New Age Islam Edit Bureau
18 April 2017
Referendum Highlights Deep Divisions in Turkey
By Semih Idiz
Evacuation Deal Is Syria’s New Moment of Shame
By Mashari Althaydi
Why Syria Is One Thing and Assad Is Another
By Hussein Shobokshi
‘Master Bomb’ And Trump’s Message to the World
By Ghassan Charbel
Express Your Opinion without Fear
By Hala Al-Qahtani
Justice Eludes Palestinians Jailed By the Israeli Regime
By Marwan Barghouti
Compiled By New Age Islam Edit Bureau
Referendum Highlights Deep Divisions In Turkey
A victory may be a victory by any other name, but one can’t help wonder whether this was the “victory” that President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Prime Minister Binali Yildirim were hoping for. This was, after all, a referendum for a new constitution, the most important legal document of the country, and while 25 million people said “yes” to it, nearly 24 million rejected it.
This hardly provides the “strong mandate” Erdogan expected for his executive presidency in order to make this appear unquestionable in the eyes of the world. To the contrary, this result shows a deeply divided nation where half the electorate said “no” to him.
Looking at the map showing the distribution of votes across the country, it is also clear that Erdogan’s support is in the conservative and religious heartland of Turkey – which is obviously more concerned with having its “man at the helm” than the fate of Turkey’s democracy.
As opposed to this, we see a solid belt along the Aegean and Mediterranean regions which rejected the proposed executive presidency. Much worse for Erdogan, though, is the fact that the three major cities of the country, namely Ankara, Istanbul, and Izmir, voted against the changes to the constitution.
His supporters say the “no” vote in Ankara and Istanbul only won by a slim majority, but pushing this argument too much will undermine their overall victory, which also came with a slim majority.
The predominantly Kurdish provinces of eastern and southeastern Anatolia, starting with Diyarbakir, also voted overwhelmingly against the constitutional changes, and this shows another kind of dangerous division in the country which could have dire consequences.
Erdogan and Yildirim are maintaining that the nation has voted for change. That will remain a contentious claim given the results of the referendum.
Hürriyet’s Ankara representative Hande Firat – who became famous after broadcasting Erdogan’s live appeal to supporters over her mobile phone on CNN Türk on the night of last year’s failed coup attempt – had an interesting assessment.
Citing the views of her contacts in the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP), she said it was clear to them that the more educated and urban classes had voted against the constitutional changes, while the less educated classes voted en masse for the proposed changes, which means in effect that they voted for Erdogan’s leadership, rather than the constitution as such.
Given the prevalent anti-intellectualism among AKP supporters, and their suspicions about the “educated classes,” expressed often by their opinion framers in various ways, it has become more apparent than ever where Erdogan gets his base support from.
This could result in more social tensions in Turkey unless Erdogan can come up with a wise and impartial leadership that reaches out to all segments of society. How that will come about, though, since he will also be the leader of the AKP now under the new constitution, is not clear.
The AKP has a specific religious-based ideological mission and, going by past experience, the fear is that Erdogan will try to push this to the detriment of other classes.
The bottom line, however, is that to all intents and purposes, Turkey’s parliamentary system of 94 years has been replaced with a presidential one that is not restricted by any checks and balances. This can’t be reversed.
It is not for nothing that Erdogan cited an age-old Turkish proverb after the referendum results were in, saying, “He who grabbed the horse has passed Üsküdar (a district of Istanbul).” What he meant was: “despite the efforts to belittle my victory, I have won and those who are not happy with that will have to live with it.”
This hardly augers a good start for a Turkey visibly divided along active social, religious and ethnic fault lines.
17 April 2017
Saturday’s terrorist attack in Rashidin in Aleppo, which targeted residents who were being evacuated from the Syrian towns of Foua and Kefraya, shows the deep rift that exists in Syria today.
Residents of Foua and Kefraya are Shiites who support the Assad regime. The displacement was carried out based on what was known as the four towns’ deal.
