European Union still a priority for Turkey: 4th Reform Action Group Meeting concludes

Will Turkey’s strained EU relations turn to a new phase after the 4th Reform Action Group Meeting? Ministers from Turkish cabinet have announced an optimistic vision for relations with the union.

(Original on dokuz8NEWS)

Turkey’s ambitions to become a full member of the European Union had been increased in early 2000s with the governing Justice & Development Party announcing that their will strive for full membership; however in the past decade the relationship between the union and Turkey has been deteriorating. Since freezing of the accession negotiation talks in 2017, it has been a matter of curiosity.

President of France, Emmanuel Macron had said in a meeting of French ambassadors in Paris  that Turkey’s EU ambitions should be questioned as “President Erdoğan’s Turkey is not the same Turkey as that of Atatürk’s. Turkish president is repeatedly confirming his Euroskeptical pan-Islamist agenda everyday. Are we still sincerely going to talk about Turkey’s potential EU membership? We should instead establish a strategic partnership with Turkey rather than full membership to the European Union.”

French president’s statement had been met with reaction by the Turkish Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Today four minister of the Turkish cabinet have announced willingness to restart EU process with a fresh spirit at the 4th Reform Action Group Meeting which has been held at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs European Union Directorate where the minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu let the meeting with participation of Minister of Justice Abdülhamit Gül, Minister of Treasury & Finance Berat Albayrak and Minister of Interior Süleyman Soylu.

MINISTERS SPOKE AFTER THE MEETING

After the meeting a press conference has been held and the Minister of Foreign Affairs Çavuşoğlu said “we have dialogue meetings with the EU officials, we will restart these meetings. Whether we become members of the EU or not, it has always been a priority for our government. We have agreed to speed up reform process. We will take faster steps with less bureaucracy. We are also planning to closely cooperate with the Council of Europe. We will focus on matters where we can get results, such as restarting Customs Union negotiations and visa liberalization talks.”

After Çavuşoğlu, Minister of Justice Abdülhamit Gül has said “we have taken a decision to implement the reforms in Turkey, put down chapters 23 and 24 separately on the table. We will start applying the target schedules in judiciary as of Monday. We will continue extensive dialogue with the EU; we will improve conditions for the human rights and liberties in Turkey.” Gül also announced that the AKP government had had reservations regarding human rights but these reservations have now completely been lifted; announcing that the EU representatives have also been notified of this development.

Minister of Treasury & Finance Berat Albayrak took the floor following Gül saying “as of yesterday we have restructured 60 Billion Turkish Liras worth of debt belonging to 5.5 million tax-payers, and this shows that there is a successful process going on here. The statements targeting our economy have raised tension in Turkey; Europe has responded very well in line with alliance spirit after political attacks targeted our economy. We have seen that this process could not possibly be explained with Turkey’s economic situation alone.” Albayrak continued his speech announcing that in the coming week he would visit France and the week after United Kingdom, to be followed by Germany the following week. Albayrak also announced that another major country will soon be visited, but the dates would be announced after confirmation.

WAR AGAINST TERROR MARKS THE EU MESSAGE

DlxfhqHW0AIkfq7-768x579Minister of Interior Süleyman Soylu finally came up and said “Turkey has been loyal to March 18 agreement; we do know that neither Turkey is the old Turkey, nor Europe is the old Europe. This meeting verifies our country’s willingness for reform. There has been a positive spirit in the meeting. Turkey on the one hand has been trying to fulfill the criteria for EU and on the other hand continue a war against terror which is also in line with EU’s security prospects.” Minister Soylu also stated that there are heavily armed special-ops wandering on streets of London, comparing the situation to Turkey “21st century is dictating certain things to us”.

Although during their speeches ministers have all uttered the significance of restarting EU process for the Turkish government, only the Minister of Justice Abdülhamit Gül has uttered the words “human rights,” “liberty,” and “judiciary” while Minister of Interior Süleyman Soylu has mentioned “war against terror” 5 times and only said “reform” once.

