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Worldwide celebration as Kurds drive ISIS from Kobane

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Via al Jazeera

The Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) has nearly been pushed out of the Syrian border town of Kobane, activists and Kurdish officials said Monday, marking a major symbolic victory both for the Kurds and the U.S.-led coalition targeting the armed fighters.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights and senior Kurdish official Idriss Nassan said ISIL had been nearly expelled, with some sporadic fighting on the eastern edges of the city near Turkey.

“[ISIL] is on the verge of defeat,” said Nassan, speaking from Turkey near the Syrian border. “Their defenses have collapsed and its fighters have fled.”

In September, ISIL fighters began capturing some 300 Kurdish villages near Kobane and thrust into the town itself, occupying nearly half of it. Tens of thousands of refugees spilled across the border into Turkey.

By October, ISIL control of Kobane was so widespread that the group even made a propaganda video from the town featuring a captive British photojournalist, John Cantlie, to convey its message that ISIL fighters had pushed deep inside despite U.S.-led airstrikes.


Amed (Diyarbakır) in North Kurdistan (Turkey) sums up the happiness caused by #Kobane Liberation on January 26, 2015
There are ongoing celebrations all over Kurdistan, Europe and elsewhere in the world.
[Rojava Breaking News]

More from the Kurdish Female Fighters Y.P.J

Written by marypmadigan

January 26th, 2015 at 6:16 pm

Saudi Arabia: ISIS with better tailoring

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Photo thanks to NPQ and Quartz

Rick Cohen at Nonprofit Quarterly discusses why Obama shouldn’t go to Saudi Arabia:

It’s tough to be President Obama, having to choose where to go for which event. The White House admitted that it was a mistake that neither President Obama nor Vice President Biden showed up in Paris for the march in support of free speech after the Charlie Hebdo murders, instead sending the U.S. ambassador to represent the world’s greatest democracy among Merkel, Netanyahu, Abbas, and other national leaders included in the crowd. Some of us thought that President Obama might have showed up in Ferguson as a statement on police violence toward young black men.

One place the President is going is to Saudi Arabia in recognition of the death of 90-year-old King Abdullah and to meet with his successor, 79-year-old and reportedly dementia-afflicted King Salman. Can you spell O-I-L? Or maybe it is I-S-I-L? Whatever the motivation, making Saudi Arabia a must-go raises questions about what values the U.S. government is upholding….

…Saudi Arabia is an ally of the freedom-loving U.S. against the ISIL extremists who have garnered significant attention in the West due to ISIL’s predilection for decapitating its captives. But Saudi Arabia commonly conducts its own public beheadings as its implementation of the death penalty. Quartz added that Saudi Arabia is one of only four countries in the world to still execute minors. Famously, Saudi Arabia punishes women with death by stoning for adultery and anyone with hand amputations if caught stealing.

Saudi’s proclivity for extreme punishment such as beheadings a la ISIL appears to reside partly in the nation’s support for Wahhabism, an extreme form of Sunni Islam originating with eighteenth-century Islamic scholar Muhammad Ibn Abd al-Wahhab. According to Middle East Eye, which developed the visual below, the standards of punishment of ISIL are almost identical to those practiced by the Saudi regime:


The Middle East Eye’s comparison of Saudi and ISIS

….President Obama has already planned to cut his trip to India short to chat with King Salman, assuming there is much of a chat to be held. Add this visit to the president’s failure to go to Paris as another miscue that will require White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest to eventually utter some sort of apology.—Rick Cohen

We call Saudi Arabia an ally, we say we depend on them for oil, but we get most of our oil from Canada. If Canada amputated limbs as punishment for banditry, would we treat them with the same toadying deference? I doubt it.

Written by marypmadigan

January 26th, 2015 at 3:22 pm

Saudi Arabia’s Crackdown on Human Rights

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Statement of Senator Patrick Leahy

After years of defending human rights activists as a legal advocate in Saudi courts, he was called in front of a terrorism tribunal at the end of 2013 for a trial that from its earliest days was declared a farce by human rights organizations. This was not the first time Mr. Abu al-Khair was made a target of the justice system, having first faced trial in 2011 for signing a petition that called for government reform.

During the fifth hearing in front of the terrorism tribunal he was jailed mid-trial under the January 2014 anti-terrorism law, which covers verbal acts that harm the reputation of the state. Mr. Abu al-Khair was eventually sentenced to ten years for his activism amid growing international condemnation of Saudi repression. His decision not to disavow his beliefs led to this week’s further sentencing.

Unfortunately, Mr. Abu al-Khair’s case is not unique. As more Saudis have begun to speak out against government repression, the monarchy has responded by escalating its crackdown on dissent, including by using the already dubious terrorism tribunal system to punish human rights defenders.

It is ironic that while Saudi officials condemned the brutal killings of journalists at Charlie Hebdo, and their Ambassador attended the rally in Paris, their Justice Ministry was preparing to carry out the first of 1,000 public lashings of Raif Bawadi. Like the cartoonists, Mr. Badawi has been accused of insulting Islam, and like them and his former lawyer, Mr. Abu al-Khair, he was simply exercising his nonviolent right of freedom of expression. Needless to say, his persecution has drawn an international outcry, including by many of those who joined the Saudi government in denouncing the attacks in Paris….

….I urge the Saudi government to release Mr. Abu al-Khair and Mr. Badawi and dismiss the spurious charges against them. This kind of repression and barbarity have no place in the 21st Century.

