Outrage After Turkish Mine Explosion Kills Over 200

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Allyson Cartwright, Contributing JournalistLast Modified: 21:04 p.m. DST, 15 May 2014

"Orgreave S24's washout (3 of 3)  Photo by: Earthwatcher

SOMA, Turkey— At least 245 Turkish miners have died and 120 are still trapped after an explosion of a coal mine in what is being called the “worst industrial accident in the country’s history”. Hopes of rescuing the remaining miners are “dimming” according to Energy Minister Taner Yildiz. Thousands of people are rallying in response in Turkey, angered by the disaster and the lacking efforts from the government and rescue agencies.

The explosion in the mine occurred after a malfunction with a power unit. This has resulted in a power outage in the mine, making the mine cages inoperative and thus rescue efforts far more difficult. It is also reported by The Guardian that fires from the blast had not yet been extinguished, 18 hours after the explosion. Most of the deaths were caused by carbon monoxide poisoning as claimed by Yildiz. Reuters reported that oxygen is being pumped into the mine in order to keep the remaining trapped miners alive. However, Mehmet Torun, a board member and former head of the Chamber of Mining Engineers says, “Unless we have a major miracle, we shouldn't expect anyone to emerge alive at this point.”

Tensions are rising above ground as well in the nearest city to the mine, Soma. Friends and relatives of the deceased and trapped miners are venting frustrations against Prime Minister Erdoğan and his Justice and Development Party. Erdoğan’s government has a questionable history with the mining industry. Turkey was ranked third worst for worker deaths by the International Labour Organization in 2012. The New York Times says just two weeks ago they vetoed a proposition for a parliamentary commission that would try to alleviate the dangerous conditions in the mining industry. His government is further criticized for not responding to his rival party, Republican People's Party. They requested action on work-related incidents in the Soma mines in April, but were refused.

Violent demonstrations concerning the mining accident are occurring in Soma as well as in the country’s largest city, Istanbul, and the capital, Ankara. Wednesday afternoon protestors, mostly teens and 20-somethings, confronted riot police at the headquarters of the Justice and Development Party, according to The Huffington Post. They also said that the police were equipped with gas masks and water cannons. The protestors could be heard shouting that Erdoğan was a “murderer” and a “thief”. It was reported that hundreds of protestors were also at the Soma Holding headquarters, the company that owns the mine.

Erdoğan’s presence at the mine furthers the anticipation of his candidacy in the upcoming presidential election, despite him not confirming a bid. He has postponed an international trip, instead going to visit the mine. He also has declared three days of mourning in Turkey for those miners lost. According to The Huffington Post, in the past he has been unsympathetic to the dangerous mining conditions in Turkey, saying after a 2010 accident where 30 miners died that it is part of the “profession's fate”. In the case of this accident in Soma, Erdoğan insists that it will be fully investigated. On the miners still trapped, the prime minister said, “Our hope is that, God willing, they will be brought out. That is what we are waiting for."

Follow Allyson on Twitter Twitter: @nahmias_report Contributing Journalist: @allysoncwright

Social Media Bans Persist in Turkey

recep tayyip erdogan, photo by cvrcak1

recep tayyip erdogan, photo by cvrcak1

TURKEY, Ankara - First Twitter and now YouTube, social media platforms in Turkey are continually being banned by the Turkish Telecommunications Authority. This latest YouTube ban comes after a video posted on March 27 on the site that is supposedly of an audio recording of top Turkish officials discussing a military operation against Syria, according to CNN.

This leak was followed by Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s accusations that YouTube and Twitter are being used to slander and spy on the government. The Twitterban came first on 21 March 2014 after a re-election rally during which CNN quoted Erdoğan as saying he was determined to “root out Twitter”; however, the ban was deemed unconstitutional by the Turkish high court.  The YouTube ban followed six days later.

Besides the audio recording of a planned false-flag against Syria, more audio was leaked that incriminate the Justice and Development party leader, Erdoğan. What he calls “immorally edited material”, had been published on YouTube that supposedly was of Erdoğan instructing his son to hide millions of dollars from the police, further implicating him of corruption allegations.

After public outcry and protest, the 27 March 2014 YouTube ban was overturned 2 April 2014. Al Arabiya News said that the ban was found to be in violation of human right and instead of a site-wide sanction, 15-videos were banned. However, just two days following the lifting of the ban, it has been reinstated.  This back-and-forth with the rulings against YouTube has created more mass disapproval in Turkey and internationally.

