June 26, 2019  

Two new flags will be flying high at the Olympic Games in Rio.

For the first time, South Sudan and Kosovo have been recognized by the International Olympic Committee. Kosovo, which was a province of the former Yugoslavia, will have 8 athletes competing; and a good shot for a medal in women's judo: Majlinda Kelmendi is considered a favorite. She's ranked first in the world in her weight class.

(South Sudan's James Chiengjiek, Yiech Biel & coach Joe Domongole, © AFP) South Sudan, which became independent in 2011, will have three runners competing in the country's first Olympic Games.

When Will Chile's Post Office's Re-open? 

(PHOTO: Workers set up camp at Santiago's Rio Mapocho/Mason Bryan, The Santiago Times)Chile nears 1 month without mail service as postal worker protests continue. This week local branches of the 5 unions representing Correos de Chile voted on whether to continue their strike into a 2nd month, rejecting the union's offer. For a week the workers have set up camp on the banks of Santiago's Río Mapocho displaying banners outlining their demands; framing the issue as a division of the rich & the poor. The strike’s main slogan? “Si tocan a uno, nos tocan a todos,” it reads - if it affects 1 of us, it affects all of us. (Read more at The Santiago Times)

WHO convenes emergency talks on MERS virus


(PHOTO: Saudi men walk to the King Fahad hospital in the city of Hofuf, east of the capital Riyadh on June 16, 2013/Fayez Nureldine)The World Health Organization announced Friday it had convened emergency talks on the enigmatic, deadly MERS virus, which is striking hardest in Saudi Arabia. The move comes amid concern about the potential impact of October's Islamic hajj pilgrimage, when millions of people from around the globe will head to & from Saudi Arabia.  WHO health security chief Keiji Fukuda said the MERS meeting would take place Tuesday as a telephone conference & he  told reporters it was a "proactive move".  The meeting could decide whether to label MERS an international health emergency, he added.  The first recorded MERS death was in June 2012 in Saudi Arabia & the number of infections has ticked up, with almost 20 per month in April, May & June taking it to 79.  (Read more at Xinhua)



Dreams and nightmares - Chinese leaders have come to realize the country should become a great paladin of the free market & democracy & embrace them strongly, just as the West is rejecting them because it's realizing they're backfiring. This is the "Chinese Dream" - working better than the American dream.  Or is it just too fanciful?  By Francesco Sisci

Baby step towards democracy in Myanmar  - While the sweeping wins Aung San Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy has projected in Sunday's by-elections haven't been confirmed, it is certain that the surging grassroots support on display has put Myanmar's military-backed ruling party on notice. By Brian McCartan

The South: Busy at the polls - South Korea's parliamentary polls will indicate how potent a national backlash is against President Lee Myung-bak's conservatism, perceived cronyism & pro-conglomerate policies, while offering insight into December's presidential vote. Desire for change in the macho milieu of politics in Seoul can be seen in a proliferation of female candidates.  By Aidan Foster-Carter  

Pakistan climbs 'wind' league - Pakistan is turning to wind power to help ease its desperate shortage of energy,& the country could soon be among the world's top 20 producers. Workers & farmers, their land taken for the turbine towers, may be the last to benefit.  By Zofeen Ebrahim

Turkey cuts Iran oil imports - Turkey is to slash its Iranian oil imports as it seeks exemptions from United States penalties linked to sanctions against Tehran. Less noticed, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, in the Iranian capital last week, signed deals aimed at doubling trade between the two countries.  By Robert M. Cutler



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Entries in Turkey (12)


Malaria spread feared as WHO releases action plan to tackle global spread of insecticide-resistant mosquitoes (REPORT) 

(Video World Malaria Day, 2012/WHO)

By Amy Maxmen

The war to bring malaria to heel has made slow but steady progress during the past decade, with the overall mortality rate dropping by more than 25% since 2000. A key factor in this progress has been improved control of mosquitoes, which transmit the Plasmodium parasite — a potent killer that claimed an estimated 655,000 lives in 2010 alone. But health officials fear that the spread of insecticide-resistant mosquitoes could bring about a resurgence of the disease. To help combat this threat, on May 15, the World Health Organization (WHO), based in Geneva, Switzerland, issued a strategic plan to curb the spread of resistance.

“We don’t want to wait for failures to happen,” says David Brandling-Bennett, the senior adviser for infectious diseases at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation in Seattle, Washington, who advised on the document.

Such failures could reverse the recent drop in malaria mortality credited to insecticide spraying in the home and coating of bed nets, which save about 220,000 children’s lives each year, according to the WHO. Insecticide resistance could also result in as many as 26 million further cases a year, the organization predicts, costing an extra US $30 million to $60 million annually for tests and medicines.

The WHO report says that insecticide-resistant mosquitoes already inhabit 64 malaria-ridden countries (see map).

The problem is particularly acute in sub-Saharan African countries such as Benin, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Côte d’Ivoire, Ghana, Ethiopia and Uganda, where mosquitoes are frequently resistant to compounds known as pyrethroids and even to the organochloride DDT, venerable tools of mosquito control. Because they are extremely safe for children, effective against mosquitoes and affordable, pyrethroids are the only insecticides used to treat bed nets, as well as the first choice for household spraying.

Health authorities in Somalia, Sudan and Turkey have also reported sporadic resistance to the two other classes of insecticides recommended by the WHO for safe and effective household spraying: carbamates and organophosphates. Resistance has probably evolved several times independently, and is now spreading as extensive use of pyrethroids and other insecticides favors resistant mosquitoes. “In 2004, there were pockets of resistance in Africa, and now there are pockets of susceptibility,” says Janet Hemingway, chief executive of the Innovative Vector Control Consortium (IVCC), a product-development partnership based in the United Kingdom.

(MAP: Global malaria map, 2012/WHO) Among other things, the WHO recommends rotating the classes of pesticides used to spray houses, and developing safe and effective non-pyrethroid insecticides that can be used to treat bed nets. To implement all of the WHO’s suggestions would cost $200 million - on top of the $6 billion that the WHO requested last year to fund existing malaria-control programs. Rob Newman, director of the Global Malaria Program at the WHO, hopes that the report will draw more funds to the table as donors grasp the situation. “If we can stop pyrethroid resistance from spreading, it will be cheaper in the long run,” Newman says.

