Fears of crackdowns on Turkey’s Kurdish parties and voters

Fears of crackdowns on Turkey’s Kurdish parties and voters
Members of the pro-Kurdish Peoples Democratic Party take part in a protest against the detention of HDP activists in Istanbul. (File/AFP)
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Updated 19 February 2021

Fears of crackdowns on Turkey’s Kurdish parties and voters

Fears of crackdowns on Turkey’s Kurdish parties and voters
  • Houses of HDP members who attended peaceful demonstrations ‘have turned into prisons’

ANKARA: The debate around the closure of Turkey’s pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) — the third biggest party in the parliament — raises the specter of crackdowns on Kurdish voters like those seen during the 1990s.
Devlet Bahceli, the leader of the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP), the alliance partner of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP), regularly repeats his calls for banning HDP, claiming the party still has “organic” ties with the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) — an accusation that is denied by the HDP.
But sources who spoke to Arab News claim that the government is instead working on alternative plans to erode public support for the Kurdish party and paralyze its political and financial functions.
Several Kurdish parties were banned in the past, paving the way for the launch of new ones with a broader voter base almost every time.
The government currently is working on lifting the parliamentary immunity of all HDP deputies who are subject to summary of proceedings on terror charges. So far, 56 deputies from HDP have 914 summaries of proceedings against them.
When these files are examined in the parliament with the support of the AKP and its ally MHP, the deputies may be arrested due to alleged “terror” links.
Figen Yuksekdag and Selahattin Demirtas, former co-chairs of the HDP, are still behind bars on terror-related charges, while dozens of local officials from the Kurdish party were detained on Monday following the death of 13 Turkish citizens, including policemen, soldiers and intelligence officers, who were held captive by the PKK in northern Iraq.
So far, the government has taken more than 47 of the 65 municipalities won by the HDP in Kurdish-majority provinces in the 2019 local elections by replacing mayors with trustees, on the ground of “terror-related” investigations against the HDP mayors.
In a press briefing on Feb. 17, the Human Rights Association warned that the homes of HDP members who attended peaceful demonstrations have been turned into prisons due to increasing house arrest sentences.
A new survey conducted by the pro-government Optimar company found that 66 percent of respondents were in favor of banning the HDP.
In another move, the election threshold in the country may also be lowered from 10 percent to five percent.
This is also expected to lower public support for the HDP as people who are normally not core voters of the Kurdish party support it during the elections to prevent it from remaining below the threshold.
According to Roj Girasun, director of the Diyarbakir-based Rawest Research Center, discussions about banning HDP in the political scene further increase anti-AKP sentiments among Kurdish voters.
“With the executive presidential system, the weight of the political parties and the parliament almost completely lost their significance. In case of a closure of the HDP, its voters will get further motivation to support the anti-Erdogan camp in any forthcoming elections because of the increased polarization in the country,” he told Arab News.
During the 2023 parliamentary and presidential elections, about 2 million young Kurds are expected to vote for the first time.
“According to our estimates, the HDP is the first choice for these new voters. The loyal voter share of the HDP is around 7-8 percent,” he said.
Now, the key question for Turkey is whether the government’s ally MHP, with its nationalistic vote potential, will exercise enough leverage on the government on the closure of the HDP.
Presidential communications director, Fahrettin Altun, tweeted a video on Sunday wth the message “PKK and HDP are one and the same.”
Galip Dalay, a doctoral researcher from Oxford University, thinks that debates about the HDP’s closure should be evolved around another discussion about the differentiation between what is good for Turkey and what is good for the ruling government.

Following the tragic death of Turkish officers in northern Iraq, the closure of the HDP became much more likely ...

