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x0x Turkish News for the week ending 22 June 2019

[This is a transcript of the news broadcast on 22 June 2019]

Courtesy of Turkish Radio Hour, producer of the

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★ Ekrem İmamoğlu rocked Turkish politics with his shock mayoral victory in Istanbul in March. But after the first vote was annulled over apparent irregularities, he's running again. Opinion polls show that he's ahead, reported Deutsche Welle.

  Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan brought out one of his big guns to stand for mayor of Istanbul. Binali Yıldırım, from Turkey's ruling Islamic-conservative Justice and Development Party, was born in the eastern Anatolian province of Erzincan and has the reputation of being a religious man. Alongside his political career, he built up a lucrative shipping company that is now run by his children.

  Yıldırım is a veteran of Turkish politics, and alongside Finance Minister Berat Albayrak -- who's also the president's son-in-law -- he's probably Erdoğan 's most important political ally.

  The two Justice and Development Party men have been close friends since the 1990s, and first met when Erdoğan was mayor of Istanbul. Yıldırım, a trained naval architect, was the board chairman of the city's ferry company, IDO. In 2002, Erdoğan's Justice and Development Party won the Turkish parliamentary elections; a few months later, Erdoğan became prime minister and brought Yıldırım into his inner circle. Yıldırım was almost continuously in office as Turkey's minister of transport from then until 2016, when he took the next step up in his career as Erdoğan made Yıldırım his prime minister.

  In local elections on March 31, Erdoğan was intent on hanging onto the city of Istanbul by any means possible. Aware that the metropolis, with its 15 million inhabitants, is key to his political survival, he sent in his close ally. The governing Justice and Development Party was so convinced it would win that, as the votes were being counted, it was already distributing posters showing Yıldırım thanking the population for his victory.

  But the Justice and Development Party's celebrations were premature.

  Yet when the votes were counted on election day, a politically unknown İmamoğlu up to now, emerged just ahead of Yıldırım, and was able to take office as mayor. Soon after, the Justice and Development Party lodged a complaint with the election commission, which annulled the result, meaning that a fresh vote would be needed.

  İmamoğlu is regarded as liberal and progressive. İmamoğlu is still fighting tirelessly to become mayor, despite being stripped of the post and being forced to run again. His chances are good: Opinion polls put him ahead Yıldırım; they say he may have as much as a six-point lead going into the vote on June 23.

  If İmamoğlu prevails, it could be a significant step for Turkey as a whole. Many people in Istanbul are even comparing him with Erdoğan , who also represented change at the start of his career, became mayor of Istanbul after a hard-won fight -- and went on to dominate Turkish politics.
★ In related news, VOA reports that President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan , in what is being seen as a last-minute bid to win Sunday, is looking to an imprisoned Kurdish rebel leader in an effort to deny the opposition key Kurdish votes.

  Jailed Kurdistan Workers' Party leader Abdullah Öcalan, in a handwritten letter, called on Kurds to remain "neutral" in Sunday's vote.

★ President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan is doubling down in political spats with the United States and European Union, risking further economic turmoil in the NATO member after the election reported Mark Bentley on Ahval news.

  The political disagreements over Russian S-400 missiles and drilling off Cyprus threaten to unleash a sell-off in Turkey's embattled lira following mayoral elections in Istanbul on Sunday.

  The United States and the European Union are both threatening reprisals against the Erdoğan government.

  The Turkish lira fell against the dollar on Friday, in what could be just a taster of an impending sell-off. The lira slumped to a record low in August after President Donald Trump imposed economic sanctions on Turkey for its detention of Andrew Brunson, a U.S. pastor, on terrorism charges.

  Analysts say that any U.S. sanctions could have a devastating impact on the $750 billion economy. Even a set of more limited measures targeting Turkish defense firms under the Countering America's Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA) would prove highly damaging, according to Tim Ash, senior emerging markets strategist at BlueBay Asset Management in London.

  Turkish Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu said earlier this month that the purchase of the S-400s was a symbol of Turkey's new-found global independence and power. Erdoğan, who has sought to increase Turkey's influence in the Middle East, North Africa and Balkans, has echoed those views.

