Every cloud has a silver lining – looking on the bright side in Yemen

Made-in-the-USA missiles bring some benefits to Yemen’s economy

Yemeni smiths beat missiles into knives for half price of Turkish steel (but maybe Turkey won’t be so happy)

Sometimes, the raw material of Ali Ghomari’s work comes screaming from the sky.

Missiles fired by Saudi-led coalition jets rain down on militiamen and civilians alike, killing and maiming thousands. Children, farmers and others collect shrapnel from their farmlands, from dirt alleys in impoverished neighborhoods, and offer it for sale to Ghomari and other artisans.

yemeni dagger

Dagger crafted from missile fragment

From missiles, they do not make ploughshares. They make knives – jambiyya, the ornamental daggers Yemeni men wear for prestige and as a show of courage.

Once, they were made of imported steel, but high prices have forced craftsmen to use the refuse of war. One kilogram of fragment steel costs about 500 rials (less than $1), half the price of Turkish steel.

Ghomari, who is in his 50s, said he learned his craft from his father, who inherited the skill from his ancestors. The entire Ghomari family of seven households works as blacksmiths in the northern city of Abs; they sit in huts constructed of cinderblocks or tree branches, forging glowing metal around open fires.

missile strikes 2

Searching for missile fragments amongst the rubble

Ghomari said knives were once a profitable business. But the father of six lamented that the market has weakened as the war-ravaged economy has tanked, and fewer men have extra money to pay for jambiyya.

When he has the money, Ghomari sometimes buys the remains of trucks and cars destroyed in wrecks, bombings or airstrikes.

“Trucks make the best dagger because the steel is strong and special,” he said.

The daggers have curved blades and are a part of traditional Yemeni attire – slipped into a decorated, hook-shaped sheath and tucked in vertically at the center of ornate belts if men are wearing robes, or placed in the top of a maawaz, a wrap-around male skirt. The blade is made of steel and the stronger the steel the more expensive the dagger. The shape of the hilt often refers to the city, region or tribe of the person carrying it, and the price also depends on whether the hilt is made of wood, buffalo horn or rhinoceros horn.

missile strike 3

Oh good! Another missile strike! Now we can make more daggers!

The more expensive the dagger, the more elevated the status of the man who wears it. Prices for new daggers range from $100 to $150. Old ones inherited from ancestors might be worth hundreds of thousands of dollars.

The war between Yemen’s government and the Iran-backed Shiite Houthi rebels has been going on for nearly four years. The Saudi-led coalition of Sunni countries supported by the United States joined the fray in March 2015, launching a relentless air campaign with an arsenal made up mostly of U.S.-made missiles and other weaponry, providing plenty of metal for Ghomari and his family.

This is nothing new. During Yemen’s 1962-1970 civil war, Egypt and Saudi Arabia backed opposite sides. Ghomari’s father used Egyptian tank treads, artillery shells and rockets to make knives.

Today, Ghomari points to the anvil on which he beats missiles into daggers.

It is an empty mortar shell – from the 1960s.


Who’s helping the refugees? Only Turkey?

The MV Aquarius 2 is a 1977-built research vessel. It has been chartered and operated since February 2016 by the NGOs SOS Méditerranée and Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF or Doctors without Borders) as a rescue vessel for migrants and refugees making the Mediterranean crossing in makeshift craft from Libya to Italy as part of the European migrant crisis.

Aquarius refugee shipThe operating groups were obliged to register the ship in Gibraltar and then Panama, one assumes because no European countries would accept it. Now it seems, in spite of accepting on to their books every kind of dodgy oil tanker and decrepit, unseaworthy rust-bucket crewed by seamen from the Third World, even those two puppet states of Western corporate interests have cancelled Aquarius’s registration.

Turkish Red Crescent calls for protection of migrant ship Aquarius

Turkish Red Crescent President Kerem Kınık on Oct. 6 called for the protection of rescue ship Aquarius.

The Aquarius, operated by the SOS Mediterranee and Doctors Without Borders (MSF), saves migrant lives in the Mediterranean Sea. It has faced a blockade for the second time.

The ship was de-flagged first by Gibraltar and recently Panama.

Kınık, who is also vice president of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC), said in a statement that Aquarius “may continue its activities under the Turkish ensign.”

“We propose that Aquarius resumes its activities with the Turkish ensign. I believe our country, hosting today more than 4 million refugees will be an important part of a solution to this issue,” he said.

mediterranean-refugees-migrant-offshore-aid-station-moas-11465295706“Turkish Red Crescent has taken an initiative to support the Aquarius to continue sailing. The support tis needed to save more lives among those fleeing their countries and at risk of death while crossing the Mediterranean,” the statement added.

According to the statement Aquarius has been rescuing migrant lives in the Mediterranean Sea for the last three years.

It has saved 29,523 lives in the Mediterranean, a migration route for those seeking asylum in Europe.


According to Wikipedia: [The Aquarius] was flagged under the flag of convenience of Gibraltar since February 2018. On 6 August 2018 the Gibraltar Maritime Administration issued a “notice of removal” for the Aquarius, because she was registered as a survey vessel, but used as a rescue ship. As a result, the ship was warned that she would be removed from Gibraltar registry.

refugeesOn 27 August 2018 the ship arrived in Marseille and its operator MSF announced, that the owner has applied for a registration of the vessel in another flag of convenience Panama on 20 August. However, on 22 September 2018 the maritime authority of Panama announced that it had initiated the procedures to remove the Aquarius (now renamed Aquarius 2) from its registry, quoting violations of international law in respect to migrants, rescue at sea and refusing to carry the migrants back to the area where they originated. The government of Panama had been informed by Italy and other sources that the Aquarius did not follow international legal proceedings concerning the transport of migrants, so it was decided to initiate the process to remove Aquarius 2 from Panama’s ship registry. Specifically, Aquarius has been accused of not returning the rescued migrants to Libya. As of that date the Aquarius was seeking a port to disembark the migrants, after having refused an earlier order from to transfer them from the Libyan coast guard.


