North-Africa West-Asia https://www.opendemocracy.net/taxonomy/term/14806/all cached version 25/05/2018 18:46:54 en The EU response to the Libyan crisis: shallow impact with a short-term vision https://www.opendemocracy.net/north-africa-west-asia/chiara-loschi/eu-response-to-libyan-crisis-shallow-impact-with-short-term-vis <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>By securitizing migration, EU leaders have appeared to address the needs of European audiences more than those of Libyan stakeholders</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/562712/PA-34965265.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/562712/PA-34965265.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="307" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Trainees perform a drill during graduation ceremony in Tripoli, Libya, on Feb. 13, 2018. Picture by Hamza Turkia/Xinhua News Agency/PA Images. All rights reserved.</span></span></span>Seven years after the Arab uprisings, Libya’s deinstitutionalization of the established order is far from being a success story. In 2011, the ‘Arab Spring’ events were a surprise to the EU, its member states and western organizations. With the outbreak of the protests, the EU was forced to face the challenges of reconfiguring its own action beyond its border and the need to acknowledge each country’s unique domestic political situation, of which Libya is a very illuminating example. Today, the Libyan crisis is still unfolding, and its outcome is utterly uncertain.</p> <p>The Libyan turmoil upsurged in a country where the EU-Libya relations were virtually nonexistent from 1992 to 1999 and were relaunched only in the late 2000s. In actuality, the Libyan crisis opened a pandora’s box made up of a twisted political scenario imbued with 42 years of authoritarian and uninterrupted personalistic grip on power, upon which the EU wishes to react and elaborate its common security and foreign policy.&nbsp;</p> <p>The weight of EU commitment to Libya’s political stabilization and security compared to the persistent conflict that thwarts long-term solutions calls for a more in-depth unpacking of the intention-implementation gap and the implementation-local reception gap between on paper and actual outcomes. This is what my co-authors and I have attempted to do in a recent <a href="http://www.eunpack.eu/publications/working-paper-implementation-eu-crisis-response-libya">working paper</a> titled “The implementation of EU Crisis Response in Libya: Bridging theory and practice”.&nbsp;</p> <p>The study focuses on how the EU substantiates its crisis response in Libya, analysing the implementation phase and practitioners’ as well as local actors' perception that connects decision-makers in Brussels to final beneficiaries in Libya. The investigation is part of the HORIZON2020 research program called <a href="http://www.eunpack.eu/">EUNPACK</a>, which analyses EU crisis response in a number of countries including Libya, and it investigates two main gaps in the EU intervention.</p> <p>The international debate accompanying the EU action in Libya; the anxieties of European audiences vis-à-vis perceived threats of migration and terrorism originating in Libya; and the expectations of EU member states are all indications that the stakes are higher than crisis response alone when it comes to Libya, and these dynamics may have sensible implications on the overall EU action in the country. As a consequence, top-down understandings of policy design must be corroborated by bottom-up investigation of how the EU crisis response is received and perceived by different local actors throughout the conflict cycle, by focusing on practitioners connecting security practices to beneficiaries.&nbsp;</p> <p><strong>EU’s response to the Libyan crisis after 2014</strong></p> <p>The Libyan revolts in February 2011 caused a violent reaction by Gaddafi’s regime and prompted the UN Security Council to intervene. By expecting to overthrow Gaddafi in a matter of weeks, UNSC adopted the resolution &nbsp;1973 establishing a no-fly zone and, in the name of R2P, it authorized member states to end violence against, and abuses of, civilians. EU’s intervention followed the UN but slowly and incoherently. The EU adopted a panoply of crisis management instruments including diplomatic measures, humanitarian assistance, military and civilian operations.</p> <p>Libya never joined the EU Barcelona process and never signed any Association Agreement but negotiations on the EU-Libya framework agreement were eventually re-launched in November 2008. In 2009, the Commission issued a Libya <a href="http://eeas.europa.eu/archives/docs/enp/pdf/pdf/country/2011_enpi_csp_nip_libya_en.pdf">Strategy Paper and National Indicative Programme 2011-2013</a>. The country strategy paper (CSP) envisaged a few priority areas of common interest to be covered in the framework agreement, including fighting illegal immigration in the Mediterranean or terrorism, supporting the country’s hydrocarbons energy resources, creating the bases for successful investment in new sectors and eventually human rights. The negotiations stalled and stopped when political turmoil flared up in early 2011.</p> <p>Between 2011 and 2014 EU policies towards Libya focused less on a crisis response and more on the role of the international community to accompany legitimate Libyan authorities in post-crisis recovery and institution-building. In 2014, the partition of the country in at least two opposing camps and the spreading insecurity across the country forced the EU to refocus on crisis definition and response, as well as to relocate international actors including EU delegation.&nbsp;</p> <p>Our research reveals that the overall framework of Europe’s approach to the Libyan crisis has remained fundamentally unchanged since the 2014 recognition of the security crisis unfolding in Libya. Confirming the key orientations of the <a href="http://statewatch.org/news/2014/nov/eu-council-libya.pdf">Political Framework for a Crisis Approach</a> of 2014, the European Council <a href="https://eur-lex.europa.eu/legal-content/EN/TXT/?uri=CELEX:32017R1325">concluded</a> that “there is no solution to the Libyan crisis through the use of force” and reiterated support to the institutions built by Libyan Political Agreement (i.e., Presidency Council and Government of National Accord led by Prime Minister Fayez Sarraj).&nbsp;</p> <p>In practice, however, the analysis suggests that short-term objectives have often taken precedence over the stated strategic goal. EU leaders have sought quick-fix solutions to offer immediate answers to the anxieties of their constituents, who allegedly perceive growing migrant flows from Libya as an existential threat. Debates held during the electoral campaigns in a number of key European member states have illustrated how proposed crisis management measures primarily aimed to do as little damage as possible to election results. In other words, as migration became securitized and framed as an emergency, EU leaders appeared to address the needs of European audiences more than those of local stakeholders and vulnerable groups. One could argue that the mismatch between the grandiloquent declarations and the action implemented on the ground is the result of internalizing foreign issues for domestic political purposes.&nbsp;</p> <p class="mag-quote-center">Our findings show a troubling lack of monitoring and impact evaluation schemes</p> <p>Our findings show a troubling lack of monitoring and impact evaluation schemes across most of the EU crisis response initiatives in Libya. This grants weight to those who fuel the suspicion that crisis response initiatives are designed not to bear any meaningful consequence in practice. The decoupling of rhetoric and practice, however, can lead to EU external action and crisis response being perceived as no more than a rhetorical wish-list than seriously considered policy options.&nbsp;</p> <p>The gap between ambitious objectives and aspirations on the one hand, and the capacity or willingness to achieve them on the other emerges in different areas of EU response policies in Libya, generating distorted expectations among beneficiaries, local counterparts, and European audiences.&nbsp;</p> <h3><strong>Securitization migration in a hybrid security scenario</strong></h3> <p>The EU set a broader engagement with the different dimensions of the Libyan crisis, thereby signaling a deeper and more comprehensive understanding of its security implications; however, while deploying a great diplomatic effort with both local and international actors, in practice the EU approached the crisis in Libya as border enforcement and control. This strategy was underpinned by a narrative in which migratory flows across Libya became increasingly complicated through the Islamic State gaining terrain in Libya late in 2014. The migration question captured much of the agenda on the European member states and it was increasingly portrayed as a threat. The EU started to address the migratory flows to Europe through a purely securitarian approach, designing a securitization of migration that contributed to swiftly reframing the Libyan crisis into essentially a migration crisis.</p> <p>The <a href="http://www.statewatch.org/news/2017/jun/eu-eeas-strategic-review-libya-9202-17.pdf">2017 Strategic Review</a> of EU CSDP-missions in Libya, including EUNAVFOR MED, stressed that the political framework of EU future engagement in Libya needed to build on the J<a href="https://ec.europa.eu/home-affairs/sites/homeaffairs/files/what-we-do/policies/european-agenda-migration/proposal-implementation-package/docs/20170125_migration_on_the_central_mediterranean_route_-_managing_flows_saving_lives_en.pdf">oint Communication on the Central Mediterranean</a> of 25 January 2017 and on the <a href="http://www.consilium.europa.eu/en/press/press-releases/2017/02/03/malta-declaration/">Malta Declaration of 3 February 2017</a>. This specification amounts to emphasizing the continued centrality of migration among EU security concerns.&nbsp;</p> <p>The securitization of migration, and the framing of the latter as a crisis with destabilizing potential have led to the EU’s normative commitments being overlooked, if not abandoned, in spite of their relevance precisely in times of crisis. Such a patent intention-implementation gap has prompted the censure of a broad set of actors, from human rights organizations to UN agencies, which theoretically share the EU’s same normative standpoint and could, therefore, represent natural allies in times of crisis.&nbsp;</p> <p>Moreover, the lack of authorisation to operate inside Libyan waters has made the fulfillment of the missions’ original mandates particularly problematic. The recognition of this impasse highlighted the need to strengthen local partnerships with Libyan stakeholders. This happened for instance for <a href="https://www.operationsophia.eu/">EUNAVFOR MED</a>’s tasks, for which the training of the Libyan coastguard became one of its most prominent activities of 2017. However, the monitoring of progress and the evaluation of the impact of training modules tailored to the Libyan coastguard has proved particularly controversial.&nbsp;</p> <p>International experts’ reports about the alleged misconduct of Libyan coastguard officers – among which beneficiaries of EU-sponsored training are to be found – have raised doubts about the effectiveness and sustainability of this strategy as the most thorny issues. In the absence of more all-encompassing security sector reform (SSR) and thorough vetting procedures, short-sighted security responses may well lead to the unwarranted legitimization, co-option, and institutionalization of highly controversial security actors.</p> <p>In practice, Libya displays a quintessential case of hybrid security governance, in which the state is forced to share authority, legitimacy, and capacity with other structures to provide security, welfare and representation. The civilian CSDP-mission <a href="https://eeas.europa.eu/csdp-missions-operations/eubam-libya_en">EUBAM</a> Libya (EU Integrated Border Management Assistance Mission) focuses on Security sector reform (SSR) advice and planning but as officers confirm, efforts at SSR and DDR have suffered from the lack of an integrated and over-arching institutional framework, as these were “only progressing in an ad-hoc manner”.&nbsp;</p> <p>The EU framework for CSDP missions as outlined by “Elements for an EU-wide strategic framework to support security sector reform” does not rule out non-state actors: the document fosters inclusive societal participation across all relevant stakeholders including, most notably, non-state security actors, guerrilla movements, informal providers of security, etc. On the contrary, EUBAM’s mandate forces the mission to deal with Government of National Accord (GNA) representatives as the sole internationally recognized authority responsible for security sector reform.</p> <p>These developments could lead to a serious gap in the humanitarian response to this crisis. Controversy about the abuses perpetrated on migrants and asylum-seekers in Libyan detention centers offers a clear illustration of this. Through the externalization of border controls, the EU has indirectly promoted the massive resort to unsafe detention schemes for the management of irregular migration in Libya, prompting allegations that the EU crisis response brought about a “policy-made humanitarian crisis”.</p> <p class="mag-quote-center">“No one has a real understanding of what happens on the ground”</p> <p>Moreover, international organizations and staff still work by remote management – brought about by security concerns and strict EU regulations – which is far from ideal in terms of monitoring, evaluation, and accountability. Apart from daily visits to a limited area in Tripoli, EU staff are prevented from accessing Libya and the main areas where EU-funded projects are carried out. Similar constraints apply to other Tunis-based humanitarian actors, who are skeptical about the accuracy of their own and external needs assessment and claim that independent oversight is limited by stricter security regulations. The opinion is well summarized in the idea that “We are all in the same fog, no one has a real understanding of what happens on the ground”. At the same time, INGOs perceive to have little room to influence and renegotiate EUTF strategies, and that, due to rigid bureaucracy, their interventions risk being more politically-driven than needs-driven, with a slightly uncontrolled flow of money disbursed for the sake of EU single MSs stability and constituencies’ satisfaction.&nbsp;</p> <p>In conclusion, our study not only confirms that EU-sponsored crises response programmes in Libya are often subject to high politicization and pressure from Brussels, it also highlights how by securitizing migration, EU leaders have appeared to address the needs of European audiences more than those of Libyan stakeholders and local vulnerable groups. The intention-implementation gap of EU crisis response in Libya has high reputational costs, which in turn may bear political consequences against political reconciliation in the longer run.</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/north-africa-west-asia/craig-damian-smith/historical-amnesia-and-europe-s-migration-relations-with-l">Historical amnesia and Europe’s migration relations with Libya</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/north-africa-west-asia/stefan-salomon/brother-where-art-thou-libya-spaces-of-violence-and-diffusion-">Brother, where art thou? Libya, spaces of violence and the diffusion of knowledge</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/north-africa-west-asia/alison-pargeter/libya-damned-if-we-do-and-damned-if-we-don-t">Libya: damned if we do and damned if we don’t</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/can-europe-make-it/amanda-clarkson/watching-watchers-g5-sahel-force-has-human-rights-problem">Watching the watchers: the G5 Sahel Force has a human rights problem </a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/north-africa-west-asia/raouf-farrah/in-libya-locals-push-back-against-human-smuggling">In Libya, locals push back against human smuggling</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Libya </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Conflict </div> <div class="field-item even"> International politics </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> North-Africa West-Asia North-Africa West-Asia Libya Conflict International politics humanitarianism EU Chiara Loschi Fri, 25 May 2018 08:00:00 +0000 Chiara Loschi 117914 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Turkey’s snap elections: a level playing field? https://www.opendemocracy.net/shivan-fazil/turkey-s-snap-elections-level-playing-field <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>The question remains whether the next elections will be free and fair. In light of Turkey’s recent political development, this is highly unlikely: the end of democracy sometimes comes not with a coup but with a vote.&nbsp;</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/PA-35112194.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/PA-35112194.jpg" alt="" title="" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" width="460" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan poses for photos with children in commando uniforms as he addresses the members of his ruling party at the parliament in Ankara, Turkey, Tuesday, Feb. 20, 2018. DepoPhotos/Press Association. All rights reserved.</span></span></span>Despite months of insistent denials, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan called for early parliamentary and presidential elections to be held in June 2018 instead of November 2019. Hours after his announcement, Turkish parliament extended the state of emergency through July, the seventh such extension since the failed coup attempt. </p> <p>By bringing the election forward by more than a year, analysts posit that Erdoğan is trying to get ahead of a downturn curve in Turkey’s fortunes that could impact his standing in the near future. The call seems to have come at the request of his ultranationalist ally, Devlet Bahçeli of the Nationalist Action Party (Milliyetçi Hareket Partisi - MHP), in a culmination of the situation forced upon the government due to Turkey’s military incursions in Syria and the country’s growing economic woes.&nbsp;</p> <p>Apart from the required second round of voting following its failure to form a government after the 2015 elections, the ruling Justice Development Party (Adalet ve Kalkınma Partisi - AKP) has never called for an early election since coming to power a decade and half ago; and the party repeatedly rejected growing speculations that they would call them this year. </p> <p>Erdoğan himself was publicly against holding early elections, referring to them as “a sign of underdevelopment” and “treason”. Many analysts still expected the call, and early elections were not a question of “if” but “when”. In a speech announcing the early election, Erdoğan said “it has become a necessity for Turkey to overcome uncertainties as soon as possible amid developments of historical importance in our region as well as the cross-border operation we are carrying out in Syria.” By “uncertainties” he referred to the transition phase in between the parliamentary system and the new executive presidential system narrowly voted through in last year’s constitutional referendum under state of emergency law. The desire for a prompt transition to the presidential system can be accorded some validity as a driving factor. In Pinar Tremblay’s view, “the bureaucracy has been in a limbo between the office of the president and the prime minister”. The transition is also believed to have created tensions among the AKP’s higher echelons on how to function in such a hybrid system.&nbsp;&nbsp;</p> <p>While the call for an early election might be a well-thought-out strategy to catch the opposition off-guard, two months is hardly enough time to prepare for both parliamentary elections and the country’s new two-round presidential vote, to occur at the same time. Doubts are therefore looming on whether the government can ensure that forthcoming election will be free and fair.&nbsp;</p> <p>If the outcome of June’s elections is hardly in question, then why do they still matter? The answer lies in political science&nbsp;literature on electoral authoritarianism, in political systems&nbsp;where a façade of multi-party elections is maintained, but the political power remains uncontested. Such elections, however, serve to demonstrate the popular support for an entrenched regime and thus bolster state legitimacy, further reinforcing regime hegemony.&nbsp;For this reason, the outcome of the upcoming elections, even if it is the expected victory for the AKP, are particularly crucial to Turkey’s democratic trajectory.&nbsp;</p> <p>Similar to last year’s vote, the lack of equal opportunities, partial media coverage and limitations on fundamentals freedoms, create a playing field that is hardly level for all the eligible parties contesting in June’s election. </p> <h2><strong>Economic woes</strong></h2> <p>The dire situation of the economy is perhaps the first and most compelling factor in&nbsp;Erdoğan’s call for early elections. While Turkey has witnessed an unprecedented economic growth under the rule of the AKP, recent conditions are no longer entirely rosy. According to a recent report from the Economist (2018), Turkey’s current-account deficit has risen from $33.7 billion at the end of 2016 to $41.9 billion. The attendant credit boom raises the spectre of high inflation, an economic disease which haunted Turkey for over three decades from the 1970s until the early 2000s. Without fiscal and monetary restraint, a prolonged period of double-digit inflation may well lie ahead. Recent showing in the lira supports this prediction of economic vulnerability. In early April, the exchange rate depreciation hit record lows, indicating international ambivalence about Turkey’s economic future amid continuing political uncertainty and investor doubts regarding the Central Bank of Turkey’s ability (and authority) to tackle a double-digit inflationary spiral.</p> <p>According to <a href="https://www.ft.com/content/7d3784fe-398b-11e8-8b98-2f31af407cc8">Roger Blitz</a>, foreign investors have suspected the&nbsp;autonomy&nbsp;of the Central Bank of Turkey is compromised by pressure from&nbsp;Erdoğan, who has repeatedly argued that interest rates should be lower.&nbsp;There is ongoing tension between the Central Bank’s desire to raise interest rates and curtail inflation and Erdoğan’s determination that lowering interest rates will encourage inflation to fall at the wrong moment and that the country’s economic growth would be negatively impacted. Therefore, Turkey continues to suffer from&nbsp;Erdoğan’s preferred economic model of high growth, one which has produced high inflation, high interest rates, high government spending, high unemployment, and a high current account deficit, all made worse by the country’s difficulties in attracting foreign investment.&nbsp;&nbsp;</p> <p>The Turkish president has also refused to acknowledge the correlation between Turkey’s deteriorating political situation and its poor investor climate. Since the failed coup attempt, Turkey has suffered a series of&nbsp;downgrades by international rating agencies. In its latest rating, the American-based Moody downgraded Turkey’s credit rating two marks below investment grade from Ba2 to Ba1, and cited two interrelated concerns: large external financing needs and worsening of the political climate. With an uncertain political situation, international creditors and investors are growing concerned at the credibility of the country, as well as the potential for investments lost through expropriation, economic downturns, or other related political changes.&nbsp;</p> <p>Erdoğan has&nbsp;responded by criticising international credit agencies for downgrading Turkey’s debt rating, he referred to them as attempts to “corner Turkey”, chastising them for “making statements against our country”. Credit agencies, however, cite the erosion of the country’s institutional strength since the failed coup attempt.&nbsp;Erdoğan’s&nbsp;criticism was also perceived by many as veiled attack on the Deputy Prime Minister of Economics, Mehmet Şimşek, who is regarded by investors to be among the few government figures who understands Turkey’s economic problems and has publicly agreed with the position of the credit agencies.&nbsp;While stricter fiscal discipline is essential to help&nbsp;control the spiralling inflation rate, the widening current account deficit and the fast-growing foreign debt, it is more likely the government will instead invest in extravagant promises in order to buy the support of certain demographics before the election.</p> <p>Already, despite these deepening financial issues, the Turkish government has rolled out a broad-based pay-out package in an effort to court the favours of pensioners, farmers and minimum-wage owners ahead of the elections.&nbsp;&nbsp;The government is also expected to make use of the still-impressive growth rate for the general election. To keep voters as content as possible, the government may opt for introducing more social benefits and expanding public spending. Turkey’s relative stable economy has kept the AKP in power for nearly two decades, but it may not support the party so easily for much longer.&nbsp;&nbsp;</p> <h2><strong>Incursions in Syria&nbsp;</strong></h2> <p>Another factor behind&nbsp;Erdoğan’s&nbsp;call for early elections is a desire to take advantage of the rally-around-the-flag effect of Turkey’s relevant military success in the Kurdish town of Afrin, Syria – or at least, this is how it has been portrayed by the Turkish media. In early 2018, The Turkish government launched a military campaign, codenamed Operation Olive Branch, in Afrin and Tell Rifaat, in Northwest Syria. The offensive was against the Democratic Kurdish Party (Partiya Yekîtiya Demokrat‎&nbsp;- PYD) and its armed wing Peoples Protection Units (Yekîneyên Parastina Gel - YPG), both of which Turkey alleges are offshoots of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party (Partiya Karkerên Kurdistanê – PKK). After nearly two months since the start of the operation, the Turkish-led Free Syrian Army drove out the Kurdish fighters on March 18 and declared the capture of Afrin. This apparent victory is not likely to last, as it is unlikely that Russia, Iran and Syria’s President Assad would tolerate a long-term Turkish presence in Syria. The most probable scenario is that Turkey will withdraw&nbsp;and&nbsp;return these territories to Assad, mitigating the aforementioned boost in public morale.</p> <p>Analysing the reasons behind the early election call, Tremblay refers to a recent opinion poll conducted by Metropoll Research, which recently published a survey on “Operation Olive Branch in Voters’ Eyes”. The report studied the potential and expected voter levels for the AKP, showing the influence of various factors over time, and the Afrin offensive inspired the poll participants and prompted an increase in the AKP’s expected vote share. The failed coup attempt of July 2016 had already increased public support for the AKP, raising the AKP’s voter support to its highest point. Moreover, in the past, spells of high tension and ultranationalist upsurges have boosted&nbsp;Erdoğan’s persona&nbsp;as a father figure and saviour,&nbsp;especially among&nbsp;ardent AKP supporters. Since the start of Afrin, Erdoğan for his part has been posing in front of cameras in military uniforms with&nbsp;soldiers and children dressed in military gear. Calling elections now allows&nbsp;Erdoğan&nbsp;and the AKP to capitalize on what remains of this support before it erodes any further.</p> <p>Particularly, Erdoğan is racing ahead of the backlash to Turkey’s declining human rights situation. While Turkey’s military incursion in Afrin, presented to the Turks as a military victory, has fuelled a militant fever across the country – the country has slipped down in rankings of standards of human rights, press freedoms and democracy. A recent <a href="https://freedomhouse.org/sites/default/files/FH_FITW_Report_2018_Final_SinglePage.pdf">global right report</a> by Freedom House has reduced the status of Turkey from “partly free” to “not free”. For the status change the report specifically cited “the deeply flawed constitutional referendum that centralized power in the presidency, the mass replacement of elected mayors with government appointees, arbitrary prosecutions of rights activists and other perceived enemies of the state, and continued purges of state employees, all of which have left citizens hesitant to express their views on sensitive topics”. This deterioration will doubtlessly have a negative impact on popular sentiments about the AKP.</p> <p>In light of these dynamics both home and abroad, it is no wonder that&nbsp;Erdoğan&nbsp;seeks to seize his remaining advantage rather than risking an election during the coming&nbsp;decline<strong>&nbsp;</strong>in his and the AKP’s fortunes.&nbsp;</p> <h2><strong>Fragmented opposition?</strong></h2><p>It is well-known that Turkey’s opposition is deeply fragmented. In theory, the opposition enjoys enough votes and sufficient support among various segments of the population, such as the Kemalists, the leftist, middle-class secularists and the disgruntled Kurds, to mount a real challenge on the AKP-MHP coalition. Practically, however, they are ideologically fragmented, politically fractured and face serious legal challenges which makes it difficult to organise. While Erdoğan was already set with his election alliance for the parliamentary election, the call for early elections breathed a new life into Turkey’s opposition.<br /><br />The CHP spearheaded the opposition efforts to stop Erdoğan at the ballot boxes from his determined march towards one-man rule and omnipotent presidency. In an unprecedented electoral manoeuvre, the party “loaned” fifteen of its lawmakers to their fellow opposition Good Party (İyi Parti), allowing the latter to meet certain eligibility requirements for participation in the June 24 snap election. This move has encouraged the opposition in the face of mounting doubts regarding the İyi Party’s participation. The CHP’s gesture ensured the party’s eligibility, as the İyi Party, now with 20 lawmakers, was able to form a parliamentary group to push the Supreme Board of Elections (Yüksek Seçim Kurulu – YSK) into formally confirming the party’s eligibility to run. This was a direct counter to what was, in Amberin Zaman s view, “another reason for Erdoğan’s decisions to bring the election forward was to exclude the newly formed right-wing İyi Party by denying it time to fulfil all the necessary conditions to qualify”. In a sign of protest, Erdoğan and Prime Minister Binali Yildirim left a parliamentary session convened on the occasion of the National Children’s Day when a Good Party lawmaker took the floor. Aksener responded in a tweet, “just wait, on June 24, the people will walk away from you”.<br /><br />Moreover, CHP has teamed-up with the İyi Party, Felicity Party (Saadet Partisi - SP) and Democratic Party (Demokrat Parti - DP) and formed an alliance. Such a united front would help the opposition especially smaller parties (such as SP and DP) to bypass the prohibitive ten percent threshold and enter the parliament which would also contribute numbers towards denying the AKP a legislative majority. As for the presidency, all parties have now nominated their candidate to stand against Erdoğan. Of the five opposition candidates CHP’s Muharrem İnce and Meral Aksener are strong contenders. The opposition aims to push the vote to the second round by denying Erdoğan from obtaining more than fifty percent. İnce vows to be an impartial and “everyone’s president”, but remains vague on resolving the grievances with the Kurds. He had voted against removing impunity from the Kurdish lawmakers, a position that he could be rewarded for by the Kurdish voters if he makes it to the second round against. Aksener is unlikely to galvanise the Turkish conservative public. With her Turkish nationalist credentials, she will face difficulties attracting the ten to fifteen percent Kurdish vote, including the pious Kurdish vote which is traditionally inclined to vote for the AKP but now is disgruntled and looking for a new home. This Kurdish vote is deemed necessary for İnce and Aksener or any other candidate to defeat Erdoğan, presenting serious concerns for opposition candidate’s fortunes in the second round.<br /><br />As for the largest pro-Kurdish party, the Peoples' Democratic Party (Halkların Demokratik Partisi – HDP), while still polling ten to twelve percent it is facing enormous challenges and legal hurdles, after being targeted by the government as a “terrorist” outlet and an ally for the PKK. The party’s charismatic and former co-chairman Selahattin Demirtas, who helped the party to pass the ten percent threshold in 2015 elections, is still behind bars awaiting his fate along with thousands of other critics. In addition, the post-coup purge saw the imprisonment of thousands of HDP party officials, eleven elected lawmakers and eighty-five Kurdish mayors, further weakening the party.<br /><br />Between now and the election, the AKP-MHP strategy will likely be to put further pressure on the pro-Kurdish party as part of their efforts to push it below the ten percent threshold and thus denying the HDP parliamentary representation. Thus, the AKP’s strategy to win the elections in large part rests on eliminating their opponents through political tactics, rather than by capturing more electoral support through straightforward campaigning.</p><p>&nbsp;</p><p>In the run-up to the June 2015 parliamentary elections,&nbsp;Erdoğan&nbsp;came under fierce opposition criticism for failing to abide by the constitutional stipulations against partisan activity by a sitting president.&nbsp;Erdoğan, who had resigned from the AKP after he assumed the presidency in 2014 as per constitutional stipulations, still campaigned extensively for the party. The election also saw unequal access to state resources, particularly, the opposition protested, that they were given limited state media coverage amid growing media repression.&nbsp;</p> <p>The problems increased when the AKP failed to win enough votes to form a government on its own and called for repeat elections. The country saw an escalation of violence prior to the November re-elections as the ceasefire broke down between the government and the PKK. Opposition party members and activists, particularly those affiliated with the HDP, came under increasing attacks, and there were grave concerns over the safety of the party’s constituency. The outcome of the election was further questioned after the government decided to relocate polling stations away from these conflict-affected areas for security reasons. This move further complicated voting processes in the politically contentious Kurdish cities.&nbsp;</p> <p>Perhaps the most concerning precursor of the forthcoming elections is last year’s referendum on constitutional changes. The state of emergency imposed after the failed coup attempt in July 2016 limited press freedoms and expression of criticism towards the government. Perhaps the most egregious development was the vigorous campaigning by the president and the prime minister for “yes” votes, despite constitutional requirements that both elected officials remain non-partisan. The monopoly of state resources by the “yes” campaign prompted the OSCE to argue that it “blurred the line between party and state”. European observers noted explicitly that the referendum was “contested on an unlevel playing field as both sides were not provided with equal campaign opportunities”. Further developments render it unlikely that the Turkish opposition will regain this lost ground.&nbsp;</p> <h2><strong>Controlling the media&nbsp;</strong></h2> <p>The Turkish president has now either muted or silenced the major critical voices in Turkey. The media is now totally under control of the AKP, or its close confidants, the final blow to the country’s media landscape being delivered in two recent developments. First, the Dogan Media group, Turkey’s last nationally independent media group was last month bought by a pro-government conglomerate which already owns Demiroren Holding. The Dogan Media group notably owns the newspapers Hurriyet and Posta, and the country’s two main entertainment channels Kanal D and CNN Turk. The government had previously criticised Dogan Media for being biased against it and the ruling party. Their move is therefore widely seen as fresh blow to free speech and an attempt to further curtail the freedom of the Turkish press.&nbsp;</p> <p>Second, the government has issued a new regulation that further restricts domestic access to international publications and limits local independent broadcasters. The government can now control the distribution of independent papers, as well as block the internet sites whose views do not align with those of the government. As a result of these developments, the government and its ruling party has amassed enormous power – not just in advance control of the media during the electoral cycle but also in the reporting of the election results.&nbsp;&nbsp;In short, Turkey’s current media landscape does not provide for impartial coverage and nor does it guarantee political parties&nbsp;equal access to public media. On the contrary,&nbsp;inequalities in press coverage of political campaign will remain and even be exacerbated.&nbsp;&nbsp;</p> <h2><strong><em>&nbsp;</em></strong><strong>The new Election Law</strong></h2> <p>The AKP-dominated parliament has recently passed a new election law which would further tilt the balance in Erdoğan’s favour. The much-contested new law, <a href="https://www.ecfr.eu/article/commentary_4_factors_that_led_to_turkeys_snap_elections">Asli Aydıntaşbaş</a> observes, allows security forces to be posted near polling stations, something which she believes could be a problem in Kurdish villages as a visual reminder of state power. Second, the local electoral board can engage in redistricting at their discretion, introducing the potential for significant gerrymandering of voting districts.&nbsp;</p> <p>As a less explicit hurdle to clear, while the YSK is expected to make the voter lists available soon, it is almost impossible for the opposition to verify the voter registry for so many voters in barely two months. This will be compounded by a provision in the aforementioned new law that allows for unstamped and unverified ballot papers to be counted as valid. This raises fears of ballot-stuffing among the opposition and it is worth recalling that permitting the counting of unstamped ballots was one of the issues that clouded the 2017 referendum result. The government has claimed these changes are necessary to secure the vote in Turkey’s southeast from the influence of the PKK, but the election law and the newly appointed YSK makes it difficult to provide adequate checks and monitoring which for Aydıntaşbaş<strong>&nbsp;</strong>has been the hallmark of Turkey’s election. Ultimately, it also suggests Erdoğan’s strong resolve to win the election by any means possible.&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;</p> <h2><strong>The State of Emergency</strong></h2> <p>Extending the state of emergency allows the government to retain considerable legislative powers to pass laws without the approval of the parliament. In other words, President Erdoğan can rule by decree during the campaign season. More fundamentally, the state of emergency restricts individuals’ rights to freedom of assembly, preventing the opposition from fully and actively campaigning – another point of contention over last year’s referendum. AKP opponents will face serious obstacles should they test the limits of this restriction, as opposition rallies are likely to be harassed. Many critics argue that the state of emergency has already allowed Erdoğan to target dissenters and adversaries alike. The state has already carried out an extensive purge that saw thousands sacked from both the military and the bureaucracy and, in some cases, imprisoned for suspected affiliation to the Gülen movement, accused by Turkey of plotting the failed putsch.&nbsp;</p> <p>Moreover, holding elections under emergency law are likely to worsen Turkey’s already dire relations with the West, and will not be welcomed by the European Union which Turkey ostensibly still hopes to join. Earlier this month, the European Commission expressed its dismay at the country’s recent political developments. The latest <a href="https://ec.europa.eu/neighbourhood-enlargement/sites/near/files/20180417-turkey-report.pdf">European Commission Progress Report</a> on Turkey stated “fundamental rights have been considerably curtailed under the state of emergency and pursuant to the decrees issued under it”. Introducing the report, Johannes Hahn, the EU-Commissioner for European Neighbourhood and Enlargement Negotiations, stated that "since the introduction of the state of emergency, more than 150,000 people have been taken into custody, and many are still detained." The key findings of the report state that "Turkey should lift the state of emergency without delay".&nbsp;</p> <p>Doubts about the fairness of June elections also promoted Germany, Netherlands and Austria to prohibit Turkish politicians from campaigning among Turks residing in their countries. The three countries together host over three million Turks living in Europe, who overwhelmingly voted in favour of the presidential system. Ankara’s relations with these countries deteriorated after they denied the AKP officials from campaigning in the run-up to last year’s constitutional referendum, and will likely deteriorate further in the wake of this latest decision.</p> <p>Turkey’s tensions with the West are not limited to Europe. Earlier this month a spokesperson for the US State Department expressed the US government’s concerns regarding Turkey holding elections under the prevailing conditions. She told reporters that “it would be difficult to hold a completely free, fair and transparent election…&nbsp;during this type of state of emergency”.&nbsp;</p> <p>Recent elections saw a break in the AKP’s &nbsp;electoral fortunes. First, when the AKP’s spell was broken during the 2015 legislative elections for the first time after thirteen years in power. Second, during the 2017’s narrowly passed constitutional referendum held under a state of emergency accompanied with disputes over ballots. The next election will be held under similar if not worse conditions, and within a political context that has created an unfair and uneven campaign season. Yet the AKP faces a rocky path towards victory, as the military intervention in Syria remains without an exit plan. Moreover, the economy is suffering from a growing financial crisis of Erdoğan’s making, which could become his Achilles heel going into elections. </p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/eleanor-eagan/erdogan-s-latest-move-towards-autocracy">Erdogan’s latest move towards autocracy</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/edgar-ar/why-turkey-s-erdo-might-actually-lose-june-24-snap-elections">Why Turkey’s Erdoğan might actually lose the June 24 snap elections</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Turkey </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Conflict </div> <div class="field-item even"> Democracy and government </div> <div class="field-item odd"> Economics </div> <div class="field-item even"> International politics </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> North-Africa West-Asia Turkey Conflict Democracy and government Economics International politics Turkish Dawn Shivan Fazil Sabr Thu, 24 May 2018 19:48:44 +0000 Shivan Fazil Sabr 118052 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Erdogan’s latest move towards autocracy https://www.opendemocracy.net/eleanor-eagan/erdogan-s-latest-move-towards-autocracy <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Elections do not equal democracy. Snap elections give opposition parties no time to recuperate, to groom candidates or to build a base of support.&nbsp;</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/PA-36578944.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/PA-36578944.jpg" alt="lead lead " title="" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" width="460" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan speaks at a press conference during an extraordinary summit of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) in Istanbul, Turkey, on May 18, 2018. Anadolu Agency/ Press Association. All rights reserved.</span></span></span>President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has announced that presidential elections planned for November of 2019 have been moved forward to&nbsp;<a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2018/04/18/world/europe/turkey-erdogan-elections.html">June 24, 2018</a>. This announcement represents the next in a long string of actions that has led to a definitive shift away from competitive democracy in Turkey.&nbsp;&nbsp;</p> <p>It’s important to understand that these are not simply routine elections; they will mark the official break with a parliamentary democracy that Turkey has maintained for over half a century, giving way to a presidential republic. In a narrow&nbsp;<a href="https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/apr/16/erdogan-claims-victory-in-turkish-constitutional-referendum">victory</a>&nbsp;that opposition parties vigorously contested, the Turkish electorate approved these changes in an April 2017 referendum. The eighteen approved amendments to the constitution granted sweeping new powers to the President and abolished the office of Prime Minister. These new powers include the ability “to appoint ministers, prepare the budget, choose the majority of senior judges, … enact certain laws by decree,” announce a state of emergency and dismiss parliament, as reported by the&nbsp;<a href="http://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-38883556">BBC</a>. The reform’s backers argue that it will streamline decision-making in a country where parliamentary politics have frequently led to inaction. Opponents worry that this change will eliminate any checks on the fulfillment of Erdogan’s dictatorial aspirations.&nbsp;</p> <p>Nonetheless, despite a narrow victory, a majority of Turkish voters approved these reforms. Why, then, should it matter when they are held? There is far more to achieving democratic outcomes than holding elections. Democratic functioning requires robust protection for basic freedoms, such as freedom of association or expression, so that genuine competition can develop. The total absence of these rights in present-day Turkey forecloses any possibility of fair outcomes from these elections.&nbsp;&nbsp;</p> <p><a href="https://www.cnn.com/2016/07/21/europe/turkey-coup-emergency/index.html">The state of emergency</a>, which has remained in place since the attempted coup in the summer of 2016, is a primary reason for this absence. This allows the Turkish government to restrict or ban gatherings and censor the media. It also limits checks on presidential decrees and oversight of arrests and prosecutions. Additionally, Turkey suspended the European Convention on Human Rights which safeguards basic protections like “the right to life, freedom from torture, the right to a fair trial and freedom of&nbsp;<a href="https://www.cnn.com/2016/07/21/europe/turkey-coup-emergency/index.html">expression</a>.” Nor have any of these changes represented empty threats; the government has, since the attempted coup, purged hundreds of thousands of people from the&nbsp;<a href="https://www.theatlantic.com/news/archive/2017/07/turkey-dismisses-thousands-of-police-civil-servants-and-academics/533754/">civil service</a>, shut down critical&nbsp;<a href="https://www.hrw.org/news/2016/12/15/turkey-silencing-media">media organizations</a>, and arrested tens of thousands of suspected members of the&nbsp;<a href="https://www.cnn.com/2017/04/14/europe/turkey-failed-coup-arrests-detained/index.html">opposition</a>. These measures have severely limited the space for opponents to organize and garner support.</p> <p>Aside from the fact that these new elections will be held under the state of emergency, the short time frame itself gives Erdogan the upper hand. The repressive measures enforced during the state of emergency and extensive purges in the governmental establishment have decimated the&nbsp;<a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2018/04/18/world/europe/turkey-erdogan-elections.html">opposition</a>. Elections held in June give opposition parties no time to recuperate, to groom candidates or to build a base of support.&nbsp;</p> <p>This is surely not accidental; Erdogan has shown himself to be a shrewd&nbsp;<a href="http://foreignpolicy.com/2016/06/15/how-do-you-solve-a-problem-like-erdogan/">master of political opportunism</a>&nbsp;in the past. With these early elections Erdogan is able to ensure that he stays in power for the next five years, capitalizing on a political high that is unlikely to last until November of next year. Already there’s evidence that Erdogan’s popularity might not be as durable as he would like. While voters backed political changes in last year’s referendum, they did so only by a&nbsp;<a href="https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/apr/16/erdogan-claims-victory-in-turkish-constitutional-referendum">narrow margin</a>. Political and economic forecasts suggest troubled times ahead. </p> <p>Delivering economic growth has been a key component of Erdogan’s Justice and Development Party’s (AKP) success. It is unclear how the party will fair if this growth slows or if Turkey undergoes a&nbsp;<a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2018/04/18/world/europe/turkey-erdogan-elections.html">recession</a>. Similarly, Erdogan can presently cite Turkey’s&nbsp;<a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2018/04/18/world/europe/turkey-erdogan-elections.html">occupation of Afrin</a>, in Syria, as a popular victory – something that he may not be able to do in a year’s time. In short, Erdogan’s decision to hold elections this June betrays fear that his popularity is fading and that he will be unable to win elections held in November of 2019.&nbsp;</p> <p>This most recent announcement, therefore, represents an under-handed political manoeuver that undermines the integrity of Turkey’s democracy. International actors who are safe from the censure and repression that exists within Turkey should take advantage of their access to basic freedoms and condemn Erdogan’s latest move for what it is: a case of autocratic entrenchment. Meanwhile, if Erdogan is so confident that he is the only one capable of delivering on Turkey’s needs, he should demonstrate that confidence by standing up to opponents in a real democratic contest.</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/edgar-ar/why-turkey-s-erdo-might-actually-lose-june-24-snap-elections">Why Turkey’s Erdoğan might actually lose the June 24 snap elections</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Turkey </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Civil society </div> <div class="field-item even"> Conflict </div> <div class="field-item odd"> Democracy and government </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> North-Africa West-Asia Turkey Civil society Conflict Democracy and government Turkish Dawn Eleanor Eagan Thu, 24 May 2018 18:55:39 +0000 Eleanor Eagan 118050 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Why Turkey’s Erdoğan might actually lose the June 24 snap elections https://www.opendemocracy.net/edgar-ar/why-turkey-s-erdo-might-actually-lose-june-24-snap-elections <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>The rise of authoritarianism in Turkey has gone hand in hand with a de-institutionalization, in favour of what many call the “one man regime”. How long can that last?</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/PA-36621666.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/PA-36621666.jpg" alt="lead " title="" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" width="460" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>On Sunday, May 20, 2018, Turkey's president Recep Tayyip Erdogan arrived in the Bosnian capital to address supporters living in Europe, ahead of snap elections in his country. DepoPhotos/Press Association. All rights reserved.