Turkish Cartoonists Sentenced To 11 Months For Insulting Erdoğan

But Turkey is supposed to be modern.

From Today's Zaman:
Two cartoonists from a popular Turkish satirical magazine have each been sentenced to almost one year in prison for insulting President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan by implying in a cartoon that he is a homosexual, according to a daily on Wednesday.

The prison sentence of 11 months, 20 days was converted into a fine by the court, the Hürriyet daily said.

Bahadır Baruter and Özer Aydoğan, cartoonists for the magazine Penguen, will pay each a total of TL 7,000, i.e., TL 20 in lieu of each day of imprisonment.

In a cartoon published on the cover of the Aug. 21, 2014 issue of the weekly magazine, shortly after Erdoğan was elected president, a civil servant is seen shaking hands with Erdoğan in front of the presidential palace during a welcoming ceremony, with the thumb and forefinger of his other hand in the shape of a ring as he tries to fasten a button on his jacket as a sign of respect.

In Turkey, the sign, when made with a thumb and a forefinger, implies that the person that the sign is directed toward is homosexual.

Tora Pekin, the two cartoonists' lawyer, demanded that the accused be acquitted, arguing in court that Erdoğan was not insulted by the cartoon.

Baruter and Aydoğan did not attend the hearing at the İstanbul 2nd Criminal Court of First Instance.
Cem S., a man who identifies as a sympathizer of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Party), informed the Prime Ministry Communication Center (BİMER) that the front-page cartoon of Penguen showed a "gay" signal in reference to Erdoğan.

“The process of evaluating the complaints that have been made by the prosecutor leads me to doubt that they are conscious [of what they are trying me for],” Baruter said during a previous hearing in the court last week, stressing the problematic nature of the fact that the suit is predicated on the idea that being homosexual is insulting.

Aydoğan argued that the picture was not drawn with the intention of calling Erdoğan a homosexual, but was instead commentary on the lack of press freedom in Turkey, stating: “The magazine would not make such a cheap joke on the cover. The joke on the cover is a metaphor about the victimization of journalists.”

The controversial cartoon depicts President Erdoğan being welcomed to the newly built presidential palace, known as Ak Saray. The man welcoming the president is shown saying: “Congratulations, sir. Welcome to your palace,” while holding one hand out to greet the president and the other against his suit with his fingers in a ring shape. President Erdoğan, in response, is shown with a displeased expression, saying: “What a bland celebration. We could have at least sacrificed a journalist [to eat].”

Iraqi Shiite Militia Leader: Kurdish Leaders Are Leeches, Sucking The Blood Of Iraq

During a recent TV interview, Qais AL-Khazali, general-secretary of the Iraqi Shiite Asa'ib Ahl Al-Haq Militia, said: "I am in favor of the Kurds ridding us of their 'goodness' once and for all. The problem is that the Kurds are operating right now like leeches, which feed on the host's body - sucking more and more of its blood." The interview was broadcast by the Al-Iraqiya network on March 24, 2015.

Shiite Lebanese Scholar Muhammad Al-Husseini To Arab Sunni Leaders: Iran Is Our Shared Enemy

Lebanese Shiite scholar Muammad Ali Al-Husseini called upon Arab Shiites to wake up and oppose Iranian influence in the region. Sheik Al-Husseini, who attended the funeral of Iraqi Sunni leader Hareth Al-Dhari, held in Jordan on March 21, added that "we share the same enemy" - Iran, which is occupying Beirut, Sanaa, Damascus, and Baghdad.

Palestinian Rockets Killed Gaza Civilians During War

From ZeeNews:
Jerusalem: In a damning report released today, Amnesty International said Palestinian rocket fire during the 2014 summer war in Gaza had killed more civilians inside the Gaza Strip than inside Israel.

Such deadly attacks on civilians were against international law and constituted "a war crime," it said.

It urged Palestinian armed groups to end all direct attacks on Israeli civilians and ensure everything was done to also protect Palestinian civilians inside Gaza from the effects of those attacks.

