by instituDE, published on 22 January 2024


“Pluralism Facing Radicalization in Turkey: A Study of Religion and Radical Attitudes in a Majority Muslim Country,” by Economic Policy Research Foundation of Turkey (TEPAV) via Deutsche Welle

A recent study by the Economic Policy Research Foundation of Turkey (TEPAV) reveals growing skepticism among Turks toward the country's religious directorate (Diyanet) and various Islamic cults, as reported by Deutsche Welle’s Turkish edition on January 17. 

Based on surveys conducted in 2016 and 2020, the study explored various aspects, including religious identity, levels of devoutness, and tolerance towards ethnic and religious diversity. 

The study highlights that while 85 percent of respondents acknowledge the importance of religion in their lives, a majority admit to having a limited understanding of their faith. The preference for secular and democratic governance has also increased, with 81 percent expressing a desire to live in a secular state in 2020, up from 75 percent in 2016. 

Notably, the majority of Turkey’s population is Muslim and Sunni, with percentages recorded at 84 percent in 2016 and 87 percent in 2020. The surveys also highlighted regional variations in the significance of religion in daily life, with some areas showing increased religious importance, while others witnessed a decline.

Younger participants, particularly those aged 18-24, are less likely to consider religion crucial, indicating a generational shift in attitudes. 

Additionally, trust in the Diyanet and religious cults is notably low, with only 6.47 percent expressing confidence in the Diyanet and 2 percent in religious foundations or cults.

"Why Turkey won’t join the US clash with the Houthis" by Mehmet Alaca, Amwaj.media

Keen to avoid entanglement in regional conflicts, Turkey has refrained from joining the new US-led maritime coalition in the Red Sea. Ankara is unlikely to participate in the initiative, preferring instead to balance its relations with various counterparts. 

Another big driver of Turkish policy is the fragile but vital relations with Iran and Saudi Arabia. While the two regional powerhouses support different sides in the Yemeni conflict—Riyadh backing the internationally-recognized government and Tehran being close to the Houthis—Ankara has developed a careful diplomatic approach to shield its ties with both regional states.

Given that Saudi Arabia is also reluctant to join ‘Operation Prosperity Guardian’—chiefly to avoid derailing a possible peace deal with the Houthis—Turkey does not want to torpedo its currently strong relationship with the Kingdom by joining the US-led coalition and potentially threaten the Yemen peace talks.

Turkey is also calibrating its position mindful of its relationship with Iran. Turkey has clashed with armed groups close to Iran in places like Iraq and Syria. There are also tensions between Ankara and Tehran in the South Caucasus. Against this backdrop, Turkey is keen to avoid adding a new dimension to existing tensions with Iran—including via participation in ‘Operation Prosperity Guardian’.

Turkey’s hesitance to join the US-led maritime coalition also stems from how the Houthis have successfully branded their naval strikes as in support of the Palestinian cause. Ankara is keen to protect its “pro-Gaza” image—an important marker both domestically and internationally. Thus, any action that may be construed as in support of Israel would be politically damaging.

A prolonged crisis in the Red Sea would impact Turkish interests by decreasing the number of containers at ports in the eastern Mediterranean and increasing freight costs, causing financial stress at a time of economic uncertainty for Ankara. Turkey is thus looking to minimize damage from the Gaza and Red Sea crises and support trade where it can. Unless Ankara perceives a direct security threat, it is likely to continue to seek to maintain its intricate balancing act.


  • Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi plans to visit Turkey on January 24 to meet Turkish President Erdogan. His earlier trip, scheduled for January 3, was canceled after a bombing in Kerman caused the loss of many Iranian lives.
  • Turkish Foreign Minister Hakan Fidan is set to travel to New York to participate in the UN Security Council meeting addressing "the situation in the Middle East, including the Palestinian question" on January 23, 2024. Fidan will also engage in bilateral meetings during his visit.


MHP leader Bahceli once again targets Constitutional Court President

On January 16, the leader of the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP), Devlet Bahceli, once again criticized Constitutional Court (AYM) President Zuhtu Arslan. Bahçeli also linked jailed Workers’ Party of Turkey (TİP) deputy Can Atalay to the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).

During his party's parliamentary group meeting, Bahçeli questioned Arslan's stance on implementing Constitutional Court decisions, challenging him to explain the reasons behind the sacrifices of martyrs and the grief of mothers. Accusing Arslan and like-minded court members of being under the influence of PKK law, Bahceli called for the removal of Atalay's deputyship. 

Arslan previously stated on January 12 that AYM rulings were constitutionally "final and binding," and it was “not legitimate” to disobey them.

