"Turkey: Muslim and Modern" Student Reporting


11/17 Gulen Affiliated Channels Dropped Out of Satellite by Emre Kiziltug

The state-owned Turkish Satellite Communications Company (Turksat) dropped a total of 13 TV and radio channels that belong to supporters of Gulen Movement, a transnational religious and social movement led by Turkish scholar and preacher Fethullah Gulen. The broadcasts of the TV stations were halted by Turksat because of a legal obligation to the order of the prosecutor's office, based on the suspicion that the channels support the Gulen Movement, which is seen as a terrorist organization by the government. These channels can still be watched through other satellites, but most of the population in Turkey has only access to Turksat. This means that ratings of these channels might drop significantly which would make it very hard for channels to sustain their existence.

The conflicts between the Gulen movement and President Erdogan along with AKP (ruling Justice and Development Party) seemingly started after two corruption investigation were exposed in December 2013. The investigations included the son of Mr. Erdogan, who was the prime minister at that time, 3 ministers and their children, bureaucrats and businessmen. Mr. Erdogan denied all allegations and referred these investigations as a coup that were conducted to take down him and his government.  He accused the police and the prosecutors of being related to the Gulen Movement, a movement which was once a strong ally of Erdogan, and trying to replace the government unlawfully. After this, Erdogan declared the Gulen Movement a terrorist organization and started a war against the movement. He discarded many policemen and bureaucrats who were allegedly members of the movement, seized the Bank Asia, a bank owned by the Gulen supporters, and two other TV channels and newspapers which were also owned by the Gulen supporters. Last move came as an expected result of the November elections, at which AKP won 49,5% of the votes and regained its majority in parliament it lost in June Elections. Analysts expect the situation to get worse for the Gulen Movement.

11/17 US, Turkey to close northern Syria border by Shafali Jalota

On Tuesday, US Secretary of State John Kerry announced that Turkey and the US will work together to shut down the rest of the border between Turkey and northern Syria.  In the wake of a large-scale terrorist attack in Paris, France, leaders from Russia, the US, and European and Middle-eastern countries met in Vienna, Austria, to discuss plans for Syria and the eradication of the so-called Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS).

Currently, 75% of the border with northern Syria has been shut off, according to Secretary Kerry in an interview with CNN.  “We are entering an operation with the Turks to shut off the remaining 98 km (61 miles),” he stated.  This remaining 25% of the border is currently under ISIS control.  The lack of security in this zone of the border results in that area becoming an important access route for foreign fighters to get to ISIS and for illegal trade that raises funds for ISIS.  The US and Turkey hope that by fighting to secure the border, ISIS will lose a valuable access route to the rest of Europe.  This will undermine the security of ISIS, and will potentially be a game-changer in the Middle-east.

The joint US-Turkish plan hinges on the involvement of US trained Syrian moderates who would fight ISIS on the ground.  These fighters would also be responsible for helping to coordinate air strikes launched from air bases in Turkey.

Turkish officials stated “We are in a common struggle with the U.S. against Daesh [ISIS] and in the coming days some steps will be taken together,” according to Yahoo news.  However, the official declined to comment further.

Turkey has declined to completely close the border based on humanitarian reasons until recently, so the Turkish response to this development remains to be fully seen.  Turkey has said that it will keep its borders open to allow Syrian refugees to move into Turkey and escape the poor conditions in Syria.

11/10 Syrian Refugees not in Turkish Schools by Anthony Schneider

Syrian Refugees not in Turkish Schools The term "refugee crisis" has a certain connotation of impermanence; crises are usually thought of as single, shocking events, rather than a drawn-out process that unfolds over the course of months and years. However, for the refugees of the Syrian civil war, that is their reality: the conflict is still dragging on, with no sign of an imminent resolution. The inexorable march of time has had an even more adverse effect on the younger generation of Syrians: before the war, the country boasted a 99% public school enrollment rate, but among the over 700,000 school-aged refugee children living in Turkey, only just over 200,000 are enrolled in either the Turkish public school system or the temporary schools set up by charitable organization.

