conflicts https://opendemocracy.net/taxonomy/term/71/0 en Khomeini to IS: paths of revolution https://opendemocracy.net/hazem-saghieh/khomeini-to-is-paths-of-revolution <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>The Middle East's political map survived decades of tumult. Its long-term unravelling began with Iran's uprising in 1979. </p> </div> </div> </div> <p>In 1948, the establishment of Israel caused a major shock in the Middle East. But, alien state as it was, its impact was also limited. It did not destroy the region's state system, and the maps that had been drawn following the first world war continued to be usable and recognisable. Thus, despite mutual hostility and several wars, Israel integrated - albeit antagonistically - within the region’s geopolitics.&nbsp; <br /><br />In 1958, Egypt and Syria <a href="http://www.sahistory.org.za/dated-event/united-arab-republic-proclaimed-egypt-iraq-and-syria">declared</a> their unification in a single state. This was two years after the Suez conflict, at the high tide of Gamal Abdel Nasser's influence. But this unity - intended to remove borders between brotherly Arab states and reverse the “partitioned map” across the <a href="http://www.hup.harvard.edu/catalog.php?isbn=9780674058194">Arab</a> world, itself collapsed before it could celebrate its fourth anniversary.The borders, after all, turned out to be much more strongly rooted than they appeared. Soon, a vicious conflict - the “first Arab civil war,” as some called it, broke out in Yemen. There too, <a href="http://www.lib.utexas.edu/maps/middle_east_and_asia/txu-oclc-192062619-middle_east_pol_2008.jpg">borders</a> were left unchanged, and - at least at that stage - north Yemen did not split. <br />&nbsp;<br />In 1967, an event of seismic magnitude occurred: three Arab countries, including Egypt under Nasser, were <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/conflict-middle_east_politics/sixdaywar_4629.jsp">routed</a> by the Jewish state. It took only six days for the West Bank, Sinai, and the Golan heights to be conquered. Again, however,&nbsp; the borders and the map did not collapse. The world agreed that the ensuing occupation of captured territory was an anomaly, and that normality would be its restoration in accordance with the initial map. <br /><br />In 1975, after five years of a short-lived Palestinian-Jordanian rehearsal, the Lebanese and Palestinians ushered in the era of open-ended civil wars in the region. This lured in countless belligerents, occupation armies, cash, weapons, and intelligence services. Even all this could not <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/hazem-saghieh/lebanon-and-syriairaq-who-is-more-fragile-0">divide</a> Lebanon. From 1982-2000, its people sat waiting for the restoration of its occupied territories to its official map. <br /><br />The survival of existing Arab states and their borders during these <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/hazem-saghieh/revolution-in-revolution-century-of-change">decades</a> resulted not from any underlying cohesion or desire for coexistence. No, it was the cold war that above all ensured that a "happy ending" would arrive before the Arab states drew too close to the abyss. Both sides in the east-west geopolitical divide wanted change to affect regimes only, not borders. Thus, the just causes of the <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/hazem-saghieh/iraqis-and-kurds-question-of-responsibility">Kurdish</a> and Palestinian peoples could not guarantee them a state - could not penetrate the infallible map. This principle applied beyond the region too:&nbsp; the <a href="http://www.sahistory.org.za/dated-event/biafran-war-erupts-nigerian-forces-invade-republic-biafra">Biafran</a> war of 1967-70 did not lead to secession from Nigeria, and the <em>de facto</em> partition of <a href="http://www.crisisgroup.org/en/regions/europe/turkey-cyprus/cyprus/229-divided-cyprus-coming-to-terms-on-an-imperfect-reality.aspx">Cyprus</a> in 1974 was prevented from becoming <em>de jure</em>.<br /><br />In 1990, with the end of the cold war - and shortly before small and primordial identities exploded spectacularly - <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/globalization/article_1673.jsp">Saddam Hussein</a> tried his luck by invading Kuwait. The disastrous attempt had disastrous results. It seemed to confirm that even in the new era, much more than a dictator's adventurism would be <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/hazem-saghieh/meaning-of-revolution">needed</a> to amend the regional map. Instead, Ayatollah Khomeini's revolution in Iran in 1979 <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/article/iran-dialectic-of-revolution">turned</a> out to be - albeit belatedly - the most important response to the “stability” of the cold war. </p><p><strong>A slow explosion</strong><br /><br />The fervent Khomeini <a href="http://www.iranchamber.com/history/islamic_revolution/islamic_revolution.php">revolution</a>, claiming that it would carve out a “third way” for the region, did slice with unprecedented <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/article/iran-s-revolution-in-global-history">sharpness</a> at the region’s map. Saddam responded by invading Iran in 1980, launching a war that lasted eight years. This only inflamed the Khomeinists' efforts to export the revolution, which merged with and <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/arab-awakening/hazem-saghieh/great-unravelling-and-new-map">amplified</a> the sectarian (<em>Shi'a-Sunni</em>) and communal tensions in the wider region. <br /><br />The combined long-term effects were manifold. <a href="http://www.hup.harvard.edu/catalog.php?recid=30107">Lebanon</a> profoundly changed under the tutelage of the Syrian <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/hazem-saghieh/syria-exceptional-despotism">regime</a>, and then Hizbollah. Yemen was unsettled, and today is again fragmenting under <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/hazem-saghieh/yemen-and-tunisian-example">pressure</a> from the Houthis. Iraq saw its sub-communities <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/hazem-saghieh/baathism-in-iraqsyria-out-of-time">splinter</a>. Bahrain's civil strife deepened. Everywhere, violence thwarted or blocked legitimate demands for change. <br /><br />Thirty-five years lie between the Khomeini-inspired provocation of the <em>Sunni</em> world and the <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/hazem-saghieh/islamism-vs-weak-arab-nations">appearance</a> of the Islamic State. By now, the map of the <a href="http://www.vox.com/a/maps-explain-the-middle-east">region</a> is now drawn in ink so soluble that any liquid can efface it. <br /><br />Khoemini's and now Khameini's Iran is far from having sole responsibility for the region's current predicament. Many other factors have contributed to the deep <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/hazem-saghieh/military-and-islamist-failure-what-next">collapse</a> of the Arabs' national fabrics. In the sweep of history, revolutionary Iran was little more than history’s instrument, exposing faultlines that made an explosion likely. Only a different&nbsp; path could have postponed that outcome. As it was, 1979 proved to be the seminal event of the century, one the region could not accommodate. </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>Albert Hourani, <a href="http://www.hup.harvard.edu/catalog/HOUHIR.html?show=reviews"><em>A History of the Arab Peoples</em></a> (Harvard University Press, 2003)</p><p><a href="http://www.merip.org/">Middle East Research and Information Project (Merip)</a></p><p>Sami Zubaida, <a href="http://www.ibtauris.com/Books/Humanities/History/Regional%20%20national%20history/Asian%20history/Middle%20Eastern%20history/Beyond%20Islam%20A%20New%20Understanding%20of%20the%20Middle%20East.aspx"><em>Beyond Islam: A New Understanding of the Middle East</em></a><em>&nbsp;</em>(IB Tauris, 2011)</p><p>Alison Pargeter, <a href="http://www.saqibooks.com/saqi/display.asp?ISB=9780863564758&amp;TAG=&amp;CID"><em>The Muslim Brotherhood: The Burden of Tradition</em></a> (Saqi, 2010)</p><p>Brian Whitaker, <em><a href="http://www.saqibooks.com/saqi/display.asp?ISB=9780863566240&amp;TAG=&amp;CID=">What's Really Wrong with the Middle East</a></em> (Saqi, 2009)</p> <p>Olivier Roy, <a href="http://www.hurstpub.co.uk/BookDetails.aspx?BookId=502"><em>Whatever Happened to the Islamists?</em></a> (C Hurst, 2009)</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="/hazem-saghieh/islamism-vs-weak-arab-nations">Islamism vs the weak Arab nations</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/hazem-saghieh/military-and-islamist-failure-what-next">Military and Islamist failure: what next? </a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/hazem-saghieh/lebanon-and-syriairaq-who-is-more-fragile-0">Lebanon and Syria-Iraq: who is more fragile?</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/hazem-saghieh/iraqis-and-kurds-question-of-responsibility">Iraqis and Kurds: a question of responsibility</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/hazem-saghieh/islamists-without-book">Islamists without a book</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/hazem-saghieh/arabs-without-capitals">Arabs without capitals</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/hazem-saghieh/critique-of-arab-critique">A critique of Arab critique</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/hazem-saghieh/iraqsyria-roots-of-disintegration">Iraq-Syria: roots of disintegration</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/hazem-saghieh/baathism-in-iraqsyria-out-of-time">Ba&#039;athism in Iraq-Syria: out of time</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/arab-awakening/hazem-saghieh/great-unravelling-and-new-map">A great unravelling, and a new map</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> 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 3.0 </div> </div> </div> Arab Awakening International politics middle east conflicts Hazem Saghieh Sun, 23 Nov 2014 05:21:09 +0000 Hazem Saghieh 88117 at https://opendemocracy.net Yemenis on the Houthi ascent to power https://opendemocracy.net/arab-awakening/amal-shaybani/yemenis-on-houthi-ascent-to-power <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>The Houthis took control of Sana’a on 21 September, striking a deal with the government after weeks of protests. Yemenis have mixed feelings about their rising power.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p class="Default"><span>When we visited the Military Museum on Jamal Abdul Nasi street in Sana’a, late Friday evening, we were greeted by the </span><a href="http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-middle-east-29319423">Houthis</a><span> at the gates. “It’s closed, come tomorrow,” said 20-year-old Atul Hassan, manning the entrance door.</span></p><p class="Default"><span class="image-caption"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="https://dy1m18dp41gup.cloudfront.net/cdn/farfuture/uE7c5V7WPBLaVQjNFbi4PlQpX3LxeA3XV3WhsjdOC8E/mtime:1413814036/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/553378/Atul%20Hassan%20no%20chair.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title="Atul Hassan. Amal Shaybani. All rights reserved"><img src="https://dy1m18dp41gup.cloudfront.net/cdn/farfuture/YgWu3wkKFzDe6A6_vMwP4MUfACZuUs8HCjFas1frWV4/mtime:1413810621/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/553378/Atul%20Hassan%20no%20chair.jpg" alt="" title="Atul Hassan. Amal Shaybani. All rights reserved" width="460" height="328" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span><br />Atul Hassan guarding the military museum. Image: Amal Shaybani. All rights reserved.</span></p> <p class="Default"><span>These days, it’s not unusual to see buildings that were once guarded by government security forces occupied by the rebel militia. They also man key security checkpoints and government institutions in the capital.</span></p> <p class="Default"><span>Donned in Yemeni clothing, a </span><em>thawb</em><span>, and carrying a </span><em>jambiya</em><span> (Yemeni sword) and rifles, the group were recently seen sporting new military uniforms at a security check point on Haddah street.</span></p> <p class="Default"><span>The Houthis or ‘Ansar Allah’ (Partisans of God) as they prefer to be called, are like many Yemenis </span><a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Zaidiyyah">Zaidi</a><span> Shi’a. After several uprisings in the last decade, the Houthis have managed to gain control over Saa’da, parts of Amran, Al Jawf and Hajjah provinces in Yemen.</span></p> <p class="Default"><span>Hassan joined the rebel group after finishing high school, during his year off. “We are with the people, we want what the people want. With Abdul-Malik al-Houthi, we can be assured of a stable and powerful government,” he said, adding, “Before the Houthis, people were voiceless, and lacking rights.”</span></p> <p class="Default"><span>This was late on the evening of 10 October–the evening following the suicide bomb </span><a href="http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-middle-east-29548568">explosion</a><span> in Tahrir square, which killed nearly 47 civilians, including many children.</span></p> <p class="Default"><span>The odour of dead bodies lingered in the air, and sandals and scarves drenched in blood were still strewn on the streets. A group of witnesses standing in the area pointed to the dents in the asphalt, marking where the explosion had occurred just as hundreds of people arrived in Tahrir Square for a demonstration called by the Houthis.</span></p> <p class="Default"><span>Like Hassan, Mohammed Al-Anesi, who runs a construction business in Sana’a, sees the group’s political appeal. “Houthis have gained the trust and support of the majority of Yemeni people because they know how to fulfil the people’s demands,” he said.</span></p> <p class="Default"><span>“A very telling example is how they got the government to reduce the fuel prices not once, but twice,” said 29-year-old Maryam Al-Junaid, a Hospital Administration student at the University of Science and Technology in Sana’a.</span></p> <p class="Default"><span>However, unlike Hassan, Al-Anesi did not join the Houthi movement because he is strongly opposed to the rebel group’s ideology and </span><a href="http://www.yementimes.com/en/1609/news/1412/Houthi-slogans-sweep-Sana%E2%80%99a.htm">slogans</a><span>.</span></p> <p class="Default"><span>Zakariya Dhaman, a presenter with a local radio station in Sana’a who dreamed of becoming a film director after finishing university said,&nbsp;</span><span>“Since 2011, I have been going backwards. I’m afraid, in the midst of this unending crisis, we young people are stuck. With the Houthis in control, I don’t see political stability anytime soon. It’s becoming just like Iran.”</span></p> <h2><strong>The Houthis’ ascent in the capital</strong></h2><p class="Default"><span>Months of political strife and a lack of government have paved the way for the Houthis’ dominance in the capital since 21 September.</span></p> <p class="Default"><span>When asked about the group’s rise to power, Al-Junaid remarked, “In the past people didn’t follow the Houthis. But ever since they took over government buildings in the capital, people trust them.”</span></p> <p class="Default"><span>Al-Anesi, however, refutes the idea that the rebels are in control of the government, saying they only control the streets.</span></p> <p class="Default"><span>Commuters travelling by </span><em>dhabab</em><span> (local bus) said it’s not uncommon to hear conversations on why many Yemenis support the rebels.</span></p> <p class="Default"><span>“The Houthis are gaining more power on the ground, they have Hashemite support and they are pushing the new government as much as they can. I fear&nbsp;</span><span>like Kurdistan&nbsp;</span><span>we will </span><span>become a ‘Houthistan’,” said another source on condition of anonymity.</span></p> <p class="Default"><span>A majority of Yemenis, feeling trapped by current political events, have turned to the rebels because they are tired of the violence, unrest and waiting. “By allowing the Houthis to take over, the Yemenis are saying, show us who you are,” the source added.</span></p> <p class="Default"><span>Another Sana’a-based resident, also on condition of anonymity said, “The Shi’a rebels have garnered so much power in recent times that government military officers abandoned their positions and left them in the hands of the Houthis during the fighting. Where is this coming from? Definitely, they are being influenced by another power.” By ‘another power’, the resident was referring to former president Ali Abdullah Saleh.</span></p> <p class="Default"><span>Both Dhaman and M.O, a student at University of Science and Technology, are apprehensive about Yemen’s future in the hands of the Houthis. Dhaman said that while Abdul Malik Al-Houthi’s speeches appeal to him, he condemns he group’s activities, especially in Sana’a.</span></p> <p class="Default"><span>News reports showed the rebel group </span><a href="http://english.alarabiya.net/en/views/news/middle-east/2014/10/07/The-Houthis-have-opened-Pandora-s-Box-in-Yemen.html">forcefully</a><span> entered and plundered homes, mosques, medical and engineering colleges, including the houses of several TV station employees in the capital.</span></p> <p class="Default"><span>Another reason why M.O. opposes the Houthis is because of their widespread use of guns. “Previously, only tribal sheikhs would carry guns. With the Houthis in control, everyone seems to own a gun as an excuse for self-defence,” said M.O.</span></p><p class="Default"><span><span><span><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="https://dy1m18dp41gup.cloudfront.net/cdn/farfuture/OCFyXbc5THv7IUc3vikhnOOiTLerDEsFEqTxkGnigUY/mtime:1413814036/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/553378/Houthi%20member%20with%20%27sarkha%27%20on%20the%20gun%20By%20Mohammed%20Al-Qalisi.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title="Houthi with &#039;sarkha&#039; (slogan) on gun. Image: Mohamed Al-Qalisi. All rights reserved."><img src="https://dy1m18dp41gup.cloudfront.net/cdn/farfuture/-mSu6uRHrbbMEEff6SZ2BF0gPjqGS1wT2pA2MjOM2f4/mtime:1413810207/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/553378/Houthi%20member%20with%20%27sarkha%27%20on%20the%20gun%20By%20Mohammed%20Al-Qalisi.jpg" alt="" title="Houthi with &#039;sarkha&#039; (slogan) on gun. Image: Mohamed Al-Qalisi. All rights reserved." width="460" height="613" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span></span></span><span class="image-caption">Houthi member with 'sarkha' (slogan) on gun. Image: Mohamed Al-Qalisi. All rights reserved.</span></span></p> <h2>Yemen, another ‘Syria or Libya’?</h2> <p class="Default"><span>“It looks like we are moving in a similar direction to Libya or Syria,” said Al-Anesi, fearing a situation where the country could split into six semi-autonomous regions.</span></p> <p class="Default"><span>Despite </span><a href="http://www.aljazeera.com/news/middleeast/2014/02/yemen-become-six-region-federation-2014210124731726931.html">approval</a><span> by the presidential panel in February to transform Yemen into a six-region federation, no referendum has been held.</span></p> <p class="Default"><span>“The south is the real issue. Without a real agreement in the south, Yemen cannot establish stability, and this will leave room for AQAP (Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula) and tribes to operate on their own,” said London-based Yemen analyst, Fernando Carvajal.</span></p> <p class="Default"><span>Commenting on the current state of political events, he said, “The problem is, the longer this unofficial system works, the less incentive any of the ruling group have to engage in democratic elections.”</span></p> <p class="Default"><span>Moving forward, Yemenis fear a similar rise in attacks to the one seen on Thursday, and are desperate for a new leader.</span></p> <p class="Default"><span>“At this moment the picture is unclear. It’s more than two weeks since the agreement, and they haven’t appointed a Prime Minister. How can they form a long-term government? It’s difficult to say,” said Dhaman.</span></p> <p class="Default"><span>“In Yemen there are a lot of sheikhs who are snakes because they don’t believe in the Republic of Yemen, but they believe in their tribal ideologies,” he added.</span></p> <p class="Default"><span>“I don’t object to Ali Mohsen al-Ahmar, the Houthis or Ahmed Saleh, as long as I see a better future for myself, and the country,” Dhaman said.</span></p> <p class="Default"><span>Al-Junaid is of the opinion that Yemeni people don’t want to think and want other people to do the thinking for them. “The sad thing is Yemeni people are illiterate and ignorant.”</span></p> <p class="Default"><span>As most Yemenis await the appointment of their next prime minister, the Sana’a resident said that it doesn’t matter now if it’s a dictatorship or democracy–they just need some stability, peace, and justice.</span></p> <p class="Default"><span>“All we can do is wait and watch, and see what happens next.”</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/catherine-shakdam/flawed-narrative-antishi%E2%80%99ism-radicalism-and-dangers-of-sectarianism">Flawed narrative: anti-Shi’ism, radicalism and the dangers of sectarianism in Yemen</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/hazem-saghieh/arabs-without-capitals">Arabs without capitals</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/opensecurity/aaron-edwards/yemen-state-born-of-conflict">Yemen: a state born of conflict</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Yemen </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-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> Arab Awakening Arab Awakening Yemen Conflict Democracy and government middle east conflicts Arab Awakening: violent transitions Amal Shaybani Mon, 20 Oct 2014 14:04:52 +0000 Amal Shaybani 86967 at https://opendemocracy.net On structural violence in Palestine https://opendemocracy.net/arab-awakening/samah-jabr/on-structural-violence-in-palestine <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>The structural violence, economic inequalities, and pervasive injustice that characterise Palestinian society under occupation have created a crisis of the spirit.</p> </div> </div> </div> <h2><img src="http://opendemocracy.net/files/shutterstock_93242665.jpg" alt="" width="460" /></h2><h2><strong>Flying out of our cages</strong></h2> <p>"I used to fly, but you broke my wings and locked me back in my cage.” </p> <p>This was the reproach of a patient who had just recovered from a manic episode during which he jumped from the top of the four-metre high Israeli separation wall and broke both legs. His mania had been a temporary release from the social inhibitions, economic frustrations and political obstructions symbolised by the wall itself. The pills I had given him ended his colourful euphoric experience and thrust him back into a gloomy reality. No wonder he was dissatisfied with my interventions.</p> <p>In a two-week period in May, seven murders were committed in Palestine. The victims were women, children and a mentally disabled youth. In my capacity as a psychiatrist, I have interviewed some of the accused perpetrators. To my surprise, they do not resemble the antisocial psychopaths who typically commit such ugly crimes. </p> <p>Most of those I interviewed suffer from enduring humiliation and an injured sense of manhood. They live in conditions of mounting stress, experiencing the pressure of poverty in a society increasingly obsessed with material possessions and wealth. Such men lose their sense of honour and respect when they are unable to provide for their families; they struggle to regain the illusion of control through misogyny and acts of domestic violence as expressions of their manhood.</p> <p>Humiliation, poverty and low social status have made some people in Palestine feel like losers and failures at life. They often attempt to medicate their frustration and anger with alcohol and drugs. And, just as many seek an altered state of mind through these routes, some try to soothe their injured dignity by projecting and externalising their sense of powerlessness onto members of their families. Such people become abusive and some commit violent crimes. The structural violence, economic inequalities, and pervasive injustice that characterise Palestinian society under occupation have created a fertile psychological environment for sociopathy to grow.</p> <p>We don’t yet have organised crime and gangs, but there has been a dramatic upsurge in violations of the law and in domestic violence. But policing Palestine more intensively and expanding security forces are not the answer to a phenomenon brought about mainly by a crisis of the spirit.</p> <h2><strong>Structural violence</strong></h2> <p>The establishment of a ruling class, binding social structures, and oppressive institutions exclude many people from sharing the fruits of nationhood. These exclusions establish criteria—at once widely recognised and covertly concealed—that determine who is heard and who is silenced, who is favoured and who deprived. </p> <p>One example is membership in the right political party. If you belong to the proper political party and begin work in the proper type of job, your years of party loyalty will be counted as years of “professional experience.” This illegitimate arithmetic automatically conveys an advantage in employment and in promotions compared to those who actually have better credentials and work harder. The same system that greases loyal wheels will put sticks in the wheels of anyone who expresses opposition to or protests such a system.</p> <p>Strange voices are liable to be heard in support of direct violence and structural violence, attempting to legitimise it and render it socially acceptable. We are informed, for example, that a murdered woman was disloyal to her husband; lawyers might say, “Of course, you are right—but you don’t want to get in trouble with the political elite.”</p> <p>Our context is everything, of course: we experience strong emotions to our occupation by Israel. The national humiliation and the personal grievances suffered by the Palestinian people through our political and economic misery filter down into the conflicts in our daily lives. </p> <p>Our political parties have provided some people with a sense of belonging, and thus achieved an unprecedented psychological significance. Intense loyalty and highly emotionally charged participation in a polarised society seems to result in an atmosphere of destructive competition, unfair comparisons, hunger for power, and hatred. These strong emotions eventually have undercut our capacity for logical reasoning and ethical judgment.</p> <p>The murder of the Palestinian soul is taking place, an annihilation of our spirit, expressed in a hunger to dominate the weak and to inflict our aggression on those who are smaller. We pass down our humiliation to a dumping ground of those who are unable to defend themselves, inducing in them our own sense of shame.</p> <p>Our inner life is becoming empty. Our dreams are destroyed by structural violence or melted into a collective trance. Everywhere apathy and distrust is growing. Palestinians took to the streets to celebrate the triumph of Mohammed Assaf as the celebrated Arab Idol, but when we saw the reconciliation agreement sealed with embraces once again we were not impressed. There were no celebrations in the street.</p> <h2><strong>We are born free</strong></h2> <p>New research in psychology and neuro­imaging has revealed that human beings demonstrate an innate aversive reaction to inequality and unfairness. In the “ultimatum game,” where responders are given a choice to approve or to block a particular division of a quantity of money, it was discovered that people—regardless of age, gender or race—found unequal divisions to be aversive. It was also found that people are more sensitive to unfair proposals when these are made by those of the same race.</p> <p>But long before this psychological research, and the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights—“All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights”—Umar Ibn Al Khattab, an influential caliph who earned the title Al-Faruq for his fairness and ability to distinguish between right and wrong, rebelled against the social structure of his time by asking: “Since when have you taken people for slaves and they were born free?” </p> <p>French philosoper Jean-Jacques Rousseau argued, “Man is born free; and everywhere he is in chains.” He also stated, “man’s natural sentiment of self-esteem is coupled with pity, the dislike of seeing fellow creatures in pain.”&nbsp;The mildest Qur’anic teaching on the duty to oppose injustice is: “And incline not toward those who do unfairness” (Hud 113).</p> <p>Thus, apathy toward injustice, crime and human pain is incompatible with our innate feelings. Apathy deviates from our natural humanitarian instincts, and is the result of a distorted process of education and conditioning. The outcome of programmed selfishness and egoism, it eliminates our capacity for spiritual growth, instead promoting compliance with injustice and submission to rigid authoritarian systems of domination.</p> <h2><strong>Searching for spaciousness inside</strong></h2> <p>What can we do to escape the bars of our reality? I have no wings and will not fly out—not even with a first class ticket. I remain here on the ground, searching for a human connection with equals who aim to nurture relationships of mutual respect and to co-create new forms of living together. I seek companionship in my long journey to decondition and deconstruct the forms of oppressions and injustice around me. </p> <p>I will find myself sometimes at a loss and in despair, but I understand that there can be a revival of hope even while recognising disappointment; there can be fulfilment in surviving the heat of tyranny, a fulfilment that makes a person more willing to dedicate oneself to those who are marginalised and degraded in society.</p> <p>The spirituality of Palestinian society has been one of the most important factors in our resilience and steadfastness. Spirituality can transform one’s sense of worth from unequal to equal, dismissing the social stratifications where ‘higher’ beings exercise control over ‘lesser’ beings. The current promotion of materialism and individualism within Palestine, however, is increasingly limiting the inner spaciousness that has helped us survive despite the cages imposed on us from without.</p> <p>We are in the midst of a process of losing our traditional serenity and enlightenment, through our participation in this on-going spiritual decline. For so long, we found meaning and nourishment in song, poetry, stories and prayers. Today, however, there is a deeper impoverishment lying beneath the surface poverty—an impoverishment for which materialistic answers do not suffice.</p> <p>Our souls and our spirits are being injured and damaged. People assess their self-worth using the yardsticks of money, education and social status. We are imprisoned in our socioeconomic status, forced into repetition and boredom of the finite and the familiar, not realising the great love, outstanding courage and lucid awareness that can endure in the minds and hearts of simple people. </p> <p>Love for ourselves, compassion for others, the liberation of our personal sense of agency, and the freedom to choose and develop sophisticated modalities of survival will restore our sense of independence and value – in spite of the external cage.</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/samah-jabr/internalised-oppression">Internalised oppression</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/arab-awakening/charlie-hoyle/battle-to-preserve-bethlehem%27s-cultural-heritage">The battle to preserve Bethlehem&#039;s cultural heritage</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/arab-awakening/raffaele-piccolo/life-must-go-on-in-palestine">Life must go on in Palestine </a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Palestine </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Civil society </div> <div class="field-item even"> Culture </div> <div class="field-item odd"> Ideas </div> </div> </div> Arab Awakening Arab Awakening Palestine Civil society Culture Ideas middle east conflicts You tell us Arab Awakening Samah Jabr Palestinian Israeli conflict Tue, 23 Sep 2014 13:53:15 +0000 Samah Jabr 86239 at https://opendemocracy.net Tony Blair, a crusader for peace https://opendemocracy.net/conflicts/global_security/peace_crusader <p><em>The shadow of the United States-Israel military relationship looms over Tony Blair&#39;s peace-envoy role in the middle east. </em></p> <p> [This article was first published on 28 June 2007] </p> <p>Tony Blair&#39;s departure from office after ten years as Britain&#39;s prime minister on <a href="http://www.telegraph.co.uk/opinion/main.jhtml;jsessionid=AIHHDAIV2AUGXQFIQMFCFFWAVCBQYIV0?xml=/opinion/2007/06/27/blair.xml">27 June 2007</a> was swiftly followed by his appointment as peace envoy in the middle east, representing the Quartet powers (United States, European Union, Russia and the United Nations). The <a href="http://uk.reuters.com/article/domesticNews/idUKL2742219320070628">decision</a> will be welcomed with great satisfaction by the US and Israeli governments; some of the region&#39;s authoritarian regimes (not least Egypt and Jordan) will quietly accept it; and several senior Fatah figures may be content to see a foe of Hamas and Hizbollah acquiring this role. </p> <p>But probably the warmest welcome will come from al-Qaida and its propagandists. In their eyes it is a gift: the projection into the Muslim and Arab heartland of a high-profile figure with the closest of links to the &quot;<a href="http://www.cambridge.org/catalogue/catalogue.asp?isbn=0521791405"></a><a href="/far%20enemy%20http:/www.cambridge.org/us/catalogue/catalogue.asp?isbn=0521791405">far enemy</a>&quot; in Washington, and clear evidence that the west is both resolute in support for Israel and has little real interest in a genuine peace settlement with the Palestinians.</p> <p>This view may be unfair, in light of Blair&#39;s <a href="http://www.ft.com/cms/s/36fa51da-fe30-11db-bdc7-000b5df10621,dwp_uuid=5f5b5ef8-b209-11db-a79f-0000779e2340.html">track-record</a> in helping to bring peace between bitterly opposed factions in Northern Ireland and his professed interest in all three &quot;religions of the book&quot;; but there is no doubt that its adherents will depict the appointment as a validation of al-Qaida&#39;s claim of a western war against Islam.</p> <p class="pullquote_new"><strong>Paul Rogers</strong> is professor of peace studies at Bradford University, northern England. He has been writing a <a href="/columns/global_security.jsp">weekly column</a> on global security on <strong>openDemocracy</strong> since 26 September 2001</p> <p><strong>The special relationship</strong></p> <p>Al-Qaida&#39;s satisfaction at this turn of events lies partly in its ability to connect it by proxy with the deep-rooted relationship between the United States and Israel. Two aspects of this are notable. First, there may be more <a href="/democracy-americanpower/israel_potomac_4285.jsp">criticism</a> of Israel in the US than a decade or more ago, including among leading Jewish organisations and individuals; but more important is that zealous pro-Israel sentiment has been appropriated by a &quot;Christian Zionist&quot; tendency that represents a pool of support six times larger in voting terms than the American Jewish community (see &quot;<a href="/node/2329">Christian Zionists and neocons: a heavenly marriage</a>&quot;, 3 February 2005).</p> <p>Second, and even more significant, is the evolving <a href="/conflict-debate_97/article_2168.jsp">relationship</a> between the US and Israeli defence forces. The history of this relationship is characterised by substantial US arms sales to Israel, abundant military aid, and numerous joint projects such as the Arrow anti-ballistic missile system (several columns in this series have dissected the US-Israel bond; see, for example, &quot;<a href="/conflict/article_152.jsp">Israel, the US and the world: a conflict of perceptions</a>&quot; [24 July 2002] and &quot;<a href="/conflict/marriage_3801.jsp">The US and Israel: a marriage under pressure</a>&quot;, [7 August 2006]). </p> <p>In the last four years, as the US army and marine corps have become mired in the bitter counterinsurgency war in Iraq, the bonds have become closer still. The process started within a few months of the termination of the Saddam Hussein regime, when the insurgency began to develop and the US ground forces found themselves increasingly out of their depth. Vietnam was long in the past and was, in any case, a largely rural war. The United States had special forces, some of them even trained in urban counterinsurgency, but their numbers were far too small to have much effect in Iraq.</p> <p>Thus a US military whose regular army and marine-corps units were floundering, quickly turned for advice from the one country that had been fighting insurgents in the region, both in Lebanon and in the occupied territories. This led to the rapid consolidation and expansion of existing <a href="http://www.ifamericansknew.org/us_ints/p-krane.html">links</a> with Israel. </p> <p>By December 2003, less than nine months after the occupation of Iraq, a high-powered delegation from the US army&#39;s training and doctrine command (<a href="http://www.tradoc.army.mil/index.htm">Tradoc</a>) - including its commander, General Kevin Byrnes - was in Israel for a five-day programme of work with the Israeli Defence Forces (IDF), hosted by the head of Israel&#39;s ground-forces command, Major-General Yiftah Ron-Tal (see &quot;<a href="/node/1655">After Saddam, no respite</a>&quot;, 19 December 2003).</p> <p>Byrnes was accompanied by the head of the US army&#39;s infantry school at Fort Benning, Georgia, Brigadier-General Benjamin Freakley. The meeting was meant to be low-profile, though the usually well-informed American defence journal, <em>Defense News, </em>managed to secure this quote from one US military source:</p><p>Israel has much to offer in the technological realm, while operationally, there are obvious parallels between Israel&#39;s experiences over the past three years in the West Bank and Gaza and our own post-offensive operations in Iraq. We&#39;d be remiss if we didn&#39;t make a supreme effort to seek out commonalities and see how we might be able to incorporate some of that Israeli knowledge into our plans.&quot;</p> <p>From a US military perspective such an approach was entirely appropriate. Indeed, the military would in principle be negligent if it did not avail itself of the extensive experience of a long-standing and close ally. By late 2003, with scores of young American soldiers and marines being killed and hundreds being seriously wounded every month, this made eminent sense. From any kind of radical Islamist perspective, however, the forging of even closer US-Israeli ties was yet further proof of the &quot;Crusader/Zionist assault on Islam&quot;.</p> <p>In the ensuing months, US forces came to rely even more on Israel experience, weapons and technologies (see Barbara Opall-Rome, &quot;<a href="http://www.defensenews.com/index.php">Israeli Arms, Gear Aid U.S. Troops</a>&quot;, <em>Defense News</em>, 30 March 2004 [subscription only]). In April 2004, <em>Defense News </em>reported a four-day event in Israel in which surveillance and weapons systems developed specifically for use against Palestinians were demonstrated to staff from US special-operations command, the marine corps&#39;s war-fighting laboratory and the army&#39;s national ground intelligence centre (see &quot;<a href="/node/1858">Between Fallujah and Palestine</a>&quot;, 22 April 2004).</p> <p>More recently, there has been the extraordinary development of an extensive new Arab-style town built in Israel&#39;s Negev desert by the US army corps of engineers as an urban counterinsurgency training centre for use by Israeli and American troops (see &quot;<a href="/conflicts/global_security/tale_two_towns">A tale of two towns</a>&quot;, 21 June 2007). </p> <p>It is worth emphasising once again that this is entirely understandable from an American perspective. The continuing costs in Iraq - over 300 troops killed and 1,500 wounded in the past three months alone - means that <em>any</em> help, advice, weapons or technologies from Israel must be utilised.</p> <p class="pullquote_new">In addition to his weekly <strong>openDemocracy </strong>column, Paul Rogers writes an international security monthly briefing for the Oxford Research Group; for details, click <a href="http://www.oxfordresearchgroup.org.uk/paulrogers.htm" target="_blank">here</a> <br /><br />Paul Rogers&#39;s latest book is <em><a href="http://www.routledge.com/shopping_cart/products/product_detail.asp?sku=&amp;isbn=9780415419376&amp;pc=" target="_blank">Global Security and the War on Terror: Elite Power and the Illusion of Control</a></em> (Routledge, July 2007). This is a collection of papers and essays written over the last twenty years, with two new essays on the current global predicament <br /> </p> <p><strong>Four benchmarks for Blair</strong></p> <p>Tony Blair&#39;s intimate <a href="http://news.independent.co.uk/world/politics/article2717266.ece">association</a> with the Bush administration and his unwavering support for the war in Iraq makes him complicit by proxy in this strategic Israel/US connection; the result is that it is almost impossible for him to be taken seriously by establishment or popular <a href="http://www.csmonitor.com/2007/0627/p99s01-duts.html">opinion</a> across much of the middle east, let alone among the more radical factions.</p> <p>Does this mean that his engagement as the new middle-east peace envoy will prove an utter waste of time? Most likely yes, but this outcome is not inevitable; Blair&#39;s own approach could make a difference. </p> <p>If he is prepared to engage in around five years of low-profile, media-averse effort, gathering around him an expert group from a wide range of perspectives, that would be a start. If he is prepared to engage systematically with the Syrian and Iranian governments, and with people connected with <a href="http://english.aljazeera.net/NR/exeres/E85A7A8B-B519-4489-AD40-4B5328060A35.htm">Hamas</a>, Hizbollah and cognate groups, that too might be a source of some confidence. If further he is prepared to &quot;speak truth to power&quot; (in this case, the elites of the middle east), that would be even better. If he is willing to avoid any kind of consultancy or remuneration from any western financial or business group, let alone arms company or security outfit, that would also be of great value.</p> <p>Under such circumstances, it is just conceivable that Blair might have a useful role to play. If he fails these benchmarks, then the road from Downing Street to Jerusalem will be more than a lost cause: it will prove a dangerous diversion from the critical need to move towards a resolution of possibly the most dangerous conflict of the age.</p> Conflict conflicts global security Paul Rogers Creative Commons normal Mon, 16 Jun 2014 00:19:01 +0000 Paul Rogers 33414 at https://opendemocracy.net To eliminate WMD we need to disarm patriarchy https://opendemocracy.net/5050/rebecca-johnson/to-eliminate-wmd-we-need-to-disarm-patriarchy <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Civil society must stop the use of chemical weapons being used as a pretext for US-led bombing in Syria. A gendered understanding demonstrates that the only sustainable strategy is to pursue disarmament and strengthen international humanitarian law.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p>Before the poison gas attacks killed families in a Damascus suburb last week, Syria upheld its right to retain chemical weapons as a counterweight to nuclear arsenals held by the US and Israel. Syria therefore refused to sign the <a href="http://www.opcw.org/news-publications/publications/history-of-the-chemical-weapons-convention/">Chemical Weapons Convention</a> (CWC), one of only a handful of states to reject this multilateral treaty. Before the CWC was opened for signature in 1993, many countries had been producing and stockpiling these inhumane weapons, viewing them as legal. They were even given legitimacy as the “poor man’s deterrent”. The gendered comparison with nuclear weapons is chillingly revealing.&nbsp; Now a state outside the CWC has used poison gas weapons banned by the treaty. The humanitarian consequences have been appalling, but should not be used as a pretext for the UK or others to intervene with bombs of our own.