Ghost town reopening upends Turkish Cypriot election

Ghost town reopening upends Turkish Cypriot election
Ersin Tatar, center, PM of the self-declared Turkish Cypriot state recognized only by Turkey, at the opening of the beachfront suburb of Varosha, Famagusta, Northern Cyprus, Oct. 8, 2020. (AP Photo)
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Updated 09 October 2020

Ghost town reopening upends Turkish Cypriot election

Ghost town reopening upends Turkish Cypriot election
  • The reopening of the ghost town of Varosha has given an 11th-hour boost to nationalist challenger Ersin Tatar
  • President Mustafa Akinci’s commitment to preserving a separate Turkish Cypriot identity has led to sometimes frosty relations with Ankara

NICOSIA: Turkish Cypriots vote Sunday in a presidential election upended by a controversial move sanctioned by Ankara restoring access to a beach resort sealed off since its Greek Cypriot inhabitants fled in 1974.
The reopening of the ghost town of Varosha gave an 11th-hour boost to nationalist challenger Ersin Tatar in his bid to unseat dovish incumbent Mustafa Akinci.
But the return of the one-time holiday destination of Hollywood stars to its former inhabitants has been a part of every plan to end the island’s decades-long division and the reopening of its ruins drew condemnation from the island’s internationally recognized government and from the European Union.
Sunday’s vote is the only Turkish Cypriot election that has any standing with the international community, which deals with the president as leader of the island’s minority community.
The breakaway state which Turkish Cypriot leaders declared in the north of the island in 1983 remains unrecognized, except by Ankara, whose role in its affairs has again been thrown into the spotlight by Thursday’s reopening of Varosha.
The Turkish Cypriot economy was already beset with problems when the coronavirus pandemic hit, forcing the postponement of the election from April.
The virus has dealt a heavy blow to two of the private sector’s mainstays, tourism and higher education.
Budget support from Ankara provides a vital lifeline for the large state sector but many Turkish Cypriots resent what they see as the erosion of their identity by creeping annexation.
“Since the president will be the leader in charge of protecting our rights, interests and future, they must have strong, sincere relations with Ankara,” said graphic designer Cagin Nevruz Ozsoy.
“But it must be on a political level, in line with the interests of the Cypriot people and not in their own interests,” the 24-year-old said.
Akinci won election in 2015 on a promise to relaunch UN-backed talks on ending the island’s long division.
Despite the collapse of those talks in Switzerland in July 2017, he is standing for re-election on a similarly dovish platform.
While his role in promoting the island’s reunification as a bizonal federation earned him international plaudits, his commitment to preserving a separate Turkish Cypriot identity has led to sometimes frosty relations with Ankara.
When earlier this year he described the prospect of Turkish annexation as “horrible,” Ankara called him “dishonest.”
In contrast, his main challenger Tatar, who currently serves as the breakaway state’s prime minister, higlighted his influence in Ankara with the reopening of Varosha, which he announced on Tuesday after talks with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
But political scientist Bilge Azgin said the strategy could backfire because it “mobilized people who weren’t even going to vote.”
“They turned it into a referendum on respecting the people’s will,” Azgin told AFP.
Student Berke Cevik, 21, agreed, calling the decision “selfish and provocative.”
It is “a mistake which cannot be rectified,” he told AFP.
Before troops reopened Varosha, the campaign had been dominated by Turkey’s hunt for natural gas, which has pushed it into waters claimed by Cyprus and Greece.
Last weekend, Turkey pulled a drill ship away from Cyprus after being threatened with economic sanctions by EU leaders, who welcomed the move.
But Turkey’s move to reopen Varosha is likely to revive the sanctions threat.
Both Cyprus and Greece said they would make a new push for the bloc to impose sanctions next week.
No candidate is expected to win Sunday’s election outright. The field of 11, all of them men, will be whittled down to two for a second-round runoff the following Sunday.
Competing with Akinci for the votes of Turkish Cypriots eager to see reunification is former prime ministrer Tufan Erhurman, of the center-left Turkish Republican Party.
Also in the fray is the breakaway state’s former foreign minister Kudret Ozersay, who resigned on Tuesday in protest at Varosha’s reopening.
“There are at least three to four serious candidates,” said Ahmet Sozen, political science chair at the Eastern Mediterranean University in Famagusta, predicting that the runoff would be won by a candidate from the pro-reunification camp.


