Category Archives: Eastern Mediterranean// Méditerranée de l’Est

Why Turkey will not de-escalate its aggression towards Greece. Analysis


Brief

For decades, the Hellenic Republic and the Republic of Turkey have been in dispute about maritime jurisdiction and other issues in the Aegean Sea. With the discovery of large hydrocarbon deposits in some parts of the Eastern Mediterranean, the relationship between the two states has become even more strained. As their continental shelf entitlements in the Eastern Mediterranean overlap to a significant extent, Greece and Turkey also clash over the reach of their sovereign rights and jurisdiction in this region.

The Geography and the Sovereignty Issue

The evolution of the Law of the Sea, which gives countries new spaces of sovereignty and areas of jurisdiction without specifying their delimitation, is the source of the dispute between Greece and Turkey in the Aegean Sea. The disputed areas include the waters south and south-east of the islands of Rhodes, Karpathos, Kasos, and Crete. Another hotspot of the conflict is the island of Kastellorizo (Megisti), which is Greece’s most eastern outpost, located about 330 nautical miles (nm) away from Piraeus and only 1.25 nm from the Turkish coast.

Map of Islands between Greece and Turkey, source Wikipedia 
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aegean_dispute#/media/File:Aegean_with_legends.svg

Turkey asserts that its continental shelf extends directly to the outer limits of these islands’ 6-nm territorial sea.  In the view of the Greek government, Turkey tried ‘to usurp Greece’s ipso facto and ab initio sovereign rights over its continental shelf and to deprive the Greek islands of their maritime zones, in blatant violation of international law’.

The list of countries suffering from Turkish aggression during the last years is long. Turkey occupies one-third of Cyprus. It has used its F-16s and Special Forces against Armenians. Iraqi officials say Turkey has now established numerous outposts on its territory, ranging in size from small platoon-level posts to a full-size base. The Turkish Air Force bombs Iraq nightly. Turkey ethnically cleanses entire districts in northern Syria.

Greece and Turkey are members of NATO, an organization that promises to come to the help of a member state if any country threatens its security. But when two member states of NATO are at loggerheads and cannot arrive at any solution to the dispute, the question becomes complicated for NATO and the US to deal with. They are reluctant to choose between the two.

The Treaties and clashes through recent History

Turkish-Greek relations have always been tense and open to conflict and military escalation though there had been smooth times in the past. We should not forget that two countries are historical rivals to each other due to their nation-creation process.  Nonetheless, after Turkey’s victory against invading Greek powers in 1923, two visionary statesmen Atatürk and Venizelos were able to establish friendly relations. Two countries were both acted as United States (U.S.) allies against the expansionism of communism and Soviet Union during the Cold War. However, this did not prevent two countries to engage in a political/diplomatic clash in 1974 when Turkey rightfully intervened into the island of Cyprus as a guarantor state following a military coup organized by Greek Cypriots aiming to annex the island to Greece (an idea known shortly as “enosis”).

Facts:

According to the Treaty of Lausanne concluded in 1923, after WWI, Greece was obliged to keep the islands demilitarized.

Turkey is the only country that refers to and demands the demilitarization of the eastern Aegean islands.

With regard to the militarization of the islands in the Eastern Aegean, various international agreements apply. In particular :
• the status of the islands of Limnos and Samothrace was governed by the 1923 Lausanne Treaty on the Straits, but was been replaced by the 1936 Montreux Treaty;
• the status of the islands of Lesvos, Chios, Samos and Ikaria, is governed by the 1923 Lausanne Peace Treaty; and
• the status of the Dodecanese islands is governed by the 1947 Paris Peace Treaty.

At the same time, civilian shipping passage in the Turkish Straits mandated Turkey to demilitarize the Straits. The warring countries adhered to the clauses of the treaty. After WWII, another treaty of 1947 gave 12 islands to Greece with the condition of their total demilitarization.

Hindsight shows that Greece has agreed to be a member of NATO because it believed that would provide her security against the belligerent neighbor who does not stop short of claiming its right to most islands and islets in the Aegean Sea.

While Turkey recognized both treaties, the stand of Greece was that Turkey gave the wrong interpretation of various clauses of the treaty. Greece argues that the 1936 Montreux Convention on the regime of the Straits supersedes the Lausanne Treaty (on the Straits) as it gives Turkey the power to militarize the Turkish Straits.

Greece has a very valid point. Turkey cannot enjoy the right to militarize the Straits through the Montreux Convention and then ask Greece to stick to the Lausanne Treaty stipulating the non-militarization of islands.

In 1995 Greece ratified the UN Convention on Law of the Sea called UNCLOS. It provided a legal framework to recognize the limits of maritime zones of coastal nations. One hundred sixty countries, except Turkey, became a party to the UNCLOS.

The Current Geopolitical Shifts of the Greco-Turkish relations

Turkey is heading toward a set of twin elections that could have momentous consequences for the country’s future. In June 2023 at the latest, Turkish voters will be asked to choose a new president and a new parliamentary majority. For the past two decades, the Turkish political landscape has been dominated by the Justice and Development (AK) Party and its uniquely successful leader, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. After having ruled the country single-handedly since 2002, Erdoğan became the first executive president of Turkey in 2018, following a tightly contested constitutional change. He has come out victorious in every round of elections since the start of his political career. And yet, after two decades, his popularity is faltering, raising the prospect of political change. 

Erdoğan’s political alliance with ultranationalists in Turkey has strongly influenced the militarization of Turkish foreign policy, including toward Greece. Since 2015, Erdoğan has relied on ultranationalist political actors to win elections, and he has empowered them at the expense of more moderate factions within the foreign ministry and the military. Also, the prevailing sentiment among opposition parties is that Turkey has lost considerable ground on the diplomatic front in the Eastern Mediterranean and that, conversely, Greece and Cyprus have played their cards more wisely.

