Bombs continue raining down upon Iraq and Syria
US Department of Defense [23/3/16]:
U.S. and coalition military forces have continued to attack Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant terrorists in Syria and Iraq, Combined Joint Task Force Operation Inherent Resolve officials reported today.
Officials reported details of the latest strikes, noting that assessments of results are based on initial reports.
Strikes in Syria
Ground-attack, attack, fighter, and remotely piloted aircraft conducted eight strikes in Syria:
-- Near Manbij, a strike destroyed an ISIL mortar position.
-- Near Mar’a, six strikes struck six separate ISIL tactical units and destroyed four ISIL fighting positions, an ISIL bomb cache, an ISIL tunnel, and four ISIL vehicles.
-- Near Raqqah, a strike struck an ISIL weapons storage facility.
Strikes in Iraq
Rocket artillery and attack, fighter, and remotely piloted aircraft conducted 16 strikes in Iraq, coordinated with and in support of Iraq’s government:
-- Near Baghdadi, two strikes struck an ISIL tactical unit and destroyed an ISIL front end loader, an ISIL machine gun position, and an ISIL bed down location.
-- Near Haditha, a strike struck a large ISIL tactical unit and destroyed four ISIL staging areas.
-- Near Kirkuk, a strike struck a large ISIL tactical unit and destroyed four ISIL assembly areas and an ISIL supply cache.
-- Near Kisik, two strikes struck an ISIL tactical unit and destroyed an ISIL mortar position and three ISIL assembly areas.
-- Near Mosul, three strikes struck an ISIL headquarters, an ISIL tactical unit and destroyed an ISIL assembly area and an ISIL vehicle.
-- Near Qayyarah, two strikes destroyed an ISIL vehicle and an ISIL used bridge section.
-- Near Ramadi, two strikes struck two separate ISIL tactical units and destroyed an ISIL tactical vehicle and an ISIL front end loader.
-- Near Sultan Abdallah, a strike struck an ISIL tactical unit and destroyed an ISIL mortar position.
-- Near Tal Afar, a strike struck an ISIL tactical unit and destroyed an ISIL heavy machine gun position and an ISIL fighting position.
-- Near Hit, a strike destroyed two ISIL staging areas and two ISIL supply caches.
... The fight will require not only the military effort to deny sanctuary to the enemy in Syria and Iraq and to build the capabilities and capacity of regional allies, but also will require much greater cooperation among intelligence organizations of countries involved in counter-ISIL efforts, Dunford told the panel.
The chairman estimated that more than 100 nations have foreign fighters in Syria and Iraq, with more than 30,000 foreign fighters.
Actions against ISIL in Iraq and Syria will require intelligence cooperation, law enforcement communications, diplomatic efforts, economic pressures – the whole gamut of efforts to strangle the group and others like it, Dunford said. ... Coalition has momentum in fight against ISIL, Carter, Dunford say [US Department of Defense - 23/3/16]
More than 100 writers send letter to Turkish Prime Minister about journalists on espionage trial [Scroll.in – 24/3/16]:
More than 100 leading writers from across the world sent a letter to Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu on Wednesday asking the government to drop espionage charges against two Turkish journalists, reported The Guardian.
This comes a day before the trial of Cumhuriyet editors Can Dündar and Erdem Gül who have been charged with revealing state secrets over a report alleging that President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s government tried to ship arms to Islamists in Syria.
@javi_triana [24/3/16]: Los #refugiados responden desde dentro de Moria: "Freedom! Freedom!" #Lesbos #Grecia
@javi_triana [24/3/16]: Manifestación frente al centro de detención de Moria #Lesbos #Grecia #refugiados Sobre todo cooperantes
@MSF_Sea [24/3/16]: The thick muddy sludge of #Idomeni hasn't gone anywhere. #Idomeni is still home to ~12,000
Greece marks first day without migrant arrivals after EU-Turkey deal [Ekathimerini - 24/3/166]:
... Medical charity Doctors Without Borders (MSF), the UN refugee agency, the International Rescue Committee and the Norwegian Refugee Council have all criticised the EU-Turkey deal on ethical grounds and scaled back some of their activities.
