So who invaded Cyprus first?

It’s not the main topic of the news item, but it does make an interesting point about Turkey’s “invasion” of Cyprus back in 1974 . . .

Spooky pics of abandoned Cyprus airport frozen in time

nicosiaTHIS once bustling transport hub was suddenly abandoned 40 years ago, leaving jet planes and empty terminals as eerie signs of the past.

THIS airport was once a bustling, state-of-the-art transport hub on a popular holiday island. 

But for more than 40 years, time has stood still at Nicosia International Airport on Cyprus, which is now an eerie scene of decaying check-in desks and terminal equipment, and stripped-back jets stuck on the abandoned tarmac.

The airport became deserted after 1974, when it became a flashpoint for civil conflict on the Mediterranean island.

Cyprus had seen years of tensions between the Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots after it became independent from Britain.

In 1974, Greek nationalists overthrew the elected president of Cyprus and in the days that followed, Nicosia airport was briefly used to bring in troops from Greece.

The airport was also a scene of chaos during that time, as holiday-makers and other foreigners sought to flee the conflict.

Within days of the coup d’etat, Turkey invaded Cyprus, and the airport was severely damaged in a bombing campaign.

nicosia jetA demilitarised zone was created and Nicosia airport wound up right in the middle of it, which led to it being suddenly abandoned. The last commercial flight departed Nicosia in 1977.

After Nicosia airport was abandoned, authorities opened a new international airport at Larnaca, which is the island’s main airport that most Australians now fly into or pass through.

But intrepid travellers who venture to neglected Nicosia airport can see how its has become frozen in time, with derelict rows of seats in the terminals, stained carpets on now-empty corridors, and decrepit jet planes stuck where they last came to rest all those years ago.

Source

And another related snippet from the BBC . . .

Varosha – The abandoned tourist resort

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Famagusta before the Greek military coup – and subsequent Turkish invasion

Miles of sand where it’s just you and nature. Dozens of grand hotels where you’ll have the pick of the rooms.

Just remember to pack your bolt cutters to make a hole in the fence – and watch out for the army patrols with orders to shoot on sight. 

Before the division of Cyprus in 1974, Varosha – a resort in Famagusta – was booming. The rich and famous were drawn by some of the best beaches on the island. Richard Burton and Brigitte Bardot all dropped by – the Argo Hotel on JFK Avenue was said to be Elizabeth Taylor’s favourite.

But 40 years ago, after years of inter-ethnic violence culminating in a coup inspired by Greece’s ruling military junta, Turkey invaded Cyprus and occupied the northern third of the island.

_____________________________________

Incidentally, before taking matters into their owns hands, the government of Turkey had asked the UK government, as guarantors of Cyprus’s independence, to intervene  – which they declined to do.

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3.6 million Syrian refugees have now fled to Turkey

20 percent of Syrian refugees live in Istanbul

Do the maths: 20% means 720,000 men women and children – More than the population of Seattle, WA, and slightly fewer than Charlotte, NC, the 17th and 18th largest cities in the United States! And you guys are still bombing them!

The Turkish province accommodating the highest number of Syrian refugees in the country is Istanbul with 20 percent, according to media monitoring company Ajans Press.

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Istanbul’s “Little Syria”. “Şam” is “Damascus” in Turkish.

In figures that are based on data from the Interior Ministry’s Immigration Office, as well as media reports, as of June some 3.6 million Syrian refugees are hosted in Turkey.

Istanbul accommodates the highest number, followed by the southeastern province of Şanlıurfa and the southern province of Hatay.

Other provinces hosting a high number of Syrian refugees are the western provinces of Bursa and İzmir, the southeastern provinces of Gaziantep and Kilis, the Central Anatolian province of Konya, and the southern provinces of Adana and Mersin. The number of Syrians exceeds 100,000 in all of these provinces.

The registered number of Turks in Kilis, on the Turkey-Syria border north of Aleppo, stood at 136,319 as of last year, while the province hosts a total of 131,109 Syrian refugees. The demographic shift has sometimes led to confrontations between Turks and Syrians in the province.

276,158 Syrian babies born in last six years

The media monitoring company’s report also included the number of Syrian babies born in Turkey over the last six years, calculating it as reaching 276,158 based on figures from media outlets.

