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Posts tagged ‘United Land of Germany’

Migrant center in Berlin brings Germany Arabic culture

August 08, 2017

BERLIN (AP) — Germany is the country of Goethe and Kant, Bach and Beethoven. But recent migrants are hoping to sprinkle Arabic poetry and Middle Eastern music, into that mix. At the “Between Us” cultural center in the German capital, migrants meet regularly to share their art, poetry and music — both to provide a flavor of home, and to educate the native citizens of their new home.

“There are almost no libraries with Arabic books or institutions for Arab culture here,” said Muhannad Qaiconie, the 30-year old founder of the center. “Still, Berlin is now a hotspot for Syrian authors, artists and musicians, and we want to give them a meeting place and a platform.”

Nearly 900,000 migrants flooded into Germany in 2015 and hundreds of thousands more have arrived since then, the largest single group being refugees fleeing war-torn Syria. Qaiconie, a native of the Syrian city of Aleppo, arrived two years ago, and founded the center this summer for his fellow Syrians and anyone else interested in stopping by.

The center, in a room on the top floor of a 16-story refugee hostel in central Berlin, hosts poetry readings and has a library that holds a collection of Arab books. It’s funded by donations and staffed by volunteers.

On the weekends, Syrian musicians are invited to play at the center’s outdoor space, on the rooftop of the hostel. At a recent concert Nabil Arbaain, who arrived as an asylum seeker from Syria two summers ago, charmed the crowd with melodies played on the oud, a pear-shaped instrument commonly used in Middle Eastern music, accompanied by a German guitarist and a Syrian percussionist.

The audience is international. Arabic is mixed with English and German and the crowd cheers after each song. In the background, the sun sets over the Berlin skyline. “Some people don’t know anything about Syria” said Arbaain, 36, after the concert. “So we have to work hard to fix the image.”

Arbaain travels across Germany to play concerts, and said in addition to fellow Syrians longing for a taste of their homeland, many Germans turn out to listen. Some have preconceived notions about migrants, but he said the first-hand contact and cultural exchange helps immediately.

“It is not so difficult to change German people’s minds,” he said. Meantime, Arbaain said migrants have their own challenges to work on, like learning the German language, which is helped by mixing with local residents.

“German is not hard — it’s the first 100 years that are difficult and then it gets easy,” he joked. But kidding aside, Qaiconie said most migrants that he knows are anxious to shed the name “refugee” and be accepted as individuals.

“When I introduce myself I don’t introduce myself as a refugee, I introduce myself as a student,” said Qaiconie, who is now working on a BA in English literature and philosophy at a small college in Berlin. “I don’t think anyone likes being called a refugee.”

The cultural center’s library, which is open one day a week, attracts a steady flow of people looking for books. Most are looking for volumes they might have owned before fleeing or books that can help them with their studies, but some come because they are themselves writing about their experiences as migrants, and need help and inspiration.

With the passage of time and support of such efforts, Qaiconie said, he hopes that Syrian culture will become a part of Germany. “I think we will add to German society,” he said. “We won’t just take but we will add.”

Poland ponders demanding WWII reparations from Germany

August 02, 2017

WARSAW, Poland (AP) — Poland is looking into demanding reparations from Germany for the massive losses inflicted on Poland during World War II, an official said Wednesday. The Polish parliament’s research office is preparing an analysis of whether Poland can legally make the claim and will have it ready by Aug. 11, said Arkadiusz Mularczyk, a lawmaker with the ruling Law and Justice party who requested the report.

The step comes after Jaroslaw Kaczynski, Poland’s most powerful politician, said the “Polish government is preparing itself for a historical counteroffensive.” “We are talking here about huge sums, and also about the fact that Germany for many years refused to take responsibility for World War II,” Kaczynski, the leader of the conservative ruling party, told Radio Maryja last week.

The massive suffering inflicted on Poland has been a topic of public discussion as Poland marked the anniversary Tuesday of the start of the Warsaw Uprising of 1944. The doomed revolt against the Nazi German occupying forces resulted in the killing of 200,000 Poles and the near-total destruction of Warsaw, the Polish capital.

Amid the observances, Defense Minister Antoni Macierewicz said Germans need to “pay back the terrible debt they owe to the Polish people.” World War II, which began with the German invasion of Poland in 1939, killed nearly 6 million Polish citizens and inflicted huge material loss on the country, including the destruction of churches and other cultural treasures and entire cities.

