"Comparison of Mass Incarcerators", The Institute for Diplomacy and Economy
El Salvador's President Bukele has achieved a decisive victory in the recent presidential elections, securing over 80% of the votes. His popularity in the country is largely attributed to his successful efforts in addressing the longstanding issue of gangs that plagued El Salvador. However, this triumph against criminal elements has raised concerns about human rights violations.
El Salvador is not unique in facing criticism for arbitrary detentions and high incarceration rates. Countries such as China, Turkey, and Egypt also draw attention for similar practices, though their motivations and targeted groups differ. The table presented here outlines the primary motivations and objectives of these regimes as they target various opposition groups.
It is essential to note that these countries employ diverse tools and pursue distinct end goals beyond targeting specific groups. For instance, the Turkish government engages in arbitrary arrests not just for the Gulenists. It has also jailed prominent figures such as human rights activist Osman Kavala and Kurdish leader Selahattin Demirtas.
In summary, this table sheds light on the most oppressed groups in these countries, highlighting the complex landscape of arbitrary detentions and incarcerations worldwide.
"Turkey seeks joint munitions production in Egypt alongside drone sale" by Levent Kenez, Nordic Monitor
As Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan prepares for his visit to Egypt on February 14, cooperation in the defense industry between the two nations takes center stage. According to Foreign Minister Hakan Fidan, Turkey has agreed to provide its increasingly popular drones to Egypt, marking a significant step following the normalization of ties between the two countries after a decade of strain.
It’s no secret that President Erdogan has been using Turkish-made military drones as an instrument in foreign policy for some time now, presenting African and Middle Eastern countries in particular with lucrative and win-win offers that not only make money for the family business but also strengthen his hand against his opponents in exile. Erdogan, his family members and his business associates benefit immensely from defense industry and military goods sales. Selçuk Bayraktar, one of the owners of Baykar, is Erdogan’s son-in-law, and his company not only takes advantage of all state facilities but also earns high profits in the local and international markets with the sale of weapons, for which the only decision-maker is his father-in-law.
An important factor for the success of Turkey’s initiatives to increase defense exports in recent years, also called “drone diplomacy,” lies in Turkey’s concentration on commercial targets rather than how and against whom these weapons are used. Turkey does not have a long export approval process for defense products, either, unlike the US and the European Union.
Meanwhile, Turkey’s growing military cooperation with Ethiopia poses a significant obstacle to the normalization of relations between Turkey and Egypt. Amid escalating tensions between Cairo and Addis Ababa over the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam, Turkey approved a military agreement with Ethiopia in 2023, just prior to a parliamentary recess. The agreement, which allows for joint military exercises and cooperation in the defense industry, has attracted criticism from opposition lawmakers who view it as inconsistent with Turkey’s efforts to repair ties with Egypt.
"Turkey should shore up investor faith in new orthodoxy", The Editorial Board, Financial Times
The abrupt resignation of Turkey’s central bank governor this month might have been expected to cause investor jitters that the country’s short-lived experiment with monetary orthodoxy was over. That the market response turned out to be so muted shows that the real power in the country’s economic leadership now rests with the finance minister, Mehmet Şimşek.
Şimşek knows that markets matter for Turkey, which needs foreign investors to buy its bonds. The Turkish media’s hostile depiction of sinister and conspiratorial foreign investors has, thankfully, melted away. He also knows citizens suffer from yet more price rises on imported goods when the currency crumbles. He recognises the need for continuity in economic policy and stability, particularly in inflation.
Fund managers trust Şimşek to lead this job and, crucially, to keep Erdogan on side, and have proven willing to dip back into Turkish assets for the first time in years since his reappointment. Karahan is Şimşek’s pick for the central bank, and for Wall Street analysts and investors, that is pedigree enough.
For now, mutual mistrust between the president and western fund managers still simmers. Investors are placing a lot of faith in Şimşek as the crucial whisperer between them.
