TIME Companies

Chobani Founder to Donate $2 Million to Aid Syrian Refugees

Hamdi Ulukaya, a billionaire and founder, president and chief executive officer of Chobani Inc. in London on July 17, 2013.
Hamdi Ulukaya, a billionaire and founder, president and chief executive officer of Chobani Inc. in London on July 17, 2013. Bloomberg/Getty Images

“We should consider Kobani the way that we helped Somalia and other places in need”

The Turkish founder of a company that sells a popular brand of Greek yogurt has pledged to donate $2 million to aid refugees in areas around his home country that have been seized by Islamist militants.

Chobani CEO Hamdi Ulukaya, who was born in Turkey and now lives in the U.S., donated the funds to help people in Kobani, a town bordering Syria and Turkey that has been besieged by Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria (ISIS).

The businessman told Turkish media outlet the Hurriyet Daily News that he is “not interested in the political aspect of the situation” there, but rather wants to help the citizens effected by the turmoil. “Either we will be watching the massacre there and will live on with a guilty conscience or we will save people,” he told the Daily News.

The funds will reportedly go to an aid organization in the region, though Ulukaya has not identified which one yet; he is currently accepting applications from local NGOs. The 42-year-old is encouraging others to donate as well saying, “We should consider Kobane the way that we helped Somalia and other places in need.”

Ulukaya is the mastermind behind Chobani, one of the U.S.’s largest snack companies. Though its known for its Greek yogurt, “chobani” is a Turkish word. The company has also been scrutinized for being “junk food;” it was sued in June for not being as healthy as some consumers thought.

[Hurriyet Daily News]

TIME Turkey

Turkey Catches Fire as ISIS Burns Kobani

The Kurds are angry that Turkey isn't doing more to help the fight against ISIS, but Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan won't budge

Tension over a peace process that has yet to deliver results, fear of a possible bloodbath in a besieged Kurdish enclave in Syria’s north, and frustration with the government’s unwillingness to confront Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria (ISIS) jihadists came to a boil in Turkey on Tuesday night, as clashes erupted across the country between Kurdish protesters, Islamist groups and police. What followed were scenes that reminded many here of the 1990s, when war between the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) and the Turkish army engulfed much of the country’s Kurdish-majority southeast. At least 21 people were reported dead, with many more wounded.

In Diyarbakir, about 60 miles north of the border with Syria, members of Hizbullah, a local Islamist group allegedly sympathetic to ISIS, traded gunfire with Kurdish protesters, including PKK militants. Ten people were found dead by the morning. More clashes have been reported in a number of other cities across the southeast, as well as in Kurdish neighborhoods in Ankara, Izmir and Istanbul, with security forces firing tear gas and rubber bullets against protesters armed with rocks and Molotov cocktails. A curfew was imposed in six provinces, with soldiers patrolling the streets of several cities on Wednesday.

The unrest is largely due to allegations that Turkey’s government is turning a blind eye to, or even supporting, ISIS’s onslaught against Kurdish militants holed up in Kobani, a city in Syria’s north. A day after at least 24 people died in anti-ISIS protests across Turkey, jihadist militants continued to defy U.S. led airstrikes by pounding Kobani with artillery fire, all in plain sight of Turkish tanks deployed on the other side of the border.

Leaders of the People’s Protection Units (YPG), the Kurdish militia protecting the city, warned of a looming bloodbath. Desperately outgunned, they also continued to ask Turkey to open a corridor to deliver heavy arms — particularly antitank weapons — to Kobani.

Such requests have been falling on deaf ears, says Salih Muslim, head of the YPG’s political wing. Earlier this week, Muslim personally pleaded with officials in Ankara to allow Kurdish fighters from other areas of Syria — cut off from Kobani by swaths of ISIS-controlled land — to enter the city via Turkey. “They promised some things,” he told TIME. “But they have done nothing.”

Since late September, Turkey has opened its doors to 160,000 Syrian Kurds fleeing ISIS. It has also begun delivering humanitarian aid to the city, but has provided nothing, at least not officially, in the way of military assistance. The reason for Turkey’s inaction, analysts say, is its fear of empowering the YPG, widely believed to be the PKK’s Syrian affiliate. Although the Ankara government and the PKK have been holding peace talks for nearly two years — talks that have yielded a tenuous cease-fire, but little more — the bad blood between them runs deep. “What ISIS is to us, the PKK is the same,” Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said on Oct. 4. The PKK, in turn, accused Erdogan of supporting ISIS to fight the Kurds inside Syria, warning that its negotiations with Ankara were on the verge of collapse. “If this massacre attempt [in Kobani] achieves its goal, it will end the process,” the PKK’s jailed leader, Abdullah Ocalan, said in a statement released on Oct 1.

