Sixena Art Piece Removed from Museum of Lleida, Catalonia

On Monday, Spain’s militarized police looted 44 art pieces from the Museum of Lleida, where the latest chapter of a long legal dispute over the works between Aragón and Catalonia has been playing out.

The operation, which was orchestrated by the Spanish government, began in the dead of the night and ended at 2 pm. Hundreds of Spanish and Catalan police officers cordoned off numerous streets to prevent large protests in the area. Officers and art specialists from Spain loaded the 44 pieces of art onto a moving van. The Director of the Museum said that the specialists could have damaged some of the pieces due to the speed of the packing. A crowd of hundreds of peaceful protesters unsuccessfully attempted to halt the operation on numerous occasions. A few incidents were reported in nearby streets when the protesters tried to break the police barrage. The Catalan police responded by hitting all of them indiscriminately with their batons.

Last week, Spanish Culture Minister, Íñigo Méndez de Vigo, ordered the pieces to be moved from Catalonia to Aragón while Spain still controls the Catalan administration. A few days later, a Spanish judge, presumably one close to Spain’s Culture Minister, ruled that the art pieces could be removed beginning this Monday. He also authorized the use of force if it was necessary.

An official from the Catalan government, Àngels Solé, said: “This is pure-plundering. They have the brute force, there are a lot of police officers, the people are afraid. According to Solé, “These works were legally bought.”

 

 

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Spain Assaults the Catalan Government

Spanish militarized police assaulted Catalan government offices and arrested 15 officials on Wednesday in order to stop the October 1st banned referendum. The Catalan president said that this action meant the suspension of Catalonia’s government and the implementation of a state of emergency across the country.

Tens of thousands of protesters crowded outside the Catalan government offices in downtown Barcelona’s tourist district, waving Catalan flags and chanting “Occupying forces out” and “Where is Europe?”.

The Spanish state has by all rights intervened in Catalonia’s government and has established emergency rule,” said President Carles Puigdemont. “We condemn and reject the anti-democratic and totalitarian actions of the Spanish state,” he said, calling on the Catalans to vote in the referendum to preserve democracy.

Spanish militarized police detained Catalonia’s junior economy minister Josep Maria Jove and 14 high-ranking local officials. The raid targeted numerous regional government departments.

Police confirmed that they were carrying out raids to dismantle the organization of the October 1st referendum.

Despite Spanish police provocations to cause riots, mass protests across Catalonia remained peaceful. Protesters bore banners reading “Democracy” and “Vote to be free”.

The FC Barcelona soccer club said in a statement: “FC Barcelona, in remaining faithful to its historic commitment to the defense of the nation, to democracy, to freedom of speech, and to self-determination, condemns any act that may impede the free exercise of these rights.”

Police efforts to stop the referendum have intensified in recent days as the Catalan government reaffirms its commitment to hold the referendum by any means. A few days ago, President Puigdemont said that he and his administration members were willing to go to prison if necessary. He added that he is not afraid of defending people’s rights.

Over the last few weeks, the Spanish police have raided printer’s shops, newspaper offices private post-delivery companies looking for the necessary material to hold the referendum, instruction manuals for manning voting stations and ballot boxes.

 

One Year after Turkey’s Failed Coup Attempt, the Purge Continues

One year after the failed coup in Turkey, the situation in the country has worsened significantly and Erdogan has begun a transition from ”democracy” to dictatorship, backed by fanatical supporters willing to die for him.

Taking advantage of this situation, Erdogan has criminalized and jailed all critical voices by linking them to the coup and Fethullah Gülen’s movement, who is considered the coup’s mastermind by Erdogan.

To that end, Erdogan has detained 118,235 people, arrested 55,927, including 269 journalists, sacked 138,148 people, including some 4,424 judges and prosecutors, and around 9,000 teachers, and has also shut down 2,099 schools, dormitories, and universities, and 149 media outlets. The co-leaders of the second-largest opposition party in the Parliament are also in prison.

More recently, Erdogan has detained eight human rights defenders, Amnesty International’s Turkey Director Idil Eser and two international trainers on the absurd suspicion of being members of an ‘armed terrorist organization.’

In the aftermath of the failed coup attempt, Erdogan believed he would be able to keep Turkish society united behind his authoritarian project while directing a purge against the opposition and critics.

However, his authoritarian actions, like the rigged constitutional referendum to grant super powers to him in April, and the increasing repression against anyone who criticizes him have divided Turkish society to levels never seen before.

