Killing Gets Easier
(David Shulman, Opinion,The New York Review of Books, 5/29/15))
This is How We Fought in Gaza:
Soldiers' testimonials and photographs from
Operation "Protective Edge (2014)
(links to full 242 pg PDF file report at the breakingthesilence.org website)
David Shulman opinion excerpt:
Rescuers looking for survivors and bodies at the Qassam Mosque in the Neuseirat refugee camp, Gaza Strip, 8/9/14
(Paolo Pellegrin/Magnum Photos)
In early May, Breaking the Silence,
the organization of Israeli ex-soldiers that is by now well known for
its meticulous independent accounts of IDF operations, published a report
the Israeli army’s campaign in Gaza last summer. The report revealed
that the large number of civilian casualties on the Palestinian side
was a consequence, among other things, of military tactics and orders
explicitly adopted by the IDF.
Israelis like to think that their army holds to high moral standards,
and they react badly to hard evidence that shows this is not the case.
There has been particular outrage at the suggestion that there is
anything wrong about the new “Gaza rules” and the high civilian body
count. Most Israelis simply, and simplistically, blame Hamas for the
fighting and its cost, which they also see as the natural result of
fighting in the thickly populated urban space of Gaza.
The seven-week operation known as “Protective Edge” (Tzuk Eitan,
“Steadfast Boulder,” in Hebrew) was a violent conflict aimed at
stopping rocket fire from Gaza into Israel. According to the United
Nations, some 2,200 people were killed, of whom 1,492, or more than two
thirds, were civilian. The overwhelming majority of these were
Palestinian. (The Israeli military recorded the deaths of sixty-six
Israeli soldiers and six Israeli civilians in the conflict.)
The evidence presented in the Breaking
the Silence report can be summarized relatively simply: soldiers
briefed by officers before they went into Gaza were instructed to avoid
all risks to themselves even at the cost of certain, possibly
substantial, civilian casualties. In practice, this meant they shot at
everything that moved in their zone of combat, including animals and,
inevitably, civilians who for whatever reason could not get out in
time. This point is a weighty one. The army delivered warnings to
civilians to evacuate areas slated for attack; usually these took the
form of leaflets or text-messages to cell phones, but there was also
the Israeli invention called “a knock on the door”—a small missile or
shell shot at a building as a warning that heavier shelling was about
to begin. Civilians who failed to heed such warnings were, according to
the army briefings, fair game. They were not supposed to be there.
The difficulty with these measures is by now well known and has been
discussed at some length. At times the interval between the knock on
the door and severe or total destruction was so short—measured in
minutes or even seconds—that there was simply no time for civilians to
get out. Moreover, such warnings are largely meaningless unless there
is a corridor of safety for evacuees fleeing the battle zone and some
provision for their survival once they get beyond the immediate threat,
as the prominent human-rights lawyer, Michael Sfard, wrote last summer
while the battles were still raging. Such measures were, in general,
absent during last summer’s fighting. Many civilians certainly died in
a desperate attempt to reach safety; some troubling cases are
documented in the report.
For the sake of comparison, we might recall the Israeli army’s
traditional rules of engagement, taught to generations of recruits. A
potential enemy can, we were told, be killed if he has a weapon, an
apparent intent to cause harm, and a realistic capability of doing so.
“Gaza rules” were far more lenient, as many of the Breaking the Silence
interviews state directly:
What were the rules of engagement?
There weren’t really any rules of
engagement, it was more protocols. The idea was, if you spot
something—shoot. They told us: “There aren’t supposed to be any
civilians there. If you spot someone, shoot.” Whether it posed a threat
or not wasn’t a question, and that makes sense to me. If you shoot
someone in Gaza it’s cool, no big deal.
The same approach—massive fire, sometimes uncontrolled or
indiscriminate—held true at much higher levels of operation, as in the
destruction of buildings, indeed of entire neighborhoods, such as
Shuja’iyya in the central zone and Khuza’a in the far south, either by
ground artillery or from the air. The heavy civilian casualties on the
Palestinian side included some five hundred dead children. Destruction
of homes and infrastructure in Gaza was immense, some of it clearly
meant to teach a lesson, or to take revenge, or to create a passable
illusion of military victory or some form of deterrent against future
The findings of the report—including the results of the fighting and
the orders that brought them about—are nothing very new. What is more
striking is how they suggest the impressive persistence and, indeed,
continual intensification of practices that have occurred over the last
three or four decades. Significant change lies only in the fact that
the acts in question now reflect deliberate and explicit policy of a
systemic nature coming down from the top. The Israel army once claimed
to hold, nominally at least, to moral considerations of an entirely
different order than those officially adopted last summer. Now, even
that pretense seems to be gone.
How did we get to this point? It’s important to remember that Gaza has
a history that goes back far beyond last year, and that Hamas rule
there developed as part of the longue durée, or the lethal dialogue, of
Israeli-Palestinian relations, including the last forty-eight years of
Occupation and in large measure, because of Israeli’s policy of
colonizing the West Bank, including the massive theft of land, the
disenfranchisement of millions of Palestinians, an entrenched regime of
state terror, and the lack of meaningful legal recourse to those living
under the Occupation. It will also reflect Israel’s adamant refusal to
To my mind, the true significance of the
Breaking the Silence report lies just here. There is a sinister link
between the conduct of the army in Gaza last summer and the system now
firmly in place on the West Bank—despite attempts by the government
(and large sections of the electorate) to deny any such connection.
Three recent examples may suffice: (only one is posted for this
Israel tops explosive killers’ list
(Rania Khalek, Electronic Intifada 6/30/15)
• On May 17, 750 olive saplings were uprooted and savagely destroyed,
undoubtedly by settlers, on Palestinian land east of the Etzion
settlements in the south Hebron hills. The land is privately owned by
the Abu Shanab family. Destruction of Palestinian olive trees is a
routine event in the south Hebron hills; I have seen the results
myself, near the village of Twaneh and elsewhere. One needs to bear in
mind that many Palestinian herders and small-scale farmers subsist
largely, even primarily, on olives, and the ancient trees themselves
are often treated as beloved members of the family—hence, I suppose,
the settlers’ delight in uprooting them. It goes without saying that no
attempt has been made by the police or the army to find the
perpetrators of this wanton act.
If Palestinians—all of them—are the enemy; if they are different enough
from Israelis to be seen as a separate (lower) category of human
beings; if their civilian casualties don’t really count for much (to
say nothing of the now notorious posts from last summer in Israeli
social media actually celebrating these deaths); if official Israeli
policy is based on maintaining the cruel system of the occupation
indefinitely, denying elementary human rights to Palestinian residents;
if the Prime Minister allows himself to speak even of Israeli Arabs,
citizens of the state, as constituting a threat to the domination of
the Jews and the rule of the Israeli right, as he did on the day of the
recent election—if all this is now acceptable public discourse inside
Israel, then killing more of them will become easier and easier and
look less and less like the crime it is.
Israel killed and injured more civilians
with explosive weapons than any other state in the world in 2014 due to
its military assault on Gaza. This is according to a new report by Action on Armed Violence (AOAV)
, an organization that tracks the global impact of explosive weapons on civilians.
While both state and non-state groups contributed to civilian
casualties in 2014, states were responsible for 28 percent of civilian
injuries and deaths, a sharp 17 percent rise from the previous year.
This was due in large part to Israel’s military assault on Gaza, which
accounted for 44 percent of all explosive violence in 2014.
(Source: Action on Armed Violence)
Dubbed Operation Protective Edge,
Israel’s 51-day bombing campaign killed 2,251 Palestinians and injured
another 11,000, according to UN figures.* The vast majority of those
killed (1,462) were civilians, including 551 children, making Gaza the third most dangerous place in the world to be a civilian in 2014
, according to AOAV.
* (see the United Nations Independent Commission of Inquiry on the 2014 Gaza Conflict
As a result, Palestinians in Gaza made up 43 percent of global civilian
casualties from artillery shelling, 35 percent of civilian casualties
from aerial bombings and 40 percent of worldwide child casualties from
explosive violence in 2014.
After the dust settled, bomb disposal experts estimated that Israel dropped the equivalent of six atomic bombs on Gaza
(Dore note: General Secretary of the Palestine National Initiative (PNI), Dr. Mustafa Barghouti,
recently stated at a July 9 speech in Berkeley that 21,000 tons of
explosives landed in Gaza, the equivalent of two nuclear bombs.)
In 2014, Gaza accounted for the third highest number of civilian
casualties from explosive violence globally, exceeding civilian death
and injury in Nigeria, Pakistan, Afghanistan and Ukraine.
Of the 4,022 injuries and deaths from explosive violence AOAV recorded in Gaza, 3,813 were civilians.
This means that civilians comprised an alarming 95 percent of those killed or maimed by explosives in Gaza
placing Israel in the same league as the militant group Boko Haram,
whose deadly suicide and IED (improvised explosive device) attacks
resulted in a 97 percent civilian casualty rate in Nigeria. By
comparison, the rate of civilian casualties in Syria, to which Israel
often refers to deflect from its own atrocities, was 81 percent.
Such findings contradict Israeli proclamations
that it does more than any other force on earth to avoid civilian casualties.
Israel was responsible for more than one third, or 35 percent, of
civilians hit by air-launched explosives, Syria for 43 percent and Iraq
for 8 percent, leading to a nearly threefold global rise in civilian
casualties from aerial explosives in 2014.
The report found that 43 percent of
Israeli air attacks were launched by drones, accounting for 29 percent
of Gaza’s civilian casualties.
An investigation by the Associated Press generated similar results,
finding that over half of civilians killed in Gaza died in Israeli
airstrikes on their homes, “including 19 babies and 108 preschoolers
between the ages of one and five.”
Aerial explosives were particularly detrimental to children around the
world, “with 44 percent of all deaths and injuries being reported as
caused by air launched weapons,” the AOAV report states, citing as an
example the 29 July air assault on an apartment building in Khan Younis
(Gaza) that killed 18 children and critically injured another four as
they sheltered with their families.
A study by Defense for Children International-Palestine found that 225
Palestinian children were killed in Israeli airstrikes “while they were
in their own homes or seeking shelter, often as they sat down to eat
with their families, played or slept.” Another 164 children were
“directly targeted and unlawfully killed” by Israeli drone strikes on
their homes and in the street as they attempted to flee to safety.
