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Turkey

Geopolitics

How Blocking Sweden's NATO Bid Plays Right Into Erdogan's Election Campaign

Turkey's objections to Swedish membership of NATO may mean that Finland joins first. But as he approaches his highly contested reelection bid at home, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is ready to use the issue to his advantage.

-Analysis-

PARIS — This story has all the key elements of our age: the backdrop of the war in Ukraine, the excessive ambitions of an autocrat, the opportunism of a right-wing demagogue, Islamophobia... And at the end, a country, Sweden, whose NATO membership, which should have been only a formality, has been blocked.

Last spring, under the shock of the invasion of Ukraine by Vladimir Putin's Russia, Sweden and Finland, two neutral countries in northern Europe, decided to apply for membership in NATO. For Sweden, this is a major turning point: the kingdom’s neutrality had lasted more than 150 years.

Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan raised objections. It demanded that Sweden stop sheltering Kurdish opponents in its country. This has nothing to do with NATO or Ukraine, but everything to do with Erdogan's electoral agenda, as he campaigns for the Turkish presidential elections next May.

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Tour Of Istanbul's Ancient Yedikule Gardens, At Risk With Urban Restoration

The six-hectare gardens in the center of Istanbul, which are more than 1,500 years old, have helped feed the city's residents over the centuries and are connected with its religious history. But current city management has a restoration project that could disrupt a unique urban ecosystem.

ISTANBUL — The historic urban gardens of Yedikule in Istanbul are at risk of destruction once again. After damage in 2013 caused by the neighborhood municipality of Fatih, the gardens are now facing further disruption and possible damage as the greater Istanbul municipality plans more "restoration" work.

The six-hectare gardens are more than 1,500 years old, dating back to the city's Byzantine era. They were first farmed by Greeks and Albanians, then people from the northern city of Kastamonu, near the Black Sea. Now, a wide variety of seasonal produce grows in the garden, including herbs, varieties of lettuce and other greens, red turnip, green onion, cabbage, cauliflower, tomato, pepper, corn, mulberry, fig and pomegranate.

Yedikule is unique among urban gardens around the world, says Cemal Kafadar, a historian and professor of Turkish Studies at Harvard University.

“There are (urban gardens) that are older than Istanbul gardens, such as those in Rome, but there is no other that has maintained continuity all this time with its techniques and specific craft," Kafadar says. "What makes Yedikule unique is that it still provides crops. You might have eaten (from these gardens) with or without knowing about it."

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Election Year In Turkey: End Of An Era For Erdoğan?

Turkey heads to the polls in June in elections that decide the country's future direction. It is a referendum on President Erdoğan, but also a challenge for the divided opposition. Much is at stake in a country roiled by multiple crises and declining trust in its leaders.

-Analysis-

ISTANBUL — Both the world and Turkey are struggling with crises. Global clashes of politics, economics and cultures are reflected in every aspect of our lives. As humanity attempts to move from an industrialized to information society, a series of crises of climate change, food and energy shortages, and regional and global migration undermine our very foundations.

Turkey is facing these multiple crises with its old institutions and rules. It has not yet had the transformations of mentality in terms of education, law, secularist state and gender equality that are the requirements of the industrial age. What’s more, Turkey has to handle the uncertainty and chaos of this tangle of crises with politicians who are unable to overcome their mindsets of political polarization and identity politics.

While the pandemic and the following economic crisis have started to silence the identity politics and given a louder voice to the issues of class tension, injustice and poverty, politicians once again drag us towards identity and polarization.

The opposition parties in Turkey cannot find time to compete with the government, led by President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan who has held power since 2014, as they are busy fighting among themselves. People are trying to get rid of the heavy chains of polarization and identities, but politics is putting them back in chains.

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Strange And Cruel As It Sounds, 2022 Was A Year Of Hope

Many lives have been lost, rights trampled and dreams crushed. But through the haze, the world took the right turn on many fronts this past year, from Ukraine to Iran to China. Trying to take stock amid the suffering.

The starting premise is a bit daring: to associate 2022 with good news seems naïve at best.

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine caused the death, rape and torture of thousands of people.

In China, the iron-fisted 69-year-old Communist leader Xi Jinping strengthened his control over the Chinese population and looks set to stay in power for life. Meanwhile, in Iran, clerics continue to brutally suppress women’s protests for equal rights; in Turkey, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan threatened to invade Greece.

Of course, it’s hard to speak of a “triumph” of Western democracies, many of which are stuck in sluggish, inconclusive elections: a French executive that lacks a clear majority, Liz Truss in the UK and the probably transient Giorgia Meloni in Italy. And yet...

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This Happened

This Happened — December 19: Assassination In An Art Gallery

The Russian diplomat Andrei Karlov served as an ambassador to North Korea, and then Turkey. On this day in 2016, he was assassinated while giving a speech in Turkey. The moment was captured by an Associated Press photographer who had been assigned to cover the speech.

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Ideas
Ali Yaycıoğlu

Alphabets & Politics: Reflections On The Modern Turkish Language

Nearly a century since the post-Ottoman reform of the Turkish alphabet, which replaced the Arabic letters with Latin based ones, the issues it evokes on both the personal and political level are still very much alive.

-Essay-

ISTANBUL — The modern alphabet reform of 1928, which replaced the Arabic letters with Latin based ones, was a dramatic event for Turkey — and it came at a certain cost as every big decision does. Nonetheless, the national literacy campaign progressed with this new alphabet.

For me, the best part of being Turkish is the language.

I loved the old Ottoman script. I have tried to learn the old script but I was not much of s success. Later, I started studying Arabic because I wanted to work on Middle Eastern politics at the university. However, I only mastered the old script and especially started to read archival resources and manuscripts in my postgraduate years with Halil İnalcık at Bilkent University.

