Posts Tagged ‘President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’

Istanbul’s Mayor Announces His Sudden Resignation

September 22, 2017

ISTANBUL — The mayor of Istanbul has announced his resignation as head of the city of nearly 15 million people.

Kadir Topbas, a member of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s ruling party, declared he was stepping down during a televised news conference Friday. He did not provide a reason.

The resignation, however, came after the 72-year-old Topbas vetoed five zoning plan changes in the city but was overturned by members of his own party.

Topbas had been mayor of Turkey’s financial capital and largest city since 2004. He reportedly fell from grace after his son-in-law was arrested last year for alleged ties to the movement led by U.S.-based cleric Fethullah Gulen, whom Turkey blames for the 2016 failed coup. Gulen denies the claim.

Topbas said he was not resigning from the party.


Escaping disillusion: The skilled youth quitting Turkey — “We are losing our most intelligent students to the benefit of the West.”

September 20, 2017


© AFP / by Luana Sarmini-Buonaccorsi | An increasing number of highly-skilled Turks are leaving the country, raising fears of a potentially damaging brain drain

ANKARA (AFP) – When Dilara left Turkey for Dubai five years ago, her friends said she’d made a mistake. The economy was flourishing, the cultural scene was vibrant and relations with the West warm.But now, “most of my friends are sending me their CVs because they don?t want to stay in Turkey anymore, especially after the referendum,” said Dilara, a pseudonym as she did not want to be identified by her real name.

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan won a landmark referendum in April on expanding his powers, which critics fear will lead to one-man rule in an increasingly polarised nation.

Dilara, a specialist in digital marketing, is one of an increasing number of highly-skilled Turks to leave the country, a trend that has grown in recent years, according to Ulas Sunata, sociologist at the University of Bahcesehir in Istanbul.

Lamenting a lack of data, she said the issue represented a potentially damaging brain drain.

“It’s a genuine problem for the country,” she told AFP.

“But it’s not just the sociocultural aspect, there’s the economic aspect, too… their departure is a real disadvantage for the country.”

A dozen Turkish citizens interviewed by AFP, who have left or areplanning to leave, cited dwindling job prospects for graduates and complained of a rising conservatism under the Islamic-rooted government and an erosion of civil liberties.

The Turkish government insists it is building a strong economy, based on innovation and investment, with the aim of becoming one of the world’s top 10 economies by the 100th anniversary of the modern Republic in 2023.

The economy has remained robust after the July 2016 failed coup, even expanding by 5.1 percent in the second quarter this year. Yet critics point to high unemployment — especially the 20.6-percent rate among 15 to 24 year-olds — and an uncertain future outlook as reforms stall.

Erdogan claimed in July that a “brain drain” was taking place throughout the Muslim world. “We are losing our most intelligent students to the benefit of the West,” he said.

– ‘Why should I suffer?’ –

Dilara initially left Turkey temporarily to enrich her CV with experience abroad.

“I planned to go back many times in the past few years, but there were things happening in Turkey so I changed my mind,” she said.

The suppression of anti-government protests and terror attacks, which hit the country in 2016, made some think twice about staying in Turkey.

Meanwhile, the failed coup prompted a crackdown that critics claim has been used to go after any opponent of Erdogan and not just the suspected putschists.

“Why should I suffer when there are better options elsewhere? What am I doing in a country with no justice?” said a 33-year-old English-language teacher, who, like several people, agreed to speak to AFP on condition their names were not published.

He said he had taken the first steps to leave the country, with his wife and children, explaining that he felt they “deserve better standards of living.”

“There is no longer a place for independent films in Turkey,” added one 26-year-old filmmaker, who plans to move to Paris.

– ‘Quite bold decision’ –

The academic sector has been strongly affected by the post-coup purges, which saw over 50,000 people arrested and over 140,000 sacked or suspended.

More than 5,500 academics have been fired by decree under the state of emergency imposed after the attempted putsch, according to Hurriyet daily last month.

Some are accused of links to the failed coup, others of being linked to terror organisations, but many complain of having received no explanation for their sacking.

