Tuesday, June 11, 2013

TURKEY: This is not the way to end Gezi Park protests, warns BDP's Önder

Sırrı Süreyya Önder, a critical figure in the Gezi Park protests who has been present from the beginning of the demonstrations, has slammed June 11's ferocious police assault on Taksim, notably criticizing Istanbul Gov. Hüseyin Avni Mutlu for insulting him. “This is not the way to end even a fight in the neighborhood. These are the mayors of wartime. No peace can come out of these,” Önder, who is also a deputy of the Peace and Democracy Party (BDP), said June 11. In the meantime, Selahattin Demirtaş, the co-chair of the BDP, urged the government to take a more positive stance toward the protests and to try to understand the youth. Önder, who used his own body to prevent earth movers from destroying trees in the early protests in late May, also said the children of at least four deputies from the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) had also joined the protests. Önder criticized the government’s approach in handling the protests. “This is not the language of negotiation. When there is no consciousness of democracy in it, this issue cannot be settled with romantic tweets,” he said, referring to Mutlu’s recent tweets on the beauty of Gezi Park and how he wishes he was there, too. According to Önder, the protests were seen as positive in the first three days, only to be denigrated later on. Önder noted that in the early days of the protests, when he spoken to Mutlu, he had insulted him. “They are saying ‘they were right in the first three days.’ I called the governor in those three days, he insulted me. The governor asked ‘do you have any suggestions for a group of 3-5 rampants.’ I objected to that language, and he replied saying ‘will you be happy if I say a hundred thousand people.’ Do not be fooled by his romantic tweets. This is that kind of a governor. These are the governors of wartime,” Önder said. While affirming that protests should not be attributed to one group, but people from all sorts of backgrounds and opinions were supporting them, he declared that children of some AKP deputies were also present during the protests. “I am announcing it to you. Do not ask for names, I cannot give any, but in the protests, children of at least four AKP deputies were with us.” Önder also suggested that the controversial name of the third bridge, Yavuz Sultan Selim, is a pretext to divert attention from the spoiling of nature in the area. Demirtaş was also hard on the government in his party’s parliamentary group meeting on June 11, emphasizing that Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan was taking the protests personally. “They are acting as if he is the temple of democracy, every slogan chanted at him is an insult to democracy,” Demirtaş said.

POLICE BRUTALITY VIDEO: TURKEY: Wheelchair user targeted by water cannon in Istanbul

A wheechair-user waving a flag was among those directly targeted by water cannon bursts by Turkish riot police in Taksim Square. The police have reacted fiercely to thousands of protesters, who tried to push them out of the landmark Istanbul protest site. A protester confined to a wheelchair was amid a group of protesters apparently moving away from riot police vehicles, when he was hit by a huge burst of water from a police water canon, footage by ITV has shown.

Police use tear gas and enter Taksim Square for second time in day

Riot police once again used tear gas and water cannon at around 8:20 p.m against protesters that had gathered in Istanbul’s Taksim Square. Dozens of riot police were seen surrounding all the roads leading to the square. Some injuries were reported by private broadcaster CNNTürk as ambulances were dispatched to the site. The governor of Istanbul said via Twitter a few minutes after intervention that “marginal groups” had attacked the police who were stationed in front of the Atatürk Cultural Center, by the Taksim Square. “I plead with citizens at the site to separate themselves from this marginal group and abandon the square. It is important that our demand is carried out for everyone’s security,” Hüseyin Avni Mutlu wrote, calling on citizens “not to worry”. Television footage showed a few protesters near the AKM building throwing fireworks at police officers. A van parked to boost cell phone reception was burning dangerously in the middle of the square. Another two fires have also been set in the square, one in front of the Atatürk Cultural Center and the other at the edge of the construction zone for the ongoing controversial pedestrianization project. Call for rally Crowds started to fill the square following a call from the Taksim Solidarity Platform for a rally that started at 7 p.m. following an all-day police intervention in central Istanbul. The platform, an initiative organized to prevent a development project in Istanbul’s Taksim Gezi Park, called on everyone to support the ongoing protest at Gezi Park after the police entered the square at 7:30 a.m. The platform voiced its concerns over the police intervention at Taksim and Gezi Park today, saying that none of the protesters demands had been realized by now, in a statement posted on its Facebook page. The protesters discussed their concerns of police crackdown, while the police had assured them that no intervention was planned unless the protesters tried to hang banners on the Atatürk statue and the AKM cultural center, or throw stones at police officials.

