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17 August 2016 Wednesday

Turkey’s ties to Africa are centuries-old and based on a “win-win relationship”, Esra Demir, Turkish ambassador to the Ivory Coast has told Anadolu Agency.

“Since 2002, the number of our embassies in Africa has risen from 17 to 39. It is therefore obvious that we show great interest in our African friends. But it is not only economically – we are in a win-win relationship which will continue and intensify,” she said.

Talking about economic cooperation, the ambassador said:

“The Turkish and Ivorian presidents had set a goal – a trade volume of one billion dollars by 2020. We have noticed that we are moving towards this direction. During the first half of 2016, the trade volume increased from $183 to $219 million, an increase of 20 percent compared to last year.”

Demir also welcomed the solidarity of shown by several African leaders to Turkey and President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in the aftermath of the July 15 coup attempt.

She sincerely thanked the Ivorian president Alassane Ouattara and Foreign Minister Albert Toikeusse Mabri for their messages of support.

On another level, the Turkish diplomat denounced the reservations of some Western countries on measures taken by the state against those accused of involvement in the attempted coup, stressing that the Turkish people expected a different reaction from those who say they “are apostles of democracy”.

“The Turkish people showed maturity and courage by taking to the streets. There were 240 people who died in the shootings but the citizens did not give up and they were successful… It was later expected that countries should show solidarity.

“But this was not the case. Instead of support; the heroic struggle of the Turkish people has seen a lot of criticisms. That is not easy to digest,” Demir said.

She added that “none of these countries who present themselves as apostles of democracy came to visit the half-destroyed parliament or the people who had gathered spontaneously under bombardment the night of the coup attempt”.

Terrorism

Regarding the fight against terrorism, Demir said that Turkey and several African countries, including the Ivory Coast, have to cooperate in the exchange of information in order to maintain stability and security.

In this regard, she said she had informed the Ivorian authorities of the presence in the country of “dangerous nuclei,” namely the Fetullah Terrorist Organization or FETO, accused of being the instigator of the Turkish coup attempt. She added it is the Ivorian decision makers who will settle on what measures are to be taken.

“Children who come out from the institutions of this conspirator [a reference to Fetullah Gulen] become his unconditional followers… We must therefore be vigilant,” warned Demir.

Asked whether Turkey would be able to overcome difficulties in securing the closure of Gulen-linked institutions in the Ivory Coast, the ambassador said that her country was always ready to support friendly states.

Focusing instead on obstacles related to Gulen’s extradition by the United States, Demir said that procedure is still ongoing.

“We have prepared the file, there are a lot of confessions and many testimonies are in it. We have not yet received a negative response but it will continue. We expect his extradition as soon as possible,” she said.

Source: World Bulletin.

Link: http://www.worldbulletin.net/headlines/176264/turkey-in-africa-for-a-win-win-relationship.

August 17, 2016

ANKARA, Turkey (AP) — Turkey issued a decree Wednesday paving the way for the conditional release of 38,000 prisoners, the justice minister said — an apparent move to reduce its prison population to make space for thousands of people who have been arrested as part of an investigation into last month’s failed coup.

The decree allows the release of inmates who have two years or less to serve of their prison terms and makes convicts who have served half of their prison term eligible for parole. Some prisoners are excluded from the measures: people convicted of murder, domestic violence, sexual abuse or terrorism and other crimes against the state.

The measures would not apply for crimes committed after July 1, excluding any people later convicted of coup involvement. Justice Minister Bekir Bozdag said on his Twitter account the measure would lead to the release of some 38,000 people. He insisted it was not a pardon or an amnesty but a conditional release of prisoners.

The government says the July 15 coup, which led to at least 270 deaths, was carried out by followers of the movement led by U.S.-based Muslim cleric Fethullah Gulen who have infiltrated the military and other state institutions. Gulen has denied any prior knowledge or involvement in the coup but Turkey is demanding that the United States extradite him.