Kaczynski also called for reparations from Germany when he was prime minister more than a decade ago, creating tensions between Poland and Germany, which are important trade partners and allies in NATO and the European Union.

Germany has paid billions of euros over the years in compensation for Nazi crimes, primarily to Jewish survivors, and acknowledges the country’s responsibility for keeping alive the memory of Nazi atrocities and atoning for them.

Poland’s former communist government, under pressure from the Soviet Union, agreed in the 1950s not to make any claims on Germany. Macierewicz said Tuesday that communist-era Poland was a “Soviet puppet state” whose decision is not legally valid today.

German runaway girl who converted to Islam is found in Iraq

July 22, 2017

BERLIN (AP) — A German girl who ran away from home after converting to Islam has been found as Iraqi forces liberated the northern city of Mosul from Islamic State extremists, German and Iraqi officials said Saturday. She is reported to be in good health and will be interrogated next week by Iraqi officials.

The 16-year-old teenager, only identified as Linda W. in line with German privacy laws, is getting consular assistance from the German Embassy in Iraq, prosecutor Lorenz Haase said from the eastern German city of Dresden.

Three Iraqi intelligence and investigative sources confirmed to The Associated Press that the German teenager, who was apprehended in the basement of a home in Mosul’s Old City earlier this month, was Linda W.

The girl is in good health, the Iraqi officials said, adding that on the day of her arrest she was “too stunned” to speak but now she is doing better. They said she had been working with the IS police department.

Linda W. could theoretically face the death sentence, according to Iraqi’s counter-terrorism law. However, even if she is sentenced to death in Iraq, she would not be executed before the age of 22. Photos of a disheveled young woman in the presence of Iraqi soldiers went viral online last week, but there were contradicting reports about the girl’s identity.

The German teenager had married a Muslim Arab she met online after arriving in the group’s territory, the Iraqi officials added, speaking on condition of anonymity because the information was not public. They said Linda W. was one of 26 foreigners arrested in Mosul since the retreat of the extremists there.

So far, the young German has not made any statement. The officials said she is currently being held together with other foreign women at a prison near Baghdad’s airport. Starting next week, she’ll be investigated by the Iraqis, who will bring in German interpreters for the interrogation since she does not speak much Arabic.

Haase, the German prosecutor, told the AP that the girl ran away from her family home in Pulsnitz in eastern Germany last summer. It’s not clear yet whether she will return to Germany, he said. “We, as the public prosecutor’s office Dresden, have not applied for an arrest warrant and will therefore not be able to request extradition,” Haase said. “There is the possibility that Linda might be put on trial in Iraq. She might be expelled for being a foreigner or, because she is a minor reported missing in Germany, she could be handed over to Germany.”

The 26 foreigners found in Mosul included two men, eight children and 16 women, the Iraqi officials said. Some of those arrested were from Chechnya, and the women were from Russia, Iran, Syria, France, Belgium and Germany.

In addition to Linda W., the Iraqis found three other women from Germany, with roots in Morocco, Algeria and Chechnya. The Iraqi officials said the German-Moroccan woman has a child and both were arrested in Mosul about ten days ago.

They said the women allegedly worked with IS in the police department. Their husbands were IS fighters but their fates were not clear. French and German Embassy personnel have already visited the arrested women, they said. The children will be handed over to the countries they belong to, while the women will be tried on terrorism charges in Iraq, according to the officials.

More than 930 people, among them several girls and young women, have left Germany to join IS in Syria and Iraq in recent years, the German news agency dpa reported. While some have been killed in battle and suicide bombings and others have returned to Germany, there’s also a large number that are unaccounted for, German security officials say. Many of them were radicalized via social media.

Local newspapers reported last year that Linda W. was in touch with IS members online before she ran away from home. She started wearing long gowns before she disappeared from her family’s home last summer. Her mother later found a copy of the girl’s plane ticket to Turkey under a bed, German media reported.

The mayor of Pulsnitz, Barbara Kueke, told dpa on Saturday that she was relieved the girl had been found. She described the teenager’s family as very reclusive. Lueke said the school had been aware of the girl’s conversion to Islam and the principal had talked to the parents about it, adding that “it was very surprising, though, that the girl has been radicalized in such a way.”

