USAKLI HOYUK, Turkey: The discovery of a 3,500-year-old paving stone, described as the “ancestor” of Mediterranean mosaics, offers illuminating details into the daily lives of the mysterious Bronze Age Hittites.
The assembly of over 3,000 stones — in natural shades of beige, red and black, and arranged in triangles and curves — was unearthed in the remains of a 15th century BC Hittite temple, 700 years before the oldest known mosaics of ancient Greece.
“It is the ancestor of the classical period of mosaics that are obviously more sophisticated. This is a sort of first attempt to do it,” says Anacleto D’Agostino, excavation director of Usakli Hoyuk, near Yozgat, in central Turkey.
At the site three hours from Turkey’s capital Ankara, first located in 2018, Turkish and Italian archaeologists painstakingly use shovels and brushes to learn more about the towns of the Hittites, one of the most powerful kingdoms in ancient Anatolia.
“For the first time, people felt the necessity to produce some geometric patterns and to do something different from a simple pavement,” D’Agostino says.
“Maybe we are dealing with a genius? Maybe not. It was maybe a man who said ‘build me a floor’ and he decided to do something weird?“
The discovery was made opposite Kerkenes mountain and the temple where the mosaic is located was dedicated to Teshub, the storm deity worshipped by the Hittites, equivalent to Zeus for the ancient Greeks.
“Probably here the priests were looking at the picture of Kerkenes mountain for some rituals and so on,” D’Agostino adds.
The archaeologists this week also discovered ceramics and the remains of a palace, supporting the theory that Usakli Hoyuk could indeed be the lost city of Zippalanda.
A significant place of worship of the storm deity and frequently mentioned in Hittite tablets, Zippalanda’s exact location has remained a mystery.
“Researchers agree that Usakli Hoyuk is one of two most likely sites. With the discovery of the palace remains alongside the luxurious ceramics and glassware, the likelihood has increased,” D’Agostino says.
“We only need the ultimate proof: a tablet carrying the name of the city.”
The treasures of Usakli Hoyuk, for which cedar trees were brought from Lebanon to build temples and palaces, were swallowed up like the rest of the Hittite world toward the end of the Bronze Age.
The reason is still not known. But some believe a change in climate accompanied by social unrest is the cause.
Nearly 3,000 years after their disappearance, the Hittites continue to inhabit Turkish imagination.
In an attempt to honor this connection, the excavation team recreated Hittite culinary traditions, trying ancient recipes on ceramics produced as they would have been at the time using the same technique and clay.
“We reproduced the Hittite ceramics with the clay found in the village where the site is located: We baked dates and bread with them as the Hittites used to eat,” says Valentina Orsi, co-director of the excavation.
Houthi’s boat attacks pose threat to global trade lines at Red Sea
Updated 25 October 2021
DUBAI: The Houthi militia’s planned attacks using explosive-rigged boats in the Red Sea pose a threat to global maritime trade lines in the area, Yemen’s information, culture and tourism minister Moammar Al-Eryani warned.
The Arab coalition earlier said it destroyed four Houthi boats loaded with explosives during an airstrike in Yemen’s western province of Hodeidah.
The vessels were being prepared to attack ships sailing through the Red Sea.
“The coalition efforts have contributed to protecting shipping lanes and international trade in the Bab Al-Mandab Strait and south of (the) Red Sea,” the coalition said in a statement.
Al-Eryani also called on the international community as well as the UN and US envoys to Yemen to condemn the Houthis’ terroristic actions, which were aimed to destabilize regional and international security and maritime navigation.
Meanwhile, the KSrelief Center’s Demining Project in Yemen (MASAM) has defused 1,500 landmines and unexploded ordnances in the past week.
MASAM’s technical teams managed to remove 6 anti-personnel, 1,067 anti-tanks landmines, 483 unexploded explosive ordnances and one explosive device.
The landmines were rigged by Houthi fighters in different parts of Yemen, the center said.
