Tens of thousands of people joined the funeral ceremony Aug. 19 for Mehdin Taşkın, who was killed by Turkish troops that attacked local people trying to protect a statue of PKK guerrilla leader Mahsum Korkmaz AKA Egît at Yolaçtı in Lice district of Diyarbakır (Kurdish: Amed) province. Taşkın was laid to rest at the same cmetery where he was shot by soldiers that advanced in helicopters and armored vehicles that same morning. His coffin covered with the PKK flag. (ANF, Aug. 19) A local court ruled the previous day that the statue erected at the entrance to the cemetary for PKK martyrs should be demolished following a complaint by the Diyarbakır government. Korkmaz, an early PKK leader, was killed in 1986 in a clash with Turkish security forces, and was recently buried at Yolaçtı. (Today's Zaman, Aug. 18)
Unidentified warplanes carried out air-strikes on a small arms depot and other targets controlled by Islamist militias in the Libyan capital, Tripoli, Aug. 18. At least six were killed in the strikes. The strikes were beyond the capacity of the limited Libyan Air Force, and Libyan authorities said the planes had come from a foreign state. The US, France, Italy and Egypt all denied responsibility. Also hit in the raid were camps along the road to Tripoli's airport, which is contested by rival militias. Another taregt was Tripoli's Mitiga air base, also controlled by Islamists. At least 100 have been killed in fighting in Tripoli over the past month. (NYT, Xinhua, Aug. 19)
Venezuela has scored a win in its ongoing diplomatic and propaganda war with Uncle Sam. The most recent flare-up started July 24, when authorities in Aruba arrested Gen.Hugo Carvajal, a top Venezuelan official wanted in the US on drug trafficking charges. Carvajal had been military intelligence chief under the late Venezuelan president Hugo Chávez, and was accused by the US Treasury Department of using his position to protect cocaine shipments for Colombia's FARC guerillas. He had just arrived in Aruba after being appointed Venezuela's consul there—and was promptly detained at Washington's behest. Venezuela's President Nicolás Maduro called the detention a "kidnapping," and demanded Carvajal's immediate release. And three days later, a judge on the island found that since Carvajal had a diplomatic passport, his arrest was illegal. He was sprung and quickly made the short flight back to Venezuela. "He's returning free and victorious. It's a triumph for sovereignty and legality," president Maduro said, praising the "bravery" of the Dutch government. (The Guardian, July 28; BBC News, July 27; Maduradas, July 24)
Boy, did we ever call this one. Contrary to the prevailing leftist conspiracy theory that the US was backing ISIS against Assad, we predicted earlier this year that the US would soon intervene in Syria against al-Qaeda and its offshoots such as ISIS. Today, the New York Times reports the comments of Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, that ISIS cannot be defeated unless the US or its partners take them on in Syria. "This is an organization that has an apocalyptic end-of-days strategic vision that will eventually have to be defeated," Dempsey said. "Can they be defeated without addressing that part of the organization that resides in Syria? The answer is no." Dempsey and Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, who both spoke at a Pentagon press conference, stopped short of saying air-strikes on Syria are planned, but the comments were obviously intended to float the idea.
Australian citizen David Hicks filed a motion (PDF) to dismiss his conviction in the US Court of Military Commission Review on Aug. 20 after pleading guilty in 2007 for war crimes that took place before 2001 in exchange for his release. Hicks was captured in Afghanistan shortly after Sept. 11, 2011, and brought to the detention facility in Guantánamo Bay the day that it opened. The Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) and co-counsel Joseph Margulies filed a motion asking the military commission to vacate Hicks' conviction for "material support for terrorism," following the US Court of Appeals for the DC Circuit's 2012 decision in Hamdan v. United States (PDF), which held that material support for terrorism is not a war crime and, thus, is beyond the jurisdiction of military commissions. Hicks' original appeal in November was stayed pending the ruling in Al-Bahlul v. United States (PDF), which similarly held last month that material support is not a war crime and cannot be tried by military commission. Hicks was the first person to be convicted in a military commission. After his release from Guantánamo, Hicks returned to Australia under a one-year gag order that prohibited him from speaking to the media. As part of his plea, he was also prevented from taking legal action against the US and required to withdraw allegations that the US military abused him.
ISIS on Aug. 19 released a video purporting to show a mass conversion of hundreds of members of the 4,000-year-old Yazidi religion. The "conversion" is clearly forced, undertaken on pain of death. The video was published shortly after ISIS released a video showing one of its members beheading US journalist James Foley, sparking outrage around the world. (IraqiNews.com) More than 90,000 Yazidi refugees who fled Mount Sinjar to the Kurdish-governed Dahouk governorate live in horrific conditions, according to Saleh Dabbakeh, spokesperson for the International Committee of the Red Cross in Iraq. Thousands are without even rudimentary shelter, seeking refuge form the blazing sun under trees and bridges. He said many of the refugees who made it to Dahouk are now struggling "to get food and water for their families and many have no access to medical care." (Azzaman)
The lefty Common Dreams website claims to have conducted an investigation revealing that "more than a thousand" anti-Semitic comments posted to the site over the past two years "were written with a deceptive purpose by a Jewish Harvard graduate in his thirties who was irritated by the website's discussion of issues involving Israel." In an "intricate campaign"—which he supposedly admitted to Common Dreams, although his name was not revealed—the busy crypto-scribe posted comments under the screen name "JewishProgressive," whose purpose was to draw attention to the anti-Semitic comments that he had written under various other screen names. If it all really was one guy, he certainly has a sharp ear. In response to JewishProgressive's complaints, his alter-egos responded with such gems as: "Oy vey! Cry me a river, you Talmudic parasite. Direct your criticism at your sociopathic tribe of money-grubbers, warmongers, and land thieves." And: "There are reasons beyond mere 'anti-Semitism' why these people were kicked out of 109 countries. You don't elicit that degree of anger and hostility from host populations without significantly contributing to the problem through your antisocial, predatory behavior." And, apparently fearing that readers might be getting wise, he had one of his own characters speculate that the Jew-hating posts were an "elaborate Hasbara setup." The deceitful trolling is said to have cost Common Dreams much money in donations. The ruse was uncovered by comparing the IP addresses of posters.
After the abduction of more than 500 Yazidi women and girls by ISIS fighters at Sinjar, the jihadist group has established a special office in the Quds neighborhood of Mosul city where the women are being sold, according to Evar Ibrahim, head of the Women's Committee in the Kurdistan Regional Government's parliament. Ibrahim said the girls are being sold for 30,000 dinars, or about $26. "Despite selling them, the Yazidi girls have been raped by the IS insurgents," Ibrahim added. (BasNews) An official spokesman of Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) in Khanaqen district, Hemin Mansour, charged that ISIS militants are evicting any remaining Kurdish families from Jalawla (Diyala governorate), and have demolished some houses belonging to Kurdish residents of the town. The evictions are being justified on the grounds that the Kurdish families were collaborating with the Peshmerga. The ISIS flag is also being raised over seized Kurdish homes to make them a target for air-strikes. (BasNews)