No revolution in Iran – yet – but protests reveal depth of regime split

Originally published in a front page splash in the Jewish Chronicle, 5 January 2018

What is remarkable about the unrest in Iran is that, one week on, the protests remain without a leader.

That is in contrast to 2009, the last time there were major protests on this scale, when Iranians were driven onto the streets by allegations of vote rigging in the election that saw President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad win a second term.

Then, the protesters — many of them well-educated, middle-class urbanites — were ushered on by the defeated candidate, Mir-Hossein Mousavi. His movement eventually led Iran’s Supreme Leader to order a partial recount of votes. Mr Ahmadinejad was confirmed the victor.

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Author interview: Ian Black’s ‘Enemies and Neighbours’ is an ambitious attempt at even-handedness

When it comes to history’s most intractable conflict, Ian Black is not an easy man to pin to an opinion.

The veteran journalist has spent decades reporting on Israel and Palestine, mostly for the Guardian, first as a correspondent in Jerusalem and then as the newspaper’s Middle East editor. He left the paper in July 2016

Over the past four years, he combined the day job — he is now a senior Fellow at the London School of Economics — with work on a book tracing the events of the past century in that narrow strip of land next to the Mediterranean Sea.

The resulting volume, Enemies and Neighbours: Arabs and Jews in Palestine and Israel, 1917-2017, was published this month and focuses “pretty relentlessly” on Israel and the Palestinians, Dr Black says.

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Turkey’s No campaign is not going to take its defeat lying down

Yesterday was the day Turkey shed away the few remaining checks and balances that made it a recognisably Western parliamentary democracy.

By November 2019, the post of prime minister will be abolished and its responsibilities transferred to the president. The holder will have vast powers: to select his party’s MPs, to appoint senior judges, and to rule by decree.

It will be much harder to keep that single office in check. Previously, MPs in parliament could vote to come together to investigate and topple any minister they suspected of wrongdoing. The process took no longer than 18 days.

That same process will take longer for the president under the new system – up to 10 months – and the number of MPs who need to vote for it has increased dramatically.

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Recep Tayyip Erdogan is about to make himself a virtual dictator in Turkey

As you read this, a rapid and turbulent revolution is underway in Turkey. The country’s ruling Justice and Development (AK) Party is pushing proposals through parliament that would radically alter the system of government.

By abolishing Turkey’s long-established system of collective cabinet government, the AK Party says it will stabilise the country and streamline decision-making. But the proposed law will pool power in the hands of the president and dramatically reduce the top job’s accountability to parliament. In effect, it codifies a system of one-man rule for Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.

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Children risk lives ‘every day’ as UK builds Calais wall

CALAIS, France — The migrant camp in northern France known colloquially as “the Jungle” does a roaring trade in energy drinks.

Row upon row of Red Bull and Monster Regular cans line the wooden shelves of a makeshift convenience store serving the camp’s mostly male inhabitants.

The caffeine-heavy drinks sell in droves for €1 ($1.12) each and it is little wonder. The dozens of migrants who each night use the cover of darkness to try and hitch a ride on a heavy goods truck need all the energy they can get.

Their coveted destination is Britain, but the British government is funding a new 4-metre-high barrier close to the northern town of Calais that it hopes will stop them trying.

Construction began on Tuesday on the concrete wall that will extend for a single kilometer alongside the motorway to the Calais port where ferries carrying lorries depart day and night for the U.K.

But British tabloids have derided the undertaking, dubbing it “the Great Wall of Calais” and attacking its £2 million ($2.6 million) cost.

Migrants who spoke to Anadolu Agency before the construction work began were similarly dismissive.

‘I will keep trying’

“Of course you can do it, it’s very possible,” said 32-year-old Aziz, with an unconcerned wave of his hand when asked how likely it was to sneak on board a lorry without being caught.

The Albanian migrant worked for 10 years in the western English city of Northampton until he was deported for overstaying his fixed-term visa.

“They keep sending me away and I will just keep trying to come back.”

He flashed a grin: “They can’t stop me.”

Aziz is one of the so-called “economic migrants” – people not fleeing war and destruction, but rather seeking a better life for themselves – that Britain does not want to accept.

But Walid, 25, who travelled over desert and sea from his native Sudan, had a different story.

“There is a genocide in my country – I have no family anymore,” he explained in unfaltering English.

“I will try [to get on a truck] every day. Yesterday I was sick but I will try again tonight.”

“All I want to do is study in Britain,” he said.

The Jungle camp, home to an estimated over 9,000 people according to French authorities, is a sea of plastic tents fanning out in all directions from a main street of wooden buildings that contain restaurants, a community center with a blaring television, and stores selling canned drinks.

‘The children are not waiting’

Young men like Aziz and Walid, who travel alone and are physically capable of scaling fences and chasing fast-moving lorries, make up the majority of dwellers in the camp.

