A Kurdish party leader says rebels have started to move out of Turkey to bases in northern Iraq, a key stage in the peace process with the Turkish government.
The Kurdistan Workers Party, or PKK, declared a cease-fire in March and agreed to a gradual retreat from Turkish territory as part of peace efforts aimed at ending a nearly three-decade-old conflict that has killed tens of thousands of people.
A London-based monthly art publication is sounding an alarm regarding a recent Turkish court ruling that clears the way for the conversion of a 13th-century Byzantine church-turned-museum back into a mosque (the church was first converted into a mosque by Sultan Mehmed II in 1462). Turkish scholars & archeologists aren’t happy. Added emphasis is mine:
One of the most important monuments of late Byzantium, the 13th-century Church of Hagia Sophia in the Black Sea city of Trabzon, which is now a museum, will be converted into a mosque, after a legal battle that has dramatic implications for other major historical sites in Turkey. Many in Turkey believe that the Church of Hagia Sophia is a stalking horse for the possible re-conversion of its more famous namesake in Istanbul, the Hagia Sophia Museum (Ayasofya Müzesi).
For around 50 years, responsibility for the Church of Hagia Sophia in Trabzon has rested with Turkey’s Ministry of Culture and Tourism. The courts now accept the claim made by the General Directorate of Pious Foundations, the government body responsible for most of the country’s historical mosques, that this has been an “illegal occupation”. The court has ruled that Hagia Sophia is an inalienable part of the foundation of Sultan Mehmed II who first turned the church into a mosque after his conquest of the Empire of Trebizond in 1462.
“A building covenanted as a mosque cannot be used for any other purpose,” says Mazhar Yildirimhan, the head of the directorate’s office in Trabzon. He declined to speculate on whether this would mean covering up nearly half the wall space taken up with figurative Christian art, including the dome depicting a dynamic Christ Pantocrator. “There are modern techniques for masking the walls,” he says. […]
It sounds like something out of a horror movie. But Italian scientists say that the “Gate to Hell” is the real deal—poisonous vapors and all.
The announcement of the finding of the ruins of Pluto’s Gate (Plutonium in Latin) at an archeology conference in Turkey last month, was recently reported by Discovery News. Francesco D’Andria, professor of classic archaeology at the University of Salento in Lecce, Italy, who has been excavating the ancient Greco-Roman World Heritage Site of Hierapolis for years, led the research team.
D’Andria told Discovery News he used ancient mythology as his guide to locate the legendary portal to the underworld. “We found the Plutonium by reconstructing the route of a thermal spring. Indeed, Pamukkale’ springs, which produce the famous white travertine terraces originate from this cave.”
Scribes like Cicero and the Greek geographer Strabo mentioned the gate to hell as located at the ancient site in Turkey, noted Discovery, but nobody had been able to find it until now.
“Pluto’s Gate” has been documented in the Princeton Encyclopedia of Classical Sites, which noted in its description of ancient Hierapolis, “Adjoining the temple on the SE is the Plutoneion, which constituted the city’s chief claim to fame. It was described by Strabo as an orifice in a ridge of the hillside, in front of which was a fenced enclosure filled with thick mist immediately fatal to any who entered.”
Strabo (64 B.C.- 24 B.C.) wrote, “This space is full of a vapor so misty and dense that one can scarcely see the ground. Any animal that passes inside meets instant death. I threw in sparrows and they immediately breathed their last and fell.”
The portal to the underworld seems just as bad for your health today. The professor said, “We could see the cave’s lethal properties during the excavation. Several birds died as they tried to get close to the warm opening, instantly killed by the carbon dioxide fumes.”
According to Discovery News, the fumes emanated from a cave below the site, which includes ionic columns with inscriptions to Pluto and Kore, gods of the underworld. Also discovered: the remains of a temple, and a pool and stairs placed above the cave. D’Andria is now working on a digital rendering of the site.
Now if someone tells you to go to hell you know where it is :)
The two leaders spoke for first time since 2009, agreeing to normalize relations, and return their ambassadors to Tel Aviv and Ankara; Turkey agreed to cancel all legal proceedings initiated against IDF officers and soldiers over Mavi Marmara incident.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu phoned Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Friday and apologized over the deaths of nine Turkish citizens during the 2010 Israel Navy raid on the Gaza flotilla.
Erdogan accepted the apology during his conversation with Netanyahu. Erdogan’s office later released a statement saying Turkey valued its “friendship” with Israel.
Ties between Israel and Turkey deteriorated due to the May 2010 raid on the Mavi Marmara vessel, which was on its way from Turkey to the Gaza Strip. The ship was part of a flotilla aimed at breaking through a blockade Israel had placed on the coastal territory.
During Friday’s phone call, Netanyahu told Erdogan that an Israeli investigation into the incident revealed several operational errors made by IDF forces. Netanyahu “expressed his apologies to the Turkish people for any error that could have led to loss of life and agreed to complete an agreement to provide compensation to the families of the victims,” according to a statement by the Prime Minister’s Office.
