Egypt Independent: World-Main news en Turkey's remaining Assyrian Christians dream of better times <img src="" alt="" title="" class="imagecache imagecache-media_thumbnail" width="152" height="114" /><p>In a small village in the southeast of Turkey stand two Assyrian churches, one a thousand years old, the other modern, signs of both the region&#39;s Christian past and the determination of those who remain to bring it to life again.</p><p>Seyde Bozdemir was born in the village of Elbegendi in Turkey&#39;s southeastern province of Mardin. Like many of its inhabitants she decided to leave, in her case to Germany. But now she is determined to return.</p><p>&quot;Here is our home. It is here that we want to finish our lives and be buried,&quot; said Seyde on a visit back to her home village.</p><p>&quot;In the 1980s, we left without a way back. It had become very difficult, almost impossible. But when we dream, we still dream of here. It is for this that we want to live here.&quot;</p><p>The Christian Assyrian community in Turkey, which now numbers no more than a few thousand, has been hit by wave after wave of emigration since the foundation of the modern Turkish state in 1923 out of the ruins of the multi-ethnic Ottoman Empire.</p><p>But hope has not been lost that there will be a presence in the future, with some expecting a small boost from the first visit of Pope Francis to Turkey, which begins on Friday.</p><p>The mayor of Elbegendi returned to the land of his childhood after 23 years in Switzerland.</p><p>Aziz Demir still remembers the worst years of the conflict between the army and the separatist Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) in the late 1980s, which turned the settlement into a phantom village.</p><p>&quot;In the daytime, the army was in the streets, in the night it was the PKK,&quot; he said.</p><p>&quot;During this period, 50 to 60 Christians were assassinated in the region. We wanted to stay neutral but it was not possible. We left.&quot;</p><p>&quot;But now we want to return. To protect our religion and our culture.&quot;</p><p>He is expecting great things of the visit of Pope Francis. &quot;The Vatican has to act. The Christians of the east were always sacrificed. They should be able to live on their own lands at last.&quot;</p><p><strong>&nbsp;&#39;Keeping our culture alive&#39;&nbsp;</strong></p><p>These last years, 17 new houses have been built in Elbegendi to host the handful of families who, like him, have returned to their origins.</p><p>And others are ready to join them, if the current peace talks between Ankara and the PKK end a 30-year insurgency.</p><p>The exodus of Christians from Turkey began with the notorious population exchanges with Greece in 1923 under which they -- like most of Greece&#39;s Muslims -- were sent across the border to make the two new states viable.</p><p>The trend accelerated again with the civil unrest of the 1950s and the Turkish invasion of Greek Orthodox-majority Cyprus in 1974.</p><p>In recent years, the Kurdish conflict and the economic crises of the 1990s prompted many of those who had defied hardship to remain, to pack their bags.</p><p>Now no more than 80,000 members of various Christian communities -- including Armenians, Assyrians, Catholics, Chaldeans and Greek Orthodox -- are estimated to live in Turkey, a country of some 75 million Muslims.</p><p>Of these less than 20,000 are Assyrians, a Semitic people speaking one of the world&#39;s oldest languages who in Turkey largely adhere either to the Syriac Orthodox Church or the Chaldean Catholic Church.</p><p>The Syriac Orthodox Church proudly traces its origins back to the early period of the Byzantine Empire in 450 AD.</p><p>The Chaldeans -- by far the smaller of the two Assyrian communities in Turkey -- acknowledge the pope as head of the church after a schism in the 16th century.</p><p>Chaldean Christian Adnan Saglamoglu, a jeweller, has decided to stay in the provincial capital of Mardin, where, he admits, he sometimes feels a little alone.</p><p>&quot;There are no more than four families in our community,&quot; he said.</p><p>&quot;Without the help of those living abroad, we would already have disappeared. But we are trying to keep our culture alive,&quot; he said, proudly opening the door of a church in the city centre.</p><p>He said he can feel tensions climb &quot;each time something happens to a Muslim&quot; but insists he does not feel threatened and can practise his faith freely.</p><p><strong><span style="font-size: 1em; line-height: 1.5em;">&#39;Give us back our history&#39;</span></strong></p><p>The ruling Islamic-rooted Justice and Development Party (AKP) co-founded by President Recep Tayyip Erdogan makes much of being a defender of all religions.</p><p>But Christian communities still have no legal status as official minorities. Like the Armenians, they also want official recognition of the scale of the slaughter their community was subjected to at the hands of the Ottoman security forces from 1915.</p><p>&quot;Today we still cannot build a church in Turkey, its shameful,&quot; said Ayhan Gurkan, who gives -- unofficial -- religious courses in a small church.</p><p>&quot;We want to be able to teach in our mother tongue and that all our assets, lands, churches and monasteries are returned to us. We want to be full citizens and for our history to be returned to us.&quot;</p><p>The Syriac church in Mardin, which dates back to the third century, has been entirely restored at a cost of around one million Turkish lira ($450,000).