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“Avoid Social Media” says Religious Affairs Directorate

Turkish Directorate of Religious Affairs has called on citizens to avoid using social media and indulge in “fasting on online relations during Ramadan” when majority of muslims in Turkey will be fasting from dawn till sunset.Turkish Directorate of Religious Affairs called for citizens to spend time with families instead of engaging in conversations & activities on social media.

This is in fact a development I would interpret within the framework of the upcoming elections. While government has almost absolute control on conventional media and the sole platform where critical voices can be heard is social media, combined with the rising tide of TAMAM movement online in the last few days, I consider this as an attempt to prevent non-governmental voices from reaching larger parts of the society.

Information & Communications Technology Authority’s chairperson Ömer Fatih Sayan has given an interview to Haberjtürk explaining that Facebook is ‘more’ innocent than Twitter. Sayan said “for the moment being we are just warning, but if we detect any kind of manipulation, we are ready to do whatever it takes, till the end.”

Sayan has also stated that Facebook has taken necessary steps in Turkey, and also clarified that they have active channels of communication with Facebook representatives, further explaining that Facebook is currently in process of adjusting to Turkish legislation. Sayan further said “Twitter is deliberately running from us, allowing manipulation through bot accounts” implying the government’s claims that TAMAM was a social media operation with foreign roots, while analysis of trending topic reveals actual persons behind tweets.

“We will block access to Twitter if necessary, if the Supreme Board of Elections asks us to prevent manipulation; but we do not want to be on the agenda with such an action. We have also issued an order to GSM operators, and our special teams to intervene in national cyber-threats will be ready 7/24” Sayan further stated.

However, I also do not think that the threats of blocking access or calls to not use social media will be taken too seriously by the recipients of this message. The main reason behind this statement is, despite Islamification through hands of the state has been on a raging wave in the last 15 years, as Dr. Volkan Ertit has also been stating for several years, secularisation at the social level has been spreading much stronger than government policies.

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Hunger strike & oath of silence in solidarity with imprisoned trans LGBTI+ activist Diren Coşkun

On day 20 of trans LGBTI+ activist Diren Coşkun’s “indefinite hunger strike”, her friend and one of the organisers of Istanbul Pride Irmak Keskin had started a 3-day hunger strike and taken an oath of silence. Today is the second day of strike, and the interview conducted with her prior to her starting the strike (on February 12, 2018) is today published on dokuz8NEWS. In order not to divert attention from Diren Coşkun, Irmak Keskin has requested her images not to be shown, but instead images and illustration featuring Diren.

(Original on dokuz8NEWS)

 

Can you please introduce yourself ?
Irmak is a plain person who has participated in various rights-struggles over the years. A simple person who has joined in a solidarity action for the primary subject, Diren.

What was your motivation in starting a 3-day hunger strike and taking an oath of silence?

Diren Coşkun

Diren is not the only trans-inmate in prisons. What she is going through is experienced by many LGBTI+ and vegan prisoners. In fact her resistance and outcry might seem about herself but the earnings of this struggle will open new doors for many prisoners. While there are other options outside the bars and starting hunger strike is a debatable action, but the news we receive of Diren point to her feeling forsaken. For that reason the methods and practicalities can be debatable yet this is a way of showing her that she is not alone nor forsaken. This action in truth is not just for Diren either. She is just one person who suffers this violence and the outcry holds multiple people within.

What is oath of silence? What caused you to take it?
Oath of silence is a passive resistance. It is a way of silent, non-reactive and tacit action against those staying listless seeing Diren. Homo-Sapiens’ survival possibility increases as long as they stick together; and can co-exist through communication. Especially in the modern & post-modern world, where a person feels connected to everyone and have possibility of communication with all, and when “unconnectedness” is cause for panic, it feels like standing still quietly in silence in front of the people is the best kind of answer. My oath of silence also covers all kinds of written and verbal communication, sign language and other methods of interaction.

