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Turkey: Military Makes Second Syrian Incursion

Defence di

Turkey sent tanks over the Syrian border for the second time Sept. 3, crossing into al Rai, Kilis province, from Cobanbey, Dogan news reported.

The military also launched artillery strikes on the area, which has changed hands frequently between Islamic State and rebel forces. Turkey’s first incursion occurred Aug. 24 at the city of Jarabulus 55 kilometers (34 miles) northeast. Also on Sept. 3, Turkish-backed Hamza Brigade and Failaq al-Sham rebels took control of the Syrian villages of Arab Ezra, Fursan, Lilawa, Kino and Najma.

These communities are all west of Jarabulus. After clearing a path for its troops to enter Syria, Turkey is now fully involved in a military campaign in northern Aleppo province. Turkey is attempting to move the Islamic State away from the border and, at the same time, prevent Kurdish militants in the Syrian Democratic Forces from establishing a foothold.



An encounter with a Syrian refugee in Athens

This is the fifth part of the series “Athens: the crisis within the crisis” (click here).

In a corner of the Eleonas refugee camp, among the new barracks inhabited by newly arrived refugees, I met a young man from Syria. He shared his personal experience with the human consequences of geopolitics.

A refugee family

Ibrahim came towards me with his little cousin in a trolley. They were curious about me. Ibrahim was a former student who had to flee from his village in northern Syria. Ibrahim had stayed in Pireus Port for a long time before going to the Macedonian border, then staying for a long time by the border fence. I got the impression that he fled from Jihadists. Ibrahim and the family wish to reach Germany. The little girl misses her father, who left Syria three months earlier, and who is waiting for them in Germany.

The little girl wants her Mom, so we walk towards their barrack. Ibrahim delivers her, and we sit down to talk at the stairs. His friends show up, one of them with his little daughter. They tell me about their life in the camp, and I promise to write about it.

Before the war

Ibrahim misses the Syria that existed before the civil war. Then no-one asked if you were a Christian or a Moslem, a Sunni or an Alawite. “Al-arab wahid ashab” his friend says – he does not speak English, but tells in simple Arabic that all Arab-speakers are one people. We should not fight against each other. Another friend of Ibrahim has worked in Nabatieh in South Lebanon. I tell them that, in fact, I am on my way to Lebanon, to celebrate Resurrection and the Orthodox Easter. The young men wish me a good pilgrimage, and ask me to say hi to the Syrians in Beirut. One and half million refugees from Syria are sheltered in Lebanon, alongside four million Lebanese citizens, as well as several million stateless Palestinians.

The conflict back home

As with the Lebanese thirty years earlier, the Syrians have experienced sudden change from cultural pluralism to sectarian war. The diversity used to be exposed by the presence of various churches, mosques and historical monuments. The civil war, by contrast, pits brother against brother, worker against worker. Tactical alliances change swiftly for militias on the ground, while the strategic map shows four coalitions: the government with allies, the rebels spearheaded by Jihadists, the so-called Islamic State in the east, and the Kurdish democratic forces in the north. Here is scarce room for idealism. In sectarian war, you must shoot your neighbour before he shoots you – or get away. The UN has registered 6,6 million internally displaced persons, while 4,8 have fled the country.

The right to seek asylum

After reading the second article in this series, some of the refugees I had met send me an email. They attach photos of their barracks, most of them lacking air condition. In each barrack, several families live under the same tin roof, under the Greek summer sun. Also an employee sends an email, reporting that the electric supply has become more reliable, but that there is a lack of workforce. But most important of all, the refugees fear the deal between Turkey and the EU, about forced return of Syrian refugees.

Amnesty International claims that the EU-Turkey deal violates international human rights law. Syria certainly is unsafe, and Turkey is moving in the same direction with an Islamist president using Jihadists as proxy against secular leftist forces in the Kurdish areas of Turkey and Syria. The Turkish military always was hostile to Amnesty. But when Turkey and the EU made their deal, Amnesty protested against both.

Ibrahim expects to be deported within few days. The girl and her mother are in contact with the girl’s father, Ibrahim’s brother in law. He has obtained permit to stay in Germany, and contacted the German embassy in Athens, asking to reunite with his family. The German embassy told him to wait five months for a reply, but the Greek temporary residence permits for his family last only one month more. The asylum bureaucracy is overloaded – and hasty deportations prevent serious processing of the asylum applications.


Amnesty International has a petition against the EU-Turkey deal (click here).






Winter ices migrants flows but not concerns

Miscellaneous di

Only a year ago, in 2014, the most important route into Europe for migrants was across the Mediterranean sea, in boats of up to 800 passengers from the North African coast to Italy (Lampedusa sas primary destination) or Malta: the southern route. So far in 2015, migration along the alternative eastern route has rised.



