Russia

As Russia bombs Idlib, Turkey threatens Rojava

Some 100 civilians have been killed over the past week as Russia and the Assad regime step up aerial attacks on Idlib, the northern Syria province that remains outside regime control. White Helmets rescuer workers on July 24 reported at least 10 fatalities in Tubish village, near the "ghost town" of Khan Sheikhoun where the 2017 chemical attack took place. The search for victims under the rubble continues. Horrifying images of a five-year-old girl's desperate attempt to save her baby sister trapped under rubble following an air-strike in the town of Ariha has gone viral. The footage was shot by the independent Syrian media outlet SY24, which reports that the girl, named Riham, later died of her own injuries—one of 31 killed in air-strikes on Ariha this week. (EA Worldview, Al Jazeera, BBC News)

Kosovo PM resigns to face war crimes court

The prime minister of Kosovo, Ramush Haradinaj, resigned on July 19 after being called in for questioning by a war crimes court in The Hauge. The court is investigating ex-members of the Kosovo Liberation Army for their actions during the war from 1998-9 that led to Kosovo's independence from Serbia. Haradinaj was a guerrilla commander in that war. Haradinaj stated, "The honor of the Prime Minister and the State must be preserved, and I will never stain it. In the Hague I will go as Ramush Haradinaj and will face the defamation, as required by the honor of the Albanian fighter."

Uighurs as pawns in the Great Game

Last week we were treated to the perverse spectacle of the Trump administration, which is establishing its own incipient concentration camp system for undocumented immigrants, feigning concern with the mass detention of the Uighurs in China's "re-education camps." Secretary of State Mike Pompeo (whose hypocrisy on this matter we have noted before) on July 18 called China's treatment of the Uighurs the "stain of the century," and accused Beijing of pressuring countries not to attend a US-hosted conference on religious freedom then opening in Washington. (Reuters)  At the conference, Donald Trump actually met at the Oval Office with Jewher Ilham, daughter of the imprisoned Uighur scholar Ilham Tothi. (SCMP)

Waterworks, civil defense centers bombed in Idlib

Assad regime and Russian warplanes continue to target civilians and basic infrastructure in the aerial assault on opposition-controlled Idlib province in Syria's north. At least 12 were killed in a regime air-strike on a market in Maar Shurin village July 16. Two days earlier, Russian air-strikes destroyed the main water plant in Maarat al-Numan, a town already swollen with displaced persons who have fled the regime offensive. The pumping station, which provides clean water to the town of 80,000 and surrounding villages, was previously targeted by regime air-strikes on July 5, causing partial damage. First responders are also apparently being intentionally targeted. A new report from the Syrian Network for Human Rights finds that Russian and Assad forces have struck 31 civil defense centers and vehicles in opposition-controlled areas of Idlib and Hama provinces since the current offensive began in late April. At least seven first responders and medics from the White Helmets and Violet Organization civil defense groups have been killed. The overall civilian death toll in the air-strikes on Idlib and Hama is placed at 550, including 130 children.

Crimean Tatars arrested in Red Square protest

Seven Crimean Tatars were detained in Moscow on July 10 while holding a peaceful picket calling for an end to ethnic and religious persecution in Russian-annexed Crimea. Around 20 activists—most in their 50s and 60s, veterans of the Crimean Tatar national movement—gathered in Red Square with placards reading: "Our children are not terrorists"; "The fight against terrorism in Crimea is a fight against dissidents" and "Stop persecution on ethnic and religious lines in Crimea." The picket was held in advance of an appeal hearing for four Crimean Tatars facing "terrorism" charges for their membership in the civil organization Hizb ut-Tahrir. The detained protesters were charged with holding an unauthorized demonstration. One of those arrested is the father of one of the "terrorism" defendants.

Libya: did Haftar bomb migrant detention center?

UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres is calling for an independent investigation of the "outrageous" bombing of a migrant detention center at Tajoura, outside Libya's capital Tripoli July 2. The attack killed at least 44 migrants and refugees, including women and children, and injured more than 130. Guterres noted that the UN had given its exact coordinates to the warring parties in the ongoing Libyan conflict. This was also emphasized by the United Nations refugee agency, UNHCR, which said in a statement: "Coordinates of such centres in Tripoli are well known to combatants, who also know those detained at Tajoura are civilians." UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet said, with requisite caution: "This attack may, depending on the precise circumstances, amount to a war crime."

European Union betrays Crimea and Tatars

The Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe voted June 26 to reinstate the Russian delegation despite criticism over human rights abuses. Russia's voting rights had been stripped in 2014 in response to Moscow's annexation of Crimea. The reinstatement vote was taken after Russia threatened to leave the Council of Europe altogether, which would mean exiting jurisdiction of the European Court of Human Rights. The Russian delegation was readmitted by a vote of 116-62. The Ukrainian delegation walked out in protest after the vote. A dissident bloc of 30 members attempted to challenge Russia's restoration, and succeeded in having the readmission include amendments calling on Moscow to address certain specific rights abuses. Some critics suggest Russia was readmitted due to the pinch the lack of Russian money was placing on the Council's budget. The readmission came along with passage of a new budget based on renewed Russian financial commitments. (Jurist)

New spasm of Syria chemwar denial: don't buy it

A sudden feeding-frenzy of revisionism about the April 2018 Douma chemical attack in Syria has broken out, with celebrities glomming on in unseemly manner. This time Susan Sarandon joins already proved Assad regime shill Roger Waters, their spewing avidly lapped up by Kremlin propaganda organ RT (of course). But also getting on this bandwagon—most disgracefully, because he purports to be a "journalist"—is Robert Fisk. Not just a mere aging rock star, Fisk is able to loan more potent propaganda service to the Assad regime—for which he has been called out by Syrian left-opposition figure (and survivor of Assad's prisons) Yassin al-Haj as "indoctrinated" by the regime. Fisk's May 23 revisionist write-up in The Independent was entitled "The evidence we were never meant to see about the Douma 'gas' attack." Note that he even disingenuously puts "gas" in scare quotes, while even he doesn't go so far (in the actual text of the story) as to question whether poisonous gas was used at Douma. 

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