politics of protest https://www.opendemocracy.net/taxonomy/term/160/0 cached version 13/06/2018 05:58:43 en "Less-lethal" weapons in Jerusalem: "The purpose of these bullets isn’t corresponding to the reality" https://www.opendemocracy.net/protest/non-lethal-weapons-jerusalem <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Israeli photojournalist Tali Mayer, 28, was shot by a black-tipped sponge bullet while reporting on a demonstration. This led to her project with the ACRI, a member of INCLO, photographing Palestinians injured by these crowd-control bullets.</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/563503/Mayer_Tali_03 (1).jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/original_size/wysiwyg_imageupload/563503/Mayer_Tali_03 (1).jpg" alt="Palestinian teenager who lost an eye from a sponge-tipped bullet" title="" width="2000" height="2000" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-original_size" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Zakariya Julani, 14, from Shuafat refugee camp, was hit by a black sponge-tipped bullet while standing near his house as Israeli police forces were monitoring workers renovating the separation wall. He lost his left eye. Image: Tali Mayer. All rights reserved.</span></span></span></p><p><em><em>This interview is part of&nbsp;</em><a href="https://opendemocracy.net/protest">Right to Protest</a>, a partnership&nbsp;<em>project with human rights organisations CELS and INCLO, with support from the ACLU, examining the power of protest and its fundamental role in democratic society</em><em><em>.&nbsp;</em></em></em></p><p>INTERVIEW: ANNA NORMAN</p><h3><strong>Can you start by giving me some background to the project and how it came about?</strong></h3><p>In the summer of 2014 there was a specific event that a lot of people in Jerusalem and outside still see as decisive. It was following the kidnap and murder of three Israeli teenagers, and then a revenge murder where Israeli teenagers killed a youth from Shuafat, an East Jerusalem neighbourhood, on the night of 1 July 2014. I was covering the funerals [of the Israelis] earlier that day, and later on that afternoon attempted lynchings were taking place in central Jerusalem in the aftermath; groups of people were trying to follow and find Palestinian workers in the centre of Jerusalem. The morning after we heard the news about Mohammed Abu Khdeir, who had been kidnapped and killed. Even at that point I realised that this was going to be an event that would change day-to-day reality in Jerusalem. </p><p>Shortly after I went to cover a protest by people from the neighbourhood on the murder. There were many journalists there, standing quite far from the events, and on the other side there were the cops. And at some point bullets were shot towards us. I was shot in the right side of the face. A photographer standing next to me got shot in the shoulder and another one was in the neck. I had two breaks in the jaw and had to take a few months off to recover, so then I saw the war like every other citizen, on the sofa, on the TV and not as a journalist. But I started to research the bullets that were used against me.</p><p>A month and a half after I was shot, a teenager called Mohammed Sunuqrut, from Wadi Joz in East Jerusalem, was shot in the head by a police officer [with a black-tipped sponge bullet] and killed. And there have been many reports since then of people being shot in the head with these bullets, which is against the official police regulations on how to use this bullet. I decided that people should be informed and able to reflect about these events, so I met with the <a href="http://www.acri.org.il/en/">Association for Civil Rights in Israel [ACRI]</a>. They were very interested in a project that would also reflect their own work to change policy regarding use of these bullets.</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/563503/Mayer_Tali_01 (1).jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/original_size/wysiwyg_imageupload/563503/Mayer_Tali_01 (1).jpg" alt="A palestinian teenager who lost his left eye from a sponge-tipped bullet" title="" width="2000" height="2000" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-original_size" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Yihia Al-Amudi, 14, from Shuafat refugee camp, attends a school near a checkpoint that's a hotspot for clashes between police and Palestinian youths. He was hit by a black sponge-tipped bullet when standing on the corner of the camp’s main street. He lost his left eye. Image: Tali Mayer. All rights reserved. </span></span></span></p><h3><strong>When did Israeli security forces start using these ‘nonlethal’ bullets? Was this around the same time that these events were unfolding?</strong></h3><p>Yes, it’s important to mention that the summer of 2014 was also the time when Israeli police started using these bullets [model 4557, aka the black-tipped sponge bullet]. Before then, blue sponge bullets, that were half the weight and actually made of sponge, were in use. But police officers complained that they were not useful enough. Actually, it’s also important to show this point of view; police officers were claiming that protesters were catching these blue bullets and just throwing them back. So then they changed them to the black ones, which look the same but the main material is not sponge but rubber, and they are much heavier. They are still referred to as sponge bullets but they only have sponge tips. It’s since this change that we’ve started to see much more serious injuries.</p><h3><strong>Can you tell me more about the injuries you’ve witnessed among the people you photographed?</strong></h3><p>The severity of the injury depends on what part of the upper body is shot and on how far away the person who shot you was. We saw lots of different cases, some more minor, including a 13-year-old girl who was shot in the neck but was okay, but also many cases of people losing their eyes – not just the eyesight, but completely losing the whole eye. There was one 11-year-old child from Isawiyah [a Palestinian neighbourhood in East Jerusalem] who was shot in a specific place in the head that caused him to lose one eye immediately, and then later on the sight in his other eye, so he went completely blind. Most of the people who I photographed lost at least one of their eyes.</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/563503/Mayer_Tali_02 (1).jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/original_size/wysiwyg_imageupload/563503/Mayer_Tali_02 (1).jpg" alt="Portrait of a Palestinian teenager who was left with brain damage from a sponge-tipped bullet" title="" width="2000" height="2000" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-original_size" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Ahmad Abu-Hummus, 14, from the neighbourhood of Isawiya, was shot in the head by a black sponge-tipped bullet near his house. He suffered many fractures to his skull and has been left with severe brain damage. Image: Tali Mayer. All rights reserved. </span></span></span></p><h3><strong>Why did you decide to focus on people who weren’t involved in demonstrations at the time they were shot?</strong></h3><p>The project focused on 16 people who lost their eyes from these bullets and who were not part of a demonstration when they were shot. But that also means that we’re automatically talking about dozens of other people, protesters, who are being shot and losing their eyes or being brain damaged.</p><p>We wanted to make a wide statement in Israel and Palestine about these bullets. First of all, these bullets are used at the moment only in Jerusalem and in the West Bank – by police in Jerusalem and by the IDF [Israel Defence Forces] in the West Bank. The context is important because East Jerusalem is a forced occupied territory and it’s therefore not by mistake that these bullets are used there. They are defined as non-lethal weapons to disperse crowds. </p><p>But most of the demonstrations in East Jerusalem are not demonstrations that we are used to seeing in other places; there is a specific relationship in these neighbourhoods between protesters and the police. So in this context these bullets are used more to suppress events than to disperse crowds; it’s not by mistake that stronger ammunition is being used there. We wanted the public to be aware that people who live in these neighbourhoods, who are not taking part in a demonstration, are being shot in the head, to start people thinking about it.</p><p>Also, people who are injured during demonstrations in Jerusalem are straight away evacuated to the Palestinian hospitals in East Jerusalem, or Ramallah, because if they were to be evacuated to the Israeli hospitals they would be arrested straight after or even during their medical treatment. Therefore it is much harder for us to be on top of the data in the increase in injuries among protesters. But I can only assume that, with the levels of clashes that we see, there must be an increase in protesters being injured too.</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/563503/Mayer_Tali_05 (1).jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/original_size/wysiwyg_imageupload/563503/Mayer_Tali_05 (1).jpg" alt="Portrait of a 33-year-old Palestinian man left completely blind from a sponge-tipped bullet" title="" width="2000" height="2000" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-original_size" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Taysir Sanduka, 33, was shot by a black sponge-tipped bullet when returning from work on the day of the funeral of Mohammed Abu khdeir, in Shuafat. He was hit in his left eye after becoming caught between the funeral procession and Israeli police. Already blind in his right eye since childhood, he is now completely blind. Image: Tali Mayer. All rights reserved. </span></span></span></p><h3><strong>What are the state regulations regarding use of these weapons by police and security forces?</strong></h3><p>We don’t know if new regulations were brought in when they started to use the stronger bullets, or if they continued to use the same ones, though the ACRI does have evidence to suspect that they didn’t change the regulations. And anyway the regulations even for the less strong blue sponge bullets stated that you are not allowed to shoot the upper part of the body – so from the stomach and up. And the bullets also cannot be officially used against elderly people, children or pregnant women. </p><p>However, the youngest boy we photographed was five years old when he was shot. He lost his eyesight. And there was a woman who was 66 years old who was shot in the head while standing on the balcony of her own house. And of course all the others were shot in the head, so we see a strong dissonance between regulations and what is actually happening in reality. And there hasn't yet been a proper response from officials on this.</p><h3><strong>So are there no cases of police or security officers being investigated or brought to trial?</strong></h3><p>There haven’t been any cases, no, for the people I photographed, or any others. And the only one where there was an investigation that took place was Mohammed Sunuqrut, who was killed, and the police officer who testified claimed that he shot him in the leg and that afterwards he fell to the floor and hit his head on the sidewalk, and that he died from that. But the medical investigation showed that he was in fact shot in the head, yet even in this case the officer was not put on trial, the investigation was closed.</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/563503/Mayer_Tali_07 (1)_0.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/original_size/wysiwyg_imageupload/563503/Mayer_Tali_07 (1)_0.jpg" alt="Portrait of a Palestinian boy who was shot by a sponge-tipped bullet when he was five years old" title="" width="2000" height="2000" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-original_size" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Muhammad Abid was five-and-a-half when he was shot by a black sponge-tipped bullet. He was walking home from school in the neighbourhood of Isawiya. ‘There were no clashes that day, it was a routine patrol. Only one bullet was shot and this bullet hit him’, his father stated. Image: Tali Mayer. All rights reserved. </span></span></span></p><h3><strong>How has the project been received?</strong></h3><p>It’s only been shown in Israel so far, because our aim was to influence public opinion here first of all. It was first shown a year ago in an article in&nbsp;<em>Haaretz&nbsp;</em>weekend magazine that I wrote. Another important thing to mention is that we didn’t want to say that any of these injuries happened on purpose, or that somebody actually aimed at the faces of the people. The point we wanted to make is that ‘non-involved’ people are being seriously injured in spite of regulations. This was the thing we wanted to show. </p><p>After the project was featured in&nbsp;<em>Haartez</em>&nbsp;it then went on to win ‘Series of the Year’ in the Local Testimony exhibition, which is a photojournalism exhibition held alongside the World Press Photo exhibition in Israel. It’s unusual for a work about wounded Palestinians to get such strong attention in Israel, and this has been one of its achievements. </p><p>But I think the article was even more important because we managed to bring the stories of these events into the public arena. Most of the media in Israel is very conservative. The biggest newspaper,&nbsp;<em>Israel Hayom</em>&nbsp;[<em>Israel Today</em>], has a very strong relationship with our government, with Netanyahu, and is funded by Sheldon Adelson, a multimillionaire republican in the United States. So this phenomenon had not been introduced to the public before, and when people saw that the project is about people who were not involved in demonstrations it was hard for them to comprehend it.</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/563503/Mayer_Tali_08 (1).jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/original_size/wysiwyg_imageupload/563503/Mayer_Tali_08 (1).jpg" alt="Portrait of a Palestinian man who lost his left eye and was left with fractures to his face from a sponge-tipped bulllet" title="" width="2000" height="2000" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-original_size" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Luai Abed, 38, from the neighbourhood of Isawiya, was shot in the head by a black sponge-tipped bullet on his balcony, after he heard noise from the street. The bullet caused fractures to his face and he lost his left eye. Image: Tali Mayer. All rights reserved. </span></span></span></p><h3><strong>You’ve said that you are working on a second part to the project. Will this have the same focus?</strong></h3><p>Even though the project made some achievements in terms of consciousness in Israel, we never got any meaningful response from policymakers. And the injuries are continuing; every once in a while we hear about another teenager shot in the head who has lost an eye or has another serious injury. But we have a reason to be optimistic about policy change because around ten years ago there were other kinds of ‘nonlethal’ bullets in use that were made of steel and much smaller, but which caused many serious injuries. And a campaign to end their use was successful and the blue bullets replaced them.</p><p>The subtext of the police response seems to be that if they are shooting 40,000 of these bullets a year, and 40 people are being injured in the head, then this is okay, it’s a standard that they can live with and expect to have. But we want to emphasise that these 40 injured are people who are losing their eyes or being brain damaged and this is not in line with the concept of these bullets as non-lethal weapons to disperse crowds. So we want to continue to press the fact that the purpose of these bullets isn’t corresponding to the reality, that they are not being used as they are supposed to be used and that it might not even be possible to use them as they are meant to be used.</p><p>Also, it’s illegal to shoot at a 66 year old woman on the balcony of her house. But it’s also illegal for police to use these bullets against anyone at the upper part of the body, even if it’s a 17 year old Palestinian throwing stones at you. It’s still illegal according to the current regulations. So I think that while the first part of this project was aimed at the Israeli public, trying to use messages to reach out to as many of them as possible, I think that we will rethink the continuation of it and try to widen our messages about the use of these bullets.</p><p>It’s very important to understand that the neighbourhoods in East Jerusalem where we shot this project are neighbourhoods that have protests and confrontations between Palestinians and Israeli police on a daily basis, day and night. Demonstrations are usually by groups of teenagers, but hundreds of thousands of people live in these neighbourhoods and these people don’t disappear during these clashes. The clashes are part of daily life, so one of the wider implications of this project is to question the situation of the forced occupation as a whole, and ask whether these injuries are an inevitable consequence of the situation in East Jerusalem.</p><p><a href="http://www.talimayer.com/">www.talimayer.com</a></p><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> </div> <div class="field field-city"> <div class="field-label">City:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Jerusalem </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 Jerusalem Israel Democracy and government politics of protest Palestine and the Israeli Occupation protest Crowd-control weapons Right to Protest tag An openDemocracy interview with Tali Mayer Mon, 02 Oct 2017 15:48:16 +0000 An openDemocracy interview with Tali Mayer 113508 at https://www.opendemocracy.net How should states manage assemblies in the new age of protest? https://www.opendemocracy.net/protest/state-management-assemblies <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>With a sharp increase in protest around the world over the past decade, international and domestic standards for state protection and management of assemblies must be pursued.</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/563503/Stephen Melkisethian:Flickr. Some rights reserved. Charlottesville, Virginia protests Aug 2017.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/563503/Stephen Melkisethian:Flickr. Some rights reserved. Charlottesville, Virginia protests Aug 2017.jpg" alt="Riot police lined up at protests in Charlottesville, USA, in August 2017." title="" width="460" height="285" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Riot police at protests in Charlottesville, USA, in August 2017. Image: Stephen Melkisethian/Flickr. Some rights reserved.</span></span></span></p><p><em><em>This article is part of&nbsp;</em><a href="https://opendemocracy.net/protest">Right to Protest</a>, a partnership&nbsp;<em>project with human rights organisations CELS and INCLO, with support from the ACLU, examining the power of protest and its fundamental role in democratic society</em><em><em>.&nbsp;</em></em></em></p><p>Seen from one perspective, the rise in the incidence of demonstrations around the world is a welcome development. Not too long ago there were mainly only two options for those who saw themselves as being at the receiving end of an abusive state: submit and wait like one does for the weather to clear up; or take up arms to defend yourself.</p> <p>Taking to the streets unarmed, and using your physical presence to show your opposition to the powers that be, was simply not an option. Even if courageous individuals would dare to defy the state unarmed, the masses could not be mobilised to follow this route. They knew all too well that this was not likely to have a happy outcome for them personally, or to bring about a change for others.</p> <p>It was at the beginning of the 20th century when Gandhi found it possible to persuade large numbers of the rank and file in South Africa and then India to follow him unarmed into the streets – and by and large they lived to tell the tale. By now, mass-communication was starting to evolve, and atrocities in one part of the world began to resonate in other parts of an evolving global village, which in turn started to regard adherence to human rights standards as a prerequisite for membership of the newly formed global community.</p><p class="mag-quote-center">Major ideological changes and power shifts came about during the last century at least in part through such demonstrations</p> <p>The world – those who study these things tell us – has over the last couple of centuries at least started to become a less violent place, and this has had far-reaching consequences for the forms of protest that can be made against states. A ‘third option’ increasingly became possible in many societies, alongside violence and submission – namely that of mass protest.</p> <p>There was now at least a chance in some cases that states faced with street demonstrations would hold back on the use of force, and if not, the rest of the world would take note and in some cases act on it. Demonstrations could either replace violence altogether, or at least delay a resort to it. The rise of this less lethal tool of opposition was a result of a less violent world, but also a cause.</p> <p>How powerful unarmed demonstrations could be was shown when Gandhi became the first brown-skinned person to stand up to a European Empire – and win a permanent victory. Major ideological changes and power shifts came about during the last century at least in part through such demonstrations, including the end of colonialism, racial discrimination in the US, apartheid in South Africa, and communism. It also played a central role in asserting women’s rights, the importance of the environment, LGBTI rights, and indigenous rights. It has become a major means of expressing the <em>ressentiments</em> of globalisation.</p> <h3><strong>Demonstrations, political participation and democratic expression</strong></h3> <p>All this hardly means that all is well with demonstrations in the world. The acceptance that the state should facilitate demonstrations, instead of using restraint, is far from universal. In many cases excessive force is still used: organisers are targeted before or after the event, and/or demonstrations are restricted by activities such as the closedown of social media. The mere fact that demonstrations on such an extensive scale take place also demonstrates the underlying tensions and in many cases the general lack of respect for human rights.</p> <p>It should also be recognised that not every demonstration is to be welcomed as being in line with democracy and human rights. In some cases, demonstrations are aimed at promoting hatred against sections of the population, or can deteriorate into random violence and anarchy.</p> <p>However, the point remains that demonstrations have become a central and important part of political participation and democratic expression today, including as a response to some of the major challenges of our time. They do pose risks and are at times misused, but the proper response is not to repress demonstrations in general, but rather to manage them properly to maximise freedom and contain risks.</p> <p>Given the increased prevalence of demonstrations and the potential volatility of such situations, it is of ongoing importance to ensure that that all sides operate from a shared framework for the conduct of demonstrations – that there is a widely acceptable set of rules for this relatively new form of engagement. In many cases, states and protestors alike traverse unknown territory in the process. What can the various parties expect from each other? What should be the role of emerging technologies? How can dangerous surprises be avoided? How are domestic laws and practices brought into conformity with international standards?</p> <h3><strong>The development of a framework for the conduct of demonstrations</strong></h3> <p>My interest in contributing towards the development of a framework to deal with the increasing prevalence of demonstrations arose after I was appointed as Rapporteur on executions in 2010. I wrote my first report to the Human Rights Council on ‘protecting the right to life in the context of the policing of assemblies’ during the advent of what was then heralded as the ‘Arab Spring’.</p> <p>In the <a href="https://documents-dds-ny.un.org/doc/UNDOC/GEN/G11/134/47/PDF/G1113447.pdf?OpenElement">report</a> I emphasised the need for a holistic approach by law enforcement officials to demonstrations. The fact that demonstrations were now a common occurrence was not an excuse for police officers to say they were caught off-guard and the situation had escalated to a point where they had to use force to defend themselves, if they were in a position to diffuse the situation before it got to that point. That was even more the case if their own conduct had caused the tensions to erupt.</p> <p>This means we should not only apply the tests of necessity and proportionality to the police use of force, but also the test of precaution. States must go upstream and ask the question whether they could not have avoided the use of force through measures such as proper equipment, training and planning.</p> <p>In other words, given the central role of demonstrations in the world today, the focus cannot be on the use of force seen in isolation, but has to be on the way in which the authorities deal with demonstrations in general.</p> <p class="mag-quote-center">A special duty arises on the part of any state purporting to be democratic, when people engage peaceful assembly, to facilitate the process</p> <p>I got the opportunity to expand on this approach when the Council asked Maina Kiai – the Rapporteur on assembly and association – and myself to prepare a joint <a href="https://documents-dds-ny.un.org/doc/UNDOC/GEN/G16/018/13/PDF/G1601813.pdf?OpenElement">report on the proper management of assemblies</a>, which we presented in 2016. We argued for an approach that viewed peaceful protest not as a threat to democracy, to be resisted or at best tolerated, but rather as an integral part of democracy. The report attempts to provide a re-statement of the norms applicable to demonstration in a holistic way – integrating the proper management of the entire process of demonstrations with the rules on the use of force.</p> <p>Given the important role of this right in our society, a special duty arises on the part of any state purporting to be democratic, when people engage peaceful assembly, to facilitate the process. Regular laws are not to be suspended in the context of peaceful protest, but instead of the normal emphasis of the police on maintaining law and order, the focus should shift to protecting rights where necessary. In other words, where this right is at play, the police should not respond with the full force of the law to every infringement provided that it does not threaten rights.</p> <p>In the joint report we also emphasised the point that there is no such thing as an unprotected assembly. Many rights come into play during a demonstration, and even if the demonstration ceases to be peaceful, and those present loose the right to peaceful assembly, the participants retain their rights to bodily integrity and the right against discrimination, to name only two. Moreover, violence on the part of a few individuals does not render the entire gathering violent.</p> <h3><strong>The need for domestic laws to conform to international standards</strong></h3> <p>Hopefully the initiatives listed above – and others that have followed in its wake, such as the adoption by the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights of <a href="http://www.achpr.org/instruments/policing-assemblies-in-africa/">Guidelines on Policing Assemblies in Africa</a>, which largely follows the same approach – have contributed towards a more widely shared normative framework for the management of assemblies.</p> <p>However, there are many aspects of the management of demonstrations that still seem to me to warrant further attention. A central point relates to domestic laws on the use of force. In a large number of states, the domestic laws on the circumstances under which law enforcement officials may use force are shockingly permissive.&nbsp;</p> <p>These laws in many cases are relics from colonial times, and in the case of former colonies of Great Britain are still based on the latter’s Riot Act of 1714. If 12 people have gathered and fail to disperse after three warnings, firearms may be used with impunity. The picture is not much different in countries with different histories, including those that were under Soviet control (see <a href="http://www.ohchr.org/EN/Issues/Executions/Pages/AnnualReports.aspx">here</a>).</p> <p>This needs urgent attention. International human rights law works on the basis of subsidiarity, which means that international law provides only secondary protection. The domestic system is the first line of defence. Especially where the use of force involving serious injury or death is at stake, the results of violations are irreversible. Domestic laws should be brought into conformity with international standards, to ensure that training and accountability can occur and precautionary measures can be taken in line with those standards.</p> <h3><strong>Regulation of crowd-control weapons and other technologies</strong></h3> <p>The international human rights project also needs to take full cognisance of the role played by technology in the context of demonstrations, and ensure that it stays on top of the game. As is often said, technology is not inherently good or bad – it is a tool that can be used for either purposes. The rules of engagement of demonstrations should harness the positive effects of technology and preclude the negative ones.</p> <p class="mag-quote-center">There is little regulation of new ‘less-lethal’ technologies, but a huge market</p> <p>In the context of demonstrations, one of the most important applications of technology lies in the field on less-lethal weapons. While the advent of less-lethal weapons has in many respects had positive effects – allowing police where they are justified in using force to achieve the same result in a less injurious way – it also presents problems.</p> <p>Police using such weapons often operate with a false sense of security or license. Even though they are an improvement on lethal weapons, less-lethal weapons can in fact cause serious injury or death, or the threshold for their use is so low that the cumulative level of their increased use leads to a rise in the overall level of repression in society. Moreover, there is little regulation of new ‘less-lethal’ technologies, but a huge market. A system to ensure that law enforcement officials who use these technologies are aware of and can mitigate their risks is required.&nbsp;</p> <p>A careful approach is likewise called for in the case of technologies that can enhance accountability but can be overly intrusive, such as body-worn cameras.</p> <p>The implications of using unmanned weapon platforms in the context of demonstrations also requires serious attention. Unmanned systems include remote-controlled platforms for the use of force (armed drones) as well as autonomous weapons (where computers control the release of force), which can be used to disperse less lethal or lethal force. There can be little doubt that pressures to use them in demonstrations will evolve as they become more common in other security-related fields.</p> <p>Although they present serious risks of abuse, which must be addressed, it seems to me difficult to say that armed drones can as a matter of international law never be used in policing, for example in a hostage situation. However, in the context of the policing of demonstrations, it may be necessary to be more restrictive. Police have a duty to facilitate peaceful protest, and the presence of armed drones in such a context can be a serious disincentive to exercise this right. Even where the use of force may be justified, doing so via a drone seems to be more akin to herding animals than dealing with human beings with a right to dignity. This mode of delivery may be adding insult to injury – and in fact it may escalate the situation. Moreover, the police have a duty to protect people even during demonstrations, and cannot do so if they control the situation from a remote location.&nbsp;</p> <p>There are also good reasons not to use fully autonomous weapons at all in law enforcement. This form of delivery entails that a computer with artificial intelligence or machine learning, to the point that there is no longer meaningful human control, determines whether force will be released. Some of us have <a href="https://documents-dds-ny.un.org/doc/UNDOC/GEN/N14/497/36/PDF/N1449736.pdf?OpenElement">argued</a> that full autonomy in force delivery has no role to play in armed conflict, but there are opposing views. I would venture to say that there should not be any uncertainty about the fact that they should not be used in any law enforcement situation.</p> <h3><strong>Exploring the different dynamics of demonstrations</strong></h3> <p>There is a need for fuller conceptual engagement with demonstrations by researchers. There needs to be a fuller exploration of the foundations of this right, to ensure that it can better weather the storms that it will encounter. For example, the right of peaceful assembly is often presented as a manifestation of freedom of expression, and as a result it can be subjected to the same limitations. While there is considerable overlap, it seems important also to emphasise the differences between these two rights. Freedom of assembly is not merely a species of the broader right of freedom of expression – it is a distinct right with its own dynamics and justification.</p> <p>Peaceful protest is quite specific in the sense that it entails the concrete, physical presence of the person involved – the salience of the message you convey lies in the fact that you are part of the gathering, not somewhere else. You are not only talking the talk, you are also walking the walk. Demonstrators do not only inhabit the marketplace of ideas but they have entered the real marketplace. And it is normally exercised in collaboration with others – as part of a collective.</p><p class="mag-quote-center">In order to thrive, societies need people with agency and responsibility</p> <p>It should thus be recognised that while many demonstrations are merely expressions of solidarity and pose no threat to the state, they can potentially present a powerful challenge to the state. However, the argument needs to be made that this is a risk worth taking; for example, because it can make other even more serious threats to the system unnecessary and because it stimulates human engagement as opposed to apathy – and in order to thrive, societies need people with agency and responsibility.</p> <p>Moreover, there is plenty of room for more multi-disciplinary collaboration in this field. Not enough people who work in this field are taking notice of the psychological and sociological studies that have given more insight into the dynamics of demonstrations. More can be done to use ICTs to provide police trainees with simulations of crowd situations, to help prevent over-reactions when they encounter real-life situations.</p> <p>These are some ideas about the unique nature of demonstration, but there are clearly many opportunities for others to enter the debate.&nbsp;</p> <p>Demonstrations have come to play an important role in modern democratic discourse. It is an important means of political participation and engaging with some of the big issues of our time. The fact that people engage in the political process through demonstrations means that there is more influence on, and there should thus be more ownership of, the eventual outcomes, even if particular instances of demonstration become quite heated. Much will depend on whether we find principled, responsive and innovative ways of ensuring that the forces at work when this happens are allowed to play a meaningful role in shaping our shared future.</p><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> Democracy and government politics of protest Right to Protest tag Christof Heyns Mon, 02 Oct 2017 11:56:28 +0000 Christof Heyns 113542 at https://www.opendemocracy.net This time, it’s different https://www.opendemocracy.net/robin-wilson/this-time-it%E2%80%99s-different <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Paul Mason’s&nbsp;<em>Postcapitalism</em>&nbsp;is a book for our times—and the decades ahead.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_right 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/550590/cover.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/550590/cover.jpg" alt="" title="" width="230" height="351" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span>After the 1979 Conservative election victory in Britain and its repetition in 1983, Labour was intellectually comatose, such energy as it had mainly dissipated in factionalism, between a conservative leadership and a radical wing which yet seemed to look backwards. It was outside Labour, in a journal which had gradually floated itself off from the Communist Party of Great Britain, </span><em>Marxism Today</em><span>, where a serious reckoning was being made, even in advance of Margaret Thatcher’s rise to power, through path-breaking essays like Eric Hobsbawm’s ‘</span><a href="http://www.amielandmelburn.org.uk/collections/mt/pdf/78_09_hobsbawm.pdf">The forward march of Labour halted</a><span>’ (September 1978) and Stuart Hall’s ‘</span><a href="http://hegemonics.co.uk/docs/Great-Moving-Right-Show.pdf">The great moving right show</a><span>’ (January 1979). And as the Iron Curtain was about to come down on the Communist political family—including its ‘Eurocommunist’ dissidents—in October 1988 </span><em>Marxism Today</em><span> published a startling diagnosis of the strange world in which the left now found itself, encapsulating a look forward into the 1990s in the phrase ‘new times’.</span></p> <p>The <a href="http://www.amielandmelburn.org.uk/collections/mt/index_frame.htm">special issue of <em>Marxism Today</em></a> devoted to this theme slaughtered many sacred cows, essentially arguing that the left was like a beached whale in a ‘post-Fordist’ world of ‘lean’ or ‘just-in-time’ production, where the old mass-production lines were being replaced by boutique production for diverse and demanding consumers. ‘Organised’ post-war capitalism, a relatively stable world in which big corporations recognised trade unions as an institutional voice of (at least male) workers and advanced capitalist states secured relatively full employment (at least for men) with a national welfare floor, was giving way to ‘disorganised’ capitalism, where capital roamed the globe and small and medium enterprises were often at the heart of innovation. The ‘new times’ analysis extended from the economic to the cultural arena, urging the left to recognise that it now inhabited a world characterised by what Antonio Gramsci had prefigured as ‘individualistic society’.</p><h2><strong>Informational</strong></h2> <p>Since then, what defines this new form of capitalism has become clearer. It was described as ‘<a href="http://samples.sainsburysebooks.co.uk/9781444310146_sample_415190.pdf">informational</a>’ by Castells (1996) and ‘<a href="http://www.polity.co.uk/book.asp?ref=9780745647333">cognitive</a>’ by Boutang (2008). If Fordism raised the productivity of labour quantitatively by building upon the Taylorist disaggregation of the labour process into simple, repeatable parts, co-ordinating them via a production line whose speed management controlled, informational/cognitive capitalism pursues qualitative innovation by cultivating and capturing the knowledge in workers’ heads.</p> <p>But this is in no sense simply a substitution of mental for manual labour, with everything else unchanged. On the contrary, there is a fundamental distinction, which goes to the heart of the crisis of legitimacy contemporary capitalism faces—of which the explosion detonated in the financial institutions in 2008, so ably analysed in Paul Mason’s instant book, <em><a href="http://www.amazon.co.uk/Meltdown-The-End-Age-Greed/dp/1844676536">Meltdown</a></em>, was merely a symptom.</p> <p>Taylorism and Fordism were all about enhancing capital’s control by destroying the autonomy of labour. Never again would there be workers who had the space and capacity to articulate alternative social projects like the toolmakers and other highly skilled manual workers who led the first shop stewards’ movement in Britain around the time of the first world war, so well <a href="http://www.amazon.co.uk/Stewards-Movement-Studies-social-history/dp/0043310591">described</a> by James Hinton (1973). Huw Benyon’s ethnographic <em><a href="http://www.amazon.co.uk/Working-Ford-Huw-Beynon/dp/0713905530">Working for Ford</a></em>, published in the same year, painted a quite different contemporary picture of a deskilled workforce whose ‘economic-corporate’ militancy, as Gramsci would have described it, did not translate into any radical political ideas.</p> <p>The big difference with informational capitalism is the loss of dependence of high-competence workers on the company. A toolmaker could only acquire his skill through an apprenticeship with a firm. But today’s cognitive workers have acquired their knowledge through publicly funded education systems.</p> <p>Critically, since the ‘new times’ analysis, knowledge itself has become largely a public good, as a result of the internet, rather than a commodity to be bought: why buy (or indeed competitively produce for sale) encyclopedias when Wikipedia is better, as a product of the ‘wisdom of crowds’, than any such alternative could be? And this creates the key problem for capital which Boutang recognised: if knowledge is no longer a commodity, yet it is the primary resource for production, how can capitalists corral that knowledge for their own private profit? How can they even put a meaningful price on it?</p> <p>This was the contradiction which Marx recognised yet which in his time seemed merely theoretical—that between the socialisation of the ‘forces of production’ and the private appropriation of profit derived from them. And it is at the heart of a magisterially reflective new book by Mason, a <em>longue-durée </em>view of the history of capitalism—of the arguments about its political economy and the shape of a successor to it.</p> <p>Of course the publication is wonderfully serendipitous in a UK context: here is Labour, once again, digesting a decisive defeat by a Conservative party well to the English-nationalist, ‘free-market’ side of the European centre-right; and here, once again, is an insurgent challenger to Labour’s shell-shocked centrist leadership, offering up tried Keynesian remedies. And in the space of <em>New Times </em>comes <em>Postcapitalism: A Guide to our Future</em> (Allen Lane).</p> <h2>Owl of Minerva</h2> <p>This is a very ‘Marxist’ book, in many ways except one: it is not a tract written for a sect. First, it is characterised by an intellectual rigour, based on respect for theoretical argument allied to a voracious reading across a wide diversity of disciplines, which was much more evident amid the crucible of the 1970s class struggles in Britain, in which Mason was socialised, than it is today—as manifested in a <a href="http://www.theguardian.com/books/2015/aug/03/postcapitalism-guide-to-future-paul-mason-review-engagingly-written-confused">superficial and dismissive <em>Guardian </em>review</a>. Secondly, it follows Hegel’s recognition, endorsed by Marx, that the Owl of Minerva only flies at dusk: we can only fully understand social change with the benefit of hindsight.</p> <p>Thirdly, this is a book of ‘political economy’: it disdains the crass reductions of the ‘neo-classical’ intellectual outriders of Thatcher—of politics to economics and of economics to the putatively utilitarian motives of individual actors. Fourthly, it develops the insight of the Soviet economist (and victim of Stalin’s purges) Nikolai Kondratieff, who saw beyond the business cycles of capitalism to which orthodox economics attends a more profound pattern of waves of innovation, expansion, decline and recovery, each around five decades long.</p> <p><span class="pullquote-right">This is now the world of open-source software like Linux, of collaborative public projects like the Large Hadron Collider, of co-operative systems like Mondragon in the Basque country.</span></p><p><span></span>The first wave, emerging in the late 18th&nbsp;century in England, was defined by the appearance of the factory system, steam-powered machinery and canal transport; it went into depression in the 1820s, culminating in the revolutionary crises of the late 1840s (whose limited outcomes were to disappoint Marx). The second saw machine-produced machinery replacing mere ‘manu-facture’, spread across the advanced world by railways and steamships, the telegraph and stable currencies; the 1870s depression was to be the stimulant of new technologies, deployed in the third wave. From the 1890s, this was the era of heavy industry, the internal combustion engine and the telephone, of ‘scientific’ management and mass production—of Taylorism and Fordism; the Wall Street crash was the starting gun for an effective civil war in Europe, only resolved by the defeat of fascism in 1945.</p> <p>The fourth was the time of mass consumption of synthetic goods, of the airplane and an apparently endless boom—until the shuddering 70s oil shocks and ‘stagflation’. Mason argues that the fourth wave, lasting over six decades until the iconic fall of Lehman Brothers, was extended by the fall of the Berlin wall, which allowed the political right to exploit the demise of a dogmatic and dictatorial Stalinism to sideline the whole empowering and emancipatory Marxist tradition which had inspired successive cohorts of workers’ movements.</p> <p>Overlapping was the onset of the fifth wave, emerging in the 1990s as the globalised, networked, mobile-communications world we know today—yet prematurely stalled by what has become a protracted crisis. Indeed, these phenomena are interconnected: precisely because profit could no longer be readily appropriated by capital from the real economy of informationalised goods and services, the parasitic apparatus of ever-more baroque and dizzying financial instruments grew like Topsy until its inevitable collapse.</p> <p>What drove these long cycles? Mason argues that the explanation lies in Marx’s ‘labour theory of value’, which he took from the classical economists. Crucially, Marx developed it for the world of the factory system, in which labour itself became a mere commodity. He thus explained profit under capitalism as the ‘surplus value’ of the labour embodied in the value of commodities produced over the labour embodied in the reproduction of the power to labour itself (and in the raw materials consumed). And he derived a tendency for the rate of profit to fall, as competition between capitalists encouraged them to substitute capital for value-creating labour, to the initial benefit of the innovating enterprise but the eventual collective loss of all. Hence the depressions and the intense workers’ struggles associated with each wave—except, Mason points out, the last.</p> <p>The fourth wave was marked by an unprecedented attack by a profit-squeezed capital, now facing competition on an international scale, on the organisation of labour itself—emboldened by the long boom, full employment and the welfare state—with big symbolic defeats like that of the British miners in 1984-85. Hence the confusion of the fifth wave: with informational networks unamenable to surplus extraction in the old hierarchical way, stagnation is becoming the norm in the advanced capitalist world; yet the collective weakness of labour means the worker resistance characteristic of previous waves is lacking.</p><h2>Gravedigger</h2> <p>But Mason argues that capitalism has created a new gravedigger—the ‘networked individual’, who believes (not unreasonably) that information is a public good, and so (in economic terms) non-exclusive and non-rival, and who therefore resists the appropriation of value from it by a private monopoly like Microsoft. This is now the world of open-source software like Linux, of collaborative public projects like the Large Hadron Collider, of co-operative systems like Mondragon in the Basque country.</p> <p class="image-caption"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/550590/lhc.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/550590/lhc.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="258" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span>A cathedral of postcapitalism: the Large Hadron Collider. Flickr / <a class="truncate owner-name" title="Go to Thomas Cizauskas&#039;s photostream" href="https://www.flickr.com/photos/cizauskas/">Thomas Cizauskas</a>. Some rights reserved.</p><p>And Mason proposes a ‘postcapitalism’ which is emergent from this world—not one where the pace would be forced in a Leninist, inevitably authoritarian, fashion. His ‘revolutionary reformism’ would have the goal of minimising the amount of labour for a wage, through releasing the vast innovative capacity of networks, while maximising the non-wage, shared contribution each ‘networked individual’ can contribute to society.