TIME Turkey

Photos Show ‘Unprecedented’ Shift of Refugees Into Turkey

More than 138,000 Syrian Kurds have crossed the border

Among the top accusations against Turkey during Syria’s ongoing civil war has been that its government has not done enough to stem the flow of foreigners who slip over its border and into the ruthless jihadi groups operating between Syria and Iraq. But just as those thousands have crossed the boundary into Syria and Iraq to take up arms — some are thought to have joined extremist factions like the al-Qaeda-linked Jabhat al-Nusra and the Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria (ISIS) — Turkey’s 560-mile-long border has also proven a valuable exit for more than 1 million Syrian refugees.

Officials estimate more than 138,000 Syrian Kurds joined them in recent days, putting that exodus among the largest population shifts of the conflict since it began more than three years ago. The influx resulted from fierce battles between ISIS and Kurdish forces near the city of Ayn al-Arab, known to the Kurds as Kobani, following the militants’ seizure of Kurdish villages near the border during a recent advance. To put that figure into perspective, Melissa Fleming, chief spokesperson for the United Nations refugee agency, says the “unprecedented” push into Turkey is nearly equal to the number of Syrian refugees who have sought asylum in Europe during the war.

Kobani is a short leap from the Turkish town of Suruc and had previously been mostly spared from the fighting that has devastated other parts of Syria. “This was really an enclave of relative safety, Kobani, and in fact there were 200,000 internally displaced people who had found some semblance of safety there over the last few years,” she tells TIME. “It was a place to flee to, and now all of a sudden it’s a place to flee from.” Fleming added that the agency is now preparing for a worst-case scenario in which all 400,000 residents of Kobani flee to Turkey to escape the threat.

Bulent Kilic, a Turkish photographer with Agence France-Presse based in Istanbul, arrived to the region late on Sept. 19 and began shooting the next morning. Kilic had seen media reports beginning to focus on this area and, having missed the opportunity in August to document the tragedy of the Yezidis on Mount Sinjar in Iraq, boarded a plane and headed southeast. The first wave began slowly on Thursday but soon ticked up, with the big surge coming over on Friday and Saturday.

Turkish officials had initially barred the Syrian Kurds from passage, but later reversed course and opened border crossings — “without any ethnic or sectarian discrimination,” Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said at the time. And so they moved, on foot, with whatever they could carry. Those who crossed were mostly women, children and the elderly or injured, Kilic recalls, as most of the men and boys of fighting age stayed behind. “They left everything behind them — their toys, their homes, everything,” he says.

Kilic knows these types of scenes well. He covered the unrest during Turkey’s Gezi Park demonstrations last year, deadly clashes in Ukraine this past February and the Soma mine blast in May. He saw similar scenes of despair over the last few days, but his prior experiences doesn’t make them any easier to encounter. There was one moment he says moved him the most: a family at the border had three children, a few elders and two or three others. There were also a trio of goats that the adults were hoping to walk into Turkey. But the animals’ entry was denied.

“Their mother was trying to get them to come with her, but the children were crying because they couldn’t take the goats. At the same time, she was trying to control the goats. It was very dramatic,” he says.

The family left one or two people to take care of the animals near the border as the others, including the children, pressed on. Kilic says this story reminded him of his childhood because he would often care for his grandfather’s goats in his hometown.

“I understood them,” he admits. “They couldn’t leave these goats on the other side. They loved these goats and they didn’t want to leave because if they leave the goats, they’ll die or disappear or someone will take them. I couldn’t watch, I couldn’t continue, I started shooting something else.”

Making the pictures he wants to make in situations like this is difficult, Kilic says, but the best ones to him are those that show the humanity of his subjects and the reality of what he’s seen.

TIME Turkey

Turkey Grapples With an Unprecedented Flood of Refugees Fleeing ISIS

Turkey has done a better job than most at accommodating refugees, but the burden is proving too large to bear

Even by the standards of Syria’s nearly four-year-long civil war, it is a refugee exodus of extraordinary, if not unprecedented proportions. In less than 72 hours, an estimated 130,000 Syrian Kurds have poured across the border into neighboring Turkey, fleeing an onslaught by Islamist militants near the town of Kobani in northern Syria.