</span></span></span>The idea that President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan will certainly win the country’s snap general elections on June 24 seems widely prevalent both inside and outside the country. Until recently, even the opposition groups in Turkish society predominantly shared this presupposition on the grounds that given the very high stakes Mr. Erdoğan cannot afford the risk of losing. </p> <p>It makes sense for Mr. Erdoğan’s opponents to despair, considering the obvious “unfair playing field” during the November 1 re-vote in 2015 and the April 16 referendum last year. The referendum, in particular, is broadly accepted as the first vote since the beginning of free and fair competitive elections in 1950, where electoral fraud, practiced not only on the spot but also at the Supreme Board of Elections (YSK), is widely believed to have changed the results of the vote. Despite all, elections in Turkey are not like the ones in <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/od-russia/tamara-grigoryeva-ismail-djalilov/impatient-dictators">fully-fledged authoritarian systems</a>, where the results are known beforehand. Political scientists agree that in “competitive authoritarian systems”, elections might turn into a show for incumbents since the playing field is heavily skewed in their favor to stay in power. </p> <p>However, it does not necessarily mean that the opposition has no chances whatsoever. In fact, depending on their ability to go through hoops, the opposition might have a real shot at winning. For reasons associated with both Mr. Erdoğan’s leadership and the strategies of the opposition, I believe that this may be the case in Turkey’s snap vote on June 24. &nbsp;&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; ***</p> <p>To begin with, the opposition parties of Turkey seem to be overcoming at last two fundamental diseases that have so far prevented them from making a breakthrough to posing a real alternative to Mr. Erdoğan and his party. First and foremost, they have got over the inability to co-operate and managed to form a strategic alliance against Mr. Erdoğan’s AKP and its ultra-nationalist ally MHP. The weak and fragmented structure of the opposition in Turkey has always been criticized and, just as in Hungary recently, held out as the main reason behind the success of the incumbent government. Mr. Erdoğan, himself, often complained about the inefficacy of the opposition parties to challenge his government and said more than once that his party’s main luck lay at the lack of a real opposition. </p> <p>This time, however, being aware of the power of the “leviathan” that they are up against, the opposition parties have so far succeeded in acting in unison at critical moments. Even bringing the vote forward by 18 months failed to catch the opposition parties off guard – these strategic moves seem to have stirred a degree of determination among Mr. Erdoğan’s previously hopeless dissidents in Turkish society. &nbsp;</p> <p>Under the conditions of the current social polarization in Turkey, which is unprecedented in many ways, and lack of trust between different social sections, this "togetherness" is of course not without its flaws. The exclusion of the pro-Kurdish&nbsp;HDP&nbsp;from the opposition election alliance is certainly the most obvious one. </p> <p>But, as some analysts argue, this exclusion might strategically work for the&nbsp;opposition as a whole, as it would hinder Mr. Erdoğan from building his entire election strategy on accusing the opposition of allying with “terrorists”, which would certainly consolidate the base of the AKP – MHP alliance as people could easily buy into this. </p> <p>Therefore, the exclusion of HDP, however problematic it might be, may result in a vote maximization of the opposition alliance as well as the HDP that automatically avoids the risk of losing a part of the Kurdish base potentially repugnant to the nationalist members of the alliance. </p> <p>Moreover, the success of the opposition in general hinges on that of all opposition parties. In particular, the common project of the opposition to stop and reverse authoritarianism in Turkey is contingent on a post-election parliamentary majority and the continuation of cooperation. </p> <p>Hence, without HDP surpassing the 10% nationwide electoral threshold to enter parliament, the opposition has no chance to set forth its agenda. For this very reason, a certain part of CHP voters will very likely choose to vote for HDP, as they did in the June 7 vote in 2015, to make sure it surpasses the record-high electoral threshold.</p> <p>Secondly, and perhaps more importantly, for the first time for over a decade, the politics of opposition seems to be able to go beyond the limits set by Mr. Erdoğan and his party. The nativist and identitarian populism of the AKP – MHP alliance that easily polarizes the society along religious and ethnic fault lines, namely those between Turkish – Kurdish, Alevi – Sunni and secular – religious sections of the society, forces people to stay within these boundaries but also to protect them against potential violations and, thus, helps consolidate its base. </p> <p>In fact, identity politics is a game that falls in Mr. Erdoğan’s area of expertise and if the opposition plays along, he will certainly end up winning. Therefore, in order to beat this strategy, the opposition has always had to come up with and concretize its own vision of future that would be found attractive across different identity groups and not engage in the <em>Kulturkampf </em>launched by Mr. Erdoğan. </p> <p>The opposition has indeed begun to achieve this since the referendum campaign last year. With very limited means, the “no camp” set aside Erdoğan antagonism and managed to base their campaign on what is good for the future of Turkey. Despite all the election irregularities, the “yes camp” of AKP and MHP won by 51%, which is a low percentage compared to 62% – the vote shares of AKP and MHP combined in the November 1 elections in 2015. </p> <p>The “Justice March” was initiated by the main opposition CHP leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu in June 2017, when he embarked on a march from Ankara to Istanbul, a distance of 450 km, and was joined by tens of thousands of people. The only slogan permitted on the march was <em>adalet </em>(justice) to show that the demand was made for all and not only for the supporters of a political party. When the march ended in Istanbul with a rally joined by more than a million people from the entire opposition, a new slogan to attract people across identities and to go beyond all the limits set by Mr. Erdoğan was born: adalet!</p> <p>&nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp;***</p> <p>Nevertheless, the potential of the June 24 snap vote to turn everything upside down in Turkey does not only arise from the rising capacity of the opposition to become an alternative but also from the undeniable fact that Mr. Erdoğan’s government also has its problems. The sustainability of authoritarian regimes heavily relies on their capability to adapt and regenerate. But Mr. Erdoğan’s leadership has surprisingly begun signaling that it may have reached its limits. The rise of authoritarianism in Turkey has gone hand in hand with a de-institutionalization and the subsequent construction of what many call the “one man regime” embodied exclusively by Mr. Erdoğan’s leadership. The new regime’s failure to institutionalize and desperate dependency on the leader undermine its capacity to deal with new challenges, putting too much burden on his shoulders. It is only he who can enthuse the masses and motivate the party organization.</p> <p>Erdoğan, for his part, has long been dissatisfied with the performance of AKP’s local organizations, warning them often against what he calls “metal fatigue”. Although no one within the party has so far dared to discuss it, Mr. Erdoğan is not immune to this fatigue either. Expecting to catch the opposition parties unprepared, he brought forward the elections by 18 months but seems no more prepared than the other candidates do. Relying solely on the entire state apparatus and media that he controls, Mr. Erdoğan gives two or three speeches a day, in which he mostly repeats himself and has trouble offering something new to the public. </p> <p>In previous elections, his self-confidence was so great that it worked even when he was repeating himself. This time, however, for the first time Mr. Erdoğan himself has been heard to admit that he could really lose the elections, giving the opposition the uniting slogan: Tamam! (Enough!)</p> <p>&nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp;***</p> <p>This may have caused Erdoğan some alarm. His recent gaffes that gave uniting mottos to the opposition have been seen as an expression of this panic. As opposed to what many in the opposition believe, the race will be too tight to rely on election irregularities. </p> <p>Let us not forget that Mr. Erdoğan came to and stayed in power by claiming to imagine “the unimaginable” for Turkey. His government has not only launched mega or what he calls “crazy” projects but also initiated the “peace process” that many depicted as “historic” to end the 30-year conflict with the Kurdistan Worker’s Party (PKK). This was how the AKP developed the discourse of “New Turkey”. </p> <p>Nevertheless, ever since the stumbling following the June 7 elections in 2015, the center of Mr. Erdoğan’s political activity has been to stay in power. Considering what has happened in Turkey since then, among other things Mr. Erdoğan’s project to stay in power has cost it dear with the loss of tranquility in the country. Main opposition CHP presidential candidate Muharrem İnce has summed this up well enough: “His (Mr Erdoğan’s) project is to construct new bridges, my ‘crazy’ project is to build peace”. Maybe this time the opposition can capture hegemony over the “New Turkey” perspective, prising it away from Mr. Erdoğan. </p><div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Turkey </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Conflict </div> <div class="field-item even"> Democracy and government </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> North-Africa West-Asia Turkey Conflict Democracy and government Turkish Dawn Edgar Şar Thu, 24 May 2018 18:20:59 +0000 Edgar Şar 118048 at https://www.opendemocracy.net "من "هذه البصلة سنية" إلى "السنة طيبين متلنا https://www.opendemocracy.net/north-africa-west-asia/mohammed-dibo/syria-sectarianism-sunni-onion <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p class="direction-rtl">في فضاء القرية التي ترعرعت بها، كان شتم عمر بن الخطاب وأبي بكر وعثمان أمرا شائعا جدا، إلى درجة أن أطفال القرية يتعلمون تلك المسبات دون أن يدركوا أو يعرفوا معناها تماما. <strong><a href="https://opendemocracy.net/north-africa-west-asia/mohammad-dibo/from-this-onion-is-sunni-to-nice-sunnis-like-us">English</a></strong></p> </div> </div> </div> <p dir="rtl"><strong><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/562712/2نوم هانئ copy.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/562712/2نوم هانئ copy.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="259" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span>(</strong><strong>ينشر</strong><strong> </strong><strong>هذا</strong><strong> </strong><strong>المقال</strong><strong> </strong><strong>ضمن</strong><strong> </strong><strong>ملف</strong><strong> </strong><strong>يتناول</strong><strong> </strong><strong>الثقافة</strong><strong> </strong><strong>الشفوية</strong><strong> </strong><strong>في</strong><strong> </strong><strong>سورية،</strong><strong> </strong><strong>بالتعاون</strong><strong> </strong><strong>والشراكة</strong><strong> </strong><strong>مع موقع <a href="http://syriauntold.com/ar/">حكاية ما انحكت</a></strong><strong>&nbsp;</strong><strong>في</strong><strong> </strong><strong>محاولة</strong><strong> </strong><strong>لفهم</strong><strong> </strong><strong>جذور</strong><strong> </strong><strong>الطائفية</strong><strong> </strong><strong>والقومية</strong><strong> </strong><strong>وغيرها</strong><strong> </strong><strong>في</strong><strong> </strong><strong>سورية</strong><strong>)</strong></p> <p dir="rtl">حين أكلت جدتي طعم البصل الذي تسبّب في نزول دموعي بسبب حدّة وشدة طعمه الحار، صرخت هي أيضا، وقالت "أوف.. هذه البصلة سنية". وحين لم أفهم معنى كلامها، أوضحت: "هذه البصلة حدّة وحرّة مثل السنة"، وحين لم أفهم بسبب صغر سني (عشر سنوات) تململت من الشرح وقالت: "بس تصير كبير بتعرف لحالك".&nbsp;</p> <p dir="rtl">وفعلا حين كبرت عرفت، لكن ليس لوحدي تماما، بل بفعل الكلام المتناثر هنا وهناك في فضاء القرية وفي فضاءات الجلسات المغلقة ذات اللون الواحد، حيث يكون الحديث فيها عن الآخر الطائفي والإثني حاضرا بحرية، فيما يختفي هذا الحديث عند حضور الغرباء، إذ يمتلأ هذا الفضاء بأقوال وأمثال من نوع "تعشى عند السني ونام عند المسيحي"، بمعنى أن السني أكله نظيف وقريب من أكلنا ولكن لا يؤمن جانبه للنوم عنده، في حين أن المسيحي أكله غير نظيف لأنه يأكل الأرنب والخنزير، وهي محرمة عند المسلمين والعلويين، في حين يؤمن جانبه للنوم عنده لأنه لا يقتلك في حين أنه يمكن للسني أن يفعل ذلك وفق الاعتقاد السائد، إضافة إلى عبارات من نوع: "عدو جدك ما بيودك" و"بحياتن ما حبونا ليحبونا هلا"، و"إذا سقط الحكم ليرجعونا على الجبال وليصير الدم للركب"، وتنسب العبارة الأخيرة في الفضاء الشعبي لكتاب الجفر لعلي بن أبي طالب باعتبارها تنبؤ عن المستقبل القاتم القادم، إذ يخاف قسم من العلويين أن تستعاد سيرتهم مع الهجرة والهرب والتخفي، إذ تتناقل الذاكرة جيلا بعد جيل مرويات عن ابن تيمية والعثمانيين (السنة) الذين حلّلوا قتل العلويين وهجّروهم من المدن إلى الجبال.. تعاش هذه الذاكرة كأنها حاضرة، فهي ترمى في سياق الحديث اليومي، وكأنه أمر حصل في الأمس القريب لا الماضي البعيد. ودائما تتبع تلك المأثورات بحوادث ليس معروفا صحتها من كذبها، أن فلانا نام عند عائلة من السنة وفي الليل قتلوه و...</p> <p dir="rtl">في فضاء القرية التي ترعرعت بها، كان شتم عمر بن الخطاب وأبي بكر وعثمان أمرا شائعا جدا، إلى درجة أن أطفال القرية يتعلمون تلك المسبات دون أن يدركوا أو يعرفوا معناها تماما، إذ تسمع ببساطة طفلا يقول لآخر: "الله يلعنك وجهك بيقطع الرزق متل وجه عمر وأبو بكر". وهناك نكتة كانت تروى في القرية، تقول أن أحد رجال الدين سأل شابا معروفا بلسانه السليط عن رأيه بأبي بكر وعمر وعثمان، في إحدى الجلسات الدينية التي تعتبر مقدسة، فقال: "إيري وإير كل شي موجود بهي الحضرة بقوط (كس) أمهاتهم". نكتة كهذه تروى بشكل طبيعي، وبشكل دائم ليضحك الحاضرون على إيقاعها ثم يتابعون نحو نكتة أخرى وكأن شيئا لم يكن، وذلك في سياق حديث عام، أي ليس بالضروة أن يكون حديث الجلسة مخصصا للطائفية أو غيرها، إنما ضمن سياق حوار شعبي عام، إذ تأتي تلك النكتة أو هذه العبارة ضمن الحديث بشكل طبيعي ليتم الانتقال إلى موضوع آخر.</p> <p dir="rtl">لم يقتصر الأمر على السنة فقط، فحين يحضر ذكر الإسماعيلين، تسمع عبارة "سمعولي" بشكل طبيعي في فضاء الحديث مترافقة مع تعبيرات مشمئزة على وجه قائلها كدلالة على الاحتقار والكره المضمر لهذه الطائفة التي لا يتورع بعضهم عن القول أنهم أشد عداءا "لنا" من السنة، مع وجود اعتقاد لدى البعض بأنهم يعبدون فرج الأنثى، مع وجود مرويات شعبية تقول بأن الإسماعيليين حين يموت أحدهم تجلسه المرأة بين فخذيها، وتقول: "شيخ مسعود يا شيخ مسعود منك طلعنا وعليك منعود".</p> <p dir="rtl">ثمة نكتة تروى، وهي أن شيخا علويا اتصل في الهاتف ليعزم رجل دين علوي إلى حضور العيد الذي لا يسمح لأحد من غير العلويين بحضوره، وبعد اتصاله رد عليه الطرف الآخر، فبادر للقول قبل أن يرد الطرف الآخر: " يا أخي الشيخ ابراهيم بيشرفنا نعزمك على العيد يوم الجمعة عنا بالبيت"، فرد الطرف المقابل: "غلطان بالرقم يا عمي هون ضيعة...(ذكر اسم ضيعة معروفة بأن سكانها اسماعيليون)، ثم أغلق الخط. أعاد الشيخ الاتصال مرة أخرى، وكالعادة قبل أن يرد الطرف الأخر قال له:</p> <p dir="rtl">- احذر شو صار معي من شوي؟</p> <p dir="rtl">- ماذا؟</p> <p dir="rtl">&nbsp;- كنت عم دق لأعزمك على العيد، قمت دقيت لها العكاريت السمعولية</p> <p dir="rtl">- والله يا عمي بعدك عم تحكي معن!</p> <p dir="rtl">كان الشيخ دون أن ينتبه قد أعاد الاتصال إلى الرقم السابق نفسه. وهذه النكتة مزدوجة الدلالة، فهي تشير إلى جهل الشيخ العلوي باستخدام التكنولوجيا وإلى كره العلويين للإسماعيليين.</p> <p class="mag-quote-right" dir="rtl">يتوازى مع هذه الثقافة الشفوية السائدة سلوك عدم الاختلاط مع الطوائف الأخرى ومعاشرتهم إلا في حدود ضيقة</p><p dir="rtl">طبعا تحضر الطوائف والأقوام الأخرى في الحديث الشفوي العام، عبر عبارات كثيرة نذكر منها: "العمى شو يهودي"، وهي تقال حين يقوم شخص بفعل شائن جدا، أو عبارة "العمى شو كردي" للدلالة على عناد شخص ما. إلا أن شيطنة السنة والإسماعيلين تبقى الأبرز والأكثر حضورا إذا ما قورنت بالآخرين.</p> <p dir="rtl">يتوازى مع هذه الثقافة الشفوية السائدة سلوك عدم الاختلاط مع الطوائف الأخرى ومعاشرتهم إلا في حدود ضيقة، فمثلا يندر أن يتم إقامة علاقات اجتماعية مع أناس من طوائف أخرى (إلا فيما ندر)، حتى لمن يسكنون المدن ويختلطون بشكل يومي مع الطوائف والأقوام الأخرى في السوق والعمل، ناهيك عن كون أنّ الزواج غير محبّب، دون أن يمنع ذلك حدوث زيجات هنا وهناك، إذ ينبذ من يقوم بهذا الفعل، في حي يكون النبذ للفتاة التي تتزوج شابا من طائفة أخرى أشد من نبذ الشاب، مع ملاحظة أن الأمر عند العلويين لا يصل إلى مرحلة القتل حين تتزوج فتاة ما شابا من طائفة أخرى كما هو الأمر حاصل عند بعض الطوائف والأقوام الأخرى، وربما يعود الأمر للنظرة الدونية التي تنظرها الديانة العلوية للمرأة بشكل عام، فالمرأة أدنى من الرجل في المرتبة وهي لا تتعلم الدين السري للعلويين.</p> <p dir="rtl"><strong>الاحتكاك</strong><strong> </strong><strong>مع</strong><strong> </strong><strong>الأخر</strong><strong>&nbsp; &nbsp;</strong></p> <p dir="rtl">عاملان أساسيان ساعدا في تفتّحي المبكر وخروجي من الطائفية وهذه النظرة الشعبية للطوائف والأقوام الأخرى، الأول، باعتبار أن والدي كان يساريا فقد ترك في المنزل بعض الكتب "الحمراء" التي انتبهت إليها مبكرا والتي كانت مدخلي إلى القراءة التي وسعت وعيي ومداركي. والثاني أني كنت الذكر الوحيد بين ست بنات (5أخوات وأمي) بعد وفاة أبي، وكون المرأة لا تتعلم الدين فقد كانت هذه الثقافة الشفوية التي تم ذكرها أعلاه غائبة عن فضاء منزلنا، ولم أحتك بها إلا في صباي بعد أن بدأت أختلط أكثر في فضاء القرية التي غادرتها مبكرا أيضا للدراسة الجامعية في دمشق.</p> <p dir="rtl">ولهذا كنت أسعى دائما لكسر هذه الحدود والاختلاط مع الآخرين من كل الطوائف، وهو ما كان يستدعي استنكار أصدقائي من الطائفة، خاصة حين آتي بهم إلى المنزل في دمشق، إذ كان الأمر مستهجنا بالنسبة لهم، رغم أن قسما كبيرا منهم ولد في دمشق واختلط مبكرا بالطوائف والأقوام الأخرى في المدارس والأحياء التي يقطن بها، لكن لم تكن تتعدى علاقاتهم السلام على بعضهم البعض وطبعا كان هناك استثناءات، ولكن السائد العام كان هكذا. وكان أكثر ما يوتر أصدقائي العلويين أن الصديق السني هو من قرية الحولة في حمص وهي قرية قريبة لقرية الربيعة العلوية، وبين هاتين القريتين عداء وكره قديم ودائم، كما كان يقول لي أصدقائي من الطائفة دون أن أعرف صحة هذا الكلام من خطأه.</p> <p class="mag-quote-left" dir="rtl">&nbsp;كنت أسعى دائما لكسر هذه الحدود والاختلاط مع الآخرين من كل الطوائف</p><p dir="rtl">ورغم سعيي الدائم لكسر الجدران وتخيّلي أني قد تحررت من هذا الموروث، فقد حدثت معي في سن العشرين في دمشق حادثة لا زالت محفورة في وعيي، إذ دعوت صديقي في الجامعة إلى منزلي وسهرنا معا، وحين أراد العودة متأخرا إلى منزله طلبت منه النوم عندي، وكانت هذه أول مرة ينام فيها أحد من طائفة أخرى معي في نفس المنزل.</p> <p dir="rtl">حين وضعت رأسي على المخدة، لم أستطع النوم آنذاك، تفاجأت بأني لست مرتاحا وأن ثمة قلقا وخوفا ما في داخلي، إذ فجأة برزت في رأسي كل المرويات التي سمعتها هنا وهناك، وقضيت الليل بكوابيس أستيقظ منها لأنظر إلى صديقي أحمد النائم بجانبي بسلام. في الصباح شربنا القهوة وأنا خجل من نفسي وتفكيري وخوفي، ولكن كانت هذه الحادثة ضرورية لي للخروج من ميراث الطائفة والقوميات إلى الأبد، إذ اكتشفت حينها كذب الشفوي المروي وقدرة الإنساني فينا على تجاوز كل شيء، مع تأكدي أن التحرر في الوعي لا معنى له إن لم يقرن عبر التحرر بالتجربة التي وحدها المعبر نحو تحرر حقيقي، يكذب زيف أو صدق ما في الرأس، إذ تعلمت من تلك الحادثة أيضا، أن ما نظنّ أننا متحررون منه قد لا يكون كذلك، وأن ما نظنه لا يؤثر فينا وأننا ننبذه وأن ما سمعناه في الطفولة يوما، قد يكون كامنا في مكان في أعماق النفس البشرية ودهاليزها، وقد ينتظر لحظة مناسبة للتعبير عن نفسه، وهنا تكون التجربة وحدها المطهر والمعبر نحو مكان آخر، وهذا ما أثبتته التجربة مع جدتي أيضا.</p> <p dir="rtl">اضطرت جدتي إلى دخول مشفى ابن النفيس في دمشق لإجراء عمل جراحي. وفي الغرقة التي بقيت بها أسبوعا بعد العملية، كان هناك سيدة سنية محجبة ومعها ابنتها كمرافقة وكنت مرافقا لجدتي. في اليوم الأول كان الحذر متبادلا بين جدتي والسيدة والأخرى، يتبادلان أقل الكلام في حين كنت أنا وابنتها نتحادث ونطلب من بعضنا الاهتمام بهما وتقديم ما يلزم لهما حين يضطر أحدنا للذهاب لعمل ضروري. في اليوم الثاني بدأت جدتي والسيدة الأخرى تتجاذبان أطراف الحديث، وحين تمكنتا من النهوض والمشي في اليوم الثالث وبعده صار حديثهما أكثر، وباتت كل منهما تقدم للأخرى تفاحة أو تساعدها في أمر ما.</p> <p dir="rtl">في نهاية الأسبوع، خرجت السيدة الأخرى من المشفى، فكان أن نظرت جدتي إليّ وقالت: يا ابني ليش بتعلمونا هيك؟ وحين بدا على وجهي أني لا أفهم ما ترمي إليه، تابعت: لي بتقلولنا أنو السنة ما بيسووا مع أنن ناس طيبين وبسيطين متلنا، ما شفت هي المرا ما أطيبا هي وبنتا!</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/mohammad-dibo/sectarianism-syria-popular-culture">الثقافة الشفوية والهوية في سورية - ملف</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/north-africa-west-asia/omar-kaddour/yazid-syria-sectarianism">عندما لا يكون يزيد شريراً أو خيّراً</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Syria </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> North-Africa West-Asia North-Africa West-Asia Syria Through Syrian eyes Arabic language محمد ديبو Thu, 24 May 2018 08:00:01 +0000 محمد ديبو 117984 at https://www.opendemocracy.net From “this onion is Sunni” to “nice Sunnis like us” https://www.opendemocracy.net/north-africa-west-asia/mohammad-dibo/from-this-onion-is-sunni-to-nice-sunnis-like-us <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>In the village where I grew up, insulting Omar Ibn Khattab, Abu Bakr and Othman was common to the extent that children learned the insults without knowing their exact meaning. <strong><a href="https://opendemocracy.net/north-africa-west-asia/mohammed-dibo/syria-sectarianism-sunni-onion">العربية</a></strong></p> </div> </div> </div> <p><strong><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/562712/2نوم هانئ copy_0.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/562712/2نوم هانئ copy_0.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="259" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span>[This article by Mohammad Dibo forms part of a special series focused on Oral Culture and Identity in Syria. It is the outcome of an ongoing partnership between <a href="http://syriauntold.com/en/">SyriaUntold</a> and openDemocracy's North Africa West Asia in a bid to untangle the roots of sectarian, ethnic and other divides in Syria.]</strong></p> <p>When my grandmother got a taste of the bitter and pungent onion that made my tears fall, she cried out, “Ouch! This onion is definitely Sunni!” When I failed to understand what she meant, she clarified her idea, saying, “This onion is bitter and pungent like Sunnis.” Noticing that I still did not understand, she avoided the explanation and just said, “When you grow up, you will find out for yourself what this means.”</p> <p>Indeed, when I grew up, I understood, but not completely on my own. I heard words here and there in the village and in closed same-sect circles, where people talk freely about “the others” of a different sect and ethnicity. In the presence of strangers, such talk would disappear. Proverbs and famous sayings along the lines of “trust a Sunni with dinner, but trust a Christian with your life” were popular in these circles. The proverb meant that Sunnis’ food is pure and resembles ours, but one cannot trust to sleep at their house. Christians’ food is impure because they eat rabbits and pork which are forbidden to Alawites and Muslims. But, one can trust to sleep at a Christian’s place because his life wouldn’t be threatened, while a Sunni can kill you as per the common belief.&nbsp;</p> <p>Other expressions included, “Once an enemy, always an enemy;” “They never loved us, why would they start now?”; “If the regime collapses, they will take us back to the mountains and the bloodbath will begin.” In popular circles, the latter is a reference to Al-Jafr book by Ali Bin Abi Taleb and is considered a prophecy of the dark future ahead. In fact, some Alawites are afraid history would repeat itself, and they worry that they might have to immigrate, flee and hide. From generation to generation, stories about Ibn Taymiyyah and Ottomans (Sunnis) who made killing Alawites permissible and forcibly displaced them from cities to mountains have been circulated. The memory is as alive as though it were happening now. It is part of the daily conversation, as if it had happened in the near past rather than the distant one.&nbsp;</p> <p class="mag-quote-right">The proverbs are always followed by unverified stories&nbsp;</p><p>The proverbs are always followed by unverified stories about that man who slept over at a Sunni family’s house, and whom they killed in the night…&nbsp;</p> <p>In the village where I grew up, insulting Omar Ibn Khattab, Abu Bakr and Othman—the companions of the Muslim Prophet Muhammad—was common to the extent that children learned the insults without knowing their exact meaning. You would hear a child telling another simply, “God damn you, your face is as ominous as Omar and Abu Bakr’s.”&nbsp;</p> <p>There was a running joke in the village about a cleric who asked a sharp-tongued young man about his take on Abu Bakr, Omar and Othman during a sacred religious gathering. The young man answered, “Fuck this, fuck everything related to them, and screw their mothers.” People commonly told this joke to make others laugh. Then, they would proceed to another joke, as if nothing had been said, throughout the course of a regular public discussion which is not necessarily focused on sectarian talk or anything of the sort. The joke or expression flows naturally into the conversation before moving on to another topic. &nbsp;</p> <p>Sunnis were not the only targets, as the jokes did not spare Ismailis. You could hear “Ismaouli” being repeated during the conversation, along with expressions of disgust on the face of its utterer to show disdain and hatred for this sect. Some Alawites see Ismailis as the worst of enemies, even worse than Sunnis. Some also believe Ismailis worship the vagina. According to some DEFINE/Alawite/Sunni folk tales, when an Ismaili man dies, the woman engulfs him with her thighs while saying, “Sheikh Massoud, Sheikh Massoud, we came out of you and to you we return.”</p> <p>According to another joke, an Alawite sheikh called an Alawite cleric on the phone to invite him to attend the Eid which only Alawites are allowed to come to. When the cleric picked up the phone, and before he could speak, his caller said, “Sheikh Ibrahim, brother, we would like to invite you to the Eid on Friday at our house.” The cleric answered, “You have the wrong number, dear, this is such and such [he mentioned the name of a village known to have Ismaili inhabitants] village.” Then, he hung up. The sheikh called again, and as usual, before the cleric could utter a word, the former told him, “Guess what happened a few minutes ago?”</p> <ul> <li>- What?</li> <li>- I was calling to invite you to the Eid, and I called the damned “Ismaoulis” by mistake!&nbsp;</li> <li>- Well, what can I tell you! You are still talking to those damned Ismaoulis!&nbsp;</li> </ul> <p>It turns out the sheikh had redialed the same number without realizing it.&nbsp;</p> <p>The joke has two significances. It shows the technological ignorance of the Alawite sheikh, on the one hand, and the Alawites’ hatred for Ismailis, on the other.&nbsp;</p> <p>Other sects and ethnicities are also targeted in Alawites’ public discourse. For instance, when you tell a person “You are such a Jew!”, it indicates that the person has committed a disgraceful act. And, when you tell someone “You are such a Kurd!”, it reflects the person’s stubbornness. But, demonizing Ismailis and Sunnis stands out compared to other sects.&nbsp;</p> <p>Along with this prevailing oral culture, blending with other sects is uncommon except within tight boundaries. Rare are the social ties between people from different sects, even those living in cities and crossing paths with other ethnicities and sects in the market and at work on a daily basis. Interconfessional marriage is also not encouraged, but exceptions exist. Still, if a woman marries a man from another sect, the neighborhood folk reject her more than they reject the man. With Alawites, the resentment never reaches murder when a woman marries a man from another sect, unlike in some other sects and ethnicities. Perhaps this is due to the inferiority of women relative to men, according to the Alawite religion. Consequently, women are not taught the secret Alawite teachings.&nbsp;</p> <p><strong>Connecting with others</strong></p> <p>Two main factors helped me to break free from sectarianism, open myself to the world at a young age and let go of these common views about other sects and ethnicities.&nbsp;</p> <p>For one, my father was leftist, and he left behind some “red” books [in reference to communism] that I found at an early age, and introduced me to reading. These texts widened my awareness and knowledge. Second, I was the only boy among six girls (five sisters and my mother) after my father’s death. Since women are not taught religion, this oral culture that I mentioned earlier did not exist at our home. I only got a sense of it during my youth, when I started mingling more with the folks in the village, which I left early on to pursue my university studies in Damascus.&nbsp;</p> <p class="mag-quote-left">&nbsp;I always sought to break these limitations and blend in with people from all sects</p><p>For these reasons, I always sought to break these limitations and blend in with people from all sects. My Alawite friends frowned upon my actions, especially when I would bring my cronies from other sects to my house in Damascus, which they thought was reprehensible. Although many of them were born in Damascus and interacted early with other sects and ethnicities at school and in neighborhoods where they reside, their relations were restricted to exchanging greetings. Of course there were exceptions, but that was the general situation.</p> <p>My Alawite friends were especially bothered that my Sunni friend Ahmad hailed from Houla in Homs, which is a village close to the Alawite Rabia village. The ties of the two villages are marred by deep-seated and constant hatred, as my Alawite friends told me, and I do not know whether this assumption is true or not.</p> <p>Although I always tried to break the cycle and I imagined I was free from these inherited stereotypes, I experienced an incident that remains carved in my mind. I was 20, and I invited my college friend in Damascus to my place. We stayed up late, and when he wanted to return home, I told him to sleep over. That was the first time I slept under the same roof as a person from a different sect.</p> <p>When I put my head on the pillow, I could not sleep, and I was surprised that I was edgy, worried and scared. All the tales I had heard came rushing to my head. I spent the night having nightmares and waking up from them to find my friend Ahmad sleeping next to me peacefully.</p> <p>In the morning, we had coffee, and I was ashamed of myself, of my fears and thoughts. But that incident was important for me to break free from the inherited sectarian and ethnic thoughts once and for all.&nbsp; I realized that the orally-told stories were all lies and that the human inside us can overcome everything. I was certain that being liberal is nothing without actual experience, which is the only path towards real emancipation. This is how we know whether our ideas are wrong or right. I also learned from this incident that sometimes, we think we broke free from certain chains, but in fact, we did not.&nbsp;</p> <p>Opinions and resentments take shape from childhood. Even though we might believe they no longer influence us -- they are, in fact, buried deep inside us, lurking in the recess of our minds, ready to pounce at the first opportune moment.&nbsp; At this point, experience alone can be the purge or gateway to another state.&nbsp;</p> <p>Experience proved useful for my grandmother too.</p> <p>She had to undergo surgery in Ibn al-Nafis Hospital in Damascus. In the room where she stayed for a week after the operation, there was a veiled Sunni woman accompanied by her daughter, and I was accompanying my grandmother. On the first day, my grandmother and the woman were being cautious, saying the minimum possible. Her daughter and I were chatting and asking each other to take care of our respective kin if one of us had to leave to do something important.</p> <p>The next day, my grandmother and the woman started talking, and when they could get up and walk on the third day, they talked more, and they gave each other apples and helped one another.&nbsp;</p> <p>By the end of the week, when the woman left the hospital, my mother looked at me and said, “Why do you teach us to be like this?”</p> <p>When I looked perplexed, she continued, “Why do you [men] tell us Sunnis are not good, although they are simple and nice people like us? Didn’t you see how sweet that woman and her daughter were?”</p><p><strong>Translated by Pascale Menassa</strong></p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/north-africa-west-asia/mohammad-dibo/oral-culture-and-identity-in-syria-dossier">Oral culture and identity in Syria - Dossier</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/north-africa-west-asia/omar-kaddour/when-name-yazid-is-neither-good-nor-bad">When the name Yazid is neither good nor bad</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/north-africa-west-asia/mohammed-dibo/syria-sectarianism-sunni-onion">&quot;من &quot;هذه البصلة سنية&quot; إلى &quot;السنة طيبين متلنا</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Syria </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Civil society </div> <div class="field-item even"> Conflict </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> North-Africa West-Asia North-Africa West-Asia Syria Civil society Conflict Syria and sectarianism Through Syrian eyes Mohammad Dibo Thu, 24 May 2018 08:00:00 +0000 Mohammad Dibo 117985 at https://www.opendemocracy.net When the name Yazid is neither good nor bad https://www.opendemocracy.net/north-africa-west-asia/omar-kaddour/when-name-yazid-is-neither-good-nor-bad <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Syrians lack a common history and will continue to do so as long as the oral history of each group remains different from the one presented in slogans of national dissimulation. <strong><a href="https://opendemocracy.net/north-africa-west-asia/omar-kaddour/yazid-syria-sectarianism">العربية</a></strong></p> </div> </div> </div> <p lang="en-US"><strong><em><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/562712/ copy_3.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/562712/ copy_3.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="259" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span></em>[This article by Omar Kaddour is part of a special series focused on Oral Culture and Identity in Syria. It is the outcome of an ongoing partnership between <a href="http://syriauntold.com/en">SyriaUntold</a> and openDemocracy's North Africa West Asia in a bid to untangle the roots of sectarian, ethnic and other divides in Syria.]</strong></p><p>Our neighbor who lived closest to us in Homs was Christian. In Damascus, our neighbors were a combination of outsiders and locals. In Afrin, most of our neighbors were evidently Kurds. What I am trying to say is, as a child, I led a nomadic life.&nbsp;</p><p lang="en-US">Although I moved around, I never really noticed these differences, and they seemed normal to me. During one of our moves, we happened to have a Shiite neighbor who would approach me nicely and call me Ali every time she saw me. I would correct her, but she would make the same mistake again. I understood, much later, that she was avoiding saying my name!&nbsp;</p><p>After long years of university friendships, I also discovered, by coincidence, that one of our friends in the group was a member of the Alawite community [the secretive minority Shiite sect to which President Bashar al-Assad belongs.] That meant nothing to me at the time. My university friends came from diverse ethnicities and backgrounds—Ismaili [Shiites], Kurds, villagers and city-dwellers.</p><p>Sectarian talk in the sense that I discovered later in life was not common in my social environments. Even so, things were not always that pure and simple. When I was in high school, our football coach gathered us—Arab students—and asked us to watch our peers, monitor who was absent to celebrate Nowruz [Kurdish New Year] and give him their names. After he left the hall, we all agreed not to oblige because his order was insulting to us and to our peers who were celebrating their holiday.&nbsp;</p><p>During the same period, a Kurdish classmate angered me, because during mathematics class, she looked at me “as I was unusually silent,” and she said in Kurdish, “Why is our tongue-tied friend so quiet?” Our classmates laughed, and I was furious despite her subsequent apology. I was somewhat appeased when I remembered that Arabs called non-Arabs&nbsp;<em>ajamis</em>(foreign mumblers) in the past, to indicate they have trouble speaking properly.</p><h3><strong>Major influences</strong></h3><p>My own sense of culture, developed by reading religiously from an early age, was to a large extent the product of Western texts translated into Arabic. Sectarian issues and stories were consequently alien to me. I was a stranger to the world of religions that drives people to differentiate between sects and persuades them that their set of beliefs are correct relative to those of others. It was certainly a “rosy” world view and did not reflect the realities I came to comprehend later.&nbsp;</p><p lang="en-US">At university, I spent almost two years reading about religion and mythology to bridge the social and cultural gap that I felt. I wanted to be familiar with my social environment, which was predominantly Sunni. One cannot understand a sect within Islam without knowing the other main ones and the history of enmity between them.&nbsp;</p><p lang="en-US">I read books by Husayn Muruwwa and Mahdi Amel as well as one of Adonis’ iconic texts, ‘The Static and the Dynamic: A Research into the Creative and the Imitative of Arabs.’ At the time, a wave of authors revisiting inherited ideas emerged, and their works culminated with the books of Moroccan philosopher Mohammed Abed al-Jabri, an expert in Islamic thought best known for his work ‘A critique of the Arab Mind.’ To them, we can add Tayyeb Tizini who wrote ‘From Heritage to Revolution.’ Most of these authors, with the exception of Adonis, were leftists. They shared a critical perspective of Sunni Islam, given that it was the historically prevalent power, but they did not spare the other sects that had ruled in the region. &nbsp;</p><p>This thought-wave shaped me to some extent. My friend, the poet Abdul Latif Khattab, drew me deeper into the readings and fanned my interest in them. During one of our discussion sessions, he argued that Haydar Haydar, the Syrian novelist, was sectarian and so was his novel, ‘Walimah li A'ashab al-Bahr’ (A Banquet for Seaweeds), which made a splash when it was released. Abdul Latif claimed that Haydar intentionally picked the name&nbsp;<em>Yazid</em>for the evil antagonist in the book [in reference to Yazid ibn Mu’awiya, the second caliph of the Umayyad Muslim dynasty], while the loved protagonist was called “Mahdi Jawad” [in apparent reference to Imam Mahdi, a religious leader who, Shiites believe, vanished 1,100 years and will return in the future to defeat evil in the world].</p><p class="mag-quote-center">Ethnic and sectarian alignments tarnished the cultural and political landscape more than simple everyday life</p><p>I defended Haydar at the time and argued that one’s upbringing might leave such residues lingering their unconscious mind without their awareness, like seeing the name Yazid or Omar as the ultimate evil. Therefore, one must be more careful to avoid blunders like the one of our Shiite neighbor who repeatedly insisted on calling me Ali! [The name Ali is particularly popular among Shiite Muslims for historical reasons relating to the split between Sunni and Shi’a Islam]</p><p>What I mean to say is that ethnic and sectarian alignments tarnished the cultural and political landscape more than simple everyday life, although these divisions did surface in deliberately twisted due to various dynamics relating to repression. This duality—the contrast between the values that people pretend to embrace versus what they actually think, vestiges of the past suppressed due to government pressure and self-censorship—has created a state of collective schizophrenia.&nbsp;</p><h3><strong>Personal experiences</strong></h3><p>One of my relatives had an Ismaili business partner and friend. When he and his friend were crossing Syrian regime checkpoints, the soldier verifying their papers wondered what an Alawite and an Ismaili could possibly have in common. When they were telling me the story in 2012, I thought the question was normal, and I noted the deep-rooted enmity between Alawites and Ismailis dating back to the days of Sheikh Saleh al-Ali [a prominent Syrian Alawite leader who commanded the Syrian Revolt of 1919 against the French].</p><p>It was then that my relative from [the northwestern city of] Masyaf remembered the painful incident when Ali attacked his hometown, besieged its citizens and tortured them. Textbooks and modern television series portray Ali as a hero who fought colonialism. Ismailis saw a completely different side of Ali. The counter-story claims that Ali clashed with the French because they tried to deter his aggression against Ismailis, as the French government was authorized to implement the law. His revolution was not driven by national motives initially.&nbsp;</p><p>In the summer of 2012, I myself underwent a significant experience. My wife, our friend and I were headed to the Latakia City from Slinfah [a mountainous resort in the Alawite heartland]. Asaad’s forces had seized Al-Haffah [a district within Latakia Governorate], forcibly displacing its inhabitants. At the first checkpoint, as soon as the soldier who was standing took my identity card from the window of the car, he handed it to his superior and reached out to search me while I was still in the car. Meanwhile, the officer in charge at the checkpoint held the identity card and said, in a local accent, “Omar! From Aleppo! What are you doing here?”&nbsp;</p><p>Luckily, the driver whom we did not know answered quickly, saying he drove us from the farm of brigadier general “So-and-so,” who is famous in that region. The officer in charge asked immediately, “What are you doing at the brigadier general’s place? Do you work for him?” I said that I was visiting him. Of course, I did not know the aforementioned brigadier general, and the officer’s face looked confused and unconvinced. How could a person called Omar [a name typically given to Sunni Muslims for historic and religious reasons] be a guest at the brigadier general’s place while he should be a worker or servant on his farm?</p><p>After that incident, rather because of it, I got a fake identity card under the name Ammar that showed [the Mediterranean city of] Tartus [where Alawites are believed to be in the majority] as the place of registration [origin]. None of Assad’s thugs would suspect a guy from Tartus to be wanted by the intelligence! This fake ID is the only souvenir left of my Syrian papers.&nbsp;</p><p>On a direct political level, a perceptive observer of the Syrian partisan experience could easily see the sectarian and regionalist fault-lines cutting across the country. For a long time, the Nasserist current was described as a reflection of Sunni Arabism, as opposed to the Baathist Arabism that represented minorities.&nbsp;</p><p>One inevitably remembers the word “Ads” that was used as an acronym to refer to the minority alliance seeking to expel Sunnis from the Baath party and from key positions in the army. [In Arabic, Ads mean lentils, which are cheap. The word was used to degrade Alawites, Druzes and Smaoulis/Ismailis].</p><p lang="en-US">Even though the Muslim Brotherhood was the only party openly professing a sectarian ideology, the remaining parties in general also had an ethnic, sectarian or regionalist character. Despite their slogans, leftist claims or alleged secularism, the bottom line is that they were marred by fanaticism on grounds that are not more important than ideology but that certainly have a bigger impact.&nbsp;</p><h3><strong>The state of stereotyping</strong></h3><p class="mag-quote-right">The claws of stereotyping can be seen in the public sector</p><p>Mutual stereotyping between different societies and regions is undoubtedly present in varying degrees among the people of the world. But, what sets us Syrians apart from others is that our stereotyping is not limited to social boundaries, neither does it disappear with the passage of time. Stereotyping here is a project of the government, or the state. It is a project of silent wars and the recently declared ones now waged in the open. &nbsp;</p><p>The claws of stereotyping can be seen in the public sector. It is among the most influential factors, if not to say the most influential of all. This does not mean that Syrians are obsessed with sectarianism day and night. Yet one cannot deny that they were deprived of democratic practices that would have guaranteed their individuality with time and that would have helped them make peace with the past—once that page had been turned.</p><p>The truth is that, contrary to the patriotic slogans, Syrians lack a common history and will continue to do so as long as the oral history of each group remains different from the one presented in slogans of national dissimulation. A comprehensive history that incorporates and acknowledges all the differences between them has not been produced and therefore cannot be laid to rest in peace, as should be the case. And since the problem is not the result of insufficient knowledge of the other, mingling and mixing with the various others will not resolve this issue. On the contrary, the fissures are based on sufficient knowledge, awareness and design.&nbsp;</p><p>In societies that have leapt forward in the democratic experience, stereotyping of any sort is considered a cultural crime, even though no explicit legal text criminalizes it. However, before attaining this level of individualism, these communities were mocking themselves and their stereotypes. When we break free from the hegemony of the others and begin mocking our ideas about them and mocking ourselves rather than mocking them, we can say then that we have buried the hatchet. Our cultural and political history can only be buried when it becomes a&nbsp;subject hanging between a story and a joke.&nbsp;</p><p lang="en-US">When that day comes, there will be no military or intelligence checkpoint to denounce the presence of a person called Omar in a coastal city or cast him as the servant of an officer. And only then a new novelist might then write about a person called&nbsp;<em>Yazid</em>, who is neither good nor evil, but a regular person like any of us who has virtuous and vices.</p><p lang="en-US"><strong>Translated by Pascale Menassa</strong></p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/north-africa-west-asia/mohammad-dibo/oral-culture-and-identity-in-syria-dossier">Oral culture and identity in Syria - Dossier</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/north-africa-west-asia/mohammad-dibo/from-this-onion-is-sunni-to-nice-sunnis-like-us">From “this onion is Sunni” to “nice Sunnis like us”</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/north-africa-west-asia/omar-kaddour/yazid-syria-sectarianism">عندما لا يكون يزيد شريراً أو خيّراً</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Syria </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Civil society </div> <div class="field-item even"> Conflict </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> North-Africa West-Asia North-Africa West-Asia Syria Civil society Conflict Syria and sectarianism Through Syrian eyes Omar Kaddour Tue, 22 May 2018 08:00:01 +0000 Omar Kaddour 117982 at https://www.opendemocracy.net عندما لا يكون يزيد شريراً أو خيّراً https://www.opendemocracy.net/north-africa-west-asia/omar-kaddour/yazid-syria-sectarianism <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p class="direction-rtl">الحقّ أنه ليس للسوريين، بخلاف ما يُحكى كشعار، تاريخ مشترك ما دام التاريخ الشفوي لكل جماعة مختلفاً عن شعارات التقية الوطنية؛ هذا التاريخ الجامع لتناقضاتهم لم يُعترف به ليُدفن كما يليق به. <strong><a href="https://opendemocracy.net/north-africa-west-asia/omar-kaddour/when-name-yazid-is-neither-good-nor-bad">English</a></strong></p> </div> </div> </div> <p dir="rtl"><strong><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/562712/ copy_2.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/562712/ copy_2.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="259" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span>(</strong><strong>ينشر هذا المقال ضمن ملف يتناول الثقافة الشفوية في سورية، بالتعاون والشراكة مع موقع <a href="http://www.syriauntold.com/ar/">حكاية ما انحكت</a>، في محاولة لفهم جذور الطائفية والقومية وغيرها في سورية</strong><strong>)</strong></p> <p dir="rtl">في حمص كانت جارتنا القريبة مسيحية، بعدها في دمشق كان جيراننا خليطاً من الغرباء والشوام، ثم في عفرين بالطبع كانت النسبة الأكبر من جيراننا أكراداً؛ عن طفولة غير مستقرة أتحدث.</p> <p dir="rtl">&nbsp;في ذلك الترحال لم أكن أنتبه حقاً إلى تلك الاختلافات، بدا لي الأمر عادياً جداً. من ضمن التنقلات صادف أن كان لنا جارة شيعية، كلّما صادفتني تودّدت إليّ بلطف شديد ونادتني: علي.</p> <p dir="rtl">&nbsp;كنت أصحح لها الاسم، لتعود وتخطئ في المرة التالية؛ في وقت متأخر جداً سأفهم أنها تتحاشى لفظ اسمي! بعد سنوات طويلة من صداقة الجامعة أيضاً سأكتشف، بمحض المصادفة ليس إلا، أن واحداً من شلّتنا علويّ، ولم يكن هذا ليعني لي شيئاً في وقتها. في الجامعة كان أصدقائي متنوعي المنابت؛ إسماعيليين وأكراداً، ريفيين ومدينيين،... إلخ.</p> <p dir="rtl">لم يكن حديث الطوائف بالمعنى الذي سأعرفه فيما بعد متداولاً في محيطي الاجتماعي العام، لكن ذلك لم يكن نقياً وصافياً على الدوام. مثلاً لما كنت طالباً في المرحلة الثانوية جمعنا مدرب الفتوة، نحن الطلاب العرب، وطلب منّا مراقبة من سيتغيب من زملائنا في عيد النوروز وإبلاغه بأسمائهم؛ بعد خروجه من القاعة اتفقنا جميعاً على ألا نلبّي طلبه لأنه مهين لنا ولزملائنا الذين سيحتفلون بعيدهم. في الفترة نفسها تسبّبت زميلة كردية بغضبي، لأنها أثناء درس الرياضيات نظرت إليّ "باعتباري كنت صامتاً على عكس نشاطي المعتاد" وقالت بالكردية ما معناه: "لماذا يصمت صاحب اللسان الأعوج"؟</p> <p dir="rtl">&nbsp;ضحك زملاؤنا في الصف، وشعرت بغضب شديد رغم اعتذارها فيما بعد، وربما خفّف من غضبي تجاهها تذكّري أنّ العرب قديماً كانوا يطلقون على الأجنبي وصف "الأعجمي" وكأنه يعاني من علّة في النطق.</p> <p dir="rtl">ثقافتي الشخصية، جرّاء دأبي المبكر على القراءة، كانت في جزء معتبر منها غربية مترجمة إلى العربية. ذلك أيضاً جعلني غريباً عن قصص الطوائف، وغريباً عن التدين الذي لا بدّ أن يدفع في اتجاه معرفة الفوارق بينها، وعلى الأرجح اعتبار نوع التدين الذي يمارسه صاحبه هو الأصح مقارنةً بتديّن الآخرين. هذه لوحة "وردية" بلا شك، ونسيج ذاتها بخلاف الواقع الذي سأعرف لاحقاً أنه ليس كذلك. في المرحلة الجامعية سأشرع لحوالي سنتين في قراءة الأديان والأساطير السابقة عليها، بهدف سدّ النقص الذي أحسست به ثقافياً واجتماعياً. كانت غايتي في المقام الأول معرفة المحيط الاجتماعي، والذي هو سنّي بغالبيته، وبالطبع لا يمكن معرفة أي مذهب إسلامي من دون معرفة المذاهب الأخرى الكبرى، ومعرفة تاريخ العداء فيما بينها جميعاً.</p> <p dir="rtl">&nbsp;<span class="mag-quote-left">هذه المواربة عزّزت طوال عقود نوعاً من الفصام بين ما هو مكتوب وما هو مُعاش</span></p><p dir="rtl">في الوقت نفسه كنت قد قرأت كتباً <a href="https://ar.wikipedia.org/wiki/">لحسين مروة</a> و<a href="https://ar.wikipedia.org/wiki/">مهدي عامل</a>، وكتاب أدونيس "<a href="https://ar.wikipedia.org/wiki/">الثابت والمتحول</a>"، وآنذاك كانت تسود موجة مراجعة التراث التي ستُتوّج بكتب <a href="https://ar.wikipedia.org/wiki/">محمد عابد الجابري</a>. الجابري أتى فيما بعد وكان مختلفاً عن المذكورين قبله، ويمكن أن نضيف إليهم <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N4Lx2e2US2M">طيب تيزيني</a> في مشروعه "من التراث إلى الثورة". الصبغة الأساسية للأوّلين وأمثالهم، باستثناء <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bTvHfvzWKeo">أدونيس</a>، كانت اليسارية. أما ما يجمعهم فكان نقد الإسلام السني تحديداً باعتباره السلطة المهيمنة تاريخياً، وعدم التوقف عند ممارسات مشابهة لمذاهب أخرى حكمت في المنطقة. تأثرتُ إلى حد ما بتلك الموجة، وأظن أن صديقي الشاعر عبداللطيف خطّاب أول من لفت انتباهي إلى قراءة أكثر عمقاً، ففي إحدى الجلسات جادل في أن الروائي <a href="https://ar.wikipedia.org/wiki/">حيدر حيدر</a> طائفي، وكانت روايته "<a href="http://daharchives.alhayat.com/issue_archive/Wasat">وليمة لأعشاب البحر</a>" أثارت ضجة لدى صدورها، حجة عبداللطيف كانت أنّ الكاتب قد اختار لأكثر شخصيات الرواية سلبية وسوءاً اسم "يزيد" الذي يبدو كأنه في الجهة المقابلة للشخصية المحبوبة "مهدي جواد". دافعت عن حيدر حيدر حينها، من منطلق أن نشأة المرء قد تترك في لاوعيه رواسب من هذا القبيل من دون أن تنسحب على وعيه، كأن يرى في اسم يزيد أو عمر مطلق الشر. الأمر إذا يستحق انتباهاً أعمق من تكرار خطأ جارتنا الشيعية، وهي تناديني باسم علي!&nbsp;</p><p dir="rtl">ما أرمي إليه أن الواقع، لا الواقع المعيشي البسيط وإنما الثقافي والسياسي أيضاً، لم يكن بعيداً عن الاصطفافات المذهبية والإثنية، وإن اتخذت التعبيرات عنها طرقاً ملتوية قصداً أو بفعل عوامل الكبت المختلفة. بل إن هذه المواربة عزّزت طوال عقود نوعاً من الفصام بين ما هو مكتوب وما هو مُعاش، وبين المُثُل التي يتم التظاهر بالإيمان بها ورواسب الماضي المقموعة سلطوياً وذاتياً. مثلاً لي قريب، لديه صديق وشريك عمل إسماعيلي، وصادف أثناء مرورهما معاً بالحواجز التابعة للسلطة السورية أن تساءل من يدقق في أوراقهما عمّا يجمع علوياً باسماعيلياً؟! وهما يحكيان لي ذلك في عام 2012 استطردت بالقول إنّ هذا التساؤل عادي جداً وأشرت إلى العداء القديم أيام صالح العلي، وهنا استعاد ابن مصياف تلك الذاكرة الأليمة، يوم هاجم صالح العلي مصياف وحاصر أهلها ونكّل بهم. صورة صالح العلي في الكتب المدرسية، وفي المسلسلات التلفزيونية الجديدة، هي <a href="https://alarab.co.uk/">صورة المناضل البطل ضد الاستعمار</a>. بينما جرّب الاسماعيليون وجهاً آخر تماماً، بل تقول الرواية المناقضة أن صالح العلي اشتبك مع الفرنسيين لأنهم حاولوا ردع اعتداءاته على الاسماعيليين بما أن السلطة الفرنسية كانت مخوّلة بتطبيق القانون، أي لم تكن ثورته، لم تكن ذات دوافع وطنية أصلاً.</p> <p dir="rtl">&nbsp;في صيف عام 2012 أيضاً سأتعرّض لموقف لا يخلو من الدلالة، حينها كنت قادماً برفقة زوجتي وصديقة لنا من جهة صلنفة في اتجاه اللاذقية، وكانت قوات الأسد قد <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AWp5zC8_iOc">اقتحمت الحفّة</a> وسيطرت عليها وهجّرت أهلها. في الحاجز الأول كان ثمة عنصر، ما أن أخذ هويتي من نافذة السيارة حتى ناولها لرئيسه ومدّ يديه ليفتشني وأنا في داخل السيارة. المسؤول عن الحاجز كان قد أمسك الهوية في هذه الأثناء وقال بلهجة محلية: "عمر! من حلب! شومتعمل هون؟!. لحسن الحظ بادر سائق السيارة الذي لا نعرفه إلى إجابته بالقول أنه أتى بنا من مزرعة العميد فلان، وهو عميد معروف في تلك المنطقة، وهنا تساءل المسؤول فوراً: "شو متعمل عند سيادة العميد؟ متشتغل عنده؟ أجبته بأنني كنت في زيارة إلى سيادة العميد" الذي لا أعرفه طبعا، فظهرت على وجهه علامات الحيرة المشفوعة بعدم التصديق، إذ كيف يمكن لشخص اسمه عمر أن يكون ضيفاً لدى سيادة العميد، بينما يُفترض به أن يكون عاملاً أو خادماً في مزرعته!.</p> <p class="mag-quote-right" dir="rtl">لا يصعب على من يدقق في التجربة الحزبية السورية رؤية الآثار&nbsp;الطائفية&nbsp;والمناطقية عليها</p><p dir="rtl">بعد تلك الحادثة، لا بسببها طبعاً، سأحصل على هوية مزورة باسم عمار، قيد النفوس: طرطوس، إذ مَنْ من <a href="http://www.umayya.org/publications-ar/reports-ar-ar/6816">شبيحة الأسد</a> سيخطر له أن يكون ابن طرطوس مطلوباً للمخابرات! هذه الهوية المزورة هي الذكرى الوحيدة المتبقية من <a href="http://www.syriauntold.com/ar/2017/05/">وثائقي السورية.