  On Cyprus, Erdoğan has called on the Greek Cypriot government to give Turkish Cypriots, who live in the north of the divided island, an immediate share in the natural gas wealth.

★ Anatolia News Agency reported that on June 21 Turkey decried a decision by Greece that local religious leaders, known as muftis, among the Turkish minority living in the Western Thrace would henceforth be appointed by the state instead of being elected by the local people.

  "Greece violates the Lausanne Peace Treaty by not recognizing the muftis selected by the Turkish minority," Foreign Affairs Ministry Spokesman Hami Aksoy said.

  Aksoy, said the move violated the minority's religious rights.

  Underlining that this decree would eliminate the autonomy of the Mufti establishment in the country, he urged Greece to have intimate and comprehensive communication with the Turkish minority to resolve this problem in line with the Lausanne Treaty.

  He said Greece must recognize the muftis elected by the minority and reverse its policy of imposing illegally appointed ones.

  In Greece, the muftis of the Turkish minority in Western Trace are appointed by the government; however, the Turkish minority rejects this policy and demands the muftis be locally-elected by them.

  Today, about 150,000 ethnic Turkish people reside in Western Thrace with their status set by the Lausanne Peace Treaty of 1923 and their rights guaranteed by several bilateral and multilateral agreements.

  The Turkish minority of Greece faces a variety of issues including state denial of ethnic identity, inadequate education provision and restrictions on freedom of religion, purchase of property and political representation.

★ A Turkish court sentenced 151 people to life in prison on Thursday in a trial over a 2016 coup attempt against President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. Among those sentenced were 17 senior military officials, reported VOA on Thursday.

  According to Turkish media, a Turkish court in Turkish capital Ankara sentenced 128 people to aggravated life sentences and sentenced 23 people to normal life sentences for their participation in a 2016 coup attempt that left over 200 dead and over 2,000 people injured.

  Most notable of the individuals sentenced were Air Force Commander Akın Öztürk and Presidential aide Ali Yazıcı.

  On July 15, 2016, elements of the Turkish Armed Forces mobilized in certain cities across the nation, seeking to unseat Erdoğan. The coup was put down by Turkish forces hours after it began, with many of the participants surrendering.

  The Turkish government alleges that the coup attempt was in part, orchestrated by U.S.-based cleric Fethullah Gülen. Gülen denies involvement.

  Thirty-three defendants were acquitted of charges at Thursday's trial, according to local media.

  In the three years since the coup, Turkey has engaged in a sharp crackdown. Hundreds of thousands of state employees were fired and 77,000 people were arrested.

  In a 2017 referendum, a slim majority voted to end the nation's parliamentary system in favor of a presidential system, expanding the powers of President Erdoğan .


★ A suspect who attempted to sell a metal sculpture of a Viking warrior has been caught in the southwestern province of İsparta. The historical artifact is 21x11 centimeters in shape and weighs a kilogram.

  Experts will examine it to determine when it was made.

★ The International Istanbul Opera Festival, which aims to make Istanbul stand out as one of the most distinguished artsy cities of the world and has an important place among other festivals, will meet art lovers on July 2.

  Organized by Turkey's Culture and Tourism Ministry State Opera and Ballet General Directorate, the festival will celebrate its 10th anniversary this year and continue until July 14 at the Istanbul Zorlu Performing Arts Center.

  Moscow's Bolshoi Theater will appear on the festival's stage for the first time with two gala concerts.

  As the opening show, the Ankara State Opera and Ballet will stage "Turandot" opera on July 2 and 3.

  Staged by famous Italian guest director Vincenzo Grisostomi Travaglini, the leading role in "Turandot" opera will be performed by Korean soloist Lilla Lee on July 2 and Kazakh soloist Zhupar Gabdullina on July 3.

  The "Troy" epic opera, a big production created by the State Opera and Ballet General and Art Director and tenor Murat Karahan that will bring together opera and ballet, will be on the stage on July 6 and 7.

  Accompanied by the famous poet Yunus Emre's verses, Ahmet Adnan Saygun's "Yunus Emre Oratorio," which is the first oratorio in the Turkish language, will be staged by the Istanbul State Opera and Ballet on July 10.