Galip Dalay, Researcher

“Following the tragic death of Turkish officers in northern Iraq, the closure of the HDP became much more likely. I expect the government to opt for hard politics in order to overcome the failure of this rescue operation of the 13 hostages,” he told Arab News.
Experts underline that any move to ban the HDP will show that the government prioritizes its electoral advantages over the potential reactions of the international community, especially with the administration of US President Joe Biden focusing on weaknesses of democracy in its allies.
However, for Dalay, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is now undecided about which option will bring him more public support in the upcoming elections.
“He is not categorically against banning the HDP. However, he may opt for bringing tougher conditions to benefit from a Treasury grant, which could lead to preventing the HDP from getting any financial assistance from the Treasury,” he said.
“With the latest wave of arrests, the government already paralyzed the HDP in a political sense by arresting top and medium-level officials of the party,” Dalay said.


IAEA confirms Iran has started enriching uranium to 60% purity

IAEA confirms Iran has started enriching uranium to 60% purity
Updated 32 min 24 sec ago

IAEA confirms Iran has started enriching uranium to 60% purity

IAEA confirms Iran has started enriching uranium to 60% purity

VIENNA: Iran has started the process of enriching uranium to 60% fissile purity at its above-ground Pilot Fuel Enrichment Plant at Natanz, the UN nuclear watchdog said on Saturday, confirming earlier statements by Iranian officials.
"The Agency today verified that Iran had begun the production of UF6 enriched up to 60% U-235 by feeding UF6 enriched up to 5% U-235 simultaneously into two cascades of IR-4 centrifuges and IR-6 centrifuges at the Natanz Pilot Fuel Enrichment Plant," the International Atomic Energy Agency said in a statement.

UF6 is uranium hexafluoride, the form in which uranium is fed into centrifuges for enrichment. 


Defiant Lebanese judge stages second raid on money exchange

Defiant Lebanese judge stages second raid on money exchange
Ghada Aoun. (Photo/Twitter)
Updated 17 April 2021

Defiant Lebanese judge stages second raid on money exchange

Defiant Lebanese judge stages second raid on money exchange
  • Prosecutor’s stand sparks calls for judiciary to ‘rise up against corruption’

BEIRUT: Controversial Lebanese judge and Mount Lebanon state prosecutor Ghada Aoun carried out a second raid on a money exchange in northern Lebanon on Saturday in defiance of a senior judiciary decision dismissing her from an investigation into possible currency export breaches.

Aoun was accompanied by several activists from the Free Patriotic Movement (FPM) during the raid on the money exchange in the Awkar district in northern Lebanon.

Less than 24 hours earlier she raided the office with members of the security services.

Aoun remained in the money exchange for several hours on Friday in protest at her dismissal by the the discriminatory Public Prosecutor, Judge Ghassan Oweidat, a decision that caused widespread anger among the Lebanese public.

Caretaker Justice Minister Marie-Claude Najm held an emergency meeting on Saturday with Oweidat as well as Supreme Judicial Council head Judge Suhail Abboud and Judicial Inspection Authority head Judge Borkan Saad.

After the meeting Najm voiced her anger at the situation regarding the judiciary, saying that she refuses to be “a false witness to the decay of the judiciary and the fall of the fig leaf in this state.”

Najm said the events involving Aoun are an indication of “the failure of state institutions.”

Lebanon is facing a political and economic crisis amid disputes between state officials, a deadlock that has led to the collapse of the national currency.

However, critics accuse Aoun of a lack of respect for due process.

There are six criminal cases and 28 complaints against her before the Judicial Inspection Authority — the largest number of cases filed against any judge in the history of the Lebanese judiciary.

Aoun was investigating the Mecattaf money exchange company and Societe Generale Bank for allegedly withdrawing dollars from the market and shipping the funds abroad.

The Supreme Judicial Council dismissed Aoun along with two other judges who had previously been suspended by the Disciplinary Council for Judges.

Judge Oweidat on Friday asked the Director-General of State Security, Maj. Gen. Antoine Saliba, to suspend the officers who accompanied Aoun on the exchange office raid.

People in Lebanon on Friday watched on TV as Aoun requested that the money exchange office be sealed because the owner, Michel Mecattaf, refused to provide her with details of currency transfers on behalf of banks.

Earlier, Mecattaf’s agents informed Aoun that she had been dismissed from the case.

