Armenians feel uneasy in Turkey, says Turkish MP

Armenians feel uneasy in Turkey, says Turkish MP
Garo Paylan
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Updated 02 October 2020

Armenians feel uneasy in Turkey, says Turkish MP

Armenians feel uneasy in Turkey, says Turkish MP
  • Ankara has lost neutrality in Karabakh resolution process, Garo Paylan tells Arab News

ANKARA: The recent clashes between Azerbaijan and Armenia in the mountainous Nagorno-Karabakh region seem to be evolving into a conflict in which all regional actors are participating — particularly Turkey and Russia — whether through attempts to control information, drone usage, or the employment of foreign mercenaries.

Garo Paylan, one of the few Armenian members of Turkey’s parliament and a member of the opposition Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), has been an outspoken critic of Turkey’s recent policies on the Nagorno-Karabakh issue.

“Turkey is currently the only country that supports war, although it is a member of the OSCE Minsk Group, which is tasked with negotiating a settlement to the Karabakh conflict,” Paylan told Arab News. “But Ankara has lost all neutrality in this process.”

Azerbaijan and Armenia have been holding joint military exercises for some time with Turkey and Russia respectively, which has likely resulted in improving their military capabilities in the difficult terrain and the soon-to-arrive harsh winter conditions. The Azeri army is using Turkish-made drones.

According to Paylan, Armenia, Azerbaijan and Turkey will all be losers if the conflict in Karabakh is allowed to continue, while Russia will be the only winner. He believes that Moscow is taking advantage of Turkey to make Azerbaijan and Armenia much more dependent on Russia in the energy-rich region.

Turkey’s energy cooperation with Azerbaijan is on the rise, in contrast with its diminishing imports from Russia and Iran, its erstwhile major sources. Turkey reportedly plans to establish a permanent military base in Azerbaijan.

However, to what extent Turkey will be willing to risk undermining its relationship with Russia, or whether Ankara will attempt to use this crisis to gain leverage over Moscow, is still unclear, as both countries support opposing sides in the Libyan and Syrian conflicts.

 In the meantime, the current escalation of regional tensions has had direct repercussions over citizens of Armenian descent living in Turkey.

Convoys of cars flying the flag of Azerbaijan and sounding their horns regularly participate in demonstrations in Istanbul, particularly in areas where the majority of residents are Armenian. The street demonstrations began on Monday in the district where the headquarters of the Armenian Patriarchate is located.

Paylan has repeatedly called on authorities to guard against the alarming rise in incidents of hate speech against Armenians on both social and mainstream media, and warned of the potential for hate crimes sparked by the government’s bellicose support for Azerbaijan. Ibrahim Karagul, editor-in-chief of a major pro-government newspaper in Turkey, recently called on Turkey to “accidentally” drop a bomb on the Armenian capital, Yerevan.

Before the First World War, there were an estimated 2.4 million Armenians living in Turkey. There are currently around 60,000, mostly residents of Istanbul.

Omer Celik, the spokesperson of the ruling Justice and Development Party, said the government would not allow the demonstrators to threaten Armenian citizens, but the fact that president Recep Tayyip Erdogan remained silent has sparked criticism.

According to Paylan, the Karabakh conflict has triggered a rise in nationalism and racism, and now poses a real danger to Armenians in Turkey.

“Any hate speech towards the Armenian people makes our own citizens an imminent target. The government is using this conflict for domestic consumption. Armenian-origin citizens have become scapegoats, and the object of rising racism and hate speech,” he said.

Hrant Dink, a well-known Turkish-Armenian journalist and intellectual, was killed in 2007 in an armed attack by a young Turkish ultranationalist in Istanbul, whose trial is still ongoing. That case has become a symbol of hate crimes against minorities in Turkey, and continues to be dogged by allegations of state involvement 13 years later, as full details have yet to be revealed.

Before his murder, Dink famously said, “I feel like a dove, fearful and free at the same time. But I know that the people in this country would never dare touch a dove.”

Paylan believes the Armenian community shares those same feelings at the moment.

“The current climate reminds me of previous anti-Armenian pogroms. We have experienced this worrying trend for the past four generations,” Paylan said.
 


