To describe what’s happening in Sudan as revolution to overthrow the regime is an exaggeration: but to say that these are protests against lifting fuel subsidies is a serious understatement.
Waves of popular protests increasing in popularity and scope have been taking place across Sudan since the President’s speech announcing lifting fuel subsidies on Sunday. So far protests have taken place in Khartoum, Medani, Port Sudan, Kassala, Gedarif and Niyala.
after the President’s speech on September 22, fuel prices almost doubled. Petrol
prices went from 12 to 21SDG per gallon and a cylinder of cooking gas went from
15 to 25SDG. While the hike in fuel prices may have sparked the protests, the
picture is bigger than that. Food prices have steadily risen since the secession
and were further inflated by 50% this year in a country where half the
population lives on less than 2 dollars a day.
Sudan suffers from poverty, under and unemployment, in addition to oppression, nepotism, corruption, bad governance and a degenerate and politicized judiciary and military. The situation is exacerbated by official statements calling for a continued rise in prices with barely any justification; the president’s speeches have been nothing short of ridiculous and patronising talk about how the current regime introduced pizza and hotdogs mixed with ultimatums: either subsidies are removed or the nations is doomed to economic collapse.
Sudan barely produces anything to feed its 32 million. The government prides itself on their gold exports, but globally gold prices have been going down. With a public debt exceeding 70% of the GDP, while removal of subsidies could help increase government income, as an isolated act it is ill-advised. Yousif Elfadil, activist and economist explains: “Subsidy removal must be accompanied with requisite safety net measures to protect the poorest and should be part of a comprehensive fiscal reform package, including crucially on the expenditure side.” Implementing the package selectively only serves to worsen the situation.
But the ruling party is not interested in reform as it relies on its current expenditure to maintain power and continues instead to tax the Sudanese citizen to raise revenue to sustain their corrupt expenditure; the government spends more on security and military (pensions, social services, weapon, etc) than on education and health in order to buy loyalty, kill opposition and stay in power.
Could the situation evolve to a fully-fledged revolution against the regime? It’s very possible. Protests are not led, mobilized or coordinated by any political parties. The majority of protests have been youth and neighbourhood-led. So the government cannot buy in the opposition’s silence any more. Protests are not called for on social media for the government to know details about timing and location, to spread rumours or otherwise jeopardise the protests. The Government is resorting to extreme retaliatory violence; at least 100 people have been confirmed dead by eyewitnesses during the first 3 days of these protests.
The medical doctors’ union confirms in their report that most of the dead and injured have been shot in the head and the chest. Eyewitnesses also confirm the use of live ammunition and targeted shooting of protesters, which is creating mayhem, deep resentment, and even more protests after neighborhood funerals. The community in Sudan is a close one: everybody already knows someone who has died during the protests. This is getting personal.
Protests were triggered by lifting fuel subsidies which was the straw that broke the camel’s back. But it’s not clear how things are going to end. Absence of clear leadership causes a lack of clear vision beyond rejection of these measures on fuel. Today will be a critical day as mass protests and violence are expected.
Youth activists are taking over the situation, after having given up on senile and hopeless opposition leaders who have let the nation down, not rising to the occasion. The situation is very volatile, people are outraged and the government is only using ruthless brutality and denial in response. The streets of Khartoum are bleak this morning; gas stations are mostly closed, barely anyone on the streets and silence has never been so loud.
By Ali Gokpinar
Turkey's metamorphosed strategy has long been to topple Syria's embattled President Bashar al-Assad. Yet Turkish foreign policy has failed the test in Syria, revealing its limits and the discrepancy between Turkey's ambitions, capacity and geopolitics. Even if Assad hands over his chemical weapons stockpile and a political settlement succeeds, Syria is a failed state (and will be for the near future) thanks to simultaneous wars within the broader Syrian civil war, Syria's collapsing infrastructure and the ever-growing number of opposition groups. Reconstructing Syria with or without Assad will take years, if not decades. It is also clear that Turkey cannot remain indifferent to a prolonged Syrian civil war. So what is Turkey's strategy for a failed Syrian state, especially if Assad survives?
