Much ado about Kurds? (By Christiane Waked)

28 Nov mass-demonstration-kurds-in-turkey

Much ado about Kurds?

When Gamal Abdel Nasser and later the Baath Party gave the Arabs a slight of hope of becoming a great Nation, the unachieved dream of becoming this important entity gave all the Arab populations more resentment towards their non-Arabs fellows.

The marginals became more marginalized, more despised, more oppressed. The Assyrians, Syriacs the Chaldeans and of course the Kurds were more than ever considered as Non Arabs. A different ethnic group that even if it holds a Syrian or Iraqi passport is still considered by their fellow citizen as an outcast.

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The Kurdish issue and Ankara’s policy (By Ümit Güneş)

8 Sep turkey-641206

The Kurdish issue and Ankara’s policy

The Turkish Army with the support of the airforce of the coalition  led by USA on August 24th launched an operation to liberate Jarablus city in the northern Syria  from  militants of the terrorist group “Islamic State.” Turkey was the first country which officially entered his full forces into Syria. This is a gross violation of the Syrian sovereignty and territorial integrity of the silent consent of international organizations. But the invasion of the Turkish army has been directed primarily against the Kurds. As a result, the international community and the experts more and more pay attention  to the Kurdish  Issue.

 It is clear that the main objective of the Turkish army is preventng the transfer of territories along the border under the control of Kurdish forces. As private research and  analytical company Stratfor writes in his “Geopolitical Journal”, “pain point” of the Turkey became the Kurds. Аfter the overthrow of the military coup and then normalization of the relations with Russia Erdogan apparently decided that he now had a mandate to attack rebels and, in fact, to exterminate  the Kurds in Syria. Ankara is using the Syrian crisis to solve the so-called Kurdish problem.

At the same time the Turks are trying to fight with the Kurds with the other hands-the hands of militants of “Islamic State”, “Dzhebhat-en-Nusra” and other terrorist groups. Turkey, under the guise of anti-ISIS coalition, actually provides direct support to terrorists, supplying arms, ammunition, food. In this war Erdogan made a major bet on cooperation with “Islamic State”, and with such armed groups. But now they are recognized as terrorist organizations, and legal allies in Syria for Turkey no longer remains.

Turkish offensive in Northern Syria

Turkish offensive in Northern Syria

For a long time the Kurdish issue was a problem only for the countries in the region. However, over the past few years, the Kurdish issue has become urgent for the international community.   It should be reminded that the number of Kurds living in all parts of Kurdistan, is 35 million people, making it the fourth largest ethnic group in the Middle East after the Arabs, Turks and Persians. The number of Kurds in Turkey is between 18 to 20 million, 8-10 million in Iran, in Iraq, nearly 5 million and Syria to 1.5 million people. The population of Syrian Kurdistan, constituting, according to the regional administration, about 3.5 million people, due to forced displacement was reduced by a third, but now because of the stabilization of the situation in the Kurdistan region residents return to their homeland and restore the destroyed towns and villages.

The ceasefire in Syria reached between Moscow and Washington – was a hit to Erdogan. The armistice deprives him of  his last chance to influence the situation. However, Ankara continues to rely on the fact that blackmailing Europe with millions of refugees he guarantees itself in support of the West in that case, if he still pretends to a new venture in Syria.

Actions of Ankara against the Kurds is a genocide that is conducted on the territory of Syria, Iraq and Turkey itself. According to the Information Center of the pro-Kurdish Democratic Party of Turkish Peoples, from the date of termination of the truce in April 2015 to the present victims of punitive operations in Turkish Kurdistan are steel 495 civilians, including 87 children and 78 women. More than 250 thousand were forced to leave their homes. But this, according to the UN definition, is also a form of genocide. The war has affected a total of 1.5 million residents living in the  south-east Turkey. In Iraqi Kurdistan, the victims of Turkey and ISIS became the residents of Shangal inhabited by Kurd-Yezidis, Makhmour regions as well as residents of Kirkuk province. It is known that the number of dead and missing people is about 10 thousand. In Jizra kurds were shot from heavy artillery, and those who hid in basements, Turkish special forces found. One was beheaded, others simply burned alive. On the Yemeni online radio Mustaqbal highlights in detail Turkey’s punitive measures against the people  inhabited it. It is noted that the Turkish Kurds are subjected to genocide.