</p> <p>In a world thus redirected from the ‘shareholder value’ of neoliberalism to the ‘labour value’ of postcapitalism, there would still be labour. But, increasingly, it would be labour voluntarily shared for mutual benefit, rather than contracted and corralled by a capitalist.</p> <p>Keynes’ ‘euthanasia of the rentier’ would be achieved through the socialisation of financial institutions, never again allowed to engage in the ‘capitalism of the casino’. Company law would be reformed to turn enterprises into societies—it passes unnoticed in the Anglo-Saxon world that the word for company in French (<em>société)</em> and German (<em>Gesellschaft</em>) is the same as that for society. And the state would enable rather than direct this transition, with the long-term outcome which Gramsci well described as the integration of ‘political society’ into ‘civil society’.</p> <p>Mason envisages this transition as taking place over decades: it is a kind of radical gradualism, developed through experimental innovation on a variety of scales. But for him there is no way back for capital: if Kondratieff’s message didn’t appeal to Stalin because it suggested capitalism had profound recovery powers, Mason can see no wave beyond the fifth, arguing that capitalism has always depended on scarcity and is incompatible with a world of abundant, socially-produced goods.</p> <p>But he also stresses the urgency of change. For this to him is a race against two huge challenges: the dramatic rise in dependency ratios in ageing, advanced-capitalist societies and, above all, the threat of climate chaos.</p> <p>And yet here there is hope. After the factory system was established in the first Kondratieff wave, as Marx brilliantly argued in <em>Capital</em>, the labour movement in Britain saved capital from its own rapaciousness by successfully pressing for factory legislation which would restrict child labour and limit the working day. While individual capitalists predicted the end of civilisation as they knew it, this was in the long-term interest of capital, albeit no longer unconstrained.</p> <p>What has been interesting about the fifth wave, even if labour has been weak, is that the environmental movement has grown stronger with each passing year. And while, particularly in the US, sections of capital warn of dire consequences if greenhouse-gas emissions are dramatically reduced, other voices are beginning to see the market potential of the ‘green economy’ and bending to the demands of a finite planet.</p> <p>Gramsci always sought to temper ‘pessimism of the intelligence’ with ‘optimism of the will’, and vice versa. This outstanding book contains much by way of sobering intelligence—yet much, too, to embolden the activist. And, yes, how well Jeremy Corbyn does in Labour’s leadership contest is quite important—but this is much bigger stuff.</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 much more intellectually serious <a href="http://www.theguardian.com/books/2015/aug/15/post-capitalism-by-paul-mason-review-worthy-successor-to-marx?CMP=twt_gu">review </a>subsequently appeared in the <em>Guardian</em>.</p> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Ideas </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> Can Europe make it? Ideas Internet politics of protest global politics economics Robin Wilson Tue, 04 Aug 2015 21:50:32 +0000 Robin Wilson 95017 at https://www.opendemocracy.net The five pillars of Islamophobia https://www.opendemocracy.net/opensecurity/david-miller-tom-mills-hilary-aked-narzanin-massoumi/five-pillars-of-islamophobia <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Vague categories like ‘extremist’ and ‘radicalisation’ are trawling Muslims in a very large ‘counter-terrorism’ net.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p>The status of Muslims in the west is under threat. The increased prevalence of anti Muslim hate crime is only one of the more visible consequences. In the UK, Muslim schoolchildren are suffering a <a href="http://www.independent.co.uk/news/education/education-news/british-muslim-school-children-suffering-a-backlash-of-abuse-following-paris-attacks-9999393.html">‘backlash’ of abuse</a>, according to the teaching unions; Muslim women are the <a href="http://www.theguardian.com/society/2014/jun/28/women-targeted-attacks-muslims">victims of more than half of Islamophobic attacks</a>, says Tell MAMA.</p> <p>Though violent crimes against Muslims are understandably a key issue for Muslims and the anti-racist movement, it would be a mistake to think that Islamophobia is just a problem of racism by a small minority on the streets, or those on the fringes of politics. In fact it is deeply embedded in our politics and society, and a more serious problem than many writers have recognised. Moreover, while most accounts of Islamophobia suggest that anti-Muslim racism is simply a matter of prejudice, which may have social consequences, it needs to be understood as more than a problem of racist ideas. </p> <p>Obviously these are a key part of Islamophobia but to be effective such ideas need to be practically developed—to be actively produced, spread and institutionalised in new policies and practices. Anti-Muslim racism is sustained by what we call the ‘five pillars’ of Islamophobia. </p> <h2><strong>Legitimate targets?</strong></h2> <p>The first and most important is the institutions of the state—most notably the sprawling ‘counter-terrorism’ apparatus, the key nexus of institutions and practices which targets ‘extremists’ and those said to have been ‘radicalised’. The imprecision with which these concepts are defined and operationalised in official discourse, together with the routine practices of the police and intelligence services, means that many thousands of people, including non-Muslims, are regarded as a legitimate targets for suspicion, surveillance and intelligence-gathering.</p> <p>Some academic authors see the state as progressive, or at least neutral, and capable of helping challenge anti-Muslim racism by creating spaces for Muslim cultural and civic engagement. But in our view the state is not neutral. Counter-terrorism policy disadvantages Muslims (and others) through&nbsp;exceptional legislation, pre-emptive incapacitation and intelligence and surveillance.&nbsp;And the counter-terrorism apparatus has spread from its traditional home in the police and intelligence services to occupy almost every branch of the state, from schools and universities to libraries. </p> <p>A relatively new front in the war to drive Muslims from the public sphere is the NGO sector. The Charity Commission, headed by the neo-conservative <a href="http://powerbase.info/index.php/William_Shawcross">Lord Shawcross</a>, has presided over a significant increase in <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/ourkingdom/peter-oborne-alex-delmarmorgan/uncaging-charity-commission">investigations of Muslim charities</a>. The think tank <a href="http://www.claystone.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2014/11/MuslimCharities_SuspectSector_Claystone.pdf">Claystone reported that</a> the Charity Commission had marked 55 British charities with new issue code ‘extremism and radicalisation’, without the organisations’ knowledge, and that Muslim charities were disproportionately affected.</p> <h2><strong>Further right</strong></h2> <p>The other four pillars of Islamophobia are social or political movements which bolster the state or push it further right—social movements ‘from above’, as the sociologists Laurence Cox and Gunvald Nilsen put it. By this they mean the <a href="http://www.counterpunch.org/2014/12/12/are-we-ready-for-the-twilight-of-neoliberalism/">‘collective agency of dominant groups</a>’. </p> <p>The first is the most well known—the far right. Its traditional representatives in neo-fascist parties have all taken an anti-Muslim turn, but they have been joined in recent years by a plethora of new parties (such as the <a href="http://powerbase.info/index.php/Sweden_Democrats">Sweden Democrats</a>, the <a href="http://powerbase.info/index.php/Dansk_Folkeparti">Danish People’s Party</a> and <a href="http://powerbase.info/index.php/UKIP">UKIP</a> in the UK), street movements such as the <a href="http://powerbase.info/index.php/English_Defence_League">English Defence League</a>, <a href="http://powerbase.info/index.php/Patriotic_Europeans_Against_Islamisation_of_the_West">PEGIDA</a> in Germany (and the UK, Austria, Denmark, Norway and Sweden) and the <a href="http://powerbase.info/index.php/Counterjihad">‘counter-jihad movement’</a>, which operates in almost every EU country, as well as in the US.</p> <p class="image-caption"><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/pegida.jpg" alt="" width="460" height="307" />But it's Islam they have in mind—a PEGIDA demonstration in Dresden last December. Flickr / <a class="truncate owner-name" title="Go to strassenstriche.net&#039;s photostream" href="https://www.flickr.com/photos/strassenstriche/">strassenstriche.net</a>. Some rights reserved.</p><p><span></span><span>The far right is not neatly bounded and there are all sorts of overlaps with other strands of the social movements from above, which are themselves interpenetrated. They include the neo-conservative movement, strongly active in the EU as well as in the US, its country of origin; the Zionist movement; and a number of left/liberal currents such the pro-war or </span><a href="http://powerbase.info/index.php/Decent_left">‘decent’ left.</a><span> All three are transnational movements from above and have connections to groups further to the right, as well as to the more mainstream </span><a href="http://powerbase.info/index.php/Conservative_movement">conservative movement</a><span> and indeed right-wing, neo-liberal think tanks.</span></p> <p>These social movements, though divided on some matters, do work together—in combination with the state—to produce, reproduce and enact anti-Muslim racism, in the process putting in place the policy frameworks and practical arrangements which ensure the subordination of ordinary Muslims. </p> <p>Take the neo-conservative <a href="http://powerbase.info/index.php/Henry_Jackson_Society:_Project_for_Democratic_Geopolitics">Henry Jackson Society</a>, a think tank which brings together key US and UK neo-conservatives, including <a href="http://powerbase.info/index.php/William_Kristol">William Kristol</a> and <a href="http://powerbase.info/index.php/Richard_Perle">Richard Perle</a>. Among the key financial backers of the HJS has been the Conservative peer <a href="http://powerbase.info/index.php/Stanley_Kalms">Stanley Kalms</a>, the former treasurer of the Conservative Party and life president of DSG International (formerly Dixons). Kalms is a prominent member of Conservative Friends of Israel, though in 2009 he flirted with UKIP. He has supported the Henry Jackson Society and its predecessor the <a href="http://powerbase.info/index.php/Centre_for_Social_Cohesion">Centre for Social Cohesion</a> through his <a href="http://powerbase.info/index.php/Traditional_Alternatives_Foundation">Traditional Alternatives Foundation</a> and the <a href="http://powerbase.info/index.php/Stanley_Kalms_Foundation">Stanley Kalms Foundation</a>, and his links with more mainstream conservatism are illustrated by his financial backing for the Institute for Economic Affairs and the Centre for Social Justice.</p> <p>Kalms appears to have quite ‘radical’ views on Muslims and Islam. According to <a title="Tony Lerman" href="http://powerbase.info/index.php/Tony_Lerman">Tony Lerman</a>, the writer and ‘<a href="http://www.haaretz.com/jewish-world/jewish-world-features/britain-s-leading-lapsed-zionist-speaks-out-1.461937">lapsed</a>’ Zionist, Kalms was present at a meeting on 17 November 2006 where he said: ‘Most Muslims didn’t want to integrate ... Ultimately they would line up behind the fundamentalists.’ Social movements from above, including the far right and elements of the neo-conservative and Zionist movements, play an important active role in fostering anti-Muslim racism. </p> <p>We will not turn back the tide of Islamophobia only by confronting the threat of UKIP in politics, or the EDL and other parts of the transnational ‘counter-jihad movement’ on the streets. We also need to focus our attention on elements of the (also transnational) neo-conservative and Zionist movements which provide information, ‘research’ and advocacy which can drag the state and politics to the right and sharpen Islamophobic polices, as we have seen in the UK with the revision of the ‘Prevent’ programme in 2010 (drawing on the material of the neo-conservative Centre for Social Cohesion) and in the Counter-Terrorism and Security Act 2015. </p> <h2>Dissent criminalised</h2> <p>Most importantly, we need to understand that it is the state itself and its machinery of surveillance and repression that is at the forefront of ensuring that Muslims are collectively pushed to the edge of public life with extremely serious short-, medium- and long term consequences for democratic politics. The intention seems clear: dissent, whether by Muslim organisations, social movements or trades unions, is criminalised to protect our rulers from pressure from below. </p> <p>It is a sad commentary on the state of hysteria about Islam in the UK today that even documenting evidence on Islamophobia is seen as evidence of ‘extremism’ or ‘radicalisation’. Simply in writing this article we have potentially entered what the police have called the <a href="http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/general-election-2015/politics-blog/11602453/Making-an-opinion-illegal-is-not-going-to-stop-terrorism-from-happening.html">‘pre-criminal space’</a>, which is enough to warrant unwelcome attention from the intelligence and policing agencies—never mind those of conservative newspaper columnists.</p> <p><em>This article is based on a paper delivered at the <a href="http://www.bath.ac.uk/ipr/events/news-0126.html">Understanding Conflict conference</a></em><em> at the University of Bath, 8-11 June 2015.&nbsp;</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="/ourkingdom/frances-webber/farewell-magna-carta-counterterrorism-and-security-bill">Farewell Magna Carta: the Counter-Terrorism and Security Bill</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> openSecurity openSecurity rule of law politics of protest human rights wfd marginalisation dissent Narzanin Massoumi Hilary Aked Tom Mills David Miller Policing Mon, 08 Jun 2015 21:48:39 +0000 David Miller, Narzanin Massoumi, Tom Mills and Hilary Aked 93408 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Securitisation not the response to deaths at sea https://www.opendemocracy.net/juliana-wahlgren/securitisation-not-response-to-deaths-at-sea <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>The European Union has responded to the humanitarian crisis presented by refugee deaths in the Mediterranean—but only through the lens of border control.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class="image-caption"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/550590/march.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/550590/march.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="345" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span>Sea of humanity: supporters of Amnesty International and other NGOs marching in Brussels as the EU summiteers met. Flickr / Amnesty International. All rights reserved.</span></p><p><span></span><span>This week an EU-wide control operation</span><em> </em><span>to detect, detain and possibly deport irregular migrants has been taking place. Operation ‘Amberlight’ is a collaborative effort between the EU border-control agency Frontex and national police forces, aimed at collecting information and checking third-country nationals’ legal status. Non-European, undocumented migrants are the main target of these controls. &nbsp;</span></p> <p>Simultaneously, the worst tragedy yet has occurred in the Mediterranean, with <a href="https://www.facebook.com/amnestyglobal/photos/a.155782354434645.33609.111658128847068/949768468369359/?type=1&amp;theater">more migrant deaths in the last week than in the whole of 2013</a>—to which the EU’s response is a minimal commitment to expand search-and-rescue operations and mount more border controls. These two parallel occurrences sum up the EU’s current approach to migration: securitisation at all costs, even if it means thousands of human beings, fleeing war and desperation, dying.</p> <p>During the last similar operation, ‘Mos Maiorum’, in October 2014, more than 19,000 irregular migrants were intercepted but very little was officially reported on the protection of migrants’ fundamental rights. At the time, local activists and civil-society organisations denounced the risk of arbitrary detentions, poor living conditions in detention and worrying complaints of <a href="http://www.enar-eu.org/The-EU-sponsored-man-hunt-Mos">racial profiling</a>.</p> <p>Indeed, many people reported they had been ‘stopped and searched’, based on the colour of their skin. Targeting people because they fit a particular stereotype leads to racist practices, especially when police forces use European institutions’ decisions as an instrument for discrimination.</p> <p>Even if over the last three years such operations have become an established tradition, this is the first time that the Council of the European Union has allowed Frontex to also monitor sanctions imposed by the <a href="http://europa.eu/legislation_summaries/justice_freedom_security/free_movement_of_persons_asylum_immigration/jl0044_en.htm">EU directive defining the ‘facilitation of illegal immigration’</a>. It is not yet clear if the penalties will be applied only to migrants or also to those—abusive employers—exploiting their irregular status. </p> <h2><strong>Shown the exit door</strong></h2> <p>It is no coincidence that Amberlight has been taking place at the same time as the tragedies in the Mediterranean. With the ‘Fortress Europe’ approach of the EU’s migration agenda, it does not matter if someone is fleeing a country to demand international protection or is seeking a new home in a member state: current policies aim to ensure any kind of migrant is shown the borders’ exit door. Europe is locked. </p> <p>Securitisation measures will not solve the structural issues linked to migration and asylum. In the context of Mos Maiorum alone, some 11,000 of those intercepted <a href="http://www.statewatch.org/news/2015/jan/eu-council-2015-01-22-05474-mos-maiorum-final-report.pdf">requested asylum</a> then or later. People in need will always find alternative routes to reach international protection.</p> <p>The reinforcement of border controls and operations co-ordinated by Frontex do not put human rights and dignity at the heart of potential solutions. In recent days, more than 1,000 people drowned in the Mediterranean but even when someone is fortunate enough to enter the EU and to request asylum or a residence status on European soil, the administrative procedures are challenging and leave many applicants in despair. </p> <p><span class="pullquote-right">the EU’s current approach to migration: securitisation at all costs, even if it means thousands of human beings, fleeing war and desperation, dying</span></p><p><span></span>Two weeks ago, Belgium witnessed the <a href="http://www.lalibre.be/actu/belgique/manifestation-pour-l-homme-qui-s-est-immole-a-l-office-des-etrangers-551d19b63570fde9b2760822#66889">suicide of two asylum-seekers</a> who could no longer stand the long and severe residence application standards and the lack of a real, supportive integration system. And the Dutch Central Agency for the Reception of Asylum-Seekers reported that 13 asylum-seekers committed suicide in just the first half of 2014.</p> <p>Such control operations continue to fight an imaginary threat. Migrants and asylum-seekers should be treated as victims, not criminals. The <a href="http://europa.eu/rapid/press-release_IP-15-4813_en.htm">ten-point action plan on migration</a> released last Monday by the joint EU Foreign and Home Affairs Council and <a href="http://www.consilium.europa.eu/en/meetings/european-council/2015/04/23/">the four priority areas for action agreed by EU leaders</a> at the special European summit on Thursday only confirm the EU’s real intention: maintaining border surveillance through naval missions (which can again lead to push-backs at sea or at any other border), rather than putting forward concrete solutions for a collapsing migration system. </p> <p>The EU’s minimalist approach (huge means and resources to declare a war on smugglers rather than focusing on saving lives) does not address the urgency of responding to migration challenges. Keeping people beyond Europe’s borders will push them to flee through other potential dangerous routes.</p> <h2>Coercive measures</h2> <p>The Mediterranean crisis is also being exploited to put back on the table two policies which do not respect a fundamental rights approach. The first is fingerprinting of migrants and asylum-seekers. Many organisations have already reported the use of coercive measures in the collection of migrants’ digital fingerprints. The EU should ensure that this practice is undertaken without use of violence or physical force and in full respect of data-protection standards. </p> <p>The second is forced returns. This is controversial and recent assessments confirm that many fundamental rights issues are not properly addressed: inhumane detention conditions, the mechanisms of entry bans (if the migrant wants to return to Europe) and how these third-country nationals are to be reintegrated into their home country. By implementing this return policy, the EU is closing its eyes to the fact that most asylum-seekers are not on the move for economic reasons but because they are fleeing regions where they face war and oppression.</p> <p>EU institutions should not only improve measures for safe and legal avenues for migrants and asylum-seekers but should also provide clear guidelines for sharing responsibility for asylum-seekers among the member states. From a human-rights perspective, the EU should also better oversee the work of Frontex. A mechanism enabling individual complaints of violations of fundamental rights would demonstrate the will to improve the agency’s accountability. </p> <p>The new European Migration Agenda, due to be presented in May, is an opportunity for the EU to finally act upon its values and commitment to fundamental rights. Let’s hope it won’t miss the boat this time around.</p><p><a href="https://www.facebook.com/odopensec" target="_blank"><strong>Like us on Facebook</strong></a><strong>&nbsp;to follow the latest openSecurity articles, and tell the editors what we should publish next</strong>.&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="/opensecurity/nils-mui%C5%BEnieks/crisis-in-mediterranean-europe-must-change-course">Crisis in the Mediterranean: Europe must change course</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/opensecurity/nando-sigona/what-eu-must-do-now-to-halt-this-tragedy-on-its-shores">What the EU must do now to halt this tragedy on its shores</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/opensecurity/heaven-crawley/europe%27s-war-on-migrants">Europe&#039;s war on migrants</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/opensecurity/maria-giovanna-manieri-elisabeth-schmidthieber/migrants-in-mediterranean-mourning-death">Migrants in the Mediterranean: mourning deaths, not saving lives</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"> 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"> International politics </div> </div> </div> openSecurity openSecurity EU International politics politics of protest people flow: migration in europe human rights future of europe european security middle east europe africa Crisis in the Mediterranean Juliana Wahlgren Diplomacy Structural Insecurity Fri, 24 Apr 2015 13:35:45 +0000 Juliana Wahlgren 92257 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Turkey and the Armenian genocide: the next century https://www.opendemocracy.net/john-lubbockk/turkey-and-armenian-genocide-next-century <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>For the Armenian diaspora, today is Armenian Genocide Remembrance Day—but not in Turkey. Perhaps members of the country’s Kurdish minority can help shake up a polarised narrative.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class="image-caption"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/550590/church.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/550590/church.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="307" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span>Dark heritage: a derelict Armenian church in Diyarbakir. All photos courtesy of the author.</span></p><p><span><em></em>Most of the coverage of the 100th anniversary of the Armenian genocide has concentrated on the Turkish government’s continuing refusal to recognise the organised massacre of over 1m Armenians as such. The centenary has arrived and the US has once again refused to call it genocide, though Germany and many others now have. Yet, after the international media attention passes, what can be done to seek reconciliation and recognition for the suffering of those who died?</span></p> <p>Below the din of the angry debate, many Turks, Kurds and Armenians are working together to heal the wounds of 100 years ago. I followed Ara Sarafian, an Armenian-British-Cypriot historian, who is attempting to create spaces for communities to reconcile in the towns and villages where the massacres happened.</p><p><em><em><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/550590/historian.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/550590/historian.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="307" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span></em><span class="image-caption">Ara Sarafian holds a forget-me-not flower at the site of a massacre of Armenians near Batman.</span></em></p><p><span>“In the morning, the government ordered us to kill them, and in the evening we shared their houses, fields, lands, money. Why did our ancestors kill them? They said ‘it’s only money’.” Barzan, our Kurdish guide in Bitlis, recounted this story as he pointed to a tree outside St Alberik Armenian monastery on the remote slopes of the windy Kurdish highlands in eastern Turkey. Gold-diggers have dug all the way under the roots from one side to the other, looking for money they believed Armenians had hidden as the massacres spread out across Anatolia.</span></p> <p>Inside the remains of the monastery, 30 or 40 people sheltered from the intemperate weather, as locals who had come with us made a fire and Armenian women from the diaspora began a hymn which made the Kurds fall silent. The smoke from the fire stung the eyes, and the scene transported me temporarily to a time when members of diverse ethnic and religious groups had lived and worked together in this rugged landscape. </p> <p><em><em><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/550590/monastery.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/550590/monastery.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="307" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span></em><span class="image-caption">Sheltering by a fire inside St Alberik monastery.</span></em></p><p>On the way down the hill, a young Kurdish man helped one of the older Armenian women down the muddy slopes. “In my life I never thought a Kurdish man would be helping an Armenian like me”, she said as the young man sang Turkish love songs. </p> <p>Sarafian organised this goodwill mission to Turkey’s Kurdish region to commemorate the 1915 tragedy. He told me he wanted to be a partner for Kurds who wanted to draw reconciliation from the legacy of the genocide and he hoped the example could inspire others to visit the lands of their ancestors.</p> <h2>Broken bridges</h2> <p>With some Armenian nationalists demanding reparations in the form of lands or money, Sarafian wants clarity on why recognition of the genocide is sought. If the goal is to end the pain of denial for the descendants of the victims, then this depends on a shift in internal Turkish politics. Those who retain the deeds of their lost lands should be able to go to court and receive compensation or the return of the lands they own, but there are also important Armenian sites which continue to crumble and require conservation. The latter would benefit everyone: the local population who could gain from tourism, Armenians who would see that the state took their suffering seriously and Turkey itself, which could mend its broken bridges with the Armenian state and people.</p> <p>Recognition of the genocide is still a fundamental goal, but Sarafian believes that this will come only after a process of healing within Turkey which involves Armenians, Kurds, Turks and other minorities who suffered persecution. “If we can’t influence the [Armenian] diaspora by the example of being here, to take Turkey more seriously, to think about the issues more seriously and to take on the burden of engaging with these issues and opportunities, then we’ve failed,” he said.</p> <p>For those still unwilling to accept the term genocide, there is little that will convince them otherwise. But slowly a younger generation of people in Turkey is coming to a fuller understanding of what happened: 9% of Turks <a href="http://www.edam.org.tr/en/File?id=2162">favour</a> a formal apology and the admission of genocide, another 9% favour an apology without using the term and 12% favour expressing regret for the Armenians who died. </p> <p>Interestingly, another 23% favour expressing regret for all those who died, including Muslims who fled from the Balkans in the late 19th century due to the rise of European nationalism. Many Turks are descended from Balkan Muslims and, while understanding the ethno-nationalist violence of the period, feel that the concentration on Armenian suffering ignores their own narrative. </p> <p>Comparing the suffering of different groups feels wrong and the systematic nature of the massacres of Armenian (and Assyrians, Pontic Greeks and Chaldeans) was on a horrific <a href="http://www.gomidas.org/uploads/Talaat%20Pasha%20Report%20Map%201.pdf">scale</a> hard to compare with the <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Persecution_of_Ottoman_Muslims#Great_Turkish_War">persecution</a> of Ottoman Muslims in Europe. Remembering the terrible suffering of 1915 does not mean we don’t care about the suffering of other people; the persecution of Balkan Muslims was one of the factors which led to the genocide in the first place.</p> <h2>Legacy of oppression</h2> <p>On the way to Dudan (‘waterfall’ in Turkish), there was a reminder of the legacy of political oppression in the Kurdish region when the military police decided to stop our convoy of cars and demanded to see our passports. Luckily, we had lawyers from the Diyarbakir Bar Association with us, who managed to convince them to let us pass without incident. </p> <p><em><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/550590/police.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/550590/police.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="307" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span><span class="image-caption">Military police stop the group’s convoy en route to Dudan.</span></em></p><p><span>Dudan is the site of a </span><a href="http://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/near-a-turkish-school-10000-dead-armenians-are-still-ignored/2014/09/05/f0b7baa2-346c-11e4-a723-fa3895a25d02_story.html">massacre</a><span> by Turkish soldiers of 10,000 women, children and elderly people in July 1915. A chasm opens there into which a stream gushes and it is impossible to see the bottom. After murdering the men and boys, the soldiers brought the remaining Armenians here and slit their throats before pushing them into the hole—some chose to jump.</span></p> <p><em><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/550590/dudan.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/550590/dudan.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="307" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span><span class="image-caption">The Dudan crevass, where up to 10,000 Armenians were killed by Ottoman soldiers.</span></em></p><p>Firat, a Kurd from the city of Batman, who works with Sarafian’s Gomidas Institute, told me why Kurds who lived in this area felt the need to push for recognition of the genocide within Turkey: “Now, people feel the pain that happened at that time. They tried to kill the Kurds also in this region, but they couldn’t because Kurds resisted against the state, but at that time Armenians were weaker and it was wartime. Now Kurdish people feel that pain like Armenian people. People in this region, they know the truth.”</p> <p>The landscape of the Kurdish region is lush and dramatic, its people open and eager to begin a new chapter of their history after the suffering of the past half century. A common Armenian phrase is ‘we were the breakfast; you will be the lunch’. Now Kurds are fighting to stop the Islamic State dinner party ravaging the Levant; they are keen to make amends for not defending their Christian brothers and sisters in 1915.</p> <p>Not all Kurds collaborated in the genocide, however. When we visited a small village near the city of Batman to pay respects at the grave of a local leader who refused to carry out the massacres ordered by the local governor in 1915, residents were touched to have so many people come to honour their ancestor. These exchanges are important, and could be the first step towards more people making a cultural pilgrimage to where their ancestors lived for millennia and died a century ago.</p> <h2>Political freedom</h2> <p>The progress made in highlighting and recognising the genocide, especially in the Kurdish region, is dependent both on the Kurdish peace process and the level of political freedom in the country generally. Ten years ago, authors like Orhan Pamuk were being prosecuted for using the word ‘genocide’; now it is commonly used by writers and politicians without any consequences.</p> <p>The upcoming election is also vital to the fortunes of genocide recognition in Turkey. A party must gain 10% of the vote to win any seats at all under the electoral system , so small parties often stand candidates as independents. This time, the pro-Kurdish HDP party is gambling that it can get over the threshold. </p> <p>If it succeeds, it is unlikely that the president, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, will gain the seats he needs to install the executive presidency he craves, to cement his hold on power for another generation. But if it fails, there could be violence in the Kurdish region should people think that his Islamist AKP government used fraudulent means to shut the HDP out. </p> <p>All of Turkish society wins or loses depending on the health of its political system. The authoritarian regime Erdoğan desires would put the religious conservative faction in a position of power which it would inevitably start to abuse even more than it already does. </p> <p>For diaspora Armenians, there is much that can be done beyond criticising the Turkish government once a year. Diyarbakir is a beautiful city which in 20 years will probably be a major tourist destination. It has a beautiful old part and a progressive administration eager to work with Armenians to bring investment and tourism.</p> <p>Sarafian’s work is calling those from the diaspora to come back to the lands of their ancestors, to see where they lived and to work with Kurds to save the Armenian cultural legacy that remains. There is so much opportunity to build a new, inclusive Armenian identity in touch with its roots, rather than carrying around the pain of the genocide and simply waiting for the Turkish government to decide one day to recognise that pain.</p> <p>A lot of work remains. On the eve of the genocide anniversary, the bells of Sourp Giragos began to ring but were then cut short. Someone had told the church authorities to stop ringing their bells. Inside, hundreds of Kurds and Armenians had gathered to pay their respects. Little by little, it is becoming harder to deny what happened—but when recognition does come, it will be because Turks and Kurds have sought the truth for themselves, not because they have been forced to admit it.</p><p><a href="https://www.facebook.com/odopensec" target="_blank"><strong>Like us on Facebook</strong></a><strong>&nbsp;to follow the latest openSecurity articles, and tell the editors what we should publish next</strong>.&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="/opensecurity/john-lubbock/freedom-or-dignity-media-censorship-in-new-turkey">Freedom or dignity: media censorship in the new Turkey</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/opensecurity/john-lubbock/turkey-and-armenia-genocide-what-genocide">Turkey and Armenia: genocide? what genocide?</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/open-security/john-lubbock-deniz-agah/new-security-laws-could-make-turkey-into-police-state">New security laws could make Turkey into a police state</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/john-lubbock/turkey%27s-new-caliph-understanding-erdo%C4%9F%27s-hegemony">Turkey&#039;s new Caliph: understanding Erdoğan&#039;s hegemony</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"> International politics </div> </div> </div> openSecurity openSecurity Turkey Civil society Conflict International politics politics of protest europe John Lubbock Armenian genocide Peacebuilding Fri, 24 Apr 2015 06:37:52 +0000 John Lubbock 92241 at https://www.opendemocracy.net ‘Your face now looks permanently in pain’—awaiting sentence in Egypt https://www.opendemocracy.net/opensecurity/hanaa-soltan/%E2%80%98your-face-now-looks-permanently-in-pain%E2%80%99%E2%80%94awaiting-sentence-in-egypt <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>The sister of a US-Egyptian activist&nbsp;<span style="line-height: 1.5;">on hunger strike&nbsp;</span><span style="line-height: 1.5;">in a Cairo jail</span><span style="line-height: 1.5;">, whose cause has been taken up by Amnesty International, issues a</span><span style="line-height: 1.5;">&nbsp;</span><em>cri de coeur</em><span style="line-height: 1.5;">&nbsp;</span><span style="line-height: 1.5;">on the eve of a critical court appearance.</span></p> </div> </div> </div> <p><em>Today will be a nerve-wracking day for Mohamed Soltan, a 27-year-old US-Egyptian activist who has been languishing in Cairo’s notorious Tora Prison, where he has been on hunger strike for more than 14 months. The court sentenced his father, Salah Soltan, and 13 others to death on 16 March. Their sentences may be confirmed after consultation with the grand mufti.&nbsp;</em></p> <p><em>Tomorrow, Mohamed and 36 others will face the same court on charges including “funding the Rabaa al-Adawiya sit-in”—a mass protest in Cairo in August 2013 forcibly dispersed by security forces—and spreading “false information” to destabilise the security of Egypt. They are part of a group of 51 individuals arrested after the sit-in as part of a sweeping crackdown on supporters of Egypt’s ousted president, Mohamed Morsi.&nbsp;</em></p> <p><em>Mohamed’s sister, Hanaa, is incredibly anxious about what the future might hold for her family. Below is a harrowing letter she wrote to her brother:&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/550590/200469_EGYPT-TRIAL-SULTAN (1).jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/550590/200469_EGYPT-TRIAL-SULTAN (1).jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="194" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span>Dear Mohamed,&nbsp;</p> <p>I’m often asked why, and how, you’ve kept up your hunger strike for 14 months now, despite our pleas for you to end it. I’ve watched your body go from a plump basketball-playing frame to one that has withered down to its bones. Your face, with its beautiful smile often grinning, now looks permanently in pain. And all I can do to explain is to tell people that it’s the only form of control you have to hold on to—now more than ever, on the eve of your sentencing.&nbsp;</p> <p>Last month, our father was sentenced to death in the same case in which you are due to be sentenced tomorrow. We weren’t expecting it. I was told by the lawyers to expect a few years at most. I still have not recovered from the trauma of this.&nbsp;</p> <p>On 26 January 2014, you began your hunger strike to help regain some form of control, which you had been completely stripped of. You had been in jail for five months by then and said you had grown tired of complaining about receiving no medical care for both a potentially fatal pre-existing blood clot disorder, as well as the torture and ill-treatment you were subjected to when you were detained.&nbsp;</p> <p>You described how officers used chains to beat your arm, where you still had stiches for a gunshot wound you received during the dispersal of the Rabaa sit-in by Egyptian security forces on 14 August 2013. The beatings caused the stiches to open, leaving you susceptible to all kinds of dangerous infections. The beatings also caused the metal pins and plates in your arm to shift, cutting against nerves and muscles, causing great pain, for which you were allowed no medication or treatment. You could not even get X-rays done. A doctor cellmate undertook ad hoc surgery using pliers and a razor with no anaesthesia or sterilization. You told President Barack Obama of this horror in a letter in November of 2013. He has yet to reply.&nbsp;</p> <p>We have been so worried about you that we recently pressured you to consume liquids, because of your solitary confinement for 23 and a half hours a day and lack of medical care at Leiman Tora Prison. Nevertheless, you hang on to the strike, because it is the only thing you can change and choose. You would have suffered a mental breakdown otherwise. I understand.&nbsp;</p> <p>Your frail body belies a strong mind. I know you’ve grown very spiritual throughout this whole process. You read every novel and book that we send, multiple times over. At times, the prison guards would prevent any new reading material coming into your cell, and it’s at these times when you’re most vulnerable to losing your grip. Reading and the hunger strike have been your main coping mechanisms. For us, choosing and sending you books has been one way to cope too.&nbsp;</p> <p>For that half hour that you’re allowed out from the cell, you try to get your blood flowing through basic physical therapy. Your legs have become too weak to stand or walk. I imagine you also engage frequently with the guards and others. You’re an incredibly social human being, and need to be around others. I imagine you using that half hour to get some much-needed human contact.&nbsp;</p> <p>Knowing that your fate is in the hands of a judge who has sentenced our father to death does not help calm my nerves. I am very anxious. Throughout this 19-month ordeal, I have seen so much of humanity lost, but I have also been amazed at the good that exists in people the world over, and the power of our unity in humanity. It has many faces, and I am grateful for every single one. Mohamed, you are blessed in many ways to have your story reach so many. There are at least 16,000 more prisoners in Egypt with stories like yours.&nbsp;</p> <p>Your sister, and best friend,&nbsp;</p> <p>Hanaa&nbsp;</p> <p><strong>Amnesty International is&nbsp;<a href="https://www.amnesty.org/en/articles/news/2014/09/egypt-critically-ill-hunger-striker-denied-crucial-medical-care/" target="_blank">campaigning for Mohamed Soltan’s immediate release</a>. Amnesty argues that under international standards, what he has been charged with should not be considered criminal offences. He should also be granted access to any medical attention he may require and Egyptian authorities must refrain from taking any punitive measures against him for his hunger strike, the organisation says.</strong></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>The court <a href="http://www.washingtonpost.com/world/egyptian-american-sentenced-to-life-in-prison-by-cairo-judge/2015/04/11/440cd5da-05dc-4a11-b258-5d679cfb5d3f_story.html?postshare=3641428753714822">sentenced </a>Mohamed Soltan to life imprisonment and confirmed the death sentence against his father.</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="/opensecurity/joe-stork/egypt%E2%80%99s-political-prisoners">Egypt’s political prisoners</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/leila-zaki-chakravarti/remembering-contesting-and-forgetting-aftermath-of-cairo-massacres">Remembering, contesting and forgetting: the aftermath of the Cairo massacres</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/north-africa-west-asia/amani-massoud/is-justice-blind-in-egypt">Is justice blind in Egypt?</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/opensecurity/sarah-leah-whitson/egypt%E2%80%99s-coverup">Egypt’s cover-up</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-city"> <div class="field-label">City:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Cairo </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> openSecurity North-Africa West-Asia openSecurity Cairo Egypt Conflict politics of protest human rights Hanaa Soltan State violence Fri, 10 Apr 2015 15:27:05 +0000 Hanaa Soltan 91929 at https://www.opendemocracy.net After the demonstrations ... https://www.opendemocracy.net/open-security/robin-wilson/after-demonstrations <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>The popular outpouring in France, taken with the climate marches in September with which it would not at first be bracketed, may be a harbinger of change.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p class="MsoNormal"><span class="image-caption"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/550590/crowd.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/550590/crowd.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="307" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span>The wisdom of crowds—massing for freedom in Paris. Flickr /&nbsp;<a href="https://www.flickr.com/photos/anw-fr/">Antoine Walter</a>. Some rights reserved.</span><strong>&nbsp;</strong></p><p>These are, it goes without saying, troubling times.</p> <p>A generation across much of the globe has known nothing other than growing insecurity, rising inequality and a declining sense of collective political efficacy—the very goals of the neoliberal True Believers who sought to replace post-war democratic governance and the production of public goods by restoration to untrammelled power of the owners of capital, masquerading as anonymous and unchallengeable ‘market forces’. </p> <p>Equally dispiritingly, since advanced capitalism easily saw off a backward socialism as the USSR collapsed, the alternative pole of opposition has fallen by default in many places—particularly where that failure was compounded by disillusionment with the secular Arab nationalism which the Soviets supported during the cold war—to the even more backward forces of authoritarian Islamism.</p> <h2>Unprecedented </h2><p>But there is a stirring. While these are early days, two unprecedented episodes in recent months have been suggestive of a swing in the political pendulum back in the progressive direction for the first time since the late 1960s. </p> <p>True, there have been false dawns. The ‘anti-globalisation’ movement which peaked with the ‘battle in Seattle’ at the World Trade Organisation meeting in 1999 was one, the more recent ‘Occupy’ movement another. Both ephemera shared too much the fundamental characteristic identified by the great, late Fred Halliday of the six major 20th-century revolutions—a negative, ‘stop the world, we want to get off’ oppositionalism which defied the original, Marxian understanding of revolution as a radical emancipation going with the grain of social change.</p> <p>But the ‘people’s climate marches’ across the world in September, coinciding with the United Nations summit on climate change, represented an historic first in the global co-ordination of political protest: the organisers claimed 2.642 events took place in 162 countries, with 400,000 marching in New York alone, to assert the claim of popular sovereignty to save the planet over the rapaciousness of corporate capitalism. And the vast demonstrations in France today in defence of liberty against the Islamist assassins of the <em>Charlie Hebdo </em>cartoonists, with officially 3.7m taking part, were the largest in its history—and, surely, in almost any state—as #JeSuisCharlie became one of the most popular hashtags ever.</p> <p>And it’s a safe bet that many of those who joined the climate marches would have marched for <em>Charlie Hebdo</em> too. Many on the other side would, meanwhile, have been equally bewildered by these public outpourings—from the Masters of the Universe still hoping that the (second) Wall Street crash would not disrupt ‘business as usual’ to the discomfited <em>Front National</em> leaders, missing from the <em>manif</em>, no doubt initially rubbing their hands in glee at the prospect of cashing in on last week’s atrocity.