Azerbaijan increases crackdown on human rights activists

Azerbaijan has increasingly been criticized for its massive crackdown on human rights activists by international organisations and NGOs. On 19 August, the United Nations issued a report condemning their prosecution, underlining that the “criminalization of rights activists must stop.” The report came as the list of political prisoners was revealed and an Azerbaijani Court presided over an appeal trial of a young activist on August 20, in a case denounced as “politically motivated” by his followers.

Tunisian Nidaa Tounes party fails to achieve gender parity in run-up to elections

Tunisia has recently taken the lead in favour of gender parity in the Arab world. Equality between men and women in politics became constitutionally guaranteed in January 2014 when the National Constituent Assembly (NCA) approved the state’s new charter. On 20 August Hafedh Caid el-Sebsi, the son of the Nidaa Tounes party’s founder Beji Caid el-Sebsi, announced he would resign as head of list for the Tunis 1 governorate in the upcoming elections in favour of a woman. Nevertheless, the party, which represents the country’s largest opposition bloc, has in total included only two women has head of its electoral lists for the October 26 legislative elections.

Turkey feels no “unease” about Kurdish arming in Iraq despite independence claims

Western countries have increasingly pinned high hopes on the Peshmerga, Iraq’s Kurdish militia, to fight against the Islamic State (IS) and prevent it from taking control of more territory. In order to counter their lack of equipment, they have decided to ship Kurds modern weaponry. This decision could have great implications on the military balance of the Middle East, especially for their neighbouring country Turkey, which has been in an armed conflict for thirty years with various Kurdish insurgent groups, including the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).

Kremlin most active at empty Federalization-Rally Siberia

This Sunday, August 17th, only a handful people showed up at the Siberian independence march, or “Federalization-rally” in Novosibirsk, Russia’s third largest city, capitol of Siberia. And it might look like the Kremlin itself appeared to be its most active participant through its vigorous hunt on media-coverage leading up to the event. What was this “federalization-rally” all about? And why would the Kremlin be so actively engaged to keep it quiet?

Ukrainian crisis talks in Berlin : progress made but no ceasefire

An emergency summit was held on Sunday August 17th between Foreign Ministers of Ukraine, Russia, France and Germany in Berlin. It was the second round of talks over the Ukrainian crisis after the last summit that was held on April 17th in Geneva. Although progress emerged about the Russian humanitarian convoy’s entry on Ukrainian territory, Sergei Lavrov, Pavel Klimkin, Frank-Walter Steinmeier and Laurent Fabius did not reach any agreement concerning an exit from the current crisis between the two countries.

Kosovo and BiH struggle to block outflow of Islamic warriors

Balkan countries have undergone an upsurge in the number of its citizens joining the ranks of the Islamic State (IS) in recent months. Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH) and Kosovo are in the front line of the phenomenon after several of their compatriots either died in Iraq or were arrested on their way to jihad. These events underline the reticular organisation of the Islamic State, which attracts more and more European Muslims to join the fight for the caliphate.

Situation in Ukraine worsens as Russian convoy moves towards frontier

The crisis in Ukraine has entered its sixth month in August. From a national opposition between Ukrainian supporters of the country’s integration to the EU’s Eastern Partnership and followers of the Russian-led Eurasian Economic Union, the crisis has gradually moved into a international political deadlock between Western states and Russia. While diplomatic sanctions escalate from both sides, the number of civilian casualties has increased dramatically in the last weeks. The convoy sent yesterday from Russia to Ukraine, officially to answer the current humanitarian crisis in the region, is suspected by the West of hiding an aggression. At the same time, the Parliament in Kiev drafted a law aiming at censoring media coverage on August 12th, sharpening the communication war between both parts.

Serbian foreign policy increasingly under strain; strict control on EU goods re-exportation to Russia

Recent American and European sanctions against Russia have put Serbia’s foreign policy under strain. After most European Union countries’ foodstuffs were prevented from entering the Russian market on August 7th, non-member states have seized the opportunity to increase their own exports towards the Russian territory. It is notably the case of Serbia after Belgrade announced on August 12th the creation of a Coordination Center which should reinforce its control over groceries’ transit from Europe to Russia. It will also aim at cracking down on countries trying to bypass the Russian ban through repackaging their goods in Serbia. This strategy could weaken its move towards the European Union.

Two secular coalitions created in Egypt in the run-up to elections

Two electoral coalitions have been formed on August 10th by secular political parties of Egypt. They gather eleven different parties in total, divided between the Wafd-led “Wafd Alliance” and the National Democratic Party-led “Egyptian Front”. The move came following the withdrawal of Amr Moussa, chairman of the constitutional committee that drafted Egypt’s new constitution last January, from the Alliance of the Egyptian Nation – a bloc of liberal and leftists political forces – he failed to reunite. The recent split comes at the same time as the dissolution of the Muslim Brotherhood party on August 9th. Both events underline the lack of unity between leftist political forces, as well as limited political freedom in the country.

Russia’s laws prevent posting about Amsterdam’s Canal Parade 2014

Yes, Putin really did leave Amsterdam in 2013 after visiting the Dutch-Russian year of friendship. But some of his influence might not have left. While Dutch visitors and many other EU-tourists might think little about any consequences of posting selfies of themselves dancing, with in the background a boat on which Conchita is surrounded by rainbow flags and cheering people. For Russian visitors of the Canal parade 2014 in Amsterdam though, this might be very, very different.

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