Thursday, February 27, 2014

War Watch February 27 , 2014 - Afghanistan -- Despite the toothless threats to completely withdraw made by President Obama , the reality is that Obama , the Pentagon and Nato aren't looking to go anywhere -- Obama Looking Beyond Karzai to Secure Afghan Troop Deal NATO Chief Hopes for Deal to Continue Occupation ........ Syria Government forces score a major triumph against Syrian Rebel forces near Damascus , Al-Qaeda in Iraq Collecting Taxes on Syrian Christians ......... Even as the daily death dealing goes on unabated in Iraq's sectarian war , internal and external political events and influences continue to shape and impact Iraq's Kurds , Sunnis and Shia populations / spheres of influence ..... Full transcript of voice recording of Turkish PM Erdogan and his son where Erdogan orders his son to dispose of as much as one billion( during the ongoing corruption investigation , which also saw PM Erdogan sack police and prosecutors to prevent the extent of corruption to come to the surface ) , continues seismic shake up in Turkey , AKP Party shook up as well ( founders seem to concede recording is legit ) , thousands demonstrate for government to resign

Afghanistan / Pakistan.....

Obama Looking Beyond Karzai to Secure Afghan Troop Deal

NATO Chief Hopes for Deal to Continue Occupation

by Jason Ditz, February 26, 2014
The Obama Administration continues telling two different stories on Afghanistan. After yesterday’s threats to withdraw from the nation if Karzai doesn’t sign a troop deal, officials are now saying President Obama is “looking beyond Karzai” in securing the occupation for years and decades to come.
Karzai has repeatedly ruled out signing the Bilateral Security Agreement (BSA), which would keep troops in Afghanistan “through 2024 and beyond,” and several US ultimatum deadlines have come and gone with no signature.
Karzai’s term in office ends in April, however, and the Obama Administration is in talks with some of the candidates to replace him, hoping to get them to sign off on the occupation as soon as the election ends.
Despite Obama presenting the “zero option” as real, officials have repeatedly insisted that it is not, and all indications are that, by hook or by crook, they intend to stay.
NATO chief Anders Fogh Rasmussen also expressed hope that such a deal could be put into place too, saying NATO also wants to keep its troops in Afghanistan beyond the end of the year.

Pakistan: US Won’t Let Us Finish Iran Gas Pipeline

by Jason Ditz, February 26, 2014
An ambitious natural gas pipeline project that sought to allow Iran exports to India and Pakistan is effectively dead, according to Pakistani officials who say the Obama Administration forbade them from building it.
India had already bailed out on the plan, but with Pakistan struggling with constant rolling blackouts because of energy shortages, they had long insisted they wanted the plan to finish despite US objections.
The last minute backing out isn’t setting well with Iran, who has virtually finished the part of the pipeline in their country and is now faced with a multi-billion dollar pipeline to nowhere.
Iran’s oil ministry says that Pakistan has signed a contract which obliges them to finish the construction, and urged them to pick up the pace to make up for having fallen behind schedule.


ISIL retreats from parts of north Syria

ISIL fighters retreat to the east following ultimatum by rival al-Qaeda faction Nusra to drive them from northern Syria.

