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  • President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s reinvigorated friend and regional partner, Vladimir Putin, president of Russia hails Turkey’s stance against US president Trump and his administration’s “economic warfare” on Turkey. So does the Iranian president Hassan Rouhani. China’s president Xi Jinping, with the state-owned banking giant The Industrial and Commercial Bank of China (ICBC) already lent Turkey $3.6 billion in July. When asked about the investment, Foreign Ministry spokesperson Lu Yi said that this to be a loan for the energy and transportation sector and that China had always attached importance to the economic, trade and financial ties it has with Turkey. International observers say, financial support by China and Qatar may very well help postpone Turkey’s short-term economic crisis, aggravated by a trade war with the United States, fueled by both countries’ domestic policy concerns as well as Turkey’s structural problems, mostly caused by President Erdogan’s, at best unorthodox, economic theories. The USA is running up to midterm elections, to be held most probably on Tuesday, November 6, 2018 and Turkey going to yet to another, this time local elections to be held in March of 2019, if it is not pulled forward to perhaps even November of this year. It is now widely understood that the doctrine of geopolitics is going through a radical paradigm shift affecting international relations and foreign policy of almost every country around the World, exacerbated by president Trump’s bullying attitude. When we look at Turkey’s new friends and partners we find paradoxes. Turkey is fervently supporting Palestine’s fight against “the criminal state” Israel as President Erdogan put it and yet we do not hear much, almost no squeak about the Turkic Uyghur and ethnic minority Central Asian Muslim communities in China. The Soviet Union had been instrumental in the establishment of the terror organization PKK (Partiya Karkerên Kurdistanê – Kurdistan Workers’ Party) founded by the now jailed Abdullah Ocalan on November 5, 1978 in Lice, Diyarbakir with a Marxist/Leninist doctrine. Ocalan was captured in Kenya 19 years ago on February 15, 1999, however, there have been allegations that he had been “served” by the US to the Turkish intelligence agency MIT on condition that the death sentence was abolished by Turkey which had been “complied to” by the Prime Bulent Ecevit lead DSP + ANAP + MHP coalition government in the 125 seating of the Turkish Grand Assembly on August 2, 2002. While Erdogan is accusing the US for their help and support to the PYD, YPG and SDG today, almost two decades have past since the Soviet Union has crumbled, Ocalan is an old grey haired inmate, Mr. Bulent Ecevit has passed, President Erdogan’s AKP is in its 16th year in government, Turkish political governance system has changed and a new world order is marching in and yet, Russian officials have participated in the opening ceremony and conference of the PYD representative office in Moscow only two years ago, in February of 2016. We are used to Erdogan’s rhetorical zigzags and U-turns, like in the Mavi Marmara flotilla case of May 30, 2010, when the Israeli Defense Forces had intercepted and landed with its Special Forces on the ship in international waters, 73 miles off Israel’s shores. He had initially praised the effort in a public speech on July 17, 2014 but told off IHH, the NGO leading the flotilla, on June 29, 2016, not having asked for permission from him as the Prime Minister of the day. The gridlock in Idlib poses an intriguing opportunity to observe President Erdogan’s charisma and cunning in as much that once again the parties ranging from Russia, Iran, Syria on one side and the US with its allies, including the PYD/YPG on the other; add a few components of the Free Syrian Army, proxies of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard, sprinkle some dissident Sunni rebel groups and top it all of with Chinese, Japanese and Korean concerns waiting eagerly to pounce on business opportunities in the rebuilding and reconstruction of a new Syria, in whichever structure it may be resurrected. Mustafa Kemal Ataturk has once said: “Foreign policy must be based on domestic capacity and domestic politics, that is, not to exceed one’s capaccity. Otherwise, those who wander in pursuit of imaginary foreign policies will lose their fulcrum on one’s own accord. In order to be strong in foreign policies one needs strong domestic policies. Nevertheless, a policy cannot live on unless it is a state and nation policy. The life of people is short …” President Erdogan has on numerous occasions spoken against and even insulted both Ataturk and Inonu, considered to be the founding fathers of modern Turkey by some, to the extent that on one occasion he has referred to them as “two drunkards”. Over the years, this insinuation has evolved into praise exceeding into “One flag, one homeland, one state, and one nation”. There are critics who claim that they are more resonant of another undesirable Western historic figure rather than anything that Ataturk might have said on the topic. The Turkish media is abundant with articles and resources supporting all of these claims. Turkish nationalism’s arch enemy for decades has been the “Moskof” referring to Russia, instilling fear and hatred among the pious, nationalist and patriotic masses eager to direct their enmity towards an centuries-old adversary. Today, President Erdogan’s local partner Mr. Bahceli, leader of the MHP (Nationalist Movement Party) is so sensitive about the delicate balances that he refrains from uttering any words, which may be detrimental to the Turkish-Russian or Turkish-Chinese partnership. This coming Friday, on September 7, Russia, Iran and Turkey are meeting once again to discuss how to move forward in Syria, in particular Idlib. Iran and Russia have too much at stake in Iraq, Syria and the Eastern Mediterranean that as longer standing partners than Turkey it is only expected that they will push their terms on Turkey. Only last week, Mevlut Cavusoglu, Turkey’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, the freshly promoted Minister of Defence, former Chief of Staff

  • The old Anatolian joke goes that the rich landowner is driving his new tractor and his overseer is following from behind, in total exhaustion after hard day’s work. Mehmet the overseer has always wanted to buy a tractor for his small ploy where he wants to increase productivity and visit the village coffeeshop like a landowner – now that he owns a tractor. “Mehmet,” shouted from the tractor’s seat. “Yes, Aga.” “I thought about it for a while and maybe we can make a deal and this tractor can be yours.” Speechless, all Mehmet cold say was he could not afford it. “Easy,” said the Aga. The Aga is so rich that he is not interested in money; all he wanted to do was to publicly humiliate his overseer because he had the habit of gossiping and Aga’s family. “Here is my offer, Mehmet. Take it, or leave it. I’ll pee somewhere here and you’ll drink it all (softer version of the story). Not a drop will be left.” Mehmet first says an almost inaudible “no,” then looks at the tractor, with regained courage shouts: “Yes, I agree.” They finish their business, Aga signs papers n Mehmet’s name, Mehmet is at the wheel and Aga is walking behind. As they walk with the village lights almost visible, both men regret the deal: Aga will be ashamed of losing his expensive tractor for nothing and Mehmet will become the joke of the village for stooping so low as to drink Aga’s piss for a cursed tractor. Stopping the tractor Mehmet said: Aga, we did not do well. We should find a way to get out of this mess.” “I agree,” said Aga. “What if I buy back the tractor from you?” Fine, said Mehmet, same conditions. No, Aga protested. He has plenty of money and enough with this pee drinking thing. So, no deal,” Mehmet starts the ignition. Aga runs after the tractor and agrees to terms. He jumps into the seat and they drive/walk for two more hours when the village lights are on. “Aga,” Mehmet says, “Can I ask you something?” Go ahead. “The tractor is still yours, like before. I don’t have a tractor, like before. Then why in hell did we drink each other’s pees? Fighter jets are more expensive than tractors. You normally don’t buy one by drinking the richer person’s pee. In the case of the F-35 this author has been ‘guessing’ (and writing) S-400 is a done deal for the past two years. When the Turks realised that they went too far it was too late to backtrack. The Americans on the other hand never took the RU-TR S-400 deal seriously. Oh, at some point it will break up although we are almost at the delivery stage. What went wrong? Many things. But primarily the U.S. assumption that Mr Erdogan was bluffing when he shook hands with Vladimir Putin. At least it has been a fair deal: The landlord is still the landlord and the overseer s still the overseer. And drinking pee will not kill anyone.

