Our latest weekly news digest, summarizing everything you might have missed last week from Turkey and the region.
1,200 Belgians Banned from Turkey
Over 1,200 Belgian citizens have been blacklisted from entering Turkey. It remains unclear why these citizens were targeted specifically, but most of them appear to be of Turkish descent. According to De Standaard some of those on the list have reported being intimidated by Turkish authorities for standing against President Erdoğan. Belgian authorities have asked to see the list of blacklisted citizens, and the criteria used to determine their placement on said list, but that information is not yet available. This comes shortly after the Turkish Embassy in the Netherlands sent out an email to Turkish organizations in the country asking them to report anyone who insults the president or the nation.
President Erdoğan Defends Secularism
President Erdoğan stunned critics by defending secularism as a necessary part of the forthcoming revised constitution. This comes after Parliament Speaker Ismail Kahraman called for Turkey to drop all references to secularism in its new constitutional draft. Kahraman reportedly asked “As a Muslim country, why should we be in a situation where we are retreating from religion? We are a Muslim country. So we must have a religious constitution.” Erdoğan later claimed that Kahraman was simply expressing his opinion, and that he did not agree. The president went on to say that the state should “have an equal distance from all religious faiths.”
Fighting in Turkish Parliament Stalls Visa-Free Travel Negotiations
A fight erupted in the Turkish parliament between the leading AKP party and the Pro-Kurdish HDP. The fight began during a discussion of the AKP’s proposal to lift diplomatic immunity from all parliament members. This move would affect all MPs with criminal investigations against them, but it widely seen as an attempt to abolish HDP influence in the parliament. Both HDP party co-leaders, Selahattin Demirtaş and Figen Yüksekdağ, would face prosecution for statements they made last year calling for Kurdish self-rule in south-eastern Turkey. The fighting, which sent five parliamentarians to the hospital, made any further business impossible forcing the parliament into an early recess until Monday May 2nd. Among the items of discussion postponed are the passing of laws that would bring Turkey into line with the 72 conditions necessary for the loosening of visa-free travel restrictions for the EU.
Suicide Bombing in Bursa: 13 Injured
On Thursday, April 27th a female suicide bomber attacked Turkey’s fourth largest city Bursa. The attack occurred near the entrance to Bursa’s historic Grand Mosque, close to a massive closed market in the bustling industrial city. 13 people were injured in the attack, although most of these received only light injuries; the bomber herself was the only casualty. So far no group has claimed responsibility for the attack, although Turkish security forces have apprehended 17 suspects in relation to the bombing. Bursa does not attract as much tourism as many of Turkey’s more popular cities, but homes an impressive array of Ottoman era architecture, Turkish baths, and winding streets dotted with beautiful greenery. This attack on what appears to be a less obvious target for DAESH, or the PKK, heightens the sense of insecurity in the country.
AKP’s Executive Board Curtails Prime Minister Davutoğlu’s Power
The AKP’s Executive Board (MKYK) voted on April 29th, to revoke Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu’s power to elect provincial and district party leaders. This power was given to the AKP party leader under the leadership of, now president, Erdoğan. The move comes among rumors that Davutoğlu has not considered the President’s recommendations for such posts, and may signal a larger effort to replace Davutoğlu, nominally the most powerful man in the country. President Erdoğan, the former party leader and co-founder of AKP, is officially neutral in his role as president, however it is widely known that he exerts significant influence over his former party.