Last updated: 28 Feb 2014 14:55
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ISIL fighters are retreating east towards their stronghold in the city of Raqa ahead of Saturday's deadline [Reuters]
Fighters from the breakaway group the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) have begun withdrawing from parts of northern Syria ahead of a deadline set by a powerful rival al-Qaeda faction.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights on Friday said the ISIL was retreating east towards its stronghold in the city of Raqa.
The withdrawal comes four days after the al-Qaeda affiliated Al-Nusra Front issued the ISIL an ultimatum to go before an Islamic court for mediation or face being expelled from Syria and the region altogether.
The deadline was to expire on Saturday.
"ISIL has withdrawn from Aazaz, its most important bastion in Aleppo province, as well as the Minnigh military airport, the Mayer region and the villages of Deir Jamal and Kafin," the observatory said.
"Aleppo region is their weakest link, so they fear being attacked there by Nusra and other rebels after the deadline expires, observatory director Rami Abdel Rahman told AFP.
Rahman said the ISIL fighters had regrouped in particular in Jarabulus and Manbij, on the far eastern border of Aleppo province and close to its Raqa stronghold.
Mass grave reports
The observatory was investigating reports of a possible mass grave found in Aazaz, which the ISIL seized in September 2013, in the wake of its withdrawal from the city.
The withdrawal was confirmed by the opposition Aazaz Media Centre, which claimed it as a victory for rival rebel fighters.
Video footage from the town posted online showed a demonstration of residents chanting "the Free Syrian Army forever" after the ISIL's withdrawal.
Abu Mohammed al-Golani, the Nusra leader, on Tuesday issued a threat against the ISIL after the death of a
senior Islamist commander, Abu Khaled al-Suri, who had acted as al-Qaeda chief Ayman al-Zawahri's representative in Syria.
Rebels and activists believe he was assassinated by two suicide bombers from the ISIL.
Fighting between the rebel factions has killed hundreds of people since the beginning of the year and is undermining the wider battle against President Bashar al-Assad.
The Iraq-based group has angered other factions with its brutal tactics and harsh laws in areas it controls in the northeast.
Nearly 2,000 people have been killed in fighting between the group and other factions, including Nusra.

Rebel infighting kills thousands of Syrians

by   February 28, 2014 4:13PM ET
Clashes among rival groups have claimed the lives of more than 3,000 fighters this year
Syria's War


This undated image posted on a militant website on Tuesday, Jan. 14, 2014 shows fighters from the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) marching in Raqqa, Syria.
GAZIENTEP, Turkey — Syria’s rebel fighters have, over the past two months, suffered some of their heaviest casualties of the three-year civil war — not at the hands of the Assad regime, but in fierce internecine bloodletting that has put opposition medical resources under strain.  
The rise of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) — an armed group so radical that it has been disowned even by Al-Qaeda — has turned the war against the regime of Syrian president Bashar al-Assad into a complicated multi-front conflict where rapidly changing alliances and allegiances have led to confusion on the battlefield and an escalating casualty count. 
“We are now in the middle of a war with (ISIL) — it’s more severe than any fight with the regime,” said Salaheddin Safadi, a Syrian neurologist who directs a hospital and rehabilitation center run by the Liwa Tawhid, or the “Monotheists Brigade,” in the Turkish border town of Gazientep. The brigade is a part of the Islamic Front, a loose alliance of some 13 rebel groups claiming a combined strength of up to 60,000 fighters. 
ISIL’s actions have become so divisive among rebel groups that the official Al-Qaeda affiliate in Syria, the Nusra Front, issued an ultimatum on Feb. 25 demanding that the group accept mediation to end the infighting or face expulsion from the region by Nusra fighters.  
The Nusra Front has been designated a terrorist organization by the U.S., but has stayed out of the fighting between ISIL and other opposition groups. 
In response to the Nusra ultimatum, ISIL fighters reportedly withdrew from some areas in northern Syria on Friday.
An Islamic Front fighter from Tel Rifaat named Mohammad said the Islamic State had put the town under siege. 
“I fought against them seven days with my kids inside the house,” the 48-year-old former stone merchant said as he walked across the border from Syria into Turkey in mid-February. “There was no bread.”