Netanyahu added that Israel had removed a number of restrictions upon the movement of citizens and goods in all the Palestinian territories, including the Gaza Strip, and would continue to do so as long as the security situation remained peaceful. The two leaders agreed to continue working to improve the humanitarian situation in the Palestinian territories.
THE stance of these two states is very strange,” Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri Al-Maliki remarked in mid-2012, in reference to Qatar and Saudi Arabia. According to him, it was strange that these two countries were providing military, logistic and humanitarian support to the Syrian people in the face of Bashar Assad’s daily slaughter.
Al-Maliki then rolled up his sleeves in defiance, proclaiming: “It has been one year and the regime did not fall, and it will not fall and why should it fall?”
Now, in the wake of news reports that the Syrian fighters are being provided with weapons, most recently through an arms shipment from Croatia, the truth is that Al-Maliki’s stance is the one that is strange. He sits on the border with Syria and provides its regime with oil, fuel, and arms. He allows Iranian planes to pass through and provide Assad with anything he asks for. Al-Maliki has never renounced his support of a regime that is committing the gravest massacres of the 21st century, thus he is an accomplice to these crimes. All he has done is voice his surprise toward two states (Saudi Arabia and Qatar) that are seeking to help people who are being killed every day.
The equation in Syria is as follows: The Assad regime is armed to the teeth because of its military-security structure and because it is being openly supported by Iran, Russia, Iraq and Hezbollah. They provide Assad with funds, weapons, oil, fighters, intelligence, diplomatic data and propaganda. On the other hand, the oppressed Syrian people have so far received limited support because of closed borders, legal problems and political caveats. The opposition has armed some of its members, some of whom are army defectors, but the majority are mere citizens defending their neighborhoods. Now, after all the bloodshed, they are still insistent on overthrowing the regime.
US Secretary of State John Kerry’s trip to Turkey has been overshadowed by a controversial comment from the Turkish premier equating Zionism to a “crime against humanity.” Kerry said he found the remarks “objectionable.”
Kerry said Friday the United States objected to the comment made on Wednesday by Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan. “We not only disagree with it, we found it objectionable,” he told a news conference with Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu (pictured above) on Friday in Ankara.
“I raised the speech with the foreign minister and I will raise it with the prime minister,” Kerry said.
The Secretary of State is on his first trip to the Muslim country since taking office, and is meeting with Turkish leaders to discuss the ongoing civil war in neighboring Syria and bilateral interests ranging from energy security to counterterrorism.
Their discussions come a day after the US announced it would provide direct aid to Syrian rebels for the first time. Washington plans to send food and medical supplies as well as $60 million (45.75 million euros) in extra assistance to the political opposition.
Overshadowed by controversy
Kerry’s arrival in Ankara was overshadowed by the remarks made by Erdogan in Vienna on Wednesday. During a speech at a UN Alliance of Civilizations conference, the Turkish prime minister complained of prejudices against Muslims.
DESPITE the widespread belief that ties between Israel and Turkey are virtually nonexistent, the Israeli and Turkish officials have, of late, held a series of meetings, the most recent three weeks ago, according to Israeli officials who confirmed media reports in both countries. The goal has been to find a formula for an apology acceptable to Ankara for the 2010 “Gaza flotilla affair” in which Israeli troops killed nine Turkish citizens during a violent clash on a ship trying to break the Israeli naval blockade of the Gaza Strip.
“There’s an ongoing dialogue and we’re speaking to them and trying to find a formula that they will accept,” a senior Israeli official said on condition of anonymity. “They’re upset with us and we believe that is not fair.”
The Turkish weekly Radikal reported that Israel may apologize to Turkey for “operational errors” during the raid on the Mavi Marmara in advance of President Barack Obama’s visit to the Middle East next month. He has pressed for reconciliation between the two American allies.
Turkey has demanded a formal apology for Israel’s conduct during the flotilla. In May 2010, Israeli naval commandos boarded the Turkish-flagged ship, which set out to break the blockade Israel implemented when Hamas took control of the Gaza in 2007 in order to prevent materials that could be used militarily from falling into Hamas’ hands. The soldiers encountered physical resistance and nine Turkish citizens were killed in the clashes that ensued. Turkey insists those killed were civilian passengers while Israel does not agrre. In addition to the apology, Turkey is demanding compensation for the families of those killed, and an end to Israel’s naval blockade of Gaza.
Israel has expressed “regret” that innocent civilians were killed but has refused to “apologize,” saying the soldiers were attacked when they boarded the ship. A United Nations commission also accused Israel of using disproportionate force.
I should note this group is linked to the Ataturk leaning ultra-nationalists rather than the current Islamist ruling party in Turkey. It is a fascinating look at Turkey’s “Deep State” en.wikipedia.org - which was the real power (or scared the civilians into accepting its agendas) behind the facade of civilian power in Turkey until recently.
February 7, 2013 - 4:01pm, by Alexander Christie-Miller
The priest’s voice echoed off the crumbling plasterwork of the sanctuary, as only two worshippers took part in a recent Sunday service in Istanbul’s Meryem Ana Church. The low turnout is typical these days. The Turkish Orthodox Church is possibly the country’s smallest Christian denomination, and certainly its most controversial.
