News of the Week – November 30th, 2015

*Source: The Independent ©

News of the Week – November 30th, 2015

Tahir Elçi Assassinated

Tahir Elçi, human rights activist and head of the Diyarbakir Bar Association, was tragically murdered on November 28th at a rally in Diyarbakir’s Sur province. Mr. Elçi’s final words were a call for peace, as he and several colleagues had met to plead for an end to ongoing clashes in urban areas between the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) and Turkish Special Forces. His speech criticized both the PKK and the Turkish Special Forces for jeopardizing the lives of citizens and damaging historical buildings in Diyarbakir. As the rally came to an end, gunmen opened fire on those assembled, killing two police officers, Cengiz Erdur, and Ahmet Çiftaslan, as well as Mr. Elçi. The exact motivation for the crime remains unknown as no group has claimed responsibility for the attack; however, the HDP party called the murder a “planned assassination.” Mr. Elçi was arrested in October of this year for claiming that the PKK was not a terrorist organization. His case was set to begin in early December. Elçi’s murder has sparked protests in major cities throughout the country, to which the police have responded with characteristic brutality: water cannons and tear gas canisters. Our condolences are with the family and friends of Tahir Elçi.

EU and Turkey Meet at ‘Historic’ Summit

The European Union and Turkey met at what Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu called a historic summit this weekend to discuss the Syrian migrant crisis. The European Union is desperately seeking a solution to the current migrant crisis, which has seen hundreds of thousands of Syrian refugees flow across its borders, most of them crossing the Aegean Sea from Turkey to Greece. According to the agreement, the EU will provide a 3 billion Euro aid package for the 2 million Syrian refugees currently living in Turkey. Although the exact details of the agreement are not yet known, it is expected that Turkey will use these funds to strengthen its coast guard, as well as border control; and to provide better food, shelter, and educational necessities to the Syrians already within their borders. In exchange for their cooperation, the EU has promised to reenergize accession talks for Turkey’s EU membership, and to allow Turks visa-free travel throughout the Schengen area by October 2016. This comes after nearly a decade of stalled talks regarding Turkey’s accession into the European Union.

Turkey Shoots Down Russian Fighter Jet

On November 24th of this week, the Turkish Armed Forces shot down a Russian military craft near the Syrian border. Ankara claims that it warned the Russian pilots ten times before opening fire after the Russian craft crossed into Turkish airspace; however Moscow maintains that no such warning was given, and that their pilots were shot down over Syrian territory in the midst of a mission to attack the Islamic State (ISIS). Media attention this week has been focused on the fallout of these events, as NATO members scrambled to pledge their support for Turkey, Russian authorities decried what they described as a provocation and an ambush, referring to Turkey as “an accomplice of terrorists”. The Russian authorities promised repercussions and have so far suspended the visa-free travel agreement between the two countries, banned the extension of Turkish labor contracts, cancelled all chartered flights from Russia to Turkey and banned certain unspecified goods. High ranking government members from both countries are reportedly working to diffuse the situation, but as of now much tension remains.

Syrian Turkmen Tribes Receive Ankara’s Support

These troublesome events in Turco-Russian relations come after President Erdoğan attempted to bring the plight of Syrian Turkmen to the forefront of international discussions early in the week. Sources from within the prime minister’s office reported that Turkey called for a UN Security Council meeting to discuss the role of the Russian state in recent attacks against their ethnic kin, the Turkmen of Northern Syria. A few days before this, the Russian Ambassador to Turkey was reportedly called in to speak with Prime Minister Davutoğlu regarding the bombings. The Turkish state has openly supported the Syrian Turkmen Assembly in their struggle against Russia’s ally, Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad. They are critical of Russian military operations in the region, believing the Russians to be more concerned with propping up the Assad regime than battling terrorism in the region. The Russians, for their part, have accused the Turkish government of supporting terrorist groups in an attempt to overthrow the embattled Assad.

Can Dündar and Erdem Gül Arrested

This week also saw the arrest of two prominent Turkish journalists, Can Dündar and Erdem Gül. Dündar—the Editor-in-Chief of Cumhuriyet—and his colleague are charged with “political and military espionage,” “releasing secret documents,” and “propaganda for terror organization.” The charges are the result of video tapes that the two men released on the 29th of May, 2015; these tapes were purported to show members of the National Intelligence Organization (MIT) illegally transporting arms into Syria. The AKP government maintains that the trucks in said video were transporting humanitarian supplies to Syrian Turkmen in the region, and that the tapes had been altered. Earlier this year, President Erdoğan promised that the journalists responsible for the leaked tapes would “pay a heavy price” for their actions. He is seeking a life sentence for Dündar’s role in the matter.

Football Fans Boo Moment of Silence

In what amounted to a moment of national shame for the Turkish Republic, during a Greece-Turkey football match on November 17th fans at the Basakşehir Fatih Terim Stadium booed and chanted “Allahu Akbar” during a moment of silence scheduled to honor the victims of the November 13th terrorist attacks in Paris. Members of parliament from each party spoke out against this horrendous display. Fatih Terim, the manager of the Turkey’s National Team reacted with disbelief, asking “What has happened to us?” This follows a similar event last month, when fans in the conservative city of Konya reacted similarly to a moment of silence held for victims of the October 10th terrorist attack in Ankara.

Curfew Lifted in Nusaybin

At the domestic level, Turkey continues its muted civil war against the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) in the soth-east. As of Thursday, November 23rd, the Turkish government lifted a 13-day 24-hour curfew in Nusaybin, a neighborhood in the Mardin province. The curfew was instated in order to allow the Turkish Armed Forces to clear out trenches and barricades that the PKK had erected. Local residents suffered greatly, with some reporting water, electric, and phone services having been cut off during the two-week debacle. Nine civilians were reported to have been killed at the hands of the Turkish Armed Forces. While the curfew in Nusaybin has been lifted, this news came around the same time that new curfews were imposed in the neighborhoods of Çevizpinar, Kale, Küçükpınar, Zeytinpınar, Bahçelievler, Dağ Soğutozu, and Tepebağ. The imposition of 24-hour curfews in Turkey’s Kurdish south-eastern provinces has become commonplace since the Government reignited a decades old conflict with the PKK in response to the murder of two police officers in July, 2015. Human Rights Association has claimed that more than 100 civilians in the region have been killed in the last three months.

Independent Turkey

Independent Turkey, “News of the Week – November 30th, 2015″ Independent Turkey, 30 November 2015, London: Centre for Policy and Research on Turkey (Research Turkey). Original link: http://researchturkey.org/?p=10147

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