</a>&nbsp;</p> <p dir="rtl">على الصعيد السياسي المباشر؛ لا يصعب على من يدقق في التجربة الحزبية السورية رؤية الآثار <a href="http://www.syriauntold.com/ar/category/syria-writesar/">الطائفية</a> والمناطقية عليها. مثلاً لمدة طويلة كان يُنظر إلى التيار الناصري بوصفه تعبيراً عن عروبة سنّيّة، مقابل عروبة <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MzvaeLgVZY4">البعث</a> التي تمثّل الأقليات. هنا لا بد أن تحضر في الأذهان كلمة "عدس"، التي استُخدمت كاختصار لما نُظر إليه كتحالف أقلوي لطرد السنّة من البعث والمناصب الفاعلة ضمن الجيش؛ الكلمة التي ظل استخدامها رائجاً للدلالة على تلك الأقليات اختزال لـ"علوي، درزي، سمعولي". وإذا كانت حركة <a href="http://www.maaber.org/issue_may13/lookout3.htm">الإخوان المسلمين</a> التجربة الحزبية الوحيدة التي تجهر بأيديولوجيا مذهبية فلم تكن بقية الأحزاب عموماً خارج غلبة الطابع الطائفي أو الإثني وأحياناً المناطقي؛ لندع هنا شعارات هذه الأحزاب أو يساريتها أو علمانيتها المُدّعاة فالعبرة، كانت في عصبويتها الأساسية القائمة على اعتبارات تحت الإيديولوجيا وفوقها تأثيراً في آن واحد.</p> <p dir="rtl">لا شكّ في أن التنميط المتبادل بين المجتمعات أو المناطق المختلفة موجود بدرجات متفاوتة لدى شعوب العالم كلها، إلا أن ميزتنا عن الآخرين في أن التنميط لا يشتغل فقط في المجال الاجتماعي، وأيضاً لا يأخذ طريقه إلى الاضمحلال بفعل تقادم الزمن. التنميط لدينا هو مشروع سلطة، وهو مشروع حروب صامتة، أو علنية مؤخراً، أي أنه يشتغل ويتفاعل في الحقل العام، إما بصفته العامل الأكثر تأثيراً، أو ضمن العوامل الأكثر تأثيراً. هذا لا يعني مثلاً أن السوريين يهجسون بالطائفية صباحاً ومساءً، لكنهم حُرموا من الممارسة الديموقراطية التي تتكفّل مع الوقت بتعزيز فردانيتهم، وبجعل نظراتهم إلى الماضي أكثر تسامحاً، بعد أن يكون قد أصبح ماضياً حقاً.&nbsp;</p> <p dir="rtl">الحقّ أنه ليس للسوريين، بخلاف ما يُحكى كشعار، تاريخ مشترك ما دام التاريخ الشفوي لكل جماعة مختلفاً عن شعارات التقية الوطنية؛ هذا التاريخ الجامع لتناقضاتهم لم يُعترف به ليُدفن كما يليق به. المشكلة قطعاً ليست ناجمة عن عدم معرفة الآخر، لتجد حلها بالمعرفة والتعارف بين المختلفين، إذ هناك شرخ قائم على معرفة كافية، وعن وعي وتصميم. في المجتمعات التي قطعت شوطاً في التجربة الديموقراطية بات يُنظر إلى كل أنواع التنميط بمثابة جريمة ثقافية، إن لم يكن هناك نص قانوني صريح يجرّمها. لكن قبل الوصول إلى هذه المرحلة من الفردانية كانت الجماعات قد بدأت تسخر من ذاتها، ومن نظرتها النمطية إلى الآخر. نحن أيضاً، عندما نتحرر من هيمنة الآخر، ونبدأ في السخرية من مُتخيّلنا عنه، ونشرع في السخرية من أنفسنا بدلاً منه، حينها يجوز لنا القول إننا ندفن التاريخ، أي تحديداً عندما يصبح التاريخ السياسي الثقافي مادة بين القصة والمزحة. في ذلك الزمن لن يكون هناك <a href="http://www.orient-news.net/ar/news_show/580">حاجز</a> عسكري أو مخابراتي يستنكر وجود شخص اسمه عمر في مدينة ساحلية أو يراه خادماً عند ضابط، وقد يكتب روائي جديد، ربما من حصين البحر نفسها، عن شخص يُدعى يزيد، فلا يكون يزيد شريراً ولا خيّراً، بل يكون شخصاً عادياً مثلنا فيه ما فيه من الخير والشر معاً.&nbsp;</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/mohammad-dibo/sectarianism-syria-popular-culture">الثقافة الشفوية والهوية في سورية - ملف</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/north-africa-west-asia/mohammed-dibo/syria-sectarianism-sunni-onion">&quot;من &quot;هذه البصلة سنية&quot; إلى &quot;السنة طيبين متلنا</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/north-africa-west-asia/omar-kaddour/when-name-yazid-is-neither-good-nor-bad">When the name Yazid is neither good nor bad</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Syria </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> North-Africa West-Asia North-Africa West-Asia Syria Arabic language عمر قدور Tue, 22 May 2018 08:00:00 +0000 عمر قدور 117981 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Oral culture and identity in Syria - Dossier https://www.opendemocracy.net/north-africa-west-asia/mohammad-dibo/oral-culture-and-identity-in-syria-dossier <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>What are the origins of sectarian consciousness in Syria? Did it appear from nothing or was it always dormant and waiting to erupt? <strong><a href="https://opendemocracy.net/mohammad-dibo/sectarianism-syria-popular-culture">العربية</a></strong></p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/562712/flat طائفية copy_0.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/562712/flat طائفية copy_0.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="259" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span></p><p><strong>[This article by Mohammad Dibo introduces a special series focused on&nbsp;Oral Culture and Identity in Syria. It is the outcome of an ongoing partnership between <a href="http://syriauntold.com/en/">Syria Untold</a> and openDemocracy's North Africa West Asia]</strong></p><p>Countless and complex questions are being raised by the issue of open sectarianism ripping across the Arab Mashreq, maybe even the entire Middle East. We are faced with a tremendous resurgence of religious, sectarian, doctrinal, and ethnic currents that have overwhelmed the political and military landscape not only in Syria but also beyond. Political discourses are now replete with sectarian language and terminologies which had, up until two decades ago, and perhaps even less than that, been considered too retrograde to be posed seriously. They are now presented as an inescapable reality and, as such, many are proposing consociational solutions premised on “hair of the dog” logic.</p><p>Undoubtedly, the question of sectarianism has been extensively studied, analyzed and researched from both intellectual and political perspectives, and we have seen over the past seven years so many studies and books on that question. Yet ambiguity continues to prevail and reality still surprises us, day after day, with instances of wild violence, unapologetic expressions and unrestrained actions that bring us back to square one. We are confronted by the same question time and time again: Where did all this sectarianism come from? Where was this sectarian consciousness hiding? Was it really hiding, or it is rather the “Arab mind” that had covered it up in favor of dreams and fantasies about a forthcoming future borne on the wings of modernity and progress?</p><p>Furthermore, it was not only the sectarian question that has risen from the ashes of the war in Syria. In addition, the (supra)national question has been also renewed in “passeistic” manners that seek nation-building in narrow ideological forms, though the nation-state ideal of modernity has long been outdated. When nationalism is not combined with democracy, along with the whole set of modernity (citizenship, human rights, alternation of power, etc.,) the former becomes a mere instrument of arbitrary rule. This has been the case in many countries still governed by this model, and Ba’athist Syria serves as one of the most unsavoury examples.</p><p>Ethnic consciousness, nevertheless, has had a widespread presence among many communities, including the Kurds and the Arabs. Instead of building bridges and searching for new horizons or ways of co-existence that have humanity – before citizenship – at their core, hate is being reciprocally declared and fueled between ethnic groups. This, too, raises questions about the origin and background of such types of consciousness. Were they born overnight, or had they been nestled somewhere, waiting for the right moment to explode in our faces?</p><p>In addition to sectarianism and ethnicity, there is tribalism, regionalism (the coast and the interior) and rural-urban tensions (Ghouta and Damascus).</p><p class="mag-quote-center">How do different Syrian groups gossip about one another?</p><p>All of this gives shapes to the following question: Is there an “awareness” of these issues; a consciousness absorbed from the family and the community; an oral, unwritten consciousness instilled in the subconscious since early childhood? Is it that individuals grow up torn between two types of consciousness? One received from the immediate communal milieu and the other from school, university and life. Do they express and experience the former within their spheres of comfort familiarity, and wear the mask of the latter in front of strangers? If that is the case, how are the two types of consciousness manifested throughout the trajectory of an individual? How do they express themselves? And how do people reconcile between the two, especially given their contradictory nature: one clinging to the past and its myths, the other clinging to more modern expressions? Which one prevails over the other, and why, when a choice has to be made?</p><p>In an attempt to answer these questions, we launch this series, open in its first stage to writings conveying, clearly and transparently, this latent collective consciousness. How do different Syrian groups (sects, ethnicities, regions, tribes) gossip about one another? By way of example, how do the Alawites speak of the Sunnis, the Druze and the Christians in the exclusivity of their own private spheres? Likewise, how the Sunnis speak of the Alawites, the Druze and the Christians within theirs? And how do each of these religious communities talk about their respective others? The same question can be asked with regards to ethnic and tribal groups, as well as rural and urban population segments.</p><p class="mag-quote-right">This form of writing requires transparency, clarity and integrity</p><p>This form of writing requires transparency, clarity and integrity. It can only be carried out by those who believe in its use and significance. Moreover, it requires dissociating oneself from sects, ethnic groups, and tribes, and to even dissatisfy them in favor of humanity. Therefore, this series welcomes whoever shares that belief, and finds themselves willing to open up and break the taboo, to search inside themselves and ourselves, in order to expose that “consciousness” with which we were raised and which significantly shaped our worldview. It is an attempt to try and question ourselves: Has this consciousness played a role in what has been happening in Syria? Has any of what we have taken in from our early milieus – that we thought was behind us – provided the basis for our actions and attitudes towards what is happening in Syria? Have we sought to take refuge in our tribes and sects and communities?</p><p>In the second stage of this series, these testimonies will be placed before specialized researchers who will review this body of work from an intellectual and analytical point of view. They will attempt to find the link between these testimonies and what has happened in Syria and the region at large, assuming that such a link exists--for we do not wish to prejudice the conclusions these researchers and specialists will arrive at based on these testimonies and others. Finally, this series will explore the role (positive or negative) played by this oral culture in constructing, or obstructing, the building of a new Syrian identity after the end of the conflict.</p><p><strong>Translated by Yaaser Azzayyaat</strong></p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/north-africa-west-asia/omar-kaddour/when-name-yazid-is-neither-good-nor-bad">When the name Yazid is neither good nor bad</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/north-africa-west-asia/mohammad-dibo/from-this-onion-is-sunni-to-nice-sunnis-like-us">From “this onion is Sunni” to “nice Sunnis like us”</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/mohammad-dibo/sectarianism-syria-popular-culture">الثقافة الشفوية والهوية في سورية - ملف</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Syria </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Civil society </div> <div class="field-item even"> Conflict </div> <div class="field-item odd"> Democracy and government </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> North-Africa West-Asia North-Africa West-Asia Syria Civil society Conflict Democracy and government Syria and sectarianism Through Syrian eyes Mohammad Dibo Mon, 21 May 2018 17:08:47 +0000 Mohammad Dibo 117976 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Zionism: the history of a contested word https://www.opendemocracy.net/jonathan-shamir/zionism-history-of-contested-word <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>These polarising terms should be shelved, and taken out only when we are discussing political philosophy, which most of the time, we are not.<strong><span style="text-decoration: underline;"></span></strong></p> </div> </div> </div> <p><em><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/Birnbaum_Nathan.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/Birnbaum_Nathan.jpg" alt="lead " title="" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" width="460" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Nathan Birbaum,(1864 - 1937) Austrian writer, Jewish thinker and nationalist. Wikicommons/ Zionist Archive. Some rights reserved.</span></span></span>‘Objectivity has ceased to be a goal not only of popular writing on the subject but also of scholarship, and the line between intellectual engagement and political activism hardly exists today’ </em></p> <p><em>– Michael Stanislawski, Zionism: A Very Short Introduction, p.1 </em></p> <p>Written in German in the Austro-Hungarian Empire, Theodor Herzl’s <em>Der Judenstaat</em> (The Jewish State) (1896) is widely considered Zionism’s founding document. It was in the same country, six years earlier, that the term was coined by Nathan Birnbaum, the founder of the first Jewish student association in Vienna, <em>Kadimah</em>. </p> <p>The philosophy was barely fledged before it evoked an impassioned backlash from the 1885 Pittsburgh Platform, where Reform Judaism was essentially founded, and the anti-Zionist Bundists in Russia, who, along with many other Jews, believed Zionism jeopardised the prospects of integration into their host nations. </p> <p>This controversy has not ceased since. Jewish anti-Zionism has a diverse history, ranging from Satmar Hasidim, who perceived secular Zionism as an abomination and a forced pre-emption of redemption before God’s will, to many Iraqi Jews, who understood growing resentment in their own country as a response to Zionism. But anti-Zionism is not simply confined to Jewish infighting – it is now a staple of leftist thinking and movements. <span class="mag-quote-center">But anti-Zionism is not simply confined to Jewish infighting – it is now a staple of leftist thinking and movements.</span></p> <p>Anti-Zionism is a negative ideology, and is therefore contingent on the definition of its positive counterpart. The word Zionism, however, is so ambiguous and varied in its meaning and so imbued with emotion, so firmly tied to identity, that invoking it stifles any productive conversation.&nbsp;</p> <p>Could you expect a Holocaust survivor who found succour in Israel to disavow Zionism entirely? Could you expect a Palestinian expelled from their home and prevented from ever entering it again to be anything but an anti-Zionist? </p> <p>To move forward, we need to abandon these terms when it comes to discussing Israel-Palestine.</p> <h2><strong>Ideology in flux</strong></h2> <p>Zionism consists of many heterogeneous variants and has changed so dramatically over time that what was once considered Zionism is now considered anti-Zionism. </p> <p>In the early nineteenth century, the dominant strand of Zionism was Labour Zionism, which sought the redemption of the Jewish people through a renewed connection with the land and the subsequent creation of a socialist haven. At the time, secular bi-nationalism was an acceptable and even mainstream Zionist belief, and there were even several visions for the realisation of this model, spanning from a joint Jewish-Arab commonwealth, to the division of Mandate Palestine into cantons. Mapam, who were the second biggest Zionist party before 1948, believed in a binational solution. <span class="mag-quote-center">Mapam, who were the second biggest Zionist party before 1948, believed in a binational solution. </span></p> <p>Yet today, one of the main proponents of this model, the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions Movement (BDS), are, by their own definition and that of Israel, perhaps the most prominent anti-Zionist organisation around. &nbsp;The State of Israel considers their goals and intentions so utterly anathema that they have a blacklist of groups who are active with BDS and their members are banned from entering the country.</p> <p>For some, Zionism means the right to Jewish self-determination, a national liberation movement, but for others, it conjures violent dispossession and continued policies of occupation and colonisation. It is, of course, both, born out of a unique set of historical circumstances. </p> <p>Yet there are also several positions in between, with no paucity of subscribers. On one side, you have liberal Zionism, which some take to be a paradox, and others consider a marriage of pro-Palestinian activism to their vision of a more just Jewish Israel. On the other extreme, you have a religious Zionism and neo-Zionism that uses Judaism to justify uncompromising expansionist nationalism. Like most philosophies, there was and is a war (in many cases, literally) for its definition.</p> <p>J Street, an American liberal Zionist organisation, who ‘believe that the Jewish people have the right to a national home of their own’, were at the forefront of the (failed) battle to stop the demolition of Susya, a Palestinian village in Area C, gathering over 12,000 signatures. It was up against a government and the settler movement it supports, who are rigorous adherents to Neo-Zionism, which considers itself the true heir to the pioneering spirit that underpinned the foundation of the State of Israel in the first place. This was just one of many examples of two groups fighting completely opposing causes in the name of Zionism. <span class="mag-quote-center">This was just one of many examples of two groups fighting completely opposing causes in the name of Zionism.</span></p> <p>Though Zionism is often qualified with an appended adjective, it seems be changing as a catch-all term too. A joint 2015 <a href="http://yachad.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2015/11/British-Jewish-Attitudes-Towards-Israel-Yachad-Ipsos-Mori-Nov-2015.pdf">Yachad-Ipsos Mori</a> survey found that while 90% of Jews in the UK believe in Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish state, just 59% would identify themselves as Zionists, down from 72% in 2010. In the past, these two items would have been synonymous. The survey goes on to observe that ‘people who are critical of Israel’s current policies should not describe themselves as Zionists even if they are fully supportive of Israel’s legitimacy as a Jewish state’ and that ‘this apparently rapid change in the use of the term merits further examination.’ It is no longer clear in the Jewish community whether the term Zionism means support for Israel’s government, or simply a belief in its right to exist; the anxieties surrounding this definition seem to have encouraged many to drop this association altogether. </p> <p>But with the settlement enterprise ineluctably entrenched in the Palestinian OPT, and Israel shifting further to the right, can a voice of diaspora protest, alongside near indifference within Israel itself, claim to act as a representative voice for their hijacked Zionism? In other words, has the battle for the soul of Zionism already ended? <strong></strong></p> <h2><strong>To what extent can you disentangle an ideology from its practical realisation?</strong></h2> <p>Many claim that the bona fide resurgence of anti-Semitism, notably in France, where <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2018/03/28/world/europe/mireille-knoll-murder-holocaust.html">a Holocaust survivor was brutally murdered just last month</a> and from&nbsp;where there has been a mass exodus of Jews, Zionism, in the form of a national home and haven for the Jewish people, is as relevant as ever. </p> <p>Yet in the fiftieth year of its short seventy-year history, the occupation, which has surely been a turning point in public opinion on Israel (and therefore Zionism), cannot be interpreted as a temporary malaise, but a fundamental feature of Israel as a state, bound up in all the human rights abuses this includes.</p> <p>The separation of ideology and its political manifestation seems practicable for many proponents of communism, who detach ideology from the atrocities of its realisation which have transpired on almost every occasion. The brutality of Stalin and Mao, it is claimed, are a perversion of this vision. Can Zionism attempt to redeem itself through abstraction?</p> <p>Certainly, liberal Zionists believe it can. Israel’s Declaration of Independence espoused certain values of&nbsp;‘complete equality of social and political rights to all its inhabitants irrespective of religion, race or sex’ and ‘guarantee freedom of religion, conscience, language, education and culture’. The modern state of Israel, according to them, is a deviation from this founding vision, and it must be saved – for the sake of both Israelis and Palestinians.</p> <p>But if Zionism derives much of its validity from the historical circumstances of Jewish persecution, and the language employed by its proponents is not only one of ‘rights’, but ‘needs’, then it seems wilfully selective to de-historicise Zionism. Reification, however, renders Zionism untenable by introducing the indigenous Palestinian population into the equation. As Ari Shavit argued in his best-selling book <em>My Promised Land</em> when discussing the expulsion of Palestinians from the town of Lydda, the action and legacy of expulsion is something that <em>every</em> Zionist must reckon with – it is inextricable from the ideology that produced it. <span class="mag-quote-center">As Ari Shavit argued… the action and legacy of expulsion is something that <em>every</em> Zionist must reckon with – it is inextricable from the ideology that produced it.</span></p> <p>There is a glaring blind spot to the Zionist invocation of ‘need’ when it comes to the right of return: the Palestinian population who were expelled in 1948 and their descendants often would’ve benefited from such succour. </p> <p>In Syria, where the Palestinian population numbers at around half a million, most Palestinians have been caught up in the bloody civil war. Chris Gunness, the head of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA), claimed that 95% of the 438,000 Palestinians are in ‘critical need of sustained humanitarian assistance’. The humanitarian ‘need’ in this situation pales in comparison to the brutal shelling of Yarmouk by regime forces. Today, just hundreds of Palestinians remain in what was one of the biggest diaspora communities of Palestinians in the world.</p> <p>Just before and during the Gulf War, 400,000 Palestinians fled Kuwait for several reasons, all of which were rooted in this existential category of ‘need’. Even in times of peace, the situations of Palestinians – denied citizenship and therefore basic amenities, living in refugee camps, and often subject to political (and frequently racialised) violence – highlights the inherent contradiction of managing a state on ethnic lines: can you have a Jewish and democratic state, which, as part of its national logic, denies the right of return to the indigenous population, but extends the right of return to Jews who often aren’t in need? </p> <p>That doesn’t mean that they never will be, and sometimes they certainly are, but these contradictions at the heart of Zionism must be unpacked. It certainly seems unreasonable to abstract Zionism in order to avoid confronting such questions. </p> <h2><strong>Anti-Zionism and Anti-Semitism</strong></h2> <p>This discussion has implications for ongoing debates today. The flaring (and ostensibly contradictory) arguments that ‘anti-Zionism constitutes anti-Semitism’ or that ‘anti-Zionism is being deliberately conflated with anti-Semitism to stifle criticism of Israel’ are both true and absurd in equal measure; they required more precise terminology to test their validity.</p> <p>If we cannot grant Zionism a distinction from its practical manifestation, then anti-Zionism must be subjected to the same scrutiny. Efraim Perlmutter’s <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/efraim-perlmutter/israeli-zionist-response-to-mary-davis-and-jonathan-rosenhead">openDemocracy article</a> argued that article 20 of the PLO charter is anti-Semitic:</p> <p><em>‘The Balfour Declaration,&nbsp;the Mandate for Palestine, and everything that has been based upon them, are deemed null and void. Claims of historical or religious ties of Jews with Palestine are incompatible with the facts of history and the true conception of what constitutes statehood. Judaism, being a religion, is not an independent nationality. Nor do Jews constitute a single nation with an identity of its own; they are citizens of the states to which they belong.’</em></p> <p>Do the cultural and religious ties of Jewish people give them a right to the land? No, but that doesn’t excuse a denial of the existence of those ties and their importance to Jewish identity. Indeed, Israel was the homeland of the Jewish people at several intervals in history. The exclusive negation of national rights for Jews <em>is</em> anti-Semitic, especially in a world where nation states still construct and legitimate our identity and that such a state already exists. </p><p>The exclusive negation of national rights for Jews is often construed as anti-Semitic – and it certainly <em>can </em>be – especially in a world where nation states still construct and legitimate our identity and where such a state already exists, and where Israel itself is often singled out for interrogation of its legitimacy. Yet this position ignores the historical contingency of national rights; it presupposes that all national rights were allocated justly, and did not simply emerge from circumstance. It just so happens that Jewish national aspirations today are built on the ruins of another people, and the absence of a resolution to this conflict, at least partially, explains such negation. </p> <p>However, what Perlmutter failed to mention was that this article, along with many others which were deemed inconsistent with the principles of Oslo Accords, was repealed in 1998. Indeed, the Oslo Accords have established a framework by which the right of Jewish national self-determination does not inherently contradict the same right for Palestinians. ( This doesn’t mean that the PLO are immune from anti-Semitism; we just need to look as far as earlier this month to <a href="https://www.timesofisrael.com/abbas-condemns-anti-semitism-after-uproar-over-speech/">Abbas’s comments</a> apportioning blame for the Holocaust to the ‘social function’ of Jews.) In fact, a two-state solution, which accommodates the national rights of both Israelis and Palestinians separately, remains the preference of both parties in uniquely adverse conditions.</p> <p>Hamas, who are the predominant self-proclaimed anti-Zionist actor within Palestine, still call for the destruction of the State of Israel. Although they too have altered their charter, their foundational charter, which calls for the killing of Jews based on a fundamentalist understanding of religion in article 7, and refers to one of the most infamous anti-Semitic forgeries, <em>The Protocols of the Elders of Zion</em>,<em> </em>in article 32, goes beyond anything conjured up by the PLO. It is dubious to what extent their new charter, which does not nullify their 1988 charter, changes the substance of this violent anti-Semitism, and it has yet to recognise Israel as a legitimate entity. </p> <p>Returning to the relationship between anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism, Perlmutter is right to identify that ‘the real problem is that anti-Semitism has become an integral part of Palestinian and Arab nationalism. Therefore the real question becomes how does one support the Palestinian cause without being infected with Palestinian anti-Semitism.’</p> <p>In fact, this problem runs deeper than Palestinian nationalism. Although Zionism certainly exacerbated anti-Semitism in the Middle East, it predates the establishment of the State of Israel, and was also abetted and enforced by colonial politics and culture. The infamous relationship between the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem and Nazism is a fertile example of this combination in play: his alliance with the Nazis was a statement against the interference of Britain and France in the region, as well as the role of Israel, as was the case in Iraq, but this did not inoculate him from anti-Semitism. </p> <p>In the Middle East, anti-Semitism is commonplace, and this also has ramifications in the UK. A poll conducted by the Institute for Jewish Policy Research (JPR) in September 2017 found that Muslims disproportionately held anti-Semitic attitudes, though it made a concerted and careful distinction between holding an anti-Semitic belief and <em>being </em>anti-Semitic. The poll found that 55% of Muslims held anti-Semitic attitudes, as opposed to 30% of the general population, while 27% of the Muslims surveyed believed that “Jews get rich at the expense of others”, compared with the national average of 12%. &nbsp;</p> <p>The centrality of anti-imperialism to leftist discourses and movements today, especially those tied to identity politics, can generate such ludicrous claims from people as intelligent as Judith Butler that ‘Hamas, Hezbollah as social movements that are progressive […] are part of a global Left’. The anti-Semitism of these groups is therefore downplayed or ignored, and they (and their anti-Semitic, homophobic, and sexist beliefs and violent actions) are given credence and legitimacy in progressive circles. If anti-Semitism is a part of pro-Palestinian movements (in the same way that Islamophobia is also associated with certain forms of Zionism), that doesn’t prohibit involvement with these movements; it simply means there must be a robust and assiduous effort to distinguish support for Palestinian rights from many of their representatives. </p> <p>Somewhat differently, anti-Zionism can provide a convenient excuse and space to express anti-Semitism. While the line between the two beliefs can be abundantly clear, Israel today is often incorporated into an older and deeper scourge of anti-Semitism. The 2001 World Conference Against Racism in Durban, which marked a notable shift in the stigmatisation of Zionism, was notoriously rife with unequivocal classical anti-Semitic literature, such as people handing out <em>The Protocols of the Elders of Zion </em>and leaflets of Hitler, entitled ‘What if I had won?’ Mary Robinson, the former President of Ireland and the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, said that ‘there was horrible antisemitism present – particularly in some of the NGO discussions. A number of people said they’ve never been so hurt or so harassed or been so blatantly faced with an antisemitism.’ </p> <p>Yet the claim that anti-Zionism is being conflated with anti-Semitism is also true. Despite the self-evident connection which many Jews have to Israel, its government has deliberately attempted to conflate Jews with Israel, calling for migration to their true home whenever a crisis strikes. As such, after the synagogue shooting in Copenhagen in 2015, Netanyahu proclaimed that ‘Israel is the home of every Jew&nbsp;... Israel awaits you with open arms’. There are consequently incredibly close ties between organisations such as the Anti-Defamation League and the Israeli Foreign Ministry (MFA) <em>because</em> anti-Semitism legitimates the State of Israel. <span class="mag-quote-center">Israel’s government has deliberately attempted to conflate Jews with Israel, calling for migration to their true home whenever a crisis strikes.</span></p> <p>Indeed, the MFA, alongside the covert Ministry of Strategic Affairs, the only ministry which you incidentally cannot find further information about via the Israeli government website, has made a concerted financial, strategic and even legal effort, under the conceptual framework of ‘new anti-Semitism’, to attack BDS as anti-Semitic. Events such as the Global Forum for Combatting Antisemitism<strong> </strong>seem to be more about challenging BDS than anything else. </p> <p>This is not to say that the BDS Movement, the main non-violent embodiment of anti-Zionism, is devoid of problems: it has not been firm enough in opposing anti-Semitism within its ranks, and in fact, has often indulged in grotesque anti-Semitism. Just look at the <a href="https://www.haaretz.com/opinion/.premium-when-progressives-defend-nazi-salutes-and-hezbollah-flags-1.5465380">violent anti-Semitism</a> of the BDS Movement at the University of Witwatersrand. The movement is also deliberately vague about its aims. Some of the staunchest defenders of Palestinian rights, such as Norman Finkelstein and Noam Chomsky, have therefore criticised the movement for demanding the right of return, which would mean an end to the Jewish character of the State of Israel. </p> <p>However, it is the biggest non-violent movement in support of Palestinian rights, and to deny it breathing space is therefore to invalidate Palestinian non-violence. If Palestinians have a right to protest (which they clearly do) and if violence should rightfully be condemned, then there at least should be an engagement with BDS as a movement. </p> <p>In previous debates on the subject on openDemocacy, Mary Davis was right to <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/mary-davis/reply-to-jonathan-rosenhead-is-zionist-rude-word">identify that certain types of boycotts fail to distinguish between civil society and the government</a> and therefore constitute a sort of collective punishment. The Israeli government is taking bolder steps to blur the boundaries between Israel and the West Bank, ignoring EU recommendations to distinguish settlement goods from those produced in the main body of Israel. </p> <p>More significantly, a new law recently bypassed the Knesset which required each piece of new legislation to include a clause about implementation in the Occupied Palestinian Territories, an abandonment of any pretence that the occupation is temporary. </p> <p>Netanyahu is spearheading a campaign to make a distinction between Israel-proper and the OPT, and therefore a distinction between complicity and non-complicity, increasingly difficult. He is polarising the debate further by making it impossible for those who support targeted boycotts of settlement goods or companies directly involved in the occupation.&nbsp; </p> <h2><strong>Conclusion</strong></h2> <p>A broad church of competing movements which have changed over time, all of which are construed and misconstrued many times over, a unique set of historical circumstances in which liberation w<em>as </em>colonisation, and the weaponisation of Zionism/anti-Zionism/anti-Semitism for diverging political interests means it is almost impossible to conduct a debate on these terms.</p> <p>An Israeli professor told me that he was gently encouraged by Palestinian groups to preface his contributions to public discussions by identifying himself as an ‘anti-Zionist’, almost as a prerequisite to be given a platform, while, in an attempted overture to the Jewish community amidst Corbyn’s refusal to celebrate the Balfour Centenary, the Shadow Foreign Secretary Emily Thornberry told the Jewish community that Jeremy is a ‘Zionist’. </p> <p>These badges are ultimately meaningless, and often hinder discussion about methods and solidarity between those attempting to address the most critical situations in the conflict: the humanitarian crisis in Gaza and the occupation of and settlement on the West Bank.</p> <p>For so many, identification as a Zionist is a red line: the person in question is immediately considered racist. Yet so many of these so-called Zionists are at the forefront of the fight for justice for Palestinians. Similarly, anti-Zionism is also loaded with nasty connotations of anti-Semitism. These polarising terms should therefore be shelved, and taken out only when we are discussing political philosophy, which most of the time, we are not. It is too charged, and too ambiguous, to lead to any productive dialogue.</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/mary-davis/reply-to-jonathan-rosenhead-is-zionist-rude-word">Reply to Jonathan Rosenhead: ‘Is Zionist a rude word?’</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/efraim-perlmutter/israeli-zionist-response-to-mary-davis-and-jonathan-rosenhead">One Israeli Zionist response to Mary Davis and Jonathan Rosenhead</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/gilbert-achcar/zionism-anti-semitism-and-balfour-declaration">Zionism, anti-semitism, and the Balfour Declaration</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Israel </div> <div class="field-item even"> United States </div> <div class="field-item odd"> EU </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Civil society </div> <div class="field-item even"> Conflict </div> <div class="field-item odd"> Culture </div> <div class="field-item even"> Democracy and government </div> <div class="field-item odd"> Ideas </div> <div class="field-item even"> International politics </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> Can Europe make it? North-Africa West-Asia uk EU United States Israel Civil society Conflict Culture Democracy and government Ideas International politics Middle East Jonathan Shamir Mon, 21 May 2018 08:18:44 +0000 Jonathan Shamir 117969 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Heritage peacebuilding in Iraq https://www.opendemocracy.net/north-africa-west-asia/mehiyar-kathem/heritage-peacebuilding-in-iraq <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>After years of funding being pumped to Iraq’s NGO sector based on US military needs, local civil society is rebuilding itself based on Iraqi priorities, not least of which is heritage.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/562712/PA-29525850.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/562712/PA-29525850.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="307" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>The ruins of the ancient city of Babylon in Iraq. Picture by Noe Falk Nielsen/NurPhoto/SIPA USA/PA Images. All rights reserved. </span></span></span>What Iraq is experiencing today is perhaps unprecedented in its recent history. An active, vibrant civil society, and an increasingly concerned citizenry are attempting to reclaim Iraq’s history from the long-term effects of dictatorship, occupation and sectarian politics that have characterised Iraq’s recent past. Iraq’s rich heritage has been one of the least researched areas that has undergone significant transformation since 2003. After the recent defeat of the Islamic State, the next stage for Iraq is to rebuild what has either been badly damaged or destroyed. From 2003 till today, Iraq’s national heritage has been neglected, causing major damage to this world-renowned heritage. Iraq now stands at an important crossroads. Focusing on rebuilding efforts and on heritage peace-building, providing support to domestic organisations, heritage practitioners and universities to rebuild their cultural institutions, could be one of the surest ways to help Iraq’s war to peace transition.&nbsp;</p> <p>Heritage peace-building can simply be defined as international and domestic interventions to create and support the foundations for Iraq’s national reconciliation, founded on its culturally rich past. In Iraq, and as the people of Iraq understand it, heritage is not merely the protection of tangible property but its embeddedness in new notions of Iraqi identity and being that are currently being negotiated by a large swathe of society. The international community should be cognizant of these social transformations currently taking place in the country, positioning its efforts to sustainably support the country’s local efforts to rebuild its heritage and country.&nbsp;</p> <p class="mag-quote-center">Iraq’s national heritage has been deliberately subdued as it was considered to act as a counterforce to ethno-nationalist politics</p> <p>From the founding of the Iraqi state and up to 2003, Iraq’s pre-Islamic heritage has been one of the defining characteristics of its national identity. With the creation of a sectarian political system after 2003, Iraq’s national heritage has been deliberately subdued as it was considered to act as a counterforce to ethno-nationalist politics and the concomitant growth of sectarian forms of heritage, namely revolving around mosques but also many other religious sites. A source for a common bond and identity for all Iraqis, national heritage can play a central role in reconciliation between Iraq’s many cultural groups. Instead, over the past few years what we have seen is its neglect and the growth of sectional identities that have increasingly polarised Iraqi society and created major social tensions. Heritage peace-building, based on Iraq’s rich cultural history, could be a central way to mend relations and build necessary inter-community trust.&nbsp;</p> <p>Since 2003 major international funding to Iraq, especially to its domestic NGO sector, have either focused on liberal notions of civil society development and democracy promotion or based on US occupation priorities. After the withdrawal of the US military in 2011, Iraq’s civil society grew weaker, now without much funding, many NGOs collapsed. International funding to Iraq’s domestic NGOs were crafted as contractor and service – delivery organisations. Sustainability was short-sighted in most of these funding streams, as their objectives were tied to external donor priorities. One important insight and pattern in these funding streams was that they dismissed actually existing civil society and worked instead on creating new things that mimicked or reflected donors own notions of what Iraq should look like. Their long-term effects whilst having offered funding and training to Iraqi NGO leaders have largely been unsustainable. Heritage peace-building, for it to be effective, has to learn the painful and hard lessons of civil society peace-building of the past few years.&nbsp;&nbsp;</p> <p>Now, many years since the NGO bonanza of the US surge of 2006 and 2007 and other funding streams that pumped hundreds of millions to Iraq’s NGO sector, civil society is rebuilding itself based on Iraqi priorities, not least of which is heritage. Across Iraq today, youth and heritage groups are being established as a form of local civil society development. From Mosul to Basra, civil society heritage organisations, concerned with safeguarding Iraq’s tangible and intangible heritage, arguably Iraq’s most important asset, are being established as a way to connect not only with their history but with their existing social environment. Heritage organisations, in this sense, are civil society organisations concerned with the country’s transition based on existing forms of culture.&nbsp;&nbsp;</p> <p>One important, flagship initiative in this regard is the work of Iraqi artist Rashad Selim, who through his Safina Projects organisation, is attempting to revive Iraq’s ancient maritime and textiles heritage, building through his crafts, arts and recreations of such things as the Ark of Noah and disappeared Iraqi boats as a product of Iraqi culture. Such projects do more for the present than the past as they focus on continuity rather than merely protection and safeguarding.&nbsp;</p> <p>International heritage peace-building efforts, based on reviving Iraq’s rich cultural past, should be at the forefront of rebuilding the country. At the forefront of these efforts has been UNESCO in Iraq, which successfully negotiated with the UAE Government a $50m rebuilding of the destroyed al Nuri mosque complex in Mosul. Such efforts not only create hope and necessary jobs for Iraq’s heritage sector but act as cultural bridges between Iraq and its neighbours.&nbsp;</p><p class="mag-quote-left">Sustainable forms of heritage peace-building start at a local level</p> <p>Saudi Arabia’s initiative to build one of the world’s largest stadiums in Iraq, with design themes based on Babylon, is another example of cultural diplomacy and heritage peace-building. Such efforts will have a lasting impact on Iraq’s relationship with its neighbours and help pave the way in building closer economic and political ties. The UK is also leading in heritage peace-building. The Nahrein Network, a government funded University College London based project, is working to create greater local intellectual ownership of cultural heritage through support to Iraqi universities and researchers. The four-year project supports Iraq’s researchers and NGOs working to build research capacity with a view on the sustainable development of cultural heritage in the country&nbsp; through a grants and scholarships scheme. Working with Iraqi researchers and cultural institutions the Nahrein Network is the first project of its kind to support Iraqis in their negotiation of the local discourse on heritage at a critical moment in the country’s development and transition.&nbsp;</p> <p>Sustainable forms of heritage peace-building start at a local level. In contrast to substantial funding to Iraq’s NGO sector to work on things related to democracy promotion or US security concerns, little has been expended to support heritage and cultural organisations in Iraq. Today, many cultural groups are being established, in the absence of foreign support, to rebuild Iraq. One such organisation is a youth oriented cultural group called Elu, which recently organised a celebration of Iraqi culture and history in partnership with the Ministry of Culture in the Abbasid Palace, in central Baghdad.&nbsp;</p> <p>Such organisations, if provided sufficient domestic and international support, including from Iraq’s private sector, could be the bedrock of a new Iraq. Sustainability here lies not only in terms of funding and such things as outputs, but on attempts to reshape Iraq’s discourse on heritage as pertaining to historical continuity, however negotiated, and the production of life in its various cultural manifestations. In this spirit, Iraq’s cultural and heritage organisations are working on defining heritage not only as the ‘thing to be protected’ but are actively negotiating their own history as a source of life’s continuity. It is through culture that Iraqis attempt to define themselves and those around them, and it is a central way people connect to their living environment. Indeed, heritage in this sense should be considered as the cultural and aspirational embodiment of life.&nbsp;</p> <p>International heritage peace-building initiatives could possibly include supporting the Iraqi government to establish a cultural fund, to protect, safeguard and potentially make its increasingly dilapidated and badly maintained cultural sites available for the public. As of yet, efforts to support Iraq’s heritage are piecemeal, disparate and not of the scale commensurate with the needs that Iraq requires. With international support, perhaps from UNESCO and international donors, guided by Iraqi expertise, a cultural fund open to applications for the rehabilitation of cultural sites and support to heritage could be a major source of support for Iraq’s newly emerging cultural and heritage groups working on rebuilding cultural institutions.&nbsp;</p><p class="mag-quote-right">Rebuilding Iraq will necessarily require the rehabilitation of Iraq’s cultural sites</p> <p>The fund could be comprised of assistance to tangible and intangible cultural heritage and work to build a critical mass of activity to positively influence institutions of the Iraqi state.&nbsp;&nbsp;Working with civil society to influence notions of cultural heritage sustainability in the state is one important way to affect long-term change in safeguarding Iraq’s important cultural heritage. Such efforts can positively contribute to ensuring that cultural heritage sustainability becomes a key part of the very fabric of the Iraqi state. A cultural fund could be managed by both Iraqi and non-Iraqi experts, making use of a shared funding pool, to reinvigorate Iraqi heritage and the common ties shared by all Iraqis.&nbsp;</p> <p>With elections approaching in May 2018, any future government should seriously consider establishing such a cultural programme as government institutions alone today cannot manage the scale of destruction wrought on Iraqi heritage over the past three decades.</p> <p>Rebuilding Iraq will necessarily require the rehabilitation of Iraq’s cultural sites and mending the immense damage war and conflict has done to Iraq’s immaterial culture life. Positioning international resources in this regard, supporting local heritage activities, particularly those spearheaded by Iraqi civil society and Iraq’s increasingly active universities, will be one effective and sustainable way support can be delivered to the country. Supporting Iraq’s heritage rehabilitation will go a long way in building an Iraq based on its rich cultural history and an increasingly active civil society attempting to overcome the legacies of isolation and conflict of the recent past.</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/north-africa-west-asia/darius-kamali/iraq-and-syria-of-memory-and-maps">Iraq and Syria: of memory and maps</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/north-africa-west-asia/anoush-ehteshami-amjed-rasheed-juline-beaujouan/crisis-of-state-in-arab-regio">The crisis of the state in the Arab region and the rise of the Islamic State</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/north-africa-west-asia/shatha-al-juburi/how-2003-us-led-invasion-changed-iraq-forever">How the 2003 US-led invasion changed Iraq forever</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/north-africa-west-asia/mieczys-aw-p-boduszy-ski-christopher-k-lamont/challenges-of-building-shared-i">The challenges of building a shared Iraqi identity</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/north-africa-west-asia/rijin-sahakian/what-we-are-fighting-for">What we are fighting for</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Iraq </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Civil society </div> <div class="field-item even"> Conflict </div> <div class="field-item odd"> Culture </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> North-Africa West-Asia North-Africa West-Asia Iraq Civil society Conflict Culture heritage peace war Mehiyar Kathem Fri, 18 May 2018 11:09:31 +0000 Mehiyar Kathem 117916 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Migrant workers fighting for freedom under Lebanon’s Kefala system https://www.opendemocracy.net/north-africa-west-asia/roshan-de-stone-david-l-suber/migrant-workers-fighting-for-freedom-under-leba <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>In Lebanon, a women-only group of migrant domestic workers have come together to fight for rights in the workplace.&nbsp;</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/562712/IMG_7236 copy.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/562712/IMG_7236 copy.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="328" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Performances by migrant domestic workers during a celebration of women's day in Beirut. Picture by authors. Used with permission. </span></span></span>As one dance ended and the audience burst into applause, loud Ivorian beats began to blare from the speaker in preparation for the next performance. The room, full of beautifully dressed women in saris, pagnes, jeans and shiny&nbsp;sequinnedtops, jostled for space in the packed theatre. &nbsp;</p><p class="western">Before the last dance, Rose took the stage, switching fluently between English and French. “I want everyone to know that we are human beings. That we have skills and dreams other than just working in people’s houses.”&nbsp;</p><p class="western">It might not seem a lot to ask for, but in Lebanon where these women work, their most basic human rights are systematically violated. Just two years ago, domestic workers would face detention and deportation if they were found to have a&nbsp;<span><a href="http://america.aljazeera.com/articles/2015/6/26/lebanons-migrant-domestic-workers-vulnerable-to-abuse.html">relationship</a></span>. “They even want to control who we love and when we love”, Rose told us.&nbsp;</p><p class="western">There are an estimated&nbsp;<span><a href="https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2015/06/workers-slaves-150601133232753.html">250,000</a>&nbsp;</span>migrant domestic workers in Lebanon, making up nearly 10% of the country’s female population.<br /><br /><span><a href="https://www.hrw.org/news/2015/03/10/lebanon-recognize-domestic-workers-union">Excluded</a>&nbsp;</span>from the national labour law, migrant domestic workers are forced to work under the infamous&nbsp;<a href="http://www.kafa.org.lb/studiespublicationpdf/prpdf47.pdf"><span><em>Kafala&nbsp;</em></span><span>system</span></a>, a system of sponsorship that binds an employee to their employer in a&nbsp;<span><a href="https://www.theguardian.com/global-development/2014/feb/26/time-to-end-kafala">slave-like</a>&nbsp;</span>relationship. Under&nbsp;<em>Kafala</em>, the right of an employee to enter, work and reside in Lebanon is utterly dependent on their employer.&nbsp;</p><p class="western">A complex recruitment process has played a major role in institutionalising abuse over migrant workers. Agencies in Lebanon work with partners and middle-men in emigration countries, often sponsoring human trafficking where countries have banned legal emigration to Lebanon. Over&nbsp;<span><a href="http://www.kafa.org.lb/studiespublicationpdf/prpdf47.pdf">65%</a>&nbsp;</span>of migrant domestic workers feel that they had been lied to about the nature of the work and tricked into conditions that human rights groups define as&nbsp;<span><a href="http://ilo.org/wcmsp5/groups/public/---arabstates/---ro-beirut/documents/genericdocument/wcms_247033.pdf">servitude or slavery</a></span>.