Posts Tagged ‘Erdogan’

EU considers reducing $5bn accession aid to Turkey

October 21, 2017

BBC News

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Turkish riot policemen detain protesters during the trial of Nuriye Gulmen and Semih Ozakcain in front of Ankara Courthouse
The EU has become increasingly critical of Turkey’s human rights record. Credit EUROPEAN PHOTOPRESS AGENCY

The EU is considering cuts to the aid that it gives Turkey after German Chancellor Angela Merkel put the issue on the summit agenda in Brussels.

She linked the move to Western criticisms of Turkey’s rights record.

“We have huge concerns,” she said, referring to the mass arrests in Turkey since President Recep Tayyip Erdogan quelled a coup attempt in June 2016.

As a candidate to join the EU, Turkey is receiving 4.5bn euros (£4bn; $5.3bn) in aid from the EU in 2014-2020.

The aid is aimed at raising Turkey’s public institutions to EU standards, including the judiciary, but there is also aid for education, training, infrastructure and agriculture.

It is separate from the EU funding that Turkey gets to help more than three million refugees on its soil, most of them Syrians who fled their country’s devastating war.

On that score, Mrs Merkel said, “Turkey is doing a great job.”

“We have promised 3bn euros for the coming years in addition to the 3bn that we have already committed. We need to deliver on this promise.”

The EU sees that aid as vital to keep Turkey committed to a 2016 deal to stop boatloads of migrants and refugees entering the EU via Greece.

Turkey’s negotiations for EU membership are frozen but Mrs Merkel resisted strong pressure within Germany to break off the talks.

Austria’s election winner and likely new chancellor, the conservative Sebastian Kurz, is among those calling for Turkey’s membership bid to be abandoned.

“We asked the [EU] Commission to think again about the accession help that Turkey gets,” Mrs Merkel told reporters late on Thursday.

EU divisions over how to handle Turkey were reflected in the non-committal summit statement: “The European Council held a debate on relations with Turkey.”

For months Turkey has traded angry rhetoric with German politicians because of Berlin’s criticism of its human rights record.

A number of Germans are among the thousands of journalists, academics and civil society activists arrested in Mr Erdogan’s post-coup crackdown.


From Damascus, Iran vows to confront Israel

October 18, 2017


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Chief of Staff of the Iranian Armed Forces Major General Mohammad Baqeri meets with Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in Ankara, August 16, 2017.

By Ellen FrancisBabak Dehghanpisheh

BEIRUT (Reuters) – Iran’s military chief warned Israel against breaching Syrian airspace and territory on a visit to Damascus on Wednesday, raising tensions with Israel as it voices deep concern over Tehran’s influence in Syria.

General Mohammad Baqeri pledged to increase cooperation with Syria’s military to fight Israel and insurgents, Iranian and Syrian state media said.

Image result for General Mohammad Baqeri, photos

Iran’s General Mohammad Baqeri Leader of the Islamic Revolution Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei



Hundreds of Turkish officials seek asylum in Germany

October 14, 2017

Some 600 senior-ranked Turkish officials have sought asylum in Germany since last year’s coup attempt in Turkey, according to a Berlin newspaper. The number highlights the growing uncertainty in the country.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan (picture-alliance/AA/Turkish Presidency/Handout/Y. Bulbul )The EU is stringing Turkey along over the question of EU membership: Erdogan

Germany’s Funke media group, which includes the Berliner Morgenpost, reported Saturday that the more than 600 asylum applicants comprised 250 persons with Turkish diplomatic passports and 380 with identity papers showing them to be senior Turkish public servants.

Last year’s coup attempt, blamed by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on US-based cleric Fethullah Gulen, was followed by the arrests of 50,000 people in Turkey and 150,000 sackings and suspensions in the military, public and private sectors.

The Berliner Morgenpost said it had obtained the figures from Germany’s Interior Ministry, which last month said 196 Turks with diplomatic passports had been granted asylum in Germany.

That count did not include members of Turkey’s military, including NATO attaches, who have also sought asylum.

