Books and Documents

Middle East Press (13 Jan 2017 NewAgeIslam.Com)

A Unified Moral Stance Is The Only Path To Peace: New Age Islam's Selection, 13 January 2017

New Age Islam Edit Bureau

13 January 2017

A Unified Moral Stance Is The Only Path To Peace

By Samar Fatany

Anti-Zionism And Anti-Semitism In British Politics

By Avi Shlaim

The Liberals Embrace Anti-Trump Trumpism

By Jeff Sparrow

On Muslims, Swimming Lessons, And European Secularism

By H A Hellyer

The First Promising Signal For Erdogan From Tillerson

By Murat Yetkin

The Unbearable Fragility Of The Turkish Lira

By Günes Kömürcüler

Moment Of Truth For Cyprus

By Yusuf Kanli

Another Education Is Possible In Turkey

By Melis Alphan

Compiled By New Age Islam Edit Bureau


A Unified Moral Stance Is The Only Path To Peace

By Samar Fatany

12 January 2017

The whole country is mourning the Saudi martyrs of the barbaric terrorist attack carried out by criminals and the enemies of humanity in Istanbul on New Year’s Eve. Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Salman condemned the cowardly terror attack and expressed his grief to the families of those killed and to the dozens who were wounded. For three days residents of Jeddah and Madinah flocked to offer their condolences to the families of the innocent souls who were brutally murdered by the cold-blooded killer.

May Allah rest in peace the innocent souls of the 24-year-old twins Mohammed and Ahmed Saud Bin Abdul Wahab Al-Fadl, the young mothers Wissam Al-Jafri and Lubna Ghaznawi and the young lawyer Shahad Samman. Our sincere prayers go to the families who lost their loved ones; may Allah grant them the strength and the patience to overcome their grief.

Meanwhile, the nation is praying for the speedy recovery of 12 other Saudis who are in critical condition and are currently receiving treatment for injuries in different hospitals in Istanbul. The victims also include people from Morocco, Lebanon, Libya and Jordan and other countries. They are all innocent people with no grudges, no prejudices and no hate who went to Turkey to celebrate life and had hopes for a happy new year. The killer willfully premeditated their murder and robbed them of their youth devastating the lives of their loved ones.

What cruelty and what wicked, crooked and twisted mind can justify such cold-blooded murder? For those who keep repeating the rhetoric of the criminals and identify them as ISIS, I say enough is enough. The Muslim world has labeled these criminal terrorists as Daesh and rejects referring to them as ISIS.

Imposters To The Faith

I speak in the name of all Muslims who believe in God, the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) and the Day of Judgment. Only imposters to the faith can justify the actions of these criminals. All Muslims today speak loudly and clearly against the defamation of Islam by the criminal perpetrators of terror and those who associate them with Islam.

Muslims do not have to defend their faith with every satanic attack that goes against every principle of Islam. “O you who believe! Enter absolutely into peace (Islam). Do not follow in the footsteps of satan. He is an outright enemy to you.” (Holy Qur’an – 2: 208). The word “Islam” is derived from the word meaning “peace” in Arabic.

Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) used to recite a prayer of peace every day after every prayer: “O God, You are the original source of Peace; from You is all Peace, and to You returns all Peace. So, make us live with Peace; and let us enter Paradise: the House of Peace. Blessed be You, our Lord, to Whom belongs all Majesty and Honor!”

The Prophet (pbuh) taught good manners and preached mercy, compassion, peace and love for all humanity. “We have appointed a law and a practice for every one of you. Had God willed, He would have made you a single community, but He wanted to test you regarding what has come to you. So compete with each other in doing good. Every one of you will return to God and He will inform you regarding the things about which you differed.” (Holy Qur’an – 5: 48)

Evil Intentions

It is obvious that the goal of the criminal outcasts is to terrorize people and create chaos throughout the region destroying the peace and harmony of its people. There is clearly nothing Islamic about that. The criminals who claim to be Muslims are nothing but imposters who have evil intentions and are using religion for their own selfish agendas.

If they were true warriors of justice they would be headed to liberate Palestine and rescue the innocent Palestinians who are being ejected from their homes and whose women and children are suffering at the hands of Israeli occupiers and the injustice of the Zionist state.

Security experts maintain that the Kingdom and the Arab world are facing grave security issues. According to Dr. Jibreel Al-Areeshi, a professor of informatics at King Saud University, “Some are trying to drag the Kingdom into the quagmire of the wars going on in the Middle East and divert its attention from focusing on its economic progress and playing its leading role in the region. Economic progress is closely associated with national security. They are, in fact, two sides of the same coin.”

