Turkiye cancels Sweden minister visit over planned protest

Update Turkiye cancels Sweden minister visit over planned protest
Swedish minister Pal Jonson’s visit was aimed at overcoming Ankara’s objections to Sweden’s bid to join the NATO military alliance. (File/AFP)
Short Url
Updated 21 January 2023

Turkiye cancels Sweden minister visit over planned protest

Turkiye cancels Sweden minister visit over planned protest
  • Turkiye has been angered by permission obtained by a right-wing extremist to demonstrate later on Saturday in front of the Turkish embassy
  • Turkiye argues that Sweden has not done enough to crack down on Kurdish groups

ISTANBUL: Turkiye said on Saturday that it had called off a visit by Sweden’s defense minister over a planned anti-Turkiye protest in Stockholm.
“At this point, Swedish Defense Minister Pal Jonson’s visit to Turkiye on January 27 has lost its significance and meaning, so we canceled the visit,” Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar said.
The Swedish minister visit was aimed at overcoming Ankara’s objections to Sweden’s bid to join the NATO military alliance.
Turkiye has been angered by permission obtained by a right-wing extremist to demonstrate later on Saturday in front of the Turkish embassy in the Swedish capital.
The Danish-Swedish politician, Rasmus Paludan, whose anti-Islamist actions sparked riots across Sweden last year, has expressed his intention to “burn the Qur'an,” Islam’s holy book, during his protest on Saturday.
Turkiye had on Friday summoned Sweden’s ambassador to “condemn this provocative action which is clearly a hate crime — in strongest terms,” a diplomatic source said.
This is the second time in more than a week that Sweden’s ambassador to Turkiye was summoned.
Last week, he was called to answer for a video posted by a Kurdish group in Stockholm that depicted President Recep Tayyip Erdogan swinging by his legs from a rope.
Sweden, along with neighboring Finland, needs Turkiye’s consent to join NATO.
Both countries dropped decades of military non-alignment last year when they applied to join the Western defense alliance in response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
Ankara says any progress depends on Swedish steps to extradite people it accuses of terrorism or of having played a part in the 2016 coup attempt against Erdogan.
Turkiye argues that Sweden has not done enough to crack down on Kurdish groups that Ankara views as “terrorist.”


China, Philippines assess ties amid escalating sea disputes

China, Philippines assess ties amid escalating sea disputes
Updated 23 March 2023