  • Even before the introduction of the executive presidential system of government in Turkey, Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s main strategic goal for the last couple of years has been clear – centralization of all political power in the country. In this process, he made the right calculation that going back to the politics of coalitions was the only way he could ensure the “50-percent plus 1” majority necessary to rule in the new system. Together with his junior partner, the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP), Erdogan and his Justice and Development Party (AKP) have been successful in a couple of election runs. However, this political synergy also produced a risky externality for Erdogan – it also pushed the opposition to strategize about forming coalitions, partnerships and tactical cooperation on their end. Ultimately, this was one of the main driving forces which helped the opposition win the mayors’ races in all major cities, including Ankara and Istanbul, in the local elections held on March 31. Trying to predict a strongman’s move in the times of political turbulence, like the one Erdogan has been experiencing following the local elections’ loss, is not an easy task and often requires more of a psychological rather than a political assessment. However, based on what we know about what caused the turbulence, some educated guesses can be made. As an endgame, Erdogan is probably aiming to end the cooperation and informal alliances among the opposition, namely Republican People’s Party (CHP), the moderately nationalist İYİ Party and the pro-Kurdish People’s Democratic Party (HDP). The key for the opposition to win the local elections in the big cities of Turkey was the ability to work together, put their major differences aside and cooperate. It was quite notable that both İYİ Party, which split from MHP, and thus has a nationalist base, and HDP voters were able to vote for the very same candidates. I interviewed HDP’s Ankara MP Filiz Kerestecioğlu before 31 March for Deutsche Welle and asked her about this unusual phenomenon of HDP’s support for a nationalist mayor candidate in Ankara, Mansur Yavaş. She told me that HDP would give their unconditional support for all CHP candidates in big cities. They saw this as the best tactical approach to accomplish their main goals of hurting AKP and positioning HDP as a more effective player within the city councils in return. This traditionally unlikely cooperation among the opposition which resulted in a number of successful local elections races may be the footsteps of the post-Erdoğan Turkey. In the new era, Turks, Kurds, Islamists, and Seculars may be pushed to work together. Turkey is in the midst of an economic crisis, a damaged rule of law, and a widespread deteriorated public trust in the institutions. Turkey is in dire need of transformation in the post-Erdoğan period. Its suffering democracy will have to be reinstalled so that the system can be inclusive for all segments of the society. It can be argued that this message of an inevitable unity was given by the voters in 31 March elections. People were clear that they want their problems solved, and many were ready to cross their traditional voting boundaries in order to send this message. Ekrem İmamoğlu, the winning CHP mayor candidate in Istanbul on 31 March, can be seen as one of the faces of the new era of Turkish politics. I went to cover his celebration rally, after he had received the credentials as the mayor of Istanbul. It took place in the Asian side of the city, at the huge Maltepe Square by the Marmara Sea. İmamoğlu’s rally started with the so-called Mehter March. This musical choice shocked the crowd gathered in Maltepe. Mehter March is quite symbolic as it is a March which the Ottomans used to play once they conquered a city. With this march, the Ottoman soldiers made their symbolic entrance to the city. Traditionally, in Turkish politics, this march is usually used by the Turkish right. Trying to read the symbolism of the march at İmamoğlu’s rally, one can conclude that it either implied political conquering of Istanbul or sent a message of openness of the new establishment to all sides and everyone, either right or left. The crowd at the rally mainly consisted of families. People were almost in a picnic mood, sitting on the grass and chatting. Some young people were having beers, hyped-up almost as if they were at a rock concert. After the Mehter March, Vivaldi was played, which continued to build the unique atmosphere. Before İmamoğlu took the stage, an actual imam came in front of the crowd. He started reading verses from the Quran in Turkish and praying for İmamoğlu to be successful. People joined the imam and approved of his prayers by several loud “Amens”. Beşiktaş football fans were also among the crowd, and started chanting, so the crowd reacted to them, and warned them to be quiet while the imam was reading from the Quran. All of this created almost a surreal set of images for a traditional CHP rally. Mehter choir continued playing the famous İzmir march, which is the symbolic march of the Turkish seculars. The unifying mishmash continued and the signs of depolarization of a transitioning Turkish society could be clearly seen. It is obvious that the edges of the opposition’s politics are being smoothened, and rather than black and white extremes, different shades of grey are starting to dominate. The sides seem to be embracing the change, softening their policies which could lead to a reconciliation and a new set of principles. On the other side of the Turkish political spectrum, Erdoğan often underlines that he, (and not so much his party) together with MHP won 52 percent of the total votes in the local elections, and in this way, trying to soften a suffered blow to his rule. However even he cannot deny a general unwritten rule that, in Turkish politics who ever loses İstanbul, in the end loses the rest. Opposition now controls the cities that

  • The situation in northern Syria is not developing the way Turkey desires. It may help, therefore, to try and put some facts into focus. Northern Syria is of vital importance to Turkey, not so much because of the radical Islamists that operate there, but because of the YPG and broader Kurdish aspirations in the region. Turkey considers the YPG to be a Kurdish terrorist group linked to the outlawed PKK, which the US and Russia do not accept. Meanwhile, the PKK is listed as a terrorist organization by Turkey and the US but not by Russia. Ankara has promised to eliminate the YPG. Turkey gained a military foothold in northern Syria – or was allowed to do so by the US and Russia for pragmatic reasons – through its Euphrates Shield and Olive Branch operations.  It has not, however, been able to enlarge this foothold to push back the YPG because of opposition from Washington and Moscow. Turkey also managed to gain a limited military presence in Idlib province under an accord with Russia. That, though, is turning into more of a curse than a blessing given recent developments there. Ankara has been threatening to move onto the city of Manbij and lands east of the Euphrates River against the YPG. Both regions are held by the YPG with the support of the US military. Nevertheless, Turkey has failed to carry out these threats so far. In the meantime Turkey floated the idea of an exclusively Turkish controlled buffer zone of 20-30 kilometers deep, which will be on the Syrian side the of long border with that country. Turkey also wants to resettle Syrian refugees in this zone. This offer has been picked up by Washington, although not by Moscow, and the sides are continuing to negotiate over it. However, Turkey’s desire to see such a buffer zone may be turning against it. Washington’s special Syria envoy James Jeffrey has been saying a lot about the subject recently. What we can glean from his remarks is that this buffer zone is not going to be on Ankara’s terms. Put briefly the US is not keen on a zone that is controlled exclusively by Turkey. It wants to be the main controlling component, even if there is some Turkish participation in the zone. Washington says the zone it proposes will contribute to Turkey’s security but the Turkish side believes its real intent is to protect the YPG against Turkey. It is no secret that there is far more sympathy for the YPG in Washington currently than for Turkey. Ankara is aware that a US controlled zone will also give respite to the YPG in northern Syria, enabling the group to consolidate the gains it has secured there under US support and protection. Despite its threats against the YPG Turkey has no way of preventing the Kurds from consolidating these gains. The only option it has is to go in militarily despite the risk of a standoff with the US military that could turn ugly. Hotheads on the Turkish side are clamoring for this but it has not happened so far. It seems Ankara does not want to engage in adventurism despite the heated jargon it uses. Ankara’s ultimate fear in northern Syria is the emergence of a northern Iraq type Kurdish entity. This appears unlikely, though, since the Assad regime would not allow it and Russia would not support it. Ankara is aware, though, that as long as a political settlement remains elusive in Syria the YPG will stay in place in northern Syria and continue to consolidate its hold there under US protection. On the other side of the coin Ankara and Moscow are also not on the same page regarding the YPG or the Syrian Kurds. Top Russian officials have said the YPG is not a terrorist organization. They have also declared that persons attached to this group can take part in the Syrian negotiations. In the meantime Moscow is encouraging dialogue between the regime and the YPG and prompting them to arrive at a negotiated settlement over the future of the Syrian Kurds. Russia is more concerned today about Idlib and the Jihadist groups that have overrun most of the province, than it is about the YPG. It even protects the YPG against Turkey in Tel Rifaat. Moscow also complains openly that Turkey has failed to expel the Jihadists from Idlib, as it was supposed to under last September’s agreement between Erdogan and President Vladimir Putin in Sochi. Put in a nutshell, Russia’s policies is Syria will most likely leave Ankara ultimately facing a hostile Assad regime as well as a hostile Kurdish Syrian population that has been granted certain political rights in a final settlement. Listening to Jeffrey it appears that Washington may also not be averse to a settlement that accepts Assad as a fact of life and guarantees political rights for the Syrian Kurds. Notably in this respect is the fact that Jeffrey has also been discouraging the Kurds from entertaining dreams of an independent Syrian Kurdistan. What concerns Ankara, though, is that its “estranged strategic partner” and its “hopeful strategic partner” have effectively become guarantors of Kurdish rights in Syria, albeit to varying degrees. Turkey will most likely have to watch from a distance what Washington and Moscow ultimately agrees on for the future of Syria. The US and Russia are already talking about this. We may be far off yet from peace in Syria, but the writing is on the wall as to how this will come about in the end. It is only a matter of time. The diplomatic and military policies Ankara can come up with during this time, in order to turn the tide in northern Syria to its advantage remain unclear.

