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[VIDEO] 5 Issues for Trump on Radical Islam 

Clarion Project‘s Ryan Mauro examines some of the key challenges a president Donald Trump will likely face in office.

Iranian demonstrators hold anti-US slogans and portraits of supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei during a rally in Tehran's Azadi Square (Freedom Square) to mark the 34th anniversary of the Islamic revolution on February 10, 2013. Hundreds of thousands of people marched in Tehran and other cities chanting "Death to America" and "Death to Israel" as Iran celebrated the anniversary of the ousting of the US-backed shah. AFP PHOTO / BEHROUZ MEHRI

Iranian demonstrators hold anti-US slogans and portraits of supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei during a rally in Tehran’s Azadi Square (Freedom Square) to mark the 34th anniversary of the Islamic revolution on February 10, 2013. Hundreds of thousands of people marched in Tehran and other cities chanting “Death to America” and “Death to Israel” as Iran celebrated the anniversary of the ousting of the US-backed shah. AFP PHOTO / BEHROUZ MEHRI

A member of jihadist group Al-Nusra Front stands in a street of the northern Syrian city of Aleppo on January 11, 2014. Fighting pitting the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) against other rebel groups -- including Al-Nusra Front, which is also linked to Al-Qaeda but is seen as more moderate -- broke out in Syria last week. AFP PHOTO / BARAA AL-HALABI

A member of jihadist group Al-Nusra Front stands in a street of the northern Syrian city of Aleppo on January 11, 2014. Fighting pitting the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) against other rebel groups — including Al-Nusra Front, which is also linked to Al-Qaeda but is seen as more moderate — broke out in Syria last week. AFP PHOTO / BARAA AL-HALABI

Professor Ryan Mauro is the National Security Analyst for the Clarion Project, a nonprofit organization that educates the public about the threat of Islamic extremism and provides a platform for voices of moderation and tolerance within the Muslim community. Clarion Project films have been seen by over 50 million people. Read the rest of this entry »

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Protests in South Korea: Prosecutors to Question President Park

Seoul prosecutors are set to question South Korean President Park Geun-hye early this week for her role in the political corruption scandal involving an informal adviser.

It follows a second weekend of mass protests that saw hundreds of thousands of demonstrators cram city streets demanding her resignation.

Park has admitted sharing classified documents with close friend and informal adviser Choi Soon-sil. Read the rest of this entry »


A New Generation of Clandestine Political Satirists Are Flourishing in Afghanistan

Masouda Khazan Tokhi, a female Afghan satirist, shows cartoons at her home in Kabul (AFP Photo/Wakil Kohsar)

Masouda Khazan Tokhi, a female Afghan satirist, at her home in Kabul (AFP Photo/Wakil Kohsar)

Kabul (AFP) – From ridiculing warlords to poking fun at the political elite, a crop of covertly run Afghan satirical outlets are resonating widely with disenchanted citizens — and provoking the ire of officials.

Afghanistan’s spy agency last month rounded up journalists suspected of running “Kabul Taxi“, accusing the satirical Facebook page of imperilling national security.

“You can try to restrict satirists, even imprison them, but you cannot stop the flow of satire.”

The crackdown, which catapulted the little-known page to fame, triggered outrage and defiant Internet memes such as “I am Kabul Taxi!”, spotlighting a new generation of clandestine political satirists.

A blend of humor and scathing wit, the page launched by an unknown Afghan in April depicted a yellow Toyota taxi with its motto scrawled on its rear windscreen: “Life is bitter and the future uncertain”.

It tapped into widespread angst over corruption and political dysfunction.

Masouda Khazan Tokhi, the editor of Afghan satirical monthly called Achar Kharboza (Melon Pickle) (AFP Photo/Wakil Kohsar)

“The booming genre of political satire has a special place in Afghanistan, where all major problems plaguing the country — militancy, warlordism and corruption –- seem linked to what many describe as the venality of politics.”

Posts depicted high-profile politicians and bureaucrats squeezing into the back seat and descending into petty bickering and mocking conversations.

“Politicians are widely berated as insincere, power hungry and concerned only about the welfare of their own ethnic groups.”

Passengers have included President Ashraf Ghani and his ally in the national unity government, Abdullah Abdullah. But the Facebook page invited trouble when it targeted Hanif Atmar, the powerful national security adviser.

A Kabul Taxi post describes picking up Atmar and his 27 children, who are introduced as part of an oversized entourage of advisers hired on hefty salaries.

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Afghan satirist, Masouda Khazan Tokhi, 39, pictured at her home in Kabul (AFP Photo/Wakil Kohsar)

“The role of satire in Afghanistan is to keep influential people, especially politicians, on their toes. It is to make them aware that they are being watched with an eagle eye — if not by corrupt authorities then by the public who can expose them.”

— Anonymous co-founder of Afghan Onion, a new English-language satirical website that pays tribute to the US website of the same name.

The post mocks a recruitment process seen by Afghans as nepotistic and prone to favouritism.

Atmar was not amused, ordering the grilling of journalists rumoured to be behind Kabul Taxi on suspicion of exposing state secrets by naming his advisers.

“The crackdown on Kabul Taxi has raised concerns over free speech in Afghanistan, which ranks 122nd out of 180 countries in the 2015 Reporters Without Borders press freedom index.”