Turkey has been vying for admission into the European Union, but after these latest regulations by the Turkish government, it seems like this may be less and less of a possibility. An anonymous high-ranking EU official spoke on Turkey’s EU bid to Today’s Zaman saying, “For Turkey's EU membership, countries like France and Germany will eventually seek a referendum for public support, and Turkey has lost the support of young and liberal constituencies in the EU with its ban on social media. This [ban] has definitely not brought Turkey closer to the EU.”

Losing EU favor is only the beginning. The US has also been vocal about their objection to Erdoğan’s social media ban. Al Arabiya News reported that last Friday, Washington had been urging the Turkish government to “open all social media space in Turkey”.

Even the massive internet company Google has joined the protest against the YouTube ban. Russia Today reported that Google has appealed the YouTube ban to Turkey’s Constitutional Court. Since Google Inc. is the owner of YouTube, a Google spokesperson told Wall Street Journal via email, “it is obviously very disappointing to people and businesses in Turkey that YouTube is still blocked, and we are actively challenging the ban in the courts,” and that the YouTube ban impedes on “freedom of speech”.

Any negative impact of these social bans on Erdoğan’s chances of winning has yet to be determined. Prime Minister Erdoğan is currently running in the Turkish presidential election. Local elections in Ankara were challenged March 30 after claims of corrupted results, of which Erdoğan won. Reuters reported that the opposition party’s call for a recount was denied. It appears that in local elections his candidacy has not been tainted. Turkish national elections for presidency will take place on 10 August 2014.

Contributing Journalist: @allysoncwright

Rwanda's Parliamentary Elections: Democratic or Not?

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Jessamy Nichols, Africa CorrespondentLast Modified: 11:54 a.m. DST, 24 December 2013

President Paul Kagame, Rwanda, Photo by David Shankbone

Rwanda, unlike many African countries has held democratic elections for its government with its people by and large in support of its current and past leader President Paul Kagame. The Parliament in which the governing party, the Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF), won a vast majority of the seats. The RPF, lead by President Paul Kagame, has been in power ever since the 1994 genocide and has yet to face a serious political opponent.

The world witnessed the horrors of the 1994 genocide, which were also brought to the attention of American movie viewers in the real life drama portrayed in the movie Hotel Rwanda. The movie explored the genocide, political corruption, and the repercussions of violence as a result of this conflict.

So, despite peaceful election, it seems incongruous that a populace subjected to such brutality would in the final tally of votes, grant the RPF 76% percent of the votes, which allowed it to keep the vast majority of the Parliamentary seats, winning 40 out of a total of 53, and essentially solidify Kagame's reign of the country.

Although, the elections went smoothly without reports of fraud, the election brings renewed attention to the dominance of Kagame's party for nearly two decades.

The small country has made an immense turnaround ever since the horrendous genocide, but Kagame and his party have held a tight grip on power ever since. The international community praises Kagame for the economic growth and general stability of his country, but there are still periodic reports of political oppression, freedom of speech restrictions, and meddling in the DRC's affairs.

For now, the Rwandan population seems content with the Parliamentary results and continued RPF domination, but it remains to be seen how many elections the citizens will endure before they yearn for political change and competition.

Follow Jessamy on Twitter Twitter: @nahmias_report Africa Correspondent: @JessamyNichols

Ecuador Harbors Wikileak's Julian Assange

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Ayanna Nahmias, Editor-in-ChiefLast Modified: 23:09 PM EDT, 19 June 2012

http://www.ecuadorembassyuk.org.uk/announcements/statement-on-julian-assangeLONDON, England - Today, WikiLeak’s founder, Julian Assange, 40, escaped extradition to Sweden by fleeing to the Ecuadorean embassy in London. On 15 June 2012 Assange lost all appeals in U.K. against extradition to Sweden to face questioning in two cases of alleged rape and sexual assault.

The British government is stunned and embarrassed by the lapse in security which enabled Assange to remain in London just beyond the reach of its police. Prior to loss of his appeals, Assange spent a year and a half under house arrest without being charged. Fortunately for Assange, he spent this confinement at the luxurious country estate of a wealthy supporter.

