How does it feel to live in Turkey right now?


Ozan Köse/AFP/Getty

❝ Turkey, once held up as an exemplar of secular democracy in the Muslim world, is now the world’s biggest prison for journalists. Since he came to power in 2014, president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has slowly tightened his grip on freedom of expression, choking his critics.

❝ Editors of national newspapers now face life sentences for working “against the state”. People have been arrested for Facebook posts criticising the government and last week over 4,400 public servants were sacked in an act branded by critics as a witchhunt targeting the political opposition.

❝ Meanwhile Erdoğan has maintained cordial diplomatic relations with global leaders including Donald Trump, Theresa May and Vladimir Putin, and hopes to extend his constitutional powers with a referendum on 16 April.

This short GUARDIAN article ends with a question needing to be directed at a nation getting ready to decide on the transition from autocratic leadership to fascist control. The editors elicit comments from residents of Turkey about how life has been changing. And includes special methods to guarantee anonymity. Which I recommend to our readers in Turkey.

Something to think about, eh?

Turkish court convicts classical pianist of insulting Islam

World-renowned Turkish pianist Fazil Say has been given a suspended 10-month prison sentence for insulting Muslim values.

An Istanbul court found Say guilty of denigrating religion through comments he made on the social networking site Twitter, his lawyer said on Monday.

The 43-year-old musician, who has played with the New York Philharmonic, the Berlin Symphony and other world orchestras, was on trial for sending tweets last year, including one that joked about a religious leader and some Islamic practices…

The court ordered a “supervised release” for Say, meaning that he would be free as long as he did not commit a similar crime within five years…The sentence was reduced to 10 months from 12 months due to good behaviour in court.

“We reject the charges against us but the decision is the court’s,” the musician’s lawyer told the court..

Say was not in court for the sentencing. But he denied the charges, saying they were politically motivated.

He is the latest in a series of intellectuals and artists to be prosecuted in Turkey for expressing opinions and his case has raised further concerns over rights and freedoms in the country, a democracy with a mostly Muslim population that seeks membership in the European Union.

Say, who is due to perform in Germany on Monday evening according to his website, is a strong critic of the Islamic-rooted government of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, a devout Muslim who expounds conservative values, alarming some secular Turks who fear the government plans to make religion part of their lifestyle…

If Turkey hopes to join a democratic assembly like the European Union that nation’s government will have to grow into the 20th Century – if not the 21st – and understand that democracy can be impertinent and even disrespectful.

It isn’t unusual for True Believers in any religion to wish to silence critics of their beliefs, lifestyle and sometimes hypocritical regulations. It isn’t considered the norm or acceptable in modern society for government to act as agent for that religion.

Turkish government, Turkish police attack demonstrators supporting nation’s secular constitution

Police on Monday used tear gas and water cannons to try to break up a demonstration by tens of thousands of pro-secular protesters, but the march to mark the founding of the Turkish republic went on in defiance of a government ban.

The Republic Day celebrations have in the past few years become a symbol of the divide between Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s elected, Islamic-leaning government and its opponents who fear the country’s secular traditions are in danger.

The Ankara governor’s office last week denied authorization for the march, citing security reasons, and declared the gathering illegal.

Challenging the ban, tens of thousands of people assembled in the old part of Ankara, near the building housing Turkey’s first parliament, to march to the mausoleum of Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, who founded the secular republic 89 years ago after the collapse of the Ottoman Empire.

Police tried to disperse the crowds before a barricade was lifted and the protesters proceeded to march, waving Turkish flags and carrying posters of Ataturk.

They chanted: “We are the soldiers of Mustafa Kemal!” and “Turkey is secular and will remain secular!”

The march was supported by the main opposition party, whose leader Kemal Kilicdaroglu was among those affected by the gas.

Trying to turn a nation with a secular constitution into something that is only “a little bit” of a theocracy – is rather like being a hypocrite who thinks someone can be “only a little bit pregnant” or “slightly” hindered by laws restricting democracy and civil rights.

Turkey will provide armed escort for Gaza humanitarian aid

Turkey has set the stage for a potential naval confrontation with Israel by announcing that Turkish ships attempting to breach the maritime blockade of Gaza will be given an armed escort…

Incensed by Israel’s refusal to apologise for its deadly raid on a Gaza bound aid flotilla last year, which led to the deaths of nine Turkish activists on board the MV Mami Marmara, Mr Erdogan has announced a series of sanctions against the Israeli government in recent days…

“Turkish warships will be tasked with protecting the Turkish boats bringing humanitarian aid to the Gaza Strip,” Recep Tayyip Erdogan told the Arabic television network Al Jazeera.

From now on, we will no longer allow these ships to be the targets of attacks by Israel like the one on the Freedom Flotilla, because then Israel will have to deal with an appropriate response…”

He did not reveal whether Turkish naval vessels would enter the territorial waters of either Israel or Gaza. The raid on the Mavi Marmara took place in international waters just outside the blockaded zone.

The saddest commentary of all is that an armed escort is needed to bring humanitarian aid to a region under the thumb of Israeli military occupation.

Turkey’s prime minister proposes dividing Istanbul in two

Istanbul is renown as the place where east meets west, the only city in the world to straddle Europe and Asia. But it may soon lose this unique status if the Turkish government goes ahead with a plan to divide it in two.

The prime minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, a former Istanbul mayor, has announced what he described as a “wild project” to split the city into European and Asian sides to make it easier to govern. “We will build two new cities in Istanbul due to high population,” Erdogan said, announcing his party’s manifesto for June elections.. “One on the European side and one on the Anatolian side.”

Istanbul’s official population is soon expected to reach 17 million, with thousands more unregistered people living in the city.

Tahire Erman, an urban planning expert at Ankara’s Bilkent University, said this caused significant problems for authorities: “[Istanbul] is already overgrown, and there are already many problems in the provision of infrastructure and municipal services to the city.”

Should the plan go ahead, the two cities would be well connected by transport links promised by the ruling party, including a third bridge over the Bosphorus, the strait that divides the European and Anatolian sides of the city, and two tube tunnels for cars and rail transport under the water. Two bridges and frequent ferries already connect the two sides of the city…

Plans have been announced to build a new financial district in Atasehir, a booming district on the Anatolian side of Istanbul, as part of a government pledge to increase Turkey’s global stature by 2023, the centennial anniversary of the Turkish republic.

The politicians in power think it’s a wonderful idea. The politicians out of power think it’s a silly idea. The concept does make sense. If anyone had their brains switched on after World War Two, the same might have been done with London, Tokyo or Los Angeles.