Turkey’s death toll from the coronavirus rose by 76 to total 725 and new confirmed cases rose by 3,892 to bring the country’s total to 34,109, Health Minister Fahrettin Koca said on April 7.
Lemon exports will require government approval until August 31, 2020, Turkey’s Official Gazette said April 7. The citrus fruit has become highly in-demand during the COVID-19 outbreak as consumers have hoarded the traditional Turkish alcohol-based lemon-scented cologne.
Turkey's Treasury on April 6 borrowed 12.6 billion Turkish liras (approximately $1.86 billion) from domestic markets, by selling 14-month government bonds and eight-year CPI indexed government bonds at two separate auctions.
Turkish Trade Ministry has made a number of changes in the customs processes, making bringing gold from abroad easier. The move aimed to prevent the loss of time and money that stemmed from the gold being analyzed in a laboratory.
Turkey said on April 5 it would minimize its troop movements in operation zones in neighbouring Syria in response to the coronavirus outbreak. Troops deployed in Syria will now enter and exit operation areas only with the permission of the head of the army, the defense ministry said. "Thus, the movement of staff and troops is minimized, unless it is mandatory," it added.
The Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) has called for a humanitarian truce and committed to suspending most military operations in northeast Syria amid the coronavirus outbreak. “We hope that this humanitarian truce will help to open the door for dialogue and political solution and to put an end to the war in the world and Syria,” the group said.
Turkey sent arms to Libya to support one of the warring factions, violating a United Nations arms embargo on the war-ravaged country, the BBC claimed, as it cited video footage and images taken inside the Turkish ship called Bana. According to Duvar English contributor Yörük Işık, the embargo is not as strict as the one imposed on North Korea, paving the way for both sides of the conflict to send weapons to the North African country.
Turkey's parliament discussed a prisoner release bill on April 7 which is set to free around 90,000 prisoners in total amid coronavirus outbreak. During the discussion, all deputies wore masks as a precautionary measure against the virus.
Turkish Medical Association head Prof. Sinan Adıyaman has said that they expect the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic to last for a total of 11 weeks from its beginning until it wanes, adding that there is lack of information on the issue. This is the first time humanity encounters a coronavirus pandemic, so they can't exactly predict how the process will go," Adıyaman said.
Two health workers in Izmir conducted COVID-19 tests to citizens on the street in a district they were sent to for work, reportedly without the orders or permission of the Izmir Health Directorate. The two rogue workers tested some 100 people.
President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has filed a complaint against journalist Fatih Portakal over lying and using statements that aim to manipulate people on social media. Following Erdoğan's remarks on a series of orders issued during Turkey's War of Independence, Portakal questioned whether money will be asked from those have deposits or savings, prompting Erdoğan to sue him.
Coronavirus concerns have pushed Turkish customers to make the switch to using contactless payment. The data show that the number of contactless payments made through credit and debit cards tripled in March, compared to the same month of last year. Contactless payments do not require purchasers to insert their cards into payment machines; instead they hold their cards over the terminal.
HDP deputy Garo Paylan has asked Health Minister Fahrettin Koca the reason for why only 500 tests were carried out in the past 27 days in Diyarbakır. "Is discrimination the case when distributing tests to Diyarbakır and other provinces in the region?" Paylan, who is a Diyarbakır lawmaker, said in his parliamentary question following reports on the issue.
It’s impossible for the Turkish Post (PTT) to deliver surgical masks to 25 million households with its 14,000 delivery workers, a member of Turkey's Media, Communication andPostal Employees Union (Haber Sen) said. She added that the outbreak dramatically increased the workload of understaffed PTT in a video call with Istanbul Provincial Chair for the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP).
Parliament Speaker Mustafa Şentop announced the cancellation of April 23 National Sovereignty and Children's Day celebrations over the coronavirus pandemic that killed over 600 people in the country. "We had to postpone the celebrations that people would gather on April 23. Let's sing the national anthem at 9 p.m. on April 23 in our homes," Şentop said on April 6.
Healthcare professionals at a hospital in the western province of İzmir celebrated when a 95-year-old man recovered from coronavirus (COVID-19) was discharged from the hospital.
Ayhan Sefer Üstün from the newly-founded Future Party likened the coronavirus process in Turkey to the aftermath of the July 15, 2016 failed coup attempt in terms of the government's authoritarian tendencies. "The society is being tried to enter a new authoritarian environment via making coronavirus an excuse," Üstün, a former deputy of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP), told Duvar on April 7.
The recent curfew on citizens aged 20 or younger has further decreased the use of public transportation in Istanbul, placing the total decrease at 90 percent since the start of the COVID-19 outbreak, a spokesperson for Istanbul Municipality said.
A center for Kurdish language and culture research, the Kurdish Institute of Istanbul, received some 1,048 applications within 24 hours of announcing that they would be opening up new spots for their online classes in the Kurmancî and Kurmanckî dialects of Kurdish. The institute will open 27 new classes of about 40 students for the online courses that will start April 15.
The CHP has called on the government to include political prisoners in a judicial reform bill that will lead to the release of thousands of convicts and prisoners. "Judges have been issuing arrest rulings under political pressure. This exterior pressure applies for the cases of prisoners of thought, political prisoners and some terror arrestees," the CHP said.
Vecdi Erbay writes from Diyarbakır: Since cafes and teahouses have been closed due to the coronavirus, a number of people started selling tea on the streets of Diyarbakır. Some of them are roving tea sellers. They stroll around the city until they come across a policeman.
Cases of domestic disturbances and violence in Istanbul surged by 38.2 percent in March, compared to the same month of last year, according to police data. The city however saw a reduction in the number of robberies, murders, grand larcenies since there are little to no people on the streets amid the coronavirus outbreak.
According to an infectious diseases specialist's calculation, 600,000-900,000 people are already infected with the coronavirus in Turkey – several times higher than the officially confirmed number.
