Head of pro-Kurdish party wants Turkey to end Syria offensive

Turkish troops and pro-Turkey Syrian fighters trying to take control of Bursayah hill, which separates the Kurdish-held enclave of Afrin from the Turkey-controlled town of Azaz, Syria. (AP)
Updated 15 February 2018
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Head of pro-Kurdish party wants Turkey to end Syria offensive

ANKARA: Turkey should accept the territorial gains of Syrian Kurdish forces at its southern border, end its military operation against them and instead resolve problems through dialogue, the new leader of Turkey’s main pro-Kurdish party said.
Pervin Buldan’s argument is likely to hold little sway with Turkish President Tayyip Tayyip Erdogan, who launched “Operation Olive Branch” in Syria’s Afrin region last month to sweep the Syrian Kurdish YPG forces away from Turkey’s southern border.
Buldan, elected on Sunday as the new co-leader of the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), is already being investigated for terrorism for making critical remarks of the Syria incursion. Since the operation began, authorities have detained more than 600 people for protesting or criticizing it on social media.
Critics say the moves are emblematic of a wider crackdown launched after a 2016 failed putsch against Erdogan’s government. More than 50,000 people have been detained, including the previous leaders of the HDP.
“The reasonable thing to do is to find a solution through dialogue, and the only possible solution is through agreement. Turkey needs to tolerate the achievements of Kurds in Syria,” she told Reuters in an interview late on Tuesday.
Since the onset of Syria’s civil war in 2011, the YPG and its allies have seized swathes of land and set up autonomous cantons in northern Syria, including Afrin.
Ankara considers the YPG a terrorist group and an extension of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK). Erdogan has been infuriated by US support for the YPG against Daesh.
Ankara also accuses Buldan’s party of links to the PKK, which has waged a deadly insurgency in Turkey’s largely Kurdish southeast for three decades. The HDP, Parliament’s second-largest opposition party, denies this.
The investigation against Buldan was launched a day after she was elected, with a prosecutor citing her comments against the offensive in Syria, which she has described as an attack on civilian Kurds.


Egypt detains activist blogger amid new wave of arrests

Updated 35 min 39 sec ago
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Egypt detains activist blogger amid new wave of arrests

  • Wael Abbas has campaigned against torture in Egypt for well over a decade, before and after the 2011 uprising that toppled longtime dictator Hosni Mubarak.
  • Earlier this month, Egyptian police arrested two prominent activists, Shady el-Ghazaly Harb and Haytham Mohamedeen, on an array of charges including belonging to an outlawed group and insulting the president.

CAIRO: An Egyptian activist and blogger known for documenting police abuse was detained on Wednesday, security officials said, the latest in a new wave of arrests following elections earlier this year.
Wael Abbas was taken from his home in a Cairo suburb on accusations that include disseminating false news and joining an outlawed group, the officials said. They spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak to media.
The Arabic Network for Human Rights said police raided Abbas’ home at dawn, seizing his computer and mobile phones. It says he was blindfolded before being taken to an unknown location.
Abbas has campaigned against torture in Egypt for well over a decade, before and after the 2011 uprising that toppled longtime dictator Hosni Mubarak. He has published graphic videos showing torture and police abuse on his blog, misrdigital.com, and has been detained on a number of occasions.
His YouTube account was shut down in 2007, resulting in the removal of hundreds of videos showing protests and abuses by security forces. In December, he wrote on Facebook that Twitter had suspended his account without providing an explanation.
Amnesty International on Wednesday condemned Abbas’ detention on Twitter, saying his arrest is part of a crackdown by Egyptian authorities on freedom of expression.
Authorities have arrested a number of secular activists since President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi was re-elected to a second four-year term in March. He faced no serious challengers, after several potentially strong candidates were arrested or intimidated into withdrawing from the race.
Earlier this month, Egyptian police arrested two prominent activists, Shady el-Ghazaly Harb and Haytham Mohamedeen, on an array of charges including belonging to an outlawed group and insulting the president. Shady Abu Zaid, a young comedian, was arrested on accusations that include spreading false news.
The latest arrests come amid a wider crackdown on dissent. Thousands of people have been jailed, unauthorized protests have been banned and hundreds of websites, including many run by independent journalists and rights activists, have been blocked.
The government has said such measures are needed to restore stability and combat an insurgency in the northern Sinai Peninsula that has gained strength since 2013 and is now led by the Daesh group.
On Tuesday, a military court sentenced a freelance journalist who reported on the Sinai insurgency to 10 years in prison on terror-related charges. Ismail Alexandrani was convicted of spreading false news and joining an outlawed group.
International rights groups condemned the sentence and urged his release.
“Hauling a journalist before a military court not only violates his rights as a civilian but sends a chilling message to the media that independent coverage of political dissent and security threats will not be tolerated by Egypt’s rulers,” said Robert Mahoney, of the Committee to Protect Journalists.
Sarah Leah Whitson, of Human Rights Watch, said the verdict “exemplifies the government’s vicious retaliation against journalists who report on sensitive issues.”