Iraq https://www.opendemocracy.net/taxonomy/term/6505/all en In the aftermath of Mosul: a secure homeland for Iraq’s minorities? https://www.opendemocracy.net/arab-awakening/tyler-fisher-kamal-kolo/in-aftermath-of-mosul-secure-homeland-for-iraq-s-minorities <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>The liberation of Mosul offers the international community a unique opportunity to permit the region’s most vulnerable minorities to exercise self-preservation and self-determination.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/562712/Prayer_cloths_on_Mount_Arafat_in_the_Yezidi_holy_site_of_Lalish,_Kurdistan_Region_1.jpeg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/562712/Prayer_cloths_on_Mount_Arafat_in_the_Yezidi_holy_site_of_Lalish,_Kurdistan_Region_1.jpeg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="306" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Prayer cloths on Mount Arafat in the Yezidi holy site of Lalish, Kurdistan Region. Picture by Levi Clancy. Creative Commons BY-SA 4.0.</span></span></span>The imminent liberation of Mosul offers the international community a unique opportunity. It is an opportunity to take concrete, concerted legal action: to permit the region’s most vulnerable minorities to exercise self-preservation and self-determination by forming an autonomous, pluralistic province in the area known as the Nineveh Plains, their historic homeland in the northwest reaches of Mesopotamia. </p><p>Such a territorial initiative would, of course, be fraught with dangers and disadvantages, which any viable plan must take into consideration. It must not be a unilateral effort, especially by the United States, or perceived to be such. This must not be another American interventionist, nation-building exercise.</p> <p>Earlier this year, the European Parliament, the Council of Europe, the British Parliament, and the United States Congress all formally recognized that the Islamic State (ISIS) has waged an ongoing campaign of genocide against Christians, Yezidis, and other ethnic minorities in Iraq and Syria. This resounding international designation of Islamic State’s atrocities as genocide is momentous. Under the terms of the United Nations’ Genocide Convention of 1948, states must ‘undertake to prevent and to punish’ genocide. Prevention of genocide can take real, substantial form in the creation of a protected province in the Nineveh Plains, even if that province is federated and remains dependent on Baghdad to some degree.</p> <p class="mag-quote-left">Too often, international interventions in Iraq during the last two decades have lacked clear and consistent strategies for the aftermath of military campaigns.</p><p>Too often, international interventions in Iraq during the last two decades have lacked clear and consistent strategies for the aftermath of military campaigns and even for the aftermath of humanitarian efforts: what should be done after a dictator is overthrown, or when a hotbed of extremism is reoccupied? How long can millions of refugees subsist in makeshift camps?</p> <p>Liberating Mosul and the Nineveh Plains from the Islamic State’s control affords a crucial window of time and territory in which to be proactive instead of merely reactive. One proactive proposal that is gaining some traction among the coalition powers, both inside and outside of Iraq, is a plan to create an autonomous, democratic, pluralistic province for Iraq’s Christians, Yezidis, and other minorities, within the region that Islamic State has occupied with their self-declared caliphate since the summer of 2014. For Iraq’s Christian and Yezidi minorities, in particular, this proposal might prove to be the one measure that can still spare them from extinction in their ancestral homeland. They are under existential threat. As matters stand, they could easily go the way of Iraq’s Jewish population, which was utterly wiped out by ethnic cleansing, exile, and emigration between the 1950s and 1970s —the end of a community that had lived continuously in Mesopotamia for at least 2,500 years.</p> <p>&nbsp;<strong>Restoring the </strong><strong>m</strong><strong>osaic</strong></p> <p>The Nineveh Plains have historically been a fragile mosaic of ethnicities: Assyrian Christians, Chaldean Christians, Syriac Orthodox Christians, Yezidis, Babawat, Kaka’i, Shabak, Sufi, Shi’a and Sunni Muslim tribes. The Islamic State did their best to obliterate this mosaic. Now is the time to frame what is left of that mosaic within secure borders where it can recover some of its former rich and vivid colours. The formation of a secure, self-governing homeland for the ethno-religious minorities of northern Mesopotamia would stand in stark contrast to Islamic State’s monolithic reign and fanatical, autocratic ideology.</p> <p>The territorial initiative would grant an opportunity to repatriate many of the nearly two million refugees who have fled to the relative safe haven of the Kurdistan region in northern Iraq. Even now, members of vulnerable minorities from the Nineveh Plains continue to flee to Kurdistan, Turkey, Syria, and neighbouring regions, but these neighbours cannot support them indefinitely. A perpetual diaspora need not be accepted as inevitable.</p> <p class="mag-quote-right">The Nineveh Plains have historically been a fragile mosaic of ethnicities.</p><p>It would constitute a new narrative for the region, countering head-on the caliphate’s genocidal narrative of population control and territorial expansion. This would blunt much of Islamic State’s appeal as a strong, geographically expanding enclave for extremists. Beyond neutralizing a central tenet of Islamic State’s apocalyptic message, it would represent a decisive reversal of Islamic State’s violent depredations. The contrast could not be clearer between a repressive caliphate and vigorous pluralism.</p> <p>Ancient Christian communities have endured in this often inhospitable region since the first century CE. There is an apocryphal story of an American soldier who was surprised to see a church in a village of northern Iraq. “When did you people convert to Christianity?” he asked the villagers. “About 2000 years ago,” was their reply. Indeed, the Nineveh Plains are home to the tombs of patriarchs, prophets, and apostles, as well as other sites of biblical significance. Alongside these, the land is dotted with important shrines for Yezidi pilgrimage. The Islamic State has systematically destroyed museums and monuments. We must preserve what is left of the cultural and archaeological heritage in this region of Mesopotamia that is so fundamental for the broader history of civilization.</p> <p><strong>Obstacles and </strong><strong>n</strong><strong>ecessary </strong><strong>p</strong><strong>roviso</strong><strong>n</strong><strong>s</strong></p> <p>International peace-keeping forces will be indispensable. The Nineveh Plains are rich in natural resources, with vast oil and gas reserves that are largely untapped. Control of these resources is likely to be strongly contested. In the same vein, the international community must also recognize and preempt the potential for further sectarian conflict in the area. At present, various factions, visibly represented by local militias, are united in cooperation against a common foe, but, historically, their relations have not always been so harmonious.</p> <p>Likewise, the international community must recognize and preempt the potential for such a territorial entity to become a prime target for radical Islamists. The Islamic State might be in retreat at the moment, but it leaves a void that other extremists will almost certainly strive to fill.</p> <p>Finally, the political relationship between this hypothetical province and Baghdad would require careful, clear articulation from the beginning — whether it is to be a semi-autonomous province within a federated Iraq, or an independent state.</p> <p>Among the global powers, there may well be little appetite for further subdividing Iraqi territory, but doing nothing in the aftermath of the Islamic State will surely result in continued carving-up of the region. Clear policies and definitive action can prevent further atrocities. Mesopotamia has long been known as the “cradle of civilization”. The international community must prevent it from continuing to be a cradle for regional genocide and international terrorism.</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="/arab-awakening/shivan-fazil-sabr/mosul-looming-battle-has-begun">Mosul: the looming battle has begun</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/paul-rogers/mosul-and-aleppo-reshaping-war">Mosul and Aleppo, a reshaping war</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/paul-rogers/mosul-next-target">Mosul, the next target</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Iraq </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-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> Arab Awakening Arab Awakening Iraq You tell us Kamal Kolo Tyler Fisher Mon, 05 Dec 2016 14:06:37 +0000 Tyler Fisher and Kamal Kolo 107399 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Hidden Warfare 3: Special forces https://www.opendemocracy.net/digitaliberties/richard-norton-taylor/hidden-warfare-3-special-forces <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>While Britain’s conventional army is being slashed, Britain’s special forces are benefiting from special treatment. Their budget was doubled in last year’s Strategic Defence and Security Review.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/5431662708_f5d391ceca_z.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/5431662708_f5d391ceca_z.jpg" alt="lead " title="" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" width="460" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>US army training centre near Mosul, 2011. Wikicommons/ DVIDSHUB. Some rights reserved.</span></span></span>The SAS are the only British soldiers engaged actively in military conflict. They are deployed in Iraq, in Syria, and in Libya where they conducted their very first operations 75 years ago. They are helping Kurdish fighters target Isis positions <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/world/2016/oct/23/mosul-offensive-turkish-and-kurdish-forces-launch-attacks-on-isis">in the attack on Mosul</a>.</p> <p>While Britain’s conventional army is being slashed, Britain’s special forces are benefiting from special treatment. Their budget was doubled in last year’s Strategic Defence and Security Review (SDSR).</p> <p>They will be able to spend more than £2bn over the next ten years on new, sophisticated, equipment. They are already testing high altitude surveillance drones that can patrol for weeks on end to spy on targets far below. The new drone, called Zephyr 8, can fly so high and for so long that military commanders are calling it a ‘pseudo satellite’.</p> <h2><strong>Killing machine</strong></h2> <p>Former SAS soldiers have admitted to taking part in an ‘industrial-scale counterterrorist killing machine’ in Iraq. An SAS soldier, Ben Griffin, was served with a court order banning him from making further disclosures after revealing how British special forces handed over terror suspects to US troops in Iraq who were subsequently tortured. It was recently reported in the Sunday Times that British special forces operating in Iraq have been issued with a ‘kill or capture list’ with the names of 200 British terrorists fighting with Isis.</p> <p>Yet the activities of Britain’s special forces are covered by a blanket of official secrecy thicker even than those applied to MI5, MI6, and GCHQ. When Stella Rimington, the former head of MI5 published her memoirs, special commanders were the most damning in their criticism, decrying an initiative which they said undermined their attempts to prevent former SAS soldiers from writing their memoirs. Even the D Notice Committee, a cosy unit that operates a system of voluntary self-censorship in cooperation with the media, has failed to persuade special forces commanders from lifting the official blanket ban on revealing their activities.</p> <h2><strong>Out of the public eye</strong></h2> <p>Special forces – of the US and France as well as the UK – are taking on an ever more important role on the ground because they are potentially more effective in counter terrorist operations and because their activities can be more easily hidden from public view. After the fiascos of Iraq and Afghanistan, where British troops were killed and maimed in bloody operations the government could not disguise, it was clear public and political opinion were strongly opposed to any future deployment of hundreds of conventional British troops in counter-terror operations.</p> <p>Strikes by aircraft and drones were one thing; boots on the ground quite another. But it became clear that some boots on the ground were needed, especially to train and mentor indigenous forces and militia opposing insurgent and terrorist groups in Iraq, Syria, and Libya.</p> <p>The Ministry of Defence said that the extra money earmarked for the special forces announced in the 2015 SDSR would be spent on upgrading fixed wing aircraft helicopters, armoured vehicles, and communications equipment. The investment, it said, would ‘enhance their ability to operate and strike globally in the most hostile environments on their own or with our closest allies, and in particular to enhance their counter-terrorism capabilities’.</p> <p>The UK’s special forces would continue to be made up of a single 'Sabre' squadron from so-called ‘tier 1’ units – 22 Special Air Service (SAS) and the Special Boat Service (SBS) – with support from ‘tier2’ units – the Special Reconnaissance Regiment, Special Forces Support Group (SFSG), and 18 Signals Regiment. They total more than 2,000 men.</p> <h2><strong>Iraq, Libya, Afghanistan, </strong><strong>Guantánamo Bay</strong><strong>?</strong></h2> <p>The presence of British special forces in Libya was leaked in March this year, bizarrely, as a result of a briefing by Jordan’s <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/world/2016/mar/25/sas-deployed-libya-start-year-leaked-memo-king-abdullah">King Abdullah to the US Congress</a>.</p> <p>The MoD came out with its pet rehearsed response that it did not comment on special forces operations. David Cameron, then prime minister, told MPs that the government had a ‘longstanding policy’ of not commenting on special forces. He told the Commons: ‘The work that our special forces do is vital for our country. Like everyone in this country, they are subject to international law, but I do not propose to change the arrangements under which these incredibly brave men work.’ That blanket ban remains – officially.</p> <p>In practice, the ban is honoured more in the breach than in the observance. MoD officials do not deny special forces’ activities when questioned by trusted defence correspondents, especially if the operation in question had been ‘a success’.</p> <p>The Mod’s ‘no comment’ did not prevent the Sunday Times from quoting a ‘senior defence source’ <a href="http://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/sas-in-iraq-gets-kill-list-of-british-jihadis-p9l9s6vr7">saying</a>: ‘A kill list has been drawn up containing the names of hundreds of very bad people. A lot of them are from the UK. The hunt is now on for British Islamists who have effectively gone off-grid.’ The source was quoted as continuing: ‘This is a multinational special forces operation. The SAS have their own part of the plan and they will be going after British nationals. This is a kill or capture mission and it has already begun.’</p> <p>Richard Williams, a former SAS commander, told ITV’s Exposure programme last year about how UK special forces, conducted, from a bunker called ‘the Death Star’ conducted up to four operations a night. Special forces were described as systematically eliminating a ‘kill list’ of ‘high-value’ targets – a tactic reminiscent of CIA drone attacks.</p> <p>Before he was served with a court order, requested by the MoD, preventing him from making further disclosures, Ben Griffin revealed that individuals detained by SAS troops in a joint UK-US special forces taskforce had ended up in interrogation centres in Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as Guantánamo Bay. Though he had not witnessed torture himself, <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/uk/2008/feb/29/military.law">he said</a>: ‘I have no doubt in my mind that non-combatants I personally detained were handed over to the Americans and subsequently tortured.’ </p> <p>The MoD is understood to have paid out tens of thousands of pounds in compensation to Iraqi policemen allegedly abused by SAS soldiers. The MoD confirmed it had been dealing with claims for compensation <a href="http://www.thesundaytimes.co.uk/sto/news/uk_news/Defence/article1347504.ece">but added</a>: ‘the details are confidential’.</p> <h2><strong>Significant operations</strong></h2> <p>As Britain’s special forces taken on an increasingly important role, in operations in which the country’s counter-intelligence and intelligence agencies will also play a significant part, they must be subjected to proper scrutiny. More and more, future conflicts will be fought by special forces in the ground, drones in the air, and cyber attacks in space.</p> <p>Their activities cannot simply be disclosed by media leaks to which the MoD responds with ‘no comment’. MPs must demand more transparency from ministers. Those on the Commons defence committee should take the lead in insisting on greater disclosure on what are now significant operations, not merely exotic escapades by very ‘special’ troops.</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="/digitaliberties/richard-norton-taylor/hidden-warfare-1-cyber"> Hidden Warfare 1. Cyber</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/digitaliberties/richard-norton-taylor/hidden-warfare-2-drones">Hidden Warfare 2: Drones</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"> UK </div> <div class="field-item even"> Iraq </div> <div class="field-item odd"> Syria </div> <div class="field-item even"> Libya </div> <div class="field-item odd"> Afghanistan </div> <div class="field-item even"> United States </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> digitaLiberties digitaLiberties United States Afghanistan Libya Syria Iraq UK Richard Norton-Taylor Fri, 02 Dec 2016 15:11:56 +0000 Richard Norton-Taylor 107341 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Turkey’s Syrian and Iraqi adventures: the underlying message https://www.opendemocracy.net/arab-awakening/emre-caliskan-simon-waldman/turkey-s-syrian-and-iraqi-adventures-underlying-message <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Turkey is sending a message that its armed forces are still a strong and capable fighting force, despite large-scale purges of officers of the highest ranks.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/562712/Anti-Coup_Demokrasi_Nöbeti_Kızılay_Square.jpeg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/562712/Anti-Coup_Demokrasi_Nöbeti_Kızılay_Square.jpeg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="305" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Picture by Pivox. CC BY-SA 4.0 via Wikimedia Commons</span></span></span>Turkey, it appears, is itching for a fight in Iraq and Syria. Its August incursion into Syria, through the ongoing Operation&nbsp;Euphrates Shield,&nbsp;was no doubt an important turning point. No longer an active bystander to the conflict in Syria, Turkey became an actual participant in the civil war that has been waging for over five years. </p><p>There was a time when opinion polls showed that&nbsp;the military was the most trusted organization in the country,&nbsp;<span><a href="http://www.hurriyetdailynews.com/trust-in-army-declining-but-secular-islamist-rift-deepening.aspx?pageID=238&amp;nID=21609&amp;NewsCatID=338">with 89 per cent of the population holding such views. However, this declined to 66 per cent by 2011</a></span>&nbsp;after the military was hit by the Ergenekon and Balyoz arrests, trials and convictions which alleged coup plotting within the military’s top brass. According to a&nbsp;<span><a href="http://www.gazetevatan.com/darbe-sonrasi-turkiye-en-cok-polise-guveniyor-976165-gundem/">recent&nbsp;survey</a></span>,&nbsp;over the past six months trust in the army has continued to fall. This lack of faith and disappointment for the military has no doubt taken another plunge after the failed coup attempt of 15 July.&nbsp;</p> <p class="mag-quote-left">There was a time when opinion polls showed that&nbsp;the military was the most trusted organization in the country.</p><p><span><a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2016/08/25/world/middleeast/turkey-syria-isis.html?hp&amp;action=click&amp;pgtype=Homepage&amp;clickSource=story-heading&amp;module=first-column-region&amp;region=top-news&amp;WT.nav=top-news">Turkey’s attack is</a><a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2016/08/25/world/middleeast/turkey-syria-isis.html?hp&amp;action=click&amp;pgtype=Homepage&amp;clickSource=story-heading&amp;module=first-column-region&amp;region=top-news&amp;WT.nav=top-news"> two pronged</a></span>. It seeks to prevent the forces of the so called Islamic State from reaching Jarablus by the Turkish border, while also preventing the armies of the PYG, which it considers an offshoot of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) and deems a terrorist organisation from obtaining a contiguous foothold in the north of Syria. Since then, Turkish backed Syrian rebels captured over 1,600 square kilometers of Syrian territory west of the Euphrates river, taking territory held by both the Islamic State and the Kurdish dominated Syrian Defence Forces (SDF). Meanwhile, in Iraq, Turkey is itching to be part of the fight to liberate Mosul.&nbsp;&nbsp;</p> <p>Turkey is sending a message that its armed forces are still a strong and capable fighting force, despite large-scale purges of officers of the highest ranks. </p><p>In the aftermath of the 15 July attempted coup, Turkey dismissed over 1,500 military personnel, which constitute&nbsp;<span><a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2016/07/29/world/europe/turkey-military-coup.html">almost 50 per</a><a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2016/07/29/world/europe/turkey-military-coup.html">cent of top officers</a></span>. In fact, as&nbsp;<span><a href="http://www.al-monitor.com/pulse/originals/2016/11/turkey-army-advertising-for-special-forces-personnel.html">Metin Gurcan notes in Al-Monitor</a></span>, the Turkish government has been advertising in newspapers to fill 25,000 vacancies within the armed forces. Under such astonishing circumstances there was the risk that Turkey’s enemies would consider Turkey’s military vulnerable and unprepared, having lost its morale, confidence and ability to fight. </p><p class="mag-quote-left">Ankara needed to do something drastic in order to restore its deterrence</p><p>The breakdown of the ceasefire with the PKK last year led to a steep upsurge of violence in the southeast of the country. Since the summer of 2015 the conflict between the PKK and the Turkish state intensified to reach levels that had not been seen in well over a decade. The day-to-day lives of ordinary Kurds in the southeast of Turkey became unbearable, so much so that residents in some towns, cities and provinces began digging ditches and barricades. As a result, the security services would fire upon PKK targets from long distances causing civilian death and collateral damage. According to a March 2016 report by the International Crisis Group, violence in the southeast led to the displacement of 355,000 civilians with over 250 non combatants killed. These numbers are excluding the October 2015 Ankara bombings which struck a rally organized by the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) killing 103 civilians ahead of the general elections. It also excludes the twin blasts in Diyarbakir which claimed 4 lives, also just ahead of the elections. The violence has yet to abate. </p><p class="mag-quote-right">The breakdown of the ceasefire with the PKK last year led to a steep upsurge of violence in the southeast of the country.</p><p>It is in this context that Turkey’s principle enemies, the PKK and the so called Islamic state, launched major and audacious attacks on Turkish soil in 2016. On 24 August,&nbsp;<span><a href="http://www.hurriyetdailynews.com/five-soldiers-killed-in-pkk-attacks-in-turkey.aspx?pageID=238&amp;nID=103179&amp;NewsCatID=341">the PKK killed six soldiers in two attacks</a></span>&nbsp;in the Kurdish populated Southeast using bombs, long range weapons and rocket launchers. This came after the PKK, on the 17 and 18 of August, bombed police stations and police vehicles in&nbsp;<span><a href="http://www.reuters.com/article/us-turkey-security-blast-idUSKCN10T0LA">a spate of stacks</a></span>&nbsp;also in the Southeast of the country killing 10 and wounding hundreds. </p> <p>Meanwhile, the so called Islamic State sent a suicide bomber to the Turkish border city of Gaziantep. In a horrific attack at a wedding party, it&nbsp;<span><a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2016/08/22/world/europe/turkey-wedding-attack-isis-blamed.html">claimed the lives of over 50 people</a></span>, many of them minors. </p><p>Ankara needed to do something drastic in order to restore its deterrence and to send a message to the so called Islamic State, the PKK, its Syrian PYG affiliates and, no doubt, the rest of the world, that despite the post-coup purges, Turkey’s armed forces were still in business and ready to take action. </p><p>Turkey’s foray into Syria, in which it attacked scores of targets of both the Islamic State and Kurdish Syrian militias by air and mortar fire, while giving cover to anti-ISIS militias joined by Turkish special forces, was that message. It wants to do the same in Mosul </p><p>Ankara is also sending a message to the new US administration in waiting that Turkey expects Washington’s support in keeping Kurdish forces in Syria in check and to withdraw from the west of the Euphrates. </p><p>Ankara’s message is not limited to the so called Islamic State, the Kurds and the international arena. Perhaps its most important recipient was the Turkish public, especially designed to restore their faith in the military.&nbsp; </p><p class="mag-quote-left">Ankara is also sending a message to the new US administration in waiting</p><p>The Turkish armed forces have traditionally been a source of national pride. It is common to hear Turks express that every Turkish boy is born a soldier. Members of Turkey’s conscripted army are called a mehmetçik, a term of endearment and familiarity. The armed forces are even referred to as the Peygamber Ocağı (The hearts of the Prophet). </p><p>With Turkey’s homeland under threat from the spillover form the Syrian civil war, the public’s lack of faith in the armed forces was worrying to the government and needed to be remedied. It is in this light that Turkey is conducting Operation Euphrates Shield and involving itself in the Mosul operation. It is a message to the Turkish public that its armed forces remain strong, willing and capable of facing threats to the country’s national security. The strength of this message will no doubt rest on the success of Turkey’s foray into Syria and Iraq in avoiding Turkish casualties.&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="/christopher-phillips/turkey%E2%80%99s-syria-problem"> Turkey’s Syria problem </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/nadje-al-ali-latif-tas-ayla-akat/kurds-and-turks-are-at-edge-of-cliff">Kurds and Turks are at the edge of a cliff</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/paul-rogers/mosul-and-aleppo-reshaping-war">Mosul and Aleppo, a reshaping war</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 class="field-item even"> Syria </div> <div class="field-item odd"> Iraq </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> Arab Awakening Arab Awakening Iraq Syria Turkey Turkish Dawn You tell us Simon A. Waldman Emre Caliskan Wed, 30 Nov 2016 16:51:18 +0000 Emre Caliskan and Simon A. Waldman 107227 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Iraq’s Kurdistan government needs a public debate on independence https://www.opendemocracy.net/arab-awakening/dara-salam/iraq-s-kurdistan-government-needs-public-debate-on-independence <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>To win the argument and battle for the Kurdistan state, it is more important to win the support of the Kurdish people than to win the consent of the superpowers.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/PA-28788476.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/PA-28788476.jpg" alt="lead " title="" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" width="460" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Massoud Barzani, president of the Iraqi self-ruled Kurdish region speaks during a conference in Baghdad, Iraq, Sept. 29, 2016.Hadi Mizban/Press Association. All rights reserved.</span></span></span>Many Kurds are convinced that to right the wrongs done to them throughout their history of political oppression and partition they must rule themselves and, to go further, claim statehood. They have always been subject to political suppression and assimilation. They suffered great injustice at the hands of the states such as Turkey, Iran, Iraq and Syria, each of whom has practised authoritarian policies against the Kurdish population and treated them as inferior citizens. </p> <p>They were never granted real political or cultural rights. In fact, the Kurdish nationalist movements have been minimalist in their demands and they, hardly expressed this political will to form a state of their own. In most cases, they restricted their demands to calls for self-determination or political and cultural autonomy within these states, but they never called for secession. Current developments under way in the Middle East have prompted the Kurds in Rojava (northern Syria) and in Turkey to adopt a different political vision and demand the project of democratic confederalism within the current states. </p> <p>The Kurds in Iraq, however, are more inclined to call for independence, a demand that once appeared only a gleam in the eyes of the Kurdish movement. So, what has changed in the last few years? And what are the necessary steps to achieve this project and the problems that surround it?&nbsp; &nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;</p> <p>After the second Gulf War in 1991, the Kurdistan region in Iraq (KRI) achieved, after much struggle and sacrifice, semi-autonomous status from the then Saddam government, whose forces suffered a heavy blow at the hands of the US and coalition forces. Since then, the Kurds have been able to govern the region and establish various institutions including the formation of legislative and executive powers. The Kurdistan region was able to secure greater economic independence when oil was discovered and it became a thriving part of the economy and the major source of the revenue. The region’s greater political independence took a firmer foot after the US invasion of Iraq in 2003, when Kurds were able to bring their de facto government to a de jure political entity. </p> <p>This was formally recognised in the Iraqi constitution of 2005 based reluctantly on a new federal system. The discovery of its own oil, being able to keep the region secure and having a share in Iraq’s oil wealth has contributed to the economic prosperity of the Kurdistan region and the rise of the purchasing power in the region. However, relations between the Kurdistan regional government (KRG) and the central government in Baghdad turned sour, when Baghdad declared that it did not recognise the contracts signed between the KRG and foreign oil firms. It demanded that the KRG should send all its oil revenues back to the central government. This row turned political and resulted in the cutting of Kurdistan’s share of Iraq’s oil revenues. The KRG has since decided to export its own oil. In a political shift of powers in Iraq in June 2014, when ISIS forces captured Mosul and the Iraqi army deserted most of the disputed territories of Kurdistan, the Kurdish Peshmerga, as a result, defended these territories. Consequently, Masoud Barzani, the then president of the Kurdistan region, declared that the Kurds will hold a referendum on the prospects of their independence from Iraq.</p> <p>It is clear that the Kurds are not trying to create their own state through a bloody conflict and do not wish to repeat the bloody experience of the Balkan countries. However, one of the daunting problems that undermines the KRG’s efforts for any referendum on independence is its lack of preparation on this matter through a proper public debate, its unilateral partisan race, and its unsuccessful political administration which has caused many economic and political crises on the other. </p> <p>The fact that the Iraqi government is a dysfunctional one and is ruled by a sectarian mentality that has dragged the country into a sectarian war should be enough reason not to replicate such a form of government. It should give incentives to create a more functional government that guarantees public scrutiny and eliminates corruption at various levels. The current KRG has created a series of scandals starting from its opaque policy towards the oil industry and inability to meet deadlines for paying wages, as well as causing a political stalemate by halting the function of the legislative chamber through a nondemocratic and partisan move. </p> <p>For the last two decades, not only has this government failed to take steps to end the grip of the political parties on the government, but it has remained under the influence of and driven by the dominant political parties.</p> <p>Now the call for independence is led by Masoud Barzani and his party, KDP, but he is strikingly out of touch with the public and even with his own party sympathisers. There are no clear lines of argument about the costs and benefits of separation, the economic potential and downturns and, most importantly, about how democratic and inclusive this new state would be. </p> <p>This feeling of being excluded and the lack of clarity as to what is being created has added to a sense of scepticism among the public in the Kurdistan region with regard to the creation of a Kurdistan state. As the call for independence is a unilateral partisan move on the part of the KDP, other parties suspect that it is mainly a rescue plan for its leader whose presidency term for the Kurdistan region has ended. This step would install him as the president of the Kurdistan state.</p> <p>To eradicate these doubts, the following steps are of paramount importance to realise the project of independence and to turn it from a political manoeuvre to a political reality. First, all political parties in Kurdistan must come together and work out a common plan including a time limit for the referendum and setting out a manifesto and presenting it for public debate and consultation. </p> <p>The foundations of any legitimate state lie, in large part, in the support given by its people and its democratic governance. The reason that it should be the Kurdistan state and not the Kurdish state is that this new state’s principle of citizenship should be as inclusive as possible to include all ethnic and religious components, like Arabs, Turkomans, Kildo-Assyrians, Christians, Yazidis, Shia, Sunni and others.</p> <p>Second, the parliament should be reinstated so that it forms relevant committees to organise the referendum. Once the referendum is successfully completed in favour of independence, a constitutional assembly must be elected to carry out the task of writing the new constitution.</p> <p>Third, if Barzani wants to follow in the footsteps of great leaders who led their nations to independence, like Ghandi, Mandela and others, he should not cling to the seat of power.&nbsp; Instead, he must affirm his commitment to the founding of the first democratic state of Kurdistan that could be an inspiration for other nations in the Middle East. The current government should be dissolved, partly because it has put the economy into massive debt and is far too much involved in the business of party politics.</p> <p>Fourth, Barzani must act as a national leader and should not engage in a politics of polarisation that will cripple the possibility for collective efforts to bring a dream of independence to reality. If the Kurdistan state comes to fruition, he will be the first to reap it as he has championed it and, for that reason, he must come out to people and be more in touch with them. He should courageously implement the practical solutions to overcome the current political and economic impasse.</p> <p>Fifth, he must personally get involved in making the oil sector much more transparent by authorising the parliamentary committees that establish a system of checks. This is the only way to overcome the current economic impasse. However, oil should not be the only and sole source of the newly established state’s GDP. It is very important that the new government thinks about other renewable sources of energy and concentrates on revitalising agriculture, manufacturing and tourism for its new economy.</p> <p>To win the argument and battle for the Kurdistan state, it is more important to win the support of the Kurdish people than to win the consent of the superpowers. It is imperative then to pinpoint the problems that crush the hopes for democratic governance and which obstruct the formation of a popular consensus for independence. A national debate in which we can all participate, one that is not contorted by writers of apologetics and politicians, is urgently needed to solve the issues facing the country and unify the efforts for the declaration of independence.</p><div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Iraq </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Civil society </div> <div class="field-item even"> Conflict </div> <div class="field-item odd"> 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"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> Arab Awakening Arab Awakening Iraq Civil society Conflict Democracy and government International politics Dara Salam Fri, 18 Nov 2016 00:48:35 +0000 Dara Salam 106912 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Mosul: the looming battle has begun https://www.opendemocracy.net/arab-awakening/shivan-fazil-sabr/mosul-looming-battle-has-begun <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>The Mosul operation marks the return of US forces to Iraq after their 2011 withdrawal. What would a long term stability in Mosul need? </p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/562712/PA-29071798.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/562712/PA-29071798.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="307" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>A Kurdish Peshmerga soldier walks inside a house previously used by the Islamic State in Faziliya, north of Mosul, Iraq. Picture by Felipe Dana AP/Press Association Images. All rights reserved.</span></span></span>The much anticipated operation to liberate Mosul has been underway for two weeks already. The Iraqi army, Kurdish Peshmerga, Sunni and Shia militias are all involved and supported by a US-led coalition and its airstrikes. The operation marks the return of US forces to Iraq after the controversial withdrawal in 2011. Since the emergence of ISIL in 2014, the number of US military advisors slowly but steadily increased to over 5000. After more than two years of the ‘train and equip’ program for Iraqi forces and the Peshmerga, the early signs of the operation seem promising showing a good level of cooperation between the various military groups involved, something many analysts warned could further complicate the future of the liberated territories.</p><p>Addressing the crowd of journalists on the Khazir front, Masoud Barzani, President of the Iraqi Kurdistan Region, announced the success of the first round of the operation and praised the coordination between the Iraqi and Kurdish Peshmerga calling it ‘historic’. Barzani added that this is the first time the two forces shed blood together. He also warned that the operation could be a lengthy one pointed out the absence of a political agreement between Erbil and Baghdad besides the military one. </p> <h2><strong>Post-ISI</strong><strong>L</strong><strong> Mosul</strong></h2><h3> </h3><p>Policy makers and analysts had previously urged for the non-military elements to be addressed prior to launching any offensive against ISIL in Iraq’s second largest city which is also the last ISIL stronghold in the country. Earlier in September, a<a href="http://www.meri-k.org/publication/the-future-of-mosul-before-during-and-after-the-liberation/"> report</a> by the Middle East Research Institute urged for the structural issues that led to the emergence of ISIL to be taken into account to avoid any void in the aftermath of the operation. </p><p class="mag-quote-center">Policy makers and analysts had previously urged for the non-military elements to be addressed prior to launching any offensive against ISIL</p> <p>The report also called for the urgency of humanitarian planning, dealing with issues of governance, and post-conflict security, reconstruction and reconciliation in order to prevent the return of the power dynamics that allowed the rise of ISIL in the wake of systematic marginalization of Iraq’s Sunni population. Despite such calls, the operation kicked off without addressing these crucial non-military aspects, and without any political agreement between the political actors on how to govern post-ISIL Mosul. </p><p>Two weeks on, the absence of order in the newly liberated areas is visible. Many blame the dysfunctional government for the ease with which ISIL captured Mosul and its surrounding countryside two years ago. Colonel Khalid Jasim al-Jabardi told the <a href="http://www.economist.com/news/middle-east-and-africa/21709339-iraqi-and-kurdish-troops-fight-their-way-towards-heart">Economist</a> “the [Mosul] mayor is still in Erbil, millions of dollars have been sent but there’s still no electricity, no food, no water. People are starting to say that life under Daesh [ISIL] was better. If the same happens when Mosul falls, then we will have big problems. Perhaps not Daesh, but another terrorist group will emerge.”</p><p class="mag-quote-right">Many blame the dysfunctional government for the ease with which ISIL captured Mosul</p><p>In addition to the military battle which seems to be going underway as planned, frictions have emerged as a result of Turkey’s role in the fight. Turkey’s military actions in Bashiqa, east of Mosul and deployment of its tanks and artillery near the Iraqi borders has infuriated the government in Baghdad and elicited a warning from Iraq's Prime Minister. Ankara, however, says the move is a precaution. Political analysts believe Turkey is attempting to export its internal crisis to Iraq in the wake of the failed coup and wants a role in the battle to retake Mosul from ISIL, by virtue of being a member of the anti-ISIL coalition.</p><h2><strong>I</strong><strong>raq’s ‘</strong><strong>i</strong><strong>sland of </strong><strong>d</strong><strong>ecency’ at </strong><strong>r</strong><strong>isk </strong></h2> <p>Compared to the rest of Iraq, the Kurdistan region has often been called an ‘island of decency’ and a ‘beacon of hope’ for the rest of Iraq thanks to its economic development coupled with political stability. Its Peshmerga forces have been crucial ground troops holding back the ISIL rampage in the region and they will continue to do so as the battle for the liberation of Mosul is underway. </p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/562712/PA-29067830.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/562712/PA-29067830.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="307" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Smoke rises from burning oil fields in Qayara, some 50 kilometers south of Mosul, Iraq. Picture by Felipe Dana AP/Press Association Images. All rights reserved.</span></span></span></p> <p>Speaking to <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2014/08/09/opinion/president-obama-thomas-l-friedman-iraq-and-world-affairs.html">New York Times</a> columnist Thomas L. Friedman in August 2016, US president Barack Obama explained his decision to authorize military forces to protect the refugees from ISIL in Kurdistan: “the Kurdish region is functional the way we would like to see. It is tolerant of other sects and other religions in a way that we would like to see elsewhere.”</p> <p>However, Obama warned against the Kurds’ total reliance on the US by adding: “I don’t want to get in the business for that matter of being the Kurdish air force, in the absence of a commitment of the people on the ground to get their act together and do what’s necessary politically to start protecting themselves and to push back against ISIL.”</p> <p>Two years on, this rare stability remains at risk due to multiple shocks, including the political stalemate since last year. The deadlock is the result of power struggles among the region’s main political parties over the controversial presidency crisis. Despite US-sponsored negotiations, the political parties failed to reach any breakthrough. While Barzani continues his tasks as president, controversies remain over the fate of his office.</p><p class="mag-quote-center">A long term stability in the post-ISIL Mosul, Iraq and the Kurdistan region requires a multifaceted approach which includes addressing the non-military elements impeding peace and prosperity.</p> <p>The consequences of the protracted political deadlock, accompanied by the economic decline, have been severe. The parliament has failed to hold any sessions to pass necessary legislations to tackle economic crunch since August last year. The speaker of parliament and several ministers were dismissed from their posts without early elections or cabinet reshuffle, which in turn has impacted the overall governance process. </p> <p>As a result, the public is paying a high price and continues to suffer from a lack of sufficient services. Economic decline coupled with the collapse of a democratic order in the Kurdistan region, if the parliament remains muffled and the parties fail to reconvene, would add to the instability of Iraq and the Middle East. The United States should therefore intensify and leverage its influence and condition its military and financial support for the Kurdistan region to encourage political parties to resume talks and restore the governance system.</p><p>A long term stability in the post-ISIL Mosul, Iraq and the Kurdistan region requires a multifaceted approach which includes addressing the non-military elements impeding peace and prosperity. A stable post-ISIL Mosul, Kurdistan and Iraq requires the US to have an overarching approach to help end the politics of marginalization and sectarianism but also to allow the rule of law, good governance and accountability to triumph. </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/mosul-next-target">Mosul, the next target</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/arab-awakening/rebekah/mosul-under-is">Mosul under IS</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/conflict-iraq/kurdistan_4085.jsp">Kurdistan beyond Iraq</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Iraq </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-city"> <div class="field-label">City:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Mosul </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Conflict </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> Arab Awakening Arab Awakening Mosul Iraq Conflict middle east iraq - the war & after You tell us Geopolitics Arab Awakening: violent transitions Shivan Fazil Sabr Fri, 04 Nov 2016 14:50:05 +0000 Shivan Fazil Sabr 106482 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Moazzam Begg and The Confession, Part Two. https://www.opendemocracy.net/ashish-ghadiali-rosemary-bechler/moazzam-begg-and-confession-part-two <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>"Whatever you want to think about Moazzam Begg...&nbsp; the film demands that you recognize that the rule of law, that quintessential British value, has not been exercised in our time."</p> </div> </div> </div> <p class="Body"><em><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/the-confession-dogwoof-documentary-still-2.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/the-confession-dogwoof-documentary-still-2.jpg" alt="" title="" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" width="460" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Moazzam Begg, The Confession, documentary still. All rights reserved.</span></span></span><strong>RB</strong></em><em><strong>:</strong> I’</em><em>ve been asking myself what is so brilliant about your choice of subject. Your film, </em>The Confession<em>, invites Moazzam Begg, who so many coercive institutions have tried to silence, simply to speak as a human being, which he is very good at.&nbsp; </em></p> <p class="Body"><em>Whereas some of us might assume from the title that what we have here is the subject of a Christian spiritual autobiography, in fact the last role that he seems inclined to play is finding out whether or not he is damned. In these terms, he remains elusive. Maybe that is part of his impact.</em></p> <p class="Body"><em>But the point is that this is not so much about him as us. It is such a good litmus test for the remaining decencies, the ones that come between us and all that fear-mongering. For our capacity to see that someone who is Other is still a human being, and that this is much more important than all the fear. </em></p> <p class="Body"><em>Is that a politics – </em><em>I wonder? Maybe not, maybe it is something that only art can do? </em></p> <p class="Body"><strong>Ashish:</strong> No I believe it is a politics. However, art might be the key protagonist in bringing that into existence. The film is totally neutral, bare humanity, a little exercise in doubt and trust. What it actually is designed to do is to get a lot of very different people to sit in rooms together, and to feel each others’ responses and actually in a very modest way, because it is a little art house film, to experience a new type of nation. </p> <p class="Body">Maybe once you have experienced it once, that’s my hope, we may know how to make it again on a bigger scale and then a bigger scale.</p> <p class="Body">So, Moazzam Begg is currently denied a passport on royal prerogative. First of all you have to feel that something is not right about this, and then we can start to ask the bigger questions of what has brought us to this point. </p> <p class="Body">In the film I have made a great effort to present the narrative, a big thirty-year canvas that we can all live through, so that we can start to see how we got to where we are now. It is the opposite of soundbite media – it’s history! And people are feeling it. They are watching the film and feeling it. Some tell me that they don’t like Moazzam Begg at the end of it, but it was important to leave enough space for that possibility too.</p> <p class="Body">Rule of law, meanwhile, is a basic contract. Whatever our better future turns out to be, it will have to rehabilitate rule of law. Whatever you want to think about Moazzam Begg, whether he deserved it, whether he didn’t deserve it, whether he was naïve, whether I’m naïve – the film demands that you recognize that the rule of law, that quintessential British value, has not been exercised in our time.&nbsp; </p><p class="Body"><strong>RB:</strong> <em>Is it confined to the rule of law? When you catch yourself wondering why Begg got separated from his wife and child in Afghanistan, you have to ask yourself, as a friend of mine is always saying – </em><em>what’</em><em>s it to you? Why am I wondering this? </em></p> <p class="Body"><em>Because once you start looking for holes, inconsistencies, lapses and ellipses, or even before you notice you are doing that…&nbsp; </em><em>it is already a question of who gets to say whose identity is likely to be what, on the basis of fear? And everything deterioriates when that begins. </em></p> <p class="Body"><em>Isn’</em><em>t it much wider than the rule of law? Of course, Guantanamo Bay, torture, rendition, secret courts, this total disregard for people, innocent or guilty, and for the real causes of the conflict, is completely unacceptable….&nbsp; </em></p> <p class="Body"><strong>Ashish:</strong> And that is the no-brainer. Once we have established how little the rule of law has been adhered to here, then we can move on. </p> <p class="Body">The basic frame that we are currently being asked to accept – and this is where any talk about maintaining BBC balance becomes completely unconvincing – is that there is a debate between civil liberty and the rule of law, and that we are a bunch of rabid lefties who bang on and on about civil liberties while we have no idea at all about the realities of terrorism. </p> <p class="Body">That is the argument of the right that I have heard expressed more times than I can remember during the making of this film. But we are going to have to find common ground, even within that frame, and here the crux of the matter is rule of law, it seems to me.&nbsp; </p> <p class="Body">I personally don’t think we need a rehabilitation of multiculturalism, because it is just the sea that we all swim in. All we need to do is to start celebrating it again. But I do know many people in the British establishment who are not at all convinced about that. And that’s fine. That is just a debate that will have to run its course.</p> <p class="Body">But are we really debating the rule of law? Because I haven’t yet met anyone who is going to come out clearly and say that this is what we are debating. And yet, and yet, we are!&nbsp; That’s my point. The counter-terrorism position that says, “Should Moazzam Begg have this platform to speak ?” is fundamentally saying that the question of rule of law that his story leads us towards is one that we should not be debating. Because the counter-terror argument is more important than the rule of law. That is the core of their argument.</p> <p class="Body">Rule of law has been undermined as an underlying principle of our society. The way that things escalate, like the many liberal organizations who succumbed under huge pressure and disassociated themselves from Cage when that organisation’s inept communications gave the media a chance to set them up for a populist response – that was the guillotine for the age we live in. This kind of escalation is not necessarily a conspiracy. It is just one move against another move and often those moves will take us further and further away from any semblance of where we want to be.</p> <p class="Body">What I am trying to address in the film is how to move back from that polarisation. Actually I have been kicking back a little bit against the supportive leftwing audiences in the Q and A’s, because I feel I have to say, “Look we could just sit here and rage against the machine, which is not here in our midst after all. But we are just adding to the polarization, and I don’t want to add to the polarization.” </p> <p class="Body">Moazzam Begg is also a polarizing figure. For some he is a Nelson Mandela undergoing so much and then emerging seemingly unscathed and still willing to engage with people about it. For others it is precisely that quality which winds up so many. For them, that is an unforgiveable arrogance. I got an email the other day from someone telling me that they don’t want to come and see the film because they think Muslims should have less self-confidence and more self-criticism. </p> <p class="Body">But I’m interested in taking this polarising figure and creating an experience which is somehow unifying in spite of it, that transcends the polarisation. Of course, he is clearly a mesmerizing speaker and ultimately what drew me to the film more than anything else was that it was such a great story, one that takes us on this exhilarating ride through history.</p> <p class="Body"><strong><em>RB:</em></strong><em> It is certainly that. One episode, when the intelligence officer who sought out Begg in London, years previously, suddenly turns up in Bagram, reminds me of the dream navel of an eighteenth century Gothic novel! Only there it is the ‘</em><em>just judge’ </em><em>who appears in the middle of the Inquisition. It’</em><em>s hugely gripping. </em></p> <p class="Body"><em>But to return to your point - what reactions to the film give you most hope?</em></p> <p class="Body"><strong>Ashish:</strong> Last night in Cardiff, the host was asking me to talk about the set design, paint on the flats and so forth. He got himself overthrown by the audience, who literally erupted. They said, “No! We are not film buffs here! We just heard an incredible, astounding, human story and we want to speak to the man!…” They didn’t even put their hands up – they just started firing direct questions at him. It was very immediate. It was great. I have seen Moazzam speak in many different contexts, and his speaking is always well-formed and robust. He is well-practised at what he does. But that was always an obstacle for me in the film. If I had any doubt, it was about Moazzam’s well-honed speech being quite so well-rehearsed. And there always had to be a certain distance there, for me to be able to see around it.</p> <p class="Body">But what happened last night in the Q and A was that suddenly he was just there in the middle of it and talking to people and the buzz of energy that went out into that room had everything that we have been talking about: the polarization had been broken down, the awe, the caution, there was not even pity or shame – any of that. Just the feeling of a human being in probably an 80% non-Muslim audience, but with Muslims also in the room. One of the members of the audience was the Imam from the Grangetown mosque in Cardiff. That was the mosque used by the family of the first Britons ‘taken out’ in Syria by RAF drone strikes, ordered by Cameron without any parliamentary authority. </p> <p class="Body">So, all of that was just in that room, together. Only now it was just, “there’s a human being in contact again.” If that does turn out to be the shape of the film’s impact, of its DNA, then, I say – good!”&nbsp;</p><p class="Body"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/Co1vauyXgAAM8OA_1.