Matter of fact, during 2012 a fence was erected on the border between Turkey and Greece, forcing migrants to take boats from the Turkish coast to nearby Greek islands or travel north to the Bulgarian border. In 2014, Bulgaria began building its own fence to prevent this.

In September 2015 alone, 156,000 immigrants took the eastern route compared to just 7,000 in the same month the previous year.

The Schengen area makes things easier once the migrants have entered Hungary or Slovenia, but, on the other hand, things are getting much harder to deal, to administrate for these countries. In early July, Hungary began building a fence on its Serbian border, forcing the migrants on the west route through Croatia, often entering Hungary from there and a second fence was built on the Croatian border in October, pushing people up to Slovenia. Actually, Slovenia is building a fence itself. Balcans countries are struggling in order to face the situation. Albanian Government has already stated that the country will make what’s in it’s possibilty to mitigate the pressure in the area.

European countries are forced, under pressure, to find long term solutions, Germany in first place.

Angela Merkel, German Chancellor and most powerful woman in the planet, is facing risks on her own political body, over migrants crise . When migrants began to arrive in large numbers over the summer, she announced publicly that they were to be welcomed rather than turned away. Considering that an imponent number of Syrians living in Turkey have been able to make a living only because of temporary employment or casual labor, but , as Turkish economy has begun to deteriorate, unemployment has grown by being unaffordable, those Syrians are also leaving Turkey. So, what’s next?

Germany is home to the vast majority of past Turkish immigrants into Europe, and tensions have long been high over the issue. Syrians have a explicit and strong case for asylum, and it is extremely hard to repatriate them. The European Union wants to keep the Balkan countries from confronting one another over migrant flows. At the same time, the bloc wants to keep borders within Europe as open as possible to preserve the union’s structure while apportioning them fairly across the Continent. The Oct. 25 summit likely discussed all of the possible solutions along the migrant route and most summits during last two years have tried the same.

As temperatures drop immigrant flow will arrest the emergency. The latest flows have also revealed a drop in the portion of migrants from Syria and a rise in Afghan and African migrants, partly because of cheap Turkish Airlines flights to North Africa. Unlike Syrians, authorities will find it much easier to send back migrants from these points of origin.

But the fact is that war keeps on radicalizing in Syrian territories, which is much more than a preview on warmer season to come: migrants are most likely not stopping their desperate journeys.


Sabiena Stefanaj


(English) School’s out for Syrian children in Turkey

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By Eleonora Vio

The majority of Syrian children in Turkey are not in school

ISTANBUL, 4 November 2015 (IRIN) – Not so long ago, Syria had an education system that was the envy of the Arab world and was reflected in its 90 percent literacy rate. But education has become yet another casualty of a civil war now in its fifth year.

Nearly half of the four million Syrians who have fled their country are living in neighbouring Turkey where authorities initially welcomed hundreds of thousands of the refugees in camps near the Syrian border. Many have since become tired of camp life and moved to cities in search of a more dignified existence.

Istanbul alone hosts more than 330,000 Syrians, according to 2014 figures from Turkey’s interior ministry, but with international aid mainly going to those living in the camps, urban refugees receive little assistance and live in poor conditions that are worsening as their exile continues and they are barred from the formal employment sector. Their children are paying the highest price for this enforced limbo.

Earlier this year, in the run-up to elections, the Turkish government backtracked on plans to grant Syrians in the country, who have only temporary protection status, the right to work. The government did adopt legislation aimed at improving their access to health care and education, but according to NGOs working on the ground, the majority of Syrian children still aren’t in school.

“Unfortunately, despite this new regulation, in Istanbul only 20,000 out of 80,000 [Syrian] children have access to school and amongst them less than 30 percent are enrolled in free Turkish schools,” said Suleiman Alaaraj, a Syrian staff member of the Syrian Commission for Education (SCE), which provides education services both in Free Syrian Army-controlled areas of Syria and in Turkey, with funding from Qatar Charity and the Islamic Bank.

Some of the Turkish schools simply don’t have space to admit more children while the language difference and Syrians’ lack of the required documents or information about enrolment procedures have also presented barriers.

Karyn Thomas, the founder of Small Projects Istanbul, an NGO based in Fatih, a working-class district with a high number of Syrian residents, noted that “the lack of the right to work for adults has a direct and strong impact on their children’s right to education.”

“People have no jobs, and when they do they are underpaid and exploited, and they can’t afford to pay for their children’s tuition fees”

“People have no jobs, and when they do they are underpaid and exploited, and they can’t afford to pay for their children’s tuition fees,” she told IRIN. “The result is that many young children either stay at home looking after their siblings and household or are forced to work and beg in the streets to provide their families with some income.”

