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Ozgur Ogret

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Photo of Kemal Kilicdaroglu applauding during campaign event in Antalya, Turkey, 7 May 2023.
Geopolitics

Kemal Kilicdaroglu, The Tranquil Force To Save Turkey's Democracy

The 74-year-old veteran politician has a solid chance of unseating Erdogan from power after 20 years. Kilicdaroglu has displayed the kind of calm and open attitude to save Turkish democracy.

-OpEd-

ISTANBUL — The world may soon get to know Kemal Kilicdaroglu well. The leader of the main opposition Republican People's Party (CHP) is the presidential candidate of the six-party opposition coalition challenging the lengthy rule of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his Justice and Development Party (AKP).

Polls now show that the 74-year-old veteran politician and trained economist has a solid chance to garner more than 50% of the ballots in May 14 first round of voting to take the presidency.

If Kilicdaroglu is elected, we’ll witness a long transition period to replace Erdogan, who first rose to power as prime minister in 2003, before moving on to the presidency in 2014 after a Constitutional reform changed Turkey's democracy into a presidential system.

A Kilicdaroglu victory would be a new experience for Turkey, and some of it will be made up on the go — no matter how much planning may go into it.

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Campaign posters of opposition Republican People's Party, CHP leader Kemal Kilicdaroglu and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan
Geopolitics

When Erdogan Hints At Not Accepting Defeat, He's Playing With Fire

President Erdogan and his allies have spent the final weeks of the campaign questioning the political legitimacy of their opponents' eventual victory ahead of the May 14 election. When the vote does come, the risk of setting off a veritable civil war is real.

-Analysis-

ISTANBUL — There’s a Turkish saying about how the words and sentences about a certain topic are worse than the topic itself. In other words, talking about something may be worse than it actually happening. The topic that I’m going to write about now is a little like that. And yet, the problem doesn't go away by not talking or writing about it.

Süleyman Soylu, Turkey’s Interior Minister, recently compared the upcoming May 14 elections to the coup attempt of June 15, 2016.

Can you comprehend this? The man who will be in charge of the security of the ballots is presenting the elections as a coup attempt before anyone has gone to vote.

Binali Yıldırım, another heavyweight of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP), equated the elections to Turkey’s war of independence after World War I.

Yet another AKP official, Nurettin Canikli, claimed that Turkey would cease to exist as a nation if the opposition wins the elections.

Finally, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan himself said that a victory of his main opponent, Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu, would only happen with "the support of Qandil," a reference to the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or PKK which Turkey recognizes as a terrorist organization, and based in Iraq's Qandil Mountains.

All of these statements are a clear challenge to the nation’s will.

I believe the night of the upcoming elections will be one of the most critical nights in the history of modern Turkey.

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​Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan speakING during his elections campaign rally in Ankara;
Geopolitics

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.

-Analysis-

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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Photo of a man in a burnt forest in Turkey.
Green

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

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.

-Analysis-

“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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Photo of head of the Turkish Space Agency ​Serdar Hüseyin Yıldırım
Society

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?

-Analysis-

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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Photo of a mother and two children sitting on the sidewalk.
Society

In Turkey, Why The Public Is So Skeptical About Donating To Earthquake Relief

When Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan tried to reassure his fellow citizens that they could safely donate to help earthquake victims, many were skeptical. It's a sign of a longstanding mistrust of institutions that affects the nation on the deepest level.

-Analysis-

ISTANBUL — In the immediate aftermath of last month's earthquake, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan was forced to speak up to dispel the doubts of those who worried about donating to help victims. “Making cash donations through [disasters and emergencies authority] AFAD is a method that would eliminate exploitation and doubts,” he said on Feb. 10.

Haluk Levent, founder of the largest Turkish charity AHBAP, followed that up two days later with a statement that the organization has signed contracts with two independent auditory firms which will inspect each transaction they make.

It was not a coincidence that these two people, the leader of Turkey and the chair of the charity that collects the largest number of donations, made these statements following the public rush to collect material and monetary aid after the earthquakes. Unfortunately, there are always doubts in Turkey about whether charitable donations are in fact used for the reason that they were collected for.

We are very lucky that people never stop donating in spite of their doubts.

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Photo of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan consoles families as rescue workers inspect the earthquake-hit areas in Turkey.
Geopolitics

Erdogan Doesn't Have The Power To Delay Turkey's Election

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is facing a tough re-election battle in May made tougher by criticism linked to the devastating earthquake. Rumors are swirling that he might delay the election, even though it's simply not in his Constitutional powers.

-Analysis-

ISTANBUL — The last thing anyone wants to do at a time of grief like the earthquake in Turkey and Syria is to discuss the constitution. Yet in this case, we are left with no choice.

We do not yet know how many people lie under the wreckage. Before the quake, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who wants to extend his rule into a third decade, was facing a tough re-election battle in elections scheduled on May 14. Opinion polls published before the earthquake suggested he could lose because of the Turkish cost of living crisis.

Unnamed Turkey officials from Erdogan's party have said there are "serious difficulties" in holding the elections. The constitution of Turkey gives no such option for delaying elections unless we are at war and the Turkish parliament votes to do so. So it can't happen even in the event of a natural disaster — at least not without altering the constitution at least.

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Photo of a man between destroyed buildings after Turkey earthquake
Geopolitics

The Earthquake Will Change Turkey’s Future — And Could Tip Its Election

A reflection of what the Feb. 6 earthquake exposes deep problems in Turkish public life over the past two decades, and what we can expect in the coming months and years.

ISTANBUL — We are in great agony. The southern provinces of Turkey have suffered incalculable devastation with two major earthquakes in the Province of Kahramanmaraş.

Thousands of our siblings, children and grandparents, from Adana to Diyarbakır, Malatya to Hatay, met their final fate under wrecked buildings, awaiting to be dug out from the rubble and be buried with love and respect.

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Photo of Erdogan and Putin walking out of a door
Geopolitics

It's A Golden Era For Russia-Turkey Relations — Just Look At The Numbers

On the diplomatic and political level, no world leader speaks more regularly with Vladimir Putin than his Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. But the growing closeness of Russia and Turkey can also be measured in the economic data. And the 2022 numbers are stunning.

-Analysis-

ISTANBUL — As Russia has become increasingly isolated since the invasion of Ukraine, the virtual pariah state has drawn notably closer to one of its remaining partners: Turkey.

Ankara has committed billions of dollars to buy the Russian S-400 surface-to-air missile system, and contracted to Russia to build Turkey's first nuclear power plant. The countries’ foreign policies are also becoming increasingly aligned.

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

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But the depth of this relationship goes much further. Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan speaks to Russian President Vladimir Putin more than any other leader: 16 times in 2022, and 11 times in 2021. Erdoğan has visited Russia 14 times since 2016, compared to his 10 visits to the U.S. in the same time period (half of which were in 2016 and 2017).

But no less important is the way the two countries are increasingly tied together by commerce.

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Photo of Muslims performing Friday prayer in the garden of Suleymaniye Mosque, Istanbul.
Society

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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photo of a cat sleeping on boxes of books
Ideas

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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