“In 2004, there were pockets of resistance in Africa, and now there are pockets of susceptibility.”

But the two largest players in malaria aid - the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, and the US President’s Malaria Initiative (PMI) - have not yet pledged additional money to fight resistance. Their spending on mosquito control is already high - in 2009, 39% of the Global Fund’s malaria expenditures went towards insecticide-treated bed nets and household spraying, as did 59% of the PMI’s in 2010.  

For now, pyrethroids are the only class of insecticides approved by the WHO for bed nets, and where spraying is concerned they are less costly than the alternatives. Vestergaard Frandsen, a company based in Lausanne, Switzerland, says that it has in the pipeline a bed net coated with a non-pyrethroid insecticide - one that does not belong to any of the four WHO-approved classes - and that the company expects to bring this to market within the next five years. It is also one of several companies partnering with the IVCC to create innovative mosquito-control products.

(PHOTO: Malaria `home test'/NoProphalactics)In the meantime, health officials may be able to keep malaria at bay by swapping insecticides. The report notes that in Colombia, for instance, mosquitoes regained susceptibility to pyrethroids after five years of treatment with an organophosphate. But some African countries lack the surveillance needed to spur such an approach. To address that deficiency, the report urges that a global database be set up to track the spread of resistance, and that entomologists be trained and hired at surveillance stations. That could prove the most challenging goal of all.

“Nobody wants to fund capacity building,” says Newman. “Donors would rather say they purchased $10,000 in bed nets than pay a salary.”

African ministers of health realize the need to manage resistance but can’t do much without outside funds, explains Maureen Coetzee, a medical entomologist at the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg, South Africa. “In some countries, malaria control means one person sitting in one room, and he’s lucky if he’s got a chair,” she says.

- This report originally appeared by Amy Maxmen at Nature.


Islamic States Announce Own Media Channel (REPORT) 

(PHOTO: Opening ceremony of the Information Minsiters meeting of the OIC, Gabon/IINA)(HN, April 18, 2012) - Today, Information Ministers of the member States of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) started the 9th Islamic Conference of Information Ministers (ICIM); a three-day meeting in the capital of Gabon, Libreville hosted by President Ali Bongo Ondimba.

The group is focusing its attention on  "Information Technologies in the service of peace and development” at the Conference Palace in Democracy City and is being attended by a group of ministers and delegates representing 57 member countries.

Morocco who is Chair of the 9th session, and other member representatives, made speeches in which they stressed the importance of the meeting being held during a time characterized by "a multitude of challenges in the world in general, and in the Muslim Ummah world in particular.  

Speakers urged broadcasters to counter stereotypes about Islam and Muslims in the Western media and asked that the adoption by the Seventh Islamic Conference of Culture Ministers held in Algeria in December of a resolution to create a new Islam media channel, be implemented as soon as possible.

Already the organization has been working on a comprehensive plan to combat prejudice against Islam and Muslim communities with a view to developing campaigns to foster respect for cultural and religious pluralism and diversity, while raising awareness of the positive contributions of Muslims to promote tolerance and understanding.

The OIC Secretary General Ekmelddin Ihsanoglu said, "We are keen to have an OIC outlet to present to the world the true picture of both the Islamic civilization and religion."

The Islamic Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (ISESCO) is also taking part in the conference and Dr. El Mahjoub Bensaid, presented how the organization can support the new OIC media efforts by offering training to journalists.

Concern by the Ministers centered on information programs which would support, in particular, the Palestinian cause and the issues of the sovereignty of Jerusalem, (Jerusalem is known in Arabic as Al-Quds) and Al Aqsa mosque, as well as highlighting the role of the African continent in Islam. A high priority for the group is in restructuring the process of the International Islamic News Agency (IINA) and the Islamic Broadcasting Union (IBU), opening of OIC media offices in member countries and activating cooperation between the OIC and the Global Digital Solidarity Fund. The group is entertaining proposals for the establishment of an OIC Muslim journalists union, and the launching of an Islamic TV satellite channel to be called "OIC".

Malaysia is among 10 countries which have been selected to study the proposed establishment of an Islamic television station that will act as an important platform for highlighting Islamic issues and which will discuss Muslim issues globally, countering coverage that discredits Islam.

Besides Malaysia, the committee will be represented by Egypt, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Gabon, Senegal, Nigeria, Morocco and Mauritania.

The first meeting of the committee is scheduled to take place at the OIC headquarters in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia in the middle of June.

The Gabon resolution says negative news in some Western media has resulted in stigmatized stereotyping, racial discrimination and victimization directed against Muslims. Stressing that the Islamic faith is based on the core values of peace, tolerance, moderation and peaceful co-habitation with all other religions and beliefs, the OIC labeled the emergence of Islamophobia as a “contemporary form of racism and xenophobia motivated by unfounded fear, mistrust and hatred of Muslims and Islam which manifests itself through intolerance and hostility in adverse public discourse.”

“As such, Islamophobia is an affront to the human rights and dignity of Muslims,” the resolution claimed.


The Gabon conference has short, medium and long term goals for putting in place an action plan to fight Islamophobia it said.  It is asking member states to create funding for media campaigns, and discourage using expressions such as “Islamic” fascists or “Islamic” extremists for criminal terrorists. The OIC underlines the importance of developing Muslim's own narrative on daily issues such as the environment, climate change, social justice, development, poverty, etc.

For the medium term, the resolution asks member states to implement media literacy programs in schools to combat misperceptions, prejudices and hate speech. It aims to utilize success stories in the Muslim world “as a means to show that the interests of Muslims are similar to the rest of the world when it comes to democracy, good governance and human rights.” The resolution even plans to create awards for excellence in unbiased journalism, reporting, photography and publishing.

According to the long term goals of the OIC media resolution, professional media people in member states are called to “develop, articulate and implement voluntary codes of conduct.” It sets up scholarship programs for Westerners to study in the Muslim world and encourage reporter-exchange programs between the Muslim world and the West in order to disseminate this information throughout media outlets.



