So In Germany There Is No Freedom Of Speech: Can’t Call A Pedophile A Pedophile?

So In Germany There Is No Freedom Of Speech: Can’t Call A Pedophile A Pedophile?

This post is mostly a copy paste of an article in “The Muslim Issue”. The German Chancellor says you can’t say bad things about a country’s leader even if what you are saying is the truth. So, you can lie and that is okay? The German leader does not seem to have any problem with the rampant pedophilia that she is responsible for bringing into Germany. She may be a smart person when it comes to economics but when it comes to the actual safety of the German people in their own homes, streets, or shopping centers she turns a blind eye. Please read this reblog from the Muslim Issue below to see what you think of these issues.

(THIS ARTICLE WAS FIRST PUBLISHED ON APRIL 15TH OF 2016)

MUSLIMS WORLDWIDE

Germany: Merkel grants Turkish request to prosecute comic over Erdogan insult

4 Votes

Merkel screwed by Erdogan

Text by FRANCE 24
Latest update : 2016-04-15

Chancellor Angela Merkel said on Friday that Germany had accepted a request from Turkey to seek prosecution of a German comedian who read out a crude poem about Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan on German television.

Erdogan had demanded that Germany press charges against comedian Jan Boehmermann after he mocked the Turkish leader in a show on German public broadcaster ZDF on March 31, suggesting that he hits girls, watches child pornography and engages in bestiality.

It is illegal under German criminal code to insult a foreign leader, but the law leaves it to the government to decide whether to authorise prosecutors to pursue such cases.

This has put Merkel an awkward position. The driving force behind a controversial European Union-Turkey migrant deal, she has already come under fire for ignoring human rights and press freedom violations in Turkey in an effort to secure its cooperation.

“There were different opinions between the coalition partners – the conservatives and the SPD [Social Democrats],” Merkel told reporters at the Chancellery in Berlin.

”The outcome is that the German government will give the authorisation in the current case,” she added, stressing that this was not a decision about the merits of the prosecution’s case against Boehmermann.

Merkel’s announcement sparked sharp criticism from the SPD, her centre-left coalition partner, which was opposed to Turkey’s request.

“This was the wrong decision in my view,” said Thomas Oppermann, leader of the SPD in parliament. “Prosecution of satire due to ‘lèse-majesté’ does not fit with modern democracy.”

Anton Hofreiter, parliamentary leader of the opposition Greens, said Merkel must now “live with the accusation that the deal with Turkey is more important to her than defending freedom of the press”.

Sahra Wagenknecht of the far-left Linke accused Merkel of kowtowing to the “Turkish despot” Erdogan.

‘Merkel is walking quite a difficult diplomatic tightrope’

‘Wrong signal’

Boehmermann, an impish-looking 35-year-old, is known for pushing the boundaries of satire. Last year he claimed to have manipulated a video of Greece’s then-finance minister Yanis Varoufakis in which he is shown giving the middle finger – known as the “Stinkefinger” in German – to Berlin for its tough stance in the debt crisis. The video infuriated German politicians.

The cult comedian made clear before reciting the poem about Erdogan that he was intentionally going beyond what German law allowed.

ZDF has since removed a video of the poem from its website. But Boehmermann has received backing from prominent German artists and a poll for Focus magazine showed 82 percent viewed the poem as defensible.

He is reportedly under police protection and cancelled his last show on ZDF.

In giving her statement, Merkel pressed Turkey – a candidate country for European Union membership – to uphold the values of freedom of expression, the press and art.

She justified the decision to accept the Turkish request by pointing to the close and friendly relationship Berlin shares with Ankara, referring to the three million people with Turkish roots who live in Germany, the strong economic ties between the countries and their cooperation as NATO allies.

But the Association of German Journalists (DJV) said Merkel had sent the “wrong signal” to the Turkish government and added that her references to violations of the right to freedom of press and opinion in Turkey had not made up for that.

A Turkish group called the Union of European Turkish Democrats, which has posted videos online supporting Erdogan, filed a complaint with Austria’s media watchdog on Friday over Austrian newspaper Oesterreich reprinting parts of Boehmermann’s poem under the headline, ‘Is this confused poem art or a scandal?’

Merkel said the German government planned to remove the section of the criminal code that requires it to grant permission for prosecution in such cases.

(FRANCE 24 with AFP, AP and REUTERS)

Trump Finally Gets Something Right: Syria

Trump Finally Gets Something Right: Syria

 

The folks that read my articles know, I am not a fan of President Trump. Personally I believe that he is the biggest scumbag to set in Our Oval Office since Andrew Jackson, Our Nations 7th President back in the first half of the 1800’s. To me this is saying a lot since in my own lifetime we have had some very despicable men for Presidents, the likes of Lyndon Johnson, Richard Nixon, Gerald Ford, Bill Clinton and the two Bush’s. Yet this clueless ego maniac we have now is such an idiot and habitual liar that he is a total disgrace to Our Country. Yet, even the most ignorant person in the world can upon a rare occasion get something right and I believe that he is correct concerning the U.S. getting our military out of Syria.

 

By what all the Generals had been saying up until this past week, ISIS has been at least 90% destroyed in Syria and ISIS is supposed to be the only reason that we went into Syria in the first place. Technically when a Nation sends their military into another country without the permission of the government of that country you have committed an act of war against that country. Yet even though the government of Syria has not declared an act of war against the United States for our actions in their country they have told us very plainly that we are not welcome there and that they want us out. Syria is and has been quite the ‘dance floor’ ever since the U.S. sent in troops and started bombings there. Syria’s government with the help of their allies Russia, Iraq, Iran, Turkey and Hezbollah from Lebanon have won this Civil War there. Even though we may not like it President Assad is going to stay in power there and we have no right to be there. The only real allies that the United States has had there has been the Kurdish people whom we have used and betrayed over and over again. We have spent a lot of effort to not get into a direct fighting war with Syria or any of her allies and it is now past time to get our military out of Syria before we do get into a shooting war with Russia or Iran, or even with our supposed NATO ally Turkey. Honestly one has to wonder if a lot of the top military brass at the Pentagon as well as our Security Agencies like the CIA and the NSA are wanting a shooting war with these countries. Besides, you know that the Military Contractors that build the War Machines would love it, more billions of dollars for their bank accounts. Quite honestly, wars help a nation’s economy, it keeps people employed and off of the unemployment lines.

