New Ukraine Talks Start In Minsk

A new round of talks aimed at finding a lasting solution to the Ukraine crisis has started in the Belarusian capital, Minsk.

The so-called Contact Group includes representatives of Russia, Ukraine, pro-Russian separatists, and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE).

Participants include Ukrainian former President Leonid Kuchma, Russia’s Ambassador to Kyiv Mikhail Zurabov, OSCE Special Representative Heidi Tagliavini, and four leaders of Ukraine’s separatist Luhansk and Donetsk regions: Aleksandr Zakharchenko, Igor Plotnitsky, Aleksey Karyakin, and Andrei Purgin.

The ultimate goal is to find a lasting solution to a conflict that has killed more than 3,000 people since April.

Seeking to end a deadly conflict with pro-Russian separatists and keep the country of 45 million in one piece, Ukraine’s parliament adopted legislation on September 16 granting broader autonomy to rebel-held parts of the country’s east for a three-year period.

Ukrainian lawmakers also granted amnesty to participants in the conflict, excluding those who have committed “serious crimes.”

Russia described the moves as a “step in the right direction.”

But they were greeted with a mixed response by the insurgents, with some rebel leaders saying they would settle for nothing short of independence.

The new legislation is in keeping with a September 5 deal in which Ukraine’s government and the rebels, who hold large swaths of the Donetsk and Luhansk regions, agreed on a cease-fire and on steps to end the conflict.

The fragile truce has largely held despite sporadic fighting.

On September 18, U.S. President Barack Obama met with visiting Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko at the White House. 

Obama condemned what he called Moscow’s “aggression” in Crimea, which was annexed by Russia in March, and in eastern Ukraine.

Obama praised Poroshenko saying that his leadership has “been critical at a very important time in Ukraine’s history.” 

He also pledged to continue helping Kyiv find a diplomatic solution to the crisis the country faces. 

Poroshenko thanked Obama for the “enormous” support the United States has shown Ukraine. 

Poroshenko said a U.S. “team” would be in Ukraine next week to review Ukraine’s energy situation and needs with winter coming soon.

Based on reporting by AFP, Interfax, and ITAR-TASS 

Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty

Kurdish President Urges World to Help Syrian Kurds against IS Attacks

President of the Kurdistan Region Massoud Barzani called on Kurdish parties and the international community today to assist the people of Kobane against the Islamic State (IS) attacks on the town.

“We appeal to all Kurdish forces to put aside their differences and unite to defend the dignity, the land and the lives of the citizens of Kobane,” Barzani said in a statement. “The defense of the land and the people of Kurdistan is the duty of all of us and would override all other duties,”

Barzani warned that inaction would lead to terrible consequences and he called on the international community to prevent another humanitarian crisis.

“We also appeal to the international community to take urgent and necessary measures to protect people and Kobane in Western Kurdistan from terrorists wherever they are, because they will not hesitate to commit crimes and atrocities,” said Barzani in a statement published by the president’s office in Erbil.

Kobane, one of three autonomous cantons of Rojava (Syrian Kurdistan) is under attack and heavy shelling from IS militants.

Hundreds of civilians are reported to have fled to safer areas while the Kurdish Peoples Protection Units (YPG) are fighting back the Islamist attack on many fronts.

Barzani’s statement on Friday described the IS attack as a broader attack on Kurds in the region, saying, “The brutality of these attacks on Kobane and western Kurdistan is a threat against the people of Kurdistan as a whole, targeting the dignity and the honor and the existence of our people.”

On Thursday, the Democratic Union Party (PYD) and the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) appealed to Kurds from all parts of Kurdistan, particularly the Kurdish areas of Turkey to join the fight in Kobane and repel the IS attacks.

Meantime, Mustafa Farhat, a spokesman for the Free Syrian Army (FSA) told Rudaw that a large force is on the way to Kobane to help the Kurdish forces there.

“A Large number of FSA set off to Kobane from Aleppo to support the people of Kobane in their confrontation against the IS militants,” said Farhat.

“The balance of power will change by tomorrow,” he said.

The YPG has successfully held its lines against extremist groups for the past two years, but the latest IS attack on Kobane appears to be the most severe.

Also on Friday, Syria’s Minister of National Reconciliation Ali al-Haideri said that government forces should defend Kobane against the IS attacks.

“Kobane is Syrian land and it is our duty as the government of Syria to defend our land,” al-Haideri told Rudaw. “Therefore the Syrian army should go to Kobane.”

LINK

Did you like this? Share it:

Dinar Daddy’s Tidbits

Kurdish President Urges World to Help Syrian Kurds against IS Attacks

President of the Kurdistan Region Massoud Barzani called on Kurdish parties and the international community today to assist the people of Kobane against the Islamic State (IS) attacks on the town.

“We appeal to all Kurdish forces to put aside their differences and unite to defend the dignity, the land and the lives of the citizens of Kobane,” Barzani said in a statement. “The defense of the land and the people of Kurdistan is the duty of all of us and would override all other duties,”

Barzani warned that inaction would lead to terrible consequences and he called on the international community to prevent another humanitarian crisis.

“We also appeal to the international community to take urgent and necessary measures to protect people and Kobane in Western Kurdistan from terrorists wherever they are, because they will not hesitate to commit crimes and atrocities,” said Barzani in a statement published by the president’s office in Erbil.

Kobane, one of three autonomous cantons of Rojava (Syrian Kurdistan) is under attack and heavy shelling from IS militants.

Hundreds of civilians are reported to have fled to safer areas while the Kurdish Peoples Protection Units (YPG) are fighting back the Islamist attack on many fronts.

Barzani’s statement on Friday described the IS attack as a broader attack on Kurds in the region, saying, “The brutality of these attacks on Kobane and western Kurdistan is a threat against the people of Kurdistan as a whole, targeting the dignity and the honor and the existence of our people.”

On Thursday, the Democratic Union Party (PYD) and the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) appealed to Kurds from all parts of Kurdistan, particularly the Kurdish areas of Turkey to join the fight in Kobane and repel the IS attacks.

Meantime, Mustafa Farhat, a spokesman for the Free Syrian Army (FSA) told Rudaw that a large force is on the way to Kobane to help the Kurdish forces there.

“A Large number of FSA set off to Kobane from Aleppo to support the people of Kobane in their confrontation against the IS militants,” said Farhat.

“The balance of power will change by tomorrow,” he said.

The YPG has successfully held its lines against extremist groups for the past two years, but the latest IS attack on Kobane appears to be the most severe.

Also on Friday, Syria’s Minister of National Reconciliation Ali al-Haideri said that government forces should defend Kobane against the IS attacks.

“Kobane is Syrian land and it is our duty as the government of Syria to defend our land,” al-Haideri told Rudaw. “Therefore the Syrian army should go to Kobane.”

LINK

Did you like this? Share it:

Dinar Daddy’s Tidbits

Militants Threaten Ancient Sites in Iraq, Syria

This Monday, Sept. 15, 2014 photo shows bas-relief inscriptions at the Iraqi National Museum in Baghdad. When the Islamic State group overran the northern city of Mosul and surrounding Ninevah province in June, they captured a region were nearly 1,800 of Iraq’s 12,000 registered archaeological sites are located. They snapped up even more as they pushed south toward Baghdad (AP Photo/Hadi Mizban).(AP) — For more than 5,000 years, numerous civilizations have left their mark on upper Mesopotamia — from Assyrians and Akkadians to Babylonians and Romans. Their ancient, buried cities, palaces and temples packed with monumental art are scattered across what is now northern Iraq and eastern Syria.

Now much of that archaeological wealth is under the control of extremists from the Islamic State group. The militants have demolished some artifacts in their zealotry to uproot what they see as heresy, but they are also profiting from it, hacking relics off palace walls or digging them out to sell on the international black market.

Antiquities officials in Iraq and Syria warn of a disaster as the region’s history is erased.

In Iraq, black market dealers are coming into areas controlled by the Islamic State group or in safe regions nearby to snap up items, said Qais Hussein Rashid, head of the state-run Museums Department, citing reports from local antiquities officials still in the area.

When the militants overran the northern city of Mosul and surrounding Ninevah province in June, they captured a region were nearly 1,800 of Iraq’s 12,000 registered archaeological sites are located. They snapped up even more as they pushed south toward Baghdad.

Among the most important sites under their control are four ancient cities — Ninevah, Kalhu, Dur Sharrukin and Ashur — which were at different times the capital of the mighty Assyrian Empire. The Assyrians first arose around 2500 B.C. and at one point ruled over a realm stretching from the Mediterranean coast to Iran.

The heaviest damage confirmed so far has taken place in the grand palace at Kalhu, from which Assyrian King Ashurnasirpal II reigned in the 9th century B.C., Rasheed said. The palace walls are lined with reliefs describing the king’s military campaigns and conquests or depicting him hunting lions or making sacrifices to the gods.

“They are cutting these reliefs into small parts and selling them,” Rasheed continued. “They don’t need to excavate. They just need a chain saw to cut the king’s head or legs if they want.”

Recently they carved off a relief depicting a winged demon holding a sacred plant and sold it abroad, he said. “It is now beyond borders.”

Authorities fear other sites will soon face destruction, including Mosul’s city museum, which has rare collections of Assyrian artifacts, and the 2,300-year-old city of Hatra, a well preserved complex of temples further south. From both locations, militants ordered out antiquities officials, chastising them for protecting “idols,” Rasheed said.

So far, it appears the militants have not done anything with the artifacts at the sites because they are awaiting instructions from their religious authorities, he said.

The Islamic State militants seek to purge society of everything that doesn’t conform with their strict, puritanical version of Islam. That means destroying not only relics seen as pagan but even some Islamic sites — Sunni Muslim shrines they see as idolatrous, as well as mosques used by Shiites, a branch of Islam they consider heretical.

In and around Mosul, the militants destroyed at least 30 historic sites, including the Islamic mosque-shrines of the prophets Seth, Jirjis and Jonah. The shrines were centuries old in many cases.

But their extremist ideology doesn’t prevent them from also profiting from the sale of ancient artifacts, either by selling them themselves or taking a cut from thieves who are increasingly active in looting sites.,

The shrine of Jonah was built on top of an unexcavated palace in the ancient Assyrian capital of Ninevah. After blowing up the mosque, thieves burrowed underneath and are believed to have taken artifacts, said Rasheed, citing reports from local antiquities officials who remain in Mosul.

It is unclear how much the militants are earning from antiquities. U.S. intelligence officials said the Islamic State rakes in more than $ 3 million a day from multiple sources, including smuggling of oil and antiquities, human trafficking, extortion of businessmen, ransoms and outright theft. The officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss classified assessments, said the militants sell goods through smuggling networks in the Kurdish region, Turkey and Jordan.

In civil war-torn Syria, looting of archaeological sites is believed to have increased tenfold since early 2013 because of the country’s chaos, said Maamoun Abdulkarim, Syria’s director-general of antiquities and museums. The past year, the Islamic State group has overrun most of the east, putting a string of major archaeological sites in their hands.

In one known case, they have demolished relics as part of their purge of paganism, destroying several Assyrian-era statues looted from a site known as Tell Ajaja, Abulkarim said. Photos posted online showed the gunmen using hammers to break apart the statues of bearded figures.

More often, the extremists seem to have latched onto the antiquities trade.

For example, the 2,300-year-old city of Dura Europos is being pillaged. The site is in one a cliff overlooking the Euphrates near the Iraq border in an area under the Islamic State group’s control, and satellite imagery taken in April show it pockmarked with holes from illegal digs by antiquity-seekers.

Images showed hundreds of people excavating on some days from dawn to nightfall, with gunmen and gangs involved, said Abdulkarim. Dealers are at the site and “when they discover an artifact, the sale takes place immediately,” he said. “They are destroying entire pages of Syrian history.”

Dura Europos is remarkably well preserved cultural crossroads, a city first founded by Alexander the Great’s successors and later ruled by Romans and various Persian empires. It boasts pagan temples, churches and one of the earliest known Jewish synagogues. Archaeologists in 2009 found likely evidence of an early use of chemical warfare: During a 2nd century siege, Persian attackers dug tunnels under the city walls and set fires that poured poisonous sulfur-laced fumes on the Roman defenders above.

Alarmed by the militants’ advance, the United Nations’ cultural agency UNESCO adopted an emergency plan to safeguard Iraq’s cultural heritage. It called on art dealers and museums not to deal with Iraqi artifacts and alerted neighboring countries of potential smuggling.

“We are very, very, very concerned that the situation could be aggravated in a way that causes more and more damage,” Nada al-Hassan, of the UNESCO World Heritage Centre, told The Associated Press.

Associated Press writer Zeina Karam contributed from Beirut, Lebanon.

Assyrian International News Agency

Security Council Backs Iraqi Unity Government

The UN Security Council has expressed support for Iraq’s new government as it confronts Islamist State (IS) militants.

The 15-member council adopted on September 19 a statement backing the Iraqi unity government at a meeting chaired by U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry.

Kerry said Iraq has responded to the IS threat “with a spirit of unity.”

He said the IS fighters were “unique in their brutality” and that there is a role for every country to play in the fight against the group, including Iran.

The extremist group controls large swaths in Iraq and neighboring Syria, where activists say IS fighters have seized about 60 Kurdish villages near the Turkish border over the past two days. 

With reporting by AFP and Reuters 

Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty

KRG signs MoU with Belarus

The Foreign Minister of Belarus, Mr Vladimir Makei, arrived in the Kurdistan Region yesterday to strengthen bilateral relations and sign a memorandum of understanding.
Prime Minister Nechirvan Barzani, Deputy Prime Minister Qubad Talabani, and senior KRG officials received the Foreign Minister and his delegation.
In the meeting, both sides exchanged views on bolstering relations and improving bilateral ties. Foreign Minister Makei stated the importance of paying a visit to the Kurdistan Region amid the current circumstances in order to express solidarity and support. He added that he hopes the Kurdistan Region will overcome this challenging time and continue to develop and thrive. He said that Belarus is ready to cooperate and coordinate with the KRG.
Prime Minister Barzani thanked the Foreign Minister for the visit, which is an important demonstration of solidarity, and for the offer for increased cooperation. He explained that the KRG has promoted free market trade and private sector enterprise, highlighting sectors in which Belarus might best work with the Kurdistan Region.
At the meeting a joint commission was established to oversee the bilateral relationship. Foreign Minister Makei and Deputy Prime Minister Talabani signed a memorandum of understanding to outline areas of cooperation, including industry, agriculture, energy, information technology, and higher education. The document also covers plans to arrange direct flights between Erbil and Minsk in order to expand mutual trade and tourism as well as coordination between the two governments to foster both public and private sector partnerships.
Foreign Minister Makei invited the KRG to send a high-level delegation to Belarus to build upon the growing coordination between the two governments.

LINK

Did you like this? Share it:

Dinar Daddy’s Tidbits

Iraqi Cleric Urges Vigilance Against Western Interference

By David D. Kirkpatrick and Dan Bilefsky

BAGHDAD — The influential Shiite cleric Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani on Friday urged vigilance against Western political interference in Iraqi affairs but stopped short of opposing the American-led military campaign against the extremists of Islamic State.

“All political leaders of the country must be aware and awake to prevent the external assistance against the Islamic State from becoming an entrance to breach Iraq’s independence,” Ayatollah Sistani said. “Cooperation with the international effort shall not be taken as a pretext to impose foreign decisions on events in Iraq, especially military events.”

His carefully balanced comments, in a statement read by his spokesman at Friday Prayers in the Iraqi city of Karbala, underscored the challenge facing the United States and its allies in their efforts to push back Islamic State, also known as ISIS, without either bolstering or antagonizing rival Shiite factions.

The ayatollah’s comments came shortly after the office of President François Hollande of France announced that French fighter jets had carried out their first attacks on Islamic State targets in Iraq, fulfilling his pledge a day earlier to join the international military campaign against the group.