“We are preparing for the potential of the whole population fleeing into Turkey,” Melissa Fleming, a spokeswoman for the Office of the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees, said in Geneva on Tuesday. “Anything could happen and that population of Kobani is 400,000.”

Also on Tuesday, the People’s Protection Units (YPG), the Kurdish militia defending Kobani, called for the U.S. and its Arab allies to expand their air strikes to target positions being held around the city by the militant group Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria (ISIS).

Turkey, which already hosts upwards of 1.3 million Syrians — about 220,000 of them living in tent and container camps near the border — has done a much better job of accommodating the refugees than any of its neighbors. But the burden of providing for those displaced by the most recent fighting has proved too large to bear.

Since Friday, some of the refugees have found a place in newly assembled tent cities, Turkish officials said. Some have stayed with family members. Others have not been so lucky. In Suruc, a Turkish town about 8 miles north of the border gate at Kobani, and all along the road connecting the two, thousands of Syrians sought shelter in public squares, mosques, and in dry, barren fields.

At the crossing itself, a group of perhaps a hundred or more men, most of them from villages around Kobani, pleaded with Turkish soldiers to let them back into Syria. They seemed surprised that anyone should ask why they thought of returning. “To fight Islamic State,” one of them said, using the name ISIS recently gave itself.

At a nearby village, police and riot vehicles squared off against dozens of Kurdish activists from Turkey. The Kurds were protesting the Turkish authorities’ decision, temporary as it turned out, to close the border. They were greeted with a barrage of tear gas and several arrests.

The fighting around Kobani, combined with the massive refugee influx and reports of new atrocities perpetrated by ISIS against Syria’s Kurds, has put Turkey under further pressure, both international and domestic, to review its policy options. Until last weekend, Ankara had insisted it could not play a bigger role in the U.S.-led coalition against ISIS for fear that doing so would put at risk the lives of 46 Turkish hostages captured by the jihadists in in June. But on Sept. 20, in an operation that likely included a prisoner swap, the hostages were set free.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has since suggested his government’s position towards ISIS might be ripe for a rethink. “What happens from now on is a separate issue,” he said Sunday. “We need to decide what kind of attitude to take.”

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry has made it clear he now expects Turkey to make a tangible contribution to the alliance. The Turks “first needed to deal with their hostage situation,” he said Monday. “Now the proof will be in the pudding.”

Anyone who thinks Turkey is about to take part in armed operations against ISIS, however, should think again, says Henri Barkey, a professor at Lehigh University in Pennsylvania and former State Department official.

In practice, there are three areas where Ankara might be in a position to help the U.S., Barkey says. It could allow the Americans to use the Incirlik Air Base, in Turkey’s south, to stage strikes against ISIS; it could provide more intelligence cooperation; and it could start dismantling the jihadist-support network in Turkey, stopping people, arms and supplies from entering Syria, and stopping smuggled fuel, arguably the biggest source of ISIS’s wealth, from coming out. Anything beyond that appears to be out of the question. “I don’t think Erdogan can move militarily against ISIS,” Barkey says. “That would open up a huge scenario for him that he is not ready for.”

As it positions itself diplomatically, Turkey is also beginning to face the domestic fallout from the drama unfolding on its doorstep.

Although few of them are able to provide hard evidence, many Kurds on both sides of the border firmly believe that Turkey backs ISIS — and that it is using the jihadists as a proxy against the YPG, an offshoot of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), the Turks’ longtime enemy.

The longer the misery in Kobani lasts, Kurdish politicians now warn, the higher the chance that the political atmosphere inside Turkey will turn toxic, derailing a nascent peace process between the PKK and the government.

“They give us an olive branch in one hand, they support ISIS with the other, and they say nothing about the killing in Kobani,” said Mehmet Karayilan, a Kurdish politician from Gaziantep. “That’s putting the whole peace process at risk.”