#Arab_lives_matter sparks calls for more policing in Israel

#Arab_lives_matter sparks calls for more policing in Israel
Updated 29 September 2021

#Arab_lives_matter sparks calls for more policing in Israel

#Arab_lives_matter sparks calls for more policing in Israel
  • At least 78 Arab citizens have been killed so far this year out of a total of 93 slayings nationwide, according to the Abraham Initiatives

ABU SNAN, Israel: Arab citizens of Israel are seeking to raise awareness about the spiraling rate of violent crime in their communities under the hashtag “Arab lives matter,” but unlike a similar campaign in the US, they are calling for more policing, not less.

The Arab minority, which makes up around 20 percent of Israel’s population, has been convulsed by violent crime in recent years, with a rate in killings that far exceeds its share of the population and is driven by criminal gangs and family disputes.

Activists say Israeli authorities have historically ignored deadly crime among Arabs. Israeli officials have touted a number of initiatives in recent years, including larger budgets for law enforcement in Arab communities, but police say community leaders could do more to help them.

At least 78 Arab citizens have been killed so far this year out of a total of 93 slayings nationwide, according to the Abraham Initiatives, an Israeli civil society organization fostering Jewish-Arab coexistence.

Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett pledged last month that after years of neglect, his newly inaugurated government would combat violent crime plaguing Arab communities. That was one of the top demands of a small Arab party that made history by joining his narrow coalition.

After another two people were killed in Arab towns last week, Arab blogger Sheren Falah Saab tweeted “#Arab_lives_matter” in Hebrew with the aim of opening a dialogue with Israel’s Jewish majority.

“The inspiration is from the Black Lives Matter movement, but it’s important to note that the violence in Arab society in Israel is not brought on by the police or law enforcement, it’s between Arabs,” she said. “It’s important to say there’s neglect and lack of enforcement by the police, and lack of follow-up when murders are committed.”

Her statement went viral on social media. Lawmakers, activists and organizations joined in the chorus, as did the minister in charge of the police.

Public Security Minister Omer Bar-lev blamed the problem on “decades of neglect, disregard and fear of getting into the thick of the problems of the Arab sector and the prevailing assumption that ‘as long as they kill each other, then this is their problem.’”

“In the first 100 days since taking office, I did more than was done in last decades dealing with crime in the Arab sector. Yes, #Arab_Lives_Matter,” he tweeted.


Red carpet, prayers and kisses as Qataris go to the polls

Red carpet, prayers and kisses as Qataris go to the polls
Updated 29 September 2021

Red carpet, prayers and kisses as Qataris go to the polls

Red carpet, prayers and kisses as Qataris go to the polls
  • The constitution states only descendants of Qataris present in the country in 1930 are eligible to run or vote

AL-WAKRAH, Qatar: The modest crowd listens respectfully as TV actor Saeed Al-Burshaid gives his first stump speech ahead of Qatar’s inaugural legislative polls.

Burshaid gesticulates passionately as he builds to a crescendo in a nondescript and largely undecorated sports hall south of Doha, watched by a few dozen people sipping tea served by waiters.

“It’s our job to let them (voters) know, and to educate the people,” enthuses Burshaid, a minor celebrity in the Gulf who also previously ran Qatar TV’s drama department.

The Oct. 2 election is for 30 members of the 45-strong Shoura Council, a body that was previously appointed by the emir as an advisory chamber.

Burshaid’s laminated manifesto pledges action on both workers’ and women’s rights, issues for which the 2022 World Cup hosts have been criticized.

Burshaid praises the country’s Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani and his 2030 development plan.

“The system — we want to make it more open, and also to discuss modern issues,” says Burshaid, who is wearing an immaculate white thobe and was ushered into the hall on a thick red carpet.

The Shoura will be allowed to propose legislation, approve the budget and recall ministers. But the all-powerful emir will wield a veto.

After a pre-event break for prayers, the speech by Burshaid, a candidate for the 14th district, goes ahead uninterrupted, with neither of his two rivals present.

Campaigning in the Arabian desert nation has been subdued for much of the 14-day period allotted for drumming up support.