 For the small number of Syrian children in Istanbul who are admitted into free Turkish schools that follow the national curriculum, Alaaraj acknowledged, “it’s often difficult for them to keep up with their classmates because of the language barrier and only one out of 10 succeed [in end-of-term exams].”

Across the city there are 60 Syrian schools (officially referred to as “temporary education centres”) where classes are taught in Arabic using a curriculum created by the opposition Syrian Interim Government, but only six of them are free. Some are located inside mosques and private or public buildings, but often only for a limited period of time before being moved somewhere else. SCE provides the schools with free textbooks, the content of which have been adapted by the Free Syrian Army and purged of what they view as the Syrian regime’s propaganda.

Reema Adadi is a Syrian teacher at a school located in a small mosque in Fatih. “The problem with this school is that each class is composed of kids of different ages,” she said, adding that attendance is sporadic because the children are often forced to work and contribute to the family’s income.

“[There are also] children who suffer from different traumas and should be taught by specialised personnel,” she told IRIN.

At a free school for Syrians hosted inside a mosque in Istanbul, a mentally disabled child tries solve some Arabic grammar exercises

At a free school for Syrians hosted inside a mosque in Istanbul, a mentally disabled child tries solve some Arabic grammar exercises

In addition to the Turkish and Syrian schools, there are several private schools funded by secular or religious organisations, which cost between US$590 and $690 per child for each academic year.  They are often products of community-based initiatives associated with the Syrian opposition in Turkey, and although they are usually well managed, some are still not registered with or recognised by the Turkish government.

Syrian families with several children and no regular income may be able to send one child to school “in the best-case scenario” said Alaaraj of SCE. “In the worst one, if perhaps they live far away from the school and must pay additional money for transport, they drop the whole idea.”

Alaaraj stressed that Syrian children not in school are “easy prey for the radical and criminal groups that are booming across the city.”

Small Projects Istanbul runs an education project aimed at helping Syrians, particularly single mothers who are struggling to make ends meet, enrol their children at Arab-language schools.

“We also hold Turkish classes for them and their children to cope with their daily lives and integrate into Turkish society,” said Thomas.

Teachers with Small Project Istanbul tell a popular Syrian fairy tale to a class of Syrian children in both Arabic and Turkish

Teachers with Small Project Istanbul tell a popular Syrian fairy tale to a class of Syrian children in both Arabic and Turkish

With limited funding, she added, “we do what we can and, unfortunately, it’s only a drop [in the ocean] compared to the Syrian schooling catastrophe we are facing.”

“To not end up with a whole generation of young Syrians without education, and zero prospects for their future inside or outside their home country, there is just one solution,” Thomas told IRIN. “The Turkish government must give Syrians the right to work, and therefore a chance to build a decent life here. Until then, the international community must provide them with financial help, and bring education back to the top of Syrians’ priorities – as it used to be before the war.”


The Kurdish wars

Middle East - Africa/Politics di

Against Isis, against Erdogan’s threats, against Barzani that wants to be the president of KRG forever.

While on the turkish border, President Erdogan is exploiting international aid to face Isis and, at the same time, try to hit the Kurds of PKK, the president of the KRG (Kurdistan Regional Government), Barzani, is organizing military parades in order to retain his mandate, beyond the two-year extension already granted. KRG is the only form of government able to represent Kurdish people, divided between Iraq, Turkey, Syria and Iran.

The Kurdistan Regional Government was established in Iraq after the collapse of the regime of Saddam Hussein and is now subjected to the same power struggles that caused the instability of the Middle East. During the years Kurdish people were, and still are, discriminated against. Saddam Hussein has made the Kurds the target of his chemical weapons causing real massacres as in Halabja in 1988. The persecution took the traits of the genocide through the “Anfal Campaign”.

In Turkey , as well as in Syria, over the years, the persecution never stopped and Kurdish people did not get more favors. Their conditions has come to international attention since the irregular army of KRG, the Peshmarga, took their weapons to face the advancing of Isis. The pages of history books written now, will describe the heroic resistance of these mixed troops made of men and women, who fought to protect cities like Kobanî. But this is not enough for Turkey that is ready to exploit the Isis justification to attack the Kurdish army.

If the elections on June 7 in Turkey seemed to be a turning point with the entrance in Parliament of HDP; recent events like the connection of the Democratic party of the Kurdish people to PKK after exceeding the threshold of 10% of the preferences set by Erdogan, seem to record a sharp setback.In recent years, the bombings inflicted by the Turkish on the Kurds of northern Iraq never stopped and have caused the reaction of the Kurdish militants. On August 10th, the escalation of violence caused 9 victims, killed in four separate attacks. Near the US Consulate and a police station in Istanbul and near a convoy and a military helicopter in the south-east of the country, Sirkin, in Kurdish territory.