It also found that the issue of Syrian refugees was one of the most-discussed issues in Turkish media reports over the last six years.

The number of refugees has been on rise in Turkey since the outbreak of the Syrian civil war in 2011. The Syrian refugee population was 2.8 million in 2016 and 3.4 million in 2017.

Of the 3.6 million Syrian refugees, some 1.9 million are males and 1.7 million are females.

Source: Hürriyet Daily News

 

Turkey completes 475-mile /764-km security wall on Syria border

Why?
Because they’ve already got 3.6 million refugees, and wealthy Western countries, who cause most of the trouble in the Middle East, offer no more than platitudes and token assistance.
And because the West has been constantly harping on about Turkey’s “porous” border.
How much did it cost? Who knows. A hell of a lot, I’m sure.
Where did the money come from? Ask yourself!

Border wall____________________________

Turkey has completed the construction of a 475-mile (764-kilometre) concrete wall along its border with Syria, according to a Turkish official on Saturday.
TOKI, the state backed housing developer, built 350 miles of the wall, while the governorates of the border provinces built 125 miles, the official told Anadolu Agency on condition of anonymity.
Ankara had launched the construction project in 2015 to build an 513 mile-long wall on the Syrian border, as part of Turkey’s measures to increase border security and combat smuggling and illegal border crossings.
Turkey shares a 566 mile border with Syria, which has been embroiled in a civil war since 2011.
The wall was sealed along Turkey’s border provinces of Sanliurfa, Gaziantep, Kilis, Hatay, Mardin and Sirnak.

The Wall
The border wall project incorporates physical, electronic and advanced technology layers.
The physical layer includes modular concrete walls, patrol routes, manned and unmanned towers and passenger tracks.
Modular walls are being erected along the Turkish-Syrian borderline with seven-ton mobile blocks, two meters wide and three meters high. The blocks have also been topped with a one-meter-high razor wire.
An electronic layer consists of close-up surveillance systems, thermal cameras, land surveillance radar, remote-controlled weapons systems, command-and-control centers, line-length imaging systems and seismic and acoustic sensors.
The advanced technology layer of the project includes wide area surveillance, laser destructive fibre-optic detection, surveillance radar for drone detection, jammers and sensor-triggered short distance lighting systems.

Source: Middle East Monitor

Syrian refugees in Germany returning to Turkey

A growing number of Syrian refugees in Germany are seeking to return to Turkey as a new German legislation has introduced new barriers to family reunification, local media reported on April 12.

Syrians in germany

The milk of German kindness

The German government recently imposed stricter measures to curb family reunification for Syrian refugees, many of whom were granted “subsidiary protection.”

German broadcaster ARD reported that its correspondents documented the journey of several Syrian refugees who sought to return to Turkey by paying hundreds of euros to human smugglers.

The refugees wanted to return to Turkey because they could not receive permission from German authorities to bring their family members who had fled to Turkey after the Syrian civil war broke out, the report said.

The EU’s largest economy has accepted more than 700,000 Syrian refugees since 2015, but amid domestic political pressure, Chancellor Angela Merkel’s coalition government introduced barriers to family reunification. A cap of 1,000 people per month was imposed on who could come to Germany for family reunification.

Family reunification was a hot issue in last year’s elections after media reported that around 390,000 refugees could apply for this right and bring their spouses and minor children to Germany.

The far-right Islamophobic Alternative for Germany (AfD) alleged that family reunification was an “incalculable risk” for the country and called for severe restrictions.

Source: Hurriyet Daily News

Meanwhile, several hundred thousand Syrian refugees have been able to return to their homes since the Turkish military started operations in Afrin, the Syrian region bordering Turkey. There are, however, still around three million displaced Syrians in Turkey.

More thoughts about transparency and corruption

transparency

Sounds good, doesn’t it?

Once again, I have cause to be proud of my homeland. New Zealand has finally overtaken Denmark to win the title of least corrupt country in the world, according to the organisation Transparency International.

Of course, I was keen to check out the full list of 180, and I have to tell you, I found some surprises. There was a certain predictability about the bottom placings: Iraq and Venezuela tied at 169, North Korea and Libya at 171, Yemen, Afghanistan and Syria ranking 175th, 177th and 178th respectively – which may be a true reflection of life in those countries, or a clear message that it doesn’t pay to rile up Uncle Sam. But I’m not here to debate that point.