Syria's War

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Local activists said the ISIL fighters had burned a nearby power plant and dismantled the flour mill — one of the largest in northern Syria — before withdrawing.
The London-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said this week that more than 3,300 people had been killed since the fighting between rival rebel groups began on Jan. 3, 2014.
Of those killed, the Observatory said 924 had been ISIL fighters, and 281 were civilians. It said 700 other fighters from both sides had been killed, but neither side had claimed them.
“The casualties have been very high because of the fighting,” said Khaled al-Milaji, the interim director at the Syrian National Coalition’s aid arm, the Assistance Coordination Unit, in Gazientep. “You can’t imagine how frustrating it is that even the guys on the front with the regime, they have to look behind them as well as at the regime in front of them, because they are sometimes hit by (ISIL) from behind.”
Safadi says that since fighting broke out with ISIL in January the number of Islamic Front fighters killed was nearly equal to half the troops killed in the previous two years fighting against Assad’s troops.
“We have more than 500 persons killed, and we have more than 1,500 injured in the past two months,” he said.
During the past two years of fighting against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s forces, Safadi says 1,200 troops from the Islamic Front were killed.  
Even Al-Qaeda’s emissary to Syria was killed as a result of the ongoing hostilities. Two suicide bombers allegedly sent by ISIL killed Abu Khalid al Suri as he was trying to mediate an end to the fighting.
Safadi says his rehab center — one of three run by the Tawhid Association in Turkey where patients with severe injuries can rest and receive medical care between surgeries and treatments — currently has 20 patients, out of 35 total, who were wounded in the fighting with ISIL. 
One of them is a 37-year-old former food importer who called himself Abu Raad.
He was shot in the hip on Feb. 3 when ISIL attacked the base he had been defending near Aleppo airport.
Abu Raad lay half covered by a blanket in a hospital bed in the six-story former office building-turned-clinic in a residential Gazientep neighborhood. His bed gave him a view out of a large, wood-framed window onto a quiet, tree-lined street below. A space heater glowed nearby as he and his four roommates watched a small TV in the corner. It showed footage of a dusty woman screaming as grimy men carried limp children down a street strewn with rubble; the aftermath of a so-called “barrel bomb” attack on one of Aleppo’s neighborhoods by Assad’s air force. 
“We are fighting against two fronts — ISIL and the regime,” Abu Raad said. “We consume most of our powers fighting against ISIL. Sometimes we have to take some of our soldiers from fighting against the regime to fight against them.”
Echoing the sentiment of many opposition fighters and civilians in Syria’s north, Abu Raad claimed ISIL is funded and armed by Assad, in an effort by Damascus to weaken and divide the opposition.  
“They are one of the enemies of the revolution,” he said. 
Salaheddin Safadi said ISIL is on the lookout for wounded Tawhid fighters being transferred from Syria to Turkey, and had come close to capturing some of them. 
On Feb. 8, he said, ISIL fighters stopped an ambulance carrying three Tawhid fighters at a checkpoint and asked for the patients’ identities. 
“The ambulance driver said they were from another military group other than Tawhid in order get those guys through,” Safadi said. “(ISIL) is not good. They are speaking in a language that says ‘It’s me or nobody.’ It’s bad language.”
Being captured by ISIL could mean detention, or worse: The group has executed dozens of fighters from the Islamic Front, posting videos of the executions on YouTube. 
Safidi said the infighting was only adding to the problems faced by the opposition in its fight against Assad’s government.
“No one is helping us,” he said. “We are fighting with our bare hands. It’s like playing a football game with one player against 100 players.”

Al-Qaeda in Iraq Collecting Taxes on Syrian Christians

Jizya Tax Set at 17 Grams of Gold in Raqqa

by Jason Ditz, February 26, 2014
Al-Qaeda in Iraq (AQI) has reportedly revived the concept of the Jizya tax, a levy imposed on non-Muslims living in Muslim territory, imposing a fee of 17 grams of gold (about $725) on every Christian man in Raqqa.
The Jizya tax was designed to replace the collection of Zakat, charitable contributions given by Muslims, which in the past were collected by the state like a tax. It was extremely common throughout history, but is virtually unheard of today.
Raqqa is the largest city under AQI control, and they also control much of the surrounding province. The number of Christians living in Raqqa is unclear, but most of Syria’s Christian minority lives in the west.
Though the Jizya is considered an outdated concept in most of the Muslim world, the move by AQI to start collecting it may actually be an encouraging sign that the group does not intend to wipe out the Christian minority living in their territory.

Syrian Troops Ambush al-Qaeda Rebels, Report 175 Killed

Rebels Confirm Ambush, Claim Lower Toll

by Jason Ditz, February 26, 2014
According to Syrian state-run media, the Syrian military ambushed fighters from the al-Qaeda faction Jabhat al-Nusra this morning in Eastern Ghouta, on the outskirts of Damascus, killing 175 and wounding a large number of others.
The report said the ambush was organized well in advance based on a tip-off, and that most of the slain were foreign fighters, including Saudis, Qataris and Chechens.
Early reports on state media put the toll at “dozens” before the dramatic rise upward. Pro-rebel mouthpiece the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights confirmed the incident and was initially putting the toll at “about 70,” though it later was revised upward to “156 killed and 10 taken prisoner.”
Hezbollah, which was also involved in the ambush, reported that the rebels were trying to cross Ghouta to join battles along the border with Jordan.