In recent days, a handful of other Iraqi Shiite leaders or militias with closer ties to Iran have made statements expressing more wariness or opposition to the American-led military efforts, and American officials have said the Iranian proxies may be seeking to remind the Western states that Tehran, too, should be taken into account. On Friday, the Iraqi cleric Moktada al-Sadr, another influential voice with ties to Iran, called for a demonstration in Baghdad on Saturday to protest a potential incursion by American ground forces.

But Ayatollah Sistani, considered both independent and uniquely popular here, was more balanced. While he warned Iraqis to guard against foreign interference, he also appeared to endorse the idea that foreign help may be required to push back the Sunni extremists.

“Iraq may be in need of assistance from its friends and brothers to combat black terrorism,” Ayatollah Sistani said. But he insisted that “preserving its sovereignty and independence must be the most important thing and must be taken into consideration.”

He also appealed for inter-sectarian solidarity in the fight against the extremists by specifically urging support for Al Dhuluiya, a Sunni town that has held out for months against a siege by the Sunni extremists. “Our brave Iraqi forces should help and defend Al Dhuluiya,” he said, “because its people are our brothers and they are the sons of our country.”

Elsewhere, French Rafale warplanes struck a logistics depot belonging to the Islamic State in northeastern Iraq on Friday. Mr. Hollande said in a statement, “The objective was hit and entirely destroyed.”

Mr. Hollande said other operations would take place in the coming days.

Remarking on the violent tactics employed by the Sunni militants, who have conquered wide sections of territory in Iraq and Syria, Mr. Hollande said Thursday at a news conference in Paris that the group had been able to grow partly because the international community had failed to intervene. But he emphasized that France’s role would be limited to providing air support, including strikes, in Iraq.

He indicated that France would not expand its mission into Syria, and French officials have made it clear that the government does not want to give the impression that it supports the Syrian government, led by President Bashar al-Assad.

France was a vociferous opponent of the American-led effort to overthrow Saddam Hussein in 2003, and analysts say the French public remains wary of sustained Western intervention in the region. Mr. Hollande, whose domestic political approval rating has hit a low of 13 percent amid persistent economic troubles, has framed the fight against Islamic State as important for French national security.

In northern Syria, an Islamic State offensive has driven thousands of Syrian Kurds from their homes, with many fleeing across the border into Syria on Friday, prompting a call by an Iraqi Kurdish leader for international intervention.

In recent days, extremist fighters seized villages across a swath of northern Syria, officials said, and on Friday were attacking the mainly Kurdish town of Ayn al-Arab, known as Kobani in Kurdish, on the Turkish border, news services reported.

“We would like to call on the international community to act as soon as possible to protect the people of Kobani,” said Masoud Barzani, president of the autonomous Kurdish region in Iraq, in a statement. The militants, he said, “should be attacked and destroyed wherever they are.”

David D. Kirkpatrick reported from Baghdad, and Dan Bilefsky from Paris. Reporting was contributed by Kirk Semple from Erbil, Iraq, Omar Hikamt from Baghdad, and Maïa de la Baume from Paris.

Assyrian International News Agency

Yatsenyuk, Poroshenko Hail RFE/RL’s Ukrainian Service On Sixtieth Anniversary

Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty’s Ukrainian Service marked its 60th anniversary on September 18 at an event in Kyiv, attended by Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk and Kyiv Mayor Vitaliy Klitschko and hosted by the Prague Freedom Foundation.

In keynote remarks, Yatsenyuk said, “Empires collapsed, walls fell, dictators disappeared, but Radio Svoboda exists and will exist, as well as freedom.” The Prime Minister told the audience of diplomats, members of the Ukrainian parliament, civil society leaders, and journalists, “I wish all of us to listen to Radio Svoboda and be free people thanks to the truth and thanks to Radio Svoboda.”

x

Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk at the 60th anniversary event for RFE/RL’s Ukrainian Service in Kyiv

Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko, currently visiting the U.S., sent a written statement that was read at the event. “Generations of modern Ukrainian politicians grew up listening to your programs, despite artificially created obstacles,” he wrote. “Your many years of work are an example of how to care for the interests of the society, independent of party interests and political regimes.”

Also attending the anniversary celebration were Karel Schwarzenberg, Chair of the Committee on Foreign Affairs of the Czech Chamber of Deputies; Laima Andrikiene, a former member of the European Parliament’s Committee on Foreign Affairs and Subcommittee on Human Rights; Ukrainian parliament members Iryna Gerashchenko and Hryhoriy Nemyria; and Hromadske TV founder Mustafa Nayem, all of whom participated in a panel discussion on the role of propaganda and the power of independent journalism in situations of conflict and war.

Service director Maryana Drach said the Service’s accomplishments draw on a distinguished history, citing the service’s support of dissidents during the Soviet period and its reporting on issues long hidden by the Soviet government and media, such as Holodomor (the man-made Great Famine of 1932-33, which resulted in the death of millions of Ukrainians). Drach added, “Today Radio Svoboda reports on the seizure of the [Crimean Tatar parliament] Mejlis, the closure of Ukrainian schools in Crimea, and alleged torture of captives in Eastern Ukraine,” always remaining faithful to its mission to provide journalistically sound news and analysis.

RFE/RL’s Ukrainian Service, known locally as Radio Svoboda, began its first broadcast from Munich, West Germany on August 16, 1954 with this call: “Brothers and sisters! Ukrainians! We live abroad, but our hearts and minds are always with you. No Iron Curtain can separate us or keep us apart.” The Service has enjoyed dramatic growth among local audiences this year as a result of its live-streamed coverage of events relating to the Euromaidan demonstrations. Its on-site reporting from Crimea and the conflict zones in eastern Ukraine, and investigations into the properties and finances of the Yanukovych regime is regularly cited by major international and local media.

Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty

Yemen fighting rages as truce talks collapse

The United Nations has failed to mediate a peace deal between Yemen’s Houthi rebels and the government, as Shia fighters advanced into the capital in an escalation of violence that has brought the country to the verge of a civil war.

The UN envoy to Yemen, Jamal Benomar, left the northern city of Saada on Friday after trying to mediate a deal that could pave the way for a new government and more political representation for the Houthis.  

Fighting between rebels and government troops continued for a second day in the capital Sanaa on Friday as war planes flew over the city, with the warring sides attacking each other a kilometre from the presidential palace compound. 

Clashes in Sanaa kill dozens

Clashes had raged on the outskirts of Sanaa for days, with dozens of deaths reported. 

Al Jazeera’s Hashem Ahelbarra, who has been following developments in the country for years, said the country is “just a few hours” from plunging into a civil war as the capital city is divided along sectarian lines, with one half run by Sunnis and the other by Houthis.

“The Houthis have control over most of the north of the country – from Saada to the gates of Sanaa. They have thousands of fighters and some military commanders and members of the former regime with them – and if in the coming hours they decide to control Sanaa, they can definitely control the capital,” Ahelbarra said.

“If the Sunnis decide to join the fight against the Houthis, it’s definitely going to be civil war in the country [...] It’s either peace or war.”

The Houthis are a Shia movement whose traditional power base is in the north. They are demanding a new government and also more political power for their community.

Thousands of Houthis have been staging protests in Sanaa for more than a month, besieging ministries and blocking the road to the main airport.

Local officials said on Friday that hundreds of residents were forced to flee their homes after the Houthi rebels shelled Yemen’s state television offices in Sanaa as they pushed into the capital.

Fighting in the capital had become so intense that, by Friday, international airlines suspended flights in and out of the nearby airport.

The government’s plans for a six-region federation in Yemen to address the grievances of the regions has been rejected by both the Shia rebels and southern separatists.


ANALYSIS FROM OUR CORRESPONDENT

The UN was trying to mediate a deal which included the Houthis demands of the formation a new government of technocrats, a reduction in fuel prices and giving Houthis more political representation. In exchange, the Houthis would have had to pull out of Sanaa and put an end to their civil disobedience campaign. 

President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi faces a tough choice: he is from the south and northern Yemen is not his power base. The army’s top military commanders are Shias and he is worried they might defy his orders if he calls for war.

On the other hand, there is a growing frustration among the Sunnis. They say Hadi is weak, and that under his tenure more territory was lost to the Houthis. If the Shia rebels control Sanaa, Sunni tribes might call for his resignation.

And if fighting breaks out in Sanaa, a city divided along sectarian lines and armed to the teeth, it might be the worst on the Arabian Peninsula in modern history.


Explaining Yemen’s political-military groups:

Houthis - Shia group also known as Ansarullah, or “Partisans of God”, who have been at war with the government since 2004. They demand resignation of government, more political inclusion and access to the sea. Strongholds include Saada, al-Jawf and the Jeraf district inside Sanaa.

Al-Islah (Reform) - Sunni Islamist party that draws support and membership from heavily armed Sunni tribesmen, and is instrumental in rallying support behind the army and the government. Present in almost all of Yemen. The Houthis have identified the party as its arch-enemy.

Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula - A merger of the Yemeni and Saudi branches of al-Qaeda. Seized large swathes of territory in the south and the southeast after the uprising in 2011. Launched many attacks on armed forces and central authority establishments. Its power bases are Shabwah, Abyan and Hadramawt. 

The Southern Separatist Movement - Umbrella group that wants the south to break away from the north and reinstate the former Socialist state that existed until 1990. Led by Ali al-Beidh.


847

AL JAZEERA ENGLISH (AJE)

New Awakening in Kirkuk?

Sunni Muslim extremists continue to kidnap, execute and otherwise impose their authoritarian rule on locals in the areas they control, such as in southwestern Kirkuk. Slowly but surely though, local resistance against them is growing. Tribal leaders suggest an organized, salaried force is in development.
On the 12th day after the Sunni Muslim extremist group known as the Islamic State, or IS, took control of southwestern parts of the province of Kirkuk, some of their fighters paid a visit to the house of a local tribal leader.
IS group fighters looted and destroyed the home of Sheikh Anwar al-Assi in the village of Arumel, south west of Kirkuk city. They did so because the sheikh had refused to swear allegiance to them.
The attack came despite the fact that al-Assi heads the Abid tribe in the area and that this tribe is one of the major Arab tribes here, and also has members in other parts of Iraq.
Al-Assi then left his village and went to Sulaymaniyah, inside the semi-autonomous region of Iraqi Kurdistan, which is controlled by the Iraqi Kurdish military – he had word that next the IS group planned to kill him.
“The IS group kidnaps and executes anyone who doesn’t cooperate with them as well as those they have doubts about,” al-Assi told NIQASH. “Those who don’t swear allegiance are accused of working for the government or of trying to form militias to fight against them – all grounds for execution, in the IS group’s opinion.”
“Lately fighters from the IS group have been kidnapping a lot of local people,” al-Assi says, adding that the fighters are becoming more and more violent and unjust. “Not even women have been spared. Fighters kidnapped four women from their homes in the Hawija district recently.”

LINK

Did you like this? Share it:

Dinar Daddy’s Tidbits

Syrian Kurds Warn of Mounting Crisis As ISIS Advances

Istanbul (CNN) — The latest ISIS advance in Syria has brought a swath of the country’s north-central Kurdish region under siege, with Kurdish leaders warning of another humanitarian crisis without international intervention.

The Syrian Kurdish town of Kobani (Ayn al-Arab in Arabic) is an island, surrounded by ISIS on three fronts and the Turkish border to the north.

The town was already mostly blockaded by ISIS, but this week, 21 nearby villages fell under ISIS control, according to a Kurdish activist inside the city. The Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, or “Islamic State,” as the group calls itself, took over three additional villages Friday, the London-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.

Clashes are constant around Kobani as Kurdish fighters attempt to hold off ISIS, which is armed with heavy artillery and tanks, the activist, Mostafa Baly, told CNN.

“Mobilization of people in Kobani is not enough,” said Redur Xelil, a spokesman for the Kurdish fighters. “The international community has to take action. If not, there will be a new (Sinjar) genocide, but this time in Kobani.”

Sinjar is the Iraqi city that came under ISIS attack last month, causing thousands to flee onto adjacent Mount Sinjar, where refugees became stranded and were starving before U.S. airstrikes helped pave a way for them to flee.

The fighting around Kobani has been intense for four days, Xelil told CNN.

Masoud Barzani, the President of the Kurdish Region in Iraq, called the ISIS attacks in northern Syria “barbaric” and described them as ethnic cleansing.

“I ask the international community to take every measure as soon as possible to save Kobani and the people of Syrian Kurdistan from the terrorists,” he said in a statement. “The ISIS terrorists perpetrate crimes and atrocities wherever they are, therefore they have to be hit and defeated wherever they are.”

As ISIS encroached on the nearby villages, residents fled toward Kobani, said Baly, the Kurdish activist. There were reports that ISIS kidnapped some of those fleeing to Kobani, including women, children and the elderly, Baly said.

At least three rockets landed in Kobani, causing much panic, he said.

“There is a great deal of fear, but people are insisting on standing up to ISIS and remaining steadfast in the face of their attack,” he said.

Turkey opens border

The fear of a humanitarian crisis in Kobani rose as displaced people sought refuge there but became trapped between the fighting and the Turkish border.

An estimated 3,000 to 4,000 Kurds fleeing the violence walked right up to the wire border fence with Turkey, where they initially were not allowed in. They just sat at the border as Turkish Kurds on the other side of the fence tried to persuade the Turkish guards to let them in.

The situation on the border could be observed on a live feed from the border and from video footage aired on Turkish news outlets.

The refugees also tried to force their way into Turkey, creating chaos as one woman stepped on a landmine.

Turkey finally opened the border, relieving some of the mounting pressure in Kobani and allowing refugees to enter Sanliurfa province.

“Four thousand of our siblings will be hosted in our country,” Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu told state media. “Opening our arms to our Syrian brothers is our historic humanitarian responsibility.”

Hosting Syrian refugees is nothing new for Turkey and other neighboring nations. About 815,000 registered Syrian refugees were in Turkey as of last month, part of the 3 million total registered Syrian refugees that the U.N. has counted amid Syria’s three-year civil war.

A further 6.5 million people were believed to be displaced within Syria as of last month, according to the U.N.

U.S. military on deck

The U.S. Senate on Thursday voted overwhelmingly to approve the arming of Syrian rebels as top U.S. military leadership approved a plan to strike ISIS in Syria. The House approved Obama’s request Wednesday.

The approval allows President Barack Obama to carry out part of his stated strategy to combat ISIS, though some political leaders remain divided on the way forward.

With approval in hand to arm and train Syrian rebels to fight ISIS, Obama said Thursday the plan keeps with “the key principle” of U.S. strategy: No American combat troops on the ground.

“The American troops deployed to Iraq do not and will not have a combat mission,” he said in televised remarks from the White House.

“Their mission is to advise and assist our partners on the ground. … We can destroy ISIL without having our troops fight another ground war in the Middle East.”

Obama said more than 40 countries, including Arab nations, have offered assistance in the battle against ISIS.

Long vetting and training process

National Security Adviser Susan Rice, speaking to reporters Friday, said that now that approval to arm moderate Syrian rebels has been given, a long process will start to vet and train those who will be benefit from the measure.

U.S. military personnel will train the Syrian fighters outside of Syria, and the process of planning the training and vetting the participants will take months, she said.

“This is a serious training program, and we are serious about vetting those we are training and equipping,” she said.

Rice stepped around questions about whether airstrikes against ISIS in Syria will require an additional thumbs-up from President Obama, repeating the President’s own announcement that the United States is “prepared” to broaden its actions in the region into Syria.

ISIS videos

The advance by ISIS in northern Syria comes as the Islamist group released a 55-minute English-language video warning America against “direct confrontation.”

The video describes the conflict as a fight between believers and nonbelievers, and praises its successes on the battlefield.

Earlier this week, ISIS released another video showing a captive British journalist criticizing the American and British governments.

Citing the Sunni terror group’s brutality, from beheading civilians — including American journalists James Foley and Steven Sotloff — to the mass execution of its opponents, Obama said the United States will not back down.

“With their barbaric murder of two Americans, these terrorists thought they could frighten us or intimidate us or cause us to shrink from the world,” Obama said.

“But today, they are learning the same hard lesson of petty tyrants and terrorists who have gone before: As Americans, we do not give in to fear. When you harm our citizens, when you threaten the United States, when you threaten our allies, it doesn’t frighten us. It unites us.”