Political momentum rises in local elections with announcement of candidates

On January 18, President Erdogan unveiled the Justice and Development Party’s (AKP) 48 mayoral candidates, including those for Ankara and İzmir, two major cities that lost to the opposition in the 2019 elections. Turgut Altinok, the incumbent Kecioren district mayor, was named as the AKP candidate for the Ankara Metropolitan Municipality, while AKP deputy chairman Hamza Dag was designated as the mayoral candidate for İzmir. Erdogan made the announcements at a meeting in Ankara, revealing candidates for metropolitan municipalities and provinces, except for seven provinces where the AKP will support the MHP candidates.

The MHP, in alliance with the AKP, also revealed 55 mayoral candidates in a written statement on January 17, including candidates for two provinces and 53 districts. 

Good Party spokesperson Kursad Zorlu announced that the party will reveal its mayoral candidates for Istanbul and Ankara by the end of January. 

Additionally, DEM Party spokesperson Aysegul Dogan stated last week that her party plans to have mayoral candidates in seven provinces, excluding predominantly Kurdish ones in eastern and southeastern Turkey, including Ankara, Antalya, Bolu, Konya, Kocaeli, Kayseri, and Samsun.

Opposition leader faces criticism for describing past political murders as 'honourable'

Meral Aksener, leader of Turkey's nationalist opposition Good Party, is facing criticism from human rights activists and families of political murder victims for characterizing past political killings as 'honourable.' In a speech in Sivas province on January 18, Aksener referred to the murder of nationalist figure Sinan Ates in late 2022, describing it as cowardly compared to what she called honourable political murders in the past. Her statements have been rebuked by human rights advocates and those who lost family members to political killings, emphasizing that there is nothing honourable about such acts.  

On January 20, during their 982nd vigil, the Saturday Mothers criticized Aksener's recent comments. Gulseren Yoleri, Istanbul branch manager of the Human Rights Association (İHD), characterized Aksener's words as a confession to a crime, questioning why, if these acts were courageous, the perpetrators still remain unidentified. 

Turkey witnessed thousands of unsolved murders and enforced disappearances in the 1990s.


Erdogan instructs Finance Minister to boycott Davos over Forum's Israel stance

Turkish President Erdogan instructed Finance Minister Mehmet Simsek and other officials to skip the World Economic Forum in Davos this week due to the organizers' stance on Israel's war against Hamas, according to sources told Bloomberg. Klaus Schwab, the forum's founder, had previously condemned Hamas' "terrorist attacks against Israel" in October. 

Erdogan, critical of Israel's actions in Gaza, reportedly prevented Simsek from attending the summit. The move complicates Turkey's efforts to rebuild connections with global investors after unconventional policies had previously driven them away. 

Erdogan's decision follows another change of plans by Simsek, who opted to attend a central bank-organized meeting with investors in New York virtually instead of in person.

Turkey's financial institutions set to adopt inflation-adjusted accounting in 2025

On January 15, the BDDK banking watchdog announced that Turkish banks and financial institutions will have to wait until January 1, 2025, to implement inflation-adjusted accounting on their balance sheets. The regulator said that banks, leasing, factoring, financing, savings financing, and asset management companies will switch to inflation accounting starting from January 1, 2025.

The decision follows Ankara's previous determination that companies should adopt inflation-adjusted accounting methods for their balance sheets from the end of 2023 to 2026. This policy is expected to particularly benefit companies heavily invested in fixed assets or with high leverage.

Turkish President Erdogan announces 42.6% increase in pensions

On January 17, Turkish President Erdogan revealed a 42.6 percent hike in pensions, including an extra 5 percent raise he decided on during a cabinet meeting. The lowest pension, previously at TL 7,500 ($248), has now been increased to TL 10,000 ($331), making it 58.8 percent of the 2024 minimum wage of TL 17,002 ($564). However, opposition politicians and retirees expressed dissatisfaction and anger, stating that the increase fell well below their expectations.

Former Turkish Central Bank employee alleges physical assault by Governor's father

A former Turkish Central Bank (TCMB) employee, Busra Bozkurt, alleged in an interview with Sozcu that Erol Erkan, father of TCMB Governor Hafize Gaye Erkan, physically assaulted a staff member on the bank's premises. Bozkurt, who previously filed a complaint about Erkan's parents' influence over the bank, claimed she was fired due to Erol Erkan's direct intervention. 

Bozkurt asserted that Erol Erkan slapped a staff member in an elevator and accused him of attempting to influence bank operations and fostering a climate of fear. Her claims also included allegations of extravagant expenditures and misuse of bank resources for the Erkan family's benefit. 

In response, on social media platform X, Governor Erkan deemed the news story unfounded and vowed legal action. Erol Erkan also vehemently denied the allegations, suggesting a conspiracy to undermine his daughter's leadership and the bank's role in Turkey's economic recovery.