 

So, I believe that in this case President Trump is correct about getting our military out of Syria. We, our government, has committed an act of war against the nation of Syria simply by being there unasked and unwanted. We, the people of the United States are very fortunate that the government of Syria and all of her allies have not declared war on us yet. Though, if we continue to stay there this is going to happen, there is no way that it can be avoided. One of the issues that has irked me since George W was our President is the fact that Our Nations National Guard and even members of Our Coast Guard are off fighting in these foreign wars, this should never ever have happened. Right now on our southern border with the Nation of Mexico President Trump is talking about sending Our Military to the Border to ‘defend’ it from civilians crossing into Our Country. I have a couple of thoughts on this for you to consider. One, if the President is going to do this, it should be National Guard Units going there, not our regular military. Two, tell me, once we put thousands of Military Personnel on the Border, what are they going to do? Are they going to start shooting all of these unarmed men, women and children? I can’t tell you that I know the answer to every thing, I wish I could, but I can’t. This article is like most that I write, I am just trying to get you to think about the issue that I have brought up for your consideration. Thank you for your time folks, I appreciate you stopping in.

Kurdish Officials’ Visit to Elysee Triggers French-Turkish Crisis

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

 

Kurdish Officials’ Visit to Elysee Triggers French-Turkish Crisis

Saturday, 31 March, 2018 – 06:45
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Photo: AP
Ankara, Paris- Said Abdul Razek and Michel Abu Najm
Paris was quick on Friday to reassure Ankara after President Emmanuel Macron was misquoted as saying that his country would deploy forces in the northern Syrian city of Manbij.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan quickly responded to the French statements, saying that Manbij would be the next target of his forces to liberate the city from Kurdish Peoples’ Protection Units (YPG).

Ankara also rejected any French mediation between Turkey and the Syrian Democratic Forces, led by the YPG, which are considered by Turkey as terrorists.

On Thursday, an SDF delegation including Kurdish officials visited the Elysee Palace in Paris.

Macron told the delegation he hoped to build dialogue between the Democratic Forces and Turkey, with the help of France and the international community, according to a communiqué from the Elysee.

However, Turkey completely dismissed the suggestion, as Erdogan said: “We have no need for mediation… We are extremely saddened by France’s… wrong stance on this.”

“Those who go to bed with terrorists, or even host them in their palaces, will sooner or later understand the mistake they’re making,” Erdogan said in Ankara.

He also warned that Ankara did not need a mediator.

“Who are you to mediate between Turkey and a terror group?” Erdogan said at a meeting of the ruling Justice and Development (AK) Party in the capital, Ankara.

According to the Elysee, Macron reaffirmed the priority of the battle against “the terrorist threat” and assured France’s support to the SDF, particularly in stabilizing the security zone in northeast Syria “to prevent the resurgence of ISIS while awaiting a political solution to the Syrian conflict.”

The French show of support to Kurds is not new. Macron was the first Western leader to warn against the possibility of the Turkish operation in Afrin turning into an “invasion of Syrian territories.”

Turkish Forces Begin Besieging Syrian City Of Afrin

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

 

Turkish Forces Begin Besieging Syria’s Afrin

Tuesday, 13 March, 2018 – 10:30
Civilians drive through Ain Dara as they flee Afrin on Monday. (AFP)
Asharq Al-Awsat
Turkish forces have begun the siege of the Syrian city of Afrin, nearly two months after launching an offensive in the region against the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG), announced the military on Tuesday.

The military said in a brief statement that the siege of Afrin, the main town in the enclave, had begun Monday.

The forces also captured “areas of critical importance” in the region as of Monday, it added.

Thousands of people had started to flee Afrin on Monday as the Turkish troops got closer to the town, heading toward nearby Syrian regime-controlled areas.

Afrin city is home to around 350,000 people, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights says.

Turkey launched a military offensive into the border enclave on Jan. 20 to drive out YPG forces that it considers to be “terrorists” and an extension of Kurdish rebels fighting inside Turkey.

Ankara has threatened to push further east to Manbij, where YPG troops are stationed.

The Turkish foreign minister said on Tuesday that Turkey and the United States have reached an agreement on a plan to jointly station Turkish and US forces in Manbij.

Washington has not confirmed any such plan — and a small contingent of US forces is already in Manbij.

Hurriyet newspaper quoted Mevlut Cavusoglu as telling Turkish reporters during a visit to Moscow that the “YPG will leave Manbij, US and Turkish soldiers will joint ensure its security.”

Cavusoglu revealed that he and US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson would discuss the issue further when they meet in Washington on March 19.

US-Backed Kurdish Militia Now Fighting U.S. Ally, Turkey

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF CNN)

(ANYONE WHO ACTUALLY BELIEVES THAT TURKEY IS A “U.S. ALLY” OR AN ALLY OF NATO IS EITHER TRULY IGNORANT OR THEY MUST BE SMOKING METH) (COMMENTARY BY oldpoet56)

Beirut, Lebanon (CNN)A US-backed Kurdish militia is diverting 1,700 fighters from the battle against ISIS and redeploying them to northwest Syria to repel an offensive by US ally Turkey, in a development could hinder the fight against the terror group.

Four branches of the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), thus far tasked with defeating ISIS in Syria, have been transferred from east of the Euphrates Rivers to the Kurdish enclave of Afrin, SDF spokesman Mustafa Bali told CNN in a statement.
“We won’t abandon our positions, but since the beginning of the invasion of Afrin we have said that Turkey is trying to give ISIS another chance at life, and directly affects military operations and campaigns against ISIS,” said Bali.
“Now, offensive operations have ended and we have transformed from a force that hunted ISIS to a force that is concentrated in defensive positions,” he added. Bali said the “majority” of the alliance’s forces are moving to Afrin.
The US-led coalition warned that the SDF’s move could slow the campaign to defeat ISIS.
“The departure of some SDF forces from the Middle Euphrates River Valley highlights the potential costs of any distraction from the defeat-Daesh fight,” said coalition Director of Public Affairs Col. Thomas Veale, using the Arabic acronym for ISIS.
“We remain undeterred in pursuing our mission to defeat Daesh, understanding the effort may take longer with the increased complexity of the situation in northern Syria.”
Turkey, a NATO ally, launched an operation targeting Kurdish groups in Afrin in January to clear the border area of militias it considers to be terrorist organizations. Three Kurdish militias — the Kurdish Democratic Union Party (PYD), the People’s Protection Units (YPG) and the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) — have borne the brunt of the offensive.
The YPG is considered the backbone of the US-backed SDF, which was instrumental in eliminating ISIS’ territorial foothold in Syria.
Turkish presidential spokesman Ibrahim Kalin has said it is Turkey’s “natural right” to ask the US to halt the SDF’s redeployment to Afrin.
The United Nations on Sunday said it was receiving “disturbing reports” of civilian deaths in the northwestern Syrian enclave, and that it believes “tens of thousands” have been displaced.
Syrian Kurds attend a funeral in Afrin in mid-February for Kurdish fighters.