</p><p>&quot;We survive thanks to the money our community has gathered,&quot; says its priest Gabriel Aktas. &quot;We receive no aid from the Turkish state or European funding,&quot; he said.</p><p>&quot;But as we neither have enough worshippers or priests we organise mass every Sunday in a different church. Then we provide religious teaching. It is not official but the Turkish authorities let us do this,&quot; he said.</p> Wed, 26 Nov 2014 13:43:00 +0000 AFP 2440520 at sites/default/files/photo/2014/11/26/499612/assyrian_christians.jpg Female suicide bombers kill at least 44 in Nigeria's northeast <img src="" alt="" title="" class="imagecache imagecache-media_thumbnail" width="152" height="114" /><p>Two female suicide bombers killed at least 44 people on Tuesday in Nigeria&#39;s northeastern city of Maiduguri, at the heart of a militant Islamist insurgency, medical officials said.</p><p>Four witnesses told Reuters near the scene a woman had entered the roadside trading area behind the city&#39;s main market before blowing herself up.</p><p>&quot;While the people were trying to help the injured, the second bomb blasted,&quot; witness Sani Adamu told Reuters. &quot;I saw lots of bodies.&quot;</p><p>A nurse at Maiduguri General Hospital said 42 bodies had been received from the twin blasts. In the Maiduguri University teaching hospital in a different part of town, a staff member said two of a dozen wounded brought there for treatment had so far died.</p><p>Nigerian authorities did not respond to requests for comment. There was no claim of responsibility, but suspicion is likely to fall on violent Islamist group Boko Haram, whose five-year-old campaign for an Islamic state has killed thousands.</p><p>The group has increasingly used female suicide bombers.</p><p>In June, there were four attacks by female bombers in the largely Muslim north, including one targeting a school in Kano, the region&#39;s biggest city. A woman blew herself up at a teacher training college in Nigeria&#39;s central Niger state on Nov. 12, killing at least one other person.</p><p>Boko Haram has stepped up assaults in the northeast of Nigeria, showing it remains the biggest security threat to Africa&#39;s biggest economy and top oil producer.</p><p><strong>Territory</strong></p><p>It has been trying to seize and hold on to territory with the apparent aim of carving a de facto Islamic state out of religiously-mixed Nigeria.</p><p>Boko Haram fighters seized control of remote Damasak town, around 180 km (110 miles) north of Maiduguri, on Monday. Residents said on Tuesday that Boko Haram fighters remained in control of the town.</p><p>Instability has spilled over into Nigeria&#39;s neighbours. A senior official at Cameroon&#39;s education ministry, Monouna Fotso, said on Tuesday it planned to close some 130 secondary schools near the Nigerian border. Schools are frequent targets for Boko Haram, whose name means &quot;Western education is sinful&quot;.</p><p>Borno state, of which Maiduguri is the capital, has seen some of the fiercest fighting, although the city itself had not witnessed a suicide bombing since July.</p><p>Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan plans to ask the national assembly to extend a state of emergency in the three northeastern states worst hit by the insurgency when it expires this month.</p> Wed, 26 Nov 2014 11:41:00 +0000 Reuters 2440504 at sites/default/files/photo/2014/11/26/499612/suicide_bombers_in_nigeria.jpg Hong Kong student leaders arrested as police clear protest <img src="" alt="" title="" class="imagecache imagecache-media_thumbnail" width="152" height="114" /><p>Hong Kong police cleared activists from one of the largest protest sites in the city on Wednesday and arrested Joshua Wong and Lester Shum, two of the student leaders at the heart of the pro-democracy movement that has shaken the Asian financial hub.</p><p>Scuffles broke out when riot police moved against hundreds of protesters on Nathan Road, in the gritty Mong Kok district, following clashes overnight, Reuters witnesses said.</p><p>&quot;You can&#39;t defeat the protesters&#39; hearts!&quot; screamed Liu Yuk-lin, a 52-year-old protester in a hard hat holding a yellow umbrella, the symbol of the movement, as she stood before lines of police in helmets and goggles.</p><p>But there was no serious violence, and after about three hours the operation was complete and traffic was flowing through as area where demonstrators had camped out since late September to call for greater democracy in the former British colony.</p><p>Mong Kok has been a flashpoint for clashes between students and mobs intent on breaking up the protests, which have posed one of the biggest challenges to&nbsp;<a href="" title="Full coverage of China">China</a>&#39;s Communist Party leaders since the crushing of student-led pro-democracy demonstrations in Beijing in 1989.</p><p>Crowds nearby cheered and clapped as the final protesters were removed from the site on Wednesday.</p><p>Earlier, court-appointed bailiffs had warned protesters to leave and around 80 workers in red caps and &quot;I love Hong Kong&quot; T-shirts began clearing metal and wooden barricades laid across Nathan Road, where hundreds of tents had been erected in a two-month civil disobedience campaign.</p><p>They had been met by hundreds of protesters brandishing yellow banners and chanting for &quot;full democracy&quot;.</p><p>&quot;If you resist you face possible imprisonment. We warn you to immediately stop resisting,&quot; said a policeman into a loud hailer before jeering activists.</p><p>Several protesters who resisted were hauled away, witnesses said. Hong Kong&#39;s Cable TV said 4,000 police were involved.