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Thursday, April 25, 2013

South Korea Warns North Korea over Kaesong

South Korea warns North Korea it will take “grave measures” should the government refuse to discuss re-opening the Kaesŏng Industrial Region. Unification Ministry spokesman Kim Hyung-suk gave North Korea until tomorrow to return to negotiations. “We cannot let this situation continue as it is,” he warned. “If North Korea rejects our proposal… we have no choice but to take significant measures.” While Kim would not elaborate on what those measures might entail, the likely consequence would be the permanent and full withdrawal of South Korean participation from the Kaesŏng project, which, though tax revenue, provides North Korea with much needed hard currency. There are currently 176 South Koreans remaining in Kaesŏng; though the North Korean government has said they are free to leave at any time, they are permitted neither food nor supplies from South Korea.

Dhaka Prostests Swell as Rescue Efforts Continue

Thousands took to the streets in Dhaka, Bangladesh today demanding that factory owners be held accountable for the willful negligence that led to the Rana Plaza building collapse yesterday. The death toll has reached nearly 256, though rescuers searched though the night for survivors. “I gave them whistles, water, torchlights. I heard them cry. We can’t leave them behind this way,” said fire official Abul Khayer. Today protestors sacked the Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association office and streamed through the streets for hours chanting slogans like, “we want execution of the garment factory owners”. Muhiuddin Khan Alamgir, the interior minister, visited the site of the catastrophe and promised “the culprits would be punished”.

Kurdish Rebels Announce Withdrawal from Turkey

May 8th will bring the withdrawal of Kurdish rebels from Turkey. At a press conference in the remote Qandil mountains, rebel commander Murat Karayılan outlined his plan to have his armed forces begin crossing the border into Kurdish Iraq starting next month. He stipulated, “his forces will use their right to retaliate in the event of an attack, operation or bombing against our withdrawing guerrilla forces and the withdrawal will immediately stop.” However, this is still seen as a ground-breaking effort towards resolving the ongoing Kurdish–Turkish conflict. The Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) has been at war with the Turkish government to win an independent Kurdistan since 1984. The PKK’s leader Abdullah Öcalan, who has been in jail since 1999, called for a cease fire last March after covert negotiations with the Turkish government. In a letter to the Turkish parliament he said, “let guns be silenced and politics dominate. The stage has been reached where our armed forces should withdraw beyond the borders … It’s not the end. It’s the start of a new era.” PKK commander Karayılan’s speech called for further movement on the Turkish end. “Apo[the nom-de-guerre of Öcalan] has fulfilled all of his responsibilities, now it is the Turkish government and our turn,” he said. “The disarmament of the guerrillas will come to the agenda when everyone, including our leader Apo, reaches their freedom.” While conservative Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has welcomed the news, Oktay Vural, from the far-right Nationalist Action Party, denounced the idea of compromise with the Kurdish rebels, saying, “there isn’t a single concession the Turkish people can give the PKK terrorist organization.”

Israeli Police Wrongly Arrested Praying Women

The district court of Jerusalem upheld a ruling that Israeli police were wrong to arrest women who were praying at the Western Wall. Five women were arrested at the wall earlier this month, during a protest against a 2003 High Court ban on women performing religious rituals that Orthodox Jews say are reserved for men. The Western Wall, a ruin of the Biblical Temple and one of Judaism’s holiest sites, is gender segregated. The Women of the Wall, as the group of women are known, have held prayers in the female side while wearing traditional shawls and reading aloud from the Torah. According to Women of the Wall chairwoman Anat Hoffman, “this is a critically important story for reclaiming Judaism, redefining our values and reclaiming the Wall. Women of the Wall have really achieved something for Israeli society and the entire Jewish world.” Performing such prayers has drawn protests from the Orthodox Jewish community. The 1981 act, Regulations for the Protection of Holy Places to the Jews, forbids performance of religious ceremonies that are “not according to local custom” or that “may hurt the feelings of the worshipers” at the site, where local custom is interpreted to mean Orthodox practice.

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