UK’s Prevent strategy faces independent review

             By Muhammad Mussa <br> <br> LONDON (AA) - The government’s counter-terrorism strategy, Prevent, is to undergo an independent review after ministers agreed to address concerns about its impact on British Muslim communities across the U.K., Ben Wallace, the securities minister, announced Tuesday.</p>  <p>His announcement came after the government accepted an amendment to its counter-terrorism and border security bill. </p>  <p>“I have decided that the time is now right to initiate a review of Prevent. Communities across the country have got behind the policy and are contributing to it because they want, as we do, their own young people to be protected from grooming and exploitation by terrorists,” Wallace told Guardian newspaper. <br>

“Over the last two years the Home Office has built on the solid work of Prevent by releasing annual statistics. They clearly show that Prevent is not about singling out any particular group or ideology but is similar to other forms of safeguarding carried out every day by social workers, teachers and police” he added.

Wallace, however, queried critics of the strategy to “produce solid evidence of their allegations” while at the same time accusing them of using “distortion and spin” to change the meaning of Prevent.

Under the strategy institutions — from schools to hospitals and prisons — are to report those who they deem to be at risk of radicalization to authorities.

Human rights groups such as Amnesty International have long demaned an independent review, accusing Prevent of erroneously discriminating against Muslim communities and those who express legitimate criticism of the state.

Civil liberties and faith groups argue Prevent is an affront to the legitimate use of freedom of speech and expression and endangers vulnerable Muslim communities that are already exposed to a wide range of social and institutional discrimination.

The Muslim Council of Britain, the umbrella organization representing British Muslims and institutions, has been one such group that has consistently called out the strategy.

“The Muslim Council of Britain today welcomed the acceptance by government to launch an inquiry into the controversial Prevent strategy, which is part of the government’s counter-terrorism strategy” the group said in a statement.

“For far too long, the Prevent strategy has affected the lives of innocent families, been criticized for mainstreaming discrimination and lost the trust of communities around the UK” said Secretary-General Harun khan.

“This latest step is crucial for all those who have campaigned for an Independent Review of Prevent. Everyone committed to developing a truly effective strategy for tackling terrorism understands that it must be transparent, accountable and hold the trust of communities” he added.

European bank to invest about €1B in Turkey in 2019

By Gokhan Kurtaran

LONDON (AA) – The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) plans to invest €1 billion ($1.14 billion) in Turkey in 2019, a top official said.

In an exclusive interview with Anadolu Agency, Arvid Tuerkner, managing director of EBRD in Turkey, said: "2018 has been a challenging year, a year of geopolitical tensions, economic slowdown, dramatic currency depreciation, waning investor sentiment, but the EBRD maintained a strong commitment to the Turkish economy.

"The Bank invested €1 billion in 34 projects in Turkey in 2018….as for 2019 we aim to maintain the same level of investment…about a billion euros."

He added that the bank had also increased it's support for local currency financing in Turkey to a third of its total investment in the country.

"In a significant increase from €228.8 million in 2017, we extended the Turkish lira equivalent of €331 million in 13 transaction with Turkish companies last year," he added.

Tuerkner said that EBRD this year will particularly focus on export-driven industries and agriculture in Turkey.

He also praised Turkey’s strong economic fundamentals and young demographics.

“Despite the turbulence, Turkey’s strong fundamentals are still there. Its strategic geographical location is not only a boon for trade — the country’s great climate and culture also makes Turkey a wonderful tourist destination. I think the country has high expectations for tourism revival this year.”

World Bank top economist expects no recession in Turkey

              By Gokhan Kurtaran 

LONDON (AA) – The World Bank does not expect recession in Turkey, the bank's top economist said on Wednesday.

"We have looked at what happened when there is a sharp currency depreciation, so we have put together whole data base of years and countries, which depreciation was 30 percent or more than the previous year," Franziska Ohnsorge, manager of the World Bank's Development Economic Prospects Group, told Anadolu Agency.

"It is interesting, it does not necessarily cause recession," she said.