Indeed, Israel proved itself to be a world leader at killing and
maiming children with explosives. Of the total child casualties from
explosive violence in 2014, 40 percent were in Gaza and 25 percent were
in Syria, revealed AOAV.
Though Israel possesses a high tech arsenal of precision-guided
weapons, it pounded the densely populated Gaza Strip with 34,000
unguided shells, including 19,000 high-explosive artillery shells. As a
result, Palestinians in Gaza made up 43 percent of global civilian
casualties from artillery shelling.
Israel fired these weapons indiscriminately into Gaza’s densely populated neighborhoods.
On 19 and 20 July, Israel battered the
neighborhood of Shujaiya with 7,000 high explosive shells, firing 4,800
shells within a seven-hour period. The extent of the indiscriminate
shelling, which killed at least 55 people, including 19 children and 14
women, was so unprecedented, senior US military officers who
participated in the US destruction of Iraq were reportedly left
* One of the more curious moments in Israel’s Operation Protective Edge
came on July 20, when a live microphone at Fox News caught U.S.
Secretary of State John Kerry commenting sarcastically on Israel’s
military action. “It’s a hell of a pinpoint operation,” Kerry said.
“It’s a hell of a pinpoint operation.”
Artillery pieces used during the operation included American made
weaponry that can fire three shells per minute. “The only possible
reason for doing that is to kill a lot of people in as short a period
of time as possible,” said the senior U.S. military officer. “It’s not
mowing the lawn,” he added, referring to a popular IDF term for
periodic military operations against Hamas in Gaza. “It’s removing the
“Holy bejeezus,” exclaimed retired Lt. Gen. Robert Gard when told the
numbers of artillery pieces and rounds fired during the July 21 action
in Shujaiya, a residential area on the eastern edge of Gaza City. “That
rate of fire over that period of time is astonishing. If the figures
are even half right, Israel’s response was absolutely disproportionate.”
While the AOAV report attributes high civilian casualties by states to
the targeting of groups and individuals in populated areas, it should
be noted that statements by Israeli military leaders demonstrate a
calculated military strategy that deliberately and systematically
targets civilians and civilian infrastructure.
As a recent investigation by the UN
Human Rights Council observed, Israel’s widespread attacks on civilians
in Gaza “may have constituted military tactics reflective of a broader
policy, approved at least tacitly by decision-makers at the highest
levels of the government of Israel.”
Israel losing Democrats,
Meanwhile, the Obama administration approved a $1.9 billion weapons
package to Israel in “compensation” for the US nuclear deal with
Iran, which the Israeli regime staunchly opposes. This
essentially guarantees Israel’s capacity to reenact its 2014 attack against the people of Gaza.
‘can’t claim bipartisan US support,’ top pollster warns
New survey by Frank Luntz shows almost
half of Democratic ‘opinion elites’ think Israel is racist, barely half
believe it wants peace,
and three quarters feel it has too much influence on US policy
(David Horovitz, The Times of Israel, 7/5/15)
Three quarters of highly educated, high
income, publicly active US Democrats — the so-called “opinion elites” —
believe Israel has too much influence on US foreign policy, almost half
of them consider Israel to be a racist country, and fewer than half of
them believe that Israel wants peace with its neighbors. These are
among the findings of a new survey carried out by US political
consultant Frank Luntz.
Detailing the survey results to The
Times of Israel on Sunday, Luntz called the findings “a disaster” for
Israel. He summed them up by saying that the Democratic opinion elites
are converting to the Palestinians, and “Israel can no longer claim to
have the bipartisan support of America.”
He said he “knew there was a shift” in attitudes to Israel among US
Democrats “and I have been seeing it get worse” in his ongoing polls.
But the new findings surprised and shocked him, nonetheless. “I didn’t
expect it to become this blatant and this deep.”
A prominent US political consultant known best for his work with
Republicans, who describes himself as "right of center" in US politics,
Luntz said “Israel has won the hearts and minds of Republicans in
America, while at the same time it is losing the Democrats,” he said.
The survey, sponsored by the Jewish National Fund, was conducted last week. Among the key findings:
• Asked about Israeli influence on US foreign policy, an overwhelming
76% of Democrats, as compared to 20% of Republicans, said Israel has
“too much influence.”
• Asked whether Israel is a racist country, 47% of Democrats agreed it is, as opposed to 13% of Republicans.
• Asked whether Israel wants peace with its neighbors, while an
overwhelming 88% of Republicans said it does, a far lower 48% of
• Asked whether they would be more likely to vote for a local
politician who criticized Israeli occupation and mistreatment of
Palestinians, 45% of Democrats said yes, compared to just 6% of
One Year After Israel's Assault on Gaza
• Asked whether the US should support
Israel or the Palestinians, a vast 90% of Republicans and a far lower
51% of Democrats said Israel. Another 8% of Republicans and 31% of
Democrats were neutral.
• Asked about which side they themselves support, 88% of Republicans
and 46% of Democrats said they were “pro-Israeli” while 4% of
Republicans and 27% of Democrats said they were “pro-Palestinian.”
• Asked if settlements are an impediment to peace, 75% of Democrats and 25% of Republicans agreed.
A specialist in finding and testing the language that can impact public
opinion, Luntz said the word “Zionism” could play no part in messaging
designed to repair relations with US Democrats. There has to be an “end
to the [use of the] word Zionism,” he said. “You can’t make the case if
you use that word. If you are at Berkeley or Brown and start outlining
a Zionist vision, you don’t get to make a case for Israel because
they’ve already switched off.”
He also predicted that Israel is in for “a lot more trouble” from the
BDS (Boycott, Divestment & Sanctions) campaign. Once they had been
informed about the BDS campaign, 19% of respondents supported it — 31%
of Democrats and 3% of Republicans. And, stressed Luntz, 60% of
America’s opinion elites said they were not familiar with BDS. “Israel
is already having trouble with BDS, and Americans don’t even know what
it means. Can you imagine how bad it will get?”
He also foresaw a looming battle in the US over foreign aid to Israel.
Some 33% of Democrats and 22% of Republicans, his poll found, were
upset that “Israel gets billions and billions of dollars in funding
from the US government that should be going to the American people.”
The poll also found, 50% of Democrats and 18% of Republicans (and 36%
of all respondents) agreed with the proposition that “Jewish people are
too hyper-sensitive and too often label legitimate criticisms of Israel
as an anti-Semitic attack.”
I recently saw Mad Max: Fury Road.
The setting has been described as a dystopian wasteland.
Dystopian is defined "as bad as can be; characterized by human
misery". Dystopia is defined as "An imaginary place or
state in which the condition of life is extremely bad, as from
deprivation, oppression, or terror."
You don't have to imagine such a place on earth. It already exists.
That place is Gaza. One year after the start of the 51 day war on
Gaza, Max Blumenthal, author of the new book, The 51 Day War: Ruin and Resistance in Gaza
describers Gaza as an "apocalyptic oblivion."
Nothing has changed since the 51 days of
hell. No reconstruction has begun. 18,000 homes were destroyed/damaged
and not one has been rebuilt. Not one.
A window to hell in Gaza
(Max Blumenthal The Electronic Intifada, 7/10/15)
A year after Operation Protective Edge:
The 51 days of carnage Israel inflicted on Gazans is referred to by Israelis as Operation Protective Edge.
The explosive power Israel fired on Gaza by land, sea and air was the
equivalent of two nuclear bombs - about 21000 tons of explosives on the
139 square mile territory.
During so called Operation Protective Edge, six Israeli civilians were
killed, including an Arab Israeli, a Thai civilian worker and one
child. 67 IDF soldiers died.
During the same 51 days 2251 Palestinians were killed including 551
children; over 1000 children were permanently disabled; the total
injured was 11,231; 100,000 Gazans remain displaced. 1.8 mill Gazans
remain under occupation, siege and blockade - the longest blockade in
Many news outlets and human rights organizations wrote stories on Gaza - One Year later.
Below are several headlined links that I encourage you to read. I've
included a series of articles by the Independent UK, one by Max
Blumenthal and one from the Israeli human rights NGO, B'Tselem.
For hundreds of thousands living in Gaza, it’s not over
Below are 5 separately linked stories from a recent series by the Independent UK:
Gaza a year on from Operation Protective Edge:
The shelling may have stopped,
but there's little relief for those left behind
Families still living among the rubble of 18,000 homes
destroyed in a 50-day war
No hope and no jobs, so the young risk their lives and run for it
The traumatised kibbutz on Israel's front line, still recovering from last summer's war with Hamas
A growing population and a compromised and depleted aquifer leaves water in scarce supply for Palestinians
Gaza One Year Later: The Quest for Accountability
Click link above to take action to hold Israel accountable.
U.S. State Department:
We won’t protect Israeli settlements against boycott
efforts to extend anti-BDS fight to occupied territories show
pro-Israel lobby the perils of biting off more than one can chew.
(Chemi Shalev, Haaretz, 7/1/15)
note: requires free registration
The U.S. State Department on Tuesday
punched a big hole in Israel-led efforts to induce the Obama
administration to regard boycotts of settlements as identical to
boycott of Israel proper.
A special statement issued by the State Department Press Office on
Tuesday afternoon made clear that while the administration “strongly
opposes” any boycott, divestment or sanctions against the State of
Israel, it does not extend the same protection to “Israel-controlled
territories.” Rather than weakening efforts to boycott Jewish
settlements in the occupied territories, as Israel supporters had
planned, the State Department was actually granting them unprecedented
The statement came in the wake of President Obama’s signing of the
Trade Promotion Authority bill, which grants him the authority he had
sought to conclude the Trans-Pacific Partnership accord. But as the
bill deals with free trade agreements in general, a clause was inserted
in the Senate and in the House of Representative that instructs
American diplomats to include opposition to any boycott of Israel - or
of persons from “territories controlled by Israel” - in their free
trade negotiations with the European Union.
The State Department statement, however,
makes clear that the bill will not change U.S. policy towards the
settlements. “The U.S. government has never defended or supported
Israeli settlements or activity associated with them, and, by
extension, does not pursue policies or activities that would legitimize
them,” it said. It went on to note: “Administrations of both parties
have long recognized that settlement activity and efforts to change
facts on the ground undermine the goal of a two-state solution.”
