Survey: Is polarization Turkey’s fate?

Survey: Is polarization Turkey’s fate?
Eighty-six percent of all respondents want 4 million Syrian refugees living in Turkey to go back home, according to the survey. (AFP file photo)
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Updated 22 December 2020

Survey: Is polarization Turkey’s fate?

Survey: Is polarization Turkey’s fate?
  • Among all political party supporters, the US is seen as the biggest threat, followed by Israel and Russia

ANKARA: A new international study has produced striking results about the growth of polarization in Turkey this year. 

The study, by the German Marshall Fund of the US and the Istanbul Bilgi University Center for Migration Research with financial support from the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (SIDA), published its results on Dec. 22, revealing the social distance, political intolerance and echo chambers within Turkish society.

The survey, entitled “Dimensions of Polarization in Turkey 2020”, was conducted through face-to-face interviews across 29 cities with some 4,000 representing Turkey’s adult population. The results were announced on Tuesday morning.

Among all political party supporters, the US is seen as the biggest threat, followed by Israel and Russia.

Eighty-six percent of all respondents want 4 million Syrian refugees living in Turkey to go back home, while this view climbs to 93 percent among CHP supporters.

As a prominent indicator of political polarization, people created a social distance from others who hold “the most distant” political line to their own.

While 72 percent of the participants do not want to do business with supporters of the “most distant” political party, some 60 percent also do not want them as neighbors. Another 66 percent said that they do not want their children to play with children of that political party’s supporters, and 75 percent don’t want their children to get married with children of the “other” political party.

Professor Emre Erdogan, an academic from Istanbul Bilgi University and the scientific coordinator of the study, said the survey revealed a decreasing willingness for living together among supporters of different political parties.

“This is a polarization both on political and emotional fronts, and is becoming an acute problem for the country,” he told Arab News.

70 percent of CHP supporters, 67 percent of HDP supporters and 65 percent of IYI Party supporters think that social disagreements increased in the country over the last year, with the failed coup attempt, the Kurdish conflict and the executive presidential system that grants President Recep Tayyip Erdogan with excessive power being the hot topics for disagreement.

Paul T. Levin, director of the Stockholm University Institute for Turkish Studies, thinks polarization seems to be part of the government’s strategy, or at least a consequence of it.

“President Erdogan himself has long used divisive rhetoric and depicted his political opponents as vandals, terrorists, or enemies of the state,” he told Arab News, adding that the government-affiliated media has also been known to demonize critics and contribute to the polarization in the country.

 The survey shows that polarization also deepens with some controversial issues. The supporters of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) and its nationalistic ally MHP vehemently support divisive projects such as Kanal Istanbul artificial waterway project or the re-conversion of Hagia Sophia into a mosque, while the opposition party supporters stand against them.

“The timing of the Hagia Sophia decision was probably related to the need to shore up support among core Erdogan and AKP supporters at a time of crisis. It was a big card to play though for relatively small gain at home and irreversibly sours perceptions of Turkey in the West and Orthodox Christian world,” Nora Fisher Onar, Turkey expert from University of San Francisco International Studies department, told Arab News.

“Another aspect of domestic governance that has been polarizing is the government’s interference in an attempt to usurp resources from or block opposition mayors’ provisions of public goods like transportation infrastructure,” she added.

Instead, the education in the mother tongue for the Kurdish community gathers all party supporters against the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party’s (HDP) supporters.

But supporters of the opposition parties stand against the appointment of trustees to the Kurdish-led municipalities with half of the population opposed.

A majority of the respondents do not use Twitter (63 percent) and Facebook (66 percent) as a means to share their political views.

Half of the respondents think the economy and unemployment are the most important problems of the country, followed by inflation rates. Eighty percent of AKP supporters think their opinions are represented in the country’s governance, while this rate is only 13.6 percent among CHP supporters and 8.1 percent among HDP supporters.

The supporters of the opposition parties are inclined to move abroad if they have a chance. One-third of CHP supporters and almost half of HDP supporters would think of immigration for finding a better job, for better opportunities of personal freedoms and due to losing hope about the country’s future.