Our world can never be safe until the dark and destabilizing forces terrorizing the Middle East and the world at large are eliminated. A unified moral stance by the Muslim world and the global community is the only path to peace.


Samar Fatany is a Chief Broadcaster in the English section at Jeddah Broadcasting Station. Over the past 28 years, she has introduced many news, cultural, and religious programs and has conducted several interviews with official delegations and prominent political personalities visiting the kingdom. Fatany has made significant contributions in the fields of public relations and social awareness in Saudi Arabia and has been involved in activities aiming at fighting extremism and enhancing women’s role in serving society. She has published three books: “Saudi Perceptions & Western Misconceptions,” “Saudi Women towards a new era” and “Saudi Challenges & Reforms.”

Source: english.alarabiya.net/en/views/news/middle-east/2017/01/12/A-unified-moral-stance-is-the-only-path-to-peace.html


Anti-Zionism and anti-Semitism in British politics

By Avi Shlaim


There is no denying that from time to time anti-Semitism raises its ugly head in the UK, as it does in many other countries.

What is striking, however, about contemporary Britain is the use of anti-Semitism as a political tool to silence legitimate criticism of the policies and practices of the Israeli government and the collusion of members of the political establishment in this process.

A Word On Definitions Is In Order.

The Jewish philosopher Isaiah Berlin defined an anti-Semite as someone who hates Jews more than is strictly necessary.

This definition has its humorous side but it does not take us very far. A simpler definition of an anti-Semite is someone who hates Jews as Jews.

An anti-Zionist, on the other hand, is someone who opposes Israel as an exclusively Jewish state or challenges the Zionist colonial project on the West Bank.

Israeli propagandists deliberately, yes deliberately, conflate anti-Zionism with anti-Semitism in order to discredit, bully, and muzzle critics of Israel; in order to suppress free speech; and in order to divert attention from the real issues: Israeli colonialism, Israel's apartheid, its systematic violation of the human rights of Palestinians, and its denial of their right to independence and statehood. The propagandists persistently present an anti-racist movement (anti-Zionism) as a racist one (anti-Semitism).

Pro-Israeli Prime Ministers

In British politics there is a striking disconnect between the public which is largely pro-Palestinian and the political elite which is overwhelmingly pro-Israeli.

Our last four prime ministers have all been proud partisans of the state of Israel. Tony Blair and Gordon Brown were honorary patrons of the Jewish National Fund UK, a body which, as its name indicates, caters exclusively for the Jewish and not the Arab citizens of the state of Israel. So was David Cameron until he decided to resign. Theresa May, the current prime minister, is one of the most pro-Israeli leaders in Europe.

In a recent speech she hailed Israel as "a remarkable country" and "a beacon of tolerance". Rubbing salt in Palestinian wounds, she called the Balfour Declaration "one of the most important letters in history".

Large segments of the British public, motivated by the traditional British values of fair play and sympathy for the underdog, increasingly side with the Palestinians.

Media reports of Israeli land confiscations, house demolitions, the siege of Gaza, and settler violence on the West Bank all reinforce this sympathy for the victims and provoke anger against the oppressor.

Indeed, the failure of western governments to protect the Palestinians against these never-ending Israeli depredations goes a long way to explain the growing activism at the level of civil society.

The clearest manifestation of this anger with Israel is Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS), the global grassroots movement whose goals are to end Israel's occupation of all Arab lands, to ensure full equality for the Palestinian citizens of Israel, and allow Palestinian refugees to return to their homes. BDS is thus a response to Israel's denial of Palestinian rights. The movement holds the moral high ground because its goals are grounded in international law and its methods are non-violent.

The success of BDS in mobilising support against the occupation is viewed with alarm by Israel's leaders. They see it as part of a broader international campaign to delegitimise not just the occupation but the state of Israel itself. Their response to BDS is not to engage with its arguments but to tag it as shorthand for Jew-hatred.

In June 2015, the Israeli government set up a special task force with a budget of around $25.5m to fight the movement worldwide. The worse Israel behaves, the more aggressive are its efforts to disqualify and discredit anyone who holds her to account.

Corbyn Targeted

In Britain the majority of Israel's opponents are on the left of the political spectrum.

In the past year the Labour Party became the main target of attack for allegedly harbouring a large number of anti-Semites within its ranks.

These attacks originated with what might be loosely termed "the Israel Lobby". This lobby consists of the Israeli embassy in London, the Board of Deputies of British Jews, and other bodies such as the Community Security Trust and BICOM, the Britain Israel Communications and Research Centre.

It is unlikely to be a coincidence that the charges of anti-Semitism began to be levelled at the Labour Party soon after the election of Jeremy Corbyn as leader. For Jeremy Corbyn is the first leader of a major British political party to make an unqualified stand in support of Palestinian rights and Palestinian statehood. He is also opposed to the sale of arms to Israel.