</p><p>We have to look carefully at what caused this chemical attack, and consider how best to demonstrate international revulsion, prevent further attacks, and recognise the consequences of UK policy responses for other conflicts and weapons. The case for establishing a zone free of nuclear and all other <a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/opensecurity/bob-rigg/chemical-weapons-middle-east-un-security-council-and-now-syria">weapons of mass destruction</a> (WMD) in the Middle East, as repeatedly proposed by the League of Arab States and supported by the United Nations and <a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/mahmoud-karem/missed-opportunities-to-rid-middle-east-of-wmd">Non-Proliferation Treaty</a> (NPT) members, including Syria, is stronger than ever. Even before this regional zone is achieved, Syria and the remaining hold-outs must accede to the CWC now. This treaty, the UN and the International Criminal Court can already provide the tools to identify the criminals – whether state or non-state – compile the necessary evidence and bring the perpetrators to justice. This would reinforce international law and do far more to deter further uses and promote political solutions than the airstrikes that are being demanded by gung ho advocates in the US, UK and France.</p><p>Syria’s arguments for retaining its chemical arsenal uncomfortably echo British government arguments for replacing Trident and refusing to join multilateral efforts to eliminate nuclear weapons. David Cameron’s public pronouncements on the Syrian gas attacks have veered between sanctimoniously claiming that US-UK military actions are required to “punish” Bashar al-Assad’s government and pontificating that military strikes will “deter” future chemical weapons use. How is this supposed to work? Who do they plan to target? The US and UK claim (but haven’t produced) evidence that the Assad regime is responsible for crossing the “red line” that President Obama set two years ago. Assad’s spokespeople point the finger at opposition groups, arguing that the red-line threat provided unscrupulous terrorists with the incentive to stage a chemical attack to bring the US military into the war. We don’t yet know for certain what was used and who ordered and carried out this crime against humanity. For that reason alone the rush to military action is wrong-headed. But let’s look more closely at why some group or faction in the Syrian war apparently thought that using chemical weapons would bring military or strategic gains. The perpetrators – on behalf of the government or the opposition – were certainly not deterred by red lines or military threats; these may even have backfired and provided unintended motivations for gassing thousands of civilians, including children who had been asleep in their beds.</p><p>If given adequate time and access, the UN inspectors should be able to ascertain whether chemical weapons were used, and whether these were consistent with what is known of Syria’s existing stockpile, or if the horrifying scenes had been caused by cruder “home-made” weapons. Why, then are our governments pushing for military action before the UN evidence has been properly gathered and assessed, repeating the mistakes they made with Iraq in 2003? </p><p><span>We can stop them from bombing Syria, but it will take more effective civil society and political pressure in our countries and from the rest of the world. If chemical weapons have been used, the international community must act. The key issue is how, and with what objectives?</span></p><p><span>&nbsp;</span><span>The desire to “do something” can best be answered through international law, not more weapons. The CWC is the legal basis for the UN being able to send inspectors to investigate the poison gas attacks, and it is also the basis for the legal recognition that using chemical weapons is a war crime and a crime against humanity. The CWC entered into force in 1997 and has over 185 States Parties. It prohibits a state from using chemical weapons or engaging in military preparations to use such weapons. It makes it illegal for governments to “develop, produce, otherwise acquire, stockpile, or retain chemical weapons, or transfer, directly or indirectly, chemical weapons to anyone”, and also extends to making it illegal to promote or assist in any prohibited action, whether perpetrated by individuals, groups, or another State.</span></p><p>Though Syria has refused to sign it, the CWC’s universal ban on the production, use and stockpiling of chemical weapons is applicable because it has become an integral part of international law. This does not provide justification for retaliation or punishment bombings from Western governments; it provides the basis for a process to identify the perpetrators and their suppliers and bring them to justice. Bombing would “punish” innocent Syrian civilians. A well-enacted judicial process will punish only those actually responsible for these crimes against humanity.</p><p>Treaties cannot prevent every possible violation, as the Syrian case shows, but they have a very important role in delegitimising the weapons, minimising their numbers and availability, and providing legal tools for dealing with perpetrators and preventing future uses. Before the CWC there were large stockpiles of chemical weapons in over 20 states. The CWC built a strong disarmament regime and stopped chemical weaponry being treated as a deterrent or currency of power. All the major stocks have been or are in the process of being eliminated. Abhorrent as it was, the Syrian attacks should not be portrayed as a failure of the CWC, but as an aberration that proves the treaty’s worth. If Syria had joined the CWC it would have destroyed its chemical weapon stocks. That wouldn’t have prevented the current war, but it would have greatly reduced access, motivation and incentive for using chemical weapons, since by no stretch of strategic imagination could they be thought to bring military advantage.</p><p>Efforts to rid the Middle East of all WMD have been impeded by US, UK and French policies with regard to their own and Israel’s nuclear weapons, which have fed into Syrian narratives justifying its chemical arsenal. The US also has to take some responsibility for inadvertently elevating the importance of Syria’s chemical weapons with its inept deterrent strategy of declaring that it would get involved in the war if that red line were crossed. These governments – along with Russia and others – must also bear some responsibility for equipping Syria – and most other unsavoury regimes – with far too many weapons systems in the past, including precursors and delivery equipment for chemical arms. During the Cold War and in the 25 years since, these countries have started wars and become embroiled in others’ conflicts through the hubristic arrogance of weak and ideological leaders, degrading their own nations’ security (and economies) as a result. David Cameron’s speech in the House of Commons evokes Tony Blair’s mistakes, but clearly hasn’t learned the lessons. Barack Obama wanted to change America’s role and reputation, but will be vilified alongside George W. Bush if he now compounds the chemical weapons crime with bloody strikes of his own.</p><p>Even if the chemical weapons users were identified with irrefutable certainty, punishment attacks are <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/nathan-gardels/hans-blix-the-united-stat_b_3819367.html?utm_hp_ref=tw">contrary to</a> international law; and since the red line threat didn’t deter, what makes anyone imagine that Western military strikes will do a better job? With or without the fog of war, the complexities of international relations ensure that operations and communications intended to deter all too often miss their mark. So do weapons. &nbsp;Yet militarism has become so ingrained in patriarchal politics, that no matter how often it fails, this is still the male primate response when called on to “do something”. Airstrikes would only make things worse for the Syrian people. It’s time to try something different.</p><p>The Syrian war has not arisen overnight or in a vacuum. From chemical weapons to rocket launchers, the killing on both sides is carried out with armaments designed and produced by the “defence industries” of Cold Warriors, spread through arms sales. Whether on behalf of Assad or the opposition groups, the weapons in Syria are overwhelmingly wielded by men in defence or pursuit of institutions and religions that systematically oppress the female half of their societies and violate the security, rights and opportunities of women and girls. As the drumbeats of war keep sounding, a growing web of women peacemakers, feminist scholars and nonviolent activists are seeking alternative ways to prevent and address <a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/jennifer-allsopp/peacebuilding-and-nation-state-towards-nonviolent-world">patriarchy’s wars</a>.</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="https://dy1m18dp41gup.cloudfront.net/cdn/farfuture/lIZiQpIXc_L4QM77HZbOnBRq5bVz9PTnBHOPlqGj-yA/mtime:1406428755/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/541754/Nobel%20women%20at%20AWEFeb2010.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=": Nobel Peace Women blockade AWE Aldermaston photocredit: R Johnson 2010"><img src="https://dy1m18dp41gup.cloudfront.net/cdn/farfuture/rkPjC2WL01mVkNaKG9UCToATp7GyyfwxD0kV_Cnh2sY/mtime:1406428681/files/imagecache/article_large/wysiwyg_imageupload/541754/Nobel%20women%20at%20AWEFeb2010.jpg" alt="Nobel Peace Women blockade AWE Aldermaston. Photo: R Johnson 2010" title=": Nobel Peace Women blockade AWE Aldermaston photocredit: R Johnson 2010" width="400" height="300" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_large" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Nobel Peace Women blockade AWE Aldermaston. Photo: R Johnson 2010</span></span></span></p><p>The Nobel Women’s Initiative recently convened an international conference in Belfast on <a href="http://nobelwomensinitiative.org/2013/05/announcing-moving-beyond-militarism-war-an-international-conference/?ref=18">Moving beyond militarism and war: Women-driven solutions for a nonviolent world</a>.&nbsp;Learning through discussions with activists from Africa, Latin America, Europe, Asia-Pacific, North America and the Middle East, the conference ranged from international campaigns to stop arms sales and the development of endless weapons (with specific focus on banning nuclear weapons, drones and killer robots), to local women-led campaigns to protect our environment and build community action to halt armed conflict and sexual violence perpetrated in warzones, workplaces and homes. Though this was just a small sample of the women campaigning for peace, justice and human rights around the world, it was extraordinary to realise how many of us have faced violence, rape, legal threats and actions – and carried on, more determined than ever. It was also inspiring to learn from each other and participate in the sharing of stories and ideas, the solidarity actions planned and friendship networks we forged.</p><p>Women are making changes all over the world, but we haven’t yet realised the rights, laws and powers we need to prevent the warmongers attacking sleeping families with poison gas or cruise missiles. We can do this only if women lead the way to build stronger, more diverse civil society movements underpinned by <a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/shirin-ebadi/framework-of-democracy-is-human-rights-law">democratic decision-making, human rights</a>, humanitarian laws and disarmament. These debates were taken forward this month when activists from the global <a href="http://www.womeninblack.org/en/vigil">“Women in Black”</a> networks met in Uruguay to bring together women who have been putting feminist peace ideals into practical nonviolent actions to oppose oppression, violence against women and war. Across Latin America, the Middle East and Africa, women are demanding full inclusion in democratic change and reasserting their rights to participate fully in all aspects of education, political and social life without being subject to sexual violence.</p><p>As <a href="http://www.womeninblack.org/en/London">Women in Black in London</a> continues into its 20th year of weekly vigils around the Edith Cavell statue near Trafalgar Square, some women also joined grassroots activists who converged on Britain’s Atomic Weapons Establishment (AWE) Burghfield in Berkshire, for two weeks of nonviolent opposition to Trident replacement. The <a href="http://tridentploughshares.org/awe-burghfield-summer-disarmament-camp-2013/">Burghfield Disarmament Camp</a> has been threatened with legal action, but intends to go ahead with its nonviolent blockade of the nuclear bomb factory on 2 September.</p><p>This latest environmental protest is organised by <a href="http://tridentploughshares.org/awe-burghfield-summer-disarmament-camp-2013/">Trident Ploughshares</a> and <a href="http://actionawe.org/">Action AWE</a> to focus public and political attention on the need to prevent billions of pounds being wasted on Trident replacement when the UK should be joining the rest of the world to ban all nuclear weapons. The Burghfield Disarmament Camp followed a week of actions coordinated by the <a href="http://www.icanw.org/">International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN)</a> actions at the <a href="http://www.aldermaston.net/">Aldermaston Women’s Peace Camp</a> in July and a civil society peace camp this August at the <a href="http://graswurzel.tv/p234.html">Büchel airbase</a>, where US tactical nuclear weapons are still deployed as part of NATO’s nuclear planning. Organised by civil society activists including the German affiliates of the International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War (IPPNW), Greenpeace and others, the nonviolent protests included a 24-hour “musical” blockade in which a variety of musicians, health and humanitarian workers, bikers and other self-identified affinity groups peacefully kept the military gates closed for a day and a night.</p><p>Though most of these campaigns are mixed, women are in the forefront of the new approaches and nonviolent activism.&nbsp; Our gendered analysis shows that the only long term, sustainable way to deter and prevent the use of inhumane weapons is through building up international law and human rights, not selling and launching more weapons. Militarism has failed to bring peace and security time and time again. If you want security without chemical and nuclear weapons, women and peace activists are pointing the way.</p><p>&nbsp;</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/rebecca-johnson/new-nuclear-weapons-for-uk-challenge-labour-can%E2%80%99t-dodge">New nuclear weapons for the UK: a challenge Labour can’t dodge</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/rebecca-johnson/pro-nuclear-propaganda-in-1983-lessons-for-2013">Pro-nuclear propaganda in 1983: lessons for 2013</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/rebecca-johnson/trident-alternatives-review-elephant-in-room">Trident Alternatives Review: the elephant in the room </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/amina-mama/challenging-militarized-masculinities">Challenging militarized masculinities</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/jennifer-allsopp/peacebuilding-and-nation-state-towards-nonviolent-world">Peacebuilding and the nation-state: towards a nonviolent world</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/heather-mcrobie/what-sex-means-for-world-peace">What sex means for world peace</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/scilla-elworthy/beyond-war-women-transforming-militarism-building-nonviolent-world">Beyond war: women transforming militarism, building a nonviolent world</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/isabel-hilton/peacework-lessons-we-have-failed-to-learn">Peacework: lessons we have failed to learn</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/cynthia-cockburn/peace-movements-violence-reduction-as-common-sense">Peace movements: violence reduction as common sense</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/cynthia-cockburn/getting-to-peace-what-kind-of-movement">Getting to peace: what kind of movement?</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/leymah-gbowee/leymah-gbowee-five-words-for-men-of-libya">Leymah Gbowee: five words for the men of Libya</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/blog/nobel-womens-initiative-2009/isabel-hilton-unknown-com/2009/05/12/the-neglected-story-of-war">The neglected story of war</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/ruth-rosen/women-and-language-of-peace-protest">Women and the language of peace protest</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/celine-nahory/japans-peace-pledge-under-attack">Japan&#039;s peace pledge under attack</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/shirin-ebadi/framework-of-democracy-is-human-rights-law">The framework of democracy is human rights law</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/ann-wright/i-protest-challenging-war-policies-of-united-states">&quot;I protest&quot;: challenging the war policies of the United States</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/shirin-ebadi/meaning-of-peace-in-21st-century">The meaning of peace in the 21st century</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/deniz-kandiyoti/fear-and-fury-women-and-post-revolutionary-violence">Fear and fury: women and post-revolutionary violence</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/cynthia-cockburn/what-kind-of-feminism-does-war-provoke">What kind of feminism does war provoke?</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> 50.50 50.50 conflicts wmd: proliferation & verification witnessing conflict the middle east non-violent action 50.50 Peacework & Human Security Continuum of Violence Towards Nuclear Non-proliferation 50.50 Contesting Patriarchy 50.50 Editor's Pick women's movements women and militarism 50.50 newsletter Rebecca Johnson Fri, 30 Aug 2013 08:10:39 +0000 Rebecca Johnson 75042 at https://opendemocracy.net State-building vs intervention, or how not to help https://opendemocracy.net/mohammad-mahmoud-ould-mohamedou/state-building-vs-intervention-or-how-not-to-help <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Together, distorted understanding and flawed policy have compounded the problems of weak states in the global south. A different approach to state-building is needed, says Mohammad-Mahmoud Ould Mohamedou</p> </div> </div> </div> <div><div class="im"> <p>The most insightful intellectual or literary works can always cast valuable light on a world in movement. Just as Edward Said’s <em>Orientalism</em> is revealing of persistent dystrophies in coverage of the Muslim regions in the wake of the Arab uprisings, Chinua Achebe's trilogy (<em>Things Fall Apart</em>, <em>No Longer at Ease</em>, <em>The Arrow of God</em>) remains crucial to understanding the socio-political dynamics of post-colonial Africa. Even after many narratives of social transformation in the global south, even the articulation of many yearnings for democracy, the work of the Palestinian <a href="http://www.columbia.edu/cu/palestine/resources/edwardsaid.html">scholar</a> and the Nigerian <a href="http://brown.edu/Departments/Africana_Studies/people/achebe_chinua.html">novelist</a> highlight anew an enduring reality: the inability of the state in the Arab world and sub-Saharan Africa to achieve normality in its relationship with its own society and with the world at large. </p></div><p>These writers' imaginative perspectives may <span><span></span></span>at times even be a <strong>more penetrating</strong> guide to understanding this reality than dominant social-scientific frameworks such as "terrorism", ‘the Arab spring", the "crisis in the Sahel", or "armed rebellion in central Africa". The latter tend to generate prisms that oscillate between ahistorical and excessively optimistic narratives of overnight rupture (e.g., "the Arab world will never be the same") and paternalistic fatalism about the inevitability of <a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/conflict-terrorism/asymmetry_4195.jsp">conflict</a> in traditional societies (e.g., "Africa's political units, not drawn on the nation-state model, are artificial entities"). When dynamic, complex events begin to unfold in these "trouble-spots", the effect of such arguments both is to encourage interventionism and public fatigue towards them, neither of which proves conducive to the thing they need most: state-building.</p><div class="im"><p><strong>The normalising of intervention</strong></p><p>The unceasing conflict in Africa, and near-permanent social strife in large parts of the Arab world, can all too easily be depicted as inevitable - as if the "Arab spring" was always destined to turn into a "winter", and rebellions were endemic to African political culture. The problem with this "naturalising" assumption is that reordering these states and societies then becomes a proper, indeed legitimate way of defusing “threats to international peace and security” (as United Nations Security Council phraseology would have it). In turn this entails a sort of stealthy recodification of&nbsp; the grammar of international relations, as the successive post-cold war, post-9/11 and post-Arab spring worlds are repackaged as the ground for a new alarmism.&nbsp; </p><p>The language of "weak", "failing" (or "failed"), "collapsed", "fragile" and "unstable" states began to emerge with some insistence in the wake of the cold war (Robert Kaplan's <a href="http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/1994/02/the-coming-anarchy/304670/">warning</a> in 1994 of a "coming anarchy" was typical). In the 1990s, though, the development of these states was understood through a relatively benign outlook that stressed human rights, good governance and political liberalisation, whereas in the 2000s a newfound emphasis on security reoriented the discourse towards control, order and discipline. A telling indicator of is the transition from Gerald B Helman and Steven R Ratner’s 1992 article “<a href="http://www.foreignpolicy.com/articles/2010/06/21/saving_failed_states">Saving Failed States</a>”, based on democratic purposes, and Seth Kaplan’s 2008 book <a href="http://www.developmentinpractice.org/reviews/fixing-fragile-states-new-paradigm-development"><em>Fixing Fragile States</em></a>, focusing on neutralising security threats. The road travelled can also be charted in some eleven interventions in twenty-one years: Somalia 1992 (United States), Rwanda 1994 (France), Haiti 1994 (US), East Timor 1999 (Australia), Yugoslavia 1999 (Nato), Afghanistan 2001 (US/UK), Iraq 2003 (US/UK), Ivory Coast 2004 and 2011 (France), Libya 2011 (Nato) and Mali 2013 (France).</p><p>The effect of these shifting international priorities over two decades was all too often to compound the existing institutional weakness of states without any necessary improvement in legitimacy, as their alignment with exogenous priorities took priority over indigenous requirements. This pattern suggests that compelling certain states to adopt ideals assigned to them from outside (whether democracy or security) ultimately serves to lead them into weakness. </p><p>In fact, though, there is nothing inevitable about the vulnerabilities of any state, much less of those states that are still writing their own development processes. Their conditions are fundamentally products of history and, as such, can be remedied. When states are described as weak, failed, or unstable, there are reasons for such pathologies, factors that have produced these conditions. Yet too often, such weakness is construed in a deterministic way as if it was merely a matter of performance, and of internal, domestic matters alone. This conveniently removes key elements such as the cumulative weight of history, the sedimentation of different regimes and experiences, and the regional and international contingencies in which these states exist.</p><p>To the extent that the state is an abstract, continuous, survival-seeking, resource-gathering entity, and policy is the process that follows from its very existence, it follows that state-building is a political activity. Hence, there is an important difference between state-building as an internal mission (even when assisted from abroad) and external state-building resulting from intervention (even when triggered by a "<a href="http://www.responsibilitytoprotect.org/index.php/about-rtop">responsibility to protect</a>"). The difference lies in the nature of the order built and the ability of that construct to stay the course. The contrast between the democratic state that the United States sought to build in Iraq and the authoritarian Ba’athist state it overthrew is but one ironic example.</p><p>If failed domestic <a href="http://www.tandfonline.com/toc/risb20/current#.UdNnC3f5na4">state-building</a> is often the product of authoritarianism or corruption, external state-building is equally too often close to a colonial exercise. If coercion rarely, if ever, achieves legitimate order, this has implications for the type of state-building discourse and practice that has developed of late. Indeed, in the mid-2000s there was even a rehabilitation of the discourse of empire among some <a href="http://www.penguin.com.au/products/9780141037318/empire-how-britain-made-modern-world-popular-penguins" target="_blank">scholarship</a> and journalism, whose corollary is the call for muscular, "disciplining" approaches to failed states. The subtext to this revived approach is a form of impatience with longer-term domestic liberalisation processes, or even humanitarianism itself; these, it was argued, did not work during its heyday a decade ago, and in the new period of security urgency is a form of luxury. </p><p><strong>The misuse of state-building</strong></p></div><p>The larger process can be understood as a move<strong> </strong>from seeing the failure of weak southern states as a problem to them (which they needed help to overcome) to seeing their failure as a problem to others (for they threaten the security of the metropolis). State-building then becomes no longer solely the sovereign exercise of developing states in pursuit of their development&nbsp; but also an external aim to ensure that the states built conform to others' security needs. Accordingly, one group can demand that the other fights, combats, defeats (the phraseology is always martial) particular threats or be adamant that elections be held at specific times (France's president, Francois Hollande, <a href="http://www.franceonu.org/france-at-the-united-nations/geographic-files/africa/mali-1202/article/mali">declared</a> on <span class="aBn"><span class="aQJ">27 March</span></span> that he would be “intractable” about Mali’s ballot being held in July 2013).</p><div class="im"><p>The obstacles to the development of southern countries are often located in the absence of&nbsp; so-called organisational traditions, in post-colonial pathologies that a stronger central administration would have fixed, or in weak governance that gives rise to proliferating transnational threats. These allow a revealing correlation between domestic <a href="https://www.polity.co.uk/book.asp?ref=9780745661582">fragility</a> and international security that can be remedied through imposed transformation. But all this omits an important component of the equation, namely the continuity and indeed mutation of inherited conflict in many countries in sub-Saharan Africa and the middle east, which has have had great consequences for the process of building the post-colonial states. In the end it is the cumulative <a href="http://www.amazon.com/Third-World-Security-Predicament-International/dp/1555875769" target="_blank">influence</a> of unresolved conflicts and the instrumentalisation of the resulting state-building processes (by both domestic and external actors) that account primarily for poor development performance.</p><p>Weakness is not a choice, it is a condition; one resulting from multiple contingencies. Ultimately, what provides direction and impetus to the political process is whatever shapes the building of the state. It is often that which escapes the codification of rigid legalisms that enables successful state-building, namely a sense of confidence in one’s future&nbsp; -&nbsp; the subject of those very allegories which Chinua Achebe and Edward Said depict. So, it would seem that a more viable avenue resides in state-building not as an assertion of faith or obfuscating ideology but as a bona fide project organised around the primacy of local preoccupations. State-building would then be not a process of dissemination requiring the imprimatur of powerful states or international organisations but one of legitimised, contextualised and lasting construction.</p> </div></div><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-read-on"> <div class="field-label"> 'Read On' Sidebox:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p><a href="http://www.gcsp.ch/">Geneva Centre for Security Policy</a></p><p>Mohammad-Mahmoud Ould Mohamedou, <a href="http://us.macmillan.com/understandingalqaeda-1/MohammadMahmoudOuldMohamedou"><em>Understanding Al Qaeda - Changing War and Global Conflict </em></a>(2011)</p><p><a href="http://www.tandfonline.com/toc/risb20/current#.UdNnC3f5na4"><em>Journal of Intervention and State-building</em></a></p><p>Mohammad-Mahmoud Ould Mohamedou, "<a href="http://www.gcsp.ch/Regional-Capacity-Development/Middle-East-North-Africa/Publications/GCSP-Publications/Policy-Papers/The-Many-Faces-of-Al-Qaeda-in-the-Islamic-Maghreb">The Many Faces of Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb</a>" (GCSP, 2011) </p><p>Jussi M Hanhimäki &amp; Bernhard Blumenau eds., <a href="http://www.routledge.com/books/details/9780415635417/"><em>An International History of Terrorism&nbsp; Western and Non-Western Experiences</em></a>&nbsp; (Routledge, 2013) </p> </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-sidebox"> <div class="field-label"> Sidebox:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Mohammad-Mahmoud Ould Mohamedou heads the Regional Development Programme at the <a href="http://www.gcsp.ch/">Geneva Centre for Security Policy</a> and <a href="http://graduateinstitute.ch/faculty/directory/ould-mohamedou">teaches</a> at the Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies. He is the author of <a href="http://us.macmillan.com/understandingalqaeda-1/MohammadMahmoudOuldMohamedou"><em>Understanding Al Qaeda - Changing War and Global Conflict </em></a>(Pluto, 2nd edition, 2011) and <a href="http://www.editions-harmattan.fr/index.asp?navig=catalogue&amp;obj=livre&amp;no=34482"><em>Contre-Croisade - Le 11 Septembre et le Retournement du Monde</em></a> (Harmattan, 2011), and a contributor to Jussi M Hanhimäki &amp; Bernhard Blumenau eds., <a href="http://www.routledge.com/books/details/9780415635417/"><em>An International History of Terrorism&nbsp; Western and Non-Western Experiences</em></a>&nbsp; (Routledge, 2013) </p> </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/article/towards_the_real_al_qaida">Towards the real al-Qaida</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/mohammad-mahmoud-ould-mohamedou/aqim-maghreb-to-mali-and-back">AQIM: Maghreb to Mali, and back</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Conflict </div> <div class="field-item even"> Democracy and government </div> <div class="field-item odd"> International politics </div> </div> </div> openSecurity Conflict Democracy and government International politics middle east africa conflicts Mohammad-Mahmoud Ould Mohamedou Peacebuilding from a southern perspective Security in Sub-Saharan Africa Peacebuilding Structural Insecurity Tue, 02 Jul 2013 11:27:40 +0000 Mohammad-Mahmoud Ould Mohamedou 73740 at https://opendemocracy.net Young Afghans in the UK: deportations in the dead of night to a war-zone https://opendemocracy.net/5050/lisa-matthews/young-afghans-in-uk-deportations-in-dead-of-night-to-war-zone <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Each year around 400 children forced by war to leave their families and homes in Afghanistan seek sanctuary in the UK. Lisa Matthews writes for Young People Seeking Safety Week on the young adults who, having rebuilt their lives, are now at threat of return.&nbsp;</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><em>‘You want to send me back to a country that does not know me, to a country that will hurt me. I only know my life now. Nothing else. In Afghanistan they are not in life. That's not life.&nbsp;</em><em>I have no family. I have no home. My life was torn apart. I was a child when I came here. I am not an adult now. Oh, these are not the answers you wanted? What more can I say? I want a bright life. More than this.'</em></p><p>These are the words of Asef, the young Afghan protagonist in a new play called <a href="http://mazloom.org.uk/">Mazloom</a>. Mazloom is a portrait of a young asylum seeker, alone in London, whose life is being torn apart by the impending prospect of deportation to Afghanistan, where <a href="http://www.rawa.org/temp/runews/2013/06/11/un-more-than-3-000-afghan-civilians-killed-and-wounded-in-the-first-five-months-one-fifth-of-them-children.html">indiscriminate violence</a> and <a href="http://www.amnesty.eu/content/assets/EASO_COI_Report_.pdf">Taliban intimidation</a> await.</p><p>Each year around 400 children are <a href="http://vimeo.com/51818334">forced by war</a> to <a href="http://ncadc.org.uk/campaigns/afghanistan/">leave their family and home</a> in Afghanistan to seek safety in the UK. Mazloom draws on <a href="http://vimeo.com/51818334">original testimony</a> to explore the experiences of those who, having arrived as children and spent several years in the UK, are now at risk of deportation. The script was written by Sara Masters, after working with young people who attend <a href="http://www.asylumwelcome.org.uk/">Merton and Wandsworth Asylum Welcome</a>, and directed by Kieran Sheehan for several shows around London last year.&nbsp;</p><p><span>This year, Mazloom is being taken on tour to six cities around the UK by the National Coalition of Anti-Deportation Campaigns (</span><a href="http://ncadc.org.uk/">NCADC</a><span>) and film-maker Sue Clayton as part of </span><a href="http://youngpeopleseekingsafety.org.uk/ypss-week/index.html">Young People Seeking Safety Week</a><span>, which begins on 24 June.&nbsp;</span><span>Young People Seeking Safety Week, which is organised by the national<span>&nbsp;</span></span><a href="http://youngpeopleseekingsafety.org.uk/ypss-week/index.html"><span>YPSS network</span></a><span>, aims to bring positive attention to the issues of young asylum seekers; to encourage conversation and action across the nation; to provide a platform for young people to share their experiences and express their concerns; and to act as a showcase for the talents, creativity and diversity of young people seeking safety and those that support them.</span></p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="https://dy1m18dp41gup.cloudfront.net/cdn/farfuture/yrhNyl9n4p8EQszi62hk5hZJoQ_43CI6f8oFkrtT3DM/mtime:1406100189/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/541754/mazloom-04_4.JPG" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title="Mazloom. Photo: Themba Lewis"><img src="https://dy1m18dp41gup.cloudfront.net/cdn/farfuture/tztm8bns03mJo756gy7WMP_VBnNI1RTVdAiHndFxbvo/mtime:1406100187/files/imagecache/article_medium/wysiwyg_imageupload/541754/mazloom-04_4.JPG" alt="Mazloom. Photo: Themba Lewis" title="Mazloom. Photo: Themba Lewis" width="240" height="240" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_medium" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Mazloom. Photo: Themba Lewis</span></span></span></p><p><strong>Lives shattered simply by turning 18</strong></p><p>Several audience members at a public rehearsal of Mazloom have looked after young people in a situation not dissimilar to that of Asef. They spoke of the cruelty of lives shattered <a href="http://youngpeopleseekingsafety.org.uk/issues/index.html">simply by turning 18</a>.</p><p>If a young person's asylum claim has been refused but there are not adequate '<a href="http://www.childrenslegalcentre.com/userfiles/file/limited_leave_unaccompanied_children_04_13.pdf">reception arrangements</a>' allowing them to be returned to their home country, they are given a short period of leave to remain in the UK and are usually looked after by foster carers or social services. These young people have been sent from their homes (sometimes as young as twelve and thirteen, <a href="http://www.cbsnews.com/8301-18560_162-57585141/afghan-children-on-a-long-and-perilous-journey/">or even younger</a>) by their families for <a href="http://www.childrenslegalcentre.com/index.php?page=separated_unaccompanied_asylum_seeking_children">their own safety</a>. Many have made <a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/elizabeth-kennedy/through-hell-to-limbo-in-lorry">perilous journeys</a> lasting months and even years to reach the 'sanctuary' of the UK. They are then faced with a hostile asylum system, and find themselves <a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/kamena-dorling/lost-childhoods-age-disputes-in-uk-asylum-system">disbelieved</a> about their age, about their past, about the dangers they have been through.</p><p>Alone in the UK, unaccompanied asylum seekers <a href="http://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/health-and-families/features/fostering-asylum-seekers-their-past-is-a-foreign-country-6279382.html">often forge very strong bonds</a> with their foster carers. They become their new family with whom they can start to heal and attempt to move on from the dangers in their country of origin, the traumas of the journey and the separation from home, family, friends and all that they know.</p><p>Once they are 18, all of this protection is taken away from them; they are at risk of <a href="http://migrantforum.org.uk/safeguarding-refugee-youth-report/">detention, deportation and destitution</a>. Having lost so much already, they now face losing their new homes and families too. As the British family of 'Josh', a young man from Iraq who last year finally won his battle to stay in the UK, <a href="http://ncadc.org.uk/campaigns/afghanistan/">said</a>: ‘Having to fight to keep our family with us, this just doesn’t seem fair. Our son needs his family and we need him. The threat to remove our son would rip the hearts out of us as a family, as it would do by removing any child from their home.’</p><p><strong>What awaits in Afghanistan</strong></p><p>Mazloom gives us glimpses of what has been left behind, what has been overcome, and what once more may be lost. We start to think about what is next for Asef, what he may be forcibly returned to.</p><p>Many people in the UK may be vaguely aware that Afghanistan is not safe. We hear occasional news reports of the odd explosion. But what we don’t hear about are the weekly reports of <a href="http://ncadc.org.uk/coi/category/afghanistan/">terrible bomb attacks</a> killing civilians. Added to this, incomprehensible numbers of Afghans are internally displaced – <a href="http://www.unhcr.org/cgi-bin/texis/vtx/page?page=49e486eb6">UNHCR</a> estimates that in mid-2012 there were some 425,000 internally displaced people in Afghanistan. <a href="http://ncadc.org.uk/campaigns/afghanistan/">Many more die</a> during the harsh winters, or live in <a href="http://www.amnesty.org/en/library/info/ASA11/001/2012/en">terrible conditions in the slums</a> in Kabul and other cities.</p><p>Children and young people are <a href="///C:/Users/Jenny/Desktop/v">most at risk</a>, particularly those who have lived for much of their life outside of Afghanistan and may be singled out as targets upon return. Asef is just one of them.</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="https://dy1m18dp41gup.cloudfront.net/cdn/farfuture/KoNm5x8fcG3fF30BGu2hSHbTk7Hr5jLnetd4LaAyANM/mtime:1406100189/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/541754/mazloom-110_0.JPG" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title="Mazloom. Photo: Themba Lewis"><img src="https://dy1m18dp41gup.cloudfront.net/cdn/farfuture/Q6eohiMUccIDdPp4zZ37GWjOBkgIdNwwPOIndIPFmxE/mtime:1406100187/files/imagecache/article_medium/wysiwyg_imageupload/541754/mazloom-110_0.JPG" alt="Mazloom. Photo: Themba Lewis" title="Mazloom. Photo: Themba Lewis" width="240" height="240" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_medium" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Mazloom. Photo: Themba Lewis</span></span></span></p><p><strong>A movement to stop deportations to Afghanistan</strong></p><p>Very few people know about the <a href="http://stopdeportations.wordpress.com/about-charter-flights/">'ghost' charter flights</a> which remove dozens of young Afghans against their will every month. These flights leave in the middle of the night from unspecified airports, operated by unnamed companies. <a href="http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/ld201213/ldhansrd/text/130423w0001.htm#wa_st_28">Over 5,000 people</a> refused asylum seekers have been returned to Afghanistan in this way since charter flights there began in 2004.</p><p>We can try and imagine what this reality feels like for the hundreds of young Afghans in Asef’s position, but it's too much.</p> <p>We may also ask, how can the UK be <a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/jerome-phelps/is-there-alternative-to-locking-up-migrants-in-uk">locking up young people</a>, then forcing them onto secret flights in the dead of night, to deport them to a war-zone?</p><p>The weight of that injustice can sometimes feel overwhelming, but individuals’ stories can continue to inspire us to speak truth to power and to be a megaphone for the young people directly experiencing this truth.</p><p>The concerns expressed by many young Afghans who my colleagues and I work with &nbsp;- that the asylum system is not protecting those in need, that children are being disbelieved and inadequately supported, and that young people are being returned to an unsafe country - are already echoed by the twenty-six members of the Young People Seeking Safety network. Human rights groups across the world, including <a href="http://www.amnesty.org.au/news/comments/31316/">Amnesty International</a>, have also warned of the risks of deporting refused Afghan asylum seekers. The <a href="http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/2010/jun/07/child-asylum-seekers-uk-afghanistan">proposed project</a> to deport even younger children – aged 16 and 17 – under a European project called ERPUM – has provoked particularly widespread condemnation from groups such as <a href="http://www.hrw.org/news/2012/02/10/children-deported-kabul-will-face-horrible-risks">Human Rights Watch</a>.</p><p>Ordinary members of the public are speaking out too. During 2012, NCADC was regularly contacted by concerned teachers, foster carers, social workers, friends and community members who knew young Afghans at risk of deportation and were appalled that these young people were facing forced removal to a country in which such violence persists. In response to this, NCADC organised a public meeting in June 2012 to give people an opportunity to express these concerns and build a plan of action. From this meeting, a <a href="http://ncadc.org.uk/campaigns/afghanistan/">Stop Deportations to Afghanistan campaign</a> was formed.</p><p><strong>From the individual to the universal</strong></p><p>As Jennifer Allsopp has <a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/jennifer-allsopp/anti-deportation-campaigns-%E2%80%98what-kind-of-country-do-you-want-this-to-be%E2%80%99">argued</a> in these pages, ‘Anti-deportation campaigns are a crucial expression of human solidarity, and most importantly, an essential device for holding states to account.’ The campaigns are about <em>individuals</em>, the human stories that break down seemingly intractable political issues. Mazloom is one of these stories. Hamish Jenkinson, director of the <a href="http://oldvictunnels.com/">Old Vic Tunnels</a> London theatre, has described it as ‘a tender and honest piece of the human story behind an issue that is so often reduced to statistics and political manifesto soundbites’.</p><p>Theatre has the power to move you for a moment and for a life-time; to tell you one person's story that is an ‘all of ours’ story. Both theatre and campaigning are about voices, heard from a stage.