NYTimes: “Navalny, Awake and Alert, Plans to Return to Russia, German Official Says”

15 Sep

“Mr. Navalny talked with a German prosecutor about being poisoned. Word of his improvement came as France and Sweden confirmed that he had been sickened by Novichok, a Russian nerve agent.”

Aleksei A. Navalny in Moscow in 2019. His condition has improved since he was poisoned last month, though his doctors have not ruled out long-term complications.Credit…Maxim Zmeyev/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

Article by Katrin Bennhold and Michael Schwirtz

Balkan Insight: Bones of 54 Political Prisoners Found in Romania’s Gulag

15 Sep

Marcel Gascón Barberá


September 15, 202011:57

Archaeologists unearthed the bones of the communist-era political prisoners at the former Periprava labour camp in eastern Romania, where scores of dissidents died of hunger, cold and exhaustion.

A Romanian fisherman in Periprava in 2004. Archive photo: EPA/MIHAI VASILE

An archaeological excavation conducted by the Association of Former Political Detainees of Romania, AFDPR, has found the remains of 54 dissidents who died in the infamous Periprava forced labour camp between 1959 and 1964.

The area where the unmarked graves were found was established using “information obtained from elderly locals from the village and from some former employees of the labour camp”, the AFDPR said in a statement on MOnday.

“The deaths at this forced labour camp were caused by hunger and cold, by the lack of drinking water and medical care as well as by accidents due to the exhausting working conditions and the detention regime that many of them were subjected to in the camps and prisons that they were previously in,” the statement added.

Some of the detainees were shot dead, mostly when trying to run away from the camp, according to the AFDPR.

Researchers have established that at least 124 detainees died at the Periprava labour camp, which was situated in the mouth of the Danube where it reaches the Black Sea.

Periprava was one of the camps constituting what became known as the Romanian Gulag.

The Periprava camp functioned under the first Romanian communist dictator Gheorghe Gherogiu-Dej, who ruled Romania from 1947 until his death in 1965.

His rule was characterised by Stalinist repression of ‘class enemies’ and ‘undesirable elements’, and the suppression of any form of dissidence.

Thousands of Romanians were imprisoned or sent to forced labour camps such as the one in Periprava.

Ion Ficior (centre), former commander of the communist penitentiary labour colony at Periprava, arriving at the High Court of Cassation and Justice in Bucharest in October 2013. Archive photo: EPA/STR.

In 2016, Romania sentenced the former commander of the Periprava labor camp Ion Ficior to 20 years in prison for crimes against humanity. Ficior died in 2018 at the age of 90, after serving two years of his sentence.

“We were forced to cut reed, sometimes covered in water to the waist, together with the water rats and the leeches, and under an unforgiving sun,” one witness told Ficior’s trial.

“We were full of pus-filled wounds from that Periprava sand,” recalled the man, who also recounted how prisoners had to drink water from the Danube in order not to die of thirst.


From DuvaR.english: “The complete removal of legal defense in Turkey” — Ali Duran Topuz

15 Sep

There is more to write about, which I will, on how a mind-boggling decision by the Council of State (Danıştay) includes the interpretation of the “presumption of innocence” principle according to our “local and national” law. It will be titled, “None of us are innocent, except for the state.” [my emphasis]

“Erdoğan becomes increasingly similar to Muslim Brotherhood leader Banna” — from Ahval

14 Sep

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has been increasingly adopting political tactics and rhetoric similar to Hassan al-Banna, the leader of the world’s largest Islamist movement, the Muslim Brotherhood, according to regional analysts.

“Erdoğan uses a very typical Banna rhetoric. If you decode his speeches, you will hear what the Brotherhood is saying about the West and Israel,” Gökhan Bacık, an expert on Islam and politics in the modern Middle East, told Ahval in a podcast.

Bacık said both leaders also have a similar attitude regarding domestic policies, what they say to their followers and their pragmatic stance.

Erdoğan has a long history to the Brotherhood, a pan-Islamist religious, political and social movement Banna founded in Egypt in 1928. Erdoğan had close proximity with the organisation’s ideology and practices since he was one of the most trusted political cadets of Necmettin Erbakan, the most influential figure of Islamism in Turkey. The Brotherhood’s branches in the Gulf supported Erbakan and Turkish Islamists when they faced repression from Turkey’s secular establishment more than two decades ago.