Corbyn's Jewish detractors did not directly accuse him of anti-Semitism because they could not find even the flimsiest evidence to substantiate such a charge. Corbyn has been in public life for a third of a century and he has a consistent and an entirely commendable record of opposing all forms of racism, including anti-Semitism.

The detractors, with the extensive research facilities at their disposal, probably went through Corbyn's speeches of the past three decades with a fine-tooth comb but found no incriminating evidence. So they resorted to the old ploy of guilt by association: to smears and innuendos that he consorted with Jew-haters and Holocaust deniers and that he shared platforms with them.

The other "evidence" produced by the detractors was an offensive cartoon posted on Facebook by Naz Shah, the Labour MP for Bradford West, and a bizarre claim by Ken Livingstone, the former London mayor and long-time Palestinian rights campaigner, that Hitler supported Zionism in 1932 "before he went mad and killed six million Jews".

Yet Corbyn was sufficiently rattled by the furore in the media to appoint an independent inquiry. Although the report concluded that there is no endemic anti-Semitism within the Labour Party, the witch-hunt continued.

In truth, the crisis in the Labour Party was not primarily about anti-Semitism. It was part of a broader effort by a group of disgruntled Blairites and their allies outside the party to overthrow Jeremy Corbyn and to reverse his progressive policies. In short, the crisis was manufactured to serve the ends of a right-wing faction within the Labour Party as well as those of the Israel lobby.

The 'Hasbara' Machine

This is the broader context in which Al Jazeera's four-part series on "The Lobby" should be viewed. It is a remarkable piece of investigative journalism, packed with concrete evidence of murky manipulations by Israel's envoys and friends in Britain to empower its supporters and undermine its critics.

"The Lobby" not only alleges but documents covert operations by the Israeli embassy and improper interference at every level of British politics. It exposes the way in which the Israeli embassy "infiltrated" both the Conservative and the Labour parties in flagrant violation of diplomatic protocol.

The most shocking revelation is that Shai Masot, a senior political officer at the Israeli embassy, set up a number of political organisations in the UK that operated as though entirely independent. He was also secretly caught on camera plotting to "take down" MPs he regarded as hostile to Israel. Among the MPs that Masot wanted to "take down" was Sir Alan Duncan, the foreign office minister and vocal supporter of a Palestinian state.

Mark Regev, the Israeli ambassador, made a full apology to Sir Alan for the incident and stated that Masot will soon be sent back to Jerusalem. Regev had little choice but to apologise: Al Jazeera produced the smoking gun.

Before being posted to London, Regev had served for eight years as chief spokesman for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Regev is essentially a PR man and a notoriously pugnacious one. He personifies his master's mantra that the best defence is offense.

The British government seemed satisfied with the apology and declared the matter closed. But a number of MPs from all parties have expressed their concern over this gross interference in British democracy and called on the prime minister to launch a public inquiry.

It is a fair guess that despite the recent setback, the Israeli embassy under Mark Regev's leadership will continue its campaign of targeted political attacks and that in its Hasbara - a polite Hebrew word for propaganda - it will continue to equate legitimate criticism of Israeli policies with visceral hatred of the Jewish people.

But in the long run, Israel and its envoys abroad have no chance of winning the battle for hearts and minds for the simple reason that Zionism itself has already ended up on the wrong side of history.


Avi Shlaim is an emeritus professor of international relations at Oxford University and the author of The Iron Wall: Israel and the Arab World.

Source: aljazeera.com/indepth/opinion/2017/01/170111143904887.html


The Liberals Embrace Anti-Trump Trumpism

By Jeff Sparrow


"The nation and all of our freedoms hang by a thread and the military apparatus of this country is about to be handed over to scum! Who are beholden to scum! … Those who ignore these elemental, existential facts - Democrats or Republicans - are traitors to this country and will immediately and forever after be held accountable."

The passage above comes from a clip recorded for GQ magazine by former CNN presenter Keith Olbermann. It’s a case study in what we might call "anti-Trump Trumpism".

Railing against the incoming administration, Olbermann apes the distinctive tics associated with Donald Trump's media supporters. The steely gaze directly into the camera; the emotional oscillation between chest-puffing bravery and lachrymose despair; the enraged thumps on the table: The whole performance eerily channels Infowars' Alex Jones, the doyen of the "alt right".

The resemblance isn't merely stylistic. When Olbermann insists that a "bloodless coup" has taken place, with conspirators in the political elite jeopardising America's very existence, he’s arguing against Trump with rhetoric identical to that used by Infowars and Breitbart.com to make the case for Trump.