</p><p>Even those of us who have seen the play several times, upon watching it again, become once more angered and saddened; outraged and inspired. In the play, Asef also switches between these emotions – one moment a child, talking about his love of cricket and avoiding the ominous letter than has arrived through the post; the next, an angry young man, fed-up of being treated like luggage and having his rebuilt life and his hopes for the future taken away from him.</p><p>In the context of an asylum system that attempts to silence the asylum-seeker; dispersal and enforcement policies that seek to divide 'us' from 'them'; and much public and political rhetoric that portrays immigrants as undifferentiated, threatening mass, Asef's words reach out to us, reminding us that he is just a young guy, feeling how we would feel, urging us to hear him and to do something.</p><p><em>Mazloom</em><em> is on tour from 25 June and will be coming to Newcastle, Canterbury, Leicester and Brighton. It will then travel to Glasgow in September 2013. You can join the Stop Deportations to Afghanistan <a href="https://www.facebook.com/groups/441263672572180/?ref=ts&amp;fref=ts">group</a> on Facebook and consult the <a href="http://youngpeopleseekingsafety.org.uk/about/network.html">website</a> to find out more about your local Young People Seeking Safety group.&nbsp;</em></p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/zubair-gharghasht/afghan-voice-radio-frontline-of-%E2%80%98new%E2%80%99-afghanistan">Afghan Voice Radio: The frontline of a ‘new’ Afghanistan</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/nikandre-kopcke/anti-immigrant-sentiment-time-to-talk-about-gender">Anti-immigrant sentiment: time to talk about gender?</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/sarah-campbell/uk-immigration-control-children-in-extreme-distress">UK immigration control: children in extreme distress</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/nando-sigona/uk-migration-policy-we-need-to-talk-about-citizens">UK migration policy: we need to talk about citizens</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/elizabeth-kennedy/through-hell-to-limbo-in-lorry">Through hell to limbo in a lorry </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/jerome-phelps/is-there-alternative-to-locking-up-migrants-in-uk">Is there an alternative to locking up migrants in the UK?</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/lorena-cotza/who-does-this-world-belong-to-unaccompanied-immigrant-children-in-italy">&quot;Who does this world belong to?&quot; - unaccompanied immigrant children in Italy</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/nath-gbikpi/deconstructing-detention-in-britain">Deconstructing detention in Britain</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/jennifer-allsopp/anti-deportation-campaigns-%E2%80%98what-kind-of-country-do-you-want-this-to-be%E2%80%99">Anti-deportation campaigns: ‘What kind of country do you want this to be?’ </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/kamena-dorling/lost-childhoods-age-disputes-in-uk-asylum-system">Lost childhoods: age disputes in the UK asylum system </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"> England </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-city"> <div class="field-label">City:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Kabul; London; </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Civil society </div> <div class="field-item even"> Conflict </div> </div> </div> 50.50 50.50 openSecurity Kabul; London; England Civil society Conflict europe conflicts witnessing conflict young global artists the politics of protest landscape & identity justice? human rights global politics 50.50 People on the Move 50.50 Editor's Pick 50.50 newsletter Lisa Matthews Mon, 24 Jun 2013 09:03:33 +0000 Lisa Matthews 73517 at https://opendemocracy.net "We want peace. We’re tired of war" https://opendemocracy.net/5050/julienne-lusenge-jennifer-allsopp/we-want-peace-we%E2%80%99re-tired-of-war <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>"If we live violence every day, how can we work for the development of our country so that we can benefit from human rights like other countries and like other women?"&nbsp; - Julienne Lusenge speaking about her work as a women's human rights defender in the DRC</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span>Jennifer Allsopp: Julienne, could you begin by introducing yourself and telling us a bit about your work and the context in which you operate?</span></p><p><span>Julienne Lusenge: My name is Julienne Lusenge and I’m an activist for women’s rights in the DRC. We are an organisation that fights against the impunity of crimes, against war crimes in our region, and for the rights of victims of sexual violence and war.<br /></span></p><p><span>&nbsp;</span><span>For the last 16 years we’ve been living in a state of war in the east of our country. It’s a war of aggression with neighbouring countries. There are national armed groups and there are foreign groups who pillage our region. We want the armed groups to return to Uganda and Rwanda and we want our government to deal with the national groups. But many armed groups are being manipulated and impunity reigns. The war is sustained by companies of war who mercilessly exploit the resources of our country. &nbsp;</span></p> <p>Since 2002 the Congolese government has been organising a dialogue between the Congolese people. We asked the government to include all of the militias and the heads of the militias in the dialogue, but in spite of this people think that the only way that they can obtain power is through arms. When there are negotiations which involve rebel forces each person makes a rebel group and heads to the negotiations in the hope of gaining power. But we want peace. We’re tired of war. It’s women’s bodies who are used as battlefields in this war. When armed groups confront one another it’s women who pay the price. </p> <p>Thousands of women are raped with atrocious violence, children are recruited and young women are detained as sexual slaves by the armed groups. If we live violence every day, how can we work for the development of our country so that we can benefit from human rights like other countries and like other women? </p> <p>We want all of the violence to stop and we want the international community to work effectively and concretely. There are lots of resolutions that have been adopted by the UN. There are lots of accords that have been signed too. We’ve also now got a UN mission in our country. But what are all these people, all these soldiers going to do in Congo so that women feel protected when they are currently raped next to UN bases? When women are abducted from outside their bases? We want there to be more evaluation of this mission. We don’t want it to be like the Congolese army and for it to do the same thing. The brigades need to be properly trained before they are deployed, trained in respect for democratic values and democracy. They need to be properly trained to work for peace so that they don’t sit back and watch women get raped. </p> <p>JA: Can you tell me a bit about your day to day work as a peace activist? </p> <p>JL: (laughs) <em>Day to day </em>! We work all day and night. We have no rest, because each day we have women coming to us who have been attacked and raped. There are so many victims of sexual violence, so many problems of security and human rights violations that we always have victims at our door. So we have to take care of them; we have to take them to the hospital, organise counselling for the women and accompany them at each stage of the pursuit of justice. We help them to find a lawyer and then we pay the legal fees, hospital fees etc. That’s what we do, every day. </p> <p>In addition to this work we do lobbying with local authorities and the international community to denounce what is happening and to make recommendations from the perspective of the women in North Kivu and Congolese women as a whole. </p> <p>We’re always searching for the resources to do this work. Some NGOs and international NGOs who work in the DRC set up in opposition to women’s associations instead of collaborating. But we say ‘no, we know how to do it, we know how to document and report. We know how to do our work’. We are the experts in our situation and they need to let us work and give us the means to help women. We know the solutions to our problems. We know, in particular, how to fight the inequality and the customs and traditions which are still strong today. We’re trying to build the women’s movement. We’re working a lot on the situation of sexual violence today, but we also work on combating outdated traditional practices which constrain women.</p> <p>JA: Could you talk in a bit more detail about these customs and traditions and your work around that?</p> <p>JL: Today there are customs which prevent women from eating meat, drinking milk, eating eggs and speaking in front of people. There is an article in the Family Code that say that a marriage is not legitimate and cannot be legally recognised if it has not been registered by the state. So you could have lived with a man for 40 years but if he wants to throw you out and you haven’t had your marriage registered then you will have no right to contest this. This is common. We work with women to help them to talk to their husbands and ask them to register the marriage. And of course we are working to get rid of that article from the Family Code. This is the same Family Code that says that you can marry a girl who is 14 years of age, and which contains an article that says that a married woman is basically a minor. At the age of 55 today I can’t own any property. I can’t own a house, I can’t even own a dog or a car. First I have to ask my husband for permission. He can then sign to say, yes she has bought it. So we’re working to get rid of all that from our Family Code. </p> <p>JA: you spoke earlier today on a panel on women human rights defenders and, in particular, the threats that women face and strategies to protect them on the ground. Could you talk a bit about the strategies you have developed in your region? </p> <p>JL: If women speak out about what is going on in my region, if they come to public meetings and raise their hands they get called prostitutes, they are considered ‘bad’ women. There are those who talk to our husbands and try to win them round psychologically by saying, ‘hey mind your woman, why do you let her speak out and leave all the time? That’s not a wife, why don’t you get a proper wife?’ Some women lose their husband and their home because of their work. </p> <p>Then there are the women who are attacked by the armed groups and security forces because of our work accompanying victims of war. We are the ones who denounce it when women are raped, and so people come to rape us to punish us for this work. Some women are cut by machetes or knives. On 4th November 2009 a colleague of mine was completely cut by a machete. She had bullets in different parts of her body and was very badly mutilated. </p> <p>In other cases it’s the husband that they attack for not controlling you. In one case a man’s eye was very badly damaged and we had to take him to get urgent help. They were telling him, ‘tell your wife to stop bringing evidence against that war lord who has committed a lot of atrocities in the east of the country’. Your family can turn against you for putting them in danger. </p> <p>Then there are also attacks among activists. Some men in civil society say they work for human rights but they don’t; they speak out against women who are activists. So we have lots and lots of problems of insecurity in our region because of the armed groups. The government says ‘oh no, we can’t protect you because we can’t control these groups’. </p> <p>JA: Can you tell me about your experience of the Nobel Women’s Initiative conference so far and what will you be taking away with you?</p> <p>JL: With the solidarity of other women at the international level we are able to overcome many of the problems we face because when they call us, send us messages and give us very practical resources it helps us to pull through. They help to stop us falling into trauma. So these workshops which bring women together to talk and become stronger and to share resources and experiences are important. </p> <p>Here we’re obviously heard the experiences of lots of other women. The experiences of the Guatemalan women have left a particular impression on us. They are so strong, but it also touched us what they’ve said about taking the time to care for yourself and rest a bit too. We’re going to try to put some of that into practice. In spite of all the problems we have, we’re going to try to find the time to rest and to recharge. It’s also important for women who have been attacked to rest properly. </p> <p>Of course we also need resources to take home with us. We need resources so that when something happens to one of our women we can evacuate her to somewhere safe where she can live in security with her family. Women must have means of communication too. There are offices which still have no computers today and many women can’t even communicate on the phone. They don’t have credit even if they have phones. So we live and work in a situation of precariousness and that makes us insecure. When you work in a climate of insecurity you don’t know how to protect yourself, but when you have a phone you can call someone and that can help to protect you. For example we have set up an alert system; women will send text messages and then I send an email to one of our partners. So these are things we’re trying to build on. </p> <p>We’re also going to try to engage more people in our work, but that’s always hard. There are those who say, ‘it’s the work of a poor person because there’s no future’ and ‘it’s too risky’. But we want to involve young people. We also want young people to help from other countries, for them to invite our young women to countries like yours from time to time to share with them so that they can get the support and strength they need. </p><p><strong><em><a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/16-days-activism-against-gender-violence-0"></a></em></strong></p> <p><em>Jennifer Allsopp interviewed Julienne Lusenge during the </em><em>Nobel Women's Initiative conference&nbsp;<a href="http://nobelwomensinitiative.org/2013/05/announcing-moving-beyond-militarism-war-an-international-conference/?ref=18">Moving Beyond Militarism and War: Women-Driven Solutions for a Nonviolent World,</a> Belfast, Northern Ireland. Read 50.50's</em><em>&nbsp;</em><em><a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/nobel-womens-initiative/nobel-womens-initiative-2013">full coverage</a></em><em>&nbsp;</em><em>of the conference.</em></p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/isabel-hilton/we-are-visible">We are visible</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/ndeye-marie-thiam/women-of-senegal-agents-of-peace">Women of Senegal: agents of peace </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 class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/jennifer-allsopp/peacebuilding-and-nation-state-towards-nonviolent-world">Peacebuilding and the nation-state: towards a nonviolent world</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <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 even"> <a href="/5050/jennifer-allsopp/militarism-and-non-state-actors-%E2%80%98-other-invasion%E2%80%99">Militarism and non-state actors: ‘the other invasion’ </a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/isabel-hilton/peacework-lessons-we-have-failed-to-learn">Peacework: lessons we have failed to learn</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/lyduine-ruronona/burundi-at-50-towards-governance-of-peace">Burundi at 50: towards a governance of peace</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/amina-mama/where-we-must-stand-african-women-in-age-of-war">Where we must stand: African women in an age of war</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/leymah-gbowee/child-soldiers-child-wives-wounded-for-life">Child soldiers, child wives: wounded for life</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/jessica-horn/lessons-of-hummingbird">Lessons of the hummingbird</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"> Democratic Republic of the Congo </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Conflict </div> <div class="field-item even"> Equality </div> <div class="field-item odd"> Internet </div> </div> </div> 50.50 50.50 Democratic Republic of the Congo Conflict Equality Internet africa conflicts witnessing conflict rule of law justice? human rights Nobel Women's Initiative 2013 50.50 Peacework & Human Security 16 Days: activism against gender based violence From War to Peace 50.50 Our Africa 50.50 Editor's Pick 50.50 newsletter gender gender justice Sexual violence violence against women women and militarism women and power women's human rights women's movements women's work young feminists Jennifer Allsopp Julienne Lusenge Wed, 29 May 2013 09:24:24 +0000 Jennifer Allsopp and Julienne Lusenge 73022 at https://opendemocracy.net Women of Senegal: agents of peace https://opendemocracy.net/5050/ndeye-marie-thiam/women-of-senegal-agents-of-peace <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>The physical and moral suffering undergone by the valiant people of Casamance is incalculable and, as usual, it is the women and children who pay the highest price. From their position as victims, women have decided to become committed agents of peace, says Ndeye Marie Thiam.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><em>Read this article in <a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/ndeye-marie-thiam/femmes-de-s%C3%A9n%C3%A9gal-actrices-de-la-paix">French</a>.</em></p> <p>There was once a region, tucked in the southern part of Senegal, tranquil and beautiful, gifted with a rich cultural diversity and immense agricultural resources, fisheries and tourism. It was commonly known as ‘la verte Casamance’ (‘Green Casamance’).</p> <p>Sadly, this is the Casamance that has been the theatre of an armed fratricidal conflict between the Senegalese state and members of the pro-independence Movement of Democratic Forces of Casamance (MFCD). We’ve now witnessed thirty years of conflict! It stands out as one of the longest conflicts in sub-Saharan Africa, bringing with it a long history of tragedies: thousands of <a href="http://www.foxnews.com/world/2013/02/10/senegalese-official-woman-and-son-killed-by-land-mine-in-southern-casamance/">mines</a> buried into the soil, raids, carjackings and an economy of war in full expansion. This has seriously harmed the <a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/tabara-ndiaye/post-conflict-reconstruction-ask-women-farmers">agricultural</a> and tourist economy, which have been bled-dry. According to Jean François Lepetit, chief of the Handicap International mission in Casamance, at least 90% of mined land still needs to be cleared.&nbsp; </p> <p>‘Green Casmance’ experiences this conflict through the loss of human lives (more than 3,000 deaths directly linked to the conflict) and constraints on economic and social development. The physical and moral suffering undergone by the valiant people of Casamance are incalculable, and, as usual, it is the women and children who pay the highest price.</p> <p>Women may not fight, but they the carry the weight of the suffering; they bear the mental and physical scars of the horrors of war. Faithful guardians of traditional values, they undergo all sorts of ills which are given names like rape, abductions, mutilations... </p> <p>Whole villages have been emptied of their peaceful inhabitants, leaving total desolation in their place. The village of Oulampane, on the edge of the border between Senegal and Gambia, was suspected of welcoming and housing rebels. It was set on fire by the Senegalese army’s military forces. The women in the region lost all their goods. They were forced to abandon their village against their will and to seek refuge on Gambian soil. Women from the rural community of Boutoupa suffered a similar fate. Out in a truck in search of cashew nuts, they fell upon a mine...Many others have been victims of rape as they return from the rice fields where they work in rice cultivation or market gardening. I could talk endlessly about the abuses undergone by women.&nbsp; </p> <p>And what of the immense cohort of displaced men, women and children? We have seen more than 150,000 displaced persons and/or refugees in our region, more than a hundred villages abandoned in the last fifteen years, with lands polluted with mines. And this is without mentioning, of course, the material deprivation that continues to rise. </p> <p>And this is why we say with force and determination: STOP! All of this has to stop.</p> <h3>Women: committed agents of peace</h3> <p>From their position as victims, women have decided to become committed agents of peace. In this vein, on September 21st 2011, women’s organisations from the regions of Kolda, Sédhiou and Ziguinchor united their forces in creating the <a href="https://www.facebook.com/pages/Plateforme-des-femmes-pour-la-paix-en-Casamance/105409502959590">Platform of Women for Peace in Casamance</a> (PFPC).</p> <p>At first an informal structure of consultation and dialogue, the PFPC, strong with its 170 member organisations and operations across the whole of Casamance, quickly became a front-line player in the pursuit of peace. Through its platform, women demanded frank, sincere and inclusive negotiations between the Senegalese state and the MFDC.</p> <p>The vocation of the PFPC is simple: to bring together the energies, competences and expertise of women in order to propose a concrete and consensual solution to end the Senegalese crisis in Casamance. It has developed a strategy of intense lobbying, both with the government and with the MFDC. It engages in the fight against the violation of human rights and provides an important role in monitoring and denouncing violations perpetrated against civilian populations.&nbsp;</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="https://dy1m18dp41gup.cloudfront.net/cdn/farfuture/CiuCfjSoC-nOVH3qeyVFOVyJn9cfi8GMvY1VzGYqvv0/mtime:1406100189/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/541754/pic%205.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title="Women meet with the President of the Republic, 2012."><img src="https://dy1m18dp41gup.cloudfront.net/cdn/farfuture/PYtlkf_SoZxx4QjaNJvj9glL04Ka_-XHZ4I0UEBn7cA/mtime:1406100187/files/imagecache/article_large/wysiwyg_imageupload/541754/pic%205.png" alt="Women meet with the President of the Republic, 2012." title="Women meet with the President of the Republic, 2012." width="400" height="284" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_large" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Women meet with the President of the Republic, 2012.</span></span></span></p><p>The role of the women of the PFPC isn’t surprising, because the history of communities in the region attests to the fact that women have always played an active role in the prevention, management and resolution of conflicts. In the family sphere, for example, to solve disputes between husband and wife, sisters-in-law could enact corporal punishment on their brother, sometimes even in public. Women have used, as arms of dissuasion, ‘bedroom strikes’, rituals, prayers, dances, libations and processions. According to the emblematic leader of MFDC, Abbot Augustin Diamacoune Senghor, ‘[women] are the red cross and the fire-fighters of the community’. Their status as carriers, givers and protectors of life gives them the privilege to place themselves between the combatants and to demand an end to the fighting. According to custom, this is almost a sacred commandment. Those who infringe it could suffer terrible consequences, including death. </p> <p>Their irrepressible desire to be peacemakers is not a means to challenge the established order, nor an attempt to profit from the situation for the sake of some hierarchical position. In fact, even at the onset of conflict women play a role. The engagement of MFDC combatants in the ‘sermon’ of war takes places in the sacred wood and is led by both men and women.</p> <p>Because of their role in the mystic preparations of combatants, women are thus implicated in the decision to wage war. It is therefore normal that, in the face of the escalation of this ‘gruelling and harrowing’ crisis, women do not hesitate in undoing the sermon made in the sacred woods and in attempting to re-establish peace. All of this means that the people of Casmance generally understand, encourage and appreciate our approach.</p> <h3>Conflict management by women</h3> <p>It should be stressed that for many years, the Senegalese State has demonstrated nothing but navel gazing in its management of the conflict. Yet today, both the State and the MFDC agree on the need for a political and civil solution through dialogue. This change in position on the part of the authorities has given more space for civil society initiatives, including those by women’s organisations.</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="https://dy1m18dp41gup.cloudfront.net/cdn/farfuture/5bL951gIpaeWOW4vtmbbnh02gQYgSoG9OIZACJKEDeA/mtime:1406100189/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/541754/pic%203.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title="Night of prayers in Ziguinchor, 2011"><img src="https://dy1m18dp41gup.cloudfront.net/cdn/farfuture/yiFxsATcItm8FEbP0YaZjgDTRbluso-hizH0OTuUMcc/mtime:1406100187/files/imagecache/article_large/wysiwyg_imageupload/541754/pic%203.png" alt="Night of prayers in Ziguinchor, 2011" title="Night of prayers in Ziguinchor, 2011" width="400" height="311" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_large" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Night of prayers in Ziguinchor, 2011</span></span></span></p><p>This is why, women, united around the PFPC, have organised marches, a large prayer vigil in Ziguinchor attended by more than 2,000 women, and meetings with the most powerful state authorities. We not only organised a campaign to get the largest possible number of candidates to sign a ‘memorandum for peace’ before the first round of the presidential elections in 2012, but held <a href="http://www.kigalikonnect.com/article/sngal-le-prsident-wade-interpell-sur-le-retour-de-la-paix-en-casamance.html">further meetings</a> with the two successful candidates during the second round. Secret meetings were held in Guinea-Bissau with the local political wing of the MFDC and combatants from the southern region.&nbsp; </p> <p>The Regional Committee of Women’s&nbsp;Solidarity for Peace in<em>&nbsp;</em>Casamance (<a href="http://newfieldfound.org/grants.awarded.php?group=12&amp;action=group">USOFORAL</a>) also organises several activities for the restoration and consolidation of peace, as <a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/fatou-gu%C3%A8ye/senegal-land-belongs-to-those-who-work-it">reported</a> previously on openDemocracy. Workshops have been organised to train PFPC leaders in advocacy techniques to prepare for a future conference to be held between the state and MFDC factions. This conference, which will include the participation of civil society, including the PFPC, is foreseen for 2014.</p> <h3>The priestesses of the sacred wood</h3> <p>Cultural and spiritual activities are also led by the priestesses of the sacred wood. The women of the sacred wood are respected by the people of Casamance and their messages are welcomed with high regard. Here, in addition to the divinely revealed religions of Islam and Christianity, we observe a religious background which is characterised by syncretism. It is in this context that the women of the sacred wood constitute a powerful deterrent force at the heart of the population. </p> <p>Whenever there is a threat to the community of whatever nature (an epidemic, catastrophe or other crises which can be traced back to the anger of the spirits), it is tradition that the women lead prayers which are organised to ward off misfortune. These prayers interest those who follow the traditional pagan religion, and also those who follow Islam or Christianity. This is why the famous night of prayers, organised by PFPC, was largely led by women of the sacred wood.</p> <p>The impacts of these interventions in the heart of communities are real, but they still struggle to carry weight at the national level. In this context we have to ask ourselves, what ambition for women?</p> <h3>What ambition for women?</h3> <p><a href="http://www.un.org/womenwatch/osagi/wps/">Resolution 1325</a> of the United Nations outlines principles of gender and justice and calls on States to not simply consider women as victims of conflict, but to recognise their right to participate in the resolution of conflicts and their qualities as peacemakers. All of the initiatives taken by women prove their capacity to take their fate into their own hands. <strong>&nbsp;</strong></p><p><strong><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="https://dy1m18dp41gup.cloudfront.net/cdn/farfuture/9iMybXxNGigvSTjYruj9sJ4n_yQZ0RIzCJ6fSruov28/mtime:1406100189/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/541754/pic%204.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=" Women&#039;s march in Ziguinchor, 2012"><img src="https://dy1m18dp41gup.cloudfront.net/cdn/farfuture/FChqg_uv1_fYuEzyaSvHXAVJhkY9mr9OjGEr0Ws1ZD4/mtime:1406100187/files/imagecache/article_large/wysiwyg_imageupload/541754/pic%204.png" alt=" Women's march in Ziguinchor, 2012" title=" Women&#039;s march in Ziguinchor, 2012" width="400" height="298" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_large" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'> Women's march in Ziguinchor, 2012</span></span></span></strong></p><p>During a meeting accorded to the PFPC, the President of the Republic, his Excellency M. Macky Sall recognised women’s right to participate in the resolution of the conflict in Casamance and the necessity of their effective participation at the negotiating table. He also gave them a ‘mandate’ to act for the definitive return of peace.</p> <p>The women of Casamance are well aware of the incalculable and destructive consequences of the conflict in the region and in the rest of Senegal. Today they are ready to face the situation, hand in hand, with all the women of our country. We need to take this conflict out of its corner of indifference to raise its status to a key national concern. </p> <p>In truth, all the women of the world share the same desire to offer a healthy and peaceful environment to their family and to their respective countries. In our neighbouring countries, the <a href="http://marwopnet.org/">Mano River Women’s Peace Network</a> brings together Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea-Conkary. They have done, and continue to do, remarkable work to re-establish and strengthen peace in this part of West Africa. These women have been able to overcome the geographical and linguistic barriers which separate them; they have been able to be true peacemakers.</p> <p>This is why we are working hard to involve our sisters from Gambia and Guinea Bissau in our fight to make Casamance a peaceful region. We also call for the assistance of the regional and international community. In this regard, we welcome the noble efforts which have led to the <a href="http://www.gambia.dk/forums/topic.asp?TOPIC_ID=12824">liberation</a> of eight prisoners from the Senegalese army who were detained for a year by the MFDC.</p> <p>It is important to welcome all expressions of goodwill, from whatever source, so that the arms can be silenced forever. We are convinced that thanks to the efforts of all women and men, Casamance will soon know an era of peace.</p><p> <em>This article was translated from the French original by <a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/author/jennifer-allsopp-0">Jennifer Allsopp</a></em></p><p><em>This article is part of <a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/5050">5050's</a> series exploring themes to be discussed at the&nbsp; <em>Nobel Women's Initiative conference&nbsp; <a href="http://nobelwomensinitiative.org/2013/05/announcing-moving-beyond-militarism-war-an-international-conference/?ref=18">Moving Beyond Militarism and War: Women-Driven Solutions for a Nonviolent World </a>&nbsp;</em><em>May 28-31, Belfast, Ireland.&nbsp; Jennifer Allsopp and Heather McRobie are reporting from Belfast. Read 50.50's <a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/nobel-womens-initiative/nobel-womens-initiative-2013">full coverage</a> </em><em>of the conference &nbsp;</em></em></p> <p>&nbsp;<em>Read <a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/taxonomy/term/8432/all">more articles</a></em><em> on 50.50 from earlier Nobel Women's Initiative conferences </em></p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/fatou-gu%C3%A8ye/senegal-land-belongs-to-those-who-work-it">Senegal: the land belongs to those who work it </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/tabara-ndiaye/post-conflict-reconstruction-ask-women-farmers">Post conflict reconstruction: ask the women farmers</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/mariam%C3%A9-tour%C3%A9-ouattara/burkina-faso-let-us-remain-standing">Burkina Faso: &quot;Let us remain standing&quot;</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/lyduine-ruronona/burundi-at-50-towards-governance-of-peace">Burundi at 50: towards a governance of peace</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/a%C3%AEssa-ngatansou-doumara/16-days-from-demystification-to-denunciation">16 Days: from demystification to denunciation</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/a%C3%AEssa-ngatansou-doumara/cameroon-subtle-violence-in-education">Cameroon: a subtle violence in education</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/kagbe-rachel/wasted-lives-why-do-chadian-women-still-die-in-childbirth">Wasted lives: why do Chadian women still die in childbirth?</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/lyduine-ruronona/changing-lives-in-burundi-now-i-am-no-longer-beaten">Changing lives in Burundi: &quot;Now I am no longer beaten&quot;</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/kagbe-rachel/education-in-chad-in-state-of-decline">Education in Chad: in a state of decline</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/cynthia-cockburn/what-kind-of-feminism-does-war-provoke">What kind of feminism does war provoke?</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/jenny-morgan/peace-negotiationsdid-you-carry-gun">Peace negotiations:did you carry a gun?</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/amina-mama/where-we-must-stand-african-women-in-age-of-war">Where we must stand: African women in an age of war</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/jessica-horn/our-africa-mapping-african-womens-critical-resistance">Our Africa: mapping African women&#039;s critical resistance </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/isabel-hilton/we-are-visible">We are visible</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/isabel-hilton/violence-targets-weakest">Violence targets the weakest </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"> Senegal </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Civil society </div> <div class="field-item even"> Conflict </div> </div> </div> 50.50 50.50 openSecurity Senegal Civil society Conflict africa conflicts voices from exile membership & movements Nobel Women's Initiative 2013 50.50 Peacework & Human Security From War to Peace 50.50 Our Africa 50.50 Editor's Pick 50.50 newsletter gender justice gendered migration gendered poverty women and militarism women and power women's human rights women's movements Ndeye Marie Thiam Mon, 27 May 2013 09:39:40 +0000 Ndeye Marie Thiam 72776 at https://opendemocracy.net The Egyptian opposition: from protestors to revolutionaries? https://opendemocracy.net/5050/maha-abdelrahman/egyptian-opposition-from-protestors-to-revolutionaries <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>The failure to translate the momentum of the heady days of the January 2011 protests in Egypt into an effective revolutionary force is closely related to the organisational forms adopted by oppositional movements. This poses broader questions for social movements worldwide, argues Maha Abdelrahman<strong><br /></strong></p> </div> </div> </div> <p>Except for shy enthusiasm within small circles of activists on social media, the first annual conferences of the <a href="http://english.ahram.org.eg/NewsContent/1/64/66161/Egypt/Politics-/AbulFotouhs-Strong-Egypt-Party-to-participate-in-e.aspx">Strong Egypt </a>&nbsp;and the <a href="http://english.ahram.org.eg/NewsContent/33/104/26692/Elections-/Political-Parties/Socialist-Popular-Alliance.aspx">Socialist Popular Alliance</a> parties in March 2013 went almost unnoticed. The enthusiasm was mostly focused on the rise of young members of the parties into the ranks through the first party elections. By contrast, the dismal failure of the <a href="http://english.ahram.org.eg/NewsContent/1/64/65497/Egypt/Politics-/Egypts-National-Salvation-Front-faces-existential-.aspx">National Salvation Front</a> to stand up to Morsi’s infamous constitutional reforms weeks earlier was met with a wide public debate and condemnation. </p> <p>Between the struggling efforts of young political hopefuls and the total irrelevance of the performance of old guard opposition figures lies the fundamental question at the heart of Egypt’s revolutionary process since January 2011: what kind of organisation(s) will lead into the post-Mubarak era? Mass-based organisations led by young activists with roots going back to social movements which swept Egypt for a decade leading up to downfall of Mubarak?&nbsp; Broad-based coalitions of seasoned political figures? Traditional political parties working along the same old authoritarian style? A hybrid of these or something completely different? More importantly, will a radical transformative project in Egypt emerge from within the narrowly defined realm of electoral politics or should we be keeping an eye on new possibilities for&nbsp; more innovative initiatives?<strong> <br /></strong></p> <p>These questions become more daunting against the background of Morsi’s ill-conceived <a href="http://carnegieendowment.org/2013/03/27/egypt-s-constitution-swings-into-action/fu3w">constitution</a>, which is yet another addition to a wide array of tools and measures, ranging from legal manipulation to regimes of co-optation and naked violence, used by Egypt’s rulers over the course of the twentieth century to arrest the development of mass-based, autonomous, political or civil organisations. By contrast, the rising popularity of new forms of activism which swept the world from Seattle to Milan, and from Thailand to Moscow, at the dawn of the new millennium provided activists in Egypt and elsewhere with alternative organisational structures and new tools for mobilisation. </p> <p>In the first decade of the 21st century, Egyptian activists within blossoming yet embryonic labour and prodemocracy movements, participated in groups and networks that were characterised by decentralised and fluid organisational structures, diffuse boundaries and dependence on members rather than a centralised leadership - all features typical of new social movements. Such features not only served Egyptian activists to elude the repressive Mubarak regime, but even to bring down its chief altogether. </p> <p>&nbsp;In a matter of days during the uprisings of&nbsp; January 2011, these same activists found their status transformed from protestors, demonstrators and strikers, who were members of loosely structured networks, to that of ‘revolutionaries’. These newly-minted revolutionaries were now suddenly confronted with the expectation that they would either capture or renegotiate state power, provide a vision for the future emanating from the iconic image of Tahrir square, and transform both polity and society. The activists/revolutionaries, however, had no ready plan, grand or otherwise, for the day after. Despite their fearless efforts to challenge the regime and its institutions, they had never intended to replace it by themselves. Their focus was on perfecting tools and tactics to change the nature of traditional politics. Along this journey, they did not develop the kinds of skills, including organisational ones, that could one day equip them to match the might of the military establishment or the iron discipline and mass base of the Muslim Brothers (MBs) whose organization has been in existence since 1928. </p> <p>The absence of structures capable of harnessing the revolutionary potential of millions of Egyptians to propose&nbsp; post-Mubarak alternatives became a challenge when revolutionaries were drawn into a marathon of electoral politics. This article does not, for a moment, advocate the notion of a Leninist revolutionary party, involving a rigid hierarchy and centralisation of power, iron discipline and leadership by a professional elite. Nor does it promote any other tired old brand of vanguard organisation. The focus here, instead, is to investigate the historical context and consider the nexus between loose organisational structures and a sustained revolutionary process. </p> <p>The celebration of new social-movement style activism, with horizontal networks needing no leader, capable of organising without a central authority and based on a diffuse notion of power, derives from one feature that sets them apart from ‘old’ social movements: their political objective is not to capture the state. In re-visiting his earlier analysis of anti-systemic movements, <a href="http://newleftreview.org/II/18/immanuel-wallerstein-new-revolts-against-the-system">Immanuel Wallerstein</a> emphasises the deep suspicion of the state and state-oriented action as a defining feature of new social movements. In their&nbsp; analysis of the two-staged approach adopted by old social movements, whereby&nbsp; capturing state power was the first step before transforming the world, committed new social movement activists usually concluded that: </p> <p>...state power was more limited than they had thought…the cadres of a militant mobilising movement became the functionaries of a party in power. Their social positions were transformed and so, inevitably, were their individual psychologies...the militant, syndicalist tactics that had been the daily bread of the social movement became counter-revolutionary. </p> <p>It is this perceived betrayal of the movements’ goals, and the inability of revolutionaries/new rulers to resist the corrupting influence of power and party politics, which has created this deep suspicion among members of later generations of social movements. Their objective, therefore, has been no longer to take over state power but to challenge the boundaries of traditional politics and to establish decentralised alternatives. </p> <p>Towards the end of the 18 tumultuous days in Tahrir square in January 2011, the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) and the MBs quickly drew on their vast organisational structures and power bases, while groups of activists who were occupying Tahrir square and made Mubarak’s ousting possible, frantically began to create ‘revolutionary’ networks and coalitions in an attempt to represent the millions who had risen up against Mubarak and to negotiate on their behalf. However, the history of these activists and their experience with political organisation in the previous decade has dramatically shaped their ability to assume the task of a revolutionary vanguard. During a decade of vibrant activism, no activist group or network, especially within the pro-democracy or labour wings of the struggle, had entertained the thought of assuming state power. As a consequence, they had neither experienced any need to create institutions that could mobilise and lead towards capturing power, nor worked on articulating a set of long-term political objectives. </p> <p>On the eve of the January 25th uprising, the streets of Egypt were teeming with an impressive array of activist networks and protest groups. They were, however, no more than that; nascent groups and loose networks still exploring their potential as ‘movements’. While some activists were beginning to realise the limitation of these organisational forms for a long-term strategy, and were struggling with the predicament of finding sustained organisational structures while maintaining the flexibility of their autonomous politics, the majority were mostly content with the tools and tactics they had developed in line with new social movements working both at the global level and in the global South. </p> <p>Three categories of protests that swept Egypt during the decade leading up to the fall of Mubarak help to illustrate the origins of the dilemma faced by Egypt’s new revolutionaries in the post-Mubarak era.