Friday, December 25, 2015

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Turkey - Hürriyet editor-in-chief faces five years in prison for ‘insulting president’

A lawsuit has been opened against Hürriyet Editor-in-Chief Sedat Ergin with a demand that the journalist serve five years in prison for “insulting president” due to a report in the daily.

The indictment from prosecutor İdris Kurt said Hürriyet insulted President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan by paraphrasing his Sept. 6 remarks about an attack by the outlawedKurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) in Dağlıca on the Iraqi border that killed 16 Turkish soldiers. 

The prosecutor demanded up to five years and four months in jail for Ergin. The journalist’s file has been merged with a lawsuit opened into daily Zaman’s former editor-in-chief, Ekrem Dumanlı, on the same charges over the newspaper’s reporting about the same speech by Erdoğan. 

The indictment said Hürriyet and Zaman published “unreal, offending, and ill-intentioned” reports over Erdoğan’s remarks about the Dağlıca incident.

The indictment also said the reports should not be regarded within the right to freedom of speech. 

Late on Sept. 7, Hürriyet’s Istanbul headquarters was attacked by more than 150 pro-government protesters.

The group attacked security personnel at the outer gate of Hürriyet’s office in the city’s Bağcılar district before forcing their way to the door, which they pelted with stones. 

Protesters, who chanted pro-government slogans, retreated when a police unit arrived at the scene.

‘ISIS might become Frankenstein for Turkey’

A monster in the form of ISIS, which Ankara allegedly hoped to nourish, might wind up consuming Turkey, as it happened to the US on 9/11 after supported the Mujahedeen against the Kabul regime, says author and historian Gerald Horne.
RT: More and more reports are appearing about Turkey's alleged links to Islamic State. What do you make of these claims?
Gerald Horne: I’ll warn Ankara about the story of the Frankenstein’s monster - that is to say that it would be quite easy and simple for this monster that Turkey has hoped to create and to nourish in the form of so-called Islamic State might wind up consuming Turkey itself not to mention President [Recep Tayyip] Erdogan personally. I might remind Turkey about what happened to the US in the 1980’s in Afghanistan, when the US shared a trench with the so-called freedom fighters - the Mujahedeen -against the Kabul based regime, and then on September 11, 2001 that strategy backfired when their former allies attacked New York and Washington. Turkey is now treading a similar path.
RT: In your opinion what could be done to secure the Turkish border with Syria and Iraq?
GH: I would remind Ankara as well that just recently the Arab League castigated Turkey because of its apparent violation of Iraqi sovereignty. It is also clear that the ultimate solution to the liquidation of the so-called Islamic State involves further aid and assistance to the Kurdish population. That is to say the Kurdish population in Syria, the Kurdish population in Iraq and I might also say that Kurdish population in Turkey as well. The problem there is that Turkey, that is to say President Erdogan himself sees the squashing of the Kurds in south eastern Turkey is being one of the top priorities of his regime. This inevitably brings them into conflict not only with Damascus, but ultimately it would bring him into conflict with Washington as well, which now has sent signals that it is willing to ally with the Kurds. 
RT: The Arab League has condemned Turkey's intervention in Iraq. Can they do anything else to put pressure on Turkey to withdraw?
GH: The Arab League has not been an exactly ferocious organization in terms of defending its prerogatives. Also the Arab League tends to be dominated by Sunni-based regimes, such as those in Saudi Arabia in particular. But the fact that such an organization has now condemned Turkey should be a warning sign to Ankara that it needs to revise its one-headed policy.
Speaking about pressure the Arab League could put on Ankara to withdraw its military forces from Iraq, Professor of Political Sciences at Cairo University Maged Botros, said the Gulf States could use economic tools.
“The only pressure they can do is some sort of economic sanctions. They can pressure it because Turkey is involved with the Gulf States, with the long-term contracts over the supply of Turkish products, as well as oil transactions. So the only leverage the Gulf has, which is the main partner with Turkey is the leverage of economic tools, not diplomatic.”

