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Back to the future

It is back to the future in Middle East, with Turkey following the path of Egyp in 1950s. In 1955 a group of Egyptian officers -self-dubbed “Free Officer’s Movement”- took power after a coup and went on campaign of purge in military circles to solidify their hold on power and coup-proof Egyptian Armed Forces.

Free Officer’s practice of; Post-coup purges, attempting to replace lost expertise and competency with Russian weapons, and constant involvement in conflicts, looks eerily similar to what Turkey has been going through in the last three and a half years. It is almost like watching a remake of an old movie, for which you already know the tragic and devastating ending.

Post-2016 “coup” Turkish political leadership looks strikingly like the “Free Officer’s Movement” of Egypt, with Erdogan replacing the similarly built Gamel Abdel Nasr as the leader of actor and Akar playing the devious commander in chief Field Marshall Amer. Nasser emerged from the 1952 coup as the key leader and 1956, introduced a new constitution that consolidated his power. Erdogan had a head start on political power and managed to complete transformation to authoritarian regime within two years. Just as Amr Nasser’s extended arm to control armed forces, Akar oversaw the military purges and established himself as the intermediary on Erdogan death grip over Turkish Armed Forces.

The similarity does not stop with the actors, after the 1952 coup, the Free Officers went on a purge spree to eliminate all officers that are not aligned with the movement from Egyptian Armed Forces. Field Marshal Amr turned the Egyptian Armed Forces into his private fiefdom, systematically replacing all the top military leaders with cronies loyal to new regime. Air force was hit hardest. By the time Sinai Suez crisis rolled about Egyptian Air Force had only 30 qualified pilots to fly its 120 Mig-15s.EAF was only able to put out a measly 50 sorties of all types in the first day of the conflict on 30 October. The second day was a little better, but there was no third day as British and French airstrikes destroyed most of the operational planes, rest was retrieved to south to spare them from the same eventuality.

Erdogan and Akar followed the footsteps of Nasser and Amr. The Turkish Air Force in early 2016 boasted having one of the most significant air forces in NATO and more importantly being close to 1,5/1pilot/seat fighter manning, nad 180 yearly flight hours training standards set by NATO. Erdogan’s purge claimed 670 trained and experienced pilots in less than a year and bringing down the pilot/seat ration to a shocking 0,3. The result was such devastating that Erdogan had to ask Russia fora in support in operations over Syria despite having 200 modernised F-16s waiting on tarmac.

Just as buying Mig-15’s did little to save Nasser from the repeated embarrassing losses, Erdogan’s acquisition of S-400 and recent interest in buying Su-57 will do little in improving real fighting power of the Turkish Air Force. The student of airpower have repeatedly seen that higher training and better doctrine can be overwhelming despite both sides having similarly capable aircraft. F-35 vs Su-35 or Su-57debate is flawed for Turkey, as the real differences in capability will come from the training and doctrine. The Mig-15 and F-86 were comparable aircraft in Korean war, but that didn’t stop F-86 pilots from achieved 8:1 kill ratio against North Korean and Chinese pilots. Despite having latest Soviet fighter Mig-21 at the time, Nasser’s Air Force got repeatedly obliterated by similarly capable Mirages in 1967 and later 1973.

Equipment can not replace competency, is a lesson hard-learned by the Nasser regime in 1690 and 1970s. Erdogan appears to be on the same track and no doubt will face the same time-honoured lesson

By FATİH YURTSEVER

Economy

Corruption redefined in Turkey – Donating to foundations of Erdogan’s children

The foundations managed by Turkish President Tayyip Erdoğan’s children made a fortune that amounts to billions of USD in the last couple of years.

Turkey’s wealthiest businessmen are lining up to donate to TURKEN and ENSAR foundations, which are owned by the Erdoğan family.

Erdogan regime encountered two significant graft probes in 2013, on December 17 and 25. In a bid to dodge the charges against it, the Erdogan regime called the probes “a judicial coup,” expelled all the cops, judges and prosecutors who took part in the probes, having them arrested on terror charges later on.

Due to the example laid bare, currently, no prosecutor ever dares to launch a graft probe against Erdogan administration.

Even if there are no probes launched against corruption allegations, Turkey falls back in the corruption index every year.

The latest corruption scandal landed amid the rescue efforts for the victims of the quake that struck the eastern city of Elazığ recently, taking a toll of 42 deaths.

The Red Crescent of the country (Kızılay) started a fund-raising drive for the quake victims. However, there was already a big jump in the numbers Kızılay received in the last few years.

