April 2008

Turkey's Top Judge Slammed "Attempts To Influence" Court

In his speech at the ceremony to mark the 46th anniversary of the founding of Turkey's High Constitutional Court, Chief Justice Hasim Kilic emphasized the importance of the separation of powers, the rule of law in democracies and said, "We are saddened by the national as well as the international attempts to manipulate, influence and pressure the court".

Kilic said that in a country where an ideology and faith are imposed on the people, there cannot be a pluralistic democracy. It is an undeniable fact that there is a crisis and mistrust between the political, ethnic and religious segments of our society. Fears among people cannot be ignored; and unless those who are in power find the solutions to alleviate these fears and doubts, the crack can only deepen. Seeking support [...]

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Source: Anatolia News Agency, Hurriyet, Turkey, April 25, 2008

Date Posted: April 28, 2008
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CHP Leader Deniz Baykal Slammed PM, AKP Government

CHP leader Deniz Baykal strongly criticized the government during his address at Turkish parliament’s special session yesterday on the occasion of National Sovereignty Day. He said, “There are attempts to put Turkey's judiciary under pressure. Worse yet is that some inner and outer powers are encouraging these trends. No international organization will be able to influence the free conscience of Turkish judges”.

The CHP and AKP exchanged bitter words over a Council of Europe Parliamentary Assembly (PACE) declaration on the closure case against the AKP. The CHP accused the AKP members of PACE of seeking foreign alliances against the Turkish judiciary. Baykal also accused the government of its undemocratic actions and said, “Democracies have no place for prime ministers that hide behind immunities, for those who issue pardons for their crimes by changing the laws, for those that use state banks to buy partisan media, and for governments that entrust the public education in the hands of people calling for jihad in schools”. Baykal said, such a government would inevitably cause the questioning of its legitimacy.

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Source: Hurriyet, Turkish Daily News, April 24, 2008

Date Posted: April 24, 2008
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Video Shown In Religion Class Terrorizes High School Students

According to Turkish media reports, teachers of the compulsory religion classes in Turkish high schools – first in Gaziantep, then in Konya and now in Izmir – have shown a three part film during their class that terrified the students. The film, originally in Arabic and subtitled in Turkish, shows Hasan, a teenager, playing cards and listening to Western music with his friends. When his pious Muslim father calls him and reminds him that it is time for namaz [Islamic prayer], Hasan chooses to stay with his friends and continue to play.

The film becomes a horror story with the appearance of a black “angel of death”, who takes Hasan away. The satanic figure keeps telling Hasan that he was to be punished for his sins, and for neglecting his obligations to pray and live as a Muslim. His dead body is scorched with boiling water as he begs Allah to forgive him and bring him back to his good way.

Following complaints by some students and parents, the education authorities in the three cities have launched investigations into the matter.

Source: Hurriyet, Milliyet, Vatan, Turkey, April 22-24, 2008

Date Posted: April 24, 2008
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‘Yes’ To Islamic Prayers, ‘No’ To Girls’ Dance Costumes At Istanbul Elementary School Ceremony

According to mainstream media reports, the ceremony to mark April 23 Children’s Day at the Ataturk Elementary School in Kartal, Istanbul, turned into a crisis. The planned program that took place in the school’s courtyard began with the chanting of ezan [Islamic call to prayer] by a child dressed as a soldier, after which all children performed a collective namaz [Islamic prayer]. Then it was the turn of girls to perform a dance, but the principal of the school Mehmet Karaman stopped the music and terminated the ceremony abruptly because he found the girls’ costumes “too revealing”.

Source: Milliyet, Vatan, Haberturk.com, Turkey, April 24, 2008

Date Posted: April 24, 2008
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Ankara Cold And Tense As Turkey Celebrated National Sovereignty And Children’s Day

Tension among politicians was felt during the ceremonies that were held in Ankara to celebrate the April 23 National Sovereignty and Children's Day. The day marks the anniversary of the founding of the Turkish parliament in 1920 by Ataturk, who also dedicated the day to Turkish children.

PM Recep Tayyip Erdogan and the main opposition CHP chairman Deniz Baykal stood side by side at the ceremony at Anitkabir, the Mausoleum of Ataturk, without exchanging one word. Deniz Baykal also declined the invitation by President Abdullah Gul who hosted a luncheon for the leaders of all political parties represented in the parliament.

High ranking military officers were present at the ceremonial session of the parliament, but they chose not to attend Speaker Koksal Toptan’s reception to which spouses – many headscarved - were invited.