The response to the intelligence dossier released by Buzzfeed illustrates the same phenomenon. The claims by a former spy remain entirely unverified, in a document commissioned by political opponents and riddled with obvious errors. Editor Ben Smith himself acknowledges that "there is serious reason to doubt the allegations".

Nevertheless, Buzzfeed justifies publication by insisting that Americans should "make up their own minds" - which, for better or for worse, is precisely the rationale that Infowars gives when it covers FEMA camps and chemtrails.

Liberal Conspiracies

Indeed, the uncritical embrace of such a dubious artefact by anti-Trump liberals recalls the enthusiasm of Trump's supporters for the equally lurid "Pizzagate" conspiracy, with progressives revelling in prurient allegations about Trump's sexual peccadilloes with just as much glee as conservatives once showed for equally fanciful exposes about DNC involvement in "spirit cooking".

During the Bush years, the comedian Stephen Colbert coined the term "truthiness" for assertions that could be accepted without facts or evidence simply because they felt true "in the gut". He was parodying the Right - but truthiness has become integral to liberals embracing anti-Trump Trumpism.

According to an Economist/YouGov poll, 50 percent of Clinton voters believe that the Russians somehow manipulated voting tallies - an almost exact replication of the pre-election Trumpite fantasy that widespread voter fraud would deliver the presidency to the Democrats.

In reality there's precisely zero evidence of Russian ballot tampering. Nevertheless, the truthy notion that Vladimir Putin "hacked the vote" continues to circulate throughout both mainstream and social media, in a curious liberal echo of the "fake news" widely blamed for Trump's victory.

Olbermann's feverish rhetoric about a coup rests on intelligence reports about Russian involvement in the election - reports that, as Masha Gessen shows in the New York Review of Books, contain far less than meets the eye. Traditionally, progressives denounced the CIA and other agencies of the Deep State not just because of their role in (to borrow William Blum's phrase) "killing hope" around the world through assassinations, blackmail, torture and similar methods, but because of their pernicious influence on democracy in the US.

In the 1960s, for instance, the FBI circulated a dossier on Martin Luther King's sex life in an attempt to shame the civil rights leader into suicide (though, in those pre-Buzzfeed times, the press refused to publish it).

Today, liberals laud what they call the "intelligence community" and denounce anyone who questions the agencies' motives and honesty. What kind of political climate does this create, in an era in which the Deep State has become larger and far more powerful than ever?

Anti-Democratic Logic

Anti-Trump Trumpism drives progressives to embrace a militarised nationalism: Think of Olbermann's hysterical calls for "traitors" to be held to account, a rhetoric reminiscent of the John Birch Society.

In 2003, anti-war progressives were consistently slurred as unwitting agents of Saddam. Back then, though, those hurling charges of treason were still inhibited by the backlash against McCarthyism. What will happen during the next war, now that so many liberals have normalised accusations of disloyalty?

The most credible allegations about a Putin-Trump nexus pertain to the supposed role of Russian intelligence in providing Wikileaks with emails from John Podesta, the chairman of the Clinton campaign. 

Again, as the Intercept's Sam Biddle explains, the available evidence on this remains perilously thin.

In any case, whatever Russian hackers did or didn't do, their efforts pall next to the NSA's global intercept programme, which, as well as sweeping up the private information of millions of citizens, allowed the US to monitor the personal calls of world leaders.

As Juan Cole reminds us, George W Bush once had German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder's phone hacked so as to check his position on the Iraq war.

More importantly, the Podesta files aren't fakes or forgeries. The argument that the publication of genuine emails cost the Democrats the White House thus amounts to an assertion that Clinton lost because the voters learned too much about her.

To put it another way, those claiming that Russia stole the election are arguing that the Democrats were robbed because they were prevented from concealing the difference between what their candidate said and what she truly believed.

It's an extraordinary argument for so-called progressives. But it's indicative of the fundamentally anti-democratic logic underpinning anti-Trump Trumpism. 

Millions of Americans voted for Donald Trump, one of the most odious candidates of modern times, not because they were hypnotised by Putin but because they thought (wrongly) that the billionaire represented their interests.

That's why there's a desperate need to build a mass constituency for progressive, anti-racist and anti-sexist ideas. Anti-Trump Trumpism represents a refusal to face that reality, an attempt to sidestep the hard work necessary to rebuild the Left. 

Rather than offering a genuine alternative to the Right, the anti-Trump Trumpists are helping to entrench conservatism's authoritarian, conspiratorial nationalism within the US mainstream.


Jeff Sparrow is a writer, editor and broadcaster, and an Honorary Fellow at Victoria University, Melbourne.