Read more: Turkey’s purged military officers stuck in limbo one year after failed coup

Judicial independence at risk

Strains have emerged in the traditional good relations between Ankara and Berlin over the German government’s refusal to extradite asylum seekers, outrage over Turkey’s prosecution of dozens of detained German citizens, including journalists, and Erdogan’s April referendum to expand his powers.

Read more: Turkey’s prosecution of German journalist Mesale Tolu ‘unlawful’

The Berliner Morgenpost quoted the executive director of the German Association of Judges, Sven Rebehn, as saying that hardly any judicial independence remained in Turkey to exercise controls over Erdogan.

“Thousands of judges and state attorneys have been dismissed and some taken into detention. They have been replaced by government-allied jurists, who are appointed after crash courses,” he said.

“As a result, an effective, constitutional legal control of the Erdogan regime through an independent judiciary is largely inconceivable. It’s to be feared that the Turkish president will continue to dismantle Turkey’s civil society unperturbed.”

Bildcombo Yücel Tolu Steudtner (picture-alliance/dap/Zentralbild/K. Schindler/privat/TurkeyRelease Germany)Held by Turkey: German journalists Deniz Yücel (left), Mesale Tolu (center) and rights advocate Peter Steudtner

Erdogan: EU must make up its mind

In a speech to his Justice and Development Party (AKP) on Friday, Erdogan demanded that the EU at its Brussels summit next week make a decision on Ankara’s longstanding bid for accession to the 28-nation bloc.

“Still they string us along. But we will be patient. We say: It will be not us, but you who leaves the ring,” Erdogan told his AKP executive.

Germany is home to some 3 million people of Turkish descent and has been a major trading partner and tourist destination for Germans.

ipj/cmk (dpa, Reuters, AFP)

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Qatar’s Iran Alliance Likely To Cause a Loss of Leverage

October 14, 2017

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By Dr. Manuel Almeida

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif’s visit to Qatar last week, his second this year, was the latest in a series of diplomatic moves that brought Doha and Tehran closer in recent months.

In the highly transactional sphere of international politics, there are hardly points of no-return. Yet the latest Qatari leap toward Tehran could prove further down the line to have gone a step too far, not only from the perspective of the three Gulf states that cut ties with Doha, but mainly when it comes to Qatar’s own loss of leverage.

By choice or sheer necessity, rapprochements that looked unlikely until they happened have been quite common in recent years between local players and with outside powers as well — a natural consequence of the Middle East’s constant state of turmoil.

Only last week, King Salman’s historic visit to Russia culminated the process of warming ties and aligning interests with Moscow. Two years ago, Riyadh appointed a resident ambassador to Baghdad, the first since Saddam Hussein’s invasion of Kuwait in 1990. This year, Saudi Foreign Minister Adel Al-Jubeir paid a landmark visit to the Iraqi capital.

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The collapse of Turkey’s foreign policy — grounded in a deeply ideological, neo-Ottoman outlook as envisioned by its chief architect, former Foreign Minister and Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu — also opened the door to fresh diplomatic starts. After a six-year rift going back to the Gaza flotilla incident in 2010, Turkey and Israel reached a deal to normalize relations in June last year.

Mounting tensions between Ankara and Moscow over Syria’s conflict, despite their significant trade ties, peaked after Turkey shot down a Russian military plane over Turkish airspace. President Recep Tayyip Erdogan eventually issued an apology, calling Russia a “friend and strategic partner.” Today, Turkey acts as a close partner of Russia, while its relations with the US have hit an all-time low.

Since the eruption in June of the ongoing diplomatic crisis centered on Qatar, Doha has restored full diplomatic relations with Tehran. Among other Qatari violations of the accord signed by Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani in 2013 are non-interference in the internal affairs of fellow Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) members and support for extremist groups. These are the same kinds of threatening activities most of Iran’s neighbors accuse Tehran of.

Early last year, Qatar recalled its ambassador in Tehran after the attacks on the Saudi diplomatic missions in Iran. But following sanctions imposed by Bahrain, Egypt, Saudi Arabia and the UAE, Doha restored full diplomatic ties with Tehran in August. A Qatari Foreign Ministry statement read: “The state of Qatar expressed its aspiration to strengthen bilateral relations with the Islamic Republic of Iran in all fields.”

