Tuesday, January 23, 2007

George W Bush should think again about sending an extra 21,000 of his troops to Iraq.

Ayman al-Zawahiri has sent a video to the Washington-based Site Institute warning him about the risk to his troops in Iraq. America has had it eyes on Ayman al-Zawahiri for a long time and have not caught or assassinated him yet. In his video he speaks of ...

"I ask him, why send 20,000 [troops] only ­ why not send 50 or 100 thousand? Aren't you aware that the dogs of Iraq are pining for your troops' dead bodies? So send your entire army to be annihilated at the hands of the mujahideen (holy warriors) to free the world from your evil, because Iraq, land of the Caliphate and Jihad, is able to bury 10 armies like yours, with Allah's help and power."

You have been warned Mr Bush, I think you should withdraw your troops from Iraq before more lives are lost. Remember Afghanistan, no invading country has ever managed to hold power there. The resistance in Afghanistan always beat the occupying powers and sent them home. The same can happen with Iraq for the resistance can cross borders and fight the occupying forces until they go back home. Save further bloodshed Mr Bush and send your troops back home, now. You know it makes sense to withdraw your troops and Ayman al-Zawahiri has given you fair warning. Leave Iraq and the other Muslim countries you have invaded alone and Ayman al-Zawahiri and his followers will leave you alone. Why risk attacks on your home territory just because your pride got in the way? Be a man Mr Bush, count your losses, realise your mistakes and withdraw your troops from Iraq now, you know it makes sense.

Monday, January 22, 2007

Hrant Dink

Sadly today in my newspaper I read about the assassination of Hrant Dink, the editor of Agos , a weekly newspaper in Turkey. Hrant Dink was shot outside his office on Friday 19th January 2007. The life he had was an adventure as a journalist who also came into contact with the Turkish legal system over articles that were claimed of "insulting Turkishness". He stood up for free speech, freedom of expression and human rights. He was a good journalist who confronted the genocide of the Armenians in 1915 which caused a lot of debate within Turkey and his trial for "insulting Turkishness". There were people who have threatened him and he has received many threats but he continued with his work and did not wish to leave Turkey. Turkey was his home and he loved both the country and all it's people.

I am disgusted that Hrant Dink was assassinated, murder is the ultimate crime. To kill someone for their views and expression is the height of evil and intolerance. We should all have the freedoms to speak freely and express ourselves openly. Nobody should be stopped writing and we should all uphold our human rights. These human rights Hrant Dink campaigned for and he was no threat to anyone - was never a threat to the bigot who assassinated him.

Here is the last article he wrote for Agos on the day of his assassination which brings tears to my eyes...

The ‘dove skittishness’ of my soul

In the beginning I was not concerned about the investigation initiated by Şişli Public Prosecutor under the pretext “insulting Turkish identity”.

This was not for the first time. I was familiar with a similar case from Urfa. I was being prosecuted since three years because of my statement at a conference in Urfa in 2002 where I said that “I was not Turk but an Armenian and a citizen of Turkey” and there was again the accusation of “insulting Turkish identity”. I was completely unaware of the trials, I was not interested at all. Some of my lawyer friends from Urfa were dealing with the case in my absence.

I was completely indifferent too when I gave my interrogation to Public Prosecutor in Şişli. In the end I was trusting to my article and my good will. If Public Prosecutor evaluated the whole of the series of my articles and not this single sentence which alone did not make any sense at all, then he would easily understand that I had not an intention of “insulting Turkish identity” and this comedy would end, I thought.

I was completely sure that after the interrogation I would be not be sued at all.

I was sure of myself

But to my surprise, the case came up in court.

Still I didn’t lose my optimism. So I even told to lawyer Kerinçsiz who accused me during a live Tv program that “he should not be so eager that I would not be punished due to this case and that in case of punishment I would leave the country.” I was sure of myself, I really did not have the will or intention to “insult the Turkish identity”. Everyone reading the whole of the series of my articles would understand this.

And indeed the committee of three academicians from Istanbul University who were appointed as experts submitted a report to the court revealing this understanding.

I had no reason to be concerned, in this or that stage of the case this mistake would be erased.

