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x0x Turkish News for the week ending 02 January 2021

[This is a transcript of the news broadcast on 02 January 2021]

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 Deutsche Welle, the Turkish defense minister said on December 27, 2020, that the forces of Libyan strongman Khalifa Haftar would be viewed as a legitimate target if they attacked Turkish troops in the area.

  Just three days before the Turkish ministerial statement, Libyan rebel general Haftar had said his forces would prepare to drive out the occupier by faith, will, and weapons, referring to the Turkish troops aiding the internationally recognized government of Libya.

  Along with Qatar, NATO member Turkey is the primary foreign backer of Libya's internationally recognized Tripoli-based Government of National Accord.

  The oil-rich country has been embroiled in conflict since the 2011 NATO-backed military campaign to overthrow longtime dictator Moammar Gadhafi. For years the Government of National Accord has been fighting Haftar's rival Libyan National Army, based in the eastern city of Tobruk.

  In June 2020, Turkish support helped the Government of National Accord-allied militias thwart a year-long attempt by Haftar to capture Tripoli.


★ NATO announced on December 30, 2020, that Turkey would take the lead of Very High Readiness Joint Task Force (VJTF) of NATO on Friday, January 1, 2021. Poland had been the lead in 2020.

  Built around Turkey's 66th Mechanized Infantry Brigade of around 4,200 troops, a total of 6,400 soldiers will serve on the VJTF.

  Units from Albania, Hungary, Italy, Latvia, Montenegro, Poland, Romania, Slovakia, Spain, the U.K., and the United States will also serve on the force, which is part of the larger NATO Response Force.

  NATO heads of state and government decided to create the VJTF at the Wales Summit in 2014 in response to a changed security environment, including Russia's destabilization of Ukraine and turmoil in the Middle East. NATO members take turns heading the VJTF.

  Read more >> here <<


★ Turkey's top court on Tuesday ruled that Osman Kavala's detention had not violated his right to liberty and security, state media said.

  Turkish authorities have been holding the 63-year-old businessman and philanthropist in jail since November 2017 without a conviction on charges related to the 2013 anti-government protests and a 2016 failed coup.

  Kavala had applied to the Constitutional Court earlier this year, saying his detention was unlawful and therefore violated his right to liberty and security.

  The ruling Justice and Development Party administration took Kavala into custody on October 18, 2017, initially accused of orchestrating and financing the Gezi Park protests in Istanbul in 2013.

  After two weeks in custody, authorities arrested Kavala on November 1, accused him of attempting to overthrow the constitutional order and attempting to overthrow the government. They subsequently sent him to the maximum-security prison Silivri outside of Istanbul.

  A court acquitted him of these charges in February 2020. He was then immediately rearrested and jailed on espionage charges and involvement in the failed 2016 coup against President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.

  The NGO Human Rights Watch called his trial just started a show trial that silences dissent.

★ Speaking of NGOs, a draft bill that included controls over NGOs became law on December 27 after the Turkish Parliament accepted it, Deutsche Welle reported.

  Deutsche Welle further reported the following:

  "The controversial legislation would allow the Interior Ministry to replace board members of associations with trustees as well as suspending their operations if members are prosecuted on terrorism charges.

  "NGOs and opposition parties see the new act as an obstacle to the running of civil-society organizations and warn it may throttle democracy.

  "Numerous NGOs including the Human Rights Association, Amnesty International Turkey, and the Federation of Women Associations of Turkey warn that Turkish government frequently accuses human rights activists of terrorism in Turkey, and the new legislation relies on ambiguous definitions of terrorism.

  In July, a court sentenced former chairman of Amnesty Turkey, Taner Kılıç, to more than six years in prison on charges of membership in a terror organization in the Büyükada case. The court also convicted  three other human rights activists, Günal Kursun, İdil Eser, and Özlem Dalkıran of charges of aiding a terror group and sentenced them to one year and 13 months each. They are free, and the appeal is pending.

★ A Turkish court on Wednesday, December 30, 2020, sentenced scores of defendants to life imprisonment over their alleged roles in an attempted coup in 2016, Deutsche Welle reported.

  The case, which focused on incidents at land forces headquarters in the Turkish capital Ankara, started in 2017 and saw 132 defendants indicted.

