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x0x Turkish News for the week ending 04 July 2020

[This is a transcript of the news broadcast on 04 July 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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★ According to the Voice of America, the European Union's top diplomat has voiced concern about deteriorating relations between Greece and Turkey. Rallying to the defense of Greece, an European Union member state, Josep Borrell warned Turkey that any attempt to undermine Greece's borders and rights would be considered an equal affront to the European Union. The European Union official, however, fell short of spelling out any potential reprisals against Turkey.

  Turkey and Greece have long-standing disputes in the Aegean Sea on territorial waters, national air space and flight information regions, exclusive economic zones, and the militarization of some of the Greek islands, violating treaties.

  The divided island of Cyprus is also a source of friction between the two countries. After the Turkish intervention in 1974, the Turks of Cyprus have moved to the north of the island, and later declared independence. The Cypriot Greeks are in the South and their government is recognized as the official one internationally.

  As we covered in the previous weeks, Greek-led Cypriot government's oil and gas exploration in the Mediterranean has led Turkey to demand that the revenue be shared with the Cypriot Turks. When Cypriot Greeks didn't agree, Turkey send its own exploration ships with military escort to the region.

  Turkish officials are livid about Borrell's remarks, complaining the European Union official failed to address alleged human rights violations by Greece. Greece has been accused of using blast bombs, rubber bullets, and live ammunition to keep refugees from entering the West from Turkey earlier this year.

  In a statement, Turkish Foreign Affairs Ministry spokesman Hami Aksoy slammed the European Union for trying to whitewash Greek human rights violations.

Aksoy is not alone in his claim. Dozens of human rights groups have documented hundreds of cases of asylum seekers being robbed, abused, and stripped of their clothes and personal belongings by Greek forces in recent months -- who then sent them back to Turkey where nearly 4 million refugees remain stranded.

  Read more >> here <<  and >> here <<

  In related news, according to the Greek Daily Kathimerini the chief of the Hellenic National Defense General Staff, Konstantinos Floros, has reiterated warnings of the mounting risk of an "accident" between Greece and Turkey if Turkey insists on raising tensions over the Aegean and Eastern Mediterranean.

  Floros was speaking during a webinar organized by the American Hellenic Institute Foundation on Wednesday.

★ The Arab Weekly, a publication based in London, covered Turkish President's visit to Qatar this week with the headline "Erdoğan goes on tax collector mission to Doha".

  Qatar has recently allied with Turkey in international and regional disputes, breaking away from its Gulf neighbors and Saudi Arabia. These neighbors have been showing hostile attitude to Qatar.

  It also started supporting Turkey financially to alleviate the sinking Turkish economy.

  The visit came at a time when former Qatari Prime Minister Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim al-Thani hinted that Turkey was ready to fill the void that would result from a partial or full American withdrawal from al-Udeid Airbase in Qatar.

  "The Gulf sources said that the Turkish president is pressuring Qatar to finance his military campaigns in Syria and Libya, and the military show of force he is conducting in the Mediterranean Sea", the Arab Weekly wrote.

  President Erdoğan's entourage in his visit included his son-in-law and finance Minister Berat Albayrak, defense minister Hulusi Akar, and head of the National Intelligence Organization Hakan Fidan.


★ Speaking of the defense minister, Mr. Hulusi Akar and chief of General staff of the Turkish military General Yaşar Güler arrived in Tripoli Libya on Friday to carry out discussions with the United Nations-recognized Government of National Accord.

  Turkey has been backing militarily the Government of National Accord against Khalifa Haftar, a rebel general from Eastern Libya.

  Turkish defense minister said that Turkey will remain in Libya until the very end. Turkey's support has helped the Government of National Accord stopped Haftar's offensive, and pushed back his military forces.

  Turkey's Anatolia News Agency reported that the defense minister and chief of general staff later flew to Malta to have talks with the Maltese officials on, what Maltese minister for home affairs and national security Mr. Byron Camilleri said, "issues of common interest in the Mediterranean region, including the security situation in the region".


★ Throughout the week, news reports carried out the news about Istanbul's Hagia Sophia.

  Hagia Sophia is a museum which Byzantines built as a cathedral in sixth century. After Sultan Mehmet the 2nd conquered the then Constantinople in 1453, he had it converted to a mosque. In 1936, Turkey's first president Atatürk converted it to a museum.

  Now the current Turkish president Mr. Recep Tayyip Erdoğan would like to convert it back to a mosque. Mr. Erdoğan's religious base is very much in favor of a conversion back to a mosque, but the Turkish opposition made up of secular and other groups are opposed to it. Judging from the news, so is most of the world. Even Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Wednesday urged Turkey to keep the site in its current status as a museum.