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/Co1vauyXgAAM8OA_1.jpg" alt="" title="" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" width="460" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>The Confession: film poster. All rights reserved.</span></span></span></p><p class="Body"><strong><em>RB:</em></strong><em> What will you do next? Can the BBC build on that DNA do you think, to replace the nation so enduringly created by Lord Reith, with your new nation?</em></p> <p class="Body"><strong>Ashish.</strong> I really believe in public broadcasting. But it’s very top down still. You can try to bring in brown faces, but a lot of the culture does seem to be too fear-driven. </p> <p class="Body">As far as the media is concerned, the top-down structures of the twentieth century are outdated and the digital revolution is well under way. This film’s influence is growing primarily through social media – a lot of social media. There is the presence of large institutions and that’s important, but the ability of digital communications to help to galvanise the niche audience turns out to be something quite significant for the fate of a film.</p> <p class="Body">The bottom line is that we need more democracy. The top down structures of the twentieth century are now outdated, and digital technology has created this possibility of self-organising models. In film that has allowed for distribution that isn’t so dependent on the person holding the big levers, and also in terms of new ways of marketing and building audience.</p> <p class="Body">But the money is still kind of holding this up. However the film could not have been what it is just at the behest of the BBC. They will do their own cut, of course. But the film is a co-production that has brought together BBC Storyville, the BFI, which involves a kind of theatrical distribution which is also digital, so that the film will release tomorrow on a whole load of digital platforms and in cinemas. Actually the BFI has been the main funder. The BBC was the first in and their editorial policy has been a benchmark for us that we are beholden to. But the BFI has been the lifeblood, giving us the scale of operations we needed, and the theatrical profile. </p> <p class="Body">This is something that is already happening in cinema – the idea that there are a whole load of platforms with different ways of telling stories and receiving stories, and that they can actually be mutually beneficial. But anyone at the BBC knows this too, that if you want people to watch your tv programme you have to do social media, to tweet about it, get it written about, get people to your platform even if it is mainstream tv. The difference is the numbers. There are just a lot more people turning on BBC1 and 2 than downloading from i-Tunes, unless you go mega on i-Tunes! </p> <p class="Body">So yes, the tour is essential to our film’s success, and Dogwoof, our distributor are the master-strategists on this. They basically built themselves up from the ground, originally working with campaign documentaries and building niche audiences for those campaigns, demonstrating that actually you can generate income by starting from those niches! </p> <p class="Body"><strong><em>RB:</em></strong><em> It’</em><em>s the long tail! </em></p> <p class="Body"><strong>Ashish:</strong> That’s exactly what it is. So that is the world that is out there already, but it hasn’t translated into how the license fee is distributed.</p> <p class="Body"><strong><em>RB:</em></strong><em> Still the tour is a thing of genius because of the element of coming face to face with the subject of the film – </em><em>which you can’</em><em>t digitally copy… </em><em>so those events are the one thing the digital revolution can’</em><em>t do. They are unique and irreplaceable.</em></p> <p class="Body"><strong>Ashish: </strong>So this is no longer about the BBC or television. This is about film and what film can be. Everything we know about the impact of digital innovation to create political change, whether it is the Arab spring or Syriza or the Scottish referendum – these local democracy insurgencies that we are in the middle of… they are all about understanding how to use the digital media which is just media, not the reality, but it is a way of spreading, and disseminating, and bringing people constantly back to a live centre…</p> <p class="Body"><strong><em>RB</em></strong><em>: So you really did mean that this might be a way of imagining a new nationhood?</em></p> <p class="Body"><strong>Ashish: </strong>Yes. Yes I did.</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="/rosemary-bechler-ashish-ghadiali/portrait-of-artist-and-confession-part-one">Portrait of the artist and The Confession, Part One</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"> UK </div> <div class="field-item even"> Syria </div> <div class="field-item odd"> Iraq </div> <div class="field-item even"> EU </div> <div class="field-item odd"> United States </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Civil society </div> <div class="field-item even"> Conflict </div> <div class="field-item odd"> Culture </div> <div class="field-item even"> Democracy and government </div> <div class="field-item odd"> Economics </div> <div class="field-item even"> Ideas </div> <div class="field-item odd"> International politics </div> <div class="field-item even"> Internet </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> Can Europe make it? Arab Awakening uk United States EU Iraq Syria UK Civil society Conflict Culture Democracy and government Economics Ideas International politics Internet Rosemary Bechler Ashish Ghadiali Tue, 25 Oct 2016 05:24:46 +0000 Ashish Ghadiali and Rosemary Bechler 106201 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Portrait of the artist and The Confession, Part One https://www.opendemocracy.net/rosemary-bechler-ashish-ghadiali/portrait-of-artist-and-confession-part-one <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p class="Body">An interview with the director of <a href="http://theconfessionfilm.com">The Confession</a>, Moazzam Begg’s story commissioned by BBC Storyville and the BFI - one of the most resonant modern stories for our times.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p class="Body"><em><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/CpmiUSdWEAE1ZDr.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/CpmiUSdWEAE1ZDr.jpg" alt="" title="" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" width="460" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Ashish Ghadiali,Tariq Ramadan and Moazzam Begg in studio conversation about 'The Confession', 2016. All rights reserved.</span></span></span>Rosemary Bechler (RB): This summer you have been on tour around Britain with showings of your documentary film, </em><a href="http://theconfessionfilm.com/">The Confession</a>, <em>followed by studio chats with Moazzam Begg – what drew you to this man and this process?</em></p> <p class="Body"><strong>Ashish Ghadiali (Ashish)</strong>: I set out to make a cinematic documentary. I felt it was important to get this story and this character into a space where it wasn’t being cut down to 10-second soundbites. </p> <p class="Body">When I asked Moazzam if he would be interested in participating in this project, I said to him that my sense was that although he was ubiquitous, he had become a kind of cardboard cut-out within the framework of contemporary media, someone who was wheeled on to represent a point of view that was already pre-packaged and formulated. </p> <p class="Body">I thought it was important to give space to the experience and to the humanity of the man in order to understand better what I think has been a cultural shift in Britain and around the world, under the heading of the ‘war on terror’. <span class="mag-quote-center">It was important to… understand better what I think has been a cultural shift in Britain and around the world, under the heading of the ‘war on terror’.&nbsp; </span></p><p class="Body"><em><strong>RB:</strong> Is that something that has concerned you for a long time, Ashish?</em></p> <p><strong>Ashish:</strong> Yes, instantly. Because my life changed, maybe slowly from 9/11 to 7/7, but there was a sense of something in the air. After the July 2005 terror attacks, I was suddenly being stopped and searched maybe once, maybe twice on the way to work, and that was upsetting because it was very clearly racial profiling. I would go into work in situations where I was the only non-white person in the room, and express that feeling of different treatment, and find that there was often sympathy, but often something less than sympathetic, a sort of growing sense that maybe it was OK that extra precautions were being taken, and that it wasn’t the end of the world, was it? People were scared, and they thought it was an understandable reaction. I too understood all of that. But it was a rupture in my own sense of identity.</p><p>There I was, a very confident British citizen, being asked by my Oxbridge-educated peers, people with ambitions to be the establishment, to get my head around accepting this different sort of treatment. With that acceptance, of course, they were entering a different way of thinking that basically denies my equality. I reacted really strongly. I was working in television at the time and my job was to develop ideas within factual entertainment and I was the only brown face in the team. For me it became essential that we now started to reflect on these issues that were going on, on the ground. The idea that this experience was my niche experience and not part of our collective experience was damaging. </p><p class="Body">Up until that point British multiculturalism was something that we were proud of. This was before Trevor Phillips, who was made Chair of the Commission for Racial Equality, became a pioneer of the shakedown. I was close to that whole thing. I used to work for one of his close friends, the company that made the recent Trevor Phillips film about ‘what British Muslims really think’. At the time, I remember his criticism of multiculturalism seemed outrageous, the ambition of someone trying to work his way deeper into the establishment. But it didn’t feel threatening. It didn’t seem to threaten my multiculturalism, which was simply hegemonic.</p> <p class="Body">After 7/7, however, one instantly entered a different world, of living in someone else’s paranoia. I tried to push that experience through within my work and it was immediately bounced back at me as being ‘niche’. Token efforts not to shut it down would quickly descend into farce. The closest I did get to expressing anything on the subject, I remember, was talking to an Evening Standard reporter about it outside Whitechapel tube station on the way to work. That ended up with a photo of me in the paper and a strapline saying, “I feel like a pariah” – which then became a running joke.&nbsp; The response in the workplace was to get that, and stick it up on the wall! All in all, the experience of that time made me distrust the media establishment as a place where I would be able to express my voice. <span class="mag-quote-center">The idea that this experience was my niche experience and not part of our collective experience was damaging.</span></p> <p class="Body">At this point, one has to foreground the fact that the BBC commissioned this film, <em>The Confession</em>. It would not have got off the ground had it not been for them!</p> <p class="Body">But in 2005 I quit my job in TV and left the UK, because of my very strong reaction to this. By chance, in between the two terrorist attacks I went on a holiday to India and there was another terrorist attack there. But nobody suspected me of being part of the problem in India. </p> <p class="Body">So up till then I had been speaking about this issue of race in optimistic terms – that is for 25 years – as a British Asian. It had always seemed to me that my identity was something that the culture embraced, as represented in the novels of Hanif Kuresihi or Zadie Smith, the works of Talvin Singh or Nitin Sawney. This was something I was very confident about – despite the fact that there had always been a whisper that says, “You are not the same as the white majority and they don’t think of you as the same.” But up till then it was not a voice I gave much time to. All of a sudden it was a takeover, a wakeup call, you know! It’s time to think about race – it really is time for me to understand myself through the lens of race. <span class="mag-quote-center">It filled me with a great desire to understand the experience of non-white people in the world.</span></p> <p class="Body">And it filled me with a great desire to understand the experience of non-white people in the world. There are many borders dividing them and it is a fragmented world, but it is one in which I can sit in a tourist site in Iran and until I speak, people are convinced that I am Iranian. In Egypt or Palestine, Singapore&nbsp; or India, it is the same. For ten years my experience was across all of those spaces, and I really needed that to build up a new rooted sense of self. That is what I had to do at the time. </p> <p class="Body">To be honest, it was probably an artist’s journey, in search of identity, much in the same terms that Moazzam Begg frames his story about travelling out across the Islamic world in quest of <em>his</em> own identity as a Muslim. And there were mirrors of the same sort of quest undertaken by relatively privileged people that I read along the way. </p> <p class="Body">At some point along that journey, I wasn’t sure if I was coming back to the UK. I could see the way that things were turning&nbsp; – like the concerted declaration of the failure of multiculturalism – that didn’t fill me with any sense that something good was going to come out of all this. The reports from back home were of the rise of the EDL, of UKIP’s progress across England, and I was thinking about the ongoing legacy of colonialism and wondering about an authentic way of living in the world.</p> <p class="Body">I went to film school in Singapore for three years and then I started looking around for opportunities. It was about economic opportunity as much as anything, and ambition, wanting to make the films I wanted to make, and looking around for a place to make those films where I wasn’t ‘niche’.</p> <p class="Body">I worked in Bollywood for a year. I set up a film unit in Jenin refugee camp. I was a peripatetic screenwriter for a while living between Berlin and the south of Italy and working on commissions for an Austrian producer, so there were various experiments. <span class="mag-quote-center">Eventually I came to the realization that I was longing for Britain, wet weather, Derbyshire where I grew up.</span></p> <p class="Body">Eventually I came to the realization that I was longing for Britain, wet weather, Derbyshire where I grew up. So in the year before I started this project with Moazzam Begg, I ended up living in the house that I grew up in and clearing it out, clearing out thirty years of ‘stuff’, and realizing how much more polarized things had become, how deeply undermined the language of multiculturalism had been, how real the rise of UKIP was. We didn’t know that Brexit was imminent, but we did know that there had been a material change.</p> <p class="Body">One thing that really did that for me was the 2012 Jubilee! Suddenly I lived in Royalist Central. That had never been the case previously – so much fanfare and flag-waving took place that summer. I felt kind of removed from it. But as I was really trying to understand that question of identity, it also became absolutely clear to me that Britain <em>was </em>my home, and that multiculturalism wasn’t just an idea, but a lived reality for all of us. Our ability or inability to digest that is very much the battleground of the twenty-first century.&nbsp; </p> <p class="Body">It became very, very clear to me that my role, my artistic journey, demanded of me that my voice express that reality. And that actually if you looked at it with a long lens – that little blip – you know, Robin Cook’s <em>chicken tikka masala</em> moment, switched off by Cameron’s ‘failure of multiculturalism’, is simply not the story. <span class="mag-quote-center">Our ability or inability to digest diversity is very much the battleground of the twenty-first century.&nbsp; </span></p> <p class="Body">The story is ultimately the story of human history, and the migrations of the twentieth century are really only the seeds of a new way of living collectively, that must emerge. But the culture for that process hasn’t yet been created, and that is our job.</p> <p class="Body"><em><strong>RB:</strong> I have been talking to Nando Sigona from Birmingham University about </em><a href="https://opendemocracy.net/Can-europe-make-it/nando-sigona-rosemary-bechler/on-superdiversity-in-crisis-mood">superdiversity</a><em> in the UK and everywhere else. It seems remarkable, given the rapidly evolving levels of mixture by no means confined to London, that we are so in denial, and trapped by an ascendant, monocultural National Us.</em></p> <p class="Body"><strong>Ashish: </strong>There is a direct line, I think, from the rhetoric of ‘integration’ to the bombing of civilians in Syria. That kind of liberal interventionist muscle comes from the same place as that call for ‘integration’ meaning assimilation. Nobody calls for the ‘integration’ of Etonian Cabinet ministers – they should do! – but the sheer arrogance of that call for you to ‘integrate’ with me – this is obviously not a viable offer, and so it is always going to be disappointed, and so the result is always going to be violence. </p> <p class="Body">Anyway, I spent that year in the house of my childhood, and in the summer of 2014, at exactly the same time, ISIS conquered Mosul. Videos started to appear of British foreign fighters in the Middle East and a new wave of hysteria rose up. And I had a different lens on it. I was now engaging with the media as a construct and not as my reality.</p> <p class="Body">Let’s be clear, the war on terror was an utter failure. Terrorism is a much much greater problem now than it was in 2001, and there is a fairly clear line of causality running from the responses of the American and the British governments to the roots of the terrorism on the ascendant now. Why this is, is a difficult thing to talk about, because we live in an era of epic secrecy. We don’t know. And it is very important not to be mistaken for a conspiracy theorist when dealing with this material. But it is also really important to my bigger project that I don’t want more polarisation. I want more collective thinking and more rationality. <span class="mag-quote-center">Nobody calls for the ‘integration’ of Etonian Cabinet ministers – they should do!</span></p> <p class="Body">So there are two ways of looking at it. There is the great conspiracy theory that a bunch of neocons sat around and realised that if they go for the oil, create chaos in the Middle East, then that is basically an opportunity to consolidate the military industrial complex and dominate the twenty first century.</p> <p class="Body">There is a second way of looking at it, which is that in a unipolar world, asymmetrical warfare was always likely to escalate as a strategy, and that you are dealing at some level with consciousness, and degrees of consciousness. </p> <p class="Body">On the project I was working on in the Jenin refugee camp where I lived, the idea was to give an opportunity for self-expression and voice to a community that had been devastated by the 2002 Operation Defensive Shield, which was, at the time, the location of the highest concentration of suicide bombers in the world. </p> <p class="Body">In a place like that, what is it that appears to a young teenage boy living in those conditions as a political act ? What it is might be entirely counter-productive. It might sow the seeds for the total decimation of his people, of his way of life, and it might feed into the spectacle that counter-insurgency requires to justify its own excesses. </p> <p class="Body">But the fear that comes from terrorism, while it is also manufactured, is also real. And so it simply leads to a process of escalation. This account says that there is no great mind behind it all. But that what we are witnessing is actually a failure of mind.</p> <p class="Body">So my conclusion is this. Let’s assume the latter. Because the problem with the war on terror and the problem that it has made dominant, is that too many people make unfounded accusations, accusations not founded in evidence. <span class="mag-quote-center">I was now engaging with the media as a construct and not as my reality.</span></p> <p class="Body">Let’s assume it is the latter and that one thing has led to another and is spiralling out of control. What do we as concerned citizens need to worry about? What is the course of action that we need to start pursuing ? </p> <p class="Body">To my mind what we need to address is that this is leading towards the destruction of our civil liberties and our basic freedoms, and the rise of a new authoritarianism that is increasingly taking over aspects of western democracy, Donald Trump not being the least of these threats. </p> <p class="Body">That new authoritarianism is seeking in all kinds of ways to limit the space for political oppositional forms, whether it is through trade unions, forms of freedom of expression in schools or universities, whether it is the right of health workers to maintain the confidence of their patients, or social workers to maintain the confidence of their clients. All of these aspects of civilization as we know it are up for grabs at the moment. </p> <p class="Body">And so the rational attitude that I feel we need much more of now is just to look at that and say – OK, well, first of all, is this what we want? I believe that the majority of British citizens don’t want to live in a world where they are less free. That this is not the arc that is desired for the twenty first century. So, then we must ask, what is the narrative that has been driving this? And why? And I think art might be a key protagonist in all this. </p> <p class="Body"><em>Next week: Moazzam Begg and </em>The Confession.</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="/ashish-ghadiali-rosemary-bechler/moazzam-begg-and-confession-part-two">Moazzam Begg and The Confession, Part Two.</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/can-europe-make-it/paul-thomas-ted-cantle/prevent-and-antiextremism-education">Prevent and anti-extremism education</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/ourkingdom/tom-mills-narzanin-massoumi-david-miller/apologists-for-terror-or-defenders-of-human-righ">Apologists for terror or defenders of human rights? The Cage controversy in context</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/victoria-brittain/dangerous-game-reply-to-gita-sahgal-and-her-supporters">Dangerous game: a reply to Gita Sahgal and her supporters</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/arts-institutions_government/moazzam_begg_3328.jsp">Guantánamo and back: an interview with Moazzam Begg</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/can-europe-make-it/rosemary-bechler/democracy-and-belonging">Democracy and belonging </a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/wfd/francesco-ragazzi-rosemary-bechler/policed-multiculturalism-and-predicting-disaster">‘Policed multiculturalism’ and predicting disaster</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"> UK </div> <div class="field-item even"> Iraq </div> <div class="field-item odd"> Syria </div> <div class="field-item even"> EU </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Civil society </div> <div class="field-item even"> Conflict </div> <div class="field-item odd"> Culture </div> <div class="field-item even"> Democracy and government </div> <div class="field-item odd"> International politics </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> Can Europe make it? Arab Awakening uk EU Syria Iraq UK Civil society Conflict Culture Democracy and government International politics Rosemary Bechler Ashish Ghadiali Sun, 23 Oct 2016 10:48:46 +0000 Ashish Ghadiali and Rosemary Bechler 106158 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Turkey’s Mosul dream: showing up uninvited to a party or having prepared its seat well in advance? https://www.opendemocracy.net/arab-awakening/emre-turkut/turkey-s-mosul-dream-showing-up-uninvited-to-party-or-having-prepared-its <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Turkey is already shouldering the greatest portion of the burden for Syrian refugees. &nbsp;It should temper its approach regarding Mosul accordingly.</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/549460/PA-28948643.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title="Uncredited/Press Association Images. All rights reserved."><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/549460/PA-28948643.jpg" alt="Uncredited/Press Association Images. All rights reserved." title="Uncredited/Press Association Images. All rights reserved." width="460" height="307" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Smoke rises as people flee their homes during clashes between Iraqi security forces and members of the Islamic State group fleeing Mosul, Iraq, Oct. 18, 2016. Uncredited/Press Association Images. All rights reserved.</span></span></span>The long-anticipated operation to free Mosul from the clutches of ISIS was preceded by rising expectations. Iraqi Prime Minister Abadi announced the commencement of the operation on 16 October. But one bitter dispute has left its mark on the process. </p> <p>While the entire world has been trying to make sense of the Mosul operation, remarks by Turkey’s President Erdogan fell off the radar and have gone virtually unnoticed by the rest of the world. </p> <p>As many discussions were revolving as to which groups would be included in the coalition, no consideration was given by Prime Minister Abadi to the Turkish troops at Bashiqa. In response, President Erdogan spoke out firmly: “It is out of the question that we are not involved.” But, why does President Erdogan so passionately want to be included in the Mosul coalition? </p> <p>When Sultan Suleyman the Magnificent added Mosul to Ottoman territory in 1535, the Ottomans ruled a huge empire stretching from the Balkans to the Arabian Peninsula. </p> <p>Starting with the June 2011 election, the AKP’s core Islamist elements have been open about their dream of reviving Ottoman glory. Over time, in President (and former Prime Minister) Erdogan we have begun to see an authoritarian figure with robust Islamist credentials who, when dealing with both domestic and international politics, makes references to Ottoman rule as justification for his fanciful policies. </p> <p>The most glorious time of the Ottoman Empire was concurrent with the capture of Mosul in the 1530s, and the frequent allusions to the Ottoman past today in Turkey are rooted in Suleyman’s reign, which was clearly a watershed in history. </p> <p>When it comes to the current Mosul situation, President Erdoğan has played the same historical card by citing the National Pact (Misak-ı Milli) of 1920 as the basis for Turkey’s claim to be included as a member of the coalition for the Mosul operation. </p> <p>The National Pact covered present-day northern Iraq, including Mosul, Irbil, and Kirkuk, which had been under Ottoman rule for centuries. One can argue that Turkey’s interest thus stems from the National Pact of 1920 – a pact that defined the territory of post-war Turkey. </p> <p>Those who raise this argument are have some validity, but only partially. I think the National Pact alone does not suffice to explain Turkey’s desire to be an actor in the region. A historical nostalgia for the heyday of Ottoman rule, however, does. And it is still unclear whether a 1920 territorial pact is sufficient to justify Turkey’s involvement or whether it will even be taken seriously. </p> <p>To be fair, Turkey has been using Iraqi territory to fight the PKK (Kurdistan Workers’ Party - Partiya Karkerên Kurdistanê) since the 1990s. Starting with Saddam Hussein’s rule and until, finally, last year, there was mutual agreement between the governments of Iraq and Turkey (as in the early 1980s), or at least tacit consent (as after the early 1990s). </p> <p>Moreover, Turkish forces have been in Mosul’s Bashiqa base since December 2015, tasked to train the Sunni militia. Nonetheless, Prime Minister Abadi recently characterized the deployment of Turkish forces as a blatant violation of Iraq’s sovereignty, and has asked repeatedly for a withdrawal. </p> <p>In response, President Erdogan has ruled out withdrawal and rejected any claimed violation of sovereignty by stating that Abadi himself requested Turkey’s assistance in 2014.</p> <p>In 2014 many may have had doubts about the true motives of this deployment, or the wisdom<em>&nbsp;</em>of such a venture at so fragile and delicate a moment. </p> <p>While the deployment has left some unanswered questions in its wake, it seems that Ankara may have foreseen the current game well in advance and was preparing for its role as a team player and assuring its place at the table in the end game.</p> <p>What is more, Turkey’s reservations about the Mosul operation seem to have been fulfilled. Turkey has clearly made its Sunni leanings in Iraq apparent over the past few years, in response to which it has received much criticism for being driven by sectarian motives. </p> <p>However, notwithstanding Turkey’s so-called sectarian motives and Turkey’s demands to be included in the coalition, the Sunni militias trained by Turkey <em>are</em> included in the Mosul offensive. But Shi'ite militias are not.&nbsp; </p><p>Nevertheless, Turkey must ground today’s policies on a rational assessment of current <em>realpolitik</em>, rather than historical nostalgia. </p> <p>The UN has warned that the Mosul offensive could trigger another exodus of refugees. It is estimated that one million people could be displaced and some 700,000 might be in need of emergency assistance.&nbsp; </p><p>Turkey is already shouldering the greatest portion of the burden for Syrian refugees. &nbsp;It should surely temper its approaches regarding Mosul accordingly.</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="/arab-awakening/nicolas-pirsoul/fight-for-mosul-danger-of-arming-sunni-opponents-to-daesh-and-sunnish">The fight for Mosul: the danger of arming Sunni opponents to Daesh and the Sunni/Shia power struggle </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/arab-awakening/roger-hardy/sowing-seeds-of-conflict-in-middle-east">Sowing the seeds of conflict in the Middle East </a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/arab-awakening/evan-stanley-jones/eu-turkey-migration-agreement-and-its-humanitarian-masquerade">The EU-Turkey migration agreement and its humanitarian masquerade </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 class="field-item even"> Iraq </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Conflict </div> <div class="field-item even"> Democracy and government </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> Arab Awakening Arab Awakening Iraq Turkey Conflict Democracy and government Geopolitics Violent transitions Emre Turkut Sat, 22 Oct 2016 08:37:38 +0000 Emre Turkut 106150 at https://www.opendemocracy.net The fight for Mosul: the danger of arming Sunni opponents to Daesh and the Sunni/Shia power struggle https://www.opendemocracy.net/arab-awakening/nicolas-pirsoul/fight-for-mosul-danger-of-arming-sunni-opponents-to-daesh-and-sunnish <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>The liberation of Mosul, backed up by Sunni powers, themselves backed up by western powers, will only add to the general feeling of injustice experienced by Shias and will only benefit Iran and its conspiracy theories.<strong></strong><em></em><span style="text-decoration: underline;"></span><span style="text-decoration: line-through;"></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/549460/PA-28948952.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title="Uncredited AP/Press Association Images. All rights reserved."><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/549460/PA-28948952.jpg" alt="Uncredited AP/Press Association Images. All rights reserved." title="Uncredited AP/Press Association Images. All rights reserved." width="460" height="306" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Smoke rises from Islamic state positions after an airstrike by coalition forces in Mosul, Iraq,Oct. 18, 2016. Uncredited AP/Press Association Images. All rights reserved.</span></span></span></p><p>What is happening now in the Middle East is crucial for the future of the region. Iraq and Syria, in particular, represent paradigmatic examples of the sectarian fault-line dividing the Muslim world and the changes that these two nations will undergo in the near future might well reshape the power-balance between opposite factions, namely the Sunnis and the Shias. </p><p>The nearing offensive against Mosul, Iraq’s second biggest city, held by <em>Daesh</em> since June 2014 and the strategical planning of the fight reveals forthcoming issues for the reconstruction of Iraq. Indeed, Mosul is a predominantly Sunni city and the idea of having Shia forces (the Iraqi army and Shia militias mostly trained and armed by Iran) liberating a Sunni city from a Sunni terrorist organization creates an important sectarian issue.</p><p>An obvious answer would be to support and arm Sunni opponents to Daesh as some of these groups plead for increased assistance from the Iraqi government in their fight against the terrorist organization. This solution, however, is not without a risk as the political and ideological influences of these groups are not completely transparent and many Shias in Iraq are suspicious of the Sunni population. </p><p>Indeed, Shias believe that the quick and resistanceless fall of northern and western Iraq, means that the populations in these areas collaborated with the Sunni terror organization before finding out that the so-called Sunni Islamic State might not be a much better alternative to the Shia led Iraqi government. </p><p>Syria represents a good example of how supplying arms to Sunni armed groups could quickly turn against the purpose of arming such opposition in the first place since many of the so-called “moderate” Islamist organisations either switched their allegiance to Sunni extremist groups or sometimes lost their battle (and therefore weapons) against them.</p><p>Further doubts arise when we find out that some of these Sunni opposition groups are actually <a href="http://www.reuters.com/article/us-mideast-crisis-mosul-sunnis-idUSKCN12712L"><span>trained by Turkey and are made up of ex-officers from Saddam’s army</span></a>. Arming these groups would therefore signify in effect a re-ba’athification of northern Iraq. When we know that Daesh itself is <a href="http://www.spiegel.de/international/world/islamic-state-files-show-structure-of-islamist-terror-group-a-1029274.html"><span>made up of ex-ba’athists</span></a>, further doubts arise. </p><p><a href="http://www.reuters.com/article/us-mideast-crisis-iraq-turkey-idUSKCN1270X0"><span>Turkey’s insistence on playing a role in the re-conquest of Mosul and its anti-Shia rhetoric</span></a> is highly problematic because it portrays the Mosul battle as a sectarian battle. While the sectarian dimension of the conflict is undeniable, as I mentioned earlier, focusing on arming Sunni forces to retake Mosul with the help of a Sunni neighbour effectively disintegrates the project of national unity which could save Iraq from further bloodshed. </p><p><span class="mag-quote-right">Iraq needs to be saved by Iraqis regardless of their sectarian affiliation</span><strong></strong><em></em><span></span><span></span></p><p>Iraq needs to be saved by Iraqis regardless of their sectarian affiliation if the nation wants to have some hope to survive. If it happens that, because of demographic (and in fact democratic) reasons, the central government is led by Shias then it is up to them to devise strategies and policies which will prevent further sectarian tensions.</p><p> <a href="http://www.al-monitor.com/pulse/originals/2014/06/iraq-isis-crisis-sistani-avoid-sectarianism.html"><span>The role played by Ayatollah Sistani,</span></a> Iraq’s leading spiritual Shia figure, and his focus on sectarian harmony and tolerance in the country is a proof that such a move is at least a very plausible possibility.</p><p>This debate leads to the realization of a double-standard problem when the Sunni-Shia divide becomes a matter of political disputes. Indeed, in no single country where Shias are a minority are they offered so much political and material support from other nations and the west in particular to be protected against oppressive central (Sunni-led) governments. </p><p>If there is a genuinely robust argument to be offered in support of increased Sunni participation and representation in Iraqi politics why is it that such argument is then never put forward when Shias represent a minority (which is almost in every country in the region) or even a majority as it is the case in <a href="https://www.rt.com/news/360295-bahrain-outcry-shiite-opposition/"><span>Bahrain</span></a>? </p><p>If it is fair to recognize that Sunnis should be free to determinate their own politics without receiving orders from a Shia-led government, why are Shias obliged to have their lives policed and dictated by Sunni government all around the Middle East? </p><p>The current debates over the role to be played by Sunnis in the liberation of Mosul need to be broadened if we want to avoid these double-standards and issues of Shia rights, and representation in the region needs to be addressed as well. </p><p>Otherwise the liberation of Mosul, backed up by Sunni powers, themselves backed up by western powers, will only add to the general feeling of injustice experienced by Shias and will only benefit Iran and its conspiracy theories about how western powers favoured the rise of extremist Sunni organizations such as Daesh.</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="/arab-awakening/lara-sievers/shia-militias-can-be-greater-threat-to-iraq-s-stability-than-islamic-sta">Shia militias can be a greater threat to Iraq’s stability than Islamic State</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/arab-awakening/roger-hardy/sowing-seeds-of-conflict-in-middle-east">Sowing the seeds of conflict in the Middle East </a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/can-europe-make-it/plan-canal-in-brussels-belgium-vs-molenbeek">Plan Canal in Brussels: Belgium vs Molenbeek</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Iraq </div> <div class="field-item even"> Syria </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Conflict </div> <div class="field-item even"> Culture </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"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> Arab Awakening Arab Awakening Syria Iraq Conflict Culture Democracy and government International politics middle east Violent transitions Nicolas Pirsoul Wed, 19 Oct 2016 10:58:56 +0000 Nicolas Pirsoul 106067 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Shia militias can be a greater threat to Iraq’s stability than Islamic State https://www.opendemocracy.net/arab-awakening/lara-sievers/shia-militias-can-be-greater-threat-to-iraq-s-stability-than-islamic-sta <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>The current security situation in Iraq is likely to worsen if the abuses of civilians by Shia militias within the PMF are not officially recognised and appropriately responded to.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/549460/PA-28835387.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title="ID Iraqis on their way back to their hometown. 4 October 2016. Cengiz Yar/Press Association Images. All rights reserved."><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/549460/PA-28835387.jpg" alt="ID Iraqis on their way back to their hometown. 4 October 2016. Cengiz Yar/Press Association Images. All rights reserved." title="ID Iraqis on their way back to their hometown. 4 October 2016. Cengiz Yar/Press Association Images. All rights reserved." width="460" height="307" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>ID Iraqis on their way back to their hometown. 4 October 2016. Cengiz Yar/Press Association Images. All rights reserved.</span></span></span>The PMF is made up primarily&nbsp;of&nbsp;Shia Muslim groups, the strongest and most powerful of which are&nbsp;<a href="https://www.foreignaffairs.com/articles/iran/2016-02-11/irans-weak-grip">backed and controlled by Iran</a>. In April 2015, the PMF was&nbsp;<a href="http://cabinet.iq/ArticleShow.aspx?ID=6040">formally put</a>&nbsp;under the command of Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi.</p><p>Toward the end of 2015 and throughout the spring of 2016, I was on the ground in Erbil, Iraq, speaking to internally displaced persons (IDPs) from different parts of the country. One group came from a city that had been freed by the Iraqi army one year earlier. These IDPs told me their stories; stories of harassment, kidnapping and killing of Sunni men and boys by Shia militias. Their reports stated that the reason these men and boys were targeted for abuse was due to their Sunni surnames and that the atrocities primarily occurred when IDPs were leaving from or returning to their home cities.</p><p>In the war against the so called “Islamic State” (IS), the first reports of harassment, killings, and houses blown up and burned down by Shia militias appeared in&nbsp;<a href="https://www.hrw.org/news/2015/02/15/iraq-militias-escalate-abuses-possibly-war-crimes">early 2015</a>&nbsp;and then again when the city of&nbsp;<a href="https://www.hrw.org/report/2015/09/20/ruinous-aftermath/militias-abuses-following-iraqs-recapture-tikrit">Tikrit</a>&nbsp;was regained from IS in March and April of 2015. </p><p>Since retaking Tikrit, reports of crimes committed by Shia militias have steadily increased in various parts of Iraq and have not only included cases during or directly after an area’s takeover. Also in districts such as Muqdadiya in the Diyala Governorate, which has been under government control since January of 2015,&nbsp;<a href="https://www.hrw.org/news/2015/02/15/iraq-militias-escalate-abuses-possibly-war-crimes">reports of abuses</a>&nbsp;by Shia militias have continued throughout 2015 and into 2016.</p><p>Due to these and many other such documented abuses, Shia militias were side-lined in the operations to retake Ramadi in December 2015 and included only in combat operations outside the city during the Fallujah operation in May and June of this year. </p><p>Nevertheless, accounts of&nbsp;<a href="https://www.hrw.org/news/2016/06/09/iraq-fallujah-abuses-test-control-militias">enforced disappearances, mutilation of corpses</a>, as well as&nbsp;<a href="http://www.aljazeera.com/news/2016/06/iraq-civilians-recall-days-hell-militia-160616060343081.html">executions</a>&nbsp;attributed to the Shia militias appeared during and after the operation of retaking Fallujah. Moreover, crimes by these militias are no longer only committed on civilians following takeover or upon return to cities. Acts committed by Shia militias are taking new shapes; as Iraqi news websites reported on 10 July,&nbsp;<a href="http://basnews.com/index.php/en/news/iraq/286298">Shia militias had burned Sunni citizens</a>&nbsp;in retaliation for the deadliest explosions that hit Baghdad since 2003, which were claimed by IS and had killed more than 300 civilians.</p><p>It is unlikely that coalition forces are not aware of these acts by the Iran-backed Shia militias. Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International have identified the atrocities committed by Shia militias as&nbsp;<a href="https://www.amnesty.org/en/documents/mde14/3396/2016/en/">war crimes</a>. But when asked whether Iran is more helpful or harmful in this conflict, US Secretary of State John Kerry stated that “<a href="http://www.state.gov/secretary/remarks/2016/06/259165.htm">Iran in Iraq has been in certain ways helpful</a>”, thereby ignoring the harmful effects of Iranian involvement in Iraq, much of it through the Shia militias.</p><p>Through my work on the ground in Iraq, I have identified two immediate consequences for civilians of Iraq that should not be ignored: firstly, as one person I spoke to said: “residents in Daesh [synonym for IS] held cities would prefer to stay in these cities rather than leaving, fearing for their lives when walking into the hands of Shia militias”. </p><p>In June the former governor of&nbsp;<a href="http://rudaw.net/english/middleeast/iraq/08062016">Mosul warned</a>&nbsp;of exactly this, which can lead to increased numbers of civilian deaths when operations such as Mosul take place. In other words, having such a violent and abusive ‘opposition’, makes IS look more worthy of the civilians' loyalty. </p><p>Secondly, if Shia militias remain in the newly liberated cities as they currently are in Fallujah, where they have declared they will&nbsp;<a href="http://www.reuters.com/article/us-mideast-crisis-iraq-falluja-idUSKCN0ZJ0T2">remain for an undefined period of time</a>, the large majority of displaced Sunnis may not feel safe to return. For a city such as Fallujah this could mean that up to 300,000 residents will choose not to return and instead remain in their areas of displacement, where authorities and relief organisations are often overwhelmed.</p><p>The sole attention all over the world and in the US-led coalition in particular appears to be to combat IS to decrease their activity and potential to commit terrorist acts. This focus might defeat the terrorist group in the short-term. However,&nbsp;<a href="https://www.hrw.org/news/2016/07/31/iraq-ban-abusive-militias-mosul-operation">continued impunity</a>&nbsp;for Shia committed war crimes while international coalition members, and in particular the US, look the other way, will have mainly one outcome. </p><p>It will lead to a situation in Iraq in which these Shia militias, formally under the command of the Prime Minister, will become a greater threat than IS to the stability of the country. In the medium and long-terms it will divide Iraq and lead to further conflict and tensions in the region and beyond.</p><p>As a party to the 1949&nbsp;<a href="https://www.icrc.org/en/war-and-law/treaties-customary-law/geneva-conventions">Geneva Conventions and the 1977 Additional Protocol I</a>, Iraq is required to enact criminal legislation to prosecute those responsible. As such, various recommendations, on both the country and international level, should be reiterated. As stated by Human Rights Watch, the Iraqi government needs to&nbsp;<a href="https://www.hrw.org/news/2016/01/13/iraq-ethnic-fighting-endangers-civilians">establish effective command and control</a>&nbsp;over the PMF and other pro-government militias without delay.Those militias that resist compliance need to be disbanded. </p><p>Moreover, the government needs to ensure that militia members involved in violations of humanitarian law and international human rights are prosecuted. On the international level, the US government “<a href="https://www.hrw.org/news/2016/07/07/iraq-fallujah-abuses-inquiry-mired-secrecy">needs to fully acknowledge and address the widespread, ongoing abuses by Iraqi government forces and the near complete absence of transparent investigations or any investigations at all</a>”. While this is particularly true for the US which is leading the coalition against IS, it should equally apply to all other coalition governments.</p><p>Without official recognition and condemnation of these acts, instability in Iraq will continue, as confirmed by the most recent reports of revenge killings following the Baghdad bombing. If appropriate actions are not taken in response to these crimes, I am afraid that the stories I was told by IDPs in Iraq will be just the beginning of their struggle.</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="/arab-awakening/roger-hardy/sowing-seeds-of-conflict-in-middle-east">Sowing the seeds of conflict in the Middle East </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/arab-awakening/ali-ali/iraq-13-years-on-legacy-of-occupation-and-grinding-deregulation-of-daily-life">Iraq 13 years on</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/arab-awakening/dylan-o-driscoll/defeating-islamic-state-will-take-more-than-gunpowder">Defeating the Islamic State will take more than gunpowder</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/arab-awakening/dylan-o-driscoll/us-policy-in-iraq-four-steps-back-two-steps-forward">US policy in Iraq – four steps back, two steps forward</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Iraq </div> <div class="field-item even"> United States </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Conflict </div> <div class="field-item even"> Democracy and government </div> <div class="field-item odd"> International politics </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> Arab Awakening Arab Awakening United States Iraq Conflict Democracy and government International politics Violent transitions Lara Sievers Wed, 12 Oct 2016 13:28:59 +0000 Lara Sievers 105888 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Sowing the seeds of conflict in the Middle East https://www.opendemocracy.net/arab-awakening/roger-hardy/sowing-seeds-of-conflict-in-middle-east <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Whatever else they were guilty of, the two authors of the invasion and occupation of Iraq in 2003, George Bush and Tony Blair, displayed an astonishing ignorance of history.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/549460/British soldiers on guard at Jaffa Gate, Jerusalem, 1920 (Matson Collection).jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title="British soldiers on guard at Jaffa Gate, Jerusalem, 1920. Matson Collection. Public Domain."><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/549460/British soldiers on guard at Jaffa Gate, Jerusalem, 1920 (Matson Collection).jpg" alt="British soldiers on guard at Jaffa Gate, Jerusalem, 1920. Matson Collection. Public Domain." title="British soldiers on guard at Jaffa Gate, Jerusalem, 1920. Matson Collection. Public Domain." width="353" height="274" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>British soldiers on guard at Jaffa Gate, Jerusalem, 1920. Matson Collection. Public Domain.</span></span></span>Many people, understandably, are perplexed by the violence and disorder of the Middle East. They look at, say, the conflict in Syria and ask: how did it come to this?&nbsp;</span></p><p>Part of the problem is that the media focus on the crowded foreground and neglect the all-important historical background – in particular, the formative period in the emergence of the modern Middle East, in the age of empire.&nbsp; </p><p>To understand the conflicts and crises of today’s Middle East, we need to understand how it emerged in essentially its present form, in the half-century between 1917 and 1967. <span class="print-no mag-quote-right">When the British left Egypt, 77 per cent of the population was illiterate, per capita income stood at £42 a year, and the life expectancy of an Egyptian male was 36.</span></p> <p>The region was shaped in important, and fateful, ways by the First World War and its aftermath. The Ottoman Empire, which had governed the Middle East for four hundred years, had taken the side of Germany. After its defeat, Britain and France divided the Arab portions of the empire between them. The post-war settlement left a legacy of deep mistrust – and unwittingly sowed the seeds of many of the conflicts of today, including the Israeli-Palestinian dispute, the Lebanon problem and the statelessness of the Kurds.</p> <p>Arabs who dreamt of independence felt betrayed when they found they had exchanged Turkish for European rule. ‘The ghost of the Peace Settlement,’ wrote the historian Albert Hourani, ‘has haunted Arab politics ever since.’</p> <h2>A bitter harvest</h2> <p>European domination of the Middle East and North Africa had profound consequences for the region and its relations with the west. First, colonial rule was from the start contested. Only two years after the French occupied Algeria in 1830, a charismatic young warrior and Sufi scholar, Emir Abdul-Qadir, led a 15-year revolt. This, and a subsequent rebellion in 1871, were suppressed with great ferocity. Arabs and Berbers, the country’s two main ethnic groups, were united in opposing French rule. An anonymous Berber poet wrote of the bitterness the French left in the wake of these revolts:</p> <p><em>They have sowed hatred in the villages.</em></p> <p><em>We store it under the ground where it remains,</em></p> <p><em>The abundant yield of a harvested field.</em></p> <p>The same sentiment was apparent elsewhere. Throughout the region, with relatively few exceptions, colonial rule provoked resentment and in many cases rebellion. </p> <p>The French were taken by surprise by the Great Revolt in Syria in the 1920s, which broke out in the Druze region south of Damascus and soon spread to much of the country. In Iraq, the Shi’a of the south rose up against British rule in 1920, and the colonial power responded by using air power against this and subsequent unrest, whether among the Shi’a tribes or the Kurds of the north. In Palestine, it took the Arab Revolt, which lasted from 1936 to 1939, to knock the stuffing out of British complacency.&nbsp;</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/549460/Aftermath of French bombardment of Damascus, 1925 (Library of Congress).jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title="Aftermath of French bombardment of Damascus, 1925 (Library of Congress). Public Domain."><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/549460/Aftermath of French bombardment of Damascus, 1925 (Library of Congress).jpg" alt="Aftermath of French bombardment of Damascus, 1925 (Library of Congress). Public Domain." title="Aftermath of French bombardment of Damascus, 1925 (Library of Congress). Public Domain." width="460" height="378" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Aftermath of French bombardment of Damascus, 1925. Library of Congress. Public Domain.</span></span></span>The most sustained violence was in Algeria. Experts continue to debate how many died in the war of independence, which lasted from 1954 to 1962, but it was not less than half a million.</span></p> <h2>Nation-building</h2> <p>Second, colonial rule challenged the basis of Middle Eastern societies. Under Ottoman rule, for all its deficiencies, the region had a certain coherence – culturally as well as politically – which it never regained. The idea of the nation-state was novel and, initially at least, alien. British and French officials drew the new borders – those infamous ‘lines in the sand’ – to suit their imperial interests. In many cases, they were scarcely a natural fit. As a result, the process of state-building and nation-building was fraught with difficulty.</p> <p>What’s more, even when they proclaimed a ‘civilising mission’, the colonial powers did little to educate the mass of the people. Instead they educated a small collaborative elite which could provide the schoolteachers and low-level functionaries they required. When the British left Egypt, 77 per cent of the population was illiterate, per capita income stood at £42 a year, and the life expectancy of an Egyptian male was 36.</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/549460/Emir Abdul-Qader (Library of Congress).jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title="Emir Abdul-Qader (Library of Congress)"><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/549460/Emir Abdul-Qader (Library of Congress).jpg" alt="Emir Abdul-Qader (Library of Congress). Public Domain." title="Emir Abdul-Qader (Library of Congress)" width="460" height="576" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Emir Abdul-Qader. Library of Congress. Public Domain.</span></span></span>A pattern of intervention</span></p> <p>Third, and perhaps most crucially, colonial rule was part of a broader pattern of intervention. This went back to the era of Disraeli and Gladstone, when the European powers picked at the decaying corpse of the Ottoman Empire, and extended beyond the colonial period to more recent interventions – most notably the invasion and occupation of Iraq in 2003.</p> <p>Whatever else they were guilty of, the two authors of that invasion, George Bush and Tony Blair, displayed an astonishing ignorance of history. They seemed blissfully unaware that, for more than two hundred years, western intervention in the Middle East had produced a nationalist response – and that prolonged occupation provoked prolonged insurgencies.</p> <p>And when insurgencies are crushed, the hatred is stored:</p> <p><em>… under the ground where it remains,</em></p> <p><em>The abundant yield of a harvested field.</em></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 class="field-item even"> Palestine </div> <div class="field-item odd"> Lebanon </div> <div class="field-item even"> Iraq </div> <div class="field-item odd"> Turkey </div> <div class="field-item even"> Syria </div> <div class="field-item odd"> Algeria </div> <div class="field-item even"> Tunisia </div> <div class="field-item odd"> Egypt </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> Arab Awakening Can Europe make it? Arab Awakening Egypt Tunisia Algeria Syria Turkey Iraq Lebanon Palestine Israel Roger Hardy Tue, 06 Sep 2016 09:40:12 +0000 Roger Hardy 105133 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Iraq 13 years on https://www.opendemocracy.net/arab-awakening/ali-ali/iraq-13-years-on-legacy-of-occupation-and-grinding-deregulation-of-daily-life <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>As life goes on in Baghdad, plans need to be put in place to make people’s lives more bearable. Planning should not wait until the war ends, because in Baghdad, as in much of Iraq, war is now the new normal.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/549460/The restored buildings of Mutannabi street.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title="The restored buildings of Mutannabi Street. Ali Ali. All rights resrved."><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/549460/The restored buildings of Mutannabi street.jpg" alt="The restored buildings of Mutannabi Street. Ali Ali. All rights resrved." title="The restored buildings of Mutannabi Street. Ali Ali. All rights resrved." class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" width="460" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>The restored buildings of Mutannabi Street. Ali Ali. All rights resrved.