Archive for September 3, 2015

September 01, 2015

BAKU, Azerbaijan (AP) — A court in Azerbaijan convicted an investigative journalist on Tuesday of several financial crimes and sentenced her to 7½ years in prison, in a case widely criticized by human rights organizations.

Khadija Ismayilova and her supporters say the charges were retribution for her reports on alleged corruption involving President Ilham Aliyev and his family in the oil-rich former Soviet republic. Several other journalists and rights activists also have been imprisoned in Azerbaijan in what has been widely seen as an effort by the authoritarian government to stifle dissent.

The Baku court convicted Ismayilova of embezzlement, illegal business activity, tax evasion and abuse of power, but found her not guilty of inciting a colleague to commit suicide. The case against her was initiated when the colleague filed his complaint, but he later withdrew the accusation.

The prison sentence was slightly less than the nine years requested by prosecutors for 39-year-old Ismayilova, a contributor to U.S. government-funded Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. “Khadija Ismayilova’s trial has been a farce, yet the consequences for her, and for all Azerbaijani journalists, are gravely serious,” Nina Ognianova of the New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists said in a statement. She called on Azerbaijan to overturn the conviction on appeal and “for Baku’s international partners to stop turning a blind eye to the country’s human rights abuses.”

Azerbaijan is holding at least seven other journalists in jail, CPJ said. Other rights groups also condemned the verdict. “The government has stepped up its brutal crackdown on political activists, journalists, human rights defenders — indeed anyone who dares to publicly raise a critical voice,” Denis Krivosheev of Amnesty International said in a statement.

In August, a prominent rights defender and her husband were convicted of fraud and sentenced to prison terms of 8 ½ years and seven years, respectively.

29 August 2015 Saturday

Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu hailed the new cabinet announced on Friday, which he said represented every color of the country.

“I am of the opinion that we have formed a good cabinet where every color from Turkey has been represented,” Davutoglu said in Ankara on Friday.

He said that the results of the new cabinet would be beneficial.

The interim cabinet includes lawmakers from the Justice and Development (AK) Party, Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) and pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), but not the Republican People’s Party (CHP).

The prime minister said that the interim cabinet was a “constitutional government” and not a government of AK Party.

In remarks made after the announcement of the cabinet, Deputy Prime Minister Yalcin Akdogan said that this was neither a coalition government, nor an AK Party government.

“This is a government formed by each deputy out of constitutional necessity and a sense of political responsibility,” he said.

Source: World Bulletin.


28 August 2015 Friday

Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu announced his interim Cabinet on Friday, after President Recep Tayyip Erdogan assigned him to form a caretaker government.

Davutoglu submitted the composition of the new government to Erdogan at 7.10 p.m. local time (1610GMT).

Since Tuesday, the prime minister has been making efforts to form a provisional government that will run Turkey until early election is held on Nov. 1.

The June 7 election saw a stalemate with no party winning the majority necessary to form a single party government. Coalition talks between the Justice and Development Party (AKP) and the other three parliamentary parties had not produced any result.

All but one party — the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) — had refused to join the caretaker government.

The new cabinet consists of 11 MPs from ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP), 11 independent candidates, and 3 representatives of the opposition – Tuğrul Türkeş (Nationalist Movement Party -MHP), and 2 MPs from pro-Kurdish People’s Democracy Party (HDP) – Müslüm Doğan and Ali Haydar.

Davutoglu announced the list of members of the interim Cabinet at a press conference in Ankara which is as follows:

Prime Minister – Ahmet Davutoglu

Deputy Prime Minister –  Yalcin Akdogan

Deputy Prime Minister – Numan Kurtulmus

Deputy Prime Minister – Cevdet Yilmaz

Deputy Prime Minister – Tugrul Turkes


Foreign Minister – Feridun Sinirlioglu

EU Affairs Minister and Chief Negotiator – Ali Haydar Konca

Minister of Family and Social Policies – Aysen Gurcan

Minister of Justice – Kenan Ipek

Minister of Science, Industry and Technology – Fikri Isik

Minister of Customs and Trade – Cenap Asci

Minister of Environment and Urban Planning – Idris Gulluce

Minister of Economy – Nihat Zeybekci

Minister of Youth and Sports – Akif Cagatay Kilic

Minister of Internal Affairs – Selami Altinok

Minister of Transport, Maritime and Communication – Feridun Bilgin

Minister of Labour and Social Security – Ahmet Erdem

Minister of Energy and Natural Resources – Ali Rıza Alaboyun

Minister of Food, Agriculture and Livestock – Kudbettin Arzu

Development Minister – Muslum Dogan

Minister of Culture and Tourism – Yalcin Topcu

Minister of Finance – Mehmet Simsek

Minister of National Education – Nabi Avci

Minister of National Defence – Vecdi Gonul

Minister of Forest and Water Management – Veysel Eroglu

Minister of Health – Mehmet Muezzinoglu

Source: World Bulletin.


