The Truth behind Military Intervention in Qatar

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE SAUDI NEWS AGENCY ASHARQ AL-AWSAT)

 

Opinion

The Truth behind Military Intervention in Qatar

Only 48 hours into Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Bahrain and Egypt putting their boycott with Qatar into effect, Doha straightaway announced resorting to Turkish army troops.

The move shocked all Gulf States and even other foreign forces. Neither was the rift with Qatar a newly found dilemma, nor was the list of demands put forth by the quartet unexpected. Qatar’s Emir Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani had already signed onto them, but without fully falling through with implementation.

Political disputes and crises– among Arab Gulf countries in particular– have long been known to be settled through diplomacy and never military interventions.

In a nutshell, the four countries practiced rights dictated by sovereignty and have shut down all vents that could allow for evil or terror to come through the Qatari peninsula. On the other hand, Qatar’s response was to open up all ports and airspace to military troops—although it paradoxically made claims of being put under a brutal siege. The move presented a disastrous escalation for the region.

Doha, without previous warning, decided on militarizing a diplomatic crisis, unaware of the grave tensions it brought along by inviting foreign troops into the region.

Even though boycotting countries made it clear on many occasions that the row with Qatar goes beyond independent perceptions and is based on views shared by many other Arab and Islamic countries, Qatar’s reactions were shocking, nonsensical and quite rebellious–anyone could see that.

Many times, Doha’s policy-making decisions went against the interests of the Qatari people. Its confused stance and promotion of delusional claims on military threats, counteractively verifies the truth behind the quartet’s position and reasons for distancing itself up until this very moment.

Qatar’s escalatory stances sent a dangerous message it fails to see the aftermath entailed, given they compromise regional security and stability. Despite the Saudi-led bloc of four not going after a military option itself, the boycotting countries –like any other country in the world- are obliged to uphold their national security.

It is only natural that they do not allow for Doha to bring about impending threats to the security and stability of their people, which inviting foreign troops into the Gulf region exactly does. All the more, Qatar’s move was based on invalid justifications.

Absurdly, a state coming from a politically, socially and military weak position would still take on the risk of provoking mightier neighboring states which itself accuses of attempting to impose a regime change within its territory.

The matter of the fact is that regime change in Qatar was never an option, and that the goal was clearly defined by forcing the peninsula to reconsider its aggressive behavior.

It is worth noting that by Qatar turning to loud rhetoric, political cries, and foreign military intervention to escape its diplomatic crisis evidently proves that Doha policies weren’t strong enough to preserve the stability of its ruling regime in the first place. A thought-provoking scene of political adolescence?!

US President Donald Trump summarized the whole feeble Qatari cry on it being under the threat of military intervention by telling the Emir of Qatar himself “no,” when he asked Trump on whether he had warned the Saudis against taking up military action against Qatar.

Qatar’s position was embarrassing as the president of a world super power snubs its narrative which was the product of a grievances-based policy. The same cry it used to justify allowing foreign forces to set foot in the region. Qatar wrongly employed a strategy to incite the four countries, but it only backfired as it proved Doha’s regime fragile and a volatile threat to both Gulf state and regional security.

Doha’s credibility before the world has been compromised by its own lies. The Qatari regime has emerged with no cover to confront the boycott’s effects. Promoting military intervention only shows how fear-struck the peninsula regime is.

Day by day, the crisis deepens as Doha turns a blind eye.  What Qatar truly fears is not ‘military intervention’, but its revolutionary policies proving a costly failure which the regime cannot easily dodge.

Salman Al-dossary

Salman Al-dossary

Salman Aldosary is the former editor-in-chief of Asharq Al-Awsat newspaper.

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Turkey’s Erdogan Slams Germany For Bowing To The Will Of The People

 

 

Turkeys Dictator Erdogan has blasted German politicians for bowing down to the wishes of the German people. To me, that sounds exactly like a man who has his own position through fraud, in other words, a Dictator. He is just like Russia’s President Putin when it comes to free open and honest Democratic elections because as Mr. Putin said “you never know who is going to win.” A little over one year ago there was a Coup in Turkey as some members of the military tried to over throw Erdogan while he was out of the country. Many think that this was a coup designed by members of Erdogan’s inner circle to draw out the Presidents opponents so that they could be eliminated. Whether this is true or not, who really knows? One thing that is for sure though is that Mr. Erdogan has used that event to totally crackdown on anyone that he personally does not like. Mr. Erdogan has proved without any doubt that he does not care what the people of his or any other country want.

 

What Mr. Erdogan is upset about is that the German leadership including the Chancellor Mrs. Merkel are singing a different tune concerning continuing to allow many thousands of people from Islamic countries to filter through Turkey into Europe. As most people in Europe have learned that way to many of the people flooding into their countries through Turkey are bringing their strict versions of Islam with them causing havoc on their countries legal and welfare system. The world is learning that the Islamic culture is not compatible with European culture, religions or laws or anywhere else in the world for that matter. When people move into your country and form their own communities then insist that the people of the host country change their laws and customs to conform to the Islamic culture there is always going to be friction. Host countries have two main options here, one tell the visitors that it is they who will conform to the host countries cultures or two, get out and go back to your home country. The will of the people in Germany is not the will of Mr. Erdogan and this obviously upsets him. How dare the political leaders of Germany bow down to the wishes of the lowly citizens.

