Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Federal judge rules for CAIR in 'Sharia law' ruling

Muneer Awad, the executive director of the Oklahoma chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations,(CAIR) a group that reportedly has ties to Islamic terror groups, sued to block an OK  amendment aimed at restricting judges from considering Islamic 'Sharia law' while making a judgement in the United States, arguing that the state was condemning his religious beliefs.
Sharia law requires amputations of body parts as punishment for minor offenses, allows marital rape, calls for stoning women for adultery, denies women any rights and is generally considered barbaric.

A ballot measure was passed with 70 percent of the vote during the Republican landslide on November 2,  banning  'Sharia law'.

However within two days, CAIR sued in Federal court.

The lawsuit against ballot measure, State Question 755 or better known as "Save Our State," had sought  a temporary restraining order to block the results of the election from being certified by the state Election Board on November 9, which is scheduled to go into effect on January 1.

While Muslims claim the state is discriminating against their religion, supporters, most of whom are Christian conservatives, say the amendment is needed to stop radical Muslims from imposing Shariah law in the United States.

According to the New York Times, Judge Vicki Miles-LaGrange of Federal District Court in Oklahoma City said the measure did not appear to pass constitutional muster.

She said it conveyed a message that the state favours one religion or particular belief over others, and that added federal courts have long held that such a message violates the First Amendment's clause prohibiting the establishment of a state religion.

"While defendants contend that the amendment is merely a choice-of-law provision that bans state courts from applying the law of other nations or cultures-regardless of what faith they may be based on, if any-the actual language of the amendment reasonably, and perhaps more reasonably, may be viewed as specifically singling out Shariah law, conveying a message of disapproval of plaintiff's faith," the judge wrote.

Judge LaGrange also barred the State Election Commission from certifying the results of the election until she makes a final ruling, but did not set any timetable for her decision.

After today's ruling, Awad said he was satisfied with the decision.

"We are definitely satisfied. She is recognizing the majority vote cannot be used to take away my constitutional rights," he added.

What Constitutional right is he thinking of?
Perhaps the right to murder his daughter if she "dishonors" the family by dating an "Infidel"?

Monday, November 22, 2010

Update: Afghan teenager brutally maimed by her Taliban-sympathizing husband

Nearly a year after we first reported the story of Bibi Aisha, a young Afghan teenager brutally maimed by her Taliban-sympathizing husband and his family, she’s been relocated to the U.S. and become a media phenomenon. But as Gayle Tzemach Lemmon reports, her story does not yet have a happy ending.