Turkey's Dance: On the Edge of the Cauldron (COMMENTARY)

By Hugh Pope

View of downtown Ankara (photo: Mehmet Aktugan)Things have rarely felt better for a Turkish government. After a decade of broad-based progress, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan is hearing little but praise for the democratic legitimacy of Turkey’s elections, its robust market economy and the way it seems to have tamed four of the region’s ideological demons: Islamism, ethnic nationalism, militarism and authoritarianism. In Tunisia and Morocco, the first democratic victors of the Arab revolts are pragmatic pro-Islamic parties that explicitly model themselves on Erdogan’s ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP). Ten countries from Africa alone have newly applied to open embassies in the Turkish capital, Ankara.

The feel-good factor goes well beyond politics. Turkey’s writers and films now win international prizes and its soap opera stars are the toast of television audiences from Tangiers to Almaty. Major international brand names are powered, owned or engineered by Turkish factories, from Grundig electronics to Renault cars to Beko refrigerators and Godiva chocolates. There has been an extraordinary and growing parade of visitors, conferences and summits crowding into Istanbul. The vibrant commercial and cultural city has become the undisputed hub of the region, a city that flattering magazine writers no longer hesitate to compare to metropolises like London or New York.

Erdogan (file photo)Prime Minister Erdogan, having won three straight parliamentary elections, most recently in June with 50 per cent of the vote, has been in a confident, brash and charismatic mood. Few can blame him or Turkey for enjoying a moment in the international limelight after an often grim journey through the 20th century. First the country was almost destroyed during a quarter century of external attacks around the First World War, with its social traumas, massacres and deportations, not just of Armenians and Greeks, but of Turks as well. Then it was isolated for four decades guarding a whole third of NATO’s southeastern flank against the Warsaw Pact. Finally, it long had to live under a cloud of disapproval by polite Western opinion, both because of real human rights abuses and also because of prejudices stoked up by ‘factual’ fictions like the Midnight Express film.

Yet around Turkish dinner tables – always the principal theatre for emotional debates about the ‘state of the country’ – the doom-sayers are beginning to feel that their turn must be coming again. Can the country really have so completely escaped the legacy of its recent history? Are the past decade’s phenomenal growth rates – and the ballooning current account deficit -- not soon due for the sharp market correction that everyone knows always strikes every decade or so? Can the Turkish economy really escape the woes of its principal trading partner and investor, the European Union? Can Turkey be said to be winning its foreign policy battles when the great promises of the mid-2000s have yet to resolve long-running problems with Cyprus, Armenia and the Turkish Kurd insurgency? Has the prime minister, after a decade in undisputed control of the country, become inaccessible and intolerant of dissent? And is it wise for the government to luxuriate in the warm bath of love it has recently enjoyed from the Arab and Middle Eastern street, and to abandon the rigours of Turkey’s hard-won EU accession process?

Few doubt that whatever market or policy corrections may lie in store for Turkey, the country remains fundamentally solid and able to regroup to resume its long-standing momentum. But it is also clear that the cauldrons of the Middle East in particular are boiling again, and Turkey is beginning to feel the heat. All seemed more predictable in the 2000s when Turkey followed a policy of treating equally all parties from Israel to Iran, sought to build security and prosperity through visa-free travel, open trade agreements, high-level political meetings and infrastructure integration. Known rather accidentally as the ‘zero problems’ policy, this valuable doctrine has now been consigned to the idealistic long-term as Turkey is forced to grapple with suddenly much more difficult partners.

Turkey’s notable and unusual cooperation with Iran in 2010 has turned to rivalry, as both compete for influence across the Arab world, are increasingly seen as defenders of Sunni and Shia interests respectively, and take opposite sides on NATO’s anti-missile defence shield. Relations with Iraq, previously marked by a real effort to remain on equally good relations with all factions, have taken a hit over Turkey’s alignment with a faction that didn’t win the last Iraqi election and the Iraqi government’s lean towards Tehran and Damascus. Turkey was quick to side with Egyptian revolutionaries when an international leader was needed to call for  the departure of Hosni Mubarak and Egyptians clearly feel warm towards Turkey and its prime minister. But Egyptians tell pollsters that they want an Egyptian model, not a Turkish one, and Egyptian officials and intellectuals make no secret of their rejection of a big brother to rob them of what they perceive as their leadership role in the Arab world.

Of all the dramas of the Arab Awakening, none challenge Turkey as directly as the unfolding situation in neighbouring Syria. From being best friends with Syria a year ago, Turkey is now engaged in a symbolic proxy war with Damascus, endorsing the Syrian opposition and a dissident army faction. Ankara finds itself caught in a web of pressures and temptations towards further intervention. Such pressures range from US hopes that Turkey can act as a reliable stabilizing force as it withdraws from the region, to European powers discussing a Turkish role in establishing safe havens, to Turkish opinion makers with neo-Ottoman ideas  that the country can have a direct role as a regional guide and leader. However any further forward lean by Turkey into Syria carries significant risks: that its reputation as a neutral actor will be damaged in the Arab world, it will get dragged into a Syrian civil war and will provoke direct conflict with other interested powers, notably Iran.  

The collapse in the Turkish relationship with Israel has been spectacular, if far from all Turkey’s fault. Military cooperation and intense interaction during the decade until early 2009 has given way to talk of confrontation over Gaza aid flotillas and even Israeli gas projects in the east Mediterranean. Some in Israel have chosen to blame what they see as Erdogan’s ‘Islamist’ agenda. A more likely explanation is that the warmth of Turkey’s relationship with Israel has always been dependent on its public’s perception of Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians – a Turkish ambassador was only appointed to Israel in 1992. And each step down in the relationship since 2009 has arguably been first the result of an Israeli, not a Turkish action, even if Erdogan has not spared his rhetorical rod. These include Israel’s killing of 1,400 Palestinians in its ‘Cast Iron’ offensive, the Israeli deputy foreign minister’s televised insult to the Turkish ambassador, Israel’s killing of nine Turkish activists on a ship with aid for Gaza while it was still in international waters 70 miles from Israel, and Israel’s apparent rejection of a negotiated wording for an apology over the incident. 