</span></span></span>After a series of horrific <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2016_Karrada_bombing">bombings</a>, the worst of which was in the shopping district of Karrada, people from all over Baghdad lit candles in remembrance of the victims. A heavy sadness consumed the city, but also an intense anger at the political elites. </p><p>When Prime Minister Abadi visited the site, people on the streets shouted insults and threw shoes at him. Checkpoints across the city were still using the fake bomb detectors sold to the Iraqi government by a British businessman now jailed for <a href="http://www.bbc.com/news/uk-29459896">fraud</a>. </p> <p>The explosive-laden truck passed through several checkpoints before reaching Karrada. But it was only after the bombing that the prime minister announced that the fake detectors would be replaced with reliable technology. However, inside the Green Zone, where the political class live and work, K-9 sniffer-dog units prevent such attacks from happening.&nbsp; </p><p>In a video circulating on social media, people were insulting Abadi and those in power, but not the police men guarding the prime minister’s motorcade as they know that they are not the real problem. </p> <p>It isn’t just that people are angry that their politicians are corrupt and not keeping them safe, they are also angry about how exhausting and expensive daily life has become. The corrupt political class are largely to blame, and they themselves are another part of the legacy of the military occupation.</p> <p>I got a sense of this grind in February this year when I went to visit relatives and explored the pockets of beauty that remain in the city. It has changed enormously since my last visit in 2001. Last time I travelled by land, taking a taxi from Damascus. This time I flew from London. The officers at Baghdad International Airport were actually more welcoming than the border guards were in 2001. </p> <p>Rows of majestic date palms greet arrivals along the airport highway, one of the few roads in the city that is well maintained. Just a few years ago it was a highway of death, with frequent clashes between American soldiers and the forces resisting their occupation. The city is greener than I expected, Iraqis still cherish their trees and green spaces. There was a long queue of cars waiting to enter Zawraa park, a popular place to relax in Baghdad. </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/549460/Animated conversations and fresh juice in Baghdad.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title="Animated conversations and fresh juice in Baghdad. Ali Ali. All rights reserved."><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/549460/Animated conversations and fresh juice in Baghdad.jpg" alt="Animated conversations and fresh juice in Baghdad. Ali Ali. All rights reserved." title="Animated conversations and fresh juice in Baghdad. Ali Ali. All rights reserved." class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" width="460" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Animated conversations and fresh juice in Baghdad. Ali Ali. All rights reserved.</span></span></span>The signs of the ongoing war against Daesh were visible across the city; posters commemorating the martyred soldiers and the brigades of <em>Al-Hashd Al-Sha’bi</em>, the Popular Mobilisation Units fighting Daesh, dotted the city. The body of a martyr was carried to <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Al-Kadhimiya_Mosque">Al-Kadhimiya</a> shrine as I wondered around the nearby market. And there was a sense that the war was being fought outside of Baghdad. </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/549460/Another martyr of the war against Da&#039;esh is carried to be blessed in the Kathimiyya shrine in Baghdad.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title="A martyr of the war against Daesh is carried to the Kathimiyya shrine in Baghdad. Ali Ali. All rights reserved."><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/549460/Another martyr of the war against Da&#039;esh is carried to be blessed in the Kathimiyya shrine in Baghdad.jpg" alt="A martyr of the war against Daesh is carried to the Kathimiyya shrine in Baghdad. Ali Ali. All rights reserved." title="A martyr of the war against Daesh is carried to the Kathimiyya shrine in Baghdad. Ali Ali. All rights reserved." class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" width="460" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>A martyr of the war against Daesh is carried to the Kathimiyya shrine in Baghdad. Ali Ali. All rights reserved.</span></span></span>People were enjoying the evenings; spaces in popular restaurants were hard to find on weekends. Nightlife options are not wide ranging, but it is pleasant to dine on delicious Iraqi grills and stews in one of the park restaurants on the banks of the Tigris. Concerts are also still running in the national theatre. </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/549460/A popular restaurant in Baghdad .JPG" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title="A popular restaurant in Baghdad. Ali Ali. All rights reserved."><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/549460/A popular restaurant in Baghdad .JPG" alt="A popular restaurant in Baghdad. Ali Ali. All rights reserved." title="A popular restaurant in Baghdad. Ali Ali. All rights reserved." class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" width="460" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>A popular restaurant in Baghdad. Ali Ali. All rights reserved.</span></span></span>The booksellers were busy on <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mutanabbi_Street">Mutanabbi Street</a>, an old street in Baghdad which was restored after being hit by a car bomb in 2007. It was pedestrianized for security measures, which isn’t such a bad thing. On Fridays, booksellers arrange books on protective sheets and the street comes to life from the colours of the book covers.&nbsp; </p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/549460/Books on sale in Mutannabi street .jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title="Book sale on Mutannabi Street. Ali Ali. All rights reserved."><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/549460/Books on sale in Mutannabi street .jpg" alt="Book sale on Mutannabi Street. Ali Ali. All rights reserved." title="Book sale on Mutannabi Street. Ali Ali. All rights reserved." width="460" height="613" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Book sale on Mutannabi Street. Ali Ali. All rights reserved.</span></span></span>Mutanabbi Street is where the Shabandar Café is - a place where writers, artists, and intellectuals meet; more like a cultural club than a café. Old photographs of Baghdadi life and personalities adorn the walls, and thick smoke from fruit flavoured water pipes obscure the view. </p><p>Around the corner is <a href="http://www.al-monitor.com/pulse/originals/2013/02/iraq-ottoman-site.html">Al Qishla</a>, built by the Ottomans to house the government of Iraq. Its spacious garden by the Tigris is where artists display and sell their creations, and poets recite words of love and loss on Fridays. </p> <p><a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Al-Mustansiriya_University">Al Mustansiriya University</a> is nearby; a beautifully preserved thirteenth century building that is among the oldest learning hubs in the world. Constructed from dense and ornately engraved mud walls, its rooms provide a cool refuge from the scorching sun without the need for air-conditioning. </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/549460/It&#039;s hard to find a seat in the Shabandar Cafe on a Friday.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title="Shabandar Cafe on a Friday. Ali Ali. All rights reserved."><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/549460/It&#039;s hard to find a seat in the Shabandar Cafe on a Friday.jpg" alt="Shabandar Cafe on a Friday. Ali Ali. All rights reserved." title="Shabandar Cafe on a Friday. Ali Ali. All rights reserved." class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" width="460" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Shabandar Cafe on a Friday. Ali Ali. All rights reserved.</span></span></span>Baghdad’s streets are filled with new and old cars. Korean cars outnumber the rest, but some Japanese and American cars share the roads with the poorly made Iranian&nbsp;<em>Sabas</em> that seem to emit more pollution than the rest combined. I’m told they are cheap to run. </p><p>Iraqis have the latest smartphones and laptops. Shopping malls have grown in number. But the consumer boom is not matched by progress in restoring public infrastructure or Baghdad’s functionality as a city. </p> <p>Certain neighbourhoods, like al Amiriyah by the airport, remain enclosed by large concrete walls. Checkpoints in Baghdad are many. They appear to be run by state forces, not militias, although the lines between them are blurred. </p> <p>Life goes on in Baghdad. In February Baghdad felt calm, but at the same time, as if it were stuck on a path leading it from one war to the next. </p> <p>Tens of thousands of <a href="http://www.aljazeera.com/news/2016/03/thousands-iraqis-stage-anti-government-protest-160311144821516.html">protestors</a> were camped outside Baghdad's fortified Green Zone in February and March, home to government ministries, the parliament, and foreign embassies. They blocked the main entrance and demanded an end to the corruption and sectarianism in Iraqi politics, a legacy of the Anglo-American invasion and occupation thirteen years ago. </p> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/549460/Sculptures on display in the gardens of Al Qishla.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title="Sculptures on display in the gardens of Al Qishla. Ali Ali. All rights reserved."><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/549460/Sculptures on display in the gardens of Al Qishla.jpg" alt="Sculptures on display in the gardens of Al Qishla. Ali Ali. All rights reserved." title="Sculptures on display in the gardens of Al Qishla. Ali Ali. All rights reserved." width="460" height="613" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Sculptures on display in the gardens of Al Qishla. Ali Ali. All rights reserved.</span></span></span>Secular protestors were already making these demands in Tahrir Square, a few hundred metres away from Iraq's parliament, across the Jumhuriya bridge. They were joined, and <a href="http://www.al-monitor.com/pulse/en/originals/2016/04/iraq-secular-protests-muqtada-al-sadr-reform-sit-ins.html">outnumbered</a>, by the Sadrists, led by Muqtada Al-Sadr.&nbsp; </p><p>Muqtada gave a <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9MdTx3jcAyA">speech</a> in Tahrir Square in late February, denouncing corruption and sectarianism. He called for a new technocratic government composed of ministers unaffiliated to any political party. Terrorists' <a href="http://www.aljazeera.com/news/2016/02/isil-launches-major-offensive-outkirts-baghdad-160228080044646.html">bombs</a> killed dozens in a Sadr City market a few days later.</p> <p>The Sadrists, who can mobilise hundreds of thousands of men, including members of their militia, joined the protest camps outside the Green Zone. There was a thriving protest camp at the entry point to the walled-off government zone. Sadrists mixed with the secular progressives; they were sharing food and protecting them. Had the secular protestors been alone, security forces would have probably succeeded in dispersing them. </p> <p>They were gradually joined by protestors from other parts of Iraq. They used their smartphones to spread footage of protest songs on social media. They proudly showed the diversity of the camp: of secular and religious Iraqis protesting together, and Sunnis alongside Shias, and of their clerics praying together. They challenged the claims that it was an exclusively Sadrist protest camp. </p> <p>Popular discontent was not quelled by a cabinet shuffle. There were further protests, and the Green Zone was <a href="http://www.bbc.com/news/world-middle-east-36176910">occupied</a> by protestors at the end of April - some of them entered the cabinet building for several hours. Protestors were angry about delays to political reform. <a href="http://www.reuters.com/article/us-mideast-iraq-protests-idUSKCN0YC07M">Later</a> four were killed and dozens more injured by government security forces.</p> <p class="mag-quote-center">The Anglo-American invasion dismantled the Iraqi state but replaced it with corrupt and dysfunctional identity politics.</p><p>The Anglo-American invasion toppled the detested dictatorship of Saddam Hussein, dismantled the Iraqi state but replaced it with corrupt and dysfunctional identity politics, which benefits the corrupt diaspora elite. </p> <p>Occupation forces neglected many of the legal obligations which govern occupations. Other offences included: the sledgehammer purge of the old order, institutionalising governance which allocated power and resources on the basis of ethnic and religious identity, and incredibly poor financial accountability which ushered in immense and endemic corruption. </p> <p>This catastrophic combination has resulted in intense protracted violence in large parts of Iraq, but especially in Baghdad. It also resulted in the neglect of meaningful state-building and the associated regulation of the economy and society. This is what the protesters seek to change.&nbsp; </p><p>Iraqis have lived with these repercussions for too long. The state is not providing adequate public services, and where private actors have stepped in, they face little formal constraints or accountability. War and corruption have deregulated daily life and routinized disorder and unaccountability.&nbsp;&nbsp; </p> <p>The national electricity grid is still inadequate. Even in winter and early spring, when the cool temperatures reduce demand, power cuts prevail. Households rely on neighbourhood generators, for which they pay a fee, and on their own generators when the neighbourhood generator falls short. This is no joke in summers with temperatures as high as 55 degrees Celsius. If there is no electricity, there is no water pumped into homes. The system sometimes works, but only if you can afford the extra expenses, and if your neighbourhood generator is well maintained and not oversubscribed. </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/549460/Wires from a neighbourhood generator in Baghdad [photo courtesy of Sundus Al Bayati].JPG" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title="Wires from a neighbourhood generator. Sundus al-Bayati. All rights reserved."><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/549460/Wires from a neighbourhood generator in Baghdad [photo courtesy of Sundus Al Bayati].JPG" alt="Wires from a neighbourhood generator. Sundus al-Bayati. All rights reserved." title="Wires from a neighbourhood generator. Sundus al-Bayati. All rights reserved." class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" width="460" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Wires from a neighbourhood generator. Sundus al-Bayati. All rights reserved.</span></span></span>The city pays an aesthetic price; clumps of hanging generator cables clutter and disfigure the streets. Iraqis should be entitled to reliable and affordable national power generation; underneath them are the world's fifth largest oil reserves, and above them a powerful sun – &nbsp;the solar energy potential of which remains untapped. They receive neither.&nbsp; </p> <p>The drainage system is so poorly maintained that ordinary winter rains cause flooding in the city. A restaurant owner explained that private contractors, paid by the government, tarmacked over the drains and manholes on his street, taking no notice of his remonstrations. </p> <p>Another set of private contractors, who own the drainage-trucks, and who were sent by the local government, demanded payment from residents. Instead of paying the high fees each year for what should be a free service, he decided to conduct his own repair works privately. However, the other residents did not contribute to the cost, so he set it up to only deal with his part of the road. </p> <p>Corruption and lack of regulations also have implications on the health sector. There is a belief that many bogus drugs are sold. Receptionists in clinics can be bribed to slip people’s names into the top of the doctor's waiting list. In hospitals, nurses regularly demand bribes. Doctors commonly prescribe high doses of steroids for a range of conditions, without considering the long term side effects. Who will hold them to account? Rather than traversing the city to reach a hospital or a clinic, some Baghdadis visit the <em>Mudhammid,</em> the<em> </em>neighbourhood first aid man with limited medical training. </p> <p>The lack of regulation means some can claim to be doctors, qualified to fix fractures and tie stitches which real doctors eventually have to correct in hospitals. Some <em>Mudhammids </em>sell ‘recreational’ narcotics. Understandably, when Iraqis need major surgery, those who can afford to travel to Lebanon or Turkey. </p> <p>However, Turkey is losing this as well as other sources of revenue from Iraq, owing to the strict new visa regime which it imposed on Iraqis this year. It is widely believed to be another consequence of Turkey's 'dirty deal' with the EU, curtailing the movement of populations from conflict-affected countries to Europe in exchange for several billion Euros, and for reviving the issue of visa-free travel to the EU for Turkish citizens.</p> <p>A lack of regulation and inadequate public transportation has implications for mobility in Baghdad. Getting around the city is expensive and inconvenient. There are few road signs and public transport consists of mini buses - ‘Kias’ - and a new fleet of red double-deckers. Neither display signs to indicate their routes. The Kias, more numerous than the double-deckers, do not keep regular routes either. If you can't catch the Kia driver's ear, you can communicate with him using hand signals to ask if he's going (roughly) your way.&nbsp; </p><p>Most women feel unsafe riding the Kias, as harassment is too common. Women who can afford to use taxis, often with a driver known to the family, but this consumes a sizeable chunk of income. </p> <p>The lack of employment opportunities prompts men to use their private cars as unlicensed taxis. It is not yet socially acceptable for women to do the same. Independent mobility in Baghdad depends on private car ownership. Baghdadis say there are now more cars than people in the city. The frequent traffic jams give the impression this might be true. The basic task of moving across Baghdad is a polluted grind.</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/549460/Cars old and new in Baghdad&#039;s frequent traffic jams.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title="Cars old and new in Baghdad&#039;s frequent traffic jams. Ali Ali. All rights reserved."><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/549460/Cars old and new in Baghdad&#039;s frequent traffic jams.jpg" alt="Cars old and new in Baghdad's frequent traffic jams. Ali Ali. All rights reserved." title="Cars old and new in Baghdad&#039;s frequent traffic jams. Ali Ali. All rights reserved." class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" width="460" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Cars old and new in Baghdad's frequent traffic jams. Ali Ali. All rights reserved.</span></span></span>But it isn't just the number of cars on the roads which cause congestion. City planning has been neglected. Baghdad has been distorted by the occupation and the security measures in place to deal with the associated violence. </p> <p>In many neighbourhoods, concrete barriers still close off streets to limit access to roads where there are security checkpoints. Some of the barriers are waist high with small gaps to allow only pedestrian access. Others, like those enclosing Al Dora, are sealed and several metres high so that even pedestrian access is controlled.&nbsp; </p> <p>In addition to concrete walls enclosing neighbourhoods, there are walls around all public buildings. Vehicles are kept at a safe distance from schools, universities, municipal buildings, and even hospitals. This is not entirely unwelcome, as these walls and checkpoints have kept some of the car bombers, kidnappers, and other criminals out. </p> <p>Certain mosques and shrines are also walled. The <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Abu_Hanifa_Mosque">Abu Hanifa Mosque</a> as well as the <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Al-Kadhimiya_Mosque">Al-Kadhimiya Mosque</a> and shrine. In addition to the pedestrianisation of the roads leading to them, there are security search points on the paths leading to the shrines and adjacent market, as terrorists had targeted millions of Shia pilgrims from southern Iraq, Iran, and Pakistan. </p> <p>While the measures provide protection, they are also a reminder that the dysfunctional political system has normalised insecurity, not public safety.&nbsp; </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/549460/A highway and concrete walls run through Dora in southern Baghdad.JPG" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title="A highway and concrete walls run through Dora in southern Baghdad. Ali Ali. All rights reserved."><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/549460/A highway and concrete walls run through Dora in southern Baghdad.JPG" alt="A highway and concrete walls run through Dora in southern Baghdad. Ali Ali. All rights reserved." title="A highway and concrete walls run through Dora in southern Baghdad. Ali Ali. All rights reserved." class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" width="460" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>A highway and concrete walls run through Dora in southern Baghdad. Ali Ali. All rights reserved.</span></span></span>Baghdadis still find barriers appearing in unexpected places, roads which may have been open just a month ago may be closed off today. It can be infuriating. Even during the course of a journey, the contours of the city can change in obstructive ways. </p><p>The night before Muqtada Al-Sadr's sermon in Tahrir Square, certain roads were closed off as part of a security arrangement. The closures happened unannounced on a busy Thursday night, which is the start of the weekend. As we made adjustments to our route, another road was blocked off. We, like so many other Baghdadis, were expecting these closures the next morning. It is exhausting and another cause for discontent.&nbsp; </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/549460/Concrete blocks seal off a road to cars but not pedestrians.JPG" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title="Concrete blocks seal off roads to cars. Sundus al-Bayati. All rights reserved."><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/549460/Concrete blocks seal off a road to cars but not pedestrians.JPG" alt="Concrete blocks seal off roads to cars. Sundus al-Bayati. All rights reserved." title="Concrete blocks seal off roads to cars. Sundus al-Bayati. All rights reserved." class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" width="460" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Concrete blocks seal off roads to cars. Sundus al-Bayati. All rights reserved.</span></span></span>Endemic corruption is a major source of popular resentment at the political class. Political connections to a religious party are needed to access salaried public sector jobs as well as government scholarships for study abroad. </p><p>This corruption has also produced a major fiscal crisis. The cumulative total budget since 2003 is close to $950 billion, averaging $67 billion per year, and based almost entirely on oil and gas revenues. The 2016 budget is $99.6 billion, optimistically based on a $45 per barrel oil price, with a $25.6 billion deficit. Plunging oil prices and corruption threaten to put the country in dire fiscal crisis. </p> <p>Mishan Jabouri, a senior parliament anti-corruption official, <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/world/2016/feb/19/post-war-iraq-corruption-oil-prices-revenues">admitted</a> his own corruption to a <em>Guardian</em> journalist. Jabouri threatened a corrupt official with investigation if he did not pay him $5 million. He took the bribe and prosecuted him anyway.&nbsp; </p><p>Corrupt practices mean that there are still ghost employees and ghost soldiers, these are individuals who may not exist or do not show up to work, but to whom salaries are being paid. Billions of dollars of public funds are paid for projects which are not built. Despite this cash sloshing around, official <a href="http://www.tradingeconomics.com/iraq/unemployment-rate">unemployment</a> is still above 16 percent, possibly even higher in reality. </p> <p>People across Iraq are fed up. They are angry at the grand larceny committed over the years as they and their children struggle. The cost of living in Iraq has increased enormously since 2003 but economic prospects for most people have not. Many government employees have had their salaries cut.&nbsp; </p><p>Even in northern Iraq - where two Kurdish parties effectively run their own ‘statelettes’ - there are similar problems. Infrastructure is in much better shape in areas of the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG), dominated by the Kurdish Democratic Party and the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan. But without membership or a connection to one of these parties, it is extremely difficult to acquire a salaried public sector position. They are not as desirable as they used to be, as many government employees have not received their salaries for months.&nbsp; </p><p>Iraq's Kurdistan was supposed to be the successful poster-story of the occupation but its residents, who experienced severe persecution under Saddam’s regime, are still struggling. To its credit, the KRG has kept its doors open to the hundreds of thousands displaced by the war with ISIS in Iraq, and to refugees from Syria. </p> <p>Thirteen years later, the country has not recovered from the legacy of the occupation. Iraq is paralysed from corruption and protracted wars which continue to displace and dispossess. The war with <em>Daesh</em> is another phenomenon whose numerous causes include the invasion of Iraq and the resulting communal politics of exclusion. </p> <p>Ordinary Iraqis across the country are paying the price while their politicians, and global arms manufacturers, accumulate vast profits. Those in the protest camp outside the Green Zone attempt to make the most out of an arduous situation. They continue to protest on Fridays. If they are successful, then there is some hope of ending Iraq's political paralysis and state of perpetual warfare. But this prospect is far from being imminent.</p> <p>Many young Iraqis, especially men, have decided it is not worth waiting around for the positive outcomes of potential changes, and have decided to leave. Protests in Iraq have been under way since the Arab Spring began in 2011. In some areas protestors were killed by government forces, such as in Hawija where twenty people were <a href="http://www.bbc.com/news/world-middle-east-22261422">killed</a> by ‘gunmen’, according to the government. Life is leaving so many young Iraqis behind. </p> <p>As of 31 December 2015, over three million Iraqis are <a href="http://www.internal-displacement.org/middle-east-and-north-africa/iraq/figures-analysis">estimated</a> to have been displaced internally. It is no wonder that Iraqis remain highly represented in global refugee statistics.&nbsp; </p><p>The war with <em>Daesh</em> will continue, resulting in more displacement. If there is no political solution and people’s calls for political reforms are ignored, violent expressions of discontent will continue.&nbsp; </p><p>As life goes on in Baghdad, plans need to be put in place to make people’s lives a little more bearable. Planning should not wait until the war ends, because in Baghdad, as in much of Iraq, war is now the new normal.</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="/opencitydocs/rana-magdy/what-would-i-do">&#039;What would I do?&#039;</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/opensecurity/ali-ali/challenging-syrian-state-using-information-systems-to-document-human-rights-vio">Challenging the Syrian state: using information systems to document human-rights violations</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Iraq </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Conflict </div> <div class="field-item even"> Democracy and government </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> Arab Awakening Arab Awakening Iraq Conflict Democracy and government Right to the city Violent transitions You tell us Ali Ali Tue, 09 Aug 2016 07:22:09 +0000 Ali Ali 104639 at https://www.opendemocracy.net What is missing in President Barzani’s rhetoric for a Kurdish state-building enterprise? https://www.opendemocracy.net/arab-awakening/yoosef-abbaszadeh/what-is-missing-in-president-barzani-s-rhetoric-for-kurdish-state-building-enterpr <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>The question before Masoud Barzani is what to do in order to turn state-building rhetoric into a future Kurdish state.<strong></strong></p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/PA-25474629.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/PA-25474629.jpg" alt="" title="" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" width="460" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Masrour Barzani, son of Kurdish President Masoud Barzani,repeats call for referendum on seeking Kurdish indpendence from Iraq, February 2016. Alice Martins / Press Association. All rights reserved.</span></span></span>KRG’s President Barzani has recently intensified his efforts for independence. There might be many reasons for this. First and foremost, the state of Iraq is often regarded uncontroversially as a ‘failed state’, artificially designed by British and French colonisers in the aftermath of WW1, offering the Kurds nothing but a calamitous century-long history including genocidal attempts to eradicate Kurdish nationalism. Added to this, the domestic demand for the right of self-determination is well known to the Kurdish leadership. 98.8 percent of Kurdish voters said yes to independence in the Kurdistan independence referendum of January 2005.</p> <p>The small region of Kurdistan, little more than an autonomous region of Iraq protected by a no fly zone before the overthrow of Saddam, has now become an international entity. The KRG has its own foreign relations apparatus with 34 foreign consulates operating in Erbil. It has also a vast economic reach mainly because of colossal oil and gas preserves in Kurdistan as well as its trade with neighbouring countries. This has convinced the outside world that the notion of a Kurdish state is no longer out of the question. </p> <p>Since 2014 the Islamic State, (IS), has become another reason for the Kurds to speed up their efforts to secede from Iraq. Failing to defend Iraq’s second largest city of Mosul against IS assault, Iraq’s army also left the Kurdish city of Kirkuk, a troublespot between Arab Iraq and the Kurds for much of the last century. Taking advantage of the security vacuum, the Kurds sent Peshmerga forces into the city in order to prevent it falling into the hands of IS. This led to Kurds regaining almost all of 40 per cent of the territory that used to be considered, since 2003, “disputed areas”. In addition, rows between Baghdad and Erbil over the KRG’s oil policy reached a point of no return when in 2015 the Iraqi government refused to send its full share of Kurdistan’s 17 per cent of the national budget. </p> <p>The question before Masoud Barzani, nonetheless, is what to do in order to turn state-building rhetoric into a future Kurdish state which has successfully obtained the right of self-determination? </p> <p>Needless to say, any given state-building process requires domestic and external prerequisites. With respect to the latter, international and regional actors have to reach a conclusion as to how such a Kurdish state would be perceived, that does not contradict their multiple interests in the region. However, assuming, for the sake of argument, that such key external entities as Turkey and Iran will be relatively tolerant towards the emergence of a Kurdish state, salient domestic preparations need to be made. In what follows I will focus on this dimension in particular. </p> <p>The German sociologist, Max Weber’s classic definition of the state, as a monopoly over the legitimate use of violence within an established territory, still seems valid. Taking the two criteria of “monopoly of violence versus multiple purveyors of violence” along with “legitimate purveyor of violence versus illegitimate purveyor of violence” into account, there are four categories in which to describe any state, which are explained below. </p> <p>Any state possessing a monopoly of violence (one unified coercive force: army) and which possesses a legitimate purveyor (popular and inclusive democratic government) and which uses this violence to keep law and order in place and protect the sovereignty of the state, is considered a ‘consolidated state’. States without these characteristics are often seen as ‘failed states’, either as “factionalized/fragile state”, because they lack a monopoly of violence or as &nbsp;“predatory states”, when their illegitimacy is their distinctive feature. </p> <p>Applying this to Kurdistan, it must be recognised that there are currently two partisan armed and security forces (traditionally known as Peshmerga) in Kurdistan, each under the control of one of the two major political parties; the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) and the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan, (PUK). The potential here for endless malign partisan conflict, could spell a future Kurdish state of hazardous chaos.</p> <p>Although these Peshmerga forces are evidently perceived as the foremost resource of the Kurdish struggle for survival over the last century, especially due to its current internationally recognised battle against the Islamic State, the resulting disunity threatens the stability of any future state of Kurdistan. The fragmented characteristic of Iraqi Kurdistan with its historically fissiparous nationalist struggle, which deprived it from having a unified army, is something to fix before stepping into statehood, considering the infamous capacity of the Middle East for unprecedented conflicts of all kinds. </p> <p>Since domestic division has long been at work, even in the shape of civil war in the 1990s, weakening Kurdistan’s stance on all fronts, a sincere and decisive decision has to be made in reuniting all the Peshmerga forces. This is something KDP’s President Barzani and PUK’s Jalal Talabani will have to do to meet one of the very basic pillars for any relatively consolidated state to survive and thrive. </p> <p>The KDP and the PUK agreed to reunite the offices including a Ministry of Peshmerga affairs, but another source of concern is the perpetuation of the divided institutions for governing the KRG’s territory. In the recent economic crisis following the oil price falling to its lowest in decades, the KRG failed to pay civil servant salaries from mid-2015 onward. This added to political disputes over the extension of President Barzani’s office term, fuelling public protests and strikes in late 2015. Protestors stormed the ruling KDP party’s offices across the region resulting in 5 deaths. Immediately afterward, KDP’s Prime Minister removed four ministers (from the Gorran Movement, the second largest faction in Parliament) from his cabinet. On the same day KDP’s security forces barred the Speaker of the Parliament, Yousif Muhammad also from the Gorran Movement, from entering the capital of Erbil, and accused them of responsibility for the violent acts of some protestors against the KDP offices. Such political squabbles have incapacitated Kurdistan’s parliament since then, the body that would have to oversee any progress leading to a referendum for independence. </p> <p>Moreover, media sources such as satellite channels, news outlets and local TV and radio are also heavily divided and almost exclusively under political party control, yet with no single national TV channel as a mouthpiece of Kurdish national interests. </p> <p>The employment and distribution of wealth relies considerably on the loyalty that individuals and clans show to a certain political party. The preponderant nepotism stemming from the widespread party-based style of governing in public services has also penetrated into the private sector. This unfair distribution of wealth and opportunities will undoubtedly contribute to jeopardizing an independent Kurdistan, especially in terms of economic prosperity and social justice.&nbsp; </p> <p>Ironically, even the KRG’s foreign relations has become an arena for partisan antagonism: the KDP has a close relationship with Turkey on one hand, and the PUK and <em>Goran</em> movement seem to get on better with Iran on the other hand. This in itself has spawned a deeper breakdown between political fractions. </p> <p>This socio-political division in Iraqi Kurdistan, has placed some irreversible political and economic burdens on Kurds both at the domestic and foreign levels. As an example of domestic failure, the affluent region of Kurdistan is suffering from an inability to accommodate basic provisions such as water and electricity for its small population of roughly 6 million. The dominant rentier economy has served a small proportion of the society that has an association with political parties in one way or another. This has left the majority of the public in poverty, to an extent that the sharply growing gap between the poor and the rich suggests that obtaining a just social system for any future Kurdish homeland will be far more challenging than independence itself. </p> <p>Having suffered from this political division, the public in Kurdistan have wholeheartedly expressed a demand for unity and furiously protested against the deviation of Kurdish politics from this goal. They know that legitimacy as one of the main elements of a functioning state, cannot be achieved in a future state of Kurdistan if political leaders undermine the public demand for unity. This is something that is widely echoed in the oral and written language of the Kurdish public, from cafes to social media and from family and neighbours to institutes. These unheard voices rightly signal the fact that the current wide-ranging political disunity ensures that a prosperous Kurdish state will only be greeted with intensive scepticism. </p> <p>Current developments in the Middle East have never been more in line with Kurdish collective calls for self-determination. Envisaged by many observers as a kind of pioneering democratic experience in a region traditionally fertile for totalitarianism, the Kurdistan region of Iraq is a relatively stable region in the civil war quagmire of Iraq. This fact along with the internationally recognised Kurdish co-operation in the battle against ISIS could serve a future Kurdish statehood well, if Kurdish leaders manage to set their own home in order. Otherwise though, considering the current internal prevalent disputes and squabbles between political parties, it will not surprise anyone to see President Barzani’s appeal for independence remaining mere rhetoric.</p><div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Iraq </div> <div class="field-item even"> Turkey </div> <div class="field-item odd"> Iran </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Civil society </div> <div class="field-item even"> Conflict </div> <div class="field-item odd"> 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"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> Arab Awakening Arab Awakening Iran Turkey Iraq Civil society Conflict Democracy and government International politics Kurdistan Yoosef Abbaszadeh Fri, 22 Jul 2016 15:27:06 +0000 Yoosef Abbaszadeh 104195 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Chilcot tells us what we already knew – how do we implement? https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/gabrielle-rifkind/chilcot-tells-us-what-we-already-knew-how-do-we-implement <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Decisions to go to war don’t just analyze whether we can win. That is the easy part: the superiority of the western military machine makes this an absolute.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/PA-28007089.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/PA-28007089.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="306" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Mourners carry the Iraqi flag-draped coffin of a bomb victim during the funeral procession in Baghdad, Iraq, July 5, 2016. Hadi Mizban /Press Association. All rights reserved. </span></span></span></p><p>Did we really need 2.6 million words and 7 years of investigations to be told we should be making better decisions when we go to war? Oxford Research Group and many colleagues writing for openDemocracy were clear – as is now decidedly stated in the Chilcot report – that invasion would intensify the risks of <em>internal strife and Al Qaeda activity in Iraq</em>. But there was no room for critics of the war as a small sofa cabal of advisors to Tony Blair were already convinced of its efficacy.</p> <p>The Chilcot report now clearly states that all peaceful options were not exhausted prior to the invasion, and it is time to learn lessons from the myriad mistakes that were made. The mechanisms and reasoning behind decisions to go to war in Iraq have been exposed, by a series of <em>ex post facto</em> inquiries including now the Chilcot Inquiry as well as published memoirs of political and military figures. They have all highlighted that the way decisions were made were inadequate at best, and, at worst, dangerous for UK and global security and certainly for the people of Iraq. <span class="print-no mag-quote-right">Over the last decade the UK has been involved in three major military engagements, now characterized as ‘strategic failures’.&nbsp;</span></p> <p>Over the last decade the UK has been involved in three major military engagements, now characterized as ‘strategic failures’. These wars have also shown the current system of presenting the information to those at the heart of decision-making not to fully consider the consequences, and looking like a rubber-stamping exercise. There was little to no engagement with relevant experts who understood the history, culture and the mindset of the Iraqi people and how they would react to our invasion of their country. </p> <p>Chilcot is clear that <em>the judgments about the severity of the threat... were presented with a certainty that was not justified. Despite explicit warnings, the consequences of the invasion were underestimated</em>. Decisions to go to war are analysed through our own political lens and objectives, more often coloured by how we wish to see the world and not how it is. For this reason, we have to understand the mind of the people, how they will react, their history and experience, and not base our assessments on how we hope people will behave. What was needed as an essential part of the decision-making process, was a deep analysis and understanding of the region, its culture and how the people were thinking. Without this we are likely to do more harm than good. </p> <p>As proved in Iraq, war has devastating consequences. Those in positions of influence therefore need to thoroughly understand what it will mean to the people whose homeland they are invading. Prior to the Iraq war, deluded and myopic narratives about “liberation” were peddled amongst politicians. We convinced ourselves that the Iraqi people would see us as liberators. We failed to remember the impact of sanctions that had a devastating impact on health education and the economy. We also forgot that after the first Gulf war the Kurds had been encouraged by George Bush to rise up against Saddam Hussein – yet he failed to intervene to support them. Saddam subsequently used chemical weapons against the Kurds in Halabja. &nbsp;We might need to ask why the people would trust us after this experience? </p> <p>We convinced ourselves that American troops and their partners would be welcomed by the Iraqi people but the legacy of Saddam Hussein’s tyranny was not factored in. Exacerbated by years of western sanctions, it was inevitable that, even after the fall of the authoritarian dictator, there would be huge needs for retaliation and the avenging of wrongs that had been suppressed. Tyranny was soon to give way to anarchy.</p> <p>War decisions sometimes have to be taken swiftly, an obvious case being Libya when Gadaffi threatened an assault on Benghazi. In the cases of both Iraq and Afghanistan however, the government did not need to take hurried action. There was time for wide-ranging discussion and rigorous consideration. Non-military options were never seriously explored with a proper analysis of the after effects of long-term intervention. As Chilcot identified in his statement, the <em>UK chose to join the invasion of Iraq before the peaceful options for disarmament had been exhausted</em>. Chilcot is now clear there was not proper planning and preparation. The consequence is huge insecurity and a country where many would now prefer the harsh authoritarian government of the Hussein years to the chaos of today.</p><p>The postwar reconstruction plan precipitated Iraq’s decline into chaos and yet again demonstrated how out of touch the US decision-making process was with the real experience of the Iraqi people. Most Iraqis had not consented to this reconstruction experiment, nor to being occupied by foreign forces. The plan that was implemented was a de-Ba’athification process, in which thousands of professional people would lose their jobs at a stroke, including doctors and schoolteachers. <span class="print-no mag-quote-left">With I million people displaced in Iraq and at least 150,000 killed, the UK government needs to carry some of the burden of shame.</span></p> <p>In practice, the “reconstruction” became more like a witch hunt. It fragmented the very core of the country’s infrastructure, with the disbanding of the security forces and the sacking of its civil servants. This reckless act of dismissing all those who had been employed by the previous regime planted the seeds of the insurgency, and many of those who had served in Saddam Hussein’s army now found themselves unemployed, and took their weapons with them. Many of those who were in positions of leadership in the Iraqi military later transferred their skills to the leadership of Islamic State.</p> <p>The ensuing violence and fragmentation of Iraqi society into sectarian conflict demonstrated the lack of proper, disciplined, strategic thinking about the consequences of intervention; and a failure, according to Chilcot, to appreciate <em>the magnitude of the task</em>. Those involved in the planning process failed to imagine what conditions needed to look like to make the people feel safe, apart from the need to address issues of Iraqi security immediately. <em>The risks of internal strife…regional instability and al Qaeda activity in Iraq were each explicitly identified before the invasion </em>and yet were ignored in the UK Prime Minister’s messianic attempt to curry favour with the US President.</p> <p>Decisions to go to war don’t just need to analyze whether we can win. That is the easy part: the superiority of the western military machine makes this an absolute. Military superiority is the easy first step, but creating and sustaining the peace is the real work. We did not exhaust all peaceful options first, and there is little evidence that we have made this commitment subsequently.</p> <p>The fog of war and the fog of peace are often extremely hazy, erratic and unpredictable. With I million people displaced in Iraq and at least 150,000 killed, the UK government needs to carry some of the burden of shame. Unless we learn the lessons<em> </em>of<em> </em>our own litany of mistakes for future interventions, peacemaking will become even harder to achieve. If we do not fully understand the implications of our interventions, we can win the war and lose the peace.</p><div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> UK </div> <div class="field-item even"> Iraq </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Conflict </div> <div class="field-item even"> Democracy and government </div> <div class="field-item odd"> International politics </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> uk Arab Awakening uk Iraq UK Conflict Democracy and government International politics Gabrielle Rifkind Wed, 06 Jul 2016 18:27:27 +0000 Gabrielle Rifkind 103693 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Will Chilcot mention the real reasons for the Iraq War and the hundreds of thousands who have died since March 2003? https://www.opendemocracy.net/Arab-Awakening/bulent-gokay-lily-hamourtziadou/will-chilcot-mention-real-reasons-of-iraq-war-and-hundreds-of-thousa <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>As all sides are protecting their interests, who counts the lost lives alongside their own economic and political benefits? </p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/PA-26793658.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/PA-26793658.jpg" alt="" title="" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" width="460" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Man lights candles near scene of car bomb attack in the centre of Baghdad, June, 2016. Hadi Mizban / Press Association. All rights reserved.</span></span></span>Seven years ago, then Prime Minister Gordon Brown commissioned Sir John Chilcot to lead an investigation into the events that led Britain to join the US in initiating the 2003 war in Iraq.&nbsp; </p> <p>Launching the inquiry, Gordon Brown said: ‘The inquiry will, I stress, be fully independent of Government. Its scope is unprecedented. It covers an eight-year period, including the run-up to the conflict and the full period of conflict and reconstruction. The committee of inquiry will have access to the fullest range of information, including secret information. In other words, its investigation can range across all papers, all documents and all material.’ &nbsp;All this was a response to a disastrous war launched in March 2003 by the US administration, and supported by the British government, under Tony Blair’s premiership.&nbsp; </p> <p>Tony Blair presented the&nbsp;dodgy dossier&nbsp;to the British Parliament on 24 September 2002. He&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;claimed that Saddam Hussein had chemical and biological weapons, the so-called Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD), and active military plans for the use of such weapons, which could be activated to reach British targets within 45 minutes. We now know that the infamous claim that Saddam could launch WMD within 45 minutes was ‘sexed up’, by Alastair Campbell, to push Britain into the war. </p> <p>In order to secure the support for an unprovoked war, Iraq was portrayed as a ’rogue state’, a state which didn’t obey international norms and was governed by a brutal dictator.&nbsp; It was put in the same category as other ‘pariah states’ such as North Korea.&nbsp; But it also happens to be next to two other ‘rogue states’, Syria and Iran, and to have the second largest oil reserves in the world.&nbsp; Since 2003, it has become increasingly clear that there was a principal link with Iraqi oil in shaping US and British decisions that led to this war.&nbsp;&nbsp;Iraq’s proven oil reserves are considered among the greatest in the world. The Iraq war was important in terms of guaranteeing/ safeguarding firm control over the oil riches of the country.&nbsp; Indeed, many writers, and anti-war groups have mentioned the oil dimension as the key reason why Iraq was targeted.&nbsp; </p> <p>On 6 November 2000, while Americans were distracted by the controversial Florida presidential vote count, the Iraqi government announced that it was no longer going to accept dollars for oil sold under the UN’s Oil For-Food Programme and had decided to switch to the euro as Iraq’s oil export currency – hence launching the so-called ‘secret weapon’ of Iraq. This was the first time an OPEC country had dared to violate the dollar-price rule. Since then, the value of the euro has increased and the value of the dollar has steadily declined. Libya has been urging for some time that oil be priced in euros rather than dollars. In 2001, Venezuela’s ambassador to Russia spoke of Venezuela switching to the euro for all their oil sales.</p> <p>Before 2003, Iran, Russia, and other countries also indicated that they would like to denominate their petroleum in euros. Since the oil trade is a central factor underpinning the dollar’s hegemony in global trade, all these are potentially very significant threats to the strength of the US economy, and eventually to US global hegemony. </p> <p>In the end, as we know, the US, in alliance with Britain, intervened in Iraq militarily in March 2003, and installed its own authority to run the country. The invasion and subsequent occupation of Iraq may well be remembered as the first oil-currency war. There is now a wealth of evidence to suggest that the invasion of Iraq had nothing to do with any threat from Saddam’s WMD programme and certainly less to do with fighting international terrorism, than it has to do with gaining control over Iraq’s oil reserves and in doing so maintaining the US dollar as the dominant currency for the international oil market.&nbsp;</p> <p>The war against Iraq, a war started under false pretences and conducted brutally, regardless of its devastating human costs for Iraqi civilians, can therefore be seen as part of a larger equation of global economic and political structures, a convergence of political/economic interests, travelling under the rubric of ‘humanitarian intervention’ and ‘regime change’.&nbsp;&nbsp;</p> <p>Vested interests in energy, weapons and influential segments of the media industries are always rooted in key parts of government in the US and other western developed countries.&nbsp;&nbsp;These interests have been involved heavily with sustaining their favoured position, and key elements of the US and British political elite are, for most of the time, acting in response to these powerful interests.&nbsp;&nbsp;This is not a conspiracy, it is simply ‘business as usual’.&nbsp;</p> <p>What is not ‘business as usual’ is the utter devastation of the Iraqi state, all institutions and the irreversible damage done to Iraqi society. The hostilities that began on 20 March 2003 and continue to this day have resulted in the deaths of at least 179,000 Iraqi civilians. <em>Over 17,500 of those civilians have been killed by coalition forces.</em> British forces were engaged from 2003-2011 and again from 2014, with the loss of 179 British men and women. British forces were responsible for the security of four provinces in southeastern Iraq after the 2003 invasion. These were Basra, Missan, Muthanna, and Thi-Qar. From May 2003 to December 2007, 124 Iraqi civilians have been identified as victims of British military action. </p> <h2><strong>Violence is still claiming lives in Iraq</strong></h2> <p>Over 1,100 Iraqi civilians were killed in the month before the publication of the Chilcot report, in June 2016. At least 50 of them were children. In the month of June, 163 civilian deaths were caused by coalition bombings. Between January and June 2016 over 800 civilians were killed in coalition air strikes, nameless civilians who are barely mentioned by western media and will almost certainly be ignored by Chilcot.</p> <p class="story-body-text">As we await the publication of the Chilcot report, and as we celebrate the ‘liberation’ of Fallujah from ISIS forces, violence in Iraq is still claiming innocent victims. Over 200 people were killed by car bombs and suicide bombers on July 2, dozens of children among them, most of them in Baghdad. </p> <blockquote><p class="story-body-text">Many of the victims in Baghdad on Sunday were children; the explosives detonated near a three-story complex of restaurants and stores where families were celebrating the end of the school year, residents said.</p><p class="story-body-text">&nbsp;</p><p>Ali Ahmed, 25, who owns a shop close to where the bomb went off, said that in the aftermath, knowing how many children were inside a shopping mall that was hit, he had begun yelling: “The kids upstairs! The kids upstairs! Save them!”</p><p>&nbsp;</p><p>“But the firefighters arrived too late,” Mr. Ahmed said. (New York Times, July 3, 2016) </p></blockquote> <p>Victims of terrorism, victims of imperialism, victims of the mechanism ‘regime change’. As all sides are protecting their interests, who protects the interests of the ordinary citizen, child, mother, father, farmer, policeman, housewife, teacher, road sweeper? Who counts the lost lives alongside their own economic and political benefits? </p> <p>When Iraq is out of the news we can easily forget that every day brings a new chapter of death and misery. Since the 2003 invasion there has been no let up. The maximum number of deaths in any one month was 4083 in 2014, the lowest monthly total was 254 in September 2010. Whatever is said by Chilcot about the decision to go to war, we should remember that the civilians of Iraq continue to pay a terrible price. Any assessment of the UK’s involvement in Iraq must address the most numerous and direct victims of the conflict.</p><div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Iraq </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Conflict </div> <div class="field-item even"> Democracy and government </div> <div class="field-item odd"> International politics </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> Arab Awakening uk Iraq Conflict Democracy and government International politics Lily Hamourtziadou Bulent Gokay Tue, 05 Jul 2016 19:30:42 +0000 Bulent Gokay and Lily Hamourtziadou 103654 at https://www.opendemocracy.net A war of aggression https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/houman-barekat/war-of-aggression <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p class="Body">In <em>Not The Chilcot Report</em> (<a href="http://headofzeus.com/books/not-chilcot-report">Head of Zeus books</a>), Peter Oborne makes clear the erosion of trust between the British state and its public, as a result of the Iraq war.