In a wood-paneled office in a sprawling ranch home tucked away in a pastoral equestrian community, a young woman with shiny shoulder-length hair held back by a single barrette hunts for Pashto-language songs on YouTube.
She is Bibi Aisha, the young woman whose image ignited a heated political debate when her maimed face graced the cover of Time magazine this summer under the headline “What Happens if We Leave Afghanistan.” Her story, first reported in The Daily Beast last December, later appeared on World News with Diane Sawyer, which documented her trip to the U.S. for reconstructive surgery to replace the nose and ears her husband and his family severed as punishment for daring to flee after years of abuse. Since then, Bibi Aisha’s case has captivated international news audiences, who now are awaiting photos of the new nose the young woman came to the U.S. to receive.
Bibi Aisha attends a gala at the SLS Hotel on Oct. 8, 2010 in Beverly Hills, California. (Photo: Arun Nevader / Getty Images)
Until now the media has largely portrayed Bibi Aisha’s story as a tragic story with a made-for-TV ending about a young woman’s journey to the United States for a second chance at a new face and a fresh start. The reality is that rebuilding a life, particularly one marked by harsh years of abuse, is far more difficult and complicated than headlines permit. So far doctors who have evaluated Bibi Aisha say that she is not yet emotionally ready for the endurance test of reconstructive surgery, as she continues to suffer from seizure-like incidents in which she recedes deep into herself, pulling at her hair and appearing to flash back to her past. In the past 3 1/2 months, she has been in and out of local hospitals and shuttled among host families, with staff and volunteers from the Grossman Burn Foundation, which sponsored her trip to the U.S., fighting to figure out the best way forward for the troubled young woman.
In a culture that revels in happy endings, Bibi Aisha’s story is a lesson in the understanding, patience, and determination real life often requires, and the depth of psychological wounds caused by years of severe abuse that not even the world’s best plastic surgeons can easily fix.
For those who have helped to care for Aisha during the last few months, it has been a wild ride. The high-profile patient they brought from Afghanistan needed far more than simply a set of surgeries, they quickly realized. Aisha has endured prolonged beatings and deprivation for much of her life. The maiming that severed her nose and ears was only the most extreme abuse at the hands of a husband and in-laws to whom her father had given her as a girl to settle a criminal dispute between the families. Her mother died when Aisha was only a child.
Landing in Los Angeles, with its shimmering kaleidoscope of sun, glitz, and gridlocked traffic, is often a shock even for Americans from other parts of the country. For a girl from a rural and remote part of southern Afghanistan who had never been to school, or even lived with running indoor water and constant power until a year ago, the transition was more than daunting.
 “She made great strides during the nine months she spent in the shelter,” says Esther Hyneman of Women for Afghan Women, noting that WfAW resisted pressure for months to send her from Kabul to the United States immediately for surgery. Those strides were obvious to those who visited with Aisha in Afghanistan. When she first arrived in the shelter, where I met her last November, she was a bewildered young woman whose piercing cries startled the other shelter residents. By the time we spoke this summer, she was a poised young woman who spoke clearly and eloquently about her desire to rebuild her life. “We did not send her until we thought she would be OK. With hindsight, perhaps we should have given her more time,” says Hyneman. “I am not sure there was a way to predict that.”
Yet while Aisha has struggled emotionally, she has shown remarkable agility in adapting to the country now hosting her. The young woman who never set foot in a formal classroom has quickly taken to the Internet and the joys of YouTube, and even has begun to teach herself English using an online program designed for American schoolchildren. She is a deft text-messager and an avid cellphone user. And she has blossomed as a jewelry designer, a skill she says she first learned in prison in Kandahar, following her escape from her husband, and later honed in more formal training at the Kabul Women for Afghan Women shelter. Grossman staff and volunteers have provided Aisha with beads from the local Michael’s craft store, and she has created a collection of elegant beaded necklaces and bracelets, some translucent, some pearl, and some in vibrant hues. A number of women who have met Bibi Aisha and wanted to help have found customers for her creations.
None of this progress, however, means that Aisha is yet ready for surgery, according to doctors. They say that she eventually will be emotionally strong enough for the reconstructive operations required to rebuild her nose and ears, but they want to be certain she is more comfortable in her surroundings and better able to handle her emotions before beginning a series of painful and temporarily disfiguring operations over a three- to four-month time frame.
In the meantime, she has the remarkably real-looking and painstakingly crafted prosthetic nose created by Dr. Stefan Knauss, which she wore at the October gala for the Grossman Burn Foundation, where she stood on a red carpet before a throng of flashing cameras and met such notables as former first lady Laura Bush and California first lady Maria Shriver. Aisha applies the prosthetic herself with a glue-dipped Q-tip, though she often finds it uncomfortable to wear for long periods of time.
