Monday, March 31, 2014

Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s speech in Ankara, starting late March 30 and ending early March 31, on the results of the local elections

    Monday, March 31, 2014   No comments
I wholeheartedly greet our 81 provinces as well as sister and friendly capitals and cities of the world from Ankara, from the AK Party headquarters. I’ve just addressed via teleconference thousands of people who gathered in Skopje Square. They were sharing the joy you have here in freezing weather.  I first want to express my absolute gratitude to my God for such a victory and a meaningful result. 

I thank my friends and brothers all over the world who prayed for our victory. I thank my brothers in Palestine who saw our victory as their victory. I thank my brothers in Egypt who are struggling for democracy and who understand our struggle very well. I thank my brothers in the Balkans, in Bosnia, in Macedonia, in Kosovo and in all cities in Europe who celebrate our victory with the same joy we have here. I thank my suffering brothers in Syria who pray for our victory although in a great pain, facing starvation and under bombs and bullets. I express the gratitude of my people to all our brothers and friends who gave a support to Turkey’s independence struggle just like before the Independence War of Turkey. Of course, this precious people deserve the greatest appreciation.

My brothers; I thank you very much because you have protected the new Turkey’s struggle for independence. I thank each of you because you have protected the ideal of a great Turkey and the targets of a great Turkey. You have supported your prime minister, your party, the politics, your own future with your own will. 

Well, today is March 30. What did they say? They said “Chaos after March 25.” Correct. We saw the chaos. What was this chaos? This country found the opportunity to see the traitors who eavesdropped on the Foreign Ministry and committed treachery by interfering in the national security of this state and people. That was their chaos plan. I’ve been saying for months that “We’ll walk into their dens.”

Now, from time to time, journalists ask me whether I will make a balcony speech this year. Ok, first, what are you expecting out of a balcony speech? Second, why don’t you ask the same to the leaders of the opposition parties? But they [opposition leaders] have no such target. They will keep silent but will claim their win. Regardless of whether he receives 26, 27 or 28 percent, the general directorate [CHP leader] will say he won the elections. The other [MHP] will claim his win although he gets 13, 14 or 15 percent. Why? Because they have spent their lives this way. But what did your brother say? “I’ll quit party leadership if we cannot be the first party.” Politics requires honor. Politics requires nobility. If you cannot enrich your positions, quit. This general directorate [CHP leader] once said he would quit politics if he remains below 40 percent. He got 26, did he go? No. He won’t go this time either. The other oen has occupied this seat for the last 16 or 17 years. Will he go? No.

The message our precious people gave is very clear. The people gave a clear message to Turkey and to the world: What did they say? They said “We are here.” They said, “The Turkish people are impassable.” “We are the owners of this country. the people will not bow and Turkey is invincible.”

Those who managed could flee. More can flee tomorrow. I have filed criminal complaints about some of them; I said they can also flee. As I have said, from now on, we’ll walk into their dens. They will pay for this. How can you threaten our national security? Syria is in a state of war with us. They are harassing our planes. They have martyred our 74 brothers and the Süleyman Şah Tomb is our lands. An attack against there is an attack against 780,000 square kilometers. Can we remain silent about such a thing? But these traitors wiretapped this meeting and leaked it to the world.

They are worse than Assassins [of the Middle Ages]. They are beyond them. My brothers; there is a very important message conveyed by our people through the polls. Our people have made their objection and their stance against attempts to change the direction of Turkey through non-political ways.

Election results show who lost, more than they show who won. Please listen to these words carefully: Today, unethical politics has lost. Tape politics, montage politics, slander and denigration politics has lost. Politics without building something, politics without plans and projects, without goals, has lost. O, General Manager [referring to the main opposition CHP leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu], o, so-called party chair! What would you speak of during your election campaign if you didn’t have those tapes? We spoke of plans, projects. They spoke of lies, dissimulation, slander, sedition and intrigue. The status quo has taken a huge blow today. Dirty relations and unnamed alliances have lost today. Every kind of tutelage and to all kinds of tutelage-dictating centers has been hit with a full Ottoman slap by the nation. Arrogance has lost today. Pride has lost today. The arrogance that looks down on its nation, belittling it and making light of its choices has lost in the ballot box one again.

You know those people who used that blood-dripping, anger-inducing, hate-mongering headlines… Today, they have lost heavily again. O, Pennsylvania [referring to U.S.-based Islamic cleric Fethullah Gülen], o, the media who support them from here, o, the capital that supported them… Weren’t you positioned against democracy? Democracy has won at the ballot box today. The will has won at the ballot box. What happened to the messages that you gave with an expectation of a coup in Turkey in 2014 in the 21st century? Look at this, the nation is here. The people are here. Those who’d love to plot a route for Turkey through extra-political interventions have lost today at the ballot box. Where are you now?

The politics of lies, slander, blackmail and montage has been destroyed today. The solution method of all problems in Turkey is politics and democracy unquestionably. Whatever problem one has, politics should be used for the solution. Whatever problem one has, it should be solved at the ballot box.

As the AK Party, we will analyze the election results, as we have done in all other elections. [Analyzing the reasons] why we got 46-47-48 [percent of votes all over Turkey] and we could not increase this [rate] to 55 or 60 [percent]. We will sit and discuss this now. And after discussing these and coming up with results we will continue on our path after working on our flaws. But is the opposition occupied with such an issue? No. They have always caught unprepared in the elections. We will wholeheartedly evaluate the feelings of people who have voted for us and my citizens who have not voted for us. The opposition should read the message people have given in the ballot in the correct way. The opposition should do healthy self-criticism.

Do you know what made me hurt? I put aside what has been done against me after what has been done at the Foreign Ministry. Have you heard of any statement from this opposition?

