Syria Revolution Digest: Tuesday, 22 January 2013

Our Identity Crisis!

As sectarian trends continue to increase and a new conflict pitting Arabs against Kurds explodes, albeit in slow motion, it is becoming increasingly clear that Syrians are going through a major identity crisis with all the trimmings. We may not have a Syria left at the end of this Revolution, but, hopefully, we will end up knowing who we are, or at least more of who we are, at this particular moment in history. Whether we end up liking and accepting ourselves or each other is a different matter. But only people who know and accept who they are, at least at a certain level, can make peace with each other and the world. So, peace will have to wait for a while in our parts, even if the price of war is high. Because the price of ignorance, especially self-ignorance, is even higher.

Today’s Death Toll: 164, including 12 women and 22 children. 71 martyrs were reported in Damascus and its suburbs, including 8 martyrs in Medira and 8 who had been field-executed in Douma; 32 martyrs were reported in Daraa; 14 in Aleppo; 13 in Homs; 11 in Hama; 11 in Idlib; 11 in Deir Ezzor; and 1 in Lattakia (LCCs).

Points of Random Shelling: 278: including 13 sites that were subjected to aerial shelling. Regime forces used barrel bombs on 3 areas across Syria and 1 area was subjected to cluster and thermobaric bombardment. 133 areas were subjected to artillery shelling; 68 areas were subjected to mortar shelling; and 76 areas reported rocket shelling (LCCs).

Clashes: The Free Syrian Army (FSA) clashed with regime forces in 126 locations, managing to down an attack helicopter flying over Koweires Military Airport in Aleppo and seizing control of the club checkpoint near the Daraa Balad gas station. The FSA also managed to target checkpoints at the oil press and canning plant with mortars, and the Hamidieh camp with homemade rockets. The FSA also destroyed a number of personnel carriers and other materiel belonging to the regime in cities and towns across Syria (LCCs).


Russia’s Evacuation From Syria Reflects Doubts About Bashar Assad’s Hold On Power In addition to tens of thousands of Russians permanently living in Syria, most of whom are Russian women married to Syrian men and their children, there are also an unspecified number of diplomats and military advisers along with their families. The evacuees were permanent residents not connected to the embassy.

Diplomatic options fade in Syria, as refugees pile up Daily life is mostly spent fending off the cold. There is no electricity, no heat and no running water. Few international aid workers dare to travel to Syria to help… The Turkish government is building another camp that can take up to 3,000 refugees, but that is not much comfort to the more than 40,000 Syrians who are stranded along its border.

US Senators Urge Stronger Response to Syria Crisis Republican Senator John McCain led a delegation of lawmakers that recently returned from a trip to the Middle East and Afghanistan.  At a news conference Tuesday, McCain relayed messages the group received from Syrian opposition leaders and refugees. “We heard desperate pleas for U.S. support and assistance,” said McCain… Democratic Senator Sheldon Whitehouse said, “The situation in Syria is getting increasingly dire. And it appears the Assad administration is dug in pretty hard.  So there is a real danger of the warfare prolonging, and while it prolongs having the Syrian state devolve into potentially ethnically-cleansed enclaves, and a huge vacuum left for jihadis and extremists to launch attacks from.”

Rebels in northern Syria pin hopes on airbase’s downfall The siege does underscore one important point: It has taken less than a year for Syria’s rebels to go from being hunted in their homes to now encircling and attacking some of the largest military bases in the country.

Life in Lebanon “horrible” for Palestinians fleeing Syria: U.N. Donors needed to do more to help at least 20,000 Palestinians who have already come in and more than 200 who join them every day, the chief of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), Filippo Grandi, told Reuters.

Saudi says negotiated Syria settlement “inconceivable” “Damascus… which has been a city for the longest period of time, is carpet bombed. How can you conceive of the possibility of a negotiated settlement with somebody who does that to his own country, to his own history, to his own people? It is inconceivable to us,” Prince Saud al-Faisal told a news conference. He was speaking after an Arab summit focusing on economic development, which was not attended by Syria.


