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The Turkish Parliament, with President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s support, approved a controversial constitutional amendment that would strip the immunity of Turkish Members of Parliament (MP). The amendment passed the parliament 376 – 174, easily surpassing the required 367 majority. This move could lead to the arrest and trial of 139 Turkish MPs of the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) for terrorism charges in connection with their alleged relationship with the outlawed Kurdistan Worker’s Party (PKK). The HDP denies any connection and states that its continued existence as a parliamentary party is threatened by the amendment.
President Erdogan, in a speech just before the conclusion of the vote in parliament, emphasized that the amendment was necessary, as the Turkish people did not want “criminal” lawmakers as their representation in the legislature. This move is seen by some as an effort to silence opposing voices as President Erdogan seeks to consolidate power through a constitutional amendment that would shift the Turkish government from a parliamentary to a presidential system. There are “deep misgivings” about the “increasing authoritarianism” of the President. If the HDP MPs are arrested, it is feared that there will be violence in …
Photo Credit: Fadel Senna
Last Wednesday, the Moroccan Foreign Ministry summoned U.S. Ambassador Dwight Bush to protest the State Department’s annual Country Reports on Human Rights Practices. A day after the Moroccan Interior Ministry called the 40-page document “outrageous,” Bush met with Minister Delegate for Foreign Affairs Nasser Bourita and head of Moroccan intelligence Mohamed Yassine Mansouri, where Bourita and Mansouri questioned multiple sections of the report. The Moroccan government said the report was full of “inventions and lies,” and Morocco’s Foreign Ministry questioned the “true aims and motivation” of the document. In the report, the State Department alleged that Moroccan authorities had tortured detainees and restricted freedom of speech by detaining and repressing journalists during 2015. It also highlighted rampant corruption throughout the country.
State Department spokesman John Kirby rejected criticism of the report, saying “the Department of State stands by the information contained in the 2015 Country Report on Human Rights Practices in Morocco.” In a statement to Reuters, the U.S. Embassy in Morocco also said that despite the the State Department’s findings, the United States looks forward to “continue[d] close cooperation with the Ministry of Interior on our shared security and human rights interests.”
Photo Credit: New York Times
Faezeh Hashemi, daughter of former Iranian president Ayatollah Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, touched off a debate concerning Iran’s treatment of the country’s religious minority Baha’i population after she visited with Baha’i activist Fariba Kamalabadi during the latter’s furlough from prison. Hashemi and Kamalabadi met in 2013 when they shared a jail cell at Evin prison. Kamalabadi was sentenced to 20 years in 2010, along with six other Baha’i community leaders, on charges of “espionage for Israel,” “insulting religious sanctities,” and “propaganda against the system.” Hashemi joined Kamalabadi at Evin when she was given a six-month sentence for “spreading propaganda against the system.”
Hashemi stated that before her imprisonment, she did not have any information about the Baha’is. “But with the Islamic Republic imprisoning me,” she said, “I became familiar with them, and this opened another window in my life.”
The Iranian Baha’i population, which currently numbers around 300,000, has been persecuted since the 1979 Islamic Revolution on the grounds that “their belief in another prophet after Muhammad is anathema to Shiite Muslim clerics, who consider Muhammad the final messenger of God.” Because of this, Baha’is are considered “impure” and are prohibited from pursuing …
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At a conference co-chaired by U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and his Italian counterpart Paolo Gentiloni in Vienna, foreign ministers from over 20 countries declared support of Libya’s Government of National Accord (GNA) and the loosening of the UN arms embargo on Libya in effort to counter the Islamic State (IS). “It is imperative to put the international community’s full weight behind the Government of National Accord. And the GNA is the only entity that can unify the country and address the economic crisis and humanitarian suffering” Kerry said at a joint press conference held by himself, Gentolini, and Libyan Prime Minister Fayez al-Sarraj.
At the press conference, Kerry outlined five necessary steps for generating “the unity and the cohesion” required to defeat the Islamic State. He called on the Libyan House of Representatives (HoR) to vote on the GNA, urged continued international support for the Presidency Council’s role, and support for requested exemptions from the UN arms embargo. The GNA intends to submit “appropriate arms embargo exemption requests to the UN Libya Sanctions Committee” in order to procure the necessary weapons and material to combat IS throughout the country.”We are, all of …
Photo Credit: Daily Star Lebanon
For the first time since 2010, Lebanon held municipal elections to elect the country’s local governing bodies, and subsequent rounds are scheduled throughout the month of May. These elections were not only the first elections to take place since the beginning of the “You Stink” campaign or the Syrian refugee crisis, but it was also the first time that a list of technocratic independents not belonging to the political elites had a viable opportunity to contest the established framework. Despite some optimism about the polls, turnout was reportedly quite low, with estimates at around 20 percent.
The independent list, known as Beirut Madinati, consisted of professors, architects, engineers, and artists with and evenly divided representation of men, women, Muslims, and Christians. The group ran on a 10-point platform focused primarily on “quality-of-life issues” such as traffic, greenery in the public space, and waste management. They reportedly refused funding or help from veteran politicians. Beirut Madinati ultimately lost to former Prime Minister Saad Hariri’s “Beirutis” – garnering 40 percent of the vote but gaining no seats in Lebanon’s “winner-take-all,” first-past-the-post system – the election demonstrated that, “In a country and a region where sectarian discourse …