17 June 2014 News Roundup

Photo credit: www.cnnturk.com

ISIL’s seizure of Mosul and the Turkish Consulate in the city has occupied domestic and international news this week. Concerns regarding security and safety of the people in the region along with changing sectarian dynamics alerted Turkey and the Western powers. Meanwhile, the main opposition parties declared their joint Presidential candidate Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu who is not well known in the mainstream politics. The announcement has been interpreted as the declaration of the victory of the AKP’s candidate, who is likely to be PM Erdogan. ISIL’s advancements in Iraq influenced export and affected Turkish economy.

80 Turkish citizens were taken hostages by the Al-Qaeda linked organisation ISIL or ISIS (the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant) last week.

This includes the Turkish Consul General Öztürk Yıldırım and 48 other Turkish diplomats, their families and security personnel, who were taken hostage at the Turkish Consulate of Mosul, and 31 Turkish truck drivers taken while transporting oil from to in Iskenderun, south-eastern Turkey.

ISIL has recently been progressing in Northern Iraq, extending its influence over 10 Iraqi cities, including Mosul the second biggest city of the country, and Tikrit, 140 km from the capital. Around 500,000 Iraqi citizens have fled since ISIL took over the region.

Turkish government is on alert. Ahmet Davutoglu shortened his visit to New York where he planned to attend UN meetings, in order to organise a General Assembly and meetings with the leaders of opposition parties. The People’s Republican Party (CHP) accepted, but at the same time called for the resignation of the Minister.

There is also widespread confusion regarding the fate of the hostages. Chairman of International Transporters Association Fatih Şener declared that the truck drivers had been released, which was later revealed not to be true.  An Iraqi consulate worker said the 49 Turkish diplomats were safe. An ISIL commander made the same affirmation, saying the hostages were in safe condition and that they will soon be returned to their country and that their intention was not to harm other Sunni Muslims but rather to fight the Shiite government. One Turkish truck driver managed to escape on 14 June. Later, it was reported that the man had not been kidnapped with the 31 drivers.

Turkish media was also concerned about the situation of the Turkmens in Iraq, caught in the fight between the different factions, be it the Kurdish and ISIL forces, or the government. The leader of the Iraq Turkmen Front in Telafer claimed that the Iraqi police executed 60 Turkmens in custody. They added that ISIL had taken control of Telafer as of 02:00 on Monday morning. As the threat of ISIL increased in Telafer, and as ISIL sent news for Sunni Turkmens to evacuate their houses, Shiite Turkmens also fled the city. It was also claimed that the Iraqi army bombed the health centre in Telafer three times via helicopters.

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Despite the lack of news covering them, the fate of the Christian minority in Iraq and their treatment by ISIL, as well as other forces in the region is to be watched. Many priests are already fleeing cities that ISIL is currently controlling and is expected to advance to.

UK Foreign Minister William Hague MP declared it was out of question to send British troops, saying Iraqi forces are efficient enough to handle the threat. The US has declared that they are ready to help Iraq, without mentioning sending military troops. NATO-chief Anders Von Rasmussen has called for the immediate release of the hostages.

The introduction of Iranian military as assistance to the Iraqi government has brought about a new dimension in the conflict. It has brought Iran and the US to the same side in Iraq, while possibly adding to the sectarian nature of the conflict. (The conflict is as much political and geo-strategic driven as sectarian, however, the more elements enter the conflict with sectarian concerns, the more this sectarian and religious side of the conflict could consolidate).

Meanwhile, these incidents might be an opportunity for the Turkish, Syrian and Iraqi Kurdish organisations (PKK, PYD and KRG) to strengthen their position in the region and their links with the West, given that they have the means to fight the progression of ISIL.

Turkey’s main opposition parties announced their joint candidate for the upcoming Presidential Election in August. 

The former head of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu will compete against PM Erdogan although the Justice and Development Party (AKP) has not officially declared Erdogan’s candidacy officially. The CHP and the Nationalist Movement Party’s (MHP) announcement came as a surprise as it is suggested the members of both parties were not informed of this candidate, which caused questions with regards to transparency of internal relations of the CHP and the MHP. As Ihsanoglu is not known as a politician supporters of both parties have been critical of this candidate.

Turkey’s Supreme Court of Appeals has overturned on procedural grounds the aggravated life imprisonment ruled for Pinar Selek.

