by instituDE, published on 30 October 2023


"Erdogan's Palestine Rally in Istanbul: All Quiet in Ankara" by Hasim Tekines, Institute for Diplomacy and Economy 

This week, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan delivered two passionate speeches, strongly criticizing the Israeli government. While strong emotions and anger marked Erdogan's recent speeches, it may be more related to fulfilling the expectations of his constituents rather than reflecting a change of heart.

His address to the Parliament on Tuesday and great Palestine demonstration on Saturday have raised questions about whether Turkey was changing its track and embracing a more ideological course, as it did before. This Tuesday's speech seems to be a rupture that might indicate a change in Ankara's policy towards Israel. 

On the other hand, in both speeches, Erdogan directed his criticisms more against the West, particularly the US, rather than Israel. Contrary to his persistent record of the last decade, President Erdogan has abstained from depicting Israel as a 'terror state.' Instead, since October 7, he insistently accused Israel of acting like an organization, a carefully chosen word to deny a government legitimacy it should enjoy. Moreover, he said that Turkey will not take populist measures without any strategy, emphasizing statecraft. Despite the emotional tone of his speech, these statements suggest that Turkey's restrained approach continues.

Indeed, there are some concrete signs that Turkey will continue to show restraint. First, Turkish journalist Fehim Tastekin reported that after the October 7 crisis, Ankara asked Hamas leaders to leave the country. Second, before his speech, President Erdogan signed the protocols on Sweden's NATO membership and sent it to the Parliament. With this move, Ankara likely hoped to soften the atmosphere in Western capitals before giving a tirade to Israel. Also, Turkey has not called its Tel Aviv ambassador back to Ankara or given a diplomatic note to the Israeli Embassy in Ankara.

Erdoğan's speeches mark a change from Ankara's more conciliatory tone to a more outraged language against Israel. And, given the increasing tension and huge civilian losses, a policy change will remain as a possibility for Ankara. Yet, given Erdogan's performance in the previous crises, all seems quiet in Ankara for now.

"Systemic Problems Unveiled: The Yalcinkaya Case and the Demise of the Bylock Digital Evidence" by Dr. iur. Yasir Gökce, ECHR Blog

On 26 September 2023, the Grand Chamber of the European Court of Human Rights (Court or ECtHR) in Yalcinkaya v Turkey examined the human rights implications of the use of the ByLock app. In this landmark judgment, the Court found a violation of Articles 6, 7 and 11 of the Convention. Referring to thousands of applications on its docket involving similar complaints, the ECtHR stressed that the problems which had led to findings of violations were systemic in nature and called on Turkey to take general measures as appropriate to address those systemic problems.

It is praiseworthy that the ECtHR examined the case within the ambit of Article 7 and to the extent that it concerns not only the applicant but all victims prosecuted and arrested owing to the 'exclusive use' narrative of the Turkish government. However, I find it unfortunate that the Court overlooked the fact that the Turkish judiciary had applied the material and mental elements of the offense retrospectively. In other words, at the time of the acts attributed to the applicant, namely the Bylock usage, the Gülen Movement was not proscribed as a terrorist organization and, on the contrary, enjoyed a wide and respectable presence in all sectors of Turkish society. Furthermore, it would have been, at the very least, an eye-opener for the Turkish government if the Court had scrutinized whether this secret communication app was used during and/or for the purpose of staging the 15 July coup attempt, which the government alleges, has been orchestrated by the Gülen Movement and due to which, by and large, the latter was declared as a terrorist organization. 

Yet another approach of the Court, which I also find unfortunate, is that it addressed the issue of using a secret communication app not primarily as a mere enjoyment of the freedom of expression and right to respect for private life but as potential conduct that might form the constituent elements of the offense of terrorism. On the contrary, such a rights-oriented approach was the one adopted in various Bylock-related opinions of the United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention (UNWGAD).

Having observed that the individual internet traffic information and telecommunication records (a.k.a. CGNAT and HTS data) are in line with the data obtained by the MIT from the Bylock servers, the ECtHR indicated that it does not have sufficient elements to impugn the integrity and accuracy of the Bylock data (§ 323). It is unfortunate that, in this observation, the Court overlooked numerous traces of manipulation of the Bylock raw data documented in technical reports of independent digital forensic experts (here, here, and here), which the applicant relied upon throughout this case. These reports cast serious doubts on the integrity and accuracy of the Bylock data. 