The 50-day war claimed the lives of some 2,200 people in Gaza, most of them civilians, and 73 on the Israeli side, most of them soldiers.

The report said rocket attacks had killed six civilians inside Israel, including a child, but that other rockets aimed at the Jewish state had fallen short inside Gaza, killing at least 13 civilians, 11 of them children.

It referred to one particular incident on July 28 in which 13 people were killed in deadly blast inside the beachside Shati refugee camp in Gaza City.

At the time, Palestinian witnesses blamed the attack on an Israeli F-16 warplane, but the army denied firing on the camp, accusing militants of misfiring their own rockets.

"In the deadliest incident believed to have been caused by a Palestinian armed group during the conflict, 13 Palestinian civilians -- 11 of them children -- were killed when a projectile exploded next to a supermarket in the crowded al-Shati refugee camp," the report said.

Contrary to Palestinian claims that Israel was responsible, "an independent munitions expert who examined the available evidence on behalf of Amnesty International concluded that the projectile used in the attack was a Palestinian rocket," it said.

Figures released by the Israeli army just days after the war ended on August 26 showed that Gaza militants fired 4,591 projectiles at Israel.

Of that number, 3,659 struck Israeli territory and 735 were intercepted by the Iron Dome air defence system, leaving another 197 which fell short and landed inside the coastal enclave.

Militant groups used unguided projectiles which were "inherently indiscriminate," it said: "Using such weapons is prohibited under international law and their use constitutes a war crime."

"In launching these attacks, they displayed a flagrant disregard for international humanitarian law and for the consequences of their violations on civilians in both Israel and the Gaza Strip," said Philip Luther, director of the Middle East and North Africa programme at Amnesty International.

Arabs On School Field Trip Beat Jewish Guide

From Arutz 7:
About 40 Arab high-school students from the Israeli Arab city of Umm al-Fahm ganged up on a man guiding a Jerusalem-area high-school yeshiva's annual field trip Wednesday, beating him severely.

The attack took place at the Banyas reserve in northern Israel. According to the Jewish guide, the altercation began when three Arab youths began cursing him. He asked them to stop harassing him and kept on walking at the head of his group, as the Arabs continued to hurl abuse at him.

The three Arabs called their classmates a few minutes later, however, and these approached the Jewish group as well.

"We kept walking down the path and 40 Arab youths came and began to position themselves in a way that separated me from the students, and they started beating me all over my body,” the guide told Arutz Sheva.

The guide said that two nature reserve inspectors who were present at the reserve helped him evacuate himself to a medical clinic, from which he was sent to undergo CT and X-ray imaging at a hospital. He also filed a police complaint.

He accused the manager of the reserve, however, of trying to whitewash the incident and prevent the police from coming. The victim added that the manager even shouted at the people who assisted him and threatened them.

Five months ago, a similar event took place at the Arbel range in northern Israel. Female students from a school at Kibbutz Sde Eliyahu were assaulted by students from an Arab high school in the Galilee, who threw rocks at them.

The father of one of the students told Arutz Sheva at the time that the hail of rocks was “a very heavy one,” and that the students' guide told them to take shelter in a cave. One student was wounded when several rocks struck her.

The Arab students' guide apologized to the Jews for the incident.

In the past, groups of Jewish students on hikes were always accompanied by armed guards, who often included parents of the students.

Now, even if armed guards are present, they do not dare open fire, for fear of being mercilessly prosecuted by the law enforcement authorities, which have adopted radical policies against Jewish self-defense. It is argued that the shift in policies can be traced to a radical leftist takeover of the judicial system, beginning in the early 1980s.

The harsh legal treatment of Jews who fire in self defense has resulted in a general deterrent effect against all forms of Jewish self-defense. This could explain why the Jewish yeshiva students apparently did not fight back against the attackers who assaulted their guide.