A total of 58.5 dollars was reportedly cut from the personal accounts of a number of Turkish teachers after using Zoom upon the request of their school managers. School managers and administrators obliged teachers to use Zoom, since 100 people can attend an online meeting at the same time free of charge, to continue classes online, daily Sözcü reported on April 6. Turkey's Education Ministry released a statement, saying that they have been warning teachers, students and administrators against cyber attacks.
Istanbul’s water reservoirs are only 65% full, their second-lowest level within the past decade. “The average amount of water distributed to Istanbul in March was 2,731,147 cubic meters. This number is the same today after all production has stopped,” an Istanbul Technical University (ITU) lecturer said.
Turkey's Health Ministry last week approved the use of plasma therapy to treat the novel coronavirus. The treatment works by taking donated blood from someone who has recovered from the virus and giving it to a critically ill patient. The technique was for the first time applied on a patient in the eastern province of Malatya on April 5.
The government has denied an employee of his right to benefit from a salary support program set up to help employers pay their staff wages amid the coronavirus outbreak. The denial was on the grounds that the employee in question was previously a public servant who was dismissed from his job by a government decree in post-coup Turkey.
Douglas Winslow from Fitch said that Turkey's economy will catch up with its sustainable trend of growth next year. "In the first quarter of this year economic growth had accelerated to above 6%. We now anticipate a very sharp contraction in the second quarter, flatter growth in the third quarter and then recovery in the fourth quarter, as activities begin to normalize after the partial lockdown," he said.
According to a poll submitted to main opposition Republican People's Party (CHP) leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu, some 84 percent of the Turkish citizens reportedly support a curfew against the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. The participants were also asked about the problems that Turkey needs to solve urgently. The pandemic topped the list, with 46 percent saying that it's the most urgent issue.
A non-governmental organization in Turkey, the Human Rights School, will be holding weekly online classes concerning human rights violations during the COVID-19 outbreak. The first class will be held April 6 on the NGO’s YouTube channel.
Ankara University Biotechnology Institute Director Aykut Özkul has succeeded in isolating the COVID-19 virus, which is the first step to create a vaccine and medication against it. “This is just the beginning. We are determined and ambitious. A Turkish scientist has isolated the virus!” said the institute in a tweet April 5.
Turkish healthcare workers did the penguin dance to cheer up patients receiving treatment for coronavirus in a private hospital in the eastern province of Malatya. Doctor Zercan Kalı from the hospital shared the video, saying "These difficult days will pass. Let's keep our spirits high and abide by the measures."
The Turkish Post (PTT) website crashed April 5 following an overwhelming number of applications for free surgical masks, which became mandatory in public places April 3. Applications for the free service will be taken on the government’s online services website, PTT noted after the online application site crashed.
Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu has refuted journalist Fatih Portakal's claims of police being forced to donate money to a government campaign against the coronavirus pandemic, saying that there are those who choose to donate. "The state has a legal campaign and there may be officers who want to support it. I won't meddle with that," Soylu told daily Sözcü on April 6.
Pınar Öğünç reports: Security guards, particularly those who work at hospitals, face a great risk of contracting coronavirus as they are the first people that encounter the patients. A man in his 30's who has worked for nearly a decade as a security guard in a state hospital in Istanbul tells that if he is fortunate to find a mask he has to use it for 12 hours. "There is so much anxiety but the empire of fear won't allow you to raise your voice," he says.
According to a report prepared by the CHP, over 5 million people were left either temporarily or permanently unemployed amid the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic .Some 144,690 workplaces were temporarily closed as part of the measures to curb the spread of the pandemic, resulting in a significant increase in the number of people unemployed, the main opposition said.
The shooting of a TV series for pro-government ATV has been ongoing despite backlash from unions, performers and thousands of social media users amid the coronavirus pandemic. "World class precautions taken in Eşkıya Dünyaya Hükümdar Olmaz's set!" said ATV on its Twitter account. Speaking about the issue, renowned actress Ayşenil Şamlıoğlu said "There is no way that I can understand the continuation of these sets."
Turkish police have urged citizens to stay at home in a bid to curb the spread of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic by writing "Stay home" using synthetic drugs seized in a narcotic operation. A week earlier, police in Istanbul's Beyoğlu also shared the same message by writing it with seized marijuana packages.
A report from the Platform of the Branches of Istanbul Worker Unions that was published on April 3 revealed that the majority of Istanbul’s four million workers do not belong to a labor or trade union. The report noted that this leaves the workers in a particularly vulnerable position amid the COVID-19 outbreak, as the epidemic is expected to trigger mass unemployment.
Turkey's Health Ministry has updated its criteria for who can and should be tested for COVID-19. Accordingly, it will be enough for a patient to develop just one of the following symptoms to avail of diagnostic testing: cough, difficulty in breathing, or fever.
Prof. Alpay Azap, a member of the Health Ministry’s COVID-19 Science Committee, predicts the epidemic will peak around the end of April. “The disease peaks within around 60 days. Considering it appeared on March 11 in Turkey, we still have three to four weeks to go,” Azap told daily Habertürk on April 3.
An Istanbul court has rejected the metropolitan municipality's request for the cancellation of a concession tender on the rental of unused warehouses at the symbolic Haydarpaşa and Sirkeci train stations. "It is very meaningful to announce this decision, which has been put on hold for months now, at the time of the coronavirus epidemic,” Mayor İmamoğlu said.
An Istanbul court has rejected the appeal against the arrest of OdaTV journalists Barış Pehlivan, Barış Terkoğlu and Hülya Kılınç, who were jailed in March over a report covering the funeral of a member of Turkey's National Intelligence Organization (MİT) killed in Libya.
Anyone who violates the required 14-day self isolation following international travels, as well as anyone attempting to escape from to their quarantine location will now be subject to a search warrant issued in their name. The first example of such a warrant was issued for an individual from Istanbul’s Ümraniye district, whose search warrant declares they are “wanted for disseminating a contagious disease.”
Turkey's Central Bank has become the largest gold purchaser in the world in January and February of this year, with 41 tons of gold. Turkey was followed by Russia (19 tons), the United Arab Emirates (5.9 tons), Kazakhstan (2.8 tons) and Mongolia (1 ton).