Grossman Burn Foundation staff and volunteers have sought to provide emotional care and a sense of close-knit community for Aisha amid all the unpredictability, even hosting her very first birthday party, cake and Afghan music included. Often they have been at a loss to know exactly what help she needed and in what order to offer it. What is certain, though, is that this young woman whose case has now drawn attention from around the globe has touched them deeply.
“A couple of times she has made me cry,” says Pari Moayer, a school nurse with bright eyes and a kind and soothing demeanor. Moayer, who once treated injured soldiers on the front lines of the Iran-Iraq War, formed a close bond with the young woman, visiting Aisha nearly every day and later making room for her at her own house for several weeks. She remembers in particular one night around , when Aisha told her she was hungry. Bringing in a plate of freshly cooked soft scrambled eggs, Moayer said she nearly choked up when the young woman spent several minutes thanking her profusely for the meal, a maternal gesture about which Moayer had thought little. “She told me no one had ever cooked for her like that since her mother died,” she says. “You can make someone’s life change and make them so happy with the little, little things that you can offer them.”
It is the young woman’s resilience that has left the most lasting impression.
“Aisha has just had, from what I have learned, a life of extreme abuse since her mother died,” says Rebecca Grossman of the Grossman Burn Foundation, who worked with Women for Afghan Women to arrange Aisha’s arrival in the Unites States. “She has been treated so badly and been so abused, and that is why it is amazing that she is as playful and joyful as she is.”
Grossman, whose husband, Dr. Peter Grossman, plans to perform the surgery, says she has learned a great deal from her experience helping Bibi Aisha and Zubaida, another young woman from Afghanistan whose burn injuries required years of operations in the United States. The reality is, intervening is often far more complicated than it sounds.
“It is so difficult and so challenging to bring people from other parts of the world to America,” says Grossman, sitting in her living room surrounded by her children’s toys. Many times the patients the Grossman Burn Foundation brings to Los Angeles for treatment find it difficult to function in their native villages and cities after the disjointed experience of life amid the attention, amenities, and luxuries of modern life in Los Angeles. The story of one young boy whose case came to Grossman from a U.S. serviceman serving in Afghanistan’s Farah province haunts her in particular. After months of living with a host family in the U.S. while undergoing surgery to recover from a harrowing injury that left his ears and neck connected, the young boy returned to his family, where he struggled to learn to live once more in hardship and poverty. Today, having managed a number of cases in which the Grossman Burn Foundation has hosted men and women from economically devastated Asian and African countries, she thinks the resources dedicated to individual cases might be better devoted to supporting doctors in their native countries so that the arduous cultural transitions might be avoided.
Regardless of the challenges, Aisha, for her part, remains determined to get the surgery and to create a new life for herself, one in which she makes her own decisions. Women for Afghan Women has now brought the young woman to the East Coast, where it hopes she will find the solace and stability she needs to prepare her for the path ahead and surgery down the road. They will hire teachers to help her learn English and other skills. And she will continue her jewelry-making. To cover her expenses, Women for Afghan Women has set up a trust fund, as it cannot use any current grant money on Bibi Aisha’s behalf.
“Our hopes are that she will find comfort here and that that comfort will allow her to make progress on many levels, intellectually, socially, and emotionally,” says Hyneman, who stresses that no media access to the young woman will be permitted so that she can spend more time getting situated and dealing with her emotional injuries. “She has very strong, native intelligence, and it is wonderful that that intelligence is intact. So we think she has a lot of potential, but she is damaged, and how much the damage will interfere with that potential for development is not yet known. The best thing we can do is keep an open mind, remember to be flexible, remember to listen to her, to see where she is and to not think that we have all the answers for her. We don’t.”
Like Grossman and Moayer, Hyneman says she has learned a great deal in the time she has known this exceptional young woman whose case has sparked so much emotion in so many people.
“I have learned to be suspicious of my own expectations,” says Hyneman. “I have learned that we have the best intentions and great hopes for people in this situation, and we do the best we can, but we have to realize that we don’t have control. They have to go ahead at their own pace. That is a very difficult thing to learn.”
Gayle Tzemach Lemmon is deputy director of the Women and Foreign Policy Program at the Council on Foreign Relations. She has spent the last five years reporting on women entrepreneurs in conflict and post-conflict regions, including Afghanistan, Rwanda and Bosnia. Her upcoming book, The Dressmaker of Khair Khana, will be published by HarperCollins in March 2011.