‘Joint military forces’ detain ministers, civilians in Sudan ruling body
Raiders surround the residence of Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok and storm the house of his media adviser
Updated 11 sec ago
The Sudanese military has implemented a coup on Monday against the government of Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok despite an earlier agreement, the director of his office told al-Arabiya TV channel.
The coup happened in spite of an agreement Hamdok had reached with the head of the country's ruling council, Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, in presence of US special envoy Jeffrey Feltman, said Adam Harik, according to the Dubai-based channel.
The prime minister’s aide also noted during his phone interview that they knew the coup would take place six weeks ago.
“The military establishment does not want to fulfill its obligations to hand over power,” he said.
Adding that the Sudanese military has stirred unrest in eastern Sudan and used the crisis to implement a coup.
Joint military forces on Monday detained civilian members of Sudan’s ruling body and a number of ministers within the transitional government, the information ministry said.
“Civilian members of the transitional sovereign council and a number of ministers from the transitional government have been detained by joint military forces,” the ministry said in a statement on Facebook.
“They have been led to an unidentified location.”
Sudan’s Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok has also been placed under house arrest, local and regional media reported early Monday.
Alhadath TV earlier reported four cabinet ministers and a member of Sudan’s Sovereign Council were among those arrested. Men in military uniform cut off the main roads leading to the capital, and state television was broadcasting patriotic songs.
There was no immediate comment from the military.
The Khartoum airport was shut and international flights were suspended on Monday, the Dubai-based Al-Arabiya TV channel reported. There was no announcement from the Sudanese government on the status of the airport.
Military forces stormed Sudanese Radio and Television headquarters in Omdurman and arrested employees, the information ministry said on its Facebook page.
The Arab League has warned against any measures that may shake stability in Sudan, Al-Arabiya reported.
US Special Envoy Jeffrey Feltman said on Monday the United States is deeply alarmed at reports of a military takeover of the transitional government in Sudan.
On the official Twitter of the State Department’s Bureau of African Affairs, Feltman warned the military takeover would contravene Sudan’s Constitutional Declaration and puts at risk US assistance to the country.
“The US is deeply alarmed at reports of a military take-over of the transitional government,” Feltman said.
“This would contravene the Constitutional Declaration (which outlines the transition) and the democratic aspirations of the Sudanese people,” he said, according to a statement on Twitter.
Feltman met with Sudanese military and civilian leaders Saturday and Sunday in efforts to resolve a growing dispute. Sudan’s Stat News website highlighted the meetings with military officials.
Reacting to the developments, the Sudanese Professionals’ Association, Sudan’s main pro-democratic political group, called on people to take to the street to counter an apparent military coup.
The association also said there were Internet and phone signal outages in the country.
One of those arrested was Ali Al-Rayh Al-Sanhouri, secretary-general of the Sudanese Baath Party, Al-Sharq reported, quoting unnamed sources.
The report said Council of Sovereignty member Mohammed Al-Jawki was also under arrest, along with Minister of Cabinet Affairs Khaled Omar Yusuf.
The raiders have surrounded the residence of Hamdok and stormed the house of his media adviser, whom they then took under custody, various media reports said.
Since August 2019, the country has been led by a civilian-military administration tasked with overseeing the transition to full civilian rule.
The main civilian bloc – the Forces for Freedom and Change (FFC) – which led the anti-Bashir protests in 2019, has splintered into two opposing factions.
“The crisis at hand is engineered – and is in the shape of a creeping coup,” mainstream FFC leader Yasser Arman told the Saturday press conference in the capital Khartoum.
“We renew our confidence in the government, Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok, and reforming transitional institutions – but without dictations or imposition,” Arman added.
A failed coup attempt in September fractured the country along old lines, pitting more conservative Islamists who want a military government against those who toppled autocratic former ruler Omar Al-Bashir in mass protests. In recent days, both camps have taken to the street in demonstrations.
Last week, several cabinet ministers took part in big protests in several parts of the Khartoum and other cities against the prospect of military rule.
The military head of the Sovereign Council has previously asserted his commitment to the transition.
