Category Archives: Latest News

Fethullah Gulen Condemns Brussels Terrorist Attacks and Extends Condolences to Victims

Fethullah Gulen, the Honorary President of Intercultural Dialogue Platform, has issued a statement to condemn the Brussels terrorist attacks and extended condolences to the victims.

The statement has also been published in Belgian newspapers, De Morgen and La Libre Belgique.  

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To read Mr. Gulen’s message in Dutch click here.

“I strongly condemn the brutal terrorist attacks at the Brussels International Airport and Metro station on March 22 that resulted in the deaths of more than 30 people and the injuries of hundreds.

Regardless of the perpetrators and their stated purposes, every terrorist attack is a murder and an attack on the sanctity of life itself, and deserves condemnation in the strongest terms. Neither a religion nor any human being with a conscience can condone such cruelty.

Those who carry out such attacks and who support the perpetrators are oblivious to the ethos of the religion that they proclaim, and inflict the biggest damage to the religion’s reputation in the world. Those who consciously perpetrate such acts have lost touch with their very humanity, and do not represent any religious identity.

In addition to the intelligence and security measures taken to prevent individual terrorist attacks, there is a pressing need for cooperation between states and civil society groups to eliminate swamp-like environments and conditions that facilitate recruitment by terrorist groups.

I am confident that leaders in countries with strong democratic and legal foundations, like Belgium, will act with prudence to develop lasting solutions that incorporate their Muslim citizens and avoid feeding into the hateful rhetoric of terrorist groups.

These heinous terrorist attacks have been inflicted not only on the Belgian people but also on the solidarity of humanity and universal human values. I send my deepest condolences to the relatives and loved ones of those who lost their lives, and the people of Belgium. I pray for the fast recovery of the wounded.

On this occasion I also send my condolences and prayers to the citizens of all countries, including my home land of Turkey, who lost their loved ones in recent terrorist attacks.

I pray to God, the Most Graceful, the Compassionate, to save humanity from the scourge of terrorism and spread an atmosphere around the world where people empathically embrace each other.”

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To read Mr Gulen’s message in French click here

About Fethullah Gulen
Fethullah Gulen is an Islamic scholar, preacher and social advocate, whose decades‐long commitment to interfaith tolerance and altruism has inspired millions in Turkey and around the world. Gulen is the honorary chairman of the Intercultural Dialogue Platform, Brussels, Belgium; Foundation of Journalists and Writers, Istanbul, Turkey; and Rumi Forum, Washington DC.

Europe and the Muslim World: Perceptions and Realities

Roundtable Lunch Discussion

with Prof. Mark Sedgwick, Aarhus University, Denmark

on Thursday, 25 February 2016, Dialogue Platform

At this event Prof Sedgwick has responded to the questions like to what extent perceptions are grounded in reality? What are the challenges of war, jihad and global terrorism?

Most of the individual Muslims who are best known in today’s Europe are not Western European Muslims but Middle Eastern Muslims such as Saddam Hussein and Osama bin Laden. The public visibility of Muslims in Western Europe is in part a function of the public visibility of the Muslim world, and especially of the Middle East. And what is most visible is conflict.

This roundtable discussion asked why and looked into the political and cultural relations between Western Europe and the Muslim world.

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Inauguration Ceremony of Gülen Chair

We have celebrated the formal signing of the agreement between the University of Leuven and the Intercultural Dialogue Platform, prolongating the chair of “Fethullah Gülen Chair for Intercultural Studies”.

The inauguration has taken place on Tuesday January 19, 2016 in the “rectorale salons” of the university hall in Leuven.

Professor Rik Torfs, rector of the KU Leuven, Professor Emmanuel Gerard, chairholder, and Mr Ramazan Guveli, director of Intercultural Dialogue Platform have signed the formal agreement at the ceremony which was followed by a reception.

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Reports Launch on “Rooting out Violent Extremism”

Reports Launch on “Rooting out Violent Extremism”

 Prof. Paul Weller, University of Derby

Ozcan Keles, Dialogue Society

Prof. Gino Schallenbergh, KU Leuven

Tuesday, 1 December 2015

Dialogue Platform, Rue Montoyer 31, Brussels

Dialogue Platform has organise a roundtable discussion in light of two recent publications. The meeting has presented an interactive discussion on the publications and the issues that they raise in relation to understanding, communicating and strategising on how to counter violent extremism that claims an Islamic motivation.