Did you hear them saying “This is treason, this is espionage, we are taking sides with the government against this.” Can those who take sides with Pennsylvania say these? This was what they said whey said there will be chaos after [March] 25. They said the economy would collapse; did it? We will get stronger in the economy, in politics and in democracy.

Come on, let’s turn over a new page. O, the opposition, o, the people who have given their hearts to the opposition. Turkey’s interests must be over everything else. We said we are ready to lose if Turkey would win. The mentality that the AK Party should lose regardless of what consequences it will have for Turkey must be a thing of the past. The principles, values must be the fundamentals of the politics. Let’s raise Turkey together. Those who are used by Turkey’s enemies as pawns were disappointed today. These pawns once again saw how glorious, how noble, how heroic these people are.

We have come [to power] to serve the people, not to be a master over them. We are only the porters of a big stone on the path. We were not here yesterday, but this path will continue. As long as the world stands, God willing, our flag will continue to wave in the highest bastions forever. For this, what have we said? We have said one nation with Turks, Kurds, Laz, Caucasians, Abkhazians, Bosniaks and Roma people. I do not love a Turk for being a Turk, a Kurd for being a Kurd, or a Laz for being a Laz. I love them because Allah who has created me has created the 77 million people. We do not discriminate. One group is making political Kurdishness, one group is making political Turkishness. The CHP says ‘I am a party of the coasts.’ One nation, one country, one flag, one state.

They have entered our institutions over in 35-40 years. They infiltrated wherever. We became the victim of our good intentions.  Now it is time to comb them out, within the law. Why? Because from now on, neither the nation nor we will show tolerance to such networks. Look, thank God, we have been granted the proud and honor of being at the forefront of this path. Maybe tomorrow we will not be in these posts. We have tried to glorify whatever task my God has given us. After now, as long as this body has this life, God willing, we will try to loyally adopt whatever tasks are bestowed onto us. If God pleases, we will put in an effort to laud our flag and our land as the servants of this country and nation until our last breath. We are highly relieved. We feel the pride of carrying the great Turkish flag, which we took over from our predecessors, to high bastions.

We are at joy to have strengthened politics. We have no doubt that the great AK Party family will behave with this consciousness. Today, nobody should be sad or sorry. The 77 million people should know that Turkey won today. Every single individual in the 77 million people should know that the new Turkey won today. This is the wedding day of the new Turkey.

Today, the targets of 2023 won, the resolution process won, the process of national unity and fraternity won. Not even one person among the 77 million lost, because a cadre that is ready to serve them without any discrimination is in office. They may think differently; they may have voted for different political parties; they may have cursed us. They may have insulted us. We have stomached most of them; we have taken many of them to court. The worthless opposition, the status quo, coup attempts and tutelage have lost. Immoral and indecent politics have lost. I am thanking once more my nation. I am thanking those grandmothers who have prayed non-stop for months, even children. I am thanking young people, my sisters and the gentlemen.

I am thanking my brothers who have trusted us and who have believed in us. I am thanking those who have prayed for Turkey, for Turkey’s stability everywhere in the world. I am thanking my organization, from my headquarters to provincial organizations, district organizations, small town organizations and polling-station observers. I am thanking one by one our women’s branches, our youth branches, all of them one by one. I wish all the success to the elected mayors, city council members, metropolitan council members, village and neighborhood heads. I wish from God that these elections bring goodness to Turkey. May God protect my country, my nation.

The nation is invincible. I say happy victory; let our victory be blessed. I salute all of you from my heart and I am asking, “Are we ready?”

We walked together on these roads. We got wet together under the pouring rain. In all the songs I am listening to now, everything reminds me of you. Everything reminds me of Turkey.
_________
Trans. courtesy of Hurriyyet

Sunday, March 30, 2014

The US is paying the cost of supporting the House of Saud as cracks begin to appear

    Sunday, March 30, 2014   No comments
PATRICK COCKBURN
President Obama flew to Saudi Arabia to patch up relations with King Abdullah at the end of last week in his first visit in five years. The alliance had been strained by Saudi anger over US negotiations with Iran on its nuclear programme and Obama’s refusal to go to war in Syria to overthrow Bashar al-Assad last year. For its part, the US is upset by Saudi Arabia covertly supporting al-Qa’ida-type movements in Syria and elsewhere.

The US-Saudi relationship is a peculiar one in that it is between a reactionary theocratic monarchy – it is the only place in the world where women are not allowed to drive – and a republic that claims to be the chief exponent of secular democracy. The linkage is so solid that it was scarcely affected by 9/11, though al-Qa’ida and the hijackers had demonstrably close connections to Saudi Arabia.

The Saudis want to persuade the US to make a greater effort to overthrow Assad in Syria. Saudi Crown Prince Salman bin Abdulaziz told the Arab League in Kuwait last week that “the legitimate Syrian resistance has been betrayed by the international community and left easy prey to tyrant forces”. This is a bit rich, coming from the potential ruler of a state in which every expression of dissent is being crushed, and the number of political prisoners could be as high as 30,000. Minor criticism of the state on Twitter is enough for Saudis to be called in by the security services.

On 3 February, King Abdullah promulgated a decree that made Saudi jihadis fighting abroad liable to 20 years in prison on their return. The idea is to choke off the supply of Saudi recruits volunteering to fight in Syria, said to number 2,500 at present. Previously, Saudis were able to reach Syria with ease, a sign that the government was turning a blind eye, but now it is saying it will jail them if they come back.

The U-turn may not work: fighting in Syria has popular support in Saudi Arabia; Wahhabism, a puritanical and intolerant variant of Islam, is the ideology of the Saudi state which regards Shia and Sufi Muslims as heretics little different from Christians and Jews. Having stoked hostility to Iran and Shia Islam for so long, the government may not find it easy to demonise and punish Saudis who fought against them.

