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Multiculturalism and the Overturning of Traditional Loyalties

By , January 25, 2015 12:36 pm

(AINA) — Feature films often provide a valuable insight into social trends. Two Australian films about the Gallipoli campaign in the First World War illustrate the point.

In the case of the 2014 film “The Water Diviner”, directed by Russell Crowe, the change of social attitudes in Australia in recent decades is reflected in the starkest of ways. This becomes clear if compared with the 1981 production “Gallipoli” directed by Peter Weir and starring Mel Gibson and Mark Lee.

In the period between the two films, Australian society changed dramatically. This period witnessed the sixfold increase in Australia’s Muslim population, with one of the largest Muslim minority communities in Australia today being the Turkish community, numbering around 70,000 and clustered in particular suburbs in Sydney and Melbourne.

Moreover a policy of multiculturalism asserted itself as the default over the decades since the 1980s. This is a policy where great attention is paid to minority community sensitivities, to the point where traditional majority community values, attitudes and loyalties are relegated to a secondary position.

So in the 1981 film, produced in the transition period prior to multiculturalism, when traditional identities and the confidence of majority communities in the West was still in evidence, there is no doubt who are the friends and who are the enemies. The perspective of the film focuses very much on the hopes, joys and fears of Australians –Anglo Australians. The Turks are portrayed as the enemy, one who is respected and in some ways grudgingly admired for their tenacity, but the enemy nevertheless.

By 2014 such loyalties are turned upside down in “The Water Diviner”. The Turks are portrayed as the good guys — victims of a foreign invasion by alien allied forces. Traditional loyalties are discarded. So while the church and its clergy are portrayed with scorn, Islam is painted with a generous brush. Lead character Joshua Connor (Russell Crowe) insults the Irish priest, his church and his beliefs, but is rendered speechless with admiration by the beauty of Istanbul’s Blue Mosque. Reference is made to Australia having lost 10,000 men at Gallipoli, but this is immediately trumped by the Turkish general lamenting that their losses were 70,000.

The film reportedly received very good reviews in Turkey, which is little wonder given the almost hagiographic portrayal of the Turks and the unsympathetic portrayal of the Australians — with the even more unsympathetic depiction of the British.

Multicultural sensitivities no doubt play a significant part in the process of upending traditional loyalties. This film is the latest step in a changing public narrative in Australia over the Gallipoli campaign that now more consciously represents Turkish perspectives. This no doubt wins Turkish votes but comes at some cost to Australian self-belief and self-confidence.

In another striking example of changing loyalties evident in “The Water Diviner”, the Greek-Turkish war of 1919 — 1922 is given a blatantly Turkish spin. Relevant scenes depict Greek soldiers as little more than bloodthirsty barbarians, with the Turks noble and innocent victims. No reference is made in the film to the fact that the Turks — one of the greatest land-grabbing groups throughout history — expelled Greeks by military force from their traditional domains in what is now present-day Turkey during a 1000 year period up to the 20th century. What is even more curious is the fact that Australia hosts a much larger and older Greek minority community whose sensitivities do not appear to have been considered in this particular film.

If these films open a window into Australia’s changing society, these observations hold true for other Western societies which have embraced well-intentioned but debilitating policies of multiculturalism. For example, while Britain rethinks what it means to be British — somewhat cringing for the days of empire and Rule Britannia — the United States is regularly at pains to provide a far greater voice to minorities than their numbers deserve.

Such is the fruit of multiculturalism. Traditional identities and loyalties are discarded in pursuit of an elusive multicultural utopia. In fact, it leads to confusion and loss of confidence among majority communities built on democratic values, and the gradual subversion of those democratic values by some groups for which such values are alien.

Assyrian International News Agency

Dutch Opposition Party Has Documents Proving Turkey Sent Arms to Al Qaeda

By , January 25, 2015 6:53 am

The Dutch opposition Christian Democratic Party (CDA) announced that it has confidential documents proving that Turkey had sent weapons to al-Qaeda militants in Syria and that it conveyed the documents to the Dutch government, according to a BBC Turkish report published on Sunday.

