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Turkey to build shelters for 100,000 Rohingya

Since August 25, more than 429,000 Rohingya have crossed from Myanmar’s western state of Rakhine into Bangladesh

Turkey would build shelters for 100,000 Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh, an official of Turkey’s state-run aid body said on Sunday.

According to a press release, Turkish Cooperation and Coordination Agency’s (TIKA) Bangladesh Coordinator Ahmet Refik Cetinkaya held a meeting with Disaster Management and Relief Minister Mofazzal Hossain Chowdhury Maya.

“Turkey will soon provide 10,000 packets of aid [to Rohingya Muslims],” Cetinkaya told the minister.

He said Turkish Deputy Prime Minister Recep Akdag would visit Bangladesh.

Since August 25, more than 429,000 Rohingya have crossed from Myanmar’s western state of Rakhine into Bangladesh, according to the UN’s migration agency. In total, more than 800,000 Rohingya refugees are now believed to be in Bangladesh, including the arrivals since August 25.

Read: Turkey’s first lady distributes aid at Rohingya camp

The refugees are fleeing a fresh security operation in which security forces and Buddhist mobs have killed men, women and children, looted homes and torched Rohingya villages. According to Bangladeshi Foreign Minister Abul Hasan Mahmood Ali, around 3,000 Rohingya have been killed in the crackdown.

Turkey has been at the forefront of providing aid to Rohingya refugees and President Recep Tayyip Erdogan raised the issue with the UN.

The Rohingya, described by the UN as the world’s most persecuted people, have faced heightened fears of attack since dozens were killed in communal violence in 2012.

Yvonne Ridley: Looking at Myanmar, it is clear that the ICC is not fit for purpose

(Source / 24.09.2017)

Turkish aid ship to arrive in Gaza ahead of Eid al-Fitr

Turkish aid ship Gaza

Deputy Prime Minister of Turkey, Veysi Kaynak, announced on Friday that a third Turkish aid ship will arrive in the Gaza Strip next week.

The Turkish official said that the aid will be distributed to the needy families and children in Gaza before Eid al-Fitr, a holiday marking the end of the holy month of Ramadan.

Kaynak explained that this ship, which is the third of its kind, is a contribution by the Turkish people to help alleviate the suffering of the Gazan people caused by the unjust blockade.

The ship launched from Mersin port on Friday heading to Ashdod port and carrying 2,500 tons of humanitarian aid collected by the Disaster and Emergency Management Presidency of Turkey (AFAD) to meet the needs of the Palestinian people in Gaza.

The second Turkish aid ship, Eclips, was launched from Mersin port in September 2016 carrying 2,500 tons of humanitarian aid in addition to school supplies, bags, notebooks, pens, clothes, bicycles, cleaning supplies, and other materials that the Gaza Strip lacks due to the blockade.

Earlier in July 2016, two months after the second ship was dispatched to Gaza, the first Turkish aid vessel, Lady Leyla, arrived in Gaza based on instructions by the Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan carrying food and medical aid.

(Source / 10.06.2017)

Yildirim Vows to Solve Gaza Electricity Crisis

03 JUN
7:05 AM

Turkish Prime Minister Ali Yildirim vowed, Wednesday, in a telephone call to the Head of the Political Bureau of the Islamic Resistance Movement of Hamas, Ismail Haniyeh, that Turkey is working on finding a solution for the ongoing electricity crisis in the Gaza Strip.

A statement issued by Hamas explained that Yildirim discussed, with Haniyeh, the electricity crisis in Gaza, and promised to find solutions for it, pointing to a Turkish grant to pay for fuel to power the plant.

The electricity crisis, according to Al Ray, has been aggravated since the end of the Qatari and Turkish fuel grant,last April , coinciding with the imposition of fees for buying such fuel.

Yildrim praised the new “General Principles & Policies” document, issued recently by Hamas, and considered it an opportunity to bring Hamas and Fateh together.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said that the document is an important step both for the Palestinian cause and for realizing consensus between the Hamas and Fateh.