Violent Extremism: Naming, Framing and Challenging (Dialogue Society, 2015) by Emma Jane Harris, Paul Weller and Victoria Bisset. In understanding the causes of violent extremism, with a view ultimately to tackling them, it is important to first consider the ways that stakeholders communicate about and around the subject. Drawing on a number of relevant fields such as cognitive linguistics, this report broaches the difficulties in naming ‘violent extremism’, offering examples of problematic language. The report commends some alternative narratives and approaches that can contribute to bringing about positive change in relation to this phenomenon. This report can be downloaded in full here.

A Hizmet Approach to Rooting out Violent Extremism (Centre for Hizmet Studies, 2015) by Ozcan Keles and Ismail Mesut Sezgin. This report offers a summary of Hizmet’s theological refutation of violent extremism. It shows how Hizmet’s core teachings act as a positive counter narrative to such extremism, and describes the channels through which Hizmet popularises that counter-narrative among the wider Muslim public. Drawing attention to the challenges associated with linear, traditional, reactive policy-making directly aimed at defeating violent extremist ideology head-on, the conclusion draws these three parts together explaining the nature and features of Hizmet’s deradicalisation by default approach which attempts to proactively address some of the underlying causes as they relate to ideology, mindset and inculcation. This report can be downloaded in full here

Speakers

Paul Weller is Professor of Inter-Religious Relations and Senior Research Fellow and Head of Research and Commercial Development at the University of Derby.

Ozcan Keles is a non-practising Barrister, a full-time doctoral candidate at the University of Sussex and the Chairperson of the Dialogue Society.

Discussant
Gino Schallenbergh is Professor of Islamic and Arabic Studies at KU Leuven and Gent University.

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Gulen’s Op-Ed in Le Monde: “Muslims, we have to critically review our understanding of Islam”

Words fall short to truly express my deep sadness and revolt in the face of the carnage perpetrated by terrorist groups such as the so-called Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL).

I share profound frustration with a billion-and-a-half Muslims around the world at the fact that such groups commit terrorism while dressing up their perverted ideologies as religion. We Muslims have a special responsibility to not only join hands with fellow human beings to save our world from the scourge of terrorism and violent extremism, but also to help repair the tarnished image of our faith.

It is easy to proclaim a certain identity in the abstract with words and symbols. The sincerity of such claims, however, can only be measured by comparing our actions with the core values of our self-proclaimed identities. The true test of belief is not slogans or dressing up in a certain way; the true test of our beliefs is in living up to core principles shared by all major world faiths such as upholding the sanctity of life and respecting the dignity of all humans.

We must categorically condemn the ideology propagated by terrorists and instead promote a pluralistic mindset with clarity and confidence. After all, before our ethnic, national or religious identity comes our common humanity, which suffers a setback each time a barbaric act is committed. French citizens who lost their lives in Paris, Shiite Muslim Lebanese citizens who lost their lives in Beirut a day earlier and scores of Sunni Muslims in Iraq who lost their lives at the hands of the same terrorists are first and foremost human beings. Our civilization will not progress until we treat the suffering of humans regardless of their religious or ethnic identity as equally tragic in our empathy and respond with the same determination.

Muslims must also reject and avoid conspiracy theories, which have so far only helped us avoid facing our social problems. Instead, we must tackle the real questions: Do our communities provide recruitment grounds for groups with totalitarian mindsets due to unrecognized authoritarianism within ourselves, domestic physical abuse, neglect of youth and lack of balanced education? Did our failure to establish basic human rights and freedoms, supremacy of the rule of law and pluralist mindsets in our communities lead those who are struggling to seek alternative paths?

The recent tragedy in Paris is yet another reminder for both theologians and ordinary Muslims to strongly reject and condemn barbaric acts perpetrated in the name of our religion. However, at this juncture, rejection and condemnation are not enough; terrorist recruitment within Muslim communities must be fought and countered by an effective collaboration of state authorities, religious leaders and civil society actors. We must organize community-wide efforts to address all factors that aid terrorist recruitment.

