Europe
Lesvos

Greece: violent ‘pushbacks’ of asylum seekers

Documentation is mounting of Greek authorities carrying out violent “pushbacks” of asylum-seekers and migrants at the country’s land and sea borders with Turkey. The practice violatesEU and international law, but in the past four months rights groups and media have documented an uptick in its use at the Greece-Turkey land border. Monitors have also documented the abandonment of asylum-seekers in “floating tents” without any means of propulsion in the Aegean Sea, and masked men sabotaging boats carrying asylum-seekers. The UN Refugee Agency has urged Greece to investigate. (Photo: WikiMedia Commons)

Watching the Shadows
neo-Nazis

State Department sees global ‘white supremacist’ threat

The US State Department’s newly released “Country Reports on Terrorism 2019” makes special note for the first time of an international white supremacist threat. The report states that the Department’s Counterterrorism Bureau “increased its efforts to combat racially or ethnically motivated terrorism (REMT). REMT, in particular white supremacist terrorism, continues to be a threat to the global community, with violence both on the rise and spreading geographically.” Given that this report is released just as Trump is becoming more blatant than ever in his own espousal of white supremacy, we must ask if this is not another example of the “Deep State” (read: those elements of the bureaucracy not completely co-opted by his dictatorial agenda) acting independently of the White House—or even, as the deplorables love to fear, actually seeking to subvert it. (Photo via Germ)

Syria
Atmeh

Syria: protests against ex-Nusra rule in Idlib

Protesters gathered in the town of Atmeh in Syria’s opposition-held Idlib province to demand the release of a locally based British aid worker arrested by Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham (HTS), the Islamist militia formerly known as the Nusra Front that now controls much of the province. Tauqir Sharif, a British Muslim, was working with a grassroots aid and media group called Live Updates from Syria. He was detained by HTS in a raid on his home. Footage of the protest showed many women and children among dozens chanting and holding banners calling for Sharif to be freed. The crowd finally gathered outside the closed gates of a compound guarded by masked militiamen. Demonstrators also protested the closure of education and social services by HTS, chanting “We want schools to open.” (Photo via Middle East Eye)

Planet Watch
Idlib displaced

UN: world refugees break record —again

An unprecedented one percent of the world’s population has been forced to flee their homes due to war, conflict and persecution to seek safety either somewhere within their country or across borders, according to the latest annual report by the UN Refugee Agency. At the end of 2019, there were 79.5 million people around the world who had been forcibly displaced, up from 70.8 million the year before. The rise was in part due to new displacements in places such as the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the Sahel region of Africa, Yemen and Syria. It also reflected the inclusion for the first time of 3.6 million Venezuelans who have been displaced outside their country but who have not sought asylum. (Photo: UNHCR)

Syria
suwayda

Anti-Assad protests re-emerge in Syria

Amid spiraling inflation and fast-rising prices for food and other basic goods, protests are again emerging in regime-controlled areas of Syria—some reviving slogans of the 2011 revolution. One angry protest was held in the western city of Suweida. Crowds moved through the city’s central streets, eventually gathering in front of the governorate building, where they chanted, “The people want to topple the regime!” “Revolution, freedom, social justice!” and “Down with Bashar al-Assad!” The protest was particularly significant, as the Druze-majority province of Suweida has remained loyal to Damascus throughout the nine years of the Syrian uprising. (Photo: Suwayda-24 via Syria Call)

Watching the Shadows
Kremlin

Kremlin in new drive to co-opt US ‘alternative’ voices

In a truly surreal irony, CounterVortex chief blogger Bill Weinberg got e-mail from RT.com editor-in-chief Igor Ogorodnev, saying he’s impressed with our website and extending an invitation to contribute to RT. This is evidently part of a concerted push by RT—a direct organ of Russian state propaganda—to appropriate dissident and alternative voices in the American blogosphere ahead of this year’s elections. The strategy here is clear: Wth Fox News playing to the right and RT playing to the left, the Putin-Trump agenda will control both sides of the debate. It is imperative that progressives do not take the RT bait. (Photo: Wikipedia)

