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Turkey

Society

Orhan Pamuk On Pandemics, Press Freedom And An Eye On Erdogan's Defeat

Nights of Plague is the latest book by the Turkish Nobel Prize winner, a fictional rendering based on historical reality that draws parallels (political and health-wise) between the past and the present.

MADRID — Orhan Pamuk is a kind of Bosphorus Bridge of literature: He unites two continents, two cultures, two philosophical and religious visions that have, over the centuries, tenaciously turned their backs on each other.

In his country, as the authoritarian drift of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has deepened, the author and public intellectual has progressively become a thorn in the side of the government. However, his run-ins with the Islamo-nationalist regime have not made a dent in his cheerful and optimistic personality.

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Ukraine Peace Talks: Erdogan's Chance To Cement Turkey As Key Power Broker

After more than a month of fighting, a fresh round of negotiations between Russia and Ukraine has begun in Istanbul in the hope that progress can be made. Following weeks of fruitless talks in Belarus, negotiations were hosted by the Turkish president, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, who made a short opening statement telling both sides: “The world is waiting for good news, and good news from you.”

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The very fact that talks have moved from Belarus, a key Russian ally, to Turkey is an indication that things have changed and that Russia’s military position is not as strong as it had originally hoped for. Meanwhile, the decision to hold the meetings in Turkey make sense for a number of reasons.

It’s not the first time the two sides have met since the invasion on February 24. Turkey hosted a meeting in Antalya on March 10 between the Russian foreign minister, Sergei Lavrov, and his opposite number, Ukraine’s Dmytro Kuleba. The talks took place against a backdrop of worsening violence across Ukraine and were largely unfruitful, except as an opportunity for the two sides to send messages to the watching world.

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Why These 7 Eternal Flames Around The World Keep On Burning

The president of Turkmenistan announced plans this year to extinguish the country's famous "Gates of Hell" gas crater. But it's by no means the only one of its kind. We rounded up the eternal flames still burning in all corners of the globe.

On Jan. 8, Turkmenistan’s leader Gurbanguly Berdymukhamedov, known for his authoritarian tendencies, announced on television that he had set his sights on the Darvaza Gas Crater, also known as the “Gates of Hell”, a mysterious vat of flames that has been spewing fire for over 50 years in the Karakum Desert.

The burning crater is one of the central Asian country’s few tourist attractions, yet President Berdymukhamedov has ordered it extinguished once and for all, saying the methane-belching pit was bad for the environment and locals’ health, while also representing a lost opportunity for the impoverished nation to capture marketable gas.

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Why Gen Z Is A Real Threat To Erdogan's Grip On Power In Turkey

Erdogan has long sought to mould young Turks into a so-called 'pious generation' for his brand of Islamic political rule. Now it seems he has failed, as the younger generation longs for what that the president refuses to grant them. In next year’s elections, their votes may prove decisive.

ISTANBUL — The only Turkey that Zehra Denizoglu has ever known is the one governed by Recep Tayyip Erdogan. He became Prime Minister the year she was born, and shortly afterward was named “European of the Year”, having brought the inflation rate down to 9%. Now, 18 years later, it is more than five times that, and Erdogan has established a regime where he wields absolute power. Denizoglu is now an adult and has started studying at a university in Istanbul. Next year she will be one of around 6 million first-time voters in Turkey.

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Society
Marion Sendker

"You Ass Tulip!" - What Turkey's Creative Swearing Culture Can Teach Us

Profanity is a kind of national sport in Turkey. But it can also be risky business, sometimes leading to lawsuits or even death. One political scientist researching Turkey’s unique way of conjuring curse words explains what the country's inventive slurs reveal about its fears and prejudices.

ISTANBUL — “Take your mother and get lost!” That’s the literal translation of what Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the authoritarian Turkish president, once said to a farmer 15 years ago when the man complained about economic problems.

The Turkish people were shocked by his choice of words, but it was the farmer who was led away by police and later forced to make a televised apology. As he recently explained in a newspaper interview, he is still dealing with legal proceedings as a result of the incident because he is accused of insulting the president, not the other way round.

Erdogan’s behavior was certainly unusual for a head of state, but many Turks also saw it as honest and authentic. “In Turkey, working-class people often use rude words, which are seen as more straightforward and sincere,” explains Ahmet Özcan, a political scientist at Istanbul’s Boğaziçi University, who is currently working on a research project about Turkish slang.

