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”

How War Altered Pakistan’s Tribal Areas

For Foreign Affairs: On June 28, Naghma, a 13-year-old girl living in Pakistan’s Federally Administered Tribal Areas, was taken by her uncle and five other relatives to an empty room in a house nearby and shot five times with an AK-47. She had apparently brought shame to the family by trying to run away with a young man from her neighborhood and one of his friends. Although her murder was but one of the thousands of “honor killings” that occur in Pakistan each year, it…Continue Reading “How War Altered Pakistan’s Tribal Areas”

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”

For The Los Angeles Times: Last month’s constitutional referendum may have yielded a victory for President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, enshrining vast powers for him and his Justice and Development Party, or AKP, but the results were far closer than his supporters were expecting, largely because of growing discontent within Turkey’s conservatives. Erdogan has counted on conservatives’ support for more than 14 years, but his authoritarian style of governance and his pragmatic foreign policy are pushing a segment of Turkey’s Islamists to turn against him. “The…Continue Reading “Erdogan’s authoritarian style and pragmatic foreign policy turn some Turkish Islamists against him”

Turkish Voters Take to the Seas

For Foreign Affairs: Istanbul — On a clear evening in Istanbul’s Besiktas district, a dozen police officers eyed hundreds of people as they packed a private ferry on the Bosphorus. The passengers were attending an event to mobilize support for a “no” vote on a constitutional referendum scheduled for April 16. Equally wary of the police and any potential pro-“yes” saboteurs, a pair of organizers patted down each passenger before allowing him or her aboard. “It’s not going to be a fair vote, so we…Continue Reading “Turkish Voters Take to the Seas”

For The Los Angeles Times: Ankara, Turkey — Light snow fell as Nuriye Gulmen carefully rested a whiteboard next to Ankara’s Human Rights Memorial, a statue of a seated woman reading a book. “Day 48. We want to return to work,” she wrote with a marker on the board, as a dozen protesters glanced at the pedestrians around them, looking for plainclothes police who might thwart their demonstration. Since a failed coup attempt in Turkey on July 15, the government has imposed a state of…Continue Reading “Protest, get arrested, get released, then start again: One woman’s fight against Turkey’s crackdown on dissent”

A Kurdish Problem

For The Boston Review: On the morning of June 7 this year, a car bomb exploded in front of Istanbul’s Vezneciler metro station. Used by tourists and thousands of university students daily, it was a ten-minute walk from my home. Perplexed Turks gathered at the tape strung around the site, watching as the husk of a police bus was towed away, the presumable target of a powerful blast that killed twelve. The closest I could get was the sixteenth-century Shehzade mosque, more than a hundred…Continue Reading “A Kurdish Problem”

For The Los Angles Times Athens — In a country where the Orthodox Church is part of Greek identity, Muslims have long found that new mosques could be built only in certain areas that did not include Athens, the capital. But an influx of mostly Muslim migrants coupled with an unabashedly leftist Greek government is bringing change. Authorities in October signed a nearly $1-million  (887,000 euro) deal to build the first state-funded mosque in Athens since the end of Ottoman rule more than 180 years…Continue Reading “As Greece’s government takes on Orthodox Church over mosque construction, minority Muslims stand to benefit”