Special Reports

Richard Cohen: Obama’s failure in Syria

In retrospect, this was a war of necessity. It was necessary to avoid a regional calamity, the spread of more violence to Lebanon and Iraq. It was necessary to avoid a humanitarian disaster; great suffering that could have been avoided or at least mitigated. It was necessary to take a stand against barbarity because this is — is it not? — a basic obligation. It was necessary to intervene because we could do so at very little cost… We are talking, simply, of saving lives. It was necessary, finally, because not only must the thugs of this world be held accountable by the world community, they must know they will be held accountable by the world community… This — a furious sense of moral indignation — must return to U.S. foreign policy and be the centerpiece of Obama’s second term. This is no longer a matter of choice. It is a necessity.

Increasingly desperate

A CAMP for displaced people in Atmeh is a good measure of the worsening crisis in Syria. When your correspondent last visited the town, just inside Syria’s northern border with Turkey, in September, hundreds of people were sitting under olive trees hoping to cross into Turkey. Four months later the sea of white tents stretches into the distance. Whole streets and villages from rural Idleb and Aleppo have been transplanted here—almost the only source of comfort in the relentless misery.

Syria’s Kurds: A Struggle Within a Struggle

Syria’s conflict gives its Kurdish population an opening to rectify historic wrongs and push for more autonomy, but facing internal divisions, poor ties with the non-Kurdish opposition and regional rivalries, its challenge is to articulate clear, unified and achievable demands.

Defying Common View, Some Syrian Kurds Fight Assad

A rebel commander seeking to overthrow President Bashar al-Assad, he described the choice of a cornered man. His resistance began with peaceful demonstrations, he said. When the government answered with force, his tactics changed. “It was only after they showed that they would kill us that we became armed,” he said. But there is a difference between this story and many others. Mr. Abdulkader is a Kurd, not an Arab, which means his experiences and decisions upend conventional wisdom that holds that the Kurds do not see this as their fight.

The Nonexistent Red Line

In sum: The White House wouldn’t know if Assad were about to use chemical weapons, couldn’t be sure if he had used chemical weapons, and in any case isn’t going to do anything about chemical weapons until Assad leaves. In reality then, the president has no red lines for Assad…


Video Highlights

A just released video shows the second rocket as it hits the University of Aleppo compound on January 17, belying the regime’s story of a car bomb attack

Leaked video: pro-Assad Alawite militias in Deir Ezzor execute a young member of a local FSA unit, with the usual glee

Major Defection: Last week hundreds of soldiers defected from pro-Assad militias fighting in Damascus and her suburbs, most of whom came from a Sunni Arab or Kurdish background hailing from Al-Jazeerah region in Syria’s northeast (the provinces of Raqqah, Deir Ezzor and Al-Hassakeh). Today 450 of these soldiers arrived in the province of Al-Hassakeh and were warmly received by local rebels

Rebels in Idlib Province use homemade missiles in an attack on a local loyalist militia headquarters

In Medira, Damascus, today’s fallen included many children More people were killed in nearby Douma

To the west, Assad armies keep patrolling the outskirts of the Daraya suburb Sometimes rebels manage to take down some of these tanks But the use of MiGs gives Assad the upper hand as usual

This leaked video shows pro-Assad militias using missile launchers based in the nearby hills to pound the town of Mouadamiyah and again at night

Meanwhile, the pounding of the town of Zabadani continues

In Hama, pro-Assad militias stationed in the Hama Military Airport used missile launchers to pound nearby communities ,

In Homs City, aerial bombardment against restive neighborhoods continues: Jobar MiG diving for the kill and another dive The destruction is immense

Meanwhile, in the neighborhood of Baba Amr, local doctors save the life of another pro-Assad fighter they captured. The man admits that he comes from the majority-Alawite and Shia town of Mukharram. He says he was recruited by pro-Assad militias, that he is poor and that he and his children had no heating oil or food. He asks his children to forgive him in case he didn’t live to see them again. He tells them to pay attention to their school work, not believe the regime’s lies and not watch Syrian state TV

In this video testimony released by Islamist rebels in Ras Al-Ain, a Kurdish man is seen admitting that he is a member of the PKK and that he and his friends are working in tandem with Assad and Iranian security, including Assad’s security chief Muhammad Mansourah. Kurds from the town of Ras Al-Ain, however, belie this testimony and say the man is a local baker and that the testimony is coerced like those of captured activists paraded on Syrian state TV confessing to all sort of crimes after being tortured Meanwhile, clashes pitting Arab and Kurdish rebels continue


US and Canada to Extend Mali Support Mission

By Heba Girgis
Impunity Watch Reporter, Africa

BAMAKO, Mali—As of this morning, Wednesday, January 23, 2013, the United States Air Force C-17 cargo jets have made about five different flights to Mali. The jets dropped off about 80 French troops and more than 124 tons of supplies to help in the fight against insurgents who are trying to take over the country.

