The New Turkey



Two Journalists Jailed over Reports on Feminicides, Gold Mine Protests
Reporters Ruken Demir from the Mezopotamya Agency and Melike Aydın from Jin News were detained in police raids in their houses on November 12 and was arrested by the İzmir 1st Penal Court of Peace on November 16 on the charge of "acting on behalf of a terrorist organization.

The revealed court minutes show that the reporters' acts of journalism were counted as a crime. Reports on ill prisoners' meeting with their families, feminicides and the gold mine project on the Ida (Kaz) Mountains were considered as a "scheme" and "order" for an insurgency.

The prosecutor considered the reports as evidence of the offense of "acting on behalf of an illegal organization" and alleged that the reports were written "upon orders by the illegal organization." The prosecutor also alleged that Aydın had a phone call with the members of the Çiğli Women's Platform upon an order by the organization. The Platform, upon an order by the illegal organization, "smeared the state" on the excuse of the killing of two women, Habibe Çelik and Fatma Akdağ.

A report on the Avesta for Language and Culture Research Association by Aydın was also included in the minutes. The prosecutor accused the association of "depicting Kurdish as the official language of the so-called Kurdistan."

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Man stabs estranged wife to death in southern Turkey

A man in Turkey’s southern province of Hayat was detained on Wednesday after stabbing his estranged wife to death. Forty-seven-year-old Ahmet Kaya fatally stabbed his estranged wife Sibel Kaya, 41, in her chest and stomach in Antakya, news site Diken reported. The couple were in the midst of a divorce, it said.

Police and an ambulance arrived in Kışlasaray neigbourhood following a report by neighbours, however, Sibel Kaya was pronounced dead at the scene, Diken said. Ahmet Kaya, who had escaped from Hatay prison right before the incident, was detained shortly thereafter.

Femicide is a longstanding issue in Turkey, where nearly 400 women have been killed so far this year, according to the Istanbul-based watchdog, We Will Stop Femicide. Four-hundred-fourty women were killed in 2018. The number of women killed in the country has increased every year since it became the first country to ratify  the Council of Europe convention on preventing domestic violence against women.

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Turkey detains German embassy lawyer over espionage charges

Turkish authorities have detained a Turkish lawyer working for the German embassy in the capital of Ankara on suspicion of espionage, Der Spiegel reported on Wednesday. The lawyer was commissioned by the embassy to obtain information on legal proceedings in Turkey against several people who seek asylum in Germany and determine if they are threatened with imprisonment if they return to the country, Der Spiegel said.

German government concerns that the Turkish authorities have gathered sensitive information about 50 asylum seekers from Turkey, including some important Kurdish activists and supporters of Gülen movement that Ankara accuses of masterminding the 2016 failed coup, according to the German daily.

"The lawyer had already been arrested in mid-September and the German embassy has been trying to secure his release since then, stating that the lawyer's actions were a common practice throughout Europe, Der Spiegel said. Last year, imprisonment of Deniz Yücel, a German-Turkish journalist on allegations of espionage and terrorism brought Ankara and Berlin to the brink of a diplomatic breakdown

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Controversial villa project in UNESCO-listed town to proceed

The construction and sale of controversial château-style villas in a Turkish UNESCO-listed town will resume after the reversal by a court of a bankruptcy decision against its developer, according to the Hürriyet Daily News.

The project included 732 villas, a shopping center, a hotel, a mosque and public spaces in the western Black Sea province of Bolu’s Mudurnu district, which was added to the UNESCO World Heritage Tentative List in 2015 and became a member of the international Cittaslow Movement in 2018.

The $200 million project, which started in 2011, was halted last year after its developer applied to a court to restructure its debts with its creditors. Instead, the court decided on bankruptcy in November 2018. After securing special permission from the Directorate of Bankruptcy in January, the developer continued to sell the completed villas to buyers from Qatar, Bahrain, Kuwait, the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia.

“We have discharged 50 percent of our debt during the judicial process. We will finish the project in 2021,” said Mezher Yerdelen, chair of the Sarot Group, which owns the developer of the Burj Al Babas project.

TURKEY’S JOURNALISTS IN THE DOCK.
Judicial Silencing of the Fourth Estate. Joint international press freedom mission to Turkey (September 11–13, 2019)


Report by International Press Organizations on Status of Press Freedom in Turkey.

Eight international press freedom and journalism organizations have released a report on the status of press freedom in Turkey. The report has put forward nine main findings and offered 11 recommendations on freedom of press in the country. Read the report

 

1.2 million people in Turkey face property seizure for unpaid bank loans

More than 1.2 million people in Turkey have been the subject property seizure due to unpaid bank loans in the last 11 months, according to a report drafted by the main opposition party, the Sözcü daily reported on Monday.

The total number of property seizure cases has surged to 21.3 million, the report said, adding that the country currently has TL 140 billion ($24.4 billion) in non-performing loans.

The Turkish economy is on a path to recovery after it survived a currency crisis in the summer of 2018, with its national currency losing 30 percent of its value against the US dollar.

