27 Academics Arrested
On Friday, police detained 27 academics in Turkey for signing a declaration for peace, demanding that the government end its operations in the southeast of the country and renew peace talks with the outlawed Kurdistan Worker’s Party (PKK). In his continued assault against dissenting opinion, President Erdoğan labeled the signers of the declaration ‘dark people,’ and called on the judiciary to act against this ‘treachery,’ shortly before they were taken into custody. All of the academics were released shortly after their detention, however the investigation against them is ongoing. The academics are charged with terrorism propaganda and insulting the state, they face 1 to 5 years if found guilty.
War in the Southeast Continues
There is no rest in the southeast as Turkish armed forces continue their operations against the PKK. So far hundreds of PKK militants, members of the Turkish military, and civilians have been killed in the ongoing clashes in the southeast of the country. The government’s draconian curfews, sometimes lasting weeks, have made normal life impossible in the mostly Kurdish region of the country. Basic utilities, access to food, education, and medical care are out of reach for thousands of Turkish citizens and thousands of people have been displaced from their homes. Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu, the newly reelected leader of the opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP), drew the ire of government officials at a party rally when he asked: “What is the difference between the photos currently being taken in Turkey’s southeast and those coming from Syria or Lebanon?”
Turkey to Grant Work Visas to Syrian Refugees
Turkey will grant work visas to refugees who have come to Turkey to escape conflict in their homeland. This is great news for the 2.2 million Syrian, and 300k Iraqi refugees who have been forced out of their homes. The new regulations aim at providing a better life through lawful employment for the millions of refugees who are unable to return home, but have exhausted their financial resources. The refugees will also be better protected against labor law violations due to their legal status. The regulation stipulates that no more than 10% of the workforce at any one company be composed of workers with visas obtained in this way, helping to assuage the fears of the local labor pool. The European Union is expected to welcome this move, as it will likely act as an incentive for many refugees to remain in Turkey, rather than risking the dangerous journey to European territory.
Turkey’s Economic Woes are Expected to Continue into 2016
Turkey has experienced a 73% drop in foreign direct investment last year, and the trend is expected to continue into the new year. The US dollar gained 24% in value over the Turkish lira last year leading to a decline in imports which is further exacerbating the situation. To make matters worse, Turkey’s tourism industry is expecting significant setbacks in the coming year. Relations with Russia have deteriorated since the downing of a Russian jet in November of last year, jeopardizing the income from 4.5 million yearly vacationers from the Slavic state. The recent terror attack in Istanbul, at the heart of Turkey’s tourism district, will likely keep many Europeans home as well.
Bombing in Istanbul, 10 suspects arrested
A suicide bomber detonated in Istanbul’s Sultanahmet Square, mere feet from the historic Blue Mosque, at the heart of Turkey’s touristic center, killing 10 German tourists and wounding 15 others. The bomber has been identified as Syrian national 28-year old Nabil Fadli, who is believed to have been linked to the Islamic State (ISIS). Fadli had registered with Turkish authorities as a refugee shortly before the attack was carried out, fueling the stigmatization of the millions of refugees fleeing the Syrian Civil War. Turkish authorities reacted with a surge of arrests targeting ISIS militants. So far 68 people with links to the bomber are in custody, with some of them facing charges of ‘being members of a terrorist organization,’ and ‘voluntary manslaughter.’