Danish PM under pressure for working with Israel on vaccines

Danish Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen is under pressure to stop working with Israel on acquiring coronavirus (COVID-19) vaccines. (AFP/File Photos)
Danish Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen is under pressure to stop working with Israel on acquiring coronavirus (COVID-19) vaccines. (AFP/File Photos)
Updated 33 min 34 sec ago

Danish PM under pressure for working with Israel on vaccines

Danish Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen is under pressure to stop working with Israel on acquiring coronavirus (COVID-19) vaccines. (AFP/File Photos)
  • Frederiksen’s political allies say COVID-19 vaccine surplus should be given to Palestinians instead

LONDON: Danish Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen is under pressure to stop working with Israel on acquiring coronavirus (COVID-19) vaccines, it was reported on Wednesday.

Frederiksen’s political allies demanded that Israel’s vaccine surplus should be given to Palestinians instead.

She is scheduled to meet with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Thursday along with Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz to discuss a joint vaccine production project to battle future COVID-19 variants.

Copenhagen and Vienna both criticized the European Union’s rollout of the vaccines as being “too slow,” so Frederiksen is looking at other options.

Before she left for Tel Aviv, Frederiksen said she planned to talk with Netanyahu about the possibility of financing new factories and purchasing surplus doses from Israel’s vaccination program, the Guardian reported.

“I do not rule out any ideas, not even to build factories,” Frederiksen said. “We are happy to buy vaccines from countries that cannot use them, either because they do not have time to roll them out at the same rate as us or for other reasons.”

Israel’s vaccine rollout has been praised internationally as more than half of all adults have received a dose. However, Netanyahu was criticized heavily for only approving doses for Palestinians last Sunday.

Human rights groups pointed out that international law requires Israel to provide Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza the same access to vaccines as Israeli citizens.

The Palestinian Authority said it has received only 2,000 doses from Israel and another 10,000 from Russia.

Frederiksen is facing pressure in Denmark to step back from dealing with Netanyahu.

Søren Søndergaard, an MP with the country’s Red-Green Alliance Group, which supports Frederiksen’s minority Social Democrat government, said: “We should not rely on Israel to produce vaccines for us.

“It would be a historic mistake for Denmark to cooperate with Israel as long as it does not live up to its obligations under international law. Instead, we should demand that Israel provides the Palestinians with the vaccines, which they have a rightful claim to.”


Immigrants ‘overrepresented’ in severely ill COVID-19 patients in Germany

Immigrants ‘overrepresented’ in severely ill COVID-19 patients in Germany
Updated 03 March 2021

Immigrants ‘overrepresented’ in severely ill COVID-19 patients in Germany

Immigrants ‘overrepresented’ in severely ill COVID-19 patients in Germany
  • Ethnic minorities need support due to additional pressures, researcher tells Arab News
  • Number of Muslim intensive care patients above 50% despite making up 5% of Germany’s population

LONDON: More than 90 percent of severely ill COVID-19 patients in Germany have a “migrant background,” a leading doctor has said, amid concerns that minority ethnic groups require more support in the fight against the virus.

Thomas Voshaar, a top doctor at a German lung hospital, said a survey of leading medics had found that many of the most gravely ill patients were what he described as “patients with communications barriers.”

Saloni Dattani, a science writer and researcher at OurWorldInData, told Arab News: “The reasons that ethnic minorities are more likely to develop severe disease are well-understood. In the UK and the US, ethnic minorities are more likely to live in geographical areas that are hard hit, more likely to work in essential services where they come into contact with more people, more likely to live in dense areas, and more likely to live in multigenerational households.”

She added: “In sum, a greater proportion of severely ill patients are from ethnic minority backgrounds because a greater proportion of all COVID-19 patients are from ethnic minority backgrounds.”

The head of Germany’s top diseases institute, Lothar Wieler, said the number of intensive care patients with a Muslim background was “clearly above 50 percent,” despite making up just 5 percent of Germany’s 83 million population.

