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Oksijen is an independent weekly newspaper based in Istanbul delivering coverage of Turkey and the rest of the world on economics, politics, health, science and culture.
İrfan Donat

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.

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 a coastline 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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eyes on the U.S.
Ali Tufan Koç

Muslim Call To Prayer, NYC-Style: A Turkish Eye On New York's Historic Azan Law

New York Mayor Eric Adams has for the first time allowed the city's mosques to broadcast the Muslim call to prayer over loudspeakers. A Turkish correspondent living in New York listens in to the sound of the call ("cleaner" than in Turkey), and the voices of local Muslims marking this watershed in their relationship with the city.

NEW YORK — It’s Sept. 1, nearing the time for the noon prayer for Muslim New Yorkers. The setting is the Masjid Al Aman, one of the city's biggest mosques, located at the border of the boroughs of Brooklyn and Queens. WABC, Channel 7, one of the local television stations, has a broadcast van parked at the corner. There are a few more camera people and journalists milling around. The tension is “not normal,” and residents of the neighborhood ask around what’s happening.

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This neighborhood, extending from East New York to Ozone Park, is not the Brooklyn that you see in the movies, TV shows or novels. Remove the pizza parlors, dollar stores and the health clinics, and the rest is like the Republic of Muslim brothers and sisters. There are over 2,000 people from Bangladesh in East New York alone. There’s the largest halal supermarket of the neighborhood one block away from the mosque: Abdullah Supermarket. The most lively dining spot is the Brooklyn Halal Grill. Instead of a Kentucky Fried Chicken, there's a Medina Fried Chicken.

The congregation of the mosque, ABC 7 , a clueless non-Muslim crowd and I are witnessing a first in New York history: The azan , the traditional Muslim public call to prayer, is being played at the outside of the mosque via speakers — without the need for special permission from the city. Yes, the azan is echoing in the streets of New York for the first time.

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Gökçer Tahincioğlu

What's Changed, What Hasn't: A Turkish Political Prisoner Walks Free After 31 Years

Mehmet Aytunç Altay was finally released last month after being arrested in Istanbul for his political activity in 1993. The world around has changed, even if his convictions stand firm.

ISTANBUL — Mehmet Aytunç Altay spent 31 years of his life behind bars.

While he was behind bars, governments came and went; Turkey changed, as did the world. Technological advances like smartphones and social media changed the way we live our daily lives. Mob bosses, murderers and rapists were released from prison during multiple rounds of pardons during that time.

Altay, however, was only released last month from the Izmir Kırıklar F Type Prison Number 1 in Western Turkey, after having lived through a long, significant chapter in the history of Turkey’s prisons.

Born in 1956, Altay graduated from the Ankara Kurtuluş High School and then studied at the Middle East Technical University and the Facility of Political Science at Ankara University, before quitting university in his third year.

He was taken into police custody in Istanbul in 1993 and was tortured during the interrogation. His refusal to offer testimony was labeled as a “terrorist attitude.” He was sentenced to life in prison based on the testimony of an informer. One of the accusations brought against him was attending a congress of the Communist Party/Union of Turkey (TKP/B) abroad in June 1986. He offered proof that he was imprisoned under martial law at the time , but the court that sentenced him to life didn’t care.

Altay was sentenced according to the Article 146 of the former Turkish Penal Law: “Attempting to change the constitutional order by force.” The European Court of Human Rights condemned Turkey for Altay's torture and for violating his right to a fair trial, but Turkish courts rejected a retrial. Only on August 21was he finally freed, and Altay spoke to Oksijen just days after being released.

Here is some of what he had to say:

Showing off

I have been out for just two days. I cannot say that I understand a lot, since I have been among friends and family at this time. However, I can say that my foremost observation about the outside (world) is the transformation of social relations, thanks to the technology of communication . It’s very good on one hand; it’s very nice that people I haven’t seen for years can reach me, and even with video — although I constantly break the communication by touching the wrong places, since I don’t know how to use these devices.

On the negative side, we saw this a lot while we were watching TV inside: nobody looks at each other’s face , and people are constantly sharing stuff. I don’t think these people who share every moment and everything share even a penny of their money with anyone, in such a mechanical environment.

This truly became a society of show, and showing off; there are no limits for sharing images, news and gossip , but the values that need to be shared are not. If you look at it from one side, everybody became so “pro-sharing.” However, people didn’t previously enjoy showing themselves off everywhere and looking at everything. This was not considered a good thing; it was shunned, even. Now it seems like showing what you are doing at the moment — what are you doing, eating and drinking, displaying yourself, is an essential part of the new era.

