Turkey. Turkey's economic crisis characterized the year.
In February, in exchange for continued economic reform,
Turkey received a $ 16 billion loan from the International
Monetary Fund (IMF). But the reform work stopped as a result
of the growing political uncertainty in the spring. Prime
Minister B邦lent Ecevit made it increasingly difficult to
keep his tripartite government together. In mid-May, Ecevit
was laid off, but no illness was reported. The uncertainty
contributed to a race for the currency, the lira, and the
stock market also fell.
Countryaah website, the attempts to persuade Ecevit to surrender power to
other younger forces failed. Several ministers, including
Foreign Minister Ismail Cem, resigned. Mass riots in
Parliament from Ecevit's own DSP (Democratic Left Party)
finally forced the Prime Minister to announce midterm
elections in mid-July, held on November 3.
The election resulted in the political landscape being
completely overthrown. The Islamist AKP (Justice and
Development Party) gained its own majority with 363 of
Parliament's 550 seats. Otherwise, only the Social
Democratic CHP (Republican People's Party), with the likes
of former Finance Minister Kemal Dervish, managed the 10
percent blockade and received 178 seats. The other nine
seats were won by independent candidates.
New Prime Minister became AKP's Deputy Chairman Abdullah
G邦l. Before the election, a court had banned AKP's leader,
former Istanbul mayor Recep Tayyip Erdoǧan, from holding a
political office because he was believed to have violated
the laws prohibiting religious propaganda. But the AKP
planned to repeal the ban and a filling election in February
2003 opened the door for Erdoǧan to be elected to Parliament
and take over the Prime Minister's post.
After the election, Erdoǧan and G邦l traveled to a number
of EU countries to receive support to start membership
negotiations in 2003. This was also supported by the United
States. Erdoǧan began by visiting the arch rival Greece,
which together with Turkey is interested in a solution to
the Cyprus issue. At the EU summit in Copenhagen on December
12-13, however, it was decided that negotiations with Turkey
could only begin in 2005.
To appease the EU, both the new and the old Turkish
government had adopted political reform packages. At the
beginning of the year, women were given equal rights with
men. In August, Parliament adopted a reform package that
abolished the death penalty in peacetime. The sensitive
issue of allowing the Kurds to use their language in media
and private schools was also approved on condition that it
did not violate the constitution. The European Commission
replied that it would examine the reform package in detail.
According to Digopaul,
the Turkish human rights organization IHD reported in
November that 59 prisoners died in the ongoing hunger strike
that began in the fall of 2000 in protest of the large
number of prisoners having been moved from large dormitories
to small cells. The organization also noted that torture and
ill-treatment still existed. Four policemen were sentenced
in December to one year in prison for torturing a union
leader in 1997. He died two years later when he was tortured
A 15-year state of emergency was suspended on November 30
in the Kurdish-dominated provinces of Diyarbakir and Sirnak
in southeastern Turkey. It was introduced three years after
the PKK guerrilla took up arms.
In October, a security court decided to convert the
imprisoned PKK leader Abdullah Öcalan's death sentence to
life imprisonment. Öcalan would serve the sentence on Imrali
Prison Island and not be entitled to mercy. The PKK
(Kurdistan Workers' Party), banned in Turkey, had changed
its name to the Congress of Freedom and Democracy in
Kurdistan (Kadek) in April.
The new government seemed set on retaining close ties to
the United States and Israel. The US needs air bases in
Turkey for the air patrol of Iraq as well as for any US-led
attack on Iraq. Turkey and Israel agreed in April on a
billion contract to modernize Turkish tanks. In June, Turkey
took over responsibility for the ISAF International Security
Force in Afghanistan.
In mid-December, it was reported that the more than
two-year hunger strike in the country's prisons required its
62nd death victim.
In mid-February, the Ankara regime sentenced 6 accused to
life imprisonment. Among them were 3 prominent journalists.