<br /><br />Systematic abuse of domestic migrant workers is endemic. An estimated&nbsp;<span><a href="http://ilo.org/wcmsp5/groups/public/---arabstates/---ro-beirut/documents/genericdocument/wcms_247033.pdf">50%</a>&nbsp;</span>of employees work over 85 hours a week. Reports account that&nbsp;<span><a href="https://newint.org/features/2017/11/01/kafala-lebanon">20%</a>&nbsp;</span>of domestic workers are locked in their employees’ house, while&nbsp;<span><a href="https://newint.org/features/2017/11/01/kafala-lebanon">40%</a>&nbsp;</span>have their wages withheld despite this being against Lebanese law.&nbsp;</p><p class="western">As&nbsp;<span><a href="https://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/opinion/lebanon-racism-problem-171019075823036.html">institutionalised racism</a>&nbsp;</span>in Lebanon continues largely unchecked, detention, deportation and death are often the only options of escape from abusive employers. The&nbsp;<span><a href="https://www.irinnews.org/feature/2017/05/15/slave-labour-death-rate-doubles-migrant-domestic-workers-lebanon">death toll</a>&nbsp;</span>in Lebanon is estimated at two migrant workers per week as a result of suicide, murder and botched escape attempts. And it is not unusual to hear of employers avoiding justice as cases get dismissed for insufficient evidence.</p><p class="western">Nonetheless, harrowing reports of suffering are widely&nbsp;<span><a href="http://www.kafa.org.lb/studiespublicationpdf/prpdf30.pdf">documented</a></span>,on websites like “<span><a href="http://ethiopiansuicides.blogspot.co.uk/">Ethiopian Suicides</a></span>” which was&nbsp;monitoring deaths until 2015.&nbsp;</p><p class="western">In 2016 a group of female domestic workers came together to form the Alliance of Migrant Domestic Workers. Amongst the members of the Alliance, the freedom to choose one’s own narrative is paramount. “When people are always telling you what to do, it is so important that in our own struggle, our voices are heard.”&nbsp;</p><p class="western">The women who make up this group are formidable. Some of them having been activists for over 20 years in the hardest conditions as Lebanese authorities do not&nbsp;<span><a href="https://www.hrw.org/news/2015/03/10/lebanon-recognize-domestic-workers-union">recognise the right</a>&nbsp;</span>of migrant workers to unionise. Their strength is not only evident through their activism, but also in their ability to create a safe space for domestic migrants workers to come together and share their experiences. The Alliance meets on Sundays, with members using their only day off to support others.</p><p class="western">“But we must be careful”, added Jenna, as she tucked her hair behind her ear. “We cannot be aggressive. We cannot confront authorities directly or else we will always be the ones to lose.” Her words are laced with the memory of her colleagues,&nbsp;<span><a href="https://www.hrw.org/news/2016/12/13/lebanon-deports-domestic-worker-rights-organizer">Sujana Rana</a>&nbsp;</span>and&nbsp;<span><a href="http://www.idwfed.org/en/updates/lebanon-lebanon-deports-a-domestic-worker-and-holds-another">Roja “Rosie” Maya Limbu</a></span>, who were detained and deported in 2016 for their activism. “Their activism was too aggressive. And even though Sujana was well known and had worked with so many different NGO’s, in the end none of them could help her when she got detained.”&nbsp;</p><p class="western">“But we have each other”, Rose added, gesturing proudly at the other members of the Alliance. Focusing on grassroots community outreach activities, the Alliance builds trust and solidarity amongst domestic migrant workers throughout Lebanon.&nbsp;</p><p class="western">“We do activities that involve everyone using drama, music and dance” said Maria, a worker from Ivory Coast. Partnered with a local theatre in Beirut, the Alliance is preparing a drama show to put on stage. “We don’t all speak the same language but we share the same experiences and theatre is a way of sharing our stories.” Pointing at her heart she continued, “Even if we don’t speak the same language, we understand each other here.”&nbsp;</p><p class="mag-quote-center">A ‘good employer’ is someone who does not physically or sexually abuse their maid</p><p class="western">Learning how to work with ‘madame’ is another key thing that the group does. Helping new workers to know their rights, face the struggles of domestic labour and deal with their employers. “For example,” Maria told us, “perhaps a maid has not been paid for 6 months, we would try and help her ask her madame for the money she is owed without causing confrontation.”&nbsp;</p><p class="western">Withholding salary seems to be an ordinary practice amongst employers, a practice also recommended by recruitment agencies when advising employers on how to treat their workers. In the many conversations we held with domestic workers, it appeared that a ‘good employer’ is someone who does not physically or sexually abuse their maid.&nbsp;</p><p class="western">Niaman, who has worked for 4 years with the same family in Tripoli, repeated how lucky she was to be working for a ‘good employer’ who after two years had trusted her enough to allow&nbsp;her to buy a phone and have three hours off work every other week. She was also allowed to grow her hair a little longer, after being forced to cut it when she first arrived because it would use too much water to wash it.</p><p class="western">During an undercover interview at a recruitment agency in Tripoli, we enquired about the process to hire a maid. When we asked whether she was entitled to any holidays we were met with laughter: “No, no day off. And if she is sick then you can send her back here and we will get you another one.” We were also told not to give her a telephone “it will just distract her” and to lock her in the house until we trusted her.&nbsp;</p><p class="western">When asked about steps made by countries producing foreign domestic workers to support their citizens working in Lebanon, the members of the Alliance sighed. “When they ban travel, it means that people just come illegally and then it is even more dangerous for the domestic worker because no one knows where she is and she has no papers”, said Lilly, a worker from the Philippines; a country which has one of the most organised&nbsp;<span><a href="http://beirutpe.dfa.gov.ph/newsroom/embassy-news/266-filipinos-in-lebanon-flock-to-the-embassy-to-get-id">support systems</a>&nbsp;</span>for foreign domestic workers in Lebanon. &nbsp;</p><p class="mag-quote-right">“We must change things for the younger women coming in”</p><p class="western">Dolores, who has worked in Lebanon for 25 years and has two small children in Lebanon agreed. “The recruiters usually target the most uneducated girls from villages who believe whatever they are told. One girl who came with no papers from Nepal tried to escape by jumping out the window because she thought the mountains of Lebanon were the mountains of her village in Nepal”.&nbsp;</p><p class="western">Despite the ever-uphill battle, these women, many of whom have worked for more than 20 years under Lebanon’s abusive kafala system, are determined to bring their campaign onwards. “We know our limits, but we will not stop. It may be too late for us, but we must change things for the younger women coming in.”</p><p class="western">Where it is currently too dangerous for domestic migrant workers to speak out, the international community must intervene, pushing Lebanon to&nbsp;<span><a href="https://www.hrw.org/news/2015/03/10/lebanon-recognize-domestic-workers-union">ratify</a>&nbsp;</span>ILO’s Convention No. 189 on Decent Work for Domestic Workers. But aware of the timings and illusions of politics, the women of the Alliance are wasting no time, keen to take the struggle in their own hands.&nbsp;</p><p class="western">Before leaving the&nbsp;theatre, Serena, a dancer in the performance spoke to us: “the realization that support is available through shared experience can be so much more powerful and long lasting than any sit-in or demonstration. This is no simple political game. Our lives are on the frontline”.</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/beyondslavery/safepassages/cameron-thibos-roula-hamati/quiet-resistance-of-domestic-workers-in-lebanon">The quiet resistance of domestic workers in Lebanon</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/north-africa-west-asia/madawi-al-saud/race-exploitation-gulf-migrant-domestic-workers-uae-bahrain-qatar">Race and exploitation in the Gulf</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/north-africa-west-asia/miranda-hall/for-madams-only-facebook-groups-and-politics-of-migrant-domestic">“For Madams Only”: Facebook groups and the politics of migrant domestic work in Egypt</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/kimaya-de-silva/how-women-migrant-workers-defy-social-control-with-everyday-resistance">How women migrant workers defy ‘social control’ with everyday resistance</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/beyondslavery/dws/rose-mahi/difference-self-organising-makes-creative-resistance-of-domestic-workers">The difference self-organising makes: the creative resistance of domestic workers</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/beyondslavery/dws/marie-jos-l-tayah/claiming-rights-under-kafala-system">Claiming rights under the kafala system</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/bina-fernandez/precarious-migrant-motherhood-in-lebanon">Precarious migrant motherhood in Lebanon </a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Lebanon </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Equality </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> North-Africa West-Asia 50.50 North-Africa West-Asia Lebanon Equality rights racism migrant rights domestic work David L. Suber Roshan De Stone Thu, 17 May 2018 06:00:00 +0000 Roshan De Stone and David L. Suber 117815 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Palestine: our history haunts our future https://www.opendemocracy.net/north-africa-west-asia/samah-jabr/palestine-our-history-haunts-our-future <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>When Palestinians fight for their national rights, we are called “terrorists.” When we demonstrate in non-violent ways and are killed by the occupying forces, we are called “suicidal”.</p> </div> </div> </div> <span><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/562712/PA-36515586.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/562712/PA-36515586.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="288" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>A Palestinian woman during a protest near the Gaza border with Israel on 14 May, 2018. Picture by Sameh Rahmi/NurPhoto/Sipa USA/PA Images. All rights reserved.</span></span></span>A French colleague once asked me, “Why are the Palestinians stuck in the Nakba? They commemorate villages no longer present on any map and bequeath to their children the keys to homes that have been long abandoned. Why don’t they leave it all behind, and look to the future?”</span><p>The answer is that the Nakba is not only an historical trauma but an accumulative affliction that continues to harm Palestinian identity, both collectively and individually; the Nakba is an ongoing injury that has never been bandaged or healed. The Nakba is a contemporary insult renewed with every Palestinian who is humiliated, arrested, and killed; salt is added to the wound of the Nakba with every demolished home and every bit of confiscated land.</p><p>The memory of the Nakba is not kept alive by the key that moves from the hand of the grandfather to the hand of the grandson. The memory lies in the damaged identity and self-image that has been thrust upon us and which is passed from generation to generation. We inherit the Nakba from the oppressed, expelled generation which came before – an anguished heritage which carries bad memories as if our genes themselves were anguished.</p><p class="mag-quote-right">Commemoration of the Nakba is necessary in order to understand the present</p><p>Neither an attempt to forget or the senility of old age can dispel these memories. Silence cannot undo its shocking impact.&nbsp; On the contrary, commemoration of the Nakba is necessary in order to understand the present and to redress the injury of the past. A collective trauma requires a collective healing through popular narrative, rituals, and symbolic representation, as well as restorative justice. Silence and denial will only deepen the wound and inflict future calamities upon us.</p><p>“But the Palestinians who approach the fence in Gaza must be suicidal!” proclaims my colleague emphatically, without curiosity about the thoughts and feelings of these Palestinians. My colleague’s quick diagnosis does not acknowledge that these Palestinians may intend to communicate a need, may intend to alter the unchanging conditions of the status quo. These Palestinians may intend to protest the theft of their land or the siege or the partition of their people. But by making a quick diagnosis, my colleague forecloses the opportunity to listen and to negotiate better strategies; by drawing judgments on the basis of surface behavior, genuine understanding is short-circuited.</p><p>There is a difference between the psychological profile of a person who attempts suicide because of personal problems and the person who undergoes self-sacrifice in the context of social struggle. The suicidal person is hopeless and desperate, withdrawing from others pessimistically or fearing to be a burden upon them. Suicidal actions are often egocentric because the individual’s spark of life has lost its meaning in interpersonal terms. In contrast, the self-sacrificing person–even on the pathway to death–may be full of hope, indeed perhaps too much so. The act of self-sacrifice often involves an altruistic dedication to others and an eagerness to improve their future chances. Their hope is to extinguish their own soul in the service of giving light to others and brighten the road ahead.</p><p>I remember a dream that I had a few years ago. I was walking in the darkness and beheld creatures with brown fur walking slowly on their four legs. Every now and then, one stopped and turned its head upwards. It was too dark to see clearly, but I finally recognized a human face. That was a dream about my people and the poor insight in the world.</p><p class="mag-quote-center">Human beings often make sacrifices for the sake of their values or on behalf of others for whom they care</p><p>When Palestinians fight for their national rights, we are called “terrorists.” When we demonstrate in non-violent ways and are killed by the occupying forces, we are called “suicidal;” Avi Dichter, the Chairman of the Israeli Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, called peaceful demonstrators “idiots.”</p><p>Are there people who are willing to open their eyes in this darkness to see the Palestinian human face?</p><p>Throughout history, millions have marched to have their voices heard. Human beings often make sacrifices for the sake of their values or on behalf of others for whom they care. When such persons die, they are glorified and considered to be martyrs to their cause. Why should it be so different when such persons are killed by Israeli forces? Two months ago, Arnaud Beltrame, a French policeman, exchanged himself with a hostage in a terrorist attack in Trebes; he was unfortunately killed, but his behavior was lauded as brave and heroic, not suicidal.&nbsp;</p><p>The great march which started on Land’s Day and continues as I write this text, on the bitter occasion of the establishment of the American Embassy in my occupied city of Jerusalem, is meant to celebrate the 70th Anniversary of the Nakba. This march signifies the special meaning of this land to the Palestinians. Whereas some landowners may regard their lands as mere property that generates economic profit and can be exploited for water, energy, and food, the Palestinians feel otherwise. As a landless people, the Palestinians view land as an aspect of their own souls, representing their injured identity. Attached to their land with deep emotion, many Palestinians are ready to die for it. Advocacy, strategies, planning and calculation of risks are needed so that Palestinians do not need to be killed in order for their plight to be recognized. Premature judgment, psychiatric labeling, or exploitation of self-sacrifice cannot advance understanding of this plight.</p><p>Land is the material space for the life story of Palestinians, as with all people. Let there be space on earth for the Palestinians, so that human beings will not search for their life stories underground. It is a great anguish that so many Palestinians are killed in defense of their dreams. Our only solace is to believe that if they have left us by choice to sleep forever, they continue somehow to pursue those beautiful dreams.</p><p><em><strong>This article was first published on&nbsp;<a href="https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/20180515-our-history-haunts-our-future/">Middle East Monitor</a>&nbsp;on May 15, 2018.&nbsp;</strong></em></p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/north-africa-west-asia/haidar-eid/on-70thanniversary-of-nakba-reflections-of-palestinian-refugee">On the 70th anniversary of the Nakba: reflections of a Palestinian refugee</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/north-africa-west-asia/omar-talab-Bertie-Wnek/in-palestine-self-dehumanisation-against-disregard-of-human-value">In Palestine: self-dehumanisation against the disregard of human value</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/north-africa-west-asia/yara-hawari/seventy-years-of-palestinian-resistance-since-establishment-of-st">Seventy years of Palestinian resistance since the establishment of the State of Israel</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Palestine </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Civil society </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> North-Africa West-Asia North-Africa West-Asia Palestine Civil society Israel occupation Resistance Samah Jabr Wed, 16 May 2018 08:08:59 +0000 Samah Jabr 117905 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Lebanon: reflections on acts of refusal as antidote to post-election hangover https://www.opendemocracy.net/north-africa-west-asia/lara-bitar/lebanon-reflections-on-acts-of-refusal-as-antidote-to-post-electio <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>The refusal to be complicit in the state's self-preservation attempt is one of the few acts of resistance the working class could engage in without fear of vengeance by the state and its militias.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/562712/PA-36302489_0.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/562712/PA-36302489_0.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="307" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Elderly woman walks past electoral campaign posters of Lebanese parliamentary candidates, in Beirut, Lebanon, 03 May 2018. Picture by Marwan Naamani/DPA/PA Images. All rights reserved. </span></span></span>“Those who did not vote in the election have lost their right to object,” asserted Lebanon's Interior Minister <a href="https://www.elnashra.com/news/show/1208500/%D8%A7%D9%84%D9%85%D8%B4%D9%86%D9%88%D9%82:-%D9%8A%D8%B5%D9%88%D8%AA-%D8%A7%D9%84%D8%A7%D9%86%D8%AA%D8%AE%D8%A7%D8%A8%D8%A7%D8%AA-%D9%81%D9%82%D8%AF-%D8%AD%D9%82%D9%87-%D8%A7%D9%84%D8%A7%D8%B9%D8%AA%D8%B1%D8%A7%D8%B6-%D9%84%D8%A7%D8%AD%D9%82%D8%A7">Nohad el-Mashnouk</a>, who doubled as both candidate in and overseer of the recent parliamentary elections, and came out victorious on both counts — by his own account. Across the political spectrum, this sentiment is echoed amid frustration and anger at the low <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/world/2018/may/06/low-turnout-lebanon-election-voter-scepticism">voter turnout</a> in the long-awaited elections, which many hoped would create a <a href="https://www.newyorker.com/news/news-desk/is-lebanons-new-electoral-system-a-path-out-of-sectarianism">break with the past.</a></p> <p>In the five years since the Lebanese parliament's mandate expired in 2013, members of parliament illegally voted themselves back in three times, despite sporadic contestation from the public and opposition from grassroots initiatives like "Take Back Parliament.” Some of the pretexts for these extensions include security considerations stemming from the war raging next door in Syria and parliamentarians’ own inability to agree on a new electoral law. When one was finally approved in June 2017, the process was rushed and disregarded procedure, leading experts at the Lebanese Center for Policy Studies (LCPS) and the Lebanese Association Democratic Elections (LADE) to conclude that the electoral law “effectively qualifies ... as a decree” that had been “<a href="http://www.jadaliyya.com/Details/34394/Lebanon%60s-New-Electoral-Law-Proportional-in-Form,-Majoritarian-at-Heart">imposed on voters</a>.”&nbsp;</p><p> The law, based on a system of proportionality aimed at reducing sectarian division, lacked fundamental democratic safeguards, including an independent electoral body and a campaign spending ceiling, and facilitated de facto vote-buying. And while the odds were stacked against independent candidates running in the face of opponents with their own media outlets and vast financial resources, many believed the reformed law would give independent nonsectarian parties a chance to elevate a handful of candidates willing to meet people's aspirations.</p> <p>The results, however, prove that the traditional ruling class, entrenched in the political landscape for over three decades, made use of the elections to simply re-establish its legitimacy. The electoral spectacle allowed it to reassert its domination over everyday life, to then introduce new forms of control over the country's resources and population.</p><p> The bizarre alliances that were formed between old rivals on lists across the 15 electoral districts foresaw the end of alignements along the March 14 and March 8 blocs. Far from signaling a change in conditions for the majority of the population whose <a href="https://www.lcps-lebanon.org/featuredArticle.php?id=142">needs are disregarded</a> regardless of affiliation, this shift is a routine restructuring necessary to maintain the delicate power-sharing agreement establishment parties have maintained since the end of the civil war, which also perpetuates their hold on power.&nbsp;</p><p> For all the aforementioned reasons, we should not see those who withheld their participation in a deeply flawed process as apathetic and passive, but view their act of refusal as a vote in and of itself. Slightly over 50 percent of eligible voters refused to grant legitimacy to the next parliament and to the electoral process itself. In this instance, non-cooperation and the refusal to be complicit in the state's self-preservation attempt is one of the few acts of resistance the working class could engage in without fear of vengeance by the state and its militias.</p> <p>In the aftermath of the elections, LADE verified hundreds of documented violations as videos of irregularities spread across a number of online platforms and more than 7,000 complaints were filed with the Interior Ministry. Civil society activists even accused the interior minister of electoral fraud, after candidate Joumana Haddad’s seat was allegedly stolen. At the behest of Haddad’s Koulouna Watani, a national coalition of independent candidates, a few hundred people protested in front of the Ministry of Interior. Despite boisterous demands for the resignation of Mashnouk and threats to hold their ground until Haddad’s seat was reinstated, when the rally’s organizers gave the order to vacate the street with a pledge to refer the case to the proper legal channels, the protesters had no choice but to disperse. &nbsp;</p> <p class="mag-quote-center">It is worthwhile exploring the potential of a collective “No” that builds strategic refusal to engage with an unjust system.&nbsp;</p> <p>Independent anti-government demonstrators and civil society actors have long engaged in temporary, sporadic, and non-threatening action on the street. But what if they engaged in prolonged and sustained non-actions instead, to express dissatisfaction with the current social and economic realities and push for social transformation? Instead of shaming election abstainers and blaming them for maintaining the status quo, this act of non-compliance could be strengthened and extended to other realms. It is worthwhile exploring the potential of a collective “No” that builds strategic refusal to engage with an unjust system. <br /> <br /> There is no doubt that there is genuine desire to overthrow the current establishment, but at the same time, there is also intentional avoidance and understandable fear of direct confrontation with the capitalist system and its political regime. Nowhere is this more visible than the disapproval of even symbolic disruptions to the flow of traffic, a frequent point of tension between non-violent and more militant protesters. <br /> <br /> A strategy of tactical refusal, however, would require blocking circulation of all kind, namely that of capital. Organized political refusal to submit to oppressive conditions can be expressed through somewhat less visible but powerful collective work slowdowns, mass debt strikes, and the daily withholding of cooperation with institutions and systems built on coercion and exploitation.</p> <p>In acts of refusal, we can start locating power from below while creating networks capable both of permanent disruption and of solidarity necessary to sustain the movement. At dissenters’ disposal are powerful and successful historical precedents and forgotten histories of boycotts, work stoppages, and economic shutdowns. In the 1920s, students, merchants, and activists boycotted the Beirut tramway system in protest against the fare price. Then again in the mid-1930s, they sustained a six-month boycott of both the tramway system and the power company, despite their reliance on both, to damage French economic interests.</p> <p>Such memories can and should be deployed and mobilized to plant the seeds of a powerful act of non-compliance, the general strike, that would allow openings for material concessions by the political class and a disruption to the violent mode of governance currently in place. This is the only way I know of that could project us into a future of our own making.&nbsp;</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/north-africa-west-asia/nancy-ezzeddine-ana-uzelac/lebanon-s-elections-whose-victory">Lebanon’s elections: whose victory?</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/north-africa-west-asia/bassel-f-salloukh/lebanon-s-enduring-contradictions-0">Lebanon’s enduring contradictions</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/north-africa-west-asia/walid-el-houri/lebanon-between-normalised-violence-and-politics-of-kindness">Lebanon: between normalised violence and a politics of kindness</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/north-africa-west-asia/yazan-al-saadi/solidarity-is-not-crime">Solidarity is not a crime</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/north-africa-west-asia/diala-haidar/can-lebanon-s-sectarian-elite-agree-on-electoral-law">Can Lebanon’s sectarian elite agree on an electoral law?</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Lebanon </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Civil society </div> <div class="field-item even"> Democracy and government </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> North-Africa West-Asia North-Africa West-Asia Lebanon Civil society Democracy and government elections Lara Bitar Wed, 16 May 2018 06:01:00 +0000 Lara Bitar 117896 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Lebanon’s elections: whose victory? https://www.opendemocracy.net/north-africa-west-asia/nancy-ezzeddine-ana-uzelac/lebanon-s-elections-whose-victory <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>The political discontent of the country’s Sunnis is arguably the more important message from these elections.&nbsp;</p> </div> </div> </div> <p class="western" lang="en-US"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/562712/PA-36302456_0.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/562712/PA-36302456_0.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="294" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Ferris wheel in Beirut carries electoral campaign posters of Saad Hariri’s Future Movement. Picture by Marwan Naamani/DPA/PA Images. All rights reserved. </span></span></span>Recent parliamentary elections in Lebanon may look like a straight-out victory for the country’s Shi’a parties,&nbsp;but things are not that simple.&nbsp;</p><p class="western" lang="en-US">If one takes international media headlines at face value, the outcome of Lebanon’s parliamentary election is clear: Hezbollah, the country’s militant Shi’a movement, won by a landslide. The assessment of many pundits that Lebanon simply is an outpost of the Iranian revolutionary guard on the Mediterranean has now become final. Or, as Naftali Bennett, the leader of Israel’s Jewish Home party,&nbsp;<a href="https://www.haaretz.com/middle-east-news/hezbollah-lebanon-israeli-minister-blasts-on-twitter-1.6069563">put it</a>&nbsp;with his trademark subtlety: “<em>The State of Israel will not differentiate between the sovereign State of Lebanon and Hezbollah, and will view Lebanon as responsible for any action from within its territory".</em></p><p class="western" lang="en-US">A quick glance at the&nbsp;<a href="http://www.interior.gov.lb/AdsDetails.aspx?ida=281">election results</a>&nbsp;could justify the assumption of Hezbollah’s electoral dominance. Its electoral list with Amal (another Shi’a party) controls slightly over a third of the country’s 128-seat parliament (43 seats). If one adds the seats won by Hezbollah’s allies, the Free Patriotic Movement (a Maronite Christian party) and a few minor independents, it now commands a parliamentary majority of 67 seats.&nbsp;</p><p class="western" lang="en-US">Seductively simple as they appear, these figures however hide more complex&nbsp;<a href="https://www.lcps-lebanon.org/featuredArticle.php?id=153">realities</a>&nbsp;of fragmentation, political alliances and the significant risk that electoral success in Lebanon carries.&nbsp;</p><p class="western" lang="en-US">As Lebanon’s political settlement comes under growing pressure, the political discontent of the country’s Sunnis is arguably the more important message from these elections. &nbsp;</p><p class="western" lang="en-US">Let’s start with the hard numbers. The electoral results indicate that the 128-seat Lebanese parliament will feature 14 parties of which none took more than around 20 seats. This is a far cry from single party dominance. In fact, it rather points to fragmentation, a slow coalition formation process and a risk of early government failure.&nbsp;</p><p class="western" lang="en-US">Having said that, Hezbollah/Amal did manage to double their seats and came out clear winners in terms of both their own number of seats and those of their allies. We argue that this is the result of three factors: Lebanon’s&nbsp;<a href="http://www.dailystar.com.lb/News/Lebanon-News/2017/Jul-07/411988-lebanese-electoral-law-2017-full-text-in-english.ashx">new electoral law</a>, an astute electoral campaign and clever alliance formation.&nbsp;</p><p class="mag-quote-center" lang="en-US">The 128-seat Lebanese parliament will feature 14 parties of which none took more than around 20 seats</p><p class="western" lang="en-US">The law shifted the basis for allocating votes to seats from a winner-takes-all majoritarian logic to a more proportional logic. Practically, it meant that&nbsp;minority seats suddenly became competitive across Lebanon’s voting districts. This enabled for example Hezbollah to compete effectively for Shia-reserved seats in Sunni-majority Beirut that used to accrue to the Future Movement&nbsp;of Saad Hariri.&nbsp;Lebanon’s new electoral law also allowed generous campaign financing which enabled parties to win votes by offering significant&nbsp;<a href="https://orientxxi.info/magazine/le-bazar-des-elections-legislatives-a-la-libanaise-ou-elections-au-liban-bouger,2443">material incentives</a>&nbsp;varying from direct cash (between $40 and $1000), school tuition fees, gas coupons and healthcare coverage.&nbsp;</p><p class="western" lang="en-US">The Hezbollah-Amal list also ran an impressive voter-turnout operation that gained further momentum through a fatwa of Hezbollah’s spiritual leader, Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah, that called Lebanon’s Shi’a to the vote. Hezbollah also put its victory against the Islamic State to electoral purposes as a mobilizing factor by impressing on people that voting is an act of remembrance and respect for all martyrs.&nbsp;</p><p class="western" lang="en-US">It is clear that Hezbollah’s ability to mobilize its&nbsp;supportersis an essential source of its power – both inside and outside of parliament. According to&nbsp;<a href="http://aljadeed.tv/arabic/news/local/1005201817">unofficial estimates</a>, this secured a nation-wide Shi’a voter turnout of 67% with the Hezbollah-Amal list winning 92% of the vote in their Southern strongholds. While the turnout among Lebanon’s Christians was smaller at about 40%, the county’s Sunni population proved rather apathetic at a turnout of just 27%. This has cost the Future Movement 11 seats.&nbsp;</p><p class="western" lang="en-GB">Finally,&nbsp;Hezbollah cleverly partnered with both the Free Patriotic Movement and a range of smaller Sunni and Christian parties and individuals that now had a better chance under the proportional law.</p><p class="western" lang="en-US">Yet, these electoral results mostly&nbsp;formalize two longstanding trends in Lebanese politics: Hezbollah’s growing dominance and the Future Movement’s increasing decline. In fact,the most notable electoral shift is less Hezbollah’s victory and more the Sunni Future Movement’s loss (about a third of its seats). The gap between the Future Movement’s wealthy, jet-setting leaders and impoverished constituents has now become painfully visible. Even the standard&nbsp;<a href="https://orientxxi.info/magazine/le-bazar-des-elections-legislatives-a-la-libanaise-ou-elections-au-liban-bouger,2443">clientelist strategy</a>&nbsp;of rewarding votes with ‘goodies’ and promises at an extravagant scale – a ploy used to some extent by all parties - did not work this time around and was superseded by deeper grievances. &nbsp;</p><p class="western" lang="en-US">The Future Movement’s rift between leaders and followers is also likely to be exploited by others. While Lebanon’s Salafi scene is marginal, Gulf efforts to rebalance Lebanese politics are likely to increase after these elections. The great irony here is that Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman likely hastened the Future Movement’s electoral loss by illustrating Saad Hariri’s political and financial dependence last year when he forced him to resign, however temporary it turned out to be. Looking askance to the rise of various extremist groups among Iraq’s Sunnisin Anbar province demonstrates the risk of a growing feeling of political alienation and economic marginalization among an entire population group.&nbsp;</p><p class="western" lang="en-US">Hezbollah’s leader, Hassan Nasrallah, was nevertheless jubilant,&nbsp;<a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Se6_ITd9ALg">calling</a>&nbsp;the electoral results:&nbsp;<em>“… a great political and moral victory for the resistance option that protects the sovereignty of the country”.&nbsp;</em>They are also, however, a double-edged sword because of their potential to undermine Hezbollah’s moral authority – already shaken in the brutal Syrian civil war – that it so painstakingly built through grassroots mobilization, ideological consistency and a steadfast refusal to openly engage with Lebanon’s notoriously corrupt political system. So far, Hezbollah has typically nominated only a few ministers and instead guided the country’s politicking through a mixture of persuasion and backstage threats.&nbsp;</p><p class="western" lang="en-US">This will now be a much more difficult game to play. Hezbollah’s power is in the open and with it comes an expectation to engage in Lebanon’s day-to-day administration. The movement is likely to run straight into the corruption and inefficiency of Lebanon’s sectarian nepotism that it has always criticized. In case this morass sucks Hezbollah in, its moral credibility will be tainted. In case it does take more drastic action, for example by instigating serious&nbsp;anti-corruption reforms as it promised, it will likely lose several allies. Finally, should Hezbollah opt to stay in the shadowy corridors of power, that is likely to come at a price too. Why vote for a party that doesn’t use its power to deliver?</p><p class="western" lang="en-US">Taking a step backward, it is safe to say that the election result has rendered core elements of Lebanon’s current sectarian political settlement untenable. No longer can either Hezbollah pretend not to be a part of the governing fabric of the country or the country’s Sunni elite quietly trade abstinence in the country’s foreign and security policies for wealth and commercial leeway. The electoral results will drag them both out of their comfort zone.</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/north-africa-west-asia/lara-bitar/lebanon-reflections-on-acts-of-refusal-as-antidote-to-post-electio">Lebanon: reflections on acts of refusal as antidote to post-election hangover </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/north-africa-west-asia/bassel-f-salloukh/lebanon-s-enduring-contradictions-0">Lebanon’s enduring contradictions</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/north-africa-west-asia/walid-el-houri/lebanon-between-normalised-violence-and-politics-of-kindness">Lebanon: between normalised violence and a politics of kindness</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/north-africa-west-asia/neil-partrick/lebanon-in-eye-of-regional-storm">Lebanon in the eye of the regional storm</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/north-africa-west-asia/diala-haidar/can-lebanon-s-sectarian-elite-agree-on-electoral-law">Can Lebanon’s sectarian elite agree on an electoral law?</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/north-africa-west-asia/lana-khattab/humanitarian-response-in-lebanon-changing-social-norms-or-reprod">Humanitarian response in Lebanon: changing social norms or reproducing them?</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Lebanon </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Democracy and government </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> North-Africa West-Asia North-Africa West-Asia Lebanon Democracy and government Hezbollah elections Ana Uzelac Nancy Ezzeddine Wed, 16 May 2018 06:00:00 +0000 Nancy Ezzeddine and Ana Uzelac 117882 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Seventy years of Palestinian resistance since the establishment of the State of Israel https://www.opendemocracy.net/north-africa-west-asia/yara-hawari/seventy-years-of-palestinian-resistance-since-establishment-of-st <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>This month marks not only 70 years since the establishment of Israel and the Palestinian Nakba, but 70 years of ongoing Palestinian resistance.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p lang="en-GB"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/562712/PA-36495214_0.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/562712/PA-36495214_0.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="307" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Wounded protester evacuated in Gaza. Since the beginning of the protests on March 30 more than 90 Palestinians have been shot dead by Israeli snipers, and over 10 000 thousand more have been injured. Picture by Khaled Omar/Xinhua News Agency/PA Images. All rights reserved.</span></span></span>The Great March of Return in the Gaza Strip has reminded the world of Palestinian resistance and the Palestinian struggle for rights. Since March 30, Palestinians in Gaza have engaged in peaceful, grassroots mass protests at the Israeli military fence that imprisons them, calling for an end to the dire conditions in the Strip as well as for the right to return to the land from which they were expelled 70 years ago this month – what Palestinians call the Nakba, or catastrophe. The protestors are literally placing their bodies on the line risking being shot by Israeli snipers. Before the US embassy move today, more than 40 Palestinians had been shot dead by Israeli snipers, and thousands had been seriously injured. Today saw the bloodiest day, with over 52 Palestinians killed at the demonstrations and again thousands injured. The brutal cost that Palestinians in Gaza are paying is because of their resistance to Israel- a resistance that began over seven decades ago.&nbsp;&nbsp;</p><p lang="en-GB">In 1948, the Nakba (catastrophe in Arabic) saw the state of Israel established, 750,000 Palestinians forced into exile, and over 500 Palestinian villages and towns destroyed. Palestinian society was torn apart and Palestinians were geographically fragmented. Yet not only did the Palestinian people survive, they also demonstrated remarkable resistance to the attempt to erase them through&nbsp;<em>sumud</em>&nbsp;(steadfastness), collective action, and defiance. The Great March of Return is the latest manifestation of this legacy.&nbsp;</p><p>In the first few years after 1948, thousands of Palestinian refugees attempted to return to their homes, only to be shot by the Israeli military along the new borders. The Israeli state called them “infiltrators” and&nbsp;passed the Prevention of Infiltration Law to legislate its practice of preventing them from returning.&nbsp;Meanwhile, Israel placed the 150,000 Palestinians who managed to stay within the borders of the new state – the Palestinian citizens of Israel – under a severe military regime and politically repressed them.&nbsp;</p><p>Under this atmosphere the Palestinian citizens of Israel survived and even developed their own spaces of political, social, and cultural agency. In 1958, for example, a group established the&nbsp;Al Ard Movement,&nbsp;whose platform&nbsp;connected the struggles of all Palestinian people, no matter their geographic location, whilst also developing a pan-Arab tone. It called for a secular and democratic state in Palestine, as well as the right of return for the refugees. Israel frequently arrested its members and placed them under surveillance, and shut down its publishing operations. The movement was banned in 1964. &nbsp;</p><p lang="en-GB">Although Al Ard had a short existence, it paved the way for other Palestinian politics inside Israel, such as the movement known as Abnaa al Balad, which is still active today. Abnaa al Balad grew out of the student movement and also initially presented a mandate for the development of a Palestinian democratic and secular state. The movement was at its height in the 1970s and gained further momentum after the event known as Land Day.&nbsp;</p><p>Land Day took place in 1976 following the Israeli government’s announcement that it would appropriate huge swathes of Palestinian land in the Galilee, in northern Israel. Palestinian citizens organised a&nbsp;mass collective action in resistance not only to the theft of the land but also to overall settler colonial policies of erasure. Protests in solidarity took place in other areas of Israel as well as the West Bank. Israeli authorities placed six villages in the Galilee under curfew, and met protestors there with serious violence: In addition to six killed, hundreds were injured.</p><p class="mag-quote-center">Palestinian resistance doesn’t only take place in the occupied territories or in Israel proper</p><p>A decade later, Palestinians in the West Bank, Gaza Strip, and Israel joined together during the First Intifada. The uprising, which lasted from the late 1980s until the Oslo Accords of 1993, was the result of years of grassroots organising that built the foundation for political mobilisation. Palestinian left-wing factions took the lead during the 1970s, including by establishing popular committees, women’s committees, workers’ unions, student organisations, and volunteer groups. These groups took inspiration from other Third World anti-imperial struggles and were run in a decentralised, democratic, and collective fashion. Important to this struggle was the establishment of a self-reliant economy; as such, the movement explored economic models based on cooperatives that would not be subservient to the occupation and would serve the national and social Palestinian agenda. These models laid the foundation for current initiatives that aim to build economic resistance, such as&nbsp;<a href="https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2016/06/mushroom-farm-palestine-ends-israel-monopoly-160615072201940.html"><span>Amoro</span></a>, Palestine’s first mushroom farm.&nbsp;</p><p lang="en-GB">Palestinian resistance doesn’t only take place in the occupied territories or in Israel proper. Palestinians in Yarmouk camp in Syria – home to over 25,000 Palestinian refugees in the 1970s and 80s – engaged in left-wing ideas of liberation and resistance, such as Marxist theories of revolution, during the time of the First Intifada. Many organised within the camp despite the dangers of doing so under the Hafez al Assad regime. Yarmouk was also home to youth organisations that would often rally in response to events in Palestine. Since the Syrian civil war, many of the refugees have fled the camp as it has suffered an ISIS invasion as well as siege and in the last weeks a severe bombing campaign that left the camp mostly destroyed by the current Assad regime.&nbsp;</p><p lang="en-GB">A more recent act of resistance occurred in the summer of 2017, when Israeli authorities installed security cameras, turnstiles, and electric metal detectors at the Haram al-Sharif compound following an attack on Israeli soldiers by three Palestinian citizens of Israel. In response, the Islamic Waqf (trust) called for mass civil disobedience. Thousands of Palestinians from Jerusalem and around the country responded to the call, abstaining from entering the compound to protest Israel’s attempt to further control the space. Instead, they prayed in&nbsp;nearby<strong>&nbsp;</strong>streets and checkpoints. Israel met them with brute force, killing three Palestinians and injuring hundreds. Nonetheless, the perseverance of the protesters and their clear, tangible goal led to Israeli capitulation: The electronic metal detectors were removed.&nbsp;</p><p lang="en-GB">This month thus marks not only 70 years since the establishment of Israel and the Palestinian Nakba, but 70 years of ongoing Palestinian resistance – only a fraction of which is outlined above. This discourse of resistance and survival must be the focal point of the Nakba narrative. It emphasizes that the settler colonial project has not succeeded in Palestine and that the indigenous Palestinians have long fought for their rights to and existence on the land.</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/north-africa-west-asia/omar-talab-Bertie-Wnek/in-palestine-self-dehumanisation-against-disregard-of-human-value">In Palestine: self-dehumanisation against the disregard of human value</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/north-africa-west-asia/haidar-eid/on-70thanniversary-of-nakba-reflections-of-palestinian-refugee">On the 70th anniversary of the Nakba: reflections of a Palestinian refugee</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/north-africa-west-asia/stephen-mccloskey/gaza-s-great-march-of-return-is-international-rallying-call">Gaza’s “Great March of Return”: an international rallying call for peace and justice</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/north-africa-west-asia/isabella-bellezza-smull/from-land-day-to-70th-anniversary-of-nakba-palestinia">From Land Day to the 70th anniversary of the Nakba, Palestinians have plenty to protest</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/north-africa-west-asia/neil-serougi/health-catastrophe-in-gaza-our-double-standards-are-killing-pale">The health catastrophe in Gaza: our double standards are killing Palestinians</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Palestine </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Conflict </div> <div class="field-item even"> Democracy and government </div> <div class="field-item odd"> International politics </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> North-Africa West-Asia North-Africa West-Asia Palestine Conflict Democracy and government International politics occupation nakba Israel Gaza Yara Hawari Tue, 15 May 2018 06:00:00 +0000 Yara Hawari 117889 at https://www.opendemocracy.net How a DUP-linked company is selling its version of Northern Irish peace to the brutal rulers of Bahrain — and the British taxpayer is paying for it https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/brexitinc/peter-geoghegan/how-dup-linked-company-is-selling-its-version-of-northern-irish-peace-t <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>The British Foreign Office paid two Northern Irish bodies — one linked to the DUP — &nbsp;to “whitewash” the Bahraini government as it tortured, raped and killed pro-democracy activists.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p dir="ltr"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/640px-2011_Bahraini_uprising_-_March_(214).jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/640px-2011_Bahraini_uprising_-_March_(214).jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="345" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Riot police and army forces supported by armoured vehicles and a military helicopter storm Pearl Roundabout, Manama, Bahrain, 16 March 2011. By Bahrain in pictures - http://bahrain.viewbook.com/album/exclusivephotosfrommarch, CC BY-SA 3.0.</span></span></span>In 2015, the Dubai-based <em>Arabian Business</em> published a glowing article about an initiative to promote peace and reconciliation in Bahrain. Representatives of the Bahrain Foundation for Reconciliation and Civil Discourse — a body set up in the wake of the government’s brutal crackdown on Arab Spring protesters — had held a series of meetings with the Belfast-based Causeway Institute for Peace-building and Conflict Resolution, <em>Arabian Business</em> reported. The Bahraini group’s chairman said he believed his country “has a lot to learn from Northern Ireland”. The Northern Irish group’s chairman is Jeffrey Donaldson — a senior MP of the Democratic Unionist Party, who actively opposed the Good Friday Agreement that ended the armed conflict in Ireland.</p><p dir="ltr">Not every review of this project is as positive. Today, human rights group Reprieve has called for the Northern Irish Assembly to conduct an independent inquiry into the work of both the Causeway Institute and its partner in the Bahrain project, Northern Ireland Co-operation Overseas, which is owned by Invest NI — a public body. </p><p dir="ltr">Reprieve accuses both firms of ‘whitewashing’ the Bahraini regime as it tortured, raped and executed pro-democracy activists.</p><p dir="ltr">The Northern Irish companies were not the only United Kingdom bodies at work in Bahrain in the aftermath of the crackdown. They were part of a major initiative in the Gulf kingdom from the British government’s Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) itself. It followed the killing of dozens of pro-democracy protesters in Bahrain during the Arab Spring in 2011. The international community had reacted with condemnation, and the Bahraini government had said that it was addressing the allegations of human rights violations. Hence British experts would work with Bahraini forces to train them in human rights compliance.</p><p dir="ltr">Since then the FCO has spent £5m of the British overseas aid budget to train police officers and prison guards, and to help establish investigatory bodies in Bahrain. But over that time, as Reprieve details in its report <a href="https://reprieve.org.uk/update/exposed-uk-taxpayers-fund-bahrain-torture-and-death-penalty/"><em>Training Torturers: The UK’s role in Bahrain’s brutal crackdown on dissent</em></a>, Bahrain’s human rights record has actually got worse. Much worse.</p><p dir="ltr">The number of people on the country’s death row has tripled while the British government has been working in Bahrain. Last year, three anti-government prisoners were executed after sham trials, ending a seven-year moratorium on the death penalty. There have been sustained allegations of torture in detention and coerced confessions. It is in this context that lessons from Northern Ireland are being delivered by a company set up by Jeffrey Donaldson. </p><h2 dir="ltr">Bahrain’s Northern Irish connection</h2><p dir="ltr"> The Causeway Institute for Peace-building and Conflict Resolution (CIPCR) was established by Jeffrey Donaldson and his brother Kingsley, a former British army officer. The company describes its aim “to resolve conflicts in divided and disparate communities — both in Northern Ireland and other conflict zones across the globe”. Its goal, says Kingsley, is to share the lessons of the Northern Irish peace process “warts and all.”