Nevertheless, it is unclear how much long term good Turkey will get out of its public hostility to Israel. There is not much likelihood of this inducing much change in Israel, and Arab public opinion, however thrilled it currently is to see a new champion of its cause, will tire of a Turkey that is seen to be adopting anti-Zionist bluster that has little impact. Also, Turkish officials claim that they can have a good relationship with the U.S. without one with Israel. Certainly, President Obama seems skillful in his handling of his relationship with Prime Minister Erdogan. But the current strong U.S. support for Ankara is mostly linked to its temporary need for support at a time that it is drawing down forces in Iraq and Afghanistan, its wish for Turkey-based options in Syria, and a sense that there is enough trouble in the Middle East without picking a fight with its NATO ally. It is unlikely that in the long term supporters of Turkey’s strategic significance can match the unrivaled strength of Israel’s domestic supporters in the U.S. in the coming election year. 

Another weak plank of Turkey’s platform is its relationship with the European Union. Only slow progress has been made on the 35 negotiating chapters since the official start of membership negotiations in 2005. Five of these chapters are blocked by French President Nicolas Sarkozy’s bruising and treaty-breaking rebuffs to Turkey, and another dozen chapters are blocked by the Greek Cypriot-run Republic of Cyprus. Blame for this lies partly on the EU, which accepted Cyprus as a member in 2004 in despite the Greek Cypriots’ own role in not voting for an EU-backed, United Nations Plan to reunite the island first. But Turkey also has its share of the blame, having rejected earlier versions of the plan, for three decades of hardline policies on the island, and, since 2005, for refusing to honour the agreement that made it possible for it to open negotiations in the first place – opening its ports and airport to Greek Cypriot traffic.

The Turkey-EU impasse is now moving from stalemate to regression. Turkey says it will not recognize or speak to Cyprus when it takes over the EU presidency in July 2012. In Britain in November, Turkish President Abdullah Gul said that this would be a “half country” taking over a “miserable union”. That same month, when two European commissioners visited Turkey together – an unprecedented outreach from the commission, an institution that is one of Turkey’s friends in Europe – they felt slighted by their Turkish counterparts, particularly a populist speech criticizing Europe at a grand dinner supposedly in their honour. Similarly, the visiting president of the European parliament, Poland’s Jerzy Bucek, was subjected to a long and highly critical commentary by his dinner host about Europeans’ perceived support for Turkish Kurd insurgents.

This negativity, while an understandable reaction to some European politicians’ wounding comments about Turkey, undermines the EU’s overall role in Turkey and its political and economic transformation. While the Middle East has recently accounted for just a quarter of Turkey’s exports – a proportion that is already shrinking due to the current turmoil – the EU consistently accounts for half of Turkish trade. European states currently responsible for more than four-fifths of Turkey’s direct foreign investment, which had languished at around one billion dollars per year until it shot up to 20 times that figure after EU accession negotiations began in 2005. Turkey’s mostly strong economic growth in the past decade peaked at 9.4 per cent in 2004, the same year in which Turkey’s revolutionary adoption of EU laws also peaked. The International Monetary Fund now says Turkish growth will likely shrink to 2.2 per cent in 2012. Turkish businessmen don’t need telling that credit is already extraordinarily tight, that bills are not getting paid, that the current account deficit has hit 10 per cent of GDP, that much of Turkish borrowing is being financed by volatile short-term foreign credit, all sure signs of a crunch to come.

If the most intense years of Turkey-EU convergence helped the Turkish economy, the same can be said for the political situation. In April, the Organization of Security and Cooperation in Europe found that Turkey was a world leader with 57 journalists in jail. And the one major domestic reform initiative to start after the fading of the EU reform process, the Democratic Opening to enfranchise Turkey’s Kurdish community and to marginalize the long-running insurgency by the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), has stalled. After the apparent collapse of peace talks in June, more than 260 people have been killed after the PKK escalated its attacks, including 117 members of the security forces and 38 civilians. Worse, nearly 600 Turkish Kurd activists have been officially jailed on terrorist charges – including several senior elected figures – with no sign of them having taken any part in the violence. Several thousands more have been detained for varying lengths of time since 2009.

To Turkey, pursuing closer ties with EU states may seem less attractive than in the past due to their euro-troubles and politically divisions. But the problems Turkey faces with EU partners pale in comparison to the security threats that the Middle East can throw up at Turkey – especially at a time when so much damage is being done by the PKK insurgency, whose most hard-to-control roots are in Iraq, Syria and Iran.

If Turkey and EU could return to full cooperation, which means overcoming the major problem of Cyprus, they would likely find they have a lot more to offer the Middle East together than separately. Turkey brings its prestige and Muslim identity, its real energy and the dynamism of its economy, while Europe has great weight, huge depth, many tools for transition that Turkey doesn’t have. While they may differ on tactics, the EU and Turkey share the basic goals in the Middle East: trying to make the current network of nation states that have not worked very well in the past into a more functional, prosperous, stable and non-threatening system.

In short, Turkey should use its new credibility and leverage as a regional power to re-engage with the EU as a constructive partner in a way that Europeans will appreciate during their times of trouble, rather than constantly demanding rights that no EU state can give Turkey as long as it acts as an outsider and competitor. That way Turkey would renew its insurance policy as the going gets tougher in the Middle East, Ankara would get the respectful treatment from the EU that it wants and deserves, and the resulting partnership would benefit the region as a whole.

Hugh Pope is the Turkey/Cyprus Project Director for International Crisis Group.


Turkey Bombs Iraq Hideouts of Kurdish Rebels PKK (NEWS BRIEF)

Turkey's military says that Turkish warplanes have bombed suspected Kurdish rebel targets in northern Iraq. The jets hit caves and hideouts in the regions of Zap and Hakurk late on Saturday before returning to base, the military said in a statement.

No other details were given.

Since 1984, the rebel Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) has been fighting for autonomy in Turkey's largely Kurdish south-east in a conflict that has claimed tens of thousands of lives.  Northern Iraq has long been used as a base by the PKK for attacks inside Turkey.

In recent months, fighting between Turkish forces and the PKK has escalated.



Children put their mark on the drafting of Turkey`s new constitution

By Lely Djuhari

(PHOTO: UNICEF Regional Director, UNICEF Turkey Representative at the children consultation/UNICEF Turkey-Oktay Ustun)ANKARA, Turkey 1 February, 2012 — Turkey is at pivotal point in the country`s history. Parliamentarians are poised to make fundamental changes to their constitution and children will have a rare chance to leave their stamp on it.