The institutionalization of Erdoğan’s presidential system in 2018 has given ultranationalist factions an outsized influence over foreign policy decision-making. In response to tensions in the eastern Mediterranean, such factions fashioned a maximalist and aggressive new doctrine called the “Blue Homeland,” which argues that Turkey is entitled to expansive territorial waters and maritime rights in the eastern Mediterranean and encourages the government to defend these rights through military aggression and, when necessary, use of force.

The purpose of the Blue Homeland strategy is that Turkey should dominate the Mediterranean and reclaim the mercantile and maritime power once held by the Ottomans, writes Antonia Colibasanu.

Additionally, in line with the ultra-nationalist, imperialist conception generated since the 19th century by Ziya Gökalp which seeks to create a “Greater Turkey” that would encompass all Turkish people, since October 2020, Erdogan has worked to consolidate an organization with principles and objectives similar to those of NATO, but whose membership would consist exclusively of nations of Turkish origin. This so-called “Army of Turan,” under Turkish leadership, would include Azerbaijan and Turkish republics in Central Asia. In addition to a group whose principles of pan-Turkish cultural affinity could easily take a chauvinist turn, the creation of a new military alliance led by Turkey is, or should be, considered a violation of NATO’s principles, or even as a kind of Trojan horse; that is, a member of NATO that seeks to create and lead a military organization some members of which would also be allies of the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) – such as Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan – the opposing military alliance commanded by Russia.

The Treaty of Lausanne and the compulsory exchange of populations between Greece and Turkey became the basis both for the reorientation of their foreign policies and for the establishment of close relations of friendship and cooperation between the two countries. But the Cyprus question and the Aegean conflict affected bilateral relations. It had a negative impact on the Treaty of Lausanne.

Conflict between the NATO allies grew stronger and then weakened during the last decades, peaking with crises over the island nation of Cyprus in 1974 and the island of Imia-Kardak in 1995. After the two countries once again came to the brink of war over maritime rights in the eastern Mediterranean in 2020, the newly elected Biden administration, seeking to solidify NATO unity, stepped in to encourage dialogue between Ankara and Athens. The intervention appeared to work: At the NATO summit in June 2021, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan praised the revival of diplomatic engagement with Greece.

But that conciliatory tone lasted less than a year. Tensions flared up again in May 2022, when Erdoğan lashed out at Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis, saying that the Premier “no longer exists” for him. Then, in September, he explicitly threatened Greece with open conflict, warning ominously that Turkey could “come down suddenly one night.” The following month, Erdoğan created a scene at a private dinner of the European Political Community in Prague, interrupting Mitsotakis’s speech by accusing him of insincerity in settling bilateral disputes, starting a shouting match, and repeating his threats against Greece.

On September 5-6, 2022, the Greek Foreign Minister Mr. Nikos Dendias sent letters to the EU, NATO, and the UN to bring to their attention public statements made by Turkeys President Recep Tayyip Erdogan whose “openly threatening nature and tone are more than obvious, thus dispelling any doubts as to their intended purpose.” More specifically, the letters refer to statements by President Erdogan that Turkey could “come all of a sudden one night” and “What I’m talking about is not a dream … If what I said was that we could come one night all of a sudden (it means) that, when the time comes, we can come suddenly one night.” Such statements and a series of similar remarks are part of Turkey’s political and military strategy towards Greece, signaling the possibility of military action

Why Turkey adopted this aggressive rhetoric toward Greece?

Given the bellicose nature of the statements by Turkish officials, combined with the declared casus belli as well as Turkey’s aggressive acts towards Greece and the hostile relations that currently persist between the two countries, the only reasonable inference from the sum of these concerted statements and acts is that Turkey is threatening Greece with force. Turkey has not put forward any legal justification to support its threats. Instead, the projected use of force is offensive and targets the territorial integrity and sovereignty of Greece. It therefore breaches Article 2(4) of the UN Charter.

The context is the differences between Greece and Turkey regarding the extent of the territorial sea, exclusive economic zone (EEZ) and continental shelf in the Aegean Sea. In 1995, the Turkish Parliament adopted a declaration granting the Turkish government powers to use all means including military forces to safeguard the vital interests of Turkey should Greece extends its territorial sea in the Aegean Sea from 6 nautical miles to 12 nautical miles (for the text see Tsagourias, “The Prohibition of Threats of Force”. See also Art 92 of Türkiye’s Constitution).

President Erdogan seeks to revise—always in Turkey’s favor—the century-old Lausanne Treaty that established Turkey’s borders with Greece and Bulgaria. He falsely claims Greece violates demilitarization agreements, and Turkish politicians up to and including Erdogan coalition partner and nationalist party leader Devlet Bahceli and Defense Minister Hulusi Akar further argue that they should possess all islands east of a median line in the Aegean Sea. Turkey does not limit such provocations to maps. Turkish jets regularly violate the airspace of Greek islands like Kastellorizo. State Department statements infused with bothsiderism make matters worse. Simply put, Turkey is violating Greek airspace and occupying Cypriot territory, not the other way around. Secretary of State Anthony Blinken should make this clear. Moral equivalence and lies are no basis for peace and justice.

Furthermore, the Biden administration has misplayed its hand regarding Turkey’s aggression toward Greece. Whereas Joe Biden entered office more resistant to Erdogan’s whispered charms than Presidents George W. Bush, Barack Obama, or Donald Trump, his team has taken a significant step backward in recent months, especially with its endorsement of an F-16 sale to Turkey.