“If you ever express any political thought (as an academic), it may put you at risk,” one 28-year-old Turk, living in Montreal, said by telephone, who chose to stay there after his doctorate.

“It would be a quite bold decision now to take up an academic position in Turkey.”

Merve, a communications PhD student, will soon join her partner, who is also an academic, in Budapest. Both believe it is “too difficult” in today’s climate to lead an academic career in Turkey.

“Everyone is making choices thinking of their future, so I chose to leave,” she added.

– ‘Graduates taking risks’ –

Those most likely to leave are graduates, who “have a better chance of being accepted in the countries they want to go to,” said Sunata.

“Leaving involves risks, and it is the graduates who can afford to face them.”

But she warned: “Their departure means that there are fewer people left to uphold important, universal values such as human rightsand (their departure) entails a weakening of those values.”

The procedure for leaving is long and arduous: for one historian, who recently moved to France after having long taught in one of Turkey’s most respected universities, it took four years to prepare the paperwork and find a job abroad.

“I hope I never have to go back to Turkey,” he told AFP by telephone.

But the narrowness of the ‘Yes’ victory in April is a sign for many that all hope for the opposition is not completely dead.

“Things will not change overnight,” the filmmaker admitted. “But Turkey is unpredictable, everything can flip very quickly.”

One civil engineer from Ankara, who resigned himself to take steps to leave after having long refused to follow his friends abroad, lamented his future departure.

“I really love my country. I don’t want to leave my country to the conservatives,” he sighed. “I feel like I’m fleeing.”

by Luana Sarmini-Buonaccorsi

Turkey summons German envoy for second time in two days

September 19, 2017

Ankara has summoned Germany’s ambassador for the second time in as many days with tensions between the two countries showing no sign of ending. It is the 17th time Berlin’s envoy has been summoned in two years.

German and Turkish flags (picture-alliance/dpa/C. Charisius)

Germany’s ambassador to Ankara was called in to Turkey’s Foreign Ministry on Monday just 48 hours after responding to a previous summons over the weekend, German officials said.

German Foreign Office spokesman Martin Schäfer confirmed the summons, but did not elaborate on what the reason was.

The spokesman noted, however, that it was the 17th time Ambassador Martin Erdmann had received such an order since he began his tenure as Berlin’s envoy to Ankara in 2015

Read more: Can Merkel push the EU toward a new Turkey policy?

Schäfer noted that the number of summonses that Erdmann had received was “very unusual” between “partners within NATO.”

German news magazine Der Spiegel reported that Erdmann was summoned over a German parliamentary motion last year that declared the 1915 massacre of Armenians by Ottoman forces as a genocide. Turkey has long fiercely rejected the term.

Read more: Turkey: Is Germany Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s ‘best enemy?’

Summons over Kurdish rally

Erdmann was previously summoned on Saturday over a Kurdish festival that was held in the western German city of Cologne.

The slogan of the festival referred to Abdullah Oclan, the jailed leader of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) which has been designated as a terrorist group in the European Union and Turkey.

Turkey’s Foreign Ministry said on Saturday that the country’s condemnation of the Cologne event was relayed to the German ambassador.

Summoning an ambassador is one of the harshest diplomatic protest measures a country can order. Germany’s Foreign Office has also summoned Turkey’s ambassador multiple times – most recently over Turkey’s imprisonment of human rights activist Peter Steudtner.

Relations between the two countries plummeted after a series of diplomatic crises that followed last year’s failed attempt to overthrow President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

Berlin has strongly criticized Ankara’s post-coup crackdown that has seen over 50,000 people arrested.

rs/kl (AFP, dpa)

Turkey signs deal to buy Russian S-400 air and missile defense system

September 12, 2017


© AFP/File | The deal to buy Russian S-400 missile systems is Ankara’s most significant accord with a non-NATO supplier

ISTANBUL (AFP) – Turkey has signed a deal with Russia to buy S-400 missile defence systems in its first major weapons purchase from Moscow, Turkish newspapers Tuesday quoted President Recep Tayyip Erdogan as saying.The accord for the surface-to-air missile defence batteries is Ankara’s most significant pact with a non-NATO supplier.