Well, there is no such strategy. As President Abdullah Gül recently remarked, Turkey is not prepared for a prolonged Syrian civil war, which makes Turkey all the more vulnerable to possible threats from Syria. A NATO member sharing 910 kilometers of border with Syria and tacitly providing logistical support to the Free Syrian Army (FSA) and al-Qaeda affiliated groups to overthrow Assad, Turkey's worst-case scenario should focus on national security, refugees and diplomacy.
First, Turkey's national security strategy should focus on three aspects: border security, internal unrest and asymmetric threats. Antakya, Ceylanpınar and Akçakale all border Syria, and the first two are ready to explode -- their social fabric and security have been significantly affected. A common policy for all these cities should be to increase border security, limit rebel traffic to a minimum and soothe social tensions through political and social actions. In Antakya, the government needs to stop stigmatizing Alawites as pro-Assad and make gestures to alleviate the boiling social situation. The city's social cohesion was based on passive sectarianism, but that has been transforming into assertive sectarianism especially after three young people were killed this summer. Thus, an immediate intervention is necessary if Turkey wants to forestall social unrest.
Turkey's ambivalent relationship with the Democratic Union Party (PYD) has not only been costly for Ceylanpınar but has alienated Kurds and increased distrust in the negotiations between the Justice and Development Party (AKP) and Kurdish actors. As a matter of fact, the PYD controls more than 500 kilometers of Turkey's 910 kilometer border with Syria. Yet the AKP government has provided logistical support to the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) and Jabhat al-Nusra, which has been fighting the PYD for at least two months. It might seem favorable to Turkey to not have another strong Kurdish player in the region, but the Kurds will do whatever it takes to save this liberating moment. A Kurdish state structure in Rojava is imminent, and it cannot be contained through the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) forever. Thus, recognizing the PYD as the political representative of Syria's Kurds, similar to the KRG in Iraq, might be in the best interests of Turkey as it will contribute to the peace process, mitigate potential threats and deepen Turkey's economic ties in the region. Yet it seems this is a dilemma for the AKP government because of disruptions in the peace process and fast-approaching elections in 2014 that will make it difficult to explain such a policy to the party's nationalist constituency.
On the other hand, newspapers are reporting that Akçakale has become a hub for jihadist fighters. This is dangerous not only because these fighters are unruly, but also because their jihadist ideas might find fertile ground among many young people in Turkey. Turkey, however, can't cut off its logistical aid to these groups immediately because of its alliance with Saudi Arabia and Qatar. Nevertheless, Turkey might take a gradual approach to decrease the jihadists' numbers on Turkish soil and devote more resources to moderate FSA groups rather than rely on one group. Jihadists are “foreign” to Syria and do not own the Syrian uprising. It is very likely that they will not win the support of Syrians. But, given their resources, they'll probably continue to terrorize the country. Thus, local Syrian groups might be more useful to achieve Turkey's goals and Turkey should not hesitate to talk to any local moderate group.
Why not use military force to deter any threats on the border, or perhaps use NATO's Article 5? Well, this is a tricky question. On the one hand, Turkey might be able to send strong signals to potential threats, but its inability to take action will damage the country's credibility just as it has over the last year. Assad and pro-Assad actors are smart enough to know Turkey's fault lines and these tools might be more dangerous than conventional means.
On the other hand, using NATO's Article 5 is an option to deter pro-Assad groups, but this option is problematic for two reasons. First, Assad is smart enough not to attack Turkey by conventional means or with medium- to large-scale operations. Second, it is strange to ask NATO to protect Turkey when Ankara is tacitly supporting jihadi groups that now control some parts of Syria. Thus, Turkey might send strong signals by increasing its security forces in bordering cities and use a carrot-and-stick approach to coordinate its real power with diplomacy.
