Hiatus

Due to my involvement on another project, this blog has been, and (unfortunately) will continue to be, on hold for the time being. That said, this other project may well be of interest to some of my followers here. In a nutshell, it is very much related to news in Turkey, but on a far broader, in-depth scale than my posts here. I intend to post updates on the project’s progress as it nears completion. Meanwhile, I can only apologise for my lack of blogging here (not for want of trying, mind you — my draft folder equals my actual output from over the years!). I sincerely hope to have İstanbul Dispatches up and running again in the nearest possible future, and in far more frequent form. In the interim, I am still very much alive and kicking on Twitter, contributing to the much needed English-language news flow on Turkey, so please do follow me there.

Towards A Homosexual Only Prison

Jim Colella:

Now surfacing in international media (via AFP & Reuters), this is a far more detailed reading of the justice minister’s recent announcement to build separate prisons for LGBT individuals. As this report (translated from Milliyet daily) by LGBTI News in Turkey points out, there are already “pink wards” in state prisons, but the ruling AKP now intend to segregate those of a “different sexual nature” even further. Spend some time browsing on the LGBTI News blog & you’ll soon see that even with the status quo, LGBT individuals are already a target for harrassment, physical & sexual abuse, & torture — by prison wardens! Meanwhile, Justice Minister Bekir Bozdağ says the planned separation is all “for their own safety”…

Originally posted on LGBTI NEWS TURKEY:

Source: Damla Yur, “Eşcinsellere Ayrı Cezaevi Yolda” (“Towards Homosexual-Only Prisons”), Milliyet, 13 April 2014, http://gundem.milliyet.com.tr/escinsellere-ayri-cezaevi-yolda/gundem/detay/1866198/default.htm

Minister of Justice Bekir Bozdağ declared that there is an initiation to establish a special prison to hold prisoners and detainees with alternative sexual orientations. The prison plan received negative reactions for the reason that it would alienate LGBT individuals from social life…

The Ministry of Justice has begun the initiation for the establishment of a special LGBT prison for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transsexual inmates who are, at the time, held in “pink wards.” Minister of Justice Bekir Bozdağ declared that the project has begun to build a prison to hold prisoners and detainees with alternative sexual orientations. This project, which has no precedent anywhere in the world, was met with criticism for reasons that it would “alienate LGBT individuals from socializing environments.”

First came the pink wards

Until recently, there were no specific…

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Is Something Rotten In Ankara’s Mayoral Election? A Very Preliminary Statistical Analysis

Jim Colella:

As the tweet button says on Swedish Assistant Professor Erik Meyersson’s piece, over 2000 tweets. Why? Because he waded in on the 1st of April to the widespread debate of ballot rigging by the ruling AKP in the 30 March local elections. No credible observer thought the AKP would ever lose these elections. For starters, all the preceding surveys put them well ahead of their nearest rivals, the CHP. That said, the same surveys put the race for mayor of İstanbul (Turkey’s largest city) & Ankara (the seat of power) as tight. Factor in notorious whistleblower tweep Fuat Avni claiming Erdoğan didn’t care about losing any city, except İstanbul, and there comes the motive for what Meyersson takes careful pains to analyse: ballot fraud in these two symbolic cities.

For context, Erdoğan claimed victory with about 70 percent of the votes counted shortly before midnight. In Ankara in particular, districts typically loyal to the CHP were some of the last to be registered. In other words, any claims of irregularities could only be found during the final moments of the count. With “victory” already called for incumbent Ankara Mayor Melih Gökçek, any legal challenge would then be left to the courts.

At the time of writing, the Ankara Election Board have rejected CHP’s call for a recount. Their own figures put them ahead, and their final appeal to the Supreme Election Board (or YSK) for a recount will be decided on 5 April.

Meanwhile, here’s Asst. Prof. Meyersson’s detailed overhaul of the count in those two cities. (Short read: there’s enough doubt to warrant a recount.):

Originally posted on Erik Meyersson:

Note 1: This post may get updated as additional information on Ankara’s election comes in.

Note 2: This post has now been updated with data from Istanbul – see here)

Note 3: Added two graphs showing party-specific relationships between vote shares and invalid ballot shares. Hat tip for doing these kinds of graphs comes from Twitter user @merenbey.

Note 4: Added heterogenous results showing CHP being penalized by higher invalid shares of ballots much more in above-median pro-CHP districts than in below-median pro-CHP districts.

Having seen tweets on numerous alleged voting irregularities in Turkey and thanks to Twitter user @erenyanik I came across this CHP/STS dataset of voting data in the Greater Municipality of Ankara, one of the tightly contested (less than a percentage point in the vote share) mayor elections between Melih Gökçek and Mansur Yavaş. The dataset includes 12,230 ballot boxes across 1,682 voting locations in 25 districts in Ankara. I didn’t collect the data itself and…

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Twitter Ban Lifted, But The Dangers Remain

Jim Colella:

With the blanket ban on Twitter in Turkey having just been lifted, here’s a worthy reminder of the bigger picture from Amnesty International:

Originally posted on Human Rights in Turkey:

Using hashtags like #TekrarHoşgeldinTwitter (welcome back Twitter), the news that the Turkish government had finally lifted the ban on twitter came across my desktop this afternoon.

Twitter is no longer banned in Turkey
Twitter is no longer banned in Turkey

I don’t think I was the only one who sighed in relief.  Though the government response was slow, coming some twenty-four hours after the Turkish Supreme Court had issued its decision, this was an important victory for freedom of expression and the rule of law in Turkey. 

Still, as one colleague noted, it took not one, but two court orders to finally end the banWhen a lower court ruled against the ban, the government chose to drag its feet, ensuring that twitter was not freely accessible during the important municipal elections this past Sunday (though many tech-savvy Turks were able to work around the ban).

Moreover, as Andrew Gardner, Amnesty International’s researcher on…

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Killer On The Loose

Berkin Elvan
On 16 June last year, the day after the 3-week-old and peaceful occupation of Gezi Park was forcibly ended in a hail of teargas, 14-year-old Berkin Elvan stepped out in his nearby neighbourhood to buy a loaf of bread and never came home. Instead, after being shot in the head with a teargas canister, he spent the next 9 months in a coma, turned 15 in January, and died Tuesday, 11 March. The tragic news of the belated victim of the 2013 protests — internationally condemned for excessive use of teargas by the police — brought on nationwide mourning and further protests. Over two days and across 53 provinces, some two million people marched in anger and grief. Likewise, similar outpourings took place place across the world in demonstrations from London to Washington. On 12 March, the funeral procession looked like this as it passed through Şişli in İstanbul:

Berkin Elvan funeral procession in Şişli, İstanbul on 12 March, 2014
On the day before, when Berkin passed away, the elected 60-year-old Turkish prime minister, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, stayed silent. True to form, it was no different from his reaction to the other well-documented Gezi fatalities. A stark contrast, by the way, to the glossy tears he shed live on TV for Esma, an Egyptian teenage girl killed during Morsi’s military-backed ouster. He said nothing the day Berkin Elvan died, but he passed comment the next day, the day of the funeral. It went like this: Continue reading

The Sick Man Of Turkey

The Turkish Medical Association (TTB, or “Türk Tabipleri Birliği” in Turkish) released a statement Saturday passing considerable judgment on PM’s Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s controversial reactions over the past year. For those familiar with events since the start of the nationwide anti-government protests of 2013, the 60-year-old independent trade union — covering 80% of Turkey’s medical professionals, & recognized by the World Medical Assoc. — just questioned the mental health of the Turkish prime minister.

The full English translation of their 15 March press release reads as follows: Continue reading