Monday, March 26, 2007

Furor in Germany over court decision on Muslims

This makes interesting reading, from a court case in Germany reported by the International Herald Tribune:

Judge cites the Koran in rejecting divorce

A German judge has stirred a storm of protest here by citing the Koran in turning down a German Muslim wife's request for a fast-track divorce on the ground that her husband beat her. In a remarkable ruling that underlines the tension between Muslim customs and European laws, the judge, Christa Datz-Winter, said the couple came from a Moroccan cultural milieu in which it is common for husbands to beat their wives. The Koran, she wrote, sanctions such physical abuse [my reference - NR].

News of the ruling brought swift and sharp condemnation from politicians, legal experts and Muslim leaders in this country, many of whom said they were confounded that a German judge would put seventh-century Islamic religious teaching [ed - my addition] ahead of German law in deciding a case of domestic violence. The court in Frankfurt abruptly removed Datz-Winter from the case on Wednesday, saying it could not justify her reasoning. The Moroccan woman's lawyer, Barbara Becker-Rojczyk, said she decided to publicize the ruling, which was issued in January, after the court refused her request for a new judge. "It was terrible for my client," Becker-Rojczyk said. "This man beat her seriously from the beginning of their marriage. After they separated, he called her and threatened to kill her."

Read the full story

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Looking back

I see that an old colleague, Onnik Krikorian, an Anglo-Armenian writer and photographer, mentions a trip we made together to south-eastern Turkey and Kurdistan a decade ago:

Anyway, I’d love to return to Turkey, and Istanbul in particular, albeit in a more independent capacity. For example, I’d like to track down the family we stayed with in Elazig in 1997 who’s father headed the local Turkish Human Rights Association IHD). Back then I worked with British journalist Nick Ryan on stories on media censorship as well as political disappearances for New Internationalist, The Scotsman and The Journalist.

Looking at Nick’s writing ten years later, it’s a different world than that portrayed by projects now presented in Armenia.

The young woman pulls slowly on a cheap cigarette, obscuring her narrow, determined features in a dense cloud of smoke. Her slim, nail-bitten fingers tap absentmindedly on the tape recorder, ignoring the roar of the troop helicopters passing overhead. As the silence descends, I study her. A pretty 18-year-old, she could be out enjoying herself like other women her age, or attending university or even working abroad. Instead, she has the mannerisms of someone 10 or 20 years older. Why? Because she risks her life on a daily basis, to write about the human rights abuses and terrible civil war taking place inside one of our major European and NATO partners - Turkey.

The snow-topped, guerrilla-infested mountains of south-east Turkey (also known as north-west Kurdistan) seem far away from the golden beaches of its western coast, which form the UK’s number two tourist destination. Even further from the little office where we are sitting in the centre of Elazig, a bustling, European-style city on the edge of the region. Yet for Nurcan Yucel, there is a very real danger. The secret police are waiting outside to interview her - delayed only by the presence of myself and my photographer - and she knows she could be arrested at any minute for daring to speak to a foreign reporter. Plenty of others before her have been murdered or ‘disappeared’.


Everyone working for Demokrasi has to take certain precautions every day of their lives. The paper’s vendors and distributors working in the south-east have been attacked by contra squads many times. A favourite tactic was to cut the throats of the street kids who sell the papers, and leave their body by the newspaper stand. So now they actually go into people’s offices and homes to sell the paper, rather than openly in public.

We spent an extra week in Istanbul for some human rights stories after the international human rights delegation we visited with left the country. Funny to think back on that time, and not least because Nick and I were detained and taken to a deserted factory building by pro-government Kurdish village guards on the outskirts of Diyarbakir the same day we were meant to fly to Istanbul. Probably a silly thing to do in retrospect, but we needed to get to a pro-government Kurdish village that was actually fighting the PKK.

Anyway, for a while we didn’t know what was going to happen to us, although bullshitting and an earlier meeting the same day with the Regional Governor of the State of Emergency Region, Head of Turkish Police Necati Bilican, probably helped us a little. As did a brave taxi driver who managed to track us down after we missed our scheduled rendezvous in order to return to Diyarbakir. God knows how he managed to track us down in the middle of nowhere, but he did, and I’m still grateful to him for that even today.

Hope he didn’t get in trouble with the security services, like others did after we left, especially as Turkish security forces warned locals not to help any “Armenians.” Actually, every time we were told this, someone would explain for my benefit that the military didn’t mean this literally. It was just that the term “Armenian” is used as an insult in Turkey just as “Kurdish” or “Turkish” is used by some Armenians. Anyway, it was a hectic visit and interesting to remember in retrospect.

Read the full account here.

Monday, March 12, 2007

Telegraph picks up Nick story on politician

Daily Telegraph picks up Nick Ryan story on George Galloway:

By George

[Quoting the Spy column of the Daily Telegraph]

"Gorgeous" George Galloway is not a man noted for humility. And he does nothing to dispel this reputation in an interview in the April issue of Arena magazine.

Speaking about his formative years in Dundee, the Respect MP says: "I was always the boy at school who knew who the president of Uganda was. I always knew more about current affairs and politics than anyone else... At the age of 14, I knew more about Vietnam than I knew about my own country."

Fast-forwarding to the present day, Galloway reckons that his critics now vilify him because they feel threatened. "At the risk of sounding immodest, my belief is that they dog me because I'm better at it than the others.

"If I were a scandal-wearing, duffel-clad, ineffectual Davy Spart, with no ability to win hearts and influence people, they wouldn't attack me. But as I've shown, especially in the last five years, I have the means - and, by the grace of God, the ability - to persuade people."