Buhari To Host Turkish President Erdogan In Abuja

A photo combination of President Muhammadu Buhari and his Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.
A photo combination of President Muhammadu Buhari and his Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.

 

President Muhammadu Buhari is to host Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in Abuja on a two-day official visit.

This is according to a statement signed by presidential spokesperson, Garba Shehu, on Tuesday.

Erdogan is expected to fly in from Angola, accompanied by the Turkish First Lady, Mrs. Emine Erdogan.

He is to depart for Togo at the end of his visit.

READ ALSO: Buhari Hails Gowon At 87

“In the course of the visit, the leaders of the two countries are expected to consider about two dozen Bilateral Agreements and Memoranda of Understanding, MOUs and they will authorize the signing of those on which there is a concurrence,” Shehu’s statement said.

“In addition to the bilateral discussions, President Erdogan will hold one-on-one meeting with President Buhari and he is expected to commission the Turkish Cultural Centre in Abuja while his wife, Emine, accompanied by the First Lady, Mrs. Aisha Buhari is expected to commission the newly-renovated Government Secondary School in Wuse 11.

“The school was renovated by a Turkish aid organization, the Turkish Cooperation and Coordinating Agency, TIKA.

“Nigeria considers Turkey a close partner and sees this visit as a milestone in our bilateral relations.”

UK Removes 47 Countries From COVID-19 Travel ‘Red List’

Britain’s Prime Minister Boris Johnson visits the exhibition hall to try means of green transportation on the third day of the annual Conservative Party Conference. (Photo by Paul ELLIS / AFP)

 

The UK government on Thursday announced a dramatic reduction to its coronavirus travel “red list”, scrapping bans on foreigners travelling to England from 47 countries.

Under the new rules that come into effect from 0300 GMT on Monday October 11, only seven countries — Colombia, the Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Haiti, Panama, Peru, and Venezuela — will remain under the restrictions.

Removal from the “red list” for the 47 countries and territories, including Brazil, Mexico and South Africa, means passengers will no longer be required to enter hotel quarantine.

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said the move was possible because of “the increased vaccination efforts around the globe”.

The government also announced it was extending inbound vaccinated arrivals to a further 37 countries and territories including India and Turkey.

READ ALSO: UK Relaxes Rules For Fully Vaccinated Travellers From Nigeria

The new rules mean fully vaccinated individuals entering England from the 37 locations will be exempt from quarantine, a pre-departure test and a day-eight post-arrival test.

British and Irish nationals and those living in the UK are allowed to travel from red list countries, but must quarantine in a hotel for 10 days on arrival.

The UK government in London sets health and transport policy for England only. The devolved parliaments in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland set the Covid travel policies for their regions.

They have largely followed previous rule changes for England.

AFP

Raging Wildfires Devastate Turkey, Greece

A picture taken on August 3, 2021 shows flames rising from a fire spreading around Yeniköy Kemerköy thermal Power Plant near Oren, in the holiday region of Mugla, as Turkey struggles against its deadliest wildfires in decades.
STR / AFP

 

Turkish coastguards evacuated hundreds of villagers from a burning power plant on Thursday and Greek firefighters battled a major blaze near the ancient Olympic site as a record heatwave wreaked havoc across Europe’s southeast.

The two regional rivals have been united this week in their fight against disasters that officials and experts link to increasingly frequent and intense weather events caused by climate change.

Eight people have died and dozens have been hospitalised across the southern coasts of Turkey since the wildfires erupted last week.

The blazes in Greece this week briefly cut off the main road leading to Athens and saw worrying fires break out in Olympia — the birthplace of the Olympic Games that is usually crowded with tourists — and on the island of Evia.

Greece deployed large forces near Olympia to protect archaeological sites where the first Olympic Games were held in antiquity.

“We’re waging a battle of the titans!” Greek deputy minister for civil protection Nikos Hardalias said.

But perhaps the biggest shock came when winds whipped up a flash fire that subsumed the grounds of an Aegean coast power plant in Turkey storing thousands of tonnes of coal.

‘Where could we go?’