Yildrim said that his country pursues the settlement and Jerusalem issue closely in different levels , hoping that peace and stability overcome in Palestine.

For his part, Haniyeh expressed his gratitude for the telephone call, and wished Turkey well on the Ramadan holy month, stressing that the relation between Hamas and Turkey is strong.

Qatar and Turkey are considered great allies of Hamas, along with a number of countries, organizations and movements around the world.

Haniyeh brought the Turkish prime minister up to date on the recent developments regarding settlements and Israeli measures in occupied Jerusalem, including the Israeli occupation government meeting in a tunnel under Buraq wall, in a precedent the first of its kind since 1967.

(Source / 03.06.2017)

The West does not really support Turkish democracy, it undermines Islamic unity

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan delivers a speech during a meeting at Presidential Complex in Ankara, Turkey on 8 February 2017 [Presidency of Turkey / Yasin Bülbül/Anadolu Agency]

Image of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan [Presidency of Turkey]

By Motasem A Dalloul

In the past few days, the German, Dutch and Swedish authorities have cancelled public rallies for their Turkish citizens on the grounds that they constitute a security threat. In Germany and Holland, the situation was very clear as senior Turkish officials, including ministers, were denied entry or deported. Turkey’s Minister of Family and Social Policies, for example, was detained by the Dutch police and then deported. Fatma Betül Sayan Kaya claims that she witnessed “inhumane treatment” by the authorities.

Image of Turkish Family Minister Fatma Betul Sayan Kaya, in Istanbul, Turkey on March 12, 2017 [Berk Özkan / Anadolu Agency]

The rallies had been organised to garner support amongst Turkish voters living in Europe for a referendum to expand the powers of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. In the West, Erdogan is seen as “arrogant” and “authoritarian” despite the fact that his Justice and Development Party (AK Party) has freed Turkey from military rule, reformed the military institutions and restructured the security services, intelligence apparatus and Special Forces.

Under Erdogan’s AK Party, Turkey has passed through several democratic elections smoothly, political pluralism has a meaning in the country and the role of civil society has clearly widened. The era of military coups has become history, as the failure of last year’s coup attempt demonstrated, with civil institutions supported by the people putting down an internationally-backed uprising; hundreds of generals and senior officers have since been imprisoned.

Read: Turkey sends back Dutch cows amid diplomatic dispute

However, the West still insists that it does not host electoral campaigns for a “dictator” who is planning to concentrate power in his own hands. This has been made very clear in the remarks of European leaders. Compare this with the comments of such leaders in the wake of the AK Party’s 2015 election victory; Arab writer Mohamed Amari found that they all welcomed the election result and congratulated the Turks on the success of their free, democratic process. They were, however, clearly unhappy about Erdogan and his party being in control.

Put very simply, it is obvious that the West does not want Muslims — labelled “Islamists” — to rule Turkey, which was the seat of the Ottoman Empire, the historic Caliphate defeated in the First World War and destroyed altogether in 1924. It is no secret that the West was behind the removal of the Ottoman Sultans, backing Mustafa Kamal Ataturk to “modernise” Turkey by removing Islam from Turkish life; Western clothing was promoted and the Arabic script was replaced by adapted Roman letters for the Turkish language.

The then British Foreign Secretary Lord Curzon told the House of Commons after the Lausanne Treaty in 1923, “As we have already succeeded in finishing off the Caliphate, so we must ensure that there will never rise again unity for the Muslims, whether it be intellectual or cultural unity.” He also said that the West “must put an end to anything which brings about any Islamic unity between the sons of the Muslims.” That, in a nutshell, has been the West’s agenda in the Muslim world ever since.