Aoun remained alone for hours inside the office after state security personnel left. A medical team checked on her after her blood pressure rose, and she left the premises soon after. Later she stepped on to the balcony of her home to wave to FPM supporters, who gathered outside to offer support.

After Aoun’s second raid on Saturday, the head of the Mecattaf financial company accused her supporters of “breaking into private property by force.”

Mecattaf described the case as “eminently political,” saying that he is “a witness and not a convict.”

Najm described the events as “unacceptable.”

“I am not in a position to please this political party or that team. We want an effective and independent judiciary. The problem is not the laws — oversight and accountability have been absent for years,” she said.

Najm also said that “the judiciary is incapable of fighting corruption,” and called on judges to “rise up against this reality.”

She added: “There is a lack of confidence in the judiciary, and this is a major insult.”

Retired General Prosecutor Hatem Madi told Arab News: “Judge Oweidat’s decision shows that some judges are working independently, but things must be put to rights. Regardless of whether Oweidat’s decision was right or wrong, the public prosecution offices in Lebanon must be an integrated unit.”

The decision to dismiss Aoun revived a political dispute between the FPM and the Future Movement, the two parties in conflict over the formation of the government.

The FPM, headed by MP Gebran Bassil, said that it will “continue to expose every file related to the fight against corruption,” saluting “every judge who rightfully performs their duties despite the injustice to which they are sometimes exposed.”

The Future Movement said that “mourning for judges after encouraging them to violate laws and asking them to open discretionary files for opponents is a matter that no longer fools any of the Lebanese people.”

 


Qatar’s controversial cleric Qardawi contracts coronavirus

Qatar’s controversial cleric Qardawi contracts coronavirus
Updated 17 April 2021

Qatar’s controversial cleric Qardawi contracts coronavirus

Qatar’s controversial cleric Qardawi contracts coronavirus
  • His son Abdul-Rahman Yusuf Al-Qaradawi confirmed that the cleric had coronavirus on Twitter

LONDON: Yusuf Al-Qaradawi, an Egyptian cleric based in Qatar and infamous for his controversial religious edicts, has contracted COVID-19.
“Sheikh Al-Qaradawi has been infected with the coronavirus and he is in good condition, praise be to God. He is receiving health care, reassures his followers, and asks you to pray for his recovery and good health,” his official Twitter account stated.


The news was also reported by Turkish state-run news agency Anadolu.
His son Abdul-Rahman Yusuf Al-Qaradawi confirmed that the cleric had coronavirus on Twitter and said his father had been vaccinated against the virus previously. He also requested prayers for his father.
Al-Qaradawi is 94 years old and is the spiritual leader of the Muslim Brotherhood, head of the European council for Fatwa and Research and co-founder of IslamOnline.net.

 


NGO says 4,500 Palestinians in Israeli prisons

NGO says 4,500 Palestinians in Israeli prisons
Updated 17 April 2021

NGO says 4,500 Palestinians in Israeli prisons

NGO says 4,500 Palestinians in Israeli prisons
  • Of the thousands behind bars, 430 are administrative detainees held without charge or trial, including 180 children and 41 women and girls
  • There are 550 prisoners suffering from various illnesses, including 11 with cancer, seven with kidney failure, and heart disease