Episodes that are triggering the danger of a real civil war. The DHKP-C claimed the shots against the US consulate that brings the terrorists of the Revolutionary Front for the Liberation of the People, and PKK, the Kurdistan Workers Party of Ocalan, was responsible for the two attacks in the south-east . The reasons that led Erdogan to attack the Kurds, causing their reaction, is to be found in the victory of the Kurdish minority in the last election.

The entry of HDP into Parliament has removed the AKP, the Party for Justice and Development which belongs to Erdogan, that had held absolute majority for 13 years. After the attacks of August 10, Erdogan is supporting the need to go to early elections and get back to the majority denied last June. The attacks claimed by DHKP-C and PKK will cause a loss of votes in the Kurdish party of Hdp at they will be used at his advantage. If it is not possible now to talk about a probable alliance between the guerrillas of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), and the terrorists of the Revolutionary People’s Liberation Front (DHKP-C), however, it is certain that the Kurds are increasingly unwilling to accept the requests of the leader of the PKK, Abdullah Ocalan, in 2006.

From the prison of Imral he asked his fighters to seek dialogue with the Turkish government to reach a cease-fire. If the risk, in Turkey, is to come to a war against the Kurds, the chances that serious internal unrest will happen in the autonomous region of Iraqi Kurdistan are just as real . Days ago, the President of the KRG, Massoud Barzani organized a military parade in Erbil. A clear message designed to get to what he has been asking for a long time, that Is a new confirmation of his role. According to the internal laws to KRG, the presidential term of four years is extendable just for only one renewal. Then, the President decades automatically. Barzani has already achieved a two-year extension that will run out on the next August 19. However, he does not intend to give up his role. The first elections in the KRG took place in 1992. Neither political parties PUK and PKK, represented by Jalal Talabani and Masoud Barzani reached a majority and an agreement. Those conditions caused the dreadful civil war that has killed more than 3,000 civilians. When the civil war ended in 2005, Talabani became the Iraqi President and Barzani the KRG’s President.

The power of the Kurdistan Regional Presidency was stronger than the one of the Parliament and the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG), to counterbalance the Iraqi presidency. For the KRG, the presidency was a new institution with unlimited powers. The result is that corruption has grown exponentially, national resources have been squandered, private militias and intelligence services are increasingly loyal to their parties as opposed to the country, and there is ever-growing social inequality. The country is bankrupt and most people are struggling to make ends meet, while 10,000 millionaires and 15 billionaires have emerged in a short period of time. Society is polarized between lackeys who live on political parties’ handouts and good honest citizens who have to wait for wages that are three months behind. In fact the system is almost near a dictatorial regime than a Presidential one. It’s true that is a well-established Middle-Eastern-Fact that the presidential system only breeds dictators and corrupt leaders.

In 2013, when Barzani’s term was extended, the political system became an absolute presidency according to legistlation and the chances required by Barzani, to get the president’s powers greater than those of any other president in the region. Just to have an idea, here’s a few of the KR President’s powers: highest executive power in KR, chief of General Staff, power to dissolve Parliament, can announce a State of Emergency [without parliament’s consent], power to appoint KR’s Constitutional Court members and members of the Judges Assembly, power to control KR’s Security Council and KR’s Intelligence services and most importantly of all, the power to approve or reject legislation passed by parliament.

The oppositions tried to make alliance to oppose Barzani but every attempt has been unconclusive. When the war against IS began, only the attack to Shingal and the following capture of a 1,000 women and children made Barzani act. Before that violences Barzani was refusing to engage in the conflict. Nowadays even the war hasn’t motivated Barzani to get his act together with Yazidis and unite the Peshmerga into a strong national army. There can only be two explanations for the multidimensional crisis Barzani has dragged the nation into: either he is too weak to accept responsibility and tackle these matters head on or else he is directly involved in the wrongdoing and exploitation of national resources.

What could happen is Barzani left? The response is not easy at the moment. Now, KRG is governed from the two-party coalition of the Kurdistan Democratic Party and Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (Kurdistan List). At the opposition we found four parties, PUK, Gorran, KIU and KIG that might accept another KDP candidate o tolerate another term for Barzani only if KDP accepts constitutional amendments to establish a full parliamentary system and limit the powers of the president.
But at the moment KDP has not an influential leader who can be accepted by both of the main wings of their party. The PUK seems to have given up on the position since they already have Iraq’s presidency. Gorran also hasn’t declared any interest in the presidency. Just one thing is certain. If the parties do not reach a consensus in the next few months, KR will face a political crisis which could potentially lead to civil unrest.
Monia Savioli


Monia Savioli
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