To tragedy, however, none of the well-known human rights organizations – nor Amnesty International, or Human Rights Watch, or the International Committee of the Red Cross – has not yet responded.

In July, the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, which led the long war for self-rule after a two-year ceasfire returned to the attacks on Turkish police and soldiers to protect their rights. Kurds are primarily accused Turkey of supporting “Islamic State”.

For many years Kurds have fought for autonomy. But if there is Kurdistan, Turkey will lose their dream – to spread its influence throughout Central Asia and will be deprived of connections with the Caucasus.

Now the Kurds are collaborating with the Americans, with Russia and Israel. This fact also causes anger in Ankara. The US is in dual position on this matter. Considering Turkey as a NATO ally, Washington is avoiding public condemnation of Ankara on the Kurdish Issue. On the other hand, because of their contacts with the Kurds US can’t  openly support Turkey  in Washington.

     After the incident with the Russian aircraft, as a result of tensions between Russia and Turkey, the Kurds tried to strengthen cooperation with Russia. But Putin-Erdogan meeting in St. Petersburg on August 9 this year, was adopted by some Kurdish circles as a hit to the back and was strongly criticized by Moscow. But the Kurdish military elite understands that the warming of relations between Moscow and Ankara is temporary  as they remain in the region as competitors creating new opportunities for the Kurds. However, Erdogan’s calculations to silence Kurds with force are counterproductive: there is even more their consolidation and support of Turkish Kurds representatives of this ethnic group from Syria, Iraq, Iran. .At the same time we must not forget that the Kurdish armed groups are perhaps the most combat-ready forces in the fight against the terrorists from ISIS. Erdogan felt into the trap. He does not know what to do, because the success of Syrian Kurds – is the success of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party. And he doesn’t know what to do next so he started a land operation in northern Syria.

But in spite of these obvious facts, the genocide of the Kurdish population is still not recognized by the international community. And the invasion of the Turkish army to the northern regions of Syria means that the destruction and slaughter of the Kurdish population will continue.

 

Ümit Güneş

 

Gender-based violence against Syrian refugees in Lebanon (By Yeghia Tashjian)

28 May Malala Yousafzai celebrated her birthday and the opening of a new school with with Syrian refugees in Beqa, Lebanon

Gender-based violence against Syrian refugees in Lebanon  

International Rescue Committee identified three main challenges facing Syrian female refugees; first, sexual exploitation and harassment; second, the increase in domestic violence which makes them feel that their homes are not safe; and third, early and forced marriage. Although, local and international NGOs are doing their best to overcome on these crises but still more is needed to be done.

Syrian refugee women are sexually harassed wherever they go on a daily basis. They are harassed while going out to buy bread, walking the streets, going to school, and even while going to the bathrooms inside the camps. Some argue that overcrowding and the lack of privacy for women (don’t have access to separate toilets or showers) are another reason for sexual harassment for the Syrian women refugees.

Malala Yousafzai celebrated her birthday and the opening of a new school with with Syrian refugees in Beqa, Lebanon

Malala Yousafzai celebrated her birthday and the opening of a new school with with Syrian refugees in Beqa, Lebanon

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US response to Armenian Genocide: from Humanitarianism to “Realpolitik” (By Yeghia Tashjian)

25 May Armenians being deported towards the Syrian deserts, known as the "death march"

US response to Armenian Genocide: from Humanitarianism to “Realpolitik”  

Armenians being deported towards the Syrian deserts, known as the "death march"

Armenians being deported towards the Syrian deserts, known as the “death march”

 

 “Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim!” 