Dozens of Yemenis feared dead in botched Houthi missile launch
PM urges factions to unify and foil ‘Iranian-led criminal project’
Updated 25 October 2021
AL-MUKALLA: Dozens of civilians were reportedly killed or wounded in Yemen’s northern province of Dhamar on Saturday when a ballistic missile fired by the Iran-backed Houthis failed to reach its target and ripped through a residential area, residents and local media said.
Launched by the Houthis from a military base under their control in Dhamar city, the missile landed in a densely populated area close to the base, triggering a huge explosion that rocked the city.
The Houthis quickly sealed off the streets and banned people from entering or leaving the area.
Al-Sharae newspaper reported that the missile “destroyed many houses” in the Al-Najeda neighborhood as ambulances with blaring sirens were seen rushing to the area.
Images seen on social media showed a large fireball and smoke billowing from the site.
The Houthis have intensified drone and missile strikes on the central city of Marib as their ground forces have aggressively pushed to seize control of the strategic city since February.
During the last several days, Arab coalition jets targeted military sites in Houthi-held Hodeidah and Sanaa, where ballistic missiles, explosive drones and bomb boats are manufactured and stored.
In the southern city of Aden, the interim capital, Yemeni Prime Minister Maeen Abdul Malik Saeed on Saturday urged factions to forge unified ranks for war against the Houthis and to end the Iranian regime’s strategy in the country.
During a virtual meeting with representatives of political parties included in the government, the prime minister warned that the Houthis are “seeking to seize control of Yemen and would target all opponents who challenged their rule,” urging Yemenis to “come together” to defeat the Houthis.
“The Houthi danger and the Iranian project in Yemen will not exclude anyone, and no party is immune. If we don’t fight it together today, no party will find the time and ground to fight this Iranian-led criminal project in the region,” Saeed said, according to the official news agency.
Yemeni political analysts and officials argue that ongoing infighting among the anti-Houthi camp has weakened it politically and militarily, and enabled the militia to expand across Yemen.
Najeeb Ghallab, undersecretary at Yemen’s information ministry and a political analyst, urged Yemeni parties to “positively respond” to the prime minister’s call, adding that unifying splintered groups and factions would lead to defeat of the Houthis and push them into accepting peace initiatives.
“The only beneficiary of the conflicts and splits within anti-Houthi forces is the Houthis. Unifying factions would place powerful pressure on them,” Ghallab told Arab News.
On the ground, dozens of Houthis and several government troops were killed in fierce clashes over the past day in Juba district, south of Marib province, a Yemeni military official who visited the battlefield told Arab News. The Yemeni army and allied tribesmen foiled consecutive attacks by more than 15 groups of Houthi fighters in Juba who staged a bid to break through Marib defenses.
“The Houthis seized control of a remote village in Juba in the morning and we liberated it by the end of the day,” the official, who requested anonymity, said.
Pope: Don’t send migrants back to Libya and ‘inhumane’ camps
Updated 24 October 2021
VATICAN CITY: Pope Francis on Sunday made an impassioned plea to end the practice of returning migrants rescued at sea to Libya and other unsafe countries where they suffer “inhumane violence.”
Francis also waded into a highly contentious political debate in Europe, calling on the international community to find concrete ways to manage the “migratory flows” in the Mediterranean.
“I express my closeness to the thousands of migrants, refugees and others in need of protection in Libya,” Francis said. ”I never forget you, I hear your cries and I pray for you.”
Even as the pontiff appealed for changes of migrant policy and of heart in his remarks to the public in St. Peter’s Square, hundreds of migrants were either at sea in the central Mediterranean awaiting a port after rescue or recently coming ashore in Sicily or the Italian mainland after setting sail from Libya or Turkey, according to authorities.
“So many of these men, women and children are subject to inhumane violence,” he added. ”Yet again I ask the international community to keep the promises to search for common, concrete and lasting solutions to manage the migratory flows in Libya and in all the Mediterranean.”
“How they suffer, those who are sent back” after rescue at sea, the pope said. Detention facilities in Libya, he said “are true concentration camps.”