United Church of Christ Votes to Boycott & Divest
The defiant rebuff of the Congressional bill comes in the wake of the
recent Supreme Court decision regarding Menachem Zivotofsky that
rebuffed Congressional attempts to force the administration to record
“Israel” next to his city of birth “Jerusalem.” And just as the
Zivotofsky decision weakened Israel’s hold on Jerusalem, the boycott
decision only delegitimizes the settlements more than ever before.
Thus, the effort to strengthen the settlements, supported by AIPAC and
other mainstream and right-wing groups and opposed by J-Street and
organizations on the left, actually ends up weakening them. The attempt
to blot out the differences between a boycott of Israel and of the
territories actually highlights them. The boycott of settlements, in
effect, has now been officially stamped “kosher” by the State
from Companies Profiting from Israel's Occupation
Press Release Excerpt:
June 30, 2015
"As disciples of Jesus, we hear and seek
to heed his call to be peacemakers, responding to violence with
nonviolence and extending love to all," said Rev. John Deckenback,
Conference Minister of the Central Atlantic Conference of the UCC,
which submitted the resolution.. "It is in that spirit of love for both
Israelis and Palestinians, and a desire to support Palestinians in
their nonviolent struggle for freedom, that the United Church of Christ
has passed this resolution.”
Survivors Describe Entire Families Being Massacred
"In approving this resolution, the UCC has demonstrated its commitment to justice and equality,”
said Rev. Mitri Raheb, a Christian Palestinian and Pastor of the
Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan and the Holy Land. “For
Palestinians living under occupation or facing systematic
discrimination as citizens of Israel, enduring the destruction of their
homes and businesses, the theft
of their land for settlements, and living under blockade and siege in
Gaza, this action sends a strong signal that they are not alone, and
that there are churches who still dare to speak truth to power and
stand with the oppressed.”
The vote, which was 508 in favor, 124 against, with 38 abstentions, was
the culmination of a process that began in 2005, to end the Church's
complicity in Israel's nearly half-century-old occupation and other
abuses of Palestinian human rights.
The United Church of Christ is following in the footsteps of sister
mainline churches like the Presbyterian Church (USA), which passed a
similar resolution last year divesting from Israel’s occupation, and
the United Methodists, who voted to boycott products made in Israeli
in the occupied Palestinian territories.
in Brazen Islamic State Attack on Kobane
(Samuel Oakford, Vice News, 6/27/15)
Peter Clifford Blog: Syria and Iraq News
combined excerpt :
During two days of global terror last
week at least 27 worshipers during Ramadan were killed by a suicide
bomber in a Shiite mosque in Kuwait, 39 tourists including
including 15 were slaughtered at a beach resort in Tunisia. IS claimed
responsibility for these atrocities. Also in Africa Al Shabab
murdered 30 people in Somalia. And the severed head of a businessman
hung on a factory gate in a quiet corner of the Rhône-Alpes region of
France in a killing apparently inspired by the IS-style beheadings in
Syria, Libya and Iraq.
The mainstream press focused on the Tunisian and French terrorist attacks because the deaths involved Europeans.
There was another terrorist attack and it was by far the most gruesome
and bloodiest. But because it took place in Syria where death is
a daily occurrence, it received far less coverage.
It happened in Kobane where 200+ women,
children and elderly were murdered - some in their sleep. Many more are
The attack on Kobane and the nearby village of Brakh Bootan marked the
biggest single massacre of civilians by IS in Syria since it killed
hundreds of members of the Sunni Sheitaat tribe last year, said Rami
Abdulrahman, who runs the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.
Kobane is a Kurdish border town, a stones throw from Turkey. Kobane has
become a symbol of Kurdish resistance because the Kurds of Kobane were
the first fighting force to successfully stand up to the Islamic State
at a time when IS seemed invincible after its conquest of Mosul (Iraq)
and Raqqa (Syria).
Last October it appeared a genocidal massacre of horrific proportion
was imminent in Kobane. 200,000 civilians fled into Turkey. But
backed by determined and skilled fighters and US air support IS
was expelled from Kobane after a 4four month siege. The date was Jan 27
2015 and since then until last Thursday, the Kurds had recaptured 200+
villages from IS and not ceded any of the territory.
The success of the Kurds against IS is the only example thus far of the US working with a capable partner on the ground.
Just last week, IS was driven from the strategic border town of Tal
Abyad, cutting off vital northern supply lines to IS Syrian
headquarters in Raqqa. The Kurdish YPG with help from the FSA and US
airstrikes are only 30 miles from Raqqa, the capital of the IS Caiphate.
Perhaps as retribution for these defeats
Islamic State (IS) fighters staged a surprise attack on Kobane.
The militants targeted civilians with drive-by killings and massacred
entire families during a brazen suicide mission.
Concurrent with the primary attack on Kobane early on Thursday morning,
the IS Jihadists attacked the village of Berxbatan (Barkh Butan) on
Kobane Canton’s southern frontier.
The death toll there is now reported as 33 villagers, many of them having been beheaded, and at least 15 wounded.
The Kobane surprise attack began when IS fighters detonated a series of
car bombs in Kobane. Questions are being asked if the attackers made it
in from the Turkish side, and if so, why Turkey didn't stop them.
The reason that this IS force was able to penetrate into the heart of
Kobane is that they had shaved off their beards and were wearing
Kurdish People's Protection Units (YPG) and Free Syrian Army
(FSA) uniforms. Their vehicles were also decked out with Burkhat
Al-Firat, YPG and FSA flags. Burkhat Al-Firat (“Euphrates Volcano”) is
the combined force fighting the Islamic State.
A second objective of the IS fighters disguising themselves to gain entry to Kobani is to instill paranoia in the population.
Following the primary suicide bomb attack at the frontier gate, the IS
Jihadists then attempted to take control of the Kaniya Kurda
neighborhood including the Doctors without Borders Hospital.
With the Jihadist group were many snipers who proceeded to shoot
randomly at anybody on the street and who also broke into a number of
homes wiping out entire families.
Dozens of IS fighters entered the town.
Some speculate there were IS sleeper cells in Kobane. Kobane
locals confirm most of the IS fighters were speaking Turkish,
Kurdish and Arabic.
Kobane is miles from current front lines giving many residents a sense
of security. Many people who ventured out of their homes out of
curiosity after hearing the suicide bomb explosions were gunned down.
In some incidents, Kurdish-speaking IS fighters knocked on the doors of
houses, beckoning families outside and into a hail of bullets.
By Saturday, the remaining IS forces in Kobane had either been killed
or fled the town. The number of civilians killed since bands of IS
fighters infiltrated the town early Thursday has exceeded 200 and is
likely to rise as the search for bodies continues the majority are
women, children and elderly. At least 54 IS fighters were reported
VICE News obtained testimony collected by a local NGO worker who
interviewed victims at a hospital in Turkey. International human rights
workers corroborated the accounts as legitimate.
Ibrahim Jasim, the manager of a bakery in Kobane, said Thursday morning began as usual, but quickly descended into bloodshed.
"I left my house to go to the baker, as usual, unaware of what was
going on," he said. "When I arrived to the bakery I saw the bodies of
my three workers outside of the bakery. They had most likely been
targeted by snipers from the MSF building, as the baker is visible from
there," he added, referring to a Doctors Without Borders hospital
captured by IS.
"When I was standing there, a sniper fired at me and wounded me in the chest," he said.
A 30-year-old woman named Fatma, also
speaking from a hospital just across the Turkish border, said she was
on her way to Amel hospital in Kobane early Thursday to retrieve the
body of her father, who had passed away hours earlier of natural
causes. As she entered the town's center in a car with her husband and
one of his friends, IS gunmen pulled up alongside and began firing
wildly into the vehicle. The militants, she said, yelled "Kouffars! We
have come for you," as they shot, referring to them as infidels.
"They shot my husband in the head, his
brains splattered in front of my eyes on the car," Fatma said. Her
husband's friend was also killed by gunfire. Fatma, who is more than
eight months pregnant, said she threw herself out of the car and was
rescued by Kurdish YPG soldiers. Taken to Turkey, doctors were able to
deliver her baby in an emergency procedure, and both survived. Her
other children remained in Kobane, and she was not sure of their fate.
Kurds fight Kurds in Syria
(Mahmut Bozarslan; Al Monitor, 6/25/15)
Another woman, 19, said that her entire family was shot to death
outside of their home in Kobane. The woman was herself wounded, and she
wept uncontrollably as she spoke from a hospital inside Turkey. She was
unable to count the number of family members who perished.
A woman in her mid-50s, who did not give her name, said IS fighters
captured her from her house and held her hostage. "I was taken by ISIS
to the field hospital — there outside the hospital they shot me in the
leg and told me to call my children to come and take me away," she
said, using another common abbreviation for IS. "I called my children
but could not reach them.
"Thank God, later I learned that this was a tactic they used to get
people out so they could kill them," the woman said, explaining that
she was able to escape and crawl to the Turkish border, where she was
recovering in a hospital. The fate of her family was unclear.
Locals also reported that IS snipers set up around Kobane to pick off civilians who ventured outside.
Given the strong Kurdish grip on the area, the IS mission appeared to
be suicidal and intended to kill civilians. Many are now seeing
the IS attack as revenge for the capture of by Kurdish forces of Tal
Abyad and for getting far too close (30 mi) to their “Syrian capital”
The Evil That Dare Not Speak Its Name:
A considerable number of Kurds, most of them from Turkey, have joined the ranks of IS in Syria and Iraq.
The impoverished province of Bingol, home to some 267,000 people, has
emerged as a major IS recruitment base in Turkey’s predominantly
Kurdish southeast. Official figures are not available, but locals
estimate at least 600 young men have joined the jihadist group, lured
through religious indoctrination and various promises, including money
Bingol stands out as a strongly conservative region whose population is
overwhelmingly Zaza, an ethnic subgroup in the Kurdish fold.
Mehmet Kurt, a Bingol University academic who studied radicalization in
Turkey’s southeast told Al-Monitor that a complex mix of “strong
historic and social dynamics” nourish radicalization in Bingol.