CDA deputy Pieter Omtzigt said his party acquired the confidential documents in November and shared them with Dick Schoof, the National Coordinator for Security and Counterterrorism (NCTV). According to the report, the documents are duplicates from an ongoing criminal investigation in Turkey into the 2014 interception and search on three Syria-bound trucks that belonged to the National Intelligence Organization (MIT).

Turkish gendarmes and several prosecutors are accused of unlawfully intercepting and conducting search on the MIT trucks, which, according to media claims, transported arms to radical Islamists in Syria.

The BBC Turkish report said former Adana Governor Hüseyin Avni Cos, who was in office at the time of the interception of the MIT trucks, said in a testimony that the arms-filled trucks belonged to MIT and were being sent to Syria upon orders from then-Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

Omtzigt asked Dutch Minister of Security and Justice Ivo Opstelten whether he conveyed the documents to Foreign Minister Bert Koenders ahead of his recent visit to Turkey. Koenders visited Turkey on Jan. 5-7.

Meanwhile, CDA deputy Raymond Knops, a member of the Dutch Parliament Foreign Affairs Contact Group, accused the Dutch government of “playing ostrich” regarding Turkey’s relations with terrorist groups in Syria. Knops submitted a parliamentary question addressing Koenders regarding the claims of Turkey aiding al-Qaeda in Syria with weapons and ammunition. In his parliamentary question, Koenders cited the report by the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) Analytical Support and Sanctions Monitoring Team.

Koenders stated that the UNSC report had highlighted that the weapons and ammunition held by the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) and the al-Nusra Front were largely transported via Turkey through secret ways. According to Koenders, this information has also been confirmed by the United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI).

The Dutch lawmaker asked, “Do you find it disturbing that weapons and ammunition have been sent to terrorist organizations in Syria through the land of NATO member Turkey?” Koenders described launching air strikes on ISIL while Syrian jihadists receive arms via Turkey as “mopping the floor while the faucet remains open.”

Last Thursday, five Turkish prosecutors who investigated the claims of illegal arms shipments to opposition groups in Syria by the MIT trucks were suspended by a top judicial board.

The suspension of the prosecutors came a day after the government obtained a blanket gag order from Adana Fifth Criminal Court of Peace, preventing the Turkish media from reporting on documents that were leaked on Twitter on Jan. 12 by anonymous Twitter user @LazepeM, who claimed the information came from the General Staff and gendarmerie investigations.

Assyrian International News Agency

4 Arrested in Spain on Suspicion of Planning Terror Attacks

By , January 25, 2015 1:11 am

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Assyrian International News Agency

The Lions of Mesopotamia Are the Torchbearers of a Unified Iraq

By , January 24, 2015 7:30 pm

Earlier this week, popular American news publication Foreign Policy ran the article ‘The World’s Next Country’, exploring how the northern Iraqi cities of Erbil and Kirkuk could be vital in forging a new Kurdish state independent from Iraq.

The self-governing northern region of Iraq already displays many of the hallmarks required to form a sovereign state, and the country’s current political fragility only acts to accelerate Kurdish sentiments to separate from the rest of the nation.

However, the piece did warn that a split could shatter an already fractured sectarian environment, resulting in major regional ramifications.

This bleak future view of a unified and united Iraq is in stark contrast to the scenes witnessed at Canberra Stadium on Friday afternoon.

The Iraqi players and fans alike — along with their vocal Iranian counterparts — created a colourful spectacle rarely seen before in the nation’s capital.

The diversity of the team and its supporters once again highlighted the ability of a national football team to unify the people that its politicians cannot.

The Iraqi side that stepped onto the pristine Canberra Stadium surface was a mixture of Shi’a, Sunnis, Kurds and Christians, all able to put their religious differences aside to represent a homeland brutally ravaged by war, sanctions and political instability in recent decades.