The Turkish government declared a state of emergency and launched a massive crackdown on Gulen’s supporters in the aftermath of the coup. Some 35,000 people have been detained for questioning and more than 17,000 of them have been formally arrested to face trial, including soldiers, police, judges and journalists.

Tens of thousands more people with suspected links to Gulen have been suspended or dismissed from their jobs in the judiciary, media, education, health care, military and local government. The government crackdown has raised concerns among European nations and human rights organizations, who have urged the Turkish government to show restraint.

August 16, 2016

ANKARA, Turkey (AP) — Turkey’s state-run news agency says police have launched simultaneous raids on 44 companies suspected of providing financial support to U.S.-based Muslim cleric Fethullah Gulen’s movement.

Turkey accuses Gulen of being behind the July 15 failed coup, a claim Gulen denies. The Anadolu Agency says Tuesday’s raids in Istanbul’s Umraniye and Uskudar districts came after authorities issued warrants to detain 120 company executives as part of the investigation into the coup attempt. The agency did not identify the companies searched.

The government has launched a massive crackdown on suspected supporters of Gulen’s movement. More than 35,000 people have been detained for questioning while tens of thousands of others have been dismissed from government jobs, including in the judiciary, media, education, health care, military and local government.

August 14, 2016

IRBIL, Iraq (AP) — Iraqi Kurdish forces say they have retaken five villages east of the Islamic State-held city of Mosul in an operation launched early Sunday. U.S.-backed Kurdish forces known as peshmerga aim to “clear several more villages” in “one of many shaping operations” that will increase pressure on the extremist group, the Kurdish region’s Security Council said in a statement.

Peshmerga Brig. Gen. Dedewan Khurshid Tofiq described the operation outside Mosul as “ongoing.” Rudaw, a local television network, showed footage of smoke rising from a village in the distance as armored vehicles pushed across a field.

The council’s statement said the area cleared is about 50 square kilometers (20 square miles). It said the U.S.-led coalition is supporting the operation with airstrikes, one of which destroyed a car bomb.

Iraq’s Health Ministry meanwhile said a fire which swept through the maternity ward of a hospital in Baghdad last week was a “crime” and not an accident, without providing further details. The blaze in the capital’s Yarmouk hospital killed 13 people, according to the ministry’s statement.

Also on Sunday, Iraqi President Fuad Masoum approved the death sentences of 36 men sentenced to hang over the June 2014 massacre of hundreds of military recruits based near the central city of Tikrit. The Islamic State group massacred the soldiers and buried them in mass graves during its lightning advance across Iraq that summer.

Iraqi forces have made steady progress against the extremists in recent months, and Mosul, Iraq’s second largest city, is the group’s last remaining urban stronghold in the country.

Abdul-Zahra reported from Baghdad. Associated Press writer Salar Salim in Irbil, Iraq contributed to this report.

August 15, 2016

ISTANBUL (AP) — Turkey’s state-run news agency says police teams are conducting operations at three Istanbul courthouses as part of an investigation into the July 15 abortive coup. Anadolu Agency said the Istanbul chief public prosecutor’s office had issued a detention order for 173 personnel working at Istanbul’s Caglayan, Bakirkoy and Gaziosmanpasa courthouses.

The moves are part of the government’s ongoing investigation into the movement led by U.S.-based Islamic cleric Fethullah Gulen. Ankara alleges Gulen was responsible for the violent coup attempt that left over 270 people dead.

Gulen denies any involvement. Police entered the courthouses Monday morning to detain the suspects and conduct searches of their offices and computers, while other teams were searching their homes. Four courthouse personnel were detained last week as part of the same investigation.

August 15, 2016

ISTANBUL (AP) — Turkish investigators call it the ultimate long game. In 1986, the Turkish military expelled dozens of cadets suspected of loyalty to a young Muslim cleric named Fethullah Gulen, seen as a potential threat to the country’s strict secular rule. Officials, a magazine reported at the time, said an alleged recruiter had told the students to work their way through the ranks and wait for instructions that would come in a few decades.