TIME Syria

Thousands Are Fleeing From Syria to Turkey to Escape the Latest ISIS Onslaught

TURKEY-SYRIA-KURDS-REFUGEES
Syrian Kurds carry belongings as they cross the border between Syria and Turkey near the southeastern town of Suruc in Sanliurfa province, on Sept. 20, 2014. Bulent Kilic—AFP/Getty Images

Turkey is already home to nearly 1.5 million Syrian refugees

At least 100,000 Syrian refugees flooded across the border into Turkey over the weekend as Sunni extremist fighters from the Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria (ISIS) launched an offensive against Kurdish communities in northern Syria.

Approximately 150,000 people have been displaced since ISIS began to encircle the border town of Kobani, also known as Ayn al-Arab, last week.

“Four or five days ago this area was quite safe,” Selin Unal, a spokesperson with the U.N.’s refugee agency, the UNHCR, told TIME on Monday. “And then after three days, 100,000 Syrians fled to Turkey.”

The militants have reportedly routed dozens of towns and executed at least 11 people in the villages outside of Kobani, according to activists.

“[ISIS] are continuing to advance,” Welat Avar, a doctor, told Reuters from Kobani. “Every place they pass through they kill, wound and kidnap people. Many people are missing and we believe they were kidnapped.”

International aid groups and Turkish officials warned that thousands of additional refugees are likely to try to cross the border in the coming days amid the militants’ offensive. Before the weekend’s onslaught, Turkey had already been home to close to 1.5 million refugees from the conflict-torn nation.

“Turkish government authorities and UNHCR are preparing for the possibility of hundreds of thousands more refugees arriving over the coming days, as the battle for the northern Syrian city of Kobani forces more people to flee,” read a statement released by the U.N. refugee agency over the weekend.

On Sunday, the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), a group classified as a terrorist organization by both Ankara and Washington, called on fellow Kurds to take up arms to repel ISIS.

“Supporting this heroic resistance is not just a debt of honor of the Kurds but all Middle East people. Just giving support is not enough, the criterion must be taking part in the resistance,” the PKK said in a statement.

The British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported that hundreds of Kurdish fighters from inside Turkey crossed into Syria over the weekend to help beat back the ISIS offensive. Near the border, Turkish Kurds demonstrated in solidarity with the refugees, leading to clashes with authorities, who deployed tear gas and water cannon against the protesters.

While ISIS’s thrust in Iraq has been largely slowed by U.S. air strikes, American forces have yet to target the militant group’s myriad positions in neighboring Syria, thus allowing the group to continue to consume large swaths of territory across the country’s north and east.

During an interview on CBS’s Face the Nation on Sunday, U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Samantha Power hinted that the White House and its allies are ready to strike in Syria, but refrained from announcing how the Obama Administration was preparing to do so.

“The President has said we’re not going to allow [ISIS] to have a safe haven in Syria,” said Power. “But no decisions have been made in terms of how we’re going to proceed in that.”

Earlier this month, Turkey refrained from joining the U.S.-led coalition aiming to take the fight to the jihadist organization.

The uptick in violence along Turkey’s frontier coincides with the release of 49 Turkish diplomats over the weekend. All 49 had been in ISIS’s custody for three months since jihadist militants routed Iraqi security forces in Mosul in July.

Ankara has yet to provide firm details regarding the so-called rescue operation that succeeded in freeing the diplomats.

TIME Turkey

Dozens of Turkish Police Arrested for Alleged Anti-Government Plot: Reports

Turkey's new President Erdogan attends a swearing in ceremony at the parliament in Ankara
Turkey's new President Recep Tayyip Erdogan attends a swearing-in ceremony at the parliament in Ankara on Aug. 28, 2014. Umit Bektas—Reuters

Even more police officers have been accused of plotting against new President Recep Tayyip Erdogan

More than 30 Turkish police officers were detained on Monday, according to reports, in what appears to be the latest in a series of arrests related to the incoming President’s belief that members of the nation’s police force are conspiring against him.