The criminalisation of the jihadis is designed in part to persuade the Americans that Saudi Arabia is not encouraging Jabhat al-Nusra and the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (Isis), both al-Qa’ida-type groups, to take over northern Syria and western Iraq. On the contrary, the Saudis say they want to fund and supply a third military force in Syria that will fight both President Assad and the anti-Assad jihadi forces.


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Friday, March 28, 2014

Turkey, Erdogan, denounced as "villainous" the leaking of a recording of top security officials discussing fabricating excuse for military action against Syria, blocks YouTube

    Friday, March 28, 2014   No comments
Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan on Thursday denounced as "villainous" the leaking of a recording of top security officials discussing possible military action in Syria to the video-sharing site YouTube (Watch part of the conversation on youtube).

Turkish authorities ordered the shutdown of the site.
Erdogan's foreign minister Ahmet Davutoglu called the posting a "declaration of war," an apparent reference to an escalating power struggle between Erdogan and rivals.
The anonymous posting was an audio file with photographs of the officials involved.

It followed similar releases on social media in recent weeks that Erdogan has cast as a plot by his political enemies, particularly a Turkish Islamic cleric based in the United States, to unseat him ahead of March 30 elections.
The posting took the campaign to a higher level, impinging on a highly sensitive top-level meeting of security officials.
"They even leaked a national security meeting," Erdogan said at a campaign rally. "This is villainous, this is dishonesty ... Who are you serving by doing audio surveillance of such an important meeting?"
Reuters could not verify the authenticity of the recording.
The account posted what it presented as a recording of intelligence chief Hakan Fidan discussing possible military operations in Syria with Davutoglu, Deputy Chief of military Staff Yasar Guler and other senior officials.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Hundreds of Armenian families had to flee Kessab in northern Syria after the latest incursion by Turkey-backed rebels

    Thursday, March 27, 2014   No comments
Asbarez.com reports that the Armenian populated villages of Kessab were the target of three days of brutal cross-border attacks from Turkey by al-Qaeda affiliated armed bands, which have cost 80 lives and forced the civilian population of the area to flee to neighboring hills. Some 670 Armenian families, the majority of the population of Kessab, were evacuated by the local Armenian community leadership to safer areas in neighboring Basit and Latakia.


In a written statement, the Armenian National Committee-International (ANC-I) condemned the attacks and Turkey’s active role in aiding and abetting extremist groups in their targeted attacks against the Christian and minority populations in Syria. “For months, we have warned the international community of the imminent threat posed by extremist foreign fighters against the Christian minority population in Syria,” noted the ANC-I statement. “These vicious and unprompted attacks against the Armenian-populated town and villages of Kessab are the latest examples of this violence, actively encouraged by neighboring Turkey.”


The ANC-I called on all states with any influence in the Syrian conflict to use all available means to stop these attacks against the peaceful civilian population of Kessab, to allow them to return to their homes in safety and security. “In the last one hundred years, this is the third time that the Armenians are being forced to leave Kessab and in all three cases, Turkey is the aggressor or on the side of the aggressors,” the organization charged.

According to news reports, the armed incursion began earlier on Friday, with rebels associated with Al-Qaeda’s al-Nusra Front, Sham al-Islam and Ansar al-Sham crossing the Turkish border and attacking the Armenian civilian population of Kessab. Snipers targeted the civilian population and launched mortar attacks on the town and the surrounding villages. According to eyewitness accounts, the attackers crossed the Turkish border with Syria openly passing through Turkish military barracks. According to Turkish media reports, the attackers carried their injured back to Turkey for treatment.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Saudi Arabia’s new terrorism law and a series of related royal decrees create a legal framework that appears to criminalize virtually all dissident thought or expression as terrorism

    Thursday, March 20, 2014   No comments
The sweeping provisions in the measures, all issued since February 2014, threaten to close down altogether Saudi Arabia’s already extremely restricted space for free expression.

“Saudi authorities have never tolerated criticism of their policies, but these recent laws and regulations turn almost any critical expression or independent association into crimes of terrorism,” said Joe Stork, deputy Middle East and North Africa director. “These regulations dash any hope that King Abdullah intends to open a space for peaceful dissent or independent groups.”


The new regulations come amid a campaign to silence independent activists and peaceful dissidents through intimidation, investigations, arrests, prosecutions, and imprisonment. On March 9, the prominent human rights activists Abdullah al-Hamid and Mohammed al-Qahtani completed their first year in prison, serving 11 and 10-year sentences, respectively, for criticizing the government’s human rights abuses and for membership in an unlicensed political and civil rights organization.

Two other human rights activists, Waleed Abu al-Khair and Mikhlif al-Shammari, recently lost appeals and will probably begin their three-month and five-year respective sentences soon for criticizing Saudi authorities.


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President Obama's Nowruz Message to the Iranian People (with Persian)

    Thursday, March 20, 2014   No comments

President Obama's Nowruz Message to the Iranian People (with Persian)

 



President Obama sends best wishes to everyone celebrating Nowruz. In his video message, the President speaks directly to the people and leaders of the Islamic Republic of Iran about the possibility for the first time in many years of a new chapter in the history of Iran and its role in the world -- including a better relationship with the United States and the American people.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Edward Snowden: NSA whistleblower's leaks prompt US to make control of internet truly worldwide

    Wednesday, March 19, 2014   No comments
The web may be thought of as being worldwide, but from its inception the internet was created, controlled and overseen largely by a single country: the United States. Now, however, the US Government has said it intends to yield the reins to the global digital community.

