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Monday, September 9, 2013

PKK Halts Withdrawal

Kurdish Militants from the Kurdish Workers Party (PKK) have halted their negotiated withdrawal from Turkish territory, citing a failure on the part of the ruling AK party to live up the agreement. Jailed PKK leader Abdullah ‘Apo’ Öcalan negotiated a ceasefire and withdrawal last March, marking the first sign of peace in the 29 year struggle for Kurdish autonomy that has claimed more than 40,000 lives. But those actions were dependent on a number of promised reforms. Both sides accuse the other of failing to live up to the peace process. Still each is also eager to maintain the ceasefire. “While the withdrawal is halted, the ceasefire position will be maintained so as to give AK Party an opportunity to take steps in line with Leader Apo’s project,” said a Kurdish statement. The Turkish legislature was expected last month to have begun debating a package of reforms, including Kurdish-language education; less prejudicial anti-terror laws; and political incorporation of Kurdish parties, but Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s ruling party has yet to act.

U.S. Mulls Russian Chemical Weapons Proposal

The Syrian government has accepted a Russian proposal to allow Russia to take ownership of Syrian chemical weapons, in order to avoid a U.S. attack on Damascus. “We, for the sake of protecting our people and children and country and due to our trust in the Russian efforts, will cooperate fully with Russia in this regard so as to take away the excuses of this aggression,” Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Moallem said in a statement. While the idea of Syria surrendering its chemical weapons was first proposed as an off-the-cuff remark by U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, the State department characterized Kerry’s remarks as “rhetorical” and not a serious proposal.

Nevertheless White House deputy national security advisor Tony Blinken suggested the Obama administration was open, at least, to entertaining the idea. “We’ll talk to the Russians about it”, he said. Blinken also reiterated that the administration would continue to apply diplomatic pressure on Syria and seek congressional approval to militarily engage with the middle eastern country. While many in the U.S., including California Senator Dianne Feinstein, have welcomed this development, members of the Syrian opposition suggest Russia’s offer has absolved the U.S. of its need to act.

FARC to Remain Armed Until Referendum

Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos has reiterated that the FARC rebels will not need to disarm until a peace agreement has been ratified by public referendum. Critics of Santos say the referendum should be dependent on the rebels disarming first. Santos rejected that argument, saying the “enemies of peace […] are trying to demonize the process and create fear in the country.” Santos’ administration has been adamant that there will be no détente or ceasefire during the peace negotiations, saying “If we reach some agreement, then we will have an immediate ceasefire. That is what we have agreed.” The referendum is expected in next spring.

The FARC sought a ceasefire since the beginning of the peace process, and when that was rejected, declared a unilateral cessation of hostilities which has more or less held. More than 220,000 people have died since the period known as La Violencia, gave way to the Colombian civil war in 1958. Roughly 80 percent of those that perished were civilians.

Police Officer Raped in Jharkhand

Five men have confessed with the rape of a police officer in Latehar, Jharkhand in India. The woman, whose identity is constitutionally protected, was accompanying the corpse of her sister home three weeks ago when her car was stopped by axe-wielding brigands. Despite the protests of her family, the assailants took the woman into nearby woods and raped her. ““They told us if I don’t go with them, we will have to take another dead body,” said the police woman.

“These types of incidents won’t stop,” the policewoman said. “I worry about what society my two daughters will grow up in. I worry about what will happen to them, what their future will be, who will give them security.” Despite incredibly tough new laws brought on by the brutal rape and murder of a physiotherapy student in Delhi earlier this year, rapists still act with impunity in much of the country. In Delhi, where a judge will pronounce guilt in the Delhi rape case tomorrow, rapes are up nearly 140 percent over last year. By comparison, murders are down more than 13 percent. While the incident has left the police officer psychologically battered, she remains determined. “I am a police officer, I should not be fearful, I have responsibility to my department and to society. It is my job to fight this evil.”

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