Ohnsorge said, “A sharp depreciation is something very different than a recession. Our forecast [for Turkey] is predicated on that."

"What we are forecasting is that Turkey does not differ that much from those other countries which had sharp depreciation over the 30-40 years," she stressed.

Ohnsorge noted that Turkey’s growth is expected to slow down this year predominantly on downside risks, and said: “We have seen a slow recovery. Recovery means 1.6 percent growth in 2019."

"This is in line with what happened in the countries with sharp depreciation. It is a huge data set. In the data set we have Turkey 2001 [financial crisis] as well," she underlined, adding: "But we take the average of all these past events in 30-40 years."

"Net exports will continue to be strong in Turkey. Even if the Euro area slows down a bit, depreciation [of the currency] has helped exports. We do expect Turkey's export growth to be strong," said Ohnsorge.

The World Bank expects Turkey to post 1.6 percent growth in 2019, 3.0 percent in 2020 and 4.2 percent in 2021, according to the latest Global Economic Prospects report released on Tuesday.

Turkey's exports hit an all-time high with $168.1 billion last year, according to the country's trade minister on Friday.

UK: Flights resume at Heathrow after drone disruption

                              By Ahmet Gurhan Kartal</p>  <p>LONDON (AA) - All flights have resumed at the U.K.’s busiest hub after a disruption that lasted around an hour Tuesday evening following reports of a drone sighting. </p>  <p>The Metropolitan Police said it was investigating the alleged drone sighting which led to outgoing flights from Heathrow Airport being temporarily grounded. </p>  <p>&quot;As a precautionary measure, we have stopped departures while we investigate,” Heathrow Airport said on Twitter before later resuming flights. </p>  <p>The closure affected only the north runway which departing planes were using, and it has since reopened, the airport later said. </p>  <p>The incident came in the wake of last month’s disruption at another London gateway, Gatwick Airport. </p>  <p>Gatwick was reopened after a 36-hour halt in operations due to drones spotted over the runway, but disruptions caused hundreds of flights cancelled, delayed, or redirected to other airports. </p>  <p>Transport Secretary Chris Grayling said he has spoken to the home and defense secretaries and that the military is &quot;preparing to deploy equipment used at Gatwick should it prove necessary.&quot; </p>  <p>Last month military personnel and equipment were used to tackle the drones at Gatwick, which had disrupted all flights.

UK Turks, NGOs hold fundraising event for Yemen

             By Ahmet Gurhan Kartal </p>  <p>LONDON (AA) - Humanitarian aid for people of Yemen “must increasingly continue”, Turkish Red Crescent (Kizilay) president said Sunday during a fundraising event organized by Turks living in the U.K.

Speaking to Anadolu Agency at the Help Yemen Now event jointly organized by the Union of International Democrats (UID) and eight non-governmental organizations, Kerem Kinik said Yemen has had a deepening crisis since 2015.

"There is a serious political crisis [in Yemen] and a humanitarian crisis caused by it," Kinik said.

He said: "Aid can be shipped through various channels. Kizilay runs these operations via its permanent delegation in Aden. Last year, we delivered nearly 13,000 tons of food to almost all regions in Yemen."

Kinik said delivering aid to Sana’a and its surrounding region became easier thanks to a UN-brokered deal for access to the Hudaydah port and asserted that Kizilay now helps almost 1,000 families every month.

Kinik said: "17-18 million people, including 400,000 children, are in need of humanitarian aid and if they cannot receive this aid, they may die."

He added: "There is a cholera epidemic as well as other diseases. We have shipped 60 tons of cholera medicine and established two desert hospitals with our Health Ministry. The aid needs to continue increasingly."

Also attending the event, Turkey’s ruling Justice and Development (AK) Party Foreign Relations Deputy Chairman Burhan Kayaturk dubbed Yemen a “bleeding wound.”

He underlined that the UN described the crisis in Yemen as “the greatest problem caused by humans for other humans.”

