Tuesday, December 30, 2014
A prominent Turkish female anchorwoman and journalist has been arrested for criticizing the country’s dropping of a controversial corruption investigation involving key allies of the government.
The arrest of Sedef Kabas on Tuesday came after she made remarks on Twitter about the dismissal of the corruption probe, which was launched late last year.
Kabas was detained after police raided her house in Istanbul. She faces charges of "targeting people who are involved in anti-terror operations" after the prosecutors involved in the recent decision filed a complaint against her.
"Do not forget the name of the prosecutor who dismissed the December 17 case," the journalist had written earlier on Twitter, in addition to providing the name and a photograph of the prosecutor.
Earlier this month, a Turkish prosecutor formally dropped all charges against government officials involved in the largest corruption and bribery investigation in the history of the country.
Back in October, prosecutors dropped the case against 53 people, including sons of former ministers.
On December 17, 2013, dozens of government officials and prominent businessmen close to Recep Tayyip Erdogan, then prime minister and current president, were arrested on graft charges.
Days later, Erdogan announced a major cabinet reshuffle, replacing 10 ministers, including the economy, interior, and environment ministers, who had resigned from their posts after their sons were arrested in the scandal.
By - BILL NEELYThis was the year of the unthinkable. American, Iranian and Syrian warplanes in the same airspace, bombing a common enemy — an enemy that used U.S.-supplied tanks and guns to overrun a Middle Eastern army and take a major city in a matter of days. This was the year ISIS burst into life as the region's most feared killing machine and rubbed out borders that were drawn a century ago. It was the year the Arab Spring finally died in the Middle East's most populous country. A year of turmoil, when Israel crushed Gaza and Iraq's national army was exposed as a corrupt shell. A year of horror, when beheadings posted online haunted the imagination of millions, when American, British and other hostages endured unimaginable suffering. In this season of reflection when we assess the year gone by, few would argue that the Middle East is a better place today than it was a year ago. In fact, 2014 has been among its worst years, so deadly that few of its countries have escaped turmoil. To highlight Syria might appear to state the obvious. But the statistics from there are numbing, each one a life lost or destroyed. It's not simply the 200,000-plus dead — a conservative figure compiled by the British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights and undisputed by the United Nations. Half the population of a country that prided itself as the beating heart of the Arab world have now fled their land or their homes. It's a biblical exodus and the worst refugee crisis the modern world has known. The U.N. can't feed the millions it wants to. It is not just Syria that is in chaos. This was year when U.S. Army Special Forces landed in Iraq to halt a genocide, and American warplanes returned to Iraq's skies three years after U.S. combat troops left. The year ends with President Barack Obama reviewing a military strategy that may have stopped the rapid advance of ISIS but has failed to destroy it. There is no question that the year's most stunning development was the ISIS takeover of Iraq's second largest city Mosul in June, an attack so rapid it met with almost no resistance. In the post-mortem, it became clear that while Iraq's army existed on paper, in the field it was a ghost army, tens of thousands of whose soldiers were drawing salaries but not fighting, their weapons and equipment long since sold off in corrupt deals. Nearly 5,000 Western military "trainers" have been ordered to Iraq, most of them American. Combat troops may not be returning, but make no mistake, these are American boots on the ground in Iraq once again. Foreign fighters, including Americans and hundreds of Europeans, are flocking to join ISIS, a group so attractive to militants that it has reduced al Qaeda and its leader Ayman al Zawahiri to near irrelevance. An astonishing alliance is developing between old enemies. It would be pushing the rapprochement between the United States and Iran too far to call it a full alliance, but their shared interest in defeating ISIS, in keeping Iraq together, and in a nuclear deal acceptable to most, means they have more in common than at any time since the Iranian revolution. Whether this develops into a broader deal that would reorder the Middle East is a question for 2015. After all, Saudi Arabia and Israel are desperate to keep Iran's ayatollahs in check. In a region where solutions are in scarce supply, the gambit to involve Iran may prove productive. This was the year that exposed the limits of U.S. and Western influence. Libya had been hailed as a success story after allied air power helped topple dictator Moammar Gadhafi in 2011. European leaders flew in to proclaim a new dawn. This year, Libya's government was driven out of the capital Tripoli by rebels. It is now sheltering in the city of Tobruk, watching the country fall apart into the tribal regions Gadhafi united during his four-decade rule. Next door, the strongman and former head of Egypt's armed forces Abdel Fattah el-Sissi is ensuring nothing of the kind happens in his country. The man who graduated from the U.S. Army War College in Pennsylvania just eight years ago is now a powerful president who this year killed off Egypt's Arab Spring. The last nail in its coffin was the November acquittal of former President Hosni Mubarak of conspiracy to kill hundreds of protesters in the 2011 revolution. Only in Tunisia, where the Arab uprisings began, does a remnant of the freedom and change the revolutions promised remain. Elsewhere old faces and old