There are 28 women among the 284 hopefuls running for the 30 available council seats. The remaining 15 seats will be appointed by the emir. Male voters at Burshaid’s segregated campaign event greet each other with customary kisses on the head.

Diplomatic sources suggest families and tribes have already conducted internal ballots to determine who will be elected for their constituencies.

Candidates will have to stand in electoral divisions linked to where their family or tribe was based in the 1930s, using data compiled by the then-British authorities.

Voter Nasser Al-Kuwari said he hoped people would not simply opt for those “closest to (their) family or friends.”

“I hope that we choose the right person in the right place,” he said.

The streets of Qatar’s towns have been speckled with billboards adorned with beaming candidates sporting Qataris’ ubiquitous national dress.

The constitution states only descendants of Qataris present in the country in 1930 are eligible to run or vote.


Iran says drills near Azerbaijan an issue of ‘sovereignty’

Iran says drills near Azerbaijan an issue of ‘sovereignty’
Updated 28 September 2021

Iran says drills near Azerbaijan an issue of ‘sovereignty’

Iran says drills near Azerbaijan an issue of ‘sovereignty’
  • "The drills carried out by our country in the northwest border areas... are a question of sovereignty," said Iranian foreign ministry spokesman
  • Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev had criticised Tehran over the drills, calling them "a very surprising event"

TEHRAN: Tehran on Tuesday invoked its “sovereignty” to dismiss Azerbaijan’s concerns over Iranian military exercises near their shared border.
“The drills carried out by our country in the northwest border areas... are a question of sovereignty,” Iranian foreign ministry spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh said in a statement on the ministry website.
Tehran “will take all measures it judges necessary for its national security,” he said, adding, “Iran will not tolerate the presence of the Zionist regime near our borders” — an allusion to Azerbaijan’s relations with Iran’s enemy Israel.
Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev had criticized Tehran over the drills, calling them “a very surprising event.”
“Every country can carry out any military drill on its own territory. It’s their sovereign right. But why now, and why on our border?” he said in an interview with Turkish news agency Anadolu published on Monday.
No further details were available on the military exercises.
Fighting broke out between Azerbaijan and Armenia in September last year over the disputed Nagorno-Karabakh region, claiming some 6,000 lives over six weeks.
A major supplier of arms to Azerbaijan, Israel came under diplomatic fire from Armenia over the struggle between the Caucasus neighbors.
Iran and Azerbaijan share a border of around 700 kilometers (430 miles) and enjoy good relations.
According to some estimates, there are around 10 million members of Iran’s Azeri-speaking community.


Algerian army chief accuses Morocco of ‘conspiracies’

Algerian army chief accuses Morocco of ‘conspiracies’
Updated 29 September 2021

Algerian army chief accuses Morocco of ‘conspiracies’

Algerian army chief accuses Morocco of ‘conspiracies’
  • Relations have soured between the two North African nations in recent months

ALGIERS: Algeria’s army chief accused neighboring Morocco of conspiring against his country and vowed a “rigorous, firm” response, in a speech he delivered on Tuesday at an army base near their border.

“This expansionist regime has gone too far in its conspiracies and subversive propaganda campaigns, which aim to reduce Algeria’s regional role, exhaust its capacities, prevent its development and undermine the unity of its people,” Said Chanegriha said, in a speech.

Relations have soured between the two North African nations in recent months and Algeria on Aug. 24 cut diplomatic ties with Rabat, accusing it of “hostile actions.”

Last week it also banned all Moroccan aircraft from entering its airspace. Chanegriha said Algeria’s “enemies” had recruited “traitors” as spies in order to “weaken Algeria from the inside and pressure it to renounce its principles.”

Algeria accuses Morocco and Israel of backing the separatist MAK movement, which seeks independence for the restive Kabylie region, and the Islamist Rachad movement, both listed as terrorist organizations by Algiers.

Morocco normalized ties with Israel last year in a US-backed deal that also saw Washington recognize Rabat’s sovereignty over disputed Western Sahara.

Morocco sees the former Spanish colony as part of its sovereign territory, but the Polisario movement has continued to demand an independence referendum there as per a 1991 ceasefire deal.

