Posted on

Turkey’s ‘culture war’: Anger grows as string of events cancelled

Turkey’s ‘culture war’: Anger grows as string of events cancelled

Istanbul, Turkey – It is the height of spring in Turkey, and with that comes a flurry of concerts and outdoor festivals to complement the pleasant weather.

But in recent weeks, a string of events have been cancelled by cities and districts run by the ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Party), leading critics and analysts to accuse the government of attempting to wage a “culture war” in the run-up to next year’s general elections.

The first widely publicised cancellation occurred on May 9 when the governor of the Central Anatolian province of Eskisehir banned all outdoor events for 15 days on the grounds that “terrorist groups were preparing demonstrations”. Eskisehir is known as a lively college town with brimming nightlife and while the city municipality is run by the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP), the provincial governor, like all others in Turkey, was appointed by the president.

The ban effectively cancelled a large festival which was scheduled to take place in Eskisehir between May 12-15, featuring some of the country’s most popular singers.

Meanwhile, iconic Kurdish singer Aynur Dogan’s concert on May 20 in the province of Kocaeli was cancelled on the basis that the event was “not appropriate,” while folk musician Niyazi Koyuncu’s concert in the Istanbul district of Pendik scheduled for May 25 was banned on the grounds that Koyuncu – who is known for being opposed to the government – did not share the “value judgements and views” of the municipality.

Despite enjoying a surge in popularity, singer Melek Mosso’s June 3 concert at a festival in the western city of Isparta was axed by the municipality after two youth associations released a statement alleging that Mosso “encourages immorality,” urging that her show be shut down. Another Kurdish singer, Mem Ararat, had his concert in Bursa cancelled by the provincial governorate for reasons of “public safety”.

“Cancelling concerts by Kurdish singers plays into the recent surge in nationalist, anti-Kurd and xenophobic bent of a lot of the AKP’s rhetoric and policy – an outgrowth of their partnership with the [far-right] MHP – but the general idea of taking the fight to pop music is striking in a country that generally has viewed pop music as an apolitical venue,” James Ryan, Associate Director at New York University’s Hagop Kevorkian Center for Near Eastern Studies, told Al Jazeera.

“There are a lot of AKP voters who watch Eurovision, listen to [doyenne singer] Sezen Aksu, watch [the popular contest show] O Ses Turkiye, and I’m sure there were at least some AKP-aligned voters who held tickets to the concerts by Dogan, Ararat, Koyuncu and Mosso,” Ryan added.

The Directorate of Communications did not respond to a request for comment by Al Jazeera.

But Hilal Kaplan, journalist and columnist for the pro-government Sabah newspaper, said the two organisations that urged for the cancellation of Mosso’s concert in Isparta are, in fact, linked to the Felicity (Saadet) Party, which is among the six opposition parties belonging to a coalition alongside the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP).

“The Saadet Party positions itself in a more religious and more reflexive place than the AK Party. Moreover, after Melek Mosso’s concert was cancelled in Isparta, the Ministry of Culture and Tourism arranged a stage for Melek Mosso to give a concert in Istanbul. Thus by organising a concert for her in Istanbul, the government has created a much larger sphere of influence than in a small Anatolian city,” she told Al Jazeera.

“So it would be misleading to ignore these facts and claim that the events were cancelled by the government.”

Meanwhile, spring festivals take place at numerous universities throughout the country but this year live music performances at the gatherings at Middle East Technical University in the capital of Ankara and Yildiz Technical University in Istanbul were cancelled, officially because three Turkish soldiers were killed in a recent military operation targeting the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK). Both universities are led by rectors who have been appointed by President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

“It’s hard to know the exact motivation behind [all] these cancellations, which is even more disturbing, but I think it’s related to the election climate we are about to enter,” said James Hakan Dedeoglu, a publisher of the independent music magazine Bant and long an active figure in the Istanbul music scene booking and promoting concerts.

“It seems to me it is a way for the forces in the government to show they can do whatever they want. Especially when it comes to answering the needs and requests of the conservative population. And they need to consolidate their voters, especially in this current disastrous economic downturn,” he told Al Jazeera.

Other analysts agree that the cancellations likely stem from a pre-election strategy on the part of President Erdogan, who has slipped in the polls due to Turkey’s ailing economy, with general and presidential elections set for June 2023.

