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x0x Turkish News for the week ending 15 May 2021

[This is a transcript of the news broadcast on 15 May 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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★ Stratfor, the geopolitical intelligence platform, reported on May 6 that despite attempts by the government to incentivize having large families, the fertility rate in Turkey would likely continue to decline. Decreased fertility rates will weigh down its economy with older and more expensive workers, higher health care costs, and weaker buying power for younger citizens.

  Over the past two decades, Turkey has seen a consistent decline in the number of live births per 1,000, known as the fertility rate.

  In 2010, people under 18 made up about 31% of the population in Turkey. In 2020 this figure dropped down to 27%, reports the Turkish Statistical Institute.

  Read more >> here <<

★ According to the Turkish daily Duvar, Turkish president Mr. Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has asked for the forgiveness of people who have been financially struggling due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

  The comments of Mr. Erdoğan drew ire among social media users with the hashtag I am not giving my forgiveness becoming trending on Twitter.

  Opposition Good Party leader Meral Akşener similarly slammed Erdoğan over his remarks, urging him to declare an early election.

★ The Twitter account of a Turkish opposition lawmaker has been suspended after he posted a tweet that criticized Erdoğan and Israel, reports the Turkish daily Duvar.

  In his tweet, Republican People's Party MP Ali Fazıl Kasap recalled a speech Mr. Erdoğan delivered on January 2, 2016. Mr. Erdoğan said in the speech, "We should admit that we need a country like Israel."

Protesters in front of the Israeli consulate in Istanbul

★ According to VOA, mosques across Turkey broadcast prayers Monday in support of Palestinians injured in violent confrontations with Israeli police in Jerusalem.

  Also, Monday, hundreds of people, many waving Palestinian flags, massed in front of the Israeli consulate in Istanbul in protest of Israeli police actions around the Al-Aqsa mosque compound in Jerusalem's old city.

  Turkey had been looking to repair strained relations with Israel as part of a broader strategy to end its regional isolation. Both countries withdrew ambassadors in 2018 over Israel's crackdown on protests by Palestinians.

  Turkish presidential adviser Mesut Casin condemned the recent violence. However, he said that a reset in bilateral ties is still possible but says Washington needs to act.


★ According to Reuters, Turkey's Karadeniz Holding, which provides electricity to Lebanon, said on May 14 that it was shutting down supplies to the country, which is in a deep financial crisis.

  Lebanese authorities were not able to pay the Turkish company for 18 months. Their accumulated debt exceeds $100 million.

★ According to a study released by the Turkish Chamber of Civil Engineers, three out of 10 civil engineers in Turkey are employed and earn less than the minimum wage.

  Some 28% are unemployed while this figure goes up to 48% for engineers under age 35, the study found.

  The unemployment rate is higher for female civil engineers.


★ Turkish prosecutors are seeking up to two years in jail for German-Turkish journalist Deniz Yücel as part of a new investigation launched against the former Turkey representative of Die Welt newspaper, the Turkish daily Evrensel reported on May 12.

  Turkish prosecutors accuse Yücel of denigrating the Turkish nation and the Turkish Republic through his two articles published in Die Welt in 2016.

  On February 14, 2017, a Turkish court formally indicted Yücel and imprisoned him for espionage in pretrial detention. Journalists, politicians and the German public widely criticized his incarceration.

  On July 16, 2020, the Istanbul 32nd Heavy Penal Court sentenced Yücel to two years and nine months in jail over making propaganda for a terrorist organization. It acquitted the journalist on a separate charge of inciting people to hatred and hostility.

  On February 16, 2018, just over a year after his imprisonment began, Yücel was released. On the same day of his release, Yücel left Turkey. From then on, the Turkish court started trying him in absentia.

  On June 28, 2019, the Constitutional Court of Turkey ruled that the detention of Yücel had been unlawful.

★ According to the court statistics, some 63 percent of the violation rulings from the top court are for lack of right to a fair trial.

  Property rights were the second most commonly violated with 19 percent, followed by violations of the freedom of expression at 4.2 percent.

  Just over 300,000 individuals submitted petitions about human rights violations to the Constitutional Court since the personal application process started in 2012, the daily Birgün reported on May 10, 2021.


Edited by Büşra Ekmekçi and Selin Taylak


★ Archaeological excavations are underway in the ancient city of Sbide in the Ermenek district of Karaman, located in central Anatolia, the Asiatic part of Turkey. The research will allow us to learn more about the history of the region. The ramparts from the Roman period indicate that this city had a robust defensive system.

  Karamanoglu Mehmetbey University faculty member Dr. Ercan Aşkın said that they are excited that new information unknown about geography will be in the scientific world thanks to the ancient city of Sbide.