</p> <h2>Fragile</h2><p>Belief in progress remains, as always, a fragile wager. Can the hope of solidarity among strangers outweigh the fear of the ‘other’, particularly in a stretched social hierarchy? The internet is awash with misanthropic messaging, even hate speech, and yet New York in September and Paris today were unthinkable without it. &nbsp;</p> <p>And this for a critical reason. It is to provide no apologia for the ‘revolutionism’ of the last century, which only saw in new, authoritarian Leviathans, to say that Lenin’s ‘withering away of the state’ was quite simply a utopian project in the context of the ‘co-ordination dilemmas’ of the world before the internet. No more than the Large Hadron Collider was the ‘regulated society’ which Gramsci envisaged, as the absorption of the state into civil society, conceivable before the emergence of the online public square, through which civil society could become fully self-organising, in a networked rather than hierarchical fashion.</p> <p>That this is not a utopian scheme is evident in another marked commonality between the two sets of demonstrations. The UN secretary general, Ban Ki-moon, stepped down from his New York headquarters to lead the marchers in the street. And the French president, François Holland, was joined by some 40 world leaders at the van in Paris.</p> <p>Many, of course, pointed to the contradictions: Ban had hardly been an ecological activist hitherto and, even more gratingly, today figures from markedly authoritarian states seemed happy to defend freedom of expression … just as long as it was somewhere else. </p> <h2>Telling</h2><p>But this is to miss the point: in a world where what Gramsci called ‘civil society’ and ‘political society’ have been diverging as inequality has yawned and in which, to him, the progressive task is as always to break down the division between rulers and ruled, the fact that the rulers are seeing the way the ruled are going and are determined not to get on the wrong side of history is surely telling.</p> <p>And the critical point is this: there is no more secure place, no place which feels more equal, no place above all where citizens can experience more collective efficacy than in a crowd—whose wisdom can now be captured on a global scale. </p> <p>It is in that public square that we can recognise our common humanity. It is there that we can even take into consideration the humanity of the generations who will succeed us as custodians of this vulnerable ecosystem. And it is there that, yes, today, in our millions,<em> <em>nous</em>&nbsp;<em>étions&nbsp;</em><span>tous Charlie Hebdo</span></em><span>.</span></p><p class="MsoNormal"><em>&nbsp;</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="/opensecurity/dipti-bhatnagar/climate-summit-climate-justice">Climate summit, climate justice</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> openSecurity Can Europe make it? openSecurity politics of protest global politics democratic society Climate change Robin Wilson Charlie Hebdo Ecological Security Non-state violence Structural Insecurity Sun, 11 Jan 2015 21:42:05 +0000 Robin Wilson 89495 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Burkina Faso: where democracy has always run on protests and coups https://www.opendemocracy.net/opensecurity/maggie-dwyer/burkina-faso-where-democracy-has-always-run-on-protests-and-coups <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>The military officer who has assumed power in Burkina Faso after protests dislodged its longstanding president has said civilian rule will be&nbsp;<span style="line-height: 1.5;">restored</span><span style="line-height: 1.5;">. Expect more protests if it isn't.</span></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/550590/protests.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/550590/protests.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="306" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span><span>Here we go again: protesters in Ouagadougou.&nbsp;</span><a href="http://www.epa.eu/politics-photos/citizens-initiative-recall-photos/state-of-emergency-in-burkina-faso-photos-51642826">EPA/STR</a></p><p><span class="attribution"><a class="source" rel="nofollow" href="http://www.epa.eu/politics-photos/citizens-initiative-recall-photos/state-of-emergency-in-burkina-faso-photos-51642826"></a></span><span>Burkina Faso grabbed the world’s attention last month with a remarkable popular uprising, in which hundreds of thousands of Burkinabé forced the resignation of long-serving president </span><a href="http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-africa-13072777">Blaise Compaoré</a><span>.&nbsp;</span><span>Commentators immediately began to predict that the events could touch off a movement in other states where presidents had outstayed their welcome.</span></p> <p>But the idea that the actions would quickly be paralleled in other African countries did not give due credit to Burkina Faso’s very particular past and political culture. This uprising was part of a long history of mass public protests in a nation with a very strong and active civil society.</p> <p>Recent events resonate with many of the country’s most significant political changes. Ever since it became independent in 1960, when it was called <a href="http://www.princeton.edu/~achaney/tmve/wiki100k/docs/Republic_of_Upper_Volta.html">Upper Volta</a>, Burkina Faso’s politics have run along these lines.</p> <p>In 1966, for example, when the then president, Maurice Yaméogo, announced a new austerity budget, trade unions responded by organising mass strikes. They met aggression and tear gas but continued to take to the streets. When it was clear that the president was unmoved by their demands, the unions called for the military to take over.</p> <p>Soon, the army chief of staff, Colonel Lamizana, announced he had ousted Yaméogo. This was Burkina Faso’s first coup, celebrated by much of the civilian population.</p> <p>Nearly ten years later, when Lamizana was still in office, mass demonstrations demanded a return to civilian constitutional rule. They were partially successful: Lamizana dissolved his government and formed a new one consisting mostly of civilians. Then, in 1980, general dissatisfaction with the political system once again led to mass demonstrations, which triggered a coup.</p> <h2>Taking to the streets</h2> <p>Compaoré entered politics alongside the army captain and revolutionary Thomas Sankara, through a military coup in 1983 which had strong support among the civilian youth and working class. Sankara was president from 1983 until his assassination in 1987, at which point Compaoré took power. Accusations of involvement in Sankara’s murder haunted him during his 27 years in office. In spite of the length of his presidency, he was never able to act as an absolute ruler.</p> <p><img src="https://62e528761d0685343e1c-f3d1b99a743ffa4142d9d7f1978d9686.ssl.cf2.rackcdn.com/files/63569/width237/q8ht45st-1415034899.jpg" alt="" /><br /><span class="image-caption">The 27-year itch: Blaise Compaoré <a class="source" rel="nofollow" href="http://www.epa.eu/politics-photos/government-photos/violence-erupts-after-rally-against-president-compaore-photos-51642354">EPA/Stephanie Lecoq</a></span></p> <p>Some of his most significant challenges came in the form of mass demonstrations. And crucially, Compaoré’s overall response to escalating protests was to give some form of concession<span>—</span><span>by doing so, he could claim to be responding to the people.</span></p> <p>Witness the mass demonstrations of 1998-99, which followed alleged government involvement in the death of the popular journalist and activist Norbert Zongo. The demonstrators’ demands for accountability escalated into calls for improvement of social conditions and checks on government power. This movement, armed with the slogan t<a href="http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/03056249908704402?journalCode=crea20"><em>rop c’est trop</em></a>&nbsp;(enough is enough), lasted for months and indeed gained momentum. Even opposition leaders at the time were astonished by the turnout of tens of thousands.</p> <p>To calm the growing anger, Compaoré created a council to advise on government reforms. One of its recommendations was presidential term limits, which were added to the constitution in 2000. It was the proposition to change those limits which was to spark the 2014 uprising.</p> <p>Compaoré again faced a serious threat to his position in 2011, when <a href="http://www.theguardian.com/world/2011/apr/15/burkina-faso-capital-erupts-protest">mass demonstrations erupted across the country</a> after another suspicious death. As in 1998-99, the movement quickly broadened to include grievances about the cost of living and the poor economic state of the country.</p> <p>Compaoré’s quarter century in office became a key topic of debate during that unrest, which also lasted months and spread throughout the country. Things turned more violent&nbsp;<span>in 2011</span><span>&nbsp;</span><span>than during the 1998-99 strikes and eventually Compaoré offered up further concessions</span><span>—</span><span>among them food subsidies and increased salaries for the civil service and military.</span></p> <h2>"The Burkinabé way"</h2> <p>Demonstrations are also a part of Burkinabé military culture. Burkina Faso has one of the highest rate of mutinies on the continent. In my own interviews with Burkinabé soldiers in Ouagadougou, I asked a soldier why the 2011 mass mutinies were not put down with force sooner. He explained that the routine of public protest, ultimately resolved by negotiation, was simply “the Burkinabé way”.</p> <p>That diagnosis is borne out by history. Compaoré accepted demonstrations, both among the military and civilians, and was generally able to negotiate an end to them. He knew mass demonstrations would follow the vote to ratify the constitution but misjudged his ability to manage the situation.</p> <p>Compaoré tried his old tricks during this crisis and quickly conceded to the demands to call off the vote to change the constitution. But the momentum had already moved beyond the issue of presidential term limits to calls for his removal from office.</p> <p>The events that&nbsp;<span>led to Compaoré’s fall were extraordinary in their scale. They also betrayed remarkable civilian courage, with demonstrators facing live fire from the security forces. Yet the events should also be seen as a continuation of “the Burkinabé way”. The country’s society has a remarkable ability to mobilise for political change, drawing on extensive experience</span><span>—</span><span>and this is not something easily replicated.</span></p> <p>Mass demonstrations have always been part and parcel of Burkina Faso’s political culture and we certainly haven’t seen the last of them. If the country’s future leaders want to succeed, they will have to be able to handle more.</p><p><em>This article was originally published on <a href="http://theconversation.com">The Conversation</a>. Read the <a href="http://theconversation.com/burkina-faso-where-democracy-has-always-run-on-protests-and-coups-33747">original article</a>. </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="/yuhniwo-ngenge/don%E2%80%99t-touch-my-constitution-burkina-faso%27s-lesson">Don’t touch my constitution! Burkina Faso&#039;s lesson</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <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> openSecurity openSecurity Civil society Democracy and government politics of protest africa & democracy africa Maggie Dwyer Wed, 05 Nov 2014 11:32:43 +0000 Maggie Dwyer 87481 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Hong Kong: the stakes are high https://www.opendemocracy.net/opensecurity/jonathan-fenby/hong-kong-stakes-are-high <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Beijing knows that the struggle for democracy in Hong Kong is not just about the future of the former British colony: the party monopoly on the mainland is ultimately at issue.</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/550590/hk protest.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/550590/hk protest.jpg" alt="Messages at pro-democracy demonstration in Hong Kong" title="" width="460" height="305" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>... but the party knows it can't afford to. Roger Price / Flickr. Creative Commons.</span></span></span>The confrontation in Hong Kong between pro-democracy demonstrators and the Beijing-backed authorities has implications reaching beyond the protesters camped on the streets of the city’s business district or the administration in the official buildings beholden to the central government in Beijing. It epitomises the wider challenge facing China as it seeks economic modernisation while retaining monopolistic Communist Party political rule. Nothing could be more modern in China than the former British colony with its advanced financial system, its freedoms and its full integration into the global economy. Nor could anything be more threatening to the rulers in Beijing than the spiralling call for open direct elections, spearheaded by student protesters defying the police. </p> <p>The clash between the authorities and those calling for uncontrolled democracy in their “umbrella revolution” has intensified this year, as a result of Beijing’s stronger assertion of its right to control developments in the former colony and the emergence of a new, younger pro-democracy movement, which has adopted a more radical approach than the campaigners for a liberal political system in the first decade after sovereignty passed from Britain to China in 1997. The offer of talks by the chief executive on Thursday night, a striking recognition of the power of street protest, would be impossible elsewhere in China. </p> <p>The presence of tens of thousands of demonstrators in the city’s central business district this week, calling for the open election of the territory’s next chief executive in 2017, is a realisation of Beijing’s worst fears concerning popular protest—and it inevitably conjures up images of the demonstrations in Tiananmen Square in 1989. All the more so since the White Paper issued by the State Council in June had made it plain that Beijing did not consider that the “high degree of autonomy” enjoyed by the Special Administrative Region (SAR) under the 1997 handover guarantees meant “full autonomy nor decentralised power”. Instead it stressed the power of the central leadership to run local affairs. </p> <p>Beijing further turned the screw on the pro-democratic camp by laying down conditions for the 2017 election, which, despite opening the poll to universal franchise, will enable the central government to determine who is eligible to run. It thus made plain that it prioritises the first two words over the last two in the “one country, two systems” formulation, which many in Hong Kong had believed would guarantee them freedom from mainland interference. </p> <p>The government in Beijing insists that “Hong Kong is China’s Hong Kong” and a spokeswoman blamed “external forces supporting illegal activities”. The Communist Party newspaper, the <em>People’s Daily</em>, has expressed strong support for the chief executive, Leung Chun-ying, who assumed that post with Beijing’s approval in 2012 and whose resignation the protesters are demanding after police reacted to the initial demonstration with tear gas and baton charges. </p> <h2><strong>Digging in</strong></h2> <p>No mediating element is evident and the two sides are digging in for the long haul as the Xi Jinping administration makes the strengthening of the Chinese party-state its prime objective, regardless of the negative fallout. The two sides are like boxers in a ring without a referee. The open media system in the SAR means that what is happening is far more widely known and potentially entails a higher price than would be the case on the mainland. </p> <p><span class="pullquote-right">The two sides are like boxers in a ring without a referee.</span></p><p><span></span>With the 41m visits by mainland residents to the SAR accounting for an estimated 37% of retail and restaurant spending last year, the impact of visitors staying away would be a major negative factor, on top of the 1% decline in retail sales in the first eight months of this year. In the second quarter, with consumption falling, gross domestic product contracted by 0.1 per cent. Yet while the mainland is very important for Hong Kong, the growth of the economy of the People’s Republic of China means that the relative weight of the two has shifted significantly: the former colony’s economy now accounts for just 3% of China’s, compared with 12% three decades ago. </p> <p>Beijing certainly still values Hong Kong, as shown by the opening of the “through train “ linking the Shanghai and SAR stock exchanges, scheduled for later this year, and by the use of Hong Kong for the internationalisation of the yuan. This would point to the Chinese authorities taking a more relaxed attitude, to avoid destabilising the city and frightening off investors. But that runs counter to the evident polarisation and would pose a dual danger for Xi and his colleagues—that they would be seen as weak and that the pro-democracy forces, having gained ground, would push their case further. </p> <h2><strong>Flashpoints</strong></h2> <p>There are further potential flashpoints ahead, notably when the Legislative Council meets to vote on Beijing’s proposals for the 2017 electoral arrangements. No date has been fixed for that meeting but it will probably take place in the coming two weeks. Preliminary soundings of legislators suggest the proposal will not get the necessary two-thirds majority. Beijing could then say it was dropping the idea of enlarging the franchise and would maintain the system of a 1,200-strong electoral college that picked C.Y. Leung. In addition, it could halt other moves towards democracy through opening up elections for the legislature. That would almost certainly set off fresh demonstrations. Even if the council did back Beijing’s proposal, Occupy Central and its allies would in all likelihood protest at what they would call the rubber-stamping of an anti-democratic process. </p> <p>It is hard to see a positive outcome or even a reduction in the tension that has built up this year. And one effect of the recent events in Hong Kong will be to undermine Beijing’s attempts to cultivate closer relations with Taiwan. The prospect of the opposition Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) winning the presidency on the island in 2016 can only be helped by developments in the former colony. The irony is that the place for which Deng Xiaoping originally intended his “one country, two systems” is likely to move even further outside the “one country”, as the result of what is happening to the SAR’s “second system”.</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>Jittery <a href="http://www.theguardian.com/media/2014/oct/16/china-blocks-bbc-website-hong-kong-protest?CMP=twt_gu">Beijing blocks BBC, New York Times and Bloomberg</a>, fearing mainland access to Hong Kong coverage. But <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2014/10/24/world/asia/un-urges-china-to-allow-free-elections-in-hong-kong.html?ref=world&amp;_r=0">UN Human Rights Committee</a> tells it to allow open elections.</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="/lily-ho/with-peace-and-love-civil-disobedience-in-hong-kong">With peace and love: civil disobedience in Hong Kong</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/opensecurity/jonathan-fenby/tiananmen-square-official-silence-public-restiveness">Tiananmen Square: official silence, public restiveness</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"> China </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> openSecurity openSecurity China Democracy and government politics of protest non-violent action china from the inside china & the world democracy & power china Hong Kong matters Jonathan Fenby State violence Thu, 02 Oct 2014 21:34:09 +0000 Jonathan Fenby 86483 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Climate summit, climate justice https://www.opendemocracy.net/opensecurity/dipti-bhatnagar/climate-summit-climate-justice <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>The climate summit called today by the United Nations secretary-general, Ban Ki-Moon, will not bring the commitments needed to avert global chaos. Only popular mobilisation for climate justice can do that.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_right caption-medium'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/550590/girl.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_medium/wysiwyg_imageupload/550590/girl.jpg" alt="Girl on climate march in Delhi interviewed" title="" width="230" height="409" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-medium imagecache imagecache-article_medium" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Voice of the future: joining the climate march in Delhi. Flickr / South Solidarity Initiative. Some rights reserved.</span></span></span>On Sunday, from New York to Kathmandu to London to Delhi to Amsterdam, hundreds of thousands of citizens and environmental activists took to the streets. In advance of today’s climate summit at the United Nations, they joined the People’s Climate March, the largest climate action in history, endorsed by more than 1,200 organisations representing 100 million people worldwide.</p> <p>The voices of those hardest hit by climate change must be heard. At the heart of every climate solution must be an impetus urgently to transform energy and food systems and the way forests are managed, and to build the power of people everywhere to take action. </p> <p>The numbers and science are clear. As a planet and a civilisation, we cannot let average global temperature rise by more than 1.5C above pre-industrial levels.</p> <p>The voluntary pledges by governments and business at the summit are laughable in the face of the climate crisis. Non-binding pledges are an insult to the hundreds of thousands of people who are losing their lives and livelihoods due to climate change, including extreme weather events, more floods and droughts and failing agriculture. What we need are ambitious, equitable, science-based and, most importantly, binding emissions-reduction targets for developed countries. </p> <h2><strong>Undue corporate influence</strong></h2> <p>Yet developed countries’ leaders are neglecting their responsibility to prevent climate catastrophe. Their priorities are <a href="http://www.foei.org/resources/publications/publications-by-subject/economic-justice-resisting-neoliberalism-publications/reclaim-the-un-from-corporate-capture/">increasingly driven</a> by the narrow economic interests of wealthy elites, the fossil-fuel industry and multinational corporations. They are listening to the polluters instead of the people. </p> <p class="TextBody">The summit for business held on the eve of the climate summit highlighted the undue corporate influence at the UN. Dirty energy companies and other polluters and their financiers are co-opting democratic governments and the UN, where the voices of ordinary people should be heard.</p> <p>Business used this year's UN Private Sector Forum on “a fair valuation” of carbon to profit even more from carbon trading and offsetting, which have proven false solutions to the climate crisis. Carbon trading’s <a href="http://www.carbontradewatch.org/publications/carbon-trading-how-it-works-and-why-it-fails.html">basic premise</a> is that polluters can pay someone else to soak up their pollution, so they don’t have to do any work to reduce it. It isn’t working to reduce emissions—it's only making profits for elites while further dispossessing vulnerable communities in the developing world of land and other resources.</p> <p>Similarly, the “climate smart agriculture” initiative, yet another push for offsetting being launched at the summit, is a new empty phrase used to greenwash the worst practices of industrial agriculture; synthetic fertilisers, industrial meat production and genetically modified crops. The proponents of this dangerous solution—the corporations which stand to benefit and the World Bank, among others—are seeking to turn the carbon in farmers' fields into carbon credits. It would be another excuse to grab lands and resources from communities, as has already been happening in other multi-billion-dollar carbon-credit schemes.</p> <h2><strong>Real solutions</strong></h2> <p>The list of false solutions to climate change is long and includes nuclear energy, mega-dams, natural gas, “clean coal”, carbon capture and storage, genetically modified organisms, agro-fuels, carbon trading, offsetting and mechanisms like REDD (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and forest Degradation). These false fixes distract from the real social and economic changes needed to exit the climate crisis. </p> <p>First among these real solutions is the reduction of greenhouse-gas emissions at source. This must be agreed through a legally-binding agreement at the UN in line with science and equity.</p> <p><span class="pullquote-right">Climate change is directly responsible for the deaths of thousands of people even year.</span></p><p><span></span>The way energy is produced, distributed and consumed must also be <a href="http://www.goodenergybadenergy.org/">transform</a>ed. Dirty energy is causing climate change and harming workers and communities. Clean, sustainable, community energy fulfils the right for people to have access to energy, to decide and own their sustainable-energy sources and to enjoy sustainable consumption patterns.</p> <p>Deforestation is a contributor to net carbon emissions and must be stopped. It is mostly driven by industrial agriculture, agro-fuels, excessive meat consumption and unsustainable demand for timber. To stop the destruction of forests, we need public funds to implement community forest management, to tackle deforestation and support communities at the same time.</p> <p>Current industrial methods of food production and consumption also contribute to carbon emissions, as well as to global food crises and shortages due to mismanagement and waste. The solution is “food sovereignty”, which includes decentralised food production and distribution, and agrarian reform in favour of small-scale, peasant farmers practising agro-ecological farming, absorbing atmospheric carbon.</p> <p>Another solution promoted at the People's Climate March is the <a href="http://www.foe.org/news/blog/2014-09-robin-hood-to-ban-ki-moon-i-can-show-you-the-money">financial transaction tax</a> (FTT)—a tax on Wall Street also known as the Robin Hood tax. It proposes a tiny tax on trades of stocks, bonds and other financial instruments which would nevertheless generate hundreds of billions of dollars of new revenue annually. </p> <p class="TextBody">The FTT is supported by Nobel Prize-winning economists and the Pope, among others. It would generate public funds desperately needed to help people around the world transform their energy and food systems. Eleven European countries, including Germany, are establishing a regional Robin Hood tax. France, a member of that coalition, already has one, the revenue from which is used in part to help developing countries address climate change.</p> <h2><strong>Climate justice </strong></h2> <p class="TextBody">The FTT is an example of a grassroots initiative which has affected the leaders of some countries. It is based on a rights-and-equity approach—“climate justice”—which needs much more support to make a difference on a global scale.</p> <p class="TextBody">The climate crisis is about people and about justice, not just saving cute polar bears. It is about asking why we live in a world which is so unequal. The causes of the climate crisis and sky-high inequality are the same: a “<a href="http://www.ourpowercampaign.org/peoplesclimatemarch/">dig, burn, dump economy</a>”.</p> <p class="TextBody">Richer developed countries, with less than one fifth of the world’s population, are responsible for almost three-quarters of historical greenhouse gas emissions. The European Union and the US alone are responsible for more than half the carbon emissions in the earth’s atmosphere, yet they only have roughly a tenth of the world’s population between them.</p> <p class="TextBody">By contrast, the poorest 10% of the world’s population has contributed less than 1% of these emissions. Developing countries have contributed least to the causes of climate change—yet they are the most affected.</p> <p class="TextBody">Industrialised countries must commit to reducing their emissions domestically, without carbon trading, in line with what science and equity demand. The 1992 UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (the Kyoto convention) <a href="http://unfccc.int/essential_background/convention/items/2627.php">clearly states</a> that developed countries have a “historical responsibility” for their carbon emissions. They have accrued a climate debt to developing countries which must be reflected in ambitious emission-reduction targets, as well as technology transfer and financial support for mitigation and adaptation in developing countries.</p> <p class="TextBody">Climate change is directly responsible for the deaths of thousands of people even year. Most are in the poorest countries of the world, which didn’t do anything to create this crisis in the first place.</p> <p class="TextBody">From 10 to 18 October, people across the world will be taking co-ordinated actions on energy as part of <a href="http://www.reclaimpower.net/">Reclaim Power</a>. In the coming sequence of official climate-change “Conferences of the Parties” to the convention, world leaders must be held accountable: from the social “pre-COP” in Venezuela through “COP20” in Lima, culminating in the much-hyped “COP21” in Paris in December 2015, where a global agreement is supposed to be reached. It will take popular mobilisation and further successful climate-justice initiatives to avoid the worst the climate crisis may bring.</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/different-climate">A different climate</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/opensecurity/phil-england/sharing-our-future-how-world-can-avert-climate-chaos">Sharing our future: how the world can avert climate chaos</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> openSecurity openSecurity summits of the world politics of protest global politics Climate change Dipti Bhatnagar Ecological Security Tue, 23 Sep 2014 10:05:15 +0000 Dipti Bhatnagar 86209 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Egypt: time to end the diplomatic farce https://www.opendemocracy.net/opensecurity/mandeep-tiwana/egypt-time-to-end-diplomatic-farce <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Many Egyptians are smarting from the betrayal of their revolution while the military-backed regime tightens its grip. The international community can no longer ignore this.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p class="image-caption"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/550590/sisi in uniform.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/550590/sisi in uniform.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="330" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span>Spot the difference: the US secretary of state, John Kerry, meeting&nbsp;Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, last year as Egyptian defence minister, this year as president. US State Department / Flickr.</p><p><span></span><span><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/550590/sisi in suit.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/550590/sisi in suit.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="305" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span>Egypt’s regime is at it again. Having stuffed its notorious prisons with political dissenters and wantonly murdered hundreds of protesters, the military-backed government has issued an ultimatum to civil-society organisations. They must register under a regressive, Mubarak-era </span><a href="http://www.icnl.org/research/monitor/egypt.html#analysis">NGO law</a><span>, which empowers officials to weed out CSOs deemed critical of state policy—or face dissolution.</span></p> <p>Although the <a href="http://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/aug/31/egypt-rights-groups-temporary-reprieve">deadline</a> for registration has been extended by two months to November, human-rights advocacy groups are anxious about their very existence. Since the July 2013 coup which <a href="http://www.civicus.org/index.php/en/media-centre-129/35-open-letters/1820-an-open-letter-to-egypt-s-interim-government">ousted</a> the democratically elected, if flawed Morsi government, Egypt’s military rulers have turned the clock back on the popular revolution of 2011. </p> <p>They staged a <a href="http://www.economist.com/news/middle-east-and-africa/21603071-president-abdel-fattah-al-sisi-fails-bring-enough-voters-ballot-box">farcical</a> election in May this year, through which the military chief exchanged his uniform for a presidential business suit. <a href="http://www.bbc.com/news/world-middle-east-27593509">Turnout</a> was so sluggish that the voting period was extended for an unprecedented third day. The outcome, however—to confirm Abdel Fattah el-Sisi as president—was never in doubt. </p> <p>The entire rump of the political opposition is in prison, the press is gagged and public demonstrations are outlawed. Those independent civil-society voices which have not already been silenced speak out at their own risk. </p> <h2>Condemnation absent</h2> <p>Yet many democratic governments have been coy about the goings-on in Cairo, revealing the ideological <a href="http://www.ipsnews.net/2014/09/why-principle-matters-at-un-human-rights-council/">fault lines</a> and inconsistent application of human-rights principles which stain international relations. The usual florid condemnation of tyrants manipulating electoral processes, from Azerbaijan to Zimbabwe, has been more or less absent—as are any substantive moves to put in place economic and military sanctions against the regime. </p> <p>Notwithstanding the challenges facing their government’s legitimacy, for Egyptian diplomats in international forums it is business as usual. Unsurprisingly, many of their positions are diluting the protection of human rights. In June, Egypt engineered a procedural <a href="http://www.ishr.ch/news/states-silence-debate-family-diversity-human-rights-council">resolution</a> at the United Nations Human Rights Council on “protection of the family”, with the clear intent to deny members of sexual minorities their rights by excluding their relationships from the definition. In March, Egypt joined a group of “like-minded” countries in a <a href="http://www.icnl.org/news/2014/India_on%20behalf%20of%20LMG_PD_21.pdf">statement</a> urging the council to exercise caution in “advocacy of the causes of civil society”. </p> <p>At home, the list of transgressions by the military regime is indeed long. Principal among them was the massacre of more than 1,000 demonstrators opposed to the military takeover last year, as snipers, armoured vehicles and bulldozers were deployed to quell the protests during July and August. Human Rights Watch has uncovered evidence of a deadly <a href="http://www.hrw.org/news/2014/08/12/egypt-rab-killings-likely-crimes-against-humanity">conspiracy</a> systematically to silence political opponents at the time, which may well amount to crimes against humanity. Shockingly, this year courts in Egypt have handed out death sentences through sham trials to more than 1,000 protesters, prompting outrage from UN experts who have deemed the actions of the judiciary “<a href="http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=48167#.VAtgtGb8I5s">blatantly unfair</a>”. </p> <p>In June, three Al Jazeera <a href="http://www.aljazeera.com/programmes/insidestory/2014/06/victims-political-show-trial-201462315344610410.html">journalists</a> were handed prison terms of 7-10 years on apparently trumped-up charges of supporting the outlawed Muslim Brotherhood. Earlier that month, the well-known civil-society activist Alaa Abdel Fattah and 24 others were <a href="http://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/jun/11/egyptian-activist-alaa-abd-el-fattah-jailed">convicted</a> for mounting illegal demonstrations and sentenced to 15 years in prison for protesting against the routine practice of using military courts to try civilians for political offences. Scores of activists are languishing in Egypt’s prisons for protesting peacefully against the spate of restrictions on democratic freedoms. </p> <p><span class="pullquote-right">The entire rump of the political opposition is in prison, the press is gagged and public demonstrations are outlawed.</span></p><p><span></span>In November last year, to reinforce the brutal behaviour of Egyptian security forces in dealing with protests, a <a href="http://www.amnesty.org/en/news/egypt-new-protest-law-gives-security-forces-free-rein-2013-11-25">repressive law</a> restricting freedom of assembly was introduced. It places stringent conditions on public demonstrations and gives law-enforcement officials wide-ranging powers to disperse dissent on the streets. It is an affront to the values which underpinned the revolution that ended Hosni Mubarak’s near-three-decades grip on power. </p> <h2>Challenges</h2> <p>Earlier this year, CIVICUS spoke to some young Egyptians on the challenges facing their country. On the hijacking of the ideals of the revolution and suspension of the democratic process, one activist made these poignant comments: “I knew it came a little too easy. In only 18 days, we recreated the Egypt we've always dreamed of? My naïve self wanted to believe that but, when the cruel reality hit in 2013, we were stunned beyond words—even though we subconsciously knew anything could happen. </p> <p>“The Egyptian media successfully brainwashed the majority of the nation, placing a spotlight on the Muslim Brotherhood, to distract from and justify the atrocities being committed. The Egyptian crisis isn't about the Muslim Brotherhood; it never was.”</p> <p>The state under Sisi has gone far beyond crushing even the limited civic freedoms enjoyed during the Mubarak era. The international community and democratic states in particular cannot turn a blind eye to the overwhelming evidence of lack of political representation and gross human-rights violations. Every time they participate in the diplomatic farce of engaging with Egypt as if this were routine, they reinforce the legitimacy of the regime.&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/chalaine-chang/egypt-swallowing-civil-society">Egypt, swallowing civil society</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/opensecurity/sarah-leah-whitson/egypt%E2%80%99s-coverup">Egypt’s cover-up</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"> Democracy and government </div> </div> </div> openSecurity openSecurity Egypt Civil society Democracy and government politics of protest human rights accountability democracy & power middle east wfd marginalisation dissent Mandeep Tiwana Diplomacy Militarisation State violence Wed, 10 Sep 2014 11:09:16 +0000 Mandeep Tiwana 85854 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Shadow of military looms large over Pakistan street protests https://www.opendemocracy.net/opensecurity/katharine-adeney/shadow-of-military-looms-large-over-pakistan-street-protests <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>The military is never far from politics in Pakistan<span style="line-height: 1.5;">—</span><span style="line-height: 1.5;">and it may be implicated in the latest political crisis, as opposition forces led by Imran Khan challenge the legitimacy of the government of Nawaz Sharif.</span></p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/537772/8tw2ts82-1409590887.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/537772/8tw2ts82-1409590887.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="326" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>An Imran Khan supporter in Multan. EPA / Faisal Kareem.</span></span></span>Though they have only just garnered international attention, the current protests on the streets of Islamabad started on Pakistan’s independence day, 14 August. Ostensibly fomented by Imran Khan, the former Pakistan cricket captain turned opposition politician, and the Canada-based cleric Tahir-ul Qadri, the unrest came to a head with the brief </span><a href="http://www.aljazeera.com/news/asia/2014/09/pakistan-anti-pm-protesters-storm-state-broad-201491132720191166.html">storming and vandalism of the country’s state TV station</a><span>.</span></p> <p>Khan and Qadri’s demands differ, but they have both called for the <a href="http://www.pewglobal.org/2014/08/27/a-less-gloomy-mood-in-pakistan/">popular</a> and freely elected prime minister, Nawaz Sharif, to step down. But since many observers and Pakistanis believe the country’s powerful military to be behind the demonstrations, many have been concerned that the shadow of a coup against the country’s democratically installed leader is looming large.</p> <p>To understand these developments, a brief foray into Pakistan’s recent history is in order.</p> <h2>Free, fair and competitive?</h2> <p>Sharif was elected in May 2013 in elections that were accepted by international observers such as the EU as relatively free, fair, and “<a href="http://www.eueom.eu/files/pressreleases/english/eom-pakistan-preliminary-statement-13052013-en.pdf">competitive</a>”<span>—</span><span>and which marked the first time that a freely elected government replaced another freely elected government (although there had been alternation in power in the late 1980s and 1990s in Pakistan, governments were dismissed from office by the president, acting in cahoots with the military).</span></p> <p>And while the 2013 elections were violent, with secular political parties such as the PPP and others targeted by the <a href="https://theconversation.com/resurgent-pakistani-taliban-is-winning-its-war-on-public-space-28005">Pakistan Taliban (TTP)</a>, these elections were also the first time that the Pakistan electorate had <a href="http://nottspolitics.org/2013/06/04/the-2013-pakistan-elections-the-campaigns-election-day-and-beyond/">voted a government out of office</a>.</p> <p>Sharif came to power in 2013; his third stint as prime minister, promising reform in civil-military relations. He initially kept the <a href="http://www.dawn.com/news/1018572">foreign affairs and defence portfolios</a> for himself and still holds the foreign affairs brief.</p> <p>His government has proceeded with a trial against the retired general Pervez Musharraf, despite initial expectations that, after his <a href="http://www.aljazeera.com/news/southasia/2014/03/pakistan-musharraf-indicted-treason-20143316428403448.html">indictment for treason</a> (itself a first in Pakistan), Musharraf would be allowed to leave the country, probably on the pretence of ill health.</p> <p>Sharif also asserted civilian control over internal security policy, notably concerning relations with the Pakistan Taliban (a group which, initially sponsored by the Pakistan state, turned against it in 2007), favouring negotiations rather than military action.</p> <p>But since spring 2014 relations have soured between the government and the military. The negotiations with the TTP came to an end after an attack on <a href="http://www.washingtonpost.com/world/asia_pacific/gunmen-attack-karachi-airport-pakistani-taliban-claims-responsibility/2014/06/09/1d646e0c-efca-11e3-bf76-447a5df6411f_story.html">Karachi airport</a> in June, with an army operation launched against the group in <a href="http://www.thenews.com.pk/article-150841-Pakistan-army-launches-operation-Zarb-e-Azb-in-North-Waziristan">North Waziristan</a> later that month. The military, under the new chief, Raheel Sharif (no relation), has also grown increasingly concerned about the treatment of <a href="http://tribune.com.pk/story/736824/political-turmoil-pml-n-woes-linked-to-musharraf-trial/">Musharraf</a>.</p> <p>This is where the political opposition, and the army, come into play.</p> <h2>The other side</h2> <p>Khan initially entered politics in 1996 with his own party, the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI), mounting a stand against corruption. It did not do well electorally and, indeed, it boycotted the 2008 elections. But during the 2013 campaign Khan returned to electoral politics and projected himself as the face of Naya (new) Pakistan.</p> <p><span><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/550590/imran khan.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/550590/imran khan.jpg" alt="Imran Khan" title="" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Back in the game: Imran Khan. EPA / T. Mughal.</span></span></span>His campaign was based on an anti-corruption message, and he predicted a “</span><a href="http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-asia-22333596">political tsunami</a><span>” in his party's favour. In the event, his </span><a href="http://www.dawn.com/news/1027198/the-election-score">PTI won 9.6% of the seats, on 17.8% of the votes</a><span> at the national level, and managed to secure sufficient seats in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province (the former NWFP) to run the administration there.</span></p> <p>This was a very creditable result, but hardly the tsunami he had predicted. Both Khan and his supporters, many of whom are young city-dwellers, were quick to cry foul<span>—</span><span>but most independent observers concluded that the PTI had done remarkably well for such a new party and international election monitors did not question the validity of the result.</span></p> <p>This current protest was ostensibly triggered by two factors. First, Khan has claimed that his accusations of election-rigging have not received a hearing (even though Sharif has accepted Khan’s demand for a <a href="http://tribune.com.pk/story/747899/pti-to-accept-judicial-panel-only-after-nawaz-quits/">judicial commission</a>) and that he has had no option but to call his followers onto the streets.</p> <p>On the other hand there is the influence of Tahir ul-Qadri, the cleric who first came to prominence in January 2013 by mounting a military backed protest against the PPP-led government. He has demanded Sharif’s resignation as well, but is also agitating for a “peaceful” revolution.</p> <p>But among many in Pakistan and observing from beyond, it is widely <a href="http://www.thefridaytimes.com/tft/miltablishments-end-game/">believed</a> that the military is behind both protests.</p> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/550590/military.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/550590/military.jpg" alt="Pakistani military" title="" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>The power behind the people? EPA / T. Mughal.</span></span></span>The army is very probably trying to clip Sharif’s wings, concerned as it is about developments in the Musharraf trial as well as about unwelcome assertions of civilian power over defence and security policy (such as Sharif openly agitating to improve ties between India and Pakistan).</p> <p>And many credit the army with working behind the scenes to sharpen the protests' impact. Suspiciously, many Pakistani TV channels' coverage of the protests in Islamabad has apparently been far out of proportion (according to many Pakistanis) to the number of protesters actually involved. For his part, Khan claimed that a million people would support his demonstration in Islamabad, but in reality, only <a href="http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-asia-28817311">tens of thousands</a> have<span>—</span><span>and many of them are supporters of Qadri, not Khan.</span></p> <p>It might be questioned how these media outlets are able to provide such extensive and expensive coverage without commercial breaks<span>—</span><span>pointing to a less transparent source of finance.</span></p> <h2>Political solution or soft coup?</h2> <p>The army has called for a “<a href="http://www.dailytimes.com.pk/national/01-Sep-2014/corps-commanders-want-crisis-resolved-politically">political solution</a>” to the crisis, and affirmed its support for democracy<span>—</span><span>but its role as a mediator between the two sides was seen by many as an attempt at a “</span><a href="http://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/aug/29/pakistan-army-chief-talks-khan-qadri">soft coup</a><span>”.</span></p> <p>Sharif is likely to remain publicly defiant, although it’s likely that a deal has already been reached on Musharraf’s eventual departure. A weakened Sharif probably serves the military’s purposes better than&nbsp;<span>would&nbsp;</span><span>an outright coup: there is little popular support for that, though support for the military as an institution remains high. The army is preoccupied with its operations in north Waziristan, and it knows that it would risk angering international aid donors if it formally took power, so it is possible that its aims will stop here.</span></p> <p>But if the army is directly behind the current protests, as most observers seem to suspect, this crisis demonstrates where power really lies in Pakistan<span>—</span><span>and is an ominous sign indeed.</span></p><p><img src="https://counter.theconversation.edu.au/content/31132/count.gif" alt="The Conversation" width="1" height="1" /></p> <p><em>Katharine Adeney does not work for, consult to, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organisation that would benefit from this article, and has no relevant affiliations.