Turkey has said that the nationwide ceasefire ordered by the UN Security Council last month would not affect its Afrin offensive. The ceasefire has also been ignored by Syrian government forces and rebel groups, mainly in the Damascus suburb of Eastern Ghouta, where fighting has caused heavy civilian casualties.
Redeployed SDF forces will be joining pro-Syrian government fighters who entered Afrin last month as part of a deal between the regime and Kurdish forces. Turkey’s deputy prime minister warned at the time of “disastrous consequences” should Syrian government forces intervene in Afrin.

An ‘apocalypse’ in Eastern Ghouta

Meanwhile, Syrian government forces continue to pummel the rebel enclave of Eastern Ghouta, where the UN says more than 600 people have been killed in recent weeks.
In a strongly worded statement on Tuesday, UN human-rights chief Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein accused the Syrian government of planning an “apocalypse.”
“It is urgent to reverse this catastrophic course, and to refer Syria to the International Criminal Court,” said Al Hussein, according to a UN statement.
“Nearly half of the food” aid bound for besieged Eastern Ghouta, where reports of malnourishment are rampant, had to be returned, according to the United Nations.
A 46-truck aid convoy — some vehicles stripped of desperately needed medical kits — brought some supplies to the area on Monday, but activists said the convoy had to pull out before everything was unloaded.
UN Secretary-General António Guterres called on all parties in Syria to “immediately allow safe and unimpeded access” for aid convoys to “deliver critical supplies to hundreds of thousands of people desperate need” in the Damascus suburb, according to a statement from spokesman Stephane Dujarric on Tuesday.
Activists say that many of Eastern Ghouta’s residents have taken to makeshift shelters underground, rarely venturing above ground to seek food and water amid nearly incessant airstrikes.
The Syrian government continues to send reinforcements to the rebel enclave, where a ground offensive is underway and regime forces are reported to have captured large tracts of farmland.

Turkey’s President Shows Why I Learned To Spell His Name (Er-Dog’-an)

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF CBS NEWS)

(THE ‘DOG’ SHOWS HIS TRUE SOUL, THAT OF A DEMON WITH THE FACE OF A DOG)

Turkish leader’s on-stage interaction with sobbing girl draws fire

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan kisses Amine Tiras, a young girl in military uniform as he speaks to his ruling party members, in Kahramanmaras, Turkey, Feb. 24, 2018.

 AP

ANKARA, Turkey — Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has come under criticism for telling a small girl dressed in a military uniform that she would be honored if she were “martyred” for Turkey.

Erdogan spotted the weeping-and-saluting 6-year-old Amine Tiras while delivering a speech at his ruling party’s congress in the city of Kahramanmaras on Saturday, and had her brought on stage.

Turkey Girl Martyr

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan holds Amine Tiras, a young girl in military uniform as he speaks to his ruling party members, in Kahramanmaras, Turkey, Feb. 24, 2018.

 AP

After trying to comfort the girl by kissing her on both cheeks, Erdogan told the crowd: “She has the Turkish flag in her pocket. If she becomes a martyr, God willing, this flag will be draped on her.”

Some people were appalled and took to Twitter to criticize the president.

One user said it was the state’s duty to protect children, not to “kill” them. Another said: “you don’t wish death for a child, you never say: ‘God willing.'”

His action comes as nationalist sentiment is running high over a Turkish cross-border military offensive against Syrian Kurdish fighters that are affiliated with Kurdish rebels fighting inside Turkey. In recent weeks, children dressed in commando uniforms or reciting nationalist poems have been making appearances in many events that he attends.

Yasar Okutan, a former government minister, accused Erdogan in a television interview of using them to increase votes in presidential and local elections in 2019 and questioned whether the president would say the same for his own granddaughter.

Turkish Journalists Sentenced to Life in Prison

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF GLOBAL VOICES)

 

‘They Fear Pens, Not Guns’: Turkish Journalists Sentenced to Life in Prison

Demonstrators on World Press Freedom Day in Turkey, 2013. Image by Amnesty International Turkey.

After spending just over a year behind bars without charge, Turkish-German journalist Deniz Yucel was released from a Turkish jail on February 16. Just hours later, six other journalists in the country were issued a life sentence for “or attempting to overthrow the constitutional order”.

With 155 journalists serving jail time because of their work, these days of highs and lows are beginning to feel routine for Turkey’s embattled independent media community.

BBC described Deniz Yucel’s imprisonment as a long-standing “irritant” in the relations between the two countries. His release came shortly after Turkish PM’s visit to Germany this week.

Deniz Yucel was arrested exactly 367 days ago on suspicion of “inciting the people to racial hatred and enmity” and “spreading the propaganda of a terrorist organization”.

Soon after his release was announced, crowd gathered outside the jail, where Yucel joined his wife who was waiting for him:

But the ordeal is not yet over. Yucel was charged and indicted upon his release, with the prosecution demanding that he be sentenced to 18 years in prison.

Same court that ordered ‘s release has apparently accepted an indictment calling for up to 18 years imprisonment.

Not quite clear what is going on, but a key issue is whether he is being allowed to travel abroad.

In ordering Deniz Yücel’s release, the court also accepted his newly issued indictment. He faces 4 to 18 years in prison. https://twitter.com/cyberrights/status/964462592331796480 

While colleagues and friends celebrated the news of Yucel’s release, another court decision came down, this time affecting the fate of a different group of journalists.