...
The internet was developed as a US Defence Department initiative during the 1960s, and it remained an American project even as it grew into a global consumer tool. In order to maintain a unified, worldwide web, a single master list of web addresses was created, called the Domain Name System (DNS). Jon Postel, a computer scientist at the University of California in Los Angeles, was the first person responsible for DNS, a privilege that earned him the nickname “God”.


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RUSSIA WARNS WEST IT MAY CHANGE ITS STANCE ON IRAN

    Wednesday, March 19, 2014   No comments
 Russia may revise its stance in the Iranian nuclear talks amid tensions with the West over Ukraine, a senior diplomat warned Wednesday.

Russia's Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said, according to the Interfax news agency, that Russia didn't want to use the Iranian nuclear talks to "raise the stakes," but may have to do so in response to the actions by the United States and the European Union.


The statement is the most serious threat of retaliation by Moscow after the U.S. and the EU announced sanctions against Russia over its annexation of Ukraine's Crimea region.

Ryabkov, who is Russia's envoy to the Iranian talks, said that Russia considers the "reunification" with Crimea as far more important than the developments surrounding the Iranian nuclear program.


Monday, March 17, 2014

Syrian Rebels Offer to ‘Trade’ Golan to Israel for military support

    Monday, March 17, 2014   No comments
Influential Syrian rebel Kamal al-Labwani’s comments today have raised the prospect of even further splintering the rebels, as he offered to “trade” the Golan Heights to Israel in return for cash and military aid for the rebellion.

Israel occupied the Golan Heights during 1967, and the prospect of returning the heights as part of an overall peace deal with Syria has been repeatedly broached, most recently in 2008.


Labwani suggested that instead, an agreement by the rebels to sign over claims to the Golan in perpetuity could be had for cash concessions as well as an Israeli-imposed “no-fly zone” across southern Syria.

Labwani’s comments are just another effort to get a foreign power sucked into the civil war on the rebels’ side, and such a promise would likely not be honored by the Islamist rebels that dominate the civil war at any rate.

source: al-arab

Islamic scholar Gülen calls conditions in Turkey worse than military coup

    Monday, March 17, 2014   No comments
Gülen and Erdoğan
Islamic scholar Fethullah Gülen, who has inspired a worldwide network active in education, charity and outreach, has described large-scale slander, pressure and oppression his Hizmet movement currently faces as worse than that seen during anti-democratic military coup regimes witnessed by Turkey. He also calls on his supporters to remain patient and steadfast and to not despair.

“What we are seeing today is 10 times worse than what we saw during the military coups,” he said, adding to that “we face similar treatment [as seen during the military coups] but at the hands of civilians who we think follow the same faith as us.”


Gülen's remarks represent a stark reminder of how he feels today in comparison to past military coups, during which he said he was prosecuted and persecuted. His comparison confirms what Turkish opposition parties are saying; namely, that the government in Turkey has staged a civilian coup and suspended the constitution and the rule of law in the country following the breakout of a corruption scandal on Dec. 17 of last year.

“But despite everything, I don't complain. … All we can do is say ‘This, too, shall pass,' and remain patient,” Gülen added. He also predicted that the current oppression engaged in by the government will not last long. “Aggressors will be turned upside down when they least expect it,” Gülen said.

Algeria on Sunday sent more anti- riot troops to the province of Ghardaia, vowing not to withdraw any units until calm has been restored

    Monday, March 17, 2014   No comments
Interior Minister Tayeb Belaiz told reporters in downtown Ghardaia, 600 km south of Algiers, that local authorities and interim Prime Minister Youcef Yousfi agreed to open an investigation to determine the causes behind sectarian clashes between the Arab Chaamba community and the Mozabite Berbers of the Muslim Ibadi sect.


Belaiz added that interim prime minister pledged to bring to justice all people involved in the conflict that has been shaking Ghardaia for more than three months and has claimed the lives of more than 13 people, three of whom were killed late on Saturday.

The prime minister rushed to Ghardaia on late Saturday, as the government attempted to contain the growing violence in the desert city.

The clashes between Mozabite Berbers and Arabs started in December 2013 in different parts of the city and elsewhere in neighboring localities. After long weeks of violent clashes, the shaky truce established by the government and elders of the two parties broke.

Some 3,000 anti-riot troops were deployed in this city that is strategically located near the oil and gas rich regions in the Algeria's desert.

On Saturday, the governor of Ghardaia said that interior ministry decided to deploy more anti-riot troops in the city to cope with escalating sectarian violence.

So far, more than 13 people were killed during these clashes and around hundred were wounded, while many stores, farms and homes were set on fire.

In recent years, increasing reports of violence have emerged in different localities in this desert province of 200,000 inhabitants, which was previously known for as a quiet, tourist destination region.

______
Source: Global Times

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Syrian government forces and Hezbollah seize border town of Yabroud

    Sunday, March 16, 2014   No comments
Syrian Armed Froces
Syria on Sunday said its army took control of a key town on the Lebanese border, the alleged source of several car bombs that have struck Beirut, racking up another strategic gain for the government as the conflict enters its fourth year.

However, some rebels denied that the Syrian government forces, backed in battle by fighters from the Lebanese Shiite movement Hezbollah, were in full control of Yabroud.

The Syrian state news agency, SANA, said the Syrian army seized Yabroud a little more than 24 hours after troops first stormed its eastern limits on Friday night. Government forces have been closing in on the town for months as they attempt to cut supply lines across Lebanon’s porous border.


SANA reported that “terrorist groups” in the town had been “devastated” and that government forces were combing the area for explosives. Activists said government forces were in control of the majority of the town, although there were still rebel-held pockets.