A two-day consultation, Children`s Opinion on the Process for a New Consultation,  began this week bringing together 162 children from child rights committees from all provinces, organized by the Ministry of Family and Social Policy, the Parliament and UNICEF Turkey.

The new constitution will influence the country`s future as a thriving democracy. Amendments could pave the way to greater freedom of expression. It will change the relationship between the judiciary and political parties. It will also allow the president and parliament to have a say in the composition of the constitutional court - the final port of call when challenging laws in a country.

Academics, non-governmental organizations, disadvantaged groups have already submitted their opinions in the process which started last year. This inclusive dialogue did not occur the previous time the charter was drawn up.

Sevval Lafçi and Mirkan Özdemir, child committee representatives, will present on Thursday the results of the children`s discussions to Cemil Çiçek, Speaker of the Turkish Parliament.

In doing so, Turkey will be one of the few countries in the world where children were consulted in the drafting of a constitution, the basis of all national and sub-national laws.

“We want the government to set their policy with child rights at the centre,” 16-year-old Sevval said. “Getting child rights into the Constitution will make it easier to for us to advocate for children`s right in laws and making sure that resources are given.”

Turkey is a country of 74 million people, of which slightly less than a third is under the age of 18. With a vibrant economy, it is a nation eager to influence regional and global affairs.

“We need to have a constitution that includes the voices of all people. In the past, our constitutions were drafted during times of hardship. This is the first time that we are able to do it during peacetime. We need to capture the spirit of these new times,” said Fatma Şahin, Minister of Family and Social Policies, whose office is responsible for facilitating child participation.

(PHOTO: UNICEF Reg. Dir. Marie-Pierre Poirier speaking. Child rights advocates, Sevval Lafçi & Mirkan Özdemir, stand behind her/UNICEF Turkey-Oktay Ustun)Speaking at her first public event as the new UNICEF Regional Director for Central and Eastern Europe and Commonwealth of Independent States, Marie-Pierre Poirier, said: “In every part of the world, UNICEF supports legislative reforms that are geared to bringing domestic law in alignment with the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child.”

She outlined the importance of incorporating the Convention of the Rights of the Child, particularly its four basic principles: non-discrimination, the best interest of the child, the right to live, survival and development and respect of the views of the child.

 “I extend my wholehearted congratulations to the Government of Turkey for having accomplished this invaluable work. The lesson I take from today is inspirational. I will take this as an example to the Governments of Europe and Central Asia of what can be achieved through children participating in the future,” she said.

UNICEF Turkey has been working to empower youth to take on a more active role as citizens. Child rights committees, which meet at least one or several times a year at the province and national level, have been established since 2000 to help young people fight for the rights of the most vulnerable children.

Some children - especially poorer children in rural and eastern areas - are still missing out on the health, nutrition and education enjoyed by others. Tens of thousands of children of primary school age are still out of school, partly due to late starting. Hundreds of thousands are frequently absent and – particularly in the case of girls - may be in danger of dropping out. In remote, predominantly rural areas and fast-growing urban districts, the education and health services may be inadequately equipped and staffed.

Berkay Saygin, another child advocate familiar with these issues, is trying to help others understand how important the constitution is for children.

“Many of my friends don`t understand what child rights are, let alone why a constitution is important for them,” he said with a grin. He recounted the many times he was branded as “uncool and boring” when he brought up the subject during class breaks or lunch times.  “It`s exciting to see this issue on TV and in the newspapers,” he added. “The more I learn about it, the more I want to understand how it impacts my life.”

“Many adults, even some teachers, ask me why am I getting involved in this? I am `just` a child. Getting these principles into the constitution, that children can give their opinion on things which matter to us, gives me the power to answer back. It`s a starting point,” he said.

-- Lely Djuhari is a UNICEF communications specialist whose focus is on child rights in Eastern Europe, South Caucaus and Central Asia.  You can follow her on Twitter at @LelyDjuhari.


World Bank Report Projects a Difficult Year Ahead (NEWS BRIEF) 

The World Bank cut its global growth forecast in both developed and poorer nations by the most in three years, in its twice-yearly report issued late on Tuesday, saying that a recession in the euro region threatens to exacerbate a slowdown particularly in several major developing countries.

“Europe appears to have entered a recession, and grown in several major developing countries (Brazil, India and to a lesser extent Russia, South Africa and Turkey) has slowed,” the bank said as it updated forecasts made last June.

The world economy  will grow 2.5 percent this year, down from a June estimate of 3.6 percent, the   Washington-based institution said. The euro area may contract 0.3 percent, compared with a previous estimate of a 1.8 percent gain. The U.S. growth outlook was cut to 2.2 percent from 2.9 percent.

“The world is different than it was six months ago”, said Andrew Burns, head of the bank’s global economics team and lead author of the report. “This is going to be a very difficult year.”

Two major reasons for the projected global slowdown are noted in the report: Europe’s debt crisis has worsened and several big developing countries have taken steps to prevent growth from fueling inflation.

Economies in developing countries will continue to out-pace those of wealthier, developed countries, according to the World Bank, but the Bank also lowered its forecasts for growth in these countries to 5.4 per cent in 2012 and 6 per cent in 2013 – this is down from previous estimates of 6.2 per cent and 6.3 per cent respectively.

School Girls in Oecusse, Timor-Leste. Photo: Barbara Ratusznik/World BankThe report also noted that “the downturn in Europe and weaker growth in developing countries raises the risk that the two developments reinforce one another, resulting in an even weaker outcome”. – It also said that while Europe is moving toward long-term solutions to its debt problems, the markets remain skittish.

It also noted the failure so far to resolve high debts and deficits in Japan and the United States and slow growth in other high-income countries, and cautioned those facts could trigger sudden shocks in the global economy.

The 2012 forecast for Japan was cut to 1.9 per cent growth from 2.6 percent in June. China’s growth will slow to 8.4 percent this year, the same as an interim revised projection released in November.

In addition, political tensions in the Middle East and North Africa could disrupt oil supplies and add another blow to global prospects, the World Bank noted of the challenges facing the economy.

