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x0x Turkish News for the week ending 19 September 2020

[This is a transcript of the news broadcast on 19 September 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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★ We told you last week that Senator Rob Johnson, a Wisconsin Republican, had suggested the United States is so unhappy with Turkey that American forces at Incirlik Air Base in Turkey would be moved to a Greek island.

  This week the Pentagon has rebutted these reports, the Greek American newspaper The National Herald reported.

  The National Herald writes that Turkey's purchase of Russian-made S-400 missile defense systems that could undermine NATO--the defense alliance to which the US, Greece, and Turkey belong--and Turkish moves to drill for energy off Greek islands as it is doing off Cyprus has rattled Washington's cage.

  Still, US President Donald Trump said Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan is a friend and a "hell of a leader," and reportedly has done favors for him, causing confusion which way the U.S. would tilt in a conflict between Greece and Turkey, The National Herald adds.

  Read more >> here <<

A Turkish flag flies next to the NATO logo at the Alliance headquarters in Brussels, Belgium

★ According to Reuters, a NATO investigation into a naval standoff between French and Turkish military vessels in June has been rated too sensitive to discuss in public and does not apportion blame, as France and Turkey wage a war of words.

  In June, the French claimed that a Turkish naval vessel escorting a cargo ship harassed a French frigate that tried to inspect the ship. The French were suspecting that the cargo ship may have been carrying arms to Libya The French were on a NATO mission to stop the smuggling of arms to the warring factions in Libya.

  The issue underlines NATO's difficulties with Turkey, also at odds with Greece over energy rights, and with the alliance's leader, the United States, Reuters article adds.

  Read more >> here <<

Mr. Erdoğan addressing a crowd of his supporters who are not observing social distancing

★ Turkeys President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has said that the government is preparing to introduce new measures to curb the spread of the coronavirus, since "people have not complied with the rules", the daily Duvar reports

  The virus infections began increasing after the Erdoğan administration loosened restrictions on public activity, starting in June.

  Critics have also accused the government of hypocrisy with regards to the measures, pointing out that social distancing measures were being overlooked in several occasions, such as the rallies of Mr. Erdoğan's ruling Justice and Development Party.

  Read more >> here <<

★ Turkey began the final Phase III trials of an experimental Chinese coronavirus (COVID-19) vaccine on September 16, reports the Reuters.

  Turkey will send the results of the trial to the World Health Organization (WHO). The Chinese company Sinovac developed the vaccine candidate being tried in Turkey.

  Read more >> here <<

The Nationalist Action Party leader Devlet Bahçeli

★ Some 40 medical chambers affiliated with the Turkish Medical Association have released a joint statement reiterating their support for the organization. "We are fortunate to have our professional organization that prioritizes and defends the right of public health, and does not compromise when it comes to scientific and free-thinking," the chambers said, following Nationalist Action Party leader Devlet Bahçeli's call for the Turkish Medical Association's closure.

  Mr. Bahçeli is a staunch ally of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, and his Nationalist Action Party is a coalition partner of Erdoğan's ruling Justice and Development Party.

  In related news, the ruling Justice and Development Party's ultranationalist alliance partner Nationalist Action Party is not doing well in public opinion surveys.

  If parliamentary elections were held today in Turkey, the Nationalist Action Party would receive 6.5 percent of the votes, a survey revealed

  The Justice and Development Party polled at 37.2. The two parties together would get 43.7% of the votes and would fail to win enough votes to let them form a government.

  The poll surveyed 1,537 people in 12 cities in Turkey and was conducted on September 4 and 5.

★ Islamic orders, known to have close ties to the ruling Justice and Development Party, have recently accelerated efforts to establish their own foundations, the daily Duvar reports. They established two more foundations on September 17. One has ties to the İsmailağa order, while the other to pro-government KİHMED.

  The Justice and Development Party's relations with religious orders have been a subject of debate in Turkey, especially after the 2016 coup attempt-- widely believed to have been orchestrated by the U.S.-based Islamic preacher Fethullah Gülen and his order's members. Gülen and his followers were initially allies of the Justice and Development Party and Mr. Erdoğan but turned against Mr. Erdoğan.

  The botched coup that killed over 250 people came after years of Gülenist infiltration in state institutions. The government is currently being criticized for not distancing itself from Islamic orders and letting them fill the positions in state institutions that opened after widespread dismissals of Gülenists.

