Six people died in the explosion that hits Istanbul's famousavenue
On November 13, an explosion hit Istanbul's famous IstiklalAvenue, leaving six people dead and 81 injured. Many shop windows were damagedafter the blast.
The Radio and Television Supreme Council (RTUK) imposed abroadcast ban on the explosion.
Turkey's Information and Communications Technologies Authority(BTK) acknowledged that the bandwidth of social media networks wasrestricted. Many people reported that they experienced difficultiesaccessing social media without using a VPN. The limitation, according to BTK,was caused by "the unrealistic posts that surfaced after theexplosion." Several lawyers and experts called BTK's move"illegal."
Fifty-two suspects were detained in relation to the bomb attack. InteriorMinister Soylu declared the arrest of the bomber and blamed the"PKK/YPG." While Ahlam Albashir, who allegedly carried out theattack, told police that she knew there was a bomb in the bag, she denied it incourt.
"We reject the condolences of the US Embassy in Turkey overthe deadly blast," Soylu added, claiming that the United States is "feedingthe terrorist organizations" behind the blast. "US is verydisappointed by any irresponsible remarks that imply the US had any role inthis heinous attack on Turkish civilians," said a State Department spokespersonin response to Soylu's accusations.
On the other hand, the PKK and YPG denied their involvement in theattack.
After the explosion, far-right Nationalist Movement Party (MHP)leader Devlet Bahceli once again called for the closure of the Peoples'Democratic Party (HDP). Last week, Bahceli commented on the ruling party'svisit to HDP lawmakers to get their support for a possible constitutionalamendment for the women's right to wear headscarves as a "natural step."
Jailed former HDP co-chair Demirtas visits his father at hospitalunder heavy security measures
Turkish authorities allowed prominentKurdish politician Selahattin Demirtaş, presently imprisoned in Edirne, tovisit his father, who is hospitalized after a heart attack in Diyarbakir.
Demirtas was taken to Diyarbakir on a private jet under tightsecurity measures and permitted to visit his father in the hospital.Demirtas was brought back to Edirne following the visit. It is highly unusualfor the Turkish authorities to take a prisoner to visit his family on a privatejet.
Turkish national soccer team defeats Scotland in its first game inDiyarbakir
The Turkish men's soccer team lined up for the first-ever nationalgame played in Diyarbakir on November16 evening for a friendly match against Scotland.
The game, played in the city on President Erdogan's instructions,came as Turkey prepares for elections next year. The ruling Justice andDevelopment Party (AKP), which confronts the most difficult electoral challengeduring its tenure, expects Kurdish supporters to play a vital role in thepolls.
Erdogan calls Aksener to consider her stance in the oppositionalliance but faces rejection
On November 17, as he returned from the G20 summit in Indonesia,Turkish President Erdogan called theright-wing opposition Good Party leader to reconsider her involvement inthe opposition alliance.
Aksener, the leader of the Good Party, refused the offer. "Iunderstand that Mr. Erdogan is quite concerned about the election results. Wehave never sat at a table where our nation's future is wasted and gambledaway,” she replied.
Turkish exporters, tourism sectorcut prices
In the first nine months of the year, Turkey's exports were worthsome $188 billion, a 17% increase from the same period in 2021, while itsimports topped $271 billion, increasing more than 40% from the same period lastyear.
A similar trend is observed in Turkey's tourism revenues, anothermajor source of hard currency for the country. While both the number of foreignvisitors and tourism revenues increased notably this year, the figures showthat revenue per visitor has dropped 13.5% over a year.
Turkey's central bank is set to slash interest rates one more time
A Reuters poll revealed on November18 that the Turkish central bank is projected to cut interest rates,probably the final cut of the year, by another 150 basis points next week to 9%,after President Erdogan called for the stimulus despite more than 85% official inflation.
The anticipated cut would bring the total amount of easing in theprevious four months to 500 basis points, which the central bank believes isrequired in light of indications of an economic slowdown.
Bakery union headreleased after the charges 'publicly insulting the Turkish nation'
After spending nine days in prison,Cihan Kolivar, the Union for Bread Producers chair, was released. Kolivar had been arrested after saying that Turkish society hadsupported President Erdogan for 20 years because they "eat their fill withbread."
