Friday, February 20, 2015
By Pinar Tremblay
The BBC reported on Feb. 17 that her name had been tweeted 4.6 million times. Ozgecan Aslan was not even 20 years old when she fell victim to a brutal murder. She was a college student in the southern town of Mersin in Turkey. While returning home from class on the afternoon of Feb. 11, the minibus driver attempted to rape her. She did as Minister of Family and Social Policies Aysenur Islam had recommended: women and children in distress should “learn to scream.” Aslan screamed, fought and used her pepper spray against her attacker. There are scratch marks on the murderer’s face. He got mad at her for resisting the assault and stabbed her with his knife. According to him, she was not dead when he called for help from his father and a friend, both of whom complied. Things then only get worse. It is not just murder, but the attempt to get rid of the evidence by cutting off Aslan's hands and burning her corpse. Reading the detailed accounts of the murderers, one cannot help but feel deep sorrow, embarrassment, fear and fury.
In September 2014, Al-Monitor reported that between 2003 and 2010, there had been a 1,400% increase in the number of slain women in Turkey.
Islam criticized the media in October 2014 for their insistence to dwell on these murders. Although official numbers have not been released for 2014, researchers have compiled records of at least 281 women murdered. The murder rate of women rose 31% from 2013 to 2014, and in January 2015 alone, 26 women were murdered in Turkey. Aslan’s murder highlighted the fact that less than 6% of all prosecutors who deal with rape cases are female. Pundits claim a male-dominated courtroom along with lax laws encourage attacks on women.
Two intriguing points in the aftermath of Aslan’s murder are noteworthy. First, as the public uproar started, a few regular Justice and Development Party (AKP) supporters tried to silence the resentful voices. This backfired with a vengeance. Some examples of high-profile tweets follow:
On Feb. 14, Cemile Bayraktar, a female hijabi blogger for the pro-AKP daily Yeni Safak tweeted: "Muslim country, rape … try not to be a greedy opportunist, in the US every two minutes a woman gets raped. Now, shut your mouth." Her tweet generated hundreds of angry replies. One person replied: “So you are telling us if you were raped, you would be pleased about it, and you would continue with your life?”
Another provocative tweet was written by a popular television personality, Nihat Dogan. He tweeted on Feb. 14: “Women wearing miniskirts and getting naked don't have the right to make a fuss if they are harassed by perverts deprived of morals due to the secular system." He faced a stronger backlash than Bayraktar, losing several of his professional contracts and being ostracized on social media.
For the first time, other AKP supporters did not defend the outrageous statements of these pro-AKP public faces. The reason being they did not correctly predict President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s reaction. Erdogan did not remain quiet and approached the matter with sincere humility. His daughters visited Aslan’s mourning family. Erdogan and his wife also promptly offered condolences to the family. Indeed, Erdogan stood tall and pledged his time and attention to the family to bring the murderers to justice. He said, “This could have happened to any one of our daughters.”
Indeed, Erdogan's statements led the lone pro-AKP voices, who had attempted to turn this hideous crime into blaming the victim, to retract their words. For the first time, pro-AKP figures had not found support and were left vulnerable to social lynching. One prominent religious figure, Cubbeli Ahmet Hoca, declared Aslan a martyr.
The second crucial point is the spontaneous campaign that was started on social media with the hashtag #sendeanlat (you tell your story). Under this hashtag, women from all walks of life shared their stories of sexual and physical harassment. The floodgates to shocking revelations had been opened. Over 1 million tweets were posted. These devastating firsthand accounts of victims showed no women in Turkey were immune to sexual harassment; it affects minors, hijabis, the elderly and disabled, those living in urban and rural areas, those with little education and graduate degrees, the rich and poor and tourists and locals. All these women had been taught since early childhood to hide in shame and remain quiet in the face of rape and sexual harassment. Now it was out in the open.
However, not all reactions were in support. Female columnist Sevda Turkusev from Yeni Safak tweeted: “Come to your senses. Go tell these stories to a doctor, not on social media. Do you think you will all become movie stars by airing your dirty laundry here?” Other voices urged all cases of rape and sexual harassment to remain untold, according to the Turkish honor code.
Photos of Aslan, smiling, decorate taxis, buses and buildings. Women, men and children have heeded the call to “wear black” to show their sorrow and protest. Yet, experts fear soon this populist fanfare will subside and murderers and rapists will continue to be released after short sentences.