Syria
Idlib ruins

Amnesty sees Russian-backed ‘war crimes’ in Syria

A report by Amnesty International finds that the Syrian government, supported by Russia, committed a series of war crimes in the northwest of the country in late 2019 and 2020. The report states that “attacks from the air and the ground repeatedly struck residential areas and crucial infrastructure” in opposition-held areas of Idlib, Aleppo and Hama provinces. The report documents 18 attacks on schools and medical facilities, calling them “serious violations” of international humanitarian law. (Photo: White Helmets)

Syria
syria occupied

Has Assad outlived usefulness to Putin?

The Russian International Affairs Council, an official diplomatic think-tank, issued a report predicting that Russia, Turkey and Iran will soon reach a joint agreement to remove Syrian dictator Bashar Assad from power, replacing him with a transitional government including members of both the regime and opposition, as well as the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces. Russian news agency TASS suggests that Moscow fears a repeat of the “Afghan scenario” in Syria if it continues to back an unpopular regime. (Photo via Syria Call)

Syria
afrin blast

Syrian Kurds condemn ‘terrorist act’ in Afrin

Syrian Kurdish officials condemned the bombing in the Turkish-occupied city of Afrin that claimed the lives of at least 40 civilians, including 12 children. The explosive device was attached to an oil tanker and detonated as it drove through a crowded market. “We in the Syrian Democratic Council condemn and denounce this cowardly terrorist act that targeted innocent civilians and threatens the remaining ones to move and leave their villages and cities,” the SDC, political wing of the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), said in a statement. But Turkish administrators in the town blamed the attack on Kurdish guerillas of the People’s Protection Units (YPG), leading constituent militia of the SDF. (Photo via Kurdistan24)

Syria
White Helmets

UN panel: ‘highly likely’ Assad bombs hospitals

A report by a special UN Headquarters Board of Inquiry ordered by the Secretary-General finds that it is “highly probable” that the Bashar Assad regime and allied forces have bombed hospitals and other civilian targets in Syria. The report cited air-strikes last year on a hospital, a clinic, and a childcare facility in opposition-held areas of Idlib and Hama provinces. All three were on a “deconfliction list” of protected sites that the UN had provided to Damascus. The Board of Inquiry also found it “plausible” the regime targetted another healthcare center. Yet the report failed to specifically mention Russia, which has also been engaged in the air-strikes, referring only to “the Government of Syria and/or its allies.” The Assad regime has claimed that the targeted sites were being used by “terrorists.” (Photo via EA Worldview)

Europe
refugees

EU court rules three countries violated asylum deal

The European Court of Justice ruled that Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic failed to uphold their obligations regarding refugee quotas as required by law. The countries could face financial penalties for their actions. In 2015 EU leaders established a refugee relocation program in response to the large numbers of asylum-seekers from war-torn Syria and elsewhere in the Middle East. EU countries were supposed to apportion a share of asylum-seekers among those that arrived in Greece and Italy. Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic, according to the ECJ, “failed to fulfill their obligations under European Union law” by not accepting the number of refugees they had promised. (Photo: UNHCR/H.Holland)

Syria
Syria prisoners

Demand urgent action to protect Syrian detainees

The Syrian regime has announced the first case of COVID-19 in the country after weeks of denial, and advocates in the diaspora believe the real number of cases is likely higher. The UK-based Syria Campaign writes that an outbreak in Syria could mean “horror beyond imagination.” Thousands of displaced families living in overcrowded camps cannot self-isolate. Health infrastructures in the country have collapsed due to the systematic targeting of hospitals by the regime and Russia. Especially vulnerable are the nearly 100,000 detainees and forcibly disappeared, many of whom are held in cramped underground centers where they are exposed to horrific conditions including torture and deprivation of proper food, water, hygiene, and medical care. These cells are already perfect breeding grounds for viruses and illnesses, and if coronavirus spreads containment will be impossible. (Photo of hunger strikers at Syrian prison via Foreign Policy. Credit: Louai Beshara/AFP/Getty Images)