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6.2 magnitude quake rocks northern Afghanistan, strong tremors felt in India & Pakistan

A powerful earthquake of magnitude 6.2 struck northern Afghanistan on Friday near the border with Tajikistan, the U.S. Geological Survey said.
It said the quake, initially reported as magnitude 6.4, was at a depth of 126.5 miles (203 km) and centered 51 miles (82 km) southeast of the town of Feyzabad in the mountainous border area. It struck at 11:14 p.m. (1914 GMT).
A magnitude 6.2 quake is considered strong and can cause severe damage.

The quake was felt in the Afghan capital Kabul and the Pakistani capital Islamabad but there were no immediate reports of casualties.

Prominent Saudi Journalist Accuses Kingdom of Promoting Jihad

The former editor of two Saudi government newspapers harshly criticized the Saudi Arabian government for promoting extremism and allowing Saudi youth to become “criminal murderers in the ranks of ISIS.”

In a two-part article published in the Saudi government daily Al-Watan and translated by MEMRI, journalist Qenan Al-Ghamdi, the former editor of Al-Watan and of the government daily Al-Sharq, wrote that extremism is present in every mosque and school in Saudi Arabia. He also slammed the Saudi government for not enacting any laws criminalizing the promotion of terrorist ideology.
Al-Ghamdi writes that Saudi Arabia contributes the highest number of its youth to terrorism all over the world. He also notes that school children are so indoctrinated with fanaticism by their “illiterate mothers and grandmothers” that they accuse their peers of heresy for watching movies.
“Our sons are still marching en masse to become cannon fodder in civil wars and [to serve as] criminal murderers in the ranks of ISIS in every war or terrorist crime around the world. [Saudi youths] form the majority in every arena of so-called jihad. The wellsprings of extremism and fanaticism still [exist] everywhere in our country, to the extent that some boys and girls in our schools accuse other boys and girls of heresy or of straying from the right path just for mentioning some pictures [they liked] or some movies they saw.”
He also says that Saudis have become obsessed with trivial matters relating to Muslim modesty such as how one dresses, if a man shaves his beard, or if a woman styles her eyebrows.
He notes that despite the fact that Saudi Arabia “maintains amicable ties with all the world’s countries, excluding the aggressive Zionist Israel,” the country has still not found a logical and intellectual reason to criminalize fanaticism.

Do Not Ignore Saudi Arabia’s Islamic Military Alliance

When the Saudi deputy crown prince and relatively inexperienced defense minister, Mohammed bin Salman, announced a military alliance on December 15 to fight the “disease” of terrorism that has “damaged the Islamic world,” the global response was underwhelming at best. At worst, the world treated this new coalition with scorn and ridicule.
One observer determined that the 34-member, Saudi-led alliance of Islamic nation states “makes little sense.” Another bluntly called it a “joke [that] doesn’t need a punchline.”
“[T]here are many reasons to doubt how effective the [coalition] plan will be,” noted the New York Times. Many other commentators questioned the “seriousness” of the newly-formed Islamic federation.
As important as it is to not overestimate the current reality of this coalition, it is also critical to not undervalue its future potential.

Alliance? What Alliance?

Islamic State terrorists, ostensibly the chief targets of the alliance, threatened to fight back: “With permission from Allah, this alliance will be the beginning of the collapse of the governments of the oppressive tyrants in the lands of Islam.” The Islamic State called those nation states “morons and fools” in an article titled “Mohammed bin Salman’s Alliance of Surprised Allies.”
The alliance members include Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, the Palestinians, Yemen, the United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Kuwait, Bahrain, Libya, Morocco, Tunisia, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Malaysia, Maldives, Somalia, Sudan, Mauritania, Guinea, Ivory Coast, Mali, Niger, Nigeria, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Chad, Comoros, Djibouti, Gabon, Benin and Togo.
At least three of those nation states—Pakistan, Lebanon and Malaysia—were indeed surprised that they were included in the alliance.
But other nations of more significance welcomed the Saudi-led alliance. Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu said the military union was the “best response to those who are trying to associate terror and Islam.” Representing the only NATOmember in the alliance, Davutoğlu believes that “this effort by Muslim countries is astep in the right direction.”

How Islamic?