Read: Erdogan to Turks: Don’t vote for ‘fascists’ in Dutch election

Western leaders have for decades been working to undermine any attempt at Islamic unity and this has been very clear in the ongoing campaign against the Muslim Brotherhood. One of the ironies of what looks very much like a war against the movement is that America’s joy at the murder of Hassan Al-Banna, the Muslim Brotherhood’s founder, opened the eyes and mind of a senior Egyptian official in the ministry of culture to the group and the whole idea of Islamic unity. Sayyid Qutb was on a sabbatical tour of the US in 1949 when this happened and said that he was surprised to see the Americans celebrating the murder of a Muslim figure.

The Muslim world, especially the Middle East, has been witnessing an Islamic awakening after trying many different “isms”, including Marxism, capitalism and secularism. Correspondingly, the West has increased its efforts to demonise Islam and Muslims. Although the Muslim Brotherhood promotes democracy and not violence, and Turkey’s ruling AK Party is moderate and democratically-minded, they are regularly mentioned in the same breath by Western critics as the most extreme “Islamic” groups which have actually carried out more atrocities against Muslims than against non-Muslims.

In a 2005 speech, the then US President George W Bush made it clear that he does not want to see Islamists get together or lead their states because they would build an Islamic empire. “The militants believe that controlling one country will rally the Muslim masses,” he claimed, “enabling them to overthrow all moderate governments in the region and establish a radical Islamic empire that spans from Spain to Indonesia.” His idea of “moderate governments” are those dictatorships and absolute monarchies which accede to Western demands.

President Bush referred to Muslims as terrorists and expressed the real fear of the West: “With greater economic and military and political power, the terrorists would be able to advance their stated agenda: to develop weapons of mass destruction, to destroy Israel, to intimidate Europe, to assault the American people and to blackmail our government into isolation.” Even though this is far from what the vast majority of Muslims are seeking to do, it displays the Islamophobia in his thoughts and actions.

Read: Turkey targets Dutch with diplomatic sanctions as ‘Nazi’ row escalates

Bush’s words were more or less echoed by Britain’s Tony Blair and his Home Office Minister Charles Clarke; America’s Dick Cheney, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and others also expressed such fears. All of these leaders want to keep the Muslims disunited so that they cannot re-establish the Caliphate, a word which has been mentioned by many.

So what is the Caliphate? “A united political leadership of the Muslim world,” explains one source, “which was destroyed in 1924 after about 1,350 years. Following the death of Prophet Muhammad, caliphs were appointed to the leadership of the Muslims. In the ensuing centuries, the centre and nature of this power moved around, resting in Istanbul at the time of its destruction. In its dynamic period, the Islamic caliphate was at the heart of a great civilisation, leading the world in science, philosophy, law, maths and astronomy.”

The Muslim Brotherhood has been saying since it was founded that its main and long-term goal is reviving the Caliphate, insisting that this is the best way for Muslims to return to their prosperous ages in the field of science as one of the most civilised of nations. It is a historical fact that when Muslims were united under one political entity they were often the most developed Ummah in many different fields of human activity. This, I would suggest, is why the West does not want Muslims to be re-united ever again; why there is so much enmity against the likes of Recep Tayyip Erdogan, whose moderate Islam is still too much for the West to bear.

Erdogan does not consider the Muslim Brotherhood as a terrorist organisation and adopts an Islamic ideology which is very close to the movement’s, so the West does not like him. If he had been an ardent secularist he would be supported by the West even if he ruled Turkey with an iron fist for decades. We just have to look at how the West supports undemocratic dictators across the Arab world to know the truth of this.

The West does not defend democracy; it claims that Erdogan is leading Turkey to authoritarianism and dictatorship. If it is really concerned about democracy, though, why does it maintain such strong relations with the tyrannical regimes in Egypt, the Gulf States and many other countries? Why does it turn a blind eye to the atrocious human rights record of the Egyptian regime, for example, which came to power through a military coup against the democratically-elected president? Instead of condemning the regime in Cairo, its leader is feted in Western capitals and given ample funds and weapons to keep his people subdued enough not to think about electing a Muslim Brotherhood president ever again. The West doesn’t really support any democracy in the Muslim world, least of all in Turkey; it is only interested in making sure that Muslims are and remain disunited.