This isn't a simple case of negligence, at least not maliciously so. The Turkish government has been allowing Syrian children to enroll in its public schools since 2014, and many have. However, there have been widespread problems reported with integration, including social ostracization and, most importantly, an Arabic-Turkish language barrier. Not to mention, given that refugees are officially forbidden to work in Turkey, many children have joined their families in a vast underground labor market that pays so low that the whole family must work just to survive. Meanwhile, the specific refugee schools are far too few and too spread out, especially given that the vast majority of refugees live outside of the specified camps. The primary issues appears to be the same one that has bedeviled all other attempts at managing the crisis: it's far larger and longer than anyone expected, while still being officially "temporary." It would be hard to convince the Turkish government to build enough schools to house the roughly 500,000 uneducated children, whose parents aren't taxpaying citizens and are expected to leave someday.

Unfortunately for the children, "someday" is looking to be a long, long time from now. 

Also see this news story by Shafali Jalota on the subject of the education of Syrian children in Turkey: Syria’s Lost Generation: a Struggle for Children’s Education, October 18th, 2015.

11/02 PACE Voices Worries about Election Process by Anthony Schneider

Sunday's election looks like an unadulterated triumph for Erdogan and the AKP, with the party managing to claw back the parliamentary majority it won (lost) earlier this year. Erdogan has publicly referred to the results as indicative of the Turkish people's desire for "stability," and seems eager to get along with implementing his newly-strengthened mandate. Unfortunately, some international observers aren't sharing the jubilant mood present in Ankara the past two days.

Specifically, the Parliamentary Assembly Council of Europe, or PACE, have issued a statement criticizing the "climate of violence and fear" that pervaded the country before and during the election. Principally they referred to the widespread abrogation of the freedom of press, in particular the shutting down of newspapers and radio channels associated with the opposition, that has been a major international black mark on Erdogan's regime, as well as the jailing of prominent HDP leaders for alleged connections with the terrorist PKK.

 Erdogan has responded to these criticisms by chiding the commentators to worry about their own country and respect the "national will" of Turkey. That said, no official international inquiry has been raised, so barring any dramatic revelations it is likely the European Union will not contest the results or charge the AKP with subverting the democratic process. After all, there have been no allegations of ballot tampering or voter intimidation, just an atmosphere that is hostile to the opposition, and that has been in the international eye since the snap elections were first announced. Freedom of press has always been something of a touchy subject in the Turkish Republic, and the latest controversies simply represent the continuation of a trend that predates the AKP by decades. The real question is, now that Erdogan's power is firmly entrenched, will he and his party relax their suppression of opposition press, or will they take Turkey further down the path towards a state-sponsored single-party?

11/02 Turkey Pursues TurkStream Despite on going Dispute with Russia by Emerson Lovell

Russia’s involvement in Syria has resulted in a standstill between Russia and its second largest gas consumer, Turkey. Turkey purchases between 28-30 billion cubic metres of gas from Russia annually. That translates to approximately $6.5 billion, which makes Russia, Turkey’s largest gas supplier. In addition to gas, Russia supplies 35% of Turkey’s oil. Due to the sheer volume of natural energy traffic between Russia and Turkey, the two countries entered an agreement in December of 2014 to create the TurkStream gas pipeline. The TurkStream gas pipeline was planned to have a capacity of 64 billion cubic metres of gas. Since February there has been delays in the building of the pipeline. The pipeline was supposed to be completed by December of 2016 but the standstill has resulted in an ambiguous start date as well as the capacity of the pipeline being cut in half. In addition to the claimed commencement of the pipeline another promise was made in February. Gazprom, the Russian Public Joint Stock Company that is the world’s largest extractor of natural gas, promised Turkey that it would receive a 10.25% price discount on gas. Turkey has yet to see this discount and has decided to pursue legal action. According to the Turkish Ministry of Energy and Natural Resources, BOTAS, the state-owned crude oil and natural gas Pipeline Company, filed an international arbitration case on October 26th 2015, in relation to the purchases of natural gas from Russia being from December 2014. According to Sergei Kupriyanov, Gazprom’s spokesman, "Filing an arbitration claim is one of the options under the contract terms. The possibility of an out-of-court settlement, as well as an arbitration decision still remains.” It is imperative for Turkey that this deal is arranged as Turkey has an ideal geographical position to capitalize on as it looks to serve as an energy hub with the ability to supply gas and oil to Europe and Eastern Economies. The potential revenue for Turkey is huge as only 16 billion cubic metres of gas supplied in the pipeline will be for Turkey. Though at a standstill currently, the incentives for both countries are undeniable.

