Saturday, October 24, 2015

US Reacts to #Gezi Sentences: Unacceptable to prosecute medical professionals

Yesterday was another day that will be remembered as a very dark black day for Turkey's democracy.

Let's look: ''A local court in Istanbul has sentenced 244 participants in the 2013 Gezi protests to jail time for a range of crimes, including “polluting a mosque.”

The 55th Criminal Court of First Instance in Istanbul on Oct. 23 sentenced 244 of 255 defendants to between two months, 15 days and one year, two-months 16 days’ imprisonment. Only four of the defendants were acquitted, while charges against four suspects were separated from the case file.''

Yet, this is not the worst. Here it comes: ''The four defendants who were sentenced for “polluting a mosque” were doctors who provided emergency aid to protesters in the Dolmabahçe Bezm-i Alem Valide Sultan Mosque in Beşiktaş, where protesters injured in a police attack were being treated.''

AKP's judiciary succeeded sentencing doctors for treating injured protestors. This should be considered as nirvana of backsliding. When I was in Damascus in January of 2012, I visited a local hospital and chief physician described me how the Assad regime arrest medical professional just because treating protestors. I listened to Syrian doctor in awe then. Thanks to AKP government, Turkey quickly caught up with Assad's treatments. This is a big success for sure!

US: Unacceptable to prosecute medical professionals
I reached out to the State Department and asked them if they have any comments about the sentences. A State Department official sent an email said ''it is unacceptable to prosecute medical professionals for treating injured people.''

Official, who did not give any name, further stated: ''Freedoms of expression and assembly are universal human rights.  We support the right of citizens to peaceful protest.''

US State Department statements ended by calling on Turkey once more to uphold the fundamental freedoms of all its citizens: '' We call on Turkey, as we call on countries around the world, to meet the highest standards for transparency, timeliness, and fairness in the judicial system, and to uphold the fundamental freedoms of all its citizens.''

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Pentagon: US has concerns over Syrian Kurds expanding non-Kurdish territory in Syria

US Defense Department's Cmdr. Elissa Smith who oversees the Syria file, responded my questions re latest airdrop of ammunition in northern Syria.

Smith stated: "This airdrop supported Arab groups. We share the concern of our Turkish partners over the sensitivity of expanding Kurdish control into traditionally non-Kurdish areas in Syria."

I never heard Pentagon or any US officials expressing "concerns" regarding Syrian Kurds' expanding in non-Kurdish areas in Syria. With this statement, seems like US supports Turkey's "red line" which is for PYD or YPG not to cross over Jarablus and expand to west to link Afrin canton with Kobani.

Smith also stated clearly that the Syrian Kurds did not receive the latest ammunition airdrop occurred over the weekend in the same exclusive statement: "We've said that we support counter-ISIL forces. Counter-ISIL ground forces include Syrian Arabs, Kurds, Turkoman and other groups native to the region. The particular recipients of this ammunition were Syrian Arab groups."

During Tuesday's press briefing at the State Department, spokesperson Mark Toner did not want to comment explicitly whether Syrian Kurds also received part of ammunition drop.

Smith concluded in her 3 paragraph statement with this: "This successful airdrop provided ammunition to Syrian groups whose leaders were appropriately vetted by the United States and have been fighting to remove ISIL from northern Syria. The airdrop includes small arms ammunition. Due to operational security we will not have any further details about the groups that received these supplies, their location, or the type of equipment in the airdrop."

Thursday, October 08, 2015

US State Department Spox Kirby's Turkey statements explained

Briefer: John Kirby, Spokesperson

US Spox John Kirby's response to my question on Thursday:

Red snippets to explain Kirby's remarks made by me.

QUESTION:  Thank you.  There are three weeks left in Turkey for next election – repeat elections.  And only within 24 hours, if I try to count here how many cracks down on Turkish press happen, I think it would take a lot of time.  My question is whether you have any issue or you are concerned that this coming election within just three weeks may not be as transparent or under the regular, normal circumstances because of the opposition maybe is under this huge crackdown.

MR KIRBY:  As I’ve said before, we’ve seen reports of the ban particularly on some media, some TV channels.  
Mr. Kirby references here the biggest digital platform for broadcasting, Digiturk and another similar platform's Tivibu's droppings of critical TV channels in recent days. Most of these TVs affiliated with the Gulen Group.

As I said before, we’re concerned by the increasing number of investigations into media outlets for criticism of the government and for accusations of allegedly disseminating terrorist propaganda. 
Mr. Kirby mostly likely referring to recent investigations into Hurriyet, one of most influential newspapers in Turkey.

We’re also concerned by the aggressive use of judicial inquiries to curb free speech.
Hundreds of Turkey's citizens, including journalists, activists, Kurds and Alevis are investigated by courts for allegedly insulting president Erdogan. This number "insulting president" cases now believed to be close to 1000 only after 13 months that Mr. Erdogan has been president.