Source: aljazeera.com/indepth/opinion/2017/01/liberals-embrace-anti-trump-trumpism-170105151556455.html


On Muslims, Swimming Lessons, And European Secularism

By H A Hellyer


In a judgment handed down on Tuesday, the European Court of Human Rights rejected a claim brought by a Muslim couple in Basel, Switzerland, who had refused to allow their daughters to attend compulsory mixed swimming lessons at school.

The ruling itself is unsurprising, and doesn't come in a vacuum. The European court has been called upon to weigh in on issues of religious freedom before - and a pattern has emerged, which is difficult to ignore.

Two basic trends have materialised - the first is one where the court has adopted a more neutral kind of secularism, and where the judges have prioritised the individual consciences of the plaintiffs over that of the different authorities that, invariably, call to notions of "public order" to justify certain restrictions.

But this trend has typically been associated with religious freedom cases lodged by members of Christian communities, including, for example, the British Airways employee who had been told by her employers that she couldn't wear a crucifix. Indeed, even state authorities have, in order to protect a visible manifestation of Christian heritage, appealed to the court to allow for crosses to be openly displayed in state schools - and were successful in doing so.

There is, nevertheless, another trend at work - one which is far more aggressively secularist, and which has, invariably, affected Muslim communities. French and Turkish citizens have applied to the court to protect their right to use certain types of clothing - particularly the head-scarf or hijab and the face veil or niqab.

In light of such cases, as a former employee of the European Court has pointed out: "… some consider that the Court has more frequently sustained a form of strict secularism, or even a sort of intolerant secularism or enlightenment fundamentalism. This is especially so in cases when individual religious manifestations do not display any signs of political intentions but are performed bona fide making these prohibitions difficult to reconcile with the necessity to protect a democratic society."

'Social Integration'

In that trend, the court has prioritised the state's rights over individual freedom of conscience - to the point where it seems that the court has taken the state's arguments around what it considers as legitimate aims as a given.

It's not quite clear cut, though. In this particular case, the girls were children - they hadn't even met the age of puberty - and the school had said that a full length wetsuit, popularly known as a "burkini", could be worn. One would have thought that a compromise might have been found. But the precedent has now been set - and the court is clear.

Burkini, no burkini - below or above the age of puberty - it seems that Muslim parents who wish to withdraw their children from mixed swimming lessons will be unable to do so.

The ramifications of the case are more than just a swimming lesson issue. The reasoning mentioned by the court enshrines much more than that. It claimed, in a rather sweeping statement, that Switzerland's right to facilitate "successful social integration according to local customs and mores" took precedence.

Further, "The Court observed that school played a special role in the process of social integration, and one that was all the more decisive where pupils of foreign origin were concerned," the statement read.

It's a very sensitive and delicate argument - and not one made very well by the court in this regard. How "social integration" is served by forcing families to put their children into a very specific type of sporting activity - one that only a few years ago would have been segregated according to gender in many European countries - is unclear.

Islam in Europe

It is difficult, also, to separate this ruling from the wider anti-Muslim sentiment in terms of "visible Muslim-ness" across Europe. Remember: Switzerland was the country where a few years ago a national referendum was held on mosque minarets (though there were barely any minarets in the country) - and the Swiss banned minarets as a result.

But this isn't simply about the Swiss - generally a tolerant nation and accepting of diversity - far from it. The Swiss are part of a wider discussion, where three things are being hammered out across Europe. The first is how to recognise religion in an increasingly secularised Europe, a continent where there are now only eight recognised state-churches. Norway, for example, just disestablished their own national church a few weeks ago. Religion is no longer considered as important in the national sphere in most European countries as it once was.

Secondly, how is Europe to acknowledge Islam as a religion in the European public sphere? There is a great deal of resistance to that, historically and today, but whether we like it or not, Islam is a European religion, and its adherents are not excluded from being European just because they are Muslim. Europe as a whole has to come to grips with that.

Finally, how does Europe incorporate Muslims as individuals and as communities, visible ones or not, even when they are different from what is now more commonly acceptable? Even when reluctance to engage in mixed-gender sports has only recently went "out of vogue"?

Where does it end and who decides? Are Muslim Europeans actors in that decision, with as much a European voice as any other European? Or are they simply subjects to be told that this is the way it is and if they don't like it, their European-ness is rejected and they can "leave"? To where, nobody knows because, like it or not, they are Europeans.

All of that is taking place against the backdrop of major issues such as terrorism and migration - and while these should be segmented out, they're not going to be. The fears of Eurarabia remain, as preposterous as they may be.

Right-wing populists - and even many on the left - make a good deal of political hay on these issues. That is very likely to continue - and, alas, this court ruling just makes the situation all the more difficult.