Zimbabwe has risen to 157th=, after its armed forces staged a coup to overthrow dictator of 37 years, Robert Mugabe last year. Despite the country’s vast mineral wealth, including gold, diamonds and chromite, 80% of the population falls below the poverty line. Zimbabwe holds the world record for annual inflation, achieving the staggering rate of 89.7 sextillion percent in 2008 (I didn’t know there was such a number – but I learned that it’s 1 followed by 21 zeroes!), although the economic wizards in the military junta have reportedly reduced that to a relatively respectable 348%. So they must be pleased to find themselves climbing up the rankings.

Russia, on the other hand, won’t be proud of their placing at 135, especially since that puts them five spots behind Myanmar, currently making headlines around the world for ethnically cleansing their Muslim Rohingya citizens.

myanmar genocide

At least they’re open about it

“The U.N. special envoy on human rights in Myanmar said Thursday that the Myanmar military’s violent operations against Rohingya Muslims bear “the hallmarks of a genocide.” Nearly 700,000 Rohingya have fled their villages into Bangladesh since the Myanmar military’s crackdown following Aug. 25 attacks by Rohingya insurgents.” But I guess they’re being quite open about what they’re doing, so it doesn’t really count as corruption.

It’s not surprising, then, that the Maldive Islands, playground of the world’s glitterati, managed a ranking of 112, despite the ongoing state of emergency imposed by President Abdulla Yameen

“Yameen had cited threats to national security after the Supreme Court overturned criminal convictions against nine of his opponents and ordered their release.

He sent the army to storm the Supreme Court building and arrest the island nation’s chief justice and another judge on the top court’s bench. His estranged half-brother, former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, who has sided with the opposition, was also arrested. The three remaining judges on the Supreme Court then reversed part of their verdict on the release of Yameen’s opponents.”

At least Turkey managed to beat that lot – though President Erdoğan may feel his country deserves to be a little higher than 81st on the list; especially since China slotted in at 77, and South Africa at 71. Cape Town, as you may know, is currently getting unfavourable publicity, poised to become the first major world city to run out of water – although the crisis seems to be less of a problem for citizens with money.

Cuba was a surprise for me, coming in at 62, and Cyprus managed a commendable 42, my favourite number – though of course that’s “Greek” Cyprus, and needless to say, the Turkish enclave didn’t get a mention.

tax havens 2

And check their TI rankings!

By the time I’d got up to the 30s, my cynicism was starting to really kick in . . . so when I saw Costa Rica, tax-haven for the world’s mega-rich at No. 38, I wasn’t too surprised. Still, who’d have expected to see Botswana up there at 34, just behind Israel at 32, whose government has for years been ignoring UN requests to stop massacring Palestinians and invading their lands? Still, they’re pretty up-front about that too.

Which brought me to the 20s – and there was/were the United Arab Emirates, up with the elite of the world’s squeaky-clean at No 21!

“The UAE is the most densely migrant-populated country in the world. About 90 percent of the UAE’s 9 million people are foreign-born, most working on temporary employment contracts in a range of white-collar, blue-collar and service industry jobs. Only a handful of migrants have been granted citizenship since the country gained independence in 1971. Amnesty International and other humanitarian agencies have put a spotlight on the hardships migrant workers have faced, including exploitation of construction workers and unequal protection of women and domestic workers.”

Soooo . . . What do you make of all that? At the very least, you’d want to take a closer look at the criteria those “Transparency” people are using to make their assessments.

New Zealand was awarded No 1 spot, in spite of the following well-publicised facts:

  • * “Hundreds of drivers have had their licenses cancelled after a fraudulent licensing scam was uncovered; revealing [Ministry of Transport] staff had accepted bribes of up to $600 in exchange for a licence.”
  • A new plan has been put forward for the America’s Cup bases in Auckland by a company owned by some of the country’s richest businessmen who own 20 hectares of land at Wynyard Quarter and the Viaduct Harbour.” Some less wealthy citizens believe the plan will further develop Auckland’s downtown as an exclusive playground for the super-rich. I’ll be following that one with interest.
  • “Immigration NZ has completed an investigation [but not releasing their findings] into whether Kim Dotcom can be deported from New Zealand for failing to declare a dangerous driving conviction – but it’s refusing to say what the outcome is.