We call on Turkey, as we have in the past, to respect the media freedoms and due process protections that are enshrined in the Turkish constitution itself.
Indeed, US State Department has been calling on Turkey to respect freedom of press dozens of times in recent months.

And obviously, we want to see free, fair, credible elections there. 
US shows it has worries about the circumstances in Turkey and whether the elections will be held with universal standards.

We want to see the voice of everybody in Turkey involved in shaping their own future.
Something I never heard from the US State department

That’s important to us.  And more critically, we believe it’s important for the Turkish people.

QUESTION:  It’s fair to say you are concerned, then, about --
MR KIRBY:  I just said we remain concerned by these reports.

Monday, October 05, 2015

US Sees "clear separation between YPG and PKK"

Daily Press Briefing Index Monday, October 5, 2015
Briefer: Mark Toner, Deputy Spokesperson

My questions to Mark Toner during daily press briefing:

QUESTION: Two quick questions. One is that just to follow up on the YPG question, are you aware of the many of the PKK militants joining the YPG? If you are, do you think this kind of makes more blurry about the separation between the YPG and PKK?
MR TONER: Sure. I’m – sorry, just to make sure I am I aware of elements of the PKK joining with the YPG?

US: there is clear separation between YPG and PKK
MR TONER: I’m not, so it’s hard for me to answer that question. We’ve always seen a clear separation between the two – excuse me. It’s unclear whether these individuals, if that were to happen – whether they renounced their affiliation. I just don’t know. I don’t have enough information about it. We obviously view, as I just said, the PKK as a terrorist organization.
QUESTION: (Off-mike.)
MR TONER: Let’s let him finish, and then I’ll --
QUESTION: In light of today’s Russian incursion into Syrian airspace -- 
MR TONER: In Turkish airspace.
QUESTION: Russian incursion into Turkish, yes. Do you think the ISIL-free zone in the in north of Syria by the Turkey border now the plans to create that territory is more or harder than before?

MR TONER: Well, first of all, as Matt and I just touched on or I touched on with Matt, is this incursion into Turkish airspace has demonstrated the importance of consultation and restraint in shaping an international response. Frankly, we view this incursion as reckless, and it’s dangerous, provocative, and it can cause accidents and miscalculation and risks the safety of airmen and airwomen in Turkey and elsewhere. So we would have serious concerns about that.

US: NFZ is not necessary
As to the creation of sorry a zone or a no-fly zone or whatever we call it, we’ve been pretty clear about the fact that we don’t think it’s necessary and we don’t think it’s feasible on the ground. It involves a lot of logistical support that we don’t have in place right now to maintain such a venture.
QUESTION: But you agreed with Turkey to remove ISIL elements from that area by the Turkish border. Is that still the understanding?
MR TONER: Well, of course. That absolutely has not changed at all. I mean, we are in close consultations with Turkey. We just differ on the need for a no-fly zone. And as I said, they entail a set of logistical questions how to enforce it, what it needs in terms of equipment, support, et cetera. DOD would be much more able to answer some of those details and what it involves, but we just don’t support it. That said, we have been very clear about the need to work with Turkey on securing its border. That’s absolutely one of our priorities.

US calls on Turkey to respect the media freedoms
QUESTION: Thank you. Mark, since you have briefing here last time for about 10 days ago, there is a one of the most well-known journalists in Turkey got beaten up in front of his house in Turkey, and many human rights organizations are protesting. So far Mr. President Erdogan has not condemned the incident. Today, there is another major newspaper’s head resigned in Turkey, citing some of the pressure on the newspaper. I was wondering if you have anything more on the press freedom issues in Turkey.
MR TONER: Sure. You’re talking, I think, about the attack on Ahmet Hakan. 
MR TONER: Yeah, Turkish journalist. We’re obviously deeply disturbed by this brutal attack. We urge Turkish authorities to investigate thoroughly and to prosecute the perpetrators in accordance with Turkish law. And more broadly, we call on Turkey to respect the media freedoms and the due process protections that are enshrined in the Turkish constitution as well as in its OSCE commitments. 

Friday, October 02, 2015

US Calls on Turkey to ''its utmost to ensure the safety of journalists''

US State Department spokesperson Katy Bondy, sent these exclusive statements regarding 'organized assault' against Turkish journalist Ahmet Hakan. More information re assault on Ahmet Hakan can be found here:   

''We are deeply disturbed by the attack on Turkish journalist Ahmet Hakan and urge Turkish authorities to investigate thoroughly this incident and to prosecute the perpetrators in accordance with Turkish law.
We call on Turkey to respect the media freedoms and due process protections that are enshrined in the Turkish constitution and in OSCE commitments.  We also call on Turkey to do its utmost to ensure the safety and security of journalists.

Turkey needs more, not fewer, voices discussing critical issues right now.''