Posts tagged turkey
Posts tagged turkey
İstanbul is under police siege today, Public transport banned, roads blocked, pepper spray used extensively, police attacks demonstrators.
Teargas enveloped Istanbul as demonstrators defiantly merged onto the city’s symbolic Taksim Square, where they hold May Day protests every year. The government banned all events there this year, because the square is under construction. As protesters and police clashed they turned the 15 million strong metropolis into a war zone, leaving behind destroyed property and reportedly dozens of injured people. To get a grip on the increasing number of protesters, Turkey’s police fortified their ranks with four planes full of officers transfered from other cities. Among the injured were four journalists and a teenage high school student who suffered head injuries. and is in critical condition at the hospital. Opposition politicians affected from gas and police brutality were also hospitalized.
The Arab Spring, the Syrian civil war what they mean for the conflict in Gaza
A lot has happened since the 2008/09 Gaza conflict. While the rebellion in Syria means the Jewish state can expect little substantial interference from one of its long-time adversaries, the Mavi Marmara incident in 2010 means Israel can also expect little public support from Turkey. Here’s a look at the geopolitical situation in the region today.
At this isolated part of the Turkish border, there’s just one Turkish guard, a fence and, beyond an olive grove, Syria.
The Syrian side is just a short walk, perhaps 10 minutes. The area looks completely calm and there is no sign of the Syrian military.
Abu Amar, a rebel who has fought in Syria for five weeks, walked across this field from the Syrian village of Atma, which is now serving as a rebel headquarters. He says much of the northwestern province of Idlib is now controlled by the rebels, and it has become easy to move back and forth between Syria and Turkey here.
“Actually we have a buffer zone now. I mean it’s not declared by the Turkish government,” he says. “People transport arms freely. The Turks are closing their eyes. We bring our wounded people here; we go back and forth and nobody bothers us at all.”
There are now more than 35,000 Syrian refugees living in camps inside Turkey, along the Syrian border, with several hundred more arriving every day. As the fighting in Syria escalates, these camps have become logistic bases for rebel fighters.
Syrian Troops Stay Away From Border
In June, Turkey moved anti-aircraft guns along its southern border after Syria shot down a Turkish jet over the Mediterranean. The effect has been the creation of a kind of no-fly zone for Syrian army helicopters that were patrolling the border. It is much safer now — for the rebels in northern Syria — and for Syrians who live in border camps just inside Turkey.
Refugee camp doesn’t quite describe the Kilis camp. It’s more like a city made up of shipping containers and can house 12,000 people. There are banks, schools and food markets, paid for and protected by the Turkish government.
When many of these Syrians first left their country, the trip was dangerous and long. Now, the picture is much different. The traffic goes both ways, and it’s a relatively safe journey.
Haj Nasr, who invites us to his camp home, says he now goes to northern Syria a couple times a week.
“We go back to bring families, children,” he says.
He has become a logistics chief for the rebels in his village. When a Syrian government soldier defects, Nasr gets a call.
“We took them to a safe place. They will take some rest and go back to the fight [for the rebels],” he says.
Turkey PM Erdogan issues Syria border warning
Turkey says its military rules of engagement have changed after Syria shot down a Turkish plane that strayed into its territory.
PM Recep Tayyip Erdogan told parliament that if Syrian troops approached Turkey’s borders, they would be seen as a military threat.
Meanwhile Nato has expressed its condemnation of Syria’s attack as well as strong support for Turkey.
Syria insists the F-4 Phantom jet was shot down inside Syrian airspace.
The plane crashed into the eastern Mediterranean and its two pilots are missing.
Meanwhile, fierce fighting has been reported between the Syrian army and rebel forces in the suburbs of the capital Damascus.
Witnesses say it is some of the most intense violence in the area since the uprising against President Bashar al-Assad began more than a year ago.
Mr Erdogan spoke of Turkey’s “rage” at the decision to shoot down the F-4 Phantom on 22 June and described Syria as a “clear and present threat”.
“A short-term border violation can never be a pretext for an attack,” he said. The Turkish jet was on a training flight, testing Turkey’s radars in the eastern Mediterranean, he said.
He made it clear that Turkey was adopting a “common sense” attitude, although that “shouldn’t be perceived as a weakness”.
“Every military element approaching Turkey from the Syrian border and representing a security risk and danger will be assessed as a military threat and will be treated as a military target,” he said.
Turkey requested a meeting of the alliance’s ambassadors in Brussels after invoking Article 4 of Nato’s founding treaty, which entitles any member state to ask for consultations if it believes its security is threatened.
In a statement, the alliance’s 28 members said the shooting down of the plane was “unacceptable” and they stood together with Turkey “in the spirit of strong solidarity”.