Fast forward 30 years to July 15, when renegade officers staged a failed coup and President Recep Tayyip Erdogan accused Gulen of orchestrating it. Gulen, now based in Pennsylvania, denies any involvement, but a rising tide of allegations challenges the moderate image promoted by his Islamist movement and casts it as a cover for secret designs on Turkish power that included efforts to infiltrate state institutions decades ago.

In the 1970s, when Turkey was run by a military-backed, secular government, the group seemed like a conventional religious movement that attracted young, middle-class recruits through a successful network of schools and dormitories.

Gulen, who had been associated with Islamic mysticism, promoted a message of tolerance and charity along with Turkish patriotism. His group — known as Hizmet, Turkish for “service” — raised money through donations from individuals and businesses. By the early 1990s, it was expanding into other countries with a network of schools, burnishing an international reputation as an advocate of interfaith harmony.

The movement’s benevolent message initially enabled its followers to dodge the harshest persecution of Turkey’s secular rulers. But as it grew in influence, the government began to view the movement with suspicion.

Authorities alleged its supervisors — known as “brothers” — helped followers cheat on exams to land government jobs. Once they were in place, according to Hanefi Avci, a former national police chief who investigated the group, they “acted in a coordinated effort to promote and protect one another and eliminate opponents.”

The group enjoyed wide influence in schools, the news media and police forces in an expanding power base, and authorities began to crack down on pieces of the movement such as the 1986 purge of military cadets.

Authorities point to Gulen’s own words as evidence of his designs. In comments recorded in the 1980s, Gulen referred to crackdowns on Islamists in Syria and Egypt and told a group of followers to bide their time, saying: “You must move within the arteries of the system, without anyone noticing your existence, until you reach all the power centers.”

Gulen, who later said those remarks were misinterpreted, moved to the United States in the late 1990s while facing trial on charges of plotting to overthrow Turkey’s government. His movement continued to grow, and eventually helped to topple the staunchly secular leaders who had been so wary of it.

In 2002 elections, Gulen’s followers supported the candidacy of the former Istanbul mayor, who himself had been jailed for several months by secular authorities and won with the backing of a pious Muslim class that had been sidelined to decades.

His name was Erdogan. Erdogan insists he put up with the Gulenists as a practical matter: He needed all the help he could get to defeat the secularists. “We tolerated them for the sake of the widespread aid, education and solidarity activities — inside and outside of the country — that they seemed to be conducting,” he said this month. “We tolerated them because they said ‘Allah.'”

The military leadership remained unconvinced. Ilker Basbug, who was Turkey’s military chief from 2008 to 2010, said in a recent interview with CNN Turk television that he warned Erdogan about the threat from Gulen’s backers in the military, which had stopped purging suspected Islamists.

“Today this threat is to us, tomorrow it’s to you,” he says he told Erdogan. According to Basbug, Erdogan responded: “My commander, you are exaggerating.” After he retired, Basbug was jailed on charges of plotting to overthrow the state, one of hundreds of people associated with the old secular order who were targeted by alleged Gulen sympathizers in the police and judiciary. Avci, the former national police chief who had written a book about the alleged threat from Gulen’s supporters, was also imprisoned.

Erdogan initially supported some of the investigations, but he eventually disowned them amid revelations of forged evidence and other irregularities. Meanwhile, the Turkish leader’s alliance with Gulen was unraveling as he sought to dismantle what he described as a “parallel state” in the police and other institutions. In what Erdogan later described as an attempted coup, prosecutors believed to be loyal to Gulen launched a high-profile corruption probe in December 2013, embarrassing the government.

