For The Los Angeles Times: Istanbul, Turkey — Adil Ahmad, 15, has had no contact with his parents since February 2017, when he received a frantic phone call from his mother in the Uighur homeland of China’s western Xinjiang region. “She said my father was in some kind of trouble with the police,” recalls Ahmad, whose parents had brought him and his older brother to Egypt to study Arabic. “She said, ‘Don’t come back to China.’” When Ahmad tried calling a few days later, none…Continue Reading “Uighurs abroad cut off from relatives in Chinese detention”

For The Los Angeles Times: Afrin, Syria — This pocket of northwestern Syria is starting to look a lot like neighboring Turkey. Many buildings bear signs in Turkish in addition to Arabic. Portraits of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan adorn public schools, where students learn Turkish as a second language instead of English or French. Three new hospitals built by Turkey are run by Turkish administrators and fly the Turkish flag. Over the last two years, Turkey and an alliance of Syrian rebels it supports…Continue Reading “Turkey puts down roots in a corner of war-torn Syria”

For The Los Angeles Times: Bursa, Turkey — Two years ago, Muhammad Sheikhuni got a chance to meet Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, a man he had admired ever since he moved to the country from Hama, Syria, in 2008. The encounter at a crowded public gathering for the president’s supporters in Bursa left Sheikhuni so moved that he changed his last name to Erdogan. “I just spoke to him for a few moments, but I was impressed,” Muhammad Erdogan, a businessman who became a…Continue Reading “Turkish President Erdogan faces pushback for pro-Syrian refugee stance ahead of June election”

For The Los Angeles Times: Gaziantep, Turkey — In the seven years he has fought to topple Syrian President Bashar Assad, opposition forces Col. Haitham Afisi’s beard has turned white and his voice has become a deep rumble. The tall, muscular colonel, however, remains familiar to many Syrians, and someone to admire for those who oppose the Assad government. Days after fighters under his command had joined with Turkish forces in March to wrest a corner of northwestern Syria away from rival Kurdish forces, Afisi,…Continue Reading “Syrian forces battling Assad seek unity through the National Army”

For The Los Angeles Times: This year Rehmat was deported to a country he had never known. Weary of hiding from authorities after living in Turkey illegally for more than two years, he turned himself in to police and was shipped off to Afghanistan. When he landed at the airport in Kabul, a long-lost uncle greeted him. “We had never seen each other before, but he knew I was coming,” Rehmat said. “He was holding up a sign with my name on it.” Rehmat, 22,…Continue Reading “Even if born and raised in Pakistan, Afghan refugees are deported to Afghanistan, a land they’ve never known”

For The Los Angeles Times: The last time Anurkhol Bipolotov saw her husband, Fakhriddin, was across a street, outside a police station in Istanbul, on March 9. “He couldn’t speak, and I asked to speak with him, but they shouted, ‘You cannot speak.’ Then they sent him to Uzbekistan,” she recalled. “Now I have no idea where he is.” That night, Turkish counter-terrorism police conducted 10 simultaneous raids across Istanbul, based on an anonymous tip placed to a hotline set up to report suspicious activity….Continue Reading “Central Asian migrants caught in Turkey’s anti-terror raids”

For The Los Angeles Times: Hassu Khel, Pakistan — For three years, he had lived outside his home province of North Waziristan, one of the most dangerous places in the world. One night in January, 22-year-old Zafarullah came home. Mounds of bricks were strewn where his family’s house had been. In the morning, when there was enough light to see, he carefully stepped over the rubble to avoid any improvised explosive devices, or IEDs, that might have been placed there by militants during their fight…Continue Reading “Pakistan gets a grip on a region known as a nexus of terror — but residents pay a price for peace”

For The Los Angeles Times: Jamrud, Pakistan — A frail Shah Khan Kukikhel was walking through the rubble of what used to be his brother’s home. The trouble, he recalled, had begun after his 19-year-old nephew began to leave the family compound for days at a time. “We got worried, we made him swear on the Koran that he was not involved in any militancy,” said Kukikhel. In June, government officials turned up with an ultimatum: Hand over the nephew, Sheheryar, for interrogation, or the…Continue Reading “‘What kind of justice is this?’ A cry from Pakistan’s remote tribal lands”

Turkey marks anniversary of failed coup attempt

For The Los Angeles Times: Millions of people gathered across Turkey in observance of one year since civilians poured into the streets and confronted rebel soldiers, thwarting what would have been the country’s fourth military coup. At least 250 people were killed and more than 2,000 wounded the night of July 15, 2016, when a faction of the military deployed fighter jets, attack helicopters, tanks, and other heavy weapons against the government. The July 15, 2016, Saga, as the Turkish government has branded the event,…Continue Reading “Turkey marks anniversary of failed coup attempt”

For The Los Angeles Times: As the time for afternoon prayers approaches, Onder Soy puts on a white robe and cap and switches on the microphone in a small 19th century room adjoining the Hagia Sophia. Soon, Soy’s melodic call to prayer rings out over a square filled with tourists hurrying to visit some of Turkey’s most famous historical sights before they close for the day. The room Soy is in — built as a resting place for the sultan and now officially called the…Continue Reading “Voices grow louder in Turkey to convert Hagia Sophia from a museum back to mosque”