Voshaar told a conference call of journalists that government warnings about the dangers of the virus are “simply not getting through” to migrant communities.

Jonathon Kitson, a fellow at the London-based Adam Smith Institute, told Arab News: “This shows the need for an acceleration in Germany’s vaccination program to reach all members of society.”

He added: “Although vaccine acceptance rates in the UK amongst BAME (black, Asian and ethnic minority) people have initially been lower than the rest of the population, thanks to outreach and personal testimony this is beginning to change.”

Wieler said doctors had compiled figures from intensive care wards toward the end of 2020 and the start of 2021, the peak months of the second wave.

“According to my analysis, more than 90 percent of the intubated, most seriously ill patients always had a migrant background,” he said.

“We agreed among ourselves that we should describe these people as ‘patients with communications barriers.’ We don’t seem to be getting through to them,” he added.

“There are parallel societies in our country. You can only put that right with proper outreach work in the mosques, but we’re not getting through. And that sucks.”

Minority groups have been hit disproportionately hard by COVID-19 in many countries, including in the UK, where studies have shown a higher mortality rate among black and Asian people.

But Germany does not publish official figures on infection or death rates among different ethnic groups.

“Since it’s more difficult for ethnic minorities to self-isolate and protect themselves from exposure to COVID-19, it’s all the more important to vaccinate and provide support for ethnic minorities,” Dattani said.
 


Eight injured in ‘suspected terrorist’ stabbings in Sweden: Police

Eight injured in ‘suspected terrorist’ stabbings in Sweden: Police
Updated 50 min 15 sec ago

Eight injured in ‘suspected terrorist’ stabbings in Sweden: Police

Eight injured in ‘suspected terrorist’ stabbings in Sweden: Police
  • The assailant was taken to hospital after being shot in the leg by police when he was taken into custody
  • In Sweden, the intelligence services consider the terrorist threat to be high

STOCKHOLM: A man attacked eight people with a "sharp weapon," seriously injuring two, in the Swedish city of Vetlanda on Wednesday, police said, in what they called a suspected terrorist crime.
The assailant was taken to hospital after being shot in the leg by police when he was taken into custody, following the attack in the southern Swedish city in mid-afternoon.
Speaking to AFP, police said the man in his twenties had used a "sharp weapon," while local media reported the man had brandished a knife.
Police originally treated the incident as "attempted murder" but later changed it, in a statement, to a "suspected terrorist crime," without giving further details.
A press conference was announced for 8 pm local time (1900 GMT).
In Sweden, the intelligence services consider the terrorist threat to be high.
The Scandinavian country has been targeted twice by attacks in recent years.
In December 2010, a man carried out a suicide bomb attack in the centre of Stockholm. He was killed but only slightly injured passers-by.
In April 2017, a rejected and radicalised Uzbek asylum seeker mowed down pedestrians in Stockholm with a stolen truck, killing five people. He was sentenced to life in jail in June 2018.


Macron admits France murdered Algerian independence figure

Macron admits France murdered Algerian independence figure
Updated 03 March 2021

Macron admits France murdered Algerian independence figure

Macron admits France murdered Algerian independence figure
  • Macron met four of the grandchildren of Ali Boumendjel and admitted “in the name of France” that the lawyer had been detained, tortured and killed in Algiers on March 23, 1957
  • Boumendjel was a French-speaking nationalist lawyer and intellectual who served as a link between the moderate UDMA party and the National Liberation Front (FLN)