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In The News
Anne-Sophie Goninet and Bertrand Hauger

Troops On Ukraine Alert, BoJo’s New Party Scandal, NFT Beatles

👋 Salve*

Welcome to Tuesday, where NATO and U.S. troops are on alert amid Ukraine tensions, there’s a new Boris Johnson party scandal and Beatles memorabilia will be sold as NFTs. Worldcrunch’s teleworking Carl-Johan Karlsson also takes a tour of countries mulling a bonafide legal right to work from home.

[*Latin]

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Geopolitics
Negar Jokar

How Tehran Hunts Down Iranian Refugees In Turkey

Iran's clerical regime is able to sabotage asylum applications, prompt deportations and, failing that, beat and murder Iranian political refugees in Turkey.

LONDON — After Iran's 1979 revolution, Iranians with different views to those of the new, clerical regime felt obliged to leave the country. Over the years, a range of events and factors included prison executions in the 1980s and the suppression of student protests in Tehran in 1999. The crushing of mass protests in 2009, then in late 2017, in mid-2018 and in late 2019 to 2020 prompted more Iranians to flee.

One place that has become a temporary refuge for them is Turkey. Currently, it hosts around 40,000 Iranian refugees, many of whom have spent years of their lives here, hoping in fact to move on and settle in another country as a safe haven.

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Geopolitics
Mohamed Tozy

Autopsy Of The Muslim Brotherhood's Failed Political Project

A decade after the Arab Spring, the Islamist political movement driven by the Muslim Brotherhood, from Egypt to Morocco and beyond, continues to flirt with more extreme Salafist elements to build popular support — and continues to show its utter incapacity to properly run a national government.

-Analysis-

The momentous setback of the Moroccan Justice and Development Party (PJD) this past September has had everyone in the political world talking, including Islamists themselves. Abdelilah Benkirane, the former prime minister who returned as the head of the party following an extraordinary congress on Oct. 30, emphasized the responsibility of the party itself in this defeat, including "internal quarrels and renouncing the values of Islam and the fundamentals of Islamist militancy, including selflessness."

The outgoing party leaders, instead, described the defeat as a kind of puzzle, even leaving the doors open to "deep state" conspiracy theories.

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Coronavirus

Omicron Extra! 16 Magazine Covers And Front Pages Around The World

The ominous Omicron COVID-19 variant has made a splash on international dailies and weeklies alike.

It's been another week dominated by an invisible virus. The news last Friday of a "variant of concern" identified by South African health care officials set off a new round of travel restrictions, global health policy criticism and vaccine debates as COVID-19 once again dominated news headlines and dinner conversations around the world.

Though the full impact of the Omicron variant must still be determined by ongoing scientific studies, the world was once again joined in a collective moment of anxiety and uncertainty a full two years after the first mentions of a novel coronavirus discovered in China began to appear in the world's news outlets. And now...?

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Society
Laure Gautherin

Bad Ruses, Good Reasons: How To Avoid Military Service In 5 Countries

In the countries that require military service, those who refuse to serve must either try to explain their exemption or find a creative short-cut to avoid the obligation. Here are some examples.

Military conscription has ebbed and flowed through history, typically depending on national security (wars), economics (jobs) and demography (young men). In recent years, many countries have outright eliminated the draft or replaced it with a civil service requirement. At the same time, other countries have been bringing back obligatory military service to respond to security threats or as a solution to rising high school dropout and unemployment rates. Morocco reinstated conscription in 2018 after 12 years, with a 12-month required military service for all men and women aged 19 to 25.

Amid newfound tensions around the Baltic Sea, the Swedish government also decided to reintroduce military conscription in March 2017, though for a limited number of citizens - 4,000 men and women were selected from a pool of 13,000.

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Weird
Hannah Steinkopf-Frank

Poopgate: Is Beloved Istanbul Street Dog Caught In Turkey’s Political Dirty Tricks?

Boji the dog was giving a good image to Istanbul's public transportation system. Some wonder if opponents of the mayor exercised the canine nuclear option...

Boji, a street dog in Istanbul, has garnered national and international acclaim in recent weeks for his ability to navigate the Turkish megapolis all on his own — commuting on the metro, riding ferries and even taking elevators.

According to Getty Images photographer Chris McGrath, who followed him around the city, Boji loves riding the city's trams and trains. The dog's name comes from the word "bogie" ("boji" in Turkish), the framework of a vehicle that houses the wheel and axle, since his favorite spot is sitting on top of the bogie and feeling the vibrations of the engine.

