Syrian rebels allowed to attack Latakia from Turkish soil under Turkish air cover. Iran raises Cain in Ankara



DEBKAfile Exclusive Report March 29, 2014, 10:45 PM (IST)

Intense fighting for Kasab in northwest Syria

Turkey has ratcheted up its intervention in the Syrian war to an unprecedented level, according to exclusive debkafile military and intelligence sources. For the first time in the three-year conflict the Turkish army is allowing Syrian rebel forces, including the Al-Qaeda-affiliated Nusra Front, passage through Turkish territory for their offensive to capture the northwestern Syrian coastal area where the Assad clan’s lands are situated.

Ankara’s support for the rebels is inclusive: Turkish troops are posted at the roadside with supplies of ammo, fuel, food, mechanical repair crews and medical aid for rebel forces as they head north. The Turkish air force gives them air cover and Turkish agents arm them with surveillance data on Syrian military movements ahead. Continue reading “Syrian rebels allowed to attack Latakia from Turkish soil under Turkish air cover. Iran raises Cain in Ankara”

Turkey blocks Youtube

Thursday, 27 March 2014
English: Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip E...

Access to video-sharing site YouTube has been cut off in Turkey, following a new leak of a government meeting compromising Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan. Other social media outlets have already been blocked ahead of a tumultuous election. Continue reading “Turkey blocks Youtube”

Turkey shuts Syria crossing after Qaeda group storms border town

Source: Reuters – Thu, 19 Sep 2013 02:17 PM

Author: Reuters


* Official says gate closed amid confusion on Syrian side

* Clashes now stopped, mediation under way

* Fighting shows deep divisions between rebel factions   (Adds comments from activists, Turkish official)

By Jonathon Burch and Alexander Dziadosz

ANKARA/BEIRUT, Sept 19 (Reuters) – Turkey closed a border crossing to Syria after an al Qaeda-linked group stormed a nearby town and expelled opposition fighters from an Arab and Western-backed unit, officials said on Thursday.

Fighters from the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) on Wednesday killed at least five members of the Northern Storm Brigade, a rebel unit that controls the border, highlighting the deep opposition divisions.

The confrontation in the town of Azaz was one of the most serious clashes between the al Qaeda affiliate, made up mostly of foreign fighters, and the more ideologically moderate home-grown rebels trying to topple President Bashar al-Assad.

Their struggle, however, is less about ideology and more about a fight for territory, resources and the spoils of war – with armed ISIL fighters positioned to defend the town and a nearby rebel brigade trying to broker a ceasefire.

A Turkish official told Reuters the Oncupinar border gate – about 5 km (3 miles) from Azaz and opposite the Syrian Bab al-Salameh gate – had been closed for “security reasons”.

“There is still confusion about what is happening on the Syrian side. All humanitarian assistance that normally goes through the gate has ceased,” said the official, speaking on condition of anonymity.

Crossings such as Azaz have been a lifeline for rebel-held territories in Syria’s north, allowing in humanitarian aid, building materials and food as well as giving refugees a route out of Syria.

While Turkey says it normally operates an open door policy, from time to time it temporarily closes its border crossings following clashes near the frontier.

The crossing fell into opposition hands last year when rebels launched an offensive to take the northern business hub of Aleppo.

Ankara has been one of the strongest backers of the rebels in the 2-1/2-year uprising against Assad. While it denies arming them, fighters including militant Islamists have been able to cross its border into Syria.

At the same time, many activists and Kurdish forces accuse Turkey of allowing radical groups to go through its territory to launch attacks on its other foe – Kurdish militias, who are now operating on the frontier in northeastern Syria. Turkey denies those charges.


Syrian activists said the fighting in Azaz had subsided by Thursday and there were no rebel preparations under way to take the town back from ISIL by force.

ISIL fighters were now spread throughout Azaz and had positioned snipers on rooftops, activists said.

Northern Storm fighters were stationed at the border crossing, where they were joined by fighters from the powerful Tawheed Brigade who came from Aleppo to try to broker a truce. Tawheed has a large presence in Aleppo, Syria’s largest city, about 30 km south of Azaz.

“Reinforcements from the Tawheed Brigade were sent to impose a ceasefire on the two sides,” said Abu Obeida, a Tawheed spokesman. “There is still no ceasefire yet … There are negotiations under way.”

The clashes were a stark illustration of the relative strength of the al Qaeda-linked fighters compared to Syria’s larger but less experienced moderate forces. It also highlights the divisions that have plagued the opposition.

Both dilemmas have left Western powers hesitant to supply the rebels with advanced weapons.

ISIL declared an offensive last week against two other rebel factions, accusing them of attacking its forces and suggesting they may have collaborated with the government.

“What is worrying are the clashes themselves,” a second Turkish official said, referring to rebel infighting generally.

“What we want is to see the various coalition groups put their house in order and focus on the struggle with the regime, because that is the real issue – the violence inflicted by the regime on the Syrian people.”

An activist from Azaz who identified himself as Mohamed al-Azizi said he expected more violence before the confrontation was over.

“These people are very dangerous for Syria,” he said via Skype, referring to the ISIL fighters. “They say they’re Islamists but they have nothing to do with religion.”               (Additional reporting by Erika Solomon and Khaled Yacoub Oweis; Writing by Alexander Dziadosz; Editing by Nick Tattersall and Alison Williams

Egypt detains Turkish citizen on charges of espionage -report

Source: Reuters – Sat, 14 Sep 2013 03:45 PM

Author: Reuters

CAIRO, Sept 14 (Reuters) – Egypt has detained a Turkish citizen on suspicion of spying and collusion with the Muslim Brotherhood, the state news agency MENA said on Saturday.