A Turkish court has jailed for life journalists Ahmet Altan, Mehmet Altan, Nazli Ilicak & Fevzi Yazici & one other defendant for seeking to “overthrow the constitutional order” in alleged coup plot http://www.haberturk.com/nazli-ilicak-ve-altan-kardeslerin-yargilandigi-davada-karar-bekleniyor-1840173 

Esas hakkındaki savunmalar tamamlandı

Haberin detayları için tıklayın

haberturk.com

Awful news coming in from Silivri jus now. & faced a trial in which no credible evidence was presented beyond their words. This verdict does not pass the test of international human rights law. https://twitter.com/rsf_eeca/status/964478858996146177 

Ahmet Altan, Mehmet Altan, Nazli Ilica, Yakup Şimşek, Fevzi Yazıcı and Şükrü Tuğrul Özsengül were handed a lifetime prison sentence after being convicted of involvement with Turkey’s 2016 coup, despite a lack of direct evidence.

Five of the six defendants are journalists and intellectuals all had strong ties with opposition news outlets in the past. Ahmet Altan is the former editor-in-chief of Taraf newspaper and his brother, Mehmet Altan is an academic and journalist who once wrote for Hurriyet. Nazli Ilıcak has written for Hurriyet, in addition to other newspapers, and briefly served as an MP for the Virtue party.

Yakup Şimşek and Fevzi Yazıcı worked with Zaman newspaper, which was one of Turkey’s largest independent daily newspapers until 2016, when the government seized its operations, alleging that the outlet had ties to Turkish cleric Fethullah Gülen.

Anadolu Agency reported that six people were convicted for attempting to overthrow the constitutional order and of having communicated with associates of Gulen, whom Turkey blames for the July 2016 failed coup.

In addition to facing legal threats, all of these journalists have been subject to extralegal harassment. One year ago, President Erdogan called Yucel a terrorist in one of his televised speeches.

Bu konuşmayı tam 1 yıl önce çekmiştim. Deniz sonunda özgür. Darısı Alman vatandaşı olmayan gazeteci arkadaşlarımızın başına.

I filmed this speech one year ago. Deniz is finally free. I wish the same for the rest non-German citizen journalists friends of mine.


Video clip translation:
 They are hiding this German terrorist, this spy at the embassy. They hid him for a month. And German Chancellor asked him from me. She said to release him. I told her we have an independent judiciary. Just like your judiciary is independent so is mine. It is [the judiciary] objective. That is why I am sorry to say, you won’t take them from us. Finally, he was brought to court. He was arrested. Why? Because he is spy terrorist. Who cares he is a German citizen. It doesn’t matter whose citizen you are, if you are spreading terror in Turkey, if they are secretly spies, they will pay the price.

Supporters in Turkey and around the world tweeted their shock at the decision:

Today’s verdict & sentences of life without parole for , & mark an apex of the disintegration of the in . Judge ignored a binding Turkish Constitutional Court decision. The European Court of Human Rights must act.

As Ahmet Altan, Mehmet Altan and Nazlı Ilıcak are given “aggravated life sentences”, it is worth remembering what that sentence is.

It is life without parole, with up to 23 hours a day in solitary confinement. Forever and ever, amen.

On February 12, both Ahmet and Mehmet Altan were thrown out of the courthouse, for demanding to read the constitutional court decision which ruled for their releasein January. The two brothers demanded that the decision which was overturned within 24 hours by the ruling of the 27th High Court is put on the record.

The next day, on February 13, speaking from high-security prison via video link, Ahmet Altan in his defense said the following:

Those in political power no longer fear generals. But they do fear writers. They fear pens, not guns. Because pens can reach where guns cannot: into the conscience of a society.

When the verdict was handed to Altan brothers today, one observer said cries and screams filled the courtroom.

Meanwhile, there are at least four other German Turkish citizens behind bars in Turkey, while the total number of imprisoned journalists and writers since the coup has now surpassed 150.

What is the Baha’i Faith?

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE WEBSITE ‘BAHAITEACHINGS.ORG’)

 

What is the Baha’i Faith?

The Baha’i Faith, the world’s newest independent global belief system, teaches the oneness of God, the unity of humanity and the essential harmony of religion.

Baha’is believe in peace, justice, love, altruism and unity. The Baha’i teachings promote the agreement of science and religion, the equality of the sexes and the elimination of all prejudice and racism.

Just about anywhere you go on the planet, you’ll find Baha’is—the Baha’i Faith is the world’s second-most widespread religion after Christianity, spanning the globe and working to unite it. Baha’is have no clergy or churches, gathering together in democratically-led communities and welcoming everyone.

The millions of Baha’is in the world come from every ethnicity, nationality, tribe, age, racial group, religious background and economic and social class. Gentle, peaceful, warm and welcoming, diverse Baha’i communities exist just about everywhere. Baha’is accept the validity of each of the founders and prophets of the major world religions, and believe in progressive revelation, the unique Baha’i principle that views every great Faith as a link in a single spiritual system progressively revealed by God to humanity.

Who is Baha’u’llah?

We spend our lives trying to unlock the mystery of the universe, but there was a Turkish prisoner, Baha’u’llah, in Akka, Palestine who had the key. – Leo Tolstoy

The Baha’i Faith is consolation for humanity. – Mahatma Gandhi

The essence of Baha’u’llah’s Teaching is all-embracing love, for love includeth every excellence of humankind. It causeth every soul to go forward. It bestoweth on each one, for a heritage, immortal life. Erelong shalt thou bear witness that His celestial Teachings, the very glory of reality itself, shall light up the skies of the world. – Abdu’l-BahaSelections from the Writings of Abdu’l-Baha, p. 66.

Tehran 1930's

Tehran, the city where Baha’u’llah was born

Baha’is follow the teachings of Baha’u’llah, who proclaimed the Baha’i Faith during the middle of the 19th Century, and who taught world peace, the oneness of all humanity and the essential unity of all religions. Born Mirza Husayn Ali in Tehran, Persia in 1817, Baha’u’llah was known early in his adult life as “the father of the poor” for his selfless work assisting the destitute and homeless. In 1863, Baha’u’llah began openly teaching the Baha’i Faith, with its revolutionary messages of human unity, the oneness of all Faiths, the equality of men and women, the agreement of science and religion and the establishment of a global system of governance.

