A turning point for Kurds across the Middle East

PKK against erdogan at federal palace By Rama, CC BY-SA 3.0 fr, via Wikimedia Commons

Kurds find themselves in the eye of a fast paced and changing storm in the Middle East. We travel to the Kurdistan Workers’ Party mountain stronghold in northern Iraq to get a first-hand take on a critical moment for the whole region. Karlos Zurutuza interviews Riza Altun, Kurdistan Communities Union executive member and co-founder of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party.

Turkey’s predominantly Kurdish southeast is witnessing, what is possibly, an unprecedented peak of violence. Fierce clashes between Turkish security forces and urban militants have levelled districts to the ground. The ongoing post-coup crackdown in Turkey targets Kurdish political representatives as new fronts also open for Kurds across the Middle East. ‘It’s a turning point for our people,’ says Riza Altun from the headquarters of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) in the Qandil mountain range.

REPORT: BOMBING MUSLIM COUNTRIES RESULTS IN MORE ATTACKS AT HOME

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According to a report from the European Counter Terrorism Centre (ECTC), European countries who are taking part in the US-led coalition against ISIS are more likely to suffer terrorist attacks at home– and the trend is expected to rise.

France ranked especially high on the list; Belgium, Germany, and the UK are also particularly susceptible to attacks. Ultimately however, the report also states that any country participating in the US-led coalition can expect a wave of “IS inspired attacks” from both organized groups and lone wolves. Attacks on European soil are not only expected to increase, but the ECTC expects attackers to shift away from symbolic targets and focus towards more soft targets with more civilian casualties. They expect the attacks carried out by organized groups to become more complex and could involve more car bomb style attacks similar to those in Iraq.

Israel Nearly Doubles Their Arsenal of Stealth Fighters. But Why?

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The office of the Israeli Prime Minister issued a statement Sunday that the country would be adding 17 new F-35 stealth fighters to their Air Force.

The 17 new jets would bring the total number of stealth fighters in the Israeli arsenal up to 50. This will create the capability for Israel to run two full squadrons of the jets.

The F-35, nicknamed the Adir (translated to glorious or mighty in Hebrew) is a stealth fighter manufactured by Lockheed Martin. The fighter is capable of vertical takeoff, supersonic speeds, and evading radar.

Malaysia Hits Out at Myanmar over ‘Ethnic Cleansing’

Kutupalong Refugee Camp in Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh - By Foreign and Commonwealth Office - Flickr, via Wikimedia Commons

Malaysia accused Myanmar of engaging in the “ethnic cleansing” of its Rohingya minority Saturday, as former UN chief Kofi Annan visited a burned out village in strife-torn Rakhine state.

Tens of thousands of Muslim Rohingya have fled their homes since a bloody crackdown by the Myanmar army in the western state of Rakhine sparked by a string of deadly attacks on police border posts in early October.

“The fact that only one particular ethnicity is being driven out is by definition ethnic cleansing,” Malaysia’s foreign ministry said in an unusually strongly-worded statement reported by AFP.

Interview: Tech Professional Narek Safaryan Talks About Renderforest

Narek Safaryan

Narek Safaryan is a 24-year-old entrepreneur from Yerevan, Armenia. He is the founder and CEO of Renderforest. What is that you ask?

“Renderforest is free online video and animation maker. Easily create family, wedding, or travel slideshows with music, promotional animations, explained or animated business videos, logo or intro animations, event invitations, kinetic typography and more.”

Narek is also the founder and CEO of Wildek Creative Videos which is a video production company for clientele seeking services beyond that of a basic start-up. He is a humble, but straight-forward individual with plenty of ideas, and a passion towards helping others brainstorm and achieve their long-term goals. Aside from business Narek has a love for the outdoors, and is a practicing snowboarder. This interview will delve a little deeper into his ideas, and how you could benefit from his expertise.