“Although contained for the moment, the risk of a broader freezing up of capital markets and a global crisis similar in magnitude to the Lehman crisis in 2008 remains,” the World Bank said.

Should that happen, it said developing countries are more vulnerable than they were in 2008 because they could find themselves facing reduced capital flows and softer trade.

Slower global expansion is already showing through softer trade figures and lower commodity prices, according to the World Bank.

“No country or region will escape the consequences of a serious downturn”, said the World Bank, adding that developing countries must now plan how to soften the impact of a potential crisis.

- HUMNEWS Staff, Agencies




India, Iran to resolve crisis in Afghanistan

(PHOTO: Canada's 1915 IDP's in La Ferme, Canada. MONTREAL GAZETTE)Albania

 Ton of cannabis seized in Albania


Turkey accuses France of genocide in Algeria


Government pledges to cultivate human rights 

Antigua & Barbuda

World Bank says climate change talks bring ‘good and bad news’ for the Caribbean


Five Argentines Die in Traffic Accident in Southern Brazil


Armenian women’s national team beats Vietnam’s team

(PHOTO: Tariq Ramadan at the Toronto1 gathering. The convention lured an impressive galaxy of distinguished scholars, including Prof. Tariq Ramadan ONISLAM.NET)Bolivia

Bolivian Minister Highlights Economic Growth 


Due to Too Little Structure & Too Much Pesticide Brazil Exports Less than 1% of Its Fruit


Eto'o launches mobile network

Chinese Goods Top Christmas Wish List In Cameroon


Toronto Convention Inspires Canada Muslims

Remembering the spirit of Canadians unjustly interned


Chinese dissident Chen Wei gets 9 years in prison

Snack makers face expired food probe

Facebook Follows Server Brains From Taiwan to China


Colombia, The Netherlands  Sign Rivers Dredging Agreement

(PHOTO: In Cyprus, poaching of the Blackcap birds is surging in defiance of a European Union ban. József Szabó.)Congo (DRC)

Congo: What’s Rwanda got to do with it? Interview


Illegal bird trapping a surging problem in Cyprus


Egypt’s Amina Diab forges ahead with handbag collection

From Burning Bodies To Burning Books: Egypt Becoming “House Of Dust’ (Perspective)

Equatorial Guinea

Seadrill semi-tender rig gig off Equatorial Guinea


Ethiopia: Swedish journalists to spend 11years in prison


Finland Authorities Clear MS Thor Liberty With 11 Ukrainian Citizens On Board After Finding Explosives To Travel Again 


Guinea to review mining contract – Mr. Alpha Conde


Guwahati campus to become operational next June, says TISS Director

Don’t write off the India story yet (Perspective)


(PHOTO: Taiwan election-inspired merchandise on display in a shop. CHANNELASIA.NET)Iran and Russia survey regional developments

Iran envoy:  Abducted engineers in Syria are safe and sound

Iran threatens to stop Gulf oil if sanctions widened

Stop worrying and learn to love the Iranian bomb (Perspective)


Anti-Whaling Activists Use Drone to Track Japanese Fleet

Japanese PM Noda in India on economic mission 


Libyan health minister visits Jordan field hospital


Serbia returns to dominate Kosovo market

(PHOTO: Screen shot of Tunisia's new Islamic TV channel, "Al Kalam")Kuwait

Kuwait donates 1 million to support Gaza preschool children 

Second consignment of Kuwaiti fuel donation arrives in Benghazi 


Lebanese al Qaeda operative eulogizes Jordanian killed in Afghanistan


Aid workers in Libya ponder future role in oil-rich country

Benetton Donates UnHate Statue To Libyan Capitol


(PHOTO: S. Sudan, the planet's newest nation opens its embassy in Washington, DC this week. WASHINGTON POST) PM, wife unharmed as shots fired close to Girgenti Palace


Montenegro police arrests 16 members of international drug trafficking ring


Journalist Denied Access Into His Office

On the Verge of a Clean Energy Transformation: Morocco


Burmese embassy in Thailand appoints labour official


A 'children's crisis' unfolds in West and Central Africa's Sahel region (Press Release)

(PHOTO: A gorilla stops to groom a tourist in Uganda's Bwindi Impenetrable Forest. DISCOVERY NEWS)Nigeria 

Christians flee north as Nigeria mourns church bomb victims

North Korea

Web blackout helps North Korea craft new cult of Kim


Pirates Seize Enrico Ievoli Ship With Five Ukrainians On Board Near Oman


The Rights of the Child (Perspective)


Egyptian Foreign Minister in Russia to discuss Syria crisis


Country Committed in Fight Against Climate Change - Kamanzi

(PHOTO: `Harare Beyond Words' opens at H Gallery, Bangkok Thailand Jan 5-30th, 2012)Saudi Arabia

AIDS patient sues Qunfuda hospital

KSA residents protest fines for 'wasting water'

Value of Saudi's delayed public projects hits $147bn

Mobile phone subscriptions in Kingdom up to 56.1m in Q3

'Hafiz' flayed for precluding job hunters above 35

Endless debate over death penalty (Perspective)


EALA roots for disaster experts in the region

South Africa

SA envoy visits drug mules in Thailand jails

Discovery of world's oldest bedding in SA (VIDEO)

South Sudan

South Sudan’s entrance on world stage includes setting up Washington embassy

South Sudan: Africa’s next farming frontier

Creating a film industry in South Sudan from scratch

Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka: Fresh Insights On Attempts To Join ASEAN – Analysis


Steps to Launch the Sudanese Satellite


(PHOTO: First community of hackers, called Hacekerspace were found in Tunisia this week. Nawaat.org) Electricity consumers soon to decide on tariff hikes

Whoonga - a new social threat


Swiss village in uproar over asylum centre

Switzerland slips in global ranking

Switzerland to renew Turkish-Armenian mediation


Telecomix hackers helping Syrians detect and avoid government surveillance online

Syrian NGOs: A dual-use technology?