CHP leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu has said that more than two million workers in Turkey have lost their jobs due to measures taken to contain the coronavirus outbreak. "They had to start a campaign to keep people home. This current campaign has only led to one thing: unemployment," he said. "They will get unemployment wages from the unemployment fund for a short time, but there are no guarantees after that," he added.
The “Hello Fatwa” hotline of the Istanbul Mufti’s Office has been receiving a flurry of questions about the compatibility of COVID-19 precautions with Islam, the Mufti of Istanbul Prof. Mehmet Emin Maşalı said on April 3. People calling the hotline have asked whether alcohol-based disinfectants corrupt one’s ablution and whether it is a sin to use alcohol-based medications.
In fight with the coronavirus among the precautions taken by the Ankara Municipality last month included the banning of recyclable collectors who work long hours picking through the trash searching for reusable materials. Following the ban of the occupation, the Ankara Municipality has started disinfecting the areas in which the collectors live, while providing them with three hot meals a day and rent and utility support.
Istanbul Mayor Ekrem İmamoğlu has called on the state-owned Vakıfbank to send the money raised as part of a coronavirus aid campaign back to the municipality. Following the government's move banning municipalities from raising funds for low-income families, Vakıfbank had blocked the Istanbul municipality's donation account in which 900,000 Turkish Liras [approximately $136,000] were deposited.
Confederation of Public Employees Trade Union (KESK) has said that it will file a criminal complaint if workers are forced to make donations to the National Solidarity Campaign launched by President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan against the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. “The campaign, to which contributing must be voluntary, is being tried to be turned into a campaign that hundreds of thousands of civil servants are forced to contribute,” read a statement released by KESK.
Teachers across Turkey are pressured to participate in the donation campaign launched by President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan to offer financial help to those hit by the coronavirus outbreak, country's independent education union Eğitim-Sen claimed. According to a report in daily Sözcü, the director of education in the province of Adıyaman, sent a message that reached all the schools requesting teachers to donate to the campaign and then send a receipt proving they had done so.
Former President Abdullah Gül has said that prisoners who were jailed for their political views should also benefit from the government's early parole bill -- provided that these views have not been motivated by "hate, violence or terror."
Over 600 academics and rights activists, including world-renowned intellects such as Noam Chomsky and Judith Butler, have signed an open letter and expressed their solidarity with Turkish food engineer Bülent Şık, who was sentenced to 15 months in jail for revealing the cancer risks posed by toxic pollution in western Turkey. The signature campaign has called upon the Turkish Court of Appeals to nullify Şık's conviction.
A Twitter user and citizen journalist dubbed “Ankara Bird” was detained on April 2 on charges related to the US-based Islamic cleric Fethullah Gulen, Ankara’s main suspect for the 2016 coup attempt. Friends of the user, identified only as O.Y., seem to think his detention was prompted by critical Tweets he had written about branches of government.
A group of 51 people gathered in the Kepez district of the southern province of Antalya to drift cars and party with belly dancers despite warnings to stay home amid the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. Police raided the group's party and fined them 392 Turkish Liras each.
Turkey’s major labor and trade unions released a petition April 1 including seven recommendations to the government in the fight against COVID-19. Most items urge the government to establish protective measures to shield workers and vulnerable parts of society.
AKP deputy Recep Özel wrote on Twitter that 245 of 268 coronavirus patients in Turkey's western province of Isparta were pilgrims who were placed in the province's student dormitories as part of quarantine measures. Just minutes later, Özel deleted his tweets.
Turkey's Religious Affairs Directorate (Diyanet) has issued a fatwa on donating zakats to the state's campaign that was launched to collect money to be used in the country's struggle against the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. "What one needs to be careful about is that the person donating money should state that it's zakat," Diyanet said.
A total of 302 writers, academics, journalists, scientists and rights activists have signed a declaration demanding that the government does not discriminate against political prisoners in its early parole bill. The legal amendment excludes inmates charged with terrorism – a charge which the government misuses for political ends. Jailed human rights activists, journalists and opposition politicians will therefore not be among those considered for early release.
The Izmir Medical Chamber was banned from sharing links from their own website on their social media accounts March 31. The social media websites involved did not notify the users of any ban, and the chamber called for the block to be removed swiftly.
Turkey has sent medical aid packages with Jalaluddin Rumi's words on to Italy and Spain, the countries worst hit by the novel coronavirus in Europe, to help their fight against the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. "There is hope after despair and many suns after darkness," read the banners placed on the aid packages.
As the country that has suffered the highest number of deaths from the coronavirus epidemic, Italy is frequently used to compare the situation of other countries. Italian statistics experts talking to the BBC's Turkish service said that comparing Italy and Turkey is like comparing apples and oranges as the progression curve of the virus is not shaping out the same way in two countries.
Residents of Turkey’s villages under quarantine claim that coronavirus was introduced to their population by pilgrims returning from Umrah, or visitors from Istanbul. Villages in the western Marmara region, the northern Black Sea region, central Anatolia and the southeast of the country were placed under quarantine to slow the spread of Covid-19.
A doctor at Izmir's Dokuz Eylül University has issued an apology to the public and to the government after a statement in which he said the number of cases of coronavirus and deaths caused by the virus in Turkey was worse than Italy's. The rector of the Dokuz Eylül University, former ruling Justice and Development Party deputy Nükhet Hotar, released a statement saying that Savran's statement had been misunderstood. Then Yusuf Savran released a new video in which he apologized to "elders in the state".
Istanbul police raided a coronavirus-themed party March 29, dismissing a crowd of about 100 and detaining some 12 people. “We’re detaining them on charges of ‘disobeying preventions targeted at contagious diseases,’” police said.
Persons who die from coronavirus-related complications are buried in coffins in Istanbul and the communal funeral prayers before the burial are eliminated, an official from the provincial cemeteries directorate said. While morticians now wear personal protective equipment, burial spots aren't lined with lime.