US troops are helping to move equipment from France to Mali. (Photo Courtesy of BBC News)

The United States airlift began two days ago, on Monday, and is expected to continue for another few days. Pentagon press secretary George Little said, “We continue to consult with the French on further steps that we may take as United States government to support their (French) efforts in Mali.”

French military spokesman, Thierry Burkhard, noted that, “the priority is to move heavy, bulky things” such as armored vehicles.

But France and the United States are not the only Western countries involved in the aid. Canada is also expected to extend its own commitment to Mali, the decision, however is still pending some final consultations with other allies also involved in the conflict.

Last week, French President Francois Hollande made a direct request through a telephone call with Prime Minister Stephen Harper asking for an extension of Canada’s air transport commitment. This week Canada received another similar request. This time, the French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius asked the Canadian government to help deliver African troops to Mali’s capital. France, currently, has more than 2,000 troops on the ground in Mali. At the same time, troops from neighboring African countries have been arriving almost daily into Bamako.

Just last month, the United Nations approved plans to send in about 3,000 West African troops into Mali to recapture the desert region that had been taken over by Islamist insurgents. Now that France has intervened, the regional force, under Nigerian command, has begun its deployment.

On Monday, Malian forces were able to recapture the central towns of Diabaly and Douentza without any aid. Speaking on this, French Defense Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said, “This advance by the Malian army toward the cities held by their enemies constitutes a certain military success for the Bamako government and for French forces, who have intervened in support of these operations.”

He further stated his “total confidence” in French forces in a mission that “aims to restore sovereignty to Mali on its territory and to prevent the risk of the constitution of a terrorist sanctuary in the heart of Africa.”


For further information, please see:

BBC News – Mali Conflict: US Begins French Troop Airlifts – 22 January 2013

BBC News – UK to Consider Boosting French Mali Operation Support – 22 January 2013

CBC News – Canada Expected to Extend Mission in Mali – 22 January 2013

CNN News – United States, Italy Lend Support for French in Mali – 22 January 2013


Charles Taylor Appeals Conviction While Prosecutors Seek Extended Sentence

By Hannah Stewart
Impunity Watch Reporter, Africa

LEIDSCHENDAM, Netherlands — Former Liberian President, Charles Taylor, began to appeal his conviction 11 counts of war crimes and crimes against humanity, including murder, rape, torture and the use of child soldiers.  Taylor, 64, is the first former head of state since World War II to be convicted of war crimes by an international court.

Former Liberian President Charles Taylor  begins appeal process. (Photo Courtesy of Fox News)

Taylor began in Liberia’s civil war as a warlord in 1989, and was elected president in 1997.  He governed for six years before being forced into exile in southern Nigeria.  He was arrested in 2006 while trying to flee Nigeria and was tried before the Special Court for Sierra Leone, for what was described “some of the most heinous crimes in human history” by one judge.  Throughout his trial Taylor maintained his innocence.

Taylor was sentenced to 50 years in prison last year for aiding and abetting rebels in Sierra Leone during the 1991-2002 civil war.  Over more than a decade of brutal conflict, Revolutionary United Front (RUF) rebels murdered, raped and mutilated their way across Sierra Leone.

Prosecutors contend that Taylor’s sentence should be extended to 80 years for giving orders to rebels.  Prosecutors say that this will send a stronger message to those who facilitate atrocities.  Prosecutor Nicholas Koumjian said that the court should, “hold responsible not only those who perpetrate the crimes but also those who promote them.”

In return for providing arms and ammunition for the conflict, Taylor received “blood diamonds,” as the stones from Sierra Leone’s conflict zones were known, including a 45-carat diamond and two 25-carat diamonds.  The prosecution argues the relationship was even closer, and that Taylor was in direct charge of the rebels as they terrorized a civilian population.