A flawed conviction

I have been at different prisons since I was tried and sentenced by the courts under martial law. Most recently, I was convicted by a State Security Court due to Article 146 of the former Turkish Penal Law : “Attempting to change the constitutional order by force.”

The indictment charged me with being a member of the TKP/B, and a founder of the Revolution Party of Turkey (TDP), but the court sentenced me to life in prison according to Article 146 at the end of the trial.

Those who have been sentenced to life at the time were able to be released after eight years thanks to legislative regulations. However, I was not allowed to benefit from this law because of a (political) action in which I was not involved, although the majority of the claims against me were from before the date the law was passed.

You know, there were long detention periods and interrogations with torture during these times. I did not offer testimony; even that was considered a “terrorist attitude” and used against me.

However, I was convicted based on the testimony of another heavily tortured defendant, who denied that testimony at court. It was proven, with medical reports, that he was subjected to heavy torture. That testimony was inadmissible not only because it was obtained illegally but due to its content, too. For example, it was claimed that I attended an organizational congress abroad while I was in prison . However, the court convicted me based on this both methodically and contextually inadmissible testimony.

Photo of protesters wanting to hold a sit-in

The youth protesting against Turkish forest destruction in July

Mert Nazim Egin/ZUMA

No new trial, despite ruling condemning torture

Turkey was found guilty by the European Court of Human Rights of torture and violating the right to a fair trial in the following process. A request for retrial was made to the court that heard my case following the ECHR verdict, but the court rejected our request, disregarding the legal regulations.

When the Supreme Court of Appeals (of Turkey) decided that the retrial was a must, (the local court) retried me and affirmed the same sentence. Therefore, I served the 30 years which is the equivalent of a life sentence (according to Turkish law ).

However, especially recently, despite this duration being served, the executions of sentences are being lengthened in prisons by disciplinary punishments or other type of punishments. Prisoners’ freedoms are being stolen by arbitrary actions. I was punished because I participated in a protest action against cameras, which are a violation of our right to a private life. I served that time as extra and got out.

Lastly, I want to say that I have been at the camps of the Front for the Liberation of Palestine , but I believe our affinity to the Kurdish freedom struggle played a special role in the sentences that were given to us (by the courts).

Leaving prison feels like time travel

It’s true, legislative regulations are being made all the time to release prisoners who were convicted of crimes such as drugs, murder and rape . Because the world of criminals is the underground of the (current ruling) order, and is an inseparable part of it. They are (its) illegal legs; fascism cannot stand without these legs. However, those who are being released are not limited just to them.

I’m a communist, a revolutionary. I was one when I got in, I was one when I got out.

The relationship between the administration and the judiciary is clearly shown by those who have been tried (for membership in) ISIS, Hezbollah , IBDA-C and al-Qaeda, put to show trials, released after short detentions and persistently being partially pardoned, despite serious accusations against them.

Those mentioned above are being set free while revolutionaries who tie their own lives to the fate of the country and our peoples are being kept inside. We know that the prisons are built especially for us. But this is not our fate. One day, we will definitely change the bad luck of the country.

I’m a communist , a revolutionary. I was one when I got in, I was one when I got out. I will remain a revolutionary.

Thousands of young people of our generation were massacred back then. I believe this generation is the most determined , brave and reckless generation of our society.

I’m a little confused at the moment, as a member of this generation who spent the last decades of his life in prison. I feel as if I've teleported to 2023 from the times when scientific and technological developments were more backwards compared to today, and computers and cell phones did not exist.

I believe Turkey , the region and the world needs socialism more than ever, no matter what the direction or context of the changes may be. I guess if it was a movie, we can say this is some kind of “Back to the Future.”

Selçuk Şirin

America To Turkey, Learning To Live With "Post-Election Stress Disorder"

Those who supported Turkey's opposition in the recent national elections are suffering a particular syndrome since the victory of incumbent President Erdogan. They could seek advice from supporters of Hillary Clinton, or even Al Gore.


ISTANBUL Turkey’s elections are over, but the tension remains. Weeks later, a portion of the Turkish population is dealing with stress, disappointment – even outright anger.

And let’s not even get started with social media – particularly Twitter – because it’s a bloodbath over there.

Between the pandemic , the ongoing Turkish economic crisis and the recent deadly earthquakes , Turks have been living through a highly stressful environment for quite some time. The elections, in which incumbent President Recep Tayyip Erdogan won for the second time, have caused a phenomenon called post-election stress disorder.