Holocaust survivor and Nobel laureate Elie Wiesel

Although some Armenians around the world were hoping that US President Barack Obama would keep his promise and recognize the Armenian Genocide, his statement was not surprising for many. President Obama like usual used the term “Medz Yeghern” in Armenian which means the “Great Crime”. In his statement  the President said “Today we solemnly reflect on the first mass atrocity of the 20th century—the Armenian Meds Yeghern—when one and a half million Armenian people were deported, massacred, and marched to their deaths in the final days of the Ottoman Empire”. President Obama once again avoided using the word Genocide. This breaks a campaign promise he made in 2008, when he said “As a president, I will recognize the Armenian Genocide”. Over 40 US states recognize the genocide, including California, whose Governor Jerry Brown declared 24 April a state-wide “Day of Remembrance of Armenian Genocide“.

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Nagorno-Karabakh; No More a Frozen Conflict (By Yeghia Tashjian)

25 May Karabakh-Artsakh-Symbol

Nagorno-Karabakh; No More a Frozen Conflict


map-karabakh

Nagorno-Karabakh; No More a Frozen Conflict

“Thus, the Nagorno-Karabakh issue is not a territorial argument between Armenia and Azerbaijan. It was raised not by Armenia but by the people of Nagorno-Karabakh”

 

The history of the conflict

Wars and tragedies recognize neither borders nor nationalities. The Caucasus region with its multiethnic identity, rich mineral resources and important geostrategic position has always been an arena of clash of interests between colonial powers. The Armenian-Tatar (later called Azeri) conflict goes back to 1905-1907, where the Russian empire in order to shift the peasant uprising in the Caucasus inflamed an ethnic hatred between the two people leading to first Armenian-Tatar clashes. With the dissolution of the Russian empire in 1917, borders were redrawn in the region between different ethnicities. These borders were not redrawn by peaceful means. Wars broke up between the three main Caucasian nations; Armenians, Azerbaijanis and Georgians. One of the bloodiest battles was fought on Nagorno Karabakh region.

In 1921, Russians were back to the Caucasus, this time under the Red flag. By 1921, according to Soviet statistics, Armenians constituted 95% (130,000) of the population of Nagorno-Karabakh and only 5% (6,500) Tatars (Azeris). But Soviets didn’t take into consideration the demography, instead the Central Committee of Communist Party annexed Nagorno-Karabakh to Azerbaijan “taking into consideration the importance of ethnic peace between the Muslims and Armenian and the economic ties between NK and Azerbaijan”.

Starting 1988, Armenians in Nagorno-Karabakh demanded reunification with Armenia. For the first time in Soviet history a mass national movement began challenging the Soviet system. The decision of Nagorno-Karabakh Regional Council to unite with Armenia outraged Azerbaijani authorities. In February 21, 1988 the Karabakh parliament voted in favor of unification with Armenia (110 in favor and 30 rejected) later in 1992 NK declared its independence from Azerbaijan. This move triggered a war that lasted until a Russia-brokered ceasefire was signed in 1994.

From frozen to erupted conflict

Former President Heidar Aliev, the father of the current Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliev had spent the last few years of his life negotiating with his Armenian counterpart to find a peaceful solution based on recognizing the self-determination of Karabakh Armenians, in return for the Azerbaijani provinces captured by the Armenian forces. But his son, whom in 2012, was declared as the most corrupt leader in the world,  ignored his father’s diplomacy and repeated that in case Armenians do not surrender Karabakh, then Azerbaijan would use military force. Aliev also went further by claiming that Armenia itself was part ancient Azerbaijan.

During the last 10 years where there was a boom in the oil prices, Azerbaijan increased its military budget and modernized its army. Something which has pushed President Aliev to think that he can solve the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict through military means. Yet, oil production started prematurely decreasing few years ago. Worst, the international oil prices collapsed in 2014, falling from $110 a barrel in mid-2014 to just $33 in early April. The state income, heavily dependent on oil exports, was cut four to five times. With the devaluation of Azerbaijani currency protests broke out in Baku, Azerbaijani capital and lead to social unrest. Many observers expected a military escalation to divert the public attention from the domestic problems. For some military analysts the latest Azerbaijani Blitzkrieg proved something else: Ilham Aliev intended to bring significant change by occupying land under Karabakh control to boost his legitimacy already shaken by the collapse of his extractive economy.