What impact do you expect your action to have?
None of us think this process is going to cause miracles immediately, but we do expect Diren’s basic needs to be considered and answered to begin with, through raising more voices and spreading reactions in society.

What would you add as a final remark?
I wish for a process that will increase and expand the level of hope for all of us, with many earnings.

 

*This interview has been conducted the day before Irmak Keskin started her 3-day hunger strike and took oath of silence, on February 12, 2018.

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Hunger strikes spread in solidarity with imprisoned trans-activist Diren Coşkun

Imprisoned trans LGBTI+ activist Diren Coşkun’s friends have started joining in hunger strike in order for Diren to be granted basic demands regarding treatment in prison. On day 20 of Diren Coşkun’s “indefinite hunger strike” and day 8 of Kıvılcım Arat’s hunger strike, Irmak Keskin has also joined in for a 3 day hunger strike.

(Original on dokuz8NEWS)

Trans LGBTI+ activist Diren Coşkun had been arrested due to conclusive prison sentence for a court case that accused her of “membership to terror organisation” and “propagating terror” on August 14, 2017 at the Diyarbakır Courthouse, where she had gone for a bureaucratic procedure and got detained at random ID controls.

SOLITARY CONFINEMENT FOR TRANS INMATE DİREN COŞKUN

Diren Coşkun

Diren Coşkun’s LGBTI+ organisation Keskesor had announced that as she refused to be put in the men’s prison, she had been kept in solitary confinement cell in Diyarbakır T Type Prison. Moreover, Keskesor had also announced that while Diren had been harassed by gendarme soldiers on her way to prison, the prison guards had treated her kindly and addressed her as Ms. Diren, her name of choice, and not the one on her male-ID card.

HUNGER STRIKE FOR VEGAN DIET, SURGERY AND AGAINST SOLITARY CONFINEMENT

Later when Diren was transferred to Tekirdağ Prison, she was placed in a single cell which is called “coffin-room” among inmates, her friend Kıvılcım Arat announced on January 30, 2018. Arat also added that due to denial of basic demands such as release from solitary confinement, removal of blocking an approved surgery and being allowed vegan-diet in prison, Diren Coşkun had started “indefinite hunger strike” as of January 25th.

DIREN’S FRIENDS ALSO JOINED THE HUNGER STRIKE

On day 12 of Diren Coşkun’s hunger strike, her friend Kıvılcım Arat who is also a spokesperson for LGBTI+ movement in Istanbul, has announced that she is also starting hunger strike in support & solidarity of her imprisoned friend. Arat has announced “as long as we tolerate a life slipping away before us, we will be responsible for death” and called for extensive solidarity for meeting Diren’s demands.

Kıvılcım Arat / LGBTI+ Istanbul Spokesperson

These demands are not so big as to harm the political authority or undermine the government. She is vegan and is being denied a proper diet. For months, she was given only boiled potatoes and tomatoes. Diren is calling for a basic and humane demand. I only want people to show some sympathy. Has anyone ever starved for 15 days just to see a doctor? All should consider that. When someone goes to get a medical examination they get exhausted, and there is a person who has been starving herself to death for 15 days, just to get treatment.

 

HUNGER STRIKE & OATH OF SILENCE

Irmak Keskin, one of the organizers of Istanbul Pride has announced that on February 13, she would also start a 3-day solidarity “hunger strike in silence” to draw attention to Diren’s demands. On her social media profiles, Irmak Keskin announced “against all odds and all those remaining in silence towards this, I will renounce my existence in a way and I will take an oath of silence and have no written or verbal communication throughout my 3-day hunger strike.” Keskin also reiterated that her strike is to not only draw attention to basic needs and demands of Diren Coşkun, but also to raise awareness regarding all LGBTI+ inmates that are being treated inhumanely in prisons.