August 31, 2015

KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) — Defying warnings from Washington and the fury of Afghanistan’s government, Pakistani authorities are turning a blind eye to a meeting of hundreds of Taliban supporters in a city near the Afghan border aimed at resolving a dispute over the group’s leadership following the death of figurehead Mullah Mohammad Omar.

The gathering in the Pakistani city of Quetta, where the Taliban’s leadership has been largely based since they were pushed from power by a U.S.-led invasion in 2001, has drawn some 1,000 Taliban adherents who have openly descended on the city for a “unity shura,” a meeting intended to resolve the leadership crisis and reunite the group, whose divisions have been publicly aired since Mullah Omar’s death was revealed in late July.

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani has accused Pakistan of harboring groups that are waging war on his country. His deputy spokesman, Zafar Hashemi told The Associated Press that Pakistan was failing to take action against “those groups holding gatherings in public and declaring war against the Afghan people,” a reference to the Taliban meetings in Quetta.

The Taliban’s struggle to overthrow the Kabul government is nearing its 14th year. Thousands of U.S. and NATO soldiers, along with many more thousands of Afghan civilians, troops and police have been killed in the fighting, which has intensified following the drawdown last year of most foreign combat troops. The Taliban are clearly testing the Afghan forces as they take on the insurgency alone, though their fighters have made little significant progress on the battlefield.

The leadership struggle became public after the Afghan government announced in late July that Mullah Omar had been dead since April 2013. His deputy, Mullah Akhtar Mansoor, was declared his successor, but Mullah Omar’s family objected, saying the vote to elect the new leader was not representative of the group. The unity shura — essentially a dispute resolution committee — was established in early August to deal with the crisis and shura leader Ahmad Rabbani says its decision could be reached in days.

In an indication of what is at stake, the Taliban published a biography Monday of Mansoor in a clear attempt by his backers to shore up his support among the Taliban leaders, religious scholars, battlefield commanders and rank-and-file supporters as deliberations come to a close. They have met at various spots around Quetta — in Chaman near the Afghan border and in tribal areas of Pakistan’s Balochistan province, troubled by its own insurgency.

With impressive organizational skills, the Quetta-based Taliban have taken on the task of hosting hundreds of visitors from Afghanistan, billeting them in madrassas, mosques and private homes, ensuring they are fed and that transport is arranged so they can get to their meetings on time. Many attendees, including religious scholars and commanders, traveled from remote regions of Afghanistan. Many of the fighting men have already departed, shura leaders said, having made their preferences clear.

Rabbani said that Mansoor has yet to inform the shura that he will adhere to whatever decision is made, although Mullah Omar’s brother, Manan, and son, Yaqub, have done so. Mansoor has been given until Tuesday to state his position, Rabbani said, adding: “We don’t need his permission to announce our decision, and have made contingency plans for whether he says he will follow our decision or not.”

He said the committee’s decision on the leadership could come as early as Wednesday. The meetings appear to have been untroubled by the Pakistani authorities, who habitually deny that they sponsor the Taliban or other terrorist groups, such as the Haqqani Network whose leader, Sirajuddin Haqqani, is one of Mansoor’s deputies.

“Yes, our officials have contacts with them. Our officials have ability to contact and bring them to the negotiation table. That doesn’t mean that our intelligence agencies have control on each and every thing,” said Pakistani security analyst Zahid Hussain.

Ghani’s condemnation of Pakistan’s support for the Taliban boiled over in early August after a series of deadly attacks on the capital, Kabul, that left 50 people dead and hundreds wounded. After almost a year of trying to mend fences with Islamabad, the Afghan leader went on live TV and accused Pakistan of being the source of violence in his country. Relations between the neighbors have suffered, with an Afghan delegation returning empty-handed from a visit to Pakistan meant to hammer out a way of dealing with the insurgency.

“The decisions the Pakistani government will be making in the next few weeks will significantly affect bilateral relations for the next decades,” Ghani said in his TV address. “We can no longer tolerate watching our people bleeding in a war exported and imposed on us from outside.”

Peace talks between Ghani’s administration and the Taliban, which had been supported by Pakistan, were indefinitely postponed after the announcement of Mullah Omar’s death. Analysts and diplomats say it could be years before they are revived and that in the meantime the war could get worse as the new Taliban leader consolidates power and tries to win over all elements, including extremists who have been disaffected by the Taliban’s lack of progress towards it goal of retaking Kabul.