Numerous voices have arisen across the country stating that Erdogan could have directed last year ‘s failed coup attempt against himself to have a pretext to install a dictatorship, extend his mandate, and get rid of the most prominent opposition leaders who could have disputed his leadership of the country.

Erdogan administration has not yet proven the link between Gulen and the failed coup. And Erdogan’s claims that the coup was organized without his knowledge by hundreds of thousands of people during more than a decade is absurd.

Keeping a secret in a small group for years is hard, and it is impossible to do among hundreds of thousands of people, especially while Erdogan was leading the country and had many of his supporters infiltrated in all governmental institutions.

World precedents show that, at first stages, coup d’États are always organized by a small number of people until things are up and running and people see that the coup can succeed. This is then when a large number of people join the project.

Despite the fact that Erdogan is installing a dictatorship and jailing teachers, judges, and journalists on a regular basis, the Western world is still endorsing him and indirectly his actions.

Numerous European leaders have suggested that Merkel keep a “friendly” position with Erdogan due to the fact that the EU and Turkey have an agreement on immigration, which prevents thousands of immigrants and refugees from entering the EU annually. And Erdogan has suggested that he could break this pact, causing a flood of immigration in Europe.

Trump has also venerated and congratulated Erdogan for overweening superpowers in the constitutional referendum in April. Trump, who has also shown to be an authoritarian, speaks the same language as Erdogan. And unless this affects the US, he appears to be willing to allow Erdogan to install a dictatorship in Turkey.

With the endorsement of the Western world, this coming year will be harder than the previous one in Turkey. Erdogan will continue deploying his superpowers, repressing the Turks, firing thousands of teachers, judges, and will continue his purge against the opposition, human rights activists and the independent media.

Unless the international community led by Trump and Merkel take action to stop Erdogan’s authoritarian drift, hundreds of thousands of innocents will soon suffer the devastating consequences of Erdogan’s actions.

Although initially the US and the EU will not help the Turks reinstating democracy in Turkey, the firm determination of the Turkish opposition to challenge Erdogan and bring back democracy to the country will cause tensions, and if as predicted, Erdogan reacts by using force against millions of peaceful people, the US and the EU will have to decide then between allowing this to happen or intervening to return the power back to the Turkish people.

As usual, the future of the Turks will be in Western world’s hands, and perhaps, this time, they will not make the same mistakes made previously in Syria, Iraq, and Afghanistan, by choosing to defend democrats instead of villains.

James Comey’s Dismissal: A Nixonian Move

On Tuesday night, Trump unexpectedly fired the director of the FBI James Comey, alleging that he had lost confidence in him after the latter mishandled the investigation of Clinton’s email. This move comes after US Attorney General Jeff Sessions was ordered to find reasons to recommend that Trump dismiss Comey. These facts have raised concerns among opposition and civil rights organizations. They think Comey’s firing was intentionally done to hide misconduct last year by the Trump campaign

After receiving the news, Democrats contended that the fact that Sessions advised Trump to terminate Comey was deeply troubling. Even more so since Sessions had recused himself from any investigation into Russian meddling a few weeks ago. This fact raises several questions about his real involvement with this potential collusion.

At the time Comey was fired, he was carrying out an investigation into a possible collusion between the Trump campaign and the Russian administration in order to help him win the last election. According to several sources, Comey was getting close to finding clear evidence directly linking Trump with the Kremlin.

Comey learned of his dismissal from televisions tuned to the news while he was addressing the workforce at the FBI office in Los Angeles, law enforcement sources said. The source said he made a joke about it to lighten the mood and called his office to get confirmation. In a letter to Comey, the president wrote:

While I greatly appreciate you informing me, on three separate occasions, that I am not under investigation, I nevertheless concur with the judgment of the Department of Justice that you are not able to effectively lead the Bureau.”

It is essential that we find new leadership for the FBI that restores public trust and confidence in its vital law enforcement mission.”

Trump has insisted via Twitter that he fired Comey because no one could trust him any longer. He also added that the Democrats are behaving very hypocritically since they were all demanding Comey’s dismissal a few weeks ago.

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Trump added,

The search for the next head of “our crown jewel of law enforcement” will begin immediately.” Comey’s deputy, Andrew McCabe, takes over in the interim.”

“He’s a showboat, he’s a grandstander, the FBI has been in turmoil,” Mr. Trump said in an interview with NBC News. “You know that. I know that. Everybody knows that.”