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p class="Body"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/PA-1709573.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/PA-1709573.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="293" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Robin Cook resigns over Iraq war, March 17,2003. PA Archive/Press Association. All rights reserved. </span></span></span>A death toll in the hundreds of thousands, an entire region catastrophically destabilised. Whichever way you look at it, the Iraq war has been the crime of the century so far. The only question mark is over the nature of the offence: was it criminal negligence or something worse? In anticipation of the publication of the government’s long-awaited Chilcot Report into the decision-making process that led to Britain’s involvement in the war, Peter Oborne has published <em>Not the Chilcot Report</em>, a succinct <em>j’accuse</em> – a mere 179 pages, all the more withering for its brevity – against Tony Blair and his duplicitous machinations in the run-up to the 2003 invasion.</p> <p class="Body">In November 2000, Tony Blair told parliament: "We believe that the sanctions regime has effectively contained Saddam Hussein in the last ten years. During this time he has not attacked his neighbours, nor used chemical weapons against his own people." By early 2002 his position had shifted from containment to explicit support for regime change. In a March 2002 memo to Blair, the British Ambassador Sir David Manning records an exchange with Condoleezza Rice: "I said… that you would not budge in your support for regime change." The Bush presidency, and the bellicose atmosphere in the wake of the 9/11 attacks, had changed everything.</p> <p class="Body">Regime change alone can never constitute legal grounds for the invasion of another country. In order to sell the mission to parliament and the public, Blair knew he had to link any military action to Saddam’s non-compliance with United Nations resolutions. Cue a rushed and shambolic attempt at securing UN approval for an invasion, on the spurious grounds that Saddam Hussein’s alleged failure to disarm had reactivated or ‘revived’ UN Security Council Resolution 678 – which had ended the first Gulf War in April 1991 – authorising military action against Iraq.&nbsp; </p> <p class="Body">Among several objections to this dubious logic, perhaps the most important is that 678 did not authorise regime change, only the use of force necessary and proportionate to the objectives of that resolution: the liberation of Kuwait, and the restoration of peace and security to the region. Kuwait was not under threat in 2003, nor was there any indication that Saddam was an immediate threat to his neighbours. (Despite this, the advice of the attorney general, Lord Goldsmith, to Blair was that the authority under 678 had indeed ‘revived,’ and British participation in the war was thus legal.) </p> <p class="Body">The passage of a new resolution, Resolution 1441, was supposed to up the ante by providing Iraq with what it termed "a final opportunity to comply with its disarmament obligations." It was implicitly incapable of constituting, of itself, an immediate trigger for the revival of authority under 678. Cognisant of this, the UK government sought to obtain a second resolution determining that "Iraq has failed to take the final opportunity afforded to it by Resolution 1441." The Security Council refused to endorse this, for the very good reason that inspections were ongoing, and there was no reason to stop the process now. On 17 March, Blair told his cabinet that he would join the Iraq mission regardless of the UN position; Robin Cook resigned in protest, and the rest, as they say, is history. </p> <p class="Body">Why the great rush? Because the US was going to start its war in March in any event – the US military wanted to avoid having to fight in the hot Iraqi summer – and would broach, at the very most, a week’s delay at Blair’s request. It was a <em>fait accompli</em>, and securing parliamentary approval was a mere rubber-stamp. The UN charade was never about achieving disarmament through inspections; on the contrary, it was about the forcible and premature curtailment of the inspections programme at the behest of the United States. At no point could anyone make the case that Britain, or any other country, would be in danger if UN inspectors were given more time.</p> <p class="Body">Oborne revisits the litany of half-truths, obfuscations and misrepresentations that made up Blair’s case for war. The prime minister distorted information about Iraq’s chemical weapons capability in order to bolster his case: a quantity of mustard gas reported ‘unaccounted for’ was, in all likelihood, a matter of statistical error, but Blair twisted it to suggest a surreptitiously stockpiled arsenal; meanwhile, he selectively omitted to tell parliament that any remaining 1980s-era nerve agents such as sarin, VX and botulism toxin would have degraded years ago, and would not have been viable for use in warfare; he told parliament that France had said it "would veto a second resolution, whatever the circumstances," when France had said no such thing; when the Joint Intelligence Committee had reported that Iraq "may have hidden small quantities of [chemical] agents and weapons," Blair turned this to "we know that he has stockpiles of major amounts of chemical and biological weapons." And he even stooped to raising the spectre of an alliance between Iraq and Al-Qaida – an egregious canard – on the basis, not of intelligence, but hypothetical conjecture: "The possibility of the two coming together …. is now, in my judgment, a real and present danger to Britain and its national security." The fatuous non sequitur – how on earth can a mere "possibility" be a "real and present danger"?-– is classic Tony Blair sophistry. </p> <p class="Body">Prior to Chilcot, three inquiries had already more or less exonerated the Blair government. The Foreign Affairs Committee of July 2003 found the government not guilty of wrongdoing, although its report did admit that, as the committee had not been allowed access to the intelligence in question, it was not well placed to make a finding. In 2004 the Hutton Inquiry – into the events surrounding the death of David Kelly – also exonerated the government, as did the report of the Butler Inquiry, which found that although the government’s notorious "September dossier" on Weapons of Mass Destruction did contain some misleading language, its contents still fall within "the outer limits of the intelligence available" – i.e. there was no fabrication as such. Oborne points out, however, that only a couple of years later, Lord Butler, speaking in the House of Lords, characterised Blair’s assessment of the intelligence picture&nbsp; – "extensive, detailed and authoritative" &nbsp;– as misleading, noting that Blair had disregarded an August 2002 intelligence briefing that "we … know little about Iraq’s chemical and biological weapons work since late 1988." This would seem to bear out Robin Cook’s opinion that the dossier "bore no relation in tone to any of the intelligence assessments that I saw. It was one-sided, dogmatic and unqualified."</p> <p class="Body">(It is worth noting that, quite apart from its inaccuracies, the dossier started life as a report on the nuclear capabilities of a quartet of pariah states – Iran, Iraq, Libya and North Korea – and its focus was narrowed down to just Iraq on the advice of the Join Intelligence Committee Chairman, John Scarlett, who advised that "This would have the benefit of obscuring the fact that in terms of WMD, Iraq is not that exceptional.")</p> <p class="Body">The Chilcot report is published this week. What will it achieve? For his part, Oborne is unequivocal in his conclusions: </p> <blockquote><p class="Body"><em>"No country was attacked by Iraq in March 2003 and there were therefore no grounds to go to war with Iraq on grounds of self-defence. The Security Council never authorised military action to disarm Iraq of its ‘weapons of mass destruction’. Therefore, that attack on Iraq by the United States and the United Kingdom in March 2003 was a war of aggression."</em><em></em></p></blockquote> <p class="Body">Oborne expresses concerns about how this saga has damaged British politics. During the period in question, Blair’s governmental style became increasingly dictatorial, the cabinet increasingly marginalised in favour of unaccountable special advisers like Alastair Campbell. Meanwhile, the sense that there was some level of inappropriate collusion between the security services and the political establishment has worrying implications for civil liberties in Britain. Oborne is right to conclude that the episode has severely eroded the trust between the British state and its public. </p> <p class="Body">But to suggest, as Oborne does, that Blair’s ‘progressive’ political inclinations rendered him especially receptive to neoconservatism’s penchant for imposing top-down, sweeping societal change, both overstates Blair’s progressive credentials and does a disservice to the respect most true progressives have for international institutions and international law. On the international stage, by 2003 Blair was already a seasoned interventionist – having overseen military conflicts in Yugoslavia and Sierra Leone – and preached a doctrine of humanitarian intervention, according to which western powers should proactively reshape the world to spread liberal democracy. If we must attribute this to some facet of his philosophical makeup, I would suggest his religious faith, rather than his political ideology, is the place to look. Blair is no fundamentalist, but in certain respects his process of reasoning and discourse resembles a fundamentalist’s. One illuminating passage in Oborne’s damning book recalls an exchange between Blair and a Middle East expert from Cambridge University, professor George Joffe: after Joffe had spoken at length about the possible ramifications of an invasion, Blair came back with "But he [Saddam] is evil, isn’t he?"</p> <p class="Body">And that, ultimately, was the beginning, the middle and the end of the matter for Tony Blair: pure blind faith, personal conviction and, one suspects – a sense of reflected glory in standing shoulder-to-shoulder with the world’s only superpower. To this end he applied himself with single-minded fervour and considerable energy. As Oborne recalls: ‘When the intelligence was uncertain, when the legal advice went the wrong way, he asked for them to be adjusted. Blair never once looked for any way out of the war.' </p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/uk/roger-hardy/suez-1956-iraq-2003">The similarities between Suez in 1956 and Iraq in 2003 are uncanny</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"> UK </div> <div class="field-item even"> Iraq </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> uk Arab Awakening uk Iraq UK Houman Barekat Tue, 05 Jul 2016 14:22:45 +0000 Houman Barekat 103602 at https://www.opendemocracy.net The similarities between Suez in 1956 and Iraq in 2003 are uncanny https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/roger-hardy/suez-1956-iraq-2003 <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>The Chilcot report will, at long last, draw lessons from the Iraq war of 2003 – which many experts have concluded was Britain’s worst strategic blunder since the Suez débâcle of 1956.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/SaddamSpiderHole.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/SaddamSpiderHole.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'>Regime change à la Iraq. Saddam Hussein captured in Tikrit in December, 2003. Wikicommons/ US army photo. Some rights reserved.</span></span></span>An Arab leader defies the west and a plan is devised to invade his country and remove him. But everything goes wrong. The invasion is bungled, provokes outrage at home and abroad, and spawns a progeny of unintended consequences. Its western authors are derided and humiliated. <span class="print-no mag-quote-right">No two international crises are identical. But the similarities between Suez in 1956 and Iraq in 2003 are uncanny.</span></p> <p>No two international crises are identical. But the similarities between Suez in 1956 and Iraq in 2003 are uncanny. In each case a British prime minister took precipitous action to overthrow a Middle East leader deemed to be an intolerable threat to western interests. In each case that threat was grossly exaggerated. In each case the prime minister misled the nation and kept much of his cabinet in the dark. In each case he acted with scant regard for international law – or for the morning after.</p> <h2><strong>End of an era</strong></h2> <p>In 1956 the prime minister was a Conservative, Anthony Eden, and the defiant Arab leader was Egypt’s Gamal Abdul Nasser. Nasser had had the temerity to nationalise the company that operated the Suez Canal, thereby taking control of a vital international artery. Convincing himself the Egyptian ruler was a threat on a par with Hitler, Eden plotted with France and Israel to invade Egypt and overthrow him. But in this case regime change failed. </p> <p>The United States was appalled at Eden’s action, and the duplicity that surrounded it, and forced him to withdraw. Far from being toppled, Nasser survived and became the hero of the Arab street. The Suez war, brief as it was, had long-lasting effects. It achieved the opposite of its objectives, strengthening Arab nationalism and weakening the British and French empires, whose end was nigh. The era of European colonial power was about to be replaced by an era of superpower rivalry, as the United States and the Soviet Union competed for mastery of much of the world, <a href="http://www.ibtauris.com/Books/Humanities/History/Military%20history/Suez%20Britains%20End%20of%20Empire%20in%20the%20Middle%20East.aspx?menuitem=%7B60C2D9BE-DAF9-4AF8-AC10-057956F7E4B6%7D">including the Middle East</a>.</p> <p>Almost half a century later, a Labour prime minister, Tony Blair, plotted with George W. Bush to invade Iraq and overthrow Saddam Hussein, deemed to have weapons of mass destruction, primed for use, and to be in league with Al-Qaeda – both claims which turned out to be false. But Saddam, unlike Nasser, was overthrown, his country was plunged into anarchy and sectarian strife, and the regional balance of power was overturned, to Iran’s advantage. We have been living with the consequences – which include the emergence of ISIS, or Islamic State – ever since.</p> <h2><strong>Getting in, getting out</strong></h2> <p>"No end of a lesson" was the title of Anthony Nutting’s book about Suez. (Nutting resigned from Eden’s government, as Robin Cook did from Blair’s.) The same is true of Iraq. Both wars tell us hard truths about the Middle East – and about ourselves – if we are willing to grasp them. <span class="print-no mag-quote-left">The Middle East seems to serve as a standing invitation to outside meddling of the most ignorant kind.</span></p> <p>The five great disasters of British foreign policy in the last 70 years were all in the Middle East – Palestine (1948), Iran (1953), Egypt (1956), Aden (1967) and Iraq (2003). Two were fateful <em>withdrawals</em> (Palestine and Aden) from situations which Britain was unable to manage, and as such were painful imperial humiliations. Three were fateful <em>interventions</em> – the overthrow (by covert means) of a popular prime minister of Iran, Mohammed Mossadeq; the attempted overthrow (through military means) of Nasser; and the overthrow (through invasion and occupation) of Saddam Hussein – which, whatever their short-term purposes, led to a train of unwanted consequences. </p> <p>Regime change, in other words, has a history; it was not invented after 9/11. In Europe’s imperial heyday, toppling rulers was taken for granted. By the time of Suez, as Eden discovered, it had become an anachronism (world opinion would not sanction it, and its short-term benefits were usually outweighed by longer-term costs). By the twenty-first century it should have become (at least in its full-blown form, à la Iraq) <a href="http://www.ibtauris.com/Books/Humanities/History/Military%20history/Second%20World%20War/What%20the%20British%20Did%20Two%20Centuries%20in%20the%20Middle%20East.aspx?menuitem=%7B6D00AE6F-976D-4418-ACF0-B75CB610346A%7D">unthinkable</a>.<span class="print-no mag-quote-right">The war damaged the very fabric of our politics.</span></p> <p>Be careful of what you get into, and be careful of what you get out of, a seasoned American diplomat, Ryan Crocker, has warned. It sounds banal. But how often has the warning been heeded? The Middle East seems to serve as a standing invitation to outside meddling of the most ignorant kind.</p> <p>As to Britain, still struggling to define its post-imperial identity, the Iraq war has been deeply corrosive. As Neal Ascherson argued with eloquent passion on its fifth anniversary, the war damaged the very fabric of our politics: we were lied to; we did not know who to trust; official reports were dismissed <a href="http://www.newstatesman.com/politics/2008/03/iraq-war-british-britain">as whitewash</a>.&nbsp;Now, finally, more than a dozen years after the invasion of Iraq, and at inordinate expense, we have the Chilcot report. Is a spoonful of catharsis too much to hope for?</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/peter-obornes-not-chilcot-report-review">Peter Oborne&#039;s &quot;Not the Chilcot Report&quot;: a review </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"> UK </div> <div class="field-item even"> Iraq </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Conflict </div> <div class="field-item even"> Democracy and government </div> <div class="field-item odd"> International politics </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> uk Arab Awakening uk Iraq UK Conflict Democracy and government International politics Roger Hardy Tue, 05 Jul 2016 13:53:52 +0000 Roger Hardy 103603 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Carnage in Istanbul and the point of no return https://www.opendemocracy.net/can-europe-make-it/karabekir-akkoyunlu/carnage-in-istanbul-and-point-of-no-return <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Once the external anchor of Turkey’s democracy, the EU‘s normative influence has sunk as low as its reputation among its many erstwhile supporters, who now feel betrayed and abandoned.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/PA-26743683.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/PA-26743683.jpg" alt="" title="" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" width="460" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Turkey Airport blasts. Family members of victims outside the Forensic Medical Center in Istanbul, June 29, 2016. Emrah Gurel /Press Association. All rights reserved. </span></span></span>Shortly after the attack on Istanbul’s Atatürk airport on Tuesday night, a Greek colleague posted on his Facebook wall a message of solidarity with his Turkish friends. “Hang in there”, he wrote. “You are not alone.” One of his compatriots disagreed: “I think they are alone”.</p> <blockquote><p><em>“They are alone between an authoritarian government working on [its] own agenda and [a] Europe that reaches out to them when looking for favours. Secular, western looking Turkey is very much alone.”</em></p></blockquote> <p>The truth could not be expressed more bluntly. Amidst the maddening routine of mass suicide attacks, prayforistanbul hashtags, media blackouts and messages of sympathy and solidarity from world leaders, many &nbsp;in Istanbul and across Turkey feel increasingly alone and despondent in the face of a thick darkness engulfing the country ever so tightly. <span class="print-no mag-quote-right">The EU‘s normative influence here has sunk as low as its reputation. <br /></span></p> <p>No one expects these attacks to be properly investigated or, for that matter, to be the last ones. Assuredly, no one will resign. As usual, a gag order was issued immediately and President Erdoğan’s puppet prime minister summarily concluded there had been no security failures (even though the Turkish intelligence service apparently <a href="http://www.diken.com.tr/cnn-turk-mit-havaalani-saldirisina-karsi-devleti-20-gun-onceden-uyardi/">warned of a threat</a> precisely against this airport only weeks ago). The next morning, the AKP deputies in Ankara killed a proposal by three opposition parties to establish a parliamentary commission to investigate the attacks – just like they did after the Suruç and Ankara attacks last year. On Thursday, the prime minister spoke at the inauguration of a new bridge. His opening words under a rain of confetti: “Today is a day of celebration…”</p><p><span>Erdoğan’s government indeed has an agenda: total control of Turkey's state institutions and complete legal impunity for its criminal actions. Tuesday</span>&nbsp;night’s attack did not divert it from this task. Late into that same night, the AKP parliamentarians were busy voting into law a major court packing bill that will drastically reduce the ranks of Turkey’s higher courts and replace them with jurists handpicked by the president – the final nail in the coffin of Turkey’s wobbling judiciary. The law follows another that passed last week, granting <a href="http://www.reuters.com/article/us-turkey-security-kurds-idUSKCN0ZA1IV">immunity from prosecution</a> to security personnel and civil servants involved in counter-terrorism activities – a task which these days involves hunting down academics, journalists and students, as well as militants. </p> <p>As Turkey descends into dictatorship and chaos, a hapless European Union announced on Friday the opening of a new chapter in the country’s accession negotiations, fulfilling its role in the dirty bargain struck with Erdoğan over the lives of refugees. Once the external anchor of Turkey’s democracy, the EU‘s normative influence here has sunk as low as its reputation among its many erstwhile supporters, who now feel utterly betrayed and abandoned. </p> <h2>No way out</h2> <p>One friend’s social media outburst after the airport attacks summed up the growing sense of suffocation among the young, urbane population of Istanbul:</p> <blockquote><p>“There is no exit. No way out of this hell. </p><p>Even if you wanted to abandon everything and fuck off from this country, you would have to go through the airport. And there is no way out of there either.</p><p><em>We’re done for. Done!”</em></p></blockquote> <p>In Istanbul, like in other Turkish metropolises, a grim despondency has been taking over the upbeat optimism of younger generations, who, until recently, had a love affair with this city, its buzzing vibrancy and breathtaking landscape, despite its endless construction sites and crazy traffic. </p><p>These are the accidental activists who poured onto streets and squares three summers ago to save Gezi Park from demolition and push back an overbearing government. Since then suppression has grown more intense, violent and pervasive. Politics has failed them: a spineless CHP has done more to help than to resist the AKP’s monstrous transformation, while the constructive energy harnessed by the pro-Kurdish leftist HDP ahead of last summer’s general election has been sacrificed on the altar of war between the Turkish state and the PKK. <span class="print-no mag-quote-left">The government is apparently more concerned about the threat from high school students than militant jihadism.</span></p> <p>Last month, a student protest in a high school graduation ceremony in Istanbul over the <a href="http://www.al-monitor.com/pulse/originals/2016/06/turkey-high-schools-student-stand-up-against-islamism.html">Islamisation of education</a> quickly spread to other high schools across the country, among them Turkey’s most established and prestigious ones. </p><p>The president swiftly issued a stern warning against “provocateurs”, followed by a Ministry of Education statement about impending investigations against those who took part in or supported the protests (the government is apparently more concerned about the threat from high school students than militant jihadism). For many, the price of dissent has become too high. More people now censor their own social media activities for fear of prosecution and avoid public places and demonstrations for fear of an attack or confrontation with the police – <a href="http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/europe/ankara-terror-attack-protesters-clash-with-police-after-ambulances-blocked-following-explosions-a6689016.html">possibly both</a>. </p> <p>Unsurprisingly, leaving the country is on the lips of many young people, albeit in different forms. Some think of it as the sensible thing to do. Applications to study in European and American universities have <a href="http://www.cumhuriyet.com.tr/haber/egitim/554056/Yurtdisina_kacis_basladi.html">reportedly skyrocketed</a> in 2016. But leaving one’s home, family, country is easier said than done. In any case, except for a privileged minority, the whole venture can be prohibitively expensive and, given the tight visa restrictions, simply unattainable.</p> <p>Others think of it as a lowly escape; a dishonourable and unthinkable act. They may not take part in the increasingly precarious world of social activism (a dedicated core still do at the risk of <a href="https://www.timeshighereducation.com/blog/kites-poetry-and-tallies-academic-freedom-disappears-turkey">being labelled as traitors and terrorists</a>). </p><p>But in extraordinary times the assumption of normalcy can also be an act of resistance. And yet others think of leaving as unnecessary: life is still pulsating in Istanbul’s increasingly isolated secular middle-class neighbourhoods for those who can enjoy it. But the mood is toxic, with hints of inglorious nihilism reminiscent of Tel Aviv and war-time Beirut. <span class="print-no mag-quote-right">But the mood is toxic, with hints of inglorious nihilism reminiscent of Tel Aviv and war-time Beirut.</span></p> <p>That the talk of leaving still includes visa applications and plane tickets – and not smugglers and boats – speaks volumes to the colossal distance separating the depressed residents of the cosmopolis from their new refugee neighbours. </p><p>For any of the three million plus Syrians that arrived in Turkey since 2011, a city like Istanbul may well represent escape from imminent death. For their reluctant hosts – who have on balance proved to be endlessly more accommodating than most, if not all, <a href="http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/europe/denmark-jewellery-law-migrants-refugees-asylum-seekers-unhcr-united-nations-a7113056.html">European</a>, North American and Gulf Arab countries – the wretched newcomers are harbingers of trouble, instability and other unknown ills. In Istanbul, one’s cure is truly another’s poison. </p> <p>The same assumption of normalcy, rebellious when in defiance of government imposed public morality, can become cruel and shameful when it takes the form of ignoring the existence of refugees or turning a blind eye – out of fear of retribution or nationalistic consent – to the state’s ongoing destruction of Kurdish towns and the plight of more than 500,000 Kurds internally displaced since last summer. </p><p>The “secular, western looking Turkey” is also alone, because it continues to disregard the east, at its own peril.</p> <h2><strong>A boat called Civilisation</strong></h2> <p>For all the unbridgeable gaps separating their universes, there is something fundamental that binds the fate of the Syrian or Kurdish refugee with that of the Istanbul urbanite and indeed the distraught post-Brexit Londoner or the New Yorker who muses about moving to Canada if Trump wins in November: they are all travelling on the same overcrowded refugee boat and it is slowly sinking. </p><p>Those who are at the bottom are drowning. The ones in the middle are feeling the pressure and panicking. Up on the deck, first-class passengers are busy locking the hatch leading down, momentarily comforted by the fake safety of privilege. </p> <p>The appropriate name for this ill-fated boat would be ‘Civilisation’. Like the Titanic, it was foolishly claimed to be unsinkable. When it struck the iceberg, its hull ripped apart like paper. We should have known that if Baghdad could fall, if Aleppo could crumble, so could any city on earth. Yet as Iraq and Syria were being consumed by fire – with governments of ‘civilised’ countries fanning the flames – those of us in the middle and upper tiers followed the terrifying spectacle in the safety of our homes and on TV screens as if watching an episode of the Game of Thrones: this was not of our civilised world. In any case, our walls would prove high enough to keep the wildlings out. <span class="print-no mag-quote-left">The last time so many calamitous trends converged at once, it took the destruction of two world wars to reset things.</span></p> <p>Turkey is in the middle of this boat. Here, Erdoğan’s imaginary Ottoman empire has started to crumble before it was even established. His jihadist chickens – nurtured to re-conquer for him the lost provinces of the Levant – have come home to roost: it was apparently an ISIS-inspired cell, with homegrown and foreign terrorists, that struck at the heart of the empire during the holy month of Ramadhan, killing mostly Muslims. In the Kurdish southeast, the state’s year-long brutal vengeance will spur <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2016/01/25/opinion/undoing-years-of-progress-in-turkey.html?_r=0">generations of radicalised Kurds</a>, facing a sea of Sunni Turks overflowing in religious zeal and nationalist anger.</p> <p>There is a cautionary tale for everyone in Turkey’s unfolding tragedy. It is a tale of false prophets who capture democratic institutions by exploiting the resentments of the masses dispossessed by the forces of globalisation and self-serving political classes; demagogues that are full of arrogance but short of substance, leading entire nations to ruin. If this sounds like what’s happening in Britain, across Europe and the United States these days, that is because they are deeply connected. </p> <p> The last time so many calamitous trends converged at once, it took the destruction of two world wars to reset things. We might still avoid such meltdown, but for that, the dejected millions in those countries that have yet to pass the point of no return must shake their torpor and realise that their fate – and salvation – is tied to those who have lost everything. The seas are rough, we have one boat and it needs fixing.</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="/kerem-oktem/zombie-politics-europe-turkey-and-disposable-human">Zombie politics: Europe, Turkey and the disposable human</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/can-europe-make-it/julian-de-medeiros/don-t-be-fooled-brexit-or-bremain-both-want-us-to-fear-turkey">Don’t be fooled: Brexit or Bremain, both want us to fear Turkey</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/umut-ozkirimli/on-bad-writing-politics-and-killing-kurd"> On ‘bad writing’, politics and killing a Kurd…</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/t-deniz-erkmen/turkey-s-cautionary-tale"> Turkey’s cautionary tale</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 class="field-item even"> EU </div> <div class="field-item odd"> Syria </div> <div class="field-item even"> Iraq </div> <div class="field-item odd"> UK </div> <div class="field-item even"> United States </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Civil society </div> <div class="field-item even"> Conflict </div> <div class="field-item odd"> Culture </div> <div class="field-item even"> Democracy and government </div> <div class="field-item odd"> International politics </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> Can Europe make it? Can Europe make it? United States UK Iraq Syria EU Turkey Civil society Conflict Culture Democracy and government International politics Karabekir Akkoyunlu Fri, 01 Jul 2016 18:50:22 +0000 Karabekir Akkoyunlu 103549 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Myth-busting in defense of grassroots women crisis responders https://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/yifat-susskind/myth-busting-in-defense-of-grassroots-women-crisis-responders <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>False claims that deny the impact of grassroots women's crisis responses are diverting much needed resources away from the very people making the best use of them. </p> </div> </div> </div> <p>If your house was on fire, you wouldn’t sit back and ponder whether hosing it down is the right option. You would do what works and douse those flames with water. Yet these days, governments are watching the gathering flames of entrenched humanitarian disasters and equivocating over whether water is really the best way to go.&nbsp;</p> <p>There is a dangerous and misguided notion taking hold among states that are charged with funding and coordinating international humanitarian responses. More and more, they float the claim that there is insufficient proof of the effectiveness of grassroots women’s interventions in crisis settings. This claim is not just demonstrably false, it also threatens to divert much-needed resources away from the very people making the best use of them.</p><p> <span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/535193/Colombia - Community Organizing for Peace (c) Maureen Drennan 2.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/535193/Colombia - Community Organizing for Peace (c) Maureen Drennan 2.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="307" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Community organising for peace, Colombia. Credit: MADRE</span></span></span></p><p><span>In a crisis, women waste no time in putting our most effective solutions into action. When drought and famine gripped northern Kenya,&nbsp;</span><a href="http://imowblog.blogspot.com/2011/10/women-helping-women-somalian-famine.html" target="_blank">local women organized as indispensable first responders</a><span>, providing food and water to struggling families far from official refugee camps. Through Colombia’s grinding, 50-year war, women transformed embattled communities into peace enclaves that&nbsp;</span><a href="http://www.usip.org/publications/2016/03/18/women-and-peace-special-role-in-violent-conflict" target="_blank">bolstered local ceasefires and negotiated the release of hostages</a><span>. When Nepal's earthquake struck, local women&nbsp;<a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/yifat-susskind/confronting-earthquake-with-love-mission-sneha" target="_blank">set up temporary shelters and distributed health kits</a>&nbsp; And two years ago, when ISIS invaded the northern Iraqi city of Mosul,&nbsp;</span><a href="http://www.theguardian.com/global-development/poverty-matters/2014/jul/03/isis-iraqi-women-rape-violence-repression" target="_blank">women mobilized immediately</a><span>&nbsp;to set up emergency escape routes for human rights defenders and urgent humanitarian aid deliveries, even as large international aid agencies were pulling out of the danger zones.&nbsp;</span></p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/535193/DSC_0482.JPG" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/535193/DSC_0482.JPG" alt="" title="" width="460" height="307" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Iraqi women activists and advocates in Erbil, Iraq. Credit: MADRE</span></span></span></p><p>I was recently in Erbil, Iraq, to meet with some of these women. I was struck by the gulf between their reality and the myths being perpetuated by some policymakers. With the north of their country still ruled by ISIS and the rest by a government that denies women basic rights, these activists planned strategies to keep their women’s shelters open and strong. They debated the best counseling methodologies for girls who were enslaved by ISIS and those who were abused in forced marriages condoned by the state. They honed communication tactics between nodes in the activist network they’ve built across Iraq, spreading a safety net to communities where no other aid reaches. They hammered out new security protocols because they know they are risking their lives every day to do this work.&nbsp;</p> <p>Policymakers call these women service providers, but they are so much more. Woven into the strategizing in Erbil were&nbsp;<a href="https://www.madre.org/press-publications/human-rights-report/letter-un-security-council" target="_blank">debates over how to push for an end to violence against women</a>—not just the violence of ISIS, but all of it. As an initial step, the women are campaigning locally and internationally to&nbsp;<a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/lisa-davis/lifting-ban-on-women%E2%80%99s-shelters-in-iraq-promoting-change-in-conflict" target="_blank">overturn the Iraqi government’s ban on the shelters</a>&nbsp;they are currently forced to run illegally. And they’re winning; they’ve already&nbsp;<a href="http://america.aljazeera.com/articles/2015/10/8/activist-calls-on-iraq-to-legalize-women-shelters.html" target="_blank">generated unprecedented global pressure on the Iraqi government to change this law</a>. <span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/535193/DSC_0462.JPG" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/535193/DSC_0462.JPG" alt="" title="" width="460" height="307" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Iraqi women activists and advocates in Erbil, Iraq. Credit: MADRE</span></span></span></p> <p>These women’s expertise in policy advocacy is not merely an add-on to their role as care providers. Rather, their work as grassroots organizers informs and motivates their policy prescriptions, turning them into the most valuable policy advisor an official could hope for.</p> <p>Yet, this opportunity is squandered by policymakers who dismiss the value of women’s local organizing. Without bothering to measure the impact that these groups create, they claim that there’s no evidence that grassroots women create impact.&nbsp;</p> <p>The real problem is not that there’s no evidence of the value of grassroots women’s organizing. The real problem is that their organizing is not valued, so sufficient evidence hasn’t been collected.&nbsp;</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/501857/Safe Space for Women after Disaster (c) WOREC(1).jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/501857/Safe Space for Women after Disaster (c) WOREC(1).jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="345" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Safe space for women after earthquake disaster, Nepal. Photo:WOREC. </span></span></span></p> <p>When policymakers and researchers have bothered to document the impacts of local women’s mobilization, the data confirms what people in Kenya, Colombia, Nepal, Iraq and other humanitarian crises could already attest to: grassroots women’s work in war and disaster is life-saving and its impact is felt globally.&nbsp;</p> <p>A few examples can serve to illustrate. In multiple case studies of humanitarian aid delivery after disaster, experience shows that food aid is most likely to be shared equitably and to reach the most vulnerable when it is distributed by local women: from&nbsp;<a href="https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Anthony_Zwi/publication/13531804_Women_Health_and_Humanitarian_Aid_in_Conflict/links/55e3a54608ae2fac47213216.pdf" target="_blank">Tanzania</a>, to&nbsp;<a href="http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=123202099" target="_blank">Haiti</a>, to&nbsp;<a href="http://www.irinnews.org/report/41840/swaziland-women-forefront-food-aid-distribution" target="_blank">Swaziland</a>&nbsp;and beyond.&nbsp;</p> <p>Another set of data is a&nbsp;<a href="http://polisci.unm.edu/common/documents/htun_apsa-article.pdf" target="_blank">40-year, 70-country study</a>&nbsp;on efforts to combat the global crisis of violence against women, which showed that local feminist mobilization was the most successful strategy, outpacing all efforts by governments or large NGOs at legal reform and education to end violence against women.&nbsp;</p> <p>Furthermore, in a world where half of peace agreements fail within five years, women’s participation has been shown to be a game-changer. A study of 40 peace and transition processes revealed that grassroots women’s effective participation&nbsp;<a href="https://www.ipinst.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/06/IPI-E-pub-Reimagining-Peacemaking.pdf" target="_blank">creates peace agreements that are 35% more likely to last for at least 15 years</a>.&nbsp;</p> <p>These examples serve as a call to action for more data of impact, which can lead to more funding and support for grassroots women’s efforts. Meanwhile, policymakers who doubt the value of local women’s crisis response should account for the performance of larger operations in war zones and other disaster settings.&nbsp;</p> <p>After all,&nbsp;<a href="http://www.refugeesinternational.org/reports/2015/11/02/displaced-in-iraq" target="_blank">international aid agencies still struggle to access the same ISIS-controlled territories</a>&nbsp;that Iraqi women have managed to penetrate. While they were pulling out, grassroots women were rushing in to help.&nbsp;</p> <p>Or consider that large aid agencies have time and again failed to meet local needs, instead wasting resources in&nbsp;<a href="https://www.propublica.org/article/how-the-red-cross-raised-half-a-billion-dollars-for-haiti-and-built-6-homes" target="_blank">a dynamic revealed</a><a href="https://www.propublica.org/article/how-the-red-cross-raised-half-a-billion-dollars-for-haiti-and-built-6-homes" target="_blank">&nbsp;in epic fashion</a><a href="https://www.propublica.org/article/how-the-red-cross-raised-half-a-billion-dollars-for-haiti-and-built-6-homes" target="_blank">&nbsp;by the Red Cross in Haiti</a>.&nbsp;</p> <p>When big organizations swoop in, they can also siphon funding away from local responders who know better what they need. Concentrating resources in the hands of foreign aid workers, who are soon to leave, robs people of the opportunity to lead their own recovery efforts, develop new skills and build the resilience they need to face the next crisis.&nbsp;</p> <p>To be sure, bigger operations do have a critical role to play, particularly when government is unable or unwilling to meet its responsibilities. Yet, there’s a mixed record when it comes to large-scale international responses to crisis.&nbsp;</p> <p>The best way to address the shortcomings of that model is to give grassroots women the recognition, resources and roles in policymaking they deserve. Elevating, not undermining, local women’s organizing is what governments should do to put out the fires that threaten to consume our planet.</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/lisa-davis/lifting-ban-on-women%E2%80%99s-shelters-in-iraq-promoting-change-in-conflict">Lifting the ban on women’s shelters in Iraq: promoting change in conflict</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/yifat-susskind/confronting-earthquake-with-love-mission-sneha">Nepal&#039;s earthquake: grassroots women as first responders</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/jennifer-allsopp/iraqs-female-citizens-prisoners-of-war">Iraq&#039;s female citizens: prisoners of war</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/yifat-susskind/women-defenders-preventing-rape-as-weapon-of-war">Shelters without walls: women building protective infrastructures against rape </a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/nadje-alali/sexualized-violence-in-iraq-how-to-understand-and-fight-it">Sexualized violence in Iraq: how to understand and fight it</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/yifat-susskind/salaam-and-paz-word-for-peace-is-women">Salaam and Paz: the word for Peace is Women</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/nadje-al-ali/iraq-gendering-authoritarianism">Iraq: gendering authoritarianism</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/jody-williams/defending-defenders-daunting-challenge">Defending the Defenders: a daunting challenge </a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/nathalie-marji/women-on-frontlines-of-climate-justice-defending-land-and-community">Defending land and community: women on the frontlines of climate justice </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/yifat-susskind/women-in-post-earthquake-haiti-moving-beyond-survival">Women in post-earthquake Haiti: moving beyond survival </a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/osprey-orielle-lake/mapping-womens-resistance-to-social-and-ecological-degradation">Mapping women&#039;s resistance to social and ecological degradation</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/madhu-malhotra/bhopal-until-my-last-breath">Bhopal: &quot;until my last breath&quot;</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/madeleine-rees/sexual-violence-access-to-justice-and-human-rights">Sexual violence, access to justice, and human rights</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Iraq </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Civil society </div> </div> </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> 50.50 50.50 Iraq Civil society 50.50 Women, Peace & Security Continuum of Violence AWID Forum 2016 50.50 Structures of Sexism 50.50 Editor's Pick 50.50 newsletter feminism gender gender justice women and power women's work Yifat Susskind Mon, 27 Jun 2016 07:45:33 +0000 Yifat Susskind 103213 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Yazidi women sold as sex slaves https://www.opendemocracy.net/arab-awakening/roshni-kapur/yazidi-women-sold-as-sex-slaves <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>IS militants are now resorting to social media to sell sex slaves online.&nbsp;</p> </div> </div> </div> <p>News broke out last week that militants from the so-called Islamic State (IS) group were trying to sell Yazidi women as sex slaves on social media sites such as Facebook. Some of the women under their captivity were advertised to be sold for up to $8,000. </p> <p>One IS fighter, who calls himself Abu Assad Almani, posted photos on May 20 of two Yazidi sex slaves on his Facebook page that he wanted to sell. The militant posted the first picture of a young girl with a caption: “She is for sale. To all the bros thinking about buying a slave, this one is $8,000”. </p> <p>A second picture of another girl was posted by the same man a few hours later. “Another sabiyah [slave], also about $8,000,” the posting reads. “Yay, or nay?”</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/549460/1464725645723.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/549460/1464725645723.jpg" alt=" https://www.google.com.sg/search?q=Another+sabiyah+%5Bslave%5D,+also+about+%248,000,&source=lnms&tbm=isch&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwjexJS" title="" width="460" height="291" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span><span>The two photos were taken down by Facebook. Almani is believed to be an ISIS fighter of&nbsp;German origin who lives in the group’s de facto capital of Raqqa, northern Syria. Almani had made earlier postings which suggest that he is well familiar with the IS’ undertakings around Raqqa. He also uses his social media accounts to seek donations for the militant group.</span></p> <p>Social-media sites used by IS fighters in recent months have included numerous accounts of the buying and selling of sex slaves especially Yazidi women. The harrowing posting is a horrifying glimpse into the situation of hundreds of Yazidi women who are held captive by IS fighters.</p> <p>The Yazidis – a Kurdish-speaking ethno-religious minority based primarily in north Iraq – have been labelled “infidels” by ISIS for practicing a syncretic religion. </p> <p>In August 2014, more than 5,000 Yazidis, mostly women and children were <a href="http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2792552/full-horror-yazidis-didn-t-escape-mount-sinjar-confirms-5-000-men-executed-7-000-women-kept-sex-slaves.html">captured and enslaved</a> by IS militants from their hometown in Mount Sinjar in northwestern Iraq. </p> <p>Human Rights Watch (HRW) has documented the plight of Yazidi women who are raped, forcibly married, bought and sold in “slavery markets” and converted into Islam by cash-strapped fighters. Some girls have been “sold” in exchange for a few packs of cigarettes. </p> <p>Nadia Murad Basee Taha, a Yazidi survivor, <a href="http://webtv.un.org/watch/nadia-murad-basee-taha-isil-victim-on-trafficking-of-persons-in-situations-of-conflict-security-council-7585th-meeting/4665835954001">described</a> her ordeal when she was held as a sex slave by ISIS fighters during her speech to the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) in December 2015:</p> <p>“We, the women and children were brought by bus to another region," she said. "Along the way they humiliated us. They touched us and violated us. They took us to Mosul with more than 150 other Yazidi families. There were thousands of Yazidi families and children who were exchanged as gifts,” she said. </p> <p>“One of these people came up to me, he wanted to take me, I was absolutely petrified. He forced me to serve as part of his military faction. He humiliated me every day. He forced me to wear clothes that didn’t cover my body. I was tortured.” </p> <p>“I tried to flee but one of the guards stopped me. That night he beat me.&nbsp;He asked me to take my clothes off. He put me in a room with the guards. Then they proceeded to commit their crime until I feinted.” </p> <p>She managed to escape three months after her abduction. </p> <p>IS militants have justified their brutality and violence against Yazidis and other minority groups for being “infidels” of Islam. </p> <p>Rothna Begum, women’s rights researcher from Human Rights Watch has commented about the plight of the Yazidi women and girls. <a href="http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/middle-east/yazidi-woman-isis-sex-slave-islamic-state-jihadist-a6930251.html">Quoted</a> in <em>The Independent</em>: “ISIS&nbsp;forces have abducted thousands of Yezidis since August 2014 and committed organized rape, sexual assault, and other horrific crimes against many Yezidi women and girls.”&nbsp;</p><p><span>“These are war crimes and may be crimes against humanity.”</span></p> <p>“ISIS&nbsp;acknowledges such crimes and attempts to justify them by categorizing captured Yezidi women and girls as “spoils of war” for its fighters, and claims that Islam permits sex with non-Muslim&nbsp;“slaves”.”</p> <p>Although around 1,500 Yazidi women and girls have either managed to flee or been rescued with the help of Kurdish forces, many are still held under captivity in IS-dominated areas. Vian Dakhil, the only female Yazidi member of parliament in Iraq is beating the odds to rescue Yazidi women from ISIS houses. </p> <p>She gained <a href="http://www.theguardian.com/world/2015/feb/08/vian-dakhil-iraq-isis-yazidi-women">international attention</a> when she made a heart-wrenching <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HdIEm1s6yhY">speech</a> in the Iraqi parliament pleading assistance for Yazidi people, including women and girls who have not been rescued.&nbsp; </p> <p>On a grassroots level, Dakhil works closely with an underground network of activists and volunteers to try and rescue Yazidi survivors of the ISIS carnage. The loosely formed group has gone to great lengths by risking their lives by entering the ISIS-controlled areas to bring Yazidi survivors to Iraqi Kurdistan.</p> <p>“With no help from any government, we’ve been able to rescue 2,150 of the 5,840 Yazidi men, women and children who were taken prisoner—800 of them young girls,” Dakhil was quoted in <a href="https://nonprofitquarterly.org/2015/12/22/stories-of-the-yazidi-genocide-bringing-context-to-the-syrian-refugee-crisis-is-the-job-of-nonprofits-and-media/"><em>NonProfit Quarterly</em></a>.<span>&nbsp;</span></p> <p>The plight of Yazidis has also forced them to seek asylum in refugee camps in Dohuk, Kurdish controlled northern Iraq. There are as many as fifteen camps scattered in Dohuk housing tens of thousands of Yazidis. One of the bigger camps, Sharia camp, which opened in 2014, now has two Arabic and two Kurdish schools for the children of refugees. Dakhil, along with other activists, regularly visits Yazidi refugees living in the camps and assists with the running of the schools. </p> <p>Her efforts to help fellow Yazidis have made her an assassination target where she is at the top of their hit list. Dakhil has also lobbied both in Iraq and abroad for more action and resources to free them.</p> <p>As the armed forces are closing in on ISIS strongholds in Iraq, more Yazidi women are being rescued. Two Yazidi women were salvaged from ISIS captivity in Fallujah by Iraqi forces during an ongoing offensive to recapture towns from ISIS.<span>&nbsp;</span></p> <p>But Dakhil insists more needs to be done to rescue Yazidi women and girls held by IS fighters. </p> <p>The instance of the IS fighter, Almani, who wanted to sell female sex slaves through his Facebook page on May&nbsp;20 shows the desperate plight of the remaining Yazidi women and girls still in captivity.<span>&nbsp;</span></p> <p>The photos of the two women were <a href="http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/middle-east/isis-raqqa-syria-facebook-post-suggests-isis-fighters-are-attempting-to-sell-sex-slaves-online-a7054956.html">captured</a> by the Middle East Media Research Institute, a Washington nonprofit organisation that oversees jihadists’ ­social-media accounts.</p> <p>“We have seen a great deal of brutality, but the content that ISIS has been disseminating over the past two years has surpassed it all for sheer evil,” Steven Stalinsky,&nbsp;the institute’s executive director said quoted in <a href="http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/middle-east/isis-raqqa-syria-facebook-post-suggests-isis-fighters-are-attempting-to-sell-sex-slaves-online-a7054956.html"><em>The Independent</em></a>. “Sales of slave girls on social media is just one more example of this.”</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/skye-wheeler/yazidi-women-after-slavery-comes-lasting-trauma">Yazidi women after slavery: trauma</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/arab-awakening/andrea-ackerman/international-community-neglects-to-act-on-yazidi-genocide">International community neglects to act on Yazidi genocide</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/nadje-alali/sexualized-violence-in-iraq-how-to-understand-and-fight-it">Sexualized violence in Iraq: how to understand and fight it</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Iraq </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-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> Arab Awakening Arab Awakening Iraq middle east Arab Awakening: violent transitions Violent transitions Roshni Kapur Sun, 12 Jun 2016 07:47:34 +0000 Roshni Kapur 102849 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Regaining hope in Rojava https://www.opendemocracy.net/arab-awakening/jo-magpie/regaining-hope-in-rojava <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>This is a revolution in consciousness, not only in politics, and it has transformed the lives of countless women and men for generations to come.</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/553378/jo magpie.JPG" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/553378/jo magpie.JPG" alt="" title="" width="460" height="308" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Jo Magpie. All rights reserved.</span></span></span>Sometime in early February, I was excited to receive an invitation to participate in a women's delegation to Rojava, the de-facto autonomous Kurdish majority region in northern Syria. The delegation was open to women journalists, activists and lawyers, and would be timed to coincide with International Women's Day. </p> <p>I arranged to go with two people I hadn't met before: Ali, a friend of a friend, and Kimmie who I had interviewed over Skype for my book about female hitchhikers. She had already hitchhiked all around West Africa solo and had been blogging about Kurdish and Middle-Eastern issues recently, so she seemed like a good candidate for an adventure. None of us had any idea what to expect, not really. But we are all very open, flexible, and up for a challenge. </p> <p>We needed that determination and flexibility to cross the border from the KRG – the Kurdish Regional Government in the north of Iraq – to Rojava. We had been informed that the border was “in the personal hands of” Massoud Barzani, the Prime Minister, and that we would need to get permission. </p><p class="mag-quote-right">I had grown sceptical from years of organising in social movements: was I about to see a revolution with my own eyes?</p><p>This proved unimaginably difficult, as nobody able to give the permission is willing to answer the telephone or email. To add to this, around the time we began planning our trip, Barzani's Kurdistan Democratic Party, who are allied with Turkey, decided that the border crossing was no longer open to freelance journalists. Soon after that it was no longer open to any journalists, except for representatives of very large and well-known media agencies. Since we visited, the border has been completely closed down.</p> <p>We finally got permission after two days of emails and phone-calls from our hotel room in Zakho, and a full day waiting at a checkpoint just before the official border crossing, a river that slices between the two countries. You cannot imagine the excitement we felt on that rusting blue boat as we drifted across the waters to Syria.</p> <p>I had grown sceptical from years of organising in social movements: ecological, anti-militarist, feminist, movements for democracy, campaigns against fracking and motorways and airport expansion and wars, and wars, and wars. What I had learned was this: we can make tiny changes, we can have small successes, but what we are fighting is so much bigger than us. I learned to do positive action for its own sake, rather than dreaming of success. I learned how to not let defeat cripple me. But now, was I about to see a revolution with my own eyes?