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Two Vice News reporters and an Iraqi fixer were arrested in southern Turkey last Thursday after filming clashes between security forces and pro-Kurdish PKK youth. Jake Hanrahan, Philip Pendlebury, and Mohamed Ismail Rasool were charged by a judge in Diyarbikar, a Kurdish city in southeastern Turkey, with being members of the Islamic State and will stand trial for being members of a terrorist organization. Vice News condemned the terrorism charges, stating that Turkey is suppressing vital coverage. Clashes between Turkish authorities and the Kurdistan Worker’s Party (PKK) are returning to southern Turkey after the collapse of the 2013 ceasefire and peace process.
When asked about the Vice News journalists, State Department Spokesperson Mark Toner stated that the United States has conveyed its concerns to the Turkish government and “freedom of expression, including for journalists, and due process are key elements in every healthy democracy and is enshrined in the Turkish constitution.” Toner added that “we want PKK to stop its attacks.” Amnesty International called for the immediate release of the journalists, claiming the arrests are “yet another example of the Turkish authorities suppressing the reporting of stories that are embarrassing to them.”
Meanwhile, in …
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An Egyptian court delivered sentences for three Al-Jazeera journalists who were charged with reporting “false news” and conspiring with the Muslim Brotherhood. Canadian national Mohammed Fahmy, Australian Peter Greste (sentenced in absentia), and Egyptian Baher Mohammed each received 3 years in prison, and Mr. Mohammed received an additional 6 months on a separate charge for possessing a bullet which he picked up during a protest.
The British Ambassador John Casson joined the U.S. Department of State and the Canadian Foreign Ministry in voicing concern over the sentencing and was summoned by the Egyptian government, which claimed that his statements were an “unacceptable intervention in Egyptian judicial rulings” and that “Egypt does not need lessons from anyone.”
Mr. Fahmy’s lawyer Amal Clooney stated that the case serves as “a dangerous precedent” and it is concerning that “that journalists can be locked up simply for reporting the news and courts can be used as political tools.” Al-Jazeera’s head of legal services commented, saying that the Qatar-based company intends to appeal the decision. Phillip Luther, the director of the Middle East and North Africa division at Amnesty International, called the decision “farcical” and the accusations baseless, …
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Marching under banners of “#YouStink,” tens of thousands of protesters reportedly converged on Martyr’s Square in Beirut again this weekend to protest the garbage crisis in Lebanon. What began as peaceful protests was soon broken up by police force for the second consecutive weekend without an official government response. The protesters’ grievances against the government are widening to include the lack of basic services such as electricity and water and the absence of general government accountability.
Calls for the first parliamentary elections since 2009 and the resignation of Environment Minister Mohammad Mashnuq marked the second week of the “You Stink” campaign, a civil society movement that began as a reaction to the government’s inability to agree on trash disposal that has grown into a movement unifying the diverse political and religious sects in Lebanon. Lebanese politicians have begun to laud the protests through statements and on social media.
The movement appears to have at least temporarily united disparate Lebanese groups. The editorial board at the Christian Science Monitor posited that faith, which has long divided Lebanon, could be the key to political change, praising the protest’s focus on sustainability and nonviolence. Citing a form of citizenship “based …
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Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has announced a ‘re-run’ election following the expiration of a 45-day period in which the newly elected parliament was tasked with building a coalition government. President Erdogan’s Justice and Development Party (AKP) failed to gain a majority in the June parliamentary elections for the first time since 2002, which resulted in the party seeking out potential coalition partners. The election also saw the emergence of the pro-Kurdish People’s Democracy Party (HDP), which many credit for denying the AKP the critical majority.
AKP leadership met with both the Republican People’s Party (CHP) and Nationalist Movement Party (MHP), yet after negotiations, neither party was willing to form a coalition. The Turkish constitution mandates that a new round of elections be scheduled 90 days after the deadline ends, which in this case, seems to be around or on November 1.
Regarding the upcoming elections, Michael Werz, a senior fellow at the Center for American Progress, stated that, “Most recent opinion polls that we have seen have the AKP actually losing slightly, the Kurdish Party being as strong as they were before, and the opposition actually gaining a few percentage points.” The continued uncertainty …
On Wednesday, the first U.S. manned airstrikes against the Islamic State took off from Incirlik, Air Base in Eastern Turkey. The United States sent six F-16 jets and approximately 300 airmen to the base on Sunday, August 9 after Turkey accepted U.S. requests to use these facilities as launching pads for manned aircraft strikes in Syria and Northern Iraq just last month. The use of air bases in Incirlik (and Diyarbakir) authorized last month mark a significant departure from Turkey’s initial unwillingness to actively support air campaigns against Islamic State targets.
For almost four months, tense negotiations between American and Turkish officials regarding joint military cooperation left U.S. policy makers frustrated, with some decision-makers calling the option of using Incirlik facilities a “test of [Turkey's] sincerity”. Despite recent disagreements between the two countries regarding the Islamic State, Turkey and the United States have historically shared a fairly benign military relationship. Since 2002, Turkey was considered to be a “key ally” in the “War on Terror”, and received more than $73 million in U.S. assistance that year. According to the Security Assistance Monitor, military and police assistance to Turkey topped $5.2 million, and arms sales reached $543 …