Perhaps Biden and National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan believed this would assuage Erdogan after Turkey’s loss of the F-35 and encourage Turkey to help Ukraine. It has had the opposite effect, though: Erdogan interpreted Biden’s move both as a green light to ratchet up attacks on his neighbors and as a signal Turkey could purchase additional S-400 missiles from Russia without consequence. Meanwhile, Turkey plays a double game with Ukraine, doing as much to help Russia escape the diplomatic and economic consequences of its actions as China, Iran, or North Korea.

In an interview, Constantinos Filis, director of the Institute of Global Affairs, pointed out that, in recent months, Turkey has instead overflown Agathonisi, Farmakonisi, Kandeliousa, and Kinaros. The Turks utilize both manned fighter jets and drones in their overflights, usually probing the islands between three and five in the morning. Each is small. Agathonisi, the northernmost island of the Dodecanese, lies just eight miles off the Turkish coast and is home to fewer than 200 Greeks. The community of Farmakonisi, just under 14 miles to the south, is even smaller. A decade ago, it was home to just ten residents.

While Kandelioussa is uninhabited, it is strategic and part of the Nisyros municipality, which has approximately 1,000 residents. Because Kandelioussa is further west than many other Greek islands, a Turkish outpost would effectively leapfrog over Greek islands to the east, tightening a noose around them and enabling Turkey to blockade. Kinaros, also uninhabited, is still farther West, the second most western Dodecanese island after Astypalea.

Erdogan may land marines or special forces on the island and then dare Greece to remove them. That diplomatic crisis could reinvigorate Erdogan’s religious base and Turkish nationalists. Erdogan could simultaneously insist that any criticism of him or his record was treasonous. Should the crisis lead to a military skirmish, Erdogan could declare a state of emergency and cancel elections entirely.

Too often, the United States and NATO allow themselves to be distracted, a tendency from which other aggressors seek advantage. It is essential that both Washington and Brussels be proactive: Any Turkish move on Greek islands will trigger a military response against the Turkish contingents on those islands that would humiliate Erdogan and hasten his downfall, elections or not. Erdogan may want to be embraced as a sultan and remembered as more consequential than Ataturk, but he must understand today that if he pursues this course of action, his legacy will be that of Argentine dictator Leopoldo Galtieri who fell from power and was imprisoned after failing to seize the Falkland Islands.

Today, Erdoğan has a strong reason to let these hawkish security officials run wild on Greece. He is facing presidential and parliamentary elections in mid-2023, and the country’s economy is in dire straits. As a result of the devastating economic crisis, Erdoğan’s popularity among the electorate has dropped to its lowest point in two decades. To win, Erdoğan needs to distract the electorate from the mess he has made of the Turkish economy. Showing his keen awareness of Erdoğan’s motives, Mitsotakis told reporters this month, “If we had inflation running at 85 percent in Greece, I would also be trying to change the subject.”

A show of force against Greece would not only satisfy the ultranationalists already allied with Erdoğan but also potentially appeal to secular nationalists among the opposition. For years, Turkey’s opposition parties have been using Greece’s militarization of the disputed Aegean islands as a stick with which to beat Erdoğan, while opposition-aligned media have long bashed his government for failing to confront Greece more forcefully on the issue. Such a narrative has helped boost suspicions about Greece across the political spectrum in Turkey. 

As war remains very unlikely, a warm military incident between Turkey and Greece is likely coming, not because of anything Athens has done but instead because Erdogan is desperate to distract from failure and bankruptcy. The questions the Biden administration will likely need to answer within a year are what can be done to prevent Turkey’s aggression, what the United States can do to enable Greece better to blunt Turkey’s drone, aircraft, and missiles, and whether the United States can really sit on the sidelines if one NATO member attacks a faithful NATO ally.

Links:

The Legacy of the Treaty of Lausanne in the Light of Greek-Turkish Relations in the Twentieth Century: Greek Perceptions of the Treaty of Lausanne

Hardly predictable and yet an equitable solution: Delimitation by judicial process as an option for Greece and Turkey in the Eastern Mediterranean

Political Change and Turkey’s Foreign Policy

Aegean Dispute- Wikipedia

China’s “Silk Road” in the Eastern Mediterranean and Beyond


China’s economic and political footprint has expanded so rapidly that many countries, even those with relatively strong state institutions and civil society organizations, found it difficult to manage the effects of this extension. The United States and the advanced industrial democracies of Japan, Australia and Western Europe are paying more and more attention to this issue. Whether Beijing seeks to use debt as a tool to expand its influence and leverage over other countries remains under debate. 

The Belt and Road Initiative ( BRI) is the foundation of President Xi Jinping’s foreign policy through which China is trying to establish connections with more than 100 countries in the world. The BRI was officially launched by Xi in 2013, and was added into China’s constitution in 2017, The Economist reported.

The projects revolve around the improvement of physical infrastructure in these countries in order to open trade routes and transport corridors that approximately correspond to the historic Silk Road routes that consisted of both land and sea corridors connecting the East and the West to each other.

From the British point of view of BBC‘s, despite that China being technically a “communist” country, the government had put its faith in trickle-down economics, believing that allowing some people to become extremely rich would benefit all of society by dragging it out of the disastrous quagmire of Chairman Mao’s Cultural Revolution as quickly as possible.

After the 1989 fall of communism in the Soviet bloc, five self-declared communist states remain today: China, Cuba, Laos, North Korea and Vietnam. Belarus and Venezuela can also be added to the mix as they fulfil the criteria of a communist state – even though they do not officially invoke the ideology. So, at present, the number stands at seven. Another question arising now is that if capitalism is the engine of China’s economy at present, what is communism today? And if the number of communist states is poised to grow in the near future, as some predict, what does this prospect mean for capitalism?

