Turkey: History

The rise of the Ottoman Empire after Sultan Mehmed I captures Constantinople, ending the Byzantine Empire.

After the central powers were defeated in World War I, the Ottoman Empire was partitioned under the treaty of Sevres which led to the war of independence in Turkey.

Turkey gains full independence and is declared a republic.

Turkey joins the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO).

Turkey signs an association agreement with the European Economic Community (ECC).

The US sets a trade embargo on Turkey after Turkish troops invade northern Cyprus.

Turkey formally applies for full ECC membership and begins the longest application process for any country.

Turkey enters the European Union (EU) customs union, imposing a common external tariff on all goods entering the union and no customs on goods travelling within the union.

Economic and political reforms begin, aiming to secure a place in the EU

The new lira currency is introduced as six zeros are removed from the old lira, ending an era in which banknotes were denominated in millions.

Turkish Government instituted State of Emergency amidst protests centered around "Hizmet" movement.

Turkish government conducted a referendum that approved constitutional amendments changing its government from a parliamentary to a presidential system.


The Republic of Turkey is an independent country in the Middle East located in southwestern Asia Minor and southeastern Europe surrounded on three sides by the Mediterranean, Aegean, and Black seas. It is known locally as Turkiye Cumhuriyeti the shortened form of this name is Turkiye. Neighboring counties are Greece to the west Bulgaria to the northwest Georgia, Armenia and Iran to the east and Iraq and Syria on the south. The majority of these boundaries were established after the collapse of the Ottoman Empire. Throughout history, Turkey has been the center of trade and migration route because of her long shoreline and her strategic location as a bridge between continents.

Turkey lies within one of the most active earthquake regions in the world, the Alpine-Himalayan mountain belt, and severe earthquakes, especially in northern Turkey, are not uncommon. There are many active fault lines. In the 1900s seven major quakes occurred along the North Anatolian fault. The Marmara earthquake occurred on August 17, 1999, and was one of the most severe earthquakes in Turkish history. The quake measured 7.4 on the Richter scale and was one the most devastating disasters of the century.

Approximately 3 percent of Turkey is located in Thrace on the European continent. The remaining 97 percent, called Anatolia, is located on the European continent. In 1941, the First Geographic Congress divided Turkey's total area of 780,580 square kilometers into seven geographical provinces: the Marmara Region, the Aegean Region, the Mediterranean Region, the Central Anatolia Region, the Black Sea Region, the Eastern Anatolia Region, and the Southeastern Anatolia Region. Four of the regions (the Marmara Region, the Aegean Region, the Mediterranean Region, and the Black Sea Region) are named for the seas that are adjacent to them the Marmara Sea is an internal sea entirely surrounded by land and connected to the Black Sea and the Aegean Sea through straits. The other three regions were named in for their location in the central plateau, the Anatolia.

In 2000, the population of Turkey was approximately 65.7 million. Approximately 30 percent of the population is under age fifteen. Almost half of this number live in costal areas. Approximately 80 percent of the population is Turkish, and 20 percent is Kurdish. The annual population growth rate was estimated at 1.27 percent at the turn of the century with 29 percent of the population fourteen years of age or younger, 65 percent were between fifteen and sixty-four years of ages, and 6 percent were aged sixty-five and older. In 2000, Turkey's literacy rate was 82.3 percent. More males were literate (91.7 percent) than females (72.4 percent). Some 45.8 percent of the labor force works in agricultural areas, 33.7 percent in service areas, and 20.5 percent in industrial areas.

About 99.8 percent of all Turks are Muslims most of these are Sunni. The small non-Muslim population is comprised of Christian and Jews. Turkish is the official language, but Kurdish, Arabic, Armenian, and Greek are also spoken. English is taught in the compulsory primary school, so its use is becoming more widespread.

Anatolia, the western portion of Turkey, is one of the oldest continually inhabited regions of the world. The earliest major empire in the area was the Hittites who controlled the territory from 18th through the 13th centuries BC. An Indo-European people, the Phrygians, invaded the land and controlled the region until the Cimmerians conquered them in the 7th century BC. The state of Lycia was formed when this people defeated the Cimmerians. During these years, Greeks were settling along the west coast of Anatolia and using the ports to transport goods produced in the region. Persians, coming from the east, invaded the area and controlled Anatolia for the next two centuries until Alexander the Great conquered them in 334 BC. Subsequently the land was divided into a number of Greek kingdoms.

The Romans invaded the region and by the middle of the first century B.C. controlled all of Anatolia. In 324 Constantine I moved the capital of the Roman Empire to the ancient city of Byzance and renamed it Constantinople this move divided the empire into two segments: the East and the West. Constantinople became the capital of the Eastern Roman or Byzantine Empire.

In 1055 the Seljoukites, a group of Central Asiatic Turks, conquered Baghdad and established a Middle Eastern and Anatolian empire. This empire was broken up by Mongol invasions, but small Turkish states remained on the periphery of Anatolia. One of these emerged as the Ottoman Empire. The Ottomans conquered Constantinople in 1453 and renamed the capital city Istanbul. A series of sultans waged war on many fronts and extended the territory controlled by the Ottomans. At the peak of their powering the 16th century, the Ottomans controlled most of the eastern Mediterranean and were one of the biggest empires in history.

As the Ottoman Empire began to collapse in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, European powers began fighting for control of the territory. In 1908 a group of young Turks led a successful revolution to regain control of the empire and introduced many civil and social reforms. The Ottomans were drawn into World War I as an ally of Germany. At the end of the war the empire was formally dissolved the empire and its territory dramatically reduced.

Turkish nationalists led by Mustafa Kemal, a war hero later know as Atatürk or father of Turkey, organized a resistance force and took the offensive against the Allies in Anatolia. Following a series of impressive victories, he led the nation to full independence. In November 1922, the National Assembly became the government in Turkey. In October 1923, the Republic of Turkey was proclaimed and Kemal was unanimously elected President of the Republic. The constitution was ratified in 1924. Kemal moved the capital to Ankara and worked to transform Turkey into a modern westernized nation. He created a new political and legal system, abolished the sultanate and caliphate, made both government and education secular, gave equal rights to women, changed the Arabic script to a Roman alphabet and number system, and advanced Turkey's industry, agriculture, arts, and sciences.

These reforms introduced by Atatürk before his death in 1938 are still the ideological foundation of modern Turkey. Until 1950, the political party established in 1923, the Republican People's Party, dominated all elections. From 1950-1960, the Democratic Party governed Turkey. In 1960 a military coup ousted the government a new constitution was written, and a civilian government was reinstated in 1961. For the remainder of the twentieth century, there were many political upheavals and changes. The current constitution was ratified in November 1982. Throughout all the changes, the ruling government has remained committed to the basic principles established when the republic was formed in 1923.



Turkey is at the northeast end of the Mediterranean Sea in southeast Europe and southwest Asia. To the north is the Black Sea and to the west is the Aegean Sea. Its neighbors are Greece and Bulgaria to the west, Russia, Ukraine, and Romania to the north and northwest (through the Black Sea), Georgia, Armenia, Azerbaijan, and Iran to the east, and Syria and Iraq to the south. The Dardanelles, the Sea of Marmara, and the Bosporus divide the country. Turkey in Europe comprises an area about equal to the state of Massachusetts. Turkey in Asia is about the size of Texas. Its center is a treeless plateau rimmed by mountains.


