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Deniz Naki: A political footballer in fear of his life

Deniz Naki has gone from one of Germany's most promising footballers to hiding in a safe house after an attempt on his life. Naki's political views have long had a big impact on his career. But how did it come to this? A little less than a decade ago, Deniz Naki was part of a German success story, named in the "team of the tournament" as the country picked up a seventh European Under-19 Championship. Naki lifted the trophy with the likes of Sven Bender, Lars Bender, Ömer Toprak and plenty of others still playing at the top level. But at the start of 2018, Naki is now at the center of a story of a very different kind. The 28-year-old with German-Kurdish roots was shot at while driving down the A4 motorway near his home town of Düren, in the west of Germany, on Monday. He is reportedly now in a "safe place" receiving police protection following the apparent assasination attempt, which is being investigated as attempted murder. He told German media how he ducked before pulling over to the hard shoulder and surviving unharmed before claiming that the attack was of a political nature. "I think that this is about a political issue," Naki told Spiegel magazine's online platform Bento. "I am a continual target in Turkey because I make pro-Kurdish statements." While it was initially reported by numerous sources that Naki was suggesting the Turkish secret service were involved in the shooting, his lawyer told DW's Gezal Acer on Tuesday that this was false and the footballer "thought an ultra-nationalist Turkish group in Germany could be behind it." Even before the latest incident, controversy has never been far from the surface of the forward's career, particularly in recent years. The former St. Pauli player has been a vocal critic of the Turkish government's treatment of the country's Kurdish ethnic group and a supporter of the Kurdistan Worker's Party (PKK) - who stand for Kurdish nationalism but are considered a terrorist organization by the European Union. Just last year, after initially being found not guilty less than a year earlier, he was handed an 18 month suspended jail sentence for promoting "terror propaganda" for the PKK on social media channels. Naki tweeted his opinion about a Turkish military offensive against the PKK and a curfew was imposed in seven cities in southeast Anatolia, in the west of Turkey. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's treatment of dissidents has been condemned in many quarters but DW's Acer says Naki's case is unique. "Until now it had often been journalists or academics or writers who felt threatened, but we haven't heard of this happening with any other athletes," she said. "So we can't say concretely that athletes or sports figures are feeling under threat or in danger." Whether the threat is from government agencies or otherwise, Naki's political beliefs, and the consequences of those beliefs, have had a significant impact on his career. A tally of eight goals in 12 games this season shows at least some of the ability that shone so brightly as a teenager remains, despite the lowly level at which he now plays. After that European Championship win and a couple of caps for the German under-21 side alongside the likes of Toni Kroos, Jerome Boateng and Mats Hummels, Naki left Bayer Leverkusen for St. Pauli, a famously left wing club based in Hamburg. He was, and remains, a popular figure at the club but his stint is probably best remembered for his throat-slitting gesture during St Pauli's 2-0 win over Hansa Rostock in 2009. Clashes between the two had long been dangerously charged, with the right wing elements of Rostock's fan base opposed to the ideology espoused by St. Pauli, and the gesture was considered to incite violence. Naki received a three match ban for that, nine matches less than he'd eventually get for his social media support of the PKK, and, after a brief spell at Paderborn, he moved to Turkey, the country to which he'd pledged his national team allegiance after a pair of caps for Germany's under-21s — though he's yet to win a cap. Soon after his move to Genclerbirligi, Naki was the victim of an attack, the reason for which was thought to be his Kurdish ethnicity. "They were swearing and asking: 'Are you that dirty Kurd?'" Naki told the BBC after the 2014 attack. "Then they said: 'Damn your Kobane, damn your Sinjar'. I tried to calm them down. But suddenly one of them punched me in the eye. Trying to defend myself, I punched one of them back and started running away." He left the country a few days after, citing the possibility of further attacks as the reason for his departure. "There is no tolerance. I would only go back because I love my country, I love my hometown. That's it. I will carry on with my career in Germany," he said at the time. But it was a stone's throw from his hometown of Düren that his car windscreen was struck by a bullet. “I always knew that something like this could happen, but I would never have thought it could happen in Germany,” he told German newspaper Die Welt on Monday. Less than 48 hours after a gunman made him fear for his life, Naki's future — both sporting and otherwise — is unclear, much like his assailant. What has become increasingly obvious is that he is a sportsman doesn't seem prepared to separate his sport and his politics. The cost of that could have been, and still might be, enormous.

