Geopolitics

Why Turkey's Military Is Killing Mules At The Iraqi Border

Dead mules near the Turkey-Iraq border
Dead mules near the Turkey-Iraq border
Fehim Tastekin

-OpEd-

ISTANBUL — Turkey's Roboski military outpost became infamous as the location of the 2011 bombing that killed 34 Kurdish youth, whom Turkish fighter pilots had mistaken for PKK rebel troops.

Now we see the latest news about Turkish soldiers killing mules, not men, in the same area near the Turkey-Iraq border. According to Ferhat Encu, a parliamentary deputy candidate who lost relatives in the 2011 massacre, soldiers killed eight mules on March 23. This was followed by two more of the animals gunned to death, and six others that died when they ran off a cliff after being scared by the gunfire. Another two mules were killed on April 5. Encu says mules that were not used in border commerce were also killed in this continuing slaughter.

But why? The state has its official justification: The Ministry of Customs and Commerce has sent a memo to the Provincial Directorate of Agriculture, Food and Husbandry in Sirnak, ordering the killing of a total of 78 mules used for border trade because they were suspected of carrying diseases into Turkey. But if the animals are thought to have an illness, shouldn't they be brought in and examined? No — too much hassle. The animals are killed by the bullets of Turkish soldiers.

This is not a first. A total of 75 mules were gunned and burned in Baskale, Van on Aug. 4, 2003. On January 2015, 97 mules were killed in Hakkari by a court order since they posed a health risk. Semdinli-Derecik also witnessed mules being killed on Dec. 25, 2014, this time by the order of a prosecutor.

Somehow, the state is very sensitive about health and border safety issues in certain areas. Encu says this is related to both the Roboski massacre in 2011 and the ongoing peace process between the Turkish state and the Kurdish militia.

A new symbol

“They are trying to intimidate us by destroying our means of living. It's not just the killing of the mules, our villages are practically under siege," says Encu. "People who go to the highlands are being stopped and questioned. Those who do not want peace with the Kurds are trying to sabotage the peace process in Roboski."

The Kurdish political leader says that sometimes the mules are shot when there are people riding them, not while crossing the border. "We ask the local government for help, but they say they cannot do anything about the soldiers," he adds. "Justice was not served when the men were slaughtered in Roboski, can it be served now by killing mules?”

The Roboski massacre of 2011 has become a symbol for crimes committed by the Turkish state. The government cannot shake this image, and is now trying to silence the Kurds who ask for justice by killing their mules. Will it work — or will it just become a new evidence of how far Turkey will go to avoid solving the Kurdish question once and for all?

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Economy

Air Next: How A Crypto Scam Collapsed On A Single Spelling Mistake

It is today a proven fraud, nailed by the French stock market watchdog: Air Next resorted to a full range of dubious practices to raise money for a blockchain-powered e-commerce app. But the simplest of errors exposed the scam and limited the damage to investors. A cautionary tale for the crypto economy.

Sky is the crypto limit

Laurence Boisseau

PARIS — Air Next promised to use blockchain technology to revolutionize passenger transport. Should we have read something into its name? In fact, the company was talking a lot of hot air from the start. Air Next turned out to be a scam, with a fake website, false identities, fake criminal records, counterfeited bank certificates, aggressive marketing … real crooks. Thirty-five employees recruited over the summer ranked among its victims, not to mention the few investors who put money in the business.

Maud (not her real name) had always dreamed of working in a start-up. In July, she spotted an ad on Linkedin and was interviewed by videoconference — hardly unusual in the era of COVID and teleworking. She was hired very quickly and signed a permanent work contract. She resigned from her old job, happy to get started on a new adventure.


Others like Maud fell for the bait. At least ten senior managers, coming from major airlines, airports, large French and American corporations, a former police officer … all firmly believed in this project. Some quit their jobs to join; some French expats even made their way back to France.

Share capital of one billion 

The story began last February, when Air Next registered with the Paris Commercial Court. The new company stated it was developing an application that would allow the purchase of airline tickets by using cryptocurrency, at unbeatable prices and with an automatic guarantee in case of cancellation or delay, via a "smart contract" system (a computer protocol that facilitates, verifies and oversees the handling of a contract).

The firm declared a share capital of one billion euros, with offices under construction at 50, Avenue des Champs Elysées, and a president, Philippe Vincent ... which was probably a usurped identity.

Last summer, Air Next started recruiting. The company also wanted to raise money to have the assets on hand to allow passenger compensation. It organized a fundraiser using an ICO, or "Initial Coin Offering", via the issuance of digital tokens, transacted in cryptocurrencies through the blockchain.

While nothing obliged him to do so, the company owner went as far as setting up a file with the AMF, France's stock market regulator which oversees this type of transaction. Seeking the market regulator stamp is optional, but when issued, it gives guarantees to those buying tokens.

screenshot of the typo that revealed the Air Next scam

The infamous typo that brought the Air Next scam down

compta online

Raising Initial Coin Offering 

Then, on Sept. 30, the AMF issued an alert, by way of a press release, on the risks of fraud associated with the ICO, as it suspected some documents to be forgeries. A few hours before that, Air Next had just brought forward by several days the date of its tokens pre-sale.

For employees of the new company, it was a brutal wake-up call. They quickly understood that they had been duped, that they'd bet on the proverbial house of cards. On the investor side, the CEO didn't get beyond an initial fundraising of 150,000 euros. He was hoping to raise millions, but despite his failure, he didn't lose confidence. Challenged by one of his employees on Telegram, he admitted that "many documents provided were false", that "an error cost the life of this project."

What was the "error" he was referring to? A typo in the name of the would-be bank backing the startup. A very small one, at the bottom of the page of the false bank certificate, where the name "Edmond de Rothschild" is misspelled "Edemond".

Finding culprits 

Before the AMF's public alert, websites specializing in crypto-assets had already noted certain inconsistencies. The company had declared a share capital of 1 billion euros, which is an enormous amount. Air Next's CEO also boasted about having discovered bitcoin at a time when only a few geeks knew about cryptocurrency.

Employees and investors filed a complaint. Failing to find the general manager, Julien Leclerc — which might also be a fake name — they started looking for other culprits. They believe that if the Paris Commercial Court hadn't registered the company, no one would have been defrauded.

Beyond the handful of victims, this case is a plea for the implementation of more secure procedures, in an increasingly digital world, particularly following the pandemic. The much touted ICO market is itself a victim, and may find it hard to recover.

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