Berlin Finally Confesses US Using Ramstein for ‘Extra-Legal’ Drone Killings

By Airman 1st Class Kenny Holston, U.S. Air Force - , Public Domain, via Wikimedia Commons

After repeated questions from the Die Linke opposition party, the German government has admitted that the US Air Force is using its Ramstein base to control drone strikes which are used in anti-terror operations and to carry out extra-legal killings, German MP Andrej Hunko told Sputnik Deutschland.

The US Air Force is using its Ramstein Air Base in Germany to carry out controversial drone attacks, the German government has admitted after an inquiry from the opposition Die Linke party.

Die Linke deputy Andrej Hunko told Sputnik Deutschland that Berlin has finally admitted the role Ramstein plays in US drone attacks after denying it for several years.

Bahrain: Human Rights Lawyer Charged

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Accused Authorities of Online Surveillance

Bahraini authorities have charged a prominent human rights lawyer with offenses that violate his right to free expression.

Mohamed al-Tajer, who has defended opposition figures and rights activists, told Human Rights Watch that a public prosecutor brought three charges against him on November 10, 2016: insulting government institutions, inciting hatred of a religious sect, and misusing a telecommunications appliance. In a private WhatsApp voice message that public prosecutors cited in support of the charges, al-Tajer says, “It’s clear that there’s a team in the public prosecution and Cybercrimes division whose only job is to sit at computers and intercept every word about Sunnis, Saudi Arabia, hatred of the regime, or insults against the king.”

“Bahraini authorities have targeted journalists, activists, clerics, and politicians for peaceful dissent in the last few months, so it was only a matter of time before they came for the lawyers,” said Joe Stork, deputy Middle East director at Human Rights Watch. “Al-Tajer is facing charges because he stated the obvious: Bahraini authorities are snooping on their citizens and anyone who steps out of line online faces jail time.”

A call to arms underlines the opening of the Africa Trade Facilitation Forum

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The Africa Trade Facilitation Forum segment of the ongoing Africa Trade Week opened here today with a rallying call to urgently address trade facilitation gaps that impact on trade and the movement of goods in order to boost intra-African trade, deepen integration and transform African economies.

“Time is running out,” was the resounding warning at the high-level opening, where speakers stressed that “the global trading landscape is rapidly changing in ways that could leave Africa marginalized if steps are not urgently taken to boost African producers’ competitiveness and integration into international markets.”

Gambian President Jammeh to Concede Defeat in Election

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The Gambia’s autocratic president, Yahya Jammeh, who once claimed a “billion-year” mandate to rule, has agreed to concede defeat after a shock election loss to a real-estate developer.

Jammeh has ruled the tiny west African nation for more than two decades. If he goes ahead with a peaceful handover of power, challenger Adama Barrow will become its third head of state since independence in 1962.

The head of the Gambia’s electoral commission, Alieu Momarr Njai, said Jammeh would concede on Friday. A video of his speech has already been recorded and is being edited, sources told the Guardian.

Hearings on Khoi San Bill held with no translation into Khoi and San languages

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Portfolio committee hearings in Northern Cape off to shaky start.

A disturbing pattern emerged from the public hearings on the Traditional and Khoi San Leadership Bill last month, writes Nolundi Luwaya. For one thing, no attempt was made to provide translation into any of the Khoi and San languages – or even into Afrikaans.

Public hearings held by parliament’s Portfolio Committee on Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs on the Traditional and Khoi San Leadership Bill in the Northern Cape this week got off to a cynical start.

A pattern emerged from the first four hearings in Kimberley, Kuruman, Upington and Springbok. There was no provision made for translation services, not even into Afrikaans, let alone Khoi and San languages. Yet member after member of the Khoi and San communities who spoke stressed that recognition of their language and their culture were key priorities. Recognition of their language must precede recognition of leadership and structures, they said, because a people without a language and culture are not a people, even if they have leaders.

