Monday, April 9, 2012

This Week in Turkey: Wrapping up week of 4-2-12

So, what has been happening in Turkey, you ask? A lot of trouble.

One of the biggest pieces of news is that the trial of former President Kenan Evren and former commander of the Air Force Tahsin Sahinkaya -- two of the men responsible for the bloody 1980 coup -- began on Wednesday. "During the period when Evren was at the helm of the country, 650,000 people were detained and 1,683,000 people were blacklisted; 230,000 people were tried in 210,000 cases, the death penalty was sought for 7,000, while 517 were sentenced to the death penalty, and 50 people on death row were executed..." are just a few of the numbers. Evren is now 94 years old and Sahinkaya is 86, and both reportedly in ill health; apparently they will be testifying from home by videoconference.

Turkey is still seeing the fallout from Nevruz, the spring festival celebrated by the country's Kurds that took place three weeks ago. The short version of the story is that the date of Nevruz fell on Wednesday, March 21, but the Kurds wanted to celebrate it the Sunday before; the government said no, claiming that the terrorist PKK group would use it as an occasion to stage attacks. But this exacerbated tensions with the Kurds, who don't feel like they have equal rights in Turkey (for example, they're denied the right to educate their children in the Kurdish language), and people came out for Nevruz that Sunday anyway -- and the celebrations essentially turned into violent demonstrations, both here and in the eastern city of Diyarbakir, which continued for a couple of days. This week, 38 people were detained in Istanbul for their involvement. But more importantly, this week also saw the "birthday" of jailed PKK leader Abdullah Ocalan.

Technically, nothing happened on Ocalan's birthday. But it is a time known for attacks, and there were several bombings or attempted bombing in Istanbul last week. On Monday, for example, a bomb was discovered near the Swissotel but defused, while a bomb exploded that afternoon in another neighborhood near a government office; early Tuesday morning, some percussion bombs went off. I haven't had that anyone claimed responsibility and with everything that's going on with Syria (a number of foreign ministers were in town a week ago Sunday for the Friends of Syria meeting), I think it's hard to say anything for sure.

So, Syria. With the country sitting to the south, Turkey has seen a lot of refugees flooding in, particularly in the last few weeks, and tent cities in the southeastern provinces were set up. But then today, in the first incident of its kind during this crisis, Syrian forces fired across the border into Turkey and hit people at the refugee camp, injuring 5. It doesn't exactly seem like a ceasefire is going to be taking effect tomorrow, does it?
In other sad news, the last official member of the Ottoman dynasty died on Monday at the age of 91.

But I don't want to end on doom and gloom. My favorite story of the week by far was about simit, the ring-shaped bread covered in sesame streets that you often see sold on the street here. Apparently, Barack Obama recently said at the White House that he liked "Greek baklava" -- but the president made a little faux pas because the dessert is both Greek and Turkish, and as you probably know, the two peoples have a fraught history. As a response, the chairman of the ─░stanbul Simit Tradesmen Chamber decided to try for an international patent for simit, to protect the Turkish food. He was quoted as saying, "We will hold on to our simit and won't allow Greeks to grab our simit." I imagine he also puffed out his chest. Pin It

No comments:

Post a Comment

This blog is governed by the general rules of respectful civil discourse. Domestically Yours reserves the right to remove comments deemed to be offensive or unsuited to the subject matter of this site. Gratuitous links to sites are viewed as spam and will not be approved by the moderator.