Hezbollah’s television channel, Al-Manar, broadcast footage from what it said was Yabroud’s town center Sunday. Men in fatigues raised a Syrian flag on a pole in the middle of the street, while another held aloft a portrait of Assad.

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Saudi Arabia bans 50 baby names

    Saturday, March 15, 2014   No comments
Saudi Arabia’s interior ministry has banned 50 given names including “foreign” names, names related to royalty and those it considers to be blasphemous.
Saudis will no longer be able to give their children names such as Amir (prince), Linda or Abdul Nabi (Slave of the Prophet) after the civil affairs department at the ministry issued the list, according to Saudi news sites.
It justified the ban by saying that the names either contradicted the culture or religion of the kingdom, or were foreign, or “inappropriate”.

The names fit into at least three categories: those that offend perceived religious sensibilities, those that are affiliated to royalty and those that are of non-Arabic or non-Islamic origin.


Malaak (angel)
Abdul Aati
Abdul Naser
Abdul Musleh
Nabi (prophet)
Nabiyya (female prophet)
Amir (prince)
Sumuw (highness)
Al Mamlaka (the kingdom)
Malika (queen)
Mamlaka (kingdom)
Tabarak (blessed)
Nardeen
Maya
Linda
Randa
Basmala (utterance of the name of God)
Taline
Aram
Nareej
Rital
Alice
Sandy
Rama (Hindu god)
Maline
Elaine
Inar
Maliktina
Lareen
Kibrial
Lauren
Binyamin (Arabic for Benjamin)
Naris
Yara
Sitav
Loland
Tilaj
Barrah
Abdul Nabi
Abdul Rasool
Jibreel (angel Gabriel)
Abdul Mu’een
Abrar
Iman
Bayan
Baseel
Wireelam

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Thursday, March 13, 2014

UN criticizes US for human rights failings on NSA, guns and drones

    Thursday, March 13, 2014   No comments
The US came under sharp criticism at the UN human rights committee in Geneva on Thursday for a long list of human rights abuses that included everything from detention without charge at Guantánamo, drone strikes and NSA surveillance, to the death penalty, rampant gun violence and endemic racial inequality.

At the start of a two-day grilling of the US delegation, the committee’s 18 experts made clear their deep concerns about the US record across a raft of human rights issues. Many related to faultlines as old as America itself, such as guns and race.
Other issues were relative newcomers. The experts raised questions about the National Security Agency’s surveillance of digital communications in the wake of Edward Snowden’s revelations. It also intervened in this week’s dispute between the CIA and US senators by calling for declassification and release of the 6,300-page report into the Bush administration’s use of torture techniques and rendition that lay behind the current CIA-Senate dispute.

The committee is charged with upholding the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), a UN treaty that the US ratified in 1992. The current exercise, repeated every five years, is a purely voluntarily review, and the US will face no penalties should it choose to ignore the committee’s recommendations, which will appear in a final report in a few weeks’ time.

But the US is clearly sensitive to suggestions that it fails to live up to the human rights obligations enshrined in the convention – as signalled by the large size of its delegation to Geneva this week. And as an act of public shaming, Thursday’s encounter was frequently uncomfortable for the US.

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Thousands bid farewell to Gezi victim Berkin with anti-Erdoğan slogans

    Thursday, March 13, 2014   No comments
Tens of thousands marched through Şişli, İstanbul.
Thousands of demonstrators took to the streets on Tuesday and Wednesday throughout the country to protest the death of Berkin Elvan, a 15-year-old boy who died on Tuesday after being in a coma for nine months after being hit on the head by a tear gas canister during last summer's Gezi Park protests, as Turkey bid a heartbreaking farewell to its youngest Gezi victim.

A huge crowd began to gather around the Okmeydanı cemevi in İstanbul where a funeral ceremony was held for the young boy. The crowd chanted slogans such as “Berkin Elvan, the child of hope,” “The murderer state will be called to account” and “Tayyip! Killer!” They called on Prime Minister Erdoğan to resign. Berkin's father, Sami Elvan, greeted the crowd and received their messages of condolence.

Berkin was on his way to buy bread on the morning of June 16 when he was caught up in street protests in İstanbul's Okmeydanı neighborhood. He was hit at close range by a tear gas canister fired by riot police. He slipped into a coma and fought for his life for 269 days. Berkin weighed just 16 kilograms the day he passed away.

Berkin's family announced his death via Twitter on Tuesday morning. “We lost our Berkin at 7 a.m. this morning. May he rest in peace,” the message said. Several police officers have been questioned about Berkin's head injury but no one has been charged


Monday, March 10, 2014

Iran: Violence against Muslims in CAR is ‘genocide’

    Monday, March 10, 2014   No comments
The horrific violent behavior against Muslims in the Central African Republic is a “kind of genocide”, Iranian Parliament Speaker Ali Larijani said in a meeting on Wednesday with his South African counterpart Max Sisulu in Cape Town.

This issue poses a threat to the Central African Republic and actions must be taken to stop it, Larijani noted.


The Central African Republic has been facing a crisis since December 2013, when the Christian Anti-balaka militia launched attacks against the mostly Muslim Seleka group.

Many Muslims have fled to other parts of the Central African Republic or to other countries to avoid being killed by the Christian militia.

Source: TT

Tutu explaining his support for Israeli Apartheid Week: Israel's humiliation of Palestinians 'familiar to black South Africans'

    Monday, March 10, 2014   No comments
The Desmond and Leah Tutu Legacy Foundation has voiced its support for Israeli Apartheid Week, saying the successful boycotting of apartheid South Africa was indispensable in bringing about its downfall.

“People who are denied their dignity and rights deserve the solidarity of their fellow human beings,” Anglican Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu said on Sunday night.


