SPOT: We will not be divided

As Solidarity with the People of Turkey campaign group we are horrified by the terrorist attack on young concert goers in Manchester on Monday nightand condemn those responsible. We would like to send our condolences to those who have lost their loved ones and to the injured. The hard work and courage of the emergency services and transport workers who worked very effectively under huge pressure to evacuate the area should be commended.

No doubt those at the concert would have attended with high expectations that it would be a night to remember, as a treat or a birthday present. This is not how the night should have come to an end. The targeting of innocent civilians, particularly at a concert made up of so many young people is devastating for those impacted and the country as a whole.

We will not allow these terror attacks to divide our communities. We stand in solidarity with those impacted and with people all over the world fighting against terror and oppression. We refuse to be frightened and will continue to challenge all forms of attacks, including those fostered and encouraged by irresponsible governments and political leaders.

The terrorism that plagues us here is also tearing apart countries across the world and we call on our government to end its warmongering politics in the Middle East, which is having a hugely negative impact on our security at home and to take diplomatic steps to promote peace and security at home and abroad.

Finally we oppose any attempt to whip up racist division and stand against any racist backlash.

In solidarity

Solidarity with the People of Turkey (SPOT)

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How the “dream” summit became the summit of “fractures”

Evrensel / Ihsan Caralan

The “Trump–Erdogan” Summit which took place the previous day, described by president Erdogan as a milestone, lasted for only 20 minutes. If we consider that this dialogue included the need for translators between the two, there remains a maximum of 5 minutes each to discuss important issues between Erdogan and Trump.

The claim that “the real discussions took place during lunch” is simply a way of saving the day. It is debateable how the numerous issues that needed to be discussed were indeed discussed over lunch, and if so to what extent.

The meeting has been a disappointment for all those Trump fans and American lovers (in Turkey).

Whereas, every time an important issue has been raised, AKP’s mouthpiece and pro government media’s well known writer’s stated “Mr Erdogan would be raising this issue when he meets Trump” and have turned the meeting with Trump into “waiting Godot”. Three days prior to his meeting, President Erdogan made a statement at Esenboga Airport claiming that he will have the opportunity to discuss important developments with USA president Trump. “We will be discussing the fight against terrorism, Syria and the issue surrounding the Fetullah Terror Organisation (known as FETO)”. We sent a delegation to USA prior and the delegation has returned. We now want to have a discussion at a more senior level and our discussions will have a final say rather than dragging this point on.” In effect the president stated that, either they accept our requests and we will continue to walk with the USA or we will put a full stop to this and we will both go our own ways.

Prior to the meeting pro government media and AKP political representatives were bragging about being firm and having the final say, whereas now they are grateful that (USA) has not ended the dialogue and are cheering that talks will resume, and are claiming this is a result of Erdogan’s “strategic skills”.

Turkish side announced the meeting as a “milestone”

During Obama administration, the days would start with accusatory call out to USA and those they claim have been pioneering the so called trouble in the country. Now Turkey is the only state which is hopeful following the surprise election of Trump as they believe he will bring “good things” to Turkey.

The argument is that the Trump administration is unaware of the issues and prior to Erdogan’s meeting, see as a milestone, president’s spokesperson Ibrahim Kalin, Chief of defence staff Hulusi Akar and National Intelligence Organisation undersecretary Hakan Fidan were sent to the USA for pre-meeting. Justice minister Bekir Bozdag also got included in this senior level meeting. However while these discussion were taking place, especially at a time when they were in brief talks with Trump at the White House, Trump gave the group of delegates the sell of weapons to YPG – PYD. This was apparently not enough to undermine the relationship with Turkey. Furthermore, following Trump’s clear stance Erdogan made the point about having the final word and that the issue will not drag on. He also stated that it will be his meeting with Trump that will determine the outcome and all issues raised by others have no substance and continued to stress the importance of his meeting with Trump.

The meeting at the white House on 16 May between Trump and Erdogan and the statements after the discussion, where there were two key issues which was raised weeks before the meeting, which was as follows:

  • There should be no arms assistance to PYG – YPG, PYD – YPG should be seen as a terrorist organisation and the operation to take Raqqa should be carried out not by them by Turkey and FSA.
  • Fetullah Gulen’s extradited to Turkey, or at least steps should be taken to make this possible.

