Turkey on Monday voiced concern over fresh oppression of Tartars in Crimea, the Ukrainian peninsula illegally annexed by Russia in 2014.

"We are following with concern the raids on the houses of Crimean Tatar Turks and the detentions that took place in Crimea this morning," a Foreign Ministry statement said.

The ministry said that the detentions and raids are the latest example of the "systematic oppression and intimidation campaign against the Crimean Tatars" following the illegal and illegitimate annexation in 2014.

"Turkey will continue to stand by its kinsmen, Crimean Tatars, who have been defending their rights and interests by peaceful means and trying to make their voices heard through democratic methods," it added.

Russian forces entered the Crimean Peninsula in February 2014, with Russian President Vladimir Putin formally dividing the region into two separate federal subjects of the Russian Federation the following month.

Since then, Crimean Tatars have continued their struggle for Ukraine's territorial integrity against Russian occupation.

Crimea's ethnic Tatars have faced persecution since Russia's 2014 takeover of the peninsula, a situation Turkey has decried.

Turkey and the US, as well as the UN General Assembly, view the annexation as illegal./aa


A top global Muslim group on Monday condemned recent desecrations of the holy Quran in Scandinavia.

Desecration of the holy Quran is an "incitement to terrorism and belittling of sacred values," said Ali al-Qaradaghi, secretary general of the International Union for Muslim Scholars (IUMS), on Facebook.

At an anti-Islam protest Saturday in the capital Oslo by the far-right Stop the Islamization of Norway (SION) group, a protester tore out pages of the Quran and spat on them.

Last Friday, in Malmo, Sweden, a copy of the Quran was also burned by supporters of Rasmus Paludan, leader of the Danish far-right Stram Kurs (Tight Direction) party.

Al-Qaradaghi also urged Muslims to strictly follow the teachings of Islam and not respond to extremism with extremism.

Urging authorities to take the necessary actions, Al-Qaradaghi said the incident does not harm the holy Quran but the perpetrator.

The first response to the incident has to be the establishment of an Islamic consensus on following the Quran, he added./aa


Turkish security forces have neutralized at least two terrorists in an anti-terror operation in southeastern Turkey, the Interior Ministry said Monday.

The terrorists were neutralized as part of Operation Yildirim-2 Cilo in rural areas of the Hakkari province, it said in a statement.

During the operation, gendarmerie forces seized an M-16 rifle and two Kalashnikovs, it added.

Turkish authorities often use the term "neutralized" to imply the terrorists in question surrendered or were killed or captured.

The terrorists’ affiliation was not mentioned, but the terrorist PKK has been active in the region.

This summer, Turkey has launched a series of security operations to neutralize terrorists believed to be hiding out in the country's east and southeast.

In its more than 30-year terror campaign against Turkey, the PKK -- listed as a terrorist organization by Turkey, the US and EU -- has been responsible for the deaths of nearly 40,000 people, including women, children and infants./aa

They arrived in unprecedented numbers, pushing a strained Sweden to shut its borders as anti-immigration sentiment flared. Five years later, Syrians are still trying to integrate, some more successfully than others.

Abdallah Saleh, a 24-year-old Palestinian who fled Damascus in 2014, finally arrived in the southern Swedish town of Malmo in September the following year after a harrowing journey.

Ten months later, he got his first job as a cashier.

Saleh spent three years learning Swedish and English, taking adult education classes and working on the side.


Now, he's just been accepted into a computer science programme at Halmstad University.

"It's been my dream since high school," he tells AFP, beaming.

In 2015, the Scandinavian country took in the highest number of asylum seekers per capita in the European Union, at 163,000.

A third of them were Syrians.

"Every day the line of asylum seekers was never-ending. At the end of the day, they were knocking on the window, saying 'please, help us'," recalls a former case handler at the Migration Agency.

Experts say it's too early to tell how well Syrians as a group have integrated, citing a lack of data. 

But they say the early signs are pretty positive.