“We need to stop sending back (migrants) to unsafe countries and to give priority to the saving of human lives at sea with protocols of rescue and predictable disembarking, to guarantee them dignified conditions of life, alternatives to detention, regular paths of migration and access to asylum procedures,” Francis said.
UN refugee agency officials and human rights organizations have long denounced the conditions of detention centers for migrants in Libya, citing practices of beatings, rape and other forms of torture and insufficient food. Migrants endure weeks and months of those conditions, awaiting passage in unseaworthy rubber dinghies or rickety fishing boats arranged by human traffickers.
Hours after the pope’s appeal, the humanitarian organization Doctors Without Borders said that its rescue ship, Geo Barents, reached a rubber boat that was taking on water, with the sea buffeted by strong winds and waves up to three meters (10 feet) high. It tweeted that “we managed to rescue all the 71 people on board.”
The group thanked the charity group Alarm Phone for signaling that the boat crowded with migrants was in distressed.
Earlier, Geo Barents, then with 296 migrants aboard its rescue ship, was awaiting permission in waters off Malta to disembark. Six migrants tested positive for COVID-19, but because of the crowded conditions aboard, it was difficult to keep them sufficiently distant from the others, Doctors Without Borders said.
In Sicily, a ship operated by the German charity Sea-Watch, with 406 rescued migrants aboard, was granted permission to enter port. But Sea-Watch said that a rescue vessel operated by a Spanish charity, with 105 migrants aboard, has been awaiting a port assignment to disembark them for four days.
While hundreds of thousands of migrants have departed in traffickers’ boats for European shores in recent years and set foot on Sicily or nearby Italian islands, many reach the Italian mainland.
Red Cross officials in Roccella Ionica, a town on the coast of the “toe” of the Italian peninsula said on Sunday that about 700 migrants, some of them from Afghanistan, reached the Calabrian coast in recent days on boats that apparently departed from Turkey.
Authorities said so far this year, about 3,400 migrants had reached Roccella Ionica, a town of 6,000 people, compared to 480 in all of 2019. The migrants who arrived in the last several days were being housed in tent shelters, RAI state television said.
Italy and Malta have come under criticism by human rights advocates for leaving migrants aboard crowded rescue boats before assigning them a safe port.
The Libyan coast guard, which has been trained and equipped by Italy, has also been criticized for rescuing migrants in Libyan waters and then returning them to land where the detention centers awaited them.
On Friday, Doctors Without Borders tweeted that crew aboard the Geo Barents had “witnessed an interception” by the Libyan coast guard and that the migrants “”will be forcibly taken to dangerous detention facilities and exposed to violence and exploitation.”
With rising popularity of right-wing, anti-migrant parties in Italy in recent years, the Italian government has been under increasing domestic political pressure to crack down on illegal immigration.
Italy and Malta have lobbied theirs European Union partner countries, mainly in vain, to take in some of those rescued at sea.
Diplomatic row heats up in Turkey over envoys’ joint declaration
President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has ordeed the Foreign Ministry to declare the envoys “persona non grata”
Ankara’s foreign policy being driven by domestic political considerations, analyst tells Arab News
Updated 25 October 2021
ANKARA: The joint declaration by 10 ambassadors of Western countries urging the release of the 64-year-old jailed philanthropist Osman Kavala continues to shape domestic politics in Turkey, with President Recep Tayyip Erdogan ordering the Foreign Ministry to declare the envoys “persona non grata.”
The move is expected to have domestic and international political and economic repercussions.
Kavala, who denies the charges, is behind bars for four years, accused of financing nationwide anti-government protests in 2013.
The ambassadors of France, Germany, Norway, Sweden, Finland, New Zealand, the US, Canada, Denmark and the Netherlands called for a quick and just resolution of Kavala’s case on Oct. 18 — the day marking four years of the start of his detention.
We “believe a just and speedy resolution to his case must be in line with Turkey’s international obligations and domestic laws. Noting the rulings of the European Court of Human Rights on the matter, we call for Turkey to secure his urgent release,” the ambassadors’ statement read, echoing the European Court of Human Rights ruling on its member country Turkey.