"No One Asked Me Why I Left Afghanistan: Pushbacks andDeportations of Afghans from Turkey," Human Rights Watch Report
Although Turkey has rightly earned international acclaim andsupport for hosting the largest number of refugees of any country in the world,it is routinely pushing many Afghans back at its borders or deporting them toAfghanistan with little to no examination of their claims for internationalprotection. The illegal pushbacks have come as risks to Afghans have increaseddramatically with the Taliban's takeover in August 2021.
Although these removals are overwhelmingly involuntary, theTurkish government insists on maintaining the fiction they are voluntaryreturns.
General elections in Turkey are expected in Spring 2023, andleading opposition parties are campaigning on platforms calling for the returnof refugees to their home countries.
This report calls on the government of Turkey to halt allpushbacks from Turkish territory and at Turkey's borders to stop shootings atthe border.
It calls on the European Union and its member states to determinethat Turkey does not meet the "safe third country" standard in EUlaw.
US and Russian intelligence chiefs meet in Ankara
The US and Russian intelligence chiefs held a delicate meeting in thecapital of Turkey over growing concerns that Russia may be preparing to usenuclear weapons in Ukraine. Turkey's National Intelligence Agency (MIT)hosted the meeting.
Under the condition of anonymity, a White House official revealedthat CIA Director William Burns was in Ankara to speak with Sergey Naryshkinabout "the consequences of Russia using nuclear weapons and the risks ofescalation to strategic stability."
The Kremlin confirmed the meeting, but no other details wereprovided.
Erdogan, Biden meet at G-20 Summit in Indonesia
In the wake of Interior Minister Soylu's remarks accusing the US concerningthe explosion in Istanbul, Turkish President Erdogan and US President JoeBiden met on themargins of the G20 summit in Bali, Indonesia, on November 15. The unannouncedmeeting's agenda covered NATO's Nordic enlargement, the Black Sea Graincorridor, and the recent attack in Istanbul.
Netanyahu and Erdogan pledges to maintainrelations
Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Turkish PresidentRecep Tayyip Erdogan spoke on the phone and promised to continuerapprochement between the two countries. Erdogan congratulated Netanyahuon his election victory on November 1. Both sides have been signalingtheir willingness to re-establish the relations for the past twoyears, which deteriorated in 2010 following the Mavi Marmara case.
Israeli Defense Ministry reassures Greece, Cyprus over trilateralalliance
Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz met in Athens with GreekDefense Minister Nikolaos Panagiotopoulos three weeks after visiting Turkey andmeeting with President Erdogan, taking the opportunity to slam Iran's activitiesand offer Israel's help in easing the ongoing Turkish-Greek dispute.
Gantz's brief visit to Greeceshould also be viewed in the context of the Israelirapprochement with Turkey over the past year, which has prompted concerns inAthens over its impact on the alliance with Israel. Senior Israeli officialshave reassured the Greeks that the restored relations with Ankara would bemeasured and limited in scope and would not come at the expense of the Hellenicalliance with Greece and Cyprus.
Turkish jets strike targets in Syria and Iraq followingthe Istanbul attack
Turkish jets early on November 20 hit targets in northern Syriaand Iraq, which the defense ministry of Turkey claims were bases used bythose responsible for the explosion that killed six people last weekendin Istanbul.
The Turkish defense ministry tweeted, "The hour of reckoninghas come." with pictures showing jets taking off before theoperation.
Grain deal extended for four months
Ukraine, the United Nations, and Turkey announced on November 17the extension of the grain deal, aimed atalleviating global food shortages by assisting Ukraine in exportingagricultural products from Black Sea ports, for 120 days beginningNovember 18.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy announced the extensionvia Twitter, and Turkish President Erdogan later confirmed the extension on Twitter.
United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres also praised theagreement "by all parties" to renew the deal.
"Hello, goodbye: Greek minister lands in Tripoli, thenimmediately takes off again," Nektaria Stamouli, Politico
Greek Foreign Minister Nikos Dendias was initially planning tovisit only Benghazi, but the rival government in Tripoli insisted that he stopby. According to diplomatic officials, the Greek minister agreed but on onecondition: he only met Mohamed al-Menfi, chairman of the Presidential Councilof Libya and a former ambassador to Greece. Dendias did not want to bephotographed with Najla Mangoush, Tripoli's foreign minister, who signed theenergy exploration deal with Turkey.