[Dotcom] entered the country on a special scheme intended to attract wealthy foreigners, giving three-years residency and a fast-track to citizenship to those who invested $10 million or more in New Zealand.

Documents obtained by the Herald through the Official Information Act showed NZSIS staff tried to block the residency application but dropped its objection after being told there was “political pressure” to let the tycoon into New Zealand.

At the time, the new residency scheme was having little success and – documents show – [Immigration Minister] Coleman was eager to get “high rollers” into the country.”

banks dotcom

ex-mayor Banks, Kim Dotcom and former PM John Key

Dotcom, as you may know, made wagonloads of money from various online businesses including his file-sharing website, Megaupload, arousing the ire of powerful figures in the United States. The US government then pressured their NZ counterparts to have him extradited, despite the fact that he is a citizen of Germany. Although known to have criminal convictions in Hong Kong and Germany, and to have served prison time in his own country, Dotcom was granted fast track residence in New Zealand in 2010. At the time of his application, he made several substantial “charitable” donations, one of which was a $50,000 contribution to the election campaign of former Auckland Mayor and Member of Parliament, John Banks.

Mr Banks faced criminal charges as a result, but claimed not to remember Dotcom’s financial assistance. Nevertheless, he was convicted in 2014 of filing a false electoral return. The conviction was subsequently overturned after Banks brought a witness from the USA to support his story (of amnesia?). However, it seems his righteous indignation went a little too far when he sought to get $190,000 legal costs awarded against Dotcom. In a recent Court of Appeal decision, the judge ruled that, although the original conviction had been reversed on a legal technicality, the court had stopped short of declaring Banks innocent – so no payment of costs was justifiable. Incidentally, after arriving in New Zealand, Dotcom had taken out a lease on one of the country’s most expensive houses, by coincidence no doubt, in the electorate of John Key, NZ’s Prime Minister at the time, and leader of the government which included John Banks.

  • The latest scandal rocking New Zealand’s ruling elite involves the venerable law firm, Russell McVeagh, among the country’s largest and most reputable. After some prevaricating, the partners have admitted that there had been shenanigans in the past involving some of their colleagues and young summer interns from the University of Auckland Law Faculty. There has been talk of interns selected for their physical attributes, required to sign confidentiality agreements, and engaging in sex acts on the boardroom table.

Complaints had apparently been laid by Auckland University on behalf of some of the students concerned, none of whom, however, want their names to be known for fear of retribution from their powerful assailants. Nothing corrupt about all that, of course. The interns were, after all, willing participants, I guess.

Nevertheless, it does make you wonder about Transparency International, and how they go about comparing and assessing levels of transparency and corruption in those 180 countries.

The TI organisation was apparently founded in Germany in 1993 by an interesting coterie of high-flyers including a former director of the World Bank, a lawyer for General Electric, a member of the US military intelligence establishment, and several high-ups in corporate banking and industry (Source: Wikipedia).

In spite of being clearly dependent on information from whistle-blowers, TI recently specifically refused support for Edward Snowden, one of the key informants for WikiLeaks. There has also been some discomfort expressed over how TI can maintain objectivity when it accepts large donations from large corporations (such as the $3 million paid over by Siemens Corp in 2008). The American chapter of Transparency International, TI-USA, was censured by its parent body after presenting Hilary Clinton with its Integrity Award in 2012. There has also apparently been some conflict with the TI people in New Zealand, though I haven’t been able to learn the exact details.

Well, ok, maybe the central powers at TI do seek to supervise the moral integrity of their branches abroad – but I read of another case involving a TI employee, Anna Buzzoni, having to leave the organisation after blowing the whistle on “questionable financial dealings” at TI’s Water Integrity Network.

standard_poor_2076208b

Settled out of court in a case accusing them of deceiving investors and contributing to the 2008 world financial crisis

Who can you trust these days?