Dozens of Turkish police had already been arrested this summer on charges of bugging new President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s phone lines in order to plot against him, Reuters reports. Erdogan, Turkey’s former longtime Prime Minister, won the country’s first direct presidential election on Aug. 10.

During his presidential campaign, Erdogan repeatedly accused U.S.-based cleric Fethullah Gulen of seeking to undermine the Turkish government via a network of loyalists in some of Turkey’s most powerful institutions, including the police.

Gulen’s network, called the Hizmet movement, was once credited with buoying Erdogan’s political might. But the pact between Erdogan and Gulen has since dramatically collapsed, and Erdogan has over the past several months waged a bitter and highly public campaign to root out Gulen supporters from the political establishment.

The arrest warrants issued for the 33 police officers in the latest sweep are for “seeking to overthrow the government,” Reuters reports. One of the officers is the former chief of a police financial unit.

[Reuters]

TIME foreign affairs

Turkey’s First Presidential Elections Were No Democracy

Turkish Youth Union (TGB) protested against Erdogan on
Turkish Youth Union (TGB) protested against Erdogan on August 11, 2014 in Ankara after Turkey's Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan won the presidential election. Basin Foto Ajansi—LightRocket via Getty Images

Erdogan’s relentless campaigning was politics theatrics

My 10 year old and a few of his friends wanted to pose in front of a huge Erdogan poster in an upscale Ankara neighborhood 10 days before the presidential elections. One of his friends, who attends a private elementary school and has secular parents said, “Let’s do two thumbs up.” When I asked “But why?” they all replied, “He is the winner.” Arda’s not a fortune teller. There were no surprises in the election results. And when there are no surprises, is it really democracy?

One bad sign is declining turnout. Seventy-four percent of the eligible voters turned out to vote. While that is high for the U.S., it’s the lowest turnout in Turkey since 1977, when voting became compulsory. Even a few months ago in, turnout for municipal elections were 90%.

Even though it was the first time Turkish expats were allowed to vote where they reside, more than 80% chose not to vote.

You can explain this away if you are trying to put a good face on it. Ramadan had just ended. Farm workers were travelling around the country. The strategy of the main opposition’s joint candidate, Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu, backfired: The leaders of the major left and right wing opposition parties aimed to join forces against Erdogan, but their constituents did follow the plan. Ihsanoglu failed to generate a boost among conservatives, and in many cities nationalist voters opted for Erdogan. Ihsanoglu refrained from rallies during Ramadan while Erdogan campaigned relentlessly. His absence from the trail allowed Erdogan to even convince voters “Ihsanoglu is neutral on Gaza.” (It’s hard to imagine Ihsanoglu was truly indifferent about the Palestinian issue since he was the Secretary General of the Organization of Islamic Countries for a decade.) The left’s candidate, Selahattin Demirtas, out-performed many expectations, doubling his party’s vote, but many on the left feared that, as a Kurd, he might vote with their bloc.

But, we’re burying the lead. This was the first time Turkish voters had the opportunity to directly choose their president, and not just any President, but the man who has so consolidated his political power that this election may have taken him past the point of authoritarian return.

Sure, overall, it was a free election in a democratic country. Yet, if we scratch the surface, we see that it could hardly be referred as a “fair” election. The Organization of Security and Co-Operation in Europe produced a 13-paged report explaining why the Turkish presidential elections were not fair. In a sign of the consolidation of power in Turkey, the Supreme Board of Elections promptly discarded OSCE’s report as “groundless,” though it failed to refute the agency’s findings.

Signs of Erdogan’s tightening grip on his country’s levers of power are easy to see in the restricted media, ambiguous election rules, and lack of accountability on campaign finance regulations. Let’s start with the media, and not just the media, but the ability to be seen by Turks at all. Until the last 15 days, Demirtas was almost never seen on Turkish state-run television. I was living in a neighborhood the opposition won—and not a single photo of Demirtas or Ihsanoglu was present — it was all Erdogan. It is difficult to call it an equal playing field given the opposition’s lack of access to media.