Tehran is very capable of placing Doha in an uncomfortable position, should it choose to do so.

Dr. Manuel Almeida

That Qatar and Iran share the North Field, a huge offshore natural gas field that is the key source of Qatar’s massive wealth, is sufficient reason to maintain a basic working relationship with Tehran.

Yet under the previous emir, Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al-Thani, bilateral relations developed significantly. Under his successor Sheikh Tamim, there was the promise of a more balanced foreign policy. But in 2016, that did not prevent Qatar from voting against UN Security Council 1969, which called on Iran to stop its uranium enrichment program. Qatar was the only council member that voted against it.

Despite its GCC membership, the small emirate and Iran have in common a highly populist and disruptive foreign policy, often based on steering trouble abroad by supporting extremist groups of all sorts. Crucially, this is what distinguishes Qatar from Oman, which has tried to maintain an equidistant policy toward Saudi Arabia and Iran.

The talks between the pro-Islamist governments of Qatar and Turkey on the establishment of a Turkish military base in Qatar, which started long before the current diplomatic crisis, were already another sign of Doha’s significant differences with its Arab Gulf neighbors. In June, Erdogan, who calls Sheikh Tamim “brother,” fast-tracked a bill through Parliament to allow Turkish troops to be deployed in Qatar.

Turkey’s growing military umbrella might offer some assurances to Doha, but there is plenty the far more powerful Iranian regime can do to place Qatar in an uncomfortable position. They are still fighting a proxy war in Syria, their interests do not align on every issue, and there will be other crises that will seriously test the relationship.

One of these crises could be the rising tensions between the Trump administration and Israel on the one hand, and Tehran, Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps, and the various terrorist groups and militias that Iran backs across the region on the other. The US military base of Al-Udeid, southwest of Doha, could turn from a security guarantee to a problem for Qatar’s leap toward Tehran.

• Dr. Manuel Almeida is a political analyst and consultant focusing on the Middle East. He is the former editor of the English online edition of Asharq Al-Awsat newspaper, and holds a Ph.D. in international relations from the London School of Economics and Political Science. Twitter: @_ManuelAlmeida

Don’t isolate Turkey, warn writers caught in crackdown — “Pushing Turkey to Russia and Iran is not a smart idea.”

October 13, 2017


© AFP / by Michelle FITZPATRICK | “Pushing Turkey to Russia and Iran is not a smart idea,” Can Dundar says
FRANKFURT AM MAIN (AFP) – Thinking back to his months in an Istanbul prison last year, Turkish journalist Can Dundar recalls a fellow inmate asking a guard for a book from the prison library.

“We don’t have the book, but we have the author,” came the reply.

The anecdote, told with a wry smile during a roundtable discussion at the Frankfurt book fair, exemplifies Turkey’s crackdown on freedom of expression in the wake of last year’s failed coup.

Among the more than 50,000 people arrested since then are some 180 journalists, and President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has faced fierce criticism from the West over the repression.

But Dundar — seated next to celebrated Turkish novelist Asli Erdogan, herself held for four months on “terror propaganda” charges — urged European governments not to turn their backs on Turkey as the rift with Erdogan widens.

“Isolating Turkey means supporting Erdogan, not us,” Dundar told the audience. “Pushing Turkey to Russia and Iran is not a smart idea.”

Millions of Turks voted against granting Erdogan sweeping new powers in last April’s controversial referendum, he added.

And recent opinion polls had shown a drop in support for the veteran Turkish leader, who first came to power in 2002.

“At least half the country now is resisting, suffering and struggling at the same time,” the former editor-in-chief of the Cumhuriyet opposition newspaper said.

– ‘Not Erdogan’s Turkey’ –

The roundtable talk was one of a series of events at this year’s book fair, the publishing industry’s top annual showcase, to shine a spotlight on press freedom in Turkey.

Earlier this week jailed Turkish investigative reporter Ahmet Sik received an award in absentia for courageous journalism, and supporters of Germany’s Die Welt correspondent Deniz Yucel called for his release under the banner #FreeDeniz.

Award-winning novelist Burhan Sonmez, the third participant in Thursday’s discussion in the western German city of Frankfurt, said he had recently returned to live in Istanbul after spending a decade in Britain.

