News / Middle East

    Turkey's PM Calls Recordings 'Treacherous Attack'

    FILE - Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan attends a news briefing.
    FILE - Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan attends a news briefing.
    Reuters
    Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan accused political rivals of shameless fabrication of a telephone tap of him telling his son to dispose of large sums of money on the day police raided houses in a graft inquiry into his government.
     
    In a dramatic session of parliament after posting of the 11-minute audio tape on YouTube, Erdogan said his political enemies had penetrated encrypted state communications. He did not name the opponents but made it clear he was talking of a network run by former ally, Islamic cleric Fethullah Gulen.
     
    Supporters of Erdogan, locked in a power struggle with Gulen whom he accuses of contriving a graft scandal to topple him, shouted “Tayyip, we came here to die with you”, “stand tall, don't bow” and “time is on our side”.
     
    “The people don't believe these lies,” Erdogan called back to loud cheers and applause from the public gallery.
     
    Growing political uncertainty around the government and its reaction to the tapes, which Reuters could not authenticate, hit Turkish assets amid broader weakness in emerging markets.
     
    Opinion polls taken before Monday's posting show Erdogan's popularity little affected by the corruption scandal which broke on Dec. 17 with the detention of businessmen close to him and three ministers' sons. Monday's tape will prove a further test of that resilience ahead of March local elections.
     
    “They went and made a shameless montage and released it. If you're going to make it up, there is a moral and decent way of making things up,” Erdogan said. “They are even listening to the state's encrypted telephones. That's how low they are.”
     
    “There is no allegation that we cannot answer.”
     
    The “they” cited by Erdogan was a clear reference to those among the followers of U.S.-based Islamic cleric Gulen he accuses of building a “parallel state” in Turkey, using power in the judiciary and police to undermine him.
     
    “We will reveal one-by-one all the disgraces of the parallel organization and we will make those who walk with them so embarrassed they won't be able to go out into the street,” Erdogan said.
     
    The recording is purportedly of Erdogan and his son Bilal discussing how to reduce the funds to “zero” by distributing them among several businessmen. At one point, the voice supposedly of Bilal says some 30 million euros ($40 million) remain to be disposed of.
     
    Government officials said previous such recordings may have been of ministers and businessmen's voices but that the conversations were put together from comments taken out of context to give the impression of impropriety.
     
    “They have wiretapped the Prime Minister, they have wiretapped the chief of intelligence, Ministers, many others. They wiretap the phone for 18 months, they listen to you, and then out of the 18 months of wiretapping they take two or three sentences,” said one senior official.
     
    “Can you imagine the stories you can write out of those two or three sentences, with no context, no background?”
     
    Economic impact

     
    Gulen's Hizmet (Service) organization, which runs a wide network of schools, businesses and media groups, exercises strong influence in the police and judiciary. The cleric denies government accusations it drew on this network to undermine Erdogan after a political falling out between the two men.
     
    Erdogan remains far and away Turkey's most popular politician. But the apparent power struggle with Gulen and his purges of the police and judiciary have cast a shadow over what Western powers long vaunted as a prime example of an effective Islamic democracy.
     
    Faruk Logoglu, former ambassador to Washington and vice chairman of the main opposition CHP, said he believed there was no question about the authenticity of the recordings, which his party replayed to its deputies at a parliamentary group meeting.
     
    “Saying it is fake doesn't mean it didn't take place. What else can he say?.. In a minimally functioning democracy the first thing the prime minister has to do is resign," he said. “He is clinging on to power and that's the problem.  This is probably the tip of the iceberg.”
     
    The recordings appeared two days after Erdogan's AK Party officially began campaigning for March local elections that will be followed later in the year by presidential polls that could decide Erdogan's political future after 11 years in power.
     
    The government has responded to the graft inquiry by dismissing or reassigning thousands of police officers, tightening its control over the appointment of judges and prosecutors, and pushing through a new law that allows the authorities to block access to websites within hours without a prior court order.
     
    Erdogan, as in the past, suggested a broader conspiracy against Turkey including The “interest rate lobby” of financiers and “the terror lobby”.
     
    “The lobby of those who couldn't win the people's support, the mob of losers came together once more on Dec. 17. Now they are saying 'we are going to rule Turkey'.”
     
    The growing political uncertainty hit financial markets.
     
    The lira hit two-week lows against the dollar while stocks fell three percent.
     
    Timothy Ash, head of emerging markets research at Standard Bank, said Erdogan was likely to go further on the offensive against those he deems responsible for producing and leaking these tapes.
     
    “This seems to be a battle to the end/death. The Gulenists seem to want to wound Erdogan below the waterline to undermine the AK Party's poll performance in March,” Ash wrote in a note.
     
    Social media and video-sharing sites have been awash with leaked recordings presented as evidence of wrongdoing. As with the latest recordings, Reuters has been unable to verify their authenticity.

    You May Like

    Wife of IS Leader Charged in Death of US Hostage

    Suspect allegedly admitted to being responsible for American aid worker Kayla Mueller, who officials say was sexually abused and ‘owned’ by one IS member

    Year of the Monkey Could Prove Economic Balancing Act for China

    China is up against a tricky situation on the financial front, facing the need to fight capital flight while also stopping a further slide of foreign currency reserves

    Runners Attempt 26-mile South Pole Marathon in Sub-Zero Temperatures

    How alluring is running 26.2 miles at 10,000 feet when it’s minus 31 Celsius out?