On the media, OSCE reported that: “TRT1 devoted 51 per cent of coverage to Mr. Erdoğan, while covering Mr. İhsanoğlu and Mr. Demirtaş with 32 per cent and 18 per cent, respectively. In addition, 25 per cent of Mr. İhsanoğlu’s coverage was negative in tone, while Mr. Erdoğan’s coverage was almost all positive.”

This was explained as “normal” by the Deputy Prime Minister, Bulent Arinc, who was perplexed that opposition candidates would demand more time on TV. Arinc asked, “how can the opposition candidates be equal with Erdogan?”

Erdogan also benefited from the ambiguity of election and campaign rules and regulations. The January 2012 Law on Presidential Elections (LPE) received no support from opposition parties and there was little public consultation. This law established the direct election of the president, but also blocked anyone to be a candidate unless 20 parliamentarians nominated him or her. If a judge or a banker wanted to run, they’d be required to resign prior to becoming a candidate for Presidency. But the law that says this is required for “fair” elections lets a Prime Minister or a Minister (read: Erdogan) stay in his job, with all the attendant powers over media that come with incumbency.

The law allowed candidates to fundraise from the public and set donation limits for individuals, but it left unregulated financial contributions from political parties and candidates’ personal funds, which mean you can’t find out who paid for political advertising, rallies, and other expenses.

Even before that law, the 1982 constitution gave the Supreme Board of Elections powers without judicial review, erasing any concept of “separation of powers,” and taking away the power to appeal election disputes.

Given all this power, many pundits wondered why Erdogan had campaigned so intensely. Yet, when your goal is not just the election, but a transformation of the political scene, you need to keep up the game. Erdogan’s relentless campaigning was to convince its constituencies for the legitimacy of an “executive presidency.” That might sound like the U.S. presidential system, but he’s not interested in the rest: federalism, a bicameral Congress or independent Supreme Court.

Known to follow the public opinion surveys carefully, Erdogan was well aware that Turkish public was not in favor of a “presidential system”; hence, he utilized this campaign process to lay the foundations of the idea. The net effect of his talking down the premiership, and talking up the presidency, was to convince voters the office is not so important, that Erdogan runs the show from whichever seat he occupies.

Who can stand in front of Erdogan’s dreams? In the last 12 years, press has been successfully tamed; judiciary, security forces and almost all bureaucracy skillfully stacked with loyalists; laws have been repeatedly revised to silence any opposition and corruption charges against himself and his allies. He eloquently established institutions and promptly declared them useless–the latest example being TIB, a telecommunications board. Legislation is frequently an expedited process and the public rarely has an opportunity to view what is at stake.

Erdogan has won another election, but it represents a dramatic expansion of his powers, not just another office. He has made it quite clear that he aims for an illiberal democracy, where even questioning why there could not be a live presidential debate between candidates would promptly put your name on the blacklist. In the corridors of Ankara, the game is the same: new Turkey means more of Erdogan.

If even a child can tell you who will win an election 10 days before the vote, do you have a democracy anymore?

Pinar Tremblay is a visiting scholar of political science at California State Polytechnic University, Pomona. This piece originally appeared at The Weekly Wonk.

TIME Innovation

Five Best Ideas of the Day: August 14

1. Born of the war on terror, militarized civilian police forces have impacted civil rights and citizens’ lives.

By Alex Kane at BillMoyers.com

2. Turkey is finally in a position to carry some weight in Iraq – if President Erdogan keeps his promises.

By Josh Walker in War on the Rocks

3. A new bill forcing schools to collect and share hard data on sexual assault can reveal the scale and shed much-needed light on this epidemic.

By Anna Bahr in the Upshot

4. Summer jobs for American youth will soon be a thing of the past. So will the work ethic and skills training that summer jobs once ensured.

