Turkish warplanes carried out air-strikes on several towns within the Kurdish autonomous zone in northern Syria, known as Rojava, on Nov. 19. The strikes killed several Kurdish fighters as well as soldiers of the Syrian regime, with which they now jointly occupy the area. Among the towns hit was Kobane, from where Ankara says the order was given for the Nov. 13 suicide attack in Istanbul, that left six dead and several injured. "Kobane, the city that defeated ISIS, is subjected to bombardment by the aircraft of the Turkish occupation," tweeted Farhad Shami, a spokesperson for the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF). Both the SDF and affiliated Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), named by Ankara as behind the Istanbul attack, have denied any involvement. Turkish authorities have arrested 17 in the attack, including a Syrian woman said to be the main perpetrator. (Al Jazeera, ANF, MEE, Rudaw, Rudaw, The Guardian)
The Supreme Court of Sweden on Nov. 10 ruled that the trial of Alex Schneiter, a Swiss citizen and former CEO of Lundin Oil charged in connection with war crimes in Sudan, may proceed in the Swedish courts. While Lundin Oil is a Swedish-based company, Schneiter claims that he cannot be tried in Sweden because he is neither a citizen nor a resident. This claim was rejected by the lower courts, and now by the high court. The Supreme Court held that Schneiter's alleged crimes are subject to "universal jurisdiction," which allows anyone to be prosecuted anywhere in the world for serious international crimes. Justice Johan Danelius concluded: "The fact that the defendant is not [resident] in Sweden does not constitute an obstacle to Swedish jurisdiction, provided that the connection to Sweden in other respects is sufficient." The criminal case will now proceed in the Stockholm District Court.
The speaker of Russia's lower house of parliament on July 6 threatened to "claim back" Alaska if the United States freezes or seizes Russian assets in retaliation for its invasion of Ukraine. "Let America always remember: there's a piece of territory, Alaska," Vyacheslav Volodin said at the last session of the State Duma before summer break. "When they try to manage our resources abroad, let them think before they act that we, too, have something to take back," Volodin said. He noted that deputy speaker Pyotr Tolstoy had recently proposed holding a referendum in Alaska on joining Russia. The day after Volodin's comments, billboards proclaiming "Alaska Is Ours!" appeared in the Siberian city of Krasnoyarsk, apparently placed by a local "patriot."
In Episode 127 of the CounterVortex podcast, Bill Weinberg notes that the Kurdish-controlled Syrian city of Kobani, which became a global icon of resistance to ISIS in 2014, is now under threat of Turkish aggression. The Syrian Kurds were betrayed in 2019, when their autonomous zone of Rojava was greatly reduced by Turkey's first thrust into their territory. Erdogan is now threatening to extinguish it altogether, and incorporate all of Rojava into his "security zone." There is growing speculation that the US could "green light" this aggression in exchange for Turkey dropping its objections to Sweden and Finland joining NATO. Meanwhile, the Yazidis of northern Iraq, who were subjected to genocide and slavery at the hands of ISIS in 2014, are facing extermination of their hard-won autonomous zone Ezidikhan at the hands of Baghdad's military—acting under pressure from Turkey. Great Power meddling in Syrian and Iraqi Kurdistan alike is pitting the peoples of the region against each other, portending a potentially disastrous Arab-Kurdish ethnic war. How can activists in the West help break this trajectory? Listen on SoundCloud or via Patreon.
Over the past week, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has been ramping up threats to invade more areas of northern Syria, saying June 1 that he plans to "clean up [the Kurdish towns of] Tal Rifat and Manbij of terrorists," and establish a greater "security zone" in Syrian territory along Turkey's border. Much of this region is controlled by the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), which Turkey considers to be a "terrorist organization" because of its ties to the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK)—a Turkey-based Kurdish separatist organization. It's not clear if Erdoğan will go ahead with a new incursion now, but some wonder if Western states (such as the US, which has backed the SDF) may be willing to turn a blind eye to such an offensive if Turkey backs off its objections to Sweden and Finland joining NATO. Hundreds of thousands of civilians were forced to flee the last Turkish offensive in northeast Syria in late 2019, and a reported 44,000 to 60,000 people have still not been able to go back home.
Pakistani human rights activist Karima Baloch, 37, was found dead in Toronto, Canada, on Dec. 21. Baloch went missing the previous day. The Toronto Police stated that "officers have determined this to be a non-criminal death and no foul play is suspected." But Baloch, from Pakistan's restive Balochistan region, fled her country in 2015 because of threats on her life. As a campaigner with the Baloch Students' Organization, she had harshly criticized the Pakistani military and state over ongoing rights abuses in the region. She continued to campaign for the rights of people in Balochistan while in exile, and the threats against her did not stop after she left Pakistan. Baloch's close friend, Lateef Johar Baloch, told reporters that she had recently received anonymous threats.
The richest one percent of the world's population are responsible for more than twice as much carbon pollution as the 3.1 billion people who made up the poorest half of humanity during a critical 25-year period of unprecedented emissions growth, according to a new study by the aid group Oxfam. The report, "Confronting Carbon Inequality," is based on research conducted with the Stockholm Environment Institute and has been released as world leaders prepare to meet at the UN General Assembly to discuss global challenges including the climate crisis. The report assesses the "consumption emissions" of different income groups between 1990 and 2015—the 25 years when humanity doubled the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. It found:
The Turkish air force on Jan. 15 again carried out raids targeting the Sinjar Resistance Units (YBS), a Yazidi militia, in the autonomous Sinjar area of Iraq's Ninevah province. Reports said at least four people were killed, including militia commander Zardasht Shingali. The YBS, aligned with the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), played a key role in liberating the Sinjar area from ISIS after the Islamic State's genocide against the Yazidis in 2014. After the new air-strikes, the Kurdish Freedom Movement umbrella group called for protests against the Turkish aggression in cities across Europe. Demonstrations were reported from Athens, Nuremberg, Frankfurt, Marseille, Stockholm and Utrecht. (Al Monitor, The Canary)