The question now appears to be not if, but when, the United States will strike ISIS in its stronghold in northern Syria.

The U.S. military has everything it needs to strike ISIS targets in Syria, a plan that officials told CNN is still waiting on Obama’s signoff.

ISIS, meanwhile, is modifying its behavior, from the way it communicates to the way it conceals itself, in response to potential U.S. airstrikes in Syria, U.S. military officials told CNN.

The officials expressed confidence the airstrikes would be effective.

Gul Tuysuz reported from Istanbul, and Mariano Castillo wrote and reported from Atlanta. CNN’s Salma Abdelaziz, Barbara Starr, Jason Hanna and Chelsea J. Carter contributed to this report.

Assyrian International News Agency

U.S. Senators Back Funding To Battle Russian ‘Propaganda’

A bill passed by the U.S. Senate’s foreign relations committee authorizes $ 10 million in annual funding focused on countering Russian “propaganda” in Ukraine, Georgia, and Moldova.

The authorization is part of the Ukraine Freedom Support Act, which the committee passed 18-0 on September 18. 

It prioritizes the funding for Voice of America and RFE/RL broadcasting in the three former Soviet republics over the next three years.

The funds would be separate from other U.S. government financing aimed at combatting “Russian Federation propaganda,” according to the bill.

The Ukraine Freedom Support Act also authorizes further sanctions on Russia over its role in the Ukraine crisis, and $ 350 million in military assistance, including lethal aid, for Ukraine.

It is unclear when and if the bill will come up for a vote in the U.S. Senate. 

Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty

Russia Criticizes Conduct Of Scotland Referendum

Russia has criticized the conduct of the referendum on Scottish independence, saying it “did not meet international standards.”
 
Russia’s state news agency Ria Novosti reports that Igor Borisov, the head of a Russian team of observers, has complained that the votes were counted in rooms which were too big, and that the procedure presented serious shortcomings.  

Ria said the four-member team from Moscow’s Public Institute of Suffrage monitored the voting in Edinburgh and the surrounding area.

Borisov’s comments appeared to be an attempt to mirror persistent western criticism of Russia’s own elections.

Analysts say Russia apparently saw a “yes” vote as a way of justifying its own annexation of Crimea in March, after a hastily arranged “referendum” condemned by the west.

Based on reporting by Ria Novosti and guardian.co.uk 

Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty

French President gives his agreement to launch air strikes

BAGHDAD / NINA / French President Francois Hollande announced on Thursday that he gave his approval to launch air strikes against the Islamic State in Iraq / IS /, explaining that France would not send troops on the ground.

He said in a press conference today that he held a meeting this morning with the Defense Council and decided to respond to the request of the Iraqi authorities to give air support in the face of the IS.

He explained, “We will not go there, there will be no troops on the ground, and will not interfere in Iraq.

It is noteworthy that the participants in the Paris meeting for peace and security in Iraq, which was held on Monday, pledged their support to the Baghdad government by all means necessary, including military to confront the IS militants. / End

LINK

Did you like this? Share it:

Dinar Daddy’s Tidbits

Sierra Leone Ebola lockdown empties streets

Sierra Leone has begun a three-day nationwide lockdown, confining its population of six million to their homes in an effort to halt the spread of the deady Ebola virus by allowing health workers find and isolate cases.

After the lockdown came into effect on Friday, the Associated Press news agency reported that the streets of the capital city Freetown, population 1.2 million, were deserted, aside from vehicles carrying police and health workers.

These are extraordinary times and extraordinary times require extraordinary measures.

President Ernest Bai Koroma

But many volunteers at the Murray Town Health Center in Freetown said on Friday that they had not yet received their kits, containing soap, stickers and flyers.

“This means we are going to achieve less than our target for today or stay beyond six o’clock this evening to be able to do so,” one of the volunteers said.

In a televised address late on Thursday President Ernest Bai Koroma said: “Today, the life of everyone is at stake, but we will get over this difficulty if all do what we have been asked to do.”

“These are extraordinary times and extraordinary times require extraordinary measures.”

At least 562 people have died of the virus in Sierra Leone and nearly 30,000 health workers, volunteers and teachers aim to visit every single household in the country in just three days to educate people and isolate the sick.

UNICEF said the measure provides an opportunity to tell people how to protect themselves. 

“Ose to Ose Ebola Tok” – “house-to-house Ebola talk” in the widely-spoken Krio language – will see more than 7,000 volunteer teams of four visiting the country’s 1.5 million homes. 

They will hand out bars of soap and information on how to prevent infection, as well as setting up “neighbourhood watch”-style community Ebola surveillance teams.

Guinea slayings

Ebola has infected at least 5,357 people in West Africa this year, killing 2,630 of them, in the worst epidemic of the virus so far.

Healthcare workers seeking to contain the Ebola outbreak have often been met with deep mistrust by local communities.

Journalist Ashley Hamer, reporting from the eastern Kailahun region, told Al Jazeera that people there did not seem angered by the measures on Friday and that they were cooperating with autorities.

She said that all shops were closed and residents could not buy any food at all.

The campaign has caused a 30 percent hike in food prices, according to an official from the country’s chamber of agriculture, who said people were calling radio programmes to say they were running out of food.

Some people have lashed out at health workers, accusing them of bringing Ebola to the region, while others do not believe the disease exists. Some have reacted with fear and panic when outsiders have come to conduct awareness campaigns.

In neighbouring Guinea on Thursday, the bodies of a team of eight people educating locals on Ebola risks were found dumped in a village latrine, three of them with their throats cut.

537

AL JAZEERA ENGLISH (AJE)

Islamic State Creates Police Force In Iraqi Province

BAGHDAD (Reuters) — Islamic State (IS) militants in Iraq’s northwest Nineveh province have created a police force to “implement the orders of the religious judiciary,” according to a well-known militant Islamist website.

Photos on the website showed armed men in black clothing with “Islamic Police Nineveh State” printed on the arm. The police forces were in freshly painted police cars and one photo showed militiamen on a river boat.

It was not clear when the photos were posted or when the police force was established.

The text on the website said the force would “maintain order and arrest culprits and the corrupt.” The text said it would be different from police forces in other states, which it described as “a tool to suppress dissent.”

Residents in Nineveh told Reuters the police’s main duty appears to be to detain people they consider opposed to their cause, however.

The police have set up checkpoints on roads and conducted house raids, the residents said. One photo showed a blindfolded man being escorted into a prison.

Islamic State took the Iraqi cities of Mosul, in Nineveh, and Tikrit in June and has announced an Islamic Caliphate in areas it controls in Iraq and Syria.

Its fighters have shocked the world with execution-style killings of Sunnis, Shi’ites, Christians, Yazidis and Kurds. Western governments and Islamic countries fear their citizens who are fighting for Islamic State could threaten national security if they return home.

U.S. President Barack Obama has launched air strikes against Islamic State in Iraq and U.N. human rights chief Zeid Ra’ad al Hussein urged world powers this month to protect women and minorities targeted by the group, saying its fighters were trying to create a “house of blood.”

Islamic State has gradually taken steps to govern since taking over Nineveh this year. In July, Islamic State told Christians in Mosul to convert to Islam or pay a religious tax.

This month the militant group issued an edict to change the school curriculum, scrapping classes in civics, history, fine arts and music. The word “nationalism” is a banned word, under the new rules.

Reporting by Rahmeem Salman and Oliver Holmes; Editing by Sonya Hepinstall.

Assyrian International News Agency

Pakistani Court Dismisses Graft Cases Against Prime Minister

A Pakistani court has dismissed two long-standing corruption cases against Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and his family.

The presiding judge at an accountability court in Islamabad on September 19 dismissed the cases as politically motivated.

The decision comes at a time when Sharif is facing a protest movement which accuses the government of election rigging and massive corruption.

The cases related to the building of Sharif’s Lahore home from allegedly unknown sources of money, and laundering charges through a paper mill company.

They were brought to court by the government of former military ruler Pervez Musharraf in 2000, a year after he deposed Sharif in a coup.

A lawyer for Sharif said the court would hear another graft case on October 2.

Sharif’s brother, Shahbaz, who is the chief minister of Punjab Province, was also implicated in the graft cases.

Based on reporting by AFP and dawn.com

Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty

Bluwolf says we are close.

Bluwolf I honestly wish to express that we are very close to receiving our blessings…There is nothing that anyone can say or do to push this thing forward for it has a new timing, the GOI is more than ready, many banks are now waiting, many governments are now waiting including ours…It’s just a matter of fine tuning all the new issues created by a corrupted, evil and greedy few. …our blessings are so very near, movement is being seen in all economical positions.

Did you like this? Share it:

Dinar Daddy’s Tidbits

Iran, Six Powers Begin New Round Of Nuclear Talks

Iran and six wold powers have opened a new round of talks to settle differences preventing a deal on curbing Tehran’s nuclear program.

The talks between Iran and the P5+1 — Britain, China, France, Russia, the United States, plus Germany — began on September 19 at the United Nations in New York and were to continue until the end of next week.

The talks may be joined next week by U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and his counterparts. The deadline for agreement is November 24, putting pressure on both sides to seal a deal.

The P5+1 wants Iran to scale down nuclear activities, such as uranium enrichment, so that it cannot produce nuclear weapons.

Iran, which denies trying to develop nuclear weapons, wants tough UN and Western sanctions to be lifted.

Based on reporting by AP and AFP

Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty

Washington Snubs Bolivia on Drug Policy Reform, Again

bolivia-coca-leaf-production-drug-war-cocaine

In Bolivia, licensed growers can legally cultivate a limited quantity of coca—a policy that has actually reduced overall production. But because it doesn’t fit the U.S. drug war model, the policy has raised hackles in Washington. (Photo: Thomas Grisaffi / FPIF)

Once again, Washington claims Bolivia has not met its obligations under international narcotics agreements. For the seventh year in a row, the U.S. president has notified Congress that the Andean country “failed demonstrably” in its counter-narcotics efforts over the last 12 months. Blacklisting Bolivia means the withholding of U.S. aid from one of South America’s poorest countries.

The story has hardly made the news in the United States, and that is worrisome. While many countries in the hemisphere call for drug policy reform and are willing to entertain new strategies in that vein, it remains business-as-usual in the United States.

The UN’s Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), meanwhile, seems to think that Bolivia is doing a great job, lauding the government’s efforts to tackle coca production (coca is used to make cocaine) and cocaine processing for the past three years. The Organization of American States (OAS) is also heaping praise on Bolivia, calling Bolivia’s innovative new approach to coca control an example of a “best practice” in drug policy.

According to the UNODC, Bolivia has decreased the amount of land dedicated to coca plants by about 26 percent from 2010-2013. Approximately 56,800 acres are currently under production

U.S. Opposition

bolivia-coca-yungas

Bolivia’s Yungas coca growing region. (Photo: Thomas Grisaffi / FPIF)

Bolivia has achieved demonstrable successes without—and perhaps because of—a complete lack of support from the United States: the Drug Enforcement Administration left in 2009 and all U.S. aid for drug control efforts ended in 2013. Bearing in mind that U.S. drug policy in the Andes has always emphasized “supply-side” reduction like coca crop eradication, the decision is of course a political one. It reflects the U.S. frustration that Bolivia isn’t bending to Washington’s will. Interestingly, most Bolivian-made cocaine ends up in Europe and Brazil—not the United States.

At the same time, Peru and Colombia, both U.S. favorites given their willingness to fall in line with U.S. drug policy mandates, were not included in the list of failures. To be sure, those countries have recently decreased coca crop acreage as well; in some years by a lot more than Bolivia has. Still, they had respectively about 66,200 and 61,700 acres more coca under cultivation than Bolivia in 2013, according to the UNODC’s June 2014 findings. Peru currently produces the most cocaine of any country in the world.

Bolivians have been consuming the coca plant for over 4,000 years as a tea, food, and medicine, and for religious and cultural practices. Coca, the cheapest input in the cocaine commodity chain, cannot be considered equivalent to cocaine, since over 20 chemicals are needed to convert the harmless leaf into the powdery party drug and its less glamorous cousin, crack. Still, coca is listed as a Schedule 1 narcotic under the 1961 UN Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs (the defining piece of international drug control legislation).

When Evo Morales became president of Bolivia he worked to modify the Convention, and in 2013 eventually wrested from the UN the right to allow limited coca production and traditional consumption within Bolivia’s borders. In the process, all Latin American countries except Mexico (which supported the U.S.-led objection) supported Morales’ mission.

The Bolivian Model

bolivia-coca-production-evo-morales

Supporters of Evo Morales at a political rally (Photo: Thomas Grisaffi / FPIF)

The basics of Bolivia’s approach to reining in coca cultivation are fairly simple. Licensed coca growers can legally cultivate a limited amount of coca (1,600square meters) to ensure some basic income, and they police their neighbors to ensure that fellow growers stay within the legal limits. Government forces step in to eradicate coca only when a grower or coca grower’s union refuses to cooperate.

This grassroots control is possible because of the strength of agricultural unions in Bolivia’s coca growing regions and because of growers’ solidarity with President Morales, himself a coca grower.

Another incentive is that reducing supply drives up coca leaf prices, which means that producers can earn more money for their families. As one longtime grower and coca union leader from the Chapare growing region put it: “It’s less work and I make more money.” This income stability, combined with targeted aid from the Bolivian government, means that many coca growers are able to make a living wage and diversify their livelihood strategies—investing in shops, other legal crops, and education.

It also helps that the violence and intimidation at the hands of the previously U.S.-backed Bolivian military has come to an end. People remember what is was like, and many still suffer injuries sustained during different eradication campaigns. One coca grower, for example, had her jaw broken so badly by a soldier as she marched for the right to grow coca that she cannot be fitted for dentures to replace her missing teeth. She emphasized that life is so much better now because it’s less stressful. People do not want to see a return to forced eradication campaigns.

No one is pretending that Bolivia’s coca control approach means the end of cocaine production.  Some portion of coca leaf production—by some estimates, about 22,200-plus acres worth—is still ending up in clandestine, rudimentary labs where it is processed into cocaine paste.

Furthermore, because it is squeezed between Peru, a major cocaine exporter, and Brazil, a growing importer, Bolivia has found it increasingly difficult to control cocaine flows. As a result, despite increased narcotics seizures by Bolivian security forces under Morales’ government, drug trade activities within Bolivia’s borders by some accounts have actually increased over the last few years.

Nevertheless, and for better or worse, the country’s new method of coca control yields results and undeniably satisfies the U.S. supply-side approach, yet Washington maintains its hardline stance against the county. In the present geopolitical context, when even U.S. drug war allies Colombia and Mexico are calling for new approaches to controlling narcotics, the U.S. rejection of the Bolivian model further undermines Washington’s waning legitimacy in the hemisphere.

Zoe Pearson is a PhD candidate in human geography at Ohio State University. Thomas Grisaffi is a social anthropologist who currently works as a research fellow at the UCL Institute of the Americas. They both research coca politics in Bolivia and are contributors to Foreign Policy In Focus.

Foreign Policy In Focus

MP: the new government will resolve all disputes on oil policy

A member of the Oil and Energy Committee, MP Ali Faisal al-Fayad said the new government will resolve all disagreements on oil policy between the province and the center.

Fayad told the National Iraqi News Agency / NINA / that “the government of Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi can resolve all disagreements of the oil policy between the central government and the Kurdistan Regional Government.” Noting that there are talks and consultations between the members of the Committee on oil and energy to put serious solutions to the oil disagreements and put laws on oil policy such as the law of oil and gas. ”

He added: There are important laws on oil policy can resolve all differences and ongoing conflicts between the center and the region, calling parliamentary blocs to cooperate in order to approve all laws affecting the Iraqi citizens, the most important law in the oil policy, which is the law of oil and gas. ”

He continued, “The adoption of the law of oil and gas will contribute to mapping oil policy in Iraq and sets legal limits for the center and the region in the sale and marketing of oil.”

