The US Wants Syrian Oil, Not Democracy


Coat of arms of Syria -- the "Hawk of Qur...

Coat of arms of Syria — the “Hawk of Qureish” with shield of vertical tricolor of the national flag, holding a scroll with the words الجمهورية العربية السورية (Al-Jumhuriyah al-`Arabiyah as-Suriyah “The Syrian Arab Republic”). (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

 

By Carl Gibson, Reader Supported News

 

18 June 13

 

 

 

“… the Persian Gulf, the critical oil and natural gas-producing region that we fought so many wars to try and protect our economy from the adverse impact of losing that supply or having it available only at very high prices.” -John Bolton, George W. Bush’s ambassador to the United Nations

 

 

 

ll the hubbub over Syria is all about oil. And if you don’t believe me, believe John Bolton.

 

When there’s something being talked about in the news on a regular basis, and if one angle of the story is being consistently reported by various reputable news organizations, you can be sure there’s something else to the story that isn’t being told. Matt Taibbi called this “chumpbait” when referring to the media’s unified dismissal concerning Bradley Manning’s court-martial. The same applies to the latest corporate media stories speculating on US military involvement in Syria.

 

If the US were really concerned about spreading Democracy in the Middle East, we’d be helping the Occupy Gezi movement oust Turkish Prime Minister Ergodan and condemning his violent suppression of human rights, rather than assisting the Free Syrian Army. And the only reason the powers controlling the US would be interested in intervening in Turkey would be if Turkish protesters or government forces shut down the highly-productiveKirkuk-Ceyhan oil pipeline, which goes from Iraq through Southern Turkey.

 

All of the media has been atwitter about whether or not the US should get involved in the civil war unfolding in Syria by supporting anti-government forces. The atrocities recently committed by the Free Syrian Army are reminiscent of the kind committed against the Soviets in the 1980s by theAfghan mujahideen, whom we actively funded and supplied with arms. (Remember the movie Charlie Wilson’s War?) It should be worth noting that the same mujahideen fighters we funded to fight our enemies for us in the 1980s became our enemies even before the 9/11 attacks.

 

In a roundabout way, the US media is making the argument that because the Assad regime is using chemical weapons on the Syrian people, the US military should intervene by arming and training the Free Syrian Army in the hopes of overthrowing President Assad. On the surface, most Americans would agree that Assad is a brutal dictator and should be removed from office. But if you asked most Americans whether or not the US military should intervene in Syria to make sure the profit margins of oil companies remain strong, it’s likely most rational folks would say no. Digging just beneath the surface, it’s easy to see that US interest in Syria isn’t to provide Democracy to Syria, but to ensure the Kirkuk-Banias oil pipeline will be restored to profitable status. Even President Obama’s press secretary said that foreign policy isn’t driven by what the people want, but by what is best for “American interests.”

 

The Kirkuk-Banias pipeline runs from Kirkuk in Northern Iraq, to the Syrian town of Banias, on the Mediterranean Sea between Turkey and Lebanon. Ever since US forces inadvertently destroyed it in 2003, most of the pipeline has been shut down. While there have been plans in the works to make the Iraqi portion of the pipeline functional again, those plans have yet to come to fruition. And Syria has at least 2.5 billion barrels of oil in its fields, making it the next largest Middle Eastern oil producer after Iraq. After ten unproductive years, the oil companies dependent on the Kirkuk-Banias pipeline’s output are eager to get the pipeline operational again. The tension over the Syrian oil situation is certainly being felt by wealthy investors in the markets, who are thus dictating US foreign policy.

 

It’s easy to see why the oil-dominated US government wants to be involved in Syria’s outcome. The Free Syrian Army has since taken control of oil fields near Deir Ezzor, and Kurdish groups have taken control of other oil fields in the Rumeilan region. Many of the numerous atrocities that Assad’s government committed against unarmed women and children were in Homs, which is near one of the country’s only two oil refineries. Israel, the US’s only ally in the Middle East, is illegally occupying the Golan Heights on the Syrian border and extracting their resources. The US wants to get involved in Syria to monopolize its oil assets, while simultaneously beating our competition – Iran, Russia and China – in the race for Syrian black gold.

 

Big oil’s ideal outcome would be for US troops to back the FSA’s overthrow of the Assad regime, meaning that sharing in Syrian oil profits would be part of the quid-pro-quo the US demands in exchange for helping the Syrian rebels win. It would be very similar to when the US, under Teddy Roosevelt, backed Panama’s fight for independence in exchange for US ownership of the Panama Canal. But even after numerous interventions, including thekidnapping of Panama’s head of state, the Torrijos-Carter accords gave control of the Panama Canal back to Panama in 1999. The imperialistic approach to Panama turned out to be more costly than it would have been if we had just left Panama alone in the first place.

 

George Santayana said that those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it. If we don’t learn from our past mistakes, like basing foreign policy goals on greed-inspired imperialism, Syria will blow up in our faces.

 

 

 


 

Carl Gibson, 26, is co-founder of US Uncut, a nationwide creative direct-action movement that mobilized tens of thousands of activists against corporate tax avoidance and budget cuts in the months leading up to the Occupy Wall Street movement. Carl and other US Uncut activists are featured in the documentary “We’re Not Broke,” which premiered at the 2012 Sundance Film Festival. He currently lives in Madison, Wisconsin. You can contact him at carl@rsnorg.org, and follow him on twitter at @uncutCG.