</p> <p><span>We managed to arrive just in time for International Women's Day and we marched alongside thousands of women in colourful and ornate dresses, whooping and singing, through the streets of Derbesi – a village sliced in half by the Turkish-Syrian border. “Jin! Jiyan! Azadi!” we chanted – </span><em>woman, life, freedom! </em><span>Many of the women and girls carried flags or banners. All of them smiled at us with warmth in their eyes, even the women guarding the march with ageing Kalashnikovs, who kissed and hugged us just like all the other mothers, sisters and grandmas we met that day.</span></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/549460/HPC woman at International Women&#039;s Day.JPG" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title="Jo Magpie. All rights reserved."><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/549460/HPC woman at International Women&#039;s Day.JPG" alt="Jo Magpie. All rights reserved." title="Jo Magpie. All rights reserved." width="460" height="706" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Jo Magpie. All rights reserved.</span></span></span></span></p><p>Over the next few days we had a whirlwind tour of projects. We visited a women's health centre in Serekaniye, run by a highly committed young doctor from the Netherlands on very scant means, with three Kurdish co-workers who she is training up. Between dealing with patients, Dr Ronahi answered our questions patiently, always smiling, switching between Kurdish, English, Turkish and Arabic. “Some women walk for many miles to reach the health centre from villages,” she told us as a small group of women in black chadors arrived with children in tow. </p> <p class="mag-quote-left">What we saw was way beyond feminism as we know it.</p><p>The health centre was opened by <a href="http://weqfajinaazad.org/"><em>Weqfa Jina Azad a Rojava</em></a>, the Foundation of Free Women in Rojava, who are aiming to open a women's healthcare centre and a preschool in every neighbourhood in every city in Rojava. We also visited two preschools that they have already opened, as well as a women's academy.</p> <p>It was becoming obvious after only the first couple of days that we had all massively underestimated the scale of this experiment. I had known about the women-only armed forces as they have been heavily covered by western media, and I had heard a lot of talk about the strength of feminist movements in the region. But what we saw was way beyond feminism as we know it.</p> <p>Women in Rojava have completely taken control of their own systems in every aspect of their lives, from healthcare to education to law-making and justice, as well as three separate defence forces and an independent economic body.</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/549460/DSC00243.JPG" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title="Jo Magpie. All rights reserved."><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/549460/DSC00243.JPG" alt="Jo Magpie. All rights reserved." title="Jo Magpie. All rights reserved." class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" width="460" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Jo Magpie. All rights reserved.</span></span></span><span>Across the region, the society is organising itself into a coordinated democratic system that works from the bottom up, like a tree. This system is called democratic confederalism, and it comes from the ideas of Abdullah Ocalan, the imprisoned leader of the PKK. </span></p><p><span>In this system, people first meet together at the local “commune” level, which can include a whole village or from 30 to 400 or more households. The communes then send elected, rotating delegates up to the next “neighbourhood council” level, comprised of the coordination boards of 7 to 30 communes. From there delegates go up to the District People's Council. Decisions are made at the level they affect and all representatives are elected, with one male and one female for every post.</span></p> <p>There are commissions to deal with issues such as defence, economics and justice. There is a separate Women's Council at every level, and women-only commissions that work together with the general commissions, such as the economics commission. Kongira Star is the women's movement umbrella organisation which, like all other commissions and public bodies, are represented in The <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Movement_for_a_Democratic_Society">Tev Dem</a>, or Movement for a Democratic Society.</p><p><span>Many laws have recently been passed in Rojava, thanks to the strength of the women's movement. They have outlawed polygamy and forced marriages and brought the minimum legal age for marriage to 18. Women now automatically get custody of their children in the case of a divorce. Women facing a wide range of issues can now go to the Mala Jin or Women's House. So far, there are thirteen Mala Jin in the Cizire canton alone.</span></p><p>Problems they deal with include husbands taking second wives, forced marriages, inheritance issues and domestic abuse. As a house of justice, the Mala Jin takes a mediation approach, involving discussions between all affected parties where possible – a couple, a family, two or more families or tribes – and finding a solution together. In serious cases, the women of the Mala Jin can decide on a punishment for the perpetrator, such as a period of banishment, or they can send him to the official court system, where he may face prison, though the women we interviewed in the Mala Jin expressed a strong wish to move away from prison and other non-restorative forms of punishment.</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/549460/Mala Jin.JPG" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title="Jo Magpie. All rights reserved."><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/549460/Mala Jin.JPG" alt="Jo Magpie. All rights reserved." title="Jo Magpie. All rights reserved." class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" width="460" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Jo Magpie. All rights reserved.</span></span></span><span>The women's economy unit, or Aboriya Jin, are largely involved with co-ordinating co-operatives. They told us proudly that they had just given a grant of 700 cubic metres of land to a group of women who are going to use the land collectively. They also talked about a seed bank project that is being developed. Later, we had the chance to visit a cooperative that is just being set up.</span></p> <p>The Greenhouse Project is a little piece of heaven in what used to be the front-line. This is where I saw trees and even a butterfly for the first time in Rojava, and where the air is the cleanest. A woman with mischievous charm and a contagious energy showed us around the project she is setting up. After everything is running smoothly, women from eighteen communes will take over from her and grow food collectively, as a cooperative. They are also establishing an on-site education facility to teach women farming skills, traditionally seen as men's work.</p> <p class="mag-quote-left">A great deal of importance is vested in education at every level.</p><p>A great deal of importance is vested in education at every level of every system. A huge percentage of the population is illiterate. The Kurdish language was banned by the Assad regime in Syria, as well as by the neighbouring Turkish state, and the region kept economically poor. Add to this an incredibly patriarchal culture with entrenched ideas about women and we can begin to get an idea of how incredible this transformation really is. </p> <p>Women are now attending academies where they learn about a wide range of topics, including the history of the region, leadership and responsibility, ethics, law, democratic politics, the system of Rojava, legal self-defence, the autonomy of women, ecology and more. Classes are taught on women's history, based on Ocalan's sentiments that “Housewifisation is the oldest form of slavery”. This is really radical stuff. Women in communes, villages and refugee camps are being taught about their own bodies and reproductive systems, challenging centuries of shame and self-hatred. Lessons are participatory, involving discussions and debates rather than the traditional top-down teacher-student dynamic. Classes are also taken out into the community and organised within communes and councils.</p> <p>Women have their own separate defence forces at three different levels, which are run alongside, but independently from, the male forces. Aside from the YPJ – the women's military force, which has been the subject of many western documentaries and news reports, there are the <em>asayish</em>, who are often described as being like a police force, and the HPC, the newly formed civilian defence force.</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/549460/Female asayish.JPG" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title="Jo Magpie. All rights reserved."><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/549460/Female asayish.JPG" alt="Jo Magpie. All rights reserved." title="Jo Magpie. All rights reserved." class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" width="460" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Jo Magpie. All rights reserved.</span></span></span><span>Criticism and self-criticism are built into the system at every level. Women in the organisations we visited often asked us, “Do you have any criticism for us? What could we improve?” Women in </span><em>Jineology</em><span> or “women's science” study and critically analyse feminist movements in other countries, as well as other kinds of social systems, liberation movements and ideologies, including feminist, anarchist, socialist and libertarian movements and ideas. They see western feminist movements as highly reformist.</span></p> <h2><strong>The second week</strong></h2> <p>Our second week in Rojava was very different from the first. We were no longer treated as visitors, no longer on a tour, but were a part of the fabric of Rojava. We were staying in the newly opened International House, taking part in daily activities like cooking collective meals, participating in somewhat lengthy meetings about household issues, going to Kurdish language training and social events alongside other European people who have chosen to live in Rojava – people who are making documentaries, people who are founding projects, people who have been fighting or are in the process of training to fight.</p> <p>This is where I began to understand what life inside Rojava could really be like for me if I stayed.</p> <p>We all thought about staying. For me, these thoughts were always fleeting. I had a husband waiting for me back home, unfinished commitments and responsibilities that made staying impossible, or at least highly irresponsible. Ali changed her mind several times, but ultimately decided it wasn't quite the right time to make such a large spontaneous decision. But Kimmie decided to stay.</p> <p>Saying goodbye to Kimmie was tough. The day we left, she came with us in the car as Jiyan – the woman who had been our translator, guide and friend – drove us back along the seemingly endless road, through a string of cities and villages interspersed with the same oil wells and dreary countryside, then into some mountains, and finally the river that divides Syria from Iraq.</p> <p class="mag-quote-right">This revolution is not only bottom up, it's also inside out.</p><p>I remember feeling that I was not quite the same person who had been in the little rusting blue boat two weeks earlier, seemingly a lifetime ago.</p> <p>The day after we left Rojava, the border closed. Since that day, nobody has been able to enter or leave legally, except a handful of medical professionals. People leaving by irregular means <a href="http://rudaw.net/english/kurdistan/240420166">are arrested and imprisoned in Iraq</a>.</p> <p>Rojava is now facing an escalating crisis: not only sandwiched between ISIS, Assad and a very angry Turkey, but the supply route has been cut and a large scale famine is on the horizon. The chemical fertiliser that the agriculture depends upon has now run out and crop production has decreased dramatically. Only a third of the usual wheat harvest will be produced this year. Food and fertiliser imports have ceased because of the embargo. The region must become completely self-sufficient, and fast. </p> <p>Some friends in Rojava are now raising funds for <a href="https://coopfunding.net/en/campaigns/feed-the-revolution/">an ambitious project</a> to transform the region from a chemical-dependent wheat monoculture, into a diverse organic farming culture. The plan is for the region to make all of the organic fertilizer it needs by collecting biological waste from the towns, villages, and farms, alongside a full education programme to teach residents how and why they should separate waste. </p> <h2>My lesson</h2> <p>All these years of organising in social movements in Europe taught me that hope was futile ­– but I was wrong. There is a real revolution happening now, in my lifetime, and it's more beautiful than I imagined possible. It isn't perfect, nothing ever is, but the strength, love and determination of the women in Rojava has shown me what struggle really means. They have shown me the real meaning of solidarity, and they have given me hope.</p> <p>People ask me if I think this revolution will last, will somehow make it. I don't know what the future will bring. But I do know that this revolution is not only bottom up, it's also inside out. This is a revolution in consciousness, not only in politics, and it has transformed the lives of countless women and men, perhaps for countless generations to come. </p> <p>In some ways, the revolution has already won.</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="/arab-awakening/evangelos-aretaios/rojava-revolution">The Rojava revolution</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/arab-awakening/necla-acik/kobane-struggle-of-kurdish-women-against-islamic-state">Kobane: the struggle of Kurdish women against Islamic State</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/rahila-gupta/rojava-revolution-on-hoof">Rojava revolution: on the hoof </a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Syria </div> <div class="field-item even"> Iraq </div> <div class="field-item odd"> Turkey </div> <div class="field-item even"> EU </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> Arab Awakening Arab Awakening EU Turkey Iraq Syria Jo Magpie Mon, 06 Jun 2016 15:46:00 +0000 Jo Magpie 102568 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Defeating the Islamic State will take more than gunpowder https://www.opendemocracy.net/arab-awakening/dylan-o-driscoll/defeating-islamic-state-will-take-more-than-gunpowder <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Attempting to defeat IS without beginning to address the political and structural failures that have led to these circumstances borders on the ridiculous.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/553378/PA-21633283.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/553378/PA-21633283.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="306" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Jake Simkin/AP/Press Association. All rights reserved.</span></span></span>With the beginning of separate offensives against the Islamic State (IS) in </span><a href="http://www.aljazeera.com/news/2016/05/iraq-pm-declares-offensive-retake-fallujah-isil-160522220106703.html">Fallujah</a><span> and </span><a href="https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/middle_east/ground-offensive-in-syria-seeks-to-squeeze-islamic-state-stronghold-raqqa/2016/05/24/68035454-21b0-11e6-b944-52f7b1793dae_story.html">Raqqa</a>,<span> many analysts are <a href="http://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2016/05/25/world/u-s-backed-allies-moving-raqqa-islamic-state-seen-using-civilians-human-shields/#.V0WWAVdnib9">highlighting</a> that this is the beginning of the end of IS, with Mosul next in sight. However, there is one key issue with this analysis; these offensives do nothing to address the structural failures in both Iraq and Syria that led to IS’ rise. Moreover, there is no valid plan for the governance of the people being ‘liberated’ from IS. Without addressing these issues, <a href="http://qz.com/248787/a-short-political-history-of-the-barbaric-terrorists-who-call-themselves-the-islamic-state/">history</a> will repeat itself and IS will either return or morph into another radicalised entity looking to represent marginalised Sunnis.</span></p> <p>The offensive in Fallujah happens as the prime minister of Iraq, Haider al-Abadi, is under pressure to show action against IS, due to scores of suicide <a href="http://www.dw.com/en/baghdad-ignores-the-bombs/a-19277044">bombs</a> in Baghdad and his failure to implement reforms. The <a href="http://www.businessinsider.com/iraq-green-zone-obama-abadi-2016-5">position</a> of Abadi – and the central government of Iraq in general – optimises the chaos in Iraq, further highlighting the difficulty of implementing a successful post-IS solution. </p><p>The uprising of Sunnis and the acceptance of IS by much of the local population was <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/arab-awakening/dylan-o-driscoll/us-policy-in-iraq-four-steps-back-two-steps-forward">due to</a> political sidelining and authoritarian (majority sectarian) actions by the central government. These issues need to be addressed, but how can they be when&nbsp;<span>the Iraqi parliament</span><a href="http://www.wsj.com/articles/iraqi-parliament-fails-again-to-vote-on-new-cabinet-1462895399">&nbsp;</a>cannot<span> even <a href="http://www.wsj.com/articles/iraqi-parliament-fails-again-to-vote-on-new-cabinet-1462895399">agree on&nbsp;</a></span><a href="http://www.wsj.com/articles/iraqi-parliament-fails-again-to-vote-on-new-cabinet-1462895399">a cabinet</a><span>?</span></p> <p>Sunnis rightly do not trust the Iraqi army, due to its deadly actions <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2013/04/24/world/middleeast/clashes-at-sunni-protest-site-in-iraq.html?_r=0">against Sunni protestors</a> between 2012 and 2013. Additionally, Sunnis do not trust the Shi'a militias, due to their loyalty to their Shi'a spiritual leaders, their links to Iran, and because they fear <a href="https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/monkey-cage/wp/2016/04/11/why-iraqis-living-under-the-islamic-state-fear-their-liberators/">revenge</a> by these militias for the actions of IS. This fear is justified given the <a href="https://www.hrw.org/news/2015/03/18/iraq-militia-attacks-destroy-villages-displace-thousands">brutal actions of Hashd al-Shaabi</a> in Tikrit – there have already been reports of similar actions in <a href="http://www.aljazeera.com/news/2016/05/fallujah-iraqi-forces-closing-isil-held-city-160528125723150.html">Fallujah</a>. </p><p class="mag-quote-right">The major question is: if IS is defeated, who will replace them?</p><p>Currently there are <a href="http://www.economist.com/news/middle-east-and-africa/21696951-long-fight-retake-iraqs-second-biggest-city-mosul-has-begun-last">not enough Sunni forces</a> to enter and take a city, thus leaving forces that are not trusted by the local people to enter. If Iraq cannot provide political answers for those living under IS and cannot send in trusted military forces, it is not ready to defeat IS. Any action under these circumstances will only create animosity and will not address the core issues behind the rise of IS, therefore making any victory merely symbolic – and a weak symbol at that.</p> <p>The situation in Syria is even worse, as there is total civil war and no agreement in sight. Any political response that addresses Sunni grievances needs also to tackle the central government, the position of the president, the constitution, the geographic makeup of Syria, etc. Therefore the major question is: if IS is defeated in Raqqa, who will replace them? The central government has carried out <a href="http://www.timesofisrael.com/assad-atrocities-outstrip-islamic-state-in-syria-un-panel-says/">more atrocities </a>than IS and until these political questions are addressed, there should be real concern over who will fill the vacuum left by IS.<span>&nbsp;</span></p> <p>In Raqqa, civilians deeply distrust the Kurdish forces leading the attack, due to what they see as Kurdish land grabs. As a result of the march towards Raqqa, it has been <a href="http://www.aljazeera.com/news/2016/05/syria-kurdish-offensive-raqqa-160525202514850.html">reported</a> that many civilians have joined IS in order to stop the advances of the Kurdish-dominated Democratic Syrian Army. If IS in Raqqa were to be defeated, there is no legitimate force that can manage security in the city; it would either have to be managed by a force seen as occupiers – which would lead to tit-for-tat conflict – or another extremist group/government forces would take IS’ place.</p> <p>Syria is nowhere near to reaching the political stage where a major offensive against IS could have long-term success. Nor has there been the development of local forces with legitimacy, as <a href="http://blogs.spectator.co.uk/2015/11/yes-there-are-70000-moderate-opposition-fighters-in-syria-heres-what-we-know-about-them/">promised</a> by coalition forces, to take IS’ territory. IS is just one element of a large, extremely <a href="http://www.theguardian.com/world/ng-interactive/2015/oct/09/who-backs-whom-in-the-syrian-conflict">complicated</a> conflict involving multiple forces; the idea of defeating IS without beginning to address the political and structural failures that have led to these circumstances borders on the ridiculous.<span>&nbsp;</span></p> <p>In both Iraq and Syria political solutions to address the rise of IS have not been formulated. If IS were defeated today, Sunnis would still be marginalised and would lack any serious form of political representation. Thus, conflict would persist one way or another. Moreover, the development of Sunni forces numerically has not reached the stage where they can seize and hold large cities. </p><p>Without this element, any forces will be seen as occupiers rather than liberators and this would likely lead to more displacement – putting further strain on an already <a href="https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/monkey-cage/wp/2016/05/14/the-real-refugee-crisis-is-in-the-middle-east-not-europe/">over-burdened</a> refugee system in the Middle East. Not to mention the unnecessary loss of life, which without a solid plan to address the core issues, can only be deemed as unacceptable. Finally, due to the correct elements not being in place, the battle will take longer and many of the local population will starve to death <a href="http://www.theguardian.com/world/2016/may/27/iraq-fallujah-isis-fighters-killed">due to</a> supplies being prevented from entering the city.</p> <p>Before any attempt to defeat IS in its major strongholds, there has to be a local force and a local government structure put in place as a replacement. Additionally, Sunnis have to feel that they are adequately represented at a central level and that they have a say in the political process. Without addressing the core issues that allowed for the rapid rise of IS, the effect will be like putting a bandage on a wound that needs stitches – it is an inadequate short-term solution bound to fail in solving the issue.<span>&nbsp;</span></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="/arab-awakening/sam-brennan/isis-and-israel-on-golan-heights">ISIS and Israel on the Golan Heights</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/arab-awakening/dylan-o-driscoll/us-policy-in-iraq-four-steps-back-two-steps-forward">US policy in Iraq – four steps back, two steps forward</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Iraq </div> <div class="field-item even"> Syria </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Conflict </div> <div class="field-item even"> Democracy and government </div> <div class="field-item odd"> International politics </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> Arab Awakening Arab Awakening Syria Iraq Conflict Democracy and government International politics middle east Arab Awakening: violent transitions The future: Islam and democracy Violent transitions Dylan O’Driscoll Wed, 01 Jun 2016 14:51:37 +0000 Dylan O’Driscoll 102601 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Natural borders, beware a dangerous idea https://www.opendemocracy.net/arab-awakening/torgeir-e-fj-rtoft/natural-borders-beware-dangerous-idea <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Whatever borders follow the ongoing violence and war, they must under no circumstances be ‘natural’.&nbsp;<strong></strong></p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/630px-Fridtjof_Nansen_LOC_03377u-3.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/630px-Fridtjof_Nansen_LOC_03377u-3.jpg" alt="" title="" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" width="460" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Norwegian scientist and diplomat Fridtjof Nansen, "made it happen." Wikicommons/Henri Van der Weyde. Some rights reserved.</span></span></span>I was wading the beaches of Thessaloniki when news reached me of the centennial of the Sykes-Picot Agreement. This is the contentious British-French compromise from 1916 over spheres for influence in the Middle East that imposed new borders in the power vacuum left by the defeated and disintegrated Ottoman Empire. Increasingly, analysts can be heard claiming this a root cause of current conflicts and state failures. They hold the borders of Syria and Iraq that the Sykes-Picot Agreement created were “unnatural”. Therefore, in their view, the post-conflict political order must redraw borders to become more “natural”. &nbsp;The implication of “natural” borders is that they should contain a monolithic group identity.</p> <p>There, on the beaches of Thessaloniki, it struck me how very dangerous the thought of “natural” borders is. It certainly turned very dangerous right there in Thessaloniki, in the years after the Sykes-Picot Agreement. &nbsp;In Greece and Turkey, it was also thought that the new political order imposed in 1923 following the breakdown of the Ottoman Empire should be “natural”.&nbsp; </p><h2> </h2><h2><strong>Greeks and Turks in the ‘wrong’ place</strong></h2> <p>Unfortunately, according to their novel idea of the state as a “nation”, the Greeks in Turkey and the Turks in Greece were in the wrong place.&nbsp;In Thessaloniki,&nbsp; Turks were forced to move to make room for the Greeks that had to leave Turkey. What was intended to be the democratic principle of national self-determination that rose of out of the ruins of the defeated empires in World War I, turned to <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Population_exchange_between_Greece_and_Turkey">forced ethnic removal on a vast scale</a>: an estimated 1.5 million Greeks from Turkey and 500.000 Turks from Greece. Force made these nation states “natural”. </p> <h2><strong>How democratic and humanistic principles led to abuse</strong></h2> <p>What is very scary about this abuse, indeed crime by our standards, is that the League of Nations authorized it and the Norwegian polar explorer and national hero turned-international diplomat, Fridtjov Nansen made it happen. The idea of national self-determination that his fellow Norwegians, with his help, invoked successfully to break away from Sweden in 1905 turned upon its humanistic and democratic principles. When Turkey and Greece needed to reinvent their societies as “natural”, Nansen corrupted these humanistic and democratic principles, much as <a href="http://www.economist.com/node/324795">Kofi Annan’s idea of humanitarian intervention</a> turned upon itself and was corrupted in the violent and destructive western military interventions in Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya. </p> <h2><strong>Ominous analogies for Syria and Iraq</strong></h2> <p>Echoes of this Turkish-Greek forced ethnic cleansing in 1923 in the current war in Syria and Iraq are ominous. More and more well-intentioned people in the west subscribe to the idea that the borders in post-conflict Syria and Iraq must become more “natural” because of the democratic principle of national self-determination. These people have forgotten not only the Greek-Turkish analogy, but also the recent genocidal ethnic cleansing in ex-Yugoslavia. Without abuse of force, even mass violence, the idea that a new state must have a monolithic group identity is hardly feasible in an area where religious and ethnic group identities are mixed, as they are in Syria and Iraq. &nbsp;</p> <p>The democratic and humanistic idea of national self-determination will turn upon itself and become dangerous to minorities. <a href="https://www.amnesty.org/en/latest/news/2016/01/northern-iraq-satellite-images-back-up-evidence-of-deliberate-mass-destruction-in-peshmerga-controlled-arab-villages/">Amnesty</a> has already reported of cases where Kurds remove Arabs from territory they control. </p> <h2>I<strong>ndigenous secular transnational visions</strong></h2> <p>As an alternative to the idea of “natural” borders for monolithic group identities, we could evoke the secular transnational visions behind such vintage indigenous movements as the <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ba%27ath_Party">Ba’ath parties</a> that held power in Syria and Iraq for decades. The Ba’ath party was founded by a Moslem and a Christian. These ideas could conceivably evolve into a sustainable modern political identity, much like communism in Vietnam. The problem with the brutal dictatorships of Assad in Syria and Saddam Hussein in Iraq may not be their Ba’athism, but that the leaders corrupted its visions.</p> <h2><strong>States must protect minorities and allow regional cooperation</strong></h2> <p>Whatever borders follow the ongoing violence and war, they must under no circumstances be “natural”.&nbsp; Borders must be stable to allow for effective state control of territory to protect minorities, but at the same time permeable to allow for the emergence of regional political and economic cooperation. </p><div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Syria </div> <div class="field-item even"> Iraq </div> <div class="field-item odd"> Turkey </div> <div class="field-item even"> Greece </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Civil society </div> <div class="field-item even"> Conflict </div> <div class="field-item odd"> Culture </div> <div class="field-item even"> Democracy and government </div> <div class="field-item odd"> Ideas </div> <div class="field-item even"> International politics </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> Arab Awakening Can Europe make it? Arab Awakening Greece Turkey Iraq Syria Civil society Conflict Culture Democracy and government Ideas International politics nationalism Torgeir E. Fjærtoft Thu, 26 May 2016 16:45:27 +0000 Torgeir E. Fjærtoft 102469 at https://www.opendemocracy.net US policy in Iraq – four steps back, two steps forward https://www.opendemocracy.net/arab-awakening/dylan-o-driscoll/us-policy-in-iraq-four-steps-back-two-steps-forward <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>What happens over the next few months will decide Iraq’s future, whether that is federalism, confederalism or its breakup. One thing is clear – the US has a role to play.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/PA-26358577.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/PA-26358577.jpg" alt="" title="" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" width="460" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Suicide car bombing hit a crowded outdoor market in Baghdad's Sadr City, Iraq, Tuesday, May 17, 2016. Karim Kadim /Press Association. All rights reserved.</span></span></span>The United States (US) <a href="https://www.congress.gov/bill/114th-congress/senate-bill/1356/text/enr#toc-H11580B70E46B40AB9DDC1695DBB1FD3A">National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2016</a> is a watershed moment for US policy in Iraq. It finally takes on the federal elements of the Iraqi constitution and offers support for Sunnis and Kurds if fair redistribution is not pursued by the central government. Arguably, if the US had supported the 2005 Iraqi constitution and its federal elements from the beginning, rather than a centralised state, Iraq and its territorial integrity would not face the threat it does today.</p> <p>In 2003 the US invaded Iraq – <a href="http://www.nationalreview.com/article/343870/why-did-we-invade-iraq-victor-davis-hanson">for various reason</a><span>s</span> – with a policy of regime change and ending authoritarianism in Iraq. Although <a href="http://atwar.blogs.nytimes.com/2013/04/10/10-mistakes-of-the-iraq-war/?_r=0">mistakes were made with regards to post conflict planning</a>, clear and consistent policy ideas remained. The <a href="http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2005/10/12/AR2005101201450.html">2005 Iraqi constitution</a> recognised the Kurdish region as an autonomous federal entity and allowed for other federal regions to be created. Joe Biden, as chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, <a href="http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/10/02/AR2007100201824.html">proposed creating Sunni and Shiite federal regions</a> alongside the already established Kurdish region. However, this proposal was rejected by the US, and a strongly centralised state was continually promoted. </p> <h2><strong>One step back </strong></h2> <p>In January 2009 Barak Obama became US president; as part of his presidential campaign he had <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/obama-foreign-policy-broken-promises_us_5633e41fe4b0c66bae5c8d22">promised to end the war in Iraq</a> and withdraw US troops. Obama’s desire to withdraw troops meant that he pursued policies of handing over security regardless of whether Iraqi officials were ready or not. This permitted the prime minister, Nouri al-Maliki, to gain considerable power and control, which in turn allowed him to start <a href="http://www.mepc.org/journal/middle-east-policy-archives/iraqs-tribal-sahwa-its-rise-and-fall?print">disbanding the Sunni Sahwa forces</a> – who were responsible for all but defeating al-Qaida in Iraq and helping to end the civil war – without properly integrating them within the state’s systems. </p> <h2><strong>Two steps back </strong></h2> <p>Following the 2010 elections the US backed Maliki to stay in power, despite the fact that his <a href="https://www.psa.ac.uk/psa-communities/specialist-groups/ethnopolitics/news/ethnopolitics-paper-27-costs-inadequacy">electoral list did not win the most votes</a>. Moreover, both Iraqi and US advisors <a href="https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/why-we-stuck-with-maliki--and-lost-iraq/2014/07/03/0dd6a8a4-f7ec-11e3-a606-946fd632f9f1_story.html">urged the government to cease support for Maliki</a> as the growing sectarian nature of Maliki’s politics was becoming evident. Backing Maliki was a huge mistake and between 2010 and 2014 Maliki’s <a href="http://www.iiss.org/en/publications/survival/sections/2014-4667/survival--global-politics-and-strategy-october-november-2014-be95/56-5-02-dodge-d058">centralisation turned to authoritarianism</a>. Yet, the US continued to back him despite the fact that his authoritarianism denied the Sunnis and Kurds their role in decision-making and prevented the rule of law.</p> <h2><strong>Three steps back</strong></h2> <p>In 2011 the US withdrew its troops from Iraq honouring an agreement signed by the previous president, George W. Bush, to withdraw by this date. <a href="http://www.npr.org/2015/12/19/459850716/fact-check-did-obama-withdraw-from-iraq-too-soon-allowing-isis-to-grow">Essentially, neither Maliki nor the Obama administration wanted the troops in Iraq</a>; unsurprisingly negotiations for an extension of the deadline failed. </p> <p>The US had a duty to withdraw responsibly and not leave Iraq with unresolved issues and a power structure reminiscent of Saddam’s regime. However, despite Maliki’s growing authoritarianism and clear sectarianism, they did not do enough to ensure Iraq’s stability before they withdrew. As a sign of things to come, the day after the US troops withdrew Maliki <a href="http://www.aljazeera.com/news/middleeast/2011/12/20111219175722518551.html">issued an arrest warrant for the Sunni vice president, Tareq al-Hashimi</a>. Maliki acted to further consolidate his power in Iraq and took control of both the political and military spheres. Maliki’s actions created a set of very favourable circumstances for the relatively rapid rise of the Islamic State (IS). This was only further compounded by <a href="http://www.bbc.com/news/world-middle-east-22261422">Maliki sending in the military to deal with political protestors</a>, thus ending any chance of a political solution.</p> <h2><strong>Four steps back </strong></h2> <p>The rise of IS caught US attention and brought their focus back to Iraq. In the 2014 elections that ensued the <a href="http://www.bbc.com/news/world-middle-east-28748366">US did not back Maliki</a> despite the fact that he won the most votes this time around. </p> <p>The US had finally woken up to the threat Maliki constituted to the unity of Iraq. However, the US quickly fell into the same trap of backing one man in its blind endorsement of consensus candidate Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi. The US focus has been on trying to defeat IS militarily, but has failed to address the structural failures in Iraq that led to its rise. <a href="http://www.businessinsider.com/iraq-green-zone-obama-abadi-2016-5">Abadi lacks the capacity or support to address these issues</a> and all his attempts have so far failed to make it past parliament. </p> <h2><strong>One step forward</strong></h2> <p>The US House Armed Services Committee’s report on the draft bill H.R.1735 — National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2016 reads:</p> <blockquote><p><a href="http://thomas.loc.gov/cgi-bin/cpquery/?&amp;dbname=cp114&amp;sid=cp114cT0f3&amp;refer=&amp;r_n=hr102.114&amp;item=&amp;&amp;&amp;sel=TOC_959225&amp;">This section</a> would require that the Kurdish Peshmerga, the Sunni tribal security forces with a national security mission, and the <em>Iraqi Sunni National Guard</em> be deemed a <em>country</em>, which would allow these security forces to directly receive assistance from the United States … [emphasis added].</p></blockquote> <p>The final bill, signed by the president, omitted the term ‘country’, but still recognised Sunnis and Kurds as separate entities. This bill finally moves the US away from supporting one man and a centralised Iraq and towards recognising that Iraq is made up of three main communities with different goals. However, it took the rise of IS for this to happen. This bill signifies US recognition that backing a strong centralised state actually divides Iraq to the point of auto-destruction, whereas backing a federally divided Iraq can maintain unity.</p> <h2><strong>Two steps forward</strong></h2> <p>As Abadi’s weakness and failure became evident, the US finally circumvented Baghdad and <a href="http://rudaw.net/english/kurdistan/190420165">supplied the peshmerga with significant direct aid</a>. This is enabled by the above mentioned <a href="https://www.congress.gov/bill/114th-congress/senate-bill/1356/text/enr#toc-H11580B70E46B40AB9DDC1695DBB1FD3A">National Defense Act</a>, which clearly states that if aid is not appropriately distributed, the US will directly provide aid bypassing the existing laws with regards to <a href="http://uscode.house.gov/view.xhtml?req=(title:22%20section:2753%20edition:prelim)">arms exports</a> and <a href="http://uscode.house.gov/view.xhtml?req=(title:22%20section:2311%20edition:prelim)">foreign assistance</a>. This action is important as it demonstrates that the US is beginning to follow through on its new policy of supporting a federal Iraq. Consequently we can conclude that the tools for a more balanced policy in Iraq were there: it was the political will that was lacking.</p> <h2><strong>Two steps to go</strong></h2> <p>Going forward, if the US supports Abadi they need to ensure he upholds the constitution and shares power appropriately. The US also needs to follow the new direction laid out in the 2016 Defense Act and support both the Sunnis and Kurds if Abadi fails to do so. </p> <p>Only through strengthening Sunnis politically, creating something along the lines of the ‘Iraqi Sunni National Guard’ – <a href="http://www.economist.com/news/middle-east-and-africa/21696951-long-fight-retake-iraqs-second-biggest-city-mosul-has-begun-last">from the current Sunni militias</a> – and enabling them to become a federal region will the lasting defeat of IS be possible, as Sunni forces and Sunni political backing are intrinsic to defeating IS in Mosul. </p> <p>At the same time, US support for Sunnis and Kurds should be under the proviso that they too respect the constitution and do not extend themselves beyond its federal elements. What happens over the next few months will decide the future of Iraq, whether that is federalism, confederalism or the breakup of Iraq remains to be seen. One thing that is clear is that the US has a role to play and needs to back a constitutionally guaranteed federalism in order to reverse some of the damage done by its support for Maliki.</p> <p><em>This post is developed from my article ‘</em><a href="http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/mepo.12172/abstract"><em>U.S. Policy in Iraq: Searching for the Reverse Gear?</em></a><em>’ published in the Spring 2016 issue of Middle East Policy.</em></p><div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Iraq </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-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> Arab Awakening Arab Awakening Iraq Dylan O’Driscoll Wed, 18 May 2016 17:17:40 +0000 Dylan O’Driscoll 102206 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Young grassroots activism on the rise in Iraq: voices from Baghdad and Najaf https://www.opendemocracy.net/arab-awakening/zahra-ali/young-grassroots-activism-on-rise-in-iraq-voices-from-baghdad-and-najaf <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Through banners and slogans, grassroots groups&nbsp;find new, inclusive ways of being Iraqi in a country traumatised by authoritarianism, occupation and sectarian war.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/553378/Picture 1 Saha al Tahrir Firday 1 avril 2016 (3).jpeg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/553378/Picture 1 Saha al Tahrir Firday 1 avril 2016 (3).jpeg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="345" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Tahrir Square, April 2016. Image: Zahra Ali. All rights reserved.</span></span></span>Last month, I returned to Iraq to both visit my family and present the findings of my doctoral thesis on women’s political activism in Iraq to my friends and colleagues in Baghdad. I also wanted to investigate grassroots civil society activism in Iraq; my visit could not have been timelier. When I arrived, Baghdad had been rocked by a sit-in – started on 18 March – in front of the concrete T-walls that encompass the Green Zone, where the main central government building, foreign embassies and Iraq’s new political leadership all reside. Everyone was talking about the fact that Moqtada al-Sadr had just joined the sit-in, giving the government a week to dissolve itself and designate new, technocratic representatives, chosen for their competence not their affiliation to communal-based parties.</span></p> <p class="mag-quote-right">Demonstrators denounce the sectarian and corrupt nature of the post-invasion political system in Iraq.</p><p><span>However, al-Sadr’s participation is only a recent chapter in a popular protest that began on 31 July 2015. Launched by ordinary citizens and political activists in Baghdad’s Tahrir Square and across Iraq, this movement has expressed the citizenry’s general exasperation at the corruption and mismanagement of the post-2003 government; corruption and mismanagement epitomised by electricity cuts and a lack of public services. These protests quickly turned into a massive popular movement – supported even by the prominent religious figure Ayatollah Sistani – vilifying Iraq’s post-invasion regime and demanding radical reforms. Every Friday since, demonstrators have gathered in the main public squares of Iraq’s big cities – Najaf, Nasryah, Basra, etc. – and echoed the slogans of the protestors in central Baghdad: “</span><em>Bismil din bagunah al-haramiyah</em><span>” (in the name of religion we have been robbed by looters) and “</span><em>Khubz, hurriyah, dawlah medeniyah</em><span>” (bread, freedom and a civil state). Demonstrators denounce the sectarian and corrupt nature of the post-invasion political system in Iraq, which has institutionalised ethno-religious quotas and empowered an incompetent and self-interested political elite mainly hailing from exile and conservative Shi’a Islamist groups.</span></p> <p><span>I could sense the disruption caused by the sit-ins to Baghdad’s everyday life, as all the roads leading to the entrance to the Green Zone were closed. It was impossible not to notice the change, as I was obliged to take nonsensical routes to get from one area of Baghdad to another. However, circulating in the capital was not too difficult; the only checkpoints I encountered that were seriously stopping and searching every vehicle were those situated at the entrances to al-Kazmiyah, the neighbourhood where I reside in Baghdad with my maternal family. More generally, there was a sense of excitement and feeling like “something is going to change.” In the streets, in the coffee shops and restaurants, and among the various homes I visited, everyone was following the day-by-day developments of the crisis. Moqtada al-Sadr’s reforms, presented two weeks ago, were screened everywhere and watched by everyone. His statement on the abolition of “communal-based quotas” (</span><em>al-muhasasa al-siyasiya</em><span>) – institutionalised by the US-led occupation administration and new Iraqi elite in 2003 – seduced many ordinary citizens, civil society actors and political activists who would generally be very critical or suspicious of the Sadrist leader.</span></p> <h2><strong>Various readings of the protest movement’s developments</strong></h2> <p><span>However, some independent civil society groups and leftist political activists, who continued protesting every Friday for no less than eight months, were divided on the participation of (and then the centrality taken by) Sadrists in the protest movement. Falah Alwan and Hussam al-Watany were among the most skeptical of this Sadrist involvement. Two long-standing activists, the elder and younger respectively, I met Alwan and al-Watany in their offices at the Federation of Worker Councils and Unions in Iraq, which is located in central Baghdad. Both activists expressed that the initial “secular” movement has now been “instrumentalised” by the Sadrists. This critique – also expressed in </span><em>Sawt al-ihtijaj al-jamahiri</em><span> (The Voice of the Popular Protest), a journal dedicated to the recent mobilisations – is essentially built on a Marxist and secularist reading of political activism. According to Alwan and al-Watany, any reference to religion is a form of alienation and an obstacle to human emancipation. Following this principle, Alwan and al-Watany consider any partnership with Islamists as a potential threat to the movement; a “terrible mistake made by leftists seduced by Islamists’ populism.”</span></p> <p><span>However, most civil society activists I met in Baghdad were far more nuanced. Henaa Edwar – the head of the al-Amal organisation and a prominent figure of </span><em>Shabakat al-nisa’ al-iraqiyat</em><span> (The Iraqi Women Network, IWN), the main platform for gathering independent women’s rights activists and organisations in Iraq – was very hopeful regarding the developments of the popular protests. I met her in the al-Amal offices in al-Kerrada, central Baghdad, the day she visited the sit-ins with a delegation of IWN activists. Despite remaining critical of the Sadrists’ populism and conservatism, especially regarding gender matters, Edwar expressed her support for the protesters and a positive view of the Sadrists’ involvement. Henaa Edwar believed that Moqtada al-Sadr’s presence pushed the Sadrists’ wide, grassroot, proletarian base onto the streets in a show of unified nationhood and citizenship, especially at a stage when after weeks of mobilisations, some protesters, tired of being in the streets every Fridays, were starting to go home. </span></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/553378/Picture 2 Hena Edwar Kerrada Amel 24 mars 2016 (1)_0.jpeg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/553378/Picture 2 Hena Edwar Kerrada Amel 24 mars 2016 (1)_0.jpeg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="345" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>With Henaa Edwar in the offices of al-Amal, Baghdad, March 2016. Image: Zahra Ali. All rights reserved.</span></span></span>Like Edwar, many other women’s rights activists I met in Baghdad emphasised the importance of linking gender equality advocacy with the struggles for social and class equality. IWN activists insist on the preservation of equal citizenship for Iraqis from all ethnic and religious backgrounds as a cornerstone of the preservation of women’s legal rights. They have, since 2003, insisted on preserving a unified Personal Status Code; a code that has been consistently under threat from the conservative Shi’a political leadership. Thus, despite being aware of the Sadrists’ conservative position on gender issues, many women’s rights activists point to the Sadrists’ nationalist positioning in this particular moment as a positive addition to the struggle for equality.</span></p> <p><span>Saad Salloum, a young author and advocate for ethnic and religious minorities in Iraq, also takes this intersectional position: acknowledging the necessity to overlap the equality of citizens of all religions, ethnicities and sects with gender equality. Salloum is the editor-in-chief of the cultural magazine </span><em>Masarat</em><span>, whose offices are located in the Christian quarter of al-Kerrada, just next to a beautiful church and Christian primary school. I met him there, and we had a long discussion about the condition of minorities in Iraq, especially since the Islamic State’s occupation of northern and western parts of the country in June 2014. Salloum insists on the importance of linking the social justice movement to ethno-religious equality issues, and he works at the grassroots level to promote a “culture of diversity” and a concept of “citizenship based on full and unconditional equality.” Salloum is also one of the few researchers and civil society activists in Iraq that has addressed the issue of Afro-Iraqis, as he conducted fieldwork in several communities of Black Iraqis in Basra.</span></p> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/553378/Picture 3 Saad saloom kerrada masarat (11).jpeg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/553378/Picture 3 Saad saloom kerrada masarat (11).jpeg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="345" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>With Saad Salloum in the offices of Masarat, Baghdad, March 2016. Image: Zahra Ali. All rights reserved.</span></span></span></p> <h2><strong>In Tahrir Square</strong></h2> <p><span>In Tahrir Square, I met radical political activists, poets, authors, academics and women’s rights activists. It was as if, every Friday, the passionate political discussions started in the bookshops of al-Mutannabi Street were transferred – in the form of chanting, banners and slogans – to the square. When I arrived in Tahrir on Friday 1 April, in the afternoon, only a hundred demonstrators were present and mainly consisted of two groups: a group of independent young activists and a group gathered around a banner stating, “The change of ministers outside the communal quota is the first step towards total reform.” The mobilisation that day was not as large as the day Prime Minister Haidar al-Abadi announced the formation of a new government. Women, especially young women, were less present than young men in the square; however, of the young women who were present, most were gathered around this banner and followed the chanting of Jassim Alhelfi, a leading member of the Iraqi Communist Party.</span></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/553378/Picture 4 Saha al Tahrir Friday 1 april 2016 (4).jpeg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/553378/Picture 4 Saha al Tahrir Friday 1 april 2016 (4).jpeg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="345" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Saha al-Tahrir, Friday 1 April 2016. Image: Zahra Ali. All rights reserved.</span></span></span>Another group, composed mainly of young men, was also chanting and cheering similar slogans – such as “</span><em>Nihayatkum qariba</em><span>” (Your end is approaching) – aimed at the post-invasion regime. Dhurgham Ghanem and Jamal Mahmoud, young, independently organised protesters, were among this group and expressed that they would remain mobilised, as they were unsatisfied with these “limited reforms.” They both expressed that this movement has shaped their political awareness and constitutes a first step in organising independent youth groups focusing on issues of imperialism and social justice. According to Ghanem:</span></p> <p><em>“This mobilisation is the continuation of wider activism against imperialism, because of imperialist forces that have institutionalised sectarianism in Iraq through the communal-based quota. It is the direct consequence of the occupation of Iraq and imperialist politics aimed at destroying and ruining Iraq.”</em></p> <p><span>Both Ghanem and Mahmoud spoke about the fact that, as independent grassroots activists, they face difficulties financing their activism and work through independent means. Furthermore, some members of their group, including Mahmoud, have been subjected to violence and arrest from the police and security services.</span></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/553378/Picture 5 Saha al Tahrir Friday 1 april 2016 (13).jpeg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/553378/Picture 5 Saha al Tahrir Friday 1 april 2016 (13).jpeg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="345" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>With poets and young activists, Tahrir Square, 1 April 2016. Image: Zahra Ali. All rights reserved.</span></span></span>Other activists I spoke with in Baghdad – such as Dhurgham al-Zaidy, brother of the infamous Muntazar, who threw his shoe at George W. Bush in September 2009 – mentioned the brutality of the state’s “security men.” A prominent independent civil society activist, al-Zaidy several times faced police brutality after participating in the Friday demonstrations in Tahrir Square. While sitting together in the famous Redha ‘Alwan coffee shop, on al-Kerrada’s main street, Dhurgham al-Zaidy spoke about how he and many other young, independent activists have been attacked by unknown men on their way home from Tahrir. According to him, these men are sent by government officials to weaken the popular protest movement and traumatise radical activists. Despite this, al-Zaidy continues his independent grassroots work for social equality and the struggle against poverty. He is not affiliated with a party or financed by any group. It is a courageous choice; a choice that makes him more vulnerable than formally organised groups.</span></p> <p><span>However, protesters also received some support from parliamentarians, such as the famous MP Shirouk al-Abayachi. Before becoming an MP for </span><em>Al-tahalef al-medeni al-demuqrati</em><span> (The Civil Democratic Alliance), a secular and liberal political group, al-Abayachi was a prominent women’s rights activist, IWN figure, and environmental and social activist. When I met her in Baghdad two weeks ago, she had just distanced herself from her political group and decided to carry on as an independent MP. We had a very open and lively discussion about her involvement in formal politics, especially as I have known her for several years as a prominent women’s rights activist. Al-Abayachi expressed her support for the protestors from the beginning of the movement and organised discussions, in both public and private gatherings, with the young civil society activists of Tahrir Square.</span></p> <h2><strong>Moja: radical grassroots activism among Najafi youth</strong></h2> <p><span><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/553378/Picture 6 moja.jpeg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/553378/Picture 6 moja.jpeg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="345" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Moja’s library, Kufa, April 2016. Image: Zahra Ali. All rights reserved.</span></span></span>Continuing my discovery of independent grassroots youth activism in Iraq, I travelled to Najaf – about 180 km south of Baghdad – to meet with Yaser Mekki and Muntather Hassan, both prominent members of Moja and students of dentistry. When I arrived at the open door of their coffee-library, it was like entering a completely other world. In contrast to Najaf’s overall conservative and traditionally Shi’a atmosphere, I entered this place off al-Kufa’s main street adorned with books and self-drawn pop art. The coffee-library is run by young men and women, mostly local university students, who have rented these two rooms with their own money. They warmly welcomed me and we began discussing the amazing and original activism Moja started a few years ago. </span></p><p><span>Their work is very diverse but generally consists of, as Mekki put it, “educating people in critical thinking and freedom of belief”, “motivating them to read as much as possible and as diversely as possible,” and “promoting a culture of social, class, gender, ethnic and religious equality and freedom.” Moja has greatly participated in the national civil society campaign “</span><em>Ana iraqi ana aqra</em><span>” (I am Iraqi and I read), which promotes literacy and organises an annual cultural event and distribution of books on Abu Nuwas promenade, on the banks of the Tigris.