As part of this deal, the Sunni residents of Zabadani and Madaya near Damascus would be displaced to northwestern Syria, Idlib and other areas, while Shiites in Idlib’s and Aleppo’s countryside would be displaced to West Syria or to what’s regarded by the Syrian regime as “useful Syria.”
In other words, or rather blatantly, it’s a sectarian demographic division and manipulation of the Syrian social map on the basis of identity.
It’s a major crime that kills whatever is left of plurality and spontaneity, which people enjoyed for hundreds of years despite the strife that occurred around them due to domestic or foreign disputes.
The suicide attack against evacuees from Foua and Kefraya killed 112. Most of them were residents and fighters. They were waiting in Rashidin while opposition fighters and residents of Madaya, which is close to Damascus, were waiting at the Ramouseh bus station few miles away.
The plan was to transfer them to Idlib, which is controlled by the armed opposition. According to the four towns’ deal, there are two phases. The first one is to evacuate all residents of Foua and Kefraya whose number is estimated at 16,000 and the second one is to evacuate the residents of Madaya and Zabadani.
The Syrian opposition was right to describe this displacement as a forced displacement of citizens who oppose Assad from major urban centers in West Syria.
What happened to the residents or even fighters of Foua and Kefraya is an obvious crime. A similar attack – God forbid – may target residents and fighters of Madaya and Zabadani as it is expected that the Assad regime and its militias may retaliate.
However, the worst crime here lies in deepening the sectarian divide and altering the country’s geography and manipulating demographic facts according to it.
Displacing Syrian identity
This barbaric demographic division is happening before the eyes of the entire world. It is happening in our era although we thought such displacement and ethnic cleaning have ended during the Middle Ages and with the Spanish Tribunal of the Holy Office of the Inquisition.
The Syrian regime, the militias affiliated with it, Iranian thugs and Vladimir Putin’s forces combined with al-Nusra Front, al-Qaeda and ISIS have sealed the fate of these four towns. They are all partners in destroying the historical and civilized Syrian identity.
The four towns’ deal is a new Syrian shame.
Saudi journalist Mashari Althaydi presents Al Arabiya News Channel’s “views on the news” daily show “Maraya.” He has previously held the position of a managing senior editor for Saudi Arabia & Gulf region at pan-Arab newspaper Asharq al-Awsat. Althaydi has published several papers on political Islam and social history of Saudi Arabia. He appears as a guest on several radio and television programs to discuss the ideologies of extremist groups and terrorists. He tweets under @MAlthaydy.
Why did the United States carry out airstrike against Syria?
Firstly, the US did not strike Syria as proclaimed by the national media and the media that belongs to the terrorist group Hezbollah but it hit a military airbase fully operated by the Iranian Revolutionary Guards from where the chemical weapons were launched on Idlib. The US destroyed the military aircraft and Quds missiles, which were used to hit the Syrian cities.
Secondly, let us try to re-establish the facts to know the situation in Syria and why the regime of Assad was forced on the Syrian people.
Syria, once heart of the Arab world, allied itself with a revolutionary (non-Arab) sectarian regime Iran. Iran, whose main objective as outlined in its constitution, is to spread its extremist ideology in the region. Syria is also allied with the sectarian terrorism group (Hezbollah), classified as a terrorist organization by the international community and by most of the Arab countries (it has branches in those countries and it is accused of many terrorist acts in those states).
In addition, Syria is allied with Russia (the first country to recognize Israel and the Russian lobby which is the most important lobby inside Israel). This is the story of Syria under the Assad regime, a fascist, repressive and failed state changed from Ba’athist to sectarian state par excellence.
It is strange that Syria’s allies (Iran and the terrorist organization Hezbollah) do not see the comparison between what happened in Iraq, which they strongly supported at that time, while in Syria they rejected it. Iraq was ruled by Ba’athist dictator (just like Syria), a minority ruling a majority (again, just like Syria).
