Turkish Crackdown Intensifies: Take Action Today!

Demonstrators try to escape from riot police on June 11, 2013 on Taksim square in Istanbul. Riot police fired tear gas and rubber bullets to clear protesters as Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan warned he would show 'no more tolerance' for the unrelenting mass demonstrations against his Islamic-rooted government (Photo Credit: Angelos Tzortzinis/AFP/Getty Images).

Demonstrators try to escape from riot police on June 11, 2013 on Taksim square in Istanbul. Riot police fired tear gas and rubber bullets to clear protesters as Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan warned he would show ‘no more tolerance’ for the unrelenting mass demonstrations against his Islamic-rooted government (Photo Credit: Angelos Tzortzinis/AFP/Getty Images).

As international condemnation of Turkish police repression against peaceful protesters continues, the Turkish government doubled down today with an early morning raid on Taksim Square.

Istanbul’s Governor Hüseyin Avni Mutlu assured the public that the intervention was only to remove some banners. Andrew Gardner, Amnesty International’s researcher on Turkey reports ”[when] we met with the Governor this afternoon, he continued to insist that the police were using appropriate force in pursuit of legitimate goals. Neither of these claims is consistent with the reality on the ground.”

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A West Bank Village Protests Against Israel’s Military Occupation

Lamri Chirouf inspects an Israeli tear gas canister in Budrus cemetery (Photo Credit: Amnesty International).

Lamri Chirouf inspects an Israeli tear gas canister in Budrus cemetery (Photo Credit: Amnesty International).

By Lamri Chirouf, Amnesty International’s Delegate in the Occupied Palestinian Territories

Last month, we drove northwest from Ramallah to visit the small village of Budrus, which gained international attention a decade ago when residents started protesting against the fence/wall erected by Israel.

Regular protests there against the Israeli occupation of the West Bank continue, and clashes between village youths and members of the Israeli army have become a weekly, if not daily, occurrence. The main reason behind the protests is still the wall, described by the Israeli government as a security fence and by Budrus residents, and Palestinians throughout the West Bank, as an ‘apartheid wall’ and a way for the Israeli government to annex more Palestinian lands.  The majority of the wall is located inside the Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPT). In Budrus, it consists of rolls of barbed wire, multiple fences and sensors, and a road on the other side patrolled by Israeli military jeeps, all of which work to separate villagers from their farming lands.

There are no Israeli settlements or towns nearby, but Israeli troops regularly enter the village. The encounters between them and Budrus residents can be fatal.

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One Palestinian Village Obama Should Visit

Former prisoner of conscience Bassem Tamimi holds plastic and rubber-coated bullets fired by Israeli forces.

Former prisoner of conscience Bassem Tamimi holds plastic and rubber-coated bullets fired by Israeli forces.

Yesterday morning, US President Barack Obama arrived in Israel to much fanfare.  He has said that he has come to listen.  One place he should start is the Palestinian village of Nabi Saleh, located in the Israeli-occupied West Bank.

I visited Nabi Saleh last week as part of an Amnesty International research mission to the West Bank.  The village sits atop a hill, facing the illegal Israeli settlement Halamish.  The settlers of Halamish, like so many other Israeli settlers in the Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPT), are backed by the lethal force of the Israeli army.

For protesting against the settlement, the residents of Nabi Saleh have paid a heavy price.  I spoke with village resident Bassem Tamimi, a man who Amnesty International previously declared a prisoner of conscience when he was imprisoned by Israel for involvement in peaceful protests.  During Bassem’s most recent jail term, his brother-in-law Rushdi Tamimi, 31, was shot by Israeli soldiers at another protest in November 2012 and died days later in a hospital.  In December 2011, another member of the village, Mustafa Tamimi, died after being hit in the face by a tear gas canister fired at close range from an Israeli military jeep.

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Egypt in Crisis, U.S. Must Act for Human Rights

Egyptians hold a protest at the Presidential Palace

A group of Egyptian protesters perform evening prayers during a demonstration against Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi in front Egypt’s Presidential Palace on December 7, 2012 in Cairo, Egypt. Anti-Morsi protesters continue to demonstrate across Egypt against the country’s draft constitution, rushed through parliament in an overnight session on November 29. The country’s new draft constitution, passed by a constitutional assembly dominated by Islamists, will go to a referendum on December 15. (Photo by Ed Giles/Getty Images)

Two years after the resignation of President Mubarak, here we are once again with protesters back in the Egyptian streets, facing army tanks and tear gas and this time with human rights defenders openly expressing concerns about the possibility of civil war.

There’s only one way out of this: Egypt has to build a new political future based on respect for human rights.  The proposed Constitution falls short of this, and if President Morsi wants to back his claim to be president “for all Egyptians,” he must demand accountability for past human rights abuses and add constitutional protections for fundamental freedoms, particularly for women, before the document is submitted to voters for ratification.

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US Weapons Against Egypt Protesters

Egypt tear gas protests

Egyptian protesters help man suffering from tear gas during clashes with riot police in Cairo on November 23, 2011 (Photo MAHMUD HAMS/AFP/Getty Images)

There’s something wrong when on one hand Americans continue to stand up in support for Egyptians’ aspirations for human rights and on the other the US government supplies weapons to the very military regime that is attacking protesters.

And yet, as we approach the first anniversary of the Egyptian Jan. 25 uprising, activists are still facing attacks by military and security forces, and some of the tools the military are using bear the stamp, “Made in the USA.”

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US Repeatedly Shipped Arms to Egyptian Security Forces Despite Lethal Crackdown

egypt tear gas

© Nameer Galal/Demotix

The Egyptian uprising is at a crucial point.  A new cabinet is in power, a new parliament elected, but what it adds up to is all in the air, particularly with the military today making waves about how it will take a leading role in writing the new constitution.

The American reaction, both governmental and popular, hasn’t been entirely helpful.  The latest distraction is panic over whether Islamists will use their electoral power to turn Egypt into another Iran.  Nicholas Kristof today presents a compelling rebuttal as to why Egypt will not take that route.

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