Saudi Arabia’s Islamic military alliance has also been ridiculed for its inclusion of countries that do not have majority Muslim populations: Countries like Gabon, Benin and Togo.
However, these nations are members of the Saudi-headquartered Organization of Islamic Cooperation. The populations of their Muslim minorities are significantly high.
This fact takes on greater significance if we consider the viewpoint of some analysts: The Middle East can only be solved by Muslim solutions.
That viewpoint is informed by the rationale that a Muslim-versus-Muslim clash—which a Saudi-led Islamic intervention would create—would not incite apocalyptic jihadists with the same extremism that a West-versus-Muslim clash would. The latter “solution,” the analysts believe, would violently inflame those apocalyptic extremists who, from their interpretations of the Quran, already anticipate an epic clash of civilizations—one pitting Muslims against essentially everyone else.
This viewpoint adds more significance (and even legitimacy) to Saudi Arabia’s Islamic military alliance.
Besides, whether apocalyptic or not, the Muslim world has typically responded to Western intervention in the Middle East with a furious determination to humiliate foreign “invaders.”
Just notice Iraq and Afghanistan!

Who Is the Real Target?

Another source of criticism for this Islamic alliance is the exclusion of nations such as Iran, Iraq, Algeria, Oman, Afghanistan and Indonesia. Not including Shiite Iran, Iraq and Algeria, in particular, proves that Saudi Arabia’s coalition is less of an Islamiccoalition and more of a Sunni alliance. (The Saudis are mostly Sunni Muslims.)
Saudi Arabia, while indeed wary of the Sunni Islamic State, has sponsored Sunni terrorist groups, including the Islamic State. For the Saudis, such support has been expedient for countering its own Shiite minority as well as challenging the region’s Shiite powerhouse: Iran.
The Saudis thus recognize Iran as the biggest existential threat in the Middle East, if not the whole world. As Shikha Dalmia wrote for The Week, “Saudi Arabia largelytolerates ISIS terror, because unlike the U.S., it has other bigger worries.” Bruce Riedel, a former CIA analyst, wrote, “For Riyadh, the battle against Iran is as important as the battle against al Qaeda and Islamic State—perhaps even more important.”
The West would do well to grasp this perspective.

Where the Alliance Is Leading

“Perhaps the most damning criticism of the alliance,” wrote the Washington Post, “is just how vague it is.” Prince Salman said the focus of this new alliance will not just be the Islamic State but “any terrorist organization that appears in front of us.” “[N]othing is off the table,” explained Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir.
However, how vague this coalition is makes it especially significant. This alliance willnot dissipate after it has fulfilled its specific purpose because it doesn’t have one! Instead, this Arab grouping will grow and morph into a different kind of alliance.
Consider the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, the Arab League, the Muslim World League, the Gulf Cooperation Council or the Saudi-led coalition in Yemen. The Arab world has been trying to develop effective military alliances since the 1940s, and one alliance has often led to another.
The Washington Post added: “[W]hile this new alliance may appear to target terrorism, it’s not hard to see it as an extension of the Saudi-led coalition currently fighting in Yemen.”
Could this new alliance became something else in the future?
More and more, problems are compelling nations to forge alliances in order to confront foes, which otherwise would have been insurmountable. It’s a trend we can expect to continue—a trend that will be shaped by the past, present and future of the Middle East.
This is where Bible prophecy powerfully informs our understanding of these alliances. As the Trumpet has discussed for more than 20 years, a prophetically significant coalition of Arab nations will emerge in the Middle East. A prophecy in Psalm 83 shows that that alliance will comprise 10 nation states—not 34! It explicitly includesSaudi Arabia, Turkey, Syria, Jordan, Lebanon, the Palestinians and Germany, and it just as plainly excludes Iran, Iraq, Egypt, Libya and Ethiopia. (Request our free booklet of The King of the South to understand the specific details of this alliance.)
This prophecy indicates “a massive shift in alliances among the nations of the Middle East,” as Trumpet editor in chief Gerald Flurry wrote in his article “How the Syrian Crisis Will End.” Much of that prophesied realignment of Middle Eastern nations has already happened. Of those changes soon to occur, the most significant will transpire in Syria and Egypt—since Syria will be allied with the Saudis and Egypt will not.
As The King of the South shows, even the purpose of that alliance will change somewhat from what we see today.
Today’s Saudi-led Islamic military alliance is just one step closer to the Psalm 83 alliance


