Tag Archives: social-media

Turkey blocks Facebook, Twitter following deadly Ankara blast – reports

Turkish authorities banned Twitter and Facebook after images spread on social media depicting the suicide car bombing that killed and injured dozens in the Turkish capital of Ankara, local broadcasters reported.

Turkey’s telecommunications authority, TIB, blocked access to social media after a court-ordered ban was imposed, Turkish NTV and CNN Turk reported.

Access to Facebook, Twitter, and a number of other sites has been blocked because images showing victims of the tragedy were being shared on those platforms, according to the court.

Difficulty in accessing the sites has been reported by users.Broadcast media has also allegedly been banned from covering certain aspects of the attack. A journalist from Today’s Zaman, a sister publication of the newspaper Zaman that was recently taken over by the government, said “a ban on networks for coverage of explosion in Ankara” had been issued.The blast rocked the crowded center of the Turkish capital on Sunday evening, killing at least 34 people and injuring 125. No one has yet claimed responsibility for the attack.


‘Dirty Bargain’: Turkey, EU Forge Deal With Syrian Blood on Their Hands

As the Turkish government continues its crackdown on the free press, columnist Kemal Okuyan speaks to Radio Sputnik’s Loud & Clear to expose how this relates to Ankara’s deal with the European Union to stem the flow of refugees.

“I have to say that this is a real dirty bargain,” Okuyan, a leading columnist with Turkish newspaper SoL, tells Loud & Clear host Brian Becker. “The refugee crisis, I think, is an outcome of the terrorist acts of NATO, Turkey, and other reactionary forces in the region.”


According to Okuyan, Ankara is manipulating the crisis in order to achieve its own ends with the European Union.”This was on purpose, by the Turkish government,” he says. “And we know that Turkey encouraged people to go by boat through the sea to the Greek islands.

“Now they are using this to blackmail the European Union.”

As part of negotiations with the EU, Ankara wants over 3 billion euros, visa exceptions, Western ground forces in Syria, as well as the enforcement of a terrorist-free zone in neighboring Syria.

While Turkey may be taking advantage of a humanitarian crisis for its own gains, the European Union isn’t entirely innocent, either.

“The European Union is also one of the actors in the Syrian [conflict],” Okuyan says. “Especially Germany, France, Britain. They have their hands in Syria, so they are also responsible for this big human tragedy.”

While the Erdogan government may have sights on joining the EU, it could face problems due to its harsh press laws.

“Nearly three-fourths of the daily newspapers printed in Turkey are in the hands of Erdogan,” Okuyan says.

“There are a lot of journalists in prison in Turkey,” he adds. “There is also blackmailing, [where] you are not arrested, directly, but they say if you have another problem, then you will be put into prison.”

Still, as all sides use the refugee crisis for their own political gain, millions of people are suffering.

“In Turkey, the refugees are in terrible conditions,” Okuyan says. “When you see photos of people [who have] died when crossing to the Greek islands, these are not only accidents, they are killed on purpose for their money.

“They sabotage the boats.”

‘Not consistent with intl law’: UN lambasts EU-Turkey ‘quick fix’ deal on refugee returns

The UN refugee agency has criticized the deal struck between the EU and Ankara which seeks to send refugees back to Turkey. The UNHCR says the agreement will expose migrants to huge risks, as well as break EU and international laws on the right to protection.

Ankara offered to take back all those who cross through its borders into the EU, while resettling the same number of Syrian refugees in the EU. In return in asked for billions more in cash, as well as expedited talks on EU membership and a rapid implementation of visa-free travel. The 28 EU members agreed and the decision is set to be completed by March 17-18, pending more work by officials.

But according to the UNHCR, the decision is a “quick fix” that will create a fragmented flow of refugees all trying to find ways back into the EU.

Speaking at a UN briefing on Tuesday, Vincent Cochetel, the UNHCR Europe Bureau Director, stressed that “collective expulsion of foreigners is prohibited under the European Convention on Human Rights. An agreement that would be tantamount to a blanket return of any foreigners to a third country is not consistent with European law, is not consistent with international law.”

