From Ataturk to Erdogan: Five things to know about modern Turkey

Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan makes a speech in front of portraits of himself, right, and Mustafa Kemal Ataturk. Erdogan is poised to take on extensive new executive powers following his outright election victory in Sunday’s poll. (Getty Images)
Updated 25 June 2018
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From Ataturk to Erdogan: Five things to know about modern Turkey

  • After a War of Independence, Turkish military leaders including Mustafa Kemal Ataturk were able to salvage a modern state extending from Thrace to Mesopotamia.
  • Under Erdogan, Turkey has sought to rebuild its Ottoman-era influence in the Middle East, notably in Syria and Iraq as well as the Balkans and also Africa.

ANKARA: The modern state of Turkey emerged out of the wreckage of the Ottoman Empire to become a powerful strategic nation that borders Greece to the west and Iran to the east.
It has been ruled since 2002 by the conservative party of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. He has overseen some of the biggest changes since modern Turkey was created in 1923.
Erdogan is poised to take on extensive new executive powers following his outright victory in Sunday’s presidential and legislative elections.
Here are five things to know about Turkey.

1. At its peak, the Ottoman Empire ruled a swathe of territory extending from the Balkans to modern Saudi Arabia, including the holy sites of Islam.
But the Empire suffered centuries of decline and its end was confirmed by defeat in World War I, in which it had fought on the side of imperial Germany.
After a War of Independence, Turkish military leaders including Mustafa Kemal Ataturk were able to salvage a modern state extending from Thrace to Mesopotamia, declaring the creation of the Republic of Turkey in 1923.
Under Erdogan, Turkey has sought to rebuild its Ottoman-era influence in the Middle East, notably in Syria and Iraq as well as the Balkans and also Africa.

2. Ataturk, Turkey’s first president until his death in 1938, turned the country toward the West and made secularism one of its founding principles.
Multi-party democracy was introduced in 1946. Under Ataturk’s successor Ismet Inonu, Turkey remained neutral in World War II.
In 1952 it joined NATO along with its one-time foe Greece with the strong backing of the United States, keen to ensure Ankara never fell into the orbit of the USSR.
Critics have accused Erdogan of increasing authoritarianism and changing Turkey’s Western tilt. But the president insists he is committed to a secular republic anchored in NATO.

3. Turkey’s powerful military ousted incumbent governments in coups in 1960, 1971 and 1980.
The 1960 coup was followed by the hanging of ousted prime minister Adnan Menderes — Erdogan’s political hero — along with two ministers.
After coming to power, Erdogan clipped the wings of the military in a bid to make political interventions by the army far less likely.
But in July 2016 he survived a coup attempt by a renegade army faction.
Erdogan said that attempt was ordered by his one-time ally, the US-based preacher Fethullah Gulen, who denies the charges.
Erdogan then declared a state of emergency that has seen some 55,000 people arrested in an unprecedented purge. He — and the opposition — have vowed to lift the emergency after the elections.

4. The country of more than 80 million has sought to boost its influence, staunchly opposing the regime of President Bashar Assad in Syria’s civil war but then working closely with his ally Russia to end the conflict.
Turkey has taken in around 3.5 million Syrian refugees, who live mainly in the southeast and Istanbul, as well as smaller numbers from Iraq and Afghanistan.
In 2016, it signed a deal to limit the flow of refugees to Europe after one million crossed the Aegean through Turkey in 2015. The deal was seen as a boost to Turkey’s hopes of joining the European Union but the process has floundered ever since.
Turkey has given passports to thousands of Syrian refugees but critics say the country lacks a strategy to deal with their long-term presence.

5. The non-Muslim minorities on the territory of modern Turkey were forced out in the 20th century and only small populations remain today.
Armenians regard the killings and massacres of their ancestors as genocide, a term vehemently disputed by Turkey. Most Greeks left the country in the population exchanges of 1923.
By far Turkey’s largest ethnic minority are the Kurds. They make up a fifth of the population and have long complained of being denied their rights in what they call the “Kurdish problem.”
The outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) took up arms in 1984 in a bloody insurgency that has left tens of thousands dead.
Erdogan in the first years of his rule took unprecedented steps toward giving the Kurds greater rights and opened talks with the PKK. But a cease-fire unraveled in 2015 and violence continues, with still no peace deal in sight.


3 Palestinians killed by Israeli fire in Gaza

Updated 3 min 24 sec ago
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3 Palestinians killed by Israeli fire in Gaza

  • Israel targeted militant sites in Gaza, after Palestinians shot at its forces near the border, the military said Friday, with airstrikes and tank fire that Palestinian officials said killed at least three people.
  • Hamas confirmed all three killed were members of its group.

GAZA CITY: Israel targeted militant sites in Gaza, after Palestinians shot at its forces near the border, the military said Friday, with airstrikes and tank fire that Palestinian officials said killed at least three people.
Israel's military said Palestinians in Gaza had fired shots at soldiers near the border. It says it responded with airstrikes and tank fire at militant targets in Gaza.
Gaza's Health Ministry said at least three people were killed.
In a statement Friday, Hamas confirmed all three killed were members of its group.
Earlier Friday, Israel's Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman visited Sderot, an Israeli town near Gaza that has been hard hit by Palestinian rockets over the years. Lieberman said "the heads of Hamas are forcibly leading us to a no choice situation in which we will need to embark on wide and painful military operation."
On Saturday, Israel pounded Hamas targets in its largest bombardment campaign since the 2014 war, while Gaza militants fired dozens of rockets toward Israel.
Israel says it has no interest is engaging in another war with Hamas, but says it will no longer tolerate the Gaza militants' campaign of daily flying incendiary kites and balloons across the border that has torched Israeli crops, burned nature reserves and killed wildlife.
Hamas on Friday vowed that it will continue to protest by launching incendiary devices at Israel.
Khalil Al-Hayya, a top Hamas leader, said "the protests will remain, flaming and existing, and its tools will multiply and diversify, including kites, until our goals are achieved."
The near-weekly protests led by Gaza's Hamas along the border since March 30 against Israel are meant in part to draw attention to the Israeli-Egyptian blockade imposed after the militant group assumed control of Gaza in 2007.
The demonstrations have been fueled in large part by pervasive despair caused by the blockade which has caused widespread economic hardship.
Over 135, mostly unarmed, Palestinians have been killed by Israeli fire since protests began.
Israel says it is defending its sovereign border and accuses Hamas, a group sworn to its destruction, of using the protests as cover for attempts to breach the border fence and attack civilians and soldiers.