10/27 Football Fans Arrested Because of Peace Signs by Bill Hunt

Football Fans Arrested Because of Peace Signs Three fans attending a soccer matched were detained on Saturday, October 24, for unfurling banners protesting the October 10 bombings that killed 102 people in Ankara.  Identified by their initials only, these supporters of the Ankara-based Gençlerbirliği team, whose stadium is not far from the site of the attacks, silently held banners in the stands, reading “İyi Değiliz, iyi olmay acağız” (“We are not good and we will not be”) and “Ankara 10:04” – this second banner alluding to the time of the attacks.

Following the match, the three individuals were detained and, after giving testimony, were fined 208 Turkish lira, as Hurriyet reports, “on the grounds that they violated the misdemeanor law.”  The group’s lawyer immediately questioned the legality of their detention as a violation of their freedom of expression.

Rather than interpreting the act as a non-provocative gesture toward peace, stability, and national unity against terrorism, authorities appear to have regarded the quiet protest as a genuine disturbance of the peace.  And not without reason, as partisan violence at Turkish soccer matches has intensified over the past year.  Beyond increasingly brazen hooliganism during matches, the team bus for the Istanbul-based Fenerbahçe club was shot at in April 2015, an attack in which the driver sustained serious injury.  Without the ability to enforce real bans and sanctions against the worst offenders, the sport’s administrators have been powerless to curb the violence.  And as soccer fan affiliation in Turkey falls along dividing lines of ethnicity, class, and religion, in-game violence at soccer matches seems to mirror the internal hostilities that have intensified over the past year between the Turkish government, the PKK, and underground supporters of ISIS.

A law designed to curb politicized agitation at soccer matches has been applied to what was remembrance of the victims of the bombing and an ecumenical gesture toward peace.  It seems, however, in the current political climate, that calling for peace, national grieving, and unity is, in itself, a form of political agitation.

10/06 Russia And Turkey Governments To Sign Pipeline Deal by Talha Koc

Russia’s government aims to reach an agreement on a planned gas-pipeline project before the November elections in Turkey. Turkish Stream, as its called, is a pipeline project that aims to transport natural gas underneath the Black Sea from Russia to Turkey. Russia’s original plan was to build a pipeline to Eastern Europe, but due to various economic and political reasons (mainly EU sanctions), it shifted its target to Turkey in early December of 2014. Since then, the project has been moving at a slow pace. Turkish officials have been trying to bargain with Gazprom—the Russian oil behemoth—to lower its gas prices (Reed, Arsu).  Last week, Russia’s energy minister Alexander Novak announced that Russia’s government will set up an “intergovernmental agreement” with Turkey before a new government takes shape (Rapoza). Its aim is to finalize the technical aspects of the project before the new Turkish government is formed.

Russia’s government desires to play it safe with Turkish Stream, as political instability may disrupt the future of this agreement. For instance, Russia’s foreign policy in regards to Syria is at odds with Turkey's. Russia's military build-up in Syria may also cause tension between the two countries. Just yesterday, a Russian jet--violating its airspace--was intercepted by Turkish air forces. Furthermore, Turkey joined a US-led coalition against ISIS. If US-Russia relations worsen, Turkey will be torn between the two sides (Cullinane, Bilginsoy). In addition to political instability in foreign affairs, Turkey faces even greater challenges domestically because the political parties were unable to form a coalition after the general election. For this reason, it is difficult to predict Turkey’s future until the November 1st elections are over, a major reason for Moscow's desire for a quick agreement.

10/06 Refugee Crisis by Shafali Jalota

Turkish officials estimate that another 3 million Syrians may flee Syria as a result of the Syrian civil war.  These numbers will add to the already almost unprecedented numbers of Syrians and other migrants who are flooding into European and Middle Eastern nations.  The migrant crisis is the worst crisis of refugees since WWII, and at least 2,700 people have died in the Mediterranean this year. 

