Drowned Syrian boy Aylan’s aunt speaks


Aylan (L) and his brother Ghalib Kurdi (photo courtesy of Tima Kurdi)

From RT.com:

West ‘did nothing’ to end war in Syria, says aunt of drowned Syrian boy

Published time: 13 Feb, 2017 10:31
Edited time: 13 Feb, 2017 17:19

The Western countries have done nothing to resolve the Syrian crisis, pursuing their false narrative instead, while the real situation in Syria stays underreported, the aunt of a Syrian refugee toddler who drowned in 2015 on his way to Europe told RT.

Our country is being destroyed by outsiders,” said Tima Kurdi – a Syrian-born Canadian lawyer and the aunt of Aylan Kurdi, a three-year-old Syrian boy who died in September 2015 en route to the Greek island of Kos from Turkey – adding that “Western countries are not doing anything” about that.

She said the death of her nephew became “a wake-up call to the world, a message from God, who told us [that] enough is enough,” adding that the Syrian people “were suffering for four years [at that time] and Syria was crying out to the world for help but nobody was hearing” to these pleas, as “there was not enough media coverage until” the picture of the body of her nephew washed ashore in Turkish resort city of Bodrum made global headlines.

That image prompted politicians in many Western countries to open their borders and take in refugees. However, “months later, they started to forget that image and just got back to their everyday business, but the suffering [of the Syrian people] continued,” Kurdi said.

She went on to say that the West not only did “nothing to end this terrible war,” but also conducted a “terrible” regime change policy in Syria that actually only made the situation even worse. The Western funding of the so-called moderate rebels only prolongs the suffering of the Syrian people, Kurdi stressed, adding that “there are no moderate rebels in Syria.”

“When [Western governments] fund the ‘moderate’ rebels, their [aid] somehow eventually ends up in the hands of the most powerful groups on the ground, which are Al-Nusra Front and Islamic State [IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL],” she said.

The military solution would never work in Syria, Kurdi said, and “we will just see more suffering and more people will die.” She added that she does not take any side in this conflict and supports neither Syrian President Bashar Assad nor the opposition, but she had talked to many Syrians who live in refugee camps in Turkey, and believes that the Western media coverage of the Syrian conflict is biased.

The Western media report that “only President Bashar [Assad] kills his own people,” she said, adding that this sounds absurd to the Syrians. “I want people to understand one thing: if President Assad wants to stay in power in his country, he has to fight for his country but he would not kill his own people as he needs their support.”

The reports in the West on Syria “do not make sense,” as “there is more than just the [Syrian] government and Russia there, there are many rebels, who are fighting and killing my people,” she said, adding that “nobody [in the West] reports about rape” committed by the rebels and stressing that those stories are “terrible.”

Tima Kurdi admitted that Assad’s forces “did hurt the Syrian people,” but did so unintentionally. She also stressed that Syria was “peaceful and safe” before the war.

“Most Syrian people were just living their lives before the war and did not get involved in any politics,” she said, adding that “all kinds of religions” co-existed peacefully in Syria. “Sunni, Shia, Druze, Alawites, Christians – we all lived together and respected each other,” Kurdi, who was born and initially lived in Damascus, told RT, adding that “most Syrian people did not want to leave their homes” when the war came.

She then addressed the issue of the refugee crisis and said that the only way to stop it is to put an end to the war in Syria.

“I encourage the governments of each country to help find a political solution and [to stop violence] in my country. Bring peace to Syria so that you won’t need to see those refugees anymore,” she told RT.

Kurdi also asked people around the world to be more compassionate towards refugees.

“We need to help those suffering refugees. They have a right to be protected and they are peaceful people, like me and you. There is no difference. We need to help them rebuild their lives and welcome them with open arms until their country is safe to go back,” Kurdi said.

“I want people around the world to understand one thing: what will you do if you will be forced to leave your country one day and leave everything behind? What would you want the others to do for you? Do it for my people!” she added.

Spanish civil war veteran interviewed


José Almudever Mateu

By Denis Rogatyuk:

An interview with José Almudever Mateu, international brigader and Spanish Civil War veteran

Sunday 12th February 2017

Among a handful of defenders of the Second Spanish Republic surviving today is 97-year-old veteran of the Spanish Republican Army and the International Brigades José Almudever Mateu. Denis Rogatyuk sat down with with him to talk about his experiences in the civil war and its aftermath

FEBRUARY 6 marked the 80th anniversary of the beginning of the “Battle of Jarama,” a battle of the Spanish civil war (1936-39) that, alongside the Battle of Madrid, is most commonly associated with the participation of the International Brigades.