“Those who turn a blind eye to injustice perpetuate injustice. If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor.

“I have witnessed the racially segregated roads and housing in the Holy Land that reminded me so much of the conditions we experienced in South Africa under apartheid.

Kofi Annan: Qatar, Saudi Arabia and Turkey have supplied the “Syrian opposition” with money and arms

    Monday, March 10, 2014   No comments
Who armed the Syrian Rebels?
Former UN Secretary General and former international envoy to Syria Kofi Annan said Qatar, Saudi Arabia and Turkey have supplied the “Syrian opposition” with money and arms.

In an interview with the Austrian Die Presse newspaper, Annan noted that some regional and Western countries rejected the six-point plan which he presented for solving the crisis in Syria because they had differences with the Syrian leadership or with Iran, Russia and China, adding that those countries then formed the so-called “Friends of Syria” group.


He reiterated the need to solve the crisis in Syria by peaceful and political means, expressing his opposition to any form of military intervention.

Annan, who was appointed as UN Special Envoy to Syria in February 2012, highlighted that the Syrian government showed positive reaction to his efforts early in his mission with regard to declaring a limited ceasefire while the other parties rejected that step.

The former international envoy stressed that Iran must be part of the solution in Syria given its great capabilities that allow it to exert an influence in the region and play an objective role to end the crisis, pointing out that Saudi Arabia opposed any Iranian role as it views Tehran as a rival in the regional and international arena.

Annan underscored that what made the US President Barack Obama hesitant to launch any military action against Syria despite pressure by the Pentagon and the US’s Western and Gulf allies was because of the fact that the situation in Syria is totally different from Libya or any other country given its sensitive geopolitical position.

He said that belief matched his visions to end the crisis in Syria peacefully when he told everybody that there could not be a military solution to the “conflict” in Syria, adding that no full agreement on his proposals was reached at the UN Security Council, “and that was why I had to quit my mission as an international envoy to Syria”.

Annan quit his position as an envoy and informed the UN of his intention not to renew his mission, which lasted until August 31 of 2012.

Annan expressed regret that Austria withdrew its forces from the UN Disengagement Observer Force (UNDOF) in the occupied Syrian Golan, considering that the withdrawal of some Western states’ forces from Golan reflects these countries’ lack of desire and indifference to solve the crisis in Syria.
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Source: Die Presse

Thursday, March 06, 2014

Saudis, UAE, Bahrain withdraw envoys from Qatar in security dispute: the move will further undermine the coherence of the support that both Saudi Arabia and Qatar are providing rebels groups in Syria

    Thursday, March 06, 2014   No comments
A long-simmering row between Qatar and other Gulf states over its links with the Muslim Brotherhood and the role of its television station, Al-Jazeera, has exploded into the open with an angry shouting match and the withdrawal of ambassadors.
A joint statement by Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain said they were withdrawing ambassadors from the Qatari capital Doha because it had failed to stick to an agreement by the six Gulf states not to interfere in each others’ affairs.
The statement was released after a meeting in Riyadh of foreign ministers of the six Gulf countries - the other two are Kuwait and Oman - broke up in acrimony on Tuesday night, according to reports in the local media.

...
Qatar has said it “regretted” the decision but would not retaliate. It said it was committed to GCC agreements but admitted to "differences” over unspecified “issues".
David Roberts, author of a recent book on Qatari foreign policy, said that the other Gulf states had previously entertained unrealistic expectations that Qatar’s approach might change when the new ruler, Emir Tamim, came to power last year after the abdication of his father.
“Saudi Arabia and the UAE are in such a security-focused state of mind at the moment that it is the only lens they can see things through," he said. “Qatar’s approach is thus seen as deeply, deeply unhelpful.”
The rift is unlikely to have knock-on effects immediately, despite the importance of the region’s oil and gas supplies.
But it will further undermine the coherence of the support that both Saudi Arabia and Qatar are providing rebels groups in Syria.
Each has supported different rebel militias, and the lack of co-ordination and in-fighting on the ground has frustrated the rebels' western backers.
The US and UK had hoped that the two Gulf powers would more closely align their strategy after Emir Tamim took over, but those hopes look set to be dashed.

Wednesday, March 05, 2014

Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain withdrew their ambassadors from Qatar

    Wednesday, March 05, 2014   No comments
GCC states
Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain withdrew their ambassadors from Qatar on Wednesday in an unprecedented public split between Gulf Arab allies who have fallen out over the role of Islamists in a region in turmoil.

Qatar's cabinet voiced "regret and surprise" at the decision by the fellow-members of the six-nation Gulf Cooperation Council, but said Doha would not pull out its own envoys and that it remained committed to GCC security and stability.

The Saudi-led trio said they had acted because Qatar failed to honor a GCC agreement signed on November 23 not to back "anyone threatening the security and stability of the GCC whether as groups or individuals - via direct security work or through political influence, and not to support hostile media".

Saudi Arabia and the UAE are fuming especially over Qatar's support for the Muslim Brotherhood, an Islamist movement whose political ideology challenges the principle of dynastic rule.

They also resent the way Doha has sheltered influential Brotherhood cleric Yusuf Qaradawi and given him regular airtime on its pan-Arab satellite television channel Al Jazeera.

The GCC, which normally keeps its disputes under wraps, is a pro-Western alliance of monarchies set up in the 1980s to counter Iranian influence in the Gulf, and includes several of the world's biggest producers and exporters of oil and gas.

Kuwait and Oman did not join the diplomatic rebuke to Qatar. Kuwait's parliament speaker Marzouq al-Ghanim said he was concerned by its implications. Oman has not commented.

