Turkish court rejects municipal name change to Kurdish

A Turkish court has halted a decision by a municipal council to use a city’s original Kurdish name on its signboards.

At the request of the Tunceli Governorship Office, the Erzincan Administrative Court has stopped the execution of the decision of Tunceli’s municipal council to replace the current Turkish name of the city, Tunceli, with the old Kurdish one, Dersim, on the municipal signboards.

The decision adopted by a majority on May 7 in the council’s meeting chaired by newly elected mayor Fatih Mehmet Macoglu from the Turkish Communist Party (TKP).

The municipality announced the decision on Wednesday in a written statement, declaring that the motive behind the move was to maintain the culture, history, and faith of the province.

However, the governor rejected to ratify the decision and apply to the Erzincan Administrative Court in a bid to stop the execution of the decision. The court ruled unanimously in line with the governor.

Macoglu, Turkey’s first communist mayor faces his first public controversy following the decision. Some criticized Macoglu as he allegedly re-opened old wounds by switching Tunceli to Dersim on municipal buildings.

Dersim is known for its rebellion in the country’s history, a conflict that still reverberates today.

Following Tunceli’s name-change on the municipal buildings three days ago, the hashtag #DersimDegilTunceli, (Not Dersim, it is Tunceli) has been trending on Twitter.

Further, some popular figures criticized the change, defining it an unnecessary move.

“What is that? What happens if we call it Dersim, or Tunceli? A new and unnecessary conflict has been created. Mayor Fatih Macoglu, was this appropriate amid all these problems? Wasted energy!!!” tweeted Fatih Portakal, a news anchorman at Fox TV.

“There is no such province officially called Dersim in Turkey and will not be. Turning a blind eye to this communist and separatist conspiracy will invite ghastly disasters, and open doors to dangers that [could threaten the country’s] survival,” said Devlet Bahceli, leader of Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) and election ally of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

In response to the raised voices the mayor released a video message arguing that Dersim banners, along with Tunceli signs had also been placed at the entrance of the municipal building during the tenure of the previous mayor from the opposition People’s Democratic Party (HDP) who was replaced with a state-appointed administrator by the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) in 2016.

“The governor has the last say over the council’s decision. We do not aim at politicizing the issue, but just follow what our people want,” Macoglu said.

Dersim remains a sensitive topic in Turkey

Tunceli, an eastern city with pre-dominantly Kurdish and Alevis population is a province more commonly known to locals by its Kurdish name, Dersim.

Dersim was home to serious conflicts between the Turkish state and the locals during the early years of the Turkish Republic.

The province witnessed insurgencies by the local people against the state in the 1930s when the founder of the republic, Mustafa Kemal Ataturk was alive and in force.

Some historians interpreted the Dersim insurgency as a resistance to the reforms such as promoting strong Turkish nationalism especially in Kurdish-majority areas, brought by Ataturk in the area, where people had lived under local administration for hundreds of years.

In 1935, a Law on Administration of the Tunceli Province was enacted, changing Dersim’s name as Tunceli and displacing people in the region. The law, however, sparked even stronger resistance by the locals against the republic.

Ataturk ordered military operations in the region in 1937 and 1938 to quash the rebellion which led to mass killings of some 13,000 people, including children and women, according to official figures or some 40,000 according to US sources.

Governor’s approval needed to rename Tunceli Municipality says mayor

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Opposition CHP reveals repeated irregularity that caused election rerun

The main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) announced on Friday that they found a repeated “irregularity” relating to the upcoming rerun election in Istanbul, which was the exact reason for the March 31 local poll to be annulled by Turkey’s election authority.

Canan Kaftancioglu, CHP’s Istanbul district executive, claims that her party has detected four ballot box officials in Istanbul’s Beykoz district who, contrary to the law, are not civil servants, an irregularity that served as the basis for the Supreme Electoral Council (YSK) to annul the Istanbul vote results on May 6.

In contradiction, Binali Yildirim, candidate of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) in Istanbul, defined the repeated irregularity a “normal” situation.

Following CHP’s narrowly-won mayorship on March 31, the YSK decided to rerun the mayoral election in Istanbul on the grounds that some ballot box officials were not public servants, which drew rebuff among dissidents of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

CHP’s Kaftancioglu condemned the YSK members for the replication of the faulty conduct, emphasizing their irresponsibility.

“They [the YSK judges] appointed the ballot box committees [officials]. They annulled the elections, saying those officials were not civil servants. Now, again, they appointed ballot box officials for the June 23 [rerun elections] who are not public servants,” said Kaftancioglu.

The CHP executive added that they had reported the Beykoz irregularity to the District Election Board and that they were monitoring all-district lists of polling officials as Friday was the last day to appeal to the boards. AKP’s Yildirim responded to the query regarding the CHP-detected irregularity, saying, “Well, CHP, appeal [the irregularity] and [make the YSK] correct it.

Previously, the lists of polling officials were not shared with political parties. However, now the YSK provides the parties with lists to correct and prevent past errors, and the parties can change the irregularities. This is a normal situation.”

Yildirim was also questioned about the possibility of a second rerun if it was found, again, that some appointed polling officials were not civil servants.

“There will be no such thing. There is still time to change [the lists for ballot box officials]. They [CHP] object to it. In Istanbul, there are sevenfold more public officials than needed,” Yildirim replied.

