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May 26, 2016 / 18 Iyar, 5776

Posts Tagged ‘Turkey’

Erdogan Security Team Clashes With Reporters, Protesters in Washington DC

Thursday, March 31st, 2016

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan had an eventful visit in the United States in advance of his address to the Brookings Institute.

Erdogan had arrived earlier in the week to attend a nuclear security summit at the White House, and is slated to participate in the opening of a new mosque and Turkish Islamic cultural center in Maryland, a scant 10 miles from Washington.

But the Turkish leader faced vociferous protests Thursday from Kurdish Americans outside the Brookings Institute ahead of his speech on challenges in the region. And that triggered his advance team, which behaved like a bunch of green mafia goons.

The demonstrators were waving the typical American protester picket signs calling the Turkish president a “facist murderer,” demanding he “End Turkish denial” and “Stop Turkish aggression.”

And as usual, Washington DC police moved to contain the protesters. Media was there, of course, complete with cameras, film and audio crews, some already entering the building and others still outside covering the protests in advance of the event. That’s when the firestorm broke out.

News outlets in Washington reported that Erdogan’s security personnel tried to remove some journalists from the Brookings Institute but were not allowed to throw them out.

The security detail was photographed clashing with protesters and confronting city police after law enforcement declined to remove demonstrators from the area.

Erdogan’s security detail “became physical with reporters, removing one journalist from Brookings, kicking an NPR reporter and throwing a female reporter to the sidewalk,” according to Foreign Policy magazine.

Turkish bodyguards told a cameraman he was not allowed to film outside the think tank’s building. Security personnel chased another cameraman across the street.

Another Turkish security guard called a veteran female journalist Amberin Zaman “a PKK whore” as she stood in the driveway of the Brookings building, preparing to enter. Other epithets they used cannot be printed here.

In the United States, it is legal to demonstrate in the public arena and to carry picket signs even when they display outrageous messages. But in Turkey, such actions could earn a protester a jail sentence, at the minimum. Clearly, Erdogan’s advance team had received little or no briefing — or had chosen to ignore the information provided to them.

The Turkish leader has made a concerted effort to suppress media freedom in Turkey. Several weeks ago his administration seized control of Zaman / Today’s Zaman, the daily newspaper with the largest circulation in the country, and shut it down. Other news outlets have been closed down over the past year as well. Numerous journalists have been jailed for expressing opinions contrary to those of the president, questioning his actions or writing investigative reports. It’s very unpredictable.

Brookings Institute staff eventually came out of the building to physically escort some of the journalists into the forum and shield them from the harassment.

One DC police officer was heard to remark after a heated discussion with an Erdogan security guard, “He just cursed at me in Turkish.” Some of the Turkish personnel had to be physically blocked from assaulting the protesters, by a combined force of DC police and Brookings staff.

A total free-for-all.

National Press Club President Thomas Burr said in a statement later in the day the Erdogan security team “have no right to lay their hands on reporters or protesters or anyone else for that matter, when the people they were apparently roughing up seemed to be merely doing their jobs or exercising the rights they have in this country.”

A relatively mild response to the thuggery that took place with the excuse of “misunderstanding” and cultural dissonance.

Nevertheless, not every demonstrator was protesting the Turkish president’s presence: there was also those at Brookings who waved Turkish flags and pro-Erdogan banners. Some of the picket signs thanked the Turkish president for “protecting Syrian refugees.”

Jewish Press News Briefs

Kerry Meets Turkish Pres., Egyptian FM in Washington

Thursday, March 31st, 2016

U.S. Secy of State John Kerry met Wednesday with Turkey’s President Recep Tayip Erdogan and Egypt’s Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry separately in Washington for what officials there called “brief visits.”

With Erdogan, Kerry discussed ongoing efforts to secure a political transition in Syria and assessed coalition efforts to “degrade and defeat Da’esh (ISIS) in the country.

The two men “reviewed the progress that has been made on the ground and discussed ways to strengthen [their] cooperation against this shared threat,” according to State Dept. Spokesperson John Kirby.