Thanks to The Daily Beast For this article, MFBsr

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Monday, November 15, 2010

The Hour of the Hanging Judges: Demonizing Israel and Pretending It Is Ordinary Criticism

By Barry Rubin
November 15, 2010

This is getting to be a pretty common kind of story. The mayor of Frankfurt invites a Jewish intellectual whose family left Germany in 1932 to speak on the anniversary of Kristallnacht. The problem is that this man, Alfred Grosser, is a ferocious critic of Israel.

Grosser claims the Gaza Strip is a concentration camp (possibly true, but if so it is a concentration camp owned and run by Hamas); calls for ending Israel as a Jewish state; urges Germany to be more critical of Israel; and blames Israeli policies (rather than the deliberate lies about them) as being responsible for increasing antisemitism (isn't that what George Soros said?)

All of this is interpreted by the Christian Science Monitor, and many others, as merely rejecting:

"...the notion that criticism of Israel is synonymous with anti-Semitism. If Germans want to criticize the blockade of Gaza or treatment of Palestinians, they should be able to without guilt, many say."

This is the usual absurd response.

But one can criticize Israel's "blockade" of Gaza (I won't explain here why it is needed and, no doubt, the people who criticize it have never read these reasons) without calling it a "concentration camp," which implies deliberate mass murder.