For their part, Democrats and civil rights organizations have demanded that Trump appoint a special prosecutor to continue the investigation into Russian meddling. They contend that if this does not happen, US citizens will have reason to think that Trump is trying to hide something from the public. Democrat Adam Schiff, a ranking member of the House intelligence committee, said:

The same president who has called the investigation into the Russian hacking of our democracy and the potential complicity of his campaign a ‘fake’ cannot pretend to have made such a decision uninfluenced by his concerns over Comey’s continued involvement in the investigation.”

It is more imperative than ever that an independent prosecutor is appointed.”

Civil rights groups also expressed alarm at the day’s events. Anthony Romero, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union, said:

The independence of the FBI director is meant to ensure that the president does not operate above the law. For President Trump to fire the man responsible for investigating his own campaign’s ties to the Russians imperils that fundamental principle.”

Mr. Trump’s accusations came even as officials in the FBI rose to defend the reputation of their former director by debunking Trump’s lies and saying that they endanger relations between the FBI and the White House.

Speaking before the Senate Intelligence Committee, Andrew McCabe, the Acting FBI Director, declared, “it is the greatest privilege of [his] career to have served with Mr. Comey.He added, “I can tell you that Director Comey enjoyed broad support within the FBI, and still does to this day.”

Numerous GOP officials have described Trump’s actions as “Nixonian,” pointing out that there has never been a similar situation since the Watergate case.

While Trump is trying to halt any sort of investigation against him, the Senate has called on Comey to testify behind closed doors at the Senate to further discuss his investigation. It now appears that next week will pivotal in determining whether Trump colluded with the Kremlin. Meanwhile, while awaiting for the conclusions of the investigation, there are already numerous civil organizations, including some republicans calling on the GOP to initiate impeachment proceedings.

 

 

 

North Korea and the U.S.: Dangerous War Games

Over the last month, the escalation of the conflict between the U.S. and North Korea has seriously threatened the social peace and stability on the Korean Peninsula. For the first time in 20 years, the U.S. government is seriously considering the launch of a preemptive strike against North Korean nuclear facilities to reduce its nuclear capacity.

In a recent visit to South Korea, the U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said in a quixotic statement,

“Certainly we do not want to, for things to get to the military conflict,…If they elevate the threat of their weapons program to a level that we believe requires action, then that option’s on the table.”
“Let me be very clear: the policy of strategic patience has ended. We are exploring a new range of security and diplomatic measures.”

On the face of Tillerson’s threats, the young North Korean Supreme leader Kim Jon-Un has intensified his endeavors to endow the regime with a modern nuclear defense system capable of repelling any form of aggression.

Since Trump got into office, the North Korean regime has successfully tested ballistic missiles capable of reaching South Korean and American military bases in the region. Besides that, North Korea is also developing a new long-range ballistic missile capable of carrying weapons of mass destruction as far as the U.S.

According to the American Intelligence, the regime is in advanced stages of testing this new weapon, which will endow the regime with new military power. Further, this month, the North Korean government announced that it will test the above mentioned ballistic missile some time soon.

While the escalation of the conflict in the Korean Peninsula is reaching an unsustainable level, the weak South Korean government has merely suggested that North Korea is a global threat. These weak statements come after its former President Park Geun-Hye was impeached.

The North Korean regime has always used the same belligerent narrative against its enemies to repel any potential aggression. In fact, the continual American threats against North Korea, far from calming the situation, have encouraged the regime to adopt stronger bellicose positions.

Without a doubt, the North Korean development of new long-range ballistic missiles is bad news and should be halted somehow but always intelligently. For that to happen, the international community should soon present a new realistic nuclear disarmament program, including all of the parties involved in the conflict.

It is a fact that the North Korean regime is a tyrannical one, which punishes its citizens on a regular basis. However, it is hard to think that North Korea is willing to begin a conflict in the region because it would be a suicidal act.

Despite the fact that several countries think that a preemptive strike against North Korea is the best option at this point, the truth is that there are better alternatives that would not entail a potential war that could cause a real carnage in the region.

Over the last decade, the international community has routinely failed in its endeavors to normalize its relations with the North Korean regime. In part, this is due to the bellicose narrative directed at them by the U.S. However, this strategy has been demonstrated to be inefficient with “delusional” leaders such as Kim Jon-Un who has the courage of his convictions and will follow them to the bitter end.

China is probably the only country which can exert influence over the North Korean regime. Such being the case, to de-escalate the conflict in the region, the international community should count on the Chinese government.

Several experts gainsay this approach, on the grounds that China would never, in their opinion, cooperate with the international community to solve this conflict. However, the bottom line is, the Chinese government does not want North Korea to expand its nuclear arsenal. They know that a potential war in the region would jeopardize part of its territory. And if a North Korean failed launch accidentally drops a rocket on its territory it could cause countless casualties.

