Saturday November 18, 2017

Jews and Christians in Turkey are becoming increasingly fearful because of Islamic extremism

False reports of minority having ties with the coup are being circulated and so Christians and Jews are being targeted.

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Christians, Jews are becoming fearful because of growing extremism. Image Courtesy: Pixabay
  • Christian and Jews represent about two-tenths of one percent of Turkey’s mostly Muslim population of 79 million
  • People are tagging religious minorities as coup plotters
  • The spread of Islamic State (IS) terror in Turkey in recent months has shaken Christians and Jews

September 28, 2016: Threatened by Islamic extremism, Christian and Jewish groups in Turkey are growing more fearful amid increasing terror attacks and the government’s state of emergency following a failed coup attempt, representatives of the minority communities told VOA.

Christian and Jews represent about two-tenths of one percent of Turkey’s mostly Muslim population of 79 million.But pro-government media outlets, as well as some government officials, have accused them of playing a role in the July coup attempt and have stepped up the rhetoric against Christians and Jews.

At a “Democracy and Martyrs” rally in August, a pro-government, million-strong anti-coup demonstration in Istanbul, three of the speakers linked religious minorities to coup plotters, calling them “seeds of Byzantium, “crusaders,” and a “flock of infidels.”

Christian and Jewish leaders, some of whom denounced the coup attempt, were in attendance at the rally in an attempt to show solidarity with the government. Turkey has been in a state of emergency since the coup attempt and tens of thousands of Turks have been jailed for investigations.

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Scapegoats

Turkish human rights lawyer Orhan Kemal Cengiz told VOA pro-government media have “embraced an alarming narrative of scapegoating Turkey’s religious minorities and connecting the coup plot to them.”

“Particularly pro-government media outlets have taken an anti-U.S. and anti-EU attitude, which I can call a xenophobic attitude, in which they attempt to demonize the West and accuse it of the coup attempt,” he said. “And this narrative targets and harms non-Muslims in Turkey.”

Scholar Rifat Bali, who has written several books on Turkish Jews, says that even though the report of minority ties to the coup have no foundation, Christians and Jews are being targeted.

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“The nonsensical, so-called news reports that claim that some religious minorities in Turkey are behind the coup attempt are not surprising,” he said. “They are actually quite expected. In an environment where conspiracy theories are commonplace and prevalent, looking for foreigners behind everything becomes normal.”

Historic threats

Christians and Jews, who have been living in parts of what is now Turkey for centuries, have been exposed to violent attacks in Turkey’s history. The 1934 anti-Jewish pogrom in eastern Thrace, and the 1955 anti-Christian pogrom in Istanbul forced tens of thousands of non-Muslims to flee Turkey.

The spread of Islamic State (IS) terror in Turkey in recent months has shaken Christians and Jews.According to news reports, IS cell members have plotted terrors attacks on churches and synagogues in Turkey. IS sees Christianity and Judaism as an enemy to its radical Muslim ideology.

Foreigners, including European Christians and Israeli Jews, have died in terror attacks in Turkey linked to IS.Threats against Christians and churches on social media by Islamist extremists in Turkey have intensified.

“Some people have sent death threats to the mobile phones of 15 pastors,” said Umut Sahin, the secretary-general of the Union of Protestant Churches, an umbrella organization for Protestant denominations in Turkey.

“They used the same terms and arguments as IS in their text messages,” said Sahin, a pastor in Izmir. “They sent the pastor’s propaganda videos of IS.”There are about 10,000 Protestant Christians in Turkey.

Protestant church leader Ihsan Ozbek said some churches have canceled Sunday services because of fears of an IS attack.“This has created deep fear and panic in our community,” he said of continuing terror from IS.

Creating more refugees

Some Turkish Assyrian Christians, whose brethren in Syria have faced killings and kidnappings at the hands of IS, are finding safety abroad.

“The number of Assyrians immigrating to Western countries is also on the rise,” said Erkan Metin, an Assyrian human rights lawyer in Turkey. “Some have left Turkey and many others are preparing for that.”There are about 25,000 Assyrians in Turkey who live mostly in the southeast.

“Many Assyrians from Turkey are also citizens of Western countries,” said Tuma Celik, the Turkey representative of the European Syriac Union (ESU) and the editor-in-chief of the Assyrian monthly newspaper, Sabro.