Republican parliamentary democracy.


Anatolia (Turkey in Asia) was occupied in about 1900 B.C. by the Indo-European Hittites and, after the Hittite empire's collapse in 1200 B.C. , by Phrygians and Lydians. The Persian Empire occupied the area in the 6th century B.C. , giving way to the Roman Empire, then later the Byzantine Empire. The Ottoman Turks first appeared in the early 13th century, subjugating Turkish and Mongol bands pressing against the eastern borders of Byzantium and making the Christian Balkan states their vassals. They gradually spread through the Near East and Balkans, capturing Constantinople in 1453 and storming the gates of Vienna two centuries later. At its height, the Ottoman Empire stretched from the Persian Gulf to western Algeria. Lasting for 600 years, the Ottoman Empire was not only one of the most powerful empires in the history of the Mediterranean region, but it generated a great cultural outpouring of Islamic art, architecture, and literature.

After the reign of Sultan Sleyman I the Magnificent (1494?1566), the Ottoman Empire began to decline politically, administratively, and economically. By the 18th century, Russia was seeking to establish itself as the protector of Christians in Turkey's Balkan territories. Russian ambitions were checked by Britain and France in the Crimean War (1854?1856), but the Russo-Turkish War (1877?1878) gave Bulgaria virtual independence and Romania and Serbia liberation from their nominal allegiance to the sultan. Turkish weakness stimulated a revolt of young liberals known as the Young Turks in 1909. They forced Sultan Abdul Hamid to grant a constitution and install a liberal government. However, reforms were no barrier to further defeats in a war with Italy (1911?1912) and the Balkan Wars (1912?1913). Turkey sided with Germany in World War I, and, as a result, lost territory at the conclusion of the war.

A New Republic and President

Turkey's current boundaries were drawn in 1923 at the Conference of Lausanne, and Turkey became a republic with Kemal Atatrk as the first president. The Ottoman sultanate and caliphate were abolished, and modernization, reform, and industrialization began under Atatrk's direction. He secularized Turkish society, reducing Islam's dominant role and replacing Arabic with the Latin alphabet for writing the Turkish language. After Atatrk's death in 1938, parliamentary government and a multiparty system gradually took root in Turkey, despite periods of instability and brief intervals of military rule. Neutral during most of World War II, Turkey, on Feb. 23, 1945, declared war on Germany and Japan, but it took no active part in the conflict. Turkey became a full member of NATO in 1952, was a signatory in the Balkan Entente (1953), joined the Baghdad Pact (1955 later CENTO), joined the Organization for European Economic Cooperation (OEEC) and the Council of Europe, and became an associate member of the European Common Market in 1963.

Turkey invaded Cyprus by sea and air on July 20, 1974, following the failure of diplomatic efforts to resolve conflicts between Turkish and Greek Cypriots. Turkey unilaterally announced a cease-fire on Aug. 16, after having gained control of 40% of the island. Turkish Cypriots established their own state in the north on Feb. 13, 1975. In July 1975, after a 30-day warning, Turkey took control of all the U.S. installations except the joint defense base at Incirlik, which it reserved for ?NATO tasks alone.?

The establishment of military government in Sept. 1980 stopped the slide toward anarchy and brought some improvement in the economy. A constituent assembly, consisting of the six-member national security council and members appointed by them, drafted a new constitution that was approved by an overwhelming (91.5%) majority of the voters in a Nov. 6, 1982, referendum. Martial law was gradually lifted. The military, however, effectively continues to control the country.

Oppression of Kurds and Kurdish Culture and Deadly Clashes

About 12 million Kurds, roughly 20% of Turkey's population, live in the southeast region of Turkey. Turkey, however, does not officially recognize Kurds as a minority group and is therefore exempted from protecting their rights. Oppression of Kurds and Kurdish culture led to the emergence in 1984 of the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), a militant Kurdish terrorist campaign under the leadership of Abdullah Ocalan. Although the guerrilla movement sought independence at first, by the late 1980s the rebel Kurds were willing to accept an autonomous state or a federation with Turkey. About 35,000 have died in clashes between the military and the PKK during the 1980s and 1990s. On Feb. 16, 1999, Ocalan was captured. He was tried and convicted of treason and separatism on June 2, 1999, and sentenced to death.

On Aug. 17, 1999, western Turkey was devastated by an earthquake (magnitude 7.4) that left more than 17,000 dead and 200,000 homeless. Another huge earthquake struck in November.

Construction on a $3 billion, 1,000-mile oil pipeline running from Baku, Azerbaijan, to the Mediterranean port city of Ceyhan began in Sept. 2002. The pipeline opened in July 2006.

In Nov. 2002 elections, the recently formed Justice and Development Party (AK) won. Its leader, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, was barred from becoming prime minister, however, because of a conviction for ?inciting religious hatred? by reciting an Islamic poem at a rally in 1998. Another popular AK leader, Abdullah Gul, served as prime minister until Turkish law was amended to permit Erdogan to run for a seat in parliament again, which he easily won. Gul resigned as prime minister, making way for Erdogan.

In March 2003, U.S.-Turkish relations were severely strained when Turkey's parliament narrowly failed to pass a resolution permitting the U.S. to use Turkish bases as a launching pad for the pending war against Iraq. Turkish opinion polls reported that an overwhelming 90% of Turks were against war in Iraq, but the U.S. had promised the country much-needed economic aid.

Terrorism Attempts to Improve the Government

In Nov. 2003, two terrorist attacks rocked Istanbul. On Nov. 17, truck bombs exploded near two synagogues on Nov. 22, the British Consulate and a British bank were targeted. More than 50 were killed and hundreds were wounded in the attacks al-Qaeda is believed to be responsible.

In an effort to make itself more attractive for potential EU membership, Turkey has begun revamping some of its repressive laws and policies. In 2003, its parliament passed a law reducing the military's role in political life and offered partial amnesty to PKK members, many of whom have sought refuge in northern Iraq. In 2004, Turkish state television broadcast the first Kurdish language program and the government freed four Kurdish activists from prison. Turkey also abolished the death penalty in all but exceptional cases.

In April 2007, Prime Minister Erdogan nominated Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul, an Islamist, as the ruling party's candidate for president over the objections of the military, which has historically been protective of a secular state. Gul, however, failed to win the necessary two-thirds majority in parliament, and a constitutional court later nullified the vote, citing a lack of a quorum. Many secularists in parliament, who accused Gul of harboring an Islamist agenda, boycotted the vote. Gul withdrew from the race in May. Gul was victorious in the third round of elections in August.

Turkey recalled its ambassador to the United States and threatened to withdraw its support of the war in Iraq in October after the U.S. House Foreign Relations Committee passed a resolution labeling as genocide Turkey's murder of some 1.5 million Armenians during World War I. President George Bush strongly urged members of the committee to vote against the resolution.

Tension between Turkey and Iraq peaked in October, as Kurdish separatists in Iraq, members of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), escalated their attacks into Turkey. In response, Turkey's Parliament voted, 507 to 19, to allow the deployment of troops into northern Iraq. U.S. and Iraqi officials feared a war on another front in Iraq would further destabilize the already fragile country. In December, Turkish fighter jets, with the help of the U.S. military, bombed areas in Dohuk Province in northern Iraq, targeting the (PKK). Turkish troops resumed their attacks on Dohuk Province in February 2008, killing as many as 160 PKK fighters, who claimed to have killed as many Turkish troops.