  • The Greek propaganda machine was quick in trying to portray as “unimpressive” a not-so-accustomed Turkish presentation in Ankara, and later in Brussels, on Turkey’s legitimate and inalienable rights in the eastern Mediterranean. It was claimed that diplomats from Turkey’s European allies and other countries, particularly the Israelis and the Egyptians, were not impressed with Turkish briefings. Kathimerini newspaper underlined that a Greek diplomat was among the diplomatic guests of the Ankara briefing and reported that “sources” told it that diplomats attending that meeting met with skepticism the presentation made by Çağatay Erciyes, the director general for bilateral political and maritime, aviation and border affairs. Why this panic? Was it up to Greek diplomats to decide whether other countries were impressed or not with the information they were provided? Irrespective of how it was perceived by Greece, or the Greek Cypriot state, Turkey’s operations in the eastern Mediterranean are held within the contours of its continental shelf and in areas where the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus has issued a license to operate to Turkish Petroleum, the Turkey’s state-run oil company. The petroleum company’s drilling activity, which started on May 3 and will continue in line with the program announced, demonstrated Turkey’s determination not to bow to fait accomplis by either Greece, Greek Cypriots or their partners. Obviously, nothing can be accomplished in the eastern Mediterranean by bypassing or refusing to engage Turkey. Admitting the Greek Cypriot government into the European Union in 2004 was a big mistake that today even most European countries admit. Greece, holding its European partners hostage because of Germany’s eastern expansion ambitions, achieved the EUmembership of Cyprus though it was the Greek Cypriots who killed a U.N. settlement plan just a week before the accession completed on May 1, 2004. Now, the EU, standing as a defender of the Greek Cypriot claims and telling Ankara that the unilateral exclusive economic zone of Cyprus constituted the external border of the union, is not only unprecedented and unacceptable but also underlines that the European club can never be an honest broker – a role it keeps on demanding to be given – between the two people of Cyprus. Obviously,  maritime claims of EU member states that violate legitimate rights of third countries, in this case Turkey, cannot be portrayed as EU external borders. As was described by Erciyes in his presentation to diplomats – a presentatrio0n available on the ministry’s web site – the Greek and Greek Cypriot maritime claims are “maximalist” with the assumption that Cyprus and the islands in disputed areas were all entitled to an exclusive economic zone (EEZ) and continental shelf (CS). Recently, Erciyes wrote on social media that “Entitlement & Delimitation are not the same thing. Islands may get zero or reduced EEZ/CS if their presence distorts equitable delimitation. This is a fundamental international law principle. Final maritime boundaries can only be determined through agreements (not violating 3rd parties’ possible boundaries) or through litigation. Overlapping maritime claims prevail in the absence of a settlement.” Irrespective of how the Greek and Greek Cypriot governments describe and with whatever solidarity consideration the EU might respond to Turkey’s legitimate actions, obviously, maritime claims of EU members violating the legitimate rights of third countries cannot be portrayed as the external borders of the EU. Telling Turkey that even if it might contradict international law or established practices because of solidarity considerations the EU was obliged to support, the Greek Cypriot and Greek positions could only hurt further the already very troubled web of Turkey-EU relations. Turkey has legitimate rights in the eastern Mediterranean emanating from its territorial shelf. Trying to portray Turkey’s determination to defend its rights as “expansionist designs” could only be described as “to remain Greek to realty.” Published in http://www.hurriyetdailynews.com/opinion/yusuf-kanli/expansionist-designs-or-legitimate-rights-143806

  • I still remember the time when our elementary school teacher told us about the “history” of the official flag of the Republic of Turkey. Supposedly, one evening, while Ataturk was visiting the battlegrounds of the War of Independence, he stumbled upon a fallen soldier. The blood drenched young man was lying on the ground. Ataturk noticed the reflection of the white crescent moon on the soldier’s bloody uniform, and decided right there and then that this image, a white crescent and star on red background, would be the nation’s new official flag. The color red on a flag, therefore, came to represent for me the struggle of a nation and, in time, as I grew into adolescence, the guardianship of the state of its subjects. Later in life, I began to associate different colors on flags with other notions.  For me, whereas blue stood for “freedom”, white stood for “peace”, green represented Islam, light blue represented Judeo-Christian faith and so forth. Of course, there was no scientific basis for my flag-colors-hypothesis other than a few circumstantial ones.  Such as , while communist nations like the USSR and China heavily emphasized red in their flags, more liberal nations in general used red more sparingly, and more often than not, not at all. Instead their flags featured blue and white -freedom and peace, as far as I was concerned. Putting my silly assumptions aside, the color red did seem to represent the State in other areas as well. Turkey’s oldest (and once upon a time, only) political party’s flags and emblems were red as can be. Most political parties that came afterwards also featured red heavily in their flags and emblems. Red was the color of the carpet laid out in front of foreign dignitaries; it was the color of the military. Red represented the sternness, the demureness and the authority of the Turkish State as well as the political landscape in general. The grave nature of the color red representing the State, apart from keeping the citizens at an arm’s length, also, I believe, seeded in us a general sense of trust in the state as the ultimate authority. We were conditioned, for example, to believe that the courts would be just, at least in their applying of the current law, regardless of how unjust the law in question was. We knew that the human element of civil servants were out of our reach, that we wouldn’t connect with them on a human level, but they would serve us just as well without any prejudice or patronage. In short, the Turkish State was there at an arm’s length, just out of reach, a patriarchal figure that didn’t bestow much sympathy towards its subjects, but would also act, mostly, indiscriminately amongst them. This stern status quo of the Republic of Turkey began to change under Erdogan and AKP’s rule. We began to see a government that was more in touch with its citizens than any other in the past. This did not only help them win victory after victory, while the old guns of Turkish politics kept their distance from the public, but it also caused a shift in what the State meant and represented. People were less scared of their government with its friendly face.  The face of the State was now a smiling one rather than the frowning one we had become accustomed to for decades. AKP’s grand plan to sway the public away from their well-established conception of the State as it was in the past, required some certain visual changes as well. They well knew that the color red stood for the ways of the past, of CHP, of Turkey’s dark structural, ethnic, socioeconomic and political divide. AKP had already rejected the color scheme of their political party of origin, the Welfare Party whose emblem was strictly red and white and was virtually indistinguishable from CHP’s, and had opted for a warmer orange color to represent them. During the elections, when you went to the ballot box and looked at the ballot, AKP’s colorful emblem stood apart from almost all other parties with their red and white symbols. Turquoise as the representative color of the Turkish state came later during Erdogan’s reign around 2013. From there on, almost everything that represented the State began to take a turquoise hue: the Presidential offices, official carpets, police uniforms, the Parliament in general, national sports teams jerseys, all underwent a color change. “So what”, you might ask, “What difference does it make what colors are featured in government business?” To that I’d say, “Nothing occurs in vacuum.” Turquoise is hardly anything more than a metaphor here. The State’s directional change towards a more folksy, unofficial template brought with it an overall deterioration of how it handles its duties. If red stands for the State, the blue for freedom and white for peace, turquoise stands for a crude, flimsy, and scrappy kind of populism with no regard to established laws and ways. And the “turquoisation” of Turkey manifests itself in a makeshift and arbitrary legislation, a populist and nepotist government, and a lawless and unjust judiciary. It is under the amicable surface of turquoise that you find car trains derailed by the hurried railway systems, hordes of journalists and politicians convicted by extrajudicial accusations, election laws changed immediately after the ballot boxes close, a happy-go-lucky Economy Minister announcing three economic masterplans in as many months, a thousand-and-one room Presidential Palace, and most recently a local election cancelled under no applicable laws in existence. It is the way of the turquoise. When the Supreme Electoral Committee was under deliberation to rule on the validity of the Istanbul local elections, I, like many others, was under the impression that, as much as they wished (and were pressured) to cancel the election results, they would not be able to do so because, well, laws… I had clearly overlooked the fact that we are living under a deep turquoise state where all is shaky and