 

There is one other main issue being discussed throughout Germany, Brussels and throughout the rest of Europe and that is the politicians and the citizens of Europe and the European Union do not want to allow Turkey to join the EU. When Tony Blair was Prime Minister of England a decade or so ago he was asked about Turkey joining the EU and he said “no, their not part of Europe so why should they be allowed into the EU?” This is the view that I have held ever since I first heard of this idea being broached. You can not allow a country that is ruled by a Dictator to become part of your country’s monetary, or legal system because their system is a deadly cancer to democracy. This would apply to countries like Russia also as long as they are ruled by the current Dictator Mr. Putin. This long Chess game that has been played between the EU and Turkey is about to come to a close and it is not going to end in Mr. Erdogan’s favor. The reason I say this is because if it did, the current politicians will be voted out of their political positions by those dastardly lowlife citizens. This is a concept that people like Mr. Putin and Mr. Erdogan makes sure cannot happen in their countries. The same goes for countries like Venezuela, North Korea, Cuba and China, places that the will of the people mean nothing.

Turkey accuses German politicians of ‘bowing down to populism’

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF CNN)

 

Turkey accuses German politicians of ‘bowing down to populism’

Recep Tayyip Erdogan delivers a speech at the Grand National Assembly of Turkey in Ankara, on June 13, 2017.

(CNN)Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has accused German Chancellor Angela Merkel and her election rival Martin Schulz of “bowing down to populism and prejudice” after both candidates called for an end to Ankara’s European Union membership talks in a live TV election debate Sunday night.

In a series of tweets posted Monday morning, presidential spokesperson Ibrahim Kalin said that the two candidates chose to attack Turkey and Erdogan “while ignoring Germany and Europe’s fundamental and critical issues” and accused Germany of embracing the Kurdistan Workers Party, or PKK, a Kurdish separatist group that the Turkish government has branded a terrorist organization.
Turkey’s deputy Prime Minister, Mehmet Sismek, also reacted on Twitter. “EU never had a credible commitment to let Turkey in,” he wrote Monday. “Merkel isn’t only shooting herself in the foot but also jeopardising the future of Europe.”

EU never had a credible commitment to let Turkey in. Merkel isn’t only shooting herself in the foot but also jeopardising future of Europe! https://twitter.com/katipiri/status/904428499192217600 

In the debate Sunday night — three weeks before Germany’s federal election — Merkel called for accession negotiations to be stopped in an apparent change of stance on Turkey’s bid to join the EU.
“Turkey should not be a member of the EU,” Merkel said. “I will discuss with colleagues again to see if we can come to a joint position and end these accession negotiations.”
But she insisted that it was important for the two countries to keep talking, especially in light of the Germans currently being held as political prisoners in Turkey.
“I have no intention of ending diplomatic relations with Turkey,” Merkel said.
More than 10 Germans are being held. Two were arrested Friday, according to German authorities, but one has since been released, according to CNN affiliate N-TV.

The comments about Turkey came during a live TV debate between Merkel and Schulz on Sunday night.

Her Social Democratic rival also said he would seek to end membership talks. “We would be accepting someone who is now visibly calling into question all of the basic values of European cooperation,” Schulz said.
Turkey has “overstepped all red lines.”

Deteriorating relations

The exchange of blows marks a further escalation in tensions between the two countries.
Relations between Berlin and Ankara have been in a downward spiral since last summer, when a failed coup against Erdogan sparked a crackdown on civil liberties and mass arrests of the political opposition, activists and journalists, including German citizens.
Speaking at her annual summer news conference last week, Merkel said Turkey’s jailing of Germans was further damaging already fraught ties between the two countries, saying their imprisonment was “unjustified.”
Among the prisoners is German-Turkish journalist Deniz Yucel, who was arrested in Turkey in February on charges of terror propaganda, and human-rights activist Peter Steudtner, held since July with nine others and charged with “committing crimes in the name of a terrorist organization without being a member.”

Journalist Deniz Yucel has now been held in Turkey for more than 200 days, according to German authorities.

Germany threatens trade and travel restrictions

Germany has changed its tactics over Turkey in recent months, threatening to impose travel and trade restrictions if journalist Yucel and activist Steudtner aren’t released from prison.
In July, German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel warned Germans against traveling to Turkey and suggested that the German government would review corporate investments in Turkey.
“Someone who detains law-abiding visitors to their country on the basis of outlandish, indeed absurd, accusations and throws them into prison has left European values behind,” Gabriel said, calling for Steudtner’s release. “We cannot continue as before.”