Another key problem associated with the decision, according to the UNHCR, is that the refugee flow would be fragmented, resulting in disparate groups that are all trying to return to the EU. “As long as the conflict is not solved, it’s a myth to believe that the people will not try to leave. It may dissuade some people from leaving through that route, but it won’t dissuade everybody.”

On Europe’s commitment and its implementation so far, Cochetel believes the objective of resettling 20,000 refugees in the space of two years on a voluntary basis is still “very low,” not to mention Europe’s failure last September to relocate some 66,000 refugees from Greece. In fact, it failed on an epic scale, managing to relocate only 600, according to Cochetel’s previous statements.

While Turkey currently hosts three million Syrian refugees – the largest number worldwide – its current acceptance rates for those from Iraq, Iran and Afghanistan are also “very low,” the UNHCR director told Swiss radio RTS, as cited by Reuters.

“Sending back people who would not have access to protection in Turkey poses a certain number of problems in terms of international law and European law,” he said. “I hope that in the next 10 days a certain number of supplementary guarantees will be put in place so that people sent back to Turkey will have access to an examination of their request [for asylum],” he added.

Similar concerns were voiced by the UN Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF), which stressed that “too many details still remain unclear.”

UNICEF spokeswoman Sarah Crowe underlined that “the fundamental principle of ‘do no harm’ must apply every step of way.” For the particular agency, this applies first to the rights of children. They are open to all sorts of dangers, including trafficking, forced labor and other forms of exploitation.

Meanwhile, Amnesty International blasted Ankara’s enduring record of leaving refugees to cope alone. It called the EU decision “alarmingly short-sighted and inhumane,” noting in a Tuesday statement how Turkey has “forcibly returned refugees to Syria and [how] many refugees in the country live in desperate conditions without adequate housing.”

Amnesty’s European head, Iverna McGowan, believes that “by no stretch of imagination can Turkey be considered a ‘safe third country’ that the EU can cozily outsource its obligations to.”

Beheadings, imprisonment made 2015 worst year for Christian persecution, report finds


Beheadings, imprisonment and eviction from ancestral homelands made 2015 the worst year on record for persecution of Christians, with North Korea topping a list of 10 otherwise Muslim nations as the most dangerous places for followers of the Gospel, according to a new report.

Islamic extremism and authoritarian governments combined to make last year the worst in modern history for Christians around the world, according to Open Doors USA. The trend spiked upward in the Middle East, Africa and Central Asia, with thousands of Christians killed or imprisoned, and even more chased from their homes.

“Islamic extremism continues to be the primary driving force behind the expansion of persecution,” said Open Doors President and CEO David Curry. “It is no longer just a Christian problem, but a global problem that must be addressed.”

An estimated 7,000 Christians were killed for their faith in 2015, up nearly 50 percent from the previous year and the highest number since such statistics have been tracked. Nigeria, Eritrea and Pakistan were among the countries that experienced the biggest – and bloodiest – spikes.

“The report confirms what we have seen develop in these countries — a rise in Islamic extremism that tragically targets minority religions — especially Christians,” said Jay Sekulow, chief council for the American Center for Law and Justice. “The brutality is unspeakable, with nearly 1 million Christians being slaughtered or displaced in the Middle East.”

It is up to the United States to bring about change, according to Curry.

“As the dominant power in the free world, [the U.S.] must lead the charge in bringing more relief and aid to those suffering,” he said.

Of the top 10 countries on the list, nine are of a Muslim majority, but topping the list is the totalitarian regime of North Korea.

Under the family dynasty now ruled by Kim Jong Un, Christianity is seen as a Western-based mass delusion. Out of the country’s estimated 300,000 Christians, nearly 70,000 are imprisoned in the Hermit Kingdom’s notoriously brutal labor camps. Those Christians that are not imprisoned are forced to hide their faith, even from members of their extended families.

Driven by ISIS’ violent reign in the north and west, Iraq was the second most dangerous place for Christians last year. The terrorist organization, which has a large presence in Iraq, Syria and Libya, has made beheading of Christians its bloody hallmark, even as it cleanses large swaths of the Middle East of all religious minorities.