The arrest could be a new source of tension between Ankara and Cairo whose relations have all but broken down since Mohamed Mursi, whose Muslim Brotherhood has close ties with Turkey’s ruling AK Party, was ousted from the Egyptian presidency in July.

Rasit Oguz, a 46-year-old Turk, was arrested in the city of Ismailia northeast of Cairo on Aug. 28 while taking photographs of military establishments, security sources said.

MENA said delegates from the Turkish mission in Cairo were following up on his case and had visited him in detention.

Turkey has emerged as one of the fiercest international critics of Mursi’s removal, calling it an “unacceptable coup”.

It recalled its ambassador in August after a violent crackdown on Mursi’s supporters. He returned to Cairo this month but Egypt said it would not reciprocate until Turkey stopped its “interference”.      (Reporting by Shaimaa Fayed; Editing by Robin Pomeroy)


Turkey risks war with Assad, peace with Kurds


Erdogan deploys troops on the border, 72% Turks against attack

10 September, 12:24


(by Francesco Cerri) (ANSAmed) – ANKARA, SEPTEMBER 10 – Turkish Premier Recep Tayyip Erdogan has just been through the negative outcome of Istanbul’s competition to host the 2020 Olympics. Now two fronts are opening up and they are both risky. Ankara is deploying troops and tanks on the border with Syria and is getting ready for a possible war against the Assad regime just as the peace process in Kurdistan is at risk. The withdrawal of PKK militants towards northern Iraq has paused.

Erdogan has sided, since the beginning of the crisis, with Syria’s Sunni rebels and against his ex ally, President Bashar al-Assad. He is one of the main supporters of US President Barack Obama’s plan for military intervention against Damascus.

The Turkish Islamic premier has said he is ready to participate in ‘any coalition’ against Assad and has been long campaigning for international intervention, not only a ‘punitive’ one of limited duration, but a major strike ‘like in Kosovo’, to topple Assad. For a week now Ankara has concentrated its efforts along the Syrian border moving men, tanks and surface-to-air Stinger missiles. The army is building a new base on Mount Kal, which dominates the Syrian Mediterranean coast of Lattakia and the ‘Alawite’ country, until the Russian base of Tartus. This part of the Mediterranean is extremely crowded with Russian, US, British, French and Iranian warships.

But the activism of the Islamic government on the Syrian front – the opposition has accused Erdogan of going as far as helping the al Qaeda-linked al Nusra Front -is not backed by the public opinion. According to a recent survey, 72% of Turkish nationals oppose military intervention against Damascus. And growing doubts concerning allegations that the regime used chemical weapons against civilians on August 21 risk to further strengthen the anti-war front. Statements by Belgian professor Pier Piccinin, who was held hostage for five months by Syrian rebels along with Italian veteran war correspondent Domenico Quirico, is boosting suggestions that rebels might have ‘provoked’ with an attack aimed at leading the international community to intervene against Damascus.

Erdogan, whose image has already been marred abroad by the brutal crackdown on anti-government protests in June – which contributed to the doomed candidature of Istanbul to host the 2020 Olympics – risks paying a very high political price with a conflict in Syria whose outcome is uncertain. The ‘sultan’ is gearing up for three high-risk local, presidential and political elections in the next 18 months. And the situation has become even more complex in the past few hours with the PKK’s decision to stop withdrawing its 3,000 militants from the Turkish territory towards northern Iraq as part of peace talks conducted with the Erdogan government by historic Kurdish leader Abdullah Ocalan. Kurdish rebels accuse the Islamic premier od not respecting agreements. In exchange for the truce agreed in March and the withdrawal of rebels, Ankara should have implemented political and cultural reforms to guarantee more democracy and autonomy in Turkish Kurdistan and start freeing thousands of Turkish politicians, journalists, unionists and activists who are still in jail. These measures have yet to be implemented.

The PKK has now issued a warning. The truce however is still in place. At least for now. (ANSAmed)

© Copyright ANSA – All rights reserved

Turkey: ‘Erdogan not a man of his word’, PKK halts retreat

Turkish government did not respect September 1 deadline

05 September, 18:52

(ANSAmed) – ANKARA, SEPTEMBER 5 – Accusing Turkish Premier Recep Tayyip Erdogan of not honoring his agreements, Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) leader Cemil Bayik announced Thursday that Kurdish rebels have suspended their retreat from Turkey to northern Iraq, local media reported.
Kurdish rebels began retreating in April as part of a negotiated deal with Turkey, which had agreed to enact far-reaching political, cultural and constitutional reforms in their favor by September 1.
”The Turkish government has still not acted. This proves they are not looking for a solution. We are interrupting the retreat,” Bayik said, adding he has been ”tricked”. Such reforms were to be a first step in ending the conflict, which has killed 30,000 people in 30 years, most of them Kurdish.
Jailed PKK leader Abdullah Ocalan, held in the Imrali island prison, has been negotiating for a political solution to the conflict with the Turkish government since the end of 2012.

Turkish ministry report suggests psychic assassins using telepathy could be responsible for ‘mysterious’ deaths of four young engineers

Neuropsychology expert asks government not to rule out possibility of telepathy being responsible for suicide of engineer

Rob Williams

Thursday, 8 August 2013

The deaths of four young Turkish engineers, all within the space of 14 months during 2006 and 2007, could be connected to telepathy, according to a report from the Inspection Board of the Turkish Prime Ministry.

Four engineers working for Turkish defence giant ASELSAN died in alleged mysterious circumstances and all four deaths were recorded as suicide.

Sceptical families have, however, continued to question the cases despite reports that the men had been undergoing psychological treatment before they died.

