Refugees back in the spotlight - Turkey media roundup

Monday’s headline news in the secularist daily Cumhuriyet was on the 25th anniversary of the Sivas Massacre, in which a mob of Islamic fundamentalists attacked and set fire to a hotel, which was hosting guests for a religious minority’s cultural festival.

Members of Turkey’s Alevi community, including some of the periods most famous musicians and artists, were staying at the Madımak hotel in Sivas on Jul. 2, 1993.

One of the guests, famous writer Aziz Nesin, had invoked the wrath of Islamists in Turkey by translating Salman Rushdie’s novel “The Satanic Verses” into Turkish, and a mob gathered after Friday prayers, surrounded and set fire to the hotel, with little interference from security personnel.

Thirty-five people in the hotel and two from the mob died in the massacre in one of the worst episodes of violence in the country’s recent history. The incident has been described as an example of Turkey’s polarisation and intolerance to free speech.

The pro-government newspaper Star’s Monday headline proclaimed, “Chemical castration is on the way (as a punishment for criminals),” a recurring talking point of figures from the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP), this time discussed by government spokesperson Bekir Bozdağ.

Chemical castration will be implemented against child abusers and rapists, said Bozdağ over the weekend. The idea was brought back to the agenda after the body of Eylül Yağlıkara, was discovered in June. The discovery last Monday of Leyla Aydemir, another apparently murdered child, has provoked further calls for this punishment and the death penalty to be instated.

The nationalist newspaper Yeni Çağ led on Monday with a warning that a fresh wave of refugees could be on its way to Turkey from Syria, Central Asia and Afghanistan.

Turkey currently hosts over 3 million Syrian refugees, as well as many more from diverse countries in a number of regions. Five million more could be on their way, Yeni Çağ’s report said.

On Tuesday, Star newspaper took up the same topic, with a poetic headline declaring that the “Sigh of the refugee will end the European Union.”

The news referred to a frequent target of the Turkish press – Angela Merkel, the German chancellor whose migration policies landed her in trouble this week when her junior coalition partner and interior minister Horst Seehofer threatened to resign in protest at what he considered lax policing of Germany’s borders.

Cumhuriyet’s front page carried an interview from Daron Acemoğlu, a world leading economist who a Turkish pro-government columnist suggested was being touted for a role in the new government.

Acemoğlu denied there had been an approach regarding any role, and said the repression on Turkish society should be lifted. Cumhuriyet ran with the headline “No growth without freedom.”

The majority of newspapers on the day bore front-page news on Leyla Aydemir, the four-year-old girl found dead in Monday in the eastern Turkish province of Ağrı.

The pro-government newspaper Sabah’s Wednesday headline discussed the leadership battle in the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) between Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu, the party leader since 2010, and Muharrem İnce, the charismatic presidential candidate in the Jun. 24 elections, who received around eight percent more votes than his party partly thanks to the enthusiasm he whipped up during electoral campaigning.

İnce has reportedly called for a party congress to be held, at which he could contest for the leadership. Kılıçdaroğlu has bluntly refused this call, according to reports.

Thursday was the last day of publication for the pro-government daily newspaper HaberTürk after over nine years since its first publication, on Mar. 1, 2009, though the paper’s internet news site is still running.

Cumhuriyet’s headline on Thursday reported that the opposition’s “Alliance has been scattered.” The news story refers to the “Nation Alliance” agreed between the CHP, recently founded nationalist Good Party and Islamist Felicity Party, which formed the backbone of the opposition’s strategy for the Jun. 24 elections.

Good Party spokesperson Aytun Çıray stated that, with the elections over, there was “no need” for the Nation Alliance.

Rumours have surfaced suggesting that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan is prepared to grant Good Party leader Meral Akşener a position on his cabinet. The Good Party has so far denied this speculation.

BirGün’s front page story said in a sombre headline that an “Economic crisis is at the door,” and said there was “little time left for a prescription.”

The country’s steadily rising inflation and costs of staple household goods were key indicators of the decline, the newspaper’s story said. “The period of easy money is over,” it said.

Turkish pro-government outlets on Friday appeared anxious to allay fears of these economic troubles, with two major publications following the state-run Anadolu Agency’s lead and publishing prominent pieces on successes in the country’s tourist industry, which had suffered a severe drop in 2016 due to terror threats and Turkey’s foreign relations problems with Russia.

Earlier in the week, Hürriyet and other newspapers had published headlines based on Anadolu’s reports that hotels this year were 100 percent full – though a cursory check on booking sites proves otherwise.

On Friday it was the Sabah and Akşam newspapers which pushed the story of the “magnificent season in tourism” and the “five-star flood” of tourists coming to Turkey, again citing the 100 percent figure touted by the state news agency.

Cumhuriyet’s Friday headline carried the unhappy news that the situation in Turkey would become “Worse than the state of emergency” once the government fulfils its promise to lift emergency after around two years.

According to the article, the enhanced powers granted to security forces under the state of emergency, which was first implemented after the 2016 coup attempt, will carry on after it is lifted.

President Erdoğan will also keep his power to issue laws by decree according to the new presidential system.