Greater Middle East
Yemeni Jews

Podcast: requiem for the Yemeni Jews

In Episode 68 of the CounterVortex podcast, Bill Weinberg offers a meditation on the final demise of the millennia-old Jewish community in Yemen, as the last families of Yemeni Jews are deported by the Houthi rebels that hold the capital and much of the country’s north. Largely ignored by the world media amid the ongoing horrors in Yemen, this grim passage poses challenges to some fundamental assumptions of both Zionism and anti-imperialism. Listen on SoundCloud or via Patreon. (Photo via Wikimedia Commons)

Greater Middle East
Yemeni Jews

Houthis deport last of the Yemeni Jews

The Houthi rebels who control much of Yemen’s north, including the capital Sanaa, deported 13 Jews from three families—effectively ending the millennia-old Jewish community in the country. One of the 13 deportees told London-based Arabic newspaper Asharq Al-Awsat: “History will remember us as the last of Yemeni Jews who were still clinging to their homeland until the last moment. We had rejected temptations time and time again, and refused to leave our homeland, but today we are forced.” The majority of the country’s Jews—some 45,000—were brought to Israel in the “Operation Magic Carpet” airlift in 1948. The Israeli operation followed local riots in which scores of Jews were killed. Yemen’s Jewish community had dwindled to some 200 when a new wave of pogroms sparked a second exodus beginning 12 years ago. Since they took over Sanaa in 2014, the Houthis have been pressuring the few Jews still remaining in the country to leave. (Photo: Yemeni Jews celebrating Passover in Israel in 1946, via Wikipedia)

Europe
Dardanelles

Strategic strait at issue in Turkish naval purge

Turkish prosecutors issued arrest warrants for 10 senior navy officers a day after 104 officers released a letter defending the Montreux Doctrine—a 1936 agreement protecting passage of international shipping through the straits of the Bosphorus and Dardanelles. The letter was critical of Turkish President Recep Tayyip ErdoÄźan’s Istanbul Canal project, a plan to construct a waterway between the Black Sea and the Sea of Marmara, running parallel to the Bosphorus. ErdoÄźan insists that the new canal would not be subject to the Montreux Doctrine. The officers were arrested on charges of conspiring to commit “a crime against the security of the state.” (Map: French Navy via PopulationData.net)

Greater Middle East
Turkey Coup

Turkey: 200 soldiers arrested for alleged GĂĽlen ties

Turkish security forces arrested 203 soldiers in nationwide raids targeting military personnel accused of links to an exiled Muslim cleric, Fethullah GĂĽlen, accused by Ankara of being behind a 2016 coup attempt against President Recep Tayyip ErdoÄźan. The 2016 episode led to crackdowns and mass arrests, resulting in more than 250 deaths. Thousands of soldiers were rounded up in the wake of attempted coup. The new raids targeted personnel across ranks and regions of the country. Authorities alleged that the arrested soldiers are linked to the Fethullah Terrorist Organization (FETO), a supposed network infiltrating the police and security forces. The suspects are accused of communicating with GĂĽlen’s “covert imams” via payphone. “Covert imams” is a term used by the government to refer to senior FETO operatives. Tens of thousands of people have been detained on similar grounds since the coup attempt. (Photo of pro-ErdoÄźan rally: Mstyslav Chernov via Jurist)

Greater Middle East
Selahattin DemirtaĹź

Kurdish leader sentenced for insulting Erdogan

Kurdish left-wing politician Selahattin DemirtaĹź was sentenced to three years and six months in prison by a Turkish court for insulting President Recep Tayyip ErdoÄźan. Demirtas, a leader and co-founder of the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), was given the maximum punishment for the offence. He has been imprisoned since November 2016 along with several other HDP leaders. The European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) has ruled twice in favor of Demirtas’ immediate release, concluding that his continued pre-trial detention has an “ulterior purpose of stifling pluralism and limiting freedom of political debate, which is at the very core of the concept of a democratic society.” (Photo: DemirtaĹź’ presidential campaign launched outside Edirne prison where he is incarcerated, May 2018, via Wikipedia)

Greater Middle East
Istanbul Convention

Turkey drops treaty on violence against women

Turkey withdrew from the Council of Europe’s convention on preventing and combating violence against women and domestic violence, popularly known as the Istanbul Convention, by presidential decree. The Istanbul Convention is the first legally binding instrument in Europe to combat violence against women. Turkey was the first country to sign the convention the day it was launched in the city of Istanbul in 2011. The withdrawal comes as femicides and domestic violence cases are on the rise in Turkey. Thousands immediately took to the streets in protest of President Recep Tayyip ErdoÄźan’s decision. (Photo via Twitter)