Far less visible but facing far greater risk are the women and solo children, some of them barely teenagers, who are trying to make the same journey to Britain.

“Just yesterday I saw a mother and child, she four-years-old, trying to get inside a truck,” Walid said, his ready smile collapsing into sorrow at the mention of vulnerable children.

“I watched them. I saw them trying to get on lorry and they fell and they got hurt.

“I cried so much.”

Under European asylum rules known as Dublin III, migrants must make their asylum claim in the first safe country they reach, although children are permitted to transfer to another country if they have family members living there.

But according to Britain’s anti-slavery Commissioner Kevin Hyland, children in the camp are risking their lives every day as they wait for British authorities to process their applications.

“Children are not waiting,” he wrote in a letter to U.K. Home Secretary Amber Rudd published on Wednesday.

“Every night they go to their smugglers who have promised to get them across the Channel. Every night they think that this time they will be lucky.

“However, every night each of these children are at risk of exploitation and sadly even dying as they take huge risks to reach the U.K.”

The latest victim was a 14-year-old Afghan, Raheemullah Oryakhel, who died after being hit by a car while trying to climb on a lorry’s roof over the weekend. He was the third child to die this year.

Legal right to join family

Unicef U.K. said Oryakhel had the legal right to join members of his family who are already in the U.K.

“This tragedy must now lead to action,” the agency said in a statement.

“The U.K. must work with the French authorities to get children into appropriate accommodation, where they can have access to care and legal support so they can reach their families safely.

“It’s in the U.K. government’s hands to prevent any more children from being killed.”

Yvette Cooper, a senior lawmaker in the U.K.’s opposition Labour Party, says there is more the U.K. government can do.

“I think they need to have a government official based here, not just in Paris, to work with the authorities in Calais to speed the processes up,” Cooper told Anadolu Agency in an interview conducted before Oryhakhel’s death.

“I think they need to put pressure on the French authorities to speed things up as well.”

The British immigration authorities were spending too long trying to establish whether the children had genuine family members in the U.K. and were not considering the risk they faced in the Calais camp, Cooper added.

Originally published by Anadolu Agency, 21 September 2016

UK party slammed over ‘Islamophobic’ TV ad

Political broadcast by Eurosceptic UKIP party provokes fury from viewers, MPs and members of Britain’s Turkish community

LONDON — Scenes showing the Turkish flag, Istanbul’s Grand Bazaar and boats buzzing across the Bosporus were transmitted to millions of British television viewers on Wednesday night.

But it was not the latest advertising spot by Turkey’s tourist board. It was a warning against Turkish membership of the European Union – coming in the form of a propaganda broadcast by the U.K. Independence Party (UKIP), a right-wing group that took nearly four million votes in last year’s parliamentary election.

The broadcast contained extensive footage of mosques and women wearing headscarves before urging viewers to vote against Britain’s continued membership of the E.U. in the country’s forthcoming referendum.

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Tourism sows divisions in fiercely communist Cuba

Booming private sector, fueled by foreign visitors, threatens to upset island’s prized system of social equality

VINALES, CUBA — “This one is ready,” Lucilo said, turning the rooster upside down in his hands to inspect its plucked, featherless bottom. “He’s going to be a good fighter.”

The bird squirmed, unable to escape his grasp. It was weeks away from being thrown into the arena as gambling fodder in a cockfight.

While the farmer returned it to its small cage, his sleeve pulled back to reveal a nasty gash on his arm. Was that the work of one of his angry birds?

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Rochester by-election: Voters drift from main UK parties

By Michael Daventry


British Prime Minister David Cameron must rue the day in 2006 when, as the newish leader of his Conservative Party, he described members of the U.K. Independence Party as “fruitcakes, loonies and closet racists, mostly”.

That same party, commonly referred to as Ukip, comfortably defeated the Conservatives on Thursday to win a parliamentary seat in a special election in Rochester and Strood, a suburban district around 60 kilometers (38 miles) southeast of London.

The right-wing party favors Britain’s immediate withdrawal from the European Union and placing much stricter curbs on migration to the country.

What makes the defeat embarrassing for the British premier is that the winning candidate, Mark Reckless, was the second person in as many months to defect from Cameron’s party and successfully defend the seat for Ukip.

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Turkey’s next leader? Same man, same double standards

jc-2aThis year will be an excellent one for Turkey’s ties with Israel. The two countries are projected to trade a record $6bn (£3.6bn) in goods and services. A quarter of a million Israelis will visit Turkey, the highest number in five years. And this month, 13 daily Istanbul-Tel Aviv flights will facilitate this burgeoning traffic of business and tourism.

It is a remarkably healthy relationship for two countries that have barely spoken to each other in four years. Turkey withdrew its ambassador to Tel Aviv and expelled Israel’s own envoy following the 2010 Mavi Marmara incident, in which nine people died in an IDF raid on a flotilla of ships bound for blockaded Gaza. Despite an Israeli apology, diplomatic ties have not been restored.

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