Although it was unclear who was behind the attack, the high-level assassinations could signal a turning point in the 16-month conflict as the violence became increasingly chaotic. The Syrian army released a statement on Wednesday saying its forces will continue to fight.
President Abdullah Gül, on the same day, stated that efforts to stop the violence in Syria have been insufficient, adding that a rising death toll in the country indicates that a new administration that represents the will of the people should be set up immediately.
Meanwhile, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has dismissed the claims of a Syrian minister that four countries, including Turkey, are responsible for Wednesday’s deadly bombing in Damascus. In response, speaking to reporters in Ankara late on Wednesday after his one-day visit to Moscow, Erdoğan accused the Syrian administration of “disinformation.”
“No one can accuse us of resorting to such methods in the country where our Syrian brothers live. Furthermore, no one can say that we took such a step. … The statements by the information minister are unacceptable,” he said.
Syrian Information Minister Omran Zoabi said responsibility for the Damascus bombing “falls directly in the hands of the Arab and Western governments, their intelligence agencies and their spies.” He said all countries that have sent “even one bullet to Syria” are responsible.
Furthermore, a Syrian general, along with a dozen military officers, defected and fled to Turkey on Wednesday. A total of 246 Syrian refugees, including a general, five colonels, four majors, two captains, one lieutenant as well as several soldiers and their families, crossed into Turkey through the villages of Kuşaklı, Bükülmez and Kavalcık in the district of Reyhanlı of Hatay province.
July 14, Saturday
Kurdish protestors clashed with riot police in the southeastern province of Diyarbakır when the Diyarbakır Governor’s Office refused to give permission for a rally to take place. In Diyarbakır, tensions were high between police and members of the pro-Kurdish Peace and Democracy Party (BDP) seeking to reach the planned site for the rally. The police first blocked a BDP bus and then intercepted some 50 politicians who were walking toward the site, leading to shoving between the two sides. The Diyarbakır Public Prosecutor’s Office launched an investigation into Saturday’s riot on Monday.
July 15, Sunday
A report prepared by Ministry of Finance inspectors revealed that real estate properties sold below their value to Turkey’s huge, military-run economic enterprise, the Turkish Armed Forces Assistance Center (OYAK), caused major financial losses to the Treasury. Twelve inspectors who were commissioned by the Parliament Petition Commission following a significant number of complaints about OYAK presented a report to Parliament on how the sale of real estate to OYAK resulted in financial losses to the state budget and large illegal profits for the company. According to the complaints, OYAK is involved in commercial activities that are against commercial law and which victimize some of its members.
The parliamentary Coup and Memorandum Investigation Commission launched an investigation into financial losses sustained by the state surrounding the Feb. 28, 1997 coup, analyzing the accounts of politicians and top military and bureaucratic officials at the time. Justice and Development Party (AK Party) Çankırı deputy İdris Şahin, the spokesperson for the coup investigation commission in Parliament, said that the commission has begun to investigate the financial losses caused by the Feb. 28 coup.
July 16, Monday
In response to a warning from Baghdad, Turkey dismissed accusations that it is playing a role in a dispute between the central Iraqi government and the semi-autonomous Kurdish region in the north of the country, saying that this is an internal issue for its southern neighbor. “This is a dispute between the Iraqi government and the Kurdish region. The Kurdish region is sending crude oil to Turkey to be refined. They have to settle this issue between them,” a Foreign Ministry official told Today’s Zaman. The official’s comments came after Baghdad warned Turkey on Sunday that its separate oil deal with Iraq’s northern Kurdish region could damage trade relations between Iraq and Turkey.
Around 50 intellectuals, politicians and academics have called on the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) to adhere to a cease-fire during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, which began on Friday. The campaign, which was launched by the Balanced Democratic Movement, is supported by a number of figures. The supporters of the campaign said that if the PKK agrees to a cease-fire, it will prompt security forces to stop military operations against the outlawed group.
Prosecutors filed an indictment in the case of two coal mine collapses at the Çöllolar Coalfield that killed 11 mine workers in February 2011. The lawyers from the Afşin Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office have prepared an indictment against 23 people -- nine of them from a private company and 14 others from a public service agency -- in connection with the investigation into the two collapses, which occurred within a week of each other, at the Çöllolar Coalfield last year. The indictment took prosecutors 17 months to complete.
The number of convicts who have been released on probation since a law allowing their release was adopted by Parliament in April has reached 18,000, while the number of convicted felons and suspects jailed pending trial has fallen to 117,000. Parliament adopted a law in April allowing prisoners with less than one year of their original sentence remaining to serve the rest of their term outside prison walls. The law is intended to allow prisoners to adapt to life outside of prison and to maintain and strengthen family bonds.
July 17, Tuesday
The pool of public employees expanded by 20.3 percent between the years 2002 and 2011, during which the ruling AK Party has been in power, Today’s Zaman learned from the Social Security Institution (SGK). According to official data, the state hired some 900,000 people as civil servants -- nearly half being teachers and members of the police force -- over the past decade. The 10-year period also saw some 462,000 civil servants retiring from service, leaving the country’s public employment sphere with nearly 450,000 more people at the end of last year compared to 2002.
