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)

Iraq
kurdish march

Protest ongoing Turkish military intervention in Iraq, Syria

Kurdish rebels launched a mortar attack on a Turkish military position in northern Iraq, killing one soldier. The troops were stationed at the outpost as part of Ankara’s “Operation Claw-Lightning” to hunt down fighters of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK). Turkey’s Defense Ministry said its forces immediately retaliated, and three PKK fighters were “neutralized” (killed). The following day, thousands of Kurds marched in Dusseldorf, Germany, to protest ongoing Turkish military operations in Turkey’s eastern Kurdish region, in northern Iraq, and in Syria’s Rojava region. The demonstration was timed for the 37th anniversary of the start of the PKK’s armed struggle against the Turkish state. (Photo: Defend Kurdistan via Twitter)

Syria
Saydnaya

US imposes sanctions on Syria prisons, rebels

The Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) of the US Treasury Department imposed sanctions on eight prisons run by Syrian President Bashar Assad’s intelligence unit, for human rights abuses against political prisoners and other detainees. Additionally, OFAC added five senior security officials of Assad’s regime who control the detention facilities to the Treasury’s Specially Designated Nationals & Blocked Persons List. According to OFAC, the regime has imprisoned hundreds of thousands of Syrians during the war, of whom at least 14,000 have been tortured to death, with a further 130,000 missing and believed to be under arbitrary detention. OFAC also placed sanctions on Syrian armed rebel group Ahrar al-Sharqiya and two of its leaders for abuses against civilians. (Image: Syria Untold)

Syria
syria refugees

Syria: Russia plays ‘political games’ with aid access

The UN Security Council unanimously voted to extend the sole humanitarian aid crossing into Syria—one day before it was set to close. The vote on the Bab al-Hawa crossing came after weeks of intense negotiations between Washington, which wants to expand the number of aid corridors into Syria, and Moscow, which had threatened to block continuation of the aid program altogether in the name of protecting Syrian sovereignty. Some 1,000 truckloads of aid pass through Bab al-Hawa each month—and humanitarian agencies say this is insufficient to address the scale of the disaster in Syria’s north. In 2014, the Security Council approved four border crossings for aid into Syria. But Russia has since used its veto to restrict aid access to the rebel-held north, leaving only Bab al-Hawa open. (Photo: UNICEF via UN News)

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)

Syria
Atareb

Protest WHO board seat for Syrian regime

Doctors and healthcare workers held a demonstration outside a hospital in the Syrian city of Idlib, to protest the election of the Bashar Assad regime to the executive board of the World Health Organization (WHO)—the latest coup for normalization of the regime. “How can we trust WHO [when] one of its executive board members is the murderer who is killing my colleagues?” said Dr. Salem Abdan, head of health services for opposition-administered Idlib. Read a banner at the protest: “We reject that he who destroyed our hospitals be represented on the executive board.” Idlib province is part of a remaining rebel-held pocket in the northeast of the country, where Assad regime warplanes have for years been bombing hospitals and clinics. (Photo of bombed hospital in northern Syria via Daily Sabah)

Syria
Aleppo ruins

Syria: controlled elections amid crisis —again

Thoroughly controlled elections were held in Syria, with predictable results. Regime officials declared Bashar Assad the winner with 95.1% of the vote. Assad ran against two nominal challengers, with another 49 candidates disqualified. State media promoted Assad relentlessly; his posters were displayed on walls and billboards throughout regime-controlled territory. Several million Syrians within the country could not vote as they are outside regime-held areas. In opposition-held Idlib province, hundreds held protests against the “fake” elections, carrying the Free Syria flag. In another sign of resurgent opposition even within regime-controlled territory, a group of leading tribal and social figures in Daraa governorate (where the revolution first broke out a decade ago) released a statement declaring their rejection of the elections as “illegitimate.” (Photo of Aleppo ruins from UNHCR)

Syria
qamishli

Syrian Kurdish militia fire on Arab protesters

Five are reported dead after Kurdish militiamen opened fire on local Arab residents protesting against a hike in fuel prices imposed by the Kurdish-led Autonomous Administration in northern Syria. Protests were reported in several towns in al-Hasakah province, including Qamishli, al-Haddaja, al-Rashidiya and al-Haddadiya. The Autonomous Administration overturned the planned price hikes in response to the protests. However, the Syrian Democratic Forces, the military alliance supported by the Autonomous Administration, issued a statement warning that “protesting activities should not be turned into means to strike at peace and security,” and implying that the demonstrations had been stirred up by “outside propaganda.”  (Photo of Qamlishi protest: Ekrem Salih/Kurdistan24)

Afghanistan
Sayed ul-Shuhada

Afghanistan: schoolgirls massacred amid ‘peace’ talks

An attack on a high school in Afghanistan’s capital killed at least 50 and wounded dozens more—most of them girls who were leaving class. The school is in Kabul’s western Dasht-e-Barchi district, where many residents are of the Hazara ethnic minority, who were subject to genocide under Taliban rule in the 1990s. The students appear to have been doubly targeted as both girls and Hazaras—raising further questions for the status and security of women and ethnic minorities as the power-brokers race to declare “peace” in Afghanistan. (Photo of girls from the targeted school: HRW via Twitter)

Syria
qamishlo

Syria: Kurdish forces take Qamishli from regime

The local Kurdish Asayish militia announced that it has taken control of the last contested district of the northeast Syrian town of Qamishli from pro-regime forces. An Asayish statement said that after several days of fighting, al-Tay neighborhood is to be in their hands under terms of a truce with the pro-regime National Defense Forces (NDF), enforced by Russian troops and the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF). The Qamishlo District Council, an organ of the Rojava autonomous administration, issued its own statement, charging that NDF attacks on Asayish checkpoints were “evidence of their desire to inflame the discord among the components of the region…in particular the Kurdish and Arab.” (Photo of Qamishlo District Council reading statement: ANHA)

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)