“In deporting the Komis family, the Malaysian government has violated the international principle of non-refoulement, which prohibits the transfer of anyone, in any manner whatsoever, to a place where they would be at real risk to their safety,” Amnesty official Shamini Darshni Kaliemutu said in a statement.
The main U.S.-backed Syrian Kurdish militia has begun withdrawing its fighters from two towns near Turkey’s border, part of a deal for a so-called safe zone in northeastern Syria involving the U.S. and Turkey, the Kurdish-led regional administration in northern Syria said Tuesday. Turkey has been pressing for a safe zone, running east of the Euphrates River toward the Iraqi border, to push U.S.-allied Syrian Kurdish militias away from its frontier. Turkey wants to control — in coordination with the U.S. — a 19-25 mile (30-40 kilometer) deep zone within civil war-ravaged Syria. Turkey wants the region along its border to be clear of Syrian Kurdish forces and has threatened on numerous occasions to launch a new operation in Syria against Syrian Kurdish forces if such a zone is not established. Turkey sees the Syrian Kurdish fighters, who make up the majority of the Syrian Democratic Forces and are allied with the U.S., as terrorists aligned with a Kurdish insurgency within Turkey. American troops are stationed in northeast Syria, along with the Kurdish forces, and have fought the Islamic State group together. The differing positions on the Kurdish fighters have become a major source of tension between NATO allies Turkey and the U.S. The administration said “the first step” in these understandings began three days ago in the town of Ras al-Ayn, from where members of the militia known as YPG withdrew with their heavy weapons. The statement that was read by Zeidan al-Assi, head of defense office at the
Syrian government forces looked set to recover a strategic town that has been in rebel hands since 2014 in a major Russian-backed offensive into the opposition’s last major stronghold. An organisation that monitors the war and a pro-Damascus military source said insurgents had withdrawn from Khan Sheikhoun overnight, though the main insurgent group in the area said rebels still held part of the town and fighting continued. Capturing Khan Sheikhoun would be an important gain for President Bashar al-Assad into the northwestern region where his bid to recover “every inch” of Syria has hit complications including Turkish forces on the ground. Syrian state media, in a broadcast from near the town, reported that government forces had widened their control including by seizing a highway running through Khan Sheikhoun, which was targeted in a sarin gas attack in 2017. The pro-Damascus military source told Reuters the town was under army control after the rebels were caught in a pincer movement and fled. “There are some pockets and explosive devices, there are a few who refuse to withdraw and want to die,” the source said. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a UK-based war monitoring group, said rebels had withdrawn from their last piece of territory in neighbouring Hama province in addition to Khan Sheikhoun. The most powerful insurgent group in the area, the jihadist Hayat Tahrir al-Sham, denied this and said the battle continued. In a statement on its Telegram channel, Hayat Tahrir al-Sham said rebels still held part of Khan
A leaked UAE intelligence document shows Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman has been pursuing a “strategic plan” aimed at weakening the government of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who has adopted a tough position against Riyadh over the state-sponsored assassination of dissident journalist Jamal Khashoggi. Entitled “Monthly Report on Saudi Arabia, Issue 24, May 2019,” the confidential document was written by the Emirates Policy Centre and obtained by the Middle East Eye news portal. It revealed that bin Salman had decided to confront Turkey following the murder of Khashoggi — an outspoken critic of the heir to the Saudi throne — by a Saudi hit team inside the kingdom’s consulate in Istanbul, Turkey, on October 2, 2018. Ankara has been pressing the Saudis, in vain, to cooperate in a probe into the crime, which Erdogan says has been ordered by the highest ranks of authorities in Riyadh. The CIA has concluded that bin Salman had ordered the murder of Khashoggi — who had been brutally dismembered inside Riyadh’s mission. According to the leaked document, the Saudi scheme involves mounting pressure on Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s administration, slashing Saudi investment in Turkey and sidelining Ankara in issues of the Muslim world. The plan would use “all possible tools to pressure Erdogan’s government, weaken him, and keep him busy with domestic issues in the hope that he will be brought down by the opposition, or occupy him with confronting crisis after crisis, and push him to slip up and make mistakes which