That was Plan A. Dendias needed a quick Plan B when his planelanded at an otherwise quiet airport, and a large crowd of photographers waswaiting for him. Also waiting was Mangoush!
Quick as a flash, Dendias swirled his finger in the air, mimickingan airplane engine and indicating to the pilot that this particular visit wasover before it had even begun.
Erdogan, Sisi shake hands at World Cup in Qatar
Turkish President Erdogan and his Egyptian counterpart AbdelFattah el-Sisi shook hands and brieflytalked at the World Cup in Qatar on November 20.
Relations between Ankara and Cairo have been tense ever sinceMohamed Mursi Muslim Brotherhood leader, who Erdogan firmly backed, wasoverthrown in 2013 by Sisi.
"Is it the same scenario?" by journalist and authorMurat Yetkin
Murat Yetkin questioned, "Is it the same scenario?" inhis video published on Youtube on November14 regarding the explosion that occurred at Istanbul's famous Istiklal Avenue.According to Yetkin, broad segments of Turkish society have been calling forimproved economic conditions, an independent judiciary, the right to education,and freedom of expression as the country reached its final electoral cyclebefore the presidential and parliamentary elections of next year. He believesthat distracting voters' attention to just security matters would only servethe agenda of those who oppose Turkey from becoming a secular, social and pluralistdemocracy.
"The government's role is to create an atmosphere wherevoters can cast ballots in safety and freedom, rather than putting dreadin the minds of individuals with the motivation that this fear willincent them to vote for the government," Yetkin added.
"Sadly, we now have the extra concern that the government mayimpose limits on freedom of communication before and during theelections," Yetkin said in relation to the widespread social mediarestrictions that were in effect nationwide after the blast.
"Turkey eyes risky energy partnership with Algeria" byFehim Tastekin,Al-Monitor
Amid controversy over its role in North Africa, Turkey has reachedan agreement for joint oil and gas exploration with energy-rich Algeria. Still,questions linger over the viability of such a venture.
Turkey's state-run petroleum company TP and its Algeriancounterpart, Sonatrach, would set up a joint company for oil and gasexploration in Algeria and other regional countries.
The details of the plan remain unknown, but it raises the specterof financial challenges for a country that is already grappling with economicturmoil, including a foreign currency crunch. "Exploration is the riskiestpart of the business and requires the use of one's own resources because of theslim chances of finding loans for such projects," said Ali Arif Akturk, aformer senior executive at Turkey's state energy importer BOTAS.
According to Akturk, "the carrot" for Turkey in joiningsuch a venture could be the prospect of extending its gas contract withAlgeria, Turkey's fourth-largest gas supplier, on favorable terms.
"Understanding Turkey's Geostrategic Posture" by MarcPierini, a senior fellow at Carnegie Europe
It remains to be seen what the six-party opposition coalition willhave to propose as an electoral platform. This coalition has so far been unitedmainly by its opposition to President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Its domesticambitions are clear—returning to the parliamentary system, reinstating the ruleof law and fundamental freedoms, and moving toward a sounder economicpolicy—but its foreign policy proposals are far less known and cohesive. Thepublication of a comprehensive platform is expected.
Whether the opposition coalition can get their act together andstand united will be a litmus test for them and Turkey's democracy.
"Up for debate again: Politics and the headscarf inTurkey" by Gonul Tol, Middle East Institute
When Erdogan lifted the ban in 2013, many applauded the move as acritical development that would bolster freedoms and democracy. Indeed, it wasa long overdue reform, but like the previous steps taken to emancipate women,it failed to advance freedoms for all. Just like the secularists, Erdogan, too,saw women's attire as a symbol of his vision for the country.
Despite the progressive steps taken on the headscarf issue, womenin Turkey today are in a worse place in terms of labor participation,leadership, access to finance, civil and political freedoms, education, andhealth. Last year the World Economic Forum's Global Gender Gap Report, whichmeasures these factors, ranked Turkey 133rd out of 156 countries. Erdogan's viewson women account for much of the backsliding. He never truly intended toliberate them, whether or not they wear a headscarf.