Baha’is believe that Baha’u’llah, whose title means “The Glory of God,” is the latest prophet to found a major world religion and usher in a new age of human development:

…in the kingdoms of earth and heaven there must needs be manifested a Being, an Essence Who shall act as a Manifestation and Vehicle for the transmission of the grace of the Divinity Itself, the Sovereign Lord of all. Through the Teachings of this Day Star of Truth every man will advance and develop until he attaineth the station at which he can manifest all the potential forces with which his inmost true self hath been endowed. It is for this very purpose that in every age and dispensation the Prophets of God and His chosen Ones have appeared amongst men, and have evinced such power as is born of God and such might as only the Eternal can reveal. – Baha’u’llah, Gleanings from the Writings of Baha’u’llah, pp. 67-68.

After the proclamation of his Faith, Baha’u’llah suffered forty years of exile, torture and imprisonment—all for announcing that a new revelation had been born. This great divine educator and messenger, despite the persecutions he bore, then wrote a series of epistles to the political and religious rulers of the world from his prison cell. Those letters, called the Tablets to the Kings, openly announced Baha’u’llah’s station and mission, and warned the world’s most prominent leaders that humanity faced disastrous consequences unless they laid down their weapons and convened to unite the world and end warfare.

Baha’u’llah called the entire world to collective action and to unity, and that call, Baha’is believe, has inaugurated a new age of spirituality, harmony and human maturation.

How Did Baha’i History Begin?

In a troubled time and place—Shiraz, Persia in 1844—a young merchant and mystic named Siyyid Ali Muhammad made a startling announcement: that he brought the world a new message from God.

Called The Bab (pronounced bob), which means “The Gate,” this new prophet created a furor in Persian society with his revolutionary teachings—spiritual and moral transformation, women’s emancipation and the raising up of the poor. The Bab also proclaimed that he had come to herald the birth of a new, universal revelation, one greater than his own, and to prepare the way for “He whom God shall make manifest”—the Promised One of all ages. The Babi Faith spread quickly, electrifying the masses and provoking severe reactions from the government and the clergy. Tens of thousands of Babis, including the Bab himself, were tortured, massacred and publicly executed for their beliefs.

The inauguration of the Bab’s message and mission set Baha’i history in motion.

Baha'u'llah's exiles from Persia to the Ottoman Empire

Baha’u’llah’s exiles from Persia to the Ottoman Empire

After the Bab’s execution in 1850, Baha’u’llah gradually assumed the leadership of the Babis. In prison in 1852, Baha’u’llah received the revelation that inspired the Baha’i Faith, and fulfilled the prophecies and promises of the Bab.

The Baha’i Faith now counts millions of followers across every region, continent and nation of the world. Baha’u’llah’s teachings emphasize justice, equality and religious unity, so even today many Baha’is in Iran and other Middle Eastern countries still face persecution for their beliefs.

Baha’u’llah suffered a life of torture and deprivation in order to bring the world a new set of spiritual teachings. Persecuted relentlessly, he still persevered in delivering that message, which has now begun to deeply affect and alter humanity’s future.

Who are the Baha’is?

The millions of Baha’is in the world come from every ethnicity, nationality, tribe, age, racial group, religious background and economic and social class. Gentle, peaceful, warm and welcoming, Baha’i communities exist just about everywhere. Baha’is accept the validity of each of the founders and prophets of the major world religions, and believe in progressive revelation, the unique Baha’i principle that views every great Faith as a link in a single spiritual system progressively revealed by God to humanity.

The Main Baha’i Teachings

Essentially a mystical Faith, the Baha’i teachings focus on the soul’s relationship with the eternal, unknowable essence of God, and recommend daily prayer and meditation to everyone. Baha’is believe that the human spirit lives eternally, and so endeavor to illumine their souls with spiritual attributes—kindness, generosity, integrity, truthfulness, humility and selfless service to others.

Also a practical Faith, the primary Baha’i principles advocate international unity, the complete cessation of all warfare, universal compulsory education for every child, a spiritual solution to the extremes of wealth and poverty, an end to religious fundamentalism and division, and a unified global response to oppression, materialism, and the planet’s mounting environmental crisis.

Baha’is believe in the independent investigation of reality, and encourage everyone to question dogma, tradition and superstition by embarking on a personal search to discover the truth. The Baha’i Faith has no clergy. Instead, a distinctive system of democratically-elected councils at the local, national and international levels administer and guide Baha’i communities. This unprecedented administrative order, fundamentally different from any other system of religious or political authority, has now become the first functioning system of democratic global governance, vesting power and initiative in the entire body of the believers worldwide.

The Baha’i writings say that religion must be the source of unity and fellowship in the world—but if it produces enmity, hatred and bigotry, the absence of religion would be preferable.

Quotes from the Baha’i Writings

Unlike many religions of the past, Baha’is have the original writings of the Baha’i founder Baha’u’llah, of his son and successor Abdu’l-Baha, and of the Guardian of the Baha’i Faith, Shoghi Effendi. Baha’is rely on and revere those inspiring, powerful works—and of course they’re available to all. The Baha’i teachings have been translated into hundreds of languages, including tribal and indigenous ones, to make them available to all the people of the world. In those Baha’i writings, Baha’u’llah’s new Faith calls on every human being to investigate its claim as the return of the prophets of the past religions, and the fulfillment of their promises of the dawn of a new day:

Gleanings from the Writings of Baha'u'llahThe Revelation which, from time immemorial, hath been acclaimed as the Purpose and Promise of all the Prophets of God, and the most cherished Desire of His Messengers, hath now, by virtue of the pervasive Will of the Almighty and at His irresistible bidding, been revealed unto men. The advent of such a Revelation hath been heralded in all the sacred Scriptures… O ye lovers of the One true God! Strive, that ye may truly recognize and know Him, and observe befittingly His precepts. – Baha’u’llahGleanings from the Writings of Baha’u’llah, p. 5.

O son of spirit! My first counsel is this: Possess a pure, kindly and radiant heart, that thine may be a sovereignty ancient, imperishable and everlasting. – Baha’u’llahThe Hidden Words, p. 3.

That one indeed is a man who, today, dedicateth himself to the service of the entire human race. The Great Being saith: Blessed and happy is he that ariseth to promote the best interests of the peoples and kindreds of the earth. In another passage He hath proclaimed: It is not for him to pride himself who loveth his own country, but rather for him who loveth the whole world. The earth is but one country, and mankind its citizens. – Baha’u’llahTablets of Baha’u’llah, p. 167.