In a recent speech, Erdogan offered to send troops to Syria, but only if the U.S.-led coalition against ISIS pledged to bring down the regime of Bashar Assad after doing away with the jihadists. Turkey’s policy towards Kobani, says Atilla Yesilada, a political analyst with Global Source Partners, is fueled just as much by fear as by opportunism. On the one hand, he says, Ankara knows that any move against ISIS would invite retaliation from jihadist cells inside the country. Security forces across Turkey were placed on high alert after the country’s parliament gave a green light to possible troop deployments in Iraq and Syria last week.

On the other hand, Ankara views Kobani as potential leverage against the Kurdish militants. “They want to bring the PKK down a notch, to teach them a lesson,” says Yesilada, “and to put an end to any aspirations that Syria’s Kurds might have for autonomy or independence.”

Even with the fallout from Kobani reaching Turkey on Tuesday night, some experts believe the peace process with the PKK can still be salvaged. “It’s an explosion of rage,” says Huseyin Yayman, a Turkish security expert, “but it can be contained.”

“The underlying dynamics are still there,” says Hugh Pope, of the International Crisis Group, a think tank. “But the rhetoric has to come down. Erdogan has to stop comparing the PKK to Islamic State, and the PKK has to stop doing the same,” he says. “It’s simply not true.”

The Ankara government gave no intimation that it would meet the Kurds halfway, however. “The same people who were silent in the face of the death of 300,000 people in the past three and half years, ignoring the use of chemical weapons, SCUD missiles and barrel bombs, are now trying to make it seem as if Turkey has to solve the problem in Kobani right away and all by itself,” Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said late Wednesday. “Those who cooperate with the Syrian regime,” he said, referring to the YPG, which Turkey accuses of siding with Assad, “have no right to accuse or to blame Turkey.”

TIME Turkey

Violent Protests as Kurds Seek Help Against ISIS

A demonstrator in Cyprus urged the coalition to "hit the jihadists harder" so that Kurdish forces can hold the town

(ANKARA, TURKEY) — Kurdish protesters clashed with police in Turkey leaving at least 14 people dead and scores injured Tuesday as demonstrators in Brussels forced their way into the European Parliament, part of Europe-wide demonstrations against the Islamic State group’s advance on a town on the Syrian-Turkish border.

Turkey’s private Dogan news agency reported 8 dead in the eastern city of Diyarbakir and that the other victims died in cities in the east as police used water cannon and tear gas to disperse protesters who burned cars and damaged businesses.

The activists are demanding more help for the besieged Kurdish forces struggling to hold onto the Syrian town of Kobani. Some European countries are arming the Kurds, and the American-led coalition is carrying out airstrikes against the Islamic extremists, but protesters say it isn’t enough.

A demonstrator in Cyprus urged the coalition to “hit the jihadists harder” so that Kurdish forces can hold the town.

Tensions are especially high in Turkey, where Kurds have fought a 3-decade-long battle for autonomy and where Syria’s violence has taken an especially heavy toll.

Protests were reported in cities across Turkey on Tuesday, after Islamic State fighters backed by tanks and artillery engaged in heavy street battles with the town’s Kurdish defenders.

Police used water cannons and tear gas to disperse demonstrators in Istanbul and in the desert town of Kucuk Kenderciler, near Kobani on the Turkish side of the border. One person in Istanbul was hospitalized after being hit in the head by a gas canister, Dogan reported.

Some protesters shouted “Murderer ISIS!” and accused Turkey’s government of collaborating with the Islamic militants.

Authorities declared a curfew in six towns in the southeastern province of Mardin, the Anadolu Agency reported.

Hundreds of thousands of Kurds live elsewhere in Europe, and mobilized quickly via social networks to stage protests after the advance on Kobani. Some European Kurds have gone to the Mideast recently to join Kurdish forces.

In Brussels on Tuesday, about 50 protesters smashed a glass door and pushed past police to get into the European Parliament. Once inside, some protesters were received by Parliament President Martin Schulz, who promised to discuss the Kurds’ plight with NATO and EU leaders.