 

People sit on the back of a trailer as wildfires take hold in the Koycegiz district of Mugla on August 3, 2021. Turkey’s struggles against its deadliest wildfires in decades come as blistering heatwave grips southeastern Europe creating tinderbox conditions that Greek officials blame squarely on climate change. 
LOUISA GOULIAMAKI / AFP

 

An AFP team saw firefighters and police fleeing the 35-year-old Kemerkoy plant in the Aegean province of Mugla as bright balls of orange flames tore through the surrounding hills.

Hundreds of villagers — many clutching small bags of belongings grabbed from their abandoned houses as the evacuation call sounded — piled onto coastguard speedboats at the nearby port of Oren.

The regional authority said “all explosive chemicals” and other hazardous material had been removed from the strategic site.

“But there’s a risk that the fire could spread to the thousands of tonnes of coal inside,” regional mayor Osman Gurun told reporters.

A few older villagers in Oren refused to leave the disaster-hit region even while thousands of others were shuttled out by car or boats racing along the Aegean Sea.

“Where do you want us to go at our age?” asked 79-year-old Hulusi Kinic.

“We live here. This is our home. Our last solution was to throw ourselves in the sea (if there was an explosion), but thank God that did not happen.”

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s office said an initial inspection showed the overnight blazes left “no serious damage to the main units in the plant”.

 

‘Asking for reinforcements’

 

A picture taken on August 3, 2021, shows a burnt area around Yeniköy Kemerköy thermal Power Plant near Oren, in the holiday region of Mugla, as Turkey struggles against its deadliest wildfires in decades. LOUISA GOULIAMAKI / AFP

 

More than 100 blazes were still burning in Greece and 180 have ignited in Turkey since July 28 — more than a dozen of them still active on Wednesday night.

The EU’s Copernicus Climate Change Service said July was the second-hottest on record in Europe.

Greece’s Hardalias said earlier this week that the ferocity of the fires ravaging the region meant that “we are no longer talking about climate change but a climate threat”.

The unfolding disasters saw the leaders of both countries come under pressure from local officials for what they felt was an insufficiently resolute response.

“We are asking the authorities to reinforce the air and land forces to so as not to risk human lives,” Limni mayor Giorgos Tsapourniotis told Greece’s ANA news agency.

The Turkish mayor of the town of Milas spent days waging a social media campaign trying to get officials to send firefighting planes that could douse the flames before they engulfed the power plant.

 Erdogan on the defensive

 

A man stands in front of the Kemerkoy Thermal Power Plant (R) with the blaze approaching in the background, in Milas, near Oren, on August 4, 2021. Rescuers used helicopters and water cannons on August 4, 2021, to beat back fires encircling the Turkish power plant in the second week of deadly blazes testing the leadership of President Recept Tayyip Erdogan.
SERDAR GURKAN / AFP

 

Erdogan has come under especially withering criticism for being slow or unwilling to accept some offers of foreign assistance after revealing that Turkey had no functioning firefighting planes.

The crisis has posed an unexpected challenge to the powerful Turkish leader two years before he faces an election that could extend his rule into a third decade.

Erdogan tried to mount a political counterattack in a television interview Wednesday that began just as news broke that the fire had reached the Aegean power plant.

“When fires break out in America or Russia, (the opposition) stands by the government, We don’t have this,” Erdogan said.

The prosecutors’ office in Ankara said Thursday it has launched an investigation into social media posts about the fire that were “trying to create anxiety, fear and panic in the public, and to humiliate the Turkish government”.

Turkey Arrests American Behind Coup Messaging App

 

 

A Turkish-born American linked to a messaging app used by organisers of a failed coup in 2016 has arrived in Istanbul and turned himself in to the police, state media reported Wednesday.

David Keynes, also known in Turkey as Alpaslan Demir, holds the copyright to ByLock, an encrypted messaging app that has been banned in Turkey and across parts of the Middle East.

The Turkish government believes the app was used by organisers of a failed coup in 2016 that claimed the lives of some 250 people and was followed by a sweeping political crackdown and mass arrests.