According to ‘Today’s Zaman’ the investigation into the deaths of the men, Hüseyin Başbilen, Halim Ünsem Ünal, Evrim Yançeken and Burhaneddin Volkan, suggests that the victims could have been directed toward the suicides by way of telekinesis, citing the work done by neuropsychology expert Nevzat Tarhan.

Nevzat Tarhan asks prosecutors not to disregard the possibility of telepathy being responsible for the headaches and severe distress that may have caused the men to take their own lives.

One of the men, Hüseyin Başbilen, was found dead in his car in August 2006, Halim Ünal died from a gunshot in January 2007, Evrim Yançeken fell from the balcony of his sixth-floor apartment nine days later and two years later another engineer at the company, Burhanettin Volkan, allegedly also killed himself.

At least two of the men were said to be working on a friend-or-foe recognition system for Turkish warplanes at the time of their suicides, a project that was brought back to debate during the Ergenekon coup trials which saw significant numbers jailed for an alleged plot to overthrow the government.

Hurriyet Daily News quotes Nevzat Tarhan saying that the headaches and distress in the men could have been sent using brainwaves from 1.5km (just under a mile) away.

The report, which has been submitted to the Ankara Chief Prosecutor’s Office for further investigation, doesn’t come to any conclusion over whether or not the deaths were murder or suicide.

Recently the news anchor and editor-in-chief of private Turkish broadcaster 24, Yiğit Bulut, claimed that ‘certain powers’ were attempting to kill controversial Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan using telekinesis. Mr Bulut, although widely ridiculed for the comments, has since been named a chief consultant for Erdoğan.


Egypt denies Turkish PM Gaza entry

Реджеп Тайип Эрдоган

Recep Tayyip Erdogan

Photo: EPA

Egypt’s new authorities have denied Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan entry to the Gaza Strip, the local media reported on Sunday.

 According to the Al-Youm Al-Sabia Internet portal, Cairo has notified Ankara that “the visit will not take place.” In particular, it is noted that Egypt “does not want to see Erdogan for his support of Muslim Brotherhood at the expense of the Egyptian people.”

 The arrangement about Erdogan’s visit was reached during the rule of President Mohamed Morsi who was overthrown by the army on June 3 in the wake of mass popular demonstrations against the power of the Islamists. After that Ankara sharply criticised the Egyptian military, calling the removal of the elected head of state illegitimate, which naturally sparked discontent of the appointed civil authorities of Egypt. Cairo advised the Turkish side to take a balanced position and not to interfere in Egypt’s internal affairs.

 Talks about the prospects of Erdogan’s tour of Gaza, where he can get only through Egyptian territory, began after March 22, when Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu apologised for the seizure in May 2010 of the Turkish ferry Mavi Marmara, which intended to break the blockade of Gaza, bringing there a humanitarian cargo for the Palestinians.

 Initially, the visit was planned for late May, but then postponed several times, in part because of the political situation in Turkey.

 Voice of Russia, TASS

Turkey: Great Kurdistan, a potential nightmare for Erdogan


Syrian Kurds toward autonomous entity, border heating up

29 July, 13:46


(by Francesco Cerri).

(ANSAmed) – ANKARA – Over two years since the beginning of the Syrian crisis, the situation developing in the warn-torn country is looking increasingly like a nightmare for Turkish Premier Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu, who is behind Ankara’s regional ‘neo-Ottoman’ strategy.

Turkey’s ‘sultan’ ahas severed ties with former ally Bashar al-Assad and sided with Sunni rebels, banking on a quick defeat for the Syrian president and a new Islamic government in Damascus led by the Muslim Brotherhood.

But things didn’t go as planned. Assad did not fall and is instead gaining ground, the rebels are divided and have lost international credibility. In areas abandoned by the army, jihadist militants and different armed groups are ruling as the country seems to be dangerously divided – an unpleasant scenario for Ankara as an autonomous Kurdish entity is taking shape in the North along the border with Turkey and Iraq, with Al Qamishli as capital. This would be part of a ‘Great Kurdistan’ embracing parts of Iraq, Iran Syria and Turkey which since the proclamation of the republic in 1923 over he ruins of the Ottoman empire has been a top concern for the Turkish central administration first run by Kemalists and now by Islamists.

Ever since the end of the war in Iraq, a north-Iraqi Kurdish autonomous region has been in place under the government of Massud Barzani, in practice an independent ‘state’ from Baghdad. Militias with PYD, Syria’s Kurdish Democratic Union Party, which is close to Turkey’s PKK have gained control of a good part of the country’s North where Assad’s forces were withdrawn to defend key interests of the ‘Alawite’ country between Damascus, Aleppo, Homs, and Lattakia on the Mediterranean coast.

The Kurdish Popular Protection Units (YPG) have conquered in the past few days the strategic posting of Ras al-Ayn on the border with Turkey, chasing jihadists with al Qaeda’s al Nusra front. Clashes along the border have left three dead in the Turkish town of Ceylanpinar right next to Ras al-Ayn on the border: two young men were hit by stray bullets last week and a man died last night in a mortar attack, probably by al Nusra.

The jihadist group has deployed its men and tanks around Ras al-Ayn to try and re-gain control of the crossing with Turkey where, according to Kurdish sources, men and weapon supplies are crossing the border with Ankara’s consent.

With the likely creation of a Kurdish autonomous region in Syria ‘Turkey has a new neighbour in the south’, analyst Yalcin Dogan wrote on Hurriyet. The risk is a rise in irredentism in the country’s Kurdish south-east while peace talks are ongoing between Erdogan and PKK leader Abdullah Ocalan. Davutoglu and Erdogan have warned in the past few days PYD leader Saleh Muslim not to embrace a separatist stance: ‘we will not accept a fait accompli’. Ankara also boosted its military presence on the border – a muscular rhetoric and show of military force also used in the past with Iraqi Kurds which did not prevent the creation of an autonomous region, Milliyet noted.

