Germany accuses Turkish think tank of pushing government propaganda in Europe

Germany accuses Turkish think tank of pushing government propaganda in Europe
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Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, right, Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu, left, and Finance Minister Berat Albayrak, center, wearing face masks to protect against the spread of coronavirus, attend an inauguration ceremony, in Istanbul, Saturday, July 4, 2020. (AP)
Germany accuses Turkish think tank of pushing government propaganda in Europe
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Demonstrators protest against the Turkish government’s curbs on media. (AFP/File)
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Updated 10 January 2021

Germany accuses Turkish think tank of pushing government propaganda in Europe

Germany accuses Turkish think tank of pushing government propaganda in Europe
  • Germany’s internal intelligence service, BfV, has been investigating SETA’s activities in Germany for a while. Last month it published a report accusing SETA of pursuing the Turkish government’s agenda in Germany

ANKARA: Germany has accused a Turkish think tank of being a front for President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s party and spreading government propaganda in Europe.

The Foundation for Political, Economic and Social Research (SETA) has had an office in Berlin since 2017.

SETA is known to be financed by the family of Erdogan’s son-in-law and former finance and treasury minister, Berat Albayrak, and it has representative offices in Brussels and Washington D.C.

Germany’s parliament accused SETA of collecting intelligence and spreading the views of the Turkish government using scientific research activities as a cover.

The federal government said that SETA’s aim was to garner influence in German public opinion and frame the political debates about Turkey with various instruments, including nominating candidates in local elections. It was acting in response to a parliamentary inquiry from the Free Democratic Party (FDP).

Stephan Thomae, from the FDP, said the government had lost its patience and abandoned its cautious approach toward Turkey’s efforts to establish diplomatic leverage in Germany, Deutsche Welle reported.

“It has been clear for some time that SETA is part of the government of Turkey 's information game,” tweeted Steven A. Cook, a senior fellow at the New York-based Council on Foreign Relations. “Too few in Washington understand that it is not actually a research organization.”

SETA previously came under fire from the international community in 2019, when it published two reports.

It catalogued the correspondents of international news outlets in Turkey, while another report on the structure of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) in Europe claimed that the group collaborated with racist white supremacists on the continent.

HIGHLIGHT

Germany’s parliament accused SETA of collecting intelligence and spreading the views of the Turkish government using scientific research activities as a cover.

Press freedom groups condemned the SETA media report as a dangerous escalation in the treatment of journalists, and a criminal complaint against the SETA report was filed on a series of charges including “inciting the public to hatred and enmity.”

The report profiled social media sharing and the personal backgrounds of Turkish journalists who worked for international media, including Arab News, effectively making them a government target.

Germany’s internal intelligence service, BfV, has been investigating SETA’s activities in Germany for a while. Last month it published a report accusing SETA of pursuing the Turkish government’s agenda in Germany.

“US authorities should follow suit with SETA’s Washington counterpart. This propaganda shop has long been the main beacon of Erdoganism in the United States,” Sinan Ciddi, associate professor of national security studies at the Marine Corps University in the US, tweeted.

Turkish opposition parties’ requests for a parliamentary inquiry about SETA’s financial resources and activities were rejected by Ankara in 2019.

SETA has been exempt from tax since 2013, unlike other think tanks in Turkey.

The Turkish presidency’s communication director Fahrettin Altun and the presidency’s lead spokesman Ibrahim Kalin used to work at SETA.

SETA has not yet released an official statement about the German government’s claims.


Sudan schoolbook picture sparks angry reform debate

Sudan schoolbook picture sparks angry reform debate
Bookseller Yaqoub Mohamed Yaqoub, 45, sits by his roadside stall where he has been working for 15 years, in the Sudanese capital Khartoum, on January 14, 2021. (AFP)
Updated 16 January 2021

Sudan schoolbook picture sparks angry reform debate

Sudan schoolbook picture sparks angry reform debate
  • Unrest ricocheted beyond North African country, triggering uprisings, crackdowns, civil wars

KHARTOUM: As Sudan’s transitional government shifts the nation from the Islamist rule of ousted strongman Omar Bashir, a new schoolbook has sparked controversy for reproducing Michelangelo’s iconic “Creation of Adam.”
Khartoum’s government has embarked on deeply controversial reforms in a bid to boost its international standing and rescue its ailing economy — but bringing it into a confrontation with those who see changes as anti-Islamic.
The offending picture, in a history textbook for teenagers, has become a flashpoint in the argument. “It is an ugly offense,” said Sudan’s Academy of Islamic Fiqh, the body ruling on Islamic law, which issued an edict banning teaching from the book.
Michelangelo’s fresco, depicting the Biblical story of God reaching out with his hand to give life to Adam, is a flagship piece of 16th century Renaissance art that forms part of the Sistine Chapel’s ceiling in Rome.
“The book glorifies Western culture in a way that makes it the culture of science and civilization — in contrast to its presentation of Islamic civilization,” the Fiqh academy added.

BACKGROUND

In a viral video, a preacher broke down as he waved the book during Friday prayers, accusing it of promoting ‘apostasy’ and ‘heresy.’

Furious Muslim clerics have railed against the book and other changes to the school curriculum.
In one video widely shared on social media, a preacher broke down as he waved the book during Friday prayers, accusing it of promoting “apostasy” and “heresy.”
Another urged followers to “burn the book.”
But others defended the changes, saying they were part of necessary education reforms.
“The picture is not in a religious book,” teacher Qamarya Omar said.
“It is in a history book for the sixth-grade under a section called European Renaissance, which makes it placed in context.”