“30%” Syria Oil Production fall, Minister

Syria refugees find sanctuary in Libya


(PHOTO: Zimbabwe farmers tend their fields. IITA) Taiwan poll campaigns spark merchandise

New prevention policy needed for tuberculosis: medical expert

Renowned Taiwan Lantern Festival set to light up heavens on February 6

Taiwan monastery hopes to attract tourists to see Buddha's tooth


Diplomatic, Trade Row As Dar Blocks Ugandan Exports

Serengeti Investor Speeds Up Social and Economic Development

World Bank stresses improvement of public health facilities in Tanzania

Investor: Tanzania good for pay TV


Thailand battles with post-flood clean-up (VIDEO)

Thailand wires up with free Wi-Fi

Thailand prepares to be cloud hub

Seventh Anniversary of Thailand's Boxing Day Tsunami (VIDEO)

Zimbabwean art show opens next week in Bangkok

The Arctic

NOAA issues draft study for Arctic Sea oil drilling

The Netherlands

The battle for free speech continues


Tonga’s Speaker facing arrest when he returns to the country


First Community of Cyber-hackers Founded in Tunisia

Train Operators Join the National Wave of Strikes

New Islamic Tunisian TV Channel “Al Kalam” Announced

Douz: Gateway to The Desert

Air France launches new direct flights to Tunisia destination


Tourists visiting Turkey hit 30 million this year, surpassing target

Turkey is the answer (Perspective)


Man Groomed by Gorillas On Trek in Uganda

Activists oppose plan to build railway through national park

The Joys of a Christmas Celebration in the Village

A List of the Most Corrupt Would Help the Poor More (Perspective)

Time is now for Ugandans to rise against the cancer of corruption (Perspective)


Ukraine becomes the European capital of rabies

Russia, Ukraine do not envision gas war this year

Ukraine, Turkey sign visa-free travel agreement

United Arab Emirates

UAE pledges to bolster China-Arab trade relations

100 distressed overseas foreign workers in Abu Dhabi spend Christmas in shelter

UAE launches first association for policewomen in Arab world

Property market is being rebuilt in the UAE

Meet the UAE's Marathon Woman

Emirates Airline Launches U.S. TV Ad Campaign (VIDEO)

United Kingdom

UK businesses investing in social media for 2012

Morrissey named PETA UK Person of the Year

United States

U.S. population growth slows

America’s Best Kept Secret: Rising Suburban Poverty

U.S. gets holiday gift in the form of Occupy Wall Street (Perspective)

US needs to act as melting ice transforms Arctic (Perspective)


Uruguayan Economy Grows


No more panties in public eye in Uzbekistan


Venezuela: UN human rights experts voice alarm at extended detention of judge

Hugo Chávez claims that Venezuela's economic strengthening "is amazing"


Vietnam freezes oil product prices, eyes import tax on gasoline

Vietnam masterpieces in auction for the poor

New high-income consumers emerge in Vietnam

Endangered wildlife dealers arrested in southern Vietnam 

Virgin Islands

A windsurfing nightmare called Maho Beach

Western Sahara

U.S. foreign aid done right (Perspective)


Yemen malnutrition data should "shock"

The Emergence of a New Political & Social Consciousness in Yemen (Perspective)


Stray Dogs 'Besiege' Kapiri Mposhi, Spread Rabies

MTN Zambia deploys first solar-powered site


WFP buy local scheme helps farmers

Zimbabwe loses again on AIDS funding‏

Labour Law - Dilemma of New Employers


'Major Devastation' in Turkey Quake (NEWS BRIEF)

(Video: SkyTurk via YOUTUBE)

(HN, October 23, 2011 - UPDATED 2300GMT) - Hundreds of people are feared dead in an afternoon, 7.2 magnitude earthquake which struck the impoverished eastern regions of Turkey Sunday.

Video broadcast by the Canadian Broadcast Corporation (CBC) showed massive devastation, with buildings collapsed and people screaming.

In a bulletin several hours after the first quake, the US Geological Survey (USGS) said a magnitude 6.0 quake hit 20 km northwest of Van at a depth of 9 km.

Istanbul-based journalist Dorion Jones told CBC that the area is one of the poorest in Turkey, with building codes rarely enforced. He added that cold weather has already hit a region that is both mountainous and, in parts, sparsely populated.

One Arab satellite channel showed ordinary people frantically digging through rubble with their bare hands.

Turkey's Hurriyet Daily News reported that three military C-130 aircraft are on their way to the region with relief supplies. It added that two battalions are on their way to the region to assist with relief efforts.

State-run television is reporting deaths in the dozens, but 1,000 could already be dead, said Mustafa Erdik, head of the Kandilli observatory. The epicentre appeared to be near Ercis, a town of 75,000 in the province of Van and close to the Iranian border. The bustling regional centre of Van is said to have sustained major damage, and its airport is reported to be closed, hampering relief efforts.

"Around 10 buildings have collapsed in the city of Van and around 25 or 30 have collapsed in Ercis, including a dormitory," Deputy Prime Minister Besir Atalay said.

The Turkish Red Crescent said its workers are responding in the areas affected by the quake.  Red Crescent workers are focused on search and rescue efforts, providing blankets, stoves, food and water to survivors and operating disaster management centres in the mountainous and isolated region.

Turkey lies on one of the world's most active seismic zones. In 1999, two earthquakes killed about 18,000 people.

News agencies said the powerful quake also shook buildings in neighbouring Armenia, including in the capital Yerevan.

Offers of assistance have started to come in from around the world. The U.S. Ambassador to Turkey, Francis Ricciardone, Jr., said "we have been in touch with the Turkish authorities to offer all possible assistance."

Israeli President Shimon Peres has called his Turkish counterpart, Abdullah Gul, to give his condolences, Haaretz newspaper reported.

- HUMNEWS staff, agencies


Kurdish Rebels Kill 26 Turkish Soldiers (NEWS BRIEF)

(HN, October 19, 2011) The Turkish government has reported that at least 26 Turkish soldiers have been killed in clashes with Kurdish rebels at police and army posts in south-eastern Turkey. 

The attacks, in the mainly Kurdish province of Hakkari, are thought to have inflicted the biggest loss on Turkish security forces in years.

The attacks come a day after a blast in the south-east Bitlis province killed five police officers and three others.

In response, Turkish troops are reported to have crossed into northern Iraq where the rebels are based.

Turkish President Abdullah Gul had recently visited troops in the region in an effort to boost morale in an area that has recently seen an increase in violence by Kurdish rebels.