The People’s Democracy Party deputy chairwoman, Hatice Altinisik, responsible for people and their beliefs, told Al-Monitor, “We are trying to survive male terror every day.” Altinisik emphasized how the AKP still fails to provide real policy solutions to these deep-rooted problems. She said, “They are still proposing band-aid solutions, not a real cure. Pink buses are fine, but where do we go after we get off the pink bus?” Indeed, the latest perplexing AKP solution to prevent another case of brutal murder came from the Higher Education Board (YOK). YOK announced that class times would be changed, so that female students can get home before sunset.
In other words, the AKP's policies do not help to make the streets, or police headquarters for that matter, safe for women.
However, is getting home before sunset and using gender-segregated transportation a viable solution? For instance, in one case, a husband murdered his hijabi wife of 9 years, because he was convinced her body and voice resembled that of a porn star he had watched. The court considered his jealousy as an extenuating circumstance and lowered his prison term.
Researchers have listed several reasons a man could receive a reduced sentence for murder or rape, such as: a man who says, “she was wearing jeans; she came home an hour late; there were birth control pills in her purse”; a rapist who could not complete the attempted rape; a victim who fails to scream during rape, which is viewed as giving consent and criminals who come across as well mannered in court. Yet, there has never been a discussion on “registering sex offenders” in Turkey. With this mindset, perpetrators of sexual crimes receive a slap on the wrist at best. We must remember it was the AKP government that looked the other way during the Gezi Park protests, while female protesters were systematically sexually abused by the police.
Sexual and physical harassment of women has been a pervasive and long-term problem in Turkey. While it did not start with the AKP government, they remain unconvinced that its faulty policies and dangerous rhetoric have contributed to the number of murdered females to skyrocket. A hope for change is therefore fruitless.
Read more: http://www.al-monitor.com/pulse/originals/2015/02/turkey-ozgecan-sex-crimes-murder.html#ixzz3SLaToTnf
In 2002, the Sept. 11 victims' families filed a lawsuit in federal court against the government of Saudi Arabia for their alleged role in funding and supporting al-Qaeda. The lawsuit floundered in 2013 amidst delays and a lack of substantial evidence, but new information has emerged that may resurrect the lawsuit.
Statements from former al-Qaeda operative Zacarias Moussaoui suggest that members of the Saudi royal family had been major donors to the terrorist group as recently as the late 1990s.
Moussaoui gave his account last October to Jerry Goldman, a shareholder at Anderson Kill law firm and a lawyer for Sept. 11 victims' families, and other lawyers from the federal supermax prison in Florence, Colorado, where he is serving a life sentence.
“He has absolutely nothing to gain from this testimony, except for telling the truth,” says Goldman.
The Saudi government rejects Moussaoui’s 100-page testimony, which describes a close relationship between the government of Saudi Arabia and the al-Qaeda operatives who planned the 9/11 attacks. But Goldman says Moussaoui’s testimony fits within a broad historical pattern.
“The bad behavior that we allege of the Saudi royal family goes back a considerable period of time, and perhaps it’s still continuing,” he says. “That relevance is important, and most importantly, it’s relevance that the American people as a whole — not just the victims of 9/11 — need to understand what happened and [to know] that people are finally held accountable for the wrongs that they caused.”
In light of Moussaoui’s testimony, some believe the lawsuit should go ahead. But Goldman says it appears that the US government is shielding the Saudis.
“In our view, all of the information has not been released,” he says. “We’ve been working at this for 12 years and we’ve made a lot of progress, but there’s more progress to be made.”
Goldman says that he is waiting for the government to release the 28 pages redacted from the 9/11 Commission Report and the papers seized from Osama bin Laden's home in Pakistan several years ago — something federal officials have yet to do.
“We are confident at this point that when all of the evidence is revealed that our theory of the case linking the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia to 9/11 will be found in a court of law,” he says. “The American people and the victims will then have justice.”
More than a decade after the towers collapsed, some are asking why this testimony hasn’t come out sooner. Moussaoui years ago gave his account to an attorney representing the family of former FBI counterterrorism chief John O'Neill, who died in the 9/11 attacks. O'Neill was believed to be among the most knowledgeable US officials on the connection between the late Osama Bin Laden and the Saudi royal family.
“I think John O’Neill would have been happy that people were finally asking Zacarias Moussaoui questions,” says Goldman. “I think the question that really arises is why didn’t the government really ask Zacarias Moussaoui the questions that we did? It’s clear that they didn’t during the course of his trial, and the judge at that trial raised that in a recent book: Why didn’t they try to flip him?"