Pieter Bevelander, a professor of international migration at Malmo University, points to 2016 statistics: "Of the Syrians who received a residency permit in 2010, 70 percent now have a job." 

"We can expect a similar result for those who arrived in 2015," he suggests.

This is especially the case since Syrians' education level is about the same as Swedes', noted Stockholm University professor Eleonora Mussino.

- Tougher rules -

Sweden was however quickly overwhelmed with the huge influx of migrants knocking at its door.

It ended up adopting a temporary law in 2016 making permanent residency and family reunifications harder to get, offering three-year residency permits instead.

The law expires in 2021, but the hot-button issue is now up for debate again in parliament, which will likely replace it with a permanent law.

Sweden -- a country of 10.3 million people, of whom 12 percent were born outside the EU -- has welcomed large numbers of immigrants since the 1990s, primarily from the former Yugoslavia, Somalia, Iran and Iraq.

But over the years, public opinion on immigration has hardened.

The anti-immigration Sweden Democrats party has in two decades grown to become the third-biggest party, hovering around 20 percent in opinion polls.

"It's an analytical mistake to think that the Swedish attitude to immigration was generous before 2015 and that it changed after the migrant wave," Joakim Ruist, an immigration expert at Gothenburg University, says.

"This tolerance has in reality always been fragile: everybody knew that a large part of the population didn't want refugees in the country," he adds.

- Influx slowed - 

Jonas Andersson, a Sweden Democrats MP, tells AFP "the temporary law was necessary but it was just a small step in the right direction."

"Sweden needs to tighten its legislation," he insists.

Since the temporary law came into force, the number of Syrian arrivals has plummeted, to just 5,500 in 2016 and even fewer in the following years.

The same trend can be seen in the number of asylum requests granted.

Hala Alnahas knows that all too well.

With a dentistry degree from Damascus University, she now practises in the small Swedish town of Mariestad.

She has only been granted successive temporary residency permits, despite a shortage of dentists in Sweden.

Her request for permanent residency was recently denied because of a single document missing from her dossier.

"It was a shock, because I pay my taxes, I earn a decent living, I have my own apartment and I don't need anybody's help," she says.

- Hurdles to integration -

Other Syrians say they feel like they're living life on the sidelines.

Unemployed since arriving in Sweden, Ali Haj Mohammad, 45, is struggling to get to know Swedes.

"I get the impression they don't want to talk to refugees. My Swedish isn't very good, but how can I improve it with no job and when I spend my free time with other Syrians or Iraqis?", he complains.

According to Teodora Abda, the head of Sweden's Syrian Association, Syrians' integration "has failed" because of a lack of housing and their limited social contact with Swedes.

"Those who arrived five years ago chose to live with members of their own families," often in immigrant-heavy suburbs, "rather than find themselves alone in northern Sweden" where authorities might have placed them, she explains.

Disadvantaged neighbourhoods with strong immigrant populations are rife with social woes and unemployment -- leading to social exclusion, parallel economies and, increasingly, gang shootings.

Sweden -- traditionally homogenous and now with a high-skilled labour market -- can be challenging for people arriving from war-torn countries, especially those with no skills.

For 38-year-old Majda Ibrahim and her family, who came to Sweden in 2013 just before the big migrant wave, the road to a new life has been arduous, but worth it.

"In the beginning, it was really hard, our life was turned upside down," she says at the family's three-room apartment in Skogas, a Stockholm suburb, home to many immigrants.

Her husband works as a cleaner and their five children are enrolled at school.

After numerous hotel stays, social-services meetings and a slew of black-market sublets, they finally have a place to call home.

"It's the first time in seven years that we have a real apartment lease," says her 16-year-old daughter Alia Daoud in perfect Swedish.

"Now we all have Swedish citizenship," smiles Majda./AFP

The death of George Floyd this spring turned Minneapolis into a symbol of America’s racial divide — a place where, as in many American cities, people of color feel sidelined, disrespected and cut off from opportunities.

But Minneapolis hasn’t always had that reputation.