“Those Assyrians used to spend part of the year in Turkey,” he said. “But as threats of IS are on the rise and the purges of the government are getting increasingly commonplace and violent, many of them have not come to Turkey this year.”But most of Turkey’s 18,000 Jews, who live mainly in Istanbul, are quietly staying put.

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Synagogues have taken tight security measures. British media reports, citing intelligence officials in Turkey, reported in the spring that IS was plotting attacks on Jewish institutions in Turkey.

“There is a continued war environment both inside and outside of Turkey,” said Isil Demirel, an anthropologist from Turkey who writes for the online newspaper Avlaremoz, which covers Jewish-related topics.“And the fact that the war is perpetrated by a group called the ‘Islamic State’ in the name of religion further intensifies the fears and concerns of people about their lives and future,” he said.

Two Turkish synagogues were bombed in 2003 by Islamist terrorists.“So the Jews in Turkey have learned required lessons from these attacks and are doing their best to take precautions to prevent potential ones,” Rifat Bali, a prominent Jewish scholar based in Istanbul, told VOA.

-(VOA)

– prepared by Anubhuti Gupta of Newsgram. Twitter: @anuB_11

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Syrian Militia: End Is Near for Islamic State in Raqqa

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Smoke rises near the stadium where the Islamic State militants are holed up after an airstrike by coalition forces at the frontline, in Raqqa, Syria. voa

Islamic State is on the verge of defeat in Syria’s Raqqa and the city may finally be cleared of the jihadists Saturday or Sunday, the Syrian Kurdish YPG militia told Reuters Saturday.

The U.S.-led coalition against Islamic State said around 100 of the jihadist group’s fighters had surrendered in Raqqa in the last 24 hours and had been “removed from the city,” but it still expected difficult fighting “in the days ahead.”

It did not say how the fighters had been removed or where the fighters had been taken.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said remaining Islamic State fighters were being transported out of Raqqa by bus under a deal between Islamic State, the U.S.-led coalition and the U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), which is dominated by the YPG. There was no immediate comment on that report from the coalition or the SDF.

Fighting since June

Civilians who escaped from Islamic State
Civilians who escaped from Islamic State militants rest at a mosque in Raqqa, Syria. voa

The SDF, backed by coalition airstrikes and special forces, has been battling since June to oust Islamic State from Raqqa city, formerly its de facto capital in Syria and a base of operations where it planned attacks against the West.

The final defeat of Islamic State at Raqqa will be a major milestone in efforts to roll back the group’s self-declared caliphate in Syria and Iraq, where earlier this year the group was driven from the city of Mosul.

“The battles are continuing in Raqqa city. Daesh (Islamic State) is on the verge of being finished. Today or tomorrow the city may be liberated,” YPG spokesman Nouri Mahmoud told Reuters by telephone.

In emailed comments to Reuters, coalition spokesman Ryan Dillon said about 100 Islamic State fighters had surrendered in Raqqa in the last 24 hours and were “removed from the city,” without giving further details.

“We still expect difficult fighting in the days ahead and will not set a time for when we think (Islamic State) will be completely defeated in Raqqa,” he said, adding that around 85 percent of Raqqa had been liberated as of Oct. 13.

Some civilians escape

Around 1,500 civilians had been able to safely make it to SDF lines within the last week, he added.

Omar Alloush, a member of a civilian council set up to run Raqqa, told Reuters late Friday that efforts were under way to secure the release of civilians and “a possible way to expel terrorist elements from Raqqa province,” without giving further details.

An activist group that reports on Raqqa, Raqqa Is Being Slaughtered Silently, said on its Facebook page Saturday that dozens of buses had entered Raqqa city overnight, having traveled from the northern Raqqa countryside.

The Observatory said Syrian Islamic State fighters and their families had left the city, and buses had arrived to evacuate remaining foreign fighters and their families. It did not say where they would be taken.

During the more than six-year Syrian war, the arrival of buses in a conflict zone has often signaled an evacuation of combatants and civilians.

The campaign against Islamic State in Syria is now focused on its last major foothold in the country, the eastern province of Deir el-Zour, which neighbors Iraq.
Islamic State is facing separate offensives in Deir el-Zour by the SDF on one hand, and Syrian government forces supported by Iranian-backed militia and Russian airstrikes on the other. (VOA)

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Will the Latest Message From Islamic State Leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi Provoke New Attacks in the West?