U.S. National Security Adviser Susan Rice met with Pakistani leaders on Sunday to discuss efforts to revive peace talks. In a statement, the White House said she “underscored the U.S. commitment to an Afghan-led peace process, and urged Pakistan to intensify its efforts to counter terrorist sanctuaries inside its borders in order to promote regional peace and stability.”

In recent days, gunmen loyal to Mansoor and to a powerful supporter of Mullah Omar’s family in the leadership contest, Mullah Mansoor Dadullah, have fought openly in Zabul province in southern Afghanistan. At least five fighters were killed in battles on Saturday, Rabbani said.

Dadullah condemned the release of Mansoor’s biograhy, accusing him of being “desperate” for power “and using every tactic to increase his popularity.” The 5,000-word document, emailed to journalists in five languages, describes Mansoor, who was born in 1968, as a tireless holy warrior, good listener and ardent protector of civilians, who was appointed as the insurgents’ leader “in full compliance with Islamic Shariah law.”

Mansoor “never nominated himself for leadership, rather he was selected as the only candidate … by members of the leading council of the Islamic Emirate and religious scholars,” the biography says, using the name of the former Taliban government.

“Mansoor is trying to show that he is the leader and no one can reach him on that level,” said Mohammad Ismail Qasimyar, the foreign relations adviser to the Afghan government’s High Peace Council, which is charged with ending the war.

Mansoor is believed to have gained power in the Taliban in part because of his connections to Pakistan’s powerful Inter-Services Intelligence agency, which long has had ties to Afghan militants. He is believed to have acted in Mullah Omar’s name in recent years and taken the Taliban into a peace dialogue with the Afghan government at the same time as stepping up the battle against Afghan forces, all at the ISI’s behest, Qasimayar said.

With the backing of the Pakistani intelligence agency, Mansoor “is the only one right now that has more support than anyone else for the leadership,” Qasimyar said. “With Pakistan’s support, it doesn’t matter who supports him and who doesn’t.”

However, Habibullah Fouzi, a diplomat under the Taliban and now a member of the Afghan government’s peace council, said there could be more dissension within the Taliban. He said many rank-and-file members supported Mullah Omar’s family. “It is clear that Mullah Mansoor has been imposed into this position by others,” he said.

Mansoor’s biography also for the first time gives a date for Mullah Omar’s death: April 23, 2013. The Taliban said it kept his death a secret as “2013 was considered the last year of resistance and struggle” before the drawdown of U.S.-led forces in Afghanistan.

Associated Press writers Mirwais Khan and Rahim Faiez in Kabul and Asif Shahzad in Islamabad contributed to this report.

Tuesday, 01 September 2015

The Turkish Red Crescent Society has spent nearly $345 million in aid for Syrian refugees in Turkey and Syria since the crisis began in 2011.

The president of the relief agency, Ahmad Lutfi Akar, said in a statement on Monday that his agency does not discriminate in providing assistance on the basis of race, religion, ethnicity or language.

Akar pointed out that the Society had lent a helping hand to those in need in many countries around the world, including as Iraq, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Myanmar, and some African countries.

The agency provides assistance to the poor and victims of disasters, as well as refugees from Syria whose numbers have swelled to about 2.5 million.

Source: Middle East Monitor.


Tuesday, 01 September 2015

Jordanian officials have said that hundreds of thousands of Syrian students are to attend schools in Jordan on Tuesday. The students will be exempted of fees and costs of books and other expenses, Anadolu Agency reported.

The Secretary General of the Jordanian Ministry of Education Mohamed Al-Akour said: “Tuesday is the start of the school year and 140,626 Syrian students (11 per cent of all students in Jordan) are to attend schools.”

He said that the number includes 25,561 students from the refugee camps and that they would be treated the same as the Jordanian students.

Akour added that 99 Jordanian schools have begun working on two shifts in order to accommodate the Syrian students, noting that some classes for Syrian students will include up to 85 students.

About 1.3 million Syrian refugees live in Jordan, including 750,000 who entered the country before the Syrian revolution.

Source: Middle East Monitor.



Demonstrators have been removed from the Syrian embassy in Berlin after breaking in to protest against the Assad regime. There were similar incidents in Syrian embassies around Europe.

Protesters attempted to force their way into Syrian embassies across Europe over the weekend in an apparent response to the assassination of a leading Kurdish political figure who was a member of the opposition Syrian National Council (SNC).

A group of about 30 demonstrators stormed the Syrian embassy in Berlin early on Sunday and confronted the ambassador, according to the police.

The break-in followed earlier demonstrations outside the embassy on Saturday. No one was hurt or arrested, a police spokesman told the news agency AFP.

The protesters broke through a fence and rushed inside to confront the ambassador, who also lives at the embassy.

The police said embassy staff reacted very calmly, and the protesters were merely removed from the scene. There was no violence or arrests.