  Senior army officials were among the 92 sentenced to life terms -- 12 of them aggravated terms with no parole. Among the dozen were some departmental heads of land forces, the state-run news agency Anadolu reported.

  The July 15, 2016, attempt to overthrow President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan resulted in the death of more than 250 people.

  During the coup attempt, rogue soldiers took control of warplanes, helicopters, and tanks and tried to take over key state institutions.

  Most, including the Turkish government, believe that Fethullah Gülen and his followers were behind the coup attempt. Gülen is a preacher who lives in the U.S. The Turkish Interior Ministry reports that the government detained 290,000 people over alleged connections to Gülen after the coup.

  Read more >> here <<

★ The Turkish government is looking for businessman Sezgin Korkmaz and his associates, the Anatolia News Agency reported. However, authorities think that the businessman has left the country despite a travel ban.

  Turkish financial crimes investigation and tax auditing authorities are alleging that the businessman was involved in a $132 million money-laundering scheme.

  The $132 million in question is reportedly part of a decade-long scheme to defraud the U.S.

  In September, prosecutors in Utah submitted a list of properties belonging to Jacob and Isaiah Kingston, who are business partners of Korkmaz, to a U.S. court, asking them to be retrieved, including several companies and properties in Turkey.

  The Kingston brothers pled guilty last year to a $470-million fraud of a government biofuel program, which lasted nearly a decade. They transferred over $134 million in fraudulent proceeds to companies in Turkey and Luxembourg. Read more >> here <<

★ Turkey may be buying COVID-19 vaccines from the Chinese company Sinovac. Test in Turkey claims that the vaccine is over 91% effective. However, this result does not agree with the results of the researchers from Brazil. The Brazilian results showed 50-90% effectiveness.

  Dicky Budiman, an epidemiologist at Griffith University, Queensland, warned greater scrutiny on data compilation and analysis was required for COVID-19 vaccines developed in China due to its inconsistent safety track record.

  In related news, some journalists and opposition politicians have claimed that Keymen Pharmaceuticals, the company purchasing the Chinese vaccine for sale in Turkey, is affiliated with the ruling Justice and Development Party.

  Turkish Minister of Health Dr. Fahrettin Koca earlier in December denied allegations by an opposition deputy that Keymen Pharmaceuticals will be dealing with the vaccine. However, pallets of vaccines that arrived in Turkey were showing as the recipient Keymen Pharmaceuticals.


★ According to Reuters, Turkey and Britain will sign a free trade deal on Tuesday.

  Trade between Turkey and Britain totaled $13.5 billion during the first ten months of this year. Data provided by the Turkish Statistical Institute show that Turkish exports to Britain were $9 billion and imports $4.5 billion. Britain is the second-largest export market for Turkey after Germany.

  Read more >> here <<

★ According to the Anatolia News Agency, the Turkish government increased the minimum wage by 22%, more than the official inflation rate of 14%, to net $379 per month in local currency. However, experts not related to the government say that the inflation rate is over 30%.

  At the beginning of 2020, the net minimum wage was equivalent to $390 per month. The labor unions are unhappy and say that the new minimum wage does not match the price hikes.

★ According to the Turkish Official Gazette, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan announced a two-month extension of a ban on companies firing workers to minimize the impact on the employment and economy from the second wave of COVID-19.

★ The Turkish Statistical Institute published the economic confidence index for December. The confidence dropped to 86.4 points from 89.5 points in November.

  Among manufacturers, the confidence climbed to 110.4 points in December from 107.4 points in November.


★ According to Bloomberg, Volkswagen liquidated its unit in Turkey after canceling plans to establish its first plant there.

  Volkswagen established the unit in the western Aegean industrial region on Manisa in October 2019 with a capital of $127 million. It then suspended its production plans due to a Turkish invasion of northern Syria that began the same month.

  In July, it abandoned the project entirely, citing the economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.

  Volkswagen announced last week that it would build a plant in Slovakia with a EU1 billion investment.

★ The Turkish Statistical Institute released the November 2020 statistics on foreign trade. According to the Institute, imports surged in November, and the trade gap increased from $1.99 billion in November 2019 to $5.03 billion in November 2020.

