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 Guardian with Pesha Magid: From a distance, Esenyurt, a newly built up neighbourhood on the edges of Istanbul, looks a bit like Hong Kong or Dubai, with a bustling downtown of shiny skyscrapers. Upon closer examination, however, you notice that tower after tower stands incomplete, lacking windows or furnishings; others are only half-occupied, their windows dark after nightfall. “In the residential areas, 100% of the construction has stopped,” says Mohamed Karman, a local estate agent, from his small office in the central square…Continue Reading “How Turkey’s lira crisis was written in Istanbul’s skyline”

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 National Geographic: Istanbul — On a bluff overlooking the Sazlıdere Dam just west of Istanbul, a bust of Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, modern Turkey’s founder, is accompanied by a quote: “The villager is the true master of the nation.” But the villagers here know little of what the government plans for them, except that they will not be around to see it. The farmers, fishermen, and shepherds here have watched the forests covering the hilltops surrounding their hamlet rapidly replaced by skyscrapers and sprawling housing…Continue Reading “Will Istanbul’s Massive New Canal Be an Environmental Disaster?”

For Religion News Service: ISTANBUL (RNS) — Mustafa Ergin, a shopkeeper, sits in the back of a crowded audience in Istanbul listening to a panel of economists speaking about cryptocurrencies. Ergin, 42, who owns a corner store nearby, has spent the last few months agonizing over whether he should invest in bitcoin. “I have not bought anything yet, but I want to because it looks like someone could really make money this way,” Ergin said. “But first, I want to figure out if it’s permissible…Continue Reading “Is bitcoin permissible in Islam? Muslims disregard clerics’ warnings and invest”

For The Nation: Miram Shah, North Waziristan—On a sweltering August afternoon in the Pakistani city of Bannu, Malik Ghulam takes a phone call from a relative in Afghanistan. Ghulam is one of the younger elders of the Madakhel, a clan of the Wazir tribe whose members have property on both sides of the Durand Line, the de facto Afghanistan-Pakistan border. The phone call leaves him worried: Someone is crossing the border from Afghanistan onto his tribal land and harvesting pine nuts, one of the few…Continue Reading “In Pakistan’s Tribal Areas, Collective Punishment Is the Law of the Land”

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”