A few documents that leaked from the bureaucracy which is under immense pressure from the government illustrated that Kızılay served as a cover for the donations made to Erdoğan family’s foundations.

Business people who received tenders from the state had been making donations to Kızılay sealed with conditional protocols. Protocols stipulated that donations should be directed to ENSAR or TURKEN foundations.

This way, business people deduct the money from their bank accounts as deposits to Turkish Red Crescent, but in reality, they give the money to the Erdoğan family.

The first revealed case was about Torunlar Holding. The Başkentgaz company, owned by Torunlar Holding, which won the tender for natural gas distribution to the capital city of Ankara, had donated USD 8 million to Kızılay. There was a catch, though. There was a specification in terms of reference that stipulated the transfer of the donation to the ENSAR foundation exclusively.

ENSAR and TURKEN keep operating as Erdoğan’s long arm abroad. The operations of the Erdoğan regime to found schools and dorms in Africa, America, and Europe are carried out via these two foundations.

The bigger and more complicated case emerged in Istanbul. It was about 96,400 square meters of land located between the two older bridges of Bosphorus valued in billions of dollars.

The land belonged to the Silahtar Abdullah Ağa foundation, which existed since the days of the Ottoman Empire. The government seized the property of the foundation after the proclamation of the Republic of Turkey.

Authorities designated this 96,400 square meters land as an assembly area, for it would be a safe space in the case of an earthquake.

In order to build luxury residences on this valuable land, a protocol was signed with KIPTAŞ, the construction organization of the Istanbul Metropolitan Municipality, on February 24, 2012.

KIPTAŞ, on the other hand, shook hands with Torunlar GYO as contractors, the construction company of the Torunlar Holding.

According to the contract, 54,28 percent of the residences to be built on the billions of dollars worth glebe land would belong to Torunlar, 45,72 would belong to KIPTAŞ. The Directorate General of Foundations received nothing as the landowner.

All this info was a secret for the year 2014 because the Erdogan regime had displaced hundreds of judges, prosecutors, and cops that year. The country was in utter silence.

This information comes into light only after years of research conducted.

The corruption aspect of the incident is not only limited to the granting of billions of dollars worth of land owned by the state to the pro-gov’t Torunlar Holding.

After the project had finished, Başkentgaz company granted 31 workplaces to the TURKEN foundation led by Tayyip Erdoğan’s son Bilal Erdoğan.

Torunlar GYO, which undertook the construction project, did not donate directly, not to attract unwanted attention. Başkentgaz bought these places and gave them to TURKEN. Torunlar built 2961 residences and workplaces on the land and constructed the largest media center of the country besides these residences.

The media center, with a 300 thousand indoor space, was given to the pro-Erdogan Sabah daily and ATV channel network owned by the brother of Erdoğan’s son-in-law.

A portion of the land was utilized for a campus of the Bezmi Alem University, which is controlled by President Erdoğan’s spouse Emine Erdoğan.

Donations cover bribery

Instead of the word “bribery,” the word “donation” is trending in Turkey these days. It is almost obligatory for businesses working with the government to donate money to foundations either close to the AK Party government or directly related to the Erdoğan family. These donations are exempt from tax for most of the cases.

The system explained above is not just for big government tenders or lands. The small towns have the same system as well. The local business people who are obliged to do business with the AK Party governed municipalities are compelled to donate to the foundations determined by the municipality. The amounts of these donations are usually fixated to the 20 percent of their estimated profits off the tender at hand.

By CEVHERİ GÜVEN

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Human Rights

Jailed cadet’s mother stands up against oppression, conquers fear

Melek Çetinkaya is the mother of a jailed 19 years-old former cadet. A campaign led by her broke the spell cast by the Erdogan regime’s reign of terror. She gets detained by police whenever she steps outside her home. However, she has no intention to remain silent.

Lives of millions in Turkey turned upside down on July 15, 2016, with the coup attempt Erdogan labeled as “a gift from God.”

Cadets, many 18-19 years of age, were among those arrested on the night of the coup bid. Çetinkaya’s 19 years old son was one of those students.

Her mom kept telling during post-coup trails that former cadets, including her son, did not involve in any illegal activities on the coup night and highlighted that they were taken to different locations at the behest of their superiors, without touching any weapon. And forensic reports confirmed her claims.

Lawyers of the Presidency were present in the courtroom when 256 former cadets were sentenced to life in prison. Çetinkaya’s son, Furkan, was one of them receiving a sentence of life imprisonment.