On the April 1, Azerbaijan launched a full-scale war lasted till April 6. Following five days of clashes that led to fatal casualties on both sides, a Russian-sponsored ceasefire was implemented. Aliev who was hoping to capture some territories failed to do so, while the Armenian side in Nagorno Karabakh defended its land but with heavy cost. Moreover, Human Rights organizations worldwide were alarmed to see Azerbaijani soldiers have beheaded anArmenian-Yezidi soldier and massacred a civilian family in Talish village.

As the Russian-brokered truce entered into force, U.S., Russian and French diplomats co-chairing the OSCE (Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe ) Minsk Group had traveled to Baku and Yerevan to calm the situation. Analysts may argue that the current truce will not longer and soon may explode due to lack of interests from regional and international actors and the continues militarization of both sides of the conflict.

Regional and international interests

There is a risk that Karabakh may turn into an arena where regional and international actors can turn it into a proxy war. Russia is a direct actor in the conflict.  Putin is playing “carrot and stick” with Armenia and Azerbaijan. Even though, Russia is Armenia’s political and military ally, (the former maintains a military base in Armenia), but Moscow is also providing heavy arms to Azerbaijan. Under the pretext to “keep the balance in the region” and prevent other countries to supply heavy weapons to the warring sides, as Russian PM Dmitry Medvedev stated. This issue has sparked renewed and stronger criticism from Armenia following last week’s outbreak of heavy fighting in Nagorno-Karabakh. The Armenian official circles even pushed Armenian President Serje Sarkissian to publicly criticize Russia’s arms sale to Azerbaijan. With this action, Russia is doing its best to distance Azerbaijan from Turkey and the West and keep it under her sphere of influence. Often this is happening on the expense of Armenia, where Russia is treating Armenia as a colony not a sovereign state. But the latest anti-Moscow protests in Yerevan made Putin’s administration to think twice, if they wanted to avoid another colorful revolution then they must support their only ally in the region.

U.S. is worried that Moscow may now argue that if the ceasefire is collapsed then Russia may propose a deployment of Russian peacekeepers. Both European Union and US want to weaken Russia’s influence in Southern Caucasus. The memory of Georgian war in 2008 is still fresh; therefore, they can’t confront Russia in the region. EU’s primary concern is the gas; that is, to secure Azerbaijan’s gas reaching its continent by bypassing Russia. EU wants to decrease its dependency on Russian gas. In 2002, together with Turkey and Azerbaijan they had initiated the plan to build Nabucco pipeline, but this was unsuccessful too, the project faced both economic and political challenges and eventually aborted. First, Turkey was not able to secure the flow of gas due to PKK attacks. Second, EU started to fund the building of the pipeline without securing the source of the gas.

Iran is also concerned in this conflict for many reasons. Many political analysts were surprised from Iran’s position regarding the crisis, and raised the question; “How could Iran (a majority Shia country) support (Christian) Armenia against the (Shia) Azerbaijan?” Iran’s strategic depth in this conflict is beyond religion. Northern Iran is mainly populated by Azeris. In the beginning of 1990s, Azerbaijani leaders didn’t hide their true intentions about their unity attempts with “Iranian Azerbaijan” and the plan to establish a “Greater Azerbaijan”. This plan brought Armenia and Iran closer. Furthermore, Iran is also worried of Israeli infiltration in Azerbaijan, where the former is providing heavy weapons and training the Azeri army. Here, the Israeli interest should not be ignored; recently the right wing Israeli newspapers launched a campaign in support of Azerbaijan. While, Avigdor Lieberman, the former Israeli Foreign minister, where his party is accused of taking Azerbaijani financial support, has justified the Azeri aggression.

