AKP

Erdogan now ‘Editor-in-chief’ of all media in Turkey

Editor (1)

Tayyip Erdogan’s stranglehold on the media should be a major issue of concern for everyone who believes in Democracy.  He is now effectively the ‘editor-in–chief’ of all media in Turkey.  Only he decides what stories should be printed and what comments on social media are acceptable.  Any media organisation which dares to criticise him is seen as the enemy and is closed down and taken over by his state apparatus.

In recent weeks the IMC television channel was taken of air and the Zaman newspaper was seized.  Both of these had been critical of Erdogan and his government’s policies – Zaman in particular was considered to be the last effective voice speaking out against Erdogan’s excesses.  There is now no effective media organisation left to criticise the AKP’s abuses.

Last week Erdogan again displayed his dictatorial tendencies when he told a constitutional court which had released two newspaper editors of the opposition Cumhuriet newspaper that such actions could bring its very existence into question – in other words he will not tolerate any court decision which goes against his whims and desires.

The EU would be absolutely crazy to accept Turkey as a member of the European Union as long as Erdogan is leading it.   A leader who cannot tolerate freedom of speech and expression, a leader who only promotes his cronies and brutally suppresses his critics has no place in the EU.

Free speech is a universal human value and any leader who can’t tolerate even the slightest bit of criticism is nothing other than a brutal dictator.

Was Berat Albayrak picked as sacrificial offering in the oil trade with the ISIL?

Beyrat

As Italian prosecutor Manuela Cavallo’s launching an investigation into money laundering claims about Bilal Erdogan, who recently moved to the Italian city of Bologna with his family, made it into news reports, another initiative, the Russian Federation kicked off at the United Nations, has raised the possibility of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s son-in-law Berat Albayrak’s being tried at the International Criminal Court (ICC) in the Hague on charges of aiding and abetting the terrorist organization Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL).  In a letter it sent to the UN Secretary General and the UN Security Council Member States on January 29, 2016, the Russian Federation provided detailed information regarding the illegal oil trade between the ISIL and the individuals, organizations and firms close to the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP).  Titled “ISIL’s illegal oil trade”, the letter contains serious accusations about Turkey.  It argues that majority of the ISIL-controlled hydrocarbon is transferred via Turkey and oil products are carried into the Turkish soil mainly through border crossings Karkamış, Akçakale, Cilvegözü and Öncüpınar.  The letter reads:

“Everyday 100-150 oil tankers pass through these checkpoints.  Moreover, crude oil is carried through rural paths that are not controlled by Turkish security forces.  A total of 4,500 vehicles are used to this end.”

The letter also claims that several Turkish firms such as Seri Otomotiv, owned by Mustafa Seri in Konya, and Sam Otomotiv, owned by Habib Haydaroğlu in Antakya, play a role in providing the ISIL with vehicles.  It is maintained that the majority of the crude oil smuggled out of the ISIL-controlled areas is transported to the Turkish Petroleum Refineries Corporation’s (TÜPRAŞ) refinery in Batman while a small portion of it is processed at small facilities in Turkey and distributed by the filling stations of the firms like “Opet Nizig, Alpet, Kadoil, Oneoil, Teco Alacalı and Mavigöl Gaz.”  Underlining that those who sell illegal oil products in Gaziantep, Sanliurfa, Kahramanmaras, Kilis and Hatay have secured protection from local authorities, the letter suggests that a significant portion of oil is shipped from the Turkish ports on the Mediterranean coasts, particularly from Ceyhan.  The letter says:

