Headlines from the centennial! – Fifth sequel

Headlines from the centennial! – Fifth sequel

Time flies! It’s already three months since the “fourth sequel” appeared here, but it’s time for more headlines from the Istanbul press in the year 2023:

•    The revered (and roaming) tomb of Süleyman Shah, an ancient Turkish commander and grandfather of Osman I, founder of the Ottoman Empire, was relocated to an unknown spot after a successful military operation. Since 2015, the tomb has been relocated 39 times in the face of threats from various Islamist groups in Syria and Iraq, and has traveled to more than a dozen countries. 

•    The Turkish Language Association released a new list of words it decided to erase from the Turkish vocabulary on the grounds that these words did not exist in Turkish-Sunni culture. The new list of 329 words include “thief/thievery,” “corruption,” “dictator,” “murderer,” “atheist,” “gay,” “rape/rapist” and “terrorism.”

•     Former Danish Prime Minister Helle Thorning-Schmidt, winner of the “1st Traditional Tragicomic Comments on Turkey” prize in 2015, praised Turkey’s strong commitment to EU reforms and democratic culture. Two years after Turkey withdrew its candidacy and formally applied for membership in the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, Ms. Thorning-Schmidt said Turkey’s accession into the EU would improve the European club’s democratic standards.

•     At a private ceremony held at the Foreign Ministry, Turkey silently celebrated the 11th anniversary of Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu’s prophecy that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s days in power were numbered to a few weeks. Mr. al-Assad sent a courtesy message to the ceremony and apologized for his absence due to his busy schedule. 

•     After Egypt, Libya, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, the UAE and Tunisia, Algeria and Morocco joined the Muslim countries that have frozen diplomatic relations with Turkey. Meanwhile in Ankara, Mr. Davutoğlu vowed to deepen Israel’s isolation from the international community unless it agreed to return to its pre-1967 borders.

•     After the number of imam school students hit 6 million, the Education Ministry announced that it was considering abolishing non-imam schools for which parental demand was too low. 

•     After Mr. Davutoğlu launched a parliamentary probe into corruption allegations against five ministers in his cabinet, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan resented that Turkey could be facing a new coup plot. He said: “The Gülenist infiltration into the administration may have gone deeper than we thought. These dangerous terrorists can easily be disguised even as the prime minister.” Mr. Davutoğlu dropped the charges immediately.

•     Millions of Turks vacated Central Anatolia after the government announced that it would build a 100 percent Turkish nuclear bomb at a laboratory in an unspecified town in the area. Turkey’s move is widely seen as a challenge to Saudi Arabia and Egypt which built their own bombs two years ago, shortly after Iran admitted to having developed its own.

•    The number of Turks standing trial on charges of insulting Mr. Erdoğan stands at over 19 million. Islamic Justice Minister Sheik Abdulhamid al-Tayyeb said he would hire 20,000 new qadis to speed up the legal proceedings. 

•    The president of Religious Affairs Directorate (Diyanet), Professor Ahmet Görür, denied that he had bought an $81 million private jet with taxpayers’ money. “That’s a shameless smear campaign,” he said. “The aircraft is modest and it cost a mere $77 million.” He said he would sue the press for slander.

•    After Cyprus, Egypt and Israel reported their first natural gas sales to Europe at an annual $4 billion, Ankara said it would not permit hydrocarbon explorations off the island.

•     Parliament passed a bill that introduces a life-time presidential system. Mr. Erdoğan welcomed the move, and said the new law would further enhance democracy in Turkey. But he resented that an article that allows a president to appoint an heir to the seat before his death was scrapped during the parliamentary debate “probably because of a Gülenist infiltration into parliament.” That, he said, was an explicit coup attempt. 

•    The Defense Ministry reported that the first 100 percent Turkish fighter jet was ready for its maiden flight. It said the reason for the delay in the first flight test was the reluctance of pilots to test the aircraft, the Abdülhamid III.