</p><p dir="ltr">Since 2011, Causeway has worked with the FCO in conflict regions around the world, including Moldova, Colombia, Ukraine and Afghanistan. Causeway’s work in Bahrain followed a visit Jeffrey Donaldson made there in 2012. The next year he facilitated meetings with a Bahraini delegation in Stormont, the seat of Northern Ireland’s devolved legislature.</p><p dir="ltr">Causeway was hired by the FCO to work with non-governmental organisations and Bahrain’s National Institution for Human Rights. The company, which has also worked in Moldova, Colombia, Ukraine and Afghanistan, facilitated a number of visits for Bahraini delegations to Belfast to “learn the lessons from Northern Ireland”. But Reprieve’s report has found that Causeway trained groups that have publicly endorsed the executions of anti-government protesters.</p><p dir="ltr">What of the other Northern Irish organisation working for the FCO in Bahrain? Between 2013 and 2017, Northern Ireland Overseas Co-operation (NI-CO), which is owned by the government-funded development agency Invest NI, was paid around £1.5m to train Bahrain’s police and prison service and to help establish the kingdom’s state-run torture investigation unit.</p><h2 dir="ltr">‘Difficult message training’</h2><p dir="ltr"> The training NI-CO delivered included instruction on how to tell grieving family members of individuals killed by police in custody that officers accused of involvement in their deaths will not be prosecuted. In January 2016, NI-CO brought Bahraini officers to Belfast, to give them “difficult message training”, including “how prosecutors handle media contacts in difficult cases”, according to Freedom of Information requests cited in Reprieve’s report. NI-CO coordinated a meeting between the Northern Ireland Police Ombudsman and the Bahraini visitors, who expressed specific interest in a case where a Northern Irish police officer was cleared over a shooting.</p><p dir="ltr">During a study visit to Belfast in the lead-up to a republican parade, officers from the Police Service of Northern Ireland briefed a Bahraini delegation on community intelligence-gathering and on how to use dogs and water cannon. Just weeks later, Bahraini police located, arrested and tortured Ali al-Singace, a teenage protester who had been in hiding. He was later executed.</p><h2 dir="ltr"> Answers needed</h2><p dir="ltr">In 2017, Human Rights Watch reported that of 138 cases referred to Bahrain's torture investigation unit, only one was successfully prosecuted. United Nations human rights experts have accused the Bahraini monarchy of “a clear pattern of criminalising dissent in Bahrain”.</p><p dir="ltr">Reprieve has called for the Northern Irish assembly to establish an inquiry into what the Northern Irish organisations did in Bahrain. “Serious questions remain about the activities of NI-CO and Causeway staff in Bahrain, including whether they were present inside of specific detention facilities at specific times when torture is known to have taken place,” says Reprieve director Maya Foa. “It is crucial that Stormont and the public know precisely what mistakes were made and how they can be avoided in the future.”</p><p dir="ltr">The call for an inquiry has been backed by Brice Dickson, a human rights specialist at Queen’s University Belfast and a member of the Northern Ireland Policing Board. "If there is a suspicion that NI-CO and Causeway are propping up a regime that is abusing human rights than there should be an inquiry into that,” Dickson said.</p><p dir="ltr">“You don't want to give credibility to these repressive regimes. On the one hand you have to engage if you want to influence them. But whether than justifies spending £1.5m and sending Northern Irish delegations to Bahrain is a different question."</p><p dir="ltr">Both NI-CO and Causeway stopped working in Bahrain in 2017.</p><h2 dir="ltr">Selling the peace </h2><p dir="ltr">NI-CO and Causeway’s work in Bahrain also raises the question of how much the Northern Ireland peace process is being ‘sold’ around the world. Some of those working for NI-CO in Bahrain were senior former police officers and security forces in Northern Ireland. </p><p dir="ltr">Causeway employs some of the same unionist politicians that most vociferously opposed the Good Friday Agreement. Jeffrey Donaldson eventually left the Ulster Unionist Party in 2003 because of its support for the agreement, joining the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP). &nbsp;On its website Causeway says that it works according to the “‘Mitchell Principles of Democracy and Non-Violence’ that were central to the Northern Ireland Peace Process," which they say "could be applied in full or in part to other conflicts”. And yet the DUP boycotted the talks that led to the Good Friday Agreement.</p><p dir="ltr">The Donaldson brothers and DUP MPs Ian Paisley Junior and Emma Little Pengelly, who was a special adviser to the DUP’s then-first minister Peter Robinson, set up another company to give peace-building advice to overseas governments and organisations. <a href="http://powerbase.info/index.php/QUBRIC">Qubric</a> described itself as "a social company" with any profit going towards "supporting projects in working-class Protestant areas". Qubric does not appear to have done any significant work, though Paisley has made <a href="https://www.irishnews.com/news/2017/09/15/news/westminster-watchdog-launches-ian-paisley-probe-in-wake-of-sri-lankan-holiday-revelations-1136994/">repeated trips</a> to Sri Lanka, another country divided by a recent civil war.</p><p dir="ltr">Kingsley Donaldson says that his brother’s involvement in peace-building work with Causeway is yet another example of the evolution of the Northern Irish process.</p><p dir="ltr">“To be fair to Sir Jeffrey, his work over the last 20 years has all been about peace-building. Just because you find flaws in a piece of legislation doesn’t mean you are opposed to peace,” he says.</p><p dir="ltr">But others in Northern Ireland have expressed disquiet about companies such as Causeway ‘selling the lessons of peace’ around the world. Jeffrey Donaldson is UK trade envoy to Egypt, another repressive regime. Earlier this year, another Reprieve report criticised NI-CO’s role in setting up juvenile courts in Egypt, which included the provision of ‘waterproof chairs for children’. </p><p dir="ltr">In Bahrain, the engagement of Northern Irish bodies was very positively reported in local media as evidence that abuses were being curbed. When Pauline McCabe, a former prisoner ombudsman in Northern Ireland and NI-CO trainer, wrote <a href="https://www.irishtimes.com/opinion/bahrain-deserves-a-chance-to-prove-itself-on-human-rights-1.2831621">an op-ed in the Irish Times</a> entitled “Bahrain deserves a chance to prove itself on human rights”, a pro-government news website in Bahrain ran another article, featuring McCabe’s picture, under the headline “RIGHTS CRITICS WRONG!”</p><p dir="ltr">Human rights groups say that the involvement of NI-CO and Causeway amounts to whitewashing the Bahrain regime. “The principal outcome of NI-CO's work has been to whitewash Bahrain's brutal crackdown on dissent and deflect international attention from the kingdom's human rights abuses,” says Reprieve director Foa.</p><p dir="ltr">“UK government training to Bahrain, carried out by NI-CO and Causeway, has done nothing but provide the regime with another layer of impunity. With help from the UK, the Bahraini government is now better positioned to whitewash its human rights violations. Bahrain has been emboldened and is now sentencing more people to death than at any time in its modern history. It is critical that the UK and Northern Irish governments stop providing cosmetic assistance that achieves nothing beyond deflecting crucial international scrutiny from Bahrain's abysmal — and worsening — human rights record,” said Sayed Alwadaei, who is the director of advocacy at the London-based Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy.</p><p dir="ltr">Kingsley Donaldson said he could understand why Reprieve was looking for greater transparency but he felt that his work in Bahrain had been valuable. “I’m not surprised that people would want to understand more but I’m not uncomfortable with what Causeway was doing in Bahrain and how we did it,” he said.</p><p dir="ltr">A spokeswoman for NI-CO said: “NI-CO worked on behalf of the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office in Bahrain from 2013 until 2017. For as long as NI-CO continues to work within the auspices of these programmes, NI-CO will continue to deliver programmes, sharing the relevant learnings and experiences of Northern Ireland to change attitudes, culture and behaviour, ultimately to align countries such as Bahrain with relevant international standards.”</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/uk/peter-geoghegan-adam-ramsay/dup-donaldson-can-t-remember-why-his-brexit-campaign-spent-more-than-">DUP Donaldson can’t remember why his Brexit campaign spent more than £32,000 on controversial data analytics company linked to Trump</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/uk/brexitinc/adam-ramsay/what-weve-discovered-in-year-investigating-dark-money-that-funded-brexit-me">What we&#039;ve discovered in a year investigating the dark money that funded Brexit means we can&#039;t stop now</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> uk North-Africa West-Asia uk Brexit Inc. DUP Dark money Peter Geoghegan Mon, 14 May 2018 23:00:01 +0000 Peter Geoghegan 117880 at https://www.opendemocracy.net In Palestine: self-dehumanisation against the disregard of human value https://www.opendemocracy.net/north-africa-west-asia/omar-talab-Bertie-Wnek/in-palestine-self-dehumanisation-against-disregard-of-human-value <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>While the US was opening its new embassy in Jerusalem, dozens of Palestinians were being shot dead in Gaza by the Israeli army.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/562712/PA-36318651.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/562712/PA-36318651.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="307" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Palestinians demonstrating in Gaza were shot by Israeli snipers bringing the death toll since March 30 to over 90. Picture by Majdi Fathi/NurPhoto/Sipa USA/PA images. All rights reserved. </span></span></span>On the sixth week of the ‘Great March of Return’ in Gaza, Palestinian <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9mobWJFfV3I">protestors dressed as Na’vi</a> from James Cameron’s&nbsp;box office hit&nbsp;<em>Avatar</em>&nbsp;in an attempt to draw wider recognition to their plight. </p><p>This is not the first time Palestinians have turned to morphing into these fictional characters; in 2010 protesters adopted the same iconic characterisation in Bil’in when resisting the effects of the occupation wall. Palestinians then and now are right in recognising the parallels between the plight of the fictional Na’vi characters and their own experiences; both are victims of industrial militarism, predatory colonial capitalism and foreign occupation. </p><p>Although Mark Fisher is also right to recognise the Na’vi as a primitivist cliché, consisting of an amalgamation of typical indigenous features, coupled with their experience of suffering the historically recurring tale of forced eviction and mass slaughter synonymous with colonial history, the parallel maintains relevance not just for those unfamiliar with the Palestinian story, but even more so for those who attempt understanding its current phase.&nbsp;</p><p>This act of creative resistance attempts to exploit the power of universally understood images in a globalised world to stimulate interest and explicate suffering in what is considered a notoriously complex conflict.</p><p>The tragedy of having to employ fictionalised representations of suffering to communicate actual, real-world oppression is a grave and serious one. That a metonymic portrayal of dispossession has more of a chance of undoing an international indifference than the dispossession itself seems to elucidate an incredible amount, not just about the Israel/Palestine conflict, but about our society and ourselves more generally.&nbsp;</p><p class="mag-quote-center">The multi-billion pound image of a blue-skinned alien possesses more potential for stimulating global interest and concern than the image of suffering brown-skinned Palestinians.&nbsp;</p><p>Edward Said stressed ‘humanism is the only resistance we have’ but Gazans, having been blockaded by land, air and sea since 2007, with 50% of the population under&nbsp;the age of&nbsp;18, have collectively felt the failure of the humanist ideal. For them the truth is simple: the multi-billion pound image of a blue-skinned alien possesses more potential for stimulating global interest and concern than the image of suffering brown-skinned Palestinians.&nbsp;</p><p>For Palestinians to speculate that potential images of these fictional characters depicted in the media could inspire more supranational solidarity among the global public than the stories and images of their real human suffering shows a self-awareness of a tragic reality.&nbsp;</p><p>Only an occupation so overdue solution could produce such a response. When civilians willingly risk death to walk peacefully along their restrictive boundary, the avenues for imaginative protest are clearly restricted. This is what ultimately leads to the willingness to dehumanise oneself in appeal to fans of a film. At the time the most expensive ever made, the 3D spectacle Avatar showcases the power of modern technology fueled by immense concentrations capital, in stark contrast to Gaza where clean water is scarce and electricity turned off for days at a time.&nbsp;</p><p>It brings the Palestinian resistance into a post-human phase where material human value is lost in media transmission, perhaps it was never even there, but is retained (or created out of nothing like a simulacra) by packaging it into un-distortable symbol transcending human prejudice.&nbsp;</p><p>It represents an attempt to reach out to the foreign public, as opposed to the&nbsp;intransigent global political class, who have been unwilling to demand Israeli forces to end the onslaught of demonstrators in the Gaza strip, having killed&nbsp;at least 56 since the start of the protests. Whilst Boris Johnson stated he was ‘appalled’ by the violence, it once again fell on the opposition, led by Jeremy Corbyn, to demand the government call for an independent international inquiry through the UN, and to review UK arms sales to Israel, which have increased ten-fold to $445 million since the onslaught in 2014, including the sale of sniper rifles.&nbsp;</p><p>In spite of the troubling implications of the Palestinians resorting to their own dehumanisation in order to affect sympathy, they are right to acknowledge the potential liberation power of popular public support. However uniformly a media agenda is represented to its citizens, as long as we live under a parliamentary system the public still has the power to press for the importance of a topic. If the insistence is powerful enough, politicians are forced to confront and react to this insistence to achieve public support. We are our politics as much as we may not like to think it.&nbsp;</p><p>Rather than force the oppressed into the humiliation of self-dehumanisation to appeal to our own disregard of human value, if we want to see peace we can re-humanise Palestinians by re-conceptualising all human suffering as our own. We can and we must.&nbsp;</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/north-africa-west-asia/haidar-eid/on-70thanniversary-of-nakba-reflections-of-palestinian-refugee">On the 70th anniversary of the Nakba: reflections of a Palestinian refugee</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/north-africa-west-asia/abdalhadi-alijla/palestinians-in-gaza-fighting-for-life-struggling-for-rights">The Palestinians in Gaza: fighting for life, struggling for rights</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/north-africa-west-asia/stephen-mccloskey/gaza-s-great-march-of-return-is-international-rallying-call">Gaza’s “Great March of Return”: an international rallying call for peace and justice</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/north-africa-west-asia/isabella-bellezza-smull/from-land-day-to-70th-anniversary-of-nakba-palestinia">From Land Day to the 70th anniversary of the Nakba, Palestinians have plenty to protest</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/north-africa-west-asia/neil-serougi/health-catastrophe-in-gaza-our-double-standards-are-killing-pale">The health catastrophe in Gaza: our double standards are killing Palestinians</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/north-africa-west-asia/lorenz-naegeli/eu-and-right-to-education-in-west-bank">The EU and the right to education in the West Bank</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Palestine </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Conflict </div> <div class="field-item even"> Equality </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> North-Africa West-Asia North-Africa West-Asia Palestine Conflict Equality occupation Israel Gaza protest Bertie Wnek Omar Talab Mon, 14 May 2018 14:14:02 +0000 Omar Talab and Bertie Wnek 117873 at https://www.opendemocracy.net On the 70th anniversary of the Nakba: reflections of a Palestinian refugee https://www.opendemocracy.net/north-africa-west-asia/haidar-eid/on-70thanniversary-of-nakba-reflections-of-palestinian-refugee <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Like any settler-colonial power, Zionism views native Palestinians as an ‘other’ to be fought against and erased.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p class="western"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/562712/PA-36238622.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/562712/PA-36238622.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="307" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Palestinian boy protesting near the border with Israel, in eastern Gaza City, 27 April 2018. Picture by Momen Faiz/NurPhoto/Sipa US/PA Images. All rights reserved. </span></span></span>This year marks the 70th&nbsp;anniversary of the&nbsp;<em>Nakba</em>, the process of ethnic cleansing carried out by Zionist militias in Palestine which led to the displacement and dispossession of more than 750 000 Palestinians, including my own family.&nbsp;</p><p class="western">I will not only confine my deliberations to abstract concepts and theories, but will evoke the reality as we experience and understand it on the ground in Gaza and in the diaspora. We Palestinians are fully aware of the fact that we are the victims of an historic issue that has impacted the lives of many, and has polarised the discourse on international peace and security.&nbsp;</p><p class="western">But what we have learned from the history of state making is that it is not easy to maintain a state that is founded and based upon a historical injustice and the denial of universal freedoms. The history of states is littered with examples of people using all sorts of means of resistance in defense of their universal human rights and fundamental freedoms. We Palestinians are deprived of both! Hence our decades-long multifaceted resistance: armed struggle, popular resistance, BDS…etc</p><p class="western">Eight years ago, I wrote a piece in which I quoted Article I of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights which states that “All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights.” It does not, however, say “with the exception of Palestinians.” But we, 12 million Palestinians, know very well that we are the exception to that rule. Whether we are Palestinian citizens of Israel, West Bankers &amp; Gazans, or Diasporic refugees, we are not allowed to expect to have the same rights as those of “all human beings.”</p><p class="western">Any attempt to understand the rationale behind what is essentially a case of blatant violation of fundamental human rights is faced with accusations of anti-Semitism, a weapon used to silence voices calling for justice in the Middle East.&nbsp;</p><p class="western">I am convinced that the possibility of having a just peace is today far from realization because of the hermetic medieval siege imposed on more than 2 million already impoverished people in Gaza, and the slicing of the already sliced West Bank. The impossibility of realizing the national dream of one third of the Palestinian people has brought forward the embarrassing question about the rights of the remaining two thirds, namely the dispossessed refugees living in miserable camps in other countries and the second-class citizens of the state of Israel.</p><p class="mag-quote-right">What is the Palestinian cause if not the right of return of the refugees?</p><p class="western">We never tire of asking the question raised by the&nbsp;<em>Nakba&nbsp;</em>generation, the generation that was supposed to die, while we are supposed to forget: What is the Palestinian cause if not the right of return of the refugees, those inside and outside Palestine? Can genuine peace be achieved without resolving this?&nbsp;</p><p class="western">We live in a world that promotes democratic systems of government. It is supposed to be a system that brings about political stability within a state, guarantees equality of citizenship and individual freedoms. Nevertheless, the basic tenet of this system of majority rule are tested in multi-racial, multi-religious, multi-ethnic and multi-cultural societies.&nbsp;</p><p class="western">There is an inherent contradiction between advocating democracy as a universal idea, while defining the State of Israel in mono-ethnic terms. This approach has only resulted in the relegation of Palestinians residing within the state of Israel to the status of second class citizens. This undermines,&nbsp;<em>inter alia</em>, the very principle of equal citizenship which is at the core of a democratic system of government.</p><p class="western">Zionism, is based on the idea of separation, rejection of difference, and ethno-religious supremacy; it is based on a dogma&nbsp;that proclaims that Jews all over the world constitute one nation. In Zionist consciousness, we, native Palestinians, exactly like Native Americans, became a surplus population that must be gotten rid of.&nbsp;</p><p class="western">Those who remain would be considered a minority without political and national rights. We, native Palestinians, were viewed by hegemonic Zionism as an obstacle to realizing the Zionist dream by our mere existence and presence. This might explain the continuing ethnic cleansing in the West Bank, and the incremental genocide taking place in Gaza.</p><p class="western">Like any settler-colonial power, Zionism views native Palestinians as an ‘other’ (<em>goy)&nbsp;</em>to be fought against. The Palestinian resistance, peaceful or otherwise, is thus viewed as ‘criminal violence,’ ‘illegitimate,’ ‘terrorism’...etc.&nbsp;</p><p class="western">The realization of the Zionist dream has meant redemption for some Jews, at the expense of the native Palestinians who were dispossessed, and relegated to what Fredric Jameson, in another context calls, 'the political unconscious'. Thus, from the Palestinian perspective, the crystallization of the Zionist dream has meant dispossession and&nbsp;<em>Ghurba (</em>exile).&nbsp;</p><p class="western">Zionism wanted us to be forgotten forever in the ‘political unconscious.’ However, massacres, humiliation, dispossession, defeat, expropriation, invasion, denial of existence, and now a medieval, hermetic siege... etc, have not led to our ‘disappearance’. We have been robbed of our land, deprived of our identity and history; even our future has been stolen. The Zionist response to these atrocities is that the Palestinians should not have existed in the first place. We must remain invisible!</p><p class="western">Israel’s “independence” has meant a disaster for the Palestinians who have become the victims of the victims. The goal of Zionism has always been to make us invisible, faceless and voiceless refugees from nowhere, removed from the world’s active consciousness. We had ‘no history,’ ‘no consciousness,’ ‘no culture’ and thus no story to tell. We, Palestinians are ‘native aliens’, who became foreigners by the misfortune of being born to non-Jewish mothers.&nbsp;</p><p class="western">It is always frustrating that so many activists have no clue about the basics of the Palestinian question. I am always surprised to find myself explaining how, contrary to what has been central in modern liberal thinking; the idea of the citizen in Israel is totally missing. Israel is a state where citizenship and nationality are two separate, independent concepts. In other words, Israel is not the state of its citizens, but the state of the Jewish people. Moreover, Israel does not have a constitution. Further, since Judaism is a religion and since it is the basis of the existence of a “modern State,” why can Islam, Christianity or Hinduism not be so?&nbsp;</p><p class="western">Many of us think that the only solution to bring this horror, caused by a settler-colonial project implanted in the heart of the Arab World, to an end is only through democratic means by de-Zionizing the state of Israel and transforming it into a state for all of its citizens regardless of race, religion, ethnicity or gender. There are 7 million refugees waiting for that moment, and 2 million of them have already started their long march to freedom along the Gaza eastern and northern fences separating them from the towns and villages from which they were forcefully expelled in 1948. Alas, my parents are not among those marchers, but I am.&nbsp;</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/north-africa-west-asia/abdalhadi-alijla/palestinians-in-gaza-fighting-for-life-struggling-for-rights">The Palestinians in Gaza: fighting for life, struggling for rights</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/north-africa-west-asia/stephen-mccloskey/gaza-s-great-march-of-return-is-international-rallying-call">Gaza’s “Great March of Return”: an international rallying call for peace and justice</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/north-africa-west-asia/isabella-bellezza-smull/from-land-day-to-70th-anniversary-of-nakba-palestinia">From Land Day to the 70th anniversary of the Nakba, Palestinians have plenty to protest</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/north-africa-west-asia/neil-serougi/health-catastrophe-in-gaza-our-double-standards-are-killing-pale">The health catastrophe in Gaza: our double standards are killing Palestinians</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/north-africa-west-asia/how-britain-s-recognition-of-israel-violated-its-colonial-mandate-over-palest">How Britain’s recognition of Israel violated its colonial “mandate” over Palestine</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Palestine </div> <div class="field-item even"> Israel </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Conflict </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> North-Africa West-Asia North-Africa West-Asia Israel Palestine Conflict nakba occupation Haidar Eid Mon, 14 May 2018 06:00:00 +0000 Haidar Eid 117822 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Iraq and Syria: of memory and maps https://www.opendemocracy.net/north-africa-west-asia/darius-kamali/iraq-and-syria-of-memory-and-maps <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>The interests of outsiders,&nbsp;<em>not those </em><em>of&nbsp;</em>the battered, bloodied and belittled peoples&nbsp;of Iraq and Syria, drive this brutal political theatre.</p> </div> </div> </div> <div><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/562712/map1.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/562712/map1.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="446" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Map of Sykes–Picot Agreement. Royal Geographical Society, 1910-15. Signed by Mark Sykes and François Georges-Picot, 8 May 1916. Public Domain.</span></span></span>Syria and Iraq are no more. They have ceased to be!&nbsp;</div><p>Two modern states, originally carved out by the Sykes-Picot accord, from the underbelly of the long ailing Ottoman Empire, are finished. They can no more be brought back into existence than the parrot from the classic sketch by Monty Python.</p><p>What the world is now witnessing, through the filters of various national and nationalist media, is a blood soaked brawl over the remains of the dismembered states. Contesting the carcass is an international gang of mismatched contenders from near and far, as desperate in motivation as they are disparate in motive. In the immediate neighborhood, four actors battle for spoils.&nbsp;</p><h3>An Ottoman realm reclaimed</h3><p><span>In Turkey, Sultan Erdogan needs not dust off the antiquarian maps of the great Piri Reis, to spot opportunity. The great Turk first made his entrance with some modesty, under guise of protecting the cross border tomb of&nbsp;Suleyman Shah.&nbsp; In a case of, some defensive operations are more defensive than others, he went on to defensively bomb the cross border Kurds, while just as defensively moving troops in to plant the Turkish flag into the soil of his Ottoman ancestor's Levantine realm.&nbsp;</span></p><p><span></span>With the winds of unprecedented economic growth at his back, and fresh off the unusually&nbsp;successful quashing, of the usually successful coup, Erdogan feels emboldened. How better to cement his legacy and to carve his name into the same strata as the ever present ‘Father’ of the Turkish Republic, on whose aptly named Ataturk Farms the Turkish President recently built his thousand and one roomed Presidential Palace.&nbsp;</p><p><span>It may seem to the casual observer that actions such as the downing of a Russian plane, while purchasing the Russian S-400 SAM, over the vociferous objections of fellow NATO members; or of opposing his Russian and Iranian frenemies, in his opposition to their ally Assad - Erdogan’s former friend; or exacerbating his American ally by bombing its Kurdish proxy, all make Erdogan’s intentions appear something less than comprehensible.&nbsp;</span></p><p><span></span><span>But then, the Turkish President can take comfort in the fact that, among the foreign participants in this miniature World War, he is far from alone in the inconsistency…of his inconsistencies.&nbsp;</span></p><h3><strong>Arabia and the call of Caliphate</strong></h3><p>The Peninsular Arabs, together with their Hashemite Jordanian cousins, perhaps pre-occupied with a gratuitous and unsuccessful attempt to erase the name of the Persian Gulf from the world maps, failed to notice that following the geo-political cataclysms set in motion with the American invasion of Iraq, the actual, and not so easily erasable Persians to the north of said&nbsp;<em>Gulf&nbsp;</em>had set up shop, at the request of course, of the Iraqi and Syrian governments. And so, shocked to the point of catalepsy, by the de facto fall of three Arab capitals under Iranian sway, the&nbsp;western backed monarchies of greater Arabia find themselves in a more or less formal alliance, that’s more or less formed of fear.</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/562712/Map-of-Caliphate_750.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/562712/Map-of-Caliphate_750.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="384" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Map of Islamic Caliphate c. 750 AD. Photo: William R. Sheperd via Wikimedia Commons. </span></span></span>Having long ago abandoned their fellow Arabs in Palestine to the merciless mercies of their erstwhile Israeli foe, these regimes have now all but buried the hatchet with their Zionist nemesis. In so doing they’ve also buried the old Nasserist dream of a pan-Arab block to oppose the Jewish State. In its stead, and through one of the best financed lobbying campaigns to which the modern world has yet been subjected, they’ve managed to imprint Iran as the new enemy, in the hearts and minds of the American&nbsp;<em>tutela a patre</em>.</p><p>But if they cannot fight the Iranians in Iraq, Syria or Lebanon on their own, billions of petrodollars spent on Trump’s ‘beautiful weapons’ not withstanding, then they can surely prod - not to say interfere in—America’s democratic Republic, by bribing the American Democrat and the American Republican.&nbsp;</p><p>To this end, hypothetical arms deals worth astronomical sums on paper are meant as patronizing tribute to patron Trump. The flow of funds also finds its way to an always grateful American think tank and media ecosystem. This, of course, is not to mention the alleged contributions, real or promised, to the coffers of the Trump/Kushner crime clan. The same Kushner whom the high energy Prince&nbsp;Mohammad Bin Salman [Referred to by the familial and affectionate nickname of ‘MBS’ by an adorably compliant mainstream American Media] reportedly claims to have ‘in his pocket.’&nbsp;</p><p class="mag-quote-center">We all know the oft-repeated proverb about enemies…of enemies</p><p>So far, the strategy of paying in, seems to be paying off. The Saudis and Emiratis have successfully convinced large enough segments of a diseased American body politic to use the awesome powers of the U.S. military and intelligence apparatus, albeit in fits and starts, against their perceived regional adversaries, from Yemen to Syria. Even the historically untouchable third rail of formal ties with the Jewish state has finally been touched, without eliciting so much as a jolt. Israel after all, is the enemy of the new Iranian foe. And we all know the oft-repeated proverb about enemies…of enemies.</p><h3>Next&nbsp;<strong>y</strong><strong>ear in Greater Israel</strong></h3><p>In Tel Aviv and Jerusalem, Netanyahu, Lieberman and Likud lick their chops at the prospect of realizing the never fully hidden dream of, next year in&nbsp;<em>Greater Israel</em>. After eight years of frosty relations with Barack Obama, the Israeli right, in a fit of hyperbole, literally referred to Trump as the new Cyrus [the irony that Cyrus the Great, the Biblical Messiah, was the Iranian founder of the Persian Empire being lost entirely and perhaps willfully, on a philistine Netanyahu.]&nbsp;</p><p>Trump’s election saves the Israeli government from both the Iranian menace and the tiresome necessity of continuing the overripe charade of peace. Trump and Nikki Haley’s unilateral and illegal attempt to normalize the theft of the whole of Jerusalem, as the sole and unshared capital of Israel, has had the positive side effect of finally ending the decades long pantomime of peace process porn.&nbsp;</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/562712/Greater_israel.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/562712/Greater_israel.jpg" alt="" title="" width="390" height="409" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Map of Greater Israel. Via wikimedia commons</span></span></span>From this tribal, Old Testament based perspective of&nbsp;<em>chosen people&nbsp;</em>-<em>uber&nbsp;</em>un-chosen ones - ethnic cleansing is a time honored, Biblically sanctioned means to redraw modern maps, in the image of those drawn from ancient mythologies. For the extreme Israeli right, only two obstacles stand in the way of realizing the greater Israel project; the Iranian backed Hezbollah in Lebanon, and Bashar Al Assad in Syria.</p><p>This is the true reason behind Israel’s unrelenting anti-Iranian rhetoric and its willingness to play footsie with even the most extreme Sunni Arab Islamists, so long as these terrorists aim their guns and scimitars, at least for the moment, at Bashar al-Assad. Israel’s calculation is that these groups, mostly under the control of the ever more compliant Arab dictatorships are a lesser threat than a Hezbollah and a Syrian regime, backed by decidedly less compliant mullahs in Iran.&nbsp;</p><h3><strong>The&nbsp;</strong><strong>p</strong><strong>erspective from Persia</strong></h3><p>This brings us to the fourth regional actor. The Islamic Republic of Iran, who’s resurrected and re-imagined permutation of the Persian Empire is unfolding for the world to see. The Iranians, it seems, also&nbsp;feel the perennial presence of the past, when last,&nbsp;<em>Iran Shahr</em>, just before&nbsp;the Arab invasions of the 7th&nbsp;Century, stretched to the Mediterranean under Shapur the Sassanian.</p><p>Through a kind if national muscle memory, the Iranian regime reflexively exercises influence upon both Shiite Arabs and Sunni Kurds, serving as proximal patron to both.&nbsp;And the Iranian nation, disenchanted as it is by the ruling clergy that controls every aspect of life and diverts needed domestic funds abroad,&nbsp;exorcises, through a kind of&nbsp;collective national sub-conscious,&nbsp;not only the 1980’s invasion and ‘imposed war’ of Saddam Hussein but a deeper map based memory drawn from fourteen hundred years of ignominy following defeat at the hands of the derided and dreaded ‘Liz<em>ard eating Arab.’&nbsp;</em></p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/562712/Sassanid_Empire_226_-_651_(AD).gif" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/562712/Sassanid_Empire_226_-_651_(AD).gif" alt="" title="" width="460" height="358" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>The Sassanid Empire. via wikimedia commons. </span></span></span>Meanwhile, the witty and urbane Iranian Foreign Minister, correctly and righteously screams about the world’s support for the&nbsp;west’s former client, Saddam Hussein, and his use of chemical weapons against Iranians and Kurds. Yet the ever charming Mr. Zarif remains rather less charmingly and less righteously silent about allegations of more recent chemical attacks, attributed to Iran’s own Syrian client.</p><h2><strong>Extra&nbsp;</strong><strong>r</strong><strong>egionals;&nbsp;</strong><strong>o</strong><strong>utsiders&nbsp;</strong><strong>l</strong><strong>ooking&nbsp;</strong><strong>i</strong><strong>n</strong></h2><p><strong>The U.S &amp; E.U.:&nbsp;</strong><strong>c</strong><strong>heap&nbsp;</strong><strong>o</strong><strong>il /</strong><strong>c</strong><strong>ostly&nbsp;</strong><strong>m</strong><strong>igrants</strong></p><p>The ancestors of the&nbsp;<em>ancien&nbsp;</em>European regimes and their younger but equally tired American scion also have memories…and maps.&nbsp;</p><p class="mag-quote-left">The British and French remember well their colonies</p><p>Britain and France still recall, with not insignificant pride, the glory days when they ruled the Near [to them] East. They know well the maps they themselves, with their Russian ally, drew after the Great War. As it turns out, it was with somewhat more cleverness than wisdom, that their ancestors carved the Ottoman Turkey.&nbsp;</p><p>The British and French remember well their colonies, their Paris of the Middle East, and the various mandates they dictated from afar.&nbsp;</p><p>Unfortunately, for the whimsically nostalgic neo-imperialist cons, their populations also have memories of maps. They recall the not so distant and not so metaphorical graveyards created for their soldiers, in the river valleys of Mesopotamia.&nbsp;</p><p>And so it is that these countries’ politicians are left with little more option than to gesticulate grandly at the Security Council, with terrible tantrums, inversely proportional to the impotence caused by their people’s political will.<strong>&nbsp;</strong></p><p>The U.S.<em>&nbsp;</em>and<strong>&nbsp;</strong>E.U.’s current interests are three-fold but crudely similar. The first is to maintain the steady flow of cheap crude. The second, for the U.S., is the equally vital necessity of keeping the petro-dollar as the currency for its trade. The third is to stem, for social and demographic reasons, the flow of cheap migrant labor.&nbsp;</p><p><strong>Warm&nbsp;</strong><strong>w</strong><strong>aters,&nbsp;</strong><strong>f</strong><strong>rozen&nbsp;</strong><strong>g</strong><strong>as</strong></p><p>Putin’s Russia has its own map-based interests, dictated by the emperor geography. Historically, Mother Russia has long felt the need to find a warm water port that bypassed, the Sublime Porte. This age old quest&nbsp;remains relevant&nbsp;even in this age of warming Northern Seas.&nbsp;Strategically, Syria’s Tartus is as good a spot as any.&nbsp;According to conspiratorial circles - rather wide in a conspiracy mad Middle East - Russia seeks also to block the potentially competitive flow of oil and gas to Europe, from the competitively kleptocratic Sheikdoms of the Persian Gulf.&nbsp;</p><p>To such imperatives of empire, must be added Putin’s personal dread of what the ‘democracy’ pushing&nbsp;west meant to the persons of Saddam Hussein and Muammar Gaddafi. With such graphic, undignified endings in mind, it is not so difficult to understand Putin’s emphatic insistence on not allowing Russia’s one remaining Mediterranean client to fall prey to the American Eagle.&nbsp;</p><p>Putin will continue to stand up Assad at great cost, if only for the reason that, in so doing, he is standing up…to the U.S.&nbsp;</p><p><strong>One&nbsp;</strong><strong>r</strong><strong>oad to&nbsp;</strong><strong>b</strong><strong>ind&nbsp;</strong><strong>t</strong><strong>hem</strong></p><p>Even distant China it turns out, is not uninterested in Iraq and Syria.&nbsp;Xi Jinping, newly named president for life, has already embarked in his strategic&nbsp;<em>One Belt, One Road, Silk&nbsp;</em><em>Road&nbsp;</em>revival. This ambitious project would substantially cut the cost and reduce the length of time required for products from the&nbsp;<em>factory of the world to&nbsp;</em>find their way into Europe and all points en route. This rebinding of the Eurasian landmass to itself, is yet another illustration of China’s long term vision of a world sewn to its economy and within easier and uninterrupted reach of its products.&nbsp;</p><p class="mag-quote-center">Even distant China it turns out, is not uninterested in Iraq and Syria</p><p>If China is to become the Middle, if not so flowery, Kingdom for the 21st&nbsp;Century, it needs to successfully supplant the several century old Anglo-American domination of global trade. Toward that ambitious destination, the road through Damascus will serve as a major artery.&nbsp;</p><h2><strong>Peoples of the&nbsp;</strong><strong>w</strong><strong>ind</strong></h2><p><strong>Sunni Arabs;&nbsp;</strong><strong>d</strong><strong>isenfranchised in Iraq/</strong><strong>d</strong><strong>isplaced in Syria&nbsp;</strong></p><p>Of the desperate and&nbsp;disenfranchised non-state actors, the two most populous nations are the Indo-European Kurds, and their fellow Sunni, though Semitic, Arabs.</p><p>It is an open question whether the Peninsular Arab states in general, and the House of Saud in particular, whose open Wahhabist/Salafist ideology, and only slightly less open financial largesse fuels ISIS, Al-Qaeda, Al-Nusra, et al—will choose to reign in their multi-headed, multi-acronymic band of international throat cutters, who’ve sadly found a place, among these tribes of the displaced.&nbsp;</p><p>What seems more likely is that these states will continue to nurture new guerrilla proxies, with the aim of making trouble for the dreaded Ayatollah’s in Qom. The disillusioned Sunnis of the Fertile Crescent after all, present fertile ground.</p><h2>Peoples of the&nbsp;mountain</h2><p><strong>Kurdistan ; federalism, confederation or&nbsp;independence?</strong></p><p>The Kurds who are the longest suffering and largest stateless ethnicity in the region, have survived near continuous repression,&nbsp;war crimes, crimes against humanity and attempted&nbsp;genocide.</p><p>Their tale of woe includes the Anfal campaign of ethnic cleansing orchestrated in the 90’s, by Saddam Hussein’s Ba’athists. More recently, the Kurds alongside their less numerous Turkmen, Yezidi and Christian neighbors have endured further horrors, inflicted by the international mercenaries of the rather un-Islamic and stateless, Islamic State.&nbsp;</p><p>It remains to be seen whether the PUK, KDP, and the proliferating list of ever-cantankerous Kurdish factions will ever come to agreement among themselves, let alone be able to convince their largely hostile neighbors of the necessity or desirability of a Kurdish State, based on one or another federalist model.</p><p>The Turks, fearful of their own separatist Kurdish ‘Mountain Turks’ are militantly opposed. The Arabs have little interest in helping ethnically Iranic Kurds, albeit Sunni, against the Arabic speaking populations of Iraq and Syria. Israel and the US are nominal but fickle friends.&nbsp;</p><p class="mag-quote-right">‘The only friend of the Kurd, is the mountain.’</p><p>The Iranians may be the natural power brokers here. As a nation, Iran would have an ethnically motivated interest in seeing its Kurdish cousins stretch its Indo-European linguistic realm through formerly Arab lands, all the way to the Mediterranean. At the same time, the ruling clerics of the Islamic Republic, less interested in ethnicity than in confessional denomination, see the Kurds primarily as Sunnis and fear that the large Kurdish population inside Iran proper may be emboldened with its own separatist notions.</p><p>Will Iran choose to look at an independent Kurdistan in Iraq and Syria as a case of potentially ‘losing a daughter’ or one of potentially ‘gaining a son in law?’ It will have to make its choice before the choice is made sans Persian input.</p><p>What is certain is that the Kurds will continue to remember their genocides and their oppression. They will remember the empty promises of fleeting&nbsp;friends. As goes the Kurdish lament:&nbsp;‘The only friend of the Kurd, is the mountain.’</p><h3>Prospects; an&nbsp;interpretation of&nbsp;dreams</h3><p>In one international conference after another, held in the palatial settings of one international capital after another, complex and counter intuitive alliances amongst regional, global and local factions flow in and out of existence, as all parties seek to befuddle all others. What makes the situation uniquely precarious is that the incoherency is not limited merely to the level of tactics and means, but reaches deep into the realm of strategy and ends.</p><p>What is to become of the peoples of these ancient lands, of the dreams of native tribes and the designs of foreign interlocutors, no one of adult mind would venture to predict.&nbsp;</p><p>But let us neither make willful fools of ourselves nor accept willing foolishness from each other. Self interested excretions of the outside world not withstanding, it is the map-based interests of outsiders and&nbsp;<em>not&nbsp;</em>the preservation of Iraq or Syria or the interests of its battered, bloodied and belittled peoples which is the motivating force driving each and every word and action, of each and every party, in this brutal and brutish theatre of&nbsp;<em>sur</em>real politic.&nbsp;</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/north-africa-west-asia/rijin-sahakian/what-we-are-fighting-for">What we are fighting for</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/north-africa-west-asia/shatha-al-juburi/how-2003-us-led-invasion-changed-iraq-forever">How the 2003 US-led invasion changed Iraq forever</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/north-africa-west-asia/fazil-moradi/in-search-of-cardinal-virtues-in-iraq">In search of cardinal virtues in Iraq</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/north-africa-west-asia/iheb-guermazi/but-what-was-so-appealing-about-isis-tunisian-story">But what was so appealing about ISIS?</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Syria </div> <div class="field-item even"> Iraq </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> International politics </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> North-Africa West-Asia North-Africa West-Asia Iraq Syria International politics geopolitics Darius A. Kamali Sat, 12 May 2018 13:40:20 +0000 Darius A. Kamali 117820 at https://www.opendemocracy.net أوساط أوروبية تنادي بمحاكمة عادلة لنشطاء حراك الريف المغربي https://www.opendemocracy.net/north-africa-west-asia/abdellatif-hamamouchi/Morocco-rif-protests-trials <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p class="direction-rtl">دعت منظمات حقوقية وشخصيات سياسية أوروبية، السلطات المغربية بتوفير محاكمة عادلة لنشطاء حراك الريف المغربي، المعتقلين على خلفية نشاطهم في الحراك.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p class="western" dir="rtl"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/562712/PA-34447709.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/562712/PA-34447709.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="299" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>مسيرة في مدينة برشلونة من أجل إطلاق سراح المعتقلين السياسيين في حراك الريف. Picture by Paco Freire / Sopa Images/Zuma Press/PA Images. All rights reserved. </span></span></span>عبّرت هيئات حقوقية-مدنية ومؤسسات رسمية أوروبية عن قلقها إزاء وضعية حقوق الانسان في المغرب عموما، وقضية حراك الريف خصوصا وذلك بعد الاعتقالات التي تعرض لها نشطاء الحراك، بالإضافة إلى التعذيب والمعاملة القاسية التي تلقونها من طرف السلطات الأمنية بحسب تقارير وطنية ودولية، و تصريحات دفاع المعتقلين.</p><p class="western" dir="rtl">هذا الوضع أدى بعدد كبير من المهاجرين المغاربة المؤيّدين للحراك بأوروبا، إلى تأسيس لجان&nbsp;للترافع عن الحراك الشعبي بالريف ومعتقليه السياسيين، عبر تنفيذ الوقفات والمسيرات الداعمة للحراك والمطالبة بإطلاق سراح معتقلي الحراك في مختلف العواصم والمدن الأوروبية .بالإضافة إلى تنظيم هذه اللجان&nbsp;بمعية فعاليات حقوقية وسياسية ندوات ولقاءات مع سياسيين وحقوقيين داخل مقر البرلمان الأوروبي والبرلمانات المحلية كما يقول عماد العتابي، أحد أبرز النشطاء الداعمين للحراك بهولندا.فيما يرى البعض أن الاحتماء بأوروبا، واللجوء إلى المؤسسات الأوروبية الرسمية كالبرلمان الأوروبي يشكل استقواء بالخارج وتدخل في شؤون المغرب الداخلية.</p><p class="western" dir="rtl">وقال وزير الخارجية الهولندي ستيف بلوك على هامش لقاء عقده مع وزير الخارجية المغربي ناصر بوريطة في أواسط أبريل/نيسان الماضي بالرباط&nbsp;"على السلطات المغربية احترام المساطر القضائية في تعاملها مع حراك الريف".فيما اعتبر وزير الخارجية المغربية على أن ذلك"قضية داخلية تعني المغرب ولا يمكنها أن تكون بتاتا موضوع نقاش ولا موضوع مباحثات مع دول أجنبية".</p><p class="western" dir="rtl">ومنذ انطلاق حملة المتابعات القضائية في صفوف نشطاء الحراك، بدت مؤسسات وشخصيات أوروبية، بالإضافة إلى اللجان المؤسسة من طرف الجالية المغربية المؤيدة للحراك، تَتَبع وضعية معتقلي الحراك، عبر تنظيم لقاءات وندوات تناقش وضع حقوق الانسان في ملف حراك الريف.كاللقاء الذي انعقد بالبرلمان الأوروبي يوم&nbsp;28 فبراير/شباط، والذي جمع بعض نواب البرلمان الأوروبي بعائلات المعتقلين وهيئة دفاعهم.ولازال أحمد الزفزافي أب ناصر الزفزافي قائد حراك الريف في جولة في عدد من الدول الأوروبية، آخرها تم استقباله من طرف رئيس كناريا الإسبانية.</p><p class="western" dir="rtl">وفي وقت تجري محاكمته، تم ترشيح ناصر الزفزافي قائد الحراك، من طرف بعض نواب البرلمان الأوروبي لنيل جائزة&nbsp;"ساخاروف"لحقوق الإنسان في فئة حرية الفكر والحرية الروحية لسنة&nbsp;2018.</p><p class="western" dir="rtl">وقد برمج الاتحاد الأوروبي مناقشة وضعية حقوق الانسان بالمغرب في مقر البرلمان الأوروبي يوم الثلاثاء&nbsp;15 مايو/أيار الجاري.</p><p class="mag-quote-right" dir="rtl">يعيش المغرب منذ مدة على وقع تنامي حركات احتجاجية محلية</p><p class="western" dir="rtl">وبحسب سعيد العمراني، ناشط في لجنة دعم الحراك ببلجيكا، فإن&nbsp;المؤسسات المدنية الأوروبية تقوم بتحسيس الراي العام الأوروبي وجمع التقارير وتنبيه المسؤولين الأوروبيين والمغاربة حول التجاوزات التي تستهدف حقوق الانسان.أما المؤسسات الرسمية فهدفها هو&nbsp;مراقبة المغرب بخصوص الوفاء بالتزاماته تجاه اتفاقية الشراكة التي تنص علانية بحماية واحترام حقوق الانسان من طرف الدولة المغربية مما يشكل نوعا من الضغط على السلطات المغربية.</p><p class="western" dir="rtl">ويرى الكثير من المتتبعين لملف معتقلي الحراك، على أن&nbsp;هذه المتابعات تفتقر إلى أي سند قانوني يمكن أن تبني عليه.على اعتبار أن النشطاء المعتقلين عبروا بشكل سلمي عن مطالب اجتماعية واقتصادية وحقوقية كما يقول أحمد الهايج، رئيس الجمعية المغربية لحقوق الانسان&nbsp;(أكبر جمعية حقوقية في المغرب).في ما ترى الدولة أن النشطاء المتابعين على خلفية المشاركة في الحراك قاموا بأعمال تخريبية، كان القصد منها زعزعة أمن واستقرار البلد.وقد سبق أن اتهمت أحزاب الأغلبية المشكلة للحكومة حراك الريف بالانفصال وتلقي أموال من الخارج، وتوظيف المطالب الاجتماعية من أجل المس بالمؤسسات الدستورية المغربية.</p><p class="western" dir="rtl">ويعود أصل حراك الريف المغربي إلى يوم&nbsp;28 أكتوبر/تشرين الأول&nbsp;2016، حينما تعرّض بائع السمك محسن فكري&nbsp;(31سنة) إلى الطحن في شاحنة جمع القمامة، بعد احتجاجه على إتلاف أسماكه في الشاحنة نفسها.وقد أنتج عن هذا الحادث غضب واسع لدى شريحة واسعة من ساكنة الحسيمة والمناطق الريفية المجاورة، كما في كل التراب المغربي.مما أدى إلى اندلاع تظاهرات تنادي بالتحقيق في أسباب وفاة محسن فكري، وتطالب برفع الحيف عن منطقة الريف التي تعاني من مشاكل في الاقتصاد والصحة والتعليم.</p><p class="western" dir="rtl">ولازالت محاكمات معتقلي حراك الريف الذي يقدر عددهم بأكثر من&nbsp;450 شخص بحسب تقرير لمنظمة&nbsp;"هيومن رايتس ووتش"، مستمرة منذ أكثر من&nbsp;11 شهرا.</p><p class="western" dir="rtl">ويعيش المغرب منذ مدة على وقع تنامي حركات احتجاجية محلية تنادي في مجملها بمطالب اقتصادية واجتماعية.