Ahmed Yasin — scorer of the Greens’ equaliser in the second half — is a Feyli Kurd hailing from Baghdad but raised in Sweden, home to a large Iraqi expatriate community.

Inspirational skipper and talisman Younis Mahmoud is a Turkmen Sunni from Kirkuk, while 20-year-old penalty taker Dhurgham Ismail is a Shi’a from the south-eastern province of Maysan.

The diversity was on show in the stands, with Iraqis of all different religious and tribal backgrounds cheering on the Lions of Mesopotamia as they upset Iran on penalties after a dramatic 3-3 draw in one of the games of the tournament.

For Alin Ibrahim, a Chaldean Christian hailing from Erbil who travelled to Canberra from Melbourne with his father for both of Iraq’s games in the city, “the national team means everything”.

“Not just for me, but for every Iraqi as it represents us all of us no matter what our religious differences are,” he said.

Ibrahim left his country a decade ago when he was a bubbly little 10 year-old, mostly unaware of the severe hardships around him.

After five years in Auckland, he moved to Melbourne in 2010 and was desperate to witness his country play in his adopted home after witnessing the sheer passion of the Asian Cup first hand.

“The eight-hour road trip to Canberra was very important for me as growing up in Iraq I never got the chance to see my nation play on home soil, so this was the best chance for me to fulfil that dream, with the added significance of the game being played in my adopted country,” he said.

Ibrahim shares the hope that the current generation of Iraqi footballers can be a beacon of light in dark times.

“Coming from a war torn nation, only football has this magical power to put a smile on every Iraqi’s face and put our differences aside,” he said.

For Ibrahim, having his city of birth become the capital of a new state in Iraqi Kurdistan “would not feel right” considering the emotional attachment he has to Erbil being a vital and prosperous city of the nation he was born in.

If Radhi Shenaishil’s side wish to repeat the heroics of 2007 and claim their second Asian Cup triumph, they will have to go past a formidable and solid South Korean outfit on Monday at Stadium Australia.

The Taeguk Warriors have yet to concede a goal in four games and are coming off the back of two inspiring victories over the Socceroos and Uzbekistan respectively.

However the Lions of Mesatophia are no easy pushovers themselves and can take pride in their efforts so far this tournament.

Sydney’s large Iraqi community will no doubt fill much of the spacious arena in the hope that their team can force a dream showdown with their adoptive homeland just days later. Now more than ever does the national team symbolise unity in an ever more politically and religiously divided landscape.

When Younis Mahmoud lifted the coveted trophy in Jakarta in July 2007, Iraq was a dangerous place with divisions evident throughout the country.

Now the political climate of the nation is worse with sectarianism reigning supreme with the dangerous emergence of the Islamic State unsettling not just the authorities in Baghdad, but everyday ordinary Iraqi who are tired of constant violence and economic troubles epitomising their country.

Kurdish national sentiment in the north is rising (with great legitimacy), but to those like Ibrahim and millions of other Iraqis worldwide who want a united and unified Iraq, an Iraq without Erbil and Kirkuk is unimaginable.

Their national side have so far made them proud and are the best symbols in showcasing the power football has in uniting Iraqis from all different religious backgrounds into working together under one flag, one nation and one people.

Assyrian International News Agency

Online Post Claims 1 Japanese ISIS Hostage Killed; New Demand Made

By , January 24, 2015 1:47 pm

A video posted online by a known ISIS supporter shows Japanese hostage Kenji Goto holding a photograph of what appears to be beheaded ISIS hostage Haruna Yukawa.(CNN) — A picture and audio posted online Saturday purport to show that one of ISIS’s two Japanese hostages has been killed after a deadline for ransom passed, and appears to relay ISIS’s new demand for the other’s freedom — a prisoner exchange

The static image, shown in a video file posted by a known ISIS supporter, apparently shows surviving Japanese hostage Kenji Goto, alone, in handcuffs and dressed in orange, holding a photo of what appears to be beheaded compatriot Haruna Yukawa.

