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.


Eid festivities stop as Israel pounds Gaza

Eid festivities stop as Israel pounds Gaza
Updated 30 min 20 sec ago

Eid festivities stop as Israel pounds Gaza

Eid festivities stop as Israel pounds Gaza
  • Eid preparations came to a halt on the largely empty streets as shops downed shutters and people stayed indoors

GAZA CITY: The Gaza Strip echoed to the sound of explosions as fighting between Israel and Hamas in contested Jerusalem escalated on Tuesday.

Since Monday night, 26 Palestinians, including nine children and a woman, have been killed in Gaza, most by Israeli airstrikes, health officials said.

Eid preparations came to a halt on the largely empty streets as shops downed shutters and people stayed indoors.

Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhoum said: “As long as the Zionist aggression against our people continues, the Palestinian resistance, especially Hamas, will remain in a state of permanent clash with the occupation, which has made Jerusalem, Al-Aqsa and the Gaza Strip a target and a scene for its crimes and violations.”

Israeli warplanes attacked dozens of sites in Gaza, including homes and farming areas, as well as military training sites belonging to Hamas and Islamic Jihad.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said: “We are in the midst of a military campaign. The Israeli army has been attacking hundreds of Hamas and Islamic Jihad targets in Gaza.”

Al-Qassam Brigades, the military wing of Hamas, said in a statement: “The enemy bombed a target where our mujahideen were present to repel the aggression, and we have martyrs and missing persons.”

Gazans endured a long night of bombardment and terror. Some lost their loved ones, others their homes.

Rashad Al-Sayed, 57, who lives on the sixth floor of the Tiba building in Al-Shati refugee camp, west of Gaza City, said that the roof of the house collapsed on his family as they tried to sleep after dawn prayers.

From a bed in Gaza’s Al-Shifa Hospital, he told Arab News: “It was a harsh night, we could not sleep, and when we decided to sleep, the roof fell on us. Israeli warplanes struck an apartment above my flat on the seventh floor.”

Al-Sayed was slightly injured, but his eldest son, Ahmed, 23, was badly hurt and is in intensive care in the same hospital.

Eyewitnesses told Arab News that Israeli warplanes fired four missiles at an apartment on the seventh floor at about 4:30 a.m., causing damage in most of the building, and killing a woman and her son on the floor below.


Egypt, Saudi FMs discuss Israeli attacks against Palestinians

Egypt, Saudi FMs discuss Israeli attacks against Palestinians
Updated 11 May 2021

Egypt, Saudi FMs discuss Israeli attacks against Palestinians

Egypt, Saudi FMs discuss Israeli attacks against Palestinians
  • Cairo spokesperson briefs Prince Faisal on efforts Egypt is making to restore peace
  • FMs agree on prioritizing political solutions in a way that ensures strengthening stability in the region

CAIRO: Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry and his Saudi counterpart Prince Faisal bin Farhan Al-Saud discussed in a phone call on Monday attacks carried out by Israeli forces at the Al-Aqsa Mosque and other recent developments in Jerusalem.

Police fired tear gas and stun grenades inside the mosque and at least three Palestinians lost an eye after being struck by plastic bullets that witnesses said were aimed directly at their heads.

Tensions on the Gaza Strip border with Israel continued to mount following recent violent confrontations at the mosque and in the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood of Jerusalem.

Ahmed Hafez, a spokesperson for the country’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, said Shoukry briefed Prince Faisal on the efforts Egypt is making to restore peace. He stressed the need for Israel to halt its aggression and to provide the necessary protection for the Palestinian people.

The two ministers affirmed their rejection of all illegal practices aimed at undermining legitimate Palestinian rights. They also agreed on prioritizing political solutions in a way that ensures strengthening stability in the region and the importance of all parties respecting international law.

In an official statement, the Egyptian Foreign Ministry expressed its condemnation of “these rapid and dangerous developments.”

The statement emphasized the need to stop all practices that violate the sanctity of the Al-Aqsa Mosque, especially during the month of Ramadan. The statement also called for the protection of Palestinian civilians in the mosque and others in East Jerusalem.


Gazans serving up smoked fish on first day of Eid

Gazans serving up smoked fish on first day of Eid
Updated 11 May 2021

Gazans serving up smoked fish on first day of Eid

Gazans serving up smoked fish on first day of Eid
  • Palestinians say herring and fesikh fish increase the appetite and are useful for the stomach following a month of fasting
  • Local fish industry is flourishing as imported herring fish from Israel, which for years had been the main supplier for Gaza’s needs, has decreased significantly

GAZA STRIP: Abed Rabbo Adwan, who learned a few years ago how to prepare herring, prefers to cook the fish at his home in the city of Rafah, which is in the southern Gaza Strip. 