The Anadolu state news agency said Keynes arrived in Istanbul on June 9 and turned himself in to the police under a “repentance law” that grants more lenient treatment to people who confess to crimes.

It was not clear why state media reported Keynes’s arrest more than a month after his arrival in Turkey or why he had decided to turn himself in.

Anadolu said he was put in pre-trial detention and charged with terror-related offences that could see him jailed for up to 15 years.

Ankara blames the coup attempt on Fethullah Gulen, a US-based Muslim preacher who was an ally-turned-opponent of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

The Turkish leader responded to the failed putsch by ordering a comprehensive crackdown that officials say saw more than 321,000 people detained.

Most have been released, but the scale of the detentions has had a chilling effect on Turkish politics, leading to the detention of Erdogan’s political opponents and the shutdown of independent media.

The courts have handed down life sentences to 3,000 people, according to Anadolu, while 4,890 defendants have been convicted over links to the coup bid.

-AFP

Turkey Arrests American Behind Coup Messaging App

 

 

A Turkish-born American linked to a messaging app used by organisers of a failed coup in 2016 has arrived in Istanbul and turned himself in to the police, state media reported Wednesday.

David Keynes, also known in Turkey as Alpaslan Demir, holds the copyright to ByLock, an encrypted messaging app that has been banned in Turkey and across parts of the Middle East.

The Turkish government believes the app was used by organisers of a failed coup in 2016 that claimed the lives of some 250 people and was followed by a sweeping political crackdown and mass arrests.

The Anadolu state news agency said Keynes arrived in Istanbul on June 9 and turned himself in to the police under a “repentance law” that grants more lenient treatment to people who confess to crimes.

It was not clear why state media reported Keynes’s arrest more than a month after his arrival in Turkey or why he had decided to turn himself in.

Anadolu said he was put in pre-trial detention and charged with terror-related offences that could see him jailed for up to 15 years.

Ankara blames the coup attempt on Fethullah Gulen, a US-based Muslim preacher who was an ally-turned-opponent of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

The Turkish leader responded to the failed putsch by ordering a comprehensive crackdown that officials say saw more than 321,000 people detained.

Most have been released, but the scale of the detentions has had a chilling effect on Turkish politics, leading to the detention of Erdogan’s political opponents and shutdown of independent media.

The courts have handed down life sentences to 3,000 people, according to Anadolu, while 4,890 defendants have been convicted over links to the coup bid.

Nigeria, Turkey To Strengthen Parliamentary Ties

 

Nigeria and Turkey are set to strengthen their parliamentary ties by establishing friendship groups between the parliaments of the two countries.

Speaker of Nigeria’s House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila disclosed this while hosting the Turkish Ambassador to Nigeria, Mr Hidayet Bayraktar, on Thursday in Abuja.

READ ALSO: 1,130 Looted Nigerian Artefacts Will Be Returned In 2022, Says Germany

He said Nigeria and Turkey have a long history and that there was a lot that can be done between the two countries.

“Obviously, there are some issues we need to discuss. This is our first engagement, and we will continue to engage.

“We in the 9th House have deployed what we call Legislative Diplomacy to see how we can address diplomatic issues.

“I’m glad that you brought the issue of the parliamentary friendship group,” Gbajabiamila said.

Gbajabiamila added that the House would explore more avenues when members return from their annual vacation.

“I envisage a parliamentary visit from our end between September and October, barring unforeseen circumstances.

“We’ll explore all the areas: security, economy, politics, agriculture and all that. We’ll establish that group in the next couple of days and look out to our engagement in September-October,” the lawmaker assured.

Earlier, the Turkish Ambassador, Mr Bayraktar said there has been a cordial relationship between the two countries, but added that there was the need to strengthen parliamentary ties.

He said his country had some time in 2018 established a Turkish-Nigeria parliamentary friendship group, calling for such in the Nigerian Parliament.

He said to boost the relationship between the parliaments of the two countries, it would not be out of place for Speaker Gbajabiamila to consider a visit to Turkey.