In their written appeal, Taylor’s lawyers claim “the Trial Chamber’s approach extends criminal liability far beyond its proper bounds as recognized in international law.”  Moreover, they contend that the judges had erred in convicting Taylor last year, because they failed to link him to criminal acts committed during the war.  Ultimately, the defense argues that crucial evidence against Taylor was no more than hearsay.

Prosecutors disagree.  They told Tuesday’s appeal hearing that Taylor’s involvement went beyond helping the commission of crimes, saying that he should be convicted for the direct commission of war crimes and for instigating them.  The appeals hearing will continue on Wednesday.

Notably, last week Taylor reportedly wrote to the senate demanding a presidential pension of $25,000 (£15,600) in Liberia.  He described the withholding of his state presidential pension as a “mammoth injustice.” Taylor was quoted in the letter as saying that he was entitled to consular access and diplomatic services at The Hague, but he had been “denied that right.”

For more information, please see:

ABC News – Charles Taylor Appeals War Crimes Conviction – 22 January 2013

BBC News – Liberia’s Charles Taylor Appeals at The Hague – 22 January 2013

Fox News – Former Liberian President Charles Taylor Appeals War Crimes Conviction, While Prosecutors Urge Rejections – 22 January 2013

Reuters UK – Prosecutors Seek Tougher War Crimes Term for Liberia’s Taylor – 22 January 2013



Syrian Revolution Digest: Monday, 21 January 2013

Return of the Pink Panther!

When you are the President of the United States, to condemn means to act, that’s why President Obama cannot even bring himself to condemn Assad’s proliferating crimes, for he is simply unwilling to act. His “better half” might like bright red, but he seems partial to pink himself, at least when it comes to his thinly drawn lines. It’s not that the President is afraid or indecisive. No. He is simply ideologically indifferent to the suffering of others. Since America is not the cause of what is happening in Syria, then, and from his perspective, America has no responsibility there. Case closed, but Hell just opened its doors, and its demons may not be so discerning.

Today’s Death Toll: 110 (including 8 children and 6 women)

31 martyrs were reported in Aleppo, 26 in Damascus and its Suburbs, 17 martyrs in Homs, 12 martyrs in Daraa, 9 martyrs in Idlib, 9 martyrs in Hama, 3 martyrs from Raqqa who martyred in Daraa and 2 martyrs in Deir Ezzor  (LCCs).

Points of Random Shelling: 260

21 points that were shelled by warplanes, 4 points using TNT barrels, 4 points using cluster bombs, 2 with vacuum and phosphorus bombs; 124 points were shelled with heavy artillery; 78 points were shelled with mortars; 56 points were shelled with missiles (LCCs).

Clashes: FSA rebels clashed with regime forces in 113 locations, during which they liberated the Almashlab checkpoint in Raqqa, and targeted a youth building housing shabiha in Hama. They also repelled several attempts by regime forces to storm Daraya and Eastern Ghoutah (LCCs).



Moscow Is Sending Planes to Lebanon for 100 Russians Leaving Syria It was not clear whether the news signaled the beginning of a large-scale evacuation. Russia has an estimated 30,000 citizens in Syria, including government and military personnel, private contractors, and tens of thousands of women married to Syrian men. Around a dozen Russian ships are in the Mediterranean off the coast of Syria for naval exercises and could, officials have said, be used to evacuate Russian citizens.

30 pro-regime forces killed in Syria blast A suicide car bomb exploded Monday outside the headquarters of a local government-sanctioned armed group in Syria, killing at least 30 armed people loyal to embattled President Bashar al-Assad, according to an opposition group and state-run television. The blast occurred at an old carpet factory in the eastern Hama countryside that was being used by the local People’s Committee group, according the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

Arab League: Syria Envoy Mission Makes No Progress Nabil Elaraby, addressing Monday’s opening session of a two-day Arab economic summit in Saudi Arabia, proposed that the gathered heads of state call for an immediate meeting of the U.N. Security Council to adopt a resolution calling for a cease-fire in Syria and establish a monitoring force to ensure compliance with the truce.