Melek Çetinkaya tried hard to have her voice heard on social media. She has taken her struggle a step further by staging protests in favor of jailed cadets in Ankara’s crowded streets.

Her fight also brought other mothers together. Cadets’ mothers got detained whenever they cried out for the plight of cadets sentenced to life in prison.

Çetinkaya has been taking to the streets for three months to draw public attention, and she was taken into police custody for hours in each attempt.

Çetinkaya, trying to reach out to the public through her Youtube channel, has announced her plan to start a “March for Justice” from Ankara to Istanbul.

She said she would hold the March for Justice for cadets sentenced to life in prison, jailed pregnant women, children in prison, and dismissed public servants.

March for Justice, which kicked off on January 19 in Ankara’s Guven Park, met a police intervention which saw the arrest of Çetinkaya along with 66 people.

Police encircled Guven Park and surrounded the protestors. It was a clear message saying that police would not allow a march of 450 km between Ankara and Istanbul.

Çetinkaya was detained right after stepping out of the metro, before making to Guven Park where the march would start.

“I am an aggrieved mom. You gave life sentences to 19 years-old cadets. We have been silent for three and a half years, but you will no longer be able to silence us. Justice will be served in this country,” Çetinkaya said while being dragged away by police.

Pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) MP Omer Faruk Gergerlioglu was among the protestors when police waded in to disperse the group. Gergerlioglu confirmed the police intervention on his twitter account, saying, “Police violently suppressed Çetinkaya’s march for justice.” He also noted that the police physically assaulted him along with other protestors.

Police held Çetinkaya in detention for hours before releasing her late in the evening. And she was detained each day when she attempted to attend the march. Police went even further by apprehending Çetinkaya right after she left her home on January 21.

Anti-Terror Police took the stage this time. Çetinkaya was taken to Ankara’s Counter-Terrorism department. She had to endure waiting for hours while facing the wall and with her hands cuffed.

Police mocked her height and questioned her about how she learned to use social media. They did not provide her with a bed or mattress, and she had to sleep on the concrete ground.

Some people recorded videos on metros and buses to raise awareness about Çetinkaya’s situation. Those who recorded videos became the target of Erdogan’s fanatics.

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Politics

Erdogan publicly acknowledges giving instructions to judiciary

Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan slammed the judges who  acquitted a former Turkish general and, for the first time, publicly admitted that he had given instructions to the judiciary.

Turkey has seen the dismissal of more than 30,000 Turkish military personnel from the army and the detention of thousands of former soldiers since the still-controversial failed coup attempt on 15 July 2016. The imprisoned military officers have received jail times ranging between 6 years and a life sentence in prison.

While the discussions about whether Erdogan used the coup attempt to re-design the Turkish army is still going on, Erdogan admitted his instructions to the judiciary to punish Turkish soldiers.

Acquittal of Turkish general angered Erdogan

Lieutenant General Metin İyidil was detained pending trial for three years and sentenced to life in prison over his alleged involvement in the coup attempt. However, the appeal court quashed the lower court’s ruling upon İyidil’s appeal and ruled acquittal and release of İyidil.

Metin İyidil

The ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP)’s arguments concerning the coup attempt have grown more controversial following the acquittal of a military general.

Any attempt to question the failed coup attempt is viewed as a taboo in Turkey. Prosecutors launch investigations right away into any claim towards the questioning of the trueness of the 15 July coup. The acquittal of İyidil has rekindled discussions on the coup, and the Turkish judiciary whose impartiality is disputed has taken action soon and ordered the re-arrest of İyidil.

Erdogan made some remarks in a press conference about İyidil’s case before flying off to Berlin for a conference on Libya’s civil war.

“It is a very upsetting development for the (Turkish) judiciary, it is not (even) understandable. How could a court take such kind of action? We have given the necessary orders”, Erdogan said in the press conference.

He further noted in his statement, “How could a court acquit or release a man previously sentenced to life in prison? Thanks to efforts of the Ministry of Justice and our prosecutors, he was apprehended soon later in a joint operation with the Ministry of Internal Affairs. He is now in prison and has started serving his sentence”.

Problem of judicial impartiality in Turkey

Erdogan’s regime purged about 5,000 judges and prosecutors over the past three years, and some 2,500 of them were put behind bars. The two members of the country’s top court (Constitutional Court) remain in prison. Erdogan has acquired the power with the new presidential system to appoint members of Turkey’s high courts, such as the Constitutional Court, the Court of Cassation, and Conseil d’Etat.

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