World Peace Update

By Henry Langston

Compared to last week's French air strikes against Islamist rebels in Mali, this week—world violence-wise—has been a bit of a wash out. If it weren't for some pissed off Egyptians, Turks, and the never-ending slaughter in Syria, I'd be so bored I'd have probably paid some attention to Obama's inauguration. Then again, when I think about Obama, I think about drone wars. So that's always a plus, I guess.

EGYPT

In much the same vein as India's nuclear plant madness, beach riots in the Egyptian city of Alexandria seem to have become a legit seaside activity. Exactly like building sand castles, only with way more tear gas and burning cars than you'd normally find on a windy Bournemouth beach. On Saturday, protesters defined the word "irony" and fought with police over a police brutality trial.

The trial was that of a former Mubarak-era police chief and five other officers for the murder of pro-revolution demonstrators in 2011. Three hundred people were killed in Alexandria by security forces back then and, so far, all accused have been acquitted in court or received suspended sentences. Hopes for a guilty verdict were further extinguished when it was announced the prosecution was barred from bringing forth any witnesses. Somewhere in the midst of all this, the people calling for justice outside the courthouse got all riled up and ended up being choked into submission by rounds of police tear gas.

With many cases like this still to be heard, expect further violence in Egypt.

TURKEY

On January 9, three female Kurdish activists were found dead in Paris, believed to be the victims of an assassination. One of the women was Sakine Cansiz, a founding member of the Kurdish militant group, the PKK. The killings came during a reopening of peace talks between the Turkish government and Abdullah Ocalan, the imprisoned leader of the PKK. Some have blamed the talks as the reason for the assassinations, either perpetrated by PKK members unhappy with the resumption or possibly by the Turkish state for the same reason. However, an arrest has now been made, so I suppose we'll find out soon enough. 

Either way, the killings have sparked outrage across the Kurdish community not just in Turkey, but across the globe. This outrage has manifested itself into a number of demonstrations, some of which have turned violent, like the one above in the town of Cizre. You'd think the local police using a water cannon would put the Kurdish youth off hurling Molotov cocktails, but clearly not. Top points for persistence, guys. 

SYRIA

It was announced this week in a report by French newspaper Le Monde—citing US intelligence sources—that the Syrian regime deployed its chemical weapons against the civilian population in Homs on December 23. Patients were rushed to local hospitals complaining of breathing problems and sickness after four rockets hit the city, all thought to be carrying Agent 15, a non-lethal nerve agent. However, Western governments have been keen to sweep this under the carpet and dismiss the reports, even though it was originally a US intelligence report that exposed the use of chemical weapons.

In the autumn, the US administration expressed that use of chemical weapons by the regime would constitute crossing the "red line" into provoking some form of intervention. With that never realistically being an outcome, the US are worried about embarrassing themselves and so have backed away from the intelligence source in the hope it won't happen again. All this says to the regime, however, is that they have a green light to continue the use of chemical weapons. They've dipped their toe in the water and it's just the temperature they were hoping for. 

As if Homs didn't have it bad enough already, regime forces carried out a new massacre last week in the Basatin al-Hasawiya neighborhood on the outskirts of the city. Over 160 residents were shot, stabbed, and burned to death by the army in an attack that is seen as punishment for the Free Syrian Army using Basatin al-Hasawiya as a staging point for assaults on nearby army bases. 

Check back next week, when I'll probably be up to my neck in videos of angry people fighting police and bombing each other to bits. 

Follow Henry on Twitter: @Henry_Langston

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