China, Philippines assess ties amid escalating sea disputes

China, Philippines assess ties amid escalating sea disputes
  • Discussions would focus on the long-seething territorial spats in the disputed South China Sea
  • Marcos administration has filed at least 77 of more than 200 diplomatic protests against China’s increasingly assertive actions
MANILA: Senior Chinese and Filipino diplomats were meeting in Manila on Thursday to review their relations amid thorny issues, including Beijing’s alarm over a Philippine decision to allow the US military to expand its presence to a northern region facing the Taiwan Strait and escalating spats in the disputed South China Sea.
Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Sun Weidong and Philippine Foreign Undersecretary Theresa Lazaro were leading the talks aimed at assessing overall relations on Thursday. The discussions would focus on the long-seething territorial spats in the disputed waterway on Friday, the Department of Foreign Affairs in Manila said.
The back-to-back meetings are the first under President Ferdinand Marcos Jr., who took office in June last year. He met Chinese President Xi Jinping in a state visit to Beijing in January where both agreed to expand ties, pursue talks on potential joint oil and gas explorations and manage territorial disputes amicably.
But the territorial conflicts have persisted as a major irritant in relations early in the six-year term of Marcos, whose administration has filed at least 77 of more than 200 diplomatic protests by the Philippines against China’s increasingly assertive actions in the disputed waters since last year alone.
That included a February 6 incident when a Chinese coast guard ship aimed a military-grade laser that briefly blinded some crew members of a Philippine patrol vessel off a disputed shoal. Marcos summoned the Chinese ambassador to Manila to express concern over the incident, but Beijing said the Philippine vessel intruded into Chinese territorial waters and its coast guard used a harmless laser gadget to monitor the vessel’s movement.
Early last month, the Marcos administration announced it would allow rotating batches of American forces to indefinitely station in four more Philippine military camps. Those are in addition to five local bases earlier designated under a 2014 defense pact between the longtime treaty allies.
Marcos said Wednesday the four new military sites would include areas in the northern Philippines. That location has infuriated Chinese officials because it would provide US forces a staging ground close to southern China and Taiwan.
The Americans would also have access to military areas on the western Philippine island province of Palawan, Marcos said, adding that the US military presence under the 2014 Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement was aimed at boosting coastal defense.
Palawan faces the South China Sea, a key passage for global trade that Beijing claims virtually in its entirety but a United Nations-backed arbitration tribunal ruled in 2016 that historical claim had no legal basis under the 1982 UN Convention on the Law of the Seas.
China had dismissed the ruling, which Washington and other Western governments recognize, and continues to defy it.
When asked to react to the Philippine decision, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin told a news briefing in Beijing on Wednesday that defense cooperation between countries “needs to be conducive to regional peace and stability and not targeted at or harmful to the interests of any third party.”
Wang warned countries in the region “to remain vigilant and avoid being coerced or used by the US” without naming the Philippines.
A recent statement issued by the Chinese Embassy in Manila was more blunt and warned that the Manila government’s security cooperation with Washington “will drag the Philippines into the abyss of geopolitical strife and damage its economic development at the end of the day.”
The Biden administration has been strengthening an arc of military alliances in the Indo-Pacific to better counter China, including in any future confrontation over Taiwan. The US moves dovetail with Philippine efforts to shore up its territorial defense amid its disputes with China in the South China Sea.
Two senior Filipino officials said that the Philippine government would extend the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement, which allows the temporary presence of US forces and their defense equipment in the country. The Philippine Constitution prohibits the permanent basing of foreign troops in the country and their involvement in local combat.
The agreement, signed in 2014, would initially be effective for 10 years and would remain in force automatically unless terminated by either side with a one-year advance written notice.
The two officials spoke to the AP on condition of anonymity because they lack authority to discuss the issue publicly.

Thai police shoot gunman dead after 15-hour standoff

Thai police shoot gunman dead after 15-hour standoff
Updated 23 March 2023

Thai police shoot gunman dead after 15-hour standoff

Thai police shoot gunman dead after 15-hour standoff
  • Thailand has high rates of gun ownership and there has been a steady number of violent incidents in the past 12 months
  • In one of the deadliest attacks in recent history, a gunman massacred 36 people, including 24 children

BANGKOK: Thai police shot dead a gunman who killed three people and wounded three others, a senior officer said Thursday, after a 15-hour standoff.
The shooter started firing in Phetchaburi, about 100 kilometers (60 miles) southwest of Bangkok, at around 3 p.m. (0800 GMT) on Wednesday, before police surrounded a house he was in.
The standoff ended early Thursday when armed police stormed the building and killed the gunman, who has not been named but was reported by local media to be a 29-year-old former national park official.
“We proceeded step by step, starting with negotiation but he kept fighting back and shot others,” Police Lt. Gen. Thanawut Wutijarasthamrong said.
“He ran into his room (on the second floor). If we did not have shields, my men would have been shot.”
Police found a Glock pistol and two magazines at the scene, but believe the man had more weapons.
Thailand has high rates of gun ownership and there has been a steady number of violent incidents in the past 12 months, including one of the deadliest attacks in recent history: the massacre of 36 people, including 24 children, in northeastern Nong Bua Lam Phu province.
 