“With the growth being down and inflation nearing triple digits – the highest since Erdogan came to power – and other economic indicators not looking very good, I think Erdogan is going to double down on the culture wars aspect of his brand,” Soner Cagaptay, Senior Fellow at the Washington Institute, told Al Jazeera.

The government has firmly defended its economic record and its controversial interest rate policies, arguing that lower rates will lower inflation and will boost economic growth, exports and jobs – and Erdogan said in a statement on June 6 that Turkey does not technically have a problem with inflation, but with a high cost of living.

And some argue that the cancellations are not linked to a top-down policy imposed by the ruling party.

“The decisions to cancel the concerts and festivals are definitely not the decisions of the government, they are personal decisions made by provincial or district administrators, mayors, governors and district governors,” Tulay Demir, journalist and columnist for Daily Sabah, told Al Jazeera.

“It is definitely not government policy, it is being portrayed by the opposition as if it were government policy.”

But for music publisher and promoter Dedeoglu, the wave of cancellations is deeply worrying.

“[It’s] a horrific and systematic thing the government is doing. And even if this is a temporary and stupid political act, the harm it does to society will last a long time.”

Ironically, the concert bans and ensuing outrage have probably generated a bit of the Streisand effect, in which an attempt to suppress something only brings more attention to it. Melek Mosso continues to perform for large crowds across the country, while Aynur Dogan played on May 28 to a packed house at Istanbul’s pre-eminent outdoor venue, the Cemil Topuzlu Open Air Theatre, singing Kurdish songs to thousands of fans.

“It was a dream, my heart soared from excitement and I was thunderstruck,” wrote Dogan in a heartfelt tweet featuring photos of her Istanbul performance, an indication that music can be difficult to silence when there is a dedicated audience for it.

“Every beautiful word that could be uttered lost its meaning at that moment. Your eyes and faces were more beautiful than a thousand roses and you became thousands of hearts.”

Posted on

Turkey summons German, French envoys over Kurdish militant events, minister says

Article content

ANKARA — The German and French ambassadors to Ankara were summoned to the Turkish foreign ministry to protest events organized by Kurdish militants in those countries, Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said on Tuesday.

Speaking to state-run Anadolu news agency, Cavusoglu said the ambassadors were told of Turkey’s discomfort with the events organized by the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), which is considered a terrorist organization by Turkey, the United States and the European Union.

Separately, Turkey has said it opposes Sweden and Finland’s bids to join NATO over what Ankara calls its harboring of Kurdish militants in those countries, and also over their arms export ban. (Reporting by Tuvan Gumrukcu; Editing by Jonathan Spicer)

Posted on

Turkey embraces TV series, social media, sports events for exports

Turkey embraces TV series, social media, sports events for exports

Turkey plans to engage with a new strategy to promote its brands and goods and looks to embrace multiple channels such as TV and sports organizations, as well as new store concepts, as it looks to extend the range of its exports further to remote markets.

Turkey has over the recent years voiced its determination to boost sales to distant geographies and unveiled action plans.

To ensure greater recognition of its export products, Turkey now plans to engage with TV series and movies, video games and names influential on social media, Anadolu Agency (AA) reported on Sunday.

It cited the draft strategy prepared by the Trade Ministry, which has been conveyed to the related nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) for evaluation.

The Remote Countries Strategy and Action Plan Draft highlights the aim to extend the range of exports and boost sales to 18 countries.

These include the United States, Australia, Brazil, China, Indonesia, the Philippines, South Africa, South Korea, India, Japan, Canada, Malaysia, Mexico, Nigeria, Pakistan, Chile, Thailand and Vietnam.

The total foreign sales to these countries soared by 42.2% year-over-year in 2021, reaching $27.16 billion, according to the data compiled from the Turkish Exporters’ Assembly (TIM).

The figure rose from $18.9 billion in 2020, the data showed, despite the fallout from the coronavirus pandemic and the disruption in supply chains.

Turkey currently holds just a 0.26% share of the $8.2 trillion worth of imports of the 18 target countries, located an average distance of 8,500 kilometers (5,280 miles) from the country.

Ankara foresees further opening up to these markets and increasing exports to the level of at least $82 billion.

