Egyptian vultures, other birds counted in Turkey


This video says about itself:

Jackal vs. Ostrich Eggs vs. [Egyptian] Vulture

A three pound ostrich egg is a tough meal to crack – unless you’re a tool-using vulture with just the right technique.

From BirdLife:

First full migration census in southern Turkey of Egyptian Vulture and other raptors

By Alessia Calderalo, Fri, 14/11/2014 – 12:10

With its yellow beak and its beautiful white plumage, the Egyptian Vulture was revered in Ancient Egypt as a symbol of parental care. Sadly, this majestic bird is one of those many endangered species that year after year face several threats causing their decline.

Turkey is one of the few countries in the world that has a large breeding population of Egyptian Vultures, estimated at 1,000 – 3,000 pairs. Doğa Derneği, BirdLife Partner in the country, is aware of its responsibility in the protection of the species and has initiated research to assess its conservation status in Turkey. Because monitoring population size of Egyptian Vultures in Turkey is very difficult as the breeding range is large and finding all the occupied territories is labour intensive, a team led by Doğa Derneği and BirdLife British Partner RSPB implemented an alternative approach and conducted the first full migration census in southern Turkey.

From 16th August to 16th October 2014, the team was located at a migratory bottleneck near the Gulf of Iskenderun to count migrating Egyptian Vultures and other migrating raptors. The project, partly funded by the Ornithological Society of the Middle East (OSME), showed that 130.347 raptors migrated over the area, including 47.594 Lesser Spotted Eagles, which is more than 95% of the currently assumed world population.

The study conducted this year is a huge step forward for Turkey’s ornithologists and bird lovers, since it has provided valuable baseline data that can be compared in the future to infer population changes of Egyptian Vultures and other raptors. However, for this study to be truly effective in the future, the migration monitoring needs to be carried out for at least ten years. If implemented annually, the census will provide robust information to understand the trends of many species and thus serve to design effective conservation measures based on scientific evidence.

For more information, please contact Engin Yilmaz, General Manager at Doğa Derneği.

Syrian rebels destroy Armenian genocide monument


This video says about itself:

Jabhat al-Nusra attacks Syria’s ancient Aramaic village

5 September 2013

The Syrian village of Ma’loula in the mountains north of Damascus is a UNESCO world heritage site, it is one of the only villages in the world where ancient Aramaic is still spoken – that’s the language believed to have been spoken by Jesus Christ.

It has been overrun in an assault by al-Qaeda linked group Jabhat al-Nusra, who were fighting alongside opposition brigades from Baba Amr in Homs. A nun from a convent in Ma’loula has accused Jabhat al-Nusra of shelling the village and its inhabitants indiscriminately.

From daily The Independent in Britain:

Jabhat al-Nusra blows up Armenian church in Deir el-Zour: A savage blow that echoes through Armenian history

Islamists’ destruction of a shrine to the victims of genocide marks the latest chapter in a tragic national history. Robert Fisk reports from Qamishli, north-eastern Syria

Monday 10 November 2014

In the most savage act of vandalism against Syria’s Christians, Islamists have blown up the great Armenian church in Deir el-Zour, built in dedication to the one and a half million Armenians slaughtered by the Turks during the 1915 genocide. All of the church archives, dating back to 1841 and containing thousands of documents on the Armenian holocaust, were burned to ashes, while the bones of hundreds of genocide victims, packed into the church’s crypt in memory of the mass killings 99 years ago, were thrown into the street beside the ruins.

This act of sacrilege will cause huge pain among the Armenians scattered across the world – as well as in the rump state of Armenia which emerged after the 1914-1918 war, not least because many hundreds of thousands of victims died in death camps around the very same city of Deir el-Zour. Jabhat al-Nusra rebels appear to have been the culprits this time, but since many Syrians believe that the group has received arms from Turkey, the destruction will be regarded by many Armenians as a further stage in their historical annihilation by the descendants of those who perpetrated the genocide 99 years ago.

Turkey, of course, miserably claims there was no genocide – the equivalent of modern day Germany denying the Jewish Holocaust – but hundreds of historians, including one prominent Turkish academic, have proved beyond any doubt that the Armenians were deliberately massacred on the orders of the Ottoman Turkish government across all of modern-day Turkey and inside the desert of what is now northern Syria – the very region where Isis and its kindred ideological armed groups now hold. Even Israelis refer to the Armenian genocide with the same Hebrew word they use for their own destruction by Nazi Germany: “Shoah”, which means “holocaust”.