 


Across globe, women battle ‘gendered disinformation’

Across globe, women battle ‘gendered disinformation’
Updated 23 March 2023

Across globe, women battle ‘gendered disinformation’

Across globe, women battle ‘gendered disinformation’
  • Researchers say “gendered disinformation” has relentlessly targeted women around the world, tarnishing their reputations, undermining their credibility and, in many cases, upending their careers
  • Facebook has acknowledged that online abuse of women was a “serious problem” and pledged to work with policymakers on their concerns

WASHINGTON: Fake photos showing Ukraine’s first lady sunbathing topless, incorrect video subtitles defaming Pakistani feminists for “blasphemy,” slow-motion clips falsely depicting “drunk” female politicians — a barrage of disinformation targets women in the public eye.
Researchers say “gendered disinformation” — when sexism and misogyny intersect with online falsehoods — has relentlessly targeted women around the world, tarnishing their reputations, undermining their credibility and, in many cases, upending their careers.
AFP’s global fact-checkers have debunked falsehoods targeting politically active women, or those linked to prominent politicians, exposing online campaigns that feature fake information or manipulated images that are often sexually charged.
Last year, a fake image of Ukraine’s First Lady Olena Zelenska lying topless on a beach in Israel was shared widely on Facebook, triggering criticism that she was having fun while her war-torn country was suffering.
A reverse image search by AFP showed the woman in the photo was, in fact, a Russian television presenter.
Former American first lady Michelle Obama and current French first lady Brigitte Macron have also been targeted in false online posts that claimed they were born as men. The disinformation sparked an avalanche of mockery and transphobic remarks.
New Zealand’s Jacinda Ardern, who announced her resignation as prime minister in January, is another prominent figure that faced a torrent of disinformation about her sex.
“Women — especially those in positions of power and visibility — are unduly targeted by online disinformation,” Maria Giovanna Sessa, a senior researcher at the nonprofit EU DisinfoLab, wrote in a report last year.

In another tactic that raised alarm in 2020, a slowed-down version of a video of Nancy Pelosi, the then US House Speaker, went viral. The effect made her speech slurred and gave the false impression that she was drunk.
“Building on sexist stereotypes and disseminated with malign intent, gendered disinformation campaigns have a chilling effect on the women they target,” Lucina Di Meco, a gender equality expert wrote in a study published last month.
The disinformation often leads to “political violence, hate and the deterring of young women from considering a political career,” said the study titled “monetizing misogyny.”
In disinformation tactics typically deployed by political opponents, female politicians are sometimes framed as inherently undependable, too emotional or promiscuous to hold office.
When Germany’s current foreign minister, Annalena Baerbock, was running for chancellor in 2021, she was the subject of frequent disinformation campaigns which raised questions about whether she was fit for the job.
One of them featured images of a nude model purporting to be of her, alongside suggestions that she had engaged in sex work.
Gendered disinformation represents a national security threat as it can be exploited by autocratic states such as Russia to exercise foreign influence, according to multiple researchers.
It can also be used to subdue the opposition.
“When autocratic leaders are in power, gendered disinformation is often used by state-aligned actors to undermine women opposition leaders, as well as women’s rights,” Di Meco’s report warned.

Women around the globe battle falsehoods that reinforce stereotypes that they are unintelligent or inefficient.
In 2021, Egyptian sports shooter Al-Zahraa Shaaban faced false social media posts that she had been excluded from the Tokyo Olympics because she had shot the referee.
That sparked a wave of comments that ridiculed women and questioned their ability to pursue such sporting activities.
Similar questions were raised about their ability to take on military jobs following last year’s crash of an F-35 fighter jet on the deck of a US aircraft carrier in the South China Sea.
False social media posts held the world’s first woman to fly an F-35 responsible for the crash. The pilot, in fact, was a man.
Such humiliating falsehoods, researchers say, can have a silencing effect on women, who are drawn to disengage, censor themselves and even avoid male-dominated professions, including politics.
That was a concern raised in a letter by dozens of US and international lawmakers in 2020 to Facebook, which along with other platforms has been blamed for the algorithmic amplification of false and hateful content targeting women.
In a statement to US media at the time, Facebook acknowledged that online abuse of women was a “serious problem” and pledged to work with policymakers on their concerns.
“Make no mistake, these tactics, which are used on your platform for malicious intent, are meant to silence women, and ultimately undermine our democracies,” the letter said.
“It is no wonder women frequently cite the threat of rapid, widespread, public attacks on personal dignity as a factor deterring them from entering politics.”
 


