Erdogan first Turkish president to visit Greece in 65 years

Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan inspects guard of honor as he arrives for a graduation ceremony at the War Academy, in Ankara, Thursday. (AP)
Updated 23 November 2017
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Erdogan first Turkish president to visit Greece in 65 years

ISTANBUL: President Recep Tayyip Erdogan will in the coming days visit Turkey’s sometimes uneasy NATO ally Greece, a top official said Thursday, the first visit by a Turkish head of state to its neighbor in 65 years.
Erdogan had himself, as prime minister, visited Greece in 2004 and 2010 but the trip will be the first by a Turkish president since Celal Bayer went to the country in 1952.
Turkey and Greece have a history of uneasy relations dating back to the creation of the modern Turkish Republic out of the ruins of the Ottoman Empire.
But Erdogan’s Justice and Development Party (AKP), which came to power in 2002, has sought a more pragmatic relationship with Athens based on trade and tourism rather than nationalism.
“Our president will be the first Turkish president to visit Greece in 65 years,” Turkish Deputy Prime Minister Hakan Cavusoglu, said without specifying the precise timescale, quoted by the Anadolu news agency.
“I think that this visit will have significant results,” added Cavusoglu, who was born in Greece.
Ties between Ankara and Athens have also been aided after Alexis Tsipras, who is believed to enjoy a warm personal relationship with Erdogan, became prime minister in 2015.
Greece and Turkey both joined NATO in 1952 but the thaw between the two countries only began in earnest in 1999 after destructive earthquakes struck both nations within weeks of each other.
They also cooperated closely in the 2015 migration crisis, with Greece backing an EU deal for Turkey to stem the flow of migrants.
However there are still many bones of contention.
Athens is unhappy over Turkey’s upkeep of Byzantine monuments in Istanbul, the former Constantinople, including the Hagia Sophia, which is officially a museum but has seen an uptick in Muslim activity in the last years.
Greece has also been rattled by Erdogan’s sometimes angry tirades against the post World War I treaties that set the countries’ modern borders and meant almost all the Aegean islands are Greek territory.
Turkey, meanwhile, is unhappy that Greece has given sanctuary to suspects wanted over the 2016 failed coup, notably eight troops who escaped by helicopter on the putsch night.
Another festering sore is Cyprus, where the northern portion of the island is still occupied by Turkish troops following the 1974 invasion in response Athens-inspired coup aimed at uniting it with Greece.


Iraq’s Mosul logs civil records lost to years of Daesh rule

Iraqis wait at the Nineveh governorate building in Iraq's second city of Mosul to resolve issues related to their identity documents. (AFP)
Updated 49 min 28 sec ago
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Iraq’s Mosul logs civil records lost to years of Daesh rule

  • During the Daesh’s reign, thousands of Iraqis who lived in areas controlled by Daesh virtually disappeared from state registers
  • When Iraqi forces retook the city and courts reopened, he and his wife rushed to sign a new marriage contract

MOSUL: When Shahed was born in 2015 her father tried to notify Iraq’s civil registry. The problem was, their city of Mosul was held by Daesh group and the office had been shut.

Three years later, 39-year-old Ahmed Aziz has yet to officially register his daughter’s birth, the certificate for which bears the seal of the so-called caliphate.
Under the late summer sun, the taxi driver braves a long queue outside Mosul’s reopened civil registry, hoping that by the end of the day Shahed’s name will finally appear in state records.
The little girl was born just a year after Daesh swept across the country, seizing swathes of territory including Iraq’s second city Mosul.
“The civil registry was closed,” said Aziz, holding the IS-stamped document issued by a hospital in Mosul.
But since Iraqi forces ultimately regained control of the city in July 2017 after a bloody months-long campaign, residents have flooded the city’s reopened offices.
Thousands of children like Shahed had been born under Daesh rule, and the extremists had systematically blown up civil offices and archives.
“I saw this massive rush to get to the public offices, so I preferred to wait a bit before going there too,” said Aziz.
As a result, his daughter does not yet officially exist.
During the Daesh’s reign, thousands of Iraqis who lived in areas controlled by Daesh virtually disappeared from state registers.
Some lost their identity documents as neighborhoods turned into battle zones, others as they fled the violence.
Many of those who remained were given documents from Daesh’s proto-state — ministries and courts created by the jihadists to register births, marriages, deaths and trade agreements alike.
None of that paperwork has been recognized by Iraqi authorities.
When Zein Mohammed got married in 2014, he and his soon-to-be wife had to present themselves at an IS court to seal the deal.
What should have been the best day of the now 29-year-old civil servant’s life was instead a test.
“I appeared in front of the judge with my fiancee — she was covered head-to-toe in black,” he told AFP.
Under Daesh rule, Mosul’s residents were forced to bow to the jihadists ultra-conservative demands.
Women were compelled to fully cover themselves in black veils and long robes, and civil cases were heard by courts that dealt out death sentences and corporal punishment for “sins..”
“The judge issued us a marriage certificate bearing the IS seal,” said Mohammed.
When Iraqi forces retook the city and courts reopened, he and his wife rushed to sign a new marriage contract.
Now, packed in among the crowd outside Mosul’s civil registry, Mohammed is hoping to finally regularize their marital status.
Iraqi civil servants are working around the clock to meet the massive demand, compiling files, verifying identities and registering official documents and certificates.
It is a titanic job, often slowed due to additional safeguards imposed by Iraqi security services in the former IS stronghold.
To weed out fake IDs and spot jihadists seeking to slip through the cracks, “intelligence services check each document,” head of Mosul’s registry office General Hussein Mohammed Ali told AFP.
But the added security measures have not hampered progress.
“More than a million certified documents and more than 2,000 passports have already been issued,” he said.
Mustafa Thamer, a 23-year-old student, is applying for his first passport even though he has no plans to travel soon.
“We say we must have a passport so that we can leave whenever we want,” he told AFP.
“We lived under IS occupation and we no longer trust the future of the city,” he said.
“Anything can happen in Mosul.”