News of the Week – 22nd February 2016

Source: Today’s Zaman, Mustafa Kirazlı

Source: Today’s Zaman, Mustafa Kirazlı

Our latest weekly news digest, summarizing everything you might have missed last week in Turkey and the region.

Ankara Bombing and the PYD

On Wednesday, February 17th a terrorist attack claimed the lives of 28 people in Ankara. The attackers detonated a car bomb in the middle of a busy intersection killing a number of Turkish soldiers, who were in transit at the time, as well as civilians in the area. The Turkish government has thus far blamed the People’s Protection Units (PYD), a group of Syrian Kurds with ties to the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK). Despite this, another group, the Kurdistan Freedom Falcons (TAK) has claimed responsibility for the attack. Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu claims that TAK is only claiming responsibility for the bombing to shield the PYD from international criticism. The PYD however have asserted their innocence and argued that the government is framing them in order to legitimize ongoing air-strikes against PYD-held areas in northern Syria, close to the Turkish border.

Russia and Turkey Continue to Bump Heads over Syrian Issue

The United States blocked a Russian petition to warn Turkey against sending military forces into Syria. This is the latest episode in the continually worsening relationship between the two world powers. Turkey has expressed repeated interest in forming an international coalition to enter Syria with ground forces, however, no one seems to have taken them up on the offer so far. Turkey, for its part, blames failed peace talks in Syria on Russia’s continued support of the Assad regime, and their bombing of civilians in Aleppo. NATO has warned reportedly Turkey against conflict with Russia.

Turkish Military Continues to Bomb Kurdish Positions in Syria

The Turkish military continues to shell PYD positions within Syria despite pleas from the international community–including the US, Russia, the EU, and the UN–for them to stop. The broad support for the PYD can be explained by their world renown as some of the most effective forces battling Daesh. Turkey remains committed to halting the territorial gains of the Kurdish PYD, and has said on numerous occasions that they would not allow a Kurdish state to break away on its southern border. The recent bombing in Ankara seems to have given the Turkish government more political weight in regard to this unpopular military operation.

Erdoğan Blasts the US for their Support of the PYD

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has criticized the United States government for its support of the PYD, claiming that the explosives used in the Ankara bombing came from US arms delivered to the Syrian Kurdish group. The US has denied this claim, saying that no proof to this effect has been shown, and that the US only provided munitions to the PYD, not actual arms. Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu followed the President’s play on February 20, when he demanded that the US support Turkey without any “ifs or buts.”

CHP Pulls Out of Talks to Rewrite Constitution

The main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) has pulled out of talks with the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) regarding the rewriting of the Turkish constitution. Although all of the major parties agree that the constitution should be rewritten, as the current one is a product of the 1980s military coup, they cannot agree about the specifics of rewriting it. A bone of particular contention is the AKP’s desire to transform the roll of President, now a largely ceremonial position, into a strong executive authority. Opposition parties mostly agree that such a move would lend power to the increasingly authoritarian policies of President Erdoğan and the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) has also pulled out of the cross-party commission due to the CHPs protest. Despite the CHP pulling out, Prime Minister Davutoğlu has said that the rewriting of the constitution will continue.

Three Turkish Journalists Released by the PKK

Three Turkish journalists were released after being held for 48 hours by the PKK. The journalists were kidnapped while working in the Nusaybin district of the Mardin province. All three, working for the state-run Anadolu Agency, were apprehended by PKK militants while filming inside a PKK military stronghold without the groups’ permission. They were released unharmed.

Protests in Artvin Continue to Escalate

Crowds of nearly 2,000 activists protested in the Black Sea city of Artvin on Sunday, bringing the protests into their seventh day. The protestors were gathered to demonstrate against the construction of a gold mine in the area. The largely rural eastern Black Sea city is famous for its huge forests and natural beauty, all of which, activists argue, would be diminished by the development plans. Environmentalists threw stones at the police, who responded with rubber bullets, tear gas, and water cannons. The Turkish authorities have enacted a ban on all new arrivals to the city, barring hundreds from joining the environmentalists.

Leave a Reply