 

The Women of Turkey Won’t Give Up Without A Fight #Vaw


June 11, 2013 by  

When tens of thousands in Turkey took to protesting the government, beginning at the end of May, the demographics were astonishing to many global observers: At least half of the protesters are women. What is it about Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s government that has so many women fighting back? Sevi, a woman protestor who’s camping out in Gezi Park, told TIME,

The reason there are so many women out here is that this government is antiwomen. … They don’t want to see women in public spaces. They want to see them in the home. And women have had enough.

Turkish women have every right to be angry with their government. Erdoğan has voiced his opinion many times that abortions in the country should be banned and that women should have three children each. Last year Erdoğan said, “There is no difference between killing a baby in its mother’s stomach and killing a baby after birth.”

Erdoğan is also getting criticism for not doing enough to stop violence against women. About 39 percent of women in Turkey have been physically abused, according to a recent U.N. report. Turkish protesters have said their prime minister is attempting to bring conservative Islamic values to their secular state.

A Turkish protester shows off her tattoo that reads “K. Atatürk,” the signature of Turkey’s first president, Mustafa Kemal Atatürk. The tattoo has become a popular symbol for those who want to preserve a secular state in the country.

The protests began on May 28 in Taksim Gezi Park in Istanbul as a relatively small campaign of 100 people to stop the park’s 600 trees from being cut down to make way for a shopping mall. When police used tear gas and water cannons against these peaceful protesters and burned their tents down, the protests gained traction and soon transformed into what was clearly an anti-government movement.

Despite the Turkish deputy prime minister apologizing for the excessive police force, thousands of Turkish people are still protesting in the streets, chanting sayings such as “Dictator resign!” One of these protesters, Ozge Cesur, told The New York Times that she and her friends aren’t satisfied with the apology:

The apology that we have been waiting for a long time [for] came far too late. … We will stay here until Erdogan himself comes up and takes us seriously in making decisions.

After 11 days of protests, with more than 5,000 people injured and three dead, Erdoğan did finallyagree on Monday to meet with protesters. But his announcement sounded more like a threat than a promise to negotiate. Erdoğan has warned that his patience “has a limit” and that:

Those who attempt to sink the bourse [the stock market], you will collapse. [Some have accused the protesters of causing the recent downturn in Turkey’s economy.] …. If we catch your speculation, we will choke you. No matter who you are, we will choke you.

But while Erdoğan doesn’t seem to be willing to back down, neither do those demonstrating.

Protester Ozlem Altiok, chatting with friends in Gezi Park about Erdoğan’s policies (including his call for women to each have three children), said, “Would he like more children like us?”

Photos of Turkish protesters by Flickr user Burak Su, under Creative Commons 2.0

 

Turkish Protests Rattle Erdogan’s Female Loyalists


By Sisi Tang

WeNews correspondent

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Turkey‘s anti-government protests are troubling for some of Erdogan’s female supporters, who dominate his voting base. For other women, the protests are an outlet for anger at current policies and a break from the political repression that followed the 1970s mass unrest.

Hundreds of women marched toward Taksim Square in Istanbul on June 8, 2013.
Hundreds of women marched toward Taksim Square in Istanbul on June 8, 2013.

Credit: Sisi Tang

ISTANBUL, Turkey (WOMENSENEWS)– A Reuters photo of a police officer spraying tear gas into the face of a woman in a red dress in Gezi Park in Taksim Square here has forged the impression of a strong-armed reaction by the government of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan toward protests around the country that are stretching into their second week.

While Erdogan has agreed to meet today with three protest leaders, many expect the demonstrations to escalate after police entered Gezi Park Tuesday, flinging gas canisters and shooting rubber bullets at demonstrators, despite the Istanbul governor’s promise earlier that the park will not be touched. People continued filing into Taksim Square, which was bellowing with tear gas smoke and reeling from sound bombs as of Tuesday night.

Last weekend, Kalbiye Uzuner, a middle-aged housewife, was among those walking toward Taksim, joining the crowd’s chants calling for the government to resign.

“This is the first time I’ve participated in something this big,” she told Women’s eNews. “Even if the P.M. [prime minister] doesn’t give into our demands, I think we have still won because we have gathered here such a variety of people.”

In the backstreets, older women jutted their arms out of their windows, banging pots and pans and offering the young protesters passing by lemon and vinegar, which they hoped would soothe the bite of tear gas.

These indications of waning support among women concern Erdogan’s loyal female followers.

Eda Yilmaz, a young supporter of Erdogan’s ruling AKP party, has not yet joined the demonstrations. But she said she was incensed by the Reuters image and felt an instant desire to join those in Taksim Square.

“The police violence needs to be investigated,” said Yilmaz, an entrepreneur and industrial engineer, in an interview over the weekend. “It shouldn’t necessarily be about the government stepping down, but about it correcting and checking its mistakes.”

According to a student protestor’s personal account that has been circulated online by his professor, a police officer repeatedly beat a woman inside a police detention vehicle while threatening to rape her and forcing her to shout praises to the police.

Though both men and women have been subject to police violence, videos and interviews showing female protestors in the Aegean metropolis of Izmir being beaten by a dozen or more police have spread like wildfire on the Web and inflamed the public.

A Hovering Question

Will it end with long-lasting political change of any sort?

That’s the question hovering over layers of barbecue smoke, smoldering tear gas, spewing water cannons and the red flags of the Republic and its founder Mustafa Kemal Ataturk.