The Iraqi government announced in 28, August, 2011, the ratification of the draft law of oil and gas and decided to submit it to Parliament for approval, but the large number of political differences and the deterioration of the security situation in the country led to the postponement of the adoption of this law ./ End

LINK

Did you like this? Share it:

Dinar Daddy’s Tidbits

Russian Investigators Deny Tycoon Yevtushenkov’s Release

Russian investigators have dismissed media reports saying billionaire Vladimir Yevtushenkov had been released from house arrest.

The Investigative Committee’s spokesman Vladimir Markin said on September 19 that Yevtushenkov remains under house arrest and that all reports about his release are not true.

Yevtushenkov, 65, is the main shareholder of Moscow-based AFK Sistema investment group.

He was arrested and charged on September 16 with money laundering in a deal to acquire a regional oil company five years ago.

Yevtushenkov’s arrest sent shock waves through Russia’s business community, drawing comparisons to the arrest of tycoon Mikhail Khodorkovsky in 2003.

Markin’s statement came hours after media reports in Russia cited AFK Sistema officials as saying Yevtushenkov was released but ordered not to leave Moscow until investigations into his case are over.

Based on reporting by Interfax, ITAR-TASS, RIA, Reuters and AP

Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty

Houthi rebels shell Yemen state TV office

Houthi rebels have shelled Yemen’s state television offices in Sanaa as they push into the capital, forcing hundreds of residents to flee out of fear of an escalation of violence, according to local officials.

The Shia rebel group clashed with the army on the northwestern outskirts of Sanaa, shutting down international flights to the main airport on Friday.

In a statement carried on the state news agency SABA, the civil aviation authority said foreign airlines had suspended flights to Sanaa airport for 24 hours, after which they would review the security situation.

Battles erupted a day earlier between the Houthis and fighters loyal to the Islah party, the Muslim Brotherhood’s branch in Yemen.

Inside Story: Is Yemen headed for more conflict?

The two sides fought in Shamlan, a suburb of Sanaa that is home to the Islamic Iman University, an institution seen as a breeding ground for Sunni rebels.

Al Jazeera’s Hashem Ahelbarra, reporting from Sanaa on Thursday, said the rebels were in total control of the Shamlan and Wadi Dhahr districts on the capital’s outskirts, and were moving towards the heart of the city.

The advance by the Houthis comes after weeks of unrest in Sanaa, where the Houthis have blocked the road to the main airport and staged anti-government sit-ins at ministries.

At least 50 people have also been killed in clashes involving Houthi fighters in different parts of the country since Tuesday.

The fighting has further destabilised an impoverished country also struggling to overcome a secessionist movement in its south, the spread of an al-Qaeda insurgency and other threats.

293

AL JAZEERA ENGLISH (AJE)

KRG Thanks US for Supporting Peshmerga

Minister Falah Mustafa, Head of the Department of Foreign Relations, began a weeklong visit to Washington DC by thanking America for supporting the peshmerga in their battle against the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham and briefing US congressmen and businesspeople about the humanitarian crisis facing the Kurdistan Region.
Minister Mustafa will be joined by Fuad Hussein, President Masoud Barzani’s Chief of Staff, today when both will be hosted by the United States Institute of Peace for an open discussion regarding developments in the region.
Minister Mustafa began his US visit by briefing members of the US-Kurdistan Business Council. He thanked them for their ongoing support and investment in the Kurdistan Region. “Kurdistan remains open and welcoming to businesses and investors,” the Minister said. “We remain committed to our contracts, and to our principles of providing support to the business community. Today there are more opportunities than ever to invest in the Kurdistan Region.”
He assured the business leaders that the Kurdistan Regional Government is confident in the peshmerga as they go on the offensive against ISIS terrorists, and that the Region remains politically and economically stable.
ISIS terrorists overran the city of Mosul in northern Iraq in June and have since then taken further swathes of Iraqi territory, committing crimes that experts say amount to genocide and crimes against humanity against the population.
The peshmerga, with the support of US airstrikes, have made advances and regained some of the areas taken by ISIS. However, ISIS’s move into Iraq has caused hundreds of thousands of people, particularly Christians and Yezidis, to flee to Kurdistan for safety.
The KRG US Representation hosted Minister Mustafa at a roundtable meeting with officials from international nongovernmental organizations that operate in the Kurdistan Region, briefing them on the humanitarian needs of the 1.4million Syrian refuges and internally displaced people, and the response on the ground.

LINK

Did you like this? Share it:

Dinar Daddy’s Tidbits

Israeli NGO Delivering Aid to Christian, Yazidi Refugees in Iraq

Israeli NGO Delivering Aid to Christian, Yazidi Refugees in Iraq

Posted 2014-09-19 07:06 GMT

JERUSALEM — IsraAID, an Israeli nongovernmental relief organization, is delivering urgent humanitarian aid to Christian and Yazidi refugees who have fled to Iraq’s Kurdish region.

IsraAID is distributing hygiene kits, mattresses, blankets, kitchen utensils and clothing, according to the American Jewish Committee, which is helping the NGO cover expenses incurred with the assistance.

David Harris, AJC’s executive director, said the aid is being offered to thousands of refugees “fleeing the brutality of ISIS.”

AJC and its Heilbrunn Humanitarian Fund has partnered with IsraAID on a number of humanitarian relief missions.

Assyrian International News Agency

Israeli NGO Delivering Aid to Christian, Yazidi Refugees in Iraq

Israeli NGO Delivering Aid to Christian, Yazidi Refugees in Iraq

Posted 2014-09-19 07:06 GMT

JERUSALEM — IsraAID, an Israeli nongovernmental relief organization, is delivering urgent humanitarian aid to Christian and Yazidi refugees who have fled to Iraq’s Kurdish region.

IsraAID is distributing hygiene kits, mattresses, blankets, kitchen utensils and clothing, according to the American Jewish Committee, which is helping the NGO cover expenses incurred with the assistance.

David Harris, AJC’s executive director, said the aid is being offered to thousands of refugees “fleeing the brutality of ISIS.”

AJC and its Heilbrunn Humanitarian Fund has partnered with IsraAID on a number of humanitarian relief missions.

Assyrian International News Agency

Georgian Court Impounds Saakashvili’s Property

A Georgian court has impounded properties belonging to former President Mikheil Saakashvili.

Lawyer Otar Kakhidze said on September 19 that his client’s house and land in the eastern Kvareli district were impounded, pending the end of an investigation against Saakashvili.

The Court of Appeals in Tbilisi also impounded an apartment in the capital belonging to Saakashvili’s wife Sandra Roelofs, and properties belonging to his mother and his grandmother.

The move may spark criticism from Western nations including the United States, which has warned Georgia’s government against any politically motivated prosecution of former officials.

Saakashvili led Georgia from 2003 to 2013. He left the country after his presidency ended last November.

He has been charged in absentia with abuse of office and with organizing an attack on a lawmaker.

Saakashvili says the charges are baseless.

Based on reporting by apsny.ge and ITAR-TASS

Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty

Euro 2020 Final In London, Quarterfinals In Baku And St. Petersburg

London’s reconstructed Wembley Stadium will stage the final and both semifinals of the Euro 2020 soccer tournament.

UEFA’s executive committee, meeting in Geneva on September 19, chose 12 other venues to stage matches at the Europe-wide tournament.

Baku, Azerbaijan, and St. Petersburg, Russia — as well as Munich and Rome — will each host a quarterfinal and three group matches.

Last-16 knockout games and group matches went to two cities in Eastern Europe — Bucharest and Budapest — and six in Western Europe — Copenhagen, Amsterdam, Dublin, Bilbao, Brussels and Glasgow.

Three other Eastern European capitals — Minsk, Belarus; Sofia, Bulgaria; and Skopje, Macedonia — were unsuccessful with their bids. So were Jerusalem, Stockholm, and Cardiff.

The tournament is usually hosted by one country or by tandems of countries.

The one-off “Euro for Europe” 2020 tournament will mark the 60th anniversary of the European Championships.

Based on live broadcast and dpa

Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty

What Would The Mideast Be Like Without Christians?

ISIS/ISIL has executed another man from the West, this time a humanitarian aid worker.

(Both President Obama and House Speaker John Boehner have referred to the group ISIS as ISIL, although press reports refer to both names. There is a nonprofit group in Washington that goes by the initials ISIS, so many now refer to it as ISIL.)

ISIS/ISIL obviously doesn’t care if someone is a journalist with nothing to do with the conflict or who they are trying to help, as in the case of David Haines, the British man killed last weekend. This point was brought home in a House of Representatives hearing from Chairman Chris Smith, R-N.J., and ranking member Karen Bass on Wednesday right before the latest execution.

The topic of this Foreign Affairs Subcommittee concerned the attacks against Christians and other minorities in Syria and Iraq. The numbers of the displaced and attacked are staggering, and the weight on the Kurdish areas is the equivalent of having 50 million people pour into the United States in just a few months. In some areas, people seeking safe haven is a 1:1 ratio to the population. In areas where there is little to begin with, the large numbers of people cannot possibly be cared for.

Syria is a mess. There is no doubt. But now with the political problems of Iraq, it too has become a place where ethnic and religious cleansing is taking place at the hands of ISIS/ISIL. Although Christians in Iraq are targeted, according to testimony in Thursday’s hearing, there are 1.5 million Christians, Yazidis and other minorities forced to leave their homes and living in refugee camps. In addition to the people who have been forced to flee, there is some evidence that a monastery standing for more than 1,000 years near Mosul, Iraq, has most likely been destroyed. Destroying a people and their culture is what ISIS/ISIL aims to do.

Although, there is some debate about what these terror groups are really after, Dr. Thomas Farr of the Religious Freedom Project at Georgetown University said, “The root cause is Islamist terrorism of the kind that hit us on 9/11. That phenomenon finds its origins in a radical, and spreading, interpretation of Islam — nourished and subsidized by secular and religious Middle Eastern tyrants.” Farr went onto quote an Iraqi Christian patriarch who noted that Christians had lived in Iraq for two millennia and had contributed to the common good of the society. The patriarch also noted that the presence of Christians in Iraq (and clearly Syria, where Christmas was a celebrated holiday with a million Christians in a Muslim country) had a stabilizing effect on both countries.

At the hearing, Pascale Warda, an Assyrian Christian from the Hammurabi Human Rights Organization in Iraq, said to stem ISIS/ISIL’s genocide, there are several steps that should be taken especially as winter approaches in Iraq.

First, she said there needs to be an increase of aid to the refugees as the current aid is inadequate. Clearing ISIS/ISIL from the Mosul area is necessary so people can return home ahead of winter. In addition, she recommended that their be security forces posted in the area so that people would be able to feel safe when they returned. She suggested that this has been done in the past, during the Saddam Hussein era in 1991.

Pascale Warda also suggested financial compensation for people who have been forced from their homes. She strongly suggested that Christian and Yazidi units be created within the Iraqi military, police, security and other national institutions. As history has been known to repeat itself, she suggested that there be some recognition of the genocide of Assyrian Christians, which has been a recurrent problem since 1915.

Pascale Warda said these takeovers, ethnic cleansings and killings are based on what is a criminal Islamic ideology. Warda said this is encapsulated in one sentence: “Allah is our goal, the prophet is our leader, the Quran is our constitution, jihad is our way, and death for Allah is our most exalted wish.”

Christians have lived side by side in what is now Iraq and Syria with Muslims since first days of Islam. At Chairman Smith’s hearing, there was testimony that once genocide has been identified, the United States (and other nations) has a legal and moral obligation to act. There is no question about that. There is one remaining question brought up at the hearing that we should all ponder and reflect on: What would happen in the Middle East, what would the Middle East look like and be like, if all the Christians were gone?

Assyrian International News Agency

France announces first strikes on ISIL target

France has carried out its first air strikes against positions of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, joining a US-led operation to defeat the Sunni rebel group.

In a statement issued on Friday, French President Francois Hollande said the strike destroyed a logistics depot held by ISIL.

It said that at least two Rafale fighter jets were involved in the operation in northeastern Iraq, and that the target was “entirely destroyed”.

Hollande’s office also said other operations would continue in the coming days.

On Thursday, Hollande announced that France would provide what he called “aerial support” to the Iraqi army in their fight against the ISIL, which has taken over nearly half of the violence-ridden country.

“I decided to respond to the request of the Iraqi authorities to offer aerial support,” Hollande said.

“As soon as we have identified targets, we will act … within a short time-frame.”

France has already conducted reconnaissance flights over Iraq that started on Monday, and dispatched weapons to the Kurdish forces fighting the ISIL group.

Hollande himself visited Iraq late last week – the most high-profile leader to do so since ISIL stormed across the country – and Paris hosted an international conference on the crisis on Monday.

However, unlike the US, which has pledged to attack ISIL even in Syria, where they hold around a quarter of the country, Hollande said French involvement would be limited to Iraq.

“We will not go further than that. There will be no ground troops,” Hollande said.

France has six Rafale fighter jets and just under 1,000 soldiers based in the UAE and could even mobilise an aircraft carrier, the Charles de Gaulle.

291

AL JAZEERA ENGLISH (AJE)

Cause of Kabardian Journalist’s Death Still Unclear

Seven weeks after Kabardian journalist and human rights activist Timur Kuashev was found dead on the outskirts of Nalchik, the precise cause of his death remains unclear. In light of the trace of an injection in his left armpit, the republican division of the Investigative Committee has nonetheless opened a murder investigation on the assumption that Kuashev was killed because of his professional activities.

Kuashev, 26, left home on the evening of July 31 to go jogging. His body was discovered the following day in woodland some 15 kilometers from his apartment. His body showed no signs of violence but friends said his fingers were turning black, which they construed as evidence he had been deliberately poisoned. Pathologists from the Kabardino-Balkaria Republic (KBR) Health Ministry, however, said Kuashev’s heart, brain, and circulatory system were undamaged and his body showed none of the usual signs of poisoning.

Forensic tests conducted under the aegis of the Health Ministry reportedly failed to determine the cause of death. Further tests are to be conducted in Moscow, Kuashev’s father Khambi told Kavkaz-uzel last week.

The KBR Interior Ministry and the republican subdirectorate of the Federal Security Service have similarly made no progress in establishing who might have had a motive to kill Kuashev. The Interior Ministry had rejected in May a request by Kuashev to investigate death threats against him posted on the website KavkazPress, which is rumored to be controlled by the “force” agencies. (It was the recourse by KBR Interior Ministry personnel to indiscriminate and gratuitous violence against law-abiding young practising Muslims that served as the catalyst for the multiple attacks on police and security facilities in Nalchik in October 2005.) 

Russian journalists Maksim Shevchenko and Natalya Kevorkova, who traveled to Nalchik to conduct an independent investigation into Kuashev’s death, established that he was not involved in commercial activities, had no ties to the North Caucasus insurgency (although he professed Salafi Islam), and had no personal enemies.

Shevchenko and Kevorkova further noted that while dozens of journalists and human rights activists have been killed in the Caucasus over the past 10 to 15 years, almost all of them were shot. That circumstance conveniently allowed investigators to blame the killings on the North Caucasus insurgency, with the result that the killers were never found and brought to trial and/or the investigation was shelved.

The announcement in early September by investigators in Makhachkala that they had suspended inquiries into the murder in July 2013 of journalist Akhmednabi Akhmednabiyev as all possible leads had been exhausted elicited outrage among international human rights watchdogs.

The use of a poison that leaves no trace (if that is, indeed, how Kuashev died) is a new and alarming occurrence, Shevchenko and Kevorkova say.

The two journalists acknowledge that Kuashev’s death reflects badly on Yury Kokov, whom Russian President Vladimir Putin named acting republic head last December. Although Kokov, 59, has spent virtually his entire career in the Interior Ministry, serving most recently as head of the federal ministry’s Counterterrorism Center, he has adopted a much softer stance vis-a-vis the insurgency than his predecessors. Kokov is personally monitoring the investigation into Kuashev’s death, which he termed a “terrible tragedy,” and has met personally with Kuashev’s mother.