Turkey’s overall exports reached a record $225.4 billion in 2021, and the government has revised its target to $250 billion and $300 billion set for 2022 and 2023, respectively.

The strategy envisages the setting up of a support program that will ensure greater visibility of Turkish brands at sports and fashion events, including the Olympics, world cups, motor sports and international fashion weeks.

Turkey plans to back the opening of various concept stores in countries where “pop-up stores” and “pop-up retail” concepts have particularly become widespread and in sectors such as luxury goods.

The strategy projects deep analysis and guides for companies for each of the countries, including potential product groups, investment environment, trade and business policies and market features.

Sub-sectors will be determined and the potentials of these in related countries will be analyzed, followed by a setting of target-focused entry strategies, according to the road map.

Sectoral trade delegations will be paying more frequent visits to the related markets, supported by trips of general trade delegations at least once a year.

Turkey plans to boost financial support for the sectoral delegations and increase the engagements in national, individual and virtual fairs.

The strategy also envisages greater support for advertising activities in printed and visual media, also targeting countries’ consumption channels, shopping malls and chain stores. The activities will seek to particularly bring forward the “Made in Turkey” tag.

Other activities related to Turkish goods and services will include promotions and cooperation with influencers on social media.

TV series and movies, as well as video games, will also be embraced to increase the awareness, driven by cooperation with series and movie actors and placement of products on these platforms.

According to the strategy, Turkey looks to support promoting activities by directing pioneering brands to become sponsors and prestigious international events that will be held in the distant countries.

Events that could increase the recognition of Turkish TV series and film productions in the international arena will also be sought after. And support for participation at such programs, internationally prestigious film festivals, biennials and festivals is planned to be increased.

The Daily Sabah Newsletter

Keep up to date with what’s happening in Turkey,
it’s region and the world.

You can unsubscribe at any time. By signing up you are agreeing to our Terms of Use and Privacy Policy.
This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.

Posted on

Ohio State offers resources and events amid Russia’s invasion of Ukraine

Ohio State offers resources and events amid Russia’s invasion of Ukraine

Tensions between Russia and other nations have been growing for decades, following the collapse of the Soviet Union and expansion of North Atlantic Treaty Organization. Credit: Maxim Guchek/BelTA/TASS/ABACAPRESS.COM via TNS

As the Russian invasion of Ukraine continues, Ohio State has a number of resources to help those impacted, and will host events with information about the war.

Christopher Gelpi, director and chair of peace studies and conflict resolution at the Mershon Center, said learning about the war is an important part of being a good citizen, because everyone has a responsibility to understand how governments, both in the U.S. and overseas, react in times of struggle.

“I see our role in a crisis like this is to bring people together and share the knowledge that our faculty fellows have in a way that is accessible to as wide an audience as possible,” Gelpi said.

An estimated 42,908 people of Ukrainian descent live in Ohio, according to the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2019 American Community Survey.

Ohio State’s “Education for Citizenship” motto emphasizes the university’s commitment to informing citizens, according to the Office of Diversity and Inclusion website. The Office of International Affairs has a list of resources to inform students about the university’s events covering the crisis in Ukraine.

University spokesperson Chris Booker said in an email the Office of International Affairs offers support resources, including counseling and personal well-being services, immigration assistance for international students and information about cyber security.

“Ohio State developed this list of academic and support resources to assist those impacted by the conflict in Ukraine and foster discussion and education across campus,” Booker said.

The Center for Slavic, East European and Eurasian Studies has compiled various academic resources, including books, articles, events and films, that help to better understand the crisis in Ukraine, according to the center’s website. The office will also hold a virtual roundtable Wednesday from 11 a.m. to noon, featuring Polish experts sharing their perspective on the war.

WOSU Public Media and the John Glenn College of Public Affairs will hold an event Thursday at noon called “Dialogue Special Edition: The Russia/Ukraine Crisis,” featuring a variety of speakers and discussions on the possible routes to peace in Europe.

The Mershon Center will host a virtual event March 24 from 3:30-5 p.m., featuring a discussion from Timothy Frye, a professor of post-Soviet foreign policy at Columbia University, about Russian President Vladimir Putin’s role in Russian and international politics, according to the Mershon Center website. Another virtual event hosting 11 speakers who will speak on U.S. and NATO relations with Russia will be held April 8 from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Posted on

Global events to push Turkey, UAE to cooperate in East Med, Libya

Global events to push Turkey, UAE to cooperate in East Med, Libya

The recent changes in the geopolitical situation and a United States that is less committed to the region could push Turkey and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) to work together and focus on pragmatic cooperation in the Libyan crisis and the Eastern Mediterranean, experts said.

