Turkey

Weekly Wrap 7.24.15: The 10 Best Stories You Missed This Week

1. Pope Francis Is Making Americans Uncomfortable — Why That’s a Good Thing

According to Gallup, Pope Francis’ favorability ratings have dropped from 76 percent in 2014 to 45 percent in 2015. America magazine writer Kerry Weber explains the pontiff’s recent dips in the U.S. polls.

2. Why Kylie Jenner Gets to Be ‘Just a Kid,’ But Amandla Stenberg Does Not

"America loves to defend those it perceives to be the most vulnerable — i.e. young white girls — at the expense of and detriment to young girls of color. … Though some may say this is just a pointless Instagram beef between children, this mentality of putting white womanhood on a pedestal has violent, real-world ramifications."

3. NASA Finds ‘Earth’s Bigger, Older Cousin’

Wait … what, now? According to NASA, its Kepler spacecraft has identified a planet some 1,400 light-years away — the first "nearly Earth-size planet to be found in a habitable zone of a start similar to our own," according to CNN.

On Eve of Anniversary, Turkey’s ‘Cultural Genocide’ of Armenian History Is Ongoing

Photo via Tania Karas / RNS

The Armenian Church of the Holy Cross on Akdamar Island, Lake Van in Turkey. Photo via Tania Karas / RNS

This tiny Kurdish village outside the city of Van in Turkey’s southeast is home to the ruins of a once-famous 11th-century Armenian Christian monastery.

Known to Armenians as Varagavank, it thrived as a place of worship until Turkish forces looted it and murdered parishioners in the mass killing sprees of 1915.

Today, the roof is collapsing. Toppled stone columns lie nearby. And with no signage, there is no acknowledgment it was once a celebrated church for Armenians.

Varagavank is one of hundreds of disappearing physical reminders of a community whose history in present-day Turkey goes back more than 2,000 years. Over the past century, the Turkish government — in writing its own narrative of what Armenians call genocide — has destroyed many Armenian churches, homes, schools, and cemeteries, or allowed them to fall into ruins. They are sites other countries might consider valuable antiquities.

“The term we use for this is ‘cultural genocide,’” said Vahram Ter-Matevosyan, a historian at the American University of Armenia in Yerevan, Armenia’s capital.

“We consider what is happening to many churches a continuation of the genocide which started at the beginning of the 20th century. It is painful, utterly painful.”

Historians and visitors have noted holes in the ground of Armenian historical sites throughout Turkey, evidence of widespread rumors that Armenians buried their riches before fleeing.

Hermine Sayan, an Armenian who lives in Istanbul, said her heart was broken when she visited what remained of a destroyed church in Malatya, a city in eastern Turkey, a few years ago.

“We stood together saying our prayers, and we were crying,” said Sayan, whose grandparents survived the genocide.

On April 24, Armenians worldwide will commemorate 100 years since almost 1.5 million of their ancestors died in the last days of the Ottoman Empire, in massacres, by starvation or during forced death marches into the Syrian desert.

Pope Francis Makes Overtures to Orthodox and Muslims

Pope Francis and Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople. Photo via Paul Haring / Catholic News Service / RNS.

Never mind that Turkey is overwhelmingly Muslim. The most enduring image of Pope Francis’ three-day visit to Turkey was the moment when he bowed his head and asked for the blessing of the leader of Eastern Orthodoxy, Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I.

Since his election last year, Francis and Bartholomew have forged a strong alliance culminating in their joint pledge in Istanbul on Nov. 30 to work to bridge a 1,000-year divide between their churches.

The task takes on new urgency as Christians — Catholic, Protestant and Orthodox — face a wave of violent persecution in Syria and Iraq.

The 77-year-old Argentinian pope represents 1.2 billion Roman Catholics and the Turkish-born Bartholomew leads about 250 million Eastern Orthodox Christians.

Should Pope Francis Visit Turkey’s Extravagant Presidential Palace?

Photo via giulio napolitano / Shutterstock.com

Pope Francis’ penchant for austerity and humility will face a diplomatic challenge when he visits Turkey’s new ostentatious presidential palace on his first visit to the country later this month.

Francis will be the first foreign dignitary to be welcomed by President Recep Tayyip Erdogan at the new 1,000-room palace when he visits Ankara on Nov. 28.

Turkish architects have written to the pope urging him not to go to the palace built by Erdogan and known locally as the “White Palace.”

Larger than the White House or Buckingham Palace in London, the enormous palace was inaugurated last month and expected to cost more than half a billion dollars.

The palace was built on land bequeathed to the state as a forest farm by Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, the World War I general and revered founder of the modern Turkish republic.

The pope is scheduled to give a speech at the palace after a visit to Ataturk’s mausoleum on the first leg of his three-day visit to Ankara and Istanbul.

Turkish Official: Women Shouldn't Laugh in Public

Bülent Arınç is one of the State Ministers of Turkey and Vice-Prime Minister. Creative Commons image by Chatham House.