<em> <br /></em></p> <p><strong>The Pro-democracy movement</strong></p> <p>The loosely-termed, pro-democracy movement refers to an array of largely middle-class groups, movements and networks of activists which, since the second Palestinian Intifada in 2000, have started to organise around specifically political issues and demands such as reforming the constitution, limiting presidential terms, instituting free elections, ending an emergency law in effect for thirty years, and fighting a dynastic succession in the Mubarak family. In 2004, <em><a href="http://publicculture.org/articles/view/19/1/the-egyptian-movement-for-change-kefaya-redefin/">Kefaya</a>,</em> a predominantly Nasserist movement, became the primary contender for the role of leadership in this area thanks to its daring message and unprecedented success in taking its critique of the regime onto the streets. The main characteristic of these groups was that they worked outside formal political institutions. They were organisationally informal, and in some way they were protesting not only against the regime, but also against the failed formal opposition, such as political parties and professional syndicates which had been rendered ineffective through successive regimes’ policies of co-optation and repression. </p> <p>The strong appeal of the pro-democracy movement to a new generation of activists resided in the absence of a rigid hierarchy and a traditional leadership. None of these groups had a formal structural set-up and never encouraged a notion of ‘leadership’ which became their strong rallying point. They organised around rotating steering committees whose purpose was coordination rather than decision making. In some quarters, a debate about the sustainability and effectiveness of loose networks of activism was starting to resonate among some activists towards the end of the decade. The absence of an organisational form that could mobilise on a larger scale and better harness the energies of protestors was beginning to be seen as a weakness by some. </p> <p>Developing from a protest organiser to a movement, and finding an organizational form that allows spontaneity and a lack of rigidity while at the same time ensuring sustainability, was becoming Kefaya’s and other pro-democracy groups’ main challenge. Under relentless police brutality and state security harassment, however, activists did not have the luxury of exploring new forms of organisation which could accommodate both needs at the dawn of a new phase of the revolutionary process. </p> <p>The fall of Mubarak pushed the same activists, and the vast numbers who have joined with them, to reconsider their role in a new era. Adopting a longer term strategy, and exploiting the lifting of restrictions on political parties, activists rushed into creating parties as launching pads for building mass bases, and as an urgent measure for contesting imminent parliamentary elections designed by the SCAF.&nbsp; The Sadat and Mubarak regimes’ mixed strategies of repression and accommodation of the MB meant that the organisation created a huge mass base which it built through operating within civil society organisations, professional syndicates, student unions and a huge network of charity and service delivery groups. By contrast, no other group in society including the Left, the Liberals or the Nationalists was allowed the opportunity to operate within the same spaces, nor had the capacity and tools to develop similar organisational or mass structures. The overwhelming success of Islamist parties in the following rounds of elections revealed the huge challenges facing new political parties, most of which allied themselves with other new or old parties in short-term tactical coalitions. However, forging short-term political alliances among parties did not help solve such challenges or provide a sustainable basis for the future. One major problem facing these coalitions is that they were formed along binary secular/Islamist lines as a focal point of unity among disparate groups, despite their great internal heterogeneity in terms of ideological and policy orientations. </p> <p><strong>The Labour movement</strong> </p> <p>One prominent feature of labour protests which intensified since 2004 was the ability of workers to organise not only outside of the formal unions but <em>despite</em> these unions. Nasser’s corporatist strategies, which aimed to neutralise any political or social group attempting to challenge his hegemony, meant that the Egyptian Trade Union Federation (ETUF), established in 1957 as the sole representative of workers at the national level, became a mere appendage of the state. Not only was the co-optation of unions detrimental to the conditions of workers and their ability to organise, other legal measures were continually introduced to limit the potential for industrial action. An infamous example was the Unified Labour Law of 2003 which allowed collective dismissal and legalised extending temporary contracts indefinitely, while criminalising almost all strikes. Despite the draconian restrictions, workers have found ways of&nbsp; breaking away and coming up with alternative organisational, albeit transient, arrangements. While protest action during the last decade was often spontaneous, a lot of strikes, occupations and sit-ins eventually saw workers develop elected strike committees which took the responsibility of negotiations with the management, and on some occasions, with top regime officials. </p> <p>The question of organisation was at the heart of workers’ struggles. Not only were they trying to organise outside of the formal, co-opted and corrupt ETUF, but they were, more radically, challenging its long-held monopoly and demanding a renegotiation of the relationship between workers and the state to achieve greater autonomy. A landmark in this process was the successful launch of an <a href="http://www.merip.org/mer/mer264/lessons-egypts-tax-collectors-0">independent trade union</a> by the municipal tax collectors in 2008. &nbsp;However, labour action remained overwhelmingly localised. The absence of representative organisations, and the ever present, stifling state security machinery meant that there was no agent within workers’ groups that was capable of taking the initiative to coordinate protest action or bring labour activists together for an exchange of experiences and setting of future agendas. Nascent organisations, mainly in the form of strike committees, which were set up to represent the demands of protesting workers, remained confined to individual companies and public sector departments with no sectorial or national coordination. </p> <p>In the aftermath of Mubarak’s downfall,&nbsp; and in light of their crucial role in tipping the balance of power against Mubarak, workers were emboldened to take radical steps such as the launching of the Egyptian Federation of Independent Trade Unions (EFITU) only days into the January uprising. It was created to represent and provide support to hundreds of independent unions.&nbsp; In a Gramscian analysis of revolutionary strategy, this is precisely what workers should aim for at this stage. Rather than aiming for a capture of power, they should pursue a process of revolutionary development rooted in ongoing struggles and culminating in a qualitatively new ‘network’ of proletarian institutions. Indeed, such a process is what hundreds of thousands of Egyptian workers have been engaged in during the last two years. However, the labour struggle and the establishment of&nbsp; hundreds of new independent unions, as well as the umbrella EFITU, continue to be shackled by legal restrictions, political uncertainties, and the fierce determination of successive governments to arrest their development into mass organisations. </p> <p><strong>Market-relations based protests</strong> </p> <p>On another level, Egypt was also witnessing a sustained range of protests and acts of civil disobedience carried out by diverse groups - from taxi and tuk tuk drivers to street vendors, and from small farmers to shanty town dwellers and housewives demonstrating against rising food prices and rapidly deteriorating living conditions. These forms of protest were often smaller in number and tended to erupt and dispel quickly, materializing around specific, immediate injustices in people’s living and working spaces. In a way, these types of protests constituted a more immediate reaction to the inability of increasing numbers of people to access, let alone restructure, market relations. This inability to access housing, potable water, health care, food commodities and loans, among other services and goods, was the outcome of aggressive privatisation and the withdrawal of the state from its traditional role of provider for low-income groups. By its very nature, this category of protest saw the least evidence of organisation. </p> <p>Unlike Latin America in the 1970s and 1980s, Egypt saw no neighbourhood committees developing to unite the struggle of small groups of citizens. Such struggles were entirely disjointed and fragmented, with no core or even an embryonic structure which could guarantee their sustainability or potential to evolve into a mass movement. The loose organisational structures of both pro-democracy and labour activism meant that there was no institution capable of bringing the dispersed struggles under a broadly-based coalition. </p> <p>Although I am well aware of the constraints of speaking in terms of clearly-defined, homogenous ‘revolutionary forces’, it is clearly the inability of these forces, however defined, to create structures capable of articulating alternatives around which the revolutionary potential of a broad swathe of the Egyptian people can be mobilised, that remains the main challenge facing a genuine, radical economic and political transformation. This challenge is even more daunting given the hugely powerful military establishment and a Muslim Brotherhood, which while surprisingly ineffective, incoherent and weak in terms of tactics, strategy and even ideas, still remains easily the largest political organisation in the country. </p> <p>But all is not gloomy, at least not in the longer run. Egypt today is still teeming with millions of Egyptians who are taking to the streets on a daily basis in an unabashed struggle against the ruling elite’s policies which continue to impoverish and marginalise them. Groups of activists are relentlessly trying to carve spaces for action. The ongoing mobilisation and efforts by different groups of activists to launch new initiatives including political parties, campaigns, independent unions, and more imaginative forums might still eventually give birth to new organisations that can outlive the two dinosaurs of Egyptian politics and achieve this transformation. </p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><strong>&nbsp;</strong></p> <p>&nbsp;</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/leila-zaki-chakravarti/chez-morsi-palace-petitioners-and-street-entrepreneurs-in-post-mubarak-e">Chez Morsi : palace petitioners and street entrepreneurs in post-Mubarak Egypt</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/leila-zaki-chakravarti/entrepreneurs-of-revolution-jockeying-for-livelihood-and-security-in-pos">Entrepreneurs of the revolution: jockeying for livelihood and security in post-Arab Spring Cairo</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/haideh-moghissi/troubling-parallels-hopeful-differences-iran-women-and-arab-spring">Troubling parallels, hopeful differences: Iran, women, and the &#039;Arab spring&#039;</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/anonymous/we-are-fed-up-power-of-new-generation-of-sudanese-youth-activists">We Are Fed Up! The power of a new generation of Sudanese youth activists </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/amira-mhadhbi/state-feminism-in-tunisia-reading-between-lines">State feminism in Tunisia: reading between the lines </a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/atiaf-zaid-alwazir/long-road-ahead-for-yemeni-women">A long road ahead for Yemeni women</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/madawi-al-rasheed/saudi-response-to-%E2%80%98arab-spring%E2%80%99-containment-and-co-option">The Saudi response to the ‘Arab spring’: containment and co-option</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/ziba-mir-hosseini/iranian-responses-to-%E2%80%9Carab-spring%E2%80%9D-appropriation-and-contestation">Iranian responses to the “Arab spring”: appropriation and contestation</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/yakin-erturk/turmoil-in-syria-failed-%E2%80%9Carab-spring%E2%80%9D-or-sectarian-nightmare">Turmoil in Syria: failed “Arab spring” or sectarian nightmare?</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/hoda-elsadda/narrating-arab-spring-from-within">Narrating the Arab spring from within</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/sara-abbas/revolution-is-female-uprising-of-women-in-arab-world">Revolution is female: the uprising of women in the Arab world</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/rawa-gafar-bakhit/women-in-sudanrevolts-heritage-of-civil-resistance">Women in #SudanRevolts: heritage of civil resistance</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/mariz-tadros/perilous-slide-towards-islamist-dictatorship-in-egypt">The perilous slide: towards an Islamist dictatorship in Egypt?</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Egypt </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-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> 50.50 50.50 Egypt Civil society Democracy and government conflicts democracy & power 50.50 Gender Politics Religion Women and the Arab Spring 50.50 Our Africa 50.50 Editor's Pick fundamentalisms 50.50 newsletter Maha Abdelrahman Mon, 22 Apr 2013 10:59:06 +0000 Maha Abdelrahman 72266 at https://opendemocracy.net Kenya, between hope and fear https://opendemocracy.net/daniel-branch/kenya-between-hope-and-fear <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>The violent aftermath of Kenya's previous election is present in everyone's minds as Kenyans elect a successor to Mwai Kibaki. But the past five years have brought many other issues to the fore, says Daniel Branch.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p>Many Kenyans will go to the polls on 4 March 2013 with a sense of trepidation. Three of the country's four elections since 1992 have been accompanied by significant violence, with 2002 the exception. On each occasion politicians used local grievances over land and inequality to label supporters of rival candidates as ethnic “outsiders”. Militias were then used to force those same voters from their homes. Thousands of people were killed in violence around the 1992, 1997 and 2007 elections and tens of thousands more fled. Some of these supposed “outsiders” never returned to places where their families had lived for decades. No wonder, then, that many Kenyans see <a href="http://elections.nation.co.ke/">elections</a> as something to endure rather than to celebrate.</p><p>In light of this <a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/article/democracy_power/kenya_roots_crisis">history</a>, anyone of a nervous disposition might have hoped that this would be a straightforward election with a clear result. That looks unlikely, as on the eve of the vote the final result is too close to call. President <a href="http://statehousekenya.go.ke/presidents/kibaki/profile.htm">Mwai Kibaki</a> is retiring after two terms in office, and prime minister <a href="http://www.primeminister.go.ke/profiles/raila.cfm">Raila Odinga</a> is the frontrunner. But Odinga's lead in the opinion polls is narrow, and he will almost certainly be denied an outright majority; in that case a run-off will be held in a few weeks’ time. </p><p>Odinga’s main rival is <a href="http://www.uhuru.co.ke/#about">Uhuru Kenyatta</a>, who, if successful, faces the prospect of governing the country while mounting his defence at the International Criminal Court (<a href="http://www.icc-cpi.int/en_menus/icc/about%20the%20court/Pages/about%20the%20court.aspx">ICC</a>) at The Hague. He and his running mate, William Ruto, are <a href="http://www.icckenya.org/background/">accused</a> of orchestrating the violence that followed the December 2007 election. Rather than standing aside, both decided to exercise their right - confirmed recently by the Kenyan courts - to contest the election, apparently in order to gain a position of greater strength <em>vis-à-vis</em> the ICC. They promise they can run the country and mount their court <a href="http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-africa-21595136">defences</a> remotely, by using technology.&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; </p><p>The rest of the world only began to notice the 2007 election when violence broke out during the suspiciously prolonged counting process, and quickly <a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/node/35485/print">escalated</a>. In the first two months of 2008, nearly 1,200 people lost their lives. An effect of those tragic events is that this time, Kenya has held foreign attention for months before voters go to the polls. But both foreign and local observers are nagged by a simple question: has enough been done over the past five years to avoid a repeat of the eruption? </p><p>There are some good signs, most notably independent inquiries into the management of the election and the subsequent violence, a new constitution and an ongoing reform of the judiciary. But it is hard to escape the conclusion that these reforms are not enough to guarantee a <a href="http://www.cfr.org/kenya/electoral-violence-kenya/p29761?cid=soc-Twitter-in-kenya-electoral_violence_cpm-022213">peaceful</a> election. A collective psychosis has therefore gripped many, if by no means all, local and foreign commentators. </p><p>An array of figures, from President Obama and Kofi Annan down to the local diplomatic corps, has felt the need to <a href="http://news.yahoo.com/former-un-chief-says-violence-could-mar-kenya-123622851.html">advise</a> Kenyans on how to vote - most likely to no or ill effect.&nbsp; Many fear further instability should Uhuru Kenyatta win, and threaten Kenya with diplomatic isolation should that happen. Uganda, whose businesses are still waiting for compensation for goods destroyed during the 2007-08 violence, has made contingency plans in case of disruption to vital imports being transported along the routes that <a href="http://go.hrw.com/atlas/norm_htm/kenya.htm">connect</a> it to the Indian Ocean. Foreign investment slowed in 2012 due to fears of insecurity.&nbsp; Local businesses have been buying dollars in case post-election violence causes the Kenyan shilling to collapse.&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;</p><h2><strong>Ethnicity and devolution</strong></h2><p>So why does this election seem to <a href="http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-africa-21478869">matter</a> so much? There is a flippant and, on one level, accurate response to this question; it doesn’t. Those of a cynical persuasion could argue that - regardless of the result - it amounts to the replacement of one elite politician with a dubious record in government and a limited commitment to solving the problems of their poorest constituents by another. After all, there are few major differences of opinion over policy between the candidates, and anyone who thinks that a victory for Odinga will solve Kenya’s <a href="http://www.icckenya.org/">problems</a> with the ICC is in for a shock. Uhuru Kenyatta and <a href="http://www.africa-confidential.com/whos-who-profile/id/3056/">William Ruto</a> have access to enormous wealth and political leverage, and if they refuse to go to The Hague - whether Kenyatta is president or not - it will take a lot to budge them. Yet the ICC is a constitutional and judicial leviathan that will <a href="http://www.icc-cpi.int/EN_Menus/ICC/Situations%20and%20Cases/Situations/Situation%20ICC%200109/Pages/situation%20index.aspx">dominate</a> Kenya's political landscape for years to come.&nbsp; </p><p>The cynical view, however, does not really answer the question. The election does matter.&nbsp; To insist otherwise is to patronise an electorate that will turn out in great numbers, and <a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/article/the-kenya-we-want">display</a> euphoria and dismay in equal measure once the final result is announced. The significance of the election can also be gauged from the international attention that this vote has garnered.This is about more than the <a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/article/democracy_power/kenya_seven_questions">legacy</a> of 2007-08. Kenya has not seemed so significant to the outside world since the end of the cold war. Its role in the African Union’s peacebuilding <a href="http://amisom-au.org/">mission</a> to Somalia has placed it on the frontline of global counter-terror operations, and its economy is seen as the mainstay of a surging regional bloc encompassing northeastern and eastern Africa.</p><p>There is another answer, both common and simple, to the question of why the election matters: it’s ethnicity, stupid. And it is true that voting will, with some exceptions, follow predictable ethnic patterns. But <a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/article/democracy_power/kenya_ethnicity_tribe_state">ethnicity</a> also makes sense as a strategy for voters and leaders alike. </p><p>The voters know that there are not unlimited jobs. They also understand that land, at least in arable parts of the country, is under pressure for all sorts of reasons and that the state has a finite amount of money for investment in development projects. In those circumstances, clubbing together to protect what one holds while trying to work collectively to gain more wealth and influence is hardly irrational. There may be better strategies for such collective action, but ethnicity is what history has bequeathed Kenyans and ethnicity is what they have to work with. </p><p>For their part, the politicians are normally wealthy men and women seeking the votes of poor constituents. Ethnicity provides a mechanism by which politicians can cross sometimes vast chasms of wealth and class to win the votes of individuals with whom they otherwise share little in common. Kenya’s problem is that those in <a href="http://www.cambridge.org/gb/knowledge/isbn/item1146267/?site_locale=en_GB">power</a> have encouraged the divisions between groups to be violent, and some of their supporters have followed suit; it is difficult to reverse back down that path. </p><p>For better or for worse, ethnicity is the way in which class, inequality and history are debated in Kenya. Beneath the labels of Kikuyu, Kalenjin, Luo, Luhya or Maasai are very different versions of the past and ideas about current and future policies. Almost any of the great debates in Kenyan politics can be read in these terms. In the interests of brevity, take just one example: devolution. </p><p>This was a subject of fierce debate in the years surrounding independence and in the early 1990s, and remains a <a href="http://web.worldbank.org/WBSITE/EXTERNAL/COUNTRIES/AFRICAEXT/0,,contentMDK:23162454~pagePK:146736~piPK:146830~theSitePK:258644,00.html">matter</a> of great current significance. For Kenyans, as well as choosing their member of parliament and the next president, will on 4 March be electing representatives to fill newly <a href="http://www.standardmedia.co.ke/?articleID=2000077986&amp;story_title=All-set-for-transition-to-devolved-system">empowered</a> county administrations, new county governors, and senators to represent the interests of their county in central government. </p><p>Many Kikuyu are sceptical about the value of <a href="http://web.worldbank.org/WBSITE/EXTERNAL/COUNTRIES/AFRICAEXT/0,,contentMDK:23162454~pagePK:146736~piPK:146830~theSitePK:258644,00.html">devolution</a>. Some critics see this as nothing more than Kikuyu ethnic chauvinism. Two of Kenya's three post-independence presidents - <a href="http://www.statehousekenya.go.ke/presidents/kenyatta/profile.htm">Jomo Kenyatta</a> (1963-78) and the outgoing Mwai Kibaki (2002-13) - have been Kikuyu, and so the community has been portrayed as unwilling to tolerate any devolution of significant powers from central to local government. To be fair, neither president did much to dispel such criticism. But with Kikuyu - to say nothing of the other major ethnic groups - spread across the country, many feel with good reason that central government is a better guarantor of their property rights and personal security than local <a href="http://uk.reuters.com/article/2012/12/21/uk-kenya-economy-decentralisation-idUKBRE8BK0F720121221">authorities</a> controlled by communities who see Kikuyu as an economic and political threat. To many members of other, more economically marginal communities, such as Mijikenda at the coast or Somali in the northeast, an excessively centralised form of government is <a href="https://www.oxan.com/display.aspx?ItemID=DB180588">blamed</a> for the uneven distribution of economic growth, improvements in living standards and investment in infrastructure. </p><h2><strong>A modest hope</strong></h2><p>The ICC and devolution are just two of the enormous issues that confront Kenyan <a href="http://allafrica.com/stories/201302230474.html">voters</a>. Others include strategies for continued economic growth, land reform, police reform; the ongoing military intervention in Somalia; incidents of terrorism at home; a coastal separatist <a href="http://jameni.com/whats-really-behind-the-pwani-separatist-movement/">movement</a>; and the management of recently discovered oil-and-gas reserves. The next government will have tremendous influence over all these matters, even as it has to deal with issues of regional integration and significant fiscal pressures.&nbsp; </p><p>The time available for the next government to attend to any of these issues will, however, be <a href="http://www.dw.de/hopes-and-fears-ahead-of-kenyan-elections/a-16636575">dictated</a> in large part by the conduct of the elections. Much that is on the agenda will have to be sacrificed if, as with the period since 2007-08, time is lost mourning the dead and undergoing prolonged <a href="http://www.icj-kenya.org/index.php/transitional-justice">processes</a> of "transitional justice" without any transition actually taking place.<br />All this makes it clear that these elections are truly of great significance. Yet those hoping for dramatic change in Kenya, on 4 March or in the years to come, will be disappointed.&nbsp; Kenya, like most of the rest of Africa, had its equivalent of the "Arab spring" - with all its attendant joy and disappointment - two decades <a href="http://www.africa.ufl.edu/asq/v2/v2i4a11.htm">ago</a>, when the rest of the world was looking elsewhere. But if revolution is not on the cards, a more modest hope is simply for the next election not to matter quite so much. It doesn’t have to be like this every time, does it?</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>Daniel Branch,&nbsp;<a href="http://yalebooks.co.uk/display.asp?K=9780300194142"><em>Kenya: Between Hope and Despair, 1963-2011</em></a> (Yale University Press, 2010/2011) </p><p><a href="http://elections.nation.co.ke/"><em>Daily Nation</em> - Kenyan elections 2013</a></p><p><a href="http://176.34.178.40/electionkenya/">Kenya election</a></p><p><a href="http://africanelections.tripod.com/ke.html"><span><span>African elections - Kenya</span></span></a></p><p><a href="http://yalebooks.co.uk/">Yale University Press</a></p><p><a href="http://africanarguments.org/"><em>African Arguments</em></a></p><p> <a href="http://www.hrw.org/africa/kenya">Human Rights Watch - Kenya</a></p><p>Daniel Branch, and <a href="http://www.cambridge.org/catalogue/catalogue.asp?isbn=9780521130905"><em>Defeating Mau Mau, Creating Kenya: Counterinsurgency, Civil War, and Decolonization</em></a> (Cambridge University Press, 2009)</p><p><a href="http://www.nation.co.ke/-/1148/1148/-/xvvu7uz/-/index.html"><em><span><span>Daily Nation</span></span></em></a></p> <p><a href="http://www.tjrckenya.org/index.php">Truth, Justice and Reconciliation Commisson of Kenya</a></p> <p><em><a href="http://www.standardmedia.co.ke/">The Standard</a></em></p> </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-sidebox"> <div class="field-label"> Sidebox:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Daniel Branch is an <a href="http://www2.warwick.ac.uk/fac/arts/history/people/staff_index/daniel_branch/">assistant professor</a> in history at the University of Warwick. He is the author of <a href="http://www.cambridge.org/catalogue/catalogue.asp?isbn=9780521130905"><em>Defeating Mau Mau, Creating Kenya: Counterinsurgency, Civil War, and Decolonization</em></a> (Cambridge University Press, 2009), and <a href="http://yalebooks.co.uk/display.asp?K=9780300194142"><em>Kenya: Between Hope and Despair, 1963-2011</em></a> (Yale University Press, 2010/2011) </p> </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/daniel-branch/kenya%E2%80%99s-referendum-%E2%80%9Cin-name-of-god-no%E2%80%9D">Kenya’s referendum: “in the name of God, no!” </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/article/democracy/kenya_behind_the_crisis">Kenya: histories of hidden war </a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/article/kenyas_path_to_peace">Kenya&#039;s path to peace</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/siddhartha-haria/kenyas-new-constrained-presidentialism">Kenya&#039;s new constrained presidentialism</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/democracy-africa_democracy/kenya_3285.jsp">Kenya after Mwai Kibaki</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/article/kenya_ethnicity_tribe_and_state">Kenya: ethnicity, tribe, and state</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/article/where_does_responsibility_for_kenyas_chaos_lie">Kenya: chaos and responsibility </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/daniel-branch/kenya-and-somalia-landscape-of-tension">Kenya and Somalia: landscape of tension </a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/article/south_african_lessons_for_kenya">South African lessons for Kenya</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/john-onyando/kenya%E2%80%99s-new-constitution">Kenya&#039;s new constitution</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/clare-castillejo/kenya%E2%80%99s-elections-make-or-break-moment">Kenya’s elections: a make or break moment?</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/article/kenya-it-s-our-turn-to-read">Kenya: it’s our turn to read</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/article/the-kenya-we-want">&quot;The Kenya we want&quot;</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/article/kenya_roots_of_crisis">Kenya: roots of crisis</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/article/kenya_spaces_of_hope">Kenya: spaces of hope</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/article/kenya_s_trauma_seven_questions">Kenya’s trauma, and how to end 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"> Kenya </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 class="field-item even"> International politics </div> </div> </div> openSecurity Kenya Democracy and government International politics conflicts democracy & power africa & democracy Daniel Branch Security in Sub-Saharan Africa Peacebuilding Transitional Justice Fri, 01 Mar 2013 03:24:52 +0000 Daniel Branch 71246 at https://opendemocracy.net International courts: justice vs politics https://opendemocracy.net/andrew-wallis/international-courts-justice-vs-politics <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>The tribunals judging crimes in Rwanda and former Yugoslavia were intended to deliver justice for victims of genocide. But several recent cases suggest that politics may be getting in the way, says Andrew Wallis in Kigali. </p> </div> </div> </div> <p>The genocide in Rwanda that claimed up to one million lives in summer 1994 is today far from the top concerns of the international community. But for many thousands of still grieving survivors, it is impossible to forget. The same goes for those in the states of former Yugoslavia who, also in the 1990s, suffered the loss of their relatives in genocidal crimes.</p><p>A degree of forgetting may be understandable if not welcome. But far more disturbing is the possibility that political influences or judicial agendas are interfering with the application of justice over the violations of those years. </p><p>Monitors from the <a href="http://www.unictr.org/">International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda</a> (ICTR), based in Arusha, Tanzania were expected in the Rwandan capital Kiagli in the third week of February 2013. The ICTR has handed over a number of genocide suspects to Rwandan jurisdiction, and the monitors' mandate is to assess whether the Rwandan justice system is working effectively with due process in the matter. In fact, Rwanda has within months of the prisoners' arrival finished legal investigations, prepared cases and begun trials.</p><p>But this very efficiency contributes to the anger of the Kigali authorities at the United Nations monitors' visit, for – according to Rwanda's <a href="http://www.nppa.gov.rw/component/content/article/38-sports/94-prosecutor-general.html">prosecutor-general</a> Martin Ngoga - it contrasts greatly with the record of France, where two suspects accused of genocide, extermination and multiple rape were transferred for trial in 2008. There, the investigations have made almost no <a href="http://ictj.org/news/kigali-slams-paris-over-rwanda-genocide-suspects">progress</a>. Moreover, the ICTR decided that the French justice system was "competent" and did not need monitors to oversee the cases of former prefect <a href="http://www.trial-ch.org/en/resources/trial-watch/trial-watch/profiles/profile/653/action/show/controller/Profile.html">Laurent Bucyibaruta</a> and <a href="http://www.trial-ch.org/en/ressources/trial-watch/trial-watch/profils/profile/112/action/show/controller/Profile.html">Father Wenceslas Munyeshyaka</a>, who continue to enjoy their freedom pending any trial. Why should Rwanda's justice system be subject to monitoring when it is working smoothly in these cases, while France's is endorsed when it is not?</p><p>Speaking before the monitors' arrival in Kigali, Ngoga was clear. "If these monitors turn up I’ll tell them clearly it is their last time. They are not welcome here. We have done all the ICTR required yet they still send monitors. France has done nothing - and yet is not required to host these people. It seems a clear case of politics, with the poor African country yet again being treated differently despite abiding by rules the western states flout."</p><p>This new hard stance seems to have paid off in the short term, at least with the ICTR registrar, Bongani Majora. On his own three-day visit to Rwanda in February 2013, he <a href="http://focus.rw/wp/2013/02/cases-in-france-of-great-concern-to-ictr/">promised</a> that monitors would now be sent to Paris – and that they would be in place before their colleagues are next in Rwanda. It is a victory of sorts for Ngoga; but there is still a suspicion that when it comes to actions, the ICTR is very often found wanting as politics blocks its judicial remit.</p><p><strong>A question of impunity </strong></p><p>The charge of hypocrisy over these two alleged <em>genocidaire</em> is part of a far wider malaise at the heart of international justice. Laurent Bucyibaruta and Wenceslas Munyeshyaka were first brought before the French courts in 1995, having fled Rwanda after the genocide. In 2004, the European Court of Human Rights - reacting to a complaint from survivors - condemned the French judiciary's slowness in bringing their cases to trial. The ICTR had considered taking the cases to Arusha before, in 2007, <a href="http://www.hirondellenews.org/ictr-rwanda/406-collaboration-with-states/collaboration-with-states-france/20650-en-en-260707-ictrfrance-bucyibaruta-and-munyeshyaka-will-remain-in-detention-until-1-august97019701">transferring</a> them to France - but only on the understanding that France's justice system would indeed implement justice quickly and thoroughly, according to its obligations.</p><p>In 2013, however - six years later - the files for both men remain closed and untouched. The ICTR had the option to recall the cases on the grounds that France was doing nothing, but chose for political reasons to remain silent. Bongani Majora, the ICTR registrar, announced during his recent visit: "We have sent a delegation to France to express our concerns that their investigation is going slowly”. After nineteen years of inaction, that is masterful understatement.</p><p>French pressure-groups such as <a href="http://survie.org/"><em>Survie</em></a> and the <span class="st"><a href="http://www.collectifpartiescivilesrwanda.fr/"><em>Collectif des Parties Civiles pour le Rwanda</em></a> (</span>CPCR) have noted that Bucyibaruta worked closely with France's <em>Operation Turquoise</em> - the intervention at the end of the genocide that is accused of allowing tens of thousands of suspects to escape justice (many to France). Munyeshyaka, for his part, was allowed to settle in the picturesque Normandy town of Gisors, where the Catholic church gave him a parish and legal assistance to fight the charges of genocide and rape against him.</p><p>In addition, there are more than twenty high-profile cases in France where no judicial action has been taken, with suspects either released pending further investigation or charges dropped. They include the case of the wife of the former Rwandan president, <a href="http://www.newyorker.com/online/blogs/newsdesk/2010/03/the-arrest-of-madame-agathe.html">Agathe Habyarimana</a>, who was described in a lengthy, independent asylum report as "being at the heart of the genocide".</p><p>French investigators have visited Rwanda searching for witnesses and evidence more than thirty times, without any judicial outcome at home. It is worth recalling that the <a href="http://www.icrc.org/eng/war-and-law/treaties-customary-law/geneva-conventions/index.jsp">Geneva conventions</a>, of which France is a signatory, <a href="http://www.icrc.org/ihl.nsf/WebART/380-600168?OpenDocument">states</a>: "(Each) High Contracting Party shall be under the obligation to search for persons alleged to have committed, or to have ordered to be committed, such grave breaches, and shall bring such persons, regardless of their nationality, before its own courts."</p><p>By contrast, several countries - among them Belgium, Norway and the United States - have tried Rwandan suspects in their own courts; others, like Canada, have sent them back to Rwanda, as its justice system is now seen as matching international requirements for fair trials and care of prisoners. France's president, Nicolas Sarkozy, made a landmark <a href="http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/africa/8535803.stm">visit</a> to Kigali in February 2010 as part of a political "rapprochement" with Rwanda, and promised to set up a special genocide chamber to investigate those on French soil still to face justice. Again, three years later the chamber’s efforts have made little progress. <br />France’s new <a href="http://www.theeastafrican.co.ke/Rwanda/News/France-names-new-ambassador--/-/1433218/1476584/-/5smwq0/-/index.html">ambassador</a> to Kigali, Michel Flesch, has denied that politics have in any way interfered with its justice system, and reaffirmed the country's judiciary's independence of the state. The fact remains, however, that almost twenty years after the genocide in Rwanda, the justice system in a leading western state has failed to prosecute any of these highly serious cases. </p><p><strong>A charge of hypocrisy</strong></p><p>The indignation in Rwanda goes deeper, however. Many survivors of the genocide reacted with incredulity and shock after the appeals bench of the ICTR acquitted two more high-ranking ministers of the "interim government" that served during the eight weeks of the genocide - thus overturning sentences of thirty years' imprisonment at their original trials.</p><p>Judge Theodor Meron, an 82-year-old American academic, was in 2012 appointed president of the Appeals Court and Residual Mechanism, which was set up at the ICTR in Arusha and the <span class="st"><a href="http://www.icty.org/sections/AbouttheICTY"> International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia</a> (</span>ICTY) in the Hague to oversee the winding down of the two international courts. Ban Ki-Moon <a href="http://www.un.org/News/Press/docs/2012/sga1327.doc.htm">proposed</a> the judge for the four-year position, though like much of the internal court process, a degree of mystery surrounds the appointment.</p><p>Already, <a href="http://www.unictr.org/AboutICTR/ICTRStructure/TheChambers/JudgeTheodorMeron/tabid/140/Default.aspx">Judge Meron</a> has delivered a number of highly contentious reversals of original trial sentences. The <a href="http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-20352187">quashing</a> of the Hague court's original guilty verdicts against Croatian generals Ante Gotovina and Mladen Markac in November 2012, which had been reached over their role in operations in the Serbia-populated Krajina region of Croatia in 1995, was one. Serbia's deputy prime minister Rasim Ljajic <a href="http://www.balkaninsight.com/en/article/serbia-shocked-with-croatian-generals-release">responded</a> that the ICTY had "lost all its credibility" and that the decision by the appeals bench was "proof of selective justice, which is worse than any injustice".&nbsp; Another important judgment at The Hague approaches on 28 February, when Meron delivers the verdict in the appeal hearing of <a href="http://www.icty.org/sid/11203">Momčilo Perišić</a>, the former Yugoslav army chief-of-staff, who was given twenty-eight years at his original trial for war crimes.</p><p>In another case, Meron cut the sentence of a Rwandan colonel, <a href="http://www.haguejusticeportal.net/index.php?id=10108">Anatole Nsengiumva</a>, from life to fifteen years - even though the case involved genocide, extermination and crimes against humanity involving the murder of tens of thousands in Gisenyi prefecture. Meron himself had described such crimes in his appeal verdict in December&nbsp; 2011 as "some of the most serious" known to humanity. Similarly, <a href="http://www.trial-ch.org/en/ressources/trial-watch/trial-watch/profils/profile/153/action/show/controller/Profile.html">Théoneste Bagosora</a>, the mastermind of the genocide, had his sentence cut from life to thirty-five years. Since the appeals court has increasingly made early release commonplace, all prisoners can now expect to serve a maximum of three-quarters of any sentence.</p><p>The downgrading of sentences by the ICTY and ICTR appeal court under Judge Meron, and the overturning of verdicts reached in trials lasting several years, have led to open splits within the courts. Some have blamed the office of the prosecutor (OTP) for lax administration; other senior officials have criticised the appeal bench for brushing aside original verdicts, often without new documentary or witness evidence.</p><p>For example, in the just-completed Mugenzi-Mugiraneza <a href="http://www.cnlg.gov.rw/news/13/02/08/justin-mugenzi-and-prosper-mugiraneza-two-master-planner-genocide-acquitted-ictr-appea">appeal case</a>, Judge Liu Daqun <a href="http://focus.rw/wp/2013/02/ictrs-weak-legacy-further-tarnished-by-acquittals/">dissented</a> from Meron’s majority verdict. In his opinion he wrote: "Notwithstanding this detailed and considered evaluation of the evidence [by the original trial judges], and without identifying any specific error… this conclusion [of the other appeal judges] is without foundation and exceeds the purview of the Appeals Chamber."</p><p>The controversy over sentences is not all. In late 2012, reports emerged that <em>genocidaire</em> who have been sent to Mali to serve their sentences - among them former prime minister <a href="http://www.haguejusticeportal.net/index.php?id=8872">Jean Kambanda</a> - were running lucrative businesses in Bamako from their prison. They were free to come and go at will and even employ non-prison assistants in daily living. Meron promised a report on these serious allegations, but there has been no sign of it so far. Rwanda's justice minister Tharcisse Karugarama has <a href="http://allafrica.com/stories/201302210093.html">expressed</a> fears that the insecurity in Mali at present could offer the prisoners an opportunity to escape. </p><p>The ICTR and ICTY's spokespersons highlight the courts' success in bringing high-level genocide suspects before international justice. But the true legacy is troubled. The ICTR alone has cost around $3 billion, trials have been lengthy, the fee-splitting between defence lawyers and their clients is but one example of the dubious influences at work, and there has been an overall lack of transparency in the workings, appointments and decisions of the courts.