  •  “I see a beautiful city and a brilliant people rising from this abyss. I see the lives for which I lay down my life, peaceful, useful, prosperous and happy. I see that I hold a sanctuary in their hearts, and in the hearts of their descendants, generations hence,” Charles Dickens described a city, its inhabitants and the hope in closing chapter of the world-famous historical novel ‘A Tale of Two Cities’ (1859). What you are going to read is the incomplete tale of Istanbul. A dazzling beauty, enchanting history and the source of many tales to tell with its multi-ethnic, multi-religious and multicultural background… It has been the capital of three empires for more than 1500 years: the Roman, Byzantine and Ottoman Empires, many of whom left their mark on the built heritage of the city. Aside from its strategic advantage with its seven hills and strait control where the East meets the West, its diverse cultures have always been a place of attraction throughout history. Istanbul is Europe; it’s Asia or even none at times. It is the side of a twisted love pursued for centuries. It was conquered, fought over, and reconstructed many times before growing into the cosmopolitan city it is today. It provides utmost beauty and chaos at the same time with its population of over 15 million. The result is that you feel melancholy, sadness, hope, longing and desire in Istanbul, yet none effectively describes it. Since the mid-twentieth century, when it had less than 1 million inhabitants, its population has risen explosively. Most of this development was driven by inner rural migration.  Istanbul is not the administrative capital of Turkey, but it has been a historic, commercial and cultural center with over 15 million inhabitants; it has therefore always been an indicator of political developments. With its large population, Istanbul generates more than one-third of Turkey’s GDP. In Turkey’s political landscape and psychological state, however, the loss of municipality by AKP in Istanbul will definitely have significant implications. The Turkish public has experienced a sharp fight in the political arena over the outcomes of Istanbul over the last two and a half months after the March 31 local elections. Since 1994, Istanbul has been controlled by the same group; first by Erdoğan and the Welfare Party, than by the Justice and Development Party (AKP). You might claim winning in Istanbul is also Erdoğan’s prestige since he began his political career there and any loss of AKP will hit President Erdoğan particularly hard and be extremely personal. The metropolis was his political cradle, and his fascinating tale of political survival has always been Istanbul. Erdogan’s going to unleash a vibrant wave that will break his seemingly invincible rule. The Past A big percentage of people came to the polls on March 31 to decide on their provincial mayors after a traumatic and tiring election campaign in Turkey, and the Turkish public witnessed a serious political battle over Istanbul’s outcomes. After a furious election night, the result was in favor of opposition candidate Ekrem Imamoğlu with a narrow band, and AKP appealed to YSK (Supreme Election Board) to recount invalid votes in more than a dozen districts and all votes in 3 districts of Istanbul. The YSK announced the official recognition of the win of Imamoglu on April 17 and AKP continued the process by calling for the cancelation of the metropolitan elections. In accordance with YSK’s judgment of May 6, 2019 on the grounds of AKP’s appeal; it was stated that among government authorities the Board’s judges had accepted the allegations of some polling station officials had not been appointed as stated in Turkish election legislation. However, in local elections, Turkish electors had voted for four distinct things (Provincial Mayor, District Mayor, Municipal Assembly, Mukhtar), only the Metropolitan Mayorship of Istanbul was cancelled and concluded for a rerun on the accusations mentioned above. As a consequence, there will be a re-election for Istanbul’s Metropolitan Municipality on June 23. The Present While it is quite hard to determine the percentages of mayoral candidates due to a narrow gap, several public opinion surveys have been submitted in the home stretch of redo elections in Istanbul. Binali Yildirim, the People’s Alliance candidate (48.3%), was slightly ahead of his rival Ekrem Imamoglu (47.7%), according to the outcomes of the study undertaken by ORC Research, claiming to be close to AKP, for the Istanbul Metropolitan Municipality elections to be renewed on June 23. The Piar Company’s analysis of the election to be held in Istanbul on 23 June remarked that “mass psychology is in Ekrem Imamoğlu’s favor.” Although both parties are at risk from the elections, Piar said both applicants are likely to win. “We see, however, that it is useful to say that mass psychology is in Imamoğlu’s favor. According to the study undertaken by MAK Consultancy Research Company (close to the governing party) with the involvement of 11,000 individuals, on June 23, CHP candidate Ekrem Imamoğlu is 2 points ahead of AKP candidate Binali Yıldırım. It is anticipated that Imamoglu will receive 50.3 percent after the distribution of undecided voters, Binali Yildirim 48.2 percent, and Saadet Party candidate Necdet Gökçınar 0.75 percent, according to study outcomes undertaken between 15 and 20 May. Ihsan Aktaş, General Manager of GENAR, who was working to the AKP, said: “Imamoğlu was behind by 1 or 2 points before the past election. Now he is ahead of him.” Because of past election results on March 31 and most likely because of poll effects, the AKP has undergone a notable shift in the approach of the campaign. It was claimed that President Erdoğan would have utmost participation in the campaign after the Eid holiday with multiple rallies in nearly all Istanbul districts. However, in order to prevent the consolidation of votes among opposition groups, President Erdoğan was taken out of the scene due to the fresh perspective of the AKP group. It is also suggested that president Erdoğan would be protected from consequences

  • With the liquidation of the parliamentary system in our country, we have been watching the period of compulsory rapprochement between political parties. Taking part in alliances requires, first to discover common values ​​and second to defend those values in discourses and public spaces. For this reason, this process is a familiarization to the holistic and totalitarian forms of perception from fragmented and discrete perception for voters. It means, holistic and consequently right or holistic and ultimately left. Holistic and populist or holistic and traditional. Concepts such as secularism, losing of religious rituals are gradually shadowed. The stance of the parties on knife-back issues no longer keeps their old sharpness. Political leaders are not involved in issues consciously that are likely to lose their alliance sides. The parliament lost its character of a real political conflict and debate, except for voting the executive orders of the President and appointed bureaucrats. The new arena to fight is now the field of local elections. Since the same bias in the local elections such as the general elections, it is no longer possible to talk about the election of ‘local administrators’ of the municipalities. No matter how successful the Mayor in their region does, the voters preferred to vote for the alliance of their heart. When it comes to the unity of the alliance values, the politicians should not to be ignore some requirements. No matter the alliance values carry which ideological concepts, the ground should be “the common good of the society”. Without this value, the triumph of any ideology or political party will not please the people of this country till the end. Community welfare, not last long, necessarily bring political power to the end. The concept of political struggle that excludes the notion of “good will” eventually brings failure and unhappiness. The historical processes of our country shows that we tend to unite and tend to work together in our capillaries. This is our common structure. Including our kinship relations, our extended families, neighborhood culture, old holidays, and our commitment to nostalgia, our consciousness to refuse the modernist and individualist life. We have an emotional character first, not rational. No need to hide. So instead of trying to be like others, being ourselves will lead us to write a real success story. The alliances period of today is a historic opportunity for Turkey to discover the common values. It is possible to remember the historical values ​​of the country, the founding values ​​of the Republic, and the concepts that unite this society over the centuries. However, the hegemony of globalization with the huge power of digitalization is blurring the minds. So, instead of creating common values, we come and go between ”emulating”, “ trying to resemble” or “completely rejecting” “Others of West”.  Either accepting or rejecting as if it is not possible to create any other option. This is the first big mistake we have not literally realized. European values, for instance, are the most recent global reference values ​​in Turkish politics as they are in many ‘developing’ countries; as though freedom, equality and justice are the historical nature of Europe.  The process of EU of Turkey continues since 1987. We can’t even completed half the chapters. On the other hand, the chapter “fasıl in Turkish” is still a feast that goes with the raki for the majority of our society. We are ready to listen a long ‘fasıl’ at EU table. Now, the number of politicians should increase who appraise democracy, justice, equality, and liberty for the welfare of their own people instead of belonging to an organisation.  Any adaptation policies or not internalized philosophy does motivate any society. Current surveys shows it didn’t, too. Moreover, the people of this country no longer believe that they will be part of the European Union, even if Turkey works miracles. In other words, the link between the heart and mind of our citizens with EU has already broken. Still, instead of producing new ones, copying is a general method in daily life and especially in commercial life. Leadership programs from international companies, human resources training, plaza fashion, and the reflections of these global effects. Most of the time, makeshift images and words. Even success and failure are measured by global (!) criteria and international performance tests. Ironic. How can “success” be measured with an import criteria? We need to redefine our concept of success urgently, because that directly affect the states of happiness and unhappiness in daily life. Nevertheless, a new period of memory refreshment has begun in İstanbul meeting that Ekrem İmamoğlu calls a “New Beginning”. “Fire of Anatolia” reminded with their performance from seven regions of Turkey how rich our country is again. Not by words, via art. With emotion. With music and dance. On the other hand, Mehter team that plays İzmir Anthem get the message that both the glorious victory of the Ottoman Empire’s and the victory of the War of Independence belong to all the people of this country. İstanbul Mayor prefers this consolidative way of political communication from the beginning. Despite all the improvements and normalizations, the notion of “evil” in politics is a very old and deeply rooted political memorization. The provocation in Çubuk against the leader of the Republican People’s Party Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu is one of the inevitable consequences of the old propaganda habits. The political rage of AK Party bureaucrats such as Süleyman Soylu is natural and normal, because Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu is the designer of the opposing team. He is again an increasing figure of new arrivals in Turkish politics after this provocation similar to his debate with Melih Gökçek. Maybe, a great rhetoric agitates people powerfully, but is still abstract. Conversely, small and concrete triumphs are more substantial in politics. Political power should change this aggressive tactics. Fire has begun in Turkey with the power of Anatolia. Time to revise old party politics with new ones again.