In the absence of any other motive, it is conceivable that Kuashev was killed with the sole intention of undermining Kokov and preventing his confirmation as republic head. If so, the perpetrators appear to have miscalculated. On September 15, Putin proposed Kokov, together with two alternative candidates, for the post of KBR republic head. The new parliament elected on September 14, in which the United Russia party controls 50 of the 70 seats, is to elect the new republic head on October 9. Most observers take it as given that deputies will endorse Kokov.

Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty

Before and After the Berlin Wall Fell, Equal Opportunity for German Women Has Been a Challenge

Marina Grasse helped found East-West European Women’s Network. (Photo: Heinrich-Böll-Stiftung / Wikimedia)

Marina Grasse helped found East-West European Women’s Network. (Photo: Heinrich-Böll-Stiftung / Wikimedia)

Cross-posted from JohnFeffer.com.

Revolutions elevate a new and unexpected group of people to power. In East-Central Europe in 1990, an electrician became the president of Poland, a playwright the president of Czechoslovakia, and a philosopher the president of Bulgaria. After this brief period of the world turned upside down, the professional politicians took over again (or in the case of Vaclav Havel, the playwright morphed into a professional politician). But for a year or two or three, “ordinary” people were suddenly in charge of transforming the country.

Marina Grasse is a biologist who was involved in the independent peace movement in East Germany in the 1980s. I met her in 1990 (when she was Marina Beyer) to talk about the Pankow Peace Circle and how it was adapting to the new circumstances in a democratic East Germany. As the mother of four children, she was also passionately interested in educational reform. In fact, on the evening just before the Berlin Wall fell in November 1989, she helped to organize a forum on educational reform in East Berlin. They expected 10-20 people. A couple thousand showed up.

Later, in 1990, Grasse joined the newly democratic East German government as a state secretary for equal opportunity. Her confirmation process inadvertently revealed the need for just such a government position.

“There was a coalition between the new East German Social Democratic Party and the old CDU,” she told me in an interview in June 2013 in her apartment in Pankow, a neighborhood in Berlin. “And in this coalition, they agreed that there should be a kind of state secretary responsible for equal opportunities for women and men. They were looking for somebody who could do that. Some people in the Social Democratic faction knew me. So they asked me if I would do that. I did. I didn’t know what a state secretary was, and I didn’t know what “equal opportunity” meant. But nevertheless they invited me. This was such a crazy time. I already had four children at this point, two boys and two girls. I was invited to come to the Volkskammer to introduce myself. I didn’t know why I should go there. But I went there.

They asked me, ‘Now, what are you going to do?’

‘What should I do?’ I asked.

‘You’ll be the state secretary for equal opportunity.’

‘But I don’t know what that is!’

‘It doesn’t matter, we don’t either! Now tell us your biography and some ideas about equal opportunity…’

I didn’t know what to say. But in the end, I said, ‘Okay, equal opportunity for women means that, since probably women are discriminated against, they think they need equal opportunity…’ So I talked for some time about that.

Then it was time for questions, and a man stood up and asked me as the first question. ‘We have heard you are the mother of four children. How do you think you can combine your private responsibilities as a mother with your responsibilities as state secretary?’

And I thought, really, what am I doing here? This is completely stupid! But then another person stood up and said, ‘That’s a very interesting question because in this group there are many men who have two, three, four kids. And never, never, never, never has somebody asked them how they could combine their responsibilities.’

That’s when I understood what it was about, and I agreed to do it. I needed some days to talk with my family and with my husband and with my kids to see if they would agree. Nobody knew what it was all about, but they agreed. As I said, that time was crazy. So I became state secretary for equal opportunity.”

Grasse discovered soon enough that equal opportunity was not on the agenda. The East German parliament, tasked to oversee the transformation of East Germany into a democratic society, very quickly became focused on one issue about everything else: reunification. And reunification, in turn, imposed a very abrupt term limit on all the new members of the East German government. Grasse decided to apply the principles of equal opportunity for women more broadly in the region.

“Then the so-called unification came, and my job was over because the government was over,” Grasse explained. “And I was not so interested to work with the new government. But I was also not so interested in going back to the university. So, together with some women from this Peace Circle and some other friends, we sat down to think about what we should do next. And we decided to set up a project called the East-West European Women’s Network (OWEN). The idea was that after the fall of the Wall, it would be very important that women who are interested in politics and women’s issues to organize a kind of exchange to understand what other society and what it meant to grow up in this other society.”

We talked about the work she and OWEN did in Ukraine, the unfortunate careerism of both the educational system and NGOs, and why change is about people and not ideas.

The Interview

Do you remember where you were and what you were thinking when you heard about the fall of the Berlin Wall?

I remember. You know this was a very exciting time full of hope. And in the DDR that was the time of many citizen…

Burgerbewegung? Citizens’ movements?

Yes, Burgerbewegung. I was working at the university, and I was always interested in education. In spring 1989, not only in our university but in also in many other places in the DDR, people set up citizens’ initiatives for changing the educational system because there were a lot of things that we didn’t like. The Neues Forum also had an interest in the education field. So we decided to organize an open forum about what kind of education we would like to have for our kids, for the next generation. We organized this in a big conference hall in the Alexanderplatz. We didn’t know who would come because there was no e-mail and no Internet. We held it on November 9. 1989. And it was scheduled to start at 6 pm. I was one of the few who were helping to organize it. We thought maybe 10 people would came, maybe 20. And it was completely full.

So, like a hundred people?

It was two or three thousand people.

Two or three thousand people?!

They came from cities all over of the DDR. There were teachers, students, parents, young people… it was completely full. And together with some colleagues of mine I had to moderate it. Our idea was that people could stand up and talk about their experience and nothing more. People started to do that, and it was very surprising that the others were listening. For many of them, it was the first time that they talked in the public. But they had the courage to do that. And all of us there were just listening. And it was not easy to listen. And then around -

Why was it not easy to listen?

Because people were talking about very different experiences. Therefore it was not easy to keep an atmosphere where the people in the audience didn’t say, “No, you’re wrong,” or were disgusted by something someone said. It was about experiences, not about wrong and right. It was about us. It was very important, again and again, to say, “This is about us.”

We started around 7 pm, and then it was 8:30, and something was going on. People were running around, coming and going. I asked my colleague to go and to ask, “What’s going on?” And he came back, and he said, “The Wall fell down.” I don’t think I understood what he said because I answered, “It doesn’t matter, we’ll continue.” After another 30 minutes, the hall was empty.

Everybody just started leaving…?

Around maybe 30 or 40 people decided to stay. For me that was a shock. And I understood that it was over. The DDR was just over. And I started to cry. Because for me that was… I thought we really had a chance. A friend of mine came up from Dresden that night, and she said, “Oh, the Wall came down, let’s go!” But I was not interested in doing that. I was very, very angry. I was very disappointed, very angry, very worried. And so we ended up staying at home. It was already very very late. Then my husband came home and said to me, “Oh, you have heard? The Wall came down! It’s over.” And then we started to discuss, and I was really very angry. We went to bed around 1 am.

Then somebody knocked at the door. It was our very close friends who had left East Berlin for West Berlin in the 1980s. And they said, “Come on, open up, let’s go!” And so, I decided to go with them to go into the West. We had a wonderful night. In the end we had a wonderful night, and then we crossed back. So, something opened and something closed. And I would say I’m still in the same situation, still trying to understand what it means to say goodbye to something and whether to welcome something else.

That’s quite an experience.

Yes, I would say it was very symbolic. In the end, I’m happy that I could be a part of this kind of event.

Tell me a little bit about how you got involved in the Pankow Peace Circle?

Hans Misselwitz and I were old friends. I met him again in the 1970s, in 1975 or 1976. He’d formed with other people a little circle, the so-called Adorno Circle, and he invited me to go there. It was self-organized and very interesting. We talked about the Avant-Garde in the Soviet Union during the 1920s and about philosophy, and so on. Then in the 1970s, Hans and Ruth, and me also, we all had children. In 1981, there was a new phase, this nuclear policy of over-kill. And we had a feeling that it was time to do something. It was not enough to sit down and to talk. We had to do something. I had two sons at the time, and I was really afraid. At school, there was more and more of this “creating an enemy” picture. I come from a family that was really fed up with any kind of war. So I was really afraid. I could see that these little boys were a little fascinated with these bombs, and I could see how easy it would be to instrumentalize this feeling.

At this time Ruth was already in this community here, and she thought it was a great opportunity at least to invite people from society to talk about their own life and what they were afraid of. We organized the first meeting in November 1981. And after this we invited people who were interested in continuing. So people came. And that was the beginning of this Pankower Friedenskreis, the Pankow Peace Circle.

And at that time you were at university?

No, at that time I worked in the Academy of Science. I’m a biologist, as you already know. I changed my job a little later to the university. And also Hans, he worked at the Academy at this time. He was also a biologist. I specialized in behavioral science, and I think he did biophysics.

Were you worried about losing your job when you became involved in the Peace Circle?

I never lost my job, but of course I did get into a little trouble. I expected to get into trouble since I was getting involved in something that the government didn’t really like. So, I was not really afraid. Also, there was my family background. My grandfather and other people in my family were in the resistance during the Nazi time. So for me, I felt that I had to do it. But I wouldn’t say that I’m a “victim” of the system. If you decide to do something that is not very opportune, sometimes you get trouble. And I was a little afraid that they could take me away for some time – and I had these two boys. So we organized something so that it would be clear what would happen with the kids. That was important. It was also quite clear that the Stasi was there, in the Circle.

You even knew who it was?

Yes, we knew. In the end, we were disappointed. I was disappointed. But if I had been on the other side, I would have done it in the same way. It’s very logical. It’s a very very odd story to break somebody this way.

When did you become interested in reforming the educational system?

Ever since I went to school myself! Not really, but I never really liked to go to school because I was always a little afraid there. When I finished school and I took my Abitur, I decided to become a teacher, and I studied for two years in Potsdam. During those two years I noticed that it would be a little too much to reform the education system just by myself. I would need to have at least some other friends who are also interested to do it. Then at the end of the 1980s, it became clear to me that it was time to do something. Education is such a crucial thing. I’m very close connected to Paulo Freire. Also during the 1980s, when we had different circles and this peace group, I was in a group devoted to peace education. That was when I started to read Freire. That’s when I began to understand that education is about emancipation, and about consciousness, and it’s not about this “boom, boom, boom”…

Pouring information into people’s heads…

Yes, people are not empty vessels. I think education is an instrument, and you can make people completely stupid or you can make them very brilliant.

After 1989 did any of the aspects of the emancipatory side of education enter the new education system?

In the united Germany? No. There are some islands. But more and more this educational system is directed toward careers and the labor market. So, people start to think about education only in terms of the labor market, their career, money, and status. There is a lot of manipulation as well, and it’s very specific because it is so liberal. You’re so free. This is what Freire talked a lot about. In the DDR you could feel the pressure. But now you don’t really feel the pressure. In the end, people stop thinking, which is very dangerous.

I work now in Neukoelln, a district in Berlin.

It’s a poorer district?

It’s a very, very poor district, where 80% are migrants. Many of them came from Turkey, from Lebanon and the Arab world. There are also Roma. There you can see what is missing in the education system. It is not about integration – I don’t like this “integration” at all – it’s all about “giving them something.” That makes me a little afraid, to have a next generation that is not educated to feel really responsible. The education is not about dignity. It’s not about how to be a human. It is about knowledge, about some facts. But people don’t understand what all these facts mean. It’s just feeding. Here in this middle-class district, on the other hand, we have more and more private schools, which I don’t think of as a solution. Separating kids from very early on — what kind of society will they create if they’ve never had contact with people from different social backgrounds?

Why do the parents send their children to private school?

They think it is better. Or so that their wonderful kids will have a much better career. Or because “this education is more liberal.” Or because of personal freedom. But behind this, the parents are afraid.

It’s the same problem in the United States.

It’s even worse, I would say.

Yes, it is. The public schools generally are not as good as in Germany. The problem also is the yardsticks of measurement. You can use the rather simple one of better scores on tests, which is what they use in the United States. The other would be the Freirean model of creating a critical environment.

It is important that people understand why things are as they are. This is the idea of education. And it is missing, also in many of the so-called private schools here.

I’ll come back to the education. But I’m curious about what happened after that first night, November 9. What happened in the next week or so for you as things were changing so quickly?

I still was in the university at that time. And I was involved in education and this group. And then the election came. I was very disappointed with the results of the election. Now I understand the results, but at the time I couldn’t understand why people voted for the CDU.

There was a coalition between the new East German Social Democratic Party and the old CDU. And in this coalition, they agreed that there should be a kind of state secretary responsible for equal opportunities for women and men. They were looking for somebody who could do that. Some people in the Social Democratic faction knew me. So they asked me if I would do that. I did. I didn’t know what a state secretary was, and I didn’t know what “equal opportunity” meant. But nevertheless they invited me. This was such a crazy time. I already had four children at this point, two boys and two girls. I was invited to come to the Volkskammer to introduce myself. I didn’t know why I should go there. But I went there.

They asked me, “Now, what are you going to do?”

“What should I do?” I asked.

“You’ll be the state secretary for equal opportunity.”

“But I don’t know what that is!”

“It doesn’t matter, we don’t either! Now tell us your biography and some ideas about equal opportunity…”

I didn’t know what to say. But in the end, I said, “Okay, equal opportunity for women means that, since probably women are discriminated against, they think they need equal opportunity…” So I talked for some time about that.

Then it was time for questions, and a man stood up and asked me as the first question. “We have heard you are the mother of four children. How do you think you can combine your private responsibilities as a mother with your responsibilities as state secretary?”

And I thought, really, what am I doing here? This is completely stupid! But then another person stood up and said, “That’s a very interesting question because in this group there are many men who have two, three, four kids. And never, never, never, never has somebody asked them how they could combine their responsibilities.”

That’s when I understood what it was about, and I agreed to do it. I needed some days to talk with my family and with my husband and with my kids to see if they would agree. Nobody knew what it was all about, but they agreed. As I said, that time was crazy. So I became state secretary for equal opportunity.

It was very challenging because very soon I could see that nobody was really interested in this topic. This was the time of the parliamentary negotiations around unification. And the idea of equal opportunities was not on the agenda. But nevertheless it was very very interesting because I could see the rules of the game: who set the rules and how it worked. At the beginning, you’re very clear what you want. And then step-by-step you reduce your intention. By the end people are also very afraid. For many of them it was clear that in this so-called “united Germany” they could lose their job. Nobody really knew what would happen. But people from the West, since they knew this society already, were our teachers.

This was not only a time when Germany was changing but the entire region of Central and Eastern Europe. We were blind to the impact of unification on the rest of the world. It was very very risky. And also in East Germany you could see what was going on with the labor market. People lost their jobs. That happened later in in Central and Eastern Europe, and it was not from one minute to the next like it was for us. Also we had this wonderful rich big brother, West Germany, that paid us a little bit. So we could be a little satisfied and say, “Thanks, my brother.” We had to be also a little grateful for all these presents. This was also a rule of the game.

Then the so-called unification came, and my job was over because the government was over. And I was not so interested to work with the new government. But I was also not so interested in going back to the university. So, together with some women from this Peace Circle and some other friends, we sat down to think about what we should do next. And we decided to set up a project called the East-West European Women’s Network (OWEN). The idea was that after the fall of the Wall, it would be very important that women who are interested in politics and women’s issues to organize a kind of exchange to understand what other society and what it meant to grow up in this other society. We did this because we didn’t know very much but also because we had very strong pictures in our head. We created this project, and we were unemployed. There was a lot of money at the beginning for people who were unemployed. If you had a wonderful idea then you could get money. We had a wonderful idea, and we got money. This was in 1992. And I’ve been in this NGO ever since.

It’s still going on today?

It’s still here. In the 1990s, we saw an elite develop here in Eastern Europe. It wasn’t exactly a new elite. It was a small group of government people who were known in the West as key actors. They were put on a list to travel around and to talk and give papers. These people were more from an intellectual or academic background. I met a lot of them. There were some very clever and very intelligent and very political women. But they had no link to the larger group of people in their countries – the poor people, the people who became unemployed. These were people who had other lives and spoke another language. We could talk about feminism and blah blah blah. But what about these women? Then we realized that poverty is not new in the world. It is a very common phenomenon. Women in other parts of the world were for many many years already forced to survive. So, this was about survival and self-organizing and dignity.