(Source / 17.03.2017)

Turkey Halts High-Level Discussions with Netherlands


A street vendor sells flags during a protest in front of the Dutch Consulate in Istanbul, Turkey

Ankara – High-level discussions between the Netherlands and Turkey have been halted and air space to Dutch diplomats was closed, revealed a prominent Turkish minister, as part of the ongoing diplomatic row between the two NATO members.

The US has called on the Netherlands and Turkey to resolve their dispute. A US diplomat said that the Trump administration refrained from meddling between Ankara and Amsterdam because they are strong democracies and can settle their issues.

“People should be able to protest in a peaceful way. Taking this into consideration, both countries must avoid the war of words,” added the diplomat.

Yet, the Turkish escalation occurred despite the calls of the NATO and EU to end the crisis.

Turkey’s EU Minister Omer Celik said the country will “surely have sanctions” against the Netherlands without going into further details. Celik called on the EU to confront Amsterdam’s violations in preventing activities of Turkish ministers regarding the referendum on amending the constitution that is scheduled for April.

He stated that the EU has become a victim of extremism due to the economic crisis, adding that “the extremist Geert Wilders is trying to expel Muslims from the Netherlands and his speech brings fascism to the mind.”

Deputy Prime Minister Numan Kurtulmus declared that the Netherlands will have to apologize to Turkey for its “shameful” practices with two Turkish minsters. He also expressed sorrow and concern over Europe’s “unpromising future due to the growth of extremist right, fascism and Nazism during the past years.”

Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte affirmed that his country will not carry out negotiations under a threat, hinting at the threats by Turkish officials to impose sanctions on the Netherlands. Rutte added that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan describing Dutch people as Nazis and fascists is “unacceptable”.

The Dutch government barred Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu from flying to Rotterdam on Saturday and later stopped Family Minister Fatma Betul Sayan Kaya from entering the Turkish consulate there, before escorting her back to Germany.

The Netherlands warned on Monday its citizens in Turkey and urged them to avoid groupings and crowded places. The Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs considered that there is a danger in travelling to Turkey since terrorist attacks are likely to happen.

(Source / 14.03.2017)

Netherlands suspended all human rights, says Turkish minister

Turkey’s Family Affairs Minister Fatma Betul Sayan Kaya arrived in Istanbul, after being prevented by the Dutch police from entering the Turkish consulate in the Netherlands. She said, “Even our most basic needs were not allowed to be met.”

Photo by: Reuters

Turkey’s Family and Social Affairs Minister Fatma Betul Sayan Kaya (C) speaks during a news conference at Ataturk International airport in Istanbul, Turkey, March 12, 2017

Turkish Family Affairs Minister Fatma Betul Sayan Kaya said on Sunday she experienced “inhuman treatment” from the Dutch police who prevented her from entering Turkey’s consulate in the Netherlands.

Dutch police escorted the Turkish minister back to Germany, from where she had travelled by road to the Netherlands, after the Dutch government had revoked landing rights for a plane carrying Turkey’s Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu on Saturday.

“All freedoms were suspended in the Netherlands yesterday [on Saturday]. Even our most basic needs were not allowed to be met,” Kaya told a press conference at Istanbul’s Ataturk Airport, accompanied by Energy Minister Berat Albayrak.

The EU states, including the Dutch government, have often accused Turkey of violating basic human rights of detainees and public workers, who were suspended, under a state of emergency that was imposed after a bloody coup attempt that took place on July 15. Turkey’s government also faced criticism for declaring a state of emergency.