</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/north-africa-west-asia/Abdellatif-el-hamamouchi/morocco-protest-hoceima-rif-context">حراك الريف المغربي: القمع سيّد الموقف</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/north-africa-west-asia/mayssae-ajzannay/morocco-hoceima-protests-rif-repression"> المغرب: حراك الريف السلمي يُقمع</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/north-africa-west-asia/imad-stitou">استشهاد محسن فكري يكشف تاريخ طويل من الغضب في الريف المغربي</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/north-africa-west-asia/abdellatif-hamamouchi/seven-years-arab-spring-repression">في الذكرى السابعة للثورات العربية: لازال الاستبداد يهيمن على دول المنطقة</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Morocco </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Civil society </div> <div class="field-item even"> Democracy and government </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> North-Africa West-Asia North-Africa West-Asia Morocco Civil society Democracy and government Arabic language عبد اللطيف الحماموشي Fri, 11 May 2018 11:03:52 +0000 عبد اللطيف الحماموشي 117818 at https://www.opendemocracy.net The eyes of Iran and its children: ordinary lives, Iranian sanctions and Donald Trump’s rejection of the nuclear deal https://www.opendemocracy.net/sara-takafori/eyes-of-iran-and-its-children-ordinary-lives-iranian-sanctions-and-donald-trump-s-reje <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>On Tuesday night before the announcement, one ex-blogger wrote on Telegram how it seemed that Iran was engaged in early preparations for another New Year – everyone super alert.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/640px-Children_of_Iran_کودکان_در_ایران_04.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/640px-Children_of_Iran_کودکان_در_ایران_04.jpg" alt="lead " title="" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" width="460" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Children of Iran, December 2017. Wikicommons/ Mostafameraji. Some rights reserved.</span></span></span>On Tuesday night, I was on the plane coming back from giving a talk, when Donald Trump announced his rejection of the Iran nuclear deal. </p> <p>The subject of the talk, ironically, was the economic sanctions and the <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2012/oct/07/iran-santions-suffering">ordinary suffering</a> of Iranians. With a few exceptions, which sadly did not lead to more persistent and lasting attention, mainstream and western media accounts of economic sanctions have presented the nuclear dispute with Iran in a narrow and exclusionary framework which has focused on questions of the level of uranium enrichment, and the constant question mark posed over Iran’s compliance. </p> <p>Meanwhile whilst the technicalities are hotly debated, the pain and predicament of the bodies of ordinary Iranians bearing the weight of sanctions seems to have been either ignored and side-lined, or even worse, deemed <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2012/06/17/opinion/sunday/kristof-pinched-and-griping-in-iran.html">as the necessity which facilitates optimal success</a>. </p> <h2><strong>Life under sanctions</strong></h2> <p>During the last four years doing research on the politics of Iran’s social media as they related to life under the US-led sanctions, I often came across highly emotionally charged accounts where people would attempt to describe their lives as a way of documenting and lending legitimacy to their frustrations, despair and anger directed towards the imposers of the sanctions – not only those so often referred to in Iran as ‘the westerners’<span>,</span> but also the mostly conservative elements within the Iranian governing regime who wanted to pursue the nuclear program. &nbsp;</p> <p>The following is a Facebook comment posted in February 2015, a few months before the deal was struck. It is in the form of an informal letter addressed to Javad Zarif, as though the writer is drawing on a personal relationship in order to highlight a matter of great urgency:&nbsp; </p><blockquote><p>&nbsp;‘In what language do I need to say you that we don’t want nuclear energy? At what expense do we have nuclear power? At the expense of a sick child in his dad’s arms, dying because of not having enough money for drugs? At the expense of poverty and prostitution among the youth? At the expense of children sleeping with empty stomachs? At the expense of fathers losing their jobs? Really, at what expense? If we open our eyes [we see] economic sanctions have affected us, in fact affected us immensely. Really, people don’t deserve to live like this. […] You please do whatever you can with your own hands to lift the sanctions quickly. The eyes of Iran and its children are on you.’ </p></blockquote> <h2><strong>The spectators of suffering<a href="#_ftn1"><strong>[1]</strong></a></strong></h2> <p>I’ll be situating this in relation to what Iranians commonly feel to be a western lack of recognition of their suffering lives, what they refer to as their ‘despairing’ life and ‘broken backs’, a Farsi expression invoking the misery of existence. So, it was not a total surprise when I found myself agitated for the entire duration of the flight, for we had taken off just before the US president announced his decision on the fate of the nuclear deal.&nbsp; </p> <p>We had barely landed when, with a mixture of joy and distress, I heard the captain’s voice announcing that comforting phrase: ‘you may wish now to switch your phones on’. I checked my Telegram and Twitter for all the bad news updates even before I grabbed my hand luggage. I learned not only that the US would be <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2018/05/08/world/middleeast/trump-iran-nuclear-deal.html?emc=edit_na_20180508&amp;nl=breaking-news&amp;nlid=78959063ing-news&amp;ref=headline">abandoning</a> the long-sought agreement, but that it would also ensure the reimposition of the sanctions on Iran which had been lifted or postponed. </p> <p>And I was only one of millions sharing their distress: the Iranian social media platforms, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Telegram – the two latter amongst the most popular Farsi online platforms – were already accumulating the intensity of what everyone was feeling and thinking about the possible consequences of Trump’s speech. </p> <p>On my Telegram platform, people had already started constructing and mediating satire and jokes, and also capturing feelings of vulnerability, frustration, fear and anger. Telegram is amongst the most popular social media applications for the ordinary Iranian public, yet <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/world/2018/apr/18/iran-prepares-to-block-messaging-app-telegram">the most controversial and provocative</a> one under the ruling class’s eagle eyes (it doesn’t take much time to figure out there isn’t a happy marriage between the Iranian public and the conservative governing regimes). </p> <p>One of my regular reads is an ex-blogger who had left off blogging – ‘weblogistan’ is now a graveyard of dead sites – to try her luck on Telegram. She has been writing about everyday life and has over three thousand subscribers. That night she wrote how it seemed that Iran was engaged in early preparations for another New Year – everyone super alert, sitting and waiting excitedly to hear the fireworks. Her daughters, already in bed, were waiting for Trump’s decision; the youngest one, poking her head out from under the duvet, sleepily asked: ‘is he in or out?’.&nbsp;&nbsp; </p> <p>Far away from her, I was barely able to sit on my seat during the flight, desperate to hear whether Trump was ripping up so many hearts and hopes. It is true that since 2015, and the sheer euphoria over the final nuclear deal between Iran and the ‘5+1’ global powers, ordinary people’s lives have not gone back to ‘normal’. Nevertheless, the hope persists in the public, the hope for an eventual sanctions-free future.&nbsp; </p> <p>The prospect of a nuclear deal had been the subject of everyday household talk in Iran – something we would talk about over dinner, or at parties, weddings and funeral gatherings. After 2010’s Comprehensive Sanctions Act (CISADA), when sanctions began to seriously bite into ordinary lives, the prospect of an agreement seemed unbelievable, or at least not on the cards any time soon. When Barack Obama announced the deal, taking pride and joy in what he called at the time <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2015/04/06/world/middleeast/obama-strongly-defends-iran-nuclear-deal.html">‘our best bet’</a>, it was not only perceived as a victory for the then US president and his European counterparts; it was caressed by ordinary Iranians as the hope they longed for. </p> <h2><strong>‘Broken backs’</strong></h2> <p>Since the 1979 revolution, which resulted in the establishment of the Islamic Republic, Iran has been under various types of sanctions, but the intensified sanctions on Iran effectively began in 2006 and reached their climax in 2010.&nbsp; In response to allegations concerning Iran’s attempts to develop a nuclear weapons capacity, the UN Security Council imposed additional sanctions, which were binding upon all member states.&nbsp; Meanwhile, the US continued unilaterally expanding its punitive measures. The US also threatened punitive measures against any countries trading with Iran – an act which was criticized even by US allies as extra-territorial interference. &nbsp;Joy Gordon points out that the set of sanctions called (CISADA) or the Comprehensive Iran Sanctions, Accountability, and Divestment Act <a href="http://foreignpolicy.com/2013/10/18/the-human-costs-of-the-iran-sanctions/">were the severest measures against Iran, with strong similarities to the disastrous sanctions on Iraq in the 1990s</a>. &nbsp;As Erica Moret, a senior researcher at the Institute of International and Development Studies and chair of the Geneva International Sanctions Network explains, economic sanctions <a href="https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/09662839.2014.893427">went well beyond the authorized</a> sanctions by the UN Security Council resolutions, and have had broad, indiscriminate effects on economic and social life in Iran, in particular on the availability of medicine and cost of imported goods.&nbsp; They also affected Iran’s energy sector, and not only the cost but the safety of transportation: plane crashes were frequent, given that Iran wasn’t allowed to obtain spare parts for its aircraft.</p> <h2><strong>In or out?</strong></h2> <p>As I write this, I give myself a break to chat on Facebook with a long-time friend of mine in Iran. The conversation starts with him saying ‘hey, every minute I feel more and more disgusted by what is happening. The worst thing is to take away the hope from people, and this is something which, by an amazing stroke of luck, both “the inside” and “the outside” are generous enough to do for us’. &nbsp;&nbsp;</p> <p>I felt his bitter sarcasm in my heart. He did not even need to explain what he meant by the terms ‘inside’ and ‘outside’: we both knew them from all the discussions that had publicly emerged on social media, first on Facebook and latterly, when the star of Facebook began to fade, on Twitter and Telegram. </p> <p>Last night, I spent hours navigating what was being said. These terms had yet again returned, surfacing in online discussions around the unlikely proximity of hardliners and conservatives in Iran to hardliners in the United States, given that all of them had been hostile to the deal from the moment it was signed. </p> <p>The success of Dr Hassan Rouhani’s presidential campaign in 2013 in mobilising people was precisely due to his invocation of a hope that the economic sanctions would come to an end, and with that the promise that a better life will emerge; Hassan Rouhani was able to generate this hope by granting the Iranian public an acknowledgement and recognition of their pain and suffering, long denied both by &nbsp;western countries, but also by Iranian conservatives. Let’s remember Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s famous statement that the sanctions did not have any effect on ordinary people: they were ‘a torn piece of paper’! </p> <h2><strong>Risks?</strong></h2> <p>So I write now to highlight the importance of bringing the vulnerability of bodies in pain and the precariousness of lives – children suffering shortages of medicine, people with chronic disease, the bitterness of people not being able to provide for their families – back into a political sphere currently alive with discussions on Iran’s nuclear programme and sanctions.&nbsp; </p> <p>Yet again, in that part of the political sphere which gets the spotlight – especially in the European Union countries – attention is wholly occupied with analyses, ideas, and hypotheses about the future of trade with Iran, and the ‘risks’ – to people or business? – of reducing engagement. This is why I am a social media enthusiast – for its role in bringing to the surface those fragments of everyday lives which do not always cohere outside it, for bitterly angry people who do not watch what they say, who do not mind at all that what they say does not count within the so called ‘real’ political sphere, with its traditional or ‘legacy’ media.&nbsp; </p> <p>Believe me, compared with the scale of destruction and interruption of ordinary life wrought by the economic sanctions over the years, I now consider as banal my occasional – though traumatising – arrests by the infamous morality police in Tehran for not wearing my scarf ‘properly’. This, if you like, was part of an everyday mundane practice of resistance and not that disruptive – at least then I could hold onto a job, in between getting notices to attend the police station. </p> <hr size="1" /> <p><a href="#_ftnref1">[1]</a> The phrase is borrowed from the title of the book <em>The Spectatorship of Suffering</em> (2006) by Lilie Chouliaraki. </p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/paul-rogers/target-tehran">Target Tehran</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/mary-fitzgerald/trump-s-folly-with-iran-means-europe-must-show-what-it-stands-for">Trump’s folly with Iran means Europe must show what it stands for</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/north-africa-west-asia/kourosh-ziabari/iran-deal-when-american-and-iranian-conservatives-are-on-same">The &quot;Iran deal&quot;: when American and Iranian conservatives are on the same side</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Iran </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Civil society </div> <div class="field-item even"> Conflict </div> <div class="field-item odd"> International politics </div> <div class="field-item even"> Internet </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> North-Africa West-Asia Iran Civil society Conflict International politics Internet Sara Tafakori Fri, 11 May 2018 10:17:48 +0000 Sara Tafakori 117830 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Why does Britain keep rolling out its monarchy to impress tyrants? https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/andrew-smith/why-do-we-keep-rolling-out-monarchy-to-impress-tyrants <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p class="Standard">For decades the UK monarchy has been wheeled out to impress human rights abusers to whom Britain is keen to sell arms. This weekend, it’s Bahrain’s turn.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p class="Standard"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/549093/queen bahrain.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/549093/queen bahrain.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="341" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span><em>Image: Queen Elizabeth and the King of Bahrain Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa at last year's Royal Windsor Horse Show. Credit: Nick Ansell/PA Images, all rights reserved.</em></p><p class="Standard">“<em>I believe that the links and knowledge, the experience and the friendships that have been built up over the last hundred years still stand us in good stead today, and will do in the future</em>.” <a href="https://www.royal.uk/saudia-arabia-state-banquet-buckingham-palace-30-october-2007">These were the warm words</a> of Queen Elizabeth when she hosted a banquet to welcome King Abudllah of Saudi Arabia in 2007. At the time of the visit the <a href="https://www.amnesty.org.uk/press-releases/saudi-arabia-human-rights-briefing-30-october-2007">Saudi authorities had been accused</a> of widespread torture, abuses and executions.</p> <p class="Standard">11 years later she provided <a href="https://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/middle-east/mohammad-bin-salman-prince-uk-london-visit-saudi-media-reports-latest-a8244276.html">an equally warm greeting</a> for Mohammad Bin Salman, the current Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia. During a three day visit to London this March he received the reddest of red carpet visits: enjoying lunch with the Queen at Buckingham Palace, photos on the steps of Downing Street and <a href="http://www.arabnews.com/node/1261591/saudi-arabia">d</a><a href="http://www.arabnews.com/node/1261591/saudi-arabia">inner with Prince William and Prince Charles</a> at Clarence House. Amidst the mutually fawning photographs, the Crown Prince’s visit was widely protested due to his central role in the ongoing destruction of Yemen.</p> <p class="Standard">This weekend it will be the turn of Bahraini Royalty to enjoy the Queen’s hospitality: with the regime descending on Windsor for the Royal Windsor Horse Show. The delegation is likely to be led by King Hamad bin Isa al-Khalifa, who has been a regular attendee of the show and whose government <a href="https://www.rwhs.co.uk/expect-chi-royal-windsor-horse-show/">is sponsoring one of the events</a>.</p> <p class="Standard">The hosts will pull out all the stops to ensure that King Hamad and his entourage enjoy the event, but more important to their guests will be the propaganda coup they’ll gain from it. The images of the Queen and King Hamad will be broadcast all over the world and will send a very clear message of support.</p> <p class="Standard">For decades now, the UK Monarchy has been used as a diplomatic device to impress despots, tyrants and human rights abusers. <a href="http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-4178518/Is-Trump-worse-Assad-Unsavoury-leaders-Queen-met.html">Past guests include</a> Bashar Al-Assad of Syria, Vladamir Putin, Robert Mugabe, President Suaharto of Indonesia among others. In 2012 the Diamond Jubilee <a href="https://www.mirror.co.uk/news/uk-news/kate-middleton-mingles-with-dictators-and-despots-839610">was attended by</a> the King of Swaziland and reps from Kuwait, Jordan, Brunei, Qatar and Saudi Arabia among others.</p> <p class="Standard"><strong>Arms sales and Royalty</strong></p> <p class="Standard">The Royal family isn’t just used to offer prestige, it has also been used to promote trade and, more specifically, arms sales. The regimes that the Queen and her family are used to entice are many of the same ones that the government is directly lobbying for arms sales and military support.</p> <p class="Standard">Bahrain, for example, is listed as one of the governments ‘<a href="https://www.parliament.uk/business/publications/written-questions-answers-statements/written-question/Commons/2016-07-06/42006/">priority markets</a>’ for arms sales: with successive UK governments having licensed <a href="https://www.caat.org.uk/resources/export-licences/licence?region=Bahrain&amp;use=military&amp;date_from=2011-02&amp;date_to=2017-09">over £80million worth of arms</a> to the Bahraini military since the ‘Arab Spring’ uprising in 2011.</p> <p class="Standard">In 2015 Prince Charles said he would <a href="http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-12663378">no longer let himself be used</a> to promote arms deals. This followed the controversy generated by his appearance at the <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/world/blog/2013/apr/04/janadriyah-heritage-festival-saudi-identity">al Janadriyah cultural festival</a> in Saudi Arabia, which was sponsored by BAE Systems. While at the event Charles even took part in a traditional Saudi dance, which took place <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/defence-and-security-blog/2014/feb/24/arms-gulf-prince-charles">24 hours before</a> BAE, the UK government and Saudi forces agreed a final price on a major fighter jet deal.</p> <p class="Standard">It wasn’t his first time acting as an ambassador for the arms industry. In a 1994 documentary Charles visited a Dubai arms fair, defending his presence on the basis that he was boosting UK trade, and if the UK didn’t sell the weapons then someone else would. Human rights journalist John Pilger <a href="https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/prince-pulls-back-from-arms-role-in-middle-east-wncw5dzswjk">quoted the Prince</a> as boasting that “<em><a href="https://www.independent.co.uk/news/people/prince-charles-does-not-want-to-be-used-to-promote-british-weapons-sales-in-middle-east-10019816.html">We’re really rather good at making certain kinds of weapons</a>.”</em></p> <p class="Standard">Likewise, Prince Andrew has long been linked to arms promotion. Prior to his resignation from the role in 2011, Andrew worked as a Special Representative for Trade and Investment. In that role he was <a href="http://www.channel4.com/news/prince-andrew-cheerleader-in-chief-for-the-arms-industry">linked to lobbying</a> for arms sales to Indonesia, Azerbaijan and a litany of other dictatorships.</p> <p class="Standard">Andrew also attended the Farnborough Airshow, a major showpiece of the UK arms industry, where he met senior figures from the Jordanian, Malaysian and Indian defence ministries. Wikileaks cables revealed that he was also close to the Saudi Royal Family and <a href="http://www.theguardian.com/uk/2010/nov/30/prince-andrew-wikileaks-cables">criticised</a> the Serious Fraud Office investigation into BAE bribery.</p> <p class="Standard">Referring to Prince Andrew’s forays (although the point could easily be made about Royalty more general), a Royal spokesperson <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/uk/2011/mar/09/prince-andrew-saga-of-embarrassments">told the Guardian</a>, <em>“He comes in as the son of the Queen and that opens doors that otherwise would remain closed. He can raise problems with a crown prince and four or five weeks later we discover that the difficulties have been overcome and the contract can be signed.”</em></p> <p class="Standard"><strong>Horses in Windsor and repression in Bahrain</strong></p> <p class="Standard">There is a human cost to this kind of cosy lobbying. The aftermath of last year’s Windsor Horse Show saw abuses inflicted the families of Bahrainis in the UK who planned to protest against the event. Bahraini security forces <a href="https://uk.reuters.com/article/uk-bahrain-rights/three-activists-held-in-bahrain-after-uk-horse-show-protest-idUKKBN1890S1">detained the families</a> of three activists in a clear effort to intimidate and quash their opposition.</p> <p class="Standard">As one of those affected has said: <em>“<em>Before even reaching the Horse Show grounds, our family members were arrested and interrogated by security forces at the Muharraq Police Station. From there, they were forced to call us and warn us about what the consequences would be if we continued with our protests in the UK.</em>”</em></p> <p class="Standard">It has become a cliché to say that a picture speaks a thousand words, but the clear message this weekend’s images will send to people living under oppression in Bahrain is that their rights don’t matter. If the UK establishment cares about their human rights then it must finally end the arms sales and stop providing photo-ops and PR victories for those that are oppressing them.</p> <p class="Standard"><em><strong>Bahrainis in exile in the UK have called on human rights campaigners to protest in solidarity outside the horse show on Saturday 12th May. Find out more </strong><a href="https://www.facebook.com/events/415118438913877/"><strong>here</strong></a><strong>.</strong></em></p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/north-africa-west-asia/husain-abdulla/bahrain-undeclared-martial-law">Bahrain: “Undeclared Martial Law”</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/ourkingdom/harry-blain/will-prince-charles%27-heartfelt-interventions-extend-to-arms-sales">Will Prince Charles&#039; &quot;heartfelt interventions&quot; extend to arms sales?</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/north-africa-west-asia/karim-zidan/fight-sports-diplomacy-bahrain-s-mma-venture-distracts-from-tension-human">Sports diplomacy: Bahrain’s martial arts venture distracts from human rights abuses </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/north-africa-west-asia/sam-jones/prosecuting-politics-judicial-assault-on-bahrain-s-opposition">Prosecuting politics: the judicial assault on Bahrain’s opposition</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> uk North-Africa West-Asia uk Andrew Smith Fri, 11 May 2018 07:00:00 +0000 Andrew Smith 117801 at https://www.opendemocracy.net US Iran policy is driven more by psychology than geopolitics https://www.opendemocracy.net/north-africa-west-asia/negin-shahiar/us-iran-policy-is-driven-more-by-psychology-than-geopolitics <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Could Trump’s mark of a successful term in office be the degree to which he erases Obama’s presidency?</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/562712/PA-36388964.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/562712/PA-36388964.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="321" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>A man watches the news broadcast on U.S. withdrawal from the Iran nuclear deal at a teahouse in central Tehran on May 8, 2018. Picture by Ahmad Halabsiaz/Xinhua News Agency/PA Images. All rights reserved. </span></span></span>My visit to Tehran in July 2015 overlapped with a critical juncture in U.S.-Iran relations. Iranians poured into the streets to celebrate when the P5+1 and Iran struck a nuclear deal after twenty months of negotiations. Men and women danced in the middle of traffic,&nbsp;whilered, white, and green fireworks lit up the streets.&nbsp;</p><p>For the first time since the 1979 Iranian Revolution, the U.S. and Iran had successfully engaged in diplomacy. No one in the crowd that day could have known that within just three years, the deal, and U.S.-Iran relations, would again unravel.<br /><br />Since his election to office, U.S. President Donald Trump repeatedly denounced the nuclear accord as&nbsp;<a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/lisa-ten-brinke/year-of-trump-rhetorical-bluster-or-dangerous-new-reality">“the worst deal ever negotiated,”</a><a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/lisa-ten-brinke/year-of-trump-rhetorical-bluster-or-dangerous-new-reality">&nbsp;</a>and he spurred headlines around the world on May 8th with his&nbsp;<a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2018/05/08/world/middleeast/trump-iran-nuclear-deal.html">decision to reinstate sanctions on Tehran</a>. Such a move violates the JCPOA and signals U.S. withdrawal from the agreement. As the world waited in anticipation of Trump’s announcement, I spoke with several U.S.-Iran experts to hear their insights into why diplomacy succeeded, and why it may now fall apart. My interviews led me to the troubling finding that U.S. policy toward Iran may be driven more by psychology than by geopolitics.<br /><br />Under Barack Obama’s administration, the U.S. pursued diplomacy, because as Iranian policymaker and scholar Seyed Hossein Mousavian pointed out, the alternative may have been conflict. Interestingly, Obama and former Secretary of State John Kerry’s personal backgrounds may have driven the administration’s decision to eliminate the possibility of war.&nbsp;</p><p>According to former White House staffer and advisor on the nuclear deal Ben Rhodes, Obama opposed war due to his upbringing in Indonesia, where “power was not some abstract thing,” given the brutal dictatorship of President Suharto. “I don’t think there’s ever been an American president who experienced power like that at such a young age,”&nbsp;<a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2016/05/08/magazine/the-aspiring-novelist-who-became-obamas-foreign-policy-guru.html" target="_blank">Rhodes remarked</a>.</p><p>Trita Parsi, who is the founder and president of the National Iranian American Council, contended that Kerry, likewise, was determined to pursue peace over war because of his experiences as a soldier in the Vietnam War. Speaking with tears in his eyes after the signing of the nuclear deal,&nbsp;<a href="https://www.weeklystandard.com/shoshana-weissmann/kerry-invokes-vietnam-at-iran-talks-i-never-wanted-to-go-to-war-again" target="_blank">Kerry shared with U.S. and Iranian officials</a>, “when I was 22, I went to war. I went to war, and it became clear to me that I never wanted to go to war again.”<br /><br />While the personal backgrounds of Obama and Kerry may have shaped the success of the nuclear deal, Trump’s own psychology is now determining its unraveling. Although Trump claims that he opposes the accord because it is a&nbsp;<a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/lisa-ten-brinke/year-of-trump-rhetorical-bluster-or-dangerous-new-reality">“disaster,”</a>&nbsp;senior fellow at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace Karim Sadjadpour argued that Trump’s antagonism of the agreement is unrelated to its clauses. “He clearly hasn’t read the deal, because his criticism is never specific,” Sadjadpour noted.&nbsp;</p><p>Instead, as Sadjadpour, Mousavian, and Parsi agreed, the decision against re-certifying Iran’s compliance with the accord is related more to Obama than to Trump. “Trump absolutely hates the idea of re-certifying an Obama-era accomplishment,” Parsi remarked. Mousavian agreed, contending that U.S. policy on the nuclear deal is driven by Trump’s “passion to undo Obama’s legacy.”&nbsp;</p><p class="mag-quote-left">Trump’s decision is rooted in his determination to reverse his predecessor’s legacy</p><p>Could Trump’s mark of a successful term in office be the degree to which he erases Obama’s presidency? Notably, Trump has undone several of Obama’s accomplishments, as he pulled out of the Trans-Pacific Partnership and the Paris climate accord. He even entered the political scene by attacking Obama, questioning his birthplace as well as his level of education.<br /><br />In his seminal work&nbsp;<em>The Persian Puzzle: The Conflict Between Iran and America</em>, U.S.-Middle East analyst Kenneth Pollack points to the absence of a coherent U.S. policy toward Iran since the 1979 Revolution. Unfortunately, fifteen years after the book’s publication, U.S. policy, and now the future of the nuclear deal, remain unclear.&nbsp;</p><p>My interviews suggest that the inconsistency may be a result of the impact of the psychology of U.S. presidents and their cabinets on foreign policy. That is, Trump’s decision to reinstate sanctions is not rooted in the U.S. national interest but in his own determination to reverse his predecessor’s legacy.&nbsp;</p><p>Such a finding is not only troubling but dangerous, because it implies that the relationship between two international powers, which plays a key role in ensuring the stability of the region as a whole, is at one statesman’s mercy. As Parsi pointed out, U.S. withdrawal from the accord will be disastrous not only for Iran but for the U.S., too. “Why would you trust the U.S. when it walks back on its own word?” Parsi remarked. “More importantly, why would you trust the duration of any agreement with the U.S. when it is only going to last as long as a presidential term limit?”</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/north-africa-west-asia/mehrdad-khonsari/europe-must-honour-its-commitments-and-protect-nuclear-deal">Europe must honour its commitments: protect the nuclear deal</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/north-africa-west-asia/kourosh-ziabari/iran-deal-when-american-and-iranian-conservatives-are-on-same">The &quot;Iran deal&quot;: when American and Iranian conservatives are on the same side</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/north-africa-west-asia/amir-ahmadi-arian/colonial-roots-of-trump-s-discourse-on-iran">The colonial roots of Trump’s discourse on Iran</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Iran </div> <div class="field-item even"> United States </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> International politics </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> North-Africa West-Asia North-Africa West-Asia United States Iran International politics nuclear deal Donal Trump Negin Shahiar Fri, 11 May 2018 06:31:42 +0000 Negin Shahiar 117805 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Target Tehran https://www.opendemocracy.net/paul-rogers/target-tehran <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Israel's air attacks in Syria signal the wider war it seeks. Now for the White House... </p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/1024px-Aerial_View_of_Central_Tehran.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/1024px-Aerial_View_of_Central_Tehran.jpg" alt="lead " title="" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" width="460" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Aerial view of central Tehran, 2008. Flickr/Ensie & Matthias. Some rights reserved.</span></span></span>In the early hours of 10 May, a rocket attack into the Israel-controlled Golan heights was followed by a series of Israeli Defence Forces (IDF) airstrikes into Syria. At the time of writing details are sketchy, but the latter – involving more than fifty raids that widely <a href="https://www.haaretz.com/middle-east-news/syria/israel-launches-extensive-syria-strike-after-iranian-rocket-barrage-1.6073938">targeted</a> Iran's military infrastructure in Syria – are evidently substantial. The timing of this confrontation, just hours after President Trump announced the United States's withdrawal from the multilateral treaty over Iran's nuclear <a href="https://www.iaea.org/newscenter/focus/iran/chronology-of-key-events">programme</a>, gives it added significance.</p><p>The first incident started when two mobile Uragan rocket-launchers were used to fire around twenty unguided BM-27 short-range rockets across the border towards Israeli forces deployed in the <a href="http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-middle-east-14724842">Golan</a>, which was among the territory taken by Israel in the six-day war of 1967.&nbsp; </p><p>The BM-27 is a 1970s-vintage Soviet system, and some rockets were reportedly intercepted by the IDF's "iron dome" anti-missile system. There were no reports of Israeli casualties. Israel claims that the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) was responsible, and Israel responded with a major series of air- and missile-attacks on <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2018/05/10/world/middleeast/israel-iran-syria-military.html">dozens</a> of targets in Syria, mainly sites linked to the IRGC.</p><p>If this is confirmed as an Iranian operation, it would be only the second by the IRGC into Israel, the first coming in February when a small armed-drone was <a href="https://www.timesofisrael.com/army-intercepts-iranian-drone-that-breached-israeli-borders/">fired</a> across the northern Israel border. There are three likely motives, the first two at heart political: straightforward retaliation for the hundred or so raids that Israel has conducted into Syria, and a response to Trump’s withdrawal from the nuclear treaty in a way that also raised the domestic status of the <a href="http://www.dw.com/en/what-is-irans-revolutionary-guard/a-40948522">IRGC</a> at a time of political unity within Iran. The third motive is military: to test the effectiveness of Israeli defences and to assess the strength of the Israeli response. By turn, the very strong Israeli response was necessary for domestic solidarity and a reminder to Iran of Israeli capabilities. </p><p>The rockets fired by the IRGC did little damage to the Israeli positions, but the Iranians would have prepared for an intense IDF response. The physical <a href="https://www.timesofisrael.com/satellite-captures-destruction-on-syrian-base-after-alleged-israeli-strike/">impact </a>apart, most of the personnel and key equipment was likely dispersed. IRGC assessors will now analyse the nature of the attack, especially if earth-penetrating bunker-busting bombs were used, and use the experience to plan their further <a href="http://iranprimer.usip.org/blog/2018/apr/10/iran-syria-part-1">deployments</a> in Syria, with Hizbollah allies drawing lessons for their own bases in Lebanon.</p><p><strong>The bigger picture </strong></p><p>Behind this sudden escalation is a wider <a href="https://legacy.lib.utexas.edu/maps/middle_east_and_asia/israel_nbr90.jpg">context</a> which it may be helpful to outline. A recent <a href="http://www.oxfordresearchgroup.org.uk/">Oxford Research Group</a> briefing on the US-UK-France attack on Syria argued that the main beneficiaries from that attack would actually be Syria-Russia-Iran. For Bashar al-Assad's regime, the symbolic nature of the <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/paul-rogers/after-syria-raid-what-next">attack</a> gave Damascus free rein to use any method short of chemical weapons to win the war. The Russians were satisfied that their influence in Syria would be maintained, and the Iranians were assured they could keep their security forces in Syria and continue to aid Hizbollah with few problems (see "<a href="http://www.oxfordresearchgroup.org.uk/publications/paul_rogers_monthly_briefing/syria_attack_motives_and_consequences">The Syria Attack: Motives and Consequences</a>", ORG, 24 April 2018).</p><p>Israel, by contrast, was anything but happy. It had expected a more severe attack that would have signalled to Russia and especially Iran that the United States and its allies would not allow them to expand their influence. A recent column in this <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/author/paul-rogers">series</a> took this point further, arguing that Israel was already engaged in an extensive indirect war against Iran – primarily through airstrikes on Syria, of which there have been around a hundred so far (see "<a href="https://opendemocracy.net/paul-rogers/israel-vs-iran-looming-war">Israel vs Iran, a looming war</a>", 18 April 2018).&nbsp; </p><p>In this environment, Trump’s decision to withdraw from the Iran nuclear agreement will have been hugely welcomed by Israel's prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu. He heads a notably hawkish government that sees Iran as by far the greatest security threat to Israel, the <a href="https://www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2015/02/on-existential-threats/385638/">term</a> “existential threat” never being far away. The Saudis may not go that far, yet they see Iran as their own greatest danger and will also be pleased with Trump’s decision.</p><p>European reaction, by contrast, has been swift. The European Union, after all, is a signatory to the nuclear <a href="http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-middle-east-33521655 ">treaty</a> along with the five permanent members of the UN Security Council and Germany. This demonstrates a serious concern that Trump’s decision will increase geopolitical tensions even further, sharpen the risk of a major Israel-Iran war, and even open the possibility of US-led regime termination in Tehran. Many security analysts may see such warnings as doom-mongering, but a serious examination of the current situation gives them some support.&nbsp;&nbsp; </p><p>It is becoming clear that a policy of full-scale containment of Iran is being advocated in Washington. Evidence of this relates not just to events in Syria, but also to an increasing and direct involvement of the US military in aiding the Saudis in their <a href="https://www.cfr.org/interactives/global-conflict-tracker?marker-7#!/conflict/war-in-yemen">war </a>against the Iran-backed Houthis in Yemen.</p><p>An illuminating insight here is is given by the Pentagon's reported commercial request on 30 April to potential contractors able to provide emergency casualty evacuation for US special forces in Yemen. The US Transportation Command, it says, is conducting market research to identify "air carriers operating ballistic-protected fixed-wing and rotary-wing aircraft capable of providing medical and casualty evacuation services" within Yemen and “all surrounding countries, waterways, and the Horn of Africa” (see Kyle Rempfer, "<a href="https://www.militarytimes.com/flashpoints/2018/05/08/dod-exploring-medevac-options-for-special-operations-forces-within-yemen/">DoD exploring medevac options for special operations forces within Yemen</a>", Military Times, 9 May 2018).</p><p>This follows reports that a team of US army Green Beret special-forces troops arrived in Saudi Arabia in late 2017 to help pinpoint the location of ballistic-missile launchers and their missile caches in Houthi-controlled parts of the country (see "<a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2018/05/03/us/politics/green-berets-saudi-yemen-border-houthi.html ">Army Special Forces Secretly Help Saudis Combat Threat From Yemen Rebels</a>", <em>New York Times</em>, 3 May 2018).&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; </p><p>The point about contracting out "casevac" operations to a private security company is that the Pentagon sees its operations in Yemen as long-term commitments: part of a wider containment policy towards Iran which, from the point of view of the hawks around Trump, is an essential part of turning round the consequences of the disastrous war in Iraq that gave Iran greatly increased influence in the region.</p><p><strong>The next escalation?</strong></p><p>In turn, that leaves the question of whether Trump’s team are engaged only in containment of Iran – or want something much more. For people like John Bolton, the new national-security adviser, the answer was provided by George W Bush’s state-of-the-union address in January 2002 that extended the war on terror to an “<a href="https://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/shows/tehran/axis/map.html">axis of evil</a>” (composed initially of Iraq, Iran and North Korea). These states threatened the "new American century" advocated by the neo-conservative right, and thus had to be brought to book. But the <a href="https://www.washingtonexaminer.com/revisiting-the-axis-of-evil-15-years-after-george-w-bush-coined-the-term">consequences</a> were alarming: Saddam Hussein's regime was dealt with but the effort ended up strengthening Iran, while North Korea has not just survived under Kim Jong Un but is now a nuclear power.</p><p>Trump, now looking forward to strutting the world stage alongside Kim Jong-Un, <a href="http://thehill.com/homenews/administration/387010-cnn-trump-to-meet-with-kim-jong-un-in-singapore">reportedly</a> in Singapore, may think he can close the deal with North Korea. But the bigger issue is actually Israel, whose prime minister sees Iran as an urgent matter that has to be fixed. But if the aim is regime termination in Tehran, the United States must be heavily involved. Here, the security advisers closest to Trump are key to understanding the <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/paul-rogers/trump-wars-era">risk</a> of war. </p><p>Even apart from the reliably strong support for Israel in the United States's upper echelons, Netanyahu can count on three people close to Trump on matters of national security. Mike Pence, the vice-president, is a religious conservative with very strong <a href="http://yalebooks.co.uk/display.asp?k=9780300116984">Christian Zionist</a> tendencies. If Israel is ordained by God to prepare the way for the "end times", then for Pence the matter of getting rid of the Iranian leadership is hardly a big deal (see "<a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/conflict/article_2329.jsp ">Christian Zionists and neocons: a heavenly marriage</a>", 3 February 2005; and "<a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/paul-rogers/trump-pence-jerusalem-christian-zionism-connection">Trump, Pence, Jerusalem: the Christian Zionism connection</a>", 14 December 2017). </p><p>Mike Pompeo, the former CIA head now at the state department, is not far behind <a href="https://www.whitehouse.gov/people/mike-pence/">Pence</a> in his religious zeal for Israel. But the most important of the trio is the ultra-assertive realist John Bolton. His uncompromising views on Iran were expressed succinctly in the <em>New York Times</em> in 2016:</p><p>“The inescapable conclusion is that Iran will not negotiate away its nuclear program. Nor will sanctions block its building a broad and deep weapons infrastructure. The inconvenient truth is that only military action like Israel’s 1981 attack on Saddam Hussein’s Osirak reactor in Iraq or its 2007 destruction of a Syrian reactor, designed and built by North Korea, can accomplish what is required. Time is terribly short, but a strike can still succeed.” (see Jacob Heilbrunn, "<a href="http://nationalinterest.org/feature/trump-starting-war-iran-25751?utm_source=Sailthru&amp;utm_medium=email&amp;utm_campaign=ebb%205-9&amp;utm_term=Editorial%20-%20Early%20Bird%20Brief">Is Trump Starting a War with Iran?</a>", <em>National Interest</em>, 8 May 2018).</p><p>From Netanyahu's <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/paul-rogers/christian-zionism-and-netanyahu%27s-speech">standpoint</a>, this may all seem very positive. But there is a catch. The US is heading towards the mid-term congressional elections in November and Trump’s Republicans could well take a beating, especially if North Korea fails to play ball. Trump could then be seriously weakened. In any case, there is no guarantee that Bolton or Pompeo will survive in their posts for long. The Israeli leader may have everything going his way now, but that may not last the year. </p><p>The IRGC/IDF <a href="https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/middle_east/israel-says-retaliation-just-thetip-of-the-iceberg-after-iran-blamed-for-overnight-strikes/2018/05/10/bd2fde18-53e8-11e8-a6d4-ca1d035642ce_story.html?noredirect=on">escalation</a> might be followed by a brief pause. But Israel could well soon decide to intensify the air operations against the Iranians in Syria still further, sufficient to provoke them into much more than firing a clutch of 1970s-vintage rockets. If Netanyahu really wants Iran brought to its knees and needs Washington to lead the way, then time may be short. This is yet one more reason for European governments to put every pressure they can on Trump to hold back. There is no guarantee that they will succeed.&nbsp; </p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-read-on"> <div class="field-label"> 'Read On' Sidebox:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p><a href="http://www.brad.ac.uk/peace/index.php"><span><span>Department of peace studies, Bradford University</span></span></a></p><p>Paul Rogers, <a href="http://www.oxfordresearchgroup.org.uk/publications/books/irregular_war_isis_and_new_threat_margins"><em>Irregular War: ISIS and the New Threat from the Margins</em> </a>(IB Tauris, 2016)</p><p><span><span><a href="http://www.oxfordresearchgroup.org.uk/">Oxford Research Group</a></span></span></p><p>Abbas Amanat, <span class="st"><a href="http://yalebooks.co.uk/display.asp?k=9780300112542"><em>Iran: A Modern History</em></a> (Yale University Press, 2018)<br /></span></p><p>Yassin Al-Haj Saleh, <a href="https://www.hurstpublishers.com/book/the-impossible-revolution/"><em>The Impossible Revolution: Making Sense of the Syrian Tragedy</em></a> (C Hurst, 2017)</p><p>Christopher Phillips, <a href="https://yalebooks.yale.edu/book/9780300217179/battle-syria"><em>The Battle for Syria: International Rivalry in the New Middle East</em></a> (Yale University Press, 2016)</p><p><span class="st"><em>Victoria</em> Clark, <a href="http://yalebooks.co.uk/display.asp?k=9780300116984"><em>Allies for Armageddon: The Rise of Christian Zionism</em></a> (Yale University Press, 2007)</span></p><p><a href="http://www.merip.org/">Middle East Research and Information Project (MERIP)</a></p> </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/paul-rogers/israel-vs-iran-looming-war">Israel vs Iran, a looming war</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/paul-rogers/after-syria-raid-what-next">After the Syria raid, what next?</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/paul-rogers/syrias-wars-new-dynamic">Syria&#039;s wars: a new dynamic</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/paul-rogers/isis-in-eleven-shades-of-black">ISIS, in eleven shades of black </a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/paul-rogers/syriairaq-and-regional-war">Syria-Iraq, and a regional war</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/paul-rogers/syria-iraq-and-beyond-octopus-wars">Syria-Iraq and beyond: octopus wars</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/paul-rogers/syria-proxy-war">Syria, the proxy war</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> North-Africa West-Asia global security Paul Rogers Thu, 10 May 2018 19:52:13 +0000 Paul Rogers 117797 at https://www.opendemocracy.net "Big Brother": the art of subversion https://www.opendemocracy.net/north-africa-west-asia/maged-mandour/big-brother-art-of-subversion <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Art achieves its highest purpose when it questions the structures of power in a society. A goal that "Big Brother", a satirical show in Egypt, achieves.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/549460/27540521_1832105710179890_7237444260955938874_n_0.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title="Big Brother. Mada Masr"><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/549460/27540521_1832105710179890_7237444260955938874_n_0.jpg" alt="Big Brother. Mada Masr" title="Big Brother. Mada Masr" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" width="460" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Big Brother. Mada Masr</span></span></span>On one of the many evenings when my Egyptian compatriots and I gather to watch sports, play PlayStation, and of course discuss politics, a close friend introduced me to a new satirical show on YouTube called “<a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L0A8nmCi_1E&amp;list=PL2b4XFUJwARHx3XQJ9TH_4zzOoaQuf7vZ">Big Brother</a>”. This show is produced by Mada Masr, one of the few truly independent news outlets in Egypt.</p> <p>Even though I am not a qualified critic, I was incredibly impressed by the short video clips and felt compelled to write and highlight the possible impact these videos as well as other forms of subversive art have on the ever-tightening grip of the Sisi regime. This is one of the few true forms of revolutionary art I have seen since the eruption of the mass protests in 2011. <strong><span></span></strong></p> <p>The show revolves around the character of “Big Brother”, an anti-revolutionary man who analyses problems facing Egypt and offers solutions from a pro-regime perspective in a satirical manner. He provides a powerful critique of the regime using its own language and narrative.&nbsp;</p> <p>The brilliance of the character is in his physical appearance, the language he uses and his physical gestures. The appearance of the character is that of the rural elite, one of the primary social groups supporting the regime. Big Brother has a moustache, is always carrying prayer beads, and walks around with his mobile phone.</p> <p>The language he uses is obscene; he starts all the shows cursing at the audience, and the dialogue is filled with sexual and aggressive annotations. In essence, sharing the contempt the regime displays to the masses. The camera angle is low, allowing him to tower over the audience as he moves and gestures angrily imposing his authority.</p> <p>This is combined with a brilliant set design, which has many symbols and hidden messages of subversion and resistance. For example, in the background one can see the eagle that occupies a prominent position on Egypt’s flag and is a potent symbol of the military regime that has ruled Egypt since 1952. However, directly next to it, we can see a picture of Mubarak with what appears to be clown make up on. </p> <p>Next to this picture, one can see a toy with two balls that became known as the “<a href="https://www.alaraby.co.uk/english/news/2017/11/8/sisis-balls-egypt-cracks-down-on-popular-childrens-toy">Sisi testicles</a>”. This toy was considered to be subversive enough to merit its confiscation from a number of street vendors as well as their arrest. One can also see the portrait of Mohamed Salah, a prolific footballer, who the regime has and probably still is attempting to co-opt.</p> <p>In addition to the character of Big Brother, there is the character of the “Brown citizen”, to whom Big Brother directs his tirades and advice. This citizen fits the stereotype of your typical lower middle-class Egyptian who has been indoctrinated by years of autocracy into apathy and despair, and who accepts the ideology of the ruling elite as his own, without questioning. In other words, he becomes an obedient member of the repressed masses who also repress others.&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; &nbsp;</p> <p>In terms of content and topic, Big Brother offers a number of innovative solutions and views on the issues facing the Egyptian polity. One of my favourite episodes discusses the arts and television series that portray the struggles of middle class Egyptian women. </p> <p>Big Brother offers unique insight into the role art and mass media play as tools for control, distraction and mass ideological indoctrination, as well as the close connection between the security apparatus and the cinema and entertainment industry. </p> <p>He also highlights the fear the Egyptian middle class have of any forms of realistic art that portrays the actual practices of Egyptians and the reality of life, such as sexual practices and domestic violence.