Baghdad begins sealing Syria border to block Daesh

Baghdad declared victory over Daesh at the end of last year. (AFP)
Updated 01 July 2018
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Baghdad begins sealing Syria border to block Daesh

  • Baghdad declared victory over Daesh at the end of last year, but the group holds pockets of territory in the vast deserts of eastern Syria and maintains its ability to strike inside Iraq
  • The supreme court has ratified a decision by the outgoing Parliament to dismiss Iraq’s nine-member electoral commission and have them replaced by judges

BAGHDAD/MOSUL: Iraq has begun building a fence along its border with Syria to stop Daesh militants crossing into the country, a border guards spokesman said Sunday.

“Ten days ago we started to set up a barbed wire security fence with surveillance towers along the border with Syria,” said Anwar Hamid Nayef, spokesman in Iraq’s Anbar province.
The frontier barrier includes a six-meter-wide trench and involves thermal cameras and drones scanning the border for militants attempting to cross from Syria.
Baghdad declared victory over Daesh at the end of last year, but the group holds pockets of territory in the vast deserts of eastern Syria and maintains its ability to strike inside Iraq.
The new fence so far runs for 20 km north from the area around the border town of Al-Qaim, which Iraqi forces retook from Daesh in November. In total the frontier stretches for some 600 kms.
Border spokesman Nayef said that experts from Baghdad’s Ministry of Defense and an anti-Daesh coalition spearheaded by the US would come “to evaluate the effectiveness of the fence.”
“If they approve the installations, we will continue along the whole border with Syria,” he said.
In a sign of the continuing menace it poses to Iraq, the bodies of eight captives executed by Daesh were this week found along a highway north of Baghdad.
In a bid to combat the militants, Iraqi forces have carried out a series of airstrikes against Daesh inside Syria.

Parliamentary vacuum
Iraq’s Parliament held its final session on Saturday, leaving the country without a national assembly for the first time since 2003 as it awaits a vote recount from May parliamentary polls.
The manual recount was demanded by the supreme court in polling stations with contested results, in line with a decision by the outgoing Parliament following allegations of fraud.
Parliament’s Deputy Speaker Aram Sheikh Mohammed announced “the end of the third parliamentary mandate,” at a gathering attended by 127 members of the 328-seat house.
Since the aftermath of the 2003 US-led invasion that toppled dictator Saddam Hussein, Iraq has had three parliaments each with a mandate of four years.
The last ballot was won by populist leader Moqtada Al-Sadr’s electoral alliance with communists, as long-time political figures were pushed out by voters seeking change in a country mired in conflict and corruption.
Results of the May election were contested mainly by the political old guard. The supreme court has ratified a decision by the outgoing Parliament to dismiss Iraq’s nine-member electoral commission and have them replaced by judges.
The judges’ spokesman, Laith Hamza, said Saturday that the partial recount would start Tuesday in the Kurdish provinces of Irbil, Sulaymaniyah and Dohuk, as well as in Kirkuk, Nineveh, Salaheddin and Anbar.
Meanwhile, Iraqi cellist and conductor Karim Wasfi has played a concert for “peace and co-existence” amid the ruins of Mosul, almost a year after Iraqi forces ousted Daesh from the city.
Dozens of people attended on Friday as Wasfi, in full concert dress, played on a makeshift stage among the most iconic religious monuments of Iraq’s second city.


Warning to Turkish artists as singer is jailed for ‘insulting’ Erdogan

Updated 21 July 2019
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Warning to Turkish artists as singer is jailed for ‘insulting’ Erdogan

  • Actress and singer Zuhal Olcay was charged with insulting Erdogan using hand gestures at a concert in Istanbul in 2016
  • Turkey’s appeals court has upheld an 11-month sentence, originally imposed last year but suspended

ANKARA: Accusations of insulting Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan may lead to a jail sentence — even if the “insult” is in private, analysts told Arab News on Saturday.

Turkey’s appeals court has upheld an 11-month sentence on actress and singer Zuhal Olcay, 61, after a complaint that she had changed lyrics of songs and used hand gestures to insult the president at a concert in Istanbul in 2016.

The revised lyrics said: “Recep Tayyip Erdogan, it’s all empty, it’s all a lie. Life will end one day and you’ll say ‘I had a dream’.” Olcay said she had changed the lyrics only because the president’s name fitted the rhyme.

The court confirmed a sentence originally imposed last year, which had been suspended. The singer is expected to spend up to three days in prison, before being released on probation.

“This case highlights the blurring of the public and private spheres.”

Louis Fishman Academic

“Zuhal Olcay is an artist with great stature, and this case shows that no one is out of reach of a judiciary that increasingly has little independence from the government,” Louis Fishman, an assistant professor at City University of New York, told Arab News.

“The message is clear; artists in Turkey should be silent or face legal consequences that can be drawn out for years and eventually lead to prison,” said Fishman, an expert on Turkey.

He said it was significant that the hand gesture at the center of the case had happened at a private concert, and the prosecution began only after it was reported to police by someone in the audience.

“Therefore, this case also highlights the blurring of the public and private spheres,” he said. 

“In other words, there is a growing fear in Turkey of criticizing, or ‘defaming’ Erdogan, not only in public, but also in private. In both cases, vigilant citizens can report such alleged cases to the police.”