Erdogan’s and Davutoglu’s strategy proved itself once again wrong, Dogan noted. Erdogan’s strategy to create a ‘Sunni axis’ with Egypt’s ousted President Mohamed Morsi to govern the Middle East has failed. The fall of Cairo’s ‘pharaoh’ leaves Ankara’s ‘sultan’ as lonely as he has ever been. Moreover, his image has been badly damaged by the brutal repression of demonstrations by Turkish youths demanding more democracy and freedom. (ANSAmed)

© Copyright ANSA – All rights reserved


Turkish PM’s treason claims against BBC reporter chills other journalists

Turkish journalists see Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s attack on presenter for BBC’s Turkish service as a warning to them all

Protesters take cover from water cannon

Erdogan took offence at the BBC’s coverage of anti-government protests. Photograph: Adem Altan/AFP/Getty Images

Based in London, where she is a presenter for the BBC‘s Turkish service, until last week Selin Girit was little known in her home country. That all changed when the prime minister, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, accused her of treason after her coverage of the recent anti-government protests. The attack struck fear into other journalists, who believe Erdoğan – having consistently blamed the media for fanning the protests – is intent on stifling all dissent.

The campaign against Girit was launched last weekend when the mayor of Ankara, Melih Gökçek, started tweeting aggressively against her. The BBC protested strongly against what it called government intimidation. Erdoğan was clearly unimpressed. Speaking in parliament a day later, he said Girit was “part of a conspiracy against her own country”.

Turkish journalists see the focus on Girit as a warning to them all – an example to cow the rest of them into submission. Serdar Korucu, editor of a major Turkish news outlet, said: “The prime minister is telling us, ‘Be careful what you say and do, or you can easily be next’.”

The Turkish mainstream media have ignored much of the unrest, with CNNTürk airing a documentary on penguins while the central square in Istanbul became the scene of street protests unprecedented in Erdoğan’s 10-year rule.

The public was outraged, and protests were staged in front of Turkish news outlets. Many journalists, however, were not surprised. Fatma Demirelli, managing editor of the English-language daily Today’s Zaman, explained that self-censorship had long become the norm in Turkish newsrooms. “Journalists now have a sort of split brain: on the one hand you see what the news is, but on the other you immediately try to gauge how to report it without stepping on anyone’s foot. Self-censorship has become an automatic reflex.”

Self-censorship is not new in a country that tops the world list of jailers of journalists, with 67 currently incarcerated, according to Reporters Without Borders. But it has drawn more attention during the protests around Gezi Park.

“The significant difference with the current events is that the censorship has affected a different constituency of people – middle-class Turks – rather than other groups whose causes have been more frequently subjected to censorship, such as activists advocating Kurdish rights and politics,” said Andrew Gardner, Turkey researcher for Amnesty International. “Another difference is that the events were widely covered in international media, exposing the self-censorship in mainstream Turkish media further.”

Censorship and control aside, violence and arbitrary threats against reporters trying to cover the events have also increased.

The Committee to Protect Journalists has documented a large number of cases of attacks on the press during the protests, including physical assault, detentions, threats and the unlawful confiscation of equipment and protective gear. Several journalists, Turkish and foreign, have sustained injuries from beatings and plastic bullets used by the police.

The organisation singled out police brutality as the biggest threat against journalists working in Turkey, saying that reporters were more at risk than they had been in two decades.

After covering a peaceful protest that was violently dispersed with tear gas and water cannon, journalist Alpbugra Bahadir Gültekin was repeatedly beaten by the police. “I told them that I was with the press, but they first insulted and then started beating me. After I fell to the ground, several officers continued to beat and to kick me,” he said.

Having recovered security camera footage of the incident, he brought charges against the police. He does not expect to be heard. “They operate in an atmosphere of impunity. But we have to start somewhere, and bring these incidents to light.”

Demirelli and Korucu agreed that Erdoğan had become a figure beyond criticism. “News stations have started to correct the prime minister’s slips of the tongue unasked, in order to be on the safe side,” Korucu said. “Nobody wants to ask uncomfortable questions, in order to keep him happy. But how can we begin to understand issues of interest if asking is not free any more?”

Demirelli said: “Journalists now always wonder if they really want to investigate, for fear that they might actually find something.”

Protesters who return to Taksim are terrorist supporters – Turkish minister

  Published time: June 16, 2013 12:04      Edited time: June 16, 2013 12:40

Activists returning to Taksim Square will be considered “supporters or members of a terror group,” Turkey’s EU minister told local media. This comes after police bulldozed the tent camp in Gezi Park in one of the worst nights of violence in Istanbul.

“From now on the state will unfortunately have to consider  everyone who remains there a supporter or member of a terror  organization,” EU Minister Egemen Gagis said in an interview  with Turkish broadcaster AHaber on Saturday night. He requested  that all the activists returned to their homes.

“Our prime minister has already assured [activists] about  their aim with the protests. The protests from now on will play  into the hands of some separatist organizations that want to  break the peace and prioritize vandalism and terrorism,”   stressed Gagis.

PM Tayyip Erdogan, who has been the target for many of the  complaints of the protesters, appeared to take a more  compromising approach to the demonstrators on Saturday. He agreed  to postpone the reconstruction plans for Gezi Park (located  beside Taksim Square) that initially riled activists.

However, later in the evening he announced in a speech to his  supporters in the Justice and Development Party (AK) that all the  protesters must be “evacuated.”
What followed was reported by many to have been one of the most  violent nights since the unrest began two weeks ago. Riot police  moved into the Square taking on half an hour to disperse the  activists gathered there, using tear gas and carrying riot  shields.