“We took the extremely difficult decision to end our activities in Moria (a migrant camp on Lesvos) because continuing to work inside would make us complicit in a system we consider to be both unfair and inhumane,” Marie Elisabeth Ingres, MSF's head mission in Greece, said on Wednesday.
“We will not allow our assistance to be instrumentalised for a mass expulsion operation and we refuse to be part of a system that has no regard for the humanitarian or protection needs of asylum seekers and migrants.”
A fish rots from the head. #Turnbull #Shorten
Image: @stupafication [1/3/16]
Psychiatrist lies to refugee so he ends hunger strike protest against indefinite detention [Refugee Action Coalition, Sydney - 24/3/16]:
Refugee advocates have grave fears for the welfare of 36-year-old Kurdish refugee, Sardar Zahiri, who has re-started a hunger strike in Melbourne after being moved from Perth.
Sardar was hospitalised in Perth after twenty days of a hunger strike in the Perth detention centre in February, this year.
After continuing his hunger strike at the Royal Perth Hospital, he was told by the treating psychiatrist that he had discussed Zahiri’s case with Immigration and that Immigration had agreed, if Zahiri began eating, he would be transferred to a Melbourne clinic and then placed in community detention.
Other hospital staff and IHMS are believed to be witnesses to the commitment given to Sardar. Zahiri was transferred to The Melbourne Clinic, a private psychiatric hospital, but instead of being released in to community detention, Sardar has now been placed in the high security, Maribyrnong Immigration Detention Centre (MIDC).
He waited five days to see if the promise of community detention was going to be kept. Then, Sardar began a hunger strike in protest at the broken promise four days ago, Monday, 21 March.
His physical condition has deteriorated rapidly.
“We are seriously concerned for Sardar’s welfare,” said Ian Rintoul, spokesperson for the Refugee Action Coalition.
“He has lost all hope, and any trust, which wasn’t much, that he had in the Immigration officers and doctors, who promised he would get community detention.
“Why immigration would live up to the first part of its undertaking to Sardar, to transfer him to Melbourne, but has reneged on the issue of community detention is both cruel and inexplicable, unless they want to inflict yet more mental torture.”
Sardar’s case is eerily reminiscent of that of Fezal Chegeni, the Kurdish man who was found dead on Christmas Island in November, last year.
In spite of being found to be a refugee in 2012, Sardar has been held in indefinite detention as a result of being given a good behaviour bond in 2013 following some property being damaged in an incident in the Darwin detention centre.
His detention nightmare has led Sardar to attempt suicide on 12 occasions.
He has damaged neck vertebrae, giving him constant pain, from a hanging attempt in Darwin early this year.
Immigration officers at MIDC told Sardar this morning that the Minister has not made a decision for him to be moved into community detention, and in relation to his hunger strike, that “It was not important whether you live or die, that is up to you.”
“Sardar’s detention is inexcusable. He should not be in detention at all,” said Rintoul.
“The last skerricks of hope have been snatched away from him. Immigration needs to urgently make good on the commitment that it made to Sardar.”
Asylum seekers on Nauru protest for fourth day, after 1,000 days in detention [Huffington Post - 24/3/16]
Nauru's Justice Minister tells Bali Process meeting he's pleased to be involved in the ongoing incarceration of Australia's human trash in their black site [23/3/16]
The “Australian Solution” results in ongoing sexual assault of refugee women on Nauru [An open letter from the women of Australia to the Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and Opposition Leader Bill Shorten - 20/3/16]:
The authors argue the Australian government is knowingly exposing vulnerable women asylum seekers and refugees to rape, humiliation and trauma on Nauru.
Since the Australian government reopened the Nauru detention centre in 2012, women asylum seekers have been exposed to sexual humiliation and harassment on a daily basis.
Women have been raped and sexually harrassed by local Nauruans and employees of Wilson and Broadspectrum – formerly Transfield.
Despite detailed evidence of sexual assault – particularly pregnancies resulting from rape - the Australian government refuses to act and continues to leave vulnerable women in this dangerous situation.
