A City of Imagination, A City under Occupation

by Serra Hakyemez
published in MER287

On a warm winter day in 2018, a young boy was attending to a group of tumbler pigeons on the rooftop of a two-story shanty house on the outskirts of Sur, the walled old city of Diyarbakır in the Kurdish region of Turkey. As the pigeons took off from the ground, the boy grabbed a broom and began to orchestrate how high and wide they would dance in the sky. Well-trained by their little owner, who may sell them in the black market, these domesticated birds momentarily attracted the attention of everyone seated in an open-air teahouse facing the neighborhoods of Sur that in 2016–2017 had been razed following the urban warfare between Kurdish armed groups and Turkish security forces.

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The Destructive Dreams of AKP Urbanism

by Ayse Çavdar
published in MER287

Başakşehir is an emerging district of Istanbul that was planned by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan when he was the city’s mayor in the 1990s. Today it is part of an archipelago of privileged, upper-middle-class religious enclaves that ring Istanbul as part of an urban construction boom overseen by Erdoğan’s Justice and Development Party (AKP) after it became the ruling party in Turkey in 2002. As prime minister, Erdoğan promoted development projects throughout Turkey’s large cities under the framework of urban transformation.

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Extending the Borders of Europe

An Interview with Aurélie Ponthieu

by Aurélie Ponthieu
published in MER286

European policies on refugees and asylum seekers are increasingly restrictive. Borders are effectively being pushed off-shore, extending the problems of border management as far south as possible. Aurélie Ponthieu explains the effects of these measures, including crowded refugee centers on the Italian and Greek borders, deplorable conditions in Libyan detention centers and fewer rescues at sea. Ponthieu, the coordinator of the Forced Migration Team in the analysis department of Médecins sans Frontières (Doctors Without Borders), Belgium, was interviewed by Nabil Al-Tikriti.

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Turkey Dispatch

by Kerem Öktem
published in MER283

Turkey’s Islamist hegemons in the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) have been losing their grip on reality for some time. Anti-Western conspiracy theories have multiplied in the country since the attempted coup by Turkish military officers on July 15, 2016. Members of the religious-political Gülen movement, which split from the AKP in 2013, were involved in the power struggle with the AKP government that culminated in the coup attempt. Since the leader of the Gülen movement, Turkish cleric Fethullah Gülen, is based in Pennsylvania, suspicion has also fallen on the United States. Further confounding the AKP-led government and President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan are the mixed messages coming out of Washington.

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The Story Behind the Rise of Turkey’s Ulema

by Ceren Lord | published February 4, 2018

At the heart of the controversy over Islamization in Turkey has been the accelerated rise and visibility of the Islamic scholars or clergy known as the ulema. Despite the ostensibly secular nature of the republic, the majority of Turkey’s ulema are employed by the state’s Directorate of Religious Affairs (Diyanet İşleri Başkanlığı). The directorate is the country’s chief Islamic authority and holds a legal monopoly on Muslim religious life and activity.

Imperiled Academics in Turkey

by Jeannie Sowers
published in MER281

Dilsa Deniz, an anthropologist of the Alevi-Kurdish religion, was fired from her position as an assistant professor at Nişantaşı University in Istanbul after she signed the Academics for Peace petition issued in Turkey on January 10, 2016. More than 1,000 scholars signed the petition to protest the Turkish government’s disengagement from the peace process with the Kurdish opposition and the killing of civilians in several Kurdish towns. Under the auspices of the Scholars at Risk network, Deniz left Turkey in August 2016 to take up a visiting lecturer position at the University of New Hampshire.

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The Emergence of Alevi Televisual Activism

From Secrecy to Visibility

by Nazlı Özkan
published in MER281

Back in the 1990s there was this columnist writing for the Hürriyet newspaper in Turkey, Hikmet Bil, who published reader letters in his column. He would sometimes receive questions like if an Alevi woman could marry a Sunni man. Not that we were particularly interested in the question itself, but we would archive that column for the mere reason that a newspaper had the word Alevism used in a sentence…. Now think about seeing Alevism on television today—it is that big of a difference for us.

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Fear and Loathing in Turkey

The Backstory to Erdoğan’s Referendum

by Ümit Cizre | published April 26, 2017

Shortly after the failed coup attempt of July 16, 2016 in Turkey, I received a frantic text message from a lifelong friend, Lale Kemal. Lale is a prominent freelance journalist with an impeccable 37-year record of non-partisan reporting and analysis. She is an internationally known expert on Turkish civil-military relations, having written for Jane’s Defense Weekly since 1991. Now, Lale texted from Ankara, she was under arrest for her columns in Zaman, which, until its court-ordered seizure four months before the putsch and its closure soon thereafter, was one of the highest-circulation daily newspapers in Turkey.

Turkey in a Tailspin

The Foiled Coup Attempt of July 15

by Ümit Cizre | published August 10, 2016

The epic blunder of the military coup attempt on July 15 has sent Turkey into a tailspin. President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, the prime minister and cabinet, the parliament, the top military brass, the intelligence community and the police all became aware of the plot at the same time as ordinary Turkish citizens—after it got underway. The president and his team have conceded a massive intelligence failure. Unable to reach the head of the armed forces or the chief of the National Intelligence Agency, Turkey’s political leaders were spared death or arrest thanks purely to the gross incompetence of the would-be coup makers.

Financial Citizenship and the Hidden Crisis of the Working Class in the “New Turkey”

by Basak Kus
published in MER278

Substantial political, economic and social changes have taken place in Turkey since the early 2000s. Much of this transformation has happened on the watch of the Justice and Development Party (best known by its Turkish acronym, AKP), which has been in power since 2002. Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, founder of the party and president of the country since 2014, has proclaimed several times that the old Turkey is no more and a new Turkey has taken its place.

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