But it is possible to criticize Israel without calling for its extinction-since that is, in fact, what abolishing the existence of a Jewish state means.

But one can say that Israeli policy is an element in growing antisemitism while also listing other elements, including the lying demonization of Israel so prevalent today. Of course, one would then have to talk about all the concessions and risks Israel has taken on behalf of peace in the last twenty years.

And when someone systematically uses such exaggeration, obsessively promotes such hatred, seeks such extreme solutions, sympathizes with those using violence to murder Jews, and leaves out so many facts...it is possible to speak of antisemitism as an element in that overall approach, isn't it?

At times, I reflect, one hears echoes in such rhetoric and activity of a brave, new slogan: Kill the Jews! They really deserve it this time!

Often, however, this kind of talk is actually a result of naiveté and ignorance. This is equally true for Jews who say such things. Being Jewish doesn't make them experts on Israel. But there is also a strong element of opportunism in taking such highly rewarded positions. No Jew need ever starve since he can always make a career bashing Israel.

Yet there is also a remarkable detachment from the facts on the ground.

In an interview, Grosser explains:

"The Palestinians are despised, are occupied and I think that the majority of Israel's citizens despise Palestinians....The central theme of my book [is] that any human being should be respected....As a Jewish boy in a Frankfurt school, I was despised, and even beaten. I can't understand how Jews can scorn others."

But does this have anything much to do with the way Israelis think and behave? Israelis don't "despise" Palestinians in the way Grosser means. Nor are Palestinian (Israeli Arab) students set on and beaten in school or insulted in the streets. On the contrary, such an idea wouldn't even occur to any Israeli but the tiniest minority of most extreme people, who are themselves pretty despised by other Israelis.

What is happening here is that Grosser (and many others) imagine how Israelis behave, then attribute that behavior to them. Often, this means imagining that Israelis behave like Nazis, even though there is no evidence that this is true.

Obviously, there is a decades-long war between them and most Israelis don't love Palestinians (though a remarkable percentage goes out of their way to seek peace and conciliation). Yet compared to other countries at war with each other, Israelis sentiments are definitely at the lowest part of the spectrum concerning hatred or despising.

Anyone can easily ascertain that there is no despising or hating being taught in Israeli media-TV, radio, newspapers, films-or in schools, or in government statements or in the armed forces. Such statements can be found from individuals or at the political extremes, sometimes by radical rabbis, yet it is far less common than the level of despising in a country like Germany against immigrants there or racism in America, or many other such cases. And when incidents of hatred do appear they are widely and officially denounced.

Of course, people like Grosser never consider the behavior of the other side, the relentless, official hatred and despising of Israel (and often Jews) which appears in almost all the media, all the statements of politicians, all the sermons.

Speaking of Gaza as a "concentration camp" this is an appropriate place to mention how the relentlessly anti-Israel Sydney Morning Herald in Australia pubished an article about how wonderful the Hamas regime is in Gaza and extolling its new luxury prison. But buried in it is the following passage about a prison there that the author just let slide by:

"[Prison director Naser] Suleiman is quick to absolve his own institution of such practices. ''We do not practice any torture here,'' he says. 'That takes place at the interrogation centre, before people are convicted.'''

Moreover, the one-sided focus on Israel worsens real oppression, hatred, and bloodshed by giving the terrorists and extremists an excuse. The above-mentioned article's author actually blames any mistreatment in Hamas prisons on Israel:

"Just as Hamas struggles to keep order in this restive strip of land of 1.5 million people, Mr Suleiman is trying to do the same inside Gaza's prisons. And just as Israel's blockade of Gaza stunts economic growth and curtails the ambitions of everyday Gazans, it also impairs Mr Suleiman's ability to operate prisons."

Talking about how the terrible nature of the opposition (in Hamas's case, openly antisemitic and preaching genocide against Jews; practicing terrorism; deliberately targeting civilians, etc.) isn't intended to excuse any shortcomings in Israel, but one has to have some way to measure the potential level of hatred and despising going on.

If your enemy is intent on using civilians as human shields and massacring all of yours, this sometimes requires different measures for self-defense. And if the other side is projecting 90 percent hate and Israel 5 percent-the numbers are somewhat arbitrary but also reasonable-that conveys something important. It's funny that Israel is accused of "excessive force" but not credited for its proportionately low level of hatred.