China managed to fend off the post-Mao malaise with the introduction of Deng Xiaoping’s reforms in late 1978, which redefined for several decades the meaning of the special brand of Leninism known since the 1980s as “socialism with Chinese characteristics”. Yet only a decade later, the PRC became an international pariah again after the brutal suppression of the 1989 democracy movement known as the “Beijing Spring”. 

Few would have contemplated, much less predicted, in 1989 that the PRC would rise again so soon and so dramatically, and become within a few short decades a major global player, aspiring, plausibly, to (re)design the “future of all mankind”. Yet it was, arguably, exactly this hopeful, pivotal year of 1989 that set China on this path and ultimately led to its current position in the world.

There is no place for dissent that would disrupt the harmony between the wise rulers and the devoted masses. The market economy and private ownership are only tolerated insofar as they help the party achieve its goals.  The country is ruled by law, but it is the party that decides what the law is and interprets it as needed. As Xi Jinping declares, the main feature of the New Era is the unquestionable leadership of the party in all aspects of life. He is fond of quoting Chairman Mao’s adage: “The Party, the government, the army, the people, the education; East West South North and the centre—the Party leads it all !

In the beginning of China’s expansion, it was about the potential of China, especially after Deng’s Open-Door Policy. In the second stage, the discussion transformed from its possibilities to its increasing influence on the global economy, especially after its membership to the World Trade Organization. In the third and last stage, especially after BRI, the discussion is shifting to China’s ever more complex balancing act between nations. 

China ‘s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) in the Eastern Mediterranean region

The Eastern Mediterranean remains a region of critical importance for the United States and the West. Through Greece and Cyprus, it is a frontier of the European Union. Through Greece and Turkey, it is also a NATO frontier. The presence of Israel, a unique U.S. ally, adds to the region’s geopolitical significance. Coupled with the fallout from the conflict in Syria, the rise in political tensions, close encounters between military forces, and overlapping territorial and resource claims among allies and partners in the region, divisions and instability have increased. These developments have created opportunities not just for Russia, but increasingly for China to exert influence.

For the record, during the era of the Egyptian leader Gamal Abdel Nasser, Egypt was the first Middle Eastern and African country to recognize the People’s Republic of China in 1956. Former President Hosni Mubarak was one of the first foreign leaders to visit Beijing after the 1989 Tiananmen Square massacre.

It is no surprise the Chinese state-owned conglomerate TEDA is the biggest investor in the Suez Canal industrial zone near the city of Ain Sokhna. The company operates an industrial park with 85 companies and more than 4,000 employees.

China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) project , of which the Mediterranean is a key part, has forced the United States and Europe to think more seriously about geopolitics for the first time since the Cold War. Geopolitical competition requires the orchestration of political, economic, and security instruments in the words of China’s Foreign Minister. The challenge for the United States and Europe going forward will be to agree on the problems posed by BRI, and then to develop a set of integrated strategies in response.

The sudden Chinese economic growth occurring at the end of the 1970s, coupled with its government’s strategy to promote Chinese investment abroad at the end of the 1990s gradually reduced the economic gap between China and the Mediterranean. Under Xi Jinping, Chinese diplomacy has become more active, not only through the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), but also by expanding their economy globally.

China heavily invests in infrastructure and acquisitions of European companies. Especially in the Eastern Mediterranean, China is building an enormous economic presence. Its involvement in major infrastructure projects is growing at a rapid pace and may have a significant impact on trade routes that traverse this strategically located region.

The Mediterranean Sea is one of the most important maritime highways of all international trade routes around the globe. It is a focal point, as it represents the western end of the BRI. Given the Mediterranean’s strategic position, China has stepped up its presence in the region by acquiring, building, modernizing, expanding, and operating the most important Mediterranean ports and terminals in Greece, Egypt, Algeria, Turkey, and Israel. Beijing wants to capitalize on the Mediterranean’s geographical proximity to become a major distribution hub for Chinese goods to the European Union (EU), its biggest trading partner. The increasing economic ties between China and Europe are giving the Mediterranean region an opportunity to regain its place at the forefront of international trade.

China is the main geopolitical rival to the United States in the Asia Pacific region. As this rivalry intensifies, it is likely to affect other regions. China has major ambitions in the Eastern Mediterranean in the area of infrastructure and transportation, and the greater its regional involvement becomes, the larger the risk becomes of this spill-over effect, regarding a potential economic trade war with other nations.

China’s activities in the area, while relatively new, are growing in scale. In the sphere of investment and trade, the Eastern Mediterranean is a conduit for Chinese power into Europe. Through the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), China has gained influence over strategic infrastructure, from 5G networks to port facilities. Two important examples include a nearly €600 million investment in the Greek port of Piraeus (dating back to 2006), and China’s success in bringing Italy on board to the BRI in March 2019.

In addition, China also continues bilateral negotiations with Turkey on the Port of Izmir, and Istanbul holds strategic importance for the BRI. Its alliance with Egypt constitutes a very critical point for China’s trade because of the significance of the Suez Canal for intercontinental maritime trade from Asia to Europe. Moreover, China also has the right to manage the Port of Ashdod in Israel for forty-nine years.

For China, the way to secure the BRI’s trade interests in the Mediterranean is not only to abstain from intervention in the domestic politics of other countries, but also to prevent any conflict between those countries. 

  • The BRI as a debt trap for less-developed countries ?