In 1991, I received an invitation from the Goethe Institute to go to the United States to talk about the unification. Through a friend of mine, I made contact with the National Congress of Neighborhood Women. This is a network of grassroots women in the United States that is connected to other networks in the so-called Third World countries. They are inspired by the community organizing idea, connected to the Chicago School of Community Organizing. Their work is very much about the daily needs of women. They invited me to see some of the groups organized according to this philosophy. It was very close to Paulo Friere’s ideas as well. This was a completely new world. It had nothing to do with what I had thought of the United States. It was brilliant. And I tried to bring this idea back to what we started to do in Eastern Europe.

We started to work in the eastern part of Ukraine in the 1990s. It was just like an inferno there, just terrible. And poverty became such a major issue. We created a four-year project to work with women in self-help, community-based groups. This was a great experience. We learned a lot, and through this we could learn the importance of the past. The idea of this self-help group was that it was self-organized and that the women in this group shared the resources they had for the common good. This was also a great challenge because you had to negotiate. And in this process of negotiation, the past became very important. Who was this person in earlier times? Why did she have this kind of status, these connections, while we did not? It was full of conflicts.

Then we started working on something else called “Women’s Memory.” It was not our idea. The idea came from our partners at the first women’s center in Prague.

With Jirina Siklova?

Yes, with Jirina Siklova. She had the idea to create an international project called “Women’s Memory.” And she asked us to take part in this project. And we were very proud because we noticed that Jirina understood that we came from the same background. We were from the East. The project did 500 or so interviews in all, and we did 120 of them with women from East Germany born between 1920 and 1960. It was three generations, more or less. That was the best history lesson I’d ever had. I realized that my idea of the DDR, even though I’d lived in the country for years, was completely wrong. I heard from all these women who came from quite different backgrounds that I’d never met before, women who worked in factories or in the Genossenschaft (cooperatives). It was a completely different world. It forced us to ask ourselves, “What does it mean if we understand ourselves as feminists but we don’t know about the lives of so many women?” This is again about education and about Freire. You have to change your language, your attitude.

In the 1990s, there were conflicts not only in the former Yugoslavia but also in the former Soviet Union – in the Caucasus, in Nagorno-Karabakh. So that means that change was not so very peaceful. We decided to think about how to combine the idea of feminism and the idea of peace. In 2002, when our network was 10 years old, we invited people from the so-called Third World countries, from the United States, from Eastern Europe, and from the former Soviet Union here to Berlin to a conference — to reflect on what went on during the previous 10 years and what we thought were the most important things to put on the agenda. We decided the most important thing was peace. All of the women from South Africa told us of their great hope for the transformation process but that 10 years later it had become very very difficult. We also talked about xenophobia and Islamophobia. And we concluded that we were in a new system that needed enemies, that kept looking around for enemies.

For the last eight years, we have worked mainly in the international context with peace activists in the former Soviet Union, in Russia and the Caucasus. Because of this experience, we decided that it was important for our network also to look more at what’s going on in our own country because there is a link. It’s not only there, it’s also here, how this society relates to these strangers, to the migrants. Our “migration policy” is more and more about the labor market, and it’s like what it was with slaves: we need you because you have strong teeth or whatever. We were talking about peace, but we weren’t doing it. So we decided to move our little office to Neukoelln.

We are now in a deep crisis. We don’t have any money, and it’s not easy. I’m unemployed, but I’m still working there because I like this kind of work. But I ask myself, “Is this idea of social movements over? Do we need all these NGOs? Do we need all these projects? Did all these NGOs destroy the idea of social movements?” Social movements only work if you keep the idea of solidarity. But this society doesn’t seem to need the idea of solidarity. It needs the idea of business. This civil society sector more and more embraced the idea of business: the peace business, the poverty business.

You have to have a business plan to survive in civil society today.

Yes, a business plan! In Georgia, it was terrible. And Soros was very big on bringing in all this money so that they could set up the NGOs. And then these organizations started to compete. I understand that there’s a theory behind all this. But I think it was wrong. When the labor market collapsed in this region, many people who were very educated, in various academic fields and so on, lost their jobs or they didn’t get paid. Then in this NGO period a new kind of labor market emerged, so these people tried this new opportunity. But the idea of civil society is not the idea of a labor market. It’s a completely different idea.

So the same problem in education–education geared toward career–is reproduced in civil society, which is no longer about empowerment or emancipation, but about career.

Yes, it’s about career, and it’s about money. On the one hand, everybody needs a vision, an idea, and hope. So I ask you, what do these young people hope for? But on the other hand, we also have to be realistic. How can you combine your dreams with realism and avoid getting depressed? You have to look for people who are just as crazy as you are.

Your point about the NGO culture that has emerged in this part of the world is a good one. One argument is that NGOs are just representatives of neoliberalism because they take over the state services that that no longer available because the state has shrunk through privatization.

I’ve always been critical of that. For example, OWEN refuses any kind of service. But in the end we don’t have any money. Our colleagues are unpaid, and many of them are very educated young women. They need to earn money. And I have to make money too. So it is not easy to find a way.

When I was doing conflict resolution training in Korea, I was working with peace groups that also had difficulty raising money. One possibility was to continue to do social movement work but also have a paying job doing conflict resolution or mediation work. It’s still working on peace issues, but it’s a slightly different focus. Instead of combining movement work and career work in one NGO, you continued to do unpaid movement work and a paying job in a related field. Maybe that’s a third way of resolving this issue.

The risk is that you set up this situation in which you have the word of the experts and then you have the word of the people who are really in the conflict. Freire’s idea was that “we” are not the experts but “they” are the experts. This is so difficult, but I always try to keep in mind that I am not an expert. I am privileged. I’m still privileged. I’m not ashamed to be privileged, but still I am privileged. I live in this wonderful flat. And they are the experts. When working in Neukoelln, we try to do something like confidence-building in our relationship to women who live in this district. It’s not easy to get their confidence, and I understand why it is. But step-by-step, they start to talk about their daily life. And I understand more and more that I don’t know. I could be an expert at asking good questions and maybe an expert in learning. But I don’t know about them. It’s another world.

When you think back to what your perspective was in 1990, how you looked at the world, how is that changed? Have you had major second thoughts or major reappraisals over the last 20 years?

In 1990 my perspective on the world was naïve. I couldn’t travel around. I had an idea of the East but nothing beyond that. Now I would say I’m not so naïve. And I’ve noticed that sometimes people who live far away are closer to me than people who live nearby. We have more in common. Now that I can travel around, my perspective is broader. This broader perspective has been painful but it has also allowed me to meet people who give me hope. You can find them everywhere.

Before 1990 it was not so clear to me, but now I realize that the change is about people. I grew up in this society with big ideas of socialism and parties and so on. But the change is not about an idea. It is about people. That kind of change takes time and several generations. We just have to be patient. Maybe there are not so many of us. But you can find us everywhere. You can smell us, I think. It’s more about the nose.

Berlin, June 1, 2013

Interview (1990)

I met with three members of the group: Barbara Hahnchen, Marina Beyer, and Frau Olszewski (I didn’t catch her first name). The group began in 1981 around the issue of the Euromissile deployments though many in the group were interested in other questions such as ecology and peace education. Originally, the members had worked within the church and then decided that there should be a group outside the church that dealt with peace issues. They decided that although they could not influence the deployment of U.S. Cruise and Pershing missiles on West German soil, they could try to prevent the deployment of Soviet intermediate-range nuclear missiles on East German soil. “It was OK to be critical of the Americans but as soon as we were critical of the Soviet Union, then…” said Marina Beyer. From 1983 on, the Stasi clumsily infiltrated their meetings, sometimes comprising half the audience. Everyone knew who they were. But the Stasi never threw the whole group into jail, fearing that if it did, there would be too much protest. Above all, the Stasi wanted to keep the peace.

Two major events that influenced the growth of the movement were the JPIC process and the legitimization that Gorbachev gave to internal reform when he came to power in 1985. When we discussed events after 1985, the history of the group seemed difficult to separate from the history of the opposition in general.

The 1988 Rosa Luxemburg–Karl Liebknecht demonstration was a turning point. Traditionally a day commemorating the martyred German Communist party leaders (Luxemburg was actually Polish-German), this January event was the scene of a counter-demonstration in 1988. Using Luxemburg quotes to place into ironic contrast the positions of the government, many protestors came out into the open–but these were generally those dissidents who wanted to leave the country. They were arrested, some thrown out of the country, some thrown into jail. What the Stasi had feared the most happened. The arrest of so many people triggered substantial solidarity and the churches were packed with concerned people. The lawyers who chose to defend the activists would eventually become the leaders of the new Germany: Gregor Gysi, Ibrahim Bohme, Lothar de Maiziere, Wolfgang Schnur. Though unquestionably courageous for their decision to defend the activists, these lawyers also had to work with the Stasi. Thus the question has now emerged–to what extent were these soon-to-be politicians compromised by their connections. The key issue has not been whether they talked with the Stasi, but whether they received any money for the work. This was the discovery that precipitated the downfall of Schnur in March.

From this point in 1988 to September 1989, political discontent continued in the churches. Then, after Leipzig, the opposition enjoyed its greatest influence from October 9 to November 9. [I will be going over this history in more detail in the next report when I write up two discussions I had with Leipzig pastors]. After the wall fell, however, it was the Deutschmark that captured people’s attention.

The day we met in Pankow there had been a demonstration in front of the Volkskammer against elected parliamentarians with suspected Stasi connections. One of the women said that the atmosphere at the 10,000 strong demo was like that of old with cries of “Stasi out, Stasi out” reverberating through the square. We talked about the potential for a continued citizen’s movement and they stressed the need for “mature” citizens. The following somewhat paradoxical formulation emerged: a citizen’s movement is necessary to create mature citizens who then in turn create a successful citizens’ movement. Which comes first: the maturity or the movement?

Foreign Policy In Focus

Thousands of Young Assyrian Iraqis Have Joined the Fight Against ISIS

A young Assyrian man who has signed up to fight against ISIS (photo: Rebecca Collard).Five years ago, Sirgon Horomes had “Long live the Iraqi army” tattooed on his arm. It went with the image of Jesus tattooed on his other arm. He was 17 then and believed that Iraq’s army would protect the interests of the minority Christians.

“Now, I’m disappointed,” Sirgon says. At the beginning of the summer, the army crumbled in the face of an attack by the militant group ISIS in Mosul. That left Christians, Turkmen and Yazidis vulnerable to attack and persecution by ISIS, which calls itself the Islamic State.

Then in early August, Kurdish forces fighting ISIS withdrew from the Christian villages of Al-Hamdaniya, near Mosul, leaving thousands of civilians scrambling to escape. More than 100,000 Christians fled in a matter of days.

“The Sunni and Shia [Muslims] have militias, the Kurds have the peshmerga [militia,] we only have God,” said Karam Hassu, a 30-year-old teacher from Al-Hamdaniya, who fled his home in August.

“We don’t trust anyone now. We want to protect ourselves, by ourselves. Even the women will go if they are allowed,” said Hassu. “Because this is the last chance we have to keep our homes. We don’t want to go out of Iraq.”

And now the Iraqi Christians are organizing. A political party, the Assyrian Democratic Movement, a Christian political party, is bringing the men together to fight ISIS. The movement once waged an insurgency against Saddam Hussein, but it more or less laid down its guns in recent years. Spokesman Kaldo Oghanna says Christians have lost faith in the official forces sworn to protect them, “because they didn’t defeat ISIS in our lands.”

Oghanna has bought uniforms for recruits from a local market. The men will wear a purple and white logo reading “Zowaa,” or the “The Movement,” in the Syriac language which is spoken by many Christians in Iraq. Oghanna wants to see Christians serve wearing Iraqi national army or peshmerga uniforms, but fighting in special units inside the official forces.

“I think they should accept our idea. Then we can negotiate the shape or the system of these units,” said Oghanna.

In a church in Erbil, Iraq, many refugees from Al-Hamdaniya fill the pews. They fled as ISIS approached their villages. Most here don’t trust the Iraqi army or the peshmerga forces now.

“This broken trust is one of major issues we are facing now,” said Bashar Warda, the Archbishop of the Chaldean church in Erbil.

He’s called on young men in his congregation to sign-up and fight against extremist Sunni militants. And he wants them to be part of a single force, an Iraqi army, not yet-another band of sectarian fighters. “Now, it’s defending Iraq. They have to have the idea and the attitude that they are for Iraq,” said Warda.

Sirgon Horomes, the man with the tattoos of Jesus and “Long live the Iraqi army,” has signed up to fight, along with some 2000 other young Christian men.

But defending Iraq from ISIS has proved a challenge for everyone. And even as these men sign up — and pray for help — few Christians have much faith that any force in the country can protect them.

Assyrian International News Agency

Crimean Tatar Attacked, Library Shut As Pressure Mounts

SIMFEROPOL, Crimea — A Crimean Tatar scholar says masked assailants dragged him from his car and took his passport in an attack meant to prevent him from attending a UN conference in New York.

The attack on Nadir Bekir, late on September 18, came hours after Russian authorities moved to seize the Crimean Tatar assembly, the Mejlis, piling pressure on the Muslim minority group that largely opposed Moscow’s annexation of the Black Sea peninsula from Ukraine in March.

On September 19, the main Crimean Tatar library in the regional capital, Simferopol, announced on September 19 that it is being shut down in accordance with an August government resolution to replace libraries on the peninsula with Russian state entities.

Bekir, an expert on indigenous peoples, told RFE/RL his assailants who forced hin to the ground and took his Ukrainian passport and mobile phone.

He believes the attack was meant to prevent him from going to the September 22-23 UN World Conference on Indigenous Peoples, part of the UN General Assembly.

Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty

Kerry describes achievement of Jeddah Conference as “Historical”

Baghdad (AIN) –The US Secretary of State, John Kerry, said that “Hindering the advances of the Islamic State of Iraq and Levant in Iraq is a fact now.”

“The achievement of Jeddah conference was historical because Iraq is no more isolated in confronting terrorism,” he concluded.

Did you like this? Share it:

Dinar Daddy’s Tidbits

Photos of Iraq’s Mosul Then and Now

A 1932 image of Lady Surrma of the Assyrian community posing for a portrait in Mosul, northern Iraq, from the Library of Congress, left, and an Iraqi woman looking at a shop display in central Mosul after the Islamic State group ordered clothes shop owners to cover the faces of the mannequins on Monday, July 21, 2014. The shop owners said, apparently in line with strict interpretations of Shariah law that forbid statues or artwork depicting the human form (AP Photo).CAIRO (AP) — Iraq’s second largest city, Mosul, is locked under the rule of extremists from the Islamic State group trying to purge it of everything they see as contradicting their stark vision of Islam.

A trove of photographs now housed at the Library of Congress offers a glimpse of a different Mosul — before wars, insurgency, sectarian strife and now radicals’ rule. The scenes were taken in the autumn of 1932 by staff from the American Colony Photo Department during a visit to Iraq at the end of the British mandate.

The photos show many of the sites that have now borne the brunt of the Islamic State group’s wrath. Since capturing the city in June, the militants destroyed at least 30 shrines and historic sites they see as promoting idolatry and heresy.

Among the sites were the tombs of figures revered as prophets by Muslims, including Seth, said to be the third son of Adam and Eve, and Jonah, who in stories told in the Bible and the Quran was swallowed by a whale. One site the extremists couldn’t destroy was the 840-year-old Crooked Minaret, a minaret that leans like Italy’s Tower of Pisa. When the militants came to blow it up, residents formed a human chain around it to protect it.

In one of the old images, the Crooked Minaret towers over a street in central Mosul, adjacent to a Yazidi shrine. The shrine was gone long before militants overtook the city, but it reveals a time when different religious faiths could coexist here. Yazidis belong to an ancient sect that the radicals consider heretical, and Islamic State group fighters have driven tens of thousands of Yazidis from their homes when they seized their towns last month.