</em></p><p>This article was originally published on <a href="http://theconversation.com">The Conversation</a>. Read the <a href="http://theconversation.com/shadow-of-military-looms-large-over-pakistan-street-protests-31132">original article</a>. </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="/5050/afiya-shehrbano-zia/sceptical-silence-pakistan%E2%80%99s-operation-in-north-waziristan">Sceptical silence: Pakistan’s operation in North Waziristan</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/opensecurity/imtiaz-gul-farooq-yousaf/pakistan%E2%80%99s-authoritarian-move">Pakistan’s authoritarian move</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"> Pakistan </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-city"> <div class="field-label">City:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Islamabad </div> </div> </div> openSecurity openSecurity Islamabad Pakistan politics of protest democratic society india/pakistan Katharine Adeney Tue, 02 Sep 2014 15:05:53 +0000 Katharine Adeney 85649 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Why are police becoming more like soldiers? https://www.opendemocracy.net/opensecurity/alejandro-garcia-de-la-garza/why-are-police-becoming-more-like-soldiers <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Militarisation of the police is a developing phenomenon, spreading into nominally democratic societies as the bonds of popular consent to the status quo weaken.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_left caption-medium'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/537772/13967992996_5031515006_z.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_medium/wysiwyg_imageupload/537772/13967992996_5031515006_z.jpg" alt="Not your friendly neighbourhood officer--a SWAT team member. " title="" width="240" height="360" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-medium imagecache imagecache-article_medium" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Not your friendly neighbourhood officer--a SWAT team member. Jay Weenig / Flickr. Some rights reserved.</span></span></span>In the last decades, militarisation of the state and surveillance of the population have grown exponentially in many western countries. Police forces, civilian institutions and even urban spaces have followed this trend of securitisation. Images of heavily armed police forces clashing against protesters in the US, UK, France and many other countries are becoming increasingly common. Leaked official documents have detailed the extensive surveillance programmes several states use to spy on their denizens, under the auspice of “national security”. </p> <p>While the “war on drugs” and the “war on terror” have often provided the pretext, those affected by militarisation and surveillance are mostly neither criminal kingpins nor “terrorists” but ordinary citizens. It has been political activists and groups, those who express dissent and protesters, as well it is true as small-time criminals, who have been on the receiving end of police SWAT team raids, extensive (often illegal) surveillance and assaults by heavily-armoured riot police. </p> <h2><strong>Stretched hierarchies</strong></h2> <p>But militarisation is about more than riot gear and police use of force. It can be perceived as a way for the state to try to retain its relevance and sovereignty in a globalised age, and therefore a tool to control and deter dissent. Since the 1970s neo-liberal capitalism has stretched social hierarchies as inequality has grown exponentially in many western countries. The crisis of neo-liberalism since 2008, which seems to be perpetually prolonged, may be part of the driving force behind a rebelliousness among those at the bottom end of the scale, while those at the top grow more fearful and impose more violent methods of dealing with this perceived threat to order.</p> <p>Militarisation is spreading worldwide at an accelerating pace. The popular “common sense” is that it is necessary—indeed inevitable—in the face of modern challenges and security threats.&nbsp; While in train for many years, only now are its effects being properly seen and felt. </p> <p><span class="pullquote-right">While the “war on drugs” and the “war on terror” have often provided the pretext, those affected by militarisation and surveillance are mostly neither criminal kingpins nor “terrorists” but ordinary citizens.</span></p><p><span></span>The state is spying on friends and foes alike. The “war on drugs” and the “war on terror” do not make sense in themselves: how can one make war on a phenomenon? They function as all-encompassing excuse to abuse state power, survey unaccountably and erode civil rights.</p> <p><a href="http://policing.oxfordjournals.org/content/early/2007/01/01/police.pam065.short">According to Peter B. Kraska</a>, militarism is an ideology which assumes that the most appropriate and effective way to solve a problem is by force or threat of violence. Militarisation operationalises this ideology by “arming, organizing, planning, training for, threatening, and sometimes implementing violent conflict”. When civilian police adopt and apply the military model, we see the result as in Ferguson, Missouri—a heavily armed, pugilistic stance towards the people they are charged to serve and protect. </p> <p>The distinction between domestic and external security, between the police and the military, has blurred in recent years. From one direction, new communications technologies and transnational crime mean that what used to constitute internal security threats to a state are turning into threats which only a rival state could have posed just a few years ago. From the other side, while repressive governments, countries in a state of conflict and some other developing nations use military force to handle all security challenges, including internal ones, this practice is becoming more and more pronounced in longstanding democracies. </p> <p><a href="http://www.acme-journal.org/vol8/Corva09.pdf">According to Dominic Corva,</a> following Foucault, political power is focused not so much on sovereign, territorial, and disciplinary configurations, instead centring on the “biopolitical” arrangements of life within highly urbanised, mobile and digitally mediated societies. Utilising state-sanctioned force to control domestic and foreign territories through “sovereign power”, biopower “produces subjects of governance through techniques of normalization”. While sovereign power takes life or lets live, biopower fosters life or disallows it through the consolidation and propagation of acceptable freedoms. Biopolitical strategies of governance thereby render social orders, such as capitalism, hegemonic. </p> <h2><strong>From hegemony to domination</strong></h2> <p>The notion of <a href="http://courses.justice.eku.edu/pls330_louis/docs/gramsci-prison-notebooks-vol1.pdf">hegemony as developed by Antonio Gramsci</a> may perhaps offer a clearer understanding of the root causes of both militarisation and the radicalisation of activist groups, protests and dissidence. For Gramsci, hegemony operates primarily through the institutions of civil society and is linked connotatively to a chain of dichotomies: hegemony / domination, consent / coercion, civil society / state. The polarisation of society and growing inequality can be seen as the underlying source of militarisation, associated with a shift from hegemony to mere domination, from policing by consent to policing by force. </p> <p>Take the US. There has been immense co-operation between the military and the civilian police in the last few years, with massive amounts of weapons and equipment, as well as military techniques, <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/opensecurity/matthew-harwood/from-cops-to-counterinsurgents-militarization-of-america%27s-police">finding their way to police forces</a> in many American cities. Police departments with access to such equipment, and having adopted military culture, choose extreme tactics in situations which hardly justify flash-bangs, tear gas, anti-tank vehicles and tactical gear. SWAT teams are meanwhile becoming normalised and employed to take a more proactive role in crime-fighting and prevention, away from their original purpose as reactive units for special circumstances. Even the language has changed, with terms that were only heard of in conflict zones, such as “insurgency” and “low-intensity conflict”, finding their way into the vocabulary used to define criminality. </p> <p>Gramsci wrote that societies only pose such questions as they can solve. And important questions now need to be asked. How can a democratic regime justify militarisation and the criminalisation of swathes of its population? What will happen to dissenting voices in an age of surveillance and militarised police—when speaking out can be considered a crime, a threat to “national security”? </p> <p>For militarisation and surveillance are parts of a larger and even more worrisome trend, of enforcing greater control over urban spaces, social interactions, politics, culture and ideology to reaffirm a political and economic status quo. Presented as protecting the population, it seems rather that we, the citizens, need protecting from it.</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="/opensecurity/matthew-harwood/from-cops-to-counterinsurgents-militarization-of-america%27s-police">From cops to counterinsurgents: the militarization of America&#039;s police</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/opensecurity/anna-feigenbaum/white-washing-water-cannon-salesmen-scientific-experts-and-human-rights">White-washing the water cannon: salesmen, scientific experts and human rights abuses </a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/opensecurity/ali-winston/military-grip-on-us-policing">The military grip on US policing</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> openSecurity openSecurity rule of law politics of protest human rights Alejandro Garcia de la Garza Militarisation Policing State violence Militarisation and policing technologies Mon, 01 Sep 2014 16:18:30 +0000 Alejandro Garcia de la Garza 85601 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Egypt’s cover-up https://www.opendemocracy.net/opensecurity/sarah-leah-whitson/egypt%E2%80%99s-coverup <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>The military-backed authorities in Egypt refused entry this week to two top officials of Human Rights Watch, seeking to launch their report on the massacre a year ago in Cairo. They blocked the messengers but they may have more trouble blocking the message.</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/550590/cairo protest.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/550590/cairo protest.jpg" alt="" title="" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span><span class="image-caption">Repression meets reassertion: protesting in support of the Muslim Brotherhood last month. <a href="http://www.demotix.com/users/fayedelgeziry">Fayed El-Geziry</a> / Demotix. All rights reserved.</span></p><p>“Forget about Morsy, forget about Rab`a,” my Egyptian neighbourhood grocer told me the other day, expressing the loyalty to the president, Abel Fattah el-Sisi, shared by many of his countrymen back home. “We are saved from these people.”</p> <p>Yet, one year later, there is no forgetting the massacre in Rab`a Square, in which Egyptian security forces killed at least 817 protesters, and probably as many as 1,000, in one of the largest mass killings of protesters in recent history. And there is certainly no forgiving.</p> <p>The killings, and those of hundreds of other protesters in July and August last year, were the linchpin of the terror campaign of the military-backed government which followed the army’s removal of Mohamed Morsy, Egypt’s first—and still only—democratically elected president. The campaign appeared designed to send a single message to the Muslim Brotherhood and its backers: democracy, if that means a real political contest among diverse views, is finished in Egypt.</p> <h2><strong>Systematic and deliberate</strong></h2> <p>The Human Rights Watch&nbsp;<a href="http://hrw.org/node/127942" target="_blank">report</a>&nbsp;on these killings, just released, reveals the systematic and deliberate way police and soldiers ruthlessly fired on at least 80,000 overwhelmingly peaceful protesters in Rab’a Square. Our year-long investigation included interviews with more than 200 witnesses, monitoring of the protests themselves, visits to the hospitals and morgues, and a review of the physical and video evidence.</p> <p>We documented that the police fired live ammunition to kill protesters, within minutes of ostensibly warning them to flee, yet without allowing them to exit safely.&nbsp;The police attacked the sit-in from each of the main entrances to the square, using armoured personnel carriers, bulldozers, ground troops and snipers. They even fired on makeshift medical facilities and positioned snipers to target people who tried to enter or leave Rab`a hospital. Toward the end of the day, the central stage, field hospital, mosque and first floor of the hospital were set ablaze, probably by security forces.</p> <p>The Rab`a episode was not isolated but one of several attacks on protesters following Morsy’s removal, in which security forces killed hundreds. In each, dozens of witnesses described how unarmed protesters were shot at, in many cases without warning.</p> <p>While the government has tried to pass off its conduct as self-defence, in the face of violence by protesters, the evidence—even the government’s own statements—indicates that only a very small number of protesters were armed and used violence. In Rab`a, for example, among tens of thousands of protesters, the government recovered only 15 guns and lost eight police to violence by protesters. It was hardly indicative of the massive, imminent threat to life that would have justified such wide scale recourse to lethal force and the massive death toll.</p> <p>What’s more, the mass killings did not stem from chaos but were the product of a carefully orchestrated plan, reflecting a policy to fire on protesters. In the lead-up to the Rab`a dispersal, the Interior Ministry organised numerous meetings with senior government officials from various ministries before it executed its plans. It even publicised the fact that it anticipated a death toll of 10% of the protesters—3,500 people—indicating that the consequences were not just foreseeable: they were anticipated.</p> <p>Soon after, the prime minister, Hazem al-Beblawy, told the media: “We expected much more than what actually happened on the ground. The final outcome was less than what we expected.” The next day, he told&nbsp;<em>Al-Masry al-Youm</em>: “The dispersal plan succeeded 100 percent.”</p> <h2><strong>Crimes against humanity</strong></h2> <p>Given their widespread and systematic nature and the evidence suggesting they were part of a policy to use lethal force against largely unarmed protesters on political grounds, these killings most likely amount to crimes against humanity—among the most serious violations of international law. And the authorities have failed, despite the horror they inflicted, to offer even a superficial show of accountability.</p> <p><span class="pullquote-right">The campaign appeared designed to send a single message to the Muslim Brotherhood and its backers: democracy, if that means a real political contest among diverse views, is finished in Egypt.</span></p><p><span></span>They have not investigated, much less prosecuted, a single police officer for what happened or provided any serious accounting. Instead, adding insult to injury, the government has rewarded members of the security forces involved in the dispersals with bonuses and promotions, and erected a monument in their honour at the site.</p> <p>Today, the authorities are at pains to depict Egypt as a country where they have restored order and re-established its role as a bastion of stability in a pulverised region. Yes, there are occasional deadly attacks on police now but these rarely seep out of the Sinai, and, relative to the fighting in Iraq, Syria and Libya, represent more a nuisance than a crisis. Egypt is even back at the forefront of diplomacy, a reliable partner for the United States, helping negotiate a ceasefire between Israel and Hamas. Once the tourists return, it will be business as usual.</p> <h2><strong>Massive political repression</strong></h2> <p>This narrative of calm hasn’t come cheap of course, resting on the most massive political repression and brutality seen in generations of dictatorship. Since the coup, the military-backed government has jailed at least 22,000 Muslim Brotherhood supporters, depriving them of basic, due-process rights, and the courts have handed down shocking, mass death-penalty verdicts. Prosecutions extend to secular activists as well, with the space for critical views largely eliminated. Egyptian human-rights organisations have described the campaign against them as a “war on civil society”.</p> <p>It’s doubtful this calm will last. Egypt’s imprisoned political opposition and the victims of the government’s oppression are unlikely to remain silent in the face of unaccountable, military-backed rule. The government’s failure to reconcile itself with an important segment of the polity and account for its lawless conduct may bring future instability.</p> <p>It is up to concerned governments—acting for example through an investigation at the UN Human Rights Council—to demonstrate to the victims of the Egyptian government’s abuses that truth and justice are real possibilities.</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>The military-backed authorities were <a href="https://now.mmedia.me/lb/en/mena/560231-sporadic-skirmishes-in-egypt-on-crackdown-anniversary">quick to quash</a> any anniversary protests by Morsy supporters.</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="/north-africa-west-asia/andrea-teti/egypts-government-by-bullying">Egypt&#039;s government by bullying</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/north-africa-west-asia/mina-fayek/egypt%E2%80%99s-police-department-of-thugs">Egypt’s police: a department of thugs</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/north-africa-west-asia/amr-osman/egypt%E2%80%99s-deep-state-rediscovers-itself">Egypt’s deep state rediscovers itself</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> openSecurity openSecurity Egypt rule of law politics of protest human rights democratic society democracy & power middle east Sarah Leah Whitson State violence Wed, 13 Aug 2014 11:26:38 +0000 Sarah Leah Whitson 85181 at https://www.opendemocracy.net On Israel-Palestine and BDS https://www.opendemocracy.net/opensecurity/noam-chomsky/on-israelpalestine-and-bds <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Those dedicated to the Palestinian cause should think carefully about the tactics they choose.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p>The misery caused by Israel’s actions in the occupied territories has elicited serious concern among at least some Israelis. One of the most outspoken, for many years, has been Gideon Levy, a columnist for&nbsp;<em>Haaretz</em>, who writes that “Israel should be condemned and punished for creating insufferable life under occupation, [and] for the fact that a country that claims to be among the enlightened nations continues abusing an entire people, day and night”.</p> <p>He is surely correct, and we should add something more: the United States should also be condemned and punished for providing the decisive military, economic, diplomatic and even ideological support for these crimes. So long as it continues to do so, there is little reason to expect Israel to relent in its brutal policies.</p> <p>The distinguished Israeli scholar Zeev Sternhell, reviewing the reactionary nationalist tide in his country, writes that “the occupation will continue, land will be confiscated from its owners to expand the settlements, the Jordan Valley will be cleansed of Arabs, Arab Jerusalem will be strangled by Jewish neighbourhoods, and any act of robbery and foolishness that serves Jewish expansion in the city will be welcomed by the High Court of Justice. The road to South Africa has been paved and will not be blocked until the Western world presents Israel with an unequivocal choice: Stop the annexation and dismantle most of the colonies and the settler state, or be an outcast.”</p> <p>One crucial question is whether the United States will stop undermining the international consensus, which favours a two-state settlement along the internationally recognised border (the Green Line established in the 1949 ceasefire agreements), with guarantees for “the sovereignty, territorial integrity and political independence of all states in the area and their right to live in peace within secure and recognized boundaries”. That was the wording of a resolution brought to the UN Security Council in January 1976 by Egypt, Syria and Jordan, supported by the Arab states—and vetoed by the United States.</p> <p>This was not the first time Washington had barred a peaceful diplomatic settlement. The prize for that goes to Henry Kissinger, who [as national security adviser] supported Israel’s 1971 decision to reject a settlement offered by the Egyptian president, Anwar Sadat, choosing expansion over security—a course that Israel has followed with US support ever since. Sometimes Washington’s position becomes almost comical, as in February 2011, when the Obama administration vetoed a UN resolution that supported official US policy: opposition to Israel’s settlement expansion, which continues (also with US support) despite some whispers of disapproval.</p> <p>It is not expansion of the huge settlement and infrastructure programme (including the separation wall) that is the issue, but rather its very existence—all of it illegal, as determined by the UN Security Council and the International Court of Justice, and recognised as such by virtually the entire world apart from Israel and the United States since the presidency of Ronald Reagan, who downgraded “illegal” to “an obstacle to peace”.</p> <h2><strong>Egregious crimes</strong></h2> <p>One way to punish Israel for its egregious crimes was initiated by the Israeli peace group Gush Shalom in 1997—a boycott of settlement products. Such initiatives have been considerably expanded since then. In June, the Presbyterian Church resolved to divest from three US-based multinationals involved in the occupation. The most far-reaching success is the policy directive of the European Union that forbids funding, cooperation, research awards or any similar relationship with any Israeli entity that has “direct or indirect links” to the occupied territories, where all settlements are illegal, as the EU declaration reiterates. Britain had already directed retailers to “distinguish between goods originating from Palestinian producers and goods originating from illegal Israeli settlements”.</p> <p>Four years ago, Human Rights Watch called on Israel to abide by “its international legal obligation” to remove the settlements and to end its “blatantly discriminatory practices” in the occupied territories. HRW also called on the United States to suspend financing to Israel “in an amount equivalent to the costs of Israel’s spending in support of settlements”, and to verify that tax exemptions for organisations contributing to Israel “are consistent with US obligations to ensure respect for international law, including prohibitions against discrimination”.</p> <p>There have been a great many other boycott and divestment initiatives in the past decade, occasionally—but not sufficiently—reaching to the crucial matter of US support for Israeli crimes. Meanwhile, a BDS movement (calling for “boycott, divestment and sanctions”) has been formed, often citing South African models; more accurately, the abbreviation should be “BD”, since sanctions, or state actions, are not on the horizon—one of the many significant differences from South Africa.</p> <p><span class="pullquote-right">if tactics are to be effective, they must be based on a realistic assessment of actual circumstances</span></p><p><span></span>The opening call of the BDS movement, by a group of Palestinian intellectuals in 2005, demanded that Israel fully comply with international law by “(1) Ending its occupation and colonization of all Arab lands occupied in June 1967 and dismantling the Wall; (2) Recognizing the fundamental rights of the Arab-Palestinian citizens of Israel to full equality; and (3) Respecting, protecting, and promoting the rights of Palestinian refugees to return to their homes and properties as stipulated in UN Resolution 194”.</p> <p>This call received considerable attention, and deservedly so. But if we’re concerned about the fate of the victims, BD and other tactics have to be carefully thought through and evaluated in terms of their likely consequences. The pursuit of (1) in the above list makes good sense: it has a clear objective and is readily understood by its target audience in the west, which is why the many initiatives guided by (1) have been quite successful—not only in “punishing” Israel, but also in stimulating other forms of opposition to the occupation and US support for it.</p> <p>However, this is not the case for (3). While there is near-universal international support for (1), there is virtually no meaningful support for (3) beyond the BDS movement itself. Nor is (3) dictated by international law. The text of the UN General Assembly Resolution 194 is conditional, and in any event it is a recommendation, without the legal force of the Security Council resolutions that Israel regularly violates. Insistence on (3) is a virtual guarantee of failure.</p> <p>The only slim hope for realizing (3) in more than token numbers is if longer-term developments lead to the erosion of the imperial borders imposed by France and Britain after World War I, which, like similar borders, have no legitimacy. This could lead to a “no-state solution”—the optimal one, in my view, and in the real world no less plausible than the “one-state solution” that is commonly, but mistakenly, discussed as an alternative to the international consensus.</p> <p>The case for (2) is more ambiguous. There are “prohibitions against discrimination” in international law, as HRW observes. But pursuit of (2) at once opens the door to the standard “glass house” reaction: for example, if we boycott Tel Aviv University because Israel violates human rights at home, then why not boycott Harvard because of far greater violations by the United States? Predictably, initiatives focusing on (2) have been a near-uniform failure, and will continue to be unless educational efforts reach the point of laying much more groundwork in the public understanding for them, as was done in the case of South Africa.</p> <p>Failed initiatives harm the victims doubly—by shifting attention from their plight to irrelevant issues (anti-Semitism at Harvard, academic freedom, etc), and by wasting current opportunities to do something meaningful.</p> <h2><strong>Dubious analogy</strong></h2> <p>Concern for the victims dictates that in assessing tactics, we should be scrupulous in recognising what has succeeded or failed, and why. This has not always been the case (Michael Neumann discusses one of many examples of this failure in the winter 2014 issue of the&nbsp;<em>Journal of Palestine Studies</em>). The same concern dictates that we must be scrupulous about facts. Take the South African analogy, constantly cited in this context. It is a very dubious one. There’s a reason why BDS tactics were used for decades against South Africa while the current campaign against Israel is restricted to BD: in the former case, activism had created such overwhelming international opposition to apartheid that individual states and the UN had imposed sanctions decades before the 1980s, when BD tactics began to be used extensively in the United States. By then, Congress was legislating for sanctions and overriding Reagan’s vetoes on the issue.</p> <p>Years earlier—by 1960—global investors had already abandoned South Africa to such an extent that its financial reserves were halved; although there was some recovery, the handwriting was on the wall. In contrast, US investment is flowing into Israel. When Warren Buffett bought an Israeli tool-making firm for $2 billion last year, he described Israel as the most promising country for investors outside the United States itself.</p> <p>While there is, finally, a growing domestic opposition in the United States to Israeli crimes, it does not remotely compare with the South African case. The necessary educational work has not been done. Spokespeople for the BDS movement may believe they have attained their “South African moment”, but that is far from accurate. And if tactics are to be effective, they must be based on a realistic assessment of actual circumstances.</p> <p>Much the same is true of the invocation of apartheid. Within Israel, discrimination against non-Jews is severe; the land laws are just the most extreme example. But it is not South African-style apartheid. In the occupied territories, the situation is far worse than it was in South Africa, where the white nationalists needed the black population: it was the country’s workforce and, as grotesque as the bantustans were, the nationalist government devoted resources to sustaining and seeking international recognition for them. In sharp contrast, Israel wants to rid itself of the Palestinian burden. The road ahead is not toward South Africa, as commonly alleged, but toward something much worse.</p> <p>Where that road leads is unfolding before our eyes. As Sternhell observes, Israel will continue its current policies. It will maintain a vicious siege of Gaza, separating it from the West Bank, as the United States and Israel have been doing ever since they accepted the Oslo Accords in 1993. Although Oslo declared Palestine to be “a single territorial unit”, in official Israeli parlance the West Bank and Gaza have become “two separate and different areas”. As usual, there are security pretexts, which collapse quickly upon examination.</p> <p>In the West Bank, Israel will continue to take whatever it finds valuable—land, water, resources—dispersing the limited Palestinian population while integrating these acquisitions within a Greater Israel. This includes the vastly expanded “Jerusalem” that Israel annexed in violation of Security Council orders; everything on the Israeli side of the illegal separation wall; corridors to the east creating unviable Palestinian cantons; the Jordan Valley, where Palestinians are being systematically expelled and Jewish settlements established; and huge infrastructure projects linking all these acquisitions to Israel proper.</p> <p>The road ahead leads not to South Africa, but rather to an increase in the proportion of Jews in the Greater Israel that is being constructed. This is the realistic alternative to a two-state settlement. There is no reason to expect Israel to accept a Palestinian population it does not want.</p> <p>[The US secretary of state] John Kerry was bitterly condemned when he repeated the lament—common inside Israel—that unless the Israelis accept some kind of two-state solution, their country will become an apartheid state, ruling over a territory with an oppressed Palestinian majority and facing the dreaded “demographic problem”: too many non-Jews in a Jewish state. The proper criticism is that this common belief is a mirage. As long as the United States supports Israel’s expansionist policies, there is no reason to expect them to cease. Tactics have to be designed accordingly.</p> <p>However, there is one comparison to South Africa that is realistic—and significant. In 1958, South Africa’s foreign minister informed the US ambassador that it didn’t much matter if South Africa became a pariah state. The UN may harshly condemn South Africa, he said, but, as the ambassador put it, “what mattered perhaps more than all other votes put together was that of [the] US in view of its predominant position of leadership in [the] Western world”. For forty years, ever since it chose expansion over security, Israel has made essentially the same judgment.</p> <p>For South Africa, the calculation was fairly successful for a long time. In 1970, casting its first-ever veto of a Security Council resolution, the United States joined Britain to block action against the racist regime of Southern Rhodesia, a move that was repeated in 1973. Eventually, Washington became the UN veto champion by a wide margin, primarily in defence of Israeli crimes. But by the 1980s, South Africa’s strategy was losing its efficacy. In 1987, even Israel—perhaps the only country then violating the arms embargo against South Africa—agreed to “reduce its ties to avoid endangering relations with the US Congress”, the director general of the Israeli foreign ministry reported. The concern was that Congress might punish Israel for its violation of recent US law. In private, Israeli officials assured their South African friends that the new sanctions would be mere “window dressing”. A few years later, South Africa’s last supporters in Washington joined the world consensus, and the apartheid regime soon collapsed.</p> <p>In South Africa, a compromise was reached that was satisfactory to the country’s elites and to US business interests: apartheid was ended, but the socioeconomic regime remained. In effect, there would be some black faces in the limousines, but privilege and profit would not be much affected. In Palestine, there is no similar compromise in prospect.</p> <h2><strong>Cuban internationalism</strong></h2> <p>Another decisive factor in South Africa was Cuba. As Piero Gleijeses has demonstrated in his masterful scholarly work, Cuban internationalism, which has no real analogue today, played a leading role in ending apartheid and in the liberation of black Africa generally. There was ample reason why Nelson Mandela visited Havana soon after his release from prison, declaring: “We come here with a sense of the great debt that is owed the people of Cuba. What other country can point to a record of greater selflessness than Cuba has displayed in its relations to Africa?”</p> <p>He was quite correct. Cuban forces drove the South African aggressors out of Angola, were a key factor in releasing Namibia from their brutal grip, and made it very clear to the apartheid regime that its dream of imposing its rule over South Africa and the region was turning into a nightmare. In Mandela’s words, Cuban forces “destroyed the myth of the invincibility of the white oppressor”, which he said “was the turning point for the liberation of our continent—and of my people—from the scourge of apartheid”.</p> <p>Cuban “soft power” was no less effective, including 70,000 highly skilled aid workers and scholarships in Cuba for thousands of Africans. In radical contrast, Washington was not only the last holdout in protecting South Africa, but even continued afterward to support the murderous Angolan terrorist forces of Jonas Savimbi, “a monster whose lust for power had brought appalling misery to his people”, in the words of Marrack Goulding, the British ambassador to Angola—a verdict seconded by the CIA.</p> <p>Palestinians can hope for no such saviour. This is all the more reason why those who are sincerely dedicated to the Palestinian cause should avoid illusion and myth, and think carefully about the tactics they choose and the course they follow.</p> <p><em>This article was published in the 21-28 July 2014 issue of the </em><em>Nation </em><em>magazine and on 2 July on&nbsp;<a href="http://www.thenation.com/" target="_blank">www.thenation.com</a>. It</em><em> is reproduced here with courtesy and appreciation.</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="/opensecurity/nathalie-tocci/as-israelpalestine-descends-into-violence-what-should-europe-do">As Israel-Palestine descends into violence, what should Europe do?</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/north-africa-west-asia/victoria-brittain/new-media-and-changing-narrative-on-palestine">New media and the changing narrative on 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> </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> openSecurity openSecurity Palestine Conflict International politics politics of protest israel & palestine - old roads, new maps institutions & power human rights global politics middle east BDS Noam Chomsky Diplomacy Non-state violence State violence Mon, 04 Aug 2014 19:48:32 +0000 Noam Chomsky 84950 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Arrested democracy: why Thailand needs a new social contract https://www.opendemocracy.net/opensecurity/marco-mezzera/arrested-democracy-why-thailand-needs-new-social-contract <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>The Thai military may think its May takeover has run smoothly but authoritarian dictates and an elite power monopoly will not keep the country together in the longer term.</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/550590/thai soldiers.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/550590/thai soldiers.jpg" alt="Thai soldiers coming out of truck" title="" width="460" height="307" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Out of their barracks: Thai soldiers days after the coup. Prachathai / Flickr. Some rights reserved.</span></span></span>On 20 May 2014, after some seven months of political squabbling between two opposing popular movements and their political patrons, the Thai military finally decided to take matters into its own hands. This was the twelfth time the army had intervened in the political life of the country since the end of the absolute monarchy in 1932; seven other such coup attempts failed. </p> <p>As in the past, its declared objective was the restoration of peace and order to a situation that ran the risk of spinning out of control, if violence were to escalate between the two main camps. These are the United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship, commonly known as the Red Shirts movement, and the People’s Democratic Reform Committee (PDRC), originally defined as the Yellow Shirts movement.</p> <p>The Thai army has always had an inner distrust of, if not outright contempt for, any political confrontation which threatened to disrupt the country’s social harmony. And its most recent intervention clearly indicates that it thought the political quarrelling and indecisiveness had gone on for far too long.</p> <p>This time, however, the army approached the task in a more gradual and subtle way. Rather than dismissing civilian state authorities at the outset, it moved step by step, introducing martial law while formally preserving some of the country’s legislative and judicial institutions. Even the caretaker government was not immediately stripped of its powers. The main message was nevertheless clear from the start: a political comprise was to be reached within 24 hours or the army would enforce one in its own way.</p> <p>By summoning the main representatives of the opposing political parties and movements, the military attempted to play a mediating role from a position of force. Ironically, it put itself in what for many peace mediators and facilitators is an ideal situation—that of having the power to enforce an agreement. But apparently the summoned parties did not intend to play by the army’s script, thereby making a serious misjudgment of the gravity of the situation. Rather than acknowledging the ultimatum and abiding by it, they sustained their obstinate unwillingness to seek a compromise and even reiterated their intentions to continue with the demonstrations planned for the following days. </p> <p>Such a recalcitrant response was probably precisely what the military had been waiting for. Just two days after the introduction of martial law, the head of the self-appointed National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO), General Prayuth Chan-ocha, announced the complete takeover of all state roles by the army, with the exception of some judicial functions.</p> <h2><strong>Turning back the clock</strong></h2> <p>Within hours of the coup announcement, it was clear that its meticulous planning included&nbsp; minimisation of the use and show of violence. On the morning of 23 May, from the international airport of Suvarnabhumi to the commercial centre of the “city of angels”—a stretch of highway and congested inner roads of about 30km—only one inactive military post could be seen.</p> <p>While some decisive action was undoubtedly taken at the demonstration sites, this intervention had been much more effective and violence-free than that four years earlier, when 91 people lost their lives in the attempt to disband the Red Shirts’ barricades. Although the TV blackout and severe media restrictions introduced by the National Peace and Order Maintaining Council<a name="art1"></a><a href="#_ftn1">[1]</a> immediately after the coup make it difficult to assess the facts as they evolved on the streets of Bangkok, the dismantling of the protest sites evidently happened without major violent confrontations. Newspapers were even reporting on 24 May that thousands of protesters had been paid by government officials to abandon them. And the traditionally vibrant shopping in the many malls of the city seemed to return to normal, disturbed only slightly by the introduction of a curfew between 22:00 and 05:00.</p> <p><span class="pullquote-right">The troubled Thai democratisation path has once again revealed its persistent weaknesses, primarily its continuing incapacity to avoid military interventions.</span></p><p><span></span>Judging from the way most Bangkok residents seemed to respond to the coup—immediately resuming their normal lives—the military was successful in attaining its primary declared objective of restoring peace and order. But the longer-term goal of making Thailand governable still seems very remote, especially if this is to be realised through democratic means.</p> <p>No matter how dysfunctional or factional the political process, a coup is bound at a stroke to turn back the clock. Take Pakistan, another Asian country imbued with the effects of regular military interference in state affairs. Every time a general claims the right to determine its destiny, whatever fragile democratic institutions have succeeded, however tentatively, in putting down roots in society are inevitably suffocated. And the process of democratic evolution will have to start all over again once civilian authority is legitimately re-established.</p> <p>But what if the “legitimate” political actors are entangled in such a struggle for power and dominance that they risk taking the state to the brink of self-destruction? What if their parochial interests are about to unleash a violent confrontation likely to affect the whole country? Is an “external” intervention which ostensibly acts on the principle of impartiality towards the conflicting parties not possibly the best—perhaps even only—remedy to prevent a descent into chaos? And is it not therefore a guarantee of a return to a democratic path as soon as conditions will allow? If the political game is going nowhere, as was the case in Thailand, with a seemingly insurmountable stalling of the electoral process, is it then not better to call in a superior force formally detached from the political framework—preferably with a monopoly on the use of violence—to dictate the (new) interim rules of the game?</p> <h2>Hardly disinterested</h2> <p>The problem with this Machiavellian approach to political crises is that the attribution of impartiality to the intervening, “non-political” actor is rarely accurate. An army announcing a coup is hardly a disinterested or apolitical player as it becomes involved in a country’s struggle over its future national identity and the reorganisation of power relations.</p> <p>Despite the Thai army’s attempts to present its intervention as politically neutral—that it is simply interested in re-establishing peace and order—reports emerging in the aftermath suggested that those affiliated to the Red Shirts movement were being particularly targeted. While representatives of both camps were initially summoned and detained by the army, those belonging to the Democrat Party and PDRC seem to have enjoyed a more lax treatment, with easier release procedures than those reserved for their opponents.<a name="art2"></a><a href="#_ftn2">[2]</a> </p><p>Although the army has an aversion to political activism, regardless of its colour, the Red Shirts camp has been mainly at the receiving end of military attention since the beginning of the political crisis in 2006. The movement’s ideological leader, Thaksin Shinawatra, was the elected prime minister when military leaders removed him from power in September that year.</p> <p>Thaksin has been in self-imposed exile, fearful of becoming subject to biased judicial procedures, while his sister, Yingluck, acted as prime minister after the resounding victory of her Pheu Thai party in the elections of July 2011. This time, the military intervention eventually meant an abrupt end to her government—with no guarantee that she or her party would be reinstated any time soon.</p> <p>Since the movement’s inception, the Red Shirts have been defined by their opponents as anti-national and unsympathetic to the royal house. The self-aggrandising personality of their leader has certainly fuelled allegations that Thaksin was challenging the hitherto undisputed and symbolic authority of the ageing king, Bhumibol Adulyadej. Whether such claims can be substantiated, they have become part of the discourse in Thai society and have been incorporated into the contest between the two camps.</p> <p>As the guarantor of national unity and protector of the crown, the army has thus had an easy argument to justify its intervention, particularly its targeting of Red Shirts’ representatives for their alleged offences against the monarchy. In the aftermath of the coup the NCPO indicated that the sections of the Criminal Code being subject to court-martial proceedings were those dealing with “national security” and, more precisely, offences against the royal family.</p> <p>But the apparent bond linking the Thai armed forces to the monarch seems more subtle and disputed than at first apparent. According to other interpretations of the coup, the army had grown increasingly concerned about the prospect of an alliance between the Thaksin camp and Crown Prince Vajiralongkorn. In April 2013, a decree by the king expanded the powers of the Royal Guard regiment, allowing it to engage in any action which its supreme commander, the prince, deemed necessary to protect national security. The likely problem with that move, in the eyes of the rest of the military, was that the regiment’s recruits come mainly from the north and north-east of Thailand—Thaksin’s traditional political stronghold. </p> <p>A few months later, another royal decree gave veto power to the crown prince over all decisions taken by the defence council, placing <em>de facto</em> all the heads of the armed forces under his control. There have also been widespread rumours that Thaksin may have paid some of the prince’s considerable gambling debts. These various developments are said to have upset the higher echelons of the military and may explain the prince’s sudden journey to Europe—just a few days before martial law was announced.</p> <p>In addition, there are indications that the army’s intervention may have had an economic dimension. With Thaksin’s peculiar style of merging political and economic interests, parts of the country’s elites represented by the opposing block may have feared being gradually excluded from the most important economic deals being negotiated by the government and its affiliates. Since Thaksin has been known for focusing mainly on transactions with large business conglomerates, the coup was received with a sigh of relief by the small and medium-sized enterprises sector.</p> <h2><strong>A last throw of the dice?</strong></h2> <p>In the final analysis, however, the coup has exposed a general failure of the governance system and of those institutions—the military included—supposed to keep the country together. The troubled Thai democratisation path has once again revealed its persistent weaknesses, primarily its continuing incapacity to avoid military interventions. </p> <p>The political parties have failed to provide a credible alternative to the authoritarian approach and their record in terms of internal democracy has been abysmal. The traditional establishment, which includes the military, the royal house and the upper classes of society, has failed to create an advanced system able to deal in a democratic, non-violent way with the new challenges brought about by Thaksin’s populist policies. And the coup has exposed a fundamental failure on the part of the military to reform itself in such a way as to make any intervention in national politics both impossible and unacceptable.</p> <p>The coup could thus be regarded as a last attempt by a system in retreat to counter the inevitable course of history, including the emergence of governance arrangements more responsive to the evolving demands of society.