Syria Assembles New Paramilitary Force Aided by Iran Syrian regime has assembled a new paramilitary force, many trained by Iran, to fight what is becoming a guerrilla war… The force, dubbed the National Defense Army, gathers together existing popular committees of pro-regime civilian fighters under a new, better-trained and armed hierarchy, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said, according to AFP.

Atrocities Plague Syria, Over 3,500 Children Killed “Media reports today (Friday) from the scene of mass killings in the village of Hasawiya outside Homs said whole families were among the dead in horrific circumstances,” said Maria Calivis, UNICEF regional director for the Middle East and North Africa.

Assad’s mother leaves Syria Ms Makhluf’s ‘‘departure from Syria is another indication of Assad losing support even from within his family”, said Ayman Abdel Nour, head of the newly-formed group Syrian Christians for Democracy and editor-in-chief of opposition news website


Largest Russian naval exercise in post-Soviet era

Non-lethal chemical weapons used in Syria, Le Monde says

Syria says talk of Assad’s removal unacceptable


Special Reports

The pickings of war
The border zone between Turkey and Syria has become crucial to the economic survival of many Syrians. As refugees flee, activists bring in vital food and medicine, fighters smuggle in weapons, and entrepreneurial types make money from the war. As soon as a Turkish police patrol clears off, horses trot Turkish gas into Syria. A Syrian man hustles his sheep in the other direction, for sale in Turkey. Generator providers and bread sellers do well too.

Rabbi Shmuley Boteach: Does Anyone Give a Damn About Syria?
The United States is the world’s strongest nation with the loudest voice. Can’t President Obama speak out? I know we’re not ready to invade Syria or impose a no-fly zone. Americans don’t have the stomach for another war, or an invasion. But does that absolve us from simply condemning the slaughter in the strongest possible terms?

Syria and the risk of Somalisation
If the crisis continues, Syria risks not so much division into hostile states as happened in Yugoslavia, but control by warlords who will persecute the Syrian people.

Andrew J. Tabler: A Syria Strategy for Obama
First, Washington should use Patriot missile batteries in an offensive capacity against regime aircraft — and deploy them defensively against SCUD and Fatah 110 missiles targeting opposition-dominated areas along Syria’s borders with Turkey and Jordan… Second, Washington should provide a package of intelligence-sharing, military training, and other security assistance to mainstream nationalist, non-extremist groups that have been vetted by Western countries, both to increase their military capabilities and in exchange for any chemical weapons captured from the regime’s stockpiles… Third, Washington and its allies should provide local communities supporting mainstream groups that cooperate with Washington’s program to secure chemical weapons with a larger civil assistance program. Large swaths of Syrian urban and rural areas have been ravaged by war, and the task of providing services and rebuilding basic infrastructure will be extensive.

Michael Doran and Salman Shaikh: The Road Beyond Damascus
To stave off disaster and play a leadership role in shaping Syria’s future, the United States should provide lethal assistance to the Syrian opposition, forge a genuine national dialogue that includes Alawis and Christians, and create an International Steering Group (ISG) to oversee and lend support to the transitional process, including the creation of an international stabilization force to provide protection to Syrian civilians. You will need to engage directly with President Putin to overcome already weakening Russian resistance to these essential endeavors.

My bout with the flu coincided with many important turns in the Syrian crisis: the bloodiest week on record since the beginning of the Revolution with close to 800 dead, the intensification of the ethnic cleansing campaign in Homs (city and province), the opening of a new front in the war pitting Islamists rebels against Kurdish fighters, and the intensification of battles in Western Ghoutah in Damascus, especially in the suburbs of Daraya and Mouadamiyah, to name but a few.

UN-Insanity: Before we delve in our coverage of past events, however, it is important to highlight the insanity of a recent plan by the UN to deliver aid to the Syrian Regime. It is something out of theater of the absurd. The UN plans aims to transfer “$519,627,047 to cover the period of January 1, 2013 to the end of June, 2013”  as an effort aimed at “supporting the Government of Syria’s efforts in providing humanitarian assistance to the affected populations.” As to why would the UN expect a government that has spent billions over the last 2 years trying to pound these very population into submission be excepted now to reverse course and begin delivering aid to the people it seeks to subjugate, no explanation is provided. This is simply unbelievable. By funding Assad, the UN will be officially joining the war against the Syrian people, not helping them. Opposition activists have been signing petition and making calls to officials trying to convince them to put a freeze on this plan, but so far, to no avail. Assad might have been right about the Cosmic Conspiracy after all, but it is not against him, it’s against the people.