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Ideas
Bekir Ağırdır*

How Turkey Can Bring Its Brain Drain Back Home

Turkey heads to the polls next year as it faces its worst economic crisis in decades. Disillusioned by corruption, many young people have already left. However, Turkey's disaffected young expats are still very attached to their country, and could offer the best hope for a new future for the country.

-Analysis-

ISTANBUL — Turkey goes to the polls next June in crucial national elections. President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is up against several serious challenges, as a dissatisfied electorate faces the worst economic crisis of his two-decade rule. The opposition is polling well, but the traditional media landscape is in the hands of the government and its supporters.

But against this backdrop, many, especially the young, are disillusioned with the country and its entire political system.

Young or old, people from every demographic, cultural group and class who worry about the future of Turkey are looking for something new. Relationships and dialogues between people from different political traditions and backgrounds are increasing. We all constantly feel the country's declining quality of life and worry about the prevalence of crime and lawlessness.

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Geopolitics
Carolina Drüten

A Rare Look At Europe's Most Violent Border Crossing

Many migrants want to enter the EU via the Greece-Turkey border. Time and again, it is the scene of violence, and the EU border guard Frontex is also said to be involved. Die Welt managed to visit a place that is off-limits for journalists and usually remains hidden from the public.

EVROS — A photo, 92 naked migrants, some of them wounded. Did Turkey force people across the land border into Greece? That's what the Greek government is saying. Is Greece covering up its own crimes against refugees with the photo? That is what Ankara claims.

The border river Evros is one of the routes for migrants who want to go to the EU – and time and again the scene of violence and violations of the law. The EU-funded border protection agency Frontex is said to be involved in these activities. On the other side of the border, in Turkey, migrants are used as leverage.

The Greek-Turkish land border made headlines in early 2020 after Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan unilaterally declared it open. Thousands of migrants rushed to Greece; Greek border guards fended them off with stun grenades and tear gas.

At the time, Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis said two sentences essential to understanding his government's migration policy: "This is no longer a refugee problem. This is a blatant attempt by Turkey to use desperate people to push its geopolitical agenda."

And according to the Greeks, when asymmetric warfare is the problem, humanitarian aid is not the answer. Defense is.

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Turkey
Kay (Karen Patricia) Redrup*

Eating Through Lockdown

-Sponsored content-

Lockdown was severe in Istanbul. No sooner had Wuhan shut down, than we did. We are a city that never sleep: social and always out — in cafes, bars and tea-gardens.

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In The News
Cameron Manley, Sophia Constantino, Bertrand Hauger, Anne-Sophie Goninet and Jeff Israely

Putin Meets With Erdogan, Turkish Leader Emerges As Most Likely Peacemaker

“Our goal is to continue the momentum that has been achieved and bring an end to the bloodshed as soon as possible,” Erdogan said just before his meeting with Putin, referring to earlier agreements he helped seal.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Russian President Vladimir Putin met Thursday in Astana, Kazakhstan, with the world holding out slim hope of a peace deal to halt the war in Ukraine.

Stay up-to-date with the latest on the Russia-Ukraine war, with our exclusive international coverage.

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The two sides in the war currently appear too far apart to even begin negotiations, but Erdogan has maintained regular contact with both Moscow and Kyiv, establishing himself as an indispensable diplomatic resource for trying to halt the bloodshed in Ukraine and eventual help orchestrate a peace accord.

Speaking just before his encounter with Putin, Erdogan said Turkey’s aim is to orchestrate a ceasefire. “Our goal is to continue the momentum that has been achieved and bring an end to the bloodshed as soon as possible,” the Turkish leader said, referring to earlier agreements he helped seal.

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Migrant Lives
Carolina Drüten

How An Erdogan-Assad Truce Could Trigger A New Migrant Crisis At Europe's Border

In Turkey, resentment against Syrian refugees is growing. And President Erdogan – once their patron – is now busy seeking good relations with the man the Syrians fled, the dictator Bashar al-Assad.

ISTANBUL — At some point, they'd simply had enough. Enough of the hostilities, the insecurity, the attacks. In a group on the messenger service Telegram, Syrians living in Turkey called for a caravan – a march to the Turkish-Greek border, and then crossing into the European Union.

Tens of thousands of users are now following updates from the group, in which the organizers are asking Syrian refugees in Arabic to equip themselves with sleeping bags, tents, life jackets, drinking water, canned food and first aid kits. The AFP news agency spoke to an organizer who wants to remain anonymous because of possible reprisals. "We will let you know when it's time to leave," said the 46-year-old Syrian engineer.

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FOCUS: Russia-Ukraine War
Timour Ozturk

How Istanbul Became The Top Destination For Russians Fleeing Conscription

Hundreds of thousands of men have left Russia since partial mobilization was announced. Turkey, which still has air routes open with Moscow, is one of their top choices. But life is far from easy once they land.

ISTANBUL — Sitting on a bench in front of the Sea of Marmara, Albert tries to roll a cigarette despite the wind blowing his blonde hair strands. This 31-year-old political philosophy doctor is staying at a friend’s place in Kadıköy, a trendy neighborhood on the Asian bank of Istanbul and popular amongst expats.

On Friday, Sept. 23, Albert left Moscow, where he was visiting his parents, with two shirts and two pairs of pants hastily shoved in a backpack. “When I heard about the annexation referendums in the new Ukrainian territories, I knew the situation would get worse. I thought I had a few more days. But when Putin announced the partial mobilization on the morning of Sept. 21, I booked my tickets right away.”

Albert had tried to stir up a student movement against the war in St. Petersburg. He was arrested with his partner on Feb. 27, spent a night in jail and was fined a few hundred euros. They persevered and took part in protests but in April, while he was going to a demonstration, he was arrested once again. His detention lasted five days.

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