Turkey, who considers itself the guardian of Turkish speaking states, its PM claimed “Turkey would support Azerbaijan to the end”. Turkey instead of condemning Azerbaijani aggression encouraged Ilham Aliev to continue the war and capture territories. Many political analysts were worried that Armenia, in order internationalize the conflict may engage in skirmishes with the Azeri forces in Nakhichevan exclave bordering with Turkey. This action would have forced Turkey to interfere and thus would give a green light for Russian military intervention. This scenario was discussed in Armenian media. Finally, let us not forget that the Commander-in-Chief of the United Armed Forces of the CIS (Commonwealth of Independent States), in 1993, Marshal Shaposhnikov, during the Karabakh war, warned that the intervention of a third party (Turkey) in the conflict would lead to the outbreak of the Third World War.

Is there a diplomatic solution?

Can diplomacy solve the problem? Actually, diplomacy is the only means to reach to a compromise solution but only if Nagorno-Karabakh is part in the negotiation process.

The OSCE from 1994 onwards has given its backing to a mediation process as part of the “Minsk Group” led by Russia, United States and France as co-chairmen.

Many formulas were rejected by both Armenian and Azerbaijani sides. Armenia supports the principle of self-determination as the only solution for Nagorno-Karabakh. That is the current citizens of the region decide if they will remain independent or unite with Armenia. While Azerbaijan rejects this proposal. It defends its territorial integrity and suggests giving a special administrative autonomy for Nagorno-Karabakh but within its borders. Something rejected both by Armenia and Nagorno-Karabakh.

For the Armenians the Karabakh war was an issue of national liberation, they were forced to be part of it, and there was no other choice. They had to either leave their homes or flee or to fight. They were either going to kill or be killed. It is important to know that it was Nagorno-Karabakh who imposed its will on Armenia and not the other way. Thus, the NK issue is not a territorial argument between Armenia and Azerbaijan. It was raised not by Armenia but by the people of NK. Hence, it should be looked at only as an issue of the self-determination of nation. The only feasible solution should be a compromise by both sides. It’s clear that the status quo is in favor of Armenia; already NK outside Azerbaijani control and its army has captured Azeri territories. Thus, Azerbaijan is in no position to put conditions. The latest “failed invasion” proved that a quick victory on Karabakh is impossible. Therefore, negotiations must start based on the idea “Give me security, take your land”. First, the self-determination of Nagorno-Karabakh must be respected. Whether, its people want a unity with Armenia or total independence.   Second, a safe corridor must be guaranteed between Armenia and NK. Third, Armenia withdraws its troops from the captured territories outside NK administrative areas. Heavy weapons must be withdrawn from both sides of the zones, and peacekeeping forces (composed of neutral states) should be sent to monitor this process. Forth, refugees from both sides must be returned to these areas, if not then compensated by the rival governments. Finally, it should be the role of NGOs and civil societies to build dialogue, trust and bridges between the two nations and produce a new generation far from hatred and enmity.

Yeghia Tashjian has graduated from Haigazian University in political science. He is a Lebanese-Armenian political activist, researcher and blogger. He has founded the New Eastern Politics forum/blog in 2010. Currently, he is the regional officer of Women in War gender-based think tank, and research assistant at Armenian Diaspora Research Center at Haigazian University. He is also contributor to many local and regional newspapers and blogs.

The article was originally published in Civilnet 

The Armenian Genocide: Solidarity vs. Denial (Yeghia Tashjian)

29 Apr

The Armenian Genocide: Solidarity vs. Denial

While Lebanese-Armenians continue to commemorate the anniversary of the Armenian Genocide, the Lebanese are still debating the tragic event on social media.

Armenian Genocide memorial, Dzidzernagapert in Yerevan, Armenia Armenian Genocide memorial, Dzidzernagapert in Yerevan, Armenia

The Racism and sectarianism that is flourishing on daily basis in the region is also reflected in Lebanon. While some look at tragic events from a humanitarian angle, others view them through a sectarian lens. Worse, some crimes are even being justified.