These developments are leading up to an inordinate mutual distrust between the two major powers in the world.

If there is one thing that is certain, it is that a preemptive war against North Korea would cause an undetermined number of casualties in the region. If it is true that the North Korean regime will never begin any war, it is also certain that if it ever feels attacked, the regime would then launch a mass ballistic missile attack against different locations (including South Korean and American military bases in Guam and Hawaii). Without a doubt, it would be devastating for the Korean Peninsula, and would constitute a point of no return in the conflict, leaving a trail of devastation in its wake.

Whether you are from Europe, China, South Korea, or the US is not important anymore. The most important thing for one to better understand is that the potential outbreak of a new conflict on the Korean Peninsula would negatively impact on your everyday life.

By coming to this understand, every citizen of every country, first of all, is morally obliged to explain the conflict to the political cast of his or her country, and secondly, demand a change in their strategy on the North Korean conflict.

 

Conflict Between Turkey and The Netherlands: The Winners and Losers.

On Saturday, just four days before the Dutch elections and one month before Turkey holds a crucial constitutional referendum (on expanding Turkish presidential powers), a new diplomatic dispute began between the Netherlands and Turkey.

Everything began when the Turkish foreign minister Mevlut Cavusoglu announced he would visit Rotterdam to call on Turkish expatriates to vote favorably on the referendum. Right after this announcement, the Dutch authorities notified Cavusoglu that he was banned from entering the country, alleging that there was a risk to public order and security.

Despite the ban, Cavusoglu decided to take a plane to the Netherlands. In response, the Dutch government withdrew landing permission for him and his aides, forcing him to land in Germany. Once in Germany, the minister Cavusoglu said:

“This decision is a scandal and unacceptable in every way. It does not abide by diplomatic principles.”

“Listen Netherlands, you’ll jump once, you’ll jump twice, but my people will thwart your game,” he said. “You can cancel our foreign minister’s flight as much as you want, but let’s see how your flights will come to Turkey now.” “They don’t know diplomacy or politics. They are Nazi remnants. They are fascists,” said the Turkish President Erdogan.

After the minister’s incident, the Dutch government released a statement reaffirming its decision and expanding the ban to all Turkish ministers. However, Turkey’s family minister, Fatma Betul Sayan Kaya decided to evade the prohibition and went to Rotterdam from Germany by car. Once in Rotterdam, Fatma Betul attempted to enter the Turkish consulate, but due to her illegal status in the country, the Dutch authorities proceeded to detain her and later deported her to Germany.

“Netherlands is violating all international laws, conventions and human rights by not letting me enter Turkish Consulate in Rotterdam,” said Fatma Betul.

After Fatima’s detention, a crowd of 1000 pro-Erdogan supporters who had gathered near the Turkish consulate in Rotterdam turned violent. Due to such violence, the police demanded them to dissolve the protest, but given their refusal, the police proceeded to disperse the protest. This happened when the protesters reacted even more violently by causing riots and damage to urban surroundings.

After the incident, the Dutch government said it considered the Turkish family minister undesirable and a “persona non grata.”

“We do not want the Dutch ambassador to Ankara to return from leave for some time,” said the goverment.

Geert Wilders, the right-wing candidate in the next Dutch elections, said: “to all Turks in the Netherlands: Go to Turkey and never come back!!”

On Sunday, a Turkish protester took down the Dutch flag flying over the consulate in Istanbul and replaced it with a Turkish flag. Footage of the incident showed a man on the roof shouting “Allahu Akbar” as the flag was replaced.

On Monday, the continued escalation of the conflict aroused suspicions about the real motive of the conflict, and why it had begun precisely when both countries face the most important election in decades.

Everything suggests that Turkish President Erdogan was looking for this confrontation. As previously mentioned, Turkey will soon hold a constitutional referendum, and the government is not sure about its results. In this context, a diplomatic conflict against the Netherlands will help Erdogan to mobilize his supporters and persuade his opponents to support him on the referendum.

In addition, the existing conflict has aroused nationalism among Turkish citizens. As a result, many of those who had concerns about giving Erdogan more power will now support him to keep the country united against foreign threats.

Erdogan is also using the existing nationalist arousal to brainwash Turkish citizens by suggesting that Western citizens are Nazis and anti-Muslims. This maneuver allows him to divert attention from his domestic authoritarian actions and constant violations of human rights.