“The historical roots are the same, as well as the ideological closeness in political and religious interpretation, and finally, self-interest as political opportunism,” Lorenzo Vidino, an expert on the movement, told Ahval. He said that Erdoğan’s governing Justice and Development Party (AKP) became the biggest backer of the Brotherhood in the world.

However, the relationship between Erdoğan and the Brotherhood has not always been friendly. The Islamist movement took a negative view of Erdoğan leaving Erbakan’s shadow and founding the AKP in 2001.

“They were grapes, and now they have become wine,” the Brotherhood had said about Erdoğan and his colleagues’ defection, tacitly saying that they had become akin to a prohibited beverage – impure.

But circumstances changed with Erdoğan’s successive election victories, which secured his grip on power. The AKP government’s support for the Brotherhood abroad changed dramatically as the Arab Spring protests grew, and Ankara sought to fund ideologically similar groups that were linked to the movement.

Following its failure in the Arab Spring, the current Brotherhood is led mostly by a diaspora living exile in Turkey, where dozens of the movement’s most powerful and influential figures reside.

The majority of some 30,000 Egyptian people living in Turkey are loyal to the Brotherhood movement, according to a report by the Century Foundation, a U.S. think tank. These Brotherhood leaders, followers and their relatives live a comfortable life, under the protection of the Erdoğan administration.

The AKP’s foreign policy has been defined by promoting a pro-Brotherhood position, rather than national interests in recent years. This ideological attitude has been stubbornly maintained, despite the cost of confrontation with neighbouring countries.

Under the AKP’s first years in the power, Turkey has increased trade in the Muslim world eightfold, hosted dozens of international Islamic events, restored Ottoman-era relics across the Middle East and cancelled visa requirements and developed high-level cooperation with many Muslim states.

However, Turkey lost most, if not all, of its warm relations with Arab Muslim states in the Middle East and North Africa region – including Egypt, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Syria – in the Arab Spring’s aftermath. Erdoğan has clearly taken on the role as the Brotherhood’s main guarantor and supported local branches in these countries, openly or indirectly.

Mohammad Morsi, a Brotherhood-affliated Egyptian politician, won the Cairo elections in 2012, but remained in office for 12 months until being toppled by a coup led by General Abdel-Fattah al-Sisi in July 2013.

Ever since that event, the AKP government has followed a harsh anti-Egypt policy and became the protagonist of the Brotherhood’s struggle against Sisi.

In war-torn Libya, the AKP government from the beginning has supported the Government of National Accord in Tripoli through Brotherhood-linked organisations that back the GNA.

Meanwhile, in Libya, Ankara has politically supported the internationally recognised Government of National Accord in Tripoli through Brotherhood-linked groups since the beginning of the country’s second civil war, which started in 2014.

And now Saudi Arabia, the UAE, France and Russia have manoeuvred to counter Ankara in the eastern Mediterranean and the Middle East.

Erdoğan’s embrace of Hamas makes ideological sense. The Palestinian Islamist movement emerged in 1987 as a rival to the secular, left-leaning Palestine Liberation Organisation, drawing inspiration from the Brotherhood in neighbouring Egypt, the Financial Times reported this week. The group is considered a terrorist group by Israel, the European Union and the United States.

Ayesha Siddiqi: how woke, “inclusion”, grievance narratives eventually come full-circle to exclusion and the breakdown of any kind of empathy or conversation.

14 Sep

“I don’t think I can ever really be that close to people who didn’t experience the aughts the same way I did. muslims who did, im automatically close to you.”

We clear about that? Unless somebody on the street in Bradford once called you a “Paki” after 7/7, you can’t be Ayesha’s pal. “It’s a Black thang,” as Spike Lee used to say, “you wouldn’t understand.”

See more: Ayesha A. Siddiqi@AyeshaASiddiqi Or at ayesha@thenewinquiry.com

But after glibly incendiary crap like her quote at top, she writes that she doesn’t “want to talk politics”, ok? She just wants to know what your favorite song is… Aaaawwwww…. :(

And see more me: Editing Ayesha A. Siddiqi — I thought she was just a millenial whiner from Dearborn; turns out she’s kind of a big deal, which is even more disappointing.

Good news from Russia/Berlin: Navalny is out of coma and improving.

14 Sep

“We have good news for you all; bad news for Putin.”

Photo: Athens, c. 1865, colorized, and a Beirut addendum

14 Sep

From: George Kessarios@GKesarios Check out GK for fuller-size image, since WordPress doesn’t let readers do that anymore.