In January 2008, police arrested 13 ultranationalists, including three former military officers, who were accused of organizing and carrying out political murders. One of the officers, Veli Kucuk, is suspected of running a secret unit within the police force that orchestrated political violence against religious and ethnic minority groups.

Improvements for Civil Rights and the Secular Movement

In February 2008, Parliament voted in favor of a measure put forth by Prime Minister Erdogan that would lift the ban on women wearing headscarves in universities. Secular lawmakers voted overwhelmingly against the laws, concerned that their secularism faced attack by the conservative government. In June, the Constitutional Court, Turkey?s highest court, overturned the measure, saying it violated secularist principles inherent in the country?s constitution.

On July 14, 2008, 86 people, who are suspected to be part of a secular organization called Ergenekon, were charged with attempting to overthrow the current AKP government. The attempted coup was exposed in June 2007. On October 20, 2008, the court began a public trail of the suspects.

On July 30, 2008, Turkey's 11-member Constitutional Court fell one vote short of banning the Justice and Development party for violating the country's secular constitution. The court did rule, however, to reduce by one-half the party's public financing.

After nearly 100 years of hostility between Turkey and Armenia over the murder of 600,000 to 1.5 million Armenians at the hands of Ottoman Turks during World War I, the two countries agreed in October 2009 to establish diplomatic relations and reopen the border between them. Both parliaments must approve the deal.

Turkey Takes on Bigger Role on the World Stage

In May 2010, as the U.S. and other members of the Security Council were negotiating the language and terms of a fourth round sanctions against Iran for continuing to enrich uranium and refusing to open its facilities to weapons inspectors, Iran agreed to send 2,640 pounds of enriched uranium to Turkey in exchange for uranium enriched to 20% that can be used in a reactor that creates isotopes for medical use?a deal strikingly similar to the one Iran reneged on in October 2009. Turkey and Brazil brokered the agreement. Both countries were criticized for interfering with the sanctions process and accused of attempting to increase their presence on the world stage.

In late May 2010, an activist group, Free Gaza Now, and a Turkish humanitarian organization, Insani Yardim Vakfi, sent a flotilla of aid to Gaza, a violation of a blockade that Israel and Egypt imposed on Gaza in 2007. The move was an apparent attempt to further politicize the blockade. In the early hours of May 31, Israeli commandos boarded one of the ships, and there are conflicting accounts of what happened next. The Israelis say the commandos were attacked with clubs, rods, and knives, and that they fired upon the activists in retaliation the activists say the commandos opened fire when they landed on deck. Nine Turkish activists were killed in the conflict.

In a September 2010 referendum, voters approved several constitutional changes that will give Parliament increased oversight of the judiciary and the military, diminishing the power of both and introducing wider democratic freedoms to Turkey's citizens. The vote, 58% to 42%, was considered a referendum on the leadership of Prime Minister Erdogan.

Recep Tayyip Erdogan's Justice and Development Party (AKP) won a third term in June 2011. Voter turnout was 84.5% in a general election that gave the ruling party 326 seats in parliament?41 seats shy of the two-thirds majority needed to amend the country's constitution unilaterally. The secular Republican People's Party (CHP) had 26% of vote and the far-right Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) 13%. In his victory speech, Mr. Erdogan pledged to work with opposition parties, which criticized him before the election for his divisive ruling style.

The publication in September 2011 of a UN report on the attack on the Turkish flotilla further frayed relations between Turkey and Israel. The report concluded that Israel's blockade of Gaza was legal but that Israel used "excessive and unreasonable" force when boarding the ships. It also called on Israel to apologize and compensate victims. Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu, however, said he would not issue a statement of regret. In response, Turkey ejected the Israeli ambassador and severed defense ties with Israel.

In October, PKK militants killed two dozen Turkish troops near the border with Iraq. In response, Turkey launched a large-scale offensive, deploying about 10,000 troops and warplanes into Kurd strongholds in northern Iraq. Tension had been building for months, with the militants increasing their attacks.

7.2 Magnitude Earthquake Hits Turkey

On October 23, 2011, an earthquake, measured at 7.2 in magnitude, struck Turkey in Van Province, near the border of Iran. The death toll quickly rose to more than 360 and was expected to climb higher. Rescue teams worked quickly to find survivors in more than 2,260 buildings that had collapsed from the earthquake. More than 1,300 were injured in what was one of the strongest earthquakes to hit the area in recent years.

More than 50 countries offered aid, including Israel, despite strained relations between the two countries. Officials in Turkey denied reports that the government refused Israel's offer. In the days immediately following the earthquake, the Turkish Government said that it planned to build 3,000 houses and would postpone residents' tax collections for a full year.

Relations Between Syria and Turkey Deteriorate

Turkey, once a close ally of Syria, threw its support behind opposition groups during the uprising against Syrian president Bashar al-Assad, which began in March 2011. Turkey endorsed the Syrian National Council, an organization of dissidents and opposition leaders, and allowed members of the Free Syrian Army to set up camp within its borders.

Relations between Syria and Turkey deteriorated in 2012, reaching a nadir in the fall. In October, a cross-border mortar attack from Syria killed five Turkish civilians, and Turkey launched retaliatory attacks on targets in Syria. The following day, the Turkish Parliament passed a motion that authorized military action as long as Syria continued to shell Turkey. If the fighting does persist, NATO may intervene to protect Turkey, a member nation. The Turkish government said it did not want to go to war with Syria, but it would protect its borders as necessary militarily.

PKK Leader Declares Cease-fire

On March 13, 2013, the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) released eight Turkish soldiers and civil servants. The captives were kidnapped in 2011 and 2012 and held by the Kurdish militants in the mountains of northern Iraq. The PKK has been using forms of guerrilla warfare against Turkey for almost three decades.

After months of talks with the Turkish government, imprisoned PKK leader Abdullah Ocalan in March 2013 declared a cease-fire and ordered Kurdish fighters to withdraw from Turkey and retreat to Iraq's autonomous Kurdistan region. "We have reached the point where weapons should be silent and ideas and politics should speak," he said in a statement. The announcement was considered a historic breakthrough. Optimism for peace was short-lived, however, and the cease-fire fell apart in September. The PKK claimed that the Turkish government had not followed through on promises to negotiate with the Kurds. In October, Erdogan unveiled a package of reforms in late September aimed at reopening a dialogue with the Kurds. The reforms included lifting a ban on teaching the Kurdish language in private schools, allowing villages to reclaim their Kurdish names, and making it easier for Kurds to be elected to parliament. Many Kurds, however, said the reforms did not go far enough. In particular, they bemoaned the fact that the reforms did not include revising the country's anti-terrorism laws, which have landed thousands of Kurdish activists in jail. In addition, the package included returning confiscated property to Syriac Orthodox Christians and easing restrictions on women wearing headscarves in public. Many believe the package was an attempt by Erdogan to restore confidence among Turks ahead of 2014 elections.

Israel Formally Apologies to Turkey for 2010 Commando Raid

In mid-March 2013, President Obama visited Israel. During the visit, he helped negotiate a reconciliation with Turkey. Prime Minister Netanyahu expressed sincere regret to Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Turkey's prime minister, for the commando raid in 2010 on a Turkish ship that killed nine people. Israel also offered compensation for the incident. Erdogan accepted Israel's apology.

