Assassination in Ankara: Cop guns down Russian ambassador

Andrey Karlov, the Russian ambassador to Ankara, lies on the floor after being shot by a gunman (R) during an attack during a public event in Ankara. (AFP / Sozcu daily / Yavuz Alatan)
Updated 20 December 2016

Assassination in Ankara: Cop guns down Russian ambassador

ANKARA: Russia’s Ambassador to Turkey Andrey Karlov was assassinated Monday night during the opening ceremony of a photo exhibition in Ankara when he took to the podium to make a speech.
Turkey’s interior minister said the gunman, 22-year-old Mevlut Mert Altintas, who was killed, was part of Ankara’s anti-riot police.
The assailant was on duty as a security officer during rallies by President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Turkey’s mainstream HaberTurk news reported.
After shooting the ambassador, the gunman shouted: “Don’t forget Aleppo. Don’t forget Syria. Until our towns are safe, you won’t be able to enjoy safety. Whoever has a role in this cruelty will pay for it one by one.”
This marks the first assassination of an ambassador in Turkey. It comes a day before the planned visit of Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu to Moscow for talks on Syria with his Russian and Iranian counterparts.
Erdogan phoned his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin to share information. “We have to know who gave the orders to the assassin,” Putin said. In a public statement, Erdogan condemned the attack and said it aimed to harm improved ties with Moscow.
Experts say the assassination puts Turkey in a difficult diplomatic position.
“It doesn’t look like a Daesh attack because the gunman evacuated the art gallery to shoot the ambassador,” Ahmet Han, an international relations professor from Istanbul Kadir Has University, told Arab News.
“This might be an attack carried out by an individual who is ideologically or emotionally vested in developments in Aleppo,” he said.
“He might be a member or sympathizer of an organization on the ground in Syria, or an isolated individual. Otherwise we have to think of a connection with a national intelligence agency.”
Han added: “Turkey wouldn’t be involved in such a crisis if it hadn’t been so exposed to regional dynamics as a party. It’s inevitable that comments on Turkey’s intelligence deficit will follow from the international community.”
However, he said if Ankara cooperated with Moscow, the assassination would not lead to a crisis similar to which occurred when Turkey shot down a Russian warplane in November 2015. “At this point, common sense and restraint should rule,” Han said.
Aykan Erdemir, a former Turkish MP and now senior fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, a Washington-based think tank, said Moscow gained concessions from Ankara following the downing of the warplane before going forward with normalization.
“Putin could again leverage the attack to gain further concessions from Turkey,” Erdemir told Arab News.
“Turkish government officials argue that the attack targeted Turkish-Russian cooperation, and point the finger at the West. The assassination could bolster conspiracy theories at home and speed Turkey’s pivot toward Russia.”
Selim Sazak, a researcher at the Century Foundation, a New York-based think tank, said: “The assailant could be a Turkish nationalist gone rogue, a Gulenist (supporter of US-based cleric Fethullah Gulen, whom Ankara accuses of masterminding the July 15 coup attempt in Turkey), a Daesh subvert, or even a Eurasianist, for this plays right into the hands of those trying to bring Turkey and Russia closer.”
Mainstream Turkish media are reporting that the attacker being a Gulenist is the most likely option.
Sazak says this will impact US-Turkish relations more than it will Turkish-Russian ties. “Pro-government media are already spinning this as a US conspiracy, and trying to paint the cop as a Gulenist,” he told Arab News.
Sazak says diplomatically the game plan is fairly simple, at least publicly: “You express condolences, high-level authorities attend the funeral in Moscow, and Putin says a few things about how this is regrettable but thanks Turkish police and reiterates the solidarity of the Turkish and Russian peoples.”
However, Sazak says the only exit strategy for Ankara is to try to spin the assassination into anti-Western propaganda.
“As of today, Turkey’s Syria game is over,” Sazak said, adding that this puts Turkey in the worst bargaining position imaginable.
In a similar vein, the Russian Federation Council considers the assassination a grave failure of Turkish law-enforcement, Interfax reported.
However, other messages coming from Moscow suggest that Russia does not intend to turn the assassination into a major diplomatic crisis.
Frants Klintsevic, deputy chairman of the Russian Federation Council Defense and Security Committee, said the perpetrator wanted “to turn Turkey and Russia against each other.”
In a statement, the Turkish Foreign Ministry said: “Ambassador Karlov was a unique diplomat who earned the appreciation of all state cadres for his professional and personal competencies, as he carried out successful work at a very difficult time in Turkey.
“His memory will always be with us. We will not allow this attack to overshadow Turkish-Russian friendship.”