Hezbollah Vows Retaliation for Monday Israeli Attack

Attack Reportedly Killed Four Hezbollah Members

by Jason Ditz, February 26, 2014
Hezbollah issued their first statement on Israel’s Monday night attack on a base in eastern Lebanon, confirming the incident and dubbing it “flagrant aggression against Lebanon.”
The strike targeted a reported missile base near the Syrian border, and reportedly killed four Hezbollah members. Hezbollah’s own statement denied the deaths, saying it caused only “material damage.”
Hezbollah vowed retaliation over the strike, though they said they would “choose the right time and place” for the offensive. Other Lebanese officials discussed a possible response to the attack, though their options are limited.
Some Israeli reports have spun the attack as a “bet” that Hezbollah wouldn’t retaliate against them during their ongoing involvement in Syria, though the Israeli military continues to talk up the many targets of their “next war with Lebanon,” so it isn’t clear if the military really cares if they start another war or not.


51 Killed, 62 Wounded in Iraq Attacks
by , February 26, 2014
At least 51 people were killed and 62 more were killed across Iraq today. There were no major attacks or clashes.
In Mosul, a car bomb wounded four soldiers. A suicide bomber killed four people, including a civilian, and wounded five more. A series of bombs killed two policemen and wounded three more. Police killed three gunmen. A grenade wounded seven people. Another grenade wounded four people at a bank.
In Baghdad, a blast in Abu Dsheer wounded two people. Another Six people were wounded in a bombing in IlamThree people were shot to death. A sticky bomb killed a police officer in Ghazaliya.
On a highway across the provincial border near Amiriya al-Falluja, a bomb killed four soldiers.
A car bomb in Bani Saad left three dead and seven wounded.
Gunmen attacked a police station in Tal al-Dhahab where they killed the station chief and two policemen; another two policemen were wounded.
Two dumped bodies were found in Qayara.
A sticky bomb wounded two soldiers in Mahmoudiya.
A sticky bomb killed a civilian in Kirkuk. A bomb targeting a security officialwounded two bodyguards.
The body of a former army officer was found dumped in Muqdadiya.
A roadside bomb in Habaniya killed three soldiers.
suicide bomber was killed in Tikrit without causing other casualties.
A DAASH/ISIL camp was destroyed south of Mosul, but the number of casualties was not revealed.