The police have since strengthened their presence around the embassy.

Protesters arrested

In Hamburg, 30 protesters gathered outside the Syrian consulate early on Sunday, with some of them managing to break into the ground floor and spraying graffiti on the building’s walls, according to police spokeswoman Karina Sadowsky.

Four Syrians were arrested and still detained early Sunday pending verification of their visa situation, Sadowsky added.

Earlier, five protesters were arrested in Switzerland late on Saturday after forcing their way into Syria’s mission to the United Nations in Geneva, according to police spokesman Patrick Puhl.

And in London, British police said they had arrested seven protesters outside the Syrian embassy on Saturday, including three who scaled the building and waved the Kurdish flag from the rooftop. Around 50 to 60 people had gathered outside the embassy to protest, according to police.

Syria threatens ‘retaliation’

The rash of embassy protests followed a long day of violence in Syria, after security forces opened fire on a funeral for Kurdish opposition leader Mashaal Tammo, killed on Friday by masked gunmen in his home in north-eastern Syria.

The Syrian government, meanwhile, threatened retaliation against nations who recognized the SNC, formed in Istanbul, Turkey in August to bring together opposition groups including the activist network Local Coordination Committees (LLC), the banned Muslim brotherhood as well as Kurdish and Assyrian groups.

“We will take significant measures against any country that recognizes this illegitimate council,” Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Muallem said.

Damascus blamed Tammo’s assassination on a “terrorist” group.

“There are groups carrying out acts of violence in Syria and who have killed a great number of martyrs,” Muallem said. “The West speaks of a peaceful revolution and does not admit these groups exist, but arms them anyhow.”

Author: Spencer Kimball, Stuart Tiffen (AP, AFP, AP, Reuters, dpa)

Editor: Nicole Goebel



OCT. 9, 2011

VIENNA (AFP) — Eleven opponents of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s regime were arrested after invading the country’s embassy in Vienna and demonstrating on the balcony, police said Saturday.

They said some 20 people broke into the embassy in central Vienna’s Landstrasse overnight, while dozens of others cheered them on in the street.

Police said no one was hurt but some damage was caused on the premises.

A violent crackdown on anti-regime protests that broke out in March across Syria has killed more than 2,900 people, according to the United Nations.

Source: Ma’an News Agency.


Sunday, 30 August 2015

Dozens of Palestinians staged demonstrations on Saturday outside the Al-Baraka hospital complex in the southern West Bank city of Hebron (Al-Khalil) to protest the occupation of the premises by Jewish settlers.

The demonstrations, which included a number of Palestinian Christians, were organized by local popular resistance committees.

“Palestinians will never accept Israel’s policy of illegal Jewish settlement,” Fr. Attallah Hanaa, a Palestinian Christian clergyman who participated in the protest, told Anadolu Agency.

“We will always reject Israel’s seizure of Islamic and Christian institutions,” he said.

“We are of this land; it is our home, our history, our identity,” the priest added. “And we will never surrender it to the Israeli occupiers.”

According to Israeli daily Haaretz, the settlers claim to have purchased the hospital complex from a U.S.-based Christian NGO through a Swedish firm that served as middleman.

Located near the Al-Aarub refugee camp, the hospital complex sits on 40 dunums of land and comprises eight buildings (a dunum is roughly equivalent to one acre).

Since its establishment in the 1940s until its closure some four decades later, the hospital had provided free services to Palestinians who suffered from tuberculosis.

According to Palestinian residents of the area, Israel plans to build a new Jewish-only settlement on the site, which sits adjacent to thousands of dunums of agricultural land.

The city of Hebron is home to some 200,000 Palestinians and some 500 Jewish settlers, with the latter residing in a number of Jewish-only settlement compounds – heavily guarded by Israeli troops – in the city’s center.

Source: Middle East Monitor.


Tuesday, 01 September 2015

Jordan’s Al-Yarmouk television channel, based in Amman, said on Monday that the Jordanian authorities had stopped it from broadcasting, Quds Press has reported.

According to a statement released by the channel, the government’s Information Committee went to the studios of the channel without forewarning and closed them.

The channel, which is close to the Muslim Brotherhood, expressed its shock at the government’s “surprising measures”, reiterating that it had obtained all the required licenses for its work.

The studios that were closed are all privately owned and were simply hired out by the channel.

Al-Yarmouk said that it considers its closure as part of the Jordanian government’s attempts to “suppress media freedom”. It also stressed that it had respected all the laws and systems in the country regarding the work of mass media.

It is believed that the closure of the channel is part of a complicated legal dispute between the Muslim Brotherhood and a new NGO holding the same name, through which the new NGO is to take over the property of the original group.

Source: Middle East Monitor.