These photos are beautiful, but always also depressing, given what we’ve done to Athens, which was once one of the most beautiful cities in Europe/Mediterranean.* If you’ve been to Hermoupole/Syra on the island of Syros or to Nauplio in the northeast Peloponnese — think one of those two on a much grander, Bavarian Neo-Classical, large Haussmanian boulevards and public square scale, and that was Athens until the 1960s. No other city in Europe or the Med — that wasn’t bombed in the war or which wasn’t subjected to the psycho-whims of a Stalin-type dictator — was so wholly destroyed by its own inhabitants; 80% of Athens’ pre-WWII building stock is gone.

Athens from top of Lycabettus in 1929


* An exception in the Mediterranean might be Beirut. And by that I don’t mean the whole-scale destruction the city endured through the war/s of the 70s and 80s, but that even before that the city’s pre-concrete architecture had suffered large-scale destruction to be replaced by the Mediterranean beton apartment house whose only saving grace is their large balconies. I don’t have this on any source other than old photos I’ve seen and from the great Samir Kassir‘s magisterial Beirut. That said, in watching news and footage of last month’s beyond-belief destructive explosion, one of the things that surprised me was how much nineteenth and early twentieth-century architecture had survived…survived only to be trashed in 2020.

If you’re interested in a deep immersion in traditional Beiruti architecture, try and find (won’t be easy) Jennifer Fox 1987 documentary: Beirut: The Last Home Movie, about the Greek Orthodox Bustros family in what I think is Achrafieh. It’s almost entirely shot in their family home and it’s a stunning look at the time-warp, physical, cultural and psychological ecosystem of the Levantine bourgeoisie. Yes, many of you will think it’s just a romanticizing of “elite minority supremacism” as my buddy X likes to say (IMBd says: “The movie shows how spoiled the Bustros family members really were, even during the horrors of the war.”) So I dunno — hold your nose, then, and watch it.


P.S. Back to Athens and lead photograph — is there anyone else out there who thinks our much-mocked Parliament (at the time of photo above it was still the Wittelsbach Royal Palace) is actually a handsomely austere and Doric and impressive building? People seem to think it’s blocky and dreary and the quintessence of Neo-Greek, neo-classical, Hellenic-wannabe pretensions. But similar architecture in Munich isn’t as disliked; it may be thought creepily Teutonic, but nobody makes fun of it. And I think it’s gorgeous.

Below, von Klenze‘s (responsible for much of the construction, street plan and general idea behind modern Athens) Propylaea in Munich’s Königsplatz.

The whole panorama of the Königsplatz below.

And the reason it might make some people nervous:


Obama era Deputy National Security Advisor Ben Rhodes on US media and how stupid and ignorant their reporters are and how easily manipulated it is by US Gov every day.

14 Sep

Thanks to 6’3″, 83 IQ@Progrockfarmer

Ussama Makdisi’s Arab fairytale

13 Sep

Ussama Makdisi@UssamaMakdisi · I recently published a book on Age of Coexistence about an inspiring and important aspect of modern Arab history, but, like so many of us who care about ME, I find myself constantly confronted by #sectarianism, #corruption, #colonialism, and #despotism in the region.


#1 Or maybe there are some people who aren’t sectarian, corrupt, colonialist or despotic but just don’t want to believe your fantasy…

#2 I’ll admit I’m talking from a Balkan-Anatolian perspective, and that maybe your fantasy was briefly more possible in an intra-Arab context than it was in the religiously AND ethnically AND linguistically mixed world I’m coming from…

#3 But I don’t have to believe your fairytale, or believe that life for non-Muslims in a Muslim world was a picnic, and that really the evil Frangoi ruined it all, just so you’re not disappointed.

If there were even one — and not a friggin’ army like youse guys are — but one Russian, Polish, Lithuanian, Ukrainian, Romanian academic out there, who had made it his life’s work to constantly shove in Jews’ faces the idea that — you know — life for Jews in Eastern Europe for those 5 or 6 centuries wasn’t really that bad and Jews and Gentiles mostly lived and coexisted and interacted with each other to an “inspiring” degree of harmony…the response would make the earth briefly tilt off its axis!

I recently translated a chapter of Maria Iordanidou’s Loxandra for my blog because I think it’s one of the best fictional — and realisticaccounts of Ottoman Muslim/Christian coexistence there is.


Photo: C-Town, the Grande Rue, Μεγάλη Οδό — Some of the cleaning up that the AKP has done during the process of turning Pera into a garish, overlit, Gulfie, kerchiefed Disneyland, is not all that bad.

13 Sep

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