By Ben Cassleman in FiveThirtyEight

5. It may seem like the world is tearing itself apart, but when peacekeepers can be deployed to troublespots, their track record is very good.

By Roland Paris in Political Violence at a Glance

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, D.C.

TIME Turkey

Erdogan Promises ‘New Era’ After Winning Presidency

Winner of presidential election Recep Tayyip Erdogan greets public
Winner of Turkey's presidential election Recep Tayyip Erdogan greets the public in Istanbul on Aug. 10, 2014 Ahmet Dumanli—Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

Turkey's Prime Minister gets five more years of power

For a man who promised to be Turkey’s first “sweating President,” Recep Tayyip Erdogan won election on Sunday with barely a sheen of perspiration. With all votes counted, and with Turkey’s Prime Minister since 2003 having reportedly avoided a runoff with 51.8%, the country of nearly 80 million is bracing for at least five more years of Erdogan rule.

In his victory speech, delivered before a sea of supporters in Ankara, the usually unapologetic Erdogan struck a surprisingly conciliatory note, promising “a new era” and extending an olive branch to his opponents. “Today is the day we lift mental barriers, rid ourselves of old prejudices, and peel away fears imposed from the outside,” said the country’s first directly elected President. “Today is the day we open the doors to a new beginning, the day we establish a new Turkey.”

In his campaign appearances, Erdogan pledged to give Turkey a new constitution, presumably one that will formally give the presidency, and thus himself, new executive powers. That may have to wait; Erdogan does not currently have the parliamentary majority needed to force through a new charter. But the man who has spent more than a decade as Prime Minister and who now aspires to spend another decade as President might not need a new constitution to rule uncontested.

The current document, say some legal experts, already gives him enough power to do so. Enacted in the aftermath of an army coup, Turkey’s constitution allows the President to chair Cabinet meetings, veto laws, issue governmental decrees and decide on the internal rules of the national parliament, says Riza Turmen, an opposition lawmaker and a former judge of the European Court of Human Rights. “He can decide to call early elections, he appoints the head of the general staff, the members of the board of higher education, rectors of state universities, members of the Constitutional Court, and [some] members of the Supreme Board of Judges and Prosecutors,” says Turmen.

Turkish Presidents, including Abdullah Gul, Erdogan’s predecessor, have heretofore refrained from using the full range of these powers. “But Mr. Erdogan is a different case,” says Turmen. “One difference is that he will be the first directly elected President of Turkey. The other is character. He wants to control everything.”

It’s not as if voters hadn’t been warned. “When you look at our Constitution,” he said in a recent interview, “there is no article that limits actions of a President.” Ruling party officials have signaled that Erdogan will set up something resembling a presidential Cabinet. Last week, the progovernment press reported that Erdogan would enter his new office in Ankara accompanied by an army of 400 advisers.

Erdogan had made it clear throughout his campaign he would remain a partisan leader. He vowed to forge ahead with a number of controversial projects, including the construction of a third Istanbul airport, and to destroy what he refers to as Turkey’s parallel state. “I will not be an impartial President,” he recently said.

To Erdogan’s rivals, the odds in Sunday’s election had been stacked in Erdogan’s favor from the beginning. “It was never fair play from Day 1,” his main opponent Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu said last week. “According to the regulations, candidates cannot get any financial support from public funds, but the Prime Minister uses [government] funds, he travels in the official planes, he uses all the official means, the support of the government, provincial TV stations, and inaugurates projects that have been implemented for long years,” he said. “He presents everything as a success of his candidacy.”

On Sunday, Ihsanoglu received 38.5% of the vote. The candidate of the People’s Democratic Party, Selahattin Demirtas, received 9.8%, a surprisingly strong showing for the first openly Kurdish politician to bid for high office in Turkey.

The question now on the minds of most Turks is who will succeed Erdogan to the premiership. A number of names are said to be in the hat, but most observers suspect Erdogan will end up playing puppet master. “He wants someone who’s slavishly loyal, who doesn’t have his own political aspirations,” Atilla Yesilada, a political analyst with Global Source Partners, says. It will likely be a weak candidate “who will channel his style, his wishes, and his objectives.”