In the last decades of the 20th century, the Twin Cities were seen as a model of racial and economic integration, celebrated as a place where state laws and local initiatives created some of the most far-reaching school and neighborhood integration programs in the nation.

Those efforts didn’t stamp out racism, said Helen Bassett, 70, a Black school board member in the suburban Robbinsdale Area school district near Minneapolis. But they gave people a way to better understand one another, “to relate to them on the basis of human decency.”

Today, however, the programs are mostly gone.

Like many U.S. cities that dismantled school integration programs in the wake of federal court decisions and shifting local politics, the Twin Cities have largely walked away from their once-touted initiatives, replacing them with a school choice system that was supposed to integrate schools by letting parents choose where to send their children, but has largely exacerbated segregation.

Bus routes that once transported students to intentionally integrated schools have stopped running. Magnet schools that once drew students from different neighborhoods have closed. And in the absence of those efforts, Black and white students have become increasingly isolated.

In the 1993-94 school year, less than one percent of Black students in the Minneapolis region attended highly segregated public schools — where 90 percent or more of the student body was not white, according to an NBC News analysis of data from the National Center for Education Statistics. Almost three decades later, in 2018, a quarter of the region's Black students were attending such schools.

NBC News found a similar rise in school racial segregation in 74 of the 100 most populous metro areas in the United States. Across the country, nearly 40 percent of Black students were in highly segregated schools in 2018, up from 33 percent in 1993. And in places like Minneapolis; Charlotte, North Carolina; Milwaukee; and Tampa Bay, Florida, the increases were even sharper.

The consequences of that resegregation have been painful, said Rucker Johnson, an economist and public policy professor at the University of California, Berkeley.

“We must think of racism as an infectious disease and silence leaves the disease untreated,” said Johnson, the author of “Children of the Dream: Why School Integration Works.”

When communities resegregated schools, he said, they halted progress in bridging academic and economic gaps that had long existed between Blacks and whites. Johnson’s book documents his research following thousands of students from the heyday of school integration in the 1970s and ʼ80s. He found that when Black students attended integrated schools from kindergarten to 12th grade, they went further in high school and college, essentially eliminating differences in educational attainment between Black and white students. They earned higher wages compared to Black students who attended segregated schools, had more stable marriages, were more likely to avoid the criminal justice system and experienced health benefits later in life on par with being seven years younger.

“We see a pretty transformative impact,” said Johnson, who is African American and grew up in Minneapolis, where his mother was the superintendent of schools from 1997 to 2003. When schools began to resegregate, Black and Latino students increasingly landed in schools with fewer resources and less experienced teachers. That’s led to lower graduation rates, lower rates of college attendance and ultimately lower wages compared with their white peers.

NAACP protesting MPLS school board meeting -- Protestors fill a meeting room at the Minneapolis Public school headquarters to display their disagreement with recent school board policy regarding segregation and to support a NAACP lawsuit against the state (Marlin Levison / Star Tribune via Getty Images)More

White students who attend predominantly white schools, meanwhile, are more likely to bring racial biases into adulthood, Johnson said, meaning that when cities like Minneapolis resegregated their schools they set themselves up for a future of housing and employment discrimination, racial bias in classrooms, unequal treatment for patients in hospitals, and — ultimately — incidents like the killing of Floyd, a Black man who died with his neck under the knee of a white Minneapolis police officer.

“When law enforcement assumes guilt over innocence, when educators perpetuate a culture of low expectations and when health care is not preventative and accessible care,” Johnson said, “the consequences are tragic and destroy our opportunities.”

After Brown

The U.S. Supreme Court abolished school segregation in its Brown v. Board of Education decision in 1954. The Civil Rights Act a decade later made the ruling more enforceable. And by the 1970s, lawsuits filed on behalf of Black students had begun to desegregate schools.

In Charlotte, an ambitious effort to use busing to racially balance schools in Mecklenburg County was unanimously upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court in 1971. The ruling paved the way for court-ordered busing programs around the country and turned the Charlotte-Mecklenburg school district into a national model for school integration for 25 years.