  The annual deficit through November reached $45.3 billion, 83% more than that of 2019 for the same.


★ According to the daily Cumhuriyet, the Turkish lira has lost 24% of its value against the American dollar in 2020, making it the second most depreciated currency globally after the Brazilian real.


★ According to the Turkish daily Duvar, despite a production decline in 2020, the Turkish automotive industry topped the list of exports by volume at 15% in 2020.

  Other than local producers like Temsa, BMC, and Karsan, many major global automotive companies such as Mercedes, Honda, Toyota, Renault, and Hyundai have production lines in Turkey.

  The industry, whose biggest customer is the European Union, experienced a 28 percent decline in exports during the first 11 months of 2020. Experts attribute the decline mostly to the COVID-19 pandemic.


Edited by Fuad Tokad


★ Turkey entered the New Year under a nationwide lockdown with deserted streets. The government enforced the lockdown as part of COVID-19 precautions to combat the spread of the pandemic. The four-day curfew is covering the weekend, as well as the first day of 2021.

  The restrictions forced Istanbulites to squeeze all New Year's Eve shopping into the daytime on December 31, accumulating large crowds in the Spice Bazaar.

  The center of nightlife in Istanbul, the Beyoğlu district spent what was arguably the calmest New Year's Eve in its history, as the only crowds on Taksim Square were law enforcement personnel. The Interior Ministry had said before New Year's Eve that canceling all celebrations was "not a suggestion, but an obligation," and that law enforcement would be working with a "full staff."


★ Turkish police fined 11 New Year's Eve revelers equivalent of nearly $4700 in local currency for organizing a New Year's Eve party in the western province of Bursa, and even inviting a belly dancer, a Turkish tradition for celebrations.

  Bursa residents broadcast the celebration on social media, leading to law enforcement's detection of the gathering that violated a strict ban on all New Year's Eve celebrations.

  Turkey's Interior Ministry established a fine of 3,150 liras per person for all celebrations during the four-day lockdown.

  The party-goers also violated standard COVID-19 restrictions such as safe distancing and wearing a mask.


★ The Turkish daily Duvar reported that locals conducted seven excavations under a mosque in the Black Sea province of Samsun because of rumors that there was gold underneath the Byzantine-era structure.

  Converted into a mosque in 1928, the mosque in Karaperçin village in 2015 was rumored to be the site of an ancient treasure.

  Locals performed the excavations with permits from the government since then but have yet to find any signs of a treasure.

  The villagers have also renovated the structure over the years and enjoy using it as a place of worship.

  A resident of Karaperçin Cevdet Karaduman said: "As neighborhood residents, we care for this mosque like it is the apple of our eye."


★ İş Sanat Fairy Tale Theater will be bringing world-famous classical tales together to little art lovers free of charge.

  "Rapunzel" on January 3, "Around the World in 80 Days" on January 10, "Sleeping Beauty" on January 17, and "Nutcracker" on January 24 will be on air from 15:00.

  Under the direction of Lerzan Pamir, Aslı Tandoğan, Anıl Altınöz, and Mert Aydın will be acting in all the tales. The plays are available through İş Sanat's social media accounts and website throughout the season.


★ The actor, director, writer, poet, and theater instructor Müjdat Gezen made evaluations to Işıl Çalışkan from Birgün newspaper.

  The Justice and Development Party administration is prosecuting Gezen for "insulting the President" for the statements he made in the "Halk Arena" program, presented by Uğur Dündar on Halk TV.

  Gezen was a guest with Metin Akpınar, another actor, on December 21, 2018.

  Each instance of insult carries a sentence of four years and eight months.

  Speaking about the incident, which was interpreted as a "picture of shame" by many people on social media, Gezen commented, "Those who should be ashamed should be ashamed, but I don't think they will be ashamed."

  Asked about the trial processes, "Is this the price of being an artist living in this country?" answering the question, Gezen said:

  "No ... This is the price of the system we have been going through for 18 years. Of course, we have suffered a lot in this country. We have been in prisons. But there has never been a period including military rule years, where democracy has been violated so much. The European Court of Human Rights and Turkey's Constitutional Court [rulings] are not being heard. "Don't care. They don't listen to their own laws and stuff."