However from the statements made following the meeting it is apparent that no progression has been made on this two issues.  Also president Erdogan said he will bring up the issue of Reza Zarrab and the legal case brought against him. It is not clear what discussions have made in relation to this. As this is a legal issue it is not expected that the administration (USA) will comment on the Reza Zarrab case.  It is for that reason that by look at the outcome of the senior delegates pre-meeting and Erdogan’s Washington visit there it should have been no more than the disappointment they have witnessed. If someone cam out and asked if all this cost was for waste it would be difficult to claim that this was not the case.

So the “discussion” was not mutual

In summary the visit if Erdogan and his team which they waited for in hope and for a discussion did not see the same response from USA and Trump. In contrast the gross 20 minute discussion became a net 5 minute discussion on 16 May was probably the least profile welcome shown to senior Turkish officials.

AKP representatives and prominent journalists writing news and columns for the government aligned media must have sensed that the meeting in Washington would not go as expected, and began to move away from their references to the Trump-Erdogan meeting being a ‘milestone’, and instead began referring to the AKP’s general assembly on 21st May as the milestone. They claim that with Erdogan taking the leadership of the party, that all of Turkey’s biggest problems will be fixed with his magic wand. Through this they want to distract attention for the failure of the Trump-Erdogan meeting.

WERE THERE NO BENEFITS TO THE MEETING WITH TRUMP?

In fact what will happen, is that those ministers and senior representatives criticised and held responsible for the policies up until now will be dismissed and those Mayors who they want to wear down and purge, will be placed in the firing line. These actions will be tied into the propaganda claiming that “the only way to freedom is to embrace the one man who knows all, sees all and is all powerful”. But none of these can be expected to resolve the chronic colossal problems that the Turkey faces.

Bold words are no longer enough and this ship cannot continue to sail by making manoeuvres that take no account of the reality of the region and the world. For this reason, if we must say that there is a ‘beneficial outcome” from the Erdogan Trump meeting, then this outcome is that the summit has shown for all to see that the Erdogan government cannot resolve Turkey’s problems through a continuation of its existing policies.

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The Turkish teachers are on hunger strike for 73 days

A Turkish academic, Nuriye Gulmen and primary school teacher Semih Ozakca, have been on hunger strike in Ankara for the last 73 days to protest against their dismissal by the government. They are among the more than 150 thousand public workers who were dismissed from their jobs by government decrees following the failed coup attempt in July 2016.

Their health has been deteriorating fast as they have already passed the critical threshold. Authorities have turned a blind eye to their demand to be reinstated. The ruling AKP’s Human Rights Committee representative in parliament said to BBC Turkish service that they should “submit themselves to their fate” and “have faith in the state”. However, Gulmen and Ozakca said they will continue their hunger strike to the end.

Another hunger striker Kemal Gun who is on his 86th day of hunger strike in Tunceli also says he will carry on until his son’s remains are given to him by the authorities. Gun’s son was killed in a military operation last November. Authorities promised the delivery of the remains three days ago but no action has been taken so far. Gun says local authorities have been issuing him a fine of 227 Turkish Lira daily for occupying a public space, a park, during his hunger strike, and the fine totals more than 18,000 TL (£4000).

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Turkey seeks arrests at opposition newspaper Sozcu

Turkish authorities have issued arrest warrants for the owner and three employees of the opposition daily Sozcu. The office of the newspaper was raided yesterday.

Officials accuse the newspaper of supporting people allegedly involved in last July’s failed coup. The newspaper is accused of having ties to the so-called “Hizmet” movement led by the self-exiled Islamic cleric Fethullah Gulen. Turkish authorities blame Gulen, a former government ally, and his followers for the failed coup last July. A pro-government newspaper reported that the suspects were wanted in connection with an online article published on the same day as the attempted coup, saying it could have facilitated “a real attack on the president.”

Sozcu is the second high-circulation daily newspaper to be targeted by Turkish authorities after another leading opposition newspaper, Cumhuriyet, saw 20 staff members charged under the state of emergency imposed after the coup attempt. Turkish authorities have arrested over 150 journalists since the attempted putsch.

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The role given to Turkey: to be the protectorate of jihadists

10 May 2017

Unfortunately, Turkey is doing the opposite of what it needs to do. Maybe before even it realises what troubles this might bring.

Fehim ISIK

In Syria, we have moved onto the stage of delicate calculations. Proxy wars waged by use of various organisations have for some time been replaced by those who have designated the proxies. It seems that it is now the time of “correction”, and one of the main issues is how to “put into order” those jihadists who were moved into the region from outside. One must admit that Turkey will be the one who will have the most severe headache.