Full transcript of voice recording purportedly of Turkish PM Erdoğan and his son

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Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan attended the provincial chairmen meeting of his party on Wednesday.(Photo: Today's Zaman)
26 February 2014 /ANKARA, TODAY'S ZAMAN
As a voice recording allegedly featuring the voice of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan ordering his son, Bilal, to dispose of vast amounts of cash -- as much as $1 billion, according to claims -- amid a corruption operation in mid-December of last year continues to shake Turkey, Today's Zaman is publishing an English version of the full transcript of the audio.
The recordings allegedly date back to Dec. 17, 2013, the day the major corruption operation was made public. On the voice recordings, a voice alleged to be Erdoğan's is heard telling his son -- during five wiretapped phone conversations -- to dispose of large sums of money hidden in several relatives' homes on the day police raided a number of locations as part of the operation. The operation implicated the sons of three former ministers, businessmen and the general manager of a state-owned bank.
The prime minister, at the beginning of the recorded conversations, allegedly conducted over an encrypted line, briefs his son, Bilal, about the operation and asks him to “zero” the money by distributing it among several businessmen. An introductory note at the beginning of the recording says the plan involves at least $1 billion in cash stashed in five houses.
The authenticity of the recordings has not been verified. Towards the end of the recordings, Bilal Erdoğan tells his father that he and others have “finished the tasks you gave us,” implying that the whole sum was “zeroed.”
For those who may be unfamiliar: Reza Zarrab and Ali Ağaoğlu are two leading businessmen in Turkey who were detained as part of the corruption probe on Dec. 17 of last year. While Ağaoğlu was released pending trial, Zarrab was put under arrest. Erdoğan Bayraktari Zafer Çağlayan and Muammer Güler are three former ministers whose sons were detained as part the probe. All of them resigned roughly one week after the corruption operation. Sümeyye is Erdoğan's daughter. Faruk Kalyoncu and Mehmet Gür are also businessmen who are known to have close ties to the prime minister.
Dec. 17, 2013, 08:02 a.m.
RTE: Are you at home, son?
Bilal E (son): Yes, Dad.
RTE: Now, this morning [they] carried out an operation. Ali Ağaoğlu, Reza Zerrab, Erdoğan's [Bayraktar, ex-minister] son, Zafer's [Çağlayan, ex-minister] son, Muammer's [Güler, ex-minister] son, etc -- all their homes are being searched now.
BE: Tell again, Dad. [What are you saying, Dad?]
RTE: I'm saying that Muammer's son, Zafer's son, Erdoğan's son, Ali Ağaoğlu, Reza Zerrab, etc -- they are searching the houses of 18 people under a big corruption operation thing.
BE: Right.
RTE: OK? Now, what I [have to] say is, you [must] take everything you have in the house out. OK?
BE: What can I have on me, Dad? [I have no money of my own.] There is your money in the safe.
RTE: That's what I am saying. Now, I am sending your sister [to you]. OK?
BE: You are sending who?
RTE: Your sister, I'm saying.
BE: Eh? OK.
RTE: Then… She has that information, OK. Talk with your older brother.
BE: Yes.
RTE: Let's do… Talk with your uncle, too. He should also take out… Also talk to your [maternal] uncle, he should also…
BE: What should we do with this [money], Dad? Where should we put it?
RTE: In specific places, in some specific places… Do it.
(A woman's voice is heard in the background saying, “Berat.”)
BE: Berat also has some-
RTE: That's what I am saying. Now, get together, go get your uncle. I don't know if Uncle Ziya has some? Also immediately [tell] your brother Burak, too.
NE: OK, Dad. You mean, Sümeyye, I mean take out, Sümeyye will tell me where to take it [money]?
RTE: Yes, fine. Come on, do [it], think about yours [your money] with your uncle.
BE: About what to do?
RTE: Yes, yes, let's contact soon, by 10 [o'clock]. Because the issue is…
BE: OK, Dad.
RTE: OK? Keep in touch.
BE: OK, Dad.
2nd call, 11.17
BE: Dad, we got together with Hasan [brother], etc. Berat [brother], my uncle, we are together  thinking about it [what to do.] Berat has another idea. He says let's give some of it to Faruk [Kalyoncu] for the other “business/thing” so he can process it like the previous stuff. Shall we do it? We can dissolve a big amount with this.