</p> <p>Thailand has been integrated into the global economy for decades. The increasing exposure of its population to the accompanying aspects of globalisation—such as the democratic mechanisms which regulate the political life of most of the societies with which Thais interact—must have left a mark on society. It can thus be expected that the Thai population, especially the younger cohorts, will increasingly demand proper access to and participation in the political processes which affect their daily lives.</p> <p>At the same time, democracy in Thailand will need to go beyond the winner-takes-all approach which characterises the country’s electoral contests. Checks and balances will need to be incorporated so that a more broadly based consensus can be achieved and sustained.</p> <p>The forces of the current establishment, which profess to be anti-Thaksin and resist the influence in politics of those rural masses whom they consider dangerously ignorant and unsophisticated, must also realise that power-sharing and acceptance of divergent political views is part of the democratic game. A new social contract needs to be negotiated between the wider society and the elites which have had privileged access to and control over power.</p> <p>In turn, society itself will need to come to terms with the polarising divisions of the new millennium threatening to tear it apart. A degree of social cohesion is needed—if not a common vision for the future of the country, at least widespread acceptance of the principle that those involved in political confrontations must renounce violence and instead interact according to accepted, institutionalised mechanisms.</p> <p>Thailand may be close to reaching the end of its current historical trajectory. At this critical juncture—with the uncertainty of the monarchical succession also playing an important role as events unfold—the dominant coalition which has controlled the fate of the country will have to give up part of its power and make decision-making more inclusive, if it wants to survive and avoid irreparable fractures in society. Space for a genuine dialogue and even ideological contest needs to be opened up, including on other thorny issues such as the conflict in the south of the country. Only then will state institutions be considered legitimate and a more resilient society eventually emerge.</p> <p><em>This article, originally published as a NOREF paper, appears courtesy of NOREF with appreciation.</em></p> <hr size="1" /> <p><a name="_ftn1"></a><a href="#art1">[1]</a> This is the name chosen by the military for its institutional body overseeing the transition, before turning it into the NCPO and after it had been initially named the Peace and Order Maintaining Command.</p> <p><a name="_ftn2"></a><a href="#art2">[2]</a> For example, on 26 May 13 PDRC leading figures, including its secretary general, Suthep Thaugsuban, were released on bail.</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="/opensecurity/tyrell-haberkorn/arbitrary-detention-once-again-in-thailand">Arbitrary detention, once again, in Thailand</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/john-keane/at-knife%E2%80%99s-edge-elections-and-democracy-in-thailand">At a knife’s edge: elections and democracy in Thailand</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"> Thailand </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> openSecurity openSecurity Thailand Conflict Democracy and government politics of protest institutions & government democratic society asia & pacific Marco Mezzera Militarisation Mon, 07 Jul 2014 15:31:53 +0000 Marco Mezzera 84280 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Twenty-first century protest: social media and surveillance https://www.opendemocracy.net/opensecurity/cianamarie-pegus/twentyfirst-century-protest-social-media-and-surveillance-0 <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>The internet is a two-edged sword—a vehicle for mass surveillance on the one hand and the organisation of civil-society protest on the other.</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/550590/taksim protest.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/550590/taksim protest.jpg" alt="Selling Guy Fawkes masks in Istanbul" title="" width="460" height="307" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>The new horitonalism: protesting in Istanbul. Bünyamin Salman / Flickr. Some rights reserved.</span></span></span>A little over a year ago, on 6 June 2013, Edward Snowden’s disclosure of the mass-surveillance programme Prism sent shockwaves around the world. The American systems administrator laid bare the extent of illicit interception and monitoring of telecommunications at home and abroad by the United States’ National Security Agency. </p> <p>A startling revelation was the level of collusion amongst the Five Eyes alliance, involving the governments of the US, the United Kingdom, Canada, New Zealand and Australia. Snowden’s exposé also highlighted the willingness of many corporations to accede to and profit from unconstitutional and unethical requests. </p> <p>This was shocking but not surprising. Environmental groups in <a href="http://socs.civicus.org/?p=3825">Canada</a>, the <a href="http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2011/mar/26/mark-kennedy-undercover-cop-environmental-activist">UK</a> and the <a href="http://america.aljazeera.com/watch/shows/the-stream/the-latest/2014/1/2/the-heat-on-greenactivism.html">US</a> engaged in acts of civil disobedience have been the subject of ideologically-motivated surveillance and abusive political rhetoric for several years. Yet if the internet has been a means for and object of surveillance, it has also become—social media in particular—a critical component of contemporary protest. </p> <p>It is nearly impossible to organise a physical protest in Azerbaijan, to set up a pro-democracy organisation in Saudi Arabia or to establish a radio station critical of the government in Ethiopia. And even in countries with media freedom and diversity, progressive voices do not always have outlets: in 2011, there was a <a href="http://blogs.lse.ac.uk/eurocrisispress/2014/01/24/the-indignados-in-the-spanish-and-greek-press-constructing-narratives-of-civic-resistance/"><em>de facto</em> media blackout</a> of the Occupy movement in the US, with similarly apathetic coverage of the <em>indignados</em> in southern Europe. In many countries, cyberspace is the only refuge for dissent and the only arena where individuals can freely come together to express themselves. </p> <h2><strong>Protest resurgent</strong></h2> <p>Over the past year, there has been a resurgence of protests on the streets of Bangkok, Cairo, Caracas, Kiev, Istanbul, Phnom Penh and São Paulo, reminiscent of the wave of citizen activism which swept the world in early 2011. In many of the key sites of protest this year, such as Venezuela and Turkey, freedom of expression has been under threat, through weak media pluralism and authoritarian mechanisms respectively. </p> <p><span class="pullquote-right">While concerned citizens and civil-society groups are finding new means of organising in cyberspace, they are also having to contend with shady corporations and the machinations of the security arms of democratic and authoritarian governments.</span></p><p><span></span>A <a href="http://www.civicus.org/index.php/en/socs2014">report</a> by <a href="http://www.civicus.org/">CIVICUS</a> highlights how the non-hierarchical organisation and underlying values of the 2011 protests are still being replicated across the world. &nbsp;Many young, first-time protesters are employing similar techniques of satire, parody, popular slogans and symbols. Guy Fawkes masks, synonymous with the popular anti-authoritarian film <em>V for Vendetta</em>, have become part of the universal language of protest. In our highly connected world, social capital and personal connections are ever more important. Social media, as well as word of mouth, have been key to organising protests, whether in <a href="http://www.pbs.org/mediashift/2011/07/social-media-plays-major-role-in-motivating-malaysian-protesters199/">Kuala Lumpur</a> or <a href="http://www.aljazeera.com/news/middleeast/2013/08/2013814164745623925.html">Manama</a>. </p> <p>This cross-pollination is fuelled by social networks. Forty-eight percent of 18-34 year-olds who use Facebook <a href="http://www.statisticbrain.com/facebook-statistics">login when they wake up in the morning</a>. In Turkey the average age of Gezi Park protesters<em> </em>was 28 and the bulk of the <em>Outono Brasiliero</em> protesters in Brazil were below the age of 29. It is therefore not surprising that <a href="http://civicus.org/images/TYTW_final.pdf">roughly 85 percent of Gezi Park protesters heard about the demonstrations from their peers</a>, both online and offline. This was also the case in Brazil, with comparable percentages of people finding out about protests via social media, their friends and family. </p> <p>These new tools and platforms are immensely powerful and empowering. Although Saudi Arabia fares miserably on democratic freedoms, it has the highest rate of Twitter penetration. In defiance of serious intimidation from the Interior Ministry and the <em>Mutaween</em>, Saudi Arabia’s religious police, scores of women have been able through social media to <a href="http://www.theguardian.com/world/2013/oct/26/saudi-arabia-woman-driving-car-ban">co-ordinate country-wide protests against the driving ban</a>. </p> <h2><strong>Surveillance and intimidation</strong></h2> <p>Nevertheless, social media also expose activists to various risks and unwarranted surveillance and intimidation—tactics not confined to authoritarian regimes. Snowden has <a href="http://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/apr/08/edwards-snowden-us-government-spied-human-rights-workers">alleged</a> that the NSA spied on human-rights groups. This seems congruent with the US’ broader policy of aggressively prosecuting whistle-blowers, with the aim of deterring potential net activists. </p> <p><a href="http://freejeremy.net/">Jeremy Hammond</a>, a hacker-activist, revealed that security firms were hired by the private sector and the US government to conduct surveillance on Occupy protesters, the Anonymous movement and environmental activists in Bhopal, India. He was sentenced to ten years imprisonment for his disclosures, which many civil-society activists believe were in the public interest. Another internet activist, <a href="http://www.theguardian.com/technology/2013/jun/02/aaron-swartz-hacker-genius-martyr-girlfriend-interview">Aaron Swartz</a>, a strong opponent of the controversial “Stop Online Piracy Act” being pushed through by large corporations, was driven to suicide through unrelenting judicial harassment by US authorities, who sought to create an example out of him for illegally downloading expensive academic databases which he wanted to disseminate for free. </p> <p>Governments and the private sector are partnering in surveillance. Fortunes are being made in developing, marketing and selling surveillance technologies, to authoritarian and non-authoritarian states alike. <a href="https://www.privacyinternational.org/sites/privacyinternational.org/files/file-downloads/state-of-privacy_2014.pdf">Privacy International’s 2014 report</a> estimates the value of this unregulated industry at $5 billion per year. </p> <p>While concerned citizens and civil-society groups are finding new means of organising in cyberspace, they are also having to contend with shady corporations and the machinations of the security arms of democratic and authoritarian governments. This is largely due to the dominance of a neo-liberal economic model which allows for increasing overlap between the state and the private sector—and which civil-society groups have of course been challenging. </p> <p>The need for transparency and democratic oversight is paramount. Activists and civil society will have to remain vigilant.&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="/opensecurity/they-got-up-they-stood-up-global-day-of-citizen-action">They got up, they stood up: the Global Day of Citizen Action</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/can-europe-make-it/elspeth-guild/what-does-mass-surveillance-do-to-human-rights">What does mass surveillance do to Human Rights?</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <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 class="field-item odd"> Internet </div> </div> </div> openSecurity digitaLiberties openSecurity Civil society Democracy and government Internet politics of protest non-violent action human rights governing the net Globalisation global voices online global village global politics democratic society corporations: power & responsibility democracy & power Snooping on the innocent Ciana-Marie Pegus Internet Security Structural Insecurity Sun, 29 Jun 2014 13:06:44 +0000 Ciana-Marie Pegus 84094 at https://www.opendemocracy.net How Egypt can turn the tide on sexual assault https://www.opendemocracy.net/opensecurity/rothna-begum/how-egypt-can-turn-tide-on-sexual-assault <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Egypt’s ruler, Abdel Fatah al-Sisi, has responded to the growing outcry over mob sexual violence against women in public places by setting up a ministerial committee. More, much more, however needs to be done.</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/550590/womensprotest.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/550590/womensprotest.jpg" alt="Women demonstrating against sexual violence in Cairo" title="" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" width="460" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'> Shout it out: heading for Tahrir on a march against sexual harassment in 2013. Gigi Ibrahim / Flickr. Some rights reserved.</span></span></span>Repeatedly over the past few years, mobs of men have violently attacked women and girls taking part in demonstrations in Tahrir Square in Cairo. The latest attacks took place during the 3-8 June celebrations of the election and inauguration of the president, Abdel Fatah al-Sisi, the man now tasked with ensuring the safety of all Egyptians.</p> <p>After the attacks, President Sisi instructed the minister of the interior to “take all necessary measures to combat sexual harassment” and even&nbsp;<a href="http://www.almasryalyoum.com/news/details/462232">visited the victim</a>&nbsp;of a sexual attack in hospital to apologise, promising to hold the perpetrators accountable. But the commitments Sisi recently made to end rampant sexual harassment and assault must be realised.</p> <p>Egyptian non-governmental organisations documented at least nine incidents of mob sexual assaults and harassment in Tahrir Square during post-election and inauguration celebrations. In response, the Ministry of Interior reported the arrests of seven men and the public-prosecution service opened an investigation into three other men suspected of attacking a 42-year-old woman. </p> <p>Ehab Badawi, the presidential spokesperson, issued a&nbsp;<a href="http://www.shorouknews.com/news/view.aspx?cdate=11062014&amp;id=ab3980fb-a1af-4e17-82ac-ef7972557f7b">statement</a>&nbsp;saying that Sisi had ordered the formation of a ministerial committee, with the participation of both Muslim and Christian religious establishments, to “identify the reasons for the spread of the phenomenon of harassment and determine a national strategy to address it”.&nbsp;On 12 June, the committee met for the first time. It included the prime minister and the ministers of interior, education, social solidarity and religious endowments, as well as the head of the National Council for Women and representatives from Al-Azhar Mosque and the Coptic Orthodox Church. They proposed plans which included increasing security for women in public squares and gatherings, as well as raising awareness about harassment against women through media campaigns and schools.</p> <h2><strong>Integrated approach</strong></h2> <p>If&nbsp;Sisi is serious about putting an end to the plague of sexual harassment and assault on Egypt's streets, however, he needs to ensure that the next steps go beyond such measures. The new committee should be tasked with responsibility to look at a comprehensive, integrated approach—including legislation and a national strategy which protects women in Egypt from all forms of violence.</p> <p>Such a response must recognise that the inauguration attacks are the tip of the iceberg. Sexual harassment and assault has become so rife that many women dread walking in public in Egypt.</p> <p>On 9 June, Egyptian rights groups&nbsp;<a href="http://nazra.org/2014/06/%D8%A7%D8%B9%D8%AA%D8%AF%D8%A7%D8%A1%D8%A7%D8%AA-%D8%AC%D9%86%D8%B3%D9%8A%D8%A9-%D9%88%D8%A7%D8%BA%D8%AA%D8%B5%D8%A7%D8%A8-%D9%81%D9%8A-%D9%85%D9%8A%D8%AF%D8%A7%D9%86-%D8%A7%D9%84%D8%AA%D8%AD%D8%B1%D9%8A%D8%B1-%D8%A3%D8%AB%D9%86%D8%A7%D8%A1-%D8%A7%D9%84%D8%A7%D8%AD%D8%AA%D9%81%D8%A7%D9%84-%D8%A8%D8%AD%D9%84%D9%81-%D9%8A%D9%85%D9%8A%D9%86-%D8%A7%D9%84%D8%B1%D8%A6%D9%8A%D8%B3">reported</a>&nbsp;that there at least 500 women had survived mob rape and sexual assault between February 2011 and January 2014, with thousands more subjected to sexual harassment. Last year, Human Rights Watch <a href="http://www.hrw.org/news/2013/07/03/egypt-epidemic-sexual-violence">documented</a>&nbsp;epidemic sexual violence in Egypt—including at least 91 attacks between 30 June and 3 July 2013 during demonstrations—as well as the weak government response.</p> <p>On 5 June, a decree on sexual harassment issued by the outgoing president, Adly Mansour, came into force. The decree has been heralded as “the sexual harassment law” but it is better understood as two narrow amendments to the existing Penal Code.</p> <p>The decree changes the definitions of harassment and sexual harassment. Harassment is now defined as accosting others in a private, public or frequented place with acts, gestures, or suggestions which are sexual or obscene—verbally, physically or otherwise non-verbal, including modern means of communication. Offenders can be sentenced to at least six months imprisonment and/or a fine of LE3,000-5,000 (approximately US$420-700). Such actions constitute sexual harassment in those cases where the offender “intended to receive sexual gratification from the victim” for them and increases the penalty to at least one year imprisonment and/or a fine of LE5,000-10,000 (approximately US$700-1,400). </p> <p>The decree also increases penalties in certain circumstances, such as when the offender is in a position of authority over the victim “through employment, family or education” or if “the crime was committed by two or more people, or at least one of the offenders is armed with a weapon”. They can be sentenced to two to five years’ imprisonment and a fine of LE20,000-50,000 (approximately US$2,800-7000).</p> <h2><strong>Not enough</strong></h2> <p>These amendments, the recent criminal investigations and the formation of a ministerial committee are a good start. But they do not go far enough. On 9 June, the rights groups also called for a comprehensive law on violence against women and a national strategy to implement the newly approved laws. </p> <p>A comprehensive approach to violence against women is exactly what is needed. This is what the Sisi government and the new committee should do.</p> <p>First, enact further legal reforms. The Penal Code needs a comprehensive, modern definition of rape and a clear definition of sexual assault. Article 267 of the code refers to rape as “whosoever has sexual intercourse with a female without her consent”. The term “rape” should include all forms of penetration without consent or in coercive circumstances which negate consent, including vaginal, anal and oral penetration by any body part or instrument. Articles 268 and 269 of the code criminalise “indecent assault” but do not define it. The government should also enact legislation on all forms of violence against women—including, for instance, domestic violence—which addresses the prevention of violence and the protection and support of survivors.</p> <p>Secondly, formulate a comprehensive national strategy on violence against women to implement such legislation. This should include a monitoring mechanism, which reports to parliament, to oversee the implementation of legislation and craft national protocols and strategies for all relevant ministries. The authorities should consult with Egyptian women’s-rights groups and survivors when drafting the strategy and any new legislation and co-ordinate with all sections of society in a position to raise awareness. There should be a mechanism to fund implementation of the legislative reforms and strategy.</p> <p>Thirdly, the government needs to develop protocols on ensuring adequate medical and psycho-social support for victims of sexual assault. These should address confidentiality, dealing with trauma, referring victims to other services and providing timely treatment. Training should be provided to police and medical officials on all such protocols and laws.</p> <p>The authorities can look to the&nbsp;<a href="http://www.unwomen.it/Documents/UNW_Legislation-Handbook.pdf">United Nations Handbook for Legislation on Violence against Women</a>,&nbsp;which sets out the components of combating violence against women.</p> <p>The Egyptian authorities are required to act—both under the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, to which Egypt is a state party, and Egypt’s new constitution—to protect “women against all forms of violence”. Sisi’s public statements since the inauguration-day attacks are a positive first step. But turning the tide on sexual violence requires the implementation of a comprehensive and co-ordinated approach which tackles all forms of violence against women.&nbsp;</p> <p><em>This article first appeared in </em><a href="http://www.madamasr.com/"><em>Mada Masr</em></a><em>. It is reproduced by consent with appreciation.</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/ahmed-magdy-youssef/only-in-egypt%E2%80%99s-media-women-raped-because-%E2%80%9Cguys-were-having-good-">Only in Egypt’s media: women raped because the “guys were having a good time”</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/north-africa-west-asia/nelly-ali/mob-sex-attacks-and-everyday-reality-of-street-children-in-egypt">Mob sex attacks and the everyday reality of street children in Egypt</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/north-africa-west-asia/yasmin-el-rifae/continuous-battle-against-sexual-harassment-in-egypt">The continuous battle against sexual harassment in Egypt</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-city"> <div class="field-label">City:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Cairo </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> openSecurity openSecurity Cairo Egypt Equality politics of protest human rights middle east Rothna Begum Non-state violence Tue, 17 Jun 2014 18:05:41 +0000 Rothna Begum 83812 at https://www.opendemocracy.net They got up, they stood up: the Global Day of Citizen Action https://www.opendemocracy.net/opensecurity/they-got-up-they-stood-up-global-day-of-citizen-action <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Activists around the world have been standing up for their rights and freedoms. <em>Photoessay</em>.</p> </div> </div> </div> <iframe style="border:none" src="https://cdns.snacktools.net/photosnack/embed_https.html?hash=pd1pf7hh&t=1402591285" width="620" height="415" allowfullscreen="true" mozallowfullscreen="true" webkitallowfullscreen="true" ></iframe><p>&nbsp;</p><p>On 7 June 2014 individuals and organisations from around the world took part in the first Global Day of Citizen Action, a participatory campaign asking people if they feel free to speak out, organise and take action within their country.</p><p><span style="text-decoration: underline;"></span><span style="text-decoration: underline;"></span></p><p>The campaign, conceptualised and co-ordinated by&nbsp;<a href="http://www.civicus.org/" target="_blank">CIVICUS</a>, came as part of the Civic Space Initiative, through which CIVICUS, the World Movement for Democracy, Article 19 and the International Center for Not-for-Profit Law seek to raise awareness of increasing threats to freedom of expression, association and assembly. Civic space is as an essential element of democratic societies, a public arena allowing individuals and civil-society organisations the freedom to speak out, organise and take action.<span style="text-decoration: underline;"></span><span style="text-decoration: underline;"></span></p><p>This campaign comes at an important time. Countries around the world are increasingly restricting citizen freedoms. In some the surveillance of ordinary citizens, activists and civil-society organisations is commonplace; in others there has been repression and arrests. To combat these restrictions it is vital that all individuals understand their freedoms and strive to protect them.<span style="text-decoration: underline;"></span><span style="text-decoration: underline;"></span></p><p>The Global Day of Citizen Action inspired more than 40 events and activities in more than 25 countries around the globe. Citizens mobilised in villages, towns and cities to draw attention to the rights and civic freedoms they should enjoy.<span style="text-decoration: underline;"></span><span style="text-decoration: underline;"></span></p><p>Photos from individuals around the world were taken and shared using Twitter, Facebook and the&nbsp;<a href="http://civicus.org/bethechange/gdca/" target="_blank">Global Day of Citizen Action</a>&nbsp;webpage. There was also an online&nbsp;<a href="http://www.civicus.org/bethechange/gdca" target="_blank">participation platform</a>, where individuals could log on to upload a photo of themselves and share their views.<span style="text-decoration: underline;"></span><span style="text-decoration: underline;"></span></p><p>• To join the global conversation, share stories and become part of a growing global movement for positive social change visit&nbsp;<a href="http://www.youcanbethechange.com/" target="_blank">Be The Change</a>. To see more photos people have shared throughout the campaign visit the&nbsp;<a href="http://civicus.org/bethechange/gdca/" target="_blank">Global Day of Citizen Action</a>&nbsp;page or the&nbsp;<a href="https://www.facebook.com/CIVICUS" target="_blank">CIVICUS Facebook</a>&nbsp;page.</p> openSecurity openSecurity Civil society politics of protest human rights global politics Thu, 12 Jun 2014 16:52:16 +0000 openDemocracy 83688 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Brazil: a country of jangled nerves https://www.opendemocracy.net/opensecurity/gary-duffy/brazil-country-of-jangled-nerves <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>As the World Cup opens, few Brazilians are heading for the beach to samba: behind the stereotype is a country which has accumulated a perfect storm of social and economic insecurities.</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/550590/brazil hunger.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/550590/brazil hunger.jpg" alt="Hungry child graffito" title="" width="460" height="463" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Round ball or square meal? Street art that went viral in Brazil</span></span></span>Just a few years ago, all the headlines coming out of Brazil were positive. </p> <p>Huge oilfields had been discovered off the country’s coast, suggesting it would take its place among the world’s top producers. With Russia, India and China, Brazil was one of the BRICs—an economy to watch. Millions had been lifted out of poverty and its cash-transfer programme, <em>Bolsa Familia</em>,<em> </em>was seen as a model for tackling inequality.</p> <p>A country blessed with resources was led by a president known universally as “Lula”, whose very life-story—escaping poverty in the arid north-east—seemed to reflect that promise. However popular he was at home, not many Brazilian politicians grab the international limelight; yet his US counterpart, Barack Obama, saluted Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva as “my man”. </p> <p>Brazil was opening embassies, offering solutions (not always welcomed) to international problems and pushing its long-held ambition for a permanent seat on the United Nations Security Council. As the icing on the cake, it seemed, Brazil was chosen to host the 2014 World Cup and the 2016 Olympics.</p> <h2><strong>Uncertain</strong></h2> <p>Fast forward to 2014, with the world’s top football tournament about to open, and one finds a much more uncertain country.</p> <p>For a start, in a place often seen as the spiritual home of football, there has been a sometimes-simmering, sometimes-blazing resentment over the cost of staging the World Cup. Many promised infrastructure prospects were not delivered on time and delays in finishing the stadia were seen as embarrassingly emblematic of domestic corruption and bureaucracy. </p> <p>Perhaps it is because Brazilians’ expectations had been raised so much that they seem so disappointed with so many things. Angst-ridden parents vent their frustrations over the quality of education available to their children: the less well-off must make do with poorer schools, they say, while the rich have access to private education and those given a leg up have an easier path through free third-level colleges to qualifications and job prospects.</p> <p>The health system struggles to meet basic needs and in many hospitals conditions are terrible with long queues. In the shanty-towns, drug dealers carry arms that wouldn’t look out of place in a war zone and around 50,000 people die violent deaths each year. The better off live behind security gates and high walls, some travelling in bullet-proof cars. </p> <p>Economic growth of over 7 percent in 2010 has slowed to around 2 percent and politicians across the spectrum are mostly regarded with contempt. Brazil will choose a new president later this year and while Dilma Rousseff, Lula’s anointed successor, seems likely to win re-election, her lead in the polls has slipped. The main opposition candidates, Aecio Neves and Eduardo Campos, are not making huge strides but between now and October they will be chasing hard.</p> <h2><strong>Discontent</strong></h2> <p>Almost exactly a year ago, more than a million Brazilians took to the streets to show their discontent about a wide range of problems, from corruption to increases in public-transport fares.</p> <p>The protests have diminished and have become less spontaneous, with more focused political groups—among them homeless and indigenous campaigners—making specific demands. Meanwhile, the presence of Black Bloc protesters with an anarchist agenda has led to confrontation in a society where the police easily resort to force, sometimes blatantly excessive.</p> <p><span></span><span><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/550590/brazil protest.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/550590/brazil protest.jpg" alt="Policeman with baton at demonstration" title="" width="460" height="305" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Heavy hand: policing a demonstration at the Confederations Cup. Fernando Enrique C de Oliveira / Flickr. Some rights reserved.</span></span></span>The government would say to all this that overall there have been huge strides—and no one would argue that running a country of continental proportions and 200m people could be easy. Billions of dollars are being set aside for projects linked to urban mobility, transport and airport modernisation. Jobs have been created and tourism given a shot in the arm. World Cup visitors will not take away these projects in their suitcases and the legacy will remain for the Brazilian people, says Rousseff.</span>Brazilians have not been painting the streets yellow and green to mark the World Cup with anything like the fervour of previous tournaments. They haven’t lost the passion for an event their country has won more often than any other but the vast expenditure and emerging questions about mismanagement and inflated spending have left a bad taste. And in Rio the long-promised clean-up of pollution in the beautiful Guanabara Bay, which the government now says will not be realised as promised, heralds more problems with the Olympics. </p> <p>In addition, to confront a shortage of doctors, thousands of Cuban medics were invited to plug gaps in the country’s health system, in the teeth of opposition from the medical establishment. And, in the country’s most high-profile corruption case, the Supreme Court, led by the feisty Joaquim Barbosa (one of few black Brazilians to reach the highest level of society), jailed more than 20 politicians, including leading members of the ruling Workers’ Party—a riposte of sorts to those who say Brazil is synonymous with impunity.</p> <h2>Ill at ease</h2> <p>Even so, the World Cup kicks off in a country ill at ease with itself, puzzling a watching international community which associates it with the “beautiful game”.</p> <p>Noting that Jerome Valcke of Fifa was travelling around in a bullet-proof car with police escort, one Brazilian newspaper asked him if he was afraid of being attacked. And there will be a heavy presence of police and soldiers on the streets throughout the tournament.</p> <p>Tear gas and confrontation marred the Confederations Cup, the warm-up competition last year in Brazil. It seems hard to imagine that trouble can be avoided this time round either, although the scale is hard to predict—small and controllable, the government will certainly be hoping. It is trying to lance some of the most painful political boils, reportedly reaching out to include the homeless movement in a major programme of public house-building. </p> <p>A stellar performance by the national team may well lift the public mood. But, spurred on by social media, Brazilians are debating their problems and their future more profoundly than at any time since democracy replaced military dictatorship in 1985.</p> <p>Undoubtedly deeply proud of their country, they are equally frustrated by its failings and seem unconvinced that anyone is offering the right answers. Long after the World Cup is over, that discussion will continue—and many Brazilians have already shown that, if the answers are inadequate, they have the determination to take the argument to the streets.</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="/opensecurity/simone-da-silva-ribeiro-gomes/on-violence-and-protest-in-brazil">On violence and protest in Brazil</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/arthur-ituassu/brazil-in-2013-historic-adventure">Brazil in 2013: a historic adventure</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/opensecurity/jeff-garmany/football-politics-and-protest-in-brazil">Football, politics and protest in Brazil</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/arthur-ituassu/brazil-crisis-of-representation">Brazil, a crisis of representation</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <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 class="field-item even"> Equality </div> </div> </div> openSecurity openSecurity Democracy and government Equality politics of protest latin america Gary Duffy Policing Structural Insecurity Wed, 11 Jun 2014 16:44:18 +0000 Gary Duffy 83651 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Tiananmen Square: official silence, public restiveness https://www.opendemocracy.net/opensecurity/jonathan-fenby/tiananmen-square-official-silence-public-restiveness <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>In the twenty-five years since the Tiananmen Square massacre, China’s party-state appears to have stabilised its rule by instrumental middle-class support secured for material gain. The next twenty-five years may not, however, be so certain.</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/550590/tiananmen museum hk.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/550590/tiananmen museum hk.jpg" alt="Democracy goddess in new Tiananmen Square museum in Hong Kong" title="" width="460" height="328" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>This isn't opening today in Beijing: the new Tiananmen museum in Hong Kong. Jayne Russell / Demotix. All rights reserved.</span></span></span>Visiting Hong Kong at the end of the 1990s, the US president, Bill Clinton, set out a win-win scenario for China. Earlier, he had warned the then Chinese leader, Jiang Zemin, that the last major state ruled by a Communist Party was “on the wrong side of history”. Now, he was more positive: the economic growth of the People’s Republic should be encouraged because it would create a substantial middle class, he told a small dinner at the residence of the former British colony’s chief executive. That would push mainland China towards democracy as the middle class had done in north America and western Europe. So the end result would be positive, economically and politically, producing a world in which west and east could work together for global progress.</p> <p>Clinton was wrong. The middle class which has flourished in this century has not shown the disposition towards pressing for political democracy he envisaged. Since the party declared class warfare dead in 2002, it has done far too well out of the system to want to spread political rights to hundreds of millions of poorer citizens or to dismantle the system that gives it good incomes and the ability to pay for private health care, private education, old-age provisions and foreign travel.</p> <p>This is symptomatic of the way in which the Communist Party has been able to sustain the implicit bargain it struck with the Chinese public when the leadership, under Deng Xiaoping, sent in the tanks to crush the protests in Tiananmen Square twenty-five years ago. Ten years before the students occupied their country’s most iconic open space, Deng had introduced economic reform spearheaded by free-market methods, even if the state retained control of the commanding heights. </p> <p>The result had been spectacular, as Chinese were free to better themselves and shackles which had held the country back under Mao Zedong were partially removed. Local enterprises flourished. A wave of low-paid workers entered the labour stream. There was abundant capital from household savings. Consumers in developed economies welcomed cheap Chinese goods and governments applauded the deflationary effect of exports from the mainland, without worrying too much about the transfer of jobs to the People’s Republic.</p> <p>Deng’s basic motivation was not to promote greater economic freedom for its own sake. After two-and-a-half decades of disastrous adventurism under Mao, he knew that the country was in a terrible state and the Communist Party’s legitimacy and cohesion had been brought low—especially by the ten years of the Cultural Revolution, ending only with the death of the Great Helmsman. Deng’s aim was to use growth to make China a great power once again and to ensure that the party was the sole vehicle through which that enrichment took place, thereby giving it a claim on legitimacy to rule. </p> <h2>Growth's downsides</h2><p>The downsides of the race for growth—especially wealth disparities and corruption—corroded the political message and were the prime drivers of the protests of the spring of 1989. Democracy came to be a watchword but the political message was confused. The movement in Beijing and other cities was primarily against the political system rather than for any set agenda of change. But that was quite enough to spur the repressive reaction on 4 June. The power of the party had been challenged. That had to be out down by a leadership group for whom monopoly power for the movement to which they had devoted their lives was a <em>sine qua non</em> for China.</p> <p><span class="pullquote-right">Political liberalisation remains off the agenda: if there is talk of political or legal reform it means making the current system work more efficiently.</span></p><p><span></span>Huge crowds joining the demonstrations added a fresh challenge. Were the people at large also turning against the regime? Given the numbers who took to the streets, including some who were in the employ of the party-state, it might be impossible to draw a credible political line against a student spearhead backed by millions of people for whom the party had always claimed the right to speak and act. The way ordinary citizens peacefully blocked the army when it first tried to move in on Tiananmen, lying down in the street in front of tanks and fraternising with soldiers who had thought they were being sent to quash a foreign-backed insurgency, added a further troubling twist. </p> <p>So the leaders gathered at Deng’s home felt that extreme force was required to achieve shock and awe, not riot police but tanks—even though most of the students were leaving the square. By the night of 3 June, the die was cast and, acting under cover of the declaration of martial law, the tanks not only did not stop but claimed by far the largest number of the night’s victims by firing at residential buildings on the boulevard to Tiananmen.</p><h2>The "republic of amnesia"</h2> <p>The official version was set immediately. Deng castigated the protests as an attempt “to establish a totally western-dependent bourgeois republic” and a western imperialist plot to bring socialist countries “under the monopoly of international capital and onto the capitalist road”.&nbsp; The events of the Beijing Spring (replicated in other cities) became a non-subject in mainland China—leading to what Louisa Lin, the American journalist and writer, calls “the People’s Republic of Amnesia” in her excellent eponymous new book. When she showed a hundred students at four university campuses in Beijing the famous photograph of the anonymous man in a white shirt and black trousers facing down a line of tanks on Chang’an Avenue in the capital on 5 June 1989, only 15 identified it. “Oh, my God!” said one young man. “This is a sensitive topic. This picture maybe is related to a counter-revolutionary incident.” Thousands marched through downtown Hong Kong on 1 June but, on the mainland, nobody will mark the anniversary—at least not in public.</p> <p>Official history in China has always been fashioned to serve the interests of the ruling group. Imperial dynasties looked to scholars to write accounts of their predecessors to show why their misdeeds had forfeited the Mandate of Heaven, and so why their overthrow was justified. The main exhibit at the grandiose National History Museum overlooking the huge square in the centre of Beijing is an attempted demonstration of why only the Communist Party is fit to rule—since it, alone, was able to reverse the course of imperialist intervention and semi-feudal rule that had brought down China since the mid-1800s. By this version, the Communists did all the fighting against the Japanese, the Great Leap Forward and the famine that killed more than 40 million people around 1960 are passed over, and Mao is ’70 per cent good, 30 per cent bad’. History is dangerous, so it has to be controlled and made to conform with the reigning narrative.</p> <p>That fits in with the continuation of Deng’s original basic recipe—economic growth and rising living standards in return for acceptance of one-party rule. Political liberalisation remains off the agenda: if there is talk of political or legal reform it means making the current system work more efficiently. Though the wealth disparity widened and corruption blossomed in the decades after 4 June, the bargain has remained in place, reinforced by the concentration on ensuring ‘stability’ as defined by the regime. The budget for internal-security operations is larger than that for the armed forces and the extreme sensitivity about 4 June is shown by incidents such as the banning of a software programme whose name, by coincidence, included the numbers of the calendar date of the crackdown.</p> <p>China’s growth has been the major global event since the end of the cold war. The country that was on its knees at the time of Mao’s death in 1976 leads the world in construction, in its high-speed rail network, in the size of its automobile market and in consumption of everything from pork to cigarettes. It holds nearly $4 trillion in foreign exchange reserves and its demand for raw materials vitally affects the health of supplier nations, from Australia to Angola, Brazil to Zimbabwe. Underpinned by the Patriotic Education programme launched in the 1990s, which hammers home the message set out in the Road to Rejuvenation exhibit at the National Museum, national pride is high and the present leader, Xi Jinping, popular. </p> <p>The equation set by Deng at the end of the 1970s and renewed after 4 June has thus worked in its own terms. Repression of critics and human-rights lawyers arouses no public protests. Dissent is equated with subversion. The law exists to strengthen the party. The Nobel Peace Prize laureate of 2010, Liu Xiaobo, is serving an 11-year jail sentence for circulating a petition calling for democracy. People who call merely for the application of the constitution are denounced by articles in the official media, branding them as foreign agents out to subvert the system.</p><h2>Need for change</h2> <p>At the same time, the need for change is evident. If it does not pursue political democracy, the middle class requires action on quality-of-life problems arising from the nature of China’s growth, especially air, water and soil pollution. The big current anti-corruption campaign, launched by Xi Jinping, shows just how widespread graft has become: there are reports that a clan round a former Politburo member has amassed $15 billion and growing numbers of senior executives in state enterprises have been found guilty of taking large bribes. Xi put his name last November to a party document recognising the need for economic reform—a tricky, long-term process which will involve facing down powerful vested interests and introducing structural change, while seeking not to disturb the foundations of the party-state. </p> <p>Xi insists that only the Communists can lead China and has amassed an unprecedented array of posts from which to exert his authority: he is general secretary of the Communist Party and the state president, and he chairs the Central Military Commission, the new National Security Committee, the new Reform Committee, the Cybersecurity committee and a body set up to oversee military modernisation. In the Deng tradition, he accepts the need for economic change but insists on continuing party rule. In the first field, he wants to meld “the dynamic forces of the market” with state dominance; in the second, he holds up Mikhail Gorbachev and his late-Soviet reform experiment as the example to be avoided. </p> <p>The question for the rest of this decade (Xi will be in office till 2022) is whether those aims are compatible. To maintain its claim to rule, the party has to deliver. Though portraits of Marx and Lenin look out over its meetings, it is no longer an ideological party. Just as the mass of Chinese accepted the bargain of material betterment for political acquiescence, so the party has, itself, changed. It has become a managerial outfit which has to keep its side of the bargain. It has ensured that there is no political alternative and Xi is intent on centralising authority through policies designed to strengthen Party power—down to the re-invocation of the Maoist “mass line” to ensure everybody marches in step. </p> <p>Will that work in a society which is evolving very quickly, where social media have introduced a new communications matrix, where Chinese make 80 million foreign trips each year and where the second generation of the middle class wants more than simply material advancement? Clinton’s analysis 15 years ago was wrong because it applied western history to China. The official Chinese framing of growth has been acceptance without political correlates—the amnesia that surrounds 4 June shows that. </p> <p>But material progress does bring change beyond the increase in earnings gained. And the party is committed to maintaining growth, even if the crude annual increase in gross domestic product is falling. The real question is whether a one-party state of the kind which holds sway on the mainland can cope with the changes which that material progress bring and with the impact of globalisation on a country that has always sought to march to its own drum. </p> <p>In retrospect, the period since 1989 may be seen as the easy time for the regime. The years ahead will prove more testing as the stakes rise and society evolves.</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>Amnesty International documented a <a href="http://www.amnesty.org/en/news/tiananmen-crackdown-repression-intensifies-eve-25th-anniversary-2014-06-03">crackdown on dissident voices</a> in the run-up to the anniversary. openDemocracy is itself blocked in China.</p> </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-sidebox"> <div class="field-label"> Sidebox:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Read the <a href="http://www.spiegel.de/international/world/how-china-is-erasing-memories-of-tianenmen-a-973885.html#ref=rss">remarkable account in Der Spiegel</a> from an historian who was called in as a close observer in 1989.