  The University had started excavations in the ancient city two years ago.

  Even the findings so far show that this study will contribute significantly to history. Archaeologists have completed excavating, cleaning and, documentation of more than 30 graves in the area.


★ The historic Arslanhane Mosque is now a candidate for the UNESCO permanent World Heritage List. The mosque is one of the oldest in the Turkish capital Ankara, located at the city fortress.

  The members of the Ahi Brotherhood of Ankara commissioned the mosque in 1290.

  In 1330, Ahi leader Şerafettin had woodworkers repair and enlarge the mosque.

  Although the actual name of the Arslanhane Mosque is Ahi Şerafettin Mosque, the people of the region call it Arslanhane Mosque because of the ancient lion figures found on its eastern facade.

  The interior design of the mosque also bears traces of the Seljuk State. One of the most important examples of the woodwork in the mosque is the hand-embroidered mihrab. Mihrab is a niche in the wall of a mosque that indicates the direction of the Kaaba in Mecca. The Arslanhane Mosque mihrab features a special technique combining tile mosaics and plaster reliefs. It is the first structure that has tile mosaics in Anatolia.

  UNESCO added the Arslanhane mosque to the World Heritage Tentative List in 2018. And now it is a candidate to take its place on the original list. Mayor Asim Balci said they are ready to give their support so that the mosque can see the value it deserves.


★ The TRT co-production In the Shadows won the Best Cinematography Award at the South East European Film Festival in Los Angeles.

  The film had its world premiere at the 42nd Moscow International Film Festival and continue its journey through other festivals.

  Last month, the leading actor of the film Numan Acar received the Best Actor award at the Fantaspoa International Fantastic Film Festival.

  The production had its Turkish premiered at the 57th Antalya Golden Orange Film Festival. The Antalya Festival gave five awards to the film, including Film-Direction Best Director and SIYAD Best Film Awards.

  The film In the Shadows also won the Best Director and Best Cinematographer awards at the 8th Bosphorus Film Festival in September 2020.

  The film, written and directed by Erdem Tepegöz, produced by Contact Film Works and the Turkish radio and television, focuses on the lives of one of the workers in a factory run by primitive technology. The factory begins to change when one questions the system.


★ Gubari is an art of calligraphy that is too small and thin to be seen by the eye. Ömer Faruk Tekin, one of the two known masters in Turkey, creates works small in size but has great value.

  Ömer Faruk Tekin lives in Ankara and is 26 years old. He has been trying to keep Gubari calligraphy alive since 2015.

  Sometimes he uses a bee sting, sometimes a fox whisker as a brush. He produces rare artifacts with special ink mixtures. He processes objects that are too small to be seen by the eye, prepares his works under a microscope or a loupe.

  Tekin performs micro-works on tiny objects such as rice grains and fig seeds. He made his rosary from the world's smallest fig kernel in 2016. His style belongs to what is called the dervish lodge style.

  Many exhibitions and museums feature works of Tekin. Ömer Faruk Tekin wants to take his art to international platforms and represent Turkey.


★ The digital works shared by the Vatican over the internet revealed nearly 200 unknown poems of Yunus Emre collected in a manuscript. Yunus Emre was a great Turkish thinker, Sufi, and folk poet who lived between 1238–1328.

  Speaking at the International Yunus Emre and World Language Turkish Information Festival, Dr. Büke stated that many studies had been carried out on Yunus Emre so far. These studies have evaluated his language, cultural life, and his poems in Turkish from different aspects.

  Büke said that the evaluation of the manuscript in terms of its language features and vocabulary is complete. He added that it is probably based on the oldest copy available.

  Büke added that he completed his work on the manuscript with intense efforts in five months. The work involved a language and content study and the preparation of a word index.

  Büke said that the officials of the Turkish Language Association are closely interested in his study. He added that he would publish it in two separate books in a month or two.


★ In Afyonkarahisar, located in west-central Anatolia, efforts to promote and develop the Phrygia Valley continue. Restorers are doing restoration work at the Open-Air Museum located within the borders of Ayazini village.

  The state and the villagers joined hands, and they finished the preparations for offering the Phrygia Valley to visitors.

  Ayazini village is in the center of the Phrygia Valley. It contains carved rock tombs, chapels, churches, Avdalaz Fortress, and rock dwellings, several dating back to 5000 years ago to the Hittite era.

  "Phrygia Open Air Museum and Welcome Center" and "Street Health" projects in the village of Ayazini are in full swing.

  The Ayazini people are looking forward to their visitors also. The region has already started to organize tours with all-train vehicles. Hot air balloon flights will also begin in the Phrygia Valley soon.