Certainly not the rankings provided by the world’s major credit rating agencies. The latest list published by Standard and Poors assesses New Zealand, with no manufacturing industry to speak of, and a tiny population, as AA,  a “High Grade” investment; and Turkey, with its booming economy and large manufacturing sector, as BB, “non-investment grade, speculative”. Still, maybe you’re better off not getting a good grade from those crooks:

In the spring of 2013, Moody’s and Standard & Poor’s settled two “long-running” lawsuits “seeking to hold them responsible for misleading investors about the safety of risky debt vehicles that they had rated”. The suits were filed in 2008 and had sought more than $700 million of damages. Settlement terms were not disclosed in both cases, and the lawsuits were dismissed “with prejudice”, meaning they cannot be brought again.

In the end, S&P settled for $1.5 billion – possibly feeling it was worth the money to avoid further negative publicity. Now it seems they are back dispensing credit ratings, and investors are happy to trust them again. Really?

Refugees – How many has your country taken?

In case you missed it – International Migrants’ Day:

On International Migrants Day, Turkey hosts 4.5 million migrants

Refugees in Turkey

Semi-permanent refugee camp in Turkey

Turkey marked International Migrants Day on Dec. 18 as being the country that hosts the highest number of migrants, nearly 4.5 million, majority of whom are Syrians who have taken refuge in the country after escaping from the war in their homeland, according to the most recent statistics.

“As Turkey, we walk tall when it comes to the issue of migrants,” President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said on Dec. 18 at a meeting to mark the day. “Unfortunately, those states who define themselves as developed, modern, contemporary keep their heads down,” he added.

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu released a message to mark the day, saying “we must protect and uphold the rights of all migrants and refugees. Our world has been on the move throughout history. And today is no different, as millions of people seek new homes away from their birth places.”

refugees in parks

Others live in parks – ok in summer

According to statistics released by the Turkish Interior Ministry’s Directorate General of Migration Management, there are over 3.3 million Syrians registered with biometric IDs in Turkey, of whom 227,332 are living in 21 camps in 10 provinces, while the rest are living across all 81 provinces of Turkey. Because migrants have been using Turkey as a passage route to the United States and Europe, Turkish authorities have been struggling with human smuggling near its borders. A total of 2,407 human smugglers and its organizers have been detained over the past 11 months in operations carried out to prevent illegal migrants from illegally reaching European Union countries.

According to the United Nations, the biggest human migration since the Second World War is taking place today. Some 65 million have been forced to leave their countries over gun violence, while 230 million others have had to migrate for other reasons.

refugees heading for europe

Some head for Europe – does Europe want them?

UN: Cooperation needed

U.N. Secretary General Antonio Guterres released a message to mark the day, saying that effective international cooperation in managing migration is necessary.

“On International Migrants Day, we recognize the contributions and celebrate the vitality of the world’s 258 million migrants. Evidence overwhelmingly shows that migrants generate economic, social and cultural benefits for societies everywhere. Yet hostility towards migrants is unfortunately growing around the world,” Guterres said, adding that “solidarity with migrants has never been more urgent.”

Special Representative of the Secretary-General for International Migration Louise Arbour also released a statement.

Libyan migrants 450

450 refugees rescued by Turkish ship off the coast of Libya in June this year

“Discrimination, persecution, degradation and death are the interlinked by-products both of prejudice and the failure to effectively manage the phenomenon of migration for the optimal benefit of both the migrant and their communities of origin and destination,” she said.

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year! I hope a little of it trickles down to those 258 million “migrants”.

Plots against Turkey

I don’t know what sort of coverage it got in your part of the world. I did find a piece or two in the UK’s Guardian, and on the BBC, linked to a lot of “related” pieces about Turkey’s “Islamic dictator” imprisoning poor innocents merely because they tried to have him ousted by a military coup last July. Both articles make judicious use of words like “allegedly” and “reportedly”, but there doesn’t seem to be much doubt about the facts.

erdoğan foeTurkey had sent 40 soldiers to participate in a NATO training exercise in Norway. Well, even military exercises need an enemy, and apparently the NATO organisers in their wisdom chose to use the name of Turkey’s much-maligned President Erdoğan, alongside a picture of the revered founder of Turkey’s republic.

Understandably, the Turkish government was not amused and withdrew its participants from the exercise. NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg promptly issued an apology, followed by a statement by Norway’s minister of defence expressing his “concerns about the incident”. So, it seems pretty clear that the facts are essentially as reported.