“The unemployment, the poverty and the lack of means for political expression are the main factors that weaken the citizenship bond of HDP supporters,” Prof. Erdogan said.

Ninety percent of HDP supporters, 80 percent of CHP supporters and 69 percent of IYI Party supporters don’t think that the elections are held fairly in Turkey.

“This perception further strengthens the political alienation of people and it pushes them to migrate to other countries where they would be better represented on political fronts with democratic elections,” Prof. Erdogan said.

77 percent of AKP supporters feel “emotionally” attached to the country, while this rate declines to 65 percent among CHP supporters and 45 percent among HDP supporters.

According to Onar, Ankara’s assertive regional policies are most worrisome to HDP voters — especially regarding Syria and Iraq — and for the more progressive elements in the CHP, but are viewed positively by the right-wing nationalist AKP-MHP coalition and also for some in the center-right and center-left nationalist IYI Party.

“The more you polarize by encouraging a strong sense of ‘them’ versus ‘us’ the more you can generate passionate support among your followers. But then the harder it becomes to govern, requiring more polarization to stay in power and making it even harder to govern. This becomes a vicious circle,” she said.


Low expectations on nuclear talks as Iran creates facts on the ground

Low expectations on nuclear talks as Iran creates facts on the ground
Updated 6 sec ago

Low expectations on nuclear talks as Iran creates facts on the ground

Low expectations on nuclear talks as Iran creates facts on the ground
  • Diplomats: Tehran simply playing for time to accumulate more material and know-how

PARIS: World powers and Iran return to Vienna on Monday in a last ditch effort to salvage the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, but few expect a breakthrough as Tehran’s atomic activities rumble on in an apparent bid to gain leverage against the West.
The US will also send a delegation, headed by Washington’s Special Envoy for Iran Rob Malley, to participate in the talks indirectly.
Israel worries Iran will secure sanctions relief in renewed nuclear negotiations with world powers, but will not sufficiently roll back projects with bomb making potential, Prime Minister Naftali Bennett said.
“Israel is very worried about the readiness to remove the sanctions and to allow a flow of billions (of dollars) to Iran in exchange for unsatisfactory restrictions in the nuclear realm,” Bennett told his Cabinet in televised remarks.
“This is the message that we are relaying in every manner, whether to the Americans or to the other countries negotiating with Iran.”
Few expect a breakthrough in the talks as Iran’s uranium enrichment activities have escalated in an apparent bid to gain leverage.
Diplomats say time is running low to resurrect the JCPOA, known as the Iran nuclear deal, which former US President Donald Trump abandoned in 2018, angering Iran and dismaying the other world powers involved.
Six rounds of indirect talks were held between April and June.
The latest round begins after a hiatus triggered by the election of new Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi.
Tehran’s negotiating team has set out demands that US and European diplomats consider unrealistic.
Two European diplomats said it seemed Iran was simply playing for time to accumulate more material and know-how.
Western diplomats say they will head to Monday’s talks on the premise that they resume where they left off in June, and have warned that if Iran continues with its maximalist positions and fails to restore its cooperation with the International Atomic Energy Agency, then they will review their options.
Iran’s top negotiator and foreign minister both repeated on Friday that the full lifting of sanctions would be the only thing on the table in Vienna.
“If this is the position that Iran continues to hold on Monday, then I don’t see a negotiated solution,” said one European diplomat.
Iran has pressed ahead with its uranium enrichment program and the IAEA says its inspectors have been treated roughly and refused access to re-install monitoring cameras at a site it deems essential to reviving the deal.
“They are doing enough technically so they can change their basic relationship with the West to be able to have a more equal dialogue in the future,” said a Western diplomat involved in the talks.
Several diplomats said Iran was now between four to six weeks away from the “breakout time” it needs to amass enough fissile material for a single nuclear weapon, although they cautioned it was still about two years from being able to weaponize it.
Should the talks collapse, the likelihood is the US and its allies will initially confront Iran at the IAEA next month by calling for an emergency meeting.


