For The Los Angeles Times ISTANBUL — A brief kiss by two female characters in the animated series “Tales of Arcadia,” a moment that did not generate major criticism from viewers worldwide, became a scandal in Turkey. Major news outlets like the pro-government Sabah called the July availability of the program on the Netflix streaming service an attempt by what it called a global LGBTQ lobby to promote homosexuality among Turkish children. And by early August, Turkish authorities had announced that Netflix and other online…Continue Reading “Turkey extends censorship rules to streaming services. Critics say political dissent is the real target”

For The Los Angeles Times ISTANBUL — When Amjad Tablieh went out to buy some groceries one night this week, he thought it would be a quick trip. But when police stopped him to ask for his identification card, known as a kimlik, all he had in his pocket was about $5 in cash. The 18-year-old student from Damascus is one of a half-million Syrian refugees officially registered to live in Istanbul. But increasingly, he and others are finding that their welcome is fraying, and…Continue Reading “Anti-refugee sentiment grows in Turkey as government begins to send Syrians back”

For The Los Angeles Times DIYARBAKIR — The Turkish government’s enemy No. 1 has spent the last two decades in physical isolation on a prison island off the coast of Istanbul. But Abdullah Ocalan’s influence extends to Kurds across the Middle East. Statements by the 71-year-old — carried out of Imrali island by sporadic visitors — have been published in best-selling books, and inspired both war and peace. Now, there are signs Ankara may be turning to him to broker a new peace with Kurdish…Continue Reading “Turkey may enlist its No. 1 enemy to broker a peace with Kurdish separatists”

For The Intercept ISTANBUL — Finding oneself in the crosshairs of a military drone is, for most people, not the most comforting situation. Yet at an air show last fall, tens of thousands of people had a different reaction. A military drone took off from a runway, and moments later it began transmitting its view to a giant screen on stage. The video from the drone was clear enough to pick out your own face among the crowd. It was exactly what the drone’s pilot,…Continue Reading “The Second Drone Age: How Turkey Defied the U.S. and Became a Killer Drone Power”

For The Los Angeles Times ISTANBUL — The Turkish government deems Abdulkadir Yapcan too dangerous to attend his own extradition proceedings here. So instead he appears in court by video link from the detention center where he has been held for three years while he fights efforts to send him to China to face charges that he is a terrorist. During a hearing last month, he watched in silence until a witness referred to Xinjiang, the region in western China where members of the country’s…Continue Reading “Uighur dissident in Turkey fights effort to extradite him to China”

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”