US senate votes to keep 2001 authorization for war on terror

US senate votes to keep 2001 authorization for war on terror
Updated 23 March 2023

US senate votes to keep 2001 authorization for war on terror

US senate votes to keep 2001 authorization for war on terror
  • Passed in October 2001, the congressional authorization s still used to this day to justify US military action against terror groups that are deemed to be a threat against America

WASHINGTON: The US Senate voted overwhelmingly Wednesday to continue congressional authorization for the use of military force in the global fight against terror, turning back an effort by Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul to repeal the 2001 measure.
Senators rejected the amendment 86-9 as they are debating a separate repeal of two authorizations of military force in Iraq. There is broad bipartisan support to withdraw that congressional approval granted in 1991 and 2002 for military strikes against Saddam Hussein’s regime.
While those two authorizations are rarely used and focused on just one country, Iraq, the 2001 measure gave President George W. Bush broad authority for the invasion of Afghanistan and the fight against terrorism, approving force “against those nations, organizations, or persons” that planned or aided the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on the United States.
Passed in October 2001, it is still used to this day to justify US military action against terror groups — including Al-Qaeda and its affiliates, such as Daesh and Al-Shabab — that are deemed to be a threat against America.
The 2002 measure that launched the invasion of Iraq 20 years ago this week has been used much less frequently, and supporters of repealing it say it is vulnerable to abuse. President Joe Biden has said he supports that repeal.
Senators in both parties said they might be open to eventually replacing the 2001 authorization for the war on terror and narrowing its authority, but they argued that it should not be fully repealed. “We have not yet had that substantive discussion,” said Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob Menendez, D-N.J., ahead of the amendment vote.
Paul said that by repealing only the Iraq authorizations, Congress is “missing the point” since Hussein’s regime no longer exists. By leaving the 2001 measure in place, Congress is keeping the authorization that approves “war everywhere, all the time,” he said.
The Senate is expected to vote next week to repeal the two Iraq measures. In a test vote this week, 19 Republicans voted with Democrats to move forward on the legislation.
It’s unclear whether leaders in the Republican-controlled House will bring the bill up for a vote, even if it passes the Senate. Forty-nine House Republicans supported the legislation repealing the Iraq authorities when then-majority Democrats held a vote two years ago, but current House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., opposed it then.
McCarthy signaled this week that he is open to supporting the measure, but it’s unclear whether House Republicans will move the Senate bill without any changes. House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Michael McCaul, R-Texas, said he is interested in replacing the two Iraq authorizations instead of just repealing them, a move that is unlikely to have support in the Senate.
McCaul met with Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., on Wednesday on the authorizations of military force and other issues.
“I’m going to be for replacement,” he said coming out of that meeting. “I’ll see what the leadership does.”
Virginia Sen. Tim Kaine, the lead Democratic author of the Senate bill to repeal the Iraq authorizations, said he believes bipartisan support in the House could move votes. Noting McCarthy’s new openness, he said he views the House as “getting better and better every day” on the issue.
Kaine and Indiana Sen. Todd Young, the Indiana Republican who is also leading the push, have argued that repeal will help the United States’ strategic partnership with Iraq.
“That relationship I think is not lost on some of the members who were now willing to vote for repeal,” Kaine said.