Kurt said that the question of whether Zazas are really Kurdish or not
— a debate that has intensified in recent years — contributed to an
identity crisis among the Zazas, which often resulted in religious
affiliation superseding ethnicity.
(By Sandy Tolan, Truthdig, 6/14/15)
Palestinian workers wait to cross at the Israeli checkpoint in Jalameh,
south of the West Bank city of Jenin, on their way to work in Israel.
(Mohammed Ballas / AP)
Journey through a fractured landscape
(By Sandy Tolan, Mondoweiss, 6/18/15)
note: Sandy's website is Ramallah Cafe
Debris thrown by Israeli settlers into a net above
the Palestinian market in the old city of Hebron.
(Photo: Manfred Schweda/ thisfabtrek.com)
Making music under occupation
A conversation with veteran journalist Sandy Tolan about his new book, "Children of the Stone: The Power of Music in a Hard Land.”
He tells the story of Ramzi Aburedwan and his journey from stone
thrower during the first Intifada to music student to music teacher,
transforming the lives of thousands of Palestinian children living
under the Israeli military occupation in the West Bank.
Sandy is also author of "The Lemon Tree: An Arab, a Jew, and the Heart of the Middle East."(Your Call Radio, KALW, 55 min, 6/19/15)
The Flute at the Checkpoint
(by SandyTolan, Huffington Post 4/30/15)
combined excerpt from first two listed stories under Gaza Corner:
For years the “A-word” has been
off-limits in polite conversation about Israel’s treatment of
Palestinians. The A-word, we have been told, unfairly singles out the
Jewish state and its use is perhaps even anti-Semitic. Such
declarations can have a powerful silencing effect.
However, in 2002 Archbishop Desmond Tutu broke the taboo, writing in
the British newspaper The Guardian that “the humiliation of
Palestinians at checkpoints and roadblocks” reminded him “of what
happened to us black people in South Africa.”
Four years later Jimmy Carter committed a similar indelicacy with the very title of his bestseller, “Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid.”
A wave of condemnation of the former president followed.
For the most part, in the mainstream U.S. press at least, the decorum
that forbids use of the A-word remains in place. Yet increasingly, as
Israel continues to colonize the West Bank with settlers, and its army
ensures their dominion over the lands they occupy, adhering to the
A-word ban requires shielding one’s eyes, or, at a minimum, engaging in
What, after all, to call a system of
legalized discrimination based on ethnicity and religion in which one
group has full voting rights and the other does not? What to call a
system under which one people can travel freely on roads built
specifically for them, whisking through checkpoints because of their
religion and the color of their license plates, and under which the
other must submit to inspection at military kiosks frequently manned by
snipers? A system under which one population in hilltop enclaves is
protected by troops and military surveillance towers, while the other
is subjected to frequent night raids by those same troops? Under which 40 percent of the adult male
population has been forced to spend time in prison? Under which one
group’s “civil administration” can designate a town of the other group
as a historic archeological site and evict all the residents, who then
must move into tents? Under which soldiers ordered Palestinian bathers
out of a public swimming pool last spring so Jewish settlers could have
a swim, alone and unbothered by the darker-skinned native population?
Numbers tell a certain kind of grim story in the landscape of Palestine:
109,000: the number of West Bank settlers, excluding East Jerusalem, in
September 1993, the time of the christening of the Oslo accords on the
White House lawn.
350,000: the number of those settlers today — a tripling during something called the “peace process.”
40,000+: the population of Maale Adumim, well inside the West Bank, but considered a “suburb” of Jerusalem by Israel.
20,000: the number of settlers in Ariel, where the separation barrier
snakes a third of the way inside Palestinian lands to make the
settlement part of “greater Israel.”
18: The number of Israeli settlements directly encircling the hoped-for
capital of the Palestinian state, East Jerusalem, cutting off the city
from the rest of Palestine, but for a piece of land called E-1, which
Israel plans to develop.
Roads 60, 443, and myriad other randomly-chosen numbers:
smooth-as-glass highways slicing through West Bank Palestinian lands,
but for long stretches reserved for almost exclusively for settlers.
Yet the numbers, telling as they may be, can’t begin to evoke the
feeling of the transformed Palestinian landscape, nor the profound
power imbalance that defines relations between Israel and the
Palestinians. Only a road trip through Palestine can do that.
Our destination was the old city of Hebron, one of the most surreal
tableaus of the entire tragedy of Palestine and Israel, where 500 to
600 Jewish settlers, many of them from the United States, are protected
by at least 1,500 soldiers in a city of 170,000 Palestinians.
We walked through the moribund Old City
of Hebron, where urban settlement blocks stand brick to brick with
Palestinian homes in a contorted geographical designation known as H-2.
This arrangement was sanctioned by the international community in an
agreement signed by the Palestinian Authority as part of the Oslo
“peace process.” Israel had insisted that a few hundred settlers be
allowed to stay in a neighborhood of tens of thousands of Palestinians
because of a long Jewish presence there. The current settlers say they
live in Hebron to honor the memory of Jews massacred there by
Palestinians in 1929, during riots over Jewish immigration to
Palestine. Yet the current settlers, among the most extremist of all
Israelis, have little or no connection to the descendants of those
massacred. Some of the descendants have denounced the Hebron
settlements, pointing out that some Palestinian families sheltered Jews
in the massacre; they call for removal of the settlers.
Today, the 1,500 Israeli soldiers, more than twice the number of
settlers they were sent to protect, spend much of their time escorting
their charges from one part of the city to another. When the armed
escort squads push through the narrow alleys of Old Hebron, life on the
Palestinian street freezes; such is the primacy of Israel’s settlement
project. Steel screens above the old Arab casbah protect the
Palestinian vendors against a stream of trash, bottles, plastic chairs
and bags of feces that the settlers hurl down from above. This is
We walked toward Shuhada Street, the once-bustling main street of
Palestinian life. H. (our guide) stopped; as a Palestinian, he is not
allowed to walk there. The street was nearly vacant. The doors on some
of the shops were welded shut; access to some homes is now possible
only by ladder, or, in one case, a rope to a window.
We came upon one of H-2’s 120 military checkpoints and other obstacles ensuring separation between Arab and Jew.
Around the bend we came to a tiny mosque, whose imam, H. told us, is in
his nineties. He wants to retire, but if he does, he fears the settlers
will take over the modest building. So he hangs on, despite increasing
obstacles. The latest: 24 massive concrete blocks, each 16 feet high,
cutting of the imam’s path from his home on the hill just above. Now
the 92-year-old must walk a mile to reach the mosque.
Nearby stood a Palestinian elementary school, its entire perimeter
marked with looping razor wire. Many of the children must cross
checkpoints to get to the school, walking past graffiti in English
saying “Gas the Arabs!” and sometimes enduring a gantlet of flying
stones and rotten vegetables and attacks from settlers’ dogs. Across
from the school lies a flat expanse of asphalt. Once this was a play
area for the school. The old soccer and volleyball grounds have been
replaced by a parking lot for buses from the settlements.
It was from an adjacent settlement, Kiryat Arba, in 1994 that a settler
from Brooklyn named Baruch Goldstein emerged, traveling with his Galil
automatic rifle to the Ibrahimi Mosque and somehow getting through
Israeli security before gunning down 29 Palestinians as they prayed.
Survivors beat him to death. Today Goldstein is revered among some
settlers. At his gravesite in Kiryat Arba, these words are inscribed:
“He gave his soul for the people of Israel, the Torah, and the Land.
His hands are clean and his heart good. …”
We headed to the Ibrahimi Mosque, also known as the Cave of the
Patriarchs. The call to prayer from this mosque, H. told me, is often
banned by the Israeli authorities, who say it bothers the settlers.
Power in Hebron, as it does across the
West Bank, lies most clearly in the hands of Israel; Palestinians are
no match for Israel’s military might or its political influence with
the United States, the world’s sole superpower. Palestinian power lies
instead in sumud, or steadfastness: a determination to persevere and to
live for a better day, confronting Israel on moral grounds while hoping
the world will one day bear greater witness to the facts on the ground.
Life in Mosul one year on:
“Existence,” declares a popular Palestinian slogan, “is resistance.”
But the system in which they exist cannot stand in the long run. And
although some commentators and others, even after looking at the facts,
may continue to decry the use of the A-word—A for Apartheid—to me it
matters little what we call it. I am also fine with comparing these
conditions, and others like them all over Palestine, to the legislated
racism and racial violence that were known in America as Jim Crow.
Whatever we call it, it is separate and unequal. And like apartheid, like Jim Crow, it is destined for the dustbin of history.
'Isis with all its brutality is more honest
than the Shia government
Islamic State (IS) militants conquered Mosul,
Iraq’s second largest city, in a lightning advance in June 2014. Here,
residents of the city share their experiences of life under IS.
[stories are both pro and anti IS; local residents excerpts below headlines]
(Mona Mahmood, Guardian UK, 6/10/15)
What's life like under Islamic State?
reveals how Islamic State wields power over people's everyday lives in
Iraq's second city, Mosul, a year after it was captured.
videos obtained by the BBC's Ghadi Sary show mosques being blown up,
abandoned schools, and women being forced to cover up their bodies.
[These BBC produced stories are anti-IS; local residents excerpts below headlines]
A Glimpse Of Life In Mosul
BBC reporter Ghadi Sary speaks with NPR's Arun Rath about secretly
filmed videos obtained of harrowing conditions in the Iraqi city of
Mosul, which is controlled by the self-declared Islamic State. The videos, smuggled out of the city, feature ordinary people describing and documenting their lives under ISIS rule.(NPR, 6/13/15)
background articles and resources:
Citizens of Mosul endure economic collapse
and repression under Isis rule
Many Sunnis were glad to see the Iraqi army go when Islamic State took over – but for many the situation is now far worse(Mohammad Moslawi in Mosul, Fazel Hawramy in Irbil and Luke Harding; Guardian UK, 10/27/14)
note: Mohammad Moslawi is the pseudonym of an Iraqi reporter in Mosul
Mosul Eye is the pseudonym of a local historian who has been secretly
documenting IS's activities in Mosul. While it is not possible to
verify the blogger's identity, Iraq watchers believe the accounts are
The Islamist Phoenix:
The Islamic State and the Redrawing of the Middle East
In this book world-renowned terrorism expert Loretta Napoleoni
demonstrates that while Western media portrays the Islamic State as
little more than a gang of thugs on a winning streak, the organization
is proposing a new model of nation building.
