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Category: Middle East

February 2016 – recent articles

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Thanks for visiting my website. Here are some recent articles I’ve been working on:


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Turkey protective of ethnic Turkmens in Syria

Mon, Feb 15, 2016, 17:35 Updated: Mon, Feb 15, 2016, 19:55
Stephen Starr in Istanbul
Syrian Turkmens protest at Russian military intervention: their identity is closer to Ottoman Turkey than Syria’s official Arabism. Photograph: Basin Foto Ajansi/Lightrocket/ Getty ImagesSyrian Turkmens protest at Russian military intervention: their identity is closer to Ottoman Turkey than Syria’s official Arabism. Photograph: Basin Foto Ajansi/Lightrocket/ Getty Images

When Russian warplanes began bombing rebel-controlled villages in northwest Syria late last year reverberations were heard all the way to Ankara.

In that tiny corner of Syria close to the Turkish border are people for whom history has passed: ethnic Turkmens whose ancestors lived in modern-day Syria for almost a 1,000 years. Read on here.

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Two lonely deaths in the Mideast’s forgotten war

Turkey’s battle with Kurdish militants is worsening, with a grandfather and his 3-month-old granddaughter among the dead.

A woman complains inside her bullet-shattered house in Nusaybin, Turkey, on Dec. 25, 2015. Tens of thousands of civilians in southeast Turkey have been caught in the middle as government forces and Kurdish militants battle it out.

MURAT BAY / THE ASSOCIATED PRESS

A woman complains inside her bullet-shattered house in Nusaybin, Turkey, on Dec. 25, 2015. Tens of thousands of civilians in southeast Turkey have been caught in the middle as government forces and Kurdish militants battle it out.

By: Stephen Starr Special to the Star, Published on Mon Jan 11 2016

NUSAYBIN, TURKEY—Three-month-old Miray Ince was in her mother’s arms, returning from a Christmas Day visit to relatives in a neighbouring apartment. Gunshots suddenly rang out — and a stray bullet passed through the infant’s cheek, causing a fatal wound.

Ramazan Ince and his elderly wife responded by ferrying their dying granddaughter outside to an ambulance. They waved a white flag to signal they were no threat, but they, too, were shot in the street.

“They thought the (Turkish) security forces wouldn’t target the elderly,” said the dead girl’s father Burhan Ince.

Ramazan died of his wounds the next morning. His wife was taken into intensive care but was later released.

The devastation in Syria and the international campaign against the Islamic State grouphave drowned out one of the Middle East’s most intractable struggles: Turkey’s war with Kurdish militants. Read on here.

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Bleak Christmas for Christian Syrians in historic Turkish town

Many Syriac refugees in Mardin chose to live outside Christian camps due to jihadist fears

Mon, Dec 28, 2015, 18:40
Stephen Starr in Mardin
A small congregation and priest pray at the Syriac Orthodox monastery in Mardin, Turkey. Photograph: Tarik Tinazay/AFP/Getty

The sound of spoken Arabic rings out in the December morning air along the narrow alley behind Mardin’s Saint Shmuni Church. In a quaint home, metres from the church, two families of Assyrian Christians from Syria lay out matter-of-factly how their lives have fallen apart over the past four years.

“Myriam”, from Hassakeh in northeast Syria, moved to the ancient town of Mardin in south Turkey six years before the outbreak of revolt in 2011. A Syriac Orthodox Christian, she says all her family members remain in Hassakeh, where the kidnapping of well-to-do Christians has become commonplace. Read on here.

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Rival Turkish football hooligans now united in Istanbul protests

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(Photo by John Wreford)

Rival Turkish football hooligans now united in Istanbul protests

The National, October 10, 2013.

Outside the Recep Tayyip Erdogan Stadium in central Istanbul, crowds are gathering. Fenerbahce, one of Turkey’s football giants, are set to line out against Kasimpasa, a lesser-known city team in a Monday night kick-off.

On a side street outside the designated Fenerbahce entrance, members of Fenerbahce’s hardcore supporters’ club are busily talking on mobile phones and discreetly handing match tickets to fans. Tonight, tickets sell for a whopping 100 Turkish lira (Dh183).

And then, with riot police looking on, the unmistakable sound of fist meeting face rings out.

If Turkish football is known for anything, it is for fanaticism, violence and unquestionable loyalty. Its keenest fans are known as ultras. Their rivalry in Istanbul is unparalleled in the world of football. (Read on).

‘Revolt in Syria: Eye-Witness to the Uprising’ page 194

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Here’s page 194 of ‘Revolt in Syria’:

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Britain’s troop move puts pressure on Nato

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  Britain’s troop move puts pressure on Nato
Sunday, October 18, 2009- By Stephen Starr in Damascus

Britain’s plans to send more troops to Afghanistan is putting more pressure on Nato allies to step up their involvement in the mission.
Spurred on by Washington’s posturing to send more troops to Afghanistan, Gordon Brown last week announced that Britain would deploy 500 more soldiers to assist its existing force of 9,000.According to the British prime minister, the increase would be ‘‘consistent with what the Americans will decide’’.

The announcement places further pressure on countries such as Germany, the Netherlands and Poland, which for years have refused to donate more troops, something which Brown alluded to in his Commons speech last Wednesday.

However, four out of ten British people questioned in a survey published in the London Times last week want Britain to leave Afghanistan. Some 36 per cent said they wanted troops to pull out immediately.

A gathering of Nato defence ministers to discuss troop increases is expected to take place this month in Bratislava.

General Stanley McChrystal, who commands American and Allied troops in Afghanistan, last week requested the deployment of 40,000 additional troops. It came as the Taliban threatened to expand its reach to areas of the country once considered strongholds for coalition forces. Though public support for the war has declined in the US, president Barack Obama is expected to act on McChrystal’s request in the coming weeks.

Violence in Afghanistan has spiralled this year, with 414 Allied soldiers having died. The recent presidential election in the country has been acknowledged by international observers as having been flawed, adding to an increased sense of instability within the country, and further confusion for both Washington and London.

Meanwhile, reports have emerged that Italian commanders paid money to the Taliban in Sarobi, a town 40 kilometres from Kabul, in order to dissuade attacks against Italian troops.

With violence down in the area, Italy had cited its contribution to win ‘‘hearts and minds’’ in Afghanistan as a success. However, French troops later believed they were moving into a peaceful district and, in August last year, ten soldiers were killed in an ambush.

As the conflict enters its ninth year, 2009 has been the deadliest year for Allied forces – with 55 British soldiers killed over the past four months alone.

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