Turkish protesters rally on John F. Kennedy street near the US Embassy in Ankara early on June 16, 2013, calling for the governemt to resign. (AFP Photo)Turkish protesters rally on John F. Kennedy street near the US Embassy in Ankara early on June 16, 2013, calling for the governemt to resign. (AFP Photo)

Clashes then began to erupt at  different spots around the city, with activists scuffling with  officers. Witnesses claimed they were chased into hotels and  accused the police of pelting them with tear gas even  there.

“They excessively use violence and tear gas against medical  personnel and injured people, they target doctors who voluntarily  support the health units healing the injured,” human rights  activist Dr. Sebnem Korur Fincanci informed RT  from Turkey.

Some protesters ripped up paving slabs and used debris to create  makeshift barricades to impede officers.
Meanwhile in Taksim Square bulldozers cleared away all traces of  the past two weeks of protest and police took control of the  roads leading up to the square. The governor of Istanbul  confirmed that 22 people had been taken into custody in  connection with the protests and stressed that anti-government  gatherings are banned in Taksim Square and the surrounding area.
Protesters have targeted Erdogan with their demonstrations,  alleging he has become increasingly authoritarian in his  administration of Turkey. In addition, many complain that his  party thrusts conservative Islamist values upon a secular  state.

Separately in the Turkish capital of Ankara on Sunday police  broke up a number of protesters near the Kizilay Square with  water cannons and tear gas.

Officers initially stopped a convoy of mourners as they prepared  to lay Ethem Sarisuluk, allegedly shot dead by police in a  protest, to rest.

Austin Mackell, a journalist specializing in Middle Eastern  affairs, characterized the unrest as an urban phenomenon made up  of secular Western Turks who are used to having a strong voice in  political matters. He stressed that the rise of a  Muslim-orientated government had curtailed their say in  government affairs and warned if the protesters did not unify the  movement would quickly be extinguished.

“There is a real danger that if the Gezi kids don’t get their  act together that what they’re going to do will benefit the  generals and the old-school secular authoritarians,” said  Mackel to RT.
So far over 700 people have been injured in the upheaval in  Turkey and at least five have been killed.

Violence of security forces in Taksim Square ‘unprecedented’ says Amnesty International

Demonstrators stockpiling face masks and goggles to protect against tear gas, and rebuilding barricades that have been destroyed

Richard Hall

Thursday, 13 June 2013

Protesters in Istanbul’s Taksim Square are preparing for further clashes with police, as a leading rights group criticised an “unprecedented” use of violence by security forces.

An uneasy calm was present throughout the day in the square and in Gezi Park — where the protests began nearly two weeks ago over the government’s proposed redevelopment of the area.

Demonstrators in the park itself were stockpiling face masks and goggles to protect against tear gas, and rebuilding barricades that had been destroyed by police overnight. A few hundred police were gathered in groups around the square with mobile water canons standing nearby.

Around 1,000 people were injured, according to doctors, as police moved in to clear the square on Tuesday afternoon, firing volleys of tear gas and rubber bullets. The clashes continued into the early hours of the morning, both in the park and in the side streets surrounding the square, as a small number of protesters responding with fireworks.

Amnesty International harshly criticised the use of excessive violence by police overnight, and blamed the Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan for inciting protesters.

“Never has there been a time when police violence was this widespread and this sustained. It is unprecedented,” Andrew Gardner, the group’s Turkey researcher, told The Independent.

“Police have been using tear gas as a punitive measure, rather than for crowd dispersal as it is intended. There have been cases where police are firing directly at protesters, causing serious head injuries. They are also firing tear gas into buildings, which can be very dangerous.”

He added: “The violence we saw [on Tuesday] was a direct result of inflammatory statements made by him.”

The protests that have been taking place in Istanbul and other cities across Turkey started as a small demonstration against plans to build an Ottoman style shopping centre in Taksim Square, but it has grown into a wider movement uniting  those opposed to what they perceive as the authoritarian rule of Mr Erdogan, who had earlier predicted that the protests would end within 24 hours.

“I have given orders to the interior minister,” Mr Erdogan reportedly said yesterday afternoon after a meeting with Turkey’s shopkeepers’ union. “This will be over in 24 hours,” he said, adding that no young protesters would should be harmed.

Many of the protesters also share a concern that Mr Erdogan is imposing an Islamist agenda on a country that has traditionally been secular — although most of the population is Muslim.

In one of few concilatory moves made by Mr Erdogan since the protests began, the prime minister was due to meet with representatives of group’s opposed to Gezi Park’s redevelopment. But members of the Taksim Solidarity campaign group who spoke to The Independent said the 11-person delegation chosen to meet Mr Erdogan was not representative of the protesters.

Taking a softer tone than Mr Erdogan, meanwhile, Turkey’s president Abdullah Gul appeared to concede that it was time for the government to engage with its critics, but also condemned violent protesters.

“If people have objections… then to engage in a dialogue with these people, to hear out what they say is no doubt our duty,” Gul told reporters, according to Reuters. “Those who employ violence are something different and we have to distinguish them… We must not give violence a chance… This would not be allowed in New York, this would not be allowed in Berlin.”

Even as Mr Erdogan has begun to show signs that he is searching for a solution to the ongoing demonstrations, the number of protesters has been buoyed by people angry at the violent response by police.

In a makeshift hospital in the north corner of the park this afternoon, doctors reported seeing wounds caused by rubber and plastic bullets, head injuries as a result of tear gas canisters being fired directly at protesters, and severe breathing difficulties caused by the gas itself.

The first aid centre is staffed by around 15 volunteer doctors, as well as some medical students and volunteers. Among them are brain surgeons, GPs and orthopedics, most of whom said they were apolitical.

The small corner of Gezi Park was a hive of activity as the volunteers prepared the space to receive injured protesters they anticipated would be arriving shortly.