</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="/kerry-brown/chinas-past-chinas-present">China&#039;s past, China&#039;s present</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/opensecurity/geoffrey-crothall/striking-behaviour-chinese-workers-discover-weapon-against-labourmark">Striking behaviour: Chinese workers discover a weapon against labour-market turmoil</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"> China </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> openSecurity openSecurity China Democracy and government politics of protest human rights china from the inside china & the world china Jonathan Fenby State violence Tue, 03 Jun 2014 20:28:59 +0000 Jonathan Fenby 83343 at https://www.opendemocracy.net The Euro-sceptic Trojan horse: challenging the EU from within https://www.opendemocracy.net/opensecurity/eleonora-poli-chiara-rosselli/eurosceptic-trojan-horse-challenging-eu-from-within <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Euro-sceptic political parties exploited public insecurity to make gains in the elections to the European Parliament but pro-Europeans should engage with the ‘Euro-critics’ rather than defensively shunning dissent.</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/550590/Europaparlament.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/550590/Europaparlament.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="345" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>A shell without citizens? A corridor in the European Parliament. Wikimedia / Bjorn Laczay. Creative Commons.</span></span></span>As the <a href="http://www.risultati-elezioni2014.eu/it/country-results-fr-2014.html">results</a> of the European Parliamentary elections start to sink in, Europeans are left wondering who exactly has won. The <em>Front National</em> (FN) in France and the United Kingdom Independence Party (UKIP) both won 24 seats, bringing home unprecedented victories. Although the two largest political grouping will remain pro-European, the European People’s Party (213 seats, 274 in 2009) and the Social Democrats (190 seats, 196 in 2009) lost ground, while anti-EU parties in Denmark, Belgium, Germany and Greece made gains. Claims that the EU has withstood the Eurosceptic threat, given a roughly tripled Euro-sceptic presence in Parliament, are the product of wishful thinking.</p> <h2><strong>Making sense of the Euro-sceptic uprising</strong></h2> <p>As economic insecurity turns into political unrest, top-down the crisis has pushed member states into an accelerated process of institutional integration aimed at avoiding the far more costly option of dismantling the eurozone. Bottom-up, the predominant sentiment has hardly ever been less disposed towards ‘more’ Europe. The EU has failed to deliver the promised prosperity while public discontent has been aggravated by the remoteness and perceived lack of transparency of its decision-making procedures.</p> <p>It is nonetheless simplistic to assume the Eurosceptic outburst boils down to economic discontent. The phenomenon flourishes in thriving member states, as demonstrated by the victories in France and the UK, and predates the downturn. The economy is clearly only one, albeit influential, of a more complex set of factors driving criticism of the EU. Economic concerns and unsatisfactory policy outcomes have become melded with the fear of losing national identity, ostensibly via European integration.</p> <p>The intensification of cleavages between creditor and debtor countries, through the austerity-versus-growth debate, has fed political misunderstandings and negative stereotypes: northern member states accuse those in the south of laziness and irresponsibility and in turn the south blames the north for having abandoned the ideal of European solidarity. This potent mix of distrust, nationalism and economic malaise has certainly emboldened Euro-sceptic parties giving voice to citizens’ anger and frustration. Still, how they have articulated that sentiment across Europe has been very diverse. </p> <p>A useful distinction can be made between Euro-sceptic parties, antagonistic to the EU <em>per se</em>, and Euro-critical ones. &nbsp;Whilst Euro-critical movements stem from the Euro-sceptic wave, they distinguish themselves from mainstream Euro-scepticism by criticising European institutions while not running an entire political campaign on demolishing the EU project.</p> <p>Moreover, the spread of Euro-scepticism has been accompanied by a re-awakening of Europe’s far-right political forces. Austria’s Freedom Party, Jobbik in Hungary and the striking case of Greece’s Golden Dawn are a few examples of the growing support that the far right is gathering across Europe. The results of the election to the parliament are just the latest manifestation of the right-leaning turn the European political scenario seems to be taking.</p> <h2><strong>How big a threat?</strong></h2> <p>No doubt the striking victory of Le Pen’s Front National’s (FN) has Europeanists across the union worried, as one of the historically most prominent and pro-European founding member states threatens to turn its back on the integration project. The threat is not an empty one, now that the FN has gained enough potential critical mass to create a coalition (the&nbsp;<a href="http://www.eurallfree.org/?q=node/66">European Alliance for Freedom</a>) with the Dutch Freedom Party, the Italian Lega Nord, the Flemish <em>Vlaams Belang</em>, the Sweden Democrats and the Austrian&nbsp;Freedom Party, thus meeting the two thresholds for forming a parliamentary grouping (25 MEPs from at least seven member states). Such a coalition, together with other Euro-sceptic forces such as UKIP and the Europe of Freedom and Democracy grouping, could <a href="http://www.pollwatch2014.eu/pollwatch_blog">transform the face of the EU</a>.<strong></strong></p> <p>Whether this potential will be fulfilled, though, remains an open-ended question. </p> <p>Euro-sceptic parties’ main rationales for opposing the EU can be condensed into a set of core concerns focused on national identity, immigration, sovereignty and economic complaints. Nonetheless, divergent economic policies might hamper collaboration: while postulating that withdrawal from the euro or the dismantling of its assets might eventually be achieved through institutional economic reform, Euro-sceptic parties will hardly be able to shape a common exit-strategy, because their monetary and economic recipes appear threadbare or at odds. UKIP and the Dutch Freedom Party support unregulated ‘free markets’ but the FN is more oriented towards protectionism, while the Italian <em>Movimento 5 Stelle</em> &nbsp;(M5S), True Finns and Alternative for Germany support different socio-economic models.</p> <p>But Euro-sceptic parties do not need to be able to mobilise a majority to constrain the EU’s governability and capacity to adopt key decisions. They can easily influence parliamentary committees, where smaller groups of MEPs discuss and draft legislation. &nbsp;At a national level, the impact of these movements is already beginning to be felt. As anti-establishment voices become powerful influencers of public discourse, mainstream parties are beginning to re-orient their policies towards more Eurosceptic positions. </p> <h2><strong>Addressing the discomfort</strong></h2> <p>The Euro-sceptic wave is a clear symptom of real social divisions and of a gravely distressed and disillusioned population, attempting to signal a yearning for political, economic, social and institutional change. There is unquestionably much energy and sense of purpose behind these groups and individuals, yet&nbsp; so far the European debate has, understandably, tended to view them with a good dose of caution if not outright opposition. Nonetheless many of these groups should not be viewed as anti-European but critics of a system that has manifestly failed to deliver and the solutions they propose are only marginally focused on reclaiming national sovereignty. In fact, much of their criticism is directed at a perceived democratic deficit, both at the national and the European level; the implementation of a new democratic order could well represent a genuine push towards a new European consensus and in this spirit should be encouraged. </p> <p><span class="pullquote-right">This potent mix of distrust, nationalism and economic malaise has certainly emboldened Euro-sceptic parties giving voice to citizens’ anger and frustration.</span></p><p><span></span>A fine line distinguishes Euro-scepticism from Euro-criticism. But, provided such a distinction is made, these movements’ critiques could be galvanised into a constructive force for a more integrated and legitimate EU political space. The M5S (21.2 percent, 17 seats), SYRIZA in Greece (26.6 percent, six seats and winning party), the True Finns (12.9 percent, two seats) and Alternative for Germany (7 percent, seven seats) can all be considered Euro-critical in so far as they formulate proposals for a different Europe rather than no Europe at all. </p> <p>What is lacking is the political will to engage with these actors in an open and frank assessment of the EU and the courage to question publicly the overall value and purpose of integration. While fear of opening a Pandora’s box is certainly comprehensible, the greatest risk for pro-Europeans is of closing themselves off from criticism, shunning the concerns and fears of voters and falling into the pitfall of ‘business as usual’—instead of delving into the much overdue and&nbsp; more difficult conversation about the social and cultural impacts of the EU project.</p> <p>The hope remains that, with a louder Euro-sceptic voice now present in the parliament, the pro-European European People’s Party and Social Democrats will join forces and rise to the challenge. The nomination of a European Commission president who can embody a willingness to engage in dialogue with dissonant Euro-sceptic voices, and embrace change, could be a powerful signal of mainstream parties’ resolve to co-operate and compromise for the greater good of the pro-European movement.</p> <p>The EU is at a crossroads. In its current configuration it is bursting at the seams. It can only be salvaged by bringing forth more debate and ultimately restoring the EU’s relationship with its citizen—if ever one did exist.</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="/can-europe-make-it/mary-kaldor/habits-of-heart-substantive-democracy-after-european-elections">The habits of the heart: substantive democracy after the European elections</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/can-europe-make-it/patrice-de-beer/france-and-european-elections">France and the European elections</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/can-europe-make-it/cas-mudde/divided-house-of-antieurope">The divided house of anti-Europe</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <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 class="field-item even"> International politics </div> </div> </div> openSecurity Can Europe make it? openSecurity Democracy and government International politics politics of protest future of europe europe Chiara Rosselli Eleonora Poli Structural Insecurity Wed, 28 May 2014 15:48:14 +0000 Eleonora Poli and Chiara Rosselli 83216 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Venezuela: taking the counter- out of revolution https://www.opendemocracy.net/opensecurity/ivan-briscoe/venezuela-taking-counter-out-of-revolution <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Venezuela is politically polarised and so is much of the coverage of it. But just as the violence is now kaleidoscopic the international response must become more complex.</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/550590/venezuela protest.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/550590/venezuela protest.jpg" alt="Clash in Caracas between protesters and police" title="" width="460" height="305" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Fractured society, fractal protests: a street clash in Caracas. Flickr / Andres E Azpurua. Creative Commons / No derivatives.</span></span></span></p><p>“Before, we wanted to change the world. Now we’re going to see if we can pave a few roads.” This epithet of José Mujica, avuncular president of Uruguay and former urban guerrilla, sums up the hard-earned wisdom of the Latin American left in power—in Chile, Brazil, Argentina and elsewhere. For the last 15 years, however, Venezuela’s government has read the message in reverse: forget the roads; change the world.</p><p> Wilfully eccentric and, on occasion, deeply flawed economic, social and foreign policies—none more so than <em>vis-à-vis</em> food and basic security—have resulted in a monumental challenge to the government of Nicolás Maduro, elected successor as president to Hugo Chávez. The protests, driven by students and whipped up by opposition leaders, have been classified by viral-media reflex as another instalment of popular revolt, centred on a basic middle-class wish for decent, effective, open government.</p><h2> Fractal protests</h2> <p>A close reading of the violence that has claimed 37 lives since February 12th would suggest something different. A mass national polarisation has assumed fractal form—small, side-street sub-plots of irreducible antagonism, with contrasting accounts of who pulled the trigger. According to the opposition, 20 have been killed for demonstrating. But attributing responsibility is phenomenally hard in a society where no security or judicial institution is independent and most victims seem to have died in a chaos of reckless urban crossfire.</p><p> One centre-right Argentine news outlet gave this breakdown a few days ago: “23 died due to firearms; five after hitting or avoiding barricades; two with their throats cuts by barbed wire; two accidentally; one after being beaten by the police; one knocked down.” Take two deaths reported on March 6th in a suburb of Caracas. The Associated Press and others said 100 members of pro-government, paramilitary, motorcycle gangs (<em>colectivos</em>) had arrived in the neighbourhood of Los Ruices to dismantle an opposition street barricade (<em>guarimba</em>). They were greeted by wolf-whistles and pelted with bottles. According to AP, “In the melee, a 24-year-old motorcycle taxi driver was shot dead ... a 25-year-old sergeant was shot through the neck and killed.”</p> <p>It would be easy and temptingly cathartic to see the events as world punditry would have you see it: university kids against a tongue-tied tyrant, youth versus age, liberty versus oppression. But recent history cannot be blotted out. The 37 dead are not the classic fallen martyrs; nor are the protests a wave of the disenfranchised. Rather, they mark the most recent manifestation of the long and intransigent resistance to the low-income electoral juggernaut of <em>chavismo</em>. What began as a failed coup in April 2002 morphed eight months later into a general strike against the government; a recall referendum was essayed and lost in 2004; mass electoral abstention followed a year later.</p><p> A new and seemingly effective means of campaign has been chosen, in which both moderates and radicals in the opposition can find a purpose. Mass urban protests and civil disruption are the methods. To beat the left in power, the resistance to <em>chavismo</em> has borrowed from the now-pragmatic guerrillas: take the “counter-“ out of revolution and man the communal barricades.</p><h2> Sources of discontent</h2><p> It is difficult to begrudge the opposition their discontent. Statistics on poverty and public welfare confirm the gains made under Chávez through his social reorientation of oil revenues. But idiosyncratic and populist economic policies have done much to paralyse the most basic market flows. Anecdotes abound of four-hour queues in state-provisioned supermarkets and missing toilet-rolls. In January, scarcity stood officially at 28%, meaning over one in four goods was unavailable.&nbsp;According to the Venezuelan Pharmaceutical Association, 40% of medicines are out of stock.</p><p> Neo-fascist hoarders and dark conspirators of the right can be blamed, if wished. But the satirical depiction of government policy by the reputed pollster and moderate critic of President Maduro, Luis Vicente León, seems far more credible: “We’re going to close the businesses that close and control the prices of the goods which aren’t there.”</p><p> Nor is economic failure the inevitable fate of a left-leaning Latin American government. Comparisons between the trajectories of Bolivia and Venezuela show the popular benefits of the <em>chavista</em> regime but also the waste of its oil fortunes.&nbsp;Unlike Bolivia, Venezuela has spent its windfall and whittled down its foreign reserves. Argentina, under its profoundly Keynesian economy minister, Axel Kiciloff, has in the past two months skirted dire, Davos-like predictions of devaluation and ruin by giving free reign to a technocratic Central Bank governor. No such checks apply in Venezuela.</p><p> The economic malaise—the shortages, closures, 56% inflation, the latest devaluation this week—is much more than a minority, middle-class concern. Likewise, fear of crime touches all in Venezuela. Amid polarised government and independent estimates, the most distinguished expert on crime, Roberto Briceño-León, reported more than 24,000 killings last year—next to Honduras in presenting the world’s highest homicide risk.</p><p> The authoritarian drift of the government, whether in deploying armed militia, packing the Supreme Court or taking TV channels off air, garners the greatest international opprobrium and the most irate domestic opposition. And it has treated <em>chavista</em> hate figures—General Raúl Baduel, Iván Simonovis and even, on a lesser scale, a <em>Financial Times</em> freelance—with exceptional viciousness. Excuses are available, yet futile: a bombastic government represents the majority of its people with neither gentleness nor grace.</p><p>But successive election victories and consistent polling data underline that <em>chavismo</em> will not be defeated on the agenda of constitutional virtue. Economics and crime are what motivate mass popular discontent. Yet the past one and a half months tell a story not of a shared public platform, and an eventual if reluctant state response, but of a social dissolution into teeming individual claims, each in search of a protector.</p><p> An extraordinary film made by pro-government media in Mérida, the Andean town that has become a protest heartland, tells the story of two communities living along a main road. One, reportedly the richer, has set up a barricade, where hooded, darkened shapes lurk, catcalling and menacing the poorer neighbours, who find it hard to get to work or even go shopping. The poor shout insults back at the rich, calling them <em>mantenidos</em> (spongers). The first woman to appear in the film, Gisela Rubilar Figueroa, has since been shot dead. This is not mass protest so much as atomised class war, an iteration of grudges and rivalries emanating from the brain stem of an oil state.</p><h2> Pulling to the extremes</h2><p> How genuine discontent with a new government turned into a zero-sum conflict shattering to the micro-scale is the core question. Some protesters, notably the students of the Central University of Venezuela led by Juan Requesens, maintain a genuine mobilisation in the public interest—some have even led proselytising missions in the shanty towns, a peculiar reversal of the Peronist Youth’s doomed popular-education programmes of 1970s Argentina. Requesens and colleagues want political prisoners freed—there are 85 in jail for their part in the protests, according to the NGO Foro Penal—and the militias disarmed, plus a live, televised meeting between President Maduro and the opposition. Last year’s losing presidential candidate, Henrique Capriles, holds similar convictions; so do many of the more enlightened opposition figures.</p><p> Public opinion broadly aligns with these demands. The usually reliable polling agency Hinterlaces has recently found people worried over their economic futures, although 87% have no faith in barricades or violence to extract them from <em>chavista</em> mismanagement. Belief that Maduro should be kicked from office, in the manner of a number of Latin American presidents at the turn of the millennium, has receded quite quickly—with fear of what might take his place looming large.</p><p> This hefty bloc for moderation should in principle act as a brake on recourse to violent protest. It is still possible that this majority middle ground, whose shift to Capriles almost handed the opposition an astonishing victory last April, will be assisted by mediation by Latin American states in the UNASUR bloc (whose foreign ministers conducted a successful visit to Caracas last week), and possibly the Catholic Church (which proved vital in the resolution of Argentina’s crisis in 2002). The sudden eruption of peace should never be discounted, as Venezuela and Colombia memorably showed in resolving their border tensions of 2008.</p><p> The obstacles, however, will be immense. Talk of clearly definable sides, of the sort which backed Maduro or Capriles last year and which each enjoy huge numerical legitimacy, is no longer so pertinent. The opposition is manifestly divided and its main propulsive energy comes from the leaders who have adopted the <em>salida</em> (exit) strategy—the plan to topple the president through street agitation. Leopoldo López is in jail; María Corina Machado has just been stripped of her parliamentary immunity. Seeking to lock both away appears to have redounded to the president’s benefit but this leaves the radical protest wing in place--just criminalised, localised and leaderless.</p><p> Maduro is a weak president, with a 1.5% margin of victory last year and little political capital to expend. There is much speculation in diplomatic circles, and evidently in the US military, over how far the loyalty of the Venezuelan armed forces and the ruling PSUV party will stretch if the violence worsens. Should Maduro be scrutinising his support network for rogues and turncoats, it is unlikely he will feel sufficiently assured to hand any major concessions on policy or political participation to the opposition. It would suit him in the short term instead to engage in direct, winnable battles with the most radical diehards.</p><p class="pullquote-right">Arguments can be twisted into unusual shapes by the tangles of received wisdom.</p><p> The government engages in the usual US-baiting rhetoric, laced with attacks on local fascists and some turgid chunks of Gramsci. The hard left consumes ideas such as those of the German Marxist Heinz Dieterich, who chides the government for its “fear of using state forces firmly and rapidly from the start to dismantle violent groups”. The opposition’s extremes are no better, refusing to recognise any merits in 15 years of <em>chavista</em> government and finding their convictions richly fulfilled by the riot police who greet protesters in Caracas or Táchira. One implacable statement of hostility, the Mérida Manifesto by a group of students, refers to how “the Castro-communist regime with its paramilitary groups and the National Guard have killed, tortured and harassed comrades”.</p><p> The informal paramilitarism we are seeing on both sides is the product of a society besieged by criminal violence for two decades. The Guatemalan ethnographer Tani Adams argues that long-term exposure to chronic violence causes each citizen to assimilate a quota of fear into normal life, as “many people face both the challenge of multiple traumatic experiences in the past as well as the likelihood of continued traumatic experiences in the future”. One result is the severing of social bonds beyond immediate family and friends, as well as the corrosion of empathy “when people are constantly spurred by survivalist motives”.</p><p> The pathologies of the Venezuelan psyche under the influence of criminal violence help explain the fanatical tensions that have surfaced between neighbouring communities. And no doubt pro-government militias and community self-defence groups recruit locals used to handling firearms for other purposes. Through this admixture of political and criminal violence, the road to civil war in Venezuela lies.</p><h2> Supporting moderation</h2> <p>Avoiding that outcome is not made any easier by the tendency inside and outside Venezuela to see the crisis through the filters of self-interest and prejudice borrowed from the era of high Chávez. The left-leaning governments of Latin America are intent on preventing any precedent of presidential overthrow—hence the paralysis of the Organization of American States. Cuba and the Caribbean dread a stoppage of cheap oil. Washington would be happy to rid itself of an irritant, while the liberal press and the digital spirits egg on the cause of middle-class revolution.</p><p><span>Arguments can be twisted into unusual shapes by the tangles of received wisdom. Noam Chomsky denounces any use of repressive state power while his followers applaud a crackdown in Caracas. Opponents of Maduro wail over the militarisation of their cities, even though for many this would be their preferred solution to violent crime. And according to reliable sources the Green Party MEP and hero of May 1968, Daniel Cohn-Bendit, has dissented from his own party’s pro-</span><em>chavista</em><span> instincts, insisting he would never fail to support a student revolt.</span></p><p> Partial truths and worsening polarisation will do little to pull the country out of its confrontational logic. Nothing is more important than for foreign governments and organisations to provide moderates on both sides with support and reassurance. Just as Capriles has preached against violent protest, parts of Maduro’s government have proved themselves sensitive to criticism: the attorney general, Luisa Ortega, has said 60 investigations of police officers for alleged human-rights violations are under way.</p><p> A common ground of dialogue could be found, were Latin American states, the European Union and neutral bodies to support it, on economic stabilisation and security reform. Talk of sanctions against government figures would have to be shelved and political prisoners released, with all parties accepting the schedule of forthcoming elections. </p> <p>The self-righteous on any side would not be satisfied. But no one seems to have a clue as to the road ahead for Venezuela were its president to totter.</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>In early April, members of the regional block UNASUR brokered <a href="http://www.euronews.com/2014/04/09/venezuela-takes-first-steps-towards-resolving-weeks-of-street-protests/">exploratory talks</a> between the government and opposition.</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="/opensecurity/sarah-kinosian/heavy-hand-on-venezuelas-streets">The heavy hand on Venezuela&#039;s streets</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/fabian-bosoer-federico-finchelstein/venezuela-legacy-of-populist-revolution">Venezuela: legacy of populist revolution</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/ivan-briscoe/ch%C3%A1vez-to-eternity">Chávez to eternity</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"> Venezuela </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> openSecurity openSecurity Venezuela Conflict Democracy and government politics of protest Ivan Briscoe oS analysis Security in Latin America and Caribbean Sun, 30 Mar 2014 17:49:45 +0000 Ivan Briscoe 80846 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Striking behaviour: Chinese workers discover a weapon against labour-market turmoil https://www.opendemocracy.net/opensecurity/geoffrey-crothall/striking-behaviour-chinese-workers-discover-weapon-against-labourmark <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>In theory, workers in China are promised security through official trade union representation and the rule of the Communist Party. In practice, confronted with the endless churning of a globalised labour market, they are increasingly voting with their feet.</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/550590/IBM workers.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/550590/IBM workers.jpg" alt="IBM workers on march during strike" title="" width="460" height="311" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>I'll Be Militant: the IBM workers on strike in Shenzhen. Image / China Labour Bulletin. All rights reserved.</span></span></span>The ten-day strike by more than a thousand workers at an IBM factory in the southern Chinese city of Shenzhen in early March grabbed international media attention. Yet there was nothing particularly unusual about the strike—it was, in many ways, a microcosm of the shifting dynamics of labour relations in China today.</p> <p>One of the primary causes of unrest over the last three years has been the sale, merger, relocation or closure of factories in the manufacturing heartland of southern China. The Shenzhen strike was triggered by IBM’s sale of its low-end server business to the Chinese-owned computer manufacturer Lenovo and the workers’ protest followed a familiar pattern. The workers knew ahead of time that they might have to fight for decent compensation from IBM and were ready to take action when the company made its “take it or leave it” offer. From March 3rd to 12th, the workers staged regular protests, marching around the compound, banging drums and gongs, demanding double what IBM was offering. They made sure they did nothing to antagonise the local authorities or the police—indeed, the local government attempted to mediate on the workers’ behalf.</p> <p>The protest highlighted the ambiguous role of the official trade union and the importance of local non-governmental organisations that actively look out for the rights and interests of workers. The workers’ general assessment of the IBM factory trade union was: “The union exists in name only. It's useless.” But the municipal trade union in Shenzhen has in the last few years positioned itself as a defender of workers’ rights and did eventually take a stand when 20 of the striking workers were sacked by IBM. At the same time, two labour-rights groups in the city had been talking to the workers about electing worker representatives to directly negotiate with management but the resolve of the workers weakened after the strike leaders were sacked and most eventually accepted IBM’s offer.</p> <p>Although the IBM workers’ action failed to get the desired result, the workers still came away with something—both those employees who agreed to move over to Lenovo and those who decided to leave the factory and look for another job elsewhere. And perhaps the only reason IBM made a compensation offer at all was that management knew, from the numerous strikes and protests over the same issue in Shenzhen and across China, that it would face even more trouble if it did not. </p> <p><span class="pullquote-right">The workers’ demands, in and of themselves, are not a threat to the party.</span></p><p><span></span>In May 2013, several hundred workers at the Hong Kong-owned furniture maker Diweixin had marched through Shenzhen after management refused to discuss compensation when the factory relocated to neighbouring Huizhou. The workers clashed with police and more than 200 protesters were detained. One of the strike leaders, a 40-year-old migrant worker, Wu Guijun, was arrested and eventually tried on public-order offences. And in an incident even closer to home, thousands of workers at the Nokia factory in Dongguan staged strikes and sit-ins in November, when management refused to discuss workers’ concerns stemming from the sale of Nokia’s mobile-phone business to Microsoft. Nokia sacked 213 strikers and faces legal action from 70 seeking reinstatement.</p> <p>Employers in China are no longer under any illusion that if they attempt to railroad through a deal with which their employees are not happy the workers will put up a fight. A <a href="http://www.clb.org.hk/en/sites/default/files/File/research_reports/searching%20for%20the%20union%201.pdf">research report</a> by <em>China Labour Bulletin</em> (CLB) on the workers’ movement recorded 1,171 strikes and worker protests from June 2011 to the end of 2013. And these were just the incidents reported in the Chinese media and social media—the number was certainly much higher. </p> <p>Although factory workers in southern China are probably the most determined in standing up for their rights, they are not alone. The manufacturing sector accounted for 40% of the strikes recorded by CLB but transport workers, mainly taxi and bus drivers, took up another 26%. Construction workers, service providers, teachers and shop workers also staged periodic strikes over low pay, wage arrears and non-payment of employer social-insurance contributions. </p> <h2>Social media</h2> <p>The vast majority of these strikes were organised by the workers themselves, without the involvement of the trade union. Workers in China are now much more aware of their own collective strength—of their ability to organise and bring their grievances to a wider audience and get the local government involved. They have been aided considerably over the last few years by the rapid development of the social media and messaging platforms Weibo and WeChat, and the widespread availability of cheap, no-brand smartphones. Strike organisers can not only get their colleagues together on social media—they can post updates, photographs and videos on the strike’s progress and the response of management. This social media activism has allowed the mainstream Chinese media to report on the workers’ protests and this, in turn, has put pressure on local-government officials to resolve disputes as quickly as possible.</p> <p>Workers have also been supported in their action by labour-rights groups, especially in the southern province of Guangdong. They are increasingly focused on guiding workers through collective actions and encouraging them to elect representatives and bargain directly with the employer, rather than relying on the local government to come to their aid. These NGOs have amassed considerable experience over the last three years in maintaining worker solidarity and providing expert strategic advice during each stage of the bargaining process. Indeed a number of organisations have produced a <em>Code of Collective Bargaining</em>, based on their experience, which can be used by other workers and NGOs to push for collective bargaining as well as act as a possible template for legislation. In short, China’s labour NGOs have been playing the role the trade union should have played but has thus far failed to do.</p> <h2>Helpless bystander</h2> <p>The official All-China Federation of Trade Unions (ACFTU) has for the most part been unwilling or unable to support China’s workers and help level the playing field in labour relations. The trade union has essentially been a helpless bystander as the workers’ movement has gained momentum. But there are signs that growing pressure from the workers for the union to represent their interests better is beginning to take effect. At the same time as the IBM strike in Shenzhen, workers at Pepsi plants in several cities across China went out in a co-ordinated strike against large-scale layoffs, pay cuts and reduced benefits. The protests were backed and even led by the company trade union and several individual factory unions. And in the central province of Hunan the trade union at a Walmart store, which was scheduled to close on March 19th, took the lead in protests by nearly 150 shop workers opposed to the planned closure.</p> <p>Why would an authoritarian regime like the Chinese Communist Party tolerate such an active and seemingly radicalised workforce, especially when it is being supported in some cases by the trade union? The workers’ demands, in and of themselves, are not a threat to the party. Quite the contrary: demands for better pay and conditions and for pension payments and decent severance pay after years, even decades, of service are perfectly in keeping with the party’s stated desire to raise the incomes of ordinary workers, reduce the rapidly growing gap between rich and poor and create a new class of consumers that can put the Chinese economy on a more stable and sustainable footing.</p> <p>The authorities are more concerned about the means used to pursue those demands. If protests do get out of hand and workers start blocking traffic and destroying property, the police will certainly move in and make arrests. Over the two and a half years covered by CLB’s report, police intervened in about 20% of strikes and protests, with a noticeable increase in the latter half of 2013. In many cases, the intervention was simply to contain the situation, although it was not unusual for minor conflicts to ensue.</p> <p>In October, the party general secretary, Xi Jinping, summoned the new leadership of the ACFTU to party headquarters in Beijing and explained that it was the job of the trade union to help China’s workers realise their dreams. Assisting workers in their disputes with employers determined to suppress wages and cheat them out of their entitlements is clearly one very effective way of helping workers realise their dreams. But despite some encouraging signs the ACFTU as a whole remains inert and stuck in its bureaucratic ways. Most workers will for the time being still have to rely on their own resources and the help of labour NGOs to push the movement forward. Eventually, however, the sheer momentum of the workers’ movement in China may well force the trade union to get on board.</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="/kerry-brown/china-between-self-and-society">China, between self and society</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/kerry-brown/china-who-is-in-charge">China: who is in charge?</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"> China </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 class="field-item even"> Internet </div> </div> </div> openSecurity openSecurity China Civil society Conflict Democracy and government Internet politics of protest Geoffrey Crothall oS analysis Structural Insecurity Sat, 29 Mar 2014 11:12:11 +0000 Geoffrey Crothall 80807 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Ukraine: what next? https://www.opendemocracy.net/opensecurity/oleksandr-butsenko/ukraine-what-next-0 <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>There was a way out of the Ukraine crisis this week, through dialogue and accommodation. But the regime, backed by Russia, chose to pursue victory instead. It will be a Pyrrhic one—but the international community can shorten the agony.</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/550590/Espresso TV screenshot.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/550590/Espresso TV screenshot.jpg" alt="Clashes in Kyiv" title="" width="460" height="258" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>In the media spotlight: a screeenshot of the private station Espresso TV reporting live from Maidan.</span></span></span>The central image in world news now is the monument of the legendary founders of Kyiv—three brothers, Kyi, Shchek and Khoryv, and their sister, Lybid—surrounded by protesters defending <em>Maidan Nezalezhnosti </em>(Independence Square) from riot police and <em>tityshki</em> (paid lumpen and petty criminals) used by the power bloc. The minister of interior affairs, the prosecutor-general and the president of Ukraine have called this confrontation, begun early on February 18, a “counter-terrorist” operation aimed at putting an end to “all extremist elements”—that is to say, everyone opposed to the prevailing system of corruption, nepotism, criminality, vulgarity, hypocrisy and violence. </p> <p>When opposition leaders had announced at a popular assembly on February 16 a peaceful march to <em>Verkhovna Rada</em> (Parliament) two days later, to press the parliament to reconsider the national constitution and return to the 2004 version—a parliamentary republic with reduced presidential authority—issuing from the “Orange revolution”, it seemed that the hard process of mutual concessions could start.&nbsp; Protesters vacated administrative buildings and main streets in Kyiv and other cities and it was envisaged that the prosecutor-general’s office would start to release detained activists, according to the law, the following day. The next step could be parliamentary discussion and decision. It was logical—but unacceptable for the regime. </p> <p>Thus, the prosecutor-general hinted that the process of release of prisoners could last several months and a speaker of Parliament indicated that negotiations on possible changes to the constitution and presidential elections would need even longer. The president, Viktor Yanukovych, had met his Russian counterpart, Vladimir Putin, in the margins of the opening ceremony of the winter Olympics in Sochi on February 8 and what followed echoed a theme of the early 20th-century Russian revolutions—provocation.</p><h2>Well prepared</h2> <p>The confrontation on February 18 started with apparently uncontrolled provocations near the parliament building. The riot police turned out to be remarkably well prepared, however, with snipers on the roofs, warlike equipment and a perfect deployment to retake the main square. An MP from the ruling Party of Regions promised a little bit later on Russian TV that Maidan would be cleared within an hour. </p> <p>After hours of violent clashes, with riot police blocking the square from all sides, about 30 were dead and some 800 wounded. Yanukovych issued an appeal which described the protesters as radicals and extremists—a characterisation repeated in the Russian media—and asked opposition leaders to dissociate themselves from those in the square. What the president and his servants did not want to face was the national-popular nature of the protests: after the night of fierce confrontation, uprisings restarted in many other cities and regions, first in the historically more Europhile western part of Ukraine but later also in central and eastern areas. </p> <p>Two weeks ago, a survey by the centre Democratic Initiatives revealed that 87 per cent of the population distrusted the law machinery and especially the police. After the events of recent days, this distrust can only grow, including with regard to the presidential administration and government. &nbsp;</p> <p>On the morning after the night before, on February 19 protesters began arriving in Kyiv—in spite of blocked roads, interrupted railway connections and a transport collapse in the capital itself. Many enterprises and offices were closed, as on the next day too, and the underground didn’t work. Almost all Ukrainians watched events unfold on their TV screens. And the question on everyone’s lips was ‘What next?’—a deepening of confrontation, with new victims and further destruction, or a peaceful solution leading to the changes society demanded?</p> <p>Those demands have escalated: starting with calls for a European political orientation and a return to a parliamentary republic, the public—not only the protesters—now require the resignation of the president and the trial of all those responsible for this tragedy. And here the international community has a major responsibility. </p> <p>This week, the former foreign minister of Ukraine Volodymyr Ohryzko addressed western states in his blog on <em>Ukrainian Pravda</em>: <span class="blockquote-new">Under these circumstances "the policy of non-interference’"of the EU and the US feels like an obvious betrayal, especially in the light of Russia’s political pressure, economic blackmail and direct involvement of mercenaries in the fight against the Ukrainian people. Your governments adopt all the right declarations. Your politicians make nice statements. But for our authorities and the Kremlin it is an empty sound. They only understand the language of power and real actions.</span></p><p>Indeed, both confronting parties in Ukraine understand this.</p> <p>If the regime pursues a bloody victory, it will be a Pyrrhic one. There is a long popular memory in Ukraine of struggles against oppressors: it is not forgotten that whereas the population of the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic constituted only about 17 per cent of the total Soviet number, Ukrainians comprised more than 50 per cent of the inmates of the Gulag. The regime is doomed to failure—the price, however, remains in question.</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>After scores of deaths, on February 21st the president and opposition leaders signed an&nbsp;<a href="http://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/feb/21/agreement-on-the-settlement-of-crisis-in-ukraine-full-text?CMP=twt_gu">agreement&nbsp;</a>in the presence of three European foreign ministers and a representative of the Russian Federation. This restored the (amended) constitution of 2004, brought forward presidential elections and promised an investigation into the violence, to be monitored jointly and by the Council of Europe. On February 22nd the parliament <a href="http://www.euronews.com/2014/02/22/ukraine-s-parliament-dismisses-president-yanukovych/">voted </a>by more than the requisite two-thirds majority to strip the president of his powers and to call presidential elections on May 25th.</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="/od-russia/andrew-wilson/ukraine%E2%80%99s-2014-belated-1989-or-another-failed-2004">Ukraine’s 2014: a belated 1989 or another failed 2004?</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/od-russia/oleksander-andreyev/power-and-money-in-ukraine">Power and money in Ukraine</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/od-russia/valery-kalnysh/whoisfightingwhomnukraineandwhy">Who is fighting whom in Ukraine – and why</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/opensecurity/oleksandr-butsenko/how-was-he-to-know-cracking-of-ukraine-regime">How was he to know? The cracking of the Ukraine regime</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"> Ukraine </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-city"> <div class="field-label">City:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Kyiv </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 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"> Creative Commons </div> </div> </div> openSecurity openSecurity Kyiv Ukraine Civil society Conflict Democracy and government International politics rule of law politics of protest european security ukraine: the orange revolution ukraine europe Oleksandr Butsenko Security in Europe Thu, 20 Feb 2014 12:29:40 +0000 Oleksandr Butsenko 79538 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Breaking up with lame: protests in Bosnia https://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/sumeja-tulic/breaking-up-with-lame-protests-in-bosnia <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p class="MsoNormal">On the fifth day of ongoing demonstrations in Sarajevo, a routine is establishing itself and there is a feeling of something new in the landscape of Dayton-constitution Bosnian purgatory – citizens are breaking up with their fears.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p>On the fifth day into the ongoing <a href="http://kosovotwopointzero.com/en/article/1005/nothing-in-bosnia-is-ever-announced">demonstrations</a> in Sarajevo a routine has established itself – at noon, citizens meet around the tram station across from the Presidency of Bosnia and Herzegovina and the shouting starts (<em>Resignations! Thieves!</em>). Someone steps on the street, everybody follows. The street is blocked. Some time passes, more people gather, then everybody starts walking towards the Government of the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina. After spending some time there, everybody is back on to the main crossroad overlooking the burned down buildings of the municipality, Canton and the Presidency.</p> <p>The hours there are filled with conversations between people who have just met, often from different walks of life and different socio-economic <a href="http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2014/feb/10/anger-bosnia-ethnic-lies-protesters-bosnian-serb-croat">backgrounds</a>.&nbsp; A glare of surprise, and silent shock over how similar their outlooks on the situation are and, how much, actually, the other is lovable and “ok” takes place. Past dawn everybody is still warning each other’s of the infiltrators paid by this or that political party.</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/536137/sarajevo protest cigarette_0.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/536137/sarajevo protest cigarette_0.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="244" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span><em>Photograph courtesy of the author.</em></p> <p>Most often, suspicion falls on the political party of the rich Minister of Security who did nothing to prevent the <a href="http://www.euronews.com/2014/02/07/bosnia-rocked-by-third-day-of-anti-government-unrest/">burning of the state institutions</a> last Friday. Other conversations are more practical – <em>Should we have a band playing here?</em> <em>Why not have sit up demonstrations? This eight hour standing business is tiring! </em>That sight is deserted after seven or eight o’clock in the evening, when everybody is leaving with by-then cold coffee in a plastic cup and an empty and greasy wrapper from the bakery.</p> <p>While all this is happening on the crossroad, others are carrying on with their regular activities – taking long walks along Tito’s street, drinking coffee in one of city’s shopping malls. It is not clear why they are not demonstrating, but on the fifth day into the demonstrations, this sight which renders the ‘every day Sarajevo’ is almost comforting. As if it promises that down the road from the crossroad life will be good, almost perfect.