Zero The Money, Maximise The Bull

FOR FOREIGNERS TRYING TO KEEP UP with the continuous saga of the epic corruption scandal gripping Turkey since mid-December last year, the daddy of all wiretap leaks (after numerous predecessors) came this week, late in the evening on Mon. 24 Feb. The bombshell of hearing PM Erdoğan telling his son — across 5 phone calls & 24 hrs — to get rid of a cool 1 billion dollars hard cash on 17 Dec., the day 3 simultaneous probes broke wide open, sent social media into understandable overdrive. As midnight Monday (local time) approached, Erdoğan convened a damage limitation meeting with the national spy chief, the justice minister, & a deputy PM. Unlike previous wiretap leaks, which were either ignored or explained away, this time came a fierce denial from the Prime Minister’s office, as reported by Reuters:

The recordings, which were released via the Internet this evening, accompanied with the allegation that they were a telephone conversation between our Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his son, are completely untrue and the product of an immoral montage. Those who created this dirty conspiracy targeting the prime minister of the Republic of Turkey will be brought to account within the law.

Meanwhile, the two largest opposition parties, the CHP & MHP, also held emergency sessions through the night, after which the CHP leader, calling the recordings genuine, demanded Erdoğan “take a helicopter” & “flee abroad” or resign. All very stern stuff indeed, but to understand exactly why, here’s a concise summary of the five recordings from the Dragoman Review. For context, the first telephone call takes place at 8:02 A.M. on 17 Dec., after dawn police raids had hauled in some 49 people, including three AKP ministers’ sons, the CEO of state-owned Halkbank, & a well-known property tycoon: Continue reading “Zero The Money, Maximise The Bull”

Mass Torture On The Streets Of Turkey

FOLLOWING ON FROM the recent incriminating report from Physicians for Human Rights (PHR) comes Amnesty International’s detailed investigation into this year’s unprecedented anti-government demonstrations. Released early October & weighing in at over twice the size of the PHR study, Amnesty’s in-depth research on the protests that engulfed the country throughout June goes even further in presenting evidence to reach the same, yet necessary, conclusion. In a crack-ridden nutshell, the report — ‘Gezi Park Protests: Brutal Denial of the Right to Peaceful Assembly in Turkey‘ — affirms that government-backed human rights abuses took place on a massive scale. Across 72 pages, Amnesty documents the many victims of systematic violence at the hands of the state police, corroborating its case against the ruling party by making clear Turkey’s obligations, under both national & international law, to protect — not effectively crush — the basic democratic right to protest peacefully: Continue reading “Mass Torture On The Streets Of Turkey”

‘Cruel, Inhuman, Degrading Treatment On A Massive Scale’

THE RECENT RELEASE OF the aptly-titled ‘Contempt for Freedom’ by Physicians for Human Rights (PHR) documents in great detail the disproportionate use of force by the Turkish state police in response to the anti-government protests this year. The unparalleled demonstrations in June were ignited by the ferocious police attacks on a sit-in in Taksim’s Gezi Park in late May. Over the course of one week, what began as a peaceful occupation to halt an unauthorized dig to make way for a controversial shopping mall, rapidly escalated into nationwide unrest, driven by shocking reports & images of excessive police action flooding social media, alongside a largely silent mainstream Turkish media &, not least, by an overly blunt reaction from the ruling AKP.

As the accompanying press release from the New York-based NGO outlines, police “attacked independent medical personnel who courageously provided care to the injured in accordance with international medical ethical standards and Turkish law.” In addition to violating the principle of medical neutrality — tantamount to a serious breach of the Geneva Conventions — PHR’s conclusion points to Turkish police deliberately firing tear gas canisters directly at protesters as a systemic mode of attack.