When, for example, two Israeli reservists lose their way on the West Bank and are torn apart (literally) by a Palestinian mob and there is not a single case of retaliation or incitement to violence among Israelis that tells something. Now multiply that by ten thousand incidents.

Western media, academics, and activists often act as if even a single incident by a single Israeli (even if denounced by other Israelis and punished) somehow "proves" that Israel is demonic and worthy of execution. Even the deity only demanded that ten good people out of many hundreds need be found to spare wicked Sodom and Gomorrah. Israel's critics reverse the equation and think finding ten bad ones condemns seven million others.

Of course this doesn't mean Israel is perfect but that's precisely the point: it is unreasonable to expect perfection and once that standard is jettisoned Israel's record can be seen to be remarkably good given the conditions it has faced or even how other democracies have responded to far lower levels of threat.

Come to think of it, when it comes to being "despised" and "scorned," Israel and Israelis aren't the perpetrators, they are on the receiving end.
*               Barry Rubin is director of the Global Research in International Affairs (GLORIA) Center and editor of the Middle East Review of International Affairs (MERIA) Journal. His latest books are The Israel-Arab Reader (seventh edition), with Walter Laqueur (Viking-Penguin); the paperback edition of The Truth About Syria (Palgrave-Macmillan); A Chronological History of Terrorism, with Judy Colp Rubin, (Sharpe); and The Long War for Freedom: The Arab Struggle for Democracy in the Middle East (Wiley). To read and subscribe to MERIA, GLORIA articles, or to order books, go tohttp://www.gloria-center.org.  You can read and subscribe to his blog athttp://www.rubinreports.blogspot.com.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Excerpt: Harper's speech on Israel, anti-Semitism

Canada's Prime Minister Stephen Harper speaks during the Ottawa Conference on Combating Anti-Semitism on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Monday.
Chris Wattie/Reuters
Canada's Prime Minister Stephen Harper speaks during the Ottawa Conference on Combating Anti-Semitism on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Monday.
· Sunday, Nov. 7, 2010
The following is excerpted from Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s speech on Parliament Hill Monday to a gathering of international parliamentarians and experts attending a conference on combating anti-Semitism:
Two weeks ago I visited Ukraine for the first time. At the killing grounds of Babyn Yar, I knew I was standing in a place where evil – evil at its most cruel, obscene, and grotesque – had been unleashed. But while evil of this magnitude may be unfathomable, it is nonetheless a fact.
It is a fact of history. And it is a fact of our nature – that humans can choose to be inhuman. This is the paradox of freedom. That awesome power, that grave responsibility – to choose between good and evil.
Let us not forget that even in the darkest hours of the Holocaust, men were free to choose good. And some did. That is the eternal witness of the Righteous Among the Nations.
And let us not forget that even now, there are those who would choose evil, and would launch another Holocaust, if left unchecked. That is the challenge before us today.
In response to this resurgence of moral ambivalence on these issues, we must speak clearly.
Remembering the Holocaust is not merely an act of historical recognition. It must also be an understanding and an undertaking. An understanding that the same threats exist today. And an undertaking of a solemn responsibility to fight those threats.
Jews today in many parts of the world and many different settings are increasingly subjected to vandalism, threats, slurs, and just plain, old-fashioned lies.
Let me draw your attention to some particularly disturbing trends.
Anti-Semitism has gained a place at our universities, where at times it is not the mob who are removed, but the Jewish students under attack. And, under the shadow of a hateful ideology with global ambitions, one which targets the Jewish homeland as a scapegoat, Jews are savagely attacked around the world – such as, most appallingly, in Mumbai in 2008.
We have seen all this before. And we have no excuse to be complacent. In fact we have a duty to take action. And for all of us, that starts at home.
In Canada, we have taken a number of steps to assess and combat anti-Semitism in our own country. But of course we must also combat anti-Semitism beyond our borders, - an evolving, global phenomenon. And we must recognize, that while its substance is as crude as ever, its method is now more sophisticated.
Harnessing disparate anti-Semitic, anti-American and anti-Western ideologies, it targets the Jewish people by targeting the Jewish homeland, Israel, as the source of injustice and conflict in the world, and uses, perversely, the language of human rights to do so.
We must be relentless in exposing this new anti-Semitism for what it is. Of course, like any country, Israel may be subjected to fair criticism. And like any free country, Israel subjects itself to such criticism – healthy, necessary, democratic debate. But when Israel, the only country in the world whose very existence is under attack – Is consistently and conspicuously singled out for condemnation, I believe we are morally obligated to take a stand. Demonization, double standards, delegitimization, the 3 D’s, it is a responsibility, to stand up to them.
And I know, by the way, because I have the bruises to show for it, that whether it is at the United Nations, or any other international forum, the easy thing to do is simply to just get along and go along with this anti-Israeli rhetoric, to pretend it is just being even-handed, and to excuse oneself with the label of “honest broker.” There are, after all, a lot more votes, a lot more, in being anti-Israeli than in taking a stand. But, as long as I am Prime Minister, whether it is at the UN or the Francophonie or anywhere else, Canada will take that stand, whatever the cost. Not just because it is the right thing to do, but because history shows us, and the ideology of the anti-Israeli mob tells us all too well, that those who threaten the existence of the Jewish people are, in the longer term, a threat to all of us.
Earlier I noted the paradox of freedom. It is freedom that makes us human. Whether it leads to heroism or depravity depends on how we use it.
We are free citizens, but also the elected representatives of free peoples. We have a solemn duty to defend the vulnerable, to challenge the aggressor, to protect and promote human dignity, at home and abroad. None of us knows whether we would choose to do good, in the extreme circumstances of the Righteous. But we do know there are those today who would choose to do evil, if they are so permitted. Thus, we must use our freedom now, and them and their anti-Semitism at every turn.
Our work together is a sign of hope, just as the existence and persistence of the Jewish homeland is a sign of hope. And it is here that history serves not to warn but to inspire.
As I said on the 60th anniversary of its founding, the State of Israel appeared as a light, in a world emerging from deep darkness. Against all odds, that light has not been extinguished. It burns bright, upheld by the universal principles of all civilized nations – freedom, democracy, justice.
By working together more closely in the family of civilized nations, we affirm and strengthen those principles. And we declare our faith in humanity’s future, in the power of good over evil.
My Thanks to National Post for this excellent article.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Fire From the Mountain