</p> <p>However, this passive phenomenon is not a novelty. Those who remember the days before the <a href="http://www.theatlantic.com/infocus/2012/04/20-years-since-the-bosnian-war/100278/">outbreak</a> of 1992-95 war, could go on and on about how they sat and had lunches in sunny Sarajevo while Eastern Bosnia was being taken by the military and paramilitary forces of Serb nationalists. Even with the tanks pointed at them from the hills above the city, life felt too warm and unclouded to actually worry and take precautionary measures.</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/536137/ostavke bando.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/536137/ostavke bando.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="244" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span><em>Photograph courtesy of the author.</em></p> <p>Going home from the demonstrations is the hardest. Firstly, there one realises how tiring is “this protesting business”, and secondly, there is the TV where what just happened on the street looks different.&nbsp; It is too painful to name all the adjectives and prospects that the media coverage attributes to the demonstrations. The imagery is subtracted from, among other interviews, interviews with the political establishment. These interviews are collages of statements offending common sense. </p><p>A winning statement among many of this sort was that the demonstrators were ‘energised’ by 12 grams of narcotics. One wonders how someone – if not for reason’s sake, then out of superstition – can use the same arguments once used by Qaddafi, a crazy dictator who died suffocating in his own blood. But, the multitude of some humans’ ability and desire to underestimate, insult and subjugate simply never fails to impress.</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/536137/sarajevo protest.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/536137/sarajevo protest.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="244" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span><em>Photograph courtesy of the author</em></p> <p>Before sleep comes the masochism of reading the statuses of Facebook friends who are still, days after, fixated on what things have burned out and how savage was it. To be honest, that is a fading trend. The new opposition to the demonstrations, how ever I try to elevate its essence here, boils down to a well known fear of people from Sarajevo – to be part of something that is <em>ofirno</em> (lame). The social perception of <em>ofirno </em>or ‘lame’ is that it is worse than death. Whilst you are lame or part of something lame, people are judging you, most probably laughing at you, days and nights, and you are a live witness to it all. Here, I should say that writing like this is an exemplary of what is <em>ofirno</em>.</p> <p>In general, immunity towards fears generated in smaller places is something banal, looks funny in sitcoms, at times is embarrassing or annoying, but like quitting inhaling and exhaling less than 1 gram of tobacco wrapped in paper, it is really hard. What people do in Sarajevo each day looks easy but it is really hard. Every day they are breaking up with fears of the other; fear of being incapable, weak and insignificant; fears of all that being pointless; fear of being lame.</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/536137/1920029_251057701731773_628932091_n.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/536137/1920029_251057701731773_628932091_n.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="460" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span><em>Photograph courtesy of the author.</em></p> <p>Due to its entertaining qualities, the wisdom of&nbsp;<em>Back to the Future</em> films – even the wisdom contained in its well-picked title – is often overlooked. Simply, sometimes one needs to go back and forth in time to establish a just equilibrium in the present, and secure a bearable one in the future. Today in the afternoon citizens of Sarajevo will time-travel to the practices of ancient Greece – after <a href="http://bhprotestfiles.wordpress.com/2014/02/11/larisa-kurtovicthe-spectre-of-a-lost-future/">twenty years </a>of no meaningful ‘citizenship’ under the Dayton constitution, a citizens' plenum will convene in the heart of the student campus. Unlike in ancient Greece, however – to this plenum, women are invited.</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="/5050/madeleine-rees/syria-women-peacework-and-lesson-from-bosnia">Syria: women, peacework, and the lesson from Bosnia</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/peter-lippman/bosnia-blood-honey-and-wars-legacy">Bosnia: blood, honey, and war&#039;s legacy </a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/heather-mcrobie-sadzida-tulic/ratko-mladi%C4%87s-arrest-start-but-let-it-not-obscure-how-much-more-is-nee">Ratko Mladić&#039;s arrest: a start, but let it not obscure how much more is needed for justice</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/heather-mcrobie/bosnias-error-of-othering">Bosnia&#039;s error of othering</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/cynthia-cockburn/longing-for-%E2%80%98normality%E2%80%99-women%E2%80%99s-experience-of-post-war-bosnia-herzegovina-0">Longing for ‘normality’: women’s experience of post-war Bosnia-Herzegovina</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/bosnia_civil_society_paths_from_srebrenica">Bosnia&#039;s civil society: paths from Srebrenica</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/wanda-troszczynska-van-genderen/bosnia-citizenship-and-detention">Bosnia: citizenship and detention </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/bedrudin-brljavac/bosnia-between-ethnic-nationalism-and-europeanization">Bosnia between ethnic-nationalism and Europeanization</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> 50.50 50.50 Can Europe make it? reimagining yugoslavia politics of protest Bosnian Citizens Protest 50.50 Women, Peace & Security From War to Peace 50.50 Editor's Pick women's human rights women and power gender justice 50.50 newsletter Sumeja Tulic Spotlight on Bosnia Wed, 12 Feb 2014 09:54:33 +0000 Sumeja Tulic 79276 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Turkey: trade unionism on trial https://www.opendemocracy.net/opensecurity/eric-lee/turkey-trade-unionism-on-trial <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>As the Erdogan government in Turkey takes an increasingly authoritarian turn, trade unionists have been in the firing line. But a mass trial in Istanbul, little noticed by the international media, has not gone entirely the government’s way.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><img src="http://www.opendemocracy.net/files/turkey%20trial.jpg" alt="" width="460" height="277" /><span class="image-caption">Enemy within?: outside the trade unionists' trial in Istanbul. Photo: Eric Lee.</span></p><p><span>Members of KESK, the Turkish public-sector trade union, have reason to celebrate. A court In Istanbul has decided to release 23 union members held in jail for nearly a year. Six of their colleagues&mdash;three men, three women&mdash;remain imprisoned, however, until at least early May. And a very large number are awaiting trial on various charges.</span></p> <p>The episode began nearly a year ago, following a suicide bombing at the US embassy in the Turkish capital, Ankara. The bomb left two dead (one the attacker) and three injured. The Devrimci Halk Kurtulu&#351; Partisi-Cephesi (DHKP-C)&mdash;the Revolutionary People's Liberation Party-Front&mdash;admitted responsibility. The DHKP-C, which has pursued violence for over three decades, has been branded a terrorist organisation not only by the Turkish government but by the European Union and the US as well.</p> <h2>Pretext</h2> <p>Nothing links the DHPK-C to KESK but the bombing provided a pretext for the anti-union government of Recep Tayyip Erdogan to use the country&rsquo;s excessively broad anti-terror laws to crack down on an old enemy. KESK and its affiliated teachers&rsquo; union have been a thorn in the side of the AK Party government&mdash;strongly opposing unpopular neo-liberal policies, in education and elsewhere, which it has been trying to push through. Hundreds of leaders of KESK and the teachers had already been arrested following protests in Ankara.</p> <p>Days after the bombing, police swept through KESK offices across the country and many trade unionists were arrested at home&mdash;nearly 170 were caught up in the raids. Many of the detainees were swiftly released and others arrested in provincial towns were eventually sent home to await trial. But in Istanbul the police decided that 29 KESK leaders were simply too dangerous to be let out on to the streets. At the request of global and European unions, LabourStart launched an online campaign, which generated nearly 13,000 protest messages.</p> <h2>The charges</h2> <p>That&rsquo;s why I found myself sitting last month in a tiny, hot, airless hearing room inside the largest courthouse in Europe. The charges against the 56 KESK leaders (half of whom were on bail) were membership of an illegal organisation, making propaganda for that organisation and, in some cases, being leaders of it. The trade unionists denied all the charges.</p> <p>It had taken nearly a year for the arrested KESK members to have their day in court. The three judges confirmed the identities of those standing trial and then allowed them, one by one, to state their cases. </p> <p>The first was a schoolteacher who spoke at length about the history of the Turkish trade-union movement, crushed first by the military dictatorship in the 1980s and now again by the Islamist government. The lead judge interrupted her, asking how long she would go on as he was keen to take a break. &ldquo;As long as I need,&rdquo; she replied. &ldquo;I have a lot to say!&rdquo;</p> <p>Her speech met rousing applause from an audience which included trade unionists from a number of European countries. During the break, they joined hundreds of KESK members in a protest on the plaza opposite the courthouse.</p> <h2>Pesky KESK</h2> <p>Though the demonstrators chanted slogans such as &ldquo;Down with fascism&rdquo;, Turkey is clearly not a fascist state. (Fascist states don&rsquo;t allow demonstrations of this type.) But Turkey is a state that recognises few of the internationally-accepted rights for workers and won&rsquo;t allow civil servants, for example, to have a collective-bargaining agreement. </p> <p>There is no question that the Erdogan government is trying to break the union by jailing its leaders. As one of the visiting European union representatives put it, it&rsquo;s an attempt to &ldquo;decapitate&rdquo; the troublesome KESK.</p> <p>These trials, like those which preceded them, have been ignored by the mainstream media. In Turkey, this is to be expected, as the media are in the grip of AK. But few journalists in Europe and elsewhere have shown any interest in these events. Apparently, unless blood flows in the streets&mdash;as it did last spring in <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2013_protests_in_Turkey">Taksim Square and Gezi Park</a>&mdash;Turkey is of no interest to the world.</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>Erdogan's next move: a <a href="http://www.aljazeera.com/news/europe/2014/02/turkish-mps-endorse-internet-control-law-2014266540113308.html">crackdown </a>on anything "insulting" on the internet.</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="/halil-gurhanli/political-crisis-and-question-of-rule-of-law-in-turkey">Political crisis and the question of rule of law in Turkey </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/can-europe-make-it/burak-kadercan/emerging-%E2%80%98unipolarity%E2%80%99-in-turkey%E2%80%99s-political-landscape">Emerging ‘Unipolarity’ in Turkey’s political landscape </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-city"> <div class="field-label">City:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Istanbul </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"> Creative Commons </div> </div> </div> openSecurity North-Africa West-Asia openSecurity Istanbul Turkey Civil society Democracy and government the future of turkey politics of protest membership & movements institutions & power democracy & power Turkish Dawn Eric Lee Security in Europe Sun, 02 Feb 2014 12:04:39 +0000 Eric Lee 78990 at https://www.opendemocracy.net How was he to know? The cracking of the Ukraine regime https://www.opendemocracy.net/opensecurity/oleksandr-butsenko/how-was-he-to-know-cracking-of-ukraine-regime <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Ukraine’s parliament has abandoned the law to curb public protests only recently introduced and the prime minister has resigned. What lies behind these dramatic events?</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><img src="http://www.opendemocracy.net/files/maidan_0.jpg" alt="Maidan protest, Kyiv" width="460" height="306" /><span class="image-caption">The nation against the system: protesting in Kyiv. Flickr / <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/mac_ivan/">Ivan Bandura</a>. <a href="http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/deed.en_GB">Some rights reserved.</a></span></p><p>It&rsquo;s difficult to analyse events in Kyiv from inside. Easier to take part in them&mdash;and in the general feeling that this has not been a confrontation between the opposition and the power bloc but between the nation and the system. </p> <p>In his recent <a href="https://www.polity.co.uk/book.asp?ref=9780745662756"><em>Moral Blindness</em></a>, Zygmunt Bauman called 2012 a &ldquo;year of people on the move&rdquo;, adding that the &ldquo;following year will go down in history as the year of a renewed prominence of social conflicts and of a redrawing of their frontlines and interfaces&rdquo;. Riots in different parts of the globe in 2013 were in many moments similar: &ldquo;People on the streets presage change &hellip; People took to the streets in the hope of finding an <em>alternative</em> society.&rdquo;</p> <p>An alternative society will need an alternative power structure&mdash;and this is the key direction of the Ukraine protests. After the national enthusiasm of the 2004 Orange revolution, a huge new wave of popular elation was not anticipated, especially after the general frustration with the presidency of Viktor Yuschenko, whom the revolution propelled into office. Indeed disillusionment and passivity on the part of many voters, particularly young people, allowed the victory of Viktor Yanukovych during the last presidential election in 2009. </p> <h2>Lessons learned</h2> <p>From early 2010, Yanukovych and his team demonstrated the lessons they had learned from his 2004 defeat by Yuschenko. These were: a) Ukrainian legislation needed some changes, beginning with the constitution, to become an efficient tool to secure immunity in power; b) such legislation could only be efficient with a transformed judicial system and strengthened secret and police services; c) the power hierarchy should be lubricated with possibilities for personal enrichment in exchange for loyalty; d) the best practices of the Soviet propaganda machine, along with the organised &ldquo;people supporting power&rdquo; should be put into action, and e) corruption and totalitarianism should be hidden under democratic rhetoric and Manichean attacks on political predecessors as guilty of all evils.</p><p class="pullquote-right">Three years ago, for most people in Ukraine talk about a European orientation and European integration was just that</p> <p>And they began to apply these lessons, testing them first with the incrimination of Yulia Tymoshenko and Yuriy Lutsenko, respectively the former prime minister and minister of internal affairs. In spite of protests in Ukraine and abroad, both political rivals were accused and imprisoned. Public protest was neither strong nor unanimous because the victims, especially Tymoshenko, were associated with the disappointing presidency&mdash;and the arguments of the new political managers sounded rather convincing when they recalled gas agreements with Russia and other less than transparent episodes. </p> <p>The limits of power were demonstrated when, after two years and several months, Lutsenko was pardoned by presidential edict. Rather as with the pardoning of Mikhail Khodorkovsky and members of Pussy Riot in Russia, this was a way of saying that &ldquo;it may be a drastic law but it&rsquo;s our law&rdquo;. Tymoshenko was not however released&mdash;the power bloc also recognised the limits of risk. The judicial system, meanwhile, became more and more guided to make summary judgments, even before a crime had taken place, provoking feeling of powerlessness and despair. </p> <h2>European values</h2> <p>Three years ago, for most people in Ukraine talk about a European orientation and European integration was just that&mdash;desirable but remote and inconsistent with political reality and the collective mindset in an atmosphere of distrust. But the government and president persistently declared a European trajectory and all regions elaborated action plans to move in this direction. In the run-up to the Eastern Partnership summit in Vilnius in November 2013, it seemed unimaginable that all this hard work and expense could be rendered null and void. </p> <p>Of course, it would take time for Ukraine to recognise European values, implement democratic norms and introduce responsible governance. And in the present it suffered from Russian pressure, both economic and political&mdash;shady meetings between Yanukovych and his Russian counterpart, Vladimir Putin, even on the eve of the summit, were troubling. So the triumphant smile of the president, rejecting the European agreement on association as unfavourable to Ukraine, especially in economic terms, led some young people to assemble in <em>Maidan</em>&nbsp;Nezalezhnosti (Independence Square) in Kyiv, asking the president not to steal their future. Mr Yanukovych, however, kept smiling.</p> <p>Bauman also writes: &ldquo;Under the date of 14 July 1789, Louis XVI, King of France, entered in his diary just one word: <em>Rien</em>. That day, a crowd of Parisian sans-culottes flooded on to the kinds of streets not usually visited by les mis&eacute;rables, not en masse at any rate&mdash;and certainly not to loiter on. That day they did, and refused to leave until they had overwhelmed the guards and captured the Bastille. But how was Louis XVI to know?&rdquo;</p> <p>How was Yanukovych to know that the brutal dispersal of sparse protesters would provoke such a wave of reaction?&nbsp; The subsequent events are well-known: violence and self-assurance played a spiteful trick on the powerful&mdash;the people&rsquo;s contempt for them converted into hate, indignation and a demand to put an end to such governance. After the parliament adopted (by the ruling majority), on January 16, a law restricting most of the civil liberties in the country, the confrontation became fierce.&nbsp; </p> <h2>Alternative society</h2> <p>Maidan is now all over Ukraine. Temperatures of -15-20C betray resolution and courage, as well as despair, among those staying on the street. Many have been arrested, wounded, kidnapped, tortured and even killed. But more and more people have come to Maidan.</p> <p>January 28 saw an extraordinary session of Parliament&mdash;in both senses, with the majority overturning the public-order law passed less than two weeks earlier. This could prove the first step to compromise or to a further escalation of violence. Experts and commentators consider different scenarios&mdash;up to the division of Ukraine between an independent west and a pro-Russian east and Crimea, however unrealistic this is when one takes into account demographic diversity. </p> <p>What will emerge is an alternative society&mdash;not tomorrow but within a year or more. And young people, without doubt, will be an active electorate at the next presidential elections. Whom will they support? And the key question: who could lead and unite the nation? </p> <p>Indeed, is it possible? Yes, but with great difficulty, demanding personal courage to forgive and secure the chance of renewal. Bauman once more: &ldquo;Louis XVIII, restored to the throne in 1814, decreed the forgetting of atrocities, including the regicide, committed by the French Revolution. He wrote into the new French constitution that &lsquo;all inquiry into opinions and votes preceding the restoration are prohibited. Both the courts and the citizens are obliged in equal measure to forget them.&rsquo; And recall the exemplarily smooth and humane exit of South Africa, due largely to Nelson Mandela&rsquo;s inspiration, from the long dark years of injustice, hatred and blood-letting.&rdquo;</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>EU-Russia ties strained over Ukraine, <a href="http://www.euronews.com/2014/01/28/eu-russia-ties-strained-over-ukraine/">Euronews reports</a> following truncated summit with Putin in Brussels.</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="/od-russia/daniel-kennedy/heavyweight-guide-to-ukraine">The heavyweight guide to Ukraine</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/od-russia/iryna-solomko/face-of-tyrant">The face of a tyrant</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/od-russia/iryna-solomko/ukraine%E2%80%99s-point-of-no-return">Ukraine’s point of no return</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/krzysztof-bobinski/ukraine-and-europe-russia-crack">Ukraine, and a Europe-Russia crack</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"> Ukraine </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-city"> <div class="field-label">City:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Kyiv </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 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"> Creative Commons </div> </div> </div> openSecurity openSecurity Kyiv Ukraine Civil society Conflict Democracy and government International politics postsoviet politics of protest non-violent action insurgency european security ukraine: the orange revolution ukraine europe Oleksandr Butsenko Security in Europe Tue, 28 Jan 2014 19:39:04 +0000 Oleksandr Butsenko 78856 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Civil society under threat: could international law help? https://www.opendemocracy.net/opensecurity/mandeep-tiwana/civil-society-under-threat-could-international-law-help <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>In the name of ‘traditional values’ and <em>raisons d’état</em>, authoritarian governments and dictators around the world are targeting the civil-society organisations who animate the public square. Democratic states and the UN must stand up for international legal standards.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p class="image-caption"><span><img src="http://www.opendemocracy.net/files/friday%20praryers%20amman.jpg" alt="" width="460" height="305" /><span class="image-caption">Not here, thank you: Friday prayers in Amman, January 2012. Flickr / <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/charlesfred/">Charles Roffey</a><span>.<a href="http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/2.0/deed.en_GB">Some rights reserved</a><span>.</span></span></span></span></p><p>Independent and outspoken civil-society groups are facing an unprecedented onslaught.&nbsp; In an increasingly globalised world, as the ability of active citizens to connect and express solidarity on common causes has risen, so too has the paranoia of autocratic leaders. And they are hitting back&mdash;hard. </p> <p>In the last two months alone, in apparent breach of international human-rights standards, a raft of draconian laws have been drawn up in diverse countries to prevent civil-society activists and organisations from speaking out against official policies or mobilising on the streets&mdash;even &nbsp;just formally organising. The justifications offered range from &lsquo;national security&rsquo; to safeguarding &lsquo;traditional&rsquo; religious and cultural values. </p> <h2>&lsquo;Foreign agents&rsquo;</h2> <p>On January 16 <a href="http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-25771595">Ukraine</a> became the latest country to join the global charge to criminalise dissent. Shaken by the massive popular protests against the increasingly punitive rule of the president, Viktor Yanukovych, its Parliament hurriedly passed a <a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/od-russia/iryna-solomko/face-of-tyrant">series of laws</a> imposing restrictions on the mass media and the internet while requiring internationally funded civil-society groups which engage in &lsquo;political&rsquo; advocacy to register as &lsquo;foreign agents&rsquo;. Ukraine&rsquo;s constraints on civil-society organisations are similar to those introduced in <a href="http://blogs.civicus.org/civicus/2012/10/31/russia-tightens-noose-on-civil-society/">Russia</a> in July 2012, following large-scale protests against the election as president of Vladimir Putin amid claims of electoral fraud. &nbsp;</p> <p><a href="http://www.ipsnews.net/2013/12/pakistani-ngos-fear-new-year-constraints/">Pakistan</a>, too, is considering a law to exert controls on international funding for NGOs. This would give government officials wide powers to inspect the records of organisations and deny them permission to obtain funding on vague but expansive grounds&mdash;such as protection of the &lsquo;security, strategic, scientific or economic interest of the state&rsquo;. Plans to introduce the law come on the heels of a restrictive policy that requires organisations receiving foreign funding to enter into a memorandum of understanding, empowering officials to limit their areas of operation. </p> <p>In <a href="http://www.amnesty.org/en/library/asset/EUR55/013/2013/en/8ccbf747-6b8a-4947-9201-194838ec1530/eur550132013en.pdf">Azerbaijan</a>, the president, Ilham Aliyev, has been facing concerted protests for years against his clampdown on dissent and scrapping of presidential term limits. On December 17, key amendments were made by Parliament to the law on NGOs to increase bureaucratic controls. These require NGOs to re-register with the government every three months, impose high fines for purported infractions and make NGOs more susceptible to forcible dissolution by the courts. </p> <p>A day earlier, the regime in <a href="http://www.hrw.org/news/2013/12/30/saudi-arabia-terrorism-law-targets-peaceful-speech">Saudi Arabia</a>, confronting challenges from pro-democracy and women&rsquo;s rights activists, passed an &lsquo;anti-terrorism&rsquo; law so broad that virtually any criticism or mobilisation against the government could be construed as an act of terror. Recent <a href="https://civicus.org/dr-mohammed-al-qahtani-and-dr-abdullah-al-hamid">convictions</a> of prominent NGO leaders on politicised charges raise serious concerns about its likely misuse. </p> <p>On January 7, Nigeria&rsquo;s president, Goodluck Jonathan, approved the <a href="http://www.equalrightstrust.org/newsstory150114/index.htm">Same Sex Marriage (Prohibition) Act</a>, which bans the registration of any gay club, society or organisation and threatens its supporters with imprisonment of up to ten years. Like <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/01/17/uganda-president-gay-bill-_n_4617151.html">Uganda&rsquo;s anti-homosexuality bill</a>&mdash;which, facing international pressure, the president, Yoweri Museveni, has at time writing <a href="http://www.ipsnews.net/2014/01/unsigned-effective-ugandas-anti-gay-bill/">yet to sign</a>&mdash;the Nigerian law is broad enough to criminalise the entire community of human-rights activists and organisations, firmly opposed to any discrimination against sexual minorities and LGBTI individuals. </p> <h2>Arms twisted</h2> <p>And the story doesn&rsquo;t end with the passage of repressive laws. Independent civil-society groups are having their arms twisted and being prevented from carrying out legitimate work.</p><p class="pullquote-right">Nor are these events isolated instances.</p> <p>In <a href="http://www.hrw.org/news/2013/12/06/ecuador-rights-group-shut-down">Ecuador</a>, the Pachamama&nbsp; Foundation<a href="http://www.hrw.org/news/2013/12/06/ecuador-rights-group-shut-down"></a>, a well-known organisation supporting the environment and indigenous people&rsquo;s rights, was &lsquo;dissolved&rsquo; on December 4 on allegations that its members had participated in a violent protest. In <a href="http://www.aljazeera.com/news/middleeast/2013/11/egypt-passes-law-restricting-public-protests-2013112413847867334.html">Egypt</a>, emboldened by a new anti-protest law, activists belonging to the <a href="http://www.frontlinedefenders.org/node/24604">No Military Trials for Civilians</a> movement were convicted on January 5 on trumped-up charges, from arson to endangering public safety.&nbsp; </p> <p>In <a href="http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-asia-25663863">Malaysia</a>, three days later, the coalition of NGOs (COMANGO) was declared unlawful, purportedly in violation of religious tenets for work which included support for LGBTI individuals. The coalition had been under pressure since October 2013, when it participated in the review of Malaysia&rsquo;s human-rights record at the United Nations Human Rights Council. </p> <h2>Rising tide of restrictions</h2> <p>Nor are these events isolated instances. There is a rising tide of restrictions on civil liberties and legitimate civil-society activities, imposed by governments across the political spectrum in the name of preserving &lsquo;public order&rsquo; and &lsquo;morals&rsquo;. Nevertheless, the impact is much more severe in autocracies and marginal democracies, as authoritarian leaders and governments have become increasingly fearful of civil-society groups following the Arab Spring uprisings. </p> <p>A recent <a href="https://civicus.org/images/GlobalTrendsonCivilSocietyRestrictons2013.pdf">report</a> by Civicus, the global civil-society alliance, concludes that far too many governments are failing to honour their commitment to guarantee an &lsquo;enabling environment&rsquo; for civil society, made at the <a href="http://www.oecd.org/dac/effectiveness/49650173.pdf">high-level forum on aid and development effectiveness</a> in South Korea in December 2011. In October 2012, the UN high commissioner for human rights, <a href="http://www.ohchr.org/EN/NewsEvents/Pages/DisplayNews.aspx?NewsID=12081">Navi Pillay</a>, made a spirited appeal to safeguard the independence of civil-society organisations from legal encroachments. &nbsp;</p> <p>In March last year, a resolution was passed by the UN Human Rights Council to protect human-rights defenders; the <a href="https://civicus.org/media-centre-129/press-releases/1571-global-civil-society-alliance-celebrates-adoption-of-un-resolution-on-protecting-human-rights-defenders">resolution</a> urged states to ensure that relevant laws were clearly defined, non-retroactive and consistent with international law. A year on, a <a href="http://protectionline.org/files/2013/09/A_HRC_24_L24.pdf">high-level discussion</a> on creating a safe and enabling environment for civil society in law and practice will take place at the Human Rights Council. </p> <h2>International standards</h2> <p>A vast body of international legal texts and intergovernmental commitments protects core civil-society freedoms, of expression, association and peaceful assembly. But these are frequently broad-brush&mdash;sometimes deliberately vague. The challenge is to ensure these often imprecise international-law standards percolate into legislation and practice at the state level. &nbsp;Some regional courts, such as the European Court of Human Rights and the Inter-American Court of Human Rights, have attempted to interpret the scope of aspects of civil-society rights in cases brought before them but much more needs to be done globally. </p> <p>The UN Human Rights Committee, the body of jurists which monitors the implementation of the widely ratified <a href="http://www.ohchr.org/en/professionalinterest/pages/ccpr.aspx">International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights</a> (ICCPR), can potentially strike an important blow for civil society in this regard. It could develop expert commentaries on the freedoms of association and peaceful assembly, to complement its well-articulated <a href="http://www2.ohchr.org/english/bodies/hrc/docs/gc34.pdf">opinion</a> on the scope of freedom of expression.&nbsp; </p> <p>But, more importantly, it&rsquo;s time for democratic governments and UN institutions dedicated to the protection of human rights to begin a conversation on a stand-alone UN convention on civil society, to improve protection of third-sector rights. This could be a key vehicle to solidify commitments made to civil society by world leaders, through a UN General Assembly resolution, when they adopted the <a href="http://www.ohchr.org/EN/Issues/SRHRDefenders/Pages/Declaration.aspx">Declaration on Human Rights Defenders</a> in 1998.&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="/openglobalrights/maina-kiai/in-kenya-averting-move-to-strangle-civil-society-with-financial-noose">In Kenya, averting a move to strangle civil society with the financial noose</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/m%C3%A9lissa-rahmouni/algeria-reform-or-securitization-of-civil-society">Algeria: reform or securitization of civil society?</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <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"> Creative Commons </div> </div> </div> openSecurity openSecurity Democracy and government Civil society politics of protest Mandeep Tiwana Tue, 21 Jan 2014 15:01:04 +0000 Mandeep Tiwana 78605 at https://www.opendemocracy.net From utopia to dystopia: technology, society and what we can do about it https://www.opendemocracy.net/opensecurity/alejandro-garcia-de-la-garza/from-utopia-to-dystopia-technology-society-and-what-we-can <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>The superficial post-war dream that technology would solve the world’s social problems has transformed into a nightmare of electronically enabled global surveillance and suppression. Yet with consumer-oriented industries replacing the military as the main driver of innovation, citizens are acquiring tools through which they can co-ordinate their emancipation.</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/550590/M15_1.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title="M15 protest in Madrid"><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/550590/M15_1.jpg" alt="" title="M15 protest in Madrid" width="460" height="345" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span></p><p class="image-caption">Citizens turning to their own devices: modern technology made possible the M15 movement in Madrid. Flickr: Henry de Saussure Copeland. <a href="http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/2.0/deed.en_GB">Some rights reserved.</a></p><p>In the second half of the 2<span>0th c</span><span>entury, coming out of two world wars and with technology progressing at an unprecedented rate, it was widely believed that techn</span><span>ological advancement would continue improving living conditions in an almost utopian way. Great technological achievements, progress in medicine and a greater sense of social responsibility gave rise to the idea that, for the first time in history, war, disease and poverty were all soluble problems.</span></p><div> <p>But technology did not turn into that science-fiction dream of curing disease and ending world hunger. Instead it became a tool to observe and control people <em>en masse</em>,&nbsp;</p><p><span>Throughout history, technological advances have brought with them new security challenges, to which every society has had to adapt. In the past 30 years, breakthroughs in information and communication technology in particular have been so ground-breaking, happening so quickly, that a plethora of developments have come in train - very hard to predict, never mind anticipate or, still less, prepare for -&nbsp;</span>to develop deadlier weapons and new forms of oppression and violence, and to broaden the inequality gap between people and countries. Rather than saving humanity from misery, technology would allow violence to be performed on a greater and more efficient scale. </p> <p>Recently Amazon generated controversy when it revealed its Prime Air project. It intends to use drones to deliver packages to locations up to 10 miles from selected distribution points, albeit this is still a few years from implementation. Many would consider drones flying at low altitude over their home a violation of their privacy and space. Yet such drones are already available in a variety of shapes and configurations in many countries, with regulation trying to play catch-up. </p> <p>In the past too, most technological advances came from military projects that resulted in products for which civilian uses were later found. Military technology came up with jet engines, the microwave oven and the GPS systems now in almost every car and smartphone. To this day, military spending, in particular in the United States, remains a strong driving force for technological innovation. </p> <h2>Reversing the flow</h2> <p>But with technology advancing exponentially today, and more and more people adopting new devices, the market for technological products has grown in tandem. The consumer electronics industry now surpasses global military investment in research and development, thanks to the larger markets over which it can spread the cost—and the way the resultant technology flows is in some cases reversing.</p> <p>&nbsp;If military technology used later to find civilian applications, now civilian technology is being utilised by military forces. Better and cheaper products are constantly replacing ones that are barely a year old. This, combined with the emergence of open standards and open-source software, facilitates the appropriation of readily available consumer technologies and their combination in new ways and for newer purposes. Soldiers are using civilian smartphones like the iPhone as a translation device and some land drones are being controlled with video-game console controllers. Even the hardware that powers computers and consoles—powerful video cards and processors—is finding use in military computers. </p> <p>While many innovations are developed with the intention of enhancing our lives, some new technologies seem to exacerbate the problems modern societies face. From Wikileaks to the Snowden files, we have discovered that technology is being used to monitor and track people indiscriminately. According to the Snowden revelations, the US National Security Agency gathers about 5 billion records a day on the whereabouts of cellphones around the world. Governments, corporations and individuals constantly collect—legally and illegally—vast amounts of personal data. </p> <h2>Open source</h2> <p>Yet the redirection of the innovation flow from consumer electronics to the military means that technologies which used to be exclusive to states and their agencies are now available openly. While the utopian dream may have proved just that, technology evolving so rapidly and at the same time becoming so readily available to the public has also had positive results. </p> <p>Humanitarian causes and activist groups have benefited from mobile phones and social media, giving a voice and a platform for people to express themselves, co-ordinate, and mobilise. Mobile phones and social media played a crucial role in the popular uprisings during the Arab Spring, and unmanned drones are being used by NGOs to deliver supplies to conflict zones or by environmental groups to monitor illegal activities or abuses. </p> <p>Facebook and Twitter are connecting the world in an unprecedented way. Free online courses available, YouTube channels dedicated to new skills, blogs, websites and Wikipedia all allow the sharing of knowledge and information among more people every day. This connectedness between people and knowledge all over the world has bridged unimaginable distances and created many new opportunities. Technology can be a force for positive social change by putting knowledge and tools in the hands of people, regardless of language, age, gender or location. </p> <p>It is difficult to predict with accuracy how technology will shape our future, to what extent it will be used in favour of the citizen and the public good. What has become clear is that it has fallen upon society to assume responsibility for the way technology is used—including to protect individual identity and privacy from governments and corporations. </p> <p>Technology is not the solution to hunger, war and poverty, but merely a tool. Society can no longer meekly adopt it without thinking of the repercussions of particular advances. Rather, we must actively ensure that it enhances our quality of life the way we had hoped it would. If not, technology will keep advancing but society will lag behind.&nbsp;</p></div><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="/ourkingdom/dylan-hewitt-page/technology-and-nation-state-governing-social-complexity">Technology and the nation-state: governing social complexity </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/opensecurity/vron-ware/when-soldiering-gets-sexy-militarization-of-gender-equality-and-sexual-differ">When soldiering gets sexy: the militarization of gender equality and sexual difference </a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/opensecurity/ayesha-carmouche/new-technologies-cannot-substitute-political-will">New technologies cannot substitute political will </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/opensecurity/chris-langley/rethinking-security-from-projecting-power-to-preventing-problems">Rethinking security: from projecting power to preventing problems</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/opensecurity/anna-crowe/promise-and-problems-of-mobile-phones-in-developing-world">The promise, and problems, of mobile phones in the developing world</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> 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 3.0 </div> </div> </div> openSecurity digitaLiberties openSecurity Internet science & technology politics of protest democratic society democracy & power Snooping on the innocent Alejandro Garcia de la Garza Future under surveillance Fri, 20 Dec 2013 11:27:58 +0000 Alejandro Garcia de la Garza 78004 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Thailand, the politics of justice https://www.opendemocracy.net/tyrell-haberkorn/thailand-politics-of-justice <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>The contrasting treatment of those accused of verbal insults of the monarch and those responsible for violent repression casts a sorry verdict on the process of justice in Thailand, says Tyrell Haberkorn in Bangkok.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p>Seven years ago, on 19 September 2006, Thailand's elected prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra was ousted from office by a coup. While no blood was shed on the day itself, the period since has been filled with political contention, constriction of political freedom, and at times, open violence. Events around the latest anniversary of the coup confirm that its legacy involves a double violation of justice: impunity for selected actors and almost unimaginable repression of others. This twofold movement is sharply revealed by two recent cases - one currently being prosecuted, and one which may never be prosecuted.</p><p>For three days in late August 2013, the criminal court on Bangkok's Ratchadaphisek Road heard witness testimony in the case of a man called Yutthapoom [whose last name is withheld] under Article 112 of Thailand's criminal code. Yutthapoom was charged after his older brother accused him of insulting the monarchy. Article 112 prescribes draconian punishments of three-to-fifteen years' imprisonment for individuals <a href="http://www.freedomhouse.org/article/thailand-rules-lese-majeste-law-constitutional-extends-crackdown-free-expression">judged</a> to have defamed, insulted, or threatened Thailand's king, queer, heir-apparent or regent. </p><p>Although this <span class="st"><em>lèse majesté </em></span>law has been on the books since 1957, its use has <a href="http://www.asiasentinel.com/index.php?option=com_content&amp;task=view&amp;id=5400&amp;Itemid=392">risen</a> sharply in the years since the coup of September 2006. Daranee Charnchoengsilpakul is currently serving the largest <a href="http://www.prachatai.com/english/node/2950">sentence </a>meted out under Article 112; she was sentenced to fifteen years in prison for a fifty-five minute speech which allegedly insulted the monarchy. What makes Yutthapoom’s case different from many others is that his alleged criminal acts took place in the private space of his home. The person who filed the complaint against him was his older brother, who reported that Yutthapoom uttered insulting words while watching television and wrote such words onto a CD. </p><p>The prosecutor had the option of throwing out the case on the basis that it was a family matter, or because the older brother did not have a witness to corroborate his accusations. Instead, the case moved forward and Yutthapoom spent 333 days behind bars without bail before witness hearings began. He remains in jail; the court will deliver its verdict on 13 September 2013.</p><p><strong>Death in the temple</strong></p><p>On 6 August 2013, southern Bangkok's criminal court - an hour or so across the city from the Ratchadaphisek Road court, depending on traffic - had delivered its ruling over a postmortem inquest in the case of six civilians killed on 19 May 2010. That was the final day of the state crackdown on the "Red Shirt" protesters who had been peacefully occupying much of central Bangkok. The civilians were killed inside a Buddhist temple, Wat Pathum Wanaram, which was close to the heart of the protests. <br />The southern Bangkok court ruled that these six civilians were killed by soldiers. Its documentation stated: </p><p>“The deaths were caused by being shot with .223 or 5.56 mm bullets and the direction of fire was from where the competent officials were stationed to perform their duties to maintain order on the BTS’s rail tracks in front of Wat Pathum Wanaram Ratcha Worawiharn and around Rama I Road. At the instructions of the Center for Resolution of Emergency Situation [CRES, the temporary state agency coordinating the crackdown under the authority of the emergency decree], the officials took control over the area of the Ratchaprasong Intersection. And as a result of that, the first deceased died of gunshot wounds on his lungs and heart causing hemorrhage, the second deceased died of gunshot wound that destroyed his lungs, the third deceased died of gunshot wounds that destroyed his lungs, heart and liver, the fourth deceased died of gunshot wounds that destroyed his lungs and liver, the fifth deceased died of gunshot wounds that destroyed her brain and the sixth deceased died of gunshot wounds that went through his oral cavity, whilst no particular perpetrators can be identified” [this unofficial translation is provided by Prachatai]. </p><p>The killings of those inside the temple was the culmination of two months of a contentious <a href="http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-asia-pacific-13294268">standoff</a> between the appointed government of prime minister <a href="http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-asia-20670854">Abhisit Vejjajiva</a> and the Red Shirts, who were calling for new elections, clean standards and the end of corruption in politics. In total, ninety-four persons were killed and over 2,100 injured, many seriously, in the <a href="http://www.csmonitor.com/World/Global-News/2010/0514/Clashes-with-red-shirt-protesters-create-war-zone-in-downtown-Bangkok">crackdown</a>. It remains to be seen whether the inquest results in the Wat Pathum Wanaram <a href="http://prachatai.com/english/node/3663">case</a>, or other similar ones, become the basis of criminal charges filed either against the army, the CRES, or the then prime minister. At present, the Thai parliament is discussing the details of a possible <a href="http://www.upi.com/Top_News/Special/2013/04/19/Thailand-considers-amnesty-bill/UPI-37301366344660/">amnesty</a> bill in relation to the violence of April-May 2010, and who and what will be covered by it. For now, however, none of those who either gave the orders for the crackdown or those who carried out are behind bars. A key factor in what happens next is the degree of political will to redress impunity and secure accountability over these events. </p><p><strong>Justice's double standard&nbsp; </strong></p><p>These are only two examples of the strange incongruities that dominate the courts in post-coup, Thailand, where the king (Rama IX) has <a href="http://yalepress.yale.edu/yupbooks/book.asp?isbn=0300106823">reigned</a> for over six decades. They reflect a broader crisis: not just of <a href="http://www.alrc.net/doc/mainfile.php/hrc24/765">accountability,</a> but of who counts as human, and therefore worthy of protection. What happens in the courts is shot <a href="http://www.bangkokpost.com/lite/breakingnews/367175/hong-kong-human-rights-group-demands-un-intervene-in-lese-majeste-laws">through</a> with politics and largely devoid of humanity, meaning that the fate of justice hangs constantly in the balance. </p><p>It is not insignificant that both the prior Democrat Party government of Abhisit Vejjajiva and the current Pheu Thai government of <a href="http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-asia-pacific-13723451">Yingluck Shinawatra</a> (Thaksin's sister) refuse to acknowledge the Article 112 prisoners as political prisoners - for reasons one can only guess, if one does not wish to run afoul of the law oneself. For now, it appears that a person reported by a sibling for allegedly making a questionable comment at home is more likely to spend time in jail than one who shoots, or orders the shooting, of unarmed civilians inside a temple.