“The report

The number of Bible followers there has fallen to an estimated 275,000, from 1.5 million in 2003. Some experts in the international community believe that the Middle Eastern country could see its Christian population completely gone within five years. The dwindling numbers are due to genocide, flight and forced conversions at the hands of ISIS jihadists.

The country’s second-largest city, Mosul, was once home to a thriving Christian community as old as the religion itself, but was overrun by ISIS and purged of its Christian residents.

Third on the list is the African nation of Eritrea, where Christians are systematically imprisoned for their faith by an authoritarian regime.

Also in the top 10 were Afghanistan, Syria, Pakistan, Somalia, Sudan, Iran and Libya.

Sekulow says that more needs to be done in Washington to combat the seemingly global issue.

“We continue to urge the full Congress and the Obama administration to act,” he said. “We’ve heard from nearly 215,000 Americans who understand what’s at stake: Christians are being murdered daily because of their faith.”


Tennis star Sharapova ‘provisionally suspended’ after failing drug test

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Maria Sharapova speaks to the media announcing a failed drug test after the Australian Open during a press conference today at The LA Hotel Downtown.

Russian tennis superstar Maria Sharapova announced she has failed a drug test at a surprise press-conference in Los Angeles. The International Tennis Federation (ITF) said Sharapova has been suspended from competition pending a probe.

“Throughout my long career I have been very open and honest about many things,” Sharapova said, adding she was informed by the International Tennis Federation (ITF) that the failed drug test was taken at this year’s Australian Open.

“I take great responsibility and professionalism in my job every single day, I made a huge mistake. I made a huge mistake, I let my fans down, I let the sport down that I’ve been playing since the age four,” the 28-year-old said.

The Russian explained that the positive test result was caused by the drug meldonium, which she had been legally taking for the last 10 years and was only included on the forbidden list on January 1, 2016.

I know that with this, I face consequences, and I don’t want to end my career this way. I really hope I will be given another chance,” Maria said. “I can’t blame anyone for it but myself. At the end of the day, everything you do is about you.”

Maria said that she received an email from World Ant-Doping Agency (WADA) with the list of substances forbidden in 2016 back in December, but she “didn’t look at that list.”

Sharapova added she would have never retired at a hotel with “this fairly ugly carpet.”

Tennis Anti-Doping Programme (TADP) has issued a statement confirming that Sharapova “was charged on 2 March with an Anti-Doping Rule Violation” after testing positive for meldonium.

“As meldonium is a non-specified substance under the WADA (and, therefore, TADP) list of Prohibited Substances and Prohibited Methods, Ms. Sharapova will be provisionally suspended with effect from 12 March, pending determination of the case,” TADP said.

Maria Sharapova was born in 1987 in the town on Nyagan in Siberia’s Khanty-Mansi Autonomous Region.

She has been playing tennis at the professional level since 2001, winning 35 career WTA tour titles.

Maria first became World No.1 in August of 2005 at the age of 18 and repeated the achievement four times, occupying the first spot in women’s tennis for a total of 21 weeks.

She’s the only Russian and the tenth female player ever to collect a Career Grand Slam, as she claimed the Australian Open, Wimbledon, the US Open and two French Open titles.

Sharapova won the Fed Cup with the Russian national team in 2008 and an Olympic silver medal in London in 2012.

Maria has also been at the top of Forbes’ list of wealthiest female athletes for over a decade, as her sporting achievements and good looks have helped the blond land lucrative advertising deals with top international brands.

Council of Europe Urges Turkey to Protect Press Freedom

The Secretary General of the Council of Europe (CoE) Thorbjorn Jagland on Saturday called on Turkey to respect media freedom in the light of government seizure of the Feza Media Group.

On Friday, a Turkish court ordered the Feza Media Group, which includes opposition newspaper Zaman, Today’s Zaman daily and the Cihan news agency, to be placed under the management of government trustees. The move resulted in mass protest in the largest Turkey’s city of Istanbul. On Saturday, Turkish police used tear gas, water cannons and plastic bullets to disperse the protests.

“Yesterday’s court decision to appoint trustees to Zaman media group is yet another worrying development with regard to media freedom in Turkey. The violent events in front of Zaman’s headquarters in Istanbul are also challenging…I call on Turkish authorities to respect their legal obligation to protect media freedom,” Jagland said in a statement published on the CoE website.