Macron To Meet Turkey’s Erdogan After Rift

In this file photo taken on August 26, 2020 French President Emmanuel Macron, wearing a face mask, looks on as he waits for Senegal's President to arrive for their meeting at the Elysee Palace in Paris. Ludovic Marin / AFP
In this file photo taken on August 26, 2020 French President Emmanuel Macron, wearing a face mask, looks on as he waits for Senegal’s President to arrive for their meeting at the Elysee Palace in Paris. Ludovic Marin / AFP

 

French President Emmanuel Macron said Thursday he would meet his Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan ahead of next week’s NATO summit, after months of bitter exchanges between the two leaders.

The pair have locked horns over a series of international crises including Libya, Syria and Nagorno-Karabakh.

Macron has also warned that Turkey would try to meddle in France’s 2022 presidential election.

He has suggested that Ankara’s unilateral moves on the international stage and purchase of air defence missile systems from Russia have contributed to a “brain death” of NATO, where Turkey is a key member.

Speaking to reporters in Paris, Macron said he planned to meet Erdogan “just before” the NATO summit which begins in Brussels on Monday.

READ ALSO: UEFA Demands Ukraine Make Changes To ‘Political’ Jersey

“When we are members of the same organisation, we cannot decide to buy equipment that does not allow interoperability, we cannot decide to carry out unilateral operations which are against the interests of the coalitions that we have built,” Macron said.

He added that the two sides had “profound disagreements” but need to “continue to talk”.

A new law against Islamist extremism which the French government introduced after a series of attacks also aroused Erdogan’s ire, with the Turkish leader accusing France of Islamophobia.

The Turkish leader last year said Macron needed “mental checks” and expressed hope that France would “get rid of” Macron as soon as possible.

But there have been tentative signs of an easing of tensions in recent months, with Erdogan keen to strengthen links with Turkey’s Western partners at a time of growing economic difficulties at home compounded by the Covid-19 pandemic.

AFP

Biden Recognises 1915 Armenian Genocide, Defying NATO Ally Turkey

U.S. President Joe Biden listens during a virtual Leaders Summit on Climate with 40 world leaders in the East Room of the White House April 22, 2021 in Washington, DC.  Al Drago-Pool/Getty Images/AFP

 

US President Joe Biden on Saturday recognized the 1915 killings of Armenians by Ottoman forces as genocide, a watershed moment for descendants of the hundreds of thousands of dead as he defied decades of pressure by Turkey. 

Biden became the first US president to use the word genocide in a customary statement on the anniversary, a day after informing Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan that he would go ahead with this step and seeking to limit the expected furor from the NATO ally.

“We remember the lives of all those who died in the Ottoman-era Armenian genocide and recommit ourselves to preventing such an atrocity from ever again occurring,” Biden said.

“And we remember so that we remain ever-vigilant against the corrosive influence of hate in all its forms,” he said.

READ ALSO: France Won’t Give Into Islamist Terrorism, Says Macron

The statement is a massive victory for Armenia and its extensive diaspora. Starting with Uruguay in 1965, nations including France, Germany, Canada and Russia have recognized the genocide but a US statement has been a paramount goal that proved elusive under other presidents until Biden.

Biden said his statement was “not to cast blame but to ensure that what happened is never repeated.”

Biden made the decision “in a very principled way focused on the merits of human rights, and not for any reason beyond that, including placing blame,” a senior US official said.

Biden took office vowing to put a new focus on human rights and democracy in the wake of his volatile predecessor Donald Trump, who befriended authoritarians and, despite breaking plenty of foreign policy precedents, declined to recognize the Armenian genocide.

Explaining Biden’s thinking, the administration official also alluded to the Democratic president’s outspokenness on systemic racism in the United States.

Across the world, “people are beginning to acknowledge and address and grapple with the painful historical facts in their own countries. It’s certainly something that we are doing here in the United States,” she said.

A century of waiting

As many as 1.5 million Armenians are estimated to have been killed from 1915 to 1917 during the waning days of the Ottoman Empire, which suspected the Christian minority of conspiring with adversary Russia in World War I.

Armenian populations were rounded up and deported into the desert of Syria on death marches where many were shot, poisoned or fell victim to disease, according to accounts at the time by foreign diplomats.