Soon, hundreds of school districts were under court orders that redrew enrollment boundaries or put students on buses to take them to integrated schools.

As a result, the percent of Black students in highly segregated schools across the country was cut in half from 1968 to 1988, according to a 2019 report.

“It wasn’t perfect,” said Erica Frankenberg, an education professor at Pennsylvania State University and one of the report’s authors. Many technically integrated schools steered white students to advanced classes that excluded Black students. Others subjected Black students to racist discipline policies that made it harder for them to succeed. Private schools sprang up, particularly in the South, to serve white students whose parents wanted segregated schools.

In the North, as the suburbs expanded, some areas, like Boston and Detroit, saw integration efforts thwarted by a 1974 Supreme Court ruling that barred judges from forcing suburbs to participate. That meant white families could avoid integration by moving to the suburbs, which many did.

Despite those challenges, Frankenberg said, it was a start. “We brought kids and teachers of different races together in the same building, which particularly in the South had not been done before, and the significance of that undertaking alone cannot be understated.”

“But then,” Frankenberg added, “we took our foot off the gas pedal for desegregation.”

A Supreme Court ruling in 1991 gave judges broad leeway to end integration programs if they believed a district had already complied in good faith. And, one by one, desegregation court orders began to fall.

Increasingly isolated

Across the United States, the percent of Black students in highly segregated schools has grown since 1993.

Across the United States, the percent of Black students in highly segregated schools has grown since 1993.

A white parent’s lawsuit toppled Charlotte’s integration program in 1999 despite objections from the district, which tried to defend it. Today, Charlotte has the most segregated schools in North Carolina, as well as significant achievement gaps between Black and white students.

While Black students represented just under a third of all students enrolled in public schools in the Charlotte metro area in 2018, an NBC News analysis found that a typical Black student attended a school that was disproportionately Black. This is a sharp change from 1988, when the average Black student attended a school that mirrored the demographics of the metro area.

Clustered together in Charlotte, North Carolina

White students are the largest racial group in Charlotte-area public schools, but Black students are still more likely to be in schools with other Black children.

Other rollbacks had a similar impact. In Tuscaloosa, Alabama, two integrated high schools created by a 1979 desegregation order were replaced by smaller, more segregated schools in 2000 when that order was thrown out. Since 1993, the percent of Black students in highly segregated Tuscaloosa-area schools has grown from 39 percent to 53 percent.

In the Milwaukee metropolitan area, over the same time period, the percent of Black students in highly segregated schools has tripled. Kenosha, Wisc., the latest city to land in the national spotlight after the shooting of a Black man by police, has a relatively small Black population but the percentage of students in highly segregated schools is inching up. A city that did not have a single highly segregated school in 1993 had two such schools last year.

And across the country, Black and brown children have been increasingly concentrated in schools with high teacher turnover, aging textbooks, fewer advanced courses, and, ultimately, lower test scores. Blacks have continued to lag behind white peers on many economic measures. They’re less likely to attend and graduate from college, more likely to be unemployed, less likely to own their home and more likely to live in poverty.

‘We outlawed de facto segregation’

The story of school integration in Minneapolis is somewhat different from the rest of the country since it was state and regional policy — not a federal court order — that made the Twin Cities an integration success story, said Myron Orfield, a law professor at the University of Minnesota who has spent his career documenting the resegregation of schools and neighborhoods in the Twin Cities.

Though Minneapolis schools were under a desegregation court order from 1972 to 1983, two local policies from that time had a bigger impact, Orfield said. One was a program that required municipalities in the region to develop affordable housing. That essentially prevented the suburbs from excluding low-income families that were more likely to be families of color.

The other was a state law that barred districts from concentrating too many students of any one race in any one school. If any school had significantly more Black or white or Latino students than the district as a whole, the district could lose state funding, Orfield said.