Saturday’s posting, which CNN couldn’t immediately verify independently, came four days after an ISIS video demanded that the Japanese government pay $ 200 million within 72 hours for the hostages’ release.

Japanese Defense Minister Gen Nakatani said Saturday that his government is checking the authenticity of the claim. Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe acknowledged the post.

“This act of terrorism is outrageous and unforgivable violence. I feel strong anger and firmly condemn it,” Abe said told reporters Saturday, adding that he demands Goto be released immediately.

Played over Saturday’s picture, the voice of a person claiming to be Goto says in English that Abe is to blame for Yukawa’s death.

“You were given a deadline, and so my captives acted upon their words,” he says.

The voice then relays ISIS’s alleged new demand — the release of Sajida al-Rishawi, a woman arrested in Jordan in 2005 on suspicion of trying to take part in an attack in which others killed dozens at Jordanian hotels.

“They no longer want money, so you don’t need to worry about funding terrorists,” the voice says. “They are just demanding the release of their imprisoned sister Sajida al-Rishawi.”

The U.S. National Security Council has seen Saturday’s post, and the “intelligence community is working to confirm its authenticity,” NSC deputy spokesman Patrick Ventrell said.

“The United States strongly condemns (ISIS’s) actions and we call for the immediate release of all the remaining hostages. The United States is fully supportive of Japan in this matter. We stand in solidarity with Japan and are coordinating closely,” Ventrell said.

Opinion: Should nations pay ISIS ransom?

Goto, 47, and Yukawa, 42, had gone to the Middle East for different reasons, the former an experienced freelance journalist covering the conflict in Iraq and Syria, and the latter an aspiring security contractor who felt at home in the war-torn region. They ended up in the hands of ISIS in recent months.

On Tuesday, ISIS released a photo showing a black-clad masked man standing over Goto and Yukawa. The man made a demand: Either Japan pay $ 200 million — the same amount that Abe has proposed to help those affected by the ISIS campaign, money his government says is for humanitarian rather than military purposes — within 72 hours, or both men would die.

Japanese officials estimated that ultimatum expired at 2:50 p.m. Friday, Tokyo time (12:50 a.m. ET Friday) with no immediate news on the hostages.

Saturday’s video is dissimilar in some ways to last year’s ISIS videos announcing the executions of other Western hostages.

In five ISIS videos last year — announcing the beheadings of U.S. journalists James Foley and Steven Sotloff, British aid worker David Haines, British taxi driver Alan Henning and U.S. aid worker Peter Kassig — a masked man is shown making a statement and sometimes putting a knife to the hostages’ necks. The videos then transition to a still photo of the victims’ severed heads.

The alleged new demand Al-Rishawi, the woman named in the allegedly proposed swap for Goto, was arrested by Jordanian authorities more than nine years ago.

In November 2005, she said in a televised confession that she tried to take part in a string of terror attacks at Jordanian hotels that month that killed at least 57 people.

She said her explosives failed to go off at a large wedding reception she was targeting, but that her husband’s explosives did go off there.

Japan isn’t part of the international military coalition that, for months, has been carrying out airstrikes against ISIS targets in Iraq and Syria. Its post-World War II constitution forbids the use of Japanese military forces for any purpose besides self-defense.

But Tokyo is allied with the United States and others leading this military campaign. And Japanese officials are offering help related to the ongoing unrest, though they insist those millions of dollars would go toward things like helping refugees, not killing ISIS militants.

ISIS wasn’t swayed. In Tuesday’s video demanding ransom, a masked man holding a knife stood over the kneeling Goto and Yukawa, and said that Abe “willingly volunteered to take part in this crusade” against ISIS.

A spokesman for the terror group, according to Japanese broadcaster NHK, wouldn’t comment this week on whether his group has been in touch with the Japanese government, something that officials in Tokyo had said they were trying to arrange. He said he was aware that Japan said it wasn’t involved militarily and called the Japanese infidels for fighting with the coalition.

