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Europeans Embracing Migrants

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Europeans Embracing Migrants

Judging from the headlines, it sometimes seems no one in Europe wants to help refugees. Record numbers are arriving in Italy and Greece this year, and yet other European governments have agreed to share less than a fifth of them. Hungary is building a wall to keep them out. For the same reason, France has sealed its border with Italy. In Greece, for much of this year there were doubts over the legality of giving a refugee a lift.

But on a local level, there are thousands of people across the continent who are braving the vitriol of their peers, and filling the void left by the politicians. Many Europeans back their governments’ stance but their xenophobia masks another phenomenon – that of a huge drive by ordinary citizens to welcome refugees, rather than reject them. From the Hungarian volunteers providing round-the-clock support to Syrian and Afghani newcomers, to the Spanish priests assisting migrants with paperwork, here are seven movements from across Europe that are fighting for refugees’ rights.

Germany has more people applying for asylum than any other EU country and is this year expecting to receive more than 400,000 applications, more than double the number in 2014. Overcrowding of accommodation is seeing many asylum seekers being housed in tents, sport halls and container villages.

Mareike Geiling in Berlin believes there’s a better way. Last year she decided to offer her room to a friend of a friend who had fled Mali, while she was away in Cairo for a few months.

“It was nothing special – I always tell people these refugees have the same issues and things to do as we do, they have to sleep, they have to eat, they have to shower. He is a very nice person and living together is very normal.”

The experience inspired her to set up Refugees Welcome, a web-based service which has so far placed 63 more refugees in towns and cities around Germany. It also arranges for rent to be paid via benefits where possible, or via crowdfunding if the refugee has no other options.

As well as helping solve accommodation problems, Geiling believes the scheme helps refugees integrate and learn the language, while their flatmates have their eyes opened to the fact that people seeking asylum are no different from anyone else.

“We think this enriches the picture of refugees,” Geiling said.

Not all are so welcoming – attacks on refugee accommodation are an almost daily occurrence – but the town of Goslar in Lower Saxony is attempting Geiling’s welcome on a much larger scale. With a population of 50,000 and falling, the mayor has a plan to reverse its declining fortunes: refugees.

“If we want to retain our wealth, our economy, our jobs, then we need more people. I see the refugees as an opportunity, not as a burden,” said the mayor, Oliver Junk, adding that without an influx of new residents public services would become unsustainable.

“There are lots of people in Goslar who find it positive. But of course there are also people who say, ‘Do something for us, not just for refugees,’” he said. “I try to explain that without these people we would not be able to have infrastructure, swimming pools, schools, our library or our buses.”

Both schemes face challenges. Refugees Welcome lacks the funding to match more than a thousand refugees and potential flatmates who have registered, while Junk says more than 60% of those who come to Lower Saxony are from the West Balkans. “They are not refugees … and 99% of them are rejected – I am neither able nor willing to help.”

But he said that Germany as a whole needs to do more to embrace the opportunity refugees are offering the country.

“There are cities like Hanover, Munich and Berlin that are growing, but almost all over Germany, cities and the overall population are declining. If Germany wants to remain economically strong and prosperous, then it needs immigration.”

Spain

 Construction skills training for migrants in Cádiz supported by the Cardijn association. Photograph: Eduardo Ruiz

 

Samuel always tells people that his journey to reach Spain by dinghy lasted two years. That’s how long it took from when he left his home in sub-Saharan Africa, crossed the desert, arrived in Morocco, paid his way across the Strait of Gibraltar and ended up in a shelter in Cádiz.

It was in this gateway to southern Spain that two groups funded by the bishopric of Cádiz welcomed him with open arms. They helped him learn Spanish and integrate into the local culture.

Programmes run by the Tierra de Todos (Everyone’s Land) foundation and Cardijn association helped 3,536 people last year, but Fr Gabriel Delgado worries their efforts are minute given the increasing numbers now arriving.