“The tankers of ‘BMZ Grup Denizcilik ve İnşaat A.Ş.’ are used in the transportation. The firm was established in 2013; its registered capital is around $1 million and its head office is located at ‘Gürgen Sokak No. 3, Üsküdar’. The firm’s fleet consists of five tankers: Mecid Aslanov, Begim Aslanova, Poet Qabil, Armada Fair and Armada Breeze.” In the letter, it is alleged that the firm Powertrans, affiliated with Çalık Holding, where President Erdogan’s son-in-law Berat Albayrak was the General Manager, played a role in the oil trade with the ISIL. In addition, it is noted that Turkish Petroleum International Company made a deal with Kurdish business from northern Iraq with guarantees from the Turkish government and oil production and processing projects are currently being undertaken in cooperation with the companies in the Kurdish Autonomous Region. “We have reasons to believe that this arrangement is an outlet for the ISIL to sell its energy sources. In cooperation with BOTAŞ, the TPAO and Genel Enerji are increasing their capacities for the crude oil that will come from Iraq and Syrian Arab Republic. In this context, the Yumurtalık oil station has been expanded to have a storage capacity of 1.7 million tons” it said. Pointing out that the crude oil so legalized in Turkey is sent to various parts of the world, making it difficult to keep track of it, the letter lists the other firms that are involved in the oil trade drilled from the ISIL-controlled areas as follows: “Palmali Shipping and Agency JSC (Turkey), General Energy (United Kingdom and Turkey) and Saudi Aramco (Saudi Arabia).”

The letter maintains that the ISIL uses the revenues from this oil trade to acquire weapons, military equipment, explosives, and ammunition among others while the donations from various individuals and Islamic organizations in some Gulf countries and Turkey constitute another source of income for the ISIL and the ISIL’s military council can secure more than $30 million every month in this way. It states that terrorists use Turkish territories effectively also for distribution of illegal weapons and explosives and they are abided by some associations and foundations in Turkey.  The letter puts forward that the number of oil-carrying vehicles from Turkey to Syrian Arab Republic rose by nine-fold between 2012 and 2015 and 400 vehicles worth of around $7.2 million have been procured in four years and the amount of supply for the first nine months of 2015 is expected to be $3.2 million.  In the letter, it is also argued that weapons and explosives are sent to the ISIL through uncontrolled parts of Syrian Arab Republic’s common borders with Turkey and Iraq and that Syria’s border crossings Bab al-Hawa (10 kilometers southeast of Reyhanli), Bab el-Selam (6 kilometres northeast of Azez) and Cerablus (105 kilometres northeast of Aleppo) are used for arms and explosives shipments from Turkey.  It is true that everyone is innocent until proven guilty, but the fact that Berat Albayrak is the only person from AKP government whose name is highly affiliated with the most violent terror organization (ISIL) has been recently appointed as Minister of Energy and Natural Resources, raising questions that he has been deliberately sacrificed for this purpose-filled position.

An extensive recent report published by WSJ into ISIL’s financial activities in Turkey ( …) reinforces these allegations.

A Year in Insane Quotes From Turkey’s President

This is a cross post from Vocativ.

Controversial Turkish leader Tayyip Erdogan is a shrewd politician who has not only managed to stay in power for more than a decade, but has also become even stronger (and stranger) over time.

Turkish president and aspiring strongman Tayyip Erdogan is armed to the teeth. Not just with tanks and guns, but also with an impressive armory of bonkers vocabulary. In his time in office, Erdogan has used outlandish, conspiratorial, provocative and sexist remarks to distract attention from his many, many shortcomings and energize his conservative base. Result? Half his citizens adore him, the rest hate his guts. Whatever! The guy’s totally dominating the political landscape of the Middle East. Good job, Tayyip!

In terms of bizarre quotes, though, 2014 marked the year Erdogan really came into his own, with bon mots on feminism, British mining disasters and “robot lobbies.” Given the president’s unrestrained power and Turkey’s crucial strategic role in the region, the world can ignore these nuggets of absurdity or laugh them off only at its own peril. But despite being frightening omens of things to come, they are still pretty funny.

Enjoy Erdogan’s greatest hits of 2014 below.

Muslims Like Totally Discovered America, You Guys

No joke. This bit of solid gold from a gathering of Latin-American Muslim leaders seems to be part of a general push to boost self-confidence in the Islamic world, possibly at the expense of the facts. One of Erdogan’s ministers soon chipped in with the claim that a Muslim also first discovered that the world was round. Good to know. The president himself has argued that the growing number of Turkish children at religious schools would help reveal the REAL TRUTH behind Western-centric stories such as Columbus’s place in history.