Written by marypmadigan

January 26th, 2015 at 2:21 pm

Shari’a imposed on the Druze of Idlib province, Syria

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Idlib Province, Syria (Google Maps)

Aymenn Jawad Al-Tamimi reports on Jabhat al-Nusra and the Druze of Idlib Province:

While most analysis of the Druze in Syria focuses on their positions in Suwayda province- where they constitute the majority of the population- as well as Jabal al-Sheikh in Damascus/Quneitra provinces, it should be remembered that there is also a Druze community in the Jabal al-Samaq area of Idlib province, more widely known as Jabal al-Zawiya. This community consists of numerous villages, whose names can be found here. Unlike their co-religionists in the south, these Druze have no capacity for the formation of self-defence militias analogous to the banners of ‘Jaysh al-Muwahhideen‘ (‘Army of the Unitarians/Monotheists’) or ‘Forces of Abu Ibrahim’ (named after Druze figure Abu Ibrahim Ismail al-Tamimi). The Druze in Jabal al-Samaq are therefore dependent for preservation on the good-will of whichever external actors are present in their areas….

… a document has emerged of a meeting between JN officials and proclaimed Druze village representatives who have converted to Sunni Islam, agreeing on the implementation of Shari’a and Sunni Islamic supremacy:

“Statement on the first meeting for the villages of the mountain [Jabal- i.e. Jabal al-Samaq]

Attendants of the session:

JN representatives:

Abu Abd al-Rahman al-Tunisi [the Tunisian]: area official
Abu Hafs al-Homsi: Shari’a official of the area
Abu Muhammad and Abu Khadija: Administration guys.

Representatives of the area [NB: names blocked out but villages listed, compare with the first listing of Druze villages in Jabal al-Samaq]:

Kafr Maris
Qalb Lawza
Ma’arat al-Ikhwan
Bairat Kiftain
Kafr Kayla

The representatives of these aforementioned areas have disavowed the Druze religion and have said that they are Muslims of the Ahl al-Sunna wa al-Jamaat [Sunnis]. And an agreement has been made between them on one side and the representative of Jabhat al-Nusra (Sheikh Abu Abd al-Rahman al-Tunisi) on the other on what follows:

a) Implementation of God’s law in the aforementioned areas with focus on the following points:

(i) Searching of the idolatrous tomb-shrines, destroying their structures and flattening them on the ground.

(ii) Securing of places for prayer in all the aforementioned villages in which there are no designated places for prayer; teaching of the Qur’an, aqeeda [creed] and jurisprudence therein for the youths and children.

(iii) The obligation of wearing hijab according to Shari’a for women outside their homes.

(iv) No display of gender-mixing in schools.

b) Choosing of two persons from each village for the organization of matters concerning services, aid, and oversight of contraventions under the stead of JN.

The beginning of that operation is to be implemented before the appointment of the next meeting…


…These regulations imposed on the Idlib province Druze by JN are of some concern when one also considers that there is a growing JN presence and influence in areas like Azaz where other minorities are to be found. Were JN to gain sufficient strength to take over Azaz from Northern Storm, it is certainly possible that the group would attempt to assert supremacist authority over the area’s Yezidis as well.


The situation in Syria, as of 15/01/2015 thanks to Thomas van Linge @arabthomness

More about Jabhat al Nusra, thanks to Stanford University.

Written by marypmadigan

January 26th, 2015 at 2:13 pm

Germany halts arms exports to Saudi Arabia

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© Pool/AFP | Saudi Arabia’s new King Salman attends a ceremony at the Diwan royal palace in Riyadh on January 24, 2015

Via France 24:

Germany has decided to stop arms exports to Saudi Arabia because of “instability in the region,” German daily Bild reported on Sunday.

Weapons orders from Saudi Arabia have either been “rejected, pure and simple,” or deferred for further consideration, the newspaper said, adding that the information has not been officially confirmed.

The decision was taken on Wednesday by the national security council, a government body that includes Chancellor Angela Merkel, Vice Chancellor Sigmar Gabriel and seven other ministers, it said.

“According to government sources, the situation in the region is too unstable to ship arms there,” added the daily

Michael Yon posted about this on Facebook, saying:

Germany’s vote of confidence is in.

A reader added:

What they know is that Saudi Arabia may possibly be using German weapons to eventually intervene in Yemen.

They also know that the Saudis are attempting to use low oil prices as a means of gaining greater control/influence with IS(IS) but may wind up failing to do so.. (not to mention attempting to undermine Iran’s economy and ability to threaten the Kingdom)..

They also may be thinking that they should stop selling those valuable Leopard tanks for pennies on the Euro, and keep them around for a rainy day (potential confrontation with Russia)..

According to the France 24 article,

A survey carried out for Bild found that 78 percent of Germans believe Berlin should stop selling arms to Saudi Arabia — and a further 60 percent want to break off trade ties all together — due to human rights violations.

If they had a poll like that in America, how would we vote?

Written by marypmadigan

January 26th, 2015 at 12:58 pm

How they created the “Interstellar” black hole

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Still from 'Interstellar' Trailer
A screengrab from the final “Interstellar” trailer showing Cooper (Matthew McConaughey) exploring an alien planet.
Credit: Paramount Pictures

“Interstellar” may be a work of fiction, but the upcoming film gives an amazingly accurate view of a black hole, its creators say…

Written by marypmadigan

November 6th, 2014 at 3:38 pm

Posted in Tech