He said his work stems from a basic conviction, that “immigrants are people, with the same dignity and rights as you and I”.

Many of the newcomers attend courses on first aid and languages, as well as care for the elderly, retail or hospitality sector skills. When Spain’s economy was booming, courses on construction would allow the immigrants to find work.

“We give them tools so that they have options like everyone else,” says Delgado.

There is also a reception programme that offers a flat for long-term stays, geared to young people who need a place to stay for several months while their situation stabilises, and an emergency service that houses people for one to two weeks, allowing those who have recently arrived in dinghies to recover, contact their loved ones and benefit from a human touch.

That touch is what’s missing in Spain’s temporary migrant accommodation centres, such as the one in Tarifa, southeast of Cádiz, said Delgado. “There they are treated as if they had committed a serious crime. They take away all their rights. They should close the centres and come up with other formulas.”

His colleague Santiago Yerga periodically visits theaccommodation centre in Tarifa and it is there that he has noticed that many of those arriving are not the traditional migrants who are escaping poverty in search of a better life. Instead they are escaping to save their lives.

“They’re refugees, people who have rights according to international agreements to receive asylum in Spain but they aren’t being treated as such,” says Yerga.

The bishopric of Cádiz and local authorities are working together to prepare a video to raise awareness so that these people can claim their rights.

Hungary

 Asylum seekers await transport to a refugee camp after crossing the border into the European Union’s visa-free Schengen travel zone, in Szeged, Hungary. Photograph: Laszlo Balogh/Reuters

Asylum seekers await transport to a refugee camp after crossing the border into the European Union’s visa-free Schengen travel zone, in Szeged, Hungary. Photograph: Laszlo Balogh/Reuters

Civil groups have been springing up all over Hungary in recent weeks, as Hungarians rally to provide food and clothing to the beleaguered migrants entering the transit country across the border with Serbia.

The first provincial Migszol (Migrant Solidarity) group was formed in Szeged, southern Hungary, when five friends noticed that migrants – mainly Syrian and Afghan refugees – were being locked out of the city’s railway station overnight.

Migszol Szeged co-founder Márk Kékesi said: “In mid-June it was surprisingly cold and they had no blankets or warm clothes: among them were kids, sometimes babies, so we made a pot of hot tea and brought warmer clothes.

“The next day we created the Migszol Szeged Facebook group and were truly amazed: people started to join instantly: the group had 1,000 members within three or four days, it became known nationally and donations began to arrive in large amounts.”

The group now has over 2,500 members. A core of about 200 volunteers provide round-the-clock support to 400-800 migrants each day, from a wooden hut provided by the city council. Szeged is also covering electricity and water bills, although Kékesi is keen to stress that the initiative is not aligned to any political party.

Although the group has received between 5m and 6m forints (£11,500-£13,800) in donations, it mainly requests non-financial aid. “We often write in the Facebook group something like ‘we are running low on apples’ and people bring them, fortunately,” volunteer and student Mária Volkov said.

Students from the city’s medical school are also regular visitors. “One student medic comes almost every day, while we help out with conditions such as nettle stings: its a small thing, but they [migrants] are afraid and it helps them to relax,” Volkov said.

Szeged-born education technician Dániel Szatmáry said his time living in the UK taught him that “more nations means more experience. We can hear their stories: an 18-year-old Syrian guy told me that he had left because his parents and three sisters had been killed. The first afternoon I had planned to stay for 30 minutes, but I was there until six in the morning, and my life began.”

Szeged is the only major Hungarian city not controlled by Prime Minister Viktor Orbán’s Fidesz party, which has a starkly different stance on migrants.

Fidesz recently ran an anti-migrant billboard campaign as well as a national consultation on “immigration and terrorism”. The latter, which cost 1bn forints, has been widely criticised as promoting xenophobic opinion and was also shunned by Hungary’s voters, seven-eighths of whom declined to respond despite a deadline extension.