With the rule of law now completely degraded, there is no protection for these women let alone recourse to justice.
Dozens of transgender women, including asylum seekers who have come to the United States seeking protection from abuse in their home countries, are locked up in jails or prison-like immigration detention centers across the country at any point in time, Human Rights Watch said in a report released today.
Many have been subjected to sexual assault and ill-treatment in detention, while others are held in indefinite solitary confinement.
The 68-page report, “‘Do You See How Much I’m Suffering Here?’: Abuse against Transgender Women in US Immigration Detention,” documents 28 cases of transgender women who were held in US immigration detention between 2011 and 2015.
More than half of the transgender women Human Rights Watch interviewed were held in men’s facilities at some point. Half also spent time in solitary confinement, in many cases allegedly for their protection. But solitary confinement is a form of abuse in and of itself, and many who had spent time there experienced trauma and profound psychological distress. ... [#NOT1MORE - 23/3/16]
New Zealand has an each way bet as international community turns away from Nauru human rights abuses [RNZI - 24/3/16]:
The New Zealand Foreign Minister, Murray McCully, says the government has not closed its mind in terms of trying to re-establish a partnership with Nauru.
In September 2015, Mr McCully suspended the funding New Zealand provides to Nauru each year for its justice system because of ongoing concerns about civil rights abuses.
At the time, Mr McCully said several incidents had caused him concern, including the removal of senior members of the judiciary.
He said there'll be an opportunity sometime soon to pick up that conversation.
"People who are interested in this area, the human rights area, are generally I think critical of the fact that we were funding the justice system at a time when some actions didn't really stack up. We accepted that was the case, and so we I think made the right decision then, but we've not closed our minds to ways of trying to re-establish a partnership with them."
Murray McCully said the government hasn't spent the funding for the Nauru justice system elsewhere.
Nauru is due to hold its elections mid-year, and Mr McCully said while he hasn't received a request to observe the elections, it's also too early for such a request to come through.
"They would just keep pushing and pushing, and trying to get us to break."
Former NZ soldier says he was kept in solitary confinement and assaulted by guards while imprisoned in Australia [RNZI - 24/3/16]:
Mr Haapu had been held without charge in a maximum security prison in Perth since early November.
He was detained after his visa was revoked under tough new Australian immigration laws.
Mr Haapu had no criminal history, and had not been charged with anything, but his membership of the Rebels Motorcycle Club saw his Australian visa revoked on "character" grounds.
Mr Haapu told Checkpoint with John Campbell he was subjected to solitary confinement and, when released from solitary, put in cell blocks with murderers, rapists and paedophiles.
He said he was constantly provoked by prison staff, including an assault in which he was handcuffed and his head smashed into a window, which he believed was an attempt to get him to commit an offence so he could be charged with something.
Indonesian Foreign Minister asks for support to resettle refugees as UNHCR helps Australia shirk its international responsibilities
The Indonesian government has sought the support of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) to jointly accelerate the handling of refugees and asylum seekers that are currently residing in Indonesia.
Foreign Affairs Minister Retno Marsudi voiced the matter while receiving a courtesy call from Assistant for the UNHCR High Commissioner for Protection Volker Turk, according to a press release of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Jakarta on Wednesday.
The meeting was held on the sidelines of the Regional Ministerial Conference on the 6th "Bali Process" on People Smuggling, Trafficking in Persons, and Transnational Crime or BRMC VI in Bali on Tuesday (March 22).
"As a transit country, Indonesia lauds the role and support of UNHCR in handling the refugees," noted the foreign minister in a joint press statement.
Foreign Affairs Minister Marsudi also stressed the importance of the Bali Process Conference to find a comprehensive solution to the issue of irregular migrants.
At the meeting, the two officials also discussed cooperation to find solutions to the root cause of the problem of handling irregular migrants in the region, both in the affected countries and the international community, based on the burden-sharing principle and shared responsibility.
Based on data from the UNHCR, until February 2016, a total of 13,829 migrants, comprising 7,560 asylum seekers and 6,269 refugees who came from 44 countries, were residing in Indonesia.