When the Syrian crisis first began, the Iranian Foreign Secretary defined Turkey’s involvement as “a late but fast entrance”. This ironic definition was a referral to the end of traditional Turkish foreign policy.
In the Middle East, each country had/has its own organisation(s). Following the establishment of the Republic, especially after the annexation of Hatay Province, Turkey was one of the most unflappable countries in the region. Traditional foreign policy was based on the understanding that if you interfere in other’s business you will get being interfered with. This policy was successful in keeping Turkey distant from the quagmire in the Middle East – until a new policy based on “Neo-Ottomanism” and “Strategic Depth” was put into practice.

The Republic formed alliances only against the Kurds, and took steps to prevent Kurds from advancing. The rest was not its business. However, this policy was abandoned openly and hastily in 2012. Turkish government flung itself into the region both to prevent any Kurdish advancement and to become the new imperial power in the Middle East. The aim was phrased in the dream of having a prayer in the Umayyad mosque in Damascus and taking the Middle East under the aegis of the new Ottomans.
This is what is meant by the Iranian Foreign Secretary. When he talked of “a late but fast entrance”, he was also drawing attention to the fact that Turkey tried to use any kind of groups and organisations for its own purposes, from the Muslim Brotherhood to Al Nusra, from ISIS to Ahrar Al Sham. Today we can see how right the Foreign Secretary of Iran, the most experienced country in “controlling” the Middle East through organisations.

Now, Turkey, the country which interfered with and used everyone, is designated with the task of “correcting” those it had used. It is aware of the fact that if it fails to do this task, the process will result in its disadvantage. This is one way of looking into the agreement reached in Sochi by Turkey, Iran and Russia.

Now the question is whether Turkey can do this?

The world is against ISIS. When no one succeeded in uprooting this organisation, Kurds and their Arab, Turkmen, Circassian, Assirian and other allies stepped in. Unless a surprise development takes place, ISIS is being successfully eliminated. However, ISIS is not the only group in the Middle East. There are dozens of similar organisations, many of which materialise their connections through Turkey. Of course, other regional countries such as Qatar, Iran, Saudi Arabia and Jordan are no better than Turkey in this regard. But they have the advantage of using their experiences of being in similar situations. Blinded by its “Kurdish phobia”, Turkish government, on the other hand, couldn’t do this; almost every group it got involved in exploded in its hands somehow.

Both Russia and US and the European countries are aware of the cost of the war against ISIS. Despite successful leadership of the effective operations against ISIS by the Kurds and their allies, it is obvious that the defeated sections of this organisation do not remain in Syria. After a while their area of maneuvering will be limited both in Syria and Iraq. Most of the defeated sections of radical jihadist groups are spreading into the other parts of the world.

In Syria, on the other hand, the vacuum will most probably be filled by the members of Al Nusra, Ahrar Al Sham, Nureddin Zengi Brigades, etc. This is the “corrective” role given to Turkey. What was said to Turkey in Sochi was this: “Come to an agreement with them; prepare the grounds for them so they stay in that region and come to terms; don’t let them be a pain in the neck by spreading into other parts of the world.”

Now Turkey is making the calculations as to how this situation can be turned into an advantage. It seems that in the eyes of Turkish government, the only “gain” is to stop the Kurds at any expense.

Unfortunately, Turkey is doing the opposite of what it needs to do. Maybe before even it realises what troubles this might bring, Turkey is preparing to be the protectorate of a big number of jihadists in order to set the infrastructure for an administration based on force. And it is obvious that it is still far away from opening a single door to the Kurds who are the guarantee for lasting democracy.

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14,000 TL fine for news in Evrensel

Evrensel newspaper’s ex-editor in chief Vural Nasuhbeyoglu and ex-publisher Mehmet Arif Kosar were each served with 7 thousand Turkish Liras.

Meltem AKYOL
İstanbul

Journalists have been swamped with imprisonment and fines just 2 days after President Tayyip Erdogan’s announcement that they fully defend freedom of expression. Evrensel newspaper’s ex-editor in chief Vural Nasuhbeyoglu and ex-publisher Mehmet Arif Kosar were each served with 7 thousand Turkish Liras (roughly £2,000 each) penalties because of an article that is claimed to ‘insult the president.’