“Signatures have been made for the purchase of S-400s from Russia. A deposit has also been paid as far as I know,” Erdogan said in comments published in the Hurriyet daily and other newspapers.

“(Russian President Vladimir Putin) and myself are determined on this issue,” he told journalists.

The purchase of the missile systems from a non-NATO supplier will raise concerns in the West over their compatibility with the alliance’s equipment.

The Pentagon has already sounded alarm, saying bluntly that “generally it’s a good idea” for NATO allies to buy inter-operable equipment.

Erdogan said Turkey was free to make military acquisitions based on its defence needs.

“We make the decisions about our own independence ourselves, we are obliged to take safety and security measures in order to defend our country,” he said.

Moscow also confirmed the accord, with Vladimir Kozhin, Putin’s adviser for military and technical cooperation, saying: “The contract has been signed and is being prepared for implementation.”

He said that the S-400 was one of the most complex systems, made up of a whole range of technical materials.

“I can only guarantee that all decisions taken on this contract strictly comply with our strategic interests,” he was quoted as saying by Russian state-owned TASS news agency.

“For this reason we fully understand the reactions of several Western countries which are trying to put pressure on Turkey,” he added.

Russia’s relations with NATO have been in crisis over its annexation of Crimea from Ukraine and for backing pro-Moscow separatists in eastern Ukraine.

Turkey, a NATO member since 1952, has currently troubled ties with the United States over a number of issues including Washington’s support of the People’s Protection Units (YPG) Syrian Kurd militia which Ankara considers a terror group.

Erdogan condemns abuses of Rohingya in call to Suu Kyi: presidency

September 5, 2017


© AFP/File | Myanmar’s civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi has come under fire over her perceived unwillingness to speak out against the treatment of the Rohingya or chastise the military

ISTANBUL (AFP) – Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Tuesday condemned escalating human rights violations targeting the Rohingya Muslim minority during a phone call with Myanmar’s civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi, Turkish presidential sources said.The United Nations said 123,600 had crossed into Bangladesh in the past 11 days following an uptick in fighting between militants and Myanmar’s military in strife-torn western Rakhine state, which raised fears of a humanitarian disaster.

The latest violence, which began last October when a small Rohingya militant group ambushed border posts, is the worst Rakhine has witnessed in years, with Erdogan last week accusing Myanmar of “genocide” against the Rohingya Muslim minority.

Erdogan has stepped up diplomacy and spoke on the phone with Muslim leaders during the Islamic Eid al-Adha festival, seeking ways to solve the humanitarian crisis in Myanmar. He also spoke with UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres.

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu will visit Bangladesh on Wednesday, the state-run Anadolu news agency reported.

In the phone call with Suu Kyi, a former political prisoner of Myanmar’s junta, Erdogan said growing human rights violations against Rohingya Muslims “deeply concerned” the entire world, sources from his office said.

Suu Kyi has come under fire over her perceived unwillingness to speak out against the treatment of the Rohingya or chastise the military.

Erdogan said Turkey “condemns terror and operations against innocent civilians”, adding that the developments in Myanmar had turned into a “serious humanitarian crisis which caused worry and resentment.”

The Turkish leader had previously said he would bring up the issue at the next UN General Assembly in New York later this month.

Guterres on Friday said he was “deeply concerned” by the situation in Myanmar and called for “restraint and calm to avoid a humanitarian catastrophe”.

The Rohingya are reviled in Myanmar, where the roughly one million-strong community are accused of being illegal immigrants from Bangladesh.


Turkey’s Erdogan Says Muslims Worried for Rohingya

September 5, 2017

BANGKOK — The Latest on violence in Myanmar’s Rakhine state and the resulting flood of ethnic Rohingya refugees into neighboring Bangladesh (all times local):

10:30 a.m.

Turkish officials say President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has discussed the violence affecting the Rohingya Muslim minority with Myanmar’s leader Aung San Suu Kyi, and said the issue was causing deep concern globally and especially in the Muslim world.