★ An ancient city of the Tabal Kingdom is located at an altitude of 7,125 feet, on the summit of Göllü Mountain in Çiftlik district of Niğde in Central Anatolia. Its history goes back to the 8th century BCE. Göllü Mountain is an extinct volcano, and as the Turkish name implies, has a crater lake.

  Villagers found the ancient city by chance 88 years ago. The most significant artifact from the Tabal kingdom unearthed in the archaeological excavations in 1934 is the double-headed lion statue exhibited in the Niğde Museum. Later digs revealed numerous other line statues.

  The authorities will open the region on Göllü Mountain to visitors soon.

  Tabal, known in the Bible as Tubal, was a Luwian-speaking Neo-Hittite kingdom of South Central Anatolia during the Iron Age.


★ In Diyarbakir, located in southeastern Turkey, the metropolitan municipality started the maintenance and repair work on the third-century Church of Saint George. Diyarbakir Metropolitan Municipality will open the historical structure to visitors again after completing the work.

  Saint George Church is built during the Roman period of cut black basalt. It is one of the structures that has survived to the present day. It is one of the largest churches in the Middle East, covering nearly 35,000 sq. ft. of ground.

  The church began to serve as an art gallery following the restoration in 2008.

★ In related news, Turkey's Assyrian community has welcomed the recent addition of nine churches and monasteries in the southeastern Mardin province to the UNESCO World Heritage Tentative List.

  Evgin Türker, president of the Federation of Assyrian Foundations, said that the move would help to protect these ancient sites. He added that they are expecting UNESCO to include them on the permanent list.

  "There were close to 300 monasteries in this region. Most of them have been damaged, destroyed. Monasteries that are under UNESCO protection are still standing tall, and people are still living at those places," Türker told the Turkish service of Voice of America on May 9, 2021.

  As we reported to you last week, the late antique and medieval churches and monasteries of Midyat and the surrounding area called Tur Abdin are the newest additions from Turkey to the UNESCO list.

  Tur Abdin, meaning "the Mountain of the servants of God" in the Assyrian language, is a limestone plateau in southeastern Turkey. The River Tigris on the north and east, Mesopotamian plains on the south, and the modern city of Mardin on the west surround the region.


★ Aydın Archeology Museum is conducting excavations at Kadıkalesi Ruins, whose name was Anaia in ancient times, in Aydın, one of the western Aegean provinces of Turkey.

  Ege University faculty member Dr. Zeynep Mercangöz has been carrying out the excavations in Kadıkalesi until now. After her retirement, Aydın Archeology Museum started leading the project this year.

  Archaeologists have found nearly a thousand-year-old tombs and human bones in Kadıkalesi. Archaeologists have found five more graves in the last excavations in Kadikalesi, where there are 400 graves. They stated that three of them contained the remains of adults and two of children.

  Work is underway to extract the human bones found in the tombs. When scientists examined the bones unearthed so far, they found the average age to be 45 years. Experts attribute the shortness of the average lifespan to malnourishment, not being able to benefit from health facilities, and not having advanced treatment methods of our modern age. Experts say the tombs discovered date back to the 13th century.

★ According to the Turkish daily Duvar correspondent Ogün Akkaya, olive oils from seven different countries, including Italy, Greece, and Portugal, will compete in the Anatolian International Olive Oil Competition. The competition will take place in Turkey's northwestern Balıkesir province, from May 29 to June 1.

  Only natural extra-virgin olive oils will be allowed in the competition. There will be three categories: organic, monovarietal, and spiced and blend.

  So far, the competition has received more than 200 submissions.

  Turkish olive oil producers are looking forward to medals in the competition, the organizers said. Last year in a Japanese competition, Turkish olive oil companies collected 58 medals.


★ According to the daily Duvar, a recent sculpture of a baby in watermelon in southeastern Turkey's Diyarbakır city joined a list of bizarre artworks around the country.

  The baby in the watermelon was created in honor of the local watermelons of the region but prompted more shock than admiration among witnesses.

  Famous for their oversized watermelons, Diyarbakır residents have a habit of photographing babies in carved-out watermelons to highlight the size of the fruits.

  "Watermelons that can fit a child are Diyarbakır watermelons," the Diyarbakır Municipality tweeted on May 9. "Send us childhood photos in watermelons, we'll publish them. Let's show the world what watermelons are."

  One social media user asked the municipality to reveal the cost of the bizarre artwork, as well as the statue of a man displaying a local sweet erected at the same time. Known for extravagant spending, a government-appointed trustee is currently running the municipality without any transparency.


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