It was demanded that Kosar and Nasuhbeyoglu be individually charged for an article titled “Bayik: expression of a kind of a mind-set” that was published in Evrensel on 20 March 2015, the contents of which allegedly ‘insulted the President’.

The quoted name, Bayik, is the co-chair of the executive council for the Association of Communities in Kurdistan (KCK); an organisation that represents various Kurdish groups in different countries.

Despite the reminder by Devrim Avci, the defence lawyer, that the mentioned article was quoted from another newspaper and that the original interview was not subjected to any investigation; therefore, there is no criminal offence. The attorney initially asked for an 11 month and 20 day imprisonment for Kosar and Nasuhbeyoglu. The commission later changed this charge to that of 7 thousand Turkish liras for each defendant.

‘A COURT THAT FEELS THE BREATH OF THE JUSTICE DEPARTMENT ON ITS NECK CANNOT BE INDEPENDENT’

Devrim Avci stated that Kosar and Nasuhbeyoglu receiving these charges for publishing a short quote taken from an interview with Cemil Bayik in the now closed Azadiya Welat newspaper. Avci further commented that “the court requested information about the original interview and received confirmation that was no investigation carried out.”

Avci pointed out that “It is impossible to think of an independent court feeling the breath of the Justice Department on its neck”, as after each hearing the Justice Department submitted written requests enquiring ‘the stage’ at which the hearing was. “This is against the right for a fair trial. We will appeal the decision” was the comment by Avci.

THE CASES OF CUMHURIYET AND OZGUR GUNDEM 

The journalists’ overtime at the justice department was not limited to Evrensel. Canan Coskun, reporter for Cumhuriyet newspaper, was condemned to a 10-month imprisonment. The prosecuting officer had called for the imprisonment of 5 journalists to a total of 46 years for joining a campaign in support of the closed Ozgur Gundem newspaper.

ERDOGAN HAD SAID ‘WE DEFEND THE PRESS FREEDOM’

President Erdogan had said that they fully defend the freedom of press. Erdogan said “violence takes over where opinions are not spoken and discussed easily” and  “for this reason we have no issue what so ever with pluralism and freedoms.” As much as Erdogan may say that he fully defends freedom of expression, according to the Journalists Union of Turkey, 162 journalists are under arrest/imprisoned in Turkey.

Again, according to the ‘Press Freedom 2017 report’ by Freedom House Turkey ranks in 163 out of 199 countries. Oppression intensified following the attempted coup of 15 July. 47 newspapers, 17 magazines, 16 TV stations, 3 news agencies, 23 radio stations, and 29 publishing houses closed under the declared state of emergency. Additionally, hundreds of journalists press passes have been nulled.

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Prof. Dr. Ibrahim Kaboglu: Individual, party and state are merged

Why was the President Erdogan re-joining his party and the judicial restructuring prioritised? What should we expect in 2019?

Serpil İLGÜN

Work on the restructuring of HSYK (Supreme Council of Judges and Prosecutors) as HSK (Council of Judges and Prosecutors), one of the first articles brought to TBMM (the Turkish Parliament) following the referendum on changing the Constitution, is continued.
Over the next few days, TBMM General Council will vote to identify which 7 out of the 21 candidates will be appointed to HSK. Changes in byelaws, that need to be completed within 6 months of the official declaration of result by YSK (Supreme Election Council) and President Erdoğan taking the helm at his Party’s Congress on 21 May are next in line.
Why the need for a staggered transition? Why was the President re-joining his party and the judicial restructuring prioritised? Why are the adjustment laws squeezed into 6 months? What should we expect in 2019?
Chair of Anayasa-Der (Research Centre for Constitutional Law) and a visiting professor at Sorbonne Nouvelle, Professor Dr İbrahim Kaboğlu answered these questions.  On 7 February, by the use of a KHK (decree by the power of law), Dr Kaboğlu was dismissed from his post as Head of Department of Constitutional Law at the Faculty of Law at Marmara University.

The ‘Yes’ campaign won the referendum and as expected Erdoğan became re-joined his party without delay. The transition from HSYK to HSK has been started simultaneously. Let’s start with HSYK and remind ourselves; Why is the HSYK structure changing? And what is the rush?
One of the most hotly argued topics of constitutional change had been the judiciary. Regardless of the legislative, executive and judicial powers given to the President in a way that is unseen in any other country; the transfer of parliamentary powers to one person – the President – without any attempt for justification; it is particularly striking that the higher organisation of judiciary is subordinated to the executive and especially one man. We are entering a period in which the level of authority has never been so high historically; including the period of Kanun-i Esasi. (the Ottoman Constitution)
In 2010, the Constitution was changed and the judiciary was restructured as HSYK. The new restructuring carried out now has nothing to do with that structure. This has been hardly discussed, as it was the government that changed it then and completely changing it again now are the same.

