For The Los Angeles Times: As the time for afternoon prayers approaches, Onder Soy puts on a white robe and cap and switches on the microphone in a small 19th century room adjoining the Hagia Sophia. Soon, Soy’s melodic call to prayer rings out over a square filled with tourists hurrying to visit some of Turkey’s most famous historical sights before they close for the day. The room Soy is in — built as a resting place for the sultan and now officially called the…Continue Reading “Voices grow louder in Turkey to convert Hagia Sophia from a museum back to mosque”

For The Los Angeles Times: Last month’s constitutional referendum may have yielded a victory for President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, enshrining vast powers for him and his Justice and Development Party, or AKP, but the results were far closer than his supporters were expecting, largely because of growing discontent within Turkey’s conservatives. Erdogan has counted on conservatives’ support for more than 14 years, but his authoritarian style of governance and his pragmatic foreign policy are pushing a segment of Turkey’s Islamists to turn against him. “The…Continue Reading “Erdogan’s authoritarian style and pragmatic foreign policy turn some Turkish Islamists against him”

For FSRN: The government of Turkey carried out a fresh series of raids this week, arresting another 1000 people and purging the police force of more than 9000 officers allegedly connected to the US-based cleric who President Recip Tayyip Erdogan blames for last summer’s attempted coup. The country remains under a state of emergency, extended after protesters took to the streets decrying what they say was fraud in the recent referendum. The plank of constitutional reforms that would grant President Erdogan much of the powers…Continue Reading “Turkish opposition continues to contest referendum results”

Turkish Voters Take to the Seas

For Foreign Affairs: Istanbul — On a clear evening in Istanbul’s Besiktas district, a dozen police officers eyed hundreds of people as they packed a private ferry on the Bosphorus. The passengers were attending an event to mobilize support for a “no” vote on a constitutional referendum scheduled for April 16. Equally wary of the police and any potential pro-“yes” saboteurs, a pair of organizers patted down each passenger before allowing him or her aboard. “It’s not going to be a fair vote, so we…Continue Reading “Turkish Voters Take to the Seas”

For The Los Angeles Times: Ankara, Turkey — Light snow fell as Nuriye Gulmen carefully rested a whiteboard next to Ankara’s Human Rights Memorial, a statue of a seated woman reading a book. “Day 48. We want to return to work,” she wrote with a marker on the board, as a dozen protesters glanced at the pedestrians around them, looking for plainclothes police who might thwart their demonstration. Since a failed coup attempt in Turkey on July 15, the government has imposed a state of…Continue Reading “Protest, get arrested, get released, then start again: One woman’s fight against Turkey’s crackdown on dissent”

A Kurdish Problem

For The Boston Review: On the morning of June 7 this year, a car bomb exploded in front of Istanbul’s Vezneciler metro station. Used by tourists and thousands of university students daily, it was a ten-minute walk from my home. Perplexed Turks gathered at the tape strung around the site, watching as the husk of a police bus was towed away, the presumable target of a powerful blast that killed twelve. The closest I could get was the sixteenth-century Shehzade mosque, more than a hundred…Continue Reading “A Kurdish Problem”

For The Los Angles Times: ISTANBUL — The Turkish police officer boarded a crowded commuter bus heading toward Ataturk International Airport in Istanbul and snatched the keys from the driver, leaving him and the passengers in stunned silence. A moment later, the driver at least managed a few words. “I don’t know what’s going on,” he told commuters heading home at 10:50 p.m. last Friday on the E5, Istanbul’s major east-west artery. Almost immediately, dozens of lightly armed police officers showed up, parking their minivans…Continue Reading “In Turkey, frightening moments of a coup attempt, with orders sent via a social media app”

For The Los Angeles Times: ISTANBUL — Nearly two years after shrapnel from a mortar shell hit his family’s Gaza Strip home and wrecked his upper body, Rami Abdusallam can finally move his right arm thanks to a team of Turkish surgeons. Abdusallam, who is from Rafah, at the southern edge of Gaza, said he had been sleeping in his bedroom when an Israeli shell crashed through the home’s roof. “One piece of shrapnel entered my shoulder and came out from my chest, and here…Continue Reading “Residents of impoverished Gaza Strip turn to Turkey for lifesaving medical care”

Why Turkey is still refugees unwelcome

For IRIN News: The joint EU-Turkish action plan to end the migration crisis not only aims to make Europe a much less appealing destination – with threats of detention and deportation for all new boat arrivals to Greece – but also depends on making conditions more tolerable for the 2.7 million Syrian refugees living in Turkey. One of the main factors driving Syrians to abandon life in Turkey and move on to Europe has been Ankara’s reluctance to lift barriers to the formal labour market….Continue Reading “Why Turkey is still refugees unwelcome”

Turks head to Syria to defend Turkmen ‘brothers’

For The Middle East Eye: Nationalist and pro-rebel groups say they are inundated with calls from Turks keen to fight with Turkmen against Russian and Syrian forces ISTANBUL, Turkey – Tens of thousands of Turks have expressed a desire to cross the border into Syria and join Turkmen rebels fighting government and Russian forces in Syria, with hundreds already believed to have joined the battle. According to aid groups who have been funnelling aid to rebel areas, scores of potential recruits now want to go…Continue Reading “Turks head to Syria to defend Turkmen ‘brothers’”