Regardless, an Orbán government spokesman claimed on Monday that the poll has given it a legitimate mandate to strengthen anti-migrancy laws, as 61% of respondents had answered that they see a link between “the expansion of terrorism” and “Brussels’ poorly controlled migration policy”.

But according to one Migszol volunteer, Szeged’s status as a border and university town has made its residents “less manipulated by government campaigns … and more interested in different cultures”. Whatever the politics, the Migszol movement has now gone national, with initiatives in Budapest, Debrecen, Pécs, Bicske and several other towns. Meanwhile, the similar Migration Aid group has amassed over 7,000 Facebook followers.

Éva Borsi has been working 12-hour days for Migszol Budapest since joining a month ago. “It has been amazing to see Hungarians working together, and to see the donations flowing into Szeged is wonderful, like a little revolution,” she said.

Italy

Abu Taleb from Bangladesh who villagers in northeast Italy are campaigning to be allowed to stay among them. Photograph: Simoni Alberto

Abu Taleb from Bangladesh who villagers in northeast Italy are campaigning to be allowed to stay among them. Photograph: Simoni Alberto

Abu Taleb Mridha has to go home. He will have to say goodbye to the little village of Capriglio in the southern Piedmont region, with its 281 inhabitants, located in northern Italy, and to return to Bangladesh. His future has been decided by the commission in Turin that determines the fate of asylum seekers. The 23-year-old has no permission to stay in Italy, even though the villagers are adamant they want him to remain.

“Taleb must stay and we will do everything possible to make that happen,” said Capriglio’s mayor, Vittorina Gozzolino, who, together with a neighbouring mayor, priests, local NGOs, and people from the area, have started a committee, “Taleb is one of us”.

The group has decided to appeal against the deportation proceedings against Mridha. “Maybe we can not solve the immigration problem as a whole, but certainly we can resolve the situation facing Taleb,” the promoter of the initiative, Elisabetta Serra, said.

Mridha had no shortage of positive references – a letter from the mayor and the traders association, and from a pastor and the teacher of a local Italian school.

Bangladesh is not among the countries whose citizens are entitled to humanitarian assistance in Italy. Yet Mridha’s story is common to thse of many other migrants fleeing towards the coasts of Europe. He was tortured in Sudan for having a false passport and was imprisoned, and endured that heatof the Libyan desert to reach the coast and embark.

Mridha said: “Now I want to die here in Italy, in Capriglio. It’s better than returning to Bangladesh. If I went back in Bangladesh before having paid the debts I would be killed because I am the eldest son. My father is still alive only because he has a disability. And the law. Our law. But yours, the Italian law, is no less ruthless.”

Greece

Migrants from Syria and Afghanistan arrive on the Greek island of Lesbos. Photograph: Santi Palacios/AP

Migrants from Syria and Afghanistan arrive on the Greek island of Lesbos. Photograph: Santi Palacios/AP

Squinting across the six miles between the Greek island of Lesbos and the Turkish mainland, Eric Kempson has spotted something. “See that?” he said, pointing at a speck in the distance. It’s barely visible, even in the dazzle of the 6am sunrise, but Kempson knows what it is. “That’s a boat of refugees, and it’ll arrive on this side in about 15 minutes.” And sure enough, it does, leaving its 50-odd Afghan and Pakistani passengers to haul themselves up a craggy scree to reach the road above.

Lesbos has become the Lampedusa of Greece, with more than 1,000 refugees like these arriving daily. The Greek authorities, struggling to deal with an economic crisis, cannot cope with the influx – so the vacuum has been filled by volunteers such as Kempson and his wife, Philippa. Boats arrive just metres from the Kempsons’ front door, and as a result the British couple have become what a medic might call the island’s “first responders”.

“The refugees just need help when they come in, they’re shellshocked,” said Eric Kempson. “So the first thing we do is take the wet clothes off people and give them dry clothes, and then give the mothers hot water-bottles, so she can put it between her and the baby, and keep the baby warm.”

