Turkish media looks on bright side of NATO summit

With the leaders of the Atlantic alliance meeting at the NATO summit this week, Turkey’s press was always going to be dominated by the narrative of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s fractious relations with his Western allies.

The Turkish president made sure of that on Tuesday before jetting to London for the summit, when he told reporters he would not back down on his threats to block a revision of NATO’s Baltics defence contingency plan unless the alliance coughed up support for Turkey’s battle against the Syrian Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG).

In the end, Turkey appeared to back down. Lithuanian President said Erdoğan had not even raised his demands during their meeting at the summit.

Atlantic Council non-resident senior fellow and Ahval contributor Dimitar Bechev speculated that Erdoğan had obtained some concessions for his silence that remained unannounced.

But all that was apparent from the summit was a line in its declaration stating that “terrorism in all its forms and manifestations remains a persistent threat to us all.”

This was dutifully recorded as a victory for the Turkish president by friendly press outlets back home, which ran headlines on Thursday declaring that Turkey had got what it wanted from the summit. But this time – and compared to the great liberties Erdoğan has taken with NATO allies in the past – the so-called win seemed particularly light.

It did, at least, take the spotlight off the other great dispute Turkey has entered in recent weeks with NATO allies – its signing of a memorandum of understanding with the Tripoli government in Libya in which the two countries delimited their maritime boundaries in the Mediterranean.

Those set by Turkey run close to the Greek islands of Crete and Rhodes and overlap with Cyprus’s exclusive economic zone, to the chagrin of Athens and Nicosia. Erdoğan and Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis met at the sidelines of the summit, but “agreed to disagree” on the matter. This came as little surprise, since Turkey’s energy minister has already vowed to begin drilling in the expanded jurisdiction laid out in the agreement with Libya.

Back in Turkey, violence against women dominated headlines again throughout the week. There was positive news on this front with the sentencing of Çağatay Aksu and Berk Akand for killing 23-year-old student last year. The case may never have come to court if not for the furore that spread across the internet when police initially ruled Çet’s death a suicide.

But the week had another horrific case of femicide, as escaped convict Özgür Arduç stabbed 20-year-old student Ceren Özdemir to death in front of her home in Turkey’s Black Sea coastal city of Ordu.

The killing became the latest of many instances of violence against women to draw outrage from thousands on social media. CCTV footage of Özdemir warily glancing behind her as Arduç stalked her to her home proved especially close to the bone, leading many women to share their own disturbing stories of being followed by men.

Columnists lined up with their takes on the murder, with Hürriyet chief editor Ahmet Hakan providing a ten-item list of ways to tackle the violence that has killed more than 300 women this year.

Conspicuously absent from his list was any hint that the government that has ruled Turkey for the past 17 years should share some of the responsibility. It did not pass without notice that Özdemir’s killer, Özgür Arduç, who had been jailed for killing a child, was held in lax enough conditions to allow him to escape and kill again. Meanwhile, thousands of journalists, academics, politicians and other dissidents continue to rot in Turkish jails.

But this criticism, Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu said, will not bring Ceren back. Friendly media outlets like Sabah were on hand not only to absolve the government of responsibility for the country’s epidemic of violence against women but to praise it for elevating women’s rights.

“Since 2002 (when the Justice and Development Party came to power) there have been dozens of legal amendments to develop women’s status and rights,” said Sabah columnist Şebnem Bursalı in her column on Özdemir’s death.

Nothing from Bursalı on the culture of impunity that saw the murder of the other subject of her column, 23-year-old student Şule Çet, initially ruled a suicide by police until the public outcry forced them to revisit the evidence. Two men were convicted for raping and killing her this week. Instead, she took the week’s events as an opportunity to aim a broadside at the opposition.


© Ahval English

The views expressed in this column are the author’s and do not necessarily reflect those of Ahval.