Jagland said that Turkey was a founding member of the CoE and party to the European Convention on Human Rights to which it must abide.

Ankara’s move has been widely criticized by a number of states, including the United States and Russia, as well as by the international organizations, such as the European Union and the Reporters Without Borders (RSF) organization.

Turkey ranks 149th out of 180 in the RSF 2015 press freedom index.

Pope Francis says ‘Arab invasion’ is social fact … and a good thing

Europe is facing an ‘Arab invasion’, Pope Francis mused while addressing a French Christian group, adding that the trend is actually a positive one.

We can speak today of Arab invasion. It is a social fact,” the pontiff said, according to extracts from his address earlier this week which were published by the Vatican newspaper L’Osservatore Romano on Thursday.

He then added: “How many invasions has Europe experienced in the course of its history! But it’s always been able to overcome them and move forward, finding itself complimented and improved by the cultural exchange they brought about.

The Pontiff also reflected on the history of migration into Europe and the positive impact it has had on European culture as we now know it.

The Pope also declared that Europe is “the only continent that can bring some unity to the world”. He then added, that in order to fulfill its “universal role”, Europe must “rediscover its cultural roots”.

Europe continues struggling with an unseen influx of asylum seekers. The number of Syrians seeking asylum doubled to 362,800 last year and the number of Iraqis jumped to 121,500, as the European Commission said Friday.

This news came after Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras accused Austria and other Balkan countries of “killing Europe” by imposing border restrictions in a move that’s led to an approximate 30,000 asylum seekers now being stranded across Greece.

What those countries agreed on and decided goes against all of the rules and against the whole of Europe and we regard it as an unfriendly move,” Tsipras said in an interview with Germany’s Bild newspaper. “It cannot be that after something is adopted at an EU summit, some decide to simply close their borders. These countries are killing Europe!

In the course of the past 2 weeks, an enormous makeshift refugee camp has sprung up on the Greek border with Macedonia, after the latter stopped letting in migrants following the so-called ‘Balkan route’ into Europe.

Over 11 thousand people are now waiting for Macedonia to reopen its border so they could move forward into Europe and seek asylum there, the most craved destination being Germany. The country, which has accepted over one million refugees in 2015, has been an outspoken supporter of mandatory migrant quotas for EU member states.


Turkish military kills nearly 300 Kurdish rebels in raids – General Staff

Nearly 300 Kurdish rebels, members of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), were killed in raids conducted by the Turkish military in three districts in southeast Turkey, the Turkish General Staff said on Saturday.

The military said in a statement on its website that 179 militants were killed in Sirnak province’s Cizre district, 27 in Silopi, and 55 in the Sur district of the southeastern province of Diyarbakir province, adding that they had also defused dozens of improvised explosive devices in the three districts, which have been under curfew since December. They also destroyed a school that was allegedly being used by militants for training.

Ankara has been stepping up its military operations on the border with Syria and Iraq since December. The area is a stronghold of the PKK, which is considered a terrorist group by Turkey and NATO. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has vowed to continue the operation until the area is cleansed of Kurdish militants.

About 100,000 have been displaced since the start of the operation, according to Turkey’s General Directorate of Security. Businesses have suffered in the southeastern Turkish towns, leaving many workers without income in the country’s most impoverished region, leaving it even poorer.

Melek Gumus from the town of Dargecit, located between Cizre and Diyarbakir, told RT that all of her warehouses and a stock were recently destroyed by the Turkish army.

“There my warehouses…as you can see these are all lost, there is nothing I can do. In fact, the whole district is like this. We were stuck at home for 20 days and there was nothing to eat. It was torture for everybody,” she said. “…we want freedom, we want peace. We don’t want them to be unfair to us.”

“It was about half past three at night, we were sleeping. Suddenly we felt like the building was collapsing. When we came back in the morning we saw the situation like this. There is nothing left, we are scared,” said a local man describing one of the nights when the Turkish army was conducting its operations.

A local woman doubted Ankara’s accusations that PKK is responsible for the wreckage.