Meanwhile, Turkey languishes near the bottom of most international education rankings.

Your Ortho Tri-Cyclen Is Killing Turkey

Erdogan’s claim that taking the pill and using condoms amounts to sedition came during a wedding speech. For real, a wedding speech. In the past, the president he has called abortion “murder” and denounced cesarean sections as a conspiracy against Turkish fertility. Wake up, sheeple!

His campaign to have Turkish women to have at least three (and preferably five) children is just one of the most prominent examples of his increasingly intrusive governing style and extremely conservative values.

Suck It, NATO!

The West is exploiting the Middle East. The Islamic world must unite. All problems in the region are due to an apocalyptic clash of civilizations. You’veheard it all before. But remember: Turkey is a member of NATO and is supposedto be working with the U.S. against the ISIS jihadis in Syria and Iraq (with whom the nation shares borders). With friends like these, right?

You Ladies Just Don’t Get Motherhood Like I Do

Erdogan actually said this in front of an audience of Turkish women. Guts? This guy’s got ’em. Of course, women’s rights organizations were on the streets and burning up the Internet the next day.

Actually, the context for Erdogan’s “women and men are not equal” statement is none too pretty: Turkey has a very low level of women in the workforce, and figures of male violence against women are both shocking and on the rise.

19th-Century British Industrial Disasters Happen All the Time

Erdogan’s citation of the perils and privations of Dickensian Britain came after 301 miners died this May in a mining disaster in Soma, western Turkey, because of a lack of safety measures. The dubious relevance of 19th-century British industrial safety led some critics to wonder whether Turkey’s all-powerful president was increasingly out of touch with reality.

The locals weren’t impressed. When Erdogan visited town, they protested, causing him to yell: “You boo the prime minister [his post at the time], you get slapped.” One of his advisers was photographed kicking a mourner pinned to the ground. The adviser kept his job.

The Robot Lobby Is Out to Get Me

This is just one of Erdogan’s attempts to outsource the root of Turkey’s problems to various mysterious “lobbies.” There’s the “interest rate lobby,” which may or may not be a code-phrase for Jews, the “chaos lobby,” which is falsely accusing him of corruption, and the “blood lobby,” which is an awesome name for a band. Some of his supporters, angry about criticism of increasing Internet censorship, have accused a “porno lobby” of targeting Turkey, too.

Of course, mere hours after making this statement, Erdogan had his access to his Twitter account blocked. That’s how these things work.

Erdogan has called Twitter a menace to society in the past. As this example shows, his words, disturbing and downright odd though they may be, undoubtedly matter.

Turkey is turning into a paranoid one-party state

Erdogan one party state

This is a cross-post from the Spectator.

President Erdogan’s increasingly tyrannical regime is suppressing the truth about its war on the Kurds

Turkey is less and less a democracy, more and more a paranoid one-party state. If you don’t believe that, look at what happens to those who draw attention to the government’s failures and crimes. The editors of Cumhuriyet, a centre-left broadsheet, have been delivering their editorials from jail since November. A statement issued this month by the Izmir Society of Journalists claimed that 31 journalists were in prison while 234 were in legal limbo awaiting trial. Over the course of last year, they added, 15 television channels had been closed and 56 journalists refused accreditation.

Recently, a woman identifying herself as a teacher phoned in to a popular television talk show and asked the presenter, Beyazıt Öztürk, if he was aware of the terrible violence in the predominately Kurdish parts of southern and south-eastern Turkey. ‘Please, don’t let people die, don’t let children die, don’t make mothers grieve,’ she pleaded.

The next day, the TV channel — part of a group under intense pressure from the Turkish government — had to issue a grovelling apology for having aired this cry for help. ‘Doğan TV and Channel D have stood by the state from the first day to the present day,’ it read. Öztürk even delivered a personal apology on the day’s main news bulletin. But that wasn’t enough. He is now being investigated on charges of ‘making propaganda for a terrorist organisation’, and it is unclear whether his show will continue.

