The World Today for July 18, 2016

Need to Know

Shock but Little Awe

The failed coup d’etat in Turkey was shocking. But, as the dust from the brief chaos settles, it’s not hard to see that the putsch wasn’t a total surprise given the country’s trajectory in recent months.

In the run-up to the coup, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan continued to pull Turkey away from its modern, secular foundations, empowering Islamic groups and cracking down on civil and media liberties. Terror attacks, like the June 28 bombing of the Ataturk Airport in Istanbul, are becoming increasingly common.

France – no stranger to insecurity these days – even announced the temporary closure of its diplomatic missions in Ankara and Istanbul a few days before the coup over security fears.

Unsurprising perhaps, many Turks had been already wondering about the future of their country.

“We used to be the secular republic. Now, we don’t know what we are,” Cengiz Candar, a Turkish intellectual, told the New York Times three days before the coup.

Similarly, on the morning of the coup, the Wall Street Journal reported on the OECD warning that Turkey’s economy was vulnerable “to domestic developments and external shocks.”

To lessen these risks, the OECD called on Erdogan and his government to push for reforms such as fighting corruption and strengthening the rule of law. For years, the Turkish president’s rule has been criticized for ignoring human rights.

After the thwarted coup, Erdogan likely has put those reforms on the backburner if they were ever on the stove at all. Turkish officials, after all, are busy arresting thousands of military officers, prosecutors, judges and others.

Many Turks aren’t waiting. They’re already voting on the future of their country with their feet.

Migration out of northeastern Anatolia, for example, has reached 21 percent of the population over the past two years, according to the Irish Times.

Residents there complain that the government in Ankara ignores them. They blame government policies like the closed border with Armenia near the town of Kars for bringing economic development to a standstill in the region.

Some head to Istanbul or Ankara. Others fed up with the increasingly repressive course charted by Erdogan leave Turkey entirely.

Many Turks in cosmopolitan Istanbul, including young, university-educated Turks, say they either know someone who wants to leave Turkey – or has left – or are debating making the move themselves.

They frequently cite a loss of civil freedoms as their main reasons for emigrating.

“For the past three years, everyone fighting against the government cannot breathe,” Yagmur Duran, 22, a recent university graduate, told the Globe and Mail. “Young people my age want to leave as there’s no future here.”

They don’t expect things to get better anytime soon. No political force appears to be able to challenge Erdogan’s Justice and Development Party at the ballot box.

“There’s no opposition and there’s no room for change,” said Umut Ozkirimli, a political scientist from Ankara now based at Lund University in Sweden, told the Globe and Mail. “It’s not just about being oppressed right now, it’s the feeling that you’ll continue being oppressed in the future.”

Unfortunately, Ozkirimli might be right.

Last week – before the coup gave the president an excuse to further curtail civil rights in the name of security – the government imposed round-the-clock curfews on 16 villages in the country’s predominantly Kurdish southeast to clamp down on militants and root out members of the banned Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK).

On Friday, coup leaders said they had to seize control to protect Turkish democracy and restore order to the country. They lost. Now Erdogan has a firm grasp on power. Order prevails. Whether he’ll move to improve the country’s trajectory is still up for grabs. But almost no one believes anymore he’ll restore civil freedoms.

Want to Know

A Terrible List

As Nice observed its second day of national mourning Sunday, French authorities detained three more people in connection with the attack Thursday night that killed 84 people and injured dozens more.

None of the suspects were identified but the NY Times wrote that two of those detained were an Albanian couple. The third detainee is a man suspected of furnishing the automatic pistol Lahouaiej Bouhel used during his attack.

Bouhel’s estranged wife was released without charges Sunday – Bouhel was physically violent with her and other family members.

While Islamic State (IS) has claimed responsibility for the attack, it remains unclear whether Bouhel, a delivery truck driver living in Nice, was in contact with IS or exposed to the group’s propaganda.

Meanwhile, authorities in France began releasing the names of victims over the weekend, including that of Nicolas Leslie, a 20-year-old American student spending the summer in Nice. President Francois Hollande said soon after the attack that many of the victims were not French citizens.

New Front Opens

At least three policemen and a civilian were killed in Kazakhstan’s financial capital and largest city Almaty Monday as part of a wave of near simultaneous attacks in the city.

Two gunmen attacked a police station in central Almaty, killing three officers in a shootout. The two then fled, killing a local resident before hijacking his car.

Kazakh police say one suspect – a 27-year-old former convict – has been detained while the second one remains at large. Police had earlier described the suspect as “a religious radical and probably a follower of non-traditional Islam.”

The attack in Almaty follows one a month earlier in which 20 people were killed in Aktobe after gunmen attacked a military base and a gun shop. Kazakh authorities blamed that attack on radical Islamists.

Outbursts of violence and protests have recurred infrequently in Kazakhstan since April. While public ire was initially directed at proposed land reforms by the government under President Nursultan Nazarbayev, it has since broadened to other issues in the Central Asian country.

Against a Wall

A leading peace negotiator from the Syrian opposition has called on the US to “react more forcefully” to Russian operations in Syria as Russian-backed forces intensify their siege on Aleppo.

The US is confronting Russia inadequately over its “war crimes” in Syria, said Basma Kodmani of the opposition’s High Negotiations Committee.

Kodmani said the chances for new peace talks were becoming increasingly remote as Russia continued to participate in airstrikes after “constantly lying” about what it was willing to do in Syria.

The Syrian opposition has become increasingly nervous over the encirclement of Aleppo by Russian forces – and proposed cooperation deals between the US and Russia to tackle Islamic State (IS) – which they believe will entrench President Bashar al-Assad.

That deal comes only weeks after Moscow and Ankara ended their seven-month standoff. Turkish officials said afterward that Ankara was interested in peace with Damascus.

“This all means that Assad is no longer at risk,” said one leading opposition member. “This means that he has won.”


Farmers’ Faces

Scientists have long known that farming began around 12,000 years ago in the so-called Fertile Crescent, a strip of arable land that runs through Middle East from the waters of the Nile in Egypt to the Tigris and Euphrates and the Persian Gulf.

But researchers have long debated whether knowledge of farming spread out from that zone from person to person over time, or if the first farmers quit their fields at some point and migrated elsewhere, bringing their precious expertise with them, NPR reported.

Now an international team of researchers have discovered that many pockets of farmers were tilling the soil and raising different plants and animals for food at the same time but intermingling very little with each other, according to genetic data published in the journal Science.

As a result, the scientists were able to trace how early farmers from the Zagros Mountains on the Iraq-Iran border were genetically related to present-day folks in Iran, Afghanistan and Pakistan. The genes of farmers from the Anatolian region of Turkey resembled inhabits of the Italian island of Sardinia, the BBC reported.

So it appears that Middle East farmers at some point took to the road and taught everyone else how to grow food. Picture Johnny Appleseed in animal skins.

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