The central bank has cut interest rates by 1,000 basis points since June to allow lending more money to consumers, a move to solve stagnation in certain sectors such as construction.

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Judge Back on Duty After Being Suspended for Interfering with Lawyer's Skirt Length
Judge Mehmet Yoylu has been reinstated in his post after being sidelined due to his sexist words about a lawyer's skirt length in a hearing at the Anadolu Courthouse in İstanbul. Yoylu was reinstated in his post on October 24 upon an order by the Council of Judges and Prosecutors (HSK) after being suspended for five months, the daily Hürriyet reported.

The judge has not been appointed at his former place of duty but at a court in Gebze, Kocaeli for the "security of the investigation," the report said. "As it was understood that the actions subject to the investigation did not constitute an obstacle for the continuation of the duty, it was decided to abolish the dismissal decision," the HSK order said. The incident happened on May 29, 2019, in a hearing at İstanbul 2nd Labor Court.

The judge said that the skirt of a woman lawyer is about 15 centimeters higher than her knee and asked the other lawyers in the courtroom that if this is compatible with the attorneyship regulations. The attorney of the defendant said, "[This is] about the area of freedom. It shouldn't be interfered with." Judge Yoylu said that the skirt of the lawyer is too short and requested it be photographed to "not cause a misunderstanding."

The attorney of the defendant did not accept the request of being photographed. All the words said were recorded in minutes. After reactions, Justice Minister Abdülhamit Gül said he will "pursue the issue." (EMK/VK)

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US Sanctions People, Companies from Turkey over ISIS Links
The US Department of the Treasury has imposed sanctions on four companies and two people operating in Turkey, Syria, the Gulf countries and Europe for providing financial and logistical support to ISIS.

Following the highly successful operation against al-Baghdadi, the Trump administration is resolved to completely destroy ISIS's remaining network of terror cells," Secretary of the Treasury Steven Mnuchin said, referring to the US military operation in October that led the ISIS leader to detonate his suicide vest. "The Treasury Department contributes to this effort in several ways, including by degrading ISIS's ability to recruit and arm fighters globally by stamping out its financial footholds," Mnuchin added.

Two companies and two people from Turkey are among the sanctioned, according to the statement by the ministry. Ahmet Bayaltun and İsmail Bayaltun, and the ACL İhracat company, which is owned by them, "materially assisted, sponsored, or provided financial, material, or technological support for ISIS," said the statement. The Turkey-based Sahloul Money Exchange Company is accused of facilitating money transfer to ISIS in Iraq and Syria in 2016 and 2017.

The sanctions freeze any US assets held by those targeted and prohibit US citizens from doing business with them. (TP/VK)

Read the Memo by a U.S. Diplomat Criticizing Trump Policy on Syria and Turkey

“Could we have stopped Turkey from coming in?” William V. Roebuck asked in an internal memo.
In an internal memo, the senior American diplomat in northern Syria criticized the Trump administration for failing to try harder to deter Turkey from invading northern Syria last month. Read the memo
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Erdogan’s ethnic cleansing of the Kurds is still happening now – and we have Trump to thank


Senior ISIS officials in Turkey plotting resurgence

Leading members of the Islamic State (ISIS) are plotting a resurgence of terror after taking refuge in Turkey, the head of Iraqi Military Intelligence told CNN on Monday.

The dossiers of nine alleged terror leaders, including top financiers with “huge amounts of money” to fund operations around the world, have been handed to Turkey, Lt. Gen. Saad al-Allaq said. Recent communications from the jihadist organisation point to plans for prison breaks across Iraq and Syria, the Iraqi spy chief said.

“Huge international efforts should be taken to deal with this issue because these criminals ... are able to leave these camps and go back to their countries and thus they pose great danger in countries like Europe, Asia and northwest Africa,” al-Allaq told CNN. Read the full article

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Turkey orders detention of 174 more Gülen followers in post-coup crackdown

The Ankara Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office on Friday issued detention warrants for 174 suspects in two separate investigations into the faith-based Gülen movement, part of a large-scale crackdown targeting its followers after a 2016 failed coup, the state-run Anadolu news agency reported.

In one investigation, 121 suspects are accused of rigging a 2011 examination to qualify for civil servant positions, as the prosecutors alleged that the suspects had stolen the exam questions and handed them over to Gülen followers.

The police raided apartments in 29 provinces and detained at least 45 suspects, the report said. In a second investigation 53 former noncommissioned officers are charged with membership in the Gülen movement.

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Father seeking answers over suspicious death of daughter detained again

A Turkish father who has been fighting for months to bring public attention to shed light on the death of his 11-year-old daughter has been detained, Sözcü reported on Thursday.

Rabia Naz Vatan, the daughter of Şaban Vatan, was found dead outside her family home in Eynesil, a town in the northern Turkish province of Giresun, last year. Police quickly ruled the death a suicide, but her father says crucial evidence has been overlooked, and has said he believes she was killed in a hit and run.