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    'No Means No' Program Targets Sexual Violence in Kenyai
    X
    February 08, 2016 4:30 PM
    The organizers of an initiative to reduce and stop rape in the informal settlements around Kenya's capital say their program is having marked success. Girls are taking self-defense classes while the boys are learning how to protect the girls and respect them. Lenny Ruvaga reports from Nairobi.
    Video

    Video 'No Means No' Program Targets Sexual Violence in Kenya

    The organizers of an initiative to reduce and stop rape in the informal settlements around Kenya's capital say their program is having marked success. Girls are taking self-defense classes while the boys are learning how to protect the girls and respect them. Lenny Ruvaga reports from Nairobi.
    Video

    Video New Hampshire Voters Are Independent, Mindful of History

    Once every four years, the northeastern state of New Hampshire becomes the center of the U.S. political universe with its first-in-the-nation presidential primary. What's unusual about New Hampshire is how seriously the voters take their role and the responsibility of being among the first to weigh in on the candidates.
    Video

    Video Chocolate Lovers Get a Sweet History Lesson

    Observed in many countries around the world, Valentine’s Day is sometimes celebrated with chocolate festivals. But at a festival near Washington, the visitors experience a bit more than a sugar rush. They go on a sweet journey through history. VOA’s June Soh takes us to the festival.
    Video

    Video 'Smart' Bandages Could Heal Wounds More Quickly

    Simple bandages are usually seen as the first line of attack in healing small to moderate wounds and burns. But scientists say new synthetic materials with embedded microsensors could turn bandages into a much more valuable tool for emergency physicians. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Bhutanese Refugees in New Hampshire Closely Watching Primary Election

    They fled their country and lived in refugee camps in neighboring Nepal for decades before being resettled in the northeastern U.S. state of New Hampshire -- now the focus of the U.S. presidential contest. VOA correspondent Aru Pande spoke with members of the Bhutanese community, including new American citizens, about the campaign and the strong anti-immigrant rhetoric of some of the candidates.
    Video

    Video Researchers Use 3-D Printer to Produce Transplantable Body Parts

    Human organ transplants have become fairly common around the world in the past few decades. Researchers at various universities are coordinating their efforts to find solutions -- including teams at the University of Pennsylvania and Rice University in Houston that are experimenting with a 3-D printer -- to make blood vessels and other structures for implant. As VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Houston, they are also using these artificial body parts to seek ways of defeating cancerous tumors.
    Video

    Video Helping the Blind 'See' Great Art

    There are 285 million blind and visually impaired people in the world who are unable to enjoy visual art at a museum. One New York photographer is trying to fix this situation by making tangible copies of the world’s masterpieces. VOA correspondent Victoria Kupchinetsky was there as visually impaired people got a feel for great art. Joy Wagner narrates her report.
    Video

    Video Sanders, Clinton Battle for Young Democratic Vote

    Despite a narrow loss to former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in last week's Iowa Democratic caucuses, Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders secured more than 80 percent of the vote among those between the ages of 18 and 29. VOA correspondent Aru Pande talks to Democrats in New Hampshire about who they are leaning towards and why in this week's primary.
    Video

    Video German Artists to Memorialize Refugees With Life Jacket Exhibit

    Sold in every kind of shop in some Turkish port towns, life jackets have become a symbol of the refugee crisis that brought a million people to Europe in 2015.  On the shores of Lesbos, Greece, German artists collect discarded life jackets as they prepare an art installation they plan to display in Germany.  For VOA, Hamada Elrasam has this report from Lesbos, Greece.
    Video

    Video E-readers Help Ease Africa's Book Shortage

    Millions of people in Africa can't read, and there's a chronic shortage of books. A non-profit organization called Worldreader is trying to help change all that one e-reader at a time. VOA’s Deborah Block tells us about a girls' school in Nairobi, Kenya where Worldreader is making a difference.
    Video

    Video Genius Lets World Share Its Knowledge

    Inspired by crowdsourcing companies like Wikipedia, Genius allows anyone to edit anything on the web, using its web annotation tool
    Video

    Video In Philippines, Mixed Feelings About Greater US Military Presence

    In the Philippines, some who will be directly affected by a recent Supreme Court decision clearing the way for more United States troop visits are having mixed reactions.  The increased rotations come at a time when the Philippines is trying to build up its military in the face of growing maritime assertiveness from China.  From Bahile, Palawan on the coast of the South China Sea, Simone Orendain has this story.
    Video

    Video Microcephaly's Connection to Zika: Guilty Until Proven Innocent

    The Zika virus rarely causes problems for the people who get it, but it seems to be having a devastating impact on babies whose mothers are infected with Zika. VOA's Carol Pearson has more.
    Video

    Video Stunning Artworks Attract Record Crowds, Thanks to Social Media

    A new exhibit at the oldest art museum in America is shattering attendance records. Thousands of visitors are lining up to see nine giant works of art that have gotten a much-deserved shot of viral marketing. The 150-year-old Smithsonian American Art Museum has never had a response quite like this. VOA's Julie Taboh reports.