Justin Vela

Tension in Istanbul before rallies

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Anti-government protesters in Turkey have called for a massive demonstration in the middle of Istanbul today.

The country’s prime minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, has planned a huge rally of his supporters in a different part of the city.

After massive clashes between police and protesters last night, which continued into the early hours of this morning, the atmosphere in Istanbul is tense. Even now there are reports of small clashes around the city.

Riot police evicted the protesters from Istanbul’s Gezi Park and Taksim Square after two weeks of anti-government demonstrations.

The square is cordoned off by police this morning as Istanbul residents prepare for what comes next.


Written by Justin Vela

June 16, 2013 at 7:35 am

Posted in Bosporus Blog

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Turkey protests & Occupygezi

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Turkey’s “occupygezi” protests continue. I hope to bring you some new descriptions and insight of what is happening in this next week.

Written by Justin Vela

June 9, 2013 at 5:18 pm

Posted in turkey

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Ahead of Washington talks, Turkey ‘all in’ with the Syrian opposition

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Turkey suffered a shock over the weekend as nearly 50 people were killed and over a hundred injured in a double car bombing near the border with Syria.

While the regime of Bashar Al Assad was almost immediately blamed for the attack, nine Turkish citizens were the first people to be detained in connection with the bombing. This suggests that the Syrian regime maintains a sophisticated spy network in Turkey. I wrote about this for The National.

While Syria denied any involvement yesterday, there have been numerous allegations of Syrian regime agents operating in southern Turkey.

Most have been alleged attempts to kidnap Syrian opposition figures and defectors on Turkish soil and take them back across the border into Syria.

Read the full article

The bombing took place in Reyhanli, a town adjacent to the border with Syria where many Syrian refugees live. Reyhanli also serves as a hub for numerous aid workers and members of the Syrian opposition who go back and forth across the border.

Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Justin Vela

May 13, 2013 at 9:31 am

Visiting a Gülen School in Batumi

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Georgian middle school students in class at the Gulen-affiliated R. Sahin school in Batumi, Georgia on April 30, 2013.

Georgian middle school students in class at the Gulen-affiliated R. Sahin school in Batumi, Georgia on April 30, 2013.

I visited a Gülen school in Batumi, Georgia last week for EurasiaNet.org. The R. Şahin Friendship School is attended mainly by Georgian students, along with some Turks.

That reputation was not built easily. Once under Turkish control, both following World War I and during the Ottoman era, Batumi welcomes swarms of Turkish visitors, most of whom come to gamble in casinos, while a few seek investment opportunities. Some Georgians in the region feel vulnerable about the potential spread of Turkish influence. Those concerns erupted last summer, when angry protests broke out in the city against the influx of Turks and government plans to rebuild an Ottoman-era mosque.But the Batumi Refaiddin Şahin Friendship School-High School did not become embroiled in the xenophobic outburst.

Read the entire article 

Much controversy follows the Gülen Movement in Turkey and the United States. But in Georgia the R. Şahin Friendship School is not widely known to be attached to the movement. It is a much appreciated private school that offers high-level education to students regardless of their religion or nationality.

It was interesting to see the Gülen movement’s work outside of the Turkish context. Gülen himself and his followers continue to make headlines in Turkey. Most recently, a high-ranking member of the movement stated that Gülen might return to Turkey after a democratic constitution is put in place. It appears he was giving his personal opinion on the subject. Gülen has not made new statements about the possibility of returning to Turkey, which seems unlikely given his poor health and general tense situation in the country.


Written by Justin Vela

May 7, 2013 at 9:52 am

A horse dances for Turkmenistan’s President Gurbanguly Berdymukhamedov

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Written by Justin Vela

May 6, 2013 at 2:21 pm

Zorlu targets renewables and coal over gas // Platts

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Published by Platts Energy in East Europe / ISSUE 264 / May 3, 2013

Justin Vela, Istanbul

Turkish independent power producer Zorlu Enerji is focusing its investments in renewables and coal to create a more balanced generation mix and reduce the impact of rising gas prices on its gas heavy portfolio. The third biggest of five electricity producers listed on the Istanbul Stock Exchange, Zorlu Enerji saw its operational profit eroded in 2012 for the second year running by gas prices rising faster than electricity prices.

The energy arm of the Zorlu Group posted a net profit of TRY 589 million last year on the back of a 19.9% rise in revenues to TRY 525 million but only because of a one- off gain of TRY 756 million from a reversal of losses as a result of the transfer of its stake in its Russian gas- fired power plant venture Rosmiks to its parent company last December. It was still a major improvement on 2011, when it reported a net loss of TRY 407 million.

“We don’t build our strategy only on gas prices, but focus on long term strategy in a broader perspective,” Ali Kindap, the company’s deputy general manager told Platts in an interview. With a goal to more than double its installed capacity at home and abroad to 1,500 MW by 2017, Zorlu is doing its best to “meet increasing energy demand in Turkey and globally in a rational and environmentally compliant manner,” said Sinan Ak, the company’s chief executive.

Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Justin Vela

May 3, 2013 at 10:20 am

How to Interview Fethullah Gülen

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Turkey is in the spotlight (again) with TIME magazine’s choices for its 2013 list of the 100 most influential people in the world.

Turkish spiritual leader Fethullah Gülen and the imprisoned leader of the Kurdistan Worker’s Party (PKK) Abdullah Öcalan were both listed under the leaders section.

Öcalan and Gülen are two enigmas. One lives in self-imposed exile in the United States. The other is imprisoned on an island off Istanbul. Both are deeply influential, but their views are only rarely expressed to the public.

No Turkish politician was listed, though they were in past years.

TIME magazine’s yearly list is a good indicator of what is “in.” That Gülen and Öcalan are on it this year will set off a storm of controversy in Turkey. Some local journalists, who are increasingly forced to self-censor, might enjoy the chance offered by TIME to discuss the sensitive topics that come along with both these men. While some Turks will voice outrage at the selection of men considered by some to be an “ayatollah” and a “terrorist”, nearly all will feel some self-satisfaction and pride that their country is so pivotal that two of its sons made the list.

Fethullah Gülen: How to get an interview

Gülen, in particular, is fascinating to me. And, yes, the fascination comes from more than being chastised by one of the Gülen Movement’s newspaper as an “emotional” and “biased” reporter. A weeks ago, I pressed a senior member of the movement on how I could interview Gülen. The man laughed. If you want to interview Gülen you should read everything that he has said and everything that has already been written about him, the man said. Then submit a list of original questions that have not already been answered.

It sounds so simple. And I am working on it. However, Gülen has said a lot and there’s been a lot written about him. So I could use some help. If you have an original question you’d like me to ask Gülen in the near future do let me know. Of course, it will be nice to have his thoughts on being chosen one of TIME’s 100 most influential people for 2013. But there’s a lot more to ask a man whose teachings have created an international movement.

Written by Justin Vela

April 18, 2013 at 6:46 pm