While remaining patient

But it wasn’t erased.

The Public Prosecutor wanted to penalize me despite the positive report of the expert committee.

Then the judge gave me six months imprisonment.

When I first heard the verdict I found myself under the bitter pressure of my hope that I kept during all the months of trial. I was stupefied... I was hurt and the feeling of rebellion reached its climax.

“Let’s wait the verdict, let them prove me not-guilty, then you will regret all that you talked and written about” I had told myself for months just to hold on.

During each hearing of the court there were statements published in the news and columns of the newspapers and broadcast in the TV-programs claiming that I said “Turkish blood is poisonous.”

Each time I got more popular as an “enemy of the Turk”.

At the corridors of the Law Courts fascists were attacking me with racist curses.

They were humiliating me with pancards. Hunderds of threats via e-mail, phone calls an letters were pouring down and they were incresing day by day in number.

I was bearing all this and remainig patient with the expectation of verdict of not-guilty.

When the verdict was declared, the reality would be understood and all these people would be ashamed.

My only weapon is my sincerity

But now the verdict was there and all my hopes were lost.

From that time on, I was in the most embarrassing situation a man can experience.

The judge gave the decision in the name of “Turkish people” and legally registered that I had “insulted Turkish identity”.

I could bear everything but not this.

In my view, to humiliate people who we live together on the basis of an ethnic or religious difference is called racism and this is something unforgivable.

Just under the influence of such a psychology, I told to the members of the press who were waiting for me at the door to check “whether I would leave the country or not” the following statement:

“I will consult my lawyers. I will go to the Court of Appeal for cassation and if necessary I will also apply to European Court of Human Rights. If I am not acquitted at any stage, then I will leave my country. Because in my understanding a person sentenced to punishment with such an accusation does not have the right to live with other citizens whom he has humiliated.”

As I said this all, I was emotional as always. My only weapon was my sinceretiy.

A bad joke

But the deep force determinant as it was to alienate me and to turn me to an open target found again a pretext to my statement and this time sued me stating that I was trying to effect the jurisdiction. This explanation was published and broadcast in all means of media but only the one in Agos drew their attention. This time responsibles of Agos and I began to be sued under the pretext of effecting the jurisdiction.

It should be a bad joke.

I am a defendant. Who else should have more right to effect the jurisdiction rather than a defendant?

But look at the comedy, that this time the defendant is once again sued as to effect the juridiction.

‘In the name of Turkish State’

I have to admit that my confidence to the “justice system” and to the concept of “law” was shaken to a large extent.

It meant that the jurisiction was not independent as many state officers and politicians dared to say.

Jurisdiction did not defend the rights of the citizen but the State.

In fact I was totally sure that even if it was said that the decision was taken in the name of the people, it was actually taken in the name of the State. My lawyers would apply to Court of Appeal but who could guarantee that deep forces would not be effective there again as determinant as they were to make me down? And were all the decisions of the Court of Appeal right indeed?

Was it not the same Court of Appeal having signed the unjust decisions confiscating the real estates of the Minority Foundations?

Despite the efforts of the Attorney General

We applied indeed but did it make sense at all?

The Attorney General of Court of Appeal, like the experts stated that there was no element of guilt and demanded my acquittal but the Court of Appeal found me guilty again.

To the extent I was sure of my article so was The Attorney General of Court of Appeal of his decision that he objected the verdict and brought the case to the General Council.

But the great force which was just there to make me down and which let its existence be felt at all stages of the case with methods unknown to me, was again behind the curtain. As a result at the General Council again by majority of votes, it was declared that I insulted Turkish identity.

Like a dove

It is obvious that those wishing to alienate me and make me weak and defenceless reached their goal. Right now they have brought about a significant circle of people who are not low in number and who regard me as someone “insulting Turkish identity” due to the dirty and wrong information.

The diary and memory of my computer is full of messages from citizens of this circle full of rage and threats.

(Let me note that I regarded one among them posted from Bursa as a close threat and submitted it to Public Prosecutor’s office in Şişli but got no result.)

To what extent are these threats real and to what extent unreal? In fact it is impossible for me to know this.