Turkey: Twitter versus Prime Minister Erdoğone

Twitter has come up as the hero out of the massive Taksim protests in Turkey over the last 12 days. The extensive use of social media during the riots is unprecedented. The recent report of the New York University’s Social Media and Political Participation showed that the hashtag #direngezipark had been used in more than 1.8 million tweets just between June 2 to June 3. In comparison, during the entire Egyptian revolution the most popular hashtag #jan25 was used in less than one million tweets. It was not only the Turkish people who used Twitter remarkably. Right after his meeting with Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, Stefan Füle, European Commissioner for Enlargement, “tweeted” that he was disappointed with Erdoğan’s refusal to enter a dialogue with the protestors. The U.S. Embassy in Ankara also released a “Twitter declaration” denying Erdoğan’s recent statement that 17 people had been killed during the Occupy Wall Street protests. That both the EU and U.S. officials responded to Erdoğan via Twitter could be read as a message in itself since Erdoğan described the micro-blogging site as a “troublemaker” upon its mass use during the protests. This statement only reflects the power struggle between the nation state and the individual. Social media has shifted the power balance between these two powers and provided the citizen with an extraordinary power over the state. Conventional media had become the fourth power in addition to the legislative, judicial, and executive branches of governance, and was supposed to balance the state’s power. Yet, eventually it became incorporated into the system. At that moment, the Internet came to the rescue of the individual who needs a tool to challenge the state. As Howard Rheingold, an American author, put very well: Every desktop, hence every individual has become a potential broadcasting station and a place of assembly. Now the Internet and global public opinion are defined as the fifth power. How a nation-state will relate itself to the fifth power will define its status in the 21st century. A state which aims to become a regional or global power cannot achieve its goal by excommunicating the social media which holds the strongest global leverage. This would substantially diminish its connection and communication with the world, therefore its sphere of influence. Furthermore, censoring the internet and interfering with the information flow have become the new form of censorship, in other words, the biggest violation of the right of expression. According to sociologist Zygmunt Bauman, modern communities are becoming “liquid” since old solid structures are being replaced by more fluid objects and spaces. Increasingly mobile and evasive forms of power have emerged out of the state’s control. States need to adjust themselves to this “liquid modernity” and become flexible and transparent by bending their borders and embracing the realities of this new era. Otherwise they might be washed away into the background with this wave of “liquidity.”

Istanbul warzone: Thousands of protesters try to reclaim Taksim Square

Riot police have fired volleys of tear gas as thousands of protesters are trying to reclaim Taksim after being forced out in fierce clashes with law enforcement. Thick smoke is blanketing the square.

Turkish police oust Taksim protesters with tear gas as Erdogan cheers removal of ‘rags’

Pakistan: ''Police, protesters clash during Faisalabad loadshedding protests''

Frustrated with the unannounced loadshedding in the city, residents are protesting in several areas. Protestors caused damage to the FESCO office and additional police was deployed to the area to control the situation. Police used shelling to disperse the protestors who retaliated by pelting stones. Protestors claim that they have to endure 14-16 hours of loadshedding on a daily basis. Protestors have also burnt tyres and blocked several roads of Faisalabad and police have used baton charging to disperse them. After a grid station was attacked, police entered several residences and assaulted individuals.

Suicide blast in Kabul kills 14 at Supreme Court

Kabul police say a suicide car bomber that struck outside the Supreme Court in the Afghan capital has killed at least 14 people and wounded 30. Police spokesman Hashmat Stanikzai says Tuesday's attack was carried out by a bomber in an SUV. He says the attacker specifically targeted buses with court employees as they were leaving after the day's work. The courthouse is on a main road in central Kabul near the U.S. Embassy. It was the second attack in Kabul in as many days.