The second pillar of Turkish strategy should address the state of the more than 500,000 refugees in Turkey. Turkey's current unsustainable Syrian “guest” strategy is based on the assumption that the Syrian civil war is ephemeral and Syrians will return home once the war is over. The number of refugees -- they are officially given guest status -- is likely to rise. The increasing number of refugees has drastically affected the Turkish economy in terms of the amount of resources devoted to refugees and increasing unemployment, especially in cities bordering Syria. First, Turkey should accept more international aid for Syrian refugees and implement a special employment program for cities seriously affected by the Syrian civil war. Second, it should provide more room for non-Sunni refugees by either establishing separate camps or cooperating with civil society organizations. Reports show that non-Sunni refugees fear retaliation if they live with Sunni refugees and indeed the attack on Alawite refugees in İstanbul is indicative of further sectarian problems. Third, Turkey should form a long-term strategy to transform the official status of Syrians from guests to refugees. Turkey should learn from the mistakes it made in 1991, when Iraqi Kurds sought refuge in Turkey.
Third, the country should use diplomacy and negotiate rather than take positions, and take advantage of Iran's newly elected President Hassan Rohani's initiative to engage with the western world. Although Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei's position on Assad might not have changed, it is possible that a political settlement, in which Iran will play a key role, will end this civil war after all. But we should also question whether Iran can pursue its interests without Assad.
Also, Turkey might find it more useful to soften its harsh language and change its neo-Ottoman “pivotal country” discourse to one of equal partnership. Turkey's criticism of Middle Eastern countries might be valid. But it is counterproductive, especially when harsh discourse is used, as the cases of Iraq and Egypt clearly demonstrate. Indeed, Turkey could still pursue a value-driven foreign policy with softer language -- but combine it with proper tools.
Furthermore, Turkey needs to open all communication channels with all actors, including non-state actors, in the Middle East if the country wants to succeed in Syria. Of course, that doesn't mean being friends with everybody. It is impossible for the Turkish government to step back and be friends with Assad, but it might be wise to use leverage through other actors. In sum, Turkish foreign policy should be recalibrated to deal with the realities on the ground, pursue interests rather than positions and be flexible.
Overall, Turkey needs to develop a sustainable Syria strategy if it wants to deter any internal and external threats and be influential in Syria's future. The zero-problems-with-neighbors policy is dead, but Turkey still has the chance to modify its “strategic depth” doctrine in a way that will have tangible results.
This article was first published on Today’s Zaman on 27/9/13
A few months after the Lebanese “fromagistes” approved a watered-down version of a domestic violence bill after much campaigning and some tragedy, Lebanese women continue to face gender inequality in Lebanese citizenship laws.
Although women in Egypt, Algeria, Tunisia and Morocco have succeeded in acquiring full citizenship rights, citizenship in Lebanon remains masculinised and Lebanese women married to foreign men, as per the Lebanese Nationality Law (1925), are barred from passing their citizenship to their families.
Despite some grandstanding by high-ranking politicians such as caretaker - Prime Minister Najib Mikati, the jet-setting President Michel Suleiman, and the head of the largest parliamentary bloc Saad Hariri, stating that Lebanese women should have full citizenship rights, these promises, needless to say, have so far come to nothing.
A draft law proposed by campaigners was rejected in January 2013 with some citing and exploiting the paranoia relating to the “delicate demographic balance” and the naturalisation of the languishing Palestinian refugees. This excuse, however, overlooks that Lebanese men married to Palestinian women can pass on Lebanese citizenship, that the discriminatory law precedes the arrival of Palestinian refugees and that according to a 2009 study by Fahima Sharafeddine 21.7 percent of the estimated 18,000 women married to non-Lebanese men between the years 1995-2008, were married to Palestinians.
Meanwhile, in late 2011, a draft law was approved by the Council of Ministers granting emigrants of Lebanese descent the right to citizenship, undoubtedly in an attempt to restore some demographic balance. Citizenship was again only limited to emigrants with patrilineal affiliations.
Worse still, the President, the Prime Minister and the Minister of Interior, it appears, have this year granted the elusive citizenship to 112 men and women. Drawing on a law dating back to the French mandate, the President has the power to grant Lebanese citizenship to individuals who have done Lebanon a “great service”. In a legal legerdemain the decree was not published in the official Gazette and therefore went unnoticed till Al-Jadeed TV and As-Safir daily reported it.