AMMAN: There are 4,500 Palestinians in Israeli prisons, including an 82-year-old man who has been behind bars since 2001, according to the Palestinian Prisoners’ Club NGO. 
It released the figures to mark Palestinian Prisoner’s Day, which is observed on April 17.
Of the thousands behind bars, 430 are administrative detainees held without charge or trial, including 180 children and 41 women and girls.
There are 550 prisoners suffering from various illnesses, including 11 with cancer, seven with kidney failure, and heart disease. One of the sick prisoners is Foad Shobaki, who is 82.
There are eight prisoners with serious disabilities, said the NGO, adding that 222 prisoners had died in Israeli prisons since 1967.
Prisoner’s Day had become an occasion for paying tribute to the 1 million people jailed since 1967, the Palestine National Council (PNC) said. 
According to the council, 73 prisoners had died as a result of physical torture while 67 died because of medical negligence.
It said that prisoners caught in a war or armed struggle were not destined to remain imprisoned for life, as indicated in the Third Geneva Convention.
The PNC said there were 14 prisoners who had spent more than 30 years in jail, and 47 who had been imprisoned for more than 20 years.
Israel continues to detain 25 prisoners held before the Declaration of Principles between Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), in which Israel promised to release them but reneged at the last moment in 2014.
Former PLO Executive Committee member, Hanan Ashrawi, tweeted: “It’s important to understand the grave injustice that the Israeli Occupation inflicts on them and on the whole nation. The legal and political systems, the judiciary, the military and security forces are all in the service of an illegal and oppressive occupation.”
Fatah’s deputy chair Mahmoud Alloul said the prisoners’ cause was part of every Palestinian’s mind and consciousness.
His son Jihad, a Najah University student, was killed by Israeli gunfire during the second intifada. 
Alloul told the Voice of Palestine radio station: “Prisoners have sacrificed a lot having to spend their entire lifetime behind bars for their homeland. We will not carry (out) any political move without ensuring the freedom of the prisoners.”
He emphasized that the Palestinian leadership had resisted persistent pressure to stop support for prisoners and their families, saying that Israel had stolen money earmarked for the Palestinian Authority because of its continued support to prisoners and their families.
Khalil El-Halabi, whose son Mohammed has been held by the Israelis since 2016, made an appeal to world leaders — including Israeli ones.
He called for “building a new life based on peace for all the believers in God, Muslims, Christians, Jews and others.”
El-Halabi said his son was jailed because of false accusations that he diverted charitable funds to an illegal organization.
“The charity my son works for (World Vision) and the Australian government have thoroughly investigated these allegations and found them to be untrue,” he told Arab News. “Yet my son is in jail for five years despite torture that caused him to lose 50 percent of his hearing, simply because he refused to sign a plea bargain deal in which he would have to admit to a crime he did not commit.”
There were many like Mohammed who were tortured and charged with false accusations, he said, urging the Israeli people to seek justice if they wanted peace.
“Holding prisoners indefinitely will not bring peace and security and will not provide justice. I know that millions around the world would like to see peace between Israelis and Palestinians. Releasing innocent prisoners is the first step toward a lasting peace.”


Third coronavirus wave hits Egypt

Third coronavirus wave hits Egypt
Updated 17 April 2021

Third coronavirus wave hits Egypt

Third coronavirus wave hits Egypt
  • Hatem said that the number of cases is directly related to how far citizens follow precautionary measures
  • He said that there was no shortage of medicines in public hospitals, whether in university hospitals or those under the Ministry of Health

CAIRO: Egypt is witnessing a third coronavirus wave, a top official has said. Ashraf Hatem, head of the health affairs committee in the Egyptian Parliament and a member of the supreme committee for respiratory viruses of the Ministry of Higher Education, indicated that the number of coronavirus cases at university hospitals is once again increasing daily.
He said that citizens must adhere to precautionary measures, respect the rules of social distancing and wear their protective face masks, as well as avoiding family visits.
He advised of the need to follow proper nutritional habits and eat foods that contain nutrients that boost the immune system.
Hatem said that the number of coronavirus cases is directly related to how far citizens follow precautionary measures.
He said that there was no shortage of medicines in public hospitals, whether in university hospitals or those under the Ministry of Health.
Egypt has not yet reached the peak of the third wave, he said, and numbers might continue to rise until the last week of Ramadan. He called on citizens to be careful in the coming period to minimize the increase in infection rates.
He praised the decision of Egyptian Prime Minister Mostafa Madbouly to fine those who violate the instructions of the government.
Ashraf Abdel Basset, president of Mansoura University, said that the number of beds allocated for isolation had not been reduced following the earlier decrease in the number of daily recorded cases. He said that the hospitals are highly prepared for any emergency.
Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi had previously warned of a third coronavirus wave. “We are on the threshold of the third wave … please be careful, especially with the month of Ramadan … We want the matter to end in peace,” he said.