Many Turkish women were doubled over with laughter Tuesday after their country’s deputy leader said in a speech assailing “moral corruption” that women should not laugh in public and should not talk on their mobile phones so much.

Speaking Monday night at a celebration marking the end of Ramadan, Deputy Prime Minister Bulent Arinc took aim at contemporary life in Turkey, arguing for more chastity, humility, and reading of the Quran and less consumerism, oil consumption, and sex in the media, the Hurriyet Daily News reported.

Social media lit up as news of the speech spread, with hundreds of Turkish women posting photos of themselves and friends laughing in public places. Popular hashtags included #kahkaha (laugh) and #direnkahkaha (resist, laugh).

The Hurriyet Daily News offered this excerpt from Arinc’s remarks: “Chastity is so important. It is not only a name. It is an ornament for both women and men. [She] will have chasteness. Man will have it, too. He will not be a womanizer. He will be bound to his wife. He will love his children. [The woman] will know what is haram [sin] and not haram. She will not laugh in public. She will not be inviting in her attitudes and will protect her chasteness.”

We Can't Afford Dirty Energy: Thoughts on Turkey, Appalachia, and Humility

Przemek Tokar/Shutterstock.com

Przemek Tokar/Shutterstock.com

Two weeks ago in Soma, Turkey, a coal mine explosion left 301 people dead. It was the country’s worst mining disaster, but it wasn’t the first — and it wasn’t the last, as multiple fatal accidents have happened in the two weeks since. The last time a mining disaster caught the world’s attention, we watched and waited and prayed during the rescue operation for the miners in Chile.

In Turkey, people protested in the streets of Soma — protested against Soma Mining for letting this happen, against their government for loopholes in safety rules. In response, the police issued a ban on protests and locked the city down. The ruling political party proudly announces that it has inspected that mine 11 times in the past 5 years; Soma Mining denies negligence. And the families of 301 persons mourn their losses.

This isn’t a faraway problem. In the United States, we don’t do as much traditional mining as we used to — instead, we do mountaintop removal. This has a human cost, too, in more insidious ways. The people living in Appalachia have higher rates of respiratory illness, cancer, kidney diseases, skin ailments, and more. And the landscape, which has the fingerprints of God in it, is being blown apart.

Psalm 95:4-5 says:

“In [God’s] hand are the depths of the earth; the heights of the mountains are [God’s] also. The sea is [God’s], for [God] made it, and the dry land, which [God’s] hands have formed.”

Concerned with Violence Against Muslims, Islamic Organization Visits Myanmar

Rohingya camps near the capital Sittwe in Arakan state, Bangladesh. Photo: RNS c

Rohingya camps near the capital Sittwe in Arakan state, Bangladesh. Photo: RNS courtesy Mathias Eick, EU/ECHO via Flickr

At the end of a three-day tour, the Saudi-based Organization of Islamic Cooperation told Buddhist-majority Myanmar to repeal “laws restricting fundamental freedoms” after more than 240 Muslims were killed by Buddhist mobs during the past year.

Before the OIC delegates left Myanmar on Saturday, they visited minority ethnic Rohingya Muslims who fled the violence and are now living in squalid camps along the border with Bangladesh in Myanmar’s Arakan state, also known as Rakhine.

Headed by Secretary General Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu, the OIC delegation called on the government to continue legal reforms, The New Light of Myanmar newspaper reported.

Political Islam on the Defensive Across the Middle East

Map of the Middle East. Photo courtesy RNS/shutterstock.com.

Map of the Middle East. Photo courtesy RNS/shutterstock.com.

The backlash against Muslim Brotherhood rule in Egypt comes as secular forces across the Middle East are rising up in opposition to political Islam. Divisions reach from top leaders to the street.

Political leaders in Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, Kuwait and Jordan have sided with the Egyptian military and secularists who backed the July 3 ouster of President Mohammed Morsi.

On the streets of Cairo over the weekend, mobs and snipers attacked Morsi supporters, forcing security forces accused of slaughtering the Islamists to stand between them and the mob. The violence in Egypt echoes similar, though less deadly, backlashes against Islamic ruling parties in Tunisia, and Turkey.

Tensions Mount on Turkey-Syria Border

The New York Times reports:

"As diplomats prepared for a weekend meeting to revive stalled Syria peace efforts, regional tensions swirling around the 16-month-old crisis ticked higher on Thursday as Turkey said it was stationing antiaircraft batteries on the common border following the downing of one of its warplanes.
 
Word of the border fortification coincided with further suggestions within Syria that insurgents seeking to oust President Bashar al-Assad were operating with increasing audacity in an and around the capital, Damascus. The state news agency, SANA, said an explosion rocked the parking lot of the Palace of Justice, a government court building, on Thursday, sending a plume of black smoke into the sky and injuring three people, just a day after a disputed attack on a pro-government satellite television station 14 miles south of the city."
 
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