LEADERS ON THE MOVE
Erdogan's remarks on disaster relief spark controversy
President Erdogan's remarks at an event in earthquake-affected Hatay have sparked backlash. During a rally for his ruling AKP party on February 4, Erdogan said that cooperation between Ankara and local administrations is crucial for disaster relief efforts and hinted that Hatay's neglect might be linked to its opposition-run municipality.
Hatay Mayor Savaş expressed disappointment, calling the speech divisive. CHP leader Özgür Özel condemned the president’s words as political blackmail. Other politicians echoed these criticisms, describing Erdogan's remarks as attempts to influence voters.
However, Erdogan later retracted his remarks during a ceremony in Kahramanmaraş province on February 6, stating that his government doesn't discriminate based on political affiliations. He accused opposition parties of overreacting to his remarks in Hatay, emphasizing that funds are allocated to all municipalities, regardless of their political alignment.
Minister's remarks on earthquake victims spark outrage
Minister of Environment, Urbanization, and Climate Change Mehmet Ozhaseki stirred controversy when he stated that earthquake victims are happy about their destroyed homes being replaced with new ones. His remarks, made during a live broadcast on February 6, sparked widespread backlash as he claimed that homeowners expressed gratitude for receiving new villas.
Ozhaseki's comments quickly ignited criticism on social media, with many users condemning him for trivializing the suffering of earthquake victims. In response to the criticism, Ozhaseki defended his remarks on social media, stating that those exploiting the issue for "perception management" should listen to the affected citizens themselves, who reportedly expressed gratitude for the new homes.
Demirtas opts out of İstanbul mayoral race, DEM Party names co-candidates
Basak Demirtas, the wife of imprisoned Kurdish politician Selahattin Demirtas, announced that she won't run as a mayoral candidate for İstanbul from the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Equality and Democracy Party (DEM Party).
On February 7, Demirtas stated that, after discussions with the DEM Party, she decided not to officially apply to run for mayor of İstanbul in the upcoming March 31 local elections. She emphasized that this decision was made in collaboration with the DEM Party.
In a separate statement, the DEM Party confirmed that Demirtas's decision was made together with the party, and they will soon announce their official candidate for the İstanbul mayoral race.
Later on February 9, the DEM Party named Meral Danis Bestas and Murat Cepni as its co-candidates for mayor of the İstanbul Metropolitan Municipality, following the announcement that Demirtas won't be running.
Bahceli once again calls for closure of Constitutional Court
The leader of Turkey's far-right Nationalist Movement Party (MHP), Devlet Bahceli, once again called for the closure of the Constitutional Court (AYM) during a ceremony marking the 55th anniversary of his party's foundation on February 9.
Bahceli criticized AYM President Zuhtu Arslan for stating that their rulings are binding even if not desirable, arguing that Article 153 of the Constitution does not cover individual rights violation decisions. Bahceli said the Constitutional Court has become a national security issue and accused its president and members of being enemies of the state's integrity and social peace.
Bahceli reiterated his demand for the closure or restructuring of the Constitutional Court, claiming it has disrupted domestic peace with its decisions.
These remarks come after AYM President Zuhtu Arslan criticized the Court of Cassation for not implementing AYM decisions during a meeting with President Erdogan and the President of the Court of Cassation Mehmet Akarca on February 8.
New Welfare Party announces mayoral candidates for Istanbul, Ankara, and İzmir
On February 10, the far-right Islamist ally New Welfare Party (YRP) announced its mayoral candidates for Istanbul, Ankara, and İzmir in the upcoming local elections on March 31.
At an event in Ankara, YRP leader Fatih Erbakan revealed Mehmet Altinoz as the mayoral candidate for Istanbul, Suat Kilic for Ankara, and Cemal Arıkan for İzmir.
Altinoz, the husband of Elif Erbakan, is the older sister of Fatih Erbakan and the daughter of the late Necmettin Erbakan, a former Islamist prime minister. Suat Kilic, a former Youth and Sports Minister from the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP), was also named as a candidate.