The Minister of Interior Marwan Charbel, infamous for his gaffes, claimed those individuals who were furtively naturalised “deserve to be naturalised”. Apart from the fact that this group appears to consist of friends or family of prominent Lebanese leaders, the “great services” these 112 have rendered to the precarious state remain unknown.
Many Lebanese non-governmental organisations as well as political actors have threatened legal action particularly since Lebanese wives and mothers who have petitioned and lobbied the government repeatedly for their deserved rights have been overlooked. A case in point is the Lebanese widow who saw a landmark ruling in 2010 overturned and her right to grant her children citizenship withheld.
In spite of this latest disappointment, the spirited activists of the Jinsiyati (My Nationality) campaign have vowed to continue the struggle for maternal jus sanguinis. Until this injustice - an outcome “of patriarchal confessionalism” in the state-is overcome, this is the only consolation.
Some Egyptians show concern, while others deem it necessary to restore order and rebuild a national sense of unity among citizens during these decisive, modernising moments in the history of Egypt! The decision of the military-led government to shut down media channels is not without sceptics and advocates.
On September 14, the privately-owned Al-Faraeen satellite channel was abruptly closed and the arrest of controversial TV anchor and station owner Tawfiq Okasha, ordered by Egypt's authorities. According to the London-based Asharq Alawsat newspaper, the channel was shut down for "violating the media code of honour, offending both January 25th and June 30th revolutions, and disturbing public peace."
Al-Faraeen channel was taken off the air last year for a 45-day period of suspension by an administrative court for inciting opposition against the-then president Mohammed Morsi. But this time it is different.
It was patently obvious that the rather unprofessional Al-Faraeen and its owner, Okasha, had an ideological slant against the Islamists and Muslim Brotherhood group during president Morsi's rule and even after his "popular" ouster by the army's generals on July 3. That's why when Okasha returned to the screen, many hailed him as a national hero! But, this time Okasha's way of criticizing those who rule the country has backfired on him.
Only two days before having his channel taken off air on September 14, Okasha had attacked the Egyptian Defence Minister and armed forces chief general Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, along with his Minister of Information Doria Sharaf al-Din. He even issued a statement commenting on his channel's closure, saying that this criticism might have contributed to Al-Faraeen's fate. Now, the same people who used to heap praises on Okasha for his bravery in criticizing the ousted president Mohamed Morsi, have failed to utter a single word on what has now befallen him and his channel.
Part of this silence has been prepared by an earlier court decision to close another four television channels for, “insulting the armed forces ... and inciting foreign countries against Egypt.” Among the channels that went off air are the Muslim Brotherhood's own station, Ahrar 25, and Al-Jazeera Mubashir Misr, the Egyptian arm of the Qatari-funded network, along with two other Islamist channels, Al-Quds and Al-Yarmuk.
Soon after this court decision, Egypt's authorities raided Al-Jazeera’s offices in Cairo and expelled three foreign journalists working for Al-Jazeera's English language channel, claiming that they didn't have correct press credentials! In fact, the Egyptian officials laid the blame for shutting down Al-Jazeera Mubashir Misr at the feet of the Qatari-funded network's policy of only boradcasting Muslim Brotherhood protests against the government, and thus, spreading, “rumours and claims that are harmful to Egyptian national security and threaten the country's unity."
On the face of it, the Egyptian authorities wanted to deliver an important message, that is: we don't only close channels with political views and stances different from ours, but the same policy applies to every single media platform that violates the media code of honour. In other words, though Okasha is known for his harsh criticism of the Muslim Brotherhood on Al-Faraeen's programming, this doesn't mean that the Egyptian authorities will turn a blind eye, once he violates the laws!
But this vaunted reputation of the military-led government for neutrality is rather easily exposed, when we realise that the decision to close Al-Faraeen came only after Okasha's harsh criticism of both the Egyptian Defence Minister and the Minister of Information.