Furthermore, the Court failed to appreciate the seriousness of the fact that the individual internet traffic information and telecommunication records had been obtained outside the statutory time limit. After the expiration of the retention period, those records were kept under the custody of the information and communication technologies authority and the MIT with no legal basis at all, as had been the case for the initial period of the Bylock raw data. In other words, those records are also fraught with illegality and lack of chain of custody and highly prone to manipulation. And yet the Court observed that the accuracy of the Bylock raw data could be substantiated with some records whose accuracy is itself under suspicion. Last but not least, the Court refrained from pronouncing a violation from the standpoint of the right to privacy enshrined in Article 8 of the Convention. Although a great volume of private communication data of the applicant was seized and processed unlawfully, unforeseeably, and irresponsibly, the Court considered his arguments to this effect peripheral and not having situated at the heart of his complaints, a reasoning which seems unsatisfactory (§ 371, §372).

It remains to be seen whether Turkey will abide by the judgment, although President Erdogan's remarks on the judgment at the opening ceremony of the new legislative appears not reassuring. Against this backdrop, it is up to the victims to be proactive and vigilant and have the judgment included in their respective case dossiers or lodge applications for retrial on the basis of severe violations found in the judgment.  

"Instead of undoing Ataturk's legacy, Recep Tayyip Erdogan has claimed it", The Economist

Nearly 60% of Turks, including 46% of supporters of the ruling Justice and Development (AK) party, according to a survey published in August, consider him the country's most beloved historical figure. More than nine out of ten say they are grateful for what he did for Turkey, shows another, less recent poll. And over 73% believe the values he represents are more relevant than ever. Turkey's president and AK's leader, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, though fresh from another election victory this summer, could only dream of such numbers. They are Kemal Ataturk's. He may have been dead for more than 80 years, but he is still Turkey's most popular politician.

Mr. Erdogan has often been viewed as the anti-Ataturk. After he became prime minister in 2003, his critics often accused him, as an acolyte of political Islam, of planning to turn Turkey into a second Iran. A few still do, but such fears have been misplaced. Mr. Erdogan has had two decades in power, more than Ataturk had, to dismantle Turkey's secular order. Had this been his plan all along, he does not have much to show for his efforts, despite his control over state institutions and much of the media. Mr Erdogan has chipped away at parts of Ataturk's legacy. But he has also co-opted and redefined it. Ataturk's legacy may have co-opted him too.

After losing the support of Turkish liberals, the Kurds and the Gulen movement, and teaming up instead with nationalists, many of them embedded in the army and the police, Mr. Erdogan has embraced Ataturk as a symbol of his own power.

But the embrace is selective. Ataturk's image as a secular reformer, state-builder and supporter of Turkey's European vocation has taken a back seat. Mr. Erdogan has instead emphasised Ataturk as the Gazi, the war hero who saved Turkey from the Greeks, the British, the French and the Italians, who tried to partition the country after the first world war, notes Lisel Hintz, an academic at Johns Hopkins University. "That image suits Erdogan's narrative of Turkey as a rising power, pushing back against the West and the liberal international order," she says.

Turkey's leader has created a nationalism that transcends old divisions between religious and secular, says Mr. Karaveli, and has made the redacted Ataturk one of its emblems. 

Mr. Erdogan would not have felt at home in Ataturk's Turkey, and Ataturk would not have felt at home in Mr. Erdogan's. But as the champion of a new brand of state nationalism, Turkey's strongman in his new incarnation no longer views himself as Ataturk's challenger, but as his heir.

"Erdogan opts for a low-key celebration of Turkey's 100th anniversary as a secular republic" by Suzan Fraser, AP

Turkey is marking the 100th anniversary of the creation of the modern, secular republic from the ruins of the Ottoman Empire on Sunday with few pageantries and no gala reception to memorialize the important milestone.

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's government has opted for a low-key celebration of the centennial, which comes months after a devastating earthquake that killed 50,000 people and coincides with the Israeli-Hamas war that has roiled the Middle East.

The subdued affair, however, has caused dismay among many in Turkey who believe Erdogan's government is trying to undermine the legacy of the republic's founding father, Mustafa Kemal Ataturk. They see the lack of pomp and fanfare as an attempt by the government, which finds its roots in Turkey's Islamic movement, to erase Ataturk's memory.

Meral Aksener, the leader of the center-right opposition IYI Party accused the government of not missing the opportunity to ensure the "100th year (celebration) falls flat."