Ways of expressing support and dissent within democratic means

We need to work with our community to set up the necessary framework for identifying at-risk youth, preventing them from seeking self-destructive paths, assisting families with counseling and other support services. We must promote a proactive, positive government engagement so that engaged Muslim citizens can sit at the table where counterterrorism measures are planned and share their ideas. Our youth should be taught ways of expressing support and dissent within democratic means. Incorporating democratic values into school curricula early on is crucial for inculcating a culture of democracy in young minds.

In the aftermath of such tragedies, historically strong reactions have surfaced. Anti-Muslim and anti-religious sentiment as well as security-driven treatment of Muslim citizens by governments would be counter-productive. The Muslim citizens ofEurope want to live in peace and tranquility. Despite the negative climate, they should strive to engage more with their local and national governments to help work toward more inclusive policies that better integrate their community into the larger society.

It is also important for us Muslims to critically review our understanding and practice of Islam in light of the conditions and requirements of our age and the clarifications provided by our collective historic experiences. This does not mean a rupture from the cumulative Islamic tradition but rather, an intelligent questioning so we can confirm the true teachings of the Quran and the Prophetic tradition that our Muslim predecessors attempted to reveal.

We must proactively marginalize decontextualized reading of our religious sources that have been employed in the service of perverted ideologies. Muslim thinkers and intellectuals should encourage a holistic approach and reconsider jurisprudential verdicts of the Middle Ages that were issued under perpetual conflict where religious affiliation often coincided with political affiliation. Having core beliefs should be distinguished from dogmatism. It is possible, indeed absolutely necessary, to revive the spirit of freedom of thought that gave birth to a renaissance of Islam while staying true to the ethos of the religion. Only in such an atmosphere can Muslims effectively combat incivility and violent extremism.

In the aftermath of the recent events I am witnessing, with chagrin, the revival of the thesis of the clash of civilizations. I do not know whether those who first put out such a hypothesis did so out of vision or desire. What is certain is that today, the revival of this rhetoric simply serves the recruitment efforts of the terrorist networks. I want to state clearly that what we are witnessing is not a clash of civilizations but rather the clash of humanity with barbarity in our common civilization.

Our responsibility as Muslim citizens is to be part of the solution despite our grievances. If we want to defend the life and civil liberties of Muslims around the world and the peace and tranquility of every human regardless of their faith, we must act now to tackle the violent extremism problem in all its dimensions: political, economic, social and religious. By setting virtuous examples through our lives, by discrediting and marginalizing the extremist interpretations of religious sources, by staying vigilant toward their impact on our youth, and by incorporating democratic values early in education, we can counter violence and terrorism as well as totalitarian ideologies that lead to them.

*This article by Turkish Islamic scholar Fethullah Gülen was first published in Le Monde on Dec. 17, 2015.

Legal Report Reveals Systematic Human Rights Violations by AKP Government Against Hizmet Movement

PRESS RELEASE 

Legal Report Reveals Systematic Human Rights Violations by Turkish Government

* Abuses taken against the media curtailing freedom of speech

* Call for legal action at international level from European Court of Human Rights

Brussels, 28 September, 2015: Since December 2013, the Turkish government has perpetrated systematic human rights violations that justify legal action at international level, most likely before the European Court of Human Rights, a report published today has found.

Written by former Lord Chief Justice of England and Wales the Rt Hon The Lord Woolf CH, University College London Emeritus Professor of Public Law and the Director of the Bingham Centre for the Rule of Law Sir Jeffrey Jowell KCMG QC, former Solicitor-General for England and Wales the Rt Hon Sir Edward Garnier QC MP, and human rights and media law barrister Sarah Palin, the report identifies supporters of the Gülen movement and the media, as the principal targets of the AKP government’s abuses.

The report’s findings come as the Erdoğan administration faces heightened international scrutiny over its crackdown on freedom of the press in Turkey. The recent arrest of two Vice News journalists and dawn raid on the Koza Izek group, which together in the past month have elicited renewed public outcry against the AKP-led government’s treatment of the media, are reminiscent of a number of events detailed in the report. The clearest parallel can be drawn with the December 2014 arrests of 15 purportedly Gülen-affiliated journalists, including Samanyolu Media Group chief executive Hidayet Karaça, whose court-ordered release the Istanbul chief public prosecutor’s office still refuses to carry out.