Following General Franco’s failure to take Madrid in October-November 1936, the Nationalist forces attempted a military offensive in February 1937 on the western flank of the Spanish Republic’s forces, alongside the river Jarama.

While the offensive failed, and the counter-offensives by the Republican forces effectively turned the battle into a stalemate, the battle itself became synonymous with the military, political and moral contribution of the International Brigades to the anti-fascist struggle in the civil war.

Holding the front line at Jarama were thousands of volunteers from Britain, Ireland, the United States, Italy, France, Belgium and many others who came to defend Spanish democracy against Franco, Adolf Hitler and Benito Mussolini.

Among a handful of surviving International Brigaders remaining today is Jose Almudever Mateu.

Born in France of parents from Spain’s Valencia region, Jose Almudever, 97-year-old veteran of the Spanish Republican Army and the International Brigades, has always been a staunch defender of the historic memory of the Spanish Republic (1931-39).

He has also been a harsh critic of the 1936 non-intervention pact signed by all major Western European powers with the expressed goal of preventing military support reaching the contending sides of the war.

In May 1938, owing to his foreign birth and knowledge of French, Almudever joined the 129th division of the International Brigades. At the end of the war in March 1939, he was captured and sent to a number of concentration camps and prisons around Alicante and Madrid, enduring starvation and abuse from the Francoist authorities. He was finally released in November 1942. Like many other former Republican fighters, he was forced into exile and only returned to Spain in 1965.

You were only 12 when the Republic was proclaimed on April 14, 1931. What do you remember from the atmosphere of those days?

Being only 12 years old, I did not fully know or understand all the events that surrounded me, but I witnessed great changes in my home town, Alcasser.

The majority of workers were peasants. Illiteracy there was over 60 per cent and a single landowner controlled over 10 per cent of the land. The bourgeoisie believed that they could constantly win elections because of the people’s ignorance.

April 14 was an event of incredible happiness for the Spanish people. I remember the first euphoric week and the explosion of freedom on the streets, when people of all the political groups marched together holding the pictures of the revolutionary martyrs and leaders. Two of those were Fermin Galan and Angel Garcia Hernandez, two army captains who attempted a military rebellion in December 1930, but were captured and shot in the last months of the monarchy.

My parents and I also had to ask ourselves: had we really achieved a workers’ republic that we hoped would be entrenched in the constitution, or did the second republic serve more the interests of the bourgeoisie?

The Republic did bring some important advances. For the first time, secular schools were created to educate children. The Republic was also the first government that gave equality to women. Women could now vote, women could now be elected and be educated.

At the same time, it was a form of a capitalist republic, not unlike the French Republic after the revolution. And, just like then, the bourgeoisie maintained power.

You spent the majority of your time defending Alcasser and Valencia from the fascists. How did it feel for you to fight alongside your family against the Francoist forces?

After Franco’s coup in July 1936, apart from the regular army, every political party formed its own volunteer force. At first, I tried to enlist with the Column “Germanias” of Izquierda Republicana (Republican Left), but was sent away because I was only 17.

My father and I then tried to go to the Communist Party, but they said they had no weapons or instructors to train new volunteers. Finally, they sent me off to join a Socialist column, which had its headquarters in a monastery in Alcasser. I enlisted in the “Pablo Iglesias” column on August 15 and on September 13 we headed off to the front line.

There were 200 of us. Each of us had a rifle. The people of Valencia applauded us greatly as we made our way to Teruel [then held by Franco’s forces]. I spent some months in rearguard action around Valacloche and Cubla [in Teruel Province], until finally we received our orders that on December 26 we would attack Teruel to support the defence of Madrid.

Our “Pablo Iglesias battalion” had over 500 men at that time. I spent several weeks in the trenches alongside other militias until February 4 1937, when I was allowed to return to Alcasser.

How did you become involved in the International Brigades?

On February 19, I returned to the front line with my comrades, in Utiel [Valencia province]. In Utiel, we met with the 13th International Brigade and I heard some of them speaking French. One of them told me they were being directed to the front in Malaga and I asked them if I could come with them and join the Brigades. But while I was waiting for him to confirm it, the 13th Brigade had to march off.