"There are those who still have a problem with our republic 100 years later," Aksener said. She and others believe a mass pro-Palestinian rally on Saturday during which Erdogan escalated his criticism of Israel's military actions in Gaza was specially organized to overshadow the centennial celebration.

Erdogan and his religious support base take pride in Turkey's Ottoman and Islamic past. Erdogan pays homage to Ataturk's military achievements as an officer of the Ottoman Empire, but rarely praises his republican era.

"Erdogan wants to see Turkey become (a country) that embraces Erdogan's values, that is socially conservative, not necessarily part of the West and also, I would say, has a significant role for Islam from education to public policy," said Soner Cagaptay, an expert on Turkey at the Washington Institute and author of books on Erdogan. 


Turkey's ruling parties reject investigation into bureaucrats receiving multiple salaries

On October 24, Turkey's ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) and its ally, the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP), rejected a parliamentary proposal from the opposition Felicity Party (SP) to examine cases of bureaucrats receiving two or three salaries through different state job positions. 

SP deputy group chairman Bulent Kaya argued that even if such practices are legally permissible, they may not be morally justifiable and should be subject to investigation. However, AKP and MHP lawmakers voted against the motion.

Kilicdaroglu intends to hand over party leadership to a social democrat

On October 28, the leader of the Turkish main opposition Republican People's Party (CHP), Kemal Kilicdaroglu, announced his intention to run for the party leadership again to ensure a smooth transition for the party. In an interview with the daily Sozcu, he stated that he hadn't initially declared his candidacy but would run if nominated by the party.

When asked about his motivation for seeking leadership again, Kilicdaroglu said his goal is to ensure the party reaches a safe destination. He also declared he aims to eventually pass on the leadership to a knowledgeable and effective social democrat.


Turkey's Central Bank raises interest rates for the fifth consecutive month to tackle inflation

On October 26, Turkey's central bank increased interest rates again, in line with President Erdogan's shift towards traditional economic measures to combat inflation. In response to last month's 61.53% inflation rate, the bank raised its policy rate by 5 percentage points to 35%, marking the fifth consecutive rate hike over the past five months. 

The bank stated that its monetary policy committee chose to continue tightening monetary policy to achieve a quicker decline in inflation.

Turkey's Central Bank ends unpopular bond scheme as part of fiscal policy changes

On October 27, the Turkish Central Bank discontinued several securities-related practices as part of its efforts to streamline economic regulations.

Previously, these rules required banks to purchase Turkish government bonds as a penalty for lending at interest rates exceeding specific limits or failing to meet business loan targets. As reported by Bloomberg, this practice was unpopular among local and foreign investors and deterred foreign interest in Turkey's bond market.

The Central Bank announced with a press release that it terminated these rules to simplify its policies. Additionally, the institution plans to modify the practice of imposing commissions on foreign currency reserve requirements to encourage deposits in lira. Further technical details will be provided in subsequent regulations, the bank said.

Farmers face soaring debts, millions of land titles mortgaged

Since 2017, the debts of farmers in Turkey have surged fourfold to 391 billion Turkish liras (equivalent to $12.8 billion), with the title deeds of 2.23 million farmers who cannot repay their debts being used as collateral, as reported by the daily BirGun.

Ahmet Vehbi Bakirlioglu, a lawmaker from the main opposition Republican People's Party, obtained information from the Agriculture and Forestry Ministry concerning mortgaged agricultural areas and the existing debts of farmers.

As per the obtained data, the total mortgaged agricultural area in the country now stands at 42.3 million decares, and the number of farmers whose agricultural lands were mortgaged by banks is 1.6 million.


Turkish Constitutional Court rules imprisonment of opposition lawmaker violated his rights

Constitutional Court ruled on October 25, stating that the imprisonment of the newly elected opposition lawmaker, Can Atalay, had breached his rights to security, liberty, and the right to be elected. Atalay received an 18-year prison sentence in April 2022 for his involvement in organizing the 2013 Gezi Park protests.

A spokesperson for the Constitutional Court stated, "It was ruled that the Can Atalay case involved a violation of rights related to the right to be elected and personal freedom and security." Following this decision, one of Atalay's lawyers, Akcay Tasci, called for his immediate release as soon as the local court received the ruling.

Kurdish politician Kisanak spends seven years in prison without a sentence

Veteran Kurdish politician Gultan Kisanak marked her seventh year in prison on October 25 without receiving a sentence. She was arrested in 2016 on charges related to the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK).