What is the real threat and what is unbearable for me is the psychological torture of myself.

What I have always in my mind is the following question: “What do these people now think of me?”

Unfortunately I am more popular nowadays and feel the look of the people telling each other: “Look, isn’t it that Armenian?”

And just as a reflexaction, I start to torture myself.

One side of this torture is curiousity, the other uneasiness.

One side is caution the other side is skittishness.

I am like a dove...

Like a dove I have my eyes everywhere, in front of me, at the back, on the left, on the right.

My head is as moving as the one of a dove... And fast enough to turn in an instance.

Just look at the price... This is the price

What did Minister of Foreign Affairs Abdullah Gül say? What did Minister of Justice Cemil Çiçek say?

“The issue of Article 301 should not be exagerrated. Is there someone found guilty and sent to prison?”

As if paying a price always means going to prison...

Just look at the price... This is the price...Do you know Ministers what a price it is to imprison someone to the skittishness of a dove?.. Do you know it?..

Don’t you look at the doves at all?...

The thing they call “life and death”

What I all experienced was not an easy process... Neither for me nor for my family.

There were times when I seriously thought about leaving the country.

Especially at moments when the threats focused the ones close to me...

At that point I always remained helpless.

What they call “life and death” should be such a thing actually. I could be the warrior of my own will but I had no right of exposing the life of near relations to danger. I could be my own hero but I had no right to reveal courage at the expense of another person let alone a kin.

Just at these helpless moments I found shelter around my family and children. I found the greatest support from them. They were trusting me.

There would be together with me wherever I went.

They would come when I said “Let’s go” and stay when I said “Let’s stay.”

To stay and resist

But if we go, where then?

To Armenia?

But to what extent could a person like me tolarete the injustice as intolerant as I am at this issue? Wouldn’t I find myself in greater troubles there?

To go and live in European countries wasn’t my style either.

I know myself. After three days abroad, I miss my country. What should I do there?

Ease makes me uneasy!

To leave “boiling hells” and go to “ready heavens” was against my understanding.

We were sort of people desiring to turn hell to heaven.

To stay and live in Turkey was our real wish and and also a must of respect towards all of our known and unknown friends giving the struggle of democracy in Turkey and supporting us.

We would stay and resist.

However if someday we had to go, then we would go like in 1915... like our ancestors... Without knowing where to go.... Walking on the roads they had walked.... Feeling their pain and agony...

With such a reproach we would leave our country. And we would not go to the place of our heart but where our feet went. To whatever place it was.

Frightened and Free

I hope that we are never obliged toexperience such an abandonment. We have enough hope and reasons not to live such a thing.

Now I am applying to European Court of Human Rights.

I don’t know how many years this case will take.

What I know and what relieves me to some extent is the fact that at least I will continue to live in Turkey until this case comes to an end.

When a positive verdict is declared I will surely be happier and then this will mean that I will never have to leave my country.

Probably the year 2007 will be a more difficult year for me.
Trials will continue, new cases will came up in court. Who knows which kind of injustice I will encounter.

But while this all will happen, I will regard the following fact as my guarantee.

Yes, I can feel myself as restless as a dove but I know that in this country people do not touch and disturb the doves.

The doves continue their lives in the middle of the cities.

Yes indeed a bit frightened but at the same time free.

... Hrant Dink, journalist: born Malatya, Turkey 15 September 1954; Editor, Agos 1996-2007; married 1972 Rakel Yagbasan (two sons, one daughter), died Istanbul 19 January 2007.

Sunday, January 21, 2007

Unlicensed vehicles on the public highway.

Have you ever been annoyed at vehicles parked on the road without a valid tax disc? Does this over time begin to piss you off a little? Do you think something should be done about it?

I used to pass a car just like that, it was parked on the road without a valid tax disc for over 3 months. Enough is enough I thought and I reported it on the evening of Monday 8th January 2007 using this form to the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency. I wondered if anything would be done as there are lots of untaxed vehicles on the roads and the agency has the whole country to cover. When I was coming home last night I noticed that this unlicensed car had been moved off the road and onto the owner's driveway. What a result and in less than 14 days. This car had not moved for over 3 months but suddenly it had. Marvellous work and I feel a lot better now.
The comments box.