According to Al Jazeera: The EU has to recognise that its war adventures caused the refugee crisis and start working on a real solution.

Co-ed schools to be banned in Turkey?

The government of Turkey, and in particular, its president, are frequently lambasted by opponents, at home and abroad, for being Islamic-based, authoritarian and dictatorial – so much so the accusations have become boring, even laughable to anyone with a knowledge of the wider world.

bush prayers

Don’t waste your breath, mate – you’re going straight to Hell!

Islamic-based? Ninety-eight percent of Turkey’s population identify as Muslims in some form or another so it’s hardly surprising that a democratically-elected government would reflect this demographic. Who accuses United States’ administrations of being Christianic-based? It’s expected. All presidents kow-tow to the Pope of Rome, and the Big DT is currently risking the very fabric of NATO in defence of an evangelical “missionary”! Britain’s Tony Blair flew into the bosom of the Roman Catholic church as soon as he stopped being Prime Minister! Is there a double-standard here?

The AK Party government and the president have, since Day One, been accused of working to a hidden Islamic agenda. Cited as evidence are: relaxation of the ban on women wearing head-scarves; restrictions on the sale and consumption of alcohol; and the latest move to lift the ban on single-sex education.


Coming out of the closet!

Well, first of all, this government has held the reins of government in Turkey since 2003 – fifteen years! If they really planned to lead the country into a black night of Shariah fundamentalism, they are showing remarkable patience and stealth! Overtly religious parties contested elections for years in Turkey without ever collecting more than 20% of the vote. AK Party won and held the right to govern alone by virtue of appealing to a broad base of the electorate – something the so-called secular Kemalist parties had never managed to do. I might add that Turkey’s proportional representation electoral system is far more democratic and reflective of popular feeling than the systems in either Britain or the United States.

But what about alcohol, you ask. Aren’t they trying to ban it? Well, they are the government. If they wanted to ban it, they could and would, I guess. But they haven’t yet, in all those fifteen years. On the contrary, the range and variety of local and imported beers, wines and spirits available for purchase in bars, cafes, supermarkets and off-licences have expanded out of sight in those fifteen years. Revellers gather and imbibe freely in entertainment districts all over Istanbul and holiday resorts (and no doubt elsewhere, for all I know) – even in the holy fasting month of Ramazan! Picnickers lounge and socialise in parks along the Marmara coast, sipping their chardonnay etc without attracting the attention of any prohiibitionist authorities.

no alcoholI must admit to being uncomfortable with the level of tax imposed on alcoholic beverages. There is a danger that, if drinks become too expensive for ordinary people, they may resort to manufacturing and consuming dangerous homemade products. But that’s another matter. It seems to be a worldwide trend to tax alcohol and tobacco products to finance health care services for the associated problems – nothing to do with religion.

And on the same theme, on a recent visit to Melbourne at the time of the Australian Open Tennis Tournament, I joined the crowd in Federation Square to watch action on the giant screen, and sip a cold beer in the summer heat, you might think . . . But no! Uniformed security guards were patrolling to ensure that the ban on alcohol was strictly enforced . . . in Australia!

OK, but what about this education business? Are they going to force kids to learn in gender-segregated schools? Surely that’s an infringement of civil liberties? At one time, many schools in Turkey, state and private, were gender-segregated. I don’t know which government changed that – but whoever it was, they removed an element of choice that many families consider important – and not just for religious reasons.


Auckland’s most popular school – Not as Christianic as it used to be, but still not a girl in sight

As I understand the government’s proposal, the intention is to return to a situation where families have the option of choosing to send their children to a school offering single-sex education – as they do in Britain, Australia and New Zealand, and other countries where civil liberties are allegedly respected. I myself spent my five years of secondary schooling in a boys-only school, returning fifteen years later as a teacher. That school is one of NZ’s most popular and successful. Property prices in its zone are astronomical, and a place on its out-of-zone allocation is hotly contested. Not everyone in NZ loves it, but that too is another matter.

Meanwhile, another “journalist” has been arrested in Turkey. According to Hürriyet Daily News:

Turkish authorities have arrested an Austrian journalist and activist on suspicion of a terrorism-related offence, the leftwing website where he works said on Sept. 11.

Re:volt, which describes itself as a “radical left-wing” online magazine, said Max Zirngast had been arrested at his apartment in the Turkish capital Ankara on the morning of Sept. 11.


Come into my arms, you old child molester you!

“We condemn this arrest in the strongest terms of course and call for his immediate release,” Re:volt said by email, confirming a statement on the arrest from rights group Reporters Without Borders. “Our writer, who has lived in Turkey for many years, is a passionate leftist activist and author who campaigns for freedom and democracy,” the German-language publication added.

“We expect Turkey to immediately explain what the journalist is accused of, and if that is not possible then to immediately release him,” Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz told reporters before a weekly cabinet meeting. Kurz’s government, a coalition of his conservatives and the anti-immigration Freedom Party, is opposed to Turkey joining the European Union and has called for accession talks to be broken off.

Well, it’s nice to see that “conservative, anti-immigration” Austrian government supporting a “radical left-wing” magazine and “passionate leftist activist reporter”. Strange bedfellows indeed. I’ve always felt that, when you’re attacked by extremists on the right and the left, your political position is probably well balanced.