It’s not just journalists, either: a business group, Koza İpek, was taken into state administration and its media assets butchered on the grounds of ‘financing terrorism’ through a closeness to one of the government’s political rivals.

Why do President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and the political party he co-founded, the Justice and Development party (AK party), need to suppress free speech? The AK party was swept back into single-party power in the second general election of last year with 49.5 per cent of the vote. It is now in a position where it can do almost anything it wants with Turkey. Yet it lacks the supermajority needed to change the constitution. This is problematic, because Erdoğan is now campaigning to abolish the position of prime minister and consolidate his power as president — a move he recently regretted comparing to Hitler’s Germany.

The AK party is still 13 MPs short of being able to bring the issue to a referendum, and the three opposition parties in parliament have all tasted enough AK party power to know that it is not in their interests to strike a deal. To achieve Erdoğan’s wish, the AK party must now knock the Peoples’ Democratic party (HDP) — a coalition of Kurdish and leftist groups with 59 MPs — out of parliament, and that means controlling the narrative about the ongoing war in Turkey’s southeast.

So far, the government appears to be succeeding in defining how ordinary Turks see the violence between the state and the loosely HDP-linked Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which broke out again in July after years of peace talks. Those wanting to find out the facts often have to triangulate between highly unreliable Turkish pro–government news and equally unreliable, but less accessible, reporting from the Kurdish-movement press. Perhaps the most trustworthy figures are provided by the Human Rights Foundation of Turkey, which says that 1.37 million people have been affected by the government’s 24-hour-a-day curfews, which have been enforced since the violence restarted, and 162 civilians have been killed in the past five months.

Erdoğan now insists that Turkey will never again hold talks with any faction of the Kurdish separatist movement. ‘That work has finished,’ he has said. Prime minister Ahmet Davutoğlu, meanwhile, told a crowd outside AK party headquarters that the PKK were ‘trying to make young people the enemies of schools, of mosques and of the [holy] book… We’re up against a barbarian organisation.’

Yet the AK party is ambivalent in the way it deals with a more obviously barbarian movement, Isis. The government arrests on a whim Kurdish or Kurdish-sympathetic politicians for being ‘terrorist sympathisers’, but is curiously tolerant when dealing with actual Islamist terrorists. In the wake of an Isis suicide bombing in Ankara in October, for instance, Davutoğlu urged restraint: ‘If there’s a sleeper cell somewhere, you cannot simply round them all up and put them somewhere, hoping no one will notice. We have to behave in accordance with the law.’

Few AK party supporters hanker after the Isis way of life. Many in the party’s ranks belong to Sufi-influenced sects, which would earn them a death sentence were they to stray over the border. And the AK party could hardly ignore the bombings attributed to Isis last year in Diyarbakır, Suruç and Ankara — or the killing of 11 tourists in another bombing three weeks ago in Istanbul.

Rather than taking the dry puritanism of Wahhabism as a model, the AK party prefers the aesthetic of a new Ottoman era, an attempt to recast the most glorious days of that empire to fit their brand of political Islamism. If this approach were to be encapsulated in a slogan, ‘Making Turkey Great Again’ would not be too far off. It seeks to underline the strength of the Turkish nation, the public role of Islam, and the importance of strong leadership — and that’s where President Erdoğan comes in.

In his push for near-absolute power and his construction of a palace around three times the size of Versailles, including a bunker with direct access to police CCTV cameras, Erdoğan is clearly suffering some form of megalomania. He is neurotic about the threats facing his government, and increasingly paranoid about disloyalty within his party. He has started to replace mainstream activists with advisers who — judging by their public proclamations, at least — spend much of their time worrying about conspiracies involving sinister international financiers or telepathy. Perhaps Erdoğan’s accidental comparison of himself to the Führer was a Freudian slip.