The number of members and how they will be chosen was discussed in the build-up to the referendum but what is the meaning of removing the attribution of ‘Supreme’ and changing it into HSK? 
The text of the new Constitution does not give a satisfactory reason for the change but we can explain it from a wider perspective. The individual that holds absolute executive power is in a position to be the guarantor, supervisor and the inspector of all institutions. From that perspective, what is supreme is the seat of Presidency; today’s Palace. This is the most logical reason I can think of. That is to say “I am Supreme, no one below me can be!”. There is another dimension of the judicial side that is not raised. The addition of the stress on impartiality; this was not necessary but it is not an issue.
Nevertheless, it should be seen like this; yes, you made it impartial but you removed the impartiality of the President. Why give the authority to choose the higher council of the judiciary that you name impartial to a biased President? This is not an ordinary institution, it is the institution authorised to make dispositions on 15-20 thousand judges and prosecutors of the Turkish Republic. And this council will be determined, directly or indirectly, by a biased President.

The argument against the President’s membership of a party was met by the response from the government front with: “The President’s party membership does not imply a bias in appointing judges and prosecutors!”
Yes, but we then said “No, this cannot happen!” Our concerns have been realised. The President immediately became a member of his party and will soon become the leader. The ‘Constitution of 1982’ is in effect until 2019 but the President’s membership of a party and the abolition of HSYK are decrees that will come into effect imminently. There is a synchronisation in effect. Subsequently, the argument for “the President’s appointing impartial individuals even when he is a member of a party” has collapsed. We can already see the kind of selection process on judges to be appointed.

INDIVIDUAL, PARTY AND STATE ARE MERGED

Starting with Erdoğan, the argument that was mostly propagandised in the streets by the ‘Yes’ front was removal of the two-headed executive. But how do you define the situation first of membership, followed by the leadership to come on 21 May? Is this not two-headed?
Actually, it will not even be two-headed but three-headed. Two-headed executive is not a situation that needs questioning in a democracy. The birth and development of democracy and the rise of parliamentarian regime brought with it the two-headed executive as a mechanism of representation, stability and control. It is a natural result of the democratic regime; modern democracies function within these arrangements of constitutional balance and control. From this perspective, the argument against two-headed executive was weak. The real conflict that is taking place and that needs our attention right now is the introduction of a three-headed executive in place of a two-headed one. Namely the Presidency, the leadership of the party and the leadership of the government. This, in fact, is a new ring on the chain of conflicts we have identified from different perspectives.

You say that “there is no Presidential state system, parliamentarian regime is removed in the name of presidency, but the state system that replaces it is not a presidential system”. Why not?
Political regime and the systems, regardless of whether parliamentarian, presidency or shared-presidency, all have common characteristics. Judiciary would be independent but what are the role and power of the other two organs, legislation and executive power, how do they work and end…? There are minimum standards [to be met] on these issues. The questions of their relationship and parity is secondary. From this perspective, the principle of independence of Presidency becomes prominent. The executive and the judicial are independent. As we see in the US, the President gets elected and a third of the Senate gets renewed after a while, etc.

In that case the election of the President and MPs on the same day, as in our case, does not fit anywhere?
Yes. The system introduced does not fit in any political definition, not even the Presidential system. The attributes of these are identified in books on Constitution and political science; you saying “no, it must be this” makes no difference. Regimes outside of democracy do not say “we are non-democratic”. Therefore, we do not have a Presidency here, neither do we have a “Presidential State system”. You could try and call it “Presidential government system” but there is no government. Is there a President? there is no President any more either.
The President is the head of the state and must be impartial. But if one man is the head of the state, head of government and the head of a party then that man is not a President. There is not a system either because there is not a situation in which you can say “I’m going to choose that person as a President, he will appoint two deputies and 12 ministers, and their duties are these.” Let’s say he chose 3 deputies in 2019, he can then choose 13 deputies in 2023 as there is nothing that stops him from doing this. As there is no discernible, identified situation, it is not possible to name this as a system.