Europe is going through a very challenging period and Muslims and non-Muslims alike need to be creative about how best to move forward. This latest outcome isn't a good example of that at all.


Dr HA Hellyer is senior non-resident fellow at the RH Centre for the Middle East at the Atlantic Council and at the Royal United Services Institute in London. He is also author of "The 'Other' Europeans: Muslims of Europe".

Source: aljazeera.com/indepth/opinion/2017/01/muslims-swimming-lessons-european-secularism-170111104630888.html


The First Promising Signal For Erdogan From Tillerson

By Murat Yetkin


The first concrete words that Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan wants to hear from the Donald Trump administration, scheduled to take office on Jan. 20, came from Trump’s pick for Secretary of State, Rex Tillerson, during his Jan. 11 testimony to the U.S. Senate’s Foreign Relations Committee.

While responding to questions on Syria, Tillerson said the U.S. “has to re-engage with President Erdogan in Turkey … In the absence of American leadership, he has gotten pretty nervous about his situation and turned to … Russia.”

This single sentence summarizes a great part of the current situation quite well.

Another statement by another U.S. authority at about the same time shows how little the outgoing Barack Obama administration understood the current situation, and why Turkey-U.S. relations have regressed to the state described by Tillerson.

That statement was a tweet by the U.S. Central Command saying that the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) had “confirm[ed] that it has no affiliation or ties with the PKK,” referring to the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party and quoting a Jan. 10 statement by the SDF.

“Is this a joke or has CENTCOM lost its senses?” replied Ibrahim Kalin, the spokesman for the Turkish Presidency. “Do you believe anyone will buy this? The U.S. must stop trying to legitimize a terrorist group.”

There are a few reasons why the statement was indeed a desperate move by the CENTCOM, aiming to prove that it is doing the right thing in Syria. 

Firstly, the SDF is a front organization founded in October 2015, after Turkey opened up of its strategic Incirlik air base for U.S.-led coalition flights against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) after a series of contacts between Erdogan and Obama and after the Russian air force had started to be deployed in Syria.

Secondly, the main component of the SDF, according to its manifesto, is the People’s Protection Units (PYG), the militia of the Syria-based Democratic Union Party (PYD), which is the Syrian branch of the PKK. The PKK is engaged in a four decade-long fight with Turkey, a NATO ally of the U.S., which also officially designates the PKK a terrorist organization. PYD leader Salih Muslim has on a number of occasions - most recently during a conference in Brussels on March 6, 2016 - said that he considers Abdullah Öcalan, the imprisoned founding leader of the PKK, as his own leader.

Thirdly, speaking during a Senate panel on April 28, 2016 about supplying military material to the YPG, U.S. Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter said “yes” when asked by Sen. Lindsey Graham whether the PYD and YPG were aligned with the PKK.

The U.S was absent at the beginning of the Syria civil war and then jumped onto the stage with the worst possible partner.

Going back to Tillerson’s Senate testimony, he also said that after the elimination of ISIL the West world be able to deal with other organizations like Al-Qaeda, the Muslim Brotherhood and Iran-affiliated groups, possibly implying Hezbollah or Hashd al-Shaabi.

Perhaps Erdogan might have reservations about any fight against the Muslim Brotherhood and Hezbollah, (as a legal political force in Lebanon). But Turkey’s biggest problems now are the PKK and ISIL - the rest will be negotiable.

Source: hurriyetdailynews.com/the-first-promising-signal-for-erdogan-from-tillerson.aspx?pageID=449&nID=108462&NewsCatID=409


The Unbearable Fragility Of The Turkish Lira

By Günes Kömürcüler


The Turkish Lira has recently become the worst fragile currency of 2017, even performing worse than the Mexico peso, which has been under big pressure since Donald Trump was elected as the new U.S. president.

After falling over 10 percent in the first weeks of 2017, the currency has exposed Turkey’s greatest economic risks, from an obvious slowdown in economic reforms to its high dependence on foreign capital and investments to keep the economy afloat. More significantly, all of these are happening at a time when political uncertainties, social tensions and economic slowdown have peaked.

Nothing happened overnight for the Turkish currency. The lira, along with a number of emerging currencies, started to lose its ground after the U.S. Federal Reserve said it would end the high liquidity party in the global markets in May 2013. Of course, there were several times when the lira was seriously hit in the following years after this date amid many elections, terror attacks and even a failed coup attempt.

The lira has not, however, faced such a big hit as it saw this past week.