Nobel laureate on Erdogan's Turkey

Nobel laureate on Erdogan’s Turkey 06:45
A few weeks earlier, Turkey’s Foreign Ministry criticized an art installation in Berlin depicting Erdogan as a dictator that coincided with the G20 summit in Hamburg, calling it “a new example of rising racism and xenophobia in the country.”
Soon after, the Turkish government blocked German lawmakers from visiting German troops stationed in Turkey participating in NATO operations in Syria.
Earlier this year, German officials prevented top politicians, including Erdogan, from addressing Turkish rallies in Germany in the lead-up to an April referendum that handed Erdogan sweeping new powers.
In response, Erdogan likened the German government to that of Adolf Hitler. “I thought that Nazism was over in Germany, but it turns out that it is still going on,” he said. “It is still going on, it is clear.”

Merkel warns Erdogan over election

Germany heads to the polls in September

Germany heads to the polls in September 02:22
Relations with Turkey are a key issue in the days leading to federal elections in Germany, where there are some 3 million people with Turkish roots.
Earlier this month, Erdogan called on voters of Turkish origin to boycott the two biggest parties — Merkel’s Christian Democrats and the Social Democrats — along with the Green Party in the election, describing them as “enemies of Turkey,” according to CNN affiliate NTV.
The call drew a fierce rebuke at the time from Merkel, who warned Erdogan against interfering in the election.
Germans go the polls September 24, with Merkel widely expected to secure a fourth term.

Macedonian Citizen Fined 400 Euro For Insulting Turkish President Erdoğan on Facebook

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF ‘GLOBAL VOICES’)

(THIS IS COWARDLINESS IGNORANCE AT ITS FASCISTS BEST) (trs)

Macedonian Citizen Fined 400 Euro For Insulting Turkish President Erdoğan on Facebook

Photo by Flickr user zeevveez. CC BY 2.0

For the first time since the country gained independence in 1992, a Macedonian court has applied the lèse-majesté (royal insult) portion of the Criminal Code in order to protect a president — though not the president of Macedonia.

In their ruling, which concerned a Facebook post referring to Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, the court found the citizen guilty of posting “ironical statements and insult[ing] a leader of a foreign country.”

According to reports by Anadolu Agency and local media, the person, known only by the initials EA, bears Macedonian and Turkish citizenship. EA will have to either pay around 400 euros or serve a prison sentence.

The proceedings before of the Macedonian Criminal Court opened after the Turkish ambassador to Macedonia, Tulin Erkal Kara, filed charges against EA in late 2016, when Macedonia’s previous government was still in power. The court issued its ruling in mid-July and the ruling became public on August 24.

Article 181 of the Macedonian Criminal Code protects the “reputation of a foreign country” and stipulates that “a person who has the intention to publicly ridicule a foreign country, a flag, a coat of arms, an anthem or a head of state or a diplomatic representative will have to pay a monetary fine.”

But not a single judge in the history of the country’s independence has used this article to sentence someone for insulting a foreign country, flag, coat of arms, anthem or a head of state. On social networks, Macedonian citizens reacted to the news about this case with outrage and dismay.

Македонски Суд осудил лице за навреда на Ердоган? Поради пост на Фејсбук? This is a joke??

A Macedonian Court has sentenced someone for insulting Erdoğan? Because of a Facebook post? This is a joke??

Filip Medarski, a prominent lawyer from Skopje, tweeted that Macedonian Criminal Code Article 181 and the verdict from the judge are inconsistent with the practices of the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR):

Самиот член,а посебно пресудата се спротивни на праксата на Стразбург.Најпозната пресуда во тој контекст е: https://www.article19.org/resources.php/resource/37188/en/ecthr:-eon-v-france 

The article itself, and especially the verdict are contrary to the Strasbourg law practice.
The most famous case in this context is: [Eon Vs. France]

Since Macedonia is a member of Council of Europe, the decisions of this court are binding for its judiciary.

In a statement for the Meta News Agency in Skopje, Medarski said that such a crime may exist in the Macedonian Criminal Code, but in another form because in principle, it should defend the symbolic aspect of flags, coats of arms and other representations of a state, in deference to the institution of the state — not to the individual who holds office.

“But here it is not about insulting the president as an institution, but an insult to the actual person currently in office, in this case – Erdoğan”, Medarski said, adding that this was also noted by the ECHR and in the verdict that he cited in his tweet.

In 2013, the European Court of Human Rights heard Eon Vs. France, a case that concerned the 2008 visit of now former French president Nicolas Sarkozy to the French city of Laval, where a citizen named Hervé Eon waved a small banner reading “Get lost, you prick” (Casse toi pov’con). Sarkozy himself had used the same phrase earlier that year at an agricultural rally, for someone that wasn’t so keen on greeting him. It later became a frequently used banner at different demonstrations and on the internet.

Eon was arrested and prosecuted for offending the President. He was found guilty and made to pay a fine of 30 euros. Later that decision was confirmed by the Court of Appeal in France and even by the highest court in the French judiciary, the Cour de Cassation. The applicant was immediately arrested and prosecuted for offending the President, an offense under the 1881 Freedom of the Press Act.

Consequently, Eon asked the European Court of Human rights to recognize that his sentence infringed his right to freedom of expression guaranteed by Article 10 of the European Convention of Human Rights. Eventually the ECHR confirmed that his freedom of expression had been violated. The Court concluded that by echoing the phrase used by the president, Hervé Eon had used “satirical impertinence” to express his criticism.