Tensions rose further in 2014, when Erdogan switched from prime minister to president in a move seen by critics as a bid to amass even more power. Finally, on July 15, elements of the military rose up. They occupied airports, bridges and military bases, took the military chief hostage and accused the government of eroding democracy and the rule of law. Rival forces clashed, and Erdogan supporters took to the streets in support of their president. Some protesters were cut down by gunfire from mutinous soldiers, but by morning it was clear that the coup had failed. In all, 272 people were dead.

Erdogan was quick to point the finger: He said the coup was the work of Gulenists. Gulen condemned the coup, although he conceded that some of his sympathizers might have been involved. “You can think about many motivations of people who staged this coup. They could be sympathizers of the opposition party. They could be sympathizers of the nationalist party. It could be anything,” Gulen told reporters at his Pennsylvania compound the day after the coup.

Yet he still had harsh words for Erdogan, whom he called an authoritarian figure, and his government. He said it has shown “no tolerance for any movement, any group, any organization that is not under their total control.”

Torchia reported from Johannesburg. He was The Associated Press’ bureau chief in Turkey from 2007-13, and covered the aftermath of the attempted coup last month.

August 13, 2016

Turkey’s government has decided to deploy surface-to-air missiles at 11 civilian airports across the country, CNN Turk reported on Friday. The move comes after the failed coup last month and will be carried out by the ministry of transport, maritime affairs and communication in collaboration with the armed forces.

Radar and observation equipment for the army and air force is also going to be installed inside airport control towers. Such units will notify the armed forces of any hostile or unidentified aircraft and prompt an immediate military response.

On 29 June, Turkey’s largest airport, Ataturk International Airport in Istanbul, was attacked by three suicide bombers who were, the government believes, affiliated to Daesh. Thirty-six civilians were killed in the arrivals terminal at the airport during the attack.

Ataturk International, along with Turkey’s other major airports, also witnessed dramatic incidents during the failed coup attempt on 15 July, when rebel tanks tried to take control of key installations.

Source: Middle East Monitor.

Link: https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/20160813-turkey-to-deploy-surface-to-air-missiles-at-airports/.

By Michel Arseneault

13-10-2011

President Omar al-Bashir says Sudan will go ahead with plans to adopt an entirely Islamic constitution. Bashir had already said that Sudan would adopt an Islamic constitution if the south seceded. But many southerners had hoped he would not go ahead.

Bashir says that 98 per cent of the Sudanese population is Muslim, and that the new constitution should reflect this.

Speaking to students in Khartoum, he said the official religion would be Islam and that Islamic law would be the constitutional source of future legislation.

Under the comprehensive peace agreement signed between north and south, Sudan’s constitution recognizes “the cultural and social diversity of the Sudanese people”.

But many southerners say they no longer feel welcome in the north since the two separated in July.

The General Secretary of the Sudan Council of Churches, says Sudan must recognize religious diversity. Reverend Ramadan Chan Liol adds that it should explicitly protect the non-Muslim minority in the north.

Reverend Chan Liol adds he was surprised to hear Bashir claim that 98 per cent of the population is Muslim because the Sudanese census does not ask citizens to state their religion.

Source: RFI.

Link: http://en.rfi.fr/africa/20111013-sudan-islam.

August 13, 2016

Hundreds of Iraqis took to the streets of Baghdad on Friday in protest at the government’s “financial and administrative corruption,” Anadolu has reported. Similar demonstrations were held in other cities across Iraq.

The protesters gathered in Al-Tahrir Square in the middle of Baghdad. Bridges and main streets in the capital were closed by the security forces.

Protesters directed their grievances at Prime Minister Haidar Al-Abadi as they called for an end to corruption in government. They also want “comprehensive changes” in government appointments to key positions across the country.

“The government is still unable to investigate officials who affiliate to political parties and hold them accountable for their corruption or failure to run the government and service institutions,” one protester told Anadolu. “A year ago,” claimed Ahmed Radi, “Al-Abadi made several pledges, including a pledge to fight corruption, prosecute corrupt officials and approve a transparent and quality appointments system, but none of this has been done.”