</p><p>The former ICTR <a href="http://foreignpolicyblogs.com/2011/05/27/my-interview-with-tim-gallimore-former-spokesman-for-the-ictr-prosecutor/">spokesman</a> Tim Gallimore recently said he was "increasingly disappointed" at trials that were "dragging on" and at judges who were handing out "unbelievably low sentences for convictions of the gravest of crimes". He <a href="unbelievably low sentences for convictions of the gravest of crimes">added</a>: "The expense is an issue, and the results of that spending are even more disturbing. It is difficult to say that the victims and survivors of the genocide against the Tutsi [in Rwanda] have received justice."</p><p>The president of the United Nations general assembly, former Serbian foreign minister <a href="http://www.un.org/apps/news/newsmakers.asp?NewsID=69">Vuk Jeremic</a>, has scheduled a public debate there on 10 April 2013, on the role of international criminal tribunals in achieving justice and reconciliation among peoples. He <a href="http://www.tanjug.rs/news/66786/jeremic--public-debate-on-tribunals-in-april-2013.htm">says</a>:</p><p>"The ICTY Appeals Chamber's decision concerning Operation Storm [the Croatian military campaign in the Krajina in 1995] has caused bitterness... It is indisputable that about one quarter of a million Serbs has been forced to leave their homes in a matter of days and that the tribunal, set up to investigate these crimes, had practically decided that nobody is responsible for this. This could lead to a conclusion that no crimes were committed, which is contrary to the reality."</p><p>The international community is now committed to trying those allegedly guilty of <a href="http://www.hrw.org/topic/international-justice/war-crimescrimes-against-humanity">war crimes</a> in Syria and Libya. There is a clear need for its courts to prove that impunity from the most serious crimes does not occur. In this light, the current experience of the ICTR and ICTY, and the verdicts of Judge Meron, suggest that they are influenced by political and institutional interests more than by principle. In terms of international justice, is it one law for the west and one for the rest?</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-read-on"> <div class="field-label"> 'Read On' Sidebox:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p><a href="http://www.unictr.org/">International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda</a> (ICTR)</p><p><a href="http://www.icty.org/sections/AbouttheICTY">International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia</a> (ICTY)</p><p>Gérard Prunier,<a href="http://www.hurstpub.co.uk/BookDetails.aspx?BookId=90"><em><span><span> The Rwanda Crisis, 1954-94: History of a Genocide</span></span></em></a> (C Hurst, 2nd edition, 1998)</p><p><a href="http://statecrime.org/%20"><span><span>Statecrime</span></span></a></p><p>Gérard Prunier, <em><a href="http://www.hurstpub.co.uk/BookDetails.aspx?BookId=461"><span><span>From Genocide to Continental War: The 'Congolese' Conflict and the Crisis of Contemporary Africa</span></span></a> </em>(C Hurst, 2009)</p><p><a href="http://www.haguejusticeportal.net/?id=2">Hague Justice Portal</a></p><p><a href="http://kigaliwire.com/">Kigali Wire</a></p> <p>Andrew Wallis, <a href="http://www.ibtauris.com/Books/Humanities/History/Regional%20%20national%20history/African%20history/Silent%20Accomplice%20The%20Untold%20Story%20of%20Frances%20Role%20in%20the%20Rwandan%20Genocide.aspx?menuitem=FA55535F-8963-48F7-8AF8-E2C09472664C"><em><span><span>Silent Accomplice: The Untold Story of the Role of France in the Rwandan genocide</span></span></em></a> (IB Tauris, 2006)</p><p>Martin Shaw, <a href="http://www.polity.co.uk/book.asp?ref=9780745631820"><em><span><span>What is Genocide?</span></span></em></a><em> </em>(Polity, 2007)</p> <div>Ben Kiernan, <a href="http://yalepress.yale.edu/yupbooks/book.asp?isbn=9780300100983"><span><span><em>Blood and Soil: A World History of Genocide and Exte</em><em>r</em><em>mination from Sparta to Darfur</em></span></span></a> (Yale University Press, 2007)</div> </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-sidebox"> <div class="field-label"> Sidebox:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Andrew Wallis is a researcher who specialises in&nbsp;central and east Africa. He&nbsp;is the author of <em><a href="http://www.ibtauris.com/Books/Humanities/History/Regional%20%20national%20history/African%20history/Silent%20Accomplice%20The%20Untold%20Story%20of%20Frances%20Role%20in%20the%20Rwandan%20Genocide.aspx?menuitem=FA55535F-8963-48F7-8AF8-E2C09472664C">Silent Accomplice: The Untold Story of the Role of France in the Rwandan genocide</a></em> (IB Tauris, 2006) </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="/andrew-wallis/rwanda-step-towards-truth">Rwanda: a step towards truth</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/eric-gordy/icty-vs-mladi%C4%87-had%C5%BEi%C4%87-good-defence-better-history">ICTY vs Mladić-Hadžić: good defence, better history </a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/article/the-icc-and-the-gaza-war-legal-limits-symbolic-politics">The ICC and the Gaza war: legal limits, symbolic politics </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/globalization-institutions_government/sudan_icc_4301.jsp">Sudan and the ICC: a question of accountability</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/martin-shaw/international-justice-wild-west-vs-icc-coming-crisis">International justice, wild west vs ICC: a coming crisis</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/democracy-africa_democracy/rwanda_france_4183.jsp">Rwandan rifts in La Francafrique</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/conflict-institutions_government/icj_bosnia_serbia_4392.jsp">The International Court of Justice: Serbia, Bosnia, and genocide</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/article/sudan-and-the-international-criminal-court-a-guide-to-the-controversy">Sudan and the International Criminal Court: a guide to the controversy</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/globalization/article_1831.jsp">Rwanda, Sudan and beyond: lessons from Africa</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/article/rwanda-power-law-and-justice">Rwanda: law, justice and power</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"> Rwanda </div> <div class="field-item even"> Serbia </div> <div class="field-item odd"> Croatia </div> <div class="field-item even"> France </div> </div> </div> France Croatia Serbia Rwanda conflicts democracy & power human rights africa & democracy Andrew Wallis Wed, 27 Feb 2013 01:43:40 +0000 Andrew Wallis 71183 at https://opendemocracy.net Syria's war, Israel's trap https://opendemocracy.net/paul-rogers/syrias-war-israels-trap <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>The prospect of a chaotic endgame in Syria and more instability in Egypt is leading Israel further in the direction of a "fortress-state". This military entrenchment reflects not strength but vulnerability.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p>The worsening of the civil war in Syria is further diminishing the options open to Barack Obama's team. Neither side has much prospect of victory, and as the violence intensifies so do war <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2013/02/19/world/middleeast/un-rights-panel-says-violence-in-syria-is-mounting.html">crimes</a>. International divisions, with the United States and Saudi Arabia wanting Bashar al-Assad's regime to fall and Iran and Russia continuing to support it, make the conflict even more intractable. </p><p>Amid the imbroglio, Washington has a particular problem: it is inhibited from supplying arms to Syria's rebels, which they need to have any chance of ending the <a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/vicken-cheterian/syria%E2%80%99s-broken-spring-damascus-report">Damascus</a> regime, by the increasing power of Islamist factions within the <a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/vicken-cheterian/syrias-activists-politics-of-anger">opposition</a>. Among the most significant of these are Ahrar al-Sham and Jabhat al-Nusra, each of which has made considerable <a href="http://www.longwarjournal.org/archives/2013/02/al_nusrah_front_fore.php">gains</a> (the former<a href="http://www.longwarjournal.org/archives/2013/02/islamist_rebels_seiz.php"></a> in northern Syria, the latter in other areas of the country) (see Jeremy Binnie, “Islamist group grows into major force in Syria”, <a href="http://www.janes.com/products/janes/defence-business/news/defence-weekly.aspx"><em>Jane's Defence Weekly</em></a>, 20 February 2013).</p><p>The strength of both militias is aided by skilled commanders whose powers of leadership attracts other paramilitaries to their cause. The result is that <em>jihadists</em> are increasingly leading groups of mixed affiliations. This factor reinforces Washington's caution about supplying armaments: for the <a href="http://news.sky.com/story/1053151/syria-the-growing-power-of-jihadist-groups">rise</a> of <em>jihadist</em> groups makes it more likely that this current will wield substantial influence in post-Assad Syria, whether in a unified regime or amid a situation in Syria that resembles Lebanon during its civil war from 1975-90 (see Mark Landler &amp; Michael R Gordon, “<a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2013/02/19/world/middleeast/as-assad-holds-firm-obama-could-revisit-arms-policy.html?ref=marklandler&amp;_r=0">Options dwindle on easing Assad from power</a>”, <em>New York Times</em>, 19 February 2013).</p><p>But if this outcome is worrying for the Americans, it is an even greater problem for the Israelis. The Syrian war has unfolded since 2011 at a time of subtle deterioration in Israel's security predicament, which is producing contradictory responses: strenuous efforts to make Israel even <a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/article/after-gaza">more</a> of a "fortress-state", but also remarkable advocacy of serious negotiations with the Palestinians from some of the country's hawkish voices.</p><p><strong>A border upgrade</strong></p><p>Israel has two immediate and simultaneous concerns of its own: the prospect of Islamists gaining real <a href="http://english.alarabiya.net/articles/2013/02/04/264413.html">influence</a> in southern Syria, and Egypt being unwilling or unable to stem insecurity in the Sinai peninsula. </p><p>Israel, in the period <a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/article/the-gaza-war-and-the-syria-israel-front">before</a> the Syrian conflict erupted, had no particular problems in dealing with Assad's <a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/carsten-wieland/syria-decade-of-lost-chances">regime</a> - nor indeed with Jordan and Egypt's. In great part because these autocratic regimes recognised their own weaknesses in the face of Israel's conventional and nuclear superiority, Israel found them easy enough to handle. </p><p>Now, Syria poses a major difficulty for Israel. It <a href="http://www.defensenews.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=2013302030006">worries</a> that Damascus's chemical and biological <a href="http://www.nti.org/country-profiles/syria/">weapons</a> could be seized by radical Islamists or Hizbollah, and that the chaos of a <a href="http://yalepress.yale.edu/yupbooks/book.asp?isbn=9780300186512">post-Assad</a> Syria could spill over into Lebanon. For the moment, Israel is strengthening its military forces adjacent to its <a href="http://www.lib.utexas.edu/maps/middle_east_and_asia/israel_pol01.jpg">borders</a> with Lebanon and Syria, including a move of three batteries of the <a href="http://www.rafael.co.il/Marketing/186-1530-en/Marketing.aspx">Iron Dome</a> anti-missile system from the south (near to Gaza). It is also preparing for a war with <a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/article/the-hizbollah-project-last-war-next-war">Hizbollah</a>, with plans for civilian evacuation from southern Lebanon being made (see Barbara Opall-Rome, “Israel Hones Contingency Plans for Lebanon War”, <a href="http://www.defensenews.com/"><em>Defense News</em></a>, 11 February 2013).</p><p>The Israeli Defence Forces (<a href="http://www.idf.il/1503-en/Dover.aspx">IDF</a>) also anticipate the need to engage in more long-range special-force operations - certainly in Syria, possibly in Iran - and has established a new "depth Command" composed of reserve and active-duty personnel to facilitate this.&nbsp; This, says <em>Defense News</em>, reports “…directly to Lt. Gen. Benny Gantz, Chief of Israel's General Staff, [and] the new organization has its own budget and will assume operational responsibilities for 'pinpoint missions' supported by the Israeli Air Force and all intelligence agencies…”. </p><p>“In emergency scenarios", a senior officer is quoted, "they will get all the necessary forces and the geographic area of responsibility to command pinpoint operations on behalf of the chief of staff.”</p><p>Israel's fortification of its borders is a crucial part of intense efforts to operate at a distance. The frontier with Jordan is to be further strengthened, even though it is already quite heavily protected, while that with Egypt is seeing major change. There, a 242-kilometre long fortification with multiple <a href="http://www.defensenews.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=2012304260006">sensors</a> is being <a href="http://www.idf.il/1283-15057-en/Dover.aspx">constructed</a>; called project Hourglass, it will be completed by May at a cost of $300 million. The physical barriers will be supported by a rapid <a href="http://www.technologies.co.il/beta/en-us/Conference.aspx?Id=56">expansion</a> of missile defences; they include a $600-million funding request from Washington to finance more Iron Dome batteries, and another $100 million for the <a href="http://www.aviationweek.com/Article.aspx?id=/article-xml/AW_08_13_2012_p50-481840.xml&amp;p=3">longer-range</a> David's Sling and the development of the <a href="http://www.boeing.com/defense-space/space/arrow/index.html">Arrow-3</a> missile.</p><p>The border defences are interesting also in terms of political psychology. The completion of the Hourglass barrier on the Sinai border means that Israel, for the first time in its history, will be completely enclosed within a gigantic open prison of its own making (and which encompasses the extensive secondary barriers around the West Bank). It is the world's largest complete "gated community" - even North Korea does not have such extensive barriers across its China border (see "<a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/article/after-gaza">After Gaza: Israel's last chance</a>" [17 January 2009]; "<a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/paul-rogers/israel%E2%80%99s-security-trap">Israel's security trap</a>" [5 August 2010], and "<a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/paul-rogers/israel%E2%80%99s-security-complex">Israel's security complex</a>" [28 July 2011]).</p><p>The combination of barriers and missile defences, supplemented by Israel's capacity to strike at a distance, may make the country seem secure. But looked at another way, the reality is of an isolated fortress within the much greater region. The "security" this brings is of a wholly artificial kind. There appears to be some <a href="http://www.defensenews.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=2013301140011">recognition</a> of this in the surprising decision of the hawkish Institute for National Security Studies (<a href="http://www.inss.org.il/">INSS</a>) - which has close links with prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu - to urge a resumption of talks with the Palestinians (see Barbara Opall-Rome, “Israeli Experts: Palestinian Peace Plan Could Push Agenda for Region”, <a href="http://www.defensenews.com/"><em>Defense News</em></a>, 11 February 2013).</p><p>True, Israel's perceived need to gain diplomatic <a href="http://www.inss.org.il/publications.php?cat=21&amp;incat=&amp;read=11014">credence</a>, not least with the Obama administration, is part of the reason for this move. <em>Defense News</em> says: </p><p>“Before Washington and the international community impose conditions on both parties - and in order to forestall new rounds of violence that will further inflame public opinion in Egypt, Jordan, Turkey and other countries with a common interest in derailing Iran's nuclear weapons program - INSS experts urge the new Netanyahu government to present a reasonable plan to Palestinian leaders in the West Bank.” </p><p>There is something more than political calculation in the Israeli institute's analysis. The wider reality is that events are moving against Israel across the region. Indeed, the massive border defences are a clear indicator of this. Israel is now completely surrounded, and its <a href="http://www.btselem.org/topic/settlements">treatment</a> of the Palestinians both isolates it further and creates the potential for deeper instability. The INSS's move indicates that the depth of this predicament is understood by some among Israel's security elite, and no longer confined to critical analysts who have long <a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/paul-rogers/israel%E2%80%99s-security-beyond-zero-sum">pointed</a> this out. So far, there is little sign that Netanyahu has got the message. But this shift in an Israeli think-tank's outlook gives some small cause for hope. </p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-read-on"> <div class="field-label"> 'Read On' Sidebox:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p><a href="http://www.brad.ac.uk/peace/index.php"><span><span>Department of peace studies, Bradford University</span></span></a></p> <p><a href="http://www.oxfordresearchgroup.org.uk/" target="_blank"><span><span>Oxford Research Group</span></span></a></p><p><a href="http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-middle-east-17258397" target="_blank"><span><span>BBC - Syria conflict</span></span></a></p> <p>Paul Rogers, <em><a href="http://www.plutobooks.com/display.asp?K=9780745329376&amp;" target="_blank"><span><span>Losing Control: Global Security in the 21st Century</span></span></a></em> (Pluto, 3rd edition, 2010)</p><p><a href="http://www.inss.org.il/">Institute for National Strategic Studies</a>, Tel Aviv</p><p>Carsten Wieland, <a href="http://www.cunepress.com/7d/Product-43-484.aspx"><em><span><span>A Decade of Lost Chances: Repression and Revolution from Damascus Spring to Arab Spring</span></span></em></a> (Cune Press, 2012)</p><p>Paul Rogers, <em><a href="http://www.routledge.com/books/details/9780415419383/" target="_blank"><span><span>Global Security and the War on Terror: Elite Power and the Illusion of Control</span></span></a></em> (Routledge, 2007)</p><p><a href="http://www.oxfordresearchgroup.org.uk/projects/recording_casualties_armed_conflict"><span><span>Recording Casualties in Armed Conflict </span></span></a>(RCAC)</p><p> <a href="http://www.joshualandis.com/blog/">Syria Comment</a></p><div>David W Lesch, <em><a href="http://yalepress.yale.edu/yupbooks/book.asp?isbn=9780300186512">Syria: The Fall of the House of Assad</a></em> (Yale University Press, 2012)&nbsp;</div> <div> <p><a href="http://www.shril-sy.info/enshril/modules/news/article.php?storyid=169">Syrian Observatory for Human Rights</a>&nbsp;</p><p>Colin Shindler, <a href="http://www.cambridge.org/aus/catalogue/catalogue.asp?isbn=9780521615389"><em>A History of Modern Israel</em></a> (Cambridge University Press, 2008)</p></div> <div><a href="http://www.merip.org/index.html" target="_blank"><span><span>Middle East Research and Information Project (MERIP)</span></span></a>&nbsp;&nbsp;</div><div></div><div><a href="http://www.syriaintransition.com/">Syria in Transition</a></div> <div> <p><a href="http://www.al-bab.com/">Al-bab&nbsp;</a>&nbsp;</p></div> <p>Albert Hourani, <a href="http://www.hup.harvard.edu/catalog/HOUHIR.html?show=reviews"><em>A History of the Arab Peoples</em></a> (Harvard University Press, 2003) </p> </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-sidebox"> <div class="field-label"> Sidebox:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Paul Rogers is professor in the <a href="http://www.brad.ac.uk/acad/peace/">department of peace studies</a> at Bradford University, northern England. He is <strong>openDemocracy's</strong> international-security editor, and has been writing a weekly column on global security since 28 September 2001; he also writes a monthly briefing for the <a href="http://oxfordresearchgroup.org.uk/">Oxford Research Group</a>. His books include <a href="http://eu.wiley.com/WileyCDA/WileyTitle/productCd-0745641962,subjectCd-PO34,descCd-authorInfo.html"><em>Why We’re Losing the War on Terror</em> </a>(Polity, 2007), and <a href="http://www.plutobooks.com/display.asp?K=9780745329376&amp;" target="_blank"><em>Losing Control: Global Security in the 21st Century</em> </a>(Pluto Press, 3rd edition, 2010). He is on twitter at: <span class="screen-name screen-name-ProfPRogers pill">@ProfPRogers</span></p> <p><span class="screen-name screen-name-ProfPRogers pill">A lecture by Paul Rogers&nbsp;on <a href="http://sustainablesecurity.org/what-sustainable-security">sustainable security</a>, delivered to the Quaker yearly <a href="http://www.quaker.org.uk/ym-updates">meeting</a> on 3 August 2011, provides an overview of the analysis that&nbsp;underpins his openDemocracy column. It is available in two parts and can be accessed from&nbsp;<a href="http://www.networkforpeace.org.uk/resources/qpsw/paul-rogers-lecture-sustainable-security">here</a></span></p> </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/paul-rogers/syria-weapons-vs-politics">Syria, weapons vs politics</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/paul-rogers/israel-and-gaza-from-war-to-politics">Israel and Gaza: from war to politics</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/paul-rogers/remote-control-new-way-of-war">Remote control, a new way of war</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/hazem-saghieh/syria-and-iraq-armies-politics-and-future">Syria and Iraq: armies, politics, and the future</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/paul-rogers/america-and-israel-historic-choice">America and Israel: a historic choice</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/paul-rogers/syria-iraq-and-al-qaidas-opportunity">Syria, Iraq, and al-Qaida&#039;s opportunity</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/conflict/losing_control_3755.jsp">Israel: losing control</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/paul-rogers/syria-last-chance">Syria, the last chance</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/paul-rogers/syria-and-iran-diplomatic-tunnel">Syria and Iran, a diplomatic tunnel</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/conflict/article_135.jsp">Israel: the illusions of militarism</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/paul-rogers/syria-endgame-and-blowback">Syria, endgame and blowback</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/article/gaza-the-israel-united-states-connection">Gaza: the Israel-United States connection </a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/paul-rogers/israels-shadow-over-iran">Israel&#039;s shadow over Iran</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/paul-rogers/syria-mali-nigeria-wars-paralysis">Syria, Mali, Nigeria: war&#039;s paralysis</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/paul-rogers/chances-for-peace-second-decade">Chances for Peace, the second decade</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"> Israel </div> </div> </div> Israel Syria conflicts democracy & power Globalisation global security Paul Rogers Thu, 21 Feb 2013 12:30:52 +0000 Paul Rogers 71093 at https://opendemocracy.net Militarising Education https://opendemocracy.net/5050/emma-sangster/militarising-education <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>The incursion of the military into the British education system will mean that alternatives to war and peaceful ways of resolving conflict will be more difficult for young people to explore. In the long term we will all pay a heavy price, says Emma Sangster.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p>The UK government is on a drive to integrate 'military ethos and skills' into the structure of education, echoing developments in the US and founded on an ideology that says that everything military is good.&nbsp; </p> <p>According to an unpublished 2007 report by the Ministry of Defence (MoD), the UK military already has substantial involvement in education, visiting thousands of schools and colleges each year and having contact with a minimum of around 900,000 children aged 8 -18. Figures obtained link under the Freedom of Information Act suggest that in many areas most secondary level state schools and colleges are being visited, often numerous times. The three aims of this involvement were outlined in the <a href="http://www.google.co.uk/url?sa=t&amp;rct=j&amp;q=&amp;esrc=s&amp;source=web&amp;cd=1&amp;cad=rja&amp;ved=0CDUQFjAA&amp;url=http://www.mod.uk/NR/rdonlyres/67B99648-8E16-454F-9DA2-FF9691B0D734/0/20120705_yer_final.pdf&amp;ei=_LmvUKapNpSM0wWmsIDYDw&amp;usg=AFQjCNEsVFRugo8YVEiMeTLBN6yezGG6pg">Youth Engagement Review 2011</a>: recruitment, to raise awareness of the armed forces “in order to ensure the continued support of the population” and to encourage personal and social development. The first two are Defence outcomes, the third chimes neatly with the Government's agenda in other areas in which military input into young people's lives is being seen as a solution to wider issues of social dysfunction.</p> <p>A more <a href="http://www.newstatesman.com/politics/2007/02/british-army-recruitment-iraq">vivid interpretation</a> of the agenda behind the military's 'engagement' with youngsters was given by the head of army recruitment in 2007, “Our new model is about raising awareness, and that takes a ten-year span. It starts with a seven-year-old boy seeing a parachutist at an air show and thinking, 'That looks great.' From then the army is trying to build interest by drip, drip, drip."</p> <p>Ready access to hundreds of thousands of school children each year provides the contact that the forces need to win over young hearts and minds to military ideals and to engage them in pre-recruitment activities for those who will eventually enlist.</p> <p>However, in addition to the careers talks and presentations, free curricular resources, displays, alternative curricular activities, visits to bases, mentoring individuals and cadets forces, there is currently an ideological push, which has gained momentum this year, to integrate military attitudes into the structure of national education policy. The Department for Education's (DfE)&nbsp;<a href="http://www.education.gov.uk/childrenandyoungpeople/youngpeople/militaryethos">'military skills and ethos programme'</a> encompasses a number of schemes including expanded cadet provision within state schools, the <a href="http://www.education.gov.uk/get-into-teaching/troops-to-teachers.aspx">Troops to Teachers scheme</a> and alternative provision for pupils at risk of becoming disengaged, including the <a href="http://www.skillforce.org/work-for-us/military-mentors">Military to Mentors</a> and <a href="http://www.challengertroop.org.uk/">Challenger Troop</a>, a full time uniformed programme for 10-16 year olds. The Government chose Armed Forces Day this year to announce their aim of creating <a href="http://www.number10.gov.uk/news/cadet-forces-scheme/">100 new cadet units in English state schools</a>.</p> <h3><strong>‘Military ethos’ - who benefits?</strong></h3> <p>The DfE <a href="http://www.education.gov.uk/childrenandyoungpeople/youngpeople/militaryethos">state</a> that their objective of bringing military ethos into education “to help raise standards and tackle issues such as behaviour” is based on positive values associated with the military, “loyalty, resilience, courage and teamwork, to name but a few.” However, they do not provide a rounded examination of 'military ethos' or why a military framework is an appropriate one in which to develop these values within education. The military operates in an environment of conflict and its hierarchical structure, demand for obedience, use of force and lack of space for critical thinking do not seem appropriate in an education context.</p><p>In order to accommodate the modern expectations of young people, the last decade has seen military life increasingly represented as providing them with development and career opportunities. While the concept of 'self-development powered by the army' fails to give a rounded picture of military experience, it does provide a strong momentum behind the offering of military values and skills as the solution to individual and community dysfunction and lack of hope. Since the 2011 riots, the Centre for Policy Studies have proposed 'zero-tolerance' <a href="http://www.cps.org.uk/publications/reports/something-can-be-done-troops-in-our-schools-will-do-more-than-troops-on-our-streets/">free schools</a> run entirely by ex-military with 'no moral relativism' and the 'encouragement of competitiveness' amongst its most important principles. Another think-tank, ResPublica, have proposed '<a href="http://www.respublica.org.uk/item/Military-Academies-Tackling-disadvantage-improving-ethos-and-changing-outcome">Military Academies</a>' to 'rescue the young', 'generate hope and purpose' and keep them out of trouble.</p> <p>The military academies proposal explicitly states two further outcomes: it would serve to provide employment opportunities for ex-service personnel and it would increase recruitment capacity, especially to the reserve forces which are planned to play a larger role in the future. So, whose interests are actually being served by embedding military ethos in education? Whether or not politicians can believably argue that the policy is located in the needs of pupils and students, it seems that other agendas are evidently at play; some young people, living in certain communities could soon have little choice but to shape up to military expectations, fall in line and become part of a military-ready pool of potential recruits.</p> <p>A<a href="http://www.child-soldiers.org/research_report_reader.php?id=337"> recent report</a> by Child Soldiers International, which argues for the military recruitment age to rise to 18, suggests that, despite MoD claims, the quality of education for minors within the two main military training institutions does not compare at all well to conventional education. One of the issues identified is that a minority of staff at these institutions are qualified teachers. Will basic educational attainment at military academies and free schools, which would be able to employ teachers who have not formally qualified, similarly suffer?</p> <p>In <em>Globalisation and Militarism</em>, Cynthia Enloe states that, “To become militarized is to adopt militaristic values and priorities as one's own, to see military solutions as particularly effective, to see the world as a dangerous place best approached with militaristic attitudes.” With such militaristic attitudes gaining ground in UK education, and a wider uncertainty around the future of progressive citizenship within the national curriculum, creative and peaceful forms of conflict resolution will find it harder to complete with military approaches and solutions, and may be silenced altogether.&nbsp; <a href="http://www.army.mod.uk/armyineducation/default.aspx">Educational materials</a> currently provided by the forces to schools almost exclusively approach issues of conflict, human rights or justice through a military lens and rarely pursue a critical perspective of military action or armed forces life.&nbsp;</p> <h3><strong>How did we get here?</strong></h3> <p>This progress of militaristic attitudes is not just happening at schools of course. Since the 2008 Report of Inquiry into <a href="http://www.google.co.uk/url?sa=t&amp;rct=j&amp;q=&amp;esrc=s&amp;source=web&amp;cd=1&amp;cad=rja&amp;ved=0CC4QFjAA&amp;url=http://www.mod.uk/NR/rdonlyres/69519F89-9630-4D5F-92CF-B834FAB0FBD2/0/recognition_of_our_armed_forces.pdf&amp;ei=HhavULfLOerK0QWNmoHYAQ&amp;usg=AFQjCNGt2LdlO32chFBXtGWpg3n7xFJPHg">National Recognition of the Armed Forces</a> there has been an observable rise in the media representation of all soldiers, or 'our boys' (women make up less than 10% of UK Regular forces and media usually focuses on men), as heroes and in the level of uncritical celebration of the armed forces. The annual <a href="http://www.armedforcesday.org.uk/">Armed Forces Day</a>, the <a href="http://www.mod.uk/DefenceInternet/AboutDefence/WhatWeDo/Personnel/Welfare/ArmedForcesCovenant/ArmedForcesCommunityCovenant.htm">Armed Forces Community Covenant</a> - “a voluntary statement of mutual support between a civilian community and its local Armed Forces Community” - and the publicity coup resulting from the British military’s involvement in the Olympics have been preparing the ground for a growing acceptance of the military as solution to wider social problems.</p><p>Looking across to the US provides an indication of where this public policy could be heading. <a href="http://books.google.co.uk/books?id=JKqUGAAACAAJ&amp;dq=">Research by Catherine Lutz</a> on the expansion of the Junior Research Officer Training Corps in US schools during the 1990s, to “create favourable attitudes and impressions toward the Services and toward careers in the Armed Forces”, shows that the programme did not increase safety in schools but did promote authoritarian values, rote learning methods and drill in favour of democratic values and critical thinking. Since then, the <a href="http://www.nyclu.org/milrec/nochild">No Child Left Behind Act</a> has given the military legal access to schools and contact data for each student. It is legislation which lays bare the recruitment agenda behind the military's involvement in education and which has fuelled a vibrant <a href="http://nnomy.org/">movement</a> against the militarisation of young people.</p><p>Galaviz et al.'s <a href="http://www.academia.edu/655649/The_Militarization_and_Privatization_of_Public_Schools">study</a> of the Militarization and Privatization of Public Schools in the US identifies the development of the Charter School Movement as important to the more recent spread of military academies within public education. This is reflected in the British government's <a href="http://www.education.gov.uk/childrenandyoungpeople/youngpeople/militaryethos/a00216980/academies-with-a-military-ethos">turn</a> towards academies and free schools as a mechanism for the delivery of military values into school life. The deregulation of education within this sector raises further concerns about accountability and the nature of real choice for parents when schools that receive the highest level of resources are those that conform to current government ideology.&nbsp;</p> <h3><strong>Schools and the ‘duty of care’</strong></h3> <p>The reframing of the military as an uncontroversial modern institution, embracing diversity and providing a context in which the individual can excel as professional, as well as a hero, has quietened dissent around its involvement in education. The concerns of teaching unions in <a href="http://www.guardian.co.uk/education/2008/mar/26/schools.uk">England and Wales</a> and Scotland around one-sided army materials and recruitment-orientated presentations within schools have abated.&nbsp; Within this context it is easy to see how over 100 schools this year had a '<a href="http://www.ssafa.org.uk/fundraising/national-events/camo-day/">Camo Day</a>', a non-uniform fundraiser for veterans charities, providing a visual celebration of military apparel.</p><p>The research report <a href="http://www.informedchoice.org.uk/informedchoice/index.php">Informed Choice? Armed forces recruitment practice in the UK</a> shows that information on army life as presented by the military is often biased with the effect of glamorising and sanitising warfare. Young people often join up without sufficient knowledge and understanding to make an informed choice. Yet it is within the school’s duty of care to present a balanced view of life in the armed forces. The National Union of Teachers 2008 resolution was based on the duty that a school has under the <a href="http://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/1996/56/section/407">Education Act 1996</a> 'to secure balanced treatment of political issues'. Ethical issues, that each recruit should consider around the justification of military action, and legal obligations around enlisting, as well as the risks of death or serious injury, PTSD and other mental health and wellbeing issues, must all be part of such a balanced treatment. Embedding military ethos within the structure of education is likely to further reduce the space and input needed for such critical awareness.&nbsp;</p><p>We also look to schools to play a significant role in giving the decision-makers of tomorrow the tools and knowledge they need to create a more peaceful society. Militarising education will mean that alternatives to war will be more difficult for young people to explore. Not only will they be less willing and able to voice their concerns and questions but the very possibility of peaceful ways of resolving conflict will become more distant. In the long term we will all pay a heavy price for buying into military solutions within education as the interests of the armed forces gain a stronger foothold in society, as the idea of service becomes equated with force and as values which have been formulated by the military become the principles to be measured by.&nbsp;</p><p>There needs to be a much greater public response to both the government-led ideology around 'military ethos and skills' and decisions at the level of individual schools to engage with the military.&nbsp; There is still time for military academies and free schools to be rendered unacceptable before they take hold. The military must be recognised for what it is – an outside interest with its own agenda and at odds with the aims of education and the needs of students. We must each question every incursion in the step by step process of militarisation within education and make this into an issue of controversy and debate.&nbsp;</p><p><em>Read&nbsp;<a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/16-days-activism-against-gender-violence/16-days-of-activism-against-gender-violence-2012">other articles</a>&nbsp;in the series, 16 Days of Activism against Gender Violence 2012.</em></p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/charlotte-isaksson/genderforce-why-didnt-we-do-this-before">GenderForce: why didn&#039;t we do this before? </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/heather-mcrobie/abortion-access-in-us-military-%E2%80%93-time-for-march-act">Abortion access in the US military – time for the MARCH Act</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/ourkingdom/heather-mcrobie/levels-2012-tories-have-already-failed-generation">A-levels 2012: the Tories have already failed a generation </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/rebecca-johnson/rape-basic-tool-of-militarism">Rape: a basic tool of militarism</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/patricia-daley/understanding-contemporary-violence-in-central-africa-militarism-race-and-gender">Understanding contemporary violence in Central Africa: militarism, race, and gender</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/content/resist-reclaim-restore-militarism-no-more">Resist-Reclaim-Restore: Militarism No More </a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/jessica-horn-discusses-militarism">Jessica Horn discusses militarism</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/ray-filar/thousand-feminists-million-acts-of-violence">A thousand feminists, a million acts of violence</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/kagbe-rachel/education-in-chad-in-state-of-decline">Education in Chad: in a state of decline</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/kagbe-rachel/le-syst%C3%A8me-%C3%A9ducatif-tchadien-en-pleine-d%C3%A9cadence">Le système éducatif tchadien en pleine décadence </a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/jennifer-allsopp/women-human-rights-defenders-activisms-front-line">Women human rights defenders: activism&#039;s front-line</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/korto-williams/green-of-her-soul">The Green of Her Soul</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/warsan-shire/conversations-about-home-at-deportation-centre">Conversations about home (at a deportation centre)</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/dee-borrego/who-was-rita-hester">Who was Rita Hester? </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"> England </div> </div> </div> 50.50 50.50 openSecurity England europe conflicts institutions & government Nobel Women's Initiative 2013 50.50 Peacework & Human Security 16 Days: activism against gender based violence 16 Days, 2012 50.50 Editor's Pick 50.50 Voices for Change women and militarism 50.50 newsletter Emma Sangster Tue, 27 Nov 2012 11:01:26 +0000 Emma Sangster 69521 at https://opendemocracy.net The war between the president’s men https://opendemocracy.net/od-russia/dmitry-travin/war-between-president%E2%80%99s-men <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p><img style="float: right;" src="http://www.opendemocracy.net/files/Putin_security_council_0.jpg" alt="" width="160" /></p><p>The Russian regime may present a united front to the world, but behind the scenes the cracks are beginning to show. In the week when Putin fired a senior government member, Dmitry Travin looks at the people and the issues that divide them.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p>On 6 November Vladimir Putin abruptly dismissed Russia’s Minister of Defence, and one of his own political appointees, Anatoly Serdyukov. He was immediately replaced by Moscow regional governor <a href="http://en.rian.ru/russia/20120405/172629226.html">Sergey Shoigu</a>, but given that Shoigu was only recently appointed governor, it seems unlikely that this was part of a presidential plan. It points instead to a sudden crisis in the Kremlin.&nbsp; </p> <p>Serdyukov’s fall is ostensibly linked to a corruption scandal in the Defence Ministry, but his nemesis was most probably his own father-in-law <a href="http://www.gazprom.com/about/management/directors/zubkov/">Viktor Zubkov</a>, a former deputy prime minister and current chairman of the state-owned gas giant Gazprom. And behind Zubkov is Putin’s close friend <a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/od-russia/richard-sakwa/russias-grey-cardinal">Igor Sechin</a>, CEO of oil company Rosneft, a man of enormous influence with Russia’s law enforcement agencies. </p> <blockquote><p><em>'Serdyukov’s story is one of many described by the phrase: ‘war between the Kremlin’s towers’: the fact that the apparently united front that is the country’s government is in fact mired in internal conflict.'</em></p></blockquote> <p>Serdyukov’s career was built on his marriage to Zubkov’s daughter, but the couple’s relationship has now broken down and there has evidently been talk of divorce, which has rather spoilt Zubkov and Sechin’s relations with their protégé. Serdyukov also managed to antagonise many important generals, who claim that the reforms he was carrying out were detrimental to Russia’s army. </p> <p>Serdyukov’s story is one of many in Russian political life that are described by the phrase: ‘war between the Kremlin’s towers’. What it means is that the apparently united front that is the country’s government is in fact mired in internal conflict.