The main opposition Republican People’s Party’s (CHP) 34th ordinary party congress kicked off with the party making significant changes to its top council and re-electing Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu as chairman of the party. Speaking during the congress, for which the party chose the slogan “Democracy and change,” the CHP leader said his party has achieved many things in the past two years following his election to the party’s top post in May 2010.
A draft law seeking to transfer green areas owned by the military to the Housing Development Administration of Turkey (TOKİ), a state-run agency that has built many multi-storey developments on the limited number of green areas in İstanbul, caused concern that the remaining green spaces in İstanbul might also be destroyed. The Ministry of Environment and Urban Development is working on a bill titled the Building Inspection Law. The draft includes regulations that will transfer forested areas owned by the military to local municipalities and TOKİ, an alarming development for environment groups and architects.
July 18, Wednesday
Women who agree to late abortions will be subject to longer jail sentences, according to the details of a new bill seeking to restrict abortion drafted following comments made by Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan in May that he is personally opposed to abortion. The Ministry of Health has been working on a bill to restrict abortion. According to a report published in the Hürriyet daily, the bill was presented to the Cabinet earlier this week. The 10-week period during which abortion is legal reportedly remains untouched, but women who choose to undergo an abortion beyond 10 weeks may face a prison sentence of up to three years. Currently this term is up to one year.
The Ankara 11th High Criminal Court ruled to acquit nine members of an organized crime group known as Atabeyler, which involved former military officers, of charges of attempting to overthrow the government. The court said there is no substantial evidence to suggest that the suspects attempted to overthrow the government. The Atabeyler gang was uncovered in a police operation in the Eryaman district of Ankara in 2005. The gang reportedly had plans to assassinate Prime Minister Erdoğan and some former ministers close to the prime minister.
A document sent to the İstanbul 10th High Criminal Court by the General Staff last year revealed that the Naval Forces Command and the Air Forces Command did not launch an investigation into claims of preparations for a military coup, believing that such an investigation was “unnecessary.”
July 19, Thursday
Journalist Tutkun Akbaş, a witness who testified to an İstanbul court in the Ergenekon trial, said the Kuvayı Milliye (National Forces Association) had planned to establish a 1 million member motorcycle team to fight the Kurdish mafia. Akbaş was heard by the İstanbul 13th High Criminal Court at the 207th hearing of the Ergenekon trial. Ergenekon is a shadowy criminal network that has alleged links within the state and is suspected of plotting to topple the government. Akbaş told the court that Kuvayı Milliye planned to establish a massive motorcycle team THAT would be equipped with batons and radio transmitters to fight the Kurdish mafia.
Armenia lambasted an official statement from Turkey criticizing Thursday’s so-called presidential elections in Nagorno-Karabakh, a disputed territory between Azerbaijan and Armenia the status of which has not been determined in terms of international law, in a move further deteriorating already soured relations between the two neighboring countries. Armenian Deputy Foreign Minister Shavarsh Kocharyan responded harshly to a statement by the Turkish Foreign Ministry on Thursday, election day in the de facto independent region only recognized by Armenia, saying that Turkey has no right to declare any opinion over the region, the status of which is still undetermined under the mandate of international initiatives, including the UN Security Council and the Organization of Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE).
A survey conducted by the Wise Men Center for Strategic Studies (BİLGESAM) on how Turkey and Turks are perceived in Balkan countries shows that both Muslims and Christians in Balkan nations have positive views about Turkey’s EU membership. The survey was conducted in 10 Balkan countries with the aim of determining how Turkey is perceived across the region. According to the results of the survey, religion is the key factor that shapes people’s views and perceptions about Turkey. In this regard, Muslims’ perception of Turkey is more positive than that of Balkan Christians. The survey indicates that most Muslims and Christians have a positive attitude regarding possible Turkish accession to the European Union.
July 20, Friday
The outlawed PKK has refused to put a hold on violence during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, saying that the ball is in the government’s court.
President Ali Bongo Ondimba of Gabon has said his country is very satisfied with a school opened by Turkish volunteers there and called on volunteers to open more schools. “We are very satisfied that Turkey opened a school in Gabon. This is very encouraging and needs to be capitalized on,” he said, inviting Turkish volunteers to open more schools in Gabon.
Acclaimed journalist and writer Alper Görmüş, who testified to an İstanbul court on Friday as a witness in the ongoing Ergenekon trial, said a planned military coup would have been staged in 2004 if then-Chief of General Staff Gen. Hilmi Özkök had supported it. “Had Özkök been of the same opinion as the [military] generals, a coup would have been staged,” the journalist told the İstanbul 13th High Criminal Court. The court is also referred to as the Ergenekon court as it deals with the case against the terrorist group, whose members stand accused of working to overthrow the government.
The investigation into killings of mostly Turkish men by a neo-Nazi group in Germany has gained an even more shocking dimension with the discovery of a cover-up scandal by official institutions. In addition to the failure of German authorities to prevent the racially motivated neo-Nazi killings of eight Turkish men and a Greek between 2000 and 2006, and a policewoman in 2007, it emerged this week that documents regarding the National Socialist Underground (NSU), the group responsible for the killings, were destroyed by a federal institution.