Ethnic Cleansing in Homs was marked by an intensification of aerial raids and ground bombardment of restive neighborhoods in Homs City and a series of attacks and massacres in surrounding villages and towns, including a massacre against over 100 residents that took place last week in the village of Haswiyeh:

Forces loyal to President Bashar Assad swept through a small farming village in central Syria this week, torching houses and shooting and stabbing residents in an attack that killed up to 106 people, including women and children, activists said Thursday. The assault on Haswiyeh outside the city of Homs took place on Tuesday, but was only coming to light two days later as the scale of the killings became more apparent. The attacks appeared to have sectarian motives and bore a resemblance to the attack last May on the nearby village of Houla that killed 108 people and drew international condemnation of the Assad regime.

Government, as usual, continue to blame “terrorists,” but activists tell a different story and the victims just happen to be Sunnis. One villager told the BBC the army was present at the time of the deaths.

Soon after Haswiyeh, another massacre took place. This one was in Kafar ‘Aya on the outskirts of Bab Amr neighborhood in Homs City Treating the wounded , Some doctors have to struggle to keep themselves from falling apart as they watch more and more bodies being brought in But for some children, help has come too late

Today, another massacre took place in Baba Amr, 20 people were killed, including a family that was set on fire. We see their bodies in this video, but we see as well an injured member of Alawite militia said to be responsible for the attack. He was treated, and according to Dr. Mohammad Al-Mohammad, he will not be killed and will be taken a prisoner

Divisions and increasingly rivalry among rebel groups as well as a more coordinated campaign by pro-Assad militias took their toll over the city and the province over the last week, but over the last couple of days, rebels have managed to regroup and are now pushing back.

Daraya, Western Ghoutah, Damascus Suburbs: Pounding by MiGs , Incendiary Cluster Bombs are used Missiles and rockets are also used The destruction Collecting the dead from under the rubble is a daily routine and a nighttime activity as well But Assad pro-Assad ground troops continue to be held at bay And many are killed Nearby Mouadamiyah was not spared ,

And the pounding of Eastern Ghoutah went on all throughout this period , , Pulling bodies from under the rubble in Hamouriyeh , Mayhem in Arbeen

On the overall course of battles in Damascus, I had this to say to Mike Giglio of the Daily Beast a few days ago:

“I think the rebels have been forced to halt their push into Damascus for now, on account of the brutal bombardment of host suburbs by the regime,” says Ammar Abdulhamid, a U.S.-based dissident and fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies… But most analysts expect that Assad will soon face another push from the rebels in Damascus—and that the capital will remain battered by conflict for months to come. “The battle is not over,” says Abdulhamid of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies. “As usual, in a few weeks, after reconsidering their tactics, regrouping and acquiring some more supplies, a new drive [by the rebels] will begin. Giving up is simply not an option for either side.”

Serekanye/Ras Al-Ain: Islamist rebels deployed tanks in their fight against Kurdish militias in town and reportedly shelled civilian neighborhoods. The Kurdish militias are members of the so-called YPG or local protection units established by residents in cooperation, as many believe, with PYD, the Syrian offshoot of the PKK in Turkey. Islamist rebels seem to have moved into town weeks ago specifically to contain what they consider to be growing separatist threat by the local Kurdish population and have been supported by some local Arab tribes. Meanwhile, Kurdish groups across the Kurdish-majority areas in the northeast remain too divided to pose any such threat, and have been calling for some form of administrative autonomy. Kurds have also been concerned over the increasing Islamization of the Revolution as most Kurds remain staunchly secular. The rebels are reportedly to be coordinating their moves with members of the Syrian National Council and the Muslim Brotherhood, as well as certain tribal leaders, including Nawaf Al-Bashir. Jabhat Al-Nusra is involved as well, but mostly through its affiliates.