Erdogan has been visiting the United States this week for the opening of a new mosque in Maryland, about 10 miles from the White House. The new center is considered to be the largest Turkish mosque outside the country. The Diyanet Center of America, as it is called, is a vast complex with the capacity to seat 10,000 worshipers on a 60-acre site. In addition to the mosque, the site is home to a cultural center, Turkish bathhouse, 10 different representative Turkish homes, a museum and more. Workshops and cultural exhibits on traditions such as Islamic calligraphy, Turkish marbling and visual storytelling will be held there as well.

President Barack Obama has declined to attend the opening of the mosque event set for this Saturday morning (April 2), despite publicized reports last November that he would be there. Erdogan will be joined by Turkey’s head of religious affairs, Dr. Mehmet Gormez.

With Shoukry, Kerry discussed a range of regional and bilateral issues, including Libya and Syria, Kirby said.

The U.S. Secretary reiterated America’s “commitment to help Egypt fight terrorism, increase economic growth, govern democratically, and bolster regional security,” according to a statement by Kirby.

Kerry and Shoukry “also discussed the importance of easing restrictions on association and expression in Egypt” and that of “allowing human rights non-governmental organizations to operate freely.”

Hana Levi Julian

Sky News: ISIS Plots ‘Imminent’ Attack on Turkish Jewish Children

Tuesday, March 29th, 2016

Da’esh (ISIS) terrorists have moved ahead with a plot to attack Jewish children in Turkey, according to a report by Sky News.

Turkish intelligence has warned of an “imminent” attack by the terror group, targeting schools, youth centers and kindergartens. The information was gleaned from six ISIS operatives arrested last week.

In Istanbul, the most likely target is said to be the synagogue in the Beyoglu district, which includes a Jewish school and community center. This synagogue is located close to the site where a suicide bombing by a Da’esh operative took place just 10 days ago, near the popular Taksim tourist area.

Three Israelis and an Iranian national died in that attack and dozens were wounded, including 11 Israelis. It is still not clear whether the bomber was targeting the Israeli tour group that was in the area at the time, or not, but at least one report claims the group was tracked by the bomber from the time they left their hotel.

A similar bombing, albeit on a larger scale was carried out by Da’esh last week in the Belgian capital of Brussels. Two suicide bombers blew up the departure hall at Saventem International Airport and another bomber blew up a metro station close to the headquarters of the European Union. At least 35 people were killed and more than 300 people were wounded in the multi-site attack.

“In light of these circumstances, extraordinary security measures are being taken above and beyond the high alert level already in place by the Turkish police, as well as vigilance within the Jewish community,” an intelligence source told Sky News.

“Undercover and other covert counter-terror measures are being implemented around the clock… This is a more than credible threat,” the source added. “This is an active plot.”

In light of the current threat, Israel has issued a Level 2 terror alert, urging its citizens not to travel to Turkey right now and those who are already there to leave as soon as possible.

Hana Levi Julian

Istanbul Jews to Hear Megillah in 500-Year-Old Synagogue

Wednesday, March 23rd, 2016

Jews in Istanbul will stream into a 500-year-old synagogue tonight (Wed. Mar. 23) to hear the reading of the Book of Esther, the Megillah, in the presence of the Chief Rabbi of Turkey. It’s an ancient tradition that no one would dare to disturb.

Entrance to the centuries-old Ahrida Synagogue in Istanbul's Balat neighborhood.

Entrance to the centuries-old Ahrida Synagogue in Istanbul’s Balat neighborhood.

The Ahrida Synagogue is a fairly modest building — one has to search hard within the numerous alleyways of the historically Jewish Balat neighborhood to find it — but nevertheless, it is tightly guarded. JewishPress.com managed to secure a precious half-hour interview under the authority of the Chief Rabbinate of Turkey, and when that time was up, two men came to ensure that the synagogue caretake closed and locked the doors and gates precisely on time. To the minute.

“It is to make sure the synagogue stays safe,” we were told. There are cameras everywhere in the small synagogue, we also discovered. Everywhere. But that did not stop our guide from showing us everything there was to know about the house of worship he clearly loved.

“Hundreds of years ago, Jews made their way from Macedonia to the majestic city of Constantinople in search of a better life,” he explained. “There in the heart of what was later to become Istanbul, that small group of Jews built a modest house of worship in the Balat neighborhood.”