This dramatic plunge in the Turkish currency’s value has coincided with the launch of parliamentary talks over the constitutional amendment, which has resulted in serious concerns among investors that it will be a key step paving the way for President Recep Tayyip Erdogan to increase his power in a dramatic manner. And I’m not even mentioning a number of terror attacks that have hit the country. In just the last month, Turkey has been hit by four massive terror attacks.

The Turkish people, who wanted to forget a terrible 2016 and celebrate the coming of the new year, were all shocked in the first hours of 2017 by an armed attack by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) on a top nightclub that left at least 39 dead and 65 injured.

Moreover, economic activity has decelerated significantly in recent months, almost halting completely following failed coup attempt in July 2016.

This environment is actually sending very important messages that need to be understood and thoroughly evaluated.

First of all, when the country’s inflation has been on the rise and the questions over the independence of the Central Bank have risen, nobody should make any comment regarding the rates. It is not good for any country to blame some groups for the worsening of the economic or other situations. Yes, Turkey has tried to overcome a terrible coup attempt, but its officials must accelerate the investigations and uncover the secret links and actions of the organization behind this coup. After such uncertainties are eased, the country will likely start to lure foreign investment once more. 

Second, the government has taken a series of measures to cause a rebound in the economy, but the main point here must be to maintain the rule of law, meritocracy, pluralism, justice, robust bureaucratic institutions and freedom of speech in order to enhance economic recovery and attract foreign investments, as the country’s top bosses have mentioned.

The Turkish Lira and economy have, unfortunately, been subjected to massive pressure, especially ahead of a Fitch assessment in late January, but they still retain some key structural advantages that must be revitalized. Otherwise, a fatal cylinder for the economy could erupt if businesses cease paying their foreign exchange debts.

Source: hurriyetdailynews.com/the-unbearable-fragility-of-the-turkish-lira-.aspx?pageID=449&nID=108468&NewsCatID=540


Moment Of Truth For Cyprus

By Yusuf Kanli


Today marks the fifth death anniversary of Rauf Denktas, the founding president of the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus. Today may also be a new start for Turkish and Greek Cypriots. Thursday was a very important day for all Cypriots, irrespective of ethnical divides, and all those who are still bothered with the prospect of peace in the eastern Mediterranean island. For the first time ever since the 1960 creation of the Republic of Cyprus, the two communities and the three guarantor powers; Turkey, Greece and Britain, came together.

What was the result of the meeting? Did not you hear? The multinational, international or five-party conference is still underway, but because Hürriyet Daily News is printed early, this article had to be penned down earlier than the result. Yet was it not clear enough from such statements like “Geneva will not be the last stop” or the “no one should expect date of a referendum on a Cyprus deal to come out of this meeting” said by U.N. Envoy Espen Barth Eide? The expectation that the Geneva round of talks might bring about a settlement was brushed aside long-ago. Why was there a meeting then? Was it not obvious that there was no sufficient progress for a landmark deal?

Obviously, these and many other questions might be asked and very pessimistic or optimistic remarks might be made. The clear fact is that for the first time ever representatives of the three guarantor states and the two communities of the island came together. Did they come to finish off the Cyprus problem with a single magical touch or will this be the start of yet another inconclusive process, which is very much similar to the previous almost-half-a-century-old intercommunal talks.

There is no need for pessimism. Personally, I would not expect success from Geneva or the possible subsequent round of talks, irrespective whether they are bi-communal or multinational, only unless Greek Cypriots agreed to share the territory and sovereignty of Cyprus with their Turkish counterparts on the basis of political equality.

There were signs yesterday just before the multilateral conference convened that indeed Greek Cypriots, at least verbally, agreed to deliver the “effective participation in governance” as well as the “rotation of presidency” demands of the Turkish Cypriot side. But the two sides presented their respective territorial perspectives accompanied by a set of maps, without fulfilling the terms agreed in the previous Mont Pelerin rounds of talks. Those terms included the completion of bilateral talks on property, governance, EU matters, federal legal affairs, and making a settlement to be reached as the primary law of the EU and such issues. It was considered an unacceptable development by the Turkish Cypriot government which strongly protested the presentation of a map on territorial adjustments without actually providing their input in a memorandum issued in Geneva.

The government was against Mustafa Akinci who agreed to take down the Turkish Cypriot territory from the present 36 percent to a 29.2 percent level, while Greek Cypriots considered that one percentage point above their offer of 28.2 percent. According to unverified reports in a written reservation, the Greek Cypriot side notified the U.N., which has locked the maps in a safe place until the international conference reaches a stage of discussions, that it would not accept the Turkish Cypriot side’s control of Morphou (Güzelyurt) area – the richest aquifer of the island – and the tip of the Karpasia Peninsula, which houses the Apostolos Andreas Monastery, and is considered important for the control of eastern Mediterranean and its hydrocarbon resources.