But when the Egyptian authorities shut down Islamist-run TV stations after the overthrow of president Morsi on July 3, many Egyptians including the so-called elites, applauded this move. Yasser Fouad, a member of the Tamarrod movement, told Deutsche Welle that these channels were inciting unrest and violence. "I think shutting down these channels was to protect their personnel from the public uproar," he added. Fouad also pointed out that the case of Al-Faraeen is totally different from those Islamist channels. "Okasha has no influence; he is not regarded as a revolutionist, but those on the Islamist channels are very much adherents to the Islamists," Fouad elaborated. However, it seems that two months after this interview, Okasha has finally been regarded as a revolutionist!
When the Egyptian authorities raided Al-Jazeera Mubashir Misr's office in Cairo and confiscated some of its equipment in September 2011 during the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces' reign, the April 6 Youth Movement harshly condemned the authorities. They threatened to take legal action against the decision of the SCAF and cabinet to temporarily suspend the granting of new permits to satellite channels. The April 6 Youth Movement considered the raid on Al-Jazeera Mubashir Misr offices a "setback to the Egyptian Revolution". But, nearly two years later, when the same scenario is repeated, the April 6 Youth Movement too has decided to tone down its criticism and condemnation. Mohammed Moussa, the spokesman of the independent movement, reaffirmed the necessity of creating a media code of honour to be adhered to by everyone: "Only a court decision should be made to say a channel violates the media laws, not the mere personal opinions; as Al-Jazeera and Al-Yarmuk are very much inciting violence and there are other channels that incite violence as well, so there must be a media code of honour everyone adheres to."
It seems that the so-called elites who are regularly hosted on talk shows and television programmes, and who are shoring up the idea of detaching religion from the political and civic domains, are not only afraid of criticizing the military-led government and its controversial decisions, but, are ready to vindicate its most unwarranted actions, even if they harshly condemned the same actions not so long ago.
By Oguz Alyanak
There’s a pattern in Turkey that I have been trying to make sense of for a while. It goes something like this: Turkey commits an infringement of the human rights law (right to free trial, right to assembly, right to life, etc.…). Even before the case is brought to the judiciary, both parties to the argument (defenders of the perpetrator and of the victim) agree that there will be international consequences of the Turkish state’s breach of law. This is where they agree. They disagree, however, in terms of the registers they use to back up their statements. For the pro-perpetrators (who, of course, do not agree that such an act is a perpetration in the first place, while admitting that there will be consequences), the consequences become yet another form of punishment that the country will have to face. The punishment coming from the outside (such as the European Court of Human Rights) signifies the outsider’s (western, i.e. European) bias towards Turkey. For those who are pro-victim, the consequences are the expected outcome of their government’s misdemeanor. That the punishment is coming from the outside is quite natural because the judiciary in their homeland does not work.
Both parties, moreover, bring up their frustration with notions deemed universal, or notions found instrumental in promoting a “common understanding”, such as democracy. For the former, the rhetoric on democracy provides a point of intervention for the European powers in Turkey’s internal affairs. For the latter, the rhetoric on democracy provides a point of intervention for the governing Justice and Development Party in officializing its hegemonic presence in Turkey. While the two parties carry on the discussion, the actual trial takes place. Turkey faces the international court (i.e. the ECtHR) and as expected, it is found in violation of human rights. Then follows the fine—ranging anywhere from a couple of thousand Euros to a couple of million. With Turkey convicted, the media starts to talk about the case and the verdict. Was the punishment fair? Was it exemplary? Was it biased? And then, as if nothing happened, there comes the next human rights violation, which brings the same debates, the same registers, the same camps, the same justifications and biases… Within this cycle, nothing seems to have changed.
ECHR at 60
September 3, 2013 marked the sixtieth anniversary of the European Convention on Human Rights. Drafted in 1950 and entered into force in 1953, the Convention is a statement in defense of democracy and fundamental freedoms. 60 years ago, it was the remedy for troubled European minds, which were traumatized by the atrocities of a war that left behind a continent in ruins. Furthermore, the Convention, with inspiration drawn from the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, was an attempt to construct a “common understanding” in Europe around values deemed central to human existence. These values would triumph over a shameful past, and prevent human lives from crumbling under the tyranny of the powerful ever again.