disputes dominate. In Syria, President Bashar Assad was re-elected, his forces now appear poised to retake the second city, Aleppo. In Israel, Benjamin Netanyahu is gambling on re-election as prime minister in March after Israel's military attack on Gaza, which killed more than 2,000 Palestinians. Israel won the battle against Hamas, which rules the enclave, but in 2014 it lost the argument in the eyes of much of the world. Accusations that Israel is engaged in collective punished of Palestinians, and the continued construction of Jewish settlements on Palestinian land, has put it under intense international pressure. At the same time, the Palestinian dream of statehood has moved closer this year, with more than 130 countries or parliaments voting to recognize it as a state. It's a bandwagon that has a long way to roll. Israel is feeling isolated and misunderstood, its very existence under threat in a deadly neighborhood. Powerful figures, led by the Netanyahu, are pushing for a law to make Israel a Jewish state, a move critics say will codify Arab-Israelis' status as second-class citizens. Israel bombed Syria, Iran bombed Iraq — so did Jordan and some Gulf States — and the U.S. bombed both Syria and Iraq. Libya joined the ranks of failed states, while Yemen edged close to them. A third Palestinian Intifada, or uprising, threatens in Israel. And hundreds die every day in a brutal war with ISIS. So the great battles between Shiite and Sunni Islam, radical Islamism and the West, Israel and the rest, remain unresolved, leaving few grounds for optimism in the region in 2015. For its part, the U.S. will struggle to maintain its influence while trying not be drawn deeper into bloody regional conflicts. And all the while, hardliners from Tehran to Saudi Arabia to Jerusalem will be watching the changing battlefields of the world's most volatile region.
Over 40 bodies have been recovered from the missing AirAsia flight, the Indonesian Navy said. Objects resembling parts of the plane, as well as what was thought to be the plane’s outline underwater, were seen in the search area.
“There was a man swaying on the waves. After I looked at the photo carefully on my laptop, I understood it was a human body,” a lieutenant of the Indonesian Air Force told local media.
The bodies so far found have been brought to an Indonesian Navy ship, National Search and Rescue Director Supriyadi told. The corpses were swollen, but intact, and did not have life jackets on, he said, as cited by AP.
Several family members of missing passengers burst into tears or fainted when they saw footage of bodies floating in the water.
It comes after objects that resemble an emergency slide, plane door, and a square box-like item have been spotted 10km from the last position of the missing AirAsia jet, according to Indonesian authorities.
“We spotted about 10 big objects and many more small white-colored objects which we could not photograph,” Indonesian Air Force official Agus Dwi Putranto said at a press conference.
An AFP photographer from the same search flight said he had observed objects in the sea resembling a life raft, life jackets and long orange tubes.
Indonesian officials have expressed concern over the currents in the sea, saying if bad weather persists, debris could be spread before crews get to it.
Airforce soldiers onboard a Hercules C130 stand monitor the Belitung Timur sea during search operations for AirAsia flight QZ8501 near Belitung island (Reuters / Wahyu Putro)
The sea depth where the debris was found is between 25 and 30 meters, so divers will be used in the recovery operation, Indonesian search and rescue agency BASARNAS stated.
At least 20 divers are preparing and will be deployed to the site immediately, Indonesia’s search and rescue chief stated.
An Airbus A320-200 carrying 162 people and operated by Indonesia AirAsia disappeared in poor weather on Sunday morning during a flight from the Indonesian city of Surabaya to Singapore.
"Hopefully we will find something definite because I haven't received anything else," an Air Force official told MetroTV referring to the reported debris. "Other aircraft are still carrying out searches."
Currently, at least 30 vessels, 15 planes, and seven choppers are looking for the AirAsia jet, Indonesian officials have stated.
Most of the search is conducted by Indonesia, but Singapore, Malaysia and Australia are taking part as well.
Thailand is planning to join the search, while the US has sent a warship to help.
Mian manzoor Ahmad Wattoo has expressed deep condolences on behalf of the PPP and on his behalf over the loss of precious lives as a result of fire in a Plaza located in Anarkali area of the provincial capital. He prayed for the eternal peace for the departed souls and fortitude for the bereaved families to bear the irreparable loss.
He demanded of the government to immediately conduct the survey of all plazas located in urban areas with a view to ascertain the installation of arrangements to cope with the anticipated emergency situation like fire or collapse of such constructions.
He observed that most of the plazas in urban areas were death trap because the construction grossly lacked the arrangements of fire extinguishing and fire exists adding the authorities looked the other way and had not taken the notice of such glaring violations of commercial and residential buildings ‘ constructions.
He added that if the government now exhibited a degree of complacency after this accident then it would be deemed as a criminal negligence and therefore unpardonable.
Pakistan has been carrying out a military offensive in its restive northwest to root out Islamist militants since June. Civilians have been caught in the crossfire, as Catherine James reports from Khost, Afghanistan.
When Pakistan warned the residents of North Waziristan Agency that the military was launching a strike to clear their region of militants, few imagined that seven months later they would still be homeless.
