28 Dec 2015
Turkey – December 2015
Curfews and armed conflict in the Southeast, deployment of Turkish troops in Iraq, and opening of new negotiation chapter with the EU
The Justice and Development Party (AKP) government obtained the parliamentary vote of confidence on November 30, a month after the AKP’s victory in the November 1 elections. For the vote of confidence, at least 276 out of 550 votes should be taken. The 64th government led by Prime Minister Davutoğlu received 315 votes of confidence while 194 deputies gave votes of no confidence.
On December 10, the 64th government’s action plan was made public by Prime Minister Davutoğlu at a meeting with the AKP members and senior civil servants from all ministries. The reforms in the action plan are planned to be undertaken over the next three, six, and twelve months. A legal status is promised to be provided to the places of worship of Alevi community, called “Cemevi”. Yet, it is still unclear whether the government will recognize them as official houses of worship. To strengthen the use of rights and freedoms, the action plan promises the withdrawal of all reservations Turkey had made to international treaties and conventions. The plan also includes a new regulation on the election threshold but without providing any details whether it will be reduced from the current 10 percent. Prime Minister Davutoğlu vowed he would reach out to all opposition leaders in the coming weeks to discuss the new constitution for the sake of the democratization process. To bring about a constitutional reform within the parliament, the AKP would need 367 seats and to take it to a referendum, it would need 330 seats. The AKP has 317 seats in the 550-member parliament. Despite the rigid objection of all opposition parties, the AKP’s hope is to get the country an executive presidential system.
Editor-in-Chief of Cumhuriyet daily Can Dündar and its Ankara representative Erdem Gül applied to the Constitutional Court on December 6 after their arrest over a news coverage. Dündar and Gül are being accused of providing information concerning the security of the state, political and military espionage, disclosing confidential information, and propagandizing for a terrorist organization. Dündar and Gül’s court appeal stated that their freedom of expression was violated as they were arrested for journalistic activity. Cumhuriyet daily held the December 15 editorial meeting in Silivri, where Dündar and Gül are being held, in order to support the two journalists.
On December 14, Governor of Şırnak Su declared a curfew in Cizre and Silopi that will not be lifted until further notice. The Directorate of Education sent an SMS to teachers in Cizre and Silopi calling them to leave on December 14 in order to attend vocational training seminars. About 3000 teachers left the provinces of Şırnak. Classes for the 43.127 students in Silopi and Cizre will be interrupted for an undetermined period of time. The de facto evacuation of the civil servants is claimed to be proof for the intensification of armed conflict between the state and the PKK forces in Silopi and Cizre. Since June, curfews have been declared four times in Cizre and once in Silopi. The Democratic People’s Party (HDP) applied to the Constitutional Court demanding to rule out arbitrary curfews with no legal ground.
The Third Criminal Court of Peace in Gaziantep decided to confiscate Tuğçe Tatari’s “Grandmother, I Actually wasn’t in Diyarbakır” and Hasan Cemal’s “Delila: A Young Woman Guerrilla Fighter’s Mountain Diaries”. The books authored by the two journalists were found during an operation on a cell where suspected fighters of Patriotic Revolutionary Youth Movement were detained. Telling the story of the PKK fighters in the camps located in Northern Iraq, the books have been blamed for “spreading terrorist propaganda to the extent of encouraging violence” and “praising crime and criminal activity”.
On December 14, after a five-year-long pause in the negotiations with the European Union, Chapter 17 on Economic and Monetary Policy was reopened. The recent deal to halt the refugee influx from Turkey to the EU encouraged Brussels and Ankara to speed up the process of reopening the negotiations.
Again on December 14, Turkish troops started leaving headed north from their camp in Iraq after the urge of Baghdad in the United Nations. The deployment of around 150 Turkish troops to a camp near the northern Iraqi city of Mosul earlier this month has strained relations between Ankara and Baghdad that claimed that the arrival of Turkish troops in its territory was a hostile act.
Deputy Prime Minister Şimşek estimated the loss for Turkey’s economy at $9 billion should the tensions with Russia arrive at the lowest level of “zero relations”. Moscow put in place a series of economic sanctions against Ankara after the Turkish air forces downed a Russian fighter jet on the Syrian border on November 24.
Turkey’s Council of State has voided a comprehensive environment regulation plan stating that the plan would have paved the way for the commercialization of naturally protected areas in the Black Sea region. Hürriyet daily reported on July 15 that the 2,600-kilometer-long “Green Road” foreseen by the plan was drafted to attract Arab tourists as stated in the Action Plan on the Eastern Black Sea Project.
Society, Culture, and Sport
This December Hanukah was celebrated in a public space in a Muslim country for the first time. The Municipality of Beşiktaş in Istanbul organized the celebration that hosted only the members of the Turkish Jewish Community for security reasons.
Director Tolga Karaçelik’s “Sarmaşık” (Ivy) and Mustafa Kara’s “Kalandar Soğuğu” (Kalandar Cold) each received four awards in the 52nd Antalya Film Festival. The pro-government broadcaster A Haber cut off Nadir Sarıbacak’s speech. Sarıbacak who won the best actor award for his role in “Ivy” was censored out of airtime after he mentioned “rakı” in calling for unity in Turkey. “Only brotherhood and conversation will save us. A glass of rakı or a tea…” Sarıbacak managed to say before A Haber cut him off.
The famous British singer Adele’s song “Million Years Ago” has created a storm on social media debating if the tune resembled one of the songs of iconic Kurdish singer Ahmet Kaya – ‘Acılara Tutunmak’ (Clinging to Pain). Kaya’s wife, Gülten Kaya expressed her opinion on the speculations saying she did not believe Adele would steal a song.
This news review reflects the major events of the month and is based on media publications. The views expressed in the Review may be different from the views of the editors of the Caucasus Edition.
The guidelines applied to publications by the editors and authors of the Caucasus Edition can be found at: http://caucasusedition.net/glossary-and-guidelines/.