Pictured: Syria has become an “open threat” to Turkey, PM Erdogan says
Thousands protest in Istanbul amid growing fears that Turkey’s Islamist government intends to ban abortion. The pro-choice rally on Sunday was stoked by reports that the ruling Justice and Development party (AKP) are working on a bill to ban abortions after four weeks, except in emergencies. Terminations in Turkey are currently legal until the 10th week of gestation
In A Change, Turkey Tightens Its Border With Syria
The spring sun is warming the fields and orchards along the Turkey-Syria border, and new refugee camps are sprouting as well.
Smugglers who have long worked these mountain border trails are now busy moving civilians out of Syria to the safety of Turkish camps. They’re also moving medical and communications equipment and people into opposition-held neighborhoods in Syria. But recently, some say that’s getting harder.
A smuggler known as Abu Ayham says Turkish guards, who used to permit nonlethal aid to pass freely, have suddenly grown much tougher on the smugglers.
“The situation is very hard now,” Ayham says. “On the Turkish side, if the guards catch you and you have nothing but a mobile phone, they will take it and they might jail you. The other day a group was stopped carrying only small tents for people hiding in the mountains. The guards said, ‘This is military equipment,’ and seized it.”
Activists say it could be the whim of a local Turkish commander, and smugglers working different routes say they haven’t encountered similar problems.
On the other hand, analysts say Turkey recently caught 14 supporters of the separatist PKK Kurdish movement trying to cross into Turkey from Syria.
Turkey is worried that Syrian President Bashar Assad might revive Syria’s support for the Kurdish separatists seeking a homeland in southeastern Turkey, as his father, Hafez, did in the 1990s.
When asked about international assistance pledged for Syria, the smugglers say they haven’t seen it. But that may be because aid officials are worried about maintaining neutrality.
Pictured: Turkish army personnel patrol near the border with Syria in Kilis earlier this month. Activists and smugglers say it’s getting harder to get medical and communications equipment into Syria across the Turkish border.
Iran nuclear talks set to begin in Istanbul
Six world powers are to begin talks with Iran aimed at ending the deadlock over Tehran’s nuclear programme.
Officials from the US, UK, France, China, Russia and Germany hope the talks, in the Turkish city of Istanbul, halt rising tensions in the region.
Iran says its nuclear programme is peaceful, but critics suspect it of seeking to develop nuclear weapons.
Israel has hinted in recent months that it could carry out a pre-emptive strike on Iran to prevent that happening.
On Thursday, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said his country was “standing firm on its fundamental rights and under the harshest pressure will not retreat an iota from its undeniable right”.
Pictured: Turkey’s foreign minister Ahmet Davutoglu welcomed Iran’s chief negotiator, Saeed Jalil, on Friday
Syrian forces have fired across the border into Turkey, hitting a refugee camp near the town of Kilis. There were unconfirmed reports of fatalities. The incident fuelled international concern about escalating violence as the UN deadline to end the Syrian crisis approached. The UN estimates that 9,000 people have been killed in Syria over the last 13 months
As the political negotiations to end the crisis continue in Syria, as record numbers of Syrians are fleeing into neighbouring countries.
In Turkey alone more than two thousand Syrians entered the country just in one day alone.
Al Jazeera’s Anita McNaught reports on how some Syrians struggle to adapt to life as a refugee
Turkey’s ex-army chief on trial for coup plot
Ilker Basbug is among 29 accused of being part of shadowy group plotting to overthrow government.
Ilker Basbug, Turkey’s former army chief, has gone on trial on charges of leading a terrorist group accused of plotting to overthrow the government of Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the prime minister.
Basbug raised a clenched fist and waved to supporters as the trial opened at the Silivri high security prison complex in Istanbul on Monday.
Basbug, chief of staff from 2008 to 2010, is accused of being a leader of a shadowy network dubbed “Ergenekon”, behind a string of alleged plots against the Erdogan government.
His lawyer, however, said at the weekend, the case targeted not only Basbug but also “the Turkish armed forces and even, in political terms, the state”.
“This is perhaps the longest and most seismic operation in Turkish judicial history,” Al Jazeera’s Anita McNaught, reporting from Istanbul, said.
“It dates back to 2007 when the Turkish government said they had uncovered evidence of a shadowy organisation called Ergenekon, which had been plotting for several years and in many ways and forms in collaboration with the Turkish military and judiciary to overthrow the democratically elected government of Turkey.”
She said the resulting arrests, trials and detentions “have continued to climb up the ladder of seniority in Turkey until finally they reached the man who headed the Turkish armed forces between 2008 and 2010”.
Basbug branded the case against him as tragi-comic when he was first detained in January. “He calls it psychological warfare,” our correspondent said.