The Ahrida Synagogue, built in 1430 by the Jews of Ohry, Macedonia, is arranged in the Sephardic tradition with the bima in the center. Within a few years, the congregation grew, and was supplemented by those who had fled Spain in 1492.

“There are Ottoman documents dating to 1693 verifying the origins of the synagogue and the fact of its continuous use since that time,” he added.

The Ahrida Synagogue is especially famed for the shape of its bima, which is in the form of a “Tevah” – Noah’s Ark – and possibly the ships that brought the Jews to the Ottoman Empire. The mother-of-pearl inlaid door wings of the Ark that holds and protects the Torah scrolls within, and the high, magnificent wooden arched ceiling reflect classical Ottoman styles.

Torah ark with inlaid mother-of-pearl at Ahrida Synagogue in Istanbul.

Torah ark with inlaid mother-of-pearl at Ahrida Synagogue in Istanbul.

The Ahrida Synagogue was restored in 1992 by the Quincentennial Foundation, within the framework of the quincentennial celebrations of the Jewish community’s existence in Turkey.

The synagogue is one of only two in Balat that still remain in active use. A second synagogue that opened for prayers for only a day earlier this year was found with nasty epithets spray-painted on the outside wall 24 hours later. But not so the Ahrida, where neighbors are happy to talk about its history, and point out the apartment of the first chief rabbi of Turkey (“It has a Star of David on the ceiling on the balcony, can you see it?”).

Apartment of the Chief Rabbi, locatec conveniently right across the street from Ahrida Synagogue.

Apartment of the Chief Rabbi, locatec conveniently right across the street from Ahrida Synagogue.

One neighbor quietly said later, “Our streets were filled with people of many lands decades ago. It is very different now. This synagogue was open all the time back then, and the Jews prayed there all the time, every day. But after 1948, most of the Jews left. We miss them and our country is poorer for it.”

Hana Levi Julian

ISIS Terrorists in Istanbul Followed Israelis Before Attack

Monday, March 21st, 2016

The terrorist who attacked an Israeli group in Istanbul on Saturday followed them from the moment they left the hotel that morning before detonating his suicide vest, according to the area’s security cameras.

At least one and possibly as many as four Turkish terrorists followed the group of 14 Israeli tourists from their Besiktas hotel to Istiklal Street before launching the deadly attack that killed and maimed dozens. Three of the Israelis, two with dual U.S. citizenship, were killed and the rest of the group members were injured in the blast.

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu both sent letters of condolence to their Israeli counterparts following the attack.

A total of four people were killed and 39 others were wounded, among them 11 Israeli citizens. Four people remained hospitalized in Istanbul Monday in critical condition, according to the Daily Sabah newspaper. Turkish intelligence officials said after examining security footage in the area, the Israelis — who were on a culinary tour — had been followed that morning from the time they left their hotel.

The terrorists faded back into an alley as the group stopped at a restaurant to have breakfast, according to a report published on the Turkish-language Haberturk news site.

Minutes after the group resumed its tour after breakfast, Mehmet Öztürk detonated his suicide vest. DNA testing confirmed the suicide bomber’s identity; he was a resident of the Turkish town of Gaziantep, and a Da’esh operative of the Islamic State terror group.

Turkish police continued searching on Monday for three other alleged Da’esh terrorists, according to the Daily Sabah. The suspects are believed to be planning further attacks in the wake of Saturday’s suicide bombing.

Photos of the three suspects, Haci Ali Dumaz, Savas Yildiz and Yunus Durmaz, were published in the newspaper in hopes that citizens might see and identify them to police. All are Turkish nationals. Police said the suspects have been given instructions to “carry out further attacks in crowded areas, primarily in Istanbul.”

Yildiz was initially believed to have been the operative who blew himself up in Saturday’s attack. The bombing was the sixth in Turkey since last July, the fourth perpetrated by ISIS. Two others were carried out by the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party, the PKK terrorist organization.