In Germany, home to Western Europe’s largest Kurdish population, about 600 people demonstrated in Berlin on Tuesday, according to police. Hundreds demonstrated in other German cities. Austria, too, saw protests.

Kurds peacefully occupied the Dutch Parliament for several hours Monday night, and met Tuesday with legislators to press for more Dutch action against the insurgents, according to local media.

The Netherlands has sent six F-16 fighter jets to conduct airstrikes against Islamic State in Iraq, but says it does not see a mandate for striking in Syria.

France, too, is firing airstrikes on Islamic State positions in Iraq but not in Syria, wary of implications on international efforts against President Bashar Assad.

“We don’t understand why France is acting in Kurdistan in Iraq and not Kurdistan in Syria,” said Fidan Unlubayir of the Federation of Kurdish Associations of France.

Kurds protested overnight at the French Parliament and plan another protest Tuesday.

Kurds also staged impromptu protests against the Islamic State fighters in Helsinki, Oslo and Stockholm.

On Monday, protesters at the U.S. Embassy in Cyprus urged the international coalition to provide heavy weaponry to Kurdish fighters and forge a military cooperation pact with the Kurdish group YPG.

TIME isis

U.S. Air Strikes Can’t Stop ISIS in the Fight for Kobani

Smoke rises from the city centre of the Syrian town of Ain al-Arab, known as Kobani by the Kurds, as seen from the Turkish-Syrian border during heavy fighting, in the southeastern town of Suruc, Sanliurfa province, Turkey, on Oct. 7, 2014.
Smoke rises from the city centre of the Syrian town of Ain al-Arab, known as Kobani by the Kurds, as seen from the Turkish-Syrian border during heavy fighting, in the southeastern town of Suruc, Sanliurfa province, Turkey, on Oct. 7, 2014. Aris Messinis—AFP/Getty Images

The key town is in danger of being lost to the militant group ISIS

By sunset today, the black flag of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) was flying on the edge of Kobani, a strategically important Syrian-Kurdish town on the Turkish border. Despite President Barack Obama’s pledge to destroy ISIS — and the ongoing air campaign that has followed that promise — the extremist group seems poised to take this town and solidify their control over a swath of the Syrian-Turkish border.

“ISIS is attacking from three sides and they are pushing into the city. We are fighting back,” said Ojlan Esso, a spokesman for the Kurdish forces in Kobani by phone. The sound of mortars hitting the city echoed in the background of the call before the line went dead.

For more than three weeks Kurdish fighters have been fending off ISIS and calling for air strikes, better weapons and for Turkey to allow Kurdish fighters to cross the border and join them in fight in Kobani. They’ve only gotten the strikes so far, courtesy of the U.S.-led coalition, and that hasn’t been enough to stop the militants’ advance.

“They’ve definitely been too few and far between to disrupt the ISIS offensive in the area,” said Jenny Cafarella, a Syria analyst at the Washington, D.C.–based Institute for the Study of War. Taking Kobani will not just be a blow to the Kurdish fighters there but a strategic gain for ISIS, broadening their control in Syria and connecting key areas under their burgeoning caliphate’s power.

Many Kurds in Kobani are angry that assistance didn’t come to the besieged city weeks ago. “I saw several air strikes today, but they should have taken place before ISIS entered Kobani,” said Abdul Azziz, a Kurdish resident from the city.

The ISIS attack on Kobani is in line with its efficient approach to combat — strategically targeting areas the group knows will have difficulty fighting back. The Syrian Kurds have a precarious relationship with the country’s opposition rebels, while Turkey has blocked weapons, supplies and fighters from entering Kobani because of Ankara’s long-standing feud with Kurdish groups.

America isn’t having any more success. So far the U.S.-led operation in Syria has focused on damaging ISIS infrastructure, targeting convoys and checkpoints instead of front-line positions and active battle sites. In part, this is because the U.S. is not coordinating with the forces fighting on the ground in Syria. In the case of Kobani, Kurdish leaders have said that they need air strikes on strategic positions where the militants are advancing.

But as the bombing has taken its toll on ISIS convoys and checkpoints, the militant group has begun limiting large movements in open daylight, making it more difficult to hit their units. “These strikes have forced ISIS to shift some of its tactics, and this shift in tactics actually increases the difficulty in acquiring target sets,” says Cafarella.