Source: Sabah, Vatan, Turkey, April 24, 2008

Date Posted: April 24, 2008
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Turkish-Jewish Businessman: “Turkey Lost When Jewish, Armenian Businessmen Were Chased Away And Made To Leave The Country”

In a letter to the chief editor of Turkish daily Referans, owner of Alarko Holding Izak Alaton reacted to a recent high court decision in Turkey that banned the sale of real estate to foreigners. Alaton wrote about how in 1940s Armenian and Jewish businessmen were chased and compelled to leave the country - at Turkey's loss - and more recently how willing investors for big development projects in Turkey were rejected just because they were Jewish – as in the case of the Israeli businessman Sammy Ofer who would invest one billion dollars to develop a port in Istanbul. Alaton said that the bureaucracy and the media had joined forces to stop the project.

In his letter that is published at Referans, Alaton wrote, “As long as this paranoia, this xenophobic, anti non-Muslim, antisemitic sentiments will continue to exist in Turkey, we will all be obliged to live in mediocrity, stuck in the sidelines of life.”

Source: Referans, Vatan, Turkey, April 23, 2008

Date Posted: April 23, 2008
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Highest Turkish Islamic Official In U.S.: “Turkey A Unique Country Where Different Religious Groups Coexist In Peace”

Prof. Ali Bardakoglu, the Head of Turkey's Directorate of Religious Affairs [Diyanet] delivered a speech titled "Muslims, Christians, and Jews - Ottoman Experience of Peaceful Coexistence" at the Columbia University of NewYork. He said that Turkey was a unique country where different religious groups coexisted in peace and harmony in the past and the present.

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Source: Anatolia News Agency (AA), April 23, 2008

Date Posted: April 23, 2008
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Turkey's Labor Unions Slam PM Erdogan For His Humiliating Remarks

After many years of requests by labor unions, Turkish government declared May 1 as “labor and solidarity holiday” but did not authorize taking the day off work in observance of the day. The government also refused to lift the ban on holding demonstrations in Istanbul’s Taksim square where in the 1970s bloody clashes had occurred between the workers and the police.

PM Recep Tayyip Erdogan said yesterday, "May 1st should not be a day of tensions anymore. The insistence to celebrate May 1st in Taksim square is not nice. When the feet try to govern the head, it becomes doomsday."

[...]

Source: Milliyet, Turkey April 23, 2008

Date Posted: April 23, 2008
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Turkish Daily Vatan: “Sabah Becomes Al-Sabah; An Arab Partner To Sabah/ATV”

Turkish media reports that the sale of Turkey’s second largest media group is now complete, following the full payment of 1.25 billion USD made yesterday to the governmental Savings Deposit and Insurance Fund [TMSF] that had confiscated the media group last April. Calik Group - where PM Erdogan’s son-in-law is the CEO – was the only bidder in TMSF tender and purchased Sabah/ATV media group with all its assets that include dozens of newspapers, magazines, TV and radio stations, as well as publishing and distribution companies.

Turkish media reports that unable to raise the money from private banks, Calik group obtained the loan of 750 million USD from two state-owned banks Vakifbank and Halkbank, which according to speculations were pressured by AKP government to provide Calik with the loans. Calik announced the conclusion of the deal in a statement last night and disclosed its partnership with Al Wasaeel International Media Co. of Qatar which bought 25 percent of the Sabah/ATV media group for 350 million USD.

Mainstream Turkish daily Vatan wrote that Calik Group has managed to become the owner of Turkey’s second largest media group by spending only 150 million USD out of its own pocket.

Source: Hurriyet, Vatan, April 23, 2008

Date Posted: April 23, 2008
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PM Erdogan To Attend Economic Meeting In Syria

Anatolia News Agency [AA] reported that the Foreign Economic Relations Board (DEIK) in partnership with the Turkish-Syrian Business Council will host the Turkey-Syria Economic Forum in Damascus on April 26-27. The forum aims to initiate positive discussions on common problems. Held in the presence of Syrian PM Mohammed Naji al-Otari, the conference will be attended by Turkish PM Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

The Islamist website tevhidhaber.com also reported on Erdogan's upcoming trip to Syria and speculated about the real purpose of the visit by quoting Syrian President Bashar Assad who said in the Baath Party Central Committee meeting that “a friendly third country has been making efforts to facilitate contact between Syria and Israel”.

Source: AA, tevhidhaber.com, April 22, 2008

Date Posted: April 23, 2008
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