Now ISIS Clamps Down On Mothers Having 'Un-Islamic' Caesarean Births

From the Daily Mail:
Islamic State is clamping down on Caesarean operations in the latest attack on what it perceives to be decadent Western practices.

Doctors working for ISIS have been ordered to charge 15,000 Syrian pounds for a Caesarean childbirth operation, the equivalent of two months salary for the average Syrian worker.

Under the harsh new rules enforced by the terror group, doctors who carry out the operations without charging the fee will now face unspecified punishments.

The Islamic State order stipulates that the new charges are aimed at deterring hospitals from carrying out routine Caesareans.

But the high fees will force women who can't afford the operations to endure painful childbirth.

A written order published in the northern Syrian province of Deir az-Zor states: 'in order to assist the believers from the sons of Islam who are working in the medical corps to support their brothers from the poor and others besides them from the Muslim populace, and with the desire to keep the course of medical work removed from arbitrary whim.'

It adds: 'This is to be considered as tantamount to a written order and all who contravene it will be held accountable in the Dar al-Qaḍa [IS judiciary] with attendant consequence.'

There is growing opposition among Islamic clerics to Western trends in gynaecology developments and in particular to mothers who wish to have a pain-free childbirth sometimes referred to as 'too posh to push'.

One scholar has recently claimed that the rise in Caesarean operations in the Middle East is part of a plot against Muslim mothers ...

Saudi Researcher Ali Al-Ahmed: Rule Of Saudi Royal Family May Come To An End following Yemen War

Saudi researcher Ali Al-Ahmed, director of the Washington-based Institute for Gulf Affairs said in a March 26 interview with the Iranian English-language TV channel Press TV that the Saudi campaign against the Houthis in Yemen may bring the rule of the royal Saudi family to an end. He also said that the US will lose influence in Yemen following its "miscalculation" of supporting the Saudi campaign.

France: Imam Says Women Are Selfish By Nature, Deny The Good Bestowed On Them by Men

In a Friday sermon delivered in the Aicha Mosque in Montpellier, France, Imam Mohamed Khattabi said: "No matter how much good you bestow upon a woman... Her selfishness drives her to deny it." The sermon was delivered on March 8 and posted on the Internet.

IS Stones To Death Man & Woman In Mosul For Adultery

From the International Business Times:
In yet another display of how the Islamic State (IS) implements the Sharia law, a resident of Mosul narrated another recent incident of stoning to death of a man and a woman for adultery. The witness was a clothing store owner whose outlet is near a government building where the incident happens.

Abu Mohammad al-Lahibi, the shop owner, said the woman was in her 20s and married. Lahibi was not sure if the woman was given a fair trial since none was held before the stoning.

The two were handcuffed, while the woman wore a full face veil called niqab. Twelve IS militants stood before the condemned couple and had bags filled with stones. They started to throw stones on the two. On the third stone, the “adulteress” was killed, while the man died after her, recounts Lahibi.

Another witness, Saad, said, “I was moved by the crying of the woman who started bleeding and then died from the stoning,” quotes The New York Times. Saad laments that the Iraqi government has left them in the hands of the IS, which he perceives “make all kinds of crime in the city” and to defame the image of Islam.

Col Ahmed al-Jiboori, assigned at the Nineveh Liberation Camp located east of Mosul, confirmed that since the IS started the practice in Mosul in August, it has stoned more than a dozen people to death….

Obama Administration Threatens U.S. Allies For Disagreeing on Iran Deal

From the Free Beacon:
LAUSANNE, Switzerland—Efforts by the Obama administration to stem criticism of its diplomacy with Iran have included threats to nations involved in the talks, including U.S. allies, according to Western sources familiar with White House efforts to quell fears it will permit Iran to retain aspects of its nuclear weapons program.

A series of conversations between top American and French officials, including between President Obama and French President Francois Hollande, have seen Americans engage in behavior described as bullying by sources who spoke to the Washington Free Beacon.

The disagreement over France’s cautious position in regard to Iran threatens to erode U.S. relations with Paris, sources said.