He said dissenting voices live under a cloud of fear in Turkey.

“You don’t know what’s going to happen the next morning. You could be at work or in prison,” he said.

But it was also what spurred him on. “You have to speak, you have to write. Because you could be next.”

“Erdogan believes that Turkey belongs to him, but Turkey belongs to us,” he went on. “We are the cultural, social life.”

Dundar, who fled to Germany after being sentenced to a near six-year jail term for revealing state secrets, described a constant cat-and-mouse game with Turkish authorities in a bid to circumvent restrictions and reach readers.

“Since the media is controlled by the government we need to find new ways to express ourselves and give voice to the voiceless.

“Thank God people in Turkey know how to reach censored websites,” the bespectacled 56-year-old added.

– Not forgotten –

Asli Erdogan, 50, who was freed in December pending trial but only saw her passport returned to her last month, said however it was “too easy to blame everything on Erdogan”, pointing to Turkey’s fractured opposition.

“The Armenian issue, the Kurdish issue, these are faultlines that break the opposition. We can’t form a strong barrier against Erdogan and his tyranny because of these faultlines.”

Dundar and Asli Erdogan both pleaded for more solidarity with the writers being detained — not just with words but with action.

“We have to tell them we haven’t forgotten about them,” said Erdogan, whose next court date in the trial over her links to a pro-Kurdish newspaper is on October 31. She faces a lifetime behind bars if convicted.

Dundar — who was arrested after publishing an article accusing Turkish intelligence services of trafficking arms to Syria — urged journalists around the world to pick up the baton and follow up on “the banned stories, the censored stories”.

That would show the detained reporters they were being supported, he said.

“And to the government it would send the message: If you touch a journalist, you only make the story bigger.”


Erdogan: US is being governed by ambassador in Ankara

October 13, 2017

By Al Jazeera

Erdogan: 'It is unacceptable for the US to sacrifice Turkey's strategic partnership for an impertinent ambassador' [AP]

Erdogan: ‘It is unacceptable for the US to sacrifice Turkey’s strategic partnership for an impertinent ambassador’ [AP]

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has criticised Washington for coming under the influence of the US ambassador in Ankara over a visa dispute, which has strained relations between the between the two allies.

Erdogan reiterated his opinion that US Ambassador John Bass was behind the decision to suspend non-immigrant visa services in Turkey in a speech on Thursday.

“What a shame if the great United States of America is being governed by an ambassador in Ankara. Because this is the position they are holding. They should have said, ‘You cannot treat my strategic ally this way, you cannot act this way.’ But they couldn’t say this,” he said.


What prompted the US-Turkey visa dispute?

“It is unacceptable for the US to sacrifice Turkey’s strategic partnership for an impertinent ambassador. It is impossible for us to say ‘yes’ to this.”

The US mission in Turkey announced on Sunday that it had stopped all non-immigrant visa services amid concerns over “the security of US mission and (its) personnel”. Ankara reiterated reciprocally hours later, using similar language.

The development is an unprecedented escalation between the two NATO allies and represents a major fallout in bilateral relations.

Turkish authorities last week detained Metin Topuz, a Turkish citizen working for the US consulate in Istanbul.

US denies claims

Ambassador Bass told reporters on Wednesday the US government had still not received any official explanation from the Turkish government for why the employee was arrested.

He dismissed allegations that suspects in Turkish anti-terror probes are hiding in US diplomatic outposts in Turkey.

Bass also said that the Turkish move “raised questions about whether the goal of some officials is to disrupt the long-standing cooperation” between Washington and Ankara.


How Turks are being affected by US suspension of visas

Topuz is accused of having links to a group associated with Fethullah Gulen, an exiled religious leader and businessman based in the US and wanted in Turkey.

Ankara accuses Gulen of masterminding the July 15 coup attempt that killed more than 300 people.

President Erdogan has repeatedly called on Washington to extradite Gulen since the coup attempt, but the US has refused.

Erdogan’s spokesman, Ibrahim Kalin, said earlier on Thursday that Turkey received a proposal from the US to resolve an escalating row between the two countries and Ankara was currently evaluating it.