To underline it all, can you identify the new system that is being set up?
We are entering a period where a Constitutional state is turned into a “Party state” and where the courts will be controlled by AKP. A system where the powers to set up this Party state are given to one person and where his party is used as a tool to establish this; a system where the individual, the party and the state are merged.

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Erdoğan-Trump meeting interpreted by political analysts from Turkey

(Evrensel, 16 Mayıs 2017)

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and US President Donald Trump had their first face to face meeting on Tuesday, 16 May. This is how political scientists Sinan Birdal, Sezin Öney and Fatih Yaşlı interpreted this meeting.

‘Aim of this visit was to be photographed together’
Sinan BİRDAL – Guest Associate Professor at University of California

One of the difficult questions analysts were asked today was about the coverage of Erdogan’s visit to the White House by the American press. Alas, the picture on the front page of most newspapers show President Trump shaking hands not with Erdoğan but with Lavrov, Foreign Secretary of Russia. On the day of Erdoğan’s visit, the claim that Trump revealed highly classified information to Lavrov overshadowed this visit and deflated its non-existent significance even more. Prior to the meeting it was already known that Trump would not change his decision to arm the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) in Syria. His hands were also tied in relation to the two other issues Erdoğan wanted to discuss: the extradition of Fethullah Gulen and Reza Zarrab.

Trump may in fact want to hold onto these two issues as a trump card to control Erdoğan. Even if he wanted he is not in a position to give concessions on this as all his advisers with whom Erdoğan’s team were negotiating for the extradition for the past few months are under investigation by the Congress. Trump’s former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn and former Republican New York Mayor Rudi Guiliani are among those top Trump advisers who are accused of having illegal relations with Erdoğan’s administration.

The fact that the same advisers were in contact with the Washington Ambassador of Russia and the removal from office of the FBI chief who was investigating them caused increasing reactions against Trump. In this atmosphere, it seems there is no will to deal with Ankara’s gripes which would do no good but delay the freeing of Raqqa and Mosul from ISIS. Trump had already given a signal prior to Erdoğan’s visit by his decision to arm the YPG. This visit’s aim was to be photographed together, and in this, it was a diplomatic success one could say.

‘A meeting squeezed in the schedule’
Sezin ÖNEY, Political Scientist

First of all, the Trump-Erdoğan meeting lacks the diplomatic victory of previous presidential meeting between former presidents of US and Turkey, a meeting Ankara now downplays. It gives the impression that this meeting was squeezed in the schedule just before the lunch. Why so? Firstly, the Trump administration suffers from various complications such as a lack of coordination and that there is no “Trump doctrine” in terms of domestic and foreign policy. The priority subject for the US media is not the “Erdoğan -Trump meeting” as such, but Trump’s revelation of highly classified information to Russia…

This is not surprising because Trump loves gossiping in his daily life. But how could the leader of a country gossips with the representatives of a rival country? Obviously, his revelation of this information, sourced by Israel and without its permission, with Russia is so serious that it could even lead to his impeachment.

It could also be said that Trump, whose legitimacy is wounded and who allegedly acted against the fundamental democratic principles of his country, was not particularly pleased, in terms of his image, with being seen with a leader who is blamed these days to have led to a “flaw in democracy”.

When Trump meets with the other leaders of “anti-democratic” countries which are partners of the US he is not identified with them, but it is different with Erdoğan and his identification with him in the US and world media somehow creates a “negative mirror effect”.

‘A low profile relation prone to tensions’
Fatih YAŞLI, Associate Proffesor at University of Abant İzzet Baysal

During the US presidential elections, the Justice and Development Party administration and Erdoğan tied their hopes to Trump’s victory. This was to do with their expectations from teh Republicans in general and trump in particular. This was replicated by the reactions of pro-government media and intelligentsia when Trump won the elections. However, things didn’t go as planned, and Trump had a phone call with Erdoğan long after his election, and Erdoğan had to wait for a face to face meeting for even longer.

What happened just before the meeting was even more disappointing for Ankara. When the three high level representatives from Turkey, the chief of the general staff, chief of intelligence, and Erdoğan’s press secretary, were in the US for initial discussions, Trump signed a decree for arms aid to the YPG, which was also said to take part in the Raqqa operation against ISIS.

There was no serious protest against this from Ankara, and the big day came. It was only a meeting of 20 minutes followed by a lunch which was not promising to resolve all those accumulated issues.