“We outlawed de facto segregation,” he said. “We forbid it and didn't allow it to occur in any form.”

Then the politics of integration began to shift. The housing policy fell victim to changes in federal funding and local priorities in the 1980s. The school desegregation law lasted into the 1990s, when the state’s governor and Legislature were on the verge of expanding it to include more of the suburbs. Then, in 1998, the state’s attorney general issued an opinion that largely gutted it, Orfield said.

The attorney general, Hubert H. “Skip” Humphrey III, was running for governor at the time. His opinion asserted, among other things, that existing desegregation programs were illegal.

“He just wiped it out,” Orfield said. “He changed our civil rights law by 180 degrees.”

Humphrey, who lost that race for governor, did not respond to requests for comment.

After that, Orfield said, desegregation efforts became largely optional — school districts that wanted to integrate could qualify for extra state funding, but districts could opt out without consequences, or use the funding ineffectively. At the same time, the rise of a new school choice system further hampered integration efforts.

Minnesota had been a national leader in school choice in the 1990s. It was the first state to allow privately run, publicly funded charter schools and it created programs allowing students to attend schools in neighboring districts.

Supporters believed choice would help integrate schools by giving low-income families of color a way out of low-performing schools. But in practice, some white families used choice to avoid integration.

“If families did not want to send their kids to a school with, quote, ‘those kids,’ they could escape, and a number did,” said Bill Green, who was the superintendent of Minneapolis schools from 2006 to 2010.

Choice programs also hurt Minneapolis schools financially, Green said. As suburban schools recruited city students — sometimes using desegregation dollars to do so — city enrollment declined, as did state funding. And Green, who is Black and now a history professor at Augsburg University in Minneapolis, questioned whether students of color were getting a better education in schools that didn’t necessarily have racially diverse teachers or curriculums.

As the choice system grew more popular, districts faced financial pressure and began pulling out of the multidistrict integration consortiums that, decades earlier, had created diverse magnet schools to comply with the law when it had more teeth. Most of those schools have closed.

The magnet schools had offered a “real, visible, tangible” way for the region to work toward “a common goal of equity and inclusion,” said Bassett, who served on the board of a regional integration consortium.

When districts walked away, “they dismantled something that was unique, that really set us apart," Bassett said. The region's integration programs “gave such hope," she added, "and then slowly, over time, it got chipped away and chipped away.”

‘They can do it everywhere’

Schools across the country have become more diverse in recent years as Hispanic and Asian populations have grown; white children are no longer a majority in public schools. But Black and Latino students in U.S. cities remain highly isolated. While 16 percent of U.S. public school students were Black in 2018, NBC News' analysis found that a typical Black student attended a school that was 48 percent Black.

Addressing this problem will require different solutions than those tried in the past, experts say. Recent Supreme Court rulings have largely barred the use of race in student enrollment, so districts would need to use other criteria, such as family income or ZIP code. Plus, suburban sprawl has spread students over larger areas, making busing to magnet schools more complicated.

Some experts, like Johnson, the Berkeley economist, say the solution includes housing policy changes aimed at integrating both neighborhoods and schools, as well as changes to school funding systems to prevent isolating needier children in financially strapped schools.

Others, like Frankenberg, from Penn State, said new technology such as computer models that could identify effective changes to school attendance zones could be deployed to help schools desegregate.

And in Minneapolis, Dan Shulman is using the tool that worked back in the 20th century: a lawsuit.

A suit Shulman filed on behalf of Minneapolis and St. Paul students in 2015 — Cruz-Guzman v. State of Minnesota — won the backing of the state Supreme Court on a key argument and is now in mediation.

Shulman, a staff attorney for the Minnesota ACLU, said he’s been working on a settlement with Attorney General Keith Ellison. The two are developing integration strategies that could withstand legal challenges, including adding magnet schools and hiring and retaining teachers who are highly qualified and diverse, Shulman said.

Just as protests on the streets in Minneapolis this spring inspired similar demonstrations in cities across the country, Shulman hopes his desegregation lawsuit can inspire efforts elsewhere.