In a different case, a French woman captured earlier this month in Mosul with her four children is facing possible prosecution in Iraq for allegedly collaborating with IS. The woman, believed to be in her 30s, was arrested July 9 along with her two sons and two daughters in a basement in Mosul’s Old City, according to Iraqi intelligence officials.

Two Iraqi intelligence officials told the AP on Wednesday that the woman is being investigated in Baghdad and could face terrorism charges for illegally entering Iraq and joining IS, and that the French government wants the children handed over to France.

Abdul-Zahra reported from Baghdad, Iraq.

Activists riot against G-20 summit for 3rd night in Hamburg

July 09, 2017

HAMBURG, Germany (AP) — Anti-globalization activists rioted for a third consecutive night in Hamburg early Sunday even after Group of 20 leaders had already left the northern Germany city. Police again used water cannon trucks against rioters attacking them with iron rods and pavement blocks. They arrested 186 protesters and temporarily detained another 225 people. Officials say 476 officers have been injured in the violence since Thursday. The number of injured protesters wasn’t clear.

German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel condemned the violence, saying “Germany’s reputation is severely affected internationally by the events in Hamburg.” Gabriel told Bild am Sonntag paper that a Europe-wide investigative team should search for suspects.

The overwhelming majority of the tens of thousands who took to the streets protested peacefully against the G-20 summit.

G-20 leaders set to face huge protests at Hamburg summit

July 05, 2017

BERLIN (AP) — President Donald Trump was met with thousands of protesters when he arrived at meetings in Brussels in May. But with Russian President Vladimir Putin and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan joining him at the Group of 20 meetings in Germany this week, he likely won’t even be at the top of the list for demonstrators.

Add India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Chinese President Xi Jinping and other leaders whose controversial policies have sparked unrest, mix in the cauldron that is Hamburg — the summit venue is only about a kilometer (less than a mile) from the country’s most notorious hotbed of left-wing protest — and the brew could prove explosive.

“G-20: Welcome to Hell” is the slogan anti-globalization activists registered for their protests on July 6, when Trump and other leaders arrive for the July 7-8 summit in the northern port city. “We are calling on the world to make Hamburg a focal point of the resistance against the old and new capitalist authorities,” said the organizers, who have ties to the Rote Flora squat, a center for radical leftists where police have clashed frequently with protesters. The site is a short walk from where the leaders will be meeting.

Already in the weeks ahead of the summit, in incidents believed linked to the meeting, police cars have been burned, train lines have been sabotaged and authorities in Hamburg and the nearby city of Rostock have confiscated improvised weapons like fire-extinguishers filled with flammable liquid, material to build gasoline bombs, baseball bats and other items in several raids.

“We have to assume that this is only a tiny percentage of what is still in basements and garages in and around Hamburg,” Hamburg police criminal director Jan Hieber told reporters this week. In a preview of things to come, police clashed Tuesday night in Hamburg with hundreds of protesters, using pepper spray and water cannons to eventually bring the crowd under control.

The “Welcome to Hell” demonstration is just one of dozens of protests that have been registered under a smorgasbord of themes — including a far-right pro-Trump rally — with more than 100,000 demonstrators from across Europe and beyond taking part.

Officials expect some 8,000 protesters from Europe’s violent left-wing scene, and have been tracking known activists coming in from Scandinavia, Switzerland, Italy and elsewhere, said Hamburg police chief Ralf Martin Meyer.

“This isn’t about sit-ins,” Meyer said. That’s not to say all protesters are violent — most aren’t and see the gathering of as an opportunity to highlight their messages with the world watching, and with the hope the leaders gathering inside Hamburg’s congress will listen.

Greenpeace, for example, sees the G-20 as an opportunity for leaders to send a strong signal about their determination to fight climate change — despite the U.S. decision to pull out of the Paris agreement.

“We’re looking for the G-20, and if that’s not possible, then the G-19, to go forward with implementing the Paris agreement and maybe doing even more,” Greenpeace International’s executive director Jennifer Morgan told The Associated Press.

Like many nonprofits, Greenpeace is fighting against a security decision to block off a 38-square-kilometer (almost 15-square-mile) “no protest zone” encompassing the airport where leaders will arrive and the conference center where they will meet.