Unlike France, Macedonia has a record of high levels of corruption in all segments of society, low levels of respect towards the rule of law and undeniable attempts to restrict media freedoms and interfere with the judiciary. This was highlighted in the last report from the US State Department’s Bureau for Democracy, Human Rights and Labor. “Political interference, inefficiency, favoritism toward well-placed persons, prolonged processes, violations of the right to public trial, and corruption characterized the judicial system,” the report read.

In May 2017, Macedonia ushered in a new government that introduced a bold and optimistic reform plan in order to expedite the country’s processes of integration into NATO and the EU, that were stalled by the previous rule of right-winged VMRO-DPMNE party and their inclination towards Russia. A major aspect of these plans is comprehensive reform of the judiciary.

Why a Referendum Won’t Solve Iraqi Kurdistan’s Problems

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE SAUDI NEWS AGENCY ASHARQ AL-AWSAT)

 

Opinion

Why a Referendum Won’t Solve Iraqi Kurdistan’s Problems

There’s a lingering impression in Washington that Iraqi Kurdistan is what it was five years ago, before the rise of ISIS: a peaceful, prospering, emerging pro-Western democracy whose aspirations for full independence from Iraq are increasingly hard to ignore.

Unfortunately, a great deal has changed since then, thanks to war, the US retreat from the region and the Kurds’ own dysfunctions. As the ISIS slowly crumbles to its south and west, Kurdistan is politically and economically broken. President Masoud Barzani remains in office four years after his term ended, and parliament has not met in almost two years. The government is deeply in debt and can scarcely afford to pay the three-quarters of the workforce who are state employees. The army and security services are divided into rival factions.

Barzani’s reaction to this distress has been to schedule a referendum on Kurdish independence for Sept. 25. The initiative has been rejected not just by the Iraqi federal government, but also by Kurdistan’s powerful neighbors Iran and Turkey, as well as the United States. More significantly, it is being viewed even by staunchly pro-independence Kurds as evidence that the region’s politics have reached a dangerous dead end.

The referendum is “an excuse by Kurdish leaders to remain in power,” says Shaswar Abdulwahid Qadir, the owner of Kurdistan’s independent NRT television network. “The younger generation doesn’t know anything about their fight in the mountains against Saddam Hussein. So the old leaders need another excuse to run the country for another 26 years.”

Those bitter words reflect Qadir’s perspective as one of a rising generation of Kurds — and Iraqis — struggling over how to create stable political institutions and a working economy amid the mess of sectarian conflicts, extremist movements and corrupt establishments littered across the post-ISIS landscape.

An independent television network is, at least, a place to start. While most Iraqi media are controlled by the government or political parties, Qadir is one of Kurdistan’s few self-made magnates: Born in the city of Sulaymaniyah, he started peddling electronic games as a teenager and became one of Kurdistan’s largest real estate developers before founding NRT in 2011, at the age of 32.

Launched under the slogan “courage, balance, truth,” the network saw its first office attacked and burned within a week of opening; Qadir blames militants from the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK), one of the region’s two historical political forces. Two years later he survived an assassination attempt. Kurdish authorities have closed NRT’s offices and arrested its journalists on multiple occasions. Yet it has persisted and flourished: It now has two Kurdish channels, an Arabic channel covering all of Iraq, and an English-language website.

A referendum, Qadir says, might prompt Turkey to shut down that pipeline, through which Kurdistan exports the relative trickle of petroleum that is its only reliable revenue. It also might cause the Turks and Iran to back opposing factions of the army, which is divided between the PUK and Barzani’s Kurdistan Democratic Party, triggering a resumption of the civil war they fought in the 1990s.

“What kind of Kurdistan would we have?” Qadir asked. “Would we have South Korea or South Sudan?”


The Washington Post

Turkey promises to eliminate anti-China media reports

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF REUTERS NEWS AGENCY)

 

Turkey promises to eliminate anti-China media reports

BEIJING (Reuters) – Turkey regards China’s security as akin to its own and will move to stamp out any anti-China reports in its media, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said on Thursday, after meeting his Chinese counterpart Wang Yi.

China and Turkey have repeatedly vowed to step up cooperation on security and counter-terrorism, amid Beijing’s concerns about ethnic Uighurs from its restive far western region of Xinjiang fighting with militants in the Middle East.

“We take China’s security as our security,” Cavusoglu said, speaking through a Chinese translator during a joint news briefing with Wang in Beijing.

“We absolutely will not allow in Turkey any activities targeting or opposing China. Additionally, we will take measures to eliminate any media reports targeting China,” he added, but did not give details.

Uighurs are a largely Muslim, Turkic-language speaking minority from China’s western Xinjiang region.

Hundreds, possibly thousands, keen to escape unrest in Xinjiang have traveled clandestinely via Southeast Asia to Turkey, with which many see themselves as sharing religious and cultural ties.

Beijing says some Uighurs then end up fighting with Islamist militants in Iraq and Syria. It denies accusations that it restricts the Uighurs’ religious freedoms.

European leaders have been alarmed by Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan’s crackdown on opponents since a failed coup attempt last year, and what critics see as his attack on free speech.