Erdogan’s own aspirations seem clear. Come 2015, when parliamentary elections are due to take place, the new President is likely to make one final push for a new constitution and U.S.-like executive presidency. Otherwise, says Yesilada, he risks losing control over the state and his Justice and Development Party, or AKP.

“For now, senior members of the bureaucracy will be reporting to Erdogan just because they’re afraid, or because they see no other way out, “ he says. “But this is not formal power. [Without a new constitution] the possibility of rebellion for one reason or another is very real.”

TIME celebrity

Emma Watson Laughs In The Face of Turkish Politician’s Sexism

2014 Tribeca Film Festival - "Boulevard"
-Actress Emma Watson attends the premiere of "Boulevard" during the 2014 Tribeca Film Festival at BMCC Tribeca PAC on April 20, 2014 in New York City. Steve Mack--FilmMagic

The Harry Potter actress and newly named Goodwill Ambassador for UN Women laughs in the face of sexism

Turkey’s Deputy Prime Minister Bulent Arinc sparked outrage earlier this week when he addressed a crowd celebrating the end of Ramadan and then launched into a lament about the erosion of traditional values. The politician noted that “A woman should be chaste. She should know the difference between public and private. She should not laugh in public.”

Public backlash was swift, and it seems Arinc has even annoyed Hermione with his comments. On Thursday, Emma Watson joined the online protest — where women have been defiantly tweeting and posting photos of themselves laughing — by sharing a photo of herself doubled over. And on the street, no less!

https://twitter.com/EmWatson/status/494888155079008256

The Harry Potter star and newly named Goodwill Ambassador for UN Women is just one of thousands of women who have been protesting the politician’s remarks and even included the hashtage #direnkahkaha, which translates to “resist laughter.” Enough people have joined in on the backlash against Arinc’s remarks that both the hashtags ‎#direnkahkaha and #direnkadin (“resist woman”) have become trending topics on Twitter.

So far, more than 16,000 people have retweeted Watson’s photo.

TIME feminism

Turkish Women Can’t Stop Laughing at Minister’s Advice to Stop Laughing

TURKEY-POLITICS
Turkey's Deputy Prime Minister Bulent Arinc speaks during an interview in Ankara on July 24, 2014, ahead of the presidential election Adem Alta—AFP/Getty Images

A speech on public morals has morphed into a comedy of errors

Turkey’s Deputy Prime Minister Bulent Arinc did not intend his Monday speech on “moral corruption” to get big laughs, but when he advised women to suppress their laughter in public, it landed on the public like a well-crafted punch line.

Women in Turkey have since tweeted pictures of their reactions, ranging from grins …

… to guffaws.

Over the past three days, hundreds of thousands of people have tweeted under the hashtag #kahkaha, the Turkish word for laughter. Sadly, the Deputy Prime Minister wasn’t joking.

TIME Middle East

Hamas Still Has Some Friends Left

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan addresses his supporters at parliament in Ankara, Turkey, July 22, 2014.
Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan addresses his supporters at parliament wearing a Palestinian keffiyeh, in Ankara, July 22, 2014. Burhan Ozbilici—AP

Though Egypt has turned its back on Hamas, other countries are coming in from the cold

With the fighting in Gaza intensifying daily, the ruling militant group Hamas is finding itself pushed to the limit. Trying to match Israel’s vast military might is an impossible task, and even finding the resources to launch rocket attacks against Israeli targets could only be achieved by heavy foreign investment.

But which country wants to invest in Hamas? The West certainly doesn’t. The militant Palestinian organization has been a firm fixture on the United States’ Foreign Terrorist Organizations list since 1997. Hamas’ only hope is its neighbors in the Arab world.

Hamas has two clear allies, according to Middle East experts: Qatar and Turkey. Both have given Hamas their public support and financial assistance estimated to be in the hundreds of millions of dollars.