It’s a team-effort, caring for the migrants. Once the refugees are out of the boats, the president of the local village, Thanassis Andreotis, comes to clear away their abandoned rubber dinghies. There are locals who think the migrants should be left to their own devices, and be discouraged from coming. But Andreotis is not one of them. “It’s a matter of humanity,” said the retired policeman, hauling the remains of a boat from the beach. “You have to get out there and do something. The people who complain about it are just sitting in their lounges, and coming up with crazy rumours.”

After they have left the boats, the newcomers face a 40-mile walk to get to the government-run camps. Even if they get there, there is rarely enough space or food. So locals have set up their own volunteer-run camps. One is the Village of All Together, co-founded by Efi Latsudi . On the site of an old scout camp, Latsudi and her team have created temporary housing for about 80 migrants. “We cannot stay watching hundreds of people with their children – walking, lying in the streets – and let them die there under the sun,” she said. “It’s impossible.”

On the other side of the island, Australian-Greek restauranteur, Melinda McRostie, has done something similar. Behind her restaurant, the Captain’s Table, she has set up a makeshift migrant camp for 150 people. She gives them three meals a day, using donations from tourists and locals alike. It is exhausting, but there is no alternative, she said. “It’s obvious that it’s not something that’s going to stop, so the only obvious thing to do is to do something about it.”

UK

 A Maryhill Integration ‘Celebrate and Share’ community event. Photograph: Maryhill Integration / Facebook

A Maryhill Integration ‘Celebrate and Share’ community event. Photograph: Maryhill Integration / Facebook

In an unassuming old shop on the corner of a street near the Scottish Home Office, the Unity centre has been fighting for several years to protect refugees and asylum seekers who have made their home in Glasgow.

Asylum seekers come in and report to Unity before signing in at the Home Office building nearby. If they are detained during their visit to the Home Office, activists can swing into action to try and get them released. It’s a system that has helped hundreds stay in Scotland since asylum seekers started arriving in Glasgow at the end of the 1990s.

“Glasgow has stood against the Home Office in lots of ways,” said one Unity activist who did not want to be named. “We help anyone in their struggle for papers, it’s about emotional solidarity as well as practical.” He talks about a flight full of migrants that has only this morning left Heathrow for Nigeria, stopping en route in Ghana, Liberia and Sierra Leone.

“Charter flights are a way of expelling people en masse, where nobody can hear you scream. We know several of the people who have been sent out on this flight and many of them have legal processes open, they have families and children here. The Home Office just grab as many people as they can,” the activist added.

 Migrants visit Loch Lomond on their first trip out of Glasgow

The Unity centre is only one part of a vibrant network of support for migrants and refugees across Glasgow, rooted in local communities and bringing together people from around the world with their Scottish neighbours.

When the Home Office decided to start sending asylum seekers out of London to cities around the UK, Glasgow city council was the first to sign up. Little did the Home Office know what they were getting themselves into.

The asylum seekers were placed in empty flats in long neglected high-rise estates. Neighbours appointed by the council to welcome the new families took the job seriously, bringing the new arrivals from Kosovo, Pakistan, the Democratic Republic of Congo, into their communities, holding parties, bringing families from across the world together. When families were told they would not be given asylum their Scottish neighbours refused to let the Home Office remove them from the UK. Immigration officials who arrived in the early hours for “dawn raids” on families were met by enraged Glaswegians who refused to let the Home Office take their new friends away.

The demonstrations became widespread and saw the end of the dawn raids. Many thousands of people who had been threatened with removal, including many families, were allowed to stay in Scotland.

In the Maryhill area of Glasgow, a part of the city that still receives many asylum seekers, Remzije Sherifi runs the Maryhill Integration Network where people from around the world come together in award winning dance and music projects.