  The performance will also be a tribute to Yunus Emre, who had a strong influence on Turkish, on the 779th year of his birth.

  The libretto of the performance, which brings together orchestra, choir and dancers on the same stage, was written by Uğur Seyrek, who also choreographed it, and Işık Noyan.

  The "Bolshoi Soloists Gala Concert" to be performed by the Bolshoi Theater soloists on July 13 and 14 will be a magnificent visual feast with a rich repertoire for the closing of the festival.

  Soprano Anna Nechaeva, mezzo-soprano Yulia Mazurova, tenor Fyodor Ataskevich and baritone Pavel Yankovsky of the Bolshoi Theater will perform arias and duets from the best-known operas in the world.

  "The Barber of Seville," "Il Trovatore, Carmen," "La Forza del Destino," "Samson and Dalila," "Manon Lescaut," "Don Carlo," "Don Giovanni," "The Tales of Hoffman," "Turandot" and "La Traviata" are among the operas to be performed in the Bolshoi concerts.

Bronze amphora from Parion
(Click to see a larger view, link will open in a new window))
★ Witnessing almost 3,000 years ago, an ancient coastal town in Turkey's Aegean harbors a huge tourism potential with visitors in large numbers.

  As the summer sun has uncovered itself in Turkey, the Parion coastal town in the western Çanakkale province attracts scores of domestic and foreign tourists.

  Some 2700-year-old city near the Kemer village is home to a year-long excavation.

  "Both Parion ancient city and Kemer village were popular destinations in antiquity and are in modern day. The numbers of tourists will exactly rise," said Soner Özmen, an excavation team member from Ondokuz Mayıs University in the northern Samsun province.

  Özmen told Anadolu Agency that the ancient touristic town started to welcome foreign tourists who are arriving the region via yachts.

  Pointing out that Parion is a significant port town linking to the other seas covering Turkey, the Black Sea in the north and the Mediterranean Sea in the south, Özmen said it carries a huge touristic potential.

  Zafer Türkmen, a seemingly well-versed local visitor, said people engaged in trade activities in the region in the past.

  "Presumably, this place will be a popular destination for sailors and yachters," he expressed.

  Fritz-Jochen Weber, a yachtsman from German, expressed his fascination for archeological and cultural values of the coastal town.

  He advised people planning to arrive the region via sea for a visit not to pass Parion.


★ SenfoRock Orchestra, a Turkish rock band performing symphonic interpretations of local and foreign songs, expects to draw a record audience of 50,000 to its open air concert on June 22 in the central province of Eskişehir.

  "It's going to be an incredibly glorious and exciting concert," said composer and orchestra conductor Musa Göçmen.

  During the event beginning at 8:30 P. M. in Cumhuriyet (Republic) Square, a dozens-strong orchestra will play before rock and symphony lovers alike.

  The orchestra plans to perform a repertoire of classic songs by rock legends including Metallica, Iron Maiden and Deep Purple, as well as Cem Karaca, Barış Manço, 3 Hürel and Fikret Kızılok from the heartlands of Anatolia.


  Karkemish excavations by the British in 1910

★ Karkemish, an ancient city on the Turkey-Syria border that once served as the most significant administration center of the Hittites, is gearing up to open an archaeology park for visitors.

  Speaking to the state-run Anadolu Agency, head of Karkemish excavations Nikolo Marchetti, a professor at the University of Bologna, said the ancient city in the southeastern Turkish province of Gaziantep is "the richest historical place in the region."

  The Hittites ruled over Anatolia and Mesopotamia for centuries. From the administrative seat of Karkemish, kings ruled over the Hittite Empire's lands in present-day Syria.

  The ancient city's location west of the Euphrates River also made it a significant junction for trade routes from Anatolia to Mesopotamia and Egypt in 2,000 B.C., Marchetti said.

  The open air museum will offer walking trails alongside excavation areas, cafeterias, recreational areas, remnants of a Hittite palace and temple, an avenue with Roman columns, sculptures and a wall relief depicting an eagle-headed griffon. Visitors will be able to walk on the ancient stone-paved roads inherited from the Hittite Empire, Marchetti said.


[Saat 14:30 and 15:30 'da iki kez okuyun]

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