Baha’is believe in one God, eternal in the past and the future, who loves and progressively educates humanity through successive revealed religions. The Baha’i writings say that the Creator is an “unknowable essence,” far beyond the capacity of creation to comprehend. To aid and enlighten us, God has provided humanity with divinely-inspired prophets and messengers throughout history, who founded the world’s great Faiths and brought ethical, moral and spiritual teachings to everyone.

The Essential Unity of All Religions

Progressive Revelation, All ProphetsThe Baha’i teachings center around unity, and Baha’is believe in the essential unity of all religionsBaha’u’llah emphasized the importance of unity, oneness and harmony in all human interactions, and said that the collective maturation of the human race has now brought us to the stage in our development where we can recognize our interdependence. The successive prophets and messengers founded their Faiths at different times in history, and each of those religions, Baha’is believe, form part of one single meta-religion—a unified, systematic, progressive revelation, one school with many teachers.

Baha’is accept, respect and revere the religions of AbrahamMosesKrishnaZoroasterBuddhaJesus ChristMuhammad, and also the sacred traditions of the prophets and teachers of indigenous peoples whose names written history may never have recorded. The Baha’i Faith encompasses, embraces and advances the past teachings of all those great Faiths, and Baha’is view Baha’u’llah as the most recent of these divine teachers.

Baha’u’llah called each of these divine messengers and teachers “Manifestations of God”—perfect mirrors of the Supreme Being’s love and concern for humanity, each of them destined to inspire entire civilizations based on their spiritual teachings and advance the collective maturation of humanity during their dispensations:

Consider to what extent the love of God makes itself manifest. Among the signs of His love which appear in the world are the dawning-point of His Manifestations. What an infinite degree of love is reflected by the divine Manifestations toward mankind! For the sake of guiding the people they have willingly forfeited their lives to resuscitate human hearts. – Abdu’l-BahaFoundations of World Unity, p. 89.

Baha’is Believe in the Oneness of Humanity

In the latest of the revelations in that great universal chain of being, Baha’u’llah taught the central Baha’i tenet of the oneness of humanity—saying “The earth is but one country, and mankind its citizens.” Accordingly, Baha’is consider themselves world citizens, working for the establishment of a universal human civilization based on love, spiritual virtues and the desire of all people for peace and prosperity:

O contending peoples and kindreds of the earth! Set your faces towards unity, and let the radiance of its light shine upon you. Gather ye together, and for the sake of God resolve to root out whatever is the source of contention amongst you. Then will the effulgence of the world’s great Luminary envelop the whole earth, and its inhabitants become the citizens of one city, and the occupants of one and the same throne. – Baha’u’llahGleanings from the Writings of Baha’u’llah, p. 217.

Human Nature–Fundamentally Noble and Spiritual

Baha’is believe that human nature is fundamentally spiritual, and that our souls make us noble beings. Although we all temporarily exist in our physical bodies here on Earth, Baha’u’llah taught, our true identities reside in our eternal souls. The primary purpose of each human soul, the Baha’i teachings say, is to know and to love God. Baha’is do not believe in doctrines of original sin or ultimate evil—instead, the Baha’i teachings say, each person can make the choice to characterize his or her life with divine attributes:

Man has two powers; and his development, two aspects. One power is connected with the material world, and by it he is capable of material advancement. The other power is spiritual, and through its development his inner, potential nature is awakened. These powers are like two wings. Both must be developed, for flight is impossible with one wing… We must strive unceasingly and without rest to accomplish the development of the spiritual nature in man, and endeavor with tireless energy to advance humanity toward the nobility of its true and intended station. – Abdu’l-BahaThe Promulgation of Universal Peace, p. 59.

Our inborn spiritual nature can create a mystical relationship with the Creator, giving meaning and purpose to our lives. The Baha’i teachings say that process happens through meditation and prayer, the inner growth driven by our spiritual search for truth, the love we give to others, and ultimately as a result of our selfless actions to serve humanity.

Like all great Faiths, the Baha’i teachings have a dual aim—to speak to the inner spirit of each human being, and to propel the process of positive social development forward:

God’s purpose in sending His Prophets unto men is twofold. The first is to liberate the children of men from the darkness of ignorance, and guide them to the light of true understanding. The second is to ensure the peace and tranquility of mankind, and provide all the means by which they can be established. – Baha’u’llahGleanings from the Writings of Baha’u’llah, p. 79.

The Baha’i Faith provides the means for peace and tranquility through a progressive set of social teachings:

These fundamental Baha’i principles call for a complete restructuring of humanity’s priorities—from material to spiritual, from exclusive to inclusive and from divisiveness to unity.

You can find Baha’is just about any place you look—but you will probably need to look.

That’s because Baha’is don’t press their Faith on anyone else. Baha’u’llah wrote that Baha’is could not proselytize or compel the beliefs of others. Baha’is uphold the important principle of the independent investigation of truth:

Discover for yourselves the reality of things, and strive to assimilate the methods by which noble-mindedness and glory are attained among the nations and people of the world. No man should follow blindly his ancestors and forefathers. Nay, each must see with his own eyes, hear with his own ears and investigate independently in order that he may find the truth. – Abdu’l-BahaDivine Philosophy, p. 24.

Baha’is eagerly welcome anyone on a path of spiritual search—or anyone who would like to learn more about the Baha’i Faith. Many Baha’i communities around the world have informal meetings where seekers can examine and explore the teachings of this new Faith. Called “firesides” or study classes, those Baha’i meetings encourage questions and open-minded discussion about life. Everyone is welcome.

The Baha’i Houses of Worship

On each continent in the world, a Baha’i House of Worship welcomes everyone. With nine sides symbolizing the many paths to the one true God, Baha’i Houses of Worship are open to all, no matter what beliefs they hold. Similar to a church, mosque or temple—but with no rituals, rites or sermons—Baha’i Houses of Worship function as the center of a community’s spiritual life, and its humanitarian, educational and altruistic service and outreach. More than a hundred Baha’i Houses of Worship are in the planning stages, and seven now exist, with an eighth one, in Chile, set to open October 2016:

 

The Baha’i teachings ultimately envision these interfaith Houses of Worship in every community, serving as the dawning places of the mention of God and the central focal points of a number of charitable, public benefit institutions. The Baha’i teachings call the House of Worship:

…one of the most vital institutions in the world, and it hath many subsidiary branches. Although it is a House of Worship, it is also connected with a hospital, a drug dispensary, a traveller’s hospice, a school for orphans, and a university for advanced studies. – Abdu’l-BahaSelections from the Writings of Abdu’l-Baha, pp. 99-100.