The Armenian priest responsible for the Deir el-Zour district, Monsignor Antranik Ayvazian, revealed to me that before the explosions tore the church apart towards the end of September, he received a message from the Islamists promising to spare the church archives if he acknowledged them as the legislative authority in that part of Syria. “I refused,” he said. “And after I refused, they destroyed all our papers and endowments. The only genocide victims’ bones left were further north in the Murgada sanctuary and I buried them before I left. They destroyed the church there, but now if I could go back, I don’t even know if I could find where I put the bones.”

Msr Ayvazian later received a photograph taken in secret and smuggled to him from the Isis-controlled area, showing clearly that only part of the central tower of the Deir el-Zour church, built in 1846 and renovated 43 years later, remains. Every Armenian who has returned to the killing fields of the genocide has prayed at the church. Across these same lands, broken skulls and bones from 1915 still lie in the sand. When I investigated the death marches in this same region 22 years ago with a French photographer, we uncovered dozens of skeletons in the crevasse of a hill at a point where so many Armenian dead were thrown into the waters of the Khabur that the river changed its course forever. I gave some of the skulls and bones we found to an Armenian friend who placed them in the crypt of the Deir el-Zour church – the very same building which now lies in ruins.

“During the Armenian genocide, the Turks entered the church and killed its priest, Father Petrus Terzibashian, in front of the congregation,” Msr Ayvazian said. “Then they threw his body into the Euphrates. This time when the Islamists came, our priest there fled for his life.” Msr Ayvazian suffered his own personal loss in the Syrian war when Islamist fighters broke into the Mediterranean town of Qassab on 22 April this year. “They burned all my books and documents, many of them very old, and left my library with nothing but 60cm of ash on the floor.” Msr Ayvazian showed me a photograph of the Qassab church altar, upon which one of the Islamists had written in Arabic: “Thanks be to God for al-Qaeda, the Nusra Front and Bilal al-Sham” (another Islamist group). The town was retaken by Syrian government troops on 22 June.

Msr Ayvazian recounted his own extraordinary story of how he tried to prevent foreign Islamist fighters from taking over or destroying an Armenian-built hospital – how he drove to meet the Islamist gunmen and agreed to recover the corpses of some of their comrades killed in battle in return for a promise not to damage the hospital. “As I approached the hospital, a Syrian jet flew over me and dropped a bomb 40 metres from the building. I know the officer who sent the aircraft. He said it was his way of trying to warn the rebels not to harm me. They came out of the hospital like rats – but they did not harm me.”

I spoke later to the local Syrian military air force dispatcher and he confirmed that he had indeed sent a MiG fighter-bomber to attack waste ground near the building. Msr Ayvazian subsequently went to the old battlefield with Syrian government permission and recovered several bodies, all in a state of advanced decay and one with a leg eaten off by dogs. But he bravely set off with trucks carrying the dead and handed the remains to the Islamists. “They kept their word and later withdrew all their foreign fighters from the province of Hassake. I later received a letter from one of their emirs, very polite, telling me – and here the priest produced a copy of the note – that: “We vow to keep your property and your cherished possessions, which we also hold dear to us.” Msr Ayvazian looked scornfully at the letter. “Look, here at the start,” he said, “they have even made a mistake in their first quotation from the Koran! And then look what happened at Deir el-Zour. It was all for nothing.”

Each year, thousands of Armenians have gathered at their church in Deir el-Zour on 25 April – the date they commemorate the start of the genocide, when Armenian lawyers, teachers and doctors were arrested and later executed by the Turks outside Istanbul – to remember their million and a half dead. The 100th anniversary of the mass slaughter would have been a major event in Deir ez-Zour’s history. And although Syrian soldiers are still holding out in part of the town today, and Syrian authorities have promised to rebuild Armenian churches when their lands are retaken from the Islamists, there is little hope that any Armenians will be able to visit the ruins of their church in five months’ time.

Isis in Syria: In the shadow of death, a few thousand Christians remain to defy the militants: here.