A key remaining sticking point is the guarantees issue. While Greece has been stressing that its participation in the Cyprus International Conference was totally aimed at discussing liquidation of the 1960 guarantee scheme for which there was “no place in an EU-member country.” Greece, as the “motherland” of the numerically-larger Greek Cypriot population of the island enjoys access to all Greek Cypriot military facilities and ports. Besides, through bilateral security arrangements, they have considerable military presence at all levels separately as well as the control of the Greek Cypriot National Guard. Greece giving up the guarantor status would not make any difference. Besides, like Greece and the outgoing Britian, Cyprus is an EU-member country.

Britain has two sovereign bases, a portion of whose territory it declared would relinquish to Cypriots as a bonus of the resolution. Those bases will continue to be on the island and function as a guarantor when required. Britain giving up its guarantor power status will not make much change.

For Turkey, however, not only for the security and wellbeing of Turkish Cypriots, Cyprus is strategically important. When in some other forms Greece and Britain will be staying in Cyprus, Turkey would withdraw from the island. The International Conference will have to find an answer to that question apart from going over the unresolved issues and if it can encourage the two sides for a grand give-and-take which might bring about a resolution.

If that can be achieved, then, at least three months will be needed to write a new constitution, prepare conditions and start a referendum campaign that may carry the two populations to separate simultaneous referenda late this summer.

Let’s wait and see the outcome of a multinational summit, what will come out of it, and whether there would be further summits as anticipated, or perhaps a collapse…

Source: hurriyetdailynews.com/moment-of-truth-for-cyprus.aspx?pageID=449&nID=108457&NewsCatID=425


Another Education Is Possible In Turkey

By Melis Alphan


Art critic Aysegül Sönmez has long pursued her dream of an art school. It is now becoming a reality with a fledgling grassroots initiative.

Sönmez has been a lecturer at the Fine Arts Department of Okan University for eight years, while also tutoring groups and the staff of various institutions on contemporary art and collectorship.

In addition, she has a background of teaching at Belgium’s HISK art school. HISK is a school where post graduate and doctoral level art students are able to select their own teachers. Within this structure, teachers are able to visit their students at their own studios and discuss their work.

With the influence of this experience, Sönmez has been envisioning an idealistic and free art education. In a way, she has come up with an anti-academic structure, rather like the Tavanarasi phenomenon in Turkey in the 1950s, from which artists such as Atif Yilmaz and Ömer Uluç sprung.

“Sanatatak Egitim” (Art Attack Education), which will launch on Jan. 14, was born out of these thoughts. Its aim is to encourage independent artists, designing an education program that would address a social sciences student as well as a fine arts student, or a white-collar worker casually interested in philosophy, art and literature.

In this education model there are no titles such as professor or associate professor; there are simply trainers who hold classes with passion and people who want to attend class.

“Sanatatak Egitim,” in short, says another education is possible. It is one small step on the path to Sönmez’s school dream.

It has prepared a different curriculum from different disciplines and has posted an appeal on its website www.sanatatak.com. Some of the trainers on the project come from among the respondents to the call, and readers of the website came forward with some wonderful suggestions. Professional educator Deniz Erben from Marmara University helped them evaluate these suggestions.

“For example, the Modern Greek course will be taught by Melike Karaosmanoglu. The architects Mustafa Kemal Yurttas and Esra Ertan will give lectures on cities and civilizations. The writer Vivet Kanetti will teach about why she loves F. Scott Fitzgerald so much.” Sönmez said.

There are also courses on Internet journalism, 3D techniques, social media expertise, and creative critique. Sanatatak.com editor Ali Murat Ergül will give the classes on Internet journalism and social media expertise.

Musician Efe Demiral, meanwhile, will help attendees listen to music with a critical eye. In the Eroticism and Politics class, attendees will look into the relationship between women, men and power from the end of 19th century until today.

What’s more, architect Volkan Taskin will teach on Turkish architect and city planner Turgut Cansever, Suna Dirikan will teach on Divan Literature, and Ayse Zeynep Hatipoglu will teach on Turkish tambour virtuoso Cemil Bey.

Classes are due to come to an end on June 15, after which a camp will be held for students and educators in Palamutbükü in southwestern Turkey.

This is just one initiative, but it feels like a light in the darkness.

Source: hurriyetdailynews.com/another-education-is-possible-in-turkey.aspx?pageID=449&nID=108458&NewsCatID=507

URL: http://www.newageislam.com/middle-east-press/new-age-islam-edit-bureau/a-unified-moral-stance-is-the-only-path-to-peace--new-age-islam-s-selection,-13-january-2017/d/109701


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