Turkey, which emerged as a secular republic from the ashes of the Ottoman Empire, acknowledges that 300,000 Armenians may have died but strongly rejects that it was genocide, saying they perished in strife and famine in which many Turks also died.

Erdogan on Thursday told advisors to “defend the truth against those who back the so-called ‘Armenian genocide’ lie,” with his foreign minister warning that the United States would set back relations.

File photo: Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan speaks during a press conference following a meeting with Italian Prime Minister at the Presidential Complex in Ankara, Turkey on January 13, 2020. Adem ALTAN / AFP

 

Recognition has been a top priority for the Armenia and Armenian-Americans, with calls for compensation and property restoration over what they call Meds Yeghern — the Great Crime.

Biden’s statement was also expected to heighten appeals from Armenia for greater US support against Turkish-backed neighbor Azerbaijan, which last year humiliated Armenia by taking back swathes of territory seized in the 1990s.

But Biden, whose call to Erdogan to inform him of the genocide recognition was their first conversation since the US leader took office three months ago, has signaled he hopes for limited diplomatic impact.

Biden and Erdogan agreed in their call to meet in June on the sidelines of a NATO summit in Brussels, officials said.

Biden has kept Erdogan at arm’s length — a contrast with Trump, whom the Turkish leader reportedly found so amenable that he would call Trump directly on his phone on the golf course.

Turbulent alliance

The US Congress in 2019 voted overwhelmingly to recognize the Armenian genocide but the Trump administration made clear that the official US line had not changed.

Former president Barack Obama, under whom Biden served as vice president, danced around the issue by referencing pre-election statements he made recognizing the genocide and resisted pressure for a statement on the centennial in 2015.

Alan Makovsky, an expert on Turkey at the left-leaning Center for American Progress, said that the 2019 congressional resolution had “no discernible impact” on US-Turkey relations — and paved the way for Biden to go ahead.

“We’ve seen through experience that concern about Turkey’s reaction was always overblown,” he said.

“Turkey will raise a rhetorical fuss for a few days and perhaps delay acting on some routine requests from the US military.”

Tensions have risen with Turkey in recent years over its purchase of a major air defense system from Russia — the chief adversary of NATO — which under US law could trigger sanctions.

Turkey has also infuriated much of the US political establishment with its incursions against US-allied Kurdish fighters in Syria who helped fight the Islamic State group but are linked to militants inside Turkey.

Biden before taking office called Erdogan an autocrat and voiced support for Turkey’s opposition. His administration has also criticized homophobic statements from those close to the Islamist-oriented Erdogan.

Turkey Seeks Arrest Of Crypto Boss Over Huge Fraud, Detains Dozens

 This file photo taken on February 6, 2018, shows a visual representation of the digital crypto-currency Bitcoin, at the "Bitcoin Change" shop in the Israeli city of Tel Aviv.  JACK GUEZ / AFP
This file photo taken on February 6, 2018, shows a visual representation of the digital crypto-currency Bitcoin, at the “Bitcoin Change” shop in the Israeli city of Tel Aviv. JACK GUEZ / AFP

 

Turkey issued an international arrest warrant on Friday for the founder of a cryptocurrency exchange who fled with a reported $2 billion in investors’ assets, state media reported.

Police also detained 62 people in raids over their alleged links to Thodex, the company headed by the fugitive businessman Faruk Fatih Ozer.

He is being sought on charges of “fraud by using information systems, banks or credit institutions as a tool and founding a criminal organisation”, the Anadolu news agency reported.

Turkish security officials on Thursday released a photo of Ozer going through passport control at Istanbul airport on his way to an undisclosed location.

Security sources later confirmed that Ozer — said to be 27 years old — has been in Albania since Tuesday.

The justice ministry has started legal proceedings to seek his arrest and extradition from the Albanian capital Tirana, Anadolu reported.

Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu spoke by phone with his Albanian counterpart about the case, the agency added.

The Thodex exchange suspended trading after posting a mysterious message on Wednesday saying it needed five days to deal with an unspecified outside investment.

Media reports said the exchange shut down while holding at least $2 billion from 391,000 investors.