Growing number of young adults eschewing religion

University of Northern Iowa senior Stef McGraw is a "none." If asked her religious affiliation, that's her short answer. McGraw is an atheist, and as president of UNI Freethinkers and Inquirers, she has seen a growth in the number of members in the secular organization, as well as an increase in positive feedback from the UNI community. "Just in general, we're finding students who are willing to say, 'Yeah I'm an atheist, I support what you're doing' and I think that's really great," McGraw said. In 2012, a Pew Research Center study showed that a third of adults under age 30 are religiously unaffiliated and that the number of American adults identifying as spiritual, agnostic, atheist or unaffiliated rose about 5 percent in the last five years. Father Ken Glaser from St. Stephen the Witness Catholic Student Center and Rabbi Stanley Rosenbaum from Sons of Jacob Synagogue said young adults are not identifying with the church because of a growing individualistic viewpoint. "We're so centered on doing what's best for me that we kind of lose track of the common good and what's best for society, for a community in general," Glaser said. "They're searching for happiness, and our society said it is found in money." Glaser said that while he has not seen a decrease in UNI students attending service at St. Stephen's, he has counterparts who are struggling to keep their young adults in the church. "Our young people feel a disconnect. The Bible was written 2,000 years ago, that's ancient history. So how can something 2,000 years ago relate to me or pertain to me? As an institutional church how do we reach out?" Glaser said. While he's unsure whether the number of Jewish young adults in the Cedar Valley has shifted, Rosenbaum said there are fewer Jewish young adults staying in the Cedar Valley once they go off to college, and that plays a role in the rise of religiously unaffiliated young adults. "With how it's going, you planted seeds, you talk about values and you hope they set in, and once they get out and graduate college, most of them go to the big cities and they don't stick around here," Rosenbaum said. Abdullah Al-Asmari, former president of the UNI Muslim Students Association, said his organization had a slow increase in members from 2011-2013, and has concerns about the rise in secularism. "If you don't have religion, it could make problems in societies, because we see good Christians here do great things, the good Jewish, the good Muslims. But if you don't have religion (it's), 'I can do whatever I want to do,'" he said. Still, it's important to show respect to everyone, even if there are disagreements, he added. From the moment she stepped on campus, Danielle Brunson, a UNI junior, knew she wanted to participate in Christian organizations. She was able to find a couple that met her needs, including UNI Navigators, an interdenominational Christian organization. Since high school, Brunson has seen friends stray away from the church because they struggle to identify with church leadership or maybe had an initial bad experience at a church. "It's something that the people within religious communities are aware of. They know it's happening, they're not pretending it's not happening," Brunson said. "Don't let that one bad experience in one community affect how you perceive all other churches. Be willing to try a few other churches out." Growing up, McGraw said she identified as a Unitarian Universalist but knew that she didn't believe in God. In high school, she identified as an atheist and became active in the secular community once she started at UNI in 2009. McGraw believes young adults are leaving organized religion because of disagreements over lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender rights, women's reproductive rights and a more vocal secular community. "Some people grow up and don't realize it's an option to not believe in a god at all," McGraw said. "We're kind of getting rid of that taboo of being a non-believer."

British report reveals Israel’s arms exports to Pakistan

Report by British government agency reveals that Egypt, Algeria, Pakistan, Morocco and UAE were among clients of Israeli defense industries.Israel has exported security equipment over the past five years to Pakistan and four Arab countries, according to a British government report. The report, which deals with British government permits for arms and security equipment exports, says that in addition to Pakistan, Israel has exported such equipment to Egypt, Algeria, the United Arab Emirates and Morocco.

Turkey protests: Riot police storm Taksim Square

Turkish riot police have moved into Istanbul's Taksim Square, which has been occupied by anti-government protesters for close to two weeks. Officers fired tear gas and rubber bullets, leading many protesters to flee the square into adjoining Gezi Park, where many have been camping. Some activists responded by hurling fireworks, fire bombs and stones at police. The unrest began after a police crackdown on a protest over Gezi Park. The protests then widened, with demonstrators accusing Mr Erdogan's government of becoming increasingly authoritarian and trying to impose conservative Islamic values on a secular state. The move into the square by police comes after Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan agreed to meet the protest organisers on Wednesday. Backed by armoured vehicles, officers wearing helmets and carrying shields gathered around the square early on Tuesday before moving past barricades erected by protesters. They removed protesters' banners which had been hung from a building overlooking the square. Istanbul Governor Huseyin Avni Mutlu said the police had no intention of breaking up the protest in Gezi Park. "Our aim is to remove the signs and pictures on Ataturk statue and the Ataturk Cultural Centre. We have no other aim," he wrote on Twitter. "Gezi Park and Taksim will not be touched." A similar message was broadcast by police via loudspeaker, but protesters in the square said they did not believe this. The BBC's Mark Lowen, who is in the square, says this was a deliberate show of force that may jeopardise Wednesday's talks.

