Greater Middle East

Dozens detained at Istanbul May Day march

Turkish police detained at least 100 people who attempted to stage a May Day demonstration in Istanbul’s iconic Taksim Square, where protests are traditionally banned. Several thousand more gathered in the city’s Bakirkoy district, for a permitted march organized by the Confederation of Progressive Trade Unions (DİSK). In the permitted march was a large Kurdish contingent, led by women wearing white scarves to demand the release of political prisoners. The women were mostly mothers and relatives of followers of the People’s Democratic Party (HDP) and People’s Democratic Congress (HDK) who have been imprisoned over the course of the current crackdown on political dissent in Turkey. (Photo: ANF)

Syria

Syria’s Idlib still under bombardment

Syria’s last opposition-controlled province of Idlib has receded from the headlines since a joint Russian-Turkish deal was announced last September, forestalling an Assad regime offensive on the province and establishing a “demilitarized zone” policed by the two foreign powers. But shelling and bombardment of the province by Assadist and Russian forces has escalated over the past month—and much of the shells and missiles are falling within the “demilitarized zone.” UN Senior Humanitarian Advisor for Syria Najat Rochdi reports that over 100,000 Idlib residents have fled their homes since February as a result of increased fighting. More than 90 civilians, half of them children, were killed in the province in March. As ever, medical facilities and schools continue to be targeted. (Photo via EA Worldview)

Syria

Dutch anti-ISIS volunteer arrested in Netherlands

Authorities in the Netherlands have arrested a Dutch volunteer—known by the nom de guerre Andok—who fought with the Kurdish-led People’s Protection Units (YPG) against ISIS in northern Syria’s Raqqa in 2017. The Dutch Public Prosecution said in a statement that Andok, 24, was identified in an interview on Dutch TV. However, in the interview he did not show his face nor reveal his real name. He was detained upon his arrival at Amsterdam’s airport, and appeared the following day before a judge in Rotterdam, who placed him in custody for two weeks pending formal charges.

Greater Middle East

Repression in wake of Turkish elections

Turkey’s eastern province of Muş has banned protests and demonstrations for 15 days following nationwide local elections amid objections by the country’s pro-Kurdish party to the reported results. The announcement from the governor’s office came following an official victory by Turkey’s ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) in the Kurdish-majority province by a narrow margin over the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP). The HDP is preparing to appeal the results, citing irregularities. Muş is one of numerous provinces in Turkey’s east where government-appointed administrators (kayyim) have been running municipalities since the July 2016 coup attempt.

Greater Middle East

Turkey arrests Kurdish politicians on election eve

Turkish police conducted raids on 127 homes in Istanbul and arrested at least 53 people, including all candidates for the city council with the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP). The sweeps come less than 24 hours before nationwide local elections commence. In southern Sanliurfa province, police arrested 11 other HDP candidates and campaigners on supposed “terrorism-related” charges. Some 30 more HDP candidates and supporters were arrested in the cities of Adana, Van, and Igdir. The government accuses the HDP of links to outlawed Kurdish militants, and 10 lawmakers, 40 mayors and thousands of activists remain behind bars. Before the raids, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan repeated the accusation and called the party “terror lovers.”

Syria

SDF take last ISIS pocket: what next?

The Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) have announced the complete “territorial defeat” of the Islamic State. Trump was of course quick to take credit for the victory. But this is a victory for the Rojava Kurds and their Arab and Assyrian allies, not for Trump. And it could paradoxically be very bad news for them, as they have now outlived their usefulness to the empire and could be betrayed to Turkish aggression. The collapse of ISIS could set off a new scramble for Syria’s north, with potential for an Arab-Kurdish ethnic war. (Image: SDF)

Greater Middle East

EU resolution suspends Turkey’s admittance

The European Union adopted a resolution against Turkey's accession as a member of the EU. The resolution passed in the European Parliament notes ongoing human and civil rights violations and lack of respect for minority religious and cultural rights. It mentions the "shrinking space for civil society," arrests and suppression of journalists, and dismissal of dissident academics, as well as the treatment of refugees and migrants within Turkey's borders. The body noted that Turkey's government has violated the due process rights of its own citizens under the guise of counter-terrorism. It has also intimidated its citizens abroad and abused Interpol arrest warrants to extradite its own nationals back to Turkey. (Map: CIA)

Greater Middle East

Brussels court: PKK activity not ‘terrorism’

After nine years of proceedings, a court in Belgium acquitted multiple defendants accused of activities involving the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK). Belgian judicial authorities had requested that 36 individuals and companies be tried by a criminal court on charges of taking part in "terrorist activity." The Belgian Chamber of Indictment, however, blocked proceedings against all defendants, ruling that the PKK insurgency is an "internal armed conflict" within Turkey and, as such, neither the party nor its armed wing, the People's Defense Forces (HPG), may be considered a terrorist organization under Belgian law. The Turkish Foreign Ministry condemned the decision. (Photo: ANF)

Central Asia

Podcast: Tibet and the struggle for cyberspace

In Episode 28 of the CounterVortex podcast, Bill Weinberg notes with trepidation Google’s plans to develop a censored search engine for China, and thereby be allowed back through the Great Firewall to access the world's largest market. But the next and more sinister step is imposing China's draconian standards for control of information on all Internet users, worldwide. Harbingers of this are already seen in Facebook's censorship of the Tibetan struggle, and of the Kurdish struggle in Turkey, as well as initiatives to suppress footage of Israeli war crimes. While protesting such moves is imperative, the potential for such abuses in inherent to the technology—and this, ultimately, is a deeper and more complex problem that also demands a thoroughgoing critique. Listen on SoundCloud, and support our podcast via Patreon. (Photo: Students for a Free Tibet)

Greater Middle East

Turkish court upholds convictions of journalists

An appeals court in Turkey upheld the convictions of 14 employees of Cumhuriyet, a Turkish news outlet that has been critical of President Recep Tayyip Erdo?an. The defendants—including journalists, a cartoonist, executives and accountants—were sentenced in April to prison terms between four and eight years on charges of "acting on behalf of a terrorist group without being members." The Third Criminal Chamber of the Istanbul Regional Court of Justice reviewed and upheld each of these sentences. In Turkey, sentences less than five years cannot be overturned once they are upheld by an appellate court, meaning that eight of the defendants must now serve out their terms. The remaining defendants with longer sentences plan to appeal to Turkey's Supreme Court. (Photo: WikiMedia via Jurist)

Palestine

Palestinians reject Warsaw Conference

The secretary general of the Palestinian Liberation Organization executive committee, Saeb Erekat, issued a statement rejecting the US-led conference in Warsaw, ostensibly aimed at brokering Middle East peace. Said Erekat: “Today we face a reality whereby the US Trump administration, in cooperation with the Polish government, is pushing yet a new initiative to annihilate the Palestinian national project.” Poland has been making some efforts to resist turning the conference into a propagandistic anti-Iran meeting dominated by the US, Israel and Saudi Arabia. The notable absentees from the summit are meanwhile convening their own meeting in the Russian resort of Sochi. The rival summit is bringing together Vladimir Putin, Turkey’s Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Iran’s Hassan Rouhani.  (Photo: Ma’an)