Turkey, Iran sign deal to strengthen religious ties

Turkey, Iran sign deal to strengthen religious ties
Turkey and Iran have agreed to strengthen their religious ties in a new deal signed last week in Ankara. (Shutterstock)
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Updated 03 January 2020

Turkey, Iran sign deal to strengthen religious ties

Turkey, Iran sign deal to strengthen religious ties
  • It comes in the wake of Malaysia meet where they coined ‘gold dinar’ idea

JEDDAH: Turkey and Iran have agreed to strengthen their religious ties in a new deal signed last week in Ankara between the religious authorities of both countries.

The new initiative — led by Abouzar Ebrahimi Torkaman, the head of Iran’s Islamic Culture and Communication Organization, and Ali Erbas, the head of Turkey’s Religious Affairs Directorate — includes the translation of theological books, the organization of activities “to strengthen the unity of Ummah,” joint publications to combat Islamophobia in the West, cooperation over services to pilgrims, the exchange of religious texts, and an Islamic teaching exchange program.

Speaking at a joint event, Erbas said, “We mobilize all our resources to combat the agitation that is targeting Muslims, and the measures that are taken by some Muslim countries in the region, which regrettably compromise Muslims’ esteem and pride.”

The deal has come as a surprise to many, since Turkey is a Sunni state and Iran a Shiite theocracy. The two were once fierce adversaries, during the times of the Ottoman and Persian empires. And the new initiative has sparked concern among Muslims in Turkey who are critical of its potential repercussions in the teaching of Islam. The hashtag #WeAreNotShia was trending on social media in Turkey after the deal was announced.

Seth J. Frantzman, executive director of the Middle East Center for Reporting and Analysis, said the new religious deal builds on economic cooperation between the two countries and their mutual interests — along with Russia — in Syria.

“It also comes in the wake of a meeting in Malaysia where both Iran and Turkey expressed interest in a new ‘gold dinar’ currency. There is a growing consensus that Turkey and Iran have much in common in the region and globally,” Frantzman told Arab News.

FASTFACT

The new initiative includes the translation of theological books, the organization of activities ‘to strengthen the unity of Ummah,’ joint publications to combat Islamophobia in the West.

The new deal, he suggested, shows that the two countries are keen to cooperate in other spheres of interest.

“It illustrates that the concept of the Shia-Sunni divide is partly a myth,” he said. “The Muslim Brotherhood — which underpins the AKP in Turkey — and Iran’s Ayatollahs have things in common. The Iranian IRGC and the Brotherhood met in 2014 in Turkey to discuss joint strategy.”

The agreement comes just a few months after Ankara and Tehran — guarantors of the Astana process in Syria alongside Russia — found themselves at odds over their regional policies.

Iran, a close ally of Syrian President Bashar Assad, opposed Turkey’s military operation in northern Syria against Syrian Kurdish forces as well as its establishment of military posts inside Syria. In return, Turkey accused Iran of betraying the consensus between them.


Much more work needed in Iran nuclear talks despite progress, EU says

Much more work needed in Iran nuclear talks despite progress, EU says
Updated 17 min 2 sec ago

Much more work needed in Iran nuclear talks despite progress, EU says

Much more work needed in Iran nuclear talks despite progress, EU says

VIENNA: Iran, the US and world powers need to do a lot more to reach a deal to save the 2015 nuclear accord, the EU's political director chairing talks in Vienna said on Tuesday.

"Progress made over the last two weeks," European External Action Service Deputy Secretary General Enrique Mora said on Twitter.

"But much more hard work needed. Third expert group was created to address sequencing issues," he said.

More to follow...


Iranians in Turkey fear for safety after wave of deportations

Iranians in Turkey fear for safety after wave of deportations
Updated 20 April 2021

Iranians in Turkey fear for safety after wave of deportations

Iranians in Turkey fear for safety after wave of deportations
  • Five dissidents arrested last month, with one facing death penalty in Iran
  • Thirty-three deported last year from country formerly seen as safe haven

LONDON: Many Iranian dissidents no longer view Turkey as a safe haven after an increasing number of arrests and deportations in recent months.

Turkey is home to around 67,000 Iranians, with 39,000 claiming refugee status. Millions pass between the two countries each year on account of the visa-free border.

But following a crackdown by Ankara on Turkish dissidents in the last few years, and with trade and security links between the two countries increasing, Iranians too are being targeted.

Last month, Kurdish political activist Afshin Sohrabzadeh was detained and charged with being a “threat to national security” after visiting a police station to obtain travel papers.

He has since been moved to a repatriation center, and his lawyer Mahmut Kacan says his status as a refugee has been ignored.

“I have represented many refugees and asylum seekers from Iran, and their treatment is often terrible,” Kacan said.

Tehran and Ankara “have agreements to exchange people who are a political or security threat, especially anyone who is accused of links to Kurdish groups,” he added. 

“There is supposed to be rule of law in Turkey but the truth is, increasingly, Iranians can be deported without warning or following due process.”

Sohrabzadeh faces the death penalty if deported. He previously spent seven years in solitary confinement in Iran, where he says he was tortured, before escaping to Turkey in 2016, where he was joined by his family.

His wife Fereshteh Kangavari told The Guardian that men, believed to be Iranian agents, had constantly harassed the family in Turkey, and that they had been forced to move home multiple times.

“We lived a quiet life in Turkey, we had no desire to draw attention to ourselves, and we were careful to follow the rules of our host country,” she said.