Officials at Erdogan’s office in Ankara said Tuesday that the Turkish leader told Suu Kyi in a telephone call that disproportionate use of force against the minority group should be avoided, and maximum care should be taken to avoid harming civilians.

The officials also said Erdogan condemned terrorist attacks targeting civilians.

Meanwhile, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu will travel to Bangladesh on Wednesday to discuss the situation of Rohingya refugees there, the state-run Anadolu Agency reported. Cavusoglu would also visit a refugee camp in Cox’s Bazar, it said.


2 p.m.

The U.N. refugee agency says some 123,000 Rohingya refugees have fled to Bangladesh since violence erupted in Myanmar on Aug. 25.

UNHCR spokeswoman Vivian Tan said Tuesday that the latest number is a result of aid workers conducting new, more accurate counts in both established and makeshift refugee camps.

On Monday, the agency had estimated 87,000 refugees had crossed the swampy border in the days since Rohingya insurgents attacked Myanmar police posts, prompting security forces to launch “clearance operations” in response.

Tan said “the numbers are very worrying. They are going up very quickly.” The older, established refugee camps for Rohingya have already reached capacity, and thousands were struggling to find shelter.


Turkey opposition chief challenges Erdogan with ‘justice’ congress

August 26, 2017


© AFP / by Fulya OZERKAN | Kemal Kilicdaroglu, leader of the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP), his hosting a four-day summit on alleged rights abuses
ÇANAKKALE (TURKEY) (AFP) – Turkey’s main opposition leader on Saturday warned President Recep Tayyip Erdogan that the whole country has a “thirst for justice”, opening an unprecedented four-day meeting protesting alleged violations under his rule.

Kemal Kilicdaroglu, head of the secular Republican People’s Party (CHP), is hoping the “justice congress” in the western Canakkale region will keep up the momentum of a month-long march highlighting judicial abuses in Turkey after the July 15 failed coup.

With politics heating up in Turkey even two years before the next elections, Erdogan will later on Saturday host a mass rally at the opposite end of the country marking the anniversary of the 1071 Battle of Malazgirt where pre-Ottoman tribes defeated the Byzantines.

More than 50,000 people have been arrested under Turkey’s state of emergency, imposed after last year’s failed coup, and almost three times that number have lost their jobs, including teachers, judges, soldiers and police officers.

“Eighty million have a thirst for justice,” Kilicdaroglu said, referring to Turkey’s population.

“It is my duty to seek justice. It is my duty to stand by the innocent and be against tyrants,” he told some 10,000 people attending Saturday’s event.

– ‘The last straw’ –

Kilicdaroglu earlier this summer walked 450 kilometres (280 miles) from Istanbul to Ankara to protest against the sentencing of one of his MPs, Enis Berberoglu, to 25 years in jail for leaking classified information to an opposition newspaper.

Under the simple slogan “justice”, the march culminated last month in a huge rally in Istanbul that attracted hundreds of thousands, the biggest event staged by Erdogan’s critics in years.

Kilicdaroglu condemned the crackdown as a “civilian coup” and said that the jailing of Berberoglu “became the last straw.”

Referring to the jailing of journalists after the coup bid, Kilicdaroglu said: “You cannot talk about law, rights and justice in a country where more than 150 journalists are in prison.”

The pick of the region for the CHP congress is also significant as it was the site of the World War I Battle of Gallipoli where the Ottoman army successfully repelled Allied forces.

The CHP was founded in 1923 by Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, who was a Turkish commander in the Gallipoli campaign where the heroism of Turkish troops is said to have helped lay the foundation of the modern republic.

In a relaxed atmosphere, supporters pitched tents under shady woods to be their homes for the duration of the four-day congress which will have special sessions on different kinds of rights abuses.

“I hope the congress will help raise awareness for a justice which does not exist in Turkey right now,” said Kismet Seyhan Aydin, from the Aegean city of Izmir, a CHP stronghold.

“I believe it will be a new start for the justice to be restored,” she added.

Kemal Barisik, having breakfast outside his tent wearing a hat with the justice slogan said: “I believe that Kilicdaroglu is capable of restoring justice. Before the justice march, people did not have faith.”