However, labeling the BRI a debt trap is not only insulting to the borrowing countries, who feel they are being accused of gullibility, but it also neglects the domestic root of this debt problem. Although China often claims that it is not exporting its system of governance, the BRI’s “hidden debt” is an offshoot of the public-private partnership (PPP) trend that took off within China over the past decade as more and more local governments leveraged capital from the business sector to help fund large infrastructure projects.

The reviving of the Silk Road: These projects were being planned and undertaken as of December 2015 in China’s Belt and Road initiative.

To be sure, China is not the only country spreading the PPP gospel, which began in Western countries and gained support from multilateral development banks as a solution to the Global South’s infrastructure gap. Still, whether in the West or China, PPPs have not proven to be a silver bullet. Many projects suffered heavy losses that eventually required a public bailout.

In China, PPPs are particularly problematic given that state-owned enterprises, with their privileged access to China’s state-controlled financial system, often act as the local governments’ “private” partners in PPP projects. This off-balance-sheet financial arrangement, coupled with inevitable moral hazard problems, has perpetuated China’s string of inefficient domestic investments, such as the infamous “ghost towns” that blight many parts of the country. While Beijing-backed overseas PPP projects have caught the U.S. foreign policy circle’s attention, it is important to keep in mind that China’s domestic hidden debt is a much bigger concern for Beijing. A September 2017 report estimated China’s PPP projects at around $2.7 trillion.

Sources and further analyze :

The right of protest in Turkey


One think is sure! After the “coup d’état” in 2015, the Don Quixote imaginary Neo-Sultan of the New Ottoman Empire, Mr Erdogan seized all powers in his hand and made the army of the country his puppet.

People cannot protest peacefully in the country anymore. Even the LGBT gay pride was not authorized and people got arrested.

Historically, In 1858 the Ottoman Empire—the predecessor of the modern-day Republic of Turkey— adopted a new penal code, which no longer contained any explicit articles criminalizing homosexuality. The Ottoman Penal Code of 1858 was heavily influenced by the Napoleonic Code, as part of wider reforms during the Tanzimat period. LGBT people have had the right to seek asylum in Turkey under the Geneva Convention since 1951, but same-sex couples are not given the same legal protections available to heterosexual couples. Transgender people have been allowed to change their legal gender since 1988. Although discrimination protections regarding sexual orientation and gender identity or expression have been debated legally, they have not yet been legislated.

In response to the recent crackdown on the Istanbul Pride Parade, Freedom House issues the following statement:

“The continuing assault on LGBT+ people in Turkey was on full display with the use of tear gas and rubber bullets to prevent the Istanbul Pride March,” said Marc Behrendt, director of Europe and Eurasia programs at Freedom House. “This latest crackdown is part of a larger effort to roll back LGBT+ and women’s rights in Turkey, which also includes the withdrawal from the Istanbul Convention and the prosecution of Boğaziçi University students for holding rainbow flags. The government must stop the continuing assault on LGBT+ communities and guarantee fundamental rights protections of all people in Turkey.”

On June 26th, police used tear gas and fired rubber bullets to disperse the annual pride parade in Istanbul. At least 20 people, including Agence France-Presse (AFP) photographer Bülent Kılıç, were detained by the authorities. Kılıç was violently arrested, with police breaking his camera and pressing on his neck. AFP denounced Kılıç’s treatment, while Kılıç himself has filed a complaint against the police. The Istanbul pride parade has been banned since 2014, though participants have consistently marched in defiance of that ban. Four days before this year’s march, police forcefully dispersed a pride-week picnic in the city, detaining at least one person.

The crackdown on the Turkish LGBT+ community has intensified since Boğaziçi University students began protesting the appointment of Melih Bulu, an ally of Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, as rector in January. Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu later called student protesters “LGBT deviants,” after protesters disseminated a photograph that included Islamic and LGBT+ imagery. Twelve people who were detained in March after carrying a rainbow flag at a protest, meanwhile, faced their second judicial hearing earlier today.

In May, the European Region of the International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association (ILGA-Europeranked Turkey the second-worst country in Europe for LGBT+ rights. On June 17th, Council of Europe (CoE) human rights commissioner Dunja Mijatović called on the Turkish government to respect the rights of LGBT+ people to assemble, criticizing the banning of pride marches and noting a “visible rise in hateful rhetoric and the propagation of homophobic narratives” by Turkish politicians and officials.

Turkey is rated Not Free in Freedom in the World 2021 and Not Free in Freedom on the Net 2020.

Analyzing The facts

However, at the same time, during the parade protest much worse things happened in the back streets of Istanbul, Taksim Istiklal Street (where the walk is intended). This district is called Cihangir.

Police forces attacked people sitting in cafes in Cihangir. People they were sitting there, some of them were unmasked as an excuse given by the police to attack them. We understand this from their speeches in the videos. Nonetheless, the police forces obviously intercepted any person whose appearance seemed “marginal” given the potential to participate in this parade, and then, they found the excuse to attack them. And when the customers of the cafes objected, they were arrested by the police force. Here is a twitter link:

The police forces , at that moment, lost its temper and even took their phone from someone’s hand, then most likely they deleted the footage. The police has the right from now on to do so as on April 30, 2021, the Turkish General Directorate of Security issued a circular stating that “it was decided to prevent people who recorded the images or voices of the police during the protests and to take legal action against them”.

“Controversial Circular from the Police: Recording images is now prohibited”
https://www.cumhuriyet.com.tr/haber/emniyetten-tartisma-yaratacak-genelge-goruntu-kaydetmek-artik-yasak-1832275

“In the circular in question, it was argued that sharing the audio and video recordings of the police officers and civilians on social media “violates the privacy of private life”, while it was argued that receiving audio and video also prevented them from doing their duty.”