After the apology, both countries announced that they would reinstate ambassadors and completely restore diplomatic relations. President Obama supported the apology in this statement, "the United States deeply values our relationships with both Turkey and Israel, and we attach great importance to the restoration of positive relations between them, in order to advance regional peace and security."

Anti-Government Protests Call for Erdogan's Resignation

In late May 2013, a sit-in protesting government plans to raze Istanbul's Gezi Park in Taksim Square to build a shopping mall grew into enormous anti-government demonstrations after police began spraying protesters with tear gas and water cannons. The demonstrations spread to dozens of cities throughout the country. On June 1, police withdrew from the park and let the occupation continue. Protesters criticized Prime Minister Erdogan for being authoritarian and called for his resignation. Erdogan initially dismissed the protesters as "thugs," but agreed to meet with representatives of the many groups of demonstrators. However, a day later?on June 11, police stormed the park, again spraying protesters with tear gas and water, and forced protesters out of the area. Two demonstrators died in the violence. The protests were compared to the Occupy movement that took hold in the U.S. in September 2011. Erdogan has been popular since taking office in 2003, leading an economic recovery, expanding the middle class, and weakening the influence of the military. At the same time, his critics have accused him of being heavy-handed and allowing his religious views to influence his leadership. In July, it was reported that a judge had ruled in June against the development of Taksim Square.

In early August 2013, protests again broke out?this time in response to the sentencing of dozens involved in the so-called Ergenekon plot of 2002, which was an attempt to overthrow the new Erdogan government. General and former army leader Ilker Basbug received a life sentence.

An investigation into government corruption began in Dec. 2013, resulting in the dismissal of 350 police officers in Turkey's capital, Ankara, in early January. Later that month, almost 500 police officers were either moved or fired in a ongoing effort on behalf of Erdogan's government to gain control of the judiciary and stem the tide of opposition.

Recep Tayyip Erdogan shut down YouTube and Twitter after taped conversations were leaked in which he was allegedly heard discussing with his son to how to get rid of millions of euros during a corruption investigation.

As scandal continued to plague the prime minister, Turkish voters went to the polls in March 2014 to weigh in on a referendum testing Erdogan's rule. His ruling party, Justice and Development (AK), won 45% of the vote.

Erdogan Elected President

Erdogan won August 2014's presidential election, the first decided by popular vote. He took 52% of the vote. The presidency is a largely ceremonial post, but in his acceptance speech Erdogan said he plans to amend the constitution to give the president executive powers. To do so, he will need a two-thirds vote in parliament and will therefore have to work with another party to secure enough votes. While the economy expanded and improved markedly during Erdogan's 12 years as prime minister, many fear that his authoritarian ambitions may squelch democracy.

Turkey Initially Resists the Fight Against ISIS but Changes Course

Members of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria kidnapped 49 people from the Turkish consulate in Mosul, Iraq, in June 2014. Those abducted included Consul General Ozturk Yilmaz and several members of his family. Despite the threat posed by ISIS, Turkey has been reluctant to join the U.S.-led coalition fighting ISIS, presumably because of the hostages. The hostages were released in late September, and in early October Turkey's parliament voted to authorize military action against ISIS in Iraq and in Syria and also to allow other nations to launch attacks from its territory. However, as ISIS laid siege to Kobani, a Kurdish-dominated town in north-central Syria that borders Turkey, causing about 130,000 Kurdish refugees to flood into Turkey, Erdogan refused to intervene militarily or allow Kurdish fighters to enter Syria through Turkey because the Syrian wing of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) is fighting ISIS. The PKK has been at odds with the Turkish government for more than 30 years over independence. Before he deploys troops, Erdogan wants the U.S. to increase aid to the rebels fighting Syrian president Bashar al-Assad and create a no-fly zone in northern Syria. His stance outraged Kurds in Turkey, who have long felt oppressed by the government. Thousands of Kurds took to the streets to protest the government's unwillingness to intervene, and about 30 people were killed in the violence.

The U.S. launched airstrikes on Kobani, Syria, in early October, trying to prevent ISIS from taking over the strategically located town and thereby gaining additional smuggling routes to arm fighters. Rather than assist the U.S. in its fight against ISIS, Turkey in October attacked installations of the PKK in the southeast, near the border with Iraq. The move outraged Kurds and also frustrated U.S. officials who were counting on the NATO ally for support. The Turkish government shifted its policy in late October, and started to allow a limited number of Iraqi Kurdish members of the pesh merga to cross from Turkey into Kobani to fight ISIS. After five months of fighting, the Kurds?backed by 700 U.S.-led airstrikes?liberated Kobani from the grip of ISIS. The victory came at an enormous cost, as the city was devastated by ISIS militants and the airstrikes. Iraqi Kurds, called the pesh merga, and members of the PKK, joined Syrian Kurds in defending Kobani.

In March 2015, the imprisoned leader of the PKK, Abdullah Ocalan, called on party members to hold a congress and declare an end to its protracted insurgency against the Turkish government. "This struggle of our 40-year-old movement, which has been filled with pain, has not gone to waste but at the same time has become unsustainable," he said in a statement. More than 40,000 people have been killed in the fighting. A previous cease-fire, in 2013, collapsed after a few months.

A suicide bomber linked to the Islamic State killed at least 32 social activists at a cultural center in Suruc, a city in southeastern Turkey, in late July 2015. The activists were planning to rebuild Kobani.

Turkey changed its position on confronting the Islamic State militarily shortly after the suicide attack. The country initiated its first cross-border assaults on the militants in late July 2015. Fighter jets targeted command centers and weapons stockpiles. It also agreed to let the U.S. launch airstrikes into Syria from two Turkish bases. Turkey, however, is not giving up the fight against the PKK. Indeed, the Turkish military reportedly attacked PKK militants as it was striking ISIS and President Erdogan announced he could no longer comply with terms of the peace process that began in 2013.

In April 2015, Pope Francis called the 1915 murder of between 600,000 and 1.5 million Armenians at the hands of Ottoman Turks during World War I the first genocide of the 20th century. He made the comment at a mass commemorating the 100th anniversary of the massacre. Turkey withdrew its ambassador to the Vatican in response.

In late Nov. 2015, Turkey shot down a Russian warplane for invading its airspace. At least one of the two pilots was killed. Turkish officials said that the plane ignored repeated warnings as it crossed over into its airspace from Syria. In a statement, Russian President Vladimir Putin called the act a "stab in the back." He also said that there would be "significant consequences." It was the first time in fifty years that a NATO member had shot down a Russian aircraft.

History Of Turkey

During his first visit to a Muslim country, Turkey, Pope Benedict XVI urged leaders of all religions to "utterly refuse" to support any form of violence in the name of faith. You can read more about Turkish history below.

Modern Turkey was founded in 1923 from the Anatolian remnants of the defeated Ottoman Empire by national hero Mustafa Kemal, who was later honored with the title Ataturk, or "Father of the Turks."

Under his authoritarian leadership, the country adopted wide-ranging social, legal, and political reforms. After a period of one-party rule, an experiment with multi-party politics led to the 1950 election victory of the opposition Democratic Party and the peaceful transfer of power.

What is Turkey's political history?

Democracy has been fractured by periods of instability and intermittent military coups (1960, 1971, 1980), which in each case eventually resulted in a return of political power to civilians. In 1997, the military again helped engineer the ouster - popularly dubbed a "post-modern coup" - of the then Islamic-oriented government. Turkey intervened militarily on Cyprus in 1974 to prevent a Greek takeover of the island and has since acted as patron state to the "Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus," which only Turkey recognizes.