  • Since the 2003 Rose Revolution, Georgia has  become a staunch and dependable non-NATO ally of the United States in the South Caucasus. Georgian-American bilateral military relations have become stronger and have climaxed in November 2017. With 870 soldiers per capita, Georgia is the leading donor of troops in Afghanistan. This is highly appreciated by the United States. James Mattis, US Secretary of Defence, said on 13 November 2017: “Georgia is a role model for all” NATO member states deploying forces in Afghanistan. And the United States responds accordingly, not only with regard to foreign military finding (FMF), but also with regard to the annual US-led military exercises in Georgia (codenamed Agile Spirit and Noble Partner). In addition, US instructors are training the Georgian military for the Afghanistan mission and began training the Georgian military for the territorial defence of Georgia in May 2018. Georgia’s acquisition of JAVELIN portable anti-tank systems in January 2018 was indeed a milestone in relations between Georgia and the US. Up until then, the US did not deliver defensive weapons to Georgia. This development has consolidated bilateral relations, taking them to a new level. Finally, with the pending Georgia Support Act (GSA), introduced on 26 June 2018 by the Congressmen Ted Poe and Gerald Connolly, the US provides robust support of Georgian sovereignty, although it does not provide details of emergency assistance to Georgia in the event of a Russian invasion. In other words, in a conflict with Russia, Georgia has to defend itself on its own. US Financial Support to Georgia American military assistance to Georgia, designated the FMF and intended for military equipment, fell from US$30M in 2016 to just US$20M in 2017, with funding in 2017 aimed at “promoting the development of Georgian forces capable of enhancing security, countering Russian aggression, and contributing to coalition operations.” This also includes support for the modernisation of Georgian rotorcraft air transport capabilities, Georgian military institutions and defence reforms. A spending law passed by the Senate Appropriations Committee in September 2017 increased Georgia’s FMF from US$20M in 2017 to US$35M in 2018. And we can expect a further increase for 2019, although the official FMF data have not yet been published. A Turn in the US Military Approach In recent years, the US military approach to Georgia has shifted – from training for international missions to the territorial defence of Georgia. The latest US-Georgia “Memorandum on Enhancing the Defence and Security Partnership”, signed in Tbilisi on 6 July 2016 by US Secretary of State John Kerry and Georgian Prime Minister Giorgi Kvirikashvili provided for this shift of US military assistance to Georgia from training Georgian soldiers for international deployment to the territorial defence of Georgia. In addition, the memorandum provides for assistance in defence procurement for Georgia in order to enhance the country’s defence capabilities and the combat level of its armed forces so that they can cooperate with NATO forces. The initiative focuses on modernising Vaziani military base situated outside Tbilisi in order to better deploy Georgian forces in combined arms operations or to improve cooperation between ground troops and air support. For instance, during the 2016 Noble Partner Exercise Georgia commanded joint Georgia/US/UK air and land forces for the first time. The US does some combined arms training of Georgian troops, but it does so at the US-operated Joint Multinational Readiness Centre at Hohenfels Training Area, Germany. The establishment of the US-financed Joint Multinational Readiness Centre (JMRC) in Georgia, similar to the centre of the same name at the US site in Germany, is a step in the right direction. The US-Georgia JMRC is located at the Vaziani military base and has been in operation since May 2018. Under the Georgian Defence Readiness Programme (GDRP) launched at the JMRC, between 40 and 50 American army officers are stationed at Vaziani base to train Georgian troops. The programme was launched in May 2018; it has a duration of three years and trains nine NATO standard rifle battalions. This complements Georgia’s operational programme, under which some 80 US Marines are stationed in Georgia to train Georgian troops before they are being sent to NATO’s Resolution Support Mission (RSM) in Afghanistan. In addition to training, the United States has finally approved the supply of defensive weapons to Georgia. Currently, the US holds two major military exercises annually on Vaziani military base – “Agile Spirit” and “Noble Partner”, a point which has repeatedly drawn criticism from Grigori Karasin, Russia’s Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs. Karasin said in February 2019, “NATO’s agenda is becoming more and more visible in Georgian foreign policy. They quite often hold large NATO military exercises, and Georgia is getting involved in other countries in the region, such as Armenia. Georgian politicians speak of accelerated NATO membership strategy and an alleged Russian threat to democratic Europe.” The military exercises have become a real irritant in Russian-Georgian relations. Georgian Procurement of US Defensive Weapons The US Defence Security Cooperation Agency (DSCA) announced on 20 November 2017 that “the State Department has approved a possible Foreign Military Sale of JAVELIN missiles and command launchers to Georgia for an estimated cost of US$75M”. In January 2018, the sale was approved. DSCA specified that the arms sale would include 410 JAVELIN missiles, and 72 JAVELIN Command Launch Units as well as logistics and programme support elements. According to DSCA, the proposed sale “would contribute to the foreign policy and national security of the United States by enhancing the security of Georgia. The JAVELIN launcher system will improve Georgia’s capability to meet its national defence needs.” DSCA also noted that the proposed sale “would not alter the basic military balance in the region” and that “there would be no negative impact on US defence as a result of this planned sale.” What is important in the DSCA Declaration is the explicit link between the foreign policy and national security of the United States and the enhanced security of Georgia. It underlines Georgia’s importance for the US foreign and security policy