Kayaturk said Turkey does its part with its agencies such as Kizilay, the Turkish Cooperation and Coordination Agency (TIKA) and Disaster and Emergency Management Authority (AFAD) and delivers aid to Yemen, adding that President Recep Tayyip Erdogan always raises the Yemen issue during his visits abroad.

He said Iran and the Gulf countries are deepening the crisis in Yemen by using various groups, but “the correct way should be found between those two mistakes.”

“We need to create a medium where Yemen’s people could solve their own problems ,” Kayaturk added.

The UID’s London branch chair Erdal Yetimova told Anadolu Agency that the aid and funds collected by eight NGOs will be delivered to Yemen by the Turkish Red Crescent.

Umit Yalcin, the Turkish Ambassador to London, and journalist Lauren Booth were among many guests at the event.

London hosts biggest Palestine festival of 2018

By Muhammad Mussa

LONDON (AA) – London has played host to the biggest Palestine festival of 2018 with over 3,000 guests attending and a variety of shows, exhibitions and stalls showcasing Palestinian art, culture and history.

The event, hosted by The Biggest Palestine Festival group, is held over a period of two days every year in an exhibition centre that holds up to 30 stalls as well as hosting musical performances, conferences, lectures and an array of art exhibitions.

"Palestine has become synonymous with politics and conflict and whenever you see Palestine being mentioned on the news, it is solely about its conflict with Israel and the illegal occupation taking place on its lands” said Sasha, a 23-year-old postgraduate student who is half Palestinian.

"This festival shows that Palestine and its people are much more than that. Palestine has an incredibly rich culture and history, one that is celebrated and cherished, not only by its people, but also by many who aren’t Palestinian and that we will not be defined by this terrible conflict and we will not allow the zionist oppression and occupation to bring us down” she added.

Among the many activities taking place, attendees enjoyed tasting and experiencing traditional Palestinian food such as Falafel, Kunafe, Humous and Foul and listened to a variety of Palestinian music and dance such as the famed Dabkah dance by the Yasmin al-Sham group and Palestinian hip hop and rap by the Rap for Palestine group.

The event also featured poets and spoken word artists who humbled audiences by giving elaborate and emotive descriptions of the daily oppression face by millions of Palestinians in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank.

Artists such as Zakaria Haj Khalil, Yahya Hawwa, Rami El Hindi and Omar Al Saeidi were able to catch the attention of hundreds of people and demonstrate the variety of the Palestinian music, poetry and spoken word.

"This is the strongest weapon that we as Palestinians have," said Omar, an attendee from Luton. "Our culture and history will outlive the political parties, the politicians and political movements, so long as Palestinians remember their culture and history, Israel will never be able to defeat us".

Among the many conferences that were held, one in particular was called the "British Palestinians’ Conference" and hosted a panel of human rights and political activists and professors from a number of British universities.

Rather than discuss the current political state of Palestine, a discussion that is routinely held in such events, the conference focused on the arts and culture scene coming out of Palestine and how Palestinian youth are making their voices being heard through art, fashion and poetry.

"The youth of Palestine are finding new ways to resist the occupation," said Laila, a 22 year old activist. "By enhancing and promoting Palestinian culture and art, the youth are saying to the zionist forces ‘we have a weapon stronger than the whole of your army and one that you will not be able to destroy with your bullets and bombs!’".

The event will run until Sunday the 16th and will be open to all guests free of charge.

Foreign policy panel on Turkey held in London

          By Davut Demircan <br>

LONDON (AA) – A panel discussion titled “Turkey in a Changing Middle East” was held Wednesday in London.

The event is the fourth in the “Today’s Turkey” panel discussion series and is organized by the Turkish Presidency’s Directorate of Communications.

Held at the Naval and Military Club, the panel was moderated by Olga Maitland, president of the London-based Defense and Security Forum.

Among the speakers were Presidential Chief Advisor Professor Gulnur Aybet, Associate Professor Hasan Basri Yalcin of Istanbul Commerce University and Claire Spencer, senior consulting fellow at Chatham House.