<span> </span>Vladimir Putin’s close political associates are at loggerheads with one another, fighting for influence over the president and control of resources (financial, natural, information), and in some cases for the achievement of their political aims. Official Kremlin sources present the same closed ranks as Putin’s team and never talk about these internal divisions, but in fact the situation at the top is becoming ever more problematic. Putin’s personal authority, and the immense power which he has concentrated in his own hands, have until now made it possible to suppress these conflicts, or at least keep a lid on them, but should the president falter for a moment, it will all blow up in an instant. </p> <p>One can indeed say that the problem of internal conflict within the Putin regime is at a new high. If in the past it was a question of the odd ‘dissident’ who could easily be got rid of, we now see a situation where politicians in open disagreement with one another remain in their jobs and wage a cold war among themselves. </p> <p>The three major clashes of the past involved the economist <a href="http://www.time.com/time/world/article/0,8599,1145192,00.html">Andrey Illarionov</a>, the FSB general <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Viktor_Cherkesov">Viktor Cherkessov</a> and Moscow’s former mayor Yuri Luzhkov. Illarionov was an advisor to Putin, but his liberal views brought him into conflict with Russia’s whole governmental system, based as it is on state corruption, and he therefore turned into a strong opponent of the present regime. Cherkessov, whose ideas were more left than liberal, was also opposed to the high level of corruption in the regime, and was soon dismissed. Luzhkov, on the other hand, is the man considered by many commentators to have been responsible for the growth in corruption in the capital, and this was possibly the reason why he was eventually fired by then president Dmitry Medvedev. </p> <blockquote><p><em>'In the past it was a question of the odd ‘dissident’ who could easily be got rid of, but now politicians in open disagreement with one another remain in their jobs and wage a cold war among themselves.'</em></p></blockquote> <h3><strong>The causes of conflict</strong></h3> <p>Today’s conflicts are totally different. The first, and perhaps most crucial at this stage in Putin’s rule, is between the Kremlin’s top political strategist Vyacheslav Volodin, who holds the post of First Deputy Head of the presidential administration, and deputy Prime Minister <a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/od-russia/richard-sakwa/surkov-dark-prince-of-kremlin">Vladislav Surkov</a>, who until recently was Putin’s right hand man in Internal Affairs. Volodin’s position is more hard-line than Surkov’s. He relies less on political manoeuvring, and more on direct suppression of the opposition, to the extent of initiating criminal charges against its leaders, including Aleksey Navalny and Sergey Udaltsov.&nbsp; </p> <p>Putin could probably reproach Surkov with the fact that his ingenious strategies of the past just didn’t work. ‘A Just Russia’, for example, the party which Surkov was involved in setting up, was designed to be a loyal ally of the Kremlin, but by the time of the presidential election in March 2012 it had spoken out strongly against Putin. Surkov has also more recently been seen as a close ally of Medvedev, which will hardly have put him in the current president’s good books. </p> <p>In other words, much of the political instability of 2011-2012 can be laid at Surkov’s door. He still, however, occupies a senior position. Putin can’t be certain that Volodin’s heavy- handed policy will be successful, especially if Russia hits a serious economic crisis. So Surkov could still be useful in a political U-turn, if Putin has to replace the current brutal crackdown on all malcontents and protesters with something a little more nuanced. </p> <p>The second major conflict concerns the current regime’s economic policy, and its main protagonists are Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev and former Finance Minister <a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/od-russia/dmitry-travin/kudrin%E2%80%99s-warning">Aleksey Kudrin</a>. Medvedev would like to initiate a steep increase in government expenditure, regardless of the possible consequences of a fall in oil prices, on which Russia’s GDP directly depends. It was disagreement over this policy that made Kudrin resign a year or so ago. His further career has however been very different from that of Illarionov, who split with Putin for a similar reason. </p> <blockquote><p><em>'Putin, on the one hand, can’t avoid raising government spending if he wants to stay popular with the public. On the other, he recognises the limits on spending and the high risks of oil dependency. So he needs to walk a tightrope between Medvedev and Kudrin’s policies.'&nbsp;</em></p></blockquote> <p>Kudrin still opposes Medvedev’s policy, but refrains from any direct opposition to Putin, and the president continues to see him as his friend and part of his team. Indeed it was Kudrin who made Putin insist on the inclusion in the government’s budget plans of provision for a reserve fund, to be fed by some of the profits from the high oil prices. </p> <p>Many commentators regard Kudrin himself as a kind of ‘strategic reserve’ for Putin, should an economic crisis loom. In an emergency, the government led by Medvedev (who many consider a weak leader), could be made to resign, and responsibility for solving the crisis handed over to Kudrin, who has the reputation of being one of the country’s best economic brains and one of the world’s best Finance Ministers of the last decade.&nbsp; </p> <p>Putin’s ambiguous position can be explained by the fact that, on the one hand, he can’t avoid raising government spending if he wants to stay popular with the public. On the other, he recognises the limits on outgoings from the public purse and the high risks connected with oil dependency. So the president needs to walk a tightrope between Medvedev and Kudrin’s policies. </p> <h3><strong>Oil, gas and international money</strong></h3> <p>The third important conflict has recently been brewing between Medvedev and Igor Sechin, who is not only CEO of Rosneft but also Chair of the board of directors of Rosneftegaz, the holding company for the state's 75.2% stake in Rosneft and 10.7% stake in Gazprom, and who is seen as one of Putin’s closest allies. Medvedev decided to use Rosneftegaz dividends to help carry out his budget obligations, but Sechin had completely different plans for this money. He is in the process of expanding his oil empire, with the aim of turning Rosneft into one of the world’s largest energy companies. Rosneft has recently announced the conclusion of a deal with BP (British Petroleum) to buy up its 50% share in the oil company TNK-BP, and so Sechin is keen to maximise his financial resources. </p> <p>The problem of the Rosneftegaz dividends will further complicate the already tricky relationship between Medvedev and Sechin, although it must also be said that Sechin has for some time been on equally difficult terms with Kudrin. So the three way relationship of these senior politicians is turning ever more messy.&nbsp; </p> <blockquote><p><em>'While Putin’s influence is still strong, he can suppress or conceal the internal wars between the elites around him. But should his authority slip, these top level conflicts could threaten the very existence of Russia’s current regime.'&nbsp;&nbsp;</em></p></blockquote> <p>A fourth conflict concerns Prosecutor General Yuri Chaika and the head of Russia’s&nbsp; Investigative Committee (IC), Aleksandr Bastrykin. Two years ago the IC became independent from the Prosecutor General’s Office, a development which Chaika was furious about, since it drastically reduced his power. And he would naturally like the change to be reversed.&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; </p><p> Add to these major issues a number of minor ones, and you realise that there are very few senior government figures who are not involved in one conflict or another. There has never been a situation of this kind since Putin came to power in 2000. While the president’s influence is still strong, he can manage to suppress or conceal the internal wars between the elites around him. But should his authority slip, these top level conflicts could threaten the very existence of Russia’s current political regime.&nbsp;</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-sidebox"> <div class="field-label"> Sidebox:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Also by Dmitry Travin on openDemocracy Russia:</p> <p><a title="1490 words, 0 comments" href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/od-russia/dmitri-travin/russia-is-running-out-of-cash">Russia is running out of cash</a></p> <p><a title="1585 words, 0 comments" href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/od-russia/dmitri-travin/russia-over-cuckoo%E2%80%99s-nest">Russia, over the cuckoo’s nest</a></p> <p><a title="1432 words, 0 comments" href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/od-russia/dmitri-travin/is-russia%E2%80%99s-protest-movement-flash-in-pan">Is Russia’s protest movement a flash in the pan?</a></p> <p><a title="1319 words, 0 comments" href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/od-russia/dmitri-travin/crisis-planning-what-chance-%E2%80%98soft%E2%80%99-putin">Crisis planning: what chance a ‘soft’ Putin?</a></p> <p><a title="1488 words, 0 comments" href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/od-russia/dmitri-travin/crisis-planning-which-way-forward-for-putin%E2%80%99s-regime">Crisis planning: which way forward for Putin’s regime?</a></p> <p><a title="1663 words, 0 comments" href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/od-russia/dmitri-travin/putins-comeback-and-why-opposition-lost">Why the opposition lost to Putin</a></p> <p><a title="1406 words, 0 comments" href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/od-russia/dmitry-travin/putin%E2%80%99s-charm-offensive-will-he-moderate-his-course">Putin’s charm offensive: will he moderate his course?</a></p> <p><a title="1699 words, 0 comments" href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/od-russia/dmitri-travin/russian-economy-trying-to-please-people-doesn%E2%80%99t-help">Russian economy: trying to please people doesn’t help</a></p> <p><a title="239 words, 0 comments" href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/od-russia/dmitri-travin/russian-reforms-twenty-years-on">Russian reforms, twenty years on</a></p> <p><a title="2304 words, 0 comments" href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/od-russia/dmitri-travin/return-of-street-fighter">The return of the street fighter</a></p> <p><a title="1796 words, 0 comments" href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/od-russia/dmitri-travin/ukraine-belarus-russia-%E2%80%94-family-reunited">Ukraine, Belarus, Russia — family reunited?</a></p> </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/od-russia/mikhail-loginov/summer-is-cancelled-for-russia%E2%80%99s-bureaucrats-%E2%80%93-but-will-they-play-ball">Summer is cancelled for Russia’s bureaucrats – but will they play ball?</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/od-russia/daniil-kotsyubinsky/vladimir-putin%E2%80%99s-ever-decreasing-circle-of-friends">Vladimir Putin’s ever-decreasing circle of friends</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/od-russia/richard-sakwa/putin-redux-continuity-and-change">Putin Redux: Continuity and change </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/od-russia/nicu-popescu/updating-russia%E2%80%99s-repressive-software-and-why-genie-will-say-%E2%80%98no%E2%80%99">Updating Russia’s repressive software (and why the genie will say ‘no’)</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/od-russia/maxim-trudolyubov/see-it-like-putin">See it like Putin</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/od-russia/bill-browder/turning-tables-on-russia%E2%80%99s-power-elite-%E2%80%94-story-behind-magnitsky-act">Turning the tables on Russia’s power elite — the story behind the Magnitsky Act</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/od-russia/kirill-rogov/limits-of-putin%E2%80%99s-power">The limits of Putin’s power</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/od-russia/maxim-trudolyubov/kremlin%E2%80%99s-revolutionaries">The Kremlin’s Revolutionaries</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/od-russia/julia-pettengill/putin%E2%80%99s-draconian-new-laws-%E2%80%93-sign-of-his-limited-options">Putin’s draconian new laws – a sign of his limited options? </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/od-russia/irina-borogan-andrei-soldatov/what-force-and-forces-can-kremlin-use-against-opposition">What force (and forces) can the Kremlin use against the opposition?</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/od-russia/richard-sakwa/surkov-dark-prince-of-kremlin">Surkov: dark prince of the Kremlin</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/od-russia/richard-sakwa/russias-grey-cardinal">Russia&#039;s grey cardinal</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Russia </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Democracy and government </div> </div> </div> oD Russia oD Russia Russia Democracy and government russia & eurasia russia conflicts Dmitry Travin Politics Internal Tue, 06 Nov 2012 20:41:19 +0000 Dmitry Travin 69214 at https://opendemocracy.net The least bad: the US elections from Israel-Palestine https://opendemocracy.net/antonio-ungar/least-bad-us-elections-from-israel-palestine <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p><a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/freeform-tags/how-it-looks-from-here"><img style="margin-left: 5px;" src="http://www.opendemocracy.net/files/howLooks2-thumbnail.jpeg" alt="" width="140" align="right" /></a>For Palestinians and Israelis, a Democrat victory would be bad and a Republican victory worse. While Obama continues to seduce the deluded among us, Romney is making lethal calculations</p> </div> </div> </div> <p>I live in Israel, a state that is part of the United States of America in more senses than one.&nbsp; And so the unfolding of the US election campaigns affects me in a very real way. Far-fetched as it may seem, my immediate plans (my work prospects, the school my kids can go to, whether or not we can buy an apartment) all depend not just on my wife and me but also – and much more than we’d like – on Messrs Obama and Romney. Much as we might not like it the candidates have granted themselves the power to decide how reality will play out on the ground, in these distant lands. They have already told us, for example, that wars await. They have told us what arms they will be fought with, and how fast. They’ve been more specific, too, when it’s suited them. They have established which people will be able to live in the city of Jerusalem, and which people won’t. They have established whether or not armed colonists can continue stealing land in the West Bank. They’ve even decided whether or not the Palestinians will be able to have a state. <br /><br />For my family, as for Palestinians and for Israelis, a Democrat victory would be bad and a Republican victory worse. There’s one thing that won’t change in these promised lands after 6 November: the Israeli government’s policy towards its Palestinian subjects. Let’s imagine for a moment that Obama wins. His victory won’t prevent another four years of Israeli expansion into the West Bank. Nor will it prevent indiscriminate attacks on the civilian population like the bombardment of Gaza in 2008. On the ground, basic injustices will follow their usual course. In the intangible realm of words and gestures, though, those of us who feel the creation of a Palestinian state alongside an Israeli one is an act of common sense and elemental justice, as well as a necessary step for the survival of both peoples, will feel less alone. If Obama wins, we, the deluded, will continue urging ourselves to think – like children suspending our disbelief in a game, or adults high on our illusions – that Obama is on our side. That we’re not swimming alone, against the current. That at long last the Israelis will let the Palestinians be. Yes we can. We know all too well that it won’t happen, but thanks to the great Democratic rhetoric, we dreamers aren’t about to let go of our illusions. <br /><br />The idea of a Romney victory, on the other hand, leaves no room for doubt. It would be lethal for the Jewish state and for Palestinians on both sides of the border. Netanyahu’s government is publicly making calculations and concluding that it is worth attacking Iran now, while it doesn’t have a nuclear bomb. That attack, the prime minister has said, would mean the deaths of a quarter of Israel’s population in the war that would immediately be triggered – a number that sounds to him like good news. The bad news, he has stated, is that if the attack does not go ahead now, Iran will develop a nuclar bomb and Israel would be condemned irreversibly to annihilation. In the ruthless equation of the far Right (Netanyahu is further to the Right than the bosses of the army and Mossad, both of whom are against the attack), there is no room for this slice of common sense: a negotiation with Iran and a serious, ratifiable agreement on nuclear non-proliferation would result in no deaths on either side. Nor does it fit into the Republican calculus. An eventual agreement for guaranteeing security in the Middle East would, of course, require the support of the president of the USA. It would also require an even more impossible condition: that Israel destroy hundreds of its nuclear warheads, an eventuality that only exists in the mind games that we, the deluded ones, play. <br /><br />My wife and two children live with me in Jaffa, Israel. We don’t find it very pleasant to think that, if the wishes of Netanyahu, Romney and Ahmadinejad were granted, at least one of our family would die in the bombardment, obliterated by the infallibility of statistics. If it were up to us, we’d be fiercely against being collateral damage in the war that those fanatics want to wage, trying to guarantee themselves the infinite electoral victories of the future. </p><p><em>Translated from the Spanish by Ollie Brock.</em></p><p><em>This article is part of the 'How it looks from here' openDemocracy feature on the 2012 US elections. For more worldwide perspectives on the presidential race, click&nbsp;<a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/freeform-tags/how-it-looks-from-here">here</a>.</em></p><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> Conflict Democracy and government International politics middle east conflicts us & the world American election 2012 How it looks from here Antonio Ungar Wed, 31 Oct 2012 09:31:59 +0000 Antonio Ungar 69093 at https://opendemocracy.net Can rancour in the south Caucasus go beyond tit for tat? https://opendemocracy.net/od-russia/william-gourlay/can-rancour-in-south-caucasus-go-beyond-tit-for-tat <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p><img style="float: right;" src="http://www.opendemocracy.net/files/Flag-Pins-Azerbaijan-Armenia.jpg" alt="" width="160" />For close on a millennium Azeris and Armenians co-existed reasonably peaceably. At the end of the Soviet period tensions erupted and they have been bubbling ever since. No need, thinks William Gourlay, because they are actually quite similar. Is it just a case of ‘must try harder’?</p> </div> </div> </div> <p>At the end of August, Ramil Safarov, the <a href="http://www.economist.com/blogs/easternapproaches/2012/09/hungary-armenia-and-axe-murderer">Azeri soldier convicted</a> of murdering a sleeping Armenian at a NATO training camp, was released from prison in Hungary, returning home to Azerbaijan to be pardoned immediately by the president and to receive a hero’s welcome.&nbsp; There is concern that this turn of events <a href="http://www.undispatch.com/a-spark-in-the-south-caucasus">could reignite hostilities</a>&nbsp;between Azerbaijan and Armenia, with tensions kept barely at simmering point since the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict ended in 1994. Fears are compounded by the possibility of any <a href="http://www.acus.org/natosource/if-caucasus-erupts-war-could-spread">renewed conflict drawing in</a> other regional players, including Turkey, Russia and Iran. Attempts at <a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/opensecurity/laurence-broers/armenia-and-azerbaijan-what-can-societies-do-when-political-judgement-e">forging peace between</a> Azerbaijan and Armenia are now stumbling.&nbsp; </p> <p>In the meantime, the blogosphere and other social networks are buzzing with claim and counter claim, accusation and counter accusation, evidence of the all-consuming nationalism that grips so many Azeris and Armenians. Armenians are outraged not only by the fact that Safarov received an immediate pardon, but that he should be lauded by so many of his countrymen. <a href="http://scaryazeri.blogspot.com.au/2012/09/about-safarov-national-hero.html">Some Azeris</a>, to their credit, agree.&nbsp; </p><blockquote><p><em>'Politically straitjacketed by an oppressive regime today, Azerbaijan was, during the early years of the 20th century, at the forefront of civil activism and reform in the Russian empire.'</em></p></blockquote><p>But many more Azeris point to the case of <a href="http://www.rferl.org/content/article/1142396.html">Varoujan Garabedian</a>, a member of <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/ASALA">ASALA</a> (the Armenian Secret Army for the Liberation of Armenia),&nbsp;who after serving 17 years in a French prison for his role in the bombing of a Turkish check-in desk at Orly airport, was released and returned home to Armenia, in 2001, similarly receiving a hero’s welcome. From the Azeris side at least, the prevailing chorus appears to be, what’s good for the goose is good for the gander…</p> <h3><strong>Past history</strong></h3> <p>Yet, while the nationalist impulses of both peoples seem set to rage, the irony is that the Armenians and the Azeris have much more in common than they like to admit, not least cohabiting, largely peacefully, in the south Caucasus and eastern Anatolia, for close to a millennium. As Caucasus analyst <a href="http://www.amazon.co.uk/Caucasus-Introduction-Thomas-Waal/dp/0195399773/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&amp;ie=UTF8&amp;qid=1346981442&amp;sr=1-1">Thomas de Waal</a>&nbsp;points out, the downplaying of long-standing economic and cultural links in the rush to define separate identities and territories in the wake of the collapse of the Soviet region has been to the detriment of all the countries of the south Caucasus.</p> <p>Politically straitjacketed by an oppressive regime today, Azerbaijan was, during the early years of the 20th century, at the forefront of civil activism and reform in the Russian empire. The great Azeri satirical magazine <em><a href="http://www.iranicaonline.org/articles/molla-nasreddin-ii-political-and-social-weekly">Molla Nasreddin</a></em>, published from 1906 until 1931, pushed a progressive agenda of women’s rights, educational reform, and the privileging of ‘reason’ over ‘superstition’ while skewering local officials, clerics and colonial powers alike for corruption, political interference and sundry venalities.&nbsp; </p> <p>The magazine received plaudits and established a broad readership largely on the basis of its <a href="http://www.slavsandtatars.com/works.php?id=72">extrordinary artwork</a> and bitingly parodic cartoons. One <em>Molla Nasreddin</em> cartoon, particularly topical since the Nagorno-Karabakh war of the 1990s, reveals the devil dancing gleefully as he comes upon an Armenian and an Azeri peasant, wearing identical traditional garb and virtually indistinguishable, trading punches. </p><blockquote><p><em>'When the Other, through any activity deemed inappropriate, encroaches on one’s national turf it provokes popular opprobrium, but then that very same inappropriate activity gives the aggrieved nation the right to act in exactly the same (inappropriate) way in response.'</em></p></blockquote><p>But in the close proximity of their fisticuffs the two realise their inherent similarities and fall into a loving, fraternal&nbsp;embrace, leaving the devil dejected and disappointed.&nbsp;Such an image now appears like so much wishful thinking. Nationalistic fervour, fed by the recent memories of both peoples, keeps antagonism at fever pitch these days, so the figurative peasants remain at odds and the devil dances on.</p> <h3><strong>Who started it?</strong></h3> <p>The circumstances of, and reactions to, Safarov’s return and pardon serve to highlight a paradox of nationalistic mindsets. When the Other, through any activity deemed inappropriate, encroaches on one’s national turf it provokes popular opprobrium, but then that very same inappropriate activity gives the aggrieved nation the right to act in exactly the same (inappropriate) way in response. Thus the Azeris can decry the Armenians’ behaviour in pardoning the convicted murderer Garabedian, but then use it to justify their pardoning of the convicted murderer Safarov. It’s a variation of the playground ‘you started it’ argument.</p> <p>Some Turkish hardliners use a similar ‘justification’ for the horrors visited on the Armenians of the Ottoman Empire during WWI. Citing the alleged excesses of certain Armenian paramilitaries in eastern Anatolia, they claim that the Ottoman military authorities’ actions were a legitimate response. &nbsp;(Comparable arguments were used by all sides in the Yugoslav wars of the 1990s, creating a cycle of violence that for a time appeared unstoppable.) And perplexed by ongoing Western melancholy for the fate of the Anatolian Armenians, Turkish nationalists wonder, with some justification,&nbsp;why there is no equivalent sympathy for the millions of Muslims expelled from the Balkans during the latter years of the Ottoman Empire and eventually absorbed into the new Turkish state.</p> <p>This is not to single out Azerbaijan, Armenia, Turkey or any other nation or actor for any particular action, far less to create the case for any dubiously defined ‘fracture zone’ or ‘bloody border’ between Christendom and the Muslim world. But it is the case that in all these instances nationalisms dwell on and draw strength from past wrongs, rather than looking to future opportunities. It’s always possible to look back to find an earlier outrage perpetrated <em>against</em> your compatriots that can therefore ‘justify’ a more recent outrage perpetrated in response <em>by</em> your compatriots, or at least can be used to bang the drum, rally ‘patriots’ to the cause and shore up local political support.</p><blockquote><p><em>'Nationalist rhetoric may serve short-term political ends for individual parties, but enduring regional cooperation would only serve to better the lot of all the peoples of the south Caucasus.'</em><em></em></p></blockquote> <h3><strong>And now why not….?</strong></h3> <p>In the course of ongoing nationalist rancour over these geopolitical issues, what would be refreshing to see is not national leaders – who may purport to be statesmen – falling over themselves to point out that the Other started the hostilities, rather to see them falling over each other to be the first to begin a process of dialogue and reconciliation with the Other. Nationalist rhetoric may serve short-term political ends for individual parties, but enduring regional cooperation would only serve to better the lot of all the peoples of the south Caucasus. </p><p> Getting beyond tit for tat. Now that would be statesmanlike.</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><em>Tom de Waal, ‘Black Garden: Armenia and Azerbaijan Through Peace and War’</em>. New York. New York University Press, 2003<em></em></p> </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/od-russia/nicu-popescu/time-for-azerbaijan-to-open-up">Time for Azerbaijan to open up</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/opensecurity/laurence-broers/armenia-and-azerbaijan-what-can-societies-do-when-political-judgement-e">Armenia and Azerbaijan: what can societies do when political judgement errs?</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/od-russia/elkhan-nuriyev/azerbaijan-geopolitical-conundrum">Azerbaijan: the geopolitical conundrum</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/od-russia/wayne-merry/karabakh-frozen-conflict-nears-melting-point">Karabakh: &#039;frozen&#039; conflict nears melting point</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/vicken-cheterian/armenia-turkey-end-of-rapprochement">Armenia-Turkey: the end of rapprochement </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/od-russia/giorgi-gogia/azerbaijan-rights-situation-no-cause-for-celebration">Azerbaijan: rights situation no cause for celebration </a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/vicken-cheterian/turkey-and-armenians-politics-of-history">Turkey and the Armenians: politics of history</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/vicken-cheterian/armenia-turkey-protocols-year-on-0">The Armenia-Turkey protocols: a year on </a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/od-russia/ara-iskanderian/waiting-for-word-in-armenia">Waiting for the word in Armenia </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/vicken-cheterian/armenian-genocide-and-turkey-then-and-now">Armenian genocide and Turkey: then and now </a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/openrussia/sergei-markedonov/can-armenia-and-turkey-be-reconciled">Can Armenia and Turkey be reconciled?</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"> Armenia </div> <div class="field-item even"> Azerbaijan </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"> Creative Commons </div> </div> </div> oD Russia oD Russia Azerbaijan Armenia Conflict russia & eurasia russia conflicts Caucasus William Gourlay Politics Foreign Tue, 02 Oct 2012 17:05:16 +0000 William Gourlay 68402 at https://opendemocracy.net America's military: a far-right threat https://opendemocracy.net/matt-kennard/americas-military-far-right-threat <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>A lax recruitment policy has allowed neo-Nazi and other extremists to enter the United States army. The violent consequences are increasingly being felt in the domestic arena, says Matt Kennard.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p>A tragic incident in August 2012 at a Sikh temple in Oak Creek, Wisconsin left six innocent worshippers murdered in cold blood. The killings were hideous and mindless acts of murder <a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/cas-mudde/wisconsins-sikh-massacre-real-danger">motivated</a> by hate and racism. Unfortunately, for those of us who have been watching and investigating the rise of the far-right in the United States, particularly the mushrooming problem within its armed forces, there was nothing random about it. Many have been predicting for years that something like this would happen. The recent unearthing of a violent militia operating at Fort Stewart in Georgia, which was allegedly planning to assassinate the US president, has emphasised the threat.<br /><br />The Wisconsin shooter, neo-Nazi army <a href="http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-us-canada-19167324">veteran</a> Wade Michael Page, was merely one of many far-right radicals who have used the US military over the past two decades to gain access to the highest-grade weaponry in the world, alongside attendant training. The Springfield semi-automatic 9mm handgun used by Page in Oak Creek is very similar to the Beretta M9 which is the civilian version of the pistol issued by the US military. And neo-Nazi veterans, like Page, are explicit about wanting to use their new military skills in the coming race war - often called “Rahowa” in extremist circles - which they believe (and hope) will ignite in the US in the near future. Page’s heavy-metal white-power band, called End Apathy, was itself a call to arms.<br /><br />The most shocking part of Page’s story is that he was completely open about his neo-Nazi views while serving in the army during the 1990s. Page was no rookie army private either - he was assigned to the esteemed psychological operations (“psych-ops”) branch, a kind of offensive intelligence service. &nbsp;But despite this senior status, the independent American military newspaper <a href="http://www.stripes.com/"><em>Stars &amp; Stripes</em></a>, writes that Page was “steeped in white supremacy during his army days and spouted his racist views on the job as a soldier.” <br /><br />This is especially worrying considering Page served from 1992-98. The latter part of this period putatively witnessed the US military taking a strong stand against white supremacism within the ranks after neo-Nazi and active-duty paratrooper James Burmeister <a href="http://www.mdcbowen.org/p2/bh/james.htm">murdered</a> an African-American couple near Fort Bragg, North Carolina, in 1995. It is doubtful that much changed in reality.<br /><br />What is certain, however, is that the impunity afforded to violent neo-Nazis and white supremacists by the US military hit a new high during the “war on terror”. My new book <a href="http://www.versobooks.com/books/1111-irregular-army"><em>Irregular Army: How the US Military Recruited Neo-Nazis, Gang Members, and Criminals to Fight the War on Terror</em></a> (Verso, 2012) includes extensive interviews with neo-Nazi veterans as well and leaders of the far-right movement, all of whom reported to me that the US military was basically running an open-door policy on far-right radicals during the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. An internal Pentagon report I dug up noted that by 2005, “The military [had] a “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy pertaining to extremism.” In reality there was not even any need for secrecy: it could be more accurately described as an “ask, tell” policy. The same report said screening for racist tattoos - ostensibly banned by the US military - was basically non-existent in the same period. Wade himself was covered in white-supremacist<br />tattoos.<br /><br /><strong>The crystal rule </strong><br /><br />In March 2008, I went to Tampa, Florida, to interview Forrest Fogarty. Like Page, he is a neo-Nazi; like Page, he is part of the Hammerskins, probably the most violent skinhead group in the US; like Page, he served in the US military (in Fogarty’s case in Iraq from 2004-05); and like Page, he is the lead singer in a neo-Nazi rock band (Fogarty’s is called Attack). Fogarty had in fact signed up to the US army, complete with racist tattoos, in 1997, around the same time Page was denied re-enlistment.<br /><br />Fogarty told me bluntly how his command as well as his fellow soldiers had been fully aware of his neo-Nazi ideology before and during their deployment in Iraq. while stationed in Iraq. They had done nothing about it. In fact, Fogarty was feted because of his “war-like” attitude. “They all knew in my unit”, he told me. “They would always kid around and say, ‘Hey, you’re that skinhead!’” Did anyone rat on you, I asked. “No, I was hardcore, I would volunteer for all the hardest missions, and they were like: ‘Let Fogarty go’. You know what I mean, they didn’t want to get rid of me.”<br /><br />Fogarty’s story is not singular. The US <a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/paul-rogers/america%E2%80%99s-military-failures-of-success">military</a> have, in fact, always been ambiguous in their regulation concerning enlisted neo-Nazis and white supremacists, precisely so that in times of chronic troops needs, as was the case during the “war on terror” they would have enough leeway to allow these radicals to keep <a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/paul-rogers/america-and-worlds-jungle">fighting</a> for the flag. <br /><br />For example, in <a href="http://www.part-time-commander.com/ar-600-20-everything-you-need-to-know-about-army-command-policy/"><em>Army Command Policy</em></a> (the rulebook for the army revised in May 2002), the guideline for commanders is that: "Participation in extremist organisations and activities by army personnel is inconsistent with the responsibilities of military service." But a word such as "inconsistent" is ambiguous enough to be interpreted in any way a commander chooses. Why not “prohibited”? On the back of this tragedy, the US military must make its regulations very clear: racist <a href="http://www.npr.org/2012/06/25/155710570/fbi-checking-100-suspected-extremists-in-military">extremists</a> are not accepted in any form within the armed forces. If connections with or membership of far-right groups is found, that should constitute a lifetime ban from service for that individual. <br /><br />If a racist tattoo is found, that also must unambiguously be a bar to enlistment; there must no longer be an option to have it removed or modified. (I heard of one recruit turning a swastika into a sun-wheel and being sent off to Iraq.) Any individual with a racist tattoo must also have a lifetime ban on service. These are easy regulatory changes to make - if the will is there. In terms of future <a href="http://www.splcenter.org/get-informed/hate-incidents">attacks</a>, it could already be too late.<br /><br /><strong>The ticking bomb</strong><br /><br />During the “<a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/conflict/past_present_future_3850.jsp">war on terror</a>” even the extant regulatory structure, thin at best, was completely scorched. When the war in Iraq was peaking in the period around 2005, the US military had to all intents and purposes broken. It could no longer recruit the soldiers it needed to populate the war’s frontlines; in fact, in 2005 it missed its recruitment targets by the largest margin since 1979, when the US was still afflicted with so-called “Vietnam syndrome”, which had turned many Americans off military service. <br /><br />In the same period, the US military was also finding it hard to retain the soldiers it serving in the middle east. At a Senate hearing in March 2005, General Richard A Cody <a href="http://www.stripes.com/news/army-vice-chief-of-staff-cody-worried-about-future-of-all-volunteer-military-1.30715">expressed</a> his concerns publicly: “What keeps me awake at night is what will this all-volunteer force look like in 2007.” His insomnia, as it turned out, was more than warranted. In reality, the US military needed conscription - but it was too unpopular. Instead, the George W Bush administration <a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/paul-rogers/bush-to-obama-toxic-legacy">turned</a> the country’s fighting force into a social experiment.<br /><br />To cope with the massive shortfall in troops, the US military (with the express approval of defence secretary, <a href="http://www.defense.gov/specials/secdef_histories/bios/rumsfeld.htm">Donald Rumsfeld</a>) explicitly loosened requirements for enlistment age (pushed up to 42 years-old by 2006), body-weight, high-school diplomas, as well as for other groups that were deemed not too shocking for the American public. More quietly, however, groups which would have caused much more controversy amongst the domestic population (as well as the people occupied by the US military) were granted easier entrance - people convicted of felonies, including assault, rape and other serious crimes; <a href="http://www.csmonitor.com/USA/Military/2012/0807/Sikh-temple-shootings-Extremist-groups-recruit-from-US-military-ranks">members</a> of some of the most violent and powerful gangs in the US, like the Gangster Disciples out of Chicago; and, yes, violent neo-Nazis and white supremacists. <br /><br />Even Islamic fundamentalists like Nidal Malik Hasan, who is <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2012/08/16/us/fort-hood-shooting-trial-delayed-pending-ruling-on-beard.html">alleged</a> to have killed thirteen&nbsp; of his fellow soldiers at Fort Bragg in November 2009, was allowed to continue serving, even though the FBI and the military’s investigative branch discovered he had sent more than a dozen solicitous emails to the extremist Islamist cleric Anwar al-Awlaki (who was eventually <a href="http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-middle-east-11658920">assassinated</a> on orders of the Barack Obama administration in 2011). A resulting Senate report <a href="http://www.cbsnews.com/8301-201_162-7314327.html">found</a> that Hasan had been a “ticking time-bomb” and senator Joe Lieberman said the massacre at Fort Bragg “could have, and should have, been prevented”. Many more ticking time-bombs - unlike Hasan and Wade not yet detonated - are now settling back home after a decade of hard combat-training courtesy of the US military.<br /><br /><strong>The open-door cost </strong><br /><br />A number of groups and individuals implored the US military and politicians in Congress to take this problem seriously during the “war on terror” They included the anti-racist group the <a href="http://www.splcenter.org/?ref=logo">Southern Poverty Law Center,</a> which constantly <a href="http://www.splcenter.org/get-informed/intelligence-report/browse-all-issues/2006/summer/extremism-and-the-military">warned</a> (in ways that now look prophetic) of what could happen if these radicals were allowed to stay in the military; military <a href="http://ipsnorthamerica.net/news.php?idnews=2344">investigators</a> themselves, such as defence-department gang detective Scott Barfield, who warned of neo-Nazis flourishing in Baghdad; and active duty personnel like Sgt Jeffrey Stoleson, who raised the issue of rampant gang activity in Iraq. <br /><br />Both these men - and many other whistleblowers - were shunned, then forced out of their jobs, after they sounded the alarm. The Pentagon brass, down to the non-commissioned officers on the ground, did not want to be exposed, and protected itself by targeting the messengers every time. I myself contacted the US Senate <a href="http://www.senate.gov/general/committee_membership/committee_memberships_SSAS.htm">committee</a> on the armed forces (when it was headed by senators John McCain and Carl Levin) to ask what they were doing about this burgeoning problem. I was refused an interview and merely told: “The Committee doesn’t have any information that would indicate this is a particular problem.”<br /><br />But the US military over the past twenty years - and particularly so during the “war on terror” when it turned into a free-for-all - has been incubating a monster which is now threatening to grievously harm the domestic population. What has been done to the peoples of Iraq and Afghanistan since the <a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/paul-rogers/america-after-iraq-afghanistan">wars</a> there were launched because of this open-door policy on all sorts of unsavoury groups is also painful to contemplate. <br /><br />Many of the worst reported atrocities committed by American troops during the “war on terror” - from the Mahmudiyah <a href="http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2006/07/02/AR2006070200673_pf.html">massacre </a>to the <a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/media-abu_ghraib/article_2145.jsp">Abu Ghraib</a> torture scandal - can be linked directly to loosening regulations on extremists, gangs, and the mentally ill. This is a military that was once the envy of the world, but thanks to the recklessness of the Pentagon - and particularly its implacable<br />ideologue Donald Rumsfeld - it is now a tinderbox waiting to blow.</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>Matt Kennard, <a href="http://www.versobooks.com/books/1111-irregular-army"><em>Irregular Army: How the US Military Recruited Neo-Nazis, Gang Members, and Criminals to Fight the War on Terror </em></a>(Verso, 2012)</p><p><a href="http://www.splcenter.org/get-informed/intelligence-report/browse-all-issues/2006/summer/extremism-and-the-military">Southern Poverty Law Center</a></p><p><a href="http://www.stripes.com/"><em>Stars &amp; Stripes</em></a></p> </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-sidebox"> <div class="field-label"> Sidebox:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Matt Kennard is a journalist who has worked for the <em><a href="http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/6ba2792e-d00b-11e0-81e2-00144feabdc0.html#axzz1h1Gvyltj">Financial Times</a></em> in London, New York and Washington. He is the author of of <a href="http://www.versobooks.com/books/1111-irregular-army"><em>Irregular Army: How the US Military Recruited Neo-Nazis, Gang Members, and Criminals to Fight the War on Terror </em></a>(Verso, 2012)</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="/cas-mudde/wisconsins-sikh-massacre-real-danger">Wisconsin&#039;s Sikh massacre: the real danger</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/matt-kennard/haiti-and-shock-doctrine">Haiti and the shock doctrine</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/paul-rogers/america%E2%80%99s-military-failures-of-success">America’s military: failures of success</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/paul-rogers/road-to-endless-war">The road to endless war</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/paul-rogers/america-and-worlds-jungle">America and the world’s jungle</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"> 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"> Democracy and government </div> <div class="field-item even"> International politics </div> </div> </div> openSecurity United States Democracy and government International politics north america conflicts democracy & power american power & the world Matt Kennard Security sector reform - a global challenge Security in North America Tue, 25 Sep 2012 04:19:40 +0000 Matt Kennard 68259 at https://opendemocracy.net Reconsidering war with Iran https://opendemocracy.net/dan-plesch-martin-butcher-ian-shields/reconsidering-war-with-iran <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Short and long term human, political and economic consequences of any war require innovative approaches to prevent the crisis becoming war: such a case clearly exists with Iran and her nuclear ambitions.