Further underscoring the ideological divide on this issue among revolutionaries, most YouTube networks dedicated to the revolution, such as Sham News Network bill their videos of the clashes: “clashes between FSA and Assad militias.” Naturally, Kurdish sites refer in their coverage to “terrorists” or Erdogan and Nawaf Al-Bashir Brigades”



Islamist rebels deploy tanks , and arrest and beat local civilians who are obviously unarmed accusing them of being PKK members Some of the Kurdish fighters involved in the clashes Rebels saving an injured colleague Local Kurds saving an injured civilian

Clashes from the point of view of rebels Use of the agreed revolution’s flag in this clip, rather than the black banner of Islamist groups, indicates that not only Islamist groups are taking part in the clashes on the side of the rebels, tribal groups are involved as well, perhaps at this stage leading the charge

As part of the increasing propaganda campaign meant to incite rebels against Kurds, this is one of the video clips being circulated through social media, it shows PKK fighters in Turkey mocking the Islamic prayer rituals

Nine Lawyers Accused of Terrorist Affiliations

By Ali Al-Bassam
Impunity Watch Reporter, Middle East

ANKARA, Turkey  Yesterday, a court in Istanbul ordered the pre-trial detention of nine human rights lawyers.  Turkish authorities had charged them under anti-terror laws, claiming that the lawyers were affiliated with the outlawed Revolutionary People’s Liberation Party (RPLP), a banned terrorist organization.  The nine were among twelve lawyers arrested, eleven during early morning raids conducted on January 18, and one arrested on January 20.

Human Rights Lawyers who advocated those accused under anti-terror laws were charged and detained under such laws themselves. (Photo Courtesy of Hurriyet Daily News)

The RPLP, a pro-Marxist organization, is responsible for many assassinations and bombings since the 1970’s.  They have not been as active in recent years.  Nearly 70 people accused by the Turkish government for being affiliated with the RPLP were also detained for questioning.  Among those targeted in the crackdown, aside from activist lawyers, were journalists and musicians.

Opposition parties expressed their outrage to the arrests, including the Contemporary Lawyers Association (ÇHD), in which all nine lawyers were members of.  “Police raids against lawyers at 4 a.m., their arrest and imprisonment are part of a wider clampdown on those who oppose the government,” said Emma Sinclair-Webb, the senior Turkey researcher for Human Rights Watch (HRW).

Mahmut Tanal, the deputy to the main opposition party, Republican People’s Party (CHP), said that he believed the attorneys were detained because of the part they played in advocating for those accused in some of Turkey’s most controversial human rights abuse incidents.  “This is an attempt to put lawyers on trial for artificial links with terror organizations.  This is intimidation for all lawyers and citizens.  Accusations and questions addressed to the lawyers show that there’s no legal protection for citizens in Turkey,” said Tanal.

Hasip Kaplan, a lawmaker for the Peace and Democracy Party, said that charging human rights lawyers under anti-terror laws prevent them from diligently defending people accused under anti-terror laws, or speaking critically of the Turkish government.  “The first message given to lawyers is that lawyers defending the suspects of [alleged terrorist] organizations could be put on trial for links with the same organizations.  The second message is that their participation in public demonstrations could be considered evidence of being a member of an illegal organization…,” said Kaplan.  Kaplan said that the Turkish government’s incentive in charging people under anti-terror laws is to spread fear in society from participating in protests, and, for lawyers especially, to not defend anyone accused under such laws.  “Those lawyers were detained just because of their professional activities…,” said Kaplan.

Human Rights groups frequently criticize Turkey for charging activists and journalists under their broad anti-terrorism laws.  The charges are often accompanied by prolonged pretrial detention.

For further information, please see:

Committee to Protect Journalists — Several Journalists Jailed in new Turkish Crackdown — 22 January 2013

Human Rights Watch — Turkey: Nine Human Rights Lawyers Imprisoned — 22 January 2013

Turkish Weekly — More Lawyers Arrested in Crackdown on Leftists — 22 January 2013

Hurriyet Daily News — Nine Lawyers Arrested on Alleged Terrorism Links — 21 January 2013

Washington Post — Lawyers Arrested in Turkey for Alleged Links to Leftist Militants — 21 January 2013