Herring and fesikh fish are used as the main dish on the tables of the majority of Gaza residents during the first day of Eid Al-Fitr because they believe it increases the appetite and is useful for the stomach following a month of fasting.

Its popularity has spread throughout Palestinian homes, especially in the southern Gaza Strip, adjacent to the border with Egypt.

Adwan said that preparing herring at home guarantees quality, and at a much lower price compared to what is available in the market, which is usually prepared locally or imported from Israel.

He said his family helps him prepare the fish, which creates an atmosphere of happiness during the last days of Ramadan and ahead of Eid.

The local fish industry is flourishing as the import of herring fish from Israel, which for years had been the main supplier for Gaza’s needs, has decreased significantly. The price of a kilo of locally prepared smoked fish is 20 shekels ($6), about half the price of its imported counterpart from Israel.

To start, Adwan buys a kilo of mackerel or frozen tuna, cleans the fish, and then salts it with some help from his family. After that, he smokes the fish in a primitive way that does not cost much.

The preparation begins with removing its entrails, filling the cleaned fish with salt, and leaving it for 24 hours. After washing it well and then drying the fish, he hangs it vertically with iron clips over iron bars inside an oven. The flames are ignited with charcoal and sawdust.

Adwan does not have a furnace. He uses an iron container as an oven and closes it tightly to block the air so the fish inside does not catch fire or get spoiled.

“The fish remains in this position, exposed to smoke, for about two hours,” he said. “This gives the fish the taste of smoke and turns its color from white to yellowish to gold. Then it is ready to eat.”

As some in his family prefer fesikh to herring for breakfast on the first day of Eid, Adwan makes a limited amount of it using a different method. A kilo of fesikh in the market ranges between 10 and 30 shekels and it is stored in a place away from the air for about a month.

Traders say that Gaza produces large quantities of herring and fesikh which is sufficient for local consumption. Gaza can even export the fish if given the opportunity.

Ibrahim Hejazy, the owner of one of the largest herring plants in Gaza, said he started in the industry about seven years ago with a limited quantity that was for personal consumption. The idea developed and he set up a factory that started to produce quantity.

“I was encouraged by the great turnout to expand the factory and bring in a special oven for preparation,” Hejazy said. “Today, we have become the most famous factory in the Gaza Strip, distributing what we produce to merchants, distributors and shops.”

Hejazi took over other bakeries and doubled his workforce, which would have been overloaded with work in the middle of Ramadan. They work all night and day preparing smoked fish to meet the market’s needs.


Gaza block collapses after Israeli strike, rockets hit Tel Aviv

People gather at the site of a collapsed building in the aftermath of Israeli air strikes on Gaza City on May 11, 2021. (AFP)
People gather at the site of a collapsed building in the aftermath of Israeli air strikes on Gaza City on May 11, 2021. (AFP)
Updated 11 May 2021

Gaza block collapses after Israeli strike, rockets hit Tel Aviv

People gather at the site of a collapsed building in the aftermath of Israeli air strikes on Gaza City on May 11, 2021. (AFP)
  • Israel Airports Authority halt take-offs at Tel Aviv's Ben Gurion airport "to allow defense of nation's skies"
  • At least 28 people in the Palestinian enclave and two in Israel have been killed so far

GAZA/JERUSALEM: A 13-story residential block in the Gaza Strip collapsed on Tuesday night after being hit by an Israeli air strike, witnesses said.
Three people were wounded in a retaliatory rocket attack from Gaza on Tel Aviv
Video footage showed three plumes of thick, black smoke rising from the Gaza tower, its upper storys still intact as they fell. The building houses an office used by the political leadership of the enclave’s Islamist rulers, Hamas.

Israeli firefighter extinguishes a burning vehicle on Tuesday after Hamas launched rockets from Gaza Strip to Ashkelon, at southern Israel. (AFP)

Electricity in the surrounding area went out, and residents were using flashlights.
Shortly after the attack, Hamas and the Islamic Jihad group said they would respond by firing rockets at Tel Aviv.
Air raid sirens and explosions were heard around the city, and the skies were lit up by the streaks of multiple interceptor missiles launched toward the incoming rockets.
Pedestrians ran for shelter, and diners streamed out of Tel Aviv restaurants while others flattened themselves on pavements as the sirens sounded.
Israeli television stations said three people had been wounded in the suburb of Holon.