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Tuesday, March 04, 2014

The Ajnad al-Sham Islamic Union: Islamist alliances have emerged to overshadow the rest

    Tuesday, March 04, 2014   No comments
Like everywhere else in Syria, the rebel groups fighting in the Damascus region are badly divided on the ground.

A year ago, one could identify at least a handful of rival alliances among the many dozens of factions in and around the Syrian capital. All these factions seemed to be just as busy splitting from each other as they were fighting the regime. But in the past few months, as new money has started to flood in from abroad, a haphazard process of unification has begun to yield results. Today, although many smaller groups continue to fight on separately alongside them, two Islamist alliances have emerged to overshadow the rest.


THE ISLAM ARMY

The most well-known and probably largest faction in Damascus is the Islam Army of Zahran Alloush. From humble roots in the northeastern satellite town of Douma in 2011, it has grown into one of Syria’s largest guerrilla groups, with affiliates in several areas of the country. Formerly known as the Islam Brigade, it took its current name at a ceremony marking the inclusion of new groups on September 29, 2013.

While many of the Islam Army’s subfactions seem to have been cobbled together from local rebel groups that began without any discernible ideology, its leadership is firmly Islamist: Alloush is a longtime Salafi activist and the son of a Saudi Arabia–based theologian. His virulently sectarian rhetoric has found support among like-minded groups, and in November 2013 the Islam Army became a founding faction in the Islamic Front, a large, countrywide alliance that seeks to transform Syria into a Sunni theocracy.


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Monday, March 03, 2014

President Barack Obama talks about Iran, the Middle East, Syria, Saudi Arabia, the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, and U.S. foreign policy in general

    Monday, March 03, 2014   No comments
President Obama sitting down for an extensive interview
Obama to Israel -- Time Is Running Out

By Jeffrey Goldberg

When Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu visits the White House tomorrow, President Barack Obama will tell him that his country could face a bleak future -- one of international isolation and demographic disaster -- if he refuses to endorse a U.S.-drafted framework agreement for peace with the Palestinians. Obama will warn Netanyahu that time is running out for Israel as a Jewish-majority democracy. And the president will make the case that Netanyahu, alone among Israelis, has the strength and political credibility to lead his people away from the precipice.

In an hour long interview Thursday in the Oval Office, Obama, borrowing from the Jewish sage Rabbi Hillel, told me that his message to Netanyahu will be this: “If not now, when? And if not you, Mr. Prime Minister, then who?” He then took a sharper tone, saying that if Netanyahu “does not believe that a peace deal with the Palestinians is the right thing to do for Israel, then he needs to articulate an alternative approach." He added, "It’s hard to come up with one that’s plausible.”

Unlike Netanyahu, Obama will not address the annual convention of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, a pro-Israel lobbying group, this week -- the administration is upset with Aipac for, in its view, trying to subvert American-led nuclear negotiations with Iran. In our interview, the president, while broadly supportive of Israel and a close U.S.-Israel relationship, made statements that would be met at an Aipac convention with cold silence.

Obama was blunter about Israel’s future than I've ever heard him. His language was striking, but of a piece with observations made in recent months by his secretary of state, John Kerry, who until this interview, had taken the lead in pressuring both Netanyahu and the Palestinian leader, Mahmoud Abbas, to agree to a framework deal. Obama made it clear that he views Abbas as the most politically moderate leader the Palestinians may ever have. It seemed obvious to me that the president believes that the next move is Netanyahu’s.

...

I returned to this particularly sensitive subject. “Just to be clear,” I asked, “You don’t believe the Iranian leadership now thinks that your ‘all options are on the table’ threat as it relates to their nuclear program -- you don’t think that they have stopped taking that seriously?”

Obama answered: “I know they take it seriously.”

How do you know? I asked. “We have a high degree of confidence that when they look at 35,000 U.S. military personnel in the region that are engaged in constant training exercises under the direction of a president who already has shown himself willing to take military action in the past, that they should take my statements seriously,” he replied. “And the American people should as well, and the Israelis should as well, and the Saudis should as well.”

I asked the president if, in retrospect, he should have provided more help to Syria’s rebels earlier in their struggle. “I think those who believe that two years ago, or three years ago, there was some swift resolution to this thing had we acted more forcefully, fundamentally misunderstand the nature of the conflict in Syria and the conditions on the ground there,” Obama said. “When you have a professional army that is well-armed and sponsored by two large states who have huge stakes in this, and they are fighting against a farmer, a carpenter, an engineer who started out as protesters and suddenly now see themselves in the midst of a civil conflict -- the notion that we could have, in a clean way that didn’t commit U.S. military forces, changed the equation on the ground there was never true.”

He portrayed his reluctance to involve the U.S. in the Syrian civil war as a direct consequence of what he sees as America’s overly militarized engagement in the Muslim world: “There was the possibility that we would have made the situation worse rather than better on the ground, precisely because of U.S. involvement, which would have meant that we would have had the third, or, if you count Libya, the fourth war in a Muslim country in the span of a decade.”

...
 We also spent a good deal of time talking about the unease the U.S.'s Sunni Arab allies feel about his approach to Iran, their traditional adversary. I asked the president, “What is more dangerous: Sunni extremism or Shia extremism?”

I found his answer revelatory. He did not address the issue of Sunni extremism. Instead he argued in essence that the Shiite Iranian regime is susceptible to logic, appeals to self-interest and incentives.

“I’m not big on extremism generally,” Obama said. “I don’t think you’ll get me to choose on those two issues. What I’ll say is that if you look at Iranian behavior, they are strategic, and they’re not impulsive. They have a worldview, and they see their interests, and they respond to costs and benefits. And that isn’t to say that they aren’t a theocracy that embraces all kinds of ideas that I find abhorrent, but they’re not North Korea. They are a large, powerful country that sees itself as an important player on the world stage, and I do not think has a suicide wish, and can respond to incentives.”