RTE: That may be so.
BE: OK. For the other part, because we started a business partnership with Mehmet Gür, we thought of giving it to him, saying, “Keep it, as the projects come, you can use that [cash]. This way, we will be able to dissolve and move the rest somewhere else.
RTE: OK, fine, as long as you do…
RTE: Did Sümeyye arrive?
BE: She arrived home, she will now come here. OK, Dad, we will sort this out today, inshallah [with God's will]. Anything else?
RTE: It would be good if you do … if you can dissolve it [all the cash].
BE: Yes, we will dissolve it [all the cash], inshallah.
3rd call, 15:39
RTE: Did you do the other tasks I gave you?
BE: We'll finish them in the evening. We sorted some out. We sorted out the Berat part, now we will first handle the part with Mehmet Gür and the rest we will do when it gets dark.
BE: Inshallah.
RTE: What did Sümeyye do?
BE: She took it [money] out, we talked, etc.
RTE: Did she sort out both things?
BE: I think so, Dad. She said she emptied both.
RTE: Both things?
BE: Yes, she said both of them, but you mean this by saying both things, right?
RTE: Whatever. OK, fine.
BE: What time will you arrive?
RTE: About 12.
BE: Have a safe journey.
RTE: Do not talk on the phone.
4th call, 23.15
BE: Hi, Dad. I am calling to… We did [it] mostly. Hmm, did you call me, Dad?
RTE: No I didn't. You called me.
BE: I was called from a secret number.
RTE: By saying mostly, did you fully dissolve it?
BE: We have not zeroed it yet, Dad. Let me explain. We still have 30 million euros that we could not dissolve yet. Berat thought of something. There was an additional $25 million that Ahmet Çalık should receive. They say let's give this [to him] there. When the money comes, we do [something], they say. And with the remaining money we can buy a flat in Şehrizar, he says. What do you say, Dad?
RTE: ….
(Background sound: Ayyy.)
BE: Dad?
RTE: Is Sümeyye with you?
BE: Yes, she's with me. Should I call her?
RTE: No, there was another sound, that's why I asked.
BE: Um, I mean, he can transfer $35 million to Çalık and buy a flat in Şehrizar with the remaining [cash].
RTE: Whatever. We'll sort it out.
BE: Should we do it like this?
RTE: OK, do it.
BE: Do you want it [all the cash] dissolved father, or do you want some money for yourself?
RTE: No, it cannot stay, son. You could transfer that to the other [place], with Mehmet you could transfer it there…
BE: Yes, we gave it to them. We gave 20 to them.
RTE: For God's sake. First, you should've transferred [it]. You could then do…
BE: We were able to give this much for now, it is already hard, it takes too much space. We are putting some of it in another place. We gave part of it to Tunç, and then…
RTE: Did you transfer all to Tunç?
BE: (Sümeyye, can you come?) Where, father?
RTE: To Tunç, I said, did you transfer all to Tunç?
BE: They asked, I guess, he said that he could take 10 million euros.
RTE: Whatever. Do not talk this like this about it.
BE: OK, then, we'll sort it out as such.
RTE: OK, do it. I'm not able to come tonight, I will stay in Ankara.
BE: OK, we're sorting it out. Don't worry.
5th call, Dec. 18, 10.58
RTE. I wondered if everything's fine, so I called.
BE: No, nothing [no problems]. We finished the tasks you gave us, with God's help.
RTE: Is it all zeroed?
BE: Fully, I mean, saying zeroed, how can I put it? I had Samandıra and Maltepe's money [money in his villas in Samandıra and Maltepe], $730,000 USD and TL 300.000. I'll handle this, too. We owe TL 1 million to Faruk Işık [AK Party deputy]; I'll give this to him and tell him to transfer the rest to the academy [unclear.]
RTE: Do not talk openly.
BE: Shouldn't I talk?
RTE: Do not talk, OK?
BE: OK, Dad.
RTE: I mean, do not keep anything on you, whatever it is, Samandıra or whatever… Send it to where it needs to be. Where do you keep it?
BE: OK, Dad, but I think we are currently under surveillance.
RTE: What have I been telling you from the very beginning!
BE: But is it the bodyguard team? Who is following us, Dad?
RTE: Son, you are being tapped.
BE: But they are also monitoring visually, they say.
RTE: That may be true. Now, we did some things [meaning reassignments of police officers] in İstanbul security.

