politics of cyberspace
Well, the long-awaited "other shoe" is finally dropping. It is clear that Washington has given Turkey a green light to crush the revolutionary Kurds—in Turkey, Syria and Iraq alike—as the price of Ankara's cooperation against ISIS. And it's also pretty clear that crushing the Kurds is far more of a priority for Ankara than fighting ISIS. The New York Times writes: "Turkey's new airstrikes...against the Islamic State...came alongside an equally intense barrage on Kurdish militants in Iraq, whose Syrian affiliates are also fighting the Islamic State." Equally intense or far more intense? Media accounts have few specifics of ISIS targets hit by the Turkish strikes. But Haaretz reports: "Turkish fighter jets launched their heaviest assault on Kurdish militants in northern Iraq overnight since airstrikes began last week... The F-16 jets hit six targets in Iraq and were scrambled from an air base in Turkey's southeastern province of Diyarbakir... Turkey began bombing PKK camps in northern Iraq last Friday in what government officials have said was a response to a series of killings of police officers and soldiers blamed on the Kurdish militant group."
A suicide bomb attack in the southern Turkish town of Suruc killed at least 30 people and injured some hundred more during a meeting of young activists to organize solidarity with the reconstruction of the neighboring town of Kobani across the Syrian border. The explosion took place during a press conference under a banner reading (in Turkish), "We defended it together, we're building it together." The 300-strong meeting was organized by the Federation of Socialist Youth Associations (SGDF), linked to Turkey's Socialist Party of the Oppressed, at Suruc's Amara Culture Center. Anarchists and other supporters of the Rojava Kurds were also in attendance, and among the dead. (BBC News, Rudaw, Hurriyet Daily News, Revolución Real Ya Facebook page, July 20) Street clashes broke out with police after the blasts, with youth chanting "Erdogan is a killer!" and "Martyrs are immortal!" Police used water cannons to disperse the angry crowd. The clashes reportedly started when police arrived on the scene in an armored vehicle even before ambulences, blocking the street and aiming their rifles at survivors. (Rudaw, NBC, Black Rose)
Bahraini King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa on July 13 released the president of the Bahrain Center for Human Rights, Nabeel Rajab, citing health reasons. Despite the release, the US State Department and Rajab himself expressed concern over continued efforts to limit free speech in the country. The State Department said recent events, including the re-arrest of opposition leader Ibrahim Sharif, detention and prosecution of Bahraini opposition figure Majeed Milad, and reopening of a case against Sheikh Ali Salman, the Secretary General of Al-Wefaq political opposition group, all threaten the "universal right enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which Bahrain is a party."
At the July 11 ceremony marking the 20th anniversary of the Srebrenica massacre in Bosnia-Herzegovina, Serbia's Prime Minister Aleksandar Vucic was chased off by stone-throwing protesters—the first violence at the annual commemoration. He later said he was hit in the face with a rock (although he was not injured) as the crowd chanted "Kill, kill" and "Allahu Akbar!" At issue is Serbia's official denialism on whether the massacre of more than 8,000 unarmed Bosnian Muslims after the town fell to Bosnian Serb forces in July 1995 constituted "genocide." Vucic wrote up a open letter for the ceremony that said: "Serbia clearly and unambiguously condemns this horrible crime and is disgusted with all those who took part in it and will continue to bring them to justice." But it (pointedly) did not use the word "genocide." The New York Times notes that Bosnian Muslims still recall Vucic's bloodthirty statement during the 1992-95 war that for every dead Serb, 100 Muslims should be killed. But much more to the point is that Serbia's government last week asked Russia to veto a UN Security Council resolution that would formally designate the Srebrenica massacre an act of genocide. (Jurist, July 5) On July 8, Russia obliged, with Moscow's Ambassador Vitaly Churkin calling the UK-drafted text "confrontational and politically-motivated." In Sarajevo, Munira Subasic, the head of Mothers of Srebrenica, told AFP that Russia's veto made "trust and reconciliation impossible." She added: "Russia is actually supporting criminals, those who killed our children. By deciding [to veto] Russia has left the door open for a new war." (Al Jazeera, July 9)
China's top legislature, the NPC Standing Committee, on July 1 adopted a controversial new National Security Law that increases cyber security powers. At its bi-monthly session, 155 members of the committee voted on the measure. The law will increase overseeing of the Internet in China, and authorities will now take tougher measures against cyber attacks, thefts and the spread of "harmful information." The law is one of three adopted in recent months to improve China's security and "strengthen ideological control over the public." The law also includes a cyberspace "sovereignty" clause, which covers assets and activities in space, the deep sea and the polar regions. Zhang Dejiang, chairman of the NPC, stated that the law is extremely important due to increasing security problems within China.
After an electoral season marred by narco-violence and assassination of candidates of all parties, the results from Mexico's June 7 vote are in. The coalition led by the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI), which ruled Mexico as a one-party state for 80 years, maintains its slim majority in the lower-house Chamber of Deputies, although it lost some seats. Gubernatorial races were also held in several states, including some hit especially hard by the cartel violence. The PRI gained the governorship of Guerrero, but lost control of Michoacán to the left opposition. In one upset, the PRI lost northern Nuevo León state to an independent, Jaime "El Bronco" Rodríguez Calderón—the first independent candidate to win a governorship in Mexico. The gadfly rancher survived two assassination attempts by the Zetas when he was mayor of García, a Monterrey suburb. His son was killed in an attempted abduction, and his young daughter kidnapped, although returned unharmed. El Bronco beat the PRI and other estabished parties with a populist campaign and invective against entrenched corruption. With the state's establishment press bitterly opposed to him, he made deft use of social media to mobilize support. (Reuters, BBC News, Televisa, CNN México, June 8)
A Saudi court on June 8 upheld blogger Raif Badawi's sentence of 10 years in prison and 1,000 lashes for "insulting Islam through electronic channels." The blogger ran the Liberal Saudi Network for four years before being arrested by Saudi authorities. Badawi was originally charged with insulting Islam for co-founding the religious discussion website Free Saudi Liberals. He was detained in June 2012, and his case was referred to the Public Court of Jeddah in December with a recommendation to try him for the crime of apostasy. Sharia-based Saudi law is not codified and judges do not follow a system of precedent; however, apostasy is a capital offense which can be punishable by death. The blogger received his first 50 lashes this January, but floggings have been delayed since, for reasons that have not been made public. A medical report shows that he was not fit for punishment.
A Muslim rights organization called June 3 for a thorough investigation into the fatal shooting of a Muslim man in Boston. The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) made the request a day after 26-year-old Usaama Rahim was killed by police after having been under surveillance by the Joint Terrorism Task Force. CAIR Director Jennifer Wicks also requested that authorities release video footage of the shooting, which shows the incident between Rahim and local police. Boston Police Commissioner William Evans told the Boston Herald that "military and law enforcement lives were at threat" and that the video shows the police officers "backtracking" as Rahim approached them.