ISTANBUL - If Turkey's nationalist left tend to blame everything on imperialism, the country's nationalist right has a tradition of pointing fingers at lobbies and vested interests trying to block Turkey’s progress. That same old tune can be heard today, as Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan himself has started blaming recent unrest in Turkey on an “interest lobby.”
The catchphrase "interest lobby" is an ideological conceptualization devoid of meaning. It makes no sense to even say that such a bona fide lobby exists in a country that boasts healthy industries, economic balance and a strong financial sector, and where income per capita exceeds $10,000. One can only assume that the term is being used as demagogic rhetoric.
Referring to an "interest lobby" is as meaningless as accusing protesters of an economic boycott -- which would be contrary to the spirit of the Gezi movement that instead is focused on fostering more democracy and freedom. It would be naive to imagine that shopping from local markets instead of big shopping malls, getting your money out of banks, reducing expenses, not consuming gas and using cabs instead of public transportation would damage the government. And quoting it from METU (Middle East Technical University) doesn't make it more reasonable.
Despite all this nonsense, there is a remarkable cause-and-effect relationship between economic and political performance. Today more than ever. The protests can damage financial markets in a way that can negatively impact interest rates and companies' decisions on investment and production, which may be linked to stock market fluctuations. Consumption can also take a dive, resulting in a growth slowdown.
This is something that we know from the 1990s: if stagnating economic growth has an influence on the political arena, increasing the country's instability, we can find ourselves trapped in a vicious circle, and downward spiral.
On the other hand, there is an even stronger possibility of entering a positive spiral. This is in line with the significant steps Turkey took in terms of participative democracy over the past three weeks. The construction plans for Gezi Park were cancelled because of the public reaction. Today, the government cannot do whatever it pleases, and even the word of the Prime Minister can be questioned.
In Turkey, modernization has always been imposed by the powers-that-be; its practical effects have never really been internalized by society as a whole -- at least not yet. This time, the will of people was stronger than the written law, meaning that it's time to implement these achievements into the law and the constitution.
Surely, the effect on finances can be nothing but positive. Democratization would decrease risk premiums and interest rates and make it possible to control potential drawbacks caused by the global economy, therefore allowing Turkey's economic growth to increase.
While our attention was focused on Gezi movement, the country's Peace and Democracy Party (BDP) made important statements on the peace process. Soon the retreat of PKK military forces from Turkey will be complete and the legal regulation phase will start. The successful realization of these democratic steps will also mean the satisfaction of the demands that emerged in Gezi process.
Earlier this week, following the lead of Tarkan Kadooglu, an entrepreneur from Cizre in southeastern Turkey, TUSIAD (Turkish Industrialists' and Businessmen's Association) and TURKONFED ( Turkish Enterprise and Business Confederation) will organize a meeting on the economic dimension of the peace process. With such remarkable timing and positive spirit, the strong support coming from the business world is good news indeed.
Occupy Gezi ended the monopoly the Turkish government had over Kurdish issue. Now the peace process has a wider support. This is just one more surprise achievement of the Gezi movement.
Welcome to Wednesday, where chaos hits Syria, Brazilian president Jair Bolsonaro is accused of crimes against humanity and a social media giant plans to rebrand itself. For Spanish daily La Razon, reporter Paco Rodríguez takes us to the devastated town of Belchite, where visitors are reporting paranormal phenomenons.
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• Syrian violence erupts: Army shelling on residential areas of the rebel-held region of northwestern Syria killed 13 people, with school children among the victims. The attack occurred shortly after a bombing killed at least 14 military personnel in Damascus. In central Syria, a blast inside an ammunition depot kills five soldiers.
• Renewed Ethiopia air raids on capital of embattled Tigray region: Ethiopian federal government forces have launched its second air strike this week on the capital of the northern Tigray. The air raids mark a sharp escalation in the near-year-old conflict between the government forces and the Tigrayan People's Liberation Front (TPLF) that killed thousands and displaced over 2 million people.
• Bolsonaro accused of crimes against humanity: A leaked draft government report concludes that Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro should be charged with crimes against humanity, forging documents and incitement to crime, following his handling of the country's COVID-19 pandemic. The report blames Bolsonaro's administration for more than half of Brazil's 600,000 coronavirus deaths.
• Kidnappers in Haiti demand $17 million to free a missionary group: A Haitian gang that kidnapped 17 members of a Christian aid group, including five children, demanded $1million ransom per person. Most of those being held are Americans; one is Canadian.
• Putin bows out of COP26 in Glasgow: Russian President Vladimir Putin will not fly to Glasgow to attend the COP26 climate summit. A setback for host Britain's hopes of getting support from major powers for a more radical plan to tackle climate change.