Deniz Naki has gone from one of Germany’s most promising footballers to hiding in a safe house after an attempt on his life. Naki’s political views have long had a big impact on his career. But how did it come to this? A little less than a decade ago, Deniz Naki was part of a German success story, named in ... Read More »

Iraqi forces press last IS stronghold, attack Kurds

Government troops have turned to the terrorists' last bastion on the Syrian border, having already recaptured 90 percent of Iraqi land from IS. At the same time, Baghdad was rekindling conflict with the country's Kurds. Iraqi troops launched an offensive on Thursday to retake the last "Islamic State" (IS) stronghold in their country, the western towns of al-Qaim and Rawa. "Daeshis have no option but to die or surrender," said Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi said, using Arabic shorthand for IS militants. According to Iraqi media, the US-led air alliance was assisting in the assault. Baghdad has won several major victories against IS recently, most importantly driving them from Mosul, Iraq's second-largest city, in July. Last month, Iraqi troops liberated the town of Hawija, the group's last foothold in the country's north. In total, government fighters have retaken 90 percent of the vast swaths of its land, which IS seized in their 2014 sweep through Iraq and Syria. Armed conflict with Kurds However, the new offensive on al-Qaim and Rawa came as Baghdad seemed to be reigniting armed conflict with the country's semi-autonomous Kurdish region. On Thursday, Kurdish authorities said government soldiers had begun assaulting their forces in the disputed and oil-rich Nineveh province. "They are advancing towards peshmerga positions," the regional government said. Kurdish peshmerga fighters have played an integral role in the fight against IS, and the US-led alliance have often relied on their expertise in the region. As the government made strides against IS, it also tried to tighten federal control on Kurdish areas, forcing the Kurdish authorities to abandon its key source of funds, the rich oil fields of Kirkuk, in a massive blow to the region's self-sufficiency.

Government troops have turned to the terrorists’ last bastion on the Syrian border, having already recaptured 90 percent of Iraqi land from IS. At the same time, Baghdad was rekindling conflict with the country’s Kurds. Iraqi troops launched an offensive on Thursday to retake the last “Islamic State” (IS) stronghold in their country, the western towns of al-Qaim and Rawa. ... Read More »