Amid growing concern over the spread of coronavirus, Istanbul Mayor Ekrem İmamoğlu welcomed U.S. actor John Malkovich and his four friends with cologne. Malkovich had also taken his precaution against the virus, by wearing latex gloves.
World-renowned cardiac surgeon Dr. Mehmet Öz explained handwashing tips to slow down coronavirus transmission on an American late-night talk show. Dr. Öz said that most people do not know how to wash their hands "right" and showed a handwashing method which he named as “Turkish Twist.”
The internationally-renowned Turkish director Nuri Bilge Ceylan has received 2 million TL to help finance his latest film from a fund launched by the Ministry of Tourism and Culture to support Turkey's filmmakers. Ceylan received the highest amount of any director selected.
Editor's Pick
duvar englis podcasts
The nationwide coronavirus donation campaign launched by President Tayyip Erdoğan and the block placed by the Ministry of Interior over municipalities of Istanbul and Ankara in order to prevent them from holding separate donation campaigns are among salient items of this week's episode. Duvar English's editor-in-chief Cansu Çamlıbel and pollster Can Selçuki look for answers to why the Turkish government still persists in not calling a total lockdown in major cities, especially in Istanbul.
Politics
Former HDP co-chair Selahattin Demirtaş's doctor has urged his patient to be released from prison, saying his health problems make him vulnerable against the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. "Demirtaş is among one of the groups that's under highest risk. Prison conditions bear major risks in terms of getting infected," Cegerxun Polat told Duvar.
Grup Yorum's Helin Bölek has died on the 288th day of her death fast in Istanbul, the group said on April 3. Thousand of people took to Twitter to share messages of condolences, including HDP deputies and CHP deputy Sezgin Tanrıkulu, with many criticizing the government and asking whether their demands were so hard to meet that she was left to die.
Turkey’s first digital strike will be the Global Digital Clime Strike today. Moved to the digital world with the hashtag “this household is on strike” to help curb the spread of COVID-19, the strike is part of the global climate movement that started with 16-year-old Greata Thunberg. Local Turkish activists demand that Turkey adopts the Paris Agreement, becomes carbon-free by 2030 and declares a climate emergency.
Istanbul Municipality has shared “digital data” on the public transportation buses claimed to be overcrowded by pro-government trolls despite calls for social distancing amid the coronavirus (COVID-19), saying that they were used by the people who had never used them before when the pictures were taken. According to the municipality, majority of those seen in the pictures don't take the buses in question in their daily lives.
Some 40 Kurdish musicians have prepared a video clip showing themselves performing the Kurdish version of the Italian folk song "Bella Ciao" in an attempt to show solidarity with Italy amid the coronavirus outbreak.
The ruling AKP wants the opposition parties' support to extend the scope of an upcoming early parole law to include prisoners sentenced for child sexual abuse – on the condition that the offender is married to his victim. The AKP's proposal seeks to benefit 270 inmates.
Duvar reporter Aynur Tekin spent 11 days in hospital with COVID-19 symptoms. In this piece, she takes the reader through the different stages of her illness and the treatment she received at hospital. She also offers a few suggestions on how to talk to a COVID-19 patient.
A group of Turkish firms have collaborated to undertake the domestic mass production of medical respirators, which are critical in treating COVID-19. One of these firms is Baykar, a company co-owned by Selçuk Bayraktar, the son-in-law of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.
Abbas Karakaya writes: While Istanbul's Anatolian-side suburb of Çekmeköy may be adjacent to the city's northern forests, it is among the most lacking in active green areas out of all of Istanbul's 39 districts. Forests and parks in the district are seen as a means of creating tenders and generating wealth. One of the most typical examples of this approach by the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP)-led Çekmeköy municipality is the observation point project.
Human Rights Watch on March 31 said Turkish authorities’ failure to ensure adequate water supplies to Kurdish-held areas in Syria's northeast is compromising humanitarian agencies’ ability to prepare and protect vulnerable communities in the COVID-19 pandemic. Turkish authorities have interrupted water pumping several times since the start of the year, with the latest interruption on March 29, it cited aid organizations as saying.
The United States believes Iran's Ministry of Intelligence and Security was directly involved in the killing of Masoud Molavi Vardanjani last November in Turkey, a senior administration official told Reuters on April 1." Given Iran's history of targeted assassinations of Iranian dissidents and the methods used in Turkey, the United States government believes that Iran's Ministry of Intelligence and Security (MOIS) was directly involved in Vardanjani's killing," a senior administration said.
Turkey's Transport Minister Mehmet Cahit Turhan has been removed from his post by President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. Several social media users alleged that Turhan was removed from duty over criticism of the timing of a recently held tender related to the controversial Kanal Istanbul project.
Turkey’s presidential palace spent 4.5 million lira in 2018, a report by the Court of Accounts revealed. Annual spending at the palace totaled 1,648,678,000 lira, 705 million of which was not itemized in the report.
Former deputy prime minister Ali Babacan’s new Democracy and Progress Party (DEVA) announced its board of directors March 31, revealing 18 women among the 50 directors and some seven women out of 21 members of its Central Board of Presidency.
There has not been a confirmed case of coronavirus case in Greek refugee camps, but that is a catastrophe waiting to happen, the UNHCR warned. In refugee camps where asylum seekers are poorly fed and suffer from various diseases, the results could be extreme, according to Dimitris Patestos, the head of the Lesbos branch of the Doctors of the World.
A Russian Navy cargo ship transited the Bosphorus Strait en route to Syria on March 24. The Russian Dvinitsa-50 ship, part of Moscow’s auxiliary fleet, was carrying at least three military ambulances along with a shipping container on its deck.
Iran said on March 31 its natural gas exports to Turkey have stopped after an attack on a pipeline inside the neighbouring country, Mehdi Jamshidi-Dana, director of National Iranian Gas Co., told Iran's state news agency IRNA. "The pipeline has exploded several times in the past. It is also likely that the PKK group has carried out the blast," he said.
Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu has criticized the Constitutional Court for issuing rulings belonging to Norway and not Turkey when he was talking about the widespread operations against those determined to be sharing "provocative" social media posts. Some of the rulings issued by the Constitutional Court don't belong to Turkey, they belong to Norway," Soylu told broadcaster A Haber on March 26.
Turkey's Constitutional Court has ruled for a right violation in the case into a protester hit by a gas canister fired by police during Gezi Park protests of 2013, as it also fined the state to pay 10,000 Turkish Liras to the complainant as compensation. It also questioned whether police officers who used tear gas received the necessary training, concluding that the complainant was wounded as a result of uncontrolled use of tear gas.
The Turkish government is going ahead with the controversial Kanal Istanbul project, despite widespread opposition and the current crisis stemming from the coronavirus outbreak. On March 26, it held a tender for the reconstruction of two bridges on the route of the project.
Nuray Pehlivan reports: Thousands of migrants who remain at Turkey’s borders in hopes of crossing over to Europe are now being told to leave the area due to the coronavirus pandemic. Ankara’s recent instructions about the coronavirus directly contradict their Feb. 28 decision that allowed migrants crossings, leaving them once again in limbo.
Two Turkish soldiers were killed and two others wounded after a mortar attack by PKK militants in northern Iraq's Haftanin region on March 25, the Turkish Defense Ministry said. Shortly after, the ministry said in a separate statement that Turkish warplanes had hit four targets in the region, killing eight PKK militants.
Bosses close to the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) have forced workers to take unpaid leave amid the increasing number of coronavirus cases in the country. According to the workers at The Ankara Hotel, which is owned by Cengiz-Kolin-Limak, those who have annual leaves are forced to use them, while those who don't have any leaves are obliged to take unpaid leave between March 23 and April 15.
Twenty two journalists were sent to jail, nine others were detained, while 20 journalists appeared before the courts in Turkey in March, according to a report prepared by CHP MP Utku Çakırözer. The deputy demanded that imprisoned politicians, prisoners and human rights activists are not excluded from the government's plan to release thousands of prisoners.
Turkey's High Election Board (YSK) has annulled the mandate of a mayor from the main opposition CHP on the grounds of his previous conviction of two offenses. Kadir Aydar said that the YSK had previously seen his criminal record while registering him as a mayor candidate and had not raised an objection to his application.
In a letter addressed to Rıdvan Duran, the general director of Turkey's Public Advertising Agency (BİK), ten members of the European Parliament (EP) called for the immediate end to the public advertising ban that has been imposed on daily Evrensel since September 2019.
Turkey's Interior Ministry on March 23 appointed trustee mayors to eight more municipalities run by the HDP in the southeastern provinces. Including this latest move, the government has appointed trustees to a total of 40 municipalities won by the HDP since the 2019 March local elections.
A Turkish court has ordered the release of rights activist Osman Kavala in an investigation linked to a 2016 failed coup attempt; however, Kavala will continue to remain behind bars as he also faces espionage charges.
MHP Group Deputy Chair Erkan Akçay shared a picture of a man badly beaten by a group of ultra-nationalist MHP supporters, as he also bragged about the incident. "Who is this handsome man?" Akçay asked sarcastically in his Twitter post. "They say that his test for being undignified was positive," he also said.
Ankara's removal of eight mayors from the pro-Kurdish Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP) is an example of the government using the coronavirus outbreak as an opportunity, HDP Co-Chair Mithat Sancar said in a press conference March 23. He also criticized the government's economic stimulus package for failing to fulfill the needs of healthcare workers.
Children in Turkey were on March 23 shown an animated cartoon depicting the execution of former Prime Minister Adnan Menderes as part of their home schooling during the coronavirus outbreak. Following widespread criticism, the Education Ministry has launched an investigation into the incident.
Tezcan Karakuş Candan, head of the Ankara branch of Turkey's Chamber of Architects, has said that a company has been constructing a wedding hall on the land of the city's iconic Atatürk Forest Farm under the disguise of "landscape design." "Coronavirus opportunists are working. Everyone's concerned on their health, but they are still after land rent and looting," Candan said about the Pusay Tourism Logistic Co. Ltd.
Pro-government businessman Ethem Sancak's brother-in-law Mehmet Akarca was elected as the head of the Court of Cassation on March 24. A total of 332 court members cast votes in the elections that took place under coronavirus precautions. Akarca gained 267 of the votes.
A report by the Turkish Statistical Institute (TUİK) published on March 18 revealed that the segment of the Turkish population that is above the age of 65 had increased by 20% since 2014, reaching 9.1 percent of the general population. However, it noted that 62.8% of the elderly population was below 74.
There are still more than 5,000 migrants waiting at Turkey’s border with Greece to cross over into Europe. Ankara maintains that some 145,000 migrants have crossed over to Europe from Turkey, a number that Greece vehemently refutes.
Turkey's Banking Regulation and Supervision Agency (BDDK) has approved an application from Turkish billionaire Aydın Doğan's holding company to start a new investment bank in the country. The bank will be named “D Investment Bank A.Ş.” and will have a starting capital of 200 million Turkish Liras ($28.5 million).
President Erdoğan said on March 18 Turkey would postpone debt payments and reduce tax burdens in various sectors under a 100 billion lira ($15.4 billion) package to support the economy and lessen the impact of the coronavirus pandemic. Erdoğan also advised citizens not to leave home unless necessary for three weeks and to minimize social contact.
The former co-chair of Germany’s Green Party Cem Özdemir, who is of Turkish descent, tested positive for the coronavirus, he said in a Tweet on March 19. “I’m okay and no one should worry about me,” Özdemir said in a video he published on Twitter.
The United States believes Russia has killed dozens of Turkish military personnel in the course of its military operations in Syria, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said on March 17. Pompeo did not specify where or during which incident the Turkish soldiers were killed.
Russia and Turkey cut short their first joint patrol in Syria's Idlib on March 15 after rebels and civilians opposed to a ceasefire agreement cut off a main roadway to block its path. Hundreds of civilians and rebels cut off the roadway, rejecting the presence of Russian forces and what they said was an agreement that did not guarantee their re-settlement after being pushed out by violence.