Şehrizar Konakları is a luxury housing complex located in İstanbul’s Üsküdar district.

(Photo: DHA)

AK Party founders slam PM Erdoğan over leaked corruption recording

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Former AK Party deputy chairman Dengir Mir Mehmet Fırat (Photo: İHA)
26 February 2014 /
Several former Justice and Development Party (AK Party) members, including founders of the party, have criticized Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan over a recently leaked audio recording allegedly of Erdoğan instructing his son to dispose of vast amounts of cash at the start of the investigation of a growing corruption scandal.
In an audio recording that was uploaded to YouTube on Monday evening, Erdoğan seems to brief his son about police raids taking place that day and tells him to “zero” at least $1 billion in cash stashed in five houses. The conversation allegedly took place on Dec. 17, 2013, the day on which police raided a number of locations as part of a corruption investigation that has implicated the sons of four then-Cabinet ministers, businessmen, several high-level bureaucrats and the chief of a state-run bank.
Commenting on the leaked recording, former AK Party deputy chairman Dengir Mir Mehmet Fırat, who was one of the founders of the AK Party in 2001, said that if the recording is authentic, the democracy of Turkey will be seriously damaged by this incident. Speaking during a program broadcast on Halk TV on Tuesday evening, Fırat said that he listened the recording several times and added that he hopes this recording is not genuine. “When I first heard it, I hoped that this recording is a fake. I still say that. I don't find the fact that the prime minister of the Turkish Republic is accused of doing such a thing [corruption] good for the country. If such an incident is true, the country could be swiftly drawn into a chaotic situation. The Turkish economy will be affected very seriously by this and Turkish democracy will be seriously damaged,” Fırat said.
Fırat said the country can only move forward by strengthening its democracy, by improving freedoms and encouraging transparency, adding “If it [the government] does so, not only the AK Party but the whole of Turkey will be affected negatively. This could draw the country into chaos. Turkey must observe the rule of law.” Fırat noted.
Former Foreign Minister Yaşar Yakış, another AK Party founder, said that he hopes that the recording is not authentic. “I am very disturbed by the current situation of the AK Party. The point where the party stood when we established the party and the point where the AK Party now stands are very far apart from one another. The enthusiasm and the attitude that we had in the party's early years no longer exists in AK Party members. I am really disappointed with the current situation of the party.”
Also participating in the Halk TV program by telephone, AK Party former Culture and Tourism Minister Ertuğrul Günay said that he actually became upset when he heard the recording reportedly between Erdoğan and his son. Stating that he was astonished by the content of the recording, Günay said that the prestige of Turkey has been seriously damaged by the recording. Günay also said that the recording should be examined by professionals and should be investigated by objective judicial bodies.

Former AK Party deputy Mehmet Zekai Özcan also commented on the recording on Wednesday. Özcan said that as a person who has spoken with the prime minister many times, he believes that the recording is authentic after having listened it several times. "I begin to tremble even saying that it is authentic. It is not easy to accept this. We are talking about Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. I am very upset on behalf of my nation. I hope it is not true. I even pray for this. However, unfortunately, my first impression is that the recording is authentic."