  Mr. Erdoğan's administration applied to Turkey's highest court, the Council of State, for a judgment on the matter.

  Analysts say Mr. Erdoğan's desire to convert Hagia Sophia into a mosque has two motives: the first one is to appease his religious base, the second one is to detract discussions on his failure in both the economy and the fight against the coronavirus pandemic.

  The Council of State said that it will issue a judgment within 15 days.


★ In an interview with the online publication Independent Turkce, the main opposition Republican People's Party leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu criticized the Justice and Development Party administration led by President Erdoğan.

  Mr. Kılıçdaroğlu said that all authoritarian regimes are afraid of the media and that is why Mr. Erdoğan wants to shut down the social media. Mr. Erdoğan over the years had his supporters from the business world take over most of the media in Turkey. It is estimated that only 10% of the media in Turkey is not under his control. Those who oppose Mr. Erdoğan's rule in Turkey usually look up to the social media and Internet sources for news and commentary.

  Mr. Kılıçdaroğlu also pointed out the trolls that the Justice and Development Party is using on the Internet.

  Mr. Kılıçdaroğlu also quoted the Turkish constitution saying how beautiful the constitution's first article about the media reads: "The press is free and shall not be censored."

  Mr. Kılıçdaroğlu also said that there is a de facto civilian coup taking place in Turkey at the moment.

  "There is pressure on the media, pressure on the judiciary, and pressure on parliament. In other words, institutions of the state that should have been independent are being held in custody in a sense" he said.

★ Speaking of censorship of Internet, Turkey's Freedom of Expression Association published a report titled "Bans on the Web pages 2019". In the report the Freedom of Expression Association said that there are currently over 400,000 websites banned in Turkey. Just in 2019 alone the ruling Justice and Development Party administration added 61,000 pages to the list of banned pages.

  In related news, one of the recent bans took place in the Turkish Parliament. Turkish parliamentarians found out this week they can no longer watch Netflix when they are in the parliament building.

  Junior opposition Good Party leader Ms. Meral Akşener tweeted humorously "Mr. Erdoğan, do not close Netflix before the last season of "Dark" ends. Otherwise I'll be cross with you esteemed Erdoğan".

  The main opposition Republican Peoples Party leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu replied: "Be careful Ms. Meral, he [President Erdoğan] may now spoil the story just because he is mad".

★ Tom Rogan, writing in the Washington Examiner, said one of the reasons why Russia is paying the Taliban to kill Americans in Afghanistan is because of American support to Turkey in Libya. Rogan claimed that the U.S. is providing intelligence in support of Turkish operations against rebel commander Khalifa Haftar and the Russian Intelligence Service's Wagner Group combat force.

★ In an Op-Ed in the Washington Examiner on July 2, Michael Rubin wrote that Turkish president Mr. Recep Tayyip Erdoğan's stated reason for wanting to censor social media is likely a lie. Mr. Rubin explained it this way:

  "According to Turkish interlocutors, on June 28, Mr. Erdoğan arranged for a video show on YouTube with 15 or so high school students to whom he delivered advice. The students were assigned to ask Mr. Erdoğan flattering questions and to express their gratitude for his leadership. It did not go as planned, as an off-camera voice was heard whispering to a student, "Come on, say we are proud of you."

  "That was nothing compared to the embarrassment that followed. After the video was posted, dislikes outnumbered likes by 10-to-1. He [Erdoğan] rallied the internet trolls to support him, but when Erdoğan had the YouTube video removed, there we approximately 300,000 dislikes to around only 100,000 likes. It was then that he threatened to disconnect Turkey from social media outlets not controlled by the Turkish government.

  "Erdoğan once swore he would "raise a pious generation," and he subsequently said his policy toward the young was to create religious youth who would take vengeance against Western values. He has not succeeded, however. Turkish polls show that about 60% of Turkish millennials oppose Erdoğan despite 17 years of his indoctrination in schools, universities, and on television. The Turkish president is frustrated, and he is willing to do what all dictators who cannot win policy arguments do: repress rather than convince.

  Michael Rubin is a contributor to the Washington Examiner's Beltway Confidential blog. He is a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute and a former Pentagon official.


★ Turkey is among as many as 75 countries on Britain's first quarantine exemption list, the Daily Telegraph reported on Thursday. The U.S. is not among the countries exempted.

  As we reported to you, 50 million visitors came to Turkey last year with significant contribution to the Turkish economy. However, this year the outlook for the Turkish tourism industry looks bleak. There may be no tourists coming to Turkey from two top sources of tourists: Russia may not be sending any visitors to Turkey, and Germany is advising its citizens not to travel to Turkey.


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

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