President Donald Trump’s announcement of plans to move the US Embassy in Israel to Jerusalem has inflamed regional leaders and drawn threats of violence against the US and Israel, but in practical terms it changes little.
Both US political parties have long promised to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, and Palestinian-aligned regional forces have long threatened violence against the US and Israel.
Trump’s announcement allows him to tick the box on another campaign promise with no input from Congress and only at the cost of antagonizing the Muslim world, which he seems OK with.
On April 4, Hungary’s Prime Minister Viktor Orban scored a victory in his campaign against Western-backed institutions and companies when the parliament gave him the O.K. to shutter Central European University (CEU) in Budapest.
The move helps Orban tighten his grip on power and may well spell the end for CEU, a prestigious and financially independent institution funded by Hungarian-born George Soros, a U.S. financier who has given heavily to liberal causes around the globe.
In Budapest, tens of thousands of people, mainly students, marched in protest at the treatment of CEU on consecutive weekends in April. But Orban won’t be inclined to back down. His growing control of Hungary’s traditional media ensures favorable coverage for the government and few opportunities for the fragmented opposition to make its case.
Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan this week unveiled his new palace in the outskirts of the country’s capital, Ankara. The gaudy residence boasts 1,000 rooms and apparently cost some $350 million to construct. Its total area, according to the AFP, encompasses some 2,150,000 square feet. Unsurprisingly, such largesse has led to criticism.
Ahead of the complex’s official unveiling, which took place on Turkey’s Republic Day on Oct. 29, opposition politicians declared that they would boycott the event — one deputy said it made Moscow’s Kremlin compound look “like an outhouse.” It has almost 50 times the floor space of the White House.
Activists are also furious that the gigantic complex has been erected in an area that was supposed to be protected forested lands and led to a significant mowing down of trees. Mass protests last year against Erdogan’s government were initially inspired by state plans to build a commercial development in a small park in Istanbul.
Erdogan and his ruling Justice and Development Party (known by the acronym AKP) withstood a string of corruption scandals and triumphed in elections this year, which led to the then-Turkish prime minister taking up the role of the country’s President. The opening of the new palace — dubbed the Ak Saray, or “white palace,” but also a play on the ruling party’s name — is rich with symbolism.
The new structure marks a shift from the Canakya palace in downtown Ankara, which has been the residence of the Turkish president dating back to the republic’s revered founder Mustafa Kemal Ataturk.
Arguably, no Turkish leader since Ataturk has dominated the country’s politics as much as Erdogan, who sees the new palace as an echo of the new Turkey emerging under his watch.
“The new Turkey should assert itself with something new,” he recently told reporters. “The presidential office has been arranged in a very special way, we have paid particular attention to this.”
Until now, the post of the president has been a largely ceremonial role, but under Erdogan it will clearly not be.
The architecture of the palace is supposed to be a blend of modernism with gestures to Turkey’s Ottoman heritage. Here’s Erdogan himself on the structure’s design:
We need to convey the message that Ankara is a Seljuk capital. We paid great attention to that. We paid attention to Ottoman themes in the interior, also adding elements reflecting the modern world. We had it constructed as a smart building. … [Such are] the requirements of being a great state.
The Seljuks were a Turkic tribe turned political dynasty that entered Anatolia beginning in the 11th century AD. They’re considered the progenitors of the Ottomans, who would go on to build one of the most powerful empires in Europe and the Middle East that lasted until its collapse at the end of World War I.
Turkey emerged out of the ashes of that empire and, under Ataturk’s stewardship, went down a very different path: a secular nationalist state that looked to the West and rejected elements of the country’s Muslim, Ottoman heritage.
Erdogan, who critics accuse of inspiring a creeping Islamization in the country, has taken pains to reclaim that legacy. In an interview in 2011, he told me that it would be “self-denial” for Turkey not to embrace its Ottoman past. He went on:
We were born and raised on the land that is the legacy of the Ottoman empire. They are our ancestors. It is out of the question that we might deny that presence. Of course, the empire had some beautiful parts and some not so beautiful parts. It’s a very natural right for us to use what was beautiful about the Ottoman Empire today.
A suspected suicide attack has killed at least 28 people and wounded nearly 100 others in the Turkish town of Suruc near the Syrian border.
The blast occurred in the garden of a cultural centre at about 09:00 GMT, the interior ministry said.
Hundreds of young people were staying there to assist in rebuilding work in the nearby Syrian town of Kobane.
Turkish officials have said initial evidence indicates it was a suicide attack by the Islamic State (IS) group.
Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has condemned the bombing.
Suruc houses many refugees who have fled the fighting in Kobane between IS militants and Kurdish fighters.
The governor of Sanliurfa Province, Izzettin Kucuk, said the authorities were certain it was a suicide attack.
Responding to claims in the Turkish media that it was carried out by an 18-year-old female suicide bomber from IS, he said:
“It is a suicide attacker but is s/he 18 years old? Who is s/he? We don’t know yet.
“We will share the results of our investigation in due time,” Mr Kucuk added.
The Federation of Socialist Youth Associations (SGDF) is reported to have had at least 300 members staying at the Amara Culture Centre to take part in rebuilding work in Kobane.