Erdogan accuses US of ‘sacrificing’ relations with Turkey

October 12, 2017


© AFP/File | Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has repeatedly warned the US relations with his country are at risk

ANKARA (AFP) – President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Thursday said the US was in danger of “sacrificing” its relations with Turkey, as he blamed the American envoy to Ankara for the crisis in relations between the NATO allies.”It is the ambassador here who caused this,” Erdogan told a meeting in Ankara, referring to the outgoing US envoy in Turkey, John Bass.

“It is unacceptable for the United States to sacrifice its strategic partner like Turkey for a presumptuous ambassador,” he said.

The dispute erupted last week when Turkey arrested a Turkish employee of the US consulate in Istanbul on suspicion of links to Fethullah Gulen, a US-based Muslim preacher who Ankara blames for last year’s failed coup.

In response, Washington halted issuing non-immigrant visas from its missions in Turkey, prompting Turkish missions in the US to hit back with a tit-for-tat move.

Although Turkish officials blamed the ambassador for the spat, the State Department said Bass had been operating with the full authority of the US government.

Bass is due to leave Turkey at the weekend after he was named the US envoy to Afghanistan earlier this year.

“If the giant America is ruled by an ambassador in Ankara, what a shame,” Erdogan said.

On Monday, Turkish prosecutors summoned another local employee working at the US consulate in Istanbul.

Erdogan on Thursday claimed that he was hiding in the consulate, but Bass had denied this the day before, telling reporters: “No one’s hiding at any of our facilities.”

Turkish authorities this week detained his wife, his son and his daughter.

Ankara wanted to open a new page in relations with the US under President Donald Trump but a spate of issues have raised tensions, including the US refusal to extradite Gulen and American support for Kurdish militias in Syria.

Erdogan said the US response to the arrest of the consulate employee was “unfair” and “disproportionate”, and urged for common sense.



Turkey and the West Clash, Pleasing Russia and Iran

October 12, 2017

Ankara’s ties with the U.S. and other NATO allies are badly frayed

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Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan is seen with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani during a welcoming ceremony in Tehran, Iran, October 4, 2017. Kayhan Ozer/Presidential Palace/Handout via REUTERS

ISTANBUL—Here’s one measure of where Turkey stands in today’s world.

Russian and Iranian citizens are free to enter the country without a visa. Americans, following the recent spat over the detention of a U.S. consulate employee, are essentially barred from traveling to their fellow North Atlantic Treaty Organization ally.

The unfolding breakup between Turkey and the U.S. goes far beyond that dispute. It is fueled by increasing frustration on both sides—and is encouraged by countries most interested in such a separation, especially Russia and Iran. Even in the Syrian war, Turkey now has found itself in a new convergence of aims with Moscow and Tehran—and opposing American goals.

© AFP/File / by Raziye Akkoc with Stuart Williams in Istanbul | Turkey’s NATO allies have grown increasingly alarmed at President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s deepening ties with Russia’s Vladimir Putin

“This is the worst it’s been since the independence of the Turkish republic,” in 1923, said Asli Aydintasbas, an Istanbul-based fellow at the European Council on Foreign Relations. “The institutional bond [with the U.S.] is really weakening and the distrust is spilling into business ties, into investment decisions, and even into the NATO framework.”

More Middle East Crossroads

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The freeze isn’t just between Washington and Ankara: Turkey’s relations with key European nations, most notably Germany, have frayed just as badly.

Turkey’s traditional alliance with the U.S. already came under strain during President Barack Obama’s administration. At the time, the U.S. chafed at Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s systematic assault on democratic freedoms and civil rights. Turkey, meanwhile, viewed as an existential threat America’s support for Kurdish militias that combat Islamic State in northern Syria.

Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan meets with Iran’s Chief of Staff Major General Mohammad Baqeri in Ankara, Turkey August 16, 2017. Kayhan Ozer/Presidential Palace/Handout via REUTERS

Following a failed military coup against Mr. Erdogan last year, many senior Turkish officials have also concluded that elements of the U.S. establishment were sympathetic to the plotters’ aims or even actively colluding with the putsch, a claim firmly denied by Washington.