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

★ An Istanbul court on September 17 ruled that the Turkish government can seize the assets of Can Dündar, former editor-in-chief of Cumhuriyet newspaper if the renowned journalist does not appear in court within 15 days, the online T24 news site reported.

  The court's decision came upon the request of the Istanbul Chief Public Prosecutor. The Istanbul court said that Dündar will be treated as a "fugitive" if he does not return to Turkey within 15 days following the publication of the relevant announcement on the official gazette.

  Following the court's decision, Dündar tweeted: "The Turkish court's decision shows the unlawful nature of the Turkish judiciary and aims to criminalize my work as a journalist. We will not be silenced!"

  Dündar has been living in exile in Germany since 2016. He fled Turkey after being convicted of espionage for publishing a story about Turkish arms shipments to Syria rebels.

Enis Berberoğlu

★ In related news, Turkey's Constitutional Court said in a ruling on September 17 that the courts violated former Republican People's Party lawmaker Enis Berberoğlu's right to stand for election and engage in political activities as well as his right to freedom and security. The ruling concerns Berberoğlu's continued imprisonment despite his re-election as a member of parliament on June 24, 2018.

  The top court said that the ruling will be sent to the Court of Cassation so that a re-trial takes place to eliminate the violations.

  The courts sentenced Berberoğlu to five years and 10 months for providing footage of the trucks carrying arms to rebels in Syria to journalist Can Dündar and sent him to prison in 2017.

★ Turkey has recorded some 2,279 forest fires in 2020 so far, data from the Forestry General Directorate (OGM) revealed. However, the Turkish Foresters Association slammed the numbers, saying that they are an underrepresentation of reality.

  About 30 percent more forests have burned down in 2020 compared to the previous year.

Berat Albayrak, Minister of Treasury and Finance of Turkey since 2018, and President Erdoğan's son-in-law

★ On September 11, Moody's downgraded Turkey's ratings to B2 and said that it maintains a negative outlook on the Turkish economy.

  Moody's said that the three key drivers for the downgrade are:

  1. Turkey's external vulnerabilities are increasingly likely to crystallize in a balance of payments crisis.

  2. As the risks to Turkey's credit profile increase, the country's institutions appear to be unwilling or unable to effectively address these challenges.

  3. Turkey's fiscal buffers, which have been a source of credit strength for many years, are eroding.

  After Moody's rating action, Turkish bank stocks, hardest hit by a selloff of Istanbul equities from foreigners, started trading at a record discount to local industrial sectors, Bloomberg reported.

  Only a combination of interest-rate rises and changes to government policy could shake them out of their slump, market participants said.

  An index of major local banks has slid 32% this year, while the Borsa Istanbul Industrials Index has gained 17%. The lenders are trading at a 61% discount, based on estimated 12-month earnings, the widest gap since at least 2006.

  Turkish banks may be profitable and remain well-capitalized, but a 21% slide in the lira and concerns about policies that prioritize economic growth above all else, pushing record credit stimulus, have deterred foreign institutions.

  In related news, according to the daily Duvar, Turkey's record-low credit rating on September 11 will not improve unless the government reforms economic policies drastically, Turkish economist Mahfi Eğilmez said.

  Read more >> here <<

★ According to an article in the Foreign Policy, the strategic partnership between China and Turkey is giving Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan a lifeline for his political and economic woes.

  Strengthening Sino-Turkish relations "appears to benefit both sides", said Ayça Alemdaroğlu, associate director of the program on Turkey at Stanford University's Center on Democracy, Development, and the Rule of Law, and Sultan Tepe, a political science professor at the University of Illinois at Chicago.

  The article added that China has found a highly strategic foothold in Turkey – a NATO member with a large market for energy, infrastructure, defense technology, and telecommunications at the crossroads of Europe, Asia, and Africa.

  For Turkey and Erdoğan, China provides desperately needed resources to fund high-profile megaprojects and maintain the veneer of development despite the crippling economic reality underneath.

  Also, China has done or plans to do the following:
  The article adds that Chinese cash is helping Mr. Erdoğan avoid seeking help from Western-dominated institutions, which would require him to commit to reforms and other measures and undermine his control over the country's economy.

  The two countries have also started collaborating in the military sphere.

  Read more >> here <<

★ The Middle East North Africa Financial Network website writes that Qatar and Turkey's economic and commercial relationship 'have made repeated progress in recent years, said Turkish ambassador Mehmet Mustafa Goksu, who stressed that bilateral ties experienced 'immense growth.

