Geographically, the country of Turkey stands in an interesting location, straddling two continents, with Eastern Europe at one door and Iran at the other. It has a colorful past with historic roots in the Ottoman and Byzantine empires. It shares borders with Syria, Iraq, Armenia, Georgia, Bulgaria and Greece. Most of the country is considered to be a part of Asia.

The country is on the verge of economic collapse with the Turkish lira dropping 40 percent in value against the U.S. dollar. Turkey’s president Recep Tayyip Erdogan has blamed his country’s problems on U.S. sanctions, but many economists blame Erdogan himself, and his zeal for big infrastructure projects with borrowed money, and his basic misunderstanding of economics, for what is largely a homemade crisis.

The Erdogan government believes that a failed coup was attempted in 2016. This has resulted in the capture and jailing of a large number of people suspected of being part of the coup. In many cases, these have been people who played no role, but who might have banked with a particular bank or subscribed to a particular newsletter.

The Turkish government has blamed the coup on the Fethullah Gülen movement.

So, in addition to economic collapse, Turkey is in a state of social and political unrest because of suspicions and arrests surrounding this perceived anti-Erdogan movement. There have been arrests and imprisonments of soldiers, journalists, lawyers and judges. Many other people have also lost their jobs simply because of suspicion of involvement.

Turkey also faces the prospect of a mass exodus of refugees from the Idlib region of Syria if Russian and Syrian forces, backing Bashar al-Assad, should lead an assault against those involved in an uprising. This could mean as many as 800,000 refugees attempt to enter Turkey.
Turkish forces now man observation posts in the Idlib region.

Detaining an American

Amid all of this turmoil, Turkey is holding American pastor Andrew Brunson captive. Brunson was imprisoned during the fallout after the 2016 coup. Although the North Carolina pastor was only in the country as an evangelical Christian, the Erdogan government accused him of aiding terrorist groups.

The 50-year old pastor was recently transferred to house arrest in Turkey. Other Americans have been held in Turkey with similar charges.

Pastor Brunson ran a small church in the city of Izmir on the Turkish coast. He was arrested in October of 2016. He was in failing health in prison.

The imprisonment of the American has caused strained relations between the two NATO allies. The American administration has let up on the pressure lately because of fears that the economic problems in Turkey could spread and be detrimental to world economics. Securing the freedom of the American detainees is a priority though.

With hopes that the standoff may be moving toward resolution, the Turkish Lira has been bolstered in recent days.

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