October 31, 2010

Our PKK contact and driver arrived at the appointed time outside the hotel in Erbil. We had been told he would identify himself using an agreed term. We hadn't quite been ready for the fact that this single word would be the sole communication possible between us. The diminutive, scrawny youth who turned up at six that morning knew neither English nor Arabic.
Only Kurdish. That was how we began our journey from the Iraqi Kurdish capital toward the Qandil mountains, in the remote border area between Iraq, Turkey and Iran.
It is in these mountains that the guerrillas of the Parti Karkeren Kurdistan (PKK) live and wage their 26- year-old war against Turkey.  They offer ideal terrain for guerrilla fighters. Accessible only through a network of narrow, near impenetrable passes, the mountains serve as a launching ground for the PKK and the allied Iranian Kurdish PEJAK into their respective areas of operation.
The writ of the Iraqi Kurdish regional government has little purchase in the Qandil area. The PKK is the de facto ruling authority.
Our contact from the Kurdish regional government in Erbil cheerfully wished us luck on the eve of our departure - and told us not to bother calling him if we got into trouble. There was, he said with a broad smile, "absolutely nothing he could do" in such a situation.
The PKK is waging a struggle in these mountains for autonomy and recognition for the Turkish Kurds. The Qandil area has become a little known but crucial window into the complex strategic arrangements that dominate today's Middle East.
FOUNDED IN 1978, the PKK began its armed campaign against the Turkish authorities in 1984. The  Turkish military responded with ferocity. In the 1984-99 period, around 30,000 people lost their lives in the conflict. The Turks destroyed more than 3,000 Kurdish villages. The capture of PKK leader Abdullah Ocalan in 1999 led to a sharp downturn in the movement's fortunes.
Turkish governments failed to address Kurdish grievances following the capture of Ocalan. So from its base in Qandil, the PKK slowly rebuilt itself.
The movement, which ended a 12-month cease-fire in June, subsequently carried out a number of successful operations before renewing its cease-fire in August. The most daring of these was a mine blast along the Kirkuk-Ceyhan oil pipeline on July 21. The blast claimed two lives, temporarily halted the flow of oil along the strategic pipeline and served notice of the PKK's undimmed abilities to strike at its Turkish enemy.
As a result of the renewed campaign, Turkish aerial attacks on the mountains took place. Iranian mortar fire is also a common occurrence.   The fighters of the PKK live in temporary structures, constantly alert and seeking to avoid the regular attentions of Turkish drone aircraft.
Finding our way to the PKK in the mountains had not been easy. It involved a long series of communications with supporters of the movement in Europe. Finally, the word had come and we had made our way to Erbil.
But relations between the Erbil-based Kurdish regional government and the PKK are complex. Hence the semi-clandestine arrangements for our trip to the mountains.
The KRG has created the most stable and peaceful part of Iraq. The Kurdish regional capital has the feel of a boom town, with new malls, hotels and office blocks springing up all over the city.
The cautious, pragmatic Iraqi Kurdish leadership has little in common with the ideologues of the PKK. At the same time, the Erbil leadership is unwilling to undertake the kind of drastic measures that would be necessary to remove the movement from its mountain fastness in Qandil.
As a result, the government uneasily tolerates both the presence of the PKK, and the Turkish and Iranian bombings which this presence brings about.
Checkpoints manned by the Peshmerga forces of the KRG dotted the highway leading into the mountains. The Peshmerga is one of the most professional and efficient military forces in Iraq. But the soldiers clearly had little interest in blocking the way to foreign journalists very obviously on the way to meet with the guerrillas of the PKK. Our passports were perfunctorily glanced at, and we were waved on.
The mountains, as they loomed suddenly before us, were majestic, harsh and beautiful.
The way to the heights where the PKK is to be found involves the traversing of near impassable gorges on the narrowest of dirt roads. In places, the paths simply disappear, washed away by mountain
streams, and the vehicle must cross directly through the rushing water. The precise points at which Iraq, Turkey and Iran intersect are also not exactly clear. The second intelligible word our driver spoke to us was not reassuring. "Iran," he suddenly said at one stage in the ascent, pointing toward a narrow fence to our immediate left.
The leader We avoided Iran, and managed to stay on the tracks. Finally, we arrived at a house of a PKK sympathizer, where we met our movement contacts for the first time in the flesh. From there, we were driven to a remote house, passing a roadblock manned by PKK fighters, and to a small building, where again we were told to wait. Minutes passed.
Finally, Murat Karayalan, acting leader of the PKK, entered, accompanied by an entourage of armed fighters.
Karayilan, 67, gray-haired and mustached, is the acknowledged senior figure in the PKK. The pleasantries completed, he quickly turned the conversation to the issue of the AKP government in Turkey. The PKK leader wanted to talk about what he called the "strategic alliance" between the Islamist AKP and Iran. Karayilan first noted a recent visit by Iranian First Vice President Mohammad Reza Rahimi to Turkey, in which in a statement with Prime Minister Recip Tayyip Erdogan, he announced the launching of a joint strategy to develop economic relations.
Such a strategy, Karayilan suggested, would serve to help Iran bypass the economic embargo against it. It would also serve as a basis for joint action against the twin Kurdish guerrilla organizations present in the Qandil mountains - the PKK and PEJAK, its counterpart among the Iranian Kurds.
"The AKP is currently trying to draw the surrounding countries into hostilities against us," Karayilan said, "and through the ideology of Islam they want to control and dominate the whole Islamic world, in an attempt to use this power against peaceful coexistence between nations - this is Erdogan's game."