Turkish Democracy Erodes further after last weeks twin bomb blasts

Bomb blasts Turkey

This is a cross-post from Harry’s Place

By Abi Adnan Oktar

Turkey was shaken last weekend as two bombs exploded during a peace rally in Ankara, killing 128 people and injuring another 500. The rally was organised by several groups, including the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), to call for an end to the escalating violence between the Turkish government and the PKK. Footage of police descending on the scene immediately after the explosions shows them blocking ambulances and beating bewildered protesters who were frantically calling for help for the injured. Turkish security sources have since suggested that ISIS may have been behind the attacks but opposition figures have blamed the government itself (the bomb blasts were suspiciously close to elections which are to be held in two weeks time).

In what has now become typical of how the Turkish government responds to such incidents, it was very quick to shift the blame. Prime Minister Ahmed Davutoglu dedicated half of his press conference to lambasting the leaders of opposition parties. He even suggested at one point that the Justice and Development (AK) Party was not to blame as the current government was not an AK Party government but an interim government until the early elections in November. The fact that the AK Party has ruled the country since 2002 and the explosions happened on his watch seemed to be irrelevant to him.  Davutoglu has become well known for his bizzare remarks; as late as August 2014, he avoided referring to ISIS as a terrorist organization, defining it instead as a“reaction born out of discontent and anger.” Davutoğlu also argued that “jihad is the name of fighting for our honor,” and is not related to terrorism.  The press conference also caused further controversy when the Justice Minister Kenan İpek, appeared smiling with a grin on his face and the Interior Minister Selami Altınok, denied complete responsibility on behalf of the ministry for the attack which stemmed from a security lapse.  This also led to the Republican People’s Party (CHP) head Kemal Kilicdaroglu demanding that the interior minister and justice minister either resign or be removed from office for their behaviour and attitude following the attacks.

There are hard-hitting questions which need to be asked such as why there are no pending operations against ISIS, the suspected group behind these attacks, despite their obvious activities within Turkey; why Turkey’s national intelligence service (MIT) and police did not act on intelligence 3 days prior to the explosions while the foreign embassies in Ankara did by taking their own precautions; how it was possible that two bombs could be set off in the heart of Ankara just 3 kilometers away from MIT’s HQ; why were there no police check points where the protestors were meeting for the start of their rally; how and why HDP went from being a credible partner for peace for the AK Party government pre-election to an avowed enemy full of ‘non-natives against Turkey’ post-election etc. There are many questions to ask but no longer the independent media to ask them and to call the government to account.

The AK Party government has systematically eroded the independent media (as well as any other forms of checks and balances against its rule) by undermining it through the twin-track of ‘buy out’ or ‘beat up’. ‘Buy out’ consists of forcing independent media to bankruptcy through heavy penalties and fines and by restricting its income by penalizing businesses that advertise on its screens and pages. Where that fails, ‘beat-up’ is used which basically consists of jailing its journalists and editors, forcing papers to fire columnists, allowing mobs to attack its offices and freeing suspects who confessed to beating up a critical columnist and TV presenter in front of his house breaking his nose and ribs.  Through this twin track approach, the AK Party government has created its own media, while suppressing those of others. It has been years since the president, prime minister or departmental minister has graced the studios of an independent news channel for an interview or allowed critical journalists to attend press conferences which are now accredited. So even journalists not in prison or hospital don’t have the opportunity to pose a question to government ministers.

Although Erdogan was initially seen as a moderate, his ruling AK Party has become increasingly right-wing, with attacks on civil liberties and press freedoms becoming common place.  He also fancies himself as some sort of modern day ‘Caliph‘ and demands allegiance from other politicians and public figures; this is becoming a significant concern among Turks.  His rhetoric has also become more anti-Semitic, anti-Western and pro-Islamist over the years whilst at the same time he has become increasingly embroiled in allegations offinancial fraud, corruption and dealings with terrorists.

Despite all this, Erdogan has controversially been awarded an honorary doctorate by a Japanese University for his contribution to law. This only serves to reinforce the sense of irony and frustration among the Turkish general public. It is about time that the AK Party learnt that upholding the rule of law and freedom of press is as much as in their political interest as it is in that of the Turkish citizens. Among other things, it is the media’s role to remind the government of this and to hold it to account. Without these checks and balances, Turkey is less, not more safe, as the cowardly attacks in Ankara (whoever the culprit) have once again demonstrated.