In her latest interview on al-Jazeera English, Italian Journalist from Palestinian origin, Rola Jibril asked the Saudi General Anwar 'Eshki: "Why does ISIL in Raqqa teach Saudi curricula?" but she tended to answer instead of him: "Because you match with ISIL more than any other groups in the region."
Same curricula have been slammed by Director of Gulf Affairs Institute in Washington, Ali Ahmad, in a televised interview. He described them as: "Full of bold expressions that consider most of the Muslims as infidels, create enmity and fight the other... they are Takfiri sectarian mobilizing curricula that make the student think as if we are living a war with the other Muslim and the other citizen," ...with the Muslim "who doesn't follow Wahabism as an interpretation for Islam, as well as the Christian, Jew and other different persons."
Under the "Major polytheism," Saudi curricula exclude entire Islamic groups from Islam, such as Sufism, Imamate, Ismailism and Mu'tazila. All of this is mentioned boldly in the education curricula. The book of "Tawhid" for the third secondary class of the scholastic year (2006-2007) considers that "what is blatant infidelity, is roaming around the tombs to approach those buried inside, offering sacrifices and vows for them, and praying for them seeking their help, or the sayings of the exaggerators of Jahmi and Mu'tazila"... or such as the Batiniyya doctrine and philosophers, according to the course of the third secondary class (2013-2014) page 33. Takfir reaches the followers of the divine religions as well.
The expression of (blatant infidelity) is common in the language of the Saudi curricula, as a jurisdictional judgment that raises the sense of responsibility among students towards the beliefs of others. This sense holds them a duty to (repudiate), which obliges them to conduct what replaces the blatant infidelity with the honest belief, which legalizes destruction and killings, since infidelity and faith couldn't coexist.
In other words, the (blatant infidelity) is provocation to kill on which the very small kid is raised in Saudi Arabia, until he becomes able to press the destructive button to detonate an explosion.
"A human would either be originally infidel such as Jews, Christians and idolatrous... and considering them infidel is a duty, and he who doesn't consider them infidel or doubt their fidelity is also infidel," this is how the "Tawhid" course of the third secondary class of the scholastic year (2013-2014) page 30 considers all other religions and sects as non-Muslims, after considering all other non-Wahabi Muslim groups as committing major infidelity which provides considering them infidel and legalizing their killing.
Director of Religious Freedom Center in Freedom House, Nina Shea, said: "We are worried because their curricula call for intolerance with other religions and cultures including the other Islamic doctrines and interpretations," those curricula are still "full of thoughts of hatred against Christians, Jews and other Muslims, starting from the first elementary class' curriculum to reach the twelfth year with more violent language."
In an article entitled "Schools Funded by Saudi Arabia Teach Religious Hatred", Caroline Davis and Gray Baton wrote on February 6 of 2007 for the "Daily Telegraph" on the schools based in the United Kingdom. Citing "Professor of English in the King Fahed's Academy in Acton, West London, Collin Kook, 62 years: the scholastic books used by students at the academy describe Jews as "misshapen" monkeys, and the Christians as "pigs". According to him, students were asked to "mention some of the characteristics of misshaping Jews."
In the same article, "American Rights Group Freedom House highlighted some scholastic books in its report of 2006, in which it described (the Saudi curricula of hatred) quoting some book that orients students to announce fighting against infidels to spread the belief."
Such texts explain how 19 Saudis would participate in the September 11 attacks of 2001 which targeted civilians, in addition to many other crimes committed in the Muslim world by the Takfiris against non-Muslim minorities just like the crimes that slaughtered Muslims.
Also under the title of "loyalty and repudiation", in the course of "Tawhid" for the third secondary class of the year (2013-2014) page 107, it is allowed to be loyal to "the infidels" only in the cases of fear, obligation, weakness and force, while keeping hatred and hiding it.
As such points stress the idea of keeping animosity against the infidels (the Muslims who are judged as infidels, Christians and Jews who follow divine religions), this allows the ruler or the king to deal with them and make agreements under the banner of interest, to find an exit for a crisis that has always been in front of the Saudi kings in justifying their relations with the Western regimes.
The same course in page 108 mentions: "It is thought that getting engaged in pacts with infidels is prohibited and it is considered as surrendering to those who oppressed, which provides excluding them from Islam. This speech is not ultimate as the ruler of Muslims would find an agreement with the infidels in some situations and times serving the interests of Muslims or protecting them from something evil. This agreement would also include a sort of compromise or disgrace towards Muslims, but it serves a bigger interest or deters a bigger corruption."
With this opinion, Saudi rulers faced the criticism they were subject to as they allowed French forces to bomb Mecca and confront the movement of Juhayman al-Otaybi in 1979. They also came with the same opinion when the as-Sahwa movement in the Kingdom rejected the Saudi alliance with the United States in the second Gulf war in 1991, or even when criticizing the Saudi role in the American invasion of Iraq in 2003.