More precise strikes are impossible for now — the U.S. lacks the intelligence networks to hit key targets, says Andrew Tabler, a senior fellow at the Washington Institute, who focuses on Syria and U.S. policy in the Levant region. “You have to get these networks set up so they can feed you with this sort of information.”

It’s not just Syrian Kurds who are complaining about the impotence of the strikes. Even the moderate Syrian rebel groups that have been picked for training and weapons distribution by the U.S. have begun criticizing the early strikes in Syria, arguing that they will not be effective as long as the U.S. fails to work with fighters on the ground.

“The strikes are just not coordinated with ground objectives in mind,” said Tabler. “Concerning Syria, I can’t define a strategy there. I can’t see what it is.”

While the U.S.-led strikes against ISIS in Syria have targeted the group’s financial infrastructure and warring capability it is not having much effect on the many front lines between the militants, and both these Kurdish fighters in Kobani and the Free Syrian Army groups the U.S. talks about backing.

But even in Iraq, where the U.S. is coordinating with both the Iraqi national army and Iraqi Kurdish peshmerga forces, ISIS is still making gains in some areas. “You notice [ISIS] is advancing outside of Baghdad,” said Tabler. “So it’s hard to argue that the strikes are working to halt ISIS’s advance.”

If Kobani falls into the hands of ISIS, it may not only provide a new supply route into the caliphate and strategic territorial control, but also demonstrate that the U.S. is far from defeating the militant group

TIME Syria

ISIS Has Entered the Key Syrian Border Town of Kobani

Despite the help of U.S.-led air strikes, Kurdish fighters could not prevent the Sunni militants from closing in

The Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria (ISIS) entered Kobani on the Syria-Turkey border Monday, after intense street fighting with Kurdish forces trying to defend the Syrian town, the BBC reports.

The Sunni militant extremists raised their black flags on several buildings, after pushing into three neighborhoods in the east of the city, also known as Ayn al-Arab.

Kobani has been besieged for three weeks, and more than 160,000 civilians have fled to the Turkish border.

ISIS fighters pushed through the defenses of the Syrian-Kurdish troops with tanks and artillery, killing many in street battles. The militants now have control of Mistenur, a key hill above the town, the BBC says.

“They have surrounded us almost from every side with their tanks. They have been shelling the city with heavy weapons. Kurdish fighters are resisting as much as they can with the limited weapons they have,” Asya Abdullah, a senior Kurdish politician and co-leader of the Democratic Union Party, told the BBC.

If the ISIS militants take control of Kobani, they will have a huge strategic corridor along the Turkish border, linking with the terrorist group’s positions in Aleppo to the west and Raqqa to the east.

Heavy clashes between ISIS fighters and Kurdish defenders raged all of Monday and over the weekend but despite the help of U.S.-led air strikes, the militants managed to close in on Kobani.

Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu says he will do everything he can to save the people living in the border town.

“We will do everything possible to help the people of Kobani because they are our brothers and sisters. We don’t see them as Kurds or Turkmen or Arabs.”

He added that “if there is a need of intervention to Kobani,” then “there is a need of intervention [in] all Syria.”

For the past week, tanks belonging to the Turkish Armed Forces have been positioned on the hills close to Kobani in order to reinforce the border.

But many Turkish Kurds and refugees have slammed Ankara for not doing enough to defeat ISIS, which is now knocking on Turkey’s front door.

TIME National Security

Chicago Teen Arrested for Trying to Join ISIS

The FBI intercepted him at O'Hare as he was allegedly on his way to join the militant group

A Chicago teenager was arrested at O’Hare International Airport over the weekend while allegedly attempting to go to Turkey to join the militant group Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria (ISIS), officials said Monday.

Mohammed Hamzah Khan, 19, was arrested by the FBI before he boarded a flight to Vienna on his way to Istanbul, and has been charged with one count of attempting to provide material support to a terrorist organization, according to a criminal complaint filed Monday by the Department of Justice. Khan is a U.S. citizen.

While he was at the airport, the FBI executed a search warrant at Khan’s family home and found handwritten documents expressing support for ISIS and a desire to fight along side the group, according to the criminal complaint filed in federal court. The documents included travel plans, drawings of the ISIS flag and flags of other known terrorist organizations, and a page that included writing in Arabic that, using another name for ISIS, said: “Islamic State in Iraq and Levant. Here to stay. We are the lions of war [unintelligible.] My nation, the dawn has emerged.”