"A vital contribution to our understanind of what is happening in the Middle East." Chris Hedges(Seven Stories Press - 2014)
Excerpt from "Life in Mosul: One year on":
- Widow and mother of four, 33
Last June, Isis took over Mosul and
dominated the scene in the city. I advised Kareem, my husband, to leave
his job and for us to flee together to Turkey. He was nearly convinced,
but learned that he would be murdered soon if he did not assist Isis in
repairing damaged vehicles left by the Iraqi army to use in their
I will never forget the day when my husband rushed out early in the
morning to a deserted military camp in the suburbs of Mosul to fix
damaged military equipment belonging to Isis. He was killed by an air
Isis men kept coming to my husband’s parents’ house during the funeral
in a pickup loaded with food for us and for the mourners. They also
brought $300 in cash for the kids with a promise to keep sending $100 a
month as a pension.
I struggled to cope with my children’s
daily demands. I sold my daughter’s bracelets at the jewellery shop,
and went back the next day and slipped on a ring and walked out, hoping
the owner would not recognise me with all the women wearing the veil. I
walked out of the shop but the owner stopped me, and a woman from the
Isis female security forces took me to their centre.
Ghazwan Abdul Rahman -
“Why did you steal the ring?” an Isis interrogator asked me. I answered
in tears, “I’m a widow of an Isis martyr with four children. I needed
money to feed my children and pay the rent. Please forgive me.”
I was questioned by two judges. The second day after my last hearing, I
was taken from my room by three Isis women to another room where an old
man was standing. He said: “Tie her to the table.”
I was tied firmly, and another man came with a sword in his hand. When
I saw him, I began to shout, “Mercy, have mercy on me.” I screamed and
begged him to leave me alone. He looked so determined. I wanted to run
away but couldn’t. I couldn’t believe the whole scene, and thought it
was a nightmare. The man did not hesitate before chopping my left hand
at the wrist. The whole world turned into black in my eyes and my legs
were numb. No words in humanity’s dictionary can describe my pain and
feeling at that horrifying moment. I fainted immediately.
My eldest daughter wept all the time whenever her eyes met mine in the
hospital. I was discharged and went home. I tried to commit suicide a
few times by strangling myself but the image of my little children kept
stopping me. I live now for them and have vowed to make sure they all
finish their education and marry only the men they love.
High school graduate, 19, supports Isis
I was chatting with my friend about
college when all of a sudden I received a hell of a push on my back. A
towering man in Isis clothing was pushing aside any man obstructing his
way towards the owner of the bakery. “I want some bread now, I can’t
wait and need to go back to my other fighter brothers,” he said.
But the owner told him to join the queue like the others. The argument
heated up and the Isis fighter lost his patience, and directed a kick
to the face of the owner, filled his bag with bread and dashed away
after leaving some money on the table.
Dr Firas Ghalib -
We were all in an absolute silence
watching without being able to say a word or do anything. The owner was
bleeding from his nose. Two or three men ran to help and stop the
bleeding while the owner vowed that he would complain to the sharia
court. After two days, Isis police from the sharia court were in the
bakery asking witnesses if the fighter or the owner provoked the
situation and attacked first. All the men in the bakery confirmed that
the fighter was the offender and the owner was merely trying to be fair
and keep customers in queue. The sharia court verdict was in favour of
the bakery owner and the Isis fighter had to apologise to him publicly.
Then he was kicked out of the caliphate for his uncivilised behaviour.
Isis succeeded in winning people’s hearts in Mosul from the first day
they liberated the city for being modest, unprejudiced and cooperative.
They restored the dignity and pride of the Sunni man in Mosul after
enduring a great deal of humiliation and revenge under successive Shia
governments since the US occupation of Iraq.
Corruption was widespread and eroding all the city facilities, which
were like a huge military barracks suffocating people. The city did not
witness any reconstruction for the entire last 10 years despite all the
billions that were poured into the city council.
Mosul now lives in a golden era. Though world media is in an effortless
campaign to mar the image of Isis fighters, show them as brutal
terrorists and monsters, on the contrary they are most welcomed in
Mosul for the great sacrifices they have offered to protect Sunni
people from the Shia army’s inhuman practices in Mosul and other Sunni
provinces in Iraq.
None of the people in Mosul who pledged their allegiance to Caliph
al-Baghdadi want Shia militias to get close to Mosul. I would be the
first to fight these militias who come to sow destruction and killing
among Sunnis. We have seen their atrocities in Tikrit and Jurf
al-Sakher against isolated civilians.
Mosul is more stable and safe now, my father can leave his shop open
and go for prayers, and no one dares to steal a straw from the shop.
Civil services are better now, like power and water, and roads are more
clean. I spend most of my free time praying in mosques and attending
courses in Islamic sharia and hadith*.
* Hadith - collections of the reports of the teachings, deeds and sayings of the Islamic prophet Muhammad.
Neurologist, 45, father of two children
I know a professor at Mosul University
who was caught by the Isis hisbah (religious police) in a room with his
female colleague correcting students’ final exams notes. The penalty
was that he had to marry his female colleague or get 30 lashes. The
professor refused as he already had a wife and children, and he
accepted the lashes.
Basheer Aziz -
I was with my wife in the car driving towards my parents house, and my
wife had to take off her veil to breastfeed our little baby. The veil
was keeping the blowing air off the baby, who was also terrified of her
mother’s face being covered. Not that long after, an Isis hisbah patrol
saw me and maintained that my wife should wear the veil under whatever
circumstances, otherwise I would be in trouble.
I left Mosul with my wife and two children recently and went to Irbil.
College graduate, 26, supports Isis
Mosul before Isis was like a grand,
horrifying prison. The bus had to stop by countless army checkpoints
where there were feverish hunts for men’s IDs. Often, the whole bus
would wait for an hour or two while a soldier was engaged in beating a
passenger who happened to be not holding his ID.
Islamic State is the dream and utmost desire of any Muslim. We longed
to be governed by the holy Qur’an’s rules and the prophet Muhammad’s sunnah.*
* Sunnah is the way of life prescribed as normative for Muslims on the
basis of the teachings and practices of the Islamic prophet Muhammad
and interpretations of the Islamic holy book, the Quran.
Now, with any call to prayer, all shops are shut down. Men have to grow
their beards. Any act of adultery will be dealt with either by stones
or lashes. The penalty of looting is a hand cut and men are imprisoned
for publicly harassing women.
Then Isis diwans (departments for health, complaints, preaching and
mosques, education, almsgiving, hisbah and services) were established.
The almsgiving department is in charge of collecting taxes to divide
among needy families. Each family receives $25 a month, an amount that
will be raised to $50 with the harvest season, in addition to a good
portion of wheat, rice, sugar, pickles, food oil and fuels.
Recently, an exclusive market for women
was opened in Mosul to allow them to do their shopping at ease. There
is no ban on women driving. The Isis municipality is doing its best to
keep roads clean and paved, setting up lampposts, providing water and
power and repairing the damage from coalition air strikes.
Excerpt from BBC "Inside Mosul":
I feel so proud being part of Isis, it granted me freedom. We live in
glory now except for the coalition air strikes that spread panic and
fear among the civilians.
I disagree with Isis practices against Christians, Yazidis and other
minorities in Mosul. I’m still in touch with our Christian neighbours
and wish they would come back shortly. All people in Mosul are in
disagreement with the demolition of ancient sites in Mosul, and some
Isis militants are not happy either.
There is an acute financial crisis in Mosul now due to lack of jobs.
Only those who receive monthly salaries from the government in Baghdad
are surviving in Mosul. People do not know if Isis will last forever,
or if another military organisation will come and exact revenge on
those who were working for Isis. Depression is widespread among people
of Mosul now.
At the same time, most of the people are against the return of the
corrupt politicians or Shia militias who will destroy the city, not
liberate it as they claim. Isis with all its brutality is more honest
and merciful than the Shia government in Baghdad and its militias.
"Since IS took the city, it has been
applying the 'Laws of the Caliphate', as it calls them. The minimum
punishment is flogging, which is applied for things like smoking a
"Theft is punished by amputating a hand, adultery by men by throwing
the offender from a high building, and adultery by women by stoning to
death. The punishments are carried out in public to intimidate people,
who are often forced to watch.
"I know many people who have been arrested by IS. Some of them are my
relatives. Some were killed because they were in the security services.
Others have been released. They tell unimaginable stories of atrocities
committed by IS in its prisons.
"Many who come out prefer not to speak. They stay silent, because they're terrified that if they speak, they'll be rearrested."
"Daily life has changed in an indescribable way. There are no jobs anymore. The poor have been left to the mercy of God.
Spirit of Humanity’ Photo Contest Winners
"I have lost my job and have been forced to abandon my studies. Like
everyone else, I am denied my basic rights. According to IS, everything
is 'haram' (forbidden) and so I end up just sitting at home all the
time. Even simple leisure activities like picnics are banned now in
Mosul, under the pretext that they are a waste of time and money.
"IS takes a quarter of everyone's salary as a contribution towards paying for rebuilding the city.
"The group has even replaced the imams in the mosques with pro-IS
people. Many of us have stopped going to the mosques because those
attending are asked to give an oath of allegiance and we hate that.
"Meanwhile, my brother was given 20 lashes just because he didn't shut his shop during prayer time.
Numerous disasters and increasing
conflict are negatively impacting the lives of millions of people
across the Middle East and North Africa. In response, innumerable
individuals, volunteers and professional humanitarian workers are
providing those in need with essential protection and assistance, often
under dangerous circumstances.
To capture this Spirit of Humanity, the World Humanitarian Summit
which was initiated by the UN Secretary General and will culminate in Istanbul in 2016, launched its first photo contest.
Many of the pictures showed the hardship of daily life and the
suffering of children, men and women living in conflict zones or
refugee camps. But despite the misery and the constant fear, the
photographers managed to catch glimpses of hope and moments of joy.