Special Assistant to Chief Minister Sindh for Culture and Tourism Sharmila Farooqi said likewise the past, Pakistan People’s Party was strong and united under leadership of Asif Ali Zardari. All people who are carrying out negative propaganda against PPP will always face disgraced, she said during a meeting with a PPP delegation. Sharmila said, “Zardari is looking after the party in an innovative manner the example of which is before the world.” Sharmila said Zardari’s policy for promotion of democracy and reconciliation had brought prosperity and development in the country, which was appreciated by international powers and the opposition. She said PPP members and workers should not care of any propaganda and remain united among their ranks because PPP had faced such conspiracies since its inception.
Peepal tree planted by US president in Delhi last month has since lost its foliage but horticulturalists say that’s normal for time of year.Officials in India want to make one thing clear: the tree that Barack Obama planted in Delhi three weeks ago is not dead. It just looks dead. The peepal tree was awash in leaves when Obama planted it at the New Delhi memorial to the Indian independence leader Mahatma Gandhi. By Thursday, though, it was just a single lonely stem. Its lack of leaves has been giving Indian officials sleepless nights and there has been criticism from the media for apparently allowing the tree to die less than a month after the US president’s visit. But the reality is that peepal trees often lose their leaves this time of year. “It’s a seasonal phenomenon,” said BC Katiyar, a regional government horticulturist, after he and other officials visited the tree and pronounced it to be in good health. “It will send out shoots within the next 10 days.” The peepal, or Ficus religiosa, is seen as holy by many in Asia as Buddha is said to have attained enlightenment under such a tree in 589BC.
Interview: Gabriel Domínguez
Sectarian violence is on the rise in Pakistan, with a wave of attacks on Shiite mosques killing several dozens over the past weeks. DW speaks to analyst Arif Rafiq about what has triggered the resurgence of the conflict.
Conflicts between the Islamic Republic's Sunni Deobandi and Shiite Muslim groups have increased in brutality, frequency and mortality over the past several years. According to a Middle East Institute (MEI) report, approximately 2,300 people have died in the country's four main provinces and some 1,500 people have lost their lives in the tribal area of the Kurram Agency since 2007. Prominent members of both the Sunni and Shiite groups have fallen victim to the violence in nearly every main city in Pakistan.
The suicide bomb attacks on Shiite mosques of the past few weeks - which claimed the lives of more than 80 people - are being viewed by many as the deadliest sectarian incidents to have hit the South Asian country in over two years. They come as the Pakistani army has intensified efforts to fight militant groups following the Peshawar school attacks last December which left over 150 dead - most of them were children.
In a DW interview, Arif Rafiq, Pakistan analyst and author of the MEI report, talks about the reasons behind the sectarian conflict. The expert argues that while sectarianism has become mainstreamed in nearly all regions of Pakistan, the country is far from being divided on sectarian lines in the way Iraq and Syria have been.
DW: What has triggered the latest round of sectarian violence in Pakistan?
The latest round of sectarian violence in Pakistan is merely a continuation of the targeting of Shiite Muslims by various militant groups who are mainly from the Sunni sub-sect known as the Deobandis. They are one of three main Sunni subsects in Pakistan. The largest Sunni sub-sect, the Barelvis, is not in conflict with the Shiites and, in fact, increasingly cooperates with them on political issues.
And so it's important that we identify this as not a Sunni-Shiite conflict, but a conflict between Sunni Deobandi and Shiite Muslims - with Shiite civilians bearing the brunt of the violence.
In recent weeks, Shiites have been targeted by Lashkar-e Jhangvi (LeJ), Jundullah, and a faction of the Tehreek-e Taliban Pakistan (TTP). Some of these militant groups may focus on killing Shiites, while others may focus on targeting the Pakistani state.
But as a former senior Pakistani law enforcement official told me, the natural fallback position of most Sunni Deobandi militant groups - when other targets are unavailable - is anti-Shiite violence.
What has been at the core of the surge in sectarian violence in Pakistan since 2007?
There are multiple zones of Sunni Deobandi-Shiite sectarian violence in Pakistan and each arena has its own set of causes and networks behind the violence.
Talibanization has been the main causal factor behind anti-Shiite violence in the Kurram Agency near Afghanistan and the southern port city of Karachi. Shiites there resisted Talibanization, and the Pakistani Taliban sought to pummel them into submission.
With respect to Karachi, the TTP initially used the city for financing, logistics, and rest. But when it decided to engage in violence in the city, TTP terrorists - including militants absorbed from existing Sunni Deobandi networks - attacked Shiite neighborhoods and processions with mass casualty attacks.
In Balochistan, what we've seen is the indigenization of Sunni Deobandi militancy there with possible assistance from both anti-state Baloch separatists as well as elements of the Pakistani state.