Turkey is currently estimated to have 2 million Syrian immigrants within its borders, more than any European nation.  Many of these refugees do not want to stay in Turkey.  Instead, they want to go to Northern Europe, where there is more economic growth and more opportunities for employment and security.  There are established routes into Northern Europe from Syria, most of which go through Turkey.  As a result, Turkey is a pivotal player in the migrant crisis.  Approximately 40,000 migrants arrived in Greece this year, mostly on small boats from Turkey. The EU recently approved a plan to relocate and house 120,000 migrants over the next two years.  In the light of Turkey’s situation and its prediction for the future, this number seems almost absurdly low. 

Turkey’s President Erdogan talked to senior officials in Brussels on Monday about the ongoing crisis and Turkey’s role.  Erdogan has been an outspoken critic of Europe’s response to the crisis, particularly against nations like Hungary who have built a fence to keep the refugees out.  Erdogan wants a safe haven and a no-fly zone over northern Syria.  However, the US has said that it will not enforce a no-fly zone and EU nations, notably Germany, have ruled out the possibility.  The EU’s executive commission is expected to reveal a memorandum on how Turkey and the EU will work together on the migration issue later today.  This issue is unlikely to be resolved in the near future, and with the advent of colder, wetter weather and continuing conflict in Turkey’s southeastern region the issue will only worsen.

10/06 Too Many Players on the Field by Chelsea Rodriguez

Russian jets entered Turkish airspace on two separate occasions over the weekend. Russia blamed bad weather for Saturday’s violation, which only lasted a few seconds. Russia has not released an official statement regarding the Sunday’s violation, but the Russian ambassador was called (for the second time) to meet with Turkish officials. Whether or not this was an innocent accident is speculation. Sunday’s violation happened in Yayladagi, located on the border between Turkey and Syria, so it could have been a navigation issue. Last week Presidents Erdogan and Putin met. Meeting details are unknown, but the general theme was creating a collation to combat the Syrian crisis, with possible United States involvement. Turkey is now entrenched in the fight against ISIS as a strategic outpost to monitor Syria and house US-trained rebels and shelter millions of refugees. The airspace violations are the second issue to arise out of the Russian involvement, earlier this week it was reported that Russia bombed rebels and civilians, not ISIS targets. Turkey must handle the situation carefully, because it could unwillingly and mistakenly become the victim of Russian negligence. Russia’s targets are too close to the Turkish border. So far Russia has bombed three cities near Turkey, bordering rebel territory: Darat-Izza, Jisr al-shughour, and Deir Hanna. NATO allies verbalized their disdain for Russian airspace violations in Turkey (describing it as “irresponsible behavior”) and bombing strategies in Syria. NATO instructed Russia to "take all necessary measures" to stop these violations from recurring. The more countries shackled into the Syrian crisis, the messier it will become for Turkey as more of the conflict crosses its borders and countries seek its cooperation. NATO and the US will interfere further. This time under the guise of security, despite Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu downplaying the situation by saying the Turkish air force intercepts even flying birds and that communication channels are open between Russia and Turkey.

09/29 Turkey’s Supreme Electoral Board to Decide on Transfer of Ballot Boxes by Emre Kiziltug

Turkey’s Supreme Electoral Board(YSK) is expected to make a highly critical decision today or tomorrow regarding transfer of ballot boxes in some villages and towns of southeast Turkey.

Due to a lack of security, many voting stations in the country's eastern and southeastern provinces may be transferred to different villages and towns. As a result, a multitude of voters are at risk of being unable to cast their ballots in the November 1st general election. Residents of several villages and neighborhoods in the region will be required to vote elsewhere if the country's top election authority (YSK) approves decisions made by local election boards.

In an effort to fight the PKK (the Pro-Kurdish terrorist organization that has been fighting Turkey for over 20 years) as many as 150 areas in a region composed of 15 predominantly Kurdish provinces including Diyarbakir, Sirnak, Bitlis, Batman, Mardin have been recently declared special security zones by governors’ offices. The neighborhoods and villages where no voting stations would be set up are places, the government argues, where residents' votes would be influenced by pressure from the PKK.