Turkey’s Family and Social Affairs Minister Fatma Betul Sayan Kaya speaks during a news conference at Ataturk International airport in Istanbul, Turkey, March 12, 2017

“The West who questioned the state of emergency we had declared following the July 15 coup attempt, that targeted our country’s future and integrity, have themselves declared a state of emergency in one night for a woman minister’s meeting with her citizens in the consulate building which is counted as their territory,” said Kaya.

“As a minister holding a diplomatic passport, I don’t have to get permission to come together with our citizens at our consulate, which is considered Turkish territory,” she said.

More than a thousand protestors, many of who waved Turkish flags, took to the streets in Rotterdam demanding to see the minister.

Several demonstrators were beaten by police with batons and arrested. Officers carried out charges on horseback and also used dogs and water cannons to disperse the demonstrators.

TRT World‘s Kilmeny Duchardt brings more on the tension from Ankara.

Turkey expects official apology

Turkey will continue to take steps against the Netherlands until it apologises over a diplomatic row, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said on Sunday.

Turkey was waiting to see whether European countries would voice criticism of the “fascist act” by the Netherlands, he told reporters in France ahead of a public appearance in the northeastern city of Metz.

Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte said on Sunday he would do everything to “de-escalate” a diplomatic confrontation with Turkey he described as the worst the Netherlands has experienced in years, after two major incidents on Saturday.

Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim said on Sunday “Turkey will retaliate in the ‘harshest ways’ to Dutch moves to bar the flight of the Turkish foreign minister and prevent the family minister from entering the Turkish consulate in Rotterdam.

“This situation has been protested in the strongest manner by our side, and it has been conveyed to Dutch authorities that there will be retaliation in the harshest ways … We will respond in kind to this unacceptable behaviour,” Yildirim said.

Turkish presidential Spokesperson Ibrahim Kalin also slammed the Dutch government.

“Shame for the Dutch government for succumbing to anti-Islam racists and fascists, and damaging long-standing Turkey-NL relations,” Kalin tweeted in response to a call by Geert Wilders, an anti-Islam Dutch politician.

Geert called Kaya to leave the country “and never come back”.

1/Shame on the Dutch government for succumbing to anti-Islam racists and fascists, and damaging long-standing Turkey-NL relations.

Turkey’s Minister of European Union Affairs Omer Celik is among those who criticised the Dutch government.

“Fascism has awaken in the Netherlands and take stage. All real democrats in the world should react to this for free world.” Celik wrote on Twitter.

10) Faşizm, Hollanda’da uyanmış ve sahne almıştır. Tüm dünyadaki gerçek demokratların hür dünya için buna tepki vermesi gerekir.

He added that the Dutch prime minister has become the voice of a dark and racist mentality that led to WWII.

(Source / 12.03.2017)

Netherlands branded ‘Nazi remnants’ by Erdogan, as Turkey FM barred from entry

President of Turkey Recep Tayyip Erdogan speaks in a press conference in Manisa province of Turkey on 24th February [Kayhan Özer/Anadolu Agency]

President of Turkey Recep Tayyip Erdogan speaks in a press conference in Manisa province of Turkey on 24th February

The Netherlands barred Turkey’s Foreign Minister from flying to Rotterdam today and President Recep Tayyip Erdogan responded by calling his NATO partner a “Nazi remnant” as a row over Ankara campaigning among emigre Turkish voters intensified.

Rotterdam had banned Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu from attending a Turkish rally in support of Erdogan’s drive for reforming Turkey’s democracy into an executive presidency, to be put to a referendum next month.

The Dutch are due to vote in a national election on Wednesday, in which anti-immigration sentiment has played a prominent role with nationalist candidate Geert Wilders calling Erdogan a dictator.

Cavusoglu had said this morning he would fly to Rotterdam anyway and accused the Dutch of treating Turkish citizens in the country like “hostages”.

“I sent them so they could contribute to your economy…They’re not your captives,” he told CNN Turk television.

“If my going will increase tensions, let it be. What damage will my going have on them? I am a foreign minister and I can go wherever I want,” he said before the Dutch barred his flight.