Turkey's Chamber of Agricultural Engineers head Özden Güngör said that Turkey may face a desert locust outbreak, saying that it's possible for the outbreak to reach the country since it's already in Iraq and Iran. Pointing to the fact that desert locust swarms can consume food enough for up to 40,000 people in a day, Güngör noted that Turkish authorities need to take action. "This is a greater danger than coronavirus. They destroy food sources completely," he added.
The Ankara prosecutor’s office has demanded aggravated life sentences for eight defendants accused of being involved in the killing of the Russian ambassador to Turkey Andrei Karlov in 2016. The Kremlin said on March 5 Russia wants to ensure that both masterminds and perpetrators in the murder are found and brought to justice.
Ninety-six people were killed in Turkey during the month of February, according to a human rights report prepared by main opposition Republican People's Party (CHP) deputy Sezgin Tanrıkulu. The report also stated that 115 people were tortured or improperly treated while in prison, and 227 people were taken into custody at 64 events, including press conferences, meetings, flyer distributions, and demonstrations.
Former Land Forces Commander Gen. Aytaç Yalman died at the age of 80 in a hospital that he was receiving treatment late on March 16. Yalman's name made headlines frequently with the Balyoz (Sledgehammer) coup plot case, which was marked by top generals accusing each other. Former army general Özkök accused Yalman of formulating the idea of issuing a memorandum against the AKP, while Yalman questioned the portayal of Özkök as being the sole actor in preventing the coup plot.
The pro-Kurdish Peoples' Democratic Party has formed a committee to work on the formation of a "democracy alliance," a concept that was brought up in the fourth national congress Feb. 23. "There are many left, democratic and socialist forces outside of the HDP," said Emin Orhan, co-representative for the newly formed committee.
Former deputy prime minister Ali Babacan launched his long-awaited Democracy and Progress Party (DEVA) in a ceremony that was marked by emphasis on freedoms in Turkey. "It breaks our hearts to see that our country keeps losing ground in all areas. The people are worried about their future. The people of this country have been saddened and hurt over the past few years. Everything was taken away from them, but they showed patience," Babacan said.
Metin Topuz, a Turkish citizen who worked as a liaison for the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) in Istanbul, faces up to 15 years in prison over being a member of the Gülen movement. Topuz has repeatedly rejected the allegations. "I have no contact with any of the organizations or individuals of FETÖ," Topuz told the court in the hearing on March 10.
Turkey's Foreign Ministry summoned the Greek ambassador to Ankara, who was told that Greece must stop "violations of Turkish waters and the detention of journalists," state-run Anadolu Agency said. The journalists were reporting on the humanitarian situation of migrants in Lesbos and Rhodes islands, Anadolu Agency said, without elaborating.
İbrahim Gökçek and Helin Bölek, two members of Grup Yorum who have been on a death fast with the demand for the ban on their concerts to be lifted for 268 and 265 days, respectively, were taken to a hospital by police officers, prompting concerns on whether a forced intervention process is underway. "No one can silence Grup Yorum. It's either victory or death," Gökçek said.
Renowned philanthropist and human rights activist Osman Kavala criticized the successive court rulings to keep him in jail, saying that they are maneuvers to keep him in prison. "I get acquitted and another court case is brought up urgently to keep me in prison. When it drops, a third case is brought up! I'm ashamed on their behalf over what has been happening," Kavala told CHP deputy Utku Çakırözer.
Social media users in Turkey have pointed to the ages of politicians after the country imposed a partial curfew on March 21 for citizens over the age of 65 and those with chronic diseases. Dozens of politicians are above the age of 65 in Turkey.
Former Diyarbakır Mayor Selçuk Mızraklı from pro-Kurdish Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP) was sentenced to nine years and four months in prison March 9, a year after he was elected by a landslide and six months after he was replaced with a trustee. "The ruling on Selçuk Mızraklı will show the Kurdish people that they don't have the right to elect their own government," said Mızraklı's lawyer Mehmet Emin Aktar.
Some 13 actors who were laid off from their jobs at the Istanbul Municipality City Theater were reinstated after three years and seven months. The actors were laid off during the state of emergency declared after the botched coup attempt of July 15, 2016 in an attempt to cleanse state institutions of supporters of U.S-based Islamic cleric Fethullah Gülen, Ankara's top suspect for the failed takeover.
Police used tear gas and rubber bullets to disperse the crowd gathered on Taksim's Istiklal Street to mark International Women's Day. Images on social media showed women being dragged by their hair, as well as being battered by police officers. Violence against women and femicides are in dire levels in Turkey, with hundreds of women getting killed each year, in addition to thousands who get beaten by men.
A minibus driver in Turkey’s capital has dressed his vehicle in a surgical mask to draw attention to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. The driver covered the bus’ front bumper in a white cloth that he attached to the side mirrors.
A Turkish soldier and three local Syrian security personnel were killed in a car bomb attack in Ras al-Ayn in northern Syria, the governor's office of Şanlıurfa said on March 12. The attack occurred within the area of Turkey's "Peace Spring Operation."
Only 30.7 percent of Turks see the Turkish military presence in Syria's Idlib as a "necessity," according to recent survey. Asked if the presence of Turkish military in Idlib is a “necessity,” 30.7 percent of the survey participants said “Yes,” while 48.8 percent said “No” and 20.5 percent chose the option of “I do not have an opinion/No answer.”
A hearing scheduled for March 3 in the case against Turkey's state-owned Halkbank has been adjourned. In a letter to Judge Berman, the bank's lawyer Andrew Hruska asked for more time to obtain a written authorization from Halkbank indicating that he has been given permission by the bank's general manager to enter a plea on its behalf.
Turkey has exempted citizens of 11 European countries from tourist visas for visits under 90 days and no more often than once every 180 days. The exemption will be applicable for tourist travel and transit passage.