On June 26, the order came from the defence minister that forbade a 17 year old French-born youth like me from being in the Republican Army, so I had to leave the militia and return to Alcasser.

On September 1, they called up everyone born in 1919 for military service. But when I turned up, my name wasn’t on the list and I had to explain that I was born in France. They forbade me from serving in the army as a foreigner, so I returned to the front line as a volunteer.

It was in May 1938 that I finally presented myself to the Italian Rosselli Column, in Alcasser. This was when I was recovering from an arm injury, and still needed to be assigned. I presented my birth certificate to the commissar of the Rosselli Column, showing that I had been born in Marseilles and ended up joining them under the command of the 129th International Brigade.

What do you remember of the men and women who came from all over the world to fight for the Republic?

In the Rosselli Column, while waiting for our artillery pieces to arrive, I got to know combatants from all across the world. We had a Canadian, three Cubans, our chief mechanic was an American, one was Dutch, another was German, another Swiss and another Chinese.

For most of us, we did not get to know each other by name, but by nationality. With my Canadian comrade, David, we went everywhere together. Me being Franco-Spanish and him being Canadian, we hardly understood each other but we became good friends.

Despite our coming from different places the camaraderie among all of us was stupendous. We had passionate talks about everything, especially the war and the Republic but never had any conflicts. I remained with the Rosselli Column until November 1938, when it was divided into different language-speaking columns and sent off to the front, while I remained in Alcasser.

In December 1938, the non-intervention committee that was directed by Britain and France arrived in Spain and in January 1939 the International Brigades were expelled under its pressure.

Do you think that the non-intervention by Britain and France was what destroyed the Republic in the end?

Of course. The Republican government of Azana decided to expel the International Brigades in the hopes that Franco had a similar attitude and would do the same with the foreign armies supporting him. He did not.

The Brigadistas were inferior in numbers and the foreign troops on the other side comprised more than 80,000 and with far better weapons. And we also endured the anti-Soviet and anti-communist propaganda of the democratic capitalist countries.

The Republic was cruelly abandoned to the hands of nazism, since the British and French leaders believed that Hitler only wished to exterminate communism. Britain and France refused to sell any weapons or give any help to the Republic, while the United States continued to trade with Franco.

When General Franco was flown from the Canary Islands to Tetuan in the German plane on July 17 1936, alongside him arrived the support and the foreign armies of all those who supported the fascist coup and his side in the war.

Over 3,000 Germans, 12,000 Portuguese, 15,000 Moroccans, 30,000 members of the Foreign Legion and 70,000 Italians all came to support the formation of Franco’s army.

How can you call that a “civil war?”

United States airstrike kills Afghan women, children


This video says about itself:

13 February 2017

The United Nations has concluded that US-led forces are responsible for last week’s airstrikes in Afghanistan that resulted in 18 civilian deaths-nearly all women and children.

The world body voiced its grave concern over the mounting civilian deaths in Helmand province. The airstrikes took place on Thursday and Friday targeting Sangin district. This is while Afghan officials put the number of fatalities at 22. Washington has confirmed its warplanes have conducted around 30 airstrikes in Helmand province in the past week. The UN says civilian casualties from American airstrikes in Afghanistan increased dramatically last year.

From Reuters news agency:

U.S. Airstrikes In Afghanistan Kill At Least 18 Civilians: UN Report

The U.S. military says it is investigating the allegations.

KABUL, Feb 12 – At least 18 civilians were killed last week in air strikes by international forces in Afghanistan’s Helmand province, an initial United Nations inquiry has concluded.

American military officials say their aircraft have conducted around 30 air strikes in Helmand in the past week. …

American aircraft and special forces have also provided combat support, with at least one U.S. soldier wounded in recent fighting.

On Thursday and Friday air strikes in Helmand’s Sangin district killed as many as 18 civilians, mostly women and children, according to a U.N. statement released on Sunday.

The U.N. said the strikes had been conducted by “international military forces,” but only U.S. aircraft have been involved in recent coalition strikes, according to military officials.

Family members of victims at the regional hospital in Helmand’s capital, Lashkar Gah, demanded explanations.

“How could women and children be Taliban?” Majnoon, a resident of Sangin, who said 11 people were killed in his brother’s house in a strike on Thursday, told Reuters. …

Civilian casualties from both American and Afghan air strikes increased dramatically last year, according to the U.N.’s most recent report on threats to civilians.