Psychedelic Science Announces Astounding Potential For Addiction Treatment

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Psychedelic science continues it’s redemptive march out of obscurity, and stigma. Decades of misinformation and propaganda is crumbling in a free fall accelerated by cannabis reforms. It’s a revolution conjuring up uses for psychedelics ignored since the days of 1960’s counter-culture. Among those benefits, researchers now say, is an uncanny ability to remedy the chains addiction.

The findings hail from a study done by numerous United Kingdom-based researchers. Unlike many, the study noted the “thousands of years” of historical use of psychedelics by indigenous cultures. It’s a facet sometimes referenced, but rarely held with any real credibility, or esteem. Rather, such native knowledge is left to languish well beyond the margins of academia. The UK study also acknowledged the role legislation has played in stunting psychedelic inquiry.

Spain’s failure to protect Doñana World Heritage site warrants UNESCO in danger listing

By José María Alvarez - http://www.consumer.es/web/es/medio_ambiente/fotografias/2008/11/17/182803.php (Consultado el 24 de marzo de 2009), CC BY 2.5, Wikimedia Commons

A Spanish wetland stopover for six million migratory birds is poised to become the first European Union site placed on UNESCO’s List of World Heritage in Danger.

Today is the deadline set by UNESCO for Spain to address threats to Doñana National Park in order to keep the site off the in danger list.

According to a WWF assessment, the country’s government has failed to cancel the destructive dredging of the Guadalquivir River as requested by the UNESCO World Heritage Committee. The committee urged the Spain to cancel the project and not to permit any future plans to deepen the river.

Gambia: Free Speech Ban Threatens Rights in Vote Aftermath

President Jammeh - By Photo courtesy IISD/Earth Negotiations Bulletin, CC BY-SA 3.0, Wikimedia Commons

Government Has Blocked Internet, Threatened Protest Ban

Gambian authorities should respect the rights of Gambians to peacefully express their views on the outcome of the December 1, 2016 presidential election. Prior to the vote, incumbent President Yahya Jammeh warned that protests against the election would not be permitted and the government blocked internet communications and international calls.

Although the two-week election campaign was peaceful, and included many large opposition and government rallies, President Jammeh responded to a November 29 media query about possible protests following the elections, saying, “In this country we don’t allow demonstrations.” At about 8 p.m. on November 30, the government blocked all internet services in Gambia as well as incoming and outgoing international calls. Online messaging services, such as WhatsApp and Viber, have been blocked for several weeks.

South Africa’s Zuma Faces No-Confidence Vote by Party’s Executive Panel

South African President Zuma. Public Domain, via Wikimedia Commons

South Africa’s scandal-plagued President Jacob Zuma is facing a vote of no confidence by the ruling party’s executive committee, media reported on Monday.

The ANC’s national executive committee (NEC) extended its scheduled meeting into a third day on Monday, after Tourism Minister Derek Hanekom proposed the motion of no-confidence on Saturday, said Beeld, an Afrikaans-language daily.

Committee members were locked in a “fiery and fierce” debate over whether a secret ballot should be used to decide the no-confidence motion, it added, citing unnamed sources who had attended the meeting, Reuters reported.

Journey to Standing Rock – Check Your Ego, Expectations, and Plans at the Door

Moon Rise at Standing Rock - Photo Credit - Debra Cohen

I regretted not having my computer and keyboard with me on this journey to Standing Rock. I knew that regardless of the notes I took and the promises I made myself to hold close to memory all of the things I wanted to share, much would be lost. Now, 5 days after returning home, that feeling is even stronger. I’ve meant to sit down and document the experience a hundred times since returning but haven’t done so until now for reasons unknown. I think part of the delay is feeling inadequate to the job along with the understanding that what I contributed to the effort is minuscule, in my mind almost insignificant and the juxtaposition of that feeling with the anticipation when we first started out is jolting. I have no idea where this narrative will go. I don’t plan to do very much editing and if it goes on and on and on and you choose to leave it behind, that’s okay! I can tell you I came home changed and challenged as if this is the culmination of 65 years of the journey so far. Here goes……