The winners are Islam Mardini from Aleppo and Mohammed Muhaisen from Gaza.
The photos are stunning.
A group of children play outside their destroyed house in the Al Zaytoun area in Gaza City.
© Mustafa El Halabi
Have a look.
(click above for all 27 photos)
When pain and suffering make it impossible to speak, feelings show through the eyes.
© Karim Ahmed
Israeli rights groups join battle to save
symbol of Arab resistance to evictions
The fate of the
West Bank Palestinian village of Khirbet Susiya has attracted worldwide
attention. Now bulldozers are set to displace its residents yet again
(Peter Beaumont, Guardian UK, 6/6/15)
Palestinian village Khirbet Susiya
under imminent threat of demolition
Susiya reflects Israeli authorities’ policy throughout Area C of West Bank
excerpt from Guardian UK article:
In the cool of evening, the Palestinian villagers of Khirbet Susiya go about their business.
A beekeeper in a protective suit and veil moves among his hives with a
smoke can. Others use the warm wind blowing from the nearby Negev
desert to separate rough legumes from chaff. Shepherds move their
animals across the low, rolling yellow hills while children run about
It appears a peaceful scene. Except that, for a third time in almost
three decades, the few hundred villagers who live in crude temporary
houses dotted about this area of the south Hebron hills of the occupied
West Bank are under imminent threat of a new forced displacement.
Last month an Israeli high court judge
ruled against the villagers’ injunction seeking to halt Israel’s
planned destruction of Khirbet Susiya. Now the village has become the
centre of a growing international campaign over its future which has
drawn in European diplomats and human rights campaigners.
Khirbet Susiya is home to between 250 and 350 villagers – depending on
the season – who live in around 100 structures and eke out an existence
largely from subsistence agriculture.
Built on a scrubby ridge of limestone pavement, the houses of Khirbet
Susiya are closely overlooked by a neighbouring Israeli settlement
built on land expropriated from the villagers – illegal under
international law – and, unlike the Palestinian village, connected to
public services. On the other side of the nearby road is an
archaeological site also run by settlers. Khirbet Susiya is sandwiched
It is this proximity – critics allege – that underlies Israeli plans to
move the villagers. The residents say that the destruction of their
homes would mean the latest in several forcible expulsions from their
land for which they have deeds going back to the Ottoman era.
In 1986 they were expelled from their original village and the
army expelled the residents again in 2001 during the second intifada.
While Israel claims the structures in Khirbet Susiya are illegal
because they were put up without building permits, critics say that
Israel’s civil administration has a policy of rarely issuing building
permits to non-Jews in Area C – the part of the occupied territories
under full Israeli administration. Although the Israeli court accepted
the villagers’ ownership of the land, it ruled that they did not have
permission to build there.
Seventy-year-old Mohammad Ahmad al-Nuwaja has lived on the land around
Susiya most of his life. “I was born in Tal Arad, but after the Nakba
[‘the catastrophe’ as Palestinians call the mass displacement that
occurred when Israel was founded] we moved here. We are the original
owners of this land,” he explains. “We have deeds from the Turkish time.
“They claim these houses were built
without permits. We have applied so many times and the Israelis
rejected permission. They claim we don’t have the infrastructure to
support living here, but they are the ones who won’t allow the
infrastructure. We were offered land in exchange for moving from here
near Yatta [the neighbouring town visible from Khirbet Susiya] but they
have no right.”
The long saga of Khirbet Susiya is symbolic of a wider problem of
demolition and displacement affecting unrecognised villages in both the
occupied Palestinian territories and Bedouin communities in Israel
itself. According to Rabbis for Human Rights, an Israeli NGO which has
been supporting the village in its efforts to get planning permission:
“The village of Palestinian Susiya has existed for centuries, long
before the establishment of the [Jewish settlement of Susiya in 1983.
There is documentary evidence of a settlement in the area dating back
to 1830, and it is also marked on British mandatory maps from 1917.”
There are indications, however, that the Israeli military intends to go
ahead with the demolition. The latest threat to Susiya was prompted by
a complaint three years ago by Regavim
, a rightwing Israeli NGO, which uses the courts to insist on the demolition of Palestinian buildings it argues are illegal.
Dore note: Regavim's motto is "Ensuring the responsible, legal and environmentally friendly use of Israel's national lands."
The villagers’ plight was described in a recent report by the Israeli
human rights organisation BT’selem. “The state has been abusing the
residents of Khirbet Susiya for many years: the army and the civil
administration have repeatedly removed the residents from their homes,
in which they have lived since before 1967, when Israel occupied the
“The [Israeli] civil administration is
responsible for all aspects of civilian life in area C and is
theoretically supposed to promote the wellbeing of the local
population. In practice, the administration uses its planning systems,
in which Palestinians are not represented, to prevent them from
promoting solutions that would meet their needs, barring them from
building legally and from connecting to water and power supplies.
US blocks push for Middle East nuclear arms ban
“The authorities also systematically refrain from protecting the
residents of Khirbet Susiya from settlers who attack them or vandalise
their property, and restrict their free access to the main town in the
Nasser Nuwaja is a resident who has been leading the campaign to save it.
“Since the court ruling, people here have gone to bed not knowing
whether the bulldozers would come in the morning. It is like trying to
balance on a chair with only one leg and not knowing when you will fall
off. People here are living on edge.”
And for now international pressure remains their best hope. “We’ve been
campaigning hard on this issue,” said one European diplomat.
“We are trying to put pressure on the Israeli government to prevent the demolition.”
Although the villagers will try to go to court again on 3 August many
are fearful the village will be destroyed and moved again. “God forbid
they demolish Susiya again,” says Nasser. “But if they do, we will
To mark Nowruz, the Persian New Year, which commences on the first day of spring, President Obama released a
to the Iranian people. “For decades, our nations have been separated by
mistrust and fear,” he said. “Now it is early spring. We have a
chance—a chance—to make progress that will benefit our countries, and
the world, for many years to come.” The message was pegged to the tough
diplomatic endgame over a deal to prevent Iran from making a nuclear
bomb. The deadline for the negotiations is March 30th.
By now, Secretary of State John Kerry has almost certainly spent more
time with his Iranian counterpart, Mohammad Javad Zarif, than with any
other foreign minister in the world. Unofficial relations between the
two countries seem closer today than they have been at any time since
the 1979 takeover of the American Embassy in Tehran.
The tenor of the negotiators’ personal relationships was evident after
news reports announced the death of Sakineh Peivandi. She is the mother
of the Iranian President, Hassan Rouhani, and of his brother Hossein
Fereydoun, who is one of the negotiators. Kerry and Secretary of
Energy Ernest Moniz, a nuclear physicist who recently joined the
American negotiating team, paid a condolence call on Fereydoun in
Lausanne. In a press statement, Kerry said, “We share in their grief .
. . and we keep their family in our thoughts.”
An Iranian news agency released several pictures of the visit. In one,
Kerry and the President’s brother are walking toward each other with
open arms, about to embrace.
These images and others, which would have been considered treasonous in Tehran not long ago, were widely shared on social media.
Serious obstacles remain, Obama noted in his video greeting. They are
said to primarily concern Iran’s nuclear research and development
programs and the terms for lifting the punitive international sanctions
imposed on Iran over the past decade.
More troubling, the United States and France are split: France insists
that Iran disclose all past military research and development
activities that could be used to build a warhead to deliver a
A potential deal faces even bigger challenges down the road. In his
video message, Obama said, “There are people, in both our countries and
beyond, who oppose a diplomatic resolution. My message to you—the
people of Iran—is that, together, we have to speak up for the future we
Senators Bob Corker, a Republican, and Robert Menendez and Tim Kaine,
both Democrats, introduced a bill this month that would require Obama
to submit the text to Congress for review. More than three hundred
House members sent a letter to the White House this week demanding that
any permanent sanctions relief require new legislation.
Senator Lindsey Graham warned Thursday that he would move to suspend
U.S. funding of the United Nations if it moved to lift sanctions on
Iran before receiving congressional approval. And two Republican House
members, Peter Roskam and Lee Zeldin, asked colleagues to co-sign a
letter to Obama threatening to cut off funding for the negotiations.
Near the end of his video message, Obama quoted the fourteenth-century
Persian poet Hafez on the joys of a new season, and said, “This moment
may not come again soon. I believe that our nations have an historic
opportunity to resolve this issue peacefully—an opportunity we should
not miss.” Getting an agreement from the Iranians may prove easier than
winning approval in Washington.
B'Tselem is the Israeli Information Center for Human Rights in the Occupied Territories
March 8, 2015International Women’s Day
States of combat and human rights
violations have a distinctive impact on women. It is important that we
hear their voices. In honor of International Women’s Day we asked
Palestinian women to interview other Palestinian women about their
hopes, dreams and sources of inspiration.
March 4, 2015Civil Administration demolishes ‘Ein Karzaliyah
for the second time this winter
Israeli authorities demolished all
structures in Khirbet ‘Ein Karzaliyah in the northern Jordan Valley,
for the second time this year. Bulldozers raked the dirt road leading
to the community, preventing access by car. This cruel harassment of a
particularly vulnerable population is part of Israel’s policy aimed at
displacing thousands of Palestinians from communities throughout Area
C. B'Tselem urges Israel to allow residents of Khirbet ‘Ein Karzaliyah
to remain where they have lived and grazed their flocks for 25 years
March 2, 2015
Soldier’s video of military dog attack on a Palestinian boy published
today. The media reports that the military stated it would investigate
the incident and take measures to prevent its recurrence. However, the
attack was part of an official military operation which was likely
approved by the senior command. MAG Corps has yet to respond to
B’Tselem’s demand for an end to the policy of dog attacks on
Feb 26, 2015What would it take for the authorities to stop olive tree vandals rampaging in the Southern Hebron hills?
In the past two months vandals destroyed
Palestinian olive groves in four locations in the Southern Hebron
hills, near the settlements Susiya and Mitzpe Yair. All incidents
occurred only several hundred meters apart, under the nose of the
Police and army, who appear to have not lifted a finger to stop this
Feb 23, 2015
Civil Administration dismantles, confiscates
water pipes in Khirbet Yarza, Jordan Valley
On 29 Jan. 2015, the Civil
Administration dismantled water pipes recently installed for the small
shepherding community of Khirbet Yarza in the Jordan Valley and
confiscated the parts. Before the installation, the community relied on
rainwater and private water purchase. This is one measure of several
taken by Israeli authorities to displace thousands of Palestinians
living in Area C. As the occupying power in the West Bank, Israel must
allow residents to maintain their lifestyle, permit them to build
legally, and provide them water and electricity.
