Headlines from the centennial! – Third sequel

Headlines from the centennial! – Third sequel

Two years after the second sequel to this column’s “headlines” series and having just commemorated the Republic’s 91th anniversary, here we go again with more headlines from the Istanbul press in the year 2023:

- Two Turkish professors who invented a device that measures a person’s piety have won the Islamic Nobel prize in physics. President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has said the device would be used during job interviews for public workers. 

- The EU’s annual progress report on Turkey’s accession has warned of systematic violations of basic civil liberties, curbs on the media and widespread corruption, but encouraged Ankara to tackle further reforms if it wants to become a member. Egemen Bağış, who took the seat of EU minister last month after a nearly 10-year break in his political career, brushed off the EU report as “unfair and subjective.”

In a separate report, the Reporters Without Borders announced that Turkey ranked 169th on its international press freedom index, a promising improvement from 172nd in 2022.

- National Ethics Minister Zafer Çaglayan, who along with Mr. Bağış resigned in 2013 after a graft scandal, also denounced the EU report. “I would bet my $700,000 watch that there is not a penny worth corruption in Turkey,” he said. “Muslims never steal public money.”

- The Labor Ministry has announced that fatal mining accidents in the first nine months of 2023 fell sharply to 18,723 from 26,739 in the same period of 2022.

- U.N. special envoy to Cyprus, Barack Obama, has said a fresh round of negotiations will open next month to end the island’s nearly half-century long division. Previous round of talks failed after Turkey insisted that Qatar should act as a fair broker between Turkish and Greek Cypriots for reunification. Qatar is the only country in the Middle East that has full diplomatic relations with Turkey.

- Pro-government media cheerfully announced that Turkey in 2022 had become the world’s 17th biggest economy, up from 17th in 2002.

- The Turkish Foreign Ministry quietly celebrated the 22nd anniversary of Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu’s statement that “al-Assad’s days are numbered.” Meanwhile, Mr. al-Assad refused a Turkish request to take military action against the New Islamic State, a new Salafist group that defeated the Real Islamic State, which had captured large swathes of land from the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant. The New Islamic State is a group of jihadists who had broken off relations with the Free Syrian Army.

- Prime Minister Davutoğlu has said Turkey would agree to normalize its ties with Israel if the Jewish state publicly apologized for the 2010 Mavi Marmara incident, paid compensation to the families of the victims, removed the blockade of Gaza, and returned to its pre-1948 borders. The Israeli Foreign Ministry accused Turkey of premeditatedly attempting to kill Israeli citizens by causing laughter spasms.

Turkish Foreign Minister Khaleed Mashal, a former Hamas official who became a Turkish citizen and joined Mr. Davutoğlu’s Cabinet in 2020, said Israel’s isolation would continue until the Turkish Cabinet members prayed at the al-Aqsa mosque in the Palestinian capital Quds (Jerusalem).

- Turkey’s first indigenous spaceship was found off the Cape Horn, two weeks after it disappeared from the radar at its inauguration launch. The Turkish government accuses dark forces for the crash. But Turkey’s top cleric has said the spaceship failed because engineers forgot to write Quranic scripts on its body.

- In a related development, the prototype of Turkey’s first indigenous fighter jet derailed during field tests. A previous prototype had sunk in the Black Sea after Turkish engineers insisted that the jet should also perform underwater warfare duties.

- Next month, Turks will vote in a referendum that may grant Mr. Erdoğan lifelong presidency. Opinion polls show 60 to 70 percent of Turks would vote “yes.” Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu, the imprisoned leader of a former opposition party, banned in 2019, said the referendum was undemocratic.

- Turkey’s scientific research institute TÜBITAK announced that this year’s piety index for the Turkish youth had been measured at 7.4242, a better score than last year’s 6.9846.