As the United States and the international community are grappling with how to battle the militants, who now control territory stretching from northern Syria to the outskirts of Baghdad, here is a look at scenes from Mosul in more peaceful times and today under the rule of the Islamic State group.

A 1932 image of the Crooked Minaret mosque next to a Yazidi shrine in Mosul, northern Iraq, from the Library of Congress, top, and the same site, without the shrine, on June 8, 2009. In July, Islamic State militants failed to destroy the 840-year old Crooked Minaret that leans like Italy’s Tower of Pisa when residents sat on the ground and linked arms to form a human chain (AP Photo). A 1932 image of a main street in Mosul, northern Iraq, from the Library of Congress, top, and militants parading down a main road in Mosul, posted on a militant Twitter account on Wednesday, June 11, 2014, which has been authenticated based on its contents and other AP reporting. Iraq’s second largest city, Mosul, is now locked under the rule of extremists from the Islamic State group trying to purge it of everything they see as contradicting their stark vision of Islam (AP Photo). A 1932 image of Iraqi vendors and customers in the shoe market in Mosul, northern Iraq from the Library of Congress, top, and a Monday, July 7, 2014 file photo of a man walking in a market, nearly a month after Islamic militants took over the country’s second largest city. A trove of photographs now housed at the Library of Congress offers a glimpse at a different Mosul _ before wars, insurgency, sectarian strife and now radicals’ rule. The scenes were taken in the autumn of 1932 by staff from the American Colony Photo Department during a visit to Iraq at the end of the British mandate (AP Photo). A 1932 image of a coppersmith working in the market in Mosul, northern Iraq, from the Library of Congress, top, and a June 22, 2014 file photo of a fighter with the Islamic State group distributing a copy of the Quran, Islam’s holy book, to a driver in central Mosul. As the United States and the international community are grappling with how to battle the militants, who now control territory stretching from northern Syria to the outskirts of Baghdad, here is a look at scenes from Mosul in more peaceful times and today under the rule of the Islamic State group (AP Photo). A 1932 image of the Crooked Minaret mosque next to a Yazidi shrine in Mosul, northern Iraq, from the Library of Congress, top, and the same site, without the shrine, on June 8, 2009. In July, Islamic State militants failed to destroy the 840-year old Crooked Minaret that leans like Italy’s Tower of Pisa when residents sat on the ground and linked arms to form a human chain (AP Photo).

Assyrian International News Agency

Scotland Votes ‘No’ To Independence From Britain

Scotland has voted to stay in the United Kingdom, rejecting independence in a closely fought contest that divided the nation and drew attention worldwide.

Nearly complete returns from the September 18 referendum showed the “no” camp held an unassailable lead with about 55 percent of ballots cast.

“Scotland has by a majority decided not at this stage to become an independent country. I accept that verdict of the people,” pro-independence Scottish National Party leader Alex Salmond told independence supporters in Edinburgh.

Conceding defeat for the bid to end the 307-year-old union with Britain, Salmond said there would be no return to “business as usual” and pressed the British to follow through on its 11th-hour promises of greater powers for Scotland in the event of a “No” vote.

“Scotland will expect these to be honored in rapid course,” Salmond said.

British Prime Minister David Cameron said he was “delighted” that Scotland rejected independence and promised to follow through on promises of greater powers for England’s northern neighbor. 

“It would have broken my heart to see our United Kingdom come to an end,” said Cameron, whose government was shaken by polls pointing to a surge of support for splitting off in the weeks before the vote. 
 
Cameron promised that a September 16 pledge to transfer more powers to the Scottish parliament in key areas such as taxation, spending, and welfare in the event of a “no” vote would be met, saying draft laws setting them out would be published by January.

The vote against independence for Scotland means that “the debate has been settled for a generation,” he said.

But many “yes” voters expressed hope they would get another chance to vote for independence again — with a different result next time.

The Scottish National Party’s deputy leader, Nicola Sturgeon, said that “there is a real sense of disappointment that we’ve fallen narrowly short of securing a ‘yes’ vote.”

But she said the results showed there is “an appetite for change in Scotland. I think the country has been changed forever.”

As the result became clear in the early morning hours, Cameron congratulated Alistair Darling, the head of the Scottish anti-independence campaign.

Darling called it a “momentous decision” and said voters had chosen “positive change rather than needless separation.”

The “yes” campaign won Glasgow, Scotland’s biggest city, but opponents of independence prevailed in the capital, Edinburgh, by a margin of 61 percent to 38 percent and also won in Salmond’s home city of Aberdeen.

News of the “no” vote sparked a rise in the British pound on Asian markets with the pound reaching a two-year high against the euro.

A vote for independence would have started negotiations leading to Scotland becoming an independent country on March 24, 2016, potentially giving heart to separatists worldwide.

Despite its failure, the drive for Scottish independence will have potentially far-reaching consequences for what Cameron called “our country of four nations” — England, Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland.

Moving to appease English lawmakers in the British parliament who have threatened to rebel against the powers promised to Scotland, Cameron vowed to forge a new constitutional settlement that would also give powers to England, Wales and Northern Ireland.

“Just as Scotland will vote separately in the Scottish parliament on their issues of tax, spending and welfare, so too England, as well as Wales and Northern Ireland should be able to vote on these issues,” Cameron said.

“All this must take place, in tandem with and at the same pace as the settlement for Scotland.”

Voter turnout was high, with some 85 percent of eligible voters casting ballots. 

More than 4.2 million people, or 97 percent of those eligible, registered to vote and many lined up before polls opened to give their answer to the question “Should Scotland be an independent country?”

All residents in Scotland aged 16 or over who are U.K. citizens or other European Union nationals had the right to vote; those born in Scotland but living outside the country did not.

Had voters chosen independence, thorny issues in negotiations with London would have been likely to include rights to North Sea oil, what to do about European Union membership, what currency Scotland would use, and the future of Britain’s main nuclear submarine base, which is in Scotland.

A “yes” vote would have disappointed Britain’s allies, including the United States, and rattled governments across the globe that are struggling with independence movements.

With reporting by Reuters, AP, AFP, and BBC

Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty

Forex

Investing.com –

Investing.com – The U.S. dollar was lower against its Canadian counterpart on Thursday, after the release of mixed U.S. economic reports and as the Federal Reserve crushed expectations for an early rate hike.

USD/CAD hit 1.0957 during early U.S. trade, the session low; the pair subsequently consolidated at 1.0950, sliding 0.47%.

The pair was likely to find support at 1.0923, Wednesday’s low and resistance at 1.1071, the high of September 16.

In a report, the U.S. Department of Labor said the number of individuals filing for initial jobless benefits in the week ending September 13 decreased by 36,000 to 280,000, the lowest level since mid-July, from the previous week’s revised total of 316,000.

Analysts had expected jobless claims to fall by 11,000 to 305,000 last week.

Separately, the U.S. Commerce Department said that the number of building permits issued last month dropped by 5.6% to 998,000 units from July’s total of 1.057 million.

Analysts expected building permits to fall by 0.4% to 1.045 million units in August.

The report also showed that U.S. housing starts tumbled by 14.4% last month to hit 956,000 units from July’s total of 1.117 million units, compared to expectations for an increase to 1.040 million.

The data came a day after the Fed reiterated that it expects rates to remain on hold for a “considerable time”, after its bond purchasing program ends, but it also outlined in more detail how it will start to raise short term interest rates when the time comes.

The Fed cut its monthly asset purchase program by another $ 10 billion, keeping the program on track to finish next month.

Speaking at the bank’s post-policy meeting press conference Chair Janet Yellen stressed that the timing of any change in interest rates is dependent on the strength of the economic recovery.

In Canada, official data showed that foreign securities purchases rose by C$ 5.30 billion in July, beating expectations for an increase of C$ 2.47 billion, after a revised C$ 1.08 billion decline the previous month.

The loonie was higher against the euro, with EUR/CAD shedding 0.19% to 1.4125.

Later in the day, the U.S. was to produce data on manufacturing activity in the Philadelphia region.

Investing.com
Investing.com offers an extensive set of professional tools for the financial markets.
Read more News on Investing.com and download the new Investing.com apps for Android and iOS!

Did you like this? Share it:

Dinar Daddy’s Tidbits

Meet Randa Markos, the Assyrian Refugee-Turned-UFC Fighter

UFC title contender Randa Markos was born in Iraq and imprisoned in Turkey before she landed in Canada, where she has become a professional cage fighter (photo: Stuart Pettican).Randa Markos didn’t have much of a childhood. War will do that to a kid.

In the late 1980s, near the end of the Iran-Iraq War, Markos and her family were constantly on the move in their native Iraq. They moved from city to city, country to country riding on donkeys and in cabs, sleeping in churches, eating table scraps from strangers, even spending time in prison; Randa was only 3. Eventually, the Markos’ immediate family scattered across the globe, with Randa, her parents and siblings landing in Canada. Other relatives relocated to Australia and Italy.

Fast-forward two decades, and life has hardened the now-29-year-old woman into a highly skilled mixed martial arts fighter, someone who is able to tell a remarkable story of escape, imprisonment and, finally, liberation as an adult.

Markos is one of 16 female athletes competing on Season 20 of the UFC’s “The Ultimate Fighter.” This season will crown a 115-pound strawweight champion at its conclusion. Whereas past seasons of TUF contestants had to win their way into the competition to eventually earn a UFC contract, these 16 women are all already signed by UFC, fighting for the title in tournament style. They are whom the UFC deems the 16 best 115-pound female fighters in the world. Basically, the show is inventing a new women’s MMA weight class.

The season debuted Sept. 10, and Markos entered the show as the No. 14 seed. She ended up on Anthony Pettis’ team, and was one of the first two fighters called out to fight. On Episode 1, she upset No. 3 seed Tecia Torres. Even on the first show, you can see what makes Markos such a tough customer.

And escaping Iraq was only the first half of the battle.

War torn

It was 1988, at the height of the Iran-Iraq War.

Markos was just 3 and her father knew he had to get his family out of Iraq.

“In Iraq, all the males are required to join the army, but they were so poorly equipped and trained, he felt like it was an instant death sentence,” Markos said. “My father watched so many of his friends die in the war, so he began the process of getting us out of Iraq. He knew if he stayed and didn’t join the army, they would kill him.”

So the Markos family set out for the Iraq-Turkey border.

On foot.

The family walked for four days and finally arrived at the border as refugees, alongside hundreds of other Iraqi families. From there, they were transported across Turkey to Istanbul to a refugee camp where they remained for nearly a year while waiting for visas to any country that would take them.

The process dragged on; the family lived in squalor. Markos’ father grew increasingly frustrated and angry. As a refugee, he was not permitted to work.

A distant aunt in Canada was coordinating their visas, but it was taking time. Nearly a year gone by and no visas obtained, the Turkish government sent them back to the Turkey-Iraq border, where they were held in a prison awaiting deportation. Couple that with a new baby — Randa’s younger brother, Robert, had just been born — and things were desperate.

“My father talked to a United Nations official and asked for his help,” Markos said. “Somehow, they didn’t send us back. Shortly after, our visas to Canada came through.”

By January 1989, they were on a plane to Canada. Though there was nothing exploding and no people dying there, the adjustment was huge for the Markos family.

“The Canadians took care of us right away,” said Markos, who currently lives in Windsor, Ontario, with her husband and works full-time as a pharmacy assistant in addition to training for MMA. “They took us in, the Salvation Army gave us clothes and we even had a little house.”

And that’s when the real fighting began. Markos’ father had been a wealthy business owner in Baghdad, but left everything behind to get the family out of Iraq. In Canada, with limited English skills, he ended up taking a minimum-wage job washing dishes.

Markos has spoken openly about what happened next. The family struggled, especially her father, and her home environment deteriorated. Eventually he was ousted from the home.

During her turbulent youth, Markos eventually found solace in wrestling, joining her high school team. It wasn’t long until she was hooked — she had discovered an outlet that she was passionate about, and good at. “I loved wrestling because when all that stuff was going on in my house, I never talked about it,” she said. “So I’d go to the gym and I’d get all my frustration out. And it was like another family to me. I would do well and [my coaches] would give me great feedback. I was starved to get that approval from them. I never got that approval at home.”

As a Chaldean (Iraqi Christian) family, Markos’ upbringing remained traditional and strict. So she told her family she played volleyball instead, then she went off every day and grappled with the boys.

When high school was over, Markos’ focus became college. She missed wrestling, though, and felt a void in herself. She started dating her future husband, Jeff, who was an aspiring MMA fighter. “Jeff was training and after I watched his first fight, I knew this was what I wanted to do,” Markos said. “I waited until I got out of college first before I started training.”

In a local gym in Windsor at which Jeff trained, Markos was introduced to jiu-jitsu. With the wrestling background and jiu-jitsu’s similar use of leverage and arm and leg locks, Markos took to the art effortlessly.

“Jeff and I actually trained together for a little while, but it got to be a little crazy,” Markos said with a laugh. “We’d end up beating the s— out of each other. So we stopped that.”

With the encouragement of Jeff and her coaches, Markos’ grappling skills and stand-up game had progressed to amateur level. But in a loss to Kelly Warren, she received a valuable wake-up call.

“It made me understand that if I wanted to do this for a living, I had to get a lot better and train harder,” Markos said. “From then on, I trained as if I was training to fight Kelly Warren every time.”

After four amateur bouts in which she went 3-1, it was difficult to find opponents. After she defeated Bernice Booth in 2010 — for the second time — two years would go by without another fight. So she decided to go pro, where fights were more plentiful and more importantly, sanctioned.

Markos finally found a taker in Allanna Jones, a much heavier fighter, in November 2012. Markos, so starved for competition, took the fight provided they could agree on a catch weight.

“I just wanted to fight someone,” Markos said. “She said she could make it at 125 or 130. Honestly, I didn’t care. I just went in and fought as hard as I could.”

That produced a third-round armbar submission, her first win as a pro. By the time the UFC made an open call for 115-pound female fighters on March 19 of this year, Markos had amassed a 4-1 record as a pro. Markos answered the UFC’s call, impressed at the tryouts in Las Vegas on April 28 and earned a UFC contract.

Now, a few wins away from being crowned the UFC’s inaugural 115-pound champion, Markos has elite grappling skills, with three of her four pro wins coming by armbar. Her mother has come around to her daughter’s job as an MMA fighter, but she is mostly estranged from her father, who still lives relatively close in Canada.

“I still go and see him sometimes, but he just can’t live with us anymore,” Markos said. “We’ll always be appreciative that he got us out of Iraq, but it doesn’t condone his behavior.”

In MMA, she’s found that there is no shortage of support, including from her husband. She’s also got a new training center in Michigan Top Team, where she’s found more sparring partners about 10 minutes over the U.S.-Canada border.

“She’s really good,” says Ultimate Fighter coach and UFC lightweight champion Pettis. “She’s got that attitude that she doesn’t care — she’s just going to whoop your ass no matter what … She’s a little quiet, but when she gets in that cage, she’s totally different.”

Now she embarks on the biggest fight of her career. As much as the UFC needs a new group of talented female fighters like Markos, Markos may need the UFC more.

“If I didn’t have MMA or wrestling I don’t know where I’d be now. I’d probably be a drug addict or something,” Markos said. “It was a rough time and not many people can take something so bad and turn it into a positive in your life. I did. I chose the right path.”

Assyrian International News Agency

Scotland voters reject independence

Scotland’s landmark independence referendum has resulted in most voters choosing to keep the 307-year union with England.

With 31 of 32 regional electoral centres reporting on Friday, supporters of the United Kingdom won about 55 percent of the vote that has worried allies and investors. About 45 percent voted for independence.

Alex Salmond, the Scottish first minister, conceded defeat, saying “we know it is a majority for the No campaign” and called on Scots to accept the results of the vote. He said the vote “has been triumph for the democratic process”.

Those against independence received a massive boost by strongly taking Edinburgh, the capital, and Aberdeen, the nation’s oil centre.

The average turnout was 86 percent – a record high for any Scottish election.