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The Gulf countries wave goodbye to a large number of expats and scream “Timber” as the future of the price of oil will continue to fall down before a final agreement is reached (By Christiane Waked)

19 Feb An oil pump works at sunset in the desert oil fields of Sakhir, Bahrain (source: gdb.voanews.com)

The Gulf countries wave goodbye to a large number of expats and scream “Timber” as the future of the price of oil will continue to fall down before a final agreement is reached 

 

An oil pump works at sunset in the desert oil fields of Sakhir, Bahrain (source: gdb.voanews.com)

An oil pump works at sunset in the desert oil fields of Sakhir, Bahrain (source: gdb.voanews.com)

While talks about initiative to freeze production levels in case of consensus by the members of the Organisation of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (Opec) and Russia to help balancing supply and demand, seem to reassure more or less the Gulf countries, the truth is some of these countries are using this alibi to remodel their “economic system” and ease their oversupply of expats in their countries.

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Turkey’s Attempts to Kill Two Birds with One Stone (Liana Hovhannisyan)

29 Jul

(Armedia.am) Last week, radical changes took placein Turkey’s foreign policy in the Middle East . If by that time Turkey was conducting the so-called moderate foreign policy and did not directly interfere in the chaos in neighboring countries, last week after telephone conversation between the presidents of Turkey and the United States, Erdogan agreed to open air bases in Incirlik and Diyarbakir, which would allow the NATO partners to conduct air strikes in the direction of IS militants in Syria.

LiveLeak-dot-com-df6_1413360260-Turkey-Kobane_1413360506.jpg.resized

At the same time Turkey organized two direct military actions  on two fronts – air strikes in the direction of Syria against the “Islamic State”, as well as in the direction of Northern Iraq against PKK fighters.

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Contradictions on the rise in Turkey as western “democracy” support attacks on Kurds (By Hamid Alizadeh)

29 Jul

(IndefenceofMarxism): While NATO throws its weight behind the reactionary Erdogan government, he continues his onslaught against Kurdish and left forces. Erdogan however, is acting from a position of weakness and he could provoke a mass movement against himself.

“The Kurds were born to be betrayed. Almost every would-be Middle East statelet was promised freedom after the First World War, and the Kurds even sent a delegation to Versailles to ask for a nation and safe borders.” – Robert Fisk

26-nisan

Turkish auto workers on strike in 2015

Yet again, today, the major western imperialist powers gathered to under-sign yet another betrayal of this tested people, whose fate has been traded between every major power of the region for a hundred years, as if it were just another item on their shopping list. Following the emergency meeting of NATO – a very rare event – General Secretary Jens Stoltenberg expressed “strong solidarity” with Turkey in its war on “terrorism”. The joint declaration by the NATO members stated that, “The security of the alliance is indivisible,” and condemned the recent terror attacks in Turkey, describing terrorism as “a global threat that knows no border, nationality, or religion — a challenge that the international community must fight and tackle together.”

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Yezidis in Iraq: “This country is our grave”

21 Jul

Yezidis in Iraq: “This country is our grave”

EzidischeFlüchtlingskinderEsiya


Translated by Thora Brudal from ÊzîdîPress German

Dohuk – “Up to this point,” says Hewas and shows with his right, outer edge of the hand on his left forearm. “Up to this point, to the bone. It’s enough, we are at the end,” he continues. The 26-year-old Yezidi stands in the refugee camp Esiya near the Kurdish city of Duhok, where approximately 18,000 Yezidis from Shingal have found refuge. He is surrounded by children with worn clothes, worn shoes, some of them barefoot.

Since the genocide by the terrorist militia “Islamic State” (IS) in August last year, which continues with the imprisonment of thousands of women and children, the Yezidi people is in a state of emergency. The terrorist militia hit in the midst of the heart of the Yezidi soul – Shingal, the main settlement area of the minority in northern Iraq. Defenseless civilians were overrun, massacred and kidnapped by the henchmen of the terrorist militia. The 8,000 Peshmergas in Shingal and another 3,000 stationed in the region fled even before the civilian population suspected that a genocide awaited them. When they woke up early in the morning, the Peshmerga had since long run away, and the black flag of the terrorists was approaching from three sides. Hundreds of thousands flee, tens of thousands looking for protection in the mountains, where they are eventually besieged for days and die of hunger and thirst. Everyone here speaks in whispers of treachery – even staunch supporters of the Kurdistan Democratic Party (Kurd. PDK) which is blamed for the disaster because they could have prevented it.

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