“Now we have a national black eye, which is well deserved and long overdue,” he said, citing statistics that show large academic and economic gaps between Black and white residents of the region.

But he hopes his lawsuit can change that.

“If we can do it here in one of the worst areas, with the greatest gaps and the most segregation,” he said, “they can do it everywhere.”

A 22-year-old Russian opposition activist has been hospitalised after what supporters said was a vicious attack by two men outside his house in Moscow. 

Yegor Zhukov, who came to prominence last year when he was arrested and tried over opposition protests, posted pictures of his bruised and bloody face to social media following the attack.

He was taken to hospital for an MRI scan which showed he had “fortunately managed to avoid serious injuries or internal bleeding,” a spokesman said.

The activist “remained calm and even joked about what happened,” his team said in a social media post, adding that he was allowed home following tests.

The assault comes as opposition leader Alexei Navalny remains unconscious in a Berlin hospital after what German doctors say was a incident of poisoning.

Mr Navalny’s team have said Russian authorities are to blame for the attack, but the Kremlin have rejected the charges and accused the Berlin hospital of “rushing to conclusions”.

Mr Zhukov was handed a three-year suspended sentence last year on extremism charges, over videos posted to his YouTube channel about mass protests in Moscow that called for free elections.

In a closing speech to the court he attacked Russia’s “autocracy” and said most people in the country lived in a state of “desperation”. Fellow students rallied to support him and he later told interviewers he had ambitions to be president.

Before the attack on Sunday, Mr Zhukov took part in an online talk show in which he discussed the current protest movement in Belarus against long-time dictator Alexander Lukashenko.

He said the demonstrations there were a “textbook example” for those who wanted to achieve change through peaceful means.

Also on Sunday, the young activist said Moscow’s prestigious Higher School of Economics had rescinded his offer of a place on a Master’s programme. He accused the university of bowing to pressure from authorities.

Moscow police have opened a criminal investigation into the attack.


Turkey will start space trials of its liquid-propellant rocket engines, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Sunday.

"I would like to announce the start of the first space trials of domestically developed liquid-propellant rocket engine technology,” Erdogan said at the opening ceremony of Turkey’s leading defense company Roketsan's production facility and research center in the capital Ankara.

“We will also continue our efforts to develop hybrid fuel rocket engines,” he added.

He said Roketsan has developed high-capacity hydrogen fuel cell technology, a clean energy source with applications for the space sector, as well as aviation and transportation.

“The GPS receivers needed for precision-guided munitions and weapon systems have also been produced domestically for the first time,” said the president.

“At this center, we are working on technologies of the future, such as miniature weapons, hypersonic systems, and laser and directed-energy weapons using electromagnetic technology.”

Vision for defense industry

President Erdogan stressed that Turkey does not tolerate any lack of coordination in the defense industry.

“In particular, we never accept products from abroad that we can make in the country. We have brought our nearly paralyzed defense industry back to life,” he said.

“Inspired by the glorious heritage of our ancestors, we reduced our defense industry’s external dependence from 70% to 30%.”

He pointed out that Turkey is among the top countries in production of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), armed UAVs, and offensive UAVs.

“Our Bayraktar TB2 armed UAV can easily hit targets with its laser-guided 230-millimeter missile system. This new development will especially strengthen our forces out on the front,” said the president.

The Bayraktar TB2 armed UAV was developed and manufactured by Turkish defense company Baykar Technologies.

Speaking later at a graduation ceremony at the National Defense University in Ankara, Erdogan said: “We are mounting an effective fight against all threats by balancing our investments in the defense industry and our human resources.”

Tensions in Eastern Mediterranean 

On the situation in the Eastern Mediterranean, the president said: “Along with our fight against terrorism, we are dealing with the threats to our rights and interests in the region, especially in the Mediterranean and Aegean.”

“Everyone who opposes us on land, in the air, or at sea challenges Turkey’s legitimacy and our determination to protect our rights based on international law,” he added.