A separatist insurgency begun in 1984 by the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) -now known as the People's Congress of Kurdistan or Kongra-Gel (KGK) - has dominated the Turkish military's attention and claimed more than 30,000 lives, but after the capture of the group's leader in 1999, the insurgents largely withdrew from Turkey, mainly to northern Iraq. In 2004, KGK announced an end to its ceasefire and attacks attributed to the KGK increased.

When did Turkey join the UN?

What is Turkey's largest industry?

To learn more about Turkey:

&bull For an interactive guide to Turkey, click here.

&bull Click here for a photo essay of the Pope's trip to Turkey.

McRoberts, Jon T., Mark C. Wallace and Stephen W. Eaton. (2014). Wild Turkey (Meleagris gallopavo), version 2.0. In The Birds of North America (P. G. Rodewald, editor). Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, New York, USA.

North American Bird Conservation Initiative. (2014). The State of the Birds 2014 Report. US Department of Interior, Washington, DC, USA.

Partners in Flight (2017). Avian Conservation Assessment Database. 2017.

Sauer, J. R., J. E. Hines, J. E. Fallon, K. L. Pardieck, Jr. Ziolkowski, D. J. and W. A. Link. The North American Breeding Bird Survey, results and analysis 1966-2013 (Version 1.30.15). USGS Patuxtent Wildlife Research Center (2014b). Available from http://www.mbr-pwrc.usgs.gov/bbs/.

Sibley, D. A. (2014). The Sibley Guide to Birds, second edition. Alfred A. Knopf, New York, NY, USA.

Istanbul attacks

2003 November - 25 people are killed and more than 200 injured when two car bombs explode near Istanbul's main synagogue. Days later two co-ordinated suicide bombings at the British consulate and a British bank in the city kill 28 people.

2005 January - New lira currency introduced as six zeroes are stripped from old lira, ending an era in which banknotes were denominated in millions.

2006 30 September - Kurdish separatist group, the PKK, declares a unilateral ceasefire in operations against the military.

2006 December - EU partially freezes Turkey's membership talks because of Ankara's failure to open its ports and airports to Cypriot traffic.

2007 January - Journalist and Armenian community leader Hrant Dink is assassinated. The murder provokes outrage in Turkey and Armenia.

  • OFFICIAL NAME: Republic of Turkey
  • FORM OF GOVERNMENT: Parliamentary democracy
  • CAPITAL: Ankara
  • AREA: 302,535 square miles (783,562 square kilometers)
  • POPULATION: 81,257,239
  • MONEY: Turkish lira


Turkey is a large peninsula that bridges the continents of Europe and Asia. Turkey is surrounded on three sides by the Black Sea, the Mediterranean Sea, and the Aegean Sea. Istanbul, the largest city in Turkey, is built on land in the Bosporus seaway. The city is partly in Europe and partly in Asia. Turkey is larger than the state of Texas.

Turkey is one of the most earthquake prone areas on Earth and has suffered from 13 earthquakes in the past 70 years. The North Anatolian Fault extends hundreds of miles from the Sea of Marmara in the western part of the country to the Eastern Anatolian Highlands. The fault moves back and forth about 8 inches (20 centimeters) a year.

Turkey's highest mountain, Mount Ararat has two peaks, with Great Ararat reaching 16,945 feet (5,165 meters). The mountain is considered sacred by many people and is believed to be where Noah beached his ark after the great flood.

Map created by National Geographic Maps


The Turkish people are from diverse backgrounds, a reminder of the many different groups that conquered Turkey over thousands of years. The majority of the population lives in cities, and children who want to go to high school must move to a city. The people are primarily Sunni Muslim. One fifth of the population is Kurdish.

Children who live in the European side of Istanbul may cross the Bosporus by ferry to visit grandparents in Asia. Turks are family oriented and are very hospitable people. They invite visitors to their homes and make sure they have something to eat and drink before they leave.

One of their favorite meals is kebab made from grilled lamb. Their diet includes lamb, eggplant, and yogurt. A sweet flavored candy with rose petals called Turkish delight, or lokum, is sold in many flavors and colors.

To find work, about two million Turks are currently guest workers in Germany and have formed their own communities there.

Soccer is the most popular sport in Turkey. There are three popular teams based in Istanbul. Turks excel at weightlifting and a form of wrestling called Turkish wrestling.


Turkey is a resting location for birds on their migratory journey between their summer and winter homes. They flock to Kus Golu, or Bird Lake in a protected national forest that is surrounded by reed marshes. The first national park in Turkey opened in 1958.

Today there are 39 parks where rare species and their habitats are protected. Several species are at risk, including the northern bald eagle which is critically endangered.

At one time, Turkey was home to jackals, lynx, wolves, and bears but those animal species are rare now. The Turkish horned viper snake has spikelike scales that poke upward near their eyes.

Once known as Cotton Castle, the white cliffs in Pamukkale in western Turkey are made of a calcium-rich mineral called travertine. The cliffs look like a sheet of ice covering a hillside from a distance. A spring flows from pool to pool. The cascade is 1.7 miles (2.7 kilometers) long.


The prime minister is considered the head of the government and is in charge of the country. The Grand National Assembly is a 550-member body that is elected by the people. The Assembly elects the president, a position that is largely ceremonial.

Turkey was a founding member of the United Nations, which was created after World War II. Turkey has been an associate member of the European Union since 1963, but it has not been accepted as a full member. Turkey is a member of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) which is a defense alliance. Because of its location in the Middle East, Turkey is strategic in world affairs.

Kurds in southern Turkey started a guerrilla war in 1984 to create a Kurdish state. In 1995, Turkish troops invaded northern Iraq to attack Kurds.


Turkey is home to one of the earliest settlements in the world. Built 8,800 years ago, Catal Hoyuk was a labyrinth of 150 mud homes joined together. There were no streets in between, so people had to enter the homes through holes in the roof!

About 4,000 years ago, the Hittites created an empire in the central part of what is now called Turkey in Anatolia. They ruled for hundreds of years. The Trojan War took place when the Hittites were losing power. The ruins of the city of Troy are believed to be in the city of Hissarlik in Anatolia.

King Midas ruled western Turkey around 700 B.C. In 334 B.C., Alexander the Great took Anatolia under Macedonian Greek rule until Rome took over and Anatolia became part of Roman Asia Minor. In A.D. 330, Constantine became the Roman emperor and formed a new capital called Constantinople. After the fall of the Roman Empire it became part of the Byzantine Empire.

The city of Constantinople was conquered by the Ottomans in 1453 and Turkey became part of the Ottoman Empire. After World War I, the country was invaded by Greece, which led to the Turkish war of Independence in 1920, led by Mustafa Kemal Atatürk. In 1923, the Turkish assembly declared Turkey a republic.

The city formally became Istanbul in 1923. Turkey became a secular country, meaning there is a separation between religion and government. Women gained the right to vote in 1934.


Roman & Byzantine rule Edit

According to the Hebrew Bible, Noah's Ark landed on the top of Mount Ararat, a mountain in the Taurus Mountains in eastern Anatolia, near the present-day borders of Turkey, Armenia, and Iran. [4] Josephus, Jewish historian of the first century, notes Jewish origins for many of the cities in Anatolia, though much of his sourcing for these passages is traditional. [5] The New Testament has many mentions of Jewish populations in Anatolia: Iconium (now Konya) is said to have a synagogue in Acts of the Apostles 14:1 and Ephesus is mentioned as having a synagogue in Acts 19:1 and in Paul's Epistle to the Ephesians. The Epistle to the Galatians is likewise directed at Galatia, which once held an established Jewish population.