No merit in Istanbul election decision says Imamoglu

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Wikimedia takes Turkey’s ban to Europe’s top rights court

Following a Turkey ban of Wikipedia, the non-profit organization that runs the popular site has now taken the matter to Europe’s top human rights court, the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR).

The Wikimedia Foundation argues the ban is a violation of the fundamental right to freedom of expression as guaranteed by Article 10 of the European Convention.

The foundation announced on Thursday it had filed an application before ECtHR in a bid to lift a blanket ban on the online encyclopedia in Turkey.

Katherine Maher, Executive Director of the foundation told journalists in a press call the move comes in the wake of two-year efforts where there were numerous good faith discussions and lobbying campaigns to put pressure on Ankara to restore access – with the Turkish authorities to overturn the block on the site has not borne fruit.

Access to online platforms including Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, and WhatsApp have been temporarily blocked in Turkey many times since 2014, usually after incidents such as mass demonstrations, terrorist attacks, or the 2016 coup attempt.

However, the Wikipedia ban stayed permanent for more than two years now. Since 2017, all language versions of the site have been inaccessible to Turkish IP addresses.

In April 2017, Ankara blocked access to Wikipedia over two entries the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) said linked them to terrorist activities, one is related with the Syrian war and the other is on state-sponsored terrorism.

Turkey demands the entries be removed, while Wikipedia declines to take down the content.

At the time, Ahmet Arslan, then Turkish Minister of Transport, Maritime Affairs, and Communication, said the ban would remain in place as long as Wikipedia refused to remove the content, which he argued unfairly presented the country as a supporter of Islamic State (ISIS) militants.

“The order blocking Wikipedia referred to only two articles, which have continued to be open for improvement by anyone and edited by volunteers around the world despite the block. It is unclear what, if any, concerns remain,” a Wikimedia statement reads, explaining that articles could be edited, but not removed due to the values of democratizing knowledge.

In the conference call, Stephen LaPorte, Legal Director of the foundation, said the two relevant articles had been “improved with more resources and neutral language added by volunteer editors around the world” but the ban had remained in place.

Wikipedia is one of the most widely-accessed sources of knowledge in the globe. It is read 6,000 times every second. Its articles are, on a daily basis, edited and improved by more than 250,000 volunteers from across the world who make good-faith efforts to cover all sides of a given topic, including controversial ones, to make people understand topics fully and transparently.

Before the ban, more than 300,000 articles in Turkish had been published on the site. Wikimedia applied to the Turkish Constitutional Court (AYM), the highest court in the country when the lower courts upheld the block. Turkey’s top court, however, has failed to respond in the two years. Wikimedia thus has taken the case to the ECtHR which will decide whether or not the application is admissible.

Based in Strasbourg, the ECtHR is an international court set up after World War II to uphold the European Convention on Human Rights, of which Turkey is a signatory. Turkey, therefore, is under the jurisdiction of the ECtHR, though the AKP government Ankara routinely ignores verdicts, paying fines instead.

Digital world under AKP control in Turkey

“Censorship of websites and online social media has reached unprecedented levels and the authorities are now trying to bring online video services under control,” declared Reporters Without Borders (RSF), a Paris-based international media rights group.

In 2018, the AKP regime expanded the powers of the Radio and Television Supreme Council (RTUK), Turkish watchdog, to include overseeing online content providers, which amounted to digital censorship.

The move came, the critics say, after the online world – websites, blogs, social media, etc. –emerged as the center of opposition in Turkey, notably in the aftermath of the failed coup in 2016.

Regulations grant the RTUK watchdog authority to issue or reject broadcasting licenses without reasoning, giving it complete power over digital content, Kerem Altiparmak, a human rights lawyer said.

Turkey bans access to online game mocking election authority

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Isbank CEO calls for adherence to free market rules

Adnan Bali, the CEO of private lender Isbank, has warned the Turkish government to adhere to free market rules as the Lira continues to weaken amid the crises between Ankara and Washington.

In his speech at Gaziantep Chamber of Industry, Bali warned Turkish authorities that fully implementing free market rules is crucial.

“Free market means wealth, abundance. Controlling the market means impotence, constraint. From the moment you share the feeling that something is limited, the human organism begins to demand over this need with its defensive reflex.”

Bali explained that the government’s pressure on the market might provide short relief but cannot help businesses in the long term.

Bali mentioned that media coverage of the Central Bank of Turkey’s repo auction and the Russian S-400 defense missile system negatively affected the Turkish currency, with the Lira trading at 6.10 against the US dollar.

“Overseas investors are not negative about Turkey, but if the Turkish lira weakens to 6.12 or more, this will not be positive for the market,” he stated.

“Turkey will overcome difficulties”

By mentioning Turkey’s very strategic location, which is close to important markets, Bali said that Turkey will overcome all the hurdles with its younger generation.

“Turkey generated 7 million new jobs over the past 10 years, a figure more than the total population of several EU countries. We must create 800,000 new jobs every year to keep unemployment stable,” he stressed.

The tension between Ankara and Washington is increasing as the US government fears that Turkey will operate both the F-35 and the Russian S-400, thereby threatening NATO’s defense system. Turkey’s Supreme Election Board’s re-run decision on the Istanbul election, the drain on the central bank’s assets, and the trade war between the US and China are some of the factors that have had a huge negative impact on Turkey’s economy.

Turkish economy bosses have recently introduced rules to support the lira, such as imposing a one-day settlement on some purchases of forex by individuals.

Turkish government forces banks to lend to the treasury –  report

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