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Why Turkey is Fun – Unless You Have to Live in Turkey

Why Turkey is Fun – Unless You Have to Live in Turkey

On August 13th one US dollar was trading at 7.15 against the lira. If one clicked on any foreign exchange page 7.15 was the exchange rate between the dollar and the lira.

Finance pages of newspapers gave their readers the same exchange rate. Not much different than newspapers’ weather sections reporting that, say, on August 13th the temperature was 36 C in Istanbul.

On August 13th, however, İdris İlhan, a Kurdish politician, made the mistake of sharing the day’s exchange rate: One dollar at 7.15 lira, he tweeted. He could have tweeted: The temperature in Istanbul is 36 C.

A court in the southeastern province of Siirt ordered Mr İlhan’s arrest on two charges: 1- With that tweet Mr İlhan made terrorist propaganda, and 2- He violated the Capital Market Law. He was put in gaol.

It is the duty of citizens, including politicians and journalists, to prove loyalty to the state and to avoid offending. Mr İlhan should rot in jail.

Meanwhile this author is proud to announce here that in the opening hours of the markets one US dollar was trading at 1.29 liras. That’s good news, and shows the strength of the Turkish economy. The exchange rate is also consistent with the year-on-year inflation rate which was running at 2.19 percent in October.

And what lovely weather we are having at the end of November! We enjoyed sunshine at 26 C Sunday afternoon.

In September, when the dollar-lira rate was 1.21, a court in the southern province of Antalya handed down a prison sentence of four years and six months to a 16-year-old boy for kissing 13-year-old girl at school.

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Kissing is a serious crime. Shooting may not be, depending on the target. In 2016 journalist Can Dündar, declared as a spy, traitor and terrorist by President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, along with his colleague Erdem Gül, was sentenced to five years in prison for “revealing state secrets” after a front-page story in Cumhuriyet detailed how Turkey’s security services had sent arms shipments to radical jihadis fighting in Syria. Shortly before a court in Ankara announced the verdict Dündar narrowly escaped an attack by a gunman outside the courthouse. A television reporter who was covering the trial was injured by a stray bullet. The gunman was apparently an Erdoğan sympathizer who confessed to having been provoked by news accusing Dündar of high treason.

In a hearing in October the gunman was sentenced to 5,000 liras (approximately $900). The injured journalist, Yağız Şenkal, commented: “This fine is even smaller than what I had to pay the hospital for my injuries.”

No one should be surprised. After all Turkey is fun! It’s the land where a court has recently appointed trustees to two brothels and where the Foreign Ministry immediately recalled an ambassador for wearing an ancient Greek costume during a reception.

Enjoy responsibly!

About The Author

Burak Bekdil

Burak Bekdil is an Ankara-based Turkish political columnist who wrote for Hurriyet Daily News [formerly Turkish Daily News] for 29 years. He has covered Turkey for the U.S. weekly Defense News since 1997. Previously, Bekdil worked as Ankara Bureau Chief for Dow Jones Newswires and CNBC-e television. He contributes to annual national defense sector reviews for anti-corruption institutions like Transparency International and Global Integrity. Bekdil is a fellow at the Middle East Forum and regularly writes for the Gatestone Institute and Middle East Quarterly. He also contributes to Perspectives, a journal of the Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies, Bar-Ilan University, Tel Aviv. James Cuno, art historian and President of the J. Paul Getty Trust, describes Bekdil as "a frequent critic of Prime Minister [now president] Recep Tayyip Erdogan." In 2001, a Heavy Crimes Court in Ankara sentenced Bekdil to a suspended, 20-month prison sentence for his column in which he satirized corruption in the judiciary. Bekdil's comments, quotes and articles have been published in international media outlets including the Wall Street Journal, The Economist, BBC, The Guardian, Reuters, Associated Press, Bloomberg, Los Angeles Times, The Commentator, New York Times, Kathimerini, National Review Online, Algemeiner, NPR, Washington Times, Die Presse, Haaretz, The Jerusalem Post, Toronto Star, Financial Times, Al-Monitor, Le Figaro, ABC, El Pais, Stern, Al-Arabiya, Helsingin Sanomat, Racjonalista, Defence Greece, Moyen-Orient, Courier International, ISN Security Watch and Coloquio (of Congreso Judio Latinoamerico) and the Jewish Chronicle (London). (Born: Ankara, 1966; Undergraduate: Department of Economics, Middle East Technical University, Ankara; Post-graduate: Department of Economics, University of Surrey, United Kingdom)

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