&nbsp;&nbsp;</p> </div> </div> </div> <p>There is considerable international discussion about a potential confrontation between Iran and the international community over its nuclear programme.&nbsp; Conventional wisdom is that the US is unable to, or unwilling to risk, a pre-emptive attack and that Tehran is calling all the shots.&nbsp; The US military, and likely political, readiness for a war using minimum ground forces indicates that the current seeming inaction surrounding Iran is misleading. The United States retains the ability – despite commitments to Afghanistan – to undertake no notice major military operations against Iran that could remove Iran’s ability to retaliate and remove the regime’s ability to function at all. This article (drawing on open source material) will challenge the notion that America will not attack first, and demonstrate that the US has the wherewithal to destroy the Iranian military capability.&nbsp; It will detail the capability of the forces within the US services concluding that the most likely attack option (air power) would be highly successful, and then examine the political repercussions of mounting such an attack – and those of not doing so – before arguing in the conclusion that such an attack is more likely than the majority of commentators suggest, and that attack plans are highly likely to be ready to implement on the orders of the President.&nbsp; While we are assuming that the primary, twin military objectives of the attack would be to remove the Iranian nuclear potential and to downgrade Iranian wider military capabilities to limit their counter-attack options this would, almost inevitably, lead to regime change.</p> <p>Before examining in detail the options that the US has at its disposal, why have most commentators appeared so reluctant to suggest that America has the ability to launch a debilitating attack on Iranian nuclear facilities, and could do so at any moment?&nbsp; It strikes us that the concentration over the last decade on counter-terrorism, small-wars and asymmetric combat has blunted the appreciation that America remains the world’s only global, military superpower and retains more than sufficient ability to remove the Iranian nuclear research and production capabilities.&nbsp; </p> <p>This conventional thinking that the US would not attack is based primarily on assumptions - that we believe are flawed – surrounding the Iranian counter-attack options.&nbsp; Standard responses include that Iran will be able to (among many other options): seriously interfere with the Straits of Hormuz and oil flows; destroy Gulf oil industry infrastructure; fire missiles at Gulf States, Iraq and Israel; induce insurrection in Iraq; order attacks by Hizbollah and Hamas on Israel; sponsor an uprising in Afghanistan; carry out attacks in the Gulf, Europe and the US by the use of sleeper cells; and destabilise the Gulf states with large Shi’a populations.&nbsp; But this analysis is not convincing for two reasons.&nbsp; First, elementary military strategy requires the prevention of anticipated enemy counter-attacks. Iranian Air Force, Navy, Surface to Surface Missile and Air Defence systems would not be left intact nor it seems to us would the regime itself through to the paramilitary political structures and key infrastructure including transport and communications links.&nbsp; Second, t he attack plan we outline here would not be limited to a single option and any counter-attack by conventional, or unconventional, Iranian (or Iranian-backed) forces would be met by the unleashing of a second, third and if necessary further, wave of overwhelming aerial firepower.&nbsp; After the charge against Republican President George W Bush that not enough force was used in Afghanistan and Iraq, which President would countenance an attack on nuclear facilities that left retaliatory capabilities intact?&nbsp; And what ally of Iran would sacrifice itself once its sponsor is in ruins? &nbsp;But what are these capabilities, and how might they be employed?</p> <p>First, let us say from the outset that we do not believe that the US would employ its own vast nuclear strike capability to achieve this limited goal.&nbsp; The resultant numbers of deaths and nuclear contamination, even from a series of carefully targeted, small (less than Hiroshima) warheads would be unacceptable.&nbsp; Drawing on readily available work from the Federation of American Scientists<a href="///C:/Users/Heather/Downloads/20120426%20-%20Reconsidering%20War%20With%20Iran%20-%20Ian%20Final%20Draft.docx#_ftn1">[1]</a>, Global Security<a href="///C:/Users/Heather/Downloads/20120426%20-%20Reconsidering%20War%20With%20Iran%20-%20Ian%20Final%20Draft.docx#_ftn2">[2]</a> and the Monterey Institute for International Studies<a href="///C:/Users/Heather/Downloads/20120426%20-%20Reconsidering%20War%20With%20Iran%20-%20Ian%20Final%20Draft.docx#_ftn3">[3]</a>, we have calculated that striking 11 key Iranian nuclear facilities with 3 x 10kt-yield, ground-bust warheads each (and there are far more than 11 key facilities) would result in a death-toll approaching 3,000,000 due to fall-out and the proximity of major centres of population.</p> <p>But such a strike option is not necessary.&nbsp; The Americans can launch an attack using forces that are largely conventional, and certainly non-nuclear, from their vast armoury.&nbsp; We will now examine in turn the role that the US Army, Marine Corps, Navy, Special Forces, and Air Force might play in reducing both the Iranian nuclear and counter-attack capabilities, before a short word about some unconventional capabilities.&nbsp; For we believe that the overall war plan would be to avoid a prolonged and costly land incursion into Iran, for the following three reasons: first, the aims of the mission would be limited to removing the nuclear threat and reducing to the point of inability any counter-attack capability – such an option can be achieved without a land option.&nbsp; Second, the Americans would, with justification, be wary of becoming involved in a third prolonged, costly, deadly and unpopular land campaign: they have learnt from previous mistakes.&nbsp; Third, the Americans will seek to court, not antagonise, world opinion. &nbsp;By sticking rigidly to their two-fold military mission aims and denying that regime change is an overt priority, they can claim with far greater moral certainty that they are acting for the global good rather than out of any imperial motive; although they would no doubt attract criticism from the expected quarters, by staying largely off of Iranian territory, they would attract far less opposition in the aftermath.</p> <p>Given the suggestion that this would primarily be a campaign avoiding large-scale troop deployments, what role for the US Army?&nbsp; We envisage two roles.&nbsp; First, the Army would be able to contribute to the broader air campaign through their highly capable Army Tactical Missile Systems (ATacMS) such as the MGM-140 family, with a range in excess of 100 miles. This usually unreported capability can be used at very short notice without giving any tactical warning to an adversary local observers and contribute to a surprise attack. Launched from bases in Afghanistan and Kuwait, for example, these missiles could play a significant role in degrading large manoeuvre units of both the Republican Guard and the regular Iranian Army, as well as rendering forward-air Bases unusable.&nbsp; But the larger role for the US Army would be that of deterrence.&nbsp; The threat of a large-scale incursion by the US Army air-mobile and armoured forces from Kuwait or Afghanistan would not only tie-down large numbers of Iranian troops, but would act as a deterrent to other, peripheral nations to become involved&nbsp; - were they tempted to do so.&nbsp; Here, the very deployment of significant US land forces to Afghanistan acts in favour of the US acting sooner rather than later, for far from representing an over-stretch, this represents a forward-basing, thereby increasing the threat and offering a further option should it be required.</p> <p>Meanwhile, not all the US Marine Corps is tied-down fighting in Afghanistan.&nbsp; Uncounted by media and analysts alike Marine Corps aircraft carriers – or assault vessels - are larger than the air craft carriers of any nation other than the US.&nbsp; Several Marine forces could assemble in the Gulf, each with its own aircraft carrier that includes one or two squadrons of AV8-B attack aircraft. These carrier forces can each conduct a version of the D-Day landings with their landing craft, tanks, jump-jets, thousands of troops and hundreds more cruise missiles. Their task would be to seize the numerous off-shore islands and oil installations that could be used as jumping-off points for counter attacks.&nbsp; The USMC has trained for such missions ever since the Iranian revolution of 1979, and would play a vital role in negating any counter-attack capability. </p> <p>The US Navy would, we suggest, be even more directly engaged. Countering threats from Iranian surface vessels (both conventional and unconventional – such as an attack by a swarm of suicide boats) would be high on their agenda.&nbsp; This, combined with counter-mine warfare and neutralising the fairly sophisticated submarine threat from the Iranian Navy (not an easy task in the shallow and warm waters of the Gulf where sonar conditions are, at best, challenging) to enable both freedom of manoeuvre for US forces and denying the Iranian Navy that same luxury would represent the core naval task.&nbsp; But the US Navy also has a very considerable air ability that would be central to the campaign.&nbsp; The presence of a carrier group in the Gulf is well-known, not least since it receives widespread publicity whenever it changes over or passages the Straights of Hormuz.&nbsp; But that is only one such group: with around a month’s notice the US Navy can deploy six carriers with all their associated support; carriers in the Gulf region could quickly be joined by others on standby in the Atlantic and Pacific and not noticed by the media. Not only does each carrier force offer several dozen advanced fighter and ground attack aircraft, electronic warfare and aerial taker capabilities, but also thousands of US Navy Tomahawk cruise missiles on board surface ships and submarines.&nbsp; The Tomahawks are now programmable with multiple targets and the ability to be retargeted in flight up to the last moment. This greatly increases their flexibility and, with immediate bomb damage assessment now available due to satellite and drone coverage, is likely to increase substantially the number of targets that can be hit by the Navy.</p> <p>As well as the Marines, there is one other element of the US military machine that would also be on Iranian territory: the Special Forces (or SOF to use the American designation).&nbsp; It is likely that the SOF would have three missions.&nbsp; First, would be countering medium- and long-range missiles.&nbsp; Shore-based, medium-range anti-ship missiles (such as the Chinese Silkworm) would represent a significant threat to the US Navy and UMC in the narrow and crowded waters of the Gulf, and while on-board anti-missile defences are highly capable, attacks on the ground installations from the air and from the ground by both the USMC and SOF would be a better defence.&nbsp; The SOF would also be committed to playing their part in a “Scud Hunt” style mission, reminiscent of the First Gulf War both to negate the threat to neighbouring countries (and especially Israel) but also to protect the American sea-based assets; while such a mission is not the sole preserve of the SOF their role would be pivotal.&nbsp; Second, there is a need for more than aerial attack to destroy some targets, such as command and control bunkers, communication nodes and even – possibly – some deeply-buried nuclear research facilities.&nbsp; SOF would be employed against such target sets not only on their own, but also to designate targets for aerial attack, and to follow-up deep-earth penetrating attacks to ensure target destruction or intelligence exploitation.&nbsp; And, indeed, intelligence gathering would, as ever, be the third core role for the SOF.&nbsp; It is highly conceivable that SOF are already employed in Iran to undertake intelligence missions, and would, on the opening of hostilities, be used to attack facilities around the country.</p> <p>And so to the US Air Force.&nbsp; Awaiting his attack orders, the President has more than 200 strategic <a href="http://www.globalsecurity.org/military/systems/aircraft/index.html">bombers</a> such as the venerable B52, the B1 and the B2.&nbsp; Capable of launching yet more cruise missiles, or delivering precision-guided munitions (guided by both laser designation and by GPS) with the accuracy to fly through a designated window in a building, the USAF’s capability is most impressive.&nbsp; But it is the advent of a new generation of weapons since the Second Gulf War – weapons that have not attracted widespread attention since they are tailored to the type of campaign that we envisage against Iran rather than supporting counter-insurgency campaigns (that have dominated media and commentator coverage over the last decade) – that represent a quantum increase in capability.&nbsp; The US B-2A, for example, now carries an earth-penetrating conventional weapon, the Massive Ordnance penetrator. The MOP is a 30,000lb bomb carrying 6.000lbs of explosives and capable of penetrating up to 60 meters [200 feet] through 5,000 psi reinforced concrete; this puts at risk even the most hardened facilities.&nbsp; Meanwhile, military technology has taken "smart bombs" to a new level, offering ever greater accuracy, while the advent of small-diameter bombs (such as the GBU-59), weighing only 250lbs each, quadruples the firepower of US warplanes, compared to those in use in the invasion of Iraq in 2003. A single B-52 bomber can now attack between 150 and 300 individual points to within a metre of accuracy using the global positioning system. &nbsp;One B2 bomber dropped 80, 500lb bombs on separate targets in 22 seconds in a <a href="http://www.boeing.com/news/releases/2003/q3/nr_030917o.html">test</a> flight. Using just half the available force, 10,000 targets could be attacked almost simultaneously. This strike power alone is sufficient to damage Iranian political, military, economic and transport capabilities.&nbsp; Such a strike would take "Shock and Awe" to a new level and leave Iran with few if any conventional military capabilities to block the Straits of Hormuz or provide conventional military support to insurgents beyond Iran’s borders.&nbsp; After Iraq and Afghanistan, air capability has been largely forgotten: this mission would remind the world of the American capability.</p> <p>Finally, a brief word about non-nuclear but non-conventional forces.&nbsp; Other than drones, which we can anticipate being very widely used in reconnaissance, post-attack damage assessment and attack missions, the US would likely exploit its capabilities in two other areas to great effect.&nbsp; Although open-source reporting is limited, it is clear that the US enjoys an overwhelming advantage in space-based capability over Iran.&nbsp; While kinetic attack against those few Iranian satellites is highly unlikely (the resultant debris representing a far greater hazard to the many US satellites) some method of negating their output is a probability – and no doubt there are other space-based capabilities that have not even made it to open-source reporting as rumours.&nbsp; Even more shrouded in secrecy is the US offensive cyber-attack capability.&nbsp; The traditional start to an air campaign is to gain control of the air by negating the ground-based air defence threat and destroying either enemy fighters, or damaging their bases so that they are unable to operate.&nbsp; Key to a modern, integrated air defence system is Command and Control – and in particular those communication links that enable information and control messages to be transmitted.&nbsp; How much easier for an attacker to disable the system through attacking the computers and communication systems at the heart of a contemporary system than traditional hard-kill approaches; it is inconceivable that part of the American armoury does not contain such a capability.</p> <p>It is clear to us that an overwhelming air attack would be the main assault tool: Shock and Awe writ large.&nbsp; Once such an air assault on Iran began, it would include a huge range of targets from the outset under a policy known as Escalation Dominance. This would include a target set, moving from nuclear and other WMD facilities, through strikes on conventional military targets to reduce threats to US forces in theatre, to the destruction of leadership targets in order to degrade the government’s ability to strike back at the US forces – or elsewhere. </p> <p>It must, however, also be acknowledged that this option contains the risk of increased global tension and hatred of the United States. The US would have few, if any allies for such a mission beyond Israel (and possibly the UK). Once undertaken, the imperatives for success would be enormous and, given that air power alone has rarely achieved total success, cannot be guaranteed, but as long as the stated mission aims were limited to and focused on the twin objectives of destroying both Iran’s nuclear and counter-attack capabilities and the temptations for mission creep were avoided, the authors of this review are highly persuaded of the prospects for American success.&nbsp; However, the US would also be mindful of its legal position and would likely point to the air war against Serbia during the Kosovo conflict as justification: the use of air power was deemed technically illegal but justified and this may be the basis of an American legal defence.</p> <p>American military operations for a major conventional war with Iran are, then, not only feasible but have a high probability of success.&nbsp; They would extend far beyond targeting suspect WMD facilities and would see the destruction of Iran's military infrastructure overnight using conventional weapons, removing any counter-attack capability.&nbsp; Iran has a weak air force and anti-aircraft capability, almost all of it is 20-30 years old and it lacks modern integrated communications. Not only will these forces be rapidly destroyed by US air power, but Iranian ground and air forces will be subject to attack with almost total freedom of the skies for the attackers.&nbsp; And when might such an attack take place?&nbsp; We suggest that there is a significant window of opportunity at present.</p> <p>Conventional military planning would normally demand a significant lead-in time for an undertaking of such an operation as has been envisaged here, time to assemble forces and logistics, and to gain the necessary access, basing and over-flight rights.&nbsp; To assemble additional carrier strike groups would take, as suggested above, around a month.&nbsp; But not only would such preparations give notice of intent, thereby partly blunting the Shock and Awe doctrine, they are quite probably unnecessary: the US has sufficient forces in the region plus enough firepower available to launch a devastating air attack that would achieve its military objectives from a standing start.&nbsp; Moreover, there are enough contingency plans in place under the umbrella of US Global Strike.&nbsp; An attack with as little as half a day’s notice is entirely feasible.&nbsp; Furthermore, the US has largely completed its withdrawal from Iraq and completed its post-deployment force recuperation.&nbsp; It has sufficient forces – land, air and maritime spread across the region in the Gulf, in some of the Gulf States and in Afghanistan.&nbsp; Its long-range bombers can operate from bases such as Diego Garcia in the Indian Ocean or RAF Fairford in the UK without seeking additional clearances, or can (as they have demonstrated in both the Iraq Wars) come direct from the continental US.&nbsp; Moreover, the Gulf nations are hardly likely to complain about the US military action against Iran, even if that required some forward-basing or over-flight.&nbsp;&nbsp; </p> <p>The US has the military capability, with sufficient in-place, trained, equipped and ready to fulfil such a mission, and there is a window of opportunity; there is perhaps also a strong political driver for action sooner rather than later.&nbsp; But what of the aftermath?</p> <p>The scenario envisaged here does not require direct involvement of Allies: a calculated political move.&nbsp; To assemble a military coalition would be lengthy and fraught with difficulties over command and control, target selection and mission definition.&nbsp; On this occasion it is very much to America’s advantage to go it alone.&nbsp; Not only would this enable the attack to be placed at a timing solely chosen by the US, but would ensure that the political credit would accrue to America, and do much to restore her standing if not globally certainly in large areas of the world; certainly her military prestige would be markedly raised, re-gaining some of the respect that she has lost over the past decade.&nbsp; It is most unlikely that the international order would be undermined to any significant extent while the UN, already concerned over Iranian nuclear posturing is not going to object too loudly.&nbsp; Meanwhile, the inevitable accusations of illegality would do little to deter the US and, in any event, they can point at the air campaign against Serbia during the Kosovo crisis for precedence: while lawyers specialising in International Constitutional Law have largely agreed that the act was technically illegal, they have also concluded that it was justified.&nbsp; The US – as long as she was successful – would be unlikely to face a legal challenge of any significance.&nbsp; Indeed, an analysis of recent US rhetoric and seeming inaction over Iran may serve a dual purpose: to add to the surprise element of the Shock and Awe campaign, but also a subtle softening-up of the geo-political situation in order to avoid <em>a priori</em> legal moves.</p> <p>Across the Gulf region, across Arabia, the removal of the Iranian threat – nuclear, conventional and state-sponsored terrorism - would only be welcomed, especially in Saudi Arabia who would be relieved of having to consider a rival for power, and one nuclear armed, in the Gulf.&nbsp; Oil prices might rise in the very short term, but a clinical and short Shock and Awe campaign would soon see the oil-producing Gulf region safer than before: neither oil prices nor the wider global economy are likely to be adversely impacted by the envisaged campaign.</p> <p>And where would this leave Iran? &nbsp;Regime change may not be an explicitly stated aim, but clearly the loss of prestige, inevitable loss of Iranian life and ability to project power and influence beyond her borders would present a significant challenge for the Tehran regime.&nbsp; While one outcome for Iran might be a weak and fractured, inward-looking and militarily neutered state, regime change would be a near certainty.&nbsp; In either case, though, the existential threat that Iran represents would have been removed and nobody in the White House would be dismayed at either prospect.</p> <p>To conclude: is this scenario so far-fetched?&nbsp; A low intensity war of sorts already exists between Iran and the US and her regional allies, and the spectre of a nuclear-armed Iran grows daily. The US has the power, and undoubtedly the plans to counter this threat: the use of Full Spectrum Dominance to conduct Shock and Awe and Escalation Dominance, destroying Tehran’s nuclear capability and minimising Iranian retaliatory capability.&nbsp; We believe that the US will have made the necessary military calculations and plans – and perhaps even preparations - to destroy Iran’s WMD, nuclear energy and armed forces, and so undermine the ability for Iran to conduct state-sponsored terrorism abroad as to make it negligible - within days if not hours of a Presidential order. The US is not publicising the scale of these preparations to deter Iran, tending to make confrontation more likely; for the same reasons the US is likely to operate alone. &nbsp;&nbsp;Any attack is likely to be on a massive multi-front scale but avoiding a ground invasion. Attacks focused solely on WMD facilities would leave Iran too many retaliatory options, and leave America open to the charge of using too little force: this reinforces the suggestion of an overwhelming, air-led attack.</p> <p>US bombers and long range missiles are ready today to destroy 10,000 targets in Iran in a few hours, while US ground, air and marine forces already in the Gulf, Afghanistan and even on the continental US can devastate Iranian nuclear facilities and armed forces at short notice.&nbsp; Such a strike would take "Shock and Awe" to a new level and leave Iran with few if any conventional military capabilities to block the Straits of Hormuz or to provide conventional military support to insurgents beyond her borders. If this was not enough, the latest generation of smart bombs, the Small Diameter Bomb, now in the US Air Force arsenal quadruples the number of weapons all US warplanes can carry.&nbsp; Nuclear weapons are most unlikely to be used by the US: the human, political and environmental effects would be devastating, while their military value is limited.</p> <p>In the end, there is both a political and a military judgement whenever force is employed for political ends.&nbsp; The threat is growing, and there appears to be a window of opportunity to launch an attack in the very near future.&nbsp; Short and long term human, political and economic consequences of any war require innovative approaches to prevent the crisis becoming war: such a case clearly exists with Iran and her nuclear ambitions.&nbsp; America certainly has the firepower to undertake such a mission, and could do so with little or no warning or additional build-up: this would be Shock and Awe on a new scale, while the advantages of a successful campaign - which we believe to be very highly likely – outweigh the potential disadvantages of either doing nothing or prevaricating.</p> <p>Too many contemporary commentators are, in our view, reading the present American military capability and intent wrongly.&nbsp; They look at Iraq but particularly Afghanistan where the might of the US is tied down by fighting a “war among the people”, where they are too often reactive and options are constrained.&nbsp; The US military machine, particularly for high-technology, full-spectrum conflict – as epitomised by air power – offers a President the option of an overwhelming advantage through the use of military force: this remains a viable option that should not be disregarded.</p> <hr size="1" /> <p><a href="///C:/Users/Heather/Downloads/20120426%20-%20Reconsidering%20War%20With%20Iran%20-%20Ian%20Final%20Draft.docx#_ftnref1">[1]</a> www.fas.org</p> <p><a href="///C:/Users/Heather/Downloads/20120426%20-%20Reconsidering%20War%20With%20Iran%20-%20Ian%20Final%20Draft.docx#_ftnref2">[2]</a> www.globalsecurity.org</p> <p><a href="///C:/Users/Heather/Downloads/20120426%20-%20Reconsidering%20War%20With%20Iran%20-%20Ian%20Final%20Draft.docx#_ftnref3">[3]</a> www.miis.edu</p><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> Conflict middle east conflicts Ian Shields Martin Butcher Dan Plesch Tue, 18 Sep 2012 11:39:09 +0000 Ian Shields, Martin Butcher and Dan Plesch 68132 at https://opendemocracy.net DR Congo: the politics of suffering https://opendemocracy.net/andrew-wallis/dr-congo-politics-of-suffering <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>A rise in violent tension in the east of the Democratic Republic of Congo, across the border from Rwanda, is the latest phase of a conflict unresolved since the Rwandan genocide of 1994. The wider story it tells is one of state failure in the DRC, says Andrew Wallis.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p>The crisis in the east of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) has continued for much of summer 2012, a recent month-long ceasefire notwithstanding. Claim and counter-claim about responsibility for the situation have increasingly added to the tension. A worrying by-product, almost entirely unreported in the media, is that the hostility has spread to Europe as diaspora communities become involved in the violence. The international community may have produced numerous stern speeches and articles, but seems to have decided that the DRC crisis is one to live with and manage, rather than push for radical solutions. Yet it is the latter, which take account of the <a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/article/war-in-the-dr-congo-group-nation-power-state">underlying</a> historic and structural issues, that are needed for lasting peace to be achieved. <br /><br />The recent report by the <a href="http://www.un.org/sc/committees/1533/egroup.shtml">United Nations Group of Experts</a>, backed by other sources - western media, <a href="http://www.hrw.org/drc">Human Rights Watch</a>, Congolese politicians - have put the blame solidly on neighbouring Rwanda for the current problems. They allege that the government of President Paul Kagame has armed and recruited <a href="http://www.voanews.com/content/m23-rwanda-congo-rebels/1501759.html">soldiers</a> for the newly formed M-23 militia, whose rebellion against the state has in turn <a href="http://www.irinnews.org/Report/96117/DRC-Children-young-men-flee-M23-recruitment">destabilised</a> the neighbouring <a href="http://go.hrw.com/atlas/norm_htm/congodem.htm">DRC</a> provinces of North Kivu and South Kivu. <br />&nbsp;<br />Rwanda has hit back by producing an in-depth point-by-point <a href="http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/64a68d8a-da38-11e1-b03b-00144feab49a.html#axzz25VMpgW9r">rebuttal</a> of every charge, and accusing Kinshasa of seeking to shift the blame for its own internal security and governance failures. Rwanda’s foreign minister Louise Mushikiwabo addressed the UN Security Council on 29 August, when she strongly rebutted accusations that Kigali was fuelling the current unrest. “Rwanda’s national interest is served by peace and sustainable security in the eastern DRC”, she argued, saying that continued violence harms <a href="http://go.hrw.com/atlas/norm_htm/rwanda.htm">Rwanda’s </a>economic and social development.<br />&nbsp;<br />It’s true that the summer revolt by <a href="http://www.hrw.org/news/2012/06/03/dr-congo-rwanda-should-stop-aiding-war-crimes-suspect-0">Bosco Ntaganda’s</a> M-23 militia is a symptom of a much deeper underlying disorder. In this respect it resembles the equally well-publicised <span><em>Congrès national pour la défense du peuple </em></span>(National Congress for the Defence of the People / CNDP) campaign by <a href="http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/africa/3786883.stm">Laurent Nkunda</a> in 2006-07. M-23 has in many ways become (as did Nkunda) a convenient short-term target on which politicians can focus. By doing so, they accuse outside actors of responsibility and evade confronting the real source: intrinsic, intra-state problems. For at heart, this crisis is about belonging, about inclusivity, about insecurity and about a failure of governance.</p><p><strong>The regional context</strong><br />&nbsp;<br />For more than a century, Rwandans have settled in the two Kivu provinces. In the late 1880s, they were welcomed by the Belgian <a href="http://www.congo2005.be/geheugen/frameset.php?lang=en">colonial</a> government because they increased the <a href="http://cup.columbia.edu/book/978-0-231-06256-5/the-cohesion-of-oppression">local </a>labour-supply. More Rwandan immigrants arrived in the Kivus in the first decades of the 20th century. Such Rwandaphones - or “Banyarwanda” - have survived decades of attempted integration into the DRC state and society. Their fight for land-rights and citizenship in what they regard as their home has been a major cause and accelerant of unrest. <br />&nbsp;<br />The post-colonial president of the country he renamed as Zaire, <a href="http://www.oup.com/uk/orc/bin/9780198781646/01student/biographies/joseph_desire_mobutu/">Mobutu Sese Seke</a>, used the question over Banyarwanda land-rights and citizenship as a tool of political control in the 1960s and 1970s - effectively continuing the colonial “divide-and-rule” tactics. Mobutu did, shortly after he seized power, grant <a href="http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/13621020701605792">citizenship</a> to all who had lived in the Kivus since 1960; but he later reversed this policy, thus adding to the distrust and antagonism felt in the locality by ethnic groups competing for a finite and increasingly rare commodity they needed to survive - land. <br />&nbsp;<br />The Kivus are some of the most densely populated parts of Africa. Ownership of land-rights in the steep-sided fertile land is vital - and without citizenship such rights cannot be granted. Among other ethnic groups such as the Nyanga and Hunde, the need to assert their own claim to land-rights led to direct conflict with the <a href="http://www.minorityrights.org/5077/democratic-republic-of-the-congo/banyarwanda.html">Banyarwanda</a>, an inter-ethnic conflict which the central government in Kinshasa watched with satisfaction. There was further conflict within the Banyarwanda community, as <a href="http://www.unhcr.org/refworld/topic/463af2212/49d098f22.html">Banyamulenge</a> - Congolese Tutsi settlers - fought to retain their land-rights against Hutu Congolese; the latter had been favoured by Mobutu after a deal with his friend, Rwanda’s then <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/1994/04/07/obituaries/juvenal-habyarimana-57-ruled-rwanda-for-21-years.html">dictator</a> Juvenal Habyarimana.<br />&nbsp;<br />Habyarimana was assassinated on 6 April 1994. This was the trigger of the planned <a href="http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/shows/ghosts/etc/crontext.html">genocide</a> of the Rwandan Tutsi over the ensuing hundred days. As the victorious Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF) led by Paul Kagame <a href="http://www.globalsecurity.org/military/world/war/rwanda.htm">defeated</a> the genocidal interim government, tens of thousands of Hutu extremists fled <a href="http://www.cidcm.umd.edu/mar/assessment.asp?groupId=49009">across</a> the Rwandan border into the Kivus. High-profile <em>genocidaire</em> such as <a href="http://www.unictr.org/tabid/128/Default.aspx?id=66&amp;mnid=12">Protais Mpiranya</a> - wanted by the Arusha-based <a href="http://www.unictr.org/">war-crimes tribunal</a> - have since used the DRC as a base for their post-1994 activities such as planning attacks on Rwanda, looting mineral resources and attacking civilians within the region. As a result, numerous militias have emerged directly related to the Rwandan conflict, either to promote the <em>genocidaire </em>(among these the Army for the Liberation of Rwanda [ALIR] and its outgrowth the <em>Front Démocratique pour la Libération du Rwanda</em> / Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda [<a href="http://www.afdevinfo.com/htmlreports/org/org_69856.html">FDLR</a>)]), or to “defend” the Banyarwanda community (among these the Rally for Congolese Democracy [RCD-Goma] the CNDP - and now M-23). <br />&nbsp;<br />There were two hugely destructive post-genocide <a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/article/war-in-the-dr-congo-group-nation-power-state">wars</a> between 1996-2002, and an assortment of peace treaties and agreements, but the land-ownership question has remained unclear. Politicians have continued to use the issue to provoke division between ethnic groups, rather than bring clarity and stability to this highly emotive area. As an example, the DRC constitution of 2005 “left the citizenship (and therefore land rights) of Banyarwanda ambiguous.” Until the government in Kinshasa finds the political will to settle the issue by granting citizenship and addressing the hugely controversial land rights of the Banyarwanda and indeed all the differing ethnic Congolese who have lived in this region for generations, the <a href="http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=42767&amp;Cr=Democratic&amp;Cr1=Congo">conflict</a> will continue. The alternative is to force tens of thousands to <a href="http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=42643&amp;Cr=democratic&amp;Cr1=congo">leave</a> their homeland. Playing politics with the issue for decades has only brought disaster for the people of the Kivus. <br /><br />Crucially, there has also been a lack of any fully functioning security sector that assists public protection and economic stability. The <em>Forces Armées de la République Démocratique du Congo</em> (<a href="http://www.iss.co.za/pubs/ASR/13No3/AWBoshoff.htm">FARDC</a>) and local police are widely <a href="http://www.ohchr.org/EN/NEWSEVENTS/Pages/PossibleWarCrimesInDRC.aspx">blamed</a> for assisting or organising massacres, distributing arms to militias and sexual crimes. The militias are active alongside, while the absence of a proper national and local justice system means there is no protection from impunity. &nbsp;</p><p>The Amani programme (the word means “peace” in Swahili) was agreed to in 2008 by the DRC's president, <a href="http://www.presidentrdc.cd/lepresident.html">Joseph Kabila</a>, aiming to bind all militia groups in the Kivus to a ceasefire, and to begin the disarmament and reintegration of them into civilian life.Within eighteen months the programme had failed, a result that an analysis by eighty-three NGOs attributed to a lack of political will by Kabila to negotiate with the CNDP. The security issue needed a political solution as much as a military one; without compromise from the government, nothing of any lasting benefit could be achieved. Instead, then as now, vested interests sought to prolong instability for short-term financial and political gain, and this overtook any real desire to bring a long-term resolution to the conflict. <br />&nbsp;<br />The Kinshasa government’s failure of <a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/democracy-africa_democracy/drc_prunier_4434.jsp">responsibility</a> to pursue a long-term negotiated peace in 2008 was compounded by the international community’s partiality, which had the effect of assisting the repeat, four years on, of the same crisis. An assessment by the Washington think-tank <a href="http://www.enoughproject.org/conflict_areas/eastern_congo">Enough</a> team in October 2008 was <a href="http://www.enoughproject.org/news/congo-kinshasa-peace-process-near-collapse-east-allafricacom">prescient</a>: <span><span>“</span></span><span>[without] i</span><span>mmediate and robust diplomatic pressure on the Congolese government and a more impartial effort by the United Nations peacekeepers to stop the fighting, [the] region could descend back into total war.”</span><span><span></span></span><span><span></span></span></p><p><strong>The corruption dimension</strong></p><p>A major source of difficulty is the continued presence in the region of the FDLR. The group is composed substantially of Hutu extremist <em>genocidaire</em> whose aim is to overthrown the current Rwandan government and bring terror to Bayarmulenge communities in the Kivus. The FDLR has been implicated in numerous massacres, rapes and human-rights outrages since being formed from its predecessor, the ALIR, in 2000. For the wider Banyarmulenge community, its existence is a major threat; any solution to the conflict will need to see the FDLR totally extinguished. That requires the Congolese government to stop playing politics with the FDLR situation: one moment ordering its curtailment, the next seemingly allowing its continued presence for political reasons (by using them to stop an anticipated Congolese Tutsi power forming in the eastern DRC).<br />&nbsp;<br />Besides the militias, Congolese civilians of all ethnic groups have to contend with violence from their own “security” operatives. A report, <a href="http://www.soros.org/reports/democratic-republic-congo-taking-stand-security-sector-reform"><em>Taking a Stand on Security Sector Reform</em></a>, was produced in April 2012 by thirteen international and local Congolese groups; it noted that “many of Congo’s seemingly intractable conflict-related problems can be traced back to the dysfunctional security services: the army, police and courts. The Congolese government has failed to take concrete action to reform these vital institutions.” The report speaks of the FARDC preying on the populace, with highly positioned officers and government in the security sector “raking off salaries of servicemen, taking kickbacks or being involved in illegal mining, trade or protection rackets.” <br />&nbsp;<br />Such corruption filters down the ranks, leading ill-paid recruits to force illegal payments from the local population. The judicial system breeds corruption so that impunity is the rule, not exception. Bosco Ntaganda, and indeed FDLR head Sylvestre Mudacumura, are <a href="http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=42473">wanted</a> by the International Criminal Court (ICC) in the Hague for alleged war crimes, which shows how the DRC’s own judicial system seems incapable of holding them - and thousands of others who may have committed heinous crimes - to account. While there has been pressure on Kabila to hand over these <a href="http://www.icc-cpi.int/Menus/ICC/Situations+and+Cases/Situations/Situation+ICC+0104/">suspects</a> to the ICC, there has been very little pressure on the DRC leader to lead radical reform of his own judiciary and penal service; in the medium-to-long-term, the latter is vital to the health of the nation.<br />&nbsp;<br />The DRC is currently ranked in last place in the <a href="http://data.worldbank.org/country/congo-dem-rep">world development index</a>&nbsp; - 187th out of 187 countries. This, despite having some of the worlds most prized mineral-deposits, and since 2002 having had $12.3 billion of debt written off along with more than $14 billion in aid. It is clear the international community must put pressure on Kinshasa to bring about tough new security-sector reforms; without that, any meaningful policies to bring resolution to the land and citizenship question, and to implement vital reforms in the areas of healthcare, education and gender-based violence, will come to nothing.<br />&nbsp;<br />The security forces must become a means for protection, not enrichment. Militias - <a href="http://www.unhcr.org/refworld/country,,IRIN,,COD,,4c1b1b972c,0.html">including</a> M-23, the FDLR, the Mai Mai, the Congolese Resistance Patriots (Pareco), the Patriotic Forces for the Liberation of Congo (FPLC), the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF) and others - need to be aggressively targeted by political and military action to get them disbanded, indicted for crimes committed where appropriate, and reintegrated into civil society.