Obeying the Ruler

Saudi curriculaAs Saudi curricula unleash the thought of considering Muslims and non-Muslims as infidels, it keeps what allows it to manage Takfirism and control it. Here the secret hides in the title of "Obeying the Ruler" who must be "offered the pledge of loyalty and agreed upon."
In the book of "Tawhid" for the third secondary class (2013-2014), page 99 says that obeying the ruler is "one of the greatest religious duties in which religion doesn't stand without." Hence, it stresses that "it is prohibited not to obey the ruler and to argue him even if he was committing injustice, oppression or sin,"... "Because this disobedience would lead to riot, corruption, evil and imbalance of security and bloodshed," considering the ruler as sacred even if he was tyrant is provided by the Saudi curricula at a time when they consider Muslims, who consider the saints as sacred whether they were alive or dead, as infidels.
In his early years of education, the Saudi kid learns terms like: heresies, atheism and monotheism. However, in his last years, the Saudi student would have been able to identify such terms and apply them in reality to consider everybody as infidel, drawing an incomplete image for the enemy, and waiting the judgment of the ruler...
This is how the image of the enemy is drawn in the Saudi religious curricula, and this is how arrogance and occupation are found innocent while fighting them is banned under the title of "obeying the ruler."

Twisted Saudi Humor: When A Terror Sponsor Vows To Fight Terrorists

Fehim Tastekin

Saudi Arabia has declared the creation of an Islamic front against terrorism, along with 33 other countries. Defense Minister Prince Muhammad bin Selman, who made the announcement, said the coalition will be called the Islamic Alliance Against Terror, and it fight not only ISIS but also other terror groups. The Riyadh-based coalition will provide intelligence, training and coordination support, and will first target Iraq, Syria, Libya, Egypt and Afghanistan.
Praise be! Saudi Arabia is many things. Among them: chief financier of the countless jihadist groups who tore apart Syria, piece by piece; manipulator of the pro-al Qaeda wave against the Shia in Iraq; and supporter of the jihadist Salafists in dozens of countries. But from this point on, it is leading the fight against terrorism! Don't hold back those tears of joy!
Trita Parsi, president of the National Iranian American Council (NIAC), reacted to the announcement by telling the Saudis that they were a few months early for an April Fool's joke.
Before we get to the absurdity of it all, let me first underline one fact: al-Qaeda, its successor ISIS and similar counterparts have been useful tools for Saudi Arabia in the dirty wars they wage against their enemies. Saudi financing played a big part in supporting the presence of both al-Qaeda and ISIS in Iraq. But just as al-Qaeda bit the hand that fed it in the 2000s with attacks on Riyadh and Jeddah — when ISIS crossed the line and said "I am a state, too" — the House of Saud panicked that their territory might be the next target.
Saudi Arabia found itself squeezed by Washington after 15 of the 19 attackers who hit the United States on 9/11 happened to be Saudi citizens, and it had to take certain precautions. The operations to feed jihadist elements became more sophisticated. Instead of offering direct support, the country channeled it through individuals and institutions in "front" countries such as Kuwait.