“They wrecked the house and said that terrorists have done this. How could terrorists have done that? Do terrorists have armored vehicles or mortars? The government has done this. I hope God will punish Erdogan,” she said.

The government has vowed to help the region and address the needs of people who have been displaced or lost businesses.

We have never left any citizen to fend for themselves and uncared for, and neither will we do so in the future … Anyone forced to relocate due to terrorism can apply to the governor’s office for assistance,” said Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu in an address to his party’s lawmakers in parliament on December 22.

However, Ankara is doing little to help the Kurds because it is essentially at war with them, Ronald Grigor Suny Jr., professor of History at the University of Michigan, told RT.

“In fact, it’s a kind of open war in certain cities – Cizre, for instance, part of Diyarbakir – it’s going on right now. The government of Turkey has surrounded some areas with tanks. There are reports that there are snipers on roofs, if people go out after curfew they can be shot. And they have been. That region in the southeast now is having trouble supporting itself, people are out of work, businesses are closing. Erdogan and his government have decided to take open warfare as their policy against the Kurds in the southeast and destabilize one more country in the Middle East.”

Kurds have long been campaigning for the right to self-determination and greater autonomy in Turkey, where they are the largest ethnic minority. In late December, a congress of Kurdish non-governmental organizations called for Turkey’s southeastern regions to be granted autonomy via constitutional reforms.


Happy 2016! New Year Celebrations Across the World

All across the world, people from different nations, cultures and religions celebrated the arrival of New Year’s Day. 2016.

A woman jumps in the air as she poses for a photo during New Year celebrations in the borough of Manhattan in New York City. January 1, 2016.


A fireworks display in Moscow during the New Year celebrations. January 1, 2016.


‘Tar Barrel Men’ process through the streets of Allendale, UK, when men carry torches and flaming barrels in the annual Allendale Tar Barrel festival in Allendale, northern England. December 31, 2015


An Egyptian policeman riding a camel stands guard during New Year celebrations in front of the pyramids near Cairo. January 1, 2016.


United States Navy Midshipman Mason Kraft dips Cassidy Cunningham as they pose for a photo in Times Square during New Year’s Eve celebrations in the borough of Manhattan in New York City. December 31, 2015.


A fireworks display over the River Thames and the Palace of Westminster’s Elizabeth Tower, known as Big Ben, as the New Years Day celebrations begin in London. January 1, 2016.


People watch fireworks during New Years celebrations at Copacabana beach in Rio de Janeiro. January 1, 2016.


Soldiers patrol as people celebrate the New Year in the historic center of Brussels. January 1, 2016.


ew Year celebrations in Moscow, Russia.


Revellers photograph a 5-minute video performance displayed on the Arc de Triomphe as part of New Year’s Eve celebrations on the Champs Elysees Avenue in Paris. December 31, 2015.


Fireworks display seen over the Sydney Harbour during the New Year celebrations in Australia. December 31, 2015


New Year celebrations near Chechcnya’s main New Year tree in Grozny, Russia.


Austrian police warn of a possible terror attack between Christmas and New Year

Police in Vienna has stepped up security following a warning about a potential terror attack employing explosives or firearms between the Christmas and New Year holidays. According to police, the warning was issued to several European capitals.

In a statement issued on Saturday, Austrian police said that the warning came from an unidentified “friendly intelligence service” just days before Christmas, offering mostly general information about the possible attacks without specifying potential targets or exact dates.

It added that “several possible names of potential attackers were mentioned, who were checked and the investigation based on (these checks) has so far yielded no concrete results.”

“We do not know if these people exist in real life, or if they are only names with no real person behind them. We have no evidence that they are in Vienna, and we have no evidence that they are even in Europe,” Christoph Poelzl, a spokesman for Vienna police, said as quoted by the Guardian.

Poelzl refused to give any further details concerning the terror warning as he did not reveal the list of European capitals mentioned in the warning.

In the view of the warning, Vienna authorities said that no public events would be canceled but police surveillance will increase in the places expected to attract large numbers of people during the specific period.

Police will also pay closer attention to suspicious bags.

Meanwhile, France remains on high alert since Paris attacks in November. Last week, French Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve ordered police and security forces to be especially watchful during festive church services.