There has been a “total collapse of international solidarity” when it comes to helping the ever-growing number of refugees from Syria’s civil war, humanitarian agencies said today: here.

Kurds don’t want ‘Free Syrian Army’ in Kobani


This video from Turkey is called Protest: Turkey helps ISIS, STOP Turkish Army support for ISIS terrorist group.

Translated from ANP news agency in the Netherlands:

October 24, 2014 14:06

The Kurdish fighters of the PYD in Kobani deny that there is an agreement on the arrival of 1300 troops of the Free Syrian Army (FSA) to the Syrian border.

A leader of the fighters on Friday denied words to that effect from the Turkish president Tayyip Recep Erdogan earlier in the day.

The Kurds in Kobani fight against the Islamic State (ISIS). The PYD leader also reported that it might be better if the FSA instead of going to Kobani would instead open a second front against ISIS.

The ‘Free Syrian Army’ are hardly less sectarian Sunni anti-Kurdish fundamentalists than ISIS or the ‘official’ Al Qaeda in Syria called Al Nusra. As a rule, the FSA have pretty good relations with Al Nusra. It would indeed be much better, if the ‘moderate’ FSA, instead of selling their prisoners like Steven Sotloff to ISIS for beheading, would start fighting ISIS somewhere away from Kobani. It would also be better if they would no longer commit cannibalism, like happened before.

According to Erdogan there were already talks about the route that the FSA troops supposedly would follow to go to Kobani.

Apparently, Mr Erdogan wanted to ram a fait accompli down the Syrian Kurds‘ throats. He wants to subject them to the FSA; the FSA, in its turn, being largely subject to the Turkish secret police. Earlier, the Turkish government had demanded that the Syrian Kurds should subject themselves to the FSA; which they have refused.

From the very start, the project for “democratic autonomy” was met with strong criticism from some rival Kurdish parties, which demanded that the PYD and YPG accept the authority of the Syrian National Coalition (SNC), which is the main body of the “moderate” Syrian opposition and related to FSA. Turkey and the United States have made similar demands. Why are PYD and YPG then so unwilling to comply? Could they not simply join the “moderate” rebels in exchange for international support against the Islamic State and Assad? A closer look at the “moderates” might explain their reluctance. Since the beginning of the conflict, the SNC has refused to recognize minority rights for the Kurds and other non-Arab minorities in a future state, which the SNC insists should continue to be called the Syrian Arab Republic. The SNC has also actively supported FSA factions fighting against the YPG on the side of jihadists: here.

Apparently, the Syrian Kurds are not the only people knowing nothing about Erdogan’s fait accompli. From daily The Morning Star in Britain:

Mr Erdogan said that the FSA forces were negotiating their route with Kurdish forces in the town.

However, a spokesman for the Western-backed Syrian opposition in exile, Kenan Mohammed, said that he was not aware of any such plans.

Solidarity with Kobani in Zaandam, the Netherlands: here.

Washington’s strategy in its three-month-old war in Iraq and Syria appeared to suffer another humiliating blow over the weekend as one of the last remaining strongholds of US-backed “moderate rebels” in the northwestern Syrian province of Idlib fell to the Nusra Front, the Syrian affiliate of Al Qaeda: here.

An article by independent journalist Theo Padnos in the Sunday magazine section of the New York Times on his abduction and two-year imprisonment by the Nusra Front in Syria is instructive in terms of the reliability and allegiance of supposedly “vetted” forces. In the article, entitled “My Captivity,” Padnos recounts how not once, but twice, he managed to escape from his Nusra Front captors and seek aid from the so-called moderates of the Free Syrian Army, only to be quickly handed back to the Al Qaeda-affiliated group: here.

Co-president of the Kobane Legislative Council FAYZA ABDI talks to Stephen Smellie about how Kurdish women are at the forefront of the fight against Isis in the struggle to build a better society: here.

Turkish government’s road to dictatorship


This video is called Turkey: Watch police unleash water cannon on anti-Islamic State protesters.

By Jean Shaoul:

Turkish government seeks new police state powers

21 October 2014

The government of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is intent on giving sweeping new powers to Turkish security forces to clamp down on the pro-Kurdish protests sparked by its blockade of the Syrian border city of Kobani during its month-long siege by the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria. In so doing, Erdogan has strengthened the security and military establishment whose power he has sought to curtail during the 12 years in office of his Islamist Justice and Development Party (AKP) government.