Turkey tops list as main recipient of EU waste exports in 2022

The latest Eurostat data reveals that Turkey remained the primary destination for waste exported from the EU in 2022, receiving approximately 12.4 million tons, making up 39 percent of the total EU waste exports. The overall waste exports from the EU to non-EU countries slightly decreased by 3 percent compared to the previous year, totaling 32.1 million tons. 

Notably, 17.8 million tons of ferrous metal waste, mainly iron and steel, were exported, constituting 55 percent of all EU waste exports. Turkey received 10.7 million tons of ferrous metal waste, equivalent to 60 percent of the total ferrous metal waste exported by the EU.

Turkey faces a surge in bounced cheques in 2023

The Banks Association of Turkey (TBB) Risk Center reported concerning trends in cheque usage in 2023, reflecting ongoing challenges in the business sector amid the economic crisis. Bounced cheques saw a notable 18.7% increase, reaching 146,770, and the total amount surged by 176.4%, totaling 57 billion Turkish liras ($1.9B) compared to 2022. The count of unique users with bounced cheques also rose by 18.4%, reaching 16,078. 

Istanbul led the provinces with a significant 26.6% share in the number of cheques and 27.9% in the total amount, followed by the capital Ankara with an 8.3% share in number and 9.5% in amount.


Turkish police detain 32 in new wave of operations targeting Gulen movement 

On January 17, Turkish police conducted a new round of mass detentions, apprehending 32 individuals over alleged ties to the Gülen movement, a faith-based group accused by the government of engaging in 'terrorist activities.' Interior Minister Ali Yerlikaya announced the police raids on social media, revealing that the operations took place in 10 provinces. 

The detentions targeted 11 individuals linked to the movement's alleged infiltration of military institutions, while five were detained due to their transactions at Bank Asya, which was closed down by a government decree due to its affiliation with the group.

Enes Kanter testifies before US House Subcommittee on Turkey's transnational repression

On January 17, activist and former NBA player Enes Kanter Freedom testified before a subcommittee of the US House of Representatives, addressing the Turkish government's transnational repression of dissidents. Freedom highlighted the US State Department's 2022 Human Rights Practices report on Turkey, citing over 100 renditions coordinated by Ankara with other authoritarian states since 2016. 

He also shared instances of harassment and intimidation faced by government critics, including journalists, in Western countries. Drawing from personal experience, Freedom detailed the Turkish government's attempts to extradite him, cancel his passport, imprison his father, and place a bounty on his head. He recounted near-kidnapping incidents in Indonesia and Romania, where Senator Lankford intervened to ensure his return to the US.


Turkish Court fines son of Somalia's President for motorcycle courier's death

On January 16, a Turkish court sentenced the son of Somalia's president to 2-1/2 years in prison for causing death by negligence. The sentence for Mahmoud was later converted into a fine of 27,300 Turkish lira ($900). Mahmoud returned to Turkey to appear before the court last week and was tried in absentia in Istanbul. He had denied negligence, stating that the motorbike had abruptly stopped, and he couldn't avoid the collision.

In the wake of outrage over the court's decision, Justice Minister Yilmaz Tunc told reporters that the court's decision regarding the case was appropriate, considering the circumstances. He emphasized that in negligence cases, it is the court's prerogative to decide, and the withdrawal of the criminal complaint against Mohamud played a role in the outcome. Oznur Gocer, the widow of motorcycle courier Yunus Emre Gocer, who filed the complaint against Mohamud, withdrew it after a meeting between Mohamud, Somali Defense Minister Abdulkadir Mohamed Nur, and a phone conversation with Somali President Mohamud at her lawyer's office on December 18.

Emirati defense firm integrates its bomb into Turkish Bayraktar 

Edge Group, a defense conglomerate based in Abu Dhabi, successfully integrated its Desert Sting guided bomb onto the Turkish Bayraktar TB2 drone, marking a significant achievement in their partnership with Baykar, Defense News reported. The source claimed that the collaboration signals a new era of cooperation between Emirati and Turkish defense firms, with plans to integrate additional payloads on different Baykar vehicles in the future.

The successful integration was announced by Edge on social media on January 17, accompanied by footage of a test flight demonstrating the TB2 carrying and deploying the DS-16 munition above the Gulf of Saros, off the coast of Turkey.

Hamas leader meets Turkish Foreign Minister to discuss ceasefire, Israeli hostages

The Guardian reported, citing the diplomatic sources told Agence France-Presse, that Hamas's Qatar-based leader, Ismail Haniyeh, held a meeting with Turkish Foreign Minister Hakan Fidan in Turkey on January 20, marking their first official contact since a phone call on October 16. 

One of the sources said the discussions primarily centered around expediting the establishment of a ceasefire and the release of remaining Israeli hostages held by Hamas. Additionally, the source claimed that the two sides explored options for increasing humanitarian aid and considered a two-state solution as a pathway to achieving permanent peace.