Feb 15, 2015
Khirbet 'Ein Karzaliyah:
Israeli authorities continue persecution of a tiny community in Jordan Valley
Khirbet 'Ein Karzaliyah is a tiny
community of 24, including 14 minors, who live off farming and
shepherding in the Jordan Valley. Israeli authorities have repeatedly
attempted to expel the community from their place of residence and have
repeatedly demolished their homes, as part of a decades-long policy to
expel thousands of Palestinians living in dozens of shepherding
communities scattered throughout Area C. On 22 January 2015, bulldozers
again demolished all the community’s structures, for the fourth time
since January 2014. ‘Aref Daraghmeh, B’Tselem’s field researcher in the
Jordan Valley, documented the trail of destruction the bulldozers left
behind on 22 Jan.
Feb 9, 2015Israel’s High Court of Justice to state:
Demolish nine structures in the settlement of Ofra
In a dramatic ruling, Israel's High
Court of Justice accepted a petition filed by Palestinians from the
West Bank village of 'Ein Yabrud together with Israeli human rights
organizations B'Tselem and Yesh Din, and instructed the state to carry
out demolition orders issued for nine structures built for the
settlement of Ofra on the villagers' land. Most other structures in the
settlement were also unlawfully built on privately-owned Palestinian
land, without permits. B'Tselem welcomes the ruling but notes that the
overall picture remains unchanged: Israel has been taking over
Palestinian land in the West Bank for years, whether by gaining control
of private land or by appropriating public land for settlement use
under the guise of 'state land'.
Feb 8, 2015
Video: Khuza'a, the Gaza Strip, Jan. 2015
Safiyeh a-Najar from Khuza'a describes
life after Operation Protective Edge in a 1:49 video. The town of
Khuza'a lies in south Gaza, about 500 meters from the Israeli border.
The town council listed some 15,000 residents before the operation, in
about 2,000 homes. Residents told B’Tselem that on 22 July 2014, 2 days
after ground forces entered Gaza, the town was heavily attacked and
many fled to schools in nearby Khan Yunis. The UN listed 556 homes
damaged, 336 of them destroyed. Many residents still live in UN
schools, trailers, or with relatives. Some, like a-Najar's family, are
living in rough conditions among ruins.
Safiyeh a-Najar is a Palestinian mother
of 8. In the video she invites the camera person into her bombed out
home. I transcribed some of her words: "We are suffering greatly
from the winter's cold. Our house is ruined. It's inhumane the way
we're living. We didn't sleep last night. We kept a fire going
all night. I had sheep. I had olive trees. It's all been ruined.
Everything is in God's hands. I don't want anything, just to have my
home back the way it was."
Jan 28, 2015
Full 63 pg report: (pdf)
Click for summary
On Wednesday, 28 January 2015 B’Tselem
published its report on the policy of attacking residential buildings
in Gaza during Operation Protective Edge.
The report addresses one of the
appalling hallmarks of the fighting in Gaza this summer: bombings in
which hundreds of people were killed – constituting more than a quarter
of all of the Palestinians killed in the fighting. Time and again
Palestinian families suffered much grievous loss of life. In a single
instant, so many families were ruined, with the wreckage of their lives
mirroring the devastation of their homes. Hamas made explicit its
intention to harm Israeli civilians. In contrast, the Israeli
government claimed that it acted to prevent harm to civilians in Gaza.
Is that the case?
Jan 18, 2015
Military steps up use of live 0.22 inch bullets
against Palestinian stone-throwers
Recent months have seen a dramatic rise
in Israeli security forces’ use of live 0.22 inch caliber bullets in
clashes with Palestinians in the West Bank. The firing of this
ammunition is an almost weekly occurrence in the West Bank in sites of
protests and clashes. Most of those injured have been young
Palestinians, including minors. Yet, in the last two months, one
Palestinian woman, at least three photographers, and a foreign national
who was taking part in a demonstration were also hit by these bullets.
The military commander in the West Bank, Brig. Gen. Tamir Yadai,
confirmed that the military had adopted a policy of firing live
ammunition at stone-throwers.
Mali's main rebel group asks for delay on peace dealTuareg rebel alliance says it has asked for "reasonable delay"
for consultations before signing.
(Al Jazeera/AFP, 3/1/15)Worries over Mali peace
(Matthaei, Katrin, Yaya Konate, (Deutsche Welle 3/6/15)
The Malian government has signed a peace agreement with some northern
rebel groups but the main Tuareg armed coalition asked for more time to
consult its grassroots.
The main members of the alliance, the National Movement for the
Liberation of Azawad (MNLA) and the Arab Movement of Azawad (MMA) now
have a difficult task ahead of them. Azawad is a term that supporters
of independence use to refer to the vast expanse of northern Mali, an
area three times as big as France. The task will be difficult because
their base comprises a variety of ethnic groups and very diverse
players. In the eyes of some Tuareg clans and armed groups, the
negotiators are returning home empty-handed. In the course of the
negotiations, they had to give up their most important demand for broad
autonomy or a federal structure.
It is very difficult for the rebels to succeed in convincing the
majority of the fighters to accept the agreement, Paul Melly of the
Chatham House think tank in London told DW. "There are lots of young
men, many of whom have taken up arms. There are not really very many
job opportunities in the far north - the formal economy is quite
limited." In the far north, he said, many rebels made a living
smuggling drugs or arms via Algeria. The lucrative business would be
jeopardized if the central government regained control over the area.
Rinaldo Depagne of the International Crisis Group also sees the
representatives of rebels in a difficult position. "Either they sign
against the will of a major part of the population, or they don't sign
and are held responsible by the international community for the failure
of the agreement," he told DW. If they refused to sign the agreement,
they would also alienate Algeria, the most important regional player.
The deal provides for the transfer of a raft of powers from Bamako to
the north, a large swath of territory the Tuareg refer to as "Azawad".
Algeria and the United Nations have led mediation talks in the capital
Algiers since last July between ministers and six armed rebel groups
amid a surge in violence that threatened to jeopardise the peace
The armed organisations which took part are dominated by Tuareg and
Arabs, however, and no "jihadist" group was invited to the dialogue.
Tuareg separatists have spawned several rebellions in the north since the 1960s [EPA]
In northern Mali, music silenced
Fighters linked to al-Qaeda seized control of northern Mali for more
than nine months until a French-led military intervention launched in
2013 partly drove them from the region.
The 30-page "Agreement for Peace and reconciliation in Mali from the
Algiers Process", seen by the AFP news agency calls for "reconstruction
of the country's national unity" in a manner that "respects its
territorial integrity and takes account of its ethnic and cultural
The draft deal proposes "greater representation of the northern populations in national institutions".
as Islamists drive out artists(Sudarsan Raghavan, Washington Post, 11/30/2012)
Khaira Arby, one of Africa’s most
celebrated musicians, has performed all over the world, but there is
one place she cannot visit: her native city of Timbuktu, a place
steeped in history and culture but now ruled by religious extremists.
The Causes of the Uprising in Northern Mali
(Andy Morgan, thinkafricapress, 2/6/2012)
The Crisis in Mali:
One day, they broke into Arby’s house and destroyed her instruments.
Her voice was a threat to Islam, they said, even though one of her most
popular songs praised Allah.
“They told my neighbors that if they ever caught me, they would cut my tongue out,” said Arby, sadness etched on her broad face.
Northern Mali, one of the richest reservoirs of music on the continent, is now an artistic wasteland.
A Historical Perspective on the Tuareg People(Devon DB, Glboal Research 2/1/2013)
The Tuareg are a people that have lived
in northern Mali as early as the fifth century BCE. After establishing
the city of Timbuktu in the 11th century, the Tuareg traded, traveled,
and conquered throughout Saharan over the next four centuries,
eventually converting to Islam in the 14th century, which allowed them
to gain great wealth. This independence was swept away when the French
colonized Mali when they defeated the Tuareg at Timbuktu and
established borders and administrative districts to rule the area until
Mali declared independence in 1960. The Tuareg people have consistently
wanted self-independence and in pursuit of such goals have engaged in a
number of rebellions.
Leaked cables show Netanyahu’s Iran bomb claim contradicted by Mossad
The first was in 1916 when, in response to the French not giving the
Tuareg their own autonomous zone (called Azawad) as was promised, they
revolted. The French violently quelled the revolt and subsequently
confiscated important grazing lands while using Tuaregs as forced
conscripts and labor – and fragmented Tuareg societies through the
drawing of arbitrary boundaries between what is now Mali and its
This did not end the Tuareg goal of an independent, sovereign state.
Once the French had ceded Mali independence, the Tuareg began to push
toward their dream of establishing Azawad once again.
However, Modibo Keita, Mali’s first President, made it clear that independent Mali would not cede its northern territories.
The Tuareg were greatly oppressed by the government of Modibo Keita, as
they were singled out for particular discrimination, and were more
neglected than others in the distribution of state benefits.
between Israeli secret service and Netanyahu revealed in documents
shared with the Guardian and Al Jazeera along with other secrets
including CIA bids to contact Hamas
• Read the leaked document here
(Seumas Milne, Ewen MacAskill and Clayton Swisher, The Guardian UK, 2/23/15)
Mossad contradicted Netanyahu
on Iran Nuclear Programme
Spy Cables reveal Mossad concluded that Iran was not producing nuclear weapons, after Netanyahu sounded alarm at UN in 2012.
(Will Jordan, Rahul Radhakrishnan, Al Jazeera, 2/23/15)
Binyamin Netanyahu’s dramatic
declaration to world leaders in 2012 that Iran was about a year away
from making a nuclear bomb was contradicted by his own secret service,
according to a top-secret Mossad document.
A secret cable obtained by Al Jazeera's Investigative Unit and shared
with the Guardian UK newspaoper reveals that Mossad sent a top-secret
cable to South Africa on October 22, 2012, that laid out a "bottom
line" assessment of Iran's nuclear work.