Such anti-corruption protests have been held for almost a year. Aside from the calls to end corruption and for the prosecution of corrupt officials, the people want an end to political differences in parliament.

According to the Transparency Index, Iraq has been among the most corrupt countries in the world for many years. Many other international organisations have reported that there is “waste, fraud and embezzlement of public funds” on a major scale.

Source: Middle East Monitor.

Link: https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/20160813-iraqis-take-to-the-streets-in-protest-at-government-corruption/.

August 9, 2016

On 15 July, a bloody coup attempt was staged in Turkey; it was unsuccessful. Army officers and soldiers belonging to the Gülenist FETO terrorist organisation barricaded strategic bridges and locations in Ankara and Istanbul, and seized the General Staff Headquarters. They tried to eliminate the elected president and government of the country. However, when the people took to the streets and began fighting, it was clear that the coup would not succeed. Unfortunately, 250 people, most of them civilians, were killed. Since then, a significant number of the organisation’s members — mostly in the military — have been discharged from their positions within state institutions. According to the confessions of those who took part in the coup, it was carried out on the order of the organisation’s leader, Fethullah Gülen, who lives in Pennsylvania and has called those who died during the coup “fools”. A formal request for his extradition has been filed by the Turkish government, but it has yet to be acted upon by the US.

The coup was the third unsuccessful attempt in Turkey since 2013. The first started with the Gezi Park protest between May and June 2013 and was followed by an effort to overthrow the government with allegations of corruption in December that year. A country that has gone through a similar ordeal as Turkey but was forced to its knees at the second attempt is Brazil.

It is interesting to note that both the ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Party) in Turkey led by President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, and the Workers’ Party in Brazil led by Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva were both elected to govern their country in 2002. Both countries were on the verge of an economic and political breakdown but were stabilized by their respective leaders’ reforms. The election of the AK Party and Workers’ Party was a reflection of the middle and lower classes’ longing for stability in countries that were nearly collapsing as a result of economic mismanagement. The GDP of both countries increased significantly and they became safe-zones for foreign investment.

Lula’s Brazil and Erdogan’s Turkey showed stability and rapid development and began to have more influence in the global arena. While both managed to act in accordance with the free market economy, they also managed to protect their national economy, and after 2007 their economic status went head to head with many Western states. The Brazilian and Turkish leadership developed policies on regional and global issues which differed from those of Washington and other western capitals. Both leaders visited Tehran in 2010 to sign agreements with Iran to support its non-military nuclear program, despite the West’s embargo and war threats. Although the terms of the agreements comply with the West’s main insistence over nuclear exchange, the moves by Ankara and Brasilia were not taken well by Western leaders.

Similarly, the common stance of both countries against Israel’s occupation of Palestine was very different from the policies of the West. Both made clear their view that Israel should withdraw to its 1967 borders, stop the construction of illegal Jewish colony-settlements and end the blockade of the Gaza Strip. In following policies which differed to those of the hegemonic West, whilst also questioning the organizational structure of the UN, there was thus proof of an alternative approach to that propounded by the Western-centric foreign policy axis.

After serving two consecutive terms of office, Lula handed over to his close friend and colleague Dilma Rousseff in 2011. She followed in Lula’s footsteps in her foreign and domestic politics. Whereas in 2002 the middle class was represented by only 38 per cent of the population, after the 2014 election this figure rose to 55 per cent and has been attributed to Lula’s and Rousseff’s successful and determined economic policies. Turkey’s and Brazil’s stabilized economies, having caught up with the economic level of developed countries in 2007, provided some hope for other countries whose development was being hindered by the West.