Law enforcement also found a letter written to Khan’s parents that appeared to explain his thinking. He told them not to contact the authorities, that he was intending to “migrate” to ISIS “now that it has been established,” and that he was upset that his taxes were being used to kill his “Muslim brothers and sisters.”

Khan was in federal court Monday and was ordered held at least until a detention hearing on Oct. 9, the Associated Press reports. If convicted of attempting to provide material support to a terrorist organization, Khan could face up to 15 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.

TIME Turkey

Turkey Approves Military Operations in Iraq, Syria

Parliament voted 298-98 in favor of the motion

ANKARA, Turkey (AP) — Turkey’s parliament has approved a motion that gives the government new powers to launch military incursions into Syria and Iraq and to allow foreign forces to use its territory for possible operations against the Islamic State group.

Parliament voted 298-98 in favor of the motion which sets the legal framework for any Turkish military involvement in Iraq or Syria, and for the potential use of Turkish bases by foreign troops.

Turkey has joined a U.S.-led coalition against the Islamic State group but has yet to define what role it intends to play.

TIME History

Archaeologists Believe They Found Dracula’s Dungeon

Circa 1450, Portrait of Vlad Tepes 'Vlad the Impaler'(c 1431-1476), from a painting in Castle Ambras in the Tyrol.
Circa 1450, portrait of Vlad Tepes or Vlad the Impaler, from a painting in Castle Ambras in the Tyrol Stock Montage/Getty Images

The dungeon believed to have held Vlad the Impaler, the inspiration for the blood-thirsty character, was recently discovered in Turkey

Archeologists in Turkey have reportedly made a spooky discovery, just in time for the start of Halloween season: the dungeon where the real-life basis for Count Dracula was held.

The cell where history’s Dracula, the Romanian prince Vlad III (nicknamed Vlad the Impaler for his gruesome tendency to impale his foes), was recently discovered during a restoration project, the Turkey-based Hurriyet Daily News reports.

Researchers are reportedly restoring the ancient Tokat Castle, where the Ottomans imprisoned the infamously cruel figure, in the mid 1400s. The team there evidently discovered a tunnel leading to two dungeons — one of which is likely to have housed Bad Old Vlad.

TIME

Pictures of the Week: Sept. 19 – Sept. 26

From Syrian Kurds fleeing ISIS and the People’s Climate March to synchronized aquatics at the Asian Games and Derek Jeter’s perfect send off, TIME presents the best pictures of the week.

 

TIME Syria

Fresh Air Strikes Hit ISIS Forces in Syria

A Turkish soldier watches as Kurdish Syrian refugees walk on the Turkish-Syrian border near the southeastern town of Suruc in Sanliurfa province, Sept. 24, 2014.
A Turkish soldier watches as Kurdish Syrian refugees walk on the Turkish-Syrian border near the southeastern town of Suruc in Sanliurfa province, Sept. 24, 2014. Murad Sezer—Reuters

Reports say ISIS positions near the besieged town of Kobani were pounded

Updated 8:10am ET

U.S. military aircraft carried out fresh raids against Sunni extremist fighters from the Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria (ISIS) in northern Syria on Tuesday night.

U.S. Central Command said Tuesday night that U.S. military forces had continued to attack ISIS targets in Syria with two airstrikes southwest of Dayr Az Zawr. Secretary of State John Kerry confirmed Wednesday that there had been more strikes overnight. “Definitely a second day and a third and maybe more,” Kerry said, in an interview with CNN. “We’re going to do what’s necessary to get the job done.”

The British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported on Wednesday that planes scored hits against ISIS militants near Kobani, which is also known as Ayn al-Arab. The Observatory’s Rami Abdulrahman said that local activists reported that the planes had approached from the Turkish side of the border. Turkish officials have dismissed that claim, according to the BBC, and denied that Turkish aircraft or the U.S. airbase at Incirlik were used.

Since Friday, close to 140,000 ethnic Kurds from Syria have flooded across the border into southern Turkey, as ISIS forces took surrounding villages and began to tighten their grip on Kobani. Kurdish militia fighters were still in control of the city as of Wednesday morning.

Earlier this week, Melissa Fleming, a spokesperson for the Office of the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees, told reporters in Geneva that the agency was preparing for the entire 400,000 strong-population of communities in and around Kobani to cross the border.

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