To Kill A Mocking Word
When things get gloomy, eat halloumi. That’s our gift slogan for the two-year action plan launched in Cyprus this week to boost global halloumi sales, which is ar-grill-ably the best news we’ve heard lately. Just look at their website.
Good news is in short supply, so here’s some more: Sabiha Gökçen Airport now has a metro line. The same might be true for İstanbul Airport this year as the transportation minister claims we’ll soon get from Taksim to the airport in 30 minutes, which is how long it currently takes the airport bus to, well, get out of Taksim.
If you like our newsletters, support us on Patreon. A big thank you to all our patrons to date. You keep this engine punning!
Freedom’s just another word for nothing left to news, right? There’s a new tune in Ankara as parliament gets back to work with debates over a controversial media bill, mostly referred to as the “Disinformation Law” or “Censorship Law.”
Apart from the positive development that online media journalists will be able to apply for press cards, a detailed examination of the proposed bill by human rights alliance İHOP concludes the law poses “a severe threat to freedom of expression.”
The first two articles of the AKP-MHP bill were accepted Tuesday, and lawyer Veysel Ok said the remaining 38 articles will likely pass in the coming days: “The majority of the parliament is under the control of the government. It will pass,” he told Turkey recap.
Ok, who is also co-director at the Media and Law Studies Association, said once the bill passes “anyone who shares what’s considered to be fake news can go to jail for one to three years.” For anonymous accounts, the sentence is increased by half. These penalties are outlined in Article 29 of the bill, which offers a vague definition for what classifies as false information, and therefore can be anything counter to formal AKP ideology, Ok said.
Journalist associations protested the law Monday, considering it an “attempt to destroy the press.” Though Ok stresses it goes beyond journalists, adding the law also targets NGOs, politicians and regular citizens alike: “It doesn’t matter who shared the information.” For example, he said independent doctors’ unions that publish alternative Covid statistics could be charged with sharing “fake news.”
Ok sees the bill as part of a campaign to crack down on any criticism against the government in the run up to the 2023 election, which will make it increasingly difficult to access independent information, even on social media.
“Turkey will be one color,” Ok told Turkey recap. “We will only get information from pro-government media. This is what they want.”
– Ingrid Woudwijk
From ban to plan
The headscarf was on top of the news cycle this week. CHP head Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu announced Monday his party would submit a draft law that would guarantee the right to wear a headscarf in public. The move is being characterized as an appeal to pious Turks, a segment of the population that has lended less support to the secular party.
For those who think this might receive partisan support, Erdoğan stepped up his game Wednesday, proposing he’d bring the issue to the Constitution first through an amendment. The Turkish leader also recalled the headscarf ban his party helped lift and blamed the CHP and Kılıçdaroğlu, specifically, for supporting the ban in the past.
Erdoğan added: “Let’s not stop here … let’s also strengthen our family institutions, which consist of the togetherness of man and woman.”
Bear with me for a moment
Ankara denounced Russia’s annexation of four Ukrainian regions after Putin’s move last week to absorb the areas into the Russian Federation. The Turkish Foreign Ministry released a statement Friday saying: “we reject Russia’s decision to annex the Donetsk, Luhansk, Herson and Zaphorizhia regions.”
A few days later, Turkey reportedly sought to delay part of its Russian natural gas payments until 2024. With Ankara emphasizing support for Ukraine’s territorial integrity, it remains unclear whether the request will be accepted.
Following seemingly cordial meetings and statements between high-level US and Turkish officials Sunday, the rest of week’s foreign affairs news has been anything but. First up: Sweden, which lifted an arms embargo on Turkey Friday in line with prior agreements to join NATO.
Stockholm sent over a delegation Wednesday to discuss Ankara’s extradition requests, but talks apparently turned sour as the Swedish ambassador to Turkey was summoned the same day over allegedly “insulting content” about Erdoğan that was aired on Swedish public television. Look’s like you’ll have to add a disinformation law to that NATO accession checklist, Stockholm.