</span></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/553378/Picture 7 Moja books.jpeg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/553378/Picture 7 Moja books.jpeg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="345" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Giftwrapped books that Moja’s activists distribute in Najaf and Kufa’s streets. Image: Zahra Ali. All rights reserved.</span></span></span>However, Moja also works on many other levels, both cultural and political. Despite being completely independent, refusing local or foreign funding, and refusing to join any political parties, Moja activists were at the forefront of the protests against corruption and sectarianism in Najaf. They also regularly distribute giftwrapped books in the streets of Najaf to people passing by, encouraging them to read all kinds of literature.</span></p> <p><span>Moja activists have organised charity fundraisers and humanitarian support for displaced Christian and Sunni families fleeing the IS occupation of their towns in northern and western Iraq. In this context, in order to promote interfaith dialogue and minority rights, Moja activists have also encouraged the inhabitants of Najaf to join their Christian compatriots in the celebration of Christmas. They have erected and decorated a Christmas tree, named “</span><em>shejerah al-salam</em><span>” (the tree of peace), on al-Rawan Street, one of the main streets of the holy city of Najaf. Moja activists regularly organise events around philosophical, religious, cultural and political books, inviting authors to present their work and opening a space for debate and free discussion. In only a few years, Moja has managed to gain visibility and popularity among Najafis, as well as the support of some prominent al-Hawza religious figures.</span></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/553378/Picture 8 Muntather_0.jpeg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/553378/Picture 8 Muntather_0.jpeg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="345" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Muntather Hassan standing in Moja’s library. Image: Zahra Ali. All rights reserved.</span></span></span>However, Moja also faces discrimination and rejection, including receiving death threats from conservative religious militias. Muntather Hassan spoke about how the owner of the first place Moja rented had received death threats and, hence, asked them to leave just before they officially opened to the public; he did not want the responsibility of renting to a “radical group.” Hassan said: “Having to find a new place and closing this one was pretty painful for us, especially after spending so much time with the other volunteers to paint the rooms and get every detail ready for our opening.” Moreover, Mekki and Hassan are also very much aware that the women of Moja are exposed to even greater pressure and threats, as they are discriminated against both on the basis of gender and due to their refusal to conform to the normative way of life.</span></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/553378/Picture 9 Yaser.jpeg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/553378/Picture 9 Yaser.jpeg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="345" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Yaser Mekki standing at the door of Moja’s library. Image: Zahra Ali. All rights reserved.</span></span></span>This movement of popular protest is similar to the one that emerged in 2011, and specifically targets the general sense of despair and tension that followed the IS capture of Mosul and ensuing occupation in June 2014. Following the call of Ayatollah Sistani in response to IS’s threat to Iraq’s sovereignty, the creation of al-Hashd al-Sha’bi was a turning point. Support for al-Hashd al-Sha’bi is visible in the streets of Baghdad, where one can see banners and pictures everywhere celebrating the glory of al-Hashd al-Sha’bi soldiers and honouring the memory of the nation’s </span><em>shuhada’</em><span> (martyrs). Pictures of these young Iraqi men, soldiers, police, and al-Hashd al-Sha’bi fighters are decorated with Qur’anic verses and visible everywhere in Baghdad and Najaf. Such banners remind citizens of the precariousness of life in Iraq, where death is always inviting itself into everyday life. </span></p><p><span>However, through banners and slogans, ordinary citizens, politically organised and independent Iraqi protesters have expressed their understanding of the political situation apart from sectarian or communal-based identities. They have peacefully, but no less clearly, expressed the link between corruption and sectarianism with the rise of IS; as one famous banner in Tahrir Square read, “Da’esh and corruption are two sides of the same coin.” In this climate of militarisation, the youth of Tahrir Square and young, independent, grassroots groups like Moja brought new hopeful, creative and inclusive ways of being Iraqi in a country traumatised by decades of authoritarianism, imperialist military occupation, sectarian war and the fragmentation of its territory.</span></p><div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Iraq </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Civil society </div> <div class="field-item even"> 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> Arab Awakening Arab Awakening Iraq Civil society Democracy and government middle east activism Revolution Zahra Ali Thu, 05 May 2016 08:10:15 +0000 Zahra Ali 101859 at https://www.opendemocracy.net The state of regional Kurdish politics: divided as ever https://www.opendemocracy.net/m-jge-k-kkele/state-of-regional-kurdish-politics-divided-as-ever <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>The confidence that prevailed in Kurdish streets in the aftermath of the Kobane victory is now replaced by a growing sense of abandonment and misery, with nationalism its natural expression.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/PA-25310462.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/PA-25310462.jpg" alt="" title="" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" width="460" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Makeshift bunker used by Kurdish fighters in the mainly-Kurdish town of Idil, Turkey, in Sirnak province that neighbors Iraq. Murat Bay /Press Association, All rights reserved.</span></span></span>Located over territories spread across Turkey, Iran, Iraq and Syria, Kurds are facing multiple challenges on the road to Kurdish statehood. A major problem is the absence of a united Kurdish national movement. The two major power blocks in Kurdish politics, Massoud Barzani’s Kurdistan Democratic Party KDP and Abdullah Ocalan’s Kurdistan Worker’s Party PKK ( designated a terrorist group by the US, EU and Turkey), have been vying for political dominance over Kurdish nationalism for many years, and are as divided as ever. The Syrian conflict has brought significant changes to the power dynamics between the two, expanding the power of the PKK at the expense of the KDP. This development itself is very critical for Kurdish politics and the direction it is taking.</p> <p>As Arab uprisings reached out to Syria, the PKK acted rapidly to shape developments on the ground. PKK fighters were flown into northern Syria and organized an armed force that effectively fought jihadi rebels and ISIS. Military success earned the PKK’s Syrian affiliate, the People’s Democratic Party (PYD) the political support and loyalty of Syrian Kurds. In Turkey, the pro-Kurdish People’s Democracy Party, HDP, successfully turned the political achievements of Syrian Kurds, and Kurdish frustration with the shifting stance of the Turkish government on the Kurdish issue into a feeling of unity, encouraging Kurds to unify around itself. </p> <p>Just like the PKK, the KDP-led Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) also sought to develop and exploit conditions to increase its influence in northern Syria. Barzani attempted to bolster the multiparty Kurdish National Council (KNC) that is closely affiliated by Barzani’s KDP, as an alternative to the PYD. He also tried to persuade it to join the united opposition to Assad. However, Barzani’s attempts to unify Syrian Kurds under the leadership of KNC proved ineffective: PYD remained largely in control of Syrian Kurdistan. In Turkey, on the other hand, HDP’s success in the June 2015 elections dealt a blow to Barzani, whose influence in Turkey has always been limited.</p> <p>In Iraq, the PKK’s influence has grown both militarily and politically. After the Sinjar siege, PKK formed a military unit composed of Yezidis and set up a military presence in Sinjar. This unit participated in the liberation of Sinjar; however to the annoyance of the KRG leaders they did not join the command of the Peshmerga forces. Iraqi Kurdish officials have at times urged the PKK to withdraw from Sinjar, calling armed Yezidis to come under the control of the Peshmerga. However, the PKK refused to withdraw from this most practical route to Syria. PKK’s presence in Sinjar and its relations with local Shia militias in Baghdad and Iran have become a source of resentment to the KRG.&nbsp; After the liberation of Sinjar in November 2015, the PKK-affiliated Yezidi units in Sinjar have received salaries from the central administration in Baghdad. Baghdad supports the PKK as an ally against the KDP and Turkey, and one helping it to maintain its claim over Sinjar, while the PKK aims to get international recognition by involving itself in the internal military affairs of Iraq. As well as a military presence, the PKK also tried to take advantage of the deepening economic and political crisis in KRG by strengthening its ties to KDP-opposing political groups such as GORAN and PUK. </p> <p>PKK’s growing dominance over pan-Kurdish politics is generally explained by its ability to take advantage of favorable regional conditions to foster its power at a time when its rival KRG was hit by economic crisis. There is some truth in this. The PKK was not only adept at achieving military victories against the Jihadists and ISIS in Syria and Iraq, but also using them as an instrument to legitimize its leadership. However, that itself cannot explain fully why a relatively young PYD was able to outperform its longstanding Kurdish competitors in Syria within such a short time. This was rather a result of PKK’s shifting strategy in seeking a broader role in pan-Kurdistan in the late 2000s.&nbsp; There are many factors that induced the PKK to move its focus to developments in the Middle East, such as Turkey’s stalling EU accession process, which PKK had hoped would bring significant changes to the status of Kurds in Turkey, the KRG’s increasing power in Iraqi Kurdistan and its improving relations with Turkey. The eruption of the Arab uprisings speeded up this reorientation, developing opportunities for the PKK to widen its influence in the region. However, pursuit of a more active policy in pan-Kurdistan brought challenges not only in its relations with other Kurdish political actors and the US, but also in its relations with the Kurdish people. </p> <h2><strong>The Kurds have no friends but the mountains </strong></h2> <p>PKK’s increasing scale of activities is intensifying, expanding the realm of political competition between the PKK and KDP. Increasingly threatened by the PKK’s activities, the KDP has moved even closer to Turkey’s position. KRG officials’ statements about the PKK are almost identical to those of Turkish officials. President Massoud Barzani has at times harshly criticized the PKK for not utilizing the positive opportunities provided by the Turkish government. The resumption of violence in Turkey after the termination of the peace process in July 2015 is also putting PKK’s Syrian affiliate PYD in a precarious position. In response to PYD’s advance towards the West of Euphrates, Turkey started shelling the PYD targets in Northern Syria. Escalation of violence in the Southeast and spread of terror attacks by PKK splinter group TAK (Kurdistan Freedom Falcons) across Turkey is putting pressure on the US for its support to the PYD. Also, PKK’s close relations with Baghdad and Iran are complicating Washington’s effort to find terms between KRG and Iraqi central government in the fight against the ISIS. In response to PKK’s growing involvement in Syria and Iraqi Kurdish affairs, the U.S. has stepped up its efforts to support the KRG politically, militarily and economically. Following its assistance to the KRG to seek loans from the international institutions, the U.S. recently announced that it would provide 415 million dollars financial assistance to Peshmerga and additional 200 troops to the fight against the ISIS in Iraq. Washington is also silent on KRG’s imposition of fait accompli in contested territories such as Sinjar, unresolved by the Iraqi constitution and claimed both by Kurds and Arabs. </p> <p>PKK’s active politics in Kurdish affairs is also challenging its relations with Kurds. After the Kobane victory, PKK successfully translated the strings of military success into a pan-Kurdish national project that consolidated the ideal of democratic autonomy within the Kurdish imaginary. This ideal promised to deliver Kurds their long-denied right of self-rule. Rather than being driven by a secessionist motive, democratic autonomy referred to self-governance as a more inclusive and democratic political system at the national level that eliminates the need for independence. However, constant warfare in southeast Turkey has revived old humiliations and sufferings at the hands of host nations. The confidence that prevailed in Kurdish streets in the aftermath of the Kobane victory is now replaced by a growing sense of abandonment and misery. Nationalism has once again become the expression of suffering and abandonment. The old expression “the Kurds have no friends but the mountains” has regained such value again among Kurds and become a driving force for Kurdish statehood. </p> <p>Growing public aspiration for Kurdish statehood is now challenging the PKK’s democratic autonomy model as an alternative to an independent state. As Kurds are increasingly reminded of the consequences of being without a state and protection, frustration about the PKK’s ability to provide protection grows. </p> <p>With casualties stacked up in Kurdish towns such as Sur, Cizre, Nusaybin that have become the front line in the barricade warfare between the Turkish security forces and the PKK, many locals now ask why the PKK started the urban battle if it was not able to defend them. Kurdish public misery, in turn, has strengthened the nationalist forces and its rhetoric within the PKK and the HDP. Democratic autonomy as a term is still in use, but the meaning attached to it has changed with the intensification of violence. Instead of being an intricate part of a broader democratization, autonomy is now expressed in ethnic terms as a means to achieve a bigger end, Kurdish sovereignty.&nbsp; </p> <p>But this change in rhetoric can only be convincing if matched with deeds. In response to growing Kurdish frustration, the PKK has announced that it will increase the level of violence in the southeast in the springtime. Whether this will help its image is highly doubtful. The KRG’s ability to deliver Kurds a statehood, on the other hand, is equally dubious. Barzani’s recent play for ‘independence’ is actually an attempt to transform the pan-Kurdish disappointment into a structure based on a nation state. However, given the public frustration at the perceived economic and political failings of the KRG, there are serious suspicions about whether such ‘independence’ is remotely viable.</p> <h2><strong>National disunity</strong></h2> <p>Kurdish politics is going through critical times. It is too early to predict which rival group will better respond to the growing public discontent with the Kurdish political actors and turn shifting regional dynamics to their greater advantage. The PKK has increased its power; it is a hegemonic power in Turkey, having elevated itself into becoming a significant player in Syria with no tangible competitor from other Kurdish actors, and reinforcing its stance as an opposition power to the other major power bloc, the KDP in Iraq. However, there are limits to its power. The growing discord with US policy in the region, the costs of an ongoing military fight in Turkey, and increasing frustration with constant warfare places limits on the further projection of PKK power. </p> <p>The KDP’s hold on power, on the other hand, is even more fragile. Internal problems are restricting its ability to turn the PKK’s problems to its own political advantage. US support for the KRG is still important in terms of resisting internal challenges. However, its heavy reliance on Turkey and its silence on the suffering of Kurds has created disappointment among Kurds about its ability to achieve real independence, tainting its image as an actor standing in the way of Kurdish unity. Unless the KRG’s internal problems are addressed, the KDP’s position in Iraqi Kurdistan is likely to face more setbacks. However, with such division among themselves, they are as susceptible to outside interference as ever, risking a hit at their weakest point — their inability to come together on the issue of national unity.&nbsp; </p><div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Turkey </div> <div class="field-item even"> Iran </div> <div class="field-item odd"> Iraq </div> <div class="field-item even"> Syria </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Civil society </div> <div class="field-item even"> Conflict </div> <div class="field-item odd"> Culture </div> <div class="field-item even"> Democracy and government </div> <div class="field-item odd"> Ideas </div> <div class="field-item even"> International politics </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> Syria Iraq Iran Turkey Civil society Conflict Culture Democracy and government Ideas International politics Turkish Dawn Müjge Küçükkeleş Wed, 27 Apr 2016 19:01:22 +0000 Müjge Küçükkeleş 101687 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Inside Baghdad: the current state of play https://www.opendemocracy.net/arab-awakening/mehdi-al-katib/inside-baghdad-current-state-of-play <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p><span style="line-height: 1.5;">The deal over cabinet nominations by PM Abadi and Sadr conclude months of intensifying protest in Baghdad’s famous Tahrir Square, demanding the reform of an ethno-sectarian political quota system.</span></p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/640px-Sadr_City-July_2005_CPT.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/640px-Sadr_City-July_2005_CPT.jpg" alt="" title="" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" width="460" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Sadr City, Baghdad, July 2005. Wikicommons/ CPT photo. Some rights reserved.</span></span></span>The weeks to come will see Iraq-watchers bracing themselves while the ever-unpredictable political circus of Baghdad politics plays out. Iraq's parliament is out of session&nbsp;until&nbsp;Sunday, after Prime Minister Haidar al-Abadi presented his new fourteen nominations for his sixteen-member technocratic cabinet last Thursday. The objective of this list of nominations is to rid the governing cabinet of vested interests; a streamlined technocratic cabinet was seen as the substitute solution.</p><p> Parliament will have a total of ten days to vote on Abadi's nominations this coming Sunday. This decisive move, which caused political upheaval in all of Iraq’s politics blocs, has been made in the face of rampant corruption. Abadi now faces a dangerous battle with an Iraqi political elite that deploys government resources to strengthen their patronage networks. They fear anti-corruption measures will weaken their influence.&nbsp; </p><p>PM Abadi has already faced a political backlash for his proposed controversial cabinet reshuffle. Recently re-elected head of the influential Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq (ISCI), Ammar al-Hakim, has demanded, “if we have a totally technocratic cabinet, then PM Abadi must be a non-partisan technocrat or PM Abadi must go”.</p> <p>The fourteen-minister list for Parliament was hand-picked by PM Abadi “on the basis of professionalism, competence, integrity and leadership ability” (original list below) after significant pressure on him from the Iraqi Shia cleric Moqtada al-Sadr (previously named Iraq’s most dangerous man) to select nominees unaffiliated to political parties. Other than ex-Finance Minister Ali Allawi and supposed heir to Iraq’s monarchy, Sharif bin Ali, the names on the list&nbsp;are all new faces to the cabinet. </p><p>This non-partisan list was certainly a result of Abadi's negotiations behind closed doors beginning with Sadr, suggesting that Sadr is serious about reinforcing his new image as a man of the people. Last Thursday, Sadr called Abadi's move "courageous", told protestors to call off the sit-in which he had initiated on Sunday March 27 but to continue their weekly&nbsp;Friday protests. Finally, he publicly suggested to party leaders that if parliament doesn't approve the nominations, the Sadrists will topple government including Abadi himself (emphasized by Sadr’s use of the Arabic phrase Sheli’ w Geli’, meaning to ‘uproot’).</p> <h2><strong>Frustration of the Iraqi street</strong></h2> <p>Abadi's attempt to establish a technocratic cabinet comes after pent-up frustration with the mass-scale corruption of the governing elite on the part of the Iraqi street. Dissatisfaction with corruption has mobilised thousands of Iraqis to flood the streets for months on end, with protesters numbering over 100,000 at times. Video evidence has emerged showing an audience at Baghdad’s Al Rasheed theatre chanting anti-government slogans at MPs who were present until MP Shurouq al-Abaychi was kicked out. Some have quoted a sum of $300 billion as having gone missing from government coffers since 2003. </p><p>Iraq is in the bottom ten in Transparency International's Corruption Index, holding the position of 161 out of 168 countries. Bribes and kickbacks have become normal practise in the political and social structures around jobs and permits; yet extremely few cases have been investigated. Last Saturday, Abadi called for investigation into bribery and kickbacks related to state oil deals after Australia’s Fairfax Media and Huffington Post published a <a href="http://www.theage.com.au/interactive/2016/the-bribe-factory/day-1/the-company-that-bribed-the-world.html">report</a> alleging senior Iraqi Government figures were involved, including the current Minister of Education Hussain al-Shahrestani.</p> <p class="mag-quote-left">The deal over the proposed cabinet nominations by PM Abadi and Sadr brought to a climax almost nine months of intensifying protests in Baghdad’s famous Tahrir Square</p><p>The deal over the proposed cabinet nominations by PM Abadi and Sadr brought to a climax almost nine months of intensifying protests in Baghdad’s famous Tahrir Square, where government was called upon to take urgent action to clamp down on corruption, appoint Ministers on a meritocratic basis and reform the ethno-sectarian political quota system. </p> <h2>Baghdad’s corridors of power</h2> <p>Abadi's move is clearly an attempt to kill off the partisan and elite nature of Iraqi politics. The Iraqi political establishment is not satisfied with how Abadi has managed the country. One of the main complaints levelled against PM Abadi is that he previously lost many opportunities to push through reforms despite being one of the only post-2003 Iraqi leaders that had significant regional, international and domestic support. </p><p>A government official I spoke to attributed Abadi’s inability to capitalise on his widespread support to his hesitant and indecisive personality; although his cabinet nominations list may suggest otherwise, that he can make tough decisions when needed.&nbsp;</p> <p>Iraq’s political crisis has seen several ministers resign in the run up to PM Abadi’s technocratic cabinet reshuffle nominations. Prior to the publicity storm surrounding this cabinet reshuffle, a private secretary to a current minister told me that several ministers found it problematic that Abadi was considering removing political heavyweights who are major movers and shakers on his policies. </p><p>Pre-existing frustration with Abadi and the protests combined to prompt ministers such as Oil Minister Adil Abd al-Mahdi to resign ahead of the cabinet reshuffle. Transport Minister Baqir al-Zubeidi and Youth &amp; Sports Minister Abdul Hussein Abtan handed in their letters of resignation on 22 February. Ministerial resignations seem to be political moves to apply pressure on Abadi to take these figures more seriously. It seems that these resignations backfired. Instead, Abadi has moved&nbsp; to rid the new cabinet of the whole bunch. </p> <p>Government members expected&nbsp;that Abadi would go into parliament&nbsp;on Thursday&nbsp;and present two options; either the full list of original ministers or a new list of nine technocrats. The sixteen-member cabinet with fourteen declared nominations took everyone by surprise - an entirely unexpected move, especially the writing off of three key figures by Abadi. </p><p>Several ministries were merged, such as the&nbsp;ministry of finance with the ministry of planning as well as the ministry of transport with the communications ministry. Almost all expected Foreign Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari, Finance Minister Hoshyar Zebari and Higher Education Minister Hussain al-Shahristani to stay in office. The removal of these heavyweights will prove challenging for Abadi. The removal of Jaafari as FM was less surprising considering the history of internal friction between him and Abadi. </p> <p>A Kurdistan Regional Government official informed me that the President of the Kurdish Region of Iraq, Massoud Barzani, was not happy with the proposed changes because the two Kurdish names on Abadi's list are relatively independent. The Kurds want a share of twenty percent of representation in Iraq’s cabinet. But Zebari, a heavyweight in the Kurdistan Democratic Party (one of the largest groups in the Kurdish alliance coalition) believes Oil Minister nominee Nizar Saleem Numan will not represent the Kurdistan bloc in the Iraqi government, since Numan is a relatively neutral figure, with no strong ties to the Kurdistan Regional Government political parties. Last Sunday, Numan had his house surrounded and was forced to withdraw as Oil Minister nominee according to Sajad Jiyad from the Bayan Center for Planning and Studies.</p> <p>The next six days will tell us how this proposal has been taken and how it will fare in the run-up to&nbsp;Sunday&nbsp;when parliament will be in session again to vote on Abadi's proposal.</p> <h2><strong>The protests: a pan-Iraqi movement?</strong></h2> <p>Last Thursday, Sadr ended the two week sit-in in front of the Green Zone (officially the International Zone) and left for Najaf in a fleet of 24 armoured vehicles. The sit-in was an escalation by Sadrists of the Baghdad protest movement. The protests began last summer as a relatively secular and nationalist movement yet the numbers began to&nbsp;fluctuate and decrease&nbsp;towards the end of 2015. </p><p>When Sadr called for Abadi to implement a technocratic government on 13 February he reinvigorated the Iraqi street to continue taking to the streets expressing their dissatisfaction with state corruption. Encouraged by the huge turnout, many independents, Sunnis, Kurds, Shias and secular Iraqis attended the revived protests; it would be reductive to portray the protestors as homogenously Sadrist.</p> <p>In previous weeks the anti-corruption protests were widespread;&nbsp;with reported protests at Samawah University, small protests in Kirkuk and Kurdish Sulaymaniyah around October 2015 and February 2016. Almost every major Shia Arab city has also had people hitting the streets and calling for reform, from Baghdad to Kut, Hilla, Karbala, Najaf, Diwaniyah, Amarah, Samawah, Nasriyah and Basra. </p><p>Without a doubt, Sadr's ability to activate masses of the Shia population has caused a slant in the ethno-sectarian composition of what could be a pan-Iraqi social issue where Kurds, Sunnis and Shias have shared grievances. This is indicative of the lack of strong character-based populist leadership amongst non-Sadrist Iraqi factions, whether we look at the Islamic Dawa party, ISCI, Sunnis or Kurds. The Sunni bloc and Kurds are usually players in these processes, but the past week's crisis was a largely Sadrist-inspired affair.</p> <h2><strong>The rebranding of Moqtada al-Sadr</strong></h2> <p>Sadr has the capacity to garner huge popular support for the purpose of political change&nbsp;and therefore has to be taken seriously. It was reported that crowds of over 100,000 Iraqis protested in Baghdad alone. This figure almost doubled when Sadr addressed the crowds. Sadr’s populist pressure and cabinet proposals have been used as leverage for Abadi riding on the coattails of legitimate street protests to reshuffle the cabinet. </p><p>Abadi could also minimise internal threats in his own al-Dawa party, such as his rivalry with ex-PM Nouri al-Maliki. Maliki has managed to usurp the Islamic Dawa Party from underneath Abadi’s feet and influences many of the party members. Abadi has more&nbsp; legitimacy over his predecessors when it comes to clamping down on government corruption, and could be seeking to utilise this window of opportunity before the country descends further into a downward spiral of chaos.</p> <p>Sadr used the popular movement to prompt Abadi to take impactful action which has previously been lacking. He called the fortified Green Zone a "bastion of support for corruption", urging anti-corruption protesters to turn up in numbers outside the Green Zone and Tahrir Square. Sadr's supporters cut through the barbed wire into the Green Zone with the guards ironically, yet unsurprisingly, aiding them. In fact, one of the generals at the gates kissed Sadr’s hand on his way in. After Abadi missed Sadr's ultimatum to propose a cabinet on the Saturday March 26 deadline, Sadr moved into the Green Zone and set up camp in protest. This became Sadr's base for all the negotiations and public speeches.</p> <p>Sadr has re-entered the public limelight in a bid to rebrand himself from militia leader to a non-partisan Iraqi nationalist grass roots leader. The fact that (mainly pro-Sadr) protesters in Baghdad brandished Iraq flags as opposed to Shia Islamic symbols could be symptomatic of this rebranded public image. He is attempting to fill the shoes of his father by posing as a leader of the Iraqi masses and the poor. Sadr’s bloc also holds 34 seats in Parliament, while trying to represent anti-government voices and so he has the advantage of being both an insider and outsider in Iraq’s political affairs.</p> <p>It is important to note that members of Muqtada al-Sadr’s now dismantled militia, the Mahdi army, frequently carried out sectarian atrocities especially against Sunni civilians from 2006-2007. Some doubt Sadr’s renewed image as a nationalist figure that can represent Iraqi Sunnis as well as Shias, and it certainly will take a lot of effort on the part of Sadr to regain the trust of Sunni Muslims in Iraq. However, a <a href="https://www.ndi.org/files/Reconciliation%20Dec%202015%20Survey_Public_ENG_corrected.pdf">recent poll</a> by the National Democratic Institution suggests that Iraqi tribal leaders believe Muqtada al-Sadr to be a unifying figure, with 54% believing he can unite Iraq, compared to Abadi’s 48%.</p><p class="mag-quote-right">It would hardly be an exaggeration to say that no political party in Iraq would dare clash with Muqtada al-Sadr now, in the current climate and with his powerful street politics they wouldn’t stand a chance.&nbsp;</p> <p>It would hardly be an exaggeration to say that no political party in Iraq would dare clash with Muqtada al-Sadr now. In the current climate and with his powerful street politics they wouldn’t stand a chance. The fiery cleric is having more impact on Iraq’s political scene than any other single individual.</p> <h2><strong>What will happen next?</strong></h2> <p>Considering the&nbsp;non-partisan nature&nbsp;of Abadi's nominations to parliament this could help raise Sadr's popularity, making other blocs feel threatened. Whether or not Sadr will use this leverage to pressure Abadi to implement genuine change is to be seen in the upcoming negotiations. Considering Abadi's reputation for indecision amongst government insiders, probably nothing will be settled soon. Anything could happen. </p><p>A senior negotiator informed me he wouldn’t be surprised if the ten day deadline for the parliament vote would be reannounced as ten working days, the play on words used to buy more time as political blocs exert huge pressure on Abadi to scrap his cabinet list. </p><p>Just yesterday, US representatives Ed Royce and Lois Frankel gave out reassuring noises to the effect that Abadi’s position as PM is secured. Throughout the negotiations Brett McGurk, Special Presidential Envoy for the coalition to counter ISIS, Obama's man in Baghdad, has met with PM Abadi to endorse reforms, advise that Abadi cooperates more with Iraq's political factions and reassure Abadi that there is no possibility of him losing his position as Prime Minister. But some believe otherwise. Sadr has indirectly threatened to rid Iraq of the government if parliament does not approve the proposed cabinet reshuffle. And a senior government official suggested to me that if the crisis gets serious enough, Abadi could be ousted.</p> <p>There are few things certain, but it is clear that Baghdad is as stuck as ever in the world of partisan politics. But the implementation of the proposed cabinet could put an end to this fragmented Iraqi polity. Abadi and Sadr’s decisions seem to be in sync thanks to some form of&nbsp; indirect communication. Last Thursday, one must conclude, was a political win for Abadi and Sadr. Should half of the proposed cabinet reshuffle list go through, Sadr and Abadi have played their cards very well. </p> <p>A private source in Baghdad who has shared some of the current discussions behind closed doors, says that each political bloc in this ethno-sectarian quota system has been told to suggest three names for each of the ministries they may hold. Senior negotiators close to Abadi are likely to settle on having three Kurds, four Sunnis and seven Shias for the renewed fourteen-member list. </p><p>Considering that the list of names were leaked, it is likely that PM Abadi issued the proposals list of fourteen names of non-party ministers in an attempt to obtain an equilibrium whereby seven or eight of cabinet members are non-partisan. Abadi had to either play fully into the hands of a partisan distribution of cabinet positions or clean the whole cabinet of potential ministers loyal to a party. Quite what will materialize is unsure. This is the nature of Baghdad’s politics; only time will tell.<span>&nbsp;</span></p> <p><strong>Prime Minister Abadi’s ministerial nominations on Thursday March 31, 2016</strong></p> <p>Ala Dashir - Minister of Electricity<br /><span>Ali Allawi - Minister of Finance<br /></span>Ali Jabouri - Minister of Education<br /> Ali Mubarak - Minister of Health<br />Aqil Yousif - Minister of Youth and Culture<br />Hassan Janabi - Minister of Oil and Water Resources<br />Hoshiyar Amin - Minister of Municipality and Reconstruction<br />Mohammed Nasrollah - Minister of Justice<br />Nizar Saleem Numan - Minister of Oil (withdrew nomination)<br />Sharif Ali ibn Ali - Minister of Foreign Affairs<br />Wafa Mahdawi - Minister of Immigration and Displacement<br />Yousif Assadi - Minister of Transportation (withdrew nomination)<br />Mohammed Al-Ghabban – Minister of Interior (current Minister)<br /><span>Khaled al-Obaidi – Minister of Defence (current Minister)</span></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="/arab-awakening/mehiyar-kathem/troubling-political-economy-of-iraq-s-sh-ia-clerical-establishment">The troubling political economy of Iraq’s Sh’ia clerical establishment</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Iraq </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> 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> Arab Awakening Arab Awakening Iraq Democracy and government Mehdi Al-Katib Tue, 05 Apr 2016 12:21:03 +0000 Mehdi Al-Katib 101125 at https://www.opendemocracy.net The troubling political economy of Iraq’s Sh’ia clerical establishment https://www.opendemocracy.net/arab-awakening/mehiyar-kathem/troubling-political-economy-of-iraq-s-sh-ia-clerical-establishment <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Iraqi and Iranian Shia have been competing over Iraq's shrine cities of Najaf and Karbala since the invasion. Al Sistani's successor will have to cope with the fall-out. <span style="line-height: 1.5;"></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/549460/GettyImages-51227548.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/549460/GettyImages-51227548.jpg" alt="Ghaith Abdul-Ahad/Getty Images. All rights reserved." title="" width="460" height="307" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Ghaith Abdul-Ahad/Getty Images. All rights reserved.</span></span></span></p><p><span>When the US invaded Iraq in 2003 it subsequently disbanded the country’s army, dismantled its security infrastructure and instituted an extensive set of occupation policies, all apparently geared at making it the main political, security and economic actor in the country. The consequences of those early policies and actions have radically transformed Iraq over the past few years, effectively turning it into a theatre for the playing out of domestic and regional contestations. One such emerging struggle over the future of Iraq, particularly for the devout Shi’a both inside and without the country, has been tracked by what has since happened to Iraq’s revered shrine cities of Karbala and Najaf.</span></p> <p>Seeing itself as the new permanent power in Iraq – effectively a new state order – the US actively engaged in state wrecking rather than institution building. The occupation viewed Iraq as conquered territory and at this early stage. in 2003 and 2004, US hegemonic power over the country seemed impregnable. Iraq’s state institutions were in tatters and as a result, new and often multiple conflicts&nbsp; unfolded across the country. </p> <p>Notwithstanding organised violence against the occupation, which sought to upend US plans of making Iraq a client state, another set of foreign-devised policies were also being enacted. Specifically, shrine cities were now facing the onslaught of Iranian plans to undermine Iraq’s Shi’a clergy (<em>ulama</em>), particularly Najaf’s clerical establishment (<em>marja'iyah)</em>, which constitutes a potential source of competition to Iran’s own Shi’a religious and political authorities.&nbsp;</p> <p>The invasion of Iraq in 2003 and the forced collapse of its state institutions had provided a rare opportunity for the Iranian government, which now sought to win what has long been a historical struggle for the control of Najaf and Karbala, the main sites of Shi’a learning in the world. According to renowned scholar <a href="http://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/0691006431/ref=as_li_tl?ie=UTF8&amp;camp=1634&amp;creative=19450&amp;creativeASIN=0691006431&amp;linkCode=as2&amp;tag=opendemocra0e-21">Yitzak Nakash</a>, the historical contestation in Iraq between Shi’a Arabs and Shi’a Iranians, or Persians, was fought over the control of Karbala and Najaf. The author, reviewing the past two hundred years, states that&nbsp;<em>“</em>in Karbala and Najaf, the Persian religious families managed to overshadow the Arab ulama and succeeded in dominating religious circles….by the mid-nineteenth century, the Persian ulama in Iraq had already controlled most of the Shi’a charitable funds and the madrasas…”</p> <p>Beneath the veneer of a hegemonic America in an occupation that largely focused on its own security situation, was this enactment of an Iranian plan to control Shi’a Islam’s holiest sites. The Iraq war and the changed politics brought about by the occupation, particularly in the wake of the vacuum the US had created in the country, allowed this battle for control of Iraq’s religious sites to play itself out.</p> <p>Historically, the clerical class in Iraq have relied on two sources of finance; namely, money from religious tourism and pilgrimage as well as from the transportation, care and burial of the Shi’a dead, particularly in Najaf’s Wadi al Salam, the world’s biggest cemetery. According to Nakash, the “flow of foreign money to the shrine cities had major consequences on their political orientation and socioeconomic organisation. The shrine cities developed an economy based on charities and payments for religious services, and on the income from the pilgrimage and the carriage of the dead.”</p> <p>Whilst the political economy of Najaf and Karbala had been much affected by previous historical turning points, such as the establishment of the Iraqi state in the 1920s, then the impact of Saddam Hussein’s regime, as well as international sanctions in the 1990s, the post-2003 developments once again altered the order of things.</p> <p class="mag-quote-right">under and after the US occupation of Iraq the Iranian government resorted to controlling, albeit indirectly, Najaf and Karbala, which was the most secure way to realise its objectives</p><p>Specifically, a calculated set of Iranian interventions that had not been witnessed for over a century was now implemented in Iraq. Such interventions were designed for the long-term dominance of Karbala and Najaf, and were largely economic in nature rather than overtly political or religious. Sources of funding, divided between different and often competing Iraqi Shi’a clerical schools, have historically ensured that Iraq’s&nbsp;<em>marja'iyah</em>&nbsp;enjoyed a degree of autonomy from the whims of politicians who sought to influence the devout Shi’a in ways conducive to their own interests. For Iran, such autonomy from itself and its policies could not be tolerated, but also could not be attacked head-on. As a result, under and after the US occupation of Iraq the Iranian government resorted to controlling, albeit indirectly, Najaf and Karbala, the most secure way to realise its objectives.</p> <p>Iran’s political system is based on Khomeini’s&nbsp;<em>Wilayat al Faqih</em>, an arrangement that champions an Iranian-based religious authority and figure of emulation in Shi’a Islam. After 2003, the Iranian government, cognizant of the new freedoms that Iraq’s clergy could exercise, moved to ensure that it did not undermine Iran’s own religious authority in Qum – its centre of religious legitimacy – on which the post-1979 state ideology is premised. For the Iranian government, its priority was to ensure that it was the source of Shi’a legitimacy, and not Najaf, whose leading clerics have promoted the separation of religion from the state.</p> <p>The empowerment of an autonomous Shi’a clerical establishment in Karbala and Najaf after 2003 would soon be undermined by Ithe carrying out of a concerted set of Iranian policies to control its economies. As a result, the economies of Karbala and Najaf have since been tightly controlled by Iranian state and private companies. Iran’s state-owned tourist companies have invested heavily in controlling and managing the religious pilgrimage to Karbala and Najaf, particularly as a way of ensuring that Iranian pilgrims spend as little of their resources as possible in Iraq. Iran’s private sector investors have also been encouraged to invest in such things as hotels and consequently have become key actors in the hospitality industry in these cities.</p> <p>The provision of substantially reduced prices for accommodation and food, as well as transport to Iraq, especially for Iranian pilgrims, have all been heavily regulated in ways to reduce a leakage of Iranian foreign currency that the government fears could end up strengthening Iraq’s&nbsp;<em>marja'iyah,</em>&nbsp;which could in turn tap into historically significant streams derived from pilgrim’s money. Iran’s consulates in each of the shrine cities, play a key role in enforcing these structures. More recently, in November 2015, over half a million Iranian pilgrims crossed Iraq without paying the $30 visa fee. In addition, Karbala’s and Najaf’s agrarian economies and light industries have also been decimated by subsidised goods coming from Iran. Such policies amount to a concerted policy to undermine the independent growth of anything outside the direct controlling influence of Iran.</p> <p>From 2003, Iraqi Shi’a-based political parties, such as the Islamic Supreme Council and the Sadrist Movement, were now not only competing to capture as much of the remaining state institutions and resources that the US had neglected to care for, but were also clashing with each other to capture the shrine cities for themselves. Their participation in national and provincial elections legitimised their actions, tying politics and religion ever closer together. Their efforts saw them develop religious, political and security wings, not unlike a state authority. Each political party championed its own version of Shi’a authority, based on familial lineages stemming from deceased and respected figures of Shi’a emulation, or&nbsp;<em>Mar’ajah</em>. Captured state funding from key Iraqi ministries that such parties were able to control was recycled back to Najaf and Karbala with a view to strengthening the political, religious and economic bases they had worked to build, but also importantly as a way to compete with Iranian goals over Iraq’s shrine cities.</p> <p>As a result, the blurring of lines between religion and politics became very clear, troubling and creating discord in the&nbsp;<em>marja'iyah&nbsp;</em>in Najaf. In this emerging environment,<em>&nbsp;</em>Grand Ayatollah Syed al Sistani, the figure of authority in Iraq and the Shi'a world, was compelled to distance himself over recent years from both domestic political parties as well as Iranian action. As the highest source of legitimacy for the majority of devout Shi’a, al Sistani has often found himself carefully negotiating the actions of Iraq’s political parties and Iran itself who both vie for the seat of religious power.</p> <p>At the age of 85, al Sistani will soon be succeeded by those currently competing for Najaf’s influence. Whoever becomes the next figure to take over his authority however, whether Iraqi Arab Shi’a or Iranian Shi’a, will have to deal with an economic environment heavily influenced by the outcomes of long-term and carefully calculated Iranian government interventions.</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="/ranj-alaaldin/shia-crescent-selffulfilling-prophecy">Shia crescent: self-fulfilling prophecy</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/arshin-adib-moghaddam/arabs-vs-persians-sunni-vs-shia-hatred-vs-reality">Arabs vs Persians, Sunni vs Shi&#039;a - &quot;hatred&quot; vs reality</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Iraq </div> <div class="field-item even"> Iran </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Conflict </div> <div class="field-item even"> Economics </div> <div class="field-item odd"> International politics </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> Arab Awakening Arab Awakening Iran Iraq Conflict Economics International politics Geopolitics Mehiyar Kathem Tue, 29 Mar 2016 16:39:29 +0000 Mehiyar Kathem 100777 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Cities of refuge https://www.opendemocracy.net/can-europe-make-it/costas-douzinas/cities-of-refuge <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>The 1951 Geneva Convention on Political Asylum was a typical creation of the Cold War: the system cannot deal with the huge population flows now permanently characteristic of our world.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/640px-Ny_Carlsberg_Glyptothek_-_Rodin_-_Danaide.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/640px-Ny_Carlsberg_Glyptothek_-_Rodin_-_Danaide.jpg" alt="Ny Carlsberg Glyptothek, Copenhagen. "Danaide" ( 1901 ) by Auguste Rodin. " 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'>Ny Carlsberg Glyptothek, Copenhagen. "Danaide" ( 1901 ) by Auguste Rodin. Wikicommons/ Wolfgang Sauber. Some rights reserved.</span></span></span>Asylum and protection for the persecuted is an old and honorable tradition. Throughout history, temples and cities have been places of protection. The tradition started with the six ‘cities of refuge’ listed in the Priestly and Deuteronomy codes of the Old Testament and with the supplication rituals in Ancient Greece. The Jewish cities were places of refuge for those persecuted for crimes, usually homicide. Priests would question the supplicant and, if the criminal act was not intentional, the city would offer protection from the relatives of the victim who wanted to exercise the age-old law of <em>lex talionis</em>—an eye for an eye. <span class="print-no mag-quote-left">Asylum was granted only to refugees from Europe who had fled their home country before 1951 and was extended to all refugees only in 1967. It allowed Western Europe to offer protection to people persecuted by the newly established communist regimes.</span></p> <p>&nbsp;A similar institution existed in Ancient Greece. Someone who had committed a crime or was persecuted could ask for <em>a-sylum</em>-- etymologically protection from harm. The request was made to a temple or city. The supplicant had to perform a certain ritual which placed him under the protection of the Gods, in particular the <em>Ikesios</em> or Hospitable <em>Zeus</em>. Examples of supplication are found in Homer while <em>The Supplicants</em>, Aeschylus masterpiece, describes the ritual and political operation of the institution. </p> <p>The fifty daughters of King Danaos fleeing the proposed incestuous marriage with the sons of King Aegyptos seek asylum in the city of Argos from its King Pelasgos. The prudent king hesitates initially, fearing that the barbarians might attack the city to abduct the maidens. But if he does not offer protection, he will offend <em>Ikesios Zeus</em> and will bring a curse on the city. The King brings the issue to the assembly of the demos, which votes to grant asylum. The city accepts the Danaids, protects them from evil and, as a result, <em>Zeus</em> blesses Argos. &nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;</p> <p>After the consolidation of the modern state, asylum and the politics of refuge became a privilege granted by the sovereign as a sign of mercy. In reality however protection was no longer just a moral obligation. It became a tool in ideological rivalries. The famous 1951 Geneva Convention on Political Asylum was a typical creation of the Cold War. Asylum was granted only to refugees from Europe who had fled their home country before 1951 and was extended to all refugees only in 1967. It allowed Western Europe to offer protection to people persecuted by the newly established communist regimes. This is why the Convention stipulates that those protected must have fled their country of nationality because of a “well-founded fear of persecution” because of their race, religion or political views. &nbsp;The Convention creates an individualized process of examination of applications for asylum excluding from its purview those who flee for non-Convention reasons — such as discrimination on grounds of sexual orientation - or economic migrants who try to improve their lives. Asylum thus became a legal institution but its scope and extension was seriously restricted. The Geneva system cannot deal with the huge population flows that have become a permanent characteristic of our world.</p> <h2><strong>A new International</strong></h2> <p>Cities have always been the physical place of asylum and protection for the persecuted. <span class="print-no mag-quote-right">Within the urban web, anonymity and the protection of privacy allows the traumatized refugees to gradually acquire the necessary means in order to start life again.</span> Before the consolidation of state sovereignty, the Italian, Hanseatic and Ottoman cities — the matrices of European urbanization — offered asylum to the persecuted. More recently, a number of great intellectuals such as Jacques Derrida, Pierre Bourdieu, Toni Morison and Salman Rushdie founded in Strasburg in 1994 a contemporary network of ‘cities of refuge’. They aimed to protect oppressed intellectuals. At the time of the initiative, artists and writers were persecuted by the new Islamic regime in Algeria. Soon, great cities like Barcelona, Hamburg and Liverpool participated in the initiative and a network of cities of refuge and hospitality of persecuted intellectuals was created. Today an international organization of such cities exists. However it has become inactive recently and its focus remains the protection of people of arts and letters.&nbsp; </p> <p>The wars in Iraq, Afghanistan and now Syria have given rise to a huge number of refugees fleeing the war zones. In the last twelve months over one million people, 80% on whom are Syrian refugees, travelled through Greece on the way to the contemporary Argos in Northern Europe. It is important therefore to return to and expand the institution of the cities of refuge by offering protection to the persecuted of our time irrespective of educational or social background. We must take initiatives to create a new network of European cities of refuge, which will host a number of refugees per city and offer them shelter, food and care for their basic needs and help them settle in their new home.&nbsp; </p> <p>The city of refuge has historical and material resonance. It brings back ancient traditions and by insisting on city protection avoids the political calculations associated with state sovereignty, a permanent source of tension with local societies. The city of refuge recognizes that the settlement and the integration of foreigners takes place within the urban web, where anonymity and the protection of privacy allows the traumatized refugees to gradually acquire the necessary means in order to start life again in a foreign country which will become a second homeland. </p> <h2><strong>Demographic bomb</strong></h2> <p>But there are also good policy reasons for such initiatives. Europe is getting old. Its pension and social protection regimes are no longer viable. The demographic data are worrying. First, we have a very low fertility rate, 1.5 births per European female in child-bearing age when a 2.1 rate is needed for the reproduction of the population. Second, life expectancy has increased greatly. Finally, the ratio between working and out of work population has deteriorated. The EU predicts that Europe needs around 60 million new immigrants in the next 40 years in order to reproduce its active population. Angela Merkel understood this fact and without grand statements accepted around 1 million new immigrants. <span class="print-no mag-quote-left">The EU predicts that Europe needs around 60 million new immigrants in the next 40 years in order to reproduce its active population. Angela Merkel understood this fact and without grand statements accepted around 1 million new immigrants. </span></p> <p>Europe needs new blood and new ideas. The refugees knocking on Europe’s door are educated, dynamic – this is always the case with people who go through all kinds of hardship to get to their imagined Argos. Repulsion, xenophobia and racism show not only meanness and lack of morality but also ignorance of basic facts about population needs. </p> <p>The contemporary supplicants must therefore be welcomed. They flee bombs, death and oppression, to which western policies have contributed.&nbsp; They are ready to work hard in order to build a new life. The great European cities must become shelters and places of settlement for these new Danaids. Hospitality does not mean solely temporary stay but policies of inclusion and integration. This is what the values of solidarity and the reality of demographic decay demand.&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; </p><p> We therefore call on Mayors and local councilors of European cities to participate in an initiative to receive a small number of new supplicants from Greece. We call for the creation of a new ‘International of Cities of Asylum’ initiative, asking the demos of great cities to follow in the steps of the citizens of Argos. It is not just about humanitarianism, philanthropy or solidarity. Behind every kind of morality stands the responsibility to offer asylum. The face of the other who suffers lies behind the identity of each and every one of us.&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="/can-europe-make-it/raluca-besliu/refuge-and-home-in-vienna-young-iraqs-story">Refuge, and a home, in Vienna: a young Iraqi&#039;s story</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/can-europe-make-it/albena-azmanova/there-is-no-refugee-crisis-in-europe">There is no refugee crisis in Europe </a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/can-europe-make-it/chris-jones-sofiane-ait-chalalet/reasons-for-leaving-refugee-stories-from-samos">Reasons for leaving: refugee stories from Samos</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"> Greece </div> <div class="field-item even"> Germany </div> <div class="field-item odd"> EU </div> <div class="field-item even"> Iraq </div> <div class="field-item odd"> Syria </div> <div class="field-item even"> Afghanistan </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Civil society </div> <div class="field-item even"> Conflict </div> <div class="field-item odd"> Culture </div> <div class="field-item even"> Democracy and government </div> <div class="field-item odd"> Ideas </div> <div class="field-item even"> International politics </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> Can Europe make it? Can Europe make it? Afghanistan Syria Iraq EU Germany Greece Civil society Conflict Culture Democracy and government Ideas International politics Costas Douzinas Sat, 26 Mar 2016 15:29:08 +0000 Costas Douzinas 100900 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Iraq and Syria didn’t create ISIS - we did https://www.opendemocracy.net/can-europe-make-it/bulent-gokay/iraq-and-syria-didn-t-create-isis-we-did <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>After the Paris attacks, ISIS&nbsp;became yesterday’s story, as if the&nbsp;terrorist movement had disappeared into far lands not able to affect our lives any more.