About 150 media outlets have been shut and around 160 journalists jailed, the Turkish Journalists’ Association says.

Turkish authorities say the crackdown is justified by the gravity of the coup attempt, in which rogue soldiers tried to overthrow the government, killing 250 people, mostly civilians.

In 2015, Turkey angered China by expressing concern about reports of restrictions on worship and fasting by Uighurs in Xinjiang during the holy month of Ramadan. Turkish protesters have marched on China’s embassy and consulate in Turkey over the treatment of Uighurs.

The two countries have also quarreled over Thailand’s deportation of Uighur migrants back to China.

But Ankara is keen to tap into Beijing’s ambitious Belt and Road infrastructure investment plan to link China with the rest of Asia and the world. Erdogan visited China in May when President Xi Jinping hosted his first Belt and Road summit.

“China is willing to work with Turkey to enhance the ancient spirit of the Silk Road, … and in jointly promoting the Belt and Road plan unlock new cooperative potential,” Wang added.

Reporting by Michael Martina; Editing by Clarence Fernandez

Qatar Opens Its Doors to All, to the Dismay of Some—(Qatar Is It A Time Bomb Waiting To Explode?)

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE NEW YORK TIMES)

Migrants in a park at Doha Point in Doha, Qatar. Credit Tomas Munita for The New York Times

DOHA, Qatar — Take a drive in Doha, leaving behind the mirrored skyscrapers and palm-fringed avenues of this gas-rich city, and the protagonists of myriad conflicts are in easy reach.

In one western district, near the campuses hosting branches of American universities, Taliban officials and their families can be found window-shopping in the cavernous malls or ordering takeout meals from a popular Afghan eatery.

A few miles away at a vast United States military base with 9,000 American personnel, warplanes take off on missions to bomb the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria — and sometimes the Taliban in Afghanistan.

Officials from Hamas, a Palestinian militant group, work from a luxury villa near the British Embassy, and recently held a news conference in a ballroom at the pyramid-shape Sheraton hotel.

The Sheraton hotel in Doha. CreditKarim Jaafar/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

And an elderly Egyptian cleric, a fugitive from Cairo, is a popular fixture on the city’s swank social scene, and was recently spotted at a wedding by an American diplomat who was attending the same celebration.

Continue reading the main story

This is the atmosphere of intrigue and opulence for which the capital of Qatar, a dust-blown backwater until a few decades ago, has become famous as the great freewheeling hub of the Middle East.

Against a backdrop of purring limousines and dhows moored in the bay, Doha has become home to an exotic array of fighters, financiers and ideologues, a neutral city with echoes of Vienna in the Cold War, or a Persian Gulf version of the fictional pirate bar in the “Star Wars” movies.

Yet that welcome-all attitude is precisely what has recently angered Qatar’s much larger neighbors and plunged the Middle East into one of its most dramatic diplomatic showdowns. For more than a month, four Arab countries have imposed a sweeping air, sea and land blockade against Qatarthat, in a nutshell, boils down to a demand that Doha abandon its adventurist foreign policy, and that it stop giving shelter to such a broad range of agents in its capital.

So far, the blockade is not working, and the crisis looks set to worsen. Secretary of State Rex W. Tillerson flew back to Washington on Thursday after days of apparently fruitless shuttle diplomacy in the region. The foreign ministers of Germany, France and Britain have also intervened, without success.

The blockading nations — Saudi ArabiaEgypt, the United Arab Emiratesand Bahrain — insist that Qatar is using an open-door policy to destabilize its neighbors. They say that Doha, rather than the benign meeting ground described by Qataris, is a city where terrorism is bankrolled, not battled against.

Qatar’s self-identity as a center of refuge dates to the 19th century, when its desolate and semilawless territory offered sanctuary to outlaws, pirates and people fleeing persecution across the Arabian Peninsula.

“It’s always been this place where waifs and strays and unwanted people ended up,” said David Robert, the author of “Qatar: Securing the Global Ambitions of a City-State” and an assistant professor at King’s College in London. “There was no overarching power on the peninsula, so if you were wanted by a sheikh, you could escape to Qatar and nobody would bother you.”

In the 19th century, Qatar’s founding leader, Jassim bin Mohammed Al Thani, called it the “Kaaba of the dispossessed” — a reference to the revered black cube at the Great Mosque in Mecca, Islam’s holiest site, and a figurative way of describing Qatar as a lodestar for those seeking refuge.

That national trait turned into a policy for Al Thani’s descendants, who since the mid-1990s have thrown open Qatar’s doors to dissidents and exiles of every stripe. Doha has welcomed Saddam Hussein’s family, one of Osama bin Laden’s sons, the iconoclastic Indian painter M. F. Husain and the Chechen warlord Zelimkhan Yandarbiyev, who was assassinated in the city by Russian secret agents in 2004. (The agents were caught and later extradited to Russia.)

A QatarGas offshore drilling rig in the Persian Gulf. Qatar shares the world’s third-largest gas field with Iran.CreditUllstein Bild, via Getty Images

Qatar can afford to be generous. It shares the world’s third-largest gas field with Iran, yet has just 300,000 citizens, making it the richest country per capita. In recent decades, Doha has transformed into a gleaming metropolis of global ambition where luxury cars crowd the streets and world-renowned architects have traced its futuristic skyline. An army of imported laborers is building stadiums and subway lines for the 2022 World Cup.