Saudi puppets in Yemen kill each other


This 14 August 2015 video shows United Arab Emirates people crying as UAE soldiers return from the Saudi war on Yemen in coffins.

From daily The Morning Star in Britain:

Yemen: Clashes at Aden airport kill three militia fighters

Monday 13th February 2017

INFIGHTING between Saudi-backed militias broke out yesterday at an airport in the southern port city of Aden.

Riyadh-based exiled president Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi’s presidential guard — backed by the United Arab Emirates (UAE) — reportedly surrounded the airport after three days of fighting.

Helicopter gunships attacked the rival militia, killing three.

The militia have controlled the airport since the invasion in late 2015. They refused to hand over the airport to Hadi loyalists last week.

The UAE is a member of the Saudi-led coalition, and the only other nation with significant ground forces in the country.

Meanwhile in Somalia’s breakaway northern province Somaliland — which lacks international recognition — parliament voted to allow the UAE to build a military base there, across the Red Sea from Yemen.

The move, opposed by neighbouring Ethiopia and Djibouti, sparked vocal protests from nine MPs, who were removed.

Oystercatchers of Vlieland island, research


This video shows an oystercatcher in Norway.

From the University of Amsterdam in the Netherlands:

Oystercatcher (Haematopus ostralegus) populations in the Netherlands have dramatically declined during the last decades. CHIRP (Cumulative Human Impact on biRd Population) aims to determine which pressures in breeding and wintering areas cause the observed negative population trend. In winter, the Wadden Sea harbours large numbers of oystercatchers. Despite the vast amounts of shellfish available on the mudflats, oystercatchers encounter multiple difficulties in their wintering areas. For example, food stocks become more limited by fishery and the increase of the Pacific oyster. Furthermore, the Wadden Sea area is used for many different recreational purposes, causing disturbance of waders from the land, water and air. Walkers, cyclists, boats and airplanes are a few examples of disturbance sources present in the Wadden Sea. Disturbance might have direct energy costs for oystercatchers if the birds need to take flight or indirect costs if the foraging efficiency decreases due to a more alert state of the bird. Ultimately, this might affect body condition and survival of wintering oystercatchers.

The Vliehors is a large sandflat located at the western half of the Wadden Island Vlieland. The sandbanks serve as high tide roosts for large numbers of waders that forage on the tidal mudflats south of Vlieland. However, the area is owned by the military airforce and in use as training ground for helicopters and jet fighters which practice by shooting and throwing bombs at specific targets. During this research, we aim to study how disturbances like military air force planes affect the behaviour and time budgets of oystercatcher.

For this project, wintering oystercatchers at the Vliehors are equipped with UvA-BiTS GPS trackers during the seasons 2016-17, 2017-18 and 2018-19.

The GPS and accelerometer data will be linked to disturbances that take place on the Vliehors. Besides the activities of the military airforce, those disturbances include walkers and cyclists on land in the weekends and hand-raked cockle fishers on the mudflats with settled weather conditions. The frequency and effects of these disturbances will be recorded during the winter seasons. Linking field observations to GPS and accelerometer data will then yield valuable information on how different disturbances affect spatial distribution and time budgets of oystercatchers.

Iraqi refugee on Trump and Saddam


Jalal al Fartoossi, photo by Eline de Zeeuw/NOS

Today, on the site of Dutch NOS TV, there is an interview with Jalal al Fartoossi, an Iraqi refugee who owns a barbershop near Washington, D.C. in the USA.

When Jalal, now 33, was six years old, the Saddam Hussein regime killed his father. After George W Bush’s invasion of Iraq, the United States armed forces offered him a job as a translator. This made Jalal in the eyes of many Iraqis a traitor, a collaborator with occupation. So, in 2010, he fled Iraq to the USA. He says now about George W Bush’s war that it killed Saddam, ‘but brought hundreds of Saddams’. That is still less than the ‘1,000 Saddams’ estimate by Ali Abbas, another Iraqi refugee.

Jalal had said to his wife in Iraq that she might join him once the barbershop would make enough money. Recently, the time was right. Jalal’s wife would come, with a visa. Then, Donald Trump’s travel ban came. It devastated Jalal.

Then, Jalal heard that a court in San Francisco had decided against Trump’s travel ban. ‘Now, my wife will be able to come! I am so happy!’