Turkish foreign minister warns US arming of Syrian Kurds poses threat

Turkey's top diplomat has decried the US order to arm a Syrian Kurdish militia, saying each weapon they hold is a direct threat to Turkey. President Erdogan will travel to Washington next week to take up the issue. Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu warned on Wednesday that arming the People's Protection Units (YPG) Syrian Kurdish militia was no different to arming the outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) group fighting in Turkey. Cavusoglu's remarks came as the US signed off on an order to arm YPG fighters in the fight to recapture the Syrian city of Raqqa, the last remaining stronghold of the so-called "Islamic State" (IS) jihadist group. Turkey, however, classifies the YPG as a terrorist group. "Both the PKK and the YPG are terrorist organizations and they are no different, apart from their names," Cavusoglu told reporters during a visit to Montenegro. "Every weapon seized by them is a threat to Turkey." - More than 200 people from Germany fighting with Kurds against 'IS' - Turkey spars with US military over Syrian Kurds Turkey's top diplomat added that the US was well aware of Ankara's stance and that the issue would be discussed when Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan meets his US counterpart Donald Trump during a visit to Washington next week. Read more: Turkey carries out airstrikes on 'Kurdish rebel positions' in Iraq, Syria Earlier on Wednesday, quoting Deputy Prime Minister Nurettin Canikli was quoted by Turkish media of saying that the US' order was "unacceptable" and that he hoped Washington would reverse its decision. US: Kurdish assistance necessary in fight against IS However, in announcing the order, the US appeared to double down on its position that Kurds provide crucial help in wiping out IS and liberating Raqqa. "We are keenly aware of the security concerns of our coalition partner, Turkey," Defense Department spokeswoman Dana White said in a statement on Tuesday. "We want to reassure the people and government of Turkey that the US is committed to preventing additional security risks and protecting our NATO ally." The Pentagon stressed that assisting the YPG was "necessary to ensure a clear victory" against IS in Raqqa. The US and western powers have been backing a Syrian alliance of militias, known as the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), fighting IS. Among its groups is the Kurdish YPG. YPG welcomes arms The YPG militia hailed the US' decision to provide it with arms, calling the decision "historic" and a "sign of confidence" in the group. The move, coupled with the US' commitment to its umbrella coalition with the SDF, would expand its operations against IS, the YPG said in a statement. The decision was a refutation of "distortions" likening the YPG to a terrorist group, it added.

Turkey’s top diplomat has decried the US order to arm a Syrian Kurdish militia, saying each weapon they hold is a direct threat to Turkey. President Erdogan will travel to Washington next week to take up the issue. Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu warned on Wednesday that arming the People’s Protection Units (YPG) Syrian Kurdish militia was no different to ... Read More »

Turkey detains journalist over pro-Kurdish tweets

Turkish authorities briefly detained a pro-Kurdish journalist over his tweets he made last year about Ankara's ongoing conflict with Kurdish militants. The arrest comes amid mounting alarm over press freedom in Turkey. Hamza Aktan, news editor of the pro-Kurdish IMC TV, was arrested Saturday morning by masked and armed policemen from his home in Istanbul, the channel said in a statement on its website. The chief news editor of the channel was released under judicial control after 12 hours but still faces allegations of being involved in "terrorist propaganda." The journalist was interrogated by police over tweets he had shared in 2015, including retweets of two pro-Kurdish analysts. "Judicial control, like detention, is a form of punishment," the IMC quoted Aktan as saying after his release. "This is right neither for a journalist nor as a citizen. This is a challenge to freedom of expression," he added. Aktan is a prominent Turkish journalist and author of the book, "The Kurdish Citizen." The IMC is an independent broadcaster popular mostly in the Kurdish southeast of the country. Press under siege? A local journalists' union condemned Aktan's brief detention as an "attack on the freedom of expression." Earlier this year, media watchdog Reporters Wihtout Borders downgraded Ankara on its Press Freedom Index to two places. Turkey is ranked 151 out of 180 countries on this index. Concern has been growing about the treatment of reporters under President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Trials for insulting the president have been on the rise since 2014. There are 20,000 such cases currently open. On Thursday, a Turkish court sentenced journalists Hikmet Cetinkaya and Ceyda Karan to two years in jail for republishing cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad from the French monthly Charlie Hebdo.

Turkish authorities briefly detained a pro-Kurdish journalist over his tweets he made last year about Ankara’s ongoing conflict with Kurdish militants. The arrest comes amid mounting alarm over press freedom in Turkey. Hamza Aktan, news editor of the pro-Kurdish IMC TV, was arrested Saturday morning by masked and armed policemen from his home in Istanbul, the channel said in a ... Read More »