Despite the fact that Erdogan already has a lot of power to make decisions, he knows that the approval of the constitutional changes is the last step to implement a full authoritarian system in Turkey.

On the other side, the conflict between the Netherlands and Turkey is also benefiting the Dutch far-right leader Geert Wilders. The Netherlands will hold general elections tomorrow, and as in Turkey, the escalation of the conflict has also awakened a nationalist feeling among its citizens. As a result, hundreds of thousands of Dutch citizens who did not initially support Wilders finally will.

Dutch citizens did not like to see a thousand Turks flying foreign flags and supporting a dictator in Rotterdam. They did not like to see the provocative behavior of Turk’s representatives ignoring the ban and entering the Netherlands.

Like in all conflicts, there are also losers in this story, and this time, they are the citizens from both countries, who under an enormous pressure, will have to decide their political future, and democracy which could soon be totally eliminated from both countries.

Wilders and Erdogan’s game has already started, and citizens will have to choose between democracy and dictatorship. Their decisions will also determine the future political world and the incitement of new conflicts. The die is cast. 

Trump’s New Travel Ban Order

Yesterday, President Trump signed a new executive order banning citizens from Sudan, Syria, Iran, Libya, Somalia, and Yemen from entering the U.S. It comes 6 weeks after the first caused chaos at airports all across the country before being blocked by a federal judge.

During this time, the government has made several modifications to make it legal. As a result, it will now impose a 90-day ban on the issuance of new visas to people from the previously mentioned countries, and will suspend the U.S. refugee program for 120 days. However, this time citizens who are legal U.S. permanent residents and have valid visas to enter the U.S. will be exempt from the ban.

“We cannot compromise our nation’s security by allowing visitors entry when their own governments are unable or unwilling to provide the information we need to vet them responsibly, or when those governments actively support terrorism,” Attorney General Jeff Sessions said Monday.

The government has also announced:

“The new ban will not be implemented until March 16 to avoid the chaos experienced with the previous one.”

The new executive order will exclude Iraq from the blacklisted countries due to they role fighting terrorism and their willingness to increase control over citizens who travel to the U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said:

Iraq’s removal from the list came after the Iraqi government communicated to the U.S. that it is willing to collaborate and increase control over citizens who intend to travel to the U.S.,”

“The United States welcomes this kind of close cooperation,” “This revised order will bolster the security of the United States and our allies.”

Members of Congress also reacted to the revised ban, including House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wisconsin, who said that it “advances our shared goal of protecting the homeland.” Democratic leaders, however, said that it’s still a ban.

“A watered-down ban is still a ban. Despite the Administration’s changes, this dangerous executive order makes us less safe, not more, it is mean-spirited, and un-American. It must be repealed,” said Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-New York, in a statement.

 House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-California, said in a statement:

“The Trump administration’s repackaging has done nothing to change the immoral, unconstitutional and dangerous goals of their Muslim and refugee ban. This is the same ban, with the same purpose, driven by the same dangerous discrimination that weakens our ability to fight terror.”

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) announced that they will bring the new ban to court to block it as soon as possible because it still discriminates and targets Muslims.

“We’ll See You in Court, 2.0: Once a Muslim Ban, Still a Muslim Ban,” said an ACLU representative.

In addition, the president also signed presidential memoranda that will direct the executive branch to take immediate steps to implement enhanced vetting procedures. The administration is considering implementing a new biometric entry-exit system and directing that additional interviews be conducted for visa applicants.

According to the U.S. government, both the new executive order and the memorandum will be implemented for security issues. Attorney General Jeff Sessions added:

“The FBI is currently investigating 300 immigrants from the banned countries who have ties to terrorism.”

However, once again, the U.S. government did not show clear evidence to verify whether or not it is true.

There is a growing concern that the new executive order will help terrorist organizations to maintain their anti-western rhetoric and recruit thousands of new members.

The new executive order will also criminalize millions of innocent civilians from the 6 banned countries. Some of them have been waiting for years to flee to the U.S., but now, overnight, their dream has been dissipated and now, they will have to continue living under harsh conditions, facing death every day.

The criminalization of civilians and refugees is absurd and hypocritical. The vast majority of refugees did not choose to become refugees. Instead, this was imposed on them due to conflicts often started by the U.S. and its allies. They deserve more respect from President Trump. They have already suffered enough.

Over the next few weeks, a new legal battle will start between the government and those organizations that think the new ban is as illegal as the original. As with the first executive order, judges from different courts will have the last word.

Until they make a decision, millions of people from all over the world will be concerned, knowing that the final decision will determine their future and security.