60 years later, today, in a Europe that has become the hotbed of public protests against increasingly repressive forms of governance, it is hard to tell whether the promise of a common understanding still stands. In fact, looking at the track record of some of the signatories to the Convention, it is debatable whether an institutionalized form of human rights does anything other than legitimize the infringement of the very law it is aimed to protect. By that I mean the following: When a government is brought into court, and found in violation of the Convention and/or its protocols, it is sentenced with a fine. The victim is expected to find solace in the fine while the government is expected to benefit from the judgment, which points to the shortcomings in the perpetrating state’s constitution and asks for transformation of the legislative framework. However, the judgment does not necessarily play a deterrent role because, simply put, the ECHR does not have enforcement or sanctioning powers. As a supranational organization, states are expected to act within a “common understanding” by following the decision reached by the court and reforming their constitutions accordingly. By becoming signatories to the Convention, this is an assurance they provide. On the contrary, as the Turkish case shows, the fine all to often becomes a price that the state is willing to pay for further violation of human rights law.
“A fine is a price”
The idea behind this argument rests on an interesting experiment by professors of behavioral and neuro economics, Uri Gneezy and Aldo Rustichini. In brief, their study tests the effect of punishment (fines) as a tool of deterrence. Contrary to the expectation that the introduction of a fine would lower the rate of misdemeanor (in their case, parents picking up their kids late from day-care centers), the two researchers find that the fine leads to an increase in misdemeanor. The introduction of the fine leads to more parents picking up their kids late from the day-care centers. Rather than providing a barrier, the fine becomes a “price to pay” for the misdemeanor—increasing the likelihood and legitimizing future misconduct. Misdemeanor, in short, becomes a “service” that can be bought when needed.
When we look at Turkey’s interaction with the ECHR, a similar pattern emerges. Having ratified the Convention in 1954, Turkey holds the worst record in the ECHR. Between the years 1959 and 2012, Turkey topped the list of human rights violations committed (2521 violations out of 2870 total judgments), followed by Italy (1687/2229) and Russia (1262/1346). More than half of these violations involve Article 6, which is on the right to fair trial. That in itself is telling in that the individuals who exhaust options offered by the Turkish judiciary often end up having to turn to international law as the legal field of last resort. In other words, many cases go to Strasbourg simply because they do not receive proper attention in Turkish courts.
For a country regularly convicted of similar violations, the common-sensical argument may be that a process of learning would eventually take place. Instead, Turkey’s caseload in the Court continues to increase. And with the Gezi protests, which have been the focus of attention of the recent two-day Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe meeting in Strasbourg, one would expect cases against Turkey to continue to increase exponentially. Even as the Gezi protests were taking place, Turkey was brought to the court a number of times for its mishandling of previous public protests. In mid-July of 2013, the Turkish police were found guilty for their disproportionate use of force in 2006 and Turkey was convicted under Article 3 involving “inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment”. In brief, the victim in this case (Abdullah Yasa and others v. Turkey) was injured after a tear gas grenade fired by the police hit him in the face. The canister was fired at him directly. Also in July, the ECHR came up with yet another decision on a case (Izci v. Turkey) where Turkey was convicted of violating Articles 3 and 11. In this case, the demonstrator, who was attending the Women’s Day demonstration in Istanbul in 2006, was beaten up by the police, which left her in a semi-unconscious state and led to serious injuries. In a press release issued following the judgment, the court urged Turkey “to adopt new measures to prevent police from using disproportionate violence and unnecessary and excessive tear gas during peaceful demonstrations”. According to the Court, the problem had a “systemic aspect”, thereby necessitating Turkey implement the necessary legislative measures as indicated under Article 46 of the Convention.
Why care about the Convention?