They exterminated the unarmed and defenseless civilians in Halabja in Iraq (Assad did the same in Hama and elsewhere). Saddam occupied Kuwait, Assad occupied Lebanon too but because of their exclusive sectarian outlook, they never see those issues with the same objective and fair eye.
A Reckless System
This reckless system, which is supported by the scum of the “thugs”, killing and injuring hundreds of thousands of people and displacing millions, is not due any respect nor is Assad worthy to continue ruling the country.
The regime of Syria gave the Golan Heights to Israel in 1967 without any resistance or without firing a bullet against Israel and withdrew before the arrival of the Israeli forces. The Golan remained in complete calm for more than four decades. The Syrian regime has killed more Lebanese, Palestinians, Syrians, Iraqis and Jordanians, more than the Israelis did.
The removal of Palestinian resistance from Lebanon also contributed to ignite a civil war in Lebanon in which the Lebanese devoted sectarian presence, under the banner of terrorist Hezbollah, and yet continued with all despicable and shameless interference in the Palestinian cause with threats to assassinate its leaders, just like the assassinations of great political symbols in Lebanon, Jordan and Iraq.
A wicked and phony political system inherited the rule of the republic from father to son, forcing the People’s Assembly to change its constitution in minutes to accept the age of the new president Bashar al-Asaad (by the way he was not the preferred first choice of his father).
The regime has enmity with all the countries in the region and has forced its people to leave and migrate, deprived them of their privileges, bitterly humiliated them by imprisonment and nationalized the major private companies.
The Nature of the Regime
This is the Assad regime which is now objecting to the military strike against it. The US did not target any civilians, no civilians were killed and there was no monetary cost on the people. All the military equipment that was destroyed at the targeted airbase was within the military deal between the Assad regime and Russia, in exchange for the establishment of its military base on the coast of Tartus in the Mediterranean Sea (as it is well-known).
Israel knows fully well that Assad poses no threat to them. There are three historical statements made at the time of the Syrian revolution when Rami Maalouf, the son of the uncle of Bashar Al-Assad and one of the most important pillars of the regime, said, “Security of Syria means security of Israel.” The next statement was by Hassan Nasrallah, leader of Hezbollah terrorist group. He said, “We will fight until the end in the defense of Bashar Al-Asaad.”
And thirdly, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu himself said, “the survival of Bashar Al-Asaad is a zguarantee for Israel’s security”. These statements need no analysis to understand the role of the Assad’s regime in the region and its importance to both Iran and Israel.
America attacked a military airbase which was used against the civilians in Syria and it is run entirely by Iran. What is not understood until today is that Syria is one thing and Bashar Al-Assad is something else. Bashar Al-Assad is exactly the opposite of everything beautiful that Syria represented.
This is really a scary bomb, Weighing 10 tons, the power of its explosion is unprecedented if we exclude the nuclear element, which is enormously destructive. Designed to penetrate the fortifications, tunnels and basements. There is no hope of survival for those who exist in the targeted place. It is a tremendous fire wave; a programmed and ruthless earthquake.
It is not an exaggeration to call it “The Master Bomb!” The fighters of ISIS, al-Qaeda and Taliban have to think carefully. It became an actual suicidal mission to set the American coat on fire. America has a long hand. As well as the hands of its laboratories. The Tunnels can no longer be considered as a safe haven, it does not even deserve to be called so anymore, as it is not enough now to prohibit the anger of the President in the White House.
The morale explosive power of the bomb passed through Afghanistan. Most probably Russian generals are going to think about it for a long time. Their army has the ability to turn cities into ruined fields. But the aura of this bomb challenges them, it leaves deep concussions in the morale of their partners. Generals know that what’s more important than the power of a bomb is to take a quick decision to throw it out.