But more specifically, the uptick in violence there can be attributed to the escape of LeJ commanders from a Quetta prison in suspicious circumstances. LeJ commanders Usman Kurd and Dawood Badini led a viscous campaign against Shiites in Balochistan - especially ethnic Hazaras - that verges on ethnic and religious cleansing.
Who exactly are the networks behind the clashes?
The main groups behind the anti-Shiite violence in Pakistan are Sunni Deobandi militant groups - namely Lashkar-e Jhangvi and the Tehreek-e Taliban Pakistan.
But with the establishment of an "IS" group in Pakistan's Federally Administered Tribal Areas, we may see Salafi jihadists like "IS" take part in anti-Shiite violence, especially in the Kurram Agency.
While reiterating that the greatest victims of this conflict are Shiite civilians, it must be noted that there are also active Shiite militant networks in Pakistan. Their violence has been reactive and largely restricted to targeting radicals and militants.
But in some instances, Shiite militant networks have gone beyond the regular tit-for-tat, engaging in violence that has exacerbated the sectarian conflict.
What does the TPP expect to gain by targeting Shiite mosques?
Shiites are easy targets for the TTP. If they cannot target the security forces, Shiites are the next best target for them. TTP militants also believe Shiites are disbelievers worthy of being killed. They exaggerate the extent of Shiite influence in Pakistan, often describing the army and government as Shiite or pro-Shiite.
What is the Pakistani government's position on this and how has it handled the situation?
The Pakistani government has largely failed to stem the tide of sectarian violence. That is not to say that the Pakistani federal and provincial governments have done nothing to prevent the killings of Shiites. The federal and provincial security forces provide security for Shiite processions, close off the border to prevent attacks during Shiite holy days, and have killed and arrested LeJ terrorists.
But at the same time, as one hand of the Pakistani state fights the LeJ and other terrorists, the other hand engages in deals with their political affiliates, such as the Ahl-e Sunnat Wal Jammat (ASWJ) group.
Politicians from most major political parties, especially the ruling Pakistan Muslim League - Nawaz Sharif's party, are guilty of engaging in electoral deals with the ASWJ, despite the group's public declaration that Shiite s are infidels.
And it's unclear whether the military regards anti-Shiite militant networks as great of a threat to Pakistan as expressly anti-state groups like the TTP. So the Pakistani state, in so much as we can regard it as a singular entity, lacks moral and strategic clarity when it comes to sectarian militancy.
Despite the good faith efforts of many elements within the Pakistani state to counter sectarian terrorists, the phenomenon will continue until the top civilian and military leadership confronts it unambiguously.
What can be done to role back the tide?
While sectarianism has become mainstreamed in nearly all regions of Pakistan, the country is far from being divided on sectarian lines in the way Iraq and Syria have been. By confronting the ideas and networks behind sectarian violence, the Pakistani state has the capacity to reverse its tide.
Provincial and local officials should enforce existing laws that empower it to curb hate speech and incitement and limit the movement of individuals on terrorist watch lists. The political leadership at the federal and provincial levels must bring radical Sunni Deobandi and Shiite leaders together, getting them to agree to a code of conduct.
The security services should continue operations against the LeJ and TTP in both the border regions with Afghanistan as well as in urban areas across in the country. And above all, the state must do no harm.
The military as well as civilian politicians need to ease out of partnerships with groups that foment hate toward Shiites and other minorities in the country. The longer Pakistan's leaders continue to directly or indirectly aid hate groups, the longer it will be struggling to put out the fires started with its own hands.
Vladimir Putin said the Russian military is ready to act decisively against any external threats. The president also added that in recent years, a lot of work to improve the effectiveness of Russia’s military administration has been carried out.
At a dinner in New York City, former mayor Rudy Giuliani questioned President Obama’s patriotism. Post opinion writer Jonathan Capehart wonders why no Republican of any stature is condemning Giuliani for his outrageous remarks.
The U.S. Justice Department will seek an emergency stay to block a decision by a federal judge and allow eligible immigrants to apply for benefits granted under President Obama's executive action, the White House said on Friday.
Immigration advocates have called on the administration to take legal action to reverse the injunction issued by U.S. District Judge Andrew Hanen that halted the issuance of work permits to eligible immigrants one day before the program's launch.
But seeking a stay comes with added headaches for the Obama administration.
Hanen must approve the stay and the Justice Department is concerned he could drag his feet or deny it.
Delaying a decision could keep the administration from filing an appeal in the 5th Circuit, where the decision would be taken out of Hanen's hands.
Approximately 4.7 million undocumented immigrants are expected to be granted relief from deportation under the program if it is allowed to go through.
The Justice Department will file paperwork to seek a stay by Monday, White House spokesman Josh Earnest said.