UK police link attacks where men set on fire after leaving mosques

UK police link attacks where men set on fire after leaving mosques
Updated 22 March 2023

UK police link attacks where men set on fire after leaving mosques

UK police link attacks where men set on fire after leaving mosques
  • Rayaz’s family told the Daily Mail that he is being treated in hospital for serious burns to his chest, face and arms
  • The attacks have caused panic in Birmingham, prompting officers to ramp up patrols

LONDON: British police on Wednesday said a man arrested on suspicion of attempted murder after a man was set on fire on his way home from a mosque in central England had also been arrested for a similar incident in London last month.

In the first incident, an 82-year-old victim was engaged in conversation by a man as they both left the West London Islamic Centre before he was doused in a liquid, believed to be petrol, and set alight. Police said the injured man suffered burns to his face and arms.

The second victim, 70-year-old Mohammed Rayaz, was walking home from a mosque in the Edgbaston area of Birmingham on Monday evening when he was approached by a man who sprayed him with a substance and then set his jacket alight. He remains in hospital with severe injuries.

“At this stage we cannot speculate around the motive for the attacks, this is a live investigation and our main aim is to make sure communities are safe and that we bring justice for the victims,” West Midlands Police said in a statement.

On Tuesday, West Midlands Police said counterterrorism officers were supporting their investigation. 

Rayaz’s family told the Daily Mail that he is being treated in hospital for serious burns to his chest, face and arms, and is in “extreme pain.”

His nephew told the Mail: “I’ve been to visit him and he looks in a very bad way. He’s not able to speak much and can’t see anything at all.”

The 27-year-old added: “He’s wrapped up in a lot of bandages and we are just praying that he recovers and that there (are) no long-lasting effects from this horrible attack.

“We don’t want to reveal the name of the hospital where he’s being treated but my uncle is in the intensive care unit and is being well looked after. We’re all praying for him.”

Sources told the Mail that the attacker had approached Rayaz and asked him: “Do you speak Arabic?” The pensioner replied: “I only speak Punjabi.”

Seconds later, Rayaz was sprayed with an unknown substance and set alight.

“We are all very upset and angry by what’s happened but it’s positive that the police took immediate action and responded to this attack very seriously,” Shahbo Hussain, a lawyer acting as a spokesman on behalf of the Rayaz family, told the Mail.

“This attack was dealt with by the UK’s counterterrorism unit and we’ve been meeting with them on a regular basis.

“The whole community is united in their condemnation of what happened. Our priority at this time is to support Mr. Rayaz and his family.”

Shabana Mahmood, MP for Birmingham Ladywood, on Wednesday said she had spoken to Rayaz on a video call.

“The victim and his family have been known to me for many years,” she said. “He is such a well-known, well-loved member of our community and it is very upsetting to see him bandaged up, unable to use or move his hands. 

“He can’t see anything at the moment because his eyes are very badly swollen. As we know he does have very serious injuries to his face.

“He was able to speak and the first thing he said was thank you to the community for helping him and helping the police with their inquiries and getting an arrest so quickly.

“It was a real testament to his character and wasn’t thinking about himself even though he was in immense pain.

“The family are very touched with how everyone helped and got the evidence together for the police and we were able to chase minute by minute the movements of the attacker which must be of immense use to the police as they continue their investigation.”

The attacks have caused panic in the area, prompting officers to ramp up patrols. Meanwhile, Muslim leaders told the Mail that they fear copycat attacks.

Mohammed Khalil, a 68-year-old living near the Birmingham mosque, told the Mail: “I didn’t know the victim well but when we passed in the street, he was always a lovely guy.

“I have lived on this road for 46 years with my wife and nothing bad has happened here before.

“Since the incident everyone is living in fear. How do we know there aren’t more people going to do it or another attack is planned?”

Another resident echoed Khalil’s comments, adding: “There is a genuine fear amongst people about copycats doing this. In a video I have seen, it appears the attacker looked like he held up a phone and took a picture of the man on fire.

“If that is the case then I am frightened about this starting a horrible online craze. You already have people kicking doors for TikTok videos, what is next? Setting Muslims on fire and filming them as they burn?”

(With Reuters)