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/512px-Maalbeek_-_Maelbeek_station_(25684717280).jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/512px-Maalbeek_-_Maelbeek_station_(25684717280).jpg" alt="Maalbeek/Maelbeek station, 2012." title="" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" width="460" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Maalbeek/Maelbeek station, 2012. Wikicommons/ stalebg. Some rights reserved.</span></span></span>With the recent capture of Salah Abdeslam, thought to be the only surviving member of the terror commandos of the Paris massacre, the western media has again focused on the threat of terrorist attack in western capitals by so-called Islamic State, ISIS. </p> <p>This morning’s tragic events in Brussels airport and metro shocked the world and created a heightened sense of insecurity, in a similar way to the effects of last year’s Charlie Hebdo terror attack in January and later Paris attacks in November by&nbsp;ISIS. But then, after Paris attacks, the focus of media shifted hastily elsewhere and&nbsp;ISIS&nbsp;became yesterday’s story, as if the&nbsp;terrorist movement had ceased to exist or disappeared into far lands not able to affect our lives any more.</p> <p>In reality,&nbsp;ISIS&nbsp;has never stopped killing people brutally in large numbers since the slaughter in Paris in November last year.&nbsp; It has kept murdering innocent civilians in large numbers, but not in Europe. Just last month in late February, two&nbsp;ISIS suicide bombers blew themselves up in an outdoor mobile phone market in Sadr&nbsp;City, Iraq, killing 73 people and injuring more than 100. On the same day, hundreds of&nbsp;ISIS&nbsp;fighters coordinated a massive attack in Abu&nbsp;Ghraib, on the western outskirts of Baghdad. This was just one day’s news in Iraq.&nbsp; Almost every day in Iraq, Libya and Syria there are terrorist attacks, suicide bombs, and tens, if not hundreds, of civilians murdered, around-the-clock. Almost certainly many more are being murdered right now, as we’re watching the news from Brussels airport in fear.&nbsp; </p> <p>Our part of the world, the western world scarcely notices many of these bloody events because they seem to be part of the natural&nbsp;order in those faraway, and somewhat exotic, lands - Iraq, Syria, Libya and Yemen. There is a disconnect in western minds between the wars in the Middle East and North Africa and terrorist attacks in western capitals. Apart from the psychological help one gets from feeling that many of those scary events are happening in far-off places, safely removed from us, to separate the two is also very much in the interests of&nbsp;western political leaders. Because in this way, they stop their public from recognising that miscalculated and extremely disastrous policies of the US government and its allies in Europe contributed to creating the conditions for the rise of&nbsp;terrorist gangs like ISIS&nbsp;to which Salah Abdeslam belonged.</p> <p>Fabrice Balanche, a leading French expert on Syria who now works for the <em>Washington Institute for&nbsp;Near East Policy</em>, <a href="http://carnegieendowment.org/syriaincrisis/?fa=58875">says in an interview</a> with <em>Carnegie Endowment for International Peace</em> in January 2015:</p> <p>‘In 2011–2012, we suffered a type of intellectual McCarthyism on the Syrian question: if you said that Assad was not about to fall within&nbsp;three months, you would be suspected of being paid by the Syrian regime. And with the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs having taken up&nbsp;the cause of the Syrian opposition, it would have been in bad taste to contradict its communiqués…. By taking up the cause of the Syrian and Libyan opposition and destroying the Syrian and Libyan states, France and Britain opened the&nbsp;door to&nbsp;ISIS and should share in the blame for the rise of&nbsp;ISIS&nbsp;and terrorism in Europe.’ </p> <p>Even some American military leaders now openly express their views that recent terrorist violence in the west is an understandable and predictable response to all the violence and mismanaged interventions delivered by our governments in the Middle East during the last two decades.&nbsp; ‘The Iraq War may turn out to be the greatest strategic disaster in American history.&nbsp; In a mere 18 months we went from unprecedented levels of support after 9-11..to being one of the most hated countries…’, <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ndqPqOKh00k">said Lt. General William Odom</a>, former National Security Agency Director.</p> <p>To acknowledge this in no way justifies what happened in Paris in 2015 and Brussels today. Terrorist attacks against civilians are, without any doubt, crimes against humanity whenever and wherever they happen.&nbsp; At the same time, to pretend that western actions since the early 1990s in the Middle East have nothing to do with the current problem of terrorist attacks against western targets is to disregard the obvious and bury our heads in the sand.&nbsp; The emergence of terrorist groups such as the Islamic State or al-Qaeda is an unfortunate but predictable result of decades-long western military interference in the Middle East, which has caused the death of hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of Afghanis, Iraqis, Syrians and Libyans.&nbsp; The west now faces a Frankenstein’s monster, as the violence of IS is increasingly threatening not only the Middle East but Europe’s internal security.</p><div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Belgium </div> <div class="field-item even"> France </div> <div class="field-item odd"> EU </div> <div class="field-item even"> United States </div> <div class="field-item odd"> Iraq </div> <div class="field-item even"> Syria </div> <div class="field-item odd"> Libya </div> <div class="field-item even"> Yemen </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> Can Europe make it? Can Europe make it? Yemen Libya Syria Iraq United States EU France Belgium Bulent Gokay Tue, 22 Mar 2016 17:41:27 +0000 Bulent Gokay 100811 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Why many young Arabs join violent radical groups https://www.opendemocracy.net/arab-awakening/cristina-casab-n/why-many-young-arabs-join-violent-radical-groups <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>The key to combating extremism is prevention. But what are the conditions that lead youth to become radicalised?</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/553378/514140000.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/553378/514140000.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="307" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Michele Amoruso/Pacific Press/LightRocket via Getty Images. All rights reserved.</span></span></span>The rise of Daesh (IS) and its success in mobilising young people across the MENA region has put the issue of combating radicalisation in the spotlight. Military, intelligence, and law enforcement approaches continue to dominate the initial response of governments, but the key to combating extremism is prevention. The question is how do young people become radicalised?</p> <p>To prevent extremism, we cannot solely rely on counterterrorism strategies. We must start by addressing the life conditions that have created a favourable environment for radicalisation and recruitment to flourish. By taking a '<a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Social_determinism">social determinism</a>' approach we find that an interconnection of political, economic and cultural factors supercede those of the individual. Looking at the interconnection between these factors then, it becomes apparent why some young Arabs might join radical groups in the MENA region.</p> <p>Many young people turned to radical organisations after they were active within a peaceful framework in 2011. In order to know the extent of this transformation, analysts only have to look at the huge number of youth who are increasingly active in criminal armed organisations. According to a recent report published by <a href="http://www.apple.com">The Soufan Group</a>, in 2014 and 2015 the great majority of foreign fighters in Iraq and Syria came from Arab countries, with both the Middle East and the Maghreb supplying large numbers.</p> <p>Since 2011, the permeability of borders has encouraged thousands of young people to flee abroad. Tunisians, Saudis, Turks and Jordanians continue to outnumber other national contingents traveling to join jihadi organisations. According to the same report, other nationals who are part of this radicalisation process are concentrated in “terrorist hubs” in Libya, Tunisia, Morocco and Turkey.&nbsp; </p><p>Transformation from civil peaceful activities arguing for and demanding basic human rights in 2011 to violent and armed organisations has become a regional phenomenon. Life conditions draw disproportionate numbers of young individuals to violent extremism.</p> <h2><strong>Vacuums of power</strong></h2> <p>The rise of extremist groups in the anarchy of the Syrian civil war and post-invasion chaos of Iraq remains a regional phenomenon with global implications. In Iraq, jihadi groups benefited from the struggle of Iraqi resistance against the US government. From 2003 to 2006, Al Qaeda lead the struggle against the occupier, and local jihadi groups emerged which became known as the Islamic State of Iraq.</p> <p>In Syria it is difficult to distinguish between moderate Islamists and jihadists, since the regime’s aggressive response transformed the largely peaceful uprising into an open civil war, and now multiple groups are engaged in the conflict. The civil war was a starting point for the jihadist insurgency. Since then, Syria has faced a much greater threat of jihadist infiltration in comparison with other MENA countries. </p> <p>From Syria, Daesh has spread to other neighbouring countries, and now they are expanding their tentacles to <a href="http://www.understandingwar.org/backgrounder/isis%25E2%2580%2599s-campaign-libya-january-4-february-19-2016">Libya</a>. As such, we can see that vacuums of power combined with authoritarian rule have exacerbated terrorist groups and individuals seeking power, and their territorial gains are attracting other foreign regional fighters. They are now free to spread their influence in the region, either from tacit government approval or from vacuums of power in these semi-failed states. </p> <h2><strong>Poor government structures </strong></h2> <p>Establishing good governance procedures has been an impossible task for liberal groups and political parties that emerged after the Arab Spring. This is due to lack of experience in democratic institutions and ineffective organisation. In 2016, Egyptians are experiencing the failure of the Egyptian revolution, Libyans are on the verge of becoming a failed state, Syrians have been brutally repressed by their government, the outbreaks of Bahrain and Iraq have been repressed and silenced, and other more stable countries have been unable to create inclusive democratic governments and institutions – perhaps with the exception of Tunisia, which is debatable. </p> <p>Generally speaking, after the Arab uprisings, most of these governments focused on the specific new challenges of young groups and the rise of mass politics. Now regimes are more corrupt and more repressive. They made little progress in the reform of institutions and repress or exclude opposition parties. In addition, economic and policy reforms initiated since are ineffective, as there is no trickle down effect and no inclusiveness in the political arena.</p> <p>Discontent with corruption and rising inequality has been ignored by those in power, and failure of the Arab revolts to bring change in the region has added to people's frustrations. Most young Arabs have not reached stable financial positions in their personal lives. This situation is creating a regional environment where individuals feel they have no future however hard they work. There is a lack of patriotism, a growing sense of “us against them” that is impregnating society, especially the youth – a phenomenon that is also creating intergenerational ruptures.</p> <h2><strong>The political and social exclusion of the youth </strong></h2> <p>Participation of the new generations – either directly or through legitimate intermediate institutions – is very important, as more than 50 percent of the population is under the age 25 (more in some countries), according to <a href="http://www.un.org/en/development/desa/population/theme/adolescents-youth/index.shtml">UN population data</a>. This is the age cohort identified as being “Jihad candidates”, with most being in their 20s and some even younger.</p> <p>Terrorist organisations often fill the gap of youth participation and inclusion in political and social spheres. According to what was discussed at the Youth and Violent Groups conference, organised by the Arab Forum of Alternatives in Lebanon, most of these youth have left primary education and are living on the streets. Some of them are from rural areas and have difficulties integrating in urban development areas.</p> <p>Terrorist organisations often grow their ranks by recruiting the youth who are visibly not integrated, as they are more vulnerable due to the need or want of connectedness and affiliation. Governments have to allow for a strong civil society in which the majority of the population – the youth –&nbsp; can find better opportunities. For the moment, those who have broken ties with society don't get a second chance.</p><h2><strong>Lack of freedom and fundamental rights</strong></h2> <p>The Arab uprising revealed deep discontent with the general state of fundamental rights and freedoms, but most of these countries are still under oppressive and non elected governments. The region has experienced the threat of terrorism; in 2015 the respect for human rights and justice appear to be secondary to security challenges.</p> <p>The logic of this collective process is simple: when injustice is perceived, terrorist groups are not looked upon as perpetrators of violence but rather as fighters struggling against a tyrannical enemy. Against this backdrop, it is not difficult to comprehend why these radical ideologies are perceived to be attractive, and the youth that join such groups heroic.</p> <p>A recent survey carried out in the southern Tunis neighbourhoods of Douar Hicher and Hay Ettadhamen, in which 800 young people were interviewed by the NGO International Alert,&nbsp;<a href="http://www.apple.com">found</a> “an acute awareness of injustice and relegation”. At the same time, Tunisia is also the number-one supplier of recruits for Daesh.</p> <p>The perception of violence as being a means to change is an outcome of and not a reason for this. The dismantling of radicalism in “terrorist hubs” and across the region requires an analysis of hidden factors: the state of desperation about the legal system and the state, and the conviction that change is not possible. </p> <h2><strong>Poverty </strong></h2> <p>The Arab uprising uncovered a number of vulnerabilities, especially poverty. After five years, analysts perceive a deeper deterioration in living standards with traditional middle class lifestyles evaporating, especially for younger generations. </p> <p>The role that “life conditions”, where human challenges are presented in terms of basic needs, play in MENA countries is very important. What happens when Egypt cannot provide for its citizens? Can the dissatisfaction of the youth with the provision of public services, poor living standards and lack of job opportunities lead to this phenomenon of radicalisation? The lack of a social policy to reduce disparities only encourages the youth to radicalise. The UNDP <a href="http://www.middleeasteye.net/news/un-arab-brain-drain-accelerates-after-arab-spring-1752815577">says</a> an estimated 20-25 percent of young Arabs are leaving their region to look for a "better future". Before region-wide unrest, the UNDP had warned that officials needed to create 51 million jobs by 2020 to cater to the ballooning youth demographic. Currently, tens of thousands of young refugees, asylum seekers and migrants from North Africa are traveling to different countries. </p> <p>In MENA countries with low- and middle- income populations the job market has worsened since 2011, and youth have few opportunities to break out of the cycle of poverty. In this scenario, there is a greater tolerance for violence and new survival mechanisms are developed, so economic redress from the informal sector attracts unemployed youth groups. Jihadist militancy is a good source of income; foreign fighters who join Daesh are relatively <a href="http://www.nbcnews.com/storyline/isis-terror/isis-pays-foreign-fighters-1-000-month-jordan-king-n209026">well paid</a>.</p> <h2><strong>Conclusion </strong></h2> <p>To dismantle the phenomenon of radicalisation, analysts should start dismantling all topics: terrorism, radicalism, foreign fighters, jihadism, etc... and start studying this complex phenomenon in its social context. Daesh recruitment is so new that efforts to counter it are still in the preliminary phase, and jihadist groups are taking advantage of the lack of effective counterterrorism policies. </p> <p>These groups have taken the opportunity to exploit the environment in Iraq, Syria and the poorest regions. This is linked to the failure of governments and their policies. The youth that demanded dignity in 2011 were unable to change their societies for the better, now this sense of humiliation has become a powerful and palpable mobilising factor. It reflects not only young peoples’ lack of participation and representation in the legal system but also frustration with widespread corruption, the state’s lack of accountability, inadequate public services, mounting dissatisfaction with the lack of respect for human rights and deteriorating living conditions...</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="/arab-awakening/cristina-casab-n/paradox-of-syrian-conflict-and-its-politics"> The paradox of the Syrian conflict and its politics</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/arab-awakening/cristina-casab-n/what-about-reforming-baathist-state-institutions">Baathist/Syrian state institutions must be reformed</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/arab-awakening/cristina-casab%C3%B3n/egypt%27s-military-economy">Egypt&#039;s military economy</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/arab-awakening/cristina-casab%C3%B3n/mix-of-feudal-and-dictatorial-systems">Middle East mix of feudal and dictatorial systems</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Syria </div> <div class="field-item even"> Iraq </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Civil society </div> <div class="field-item even"> Conflict </div> <div class="field-item odd"> Democracy and government </div> <div class="field-item even"> Economics </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> Arab Awakening Arab Awakening Iraq Syria Civil society Conflict Democracy and government Economics middle east youth justice Youth Arab Awakening: violent transitions Revolution Violent transitions Cristina Casabón Mon, 14 Mar 2016 23:03:50 +0000 Cristina Casabón 100292 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Nonviolent strategies to defeat totalitarians such as ISIS https://www.opendemocracy.net/maciej-bartkowski/nonviolent-strategies-to-defeat-totalitarians-such-as-isis <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Military might has little success against violent terror organizations. If nonviolent strategies seem impractical, it is an even greater naiveté to think armed solutions can be the answer.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/IS fighters in Raqqa with captured weapons, Jan 2014. AP Photo_Militant Website. All rights reserved..jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/IS fighters in Raqqa with captured weapons, Jan 2014. AP Photo_Militant Website. All rights reserved..jpg" alt="IS fighters in Raqqa with captured weapons, Jan 2014." title="" width="460" height="259" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>IS fighters in Raqqa with captured weapons, Jan 2014. AP Photo/Militant Website. All rights reserved.</span></span></span></p><p>The anti-ISIS coalition is preparing a major ground offensive against ISIS to recapture Mosul and, eventually, ISIS-declared capital Raqqa. However, any armed victories will come with enormous costs for the locals and are unlikely to bring mid- or long-term stability to the region. </p> <p>What will be won through arms is likely to be kept by further violence afterwards. But what other long-term strategies could be considered? What lessons do other historical struggles against totalitarians offer for fights with more contemporary violent radicals? Do past struggles provide insights into strategies other than military response? If so, what is the likelihood for their application on the ground today and how? </p> <h2><strong>Historical examples of nonviolent strategies against totalitarians</strong></h2> <p>In the Second World War, the 75% of Jews in France, 90% of Jews in Mussolini Italy, all of the Jews in Belgium, almost all of the Danish and Bulgarian Jews, and the few Jews in Poland that escaped the Holocaust were <a href="https://global.oup.com/academic/product/resisting-genocide-9780199333493?cc=us&amp;lang=en&amp;">rescued</a> because local populations refused to obey totalitarian henchmen. Most of these Jews survived not because they fought with arms or were defended by arms, but because ordinary people engaged in individual and collective, sustained and organized, nonviolent noncooperation with Nazi extermination orders.&nbsp;</p><p class="mag-quote-center">The East German state eventually collapsed because the very force that the Berlin Wall was built to counter—the exodus of people—was let loose</p> <p>At the same time that Jews were being slaughtered by the Nazis but also saved through nonviolent means, Norwegian teachers and other workers refused to join state-sanctioned trade unions, and carried out noncooperation and deliberate inefficiencies in their daily work as a form of resistance against their own fascist political leadership—headed by the Nazi collaborator Vidkun Quisling. Nonviolent resisters were arrested and fired from their jobs, and some were sent to the concentration camps in the Artic. They persevered; helped by the underground solidarity networks. Eventually, faced with this sustained refusal to obey, the Quisling regime had no choice but to give up on the realization of a corporative state in Norway.&nbsp;&nbsp; </p> <p>Almost five decades later, in 1989, one of the most destructive and repressive totalitarian systems that ever existed, the Soviet Union, imploded largely peacefully from inside. Its relatively quiet demise was brought about not through greater violent power, but as a result of domestic grassroots nonviolent mobilization and the resistance of ordinary people. This nonviolent mobilization and resistance was compounded by the <a href="http://www.aft.org/periodical/american-educator/summer-2005/surviving-underground">transnational assistance</a> to nonviolent actors, such as the Solidarity movement in Poland, and international containment of the totalitarian Soviet threat within its borders. The containment strategy, articulated in 1946 by <a href="https://history.state.gov/departmenthistory/short-history/kennan">George Kennan</a>, the minister-counselor at the US embassy in the Soviet Union, aimed to contain the Soviet Union’s expansionist ideology and hold back spread of its influence through defensive alliances as well as nonmilitary “long-range policies,” including political, economic, and cultural “counter-force.” </p> <p>One of the linchpin statelets for the Soviet Union’s Iron Curtain, East Germany—propped up by its feared and brutal secret police Stasi, was almost brought to its knees by the beginning of the 1960s. This happened not because of the advancement of NATO armies or the weakening of the Soviet power, but because more than 3 million Germans left its territory before the Berlin Wall was erected in 1961. The East German state eventually collapsed because the very force that the Berlin Wall was built to counter—the exodus of people—was let loose when Hungary opened its borders with Austria in May 1989 and thousands of East Germans poured through Hungarian and Austrian territories, into the West German lands. That exodus was the beginning of the end of the walled territory behind the Iron Curtain.</p> <h2>Nonviolent strategies against extremely brutal foes such as ISIS</h2> <p>No single action by itself can dislodge totalitarians and pave the way for more stable societies, but collective actions, like the multipronged, civilian-based, and nonviolent strategies offered in the cited cases, can prove successful against extremely violent groups, including non-state brutal actors such as ISIS. &nbsp;&nbsp;</p> <p>These strategies consist of: &nbsp;</p> <p>- Containment that lets the henchmen rule and erode their own legitimacy in the eyes of locals;</p> <p>- Grassroots noncooperation against totalitarians, including acts of subtle and overt disobedience, deliberate inefficiencies, and underground solidarity networks;</p> <p>- Protest migration by local people who neither want to join a violent group nor an armed opposition, nor want to remain in place and accept their own exploitation;</p> <p>- Setting up temporary relocation zones for those who decide to join protest migration;</p> <p>- Transnational assistance to nonviolent activists and their civil resistance actions in a violence-torn environment.&nbsp;</p> <p>Any of these strategies might be criticized as unrealistic or ineffective, but their alternative—an armed campaign—has historically fared <a href="http://www.amazon.com/Why-Civil-Resistance-Works-Nonviolent/dp/0231156839">many times worse</a> than its nonviolent counterpart in dislodging brutal regimes, in reducing costs on populations, or building stable political and socio-economic environments after conflict has ended. </p> <p>In fact, military might has been successful against <a href="http://www.rand.org/content/dam/rand/pubs/monographs/2008/RAND_MG741-1.pdf">only 7%</a> of violent terror organizations. If nonviolent strategies seem impractical, it is even greater naiveté to think armed solutions can be the answer.</p> <h2><strong>Containment as a more effective strategy than a ground assault </strong></h2> <p>Traditionally, containment is about the establishment of effective checks on the opponent's ability for further political and military expansion and its financial and ideological strangulation—short of all-out invasion of the territory the opponent holds. However, more importantly, containment is about a preservation of a civic space within the contained area, and denying an extremely violent group the opportunity to carry out their atrocities in the midst of violent conflict. </p> <p>It was on the eve of the Final Solution in March 1942 that Joseph Goebbels <a href="http://www.nizkor.org/hweb/people/g/goebbels-joseph/goebbels-1948-excerpts-02.html">wrote</a>: “Fortunately, a whole series of possibilities presents itself for us in wartime that would be denied us in peacetime.” In so many words, the Nazi propagandist was acknowledging the fortuity of open violent warfare for Nazi plans of annihilating an ethnic and religious group. &nbsp;</p> <p>The containment strategy aims to decrease the chances for such an open violent conflict that advantages an opponent with genocidal and totalitarian instincts, in favor of a stable though possibly repressive peace in the cordoned area. As artificial and tyrannical as this stability is, in the long-term it privileges the local population and creates a legitimacy crisis for its repressive rulers. </p> <p>Even though containment seemingly lets the oppressor rule without physical intervention from outside, its main impact, although intangible at first, is to create a fertile ground for the emergence of a genuinely grassroots counterforce to the oppressor that, for its own long-term survival, must strive to maintain its local legitimacy.</p><p class="mag-quote-center">Why use weapons that ISIS knows so well? German Nazis were, like ISIS, experts in violence.</p> <p>The time and space that is given the oppressor, through containment, to govern and abuse help reveal in the eyes of the local population inherent contradictions in the ruler’s promises and actions. The violent rule is natively contradictory when it claims that violence and repression are used for good; war for peace; prosecution and death to protect life; abuses for security; bending law for rule of law. </p> <p>These hypocrisies are the source of inherent vulnerabilities in violent totalitarian systems and groups, and undergird future legitimacy crisis. </p> <p><a href="https://chnm.gmu.edu/1989/items/show/700">According to</a> Vaclav Havel, the Czech anti-communist dissident, the abusive ruler must stay captive to his own lies in order to maintain his grip on power. The violent regime “pretends not to possess an omnipotent and unprincipled police apparatus. It pretends to respect human rights. It pretends to persecute no one. It pretends to fear nothing. It pretends to pretend nothing.” &nbsp;<strong></strong></p> <p>As a consequence, the perceptions of local populations about such rule changes with time as the contradictions and hypocrisies become increasingly obvious. In those circumstances, the best weapon against violent regimes is to let them rule as they inevitably mess things up for themselves. More often than not, attacking a violent regime from the outside only gives it an alibi for its own violence, and ineptitude. </p> <p>A similar legitimacy crisis <a href="https://www.foreignaffairs.com/articles/syria/2016-01-10/isis-social-contract">reportedly</a> fuels resentment in Deir ez-Zor and other ISIS-controlled towns and cities, as people begin to see ISIS corruption, incompetence, and repressive methods directed not only against ‘non-believers’ but also against Sunni Muslims. This behavior contradicts ISIS’ own promises and propaganda.&nbsp; The realization of ISIS’ hypocrisies is in fact the main driver behind defections from ISIS. Many who joined ISIS drawn by the promise of adventure, solidarity in arms, and glory, <a href="http://icsr.info/wp-content/uploads/2015/09/ICSR-Report-Victims-Perpertrators-Assets-The-Narratives-of-Islamic-State-Defectors.pdf">defected because they felt</a> that they were used as cannon fodder, while no promised luxury goods (cars or houses) ever materialized. Instead, these defectors came to see ISIS’ indiscriminate violence, and the pervasive corruption within the ISIS ranks that privileges foreigners over Middle-Eastern fighters. </p> <p>When containment is rejected in favor of direct military intervention, the costs, even of a successful violent campaign, reach prohibitive levels. The retaking of Ramadi in Iraq from ISIS in December 2015 shows the perils of the armed re-conquest of territory. The human toll, including mass displacements and infrastructure damage, was so <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2016/01/08/world/middleeast/isis-ramadi-iraq-retaking.html?_r=1">great</a> that there is little chance that the Iraqi government, <a href="http://www.reuters.com/article/us-mideast-crisis-iraq-ramadi-idUSKCN0VI0OU">strapped for cash</a>, will be able to rebuild, deliver services, or provide effective governance to the city for months if not years to come. This destruction is a breeding ground for a continued instability—where the governance vacuum is likely to be filled in by violent (even if pro-government) groups of different stripes, jockeying for power in the area.&nbsp;</p> <h2>Dependency and noncooperation </h2><p><strong><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/514140000.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/514140000.jpg" alt="" 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'>Michele Amoruso/Pacific Press/LightRocket via Getty Images. All rights reserved.</span></span></span></strong></p><p>The legitimacy crisis comes once reality falsifies violent groups’ promises for a relatively better status quo than the one inherited from its predecessors. Once this legitimacy crisis widens, the probability will increase for the local population to engage in small and subtle acts of defiance and later, in more mass-based, organized acts of nonviolent resistance.</p><p class="mag-quote-center">It also demanded from civilians to sign over car titles and family houses as a security deposit before allowing locals to leave the territory, even for a brief two-week period.</p> <p>Violent groups such as ISIS clearly recognize the dangers that a legitimacy crisis might bring.&nbsp; To reduce the chances of a crisis materializing, ISIS has established a service-based governance on the conquered territories, serving more than five million people. It has opened welfare institutions, and it runs schools, orphanages, and bakeries. It has restored and provides some electricity, health services, and sanitation. Its Islamic courts resolve disputes between citizens. To avoid being undermined by accusation of hypocrisies, ISIS has demonstrated that their members must practice what ISIS preaches. If found guilty of robbery, adultery, homosexuality or smoking ISIS does not hesitate to <a href="https://www.rt.com/news/260325-isis-smoking-punishment-beating/">punish</a> its own—even in public.&nbsp; Though this might sound surprising given the media reports about ISIS atrocities, the violent group also provides a degree of protection for the locals, both of their property and life. </p> <p>This type of work at the basis of society allows ISIS to maintain a relative legitimacy, at least in the eyes of some local people, as the alternatives to ISIS looks even less appealing or competent in ensuring security. </p> <p>In exchange for these services ISIS demands from the people under its rule three things: absolute obedience to its authority, administrative and military services if needed, and most importantly, taxes. In fact, ISIS introduced a <a href="http://economicsandpeace.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/11/Global-Terrorism-Index-2015.pdf">sophisticated taxation system</a> that is estimated to bring <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2015/11/30/world/middleeast/predatory-islamic-state-wrings-money-from-those-it-rules.html?_r=1">almost the same if not greater</a> amount of revenue to the terror group than it receives from oil sales. It taxes between 10% and 50% of income and business activity. 2,5% of tax is levied on capital assets, 5% fee on bank cash withdrawals, and 20% of tax on spoils of war, in addition to taxes on land or retail spaces. Residents of the ISIS-controlled territory also <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2015/11/30/world/middleeast/predatory-islamic-state-wrings-money-from-those-it-rules.html?_r=1">pay</a> their rulers for electricity, cleaning and water. Even if bombings are able to dislodge ISIS oil production and smuggling routes, <a href="http://www.ft.com/cms/s/2/aee89a00-9ff1-11e5-beba-5e33e2b79e46.html#axzz41xityu7j">this is unlikely</a> to put much of a dent in ISIS coffers as it can continue relying on the local revenue that it receives from its people.</p> <p>At the same time, the payment of taxes and the estimated <a href="http://soufangroup.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/10/TSG-The-Islamic-State-Nov14.pdf">30,000 local administrators</a> that make ISIS bureaucracy work, create strong dependency relations with the local communities that the violent group must rely on to function. If the population changed its patterns of obedience and engaged collectively in acts of noncooperation this would constitute a major threat for ISIS and its long-term survival on the territory. </p> <p>As a violent organization ISIS knows only too well how to deal with armed challenges that it successfully and <a href="http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2015/10/12/the-tribe-that-won-t-stop-killing-isis.html">harshly suppressed</a> in the past. Why use weapons that ISIS knows so well? Consider German Nazis who, like ISIS, were experts in violence. When imprisoned German officers were interviewed, they <a href="http://advanced.jhu.edu/wp-content/uploads/2015/02/GOV1501_WhitePaper_Bartkowski.pdf">noted</a> that it was a relief to them when the local resistance turned violent, as it allowed German troops to deploy most drastic and indiscriminate measures to suppress the violent adversary. What confused the Germans most was when populations used subtle and concealed forms of nonviolent resistance. Nazis had little, if any, training and experience in dealing with such elusive defiance.</p> <p>Similarly, resistance against ISIS could begin with subtle acts of disobedience (like <a href="http://english.alarabiya.net/en/perspective/features/2014/09/15/In-ISIS-held-Mosul-children-stay-away-from-school.html">refusal to send children to ISIS controlled schools</a>) and deliberate inefficiencies (<a href="http://www.wnd.com/2015/02/isis-runs-help-wanted-ads-for-professionals/">potentially done by workers</a> that ISIS seeks to employ), as well as through building <a href="http://www.syriauntold.com/en/2014/08/syrians-stand-in-solidarity-with-christians-against-isis/">solidarity networks</a> to turn defiance into more open acts of noncooperation (like the <a href="http://wagingnonviolence.org/feature/assad-isis-tale-resistance/">business community in the Syrian city of Minbij</a> that went on strike in 2014 and closed down all commercial activities in protest against ISIS), joined and coordinated by a greater number of people. For such resistance to take place, civilians must have enough open space to operate and organize which can only emerge if containment, rather than territorial assault, is the prevalent strategy. As the recent outbursts of <a href="http://mobile.nytimes.com/2016/03/05/world/middleeast/bashar-al-assad-protesters-syria-truce.html?partner=IFTTT&amp;_r=3&amp;referer=">civilian-led nonviolent protests</a> in the rebel-held areas in Syria suggest, even a fragile ceasefire can open the door for civilians to organize and act. </p> <h2>Protest migration </h2> <p>The North Korean regime is neither afraid of international sanctions, western militaries, nor even pressure from its closest ally China. What the regime is most afraid of is North Korean citizens and their actions. If China and South Korea decided to make their respective borders wide open in order to give the opportunity for millions of North Koreans to escape—no doubt the North Korean soldiers would likely shoot at civilians though many might have joined the exodus—the regime would not survive; leading to its collapse in the same way and at the same speed as what happened to East Germany. North Korea has mined and militarized its borders, not only to keep enemies out, but, more importantly, to keep its people in. <strong>&nbsp;</strong></p> <p>People leave conflict zones and escape territory under totalitarian rule. They do this for personal reasons; to flee persecution and survive. They are victims that seek rescue outside. However, an organized, mass-based migration from territory under the yoke of violence can too be a bold political move of empowered people making a conscientious decision to no longer be passive, and to no longer accept violence or participation in violence against violence—nor do they want to die. These people make a choice for a nonviolent action: migration in protest against the violence that surrounds them. If done collectively, in an organized manner and <em>en masse</em> this can be a powerful political statement and a major disruption for the totalitarians.</p><p class="mag-quote-center">In fact, there is a long tradition of protest migration in the Arab world going back to the time of the prophet Mohammed.</p> <p>There are historical examples of protest migration and collective purposeful disappearance, where communities decided to move, and by doing so, stood up to oppression and aggression as their actions increased costs for and placed a significant burden on their opponents. </p> <p>In the first half of the nineteenth century, Algerians under the French colonial yoke <a href="http://recoveringnonviolenthistory.org/explore-content/cases-explored/nonviolent-resistance-in-north-africa-and-the-middle-east">left the country</a> in thousands in protest against the rule of non-Muslims, land confiscation, and military conscriptions. The scale of the exodus and its consequences for the security of the region were so great that the French had to take measures to reduce and stop the flow. </p> <p>During the Japanese occupation of China, whole villages would just disappear before Japanese troops arrived. A contemporary to the Japanese invasion scholar of the Chinese history, George Taylor, <a href="https://www.questia.com/library/410472/the-struggle-for-north-china">observed</a> “[s]o well organized are the villages now that when the Japanese approach, the people evacuate the village completely, bury their food, remove all animals and utensils, and retire into the hills. The Japanese must, therefore, bring with them everything they need.” </p> <p>In fact, there is a long tradition of protest migration in the Arab world going back to the time of the prophet Mohammed. The popular term - <em>hijrat</em> (or <em>hegira</em> or <em>hizrat</em>) – deliberate migration – refers to the flight of the prophet Mohammed and his followers from Mecca to escape persecution at the hands of tyrannical tribes. Hardly powerless, the escapees then as they do today, can constitute a major challenge for the violent groups. </p> <p>And this is exactly what ISIS is concerned with. </p> <p>In the fall of 2015, when protest migrations from ISIS controlled territory took on a massive proportion, when thousands were leaving the area, ISIS went to great lengths to stem the flow. They <a href="http://www.theglobeandmail.com/opinion/the-strategic-value-of-compassion-welcoming-refugees-is-devastating-to-is/article27373931">released a number of videos and documents</a> in which ISIS both appealed to and threatened those who were thinking about leaving “Darul-Islam [land of Islam]” voluntarily. &nbsp;Such an act was called “a dangerous major sin [<em>kaba’ir</em>].” To further discourage migration from its territory ISIS additionally imposed exorbitant “<a href="http://economicsandpeace.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/11/Global-Terrorism-Index-2015.pdf">departure taxes</a>” on the locals. It also demanded that civilians sign over car titles and family houses as security deposits before allowing locals to leave the territory, even for a brief two-week period. </p> <h2><strong>Temporary relocation zones</strong></h2> <p>While ISIS makes <a href="http://www.businessinsider.com/how-isis-controls-life-caliphate-raqqa-capital-2015-12">extraordinary efforts to stop</a> the outflow of people from its territory it is determined to get all major powers involved in open violent warfare against its Islamic fighters. There are no pleas from ISIS to stop the bombing as there are for locals to stop leaving ISIS territory. Western strategies of armed intervention are precisely what ISIS wants, while no attention is being paid to what ISIS is truly worried about.&nbsp; </p> <p>By the end of January 2016, the United States had spent more than <a href="http://www.defense.gov/News/Special-Reports/0814_Inherent-Resolve">$6 billion</a> or <a href="http://www.defense.gov/Portals/1/features/2014/0814_iraq/costUpdates/ISIL_Master_Report-15Dec15.pdf">$11 million per day</a> on its bombing campaign against ISIS. The Pentagon also requested an additional $7.5 billion for the operations against ISIS in 201— <a href="http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2016/02/isis-war-cost-charts-syria-iraq">twice as much as</a> the sum spent in 2016; a clear indication of the expanding military engagement in preparation for retaking ISIS strongholds. Two US partners alone, <a href="http://www.thestar.com/news/canada/2016/01/23/canadas-isis-mission-has-cost-close-to-300-million.html">Canada</a> and <a href="https://www.rt.com/uk/324272-osborne-syria-cost-bomb/">Britain</a>, have each spent approximately $300 million so far on their participation in the bombing raids against ISIS. </p> <p>The containment strategy would be much less expensive, freeing a considerable amount—counted in &nbsp;billions of dollars—on a strategy that ISIS is genuinely afraid of: setting up major relocation zones designated specifically for civilians from the ISIS controlled territories. Such zones, built by thousands of engineers and run by local civil servants would be weapons-free areas (equivalent of peace zones or peace communities in <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nka8OZnPWOU">Colombia, the Philippines or Afghanistan</a>) though protected by coalition troops and local forces. Engineers could reinforce the zones by erecting <a href="http://www.du.edu/korbel/sie/media/documents/quickfacts-and-policy-briefs/kaplan-southwick-pb.pdf">humanitarian walls</a> around them as a nonviolent strategy to prevent infiltration by gunmen. </p> <p>These temporary relocation zones need not necessarily be large, if planned well – less than 400 square miles (the area of the size of New York City that houses almost 8 million people). The zones could be situated in relative proximity to ISIS-controlled territory for easy access by civilians; close to the Turkish border on the Syrian and Iraqi sides, which is under the control of the Kurdish forces. Alternative areas for location of such zones could be sparsely populated desert regions of southern Syria close to the Jordanian-Iraqi border, far from violent groups and armed conflict but with access to the transportation routes. </p> <p>These temporary relocation zones could become places for democratic self-governance, honing leadership and self-organization skills by empowered civic actors and for grassroots engagement free of violence. </p> <p>In contrast to safe havens, the zones should also be seen as a weapon against the brutal enemy and not merely a protection against it. Emptying ISIS territory of civilians – even if temporarily – will hollow out ISIS coffers, and ISIS ideological and political control, allowing for a quicker defeat of ISIS with the lowest possible loss of human life, limited destruction to infrastructure, and greater chances for quicker rebuilding and a more stable environment afterwards. </p> <h2><strong>Transnational assistance</strong></h2> <p>While states can take on the major burden of executing containment strategies as well as setting up relocation zones, civil society organizations and the international community, including the UN, could plan for delivering major transnational assistance. Such assistance would aim to support the civilian efforts on the ground to engage in nonviolent noncooperation to violent actors, as well as helping those who would choose a protest migration to leave ISIS territory.</p> <p>In each case, transnational assistance could be a combination of development and humanitarian aid and know-how: including skills and strategies for organizing, mobilizing and engaging in lower risk, often subtle and innovative, methods of noncooperation and nonviolent defiance. This could build off of some of the existing <a href="http://warontherocks.com/2014/12/can-political-struggle-against-isil-succeed-where-violence-cannot/">examples of noncooperation</a> and <a href="https://sojo.net/magazine/april-2015/resisting-isis">acts of disobedience</a> in ISIS-controlled cities before the conditions are ripe for more overt, mass-based civil resistance actions such as open boycotts, demonstrations or general strikes. </p> <p>In addition, transnational assistance could <a href="http://maciejbartkowski.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/10/Myopia-of-the-Syrian-Struggle-and-Key-Lessons.pdf">aid constructive types of defiance</a>, including support for building schools and developing appropriate curricular for children to counter radical Islamic teachings in the conflict zones, or supporting defected lawyers and judges with developing a network of civic courts – even if underground, where people could resolve their disputes and get the recourse they seek while they boycott Islamic courts. </p> <h2><strong>ISIS power and vulnerabilities come from the local population</strong></h2> <p>ISIS recognizes the power of civilians under its control more so than the states bent on fighting ISIS. </p> <p>This civilian power is untapped and disregarded, as people are seen only as victims or the potential collateral damage of a ground armed invasion. In reality, the civilian population, and more importantly its behavior patterns, can be the keys to dislodging ISIS— while, at the same time, minimizing costs and loss of human life, and creating post-conflict environments that are more conducive to a more peaceful transition than any that armed strategies are likely to deliver.&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="/civilresistance/maciej-bartkowski/countering-hybrid-war-civil-resistance-as-national-defence-strateg">Countering hybrid war: civil resistance as a national defence strategy</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Iraq </div> <div class="field-item even"> Syria </div> <div class="field-item odd"> Turkey </div> <div class="field-item even"> EU </div> <div class="field-item odd"> United States </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Civil society </div> <div class="field-item even"> Conflict </div> <div class="field-item odd"> Culture </div> <div class="field-item even"> Democracy and government </div> <div class="field-item odd"> Economics </div> <div class="field-item even"> Ideas </div> <div class="field-item odd"> International politics </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> Can Europe make it? Arab Awakening United States EU Turkey Syria Iraq Civil society Conflict Culture Democracy and government Economics Ideas International politics Maciej Bartkowski Fri, 11 Mar 2016 11:17:12 +0000 Maciej Bartkowski 100514 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Women in post-conflict Iraqi Kurdistan https://www.opendemocracy.net/westminster/zeynep-n-kaya/women-in-post-conflict-iraqi-kurdistan <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Iraqi Kurdistan does much better on women’s rights issues in comparison to the rest of Iraq, yet many challenges remain.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><a href="https://opendemocracy.net/westminster"><img alt="howDoParls-banner@2x.png" width="100%" src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/u555228/howDoParls-banner%402x.png" /></a></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/500209/5623944051_ef583371e9_z.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/5623944051_ef583371e9_z.jpg" alt="Women walk past citadel, Erbil, Iraq, 2011. " title="" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" width="460"/></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Women walk past citadel, Erbil, Iraq, 2011. Flickr/Adam Jones. Some rights reserved.</span></span></span>Oil, independence, the radical Islamist threat, internal political strife, and economic challenges are the themes that dominate discussions about the Kurdistan Region of Iraq (Iraqi Kurdistan). Women as a topic of discussion rarely come up, despite the existence of vibrant local activism around women’s rights and international acknowledgement that the inclusion of women in post-conflict reconstruction can lead to more durable, peaceful and inclusive societies. </p> <p>Iraqi Kurdistan is an autonomous region of Iraq. The region gained <i>de facto</i> autonomy in 1991 after the US intervention under George Bush Sr. and the creation of a ‘safe haven’ to protect the Kurds from attacks by Saddam Hussein’s regime in Baghdad. Iraqi Kurdistan’s autonomous status was later officially recognised after George W. Bush’s intervention in 2003. This created a powerful decentralised local government, the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG), which since its formation has consistently expressed its desire to comply with international standards in the rule of law and governance. Enhancing women’s status has been one of the key aspects of this goal. </p> <p>It was against this backdrop that, in 2014, the KRG and the Iraqi government jointly launched a National Action Plan that sought to implement the UN Security Council Resolution 1325 on Women, Peace and Security. This is the most recent document that displays to what extent domestic laws and policies follow the international standards on women’s rights, although it is not the only one. Some years earlier the Declaration on the Elimination of Violence against Women was passed by the Iraqi parliament and was also binding over Kurdistan. </p> <p>One thing is certain – women in Iraqi Kurdistan are better off compared to their counterparts in the rest of Iraq. Iraqi Kurdistan fares better when it comes to women’s participation in decision-making and when it comes to laws against gender discrimination. But are women in Iraqi Kurdistan also better off compared to women in other states in the Middle East and in the world? No. Kurdish women still face serious challenges, such as patriarchal attitudes towards women’s participation in social, political and economic life, honour killing, gender-based violence, and female genital mutilation. </p> <h2>Challenges women face in Iraq Kurdistan</h2> <p>Although Iraqi Kurdish law treats honour killing as just like any other murder, the practice continues and local women’s organisations believe it is increasing. Kurdish government’s statistics for 2013 reveal that 236 women suffered injuries from having been burned as honour punishments, and another 113 from self-immolation. The forensic institute in Iraqi Kurdistan reported the deaths of 1,748 women by <a href="http://kvinnatillkvinna.se/en/files/qbank/217b4c71837fac172fabebfc299f755b.pdf">burning, shooting or suffocation in 2013</a>. According to a UNICEF survey, 43% of women aged 15-49 in Iraqi Kurdistan reported they had been subjected to some form of female genital mutilation (FGM) in 2011. WADI (Association for Crisis Assistance and Solidary Development Cooperation) found that the rate of FGM in the Sulaymaniya and Erbil governorates of Iraqi Kurdistan was above 70% in 2010. </p> <p>The implementation of new laws and policies is another area where women remain vulnerable in Iraqi Kurdistan. This is true in part because the reference to sharia law in the Iraqi Constitution is very vague. This leads to different interpretations of Islamic rules, which makes unitary legislation difficult and leaves spaces open for patriarchal interpretations. Men and male judges govern most courts and often do not implement new gender-sensitive laws. The first female judge in Iraqi Kurdistan, Nigar A. Muhammed, stated that out of 250 judges in Iraqi Kurdistan, only 12 of them were female in 2014.</p> <p>Even when women are better represented in governing institutions, this does not always lead to significant gains. Despite women’s presence in the parliament and in local councils, the number of women occupying executive positions remains very small. Among the 21 ministries in the current Kurdish government there is only one female minister (municipalities and tourism). Most female representatives rely on securing the nomination of male party leaders for their positions. This means they are forced to act in accordance with their party’s attitude on women’s issues and do not or cannot initiate more profound change. </p> <p>In short, women’s participation in political and economic life remains limited. According to Kurdish local organisations and activists, this is due to a range of factors including a lack of awareness when it comes to women’s rights, the fact that women are economically dependent on men, the heavier burden on women for childcare and family responsibilities, and the influence of conservative views of religious and tribal authorities on the role of women in society. Government officials defend their poor record on women’s rights by stating that priority has to be given to security and stability, and that economic development and women’s issues are secondary in importance at the moment. They argue that the KRG has only limited economic and institutional capacity to implement and monitor new laws and regulations to improve the position of women.</p> <h2>Women in Iraqi Kurdistan are better off than women in the rest of Iraq</h2> <p>Kurdish women enjoy more participation in politics and socio-economic life, more gender-equal laws, and better opportunities for civil society activism than other women in Iraq. Women in Iraqi Kurdistan are also relatively less negatively affected by issues caused by conflict and security, such as violence inflicted by militias, targeted abuse, rape, abduction, and the vulnerabilities brought by displacement. </p> <p>The <a href="http://reliefweb.int/sites/reliefweb.int/files/resources/I-WISH%20Report%20English.pdf"><i>Iraqi Women Integrated Social and Health Survey</i> (I-WISH)</a>, released by the Central Statistical Organisation at the Ministry of Planning in Iraq in 2012, reveal that Kurdish women aged 15-54 have a relatively positive perception on their political participation rights, gender equality, and balance in society compared to their counterparts in the rest of Iraq (Figures 1, 2 and 3). Having said that, the survey also shows that many issues remain, including those related to women’s participation in public life, educational attainment, gender roles, and gender-based discrimination and violence.</p><p> <img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/u555228/f1%20i-wish.png" style="margin-bottom: 0px; padding-bottom: 0px;" alt="f1 i-wish.png" width="100%" /></p><p class="image-caption" style="margin-top: 0px; padding-top: 0px;">Figure 1: Women’s (aged 15-54) view on participation in politics (%).&nbsp;Source: Central Statistical Organisation, <i>Iraqi Women Integrated Social and Health Survey</i>&nbsp;(I-WISH) (Baghdad: Ministry of Planning, 2012).</p> <p>The UN’s Gender Inequality Index also shows that Iraqi Kurdistan is relatively better off than the rest of Iraq. This measures gender inequality based on reproductive health, empowerment and labour market participation. It ranges from zero to one, where the lower the score the more equality there is between women and men. Iraqi Kurdistan achieves a score of 0.41 compared to the rest of Iraq at 0.55. According to the same data, Kuwait, Turkey and Saudi Arabia have indices of 0.27, 0.36 and 0.68 respectively.