It is part of a cache of hundreds of dossiers, files and cables from
the world’s major intelligence services – one of the biggest spy leaks
in recent times.
The secret report stated Israel’s intelligence agency Mossad concluded that Iran was “not
performing the activity necessary to produce weapons”. The report
highlights the gulf between the public claims and rhetoric of top
Israeli politicians and the assessments of Israel’s military and
Media reports and public comments by senior current and former
officials have frequently indicated dissent from within Israel's
security services over Netanyahu's alarmist messaging on Iran.
Writing that Iran had not begun the work needed to build any kind of
nuclear weapon, the Mossad cable said the Islamic Republic's scientists
are "working to close gaps in areas that appear legitimate such as
Such activities, however, "will reduce the time required to produce weapons from the time the instruction is actually given".
That view tracks with the 2012 US National Intelligence estimate, which
found no evidence that Iran had thus far taken a decision to use its
nuclear infrastructure to build a weapon, or that it had revived
efforts to research warhead design that the US said had been shelved in
The disclosure comes as tensions between Israel and its staunchest
ally, the US, have dramatically increased ahead of Netanyahu’s planned
address to the US Congress on 3 March.
The White House fears the Israeli leader’s anticipated inflammatory
rhetoric could damage sensitive negotiations between Tehran and the
world’s six big powers over Iran’s nuclear programme. The deadline to
agree on a framework is in late March, with the final settlement to
come on 30 June. Netanyahu has vowed to block an agreement he claims
would give Iran access to a nuclear weapons capability.
President Obama will not meet Netanyahu during his visit, saying
protocol precludes a meeting so close to next month’s general election
The papers include details of operations against al-Qaida, Islamic State and also the targeting of environmental activists.
The files reveal that:
• South Korean intelligence targeted the leader of Greenpeace.
• Barack Obama “threatened” the Palestinian president to withdraw a bid for recognition of Palestine at the UN.
• The CIA attempted to establish contact with Hamas in spite of a US ban.
The cache mainly involves exchanges between South Africa’s intelligence
agency and its counterparts around the world. One of the biggest hauls
is from Mossad.
The Mossad briefing about Iran’s nuclear programme in 2012 was in stark
contrast to the alarmist tone set by Netanyahu, who has long presented
the Iranian nuclear programme as an existential threat to Israel and a
huge risk to world security. The Israeli prime minister told the UN:
“By next spring,
at most by next summer, at current enrichment rates, they will have
finished the medium enrichment and move[d] on to the final stage. From
there, it’s only a few months, possibly a few weeks before they get
enough enriched uranium for the first bomb.”
He said his information was not based on
secret information or military intelligence but International Atomic
Energy Agency (IAEA) reports.
Loud calls to action
Behind the scenes, Mossad took a different view.
The report states that Iran “does not appear to be ready” to enrich
uranium to the higher levels necessary for nuclear weapons. Iran has
always said it is developing a nuclear programme for civilian energy
ast week, Netanyahu’s office repeated the claim that “Iran is closer
than ever today to obtaining enriched material for a nuclear bomb” in a
statement in response to an
Mossad had been at odds with Netanyahu
on Iran before. The former Mossad chief
Meir Dagan, who left office in December 2010, let it be known that he had opposed
an order from Netanyahu to prepare a military attack on Iran.
The spy chief said it would be a "stupid idea" to attack Iran before
other options were considered. "An attack on Iran before you are
exploring all other approaches is not the right way," Dagan had said.
His comments would likely have been informed by his former agency's analysis reflected in the document obtained by Al Jazeera.
Other members of Israel’s security establishment were riled by
Netanyahu’s rhetoric on the Iranian nuclear threat and his advocacy of
military confrontation. In April 2012, a former head of Shin Bet,
Israel’s internal security agency, accused Netanyahu of “messianic”
political leadership for pressing for military action, saying he and
the then defence minister, Ehud Barak, were misleading the public on the Iran issue.
follow murder of young Turkish woman
(Selin Girit, BBC 2/19/15)
The murder of student Ozgecan Aslan has led to protests in Turkey (EPA)
Ms Aslan's murder comes amid a dramatic rise in violence against women in Turkey (BBC)
The 20-year-old was killed on public transport as she made her way home (AFP/Getty)
Turkey has been mourning the murder of a young woman for the last week.
Özgecan Aslan, a 20-year-old psychology student, was stabbed in a
minibus while resisting a rape attempt on her way home. Her
bodywas found burned and dismembered. Three men have been arrested in
connection with her murder.
Not long after this incident, another woman's dismembered body was
found dumped in a bin. Her husband of 17 years admitted to the murder.
Women's rights organisations have for years been trying to raise
awareness about the rise in violence against women that has taken place
in the last decade.
According to local reports, between 2003 and 2010 there had been a 1,400% increase.
Many women think that this is linked to
the policies or rhetoric of the governing party in Turkey, which has
its roots in political Islam and has been in power since 2002.
Feminist lawyer Hulya Gulbahar says the murder of Ms Aslan is the last
straw. "The government is constantly making
propagandist statements such as 'women and men being different by
nature' or 'motherhood being the sacred role of women'. So we are
facing a political violence here," she argues.
President Erdoğan has tried to introduce laws to curb abortion and has
also advised women to have at least three children. Turkey's
Deputy Prime Minister, Bulent Arinc, commented last year that women
should not laugh out loud in public. Last month, Health Minister
Mehmet Muezzinoglu said: "The best career for women is motherhood."
In Turkey, most women's murders are perpetrated by their partners or ex-partners.
Asking for a divorce is one of the main causes leading to murder. However, women get killed for it seems for any reason.
Recent court cases include putting too much salt in food, answering a
phone call too late, wearing leggings, looking for a job or having a
The circumstances of Özgecan Aslan's death have prompted a wave
of empathy both on the streets and social media. Many men
thought: "It could have been my daughter, my wife or my girlfriend."
That prompted a wave of empathy. Both on the streets and on social media.
Ms Aslan's name appeared more than four million times on Twitter.
Women started sharing their own experiences of sexual abuse and
Hulya Gulbahar says that Ms Aslan's murder might be a watershed moment in their struggle to prevent violence against women.
"This society always finds excuses to justify the rape and murder of
women. But now there is no excuse to whitewash the murder. "Women
and men from all political backgrounds have been protesting since
Ozgecan's death. I think this gives a hopeful message for Turkey."
Turkish women share
stories of abuse
(Gemma Newby Blog, BBC, 2/17/15)
The attempted rape and murder of a young woman has electrified social media in Turkey.
Turkey rallies over murder of woman
And now hundreds of thousands of women are sharing their own stories of sexual abuse.
who 'resisted rape'
(Selin Girit, BBC, 2/15/15)
Thousands of people in Turkey have
protested the murder of a young woman who allegedly resisted an attempt
by a bus driver to rape her.
Turkish President Erdoğan slams women
Police discovered the burnt body of Ozgecan Aslan, 20, in a riverbed in
the city of Mersin, on Friday. They have arrested three men in
connection with her death - a minibus driver, his father and a friend.
Ms Aslan, a psychology student, was kidnapped on Wednesday on her way home.
The driver allegedly tried to rape her. She reportedly fought him off
with pepper spray, but was then stabbed to death. She was also hit on
the head with an iron pipe. The brutality of the murder caused an
outcry across Turkey.
At the protest was a gender studies academic who would only give her
first name, Zeynep. She thought Ms Aslan's murder was of a political
"It is the result of the radical Islamic atmosphere created by the
government. The men say that women should be conservative. They think
if they are not conservative, they deserve this kind of violence," she
The ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) has its roots in political Islam and has been in power since 2002.
Women's rights organisations say violence against women has risen
sharply in the last decade. Last year alone, almost 300 women
were killed at the hands of men and more than 100 were raped, according
to local reports.
protesting Özgecan’s murder by dancing
(Hurriet Daily News, 2/16/15)
President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has
harshly criticized some women’s organizations who have protested the
killing of Özgecan Aslan by dancing, saying it was not a part of
Turkey president Erdoğan:
What place does this have in our culture? It’s like enjoying death,”
Erdoğan said in his first public response to the murder of Özgecan
Aslan on Feb. 16.
He was referring to a protest held by a group of women, including Aylin
Nazlıaka, a woman lawmaker from the ranks of the Republican People’s
Party (CHP), who took part in an event to raise their voices against
rape, sexual harassment and violence against women by singing songs and
dancing on Feb. 14.
Women are not equal to men
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan
has said women cannot be treated as equal to men, and has accused
feminists of rejecting motherhood.
The ugly truth about Israel's actions in Gaza
(Gideon Levy, Haaretz, 2/5/15)
Haaretz requires registration
"You cannot put women and men on an equal footing," he told a meeting in Istanbul. "It is against nature."
What a huge diplomatic achievement:
Israel has succeeded in getting the Canadian law professor William
Schabas to resign from his post as head of a UN inquiry panel into
potential war crimes in Gaza.
Through persistent surveillance, Israel’s intelligence and propaganda
branches revealed that Schabas had once received a $1,300 fee from the
PLO. Conclusion: he sold his soul to the devil.
Professor Schabas, regarded as an authority on international law, said
it had not occurred to him that having been paid $1,300 by the P.L.O.,
for consulting on the statute of the International Criminal Court,
would be an issue. “I wrote a small paper of a technical nature,” he
said. “I do this all the time. I’ve acted for all kinds of governments
and organizations and individuals.”
The professor also said that he had been subjected to a stream of vulgar and violent emails and several death threats.
One needs a great deal of chutzpah and arrogance to dig anew into the
pasts of Israel’s critics in an effort to assassinate their character,
as in the case of Richard Goldstone, merely because they dared to
criticize the state. As far as Israel is concerned, the fate of anyone
who criticizes the country is sealed. He’s an anti-Semite,
anti-Israeli, greedy or driven by ulterior motives.
In Israel’s eyes there’s no such thing as conscientious individuals who
are genuinely and truly shocked by its acts. As far as Israel is
concerned, there are no justice-seeking people of law, or simply decent
ordinary people, who were aghast at what it did in the Gaza Strip last
But the truth is just the opposite.