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.
According to Countryaah website, national day of Turkey is every October 29. 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.
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 again.
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 regime.
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.