Converging interests have driven regional power shifts in the Middle East, mainly led by Turkey and the UAE. Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan (MBZ) visited Turkey for the first time since 2012 in November while President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan paid a visit to the UAE last week.

“Turkey is carrying out normalization processes with actors that emerged in a previous period as an opposition bloc but it can be seen that this process is much more accelerated and moving in a different direction with the UAE,” Mustafa Yetim, a Gulf studies expert at the Ankara-based think tank, Center for Middle Eastern Strategic Studies (ORSAM), said. “This process can have a positive impact on actors that previously were against Turkey and in which the UAE had a significant position, and the crises in which these actors were involved.”

Vişne Korkmaz of Nişantaşı University, on the other hand, underlined that although it is voiced that the UAE is reviewing its foreign policy since the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) normalization with Qatar at Al-Ula, she thinks Abu Dhabi has not given up on its “little Sparta” policy.

Saying that although the UAE is described as a small state, Kormaz said that the country showed that even small states can pursue expansionist policies and that the UAE has built a capacity for this that it still holds.

“However the UAE has seen the limits of the policy it has pursued since 2014,” Korkmaz said, pointing to its Yemen policy as well as its rivals such as Qatar taking greater roles in the region, of which Afghanistan is an example. She pointed further to the geopolitical conjuncture as a reason for these limits and highlighted that the U.S.’ regional policies and its stance affect the country. The U.S. is currently in no position to pursue a policy of polarizing regional states with high capacities, she said.

After years of looking abroad for answers, countries in the Middle East now appear to instead be talking to each other to find solutions following two decades defined by war and political upheaval.

The diplomatic maneuvering signals a growing realization across the region that America’s interest is moving elsewhere and that now is the time for negotiations that were unthinkable just a year ago.

And with the border-locking chaos of the coronavirus pandemic largely behind them, Mideast leaders are now shuffling, talking face-to-face amid a flurry of diplomatic meetings, seemingly eager to hedge their bets.

An intra-Gulf feud that saw Qatar boycotted for years by four Arab countries ended in January at Al-Ula.

Stressing that one of the main and most critical areas in which Turkey and the UAE can cooperate is the Libya issue, Yetim said: “The Libyan issue is critical in that it represents Turkey’s last circle and breakup from regional isolation efforts.” He reminded that the UAE’s involvement in Libya through proxies constituted a peak in the crisis between Ankara and Abu Dhabi and indicated that the UAE could contribute economically and politically to Libya’s restructuring and overcoming the dual structure in Libya through diplomacy.

“We do not have the Libya of 2014, which polarized countries such as Turkey, the UAE, Qatar and Egypt. The U.S.’ main goal seems to be to limit Russia’s presence in the Eastern Mediterranean. Actors such as the UAE and Russia, which supported (eastern-based putschist Gen. Khalifa) Haftar after 2014, have seen that Haftar neither possesses the military nor political power to control all of Libya,” Korkmaz said. Saying that Turkey has good relations with both of the main candidates currently – former Interior Minister Fathi Bashagha and current Interim Prime Minister Abdul Hamid Mohammed Dbeibah, she underlined that the UAE is similarly a pragmatic country. “Therefore, all these factors can lead Turkey and the UAE to act more in coordination in establishing stability in Libya.”

“In the Libyan crisis, the UAE has left its quasi automatic anti-Turkey stance and preferred dialogue and diplomacy after testing Turkey’s resistance in Libya and seeing Turkey’s maritime and military deal with Libya as well as the limitations of the claims of Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Israel, Greece and the Greek Cypriot administration in the Eastern Mediterranean,” Yetim said. He added that the EastMed project, a planned subsea pipeline to provide natural gas from the Eastern Mediterranean to Europe and a project strongly opposed by Turkey, which entered a difficult phase was another factor for the UAE’s change in its policy.