Based on physical evidence, there has been a Jewish community in Anatolia since the fourth century BCE, most notably in the city of Sardis. The subsequent Roman and Byzantine Empires included sizable Greek-speaking Jewish communities in their Anatolian domains which seem to have been relatively well-integrated and enjoyed certain legal immunities. [ citation needed ] The size of the Jewish community was not greatly affected by the attempts of some Byzantine emperors (most notably Justinian I) to forcibly convert the Jews of Anatolia to Christianity, as these attempts met with very little success. [6] The exact picture of the status of the Jews in Asia Minor under Byzantine rule is still being researched by historians. [7] Although there is some evidence of occasional hostility by the Byzantine populations and authorities, no systematic persecution of the type endemic at that time in western Europe (pogroms, the stake, mass expulsions, etc.) is believed to have occurred in Byzantium. [8]

Ottoman era Edit

The first synagogue linked to Ottoman rule is "Tree of Life" (Hebrew: עץ החיים ‎) in Bursa, which passed to Ottoman authority in 1324. The synagogue is still in use, although the modern Jewish population of Bursa has shrunk to about 140 people. [9]

The status of the Jews in the Ottoman Empire often hinged on the whims of the sultan. So, for example, while Murad III ordered that the attitude of all non-Muslims should be one of "humility and abjection" and that they should not "live near Mosques or tall buildings" or own slaves, others were more tolerant. [10]

The first major event in Jewish history under Turkish rule took place after the Empire gained control over Constantinople. After Mehmed the Conqueror's conquest of Constantinople he found the city in a state of disarray. After suffering many sieges, the devastating sack of Constantinople by Crusaders in 1204 and the arrival of the Black Death pandemic in 1347, [11] the city was a shade of its former glory. Since Mehmed wanted the city as his new capital, he decreed its rebuilding. [12]

In order to revivify Constantinople he ordered that Muslims, Christians and Jews from all over his empire be resettled in the new capital. [12] Within months, most of the Empire's Romaniote Jews, from the Balkans and Anatolia, were concentrated in Constantinople, where they made up 10% of the city's population. [13] At the same time, the forced resettlement, though not intended as an anti-Jewish measure, was perceived as an "expulsion" by the Jews. [14] Despite this interpretation, Romaniotes would be the most influential community in the Empire for a few decades, until that position would be lost to a wave of Sephardi immigrants.

The number of Romaniotes was soon bolstered by small groups of Ashkenazi Jews that immigrated to the Ottoman Empire between 1421 and 1453. [13] Among these immigrants was Rabbi Yitzhak Sarfati, a German-born Jew of French descent [15] ( צרפתי Sarfati "French"), who became Chief Rabbi of Edirne and wrote a letter inviting European Jewry to settle in the Ottoman Empire, in which he stated, "Turkey is a land wherein nothing is lacking," and asking, "Is it not better for you to live under Muslims than under Christians?" [15] [16]

The greatest influx of Jews into Anatolia Eyalet and the Ottoman Empire occurred during the reign of Mehmed the Conquerors's successor, Bayezid II (1481–1512), after the expulsion of the Jews from Spain, the Kingdom of Portugal, the Kingdom of Naples and the Kingdom of Sicily. The Sultan issued a formal invitation and refugees started arriving in the empire in great numbers. A key moment occurred in 1492, when more than 40,000 Spanish Jews fled the Spanish Inquisition. [17] At that point in time, Constantinople's population was a mere 70,000 due to the various sieges of the city during the Crusades and the Black Death, so this historical event was also significant for repopulation of the city. These Sephardi Jews settled in Constantinople as well as Thessaloniki.

The Jews satisfied various needs in the Ottoman Empire: the Muslim Turks were largely uninterested in business enterprises and accordingly left commercial occupations to members of minority religions. They also distrusted the Christian subjects whose countries had only recently been conquered by the Ottomans and therefore it was natural to prefer Jewish subjects to which this consideration did not apply. [18]

The Sephardi Jews were allowed to settle in the wealthier cities of the empire, especially in Rumelia (the European provinces, cities such as Constantinople, Sarajevo, Thessaloniki, Adrianople and Nicopolis), western and northern Anatolia (Bursa, Aydın, Tokat and Amasya), but also in the Mediterranean coastal regions (Jerusalem, Safed, Damascus, and Egypt). İzmir was not settled by Spanish Jews until later.

The Jewish population in Jerusalem increased from 70 families in 1488 to 1500 at the beginning of the 16th century. That of Safed increased from 300 to 2000 families and almost surpassed Jerusalem in importance. Damascus had a Sephardic congregation of 500 families. Constantinople had a Jewish community of 30,000 individuals with 44 synagogues. Bayezid allowed the Jews to live on the banks of the Golden Horn. Egypt Eyalet, especially Cairo, received a large number of the exiles, who soon outnumbered Musta'arabi Jews. Gradually, the chief center of the Sephardi Jews became Thessaloniki, where the Spanish Jews soon outnumbered coreligionists of other nationalities and, at one time, the original native inhabitants.

Although the status of the Jews in the Ottoman Empire may have often been exaggerated, [19] it is undeniable that they enjoyed tolerance. Under the millet system they were organized as a community on the basis of religion alongside the other millets (e.g. Eastern Orthodox millet, Armenian Apostolic millet, etc.). In the framework of the millet, they had a considerable amount of administrative autonomy and were represented by the Hakham Bashi, the Chief Rabbi. There were no restrictions in the professions Jews could practice analogous to those common in Western Christian countries. [20] There were restrictions in the areas Jews could live or work, but such restrictions were imposed on Ottoman subjects of other religions as well. [18]

Like all non-Muslims, Jews had to pay the haraç "head tax" and faced other restrictions in clothing, horse riding, army service etc., but they could occasionally be waived or circumvented. [21]

Jews who reached high positions in the Ottoman court and administration include Mehmed the Conqueror's Minister of Finance (Defterdar) Hekim Yakup Paşa, his Portuguese physician Moses Hamon, Murad II's physician İshak Paşa and Abraham de Castro, master of the mint in Egypt.

During the Classical Ottoman period (1300–1600), the Jews, together with most other communities of the empire, enjoyed a certain level of prosperity. Compared with other Ottoman subjects, they were the predominant power in commerce and trade as well in diplomacy and other high offices. In the 16th century especially, the Jews were the most prominent under the millets, the apogee of Jewish influence could arguably be the appointment of Joseph Nasi to sanjak-bey (governor, a rank usually only bestowed upon Muslims) of Naxos. [22] Also in the first half of the 17th century the Jews were distinct in winning tax farms, Haim Gerber describes it: "My impression is that no pressure existed, that it was merely performance that counted." [23]

Friction between Jews and Turks was less common than in the Arab territories. Some examples: During the reign of Murad IV (1623–40), the Jews of Jerusalem were persecuted by an Arab who had purchased the governorship of that city from the governor of the province. [ citation needed ] Under Mehmed IV (1649–87), the 1660 destruction of Safed occurred. [24] [25] [26]

An additional problem was Jewish ethnic divisions. They had come to the Ottoman Empire from many lands, bringing with them their own customs and opinions, to which they clung tenaciously, and had founded separate congregations. Another tremendous upheaval was caused when Sabbatai Zevi proclaimed to be the Messiah. He was eventually caught by the Ottoman authorities and when given the choice between death and conversion, he opted for the latter. His remaining disciples converted to Islam too. Their descendants are today known as Dönmeh.