So let's get back to exploring Saudi Arabia's unique sense of humor with the latest announcement. First question: Has this coalition actually been founded? How did so many countries suddenly line up behind the Saudis? At which summit did they make these decisions? It's all a mystery.
It's certain that they're employing the "make-it-up-as-we-go" method we know so well in Turkey. But this is a new standard for improvisation, as apparently some countries such as Pakistan, Malaysia and Lebanon didn't even know they were part of the coalition. For the delicate nature of politics in Lebanon, it's dicey to take part in a sectarian coalition while Hezbollah is part of the government.
Paying for our sins It's also odd that Turkey happened to be the first country to declare support for the coalition. Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu embraced it as the "best answer to give to those who want to identify terrorism with Islam."
Second question: Is this really about combating terror?
Yes, there is a consensus that ISIS is a terror organization. What about the others? Everybody has their own terrorists. For example, Turkey puts the Kurds with the PKK, YPG and PYD in that basket, but like the Saudis, it finds certain Salafist groups to be reasonable. For Egypt, the terrorists are the Muslim Brotherhood, which is praised by the Turkish government, while Hezbollah tops the Saudi enemy list. Some groups that Turkey supports in Libya are considered terrorists by the Saudis. Who are the terrorists? Who will declare war on whom? Dark humor, to say the least.
Don't even get me started on Saudi definition of terrorists: Atheists, those who target the royal family and those who cooperate with foreigners against the king, are considered terrorists. But the oil money that has supported Wahhabi sectarian violence has immunity among the partners of this coalition.
So what's the point? Saudi Arabia's priority has always been founding a Sunni alliance against Iran and its allies, not combating terrorism. You may recall that the new King Salman attacked Yemen in order to consolidate power domestically and secure the country's status as regional leader and settle a score with Iran over Syria. He tried to form a Sunni coalition in the process, with Ankara always the most enthusiastic partner. Ultimately, the Saudis waged the war in Yemen at the cost of clearing a path for al-Qaeda and ISIS on the Arab Peninsula. In this light, Saudi Arabia posing as anti-terror is utterly unconvincing.
The Saudis persistently say that the coalition isn't sectarian. Okay, are Iran, Iraq and Syria, which are all fighting ISIS, in the coalition? No. Another crucial question: Can this coalition ever have operational capacity or become a position of power? Almost certainly not.
In short, ISIS and similar organizations are the ugly fruits of the sins of the Saudi-U.S. partnership that was duly followed by many other countries. This is the harsh truth. Syria has turned into hell on earth, but Saudi Arabia still persists in supplying bullets for jihadist guns to force President Bashar al-Assad out at all costs.
Saudi Arabia has no real interest in combatting terrorism. What it wants is a sectarian Sunni coalition. That's about it. The joke's on us.
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Saudi Women Voted for the First Time. Is It Real Progress or Window Dressing?