Already since the 15 July 2016 FETO coup attempt, Turkey has been governed mostly by the decrees of Tayyip Erdoğan and the circulars of such public institutions.

Here another video: https://twitter.com/tugbaaozerr/status/1408820117123780608

In this video, the young man walking to the side of the police bus says that he is a lawyer and that what they are doing is illegal, almost begging. But the female cop almost glues him to the vehicle. At the end of the video, a young woman protests and says there is abuse here. The police says there is not any abuse.

But beyond all that, there is something much more interesting in this short video. At the beginning of the video, it is seen that male and female policemen are waiting in line. And all of the female cops on line are not wearing headscarves. However, three of the three female police officers heading towards the bus and detained the young woman are wearing headscarves.

After the 2016 FETO coup attempt in Turkey, the recruitment of headscarved women into the army and police forces was enacted by the AKP government.

This was not legal in Turkey before in the kemalist period . And with the democratization approval period of accessing to the European Union, it became law to admit women without headscarves to the public institutions of Turkey.

Wearing a headscarf or not has no meaning for the West. But it does for Turkey. Since its establishment, it has applied a principle of secularism in that way. In other words, headscarved women, or men with fez or turban, or any religious symbol of any religion could not wear any official clothing in public until the last 5 years. 

Why was this implemented? Turkey is a predominantly Sunni Muslim country. In the years it was founded, the literacy rate was around 12%. And it would not be wrong to say that the imams of mosques, which were in almost every neighborhood, were more involved in people’s lives and influenced the public. We know this from some imams who cooperated with the British during the War of Independence of Turkey, 1919-1923. And with the collapsing of the Ottoman sultanate, the loss of the caliphate and the fear of losing the power of some of the imams made them cooperate with those who invaded their country. And they did this not only on the basis of religion, but also on ethnic identity. The most important thing to do in this situation should have been to implement laws in order to prevent this. As stated in the second of the first three unalterable articles of the Turkish constitution, “The Republic of Turkey is a democratic, secular and social state of law.”

For this reason, all kinds of religious symbols were removed from the public domain. Because if even one of them were allowed, it would have been against the principle of secularism, and the already overwhelming influence of the Sunni Muslim majority in the country would increase. 


However, the Western world pointed this law against free expression and life, by presenting Atatürk as a dictator, anything that is contrary to the founding principles of Turkey, and in a sense, contrary to the Republic of Turkey founded by Atatürk. According to our information and as most West politicians having influence at that time stated, they supported Tayyip Erdogan from the very beginning, supposedly saying in their own minds, “Yes, Atatürk was a dictator, but he was not our dictator, we need a dictator in our own hands”. Even if the EU says they do not support him sometimes, we can say that they use this just as a rhetoric, as EU countries have never come into conflict with the government of Tayyip Erdogan because it will influence the trade negatively. 

It is obvious what kind of result a country like Turkey has had with the so-called democratization pressure on Turkey’s founding laws, by putting aside its internal dynamics, history and culture. Just like what happened in Cihangir last week. 

If we go back to the video, it is a complete FETO tactic, especially if these three women wearing headscarves were given the task of detaining the young woman and acting while having in mind that these images will become widespread. FETO, too, had done its best to stir up every internal dynamic in Turkey and to materialize this.

Tayyip Erdogan and his government are aware of the bad situation of the country economically and socially. And it is very clear that they are thinking of creating an environment where they can put more pressure and increase the discomfort in the country by showing some dynamics dividing the society to “secular and non-secular” .

Isn’t that strange that Tayyip Erdogan his relatives and supporters behave in the same way with the FETO line tactics are still being applied while they are stating that they are against FETO movement?

Here the 3rd video: https://twitter.com/t24comtr/status/1408849571414003716

“The citizen, who reacted to the sound bomb thrown by the police at the Pride Parade, saying “The child is sleeping”, was detained by the police.

And as the police chief instructions orders “Go upstairs and take him!” that citizen on the balcony has been taken into custody also. 


Of course, this police violence was not limited to those who participated in the LTGB pride parade, the ones sitting in the coffee shops in the back streets of Istiklal road, journalists should not be forgotten. The press freedom reports regarding Turkey already are not heart-warming :

“Report: Turkey ranks second after China in the number of journalists imprisoned this year”https://tr.euronews.com/2020/12/15/rapor-turkiye-cin-den-sonra-bu-y-l-en-fazla-hapsedilen-gazeteci-say-s-nda-ikinci-s-rada

The report states that as of December 1, 2020, 274 journalists were still held in prison in the world, while China (47), Turkey (37) and Egypt (27) were among the top three in this list.”

Bulent Kılıc, photojournalist for the French news agency AFP, who was detained with the harsh intervention of the police during the 19th Pride Parade in Taksim, Istanbul, was one of these journalists.

https://twitter.com/A3Haber/status/1408789501800034308


“The reporter who followed the Pride Parade was detained after being suffocated by his throat.”

Kılıc, who shared on his Twitter account, used the following statements:


https://twitter.com/Kilicbil/status/1408898398309257217


“I was intended to be killed, I was intended to be left breathless. I will hold accountable for whoever did this to me, in the Constitutional Court, European Human Rights, whatever, whatever court in this world, it will be held accountable in court as long as I live. It will not be left for the Supreme Court.”

These are some of the photos in LTGB pride by Bulent Kılıç took before he was taken into custody


https://twitter.com/yasinnakgul/status/1408901737059082257

This is what happened in Turkey in just a day or even a few hours. It is obvious that the censorship applied in Turkey is one of the worst during nowadays and this kind of dictatorial pressure must end soon in the country.

erdogan rainbow flag
A Photo of “Neo Sultan Erdogan” draped in LGBT and make-up since he hates LGBT 🙂

Sources:

Freedom House : Turkey: Authorities Violently Disperse Pride Event

 Ishtiaq Hussain (15 February 2011). “The Tanzimat: Secular Reforms in the Ottoman Empire” (PDF). Faith Matters. Archived (PDF) from the original on 17 October 2016. Retrieved 5 December 2014.