Ecuadorean Foreign Minister Ricardo Patino said his country would weigh the asylum request in light of the belief by many that the sex crime accusations were manufactured to discredit Assange with the added benefit of impugning the credibility of WikiLeaks.

Conspiracy theorist believe that Assange’s 18-month ordeal was instigated by the U.S. in retaliation for the 2010, WikiLeak's release of secret video footage and thousands of U.S. diplomatic cables, many of them about Iraq and Afghanistan, in the largest leak of classified documents in U.S. history.

Following the release, the now defunct Wikileak was systematically undermined when sources refused to provide the organization with newsworthy leaks and credit card companies instituted a blockade that staunched donations which were the life blood of the organization. The final straw was the revelation by two former female employees of sexual abuse by Assange.

As a strong proponent of women’s rights, we often feature stories of women who have been physically or emotionally abused, and rape is one of the most heinous expressions of brute power perpetrated by one human being against another.  Unfortunately, the merits of these women’s accusations are tainted by the perception that they may have been used as pawns in an international campaign to silence one of the few remaining advocates of freedom of speech and access to information.

On 19 June 2012, the Ecuadorean Embassy updated their website with the following statement. "While the department assesses Mr. Assange's application, Mr. Assange will remain at the embassy, under the protection of the Ecuadorean Government. The decision to consider Mr. Assange's application for protective asylum should in no way be interpreted as the Government of Ecuador interfering in the judicial processes of either the United Kingdom or Sweden." (Source: Ecuador Embassy UK)

Meanwhile, Assange remains safely ensconced in the Ecuadorean Embassy while Patino assesses the merit of his asylum request and the geopolitical impact. Preexisting tensions between the government of Rafael Correa, Ecuador's leftist and ardently anti-Washington president and the U.S. could permanently rupture should they choose to grant permanent asylum to Assange.

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Liu Xiaobo | The Power of Words

Ayanna Nahmias, Editor-in-ChiefLast Modified: 14:07 PM EDT, 27 December 2009

CHINA - This blog addresses many issues regarding human rights and seeks to encourage the reader to act even if it is through sharing a post or video. Somewhere in the world today, some person or group of people are being treated inhumanely. We blithely read about such abuses, but we live in a society where we can insulate and anesthetize ourselves to their suffering.

It is true that sometimes all of the evil and hatred in the world seems ubiquitous and insurmountable, and the natural human reaction is to shrink away and adopt a protective sphere around family and personal friends, or to remain silent and bury one's head like the proverbial ostrich. These however are not the only choices available to us.

In Christianity, Judaism and Islam, the spoken word is accorded with reverence because of the creative power inherent in thought, which leads to spoken communication, which leads to action otherwise known as creation. It is a simple concept, but in our current world where spiritual, faith-based, intangible concepts are under attack as being childish and atavistic, the need to control our thoughts and words and thus what we creatively manifest is of the utmost importance and urgency.

In the recent past, we have had many great souls stand up on behalf of humanity, however, just as many quietly but effectively work in the shadows and are never elevated onto the world stage. People like Nelson Mandela, Mohandas K. Gandhi, Mother Theresa, Martin Luther King, Jr. are notable and internationally recognized figures. Now Liu Xiaobo joins their ranks as one who is less known today, but who may in the future be the defining face of freedom of speech in China.  Because of this Xiaobo was  sentenced this past Friday to 11 years imprisonment by the Chinese government.

The video below was disseminated to Amnesty International supporters with instructions to share it with as wide an audience as possible. Although I am not an ardent supporter of the United Nations, because I feel it has not lived up to the ideals for which it was created; I also recognize that its ineffectiveness lies in its membership, which is composed of individuals who are representatives of governments and corporations with interests that are often contrary to human dignity and well-being.  This does not, however, diminish the power of the dream, for in dreams are the realities of tomorrow.

The poem by Martin Niemöller, a Protestant pastor and social activist sums up the essence of this post, and will I hope provide you with a reminder that tyranny and abuse does not stop with its intended victim.

When the Nazis came for the communists, I remained silent; I was not a communist.

When they locked up the social democrats, I remained silent; I was not a social democrat.

When they came for the trade unionists, I did not speak out; I was not a trade unionist.

When they came for the Jews, I remained silent; I wasn't a Jew.

When they came for me, there was no one left to speak out.

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Twitter: @nahmias_report Editor: @ayannanahmias