IS remains a potent organization, despite its continued losses in United States and Europe

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This image taken from a militant website July 5, 2014, purports to show the leader of the Islamic State group, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. (VOA)

Washington, September 30, 2017 : U.S. intelligence officials examining the latest audio statement claiming to be from Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi say, so far, they have no reason to doubt its authenticity.

However, there are questions as to whether the message from the leader of the collapsing, self-declared caliphate will cause IS operatives to spring into action. Some analysts see Baghdadi’s continued call to arms as almost a shot in the dark, aimed at rekindling interest despite the terror group’s fading fortunes in Syria and Iraq.

The still-early U.S. intelligence assessment comes just a day after the Islamic State’s al-Furqan media wing issued the 46-minute audio recording featuring Baghdadi, in which he calls on followers to “fan the flames of war on your enemies, take it to them and besiege them in every corner.”

“Continue your jihad and your blessed operations and do not let the crusaders rest in their homes and enjoy life and stability while your brethren are being shelled and killed,” he says.

islamic state
A U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces fighter takes cover behind a wall on a street where they fight against Islamic State militants, on the front line on the western side of Raqqa, Syria (VOA)

Despite such threats, U.S. officials say the release of the latest audio message is not changing Washington’s approach.

“We are aware of the tape,” a National Security Council spokesman said Friday. “But whether it’s al-Baghdadi or any member of ISIS, the Trump administration’s policy is destroying ISIS in Iraq, Syria and around the globe.” ISIS is an acronym for Islamic State.

Still, intelligence and counterterror officials, both in the United States and in Europe, warn that IS remains a potent organization, despite its continued losses on the ground.

“We do not think battlefield losses alone will be sufficient to degrade its terrorism capabilities,” the head of the U.S. National Counterterrorism Center, Nick Rasmussen, warned in written testimony to U.S. lawmakers earlier this week, calling IS’s reach on social media “unprecedented.”

And while Western counterterror officials say the expected wave of returning IS foreign fighters has yet to materialize, the experience and skill sets of the operatives who have made it back home are ample reasons to worry.

But some caution the new Baghdadi audio message may have more to do with the terror group’s long-term strategy than its desire to carry out attacks in the near term.

“The broadcast boosts morale by contextualizing the hardships facing the group as their losses accumulate by reminding Islamic State militants and their supporters that day-to-day actions are part of a broader struggle, and metrics of progress shouldn’t be assessed in a vacuum,” according to Jade Parker, a senior research associate at the Terror Asymmetrics Project (TAPSTRI).

ALSO READ  intelligence officials , Islamic State, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, al-Furqan, war, enemies, threats, US officials, raqqa, National Security Council, isis, Iraq, Syria, U.S. National Counterterrorism Center, Nick Rasmussen, terrorism, Terror Asymmetrics Project ,

Parker also believes that while it is “extremely unlikely” the latest Baghdadi audio will spark or accelerate any IS plots, it might prevent fraying within the organization’s ranks.

“Baghdadi’s silence during the final days of IS’s battle for Mosul was a sore point for many IS fighters and supporters who felt confused and abandoned by their leader,” she added. “This statement was likely released in part to avoid that sentiment with respect to the fight to retain ground in Raqqa.” (VOA)

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Islamic State Flag saying “The Caliphate is coming”, Sighted in Pakistan

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Pakistani officials acknowledged that at least one IS flag was recently displayed on a billboard in Islamabad.(source: VOA)

Islamabad September 25: An Islamic State (IS), the flag was seen displayed near Islamabad which read “The Caliphate is coming,” slogan written on the flag, and was put up over a billboard Sunday on a major expressway in Islamabad.

Pakistan Interior Ministry authorities told that committee has been formed to investigate the incident. Pakistan authorities deny that IS may have established a foothold in the country.

Islamic State (ISIS) Militant Group to Soon have a Strong Hold in Southeast Asia: Report

“The group does not have an organized presence, resources or structure to be able to operate in the area,” Talal Choudhry, State Minister for Interior Affairs told VOA’s Urdu Service.

The IS terror group has taken roots in the mountain regions of Afghanistan and Pakistan since early 2015. It brands itself as the Islamic State of Khorasan (IS-K), a title that distinguishes the militant group in the region from its main branch in Iraq and Syria.

The Islamic State threat in Pakistan follows recent media reports and activities by local IS affiliates in various regions that indicate the group has been making inroads in the country.(VOA)