Russia carries out air strikes against militants in Syria’s Idlib

The Russian Ministry of Defence said on Thursday that its planes had carried out four air strikes against militants in Syria's Idlib region. (File/AFP)
Updated 13 June 2019

Russia carries out air strikes against militants in Syria’s Idlib

  • The Syrian army and its allies shelled rebel-held areas of northwest Syria on Thursday and attacked a Turkish observation post
  • Russia is Damascus’s main ally in the civil war between Syrian President Bashar Assad and rebels seeking to oust him, using its warplanes to bombard opposition areas

MOSCOW: The Russian Ministry of Defence said on Thursday that its planes had carried out four air strikes against militants in Syria's Idlib region, the RIA news agency reported.
The Russian military said that the Turkish army had asked for its help to protect Turkish troops by striking "terrorists in Idlib".

Earlier, the Syrian army and its allies shelled rebel-held areas of northwest Syria on Thursday and attacked a Turkish observation post, Ankara and a monitoring group said, despite Russia saying it and Turkey had brokered a new cease-fire.

However, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu on Thursday said a ceasefire had not been fully secured in Syria's northwestern Idlib province, despite the announcement by Moscow.
"We are working hard with Russia to stop these attacks. It is not possible to say a complete ceasefire has been secured," Cavusoglu told a press conference with his French counterpart Jean-Yves Le Drian.
Turkey’s Defense Ministry said Syrian government forces carried out what it assessed to be a deliberate attack, firing 35 mortar shells at one of its observation posts in the de-escalation zone in Idlib, wounding three Turkish soldiers and damaging equipment and facilities.
Ankara has made representations to Moscow about the incident, the defense ministry said. It did not say when exactly the attack happened.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a war monitor, said air strikes on rebel-held areas paused overnight, but resumed on Thursday morning. They targeted the area around Khan Sheikhoun, an opposition-held town in southern Idlib province, it said, adding that the insurgents had also fired artillery at government forces.
On Wednesday, the Russian military said that Moscow and Ankara had agreed a full cease-fire in the northwest, centered on Idlib, but it did not say how long the truce would last.
The Syrian government launched its offensive against northwest Syria, the last major stronghold of the rebellion against it, in late April.
Russia is Damascus’s main ally in the civil war between Syrian President Bashar Assad and rebels seeking to oust him, using its warplanes to bombard opposition areas. Turkey backs some insurgent groups.
Moscow and Ankara had agreed a partial truce last September that called for an end to bombardment of the area and for Ankara to pull heavy weapons and militant groups from frontline areas.
The fighting has caused hundreds of thousands of people, many of whom had already been displaced, to flee further north and seek shelter along the Turkish border.
Turkey has pushed Russia to rein in the government’s offensive while Russia has said Turkey must curb the militant groups that dominate in Idlib.


Two years on, Turkish dissident remains behind bars 

Updated 21 October 2019

Two years on, Turkish dissident remains behind bars 

  • “It is not Kavala who has lost his freedom and independence, it is the Turkish judicial system,” his lawyers said in a statement.  

JEDDAH: The situation of many peaceful dissidents who are still in jail in Turkey, like Osman Kavala, who recently completed his second year in pretrial detention, is still criticized by Western countries and human rights defenders.  

The solitary confinement of Turkish philanthropist, activist and businessman Kavala is described by many as a “Kafkaesque” experience, as charges brought in the indictment against him are still without concrete evidence.  

Kavala, who was put behind bars over his alleged involvement in Gezi Park protests in summer 2013 to “overthrow the government” by funding and organizing the whole process, had his third hearing on October 8, but the court ruled that he should remain in custody. 

“It is not Kavala who has lost his freedom and independence, it is the Turkish judicial system,” his lawyers said in a statement.  

In the indictment, Kavala is accused of providing milk, fruit juice and pastries as well as gas masks to protesters.  

The fact that he was on the board of the Turkish branch of George Soros’ Open Society Foundation at that time was also a source of suspicion. But he denied that the charity had ever provided financial support for the protests.  

The next hearing for the case is set for December 24-25.  

Some of his friends shared with Arab News their thoughts and feelings about the lengthy judicial process  

“It is hard to put into words how much influence one person can have at changing historical and current perspectives,” Louis Fishman, an assistant professor at City University of New York, told Arab News. 

“Kavala is man who has dedicated his life to creating spaces within the Turkish public sphere, where narratives of Armenians, Kurds, and other silenced groups can find a place. This soft-spoken man has contributed greatly to the development of a civil society in Turkey and even after his imprisonment his work is being carried out through multiple non-profit organizations and art galleries,” he added. 

Fishman also said that the presence of Kavala was missed, but his legacy continued, and all his friends and supporters were waiting for his release and his return.  

Aysen Candas, a Turkish political scientist from Yale University, is another friend of Kavala who took part of the international campaign to raise awareness of his incarceration.

“Osman Kavala’s unlawful imprisonment, the violation of due process at every step of his detainment, bogus charges against him, the ridiculous nature of what is presented as ‘evidence,’ namely illegally tapped phone conversations irrelevant to the charges, the fact that the indictment was submitted one year after Osman was imprisoned … are all plain facts about his case,” she told Arab News. 

According to Candas: “What renders Kavala’s imprisonment politically significant is his relentless defense of the rule of law, human rights, minority protections and his advocacy of implementing the standards of constitutional democracies in Turkey. 

“He was a firm, unyielding proponent of norms of rule of law and democracy and minorities, he lent a legitimacy to the political initiatives he was a part of,” she added. 

Candas also noted that: “While the activities of Kavala’s cultural association Anadolu Kultur have been highlighted and targeted by the false accusations that are scattered all through the ridiculous indictment against him, his imprisonment is not due to cultural activities but is aiming to attack the political meaning of these cultural activities, such as peaceful coexistence, such as dialogue and public deliberation, such as equal respect.” 

Candas thinks Kavala’s imprisonment reflects the new hostage-status of constitutional democracy in Turkey; the negation of not just the democratization efforts since the 1980s, but also of the secular republic, of cosmopolitan modernization, of Turkey’s efforts to become an international, law-abiding member of UN and of all international conventions that Turkey is a part of. 

“Osman is also a secular businessman, a member of Turkey’s top business association. His family is from the Balkans and they had arrived in mainland Turkey through the population exchange with Greece, so perhaps the secular identity, of those who established the republic in 1923, is being targeted and criminalized in Osman’s person,” she said.