In Libya, the Tripoli-based government signed a new memorandum with Ankara that could boost bilateral cooperation on hydrocarbons and gas while potentially infringing Greek sovereignty. Athens condemned the deal, best expressed by this toilet paper rendition of the agreement, though Ankara rejected criticism from both Greece and the EU.
Read more on Turkey-Greek spats in our Weekend reads, but note the latest East Med drama comes as the US adds Cyprus to a security cooperation program, which is creating a fresh layer of tension in the lasagna of grievances that is Ankara-Washington relations. Hold the béchamel, Macron!
Can’t afford, ya dreamin’
When looking at rising prices, a tumbling currency and the increasing trade deficit, you might say Turkey's economy is not stable. At least, that's what the S&P rating agency did while downgrading Turkey's debt ratings last week.
But stability is a state of mind. If you focus on the steady, record-breaking trajectory of Turkey’s official inflation rate, you’ll find a solid line to Erdoğan's latest comments that he still wants lower interest rates.
Most economists argue further rate cuts would lead to higher inflation. Notably, economist Uğur Gürses told Turkey recap there’s still a chance the nation will achieve the central bank’s year-end inflation target of 65 percent, considering the base effect and the “shady” calculations a la TÜİK.
"As TÜİK keeps chipping away at the numbers, a decrease in inflation is an expected thing," Gürses said. "But this does not mean that the purchasing power will increase or that prices go down. Even with a big minimum wage raise, it is impossible to compensate for the losses. With the current economic policies, solving the country's poverty or preventing the middle class' collapse is a dream."
Make twilight of the situation
And in stranger pings, a Karaman university rector warned students not to walk alone at night because “vampires.” He might be watching too many Turkish horror movies – a booming industry by way – but if we know our movie trivia, the culprit is usually the first character to raise the issue.
On that note, we leave you with some top-notch internet strolling: Stefan Leonhardsberger does presidential walks.
U.S. Supreme Court to hear Turkish lender Halkbank's bid to avoid charges (Reuters)
Turkey boosts soft power in Central Asia with Nomad Games (Al-Monitor)
In Congested İstanbul, Electric Scooters Find a Spiritual Home (Bloomberg)
Erdoğan initiates economic gestures ahead of Turkey's critical elections (Al-Monitor)
In Turkey’s Edirne, a Museum Dedicated to Rumelia (Balkan Insight)
Killing of refugee highlights struggle facing Syrians in Turkey (AJ)
Public buildings to be opened in Varosha: Tatar (HDN)
'Türkiye unlikely to embrace US provisions for F-16 sales’ (DS)
Turkey OKs sending troops to Qatar for World Cup security (AP)
Turkey's Erdogan to meet Armenian PM at Europe conference (Al-Monitor)
The Strategies and Struggles of the Turkish Opposition under Autocratization
Reviewing Turkey’s autocratic turn under AKP rule and the strategies adopted by political opponents, analyst Seren Selvin Korkmaz argues the biggest challenge for the opposition bloc in the run-up to 2023 is “embracing an inclusive discourse that attracts supporters of the ruling bloc while keeping its own voters satisfied.” (MEI)
Why Erdoğan Might Choose War with Greece
Academic Ryan Gingeras puts the latest Turkey-Greece tensions in context, comparing Ankara’s rhetoric to Washington’s before the 2003 invasion of Iraq, writing: “In the same way many Americans viewed Iraq as an overripe threat to Middle Eastern security, there is a similarly palpable sense of Turkish exasperation and impatience when it comes to Greek issues.” (WOTR)
Oct 9-13 CHP head Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu will visit Washington DC (background)
Oct 10-11 The Atlantic Council hosts conference in İstanbul titled "Regional Clean Energy Outlook Conference: Advancing climate and security goals"
Oct 13 Trial of journalist Can Dündar resumes in İstanbul (background)
Turkey recap is supported by readers via Patreon, where members get access to our back channel, news tracking tools, calendar and more.
Diego Cupolo, co-founder + editor @diegocupolo
Verda Uyar, freelance journalist @verdauyar
Ingrid Woudwijk, freelance journalist @deingrid
Gonca Tokyol, freelance journalist @goncatokyol
Batuhan Üsküp, editorial intern @batuskup