The answer depends, in part, on Turkish female voters such as Yilmaz. Women were 54 percent of those who voted for the AKP during the 2011 general elections, according to an AKP-led survey.

The AKP, a party with Islamic roots, has presided over a phase of economic growth but faces challenges sustaining gains on the heels of the global economic slowdown.

There is no sign yet that the prime minister’s response to the Gezi Park protests is costing him female voters. But while his administration can count on female supporters who see his hard-edged ways as a strong, avuncular backing of their religious sentiments, some of those are now seeing his style as edging on authoritarian.

“I’ve always thought his talking style was very problematic,” said Yilmaz. “You can’t just order people that you can’t do this, you can’t do that. You should have referendums, communicate with the people.”

Erdogan’s female supporters include young, middle-class, well-educated, cosmopolitan and observant women who share the liberal values being voiced by the demonstrations.

At the same time, they are loyal to the AKP for assisting their religious freedoms, with a prime example being the lifting of the ban on headscarves in universities.

“Compared to older times, I think there have been many improvements in the last decade, especially in economic development and with resolving the headscarf issue,” said Neslihan Ozdemir, 31, an AKP supporter and housewife who said she did not attend what she saw as an overly politicized conflict that has spiraled into deliberate provocation. “This issue is very important for me: freedom to wear what you want.”

Lingering Fears

In the broader population of women, beyond Erdogan’s supporters, some older women have avoided street protests–and made their concerns known to their children–out of health concerns about tear gas and fears left from the bloody, political clashes of the 1970s, which killed many civilians and culminated in the 1980 military coup that installed military rule for the next few years.

“My family for instance would not allow me to even attend the smallest demonstrations. Everyone is extremely afraid. People have seen torture,” said a 21-year-old law student at Marmara University who asked that her name not be published for fear of backlash. Yet, she has participated in the demonstrations since day one.

Turkey is often analyzed through the polarizing lens of political and religious differences. But these demonstrations, which have swelled up from a small environmentalist protest of plans to raze the leafy Gezi Park in Taksim Square, have become a chance for citizens to share an array of grievances.

For many Turkish women, Erdogan’s public condemnation last year of elective Cesarean births and abortion struck a nerve. So did a draft policy to ban abortion from which he later backed away.

In a recent public speech, he also drew ire for reprimanding a couple for kissing on a public metro.

“In the very beginning I took to the streets because of the abortion issue,” said the university student who requested anonymity. “It was about women’s demands and ownership of their own bodies. We felt that we have been excluded, so in order to be included within, we came to express ourselves.”

Hundreds of elderly and young women marched through Taksim this weekend, uniformly chanting, “Tayyip, flee, flee, the women are coming,” bearing signs that read “We are on the streets for a life without Tayyip, without harassment,” and “Tayyip, keep your hands away from my body.”

‘Much More Oppression’

“Especially during the period when AKP has been in power, there has been much more oppression and violence against women,” said Gunay Demirbas Nas, a coordinator at Imece Kadin Sendikasi, a women’s collective based in Istanbul. “Murder of women has been on the rise.”

She added that she was also angered by the recent merging of the Ministry for Women and Family with theMinistry of Family and Social Policies.

Protestors have called on Erdogan to “stop acting as if he is everyone’s father.” Many perceive him to be an obstinate, authoritarian patriarch prone to meddling in female citizens’ personal affairs.

He has repeatedly advised families to have at least three children, a gesture which his conservative-leaning supporters see as a reasonable economic measure that would also reinforce family values. Opponents, however, suspect an agenda to reinstate religious law, hamper women’s freedom and threaten the nation’s secularist foundations.

“This state does what it wants to do, even with issues related to women’s bodies,” said Rojda Tekin, aspokesperson for the Anti-Capitalist Muslims youth group, based in Istanbul with liaisons all over Turkey.

The Anti-Capitalist Muslims are a group of pious, anti-AKP youths who decry the ruling government for what they see as capitalist policies serving mainly the rich, preferring what they say is a middle way between Islam and socialism.

Headscarved, Tekin huddled with members of her group among the sea of tents and banners displayed at Gezi Park to protest its demolition.

“With women’s rights there are some serious issues. But at least Turkey isn’t a state that directly oppresses women. We can go out and do as we please. Everything that belongs to God also belongs to the civilians, whether it’s women’s rights or other issues,” she said.

Sisi Tang is a writer and traveler based in Istanbul, Turkey.

 

Urgent call to the International Olympic Committee (IOC) in solidarity with Istanbul


June 11th 2013

A photo of a 13-year old child injured in the police attack on the protest.

 

This is an urgent call to the International Olympic Committee (IOC) from Istanbul

Valuable members of the IOC;

This is an urgent call from Istanbulites, from all ages, social and political backgrounds, associations, ideologies and beliefs. This is a call from Urban Movements Istanbul / Habitat International Network together with People’s Houses on behalf the citizens of Istanbul whose right to life has been threatened by a government determined to crush a peaceful resistance against the demolishment of a public park ( Gezi Park) by means of unproportional use of force through excessive utilization of tear gas and pepper gas bombs over limits, the use of plastic bullets and more over the deliberate use of canisters as bullets to target and hit armless people.