Many of these temples (like the Baha’i Lotus Temple in India, pictured) have become magnets for those from every Faith and no Faith, as a place to reflect, meditate and pray, and as beautiful monuments to the Baha’i ideals of the oneness of God, religion and humanity.

Understanding the Baha’i Calendar

The Baha'i Calendar

Names of the 19 Baha’i Months

Most new world religions bring a new calendar—and the Baha’i Faith does, too. Year one in the Baha’i calendar began in 1844, when the Baha’i Faith began with the announcement of the Bab’s revelation.

The Baha’i calendar, originally initiated by the Bab, bases its unique structure on the number 19. Called the Badi Calendar, meaning wondrous, it equalizes the length of every month and also accounts for variances in the Earth’s orbit around the sun—unlike any other calendar in use today. Composed of nineteen months of nineteen days each, each Baha’i calendar year begins in spring on the Vernal Equinox, on the day of the ancient Persian New Year known as Naw-Ruz.

With 19 months of 19 days each, the Baha’i calendar adds four (or in leap years, five) Intercalary Days to make up a full solar year of 365¼ days. Baha’is set aside those Intercalary Days for celebrations, hospitality, gift-giving and charitable works. The Intercalary Days immediately precede the final 19-day Baha’i month, when Baha’is fast during daylight hours. Intended as a reflective period of prayer and meditation, the Baha’i Fast symbolizes detachment from the material world, and utilizes the final 19 days of the year for revitalizing the inner spiritual life of each adult Baha’i.

The Baha’i Gardens

Shrine of the Bab located in Haifa, Israel

Baha’i Gardens in Haifa, Israel

The International Baha’i Centre, located in Haifa, Israel, now also attracts people from all over the world, not only as holy places of pilgrimage for Baha’is but as tourist destinations known for their serenity and delightful majesty. The Baha’i shrines and buildings on Mt. Carmel in Haifa, for example, have become known as the Baha’i Gardens, because of their extensive terraces, flowering gardens and the golden dome of the Shrine of the Bab, a landmark in northern Israel and a beacon of peace and hope worldwide.

The International Baha’i Centre also houses the Seat of the Universal House of Justice, the democratically-elected administrative leadership body of the global Baha’i community.

Baha’is love beauty, as you’ll see if you visit the International Baha’i Centre or any of the world’s Baha’i Houses of Worship. Surrounded by beautiful gardens and fragrant flowers, illumined by creative, light-filled architecture and suffused with the peace and serenity of a truly spiritual atmosphere, these places host millions of visitors every year, silently proclaiming the peace and unity Baha’u’llah taught and the Baha’is work to achieve.

Becoming a Baha’i

Anyone can become a Baha’i.

Becoming a Baha’i means accepting Baha’u’llah’s unifying teachings, and deciding to try to follow the path of spiritual development the Baha’i teachings outline. There is no service, baptism or ceremony involved—becoming a Baha’i simply requires an inner, spiritual decision to embrace the teachings of the Faith and join your local Baha’i community. In many countries, Baha’is also sign a declaration card, which enrolls them in the Baha’i community and allows them to receive invitations to community events and gatherings.

When you make the decision to become a Baha’i, you also take part in a planetary movement to change the world. Baha’is work for peace, justice, equality, racial unity and environmental sustainability—all based on addressing the underlying, spiritual causes of such inequities. The new, optimistic model the Baha’i teachings offer the world takes a fresh approach to problem-solving, tapping into the deep well of human concern for others with a thoughtful, integrated and comprehensive spiritual energy.

Earth Illustration

Becoming a Baha’i makes you a world citizen, a part of the world’s newest major Faith and an immediate member of a loving, inclusive global community of truly remarkable souls.

Baha’i events—meetings, elections, parties, devotionals, holy day celebrations, a Baha’i “Feast” at the beginning of every month (the feast is a community gathering that usually includes prayers and readings from the Baha’i writings, a period of community consultation and refreshments)—tend to include lots of social interaction, with laughter, music and a general sense of joy and happiness. Depending on their size, Baha’i communities often meet in homes, local Baha’i centers or meeting rooms. Diverse and inclusive, most Baha’i meetings give participants the opportunity to meet and get to know people from different backgrounds, cultures and nations.

Baha’is never ask others for monetary contributions—in fact, only Baha’is can contribute to the Baha’i funds, and all contributions are completely confidential. No one ever passes a plate or requires anyone to participate, since every donation is considered private and personal.

Baha’is come from every walk of life, every social strata of society and every ethnicity, racial background, nation and age group. To answer the question “What is a Baha’i?” Abdu’l-Baha answered:

To be a Baha’i simply means to love all the world; to love humanity and try to serve it; to work for universal peace and universal brotherhood.” – Baha’u’llah and the New Era, p. 83.

If you’d like to meet Baha’is in your local area, they’re usually listed online, in a local newspaper or phone book, or in directories of places of worship. If you can’t find any local Baha’is, feel free to email us here at [email protected], and we’ll be happy to put you in touch with a nearby Baha’i community.

Additional Baha’i Resources

The Official website of the Baha’i Faith

www.Bahai.org

The Official website of the Universal House of Justice

www.UniversalHouseofJustice.Bahai.org

The Official website of the Baha’is of the United States

www.Bahai.us

The Official website of the Baha’is of Canada

www.ca.Bahai.org

Turkish Court Releases, Re-Arrests Amnesty International’s Taner Kilic

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF GLOBAL VOICES)

 

Justice Deferred: Uproar After Turkish Court Releases, Re-Arrests Amnesty International’s Taner Kilic

Supporters gather outside the courthouse in Turkey. Photo by Arzu Geybullayeva.

A small crowd was gathered outside Caglayan court. They held “Free Taner” signs while representatives from the Amnesty International’s Turkey office were read their demands out loud.

