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It's The Emperor, Stupid - How Erdogan's Power Trip Drives Turkey Toward The Cliff

Police action during Gezi park protests in Istanbul June 16
Police action during Gezi park protests in Istanbul June 16
Orhan Kemal Cengiz


ISTANBUL - If I were inclined, I could wax all day about the new National Intelligence Agency law. I could opine, for example, that “Even George Orwell could not dream of an intelligence agency that would keep the urine samples of its people.” But that's for another day.

I could also explain how the law about gatherings and demonstrations is wrongly enforced. How the horrible record of human rights violations of recent weeks — the woman in red being gassed in the face, gassing the Divan Hotel and shutting the doors — are perfect examples of abuse within the human rights law. I have plenty to say on this subject too, and maybe soon I'll write that piece. Not today.

There is also the question of how Turkey's status within the international community will be rocked by these recent events. The warnings from the European Parliament are just a small harbinger of the great tsunami to come. These massive human rights embarrassments will slowly return Turkey to the status it held in the 1990s at the United Nations and within the European Council. In the eyes of the European Court of Human Rights, Turkey may well become a country notorious for common indecency toward its people. Of course, this is a matter of grave concern, but it's not my subject for today.

Remember that story?

I could analyze the way foreign capital may slowly retreat from Turkey, and the tragic economic consequences that would follow. Or discuss the global effects of these things. I could deconstruct how democratic retrocession in Turkey would be perceived as fatalistic (“there cannot be a democracy in a Muslim country”) all over the world. I could write that recent events in Turkey may change the trajectory of world history. But neither is this the main issue at hand.

What I want to remind readers of today is actually a timeworn story. Remember the emperor who had no clothers? And no one could tell him the truth?

In my opinion, Turkey is like a car whose brakes aren't working. Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan is in the driver's seat having nervous breakdowns, and we are headed for disaster at full speed. Unfortunately, there are some people in the back seat cheering, “drive faster.”

Maybe we would look for other reasons for this incredibly tense atmosphere if we had not seen how the events started in Gezi Park on May 31, if we had not listened to the prime minister’s speeches, which deepened the tension ever more each time, and if we had not seen people being subjected to police brutality.

Since the beginning, I have seen a prime minister who wishes to defeat the protesters, not one who wants to solve the matter with reason and compromise. Erdogan's power is only strengthened when he is allowed to act without challenge and when he ignores or deflects the criticisms directed toward him. That is the point. And it is also the problem.

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The Unsustainable Future Of Fish Farming — On Vivid Display In Turkish Waters

Currently, 60% of Turkey's fish currently comes from cultivation, also known as fish farming, compared to just 10% two decades ago. The short-sightedness of this shift risks eliminating fishing output from both the farms and the open seas along Turkey's 5,200 miles of coastline.

Photograph of two fishermen throwing a net into the Tigris river in Turkey.

Traditional fishermen on the Tigris river, Turkey.

Dûrzan Cîrano/Wikimeidia
İrfan Donat

ISTANBUL — Turkey's annual fish production includes 515,000 tons from cultivation and 335,000 tons came from fishing in open waters. In other words, 60% of Turkey's fish currently comes from cultivation, also known as fish farming.

It's a radical shift from just 20 years ago when some 600,000 tons, or 90% of the total output, came from fishing. Now, researchers are warning the current system dominated by fish farming is ultimately unsustainable in the country with 8,333 kilometers (5,177 miles) long.

Professor Mustafa Sarı from the Maritime Studies Faculty of Bandırma 17 Eylül University believes urgent action is needed: “Why were we getting 600,000 tons of fish from the seas in the 2000’s and only 300,000 now? Where did the other 300,000 tons of fish go?”

Professor Sarı is challenging the argument from certain sectors of the industry that cultivation is the more sustainable approach. “Now we are feeding the fish that we cultivate at the farms with the fish that we catch from nature," he explained. "The fish types that we cultivate at the farms are sea bass, sea bram, trout and salmon, which are fed with artificial feed produced at fish-feed factories. All of these fish-feeds must have a significant amount of fish flour and fish oil in them.”

That fish flour and fish oil inevitably must come from the sea. "We have to get them from natural sources. We need to catch 5.7 kilogram of fish from the seas in order to cultivate a sea bream of 1 kg," Sarı said. "Therefore, we are feeding the fish to the fish. We cannot cultivate fish at the farms if the fish in nature becomes extinct. The natural fish need to be protected. The consequences would be severe if the current policy is continued.”

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