Turkey. The deteriorating security situation in Turkey was reminiscent of the middle of January, when a suicide bomber struck and killed 13 foreigners near the Blue Mosque in Istanbul. It was the first time an attack was directed directly at the tourism industry. An Syrians with links to the Islamic State (IS) terrorist sector were identified as perpetrators.
According to countryaah, the current population of Turkey is 84,339,078. Several terrorist attacks hit the country during the year. In Ankara, around 70 people died in two suicides in February and March. Both times, the radical Kurdish group TAK took action but the government pointed out the Kurdish guerrilla PKK and its Syrian counterpart YPG. In June, only 11 people died in another act near a tourist destination in Istanbul, and then three suicide bombers killed 45 people and injured over 200 in a coordinated attack on the city’s Atat邦rk airport. In August, more than 50 people died in a suicide attack against a Kurdish wedding party in Gaziantep that IS suspected to be behind. The perpetrator was reported to be no more than 14 years old. In December, around 45 people were killed in a concerted attack targeting mainly police in Istanbul; TAK also took on that attack.
At the same time, the fighting between the army and the PKK continued to flourish the previous summer, mainly in the southeast, where both fire fighting and recurring minor attacks demanded many lives. The government was criticized for lack of respect for human rights, with media attacks and arrests of suspected opponents, including Kurdish politicians.
In March, according to thereligionfaqs, Turkey signed a deal with the EU to take back all refugees traveling to Greece without a permit, in exchange for an additional € 3 billion in support and a promise that the EU would receive Syrian refugees. The agreement also contained other conditions, which included, among other things, visa freedom to the EU against respect for human rights in Turkey. As a result, the future of the agreement remained uncertain. According to the UN, the number of refugees in Turkey rose to over 3 million during the year, which was more than any other country in the world.
Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu resigned as head of government and party leader of the AKP government party at an additional party congress in May. It was rumored that Davutoğlu opposed President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s plans to change the constitution and introduce presidential rule, but in a speech he voiced his loyalty to the president. Binali Yıldırım was appointed new Prime Minister.
Members of Parliament in May decided to waive their right to prosecution immunity. According to critics, the purpose of being able to bring members of the pro-Kurdish party HDP to justice was accused of conspiring with PKK. Later in the year, several HDP members were also arrested.
Another explosion near tourist destinations in Istanbul in June claimed the lives of eleven people, including seven police officers and four civilians. Later that month, three suicide bombers killed 45 people and injured over 200 in a concerted attack on the city’s international Atat邦rk airport.
On July 15, a military attempt to overthrow the government was staged. The coup makers attacked the Parliament and the Security Service in Ankara, blocking off roads both in the capital and in Istanbul. They announced in state TV that they had taken power. After a day, the coup attempt had failed. Around 250 people were killed during the coup attempt, many of them civilian, and over 1,400 injured.
President Erdoğan immediately pointed out the recent terror-stamped movement led by Muslim preacher Fethullah G邦len, a resident of the United States. The purges that have already taken place in, among other things, the military, the media and the legal and educational system have now exponentially escalated: tens of thousands of teachers, journalists, police, civil servants and others were shut down from their jobs within a week. A state of emergency was introduced and Erdoğan talked about reintroducing the death penalty.
It was obvious that the suspects had been mapped even before the coup. However, Erdoğan received strong support from large sections of the public: hundreds of thousands of Turks participated in demonstrations in support of the government and in protest against the coup makers.
By the end of the year, over 100,000 people had been laid off from their jobs and around 36,000 were detained. Nearly 200 magazines, TV channels and other media companies had been shut down, as were about 300 non-governmental organizations working for human and civil rights. Several hundred companies had been seized, accused of terrorism. More than 40 suspected cupmakers were arrested.
The outside world reacted critically, and not least the already strained relations with the EU grimaced. In November, the European Parliament voted to freeze negotiations on Turkey’s EU membership. It was essentially a symbolic distance, in practice the negotiations had been down for a long time. The relationship was also complicated with the United States. After the coup G邦len, Turkey demanded extradition from the United States, with no results, causing great anger. The two NATO countries also had different views on the war in Syria, where the US in the YPG militia saw an ally in the fight against IS while Turkey saw a terrorist group.
The ambassador of the Russian Federation was murdered in December at an art gallery in Ankara. The perpetrator was a police officer who shouted slogans about the war in Syria before he was shot dead. Although the Russian Federation and Syria supported opposite sides of the war, they then jointly initiated a new ceasefire in Syria.
Lifetime of hundreds of soldiers
In a mass trial held in Sincan, 337 soldiers and others are sentenced to life in prison. Almost 500 people have been charged with involvement in the failed coup attempt in 2016, which claimed 251 lives. 60 defendants are now sentenced to many years in prison and 75 people are released. The trial, which has been going on since 2017, has been about events related to the Akıncı air base near Ankara, where General Hulusi Akar (today Minister of Defense) and others were held captive during the night of the coup. Fighter jets taking off from the base also carried out bombings against government targets. To date, more than 2,500 life sentences have been issued for people accused on various grounds of being coup plotters. Arrests are still taking place and other mass trials are underway, among them one that revolves around the activities of the Presidential Guard.
Advisers demand the release of known prisoners
One of the founders of the ruling AKP party is leaving his post as adviser to President Erdoğan following disagreements over how well-known imprisoned critics of the regime should be handled. Bülent Arınç, former Deputy Prime Minister, demands the release of the patriarch Osman Kavala and the leader of the pro-Kurdish party HDP Selahattin Demirtaş (see 18 February 2020 and 19 June 2020). Both have been detained for several years and are seen as examples of the weakening of the rule of law in Turkey under Erdoğan’s leadership.
Anger over presidential visit to Cyprus
President Erdoğan pays a visit to Cyprus, which is called a provocation by Greek Cypriots and a “political picnic” by others. He makes a trip to the beach in Varosha, which became a ghost town in connection with the events that divided the island in 1974. The visit coincides with the fact that it has been 37 years since the Turkish Cypriots declared their own republic. Erdoğan says he would prefer to see a permanent division of the island into two states (see October 6, 2020).
Turkey is convicted of illegal arrests
When ten employees of the opposition newspaper Cumhuriyet were arrested in 2016, the Turkish state violated their freedom of expression, the European Court of Human Rights finds. The arrests took place in the wake of a coup attempt and all ten were detained for months after being accused of supporting terrorism (see 7 October 2020 and 12 September 2019). According to the court, each of them is entitled to 16,000 euros in state damages.
Exchanges of key items after currency exchange
The president’s son-in-law Berat Albayrak is leaving the post of finance minister after two years, officially for health reasons. The day before, the central bank governor was forced to resign, by decree of the president. Behind both shifts is the collapse of the Turkish currency, which has fallen in value by 30 percent against the US dollar since the turn of the year. Since Albayrak became minister in 2018, the reduction in value has been 45 percent. Opinion polls have shown that the public did not have much confidence in his ability to handle the country’s economy. The new Minister of Finance will be Lütfi Elvan, a mining engineer and economist who, among other things, has previously been Minister of Transport. At the end of November, it is announced that Albayrak will also step down as chairman of a fund that manages state assets valued at almost $ 23 billion.