Greater Middle East

Syria: US closing ranks with Assad regime

US-led coalition air-strikes near the northern Syrian town of Manbij July 19 "accidentally" killed between 56 and 160 civilians—including many women and children. The strike was conducted in support of the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) in their ground offensive against ISIS. The civilians in the ISIS-controlled village if Tokhar were apparently assumed to be militants. (The Telegraph) Russia, meanwhile, continues to be a senior partner in the Assad regime's ongoing aerial terror, taking a similar toll in civilians casualties on a near-daily basis. On the same day as the disastrous US strike on Tokhar, Russian and regime aerial bombardment of besieged Aleppo killed 21. (AFP) The following day, Russian and regime on Aleppa and Douma killed at least 51 civilians, including 15 children. (Reuters) But this ongoing carnage fails to win the same kind of headlines.

Bahrain: court orders opposition group dissolved

The Bahrain High Civil Court on July 17 ordered al-Wefaq, the main Shi'ite opposition group in the country, to be dissolved. The Bahraini court previously issued a three-month suspension of the group. The court found that the group has engaged in "terrorism, extremism, and violence." The dissolution order requires al-Wefaq's assets to be liquidated and transferred to the state treasury. The order has sparked criticism from many sources, such as UK Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson, as being repressive and preventing political freedom.

Erdogan dictatorship in wake of coup attempt?

In the wake of the July 15 attempted coup in Turkey, 265 are dead, 1,440 wounded and 2,839 soldiers detained, by official figures. Members of military brass are among the arrested. Also taken into custody are 2,745 judges and prosecutors—including two members of the Constitutional Court. (Jurist, BIANet, NYTBIANet) A security lockdown is in place at Incirlik air base, shutting down US sorties against ISIS that routinely fly from the base. (World Bulletin, NYT) Tensions with Washington may also be enflamed by President Erdogan call for the US to extradite "terrorist leader and coup plotter" Fethullah Gülen (who is almost certainly a scapegoat). (Daily Sabah)

Turkish coup attempt: kismet for Erdogan?

Well, this is pretty hilarious. Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who crushed the 2013 Gezi Park protest movement in Istanbul and this year instated draconian curfews across the country's southeast in response to a Kurdish intifada, is now calling for his supporters to take the streets in response to an attempted coup d'etat by the military. BBC reports that he said: "I urge the Turkish people to convene at public squares and airports. I never believed in a power higher than the power of the people." Gezi Park itself is said to be now occupied by militants of Erdogan's Justice and Development Party (AKP), who are facing down armed troops there—certainly a perverse irony. Erdogan is at this moment boasting that the coup has been crushed, but this seems far from certain. A bomb blast has reportedly hit the parliament building in Ankara. Several police are reported killed at Ankara's Special Forces headquarters, indicating the security forces are themselves divided. 

Turkey: state blocks probes of Southeast killings

The Turkish government is blocking access for independent investigations into reports of mass abuses against civilians across southeast Turkey, Human Rights Watch said this week. The alleged abuses include unlawful killings of civilians, mass forced civilian displacement, and widespread unlawful destruction of property. Since the July 2015 breakdown of a peace process to end the decades-long conflict between the Turkish state and the armed Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), violence and armed clashes in the southeast region have escalated. During security operations since August, the authorities have imposed blanket, round-the-clock curfews on 22 towns and city neighborhoods, prohibiting all movement without permission. The curfews also prevent non-governmental organizations, journalists, and lawyers from scrutinizing those operations or any resulting abuses by security forces or armed groups. Authorities have blocked rights groups—including Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International and Physicians for Human Rights—from trying to document abuses even after curfews and operations ended.

Egypt: hundreds disappeared and tortured

Egypt's National Security Agency (NSA) is abducting, torturing and forcibly disappearing people in an effort to intimidate opponents and wipe out peaceful dissent, Amnesty International charged in a new report July 13. "Egypt: 'Officially, you do not exist': Disappeared and tortured in the name of counter-terrorism" reveals a trend which has seen hundreds of students, political activists and protesters, including children as young as 14, vanish without trace at the hands of the state. Three to four people are being seized each day—usually when heavily armed security forces led by NSA officers storm their homes. Many are held for months at a time and often kept blindfolded and handcuffed for the entire period.

ISIS executes civil resistance media activists

ISIS has executed five media activists in Syria's eastern governorate of Deir Ezzor, warning that anyone who tries to document the group's atrocities will never be safe from retribution. The UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said it had received a video depicting the activists' deaths, carried out on charges including "acting against the Islamic State, communicating with outside parties and receiving funds." One activist was hand-cuffed to his explosives-rigged laptop as it was detonated. Another was killed while tied to his camera. These were the latest in an ISIS crackdown on civil resistance groups that have heroically reported from "Islamic State" territory. (RBSS, June 26)

US, Russia broach Syria carve-up

The Obama administration has reportedly proposed a new agreement to Russia's government for military cooperation in Syria, sharing target information and coordinating air-strikes.  In exchange, Moscow would agree to pressure the Assad regime to stop bombing certain Syrian rebel groups. The US would not give Russia the exact locations of these groups, but specify geographic zones that would be safe from aerial assaults. (WP, June 30)

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