Defenders in the Afghan media pointed out the names of Atmar’s staff were already posted on a government Facebook page — along with their photos.

“The government considers satire as terrorism,” Kabul Taxi wrote in the aftermath of the controversy, which sent its fan base soaring with the number of “likes” nearly doubling to 60,000 and provoking an outpouring of public support before it was suddenly taken down. Read the rest of this entry »


Despite Campaign Pledge, Obama Won’t Call 1915 Killings of Armenians ‘Genocide’

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John Hudson writes: Putting geopolitics above a longtime campaign promise, President Barack Obama will refrain from using the word “genocide” to describe the massacre of 1.5 million Armenians during World War I. The decision came after a senior delegation of Turkish diplomats traveled to Washington to meet with White House officials and three days before the 100th anniversary of the mass killings.

“President Obama’s surrender to Turkey represents a national disgrace. It is, very simply, a betrayal of truth, a betrayal of trust.”

— Ken Hachikian, the chairman of the Armenian National Committee of America

U.S. officials speaking to Foreign Policy said the White House had contemplated recognizing the genocide and alerted State Department officials who deal with Turkey to prepare for the potential diplomatic blowback.

“The Armenian genocide is not an allegation, a personal opinion, or a point of view, but rather a widely documented fact supported by an overwhelming body of historical evidence. As president I will recognize the Armenian genocide.”

— Senator Barack Obama

In the end, though, the White House decided against using the term. Administration officials relayed the decision to a group of Armenian-American leaders Tuesday afternoon, prompting an immediate backlash from those who have spent decades trying to get Washington to recognize what many historians describe as the first genocide of the 20th century.

“Is this the time to kick Turkey in the balls given everything that’s going on in the region?”

— Former congressional aide with years of experience working with Washington’s highly active Armenian lobby

“President Obama’s surrender to Turkey represents a national disgrace,” Ken Hachikian, the chairman of the Armenian National Committee of America, said in a statement. “It is, very simply, a betrayal of truth, a betrayal of trust.”

Many officials at the State Department opposed the decision for fear of losing Turkey’s cooperation on a host of key issues, most notably the war against the Islamic State militant group, which has seized control of large swaths of Syria and Iraq. Turkey hosts a training camp for anti-ISIS fighters and owns an air base the United States wants more access to.

“Is this the time to kick Turkey in the balls given everything that’s going on in the region?” said a former congressional aide with years of experience working with Washington’s highly active Armenian lobby.

To date, no sitting U.S. president has ever verbalized the word “genocide” when referring to the atrocities committed against Armenians in the early years of World War I. In 1981, President Ronald Reagan issued a written proclamation about the “genocide of the Armenians,” but subsequent diplomatic headaches prompted his administration to reverse course and drop all explicit references to that term. Read the rest of this entry »


Latin America Silent on Venezuela as U.S. Airs Rights Concerns

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PANAMA CITY (AP) — Joshua Goodman and Peter Orsi report: From Mexico to Brazil, leaders in Latin America have largely kept silent amid charges of human rights abuses in Venezuela and are unlikely to speak out against their neighbor at this week’s Summit of the Americas.

“The Obama administration last month froze the U.S. assets and revoked visas for seven senior officials accused of human rights violations related to protests last year against President Nicolas Maduro’s socialist government.”

Many Latin American heads of state gathering in Panama City are bound to oil-rich Venezuela by business dealings if not ideology, and are put off by recent U.S. sanctions against some of the country’s officials. Others do not want to be seen as doing Washington’s bidding, particularly as they face protests and plunging approval ratings at home.

“The unrest is blamed for more than 40 deaths and triggered a crackdown on criticism that led to the jailing of several opposition leaders, including February’s surprise arrest of Caracas Mayor Antonio Ledezma.”

“Venezuela has successfully played the history of U.S. imperialism and U.S. heavy-handedness cards, in a way that has made people want to back away from public criticism,” said Geoff Thale, an analyst at the Washington Office on Latin America.

Venezuela Regional Silence

“It was no surprise that leftist allies such as the governments of Ecuador, Bolivia and Nicaragua would leap to defend Caracas. All have a history of vocal opposition to Washington. But even more moderate governments and traditional U.S. allies in the region have been reluctant to criticize Maduro.”

The Obama administration last month froze the U.S. assets and revoked visas for seven senior officials accused of human rights violations related to protests last year against President Nicolas Maduro’s socialist government. The unrest is blamed for more than 40 deaths and triggered a crackdown on criticism that led to the jailing of several opposition leaders, including February’s surprise arrest of Caracas Mayor Antonio Ledezma.

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Human Rights Watch and other advocacy groups issued a statement on Tuesday asking the countries attending the summit to call Maduro’s administration to task for its alleged harassment of rights defenders.

But rather than highlight alleged abuses, the U.S. sanctions have drawn widespread condemnation in Latin America, denying Obama a hoped-for diplomatic victory lap at the summit for his decision to restore ties with Cold War nemesis Cuba. A reference to Venezuela as a threat to U.S. national security included in the sanctions declaration is standard bureaucratic language for the United States, but disturbing to a region with a long history of U.S. interference, from support for past military regimes to efforts to topple leftist governments.

Deputy National Security adviser Benjamin Rhodes argued Tuesday during a White House press briefing on Obama’s upcoming visit that the language in the executive order was the same typically used by the U.S. when it levies sanctions around the world. Read the rest of this entry »