Mr. Erdogan, however, entertained high hopes for a reset under President Donald Trump, who refused to criticize Turkey’s deteriorating human-rights record. These expectations seemed to be validated as recently as Sept. 21, when Mr. Trump proclaimed at a meeting in New York that Turkey and the U.S. are “as close as we have ever been” and Mr. Erdogan reciprocated by praising “my dear friend Donald.”

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US President Donald Trump on Tuesday tried to lower tensions with his Turkish counterpart, Recep Tayyip Erdogan in the Oval Office of the White House on May 16, 2017. (Credit: Michael Reynolds / Getty Images)

Such optimism, however, belied the accumulating poison in the relationship. In Syria, instead of reversing course as Ankara had expected, the Trump administration essentially doubled down on the Obama policy of arming and backing the YPG Kurdish militia that Turkey considers a front for the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or PKK, a group that seeks to carve out a Kurdish state in southeastern Turkey and that is considered terrorist by Washington and Ankara alike.

Ankara was also upset with the detention of Reza Zarrab, a Turkish-Irania n businessman with ties to Mr. Erdogan who has been charged in New York with violating sanctions against Iran, and with the continuing presence in Pennsylvania of Fethullah Gulen, the Islamist preacher whom Turkey wants extradited for allegedly masterminding last year’s coup attempt. Both men have denied wrongdoing.

American officials, meanwhile, were frustrated by the yearlong detention of Andrew Brunson, an American Christian pastor whom Turkish officials have accused of links to the coup. Mr. Brunson has denied the charges. The U.S. officials were particularly horrified by recent Turkish suggestions of swapping Mr. Brunson for Mr. Gulen or Mr. Zarrab.

All of this, combined with uproar over the allegedly violent behavior of Mr. Erdogan’s bodyguards during his visit to Washington in May, has cemented a growing perception inside the administration—and Congress—that attempts to mollify Turkey have become increasingly pointless.

“Ankara has few, if any, friends in Washington now,” said Steven Cook, a Turkey expert at the Council on Foreign Relations in Washington.

The detention of the U.S. consulate employee helped ignite the latest conflagration.

“The arrest has raised questions about whether the goal of some officials is to disrupt the longstanding cooperation between Turkey and the United States,” said the U.S. ambassador to Ankara, John Bass.  The tit-for-tat visa issuance suspension means that only a small number of Americans with pre-existing Turkish visas can enter the country. U.S. citizens were until now able to get Turkish visas on arrival.

Ever since last year’s coup attempt, Turkish officials favorable to continuing cooperation with the West have been warning about the rise of the ultranationalist “Eurasianist” faction, particularly inside Turkey’s security and military establishment. This current, expounded by its main ideologue Dogu Perincek, a Turkish politician, seeks to reposition Turkey into a new “Eurasian” civilizational alliance with Russia, China and Iran—and to break off traditional bonds with West.

That breakoff intensified as Mr. Erdogan declared on Tuesday that the U.S. consulate in Istanbul was “infiltrated by spies,” making a quick resolution of this crisis all but impossible.

In a separate case this week, a Turkish court declared a Wall Street Journal reporter guilty of engaging in terrorist propaganda through one of her Journal articles. The Journal condemned the move and the reporter plans to appeal the decision.

“This was an unfounded criminal charge and wildly inappropriate conviction that wrongly singled out a balanced Wall Street Journal report,” said Wall Street Journal Editor in Chief Gerard Baker. “The sole purpose of the article was to provide objective and independent reporting on events in Turkey, and it succeeded.”

It is hard to see what avenues still exist for defusing the tensions between Washington and Ankara. The fates of Mr. Zarrab and Mr. Gulen are “judicial issues the U.S. government has no say in,” said James Jeffrey, a former American ambassador in Turkey. “President Erdogan’s advisers are misleading him if they think otherwise.”

Things are likely to get even worse in the foreseeable future, added Sinan Ulgen, head of the Edam think tank in Istanbul and a former Turkish diplomat. “There is no clear path to de-escalation,” he cautioned, “and therefore we will likely find ourselves on the path to escalation.”