Up to now the police has intervened and used brutal force 4 times in Taksim against peaceful demonstrators; the last one taking place this morning. There are 3 deaths and after this morning’s violent attack, we are afraid that there may be more losses. The resistance has spread to the other cities and there are nearly 10,000 people injured throughout Turkey, 23 of which fatal. The right to peaceful assembly and to demonstration, the right to expression, to freedom of opinion and to life have been and is being (at the moment as well) grossly violated by the government.

Valuable members of the IOC, the ideals of Olympic Games rest on friendship, peace, democratic values and freedoms. We are sending you just 3 of the hundreds of  videos documenting the unproportional use of force by the police; these are material evidences of the brutality and are more than enough proof of how the government violates  the ideals of Olympics.
http://alkislarlayasiyorum.com/icerik/126067/yabanci-medyadan-gezi-parki-belgeseli-istanbul-rising

Having Istanbul on the list of applicants will be tantamount to pepper gasing these ideals.

Having Istanbul on the list will mean bombing these ideals.

Keeping Istanbul on the list disgraces Olympic ideals.

 

 

We, as Istanbulites whose lives are under threat, request the IOC to take Istanbul out of the list of cities for Olympics 2020 in order to reclaim the honour of Olympic ideals.

On behalf of                                                                        On behalf of

Urban Movements Istanbul / HIC Network                 People’s Houses

Cihan Uzunçarşılı Baysal                                                    Çiğdem Çidamlı

 

Supporting Signatories

KALYANİ MENON-SEN  (INDIA)

KAMAYANI BALI MAHABAL (INDIA )

 

 

 

Rich- Poor Gap Widens In Rich Countries, Finds OECD


Developed and developing countries

 

 

 

By Countercurrents.org

 

16 May, 2013
Countercurrents.org

 

The gap between rich and poor widened more in the three years to 2010 than in the previous 12 years, said OECD, the group of industrialized nations.

 

According to an OECD report released on May 15, 2013, the richest 10% of society in the 33 OECD countries received 9.5 times that of the poorest in terms of income, up from nine times in 2007.

 

New OECD data showed:

 

The gap is largest in Chile, Mexico, Turkey, the US and Israel, and lowest in Iceland, Slovenia, Norway and Denmark. [1]

 

OECD found:

 

Poorer households tended to lose more or gain less than richer households between 2007 and 2010. The top 10 percent of the population did better than the poorest 10 percent in 21 of the 33 countries where data were available.

Using pre-crisis income levels as a benchmark, the number of people living in poverty rose during the crisis in most countries.

 

Taxes and benefits helped mitigate the overall increases, but the impact varied. Between 2007 and 2010, average relative income poverty in OECD countries rose from 13 to 14% among children and from 12 to 14% among youth, but fell from 15 to 12% among the elderly. Until 2010, in many countries, pensioners were largely protected while working households took the hit.

Children and the young are among the worst sufferers. The OECD report found:

 

Child poverty has risen in 16 OECD countries since 2007, with increases exceeding 2 points in Turkey, Spain, Belgium, Slovenia and Hungary. This confirms a previously identified trend of young people and children replacing the elderly as the group most at risk of income poverty across the OECD.

The analysis warns that further social spending cuts in OECD countries risk causing greater inequality and poverty in the years ahead.

 

Israel, according to the OECD data, presented a frustrating picture. Citing the report Lior Dattel and Nadan Feldman said [2]:

 

Israel is the most impoverished of the 34 economically developed countries, with a poverty rate of 20.9%.

 

A Paris datelined Reuters report [3] also cited the “growing divide between rich and poor” mentioned in the OECD report.

 

The Reuters report quoted OECD, the Paris-based think-tank,

 

“As the economic and especially the jobs crisis persists and fiscal consolidation takes hold, there is a growing risk that the most vulnerable in society will be hit harder as the cost of the crisis increases.”

 

“These worrying findings underline the need to protect the most vulnerable in society, especially as governments pursue the necessary task of bringing public spending under control,” OECD head Angel Gurria said in a statement.

 

Gurria added that governments should not neglect fairness when they craft their policies, especially when they reform their tax systems.

 

The Reuters report added:

 

With many developed countries facing the pinch of austerity, economic inequality has become a hot topic especially after an ECB study last month found that households in many peripheral eurozone countries are on average wealthier than those in the bloc’s core due to higher levels of home ownership.

 

Long a staunch advocate of free-market reforms shunned by some left-wingers, the OECD has become an increasingly vocal supporter of the welfare state for its capacity to soften the blow of hard economic times.

 

The study said the pain of the crisis was unevenly spread. Poorer households either lost more income from the recession or benefited less from recovery. Children and young people suffered more than the elderly, whose incomes were relatively immune.

 

While reporting the OECD report a BBC-news made the following observation:

The Paris-based group is generally in favor of free-market policies, but has recently become more vocal in support of more generous social provision to soften the impact of the economic downturn of the past few years.

 

Many countries, particularly within the eurozone, have been cutting back hard on welfare spending in an attempt to reduce debt and balance government books as tax revenues fall because of weak growth. In some cases, this is a condition of international support from the likes of the International Monetary Fund.