Freeze on bank accounts

The 62 suspects were apprehended in simultaneous raids carried out in eight cities including Turkey’s main hub Istanbul, Anadolu reported.

Police raided the company’s headquarters on the Asian side of Istanbul and seized computers and digital materials, press reports said.

Authorities also confiscated Ozer’s 31 million lira ($3.7 million) in banks, Soylu said.

He said the financial scale of the fraud remained unknown for now.

“We will see the ramifications in the coming days … God willing, he will be captured and returned to Turkey.”

Police have issued arrest warrants for 16 other people, Anadolu said, without elaborating. There was no immediate information about those being held.

A lawyer for the investors, Oguz Evren Kilic, said Friday that the investigation into Thodex “is deepening”.

“Hundreds of thousands of users cannot get access to their digital wallets. The situation will get more serious unless a concrete step is taken” by Thodex, he told AFP by phone.

Kilic said his clients have already lodged complaints at the prosecutor’s office in Istanbul and other cities.

In a message posted on the company’s official Twitter account on Thursday, Ozer slammed the “baseless allegations” against him.

He said he was abroad for meetings with foreign investors and would return home “in a few days and cooperate with judicial authorities so that the truth can come out”.

‘I’m begging you, help’

The number of complaints against Thodex has increased by more than 1,160 percent over the week to April 20 compared to the previous week, according to Turkish customer complaint website Sikayetvar.

One investor who reached Sikayetvar said: “I have been unemployed for a year. I trusted Thodex and invested everything I have… I can’t sleep or eat. I am begging you, please help.”

Another said: “Why is Thodex’s CEO silent? Why are they victimising people? Are you making fun of us?”

Growing numbers of Turks are turning to cryptocurrencies in a bid to shield their savings in the face of a sharp decline in the value of the Turkish lira and high inflation.

The Turkish crypto market remains unregulated despite growing scepticism from President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s government about its safety.

Turkey’s central bank said last week it will ban the use of cryptocurrencies in payments for goods and services starting from April 30.

It warned that cryptocurrencies “entail significant risks” because the market is volatile and lacks oversight.

AFP

Turkey Jails 22 Ex-Soldiers For Life Over 2016 Coup Bid

In this file photograph taken on July 16, 2016, a tank crashes into a car as people take to the streets in Ankara, during a protest against a military coup. A Turkish court on April 7, 2021, has sentenced 22 former soldiers to life in jail for their roles in a failed 2016 bid to oust President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. PHOTO: ADEM ALTAN / AFP

 

A Turkish court on Wednesday sentenced 22 former soldiers to life in jail for their roles in a failed 2016 bid to oust President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, one of his lawyers told AFP.

In its latest mass trial of suspects whose failure to oust Erdogan was followed by a sweeping political crackdown and arrests, an Ankara court investigated the role of 497 former soldiers, including members of the presidential guard.

The putsch attempt included a raid on Turkey’s main state television broadcaster, whose newscaster was forced to read out a statement from the military junta leaders.

READ ALSO: Merkel Approves ‘Short National Lockdown’ To Curb Virus

One of the president’s lawyers provided AFP with a document showing the judge jailing 22 former ranking military personnel for life.

These included former lieutenant colonel Umit Gencer, who was convicted of “violating the constitutional order” by making TRT television read out a “coup declaration”.

The court also handed ex-major Fedakar Akca an aggravated life sentence for leading a team from the regiment to the general staff headquarters on the night, state news agency Anadolu reported.

Former colonel Muhammet Tanju Poshor received his sentence for directing the occupation of the TRT building, it added.

An aggravated life sentence has tougher terms of detention and replaced the death penalty after it was abolished in 2004.

Another ex-major, Osman Koltarla, was in charge of the presidential palace’s security at the time. The court also handed him a life sentence.

 

– Final Ankara trial –

The verdict was read out in the country’s largest courtroom which was especially built to hear coup trials at Sincan prison complex in Ankara province.

The case into the regiment began in October 2017, with 243 hearings, the state news agency said.

According to Anadolu, the end of the trial marks the end of the cases heard in the capital, nearly five years later.