But among fellow Arab states, Qatar’s image has been shaped by its contentious policy of come one, come all.

In Doha, wealthy Qataris and Western expatriates mingle with Syrian exiles, Sudanese commanders and Libyan Islamist’s, many of them funded by the Qatari state. The Qataris sometimes play peacemaker: Their diplomats brokered a peace deal in Lebanon in 2008 and negotiated the release of numerous hostages, including Peter Theo Curtis, an American journalist being held in Syria, in 2014.

But critics say that, often as not, rather than acting as a neutral peacemaker, Qatar takes sides in conflicts — helping oust Muammar el-Qaddafi in Libya in 2011, or turning a blind eye to wealthy citizens who funnel cash to extremist Islamist groups in Syria.

And what infuriates the Saudis, Emiratis, Egyptians and Bahrainis most of all is that Doha has also provided shelter to Islamist dissidents from their own countries — and given them a voice on the Qatar-owned television station, Al Jazeera.

The Egyptian cleric seen at a wedding recently, Sheik Yusuf al-Qaradawi, is a prominent booster for the Muslim Brotherhood and once had an influential show on Al Jazeera, where he dispensed teachings on matters from suicide bombings to personal sexuality.

“We have the ‘children bomb,’ and these human bombs must continue until liberation,” he told his audience in 2002.

Even though Mr. Qaradawi is now 91 and stopped his TV show four years ago, his presence in Qatar is an irritant for Egypt, and his name is featured prominently on a list of 59 people that the blockading countries want deported from Qatar. They have also demanded the closing of Al Jazeera.

This and many of the demands from the blockading countries are seen as impossibly broad, leading to widespread pessimism that the standoff will end anytime soon.

“The Emiratis and the Saudis seem to have miscalculated their position,” said Mehran Kamrava, the author of “Qatar: Small State, Big Politics” and a professor at the Georgetown University School of Foreign Service in Qatar. “They thought that if they went all-out with a blockade, the Qataris would balk. But they haven’t.”

Doha’s Taliban residents do not figure on the list of demands from the blockaders, but their presence does embody the wider debate around the merits of Qatar’s open-door approach.

Peace talks between the militants and Afghan officials, initiated by the United States in 2013, quickly collapsed. Yet a Taliban contingent stayed on, and Doha is now is home to about 100 Taliban officials and their relatives, who live comfortably at Qatari state expense, one Afghan official said.

There were further, unofficial talks in 2015 and 2016. But as the fight in Afghanistan grinds on, some experts question whether the supposed Taliban peace advocates might be quietly facilitating more war.

Michael Semple, a Taliban scholar at Queens University in Belfast, Northern Ireland, said that until the blockade, Taliban leaders in Qatar were known to frequently travel by road from Qatar, through Saudi Arabia, to the United Arab Emirates, where they have investments, and to fund-raise there among the Afghan communities in the cities of Sharjah and Dubai.

“Clearly they are using their foothold in the gulf to try and fund-raise and legitimize,” he said. “If they haven’t broached the substantive issues around peace, and the other gains are modest, then you could argue that that Qatar initiative makes things worse.”

In recent years, Doha has been home to Khaled Mishal, who stepped down this year as leader of Hamas, and the country provided the group a site for talks with the former British prime minister and Mideast peace envoy Tony Blair, in 2015.

Although former Secretary of State John F. Kerry publicly criticized the Hamas presence, American officials privately say they would prefer Hamas was based in Doha rather than in a hostile capital like Tehran.

The promenade known locally as the Doha Corniche in Doha. CreditNaseem Zeitoon/Reuters

In keeping with its open-door approach, Doha was home to an Israeli trade office from 1996 to 2008. Although relations have soured, Qatar promises that Israel will be allowed to participate in the 2022 World Cup.

In the current crisis, Qatar is leveraging the wide range of ties its foreign policy has fostered. Food supplies and a few dozen soldiers from Turkey arrived in Doha after the embargo started on June 5. Turkish news reports say the military contingent could swell to 1,000 troops, and President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is expected to visit Doha in the coming days.

Late one night last weekend, revelers were spilling from a trendy hotel nightclub in Doha as two athletic Turkish men checked in. Entering the elevator with their bags, they declared themselves glad to be in Doha, and described themselves as working in the “defense sector,” then with a smile declined to say any more.

Turkish Opposition Leader Ends 25-Day March With Istanbul Rally

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF TIME.COM)

 

Turkish Opposition Leader Ends 25-Day March With Istanbul Rally

2:49 PM ET

Addressing huge throngs of people at a rally in Istanbul on Sunday, the leader of Turkey’s mainstream opposition, Kemal Kilicdaroglu, issued a thunderous demand for an end to an ongoing government crackdown.

The rally represented the largest public display of opposition to the clampdown by government of President Recep Erdogan since he survived a failed military coup attempt nearly a year ago. More than 47,000 people have been detained since the government suppressed the attempt seize power by a faction of the armed forces on July 15, 2016.