  Müjdat Gezen asked whether there is hope for the future of the country, "Of course. Because such systems do not live long. If you look at their historical appearance in the world, they did not live long. When the day comes, they go as they come!".


★ If you are looking for cultural and social activities nowadays while staying at home due to the New Year's bans, you can visit "Virtual" Contemporary Istanbul, Orhun Atmis of the Turkish daily Cumhuriyet reports.

  The activities are brought to life online at "virtual.contemporaryistanbul.com" through January 6.

  Since the virtual fair is free, you can visit them at any time of the day. The "virtual" Contemporary Istanbul includes 37 galleries, 550 artists and 1500 works, and 13 initiatives from 11 countries. On the main page of the website, you can see the galleries, artists, or sponsors.

  You can learn the dates of online events from the "Agenda" section of the guide section. You also get the opportunity to communicate with galleries online.


★ Archaeologists found four interconnected cisterns during the 2020 excavations of the Metropolis Ancient City, known as the "Mother Goddess City."

  The cisterns were under 20 feet of earth, and they are in perfect shape. The citizens of the city in the late Roman period use them to meet their water needs.

  The excavations are taking place with the permission and contribution of the Ministry of Culture and Tourism. Also, the Sabanci Foundation is supporting it financially.

  According to a Sabanci Foundation's statement, the excavations continue to reveal historical secrets in its 30th year.

  Dr. Serdar Aybek of the Manisa Celal Bayar University Archeology Department is leading the excavations.

EXCHANGE RATE for the U.S. dollar in Turkish Liras: 7.43


High and Low Temperatures in Degrees F, Weather
Ankara, in central Turkey        : 57/34 Mostly Sunny
Antalya, on the Mediterranean    : 68/52 Partly Cloudy
Erzurum, in Eastern Turkey       : 36/12 Partly Cloudy
Istanbul, in northwestern Turkey : 59/45 Mostly Cloudy
Izmir, on the Aegean             : 57/54 Mostly Cloudy
Trabzon, on the Black Sea        : 57/46 Partly Cloudy
Seawater temperatures:
Erciyes in Kayseri, Central Turkey      : 6 inches
Ilgaz in Kastamonu, North Central Turkey: No snow report
Kartalkaya in Bolu, Western Turkey      : 2 inches
Palandöken in Erzurum, Eastern Turkey   : 20 inches
Saklıkent in Antalya, Southern Turkey   : No snow report
Uludağ in Bursa, Western Turkey         : No snow report
Sarıkamış in Kars, Eastern Turkey       : 13 inches


Edited by Ertuğrul Korkmaz


Premier League

* Results for week: 15
Trabzon         -      G. Saray       0 - 2
Göztepe         -      Karagümrük     1 - 1
Malatya         -      Erzurum        1 - 3
Denizli         -      Ankaragücü     1 - 2
G. Antep        -      Alanya         3 - 1
Başakşehir      -      Kasımpaşa      2 - 2
Beşiktaş        -      Sivas          3 - 0
G. Birliği      -      Kayseri        3 - 2
Konya           -      Rize           1 - 1
Antalya         -      Hatay          0 - 6
* In games played so far this weekend:
Sivas           -      Denizli        2 - 2
Alanya          -      Başakşehir     3 - 0
Ankaragücü      -      Malatya        3 - 1
Erzurum         -      G. Antep       1 - 1
G. Saray        -      Antalya        0 - 0
Hatay           -      Konya          2 - 1
* Standing in the league as of week ending 15
 1 - G. Saray        29
 2 - Beşiktaş        28
 3 - Alanya          27
 4 - G. Antep        27
 5 - Fenerbahçe      26
 6 - Hatay           24
 7 - Karagümrük      21
 8 - Malatya         20
 9 - Trabzon         20
10 - Konya           19
11 - Göztepe         19
12 - Rize            19
13 - Kasımpaşa       19
14 - Sivas           17
15 - Antalya         17
16 - Başakşehir      16
17 - G. Birliği      15
18 - Ankaragücü      12
19 - Denizli         12
20 - Erzurum         12
21 - Kayseri         10


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