Pakistan: Shortfall rises to 5600 MW, citizens protest

Shortfall of electricity has risen to 5600 MW due to which irritated people are bound to come to streets as a protest against the government which has won the general elections by dint of hyperbolic statements regarding overcoming energy crisis. According to sources, duration of loadshedding in different cities is increasing with the passage of time. Citizens of rural areas are facing outages for 20 hours while urban areas are also in grip of loadshedding for more than 16 hours. In the suburb of Peshawar, citizens of Budhber stopped road for general traffic and rose voice against the government. In the same way, angry citizens in different areas of Swat also protested against loadshedding and called in time action for provision of electricity. Moreover, citizens in different citizens including Sheikhupura, Faisalabad and Sukkur also took out rallies and shouted slogans against the government which has made their lives full of sufferings. It is worth mentioning that energy crisis has become a challenging issue for the country. The PPP-led government had to lose general election due to this issue. And now it has become a challenge for the newly elected government.

No Women Ministry in KP under PTI govt

The Pakistan Tehrik-e-Insaaf (PTI) government in Khyber Pakhtunkhawa is mulling over a controversial plan to merge the Social Welfare and Women Development Ministry with the Zakat and Ushr Ministry, with the slot likely to be given to its coalition partner Jamaat-i-Islami, an official source told Dawn.com. The official announcement is still anticipated in this regard. Given that the party is already facing internal wrangling over the distribution of ministries among its MPAs and a tussle with Jamaat-i-Islami over the issue of Education Ministry, the said move is bound to earn criticism. However, sources said that PTI is under severe pressure from civil society as well as party leaders to retain the women’s ministry. Talking to Dawn.com, PTI’s provincial general secretary and MPA Shaukat Yousafzai said: “No there is no plan to merge the two ministries. The ministers and the portfolios are yet to be decided but we don’t have any such plans.” About the intra-party rifts over distribution of ministries, Shaukat said, all the issues would be resolved by Monday, adding: “We would have a cabinet working soon.”
Civil Society Cries Foul
Meanwhile, the civil society and women rights bodies in KP have termed the re-merger of the Social Welfare and Women Development Ministry with Zakat and Ushr as an injustice to the already deprived womenfolk of the province. Resident Director of the Aurat Foundation KP, Shabeena Ayaz reacting to reports said: “It will be really bad ... women affairs should not be treated as a miniature subject... we even want it separated from social welfare, as there should be a full-fledged women ministry instead of treating women's welfare as a side affair.” She remarked that women in KP were already faced with a host of problems and social injustices and that this decision if implemented, would further multiply their miseries. “I would just suggest, it would be a big injustice with young women voters who had opted to vote for change, there should not only be a separate ministry but it must be headed by a woman minister as well.” The former ANP-PPP coalition government in KP had bifurcated the Ministry of Social Welfare, Women Development and Special Education from Zakat and Ushr Ministry keeping in view the special circumstances wherein women welfare being given special priority. Though being a single department, Zakat and Ushr was looked after by Zarshid Khan while the Social Welfare and Women Ministry was headed by Sitara Ayaz. The Pakistan Tehrik-i-Insaaf did emerge as the largest single party in KP. Hoewever since its intra-party elections, from the nomination of women legislators for reserved seats and even for the slot of Chief Minister and Speaker, there has been infighting among party MPAs, which has been viewed as an immature move on the part of legislators. The dust has not yet settled, and still Chief Minister Pervaiz Khattak is shuttling between Peshawar and Lahore to finalise ministers in consultation with PTI Chairman Imran Khan.
‘Separate Ministry Must’
Requesting anonymity, a female MPA of PTI said that women in the party would raise their voice against any such decision which may undermine women's empowerment. “We can’t compromise on women's rights as we had been taught by party discipline and our chief Imran Khan to strive for the rights of the deprived, women in KP need more support instead of such injustices, we won’t support it,” she remarked. Pakistan Peoples Party Parliamentarians, MPA Nighat Orakzai says she and her party had been fighting in the KP assembly for women's rights on the floor of the house, any decision which would deprive women of their rights need to be countered. She remarked that they had voted for the chief minister, despite not being allies but now there would be zero tolerance from her party on any such movie. “We don’t feel it would be a wise move if the women ministry is again remerged with Zakat and Ushr,we need real empowerment which can be attained once we have a separate women ministry headed by us women,” she said. An official of the Social Welfare Department told that though there were separate ministries for Women Welfare and Zakat and Ushr in the last government but its one department and headed by one administrative secretary so the only reason, they might be considering it one as that the PTI’s government in KP wanted to cut down the ministries from 25 to 15. Another official source disclosed that the KP government would have an advisor on women affairs instead of a Women Minister which is also viewed discriminatory by the civil society.
Hijacking Women’s Rights
Another reason for civil society concerns about the merger of Women Ministry with Zakat and Ushar is that the Jamaat-i-Islami would be the in-charge of women affairs. The JI had a number of reservations on recent legislation regarding women affairs in KP. The KP chief of Shirkat Gah, another civil society organisation, involved in women related legislation and their welfare, Saira Bano says bringing two entirely different nature of ministries together would put women related issues on the back burner. “Our concern is, it would be a big disaster and the legislation done for women empowerment in the past few years would be doomed, women affairs have to be treated not merely as a charity but it must be a priority issue for us,” she added. “Women status in KP is a focus area for the world because of the peculiar environment and militancy, and if we are not having a separate ministry for Women Welfare, we would be again heading for trouble as many of those who had opposed women voting during 2013 elections would again be making decisions on their fate,” she remarked. The former chairperson of the Provincial Commission on Status of Women, Zubaida Khatoon remarks administratively, the decision might benefit the government financially but there should be a separate ministry which is direly needed. “There had been a lot of good work done for women empowerment but still, a lot has to be done as we have not achieved the goal of real women empowerment,” she said, adding “I would strongly a separate women ministry but only if its headed by a women minister, especially after the 18th amendment, much has to be done in the province to emancipate the women who are suffering.”