One doctor, who refused to give her name for fear of reprisals, claimed many volunteer medical staff had been detained at their homes for treating wounded protesters.

“We think police have been coming to the park wearing civilian clothes to take pictures of the doctors,” said the doctor, who works as a GP in Istanbul.

“We are scared to leave the park on our own now. The police are trying to intimidate us.”

In Ankara and Istanbul, thousands of lawyers railed against what they described as the rough treatment of their colleagues, dozens of whom were briefly detained by police in Istanbul on Tuesday.

Sema Aksoy, the deputy head of the Ankara lawyer’s association, said the lawyers were handcuffed and pulled over the ground.

“Lawyers can’t be dragged on the ground!” the demonstrating lawyers shouted as they marched out of an Istanbul courthouse.


Erdogan of Turkey crosses the Rubicon, adopts hard line against demonstrators (Warning Graphic Includes Death)

Turkey: police occupy Taksim, Erdogan adopts hard line

Premier attacks, we will cut Gezi Park trees

11 June, 19:50

(ANSAmed) – ANKARA, JUNE 11 – Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has adopted a hard line against demonstrators who have been protesting against him for two weeks. On Tuesday , police regained control of Taksim square in Istanbul, which had been occupied by Turkish activists for ten days, after violent clashes with groups of demonstrators.

During the night new incidents were reported in Ankara, in the Alawite district of Gazi in Istanbul and in other cities.

In a speech to the parliamentary group of his Islamic AKP party on Tuesday Erdogan said the trees of Gezi Park would be cut. The unrest began two weeks ago after a crackdown on a protest against the park’s redevelopment. The premier once again accused financial lobbies and the foreign media of attacking the country.

Hundreds of anti-riot police stormed Taksim square at dawn Tuesday with tanks, water cannons and tear gas. Hundreds of demonstrators patrolling the square withdrew into adjoining Gezi Park. A few groups hurled stones and Molotov cocktails against police. Injuries and arrests were reported.

Several demonstrators claimed police deployed in the square included officers instigating violence. Later, bulldozers started to dismantle barricades set up in the past few days.

A group of protesters had gathered every day in Taksim square and Gezi Park – which has been turned into a libertarian citadel – ever since police withdrew on June 1. Hundreds of thousands of people took to the streets of Turkey asking Erdogan to step down.

The premier confirmed on Tuesday that four people, three demonstrators and a policeman, died since the beginning of the unrest. According to the national doctors’ association, 5.000 demonstrators have been injured. The violent repression operated by Turkish police has been criticized worldwide.

Many are awaiting the protest movement’s response.

Yesterday Erdogan, in an apparent move to promote a detente, announced he would meet today with representatives of the protest movement against the destruction of Gezi Park.

The Turkish economy is suffering from the unrest. Part of foreign capitals invested in the country are being withdrawn and the Borsa Istanbul lost over 10% last week, burning one billion dollars. The central bank had to intervene to support the lira which fell to its lowest level compared to the dollar since October 2011. (ANSAmed)

Turkey: ‘sultan’ Erdogan trips over 600 trees


‘People of Ataturk’ against Islamic premier’s absolute power

03 June, 19:46


(by Francesco Cerri) (ANSAmed) – ANKARA, JUNE 3 – ‘Erdogan is not all-powerful’ observes, almost with surprise, Hurriyet’s analyst Murat Yetkin.

A protest which began as a demonstration against the destruction of 600 trees in Gezi Park in Taksim, in the heart of European Istanbul, which was unilaterally decided by the local government controlled by the Islamic AKP party of Premier Recep Tayyip Erdogan, has become a mass movement which has brought to the streets hundreds of thousands of Turkish citizens.

They are the ‘secular people’ of the founding father of the modern republic in 1923 , Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, over the ruins of the Islamic empire. They are now unexpectedly shaking the authoritarian government of ‘sultan’ Erdogan, who has been ruling without rivals since 2002. For the first time in 11 years, he was forced in just a few hours to recant his position. At midday he challenged tens of thousands of demonstrators in Taksim announcing that ‘police will remain today, tomorrow and the day after tomorrow’. Two days later, confronted with rage on the streets, the spreading uprising across Turkey, protests from abroad over police brutality, and the intervention of head of state Abdullah Gul, the ‘sultan’ changed stance. He recalled police and admitted ‘excesses’, promising an investigation. Ever since then, in spite of statements that remain muscular, he has been looking for a way out. He sent Istanbul’s mayor to talk to the demonstrators. But the country is now aware that the power of the most powerful premier since Ataturk is not unlimited. After many humiliations, secular Turkey, which was ousted from power 11 years ago, appears to have decided to take matters into its hands and take to the streets. According to polls, Erdogan would still win from 40 to 50% of the vote. The year 2014 will be one of local, national and presidential elections.

Erdogan wants to become head of state with a constitutional reform giving him sweeping powers. But his electorate is not monolithic. There are religious voters, the great masses of Anatolia who are proud of an Islamic government which has given them a voice. But there is also a part of the electorate who voted for him because he has given stability to the country since 2002, tripling pro-capita income and turned Turkey into the 17th world economy. However, these voters are not ready to give up on a secular state in favour of an Islamic republic. The disastrous management of the protests has acted as a detonator.

Erdogan ‘shot himself on the foot’, said analyst Sule Kulu. The premier ‘did what the opposition was unable to do in years’, he said, ‘he created a new opposition, formed by different groups of the population, including those who fully supported him in the past’.

In the third legislature in power since June 2011, the premier has adopted an increasingly authoritarian stance, promoting an Islamic society. Bans dating back to the Ataturk era on, among other things, the Islamic veil, fell one after the other, mosques are being built everywhere, the Ottoman past is being reevaluated and progress is being made towards the approval of Islamic-inspired laws changing people’s lifestyles.

