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)

Syria
syria betrayed

Ten years after: the Syrian Revolution betrayed

Ten years after the Syrian Revolution began with peaceful anti-regime protests, the UN Human Rights Commission released a report finding that actions by the Assad regime and its Russian allies over the course of the Syrian war have likely constituted “crimes against humanity, war crimes and other international crimes, including genocide.” The UN and human rights groups have issued such findings repeatedly—to little media coverage. The charge of genocide officially requires the world to act under the Genocide Convention. But the world is no longer even paying attention. (Image: Delawer Omar)

Afghanistan
afghan army

Afghanistan: US withdrawal on hold?

With a May 1 deadline for withdrawal of US forces from Afghanistan approaching but a final peace deal stalled, the White House is said to be considering an extension beyond this date for removal of its 2,500 troops remaining in the country. “Intra-Afghan” negotiations between the Taliban and Kabul opened in Doha in September, but remain deadlocked over fundamentals of the power-sharing deal—with the Taliban rejecting President Ashraf Ghani’s insistence on remaining in office for the remainder his five-year-term. Predictably, they haven’t even got around to discussing protection of minority and women’s rights, or the role of sharia law in the new order. Meanwhile, civilian casualties are mounting, and the Taliban has just launched a spring offensive. (Photo: Khaama Press)

Syria
jarabalus

Russia bombs oil facilities in Syria’s north

A missile attack on an oil refinery at al-Hamaran, near Jarabulus in Syria’s rebel-held northern pocket, was launched from Russian warships off the country’s coast, according to a monitoring group, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. At least one person is known to have been killed in the the three-missile strike, which also hit a nearby market, possibly as “collateral damage.” In a similar strike last month, rockets fired from the Russian coastal military base at Khmeimim struck an oil refinery in the town of Tarhin, also within the Jarabulus pocket. The pocket is in the hands of the Turkish-backed Syrian National Army (SNA), and the strikes appear aimed at preventing SNA forces from resuming oil production in the region for black-market export to Turkey. Under a Moscow-Damascus deal announced in 2018, Russia is to have exclusive rights to exploit hydrocarbons in Syria in exchange for military support to the Bashar Assad regime. (Image via YouTube)

Syria
Afrin

Syria: factional violence in Turkish-occupied Afrin

Internecine fighting among collaborationist militia in the Turkish-occupied northern Syrian town of Afrin left at least two civilians dead in the crossfire. Clashes broke out between Jabha al-Shamiya (Levant Front) and the Jaysh al-Islam (Army of Islam)—two armed groups affiliated with the Turkey-backed Syrian National Army (SNA). Shops and civilian homes were also damaged in the clashes. Witnesses  said the fighting began when Levant Front militants attempted to arrest a member of the Army of Islam who they suspected of smuggling people across border into Turkey. (Photo of Jaysh al-Islam via Syrians for Truth & Justice)

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)

North Africa
Haftar

Libya: Blackwater CEO trafficked arms to Russia-backed warlord

Erik Prince, former CEO of the notorious private military company Blackwater, violated the UN arms embargo on Libya with a clandestine pipeline to a rebel warlord, according to a confidential report to the Security Council obtained by the New York Times. The report found that in 2019 Prince deployed a force of foreign mercenaries and weapons to renegade military commander Khalifa Haftar, who has been fighting to depose the UN-recognized Libyan government—and is also being aggressively backed by Russia. (Photo via ISS Africa)

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)

Iran
Mount Gare

Turkey, Iran in synchronous attacks on Iraqi Kurdistan?

Iraqi Kurdistan saw simultaneous air attacks—from Turkish warplanes on a mountain supposedly harboring PKK guerillas, and (in a far more audacious move) from an Iran-backed militia on the regional capital Erbil. In the latter attack, a barrage of rockets targetted a US airbase outside Erbil’s airport. Awliya al-Dam (Guardians of the Blood) claimed responsibility for the attack, saying it was in revenge for the deaths of “the martyred leaders”—an apparent reference to the paramilitary commanders killed in the US drone attack on the Baghdad airport in January 2020. The Turkish strikes targeted Mount Gare, where PKK militants supposedly killed 13 captive Turkish soldiers being held in a cave complex. The PKK, however, said the captives had been killed in earlier Turkish air-strikes on the position. The affair sparked diplomatic tensions between Ankara and the new Biden administration in Washington, which initially refused to accept Turkey’s version of events. (Photo: Kurdistan24)