* If you plan to go to Standing Rock, be sure to check your ego and white self at the door when you leave your house. This is a hard lesson for many of us. It was humbling to say the least, to be in a community where my face and experience were part of a most noticeable minority; where my thoughts about what/how things should or should not go are absolutely meaningless and quite frankly, disdained by the native people who are on their own sacred land and IN CHARGE of every iota of planning, decision making and definition. I was reminded of the lessons I am still learning from Black Lives Matter – support does NOT mean leadership or decision making. Support means accepting that we are limited in our understanding and that often those whom we support have every right and reason to look at our faces and first see a historical enemy.

Major Foreign Policy Shift: Turkey Abandoning EU for SCO

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Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan said on November 20 that Turkey did not need to join the European Union «at all costs». Instead, it could become part of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), or Shanghai Pact. The Turkish leader said he had already discussed the idea with Russian President Vladimir Putin and his Kazakh counterpart Nursultan Nazarbayev.

The SCO is a Eurasian political, economic, and military organization founded in 2001 in Shanghai. Its members are Russia, China, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan. Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan speak Turkic languages.

India and Pakistan are to become full-fledged members by the next meeting at Astana in 2017. Mongolia, India, Iran, Pakistan and Afghanistan are SCO observers. In 2013, Turkey got the status of SCO’s «dialogue partner». The other country with the same status is Belarus. Dialogue partners are entitled to take part in ministerial-level and some other meetings of the SCO, but do not have voting rights.

PayPal Serves Illegal Israeli Settlers But Won’t Let Palestinians Open Accounts

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‘Without access to PayPal, Palestinian entrepreneurs, nonprofits, and others face routine difficulties in receiving payments for business and charitable purposes,’ an open letter from a coalition of American activists reads.

PayPal is one of the world’s most popular ways to send or receive money online, but Palestinians are cut out of the action.

Time magazine reported in January that PayPal has 179 million active accounts in dozens of countries, and PayPal payments are widely accepted in online marketplaces from eBay to Etsy.

Mexican Governors on the Run From Embezzlement Scandals

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Recent news headlines in Mexico have been dominated by corruption scandals involving governors and ex-governors — or góbers as they are popularly called — from various political parties who looted government coffers.

Over the past few months, Global Voices has covered corruption in Mexico and the efforts to confront it. The most well-known case is that of Javier Duarte from Veracruz, a former member of Mexico’s ruling Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI). Duarte was suspended from office and subsequently expelled from the party.

In May 2016, the website Animal Político published an investigation revealing how the Duarte administration laundered millions in public funds through the use of fake companies. Months later in October, Duarte appeared on the country’s highest-rated morning newscast and announced that he would step down and face the charges against him, then he fled — using a government helicopter according to some sources.

Turkey’s Syrian and Iraqi adventures: the underlying message

Anti-PKK Demonstration, By Randam - Own work, Public Domain, Wikimedia Commons

Turkey is sending a message that its armed forces are still a strong and capable fighting force, despite large-scale purges of officers of the highest ranks.

Turkey, it appears, is itching for a fight in Iraq and Syria. Its August incursion into Syria, through the ongoing Operation Euphrates Shield, was no doubt an important turning point. No longer an active bystander to the conflict in Syria, Turkey became an actual participant in the civil war that has been waging for over five years.

There was a time when opinion polls showed that the military was the most trusted organization in the country, with 89 per cent of the population holding such views. However, this declined to 66 per cent by 2011 after the military was hit by the Ergenekon and Balyoz arrests, trials and convictions which alleged coup plotting within the military’s top brass. According to a recent survey, over the past six months trust in the army has continued to fall. This lack of faith and disappointment for the military has no doubt taken another plunge after the failed coup attempt of 15 July.