“Qatar also hosts Hamas’ political bureau which includes Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal,” says Shashank Joshi, Senior Research Fellow at the Royal United Services Institute. “Qatar has a long history of providing shelter to Islamist groups, amongst them the Muslim Brotherhood and the Taliban.”

Turkey’s ruling Justice and Development Party, which came to power in 2002, supports what Joshi calls “other neo-Islamist allies.” Though the Turkish government explicitly rejects the label “Islamist”, their social conservatism is inspired by an Islamic ideology that Hamas shares. Last year, Meshaal visited Turkey and met with Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan for several hours.

Both Qatar — one of the world’s richest states — and Turkey are powerful allies to have, but Hamas might wish for more support given the breadth of the Arab world. It once had it, too. Hamas used to be strongly allied with both Iran and Syria, with the former giving Hamas an estimated $13-15 million a month as recently as 2011, as well as long-range missiles. Hamas’ political bureau used to be based in the Syrian capital of Damascus before its move to Qatar in 2012.

But relations cooled dramatically with Iran and Syria amid sectarian divisions following the outbreak of the Syrian civil war. Iran, a Shia-majority country, backed the government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad whose Alawite faith is a branch of Shia Islam. Hezbollah, a powerful Shia Islamist group based in Lebanon, also took Assad’s side.

However Hamas, a Sunni-led faction, sided, as most of the Arab world did, with the rebels. Cue Tehran cutting their allowance, Hezbollah allegedly ordering Hamas members out of Lebanon, and Hamas packing their bags for Qatar.

“Iran’s relationship with Hamas was always problematic,” says Chris Doyle, director of the Council for the Advancement of Arab-British Understanding. “Hamas is a Palestinian Sunni group and Iran is Shia. Nevertheless, Hamas was their entry into the issue of Palestine.”

Seeking to regain its influence over this issue, Iran has attempted to foster a reconciliation with Hamas over the last 18 months. Farwaz Gerges, professor on the Middle East at the London School of Economics says the conflict in Gaza is the reason. “The current crisis has brought a kind of rapprochement between Iranian leaders and Hamas.”

Hezbollah too, Gerges notes, has invited Hamas back into the fold. On Monday, the Hezbollah-owned television channel Al Manar reported that Hezbollah leader, Hassan Nasrallah, praised Meshaal for “the persistence of the Hamas resistance.” The TV station added he “strongly supported their rightful demands to end the current battle.”

Gerges is quick to point out that this doesn’t signal “a return to the warm days of the Iran, Hezbollah and Hamas leaders.” However he adds: “Out of this particular crisis, a new realignment might happen.” That may sound like good news for Hamas, but there’s another Arab country that is of late vehemently opposed to it. That would be Egypt, the largest and most influential country in the Arab world and the one responsible for drafting a potential cease-fire.

From 2012 to 2013, Hamas enjoyed Egypt’s munificence under the leadership of former President Mohamed Morsi, a longtime member of the Islamist Muslim Brotherhood of which Hamas is an offshoot. When Morsi was ousted last year and replaced with Abdul Fattah al-Sisi, Hamas knew the good times were over.

“The most devastating thing that has happened to Hamas is the ousting of Mohamed Morsi,” comments Gerges. Sisi, whose government has orchestrated a violent crackdown on the Muslim Brotherhood, destroyed Hamas’ tunnel network into Egypt and closed the border crossing at Rafah, devastating Hamas’ finances. The United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia, two of Egypt’s financial backers, are also hostile to Hamas. Like Egypt, they view the Muslim Brotherhood as a clear domestic threat — and Hamas is guilty by association.

But perhaps Hamas doesn’t need Egypt. As the death toll continues to rise in Gaza, there is a groundswell of public sympathy across the Arab world for the group.

“Hamas in terms of people on the street is at the height of its political power in every single Arab country with the exception of Egypt,” says Gerges. “The longer the conflict continues, the more they gain in popularity. And for Hamas, what really matters is the public pulse.”

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