In addition, he has jeopardised relations with Turkey’s Kurdish community, who form 20 percent of the population, 19 months after initiating talks aimed at resolving the decades-long conflict. This is threatening Turkey’s domestic stability just as economic growth is grinding to a halt and unemployment is rising.

In 2013, the imprisoned Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) leader Abdullah Öcalan called for an end to the three decades-long civil war, abandoned his demand of Kurdish independence in favour of greater autonomy, and announced a ceasefire agreement with the government. But Öcalan has declared that the talks would be over without some progress in the negotiations by October 15 and if Kobani fell to ISIS.

According to Deputy Prime Minister Bulent Arinc, a proposed Homeland Security Reform Bill would “give the upper hand to the police” in the face of “widespread violence”, and “more space to resort to new tools and measures.” There will be harsher punishment for offenders damaging public property and demonstrators wearing masks to conceal their identities.

Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said the new law treats the throwing of Molotov cocktails as a crime on a par with throwing bombs, since such weapons have been used to set ambulances and public buildings afire. He warned protesters against destroying water cannon trucks, a favourite tool of Turkish police in dispersing protests, saying, “We will buy five or 10 TOMAs [the Turkish acronym for water cannon trucks] for each TOMA destroyed.”

Opposition legislators denounced the new measures, saying they would turn Turkey into a police state. Pro-Kurdish MP Idris Baluken of the People’s Democratic Party (HDP) said, “This is like throwing gasoline on a fire… at a time when so many children are being killed by police on the streets.”

He added, “From now on, the police will resort to not only using shields but also guns, with an authority to kill.”

The new measures come in the wake of a week of nationwide “solidarity” protests by Turkey’s Kurdish population–called by the HDP and the PKK via social media–in which at least 35 people were killed and 360 wounded. … More than 1,000 people have been detained and curfews imposed in several cities.

While it was at first thought that protestors had died as a result of the security forces’ actions, it now appears that at least some of the deaths followed clashes between secular Kurds and the Sunni Islamist Kurdish group, Huda-Par, the successor organisation to Hezbollah (no relation to the Lebanese Hezbollah). Hezbollah was widely believed to have been trained and armed by the Turkish state, which unleashed them against the Kurds in south eastern Turkey, and to have been responsible for the unsolved murders of 500 Kurdish activists, writers, journalists and intellectuals in the 1990s.

Davutoglu said that Turkey will not allow its citizens to fight in Kobani whether they are pro-ISIS, supporters of the Syrian opposition, or pro-Kurdish groups. He attacked Selahattin Demirtas, leader of the HDP, for saying that “tens of thousands Kurdish youth” were ready to take on ISIS if the Turkish-Syrian border gates into Kobani were opened.

The fall of Kobani to ISIS would threaten the survival of the Syrian Kurdish autonomous region known as Rojava in the north and east of Syria, as it is located between two geographically isolated Kurdish areas along an east-west axis. The two remaining enclaves would find it difficult to resist ISIS, which would free up the Islamists to take the region north of Aleppo.

Ankara views the Syrian Kurdish Democratic Union Party (PYD) and its armed wing the YPG, which control Rojava, as an offshoot of the PKK. Having fought a 30 year war with the PKK over its demands for Kurdish independence, it fears that the PYD/YPG’s control of a relatively autonomous Syrian Kurdish region sets an example for the much larger Kurdish population in south eastern Turkey.

The AKP government had refused to relieve the blockade unless the PYD dissolves its self-ruling local governments in northern Syria, joins the largely ineffectual Free Syrian Army which has opposed minority rights in Syria and is under Turkish control, distances itself from the PKK, and becomes part of Turkey’s “buffer zone project” along the Syrian border.

The Davutoglu government now classifies both the PKK/YPG and ISIS as “terrorists,” after a recent shift, but it is, in effect, using ISIS against the Kurds. Indeed, one reason for Turkey’s previous sponsorship of ISIS as part of the military campaign to overthrow President Bashar al-Assad was to counter Rojava and Kurdish aspirations in Syria.