What’s A Turk? Balkan And Greek Turkic Organizations Call For End To Discrimination In Turkey

Visitors to the Sultan Ahmed Mosque in Istanbul, Turkey
Visitors to the Sultan Ahmed Mosque in Istanbul, Turkey

ISTANBUL – Earlier this month, a federation of Balkan and Greek Turkic organizations held a huge Iftar dinner to end the Ramadan daily fast. Held at the Topkapi-1453 public grounds, the dinner included notables from the art, business and political worlds. Many of the guests were Turkish citizens, but with family roots in the Balkan peninsula and Greece. Others had arrived from as far away as Germany, Bulgaria, Kosovo, Macedonia and Romania. But they had one particular interest in common: how to protect the rights – both inside and outside of Turkey – of ethnic Turks who find themselves as an excluded minority.

As part of the legacy of the Ottoman Empire (1299-1923), there are significant long-established ethnic Turk minorities in countries around southern and eastern Europe. There has also been significant immigration from Turkey in the post-War era to Western European countries, as well as to the United States and Australia.

The Balkan and Greek Turkic federation president, Suheyl Cobanoglu, detailed the breadth of service the different organizations provide: from international symposiums and conferences, elections oversight in the Balkans, support for Turkish candidates, and support for Turks living in difficult conditions looking to move to Turkey.

Still, the list of problems that these populations face in Eastern Europe is just as long: racist attacks on Turks and Muslims, poor education, limits in Balkan countries on the public use of the Turkish language, restrictions on the building of new mosques, and inadequate access to social security and health care services across Eastern Europe.

Cobanoglu cited a famous phrase from modern Turkey's founder, Mustafa Kemal Ataturk. "Turks, whether they be from Diyarbakir, Van, Erzurum, Trabzon, Istanbul, Thrace or Macedonia are all veins of the same gem stone." But these words, he said, were intended for those in Turkey who have been known to discriminate against newly arrived Turks from abroad.

"In America, people have come from all over the world. And in 150 to 200 years, they have come to dominate the world," Cobanoglu. "From that point of view, is it possible for we Turks to lose the connection that we feel with each other over a 1,000 years of history of living in Turkey and Europe?"

Read the full article in Turkish by Yalcin Bayer

Photo - flydime

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Air Next: How A Crypto Scam Collapsed On A Single Spelling Mistake

It is today a proven fraud, nailed by the French stock market watchdog: Air Next resorted to a full range of dubious practices to raise money for a blockchain-powered e-commerce app. But the simplest of errors exposed the scam and limited the damage to investors. A cautionary tale for the crypto economy.

Sky is the crypto limit

Laurence Boisseau

PARIS — Air Next promised to use blockchain technology to revolutionize passenger transport. Should we have read something into its name? In fact, the company was talking a lot of hot air from the start. Air Next turned out to be a scam, with a fake website, false identities, fake criminal records, counterfeited bank certificates, aggressive marketing … real crooks. Thirty-five employees recruited over the summer ranked among its victims, not to mention the few investors who put money in the business.

Maud (not her real name) had always dreamed of working in a start-up. In July, she spotted an ad on Linkedin and was interviewed by videoconference — hardly unusual in the era of COVID and teleworking. She was hired very quickly and signed a permanent work contract. She resigned from her old job, happy to get started on a new adventure.

Others like Maud fell for the bait. At least ten senior managers, coming from major airlines, airports, large French and American corporations, a former police officer … all firmly believed in this project. Some quit their jobs to join; some French expats even made their way back to France.

Share capital of one billion 

The story began last February, when Air Next registered with the Paris Commercial Court. The new company stated it was developing an application that would allow the purchase of airline tickets by using cryptocurrency, at unbeatable prices and with an automatic guarantee in case of cancellation or delay, via a "smart contract" system (a computer protocol that facilitates, verifies and oversees the handling of a contract).

The firm declared a share capital of one billion euros, with offices under construction at 50, Avenue des Champs Elysées, and a president, Philippe Vincent ... which was probably a usurped identity.

Last summer, Air Next started recruiting. The company also wanted to raise money to have the assets on hand to allow passenger compensation. It organized a fundraiser using an ICO, or "Initial Coin Offering", via the issuance of digital tokens, transacted in cryptocurrencies through the blockchain.

While nothing obliged him to do so, the company owner went as far as setting up a file with the AMF, France's stock market regulator which oversees this type of transaction. Seeking the market regulator stamp is optional, but when issued, it gives guarantees to those buying tokens.

screenshot of the typo that revealed the Air Next scam

The infamous typo that brought the Air Next scam down

compta online

Raising Initial Coin Offering 

Then, on Sept. 30, the AMF issued an alert, by way of a press release, on the risks of fraud associated with the ICO, as it suspected some documents to be forgeries. A few hours before that, Air Next had just brought forward by several days the date of its tokens pre-sale.

For employees of the new company, it was a brutal wake-up call. They quickly understood that they had been duped, that they'd bet on the proverbial house of cards. On the investor side, the CEO didn't get beyond an initial fundraising of 150,000 euros. He was hoping to raise millions, but despite his failure, he didn't lose confidence. Challenged by one of his employees on Telegram, he admitted that "many documents provided were false", that "an error cost the life of this project."

What was the "error" he was referring to? A typo in the name of the would-be bank backing the startup. A very small one, at the bottom of the page of the false bank certificate, where the name "Edmond de Rothschild" is misspelled "Edemond".

Finding culprits 

Before the AMF's public alert, websites specializing in crypto-assets had already noted certain inconsistencies. The company had declared a share capital of 1 billion euros, which is an enormous amount. Air Next's CEO also boasted about having discovered bitcoin at a time when only a few geeks knew about cryptocurrency.

Employees and investors filed a complaint. Failing to find the general manager, Julien Leclerc — which might also be a fake name — they started looking for other culprits. They believe that if the Paris Commercial Court hadn't registered the company, no one would have been defrauded.

Beyond the handful of victims, this case is a plea for the implementation of more secure procedures, in an increasingly digital world, particularly following the pandemic. The much touted ICO market is itself a victim, and may find it hard to recover.

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