Tensions between Ankara and Athens have soared over recent days, after Greece disputed Turkey’s energy exploration in the Eastern Mediterranean as it tries to box in Turkish maritime territory based on small islands near the Turkish coast.

Turkey – the country with the longest coastline on the Mediterranean – has sent out drill ships to explore for reserves on its continental shelf, saying that Turkey and the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC) have rights in the region.

Turkish officials have said that dialogue for fair distribution of any resources will be a win-win for all sides.

Turkey has also criticized Greece’s attempts to get the EU’s support to block Ankara’s legitimate energy exploration./aa


Those who burned a copy of the Quran in Sweden are “modern barbarians” who have a “primitive mindset,” Turkey’s presidential spokesman said on Sunday in a strong message against the Islamophobic act.

“They shamelessly burn the Qur’an, the sacred book of Islam, in the middle of Europe. They then claim to be the paragons of reason, logic, freedom and justice,” Ibrahim Kalin said in a tweet.

“They label anyone not like them as anti-reason bigots and retros. Modern barbarians know no limits in primitive mindset.”

The incident took place in the Swedish city of Malmo on Friday evening, where far-right activists of the anti-Muslim group Stram Krus (Hard Line) burned a copy of the Quran at a rally in the largely migrant neighborhood of Rosengard.

The Turkish Foreign Ministry has also vehemently criticized the incident, saying that such “provocative acts are a heavy blow to the culture of coexistence and European values.”

“This despicable act against our holy book is an exemplary act, as it reveals the extent to which the threat Muslims face in Europe has come,” the ministry said in a statement earlier on Saturday.

Protests against the racist act broke out in Malmo soon after, with demonstrators blocking roads and burning tires as they called for action against the perpetrators.

Swedish police later said that three people were arrested for burning the Muslim holy book.

The racist far-right group’s leader, anti-Muslim Danish politician Rasmus Paludan, was banned from entering Sweden for two years./aa

Tech mogul Elon Musk unveiled his latest foray into science fiction Friday night: a brain chip implant to allow people who are paralyzed to operate technology, such as smartphones or robotic limbs, with their thoughts.

"I think it's going to blow your minds," Musk said. "It's like a Fitbit in your skull with tiny wires."

But the coin-sized chips, developed by Musk's secretive startup Neuralink, are a ways off from being useful to humans. Friday's livestreamed YouTube demonstration was on a pig named Gertrude, who Musk said had a brain chip implanted two months earlier.

As the pig shuffled around its pen sniffing hay, a computer beeped and blue wavelengths on the screen jumped up and down. Musk said the computer was measuring Gertrude's brain activity. "The beeps you are hearing are real-time signals," he said. "The future's going to be weird."

But the "move fast and break things" ethos that defines Silicon Valley has not always been kind to inventors who try their luck in bio technology. Medical innovation is notoriously slow. Conducting clinical trials to prove the safety and efficacy of medical devices can take years.

Perhaps the most notorious example of the tension between innovation and safety is blood diagnostics startup Theranos and its founder, Elizabeth Holmes. In a rush to get her product to market, Holmes took shortcuts and made exaggerated and false claims about her company's technology, according to the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, which charged Holmes with raising money from investors in an "elaborate, years-long fraud." Holmes now faces up to 20 years in prison.

Musk nodded to the regulatory hurdles that Neuralink must clear on Friday. "We're making good progress toward clinical studies," he said. "I'm excited to announce that we received a breakthrough device designation from the FDA in July."

"I want to be clear," he continued. "We're working closely with the FDA. We'll be extremely rigorous. We'll significantly exceed the FDA guidelines for safety. We will make this as safe as possible."

Musk's track record on safety and science has been mixed.

The recent successes of SpaceX came after federal regulators examined fatal crashes linked to autopilot systems in Teslas.