The latest restrictions on alcohol were the last drop. There is also the Syrian crisis with Erdogan firmly siding with Sunni rebels against his former Alawite friend Bashar al-Assad while the country was asking him to remain neutral. The war is now threatening Turkey. As in the case of the Arab Springs, what sparked the revolt against Erdogan, according to political analyst Emre Uslu, is that secularists lost hope of ousting him from power through the vote. And they fear this will lead to a ‘re-Islamization’ of the country. The opposition now recalls how Erdogan used to say 20 years ago that democracy is like a bus, you get out of it when you want. (ANSAmed)

© Copyright ANSA – All rights

Turkish protesters control Istanbul square after two days of clashes: While Citizens Protest Turkish media Media Airs Cooking Shows

Demonstrations pose biggest challenge yet to prime minister and expose government influence over media

    • Constanze Letsch in Istanbul
    •,   Sunday 2 June 2013 12.30 EDT

Taksim Square

Turkish protesters gather in Taksim Square, Istanbul, on Sunday. Photograph: Bulent Kilic/AFP/Getty Images

Turkish protesters controlled Istanbul’s main square again on Sunday after two days of violent clashes with rampaging riot police, despite being dismissed as an “extremist fringe” by the prime minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

The demonstrations have been the biggest popular challenge to the prime minister after a decade in power, and serve as a setback for his ambitions to extend his powers.

What started last Monday as a relatively small, peaceful protest to save an inner city park from having to make way for a kitschy, Ottoman-style shopping centre rapidly snowballed into the largest and most violent anti-government protests that Turkey has seen in years.

Hundreds sustained injuries, some serious, as a result of the heavy-handed police intervention and the excessive use of teargas. Riot police withdrew from the capital on Saturday evening, handing victory to the demonstrators.

The protests spread across the country like wildfire, to half of the country’s 81 provinces, according to the interior ministry. It added that 939 people had been arrested in 90 demonstrations and protests all over the country, while damage costs have not yet been announced.

“Erdogan does not listen to anyone any more,” said Koray Caliskan, a political scientist at Istanbul’s Bosphorus University. “Not even to members of his own party. But after the protests this weekend, he will have to accept that he is the prime minister of a democratic country, and that he cannot rule it on his own.”

The dramatic events in Istanbul and other Turkish cities also exposed the complicity and almost complete government control of mainstream Turkish media, which largely failed to report on the protests.

“The Turkish media have embarrassed themselves,” Caliskan said. “While the whole world was broadcasting from Taksim Square, Turkish television stations were showing cooking shows. It is now very clear that we do not have press freedom in Turkey.”

Human rights groups have repeatedly expressed their concerns about the lack of freedom of expression in Turkey, and Erdogan routinely criticises media outlets and journalists who do not agree with his views and those of his ruling Justice and Development party (AKP).

Opposition party figures urged Erdogan to listen to people instead of trying to silence them.

“After 1 June, the policy of ‘for the people despite the people’ is bankrupt. [The government] will have to listen to the people’s opinions on mega-projects. Now is the time of participatory decision-making,” said Hasip Kaplan, an MP of the pro-Kurdish Peace and Democracy party (BDP).

Despite opposition from urban planners and environmentalists, the AKP government is pushing ahead with a number of huge construction projects that include a third bridge over the Bosphorus, a third airport and a giant mosque.

Caliskan thinks these plans might have to be buried or at least altered after the protests this weekend, along with the AKP’s recent plans to restrict alcohol consumption, ban abortion and install an Erdogan-led presidency in Turkey.

The prime minister’s key political project is to enact a new constitution, making the government system presidential rather than parliamentary. After 10 years as prime minister, his aim is to become Turkey’s first directly elected president with strong executive powers.

He may have hurt his chances of seeing that happen this weekend.

“Erdogan’s dream of a presidency is over,” said Caliskan, “as is the myth of his invincibility. The last five days have shown that he cannot simply ignore the people who criticise him.”

Other analysts underline that the Turkish prime minister is still one of Turkey’s most popular politicians, and stress that while his image of being all-powerful may have been tarnished by this weekend’s events, the ruling AKP benefits from the absence of a coherent and strong opposition to challenge him at the ballot box.

Erdogan’s response to the challenge was aggressive rhetoric in three speeches on Saturday and Sunday. But he also de-escalated by having the columns of riot police abandon Taksim Square, allowing the demonstrators to revel in a street party.

Simultaneously, though, there were very violent scenes in the waterfront district of Besiktas late on Saturday and reports of violence in Ankara on Sunday.

The contest appears far from over. Erdogan unapologetically refused to back down on the development project that triggered the protests – the demolition of the city centre park to make way for a shopping centre, mosque and a replica of an old military barracks.

“I am not going to seek the permission of [the opposition] or a handful of plunderers,” he said. “If they call someone who has served the people a ‘dictator’, I have nothing to say. My only concern has been to serve my country … I am not the master of the people. Dictatorship does not run in my blood or in my character. I am the servant of the people.”

Turkey ‘forces Syrian plane to land in Ankara’

Turkey has forced a Syrian passenger plane to land at Ankara airport, according to state media.

Turkey 'forces Syrian plane to land in Ankara'

Photo: ALAMY

7:22PM BST 10 Oct 2012

State-run TRT television said an Airbus A320 coming from Moscow was intercepted by F16 jets as it entered Turkish airspace and escorted to the capital’s Esenboga Airport. The station said authorities grounded the plane on suspicion that it was carrying heavy weapons.

Foreign Ministry Spokesman Selcuk Unal confirmed to the Associated Press that a Syrian plane was forced to land.