Critics say the attempts to move ballot boxes in certain areas in southeastern Turkey are part of a government plan to undermine support for the HDP (pro-Kurdish party), whose victory in the June election was a major factor stripping the Justice and Development Party (AKP: the ruling and governing party) of its parliamentary majority control. They state that most of the voters in the area voted for HDP in June elections and those voters may be unable to vote if asked to do so in another neighborhood due to security concerns and an inability to afford transportation, as many residents of the region live on very modest. Consequently, the HDP might not get into the parliament due to the 10% voting threshold, which would help AKP to regain its majority.

09/29 Davutoglu, Rouhani meet in NYC by Will Hunt

On Sunday, September 27, Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu held a closed-door meeting with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani in New York City.  Both men were in town for the 70th General Assembly of the United Nations.  Hakan Fidan, the head of Turkey’s National Intelligence Organization (MIT), and Foreign Minister Feridun Sinirlioglu also sat in. 

The two men evidently have a rapport.  While foreign minister, Davutoğlu attended Rouhani’s swearing-in as the Islamic Republic’s president in 2013; each made state visits to Iran and Turkey, respectively, in 2014.  The economic and political relationship between Turkey and Iran in the late-20th and 21st centuries has been largely positive – in spite of periods of tension during the Islamic Revolution, the ongoing Israel-Palestine conflict, the Arab Spring, and the installation of a NATO Missile Shield in Turkey in 2011.

A key focus of the meeting involved the deepening crises in Syria, Iraq, and Yemen.   Points of disagreement between Rouhani and Davutoğlu reportedly fell along their respective Sunni/Shiite sectarian loyalties in each of those conflicts  Shiite Iran’s staunch support for the regime of Bashar al-Assad in Syria – the Assads are members of the Shiite Alawhite minority – has caused friction.  Turkey has called for Assad to step down as his control over the country has dwindled.  Turkey has also raised objections to the presence of Iranian soldiers commanding Shiite militias in Iraq.  And in far-away Yemen, the Sunni government is engaged in a virtual civil war with the Shiite Houthis, as well as the local Sunni affiliates of al-Qaeda and Islamic State.

The ongoing rapport between the leaders of predominantly Shiite Iran and predominantly Sunni Turkey, as would-be arbiters of Sunni-Shia conflict, could be politically advantageous to both parties.  Extending their own spheres of influence by working together has the potential to offset Saudi Arabia’s political clout and primacy in the region.  But how to broker a peace along the sectarian faultlines of civil war in Syria, Iraq, and Yemen is a daunting challenge and its own source of conflict. 

09/29 Erdogan and Putin reach an agreement on Syria by Talha Koc

During the recent meeting between Erdogan and Putin in Moscow, both parties agreed that President Assad can contribute to solving the Syrian civil war. Since the beginning of the Syrian conflict, Turkey has strongly advocated to remove Assad from power. Russia held the opposite viewpoint, that Assad was the legitimate ruler of Syria and that ISIS and the rebels were the source of problem in Syria. So, the change in Turkey’s stance on Syria was surprising to the world, even more so because of other issues that were straining Turkish-Russian relations. For instance, Putin’s recognition of the Armenian deaths as genocide, Russia’s persecution of Crimean Turks/Tatars, and disputes of the building of gas pipelines have strained the relationship between Erdogan and Putin. Furthermore, other Turkish government officials had recently expressed their disapproval of Russia’s stance. Prime minister Davutoglu had characterized Russia’s military build-up in Syria as “very dangerous”. The Turkish Foreign Minister had announced a day before the meeting that Russia and Turkey had “different approaches” to solving the Syrian conflict. In spite of this, Erdogan has nearly completely reversed his position on the Syria situation.

What can be the driving force behind Erdogan’s decision? Some speculate that Erdogan changed his stance in exchange for Putin closing down Gulen-affiliated schools and institutions. A more likely explanation would be that Erdogan values the economic ties between Russia and Turkey more than he does the outcome of the Syrian civil war. Both countries depend on each other for economic growth. Gas, hydrocarbon trading, construction, and tourism all link these two countries together. It’s much too early to speculate whether or not this agreement will start a process of Turkish-Russian reconciliation on the Syria problem. However, it is safe to assume that Erdogan and Putin seek to strengthen Turkish-Russian relations.