It is the third time that a decision against Pinar Selek has been overturned by the Supreme Court of Appeals. Selek has been tried for the bombing in Mısır Bazaar, Istanbul in 1998, where seven people died.

Members of the People’s Democratic Party (HDP) met Ocalan last week.

HDP Group Leaders Pervin Buldan and İdris Baluken had visited the jailed leader of the PKK, Abdullah Ocalan last week. Now, they are going to Kandil to report the details of their meeting with Ocalan, to the armed organisation, PKK.

A policeman has been put under disciplinary charges fired due to his sexual orientation.

When the policeman appealed to Court of Cassation, after having appealed and rejected at all other lower level courts, for the reversal of his notice, the Ministry of Interior Affairs made a statement; “The law filters such public servants”.

On a different note…

  • According to two reports (by BIA Media Monitoring and DISK Media Syndicate) at least 319 journalists have been left without a job since the beginning of 2014.
  • A 15 year old boy was killed in a protest in Adana. It was claimed that the protest was for the Lice events last week. The cause of death has not been confirmed, however it is reported that the boy died of several fractures in the skull.
  • The Turkish Consulate in Libya has temporarily halted its operations.
  • Some 22 establishments in Alaçatı, on a touristic Aegean cost, have been handed over to the Diyanet (Presidency of Religious Affairs). The CHP accused the government of spoliation and started legal action.
  • The Urban Design Directorate of the Istanbul Municipality did not approve the advertisements of some swimsuits and underwear companies, who had to cut the models’ legs from the pictures.

The advancement of ISIL has led to chaos in terms of transportation, and disruptions to economic activity in the region.

Transportation from Turkey has halted to Mosul and Kirkuk. It is being reported that transporters and the like are going to Erbil as a safe place from the fighting. Many workers on Turkish construction sites have also fled to Erbil. There are camps being built for people that are fleeing to Erbil.

Especially the furniture sector is expected to be hit by the developments in Iraq. Approximately 40% of Turkey’s furniture exports go to Iraq. For example, 300 of the 500 firms in the province of Inegol, a significant centre of furniture production in Turkey, are exporting to Iraq, and significantly to Mosul. Most exporters have stored the furniture and are waiting for the chaos to calm, in order to start exporting again.

Meanwhile, according to the March data of TURKSTAT, consumer expenditure has increased during the first three months of 2014, compared to the same period last year. The expenditure of households increased by 9%.

  • In March, after the local elections, consumption of households increased by 4%, compared to last month.
  • Expenditure on food and drinks increased by 5% compared to the previous month, however decreased by 1% compared to March of 2013.
  • Consumption of meat and processed meat increased by 8% after the local elections (between February and March), however decreased by 8% since March of 2013.
  • Expenditure on alcohol decreased by 3% compared to February, and by 10% compared to last year.

Industrial revenue index, adjusted for calendar inflation has increased by 17,2% in April, compared to April of 2013.

Manufacturing sector index has increased by 17,5% in terms of its revenue. Meanwhile, mining and stone quarry index has increased by 9%.

Producer Price Inflation has remained stable in May, compared to the levels in April, however it has increased by 11,2% compared to the same month of last year.

News have been released that 358 incentives were given by the government to investors in April. Incentives were given to a total of 4,616,216 TL of investments. Nevertheless, despite the large number of incentives, the CHP Istanbul MP Umut Oran has announced that investments are decreasing.

According to official statistics, compared to last year, in the first quarter of 2014;

  • The number of incentive documents being taken/utilised has dropped by 21% compared to last year,
  • The total amount of investment that the incentive packages have supported has decreased by 28%,
  • The forecasted employment to be generated by the new investments has dropped by 18%.

Unemployment level in Turkey has fallen to 9,7% in March compared to 10,2% in February.

Currently there are 2 million 747 thousand people unemployed in Turkey.

In this regard, the government is drafting a new “Points Formula for Determining the Recipients of Social Welfare”. This new project will be tested in 2014 and implemented in 2015. Media sources also state that the government is planning to give aid in cash to the unemployed recipients of social welfare. This new regulation, which will be based on certain conditions and time frames, is expected to enter into force in 2016.

The central government’s budget was in surplus in May.

The central budget had a surplus of TRY 1,5 billion. According to the official statistics, compared to May of 2013,

  • The government’s revenue increased by 7,6%,
  • Its expenditures by 18,9%
  • Tax revenue increased by 7,3%
  • Expenditures (not including interest payments) increased by 8,2%.


CEFTUS Insights Editors