Tension between Washington and Paris comes amid frustration by other U.S. allies, such as Saudi Arabia and Israel. The White House responded to this criticism by engaging in public campaigns analysts worry will endanger American interests.

Western policy analysts who spoke to the Free Beacon, including some with close ties to the French political establishment, were dismayed over what they saw as the White House’s willingness to sacrifice its relationship with Paris as talks with Iran reach their final stages.

A recent phone call between Obama and Hollande was reported as tense as the leaders disagreed over the White House’s accommodation of Iranian red lines.

Amid these tensions, U.S. Ambassador to France Jane Hartley met with her French counterpart, Gerard Araud, Monday to discuss a range of issues.

Benjamin Haddad, who has advised senior French political figures on foreign policy issues, said leaders in Paris have not been shy about highlighting disagreements they have with the White House.

“Fance, like other European countries, has negotiated for more than 10 years and endured most of the sanctions’ burden,” said Haddad, a research fellow at the Hudson Institute.

“The French want a deal, but they see no rush and repeat that Iranians need a deal more than we do, and that we shouldn’t fix artificial deadlines that put more pressure on us than Iran.”

One source in Europe close to the ongoing diplomacy said the United States has begun to adopt a “harsh” stance toward its allies in Paris.

“There have been very harsh expressions of displeasure by the Americans toward French officials for raising substantive concerns about key elements of what the White House and State Department negotiators are willing to concede to Iran,” said the source, who spoke on condition of anonymity. “That is because the clarifications expose just how weak the Americans’ deal is shaping up to be.”

“The meeting between the French ambassador in Washington and the president’s envoy to Paris—not a diplomat but a big fundraiser for his campaigns—comes amid these very harsh words that were spoken privately about the ambassador’s recent comments on the seeming American desperation for a deal, and the tough words that President Obama had for President Hollande in their phone call.”

Strategic differences remain between the United States and its allies over how a final deal should look, the source said. The French remain opposed to a recent range of concessions made by the Obama administration.

“We may agree that denying Iran a nuclear weapon ability is the goal, but apparently the view of what one can leave Iran and assure that is very different,” the source said.

“Clearly these are the differences that must be discussed. I don’t see France suddenly deciding that America is right and French objections to weakness are wrong, nor that silence is preferable to transparency.”

Haddad said the French are hesitant to rush into an agreement.

“The French want a robust deal with clear guarantees on issues like [research and development] and inspections to ensure that Iranians won’t be able to reduce breakout time during the duration of the agreement (also an issue of discussion), or just after thanks to research conducted during the period,” he said. “That is also why they disagreed on lifting sanctions.”

He also said the French “don’t trust Iran and believe an ambiguous deal would lead to regional proliferation.”

Another Western source familiar with the talks said the White House is sacrificing longstanding alliances to cement a contentious deal with Iran before Obama’s term in office ends.

“The President could be hammering out the best deal in the history of diplomacy, and it still wouldn’t be worth sacrificing our alliances with France, Israel, and Saudi Arabia—key partners in Europe, the eastern Mediterranean, and the Gulf,” the source said. “But he’s blowing up our alliances to secure a deal that paves Iran’s way to a bomb.”

A State Department spokesperson declined to comment on the issue.

Meanwhile, talks between the United States and Iran reached a critical juncture Thursday, as Secretary of State John Kerry met with his Iranian counterpoint to hash out differences over key points concerning Iran’s nuclear program.

The sides are hoping to reach a framework agreement by March 31 amid reports that Iran is demanding Saudi Arabia immediately halt airstrikes in Yemen, where Iran-aligned forces are working to bring down the Western-backed government.

The issue could complicate the talks as the United States attempts to balance its regional alliance with Iran in Iraq against competing interests with traditional allies in Saudi Arabia.

U.S. negotiators have reportedly softened their stance in recent days on a range of issues relating to Iran’s continued production of nuclear materials. One of Iran’s nuclear sites in Fordow could continue to operate, according to the Associated Press.