  • The news of the past few days in the United States has focused primarily on the charred remains of both the California wildfires and the Republican majority in the House of Representatives. Neither is an ordinary disaster.  Each, in its own way, portends a dramatically different path forward for Republicans and Californians, most centrally President Donald Trump.  Indeed, the question of survival is at stake in every respect. Beneath the surface of the American domestic news, however, was an equally troubling event also involving death, one that has already taken place, one that could have occurred in the near future.  It is widely rumored that President Trump offered a deal, an “artful” one at that, to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.  The terms of the arrangement are quite straightforward.   Suppose the United States suddenly took a different point-of-view toward the visa status of its famous Turkish guest, Fethullah Gulen.  Suppose what the U.S. State Department had previously considered as inadequate proof of Turkish charges of responsibility for the 2016 coup attempt was not so bad a case after all.   Would that be a sufficient gesture, perhaps, to convince Erdogan to ease the pressure on Trump’s Saudi friends concerning the Istanbul murder and dismemberment of Saudi citizen and U.S. Green Card holder Jamal Ahmad Khashoggi, an assassination that the CIA has now identified as having been ordered by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman?   Sure, a few laws would be broken on both sides, but it is a win-win for everybody, right? To his credit, Erdogan responded through a spokesman that “(A)t no point did Turkey offer to hold back on the Khashoggi investigation in return for Fethullah Gulen’s extradition.  We have no intention to intervene in the Khashoggi investigation in return for any political or legal favor.”  Moreover, reports at the time of this writing suggests that Trump, known for his dexterity in contradicting himself when necessary, said that no such deal is actually being considered.  Whether or not there ever was such a conversation between the U.S. and Turkey, the controversy needs to be understood in view of the recent history of U.S.-Turkey relations, not just since the abortive coup, but evolving since the beginning of the A.K.P. dominance of Turkish politics.  The past fifteen years have been fraught with errors of judgment, misunderstanding, and uncertainty that have brought these erstwhile close allies to the brink of conflict. In a case of being at the wrong place (for me) at the right time, I witnessed the beginning of this long slide to ambiguity. On the early Saturday evening of 1 March 2003 while I was living in Ankara, I had an errand to run that took me to the then-Turkish Daily News.  I was to meet Yusuf Kanli for the first time.  The purpose of my visit was quickly forgotten because all eyes in the newsroom were focused on the live video feed of actions of the Turkish Grand National Assembly’s debate over Turkey’s proposed participation in what would become the U.S.-led Iraq War.  Everyone in the newsroom, indeed, everyone in the streets of Ankara, including the massive protest demonstration taking place at that moment, knew the outcome of the Parliament’s debate.  It was a foregone conclusion.  The debate was an illusion.  Turkey had always supported America’s military interventions during the mid-to-late-Twentieth Century, subtly during World War 2, but very actively in Korea, Vietnam, and most recently, during the Gulf War.  Turkey had become a staunch ally of Israel, to the deep resentment of its Arab state neighbors, in support of U.S. foreign policy goals.  In return, Turkey gained a great deal from the relationship.  Besides being one of the largest recipients of the U.S. military and economic support, Turkey had a strong ally and supporter in its difficulties in an increasingly dangerous neighborhood.  Even when the large majority of the international community reacted in opposition to the Turkish position in Cyprus, the US served to water down the anti-Turk language of UN Security Council resolutions from 1974 forward.  Indeed, even when the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus was declared in 1983, while the US did not officially recognize the move, it was not hostile toward it.  The United States and Turkey were friends.  They had supported one another across decades and a variety of combat operations inside and out of the Mediterranean-Middle East region.  Obviously, Turkey would not abandon the U.S. in its post-9/11 trauma, no matter how many Turkish citizens demanded it do so.    Besides, America stood willing to pay billions to use its ports and land for attacks on Saddam’s Iraq.  Polls at the time showed that 94% of the Turkish people opposed the move and the joke around the newsroom was that no one had ever met anyone in the remaining 6%.  Turkey was in.  When it came to the U.S.-Turkey partnership, nothing could break the bond.  Both the recently departed Ecevit administration and the new AKP government accepted it.  It was done. Also read:  Lots of Politics in Brunson Courtroom Then the vote was taken.  264 Parliamentary deputies supported the resolution.  250 opposed, 19 abstained.  The resolution had been approved. Or had it?  Upon review, according to the rules of the Parliament, an absolute majority of the 533-members present had to approve the measure.  The resolution fell 3 votes shy of such a majority.  Quickly, then-Prime Minister Abdullah Gül declared the resolution “rejected,” and would not be reconsidered in response to the U.S. request for “clarification,”  stating ”Turkey is the only democratic country in the region. The decision is clear. We have to respect this decision, as this is what democracy requires.” The American reaction was immediate and intense.  Despite assurances from the U.S. Embassy in Ankara that ‘‘(W)e worked together as allies and we will continue to work together as allies”, the sense of resentment of toward Turkey’s perceived act of reneging on the deal began to impact Turkey in ways large and small.  In the immediate aftermath, Fulbright grants for Turkish students to come to the U.S. were sliced in half.  Turkish visitors to the U.S. suddenly had a more difficult time entering the nation’s ports of entry through beefed-up post-9/11 security arrangements.  In the most egregious case of all, on 4 July 2003, U.S. Marines arrested Turkish Special Forces units stationed

  • In an earlier article, I had written about the issues the youth in the East of Turkey had in integrating to the rest of the country, not to mention the issues surrounding their forced assimilation. The view of Turkey as a synthesis of the East and the West naturally concludes that the voter base in the East opts to elect a political party that stands for democracy, equality and justice. And who, but CHP, is the party that talks about these issues the most. But paradoxically, it is also CHP who faces a disappointment over the voters’ choices in the East in every election. The divide between the people in the East and the CHP first started in 1937 – 1938 when the tribal leaders in Dersim came into conflict with the Turkish Republic. The military intervention that followed resulted in 13,160 civilian and 110 military casualties. A further 11,838 people were forced to migrate. This timely intervention sought to exert Turkey’s dominance and halt further concessions may have been largely forgotten in Dersim (Tunceli), but its ramifications continue to haunt the people in the East at large. They continue to be bitter and unsympathetic towards the state. In contrast, the PKK which was formed in early 1970s, but didn’t become fully operational until 1978, buoyed by the climate and the level of education in the region, managed to gather sympathy and support from the population in Eastern Turkey. We must, of course, not forget about the influence of foreign powers in emboldening the terrorist organization. We must also remember that all the assignments and compensations done in Eastern and Southeastern Anatolia were carried out under the rules of a state of emergency. So, rather than investing in the region’s economic future, Turkey had to, instead, spend the funds on the military which unfortunately resulted in many civilian deaths. Since Turkey’s transition to a multi-party-political system, the CHP had only one shot at the government with Bulent Ecevit as the prime minister (January 5,1978 – November 12, 1979). Despite constantly being the opposition, the CHP never managed to significantly up their voting rate, and even fell below the 10% Parliamentary threshold in 1999. The leaders of CHP tenaciously reject to see a basic truth which is forever keeping them from governing this country: that these lands that were under the reign and whims of one absolute ruler for centuries harbor so many values. Conservatism, nationalism, statism, populism, secularism and many others are all deeply rooted beliefs for the peoples of Turkey. But the quality that always comes ahead is conservatism, which is not surprising when we consider that the Ottoman Empire was the official caliphate of Islam for centuries. These lands were subjected to religious law for a very long time. And the leap of faith towards democracy that Turkey attempted does not come easy. CHP never paid attention while pursuing their policies, and they have not been able to further Mustafa Kemal Ataturk’s practices from 50 to 60 years ago, and they have neither been able to cultivate the leaders that can take the helm of Ataturk and carry it further. But perhaps, CHP’s biggest mistake to date was their inefficiency in instilling in people the real meaning and importance of secularism. This led the way for the people to equate secularism to irreligion. Other political parties made good use of this shortcoming, and they have been successfully pushing forward with the “we are a religious organization, but look at the CHP, they are against religion” rhetoric. None other than the current president of Turkey, back when he was the mayor of Istanbul had proclaimed: “you cannot simultaneously be a Muslim and secular.” Turkey’s early periods may be likened to Phoenix when she rose from her ashes as a mostly Muslim dominated country with a very low literacy rate, and a single party rule was the best route of action by then. What is surprising is the demise of CHP immediately after the transformation into the multi-party system. What is worse, CHP has lost complete control of the media since 2003, and it is having a hard time to find a medium where it can explain itself. Kemal Kilicdaroglu, who has been the party’s chair after the sex tape scandal of Deniz Baykal, the previous chair, has so far lost nine of his nine elections and still has the audacity to say, after each election, that AKP was the loser. This outlook propagates the notion that the CHP is perfectly fine with remaining as the opposition forever. Number don’t lie, though: when it comes to elections 50.01% is the winner and %49.9 is the loser. So, despite CHP’s constant oration about democracy, equality, and justice, people in the East prefer to cast their vote for either HDP, the Kurdish nationalists, or AKP that represents the conservative right. This, despite CHP still being the party of the Republic’s founder Mustafa Kemal Ataturk. And it is a well-established fact that unless you win in the East, you will never come into power. What CHP needs to do is abandon its current tactic where it goes and visits the Eastern provinces right before the elections, and instead lay down a long-term structural plan that will hopefully reverse the negative perception they have been suffering from. The party’s candidates must show merit and competence and they must be well versed to get their point across. A recent example of this nature happened in 2011 when Zahit Kantasoglu, the then chair of the Chamber of Commerce and Industry in Van district, opted to run as a CHP candidate after he was dissed from his own party, the AKP. And the CHP saw no problem in playing along, and nominated Kantasoglu as their prime candidate for Van MP. Here are my questions: Were there not any viable college-graduate candidates in Van at all? When you nominate a person disses from his own party, doesn’t this clearly show CHP’s admittance of defeat for that district?