A dictionary of Pashto idioms

The Pakhto Adabi Board recently accomplished the commendable task of compiling a prototype of a dictionary of Pashto phrases and idioms. Titled Sailab, it contains phrases and idioms starting with the first four letters of the Pashto script. Earlier, the board had put together a dictionary of Pashto words, titled Daryab. The Pashto language is rich in proverbs, idioms and riddles and classical poets have made effective use of it in their poetry which is why even today Pakhtuns fondly remember and repeat old couplets and proverbs. Major George Waters Gilbertson was the first Orientalist scholar to compile Pashto phrases and idioms in The Pakkhto Idiom: A Dictionary in 1932. But this work was fragmentary and unscientific. While Pakhtun linguists’ efforts in this regard are worthy of appreciation, a comprehensive and scientific dictionary of phrases and idioms in the Pashto language is still the need of the hour. The brainchild of Sahibzada Imtiaz, the former chief secretary of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, work on the prototype dictionary project of Pashto phrases and idioms is being carried out by noted scholar Professor Dawar Khan Daud on the pattern of Daryab. It is being supervised by Azam Khan, the chairman of the Pakhto Adabi Board. So far, only the first volume has been published which contains Pashto phrases and idioms starting with the first four letters of the Pashto script. Work on 16 other letters has also been completed but is awaiting a green signal from the linguists and research scholars who are reviewing it. It will then be compiled into a full-length dictionary. Suggestions by Afghan Pakhtun scholars and those in Balochistan and Fata will also be accommodated to ensure the dictionary’s validity and authenticity and so that Pakhtun readers belonging to any Pakhtun tribe may benefit from this comprehensive dictionary. This maiden volume contains more than 2,000 Pashto phrases and idioms. Different sources including classical Pashto poetry and English, Urdu and Persian dictionaries with complete etymology have been used.