  'Our trade volume increased from $340mn in 2010 to $2.24bn in 2019. Last year, our exports to Qatar rose by 18% and reached $1.29bn, while our imports stood at $951mn, Goksu said during a webinar hosted by Doha Bank on Wednesday.

★ Turkey's state-owned Halkbank has urged a judge to dismiss a U.S. indictment accusing the bank of helping Iran evade American sanctions. At a hearing in Manhattan federal court on September 18, a lawyer for Halkbank said its status as a Turkish "instrumentality" shielded it from prosecution because of sovereign immunity.

  The Department of Justice charged Halkbank last October with using money servicers and front companies in Iran, Turkey, and the United Arab Emirates to evade sanctions, enable revenue from oil and gas sales to be spent on gold, and facilitate sham food and medicine purchases.

★ Once a self-sufficient country in food, Turkey imported $3.5 billion of agricultural goods in the first seven months of the year, a number that will likely double by December, main opposition Republican Peoples Party deputy Okan Gaytancıoğlu said.

  He claimed that traders close to the ruling Justice and Development Party benefit from imports while domestic producers keep losing money.

  Turkey spends nearly $10 billion on agricultural imports each year.

  Read more >> here <<

★ Amazon started offering its prime membership to Turkish consumers on September 15. The prime membership enables purchasers free expedited deliveries. The monthly subscription fee is set at about one dollar in local currency.


★ Turkish musicians have launched a social media campaign with the hashtag of #MüziğeSesVer (which translates as "Give voice to music") to raise awareness on the devastating impact of the COVID-19 on the whole music industry.

  "It is impossible for the sector to recover from the current financial damage through its own efforts," said a statement issued by the campaign organizers.

  The campaign organizers said that the music industry employs about 1 million people in Turkey.


★ The 48th Istanbul Music Festival will be held online, streaming pre-recorded performances in historical venues, Istanbul Foundation for Culture and Arts announced.

  Starting on September 18, the Istanbul Foundation for Culture and Arts will make available the performances that honor composer Ludwig van Beethoven.

  Centered around Ludwig van Beethoven's 250th birthday, performers will display the composer's best-known works, along with new pieces inspired by the main ideas in his works: Love of nature, love of humanity, and innovative and visionary music language.

  The festival will also offer a scholarship opportunity for female musicians seeking studies abroad, named "Women Stars of Tomorrow: Young Women Musicians Support Fund."

  Read more >> here <<


★ Discovered in 1989, the remains of the "Carian Princess" and her belongings are now open to visitors in Turkey's Aegean province of Muğla's Bodrum Fort.

  The woman was adorned in golden jewelry, implying her wealth and higher social status.

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


  Istanbul's Ocakli Ada Fort was widely said to resemble Sponge Bob after its 2015 renovation.

★ Turks have turned their attention to historical monuments that have been harmed during supposed "renovations" after footage emerged of construction workers drilling into Istanbul's iconic Galata Tower.

  As the Turkish Parliament has discussed potential repercussions for the construction company at Galata Tower, renovation works that were controversial at the time came up.

  Some examples of bad restoration are:

  - A UNESCO World Heritage Site, western Mersin's Mamure Fort endured a "restoration" in 2018 where vinyl window frames, concrete, and marble were used.

  - Istanbul's Ocakli Ada Fort was widely said to resemble Sponge Bob after its 2015 renovation.

  - Most of the Roman-era mosaics in the southern Hatay Archeology Museum were "restored" to their detriment, changing their appearance dramatically.

  - A 12th-century Byzantine monument, Istanbul's Tekfur Palace, was the site of an incoherent "renovation" that installed window frames that stand out and shiny windows.

EXCHANGE RATE for the U.S. dollar in Turkish Liras: 7.56


High and Low Temperatures in Degrees F, Weather
Ankara, in central Turkey        : 81/59 Partly Cloudy
Antalya, on the Mediterranean    : 84/75 Mostly Sunny
Erzurum, in Eastern Turkey       : 79/43 Partly Cloudy
Istanbul, in northwestern Turkey : 73/66 Partly Cloudy
Izmir, on the Aegean             : 82/68 Partly Cloudy
Trabzon, on the Black Sea        : 75/68 Thunderstorms
Seawater temperatures:
Black Sea measured at Trabzon         : 76
Marmara Sea measured at Tekirdağ      : 76
Aegean Sea measured at İzmir          : 76
Mediterranean Sea measured at Antalya : 83


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