According to the record, there are 1,030 refugees and asylum seekers from Myanmar, including those that arrived in Aceh in May 2015.
Refugees and asylum seekers are provided shelters at 13 immigration detention centers (Rudenim) scattered across Indonesia.
Regional agreement affirms Australia's obsession with stopping people from seeking asylum, and criminalising refugees throughout South East Asia [Foreign Minister and Minister for Immigration Media Release - 23/3/16]
Evidently there is a schism between neocon apologists and humanitarians within the UNHCR ---> ... However, since the Australian government cut its resettlement programs — effectively barring the UN Refugee Agency from submitting any new cases registered in Indonesia since July 2014 — asylum seekers and refugees have found themselves stranded in Indonesia.
Since the cessation of settlement programs in Australia the burden of processing new arrivals in Indonesia, and finding a safe place for them, is straining organizations that were already struggling to deal with the influx.
"We're trying our best to provide the most vulnerable refugees with assistance," Vargas says, "but we unfortunately have a very limited budget given the terrible crisis that we are seeing right now globally, with the refugee situation."
... UNHCR says that Australia's policy of pushing boats back into harm's way, and essentially assisting ruthless smugglers, is unacceptable. "From UNHCR's point of view any state that intercepts a boat in international waters, or in their own territorial waters, becomes responsible for the safety of the passengers on that boat, including refugees and asylum seekers," country representative Vargas says. ... [Jakarta Globe - 21/3/16]
"Boats may have stopped" is a neocon, political, media and human rights establishment talking point that justifies the unjustifiable. UNHCR leadership pins hopes on democracy in Myanmar and "repatriation" - calls on Thailand, Indonesia and Malaysia to sign refugee convention, while turning a blind eye to Australia's human rights atrocities [23/3/16]:
... Compared to last year, we have so far not seen a resumption of major boat movements in the Indian Ocean for a variety of reasons. Yet it is important to be ready for this possible eventuality and to build on the body of experience we have gathered, including the many lessons learned from last year, not least as indicated by the Track II dialogue recommendation to enhance contingency planning. Search-and-rescue remains a life-saving priority as does ensuring that people can disembark at a place of safety. ...
@Portal_Kemlu_RI - Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Republic Indonesia [23/3/16]:
1. #MinisterRetno & Minister @juliebishopMP have co-chaired Ministerial Conference in the framework of the 6th #BaliProcess (23/3)
2. Member Countries shared view the importance of collective efforts in addressing the challenges of irregular migration in the region <---- While neocon NGOs and officials worked very hard to ensure the conference did not address the flow on impacts of Australia's anti-refugee policies, which are creating human rights catastrophe by facilitating ethnic cleaning/genocide in South East Asia.
3. Collective efforts between countries of origin, transit, and destination and also international organization #IrregularMigration
4. #BaliProcess underlines the importance of a comprehensive regional approach based on burden sharing and collective responsibility
5. #BaliProcesss acknowledge the need to ensure the safety & protection of migrants, victims of human trafficking, asylum seekers & refugees <----- "acknowledge" is meaningless.
6. #BaliProcess emphasizes the efforts to address the root causes by supporting the country of origin through community based investments
7. The meeting will strengthen cooperation of law enforcement to combat transnational organized crime (TOC) #BaliProcess <---- Offering no possibility of safe passage/legal pathways is tantamount to a death sentence.
8. The 6th #BaliProcess encourages the establishment of a mechanism for involuntary repatriation <--- Refoulement.
9. #BaliProcess outcomes: Co-chairs’ Statement & Bali Declaration on People Smuggling, Trafficking in Persons & Related Transnational Crimes
10. Co-chairs’ Statement that summarizes the proceeding and discussion in the 6th #BaliProcess
11. Bali Declaration to take coordinated measures in addressing irregular migration in the region in responding to emergency situation
12. The 6th Bali Process was attended by 303 delegates incl. 16 Ministers from 54 countries, attended by 12 observer countries and 8 Int Org
Australia-IOM-Cambodia hold ill Rohingya refugee hostage as UNHCR say nothing [Phnom Penh Post - 24/3/16]
A landmark privacy case over the immigration department’s accidental publication of almost 10,000 asylum seekers’ personal details held in detention is set to be heard by the high court after an appeal from Peter Dutton.