“The fact that normalization in the Eastern Mediterranean such as between Turkey and the UAE, Egypt and Israel has started, shows that regional actors pursuing an anti-Turkey policy, did not gain what they sought from this policy. The EastMed (project) did not take place since Turkey is preserving its civilian as well as military capacities, which allow its presence in the Eastern Mediterranean,” Korkmaz said.

She further reminded that the U.S. withdrew its support from the pipeline project. “Since it was already an economically unfeasible project and was born dead due to the impossibility of realizing it without Turkey, the U.S. seems to have withdrawn from it.” Korkmaz also said that in the midst of tensions with Russia due to Ukraine, Washington is aware of the position Ankara holds in the Mediterranean and the Black Sea.

“Knowing that the problems between regional countries are not ideological, the U.S. has played a facilitating role for Turkey, Egypt, Israel and the UAE to find a win-win ground.”

Turkey wants to see energy as an incentive for political resolution on the island and peace in the wider Mediterranean basin, not a catalyst for further tensions.

“At this point, it can be said that there is a lack of interest from global actors in the EastMed project, which had high costs but was supported to politically isolate Turkey, and that the regional anti-Turkey bloc has broken down,” Yetim said.

Similarly, Yetim emphasized that Turkey is in a stronger position in the Eastern Mediterranean in the face of the Greece-Greek Cypriot duo, which was supported by the U.S., European Union, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Israel and the UAE.

“Within this scope, Turkey being in a normalization process with Israel and voicing that it can play a role in transferring Israeli energy sources to international markets could lead to the UAE supporting this process as Abu Dhabi also started diplomatic relations with Israel with the Abraham Accords.” However this will not come at the cost of the Palestinian issue, he said.

“One of the most sensitive areas in this regard is Libya. Everyone accepts that the next process in Libya cannot be thought separate from Turkey,” Korkmaz said, indicating that all regional countries agree on the need for a healthy transition in the North African country as well as elections.

Syrian civil war

Once ostracized autocracies such as Bashar Assad in Syria, and shunned former top figures such as Moammar Gadhafi’s son in Libya, are back in the political arena amid the still-smoldering ruins of the 2011 Arab Spring uprisings. The Arab countries’ aim to normalize with Assad could pose another challenge to enhanced relations with Turkey as Ankara opposes reestablishing ties with the dictator.

Syria’s Assad has clawed his way back from the precipice. Though the northwestern Syrian province of Idlib remains under the control of opposition forces, Assad controls the rest of the country.

Speaking on the issue, Yetim said on the other side that there is not sufficient data to say that the Syrian issue is a priority in Turkey-UAE relations.

“Turkey is carrying out the process on Syria with Iran and Russia, which are already active players on the field. On the other hand, there is a possibility of normalization with the Assad regime by regional countries such as Jordan or GCC actors such as Oman and the UAE and other steps by these regional countries in this regard can be expected this year.”

He indicated that the issues of terrorism, the Idlib-centered migration problem and the position of the Syrian opposition are the main concerns of Turkey and that the UAE playing a contributing role to ties between the Assad regime and Ankara at a time of normalization could be a positive development.

Posted on

Turkish rock legend remembered with commemorative events – Turkey News

Turkish rock legend remembered with commemorative events - Turkey News

Turkish rock legend remembered with commemorative events

Barış Manço, a Turkish rock legend, singer, composer and a well-known television host, has been commemorated with a series of events held in Istanbul where he died 23 years ago.


An event was held by the Istanbul City Lines, but the commemoration took place on the Ahmet Hulusi Yıldırım ferry this year, as the ferry bearing the name of Manço was under maintenance at a shipyard.

The singer’s wife, Lale Manço Ahıskalı, and his younger son, Batıkan Manço, could not attend the ceremony held on the ferry, which sailed to the Bosphorus in the morning, because they were in isolation due to COVID-19.

The legend’s other son, Doğukan Manço, attended the ceremony with a limited number of students from the Science and Art Education Centers and dozens of fans who wanted to pay respects to the late artist.

While some people were dressed up as Manço, wearing the same make-up and costumes he once wore, the ceremony ended with prayers at his grave.

After having a successful career by reimagining traditional Turkish folk songs in rock and roll music, Manço died of a heart attack in 1999, just before the release of his album “Mançoloji,” celebrating his 40th year in the music industry.


Millions of people had gathered in Istanbul for his funeral.

baris manco,