Turkey remained the world's most dangerous journalist. At
the end of the month, the Czech authorities released the
prominent Kurdish leader, Saleh Muslim, against whom Turkey
had issued an international arrest warrant. Ankara fiercely
resented and declared that the release was a Czech support
for terrorism. The incident highlighted that regimes in
Europe and its periphery are increasingly using existing
security cooperation for political purposes: hitting
political opponents. Similarly, Spain had several
international arrest warrants for the purpose of striking
political opponents. (Turkey condemns Czech release of
Syrian Kurd leader, Daily Star 27/2 2018; Turkey
sentences journalists to life in jail over coup attempt,
Guardian 16/2 2018)
In March protesting the Turkish war crimes in Rojava
molotov cocktails were thrown at the Turkish embassy in
Copenhagen in March. At the same time, it was reported that
Turkey - also in Denmark - used its networks to map, spy on
and fight Kurdish and Turkish political opponents. The
Danish government just confirmed its support for the Ankara
At the beginning of June, the dictatorship sent a
formation of F-16 fighters into Greek airspace over the
Aegean. The military threat to Greece was a response to
Greece releasing the 8 Turkish officers who had fled the
country following the military coup attempt in Turkey almost
2 years earlier. Turkey demanded the officers extradited,
while the Greeks decided they could seek political asylum.
Like Israel, Turkey ignores the borders of its neighboring
countries and occupies parts of Iraq and Syria. (Turkey
escalates row with Greece over 'putschist' soldiers,
Guardian 5/6 2018)
At the parliamentary and presidential elections a few
weeks later, Erdogan was re-elected as president with 52.6%
of the vote. A slight increase from 51.8% in 2014. At the
same time, the country's new constitution came into force,
and Erdogan gained dictatorial powers. He therefore chose to
repeal the state of emergency that had been in effect since
his coup in July 2016. In any case, he now had more powers
than under the state of emergency. Kurdish HDP presidential
candidate Selahattin Demirtaş got 9.8% of the vote. He had
been in prison since November 2016. In the parliamentary
elections, the AKP received 42.6% of the vote. A decline of
6.9%. The Kurdish HDP rose 0.9% to 11.7%. Despite violent
repression and mass incarceration of HDP MPs, mayors,
municipal council members and ordinary members failed for
the dictatorship to force support below the 10% barrier. But
the decline of the AKP did not matter, because Erdogan now
had total power in the country.
In an effort to force the United States to extradite
Erdogan's Islamic heir, Fethullah Gülen, the dictatorship in
2016 arrested a U.S. priest and charged him with espionage.
In August 2018, it prompted US President Trump to impose
sanctions on a number of Turkish government officials.
Turkey responded immediately with sanctions against 2 US
ministers, which in turn prompted the US Congress to
postpone the delivery of new fighter aircraft to Turkey.
Erdogan used the tension between the two countries to
reinforce nationalism in the country.
In early October, Saudi Arabia executed journalist Jamal
Khashoggi at his consulate in Istanbul. Khashoggi had gone
into exile in the United States in September 2017 after the
Riyadh regime closed his Twitter account. Khashoggi was
increasingly writing critical articles on Crown Prince
Mohamad bin Salman and the regime therefore sent an
execution unit to Istanbul at the beginning of October.
Khashoggi had a Turkish boyfriend he wanted to marry and
therefore had to go to the consulate. The execution would
never have become an international event if it were not just
for Turkey's rivalry with Saudi Arabia for leadership over
the Muslim world. On the same day Khashoggi had been killed,
Turkish President Erdogan therefore went into the media with
the story. Not because of the president's love for
journalists. Thousands of Turkish journalists had been
dismissed by the Erdogan regime in previous years, hundreds
more jailed and many newspapers closed. The murder was an
occasion to bring the geopolitical opponent into the
defensive. Each day brought new dementias from the Saudi
dictatorship, which simply triggered new details from the
Turkish dictatorship. Details that could only stem from
eavesdropping and/or a spy Turkey had planted at the Saudi
Consulate. Only after several weeks of denial did the Riyadh
regime admit that it had murdered the journalist, and a
group of 15 senior military people and "forensics" closely
linked to the crown prince were arrested in Saudi Arabia.
Turkey had a covert recording of the assassination and
subsequent parting of the journalist, which was not made
public, but instead extradited to Turkey's allies. In
November, Turkey's tape recording was played for the CIA,
which subsequently concluded that bin Salman was most likely
behind the murder.