</p><p>A Reuters witness saw police take away Shum, and the Facebook page of the student group Scholarism announced that Wong had been arrested for contempt of court.</p><p>Although the protests have had no formal leadership structure, Wong and Shum were part of a group of students who many looked to as the movement&#39;s de facto leaders.</p><p><strong>We have plan B</strong></p><p><span style="font-size: 1em; line-height: 1.5em;">The clearance of the Mong Kok site is a big breakthrough in the authorities&#39; efforts to end the most tenacious protest movement in Hong Kong&#39;s recent history, although it could trigger retaliatory protests elsewhere as the activists regroup.</span></p><p>&quot;It&#39;s not the end,&quot; said Helen Lau, a young activist with a leather yellow ribbon around her neck, who was shouting at police and demanding to re-enter the cleared area. &quot;We still have plan B; either to occupy other places or to step up our actions.&quot;</p><p>Protesters still occupy segments of roads, blocking traffic, in the city&#39;s Admiralty district near government offices and Causeway Bay, a major shopping area.</p><p>It was not clear if or when police might try to clear the remaining protest sites.</p><p>Overnight, police had arrested 80 protesters in running clashes in Mong Kok following the clearance of part of a nearby street the previous day.</p><p>The crowded, working class district has been the scene of some of the most violent confrontations in the two-month long &quot;Occupy Central&quot; civil disobedience campaign.</p><p>The pro-democracy movement is showing signs of splintering, with radical voices calling for escalated action after nearly two months of stalemate in their campaign for full democracy.</p><p>In August, Beijing offered the people of Hong Kong, which reverted to Chinese rule in 1997, the chance to vote for their own leader in 2017, but said only two to three candidates could run after getting majority backing from a 1,200-person &quot;nominating committee&quot; stacked with Beijing loyalists.</p><p><span style="font-size: 1em; line-height: 1.5em;">&nbsp;More than 100,000 people took to the streets at the peak of the protests, but numbers have dropped to a few hundred scattered in tents over three main sites.</span></p><div>&nbsp;</div><p>&nbsp;</p> Wed, 26 Nov 2014 06:41:00 +0000 Reuters 2440483 at sites/default/files/photo/2014/11/26/499612/hong_kong_student_leaders_arrested_as_police_clear_protest.jpg Italian doctor with Ebola in isolation at Rome hospital <img src="" alt="" title="" class="imagecache imagecache-media_thumbnail" width="152" height="114" /><p>A doctor who has become the first Italian to contract Ebola arrived in Rome Tuesday from Sierra Leone for specialist treatment in an infectious diseases hospital.</p><p>The doctor, a 50-year old from Sicily according to Italian media reports, was flown into the military airport of Pratica di Mare near the city in a specially sealed unit and taken to the Lazzaro Spallanzani Institute by ambulance.</p><p>The Italian health ministry was expected to hold a press conference later Tuesday to give details of his condition.</p><p>The doctor, whose first name was reported to be Fabrizio, was working for the charity Emergency at a clinic for Ebola victims when he contracted the disease, which has killed nearly 5,500 people in its latest outbreak in west Africa.</p><p>He spoke to his daughters by telephone before landing in Rome, telling them &quot;he was fine, not afraid, and sure he will pull through,&quot; Italian media reported his wife as saying.</p><p>He had travelled to Sierra Leone on October 18 and had been due to return to Italy on Friday, according to his wife, who told the Corriere della Sera daily that &quot;he almost made it through&quot; without catching the disease.</p><p>The doctor had been working with 25 other Italians -- doctors, nurses and logistics staff -- living together in three houses with small rooms and shared common spaces.</p><p>Health Minister Beatrice Lorenzin was quick to reassure Italians, saying there was no chance of the virus spreading from within the special 16-room ward where the doctor will be treated by specialists, and the situation was &quot;under control.&quot;</p><p>&quot;The patient will not have any contact with doctors, or nurses. And especially not with the population. The Spallanzani hospital is a centre of excellence on a European level,&quot; she said in an interview with Il Messaggero daily.</p><p>Cecilia Strada, president of Emergency and wife of the charity&#39;s founder, said the team was &quot;not worried&quot;.</p><p>The infected doctor &quot;was assisted from the start of the very first symptoms and we follow strict security procedures. We know well, from experience, that time is of the essence. And in this case the assistance was immediate,&quot; she said.</p><p>A Ugandan doctor working for Emergency fell ill with Ebola at the start of October and was transferred to Frankfurt for care, where he recovered, according to Italian media reports.</p><p>Strada said the work the medical team was carrying out was &quot;extremely tiring, both physically and emotionally.&quot;</p><p>&quot;Working in the red zone... means being able to work for at most an hour, before being replaced. But patients in critical conditions need constant care and it&#39;s not easy to leave them. Sometimes we&#39;ve had to almost pull doctors away and force them to leave,&quot; she said.</p> Tue, 25 Nov 2014 13:08:00 +0000 AFP 2440452 at sites/default/files/photo/2014/11/25/499612/doctor_with_ebola.jpg