The group is also calling for residents who live within the security zone to hang flags and banners out of their windows so that leaders will see them on the way in. “Greenpeace stands for nonviolent direct action — we have peace in our name — and it would be a shame if violence moved the message away from what the G-20 should be doing on climate and other issues,” Morgan said.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel has told community organizers in Hamburg that she understood the importance of demonstrations to express criticism and concerns, but urged that they remain non-violent.

“It should be peaceful criticism,” she said in June. Still, German security officials are preparing for the worst, drawing upon decades of experience dealing with violent May Day demonstrations and other protests at major events, including the G-7 in 2015 and G-8 in 2007.

In addition to the no-protest zone, tightly-secured transit corridors are set up to ensure that convoys will be able to keep moving lest they become a target for violent demonstrators or terrorists if they are stopped.

Germany has also denied Erdogan permission to hold a rally on the sidelines of the summit, which could have drawn huge protests from Kurds living in Germany. Hamburg is boosting its police force with reinforcements from around the country and will have 20,000 officers on hand to patrol the city’s streets, skies and waterways.

“You can be certain that you will see all of the equipment that German police have here in Hamburg,” said Hartmude Dudde, who is leading the security team for Hamburg police. That includes both underwater and aerial drones.

They are 220 officers shorter than planned, however, after Hamburg sent home a Berlin contingent for partying excessively at their barracks, with police officers allegedly urinating on a fence and an officer dressed in a bathrobe dancing on a table with a weapon in her hand.

Of those who are on hand, Germany’s counter-terrorist GSG9 force will be assisted by Austria’s counterpart Cobra and specialists from the Netherlands and other countries, Meyer said. They’ll be stationed around the city in strategic locations to help protect the summit’s expected 6,500 participants from any attack.

“You can count on a very quick reaction time,” Meyer told reporters. “Well under a minute, that’s the concept. They are, in principle, everywhere.” Demonstrations need to be registered with authorities in Germany before going ahead — otherwise they’re considered illegal and can be immediately broken up. That means that police can be expected to react swiftly to any “spontaneous” protests inside the security zone closer to where the world leaders are meeting.

On the outskirts of the city, a former wholesale supermarket has been converted into a special temporary prison with holding cells for 400 people, and judges on hand to decide whether there’s enough evidence to keep them longer term or to set them free.

“Peaceful protest is welcome in our democracy… but violent protest will be stopped,” Germany’s top security official, Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere said this week. “This event will not be disturbed, of that I am certain.”

Chinese president meeting Merkel, visiting pandas in Berlin

July 05, 2017

BERLIN (AP) — Chinese President Xi Jinping is in Berlin for talks with German Chancellor Angela Merkel — and to check in on two giant pandas his country just sent to a Berlin zoo on loan. Xi’s visit Wednesday comes ahead of both leaders’ participation in the Group of 20 summit that begins Friday in Hamburg.

The leaders planned to talk over issues like trade and climate change and have lunch before heading to the zoo to see pandas Meng Meng and Jiao Qing, who arrived June 24. China on Tuesday also announced that it would allow liver cancer experts from Germany, the U.S. and other countries to join a medical team treating imprisoned Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Liu Xiaobo — another issue that was likely to come up between Merkel and Xi.

G-20 shut Trump out on climate, strike deal on trade

July 09, 2017

HAMBURG, Germany (AP) — World powers lined up against U.S. President Donald Trump on climate change, reaffirming their support for international efforts to fight global warming. The Group of 20 summit that ended Saturday in Hamburg also revealed tensions on trade, as the U.S. administration and international partners forged a deal that endorsed open markets but acknowledged countries had a right to put up barriers to block unfair practices

The summit’s final statement made clear that the other countries and the European Union unanimously supported the Paris climate agreement rejected by Trump. They called the deal to reduce greenhouse gases “irreversible” and vowed to implement it “swiftly” and without exception.

The other countries, from European powers such as Germany to emerging ones such as China and energy producers such as Saudi Arabia, merely “took note” of the U.S. position, which was boxed off in a separate paragraph that the summit host, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, made clear applied only to the United States.

She said the U.S. position was “regrettable” but that the summit had achieved “good results in some areas,” and cited a hard-won agreement on trade that included Trump and the United States but did not erase the differences over the issue. She said the talks had been at times “difficult.”