Wikipedia: LGBT rights in Turkey

See report of Kaos GL: Turkey’s LGBT History: The 1990sArchived 24 May 2009 at the Wayback Machine. Retrieved 16 October 2009.

6th İzmir Pride Parade: ‘We’ll Walk Up to Fear'”. bianet.org. Retrieved 12 June 2018.

The Economic Outlook of Turkey in June 2021


From humble beginnings Recep Tayyip Erdogan has grown into a political giant, reshaping Turkey more than any leader since Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, the revered father of the modern republic.

But in recent years the economy has deteriorated. Inflation is nearly 12% and the Turkish lira has slumped against the dollar. Coronavirus is exacerbating Turkey’s economic woes.

When he became Turkish leader back in March 2003 the lira rate was 1.6 to the dollar – now it is above 8.0. His early years in power were marked by solid growth and a development boom.

1: Turkish Lira Exchange Rate to US Dollar, Source: XE

The World Bank on April estimated that Turkey’s poverty rate rose to 12.2% last year, from 10.2% in 2019, and said returning to pre-pandemic levels would be a challenge. The World Bank also states that Turkey’s economic and social development performance since the early 2000s has been impressive, leading to increased employment and incomes and making Turkey an upper-middle-income country. However, in the past few years, growing economic vulnerabilities and a more challenging external environment have threatened to undermine those achievements. 

The World Bank said the impact of the pandemic would be a “struggle to shake off” globally but that Turkey’s economy is expected to grow 5% this year due a recovery in exports.

It warned that rising inflation in advanced economies could lead to “destabilising movements in global liquidity away from emerging markets” and added that growth prospects could also be hit by a resurgence of COVID-19 cases.

Analysis

For most of the period since 2000, Turkey has maintained a long-term focus on implementing ambitious reforms in many areas, and government programs have targeted vulnerable groups and disadvantaged regions. Poverty incidence more than halved over 2002–15, and extreme poverty fell even faster. 

During this time, Turkey rapidly urbanized, maintained strong macroeconomic and fiscal policy frameworks, opened to foreign trade and finance, harmonized many laws and regulations with European Union (EU) standards, and greatly expanded access to public services. It also recovered well from the global financial crisis of 2008/09.

The Turkish economy was one of few globally to expand in 2020 despite coronavirus fallout, thanks largely to a credit boom around mid-year.

Overall inflation was around 12% – and near 20% for food – for much of last year before climbing. Tourism revenue sharply declined and exports fell, leading to a large current account deficit.

The government in response topped up employee wages and banned layoffs, keeping a lid on the unemployment rate.

The recent Turkish crisis, started in 2018, was caused by the Turkish economy’s excessive current account deficit and large amounts of private foreign-currency denominated debt, in combination with President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s increasing authoritarianism and his unorthodox ideas about interest rate policy.  Some analysts also stress the leveraging effects of the geopolitical frictions with the United States and recently enforced tariffs by the Trump administration on some Turkish products such as steel and aluminum.

The Turkish lira keeps to fall when comparing to the dollar and euro (as strong currencies) and has come under more pressure in recent weeks, in a continuing crisis that started in 2018, as investors try to assess whether the country’s central bank will heed the demands of its president to cut interest rates. But a rate cut could drag the lira down further at the same time that the country’s high inflation rate is already diminishing the currency’s buying power.

The overall macroeconomic picture is more vulnerable and uncertain, given rising inflation and unemployment, contracting investment, elevated corporate and financial sector vulnerabilities, and patchy implementation of corrective policy actions and reforms. There are also significant external headwinds due to ongoing geopolitical tensions in the subregion. 

COVID has deepened gender gaps and increased youth unemployment and the poverty rate. The risk of inequalities has also been increasing. The COVID-19 crisis is expected to have severely negative consequences for Turkey, further weakening economic and social gains.

There is an “exchange rate illusion” in Turkey’s economic growth data, according to Enver Erkan, chief economist at Istanbul-based Tera Yatirim, who’s ranked by Bloomberg as the most accurate forecaster on Turkish GDP data.

Noting that the GDP per capita in U.S. dollar terms dropped nearly 40% since 2013 to around $7,700 last year, Erkan said Turkey’s recent economic model isn’t sustainable as the growth is mainly driven by consumption supported by government spending and loan campaigns.

A stronger dollar would also add further pressure to the Turkish lira. Turkey’s currency hit a record low on June 4, when it fell to 8.7532 lira to the U.S. dollar, after Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan called for lower interest rates by July or August. That has left investors to assess whether the country’s central bank will heed Mr. Erdogan’s demands.

Mr. Erdogan has fired three central bank chiefs in less than two years, and he prefers low rates as a part of a strategy to encourage growth. His reluctance to have higher interest rates could mean that investors’ returns are eroded. A recent rise in the cost of oil past $70 a barrel is also likely to boost inflation in Turkey.