Ding Dong to Russia and Iran
Leaving the Russian generals aside under their vast nuclear umbrella. There is no doubt that the North Korean president is concerned with the “Master bomb”, whom has been addicted to the nuclear and missile blackmailing. He received the news while preparing to celebrate his grandfather's birthday in an atmosphere of suspense and intimidation. His generals have to foresee through what happened in Afghanistan. The same goes for the Iranian generals who have turned diplomatic and missile tunnels into a permanent policy.
Certainly they would not overlook that the bomb loaded with explosives and messages came a week after the American missiles rained down on the Syrian Shayrat Airbase. They know that what’s more dangerous than these missiles is the decision to throw them.
Most probably, the generals of Russia, North Korea, Iran and Syria feel sorry that Barack Obama's days has come to an end. In his days, the American Red Line became a popular joke on social media sites. Some of them were hasty to believe that America has already turned into a paper tiger.
Can the journalist take the risk to state that Donald Trump's actual era began with bombing the Syrian airport and was confirmed by dropping “The Master Bomb”? Is it possible to say that what’s more dangerous than the terrible bomb is the change happened to the image of the President sitting in the Oval Office?
Trump has been observed by his opponents and allies since he started his duties. The 100-day exam was not easy. Much has been written about the confusion of the new ruling. Lacking both coherent vision and team. The period was full of contradictory statements and hasty decisions. Many predicted that the reign of Trump would have an irreparable infections; domestically and abroad. An infection that would be internationally seen as similar to Obama and his famous red line.
It is clear that Trump listened carefully to his administration and generals. America wants to be influential, it must be strong. Recovering America's influence and creating a clear image of the president. A president who does not hesitate to make difficult decisions when they are necessary to protect US interests. Thus Trump was acting on the basis that America in his time is able to reassure its allies and provoke its adversaries.
Rebooting the War On Terror
The missiles that targeted Shayrat Airbase have revived the American Red Line. Trump's administration took advantage of the chemical attack; the president made a quick decision that pointed a finger at the Syrian regime, damaged the image of the Russian president and the role of his country.
This was accompanied by a very important political step, which was to hint at the improving relations with China; if Russia chose to continue to protect the practices of the Syrian regime and did not oblige it to accept a serious political agreement. The Afghanistan bomb came to confirm that America is leading the war on terrorism from Afghanistan, Mawsel, to Al-Raqqa, and that the Russian role in this war is incomplete or ambiguous.
Due to the two strikes, America seemed to regain its controlling seat, making it able to give guarantees, assurances and warnings. The return of Trump from Twitter to the established US institutions, in case he continued, would be a more severe bomb for the international balances than the missiles targeted the Shayrat Airbase and the Afghanian “Master Bomb”.
Most probably Vladimir Putin made a big mistake when he hesitated to launch a serious and convincing political agreement in Syria, preferring to wait for a full deal. If he had done that, Trump would have found no choice other than supporting the Russian Syria to reduce the chances establishing of the Iranian Syria.
When the American President regains the leadership position and reinforces his country's diplomacy, world leaders in this or that country must recalculate their own agendas.
April 18, 2017
SOME people will not tell their opinion and will not express what is in their minds with sincerity. Instead they would repeat the opinion of others even if they don’t agree with them. They often take such a stand to express a strange or an odd opinion.
When they face a disapproving look from their friends they would say it’s nothing but diplomacy. At the same time such people would know well that they have been caught up in disgrace and wish that they should have expressed their right opinion instead of cheating people who believe in their honesty and integrity.
These people often say that they don’t know how to lie in a professional way and convince themselves that their approach was smart. At the same time, they should know that their silence and hesitation to tell the truth over and over again was a reason for creating new tyrants.
By opposing wrong thoughts and ideas you contribute to correcting wrong concepts and you join the group of individuals trying to bring about positive change in society instead of bringing it backward. We should express our views boldly without fearing criticism.
Are you ready to face criticism when you take a rightful stand or do you want to remain a coward who always tries to appease others and protect their vested interests? By adopting the second stand you continue to cheat yourself to get a respite from criticism.