Greater Middle East
GergerlioÄźlu

Turkey upholds sentence of MP for ‘terror propaganda’

Turkey’s Court of Cassation upheld the two-and-a-half-year prison sentence given to Ă–mer Faruk GergerlioÄźlu, a human rights activist and MP belonging to the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), on charges of “making propaganda for a terrorist organization.” In 2016, GergerlioÄźlu raised alarm in parliament and on social media platforms about detained women being subjected to unlawful strip searches by police in the city of UĹźak for “security reasons.” He was later accused by several members of the ruling Justice & Development Party (AKP) and the UĹźak Police of being involved in terrorist activities. The case hinged on social media posts by GergerlioÄźlu that supposedly included photos of armed fighters from the PKK guerillas. (Photo: Wikimedia Commons)

Greater Middle East
keskin

Turkey sentences ex-newspaper staff for ‘terrorism’

The High Criminal Court of Istanbul sentenced four former employees of the pro-Kurdish daily newspaper Ă–zgĂĽr GĂĽndem, shut down by a Turkish court order in 2016, to imprisonment on “terrorism” charges. Former editor Eren Keskin, who is also a prominent lawyer and human rights advocate, received a six-year sentence for “membership of an armed terrorist organization.” Amnesty International dismissed the charges as a fabricated attempt to criminalize dissent, and stated: “[A] human rights lawyer who has spoken out against injustice for more than three decades, has become the victim of injustice herself.” (Photo of solidarity demonstration in Berlin via Amnesty International)

Greater Middle East
Loujain_alHathloul_

Saudi women’s rights activist freed after three years

Saudi women’s rights activist Loujain al-Hathloul was released after spending a total of 1,001 days—almost three years—in prison. Al-Hathloul had been championing women’s rights since 2013. She lobbied especially for the right to drive, as well as for an end to male guardianship laws in the Saudi kingdom. While women were granted the right to drive in 2017, advocates for the change were detained by the authorities weeks before it took effect. Al-Hathloul will remain on probation for three years and is banned from traveling for five years. Her family claims that she had been held in solitary confinement and subjected to torture and abuse, including electric shocks, waterboarding, flogging, sexual assault, and deprivation of sleep during hunger strikes against her imprisonment. An appeals court dismissed her suit alleging torture, citing a lack of evidence. Amnesty International said, “Saudi Arabia’s authorities must ensure those responsible for her torture and other ill-treatment are brought to justice.” (Photo of al-Hathloul in Madrid before her arrest: Emna Mizouni/Wikimedia Commons)

Greater Middle East
yemen

Biden pledges end to US support for Yemen war —almost

President Joe Biden announced the United States will end support for the Saudi-led military campaign in Yemen that has deepened suffering in the Arabian Peninsula’s poorest country. “This war has to end,” Biden told diplomats in his first visit to the State Department as president, saying the conflict has created a “humanitarian and strategic catastrophe.” Biden pledged an end to “relevant” US arms sales, while giving no immediate details on what that would mean. However, National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan was quick to add that an end to US support for the Saudi war against the Houthi rebels will not affect US operations against al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP). (Photo: OCHA)

Greater Middle East
tripoli

Anti-lockdown protests rock Lebanon

Frustration over a strict COVID-19 lockdown and a collapsing economy exploded into protests in Lebanon’s northern city of Tripoli, where a government building was set aflame, and several days of clashes between security forces and demonstrators left one person dead and more than 100 injured. Lebanon is in the midst of a 24-hour curfew, with even supermarkets closed—a measure that authorities defended as necessary given a surge of coronavirus cases that has left the healthcare system struggling to cope. But crippling poverty is on the rise in Lebanon—thanks to an ongoing financial crisis, compounded by the global pandemic and an August explosion at the Beirut port—and some argue that the strict containment rules go too far. Some local aid groups say they have been denied permission to bring help, including much-needed food, to vulnerable families. (Photo via Twitter)

Greater Middle East
Yemen

US slaps ‘terror’ label on Yemen’s Houthi rebels

The United States has announced it will designate Yemen’s Houthi rebels as a terrorist organization, a move aid groups and diplomats have long warned will make getting assistance to people trapped in the “world’s worst humanitarian crisis” even harder. In a statement, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said he was officially notifying the US Congress of his intent to designate Ansar Allah, the official name of the Houthis, a “Foreign Terrorist Organization.” The change is go into force on Jan. 19, and three Houthi leaders will also be blacklisted. NGOs have lobbied heavily against the designation, saying it will seriously hamper efforts to bring aid to the estimated 80% of Yemen’s 30 million people who live in parts of the country controlled by the Houthis. It’s already hard to deliver aid in Yemen, in part because of obstacles put up by the Houthis themselves. (Map: Perry-Castañeda Library)