Amnesty condemns Syria regime strikes on Idlib school, hospitals

Children watch a puppet show performed by a Syrian actor, through a makeshift puppet theatre set up among the rubble of collapsed buildings in the town of Saraqib in the rebel-held northern Idlib province. (AFP)
Updated 28 March 2019

Amnesty condemns Syria regime strikes on Idlib school, hospitals

BEIRUT: Amnesty International accused Syria’s government and its Russian allies Thursday of striking medical facilities and a school in rebel-held Idlib province with air and artillery strikes over the past month.
After eight years of war, “the Syrian government continues to show utter disregard for the laws of war and the lives of civilians,” it said in a statement.
According to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, regime strikes since February on the northwestern province controlled by the jihadist group Hayat Tahrir Al-Sham have left at least 170 civilians dead and displaced thousands of others.
Amnesty said “a hospital, blood bank and other medical facilities as well as a bakery and a school” had been hit in Idlib.
“The Syrian government, with the support of Russia, is clearly resorting to the same unlawful military tactics which led to massive displacement, in some cases forced displacement,” it said.
Amnesty said its report was based on witness testimonies backed up by “analysis of videos, open source information and satellite imagery.”
On March 15, the United States accused Russia and the Syrian government of being responsible for “escalating violence” in Idlib.
“Despite Russia’s claims to be targeting terrorists, these operations have caused dozens of civilian casualties and have targeted first responders as they attempt to save lives on the ground,” a State Department spokesman said.
A Turkish-Russian truce deal was struck in September to stave off a planned regime assault that aid groups feared could spark the Syrian conflict’s worst humanitarian crisis to date.
The offensive has been held off but the deal’s provisions have not been implemented.

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

Updated 21 July 2019

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.”