Egypt’s creative solutions to the plastic menace

Updated 24 August 2019

Egypt’s creative solutions to the plastic menace

  • Egyptian social startups are taking alternative approaches to fostering awareness and reducing waste

CAIRO: Global plastics production reached 348 million tons in 2017, rising from 335 million tons in 2016, according to Plastics Europe. 

Critically, most plastic waste is not properly managed: Around 55 percent of it was landfilled or discarded in 2015. These numbers are extremely concerning because plastic products take anything from 450 to 1,000 years to decompose, and the effects on the environment, especially on marine and human life, are catastrophic.

While initiatives around the world are taking action to combat this problem, some Egyptian projects are doing it more creatively.

“We’re the first website in the Middle East and North Africa that trades waste,” said Alaa Afifi, founder and CEO of Bekia. “People can get rid of any waste at their disposal — plastic, paper and cooking oil — and exchange it for over 65 products on our website.”

Products for trading include rice, tea, pasta, cooking oil, subway tickets and school supplies.

Bekia was launched in Cairo in 2017. Initially, the business model did not prove successful.

“We used to rent a car and go to certain locations every 40 days to collect waste from people,” Afifi, 26, explained. “We then created a website and started encouraging people to use it.”

After the website was launched, people could wait at home for someone to collect the waste. “Instead of 40 days, we now could visit people within a week.”

To use Bekia’s services, people need to log onto the website and specify what they want to discard. They are assigned points based on the waste they are offering, and these points can be used in one of three ways: Donated to people in need, saved for later, or exchanged for products. As for the collected waste, it is given to specialized recycling companies for processing.

“We want to have 50,000 customers over the next two years who regularly use our service to get rid of their waste,” Afifi said.  

Trying to spread environmental awareness has not been easy. “We had a lot of trouble with initial investment at first, and we got through with an investment that was far from enough. The second problem we faced was spreading this culture among people — in the first couple of months, we received no orders,” Afifi said.

The team soldiered on and slowly built a client base, currently serving 7,000 customers. In terms of what lies ahead for Bekia, he said: “We’re expanding from 22 to 30 areas in Cairo this year. We’re launching an app very soon and a new website with better features.”

Go Clean, another Egyptian recycling startup dedicated to raising environmental awareness, works under the patronage of the Ministry of Environment. “We started in 2017 by recycling waste from factories, and then by February 2019 we started expanding,” said founder and CEO Mohammed Hamdy, 30.

The Cairo-based company collects recyclables from virtually all places, including households, schools, universities, restaurants, cafes, companies and embassies. The customers separate the items into categories and then fill out a registration form. Alternatively, they can make contact through WhatsApp or Facebook. A driver is then dispatched to collect the waste, carrying a scale to weigh it. 

“The client can be paid in cash for the weight of their recyclables, or they can make a donation to a special needs school in Cairo,” Hamdy explained. There is also the option of trading the waste for dishwashing soap, with more household products to be added in the future.

Trying to cover a country with 100 million people was never going to be easy, and Go Clean faced some logistical problems. It overcame them by hiring more drivers and getting more trucks. There was another challenge along the way: “We had to figure out a way to train the drivers, from showing them how to use GPS and deal with clients,” said Hamdy.

“We want to spread awareness about the environment everywhere. We go to schools, universities, companies and even factories to give sessions about the importance of recycling and how dangerous plastic is. We’re currently covering 20 locations across Cairo and all of Alexandria. We want to cover all of Egypt in the future,” he added.

With a new app on the way, Hamdy said things are looking positive for the social startup, and people are becoming invested in the initiative. “We started out with seven orders per day, and now we get over 100.”