 

Source:

 

[1] May 15, 2013, “Growing risk of inequality and poverty as crisis hits the poor hardest”
http://www.oecd.org/els/soc/growing-risk-of-inequality-and-poverty-as-crisis-hits-the-poor-hardest-says-oecd.htm

 

[2] Haaretz, “Israel has highest poverty rate in the developed world, OECD report shows”,
May 16, 2013, http://www.haaretz.com/news/national/israel-is-the-poorest-country-in-developed-world-oecd-report-shows.premium-1.524096

 

[3] “Rich nations’ wealth gap widens as welfare cut –OECD”,
http://www.trust.org/item/20130514220100-fspwz

 

 

Abdullah Ocalan: A Living Argument Against The #DeathPenalty


By N. Jayaram

26 April, 2013
Countercurrents.org

It is not important that Time magazine featured Abdullah Ocalan in its latest annual list of “100 most influential people in the world”. Such lists are open to question. A list drawn up by a publication based in the United States is bound to reflect a heavy US bias. In fact, it contains names many people in other parts of the world might never have heard of.

What is important is that the 200-word profile of Ocalan in Time is by Gerry Adams, President of Sinn Fein, a party historically linked to the Provisional Irish Republican Army. Adams establishes the relevance of that fact at the outset: “The Irish peace accord known as the Good Friday Agreement is 15 years old this month. For almost all that time, Abdullah Ocalan, a founder of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, has been in prison in Turkey.”(1)

The Good Friday Agreement of 10 April 1998 was a historic development that ushered in peace (albeit with inevitable hiccups) after decades of “troubles” in Northern Ireland. It signalled the Provisional IRA’s move away from the use of violence for attaining its goal, that of severing Northern Ireland from Britain and incorporating it in a socialist Irish republic.

That agreement came to be held up as a model of sorts for ending other conflicts such as between Basque nationalists and Spain and, of course, between the Kurdish pro-independence groups and Turkey.

Ankara regards the left-leaning Kurdistan Workers’ Party as a terrorist outfit, a stand endorsed by Washington and some other allies. (Turkey is a key member of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation.) Its leader Ocalan was arrested in Nairobi in 1999 and taken to Turkey where he was sentenced to death. But the sentence was commuted to life imprisonment when Turkey applied to join the European Union, all of whose members are abolitionist.

Happily, Ocalan underwent a change of heart during his long years in prison. There have been sporadic peace talks between him and the Turkish authorities. “Persuading enemies that there are alternative ways to resolve long-standing differences takes patience and a willingness to engage in dialogue, but most important, it requires leadership,” Adams notes in his brief profile of the Kurdish leader.

“Ocalan has demonstrated that leadership. Despite incarceration, he has forged a road map to peace that commits the Kurdish people to democracy and freedom and tolerance.”

In a stirring call for this year’s Newroz or Navroz (New Year) issued on 21 March, Ocalan addressed “all the peoples of Middle East and Central Asia” and said the whole region “is currently seeking a contemporary modernity and democratic order that would address its historical context. The search for a new model where everyone could live freely and in fraternity has become one of basic human needs – like bread and water. It is inevitable that Anatolian and Mesopotamian geography and the cultural momentum in there will build this model.” (2)

Kurdistan is one of several “unrepresented nations” of the world, its people spread across Turkey, Syria, Iran and Iraq.

Time magazine also picked Indian human rights lawyer Vrinda Grover for inclusion in its list of 100. (3)

“Justice, she believes, must reach everyone — not just privileged Indians on the top rungs but those in insurgency-torn areas, those unjustly tortured, jailed or executed, those who slip through the many cracks in the system,” notes writer Nilanjana Roy in her introduction.

Of course, the same list has two more Indians, Finance Minister P. Chidambaram and film actor Aamir Khan, testifying to essentially unimaginative nature of such lists.

But the fact that Ocalan and Grover are on it has an encouraging message for human rights activists, especially those calling for universal abolition of the death penalty: Ocalan is alive today because Turkey scrapped it. And Grover’s is a loud voice pointing to the futility and counterproductive nature of the death penalty in dealing with crimes, including gender crimes. Tough punitive provisions will only make it harder to get a conviction.

Ocalan personifies that old saw, “one person’s terrorist is another’s freedom fighter”. He is a hero for tens of millions of Kurdish people and is no terrorist in the eyes of many others sympathetic to the Kurdish cause. But even staying with the Turkish characterisation, the fact that he is alive today, affords both sides an opportunity to engage in peaceful dialogue.

Such logic seems to have escaped Justices G.S. Singhvi and S.J. Mukhopadhaya of the Indian Supreme Court, who recently rejected a plea that delay in considering the mercy petition of Devender Pal Singh Bhullar constituted grounds for commutation. (4) They were throwing away a wealth of jurisprudence within India and worldwide that has held such delays ought automatically to lead to commutation. Thirty years ago, in the case of T.V. Vatheeswaran v. State of Tamil Nadu, Supreme Court Justices O. Chinnappa Reddy and R.B Misra had so held. One can only conclude that the judges who handled the Bhullar appeal were swayed by the pro-hanging trend that seems to have India in its grip.

Turkey is overwhelmingly Muslim (about 98% of the population) and has officially given up the death penalty, not having executed anyone since 1984. Some other Muslim countries too have abolished it – from Albania to Uzbekistan – and some are abolitionist in practice, meaning they have not carried out an execution for at least 10 years – from Algeria to Tajikistan.

Other Muslim countries as well as Hindu dominated India can follow suit. But that would require judges to get their precedents right, open their eyes to the global trends in jurisprudence and apply their minds without being swayed by the blood lust whipped up by Hindutva and other antediluvian forces.

It would also help if India’s Home Ministry and the Rashtrapati Bhavan too could shed their current penchant for pandering to mobs baying for blood – mostly Muslim blood.