The global press has been heralding the recent December 13 vote in Saudi Arabia as a breakthrough for women, since it was the first time in history that Saudi women have been allowed to vote.
But was this vote really a significant step forward?
First, let’s consider the Saudi electoral system within the context of an absolute monarchy. The ruler is always a male and inherits his position. All powerful government positions from ministers to governors are appointed by the king. The 150-member Consultative Council, known as the Shura Council, is also appointed and has only advisory power.
The recent election was not for any body with legislative power. It was for municipal councils that merely provide advice to government authorities about local services such as parks, road maintenance, and trash collection. And one-third of even these council seats are appointed, not elected.
This election marks only the third time in the nation’s history that Saudis — men or women — have been allowed to vote, and the first time women have participated. While heralded overseas, voting for municipal councils back at home is greeted with a big yawn.
The hidden story about the election is the abysmal turnout. Less than 10 percent of all eligible voters bothered to cast a ballot — and worse yet, less than 1 percent of all eligible Saudi women voted. Little wonder that of the 2,106 seats up for grabs, less than 1 percent of the winners were women.
Instead of just profiling the handful of female winners, the press should really be talking to the 99 percent of women who didn’t vote. They would find that some women didn’t vote because they found the process complicated or they couldn’t get to the segregated polls, since they aren’t allowed to drive. They would find that some didn’t feel it was worth their time, since the councils have so little power.
And they would learn that some women didn’t vote because they were boycotting the election.
“How could I be elected if I can’t drive, if I can’t have the right to custody of my children, when so many issues touching our daily lives aren’t resolved?” asked university lecturer Aziza al-Yousef. “Women are half citizens in this country. I think we need to change the whole system.”
Al-Yousef is one of the few Saudi women brave enough to speak out in a country where voicing opposition can land you in prison, but her views reflect the attitudes of many.
Saudi women are still trapped in a male guardianship system under which all women are treated as minors. They aren’t allowed to marry without the permission of their guardians. And unlike men, they don’t have a unilateral right to divorce and often face discrimination in relation to child custody.
Women cannot obtain a passport or travel without the approval of a male guardian — usually a husband, father, brother, or son. Enrollment in education at all levels requires a guardian’s permission. A woman can’t be released from rehabilitation or prison to anyone but her guardian. If the guardian refuses to accept the woman, as often happens, she remains imprisoned.
Saudi men can have up to four wives, and there’s no prohibition against child marriage. A push by human rights activists to make it illegal to marry girls under 15 years old was crushed by the Grand Mufti. A prominent cleric and member of Saudi Arabia’s highest religious council, Dr. Salih bin Fawzan, said that girls can be married “even if they are in the cradle.
Schools are segregated. And although Saudi women have made great gains in education — they now comprise 60 percent of the nation’s college students — women are less than 20 percent of the labor force. Employers often require male guardians to approve the hiring of female relatives, and most women are confined to jobs considered “appropriate” for their gender, like healthcare and education.
The Saudi government even tells women what to wear. In public places, women must hide their hair and cover their everyday clothing with an abaya, a thick, opaque, and loose-fitting cloak that conceals their bodies.
Saudi Arabia remains the only country in the world where authorities bar women from driving — yet even the most extreme interpretations of Islam by ISIS don’t ban women from driving. Women who have challenged the driving ban have been imprisoned, fined, suspended from their jobs, banned from traveling, and even threatened with terrorism charges for public incitement.
In a system still characterized by entrenched patriarchy, voting for municipal council seats might seem like either progress or window dressing. “The Saudi government is using women’s participation to its advantage, but so must Saudi women,” said Saudi scholar Hala Al Dossari. “We have to seize opportunities whenever they arise. It’s not like this vote is going to make significant change, but maybe it will inspire more women to keep pushing for greater rights.”
One of the positive things to come out of this election is more global attention on the heavy-handed rule of the Saudi monarchy. An upcoming activist-based Saudi Summit, which will be held in Washington, DC on March 5-6, is an effort to build a campaign to support Saudi human rights activists.
Saudi women have long been fighting for more rights, and their allies abroad should do more to support their efforts and to break the cozy ties between the U.S. and Saudi governments.

Video Report - Iraqi forces make advances to retake Ramadi

Putin calls to keep culture out of politics

Russian President Vladimir Putin is confident that culture should stay out of politics and thus may bridge nations even if their relations hit a low.

"It's desirable to keep culture out of politics. Then it may be used as a link-up between the nations and countries, even if their relations have become strained," Putin told a meeting of the Presidential Council for Culture and the Arts on Friday. "But just if no-one tries to employ culture for the interests of politics." Highlighting the events in Ukraine’s culture, Putin said, "Oles Buzina [a Ukrainian writer] was shot dead in the street for no reason," Putin said. "And many of similar cases have occurred in Ukraine, in particular the expropriation of church buildings that should belong to the Moscow Patriarchate." Putin dubbed the exchanges of politicians between Ukraine and Georgia events from "the circus sphere", having in mind Georgia’s former President Mikheil Saakashvili who is ruling the Ukrainian Odessa region now.

"I would say, art representatives from the circus sphere. Very bright, nothing to add," he said. 

At the meeting, Putin was informed on criminal proceedings against the director of the state-funded Library of Ukrainian Literature in Moscow, Natalya Sharina, who is charged with fanning ethnic hatred and strife. The president said he had never heard about the case and Sharina’s house arrest and promised to look into the case. "The library must not be lost at any means," Putin said noting that ethnic Ukrainians make up a considerable section of Russia’s population. "I strongly believe that essentially, Russians and Ukrainians are one nation," he concluded.


Game Changer: Russia’s Actions Drastically Changed Situation in Syria

Russia’s military capabilities displayed during the military operation against Daesh in Syria “were a shock to the US”, head of Russian upper house of parliament’s International Committee Alexei Pushkov said.