Cavusoglu had threatened harsh economic and political sanctions if the Dutch refused him entry, a threat that proved decisive for the Netherlands government.

It cited public order and security concerns in withdrawing landing rights for Cavusoglu’s flight. But it said the sanctions threat made the search for a reasonable solution impossible.

Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte said that while the Netherlands and Turkey could search for “an acceptable solution”, Turkey was not respecting the rules relating to public gatherings.

“Many Dutch people with a Turkish background are authorised to vote in the referendum over the Turkish constitution. The Dutch government does not have any protest against gatherings in our country to inform them about it,” he said on Facebook.

“But these gatherings may not contribute to tensions in our society and everyone who wants to hold a gathering is obliged to follow instructions of those in authority so that public order and safety can be guaranteed,” Rutte added.

Spillover fear

Four planned Turkish rallies in Austria and one in Switzerland have also been cancelled in the dispute.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel, whose country Erdogan compared last week with Nazi Germany, has said she will do everything possible to prevent any spillover of Turkish political tensions onto German soil.

Cavusoglu said Turks in Germany were under systematic pressure from police and intelligence services.

Erdogan is looking to the large number of emigre Turks living in Europe, especially Germany and the Netherlands, to help clinch victory in next month’s referendum which will shape the future of a country whose position on the edge of the Middle East makes it of crucial strategic importance to NATO.

He has cited domestic threats from Kurdish and Islamist militants and a July coup bid as cause to vote “yes” to his new powers. But he has also drawn on the emotionally charged row with Europe to portray Turkey as betrayed by allies, facing wars on its southern borders and in need of strong leadership.

“Listen Netherlands, you’ll jump once, you’ll jump twice, but my people will thwart your game,” Erdogan said. “You can cancel our foreign minister’s flight as much as you want, but let’s see how your flights come to Turkey now.”

“They don’t know diplomacy or politics. They are Nazi remnants. They are fascists.”

Erdogan chafes at Western criticism of his mass arrests and dismissals of people authorities believe were linked to a failed July attempt by the military to topple him.

Cavusoglu made a veiled threat of possible realignment of Turkey in the world in a reference to Russia.

“The Netherlands should stop this faulty understanding and approach…If they think Turkey will take whatever they do, that Turkey is gone. I told them this, stop this boss-like attitude. If Europe keeps this up, they will lose many places, including Russia and us.”

(Source / 11.03.2017)

Walls, drones and mines: Turkey tightens border as Syria incursion deepens

A wall along the border between Turkey and Syria is pictured near the southeastern town of Deliosman in Kilis province, Turkey, August 29, 2016. REUTERS/Umit Bektas/File Photo

A wall along the border between Turkey and Syria is pictured near the southeastern town of Deliosman in Kilis province, Turkey, August 29, 2016

Turkey is steadily sealing its frontier with Syria, long infiltrated in both directions by fighters and smugglers, with fences, minefields, ditches and a wall that will snake even through the most mountainous regions.

“The Border is Honour”, read signs across the walls of Turkish military outposts at Gulbaba and Hoyuk, visited by Reuters on a rare trip organised by the country’s armed forces.

Fortification of the 911 km (566 mile) border, along with a Turkish army incursion into northern Syria launched in August last year, is helping to tighten the noose on Daesh fighters as well as curbing Kurdish rebel groups.

Rebels from a range of militias in the Syrian war, including foreign fighters joining Daesh, once slipped easily over the border. The militant group also smuggled out goods including looted antiquities to raise funds for its struggle.

Now, with US-backed rebels encircling its Syrian stronghold in the city of Raqqa, infiltration in either direction is no longer so straightforward. The clampdown has also sharply reduced the flow of Syrian refugees trying to flee the civil war.

“I can tell you that right now nobody with a vehicle or on horse can cross our border (illegally),” said infantry colonel Alparslan Kilinc, referring to the 169 km stretch from Hoyuk military post to the Turkish border town of Karkamis that his 1st Border Regiment patrols.