  • In 1984 I made a movie, MEMED MY HAWK, based on Nobel Prize nominee Turkish writer, Yasar Kemal, starring Sir Peter Ustinov, Herbert Lom, Leonie Mellinger, and a young English actor, Simon Dutton.

  • Civil disobedience is at least as old as Socrates, who preferred to die rather than yield to a demand to stop asking questions that embarrassed the authorities, to whom he said, “I shall obey God, rather than you.” The most famous examples of civil disobedience are Gandhi’s 1930 Salt March against British colonial rule, and Martin Luther King uprising in the southern states of USA in 1960s against white supremacy. Martin Luther King used civil disobedience as a means of effectuating a government change. It took the form of large-scale, non-violent refusals to obey government instructions. Civil Disobedience is the refusal to obey government demands or commands and nonresistance to consequent arrest and punishment. That is the uprising of poor people against oppressive power whose rules were introduced much earlier in the 1840s. In his work, “Civil Disobedience,” philosopher Henry David Thoreau argues that citizens must disobey the rule of law if those laws prove to be unjust. He draws on his own experiences and explains why he refused to pay taxes in protest of slavery and the Mexican War. Thoreau, thus, became a model for civil disobedience. Staged sit-ins, marches, blockades, and hunger strikes have all been tactics used to raise awareness about issues that are taking place in society. Non-violent demonstrations such as these are known as civil disobedience. It’s not an easy feat.  Everyone stands against you: the courts, the law, the police, the army. Civil disobedience which is also called passive resistance, refusal to obey the demands or commands of a government or occupying power, without resorting to violence or active measures of opposition has its purpose in forcing concessions out of the government or occupying power. When you think there’s nothing you can do, you realize there’s something you can still do in the most hopeless times.  We speak of the attitude of the simple man on the street against the political will that controls everything in civil disobedience. During the Soviet era, ordinary people engaged themselves in music, sports and literature; they were not interested in politics, and remained indifferent, ignored everything. In the end, excessive control gets out of control and destroys itself. Recall the last night of Stalin, a peanut he eats gets struck in his throat.  None of his men can get in and help.  He stays on the ground all night and chokes because he is brutal and distant with people. No doctors were available. All experienced elderly doctors were taken into custody and sent to Siberian camps in accusation of assassination and high degree treason. Before the Second World War, all the generals were again taken into custody and sent to the camps. The second world war also resulted in the death of 20-million Russian people. An enormously sad figure for a nation of 100 million at that time. They had bad equipment and a large army in the management of inexperienced commanders. We used to hear about the political jokes that criticized many public administrations and public policies from Russian friends who were close to us in 1976 when we were in Moscow for a 3-month technical training. “The state pretends to pay us a salary, and in return we seem to be working,” they used to say. Later, US President Ronald Reagan made these jokes public in his speeches. There are two major reactions to civil disobedience, indifference and ignorance. Russians introduced a third one which is not to get involved with local commercial activities. That is why people migrate, why they prefer to live in foreign countries, make savings in foreign hard currencies and make new investments abroad. Vietnamese Buddhist monks introduced a further option: to set themselves on fire, in most desperate cases, which is not recommended by any means. However, that was again implemented by a Tunisian street merchant who set fire on himself when his mobile merchandise was confiscated. That act turned out to become the ignition for Arab spring. “Standing man in Taksim square in the summer of 2013 “, was another example of civil disobedience, which resembles  “do nothing” option. Civil disobedience finds its own indigenous application in each country when time and geography are appropriate.  Some examples are minority representation in US house of Representatives, small donations made to US Senator Barney Sanders, underground publications in our northern neighbor or women stripping off their head scarfs in Iran. There will be an obvious payback for every adverse unnecessary oppressive initiative. We observe similarities of local ruling with Soviet experience in supreme autocratic regimes. If a specific act of civil disobedience is a morally justifiable act of protest, then the jailing of those engaged in the act is immoral and should be opposed and contested to the very end. Good or bad, every nasty oppressive initiative has a counter response, and that is not paid in the other world, the price is paid in this world. In Oceania, English novelist George Orwell stated in Chapter One of his book 1984, “nothing was illegal, since there were no longer any laws.”  

  • ANKARA– The Kurds’ hunger-strike for Abdullah Ocalan began with a single person, grew slowly from dozens to hundreds and, more than six months later, it reached about 3,000 participants. But it ended very quickly. On Sunday morning the lawyers of Ocalan, the leader of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), told the press they had met their client in prison on Imrali island and he wanted the fasting to stop. Within hours the lead striker, legislator Leyla Guven, declared she would resume eating. She was taken to hospital to begin receiving nutrients in a special way. She had consumed nothing but sugary water, salt and vitamins for 200 days. By Monday morning a spokeswoman of the People’s Democratic Party (HDP) was saying the other 3,000 hunger strikers had ended their fast. “It’s all over,” Bermali Demirdogen told Sigma. Both sides could claim to have won something. The strikers had demanded the government allow Ocalan, imprisoned since 1999, to see his lawyers and family members. They secured Ocalan’s access to his lawyers. The government secured the end of a protest that was embarrassing, and which threatened to become worse as it continued. When Guven began the strike on November 8, she had been detained without trial for more than 10 months. By January 25, after 79 days without solid food, her body had withered and doctors were warning her of permanent harm. The government released her because it did not want her dying in its custody. But Guven continued her fast at home. Other factors came into play. The government is facing a tough battle to get its candidate elected mayor in the repeat Istanbul election of June 23. Kurdish voters had made a significant contribution to the opposition’s victory in the now-invalidated election of March 31. Political analysts such as Sinan Ulgen of the Center for Economic and Foreign Policy Studies have forecast the government would make “initiatives involving Ocalan” to win over Kurdish voters in Istanbul. There has also been speculation the government had enabled Ocalan to see his lawyers on May 2 because it wanted to draw the PKK leader into peace negotiations. Every week or so Turkish soldiers are dying in clashes with PKK guerrillas. Justice Minister Abdulhamit Gul denied any such motives in a chat with the press during an iftar (fast breaking) meal on May 23. Ocalan’s meeting with lawyers “has nothing to do with a new (peace) resolution process. It cannot be said that ‘a resolution process is starting again’. It also does not have anything to do with the Istanbul elections,” Gul said, according to the online journal Bianet. One of the lawyers, Newroz Uysal, quoted Ocalan as saying no peace negotiations have started, Reuters reported. But President Recep Tayyip Erdogan evaluates his moves very carefully. If his ministers take a step, he expects a reward. When Ocalan met his lawyers on May 2, it was the first such meeting since 2011. They met a second time on May 22. When Ocalan met his brother Mehmet in January, it was their first get-together since 2016. The government’s sudden decision to permit such meetings can only have been calculated. The Ocalan lawyer Ibrahim Bilmez told the online journal Al-Monitor that he believed “the government is above all concerned with getting our client to use his influence to help end the strikes.” Bilmez added that if a hunger striker died, it could provoke unrest among the Kurds, who amount to 20 percent of the population. Thirty of the hunger strikers were reported to have vowed to fast until death, suggesting they would eschew the sugar, salt and vitamin B that the other strikers were taking. Ocalan addressed this issue in his statement read out by his lawyers on May 26, Bianet reported: “I expect you, especially the ones who have gone on a hunger strike and death fast, to put an end to your protest in the light of the comprehensive statements to be made by my two lawyers,” Ocalan said. The lawyers said Ocalan was grateful to the hunger strikers, saying their “sacrifice” had been honourable and had “achieved its purpose”. “He said what matters is the democratic political struggle, and the physical, mental and psychological well-being of strikers is more important than all else,” the lawyers reported. The strike resonated widely in the Kurdish community. Last week a think-tank, the Tigris Social Research Centre, held a conference in Diyarbakir on how the lessons of South Africa’s peace process could be applied to Turkey and the Kurds. The organisers allowed the mother of a hunger-striking prisoner to address the conference. “I don’t want my son to leave prison in a coffin,” said the mother, wearing a headscarf of white lace. Her speech was quite off the topic, but the delegates listened to her with respect. However, most Turks shrugged off the hunger strike. For them, it was a self-punishing action undertaken by imprisoned extremists. Out of sight, out of mind was the prevailing view. What nobody can deny, though, is that the strike highlighted the role of Ocalan. The government had cut him off from visitors for about three years. The most likely reason was the resurgence of warfare in 2015-16 when PKK guerrillas fought the security forces street by street in the towns of the southeast. When the strike began last year, the best-known Kurdish grievance was not Ocalan’s isolation, but the fact that the government had dismissed the Kurds’ elected mayors in more than 90 southeastern towns, including Guven’s hometown of Diyarbakir, and appointed administrators. Just as the government had chosen Ocalan to make a point to the Kurds, so the Kurds chose him to make a point to the government. The imprisonment of the Kurdish militant leader is a double-edged sword.