Published on Weds. 25.09.13, the 32-page report bases its findings on research conducted from 25 June to 2 July in İstanbul, the heart of the protests, & in the capital, Ankara. Working primarily with the Turkish Medical Association (TTB) & the Human Rights Foundation of Turkey (TİHV), the PHR team reviewed 169 cases of physical & psychological evidence, as well as interviewing 53 victims & witnesses of police violence. The damning conclusion: Continue reading “‘Cruel, Inhuman, Degrading Treatment On A Massive Scale’”

The Roots Of The Gezi Trees Lie In ‘Ekümenopolis’

NO ONE SAW GEZI Park coming. Least of all the government. After more than a decade in power, the ruling Justice & Development Party (or AKP, by their Turkish acronym) literally tried to bulldoze over İstanbul residents’ rightful concerns for their local environment. And when that didn’t work, out came the teargas. For many citizens, at least 2.5 million who protested in June in all but two of Turkey’s 81 cities, the rallying cry was that it was never about a park. Acknowledged nationally & internationally (except by the government & its febrile supporters), the cause of the unprecedented unrest was state-sanctioned police brutality and, by extension, the arrogance of the prime minister. But before the excessive use of teargas, the beatings, & the tent-burning morphed a 4-day-old park sit-in into the political faultline that is now Gezi, initially it was all about trees & peaceful resistance to the AKP steamroller of blind urban development. And if one person did see that coming, it was filmmaker İmre Azem. Continue reading “The Roots Of The Gezi Trees Lie In ‘Ekümenopolis’”

RedHack: In Their Own Words

TURKEY’S OWN WIKILEAKS, REDHACK, have barely been out of the headlines since the year began. Although formed in 1997, the socialist hacktivists and their declaration to be the “voice of the oppressed”, only caught the glare of the Turkish media just over four months ago.

At the tail end of February, the Hürriyet Daily News revealed that a little-known “left-wing Turkish group” had successfully hacked servers belonging to the Ankara Police Dept. What followed was not just a leak of “informants” held on police databases. but also the embarrassing revelation that police in the nation’s capital used “123456” as their “secret” password.

From there on in, the high-profile hacks have kept on coming. To date, the list of their online victims includes controversial Islamic cleric Fethullah Gülen; the Turkish Armed Forces; milk production firms implemented in the poisoning of hundreds of school children; a national religious newspaper; as well as government ministries for the Interior, the Family, and, most recently, of Foreign Affairs.

With the latest news that an inceasingly irate special prosecutor is threatening to have the media-savvy hacktivists re-designated as “terrorists”, İ.D. thought it timely to to take a look behind the red masks of the men (and perhaps women) behind the headlines.

The following interview took place on 27 June, before the Foreign Ministry hack. Originally conducted in Turkish, TV host-producer-journalist Hıdır Geviş asked and fielded questions to RedHack over 20 minutes on Twitter. Published in full on the following day, here it is in English courtesy of — and many thanks to — the İ.D. translation dept. (all women): Continue reading “RedHack: In Their Own Words”

‘My Body, My Decision’

PROVOCATIVE. POWERFUL. INSPIRING. Just some of the many words that sum up “My Body, My Decision”, an online protest against the upcoming abortion bill, due to be presented to the Turkish parliament this month. With a comfortable majority in the house, the ruling Justice & Development Party — better known by its Turkish acronym, AKP — look set to pass their drastic cut on the time limit, in place since 1983, in which a woman can legally abort the foetus, from 10 weeks down to four.

Alongside the AKP’s rising no-holds barred approach to molding the nation — riding on the crest of their unprecedented 3rd term of office & much-touted “model democracy” for the Middle East — their latest crack at pleasing their core voter base (conservative / religious / Islamic / Islamist — take your pick) has brought a storm of idignation onto the streets, as well as online.

Entering the fray from the outset, one of the few independent news sources in Turkey, (who also report in English), kickstarted their own campaign of outrage with staff members scrawling their message to the AKP goverment across their own bodies & posting the rather creative results on their website. Sensing the mood, Bianet then opened their platform to the public: Continue reading “‘My Body, My Decision’”