Trump’s chief economic adviser played down tensions between the U.S. and other nations as the president headed home from his first G-20 summit. Gary Cohn told reporters aboard Air Force One that while communiques “are never easy,” he thought this one “came together pretty reasonably. He said having “a diversity of opinions in a group of 20” was not unexpected.

“To get 20 of your friends to agree to have dinner tonight is pretty hard,” Cohn said. Cohn added that while the U.S. obviously has chosen to get out of the Paris agreement, “we do go out of our way to say in there that that doesn’t mean we don’t support the environment and we’re still working for the environment.”

On trade, the talks preserved the G-20’s condemnation of protectionism, a statement that has been a hallmark of the group’s efforts to combat the global financial crisis and the aftereffects of the Great Recession.

The group added new elements, however: an acknowledgment that trade must be “reciprocal and mutually advantageous” and that countries could use “legitimate trade defense instruments” if they are being taken advantage of.

U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said there was “incredible consensus” on the issue and that the U.S. pushed to include the phrasing about “reciprocal” trade. The wording echoes concerns voiced by Trump, who has said trade must be fair as well as open and must benefit American companies and workers. He has focused on trade relationships where other countries run large surpluses with the U.S., meaning they sell more to U.S. consumers than they buy from American companies.

That’s in contrast to the approach favored by Merkel and the EU, who stress multilateral trade frameworks such as the World Trade Organization. More broadly, concerns about trade and its impact on workers figured large in the 2016 U.S. presidential election and in Britain’s referendum vote to leave the European Union, a free-trade bloc.

Yet pro-trade officials from the European Union pointed out that the language in the G-20 statement contains no departure from the current global system of regulation, which already allows countries to take defensive measures within the rules of the WTO. Those can include import taxes that offset unfair practices such as government subsidies or below-cost pricing.

Despite the trade agreement, the summit was marked by clashing visions, especially where Washington and the European Union were concerned. The EU demonstrated its willingness to move ahead with free trade despite Trump by announcing a trade agreement with Japan on the eve of the summit.

On climate, summit deputies worked until shortly before the ending news conferences to hash out a three-part fudge that everyone could sign. That meant a first section with a broad pledge to fight climate change in general; a separate paragraph carved out that acknowledged the U.S. did not support the Paris deal; and a third paragraph in which the other 19 members reaffirmed their support for the deal.

Advocates for efforts against global warming expressed relief that the other countries had remained unanimous in support of the Paris accords. “The U.S. has obviously been clear about where it stands with the Paris Agreement, but it is heartening that 19 other countries reaffirmed their commitment to the agreement,” said Thoriq Ibrahim, minister of energy and environment for the Maldives and Chair of the Alliance of Small Island States, a group of countries vulnerable to the effects of global warming.

The results of the summit aren’t absolutely decisive, on either the trade or the climate issue. The no-protection pledge was often violated, increasingly in harder-to-detect ways such as tax breaks for home industries rather than obvious import taxes.

Meanwhile, failure to agree on climate doesn’t stop countries from moving ahead in meeting the Paris agreement’s goals, or exceed them if they want to. Additionally, U.S. states and private companies can pursue lower emissions on their own.

G-20 agreements are statements of intent and rely on governments themselves to follow through. Still, they set the tone for global policymaking and enable peer pressure when they’re not followed. Other deals at the summit included an agreement to press internet providers to detect and remove extremist content as a way of fighting terrorist incitement and recruiting.

John Kirton, co-director of the G-20 Research Group at the University of Toronto’s Munk School of Global Affairs, called the summit a “very solid success.” He pointed to broad agreement on the agenda, much of it focusing on less controversial issues such as women’s empowerment and promoting digitalization.

Over the long term, the G-20 implements 72 percent of its promises, and has implemented 80 percent of them since last year’s summit in Hangzhou, China, according to Kirton. The meetings competed for attention with rioting by anti-capitalist demonstrators outside the heavily secured Hamburg Messe convention center. Rioters set up street barricades, looted supermarkets and attacked police with slingshots and firebombs.

The G-20 comprises Argentina, Australia, Brazil, China, Germany, France, Britain, India, Indonesia, Italy, Japan, Canada, South Korea, Mexico, Russia, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, Turkey, the U.S. and the European Union.

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