Ahmaddudin, a shepherd from North Waziristan, fled across the nearby border into Afghanistan with his four siblings and parents, along with more than 200,000 other people, to avoid the ensuing violence. They took nothing with them, believing they would return within a week.
Now, Ahmaddudin's family says it could be three years before they return home.
"We thought we would be here two or three days and then return back. But the papers we have received [from organizations supporting refugees] say 'we will help you for three years,'" Ahktar Jan, Ahmaddudin's father, says from his tent in Gulan refugee camp, a makeshift camp in Afghanistan's eastern Khost province.
The family decided to reclaim the flock of sheep they left behind, but the attempt almost killed Ahmaddudin, 23, when he was caught in an airstrike by the Pakistani air force.
"I was afraid to go because the bombing was continuing and the army was still fighting," Ahmaddudin says. "But I had to get the sheep."
Knocked out by the blast, Ahmaddudin was left in a field for more than three hours before it was safe enough for his cousin, Zarim Khan, to collect him.
"I didn't know if he was alive or dead. I thought maybe he was dead because the bombing was so strong," Zarim Khan says. "I was very afraid [retrieving him from the field]. But we are Pashtuns - it doesn't matter even if there are bombs, I must bring him back."
Refugee camp in a minefield
With shattered bones and shredded muscles in the left side of his body, Ahmaddudin faces a long recovery through winter in the camp - which is also a minefield.
Halo Trust began demining the area in July - almost a month after the refugees began squatting there, not knowing that the area had been heavily mined from 1984 to 1989 during the war with the Soviet Union.
Four months later, the official count of unexploded ordinances uncovered by the deminers was already 156.
"We have found a total of 121 anti-personnel mines and 10 anti-vehicle mines, 25 cluster munitions in the camp and the surrounding hills up to the end of November," a spokesperson for the organization told DW in an email.
Despite the danger, families in Golan camp move about heedlessly, crossing upturned land at the same time as the deminers work on scanning it.
Noor al-Khoda, a senior deminer responsible for overseeing the progress at Gulan, says he has warned people of the risks but they continue to walk where they want.
"One of the anti-tank mines was found when a family was preparing the ground to set up their tent," he says, showing pictures of the tent and the round circular lid of a mine poking out from the smoothed earth.
The organization is working as quickly as possible to ensure the total area is given the all-clear, but expects with more than half the designated area at risk remaining, it will only finish the task by the end of May.
The total area cleared up to the end of November was 531,120 square meters - another 722,071 square meters remain.
"The influx of refugees continues and every day at least 100 new families are crossing the border to Afghanistan from Northern Waziristan, so clearance is a top humanitarian priority," Halo's spokesperson told DW last week.
At least 2,100 children under the age of 11 live in Golan camp, according to the Norwegian Refugee Council, which runs makeshift schools there. That is the number registered to attend classes - conducted in rudimentary tents set up in five locations around the camp. Around 800 of those in attendance are girls.
Around 800 girls are among the 2,100 students attending classes with materials provided by the Norwegian Refugee Council
The NRC is building more permanent structures for the classrooms as a way of encouraging the children to attend the classes, especially during the winter months.
Getting by with basics
Indeed, "winter-proofing" the camp is the top priority for the groups involved in meeting the humanitarian demands. Not only do the 3,500 families need the basics of food, fuel, and heating, but medical assistance is sorely hard to come by.
Only one small clinic has been set up at the camp, run by a national NGO, Afghanistan Center for Training and Development. The doctors can only address basic ailments, sending the more serious cases to local hospitals in Khost province - or further afield, as in the case of Ahmaddudin who was sent to Peshawar.
Dr Naeem Lakawal, working at the clinic, says the most common complaints people come for are psychological: stress, anxiety, sleeplessness, depression.
"We don't give treatment to psychiatric patients," he says, between treating barefoot children at the clinic. The more serious patients - many who have experienced considerable trauma and stress - are referred to the local district clinic if they desire, at the very least, medication, he adds.
Anecdotally, hundreds of refugees opt not to go to the doctor even for fairly pressing needs, such as pregnancy. Around 80 women gave birth in the camp in October alone. Had they gone to the clinic, they would have been referred to the Khost hospital, Dr Lakawal says.
One such baby is Samidullah, whose mother gave birth to him in September, about two months after arriving in the camp with her three other children, all under the age of four. His father is still in Pakistan.
Samidullah's mother gave birth without assistance from a doctor or midwife as no females with expertise were available
How much longer Samidullah and his family will live in the camp is unclear. The Pakistan military has been deliberately vague about the Waziristan "clearing operation" that began June 15 after years of pressure from the international community to do more to reign in the Taliban and militants based in the semi-autonomous region.
Apart from those in Golan camp, a further 220,000 are estimated to have crossed into Khost province. Most of these people are living in local communities, with whom they share language and culture. The United Nations Human Rights Commission (UNHCR), which oversees Golan camp, has pointed to this as at least one positive coming out of the massive displacement, since living in local communities is better for people who have fled their homes.