I now have 115 posts on this blog and today I have decided to open things up a little by opening a comments box to my posts. Other blogs that I read quite often have a comments box for internet users to comment on the post above. Many internet users would prefer this option rather than sending the blogger an email because with a comment box everyone can read their views which should remain on the blog for later readers.

Friday, January 19, 2007

A good advertisment.

The India Tourism Office placed a full page advertisment in my newspaper today. It was an open letter to Jade Goody inviting her to visit India. The advertisment was expertly written with subtle humour which invited both Jade and the newspaper reader to visit India. The whole tone of this advertisment was one of welcome, love, trust and tolerance. It made me think about having a holiday in India myself. The best part of the advert speaks for itself...

Being one of the world's oldest civilisations, our land is one where the ancient and the modern co-exist and a multitude of religions live in harmony. We have a modern thriving culture and offer an amazing wealth of sights and sounds, tastes and textures making our country a place like no other.

...that is simply holding out the hand of friendship to the people of the UK.

I have voted to evict Jade in the poll tonight on television. I hope that Shilpa wins this contest, she deserves to win as she has done her level best to be civil, unlike Jade and the other bitches.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Shilpa Shetty .

Shilpa has been the talk of the nation today. Shilpa has been featured on front page headlines , radio shows, television and has been discussed at large by the general public. Shilpa Shetty is a contestant on the Channel 4 television programme called Big Brother . Other contestants have said things to and about her that have caused a lot of controversy. Allegations of racism have been raised and Ofcom , the broadcasting watchdog has received 27,000 complaints about the television programme. The Carphone Warehouse has suspended it's sponsorship of the Big Brother show and The Perfume Shop said today it had decided to withdraw sales of Jade's perfume from its shelves following the Big Brother controversy.

So now I will add my thoughts to this growing debate...

Big Brother is only a television programme, these contestants are paid big money to entertain the viewer. The language used by other contestants must go with the territory. There should be no censorship of this television programme and contestants must be allowed to speak freely and have the right to free expression. The viewer has the right to watch the programme and to switch it off if they do not like it for whatever reason. I think it is rather sad that 27,000 people have complained to Ofcom about the programme rather than just switch the programme off. Whether the comments broadcast were racist is open to debate but even if they were, what is the big deal? This is only a television programme and meant as entertainment. The contestants who spoke badly about Shilpa displayed their ignorance, bigotry and did themselves no favours by being vulgar. I believe this will be reflected in the telephone votes from viewers. A lot of the views expressed by the other contestants are commonly held throughout our country and one of the best ways to combat the evils of racism is to have open debates alongside educational campaigns. This programme has highlighted many issues of tolerance in our country and the differences between communities. I think that The Carphone Warehouse and The Perfume Shop have both taken commercial decisions to protect their market share rather than scare off existing and potential customers. This is not a moral issue for these companies or a stance against racism but a hard look at the bottom line. I think Shilpa will come out of this programme very well and will gain a lot of public support for her stamina against these vulgar contestants. Shilpa has a good chance of winning this show and I hope she does win. It will be a just reward for her contribution to this television programme if Shilpa was to win and in any event she will be able to walk out with her head held high. I think the vulgar contestants will get booed big time from the eviction night audiences and that disapproval they will rightly deserve.

I agree with Respect MP and former Celebrity Big Brother contestant George Galloway, who said the insults are down to ignorance and jealously rather than overt racism.

He told radio station talkSPORT: "I would not myself say that it is primarily a racial dispute. I think it's more of a class thing than a race thing.

"I am appalled but not surprised at some of the ignorance and some of the boorishness from some of the participants.

"I think they hate this woman because she is beautiful, because she's classy, because she's haughty, because she speaks English better than they do."

And he claimed the public, spurred on by the media, had overreacted.

"I think people have reacted in too knee-jerk a way and I think a lot of these complaints are therefore misplaced," he added.

...Well said George Galloway.

Saturday, January 06, 2007

National Express coach crash

I read in my newspaper yesterday about the National Express coach crash. I read the story with great interest but this section made me wonder...