Notes

1. http://time100.time.com/2013/04/18/time-100/slide/abdullah-ocalan/#ixzz2RNdqaJI5

2. http://www.euronews.com/2013/03/22/web-full-transcript-of-abdullah-ocalans-ceasefire-call-kurdish-pkk/

3. http://time100.time.com/2013/04/18/time-100/slide/vrinda-grover/

4. http://www.thehindu.com/opinion/lead/succumbing-to-the-bogey-of-fear/article4654464.ece

N. Jayaram is a journalist now based in Bangalore after more than 23 years in East Asia (mainly Hong Kong and Beijing) and 11 years in New Delhi. He was with the Press Trust of India news agency for 15 years and Agence France-Presse for 11 years and is currently engaged in editing and translating for NGOs and academic institutions. He writes a blog: http://walkerjay.wordpress.com/

 

 

Fazil Say : Turkish Pianist Receives Suspended Jail Term For ‘anti-Islam’ Twitter Comments #Blasphemy #Censorship #FOS #FOE


 

 By Suzan Fraser  

April 15, 2013

 

ANKARA, Turkey — A Turkish court on Monday convicted top Turkish pianist and composer Fazil Say of denigrating religion through comments he made on Twitter and handed down a 10-month suspended prison sentence, his lawyer said.

The 43-year-old musician who has played with the New York Philharmonic, the Berlin Symphony and other world orchestras was on trial for sending tweets last year, including one that joked about a religious leader and some Islamic practices.

He is the latest in a series of intellectuals and artists to be prosecuted in Turkey for expressing their opinions and his case has raised further concern over rights and freedoms in the country, a democracy with a mostly Muslim population that seeks membership in the European Union.

Say has also been a strong critic of the Islamic-rooted government of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, a devout Muslim who expounds conservative values, alarming some secular Turks who fear the government plans to make religion part of their lifestyle.

In one tweet, Say joked about a call to prayer that he said lasted only 22 seconds. Say tweeted: “Why such haste? Have you got a mistress waiting or a raki on the table?” Raki is a traditional alcoholic drink made with aniseed. Islam forbids alcohol and many Islamists consider the remarks unacceptable.

The charges against Say also cited other tweets he sent, including one – based on a verse attributed to famous medieval poet Omar Khayyam – that questioned whether heaven was a tavern or a brothel, because of the promises that wine will flow and each believer will be greeted by virgins.

Emre Bukagili, a citizen who filed the initial complaint against Say, said in an emailed statement that the musician had used “a disrespectful, offensive and impertinent tone toward religious concepts such as heaven and the call to prayer.”

Lawyer Meltem Akyol said the pianist’s sentence has been suspended for five years, which means he would have to serve the sentence if he reoffends in that time.

The lawyer said Say has not yet decided whether to appeal the verdict. He has closed his Twitter account, however.

In a statement, Say called the verdict “a sad one for Turkey.”

“The fact that I was given a sentence despite my innocence is cause for concern with regard freedoms of expression and belief,” he said.

The government meanwhile, appeared to distance itself from the verdict.

“I would not wish anyone to be put on trial for words that have been expressed. This is especially true of artists and cultural figures,” Culture and Tourism Minister Omer Celik said. “But… this is a judicial decision.”

Sevim Dagdelen, a German lawmaker who has campaigned for Say, called his conviction “a scandal,” and said that Turkey’s attempts to join the EU should be frozen. She also accused the court of making an example of Say to silence critics of the government.

Turkey has a history of prosecuting its artists and writers.

Turkish Nobel laureate Orhan Pamuk was prosecuted for his comments about the mass killings of Armenians under a law that made it a crime to insult the Turkish identity before the government eased that law in an amendment in 2008.

In 2007, ethnic Armenian journalist Hrant Dink, who received death threats because of his comments about the killings of Armenians by Turks in 1915, was shot dead outside his office in Istanbul.

 

Associated Press writer Frank Jordans in Berlin contributed to this report.

Source: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/04/15/fazil-say-jailed-turkish-pianist-receives-suspended-jail-term-for-twitter-comments_n_3083849.html

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Maternity Leave Boost May Backfire in Turkey #Vaw #womenrights


By Jennifer Hattam

WeNews correspondent

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Amid calls for Turkish women to have more children, a proposal to lengthen the paid maternity leave allowance raises fears that it may actually hinder women’s work force participation.

 

 

A Turkish woman stands inside a mosque in Istanbul.
A Turkish woman stands inside a mosque in Istanbul.

 ISTANBUL, Turkey (WOMENSENEWS)–A government proposal to lengthen the duration of paid maternity leave from four months to six months is generating apprehension rather than applause from women in Turkey.

“It is a positive development in principle, but may become an obstacle for women to return to work,” Gulden Turktan, the Istanbul-based president of the Women Entrepreneurs Association of Turkey (KAGIDER), toldWomen’s eNews.

Women already start facing barriers in working life once they get pregnant, added Nur Ger, the founder and CEO of the Istanbul-based SUTEKS Textiles and the chair of the Turkish Industry and Business Association’s gender equality working group.

“There is a tendency among employers to avoid hiring pregnant women since they will need to take their [maternity] leave soon,” she said.

The maternity leave discussion currently underway in the Turkish cabinet comes amid increasing pressure on Turkish women to have more children. Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has been calling since 2008 for women to have “at least three” children to revitalize the country’s slowing population growth.