Risks to economy

Salmond had argued that Scots could go it alone because of its extensive oil reserves and high levels of ingenuity and education. 

However, many saw it as a “head versus hearts” campaign, with cautious older Scots concluding that independence would be too risky financially, while younger ones were enamoured with the idea of building their own country.

In return for staying in the union, Scotland’s voters have been promised significant – though somewhat unspecified – new powers by the British government, which had feared losing Scotland forever.

Nick Clegg, the UK’s deputy prime minister, on Friday said he wanted the coalition government to deliver new powers to Scotland, saying Scots’ rejection of independence was a signal for wider constitutional reform across all of Britain.

“I’m absolutely delighted the Scottish people have taken this momentous decision to safeguard our family of nations for future generations,” Clegg said in a statement.

“We must now deliver on time and in full the radical package of newly devolved powers to Scotland. This referendum marks not only a new chapter for Scotland within the UK but also wider constitutional reform across the Union.”

Trouble averted

The result saves David Cameron, UK prime minister, from a historic defeat and also helps opposition chief Ed Miliband by keeping his many Labour Party legislators in Scotland in place.

His party would have found it harder to win a national election in 2015 without that support from Scotland.

Gordon Brown, former prime minister, who is a Scot, returned to prominence with a vigorous campaign in support of the union in the final days before the referendum vote.

Brown argued passionately that Scots could be devoted to Scotland but still proud of their place in the United Kingdom, rejecting the argument that independence was the patriotic choice.

“There is not a cemetery in Europe that does not have Scots, English, Welsh and Irish lined side by side,” Brown said in his final speech before the vote.

“We not only won these wars together, we built the peace together. What we have built together by sacrificing and sharing, let no narrow nationalism split asunder.”

496

AL JAZEERA ENGLISH (AJE)

Obama Not Scheduled, But Open To Meeting With Rohani

U.S. President Barack Obama is not scheduled to meet with Iranian President Hassan Rohani next week when both will be at the UN General Assembly, but a senior U.S. official said Obama remains open to such a meeting.

The U.S. official, who spoke under condition of anonymity, said Secretary of State John Kerry is likely to hold talks with Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif on the sidelines of the annual UN event.

The U.S. official said while there are no plans for Obama to meet with Rohani, “the president of the United States is well known for being open to such a meeting but the choice is really Iran’s.”

Last year during the UN General Assembly, Obama and Rohani spoke by telephone but though they were both in New York, they did not meet face-to-face.

Based on reporting by Reuters and Interfax

Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty

Forex – Pound hits 2

Investing.com –

Investing.com – The pound rose to a two-year high against the euro on Thursday and hit its highest level against the dollar in two weeks, boosted by hopes that Scotland will vote to remain inside the United Kingdom.

EUR/GBP was last down 0.49% to 0.7864, the lowest level since August 2012.

Sterling strengthened earlier Thursday after the final Ipsos Mori opinion poll of the Scottish referendum campaign showed the no vote slightly ahead with 53%, while support for the yes vote was at 47%.

However due to the large number of undecided voters and the high turnout polls have indicated that the final outcome may be too close to call.

Sterling dropped to 10 month lows against the dollar last week as uncertainty over what currency an independent Scotland would use, as well as concerns over how much of the U.K. national debt it would take on rattled financial markets.

Earlier Thursday, official data showed that U.K. retail sales rose in line with forecasts in last month.

U.K. retail sales rose 0.4% in August and were 3.9% higher on a year-over-year basis, the Office for National Statistics reported.

Sales of household good sales jumped 12.7% from a year earlier, bolstered by sales of high powered vacuum cleaners ahead of a European Union ban on powerful electrical appliances.

GBP/USD advanced 0.69% to 1.6383, the highest since September 4.

In the U.S., data on Thursday showed that the number of people filing first time claims for unemployment benefits fell by a larger-than-expected 36,000 to 280,000 last week, the lowest since July.

A separate report showed that U.S. housing starts and building permits fell August, but upward revisions to the previous month’s readings indicated that the recovery in the housing sector is continuing.

Another report showed that manufacturing activity in the Philadelphia region ticked lower this month.

The dollar remained broadly stronger after the Federal Reserve offered fresh guidance on its plans to raise interest rates at the conclusion of its two day monetary policy meeting on Wednesday.

The Fed statement reiterated that it expects rates to remain on hold for a “considerable time”, after its bond purchasing program ends, but it outlined in more detail how it will start to raise short term interest rates when the time comes.

The Fed cut its monthly asset purchase program by another $ 10 billion, keeping the program on track to finish next month.

Investing.com
Investing.com offers an extensive set of professional tools for the financial markets.
Read more News on Investing.com and download the new Investing.com apps for Android and iOS!

Did you like this? Share it:

Dinar Daddy’s Tidbits

How the ‘Islamic State’ is Run, From Oil to Beheadings

(CNN) — Put yourself in the shoes (and sixth-century black robes) of ISIS’ Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the mysterious boss of the terror group that is striking fear into the hearts of leaders around the world.

In the past couple of years you’ve managed to avoid drone attacks and survive civil wars, unify militant groups in two different countries under your banner, raise an army of jihadis from across the globe, and seize a chunk of land stretching from northern Syria to central Iraq.

Your newly-declared “Islamic State” is the size of Pennsylvania, so how do you govern it? You compartmentalize.

New data from the Terrorism Research and Analysis Consortium (TRAC) has revealed that ISIS is putting governing structures in place to rule the territories the group conquers once the dust settles on the battlefield.

The research shows how ISIS has gone from being a purely military force to building a system that can provide basic services, such as making sure that gas and food are available, to its new citizens.

From the cabinet and the governors to the financial and legislative bodies, ISIS’ bureaucratic hierarchy looks a lot like those of some of the Western countries whose values it rejects — if you take away the democracy and add in a council to consider who should be beheaded.

Baghdadi, his Cabinet advisers and his two key deputies comprise the executive branch of the government, known as “Al Imara.”

The two deputies — Abu Ali al-Anbari and Abu Muslim al-Turkmani, veteran Iraqi military officials who served under Saddam Hussein — oversee Syria and Iraq, respectively.

ISIS has probably split the governance of the “Islamic State” into Syrian and Iraqi branches simply to make it easier to run, according to Jasmine Opperman, TRAC’s Southern Africa Director.

“They see the caliphate as one state, yet there are two different governments,” Opperman told CNN. “I believe this split is purely administrative at this time. They don’t want to be seen as downplaying the caliphate, but to make it easier to govern they were forced to make a separation between Syria and Iraq.”

The two deputies deliver orders to the governors in charge of the various sub-states in Syria and Iraq under ISIS control, who then instruct local councils on how to implement the executive branch’s decrees on everything from media relations and recruiting to policing and financial matters.

The Shura council — which reports directly to the executive branch — is the caliphate’s religious monitor, appointed to make sure that all the local councils and governors are sticking to ISIS’ version of Islamic law.

The recent murders of Western hostages James Foley, Steven Sotloff, and David Haines would have fallen under the Shura council’s purview, according to Opperman.

“Let’s say a significant execution is going to take place, something that will get ISIS on the front page of the newspaper,” Opperman said. “It cannot be done without Shura council approval.”

The Shura council also has the power to censure the leadership for running afoul of its interpretation of Sharia law, according to Opperman.

“The Shura council has the right to tell Baghdadi to go if he’s not adhering to ISIS’ religious standards,” she told CNN. “It would most probably never happen, but the fact that it’s possible indicates the council’s prominence.”

Baghdadi — who was once imprisoned by U.S. forces in Iraq — seems to have incorporated the American military’s own counter-insurgency mantra of “Clear and Hold” to win territory, establish control over the area, then get the locals to help govern it.

As time goes on, ISIS is evolving into a government whose political decision-making cannot be separated from its military capabilities, according to Opperman.

“It’s two sides of the same coin,” she said. “We’ve seen the military side, with the war cabinet that directs brigades. But now on the other side we’re seeing how ISIS wants to govern. The two processes inform one another.”

Assyrian International News Agency

Gold prices dip in Asia as investors keep focus on Fed

Investing.com –

Investing.com – Gold continued to drop in early Asia on Friday with investors focused on the possibility of a Federal Reserve rate hike next year.

On the Comex division of the New York Mercantile Exchange, gold futures for December delivery traded at $ 1,226.20 a troy ounce, down 0.06%, after hitting an overnight session low of $ 1,216.60 and off a high of $ 1,228.50.

Overnight, gold prices fell after investors digested the Federal Reserve’s Wednesday statement on interest rates and concluded that tighter monetary policy is drawing closer and usher in a strengthening trend for the dollar.

The Federal Reserve on Wednesday said that it will likely close its monthly bond-buying program in October and suggested it will raise interest rates in 2015.

The Fed added interest rates will hover just above zero for a “considerable time,” but the U.S. central bank also suggested it could move to hike benchmark borrowing costs faster than anticipated once it decides to begin tightening.

An end of stimulus and prospects for higher interest rates should give the dollar added support going forward, ending six years of ultra-loose monetary policy that have bolstered gold prices, which shrugged off mixed U.S. data.

In a report, the U.S. Department of Labor said the number of individuals filing for initial jobless benefits in the week ending Sept. 13 fell by 36,000 to 280,000, the lowest level since mid-July, from the previous week’s revised total of 316,000.

Analysts had expected jobless claims to fall by 11,000 to 305,000 last week.

Separately, the U.S. Commerce Department said that the number of building permits issued last month dropped by 5.6% to 998,000 units from July’s total of 1.057 million.

Analysts expected building permits to fall by 0.4% to 1.045 million units in August.

The report also showed that U.S. housing starts tumbled by 14.4% last month to hit 956,000 units from July’s total of 1.117 million units, confounding expectations for an increase to 1.040 million.

Silver for December delivery rose 0.06% at $ 18.528 a troy ounce. Copper futures for December delivery were down 0.11% at $ 3.091 a pound.

Investing.com
Investing.com offers an extensive set of professional tools for the financial markets.
Read more News on Investing.com and download the new Investing.com apps for Android and iOS!

Did you like this? Share it:

Dinar Daddy’s Tidbits

Obama Speech Leads to More Isis Recruits, Mainly From Turkey

President Barack Obama’s announcement of his offer to arm and help Syrian rebels fight against the Islamic State (ISIS/ISIL) may have triggered a surge in recruitment for the terrorist group.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, an NGO specializing in the region, reported that more than 162 jihadists joined the group after the September 10 speech. The majority are Syrians; however, four new recruits are Australian, and fifteen are from neighboring Turkey, a NATO country.

The Observatory said the majority of the new recruits are in the Aleppo province, which is in north Syria and around 125 miles from the Turkey border. The Islamic State moved west from Raqqa and Deir al-Zor to capture “territory from other insurgents and occupying strategic hilltops,” stated Rami Abdulrahman, who presides over the Observatory. The CIA estimates that the Islamic State contains around 30,000 members, but Abdulrahman said there are at least 50,000 fighters. The majority of the Syrian recruits were part of Jabhat al-Nusra, “al Qaeda’s official affiliate in the Syrian war and a rival of Islamic State.”

Turkey President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his AK Party have a well-developed reputation for anti-Semitism and anti-Israeli policies, but one Islamic State fighter claimed they also fund the jihadists.

“Turkey paved the way for us. Had Turkey not shown such understanding for us, the Islamic State would not be in its current place. It [Turkey] showed us affection. Large [numbers] of our mujahedeen received medical treatment in Turkey,” said an unidentified man. “We do not have the support of Saudi Arabia, but many Saudi families who believe in jihad do assist us. But anyhow, we will no longer need it, soon.”

Turkey did not secure its borders when the rebels in Syria rose up against President Bashar al-Assad. Erdogan and his cronies made it known they supported the rebels. In fact, many people from the West crossed into Syria through Turkey to join the Islamic State. The 16-year-old twins, Salma and Zahra Halane, left their Manchester home in England and snuck into Syria through Turkey to reunite with their older brother, who is a fighter with the terrorists. CNN featured the country’s secret jihad route to Syria.

In August, Turkey admitted over 1,000 Turkey nationals joined ISIS. Outside of Arabs, Turkey has the most nationals in the group. One Istanbul-based charity was forced to “suspend its activities after it was criticized for using an insignia adopted by the ISIL.” Hacibayram is right in the middle of the capital Ankara’s tourist district, but residents say it is a hot spot for Islamic State recruits. The capital is almost 500 miles from the Syrian border.

“It began when a stranger with a long, coarse beard started showing up in the neighborhood,” said Arif Akbas, the neighborhood’s leader. “The next thing we knew, all the drug addicts started going to the mosque.”

One man, who asked The New York Times to call him Can, was one of those recruited to join the Islamic State. He said he participated in public executions, but he did not become a full member until he buried a man alive.

“When you fight over there, it’s like being in a trance,” he said. “Everyone shouts, ‘God is the greatest,’ which gives you divine strength to kill the enemy without being fazed by blood or splattered guts.”

Hacibayram resident Mehmet Arabaci told the Times the children in the neighborhood need more help. They found pictures on the Internet of Ozguzhan Gozlemcioglu, one of the first men from the area to join the Islamic State.

“There are now seven mosques in the vicinity, but not one school,” he said. “The lives of children here are so vacant that they find any excuse to be sucked into action.”

A 14-year-old was recruited from Hacibayram and injured in Raqqa. His father and the community noticed the government showed no emotion or effort to find out what happened to the boy and how he ended up in Syria. Aaron Stein with the Royal United Services Institute said there are recruitment centers for these young men.

“There are clearly recruitment centers being set up in Ankara and elsewhere in Turkey, but the government doesn’t seem to care,” he stated. “It seems their hatred for Bashar al-Assad and their overly nuanced view of what radical Islam is has led to a very short–and narrow-sighted policy that has serious implications.”

Assyrian International News Agency

Deaths as multiple bombs rock Baghdad

Three suicide car bombs were detonated in the Shia Baghdad neighbourhood of Kadhimiya followed by 12 mortar rounds fired from outside the district, killing at least 23 people and wounding 56 people, security sources said.

Interior Ministry spokesman, Saad Maan, said on state television on Thursday that security forces had started securing the area.

Sources told Al Jazeera that the attackers targeted the Kadhimiya prison in an attempted breakout.

A mortar round landed in the district, the sources said, adding that gunfire was also heard.

Bombs hit the capital on a near-daily basis but coordinated attacks of this scale have been rare in the last several weeks.

Mortar rounds have a short range compared to rockets, indicating the assailants fired from near the districts.

Interior Ministry spokesman Saad Maan said on state television that “the security forces are securing the area.”

He said two “terrorists” had been arrested in Kadhimiya.

The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, an al-Qaeda offshoot that seized large parts of northern Iraq last month, has claimed several suicide bombings in the capital.

Security sources said their fighters have tried to use farmland northwest of Baghdad to approach Shia districts.

195

AL JAZEERA ENGLISH (AJE)

France to Carry Out Airstrikes in Iraq

France to Carry Out Airstrikes in Iraq

By Greg Keller

Posted 2014-09-19 00:43 GMT

(AP) — France has agreed to carry out airstrikes requested by Iraq to bolster its fight against the Islamic State group’s fighters who’ve captured swathes of the country, President Francois Hollande said Thursday.

Hollande stressed that France wouldn’t go beyond airstrikes in support of the Iraqi military or Kurdish Peshmerga forces, and wouldn’t attack targets in Syria, where the Islamic State group has also captured territory.

He said he would inform the parliament of the planned action “as soon as the first strikes — that is to say, soon.”

Speaking during his twice-yearly news conference, Hollande said he agreed to Iraq’s request for air support at a meeting of his top defense and security advisers earlier in the day.

“This morning I decided to respond to the request of Iraqi authorities to provide air support,” Hollande said. “We won’t go beyond this. There won’t be troops on the ground. And we will act only in Iraq.”

Following a request by Iraqi authorities, French jets began flying reconnaissance missions over the country Monday, and have so far carried out four using Rafale fighter aircraft and an ATL2 surveillance plane, military spokesman Col. Gilles Jaron said. He provided no further details.

Assyrian International News Agency