Commenting on the findings of the report, the authors said: “We have analysed the actions taken by the Turkish government and its agents since December 2013 and have unanimously concluded that there has been a distinct reversal in the reform process that had been taking place since Turkey began accession talks with the European Union in 2005.  We regard this as a serious setback for Turkish democracy and its respect for human rights, in particular for the freedom of speech and the rule of law.”

The report identifies three main ways in which the government’s subsequent actions against supporters of the Gülen movement have violated the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR), as well as other human rights treaties to which the Turkish Republic is party:

– By taking unprecedented steps to exert executive authority over Turkey’s judiciary, police and prosecuting authorities are subsequently detaining outspoken media figures and police officers involved in the anticorruption operation in contravention of their rights to liberty, security, and a fair trial

– By suppressing freedom of expression, particularly in the media through the filing of criminal prosecutions against and exertion of economic and political pressure on journalists and publications, but also through interference with social media

 – By purging from public office, directing hate speech against, and interfering with the property rights of individuals and companies claimed to be associated with the Gülen movement

The authors added: “From the perspective of international human rights law, we consider that the Turkish government has perpetrated significant human rights violations against supporters of the Gülen movement that would justify legal action before the European Court of Human Rights, in the absence of suitable remedies in Turkey.”

For the full report or its executive summary, visit One Brick Court Chambers website.

ENDS

Enquiries

For all enquiries, please contact Mr. Guveli at Dialogue Platform, Brussels by email rguveli@dialogueplatform.eu  or by phone +32 (0)2 513 8116.

Notes to Editors

About the Gülen-inspired Hizmet movement:

The Hizmet movement is a civil society network of individuals and religious, humanitarian, and educational institutions that subscribe to Islamic scholar Fethullah Gülen’s advocacy of interfaith dialogue, community service, and universal education.


About the report:

The report, titled “A Report on the Rule of Law and Respect for Human Rights in Turkey since December 2013”, was written by an independent, self-governing group of authors following a request by solicitors to the Journalists and Writers’ Foundation to conduct an independent inquiry into the actions of the Turkish government, its institutions and officials, against supporters of the Gülen movement. The subject material of this review included written statements provided by witnesses and victims, as well as Turkish legislation, court judgements, and summaries of witness testimonies. 

Fethullah Gulen’s op-ed in WSJ: Muslims must combat the extremist cancer

Denounce terrorism, defend human rights and promote education.

As the group that calls itself Islamic State, known as ISIS, continues to produce carnage in the Middle East, Muslims must confront the totalitarian ideology that animates it and other terrorist groups. Every terrorist act carried out in the name of Islam profoundly affects all Muslims, alienating them from fellow citizens and deepening the misperceptions about their faith’s ethos.

It isn’t fair to blame Islam for the atrocities of violent radicals. But when terrorists claim the Muslim mantle, then they bear this identity, if only nominally. Thus members of the faith must do whatever possible to prevent this cancer from metastasizing in our communities. If we don’t, we’ll be partly responsible for the smeared image of our faith.

First, we must denounce violence and not fall prey to victimhood. Having suffered oppression is no excuse for causing it or for failing to condemn terrorism. That the terrorists are committing grave sins in the name of Islam is not merely my opinion; it is the inevitable conclusion of an honest reading of primary sources: the Quran and the accounts of the life of Prophet Muhammad. The core principles of these sources—relayed over the centuries by scholars who devoted themselves to studying the Prophet’s sayings and practices, and to the “author’s intent” in the Holy Book—dispels any claims terrorists make of religious justification.

Second, it is important to promote a holistic understanding of Islam, as the flexibility to accommodate the diverse backgrounds of its adherents can sometimes be abused. Islam’s core ethics, however, are not left to interpretation. One such principle is that taking the life of a single innocent is a crime against all humanity (Quran 5:32). Even in an act of defense in war, violence against any noncombatants, especially women, children and clergy, is specifically prohibited by the Prophet’s teachings.

We must demonstrate these values by showing solidarity with people who seek peace around the world. Given the nature of human psychology and the dynamics of the news, it’s obvious that mainstream voices are less likely to capture headlines than extremist ones. But instead of blaming the media, we should find innovative ways to ensure our voices are heard.