“We have established great links between new arrivals and local people. This grows organically from the heart if people can understand why someone would have to flee their country. It’s still hard, there are still people struggling, but there are always doors open where they can get a cup of tea.”

France

 Migrants sleep on mattresses on the pavement in a makeshift camp in Paris. Photograph: Guillemette Villemin/Getty Images

Migrants sleep on mattresses on the pavement in a makeshift camp in Paris. Photograph: Guillemette Villemin/Getty Images

For many years now, on her way by bike to the working-class northern districts of Paris where she works, Isabelle Pépin’s gaze has lingered on the pavements strewn with mattresses. Each evening, after a day of consultations in her GP’s surgery, the newspapers have sent her back to same nagging question:

“What am I, Mme Pépin, 56 years old, six children, actually doing to make foreigners welcome in France and help them become better integrated?”

Nine months ago, she got the beginnings of an answer. “Last autumn, two of our children left home,” she said. “We suddenly had a spare bedroom. We decided we wanted to offer it to a young asylum seeker.”

At the Paris parish of Saint Merry to which and her husband, Philippe, belong, Pépin had heard of the Welcome to France project run by the Jesuit Refugee Service (JRS). She had no intention of cutting any corners and laying an extra place at the family table without the agreement of the four teenagers still living at home. “Everyone had to be able to ask their questions openly, express their fears,” Pépin said.

She began by inviting the project leader. Nine months later, Ghaith, 26, from Syria, is the fourth guest to benefit from board and lodging, after Abdullah, an Afghan and Ali, an Iranian. He arrived in early July and will stay all summer, although Welcome’s rules stipulate no stay should exceed five weeks.

“We offer temporary lodgings with families to asylum seekers to whom the state provides nothing,” said Pierre Nicolas, general secretary of the JRS, which also organises French lessons, meet-ups and clothing exchanges for asylum seekers.

Although the law supposedly guarantees it, barely half of all asylum seekers in France have access to accommodation. Fresh legislation was recently passed that should improve things, but in the meantime, Welcome’s 105 host families last year provided more than 6,200 nights of accommodation – each one a night less on the street for a migrant. Operational since 2010, the network was initially confined to Paris but has been expanding since this spring to take in a number of medium-sized cities – Dijon, Bordeaux and Valence are now among the 15 or so to have their own Welcome project.

“Sometimes, in Toulouse for example, it has taken off remarkably quickly,” said Nicolas. “And in Rennes it is entirely independent from the Catholic church – a secular group has successfully copied the model to create an organisation called Bienvenu en France.”

Nine months after welcoming her first guest, Pépin said she appreciates the presence of people from other continents in her home. “I like the way these meetings confont you with yourself, and with social reality,” she said. “We have welcomed three very different people. Each time, their approach to society has tested our own limits.”

For the migrants, it’s a home from home. “I appreciate the fact that my history is respected here and that people are available to answer all my questions,” said Ghaith. Over breakfast, at 8am, he raises his first questions of the day – the fruit of two hours morning French study. “I have to learn the language very fast,” he said, speaking well-structured French after only four months in France.

Pépin said immersion in a family is “the most efficient way to integrate. That’s what satisfies me about the whole Welcome project. It’s a way to rectify, on a small scale, the problems French society has in integrating new arrivals.”

Entrepreneur, contributor, writer, and editor of Sostre News. With a powerful new bi-lingual speaking generation by his side, Sostre News is becoming the preferred site for the latest in Politics, Entertainment, Sports, Culture, Tech, Breaking and World News.

International

Syria al-Qaeda Leader Attacked, Unsure of His Survival

An air strike struck Abu al-Khayr al-Masri in the Syrian province of Idlib on Sunday, based on unconfirmed reports.

The Egyptian is second-in-command to overall al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri, according to BBC News.

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An air strike struck Abu al-Khayr al-Masri in the Syrian province of Idlib on Sunday, based on unconfirmed reports.

