Middle East Miscellany

by Michael Rubin

A few stories out of Turkey:

Alcohol raids shut down art gala: A group armed with tear gas, sticks, and bottles attacked 400 art enthusiasts who filled galas at the Galerinon, Galerioutlet, and Eclitsis, three art galleries in Istanbul’s Beyoglu district. The group chanted religious slogans, cried out “You cannot drink alcohol here,” and broke the windows of the galleries. Dozens of people were battered and five people were wounded. The victims complained that police nearby did not intervene and told them to call the police hotline. None of the assailants was taken into custody.

Minority Sect Protests New Mandatory Islam Classes: The Turkish Alevi federation announced that the Alevi students will not attend religion classes if their protest on October 9 does not change government policy. Fevzi Gumus, chairman of Pir Sultan Abdal Cultural Association, says: “There are several verdicts of the European Human Rights Court stating no one can be forced to attend religion classes.” However, the AKP government is reluctant to release a decree saying Alevi students are free not to attend the classes.

European Union Critical of Turkey Crackdown on Press Freedom: Growing concerns about freedom of expression in Turkey will be high on the agenda of the European Union in the post-referendum period, European diplomats have said. “It is obvious that we will follow more closely such attempts [to limit freedom of expression],” an ambassador from one of the EU countries told the Hürriyet Daily News & Economic Review on Tuesday. “We know it is a very delicate issue. We try to address it from time to time.” European diplomats commented specifically on the case of Bekir Coşkun, a veteran columnist critical of many government actions who was recently fired from his newspaper, the daily Habertürk, allegedly as the result of pressure from government circles. “If he was fired upon the government’s pressure, then this is very serious,” another EU diplomat said, comparing the Turkish government’s treatment of writers with a critical stance to actions taken by Russian prime minister Vladimir Putin.