The history of the Jews in Turkey in the 18th and 19th century is principally a chronicle of decline in influence and power they lost their influential positions in trade mainly to the Greeks, who were able to "capitalize on their religio-cultural ties with the West and their trading diaspora". [23] An exception to this theme is that of Daniel de Fonseca, who was chief court physician and played a certain political role. He is mentioned by Voltaire, who speaks of him as an acquaintance whom he esteemed highly. Fonseca was involved in negotiations with Charles XII of Sweden.

Ottoman Jews held a variety of views on the role of Jews in the Ottoman Empire, from loyal Ottomanism to Zionism. [27] Emmanuel Carasso, for example, was a founding member of the Young Turks, and believed that the Jews of the Empire should be Turks first, and Jews second.

As mentioned before, the overwhelming majority of the Ottoman Jews lived in Rumelia. As the Empire declined however, the Jews of these region found themselves under Christian rule. The Bosnian Jews for example came under Austro-Hungarian rule after the occupation of the region in 1878, the independence of Greece, Bulgaria and Serbia further lowered the number of Jews within the borders of the Ottoman Empire.

The Jewish population of Ottoman Empire had reached nearly 200,000 at the start of the 20th century. [28] The territories lost between 1829 and 1913 to the new Christian Balkan states significantly lowered this number.

The troubled history of Turkey during the 20th century and the process of transforming the old Ottoman Empire into a secular nation state after 1923, however, had a negative effect on the size of all remaining minorities, including the Jews.

After 1933, a new law put into effect in Nazi Germany for mandatory retirement of officials from non-Aryan race. Thus, the law required all the Jewish scientists in Germany to be fired. Unemployed scientists led by Albert Einstein formed an association in Switzerland. Professor Schwartz, the general secretary of the association, met with the Turkish Minister of Education in order to provide jobs for 34 Jewish scientists in Turkish universities especially in Istanbul University. [29]

However, the planned deportation of Jews from East Thrace and the associated anti-Jewish pogrom in 1934 was one of the events that caused insecurity among the Turkish Jews. [30]

The effect of the 1942 Varlık Vergisi ("Wealth Tax") was solely on non-Muslims – who still controlled the largest portion of the young republic's wealth – even though in principle it was directed against all wealthy Turkish citizens, it most intensely affected non Muslims. The "wealth tax" is still remembered as a "catastrophe" among the non-Muslims of Turkey and it had one of the most detrimental effects on the population of Turkish Jews. Many people unable to pay the exorbitant taxes were sent to labor camps and in consequence about 30,000 Jews emigrated. [31] The tax was seen as a racist attempt to diminish the economic power of religious minorities in Turkey. [32]

During World War II, Turkey was officially neutral although it maintained strong diplomatic relations with Nazi Germany. [33] During the war, Turkey denaturalized 3,000 to 5,000 Jews living abroad 2,200 and 2,500 Turkish Jews were deported to extermination camps such as Auschwitz and Sobibor and several hundred interned in Nazi concentration camps. When Nazi Germany encouraged neutral countries to repatriate their Jewish citizens, Turkish diplomats received instructions to avoid repatriating Jews even if they had could prove their Turkish nationality. [34] Turkey was also the only neutral country to implement anti-Jewish laws during the war. [35] More Turkish Jews suffered as a result of discrimatory policies during the war than were saved by Turkey. [36] Although Turkey has promoted the idea that it was a rescuer of Jews during the Holocaust, this is considered a myth by historians. [37] This myth has been used to promote Armenian genocide denial. [38]

Turkey served as a transit for European Jews fleeing Nazi persecution during the 1930s and 1940s. [39] [40]

A memorial stone with a bronze epitaph was inaugurated in 2012, as the third of individual country memorials (after Poland and the Netherlands) at the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp for eight Turkish citizens killed during the Nazi regime in the said camp. The Turkish Ambassador to Berlin, Hüseyin Avni Karslıoğlu stated in an inauguration speech that Germany set free 105 Turkish citizens, held in camps, after a mutual agreement between the two countries, and these citizens returned to Turkey in April 1945, although there is no known official record for other Turkish Jews who may have died during the Holocaust in Nazi Germany.

According to Rıfat Bali, Turkish authorities bear some responsibility for the Struma disaster, killing about 781 Jewish refugees and 10 crew, due to their refusal to allow the Jewish refugees on board to disembark in Turkey. [41] [42] William Rubinstein goes further, citing British pressure on Turkey not to let Struma ' s passengers disembark, in accordance with Britain's White Paper of 1939 to prevent further Jewish immigration to Palestine. [43] [44]

When the Republic of Turkey was established in 1923, Aliyah was not particularly popular amongst Turkish Jewry migration from Turkey to Palestine was minimal in the 1920s. [45] As in other Muslim-majority countries, discrimination later became the main "push" factor that encouraged emigration from Turkey to Palestine.

Between 1923 and 1948, approximately 7,300 Jews emigrated from Turkey to Mandatory Palestine. [46] After the 1934 Thrace pogroms following the 1934 Turkish Resettlement Law, immigration to Palestine increased it is estimated that 521 Jews left for Palestine from Turkey in 1934 and 1,445 left in 1935. [46] Immigration to Palestine was organized by the Jewish Agency and the Palestine Aliya Anoar Organization. The Varlık Vergisi, a capital tax which occurred in 1942, was also significant in encouraging emigration from Turkey to Palestine between 1943 and 1944, 4,000 Jews emigrated. [47]

The Jews of Turkey reacted very favorably to the creation of the State of Israel. Between 1948 and 1951, 34,547 Jews immigrated to Israel, nearly 40% of the Turkish Jewish population at the time. [48] Immigration was stunted for several months in November 1948, when Turkey suspended migration permits as a result of pressure from Arab countries. [49]

In March 1949, the suspension was removed when Turkey officially recognized Israel, and emigration continued, with 26,000 emigrating within the same year. The migration was entirely voluntary, and was primary driven by economic factors given the majority of emigrants were from the lower classes. [50] In fact, the migration of Jews to Israel is the second largest mass emigration wave out of Turkey, the first being the Population exchange between Greece and Turkey. [51]

After 1951, emigration of Jews from Turkey to Israel slowed perceptibly. [52]

In the mid 1950s, 10% of those who had moved to Israel returned to Turkey. A new synagogue, the Neve Şalom was constructed in Istanbul in 1951. Generally, Turkish Jews in Israel have integrated well into society and are not distinguishable from other Israelis. [53] However, they maintain their Turkish culture and connection to Turkey, and are strong supporters of close relations between Israel and Turkey. [54]

On the night of 6/7 September 1955, the Istanbul Pogrom was unleashed. Although primarily aimed at the city's Greek population, the Jewish and Armenian communities of Istanbul were also targeted to a degree. The damage caused was mainly material (a complete total of over 4,000 shops and 1,000 houses – belonging to Greeks, Armenians and Jews – were destroyed) it deeply shocked minorities throughout the country. [55] [56]

The present size of the Jewish Community was estimated at 17,400 in 2012 according to the Jewish Virtual Library. [57] The vast majority, approximately 95%, live in Istanbul, with a community of about 2,500 in İzmir and other much smaller groups located in Adana, Ankara, Bursa, Çanakkale, Edirne, Iskenderun and Kirklareli. Sephardi Jews make up approximately 96% of Turkey's Jewish population, while the rest are primarily Ashkenazi Jews and Jews from Italian extraction. There is also a small community of Romaniote Jews and the community of the Constantinopolitan Karaites who are related to each other.