The Egyptian is second-in-command to overall al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri, according to BBC News.

Syrian opposition forces, the Local Co-ordination Committees, posted a photo of the car which was targeted for the attack, as stated by them.

Car with roof shattered is shown in photo taken from Syrian opposition activists

The car, in the town of al-Mastuma, was targeted by “international coalition aircraft”, the group said.

Additionally, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported that an al-Qaeda official was killed in a strike, but did not confirm it was Abu al-Khayr al-Masri.

The Egyptian, whose real name is Abdullah Muhammad Rajab Abd al-Rahman, was reportedly released from custody by Iran in 2015 as part of a prisoner swap.

Last year, Abu al-Khayr al-Masri was reported to have given his blessing to a decision by al-Qaeda’s affiliate in Syria, al-Nusra Front, to cut formal ties with the global jihadist network.

The Syrian jihadist with ties broken with al-Qaeda had renamed its name to Jabhat Fateh Al-Sham, as reported by CNN.

According to Ahmad Hasan Abu al Khayr al-Masri, al-Qaeda has embraced the split. The man Masri would replace as an upranking to No. 2 of the leadership position in the terror group, is al Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri. Zawahiri expressed his opinion on the split in a supportive manner and called for infighting between jihadist groups to end.

Although Jabhat Fateh al-Sham was no longer linked to an external entity, the U.S. still kept it on its list of foreign terrorist groups and continued to target air strikes.

Therefore, in January, Jabhat Fateh al-Sham dissolved itself and formed an alliance with four smaller Syrian jihadist groups called Hayat Tahrir al-Sham. The move seemed to deem an attempt by the group to distance itself from al-Qaeda.

Tahrir al-Sham as since then fought rebel groups for control of the Idlib province in Syria, implying that it was them who had instigated suicide bombs on Saturday against the military in the government-controlled city of Homs.

Although the death of Abu al-Khayr al-Masri is uncertain, the Guardian has stated that he has been killed based off of what jihadists are stating.

The immediate circumstances of Masri’s death were unclear. Video online showed a tan four-door Kia sedan destroyed at a roadside with a large hole in its canopy but its windscreen mostly intact. The location of the attack was unusually far west for a US drone strike.

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International

Honor Killings are Never Justifiable, Not Ever or Anywhere!

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I have decided to shed some light on some insights about honor killings, amidst one that occurred in my parents’ home country, Pakistan, yesterday. An upcoming supermodel by the name of Qandeel Baloch was killed by her brother in Multan, Paksitan while her parents were in their bedroom, asleep. The model was allegedly there to visit family or for other reasons. The brother who strangled her to death, reportedly after he drugged her, was interviewed and showed no remorse for his wrongdoing. Of course, what he did is inexcusable in all ways and is unsurpassable as a violation and a wrongdoing!

Baloch’s brother, who took her life, was embarrassed by his sister’s career as a supermodel and was aghast at her actions in this profession. This, however, can never justify the fact that he felt he had to end her life. Not only in this culture, mostly and especially in Pakistan’s rural areas, is this prevalent. It happens in other areas of the world and this is not attributable to Pakistanis or any type of Muslim or the religion itself, Islam. Anyway, surely you can recall the incident that was reported on television a few years ago. A man killed his daughter by running her over with a car, as well as her attempts to kill her boyfriend and his mother. He killed her because she had a boyfriend.

Oppressing women is not taught in any culture or religion, and is inexcusable in any way. A woman has the right to live however she pleases, at least I genuinely believe in this, and she should not have to fear for her life.

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Breaking News

Turkish Military Attempts to Overthrow President

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Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan insisted to the nation Saturday that his government is in charge following a coup attempt brought a night of explosions, air battles, gunfire and unrest across the capital and left at least 90 dead, 1,154 people wounded and more than 1,000 military personnel detained.