The first event in the “Today’s Turkey” panel discussion series was held in New York in September ahead of a UN Security Council meeting while the second one was held in Berlin during a visit to the city by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

The third panel discussion was held under the theme “World is Bigger Than Five” in Buenos Aires, Argentina ahead of the G20 summit there in November.

Erdogan has long advocated reforming the structure of the UN Security Council using the motto: "The world is bigger than five," noting that the Security Council currently serves the interests of five permanent members holding veto rights – the U.S., Russia, China, France and the UK.

UK: Parliamentary group defines Islamophobia

By Muhammad Mussa

LONDON (AA) – A parliamentary group on British Muslims has published a report outlining the definition of Islamophobia which has been endorsed by MPs, community activists and inter-faith organizations.

The report co-autored by MPs Dominic Grieve, Anna Soubry and Wes Streeting was published on Tuesday in an event at the House of Lords.

The reports says: “Islamophobia is rooted in racism and is a type of racism that targets expressions of Muslimness or perceived Muslimness.”

The group launched a project in April to define Islamophobia in a way acceptable to all British Muslim communities and one that could “operate across governmental, public, community and private sector organizations”.

During data gathering, members collected accounts of many Islamophobic experiences faced by Muslims.

They included a fire cracker thrown in a family's letter box forcing them to move out, verbal abuse of young Muslim girls for wearing hijab and a Muslim who was spat at and had an egg thrown at.

The report highlights that there has been no attempt made by the government to adopt a definition of Islamophobia despite its recognition of the negative impact on British Muslim communities.

“The detectable shift from overt to subtler or respectable, manifestations of Islamophobia — the normalization of the prejudice to the extent it is rendered almost invisible to many — warrants a definition that can arrest and reverse its present trajectory,” the report added.

In a separate article written in the Independent, Soubry said: “Islamophobia is a form of racism — like antisemitism it’s time it got its own definition”.

“It has become so normalized in our society yet we struggle to define it,” she added.

The report also gives in-depth analysis on how Muslims living in the U.K. strongly identify themselves as being British, show loyalty to the U.K., and believe that Islam and its way of life is compatible to British values and way of life.

The All Party Parliamentary Group on British Muslims was founded in 2017 and co-chaired by Soubry and Streeting.

In recent years there has been a significant increase in anti-Muslim hate crime in the U.K. with 2017 having a record number of Islamophobic attacks. Tell Mama, a multi-faith monitoring group, recorded over 1,200 reports of Islamophobic incidents, a 26-percent surge from the previous year.

Brexit: British youth lobby MPs for second referendum

By Muhammad Mussa

LONDON (AA) – Students and young people from across the U.K. on Tuesday travelled to London to lobby their MPs in parliament to support a second referendum or, as it is popularly known, a People’s Vote.

The event was organized by the anti-Brexit and youth-led Our Future Our Choice movement and saw over 100 students and young people travel to Westminster to demonstrate and request a meeting with their MP.

The demonstration began outside the Palace of Westminster before moving on to Victoria Tower Gardens, where an anti-Brexit campaign bus with the slogan “77% of us don’t want Brexit please stand for our future” signed by MPs and citizens alike stood parked.

Addressing the gathering, Femi Oluwole, the founder of Our Future Our Choice, said: “We are about to go to the parliament and take over the lobby because what are young people demanding?” The crowd shouted back: “A people’s vote!”

Olly, a student at the University of Edinburgh in Scotland, said: “We are the future generation of this country and it is unacceptable that we will have to face the consequences of a decision made by a generation that will not be here in the next 10 to 20 years.”

“It is a decision that we had no say in and it is one that we do not support,” he added.

As well as demonstrating, the students and youth went into parliament and requested to speak to their local MPs to lobby them to support a second referendum.

Among the few MPs who agreed to speak to their young constituents was Jacob Rees-Mogg, the head of the anti-EU and right-wing European Research Group, which is currently pushing for a vote of no confidence in Prime Minister Theresa May.