President Gul has vowed a "great vengeance".

So far, Turkey has responded to this attack with a police crackdown on suspected rebel sympathisers and air strikes on Kurdish sites in northern Iraq.

Rebels are seeking greater autonomy in the country's Kurdish-dominated south-east, and have killed dozens of members of the country's security forces, and at least 17 civilians, since mid-July.

Security sources say Turkish planes are bombing Kurdish rebel bases in northern Iraq, while local news sources say soldiers have also entered the area. 

"No-one should forget that those who make us suffer this pain will be made to suffer even stronger," President Gul told reporters. "They will see that the vengeance for these attacks will be great."



On World Refugee Day, UNHCR Reports Highest Number of Refugees Worldwide in Fifteen Years 

(CREDIT: UNHCR, World Refugee Day 2011) (HN, June 20, 2011) - June 20th is always the United Nations globally recognized `World Refugee Day’.  But this year the day holds significance for more people on the planet than in the last 15 years. 

That’s because the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) says that as of last year, 43.7 million people around the world have been displaced from their countries by war, conflict or persecution.  

Adding insult to injury, eighty percent of those refugees fleeing the safety of their own homes are being kept safe with food, shelter and water by some of the world’s poorest nations, and UNHCR is warning that these countries cannot continue to afford this cost alone.

This past weekend António Guterres, the United Nations high commissioner for refugees, spent time with the actress Angelina Jolie meeting with some of the refugees who most recently fled  Libya, Tunisia, Bahrain and other Middle East nations currently experiencing internal turmoil which has forced thousands to stream across their nations borders for other countries such as Turkey and Malta.  

(CREDIT: UNHCR, Gooodwill Ambassador Angelina Jolie at a camp for Syrian refugees in the southern Turkish town of Altinozu.)In a statement reflecting `World Refugee Day’, Guterres says, “Fears about supposed floods of refugees in industrialized countries are being vastly overblown or mistakenly conflated with issues of migration. It’s poorer countries that are left having to pick up the burden.”

UNHCR’s 2010 Global Trends report, flags Pakistan, Iran and Syria as the world’s biggest hosts of refugees by amount of people who have fled there – totaling three million collectively that the countries have taken in; 1.9 million refugees are being housed in Pakistan alone.

And the world’s refugee populations are only expected to grow as predicted by UNHCR, next year and beyond.  In 2010, the refugee agency projected that 747,000 locations places were needed to resettle the global flow of refugees, and the 22 countries that accept such displaced people, led by the United States, Canada, Australia, Sweden and Norway, took in only 98,000 people. In 2011, UNHCR estimates that 805,000 locations for refugees to be resettled will be needed.  

The developed nation housing the largest refugee population is Germany, hosting 594,000 people.  Guterres urged industrialized nations to increase the number of people they accept who are seeking asylum, lessening the burden on already poor and overwhelmed countries, some whom, like Syria, are going through their own internal strife and seeing its own people flee to Turkey.

Civilians fleeing the fighting in north-west Syria has picked up significantly in the last two weeks with more than 9,600 people now living in four camps managed by Turkey and the Turkish Red Crescent.

(CREDIT: IGEO, a camp for Darfur, Sudan refugees in Chad.)Not only are there more refugees in the world today but more people are staying in a `refugee state’ much longer than ever before.  Some like those in the Palestinian territories and elsewhere spend their whole life in refugee camps. 

In 2010 for instance, 7.2 million people, the highest number in ten years, had been exiled from their home countries for five years or more; mostly due to the length of the conflict they were fleeing from, which prevented people from returning to their homes. Only 197,600 refugees, were able to return to their homes in 2010, the lowest number since 1990.

UNHCR puts the official number of refugees who registered with it last year, along with the agency for Palestinian refugees at 15.4 million in 2010; with another 27.5 million people – the highest level in ten years - having been displaced by conflict within their own home countries’ borders.

--- HUMNEWS staff


Turkish Expats Vote in Key Election (NEWS BRIEF) 

Turkish polling station - PHOTO CREDIT Ayse Alibeyoglu/AlJazeera

by Ayse Alibeyoglu

Awash with colourful campaign posters, banners and streamers, election fever has well and truly gripped Turkey.

However, in a decision that greatly upset Turks in many countries, the Supreme Election Board (YSK) announced last year that Turkish citizens residing abroad could only vote in the June 12 parliamentary election at customs gates.

Only 196,000 voters residing abroad, out of at least 2.5 million eligible expat voters, cast their ballots in the September 12, 2010, constitutional referendum.

According to officials from YSK, a number of polling stations in various airports across Turkey have been approved for expatriate voting. The customs facilities at Istanbul's Ataturk airport is one of them.    

I watched as a Turkish-born resident of Germany placed a sealed yellow envelope carefully into the ballot box.

YSK officials then ushered her to the end of the table where she received a stamp in her passport, signifying that her vote had been cast. 

"I came all this way to vote for Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, (leader of the ruling Justice and Development Party, or AKP), as a thank you for putting Turkey back on the map with a stronger, brighter economy than ever before," said the expatriate lawyer, who has been living in Berlin for a year and who preferred to remain anonymous.

"The YSK has restricted voters’ basic right of citizenship. Having to leave your country of residence to vote is logistically difficult for most people. It's shameful that we have been reduced to voting at customs gates."

Despite the hurdles faced by some, there's something extraordinary about tens of millions of people coming together and deciding who should run their country.

Eser, a taxi driver and staunch supporter of Kemal Kilicdaroglu, leader of the Republican People's Party (CHP), who declined to give his full name, alleges the polling booths inside the airports work in Erdogan's favour.

"Citizens are brought from the outside so they could cast their vote for the AKP and tip the balance but no one is reporting this. Journalists are too scared to look into this. I do not trust those poll workers," he said.

Everyone in Turkey has an opinion and is not afraid to share it. 

An exhilarating and impromptu debate ensued among a group of university students who had taken refuge under the shade of a large banner of Erdogan, to escape the searing hot Istanbul sun, with several students switching sides.

There is a palpable sense of excitement in the air among voters and it is likely to reach a crescendo on Sunday.

Originally published by Al Jazeera on June 9, 2011 under Creative Commons Licensing 


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