Gulen’s extradition from US not likely

We will most probably get only backstage information regarding what had been discussed about Reza Zarrab.*

We can assume that arming the YPG and their lead position in the Raqqa operation will be accepted by Ankara, maybe with some sort of usual rhetoric for the sake of appearances. Time will show whether Ankara negotiated and got the go ahead for a military operation in Sincar or Syria to limit the Kurdish control. But it is not likely that Fethullah Gulen** will be extradited to Turkey.

———————

* Reza Zarrab is a Turkey-based Iranian businessman who was arrested last year in Miami for money laundering and for bypassing US sanctions against Iran, claims also involve high level Turkish politicians.

** Fethullah Gulen is the US-residing cleric who was once Erdoğan’s ally but now is accused of being behind the failed coup attempt last July.

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What does the New Hamas Line mean?

08 May 2017

Chairman Khaleed Mashaal announced the new political programme of the Islamic Resistance Movement (Hamas). Why is a change in line?

Kamil Tekin SUREK

First the new Charter was introduced on 1 May, followed by the change in Political Leadership. Despite the Hamas leadership statement that the changes were a result of long-term discussions, the developments surprised many people.

Chairman Khaleed Mashaal announced the new political programme of the Islamic Resistance Movement (Hamas) in Doha, Qatar on 1 May. There are marked differences between the founding charter of 1988 and that of 1 May. Hamas no longer sees the struggle with Israel as a religious one. The struggle is expressed as one against Zionists occupying Palestinian lands. Furthermore, the aim of the struggle has been narrowed from destruction of Israel to the establishment of a Palestinian state within the boundaries established by the 1967 agreement. Armed struggle has not been fully abandoned but the fact that they are not a “terrorist” organisation has been stressed. The claim, in the previous Charter, that Muslim Brotherhood represented Palestine has also been abandoned.

Ismail Haniyeh is the new Leader

Mahmoud Abbas stated that this was the line of PLO (Palestinian Liberation Organisation) since 1988 and that Hamas should be self-critical. Israel stated its distrust in Hamas and stated that it sees this as a deception.

Khaleed Mashaal said that the new Charter would make it easier for friendly and allied forces to make the Palestinian case at an international level.

The announcement of the change in the Charter was followed a few days later by the announcement that Ismael Haniye has been elected as the new Leader.

The new Charter coincided with the visit of Mahmoud Abbas in Washington on 3 May and the Trump administration’s preparations for a new period of peace talks between Palestine and Israel.

Why is a change in line?

Political developments in recent years in the Middle East are certainly the reasons for this change. The collapse of the moderate Islam policy of the US in the Middle East, supporting the Muslim Brotherhood; Sisi bringing down Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt in a military coup supported by the US; Saudi Arabia and Qatar supporting the new US approach; these could all be important reasons for the change in the Hamas line.

The social and economic situation in Gazza should also be considered. The antipathy fostered by Egypt, the only door to Gaza, because of Hamas links with the Muslim Brotherhood must also have influenced this change in line.

Tendency to recognise Palestine is strengthening

Hamas wants to shed its “terrorist organisation” status with this new Charter. The US, EU, Egypt, Saudi Arabia and UAE regard Hamas as a “terrorist organisation”.

On the other hand, tendency to recognise Palestine as a state is strengthening; the number of countries that recognise Palestine as a state is increasing. The perception of a state ran by a “terrorist organisation” also worries some countries prepared to recognise Palestine as a state.

Will the new Charter stop the aforementioned countries categorising Hamas as a “terrorist organisation”? Such an expectation is not realistic. Nevertheless, the likes of Turkey and Qatar, sponsors of Hamas, will try hard in attempts to remove the “terrorist organisation” status of Hamas.

Will the new charter lead to a reconciliation between Hamas and FLO? That does not seem likely either.

Trump’s announcements have unsettled Palestinians

Trump’s announcements on Israel seem to have unsettled the Palestinians. It seems that convincing the US to start a new peace process between Palestine and Israel will again be the task of Mahmoud Abbas. Qatar and others will try to make Hamas a party to such a process.

The new Hamas Charter could lead to a relaxation in the blockade of the Gaza strip but this is not likely to happen in the short term.

Can the new Hamas line be seen as a betrayal of the Palestinian people? The Palestinian and Arab circles that see the change in line as a betrayal are dwindling down. The new Charter is closer to the PLO, Arafat and Abbas line. The PLO line is seen as a sensible path to resolution by global progressive and left forces.

