The Economist writes in its Aug. 18-25 issue that last week, in a landmark speech in Diyarbakir, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan became the first Turkish leader ever to admit that Turkey had mishandled the Kurdish rebellion in the country's east. Like all great nations, declared Erdogan, Turkey needed to face up to its past. He added that more democracy, not more repression, was the answer to the Kurds' longstanding grievances.
After more than 20 years in captivity, 404 prisoners of war have returned home to Morocco, the last of more than 2,400 freed by Western Sahara's Polisario Front independence movement. Two privately chartered planes carrying the prisoners, some of them more than 60 years old, landed in the southern city of Agadir. The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) said the prisoners' release in Tindouf, southwest Algeria, followed US mediation. They were captured by the Polisario in the guerrilla war sparked by Rabat's 1975 annexation of the desert territory. The soldiers' return home could ease tension between Morocco and the Polisario's main backer Algeria, major players in a region where the West seeks stability and cooperation against Islamic militants.
From The New Standard, Aug. 24:
Responding to last month’s bombings in the London subway system, transit officials in New York City decided to hand one of the nation’s largest defense contractors $212 million to dramatically increase surveillance efforts throughout the metropolitan transportation system.
AP Aug. 24 reports that Iraq's southern marshlands—drained by Saddam Hussein—are showing signs of rebirth; former residents are returning, and hunting and fishing are reviving. A new U.N. report sums up the progress, saying satellite imagery shows the marshes have regained 40 percent of their former reach. However, life in the wetlands remains hard—with much poverty, little clean water and rampant sewage problems, local residents complain. Violence has kept many international aid groups from working to help restore the area. "The life is still too hard to get back to our normal life of breeding cows and buffaloes, planting and fishing," said Sabah Mushen Hussein, who left his home in the marshlands in 1993. He still works as a taxi driver in Basra to support his family.
On Aug. 24 unknown gunmen fired shots at an Oslo restaurant owned by the family of a Pakistani-born woman comedian who has won notoriety for lampooning conservative Islam. Shabana Rehman, the 28-year-old comediene whose sister owns the restaurant, called the incident as “an appalling act of terror" and said it would not deter her from continuing her work. The shots, fired at around 4:00 AM, struck the windows of the restaurant. Nobody was injured.
Mexican authorities say they suspect drug traffickers are to blame in the killing of six people in three communities in the conflicted southern state of Chiapas. The first slayings occurred late Aug. 23 on a highway linking Tapachula with Tuxtla Chico on the Pacific coast. Gunmen in a car forced an SUV off the road and opened fire, killing Genaro Cruz, 47, and Julio Cesar Cruz, 21. There were no arrests.
Greenpeace Mexico, Amnesty International and the Tlachinollan Mountain Human Rights Center presented the Sierra Club's Chico Mendes Award to Mexican winners Felipe Arreaga Sanchez, Albertano Peñaloza Dominguez, and Celsa Valdovinos on Aug. 9. Greenpeace Mexico Director Alejandro Calvillo asked the world community to reconsider its willingness to support the tourist industry in Acapulco, given that the international beach resort is in the same state of Guerrero where the winners are being persecuted.
The East Timor and Indonesia Action Network (ETAN) is calling for support for a congressional letter to Indonesian President Yudhoyono now circulating in the US House of Representatives. The letter asks Yudhoyono to end ongoing military operations in West Papua and open up the province to international observers.