“We demand an unconditional release for Taner,” said one of the human rights defenders, speaking to a group of journalists at the January 31 gathering.

There was a palpable burst of surprise and relief among family and friends when the court ordered the conditional release of Taner Kilic, chair of Amnesty International Turkey, who has spent eight months in prison. He was the only one left behind bars after the court released all members of the #Istanbul10 human rights defenders group in October of last year.

This joy was short-lived, however. The prosecutor — who had already requested that Taner be kept in detention — immediately appealed the decision, and the second court granted the request.

Just a day later, the first court accepted the second court’s decision to continue his detention. Kilic is now likely to remain in jail until the next hearing, which is scheduled for June 21, 2018.

‘Crisis in Turkey’s justice system’

In a statement following the reversal, Amnesty’s Secretary General Salil Shetty said:

This is the latest example of the crisis in Turkey’s justice system that is ruining lives and hollowing out the right to a fair trial. To have been granted release only to have the door to freedom so callously slammed in his face is devastating for Taner, his family and all who stand for justice in Turkey.

Kilic is accused of being a member of a terrorist group, a charge that his supporters and the international human rights community have broadly dismissed as bogus. More precisely, Kilic is accused of using a messaging app called ByLock that was allegedly used by coup plotters in July 2016.

Kilic and his lawyers argued no such app was ever downloaded on his phone during the hearing yesterday.

Taner presents the evidence that he didn’t download or use ByLock. The prosecution hasn’t presented any that he did. Despite this, the prosecutor requests that Taner remains in pre-trial prison detention.

Taner’s lawyer presents a third expert witness report to the court that again concludes that Taner didn’t use ByLock. This one shows that Taner had two ‘mor beyin’ apps known to falsely show connections to ByLock. It is absolutely clear that Taner didn’t have ByLcok.

Kilic joined the hearing via video link as he was bring held in a prison in the western province of Izmir. He has denied using the app on many occasions, including on January 31. After several hours of witness questioning, the court took a brief recess, after which it announced its ultimately short-lived decision to release Kilic on bail.

At that moment, a collective burst of joy could be felt in the air and online:

The brother and daughter of overjoyed at the news of Taner’s release. One step towards justice!

Great news, long overdue. Congratulations to Team Turkey and all our campaigners and activists who worked so hard over the 8 month period of unjust confinement! The fight for human rights in Turkey continues. Too many human rights defenders still in jail. https://twitter.com/andrewegardner/status/958674883063500800 

Just hours later, the news of the new court decision sent a devastating blow to Taner’s family:

“To have been granted release only to have the door to freedom so callously slammed in his face is devastating for Taner, his family & all who stand for justice in Turkey.” @amnesty‘s @SalilShetty on the re-arrest & re-detention of . : http://amn.st/6015D3FRf 

The last 24 hours:

1. Court A orders the release of Amnesty’s Turkey chair Taner Kilic (yesterday) after nearly 8 months in prison

2. After prosecutor appeals, court B orders Kilic to remain in custody (last night)

3. Court A overturns its original verdict (this morning). https://twitter.com/p_zalewski/status/958813288489521152 

Here we are. Our colleague, @amnesty Turkey chair will NOT be released. The court changed its mind… Why? Who knows, no grounds provided. Devastating for the family and an affront to justice. https://twitter.com/andrewegardner/status/959011266286235648 

This is not the first time a court has overruled its own decision.

The Istanbul trial court has now overturned its own release verdict it made yesterday. Taner will stay in pre-trial detention. What (or who) made them do it? This is devastating for Taner’s family and a disgrace to justice.

Too sorry for Taner and for Turkish Judiciary Unfortunately it is not a new issue , several release decision have not been enforced in Turkey . pic.twitter.com/DrnEwh12kF

View image on TwitterView image on TwitterView image on Twitter

Utterly shocking! Ordering prisoners’ release and immediately throwing them back to jail seems to become a habit of ‘s judiciary. This was applied to several last year.

Stop this cruel game, ! https://twitter.com/andrewegardner/status/958828842449297408 

The author of this article attended the January 31 hearing at the Caglayan courthouse in Istanbul.

A Russian War Plane Has Been Shot Down In Syria

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF CNN)

 

A Russian war plane was shot down Saturday in Syria, according to Russian state-run news agencies.

The Russian Ministry of Defense confirmed one of its Su-25 warplanes was downed in Idlib province in northwest Syria, state media outlet RIA Novosti reported.
Militants shot down the plane in an area controlled by al-Nusra Front fighters, according to the RIA Novosti report. Russia and Turkey, which is responsible for a de-escalation zone in Idlib, were taking measures to return the pilot’s body, the defense ministry said.
The ministry said more than 30 militants in the area were killed in a retaliatory strike, according to RIA Novosti, citing “radio intercepts.”
The defense ministry said the pilot was able to eject from the aircraft before it crashed, according to state-run news agency TASS, but died while fighting al-Nusra fighters.
Idlib province
Map data ©2018 Google, Mapa GISrael, ORION-ME

TASS reported that “according to preliminary information, the plane was shot down from a portable anti-aircraft missile system.”
But a witness who spoke to CNN via Skype on condition of anonymity said the jet was shot down by Free Syrian Army fighters with a group called Jaish al-Naser as two jets were “striking the village of Massaran on the southern side of Saraqib.”
The witness said that a pilot parachuted. A Free Syrian Army fighter in the area told the source that the pilot “engaged with FSA fighters with a pistol but they killed him eventually.”
The source left the area after the second jet fired more missiles.
Other witnesses said the pilot was taken from the crash site, according to Rami Abdel Rahman, director of the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a UK-based monitoring group. It was unclear whether the pilot was alive or dead, he said
The Idlib Media Center, an anti-government activist group, posted images that purportedly show the plane’s wreckage.

Smoke billows from the site of the downed Russian plane Saturday in the northwest province of Idlib.

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s regime recently resumed airstrikes on rebel-held areas such as Idlib province, prompting tens of thousands of civilians to flee their homes, according to UN officials.
Idlib has long been the region where civilians and fighters have gone as they fled rebel-friendly areas under siege by the Syrian regime.
With the help of Russian forces, the Syrian government has managed to take back much of the country held by rebels. The regime has launched an offensive to retake Idlib, the only province that has come under full rebel control in the nearly 7-year-old conflict.