Algeria has for decades hosted Polisario leaders and the issue has caused repeated diplomatic crises between the two countries.

Morocco’s normalization with Israel sparked anger in Algiers, which has accused Rabat of using Israeli spyware against its officials.

Algeria’s army chief said his country was “ready to face, with rigor and firmness, all sinister plans” against Algeria.


Yemen PM returns to Aden amid protests, plunging currency

Yemen PM returns to Aden amid protests, plunging currency
Updated 28 September 2021

Yemen PM returns to Aden amid protests, plunging currency

Yemen PM returns to Aden amid protests, plunging currency
  • Maeen Abdul Malik Saeed is back in the interim capital of Yemen to revive hopes of full implementation of the Riyadh Agreement
  • Dozens of Yemeni government troops and Houthis were killed over the past 24 hours as fighting rages in the provinces of Jouf and Marib

AL-MUKALLA: As Yemen’s prime minister touched down on Tuesday in the port city of Aden for the first time in months, thousands of Yemenis took to the streets of the southern city of Taiz and many other cities to protest against the country’s plunging currency and skyrocketing prices. 

Maeen Abdul Malik Saeed returned to Aden, the interim capital of Yemen, to revive hopes of quick and full implementation of the Riyadh Agreement and address the financial meltdown that has paralyzed the country. 

The prime minister and his cabinet left Aden in March after separatist protesters stormed the presidential palace.

For the second consecutive day, demonstrators marched around the densely populated Taiz carrying loaves of bread and posters. They demanded the government pay salaries and address the devaluation of the Yemeni riyal along with increasing prices of fuel and food. 

“I am hungry,” one protester shouted as security forces and armed vehicles were deployed outside key government facilities. Some protesters blocked roads and torched car tires. 

On Monday, at least five protesters were wounded when security forces fired live bullets to prevent protesters from blocking roads and disrupting traffic. 

The security committee in the city said it was safeguarding peaceful protests and warned against attacking private and public property. 

On Sept. 15, two protesters were killed during violent demonstrations over the economic meltdown and intensifying power cuts in Aden and Al-Mukalla. The protesters clashed with security forces, burnt garbage and tires, and stormed public facilities. 

The Yemeni riyal this week hit a record low against the dollar, trading at 1,200. The US dollar traded at 215 riyals in January 2015. 

In August, tough punitive measures by the Aden-based central bank against several currency-exchange firms that violated monetary rules helped the riyal recover by 10 percent, surging from 1,050 to 950. 

But the Yemeni riyal tumbled in the following weeks — breaking the historic 1,200 against the US dollar for the first time — as many firms have closed and banks in Houthi-controlled areas are being asked to relocate their operations to Aden.

On Tuesday, the central bank monitors inspected local exchange firms and shops, looking for violators of the bank’s rules. The banks also announced that the Bank of England had agreed to unfreeze its account, giving it access to millions of dollars.

At the same time, economists have warned that the deepening financial meltdown would exacerbate the already dire humanitarian crisis in Yemen and would fuel violence.  

Waled Al-Attas, an assistant professor of finance and banking sciences at Hadramout University, criticized the Yemeni government’s silence and late solutions to the continuing depreciation of the Yemeni riyal. 

“The state has given up doing the simplest things for the citizens and left them in the lurch,” he told Arab News. “This situation spells a real catastrophe as the plunging of the riyal continues and prices are going up. Salaries lost their values.”

During a brief visit to the southern city of Shabwa on Monday, the Yemeni premier attributed the fall of the riyal and the financial crisis in the country to the parallel Houthi economy and the movement’s military operations along with speculative activities by currency traders. 

“The economic situation is very difficult,” he said. 

Meanwhile, fighting has raged between Yemeni government troops and the Houthis over the past 24 hours in the province of Jouf and the central province of Marib. Dozens of combatants on both sides were killed.

The fiercest clashes on Tuesday were reported in Hareb district, south Marib province, where government troops, backed by air support from the Arab coalition warplanes, thwarted consecutive Houthi attacks. 

The rebels have recently opened new fronts south of Marib city after their forces failed to make major headway in their push west of Marib. In the Jouf province, government troops announced liberating a number of locations, east of Hazem city, the province’s capital.