Germany mulls ‘specific strengths’ to offer Iraq in fight against IS

On a visit to Iraq, German Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen said Berlin was examining ways to provide more support to Iraq's government. However, it remains unclear what was being considered. Von der Leyen said on Monday that Germany would continue to provide assistance to forces opposed to "Islamic State," adding that new ways to help the country's central government were also being investigating. The minister said she wanted to explore whether Germany had "specific strengths with which we can give targeted support to Iraq - the government in Baghdad." The minister, who was visiting Baghdad for the third time - called on the government there to show unity. "It is also important that all forces in Iraq jointly lead the fight against IS," she warned after talks with Iraqi leaders in Baghdad. "It's in our joint interest to stop IS," she said. Divisions in legislature IS currently holds just under a third of Iraq, including the country's third largest city, Mosul, after sweeping across the much of the country in June last year. Government forces and Kurdish fighters as well as Sunni and Shiite militias have since regained some of that territory, backed by US-led coalition airstrikes, although progress has been limited. However, the central government remains divided on sectarian lines. Differing degrees of support In terms of concrete support for Baghdad, von der Leyen mentioned only that 3,000 hazmat suits, to protect personnel in the event of a nuclear, biological or chemical attack, would be provided, as well as medical materials. In the past, Germany has provided aid to the central government in the form of helmets, protective masks and binoculars. In contrast, it has provided anti-tank rockets and machine guns to Kurdish peshmerga forces fighting IS in northern Iraq. Official Iraqi government forces have lost large amounts of weapons to IS, particularly as the group made most of its gains. Iraqi forces fled, leaving hundreds of Humvee armored vehicles, at least 40 battle tanks, small arms and ammunition.

On a visit to Iraq, German Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen said Berlin was examining ways to provide more support to Iraq’s government. However, it remains unclear what was being considered. Von der Leyen said on Monday that Germany would continue to provide assistance to forces opposed to “Islamic State,” adding that new ways to help the country’s central ... Read More »

Amnesty accuses Syria Kurdish forces of ‘war crimes’

Amnesty International has accused Kurdish authorities of forcibly displacing Arabs from their homes in some parts of Syria. Earlier, Kurdish fighters announced an alliance with Arab fighters. The London-based group said a fact finding mission that visited 14 towns and villages in northern and northeastern parts of the country had uncovered a "wave of forced displacement and home demolitions amounting to war crimes carried out by the Autonomous Administration." "By deliberately demolishing civilian homes, in some cases razing and burning entire villages, displacing their inhabitants with no justifiable military grounds, the Autonomous Administration is abusing its authority and brazenly flouting international humanitarian law," said Lama Fakih, Amnesty's senior crisis adviser. Some civilians said they were threatened with US-led coalition airstrikes if they failed to leave, Amnesty said. Strong presence against 'IS' Syrian government forces withdrew from mainly Kurdish areas in 2012, with the Kurdish-led Autonomous Administration left to fill the void. Its security forces, which include the Kurdish People's Protection Units (YPG), have proved effective in fighting "Islamic State" ("IS"), carving out an autonomous zone for itself in northern Syria and advancing into IS-held areas towards Raqqa. However, residents of the central Raqqa and the northeastern Hasakeh provinces told Amnesty that the Kurdish fighters had used the pretext of their battle with IS to destroy mainly Arab homes. Amnesty identified "a deliberate, coordinated campaign of collective punishment of civilians in villages previously captured by IS, or where a small minority were suspected of supporting the group." The rights watchdog went on to cite Kurdish fighters as saying the forced displacement targeted IS sympathizers, including Kurds, and was, in some cases, for the residents' own security. Arms dropped as new alliance formed Earlier, the Kurdish YPG militia announced a new alliance with small groups of Arab fighters also battling IS. The YPG, which has made gains with the help of US air power, forms the largest part of the alliance, with the other groups referring to themselves as the Syrian Arab Coalition. US forces on Monday made an airdrop, believed to have contained small arms ammunition and other supplies, as part of a revamped strategy. Arab rebels in the alliance said they had been informed by Washington head of the airdrop that new weapons were on their way that would help them launch a joint offensive with the Kurds against IS in its de-facto capital of Raqqa. The US military has confirmed only dropping supplies to "vetted" opposition fighters, but would say no more about the groups or the equipment in the airdrop. Washington has said it could direct funding and weapons to Arab commanders working with the YPG.