• Queen Elizabeth II cancels trip over health concerns: The 95-year-old British monarch has cancelled a visit to Northern Ireland after she was advised by her doctors to rest for the next few days. Buckingham Palace assured the queen, who attended public events yesterday, was "in good spirits."• A new name for Facebook? According to a report by The Verge website, Mark Zuckerberg's social media giant is planning on changing the company's name next week, to reflect its focus on building the "metaverse," a virtual reality version of the internet.
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"Oil price rise causes earthquake," titles Portuguese daily Jornal I as surging demand coupled with supply shortage have driven oil prices to seven-year highs at more than $80 per barrel.
#️⃣ BY THE NUMBERS
For the first time women judges have been appointed to Egypt's State Council, one of the country's main judicial bodies. The council's chief judge, Mohammed Hossam el-Din, welcomed the 98 new judges in a celebratory event in Cairo. Since its inception in 1946, the State Council has been exclusively male and until now actively rejected female applicants.
📰 STORY OF THE DAY
Spanish civil war town now a paranormal attraction
Ghosts from Spain's murderous 1930s civil war are said to roam the ruins of Belchite outside Zaragoza. Tourists are intrigued and can book a special visit to the town, reports Paco Rodríguez in Madrid-based daily La Razon.
🏚️ Between August 24 and September 6, 1937, during the Spanish Civil War, more than 5,000 people died in 14 days of intense fighting in Belchite in north-eastern Spain, and the town was flattened. The fighting began on the outskirts and ended in house-to-house fighting. Almost half the town's 3,100 residents died in the struggle. The war annihilated centuries of village history. The town was never rebuilt, though a Pueblo Nuevo (or new town) was built by the old one.
😱 Belchite became an open-air museum of the horror of the civil war of 1936-39, which left 300,000 dead and wounds that have yet to heal or, for some today, mustn't. For many locals, the battle of Belchite has yet to end, judging by reports of paranormal incidents. Some insist they have heard the screams of falling soldiers, while others say the Count of Belchite wanders the streets, unable to find a resting place after his corpse was exhumed.
🎟️ Ordinary visitors have encountered unusual situations. Currently, you can only visit Belchite at set times every day, with prior booking. More daring visitors can also visit at 10 p.m. on weekends. Your ticket does not include a guaranteed paranormal experience, but many visitors insist strange things have happened to them. These include sudden changes of temperature or the strange feeling of being observed from a street corner or a window. Furthermore, such phenomena increase as evening falls, as if night brought the devastated town to life.
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We still cling to the past because back then we had security, which is the main thing that's missing in Libya today.
— Fethi al-Ahmar, an engineer living in the Libyan desert town Bani Walid, told AFP, as the country today marks the 10-year anniversary of the death of dictator Muammar Gaddafi. The leader who had reigned for 42 years over Libya was toppled in a revolt inspired by the Arab Spring uprisings and later killed by rebels. Some hope the presidential elections set in December can help the country turn the page on a decade of chaos and instability.
🇮🇷🎓 IN OTHER NEWS
Iran to offer Master's and PhD in morality enforcement
Iran will create new "master's and doctorate" programs to train state morality agents checking on people's public conduct and attire, according to several Persian-language news sources.
Mehran Samadi, a senior official of the Headquarters to Enjoin Virtues and Proscribe Vices (Amr-e be ma'ruf va nahy az monkar) said "anyone who wants to enjoin virtues must have the knowledge," the London-based broadcaster Iran International reported, citing reports from Iran.
The morality patrols, in force since the 1979 revolution, tend to focus mostly on young people and women, particularly the public appearance for the latter. Loose headscarves will send women straight to a police station, often in humiliating conditions. Five years ago, the regime announced a new force of some 7,000 additional agents checking on women's hijabs and other standards of dress and behavior.
Last week, for example, Tehran police revealed that they had "disciplined" agents who had been filmed forcefully shoving a girl into a van. Such incidents may increase under the new, conservative president, Ibrahim Raisi.
Speaking about the new academic discipline, Samadi said morals go "much further than headscarves and modesty," and those earning graduate degrees would teach agents "what the priorities are."
Iran's Islamic regime, under the guidance of Shia jurists, continuously fine tunes notions of "proper" conduct — and calibrates its own, interventionist authority. More recently the traffic police chief said women were not allowed to ride motorbikes, and "would be stopped," Prague-based Radio Farda reported.Days before, a cleric in the holy city of Qom in central Iran insisted that people must be vaccinated by a medic of the same sex "as often as possible," and if not, there should be no pictures of mixed-sex vaccinations.
✍️ Newsletter by Anne-Sophie Goninet, Jane Herbelin and Bertrand Hauger
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