Turkey

Syria: Russia plays 'political games' with aid access

The UN Security Council on July 9 unanimously voted to extend the sole humanitarian aid crossing into Syria—one day before it was set to close—following a deal between the US and Russia. The White House said presidents Joe Biden and Vladimir Putin finally discussed the matter in a phone call. The vote on the Bab al-Hawa (Gate of the Winds) crossing came after weeks of intense negotiations between Washington, which wants to expand the number of aid corridors into Syria, and Moscow, which had threatened to block continuation of the aid program altogether in the name of protecting Syrian sovereignty.

Turkish police disperse Istanbul pride parade

On June 27, Turkish riot police used tear-gas and rubber bullets to disrupt Istanbul's annual pride parade after the the governor's office refused to grant a permit for the event. The police arrested dozens of marchers, as well as journalists who were covering the event. The police attack comes amid a period of mounting hostilities against the nation's LGBTIQ+ community. The pride parade has been held annually since 2003, despite being officially banned since 2014. Videos shared on social media show hundreds of people gathered on Istiklal Avenue, a popular tourist destination, chanting "Rainbow is not a crime, discrimination is."

Protest WHO board seat for Syrian regime

Doctors and healthcare workers held a demonstration outside a hospital in the Syrian city of Idlib June 1, to protest the election of the Bashar Assad regime to the executive board of the World Health Organization (WHO). Syria was elected to the board for a three-year term by the 22 countries of WHO's Eastern Mediterranean region—the latest coup for normalization of the Assad regime. "How can we trust WHO [when] one of its executive board members is the murderer who is killing my colleagues, my friends?" said Dr. Salem Abdan, head of health services for opposition-administered Idlib, in a WhatsApp message. Read a banner at the protest: "We reject the idea that our killer and he who destroyed our hospitals be represented on the executive board." Idlib province is part of a remaining rebel-held pocket in the northwest of the country, where Assad regime warplanes have for years been bombing hospitals and clinics.

Syria: controlled elections amid crisis —again

As before, thoroughly controlled elections were held in Syria on May 26, with completely predictable results. Regime officials have declared Bashar al-Assad the winner with 95.1% of the vote. This is even higher than the 88.7% claimed by Assad in 2014, Syria's first presidential ballot since his father Hafez died in 2000 (who had held even more thoroughly controlled elections only rarely after taking power in a 1970 coup d'etat). Assad ran against two nominal challengers, with another 49 candidates disqualified. State TV and official news agency SANA promoted Assad relentlessly; his posters were displayed on walls and billboards throughout regime-controlled territory.

Syrian Kurdish militia fire on Arab protesters

Five are reported dead after Kurdish militiamen on May 18 opened fire on local residents protesting against a hike in fuel prices imposed by the Kurdish-led autonomous administration in northern Syria. Protests were reported in several towns in al-Hasakah province, including Qamishli, al-Haddaja, al-Rashidiya and al-Haddadiya, although reports were unclear on which towns saw militiamen open fire. At least one death was in the town of Shadadi, where armed protesters stormed a Kurdish militia base.

Afghanistan: schoolgirl massacre amid 'peace' talks

Explosions outside a high school in Afghanistan's capital on May 8 killed at least 50 people and wounded dozens more—most of them girls who were leaving class. The Sayed ul-Shuhada school holds classes for boys in the morning and for girls in the afternoon. The attack occurred around 4 PM, as the girls were leaving and the streets were packed with residents preparing for the end of the holy month of Ramadan. The school is in Kabul's western Dasht-e-Barchi district, where many residents are of the Hazara ethnic minority. Almost exactly a year ago, a maternity ward at the district's hospital was attacked, leaving 24 women, children and infants dead.

Syria: Kurdish forces take Qamishli from regime

The local Kurdish Asayish militia announced April 26 that it has taken control of the last contested district of the northeast Syrian town of Qamishli from pro-regime forces. An Asayish statement said that after several days of fighting, al-Tay neighborhood is to be in their hands under terms of a truce with the pro-regime National Defense Forces (NDF), enforced by Russian troops and the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF). "The residents of al-Tay neighborhood who left their homes due to escalation will be assisted by our forces to return to their homes," the Asayish statement said.

Strategic strait at issue in Turkish naval purge

Turkish prosecutors on April 5 issued arrest warrants for 10 retired senior navy officers a day after 104 officers released a letter defending the Montreux Doctrine. The Montreux Doctrine is an agreement made in 1936 concerning critical waterways that run through Turkey, most notably the straits of the Bosphorus (also known as Strait of Istanbul) and the Dardanelles. The terms of the international convention provide that Turkey may control the straits, but must permit civilian vessels to pass through the waterways in times of peace. In addition, the treaty regulates passage of warships and foreign cargo ships on the waters. The treaty was designed to "prevent the militarization of the Black Sea."

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