The high court granted special leave for the minister to appeal a federal court ruling that found the former immigration minister Scott Morrison instructed his department to set up a process for handling a major data breach, which it determined was guaranteed to fail. ... [Guardian - 21/3/16]
What backward, pathetic "leadership" and anti-intellectual think tanks and media we have in Australia ---> ... Speaking at the Lowy Institute last night, the Prime Minister said the terror attacks in Brussels were shocking and barbaric, but were no longer surprising.
Mr Turnbull criticised European Governments, which he said were facing a “perfect storm” of foreign fighters returning from Syria and Iraq, porous borders and under-resourced security services.
“Recent intelligence indicates that (IS) is using the refugees crisis to send its operatives into Europe,” Mr Turnbull said. ... [West Australian - 24/3/16]
Refugees are not terrorists, Jonathan Whittall - Head of Humanitarian Analysis, Médecins Sans Frontières [24/2/15]
NATO Commander brings the anti-refugee hate and hysteria [Deutsche Welle - 2/3/16]:
NATO's top general accused Russia and Syria of fomenting a mass exodus of refugees as a "weapon" against the West.
Philip Breedlove, the supreme allied commander in Europe for the 28-member military alliance, told US lawmakers on Tuesday that the mass bombing of civilian targets appeared to serve no other purpose than to weaken Europe by creating a massive, and continuous, wave of people desperate for food, shelter and safety.
"Together, Russia and the Assad regime are deliberately weaponizing migration in an attempt to overwhelm European structures and break European resolve," Breedlove told the Senate Armed Services Committee.
Turkey’s forcible return of around 30 Afghan asylum seekers just hours after the European Union (EU)-Turkey refugee deal came into force shows that implementing the deal would risk refugees’ lives from the word go, Amnesty International said.
The organization has received credible information indicating that Turkey violated European and international law by forcibly returning the asylum-seekers, who fear attacks by the Taliban, to Kabul without granting them access to an asylum procedure.
H.R. said that he had been part of a group trying to reach Greece by boat.
They were apprehended by the Turkish coastguard and then detained in the western coastal city of İzmir.
After five days in detention, he said he was physically forced to put his thumbprint on a document “agreeing” to a voluntary return to Afghanistan.
He was not given a copy of the document. ... [Amnesty International Media Release - 23/3/16]
Eight killed in US drone strike, Nangarhar Province, Afghanistan [TOLO News - 23/3/16]
Dozens of Baghlan civil society activists on Wednesday protested against insecurity by flying kites emblazoned with the slogans of peace and security.
They called on all parties involved in the war in the country to stop fighting.
The activists said they hoped that this new year will see people's lifestyles change for the better and for the nation to live in peace.
"Our aim behind this move is to deliver the message of peace to the residents of Baghlan province and by this move we want all parties involved in the war in the country to stop fighting," said Atif Arifian, Baghlan Civil Society Network's Chief Executive.
Protestors said that they are tired of war.
"Our aim is to show that we are tired of war in the country and we want to tell all the citizens to stop fighting," said Shah Zaman, one activist.
"Peace is the only demand of all Baghlan residents and with this move we want to deliver the message that we are tired of war and we need lasting peace in the country," said Sayed Jamil Sajad, another activist.
After recent clashes in Baghlan province this is the first time civil society activists have carried out such a protest in this province, calling for an end to the ongoing war. [TOLO News - 23/3/16]
Japan provides $63m for Afghan irrigation, rural access [Pajhwok - 23/3/16]
UN envoy Martin Kobler said he was prevented from travelling Wednesday to the Libyan capital for his work on the installation of a new unity government.
Tripoli is under the control of an unrecognised administration backed by a coalition of militias including Islamists that opposes the new government from starting work inside the country. ... [Ahram - 23/3/16]
Israel detains hundreds amid crackdown on Palestinian workers [Maan - 23/3/16]
Israeli forces on Tuesday leveled 40 dunams (9.88 acres) of land west of Hebron and demolished a tin shack in the Masafer Yatta area in the southern occupied West Bank, locals said.