In an unprecedented legal process, thousands have been given life sentences in trials across Turkey, with indictments spanning thousands of pages and lawyers painstakingly working through the cases.

The failed coup left 248 people dead, excluding 24 putschists killed on the night.

Turkey accuses US-based Muslim preacher Fethullah Gulen of masterminding the failed coup, a claim he strongly denies.

Tens of thousands of people have been arrested over alleged links to Gulen since 2016, and police raids continue to this day.

More than 100,000 have been sacked or suspended from the public sector over similar allegations.

The aftermath of the coup attempt has transformed every aspect of contemporary Turkish politics, with Erdogan becoming especially sensitive to the military’s role in the country’s political life.

Earlier this week he accused 104 retired admirals of “hinting at a political coup” after they criticised his plans for a new canal in Istanbul.

AFP

Turkey Arrests Pro-Kurdish MP Who Was Expelled From Parliament

Turkish member of Parliament for the left wing political party Peoples’ Democratic Party Omer Faruk Gergerlioglu (C) reacts as he is surrounded by MPs applauding and brandishing placards after he was dismissed following a vote at the Turkish Parliament in Ankara, on March 17, 2021. Adem ALTAN / AFP

 

Turkish authorities on Sunday arrested a pro-Kurdish opposition MP who had refused to leave parliament for several days after his seat was revoked, his party said.

Omer Faruk Gergerlioglu “was brought out by force while he was in pyjamas and slippers” by “nearly 100 police officers”, the leftist Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) said in a statement.

The parliament on Wednesday revoked the seat of Gergerlioglu, an outspoken rights defender, and his accompanying immunity from prosecution after a controversial conviction over a social media post.

Omer Faruk Gergerlioglu (C, front row with a blue mask), a human rights advocate and lawmaker from the People’s Democratic Party (HDP) and his colleagues pose after the parliament stripped his parliamentary seat, in Ankara, on March 17, 2021. (Photo by Adem ALTAN / AFP)

 

Gergerlioglu was handed a two-and-a-half-year prison sentence for spreading “terrorist propaganda” online.

Gergerlioglu has rejected the accusations, and his expulsion from parliament was criticised by numerous campaign groups and Western governments.

He had remained holed up in a room in the parliament since Wednesday.

The HDP tweeted a photo of him being escorted out of the room, wearing a black T-shirt.

“You used to be able to see this kind of scene in the 1990s. Unfortunately, nothing has changed,” Gergerlioglu said during his arrest, according to comments reported by his party.

His remark referred to a decade marked by a flaring of the Kurdish conflict in southeastern Turkey when several pro-Kurdish MPs were arrested.

The HDP, the third-largest party in the Turkish parliament, has been under a constant crackdown since 2016 with the arrest of several of its lawmakers and leaders, including its charismatic co-chair Selahattin Demirtas.

Demirtas — a two-time rival to incumbent Recep Tayyip Erdogan in presidential elections — has been kept in detention since 2016 despite calls from the European Court of Human Rights demanding his release.

The top public prosecutor in Ankara had on Wednesday demanded that the HDP be dissolved over its alleged links to the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).

The PKK has been waging an insurgency since 1984 that has killed tens of thousands and is listed as a terrorist organisation by Ankara and its Western allies.

The HDP has seen dozens of its mayors dismissed over alleged terror links.

Western powers have universally condemned the bid to shut down the HDP. The country’s highest court is due to rule on the case in the coming weeks.

AFP

Thousands Protest Turkey’s Withdrawal From Women’s Treaty

Protesters hold banners reading “Did you read the Istanbul Convention?” and “Why do you fear the Istanbul Convention?” during a demonstration against Turkey’s withdrawal from Istanbul Convention, an international accord designed to protect women, in Ankara, on March 20, 2021. (Photo by Adem ALTAN / AFP)

 

 

Thousands protested in Turkey on Saturday calling for President Recep Tayyip Erdogan to reverse his decision to withdraw from the world’s first binding treaty to prevent and combat violence against women.