</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>Tyrell Haberkorn, <a href="http://uwpress.wisc.edu/books/4798.htm"><em>Revolution Interrupted: Farmers, Students, Law and Violence in Northern Thailand </em></a>(University of Wisconsin Press, 2011)</p><p>Chris Baker &amp; Pasuk Phongpaichit, <a href="http://www.cambridge.org/catalogue/catalogue.asp?isbn=0521016479"><em>A History of Thailand</em></a> (Cambridge University Press, 2005) <br /> <br /> <a href="http://www.hrw.org/doc?t=asia&amp;c=thaila">Human Rights Watch - Thailand </a></p><p><a href="http://www.alrc.net/index.php">Asian Legal Resource Centre</a></p> <p><a href="http://www.bangkokpost.com/"><em>Bangkok Post</em></a></p><p><a href="http://www.prachatai.net/"><em>Prachatai</em></a></p><p> Paul M Handley, <em><a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/yalepress.yale.edu/yupbooks/book.asp?isbn=0300106823">The King Never Smiles: A Biography of Thailand's Bhumibol Adulyadej</a></em>&nbsp;(Yale University Press, 2006)<br /> <br /> <a href="http://ahrc-thailand.net/">Asia Human Rights Commission - Thailand</a></p> </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-sidebox"> <div class="field-label"> Sidebox:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Tyrell Haberkorn is a research fellow in political and social change at the Australian National University and the author of <a href="http://uwpress.wisc.edu/books/4798.htm"><em>Revolution Interrupted: Farmers, Students, Law and Violence in Northern Thailand</em></a> (University of Wisconsin Press, 2011)</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="/article/thailand-s-state-of-impunity">Thailand’s state of impunity</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/article/thailand-the-misrule-of-law">Thailand: the misrule of law </a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/tyrell-haberkorn/in-bangkok-remembering-tak-bai-massacre">In Bangkok: remembering the Tak Bai massacre</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/article/thailands-democratic-crisis">Thailand&#039;s democratic crisis</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/tyrell-haberkorn-thailand-1/thailand%E2%80%99s-political-transformation">Thailand&#039;s political transformation </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"> Thailand </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 class="field-item odd"> International politics </div> </div> </div> Thailand Civil society Democracy and government International politics politics of protest democracy & power asia & pacific Tyrell Haberkorn Sun, 08 Sep 2013 16:30:44 +0000 Tyrell Haberkorn 75245 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Building a culture of love: replacing a culture of violence and death https://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/mairead-maguire/building-culture-of-love-replacing-culture-of-violence-and-death <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>What unites people's movements from the Arab 'spring' to Occupy, is a new consciousness that a good life, with dignity, freedom, fairness and human security, is their right -&nbsp; and by the law of love and logic, the right of every man and woman, says laureate Mairead Maguire. </p> </div> </div> </div> <p>I passionately believe peace is possible, and that it is possible for the human family to move beyond militarism and war. Indeed, it is already happening because millions of us have already rejected the ‘bomb and the bullet’ and all the techniques of violence and are working to build a world based on the values of love, equality&nbsp; and dignity for all.&nbsp; </p> <p>People of the world do not want war.&nbsp; We have had enough of this wastage of human resources and intelligence in feeding the death machinery of militarism while children die of starvation and poverty.&nbsp; These are not the ‘values’ we want to live by, and the human family, particularly women, are uniting our voices as a powerful force to say ‘no’ no more of these destructive policies of bad governance and governments not acting in good faith.&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; </p> <p>Ten years ago, in February 2003, millions of people around the world said ‘<a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/February_15,_2003_anti-war_protest">no</a>’ to the Iraqi war and occupation, and since then millions around the world&nbsp; have&nbsp; protested&nbsp; against unjust government regimes, demanding dignity, demilitarization, development, and democracy.&nbsp; These massive peoples movements, for the most part peaceful, are being&nbsp; repressed by government forces whose policies of ongoing militarism, war, inequality and injustice, are being challenged&nbsp; by courageous individuals and global protests of solidarity by civil community, both locally and internationally.&nbsp; </p> <p>What unites these people's movements is a new ‘consciousness’ that a good life, with dignity, freedom, fairness and human security, is their right -&nbsp; and by the law of love and logic, the right of every man and woman.&nbsp;&nbsp; </p> <p>There is more awareness in the age of increased education and advanced communications that we live in a very rich world with enough for everyone's need, but not for everyone's greed. This increased awareness of social, economic and political injustice which is destroying so many people's lives, is creating deep anger and frustration resulting in non-violent&nbsp; revolution and protest movements to change repressive and unjust systems.&nbsp; </p> <p>We have seen the Arab 'spring' in the Middle East, but also the rise of the ‘Occupy movements’ protesting the quest for profit and perpetual financial growth which has enriched a tiny minority, while causing hardships, despair and devastation particularly amongst the marginalized and poor . The quest for perpetual financial growth and profit has ravaged the earth, so that today we face unprecedented threats to the possibility of sustaining a liveable habitat for future generations. The dominance of the corporate media and the power of the military industrial complex to drive and control government policies is dominating our lives everywhere. It is colossal task to try to change it, but try we must if there is to be a future for our children. </p> <p>The latest figure for world military expenditure is well over £l,082 billion, with the United Kingdom coming fourth in spending £39 billion.&nbsp; The British government plans to spend over £100 billion on renewal of Nuclear trident, whilst announcing strict austerity measures causing real hardship with many people unemployed - particularly young people - in Northern Ireland and elsewhere forced to reluctantly leave their homes to seek employment in other countries.&nbsp; There is a real sense of powerlessness and hopelessness amongst many young people which governments must address by diverting military funding into job creation and education, to give hope and dignity to people. . </p> <p>And hope too, comes from people and their awakening and empowerment, as they work against violence and for social justice and change. This movement is exciting and inspiring. Many women know the pain of losing a child, they know the pain of war, and that ‘violence&nbsp; is not a solution, it is part of the problem’. They know that there will not be paramilitary or military solutions to their problems, only peaceful dialogue and talking amongst all the parties to the conflict will bring the much needed peace, which is a&nbsp; right of all the peoples, and necessary if there is to be development.&nbsp; </p> <p>A&nbsp; demilitarized, peaceful nonviolent world, is not a utopian dream it is a right for all. Most&nbsp; people have never killed anyone, but have struggled to live out their lives as joyfully and peacefully as possible.&nbsp; Most people know that human beings were not made for hatred and violence, but were made to love and be loved.&nbsp; We all know in our hearts that it is not permitted to kill or be killed. So too for political activists who choose to work for change through peaceful resistance, it is important to remember that peaceful resistance means we do not resist injustice with death, either our own, or others, but rather through respect of life. </p> <p>Building a culture of love and compassion is the culture of accepting the other and recognizing their right to dignity. I believe that if governments allowed people to grow up respecting human life, respecting women, and respecting all people from all religions and from all countries, it would then be difficult to send out soldiers to kill others. This would end the arms trade, armies and militarism. </p> <p>I hope that we can all work together to abolish armed forces, weapons research, manufacturing and trading of weapons. We can do this&nbsp; by building a culture of love, replacing a culture of violence and death.&nbsp; The great hope lies in the fact that human beings are continually evolving in their thinking, and we can replace military mindsets, with creative ways&nbsp; of conflict prevention, unarmed civilian peacekeeping, We are becoming more enlightened, and as we abolished slavery so too we can abolish armies and base our human security not on force, or threat of force, but&nbsp; on compassion, human rights and international law.&nbsp; At the heart of international law is the principle of good faith. Governments have a legal responsibility to uphold all international law and to do so in good faith.&nbsp;&nbsp; </p> <p>Many government not only refuse to meet their obligations under the international treaties which they have signed - such as the nuclear non-proliferation treaty, but they are allowing a glorification of militarism, and in all our cultures we see a creeping militarization of society.&nbsp; In the UK we are, through the media and many other ways, being conditioned to see armies and militarism as acceptable, and offering ‘good career’ choices, instead of the truth that they are training grounds to teach people how to kill other people - increasingly women and children in Pakistan and Afghanistan through the use of drones, and targeted assassinations. </p> <p>Within the military there is a great deal of violence against women, including rape and sexual violence, and it is to be hoped that women will challenge this culture of violence and militarism, and also call for the abolition of NATO, which armed with weapons of mass destruction, is a danger to civilians rather than their protector. </p> <p>However, I believe that more than anything ‘the world needs love’ particularly the young people in whom we can place our trust, and believe in them and in the goodness of men and women and their potential to be truly magnificent human beings.</p><p><em>Nobel Peace laureate, Mairead Maguire, will be atttending the Nobel Women's Initiative's fourth international conference <a href="http://nobelwomensinitiative.org/2013/05/announcing-moving-beyond-militarism-war-an-international-conference/?ref=18">Beyond Militarism and War: women driven solutions for a nonviolent world</a> in Belfast May 28-31. <a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/5050">openDemocracy 5050</a> will be reporting from the conference. <br /></em></p> <p><em>Read <a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/taxonomy/term/8432/all">more articles</a> on 50.50 from earlier Nobel Women's Initiative conferences </em></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>&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="/5050/scilla-elworthy/beyond-war-women-transforming-militarism-building-nonviolent-world">Beyond war: women transforming militarism, building a nonviolent world</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/diana-francis/building-global-peace-movement">Building a global peace movement</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/cynthia-cockburn/getting-to-peace-what-kind-of-movement">Getting to peace: what kind of movement?</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/shelley-anderson/vital-peace-constituencies">Vital peace constituencies</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/rebecca-johnson/occupy-movement-and-women-of-greenham-common">The Occupy movement and the women of Greenham Common </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/scilla-elworthy/is-it-time-for-worldwide-strategy-for-building-of-peace">Is it time for a worldwide strategy for the building of peace?</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/pam-bailey/citizen-diplomacy-balance-between-leading-and-following">Citizen diplomacy: a balance between leading and following</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/cora-weiss/we-must-not-make-war-safe-for-women">We must not make war safe for women</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/content/resist-reclaim-restore-militarism-no-more">Resist-Reclaim-Restore: Militarism No More </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/cynthia-cockburn/making-womens-opposition-visible-to-nato">Making women&#039;s opposition visible to NATO</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/cynthia-cockburn/what-kind-of-feminism-does-war-provoke">What kind of feminism does war provoke?</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/diana-francis/beyond-stalemate-replacing-vicious-with-virtuous-circle">Beyond stalemate: replacing the vicious with the virtuous circle </a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/diana-francis/strongest-power-of-all">The strongest power of all</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <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> 50.50 50.50 Civil society Conflict Culture politics of protest Nobel Women's Initiative 2013 Nobel Women's Initiative 10th anniversary 50.50 Women, Peace & Security Nobel Women's Initiative From War to Peace 50.50 Editor's Pick 50.50 newsletter Mairead Maguire Mon, 20 May 2013 09:12:39 +0000 Mairead Maguire 72781 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Anti-deportation campaigns: ‘What kind of country do you want this to be?’ https://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/jennifer-allsopp/anti-deportation-campaigns-%E2%80%98what-kind-of-country-do-you-want-this-to-be%E2%80%99 <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>A new musical, Glasgow Girls, showcases the power of anti-deportation campaigns as both an expression of human solidarity and an essential device for holding states to account. But their key role, argues Jennifer Allsopp, is to build support for an asylum system that upholds the rights of all.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p>As take my seat at the packed-out theatre in Stratford, I overhear a couple reading from the programme of <a href="http://stratfordeast.com/glasgow-girls-2">Glasgow Girls</a>, the performance we’re about to see: ‘the asylum system works on a one size fits all basis...the system is bad at hearing people’s individual stories.’ I’ve seen that, I think. But my heart is also slightly sinking. I’m wondering if we’re about to be subjected to two and a half hours of people singing the stories of refugees. <a href="http://iceandfire.co.uk/outreach/scripts/asylum-monologues">Asylum Monologues</a>, a play in which real life transcripts from people’s asylum interviews are performed on stage, is great. But this is a <em>musical</em>. There will be singing. And dancing. A friend once told me he saw an opera singer <a href="http://artasiapacific.com/Blog/HighlightsFromTheLiverpoolBiennial2012">belting out</a> excerpts from the UN Refugee Convention at the Liverpool Biennial arts festival. I’m not sure I could manage that tonight, I think.</p> <p>Suddenly my thoughts are interrupted. The lights dim and the show begins. We’re given a whistle-stop tour of the UK government’s policy of <a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/anna-dixie/double-standards-dispersal-and-pregnant-asylum-seekers-in-britain">dispersing</a> asylum seekers to undesirable accommodation across Britain and then we find ourselves in the Scottish city of Glasgow in spring 1999. Here we meet the show’s protagonists. They are Mr Girvan, a Scots language enthusiast and a group of girls from Chapel High School, the ‘toughest school in one of the toughest cities in Glasgow’. Some of the students have grown up in the city. Four others have been sent to live in the infamous <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Red_Road_Flats">high rise flats</a> with their families while their applications for asylum are considered. They include Agi, who fled Kosovo when her house was attacked by militia, and Roza, who sought sanctuary in the UK with her father to escape political violence in Baghdad. The girls’ narratives are textbook portraits of integration. We’re told that the school results improved once the asylum seeker students arrived and that ‘the street fights were a sign of integration’.</p><p> <span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/541754/rr_0.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title="Red Row flats, Glasgow. Photo: Stephen Sweeney"><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_large/wysiwyg_imageupload/541754/rr_0.jpg" alt="Red Row flats, Glasgow. Photo: Stephen Sweeney" title="Red Row flats, Glasgow. Photo: Stephen Sweeney" width="400" height="300" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_large" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Red Row flats, Glasgow. Photo: Stephen Sweeney</span></span></span></p><h3>Stepping into someone else’s shoes</h3> <p>The show’s first song paints a picture of Glasgow itself, a place where asylum seekers occasionally get ‘dog shit’ through their letter boxes but where people are ‘basically OK’. We’re given an insight into the social worlds of the asylum seeking students. They sing about chips and cheese, going out dancing, deep fried Mars bars and what they love most about Glasgow, that it’s ‘where my friends are’. ‘While their asylum claims were on-going’, we’re told, ‘the kids were getting on with their lives’. Fast-forward six years to 2005. ‘Here we are’, they proclaim, ‘ordinary girls in Glasgow’. </p> <p>The story of how these ‘ordinary girls in Glasgow’ become the ‘Glasgow Girls’ occupies the remainder of the musical. Based on a <a href="http://www.dailyrecord.co.uk/news/real-life/musical-pays-tribute-to-glasgow-girls-1375445">true story</a> adapted for the stage by David Greig, it tells the tale of how the girls joined forces with their teachers and neighbours to campaign against the <a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/kate-blagojevic/detention-and-human-rights-in-uk-maintaining-presumption-of-liberty">detention</a> and <a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/jerome-phelps/lonely-death-of-jimmy-mubenga">deportation</a> of their peers back to their countries of origin. Their experience campaigning for the rights of their friends leads them to establish a national campaign to end the detention and removal of families and children. </p> <p>Whilst the first half of the show demonstrates the power of local mobilisation through the suspension of Agi’s deportation and the girls’ nomination for a national campaigning award, the musical doesn’t sugar-coat the challenges that come with standing up against injustice. In the second half of the musical, a local family is deported back to Congo despite a huge campaign and the girls’ engagement with national politics ends on a tragic note when they realise that First Minister Jack McConnell’s promise to ‘listen’ is half-hearted. 'Jack, Jack, what's the clack?', they sing, 'all we see is the power you lack'. If this was a real musical, interjects Noreen, an wisened older activist, ‘Jack would talk to Tony Blair and sort it out…’. But ‘this isn’t a musical’, she reminds us, ‘this is politics’. And in politics, ‘what do you do when justice doesn’t pull through?’</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/541754/rrt.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title="‘Glasgow Girls’. Photo: Robert Day"><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_large/wysiwyg_imageupload/541754/rrt.jpg" alt="‘Glasgow Girls’. Photo: Robert Day" title="‘Glasgow Girls’. Photo: Robert Day" width="400" height="266" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_large" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>‘Glasgow Girls’. Photo: Robert Day</span></span></span></p><h3><span>Walking in our own shoes</span></h3> <p>The show’s meta-theatrical asides serve to continuously ground the story in reality and prevent it from becoming the rambunctious, cathartic exercise some audience members might expect (but fear not, this <em>is</em> a musical; there is bunting, sparkly costumes and spandex clothing throughout). Alongside its celebratory songs and glee the musical contains moments of heart-wrenching poignancy that will speak to anyone who has ever campaigned for a cause they hold dear. They include a dramatic tear-jerker about hiding friends from UK Border Agency <a href="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N1NXwTOnzp8">dawn raids</a>, (‘over my dead body’, sings Noreen) and scenes which juxtapose the indiscriminate power of border guards with the dignity of family life: Roza’s father, denied the <a href="http://www.asylumaid.org.uk/data/files/publications/81/2RighttoWork.pdf">right to work</a>, wears a suit at home, telling his daughter, ‘don’t you know what it takes not to scream?’. At another point in the show we find ourselves transported to an airport departure lounge, following a little boy, Olly, being marched past WHSmiths on his way to a plane. He shouts ‘Yes!’ as he catches a glimpse of a paper reporting that Celtic football team has won. The G4S guard finds that funny, and slightly baffling, we’re informed.</p> <p>These intimate moments, juxtaposed with a catchy, sing-along soundtrack and break-dancing border guards, are what give Glasgow Girls a unique power to reach out and touch its audience. What enabled me to identify with the girls personally wasn’t the show’s key tune with its core message, ‘together we are strong’, but a scene which opens with the girls drinking Iron-Bru energy drink and eating sweets for breakfast. They’ve been up all night writing letters, and there's something comic and adolescent about the whole scene. It reminded me of the nights I’ve spent with friends, sat drinking coffee or energy drinks at 4am, because as someone who became an <a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/blog/migrantvoice-on-refuge/jenny-allsopp/2008/06/17/creative-writing-at-campsfield">activist</a> as a student myself, I’ve been there, eating sweets for breakfast; writing letters in an effort to suspend time and stop its inexorable march towards the deportation of someone I hold dear. </p> <p><span><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/541754/ggg.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=" ‘Glasgow Girls’. Photo: Robert Day"><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_large/wysiwyg_imageupload/541754/ggg.jpg" alt=" ‘Glasgow Girls’. Photo: Robert Day" title=" ‘Glasgow Girls’. Photo: Robert Day" width="400" height="266" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_large" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'> ‘Glasgow Girls’. Photo: Robert Day</span></span></span></span></p><p><span>In the programme, David Greig tells us that ‘The Glasgow Girls campaign...shows us that by the simple principle of thinking how it feels to be in another person’s shoes, extraordinary things can be achieved’. When I read this I had another flashback, reminded of a T-shirt I once wore during </span><a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/tim-finch/reasons-to-be-cheerful-10-things-to-celebrate-during-refugee-week">Refugee Week</a><span> displaying a quote by author Ian McEwan: ‘imagining what it is like to be someone other than yourself is at the core of our humanity’. Yet I think that this question of empathy, whilst fundamental, only captures part of the kind of radical solidarity showcased in Glasgow Girls.</span></p> <p>What Glasgow Girls shows us is the stake we all have in the policies that affect asylum seekers: as friends, partners, teachers, neighbours, peers, but also as fellow humans. It’s not just about putting yourself in someone else’s shoes, but recognising the relationships which bind us with others, and recognising that we can all take action in our<em> own</em> shoes to respond to injustice for the good of all. In a political context saturated with <a href="http://www.levesoninquiry.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2012/03/Submission-by-Refugee-Council.pdf">stigma</a> against asylum seekers, Glasgow Girls show us that there are common principles around which we can come together: fairness, justice, dignity. It also reminds us that policies which criminalise and stigmatise asylum seekers, like detention and dawn raids, shame us all. In the words of one song, ‘what kind of country do you want this to be?’</p> <h3>The role of anti-deportation campaigns: towards comprehensive reform </h3> <p>It is important to recognise that, in spite of its force, the ‘one of us’ message which dominates Glasgow Girls also carries a range of assumptions which are not entirely unproblematic. Like most asylum advocacy, the show reifies the idea of the ‘good migrant’ and also raises questions about what role local communities should have in regulating access into and out of the national community. Because not all refused asylum seekers who have been treated unfairly by the system can rely on friends and neighbours to help fight their cause; not all can sing and dance, or bake, and not all of those who have been detained or forced into <a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/nancy-bonongwe/seeking-asylum-ending-destitution">destitution</a> by government policies are known to their community. Put more starkly still, some may simply not be deemed worth campaigning for. As one activist recently told me, ‘the guy was at serious risk of being sent back to torture, but the campaign took ages to get off the ground because, well, people thought he was a bit of an ass’. <strong></strong></p> <p>Anti-deportation campaigns are a crucial expression of human solidarity, and most importantly, an essential device for holding states to account. This is the key motive for the campaign against the deportation of Agi in Glasgow Girls: ‘she’s not safe’, one of the girls cries, ‘the government is wrong...we have to convince them!’ But of course the way in which anti-deportation campaigns hold states to account will always remain partial; in and of themselves, they cannot be a comprehensive framework for justice. Glasgow Girls is explicit in its recognition of this. The girls transition from campaigning to ‘save our neighbours’ to seeking to reform the political system to safeguard the rights of all. This is a familiar narrative, and an experience widely echoed in other social movements, such as the DREAMERs movement in the US. For the DREAMERs, anti-deportation campaigns, and the solidaristic bonds they represent, have proved to be a <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q_CTGkaWUko">core activity</a> in the quest for comprehensive immigration reform; they run anti-deportation campaigns to directly challenge the state, but also as a crucial tool to build solidarity for the wider dream. Policies which seek to dehumanise asylum seekers and distance them from the goodwill of residents, such as detention and dispersal, can, in some respects, be seen as an attempt to block the radical power of these ties.</p> <p>Through its dismantling of the ‘us’ and ‘them’ binaries which permeate the media portrayal of asylum seekers, Glasgow Girls is a cultural fight-back to populist television shows like <a href="http://sky1.sky.com/show/uk-border-force">UK Border Force</a>, and in this respect it’s remarkable. But it also sits snugly in the popular <em>bildungsroman</em> genre; it’s ultimately a ‘coming of age’ story, a tale of political becoming. I think that this is why I was able to identify so strongly with the musical, and why it’s had such <a href="http://www.timeout.com/london/theatre/glasgow-girls">great reviews</a> more broadly. Glasgow Girls helps us to imagine stepping into the shoes of others, challenges us to walk in our own and to take action in support of an asylum system that is fair, just, and worthy of us all. Now finished in London, I hope sincerely that the show gets a national tour.</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="/5050/nando-sigona/uk-migration-policy-we-need-to-talk-about-citizens">UK migration policy: we need to talk about citizens</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/elizabeth-kennedy/usa-dreaming-comprehensive-immigration-reform">USA: DREAMing comprehensive immigration reform</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/shinealight/jennifer-allsopp/migrant-hope-versus-political-distrust-in-uk">&#039;Migrant Hope&#039; versus political distrust in the UK</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/jennifer-allsopp/tribunal-12-migrants%E2%80%99-rights-abuses-in-europe">Tribunal 12: migrants’ rights abuses in Europe</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/anna-dixie/double-standards-dispersal-and-pregnant-asylum-seekers-in-britain">Double standards: dispersal and pregnant asylum seekers in Britain</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/nikandre-kopcke/maz%C3%AD-mas-%E2%80%9Cwith-us%E2%80%9D">Mazí Mas, “with us”</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/kate-blagojevic/detention-and-human-rights-in-uk-maintaining-presumption-of-liberty">Detention and human rights in the UK: maintaining the presumption of liberty</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/warsan-shire/conversations-about-home-at-deportation-centre">Conversations about home (at a deportation centre)</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/alasdair-stuart/double-jeopardy-lgbti-refugees-in-britain">Double jeopardy: LGBTI refugees in Britain</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/elizabeth-kennedy/through-hell-to-limbo-in-lorry">Through hell to limbo in a lorry </a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/agnes-woolley/outsourcing-responsibilities-australias-punitive-asylum-regime">Outsourcing responsibilities: Australia&#039;s punitive asylum regime </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/sophie-radice/women-seeking-asylum-in-uk-have-we-lost-our-sense-of-humanity">Women seeking asylum in the UK : have we lost our sense of humanity? </a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/jennifer-allsopp/migrationsreconstructing-britishness-in-art">Migrations:reconstructing &#039;Britishness&#039; in art</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"> Scotland </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-city"> <div class="field-label">City:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Glasgow </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> 50.50 50.50 Glasgow Scotland Civil society the small picture politics of protest people membership & movements Making Good Society justice? institutions & power how we vote voices from exile us & the world democracy & power europe 50.50 People on the Move 50.50 Editor's Pick 50.50 newsletter Jennifer Allsopp Mon, 25 Mar 2013 10:39:39 +0000 Jennifer Allsopp 71778 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Is Putin afraid of the Caucasus? https://www.opendemocracy.net/od-russia/daniil-kotsyubinsky/is-putin-afraid-of-caucasus <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/kadyrov putin.jpg" alt="" width="160" />Russian lawmakers have given preliminary approval to a law to allow governors to be appointed in the country’s 83 regions, reversing last year’s move to restore direct elections. As Daniil Kotsyubinsky reports, this issue is unimportant in itself, but it exposes the regime’s soft underbelly, unrest in the Caucasus.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p>So, there are to be no direct elections of governors, or at least not in the Northern Caucasus. Without waiting for the Russian parliament to pass the law giving regions the right to decide whether to have their regional chiefs elected or appointed, the heads of Adygea, Dagestan, Ingushetia, Kababrdino-Balkariya, Karachayevo-Cherkessia, north Ossetia and Chechnya &mdash; masters of political synchronised swimming &mdash; have collectively asked the government of the Russian Federation (RF) to spare them the dangers that might accompany the direct expression of the public will.</p> <h2><strong>A reform that backfired</strong></h2> <p>Vladimir Putin introduced Russia&rsquo;s crooked gubernatorial appointment system in 2004. Until then regional heads were directly elected, except in Dagestan where the governor was appointed by the local parliament. But after the terrorist attack on the school in Beslan (in north Ossetia) in September 2004, Putin suddenly came out against the election of regional chiefs, proposing instead that they be effectively appointed by the president, i.e. himself. Formally, three candidates&rsquo; names would be put before regional parliaments for approval. Given the absolute domination of the president&rsquo;s United Russia party in all these bodies, the results of these &lsquo;elections&rsquo; would clearly be a foregone conclusion.</p> <p>However, the pros of this impulsive reform turned out to be outweighed by its cons. In the first place, the obviously spurious implied connection between elected governors and Chechen separatists in Beslan only strengthened public suspicion that the seizure of the school might have been secretly initiated by the Russian security services. </p> <blockquote><p><strong><em>Putin destroyed any remaining illusions the public had about being able to influence government, even if only at a local level, and handed the opposition a new and highly popular rallying cry: &lsquo;Bring back governors&rsquo; elections&rsquo;. </em></strong></p></blockquote> <p>In the second, by abolishing gubernatorial elections, Putin dismantled a system that created a political buffer between himself and the voters. Elected governors served the useful purpose of deflecting the flak for any problems or failures away from the Kremlin &ndash; now that option had disappeared. </p> <p>Lastly, Putin destroyed any remaining illusions the public had about being able to influence government, even if only at a local level, and handed the opposition a new and highly popular rallying cry: &lsquo;Bring back governors&rsquo; elections&rsquo;. And the opposition, which until then had been unsure about what reforms to demand of the Kremlin, seized it with gratitude and made it one of its key slogans.&nbsp;&nbsp; </p> <p>As a result, when in the autumn of 2011 the political situation in Russia suddenly began to deteriorate sharply and fearful government officials even began to pronounce the words &lsquo;political reform&rsquo;, first PM Putin and then President Medvedev spoke out in favour of reintroducing gubernatorial elections. On Medvedev&rsquo;s initiative the law was duly changed. The first elections, for those regional heads whose terms of office ran out between June and December 2012, were scheduled for autumn 2012. They took place without any hitches &ndash; or indeed any unpleasant surprises for Vladimir Putin.&nbsp;&nbsp; </p> <p>Not that any were likely! The Kremlin, after all, controls everything in Russia: money, abuse of police power, laws, local election committees, the judges, the elites, the TV channels&hellip;in other words, the regime has everything it needs to extend its rule <em>ad infinitum</em>. Or more precisely, until the moment when god finally decides to punish this arrogant power vertical by removing the last vestiges of political sense from its collective head, grown dizzy with its own success. It isn&rsquo;t yet clear when this will happen, but there is a growing feeling that it will be soon. Putin and all his initiatives are becoming increasing odious and unpopular among wide circles of opinion &ndash; musicians, writers, actors, directors, journalists, popular bloggers etc. &ndash; who for long years maintained a political neutrality but have now roused themselves into civic engagement. To give an example, the celebrated musician Yuri Bashmet has been universally ostracised for his implicit support for the recent Dima Yakovlev Law, which among other things bans the adoption of Russian children by US citizens.&nbsp; </p> <h2><strong>How much longer will the regime last?</strong></h2> <p>The current situation in Russia is beginning to resemble the years 1915-6, when the Tsarist government suddenly found itself the object of universal hatred and it seemed that it would only take one serious spark of revolution for all the Grand Dukes, generals and ministers to let go of power and leave the Tsar to his fate. Although of course the roots of that revolution didn&rsquo;t lie in &lsquo;the odd mistake&rsquo; made by the government, but events stretching back over many years. </p> <p class="pullquote-right">&lsquo;<strong>The current situation in Russia is beginning to resemble the years 1915-6, when the Tsarist government suddenly found itself the object of universal hatred and it seemed that it would only take one serious spark of revolution to leave the Tsar to his fate&rsquo;</strong></p> <p>There are also objective and fundamental reasons for the moral and political decline of the Putin regime, the most significant of which is the public&rsquo;s weariness&nbsp; with the long years of economic and political stagnation which have not given them the stability and prosperity they were promised. Another important factor is Putin&rsquo;s increasingly obvious physical aging, magnified by the lack of a constitutional (rather than emergency) procedure for a handover from one ruler to another. Everyone, both those close to power and the public at large, is becoming increasingly neurotic about this state of affairs. Sooner or later, we shall see an inevitable split in the Kremlin ranks, followed by the fateful &lsquo;spark of revolution&rsquo;&hellip;with Putin looking less and less immortal, it is only a matter of time before someone in his inner circle will risk gambling on a drop in his political stock, to avoid going down with the presidential Titanic.&nbsp; Putin&rsquo;s autocracy, in other words, is being eroded from within, and the question of how regional governors are selected is neither here nor there.</p> <p>While the Dragon is still strong, he will make short work of any election campaigns, whether direct or indirect, as is clear from not only the last parliamentary and presidential elections, but also the direct gubernatorial elections that took place in five Russian regions last autumn. Unsurprisingly, these passed off in just as orderly a fashion as the previous indirect ones, with the sitting candidates duly re-elected. </p> <p>What&rsquo;s more, should, heaven forbid (as has been known in some mayoral elections), the election winner be not the ruling party candidate, but some local Robin Hood or William Tell, he or she will be forced to fit into the existing power vertical. It is unthinkable for someone to successfully govern a region while at the same time voicing any disagreement with the Kremlin. The overwhelming majority of Russia&rsquo;s regions are reliant on central government hand-outs for their survival, and any official at any level can at any time be sacrificed to the latest ritual war on corruption &mdash; everyone knows this, and knows to watch their step. </p> <p>How the pyramid of power is constructed &ndash; directly or indirectly &ndash; is totally unimportant. What is important is for a prince to have received from the hands of the Great Khan a letter patent entitling him to &lsquo;govern, raise taxes and collect tribute&rsquo;. If you have, then get on with it. Otherwise, join the Yuri Luzhkov Club for Retired Heavyweights.&nbsp;&nbsp; </p> <p>But if that&rsquo;s the case, why did the Kremlin then make another U-turn and revert to an appointment system for governors (whether total or partial is still not clear)? Boris Nemtsov, leader of the opposition <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/People%27s_Freedom_Party_%22For_Russia_without_Lawlessness_and_Corruption%22">Parnas Party</a>, <a href="http://echo.msk.ru/blog/nemtsov_boris/997142-echo/">blogged</a> on the &lsquo;Moscow Echo&rsquo; radio station website: &lsquo;Gubernatorial elections, which they had apparently just reinstated, were already emasculated by all kinds of municipal filters and innumerable ways of disqualifying &lsquo;unsuitable&rsquo; candidates. Yet they are still being abolished. I predict that they will try to abolish any elections where there is even the slightest threat of their power being challenged.&rsquo; </p><p class="image-caption"><img src="http://www.opendemocracy.net/files/bolotnaya.jpg" alt="" width="460" />Bolotnaya Square's revolutionaries were unable to advance truly influential ideas. The one so-called reform, on governors elections, will ultimately be refashioned in the interests of the regime. Photo: (cc) Flickr/mpeake</p> <p>So, the Russian opposition is such a threat to the regime that even in its emasculated state it has enough political potential to have the Kremlin running scared? Alas, no. Sadly for Nemtsov and other professional opponents of the regime, direct gubernatorial elections as such present no danger whatsoever to either Putin or his electoral system. The clearest proof of this is that the opposition leader&rsquo;s contention has been echoed by a United Russia member of the country&rsquo;s upper chamber, Senator Vadim Tyulpanov, who has declared that &lsquo;the idea of abolishing the election of governors even in part of Russia could lead to the downfall of our country&rsquo;, and that it was &lsquo;a great pity&rsquo; that Parliament had taken such a decision.&nbsp; </p> <h2><strong>A Theatre of the Absurd?</strong></h2> <p>So what is this Theatre of the Absurd, where Tyulpanov appears as Putin&rsquo;s antagonist and Nemtsov dramatically brandishes castrated revolutionary marionettes about? In fact there is nothing absurd at all. Or rather, the absurdity began last winter. At the very height of the street protests, the opposition missed the opportunity of demanding radical change (i.e. Putin&rsquo;s resignation and a full scale programme of political reform). Instead, all they could come up with was the nonsensical &lsquo;Churov Out!&rsquo; (a reference to the Chair of Russia&rsquo;s Central Election Commission and Eminence grise behind election fraud) and a cry for new elections without any change of government or its regime. Among other patently dead horses being flogged was the idea of a return to the direct election of governors. And the Kremlin, terrified by the hell that was breaking loose outside its gates, quaked. And it promised to deliver. </p> <p class="pullquote-right">&lsquo;<strong><em>The new law&rsquo;s chief purpose is not to &lsquo;keep Nemtsov and Co. away from power&rsquo; (there is no risk of that anyway). The message is clear: the boss is back in town and any Kremlin wavering and worrying in December 2011 is history.&rsquo;</em></strong></p> <p>What&rsquo;s more, the promise was kept! After which it resolved to dot all the &lsquo;i&rsquo;s, in case any doubt remained about the outcome of the previous political year. Then the new law was tabled. Its chief purpose is not to &lsquo;keep Nemtsov and Co. away from power&rsquo; (there is no risk of that anyway), but simply to demonstratively draw a line under the phantom trials and tribulations of the opposition and its sympathisers among the public, all of it precipitated by the fuss around Putin and Medvedev&rsquo;s announcement of their <a href="http://articles.washingtonpost.com/2011-09-24/world/35275901_1_dmitry-oreshkin-prime-minister-vladimir-putin-president-dmitry-medvedev">job swap</a> in September 2011. The message was clear: the boss was back in town and any Kremlin wavering and worrying in December 2011 was history. This is the reason for the opposition&rsquo;s present hopeless and needless anger as Putin dismisses them now as &lsquo;disqualified for total debility&rsquo;.&nbsp; </p> <p>Of course the Kremlin&rsquo;s rationale is not only an ethico-political one; an indirect form of election of governors is both simpler and cheaper. There is never going to be any problem about lining up a few dozen regional MPs to vote the right way. Sorting out the media, the police and all the local election committees before a direct election is a much bigger hassle, although all these issues are of secondary importance to the Kremlin. And the fact that Tyulpanov was joining with Nemtsov in criticism of Putin probably only means that the Kremlin hasn&rsquo;t yet made up its mind whether to reimpose the old indirect system everywhere or to invent a new game of &lsquo;letting a hundred flowers of regional freedom bloom&rsquo;. In which case of course the regime&rsquo;s PR stress will be on the complete freedom of self development enjoyed by Russia&rsquo;s regions and any suggestions to the contrary come from the mendacious corridors of the US State Department. </p> <h2><strong>The real truth behind the law</strong></h2> <p>But this whole story nevertheless contains a &lsquo;moment of truth&rsquo; which allows us to see which haystack hides the needle of Putin&rsquo;s downfall. It is obviously not Bolotnaya Square, synonymous with last year&rsquo;s protest rallies. It is not Moscow at all. It is the Caucasus. That is the area where Moscow will not even pretend to hold a dialogue with the public. That is the area where the President&rsquo;s men on the ground are starting to sound nervous. In December 2012 Aleksey Machnev, the speaker of North Ossetia&rsquo;s parliament, told Putin that direct gubernatorial elections would lead to &lsquo;an increase in social and political tension, a deterioration in the socio-economic situation, and escalation of inter-regional discord and a threat to security in the area&rsquo;. And on the eve of the national parliamentary debate on the new Bill the President of Ingushetia Yunus-Bek Yevkurov made an almost monarchist appeal in support of the appointment system: &lsquo;The President&rsquo;s administration will never appoint some good-for-nothing who won&rsquo;t be up to the job. What would be the point of that?&rsquo; In the heat of the moment, Yevkurov seems to have forgotten that formally it is still local MPs who elect regional governors, and the President merely &lsquo;nominates three candidates&rsquo;. </p><p class="image-caption"><img src="http://www.opendemocracy.net/files/North_Caucasus_regions_map.png" alt="" width="460" />Are the Northern Caucasus Putin's nemesis? Photo: (cc) Wikimedia/Peter Fitzgerald</p> <p>It is clear in any case that the vote after the Bill&rsquo;s first reading has ended the &lsquo;Moscow&rsquo; stage of the anti-Putin revolt, and has effectively announced the beginning of a new stage in which we may assume that the revolutionary flame that has gone out in Bolotnaya Square will flare up in the Caucasus - where, of course, it has never been completely quenched.&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;</p><p>&nbsp;</p><p>&nbsp;</p><p>Thumbnail: (cc) Polit.ru &nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&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="/od-russia/alexander-cherkasov/government-%E2%80%94-main-source-of-instability-in-northern-caucasus">Government — the main source of instability in the northern Caucasus</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/od-russia/sergei-markedonov/strategy-for-north-caucasus-don%E2%80%99t-mention-politics-or-religion">A strategy for North Caucasus: don’t mention politics or religion!</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/od-russia/mikhail-loginov/karachay-cherkessiya-how-caucasus-is-feeding-itself">Real life: how the Caucasus is feeding itself</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/od-russia/daniil-kotsyubinsky/russias-2013-macbeth-or-comedy-of-errors">Russia&#039;s 2013: Macbeth, or the Comedy of Errors? </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"> Russia </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> oD Russia oD Russia Russia Democracy and government politics of protest institutions & government democracy & power russia North Caucasus Daniil Kotsyubinsky Politics Mon, 04 Feb 2013 18:22:37 +0000 Daniil Kotsyubinsky 70748 at https://www.opendemocracy.net