"I’m certain that the military capabilities displayed by Russia were a shock to the US which apparently believed that only the United States and NATO can wage such a war," Pushkov told Rossiyskaya Gazeta newspaper.
According to Pushkov, the reaction of many of the US presidential candidates who demand to punish Russia serves as proof of his conjecture. The US elite acts offended and appears perplexed by this development, as Russia’s actions have drastically changed the situation in Syria, he added.

Furthermore, the Russian military operation against Daesh in Syria also managed to upset Erdogan’s plans as Turkey sought to use the terrorist movement "as a tool to spread its influence across the Middle East," Pushkov said.

"When our Aerospace Forces targeted that mechanism (the Daesh oil exports), Erdogan became nervous and made an absolutely inadequate, reckless and purely reflexive decision," Pushkov said regarding the downing of a Russian Su-24 attack aircraft in Syria by Turkish forces.

Russia has been launching airstrikes against Daesh targets in Syria at the request of Syrian President Bashar Assad since late September. Russia has also called for the creation of a broad anti-Daesh coalition.

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Shutting Down Planned Parenthood Would Catapult Women Into Poverty

By:  Bryce Covert

Already forgotten in the aftermath of the San Bernardino shootings is a morepersistent terrorist threat to average Americans: right-wing extremists. Robert Lewis Dear, who shot and killed three people at a Planned Parenthood clinic in Colorado Springs, has since pleaded guilty to being a “warrior for the babies.” His actions follow a long tradition of violence against abortion providers. That violence is increasing: The number of clinics reporting threats and targeted intimidation has increased from about 25 percent to more than 50 percent since 2010.
Dear’s terrorism hasn’t affected the GOP’s congressional crusade against the women’s-healthcare provider, however. Immediately after the shooting, SenateRepublicans said they would proceed with efforts to defund Planned Parenthood, which currently receives about $500 million from the federal government. About 80 percent of Planned Parenthood’s clients are low-income (which is measured as being at or below 150 percent of the federal poverty line).
What terrorists like Dear and Republicans in Congress want is basically the same: to shut down Planned Parenthood and deny women access to abortions. If they got their wish, it would serve only to make poor women poorer and increase the number of unintended pregnancies.
Indeed, unintended pregnancies are already concentrated among low-income women, an imbalance that has been increasing. The rate of such pregnancies among women with incomes below the poverty line jumped 56 percent from 1994 to 2008, while for higher-income women it actually fell by 24 percent. In 2008, the unintended-pregnancy rate for poor women was more than five times that of the most well-off. All of this means that poor women have higher rates of unplanned births as well as abortions—six times and five times higher, respectively—than women at the other end of the income scale. Poor women also have fewer places to turn for affordable contraception and reproductive care—except for organizations like Planned Parenthood.
Taking away the option to seek an abortion would not just infringe on the constitutional rights of poor women; it would almost certainly make them poorer. If Roe v. Wade, the Supreme Court case that made abortion legal throughout the country, were overturned and states were allowed to implement their own bans, poorer nonwhite women would see their abortion rates decline more significantly, according to researchers. In part, this would be due to the simple problem of having to travel long distances just to reach a clinic.
Current research already tells us what happens to women who want an abortion but can’t get one. Women who seek to terminate a pregnancy but are turned away are three times more likely to fall below the poverty line over the following two years than women who successfully get an abortion. They are also more likely to end up unemployed and to rely on government benefits to get by. Women themselves already know this: Among the main reasons they cite for seeking the procedure is that they can’t afford to have a baby, and that doing so would interfere with their ability to work or gain an education.
Shutting down Planned Parenthood wouldn’t just affect access to abortion, of course. The group provides many other services to low-income women. Poor women are more likely to have sex without birth control—and access to affordable contraception would shrink further without the existence of Planned Parenthood. Among 491 counties with Planned Parenthood clinics, 103 have no other place where low-income patients can obtain affordable contraception.
Access to reproductive healthcare is certainly about women’s right to bodily autonomy. But doing away with that right also comes with devastating economic consequences, especially for those already at the bottom. Eliminating Planned Parenthood would create a vicious cycle of impoverishment and unwanted pregnancies for the most vulnerable women among us.