Stoltenberg’s statement claimed the incident was the result of an “individual’s actions” – a Norwegian civil contractor seconded by Norway, and not a NATO employee – and did not reflect the views of the alliance.

Turkey, it seems, is not to be so easily appeased. The country’s EU Minister asked, with some justification, “Is there no chain of command? Does he [the civilian contracted person] not have a commander?” A government spokesman, addressing a press conference, said “We welcome the apologies issued. We welcome the removal of those responsible from office and the launching of an investigation. But we don’t see these incidents as solely extending to individuals. It’s not possible to explain these incidents merely in terms of individual responsibility,”

reza zarrab

Reza Zarrab in custody in the USA

Meanwhile, a curious court case is proceeding slowly in the United States. An Iranian-Turkish businessman, Reza Zarrab, was arrested in the US last year “on charges that he conspired to conduct hundreds of millions of dollars in financial transactions for the Iranian government and other entities to evade U.S. sanctions.”

Whatever we may think about the rest of the world being expected to support corporate America in its vendetta against uncooperative foreign leaders, it struck many people as strange that Mr Zarrab would voluntary enter the USA knowing that he would probably be arrested.

An opinion piece in Turkey’s English language Hürriyet Daily News voiced these concerns, suggesting CIA involvement:

ny times

What’s changed since 1974?

“It was never convincing that Zarrab, known worldwide for breaching the U.S.’s Iran sanctions and getting arrested in Turkey in the Dec. 17- 25, 2013 corruption and bribery operations, came to the U.S. to take his child on a trip. 

His arrival in the U.S. was thought to be the result of a negotiation. It is claimed that he negotiated to become a confessor in return for a permission that will allow him to keep his assets outside Turkey and continue commercial activity.

If he becomes a confessor, the story will widen more and a new indictment will be written.

‘It smells fishy,’ President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan had said about it.

The writer, Abdulkadir Selvi, goes on to say, “The U.S, after failing to overthrow Erdoğan through FETÖ on Dec. 17 – 25, 2013, stepped into the issue with the Zarrab case.”

Turkey’s Deputy Prime Minister, Bekir Bozdağ said the other day, “We make no secret of it: This is a political case and does not have a legal basis. It is a plot against Turkey. The prosecutors have been openly imposing pressure on the accused. . . [Zarrab] is in a sense taken hostage,” Bozdağ said, claiming that Zarrab is “under pressure from prosecutors to become a confessor and to make accusations against the Republic of Turkey.”

venezuela

Bringing democracy to the developing world

Another writer in Hürriyet, Barçın Yinanç, no slavish supporter of the government, made some apt observations about negative portrayals of Turkey and its government in foreign media. In a piece entitled “Who is losing Turkey? She wrote:

“Turkey lives in a troubled neighborhood and the Western world has often had problematic relations with its neighbors.

There has been a bad guy in Damascus, Bashar al-Assad. No one was supposed to cooperate with him and Turkey was once asked to follow suit.

There was also a bad guy in Iraq, Saddam Hussein. Sanctions were applied against his regime and Turkey was asked to abide by those sanctions.

In Iran, there has been a bad regime ever since the Islamic Revolution. Tehran has been continuously under sanctions, which Turkey has been under pressure to abide by.

There has also been a bad guy in Russia, the Kremlin. Sanctions have been introduced and Turkey has been required to follow them.

People sometimes forget that economically thriving nations trade with their neighbors. Some also forget that while the EU wanted Turkey to abide by the sanctions it imposed on countries to its east, north and south, it did not exactly have its arms wide open when Turkey turned to Europe.

Currently, when a foreign observer looks at Turkey, they see an Islamist leader distancing Turkey away from the transatlantic alliance. But the same observer may forget that it was that same leader who once undertook the most sweeping democratic reforms Turkey has ever seen. They may also forget that when Ankara knocked on the EU’s door in the 2000s, Germany’s Angela Merkel and then French President Nicolas Sarkozy effectively closed the door in its face. It also suited Europe’s interest to keep Turkey at arm’s length, hiding behind the Greek Cypriot administration which has been blocking accession talks.

This has all been forgotten. No one in Europe is questioning who caused the EU to lose Turkey. Why should they?”

germany-lead

New election coming up in Germany? Wasn’t the September result satisfactory? German voters should think again!