</p> <p>Big Brother offers an innovative solution to the problem of realistic art, which is removing dialogue and replacing it with Quran. If the artist were to object, he would subject himself to public backlash and accusations of blasphemy, since he dared to remove the holy word of God from his art. </p> <p>An age-old technique of using religious symbols to justify the repression of freedom of expression and thought. Big Brother, intelligently, exposes this process of decentralized repression where the citizenry themselves participate in stifling their fellow citizens.&nbsp; &nbsp;&nbsp;</p> <p>Another memorable episode was “<a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FJJ66ZrO4xY">The Beginning of the End</a>”, where Big Brother attempts to tackle the thorny issue of the presidential elections. The innovative solution he comes up with is for judgment day to occur, thus creating a distraction for the masses. But this strategy fails because the masses yearn for a strong leader who will provide deliverance from the horrors of judgment day. This is combined with a tirade against the people, as they should be grateful that their current leaders have agreed to rule them. </p> <p>Once again, Big Brother exposes the inner workings of autocracy and how apocalyptic language is used to justify its existence, using fear of social disintegration as a way to justify its existence and to garner support. &nbsp;</p> <p>Finally comes an episode where Big Brother tackles the complex issue of <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L41IDHj0c54">minoritie</a>s in the broadest sense to include those that have different life styles or points of views. Big Brother highlights the function minorities play in autocratic regimes, where they allow members of the already repressed majority a sense of superiority and relief, since their level of repression is lower, comparatively speaking. </p> <p>As such, Big Brother comes up with the innovative solution of creating a new category of minority, simply called “minority”. This category creates a sense of confusion within the ranks of the majority and increases their sense of superiority to the new minorities, which results in the majority then feeling oppressed, and a sense of despair seeps into their entire psyche. In essence, all Egyptians then become a minority.</p> <p>To be fair, this is not a real critique, it is a rather a chance for me to say thank you to the staff of Mada Masr and Big Brother, who in spite of an unprecedented wave of repression remain a bastion of resistance, covering and producing material that is of both artistic and journalistic value. </p> <p>One only needs to remember that Mada Masr remains <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/may/25/egypt-blocks-access-news-websites-al-jazeera-mada-masr-press-freedom">blocked</a> in Egypt since May 2017.&nbsp; It is also an acknowledgement that even though I felt alone, in reality, I am not. Resistance continues through any and all means necessary, and artists like the team behind Big Brother as well as musicians and bands like Cairokee are at its forefront. </p> <p>Art achieves its highest purpose, in my opinion, when it questions the structures of power, oppression and control in society. A goal that Big Bother, among others achieve. </p><p> On a side note, the <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HApFNsQ_Asc&amp;list=PL2b4XFUJwARHPwzThsif51_d0o9vsQAFj">second season</a> just started and I am looking forward to the renewed wisdom of Big Brother!</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/openglobalrights/m-b/satire-as-tool-of-resistance-in-egypt">Satire as a tool of resistance in Egypt</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/north-africa-west-asia/ahmed-magdy-youssef/one-satirist-exposes-egypts-lopsided-media-viewpoint">One satirist exposes Egypt&#039;s lopsided media viewpoint</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/north-africa-west-asia/maged-mandour/power-and-divine-case-of-egypt">Power and the divine: self-repression in Egypt</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/north-africa-west-asia/maged-mandour/tentacles-of-autocratic-regimes-case-of-egypt">The tentacles of autocratic regimes: the case of Egypt</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/north-africa-west-asia/sarah-el-sheikh/%D8%A7%D9%84%D8%B9%D9%86%D8%B5%D8%B1-%D8%A7%D9%84%D9%85%D9%81%D9%82%D9%88%D8%AF-%D9%81%D9%8A-%D9%85%D8%B5%D8%B1-%D8%A7%D9%84%D8%B4%D8%B9%D9%88%D8%B1-%D8%A8%D8%A7%D9%84%D8%A7%D9%86%D8%AA%D9%85%D8%A7%D8%A1">العنصر المفقود في مصر: الشعور بالانتماء</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/hazem-saghieh/egypt-escape-from-reality">Egypt, an escape from reality</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Egypt </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Civil society </div> <div class="field-item even"> Conflict </div> <div class="field-item odd"> Culture </div> <div class="field-item even"> Democracy and government </div> <div class="field-item odd"> Ideas </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> North-Africa West-Asia Middle East Forum North-Africa West-Asia Egypt Civil society Conflict Culture Democracy and government Ideas Satire artistic activism media Social innovation Revolution Mid-East Forum Chronicles of the Arab revolt Maged Mandour Thu, 10 May 2018 18:53:47 +0000 Maged Mandour 117749 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Against solidarity of the powerful https://www.opendemocracy.net/north-africa-west-asia/kamilia-al-eriani/against-solidarity-of-powerful <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Is it true that western powers’ silence over Yemen stands in opposition to their solidarity for the Syrians? Or, or do they both acquire the same quality?</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/562712/PA-36053270.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/562712/PA-36053270.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="307" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>United Nations Security Council meeting on Yemen, on April 17, 2018. Picture by Li Muzi/Xinhua News Agency/PA Images. All rights reserved. </span></span></span>Friends and acquaintances often ask me, as a Yemeni living in Australia, about the situation in my own country. The conversation usually concludes as follows: “We do hear about atrocities in Syria, but rarely do we hear anything about Yemen!”&nbsp;</p><p lang="en-AU">Such remarks are also voiced by my family and friends living in Yemen, who too often lament that “no one cares about us, the world has ignored us.”</p><p>Many concerned academics, activists, and journalists also worry over the “world’s silence” demanding “the world” to “speak” against atrocities inflicted on civilians in Yemen. &nbsp;</p><p>Yet curiously, mainstream media and academia have not been short of reporting on brutalities and the violations of the international humanitarian law in Yemen.&nbsp;</p><p>This, then, begs the question: whose silence is evoked here?&nbsp;</p><p>Perhaps this suggests that the “world” appealed to in such demands refers to the powerful&nbsp;western nations and International community. To those who desire the world to “come out of its silence,” it seems, condemnation uttered by leaders’ of the world powerful nations and institutions has a special quality that makes it highly desired.&nbsp;</p><p>It indicates that their condemnation and solidarity has the capacity to ward off injustices and atrocities in the world; for they are the guardians of global justice and since WWII they vowed: “never again.”&nbsp;</p><p>But is it true that&nbsp;western powers’ silence over Yemen stands in opposition to their solidarity for the Syrians? Or, or do they both acquire the same quality? Are the effects of their silence on carnages in Yemen different from their frequently pronounced solidarity with the Syrian people?&nbsp;</p><p>The recent response by Donald Trump to atrocities in Syria and Yemen is quite telling. In a recent alleged use of chemical weapon by Assad against his people, Trump seemed passionate about showing solidarity with Syrians,&nbsp;<a href="https://www.defense.gov/News/Article/Article/1493600/us-allies-strike-syrian-targets-in-response-to-regimes-chemical-attacks/source/GovDelivery/">stating</a>&nbsp;that this “evil and despicable attack left mothers and fathers, infants and children thrashing in pain and gasping for air. These are not actions of a man; they are crimes of a monster instead.”</p><p>However, Trump said nothing about Saudi Arabia’s continuing bombardment of Yemen for three years. Yet, in response to a Houthie’s missile attack on Riyadh, the Trump administration and European allies&nbsp;<a href="http://www.middleeasteye.net/news/us-and-european-allies-condemn-iran-over-yemen-2058894256">condemned</a>&nbsp;the Houthies and blamed Iran for the attack.&nbsp;</p><p>Indeed, Trump and the European leaders appeared to be showering Saudi Arabia with solidarity against Iran by signing arms deals worth billions of US dollars during Mohammad Ben Salman, the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia, recent tour in the US and Europe.&nbsp;</p><p>As Trump decided to wage a war against Syria “in solidarity” with the Syrian people, Russia Today (RT), a media platform funded by Russia, condemned&nbsp;western leaders by publishing an op-ed entitled “<a href="https://www.rt.com/news/425437-airstrikes-syria-chemical-attack/">Strikes on Syria as Yemen atrocities ignored</a>”.</p><p>A year and a half into the Saudi collation’s war against Yemen, and in what seemed as a gesture of solidarity with Yemen,&nbsp;<a href="https://www.rt.com/news/365096-yemen-cluster-bombs-question/">RT</a>&nbsp;caught the Saudi Ambassador to the US (Prince Abdullah al-Saud) responding to a journalist asking if Saudi Arabia is going to stop using cluster bombs in Yemen.&nbsp;</p><p>The Prince’s answered laughingly: “This is like the question ‘will you stop beating your wife’.” The seemingly out of proportion answer only echoedthe Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth AffairsBoris Johnson, who once averred that the Saudi’s brutish war in Yemen, backed by the UK, US, and France, is “<a href="https://hansard.parliament.uk/commons/2016-10-26/debates/61DFF92D-1BE0-4909-8020-76FC80CA5136/Yemen">not only justified, but legally sound</a>.”&nbsp;</p><p class="mag-quote-right">What we see are instances of solidarity of violence<em><strong>&nbsp;</strong></em></p><p>Interestingly, Johnson’s silence approval of the Saudi collation’s killing of civilians, as well as,&nbsp;<a href="http://www.telesurtv.net/english/news/Saudi-Coalition-Bombs-Another-Hospital-in-Yemen-Killing-11-20160815-0019.html">bombarding of hospitals</a>&nbsp;and schools in Yemen, exhibited&nbsp;<a href="https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2016/oct/02/boris-johnson-russian-complicity-in-war-crimes-precludes-syria-talks">outrage</a>&nbsp;when he condemned the boombing of schools and hospitals in Syria by the Syrian regime aided by the Russians.&nbsp;</p><p>One could simply feel perplexed about how the world’s powers are responding differently to what is happening in Syria and Yemen. They are mobilized to end the suffering in one country while turning a blind eye on injustices in another. However, the effects of these seemingly different responses are the same. Here, what we see are instances of solidarity of violence.<em><strong>&nbsp;</strong></em></p><p>On one hand,&nbsp;western leaders’ condemnation of the Syrian regime and the Russian involvement comes at the expense of the lives of innocent Syrians since their condemnation and gestures of solidarity are invoked only to justify further violence and more military intervention in Syria.&nbsp;</p><p>On the other hand, their silence on atrocities against Yemen has the same effect. It authorizes the continuance of Saudi Arabia’s violence against Yemenis. Likewise, Russia condemns the Saudi collation war in Yemen, but it does that to silence condemnation on its involvement with the Assad regime in perpetuating atrocities against Syrians.&nbsp;</p><p lang="en-AU">So, there might be some truth in the assumption that there is a special effect of the&nbsp;western leaders’ condemnation, but it’s not distinct from their silence since both harbour&nbsp;thesame violent effects. Both have been garnered certainly not to end human suffering but only to prolong it.&nbsp;</p><p>Perhaps, this should be an invitation to stop fantasising&nbsp;about the solidarity of the powerful. Being the guardians of global justice does not mean that their solidarity will allow Yemenis, Syrians, Palestinians, Rohingya, and dehumanised people elsewhere, access to justice. &nbsp;</p><p>Meanwhile, those brutalised societies can only wait for justice. As we are watching them, we can only hope for them that while waiting, they will have the strength to re-invent novel ways of existence and co-existence to mitigate the devastating effects of injustices bestowed upon them.&nbsp;</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/north-africa-west-asia/kamilia-al-eriani/has-yemeni-state-ceased-to-exist">Has the Yemeni state ceased to exist?</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/north-africa-west-asia/helen-lackner/on-wretched-third-anniversary-of-international-intervention-in-">On a wretched third anniversary of the international intervention in Yemen, is the rise of the Huthis irresistible? Part 1</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/north-africa-west-asia/afrah-nasser/is-sweden-complicit-in-war-crimes-in-yemen">Is Sweden complicit in war crimes in Yemen?</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Yemen </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> North-Africa West-Asia North-Africa West-Asia Yemen solidarity war Kamilia Al-Eriani Wed, 09 May 2018 08:23:17 +0000 Kamilia Al-Eriani 117760 at https://www.opendemocracy.net الثقافة الشفوية والهوية في سورية - ملف https://www.opendemocracy.net/mohammad-dibo/sectarianism-syria-popular-culture <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p class="direction-rtl">ما هي خلفيات الوعي الطائفي، فهل ولد بين ليلة وضحاها أم أنه كان راقدا بيننا ينتظر اللحظة المناسبة للانفجار في وجهنا؟ &nbsp;<strong><a href="https://opendemocracy.net/north-africa-west-asia/mohammad-dibo/oral-culture-and-identity-in-syria-dossier">English</a></strong></p> </div> </div> </div> <p dir="rtl"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/562712/flat طائفية copy.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/562712/flat طائفية copy.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="259" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span><strong>(</strong><strong>ينشر هذا المقال ضمن ملف يتناول الثقافة الشفوية في سورية، بالتعاون والشراكة مع موقع <a href="http://www.syriauntold.com/ar/">حكاية ما انحكت</a></strong><strong>)</strong></p><p dir="rtl">أسئلة كثيرة ومتشعبة باتت تطرحها المسألة الطائفية المفتوحة على امتداد المشرق العربي، وربما الشرق الأوسط كاملا، فنحن أمام انبعاث هائل للديني و<a href="http://www.syriauntold.com/ar/category/syria-writesar/%D9%85%D9%84%D9%81%D8%A7%D8%AA/%D8%A7%D9%84%D8%B7%D8%A7%D8%A6%D9%81%D9%8A%D8%A9-ar/">الطائفي</a>&nbsp;والمذهبي و<a href="http://www.syriauntold.com/ar/category/syria-writesar/%D9%85%D9%84%D9%81%D8%A7%D8%AA/%D8%A7%D9%84%D9%83%D8%B1%D8%AF-%D9%81%D9%8A-%D8%B3%D9%88%D8%B1%D9%8A%D8%A7/">القومي</a>&nbsp;الذي بات يحتل كامل مساحة السياسة والحرب في سورية وغيرها، إذ بات الخطاب السياسي حافلا بالكثير من المفردات والتعابير الطائفية، التي كان الحديث بها قبل عقدين من الزمن، وربما أقل، يعتبر نوعا من النكوص والتخلف، فيما يقدّم اليوم باعتباره واقعا لا يمكن النفاذ من براثنه، وعليه يقترح البعض، بناء على ذلك، حلولا طائفية، وفق مبدأ&nbsp;"وداوها بالتي كانت هي"الداء".</p><p dir="rtl">لا شك أنّ المسألة الطائفية قد أشبعت درسا وتحليلا وبحثا على الصعيد الفكري والسياسي، إذ قرأنا خلال السنوات السبع التي مرت وقبلها أيضا، الكثير من الأبحاث والدراسات والكتب التي تختص بالمسألة.ولكن رغم ذلك، نجد أنفسنا أمام عدم وضوح تجاه المسألة الطائفية، إذ يفاجئنا الواقع يوما بعد يوم، بعنف وتعبيرات وتصرفات تعيدنا إلى نقطة البداية، الأمر الذي يضعنا وجها لوجه أمام نفس السؤال:من أين أتت تلك الطائفية كلها؟ أين كان يختبأ هذا الوعي الطائفي؟ وهل حقا كان مختبئا أم أن&nbsp;"العقل العربي"المأخوذ بالحداثة والتقدم تغاضى عنه لصالح أحلامه وتخيلاته عن المستقبل القادم على أجنحة التقدم والحداثة؟</p><p dir="rtl">أيضا، لم تكن المسألة الطائفية هي وحدها التي&nbsp;<a href="http://www.syriauntold.com/ar/category/syria-writesar/%D9%85%D9%84%D9%81%D8%A7%D8%AA/%D8%A3%D8%B9%D9%84%D8%A7%D9%85-%D9%88%D9%84%D8%BA%D8%A7%D8%AA/">انبعثت من رماد</a>&nbsp;ما يحدث في سورية فقط، بل هناك المسألة القومية التي تجددت بصيغ ماضوية تسعى إلى تطبيق الدولة القومية بصيغتها العصبوية الضيقة بعد أن تجاوز عصرنا مسألة الدولة القومية باعتبارها عنوانا للحداثة، إذ إن عدم اقتران القومية بالديمقراطية ومنظومة الحداثة كاملة&nbsp;(المواطنة، حقوق الإنسان، تداول السلطة...)يجعل من الأولى أداة للعسف مجددا كما رأينا في تطبيقاتها في دول كثيرة لازالت محكومة بهذا النموذج، وقد تكون سورية&nbsp;<a href="http://www.aljazeera.net/knowledgegate/opinions/2014/8/26/%D8%A3%D9%8A-%D9%85%D8%B3%D8%AA%D9%82%D8%A8%D9%84-%D9%84%D9%84%D8%A8%D8%B9%D8%AB-%D9%81%D9%8A-%D8%B3%D9%88%D8%B1%D9%8A%D8%A7">البعثية</a>&nbsp;أحد نماذجها الأكثر ركاكة.&nbsp;</p><p dir="rtl"><span class="mag-quote-right">من أين أتت تلك الطائفية كلها؟ أين كان يختبأ هذا الوعي الطائفي؟</span>&nbsp;</p><p dir="rtl">ولكن مع ذلك، نجد لهذا الوعي القومي حضورا واسعا عند عدد من الأطياف الكردية والعربية وأقوام أخرى، أقوام تتبادل الكراهية المعلنة فيما بينها بدلا من السعي إلى مد الجسور والبحث عن أفق جديد أو صيغة للعيش تجعل من الإنسان قبل المواطن جوهرها الأهم، الأمر الذي يطرح علينا أسئلة عن خلفيات هذا الوعي القومي أيضا، فهل ولد بين ليلة وضحاها أم أنه كان راقدا بيننا ينتظر اللحظة المناسبة للانفجار في وجهنا؟</p><p dir="rtl">إلى جانب الطائفي والقومي، هناك العشائري والمناطقي&nbsp;(حوران والشام، الساحل والداخل) إضافة إلى صراع الريف والمدينة&nbsp;(الغوطة ودمشق).</p><p dir="rtl">ما سبق، يطرح علينا سؤال:هل هناك وعي ما لتلك المسائل، وعي ما يتشربه المرء من البيئة التي يعيش بها من الأهل ومسقط الرأس، وعي شفوي غير مكتوب يُغرس في العقل الباطن منذ الطفولة، بحيث ينمو الفرد السوري وغيره أيضا، بين وعيين، الوعي الذي يتشربه من بيئته والوعي الذي يأخذه من المدرسة والجامعة والحياة، بحيث يعبّر ويتعامل مع الأول ضمن نطاق مشيمته التي يشعر بها بالأمان، فيما يعبّر عن الثانية أمام الغرباء والآخرين؟ وإذا كان الأمر كذلك، كيف يتعايش الوعيان معا عبر مسار الفرد منا؟ وكيف يعبّران عن أنفسهما؟ وكيف يوفق حاملهما بينهما، خاصة إننا إزاء وعيين متناقضين، الأول يتشبث بالماضي وخرافاته والثاني يتشبث بالحداثة ومفرداتها، ولمن تكون الغلبة حين يكون المرء مضطرا للاختيار بينهما؟ ولم يختار أحدهما دون الآخر؟</p><p class="mag-quote-left" dir="rtl">نحن هنا إزاء كتابة تتطلب الشفافية والوضوح والصدق&nbsp;</p><p dir="rtl">لمحاولة الإجابة عمّا سبق من أسئلة، نفتح هذا الملف في مرحلة أولى، لكتابات تعبّر بوضوح وشفافية عن هذا الوعي الكامن في المجتمع، عن حديث الفئات السورية&nbsp;(طوائف، أقوام، مناطق، عشائر..) عن بعضها البعض، أي كيف يتحدث العلويون عن السنة والدروز والمسيحيين داخل نطاق المشيمة العلوية، وكيف يتحدث السنة عن العلويين والدروز والمسيحيين ضمن نطاق مشيمتهم، وأيضا كيف يتحدث الأخيرين عن غيرهم؟ ونفس الأمر فيما يخص الأقوام والعشائر وأهل الريف والمدينة.</p><p dir="rtl">نحن هنا إزاء كتابة تتطلب الشفافية والوضوح والصدق، كتابة لا يمكن أن يقوم بها إلا من كان مؤمنا بجدواها وأهميتها، كتابة تتطلب الانسلاخ من الطائفة والقوم والعشيرة وإغضابهما لصالح الإنسان.وعليه فإن الملف مفتوح لكل من يؤمن بذلك، ويجد القدرة في نفسه على البوح واختراق المحظور، بحثا في داخله ودواخلنا، لفضح هذا&nbsp;"الوعي" الذي تربينا عليه وشكل جزءا من وعينا، كمحاولة لمحاكمة أنفسنا ومساءلتها: هل لعب هذا الوعي دورا فيما يحدث؟ هل شكّل ما أخذناه من بيئاتنا الأولى وكنا نظن أننا تجاوزناه، الأسس الأولى لتصرفاتنا ومواقفنا تجاه ما يحدث في سورية، فاحتمينا بالقبيلة والطائفة وغيرها؟</p><p dir="rtl">في المرحلة الثانية من هذا الملف، سيتم وضع هذه الشهادات أمام باحثين مختصين لقراءة هذه الشهادات والتعليق عليها من زاوية فكرية وبحثية، لمحاولة إيجاد رابط بينها وبين ما حدث ويحدث في سورية والإقليم، هذا إن كان يوجد رابط ما، لأننا لا نريد أن نصادر النتيجة التي سيقدمها لنا لاحقا هؤلاء الباحثين والمختصين، بناءا على تلك الشهادات وغيرها.إضافة إلى محاولة معرفة دور هذه الثقافة الشفوية (إيجابا أو سلبا) في بناء، أو عرقلة بناء، هوية سورية جديدة بعد انتهاء الصراع.</p><p dir="rtl">&nbsp;</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/north-africa-west-asia/omar-kaddour/yazid-syria-sectarianism">عندما لا يكون يزيد شريراً أو خيّراً</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/north-africa-west-asia/mohammed-dibo/syria-sectarianism-sunni-onion">&quot;من &quot;هذه البصلة سنية&quot; إلى &quot;السنة طيبين متلنا</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Syria </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Civil society </div> <div class="field-item even"> Conflict </div> <div class="field-item odd"> Democracy and government </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> North-Africa West-Asia North-Africa West-Asia Syria Civil society Conflict Democracy and government Through Syrian eyes Arabic language محمد ديبو Tue, 08 May 2018 11:00:00 +0000 محمد ديبو 117725 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Reporting Syria: this is a story about people - an interview with Rania Abouzeid https://www.opendemocracy.net/north-africa-west-asia/richard-salame/reporting-syria-this-is-story-about-people <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>A conversation&nbsp;with reporter Rania Abouzeid&nbsp;about&nbsp;practicing journalism, the role of media in the conflict, and the future of Syria.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/562712/Rania-Portrait-Colour.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/562712/Rania-Portrait-Colour.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="307" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Rania Abouzeid. Picture by Dalia Khamissy. All rights reserved. </span></span></span>Rania Abouzeid, the Lebanese-Australian reporter based in Beirut, has covered the uprising and subsequent conflict in Syria since the very beginning. Branded a foreign spy by the government of Bashar al-Assad in 2011, she has largely been confined to rebel-held areas.&nbsp;</p><p>Over the past seven years she has distinguished herself by being one of the few foreign reporters to work inside Syria. At considerable personal risk, she has observed and chronicled an incredible array of Syrians at home, on the battlefield, in the conference room, and in the smuggler’s truck. She’s profiled women, children, and men; civilians, rebel fighters, and al-Qaeda militants.&nbsp;</p><p>Her first book,&nbsp;<em>No Turning Back: Life, Loss, and Hope in Wartime Syria</em>, was published in March and follows four Syrians over the course of five years inside and outside of Syria as their lives unfold and intersect. The result is a crucial testimony to the horrors and trials of the war, and a much needed return from international politics to Syrians themselves. It is also one of the relatively few accounts of the Syrian conflict that captures the perspectives of women.</p><p>Abouzeid is a reporter’s reporter: independent, courageous, and self-effacing. In our conversation she declined opportunities to opine. In what follows we talk about her journalistic process, the role of media in the conflict, and the future of Syria.</p><p><strong>Richard&nbsp;</strong><strong>Salame:&nbsp;</strong>Why did you write this book and at what point in the process did it take on the form we see in the final version?&nbsp;</p><p><strong>Rania&nbsp;</strong><strong>Abouzeid:</strong>I started writing it in late 2015 and I was still reporting the last bits of the book at the time. It took me about 13–14 months to write. I wanted to focus it on the Syrians, for their voices and experiences to be front and center. But I also wanted to ground it in an investigation.&nbsp;</p><p>So the way I envisioned the book was that it would have two tracks. One of them was the very close to the ground personal narratives of what happened to a select group of people. And the other track would be the investigative element where I wanted to take readers into some of the backroom dealings so that readers could see how some of the wheeling and dealing affected those people on the ground. I knew that I wanted to do something like that from the beginning. And I didn’t want to be in the book in any way.&nbsp;</p><p>Then it was just a question of trying to [narrow it down], I mean I just had so much material, there were so many people I could’ve profiled and focused on and so much stuff that I hoped to get into the book. I always thought that a book meant more space and I found that&nbsp;itwasn’t the case at all. It was actually constricting in some ways, because the Syria story is just so large.&nbsp;</p><p>I make absolutely no claim that the book is a comprehensive story: I say that on page one and I say that in the notes. I try to make it clear that this is just a sliver of the story.&nbsp;</p><p><strong>Salame</strong>: Now that the book is out in print it’s not something you can easily add to unless there’s a second edition with updated content. Are you still following up on these stories? Are you interested in extending them? How would you like to do that?</p><p><strong>Abouzeid:&nbsp;</strong>Yes, there will be an afterword in the paperback edition that will bring some of the stories up to date. I’m getting a lot of emails from people, from readers, who want to know what happens next to some of the characters. So the paperback edition will hopefully answer some of those questions. And yes I am still looking at the Syria story, I haven’t taken my eyesoff the Syria story even as I look at other parts of the Middle East and return to the broader region, which I had sort of shut out for a number of years as I focused on Syria.</p><p><strong>Salame</strong>: Are you still moving back and forth into rebel held territories as those become smaller geographically and tighter in terms of security?</p><p><strong>Abouzeid</strong>: No, I haven’t been back since I published the book and that’s partly because I have assignments in other parts of the Middle East. It’s also because of the security element. I haven’t been to the majority-Kurdish parts of Syria, which are relatively easy to get into. But, Idlib for example, which is a place that I’m interested in, is very difficult to get into. Crossing the Turkish border is a life-and-death risk at this point, unless you’re taken on a press tour for a day trip. And I’m not interested in a day trip. I’m interested in a more immersive sort of reporting, I want to spend more time than that inside. But certainly it’s still on my radar. I’m still looking at getting into every side of Syria if I can. Because it’s still a very important story.</p><p><strong>Salame:&nbsp;</strong>Turning to some of the geopolitics that you’ve spent a lot of time with as well, you’ve said in other interviews that there’s no way for the opposition to overthrow Assad at this point. I’m wondering, in your opinion, are we seeing the end of the war?</p><p><strong>Abouzeid</strong>: No, not in the sense that the conflict will end. I think that Syria is such a fragmented state with so many different players both local and international that sadly the bloodletting will likely continue for a while yet. But what I’ve said in other interviews is that the outcome, for all intents and purposes, has been decided in the sense that Assad isn’t going anywhere. The notion that “Assad must go” has largely been shelved because he’s gaining territory with the assistance of his Russian and Iranian and Lebanese allies.&nbsp;</p><p>The opposition, as you rightly stated, has been reduced geographically into smaller and smaller pockets and the rebel infighting continues. So in terms of the outcome, the ultimate outcome, that Assad will most likely continue to rule a very fractured state, that I think is more or less determined. But the fighting will continue.&nbsp;</p><p><strong>Salame</strong>: Supposing the war ends with Assad still in power, as seems to be likely, do you have any sense of what an immediate post-conflict environment, at least in the parts of Syria that are entering a post-conflict environment, looks like? And do we have a sense of that from places like Aleppo, which the government recaptured over a year ago? &nbsp;</p><p><strong>Abouzeid:&nbsp;</strong>I haven’t been [to Aleppo] since they recaptured it. If you’ve read my book you know that I’m largely locked out of the government-controlled parts of Syria. But I would love to go and see it, to try and get some sort of a sense of what’s happening there—given all the caveats, of course, that there will be government minders on those trips. But I don’t pretend to know anything unless I can see it and smell it and hear it and feel it and actually walk the walk.&nbsp;</p><p>As we are seeing parts of former rebel-held territories like Homs, for example, and Aleppo, come back under government control, it would be interesting to see who lives there now. Are they actually all people from those areas or have other people moved in? What about the original inhabitants? Given that half of Syria has been displaced, either internally or externally, it would be interesting, and important, to see how those areas are coming back to life and who’s in them [and understand them at] the security, political, social, and economic levels. All of those questions are interesting and important.&nbsp;</p><p><strong>Salame:&nbsp;</strong>One of the things that has struck me over the years in conversations with family and friends, and following the media, is a bitter disagreement about basic facts of the war in some cases. We talked about this briefly over email. I’m wondering do you see that sort of polarization among Syrians on the ground, and what might that mean for any kind of post-conflict resolution in Syria?</p><p><strong>Abouzeid</strong>: Yeah, definitely this is a very, very polarized conflict. It’s a conflict where people can’t even agree on what to call it, as I alluded to in my notes. Some people call it the revolution, some people call it the war, some people take offense if you call it a war. Some people call it the foreign conspiracy, others call it the events, the crisis. There are lots of different words for it and those words have political weight behind them, they have political meaning. They suggest certain narratives. &nbsp;</p><p>It’s also in the names that Syrians call each other. For some revolutionaries, people on the regime side are all&nbsp;<em>shabiha</em>, they’re all thugs. And regime people will say, well they’re all terrorists. There’s this dehumanizing language and exploitation of whatever differences there are to make ‘the other’ more of the other. Syrians became ‘the other’ to each other. And that’s a very sad fact.&nbsp;</p><p class="mag-quote-left">Social media is, in some cases, an echo chamber&nbsp;</p><p>Also, it’s not just Syria. Syria’s just one symptom of this but we see it everywhere, even in the US when there’s a school shooting and some journalists and activists will say, “they’re crisis actors. They weren’t really victims.” It’s a very dangerous development when the basic facts are in dispute—not so much the reaction to an incident or a fact but the very incident, the very fact itself, is now disputed. It just widens the gap between the sides so much more.</p><p><strong>Salame:</strong>In that vein, maybe you have already answered this question but I was wondering whether you think that traditional or social media has played any role in the polarization, or maybe even the perpetuation, of some of these divisions and conflicts in Syria?</p><p><strong>Abouzeid</strong>: Social media is, in some cases, an echo chamber&nbsp;where people retweet and like and amplify messages that fit with their particular political narrative, regardless of whether or not those messages are grounded in facts or truth. It’s the stories that people tell themselves, and they tell themselves what they want to hear and they amplify those messages, and they reinforce those messages by spreading them within their bubble. Social media certainly makes that easier to do.&nbsp;</p><p><strong>Salame:&nbsp;</strong>Among the Syrians you talked to, was there any resentment or exasperation towards journalists and the media generally? How did they receive you as a journalist, as the war dragged on?</p><p><strong>Abouzeid:&nbsp;</strong>It changed. It changed as the years dragged on. In the beginning Syrians were keen to speak to me because they wanted to be heard, they felt that perhaps the world didn’t know what was happening to them. But as the years dragged on there was a resentment. Syrians would often tell me, “Why should we speak to you? What difference will it make? Who’s listening? Who cares? What are you here for—to take our quotes and then leave?”&nbsp;</p><p>There was this sense of helplessness that the world maybe knew, it just didn’t care. That was reflected in a growing resentment, sometimes it was an almost violent resentment that got very dangerous a number of times when people were so angry and so exasperated and so desperate that they just wanted to lash out. But that was understandable because I could see, I had been there for so many years, and I could see what was happening and I could understand why some people were feeling that way. &nbsp;</p><p>Then it just became so difficult to get in [to Syria] as journalists were kidnapped by various groups and the war became… I mean it was just such a, it&nbsp;<em>is</em>such a ferocious conflict. It became harder and harder to cover from the ground. But, you know, we can say that it was hard for us but we were only in there for short periods. For Syrians, this is their day-to-day existence. This is what they face all the time. I mean, I don’t have the words to describe what it is like in some places. It’s just a vicious, vicious conflict.&nbsp;</p><p class="mag-quote-right">The least we can do, if we can do nothing else, is to acknowledge what is happening and to not pretend that we can’t see it</p><p>And the sad thing is that the longer it goes on, and the more bloody it gets, it seems that people become numb to it. By ‘people’ I mean readers, I mean the international community. People sort of turn away. It seems too ugly to look at, and it&nbsp;<em>is</em>ugly to look at, but for humanity’s sake we can’t afford to look away, and we shouldn’t. The least we can do, if we can do nothing else, is to acknowledge what is happening and to not pretend that we can’t see it.&nbsp;</p><p><strong>Salame</strong>: It’s clear from the book how deeply you cared about getting the facts right. I know that you did the fact-checking yourself, as well as the fixing and the translation. I was wondering if you could describe that process and also if you found anything surprising during that process at any points.</p><p><strong>Abouzeid</strong>: Well I try and outline a little bit about my process and how I did what I did in the notes.&nbsp;</p><p>I never for a second suspend my skepticism. I don’t think you can afford to do that. There is a voice in my head that is on loop during every interview and it just says one thing, “how do I know it’s true? how do I know it’s true? how do I know it’s true?” That voice remains in my head until it is satisfied that I have gathered enough information, that I have verified it to the best of my ability, that I have cross-referenced it with other interviews, people, places, bits of information, to the degree that I can be relatively confident that this is true. But that’s my baseline, that’s what I start with. Just because somebody says something doesn’t mean it’s true.&nbsp;</p><p>And that voice stays inside my head, it doesn’t come out, so the people I’m interviewing don’t know that I’m thinking that, obviously. You have to be sensitive when you’re speaking to people in some of these situations but for me that internal voice is key to my reporting process. I just keep digging and digging until I’ve satisfied it, until I’ve answered that question. That’s the case for every interview.&nbsp;</p><p>I had so much more information that I could’ve put in the book and I just didn’t have the space to do it. I cut out 60,000 words from the manuscript and I had stopped myself at 180,000 words. I could’ve gone on. There were lots of interviews that I conducted that I couldn’t get into the book without crowding the narrative but they were part of my fact-checking process even if they aren’t in print, and I mention that in the notes.&nbsp;</p><p>It’s just such a massive story that I couldn’t fit it all in, and nor do I pretend to fit it all in. Even the sliver of the story that I’m telling was bigger than the story that I have on paper. But certainly all of those interviews, all of those bits of information that I gathered were absolutely imperative and they informed every page of that book, even if they weren’t&nbsp;<em>on</em>every page of that book.&nbsp;</p><p><strong>Salame:&nbsp;</strong>Near the beginning of the book you write, “Syria has ceased to exist as a unified state except in memories and on maps. In its place there are many Syrias.” After all this bloodshed, do you hold out hope for a unified Syria in the future? Is that desirable? And what would it take to get there?</p><p class="mag-quote-left">This is a story about people</p><p><strong>Abouzeid</strong>: I differentiate between a unified Syria in terms of lines&nbsp;ona map, which is one thing—and I think the lines on the map will not change—and the lines between communities. That for me is more interesting: how Syria as a community, as a country, as a nation-state, how these warring parties will reunify. How neighbors become neighbors again. The front lines and how they become erased. That for me is more interesting and that is an element of the Syria story that I hope to continue to report. It’s something that I’ll have my eye on in the coming years, when we get to a post-conflict state. Every conflict eventually ends, it’s just a question of when and how and what’s left in its wake.&nbsp;</p><p><strong>Salame:&nbsp;</strong>Do you think that there is a possibility of rebuilding these connections between communities in the near future? Is prolonged sectarianism, like we see in Lebanon, the fate of Syria?</p><p><strong>Abouzeid:&nbsp;</strong>I wouldn’t presume to speculate. I really wouldn’t. I like those facts that we’re talking about. But it depends to some degree on how it ends and when it ends. Is it just that Assad takes over in the way that he’s been taking over, like Eastern Aleppo, Homs, and other areas like that, and that people are displaced as he moves into these areas? Or is there going to be some sort of.. I mean, it depends on how it ends you know? But certainly Syria isn’t the first conflict, and certainly it isn’t the first conflict in this region, so I really wouldn’t presume to speculate.</p><p><strong>Salame</strong>: Absolutely. I want to thank you for taking the time to speak with me about your work. The book is truly remarkable and the Syrians you write about are even more so.</p><p><strong>Abouzeid</strong>: Thank you for your interest and I mean, honestly, there were just so many Syrians I could’ve written about in the same way. One of the things that struck me most was that every Syrian story is truly epic. Some of the things that people went through are things that I don’t think most people could even imagine. But they happened and they’re still happening, and they’re happening to real people. If nothing else I hope that the book reflects that and reminds people that this is a story about people, so thank you very much for your interest in the book and in my work and in what’s happening.</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/north-africa-west-asia/muhammad-idrees-ahmad/syria-on-academic-freedom-and-responsibility">Syria: on academic freedom and responsibility</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/north-africa-west-asia/kylee-pedersen-jens-renner/let-s-talk-about-civilians-dying-in-syria">Let’s talk about the civilians dying in Syria</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/north-africa-west-asia/how-will-syrian-child-delete-image-of-his-poverty-from-search-engines">How will a Syrian child delete the image of his poverty from search engines?</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/north-africa-west-asia/enrico-de-angelis-yazan-badran/crowds-and-individual-why-we-should-rethink-ho">The crowds and the individual: why we should rethink how we debate complex issues on social media</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Syria </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Conflict </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> North-Africa West-Asia North-Africa West-Asia Syria Conflict Journalism interview war reporting Richard Salame Mon, 07 May 2018 06:23:38 +0000 Richard Salame 117645 at https://www.opendemocracy.net The crisis of the state in the Arab region and the rise of the Islamic State https://www.opendemocracy.net/north-africa-west-asia/anoush-ehteshami-amjed-rasheed-juline-beaujouan/crisis-of-state-in-arab-regio <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Islamic radical groups, such as the Islamic State, seem to have become the substitute for a failed regional order and failing domestic conditions.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/562712/PA-31366512.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/562712/PA-31366512.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="345" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>A wall with the logo and slogans of the Islamic State that unknown people tried to erase. Mosul, Iraq, 9 May 2017. Picture by Jan Kuhlmann/DPA/PA Images. All rights reserved. </span></span></span>The Middle East and North Africa is a competitive, fragmented and highly penetrated regional system. However, it is a place that lacks a security system and is unique for its absence of a region-wide architecture.&nbsp;</p> <p>The Arab League – the region’s largest IGO – has been mobilized on numerous occasions, for a number of structural, political and ideological reasons but these efforts have failed. At the state level, the post-colonial state has failed to establish a fair model of governance. The region is dominated by authoritarian regimes and yet is also bereft of a hegemonic power able to impose its own will on the subsystem and therefore awash with rivalries.&nbsp;</p> <p>Thus, the region is characterized by inter-state rivalries and increasingly exposed to identity politics which is manifesting itself in inter-confessional and inter-communal conflicts. Consequently, signs of deep social trauma and crisis of identity and governance at both state and society levels are visible.&nbsp;</p> <p>Sub-communalization is taking place across the region, thus gradually eroding the hard won century-old national societies that independent states forcefully but carefully have put together. In addition, the region’s ‘contested’ states seem to be unravelling into smaller communities of sects, religious affiliations, tribal groups, and ethnicities.&nbsp;</p> <p>The MENA region is suffering from an imbalance in the forces pushing for change – the peaceful mass mobilizations and the violent nihilistic ones. This is a region, which is at once both post-modern and pre-modern. Both post- and pre-modern forces compete for power.</p> <p>The regional system is vulnerable to the actions of these sub-state and non-state actors and many of its states are suffering at the hands of violent jihadi groups who have stepped into the vacuum created by the weakening of the iron grip of the central government in several Arab countries.</p> <p>Modernity as the norm for much of the twentieth century – in terms of rationality as a driver of decisions, transparent institutions of governance, rule of law, reliable public services (education, health, etc.), accountable public servants, functioning state institutions, enhancement of opportunity – has been taking a back seat in driving change in the region.</p> <p>Power is fluid, unevenly distributed, and does not necessarily manifest itself in terms of such traditional indicators as the size of population, territory, economy (GNP), or geography; nor does the size of military budgets, of the armed forces, or military hardware provide sufficient indicators of power and influence. Indeed, in the twenty-first century, it seems to be the smaller Arab states who are outperforming their larger counterparts; and non-state actors making waves.</p><p class="mag-quote-center">Violent-Salafism seems to be one of the most challenging issues that face the region</p> <p>The region is still lacking alternative political forces able to fulfill the expectations of the people and achieve development and security. Eventually, the Islamic radical groups, such as the Islamic State, seem to have become the substitute for the past political forces in doing this mission.</p> <p>Thus, violent-Salafism seems to be one of the most challenging issues that face the region. Salafism in the Islamic tradition was a reformist movement. It emerged at the end of the Abbasid Caliphate in the eleventh century. All called for the return to the true Islam, where the law of the divine is represented in Quran and Hadith (the teachings of the Prophet Mohammad).</p> <p>Violent-Salafism is a relatively contemporary phenomenon. It was arguably introduced in the writings of the Egyptian Sayyid Quṭb (October 1906 – 29 August 1966), who came at a time when leftist radical movements were rising in Europe in the 1960s and 1970s. Sayyid Quṭb resented pan-Arab policies of the Egyptian President Gamal Abdel Nasser and called for regime change. Qutb introduced what is known as Global Jihad and was later arrested for plotting against President Nasser and executed in late August 1966.</p> <p>The Afghan jihad against the Soviet Union in the 1980s became the life blood of violent-Salafism in the region. Yet the milestone arguably is the Kuwait crisis in 1990-1991. The occupation of Kuwait divided the Arab world. Furthermore, American soldiers were not welcomed in the Holy Land by the Arab mujahidin of Afghanistan who established their group, al-Qaeda, just two years earlier, in 1988. As a result, the Kuwait crisis provided the opportunity for these jihadi groups to operate in the region. When House of Saud rejected Osama Bin Laden’s offer to defend the Holy Shrine, the latter vowed to attack the US and its allies.</p> <p class="mag-quote-right">The war on Iraq in 2003 brought about a new wave of global Jihad</p><p>The Algerian civil war (1991-2002) and the Bosnian war (1992-1995) had also their own share in the rise and the development of violent Salafism. However, the establishment of al-Qaeda in Afghanistan witnessed the birth of a new trend of global Jihad following Sayyid Quṭb’s school of global Jihad. While the Taliban, the Groupe Islamique Armé (GIA) and Front Islamique du Salut (FIS) had locally based agendas in Afghanistan, Algeria and France, al-Qaeda unleashed radicalism onto the international scene. Al-Qaeda began to attack the US and its allies in the world. The first attack was on the US army residence Gold Mohur hotel in of Aden in 1992, followed by the bombing of the World Trade Centre in 1993, and the bombing of the US embassies in Nairobi and Dar al-Salam in 1998. The most disastrous attacks were the attacks of 11 September 2001 in New York and Washington, DC.</p> <p>The war on Iraq in 2003 brought about a new wave of global Jihad. The occupation of Baghdad was a major turning point for the pan-Arab and revolutionary forces in the region one that compares to the defeat of 1967 and the Israeli occupation of Beirut in 1982.&nbsp;</p> <p>The collapse of the Iraqi state provided the space where Jihadists can operate and attack the US and its allies in the region. Al-Zarqawi, an ex al-Qaeda member in Afghanistan, travelled to Iraqi Kurdistan in 2002 and established his network with the Jihadists there. In 2003, he and his followers began to attack the Americans and the Shiites. They called themselves Jamāʻat al-Tawḥīd wa-al-Jihād (The Organization of Monotheism and Jihad, initially established in 1999 by al-Zarqawi in Afghanistan). In 2004, the group pledged allegiance to Osama Bin Laden and changed its name to Tanẓīm Qāʻidat al-Jihād fī Bilād al-Rāfidayn, al-Qaeda in Iraq (AQI).&nbsp;</p> <p>The group played on sectarian tensions between the Shiite and the Sunni communities inside Iraq. It was calculating that if they attack the Shiite, which they did, they would retaliate by attacking the Sunnis, which they did. The Sunnis would then seek protection from al-Zarqawi and his followers, which they also did. This has been the group’s usual strategy since the days of al-Zarqawi’s leadership. By doing this, it would gain Sunni sympathy and it did so quite dramatically (see al-Zarqawi letter to Osama Bin Laden, 2004).</p> <p>Al-Zarqawi was killed in an American air strike in June 2006. His death, though, did not decrease the group’s vision of statehood. The Egyptian militant Abu Hamza al-Muhajir took over the lead. Later he will pledge allegiance to Abu Omar al-Baghdadi as the leader of what later became known as the Islamic State in Iraq (ISI), arguably to give the group an Iraqi flavor. Yet, as soon as the Sahawat were established by the Iraqi government and the US and composed of Sunni tribes that had cooperated with ISI, the Islamic State was driven out of the Sunni areas in 2006.</p> <p>The civil war in Syria helped ISI to expand and flourish again. The armed conflict between al-Assad and the opposition, which started a few months after the peaceful protests in 2011 turned into what many Syrians now perceive as a sectarian war. The chaos attracted ISI. The group began to control areas in Syria between 2012 and 2013. As soon as it controlled Raqqa in 2013, it changed the name of the group to the Islamic State in Iraq and a-Sham (ISIS). And once Mosul fell under their control in the summer of 2014, the group began to call itself the Islamic State (IS).</p> <p class="mag-quote-center">Although IS has lost most of the territory it controlled in Syria and Iraq, it has not been defeated.</p><p>IS transformed the Islamic Jihad within a short space of time. What al-Qaeda could not do in years, IS did in months, in terms of political and military successes and in terms of recruitment. This was partly due to the use of technology and social media, but also to the adoption of offensive Jihad, or Jihad al-Shauka, rather than defensive Jihad, or Jihad al-Nikaya as in the case of al-Qaeda, thus attracting scores of young people worldwide.&nbsp;</p> <p>The difference between the two forms of Jihad is that defensive Jihad aims to deter impairment, offensive Jihad on the other hand, features the work of Machiavelli in terms of land-control, the ends justify the means, and most importantly, fighting the near enemy – essentially any local or regional group that opposes the jihadi group or refuses to pledge allegiance to it.</p> <p>Although IS has lost most of the territory it controlled in Syria and Iraq, it has not been defeated. The group rose on the aches of the regional disorder and the failure of the state, and these fertile conditions have not changed. Furthermore, violent Salafism acts as a catalyst for the entrenchment of other sub-state actors, like the Shiite militias, Iran’s proxies in the region, mainly Hezbollah in Lebanon and recently operating in Syria, the Houthis in Yemen, and the Popular Mobilization Units in Iraq. These Iranian-backed militias pose threats not only to the security of those countries they are operating in, but also to the stability of the entire region.</p> <p>Leadership is still lacking and no solutions for the many regional problems are in sight. Meanwhile, with the lack or weakness of alternative forces able to fulfill the expectations of the people in the region, Islamic radical groups, such as the Islamic State, are appealing to the masses, and seem to have become the substitute for a failed regional order and failing domestic conditions. Thus, violent Salafism is a phenomenon that will continue to shape the politics of the region, irrespective of military offensives against its different adherers.</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/north-africa-west-asia/iheb-guermazi/but-what-was-so-appealing-about-isis-tunisian-story">But what was so appealing about ISIS?</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/north-africa-west-asia/shatha-al-juburi/how-2003-us-led-invasion-changed-iraq-forever">How the 2003 US-led invasion changed Iraq forever</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/north-africa-west-asia/seyed-ali-alavi/who-is-winner-in-post-isis-syria">Who is the winner in post-ISIS Syria?</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Syria </div> <div class="field-item even"> Iraq </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Conflict </div> <div class="field-item even"> Democracy and government </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> North-Africa West-Asia North-Africa West-Asia Iraq Syria Conflict Democracy and government Islamic State war Conflict governance Juline Beaujouan Amjed Rasheed Anoush Ehteshami Sat, 05 May 2018 10:15:27 +0000 Anoush Ehteshami, Amjed Rasheed and Juline Beaujouan 117704 at https://www.opendemocracy.net How Assad tortures and kills Syria’s pacifist young leftists https://www.opendemocracy.net/north-africa-west-asia/josepha-ivanka-wessels/how-assad-tortures-and-kills-syria-s-young-pacifist-young-left <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Why is it that the brightest peaceful activists who preach freedom against violence are the first to be killed by the Assad regime?</p> </div> </div> </div> <span><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/562712/Screen Shot 2018-05-04 at 12.01.45.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/562712/Screen Shot 2018-05-04 at 12.01.45.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="207" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>From left to right: Ghiath Matar, Rami Hennawi, Bassel Khartabil (Safadi). </span></span></span>Last week Rami Hennawi’s family received the news from Syrian authorities that their son and partner died in prison and they can collect his body. Rami was a pacifist leftist young activist who was detained in 2012. Five years he spent in the most inhumane conditions in one of Assad’s torture houses.