“It is just not possible. There are still attempts by people to cross on foot and we intervene in that.”

Read: Half of Turkey-Syria border wall completed

At Hoyuk, about 80 km northwest of the shattered Syrian city of Aleppo, Turkish soldiers demonstrate their readiness. One peers through binoculars towards Syrian territory from a watchtower at the perimeter of the small walled complex. Troops called to alert slide down a pole to the ground and run to a sandbagged position or mount an armoured car.

Engineers are installing a complex set of measures across a territory that includes plains and mountains.

First comes a three-metre (10 foot) high wall, now almost complete, then a mined area. Beyond that lie ditches and fortified fences – an area patrolled by soldiers around the clock and monitored by thermal imaging cameras installed atop 25-metre high steel watchtowers to spot infiltrators at night.

Drones are also being used for surveillance.

As a result, Kilinc said, the number of smuggling attempts, which peaked in 2014 at 3,474 incidents, dropped to just 77 last year. Illegal crossing attempts fell to 8,531 from more than 12,000 over the same period.

Many of those were likely refugees, even though camps have been set up for them on the Syrian side of the border. However, 424 non-Syrian citizens were captured in 2015, with the majority thought to be Daesh fighters. Last year, that figure fell to 210, along with 49 militants from Kurdish militia.

Fighters Cut Off

Ankara was accused by some Western allies of being too slow to stop the flow of foreign fighters to Daesh in Syria and Iraq in the early years of the militant group’s rise.

Turkey has rejected this, saying it needs greater intelligence sharing with allies to intercept would-be militants from the group. It has stepped up security and launched the military campaign in Syria, codenamed Euphrates Shield, to push Daesh away from Turkish borders.

Sam Heller, Beirut-based fellow at The Century Foundation think tank, said the sealing of the border had been successful, but had taken time to get underway.

“It looks like the Turks have finally, successfully, closed their last stretch of border with Daesh,” he told Reuters. “They probably could have done it sooner, but this was something that was subject to other political calculations and considerations.”

The Turkish campaign took the Syrian town of Jarablus on the Euphrates river, cleared Daesh fighters from a roughly 100 km stretch of the border, and then moved south to al-Bab, a strategic town now all but secured.

Read: Syrian army advances against Daesh near Aleppo; blocks Turkish-backed FSA’s advance

Asked about the passage of foreign fighters over the frontier, Kilinc said: “It is almost non-existent. The people trying to cross through here were going to places like al-Bab before. Now those places are emptied.”

Kilinc’s stretch has been one of the hottest spots on the frontier, having neighboured Daesh-held territory for several years until Euphrates Shield.

(Source / 05.3.2017)

Turkey’s PM seeks votes for ‘strong, stable’ Turkey in presidential referendum

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan delivers a speech during a meeting at Presidential Complex in Ankara, Turkey on 8 February 2017 [Presidency of Turkey / Yasin Bülbül/Anadolu Agency]

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan delivers a speech during a meeting at Presidential Complex in Ankara, Turkey on 8 February 2017

Turkey’s prime minister called on the public today to back constitutional change that would greatly strengthen President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s powers, portraying the reform as a vote for stability at the start of campaigning ahead of an April referendum.

Thousands of ruling AK Party members waved Turkish flags and rallying songs resounded round a sports arena in the capital as Prime Minister Binali Yildirim handed out red carnations after briefly addressing thousands gathered outside.

“There is a rising voice from the town squares: for a strong Turkey, for lasting stability our decision is…” Yildirim called out, eliciting the repeated shouted response “Yes” from the multitude unable to enter the packed arena.

Some 6,500 police provided security inside and around the arena on Saturday, according to state-run Anadolu news agency.

The bid to replace the EU candidate country’s parliamentary democracy with a powerful executive presidency is seen by Erdogan supporters as a guarantee of stability, preventing a return to the fragile coalitions of previous decades.