In the aftermath of the two-day meeting in Strasbourg, the Committee, which is in charge of the supervision of the execution of judgments by the ECtHR, asked Turkey to revisit its legislative framework in dealing with popular protests. It was also requested of the Turkish government to begin the legal proceedings in penalizing those members of the police who have used excessive force in suppressing the protests. But why should the Turkish government listen to the Committee or abide by ECHR’s judgments, especially when within the borders of the country, its ministers can create a mirage that is profitable enough to win votes? Both during and after the protests, we have witnessed in many accounts the massaging of an image that contradicts and even confutes the degree of violence many of us experienced in fright via social media or lived through in actively participating in the protests. Protestors may be shot at by policemen and killed. But the public would rather be informed that such was a murder without a perpetrator. If the existence of the perpetrator cannot be denied, then s/he must be exculpated under self-defense. Injuries or deaths are transformed into self-inflicted acts, or unfortunate accidents. Protestors would not become victims of plastic bullets piercing the eye, or gas capsules crashing the skull. They would instead slip and fall from a roof.
Understandably, the issue here is more complex than the argument provided can cover. For example, even though the court lacks teeth, not caring about the Convention has its consequences. Article 46 regarding the “binding force and execution of judgments” states that the contracting parties to the Convention “undertake to abide by the final judgment of the court”, and in cases that the state is found in violation of abiding by the judgment, the ECtHR can refer the case to the Council of Ministers for further examination. When a case reaches that level, alarm bells are already ringing, especially when the country in question is a potential candidate of the European Union. However, as more doubt is cast onto Turkey’s motivation for membership, ECtHR judgments lose their primary purpose. The argument was once that Turkey has to work closely with supranational organizations such as the ECtHR in order to implement the necessary legislative reforms, which would take the country a step closer to the EU. However, joining the EU is no longing the motivating force for the Turkish government. As put in words by Turkey’s chief EU negotiator, “Turkey will probably never join the European Union because of prejudicial attitudes by the bloc’s existing members.”
In a recent piece, a prominent Turkish journalist, Sedat Ergin provided a critical analysis of the Turkish Prime Minister’s speech at the International Ombudsman seminar. At the seminar, the Prime Minister asserted, “in Turkey, the state is no longer one that patronizes the citizen, a despotic and condescending state. It is a state that is serving the citizen.” Ergin’s response was that “the violation rulings that are continuing at the ECHR show that such statements from the prime minister are only nice echoes for the ear.” Although the critique is well grounded, it is also based on a presupposition that I attempt to challenge here. What if the fine is really the price? Why should anyone expect the Prime Minister to be bothered? Behavioral economists seem to have a point here. When all a politician needs to do is to pay the price of his/her misdemeanors and move on—which does not even come out of his/her own pocket but rather that of the taxpayer’s—would any politician prefer to take the blow personally? As far as I can remember, none in Turkey have done so far. And none will probably choose to do so in the foreseeable future.
Egypt is in a very deep phase of stagnation. Many Egyptians have realized that it might be better to avoid disappointment by being less hopeful for a better Egypt.
Hope for a better Egypt
In 2011, during the 18 days of the uprising, the general vibe was strongly related to personal responsibility and motivation in contributing to a better Egypt. This resulted in less sexual harassment in demonstration crowds, voluntary street-cleaning, and a strong belief in remaining united by avoiding ideological or religious conflicts or intolerance – perhaps the most important thing of all. Veiled or not, old and young, men and women all aimed only at "bread, freedom, and social justice". No one even tried to lead the thousands of demonstrators. The drive was hope, people could see change, smell freedom, and almost grab it to their better selves.
Now we are smarter and understand that change takes much more effort than these glorious days. Even if we suppress differences in ideologies and religious perspectives, now we know that Egypt will not turn into a better place automatically. Egyptians are running out of patience: they want to find peace of mind - finally. Now, the interim government tries to implement some rules but their role and their effectiveness seems generally unclear. How far should this government impose rules and regulations for the future, as opposed to justifying their interim powers in transitional matters such as the constitution, fighting corruption, etc. The Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) is another huge question mark. It is unclear if their role is only to protect Egypt's internal and external security or to assume political power and throw themselves into a political game that entails economic and social strategies?
Most puzzling is the situation of the Muslim Brotherhood. After many years of being an underground movement striving against the odds to assume power, this ruthless and unexpected crackdown has placed them in a state of shock. What will their recovery cost the general population? Can there be any reconciliation between the ruling regime, the population at large, and the Muslim Brotherhood? Will the military rule again and suppress freedom of speech, movement, even aiming at more personal gains regardless of the country’s interests?