  • Turkey’s EU accession process has gone on for 14 years but there is little to show for it. The Turkish elephant in the room… people have been talking about it for years but now it has grown too large to ignore. So what do NATO, the US and the EU intend to do? Turkey’s EU accession process has gone on for 14 years but there is little to show for it, either in the form of accession chapters that have been opened or closed or a reciprocal reform process in Turkey. The EU in its latest progress report is unequivocal: Turkey’s accession negotiations have effectively come to a standstill and no further work towards the modernization of the EU-Turkey Customs Union is foreseen. The 116-page report contains a whole litany of failings, quaintly termed “backsliding,” which range from human and fundamental rights, the judicial system and media to economic and monetary policy, public procurement and corruption. Nevertheless, the EU maintains a policy of what it terms “broad strategic engagement.” NATO, in its charter, states that members will contribute toward the further development of peaceful and friendly international relations by strengthening their free institutions, by bringing about a better understanding of the principles upon which these institutions are founded and by promoting conditions of stability and well-being. The criteria for EU membership include a guarantee for democracy, the rule of law, human rights and respect for and protection of minorities. Since the establishment of an executive presidency last June, where parliament has been sidelined in favor of government by decree, Turkey – under President Tayyip Erdogan – has followed a path of divergence from NATO and the EU norms. THE FACTS speak for themselves. Turkey is known as the world’s largest jailer of journalists, with an estimated 160 behind bars. Since the attempted coup three years ago, more than 152,000 civil servants have been dismissed and 155,000 people have been detained, often on an arbitrary basis. There are still 57,000 in prison either without an indictment or awaiting trial. There are at present 396 prisons in Turkey with a capacity for 220,000 prisoners, but they now have to accommodate 260,000. To alleviate overcrowding, the Turkish Ministry of Justice has plans to build a further 193 new prisons by 2023. Over 20% of the prison population is incarcerated on terrorism-related charges, which in Turkey is broadly defined. For example, 14 employees of the independent daily Cumhuriyet – columnists, a cartoonist and executives – were convicted last April of aiding the PKK and the Gülen movement – which in Turkey is also considered a terrorist organization – because of their coverage. On the foreign policy front, Turkey has embarked on a perilous course, which has brought it on a collision course with its Western allies. Already in 2012 in a keynote speech at the Istanbul Forum, Erdogan’s chief adviser (and now spokesman) Ibrahim Kalin advocated a new geopolitical framework that excluded a Eurocentric world view. Two years later, another senior adviser, Yigit Bulut, argued that Turkey should cut its relations with Europe and instead focus on the US and China, as well as find new opportunities with Russia. Ankara’s decision in 2015 to cancel the deal with Beijing for a missile defense system illustrates US influence at this stage. Turkey has had a double agenda in Syria, as its intention in the proxy war against Syrian President Bashar Assad was to replace Alawite with Sunni Muslim rule in Damascus. When then-US president Barack Obama failed to follow through in 2013 with a response to the chemical attack in Ghouta, the momentum faltered. Two years later, Russia entered the war on Assad’s side and, after a hiccup with the downing of the SU-24 in November 2015, Erdogan made it up with Putin a month before the attempted coup. This increased tension with the US, as Turkey detained Pastor Andrew Brunson in an attempt to pressure the US into an exchange with Turkish imam Fethullah Gülen, a resident of Pennsylvania. With the imposition of sanctions, this backfired, resulting in Brunson’s release. Another US citizen – Serkan Gölge, a NASA employee, who had similarly been convicted for aiding a terrorist (i.e. the Gülen) organization – has just been released. The bone of contention is Turkey’s purchase of Russia’s S-400 missile defense system, which, like the Chinese system, is incompatible with NATO’s systems. In November, Turkey is expected to get US-produced F-35 fighters – where it also plays a role in their production – but this will be blocked if Ankara commits to the delivery of the Russian system. In addition, Turkey’s economy will be hard hit by the imposition of CAATSA sanctions (Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act). Turkey is again playing a double game in Syria, as it has been allowed by Russia to occupy an area west of the Euphrates and Afrin province. At the same time, it has been entrusted by Russia with de-escalating violence in Idlib province, but has also supplied rebel forces with armored vehicles, rocket launchers and anti-tank missiles to repel a Russian-backed offensive by Assad’s forces. In December, US President Donald Trump was persuaded by Erdogan to withdraw from northeastern Syria, and now there are plans to create a safe zone in the same area, which Erdogan insists should be under Turkish control. Trump has also agreed with Erdogan to form a joint study group on the S-400 system, but the US Defense Department has given Turkey a deadline of July 31 to withdraw from the deal. Trump and Erdogan will meet on the sidelines of the G-20 summit at the end of June, so it will be interesting to see whether Erdogan can persuade Trump to mitigate this decision. Originally published at: https://www.jpost.com/Opinion/The-Turkish-elephant-592496

  • I learned about Turkey’s request to UN for sending troops to Libya in order to help the central government, from Al-Jazeera TV. And I tried to find an answer to the question: What is in it for Turkey? The offensive that was started on April 4 by general Haftar’s forces, is stalled for now. And who is who in this conflict? Saudi Arabia, Egypt and UAE are helping general Haftar. On the other hand, Turkey and Qatar are helping the central government which has very close ties with Moslem Brotherhood and its affiliates. Remember that on December 8, 2018 the authorities seized a ship coming from Turkey with 3000 guns at a port east of Tripoli.  A short time later, another Turkish ship carrying 4 million bullets was seized again. An on January 7, 2019 a third ship detained at Misrata was found out to be full of weapons. And what is the position of US and Russia? Tacit support for general Haftar. The countries have jointly stopped a resolution submitted to UN Security Council for a cease fire. Turkey already has very serious problems on its borders. And they are more than enough. Problems with the US on Russian S-400 air defense systems is growing. And dark clouds are in the air when you look at our relations with Russia. Russian war planes are bombing İdlib and forcing civilians to flee. This is against the agreements signed with Russia Turkey is too much involved with Qatar. And the time is ticking against their policies. President Trump’s very probable act of declaring Moslem Brotherhood as a terrorist organization will make things even more difficult for Turkey. And the possibility of receiving Turkish soldiers in body bags will be a great headache for President Erdogan. And at the end of the day, Turkey should not and would not put Turkey in harm’s way just for the sake of Qatar and Moslem Brotherhood. We hope that common sense will prevail.