But opponents fear a surge in authoritarianism.

Tens of thousands of people have already been detained and more than 100,000 public sector workers suspended or dismissed since a failed coup last July.

The NATO-member country of 80 million will vote on the reform in a plebiscite on 16 April, with a simple majority needed to approve legislation passed by parliament in January and rubber-stamped by Erdogan last month.

The AKP, which he founded, has been in power since 2002, and Erdogan became prime minister in 2003. He assumed the largely ceremonial post of president in 2014 but has pushed its powers to the limit. The reforms could enable him to stay in office until 2029.

The legislation enables the president to issue decrees, declare emergency rule, appoint ministers and top state officials and dissolve parliament.

The two largest opposition parties say the proposals would remove the balances to the already considerable influence Erdogan wields over government.

Erdogan says an overhauled political system is needed to tackle unprecedented security threats, from a series of Islamic State and Kurdish militant bombings to the putsch during which rogue soldiers killed at least 240 people.

(Source / 25.02.2017)

New Turkey-Europe War over ‘Spying Imams’

Fethullah Gulen in Saylorsburg, Pennsylvania, Sept. 24, 2013. Reuters

Fethullah Gulen in Saylorsburg, Pennsylvania, Sept. 24, 2013

Ankara- Allegations on spying activities practiced by some Turks, who belong to Turkish-Islamic Union for Religious Affairs (DITIB) and other unions and associations in Germany and Austria, have opened a new door for tension with Ankara.

DITIB is Germany’s largest Islamic umbrella group with over 900 mosques tied to the Turkish government’s Directorate of Religion, or Diyanet.

German officials not only issued statements about activities practiced by some Turkish people, especially imams sent by DITIB, but also started judicial investigations.

The imams have allegedly collected information across Europe on supporters of the religious movement Ankara blames for last July’s failed coup attempt.

German police on Wednesday raided the homes of four imams alleged to have spied on the opposition for the Turkish government.

The Federal Prosecutors Office (GBA) said in a statement no arrests were made in the raids in the states of North Rhine-Westphalia (NRW) and Rhineland-Pfalz, which aimed to collect evidence into imams conducting alleged espionage against supporters of U.S.-based preacher Fethullah Gulen.

The prosecutor’s office said the raids were carried out as a result of a September order from Diyanet, a religious body tied to the Turkish premiership, for imams to pass information to diplomatic missions on Gulen supporters.

Chief of the Turkish Presidency of Religious Affairs Mehmet Gormez said Turkish authorities had acknowledged that six imams had “exceeded their authorities” and were called back to Turkey in order not to harm relations with Germany.

Gormez blamed “internal” political concerns for the raids, which he said were conducted despite the fact that the imams had returned to Turkey.

He rejected accusations that the clerics were engaged in spying or any other illegal activity.

Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu criticized Germany on Friday saying that the country has become a safe haven for PKK members, as well as for followers of the Gulenist Terror Group (FETÖ).

Speaking to reporters at the G20 Summit of Foreign Ministers in the German city of Bonn, Cavusoglu said Ankara’s concerns over the FETÖ members in Germany have been expressed to German authorities at every opportunity.

“It is not acceptable that they have found a place for themselves in a country like Germany.”

For his part, Turkish Justice Minister Bekir Bozdag condemned on Thursday the raids and accused Berlin of acting indirectly under the influence of the Gulen movement.

He said the investigation into the alleged spying showed how easily Germany “believes the allegations of terrorists.”

In a common matter, an Austrian opposition lawmaker accused Turkey of operating an informer network via its embassy in Vienna that he said targets critics of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, promotes his policies and receives payments from Ankara.

Peter Pilz, from the Austrian Greens, said he sent documents to the police detailing the activities of the ATIB, an umbrella organization headed by the religious attache at Turkey’s embassy that oversees dozens of mosques in Austria.

(Source / 18.02.2017)