“This the era of dictatorship. This is the era of 1940s Germany,” said Kilicdaroglu, addressing a huge throng of demonstrators at a parade grounds along the Sea of Marmara. “With this rally we witness that we are not alone. Each one of us represents hope,” he also said.

Kilicdaroglu spoke at the rally after walking about 280 miles from Ankara in protest of the crackdown which has lead to the arrest journalists, academics, and members of parliament. Kilicdaroglu set out from the capital on June 15, a day after a member of parliament from his Republican People’s Party (CHP) was arrested, joining at least 11 other opposition lawmakers who have been detained in recent months.

After marching through the Turkish countryside for more than three weeks, Kilicdaroglu arrived in Istanbul on Saturday leading a throng of thousands of protesters. The protest raised fears of a confrontation when the crowd arrived in the city, but there were no signs of violence. Police had provided security for Kilicdaroglu and the protesters during their long walk from Ankara. On Sunday, Kilicdaroglu chose to walk alone on the final stretch to the rally.

“’I reached the end of my walk, but this is not the end. It is the beginning of a new era,” he said, speaking to a cheering crowd that chanted “Hak, hukuk, adalet!” (Rights, law, justice!) Though it was organized by the CHP, the organizers of both the march and rally eschewed party insignia, instead distributing signs reading “adalet,” justice. The crowd waved Turkish flags.

Kilicdaroglu has been criticized in the past for failing to organize a credible opposition to the crackdown in the aftermath of the July 15 coup attempt. However, his march across the country captured Turkey’s national political conversation. The demonstration in was a show of force for Turkey’s mainstream opposition, and CHP supporters were heavily represented in the crowd. The protest also attracted support from members of the broader Turkish public.

“I want justice for everyone in this country. I want justice for my children,” said Saime Zirik, 55, as she stood in in the afternoon sun awaiting Kilicdaroglu’s arrival. She said she had been unable to find work for five years.

A populist leader who has dominated Turkish politics for about 15 years, Erdogan is a deeply polarizing figure, equally loved and hated by rival political camps within Turkey. In recent years, he has sidelined other leaders within his own party and moved to restrict political opponents. The coup attempt lead to an acceleration of the clampdown, including the closure of dozens of news organizations and the firing of top military officers and tens of civil servants.

In April, Erdogan also won a disputed victory in a referendum on a constitutional overhaul to replace Turkey’s parliamentary system of government with one dominated by a powerful presidency. The government argued the changes were needed to impose stability, while the opposition denounced it as a power grab. The vote itself was also marred by widespread claims of fraud. The referendum marked another step in a larger struggle over the future Turkey’s democracy.

In his speech on Sunday, Kilicdaroglu issued a list of demands including freeing the judiciary from the influence of the ruling party, releasing journalists from prison, and greater prosperity for all Turks. He did not articulate a specific plan to achieve those goals, and even some of the protesters in the crowd expressed skepticism about whether the demonstration would result in concrete changes.

“Unless Erdogan says ‘yes,’ nothing will change in this country,” said a 60-year-old teacher from Istanbul who also stood in the crowd. She asked for her name to be withheld, for fear that she could lose her job for criticizing the government.

Others, however, left the demonstration energized.

“I feel like I’m more hopeful for the future. I feel like a new person now,” said Fahri Gokdal, 61, a retired civil servant who came to the rally from the town of Burhaniye, about a five-hour drive south of Istanbul.

Erdogan’s Post-Evolutionary Turkey Floods School Classrooms, Threatens Universities

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF GLOBAL VOICES.ORG)

Erdogan’s Post-Evolutionary Turkey Floods School Classrooms, Threatens Universities

Photo of Recep Tayyip Erdogan taken from r4bia.com. Creative commons.

While the earlier education reforms of Turkey’s socially conservative AKP (Justice and Development Party) pointed towards inclusiveness, the current ones have a far more troubling direction.

Not content with removing around 45,000 education ministry staff from the government payroll following an abortive coup in July last year, Turkey’s ruling party is now looking to take down Darwin.

Last month the government announced that the theory of evolution would be removed from the teaching curriculum at Turkish schools until students reach university.

The announcement adds to evidence cited by concerned secularists who suggest Turkey’s education system is being remodelled in line with President Erdogan’s bid to raise “pious generations” and forge a “New Turkey”.

Efforts to rejig the country’s teaching curriculum along more religious lines are not new, dating back at least as February 2012.

What has changed since is President Erdogan’s seemingly unassailable position in post-coup attempt and post-referendum Turkey.

‘New Turkey’

Despite its shrunken majority and the ever-increasing polarization of the Turkish electorate — or perhaps because of these things — AKP is pushing its policy agenda more aggressively than ever before.

Along with the ban on evolution in the classroom, the AKP educational reforms will see the government’s narrative on the 2016 coup attempt embedded in school syllabi, while class time dedicated to modern Turkey’s secular founder Kemal Attaturk will be reduced.

Forced enrolment of some school-age students into controversial religious imam-hatip state schools is another feature of the new education agenda.