Pictured: The “Ergenekon” network is said to have been behind the alleged plots against Erdogan’s government [Reuters]
Turkey Resists Calls To Arm Syrian Rebels
The rising civilian death toll in Syria is accompanied by mounting calls to arm the Syrian opposition. And Turkey, a NATO country that shares a long, rugged border with Syria, is often mentioned as a likely transit point.
Turkey has become increasingly critical of the Syrian regime, but Ankara is thus far reluctant to send significant arms across the border or use its large military to create a humanitarian corridor inside Syria.
Syria already claims that Turkey is arming the Free Syrian Army, which Damascus refers to as “armed terrorist gangs.” But Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu recently dismissed the charge as transparently false. If Turkey is supplying arms to the rebels, he asked, then why are their weapons so few and so primitive?
Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan did mention humanitarian corridors recently, as did Deputy Prime Minister Besir Atalay, in remarks to Turkish broadcaster NTV.
In cautious, highly qualified comments, Atalay said Turkey is working with international partners, especially the Arab League, to better protect civilian life in Syria. In that context, he said, buffer zones were among the options being considered.
Pictured: Syrians living in Turkey and human-rights activists stage a protest on Feb. 4 outside the Syrian consulate in Istanbul to condemn the killings in Syria. Calls are growing louder for Turkey to intervene in the violence in neighboring Syria by helping the rebels and civilians there. Anonymous/AP
Turkish police clash with Kurdish protesters
Politician reportedly killed by tear gas canister as thousands use new year celebrations to rally for rights.
Turkish police have used water cannons, tear gas and baton charges to break up Kurdish demonstrations across the country, leaving one local politician dead in a sign of rising tension ahead of the Kurdish new year of Navroz.
Several thousand people gathered just outside the city of Diyarbakir, in the southeast, and were confronted by hundreds of riot police backed by armoured cars and helicopters.
Television pictures showed a police water cannon vehicle driving towards a group of stone-throwing youths, spraying them as it went, while other officers fired tear gas.
Police had taken over strategic points in the city from the early morning and tried to prevent large crowds from coming together.
Haci Zengin, the head of an Istanbul branch office of the main Kurdish political party, Peace and Development, died after being hit on the head by a tear gas canister, party members posted on their Twitter accounts. Police said nine people were injured and 106 arrested.
The unrest spread to nearby areas and several cars were torched, the AFP news agency reported.
Protesters also threw firebombs, the Anatolia news agency reported, adding that a police officer suffered a broken arm and an elderly person was hit in the head with stones.
The Peace and Development Party (BDP) and the main armed movement, the illegal Kurdish Workers’ Party (PKK), have both called for large demonstrations on Navroz, which begins on March 21, sensing that the government, which has strongly backed Arab uprisings, may be vulnerable to pressure from street protests.
Both the legal BDP and the PKK are demanding a level of autonomy for the mainly Kurdish southeast of the country.
Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s conservative government has taken steps to increase cultural rights for the country’s Kurds, who make up about 20 per cent of the population, but has come out strongly against autonomy.
Turkish authorities had banned Navroz celebrations until March 21.
Pictured: Police had banned Navroz celebrations until the Kurdish new year officially begins on Wednesday [AFP]
Syrian Refugees May Be Wearing Out Turks’ Welcome
It could be a scene from almost any school in the world: rows of young kids reciting their lessons, the girls dressed in shades of pink and sporting Hello Kitty backpacks, the boys in dark clothing, looking a little restless.
But this makeshift school is in a concrete farmhouse on the outskirts of Antakya, in southern Turkey’s Hatay province near the border with Syria. And the 156 students — aged 6 to 13 — are all refugees from cities and towns across Syria.
The school has been in this house only for two weeks. Before that, students attended classes in a public park because the Turkish government kicked them out of a previous building.
Mustafa Shakir is a school administrator and imam from the Syrian city of Latakia. He’s cofounder of this school, which started out four months ago with 15 students in his apartment in Antakya.
When we started thinking about the school, we felt that our kids shouldn’t be out in the streets or watching the news,” Shakir says. “And we feel this is part of the revolution, our duty now is to make schools and educate the children.”
Shakir says that Syrian President Bashar Assad is trying to break his country’s people, and educating the children will make the revolution stronger.
Expanding Services For Refugees
Nearly 12,000 Syrians are living in camps in Hatay province, with several thousand more outside the camps. The school in Antakya city, for example, serves the nearly 250 Syrian families living there. Syrians are getting other services, too, including health care, and are setting up more schools and clinics of their own.
But all of this has led their Turkish hosts to start questioning how long they want their guests around.
Pictured: Syrian girls attend a class in a makeshift classroom at a refugee camp on the Turkish-Syrian border in southern Turkey’s Hatay province, on Feb. 8. More than 12,000 Syrians live in refugee camps in Hatay, and several thousand more have found accommodations elsewhere. Murad Sezer/Reuters /Landov