Let’s back up and define our terms. The results of the elections did not put an end to this general sense of tension. On the contrary – extreme tension during the electoral period transforms into a sense of post-election trauma.

The term to define this situation is parallel to the already existing clinical term of post-traumatic stress disorder: “ post election stress disorder ,” or PESD.

The term was first used after the 2000 presidential election in the U.S., when Al Gore and George W. Bush fought a tough race, whose results remained unclear until, in a highly political 5-4 decision, the Supreme Court named Bush as the winner.

Such a close election, which left half the nation unhappy with the result, created a real psychological breakdown among many. The election left deep scars, which to some extent last to this day.

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Mehmet Y. Yılmaz

If Defeated, Will Erdogan Give Up His Palace Life?

A tale of Turkey's second president accepting defeat begs the question of whether Recep Tayyip Erdogan would accept election defeat on May 14, and return to life as a private citizen.


ISTANBUL — As we eagerly wonder what awaits us the evening of election day May 14 , I want to take you on a trip back exactly 73 years ago. We’re going to May 14, 1950 in the Çankaya Mansion, the former presidential residence of Turkey in the capital of Ankara.

That evening, President İsmet İnönü, the successor to modern Turkey’s founder Mustafa Kemal Atatürk , had cast his vote alongside his wife Mevhibe at the Çankaya Elementary School early in that morning.

The Mansion’s room No: 18 has already started to liven up in the afternoon. This great room with a billiards table was used by the aides and took its name from the number of the interior phone line in it: 18. But it wasn't until the evening that reports on the election results started to come in. The President was the only calm person as his aides, ministers and the presidential staff were following the results with nervous excitement.

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İrfan Donat

Environmental Degradation, The Dirty Secret Ahead Of Turkey’s Election

Election day is approaching in Turkey. Unemployment, runaway inflation and eroding rule of law are top of mind for many. But one subject isn't getting the attention it deserves: the environment.

ISTANBUL — A recent report from the Turkish Foundation for Combating Soil Erosion (TEMA) paints a grim picture of the country's environmental situation , which is getting worse across the board.

Soil is extremely fragile in Turkey , with 78.7% of the country at risk of severe to moderate desertification, mostly due to erosion, which costs Turkey 642 million tons of fertile soil annually. Erosion effects 39% of agricultural land and 54% of pasture land. Erosion of the most fertile top layers pushes farmers to use more fertilizer, TEMA says, which can in turn threaten food safety.

Nearly all of Turkey's food is grown in the country, but agricultural areas have shrunk to 23.1 million hectares in 2022, down from 27.5 in 1992 — a loss of almost 20%.

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Ece Temelkuran

Ankara Or Abroad? A Turkish Exile's Dilemma As Elections Loom

Turkey holds key elections next month. Many who were exiled over the years have returned with optimism, only to be jailed. Turkish journalist Ece Temelkuran says from now on, she will only go back on her own terms.


“Turkey doesn’t allow its children to be occupied with anything other than itself.” This is the damning indictment written in the diary of Turkish poet and novelist Ahmet Hamdi Tanpınar. The sentence is well known in Turkey, but is due an update. Maybe it can be: “Turkey leaves its children nothing to do but to hold their breath” instead. Nothing but to helplessly wait… for another election, referendum, news bulletin, last minute update or breaking news update.

We Turks live our lives assuming our motherland and father-state will slap us unexpectedly one day. And we wait for that day to come — maybe tomorrow, maybe even sooner.

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Mehmet Yılmaz

Turkey's Space Agency Chief Has A Wild Idea About What Caused The Earthquake

What if the devastating earthquake was caused by a weapon fired from a satellite that pierced the earth's surface? How does someone like this wind up in charge of science in a great nation like Turkey?


ISTANBUL — The Turkish Space Agency runs the country's space program with the stated aim to : “prepare strategic planning on space and aeronautics science technologies." Serdar Hüseyin Yıldırım, an aviation engineer, chairs the agency. His existence came across my radar for the first time thanks to the recent earthquake that hit Turkey and the region.

We were flooded with conspiracy theories after the earthquake, but I'm awarding Yıldırım first prize for statements he made at a conference last year , in which he describes a satellite-based weapon.

In the video, Yıldırım says that the weapon is capable of firing 10-meter-long, arrow-shaped bars of titanium from satellites down to Earth, where he claims they can penetrate as deep as five kilometers, causing intense earthquakes.

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