</p> <p>Iraqi Kurdistan applies a higher gender quota than Iraq for women’s participation in decision-making in the parliament, legislative, provincial and governorate councils. The quota is 30% in Iraqi Kurdistan while it is 25% in the rest of Iraq. The KRG has also amended Iraqi law and passed additional laws in ways that increase gender equality in the region. Restrictions were introduced to the law on polygamy to limit a husband’s ability to have multiple wives. The law relating to honour killing was amended to remove the reference to mitigating circumstances that alleviate the punishment of perpetrators. The Law Against Domestic Violence, adopted in 2011, holds perpetrators more accountable for their actions, including acts committed by husbands against their wives, and offers more protection for the victims. The government also introduced a new law in 2011 to ban the FGM.</p><p> <img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/u555228/f2%20iwish.png" style="margin-bottom: 0px; padding-bottom: 0px;" alt="f2 iwish.png" width="100%" /></p><p class="image-caption" style="margin-top: 0px; padding-top: 0px;">Figure 2: Women’s (aged 15-54) perceptions on gender equality in society (%). Source: I-WISH, 2012</p> <p>The Kurdish government established new bodies to deal specifically with women’s issues. A special directory to follow up on cases of violence against women was established. Special domestic violence courts were instituted in all three Kurdish governorates. The High Council of Women’s Affairs was established to advise the government on gender-mainstreaming policies and developing appropriate strategies. </p> <p>Civil society organisations working on women’s issues flourished in the region, receiving support from the UN, international NGOs, foreign states and the Kurdish government. They were also more able to carry out activities compared to their counterparts in the rest of Iraq due to greater relative security and stability in Iraqi Kurdistan.</p><p> <img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/u555228/f3%20iwish.png" style="margin-bottom: 0px; padding-bottom: 0px;" alt="f3 iwish.png" width="100%" /></p><p class="image-caption" style="margin-top: 0px; padding-top: 0px;">Figure 3: % of women (aged 15-54) reported gender balance is favourable to men. Source: I-WISH, 2012.</p> <h2>Explaining the difference</h2> <p>Why does the Kurdish government appear more committed to gender mainstreaming than the Iraqi government? Why do women in Iraqi Kurdistan feel relatively better off compared to women in the rest of Iraq?</p> <p>Iraqi Kurdistan and the rest of Iraq have historically shared more or less similar cultural values regarding women’s position in the society. This is not to say that Iraq is a homogenous society when it comes to views on women, but differences in the outcomes towards women cannot be explained by reference to Kurdish versus Arab values (<a href="http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/01436590500128428">Al-Ali</a>). Moreover, women activists in Iraqi Kurdistan and the rest of Iraq focus on similar issues, and these groups have played a comparable role in both Iraqi Kurdistan and Iraq. </p> <p>Therefore, explanations deriving purely from the domestic context cannot fully explain the difference between Iraqi Kurdistan and the rest of Iraq. Similar to previous findings by <a href="http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/13510347.2013.856418">Voller</a>, my research has found that Iraqi Kurdistan adopts better practices when it comes to gender equality in order to increase its credibility in the international arena and thereby bolster its bid to attain recognised independent status. Adopting and implementing universal women’s rights is part of this strategy. Another, perhaps even more fundamental factor is that the majority of Kurdish society and Kurdish political elites perceive international involvement in Kurdish domestic affairs as something positive. </p> <p>This positive perception is caused by two underlying factors: the deep integration of the international actors into Kurdish domestic affairs, and the benefits of international involvement for the Kurdish nationalist aspirations for statehood. Although many scholars rightly argue there are downsides to international involvement, interestingly the level of criticism towards international actors is relatively low in Iraqi Kurdistan compared to the rest of Iraq.</p> <p>Recent international involvement in Iraqi Kurdistan goes back to 1991 (earlier involvement dates back to the British mandate rule until 1932), when the US intervened to create a no-fly zone over the Kurdish-populated region of northern Iraq and simultaneously transform it into a <i>de facto</i> autonomous region. Foreign support has also had positive economic and infrastructural impacts. UN agencies, international NGOs and foreign states have served as providers of relief support in the post-Gulf War period, they have undertaken infrastructure building, and delivered the UN Oil-for-Food Programme. </p> <p>Such international involvement created a context in which the local population, government offices, and ministries all work closely with international actors, including UN agencies, foreign state departments and UN assistance missions. International actors take this opportunity to encourage ideas and values around gender equality and empowerment, and the prevention of gender discrimination in domestic law. For instance, the Kurdish government has been working in collaboration with the UN Assistance Mission in Iraq to reform the legal system and political institutions in accordance with the UN’s values towards human rights, democracy and gender. Indeed, international support has been instrumental in building the economic, social, political, developmental and educational capacity in Iraqi Kurdistan.</p> <p>Iraqi Kurdistan perceives this level of international involvement positively because it benefits Kurdish nationalist aspirations for statehood. Kurdish independence has had a symbiotic relationship with international intervention. The interventions in 1991 and 2003 facilitated the gradual increase in <a href="http://pomeps.org/2015/08/17/when-sovereignty-and-self-determination-overlap-in-claims-to-statehood-the-case-of-iraqi-kurdistan/">Kurdish self-rule in Iraq</a>. Moreover, the Kurdish government needs political, financial and military support to bolster its legitimacy and power. Although international involvement and aid has further increased Iraqi Kurdistan’s dependence on external actors (<a href="http://www.syracuseuniversitypress.syr.edu/spring-2010/kurdish-quasi.html">Natali</a>) and has been conditional on the region remaining part of Iraq, it has also further boosted their independence from the Iraqi government in Baghdad.</p> <p>The cumulative effect is that long-term international involvement in the Kurdish region of Iraq has led to three consequences: (1) increased sovereign rule in Kurdistan vis-à-vis Baghdad; (2) the integration of international actors into the domestic administrative, political, economic and social life Iraqi Kurdistan; and (3) the perception that closer connections to the outside world is a way for Iraqi Kurdistan to achieve its long-term goal of independence. Due to the conditionality of international aid and the need for international support to achieve national interests, Iraqi Kurdistan is heavily incentivised to adopt international gender norms in a way that the rest of Iraq was not.</p> <p>This does not mean that Iraqi Kurdistan does relatively well on women’s rights simply and purely for these reasons. There’s a long history of women’s rights activism in Iraq and in Iraqi Kurdistan. Momentum from below to enact change alongside a willingness to realise this change among certain sections of policy-makers has undoubtedly been vital too. However, the long-term integration of international actors into the political-economic structure of the Kurdish society and Iraqi Kurdistan’s aspiration for statehood have led to Kurdistan being a better place to live as a woman compared to Iraq.</p> <div class="partnership-in-article-banner-infobox" style="background-color: #f9f3ff; width: 100%; float: right; border-top: solid 3px #DAC2EA;"> <div style="margin-bottom: 8px; padding: 14px;"><span style="font-size: 1.2em; margin-bottom: 8px;">This article is published in association with the <a href="http://www.wfd.org/">Westminster Foundation for Democracy</a>, which is seeking to contribute to public knowledge about effective democracy-strengthening by leading a discussion on openDemocracy about what approaches work best. Views expressed herein do not necessarily reflect those of WFD. WFD’s programmes bring together parliamentary and political party expertise to help developing countries and countries transitioning to democracy.</span></div></div> <p></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><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/u555228/howDoParls-sideBar%402x.png" alt="howDoParls-sideBar@2x.png" width="140" /></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="/westminster/sarah-jane-cooper-knock/gender-politics-and-parliament-in-rwanda">Gender, politics, and parliament in Rwanda</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/westminster/graeme-ramshaw-alex-stevenson/introducing-new-partnership-how-do-parliaments-shape-democracy-and-dem">Introducing a new partnership: How do parliaments shape democracy? (and democracies shape parliaments?)</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Iraq </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Civil society </div> <div class="field-item even"> Conflict </div> <div class="field-item odd"> Culture </div> <div class="field-item even"> Democracy and government </div> <div class="field-item odd"> International politics </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> westminster Arab Awakening Iraq Civil society Conflict Culture Democracy and government International politics Zeynep N. Kaya Fri, 26 Feb 2016 14:30:59 +0000 Zeynep N. Kaya 100055 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Coalition air strikes and the Sunni 'endgame' in Syria, Iraq https://www.opendemocracy.net/arab-awakening/fernando-betancor/coalition-air-strikes-and-sunni-endgame-in-syria-iraq <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>The pattern of strikes by the disjointed US-led coalition of Operation Inherent Resolve remains the best and most reliable&nbsp;public&nbsp;indicator of intentions and future operations in the short-term.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/553378/PA-21186609.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/553378/PA-21186609.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="316" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Press Association/AP/Lefteris Pitarakis. All rights reserved.</span></span></span>As I pointed out in early December, changes to the balance of forces in Syria and Iraq have been forcing together the disparate and fractious elements of the “<a href="https://opendemocracy.net/arab-awakening/fernando-betancor/outside-box-sunni-endgame-in-syria-iraq">informal Sunni coalition</a>,” nominally led by Saudi Arabia. These actors have had little in common except an extreme wariness of Persian power and influence west of the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers, and a desire to see Bashar al Assad, a Persian ally in Syria, replaced by a Sunni government. Beyond those two points, there is little common ground between the Saudis and Turks. Both nations have their preferred proxies in the Syrian struggle against al Assad; but while the Turks are also focused on limiting Kurdish power, the Saudis are indifferent to them.</span></p> <p>This has&nbsp;<span><a href="http://wp.me/p1zdgn-1dM">made the US job of organising a stable coalition</a></span>&nbsp;against the Islamic State next to impossible, for our Turkish and Saudi allies are dead set against working with the Kurds and the Shi’a-dominated government of Iraq. Instead of a unified, coordinated campaign to sweep Daesh off the field, the US has had to settle for multiple disjointed campaigns with whatever forces are available at the moment and with very limited aims. This is clearly demonstrated by one or two examples:</p> <p>1.&nbsp;Last year, the United States provided sustained air support to a ground campaign spearheaded by Kurdish ground forces of the YPG militias. These forces broke the ISIS siege of Kobane and rapidly overran villages and towns of the surrounding region. They then linked up with a second Kurdish force moving west from Tall Hamees and captured an airbase at Ayn Issa, only 20 kilometres from the Islamic State capital of Ar Raqqah.</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/553378/image (9).png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/553378/image (9).png" alt="" title="" width="460" height="245" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Image credit: Fernando Betancor. All rights reserved.</span></span></span>2.&nbsp;At this point – 23 July 2015 – Turkey announced that it would join the coalition against ISIS and open up Incirlik AFB to American strike aircraft. The unspoken condition was that the US stop supporting the Kurds in Syria. US air missions in northern Syria plummeted almost immediately.</span></p> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/553378/image (10).png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/553378/image (10).png" alt="" title="" width="460" height="218" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Image credit: Fernando Betancor. All rights reserved.</span></span></span>3.&nbsp;The&nbsp;<a href="http://wp.me/p1zdgn-18q" target="_blank">Turkish demands</a>&nbsp;were based on their strategic opposition to the consolidation of a Kurdish proto-state in northern Syria, known as ‘Rojava’. The presence of a large Kurdish minority in southern and eastern Turkey, and the long history of insurgency and terrorism perpetrated by the PKK in the name of Kurdish independence, makes the establishment of such a proto-state anathema to the Ankara’s national interests.</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/553378/image (11).png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/553378/image (11).png" alt="" title="" width="460" height="217" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Image credit: Fernando Betancor. All rights reserved.</span></span></span></p><h2><strong>Evolution of 'Sunni' strategy</strong><strong> </strong><a name="_ednref1"></a><a href="#_edn1">[1]</a></h2> <p>This frustrating situation changed radically when&nbsp;<a href="http://wp.me/p1zdgn-1cu" target="_blank">Russia sent an expeditionary force</a>&nbsp;to the government-held port of Latakia in September 2015. The Russian forces consisted of a naval infantry detachment to guard the port itself; elements of a motor rifle battalion to guard the Bashem al Assad airbase; and squadrons of strike aircraft (Su-24, Su-25, Su-37) and escort fighters (Su-30) to provide close air support to the beleaguered forces of the Syrian Army. In fact, the Russians have thrown everything but the kitchen sink at the rebels, using not only the local aircraft but also&nbsp;<em>Kalibr&nbsp;</em>cruise missiles fired from vessels of the Mediterranean and Caspian fleets, as well as Tupolev supersonic bombers.</p> <p>This has transformed the situation in Syria. Assad’s government has gone from the verge of collapse to a sustained offensive thanks to the new injection of firepower. The Syrian Army has made important territorial gains in northern Latakia in the Jabal al Akrad region, pushing into the Ghab Valley in Idlib province and&nbsp;<a href="http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/middleeast/syria/12138671/Syrian-regime-delivers-blow-to-rebels-after-cutting-supply-route-in-Aleppo.html" target="_blank">have encircled rebel-held Aleppo</a>, the largest city in Syria. Meanwhile, Iranian and Hezbollah forces have been assisting the government in its pounding of rebel positions near the Jordanian border, near Daraa. These series of reverses do not mean the end of the war or the defeat of the rebel forces, but they are nonetheless a strategic threat to the interests of Turkey and the Gulf States, who do not want pro-Iranian governments in both Damascus and Baghdad.</p> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/553378/5441242280_21545b23b7_z.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/553378/5441242280_21545b23b7_z.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="306" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>SU-30 plane. Flickr/Zoomed In. Some rights reserved.</span></span></span>The Russian intervention and the threat of an Assad victory have impelled the otherwise distrustful partners to begin working together more closely. It has also led them to consider more aggressive measures than had previously been contemplated. Although these proposals have laudable public objectives, such as humanitarian relief and the overthrow of the Islamic State regime, their real purpose is to restore the balance of power in their own favour and establish more favourable conditions for an eventual settlement:</p> <p>1. Turkey continues to raise the possibility of&nbsp;<a href="http://www.dailysabah.com/syrian-crisis/2016/02/09/syrian-opposition-backs-turkish-plans-for-safe-zone-in-northern-syria" target="_blank">establishing a “safe zone”</a>&nbsp;in northern Syria to protect and house the millions of refugees from the war who are today languishing just inside the Turkish border. This would be one of the objectives; but perhaps a more important one would be to re-establish logistical links with the Syrian opposition and provide them with a safe harbour from Russian bombing.</p> <p>2.&nbsp;As a prelude, Turkey has continued to ratchet up the tension with Russia by releasing&nbsp;<a href="http://uk.reuters.com/article/uk-turkey-russia-airspace-idUKKCN0V80NO" target="_blank">fresh accusations of airspace violations</a>&nbsp;and warning of unspecified consequences. Given that Turkey has already shot down a Russian Su-24 “Fencer” and that the Russians have warned that they will not allow this to happen again, the situation is fairly perilous.</p> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/553378/3864957712_4ca7546e72_z.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/553378/3864957712_4ca7546e72_z.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="328" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>SU-24. Flickr/mashleymorgan. Some rights reserved.</span></span></span>3.&nbsp;Saudi Arabia has raised the prospect of&nbsp;<a href="http://www.theguardian.com/world/2016/feb/04/saudi-arabia-ground-troops-syria-fight-isis" target="_blank">sending its army into Syria</a>, ostensibly to fight the Islamic State. It has even offered to coordinate with the Turkish military, something that was unthinkable before the Russians arrived. In fact, this operation would be about holding as much Sunni Arab territory as possible in order to prevent the Syrian Army from taking it, in anticipation of a potential negotiation or even division of the country.</p> <p>This is the reason that the <a href="http://www.ft.com/intl/cms/s/0/d4c49e62-caae-11e5-a8ef-ea66e967dd44.html#axzz3zlzEycBk" target="_blank">February peace talks proved so abortive</a>: they were hopeless before they even began due to conditions on the ground. The pro-government group, including Russia, see little reason in any negotiation so long as the momentum is so clearly on their side. They are perfectly willing to wait and improve their bargaining position. Meanwhile, the anti-government forces see no reason to negotiate from a bad position; they confidently expect that their patrons will not sit idly by while they are destroyed. They are unlikely to be disappointed.</p> <p class="mag-quote-right">This is why the&nbsp;February peace talks proved so abortive: they were hopeless before they even began due to conditions on the ground.</p><p>Saudi Arabia and the Gulf States have been open-handed in their provision of anti-tank guided weapons to their proxies and the rebels, for their part, have proven adept at using them. There are reports of high levels of casualties among Syrian Army tank crews. The&nbsp;next critical escalation&nbsp;would be the supply of&nbsp;<a href="http://www.businessinsider.com/us-official-describes-nightmare-manpad-scenario-in-syria-2015-10" target="_blank">man-portable air defence systems (MANPADS)</a>; shoulder-fired anti-aircraft missiles such as the famous US-made Stinger missile that proved devastating to Soviet aviation in Afghanistan. So far, the US has vetoed the handover of these systems: America spent decades trying to repurchase all the Stingers sent to Afghanistan to prevent them falling into the black market and terrorist hands. If the Russians continue to pound the rebels from the air with impunity, flying as many as 250 sorties per day in some areas, then it is likely that some few missiles might find their way to Syria. It would be particularly ironic if these were Ukrainian-made&nbsp;<em>Strela</em>&nbsp;missiles; a clear demonstration of how closely linked, and therefore dangerous, the two conflicts are.</p> <p>The United States, for its part, is perfectly willing to go along with its Turkish and Saudi allies for the moment. The Americans want to establish a new balance of power in the region; they do not want to see the Iranians establish powerful proxies in Baghdad, Damascus and southern Lebanon and become too dominant in the region. The US also has an interest in destroying ISIS without the commitment of large numbers of ground troops, though the presence of small numbers of Special Forces as forward observers is already occurring. </p> <p>We have come to realise that these goals can only be pushed so far with the means we currently have, namely the Kurdish and Iraqi government forces. A too successful Kurdish offensive would risk both a Turkish and Arab backlash, while the Iraqi Army is heavily reliant on Shi’a Hashed militias to bolster its forces. Having the pro-Iranian Shi’a militias win back Sunni territory for Baghdad is not really what the US or Saudi Arabia want; yet it is unlikely that the Iraqi Army by itself will be able to do so for some time to come. This is why Secretary Ashton Carter has always maintained that America would welcome&nbsp;<a href="http://www.defensenews.com/story/defense/policy-budget/leaders/2016/01/25/us-defense-secretary-wants-mideast-allies-do-more-against-isis/79307958/" target="_blank">“greater contributions” from its Middle Eastern allies</a>; in other words, ground troops.</p> <p>That sort of contribution would be extremely&nbsp;unwelcome&nbsp;in Baghdad; the last thing Haider al Abadi wants is thousands of Saudi and Turkish troops occupying Fallujah and Mosul, two of Iraq’s largest cities. No one knows how long they might stay, for one thing; and they would wear out their welcome as quickly as any other foreign force, especially the Turks, who were the colonial masters of Mesopotamia for hundreds of years prior to the First World War. The danger is even greater in Syria, where any potential incursion by Turkish or Saudi troops would be condemned as a foreign invasion by Bashar al Assad’s government. That would not bring a Security Council condemnation;&nbsp;<a href="http://www.ibtimes.co.uk/syria-conflict-bashar-al-assads-foreign-minister-warns-saudi-troops-will-return-coffins-1542362" target="_blank">it would bring an attack by Syrian military forces</a>. That would quickly drag in the Russians; and if the Russians proved too successful, it would bring in the Americans. The prospect of American and Russian aircraft shooting at each other to protect their respective allies in Syria is extremely chilling.</p> <p>Coalition air activity is as good an indicator of short-term intentions as the public has, and there are a number of insights that can be drawn from the pattern of activity. If we divide the area of battle into four zones: Syria <a name="_ednref2"></a><a href="#_edn2">[2]</a>, northern Iraq, central Iraq and southern Iraq, we can make an appraisal of the most likely next targets of a ground campaign:</p> <p>1. In northern Iraq, coalition forces have intensified their bombardment of Daesh positions around Mosul. The loss of Iraq’s second city would be a critical blow to the aspirations of the Islamic State: indeed, it was the lightening fall of Mosul that drew international attention and consternation to the deteriorating situation in Mesopotamia. Mosul also drew the unfortunate attention of al Abadi’s government when it vehemently denounced a “Turkish invasion” of the region, despite these being only 150 trainers moving through a previously agreed rotation: proof that tensions are high and levels of trust are low. Any attempt to retake Mosul would be a major undertaking, and it could not be a purely Kurdish affair: Mosul is a predominantly Arab city and too important to the Iraqi government to leave it in the hands of the de facto government of Erbil. It would therefore require time and the massing of Iraqi Army troops, and both activities would draw notice.<br /> <br /> An alternative would be a diversionary attack by Kurdish forces on Qayyarah, south of Mosul. Kurdish Peshmerga in Makhmur are well positioned to attack the town and interdict the vital Mosul-Baghdad Highway, a critical logistics artery for either ISIS or the Iraqis to control. Strike levels against Qayyarah have been increasing over recent weeks to levels that could prelude an attack.</p> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/553378/image (6).png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/553378/image (6).png" alt="" title="" width="460" height="256" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Image credit: Fernando Betancor. All rights reserved.</span></span></span>2.&nbsp;Another area to observe closely is in northern Syria. Although levels of US air activity have been very restrained in the area – more by Turkey than by the presence of the Russians – there has been a continuous low-level of support for the Kurds around Ayn Issa, Al Hasakah and Al Hawl. The US has also been active in bombing the Islamic State salient around Manbij, Al Bab and Washiya; as well as the area near Marea and Mar’a, villages held by the Syrian rebels, but desired by the Islamic State as a link to Turkey. Any significant increase in coalition air strikes in this area could be the prelude to a Turkish intervention for the establishment of a “safe zone”.</p> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/553378/image (7).png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/553378/image (7).png" alt="" title="" width="460" height="264" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Image credit: Fernando Betancor. All rights reserved.</span></span></span>3. Air operations in southern Iraq remain intense and concentrated around Ramadi. Although the Iraqi government announced the recapture of the city on 27&nbsp;December, the intensity of air missions has not decreased in the subsequent weeks, as they have after other major operations. This would indicate that Daesh still has significant assets in the area, or that the government’s hold on Ramadi is tenuous, or both. Until the area is more secure, the Iraqi Army is unlikely to be able to divert forces for another major campaign in the area, such as the recapture of Fallujah or Habbaniyah.</p> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/553378/image (8).png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/553378/image (8).png" alt="" title="" width="460" height="266" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Image credit: Fernando Betancor. All rights reserved.</span></span></span>Although the initiative today rests with President al Assad and his Russian and Iranian allies, the situation remains fluid. The Syrian government still faces a manpower shortage, which recent victories might ease somewhat, and has much ground to retake. Furthermore, the rebels are well entrenched in a number of large cities and urban warfare will reduce the advantage in armour and airpower enjoyed by the Syrian Army. Retaking cities from an entrenched, determined enemy is an extremely costly affair in terms of human lives, as the Iraqis learned in Tikrit. Rebel forces remain confident that they will continue to receive supplies and equipment and their morale has not broken; there have been no reports of desertion or abandonment of positions. </p> <p>So long as they prove willing to fight on, the “Sunni coalition” will increase its efforts to counter the advantages enjoyed by the “pro-Iranian” faction in this regional conflict. This escalation could lead to direct conflict between US and Russian forces, whether through accident or provocation. The pattern of strikes by the US-led coalition of Operation Inherent Resolve remains the best and most reliable&nbsp;public&nbsp;indicator of intentions and future operations in the short-term.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <hr size="1" /> <p><strong>Notes</strong></p><p> <a name="_edn1"></a><a href="#_ednref1">[1]</a> I use the term “Sunni” very loosely as a shorthand manner of describing the anti-Iranian, anti-Alawite, anti-Hezbollah, moderately anti-Shi’a coalition. Not all of the coalition partners are Sunni, nor is the sectarian aspect of the struggle necessarily the predominant one, but it is nevertheless a useful abbreviation which I use advisedly and with caution.</p><p> <a name="_edn2"></a><a href="#_ednref2">[2]</a> The United States is, for the moment, uninvolved in central and southern Syria. The area of operations for US and coalition forces is limited to the northern strip from the Mediterranean to the Iraqi border near Al Hasakah and Al Hawl and then south to the border crossing at Al Bukamal. There is an occasional strike at Palmyra, but this is out of the area of immediate interest of coalition forces.</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="/arab-awakening/fernando-betancor/outside-box-sunni-endgame-in-syria-iraq">Outside the box: a Sunni endgame in Syria, Iraq?</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/arab-awakening/fernando-betancor/outside-box-is-islamic-state-close-to-victory">Outside the box: is the Islamic State close to victory?</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/arab-awakening/fernando-betancor/to-shores-of-tripoli">To the shores of Tripoli</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Syria </div> <div class="field-item even"> Iraq </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Conflict </div> </div> </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> Arab Awakening Arab Awakening Iraq Syria Conflict coalition ISIS Geopolitics Violent transitions Fernando Betancor Fri, 26 Feb 2016 13:57:08 +0000 Fernando Betancor 100048 at https://www.opendemocracy.net The fateful marriage: political violence and violence against women https://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/deniz-kandiyoti/fateful-marriage-political-violence-and-violence-against-women <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Pervasive and diverse, instances of violence against women can only be fully comprehended in the political contexts that give them purpose and meaning.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p>In November 2015, a conference was held in Istanbul to celebrate the 25th year of the <a href="http://www.kadineserleri.org">Women’s Library and Information Centre Foundation</a>. &nbsp;Like the <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Women%27s_Library">Women’s Library</a> in the UK which has roots in the suffrage movement, and the Fawcett Society, this library with its extensive collection of books, archives, periodicals, ephemera, visual materials and women’s biographies aims to serve as the collective memory of the women’s movement in Turkey. </p><p>The choice of title for this anniversary, <em>Against Women: Violence without Borders</em>, was hardly celebratory. This is unsurprising if we consider the alarming statistics on violence against women (VAW) in Turkey. Between 2002-2009 the murder rate of women <a href="http://www.voanews.com/content/turkeys-murder-rate-of-women-skyrockets-117093538/170517.html">increased 14-fold</a>. In the past five years, 1,134 women have reportedly been murdered, most commonly at the hands of husbands, boyfriends or male kin. The <a href="http://www.kadincinayetlerinidurduracagiz.net/">Platform to Stop the Murders of Women</a> reports that in the first ten months of 2015, 236 women were murdered, 112 were raped, 157 forced into prostitution, 316 were assaulted and wounded and 179 suffered harassment. </p><p><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/turkey_1.jpg" alt="" width="460" height="306" /></p> <p><em>"We Will Stop the Murders of Women Platform", November 2014. Avni Kantan/Demotix. All rights reserved.</em></p><p>Yet what marked and overshadowed this occasion was the fact that Tahir Elci, a prominent pro-Kurdish human rights lawyer, had been brutally <a href="http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-34952954">assassinated</a> on 28 November, on the eve of the gathering. The celebration turned into a wake as messages of outrage and condolence started pouring in. The mood of despondency settling over the proceedings coloured the already bleak nature of the subject matter. &nbsp;In my talk I had, coincidentally, been intending to pose the question of the extent to which it is feasible to separate violence against women from societal and political violence, not realising how apposite this intervention would be on the day. Pursuing this line of reasoning further may provide fruitful pointers for women’s rights defenders: Where and how do we draw the line between political violence and VAW? How well equipped are we to comprehend the myriad forms that gender-based violence takes?&nbsp; </p> <p>The prevalence and “borderless” nature of violence against women unwittingly predisposes us to think about its various manifestations as the expression of some universal patriarchal order or timeless misogyny. This approach results in a rather <a href="http://www.ohchr.org/Documents/Publications/FactSheet23en.pdf">expansive definition</a> of gender-based violence ranging from practices such as FGM and honour killings (usually classed as <em>harmful cultural practices</em> ), all the way to the outrages perpetuated against women and girls in the context of conflict and war. Customs that infringe women’s most basic rights, such as forced marriage and child marriage, are also thrown into the mix. This leads us to debates that generally revolve around the polarities of universal human rights vs. respect for cultural differences. Patriarchy is often implicitly treated as an item of culture (preferably a feature of “other” cultures) making it more difficult to come to grips with its political dimensions and its relations to societal and political violence.</p> <p>The political dimensions of violence against women were brought into sharp relief during and after the Arab uprisings in 2011. The <a href="http://www.theguardian.com/world/2013/jul/05/egypt-women-rape-sexual-assault-tahrir-square">types of assault women</a> demonstrators in Cairo’s Tahrir square were subjected to raised a host of questions, since they displayed unprecedented forms. Individual women who were surrounded by two concentric circles of men, an inner circle grasping, tearing garments and probing with their hands and sharp objects, and an outer circle blocking their escape, were subjected to an almost ritualised from of abuse. Who were these men breaking the law publicly with impunity and with no apparent fear of being recognised, apprehended or punished? </p> <p>The phenomenon of paid mobsters named <em>baltagiyya</em> operating during the Mubarak regime to intimidate protestors and quell dissent was already known. In the December 2011 protests security forces were themselves <a href="https://www.rt.com/news/egyptian-military-cruelty-beating-079/">implicated</a> in violence, as illustrated by the famous “<a href="https://opendemocracy.net/5050/zainab-magdy/egyptian-women-performing-in-margin-revolting-in-centre">blue bra</a>” incident where a woman was cruelly beaten and dragged on the ground. There were undoubtedly numerous “opportunistic” harassers and men outraged by the fact that women dared to protest in public space joining the melee. It was civil society groups like <em>Tahrir Bodyguard</em> , <em>Imprint </em>and other <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/zoe-holman/state-complicity-in-sexual-abuse-of-women-in-cairo">citizen-volunteers </a>engaged in anti-violence vigilantism who <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/zoe-holman/state-complicity-in-sexual-abuse-of-women-in-cairo">intervened</a> rather than the so-called forces of order that have a duty to protect their citizenry. We were unquestionably witnessing the intersections of political violence with violence against women. These episodes invite further reflection on the uses of gender-based violence, given the novel forms of both aggression and resistance to it. </p> <p><strong>Unpacking violence against women</strong></p> <p>My keenest realisation of the need to “unpack ” what we mean by patriarchy when we address violence against women came in Afghanistan where I could detect at least three distinct patterns of violence. </p><p><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/4887892559_484bdf8b64_o.jpg" alt="" width="460" height="307" /></p> <p><em>A woman walks through a field of grass in the evening, in Bamyan, Afghanistan. Eric Kanalstein/United Nations/Flickr. Some rights reserved</em></p><p>The first that we might qualify as “traditional” originates in the modes of control and coercion exercised by families, tribes and communities over their womenfolk, often in the interests of safeguarding of “male honour” which is considered paramount to the maintenance of social order. Punishments against women range from coercion and beatings, to bodily harm and murder. These are usually meted out by fathers, brothers, uncles, husbands or other male kin who are in face to face relations with their victims.&nbsp; We might speak of ‘privatised’ violence here to the extent that the prime movers are kin groups and families. However, the state is often implicated in these crimes. Indeed, many women face prison terms in Afghanistan not because of a crime that exists on the statute books, but because they have dared to evade the control of their kin by running away from forced or abusive marriages. Many states uphold male prerogatives over the control of women by passing lighter sentences for honour crimes, or showing leniency to rapists if they marry their victims. </p> <p>A second pattern is prevalent in conflict and war situations where, as in Afghanistan under the <em>mujahideen, </em>armed militias use abduction and rape of women and girls (although boys are not immune to sexual predation) as a systematic tool of war to intimidate, despoil, and establish positional superiority. This pattern, commonplace in many conflicts across the world, targets not only women and girls, but entire populations sometimes singled out on the basis of their race, religion, ethnicity or other affiliations. UN Security Council resolution 1325 adopted in 2000 recognising rape as a war crime, and Security Council Resolution <a href="http://www.un.org/press/en/2015/sc12076.doc.htm">2242</a> passed in 2015 making reference to <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/global-femicide-watch-preventing-gender-related-killing-of-women">'sexual and gender based violence as a tactic of terrorism'</a>, point to growing international acknowledgement of the political nature of these crimes. </p> <p>A third pattern can be detected in state-like formations like the Taliban-in-government, where public performances of&nbsp; Islamic justice - such as the spectacular events held on Fridays in the main football stadium featuring the stoning of women, lashings and executions - are deployed both as a means of social control and an affirmation of rulers’ power and legitimacy. The much publicised <a href="http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/middle-east/yazidi-sex-slaves-gang-raped-in-public-by-isis-fighters-harrowing-accounts-reveal-10166875.html">outrages</a> of Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) are, in fact, couched in the language of detailed regulations. Captured ISIL documents include Fatwa No. 64, dated Jan. 29, 2015 which purports to explain the Islamic rules on who may or may not <a href="http://in.reuters.com/article/usa-islamic-state-sexslaves-idINKBN0UC0DZ20151229">rape a non-Muslim female slave</a>. Access to women as sex slaves (or as fighters’ brides) offers powerful incentives to male fighters, stimulates recruitment, and brings in modest revenues to the war chest through the sale of women (whose prices are calibrated according to age and other attributes). </p> <p>Women and girls fleeing conflict hardly find shelter in refugee camps where they remain <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/valerie-hudson/gender-lenses-and-refugee-assistance">vulnerable</a> to sexual abuse. In addition, child marriages and an organised trade in young girls <a href="http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-middle-east-28250471">flourish</a> under conditions of material hardship and physical insecurity. The scale of the problem becomes even more glaring when we throw into the mix the abuses and sexual predation <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/5050/melanie-cura-deball/un-peacekeeping-blue-banner-for-hope-or-red-flag-for-abuse">perpetrated</a> by UN peacekeeping forces whose mandate is to protect civilian populations and vulnerable groups.&nbsp; </p> <p>These examples clearly fail to exhaust the wide range of crimes against women perpetrated by states ( many with seats at the United Nations) through their apparatuses of coercion (such as armies and police forces) often by adopting a predatory stance towards the most vulnerable members of&nbsp; their societies - as seen in the rape of lower caste women in India. Such examples of <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/5050/yakin-erturk/women-at-war-in-country-in-peace-ghana">state sanctioned violence</a> abound both in conflict and so-called peacetime.<img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/HanaaMallalahquilt-MyNight_0.jpeg" alt="" width="400" height="263" /></p> <p><em>‘My night’, a quilt by Hanna Mallalah, Iraq.</em></p><p>We may well wonder when the violation of women’s bodies becomes a ‘<a href="https://opendemocracy.net/5050/lauren-wolfe/when-does-violation-of-womens-bodies-become-red-line">red line</a>’. Sadly this is often &nbsp;at the point when geopolitically powerful players decide to name and shame “bad guys” for their own instrumental purposes. Remember, for instance, the strategic silence surrounding <em>mujahideen</em> atrocities against women in Afghanistan at the point when they were backed and financed by the West against the Soviets. The Taliban’s record on women may well have been overlooked had they not so blatantly aided and abetted Al-Qaeda well beyond the 9/11 events. Outrage over violence against women often appears&nbsp; as a politically expedient afterthought. </p> <p>The rich tapestry of violence against women (VAW) illustrated above should suffice to demonstrate that the normative frameworks and objectives behind violence are neither interchangeable nor are they part of some singular cultural script. It is, nevertheless, possible to argue that however varied their sources and objectives, these patterns of violence display a mixture of instrumentalism and opportunism and can even claim a degree of internal logic when they are based on widely shared “honour codes”, or are couched in the language of religiously sanctioned actions. There are, however, other instances of violence that are even more challenging in conceptual terms.</p> <p><strong>Is there a “new” violence against women?</strong></p> <p>The instances of violence that I find most thought provoking are those that occur in anonymous public spaces, are perpetrated by strangers, and have a deceptively random and spontaneous appearance. &nbsp;Cases in point are the <a href="http://utpress.utexas.edu/index.php/books/stavio">serial killings</a> of women in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico, targeting young single women working in assembly factories (giving us the term <em>feminicidio</em> or femicide), the <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/naila-kabeer/grief-and-rage-in-india-making-violence-against-women-history">gang rape and torture</a> of Joyti Singh Pandey on a bus in Delhi followed by her death in December 2012, and Anene Booysen’s&nbsp; gang rape and torture in South Africa followed by her <a href="http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-africa-24768817">death</a> in February 2013. </p> <p>We are clearly not dealing with private pathologies here, but instances where violence can almost become part of&nbsp; a “<a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/04/18/south-africa-rape-video-goes-viral_n_1434914.html">sport</a>” practiced by subcultures of local gangs, as was also the case in the multiple rape cases in Soweto. The targets are often independent women who, like the young workers in Mexico or the student in Delhi, find themselves in un-monitored public spaces. I have argued elsewhere that abuses against women can take more virulent forms when the male role is no longer secure, and where profound crises of masculinity lead to more violent and coercive assertions of male prerogatives. I tentatively called this phenomenon <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/5050/deniz-kandiyoti/contesting-patriarchy-as-governance-lessons-from-youth-led-activism"><em>masculinist restoration</em> </a>to highlight some of its distinctive features. Both the manifestations of violence,&nbsp; and more significantly societal reactions to them, break the mould of the silence and dissimulation that were the hallmarks of <a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/deniz-kandiyoti/fear-and-fury-women-and-post-revolutionary-violence">patriarchy-as-usual</a>. Violence against women is firmly in the public domain eliciting storms of protest, demonstrations, petitions, blogs, advocacy and solidarity campaigns. Reactions to gender-based violence are shaping the contours of a political divide that crosses gender lines, and pits those who believe that women should “know their place” against others who defend the safety and freedom of women at all times and in all circumstances as a fundamental human right. </p> <p>If we accept the proposition that gender orders are undergoing massive convulsions on a global scale, we should be encountering many more variations of the “new” violence against women. For instance, the shocking and unexpected New Year’s Eve sexual molestation and muggings of women in Cologne, other German cities (Hamburg, with over 100 complaints, but also Stuttgart, Frankfurt and Nuremberg) and across Europe, (from Helsinki to Zurich) have already elicited several <a href="http://www.theguardian.com/world/2016/jan/05/germany-crisis-cologne-new-years-eve-sex-attacks">predictable reactions</a> given the fact that asylum seekers and illegal immigrants were among the attackers. Those on the right with an anti-immigrant platform felt vindicated, with <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2016/01/14/world/europe/a-climate-of-fear-widens-divisions-in-europes-migrant-crisis.html?emc=edit_th_20160114&amp;nl=todaysheadlines&amp;nlid=51551775&amp;_r=0">far-right</a> movements taking to the streets. On the liberal left, concerns were expressed that justifiable preoccupations about the safety of women could easily morph into a form of knee-jerk racism (dark-skinned foreigners violating white women), thus exporting sexism to “other” cultures and whitewashing the less than scintillating record of their own societies. More “forensic” interpretations of the events have pointed to <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2016/01/15/world/europe/as-germany-welcomes-migrantssexual-attacks-in-cologne-point-to-a-new-reality.html?emc=edit_th_20160115&amp;nl=todaysheadlines&amp;nlid=51551775&amp;_r=0">faulty policing and crowd behaviour</a> under the influence of alcohol. However, the seemingly coordinated and simultaneous nature of the attacks (about which we still know relatively little) also led to speculations about political provocation from either Islamists or right-wing extremists infiltrating the crowds or acting with premeditation. </p> <p>Whatever the case may be, neither the invocation of universal misogyny nor the stigmatisation of particular groups is likely to be helpful without a context-specific grounding of events and reactions to them.</p> <p>At this point in time, rather than trying to establish the root causes of different episodes of violence (usually these are complex and multiple), it may be more feasible and useful to trace how these phenomena get politicised once they enter the circuits of judiciaries, politicians, the media and the wide array of civil society actors operating in different contexts. The case of Turkey, whose epidemic-level incidence of violence against women I alluded to earlier, offers valuable object lessons in this respect. </p> <p><strong>Politicising violence: the chasm between words and deeds</strong></p> <p>On paper at least, Turkey has an exemplary record in combating violence against women. The Amendment to the Turkish Penal Code passed in 2004 is unprecedented in the Middle East region. These legal changes prevent sentence reduction for ‘killings in the name of customary law’ ( so-called honour killings); criminalise marital rape; abolish the article foreseeing a reduction or suspension of the sentence of rapists and abductors marrying their victims; criminalise sexual offences such as harassment at the workplace, and abolish the distinction between virgins and non-virgins in sexual crimes. Turkey was the first country to ratify the Council of Europe's Council of Europe's <a href="http://www.conventions.coe.int/Treaty/en/Treaties/Html/210.htm" target="_hplink">Convention on Preventing and Combating Violence Against Women and Domestic Violence (CAHVIO)</a>, the Istanbul Convention, in 2012. The number of women’s shelters has increased significantly from 51 shelters in 2008 to 122 in 2015. The <a href="http://www.un.org/en/events/endviolenceday/">International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women was celebrated officially with landmark buildings bathed in orange light on 25 November, 2015.</a></p> <p>Meanwhile, news of fresh murders, beatings, mutilations and harassment of women continue unabated. Even a casual perusal of newspaper reporting of murder cases and other crimes of violence shows that perceived female disobedience and insubordination act as primary triggers: women murdered by husbands they wish to divorce, or ex-husbands they have dared to divorce, rejected suitors, and obstinate girls refusing to fall in line with their fathers’ or brothers’ wishes jostle on the pages of dailies. Women’s rising aspirations and determined male resistance create a perfect storm in the gender order that manifests itself in both official attempts to “tame” women and shore up men’s privileges, and in the unofficial excesses of street-level masculinist restoration. The instructive documentary <a href="http://dyingtodivorce.com"><em>Dying to Divorce </em></a>attempts to give voice to both victims and perpetrators of crime, as well as to committed activists who struggle to bring offenders to justice. For here is the rub: although the legal system offers the means to bring perpetrators of violence to justice offenders, sometimes quite literally, get away with murder. Multitudes of rapists and killers benefit from so-called “good behaviour reductions” for nothing more consequential than having a respectful bearing, wearing a tie to court, expressing regret or pleading intolerable provocation to their male honour. The <a href="http://www.radikal.com.tr/yazarlar/umit-kivanc/yuce-yarginin-kadinlarla-savasi-1469358/">scandalous scale of such judgements</a> and arbitrary sentence reductions prompted a male journalist to speculate scathingly about the love affair and deep empathy between male perpetrators of violence and the prosecutors and judges who are supposed to deliver justice for their female victims. In a country where detentions without trial and judgements based on the flimsiest of evidence abound (as attested to by the number of jailed journalists) prosecutors and judges bend over backwards to exonerate assaulters, rapists and murderers of women. This chasm between the letter of the law and its implementation inevitably politicises the issue of violence against women and implicates the state in its perpetuation; not only are current offenders treated leniently but would be offenders take heart from such dispensations. The task of seeking justice for women falls on the shoulders of civil society actors, among which are groups like the <em>Platform to Stop the Murders of Women</em>, and a liberal press that now forms a dwindling and threatened component of a totally co-opted dismal media scene.</p> <p>One of the most striking examples of the politicisation of violence against women followed the attempted <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/deniz-kandiyoti/gender-wars-in-turkey-litmus-test-of-democracy">rape and murder</a> of Özgecan Aslan, a 20-year old student commuting to her home on 13 February, 2015. The debates following this gruesome murder rapidly degenerated into a contest over women’s rights to a presence in the public domain: while some argued that women could only be protected by being segregated, others riposted that enjoying a public presence under conditions of freedom and security is a fundamental human right. Of course, those arguing for segregation had conveniently forgotten that most incidences of violence still occur within households, families or immediate neighbourhoods. &nbsp;A <a href="https://www.change.org/p/%C3%B6zgecanyasas%C4%B1-%C3%A7%C4%B1ks%C4%B1n-yasalar-kad%C4%B1nlar%C4%B1-korusun-ahmet-davutoglu">petition</a> that received over a million signatures went forward with a proposal to parliament for a new law (dubbed the Ozgecan law) that would block sentence reductions and the lenient treatment of perpetrators of crimes against women. </p><p><img src="//opendemocracy.net/files/11072576404_518d86e42c_o.jpg" alt="" width="460" height="460" /></p> <p><em>Protesting violence against women. Christopher Michel/Flickr. Some rights reserved.</em></p><p>One final but crucial component of the politics of violence against women resides in societal reactions to it. The feminist slogan “the personal is political” has finally come into its own. Gender-based violence is understood in the broadest terms and also includes abuses against the LGBT community. There are now constituencies of concerned citizens, men and women of different sexual orientations and ethnicities, organising in groups, protesting, documenting outrages, blogging and petitioning because they recognise that the climate of impunity surrounding crimes against women defines the entire polity and the masculinist, militarised political culture that stifles democracy and human rights.</p> <p>The grief and despair I encountered during the Istanbul conference, <em>Against Violence</em>, offered a powerful testimony to the inseparability of women’s rights from other struggles for dignity, recognition and freedom.</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/deniz-kandiyoti/contesting-patriarchy-as-governance-lessons-from-youth-led-activism">Contesting patriarchy-as-governance: lessons from youth-led activism</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/yakin-erturk/quest-for-gender-just-peace-from-impunity-to-accountability">The quest for gender-just peace: from impunity to accountability </a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/lauren-wolfe/when-does-violation-of-womens-bodies-become-red-line"> When does the violation of women&#039;s bodies become a &quot;red line&quot;?</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/nadje-alali/sexualized-violence-in-iraq-how-to-understand-and-fight-it">Sexualized violence in Iraq: how to understand and fight it</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/naila-kabeer/grief-and-rage-in-india-making-violence-against-women-history">Grief and rage in India: making violence against women history? </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/anne-marie-goetz/preventing-violence-against-women-sluggish-cascade">Preventing violence against women: a sluggish cascade?</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/global-femicide-watch-preventing-gender-related-killing-of-women">Global Femicide Watch</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/rahila-gupta/mona-eltahawy-and-sexual-revolution-in-middle-east">Mona Eltahawy and sexual revolution in the Middle East</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/jennifer-allsopp/visible-players-power-and-risks-for-young-feminists">Visible players: the power and the risks for young feminists</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/eba%E2%80%99-el-tamami/harassment-free-zone">Harassment free zone </a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/deniz-kandiyoti/promise-and-peril-women-and-%E2%80%98arab-spring%E2%80%99">Promise and peril: women and the ‘Arab spring’</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/heather-mcrobie/patriarchy-and-militarism-in-egypt-from-street-to-government">Patriarchy and militarism in Egypt: from the street to the government</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/cynthia-cockburn/who-do-they-think-they-are-war-rapists-as-people">Who do they think they are? 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Egypt </div> <div class="field-item odd"> EU </div> <div class="field-item even"> United States </div> <div class="field-item odd"> Afghanistan </div> <div class="field-item even"> Mexico </div> <div class="field-item odd"> Iraq </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> 50.50 50.50 Can Europe make it? Arab Awakening Iraq Mexico Afghanistan United States EU Egypt Turkey Turkish Dawn Continuum of Violence 50.50 Women's Movement Building AWID Forum 2016 50.50 Gender Politics Religion 50.50 Contesting Patriarchy 50.50 Editor's Pick 50.50 newsletter bodily autonomy gender justice violence against women women's human rights Deniz Kandiyoti Mon, 25 Jan 2016 08:07:33 +0000 Deniz Kandiyoti 99295 at https://www.opendemocracy.net