Turkey’s consumer price inflation eased to 16.59 percent year-on-year in May 2021, from a near two-year high of 17.14 percent in the previous month and below market expectations of 17.25 percent. Still, the rate remined well above the central bank’s medium-term 5 percent target, with upward pressure coming from food and non-alcoholic beverages (17.04 percent vs 16.98 percent in April), transport (28.39 percent vs 29.31 percent), housing and utilities (14.08 percent vs 13.60 percent), furnishings, household equipment and routine maintenance (21.79 percent vs 22.27 percent), hotels, cafes and restaurants (17.73 percent vs 16.81 percent), clothing and footwear (5.75 percent vs 11.03 percent), and miscellaneous goods and services (17.92 percent vs 18.27 percent). The core consumer price inflation rate, which excludes volatile items such as energy, food and non-alcoholic beverages, alcoholic beverages, tobacco and gold, slowed to 16.99 percent in May from 17.77 percent in April.

2. Turkish Inflation Rate, Source: Trading Economics

Turkey’s Industrial Output

3.Turkey’s Industrial Output in March 2021

Turkey grew faster than all Group of 20 nations except for China in the first quarter after nearly stalling a year ago when Covid-19 struck. It’s been bolstered by robust consumption on the back of last year’s government-led push to cut interest rates and boost lending.

Gross domestic product rose 7% from a year earlier and 1.7% from the fourth quarter. The median of 22 forecasts in a Bloomberg survey was for 6.3% growth compared to the same period in 2020.

“This comes at the expense of lira and price stability,” he said.

The government pushed banks to ramp up lending to help businesses and consumers ride out last year’s Covid-19 emergency. The credit boom was coupled with a front-loaded easing cycle that helped prime the economy. That growth push weakened the currency by 20% last year and kept headline inflation in double digits. The size of the economy dropped to $717 billion last year from $760.8 billion a year earlier.

  • Automotive Industry

Turkey’s automotive production, including light commercial vehicles, tractors, and automobiles, amounted to 532,441 million units in January-May, a sectoral report revealed on Monday.

The sector posted a strong recovery with a 28.2% increase year-on-year in the January-May period, after dramatic falls last year due to the COVID-19 pandemic measures.

Last year, the automotive production narrowed by 11% versus 2019 and decreased by 34% year-on-year in the first five months.

While the sector surpassed 2020 figures, it could not reach 2018 and 2019 figures yet, when the production was 712,022 and 625,946 units, respectively.

4. Turkey’s economy Outperforming in first quarter of 2021, Source : Bloomberg
  • Exports

According to the country’s Trade Minister ,Turkey’s foreign sales powered ahead as exporters achieved their second-best May ever.

Exports surged 65.5% year-on-year to reach $16.6 billion (TL 142.48 billion) last month, Muş told a news conference in the capital Ankara.

Sales were up from nearly $10 billion a year ago, battered by the fallout from the coronavirus pandemic that had temporarily shut borders.

They increased despite the strictest lockdown yet that covered part of May. Turkey remains a big trade power in the world as its trade continues rising.

Turkey shipped US$169.5 billion worth of goods around the globe in 2020. That dollar amount reflects an 18.8% increase since 2016 but a -0.9% drop from 2019 to 2020. That figure also represents roughly 0.9% of overall global exports estimated at $18.709 trillion one year earlier during 2019 (calculated as of February 17, 2020).

Applying a continental lens, 55.7% of Turkey’s exports by value were delivered to European countries while 26% were sold to Asian importers. Turkey shipped another 9% worth of goods to Africa. Smaller percentages went to North America (6.9%), Latin America excluding Mexico but including the Caribbean (1.7%) then Oceania led by Australia, Marshall Islands and New Zealand (0.7%).

5.Turkey’s Trade with the European Union, Source: EUROSTAT
6.Turkey among the world’s largest traders of goods, 2019, Source: Eurostat
7. Turkey’s Top Trade Partners, 2019 , Source: Eurostat
8. Turkey among the EU’s main partners for trade in goods, 2020, Source : Eurostat
9. EU trade with Turkey by product group, 2010 and 2020, Source Eurostat

The breakdown of EU trade with Turkey by SITC groups is shown in Figure 6. The red shades denote the primary products: food & drink, raw materials and energy, while the blue shades show the manufactured goods: chemicals, machinery & vehicles and other manufactured goods. Finally, other goods are shown in green. In 2020, EU exports of manufactured goods (84 %) had a higher share than primary goods (12 %). The most exported manufactured goods were machinery & vehicles (44 %), followed by other manufactured products (22 %) and chemicals (18 %). In 2020, EU imports of manufactured goods (87 %) also had a higher share than primary goods (12 %). The most imported manufactured goods were other manufactured products (43 %), followed by machinery & vehicles (39 %) and chemicals (6 %).

10. EU trade with Turkey by group, 2010-2020, Source: Eurostat
11. EU imports of goods from Turkey, 2020 Source Eurostat
12. EU exports of goods to Turkey, 2020, Source: Eurostat

Sources:

1; The Wall Street Journal: Turkey’s Troubles Point to Emerging-Market Risks as Economies Recover, Accessed: 19th of June 2021

2. World Bank. Country : Turkey : Overview. Accessed : 19th of June, 2021

3. Wikipedia: Turkish Currency and Debt Crisis, Accessed : 19th of June, 2021

4. Bloomberg: Turkish Economy Likely Outperformed Most Peers But at a Cost, Accessed : 19th of June, 2021  

5. Borzou Daragahi (25 May 2018). “Erdogan Is Failing Economics 101”. Foreign Policy.

6.“Inflation rise poses challenge to Erdogan as election looms”Financial Times. 5 June 2018.

7.  Matt O’Brien (13 July 2018). “Turkey’s economy looks like it’s headed for a big crash”Washington Post.

8. “Turkey’s Lessons for Emerging Economies – Caixin Global”http://www.caixinglobal.com. Retrieved 20 August 2018.

9. Goujon, Reva (16 August 2018). “Making Sense of Turkey’s Economic Crisis”Stratfor. Archived from the original on 16 August 2018.