Turkey. The referendum on a constitutional change, as well as the aftermath of the coup attempt in July 2016, characterized the year. But first out was a shooting death at the exclusive Istanbul club Reina, where 39 people died during New Year’s Eve. More than half of the dead were foreign nationals. According to Countryaah.com, the Islamic State terrorist group (IS) took the deed, and a few weeks later a suspected IS man from Uzbekistan was arrested.
In January, the Turkish parliament approved the constitutional amendments that give President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan more power. Of the members, 339 voted in favor of the proposal, while 142 voted against. The amendments to the Constitution mean, among other things, that Erdoğan has the opportunity to remain President until 2029, that the Prime Minister’s post be removed to be replaced by Vice President (s) and that the President can appoint and dismiss Ministers at his own discretion. In May, President Erdoğan returned as party leader of the ruling AKP (Justice and Development Party), a post he was allowed to leave when he became president in 2014 – that post before the constitutional amendment was purely ceremonial and non-political.
In the April 16 referendum on the constitutional amendments, the jas side won a tight victory with 51.4% of the vote against the no-48.6%. The turnout was 84%.
The electoral movement among foreigners became dramatic and as a result of diplomatic developments. In March, Turkey broke its diplomatic relations with the Netherlands after two ministers were prevented from appearing (see Netherlands). Turkish elections were also stopped in Germany. This led President Erdoğan to accuse Germany and the Netherlands of “Nazi methods”.
In the surge following the coup attempt in the summer of 2016, a mass trial in February started against 330 people accused of interference. In April, it was announced that more than 1,000 people have been arrested on suspicion of having links with minister Fethullah G邦len. He has been living in exile for several years in the US but is believed by Erdoğan to be the brain behind the coup attempt. In the same month, about 4,000 civil servants were fired, including 1,000 from the Ministry of Justice and 1,000 army employees. In May, over 4,000 judges and prosecutors got rid of their jobs, accused of involvement in the coup attempt. The day before the anniversary of the coup attempt on July 15, the purges continued with the firing of 7,000 police officers, academics and officials. A total of 110,000 people had been taken care of at the turn of the year and more than 47,000 had been detained for involvement in the coup attempt. At the same time, well over 100,000 people had lost their jobs for the same reason. At the end of December, it was announced that Turkey is now being forced to re-employ 110,000 people following the major purges done by government employees following the coup attempt. Since then, 140,000 lawyers, teachers, civil servants, military and college employees have lost their jobs, of which 55,000 have been arrested.
A Swedish IT consultant, Ali Gharavi, was arrested in early July along with nine other human rights activists who held a workshop to train activists. They were charged with belonging to an armed terror group and at the trial, the prosecutor demanded up to 15 years in prison. Not until the end of October did Gharavi and the other activists be released pending the resumption of the trial at the end of November.
Following the March 2016 agreement between Turkey and the EU that Turkey will prevent Syrian refugees from accessing the EU, more than 850,000 refugees are now receiving assistance in the form of payment cards to buy food and other supplies. It is thus the largest aid program ever funded by the EU. According to the settlement, € 3 billion would go to refugees in Turkey.
When the “Paradise Leak” burst in early November, it turned out that Prime Minister Binal Yıldırım’s sons own two companies based in Malta. It caused the largest Turkish opposition party CHP (Republican People’s Party) to demand Yıldırım’s departure.
In connection with a NATO exercise in Norway in mid-November, modern Turkey’s founder Atat邦rk and President Erdoğan were portrayed as enemies. This prompted 40 Turkish soldiers to leave the exercise in protest. NATO commander Jens Stoltenberg apologized for what could be called a mistake by an individual. The excuse, however, was not accepted by Erdoğan, who said that the mistake could not be “flushed with a simple little apology”.
The regional role of Turkey
The situation in Cyprus has characterized Turkish foreign policy since the 1950s. Following the Greek nationalist coup in Cyprus in 1974, came the Turkish military intervention and occupation of the northern part. In 1983, this part loosened under the name of the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus, which was immediately recognized by Turkey. This republic has since been a de facto state, but has been financially dependent on Turkey because of international boycotts. After 1974, the Greek Cypriot part of Cyprus has been recognized as having sovereignty over the whole island. The situation on the island has since been fixed, and meetings have occurred several times.
The Cyprus conflict has cemented Turkey’s traditionally strained relationship with Greece. The countries have also had several conflicts in connection with the negotiations on a dividing line in the Aegean, including in 1987 and 1996, when a dispute over the right to a small islet off the Turkish coast almost led to war. Greece has also used the Cyprus conflict as an argument to prevent Turkish EU / EU membership.
In 2004, the UN’s attempt to negotiate a political solution to the conflict was stranded. Both sides of Cyprus held a referendum to implement the Annan plan for reunification. 75% of Greek Cypriots rejected the plan, while 65% of Turkish Cypriots said yes. The Turkish Cypriots were promised an improvement in their financial situation, but this was not fulfilled. The Greek Cypriots and Greece continued the almost complete economic and political boycott of the Turkish Cypriots, which led to Turkey refusing Greek Cypriot ships access to Turkish ports. This in turn created problems with the EU, since Cyprus is an EU member.
The changing geopolitical situation following the dissolution of the Soviet Union made Turkey’s international role more important. After the Gulf War 1991, the country made aviation bases available to an allied NATO force protecting the Kurds in northern Iraq. During the Iraq crisis in the spring of 2003, Turkish forces were considering invading Northern Iraq, but left it under pressure from the US and the EU. The reason for the Turkish plans was to officially prevent a large influx of refugees, but the real reason was to prevent Kurdish separatists in Iraq from declaring independence and thus initiating an uprising also in Turkish Kurdistan. The Turkish National Assembly also declined by a margin the US demand to use Turkish military bases in the attack on Iraq.
In the 1990s, Turkey was closer to the Black Sea region and Central Asia. The government of Ankara wanted the country to be the gateway to the West to these areas. In 1992, the Black Sea Economic Cooperation Organization was established on the initiative of President Turgut Özal. Turkey’s political, economic and cultural cooperation with the Central Asian republics, where the population speaks Turkish languages, also became more important.
Following the dissolution of Yugoslavia, Turkey showed a growing interest in the fate of the Muslim population of Bosnia. The country signed a military cooperation agreement with the Muslim government in Sarajevo in 1996. At the same time, a similar cooperation agreement was also signed with Israel. This led to a tightening of Turkey- Iran relations. Turkey has NATO’s second largest army and also has military cooperation with Russia, including the purchase of equipment.
With Western support, Turkey presented itself as a role model, a secular Muslim country with a market economy and multi-party system, unlike Iran, for example. However, the Turkish model cannot easily be transferred to the partially underdeveloped Central Asian republics, who are also not interested in breaking ties with Russia. Turkey’s economic and technological resources are also not sufficient to meet the needs of these countries.
However, Turkey has a close cooperation especially with Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan and Azerbaijan, and Turkey has cooperated with Azerbaijan on a new oil pipeline from Baku via Georgia to the Turkish Mediterranean coast. The oil pipeline was inaugurated in 2005.
Turkey’s giant Euphrates River containment project has created problems with Syria and Iraq, both because it affects the water supply to these countries and because they fear that the water could be used as a political pressure against them. The huge Atatürk dam was opened in 1992, but the entire project was not completed until the turn of the century.