Thousands across Turkey take to streets against graft, call on gov't to resign

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Protesters march during a demonstration against Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan in İstanbul on Tuesday. Riot police came out in force, firing water cannon and teargas to quell the protests.
26 February 2014 /İSTANBUL, TODAY'S ZAMAN
Thousands of outraged people took to the streets on Tuesday evening with calls on Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and his Cabinet to resign in response to a recently leaked voice recording allegedly of the prime minister instructing his son to dispose of vast amounts of cash amid an ongoing and deepening corruption scandal that has implicated Erdoğan's close associates and family.
The country was shaken on Monday evening by the voice recording of what is claimed to be Erdoğan briefing his son about recent police raids and asking him to “zero” at least $1 billion in cash stashed at five houses. The conversation allegedly took place on Dec. 17, 2013, the day on which police raided a number of venues as part of a corruption investigation that has implicated the sons of three ministers, businessmen, several high-level bureaucrats and the chief of a state-run bank.
The İstanbul branch of the Republican People's Party (CHP) staged a protest against the corruption scandal in Taksim Square on Wednesday. A crowd of protesters from the CHP gathered on İstiklal Street and chanted slogans against the government, saying, “We will ‘zero' [erase] corruption” and “There are thieves [around us].” They attempted to march into Taksim Square itself, but the police did not allow it, as they have prohibited the act of protesting there since the Gezi Park protests of June 2013. The group stopped at the end of İstiklal Street and staged their protest there, distributing fake banknotes symbolizing the money mentioned in the most recent voice recording leak.
The first speech at the protest was delivered by CHP İstanbul provincial chairman Oğuz Kaan Salıcı, followed by a speech by Mustafa Sarıgül, the CHP's candidate for İstanbul mayor in the local elections on March 30. Sarıgül reportedly condemned a number of media outlets -- excluding Halk TV -- for failing to broadcast the party's protests. During his speech, Sarıgül said that in no democratic country are people banned from staging demonstrations, promising that he will open Taksim Square to the public if elected.
Furthermore, CHP deputies attended Parliament's General Assembly meeting on Wednesday with banners that read “Gazi mecliste Hırsızlara yer yok” (There is no place for thieves in Parliament) in protest of the voice recording.
Nearly 4 million people listened to the voice recording on YouTube over the course of one day. Thousands of people staged demonstrations to protest the government corruption scandal in 11 cities across Turkey on Tuesday evening.
Led by various civil society organizations and leftist parties, people gathered in İstanbul's Kadıköy district to express their dismay and deepening anger over the corruption allegations sweeping across the country. Nearly 500 people gathered at 7 p.m. in central Kadıköy and started marching towards Bahariye Street, shouting “Her yer rüşvet, her yer yolsuzluk” (Bribery is everywhere, corruption is everywhere).
A group that was calling on the government to resign headed toward the Kadıköy district branch office of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Party). However, riot police intervened, using pressurized water, teargas and rubber bullets. The protesters responded to the police intervention by throwing firecrackers, stones and bottles. The protesters then built barricades on a number of side streets and set the barricades on fire. Police detained nine protesters during the incidents.
İstanbul's Bakırköy district was also filled with anti-corruption demonstrators on Tuesday evening. Gathering in Özgürlük Square at 7 p.m., a group of protesters marched down İncirli Street and shouted slogans such as “Hırsız var!” (There is a thief [around us]!). The group then read a press release in front of the AK Party's Bakırköy district branch office. After the press release, the group dispersed without incident.
Nearly 500 demonstrators shouted slogans at Gündoğdu Square in the western city of İzmir on Tuesday evening, and police tried to disperse the group with pressurized water and teargas. The police have implemented strict security measures across the city.
A group of protesters held a large-scale demonstration in Ankara on Tuesday evening. Gathering at Kuğulu Park, the group shouted anti-government slogans and tried to close Kennedy Street to traffic, but police intervened with pressurized water to disperse the crowd. The protesters escaped by dispersing into the side streets.
Short-lived tensions erupted in the province of Eskişehir on Tuesday evening when a number of pro-AK Party supporters reacted to a group of protesters shouting anti-government slogans. A shop owner, S.Ö., reacted to the protesters while they were shouting slogans and was beaten up by the group. According to media reports, S.Ö.'s head is seriously injured and he is currently being treated in a hospital. The police, who are investigating the incident, are examining security camera footage from nearby shops to identify those responsible for the assault.
Over 200 protesters shouted slogans in Sakarya province on Tuesday evening calling on the government to resign. The police did not intervene in this protest, and the group dispersed without incident.
Groups of protesters in Aydın, Antalya, Bursa, Muğla, Çanakkale, Kocaeli and Trabzon held demonstrations in which they also called on the government to resign.
In reaction to the recording, a Twitter campaign called “Hırsız Var” was launched on Tuesday evening. The campaign calls on people to write “Hırsız Var” on banknotes. Some Twitter users taking part in the campaign shared photos of their banknotes on their pages.
The public has been riveted by sordid details of the alleged corruption as more and more information is leaked via social media and the Internet, the primary sources of information for the public given the government's tightening grip on the press.
With recent legislation concerning the Internet, the government has cemented its firm control over websites after much wrangling between political parties in Parliament, as President Abdullah Gül signed a law last week granting the executive branch almost immediate authority to block websites without a court order.
Combined with anger over government crackdowns on the press and dissenting voices, the Internet law and a controversial national intelligence bill have given more ammunition to critics of the government, who accuse the AK Party of turning Turkey into an authoritarian state and who are wary of the direction the country has taken under Erdoğan's administration.
There is also ongoing tension at Middle East Technical University (ODTÜ), where a group of students clashed with police ahead of the opening of a highway in Ankara on Tuesday. Police fired teargas and water cannons to disperse several hundred people gathered in front of ODTÜ's main gate. Erdoğan and several ministers attended the opening of "1071 Malazgirt Boulevard" on Tuesday. Students on campus chanted slogans saying, “Resign, government” and “Tayyip Erdoğan is a thief"; they even set up a roadblock. Police intervention dispersed the crowd but the students reportedly gathered again in front of the rector's office to continue their protest.