The city of Antakya is home to ten Jewish families, many of whom are of Mizrahi Jewish extraction, having originally come from Aleppo, Syria, 2,500 years ago. Figures were once higher but families have left for Istanbul, Israel and other countries. [58]

Turkish Jews are still legally represented by the Hakham Bashi, the Chief Rabbi. Rabbi Ishak Haleva, is assisted by a religious Council made up of a Rosh Bet Din and three Hahamim. Thirty-five Lay Counselors look after the secular affairs of the Community and an Executive Committee of fourteen, the president of which must be elected from among the Lay Counselors, runs the daily affairs. The Istanbul community also has 16 synagogues and well kept and guarded cemetery. [59]

In 2001, the Jewish Museum of Turkey was founded by the Quincentennial Foundation, an organisation established in 1982 consisting of 113 Turkish citizens, both Jews and Muslims, to commemorate the 500th anniversary of the arrival of the Sephardic Jews to the Ottoman Empire. [60]

The Turkish-Jewish population is experiencing a population decline, and has dwindled to 17,000 in a few years from an original figure of 23,000. This is due to both large-scale immigration to Israel out of fear of antisemitism, but also because of natural population decline. Intermarriage with Turkish Muslims and assimilation have become common, and the community's death rate is more than twice that of its birth rate. [61] [62]

According to researchers at Tel Aviv University, antisemitism in the media and books was creating a situation in which young, educated Turks formed negative opinions against Jews and Israel. [63] However, violence against Jews has also occurred. In 2003, an Istanbul dentist was murdered in his clinic by a man who admitted that he committed the crime out of antisemitic sentiment. In 2009, a number of Jewish students suffered verbal abuse and physical attacks, and a Jewish soldier in the Turkish Army was assaulted.

The Neve Shalom Synagogue in Istanbul has been attacked three times. [64] First on 6 September 1986, Arab terrorists gunned down 22 Jewish worshippers and wounded 6 during Shabbat services at Neve Shalom. This attacked was blamed on the Palestinian militant Abu Nidal. [65] [66] [67] The Synagogue was hit again during the 2003 Istanbul bombings alongside the Beth Israel Synagogue, killing 20 and injuring over 300 people, both Jews and Muslims alike. Even though a local Turkish militant group, the Great Eastern Islamic Raiders' Front, claimed responsibility for the attacks, police claimed the bombings were "too sophisticated to have been carried out by that group", [65] with a senior Israeli government source saying: "the attack must have been at least coordinated with international terror organizations". [67]

Traditionally, aliyah from Turkey to Israel has been low since the 1950s. Despite the antisemitism and occasional violence, Jews felt generally safe in Turkey. In the 2000s, despite surging antisemitism, including antisemitic incidents, aliyah remained low. In 2008, only 112 Turkish Jews emigrated, and in 2009, that number only rose to 250. [68] However, in the aftermath of the 2010 Gaza flotilla raid, antisemitism in Turkey increased and became more open, and it was reported that the community was also subjected to economic pressure. A boycott of Jewish businesses, especially textile businesses, took place, and Israeli tourists who had frequented the businesses of Turkish Jewish merchants largely stopped visiting Turkey. As a result, the number of Turkish Jews immigrating to Israel increased. [69] By September 2010, the Jewish population of Turkey had dropped to 17,000, from a previous population of 23,000 [70] Currently, the Jewish community is feeling increasingly threatened by extremists. In addition to safety concerns, some Turkish Jews also immigrated to Israel to find a Jewish spouse due to the increasing difficulty of finding one in the small Turkish Jewish community. In 2012, it was reported that the number of Jews expressing interest in moving to Israel rose by 100%, a large number of Jewish business owners were seeking to relocate their businesses to Israel, and that hundreds were moving every year. [71]

In October 2013, it was reported that a mass exodus of Turkish Jews was underway. Reportedly, Turkish Jewish families are immigrating to Israel at the rate of one family per week on average, and hundreds of young Turkish Jews are also relocating to the United States and Europe. [72]

Turkey is among the first countries to formally recognize the State of Israel. [73] Turkey and Israel have closely cooperated militarily and economically. Israel and Turkey have signed a multibillion-dollar project to build a series of pipelines from Turkey to Israel to supply gas, oil and other essentials to Israel. [74] In 2003 the Arkadaş Association was established in Israel. The Arkadaş Association is a Turkish–Jewish cultural center in Yehud, aiming to preserve the Turkish-Jewish heritage and promote friendship (Arkadaş being the Turkish word for Friend) between the Israeli and Turkish people. In 2004, the Ülkümen-Sarfati Society was established by Jews and Turks in Germany. The society, named after Selahattin Ülkümen and Yitzhak Sarfati, aims to promote intercultural and interreligious dialogue and wants to inform the public of the centuries of peaceful coexistence between Turks and Jews. [75] [76]

The various migrations outside of Turkey has produced descendants of Turkish Jews in Europe, Israel, United States, and Canada. Today, there are still various synagogues that maintain Jewish-Turkish traditions.

The Sephardic Synagogue Sephardic Bikur Holim in Seattle, Washington was formed by Jews from Turkey, and still uses Ladino in some portions of the Shabbat services. They created a siddur called Zehut Yosef, written by Hazzan Isaac Azose, to preserve their unique traditions.

In recent years, several hundred Turkish Jews, who have been able to prove that they are descended from Jews expelled from Portugal in 1497, have emigrated to Portugal and acquired Portuguese citizenship. [77] [78] [79]

Historical Timeline of Turkey

Important dates in a fast, comprehensive, chronological, or date order providing an actual sequence of important past events which were of considerable significance to the famous people involved in this time period.

A Neolithic city is established at Catalhoyuk in central Anatolia, the world's first known settlement date back to 6500 BC. The Republic of Turkey was founded in 1923.

23000 BC: A cave at Karain, north of Antalya, is inhabited by humans, the oldest known evidence of habitation in Anatolia.
6500 BC: A Neolithic city is established at Catalhoyuk in Central Anatolia, the world's first known settlement.
5000 BC: Stone and Copper Age. People have already been living in Anatolia for 20,000 years.
2600 BC - 1900 BC: The Proto-Hittite Empire flourishes in Central Anatolia and the Southeast.
1900 BC - 1300 BC: The Hittite Empire flourishes, battles Egypt. Patriarch Abraham, who has been dwelling in Harran, near Sanliurfa.
1300 BC - 1260 BC: The Trojan Wars described by Homer in the Iliad.
900 BC - 800 BC: Rise of Phrygian, Lydian and Carian cultures.
725 BC: King Midas rules the Phrygians from his capital of Gordion.
561 BC - 546 BC: Croesus rules the Lydians until his defeat by the Persian Empire.
353 BC: The death of Mausolus, ruler of the Hectamonid clan, who built his famous tomb at Halicarnassus.