Turkish prosecutors allege the church, which traces its roots to the upheaval surrounding the founding of the Turkish republic, is connected to an ultra-nationalist movement, known as Ergenekon, which reportedly plotted to overthrow the government of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.
Church spokesperson Sevgi Erenerol, sister of the current patriarch, has been imprisoned since 2008 on charges that include establishing and directing an armed terrorist organization as part of the supposed Ergenekon conspiracy. A host of ultra-nationalist groups established in 2004 and 2005 had “the same” founders, and “they were all gathering at the Turkish Orthodox Patriarchate,” claimed Orhan Kemal Cengiz, a human rights lawyer.
Beyond the possible Ergenekon connection, Cengiz, the rights lawyer who has worked extensively with Turkey’s non-Muslim minorities, contends that Turkish Orthodox Church members have routinely harassed members of other Christian denominations in Turkey. “It [the Turkish Orthodox Church] has a central role that has not been addressed adequately by the prosecutors,” Cengiz said.
How and why did a tiny Christian church gain a reputation for being antagonistic toward fellow Christians? The answer lies in its origins.
The Turkish Orthodox Church’s founder, Pavlos Karahisarithis was a Turkish-speaking, Greek Orthodox priest, who, in 1922, at the end of the Greco-Turkish War, broke with the pro-Greece Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople, the supreme Orthodox patriarchate, and allied himself with victorious Turkish nationalists led by Mustafa Kemal Atatürk.
Atatürk took a personal interest in the Turkish Orthodox Church, and expressed his support. Karahisarithis, meanwhile, took the title Papa (“Pope” in Turkish) Eftim, and later changed his last name to the Turkish family name of Erenerol. “Atatürk may have had a pronounced secular view of the world, but he was going against a great trend in history in which religion marked you out as part of a particular group,” commented Anthony O’Mahony, director of the Centre for Eastern Christianity at the University of London’s Heythrop College.
But once Turkey’s 1924 population exchange with Greece took place, Eftim’s potential followers dwindled. The Turkish Orthodox Church’s “raison d’être disappeared” with the 1.2 million Christians who left Anatolia as part of the exchange, said O’Mahony. “History has left it behind.”
His grandson, the current patriarch Papa Eftim IV, has largely shunned publicity. Until her arrest, however, his granddaughter, Sevgi, continued to rally feelings against other Christian groups.
At a 2006 security conference hosted by the military, she described missionaries as “a pawn in political chess” whose “only goal is to invade this land.” She was also involved in harassment of the late Turkish-Armenian newspaper editor Hrant Dink, throwing coins and pencils at his lawyers during a court appearance. Dink was shot dead in a 2007 killing linked to Turkey’s ultra-nationalist movement.
“Sevgi Erenerol was one of the most prominent people waging a war against non-Muslims in Turkey,” commented Cengiz, who claimed that the number of attacks and threats against non-Muslims has decreased since Erenerol’s arrest and those of other prominent Ergenekon suspects.
“Although they themselves are supposed to be a minority, they hated other minorities, particularly Armenians,” added Aktar.
John F. Kerry was sworn in as secretary of state by Associate Supreme Court Justice Elena Kagan in a small, private ceremony in the Senate Foreign Relations Committee room Friday afternoon, officials said.
After 28 years of reviewing foreign policy in that same room and representing Massachusetts in the Senate, Kerry takes the reins as America’s top diplomat from outgoing Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. The Bay State Democrat breezed through the Senate confirmation process this week, earning near-unanimous support for his appointment.
The one-time presidential hopeful’s ascension to State Department chief came on the same day a suicide bomber struck the US Embassy in Ankara, Turkey, killing a Turkish security guard. The attack — just months after four Americans were killed during an assault on a US consulate in Benghazi, Libya — underscores the challenges Kerry will face at Foggy Bottom.
Clinton acknowledged the violence during a 7-minute farewell speech Friday, ending a four-year stint during which she traveled nearly 1 million miles and visited 112 countries. She added to employees crowded nearby that she expects them to “be as focused and dedicated for Secretary Kerry as you have been for me.”
(Reuters) - An explosion in front of the U.S. embassy in the Turkish capital Ankara on Friday wounded several people, Turkish media reported.
A Reuters witness reported a loud explosion in the area and the Dogan news agency said ambulances and fire engines went the to the site.
I have BBC News on live right now and they’re confirming the blast.
(Reuters) - An explosion at a side entrance to the U.S. embassy in the Turkish capital Ankara killed at least one person on Friday in what some Turkish media said may have been an attack by a suicide bomber.
A Reuters witness saw one wounded person being lifted into an ambulance as police cordoned off the area following the explosion, which sent smoke and debris flying into the street.
Television footage showed a door blown out and masonry from the wall around it scattered in front of the entrance, although there did not appear to be any more significant structural damage.
(Reporting by Jonathon Burch; Writing by Nick Tattersall and Daren Butler; Editing by Jon Hemming)