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Top Stories from the Near-Middle East as of the 21st of June

  • Turkey

Reuters reports that Turkish authorities on Monday, 20th of June, arrested three prominent campaigners for press freedom, including the local representative of Reporters Without Borders (RSF), on charges of spreading terrorist propaganda, human rights groups said.

Reporters Without Borders’ Erol Onderoglu, along with journalist Ahmet Nesin and academic Sebnem Korur Fincanci, had participated in a solidarity campaign in support of Ozgur Gundem, a pro-Kurdish publication subject to multiple investigations and lawsuits.

The British  journal  the Guardian via  Press freedom advocates  warns that freedom of expression has dramatically declined in Turkey, where lawsuits against journalists, academics and other public figures are common.

Last month, Turkey came under fire for sentencing two prominent journalists at the opposition Cumhuriyet newspaper to at least five years in jail for revealing state secrets in a case in which Erdogan was named as a complainant.

Separately, turkish Hurriyet newspaper said its New York correspondent, Razi Canikligil, was detained on Monday upon his arrival at Istanbul’s Ataturk Airport. It offered no further details, including what charges he might face.

  • Istanbul authorities ban transgender and gay pride marches

Authorities in Istanbul have banned transgender and gay pride marches this month, citing security concerns after ultra-nationalists warned they would not allow the events to take place on Turkish soil.

Dozens of LGBT demonstrators assembled off Istiklal Street, a major commercial artery, some brandishing the LGBT flag.Police called on them to disperse and prevented activists from marching or making statements. A couple of individuals were detained.More than 300 policemen in anti-riot gear and backed by water cannons were deployed along the pedestrian thoroughfare and side streets.

While homosexuality is not a crime in Turkey, unlike many other Muslim countries, homophobia remains widespread. Critics say the president, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, and the Islamist-rooted AK party he founded have shown little interest in expanding rights for minorities, gays and women, and are intolerant of dissent.There was a small homophobic protest on Sunday, 19th of June.

Turkish President Tayyip Erdoğan made a smart and sarcastic comment the previous weeks for the ongoing clashes in France between political protesters and the police. “I am concerned and worried about the incidents happening in Paris right now,” he said. “I condemn the violence of the French police against people who use their right to protest.”


After the bomb attack that hit the headquarters of Blom Bank in Beirut this month, US financial sanctions against Hizbollah are threatening to pose an internal problem for Lebanon. Lebanon has been in a state of political turmoil and without a head of state since President Michel Suleiman’s term expired in May 2014.

“For those who are not aware, most of the sanctions were initially directed against American banks that accept financial transactions suspected of yielding profits to Hizbollah and those doing business with the organisation. They do not directly target Lebanese banks,” noted the columnist Walid Choucair in the pan-Arab daily Al Hayat.

Meanwhile, Beirut hopes for greater support from Moscow in resolving the political crisis in Lebanon, Lebanese Finance Minister Ali Hassan Khalil said Monday. (Sputnik News)


Greece, Britain and Israel sent planes and helicopters to Cyprus on Monday to fight one of the largest forest fires to hit the island in years, and two firefighter were killed More aircraft were expected on Tuesday from France and Italy.

The blaze, possibly triggered by an attempt to burn dry stubble, broke out on Sunday in the foothills of the Troodos mountain region of the eastern Mediterranean island and has been fanned by high winds and scorching temperatures.

The blaze was mostly brought under control late on Monday, although three fronts were still burning. Water bombers from Greece and Israel and helicopters from the British military bases in Cyprus were assisting in the firefighting effort. Anastasiades said additional air assistance had been requested from Greece.

Mustafa Akinci, head of the breakaway Turkish Cypriot state in northern Cyprus, also offered assistance. Anastasiades said he had thanked Akinci but that authorities ” had enough assets at their disposal.”


Egypt to complete repairs of EgyptAir black boxes ‘within hours’:

Egypt’s Aircraft Accident Investigation Committee will finish repairing the memory units of crashed EgyptAir flight MS804’s black box recorders on Monday, a high-ranking official on the committee said.The repairs will be complete “within hours” after which the committee will be able to determine whether or not data extraction will be easy, the official told reporters.

Egypt sentences 6 people to death, including 2 Al Jazeera journalists: 

An Egyptian court handed down death sentences to six people, including two Al Jazeera journalists, for alleged spying.The six, along with former President Mohammed Morsy and his aides, were accused of leaking state secrets to Qatar.The court ruled Saturday in support of a verdict ratified by Egypt’s religious leaders in the case dubbed the “Qatar spying case.”

Morsy, Egypt’s first democratically-elected ruler, was ousted in 2013. He was found guilty of membership of the now-banned Muslim Brotherhood, but acquitted of espionage, alongside his aides.

Al Jazeera issued a statement rejecting the verdict.
“Al Jazeera believes this is an unjust and politicized sentence that is a part of the ruthless campaign against freedom of speech and expression, in order to muzzle the voice of free press,” it said.
“Al Jazeera finds the sentence incriminating to the profession of journalism which all international laws and legislation seek to protect, and to all journalists who should be enabled to report with objectivity, professionalism, and integrity.”
Mostefa Souag, acting director general of Al Jazeera Media Network, noted that the country is “classified as one of the most dangerous places for journalists to work in.”
Egypt ranks 159th out of 180 countries in the 2016 Press Freedom Index.


‘Israel’s water war against Palestinians form of collective punishment’:

Israel has done so much to ensure that Palestinians don’t have access to water – not only as a form of collective punishment, but to also to ensure Palestinians do not develop their economy, says Ramzy Baroud, editor of The Palestine Chronicle.

For Aljazeera, tens of thousands of Palestinians have reportedly been left without access to safe drinking water, according to Palestinian authorities.In an official response to RT, Israel’s national water company denied the allegations. It claimed that following a shortage in supplies, it was forced to reduce the volume of water for all residents and not just Palestinians.

It also said the supply is enough to meet consumption.The timing could not be worse for Palestinians as temperatures are high, and the Holy month of fasting for Muslims is only worsening the situation.

Meanwhile, the Israeli government has approved an additional $18m (£12m) to pay for West Bank settlements.Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank are considered illegal under international law and major stumbling blocks to peace as they are built on land Palestinians view as part of their future state. (Aljazeera,, the Guardian)




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