Amnesty International has accused Kurdish authorities of forcibly displacing Arabs from their homes in some parts of Syria. Earlier, Kurdish fighters announced an alliance with Arab fighters. The London-based group said a fact finding mission that visited 14 towns and villages in northern and northeastern parts of the country had uncovered a “wave of forced displacement and home demolitions amounting ... Read More »

Kurd militia in ‘full control’ of Syrian border town

شدت پسند گروپ اسلامک اسٹیٹ کے خلاف نبرد آزما کُرد فورسز نے ترکی کی سرحد کے قریب اہم شہر تل ابیض پر قبضے کا دعویٰ کیا ہے۔ سیریئن آبزرویٹری فار ہیومن رائٹس کے مطابق اس شہر پر قبضے کے لیے لڑنے والے کردوں اور دیگر اتحادی باغی گروپوں کی مدد کے لیے امریکی اتحادی فضائی حملوں کے نتیجے میں اسلامک اسٹیٹ کے کم از کم 40 جنگجو ہلاک ہوئے ہیں۔ تل ابیض پر کردوں کا قبضہ اسلامک اسٹیٹ کے لیے ایک بڑا دھچکہ قرار دیا جا رہا ہے جو ترکی سے ہتھیار، تیل اور غیر ملکی جنگجوؤں کو اس شہر کے ذریعے اسمگل کرتا رہا ہے۔

Tal Abyad, the strategic town close to the Turkish border, is a major loss for “Islamic State” militants as they can no longer use the route to bring in fighters and ammunition. Kurdish fighters are in “full control” of the Syrian border town of Tal Abyad, said The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights on Tuesday. “Since dawn this morning, not ... Read More »

Turkish President Erdogan urges speedy formation of coalition

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has asked all political parties to put aside their "egos" and quickly form a new government. The president's own party this week lost its absolute majority after 12 years in power. In a first televised appearance since his own ruling party lost its parliamentary majority, Erdogan told politicians they should show humility and find a solution for the sake of the country. "Everyone should put their egos aside and a government must be formed as soon as possible, within the constitutional process," Erdogan said. "We cannot leave Turkey without a government, without a head. Those who are condemned to their egos will neither be able to give account to history, nor to our people." The Justice and Development Party (AKP), which Erdogan himself set up, lost its absolute majority after 12 years in power in Sunday's parliamentary election. Despite remaining the major party, it is now in need of a coalition partner. Possible candidates include the far-right Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) and the centre-left Republican People's Party (CHP). The pro-Kurdish People's Democratic Party (HDP) - which achieved more than the 10 percent of the vote needed to secure parliamentary representation - has rejected joining an AKP-led government. A coalition of the three opposition parties is also possible, but would appear unlikely given their mutual antipathy. If no coalition is formed, Erdogan can call new elections. Troubled history with coalitions Acting as interim prime minister, Erdogan's AKP party colleague Ahmet Davutoglu on Thursday said that history had shown Turkey was not well suited to coalition governments, but did not rule out any options. "We've used the coalition eras of the 1970s and 1990s as an example to show that coalitions are not suitable for Turkey and we still stand by that stance," Davutoglu told a meeting of AKP party officials in Ankara. "However, with the current political picture ... We're open to any scenarios based on the latest developments." In-fighting between coalitions in the 1990s undermined Turkey's economy and derailed a series of International Monetary Fund economic aid programs. Davutoglu said on Wednesday that all options would be exhausted before fresh elections were considered.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has asked all political parties to put aside their “egos” and quickly form a new government. The president’s own party this week lost its absolute majority after 12 years in power. In a first televised appearance since his own ruling party lost its parliamentary majority, Erdogan told politicians they should show humility and find a ... Read More »

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