All of these fundamental questions are left hanging unanswered. Within this mood of confusion, lack of hope, and tiredness, Egypt’s mainstream logic is caught between the Muslim Brotherhood and SCAF. Old patterns of thinking remain, you see, and everyone wants a quick solution. Not only that but it follows from this deeply instilled logic that we look to one strong party to bring about, as if by a magic wand, all the change that is required. And where does this intuition leave us but suspended indelicately somewhere between the two options of the MB or SCAF….
Do we want SCAF, with their hopelessly compromised history in rule over Egypt or should we restore a Muslim Brotherhood rule that deceived and betrayed the revolution? Almost every argument regarding Egypt's future stumbles back to that question sooner or later, as if there were no possibilities beyond this, no options in triplicate or more – only the two. Maybe there are not that many alternative ways forward. But both these parties have proven themselves incapable of ruling. We need a fundamental change in popular thought on how to go about a revolution.
By Ahmed Kellal
A little bit more every day, I am coming to the quite sad realization that what we have been waging, for the past two and half years in Egypt, is as much a war of generations as it is a war against tyranny, state corruption and the right to a decent living for all.
There is no denying the existence of a deep-seated “system”, where the money and power camps’ interests intertwine, wishing nothing more than to effect a face-lift for the Mubarak-era State enabling it to re-invent itself and rule again, via the omnipotent tools of propaganda and security’s iron fist. All of this to be justified by the threat of external elements wishing the downfall of Egypt and its mighty army or, as others like to call it, the region’s last line of defense.
However, what is more painful to watch and proving to be harder to combat is the support lent – unknowingly for the most part – to the “Deep State’s” insidious efforts by compatriots in their mid-forties and above, in their frantic calls for the restoration of stability and economic growth, at all costs. This group does not exclusively belong to the well-off segment of society. It includes the taxi driver as well as the flourishing business owner and draws political ideologies from left, right and center under its sway. Well, maybe not so much left. To be fair, when one enters into a debate with a representative of that generation, they will tell you they want nothing other than a better life for their children i.e. for us. Except that, upon further inspection, “better” equates to “same” and “life” translates to “subsistence”. Deeper into the debate, it clearly transpires that those who call for stability do so for mainly selfish reasons. They live the nation’s upheavals and look upon them, first and foremost, in the weak light of how it affects their lives. “We want our Egypt back!”, they say. Well, we want it forward! And we want an Egypt that every Egyptian can call his/her own.
Rewind to January 25, 2011 and picture again the thousands who took to the streets; these were largely well-educated young men and women, with promising futures ahead of them, demanding social justice and equality for the less fortunate in the country. For that reason, I hereby dub the older generation the i-generation, i- for inertia as well as, “me, myself and I”.
The i-generation’s every action is driven by fear; fear of the country falling into a shambles or iton the hands of the wrong people. It is almost as if the fear of what awaits us after death, creeping closer to all of us but in all probability closer to them, seeps into their existence and renders them afraid of the unknown in life as well as death. And after 18 months, since Jan 2011, of silently living with their apprehensions, the i-generation has now become vehemently vociferous. They have judged the younger generation too idealistic, too disorganized and too downright ignorant and have decided to act. And, in their fear-driven actions, they unfortunately breathe life into the tentacled arms of the pre-2011 ghoul-like state.
Am I generalizing and demonizing? I believe every opinion is based on a generalization of sorts. It goes without saying that not all 40- to 80-year olds adhere to the i-deology. What I am saying is that it is my personal observation that a majority does. And I wouldn’t call it demonizing, just painting a sharp caricature of what we have been witnessing.
Make no mistake about it, we do not wish to see the i-generation withdraw into the shadows. On the contrary, we believe that no real change is possible without them. All we ask is for their assistance, guidance and leadership; but not the way they want it, the way we aspire to go. Sons of Nasser and Sadat, come to our aid! Simply remember: Egypt’s future is ours, not yours.
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