The AKP government won praise from both liberals and conservatives for managing to reverse the country’s repressive ban on headscarfs in universities back in 2010. The move allowed women from observant Muslim families to receive further education.

But the imam-hatip schools have faced criticism for discouraging girls from doing that very thing. Secularists see the schools growing role in Turkey’s education system as yet another sign that AKP is trying to recast the country in its own traditionalist image.

An evolving threat

According to the head of curriculum for the Turkish education ministry, teaching evolution in schools is “controversial”, but opponents of the ban were quick to side with science.

Evrim müfredattan çıkarıldı, biyoloji ders saati %33 azaltılırken din dersi saati % 100 arttırıldı. İran’ı kısa zamanda geçeriz İnşaAllah!

They have removed evolution from the curriculum, biology class hours have been reduced by 33%, while religion class hours have been increased by 100%. God willing, we are going to get ahead of Iran soon.

Evrim teorisi dersi kalkıyormuş arkadaşlar, arttık neyin dersini verecekler çocuklarımıza onu merak ediyorum 😠😠😠

They are removing evolution theory class. I am not wondering what they are going to teach our children.

Okullarda evrim dersleri okutulmayacak ama şeriat ceza hukuku din dersi okutulacak # işte yeni Türkiye anlayışı

There won’t be any classes on evolution. But there are classes on Sharia criminal law and religion. This is the meaning of ‘New Turkey’.

Biyoloji dersi ilk ders ilk slayt; evrim bir gerçektir, tartışılamaz. 29 yıldır aklımda. Hoca haklıydı.

Biology class, first class, first slide: evolution is real, and cannot be argued against. I have remembered this for 29 years. The teacher was right.

The international response has also been critical:

 continues to change ‘s identity by erasing evolution from the country’s education curriculum.https://www.nytimes.com/2017/06/23/world/europe/turkey-evolution-high-school-curriculum.html?rref=collection%2Fsectioncollection%2Feurope&_r=0 

Schoolchildren in Istanbul. Turkey’s decision to stop teaching evolution in high schools has deepened concerns that the president, a conservative Muslim, wants to radically change the identity of the secular country.

Turkey Drops Evolution From Curriculum, Angering Secularists

A chapter on evolution will no longer appear in ninth graders’ textbooks because it is considered too “controversial” an idea, an education official said.

nytimes.com

Currently the evolution ban only applies to schools, but many fear that universities are being targeted for a serious government-led overhaul, too. Thousands of academics were dismissed from their jobs following the military coup, while out of 180 universities currently operating in Turkey, 15 were shut down.

U.S. Backed Rebels Have Broken Through Raqqa’s Old Cities Walls: ISIS Caliphate Is On It’s Way To Hell

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF CNN)

US-backed rebels have breached a strategic wall surrounding the Old City of Raqqa in ISIS’s self-declared capital on Monday, US Central Command has said in a statement.

Breaching the Rafiqah Wall means the Syrian Democratic Forces will be able to penetrate Raqqa’s Old City, the last redoubt of ISIS defenders in the city. The ancient wall — first constructed in the 8th century by the Abbasid dynasty and stretching around the Old City on three sides — has provided important fortification for ISIS.
The operation was “a key milestone” in the campaign to “liberate the city,” Brett McGurk, the US envoy for the anti-ISIS coalition, said on his official Twitter account.
In a CENTCOM statement, the US added: “Coalition forces supported the SDF advance into the most heavily fortified portion of Raqqa by opening two small gaps in the Rafiqah Wall that surrounds the Old City.”
The battle for Raqqa is not dissimilar to that of Mosul, where US-backed Iraqi forces are fighting to expel the last of ISIS fighters from Iraq’s second-largest city. But the fight to retake Raqqa has gone quicker, with attacking forces gradually forcing a diminishing number of ISIS fighters into a smaller area of narrow streets around the ancient mosque of Rafiqa, which has already been extensively damaged.
The Rafiqah Wall — which is 3 kilometers from the city center — is approximately 5 kilometers (3.1 miles) long, 3.8 meters (12.4 feet) high and 1 meter thick, Syrian state media reported in 2009.
ISIS fighters had planted mines and improvised explosive devices at several breaks in the wall, a US Central Command (CENTCOM) statement said.
“The portions targeted were 25-meter sections and will help preserve the remainder of the overall 2,500-meter wall,” CENTCOM said.
CENTCOM and the SDF did not specify which area of the wall was breached.
The SDF launched an offensive to seize Raqqa on June 6. For more than three years, ISIS has used Raqqa as a staging ground for its deadly attacks on the Middle East and further overseas.
The group is running out of places to go. If ISIS is evicted from Raqqa it will lose the last vestige of any “governance” of its so-called caliphate. But it’s not just losing control of territory, it will also lose the facility to move freely between Syria and Iraq — especially since Iraqi militia seized the key town of Baaj last month.
The coalition hopes that the loss of Raqqa and Mosul will dull ISIS’ appeal to potential recruits.
“It’s hard to convince new recruits that ISIS is a winning cause when they just lost their twin ‘capitals’ in both Iraq and Syria,” General Steve Townsend, the coalition’s commanding general, said.