“I believe that the nation have already had a people’s vote and that they have made their decision,” Rees-Mogg said when asked about a second referendum.

Other MPs who engaged with their constituents were Caroline Lucas, head of the Green Party, Nigel Dodds, head of the DUP in parliament, and Keir Starmer, the Shadow Brexit minister of the Labour Party.

A recent YouGov poll commissioned by the pro-EU Best For Britain and Hope Not Hate showed that more than 100 constituencies that voted to leave the EU have now switched to supporting to remaining in the EU. Among these constituencies are those of Rees-Mogg, former Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson, and the prime minister herself.

May finalized her Brexit withdrawal agreement on Nov. 13, but has faced mass criticism from within her party and the opposition Labour Party, with two of her Cabinet ministers resigning in protest.

The Brexit deal’s fate is unclear, as the Democratic Unionist Party, the party that May needs to get her legislation through parliament, has repeatedly stated that they will vote against her deal as will other parties within parliament.

On Sunday, the remaining 27 EU member states endorsed May’s Brexit deal and have said that this is the only deal that will work for Britain.

'Jamal Khashoggi deserves a dignified burial'

By Ahmet Gurhan Kartal

LONDON (AA) – Slain journalist Jamal Khashoggi deserves a “dignified burial,” so “please hand over his body,” Daud Abdullah, the director of Middle East Monitor, is pleading Saudi authorities.

Abdullah spoke to Anadolu Agency before a memorial event in London to remember Khashoggi, organized by not-for-profit press monitoring organization Middle East Monitor and the Al Sharq Forum, an independent pro-democracy, non-partisan, non-profit think-tank focusing on the greater Mideast.

He said the gathering Monday was organized to recognize Khashoggi’s achievements as a journalist and internationalist.

“In the latter years of his life he was based in Washington at the Washington Post,” Abdullah said, adding that this gave him a platform to cast his message far and wide.

Abdullah said Khashoggi spread his message of “equality for justice and freedom.”

Underlining how Saudi authority admitted that Khashoggi was killed in their Istanbul Consulate after weeks of denial, he urged them to hand over the journalist’s body.

“We have just one message [for the Saudis]: We plead in the name of the God, for God’s sake, hand over the body!”

“He is entitled to have a dignified burial,” he added.

However, he added, the case will not be closed until those responsible for the murder are held accountable.

-‘No ordinary crime’

Galip Dalay, research director of the Al Sharq Forum, thinks Khashoggi was no victim of an ordinary crime.

Also speaking to Anadolu Agency, Dalay said the last two events the Saudi journalist attended were organized late last month by the Al Sharq Forum in Istanbul and Middle East Monitor in London — the latter just four days before his death — and this is why the two organizations are hosting the memorial event.

“Jamal was not killed in a petty criminal activity,” he said.

Khashoggi was killed in a “premeditated” action ordered by top-level authorities in Saudi Arabia, Dalay said.

“All the findings… are pointing to [Crown Prince] Mohammed bin Salman; in one way or another, [they] link the case to Mohammed bin Salman.”

Dalay said merely prosecuting those who killed Khashoggi will not satisfy justice.

He said: “Who gave the order? What was the network? Who was involved in this case from the political level?

“They should also be brought to justice,” he said, adding that this should pave the way to a “universal jurisdiction” regarding the killing.

Khashoggi’s journalist friends, human rights activists, politicians, and academics joined the memorial service held in central London.

The meeting saw an emotional speech from Khashoggi’s fiancée Hatice Cengiz, who got an ovation lasting minutes.

The event, titled “Remembering Jamal,” also featured speeches by Abdullah, Conservative MP Crispin Blunt, and some prominent journalists.

Khashoggi, a Saudi journalist and columnist for The Washington Post, went missing after entering the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul on Oct. 2.

After weeks of denying any knowledge of his whereabouts, on Oct. 19 Saudi officials admitted that Khashoggi had died inside the consulate building.

Turkish police have been investigating the case, and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has said 18 people arrested in Saudi Arabia over the killing should be sent to Turkey to face trial.