Village spokesman Abdul-Rahman al-Tumazi told Ma'an that Israeli troops leveled the lands in the Suba area of the village of Idhna in order to illegaly annex it to a nearby Israeli settlement. ... [Maan - 23/3/16]
In direct violation of past rulings, an Israeli council approved on Wednesday controversial plans in the occupied East Jerusalem neighborhood of Silwan pushed by the settler organization Elad. ... [Maan - 23/3/16]
West Bank land grabs a violation of international law, Australian government stays silent [Greens Media Release – 23/3/16]
Israel’s “less lethal” weapons take children’s eyes and lives [Electronic Intifada - 23/3/16]
University of California regents say anti-Semitism has 'no place' on campus but reject blanket censure of anti-Zionism [LA Times - 23/3/16]:
... The new report was prepared by an eight-person group representing regents, students, faculty and administrators.
It includes a “contextual statement” that accepts a link between anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism.
“Opposition to Zionism often is expressed in ways that are not simply statements of disagreement over politics and policy, but also assertions of prejudice and intolerance toward Jewish people and culture,” the statement says.
“Anti-Semitism, anti-Semitic forms of anti-Zionism and other forms of discrimination have no place at the University of California.”
But the statement also asserts that 1st Amendment principles must be paramount in guiding responses to acts of bias, including harassment, threats, assaults and vandalism.
In addition to Jewish students, it includes concerns raised about bias directed at Muslims, African Americans, immigrant-rights supporters and the LGBT community. ...
From Brussels, I reject Israel’s solidarity [Electronic Intifada - 23/3/16]:
... The residents of Brussels have every right to be angry about what has happened this week.
We should certainly demand that the authorities do everything they can to apprehend the suspects.
But we should not accept that Muslims may be bullied and stigmatized.
Let’s direct our anger at the small number of people who have set the Middle East ablaze.
The terror of Islamic State is a direct consequence of war declared against Iraq in 2003.
If it wasn’t for that illegal invasion, there would not have been an attack on Brussels on Tuesday, or Istanbul on Saturday or Baghdad last month.
Two men were ultimately responsible for the invasion and destruction of Iraq: George W. Bush, then the US president, and Tony Blair, then the British prime minister.
Why are they still at large?
Most of the messages sent to the people of Brussels this week were heartfelt and appreciated. A few, however, were cynical. One was contemptible; it came from Israel.
The Israeli government as a whole claimed it “stands with Brussels.”
As a resident of Brussels, I refuse that solidarity.
Ofir Akunis, the Israeli science minister, tried to play politics. He suggested the attacks occurred because, rather than fighting terrorism, Europe was too busy placing labels on goods from Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank.
His comments are too inane to merit a detailed rebuttal.
And besides, the labeling to which he referred is an initiative taken by the political elite. Many ordinary Europeans have gone beyond demanding labels: they are too busy boycotting all Israeli goods and campaigning against companies who seek to profit from the occupation.
Sitting in the shade near the protest tents, Raad al-Haeri watched as convoys of armored SUVs ferried politicians and diplomats in and out of Baghdad’s Green Zone.
The 27-year-old scrapes together around $400 a month working odd jobs and has the spare time to join the thousands of supporters of preacher Moqtada al-Sadr in their protest against corruption.
“When you see those MPs driving their huge armored cars getting salaries of $12,000 or whatever it is, you don’t feel good. These people are stealing Iraq’s money,” he said.
A few steps away, behind coils of razor wire and rows of anti-riot police, VIP traffic through one of the main gates of the Green Zone continued as usual.
Sadr’s followers set up protest camps Friday at several entrances to the restricted zone, which houses premier Haider al-Abadi’s office, parliament and foreign embassies, including the huge U.S. mission.
They have vowed to stay until the expiry of a deadline Sadr gave Abadi to present names for a Cabinet of technocrats meant to replace party-affiliated politicians they accuse of perpetuating a system based on nepotism and patronage. ... [Daily Star - 24/3/16]
24 March 2016