“We asked a Syrian civilian plane to land,” he said in an email. “We are investigating.”

Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu, interviewed by Turkey’s state-run TRT television in Athens, said that the plane was forced to land because of information that it may be carrying “certain equipment in breach of civil aviation rules.”

The move comes amid heightened tensions between Turkey and Syria, which have been exchanging artillery fire across the volatile border in the past week.

Private NTV television said there were 35 passengers on board the plane.

Meanwhile, Turkish authorities declared the Syrian airspace to be unsafe and were stopping Turkish aircraft from flying over the civil-war torn country, the Foreign Ministry said.

TRT television said a Turkish plane that had already taken off for Saudi Arabia made a detour and landed at a Turkish airport.

Earlier Wednesday, Turkey’s military chief vowed to respond with more force to any further shelling from Syria, keeping up the pressure on its southern neighbor a day after NATO said it stood ready to defend Turkey.

Gen. Necdet Ozel was inspecting troops who have been put on alert along the 910-kilometer (566-mile) border with Syria after a week of cross-border artillery and mortar exchanges escalated tensions between the neighbors, sparking fears of a wider regional conflict.

Turkey has reinforced the border with artillery guns and also deployed more fighter jets to an air base close to the border region since shelling from Syria killed five Turkish civilians last week.

“We responded and if (the shelling) continues, we will respond with more force,” the private Dogan news agency quoted Ozel as saying during a visit to the town of Akcakale.

Turkey returns fire after mortar bomb from Syria hits farmland – state news agency

Published: 5 October, 2012, 21:03 Edited: 5 October, 2012, 21:03

Ankara’s military forces have struck back after a mortar bomb fired from Syria hit a farmland in the Turkish province of Hatay, reports Reuters quoting the state news agency.


Turkish government authorises raids against Syria

Fears of major conflict grow as parliament approves ‘deterrent’ measures in wake of cross-border incident on Wednesday

  • Martin Chulov in Beirut
  • The Guardian, Thursday 4 October 2012 14.18 EDT
Turkish parliament

Turkey‘s parliament has given legal authority to the military to launch cross-border raids into Syria in response to Wednesday’s deadly mortar strikes that killed five civilians and edged the two former allies closer to a big conflict.

Claiming that the move was only a deterrent against Syrian strikes, the legislature voted to authorise the Turkish military to cross into Syria at any time during the next year. The vote was passed 320-129.

Ankara claims to have received an apology from the Syrian regime on Thursday, relayed by the UN, and an assurance that such an incident would not occur again.

The moves followed a day of high tension on the restive frontier and at least 12 hours of artillery fire from southern Turkey at targets deep inside north Syria.

Observers outside the country who had spoken to activists in Tal Abiyad, about nine miles from the border, claimed an unknown number of Syrian soldiers had been killed by the Turkish fire and that others had withdrawn from their bases.

As the shellfire ceased shortly after sunrise Thursday, officials in Ankara announced that the prime minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, would turn to parliament for the same sort of legal backing that underpinned the country’s operations against Kurdish groups in north Iraq.

Erdogan’s motion said the shelling had been “on the threshold of an armed attack” and was a “serious threat to Turkish national security”.

The statement said: “As part of the military operations being conducted by the Syrian Arab republic armed forces, starting from [20 September] aggressive actions have been directed against our country’s territories too. These actions have continued despite our repeated warnings and diplomatic initiatives.

“Therefore, the need has developed to act rapidly and to take necessary precautions against additional risks and threats that may be directed against our country.”

Besir Atalay, the deputy prime minister, later said: “The bill is not for war. It has deterrent qualities.”

On Thursday Turkey moved troops and armour to the area near the town of Akcakale, which had been hit, late Wednesday afternoon, by at least two shells fired from Syria. Officials said radar tracks had shown that the firing point was about six miles inside Syria, near a military base used by regime troops.

The Syrian strike was roundly condemned by Nato, of which Turkey is a member state, as well as the UN and US.

Russia, a staunch ally of Damascus and backer of Bashar al-Assad, Syria’s president, in the uprising, said it had asked its ally to explain what had happened and to apologise for any “mistake”.

Atalay later claimed to have received the indirect Syrian apology. There was no immediate comment from Damascus.

Both countries had edged towards conflict in the summer when a Turkish jet was downed by a missile fired from Tartous, in Syria. On that occasion, Turkey invoked the Nato treaty that can require the powerful security body to defend a member state under attack. Ankara did not retaliate at the time but said it would do so against future provocations.

Syria has accused Turkey of arming and sheltering the Free Syria army, its main adversary in the now blazing civil war. Syrian officials brand the rebel forces terrorists and say they are backed by foreign powers.

Anders Fogh Rasmussen, Nato’s chief, reiterated to the Guardian on Monday that Nato would not support a Libya-style military intervention in Syria. “Syria is a very, very, complex society. Foreign military interventions could have broader impacts.”

An urgent meeting of Nato ambassadors hours after the Syrian strike produced a strongly worded statement condemning Damascus, but offered no hint that its anti-intervention stance had changed.

“The alliance continues to stand by Turkey and demands the immediate cessation of such aggressive acts against an ally, and urges the Syrian regime to put an end to flagrant violations of international law,” it said.

Meanwhile, close to 100 people were reported to have died across Syria on Thursday as fighting continued to rage in most parts of the country.

The popular uprising, inspired by the Arab spring, which by earlier this year had morphed into an intensive armed insurrection, has now claimed in excess of 30,000 lives and shows no signs of abating.

Aleppo and Damascus are battle zones, as are most secondary cities and towns. The deteriorating situation in Syria poses an ever increasing risk to neighbouring states, including Turkey, which is already battling an insurgency led by restive Kurdish groups in Iraq and Syria.