Turkey’s fertility rate dropped to 2.02 in 2011, just below the replacement level of 2.1. Meanwhile, the median age of the country’s population inched above 30 last year for the first time.

This year, Erdogan has upped the ante, saying in January that “we need four to five [children per family] to carry the country forward,” assigning four government ministers to work on population policy and floating proposals for family-expanding incentives, such as free fertility treatments for low-income couples.

A Larger Goal

As with his outrage last year about abortions and Caesarean sections, which he characterized as “secret plots” to hinder the country’s growth, Erdogan has framed his push for a bigger, younger population as part of a larger goal: To make Turkey one of the world’s top 10 economies by 2023, the 100th anniversary of the founding of the Turkish Republic. (It currently ranks 17th.)

That goal, though, would be better served by increasing women’s participation in the paid work force,KAGIDER’s Turktan told Women’s eNews.

“It is very basic arithmetic: If you leave half of the resources untapped, your growth potential remains limited,” she said. “Currently, the female employment rate is 26 percent, [meaning that] of around 26 million women of working age, only 6.9 million are employed. This is a huge wasted potential.”

Though the number of working women is slowly growing, Ger noted that the government’s aim for 2023 is only to have 35 percent female participation in the work force. “When compared to the current status, this does not seem like a very challenging target,” she said.

The quality of the country’s labor force is as important as its quantity, added economist Gokce Uysal, thevice director of the Bahcesehir University Center for Economic and Social Research.

“Monetary incentives to increase fertility rates work predominantly on the poorer segments of the population, who may not have the means to invest properly in the ‘human capital’ of their children,” Uysal told Women’s eNews.

She is calling for comprehensive education reform. The average person in Turkey gets just 6.5 years of schooling, and only half as many women as men attain a secondary or higher level of education, according to the United Nations Development Programme.

Child Care Subsidy Push

The lack of subsidized child care is another major barrier to Turkish women’s full participation in the work force.

“If the prime minister wants each Turkish family to have at least three children, then the government must create a sustainable, state-funded child care system. Otherwise this will not work,” Turktan said. “A working mother with three children can only be a reality with child-care help.”

A monthly child-care subsidy to working women would “pay back twice as much,” according to research conducted by KAGIDER and PricewaterhouseCoopers, in increased employment and the expansion and formalization of Turkey’s child-care sector, she said.

Under a current law that is also up for amendment, companies are responsible for providing child care if they employ more than 150 women.

“This acts as a disincentive for firms as it increases the relative cost of female workers,” Uysal said. “Maternity leave has a similar effect. We should have paternity leave for fathers as well, which should not be transferable.”

Shared parental leave is becoming increasingly common in Europe, where Sweden and Germany both mandate that at least two months of their generous paid leave be taken by fathers. Workers’ unions and women’s organizations in Turkey – including the women’s branch of Erdogan’s own ruling political party – have lobbied for similar measures since at least 2009, but without success.

Adopting a system of parental leave rather than maternity leave would “work toward equalizing the costs of female and male workers. Moreover, it would help tilt the household division of labor away from a traditional gender-based one,” Uysal told Women’s eNews.

Women in Turkey spend four more hours per day than men engaged in household and caregiving activities, compared to a difference of just over an hour in the Nordic countries, according to the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development’s Better Life Index.

“A traditional gender-based division of labor at home is one of the strongest barriers against female labor force participation,” Uysal said. “We need to acknowledge this and start fighting it.”

Jennifer Hattam is a freelance journalist based in Istanbul, where she writes about environmental, social and urban issues, as well as the arts, culture, and travel.

Turkish Police Use Tear-Gas Against Protesting Mothers , Where is Media ?


Written byRuwayda Mustafah Rabar, Nov 5, 2012, http://globalvoicesonline.org

Kurdish political prisoners have reached their 55th day of hunger strike. There are hundreds of political prisoners on hunger strike in Turkey, and this has led to solidarity protests throughout Europe, and in particular within Turkey. Earlier yesterday [November 4, 2012], the mothers of some of the political prisoners staged a sit-in, and were met with tear-gas, as well as water canisters was sprayed directly on them. Turkish mainstream media and governmental ministers remain oblivious to unfolding anger by Kurdish people, and their disregard for a political settlement of Turkey’s Kurdish question has made the situation worse.

In much of Kurdistan, there has been solidarity protests but despite the attention the hunger strikes have received within Kurdish regions, there are few mainstream media outlets reporting on the hunger strike. The lack of media coverage has angered many Kurds, who are being vocal on social networking sites. Hulya, from Liverpool, says:

@hulyaulas: The biggest political hunger strike in history by Kurdish political prisoners is being ignored in world’s media.

Dirman adds:

@dirman95: It is so hard to eat knowing that the hunger strike has been going on for over 51 days and the world is doing nothing about it… disgusting.

Al Jazeera’s The Stream has been the only internationally acknowledged mainstream outlet that has highlighted the gravity of the hunger strike. They have used their social media outlets to raise awareness. For example they recently tweeted:

@ajstream: Why has the government and Media in Turkey ignored the hunger strikes of 715 Kurdish political prisoners?

An online petition has been launched, with 3,451 supporters so far, that asks the Turkish government to engage in constructive dialogue with the prisoners. Judith Butler from Berkeley comments:

The Turkish government must enter into serious dialogue with these prisoners who now risk their lives to expose the injustice under which they live.

