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x0x Turkish News for the week ending 30 May 2020

[This is a transcript of the news broadcast on 30 May 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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★ Congressman Caroline Malone tweeted this week about the recent amnesty in Turkey.

  "Today, I raised concerns w/@SecPompeo that Turkey's exclusion of thousands of arbitrarily detained political prisoners in its new law to release prisoners to mitigate the spread of COVID19 is a clear violation of its obligations under international human rights laws," the congressman said.

  The congressman told the Secretary of State that many of the prisoners who are not released have been detained and falsely charged with supporting terrorism for simply exercising their rights to freedom of expression pit and peaceful assembly.

  Turkish authorities released almost 100,000 prisoners after the Turkish Parliament passed a law in mid-April.

  The Congresswoman's tweet and an image of her letter is >> here <<

★ In a different tweet from a different person came an ironic message. Turkish president Mr. Recep Tayyip Erdoğan wrote on his Friday tweet that he sent his condolences to the family of George Floyd who died while being arrested in Minneapolis.

  Turkish president then called the event a result of a "racist and fascist approach".

  After his tweet, many criticized President Erdoğan's Tweet as ironic and hypocritical. Some on social media pointed out that the Turkish police killed even young children while suppressing peaceful demonstrations or public gatherings.

  In related news, the mother of a 14-year-old who was killed by a gas canister during the 2013 antigovernment Gezi Park protests said that powers granted to the police should be reduced.

  The 14-year-old Berkin Elvan was not participating in the protests. According to his family, he went down from his parents' apartment to buy bread for the family. He was in a coma for 269 days.

  After his death, protests erupted throughout Turkey in nearly 25 provinces, and abroad nearly 30 major cities of the world.

  The then Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan claimed that the boy was a member of a terrorist organization.

★ In an op-ed in the World Politics Review, Simon Waldman wrote that the coronavirus pandemic has strengthened Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan's rule. Most analysts so far were writing that the pandemic actually weakened Mr. Erdoğan's rule.

  This came about when Mr. Erdoğan's popularity was slipping due to the ailing economy.

  In related news, a survey by the Eurasia Public Opinion Research Center found that Ekrem İmamoğlu, Metropolitan Istanbul's mayor from the opposition Republican Peoples Party, could defeat Mr. Erdoğan if the presidential race was held between the two of them.

  According to the survey, Mr. İmamoğlu could get 45.5% whereas Mr. Erdoğan would just get 40%.

★ According to Reuters, Turkish president Mr. Erdoğan's ruling Justice and Development Party is preparing a bill designed to block opposition parties from getting stronger.

  In addition to the long time opposition parties, there are now two new parties formed by former Justice and Development Party leaders who were one-time allies but now are dissatisfied with the rule of Mr. Erdoğan.

  Among others, the new bill will prevent interparty transfers of parliamentarians between allied parties to gain an advantage.

  To take part in elections, parties must have held a congress and formed a party structure in half of Turkey's provinces or already have a group of at least 20 MPs in parliament - criteria which the two new parties do not yet meet.

  Read more >> here <<

★ As we have been reporting to you in our previous programs, Turkish involvement in the Libyan civil war has been steadily growing. Turkey has been supplying arms, militants, and military advisers to the internationally recognized government in Tripoli against the rebels from eastern Libya led by Gen. Haftar.

  According to The Arab Weekly, Russia's foreign affairs ministry said on Friday that the situation in Libya was continuing to deteriorate and that a ceasefire there was in tatters.

  Russia is saying that the outside intervention, meaning Turkey's involvement, has changed the balance of power.

  Russia is supplying arms and militants to Gen. Haftar's rebel army.

  In the meantime some U.S. officials are worried about the appearance of Russian jet fighters in Libya, fearing that it will change the balance of powers against Europe.

  Read more >> here <<

  In related news, Turkey's energy minister Fatih Dönmez said on Friday that Turkey may start oil exploration in the eastern Mediterranean within three to four months under a deal it signed with Libya.

  According to the deal, a section of the eastern Mediterranean starting from Turkey and reaching to Libya was declared an exclusive economic zone by the two countries, excluding other countries such as Greece and Cyprus from the region.

  Read more >> here <<

★ BBC carried a news article on May 29th titled "Coronavirus: How Turkey took control of Covid-19 emergency".

  Although it was one of the fastest-growing outbreaks in the World - worse than China or the UK, Turkey, in the end, had a relatively low number of deaths for a population of 83 million, the article adds.

  The official death toll is around 4400. Some doctors dispute this, claiming that the real figure could be twice as high because Turkey only includes those who test positive.

  Turkey has "clearly averted a much bigger disaster", according to Dr. Jeremy Rossman, Lecturer in Virology at the University of Kent.

  "Turkey fits in the category of several countries that responded fairly quickly with testing, tracing, isolation and movement restrictions," he told the BBC.

  As the virus multiplied, the authorities subtracted key pieces from the jigsaw of daily life - no trips to the coffee shop, no shopping in crowded markets, no communal prayers at the mosque.

  The over-65s and under-20s were locked down completely, weekend curfews were imposed, and major cities were sealed off.

★ According to Al Jazeera, Turkey's state banks sold about $44 billion of hard currency in the first four months of this year and some $77 billion since the beginning of 2019 to support the lira, according to central bank data and the calculations of four bankers.

  The Turkish central bank's net foreign exchange reserves have fallen to as low as $26 billion this month, from $40 billion at the start of 2020.

  Adding to market concerns, Turkey's external debt obligations are nearly $170 billion over the next 12 months, the Al Jazeera article adds.

  Read more >> here <<

★ Other headlines on the economy:

  - Turkish government guarantees mean that several private companies operating infrastructure such as bridges will have a windfall during the pandemic period, Istanbul opposition Republican People Party deputy Özgür Karabat claims. The amounts paid to these companies from the government runs into millions in hard currency.

  - Bianet: The number of unemployed college graduates has increased two and a half fold over the past decade according to the Turkish Statistical Institution figures.

  - TRT: Turkey's Treasury and Finance Minister Berat Albayrak said the economic outlook for the country is set to improve now it had weathered the worst effects of the pandemic. Albayrak claimed that instead of contracting 5 percent to 10 percent, the economy will grow.

  - Reuters: Financial fallout from the coronavirus crisis could hasten mergers or retreats by some of Turkey's private and foreign-owned banks, ceding more ground to state-owned lenders, bankers and analysts say.

  Read more >> here <<


Edited by Ertuğrul Korkmaz

★ According to the New York Times, UEFA, the Union of European Football Association, annual champions league final is being moved from Istanbul, Turkey this year due to coronavirus pandemic. Turkey Soccer Federation has been insisting to host the match in August. The UEFA will decide on the alternate location in mid-June. Turkey will be offered to host the event in the future.


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