– ‘Worrying about my vest’ –

Erdogan won an April referendum boosting his powers but Turkey is already in the throes of what appears to be a long election campaign, heading to November 2019 parliamentary and presidential elections.

The Turkish president, who is already signalling he will stand for another term, has urged the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) to get in better shape for the election fight.

In a sign of the rancour between the two men, a photo depicting the CHP leader wearing a white undershirt while dining in a trailer during the justice march drew a sharp response from Erdogan.

The mildly-spoken Kilicdaroglu is sometimes compared by supporters to the Indian independence leader Mahatma Gandhi, and Erdogan took particular offence at a newspaper headline describing him as “citizen Kemal”.

Kilicdaroglu responded that Erdogan needed to address the “country’s problems” instead of “bothering with my vest from morning to evening”.

by Fulya OZERKAN

Turkey dismisses over 900 public sector workers — purge following last year’s failed coup looks endless — state of emergency to crack down on all forms of opposition and media

August 25, 2017



© AFP | President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has cracked down hard in the wake of the attempted coup to overthrow him last year
ANKARA (AFP) – Turkey has dismissed over 900 public sector officials in the latest wave of the purge that has followed last year’s failed coup, according to an emergency decree published in the official gazette Friday.Over 140,000 people have been sacked or suspended from their jobs since July 2016 over alleged links to US-based Islamic cleric Fethullah Gulen, accused of ordering the attempted coup. Gulen denies the charges.

More than 50,000 people including journalists have been arrested under the state of emergency imposed last year in a crackdown that has caused international concern.

A total of 928 people were sacked in the latest decree, including civil servants working in the defence, foreign and interior ministries as well as military personnel.

Turkish authorities also stripped 10 retired brigadier generals of their rank, according to the decree.

But the decree said 57 civil servants and military personnel returned to their jobs including 28 officials from the justice ministry and related institutions.

Six organisations including three media outlets in the southeast were shut down including Dicle Media News Agency based in the Kurdish-majority city of Diyarbakir.

Dozens of media outlets including newspapers and broadcasters have been closed down since July.

A second decree tied Turkey’s National Intelligence Organisation (MIT) to the president — previously linked to the prime ministry — while the presidency would head a new body called the National Intelligence Coordination Board (MIKK).

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s authorisation would be needed for the MIT head to be investigated, according to the decree.

The president would also need to approve any request made for the MIT chief, currently Hakan Fidan, to act as a witness in court.

The move appears to be part of the measures taken to implement changes approved in the April referendum on expanding Erdogan’s powers to create an executive presidency.

Most of the reform measures are due to come into effect after the 2019 presidential and parliamentary elections.

Critics have accused the government of using the state of emergency to crack down on all forms of opposition. But Turkish authorities insist that it is necessary to ensure Turkey’s security from multiple threats it faces from Gulen and Kurdish militants.

Erdogan says top Turkish general must accept demotion

August 21, 2017


© Turkish Presidential Press Service/AFP/File | In a rare show of tension between the military and Erdogan (pictured), Turkish media reported that Lieutenant General Zekai Aksakalli had wanted to resign from the armed forces after he was moved from special forces chief

ISTANBUL (AFP) – President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Monday warned a top Turkish general who played a key role in defeating last year’s failed coup and led a cross-border operation in Syria that he must accept a surprise demotion without rancour.

In a rare show of tension between the military and Erdogan, Turkish media reported that Lieutenant General Zekai Aksakalli had wanted to resign from the armed forces after he was moved from special forces chief to a less significant position.

“There can be no such concept of disappointment in the military. Whatever task is assigned, a soldier goes and fulfils their duty there,” Erdogan said after Aksakalli was assigned as commander of the army’s 2nd Corps, based on the Gallipoli peninsula in northwestern Turkey.

Up to 10 generals including the former special forces chief were ready to resign, Hurriyet daily reported on Monday. No reason has been given for the demotion.

Hurriyet speculated there may have been “discomfort” within the military over the general’s public profile in running the Syria operation and the desire to replace him with a younger figure.