Graphic images of the scene immediately after the blast were tweeted by the federation.
A photo taken earlier in the day showed the group in the garden, eating.
A statement from the Turkish interior ministry said:
“We call on everyone to stand together and remain calm in the face of this terrorist attack which targets the unity of our country.”
Pervin Buldan, a senior lawmaker from Turkey’s pro-Kurdish HDP opposition party, said:
“Turkish and Kurdish youth had come to cross into Kobane, and there were three or four days of activities planned.”
A journalist from Kobane who happened to be close to the site of the blast in Surac told the BBC that she heard a big explosion.
“When we went there we found a lot of dead people on the ground and a lot of injured,” Shams Shahin said.
“They were talking about two suicide [bombers] going to the cultural centre… and they bombed the place where there was a big number of civilians, children, [and] women.”
Analysis: Jiyar Gol, BBC regional expert
The suicide bomb attack on the Amara Cultural Centre is one of the bloodiest suicide attacks in Turkey in years.
Suruc is a small Kurdish-majority city just a 15 minute drive from the border with Kobane. Kurdish activists in Suruc played a vital role during the siege of Kobane, sending food and medicine to the YPG Kurdish fighters to bolster their supplies.
Many journalists and foreign fighters who wanted to go to Kobane went to Suruc and from there were sent on.
At the time of the attack, 300 young activists were preparing to make a statement and cross the border into Kobane to help to rebuild the city.
Local Kurdish politicians in Suruc blame the Islamic State (IS) group for the attack. IS suffered a heavy loss and defeat in Kobane earlier this year.
Also last month the YPG captured Tal Abyad, one of the most important IS border crossings with Turkey. Kurds believe the militant group wants to take revenge on civilian Kurds inside Turkey.
In June it carried out numerous attacks on Turkey’s pro-Kurdish Party, HDP, during the run-up to the Turkish parliamentary elections. IS is believed to have many sympathizers inside Turkey and they could carry out attacks against additional targets.
Accompanied by the High Commissioner for Refugees Antonio Guterres, the UN Goodwill Ambassador visited the refugee camp on the occasion of the World Refugee Day.
The actress called on world leaders to take actions to end the suffering of the millions of people who fled the war and sectarian conflicts tearing up their country.
“I plead to the international community and leaders of the world to recognize what this moment in mass human displacement means. This is not just another day,” Jolie quoted by AFP as saying.
After meeting wih Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Jolie head to the refugee camps in Mardin and heard the sad stories of people who fled their home country.
“We are here for a simple reason: this region is at the epicenter of a global crisis,” she said.
“We should call this what it is: not just a ‘refugee crisis,’ but a crisis of global security and governance, that is manifesting itself in the worst refugee crisis ever recorded – and a time of mass displacement,” she added.
President Erdogan has accused Gulen of trying to set up ‘parallel state’
US-based Gulen says Erdogan is leading Turkey towards totalitarianism
The Turkish government has cancelled the passport of ally-turned-foe Fethullah Gulen, local media reported on Tuesday, the latest salvo in a bitter feud between the US-based Muslim cleric and President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
Erdogan and his ruling AK party accuse Gulen and his supporters of seeking to establish a “parallel state” in Turkey and of orchestrating a corruption investigation in 2013 which briefly threatened to engulf the government.
Gulen, who denies the accusations, stepped up his own criticism of Erdogan, saying he was leading Turkey “towards totalitarianism”.
CNN Turk said on its website that Turkey had informed US officials on 28 January that it was revoking Gulen’s passport because it was issued based on a “false statement”. Gulen has lived in self-imposed exile in Pennsylvania since 1999.
A Turkish foreign ministry official said he could not confirm the media reports.
The move could bring Ankara a step closer to issuing a formal extradition request for Gulen. Washington is expected to reject such a demand, further fraying bilateral ties already strained over regional policy and US concerns over what some see as Erdogan’s increasing authoritarianism.
Erdogan has already called for Gulen to be deported. In December a court issued an arrest warrant for the cleric, who had been a close ally of Erdogan’s Islamist-rooted party for many years after it came to power in 2002.
After the graft allegations emerged in 2013, however, Erdogan, then prime minister, purged Turkey’s state apparatus, reassigning thousands of police and hundreds of judges and prosecutors deemed loyal to Gulen.
Turkish authorities have also conducted raids against media organisations seen as close to Gulen, triggering criticism from rights groups and the European Union, which Turkey still aspires to join.
Hidayet Karaca, head of the Samanyolu broadcaster who has been jailed since December, said on Tuesday the case against Gulen and senior media executives was politically motivated.
“The police raids and arrests have become part of a strategy by the AKP government to silence the free press. It’s no longer possible to discuss judicial independence in Turkey,” Karaca said in a written response to questions from Reuters submitted through his lawyers.
“Turkey’s Eroding Democracy”, Gulen accused Erdogan – who remains popular in Turkey – of using his electoral successes to ignore the constitution and suppress dissent.
“By viewing every critical voice as an enemy – or worse, a traitor – they are leading the country toward totalitarianism,” he wrote.