The ambassadors were summoned by the Foreign Ministry after the release of the statement.
“I gave the necessary instruction to our foreign minister and said what must be done: These ten ambassadors must be declared persona non grata immediately,” Erdogan said in a speech on Saturday.
“They will know and understand Turkey. The day they do not know and understand it they will leave,” he added, noting that these ambassadors would not release “terrorists” in their own countries.
A declaration of “persona non grata” — an envoy who is no longer welcome — is a diplomatic move that is one step before expulsion.
The Turkish government considers the ambassadors' declaration as direct interference into domestic politics, rather than reminding European top court's ruling.
In the meantime, Kavala, who served on the advisory board of US philanthropist George Soros’ Open Society’s national foundation in Turkey until 2018, released a statement on Friday saying that he would not attend his next trial on Nov. 26 to deliver his defense, as he believes his hearing would be not fair in light of recent circumstances.
The ambassadors referred to the ECHR in their declaration. The top European court urged the immediate release of the Turkish philanthropist in late 2019, saying that his detention was aimed at silencing him.
Last month, the Council of Europe warned that infringement proceedings against Ankara would begin at the end of November if Kavala was not released.
The Danish, Dutch and Norwegian embassies in Turkey said that they had not received any notification from Turkish authorities and would continue to urge Turkey to comply with its international obligations.
Experts, however, note that the expulsion of 10 European and North American ambassadors — unprecedented in Turkish political history — may trigger actions in kind from these countries.
“As elsewhere in the world, all politics is local,” Ozgur Unluhisarcikli, Ankara director of the German Marshall Fund of the US, told Arab News.
“Turkish foreign policy has been driven excessively driven by domestic political considerations and this case is no different,” he said.
According to Unluhisarcikli, Erdogan’s instruction to the Turkish Ministry of Foreign Affairs to declare these ambassadors as “persona non grata” may please his voters and divert attention from domestic troubles, but it will also contribute to Turkey’s international isolation at a time when the country is already under US sanctions and came close to being sanctioned by the EU last year.
Last year, the US administration sanctioned the Turkish defense industry over its purchase of the Russian-made S-400 surface-to-air missile system. The action was taken under the 2017 Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act.
“Moreover ,Turkey is going through a currency crisis, which could trigger a financial crisis about 18 months before the presidential and parliamentary elections scheduled for June 2023,” Unluhisarcikli said.
In public statements, Turkey’s former ambassadors underlined that although harsh reactions could be given in diplomatic proceedings, the main goal should be the management and resolution of the crises.
Abdurrahman Bilgic, a retired envoy who served as the ambassador to Tokyo and the UK, said the ambassadors in Turkey had the right to declare their countries’ stance on Kavala’s release, either individually or through a joint declaration.
“In return, the Turkish Foreign Ministry can also retaliate with a declaration to show their uneasiness. But in the meantime the ambassadors should not target our ruling government and judiciary with their consecutive social media statements,” he told Arab News.
However, for Bilgic, declaring these diplomats “persona non grata” would not serve Turkey’s interests and could trigger retaliation.
“If the process is being handled like this, Turkey could not only loose its voting rights at the Council of Europe but even its membership,” he said.
Article 90 of the Turkish Constitution provides that in the case of conflict between international agreements in the area of fundamental rights and freedoms, the provisions of international agreements shall prevail.
“Expelling ambassadors is not the way to defend national interests or to explain one’s position on any given matter. Impulsive foreign policy with an eye on domestic politics has only served to aggravate Turkey’s isolation. This should not be deepened through rash action,” tweeted Alper Coskun, the former Turkish ambassador to Azerbaijan and senior fellow at Washington-based think-tank Carnegie Endowment.
In the past 50 years, Turkey has declared only three diplomats — one from Libya in 1986, Syria in 1986, and Iran in 1989 — as persona non grata, while the last foreign ambassador Ankara declared persona non grata was an Iranian envoy.