Write to Yaroslav Trofimov at



Growing evidence detainees tortured in Turkey: HRW

October 12, 2017


© AFP/File | Activists wearing handcuffs stage a protest over the vast wave of arrests in Turkey, where HRW says torture in police custody has become a “widespread” problem

ANKARA (AFP) – Human Rights Watch claimed Thursday there was growing evidence of detention abuses in Turkey after last year’s failed coup, warning that torture in police custody had become a “widespread” problem.

The US-based watchdog cited “credible evidence” of 11 cases of serious abuse including severe beatings, sexual assault or the threat of sexual assault as well as threats and being stripped naked.

But it said the 11 cases represented a fraction of the credible narratives reported in the media and on social media.

“Such reports indicate that torture and ill-treatment in police custody in Turkey has become a widespread problem,” HRW said in its latest report.

The alleged victims are suspects accused of links to terror organisations, it said, or those authorities believe are linked to the failed coup.

Some detainees had reported ill-treatment to prosecutors or during court hearings, allegations which HRW said were not investigated “effectively”.

The group accused Ankara of failing to act to “stamp out the sharp rise in abusive practices in police custody over the past year”.

“As evidence mounts that torture in police custody has returned to Turkey, the government urgently needs to investigate and call a halt to it,” Hugh Williamson, Europe and Central Asia director at HRW, urged in a statement.

HRW said victims were scared to complain for fear of reprisals against their family.

– Abductions –

The group also said there were five cases of abductions in Ankara and the western city of Izmir between March and June “that could amount to enforced disappearances”.

In one alleged case cited by HRW, Onder Asan, a former teacher, was “abducted” in April and was missing for 42 days before he turned up in police custody and was then sent to pretrial detention.

The Turkish government did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Last month, Justice Minister Abdulhamit Gul said Turkey had “zero tolerance for torture”, noting the government’s commitment to human rights.

HRW said the “greatest risk” was for suspects detained over alleged links to the coup-plotters or the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).

Ankara blames the attempted overthrow of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on the US-based Muslim preacher Fethullah Gulen and his organisation it has dubbed the Fethullah Terrorist Organisation (FETO).

Gulen strongly denies Turkey’s accusations and insists his movement promotes peace.

Since July 2016, over 50,000 people have been arrested over alleged links to Gulen.

The group also warned of the pressures on lawyers who face “obstacles and risks” as well as the fear of reprisals while representing their clients.

Syrian opposition filmmaker stabbed in Istanbul

October 11, 2017


© AFP/File | Since the outbreak of the Syrian civil war in 2011, Turkey has become home to more than three million Syrian refugees, many of them opponents of the Assad regime

ISTANBUL (AFP) – A Syrian filmmaker close to the opposition who made a film about a notorious regime prison has been stabbed by an unknown assailant in Istanbul, supporters and Syrian groups said Wednesday.

Muhammad Bayazid was stabbed on Tuesday while on his way to a meeting, according to an account posted on the filmmaker’s official Facebook page by a friend who witnessed the attack.

Image result for Muhammad Bayazid, filmmaker, photos

Muhammad Bayazid remains in intensive care after being stabbed in the chest on Tuesday evening (screengrab)

His wife Samah Safi Bayazid, who is also a filmmaker, confirmed the attack, describing it on her Facebook page as an “assassination attempt”. He was taken to hospital but his condition was not immediately clear.

Ahmad Ramadan, an official with the Syrian opposition in Istanbul, said Bayazid had produced a film about torture in a notorious Syrian prison.

He also described the attack as an “assassination attempt”.

Syrian opposition activists and journalists based in Turkey have repeatedly complained of threats to their security.

A veteran Syrian opposition activist and her journalist daughter were found stabbed to death at their apartment in Istanbul in September. However, a relative was later arrested on suspicion of the murder.

Supporters wrote on social media that Bayazid was working on a film about the notorious Tadmor prison in central Syria outside the ancient city of Palmyra.

It was there that hundreds of prisoners were massacred in 1980 under the presidency of Hafez al-Assad, the late father of current President Bashar al-Assad.

Bayazid’s upcoming film “The Tunnel” is based on the “true story” of a Syrian-American man who is unjustly imprisoned in Tadmor, its promoters said. Its first showing in Turkey was at the weekend.