HUMAN RIGHTS ASSOCIATION CLOSELY MONITORS DIREN

Long term human rights defender, former chairperson of Human Rights Association Istanbul Branch, Eren Keskin has visited Diren Coşkun in prison and stated that she had started hunger strike as a final resort, as she has been denied her basic demands and even her right to be transferred to an open-prison. Lawyer Keskin quotes Diren saying “I do not trust this system, I have lost all faith in the system and thus started indefinite hunger strike.” Lawyer Keskin also adds that Diren has been utterly disturbed by male prison guards searching her, especially when they touch her.

Lawyer Keskin also notes that she has tried to convince Diren against starting such a hunger strike, yet Diren continues living on water and sugar only. Lawyer Keskin observes Diren’s condition being psychologically and physically weakened but dedicated, wishing to see social solidarity. Lawyer Keskin finally notes that Human Rights Association’s Commission against Racism & Discrimination will closely monitor Diren’s condition.

 

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Banned theatrical play ‘Just a Dictator’ live-reading took place in Turkey

Actor Barış Atay’s one-man play “Just a Dictator” had been banned prior to its staging in Artvin on January 9, and across Turkey on January 24. Despite the increasing pressure, Acting Union, actors, theatre-houses are reclaiming the play, and conducting live-reading in numerous locations.

(Original on dokuz8NEWS)

The one-man theatrical play “Just a Dictator” was written by Onur Orhan, and staged by actor Barış Atay. The play has been staged since 2015, mostly in Istanbul’s Kadıköy and received joyous support from viewers who were energised after the play. Play asks the question “who is going to win in the end” and brings the question of social criticism forward.

‘Just a Dictator’ Poster

On January 9th 2018, the play was deemed as “undesirable” by the provincial governorship of Artvin, a city on the Northeastern Turkey. Only a couple of days after the initial cancellation of permits and later banishment of the play in Artvin, the home-stage of the play in Istanbul’s Kadıköy has been visited by police.

Theatre houses in Istanbul’s Kadıköy criticised the police visits stating that they are being pressured not to stage the play on January 12th. Three days later, main opposition Republican People’s Party CHP’s Istanbul deputy Sezgin Tanrıkulu filed a parliamentary question asking if actor Barış Atay’s one-man show “Just a Dictator” had been banned with governing Justice & Development Party AKP’s orders.

Before this question was answered, the home-stage of the play, Emek (Labour) Theatre House was surrounded by police forces, to prevent illegal and unpermitted staging of the play. Actor Atay reacted against the police siege around the theatre house and also criticised the next door pizzeria for filing complaint to the police that the stage has a back-door which might be used for bringing in viewers and actors.

Acting Union came forth and criticised the banishment of the play across Turkey, with a written statement which reiterated that actors are faced with an “all-out-censorship” that targets all kinds of cultural activities, on January 24.

On January 26, a call had been made for live-reading of the play “Just a Dictator” in numerous locations, on the evening of January 29th at 8.30 local time. ‘Do not Touch my Theatre Platform’ which is the organising committee of the civil disobedience action as live-reading of a banned play, has announced that they have received more than 2.000 requests for the script, which caused their e-mail servers to collapse, and they have uploaded the text online.

On the evening of the live-reading, several online radio stations have live-broadcasted the readings from several locations, while many actors have been present in various locations reading for their audience.

Actor Barış Atay’s twitter account has been suspended by Twitter during a live-streaming of his banned one-man show “Just a Dictator” and no further explanation has been announced yet.

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January 10 Working Journalists’ Day observed in Turkey

January 10 has been celebrated in Turkey as the Festival of Working Journalists between 1961-1971. The day has been renamed as “January 10 Working Journalists’ Day” in 1971 after several rights of the journalists have been revoked by Military Coup Council.

(Original on dokuz8NEWS)

On January 4, 1961 the legislation regulating the rights of journalists under the Bill 212 has been published in the Official Gazette allowing certain rights and legal protection to journalists in Turkey. The week following, on January 10 became the Festival of Working Journalists in commemoration of journalists’ solidarity that emerged out of this legislation.