Fatih Erbakan criticized the current municipal practices, referring to them as "rent municipalism" and "sculptor municipality," emphasizing their pledge to bring about change.
Erbakan expressed confidence that their success in the local elections would lead them to government in the 2028 general elections.
Consumer price index rose by 6.70% in January
Turkey's consumer price index (CPI) rose by 6.70% in January compared to the previous month, as reported by the state-run Turkish Statistical Institute (TÜİK) on February 5.
Compared to the same month last year, there was a significant increase of 64.86%, with a 54.72% change on a twelve-month moving average basis. The main group with the highest increase was restaurants and hotels, which saw a rise of 92.27%.
According to unofficial data from Turkey's Inflation Research Group (ENAG), an independent institution established in 2020, CPI increased by 9.38% in January, with annual inflation at 129.11%. Clothing and footwear experienced the highest monthly inflation (16.42%), while health saw no change, being the smallest group in terms of inflation.
EU and Turkey sign €400 million aid agreement for earthquake recovery
The European Commission and Turkey signed a 400 million euro aid agreement on February 7 to support Turkey's recovery efforts following the devastating earthquakes of February 6, 2023. This aid is part of the one billion euros pledged to Turkey during the International Donors' Conference held in March 2023.
The signing ceremony occurred at the European Commission building in Belgium, attended by Mehmet Kemal Bozay, aide to Turkey’s Foreign Minister, and European Commissioner for Cohesion and Reforms Elisa Ferreria.
Bozay stated, “The funds will be allocated to constructing hospitals and schools, as well as restoring structures with cultural heritage significance in the earthquake-affected region.”
Commissioner Ferreria highlighted that the 400 million euros provided to Turkey was the largest amount the EU has ever allocated to a non-member state. She also emphasized the EU's readiness to offer guidance and support to Turkey throughout the implementation process.
Turkish Central Bank forecasts 36% inflation for 2024 and 14% for 2025
Central Bank announced its year-end inflation forecasts for 2024 and 2025, maintaining the previous projections of 36 percent and 14 percent respectively.
Fatih Karahan, the newly appointed Governor of the Central Bank, presented the First Inflation Report of the year during an information meeting on February 8. He emphasized that a tight monetary policy stance would continue until there was a significant improvement in the inflation outlook.
The forecast ranges for 2024 are between 30 and 42 percent, and for 2025, between seven and 21 percent. The bank projects that inflation will decrease to single-digit levels in 2026, reaching nine percent by the year-end, and stabilize at the five percent target in the medium term.
Karahan also announced that the monetary tightening process had a positive impact on the Central Bank's reserves, which reached $137.2 billion as of January 24.
Woman detained over Gulen links recounts torture by Turkish police
A woman who was detained over her affiliation with the Gulen movement shared her ordeal of torture during her time in custody. Aysun Işınkaralar, a metallurgical engineer arrested for managing a girls' dormitory linked to the movement, revealed that she endured electric shocks, strangulation attempts, sexual harassment, and a mock execution while in police custody in Afyon province.
She spent 56 months in prison before being released in December 2022. The torture stopped only after opposition deputies raised concerns on social media. Medical examinations confirmed torture marks, including scars on her ankles, but these were not documented officially to hide evidence of torture.
Since her release, Işınkaralar has struggled to reintegrate into society. Despite successful job interviews, she remains unemployed due to her criminal record and the stigma associated with her alleged ties to the Gülen movement.
"Turkey’s Strikes Wreak Havoc on Northeast Syria" by Hiba Zayadin, Human Rights Watch
As the world's attention remains fixed on the devastating conflict unfolding in Gaza, another crisis is intensifying under the radar in northeast Syria. There, Turkey’s airstrikes and drone attacks on critical civilian infrastructure are putting livelihoods at risk and severing communities from electricity, medical care, and other essential services.
In December and January, Turkey intensified its strikes to include medical facilities and crucial access roads used by humanitarian responders, according to the Northeast Syria (NES) NGO Forum, a coalition of international organizations operating in the area.
