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x0x Turkish News for the week ending 11 April 2020

[This is a transcript of the news broadcast on 11 April 2020]

Courtesy of Turkish Radio Hour, producer of the

TURKISH CULTURAL PROGRAM, every Saturday from 2 P.M. to 4 P.M.

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★ Agence France-Presse reporter Bülent Kiliç reports that Turkey, a nation of 80 million, had the fastest-growing number of coronavirus cases in the world.

  As of April 10, Turkey has 42,282 confirmed cases of COVID-19 — the disease caused by the novel coronavirus — with 908 deaths. Some fear that it could be the Next pandemic hotspot.

  While it has a relatively low death count, the infections have been increasing by 3,000 every day, according to The Guardian.

  Turkey has imposed restrictions like closing schools, universities, and cafes, and stopping prayers at mosques, and halting flights to particular countries. But the restrictions have been incremental, and even with cases continuing to rise, a nationwide lockdown has not been imposed.

★ The Turkish Medical Association has claimed that the number of coronavirus (COVID-19) deaths in the country is higher than the official figures announced daily by Minister of Health Dr. Fahrettin Koca.

  According to the association's central council, the ministry doesn't convey the numbers to the World Health Organization using the appropriate codes, causing the death toll to seem lesser than it is.

★ A good news on the pandemic front: Agence France-Presse reported on Friday that a 93-year-old woman was discharged from an Istanbul hospital after recovering from the novel coronavirus following 10 days of treatment.

★ Ideas that a few months ago would have seemed anathema to President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan are gaining traction as Turkey runs dangerously low on foreign-currency reserves and its economy succumbs to a recession amid the coronavirus pandemic, reports Bloomberg.

  A pro-government newspaper has broached the possibility of borrowing from the International Monetary Fund, helping give legitimacy to what officials have long publicly regarded as a non-starter.

  Back in June 2019, President Erdoğan was saying "They want to see a Turkey like before, a Turkey that went cap in hand to the International Monetary Fund ", and expressing his opposition to borrowing from the Fund.

  Turkey finished paying off an International Monetary Fund loan back in 2013, and not borrowed from the fund since then.

  Although the Turkish president opposes borrowing from the fund, most economists think that he doesn't have much of a choice.

  "Ankara needs to figure out a way of bailing out the economy without causing a balance-of-payments crisis," Global Source Partners economists including Murat Üçer in Istanbul said in a report. "And because this is so difficult to do on its own, the only practical solution, normatively speaking, is an International Monetary Fund program -- no matter how unrealistic the politics of it may sound."

  Read more >> here <<

  In related news, Reuters reported on April 10 that Turkey is looking for alternative sources of finance. Turkish officials held talks with the United States about possibly securing a swap line from the U.S. Federal Reserve.

  According to the article, Turkish officials are also talking to the World Bank and G 20 countries.

  Read more >> here <<

★ Turkey's Interior Ministry ordered a curfew in 31 provinces for the weekend three hours before it is supposed to begin on midnight Friday. The Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu said that President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan ordered the curfew.

  The 31 provinces have 75% of the population in Turkey.

  Hundreds of thousands of people poured to the streets to buy supplies and food, causing major gridlock in traffic.

  Also large groups of people in close proximity gathered around supermarkets and bakeries, violating the social distancing recommendations.

  Many criticized the government for ordering a curfew in such short notice.

  Joining in the criticism was the Metropolitan mayor of Istanbul Ekrem İmamoğlu. He said that the government did not notify his administration about the curfew.

  In related news, writing in the opposition daily Birgün, political scientist Dr. Güven Gürkan Öztan says that the Erdoğan administration is treating municipalities led by the opposition as enemies in the fight against the Corvid 19 pandemic, despite telling people to unite against it.

★ Writing in the New York Times on April 9, Carlotta Gall told the suffering of the activist Turkish businessman Osman Kavala.

  After being put into jail two years ago, he was unexpectedly acquitted of trying to overthrow the government and then immediately rearrested before he could walk free in February.

  Carlotta Gall writes that "Best known for his good deeds, he has been variously accused of espionage, links to terrorist groups and trying to overthrow the government. Even seasoned lawyers, well used to decades of political trials in Turkey, have described the various charges against him as "ridiculous."

  She adds that Osman Kavala represents everything the Justice and Development Party administration hates:

  "He represents the leftist-leaning, secular elite, which in Turkey's polarized society is the opposite of the president and his supporters. They are from religiously conservative, Islamist circles that were long sidelined from power."

  Read more >> here <<

★ In related news, in an op-ed published on Thursday in the Washington Post exiled Turkish journalist Can Dündar wrote that Turkey's president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan is using the Corvid 19 pandemic to punish his political opponents. Tens and thousands of these opponents are incarcerated in overcrowded jails. A bill submitted to the parliament to release prisoners from overcrowded jails and stop a possible Corvid 19 infection wave among them exclusive inmates jailed as terrorists. However, a lot of the inmates charged with terrorism are simply opponents of the Erdoğan regime, analysts say.

  Read more >> here <<

★ According to Forbes, despite a roiling market, Germany's billionaire twins, Thomas and Andreas Struengmann, each got billions of dollars richer as shares of their Nasdaq-listed German drugmaker BioNTech soared. The stock rose after news in March that pharmaceutical giant Pfizer is teaming with BioNTech on developing a coronavirus vaccine.

  The BioNTech is started by Turkish-born professor Uğur Şahin and his wife Özlem Türeci.

  Uğur Şahin and his family emigrated to Germany when he was three years old. When he started school he did not speak much German, and the school administration thought that he didn't have the mental capacity to get an education and wanted to relegate them to schools termed "lower secondary education".

  A German neighbor who recognized that the issue is not Uğur Şahin's intelligence but rather his language skills convinced the school to let him stay. Afterward, he studied medicine at the University of Cologne. In 2014 he became a professor at the Mainz University Medical Center.

  In 2008 he established BioNTech

  Read more >> here <<

★ According to the Daily Beast, Turkish American Dr. Mehmet Öz has been advising senior Trump administration officials on coronavirus-related matters.

  The Daily Beast says that Öz has even caught President Donald Trump's attention with us numerous appearances on Fox TV.

  Like the president, Dr. Öz is a proponent of hydroxychloroquine, an anti-malaria drug, for the treatment of the Corvid-19 infections.

  However, Dr. Anthony Fauci says that there is no scientific evidence yet on the drug's efficacy against the coronavirus.


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