Nine media owners who reacted against the obligations and liability that emerged with the Bill 212 had protested the “Press Bill” and refused to print newspapers for three days. Journalists who refused to be silenced by media owners’ decision, agreed to print their own newspaper. On January 10 journalists staged a rally to reclaim their rights and press freedom, printed their own newspaper under the title of PRESS (BASIN) on January 11, 12, 13, 1961.

January 10 had been observed as the Festival of Working Journalists for the following decade until March 12, 1971 military coup. The coup council renamed the day as January 10 Working Journalists’ Day.

On Working Journalists’ Day, many journalists have shared messages on social media with a hashtag that said “We are not celebrating” reminding everyone over 150 journalists in prison and thousands of journalists who have been disemployed due to political pressure.

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Jerusalem Rally got intervened in Istanbul

Jerusalem Rally that had been announced by youth groups in Istanbul was intervened by police and dozens were detained. Youth groups read out a press statement defying US President Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as capital of Israel.

(Original on dokuz8NEWS)

On Saturday evening there was planned a “Jerusalem Rally” in Istanbul’s Kadıköy at Ayvalıtaş Park, which was announced as “unpermitted and would not be allowed” by police.
 
Police forces that outnumbered the protestors had surrounded the Ayvalıtaş Park and presented an image that no-one would get out of the square if the protestors did not comply with the orders.
 
Police representatives stated that this is an illegal assembly to which protestors responded that their rights were assured by the President who had said that none of the constitutional rights would be limited under the State of Emergency Rule.
 
Police announced that a press statement would be allowed but a rally would not be, as it was not a “walking path” between Kadıköy’s Ayvalıtaş Park and Süreya Opera House on Bahariye Avenue.
 
Members of the progressive youth groups took a decision to move the press statement to final destination and walked to Süreya Opera House, formed the press statement stand and read out their messages against US President Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.
 
By the end of the press statement, members of the youth groups started running towards the police shouting slogans, provoking an intervention. Special-ops squads and riot police started shooting rubber bullets and spraying gas. Dozens have been detained at the intervention, including several journalists.
 
Reporters who were filming the police intervention were also subjected to intervention and numerous journalists’ cameras were pushed down by undercover policemen.

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New Istanbul Mayor to be Voted by Municipal Council

Istanbul Metropolitan Mayor Kadir Topbaş has resigned on September 22, starting the process of a new vote on the municipal chair.

Upon Justice & Development Party (AKP)’s Istanbul Metropolitan Mayor Kadir Topbaş has resigned, municipal council will need to vote on a new mayor. On September 28, Thursday the municipal council will cast their votes on parties’ candidates.

Republican People’s Party (CHP) has nominated Ekrem İmamoğlu, currently the mayor of Istanbul’s Beylikdüzü district. İmamoğlu’s first promise for election has been to establish a governance respectful of Istanbul’s air & sea.

 

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Demands for Secular Education under Violent Attack in Istanbul

An angry mob attacked activists and parents who demanded secular education, during a protest against new educational curriculum provisioning more religious education in Turkey.

Education Movement had called for a protest against educational curriculum changes, starting at 5 pm in Istanbul’s Kadıköy -a pro-secular district which would not be a site for violent protests. The protest would have simultaneous action in other cities such as Ankara and İzmir. As the protest group started gathering, a counter-protest group also formed. The violent mob equipped with iron-clubs and stones attacked the education activists and parents who demanded a more secular curriculum to be in place for 18 million students in Turkey. Kadıköy locals have joined in and defended the protestors against violent mob and attackers were pushed back.

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Women Protest against Pastures Being Opened for Construction

 

 

One may get whatever percentage of votes he may… Eventually, if he diverges from the path to prosperity and peace for the bases, he will turn the people against himself. This photo below is from a protest in Turkey’s Kütahya; the women against turning pastures into zoning for constructions. They rely on those pastures to continue their lives and have been thankful for being allowed space, if one were to read their voting behaviour until recently. Things seem to be making a turn; and today we are presented with this immensely powerful image reminding us of more vibrant times.

 

 

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