If you take a bold stand on an issue, some people will not like you and they will keep on talking against you but this criticism would continue for long. Your previous stances have taught you how to be like them. For example, when you were a child and left playing among your relatives, you may get a feeling that the elders did not care for you properly and did not feed you in the absence of your parents and they did not give you sweets when it was distributed among their children.
When your parents return and you wanted to explain what had happened in their absence and how you were mistreated by the relatives they will consider you as a problematic child because your open and frank criticism would cause embarrassment to your relatives. Instead of scolding the relatives your father will rebuke you or accuse your mother of over coddling.
You have not done anything wrong and you were telling the truth frankly but this negative response of parents and relatives would encourage you to tell lie whenever such incidents occur in the future to avoid provoking your parents and receiving punishment.
At school the teacher will ask students to raise their hands if they did not understand the lesson or if they have any doubts. If you raise your hand you may probably face the teacher’s irrational response that would shock you. Instead of explaining what you did not understand, the teacher would rebuke you for not listening to the class attentively.
When you try to justify that you raised the hand on the teacher’s request, you may face further rebuke and you would be accused of showing disrespect. Although you have not done anything wrong you have violated the usual trend at the end of the class when the teacher would ask students to raise hands if they have doubts but nobody would do it fearing backlash.
You just shake your head like others to tell the teacher that everything was fine, even if you did not understand the lesson. By raising hand you make a vague accusation that the teacher was not capable of explaining the lesson properly. Most people do not consider going out of the herd culture as independence or a new viewpoint but as a declaration of rebellion.
Teachers with a negative attitude would punish students who raise questions by reducing their marks and grades.
When you get a good job after going through difficulties on the basis of your academic certificates and work experiences, you are forced to follow the existing pattern at the work place to appease presidents and vice presidents and do whatever possible to feed their egos. You would be lucky if you find at least two of these top officials without having a position syndrome.
Despite the skills you have learned and training courses attended you would not be able to achieve your goals and promotions unless you learn how to show different faces and change them smoothly to satisfy your superiors who know well that you are under their control.
No matter whatever you try to avoid fight there will come a day when you will be pushed into one conflict. So make sure to be brave when confronting such a situation as some battles would not accept defeat. Be yourself whatever be the situation and protect your identity. Remember when you give up your values and life etiquette people will not respect you.
April 17, 2017
Form of judicial apartheid gives Israelis legal impunity from crimes against suffering people
Having spent the last 15 years in an Israeli prison, I have been both a witness to and a victim of Israel's illegal system of mass arbitrary arrests and ill-treatment of Palestinian prisoners. After exhausting all other options, I decided there was no choice but to resist these abuses by going on a hunger strike.
Some 1,000 Palestinian prisoners have decided to take part in this hunger strike, which begins on April 17, the day we observe here as Prisoners' Day. Hunger striking is the most peaceful form of resistance available. It inflicts pain solely on those who participate and on their loved ones, in the hopes that their empty stomachs and their sacrifice will help the message resonate beyond the confines of their dark cells.
Decades of experience have proved that Israel's inhumane system of colonial and military occupation aims to break the spirit of prisoners and the nation to which they belong, by inflicting suffering on their bodies, separating them from their families and communities, using humiliating measures to compel subjugation. In spite of such treatment, we will not surrender to it.
Israel, the occupying power, has violated international law in multiple ways for nearly 70 years, and yet has been granted impunity for its actions. It has committed grave breaches of the Geneva Conventions against the Palestinian people; the prisoners, including men, women and children, are no exception.
I was only 15 when I was first imprisoned. I was barely 18 when an Israeli interrogator forced me to spread my legs while I stood naked in the interrogation room, before hitting my genitals. I passed out from the pain, and the resulting fall left an everlasting scar on my forehead. The interrogator mocked me afterward, saying that I would never procreate because people like me give birth only to terrorists and murderers.
