Greater Middle East
drone

Turkish drones decisive in regional wars

The Turkish military is unveiling a new upgraded “unmanned combat aerial vehicle,” the Bayraktar Akıncı, developed by private drone manufacturer Baykar Defense, which is owned by President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s son-in-law Selçuk Bayraktar. The Akıncı is a more advanced version of Turkey’s iconic Bayraktar TB2, able to fly higher and carry more missiles. The TB2 has been used by Ankara against Kurdish guerillas in northern Iraq, and against Syrian regime forces. Turkey has also provided the TB2 to various foreign militaries; it is held to have been decisive in Azerbaijan’s victory over Armenian forces in last year’s Nagorno-Karabakh war, as well as the Libyan government’s victory over the warlord Khalifa Haftar. Ukraine, having already tested an initial dispatchment of the drone, is now ordering 24 more for use in its war against Russian-backed separatists. (Photo: Wikipedia)

Afghanistan
ground zero

Podcast: 9-11 and the GWOT at 20

In Episode 88 of the CounterVortex podcast, Bill Weinberg revisits his predictions from 20 years ago and from a month ago about what the world would look like on the 20th anniversary of 9-11. The attack, and Dubya Bush’s Global War on Terrorism, did not lead to a wave of new attacks within the US, as the jihad has proved more concerned with the struggle within Islam. But this has meant an invisible catastrophe for the Muslim world. The ongoing wars in Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria and Yemen get at least some international media attention. There are many more nearly forgotten wars and genocides: the serial massacres in Pakistan, the insurgency in Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula, the Boko Haram war in Nigeria that is now spilling into Cameroon, the mounting massacres in the Sahel nations. Even the insurgency in Somalia, where the US has had a military footprint, wins little coverage—despite the fact that it is spilling into Kenya. The insurgency in Mozambique has now prompted an African-led multinational military intervention. The insurgency on the Philippine island of Mindanao has been met with air-strikes. All waged by entities claiming loyalty to either al-Qaeda or ISIS. The new imperial doctrine appears to be that this violence is acceptable as long as it is not visited upon the West. Listen on SoundCloud or via Patreon. (Photo: CounterVortex)

Greater Middle East
Istanbul pride

Turkish police disperse Istanbul pride parade

Turkish riot police used tear-gas and rubber bullets to disrupt Istanbul’s annual pride parade after the the governor’s office refused to grant a permit for the event. Police arrested dozens of marchers, as well as journalists who were covering the event. The police attack comes amid a period of mounting hostility against the nation’s LGBTIQ+ community. The pride parade has been held annually since 2003, despite being officially banned since 2014. Videos shared on social media show hundreds of people gathered on Istiklal Ave., a popular tourist destination, chanting “Rainbow is not a crime, discrimination is.” (Image via Madonna Turkey)

Greater Middle East
Khashoggi

Khashoggi killers trained in US: report

Operatives of the Saudi secret unit responsible for the 2018 killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi received paramilitary training in the United States, the New York Times reported. According to the account, Arkansas-based security firm Tier 1 Group trained six unit members. Although the training was described as “defensive” and “devised to better protect Saudi leaders,” the unit was then undertaking a series of kidnappings, detentions and torture to crush dissent within the kingdom. (Photo via Wikimedia Commons)

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 Erdoğan’s Istanbul Canal project, a plan to construct a waterway between the Black Sea and the Sea of Marmara, running parallel to the Bosphorus. Erdoğan 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 Gülen ties

Turkish security forces arrested 203 soldiers in nationwide raids targeting military personnel accused of links to an exiled Muslim cleric, Fethullah Gülen, accused by Ankara of being behind a 2016 coup attempt against President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. 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 Gülen’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-Erdoğan rally: Mstyslav Chernov via Jurist)

Greater Middle East
Selahattin Demirtaş

Kurdish leader sentenced for insulting Erdogan

Kurdish left-wing politician Selahattin Demirtaş was sentenced to three years and six months in prison by a Turkish court for insulting President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. 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: Demirtaş’ 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 Erdoğan’s decision. (Photo via Twitter)

Greater Middle East
Gergerlioğlu

Turkey upholds sentence of MP for ‘terror propaganda’

Turkey’s Court of Cassation upheld the two-and-a-half-year prison sentence given to Ömer Faruk Gergerlioğlu, a human rights activist and MP belonging to the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), on charges of “making propaganda for a terrorist organization.” In 2016, Gergerlioğlu raised alarm in parliament and on social media platforms about detained women being subjected to unlawful strip searches by police in the city of Uşak for “security reasons.” He was later accused by several members of the ruling Justice & Development Party (AKP) and the Uşak Police of being involved in terrorist activities. The case hinged on social media posts by Gergerlioğlu 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 Özgür Gündem, 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)