Last night National Express said its entire fleet of 12 double-decker coaches would be withdrawn from service immediately as a precaution. The vehicles will be given safety checks.

...why was this, I asked myself?

I know that all coaches in the UK have a safety check every 28 days and I have no doubts whatsoever about the safety of double decker coaches. These double deckers coaches are only 2ft taller than single decker coaches but look much bigger. I do not believe they are less safe than single decker coaches and maybe safer because they have an extra tag axle placing 2 extra tyres in contact with the road surface. Then the penny dropped, literally. National Express are facing aggressive competition on their market share in the Uk from Megabus . From the passengers point of view both operators provide a keenly priced service between major UK cities. National Express operate around 600 coaches with only 12 coaches being Neoplan Skyliner double deckers. The rest of the National Express fleet are single decker coaches. Megabus operate 50 Neoplan Skyliner double deckers plus some other types of double decker coach. The public will obviously be a little nervous about buying a coach ticket at the moment and if one operator withdraws all it's double decker coaches whilst the other only operates double decker coaches guess which company the nervous punter will choose? Make a statement to the waiting media about "its entire fleet of 12 double-decker coaches would be withdrawn from service immediately as a precaution. The vehicles will be given safety checks." and that statement plants the seeds of doubt in the potential passenger. I do not believe there are any safety issues with double decker coaches but that National Express are using this accident to gain a commercial advantage over their obvious competitor.

Another issue did not arise in my newspaper but I am sure it will in time. I believe that these coaches are fitted with CCTV with cameras recording not only the forward motion of the coach but the actions of all the passengers. I expect the Police will be using these images to prosecute the driver for causing death by dangerous driving. The Police can also fine any passenger £30 for failing to wear a seatbelt whilst seated. The real conflict will begin when the insurance companies throw out any claims from passengers who were not wearing a seatbelt. The ambulance chasers will not like it one bit but the CCTV makers website claims "Insurance claims - as the trend towards no win, no fee legal representation increases, so too has the incidence of trivial and spurious insurance claims. The transport industry is particularly prone and is costing the industry hundreds of thousands of pounds, mainly in out of court settlements. Apart from the cost of road accidents themselves, (in which front facing cameras help to provide valuable evidence of blame and therefore reduce insurance costs) false claims from passengers are increasing. One major bus company claims to have recovered the cost of installing CCTV on its fleet within 18 months simply through the elimination of spurious insurance claims."

Accidents will happen and many can be avoided. I do not believe that the deaths and injuries sustained would have happened had all the passengers been wearing their seatbelts. The photographs in the press of the coach show relatively little damage to the outside body of the coach. A broken mirror and windows should not lead to the death of 2 passengers and amputation of limbs.

Thursday, January 04, 2007

The Severn Bridge toll charges.

On the 1st January 2007 the Severn Bridge toll charges have increased by 4%. These are the toll charges payable by drivers using the M4 and M48 motorways coming into South Wales from England. These toll charges have increased for car drivers from £4.90 to £5.10 and coach/lorry drivers from £14.70 to £15.30 - an increase of 4%.

How can Severn River Crossing PLC justify these increases? It is scandalous and an abuse of a their monopoly. There is no other way for drivers to get into South Wales from the M4 and M48 motorways. Their costs cannot have risen 4% and any extra traffic brings enormous profits into the company without incurring additional running costs.

When I bought my home I took out a mortgage. OK, I bought a house and not a bridge but both just sit there in all weathers. My mortgage company does not increase my repayments by 4% because it is a new year. If my mortgage provider increased my repayments by 4% just because the calendar changed, I and most other borrowers would change their mortgage provider. My home has remained the same and so have the Severn Bridges.

These increases in toll charges are a disgrace and are not justified. It is simple profiteering and greed by a company that can exploit it's position on our road network. The costs of operating the bridges have not increased by 4% but the company is more than happy to bank the extra cash. Shame on the Severn River Crossing PLC.

I also notice that the speed camera van is in it's usual position before the M4 toll booths but it's fines will remain at £60 a go with no increase in their punishments.

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