This view puts him at odds with Netanyahu's understanding of Iran. In an interview after he won the premiership, the Israeli leader described the Iranian leadership to me as “a messianic apocalyptic cult.”

I asked Obama if he understood why his policies make the leaders of Saudi Arabia and other Arab countries nervous: “I think that there are shifts that are taking place in the region that have caught a lot of them off guard,” he said. "I think change is always scary."

Below is a complete transcript of our conversation. I’ve condensed my questions. The president’s answers are reproduced in full.

Bomb attacks by Sunni extremists in Lebanon have seen an increase in volunteers for the Shia militia that supports President Assad

    Monday, March 03, 2014   No comments
Hizbollah Supporters
Hizbollah, the militant Lebanese Shia group, is seeing a surge in recruitment as sectarian conflict spreads from the Syrian civil war, members of the group have told the Telegraph.
A spate of car bomb attacks against Shia towns and villages in Lebanon has caused a spike in the number of young men volunteering to fight for the group in Syria as the minority sect increasingly sees its own survival as tied to that of President Bashar al-Assad.
"All the men from this area are getting guns and asking to fight in Syria, whether they are already members of Hizbollah or not," said one supporter of the militia, who asked not to be named. "We are in a critical situation and we have to fight for the sake of the Shia."
He spoke sitting in a cafe in Hermel, a town of mainly Shia inhabitants in Lebanon's eastern Bekaa valley, that has long been a bastion for the secretive paramilitary group.
Once a sleepy country haunt, Hermal today has the feel of a town at war.

...
When the Telegraph met him again last week, all criticisms of Hizbollah were bygones.
Dissenters, he said, no longer had the privilege to question and criticise.
Now the Shia needed Hizbollah.
He spoke sitting at a table in an open air restaurant, beside the Orontos river, which, just a few miles down stream flows across the border into Syria. The tranquil seen was interrupted by shouting from the nearby highway and the air became acrid with smoke.
A group of youths had set fire to tyres, blocking the road as a protest because they wanted Hizbollah, and not the Lebanese national army to man the main checkpoint to enter the town. In times of peace, Hermel's Shia residents were happy to abide by the rules of the Lebanese national government, but, when feeling endangered they immediately reverted to militia they trust to protect them.
"The war is here now. It is across the borders and in out areas. We have to protect ourselves," the teacher said. "Believe me, now I would have no hesitation in sending even my own children to fight in Syria."


Sunday, March 02, 2014

Report: Obama pushes Israel to stop assassinations of Iran nuclear scientists

    Sunday, March 02, 2014   No comments
President Barack Obama is pressuring Israel to stop carrying out assassinations of top nuclear scientists in Iran as the Islamic Republic continues its negotiations with world powers over its uranium enrichment program, according to a new book.

Apart from pressure from Washington that Israel give up the assassination program, sources close to Israel's intelligence agencies told CBS News’s Dan Raviv that Mossad itself viewed the campaign as too dangerous to continue. Raviv, who was updating a book he co-wrote about the history of Israel's intelligence agencies, said the pressure form the Obama administration was “more than a hint.”

...

Meanwhile, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani told defense officials on Saturday the country had given up its nuclear program because owning weapons of mass destruction is a sin.

“Even if there were no NPT (nuclear non-proliferation treaty) or other treaties, our belief, our faith, our religion and principles tell us not to seek weapons of mass destruction,” Rouhani said.

In November, Iran agreed to stop enriching uranium beyond 20 percent and to dilute its already enriched stockpiles in return for an estimated $7 billion in sanctions relief. That deal came into effect January 20.

Following the latest round of Iran nuclear talks in Vienna on February 20, Iran and the P5+1 agreed to a framework on which to strike a final agreement within the coming months. Both sides have agreed to hold an additional round of talks in Vienna later this month.


Saturday, March 01, 2014

Jeff Bezos and the Imperial Paper; Washington Post’s prestige based on proximity to power

    Saturday, March 01, 2014   No comments
If the United States derived its might primarily from its economic power, the Washington Post would enjoy the same degree of international influence as, say, the Xinhua newspaper of Beijing. The two countries have roughly comparable outputs, with China’s GDP being about 80 percent the size of the US economy when adjusted for purchasing power, according to the IMF.
But a large part of what makes the United States a unique superpower is its role as the world’s military hegemon, reflected in part by its roughly 1,000 overseas bases. (China has none.)
It is this added power emanating from the Pentagon that helps confer an outsize authority to the opinion pages of the capital’s major paper. The Post’s status as a weathervane for the political winds of official Washington makes its views—unlike those of any other paper serving a city of a mere 630,000—virtually required reading for much of the world.

Billionaire Internet mogul Jeff Bezos seemed to understand this when he made his first foray into the industry by acquiring the Post, the go-to newspaper for Beltway policymakers, and not, for example, the Los Angeles Times, which boasts greater daily circulation.
And therein lies one underacknowledged key to understanding the Washington Post editorial board’s foreign-policy stances: As beneficiaries of the prestige and reach that come with worldwide US dominance, board members would just as soon advocate for policies that run counter to US power as they would trade places with their counterparts at, say, the Denver Post.
And yet this bipartisan support for Washington’s supremacy, which the Post mirrors, runs counter to the public will. A Washington Post blog post titled “Team America No Longer Wants to Be the World’s Police” (9/13/13) highlighted two polls showing that by a 2-to-1 margin, the US public disapproves of its government taking “the leading role among all other countries in the world in trying to solve international conflicts,” and disagrees that the US “should be ready and willing to use military force around the world.”

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