Turkey’s combative president is threatening to launch a military operation in northeastern Syria that is designed to push back U.S.-allied Syrian Kurdish forces — an invasion that carries major risks for a highly combustible region in war-devastated Syria. An operation would mark the third Turkish incursion into Syria in the past four years — all seeking to limit the growing influence of Syrian Kurdish fighters, which Turkey views as terrorist along its border. Turkish and American military officials were meeting Monday and Tuesday in Ankara for last-ditch negotiations amid warnings from Turkish officials about a military buildup. Here’s a look at what Turkey wants and what could happen if it invades northern Syria: WHAT DOES TURKEY WANT? Turkey wants to establish a safe zone 19 to 25 miles (30 to 40 kilometers) deep east of the Euphrates River in Syria, all the way to the Iraqi border. That effectively amounts to almost all the territory in northeastern Syria that is currently controlled by Syrian Kurdish fighters from the People’s Protection Units, or YPG. The YPG forms the backbone of the Syrian Democratic Forces, or SDF, America’s only partners on the ground in Syria. This has deeply infuriated Turkey and been a major source of tensions between Washington and Ankara in the past few years. With U.S. backing, the SDF has spearheaded the fight against the Islamic State group on the ground, announcing the territorial defeat of the extremist group in March. Turkey considers the YPG an existential threat and as
Turkey celebrated incoming British prime minister Boris Johnson’s Turkish heritage on Wednesday, with politicians and media proclaiming that the “Ottoman grandson” could strengthen ties between two countries on Europe’s fringes. The former London mayor is the great-grandson of the Ottoman Empire’s last interior minister, Ali Kemal, and his ancestry has been a source of pride for many Turks. Despite his sometimes disparaging remarks about Turkey, including a crude limerick about President Tayyip Erdogan and demands in 2016 that Britain veto Turkey’s accession to the European Union, Johnson is affectionately referred to as “Boris the Turk” by some Turkish media. “Ottoman grandson becomes prime minister,” read a front-page headline of the opposition newspaper Sozcu. “For England, a prime minister with roots in Cankiri,” it said, referring to Kemal’s home province in central Turkey. Like Johnson, his great-grandfather was a journalist who went into government, a move that proved ill-fated. In the final days of the Ottoman Empire, Kemal was captured and lynched by nationalists fighting to establish the Turkish state. Erdogan congratulated Johnson on Twitter, adding that ties between Turkey and the United Kingdom were set to improve. Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu also congratulated him, sharing a video of Turkish reporters asking Johnson about his roots in Cankiri during a 2016 visit to Ankara. Demiroren News Agency quoted a resident of Cankiri’s Kalfat village as saying it was an honour that someone from their village had become prime minister, adding that Johnson owed his distinctive mop of blond hair to his
An Istanbul court on Wednesday acquitted the Turkey representative for Reporters Without Borders (RSF) as well as two other campaigners for press freedom on trial for terrorism charges, their lawyers said. RSF representative Erol Onderoglu, Human Rights Foundation of Turkey president Sebnem Korur Fincanci and author Ahmet Nesin were jailed briefly in 2016 but later released as their trial continued. The defendants were accused of carrying out terrorist propaganda and incitement to crime after guest-editing Ozgur Gundem, a newspaper on Kurdish issues, and campaigning against efforts to censor it. Lawyer Meric Eyuboglu said the verdict was bittersweet because others who also guest-edited the newspaper had received jail sentences. “We were thinking that they would receive a sentence because of the verdicts in other similar cases and the political juncture we are going through,” she said. “We had a surprise today and they were acquitted,” added the lawyer, who represented Fincanci. Eyuboglu said Onderoglu also faces a separate legal case for supporting academics put on trial for signing a letter calling for an end to the conflict between Turkish security forces and the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK). “GREAT VICTORY” Paris-based RSF welcomed the verdict but called for charges in the separate case against Onderoglu to be dropped. “We are deeply relieved by @ErolOnderoglu’s and his colleague’s acquittal. BUT 3 years of absurd proceedings was already a form of unjust punishment,” it said on Twitter. Ozgur Gundem was closed down under a crackdown during a state of emergency after an abortive coup