it as a reward for their determination and faith. The film might have been pitched to the movie moguls as “Troy” meets “Starship Troopers” meets “Shakespeare in Love.”

Some argue that “Conquest 1453” strikes a chord because contemporary Turkey yearns for its past. The scenes of the pope and assorted mischievous Europeans playing both ends against the middle certainly made an impression on one former Turkish ambassador to the European Union. He tweeted: “A must-see for showing the glory of Turkish history and the games being played over today’s Turkey.”
Source: New York Times