In March, Musk dismissed the seriousness of COVID-19, claiming on Twitter that there would probably be close to zero new infections in the U.S. by the end of April. In May, Musk defied local stay-at-home orders and opened his California car factory in the midst of a pandemic.

As of late August, infections in the U.S. had topped 5.9 million and deaths had exceeded 182,000.

Gravestones scribbled with identity numbers are all that remain of dozens of migrants aboard a boat that sank in a Turkish lake as they struggled to make it to Europe.

Lake Van, a vast body of water nearly seven times the size of Lake Geneva, has become a death trap for Afghan, Pakistani and other migrants seeking security and work.

The sinking of two boats in June and December, claiming 68 lives in all, underscores the perils of a route used to circumnavigate checkpoints set up across the rugged eastern terrain of Turkey, not far from Iran.

Hiding on the boat with 60 others that sank on June 27 was Mehdi Mosin, then just 17.


He had left his hometown of Kharian in northeast Pakistan "for a better future", his sobbing father said.

"My wife barely gets out of bed anymore," Shafqat Mosin said by phone from Pakistan.

"At night, she cries out, asking me to open the door, thinking that our son will come home."

He tried to stop his son from going, but eventually relented.

"If I had known it was that dangerous, I would never have let him go," Mosin said.

Turkey, which offered fast-track access to Europe during the 2015 migrant crisis, has become an increasingly difficult country to cross.

The first move to cut the flow of migrants came after Ankara and Brussels signed a migration deal in 2016, but the measures were stepped up from 2018 against the backdrop of an economic crisis in Turkey.

The country is already home to around four million migrants, 3.6 million of them from war-torn Syria.

- 'I started to pray' -

Before reaching the lake, the migrants must often cross perilous border mountains. Every year, villagers discover frozen bodies after the snow melts.

In Van Province, which borders Iran, two cemeteries were set up to bury migrants who could not be identified.

In one, there were freshly dug graves, awaiting the next victims.

When the weather is pleasant, the lake appears harmless.

Families have picnics on wooden tables while watching others wobble on their paddleboards, as a local municipality official cleans the promenade.

But its unpredictable waters leave little chance for small, flimsy boats.

Muhammad, a 25-year-old Pakistani man who made it to Istanbul, crossed the lake in early March at night in an overloaded and dilapidated boat.

"There were around 50 people on board and only five life jackets," he told AFP. "There were women and children. I kept wondering what we would do if the boat sank."

When the waves started to rock his boat, "I started to pray," he said. "I saw from the looks around me that everyone was afraid."

Three months earlier another boat carrying migrants had capsized, leaving seven dead.

After the fatal June accident, security services detained several smugglers. Since then, migrants and residents say that crossings by lake, which had been staged almost daily before then, have fallen sharply.

- 'I have no choice' -

Migrants who cannot find a boat are forced to walk for days under the blazing sun, cutting across fields to get around checkpoints.

At a bus station in Tatvan, a town 140 kilometres (85 miles) west of Van, around 20 exhausted men sit on the ground, their damaged shoes lined up in front of them.

Despite the dangers, none of them are ready to give up.

"My father is sick. I must find work in Europe," said Mahmoud, a Kurd from Iraq. "It's dangerous, I'm hungry, I'm cold, but I have no choice."

Mahmut Kacan, a lawyer specialising in migration issues at the Van Bar Association, said the number of migrants dying in Van jumped after the closure of the local branch of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in 2018.

Asylum applications are now instead being handled by the Turkish authorities.

The lengthy, arduous procedures "create a climate of uncertainty" for migrants, who "take more risks" as a result, he told AFP.

Faced with the many dangers, some have opted not to take the risk.

"We had agreed with the smuggler that he would take us to Greece," said Abbas Khasimi, an Afghan who came to Van last year.

"But I decided to stay (in Van) for the life of my wife and my child, because the journey was too dangerous," he told AFP.

They have applied for refugee status in order to travel to Europe, and now cling on to this slim chance.

"Our daughter must have a future," Khasimi said. "For my wife and me, it's too late. But it must not be too late for her."