30,000 Syrians eligible to vote in Turkish elections

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan faces stiff opposition for presidential and legislative polls on June 24. AFP
Updated 20 June 2018
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30,000 Syrians eligible to vote in Turkish elections

  • Polls suggest Erdogan’s alliance could narrowly lose its parliamentary majority
  • If the party passes a 10 percent threshold needed to enter Parliament, it could win dozens of seats in Parliament

ANKARA: Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim is quoted as saying that 30,000 Syrians who acquired Turkish nationality are eligible to vote in Sunday’s presidential and parliamentary elections.
The Hurriyet newspaper and other media said Yildirim made the comments Tuesday in the city of Izmir.
Turkey, which is hosting 3.5 million Syrian refugees, announced in 2016 that it would begin granting citizenship to Syrians.

Another election?
In another development, the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) party leader said Turkey could stage another election if the alliance between President Tayyip Erdogan’s ruling AK Party and the MHP could not form a majority in Parliament after Sunday’s vote.
Polls suggest Erdogan’s alliance could narrowly lose its parliamentary majority, while the presidential vote may also go to a second round run-off.
MHP chairman Devlet Bahceli who backed Erdogan in the referendum, said another set of early elections could be on the agenda if the presidency and Parliament struggle to work together after Sunday’s vote.
Speaking in an interview on private news channel NTV late on Monday, Bahceli said that the referendum granted either the president or Parliament the authority to call for snap elections when there was a “blockage” — for example if Erdogan won the presidency but his party fell short of a parliamentary majority.
“When the presidency and Parliament come to the point where they can’t work in unison, there are ways out of this under the constitutional changes and they are carried out. For example, an ... early election could be considered,” he said.
Bahceli played a pivotal role in moving Sunday’s elections forward more than a year when he called on the government to declare snap elections in April. Erdogan set the election date for the June 24 votes after a meeting with Bahceli.
Under the constitutional changes, which will go into effect following the elections, the number of lawmakers in Parliament will increase to 600 from 550. Officials from the AK Party, which has enjoyed a parliamentary majority until now, have said they aim to receive at least 300 seats in the assembly.
Throughout his election campaign, Erdogan has stressed the importance of a “strong Parliament,” saying the decision to support him for the presidency but not the AK Party was a “disturbing attempt.”
The composition of the assembly could depend on Turkey’s pro-Kurdish opposition, which has significant backing in the country’s largely Kurdish southeast.
If the party passes a 10 percent threshold needed to enter Parliament, it could win dozens of seats in Parliament. If it fails, the seats will go to the second most popular party in the region, almost certainly guaranteeing a majority for the AKP.
Meanwhile, voting at Turkish diplomatic missions abroad for expatriate Turks ends Tuesday, with orange sealed bags carrying votes already arriving in Turkey. Voting at border gates and airports will continue until all polls close Sunday afternoon.
The country’s official Anadolu news agency said 41 percent of the more than 3 million registered expatriate voters have cast their ballots so far.


Lebanon’s seabed yields its historic secrets

Updated 19 April 2019
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Lebanon’s seabed yields its historic secrets

  • Divers find pottery and stone in shipwrecks dating back 2,300 years
  • Discoveries are from Alexander the Great’s siege of Tyre in 332 BC

BEIRUT: Forty meters down, on the Mediterranean seabed off the coast of Lebanon, the divers knew they were looking at history.

Among the shipwrecks they investigated this month at 11 sites south of the city of Tyre, they found pottery and stone that had been there for more than 2,300 years.

“The shape of the pottery confirms that it dates back to more than 332 BC,” said the Lebanese archaeologist Dr. Jafar Fadlallah.

Mohammed Al-Sargi, captain of the diving team that found the wrecks, is even more certain. “The pottery and stone found on these wooden ships indicate that they were part of the campaign of Alexander the Great, who in 332 BC attempted to capture the city of Tyre, which was then an island,” he said.

“According to the history books, Alexander built a causeway linking the mainland to the island. These vessels might have been used to transport the stone required for the construction of the road, but due to the heavy loads and storms, they might have sunk.”

UNESCO recognized the archaeological importance of Tyre in 1979, when it added the city to its list of World Heritage Sites. Lebanon’s Directorate of Antiquities, in cooperation with European organizations, has carried out extensive excavations since the 1940s to uncover its historical secrets. They have revealed that the ancient maritime city included residential neighborhoods, public baths, sports centers, and streets paved with mosaics. The discoveries date back to the Phoenician, Roman and Byzantine periods.

During the Phoenician era, Tyre played an important role as it dominated maritime trade. It contributed to the establishment of commercial settlements around the Mediterranean and the spread of religions in the ancient world. It also resisted occupation by the Persians and the Macedonians, choosing to remain neutral in the struggle between the two bitter enemies. However, Macedonian king Alexander the Great considered gaining control of the island and establishing a naval base there to be a key to victory in the war, and he set out in January 332 BC to conquer it at any cost.

The area in which the diving team discovered the wrecks is “an underwater desert with no valleys or seaweed, a few hundred meters from the coast of Tyre,” said Al-Sargi.

“We found 11 sites, some of them close to each other and others far apart. In each location, there were piles of stones and broken pots.

“We continued to explore the sites quietly to keep away fishermen and uninvited guests. We sought the help of archaeologists, who assured us that the discovery rewrites the history of the city, and specifically the campaign of Alexander the Great. So, we decided to put the discovery in the custody of the General Directorate of Antiquities for further exploration and interpretation.”

The most recent find, which Al-Sargi described as a “time capsule,” is only the latest important discovery made by the team in Lebanon.

“In 1997, the divers discovered the submerged city of Sidon,” Al-Sargi continued. “In 2001, we discovered the city of Yarmouta opposite the Zahrani area. In 1997, we discovered sulfuric water in the Sea of Tyre. We conducted studies on fresh-water wells in the sea off the city coast.

“We are not archaeologists and we cannot explain what we have seen. Our role is to inspect and report to the relevant Lebanese authorities and abide by the law.”

Fadlallah, an archaeologist with 40 years experience of working at Lebanon’s ancient sites, picks up the story to explain what he believes to be the significance of the discovery at Tyre.

“The sites are about 700 meters from where Tyre beach was when it was an island,” he said. “The piles of stones were 50 meters to 200 meters apart and the pots seemed to have been broken by a collision because there was not one left intact. This means that these stones and pots were on ships and there was a violent collision between them.”

He said that studies of the remains of the pots suggest that they are of Greek origin.

“There are various forms of them,” he said, “and it is clear that the ships that were carrying them were related to the ships of Alexander the Great during his campaign on Tyre, and they appear to have been hit by storms.”

There are, of course, always skeptics — among them Dr. Ali Badawi, director of archaeological sites in the south at Lebanon’s General Directorate of Antiquities. The pots alone did not constitute sufficient “evidence that the ships belonged to the campaign of Alexander the Great,” he said.

“What was published by the captain of the divers contains unclear details, and the subject should be based on scientific explanations. I think that the sea is wide and piracy was possible at the sites of the submerged ships.

“Exploration operations are taking place in the breakwater area, involving a French mission and Lebanese archaeologists. Before that, a Spanish expedition along with marine archaeologists participated in examining the remains of a ship dating back to the BC era.

“Ship exploration is very expensive, and the city of Tyre was subjected to numerous military siege campaigns and many ships sank. But this does not mean that we will not investigate this new discovery, according to the instructions of the minister of culture.”