The question of ransom Japanese officials had said they would not yield to threats, but they would do everything they could to secure the hostages’ safe release.

Would that mean paying ransom? Officials weren’t saying, at least directly, though Abe did call ISIS’ demand “unacceptable” this week.

Leading Japanese news organizations reported, citing unidentified government sources, that Goto’s wife received an e-mail in December from someone demanding $ 8 million to $ 16 million for her husband’s return.

The government was trying to confirm if that e-mail came from ISIS, the reports said. If so, it could indicate the militant group was willing to accept a smaller ransom than the $ 200 million it had publicly demanded.

Japanese citizens have been taken hostage before. Some have been released. But what Japan hasn’t done is advertise whether it has ever paid ransom, lest it encourage more kidnappings in bad-guy fundraising schemes.

It’s not clear whether paying would have mattered. ISIS doesn’t have representatives or go-betweens everywhere who could solicit such a deal. Nor does it have a reputation for morality and trustworthiness, so there’s no telling if it would have taken the money and killed anyway. And the fact the group publicly asked for $ 200 million, a figure well above other ransom demands, raised the prospect that it was never serious about negotiating.

Veteran journalist wanted to tell Syrians’ stories While there are certainly geopolitical implications, this story is also about two men and the families they’ve left behind.

As the apparent deadline approached, Goto’s mother begged for her son’s life.

“To all members of ISIS, Kenji is not the enemy of ISIS. Please release him,” the mother, Junko Ishido, said Friday.

“… I have been just crying for the last three days, filled with sadness. Words fail to describe how I feel. Kenji always has been a kind person ever since he was little. He was always saying, ‘I want to save the lives of children in war zones.’”

Her son had been a journalist for years, contributing to NHK and other Japanese news organizations. Goto covered big stories, hoping that by telling them, he could make a difference.

That’s what spurred him to go to ISIS-controlled territory in Syria, as he explained in an October video shot shortly before he ventured over the Turkish border.

“Syrian people suffering three years and a half. It’s enough,” said Goto, 47. “So I would like to get the story of what ISIS wants to do.”

Alaaeddin Al Zaim, who had worked with Goto in Syria previously, says he warned him not to enter the ISIS stronghold of Raqqa. “I tell him it’s not safe for you,” Al Zaim told CNN.

But Goto went anyway. He said, according to Al Zaim, “I am not American, I am not British. I’m Japanese. I can go.”

Friend: Yukawa felt satisfaction being in Syria The aims and activities of Yukawa, a 42-year-old unemployed widower, are murkier.

He originally headed to the war-ravaged country early last year to gain combat and survival experience to bolster his plans to set up a private security company, said his friend Nobuo Kimoto.

There, Yukawa met Goto, who gave him insights on how to survive there, Kimoto said. Goto also introduced him to rebel fighters, who are distinct from ISIS, though both are fighting Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s forces.

Some of the rebels talked about their need for ambulances to shuttle the wounded. That plea spurred Yukawa to start raising money for this cause after returning to Japan, according to Kimoto.

Kimoto said he advised his friend to focus on building up his private security company.

Before he went back to Syria in July — a month before his reported capture — Yukawa told his friend about his clear sense of purpose when he was in that tumultuous Middle Eastern nation, despite all its violence and other travails.

“I felt a chill when he said, after returning home, (that) he felt in Syria he was really living a life,” Kimoto said. “He seems to have felt satisfaction being there and living together with the locals.”

CNN’s Ali Younes, Yoko Wakatsuki and Saeed Ahmed contributed to this report.