Third, Muslims must publicly promote human rights—dignity, life and liberty. These are the most basic of Islamic values and no individual, nor any political or religious leader, has the authority to snatch them away. Living the essence of our faith means respecting diversity—cultural, social, religious and political. God identifies learning from one another as the primary goal of diversity (Quran 49:13). Respecting each human being as a creation of God (17:70) is respecting God.

Fourth, Muslims must provide educational opportunities to every member of their communities, where the study of sciences, humanities and arts is embedded in a culture of respect for every living being. Governments in the Muslim world must design school curricula that nurture democratic values. Civil society has a role in promoting respect and acceptance. This is the reason participants of the Hizmet movement have set up more than 1,000 schools, tutoring centers and dialogue institutions in more than 150 countries.

Fifth, providing religious education to Muslims is critical to depriving extremists of a tool that they use to spread their twisted ideologies. When religious freedom is denied, as it has been for decades in parts of the Muslim world, faith grows in the shadows, leaving it to be interpreted by unqualified and radical figures.

Finally, it is imperative that Muslims support equal rights for women and men. Women should be given opportunity and be free from social pressures that deny their equality. Muslims have a great example in Prophet Muhammad’s wife Aisha, a highly educated scholar, teacher and prominent community leader of her time.

Terrorism is a multifaceted problem, so the solutions should address the political, economic, social and religious layers. Approaches that reduce the problem to religion do a disservice to at-risk youth and the world at large. The international community would do well to realize that Muslims are the primary victims of terrorism—both literally and symbolically—and they can help marginalize terrorists and prevent recruitment. That’s why governments should avoid statements and actions that result in the alienation of Muslims.

Violent extremism has no religion; there will always be people who manipulate faith texts. Just as Christians do not endorse Quran burnings or the actions of the Ku Klux Klan, and Buddhists do not endorse atrocities against Rohingya Muslims, mainstream Muslims do not endorse violence.

Muslims have historically added much to the flourishing of human civilization. Our greatest contributions were made in eras when the faith cherished mutual respect, freedom and justice. It may be immensely difficult to restore the blotted image of Islam, but Muslims can be beacons of peace and tranquility in their societies.

Mr. Gulen is an Islamic scholar and founder of the Hizmet civil-society movement.

SOURCE: http://www.wsj.com/articles/muslims-must-combat-the-extremist-cancer-1440718377

Turkey’s Kurdish Question and The Hizmet Movement

Roundtable Discussion on “Turkey’s Kurdish Question and the Gulen Movement” with Dr Mustafa Gurbuz, Rethink Institute Washington DC

Tuesday, 12 May 2015 12.30-14.20 

Dialogue Platform hosted a roundtable discussion with Dr Mustafa Gurbuz as the speaker where a selected group of 20 guests participated at its premise, Rue Montoyer 31 Brussels, on 12th May 20015.

Dr Gurbuz presented his recent report on “Turkey’s Kurdish Question and the Gulen Movement” and an hour of Q&A session followed up the presentation.

To summarise the report and the presentation, the following points has been raised:

– The Kurdish question poses a challenge not only to Turkey at large, but also to the Hizmet movement, which has a diverse following that includes a large number of Kurdish participants.

– By recognizing Kurdish identity, the Hizmet movement has taken a progressive attitude by supporting ethnocultural reforms in both discursive and institutional conduct.

– Educational and charitable efforts by Hizmet volunteers are aimed at removing prejudices in both Turkish and Kurdish constituencies, and accordingly, building social trust in the long run.

– Critics find Hizmet to be assimilationist. The main reason referred to by critics is the content of some TV shows in Hizmet-affiliated media.

– The AKP government’s attempt to shut down Hizmet schools in the region has accelerated disenchantment with the peace process among Hizmet participants.

– Hizmet participants find official talks with the PKK on disarmament acceptable with one caveat: Kurdish cultural rights should not be on the table with the PKK, since that would make the PKK “the” legitimate advocate of all Kurds.

– As long as the AKP government negotiates pro-Kurdish rights solely with the PKK, refusing to consult other civil actors including the Hizmet organizations, the movement’s constituency may remain skeptical about the peace process.