He also accused Erdogan of "double dealing" in his regional and international alliances. "Turkey has relations with the USA, and also with Iran," he said, "and both are used against the Kurds. In Qandil, US-made drones fly over the zone. They collect intelligence and bring it back to Turkey. Turkey then comes and bombs the area. But Turkey also passes the information on to Iran, which also bombards us."
The AKP, Karayilan maintained, has a plan to crush the PKK "in Sri Lankan style," and was in the process of attempting to firm up regional and international alliances - most importantly with Iran and Syria - to put this plan into effect.
Karayilan's manner was calm and friendly throughout the interview, more in the manner of a politician in late middle age than a paramilitary leader, despite his military uniform. (The PKK remains on both the US and the EU list of terror organizations.) He became more animated, however, when he alleged the deaths and jailing of Kurdish children under the Erdogan government.
He accused the Turkish prime minister of "lying" in his supposed support for the Palestinians and empathy with their suffering.
"On the one hand," said Karayilan, "he says this shouldn't happen. On the other, he is doing it himself."
He also related to the issue of Israel. He stressed the empathy felt by Kurds for the Jews, given their joint experience, as he put it, of "tragedies and genocides." He expressed his "respect" for the people of Israel, while also criticizing the government for its defense relationship with Turkey.
Karayilan reiterated the recent allegations that the Turks have used chemical weapons against the movement's fighters. He mentioned an incident he had dealt with personally in the Sirnak province in southeast Turkey. He said that 20 PKK fighters died as a result of Turkish use of chemical weapons.
He said that he had personally sent materials found at the site to a laboratory in Germany for testing, where it was confirmed that chemical weapons had been used.
But Karayilan also stressed what he called the "defensive" nature of the PKK's strategy and its desire for dialogue with Turkey. The impression given was not that of a militant leader hungry for conflict. Rather, the PKK is aware of its isolation, and appears to want to walk a careful line between militancy and political action to advance the cause of the Kurds in Turkey.
The fighters The morning after the interview, we were taken to observe a demonstration of tactics by young PKK fighters at a secluded spot high in the mountains. The fighters, a mixed group of young men and women, demonstrated a tactical response to an ambush. They were all very young, none of them much over 20. Nearly all of them from the villages of southeast Turkey.
They had signed up with the PKK for the duration, no longer able to reenter Turkey, living all year round in the mountains, constantly in motion to avoid the probing Turkish drones. No way to leave, our interpreter, who had lived for 14 years in Australia, told us, once you have signed up.
"They give their lives for the cause."
The PKK fighters looked young and fresh-faced, but there is every reason to believe that they would put up a fierce and capable resistance to any Turkish attempt to move in force against them. They are familiar with the terrain, well skilled in guerrilla tactics, and fiercely devoted to the organization and its overall leader, the jailed Abdullah Ocalan. Karayilan also indicated that should such an attack take place, the organization would undertake to spread the area of combat by initiating attacks in western Turkey, outside of the main area of Kurdish population.
Still, there are reasons to believe that such an outcome may not be immediately imminent.
The PKK elected to unilaterally continue its cease-fire for a further month after September 20. The organization may well be hoping to benefit from the widespread disillusionment felt by the Kurds of Turkey with Erdogan's perceived failure to deliver on early promises. Such a path requires patience and political organization, not militancy alone.
The road ahead The PKK has abandoned its dreams of a large Kurdish state and today says it seeks only autonomy and language rights for Kurds in Turkey. It has no interest in provoking the Turkish government to a point where a large scale incursion into the Qandil mountains would become inevitable.
From the Turkish point of view, too, such an incursion would ultimately solve little.
The military could certainly kill a large number of PKK fighters, but the "Sri Lankan" style solution that Karayilan claimed Erdogan seeks may be precluded by political considerations both domestic and international.
And for as long as the basic issue of the Turkish Kurds and their status remains unresolved, the PKK would be likely to organize and rise again.
So for the moment, at least, the stark Qandil mountains are likely to continue to play host to the isolated but formidable insurgent movement that currently dominates them. The PKK's cease-fires may continue to come and go. The growing Turkish-Iranian alliance will do its best to make life as unpleasant as possible for the movement's militants in their mobile bases on the peaks. The Kurdish regional government will go on developing further south, and looking nervously at its uninvited Kurdish compatriots in the mountains.
There was mortar fire in the distance as we drove down from the mountains, heading back to Erbil. Maybe it was the Iranian gunners, who fire regularly up at the Qandil area, in the general direction of the PJAK militants waging their own war against the Revolutionary Guards. Maybe it was a PKK training exercise.

One thing seemed certain as our driver negotiated the narrow descents and we made it to the highway back to Erbil - that there was no end in sight. The beautiful, blighted border zone of Qandil will be ringing to the sound of gunfire, the shouts of insurgents and the periodic thunder of Turkish aircraft and Iranian cannons, largely out of earshot of a largely indifferent world, for a long time to come.
*               Dr. Jonathan Spyer is a senior research fellow at the Global Research in International Affairs (GLORIA) Center, Herzliya, Israel. His new book, The Transforming Fire: The Rise of the Israel-Islamist Conflict will be released on November 16th. 

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