&nbsp;</span><p>Rami came from Sweida, a majority Druze city under regime control and generally considered pro-Assad. But in fact, the underground resistance against Assad in Sweida is strong. If anything, localsin Sweida remembered the anti-colonial hero Sultan Basha al-Atrash, leader of the 1925 Great Syrian Revolt,&nbsp;and on several occasions congregated in front of his statue to voice&nbsp;<a href="https://www.aljumhuriya.net/en/en/sweida/sweida-the-static-revolution-1">their opposition against Assad</a>.&nbsp; This is why the Syrian regime is very wary of the underground opposition from Sweida.&nbsp;</p><p>According to one of my sources from the area, at the moment, Sweida inhabitants are under repression by many different factions of pro-Assad&nbsp;<em>shabiha&nbsp;</em>(thugs): killing to steal motorbikes, raping at random, terrorizing the local girls and women.&nbsp;Even in schools, teenagers are killed in fights.&nbsp;There is a sense of lawlessness, and those who are supportive of the regime benefit from this situation. Those who now legally carry weapons in Sweida, have a history of violence and&nbsp;are able to commit all&nbsp;the illegal activities they&nbsp;want because no one is stopping them.</p><p>Rami Hennawi was a pacifist from the beginning. In 2012, he joined the pro-democracy demonstrations against the Assad regime. Moreover, he was a convinced intellectual leftist pacifist, a life-loving Syrian young man who wanted nothing else but a bright future for his country. One in which people feel safe and can express their opinion. And because of this opinion, he was arrested by the secret police (<em>mukhabarat</em>) and put in jail. Precisely in branch 248: the military intelligence.&nbsp;</p><p>He was tortured daily during all these years, until he succumbed before last Christmas. The authorities did not bother to tell his family until last week. This is how Assad chases, tortures and kills the best of Syria’s young and bright leftist pacifists. They are unarmed and pose no threat to Syria, yet are the first to be killed. Rami is not the only one.&nbsp; So many went before him, in the same way.</p><p>One of the first bright Syrian pacifists who&nbsp;were arrested was&nbsp;<a href="https://www.alaraby.co.uk/english/comment/2016/8/27/the-tragedy-of-daraya">Ghiath Matar,</a>&nbsp;also called Little Ghandi, famous for his initiative&nbsp;to distribute red roses and water to the security forces during demonstrations in the town of Daraya. His advocacy to keep demonstrations peaceful and support non-violent activism, soon formed his iconic stature. He became a symbol of the peaceful Syrian Revolution.&nbsp;</p><p class="mag-quote-right">Thanks to their brightness, their memory will never disappear</p><p>In September 2011, he was arrested by the Syrian security forces, to be returned as a dead body only four days later. His funeral was attended by many different ambassadors from Japan, Germany, France, Denmark and the US, who were still in the country&nbsp;at the time. His wife was pregnant with their first baby. A film was made of his life called&nbsp;<a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LU82RyVlKbE">Little Ghandi.</a></p><p>Another bright and iconic figure of the non-violent Syrian Revolution is the Palestinian-Syrian genius&nbsp;<a href="https://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/middle-east/bassel-khartabil-safadi-executed-syria-activist-dead-prison-widow-confirms-democracy-adra-damascus-a7872771.html">Bassel Khartabil Safadi</a>. Born in 1981, he was one of the brightest young programmers in Syria, very well known among the global Creative Commons community. He co-founded the Damascus-based Aiki Lab, a collaborative online community and he was active in advocating the open source availability of creative content on-line.&nbsp;</p><p>In 2012, Foreign Policy magazine named him one of top 100 thinkers for “fostering an open-source community in a country long on the margins of the internet’s youth culture”. Single-handedly, he digitised the tourist site of Palmyra and its artifacts, which continued in the amazing on-line project called&nbsp;<a href="https://www.newpalmyra.org/">New Palmyra</a>.</p><p>In 2012, he was detained. In September 2015 his records disappeared and he was moved from Adra prison to an unknown location. He had given his wedding ring to a cellmate. Only in August 2017, his wife received confirmation that Bassel had died. Chased, tortured and killed by Assad. In his name the&nbsp;<a href="http://basselkhartabil.org/">Free Culture Fellowship</a>&nbsp;continues his legacy by supporting bright young people.</p><p>These are just three examples among some of the brightest, leftist, intelligent young pacifist Syrians whom Assad is adamant to kill and disappear. Thanks to their brightness, their memory will never disappear though. Their lives and actions have made a great impact on many Syrians and non-Syrians. This is something that Assad will never be able to kill.&nbsp;</p><p>Many others are still in detention, being tortured to death as I write this. Those few who survived the atrocities in the Syrian dungeons, live to tell. Luckily for them, they can tell their stories now. Just recently a new documentary called “<a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o-W4yCitZSM">Assad’s Slaughterhouses</a>” came out, documenting their harrowing stories.</p><p>Thanks to those who survived, we will not forget, and&nbsp;can hope that&nbsp;one day there will be justice,&nbsp;for Syria’s disappeared&nbsp;and for Syria’s future.</p><p><strong>This article was first published on&nbsp;<a href="https://sapiensproductions.wordpress.com/2018/05/03/how-assad-chases-tortures-and-kills-the-best-of-syrias-young-pacifist-leftists/?fb_action_ids=10155551948028927&amp;fb_action_types=news.publishes">MENA MEANINGS</a></strong></p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/north-africa-west-asia/muhammad-idrees-ahmad/syria-on-academic-freedom-and-responsibility">Syria: on academic freedom and responsibility</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/north-africa-west-asia/shilpa-jindia/syria-US-war-left-revolution">To stand up for the powerless in Syria, the Left must embrace complexity</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/north-africa-west-asia/william-eichler/as-afrin-burns-where-is-left">As Afrin burns, where is the left?</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/north-africa-west-asia/zaina-erhaim/battle-between-syrian-secular-activists-and-feminists-we-all-los">The battle between Syrian secular activists and feminists: we all lose</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/north-africa-west-asia/kylee-pedersen-jens-renner/let-s-talk-about-civilians-dying-in-syria">Let’s talk about the civilians dying in Syria</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Syria </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Civil society </div> <div class="field-item even"> Conflict </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> North-Africa West-Asia North-Africa West-Asia Syria Civil society Conflict war human rights Left Josepha Ivanka Wessels Fri, 04 May 2018 12:43:49 +0000 Josepha Ivanka Wessels 117694 at https://www.opendemocracy.net The Palestinians in Gaza: fighting for life, struggling for rights https://www.opendemocracy.net/north-africa-west-asia/abdalhadi-alijla/palestinians-in-gaza-fighting-for-life-struggling-for-rights <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Stuck between the hammer of the Israeli apartheid and the anvil of Palestinian political parties, the youth in Gaza are rising up.&nbsp;</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/562712/PA-36218478.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/562712/PA-36218478.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="308" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>A Palestinian girl waves the Palestinian flag along the Israel-Gaza border, in Gaza City, 27 April 2018. Picture by: Wissam Nassar/DPA/PA Images. all rights reserved.</span></span></span>Seventy years ago, more than 170,000 Palestinian from historic Palestine were&nbsp;<a href="http://alray.ps/ar/post/105369/%D9%85%D9%84%D9%8A%D9%88%D9%86-%D9%88100-%D8%A3%D9%84%D9%81-%D9%84%D8%A7%D8%AC%D8%A6-%D9%81%D9%84%D8%B3%D8%B7%D9%8A%D9%86%D9%8A-%D9%8A%D8%B9%D9%8A%D8%B4%D9%88%D9%86-%D9%81%D9%8A-8-%D9%85%D8%AE%D9%8A%D9%85%D8%A7%D8%AA-%D8%A8%D9%82%D8%B7%D8%A7%D8%B9-%D8%BA%D8%B2%D8%A9">forced to leave their homes</a>, villages, cities and lands, as refugees to the Gaza Strip. They were part of the&nbsp;<a href="https://web.archive.org/web/20110822123836/http://unispal.un.org/unispal.nsf/b792301807650d6685256cef0073cb80/93037e3b939746de8525610200567883?OpenDocument">710,000 Palestinians</a>&nbsp;who were forced to leave, seeking refuge in Gaza, West Bank, Lebanon, Syria, Jordan and elsewhere.&nbsp;</p><p>The images of elderly people and kids fleeing the killings of the Zionists gangs and militias in 1948, still occupy the vivid memories of Palestinians as well as comprising the visual identity of the Nakba (Catastrophe). Today, after seven decades, the grandsons&nbsp;and granddaughtersof those refugees are making their way back to their villages. They have never seen their villages, homes or land, but they kept the memories of their grandparents, linking their identity to their villages, vowing to return to their homes, relying on the international recognition of their right to return, and the moral responsibilities of their right.&nbsp;</p><p class="mag-quote-right">The Great Return March is not solely a protest against the ongoing siege of Gaza</p><p>The Great Return March (GRM) is not solely a protest against the ongoing siege of Gaza, and the increasingly severe humanitarian crisis, but rather it is a protest against the Nakba, that has been ongoing since 1948. The young generation of Palestinians know that the current humanitarian crisis and the disintegration on the Palestinian system is a result of the Nakba,&nbsp;as well as thedehumanization and the apartheid that is institutionalized against the indigenous people of Palestine. Therefore, any discussion on the GRM should consider the protests as an action and a reaction. Action against the ongoing imprisonment of 1.8 million Palestinians in the Gaza strip for more than ten years, and a reaction to the apathy of the international community.&nbsp;</p><p>According to the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, forty Palestinian civilians were killed and 5511 were wounded since&nbsp;<a href="https://www.haaretz.com/middle-east-news/palestinians/40-dead-5-511-wounded-un-figures-on-casualties-in-gaza-mass-protests-1.6030556">March 30</a>. Two journalists were assassinated deliberately by the Israeli forces, despite each bearing a clear sign that they are journalists. In addition to this, hundreds of the wounded were children and minors. Each of the forty people who scarified themselves had a story to tell, and a mission to accomplish. They were humans, who loved, and were beloved&nbsp;bytheir families, friends and relatives.&nbsp;</p><p>One of those killed was Mohammed Ayoub, 15 years old from Jabbaliya, who was&nbsp;<a href="http://alaqsavoice.ps/news/details/202249">shot in the head</a>&nbsp;in front of cameras, without threatening or causing any harm to the Israeli&nbsp;Army. In his&nbsp;<a href="https://www.facebook.com/mo3tssem/posts/10213427976386132">photos</a>&nbsp;there is one where he drew aheartbetween&nbsp;his initials and&nbsp;those of another person. He did not think that he would be a target&nbsp;ofan Israeli sniper who&nbsp;might have even cheered after shooting a civilian, as one video showed soldiers cheering as they were shooting at civilians. Mohamed died and left a story to remember.&nbsp;</p><p>Another person killed was the beloved journalist, Yasser Mourtaja, who was well- known in Gaza for his&nbsp;kindness tochildren and his professionalism as a photojournalist. Weeks before he was killed by the Israeli snipers despite&nbsp;<a href="https://www.theaustralian.com.au/news/world/middle-east/israel-army-accused-of-targeting-journalists-in-border-clashes/news-story/be6ff933cf1f391199765cbdb9e07745">wearing a vest</a>&nbsp;marked by “PRESS”, he was awarded a USAID fund for his media&nbsp;organisation.</p><p>A third person lost was the artist&nbsp;<a href="https://palplus.net/video/90615-%D8%B4%D8%A7%D9%87%D8%AF-%D8%AA%D9%81%D8%A7%D8%B5%D9%8A%D9%84-%D8%A7%D8%B3%D8%AA%D8%B4%D9%87%D8%A7%D8%AF-%D9%81%D9%86%D8%A7%D9%86-%D8%A7%D9%84%D8%B9%D9%88%D8%AF%D8%A9-%D9%85%D8%AD%D9%85%D8%AF-%D8%A3">Mohamed Abu Amro</a>, who was shot in the head while participating in a nonviolent protest on the eastern borders of Gaza.&nbsp;</p><p>19 year old&nbsp;<a href="https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/israel-threatens-to-expand-response-if-gaza-violence-continues/2018/03/31/aab4d494-3464-11e8-b6bd-0084a1666987_story.html?noredirect=on&amp;utm_term=.5167c78fe5b6">Abdulfatah Abdulnabi</a>&nbsp;was running away from the fence between the besieged Gaza Strip and Israel, when an Israeli sniper shot him dead.&nbsp;</p><p>A&nbsp;<a href="https://www.ynet.co.il/articles/0,7340,L-5225383,00.html">video</a>&nbsp;published by the Israeli media shows how the Israeli soldiers and army view the Palestinians. The video shows an Israeli&nbsp;Armyofficer asking one soldier to “shoot the guy in blue”, but the soldier tells him that he will take the one in red. This interaction shows how the Palestinians have been dehumanized by the Israelis, with the removal of their names, history, families, and humanity. The video illustrates the approach of the Israeli&nbsp;Army which sees millions of Palestinians as objects&nbsp;rather thanhumans. It is evidence that the conflict is not only about freedom, but also&nbsp;aboutlife.&nbsp;</p><p>This killing doctrine and the dehumanisation of the Palestinians can be seen clearly in the&nbsp;words of&nbsp;Israeli defense minister, Avigdor Lieberman, who&nbsp;<a href="https://www.alaraby.co.uk/english/news/2018/4/8/israel-defence-minister-says-no-innocent-people-in-gaza">said</a>&nbsp;after nine Palestinians were killed that there were “no Innocent people in Gaza”.&nbsp;</p><p lang="en-US">The population of the Gaza Strip that has been under intense siege since January 2006 and has been suffering enormously. Since&nbsp;the early 1990s, Israel imposed movement restrictions on the Gaza Strip, where 1.8 million people live,&nbsp;making itone of the biggest&nbsp;<a href="https://www.ochaopt.org/theme/gaza-blockade">open air prison</a><a href="https://www.ochaopt.org/theme/gaza-blockade">s</a>&nbsp;in the world.&nbsp;</p><p class="mag-quote-left" lang="sv-SE">It is&nbsp;2018, and&nbsp;the Gaza Strip is&nbsp;already uninhabitable</p><p lang="sv-SE">In 2015, a&nbsp;<a href="http://time.com/4019509/gaza-uninhabitable-unctad/">UN report</a>&nbsp;warned that, under&nbsp;the&nbsp;current conditions, the Gaza Strip will be “uninhabitable” by 2020. However,&nbsp;it is&nbsp;2018, and&nbsp;the Gaza Strip is&nbsp;already&nbsp;uninhabitable.&nbsp;</p><p lang="sv-SE">The ongoing Israeli blockage, and the sanctions imposed by the Palestinian authority against the Gaza Strip, was the result of failed reconciliation efforts with Hamas. Since then the economy and life in Gaza has been crippled, with suffering growing rapidly. In 2015, the&nbsp;<a href="http://www.pcbs.gov.ps/Downloads/book2188.pdf">GDP in the Gaza Strip</a>&nbsp;was 971 USD, while it was 5754 USD for the same period in the West Bank.&nbsp;</p><p lang="sv-SE">Comparatively in&nbsp;<a href="https://countryeconomy.com/gdp/israel">Israel</a>&nbsp;it is at 44,019 USD.&nbsp;The&nbsp;<a href="http://english.wafa.ps/page.aspx?id=JQZdoka52413989463aJQZdok">unemployment</a>&nbsp;rate in the Gaza Strip and West Bank reached 26.9% in 2016, with Gaza hardest hit at 41.7% unemployment compared to 18.2% in the West Bank. Yet, the real numbers of youth unemployment in Gaza have&nbsp;reached more than 75%.&nbsp;This shows the inequality that the Palestinians suffer compared to Israel, and also how the Gaza Strip is suffering from huge inequality compared to the West Bank.&nbsp;</p><p>The Palestinians in the Gaza Strip are walking through&nbsp;a dark tunnel, with&nbsp;no end in sight. They are&nbsp;stuck between the hammer of the Israeli apartheid and the anvil of Palestinian political parties.&nbsp;This reality&nbsp;pushes them to take the lead and organize nonviolent protests, shifting attention to the real cause of the problem, which started in 1948.&nbsp;</p><p>The youth of the Gaza Strip are&nbsp;rising up in the face of Israeli colonialism, and the status-quo, as well as&nbsp;an act of&nbsp;rejection&nbsp;ofthe political parties in the Gaza strip, including Hamas and Fatah. The youth in Gaza struggle for their dignity, and prefer to fight for life and die in dignity, rather than die&nbsp;slowly from the blockade.</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/north-africa-west-asia/neil-serougi/health-catastrophe-in-gaza-our-double-standards-are-killing-pale">The health catastrophe in Gaza: our double standards are killing Palestinians</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/north-africa-west-asia/stephen-mccloskey/gaza-s-great-march-of-return-is-international-rallying-call">Gaza’s “Great March of Return”: an international rallying call for peace and justice</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/north-africa-west-asia/isabella-bellezza-smull/from-land-day-to-70th-anniversary-of-nakba-palestinia">From Land Day to the 70th anniversary of the Nakba, Palestinians have plenty to protest</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/north-africa-west-asia/lorenz-naegeli/eu-and-right-to-education-in-west-bank">The EU and the right to education in the West Bank</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Palestine </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Conflict </div> <div class="field-item even"> Democracy and government </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> North-Africa West-Asia North-Africa West-Asia Palestine Conflict Democracy and government occupation Israel Gaza Abdalhadi Alijla Fri, 04 May 2018 07:41:47 +0000 Abdalhadi Alijla 117670 at https://www.opendemocracy.net The EU and the right to education in the West Bank https://www.opendemocracy.net/north-africa-west-asia/lorenz-naegeli/eu-and-right-to-education-in-west-bank <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Education is a crucial component for a self-determined future&nbsp;but for Palestinians this future is hindered by the&nbsp;Israeli occupation.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/562712/7661482982_5c15dc6fa4_o.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/562712/7661482982_5c15dc6fa4_o.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="286" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Palestinian children approach a checkpoint in Hebron. Picture by laurawhudson / flickr.com. Some rights reserved. (CC BY-NC 2.0)</span></span></span>The restricted right to education, plays an important role&nbsp;especially for future generations. Actors like the EU, which is the major donor of Palestine and Israel’s most important trading partner, plays a crucial role in order to open space for educational initiatives. Its leverage, however, remains unused due to its unwillingness to invoke adequate pressure on the Israeli occupier.&nbsp;</p><p class="western">The continuing occupation of parts of the Palestinian West Bank by Jewish settlers and Israeli military units influences the social, cultural and economic development of Palestine. The right and access to education are particularly affected by current policies due to their importance and referring to the vulnerability of its stakeholders. Education is considered a crucial component for a self-determined future. Only a functioning and accessible education system can maintain this goal in Palestine.&nbsp;<a href="http://ec.europa.eu/enlargement/neighbourhood/countries/palestine/index_en.htm">As the main donor to Palestine, the EU finances a number of education and infrastructure projects in the West Bank</a>&nbsp;and should therefore have a well-founded interest in their comprehensive implementation in order to unfold their full impact. As the latter is not the case at present, the question arises, if the EU plays a similar dishonest game as the US, or if its investment actually aims for changes on the ground. As long as no political and economic measures are taken to ensure the implementation of its projects the former seems to be true and huge sums of money continue&nbsp;to bewasted in the desert.&nbsp;</p><p class="western"><a href="https://ec.europa.eu/neighbourhood-enlargement/neighbourhood/countries/palestine_en">The EU provided over €290 million in assistance to Palestine last year, mainly through the PEGASE financial mechanism.</a>&nbsp;It covers wages of the Palestinian Authority, guarantees pension contributions and provides funds for the needs of the poorest and most marginalised sections of the population.&nbsp;<a href="http://www.medea.be/en/countries/occupied-palestinian-%20territories/pegase/">In addition, parts of the funds are channelled through UNRWA directly into support for Palestinian refugees</a>. The aim is to promote economic, cultural, scientific and educational matters - inter alia with the aim of&nbsp;<a href="http://eur-lex.europa.eu/LexUriServ/LexUriServ.do?uri=CELEX:21997A0716%2801%29:EN:HTML">improving the educational situation in Palestine</a>.&nbsp;</p><p class="mag-quote-right">Physical attacks on Palestinian schools are constantly increasing</p><p class="western">The humanitarian and structural consequences of the current situation in the West Bank are disastrous for the Palestinian education system.&nbsp;<a href="http://eappi.org/en">EAPPI</a>, a West Bank-based non-governmental organisation, has published reports on the education situation in Palestine in cooperation with various international organisations.&nbsp;<a href="http://www.ochaopt.org/content/hebron-access-restrictions-%20amidst-increased-violence-further-%20undermine-living-conditions">OCHA, the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, claimed the right of education for 1 million Palestinian Children at risk.</a>&nbsp;According to them, access to education was restricted by several factors. &nbsp;</p><p class="western">Firstly, physical attacks on Palestinian schools are constantly increasing – in 2016, there were over 150 cases of vandalism, military raids, threats and harassment, attacks on students and educational infrastructure or abuses of schools as interrogation and detention areas. In total, 256 education-related violations affecting 30’000 students have been noted. Secondly, Palestinians are banned from building in Zone C of the West Bank, which means that new schools and houses must be built illegally. &nbsp;</p><p class="western">Such schools or community centres,&nbsp;<a href="https://eeas.europa.eu/headquarters/headquarters-homepage/8574/statement-by-the-%20spokesperson-%20on-the-resurgence-of-demolitions-in-area-c-of-the-west-bank_en">often partly or fully financed with EU funds</a>, are regularly demolished by the Israeli military. In September 2017, 56 schools in Area C had pending demolitions or stop-work orders.&nbsp;<a href="http://www.ochaopt.org/content/hebron-access-restrictions-%20amidst-increased-violence-further-%20undermine-living-conditions">Thirdly, military checkpoints, restricted zones and dangerous areas make it difficult or even impossible for Palestinians to gain access to schools or other educational institutions</a>.&nbsp;</p><p class="western">A shocking example is the "Qurduba" school in downtown Hebron, where children and school staff pass two of the West Bank’s most notorious checkpoints on a daily basis. They are regularly threatened and mistreated by the military and the residents of the nearby settlement. These circumstances have a massive impact on every individual and on education as such. Regular delays, psychological consequences for students and employees, as well as violent incidents between various actors in the vicinity of the school are in sharp contrast to a learn-friendly environment.</p><p class="western">If it wants to be seen as an honest broker, the European Union should counter this situation immediately and sustainably, because Israeli policy is hampering the impact of its support funds and is preventing a positive and independent development of Palestine and its population.&nbsp;</p><p class="western">There are voices that prognosticate that&nbsp;<a href="https://www.the-american-interest.com/2016/11/15/trumps-win-could-be-palestines-loss/">the EU will act more intensively as a mediator in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict</a>&nbsp;due to the election of Donald Trump. If no tangible and above all better prospects for peace and self-determination can be created, violence will likely continue to dominate everyday life in the West Bank andGaza – such as during the last weeks.&nbsp;<a href="https://internationale.politik.uni-mainz.de/projektbeschreibung/">This would undermine the EU's pretended role in this and other violent conflicts</a>&nbsp;and would&nbsp;turnthe EU to what the US already is: a dishonest broker, primarily working for its own agenda.&nbsp;</p><p class="western">Even though several parliaments of EU member states have repeatedly stressed the Palestinians' right to self-determination and the importance of a peaceful settlement of the conflict - not least through the admission of Palestine as a UNESCO member&nbsp;<a href="http://www.europarl.europa.eu/sides/getDoc.do?pubRef=-//EP//TEXT+MOTION+P8-RC-%202014-0277+0+DOC+XML+V0//EN">or through a clear vote of the EU parliament</a>– the EU’s policy remains diluted. To be taken seriously, the Union should act in accordance with its resolution adopted in 2014 and actively oppose Netanyahu’s occupation policy in the West Bank, which is extensively pushing ahead the construction of settlements systematically circumventing the Oslo and every other agreement as well as the Palestinian right to self-determination.&nbsp;</p><p class="western">If wanted, various options for action could be considered to counteract the current situation. Specifically, there would be a choice between increased political pressure on Israel, the creation of new rounds of negotiations, or concrete political and economic measures against Israel and its settlement policy in the West Bank.</p><p class="western">Official representatives of the European Union have publicly criticised Israel and&nbsp;<a href="https://eeas.europa.eu/headquarters/headquarters-homepage/11386/statement-by-the-%20spokesperson-%20on-israels-continuing-settlement-expansion-in-the-west-bank_en">called for a renunciation of the illegal occupation policy</a>. Neither political pressure nor direct negotiations led to remarkable results. Results, however, are urgently needed due to the far-reaching and lasting consequences of the current policy. Therefore, tougher measures should be taken to push for a change:&nbsp;<a href="https://eeas.europa.eu/delegations/palestine-occupied-palestinian-territory-west-bank-and-gaza-strip/33268/six-month-report-demolitions-and-confiscations-eu-funded-structures-west-bank-including-east_ar">the repeated demolition of EU-financed houses, the negative effects of current policies on EU-financed education projects and their consequences for the Israeli-Palestinian peace process</a>&nbsp;require political and economic action against Israel. &nbsp;</p><p class="western">The&nbsp;<a href="https://eeas.europa.eu/delegations/israel/1337/israel-and-the-eu_en">interdependent economic and political sectors</a>&nbsp;provide the EU with a powerful instrument and great leverage. The EU is Israel's largest trading partner, while Israel is only in 24th place from anEU perspective. Israel also has close ties with the EU outside economic bandwidths, for example through access to educational programmes such as Erasmus +, the Horizon 2020 programme or its participation in the UEFA and the UEFA Champions League.&nbsp;</p><p class="mag-quote-left" lang="en-GB">Financial aid is rather given to seek influence or to quieten one’s conscience, but not for actual change</p><p class="western" lang="en-GB">Consequences that restrict Israeli access to the European market or endanger cultural interdependence between the two societies could have serious consequences for the Israeli economy, but also for Israeli society. It seems that only such consequences could turn Israel around.&nbsp;</p><p class="western">This turnaround is more necessary than ever because the occupation and settlement policies of the Netanyahu government are significantly affecting the education system. That is why such measures must be adopted - on the one hand to realize the planned projects, but above all to maintain the vision of a self-determined Palestine.&nbsp;</p><p class="western"><a href="http://planipolis.iiep.unesco.org/upload/Palestine/Palestine_Education_development_strategic%20_plan_2014%20_2019_summary.pdf">An independent and freely developing education sector is a basic prerequisite, because education is a central factor in the emergence and development of every society - also in Palestine.</a>&nbsp;So far, however, it seems that the EU is following the narrative of current international politics, where financial aid is rather given to seek influence or to quieten one’s conscience, but not for actual change or to support the right to self-determination. &nbsp;</p><p class="western">If this narrative continues to dominate the political sphere, the burden to fight the occupation and to grant the right to education will remain on the shoulders of international activists, NGOs, and, above all, on the Palestinians themselves. Either way, it will be crucial to preserve existing and to build new educational facilities in order to create capacities for self-determination – at present and for future generations.&nbsp;</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/north-africa-west-asia/isabella-bellezza-smull/from-land-day-to-70th-anniversary-of-nakba-palestinia">From Land Day to the 70th anniversary of the Nakba, Palestinians have plenty to protest</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/north-africa-west-asia/neil-serougi/health-catastrophe-in-gaza-our-double-standards-are-killing-pale">The health catastrophe in Gaza: our double standards are killing Palestinians</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/north-africa-west-asia/miranda-hall/tech4worse-problem-with-digital-labour-initiatives-for-middle-ea">#Tech4Worse: The problem with digital labour initiatives for the Middle East</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/north-africa-west-asia/abdalhadi-alijla/melancholy-of-palestinians-heritage-destroyed">The melancholy of the Palestinians: a heritage destroyed</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Palestine </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Conflict </div> <div class="field-item even"> Equality </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> North-Africa West-Asia North-Africa West-Asia Palestine Conflict Equality Europe Education occupation Israel Lorenz Naegeli Thu, 03 May 2018 07:19:35 +0000 Lorenz Naegeli 117646 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Europe must honour its commitments: protect the nuclear deal https://www.opendemocracy.net/north-africa-west-asia/mehrdad-khonsari/europe-must-honour-its-commitments-and-protect-nuclear-deal <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>From an Iranian standpoint there continues to be a huge gap between what had been promised and what has actually been delivered.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/562712/PA-32145486.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/562712/PA-32145486.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="242" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Representatives from six world powers and Iran attend a meeting on Iran's nuclear deal in Vienna, Austria, on July 21, 2017. Picture by Pan Xu/Xinhua News Agency/PA Images. All rights reserved. </span></span></span>What is at stake when President Trump announces his decision on 12 May to stay or part with the ‘JCPOA’ (Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action) involves not just reopening old wounds and the renewed threat of proliferation in the Middle East, but also the prospects of another costly war in the region. What is also disturbing is the fact that an inexperienced American president should defy consensus opinion not just amongst his closest international partners but also amongst his own foreign policy community thereby subjecting regional and international security to wanton risks.&nbsp;</p><p>It is ironic that the rise of ‘Iran Hawks’ in the US decision-making process should happen at a time when ideological radicals are but a minority in Iran’s ruling establishment with very little public support. While Trump’s persistent threats to renege on America’s signed obligations has been a god sent gift for reviving the fortunes of Iranian hard-liners, they have at the same time frustrated the economic promises of the Rouhani government and compromised his reformist agenda before millions of hopeful Iranians.&nbsp;</p><p>The leaders of France and Germany have in recent weeks tried to persuade President Trump to look for new ways of augmenting the JCPOA while remaining faithful to a signed agreement that also includes Russia and China. While President Trump – perhaps eager to flex some muscles in advance of his impending talks with the leader of North Korea, remains ambiguous about his final decision; it is quite possible that in the end he will refrain from completely rejecting the JCPOA.</p><p>However, from an Iranian standpoint there continues to be a huge gap between what had been promised and what has actually been delivered by the JCPOA. In reality, while President Rouhani is struggling to retain public support by attracting foreign capital and technology in order to resuscitate the country’s suffering economy, what is being discussed by Iran’s western interlocutors is at best clinging to an agreement which has not been fully implemented or at worst the prospect of new sanctions and ‘add-ons’ in lieu of scrapping the agreement altogether. It is no wonder that Ayatollah Khamenei, who has repeatedly voiced his distrust of American intent, should feel vindicated leaving such figures as Foreign Minister Zarif who had successfully negotiated the JCPOA in the lurch for having naively succumbed to a series of broken promises.</p><p>It is now incumbent upon Europe - in line with initiatives recently proposed by the French president - with Russian and Chinese support to put matters right. Honouring the commitments made under the JCPOA – an agreement confined entirely to the nuclear issue – does not mean that there are no other areas of contention between Iran and the west such as Iran’s missile program or its activities in the Middle East. However, it is only right that they should be addressed in separate formats, independent of JCPOA.</p><p class="mag-quote-center">No local or outside power currently engaged in the Middle East can claim to have a monopoly on ‘good behaviour’&nbsp;</p><p>Providing Iran with incentives to remain inside the JCPOA in face of repeated US badgering, it will be possible for Europe to negotiate for a more comprehensive deal that includes extending the duration of the agreement. With regards to Iran’s missile program or its often referred to ‘bad behaviour or malign influence in the Middle East’, again all these issues can be raised provided due recognition is also given to all of Iran’s legitimate defence and security considerations as well as other priorities. For example, the independent European Central Bank or Central Banks within some key European countries may be induced to finding ways of bypassing continued American banking obstructions (in violation of JCPOA) by lending directly to companies willing to engage with Iran.</p><p>It is well to remember that no local or outside power currently engaged in the Middle East can claim to have a monopoly on ‘good behaviour’. The carnage and instability in Iraq or Afghanistan or the on going civil war in Syria or the calamitous state of affairs in Libya were not instigated by the Iranian regime. Indeed the rise of ISIS in Iraq and Syria along with funding for radical Sunni elements who have callously murdered innocent civilians in the streets of Europe and America have been a product of bad behaviour on the part of some of the west’s closest allies in the Middle East who are now lobbying the US as well as Israel to start a new war with Iran.</p><p>For its part, while it should remain faithful to the JCPOA, Iran also needs to understand that due to some of its past activities and current provocations, it continues to remain exposed to all kinds of allegations and at times unwarranted accusations. Its only tangible success in having extended its influence in Iraq, Syria and Lebanon and the corridor which it provides to the Mediterranean, if anything has been a consequence of American failures in these arenas.</p><p>Iran, which can potentially exploit certain economic benefits from such an opening, has simply filled the vacuum left by miscalculated interventions on the part of the US and its friends. Nonetheless, there is a huge volition on the part of all the losers in the Syrian equation to dispossess Iran of its gains and dislocate its influence from the region.</p><p>Finally, Trump’s continued robust criticisms of the nuclear deal in collusion with other anti-Iranian provocations sponsored by the likes of Saudi Arabia could also serve as a catalyst for another potentially explosive situation in the Middle East sparked by an all out ‘intended’ or ‘accidental’ conflict between Iran and Israel on Syrian soil with unpredictably catastrophic consequences.</p><p>Europe in tandem with Russia and China must now act to avoid further conflict in the region by helping to preserve the JCPOA and the credibility of those who negotiated its passage with or without the US.</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/north-africa-west-asia/kourosh-ziabari/iran-deal-when-american-and-iranian-conservatives-are-on-same">The &quot;Iran deal&quot;: when American and Iranian conservatives are on the same side</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/north-africa-west-asia/julie-wark/to-become-bit-more-human-review-of-bel-n-fern-ndez-letter-from-ira">To become a bit more human: Review of Belén Fernández, “Letter from Iran”</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/north-africa-west-asia/alphan-telek/return-of-class-and-social-justice-in-iran-and-tunisia">The return of ‘class and social justice’ in Iran and Tunisia</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/north-africa-west-asia/amin-bozorgian/neoliberalism-and-iran-s-protest-movement">Neoliberalism and Iran’s protest movement</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Iran </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> International politics </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> North-Africa West-Asia Can Europe make it? North-Africa West-Asia Iran International politics nuclear deal Mehrdad Khonsari Wed, 02 May 2018 07:04:00 +0000 Mehrdad Khonsari 117620 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Mining and employment: community struggles in Tunisia and South Africa https://www.opendemocracy.net/north-africa-west-asia/mai-choucri/mining-and-employment-community-struggles-in-tunisia-and-south-af <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Extractivism all-over the African continent is still appropriating and exploiting natural resources and destroying the environment and the livelihood of local communities.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/562712/mining tunis.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/562712/mining tunis.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="431" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>March of community activists and NGO workers on the last day of the Alternative Mining Indaba to Cape Town International Convention Centre where the Africa Mining Indaba is organised, to present a memorandum with lists of demands. Picture by Verena Glass, 2018, courtesy of Rosa Luxemburg Stiftung, Sao Paolo Office. All rights reserved. </span></span></span><span></span></p><p><a class="blockquote-new" href="https://mg.co.za/article/2018-02-28-land-identity-white-guilt">“Our land is not for sale. Your mining is not development. It is a destruction of our land.”</a></p><p>Employment and income generated by industrial mining activities are fields of tensions. Mining companies, government representatives or so-called development agencies argue with employment opportunities; surrounding communities are often disrupted and opponents criticise low numbers of new work possibilities. Case studies from South Africa and Tunisia reflect the issue and illustrate the role of community organizing.</p><p>For the past 20 years, every year in Cape Town, South Africa, governments, investors, and mining companies meet in the annual&nbsp;<span><a href="http://www.miningindaba.com/">Africa Mining Indaba</a>&nbsp;</span>to network and discuss developing mining interests in Africa. The development that is aimed for here is one where African officials meet international investors and work on the development of mining projects. In other words, it is a place to get work done in the extractive sector. This year’s Indaba was held from the 5th to the 8th of February and saw the participation of mining companies’ CEOs, former UN high officials, and ministers. They discussed in an optimist environment as 2017 closed with&nbsp;<span><a href="http://www.jeuneafrique.com/528933/economie/mining-indaba-le-moral-de-lindustrie-miniere-au-beau-fixe-malgre-les-annonces-fracassantes-de-la-rdc/">an increase in the price of almost all minerals</a></span>.</p><p class="western">As an NGO worker, I took part in the&nbsp;<span><a href="http://altminingindaba.co.za/">Alternative Mining Indaba</a></span>, a parallel conference held annually since 2010 in Cape Town to counter the exclusion of communities affected by the official Africa Mining Indaba and offer communities the space to voice their concerns and criticism. The tone there was not optimistic, as we were meeting in a time of a severe water crisis in Cape Town and where extractivism all-over the African continent is still appropriating and exploiting natural resources and destroying the environment and the livelihood of local communities.</p><h3>A view to the South&nbsp;</h3><p class="western">During this parallel conference, I was introduced to Nonhle Mbuthuma, a community activist from the&nbsp;<span><a href="http://www.facebook.com/amadibacrisiscommittee/">Amadiba Crisis Committee (ACC)</a></span>. The ACC was formed in 2007 and gathers community members in five villages of the Amadiba tribal authority region, in Xolobeni, a village in Pondoland of the Eastern Cape of the Republic of South Africa. ACC fights against a destructive Titanium mining project by an Australian mining company and defends the community’s rights to control their communal land, and against the removing of vegetation and the destruction of livelihoods. ACC in coordination with human rights lawyers works with the community to take the issue to court and stop the minerals minister from granting mining rights to their land which is held under traditional law.</p><p class="mag-quote-left">Traditional family farming has suffered greatly since the instauration of neoliberal policies</p><p>Mining companies and the government make luring promises of employment and development to the community. Nonetheless Nonhle explained the importance of having a consolidated stance as a community against mining. In order to do that, activists explain to the community that the jobs that the mining companies offer are not “real” jobs in the sense of longevity, and that their negative impact on the community is far higher than the benefits they offer. Rather, the community is demanding the development of their region through organic agriculture and eco-tourism projects, where they are involved in the planning and execution of those projects.&nbsp;<span><a href="http://nbn-resolving.de/urn:nbn:de:0168-ssoar-421505">Resistance in this community</a></span>&nbsp;is not a new thing, as rural people of Pondoland for the past 50 years have resisted state imposed development projects and against racial-capitalised Apartheid.</p><p>Having a somehow collective position against mining has been costly for the communities of Pondoland. The traditional authorities and the community members who are backing the mines are sometimes resorting to violence in their quest for profit from future mining. This is targeted especially&nbsp;<span><a href="https://e360.yale.edu/features/titanium-mine-conflict-south-africa-pondoland-rhadebe-caruso">against environmental and land rights activists</a>&nbsp;</span>and during the past decade&nbsp;<span><a href="https://mg.co.za/article/2018-01-12-00-mining-will-remove-the-intestines-of-our-land">12 activists have been shot dead or poisoned</a></span>.</p><h3>View to the North</h3><p>For the youth in Meknassi, a town in the Sidi Bouzid Governorate in central Tunisia, there is an opposite position where protestors are demanding the opening of Jabess mine on their land. Sidi Bouzid is known to many as the birth place of the Tunisian revolution given that it is the place where street demonstrations took-off demanding employment and dignity in 2011. Interior regions have always been marginalised as opposed to the capital and coastal cities which have been the focal point of economic development projects. </p><p>Sidi Bouzid, seven years onward,&nbsp;<span><a href="https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2018/01/sidi-bouzid-hardship-bites-arab-spring-began-180114053444260.html">still suffers from a harsh economic situation</a>&nbsp;</span>and an unemployment rate higher than 45%.&nbsp;<br /><span><a href="http://athimar.org/Article-131">As one researcher puts it</a></span>, the history of phosphate has a contradictory duality as both an initiator of life and initiator of decay: it is phosphate which created life in the Tunisian mining basin towns and it is also phosphate which accelerated the decline of other aspects of life in that region. </p><p>Phosphate mining is a very polluting activity. There is a&nbsp;<span><a href="https://www.economist.com/news/middle-east-and-africa/21636443-locals-complain-about-phosphate-industry-dirty-business">strong rotten-eggs smell</a>&nbsp;</span>that is produced due to the sulphuric acid used in the extraction process near the mines. It is also a water intensive activity as&nbsp;<span><a href="http://www.jeuneafrique.com/31867/economie/les-oubli-s-de-gafsa/">8 tons of phosphate</a>&nbsp;</span>require 10 million cubic meters of groundwater which consequently affects citizens’ right to access water, especially farmers. Sidi Bouzid is already overexploiting its groundwater at the hands of&nbsp;<span><a href="https://youtu.be/rwWTDCkhYRI">corporate farmers</a>&nbsp;</span>who are pumping the majority of water from deep aquifers without the proper authorisations.&nbsp;</p><p><span><a href="http://www.jstor.org/stable/43948361">Empirical studies</a>&nbsp;</span>show that traditional family farming has suffered greatly since the instauration of neoliberal policies in the mid-90s. This affected access to land and water resources, favouring large scale private investment at the expense of small farmers who find themselves marginalised and incapable of competing. In light of these agricultural policies, the fact that the Meknassi community is willing to give up their land, seldom planted with olive trees, becomes much more understandable.&nbsp;</p><p class="mag-quote-right">Communities should not be deciding under the burden of unemployment and poverty</p><p>Despite all the issues raised about phosphate mining and industries, the Tunisian government in its&nbsp;<span><a href="http://www.mdici.gov.tn/wp-content/uploads/2017/06/Volume_Global.pdf">2016-2020 development plan</a></span>, has the target of developing the phosphate and mining sector exports by 7.10% compared to a negative development of 4.12% during the period 2011-2015; which requires a recovery of the full production capacity in the mining basin and of the chemical group. </p><p>To formulate an alternative project,&nbsp;<span><a href="http://jpe.library.arizona.edu/volume_25/Rousselin.pdf">social-environmental protest movements</a>&nbsp;</span>have to reject hegemonic values imposed on them on modes and relationships of production. One of those values might be that phosphate mining at the hands of the state or even a private company is the only way for those youth to access employment opportunities.&nbsp;</p><h3>“Not about us, without us”</h3><p>Communities must be involved in the decision making on suggested development projects that affect them. Whether a state or private company executed project, negative impacts are to be avoided and communities’ economic, social, and cultural rights should be protected. This is the concept of&nbsp;׳free prior and informed consent׳(FPIC) which was adopted by the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People in 2017. </p><p>I would argue that in order for the decision to be made freely, communities should not be deciding under the burden of unemployment and poverty. Would the youth of Meknassi push with the same intensity for the mine opening if the state had invested in the agricultural sector in Sidi Bouzid in a way that favours small farmers? Isn’t the loss of land and water a very high price to pay for the provision of few hundred jobs in the Meknassi mine?&nbsp;</p><p>Both forms of community organising in Pondolanad and Meknassi are innovative forms of civic engagement in which communities take the lead and express their right to development as they see it. They are both led by young people who unfortunately suffer intimidation but who luckily have not lost confidence in fighting for their rights. The role of innovative NGOs should not be one where they replace the community in negotiating with the government or other stakeholders, but rather to work side by side with the community and accompany them, using all available mechanisms, in their struggle for their rights. Perhaps there is a lesson here that South Africa might teach North Africa.</p><p class="western">Unlike their fellow African citizens in Pondoland, the community in Meknassi has been&nbsp;<span><a href="http://nawaat.org/portail/2017/07/17/meknassi-la-mine-de-phosphate-entre-tergiversations-gouvernementales-et-tractations-locales/">pushing for accelerating</a>&nbsp;</span>the process of starting the phosphate mining operations in the Jabess mine demanded since 2011 and promised to them since 2013 after a series of protests and sit-ins which foresees the employment of 400 workers. The state is buying the agricultural land at the heart of the foreseen production site with compensation prices that don’t meet the&nbsp;<a href="https://youtu.be/C85aGgn5dzk"><span>community</span><span>’</span><span>s expectations</span></a>: “It is our land, and all the mine lands belong to us! After six years they [Gafsa Phosphate Company] are bargaining with us after the Dinar has been devalued three or four times".</p><p class="western">In July 2017&nbsp;<span><a href="https://www.shemsfm.net/fr/actualites_tunisie-news_news-regionales/172017/meknassi-le-secretaire-d-etat-a-l-energie-et-aux-mines-conclu-un-accord-avec-les-habitants-de-la-region-de-jabbes">a final agreement</a>&nbsp;</span>was reached between the community and the secretary of state for energy and mines whereby it was agreed that in return for allowing their lands to be exploited by the mine, one person from each family will be employed, without affecting the list of the already selected persons for employment. However, till late November 2017 nothing has changed and the unemployed youth, in one of their many&nbsp;<span><a href="http://www.webdo.tn/2017/11/27/meknassi-protestataires-bloquent-transport-phosphates/">protests,</a>&nbsp;</span>blocked the national road preventing the circulation of phosphate transport trucks in protest against the status quo.</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/north-africa-west-asia/hamza-hamouchene/jemna-in-tunisia-inspiring-land-struggle-in-north-africa">Jemna in Tunisia: an inspiring land struggle in North Africa</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/north-africa-west-asia/hamza-hamouchene/paradises-of-earth-activism-and-film-production">Paradises of the earth: activism and film production</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/north-africa-west-asia/hamza-hamouchene/another-case-of-energy-colonialism-tunisia-s-tunur-solar-pro"> Another case of energy colonialism: Tunisia’s Tunur solar project</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/north-africa-west-asia/ines-mahmoud/tunisia-rise-up-against-imf">Tunisians oppose the IMF</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/north-africa-west-asia/chouaib-el-hajjaji/black-tunisian-women-ceaseless-erasure-and-post-racial-ill">Black Tunisian women: ceaseless erasure and post-racial illusion</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Tunisia </div> <div class="field-item even"> South Africa </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Civil society </div> <div class="field-item even"> Economics </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> North-Africa West-Asia North-Africa West-Asia South Africa Tunisia Civil society Economics environment Mai Choucri Mon, 30 Apr 2018 09:00:12 +0000 Mai Choucri 117519 at https://www.opendemocracy.net