A few years later, I was again in an Israeli prison, leading a hunger strike, when my first son was born. Instead of the sweets we usually distribute to celebrate such news, I handed out salt to the other prisoners. When he was barely 18, he in turn was arrested and spent four years in Israeli prisons.
The eldest of my four children is now a man of 31. Yet here I still am, pursuing this struggle for freedom along with thousands of prisoners, millions of Palestinians and the support of so many around the world. What is it with the arrogance of the occupier and the oppressor and their backers that makes them deaf to this simple truth: Our chains will be broken before we are, because it is human nature to heed the call for freedom regardless of the cost.
Israel has built nearly all of its prisons inside Israel rather than in the occupied territory. In doing so, it has unlawfully and forcibly transferred Palestinian civilians into captivity, and has used this situation to restrict family visits and to inflict suffering on prisoners through long transports under cruel conditions. It turned basic rights that should be guaranteed under international law - including some painfully secured through previous hunger strikes - into privileges its prison service decides to grant us or deprive us of.
Palestinian prisoners and detainees have suffered from torture, inhumane and degrading treatment, and medical negligence. Some have been killed while in detention. According to the latest count from the Palestinian Prisoners Club, about 200 Palestinian prisoners have died since 1967 because of such actions. Palestinian prisoners and their families also remain a primary target of Israel's policy of imposing collective punishments.
Through our hunger strike, we seek an end to these abuses.
Over the past five decades, according to the human rights group Addameer, more than 800,000 Palestinians have been imprisoned or detained by Israel - equivalent to about 40 per cent of the Palestinian territory's male population. Today, about 6,500 are still imprisoned, among them some who have the dismal distinction of holding world records for the longest periods in detention of political prisoners. There is hardly a single family in Palestine that has not endured the suffering caused by the imprisonment of one or several of its members.
How To Account For This Unbelievable State Of Affairs?
Israel has established a dual legal regime, a form of judicial apartheid, that provides virtual impunity for Israelis who commit crimes against Palestinians, while criminalising Palestinian presence and resistance. Israel's courts are a charade of justice, clearly instruments of colonial, military occupation. According to the State Department, the conviction rate for Palestinians in the military courts is nearly 90 per cent.
Among the hundreds of thousands of Palestinians whom Israel has taken captive are children, women, parliamentarians, activists, journalists, human rights defenders, academics, political figures, militants, bystanders, family members of prisoners. And all with one aim: to bury the legitimate aspirations of an entire nation.
Instead, though, Israel's prisons have become the cradle of a lasting movement for Palestinian self-determination. This new hunger strike will demonstrate once more that the prisoners' movement is the compass that guides our struggle, the struggle for Freedom and Dignity, the name we have chosen for this new step in our long walk to freedom.
The Israeli authorities and its prison service have turned basic rights that should be guaranteed under international law - including those painfully secured through previous hunger strikes - into privileges they decide to grant us or deprive us of. Israel has tried to brand us all as terrorists to legitimise its violations, including mass arbitrary arrests, torture, punitive measures and severe restrictions. As part of Israel's effort to undermine the Palestinian struggle for freedom, an Israeli court sentenced me to five life sentences and 40 years in prison in a political show trial that was denounced by international observers.
Israel is not the first occupying or colonial power to resort to such expedients. Every national liberation movement in history can recall similar practices. This is why so many people who have fought against oppression, colonialism and apartheid stand with us. The International Campaign to Free Marwan Barghouti and All Palestinian Prisoners that the anti-apartheid icon Ahmed Kathrada and my wife, Fadwa, inaugurated in 2013 from Nelson Mandela's former cell on Robben Island has enjoyed the support of eight Nobel Peace Prize laureates, 120 governments and hundreds of leaders, parliamentarians, artists and academics around the world.
Their solidarity exposes Israel's moral and political failure. Rights are not bestowed by an oppressor. Freedom and dignity are universal rights that are inherent in humanity, to be enjoyed by every nation and all human beings. Palestinians will not be an exception. Only ending occupation will end this injustice and mark the birth of peace.