Aksakalli led the Turkish military’s cross-border “Euphrates Shield” operation launched in August last year aimed at clearing the border zone in northern Syria of both Kurdish militia fighters and the Islamic State extremist group.

“Right now, Zekai Aksakalli has completed his duty in the special forces,” Erdogan said, adding that the proposal came during a meeting of the nation’s top armed forces body on August 2.

“He will continue his work there (at the 2nd Corps),” Erdogan told reporters in Istanbul before flying to Jordan.

It is hugely unusual for the Turkish president to comment on military appointments in public.

Aksakalli was promoted to lieutenant general in a meeting of the first Supreme Military Council after the July 15 2016 attempted putsch, where his actions made him a figure of national prominence.

He was praised for ordering Sergeant Omer Halisdemir to kill one of the suspected ringleaders, Brigadier General Semih Terzi, on the night of July 15.

By shooting Terzi dead outside special forces headquarters in Ankara, Halisdemir broke the putschists’ chain of command although he was subsequently killed by the plotters.

Eighteen suspects went on trial in February accused of deliberately killing Halisdemir, who has since become a national hero with public places including parks named after him.

The demotion came after a shake-up of the armed forces as Turkey replaced its land, air and naval commanders of the military during the August 2 meeting.

Merkel attacks Turkey’s ‘misuse’ of Interpol warrants — “It’s quite unacceptable that Erdogan does this.”

August 20, 2017


Image result for German Chancellor Angela Merkel, august 2017, photos

German Chancellor and head of the Christian Democrats party Angela Merkel reacts during the opening of the so-called “walkable campaigning program” in Berlin, on August 18, 2017. / AFP PHOTO / Odd ANDERSEN

BERLIN (Reuters) – German Chancellor Angela Merkel criticized Turkey’s use of an Interpol arrest warrant to detain a German writer in Spain, telling an election town hall event on Sunday that this amounted to abuse of the international police agency.

Dogan Akhanli was stopped in Spain on Saturday after Ankara issued a “red notice”. The German-Turkish writer was released on Sunday but must remain in Madrid while Spain assesses Turkey’s extradition request.

“It is not right and I’m very glad that Spain has now released him,” Merkel said. “We must not misuse international organizations like Interpol for such purposes.”

Relations between Turkey and the European Union have been under growing strain since last year’s failed military coup in Turkey. European-Turkish nationals are among the 50,000 people detained since then in what critics condemn as an indiscriminate crackdown by President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

Merkel has been more muted in her criticism of Erdogan than other German politicians, with critics charging her with being beholden to Erdogan because of Turkey’s role as a buffer against a renewed flood of Syrian war refugees arriving in Europe.

Image may contain: 1 person, text

Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan makes a speech during a ceremony to mark the 16th anniversary of his ruling AK Party’s foundation in Ankara, Turkey, August 14, 2017.Umit Bektas

“(Dogan’s) is one of many cases, unfortunately,” Merkel said, in a sharpening of her tone toward Ankara. “That’s why we have massively changed our Turkish policy recently … because it’s quite unacceptable that Erdogan does this.”

On Saturday Erdogan urged Turks in Germany to “teach a lesson” to Germany’s “anti-Turkish” mainstream parties in next month’s parliamentary election, despite German foreign minister Sigmar Gabriel’s warning he should keep out of German politics.

“Who are you to talk to the president of Turkey? Talk to Turkey’s foreign minister. Know your place,” Erdogan said at a rally for his AK Party in the southwestern province of Denizli.

European countries with large Turkish diasporas have grown increasingly uneasy at what they see as Ankara’s attempts to use ethnic Turkish populations to influence domestic politics.

“President Erdogan is trying to instrumentalize ethnic Turkish communities, especially in German and Austria,” Austrian Foreign Minister Sebastian Kurz told Die Welt newspaper. “He polarizes and brings Turkish conflicts into the EU.”

The final days before elections in the Netherlands this year were overshadowed by violent protests by local affiliates of Erdogan’s party. German security officials have expressed concern about a possible repetition in Germany.

Reporting by Thomas Escritt in Berlin and Daren Butler in Istanbul; Editing by David Goodman and Jon Boyle