Egypt authorizes Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine for 12 to 15 year-olds

Egypt authorizes Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine for 12 to 15 year-olds
Updated 17 min 57 sec ago

Egypt authorizes Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine for 12 to 15 year-olds

Egypt authorizes Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine for 12 to 15 year-olds
  • Prime minister directs government to take all precautionary measures against new COVID-19 variant Omicron

CAIRO: Egypt authorized on Sunday Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine for children aged 12-15, the cabinet said in a statement.
The step effectively lowers the minimum age of eligibility to receive the two-shot vaccine in Egypt, which was 15 years old previously.
Meanwhile, Prime Minister Mostafa Madbouly directed the government to take all precautionary measures against the new COVID-19 variant Omicron, noting the decision to halt all direct flights with South Africa.
His comments came during a meeting of a medical group to combat coronavirus, the state news agency (MENA) reported. 
Khaled Abdel Ghaffar, higher education and acting health minister, reviewed a report on the current local and international epidemical situation and the developments of the new variant, adding that the report confirmed there are no Omicron cases detected in Egypt till now.
He said that about 45.2 million vaccine doses had been administered, with 15.6 million people having received both doses.
On Friday, Egypt suspended direct flights to and from South Africa due to concerns about a new variant of the COVID-19 virus.
(With Reuters)


At least 200 Houthis killed in fighting, airstrikes in Marib, Jouf

At least 200 Houthis killed in fighting, airstrikes in Marib, Jouf
Updated 10 min 39 sec ago

At least 200 Houthis killed in fighting, airstrikes in Marib, Jouf

At least 200 Houthis killed in fighting, airstrikes in Marib, Jouf
  • The Arab coalition on Sunday announced that it had killed 110 Houthis in 15 airstrikes that destroyed nine Houthi military targets in Marib and Jouf during the past 24 hours

AL-MUKALLA: At least 200 Houthis were killed in heavy fighting with government forces and in airstrikes by Arab coalition warplanes during the past 24 hours in the Yemeni provinces of Marib and Jouf, as the militia pushed into Marib to seize control of strategic terrain, coalition and local military figures said on Sunday. 

One official told Arab News that at least 100 Houthis were killed when the militia launched a string of attacks on government forces in Thana, west of Marib city, on Saturday, in a bid to break the government’s lines and reach Al-Balaq Al-Qibili Mountain to high ground over parts of the city.

“All waves of the Houthis failed to advance or capture an inch in Thana. Many Houthis were killed when our forces and the (Arab) coalition’s warplanes wiped out those waves,” the official said, adding that most of the Houthi fatalities were caused by “precise” airstrikes. 

The Houthis have recently focused attacks on areas west of Marib after failing to make territorial gains in Juba, Um Raesh and Al-Amud, south of Marib.

In September, the Houthis pushed into districts such as Abedia, Rahabah and Hareb after making rapid gains in neighboring Al-Bayda province.

The Houthis once again were drawn into a military stalemate in Juba after facing stiff resistance from army troops and local tribes. Hundreds were killed in heavy fighting during the past week, and the militia was forced into decreasing attacks due to high losses, the official said. 

The Arab coalition on Sunday announced that it had killed 110 Houthis in 15 airstrikes that destroyed nine Houthi military targets in Marib and Jouf during the past 24 hours.

The coalition has intensified raids against the Houthis across Yemen, hitting ballistic missile depots, drone workshops and ammunition stores in Sanaa and dozens of military vehicles and fighters heading to various battlefields.

Based on the coalition’s daily updates on its airstrikes, hundreds of Houthis have been killed and dozens of vehicles destroyed in Marib and other flashpoints in Yemen this month.

The heavy aerial bombardments of Houthi targets have shored up government troops on the ground, allowing them to repulse Houthi attacks and make territorial gains.