On January 29, the NES NGO forum said that 1 million people in cities and villages had been cut off from electricity, and over 2 million people had limited access to safe water. Damage to medical facilities targeted in December has disrupted the oxygen supply to more than a dozen private and public hospitals, and strikes on 28 health facilities have disrupted their services, increasing the risk of water-borne diseases.
Turkey should immediately stop targeting critical civilian infrastructure, respect international humanitarian law, and hold to account those responsible for serious violations.
Top court declares hundreds of content removal orders including Erdogan's son unconstitutional
Turkey’s Constitutional Court ruled that over 500 court orders for content removal or access restrictions, including news articles mentioning an international investigation involving Bilal Erdogan, President Erdogan's son, were unconstitutional. The decision came after reviewing applications related to internet censorship under Law No. 5651.
In one case involving the Journo news website, a court ordered content removal for an article mentioning corruption allegations against Bilal Erdogan. The Constitutional Court deemed this decision a violation of freedom of expression. The Ministry of Finance was instructed to pay Journo 18,000 Turkish lira in damages and reimburse the application fee.
In June, Reuters reported that US and Swedish anti-corruption authorities were investigating a complaint alleging kickbacks if Bilal Erdogan helped a US company secure market dominance in Sweden.
Iraqi President urges Turkey to respect sovereignty, calls for dialogue
Iraq's president told the Turkish defense minister during their meeting on February 6 that Ankara needs to engage in dialogue to solve bilateral security issues rather than violating Iraq's sovereignty. President Abdul Latif Rashid emphasized the importance of respecting Iraqi sovereignty and ending military violations, especially in the Kurdistan Region. He urged for dialogue to address outstanding issues.
Rashid also brought up Turkey's move to halt flights between Sulaimani airport and Turkish cities, saying it hampers cooperation and social ties between the two peoples. Guler showed interest in finding a solution to resume flights between Sulaimani and Turkish cities, according to the Iraqi presidency's statement.
Turkish foreign minister first confirms Putin’s visit, but later postponed
Turkish Foreign Minister Hakan Fidan announced on February 6 that Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan and Russian President Vladimir Putin would talk about the Ukraine war and the Black Sea Grain Initiative during Putin's visit to Ankara. However, Fidan didn't specify the visit date.
Fidan mentioned during a press conference in Valletta, the capital of Malta, that Turkey is collaborating with Ukraine and Russia to revive the grain deal.
However, Russia's state-run RIA news agency reported on February 7 citing a source in Ankara that Russian President Vladimir Putin's planned visit to Turkey in February has been tentatively postponed to the end of April or the beginning of May, The source said the delay is attributed to the electoral cycles in both countries, with municipal elections scheduled in Turkey and presidential elections in Russia.
French authorities charge two men linked to Grey Wolves movement
French authorities have formally charged two men suspected of belonging to the Turkish ultranationalist Grey Wolves movement with advocating terrorism and relaunching the outlawed group, as reported by Le Figaro on February 8.
The two men, who reportedly have no prior criminal records, were placed under judicial supervision. The prosecutor’s office stated that the investigation will continue, focusing particularly on examining the suspects’ computer equipment.
In 2020, French Interior Minister Gérald Darmanin banned the Grey Wolves, citing their involvement in inciting discrimination, hatred, and violent actions. The group is accused of promoting ideologies that discriminate against Kurdish and Armenian people and encourage violence.
Turkish defense company Baykar begins construction of drone factory near Kyiv
Baykar has begun constructing a factory near Kyiv where it will employ around 500 people to manufacture either its TB2 or TB3 drone models, the company's CEO, Haluk Bayraktar said on the sidelines of the World Defense Show in Riyadh. The construction is expected to take about 12 months, followed by setting up internal machinery, equipment, and organizational structure.
Bayraktar mentioned that the factory's capacity would be about 120 units per year, but it's undecided whether it will focus on producing the TB2 or TB3 drone model.
Bayraktar also confirmed that the company's plans to commence production in Saudi Arabia within the next two years are progressing as scheduled.