Burnt vehicles are seen in the town of Holon near Tel Aviv after rockets were launched towards Israel from the Gaza Strip by Hamas. (AFP)


The Israel Airports Authority said it had halted take-offs at Tel Aviv’s Ben Gurion airport “to allow defense of (the) nation’s skies.”
The US State Department urged restraint on both sides.
“We are now carrying out our promise,” Hamas’s armed wing said in a statement. “The Qassam Brigades are launching their biggest rocket strike against Tel Aviv and its suburbs, with 130 rockets, in response to the enemy’s targeting of residential towers.”
Hours earlier, Israel had sent 80 jets to bomb Gaza and massed tanks on the border as rocket barrages hit Israeli towns for a second day, deepening a conflict in which at least 28 people in the Palestinian enclave and two in Israel have been killed.
Residents of the block and people living nearby had been warned to evacuate the area around an hour before the air strike, according to witnesses, and there were no reports of casualties two hours after it collapsed.
The most serious outbreak of fighting since 2019 between Israel and armed factions in Gaza was triggered by clashes between Palestinians and Israeli police at Jerusalem’s Al-Aqsa Mosque on Monday.

Flames are seen following an Israeli air strike on Rafah, in the south of the Gaza Strip controlled by the Palestinian Hamas movement, on May 11, 2021. (AFP)

The city, holy to Jews, Muslims and Christians, has been tense during the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan, with the threat of a court ruling evicting Palestinians from homes claimed by Jewish settlers adding to the friction.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Israel would step up its strikes on Gaza, an enclave of 2 million people, in response to the rocket attacks.
“Both the strength of the attacks and the frequency of the attacks will be increased,” he said in a video statement.
Within an hour, Israel said it had deployed jets to bomb rocket launch sites in and around Gaza City.

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Officials said infantry and armor were being dispatched to reinforce the tanks already gathered on the border, evoking memories of the last Israeli ground incursion into Gaza to stop rocket attacks, in 2014.
More than 2,100 Gazans were killed in the seven-week war that followed, according to the Gaza health ministry, along with 73 Israelis, and thousands of homes in Gaza were razed.
On Tuesday, before the block collapsed, the Gaza health ministry said at least 28 Palestinians, including 10 children, had been killed and 152 wounded by Israeli strikes since Hamas on Monday fired rockets toward Jerusalem for the first time since 2014.
Israel’s national ambulance service said two women had been killed in rocket strikes on the southern city of Ashkelon.
The International Committee of the Red Cross urged all sides to step back, and reminded them of the requirement in international law to try to avoid civilian casualties.


Iran has enriched uranium to up to 63 percent purity, IAEA says

Iran has enriched uranium to up to 63 percent purity, IAEA says
Updated 12 May 2021

Iran has enriched uranium to up to 63 percent purity, IAEA says

Iran has enriched uranium to up to 63 percent purity, IAEA says
  • Iran made the shift to 60%, a big step towards nuclear weapons-grade from the 20% previously achieved
  • The deal says Iran cannot enrich beyond 3.67% fissile purity, far from the 90% of weapons-grade

VIENNA: “Fluctuations” at Iran’s Natanz plant pushed the purity to which it enriched uranium to 63 percent, higher than the announced 60 percent that complicated talks to revive its nuclear deal with world powers, a report by the UN nuclear watchdog said on Tuesday.
Iran made the shift to 60 percent, a big step toward nuclear weapons-grade from the 20 percent previously achieved, last month in response to an explosion and power cut at Natanz that Tehran has blamed on Israel and appears to have damaged its enrichment output at a larger, underground facility there.
Iran’s move rattled the current indirect talks with the United States to agree conditions for both sides to return fully to the 2015 nuclear deal, which was undermined when Washington abandoned it in 2018, prompting Tehran to violate its terms.
The deal says Iran cannot enrich beyond 3.67 percent fissile purity, far from the 90 percent of weapons-grade. Iran has long denied any intention to develop nuclear weapons.
“According to Iran, fluctuations of the enrichment levels... were experienced,” the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) said in the confidential report to its member states, seen by Reuters.
“The agency’s analysis of the ES (environmental samples) taken on 22 April 2021 shows an enrichment level of up to 63 percent U-235, which is consistent with the fluctuations of the enrichment levels (described by Iran),” it added, without saying why the fluctuations had occurred.
A previous IAEA report last month said Iran was using one cascade, or cluster, of advanced IR-6 centrifuge machines to enrich to up to 60 percent and feeding the tails, or depleted uranium, from that process into a cascade of IR-4 machines to enrich to up to 20 percent.
Tuesday’s report said the Islamic Republic was now feeding the tails from the IR-4 cascade into a cascade of 27 IR-5 and 30 IR-6s centrifuges to refine uranium to up to 5 percent.