PARIS: President Emmanuel Macron has admitted for the first time that French soldiers murdered a top Algerian independence figure then covered up his death in the latest acknowledgement by Paris of its colonial-era crimes.
Macron met four of the grandchildren of Ali Boumendjel and admitted “in the name of France” that the lawyer had been detained, tortured and killed in Algiers on March 23, 1957, his office said Tuesday.
French authorities had previously claimed that he had committed suicide while in detention, a lie that his widow and other family members had campaigned for years to see overturned.
“Looking our history in the face, acknowledging the truth, will not enable us to heal all of the still open wounds, but it will help to create a path for the future,” the statement from Macron’s office said.
As the first French president to be born in the post-colonial era, Macron has made several unprecedented steps to face up to France’s brutal fight to retain control of its north African colony, which won independence in 1962.
In 2018, he admitted that France had created a “system” that facilitated torture during the war and acknowledged that French mathematician Maurice Audin, a Communist pro-independence activist, was also murdered in Algiers.
In July last year, he tasked French historian Benjamin Stora with assessing how France has dealt with its colonial legacy.
Stora’s report in January made a series of recommendations, including acknowledging the murder of Boumendjel and creating a “memory and truth commission” that would hear testimony from people who suffered during the war.
It did not suggest a formal state apology, however, and Macron has said there would be “no repentance nor apologies” but rather “symbolic acts” aimed at promoting reconciliation.
Boumendjel was a French-speaking nationalist lawyer and intellectual who served as a link between the moderate UDMA party and the National Liberation Front (FLN), the underground resistance movement.
Macron praised his “humanism” and his “courage” in his statement, adding that Boumendjel had been influenced by French Enlightenment values in his fight against “the injustice of the colonial system.”
In 2001, the former head of French intelligence in Algiers Paul Aussaresses published a book called “Special Services 1955-1957” in which he described how he and his “death squad” tortured and killed prisoners, including Boumendjel.
Aussaresses wrote that the government, notably the then justice minister Francois Mitterrand, who later became president, was informed about and tolerated the use of torture, executions and forced displacements.
Last month, Boumendjel’s niece Fadela Boumendjel-Chitour denounced what she called the “devastating” lie the French state had told about her uncle, which had never been officially corrected.
Macron also said on Tuesday that he would continue to open national archives and encouraged historians to continue researching Algeria’s independence war, which saw atrocities committed by all sides.
Paris ruled Algeria for more than a hundred years and the independence war from 1954-1962 left 1.5 million Algerians dead, leaving deep scars and a toxic debate about the legacy of colonization.
During his 2017 election campaign, Macron declared that the occupation of Algeria was a “crime against humanity” and called French actions “genuinely barbaric.”
But despite his outreach efforts, he has been criticized for ruling out a state apology, with the Algerian government calling the most recent report by Stora “not objective” and “below expectations.”
On France’s right and far-right, many politicians object to raking up the past, with French colonialism still defended as a “civilising” enterprise that helped develop occupied territories.
During his presidential run in 2017, Macron’s comments on Algeria were denounced by his defeated right-wing rival Francois Fillon as “this hatred of our history, this perpetual repentance.”


COVID-19 vaccines being tested on low-immunity patients

COVID-19 vaccines being tested on low-immunity patients
Updated 03 March 2021

COVID-19 vaccines being tested on low-immunity patients

COVID-19 vaccines being tested on low-immunity patients
  • Trials have shown that the inoculations have a very high success rate for most adults, including the very elderly,
  • But there is little evidence on their efficacy in immunocompromised patients

LONDON: People with low immunity due to health conditions such as cancer are being recruited to a study to assess if COVID-19 vaccines will give them high protection.
Trials have shown that the inoculations have a very high success rate for most adults, including the very elderly, with antibody levels exceeding expectations. But there is little evidence on their efficacy in immunocompromised patients.
In a new study, up to 5,000 immunocompromised people from around Britain will be vaccinated, with blood tests before and after their inoculations to assess the change in protection against the virus. Some results are expected in a few months, with full conclusions delivered early next year.
“We urgently need to understand if patient populations with chronic conditions such as cancer, inflammatory arthritis and kidney and liver disease are likely to be well-protected by current COVID-19 vaccines,” said lead researcher Prof. Iain McInnes from the University of Glasgow.
“The study will give us invaluable new data to help us answer questions of this kind from our patients and their families.”
The British Society for Immunology said: “While COVID-19 vaccination might provide a lower level of protection in people who are immunosuppressed or immunocompromised compared with the rest of the population, it is still very important that you get vaccinated, as it will offer you a certain amount of protection.”
It added: “It is important that you receive two doses of the vaccine to maximize the protection that vaccination offers you.”