09/21 Syrian Kurd Move to Capture Last Turkey-IS Border Crossing by Anthony Schneider

Of late Turkey has found itself in the unenviable position of reviving its classical role of the bridge between Europe and the Middle East, only without the lucrative benefits this position formally entailed. Flowing one way is a stream of thousands of refugees fleeing the devastation and terror in Syria, and in the other direction are an unsettling large number of western IS recruits slipping through loose state regulation to join their co-jihadists in the fight just over the border. Naturally Turkey has received some international flak over this, but no one has actively intervened to force Ankara into enacting stronger border control, likely because very few countries outside of the Middle East have IS anywhere near the top of their priorities list. However, some people decided that enough is enough, and took the matter in to their own hands: namely, the Kurds.

Though they already control half of the Syrian-Turkish border, one major crossing point still remains in the form of the town of Jarabulus. The YPG leadership has announced that it is going to conduct a campaign to occupy the town, theoretically cutting IS off from further Western recruits, or at least forcing them into a longer, more expensive, and more dangerous route. However, because nothing in the anti-IS coalition is ever simple, the Kurdish plan has taken Ankara's fears of a Kurdish separatist state to new heights, helped by the fact that a) the Kurds will be conducting the operation with US assistance, which feeds the impression that Turkey is a useless partner and the Kurds deserve the rewards for shouldering the brunt of the fighting, and b) because Jarabulus lies to the west of the Euphrates, the boundary line that the Turkish government has demanded that Kurdish forces must not cross. It's not an unreasonable assumption that after Turkey's Syrian border is free of wannabe jihadists, Ankara will find the significantly better-organized YPG a much more annoying neighbor.

09/13: Attempted March to Cizre Blocked by Security Forces by Emre Kiziltug

Pro-Kurdish politicians attempted to march to Cizre, a town of Sirnak province in south-east Turkey with a high population of Kurds, to protest against a week-long military curfew in the town. However, they were blocked by security forces even though there were two cabinet ministers among the politicians. Turkey’s interior minister, Selami Altinok, said security forces would continue to block the march: “We will not allow them to go to Cizre.” He also stated that between 30 and 32 members of the PKK had been killed by armed forces in the Cizre military operation and that one civilian had died in clashes. The HDP (Pro-Kurdish Party), however, says 21 civilians, including children, have been killed.

Cizre has been an ongoing problem for years. Allegedly, YDG-H (Youth wing of PKK) had declared autonomy on the 26th of October 2014 in Cizre, but back then, the government had denied the allegations. On the 4th of September 2015, the government declared a week-long curfew, during which security forces and PKK militants clashed. As seen in the statements, the HDP claimed that the civilians were suffering severely, while the government defended the curfew because it was necessary to secure the area. 36 hours after the curfew was lifted, the governor of Sirnak reinforced the curfew again which lasted for another 12 hours, showing that tensions in the area hasn’t deescalated yet.

Cizre is an example of the recent incidents occurring in southeast Turkey. After the end of the peace process (a process in which the PKK and the Turkish government declared ceasefire and started negotiations regarding agreement terms)—which according to critics is a result of the election held in June of 2015—clashes and disputes between the PKK and Turkey have reached a zenith. It is unclear how long this situation will continue.

09/13: Curfew in Diyarbakir by Shafali Jalota

On Sunday, while officials lifted the weeklong curfew in the town of Cizre, another curfew was imposed in Diyarbakir, the largest city in southeastern Turkey.  The governor’s office instituted a round-the-clock curfew in two of the city’s districts.  The curfew is a result of escalating conflict between the PKK, a Kurdish separatist organization, and the government in the city.   On Friday, Kurdish militants shot at three police officers and a waiter in Diyarbakir, killing the waiter and injuring the officers.  On Sunday, a police officer was killed and another wounded by PKK members in the Silvan District, which consequently declared a curfew.  After gunshots were heard in the Sur district, the Governor’s Office declared an additional curfew in the central, historical Sur district.  Seven police officers have been wounded in the city so far.  After the imposition of the curfew, groups of young people protested the declaration.  Police officers used water cannons and tear gas to break up the crowds.  As a result of the events, the HDP, or pro-Kurdish People’s Democratic Party, called for the resumption of peace talks between the government and the PKK.  The earlier ceasefire between the groups ended in June of this year, following the results of the June 1 election in which the current ruling party lost its majority.  Overtly reacting to an attack on security forces by alleged members of the PKK, the government re-launched its offensive against the PKK in the southeastern part of Turkey.  Critics believe that this offensive is an attempt by the current president, Mr. Erdogan, to discredit the HDP, which won enough votes to upset the ruling party’s majority.  While Mr. Erdogan is supposed to be unaffiliated with any party as President, he has remained closely connected to the Justice and Development Party.  New elections will take place on November 1, in which the Justice and Development Party hopes to regain its majority.  If cities in southeastern Turkey such as Diyarbakir remain highly unstable, they will be unable to participate in the election.  As these areas have a Kurdish majority, the instability created by the conflict between the government and the PKK may be helping the Justice and Development Party to achieve its goals in the election.