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Turkish authorities detain two journalists covering suspicious death of 11-year-old girl

Turkish police on Wednesday detained two journalists who were following a case of the suspicious death of an 11-year old girl, T24 reported. Canan Coşkun and Kazım Kızıl were detained in Eynesil, a town in the northern Turkish province of Giresun, where Rabia Naz Vatan was found dead last April.

The police ruled her death a suicide, but her father's own investigations led him to new evidence that contradicted the initial ruling. Vatan fought for months to bring public attention to his case after uncovering evidence he said suggested police may have covered up the involvement of the relative of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP)'s local mayor in her death.

Çoşkun and Kızıl were detained while they were following the case together with a commission consisting of members of the Turkish parliament, journalist Tunca Öğreten said on social media. The alleged involvement of powerful ruling party officials in a cover-up has drawn widespread criticism in Eynesil, and is thought to have contributed to the AKP’s loss of its former stronghold district in the March 31 local election to the main opposition Republican People's Party.

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Turkey detains over 50 before pro-Kurdish party congress

Police detained over 50 Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) members on Thursday in advance of the pro-Kurdish party’s congress, Mezopotamya news agency reported.

The 52 members from the southeastern city of Gaziantep, including co-chairs of the party in the city, were detained on Friday morning, Mezopotamya said. Their detentions left their attendance at the congress in question.

Ankara has intensified a crackdown on the Kurdish political movement since peace talks with the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) broke down in 2015. HDP lawmakers and mayors have frequently been dismissed from their roles or faced legal charges for alleged PKK links in the years since.

The party’s former co-chairs Selahattin Demirtaş and Figen Yüksekdağ were arrested on terror charges in 2016.  A total of 20 HDP mayors have been dismissed over terror charges and replaced with a government appointee since the local elections in March.

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Erdoğan gift to sanctions-busting banker reflects Turkey’s economic malaise

Mark Bentley

Mehmet Hakan Atilla, jailed in the United States for breaking sanctions on Iran, made his first major public appearance as the head of the Istanbul Stock Exchange this week.

The former deputy CEO of Turkey’s state-run Halkbank gor a hero's welcome on his return from the United States in late July after spending more than a year in a Pennsylvania jail. Much to the Turkish government’s anger, Atilla was convicted on Jan. 3 last year of helping to funnel billions of dollars through the U.S. financial system in order to bypass sanctions on Iran.

Atilla, now sporting a greying beard, appeared before Turkish television cameras on Wednesday to announce a series of measures designed to strengthen Turkey’s capital markets. They included new foreign exchange contracts in the derivatives market and a new mechanism for interest rate swaps to help banks manage their finances.

Atilla’s conviction, approved by a Manhattan jury in a headline-grabbing trial, relied on evidence collated by New York prosecutors, the FBI and the testimony of Turkish-Iranian businessman Reza Zarrab, who turned state’s witness to claim that Atilla, with the approval of senior Turkish officials and ministers, helped him falsify gold and food trades to funnel cash to the Islamic Republic in return for embargoed oil. Zafer Cağlayan, economy minister at the time, was allegedly gifted luxury watches by Zarrab as a reward for his cooperation. Read the full article 

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Turkey youth unemployment hits record high of 27.4 percent

Turkey’s youth unemployment climbed to a record high of 27.4 percent in the three months to September as the aftershock of an economic downturn continued to reverberate through the jobs market.

The number of young people who were jobless rose from 27.1 percent in the three months to August, according to data published by the Turkish Statistical Institute on Friday. Youths without a job and not in education – an international benchmark for measuring youth unemployment - climbed to 30.1 percent from 29.4 percent.

Overall unemployment in Turkey increased to 14 percent from 13.9 percent in the period ending August, the institute said. It stood at 11.1 percent in September last year. Read the full article

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HDP Youth Assembly Members Tortured in Detention.

Detained in police raids in several cities, 36 members of the Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP) Youth Assembly have been held at the İstanbul Security Directorate for six days.

The HDP İstanbul Provincial Organization said today (November 13) in a statement that they have been tortured in detention, according to Gülay Alabuga, a member of the HDP İstanbul Provincial Assembly. They have been subjected to "naked search and beating," she said.

"The hostile approach of the police at the time of detention turned to imposing a naked search during the placement into the cells and subsequently to assault and torture," Alabuga added. The 36 people were detained because of chanting anti-war slogans at the HDP İstanbul 3rd Ordinary Congress, Alabuga noted.

"The AKP-MHP bloc's unlawful and arbitrary policies of repression have been replaced by systematic torture practices," she said, referring to the alliance between the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) and the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP).

Alabuga said torture should end and the detained HDP members should be released. Ayşe Acar Başaran, an HDP MP and the spokesperson of the Parliamentary Committee on Law and Human Rights, also called the government to "end the crime of torture." "They began a hunger strike against torture, ill-treatment and degrading treatment," she said.

Being Kurdish in Turkey