In a press conference at Ataturk Airport, Erdogan said the architects of the coup attempt would “pay a heavy price” and vowed he would “not surrender this country to intruders.”

A senior Turkish official told the Associated Press that 1,563 military personnel have been detained in the coup attempt.

A Turkish lawmaker contacted by Reuters said he and his colleagues were hiding in special shelters in the bowels of the parliament building after at least three explosions near the complex in the capital, Ankara. Parliament Speaker Ismail Kahraman told the Associated Press a bomb hit one corner of a public relations building inside the parliament complex, injuring some police officers.

Elsewhere, troops also fired in the air to disperse a growing crowd of government supporters at the Taksim monument in Istanbul as military helicopters flew overhead. A nearby mosque made an anti-coup announcement over its loudspeakers.

Erdogan insisted that the coup attempt wouldn’t succeed.

“They have pointed the people’s guns against the people. The president, whom 52 percent of the people brought to power, is in charge,” he said. “This government brought to power by the people, is in charge. They won’t succeed as long as we stand against them by risking everything.”

In his TV address, Erdogan blamed the attack on supporters of Fethullah Gulen.

Erdogan has long accused the cleric and his supporters of attempting to overthrow the government. The cleric lives in exile in Pennsylvania and promotes a philosophy that blends a mystical form of Islam with staunch advocacy of democracy, education, science and interfaith dialogue.

Turkey’s allies, fellow NATO member nations and world leaders swiftly reacted Friday to an attempted coup Friday night, which could spur immense implications, not only in the Middle East, but also in the West.

“The United States views with gravest concern events unfolding in Turkey,” said Secretary of State John Kerry.

He said the State Department was “monitoring a fluid situation,” and “emphasized the United States’ absolute support for Turkey’s democratically-elected, civilian government and democratic institutions.”

The U.S. State Department urged U.S. citizens in Turkey to shelter in place during the attempted coup.

President Barack Obama had been briefed on the situation. “The president and secretary agreed that all parties in Turkey should support the democratically-elected government of Turkey, show restraint and avoid any violence or bloodshed,” a White House statement said.

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg wrote in a tweet that he spoke with the Turkish foreign minister. “I call for calm, restraint & full respect for Turkey’s democratic institutions and constitution,” Stoltenberg wrote, without saying what actions, if any, NATO would take. Turkey joined NATO in 1952.

United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon appealed for calm as the world body sought to clarify the situation, said a U.N. spokesman.

“The Secretary-General is closely following developments in Turkey. He is aware of the reports of a coup attempt in the country. The United Nations is seeking to clarify the situation on the ground and appeals for calm,” said spokesman Farhan Haq.

Britain’s government was also monitoring the turmoil. “We are concerned by events unfolding in Ankara and Istanbul. Our Embassy is monitoring the situation closely,” a British foreign ministry spokeswoman said.

British Foreign Minister Boris Johnson also said he was “very concerned.”

The foreign minister of Turkey’s neighbor to the east said he was “deeply concerned about the crisis in Turkey.”

“Stability, democracy & safety of Turkish people are paramount. Unity & prudence are imperative,” Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif wrote in a tweet.

Slovakia, which holds the rotating European Union presidency, said on Saturday it was following the events unfolding in Turkey with serious concern, and was coordinating appropriate reaction with EU partners.

“Foreign Minister Miroslav Lajcak has been in intensive contact all evening with EU high foreign affairs representative Federica Mogherini and other European colleagues,” the Foreign Ministry said in a statement.

“He has also been in contact with partners in the Turkish government with the aim to clarify the situation in Turkey and discuss steps that the EU should take with the aim to maintain and support democracy and stability in the country.”

EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini said she was “in constant contact with EU delegation in Ankara and Brussels from Mongolia.” She called for “restraint and respect for democratic institutions.”

The Kremlin said it was gravely concerned. Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters on a conference call that President Vladimir Putin was being kept constantly updated on the situation in Turkey.

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