On October 25, in a parliamentary inquiry, opposition Peoples' Equality and Democracy Party (HEDEP) deputy Meral Danis Bestas asked Justice Minister Yılmaz Tunc why Kisanak is still being held in prison without a sentence despite the expiration of the maximum seven-year arrest period.

Gultan Kisanak, the former co-mayor of the southeastern province of Diyarbakır, was sentenced in February 2019 to 14 years and three months in prison for charges of "being a member of" and "making propaganda" for the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK). However, an appeals court overturned the verdict the same year, citing a lack of procedure and principles during Kışanak's trial.

Workers' Party leader concludes 'Freedom March' in Ankara, demands Atalay's release

Erkan Baş, the Workers' Party of Turkey (TIP) leader, concluded his Freedom March on October 28 in the capital city, Ankara. He had embarked on this march from Hatay with the primary aim of securing the release of imprisoned TIP deputy Can Atalay.

Throughout the 28-day march, Baş addressed various issues, including the Corlu train massacre, mine disasters, and the tragic loss of students' lives in dormitories.

On October 28, in Ankara, Baş organized a rally titled "Freedom to the Republic," just one day before the centenary of the Republic of Turkey's establishment. During the rally, he reiterated the call for the immediate release of lawmaker Atalay.


Turkish President submits Sweden's NATO membership protocol for ratification

On October 23, Turkish President Erdogan's office announced that he submitted a protocol to the Turkish parliament to ratify Sweden's NATO membership. 

Turkey had previously delayed this ratification, citing concerns about Sweden's approach to Kurdish militants and other groups Turkey considers security threats and due to its harsh criticisms about Quran-burning protests in Sweden. All 31 NATO allies must approve Sweden's membership, with Turkey and Hungary being the only two allies yet to ratify it. The date when Sweden's membership will be discussed in the Turkish parliament is unknown.

Azerbaijan and Turkey launch joint military exercise amid regional summit for peace talks

On October 23, Azerbaijan and Turkey initiated a joint military exercise, including activities in the Nagorno-Karabakh region. Turkish Defense Minister Yasar Guler also traveled to Baku to observe the drill. The joint military exercise coincided with a regional summit in Tehran, where Turkey, Azerbaijan, Armenia, Iran, and Russia aimed to enhance cooperation and stability in the southern Caucasus.

During the summit, Turkish Foreign Minister Hakan Fidan emphasized the necessity of a comprehensive peace agreement between Azerbaijan and Armenia. He also highlighted the importance of transport connections, indirectly referring to the "Zangezour corridor."

Fidan also met with Armenian Foreign Minister Ararat Mirzoyan and Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi on the sidelines of the summit. The meeting between Fidan and Mirzoyan was their first encounter since the Azerbaijani offensive, which Turkey had openly supported.

US imposes sanctions on Turkish company shareholders linked to Hamas

On October 27, the US Department of the Treasury imposed new sanctions on Hamas-linked officials and financial networks following a recent attack by Hamas on Israel. Among those targeted are three primary shareholders of the Turkish company Trend GYO, which has connections to the Palestinian militant group Hamas. Alaeddin Senguler, Gulsah Yigidoglu, and Arwa Mangoush, all based in Turkey, have been hit by the sanctions. Trend GYO was designated as part of Hamas's investment portfolio in May 2022.

Israel recalls diplomats from Turkey amid rising tensions over Israel-Hamas conflict

Israel announced the recall of its diplomats in Turkey for consultations in protest of what it deemed "grave" statements from Turkish government officials related to the Israel-Hamas conflict. Israeli Foreign Minister Eli Cohen stated on the social media platform X (formerly Twitter) that this decision was made to reevaluate the relationship between Israel and Turkey. 

By October 19, all Israeli diplomats had departed from the country. It remains unclear who Foreign Minister Cohen had directed to return.

However, the announcement followed Turkish President Erdogan's remarks at a pro-Palestine rally in Istanbul on early October 28, where he referred to Israel as a "war criminal" due to its actions in Gaza and reiterated that Turkey does not consider Hamas a terrorist organization.

Earlier in the week, Turkish President Erdogan said that he considers the Palestinian militant group Hamas to be a liberation group fighting to protect Palestinian lands rather than a terrorist organization. He also announced the cancellation of his planned trip to Israel.

Turkish drone strike kills senior SDF commander 

A Turkish drone strike on October 27 resulted in the death of a senior commander from the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), according to a report from the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR). The strike also caused injuries to a child and a woman. Şiblî Dêrik, the commander, had previously survived an assassination attempt using a Turkish drone.