Hana Levi Julian

Israel, Turkey Uniting Against Terror After Istanbul Attack

Saturday, March 19th, 2016

Turkey’s Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu sent a condolence letter to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu Saturday night after three Israelis and an Iranian were killed by a terrorist in Istanbul hours earlier.

Eleven Israelis and 28 others, including 13 foreign nationals, were also wounded in the attack.

Two of the deceased are dual U.S.-Israeli citizens.

“The attack in Istanbul tonight proved once again that the international community must work together against terror organizations,” Davutoglu wrote. “I send my condolences to the Israelis who lost family members in the attack in Istanbul and wish a speedy recovery to the wounded Israelis.”

Turkey’s deputy prime minister, Mehmet Simsek, also tweeted condolences to Israel.

A ZAKA delegation left for Turkey along with two planes, one from Magen David Adom, the other from the IDF, to bring the wounded and deceased Israelis home to Israel from Istanbul.

Netanyahu received updates during the day about what was happening in Istanbul, he told media from the situation room at the Foreign Ministry.

“We can say with certainty that, sadly, two Israeli citizens were killed. It could be that there is a third victim. The two families have been updated; I send them condolences on behalf of the entire Jewish people. There are approximately eleven people who were wounded, the degree of their injuries varies, and we are dealing with them. I directed the dispatch of two planes – one from MDA and one from the IDF – in order to bring them, and the deceased, of course, back to Israel.”

Netanyahu added that he has asked the Turkish authorities to allow Israel to increase its presence in the country.

This evening there will be approximately 15 of our representatives in Istanbul; the Foreign Ministry Director General is on his way there. We are in contact with the Turkish government. The Foreign Ministry Director General spoke with his Turkish counterpart and, naturally, we are trying to clarify things in the intelligence sphere. We currently have no confirmation that this terrorist incident was directed at Israelis.

“We know that there are those who have yet to make contact; we are trying to locate them. At the moment it does not seem that they were part of this event but things will certainly become clearer later on.

“Foreign Ministry personnel, including those here in the situation room, are working constantly and will work around the clock in order to bring the people back to Israel and in order to give full support at this difficult time.

“I am certain that all Israelis join me in the hope for recovery for the wounded and in expressing condolences to the families of those who were murdered.”

Turkish officials said earlier there was evidence the suicide bomber, Savaz Yildiz, 33, from the Turkish city of Adana, may have been a Da’esh operative with the ISIS terror organization.

Hana Levi Julian

Israel, Turkey Continue Talks on Normalization

Saturday, March 19th, 2016

Israel and Turkey reportedly are continuing efforts to resolve their differences despite a terror attack Saturday in Istanbul that left three Israelis dead and 11 others wounded.

Four people died in addition to the suicide bomber and 36 people were injured in the blast that struck the central Taksim section of the city. Israeli officials were working with Turkish intelligence to determine whether terrorists were aimed at Israeli tourists. Turkish government officials said Saturday night it was believed the suicide bomber may have been a Da’esh operative from the ISIS terrorist organization, or a member of the PKK terror group.

A nasty tweet celebrating the attack and wishing that more Israelis were killed was posted by the communications director of the ruling AK Party following the attack. But the immediate dismissal of the individual spoke volumes about the government’s intentions to advance towards between the two former allies.

Reconciliation efforts are continuing, the prime minister said, with talks ongoing between Jerusalem and Ankara. “We are working towards an agreement that will lead towards normalization,” Netanyahu said. “We have encountered some delays in this process, not from a lack of trying but due to fundamental issues” that are still being addressed.

The incendiary tweet posted earlier in the evening by Irem Aktas, the head of Turkey’s AK Party public relations and women’s department, was removed from Twitter. Aktas herself was fired following the incident.

Foreign Ministry spokesperson Emmanuel Nachson said Israel was investigating the veracity of the tweet; if true, Nachshon said it was “shocking and ugly.” He echoed an earlier statement by Netanyahu that Israel would expect an apology and statement by the Turkish government distancing itself from the sentiment.

AK Party official Hatic Yucel tweeted a statement immediately after Aktas, saying her tweet did “not reflect the opinion of the AK Party.”

Hana Levi Julian

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/news/breaking-news/israel-turkey-continue-talks-on-normalization/2016/03/19/

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