Although they may be said to be coincidental, anti-government protests occurred almost simultaneously in Turkey and Brazil. The Gezi Park protest was sparked after a small group complained about some urban development in the park. The protest grew larger and spread across Turkey, fueled by the Western media pushing for Erdogan to resign. In reality, the media campaign against the popular elected leadership betrayed the fact that this was a campaign against Turkey, not its political leadership. It was later discovered that members of FETO within the police force had enabled the protest to grow so dramatically. This first attempt by FETO against the government was echoed by the western public and media.

In Brazil, meanwhile, people were protesting about public transport; demonstrations spread quickly into nationwide protests and demands for the government to resign. As in Turkey, the protesters in Brazil also attacked public buildings and the protests turned violent. Decisive government action in both countries eventually brought the protests to a halt, but that was not the end of the matter.

In December 2013 four ministers in Turkey were accused of fraud. The individual corruption cases were somehow intertwined and Erdogan was also dragged into them along with his family, after the appearance of fake documents. This was also discovered to be the work of FETO members within the security agencies and judiciary, and was again overcome thanks to decisive government positions. It was later discovered that FETO had received huge amounts of money after threats and blackmail. The Western media, rather interestingly, decided to conceal the fact that FETO was behind this attempt to bring the government down and tried to justify this by accusations against Erdogan’s administration.

Whereas that particular coup attempt failed in Turkey, the Brazilian government was overthrown following corruption allegations. Just as there were FETO-supporting MPs within the government in Ankara, so too were there MPs within the Workers’ Party in Brazil who supported the coup. Some politicians and judges from the coup era began suing Lula and Rousseff.

The second operation against Lula and Rousseff started in mid-2014 with accusations that some managers of the state-partnered energy company Petrobas were being bribed and transferred money to political figures over a period of 10 years. At first, the fingers were pointed only at some minor politicians and managers, but then judges also accused Rousseff and Lula; they were both on the Petrobas board. A year before the accusations were made public it was discovered that America was spying on Petrobas and listening-in to Brazil’s state telecommunications as well as Rousseff herself. This strengthens the argument that the US had an important part to play in Rousseff and Lula being linked to the Petrobas scandal and efforts to bring them down.

As happened in Turkey, the transcripts of hundreds of recorded phone calls were published in order to strengthen the corruption accusations against Rousseff and Lula. Although there was no concrete evidence against Rousseff, on 12 May this year she was suspended from the party after being voted out by other MPs. The former President of the Chamber of Deputies, Eduardo Cunha, who led the way in sidelining Rousseff, was also suspended from his position one month later for corruption, the abuse of power and threatening behavior. At the same time the resignation of the Minister of Transparency, Supervision and Control of Brazil, Fabiano Silveira, and the Senator from Roraima, Romero Juca after trying to use Rousseff’s impeachment to divert attention from accusations of corruption against themselves is, evidence which suggests that there was a coup attempt against the Brazilian president. It is known that Brazil’s Acting President Michel Temer has close links to the CIA; this has been confirmed by Wikileaks documents, as has the introduction of the IMF and Goldman Sachs to economic positions within the new government.

Although Brazil lost the battle with the second coup, Turkey lives to fight another day. A large proportion of the population believe firmly that the US and other Western countries were behind the July coup attempt. This is not only because Fethullah Gülen lives in America and is not as yet being extradited by the US, but also due to statements coming out of Washington such as, “A number of the US military’s closest allies in the Turkish military have been placed in jail following the coup attempt.” American and Western media support for the coup makes US complicity all the more convincing and likely.

With the coup operations carried out against Lula and Rousseff in Brazil, and Erdogan in Turkey, Brazil may have lost in the second round but Turkey is still standing strong. This time, though, Turkey as a nation is prepared for other probable attempts to derail democracy in the country. While Brazil may have been edged out of the international arena, Turkey remains firm as the only country that continues to inspire the global South with its independent and anti-western foreign and economic policies.

Source: Middle East Monitor.

Link: https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/20160809-brazil-has-been-brought-to-its-knees-but-turkey-is-standing-firm-against-anti-democracy-coups/.

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