Dr Gurbuz noted “the Hizmet-affiliated media experiences serious difficulties in speaking to both its Turkish and Kurdish constituencies. The Kurdish issue is potentially a divisive issue, not only for the country, but also within the movement itself. One major challenge stems from strong support for the Hizmet movement among Turkish nationalists.

The movement recruited a large number of youngsters from Turkish nationalist parties such as MHP after the 1980s. Although these recruits were transformed by the movement and became more global in perspective, some form of nationalism has always been in place.

This reality was reinforced by Turkey’s increasing integration with the global neoliberalist system, which has revived a heavy nationalist tone in Turkish politics, including secular nationalism (ulusalcilik) and religious nationalism (neo-Ottomanism). As they are frequently portrayed as ‘pro-American’ and ‘pro-Israel,’ Hizmet participants often find themselves in need of highlighting their patriotism.”

To view and/or download the full report please click on the link.

Dialogue Platform holds regular roundtable discussion in similar kind of this topic and the future events could be followed in the events section.


About the guest speaker: Mustafa Gurbuz’s areas of expertise are Turkish politics and society; Kurdish politics; Sociology of Islam; Middle Eastern politics. He received his Ph.D. in sociology from the University of Connecticut and was a post-doctoral scholar at the University of South Florida. His doctoral dissertation, “Kurdish Ethnic and Islamic Mobilizations in Turkey: A Study of Rival Movements,” explores how social movement activists construct a competition culture after a long period of political violence. Dr. Gurbuz’s publications appeared in Research in Social Movements, Conflict, and Change, Middle East Critique, Journal of Muslim Minority Affairs, European Journal of Turkish Studies, and Research in Social Stratification and Mobility. Dr. Gurbuz is associate editor of Sociology of Islam and a contributing editor of Mobilizing Ideas. Dr Gurbuz is based at Rethink Institute in Washington DC.

DEMONIZING THE HIZMET MOVEMENT THROUGH MEDIA IN TURKEY

In Turkey in 2013, President Erdogan violently crushed the Gezi Park protests, while propagating an “underdog” narrative for himself and his supporters through pro-government media. He claimed the protests were orchestrated by the “international interest lobby” in collaboration with “their domestic partners” (one allegedly being the Koç Group) to topple the Justice and Development Party (‘AKP’) government. This tale was repeated in the pro-government media until it became the defining narrative for much of the Turkish electorate: protesters were “vile”, “traitors”, “enemies of the state” and Erdogan and his government therefore were justified in crushing them.

In December 2013, when a corruption probe which implicated several government ministers and Erdoğan’s son went public, Erdogan and pro-government media used a similar strategy to derail investigations. While framing events as planned and executed by a “coalition of foreign powers” through their “domestic pawns”, the AKP government moved swiftly to purge thousands of police officers, civil servants, prosecutors and judges without trial or disciplinary procedure, a self-confessed “witch-hunt”, on the pretext of Hizmet affiliation. This time, instead of the Koç family, the Gulen-inspired Hizmet movement became the useful scapegoat to justify draconian and arbitrary measures. Erdogan claimed that Turkey was, once again, fighting its “second war of independence” against a “blood-sucking virus” and “vampire” that had nested itself within the state apparatus and which could only be “cleansed” by being “vaporized” and “separated into its molecules.”

In short, as per Erdogan’s style of politics, a new phantom enemy in the form of Hizmet is being instrumentalized to achieve two outcomes. The first to derail the investigations into ministerial corruption and silence media coverage of it; the second to rid the state of anyone not completely loyal to President Erdogan and to rid the public sphere of dissent or credible alternative viewpoints to those of his own including the Gezi park protestors, the opposition parties, workers unions, the Hizmet movement and of course Twitter, YouTube and Facebook, the first two of which were even banned in Turkey before the Presidential elections of 2013.

This booklet has a very modest objection. To provide a glimpse into the consistent coordinated and concerted dehumanization and demonization project against Erdogan’s latest so-called enemy of the state, the Hizmet movement.  Beyond this introduction no comment will be provided whatsoever. Instead, you will only be presented with direct translations of what Erdogan, his deputies and the pro-government media have said. As the reader, we only ask that you take the moment to peruse the contents and arrive at your own conclusions.

DOWNLOAD THE PAPER (PDF)