The investigation into the death of James Gustaf Edward Le Mesurier was completed after nearly 3,5 months, with Istanbul Chief Public Prosecutor's Office concluding that the former officer died as a result of falling and ruling for nonsuit. Le Mesurier was found dead in Istanbul’s Beyoğlu district early on Nov. 11, 2019, prompting suspicions on whether he was murdered.
The European Union will be imposing sanctions on two top executives from Turkish Petroleum (TPAO) for the country's drilling activities in the east Mediterranean that it deemed illegal, the Official Journal of the EU said on Feb. 27. Vice President Mehmet Ferruh Akalın and Deputy Director of the Exploration Department Ali Coşkun Namoğlu will see their EU assets frozen and be forbidden to travel in EU countries.
The European Parliament's former Turkey rapporteur, Kati Piri, has said in a statement on Twitter that the European Union failed to uphold its end of the 2016 migrant deal with Turkey after several EU countries have criticized Ankara's recent move to ease border restrictions.
The UN has said that actions of Turkey and Russia in Syria may amount to war crimes in a report covering the period from July 2019 to February 2020. The report called on Turkey to investigate whether it carried out an air strike on a civilian convoy near Ras al Ain that killed 11 people last October. Turkey has denied a role in the strike, which the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said was conducted by Turkish aircraft.
German Chancellor Merkel has criticized Turkey's move to ease border restrictions and accused Turkish President Erdoğan of pressuring the EU “on the back of the refugees." Meanwhile, EU interior ministers will hold an extraordinary meeting on March 4 to discuss the situation at the EU's border.
Over 2 tons and 384 kilos of heroin were seized by Turkey's narcotic police and its Dutch counterpart in an international operation carried out in five countries, Turkish Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu told CNN Türk on March 4.
The Istanbul Governor's Office has banned anti-war rhetoric, meetings and propaganda until March 10 to ensure "peace and safety in the city." The official statement from the governor's office said that such ideology could lead to public unrest amid the government's military operations in Idlib.
Neşe İdil reports: Unions and performers have urged the suspension of TV series' sets amid the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. Şebnem Sönmez, a renowned Turkish actress who is also a member of the Actors' Union of Turkey, said that all the sets must be suspended, including commercials, movies and TV series. Another prominent Turkish actress, Tilbe Saran, pointed to the fact that one person can infect 2.6 others, so the continuation of the sets pose a threat to public health.
Over 60 intellectuals from Turkey have signed a petition calling for military retreat in Northern Syria and for troops to return home after 36 soldiers were killed in Idlib Feb. 27. Among the intellectuals are academics, authors, journalists and artists.
The president of İGAM, an Ankara-based immigration think tank, has warned against possible cases of Alan Kurdi in the Aegean Sea if refugee crossings are to increase following Turkey's statement that it will no longer stop refugees from reaching Europe.
The U.S. has imposed new sanctions on Turkish company Eren Carbon Graphite Industrial Trading Co Ltd. because of its support for Iran's missile program. "These measures underscore that Iran’s missile program remains a significant proliferation concern," the State Department said Feb. 25, adding that it is "consistent with our efforts to use all available measures to prevent Iran from advancing its missile capabilities."
Cihangir İslam, a deputy of the Islamist Felicity Party, has resigned from his party, increasing the number of independent legislators in the Turkish parliament to seven.
A group of people on early Feb. 28 protested outside the Russian Consulate General in Istanbul against an attack that targeted Turkish troops in northwestern Idlib, Syria. “The whole world knows that Russia and [Syrian] regime forces were behind the attack,” said Sezgin Çelik, one of the protesters.
A 14-day quarantine was lifted for Turkish citizens that were brought from Wuhan to Ankara with a cargo plane, Turkey's Health Minister Fahrettin Koca said on Feb. 14. He added that no trace of the virus was detected in any of the patients that were placed under quarantine. Koca also said that Turkey is manufacturing coronavirus detection kits in accordance with World Health Organization standards and that some countries have already stated a demand for the kit.
The HDP has renewed 80 percent of its party assembly during its fourth congress in the capital Ankara on Feb. 23. The reshuffle stemmed from the party's strict two-term rule, which led to former co-chair Selahattin Demirtaş, who has been in jail since Nov. 4, 2016 to be left out as well. The new party assembly also included 12 lawmakers, including Meral Danış Beştaş, Garo Paylan, Feleknas Uca and Filiz Kerestecioğlu.
According to a recent research conducted in Turkey's eight eastern and southeastern provinces, Kurdish parents mostly speak in Turkish with their children. Majority of these parents want Kurdish to be included as a language of instruction in public schools and 72 percent of them want the government to recognize Kurdish as an official language besides Turkish.
Turkey is among the top 10 countries to use social media networks Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, a survey by London-based social media company We Are Social revealed.
A Turkish court has banned access to the online version of a cartoon by Leman which makes a reference to Finance Minister Berat Albayrak's land purchase on the route of the controversial Kanal Istanbul project. Leman's Jan. 22-dated cover depicts Bayrak as he stands along the route of the Kanal project and utters his famous phrase of “Here is very important.”
Turkey's former President Abdullah Gül has suggested returning to a parliamentary system. "I would prefer a fully democratic parliamentary system," Gül said, while voicing support for Ali Babacan. "I, of course, support him and his party. I trust and think highly of Babacan's character, education, knowledge and wording in politics," Gül said.
An American couple hunted two mountain goats in the southeastern province of Adıyaman. The mountain goats in the southeast of Turkey are sacred in the Alevi faith, adhered to by a majority of the local population. While the illegal hunting of mountain goats is fined with 26,000 Turkish Lira (about $4,500), some 19 goats were hunted down in December 2019.
Turkish President Erdoğan has issued a decree to open 14 millions square meters of pasture lands to construction. Public infrastructures and buildings can be built on these pasture lands if the constructions will “serve common good and are of necessity,” says the presidential decree.
A secret witness testifying in the trial of a man accused of being a follower of the US-based Islamic preacher Fethullah Gülen said that Gülen's followers tried to kill President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan by having him fall off a horse in 2003. The secret witness, known as 'Zaman,' testified that Gülenists poisoned a horse named Cihan that Erdoğan rode and fell off of during the opening of a park in the Bayrampaşa district of Istanbul.