09/01: VICE journalists arrested covering PKK by Will Hunt

Jake Hanrahan and Philip Pendlebury, two British reporters working for VICE, were taken into custody by Turkish officials and charged with “engaging in terror activity” in support of ISIS, Yahoo News reported Monday.  Their Iraqi translator and fixer was also remanded and charged with supporting ISIS.  The arrests occurred in Diyarbakir, in the southeast corner of the country, where the journalists were attempting to cover ongoing fighting between the Turkish military and the PKK, a Kurdish separatist group.  The arrests drew criticism from members of the Western media regarding the dubious freedom of the press in Turkey.

VICE, an alternative news-entertainment platform, was among the first American media outlets to begin covering the emergence of ISIS at least as early as 2013, amidst the chaos of the Syrian civil war.  Boots-on-the-ground VICE reporting from Syria caught an early glimpse of ISIS’s hardline cultural politics and documented the influx of Western Muslims travelling to the region to become ISIS mujahideen.  In the case of these recent arrests, the Turkish government seems to be taking advantage of VICE’s past coverage of and unique access to ISIS to intimidate members of the Western media out of covering the hostilities between the Turkish military and the PKK

Even the persecution of members of the media, in this case, supplies a distraction from what the Turkish government and military are trying (and have long been trying) to hide: the ongoing quasi-civil war with Kurdish separatists.  But the need to divert attention away from this conflict is greater now.  The Turkish government has a great deal to lose, in terms of favorable Western public opinion, by being shown fighting “the same” Kurdish men and women who are also fighting ISIS in Iraq.  The conflation of the Kurdish peshmurga fighting in Iraq and Kurdish separatists fighting in Turkey may or may not be fair – they certainly have different aims – but non-Western governments have learned to massage Western popular perception in the media, which often tends to flatten or reduce whole ethnic groups into a singular entities with singular goals.

09/01: VICE Journalists Arrested by Chelsea Rodriguez

On Thursday, August 27, 2015 Turkish authorities in Diyarbakir detained and subsequently arrested two UK journalists working for VICE News. On Monday, August 31, 2015 the two VICE journalists- Jake Hanrahan and Philip Penlebury, their driver, and unnamed “fixer” were formally charged. The police anti-terrorism department originally detained the three individuals for questioning, they have since been charged with “working on behalf of a terrorist organization”. Al Jazeera first reported the story on Friday, citing the VICE team were detained for filming without possessing “media accreditation” in the southeastern city. The terrorist organization specifically is unknown, but TIME reports ISIS. Amnesty International and VICE News have called the charges “outrageous” and “bizarre”. Turkey is notorious for mass censorship within the country and imprisoning journalists, both foreign and domestic. In most cases foreign journalists do not face trial or prison time; however, Turkey has the most journalists imprisoned in the world, as of 2012, at 49 and rising. These journalists will most likely be released, because the international pressure for these journalists would be heavy and there is no evidence to suggest conspiring with ISIS or any other terrorist organization. VICE News journalists as a target for censorship accords with Turkey’s intense desire to limit coverage of conflict zones in the southeast and neighboring, dissolving states. The arrest is not a surprise, but a long overdue eventuality in their dangerous line of work. VICE has a reputation for entering war torn areas, in fact last year they conducted an overwhelmingly positive report on the Kurdish Regional Government and the Kurdish militant troops fighting ISIS. Moreover VICE has interviewed terrorist groups in Russia, visited the Crimea and Iran, and cocaine smugglers in Columbia. As far as news organizations go, they are daring and progressive, reporting on the obscure or controversial.