The government sparked domestic and international outrage after announcing the decision before dawn on Saturday, the latest victory for conservatives in Erdogan’s nationalist party and their allies who argued the treaty damaged family unity.

The 2011 Istanbul Convention, signed by 45 countries and the European Union, requires governments to adopt legislation prosecuting domestic violence and similar abuse as well as marital rape and female genital mutilation.

“Reverse your decision, apply the treaty!” chanted thousands of people during a protest in the Kadikoy neighbourhood on the Asian side of Istanbul on Saturday.

The protesters held up portraits of women murdered in Turkey, one reading: “It is women who will win this war”.

Protester Banu said she was “fed up with the patriarchal state”.

“I’m fed with not feeling safe. Enough!” she told AFP.

Other smaller protests were held in the capital Ankara and the southwestern city of Izmir, according to media reports.

 

Protesters fight with a Turkish plain clothes police officer (L) during a demonstration against Turkey’s withdrawal from Istanbul Convention, an international accord designed to protect women, in Istanbul, on March 20, 2021. (Photo by BULENT KILIC / AFP)

 

Europe’s top rights body, the Council of Europe, denounced Turkey’s withdrawal from a treaty it sponsored.

“This move is a huge setback to these efforts and all the more deplorable because it compromises the protection of women in Turkey, across Europe and beyond,” Council of Europe Secretary General Marija Pejcinovic Buric said.

The treaty “is widely regarded as the gold standard in international efforts to protect women and girls from the violence that they face every day in our societies,” she added.

The European Parliament’s Turkey rapporteur Nacho Sanchez Amor tweeted that “this is the current Turkish government’s real face: complete disregard to the rule of law, and full backsliding on human rights.”

Germany’s foreign ministry said it “sent a bad signal to Europe and above all to Turkish women” while France said “this setback to rights is worrying.”

Conservatives had claimed the charter damages family unity and encourages divorce, and that its references to equality were being used by the LGBT community to gain broader acceptance in society.

Turkey had been debating a possible departure after an official in Erdogan’s party suggested dropping the treaty last year.

Since then, women have taken to the streets in cities across the country calling on the government to stick to the convention.

 

 

Protesters walk in the streets during a demonstration against Turkey’s withdrawal from Istanbul Convention, an international accord designed to protect women, in Ankara, on March 20, 2021. – Thousands protested in Turkey on March 20, 2021, calling for Turkish President to reverse his decision to withdraw from the world’s first binding treaty to prevent and combat violence against women. (Photo by Adem ALTAN / AFP)

 

‘You and your evil’

The publication of the decree in the official gazette early Saturday immediately sparked anger.

Istanbul Mayor Ekrem Imamoglu, one of Erdogan’s main rivals, tweeted that the decision “tramples on the struggle that women have been waging for years”.

Gokce Gokcen, deputy chairperson of the main opposition CHP party, said abandoning the treaty meant “keeping women second-class citizens and letting them be killed.”

“Despite you and your evil, we will stay alive and bring back the convention,” she said on Twitter.

Even the pro-government Women and Democracy Association (KADEM), whose deputy chair is Erdogan’s younger daughter, expressed some unease, saying the Istanbul Convention “played an important role in the fight against violence”.

In response to the avalanche of criticism, Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu said “our institutions and our security forces will continue to fight domestic violence and violence against women”.

300 femicides in 2020

Domestic violence and femicide remain a serious problem in Turkey.

Last year, 300 women were murdered and the rate is speeding up, with 77 killed already this year, according to the rights group We Will Stop Femicide Platform.

“The Istanbul convention was not signed at your command and it will not leave our lives on your command,” the platform’s secretary general Fidan Ataselim tweeted.

The country was also shaken by a video spread widely on social media earlier this month showing a man beating his ex-wife on the street.

The man was arrested on Sunday and Erdogan announced a parliamentary commission would be created to look at legislation to combat violence.

Rights groups accuse Erdogan of taking mostly Muslim but officially secular Turkey on an increasingly socially conservative course during his 18 years in power.

After a spectacular Pride March in Istanbul drew 100,000 people in 2014, the government responded by banning future events in the city, citing security concerns.