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In The News
Jane Herbelin, Anne-Sophie Goninet and Bertrand Hauger

Russia Space Blast Endangers Astronauts, Belarus Border Clashes, Leo’s Beach

👋 ሰላም!*

Welcome to Tuesday, where Russia is under fire for blowing up a satellite in space, clashes erupt at the Poland-Belarus border and Leo's Beach opens again. Courtesy of German daily Die Welt, we also look at the reasons behind the major discrepancies in COVID-19 vaccination rates across Europe.

[*Selam, Amharic - Ethiopia]

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Geopolitics
Carolina Drüten and Gregor Schwung

Erdogan And Boris Johnson: A New Global Power Duo?

As Turkey fears the EU closing ranks over defense, Turkish President Erdogan is looking to Boris Johnson as a post-Brexit ally, especially as Angela Merkel steps aside. This could undermine the deal where Ankara limits refugee entry into Europe, and other dossiers too.

-Analysis-

BERLIN — According to the Elysée Palace, the French presidency "can't understand" why Turkey would overreact, since the defense pact that France recently signed in Paris with Greece is not aimed at Ankara. The agreement covers billions of euros' worth of military equipment, and the two countries have committed to come to each other's aid if they are attacked.

Although Paris denies this, it is difficult to see the agreement as anything other than a message, perhaps even a provocation, targeted at Turkey.
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Turkey
Catherine Chatignoux

It's Only Getting Harder To Be A Syrian Refugee In Turkey

The four million Syrians living in Turkey were already facing great difficulties, and the pandemic only made their lives more uncertain. But there's another truth they know must face.

GAZIANTEP — The lives of Adnan, Yasmin, Ajib and Muhammed, Syrian refugees settled in Turkey, was already a long, long hardship. When the coronavirus arrived, hardship turned into devastation.

While refugees in Lebanon and Syria are housed and fed in camps, the millions of Syrian refugees in Turkey are integrated within major cities and suburbs, and must find work. These families — which rarely have fewer than four children — live on a single daily salary, usually in the construction, agriculture or small businesses sectors. With COVID-19, these opportunities have become scarce, plunging entire families into destitution.

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BBC

The Latest: Sinovac Greenlight, Belarus Court Drama, Comrade Seagal

Welcome to Wednesday, where a second Chinese vaccine gets WHO's greenlight, Sri Lanka faces its worst maritime disaster ever and an asparagus recipe makes its way into a Belgian legal decree. Meanwhile, our latest edition of Work → In Progress takes the pulse of the work-life balance in a fully-vaccinated future.

• COVID travel system begins in EU: Seven European countries have started issuing COVID-19 passports for their citizens and accepting them for visitors who have been fully vaccinated. Meanwhile, the World Health Organization approves the Sinovac vaccine for emergency use, the second Chinese vaccine to receive the green light.

• First human bird flu case in China: A 41-year old man in Eastern China is the first human to have contracted the rare bird flu strain, H10N3. Health officials believe it was a case of "accidental cross-species transmission", and assure the public that the risk for community transmission remains low.

• Cyber attack targets world's largest meat supplier: A serious cyber attack has hit JBS, halting production at several U.S. based meat processing plants. JBS reported to the Biden Administration that the attack is likely attributable to a Russian criminal group.

• African Union suspends Mali: Following a second military coup in nine months, the African Union has suspended Mali's membership and warned of possible sanctions if "normal constitutional order" isn't restored. Meanwhile, the country's coup leaders have appointed Choguel Kokalla Maïga as new prime minister.

• Belarus opposition activist stabs himself in court: Stepan Latypov, a critic and outspoken activist against the Lukashenko regime, attempted to slit his own throat during a court hearing. The apparent suicide attempt came directly after Latypov alleged he had been tortured and that his family and neighbors faced prosecution if he refused to plead guilty.

• Ecological disaster off Sri Lanka: The Singapore-registered cargo ship, MV X-Press Pearl, carrying containers, chemicals, and cosmetics, is now sinking off Sri Lanka's west coast after first catching fire two weeks ago.

• Steven Seagal joins pro-Kremlin party: A longtime friend of Vladimir Putin, the Hollywood actor has now officially joined the political party: "A Just Russia – Patriots – For Truth."

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food / travel
Bertrand Hauger

Hello, Troglodyte Neighbor

I've shared photos before of a trip to central Turkey's Göreme National Park, with its troglodyte cave-like dwellings and fairy chimney rock formations. Only recently did I dig up this image from a visit a few years earlier, and was reminded of how strange and powerful the landscape is.

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