KurdishBlogger.com posted the following picture on Facebook.

Kurds in Slemani, South Kurdistan show solidarity with their Kurdish sisters and brothers (at least 682 inmates) who are on hunger strike in 67 prisons across Turkey.

 

And Tara Fatehi, a Kurdish activist in Australia, expressed her anger at the international community:

Thousands of Kurdish political prisoners have been on hunger strike in Turkey since Sept 12 and the International community remains silent. This is Kurdish hunger for freedom, it is not a new concept. The Kurds have been fighting for rights, peace and freedom for decades. Hannelore Kuchlersaid said it best “Kurdistan is a country taken hostage.” and whilst the international media want you to think this is solely about Abdullah Ocalan and the PKK, it is not. It’s about acquiring basic human rights in their own homeland.

Say ” No” TO ABORTION BAN in Turkey #VAW # Reproductive rights


TO THE POLICIES OF THE PRIME MINISTER AND THE GOVERNMENT OF TURKEY THAT TARGET GENDER EQUALITY, WOMEN’S BODIES, REPRODUCTIVE RIGHTS, AND SEXUALITY, OUR RESPONSE IS A RESOUNDING “NO!”

We demand that the process to ban abortion be ceased IMMEDIATELY!

Banning abortion or further limiting the duration and conditions under which it can be performed;

  • Violates women’s human right to health and life!
  • Violates women’s human right to make decisions about their own sexual and reproductive health and rights!
  • Constitutes yet another manifestation of the conservative politics that does not view women as equal individuals!

Prime Minister Erdogan’s statements in the last week of May 2012 have revealed that plans to ban abortion have been underway for some time now. Experience from the global arena illustrates that this lethal attempt, which has no scientific backing, will not reduce abortion rates; instead it will only lead to unsafe abortions and increase maternal mortality.

ABORTION IS NOT MURDER, BUT BANNING ABORTION IS!

FREELY CHOSEN SAFE ABORTION IS A WOMAN’S RIGHT TO LIFE; IT CANNOT BE RESTRICTED, IT CANNOT BE BANNED!

According to data from the World Health Organization, tens of thousands of women across the world die every year as a result of unsafe abortions. In Turkey, establishing the legal grounds for women to end unwanted pregnancies on demand has contributed to the decrease in maternal mortality, which dropped from 250 to 28 in every 100,000 live births from the 1970s to the mid-2000s. There is no data indicating that abortion is on the rise in Turkey; on the contrary, while 18 pregnancies out of 100 ended in abortion in 1993, this ratio was down to 10 percent in 2008. In an era where 26 countries have taken steps to remove obstacles that hinder access to abortion between 1994 and 2011, efforts to ban or restrict it in Turkey are unacceptable. Restricting the right to access safe abortion services and making them available only when required by medical conditions or instances of rape works to marginalize women’s fundamental bodily and sexual rights, and reduces the enjoyment of this right to circumstances of necessity.

We object to risking women’s rights to health and life by restricting or banning abortion instead of encouraging free, easily accessible, high quality birth control methods. Abortion is not only a freedom of choice, but a vital social right. The right to abortion that is on demand, free-of-charge, accessible, safe, and legal, is also a right to life. Forcing women to take life-threatening risks is nothing short of murder.

THE RIGHT TO SAFE ABORTION IS AN INDIVISIBLE PART OF WOMEN’S RIGHTS TO MAKE DECISIONS ABOUT THEIR BODILY AND REPRODUCTIVE RIGHTS!

Women’s right to sexual and reproductive health includes having control over their own bodies and access to safe abortion; limiting these rights is an open violation of fundamental human rights and women’s human rights. In accordance with its domestic legislation and the international conventions it is party to, Turkey is under obligation to provide adequate, comprehensive, and accessible sexual and reproductive health services. In Turkey, child marriages, forced marriages, women’s murders, rapes, and morality-based repression mechanisms have all become normalized. The responsibility for birth control has been left primarily to women. However, in a country where contraceptives are not easily accessible, withdrawal is the most prevalent form of birth control, female employment rates continue to drop and female poverty is rapidly increasing, restricting or banning women’s right to on demand pregnancy termination is an act of blatant discrimination that will push women to seek unsafe abortions.

WE REJECT THE ATTACKS ON HUMAN RIGHTS THROUGH MILITARIST AND DISCRIMINATORY DISCOURSES AND PRACTICES!

By saying “Every abortion is an Uludere,” PM Erdogan equated women’s enjoyment of their bodily rights with killing people in a bombardment attack. This is a discriminatory and militarist statement that calls to question the human rights of both Kurds and women, whereas the primary responsibility of any state should be to ensure its citizens lead a decent life, and to guarantee equal rights and freedoms to all.

According to Article 16.1.e of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women-to which Turkey is a proud signatory-women have the right to “decide freely and responsibly on the number and spacing of their children.” The current governmental initiative to ban abortion is simply another manifestation of the ongoing misogynist mentality that ignores women’s right to make decisions on matters that concern their bodies, sees women’s primary reason for existence as the continuation of the species, and constructs neoliberal population policies based on women’s bodies.

A decision to ban abortion will constitute an open violation of the right to life for millions of women, and the right to live with dignity for men, women, and children alike.

We, the undersigned organizations, demand that the process initiated to ban abortion and the politics of the Prime Minister and the Government of Turkey that target women’s bodies be ceased IMMEDIATELY!!

Sign the PETITION HERE