For The Los Angeles Times DIYARBAKIR — When Turkish human rights lawyer Tahir Elci was gunned down during a news conference in the embattled Kurdish-majority city of Diyarbakir, at least four cameras were rolling and dozens of witnesses were looking on in horror. But more than three years later, nobody has been arrested. Police officers, chasing two men who had just killed a pair of cops around the corner, were seen firing in Elci’s direction. But authorities have apparently never investigated whether one of them…Continue Reading “Turkish human rights lawyer may have been killed by a cop, high-tech independent investigation shows”

For The Nation ISTANBUL — Last February, after nearly four months of interrogations and being forced to sit through lectures extolling the greatness of the Chinese Communist Party, Khayrat Samarkand tried to kill himself in the cell he shared with a dozen other men. “I threw myself at the wall and hit my head repeatedly on it until the guards came,” he said. Samarkand’s injuries were so severe that after a day of treatment in a hospital, the guards simply let him walk out. He…Continue Reading “China Has Detained a Million Muslims in Reeducation Camps”

For The Los Angeles Times ISTANBUL — Five times a day, the loudspeakers affixed to the spires of some 90,000 state-run mosques crackle to life, and the Islamic call to prayer bathes the streets of Istanbul and other Turkish cities. For the faithful, the undulating Arabic hymn, called the adhan, is a reminder of Turkey’s historic place in the Muslim world. For others, it’s an unavoidable reminder of Turkey’s turn from the secular under its current leadership. On Tuesday, a lawmaker was expelled from his…Continue Reading “Call to prayer is a daily reminder of Turkey’s religious and political shift”

For The Los Angeles Times It was only six months ago that Saudi Arabia’s young crown prince was feted in Hollywood and Silicon Valley, Manhattan and Washington as a reformist monarch-in-waiting, already putting a modernist stamp on an intensely traditional — and fabulously wealthy — desert kingdom. Now the image of 33-year-old Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman is tarnished by growing suspicion of Saudi state involvement in what may have been a brutal assassination of a critic. And the deepening mystery leaves the Trump administration,…Continue Reading “Disappearance of a dissident journalist puts young Saudi prince, a Trump ally, under a dark cloud”

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”

The App that Makes You a Terrorist

For The Boston Review: In May 2017, Mustafa Yaman, a fifty-one-year-old lawyer in Istanbul, received a troubling phone call from a friend in the Turkish Ministry of Justice in Ankara. Prosecutors were preparing to bring terrorism charges against him, alleging he was part of a religious movement blamed for a bloody attempted coup the year before. The case, Yaman’s source said, was based on evidence that he had used a smartphone app called ByLock, a secure messaging program also allegedly used by the coup plotters….Continue Reading “The App that Makes You a Terrorist”