“All we want is a normal life in a safe place. I am desperately afraid for my husband and the future for us and our son,” she added.

“I don’t feel safe here. It’s a constant feeling of insecurity. Wherever I go, whatever I do, I might get arrested. The way I feel about Turkey has changed.”

Four other Iranian asylum seekers were arrested on the same day as Sohrabzadeh in the Turkish city of Denizli.

Lily Faraji, Zeinab Sahafi, Ismail Fattahi and Mohammad Pourakbari were allegedly involved in a protest against Turkey’s withdrawal from an international treaty on violence against women.

“No third country has been determined in the deportation decision, and the judicial proceedings continue,” said the quartet’s lawyer Buse Bergamali.

“Regardless of the country, deportation would be unlawful. It is also unlawful that my clients stay in the removal center during this whole process.”

It is thought that 33 Iranians were deported from Turkey last year, with two subsequently sentenced to death for their roles in protests against the government in 2019.

At least four Iranians, meanwhile, have been kidnapped or killed by Iranian agents in Turkey since 2017.

In 2018, Turkey took over the registration of refugees and asylum seekers in its territory from the UN, after which deportation statistics were removed from government websites.

A senior Turkish official told The Guardian that his country “does not intend to deport any of the aforementioned individuals to Iran. It is possible, however, for them to be sent to a third country.” The official declined to mention the name of any third country involved.


‘Gentle steps forward’ in repair of Mosul war graves

‘Gentle steps forward’ in repair of Mosul war graves
Updated 20 April 2021

‘Gentle steps forward’ in repair of Mosul war graves

‘Gentle steps forward’ in repair of Mosul war graves
  • When Daesh rule ended in 2017, it was estimated that 90 percent of the Commonwealth forces’ cemetery in Mosul was damaged
  • There are Commonwealth graves in the site from 1914 up to the end of World War II, with Mosul witnessing many seismic military events in the 20th century

LONDON: “Gentle steps forward” have been taken in recovering sites destroyed during Daesh’s occupation of Mosul, the Commonwealth War Graves Commission (CWGC) has said.

Iraq’s second-largest city endured three years of Daesh control, with much of it laid to waste. Many buildings and key infrastructure were destroyed, including a significant war-graves site.

When Daesh rule ended in 2017, it was estimated that 90 percent of the cemetery was damaged.

The CWGC manages the site, where members of the armed forces of Commonwealth nations have been laid to rest.

The commission reported that the remains of those buried were not disturbed, but the iconic Cross of Sacrifice and the surrounding memorials were destroyed, with a pocket of external walls surviving.

British diplomats and other key stakeholders have been working with the CWGC to restore the site.

Preparatory moves before the commencing of recovery work has included representatives from the UN Mine Action Service (UNMAS) sweeping the grounds to remove any ordnance left behind by the site’s previous combatant occupants.

Teams will now survey the site and review how the cemetery can be secured for the full recovery work.

“The CWGC has noted that local conditions are now stabilizing in Mosul, and it has a window of opportunity to re-establish the site,” a CWGC spokesperson told Sky News.

“In addition, it has the excellent support of the UK Consul, UNMAS, and the opportunity to engage a local workforce to assist with the gradual clearance and rehabilitation,” the spokesperson added.

“The commission has rebuilt cemeteries before after serious damage caused by conflict — it is within the CWGC’s capability to do so.”

Iraq saw more than 54,000 Commonwealth war casualties. The commission has not sent a working party to the country since 2006 due to safety concerns. With the violence in Iraq increasing, CWGC cemeteries have been neglected.

When Daesh started its occupation of Mosul, the site was already in a precarious state. With the city now liberated, hope has returned that its graves can receive the restoration they desperately need.

There are Commonwealth graves in the site from 1914 up to the end of World War II, with Mosul witnessing many seismic military events in the 20th century.


Russia to announce resumption of charter flights to Egypt

Russia to announce resumption of charter flights to Egypt
Updated 20 April 2021

Russia to announce resumption of charter flights to Egypt

Russia to announce resumption of charter flights to Egypt
  • Flights from Russia to the Egyptian Red Sea resorts of Sharm el-Sheikh and Hurghada would resume in March

MOSCOW: Russia’s Foreign Ministry said on Tuesday it would soon announce the resumption of charter flights to Egypt, the Interfax news agency reported.
The head of Egypt’s civil aviation authority told Reuters in February that direct flights from Russia to the Egyptian Red Sea resorts of Sharm el-Sheikh and Hurghada would resume in March after being suspended for more than five years.


Israel, UK discuss ‘Iranian threat’ in Mideast region

Israel, UK discuss ‘Iranian threat’ in Mideast region
Updated 20 April 2021

Israel, UK discuss ‘Iranian threat’ in Mideast region

Israel, UK discuss ‘Iranian threat’ in Mideast region

DUBAI: Israel’s Foreign Minister discussed on Tuesday the threat Iran poses on the region with UK Minister Michael Gove.

Gabi Ashkenazi discussed other regional issues, bilateral ties and “the need for a travel corridor,” with the British Cabinet Office minister.

Gove is visiting Israel to study a COVID “green pass” smartphone app that could soon be the model for vaccine passports in the UK.

 

The British minister, who is in charge of a study into how coronavirus certification might work in the UK, has been a supporter of the Israeli scheme for weeks.

The visit involves meetings with Israel’s health minister, Yuli Edelstein and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.