Assyrian International News Agency

Iraqi Assyrian Militia Leader Meets Australian MP

By , January 24, 2015 8:06 am

Two Assyrians in Homs, Syria Killed in Car Bombing

Posted 2015-01-23 19:51 GMT

Assyrians Gabriel Bassam Gabro (L) and Zahi Saad, killed in Homs, Syria.Homs, Syria (AINA) — Two Assyrians have been killed in a suicide car bombing in the New Sabri neighborhood in Homs, Syria. The two have been identified as Gabriel Bassam Gabro, n petrochemical engineering student and a deacon in the Syrian Orthodox Church, and Zahi Saad.

The bombing occurred on Wednesday afternoon near a commercial compound, killing at least 5 people and wounding 35 others.

In October of 2014 a suicide bomber targeted a student gathering in the New Sabri neighborhood, killing 54 people, including 47 children.

Assyrian International News Agency

Two Assyrians in Homs, Syria Killed in Car Bombing

By , January 24, 2015 2:23 am

Two Assyrians in Homs, Syria Killed in Car Bombing

Posted 2015-01-23 19:51 GMT

Assyrians Gabriel Bassam Gabro (L) and Zahi Saad, killed in Homs, Syria.Homs, Syria (AINA) — Two Assyrians have been killed in a suicide car bombing in the New Sabri neighborhood in Homs, Syria. The two have been identified as Gabriel Bassam Gabro, n petrochemical engineering student and a deacon in the Syrian Orthodox Church, and Zahi Saad.

The bombing occurred on Wednesday afternoon near a commercial compound, killing at least 5 people and wounding 35 others.

In October of 2014 a suicide bomber targeted a student gathering in the New Sabri neighborhood, killing 54 people, including 47 children.

Assyrian International News Agency

Ukraine Stiffs China for Billions Owed

By , January 23, 2015 8:46 pm

[unable to retrieve full-text content]China paid Ukraine $ 3 billion two years ago for grain still not delivered and another $ 3.6 billion that’s owed to China will also probably default.
Foreign Policy In Focus

Post-traumatic Stress ‘Evident in 1300BC’

By , January 23, 2015 8:41 pm

Post-traumatic Stress ‘Evident in 1300BC’

By James Gallagher

Posted 2015-01-24 02:04 GMT

(BBC) — Evidence of post-traumatic stress disorder can be traced back to 1300BC – much earlier than previously thought – say researchers.

The team at Anglia Ruskin University analysed translations from ancient Iraq or Mesopotamia.

Accounts of soldiers being visited by “ghosts they faced in battle” fitted with a modern diagnosis of PTSD.

The condition was likely to be as old as human civilisation, the researchers concluded.

Prof Jamie Hacker Hughes, a former consultant clinical psychologist for the Ministry of Defence, said the first description of PTSD was often accredited to the Greek historian Herodotus.

Referring to the warrior Epizelus during the battle of Marathon in 490BC he wrote: “He suddenly lost sight of both eyes, though nothing had touched him.”

But Prof Hughes’ report – titled Nothing New Under the Sun – argues there are references in the Assyrian Dynasty in Mesopotamia between 1300BC and 609BC.

Ghosts In that era men spent a year being toughened up by building roads, bridges and other projects, before spending a year at war and then returning to their families for a year before starting the cycle again.

Prof Hughes told the BBC News website: “The sorts of symptoms after battle were very clearly what we would call now post-traumatic stress symptoms.

“They described hearing and seeing ghosts talking to them, who would be the ghosts of people they’d killed in battle – and that’s exactly the experience of modern-day soldiers who’ve been involved in close hand-to-hand combat.”

A diagnosis and understanding of post-traumatic stress disorder emerged after the Vietnam War. It was dismissed as shell shock in World War One.

Prof Hughes said: “As long as there has been civilisation and as long as there has been warfare, there has been post-traumatic symptoms. It’s not a 21st Century thing.”

Assyrian International News Agency

From Detroit to Dublin, A Fight for the Right to Water

By , January 23, 2015 3:05 pm

[unable to retrieve full-text content]Irish activists fighting a plan to increase the cost of water have an unlikely ally in their corner: the Detroit Water Brigade.
Foreign Policy In Focus