Sudan’s Burhan dismisses senior intelligence officers: Sources

Sudan’s Burhan dismisses senior intelligence officers: Sources
Updated 28 November 2021

Sudan’s Burhan dismisses senior intelligence officers: Sources

Sudan’s Burhan dismisses senior intelligence officers: Sources
  • The decision by Al-Burhan comes a week after he struck a deal to reinstate Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok
  • He also mets with EU envoy for the Horn of Africa to discuss transitional process, elections

KHARTOUM: Sudan’s military leader has overhauled top intelligence positions, dismissing at least eight general intelligence officers and replacing the head of military intelligence, two official sources told Reuters on Sunday.
The decision by Sovereign Council head Abdel Fattah Al-Burhan comes a week after he struck a deal to reinstate Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok, who had been placed under house arrest in an Oct. 25 coup.
Of the officers dismissed, five were in senior positions and had been in place since before the 2019 overthrow of long-ruling autocrat Omar Al-Bashir, the sources said. On Saturday, official sources said Al-Burhan had replaced the head of the general intelligence service.
It was not immediately clear what impact the decisions could have on the balance of power following Hamdok’s return. Hamdok replaced the country’s top two police officials on Saturday, following deadly violence against anti-military protesters in recent weeks.
Meanwhile, Al-Burhan held talks with EU envoy for the Horn of Africa Annette Weber to discuss the need to complete the structures of the transitional authority, including the formation of the transitional legislative council, especially those related to the election process.
During the meeting, Al-Burhan “pledged to protect the transitional period until free and fair elections are held,” and stressed his support for the government that will be formed by Hamdok to perform its national tasks, satae news agency SUNA reported.
Weber affirmed the EU’s continued support for the political transition process in Sudan in order to hold the elections, especially in the logistical and technical aspects. She said “Sudan is an important country for the security of the region and the Red Sea.”
Before the coup, the military had been sharing power with civilian groups that took part in an uprising against Bashir. Many within those groups have opposed the deal between Al-Burhan and Hamdok, saying they want the army to exit politics.
One condition of the deal was that political prisoners arrested since the coup should be freed. Some have been released but others remain in detention.
The US, Britain and Norway, which lead Western foreign policy on Sudan, called for the release of all those imprisoned for their political beliefs across Sudan.
“These are necessary steps to rebuild trust and return Sudan to the path of freedom and democracy,” they said in a statement.
(With Reuters)


Daesh roadside bomb in Iraq leaves 5 Peshmerga dead, 4 wounded

Daesh roadside bomb in Iraq leaves 5 Peshmerga dead, 4 wounded
Updated 28 November 2021

Daesh roadside bomb in Iraq leaves 5 Peshmerga dead, 4 wounded

Daesh roadside bomb in Iraq leaves 5 Peshmerga dead, 4 wounded
  • The Peshmerga fighters were killed in the Garmian district in Iraq’s Kurdish-run north late Saturday

BAGHDAD: A roadside bomb attack by Daesh group fighters in northern Iraq killed five Kurdish forces and wounded four others, Kurdish state news agency Rudaw reported Sunday.
The Peshmerga fighters were killed in the Garmian district in Iraq’s Kurdish-run north late Saturday. Daesh militants then attacked a peshmerga post, wounding four, according to the report.
Attacks targeting Iraqi security forces, including Kurdish peshmerga fighters, are common and have been on the rise since Daesh was defeated on the battlefield in 2017. Militants remain active through sleeper cells in many areas, especially across a band of territory in the north under dispute between federal Iraq and the semi-autonomous Kurdistan Regional Government.
Militants from Daesh still conduct operations, often targeting security forces, power stations and other infrastructure.
Kurdistan Region President Nechirvan Barzani offered condolences to the families of the dead Sunday.
“The increase in the (Daesh) attacks sends a dangerous and serious message and brings forth a serious threat in the region. Therefore, further cooperation between the Peshmerga forces and the Iraqi security forces with support from the global coalition is an urgent need,” he said in a statement.
The US-led coalition to defeat Daesh announced the end of its combat mission and said troops will withdraw from Iraq by the end of December. Advisers will remain to continue to train Iraqi forces.