President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has urged deputies of his ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) to have at least three children. "You stick with having one child. I'm saying at least three. I don't want one child for the vitality of our country," he said, before turning to the deputies with a single child to ask, "Am I right?"
Detention warrants were issued for more than 750 people over their suspected links to the movement of the U.S.-based Islamic preacher Fethullah Gülen. Gülen movement, an ally-turned-foe of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP), is widely believed to have been behind the July 15, 2016 failed coup attempt.
Turkey's population has increased by about 1.5 million and reached 83,154,997 citizens in 2019, the Turkish Statistical Institute said. While Istanbul remains the most populated city with over 15 million residents, the metropolis also has a population density of about 27 times the national average. The number of people per square kilometer is 108 nationally, whereas the same figure for Istanbul is 2,987.
An Istanbul court has acquitted renowned novelist Aslı Erdoğan of the charge of membership of an armed "terror organization" for writing for pro-Kurdish daily Özgür Gündem that has since been shut-down. The court also acquitted Erdoğan’s colleagues Bilge Aykut and Necmiye Alpay. The trial against other co-defendants, including human rights lawyer Eren Keskin, is to continue.
Greek far-right MEP Lagos has been suspended from joining the European Parliament's activities for four days and deprived of seven days of daily allowance after tearing up a paper copy of the Turkish flag during a session in January.
A U.S. federal court has denied a request made by Turkey to dismiss a civil suit by protesters who were violently beaten while staging a demonstration against Turkish President Erdoğan in Washington D.C. in 2017, The Hills has reported. “Defendant Turkey points to no indication that an attack by the protesters was imminent,” US District Judge Kollar-Kotelly wrote in her judgement.
Economics
Turkey's exports are expected to drop around 17% in March, as the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic leads to a decline in trade with some of its biggest partners, Trade Minister Ruhsar Pekcan said on April 1. Pekcan also said that exports to Iran declined by 82%, those to Iraq by 48%, to France by 32.5% and to Germany by 14%.
The Confederation of Turkish Trade Unions urged all employers March 31 to temporarily ban layoffs to prevent unemployment during the coronavirus outbreak. The confederation also called for a 15-day pause in production, except for urgent goods, and for the allocation of Turkey’s unemployment fund to workers in need.
Turkey is not among the non-EU emerging economies in Central and Eastern Europe that has applied for emergency assistance from a $50 billion pool available via the IMF’s rapid financial support facilities, the organization’s European Department Director Poul M. Thomsen said.
Turkey’s state-owned Halkbank on March 31 pleaded not guilty to criminal charges in a federal court in Manhattan that it helped Iran evade US sanctions, in a case that has strained relations between the United States and Turkey. The plea – to charges including conspiracy, bank fraud, and money laundering – was entered by the bank’s US lawyer at a hearing conducted by telephone conference because of the coronavirus pandemic.
Turkey's economy will face a “sharp” contraction in the second quarter of 2020 amid coronavirus outbreak, according to Douglas Winslow, primary analyst on Turkey and director of the Sovereign Group at Fitch Ratings, in London.
Turkey's Central Bank provided more stimulus for the financial sector and economy on March 31, saying it would ramp up government debt buying and offer new pools of cheap funding to stem the fallout from a growing coronavirus outbreak. The Central Bank also extended 60 billion lira ($9 billion) worth of rediscount credits and added more lending options well below its 9.75% policy rate. It said the moves would provide much needed credit to companies and liquidity to government debt markets.
Turkey's economic confidence index fell 5.9% month-on-month in March to 91.8 points, data from the Turkish Statistical Institute (TÜİK) showed on March 27, marking a downturn after five straight months of gains. The confidence in real sector deteriorated the most, going down 7.6%.
Moody's revised its growth forecasts downward for 2020 amid the coronavirus pandemic. "We expect Turkey’s [B1 negative] economy to be hit the hardest, with a cumulative contraction in second- and third quarter GDP of about 7.0%. The shock will likely take a large toll on Turkey’s tourism-related sectors through the summer," it said in its Global Macro Outlook 2020-21.
Turkey’s financial “shield package” against the blow of the coronavirus might be forcing small businesses into more debt. Turkey’s preventative measures will allow for 100 billion Turkish Liras’ worth of loans and debts to be deferred with interest for three months.
A recent survey by pollster Ipsos revealed that Turkey’s lemon-scented cologne has become the most-demanded consumer good amid the coronavirus outbreak in the country. Vinegar and pasta followed, along with non-perishable foods and cooking essentials like flour and salt.
Turkey's Competition Board has ultimately fined tech giant Google 98.3 million Turkish liras for violating the terms of fair competition due to unfair access to advertisement space. Last March, the board opened an investigation into claims that Google uses abusive tactics to quash its rivals.
Urban Beat
During these unusual times, life in the world’s largest cities has come to a screeching halt and Istanbul’s Istiklal Street is no exception. The only people walking on the street, lined with closed shops, are tourists and locals who have urgent business.
Eren Topuz writes: COVID-19 has resulted in a great deal of social distancing and efforts for meeting basic needs at home to the greatest extent possible. To that end, many Istanbulites have turned to baking their own bread at home. According to Istanbul Baker's Chamber, bread sales at bakeries and markets have declined by 35 percent since the outbreak reached Turkey.
Istanbul's legendary Atlas and Rexx cinemas have been shut down amid financial difficulties. They were both popular meeting points of Istanbulites and one of the few movie theaters that were not parts of big chains.
Turkish cities have shown significant drops in air pollutants as the coronavirus hits work and travel, according to the Environment and Urbanization Ministry's data.
Hagia Sophia was the most popular touristic site of 2019 with a total of 3,727,361 visitors, Turkey's Culture and Tourism Ministry said. Remodeled as a mosque under the Ottoman Empire, Hagia Sophia was converted into a museum in 1935. The second most visited touristic destination in 2019 was the Mevlana Museum in Rumi's birthplace, the central Anatolian province of Konya.