We hope that the new Hamas Charter contributes to the resolution of the Palestinian issue; that Palestinians, forced to live in or escape from their country, turned into an open-air prison through massacres and sanctions, can live in peace in their independent country.

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“A homeland that wants to kill us”

30 years ago, I was a leftist university student, living in exactly the same house that I am living now, then with my mother. I remember how much my mother would be worried each time our doorbell rang from downstairs. Neither her nor I were feeling safe in our own house. And the threat came not from some criminal gang but the “security forces.” The irony or the tragedy of the matter is that three decades on, I still feel unsafe in the same house for exactly the same reason.

In the 1980s, Turkish regime was struggling to move forward, leaving behind years of a brutal military junta, or we, democrats, wanted to believe so. Nevertheless, the political climate was difficult to cope with. So, one day, during my third year of law school, I had to pack my bags to say goodbye to my home, my city, my mother and my motherland. I lived as a refugee in the UK for a long time but my mind and heart have always been here with Turkey. Recently, I returned as an academic, a political scientist, whose main aim was to lead a peaceful life, while contributing as much as I could to the peace process between the government and the Kurdish movement. While in exile, I had had the opportunity to focus on national question, particularly the Kurdish and Irish questions, and I learnt through first-hand experience that what Karl Marx had to say almost two centuries back is truer than ever: “A people that oppress the others cannot be free”.

You are probably aware of the current situation in Turkey. But please allow me narrate my account of what has happened since January 2016. As the peace process collapsed and Turkish forces launched a genocidal campaign in Kurdish provinces, I signed a petition along with 1128 scholars stating simply that “we are not going to be part of this crime”. The petition also included a call to recommence the peace talks. Since then, we have been the target of a hate campaign concerted personally by President Erdoğan. Hundreds of signatories around the country were sacked from academic positions; many were harassed by their nationalist colleagues and students. Erdoğan repeatedly accused us of treason and an infamous gang leader (Sedat Peker) declared that he would “bath with our blood”. The police raided many offices inside universities and houses of signatories around the country. Officially, our court trials for charges of treason continue while most of us have already been penalised by the university administrations that we work in.

In Izmir where I live and work, a parliamentary deputy listed our names in a local daily as “the enemies of the city”, and death threats immediately began to appear particularly in social media. The Izmir branch of an ultra-nationalist paramilitary group publicised the names and pictures of Izmir’s signatories with serious threats and accusations. The threats have been going hand in hand with isolation. Instead of showing solidarity, many of my colleagues stopped hailing me in public. Most recently, the supreme administrative institution of Turkish universities (YÖK) has blocked my application for associate professorship. An old friend from my student years commented once that during those days we were treated by the people as if we were characters from Dostoevsky’s “The Possessed”. It is not easy to become “possessed” again after so many years.

This overdose hatred and systematic lynch campaign is something that none of us were prepared for. We are civilian citizens whose only “crime” is to demand peace. The first reason why I am reluctant to attempt to leave the country for this conference is rather tragic. Since the alleged coup attempt of July 2016, the authorities, without a court decision or legal notice, have been stopping people at the airport, taking their passports away and arresting them. Some peace signatories have also been stopped and arrested this way by the border police. What is even worse is that these scholars, who were stopped on their way to academic events, have then been defamed by the pro-government media as if they were captured while trying to flee the country. This is why I am very reluctant to attempt to cross Turkish border to attend this conference.

The second reason is harder to explain. I guess, my unconscious knows something that my ego prefers to deny: that if I leave, once in safety, I may choose to stay. Although, the danger of persecution is undeniably present, my heart is probably too weak to say farewell a second time to my loved ones, my home, my city, my cat, mother and my motherland.

Returning to my apartment’s history, after so many years of struggle and hopes for democracy, each time my doorbell rings from downstairs I am unfortunately as jumpy as I was 30 years ago. Certainly, it is usually a friend or a salesman but it could well be the local fascist gangs or, even worse, the Turkish police. This is the short story of how I learnt the truth of what novelist Tezer Özlü had to say in the 70s: “This is not our land, but the land of those who want to kill us”.

In conclusion, I beg you to accept my apologies for my absence and ask you to read this letter to the conference participants instead of my presentation.

Dr. Zafer Fehmi Yörük

Izmir University of Economics

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