<br />&nbsp;<br />In Goma and the wider Kivu area, the failure of state governance has resulted in localities setting up “self-governing” movements. Where the state cannot <a href="http://news.kuwaittimes.net/2012/08/22/ethnic-economic-interests-entangle-rwanda-in-congo-tangled-alliances-enmities-behind-recurring-insurgencies/">ensure</a> their security, militias spring up. In April 2012, a land dispute in Minova and Bulenga spread over two villages, leading to deaths and injuries. The local police took one side, the military the other. Where social services fail, the populace have to rely on NGOs and their own small-scale initiatives. In the <a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/article/africa_democracy/congo_north_kivu">region</a>, the government is accused by critics of being interested in taking taxes - but never spending them. Electricity and water supplies are sporadic at times as the infrastructure struggles to cope after years of neglect. Unemployment of young people has led to greater drug-taking in areas like Majengo, and provides a constant stream of recruits for political gangs and militia groups - a hangover from the Mobutu era that encouraged such mobilisation. </p><p><strong>The way forward </strong></p><p>The DRC has been rated by <a href="http://www.transparency.org/whoweare/organisation">Transparency International </a>in the bottom ten countries worldwide regarding corruption for the past decade. The TI’s report of 2010 <a href="http://www.transparency.org/whatwedo/answer/overview_of_corruption_and_anti_corruption_in_the_democratic_republic_of_co">sees</a> corruption as a clear and ultimate driver of much of the state’s internal crisis. “The poor infrastructure, an underdeveloped regulatory environment, lack of institutional capacity and weak rule of law fuel the country’s persistent governance crisis”, it found. “Despite being endowed with considerable mineral wealth, extraction of natural resources continues to be combined with widespread corruption, including within the armed forces, fuelling violence, insecurity and public discontent. Corruption in tax and customs administration, as well as in the management of state-run companies, undermines the state’s capacity to collect revenues and escape the trap of mismanagement, conflict and poverty.”<br />&nbsp;<br />It has been customary for Congolese politicians and politically-motivated western media to cast the blame on neighbouring Rwanda for all its ills. But the root of the DRC problems lie in the weakness of the state itself. Kinshasa urgently needs to resolve long-standing issues to do with citizenship and land-rights, to reform its security sector, cut corruption and restart good-governance programmes. It can no longer continue to use insecurity - some of it of its own making - as a way to distract international observers from resolving internal issues. Equally, the international community must address its failure to take a unified stand in targeting aid money to the most needed areas of reform, and to press Kabila’s government, however fragile, into radical reform of both its current practice and future vision. &nbsp;<br />&nbsp;<br />The conflict within the DRC can be solved only with a political will in Kinshasa and internationally that has long been missing. No amount of new border-security, billion-dollar UN stabilising forces, or NGOs can bring the needed reform within the DRC that, in reality, only central government can implement. And while the continuing distraction of how to respond to M-23 hogs the political limelight and international attention, the underlying problems remain - as does the daily hardship and violence <a href="http://uk.reuters.com/article/2012/08/29/uk-congo-massacres-idUKBRE87S0V120120829">suffered</a> by citizens of this failing state.</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>Andrew Wallis, <em><a href="http://www.ibtauris.com/Books/Humanities/History/Regional%20%20national%20history/African%20history/Silent%20Accomplice%20The%20Untold%20Story%20of%20Frances%20Role%20in%20the%20Rwandan%20Genocide.aspx?menuitem=FA55535F-8963-48F7-8AF8-E2C09472664C">Silent Accomplice: The Untold Story of the Role of France in the Rwandan genocide</a></em> (IB Tauris, 2006) </p><p>Gérard Prunier, <em><a href="http://www.hurstpub.co.uk/BookDetails.aspx?BookId=461"><span><span>From Genocide to Continental War: The 'Congolese' Conflict and the Crisis of Contemporary Africa</span></span></a> </em>(C Hurst, 2009)</p><p><a href="http://kigaliwire.com/">Kigali Wire</a></p><div>Ben Kiernan, <a href="http://yalepress.yale.edu/yupbooks/book.asp?isbn=9780300100983"><span><span><em>Blood and Soil: A World History of Genocide and Exte</em><em>r</em><em>mination from Sparta to Darfur</em></span></span></a> (Yale University Press, 2007)</div> <div><a href="http://statecrime.org/%20"><span><span>Statecrime</span></span></a></div><div>Gérard Prunier,<a href="http://www.hurstpub.co.uk/BookDetails.aspx?BookId=90"><em><span><span> The Rwanda Crisis, 1954-94: History of a Genocide</span></span></em></a> (C Hurst, 2nd edition, 1998)</div> </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-sidebox"> <div class="field-label"> Sidebox:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Andrew Wallis is a researcher who specialises in&nbsp;central and east Africa. He&nbsp;is the author of <em><a href="http://www.ibtauris.com/Books/Humanities/History/Regional%20%20national%20history/African%20history/Silent%20Accomplice%20The%20Untold%20Story%20of%20Frances%20Role%20in%20the%20Rwandan%20Genocide.aspx?menuitem=FA55535F-8963-48F7-8AF8-E2C09472664C">Silent Accomplice: The Untold Story of the Role of France in the Rwandan genocide</a></em> (IB Tauris, 2006) </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="/andrew-wallis/rwanda-step-towards-truth">Rwanda: a step towards truth</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/article/a-century-of-genocide-1915-2009">A century of genocide, 1915-2009</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/article/blood_and_soil_the_global_history_of_genocide">Blood and soil: the global history of genocide</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/democracy-africa_democracy/rwanda_france_4183.jsp">Rwandan rifts in La Francafrique</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/article/blood_and_soil_the_global_history_of_genocide">Blood and soil: the global history of genocide</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/article/rwanda-power-law-and-justice">Rwanda: law, justice and power</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/martin-shaw/politics-of-genocide-rwanda-and-dr-congo">The politics of genocide: Rwanda &amp; DR Congo</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/globalization/article_1831.jsp">Rwanda, Sudan and beyond: lessons from Africa</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/article/north_kivu_how_to_end_a_war">North Kivu: how to end a war</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/article/war-in-the-dr-congo-group-nation-power-state">The eastern DR Congo: dynamics of conflict </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"> Democratic Republic of the Congo </div> <div class="field-item even"> Rwanda </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> openSecurity Rwanda Democratic Republic of the Congo Conflict Democracy and government International politics africa conflicts democracy & power africa & democracy Andrew Wallis Security in Sub-Saharan Africa Wed, 05 Sep 2012 14:57:22 +0000 Andrew Wallis 67913 at https://opendemocracy.net We Are Fed Up! The power of a new generation of Sudanese youth activists https://opendemocracy.net/5050/anonymous/we-are-fed-up-power-of-new-generation-of-sudanese-youth-activists <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>The recent protests in Sudan attest to the rise of a new generation of Sudanese youth activists. At the heart of this emerging political force is Girifna, a youth-led movement which has been using internet power, confrontational street tactics, and advocacy to stand up to the regime of Omar al-Bashir.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p>On Saturday June 16<sup>th</sup>, 2012, a group of students at the University of Khartoum in Sudan began a march from their dorms, in protest against austerity measures imposed by the government that have led to a staggering rise in the price of basic goods and services. <a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/opensecurity/stephen-zunes/sudans-protests-become-civil-insurrection" target="_blank">During the subsequent wave of protests</a> – which quickly grew to include calls for the toppling of the government – ordinary Sudanese citizens took to the streets in the capital Khartoum and in cities such as Kassala, Gedaref, and Sennar. These protests attest to the rise of a new generation of youth activists who are quickly emerging as a primary political force in Sudan. At the heart of this struggle is a movement by the name of <a href="http://www.girifna.com/" target="_blank">Girifna</a>, which was instrumental in broadening the revolt by mobilizing protesters, coordinating demonstrations and marches, and publicizing human rights violations perpetrated against demonstrators and activists.</p> <p>Girifna, which translates from Arabic as “we are fed up” or “we are disgusted,” was founded by a group of university students in October of 2009 in order to encourage citizens to vote in the run-up to the May 2010 elections. These elections – which were the first to be held in 21 years – were seen as a way to bring about nonviolent political change. However, they failed to achieve their goal. The ruling National Congress Party, which came to power in a military coup in 1989 and which is headed by Omar al-Bashir (who is wanted for crimes against humanity by the International Criminal Court for his role in the war in Darfur) remained in power despite allegations of corruption, intimidation and vote rigging by opposition parties.</p> <p>In the aftermath of the elections Girifna continued to push forward and organize for regime change. A Girifna activist who has chosen to remain anonymous (she will be referred to as Heba for the purposes of this article), explains, “We feel that the [NCP’s] ideology is the root cause of all [our] problems. We are a country of multiple cultures, multiple religions, multiple languages. We need to be governed in a way that accepts this diversity. These people are unable to accept diversity. Their ideology is imposing a supremacy of Arabism, Islamism…[it’s] an ideology of discrimination, of racism, and of manipulating religion to marginalize a lot of people in Sudan.” Heba insists that the secession of South Sudan in July of last year has done nothing to resolve Sudan’s problems. Even after secession, the country continues to be ethnically, culturally, and religiously diverse, and thus the regime’s ideology continues to be the main source of oppression. “This was one of our first demands, and it is still one of our first demands, that the NCP goes.”</p> <p>The movement is representative of today’s discontented Sudanese youth, who are “fed up” not only with the NCP’s brutal rule but also with the politics of the traditional opposition groups and parties. These parties – such as the National Umma Party, the Communist Party and the Democratic Unionist Party, among others – are highly sectarian in nature and dominated by an older generation of male politicians and activists. It is the failure of these parties to mount viable or effective resistance to the NCP throughout its 23 years of dictatorship that has prompted the rise of Girifna and other youth groups that have also sprung up in its wake. “The opposition parties have failed,” says Heba. “They’ve failed in opposition, they’ve failed when they were in power.” She adds that they have also consistently failed to take young people into account and to allow them to “be creative, to be innovative and to exercise leadership.”</p> <p>What marks Girifna apart from these older groups is not only its youthful constituency, but also the diversity of its membership. Girifna activists come from all parts of the country – from Khartoum, Darfur, the Nuba Mountains, eastern Sudan and, before secession, South Sudan. The movement has also successfully tapped into the talents and expertise of the huge population of young Sudanese living in the diaspora. Women have consistently played an important part as leaders of and participants in the movement. One of the recent protests coordinated by Girifna, which took place on Friday, July 13th, was named “<a href="http://www.girifna.com/6315" target="_blank">Kandake Protest</a>,” or the “the Protest of Strong Women,” which saw mothers, daughters, sisters and others taking to the streets against the regime. </p> <p>The contrast between Girifna and these older, more traditional opposition groups is also apparent in its tactics, which are characterized by fearlessness, creativity and innovation. The movement – which is decentralized in structure and led by volunteers based both in Sudan and in the diaspora – uses the internet extensively to organize and to raise awareness within the country and internationally, relying on a core base of activists, amateur bloggers and journalists to do so. As Heba notes, “we have really been at the forefront of new media over the last three years”. Through their <a href="http://www.girifna.com/" target="_blank">website</a>, their <a href="http://www.facebook.com/Girifna" target="_blank">Facebook page</a>, and Twitter, volunteers document the regime’s human rights violations, organize and publicize actions and protests, and campaign on behalf of political prisoners.&nbsp; </p> <p>One of the group’s most successful internet campaigns focused on Safia Ishag, a Girifna activist who was kidnapped and gang-raped by members of the National Intelligence and Security Services (NISS) in Khartoum after participating in a political protest in January of 2011. Members of Girifna recorded Ishag’s testimony about her rape and, with her permission, posted the video <a href="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Mb2960uQfg4" target="_blank">online</a> in February of that year. The video (below), which received thousands of hits on Youtube, represented an unprecedented milestone for women in Sudan. While rape is known to be a weapon widely deployed by the regime against women (used most notoriously by regime-backed Janjaweed militias in the war in Darfur), it is considered deeply shameful for women to speak publicly about their violation. Safia Ishag’s testimony, therefore, represented an historic milestone for victims of the regime’s sexual violence, the first time a woman has publicly and unapologetically broken the barrier of silence to speak about her violation.</p> <iframe style="margin: 0 20px" width="420" height="315" src="http://www.youtube-nocookie.com/embed/Mb2960uQfg4" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen></iframe> <p style="text-align: center; font-size: 80%;"><em>Ishag’s testimony</em> </p><p>The group’s internet presence has also been vital in the recent revolt in Sudan. Given the severe repression of the press and of free speech in the country, demonstrators participating in the protests relied heavily on Girifna’s internet presence to access information and coordinate actions. It was through the group’s Facebook page that the name for one of the largest protests, “Elbow-licking Friday” was coined, in reference to a statement that Bashir made that attempting to topple the regime was as fruitless as attempting to lick one’s elbow. In the run-up to the protest, which took place on June 30<sup>th</sup>, countless Girifna activists and sympathizers posted pictures of themselves, their friends, <a href="http://www.eufrika.org/wordpress/2012/07/sudan-can-you-lick-your-elbow/" target="_blank">their children</a> licking their elbows, in a show of contempt for Bashir’s statement. Since June, the group has continued to coordinate protests, including marches in support of political detainees and protests in solidarity with Darfur, among others. Since the beginning of the protests, membership on the group’s Facebook page has more than tripled; before the protests there were approximately 11,000 individuals subscribed to the page. Just over a month later there are almost 40,000 subscribers.</p> <p>But if Girifna has been effective online, it has been just as effective on the street in Sudan. “One of the things that distinguishes this movement from others,” says Heba, “is that from the beginning we were very confrontational with the regime.” Over the past three years, Girifna has regularly organized themed forums on political issues and youth forums on social justice issues (forums that are constantly raided by the police and the internal security services), distributed pamphlets criticizing the regime, undertaken door-to-door outreach, held anti-regime rallies in crowded city centers such as markets and transportation hubs, and spray painted anti-regime graffiti all over the capital.</p> <p>The movement’s tactics have been paying off in important ways. “If Girifna has done one thing,” says Heba, “it has managed to challenge and break the barrier of fear in Sudan”. Indeed, the group’s confrontational style and the fearlessness of its activists in standing up to state authorities have inspired many Sudanese to do the same. The protests that erupted in the wake of the government’s austerity measures, while largely spontaneous, testify to a new courage and determination on the part of average Sudanese to tackle the regime head-on. This is a state of mind that has by and large been nurtured and encouraged by Girifna activists over the past three years, and which is beginning to bear fruit on a widespread level.</p> <p>But the movement’s successes have come at a cost. In the recent wave of protests, for instance – in which at least 2,000 people have so far been arrested – individuals associated with Girifna have been heavily targeted by the police and security forces. Heba explains, “We’ve been the most targeted movement [for arrests] because we have a lot of members, and we have very visible members who have a presence on the street”. She continues, “Our main challenge right now is detentions, because they are a disincentive for the Sudanese nation generally, not just for us.” A <a href="http://www.girifna.com/6257" target="_blank">recent report</a> posted on Girifna’s website highlights the plight of detainees, many of whom have been denied legal representation and held in secret detention facilities, and some of whom have been beaten or tortured.</p> <p>Despite these obstacles, Heba says she has hope for the future, and dismisses pessimistic analysis in the western media that has tended to depict the recent protests in Sudan as insignificant in comparison to the “Arab Spring”. What is most encouraging, she notes, is that cracks are beginning to appear within the state’s very own security apparatus. She reports one friend witnessing the resignation of a member of the National Intelligence and Security Services, who gave up his job in protest at the treatment of detainees. Girifna recently posted a photograph of a <a href="http://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=453858441306040&amp;set=a.187972361227984.44922.125423854149502&amp;type=1&amp;theater" target="_blank">policeman</a> hiding his face and holding up a hand-written sign in support of protesters. Scuffles between members of the police and the security services have been reported, because of disagreements over the treatment of detainees.</p><p>“I personally am very optimistic for the future,” says Heba. “Change will come...The [NCP] has been in power for 23 years. It’s game over.” </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/rawa-gafar-bakhit/women-in-sudanrevolts-heritage-of-civil-resistance">Women in #SudanRevolts: heritage of civil resistance</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/hakima-abbas/are-women-occupying-new-movements">Are women occupying new movements?</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/amel-gorani/sudanese-women-demand-justice">Sudanese women demand justice </a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/amel-gorani/on-record-women-in-south-kordofan">On the record: women in South Kordofan</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"> Sudan </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> 50.50 50.50 Sudan Civil society Democracy and government africa conflicts global voices online e-democracy africa & democracy 50.50 Gender Politics Religion Arab Region: The Dignity of Women 50.50 Our Africa 50.50 Editor's Pick Pathways of Women's Empowerment women's movements secularism fundamentalisms Anonymous Fri, 31 Aug 2012 07:32:15 +0000 Anonymous 67189 at https://opendemocracy.net Bitterlemons, the next stage https://opendemocracy.net/yossi-alpher-ghassan-khatib/bitterlemons-next-stage <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>An innovative Israeli-Palestinian collaboration offering regular analysis of middle-east affairs is ending regular publication after eleven years. Its co-editors, Yossi Alpher and Ghassan Khatib, explain why.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><strong>Yossi Alpher</strong></p><p><strong>Why we are closing </strong><br /><br />We are closing bitterlemons' two weekly e-magazines. The publications that you, our readers, have known for the past eleven years will, with this special edition, cease to exist. You deserve an explanation as to why this is happening. It is not disconnected from what is transpiring around us in the middle east and globally. <br /><br />First, for those not wholly familiar with the details of our operation, here is a brief summary of what we have produced and published. From November 2001, <a href="http://www.bitterlemons.net/">bitterlemons.org</a> presented a weekly web-magazine of Israeli and Palestinian views, including those of myself and Ghassan Khatib, on a selected topic. Beginning in July 2003, bitterlemons-international.org circulated a second weekly collection of analyses on a broader middle-east topic, written by commentators from throughout the region and beyond. By the by, in 2010-11 we briefly published bitterlemons-api.org, a <a href="http://www.bitterlemons-books.org/index1.php">series</a> on the Arab Peace Initiative. In 2002-03, bitterlemons.org was published in Arabic and Hebrew. <br /><br />We <a href="http://www.bitterlemons.net/">published</a> two virtual <a href="http://www.bitterlemons-books.org/index1.php">books</a> and created iPad and iPhone apps. We attracted hundreds of thousands of readers and witnessed our articles re-circulated by hundreds of web-based and print publications. We welcomed writers from nearly every country in the region. Everything we published will remain available at bitterlemons.net.<br /><br />All of this cost money, received over the years from generous foundations, one individual, and donor countries, led first and foremost by the European Union. The donors welcomed our aspiration to involve the region's influential figures, along with interested parties from beyond the region, in a high-level and civilised discussion of our differences. They supported the readiness of an Israeli and a Palestinian to undertake this task. <br /><br />You, the reader, were never asked to support us financially. Indeed, we never even asked you to identify yourself to us, on the assumption that reader anonymity would increase the circulation of a controversial publication produced by Israelis and Palestinians.<br /><br />We never aspired to make "virtual" peace and never presented a "bitterlemons plan". Rather, we sought to debate our differences and raise the level of dialogue. Over the years, our internet and email publishing operation, based in Israel and Palestine, weathered an <a href="http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/middle_east/3677206.stm"><em>intifada</em></a>, suicide-bombings and an Israeli <a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/article/israel-and-gaza-rhetoric-and-reality">invasion</a> of the Palestinian Authority. Throughout, we never missed an edition except for holidays. Until recently.<br /><br />We are <a href="http://www.bitterlemons-international.org/index1.php">ceasing</a> publication for reasons involving fatigue - on a number of fronts. First, there is donor fatigue. Why, donors ask, should we continue to support a middle-east dialogue project that not only has not made peace, but cannot "prove" to our satisfaction - especially at a time of revolution and violence throughout the region - that it has indeed raised the level of civilised discussion? Why fight the Israeli <a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/article/israel-s-rightward-shift-a-history-of-the-present">right-wing</a> campaign against European and American state funding and the Palestinian campaign against "normalisation"?<br /><br />These last two negative developments also reflect local fatigue. There is no peace process and no <a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/yossi-alpher/israels-new-government-blank-peace-page">prospect </a>of one. Informal "track II" dialogue - bitterlemons might be described as a "virtual" track II - is declining. Here and there, writers from the region who used to favour us with their ideas and articles are now begging off, undoubtedly deterred by the revolutionary rise of intolerant political forces in their countries or neighbourhood.<br /><br />Then there is the global economic slowdown. Even countries and philanthropic institutions not suffering from donor fatigue still have to deal with <a href="http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/middle_east/3782297.stm">declining</a> budgets for promoting activities like ours. Obviously, the donors have every right to do with their limited funds as they see fit. But they are nearly all tightening their supervision and review procedures to a point where the weight of bureaucracy simply overwhelms efforts to maintain even a totally transparent project like bitterlemons and to solicit additional funds. <br /><br />After more than a decade, there is also fatigue at the production end. Even weekly electronic publications that don't require old-fashioned printers and distributors nevertheless need to recruit writers, edit their articles and meet deadlines. <br /><br />It's time to move on. I, personally, do so with a sense of satisfaction regarding the completely unique Arab-Israel discussion format we developed and propagated for more than a decade. I learned endlessly from this endeavour. I believe we enriched the understanding of middle-east conflicts and developments among large numbers of people in the region and beyond. I hope others will continue this pursuit of better regional understanding.<br /><br />I wish to thank our readers for their consistent support. And to thank Ghassan Khatib and the highly professional staff at and around the <a href="http://www.jmcc.org/">Jerusalem Media and Communications Centre</a> in Ramallah for making our work together such a satisfying experience for more than a decade.<br /><br />Finally, we're not completely going away. We hope in the near future to keep the bitterlemons label alive with important alternative activities. We'll keep you posted.<br /><br />-----------------------------------</p><p><strong>Ghassan Khatib</strong><strong></strong></p><p><strong>The arc of the pendulum</strong><br /><br />When Yossi Alpher and I sat in my Jerusalem office in the year 2000, discussing plans for the first bitterlemons web magazine, we never imagined that it would grow to encompass four different <a href="http://www.bitterlemons.net/">publications</a> and two books, or that it would span twelve years of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. <br /><br />That was before the second Palestinian uprising and its crushing losses, before the construction of Israel's <a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/article/israel_at_60_the_iron_wall_revisited">wall</a> and the <a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/paul-rogers/israel-turkey-united-states-gaza%25E2%2580%2599s-global-moment">blockade</a> of Gaza that have physically divided us, before 9/11 that made villains of Arabs and Muslims in the west, before the population of Israeli settlers in the <a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/conflicts/israel_palestine/occupation_end.jsp">occupied</a> West Bank had finished doubling despite the peace accords. And, of course, it was before the Arab uprisings that are transforming the region at this very moment. <br /><br />In the beginning of this project, my hope was that bitterlemons would provide a venue for the Palestinian <a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/conflicts/israel_palestine/secret_visitations_memory">voice </a>to be heard. And to this day, I remain proud that we seem to have achieved this - that top international policymakers were able to read the opinions of Palestinians from many walks of life and political backgrounds and engage their ideas on this forum. <br /><br />(In this regard, it remains a criticism of mine and others who observe the media that Palestinians are rarely heard on their own terms. Instead, they are presented responding to Israeli concerns and answering western-derived questions, as if Palestinians have no independent dreams or visions. We must all do better.)<br /><br />Often in this project, we as editors have felt lucky. In the foreword to <em>The Best of Bitterlemons</em> <a href="http://www.bitterlemons-books.org/index1.php">compilation </a>published in 2007, I noted that we rarely had trouble recruiting writers. Despite the feeling among many in the Arab world that contact with Israelis is tantamount to accepting Israel's occupation, seldom did authors decline an invitation. Lately, we have observed that this has changed, that even once-forthcoming Palestinians are less interested in sharing ideas with Israelis just across the way. Still, we have been able to present the voices of security chiefs and political prisoners, military generals and farmers <a href="http://www.btselem.org/topic/settlements">losing</a> land, spokespersons for armed groups and peaceniks in an equal and fair manner - rather differently than the situation on the ground. <br /><br />Nevertheless, this achievement is bittersweet as the scenery around us grows ever more dark and uncertain. Two decades after the signing of the declaration of principles that many hoped would usher in the creation of a Palestinian <a href="http://ukcatalogue.oup.com/product/9780198296430.do">state</a> and independence, freedom and security, Palestinians and Israelis are <a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/globalization/political_impasse_4671.jsp">barely</a> conversational. The structures created by those agreements have atrophied, corrupted by an increasing imbalance in the Palestinian relationship with Israel. Every day, there is new word of land confiscations, arrests, <a href="http://www.icahd.org/">demolitions</a>, and legislative manoeuvres to solidify Israel's control. Israel's political leaders are beholden to a tide of right-wing sentiment and Palestinian leaders are made to appear ever-smaller in their <a href="http://www.btselem.org/maps">shrinking</a> spheres of control. <br /><br />We are now, it appears, at the lowest <a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/ghassan-khatib/palestine-and-two-state-phantom">point</a> in the arc of the pendulum, one that is swinging <a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/ghassan-khatib/palestine-and-two-state-phantom">away</a> from the two-state solution into a known unknown: an apartheid Israel. How this new "one-state" option will be transformed into a solution that provides freedom and security for all remains to be seen. We at bitterlemons are grateful to have been able to record over time the shift in this direction and hope the archive we have created will be useful to researchers for years to come. <br /><br />And so, more than anything, we want to thank our readers and contributors (often one and the same) who shared their ideas with us and were not afraid to join this conversation. I personally would like to thank my co-editor Yossi Alpher for his tireless work on this shared <a href="http://www.bitterlemons.net/">project</a>. The discussion will certainly continue - I am sure of this - until Palestinians achieve their freedom and self-determination by ending the Israeli occupation that started in 1967 and establishing an independent state in the West Bank and Gaza strip alongside Israel, thereby realising the international consensus over the two-state solution. Bitterlemons aspires to be a part of this, through new projects and platforms. But for now, we all wait with trepidation to see around the bend.</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-read-on"> <div class="field-label"> 'Read On' Sidebox:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p><a href="http://www.bitterlemons.net/">bitterlemons.net</a></p><p><a href="http://www.jmcc.org/">Jerusalem Media and Communications Centre</a> </p><p><a href="http://www.al-bab.com/"><span><span>Al-bab </span></span></a></p> <p><a href="http://www.palestinianbasiclaw.org/"><span><span>The Palestinian Basic Law</span></span></a></p> <p><a href="http://al-shabaka.org/"><span><span>Al-Shabaka</span></span></a> - Palestinian policy network</p><p>Rashid Khalidi, <a href="http://www.beacon.org/productdetails.cfm?SKU=0308"><em><span><span>The Iron Cage: The Story of the Palestinian Struggle for Statehood</span></span></em></a> (Beacon, 2006)</p> <p><a href="http://www.mofa.pna.ps/ar/index.php?p=home"><span><span>Palestinian National Authority, ministry of foreign affairs</span></span></a></p><p><a href="http://www.mfa.gov.il/MFA/"><span><span>srael, ministry of foreign affairs</span></span></a> </p><p>Yezid Sayigh, <a href="http://ukcatalogue.oup.com/product/academic/history/era/20thcentury/9780198296430.do?sortby=pubDateAscend"><em><span><span>Armed Struggle and the Search for State: The Palestinian National Movement, 1949-93</span></span></em></a> (Oxford University Press, 1999)</p><p>Brian Whitaker, <a href="http://www.saqibooks.com/saqi/display.asp?ISB=9780863566240&amp;TAG=&amp;CID="><span><span>What's Really Wrong with the Middle East</span></span></a> (Saqi, 2009)</p> <p>Olivier Roy, <a href="http://www.hurstpub.co.uk/BookDetails.aspx?BookId=502"><em><span><span>Whatever Happened to the Islamists?</span></span></em></a> (C Hurst, 2009)</p> <p><a href="http://www.haaretz.com/"><em><span><span>Ha'aretz</span></span></em></a></p> <p>Colin Shindler, <a href="http://www.cambridge.org/uk/catalogue/catalogue.asp?isbn=9780521615389"><em><span><span>A History of Modern Israel</span></span></em></a> (Cambridge University Press, 2008)</p> </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-sidebox"> <div class="field-label"> Sidebox:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Yossi Alpher is co-editor of the <a href="http://www.bitterlemons.net/">bitterlemons.net</a> family of internet publications. He is former director of the <a href="http://www.nira.or.jp/past/ice/nwdtt/2005/DAT/1148.html">Jaffee Center for Strategic Studies</a> at Tel Aviv University</p><p>Ghassan Khatib is co-editor of the <a href="http://www.bitterlemons.net/">bitterlemons.net </a>family of internet publications and director of the Government Media Center. This article represents his personal views</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="/yossi-alpher/israels-new-government-blank-peace-page">Israel&#039;s new government: a blank peace page </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/yossi-alpher/palestines-deal-and-emerging-paradigm">Palestine&#039;s deal, and an emerging paradigm </a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/conflicts/israel_palestine/hamas_shortsighted_manoeuvre">Hamas’s shortsighted manoeuvre</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/ghassan-khatib/palestinian-crossroads">The Palestinian crossroads</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/article/conflicts/israel_palestine/kosovo_palestine">Kosovo and Palestine</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/article/conflicts/gaza_s_agency_israel_s_choice">Gaza’s agency, Israel’s choice</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/conflict-debate_97/arab_summit_4481.jsp">The Arab League summit: two challenges</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/ghassan-khatib/palestine-and-two-state-phantom">Palestine and the two-state phantom</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/israel_you_can_t_reverse_time">Israel: you can’t reverse time</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/article/gaza-outlines-of-an-endgame">Gaza: outlines of an endgame</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/conflicts/israel_palestine/west_bank_gaza_future">Israel-West Bank-Gaza: the future</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/palestine_this_occupation_will_end">Palestine: this occupation will end</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/article/palestinian_political_rights_a_common_sense_solution">Palestinian political rights: a common-sense solution </a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Israel </div> <div class="field-item even"> Palestine </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Civil society </div> <div class="field-item even"> Democracy and government </div> <div class="field-item odd"> International politics </div> </div> </div> openSecurity Palestine Israel Civil society Democracy and government International politics middle east conflicts democracy & power israel & palestine - old roads, new maps Ghassan Khatib Yossi Alpher Beyond enemy images: politics and the Other Security in Middle East and North Africa Tue, 28 Aug 2012 04:38:27 +0000 Ghassan Khatib and Yossi Alpher 67758 at https://opendemocracy.net False syllogisms, troublesome combinations and Primo Levi’s political positioning on Israel and Palestine https://opendemocracy.net/nicola-perugini-francesco-zucconi/false-syllogisms-troublesome-combinations-and-primo-levi%E2%80%99s-politic <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Twenty-five years after his death, Primo Levi's legacy has been the object of many debates and reinterpretations. Distinguishing his true words from those forcibly put into his mouth is a crucial step towards understanding the thought of a major witness of the horrors of the twentieth century.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><img src="http://www.opendemocracy.net/files/Primo.jpg" alt="Primo Levi - Flickr/TheNose. Some rights reserved." width="460" height="257" /><br /><span class="image-caption">Flickr/TheNose. Some rights reserved.</span></p><p><em>'The centre is in the diaspora'</em><br /><em>- Primo Levi</em><a href="#_ftn1">[1]</a></p> <p>Primo Levi (1919-1987) was an Italian Holocaust survivor whose accounts of the 'reality' of concentration camps have received international attention and diffusion. His books are studied in schools in Italy and throughout Europe and have generated wide debates about the possibility of being both a victim and a witness of political violence and dehumanisation. His critique of violence goes beyond bearing witness to the concentration camp, touching also on the national and international events he experienced during the rest of his life as a survivor. The Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the Israeli massacres in Lebanon at the beginning of the 1980s are particularly noteworthy among the topics that provoked Levi to engage in a complex reflection on the articulated relationship between Holocaust, memory, new episodes of political violence and political positioning. Our article is an attempt to identify the valuable elements of this reflection &ndash; and what we call its 'combinations' &ndash; on the twenty-fifth&nbsp;anniversary of Levi&rsquo;s death. &nbsp; &nbsp;</p> <p>Last April, two Italian researchers of the International Primo Levi Studies Centre&nbsp;in Turin published an article in the Italian newspaper <em>Il Sole 24 Ore</em>. Domenico Scarpa and Irene Soave analysed the emergence of a syllogism falsely attributed to Primo Levi: 'Everybody is somebody&rsquo;s Jew. Palestinians are Israel&rsquo;s Jews'.&nbsp; </p> <p>After noticing a high degree of recurrence of this sentence on Google, the two researchers aimed to dismantle the history of what proved to be a falsely-attributed syllogism. Their main evidence comes from the comparison of an interview with Levi published in the Italian newspaper <em>La Repubblica </em>in 1982 and another article in the same year, published in <em>Il Manifesto</em> : in the latter, the journalist Filippo Gentiloni, reporting a sentence by the clockmaker Mendel (one of the protagonists in Levi&rsquo;s <em>If not now, when?</em>), added a personal comment right after the quote: 'And the Palestinians are Israel&rsquo;s Jews'.</p> <p>For a good while now, Levi&rsquo;s words and the legacy of his political thought have not only been the subject of invocation, ad hoc adaptations, and cut and paste operations within the so-called international pro-Palestine front, but also of attacks and accusations of betrayal &ndash; we should remember how coldly Levi&rsquo;s work was received in Israel, similarly to the reception of other inconvenient authors such as Hannah Arendt. Since the misinterpretation of Levi&rsquo;s words have resulted in thousands of web pages and quotations on different social networks<a href="#_ftn2">[2]</a>, we feel it is necessary to reflect on some of the <em>combinations </em>&ndash; what in Italian we call <em>accostamenti </em>&ndash; put together by Levi within the framework that ultimately led to the false syllogism analysed by Scarpa and Soave.</p> <p>What do we mean by <em>combination</em>? Here, combination does not imply an overlapping thought or identification.&nbsp; Rather, it means a combination <em>in the eyes of the survivor</em>, <em>in the eyes of the</em> <em>witness, </em>perhaps similar to a combination of colours, where two or more elements put together become a new one.&nbsp;The result of this process is a third element that however does not erase the memory of the&nbsp;combined components &ndash; what we could define as the &nbsp;'stratigraphy' &nbsp;of their past (see&nbsp;<a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stratigraphy_(archaeology)" target="_blank">http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stratigraphy_(archaeology)</a>).&nbsp;A combination is necessary to continue understanding oneself and ultimately generating a political positioning &ndash; a further stage in the process of the subjectification of the victim. Thus, in Levi&rsquo;s positioning, the massacre of Palestinians in Lebanon conjured up memories of Warsaw 1944. In an interview Scarpa and Soave don't mention, journalist Giampaolo Pansa asked Levi what 'instinctive reaction' he had after hearing about the Sabra and Shatila massacre. 'I never have instinctive reactions', Levi answered, 'If I have them, I repress them. Initially I was not convinced that it had actually happened. Then I understood that it was all true. Then, the slaughter in those two camps brought back to me a vivid recollection of what the Russians did in Warsaw in August 1944. They stopped and waited at the Vistula whilst the Nazis exterminated all the Polish partisans of the uprising. Of course, like all historical analogies, mine doesn&rsquo;t quite work. But Israel, just like the Russians in 1944, could have intervened and had the power to stop the gangs who were carrying out the massacre of those people, but they didn&rsquo;t'<a href="#_ftn3">[3]</a>. Several reconstructions of those facts have showed that Israel was not a mere 'guilty spectator', but allegedly the director of those bloody operations. But this is not the point. The production of parallelisms between the two situations gave Levi stomach aches; despite the temptation to backtrack or vacillate, finally his doubts as to what had really happened in Lebanon translated into 'believing' in it. In this case, this confirmation of the truth perhaps has to be interpreted as the inevitability of a political positioning born from the combination of two truths. Maybe it was&nbsp;<em>exclusively&nbsp;</em>through this very awkward oscillation of subjectification between&nbsp;being a witness of the Nazi extermination and a spectator of the Lebanon massacre that Levi could overcome his incredulity and take a firm position&nbsp;. After all, the oscillation we refer to is one that not only made it difficult to entrench a position that identified the two situations: it made the syllogism between the two situations impossible.</p> <p>Levi&rsquo;s oscillation raises the level of inquiry into the philosophy of history and, <em>inevitably</em>, a sphere of<br />reflection that touches&nbsp;very closely&nbsp;upon Walter&nbsp;Benjamin&rsquo;s critique of violence. In another excerpt from the interviews collected by Marco Belpoliti, the one with Virgilio Lo Presti,&nbsp; Levi made explicit &ndash; in terms of actions that can be generated by a political positioning &ndash; his critique of violence: 'I do not like violence. I am a mild person. It is evident that there are justifiable forms of violence: violence against state violence is justified&hellip; But at this point, we enter a frightful tangle, because we have to understand when state violence begins&hellip; that what illegality of the state is is a violence to which we can respond with violence. We can accept a 'repairable' violence; one that does not end in death&hellip; I am not comfortable with saying 'burn someone's car but do not burn someone's lodging'&hellip; I reserve the right to judge it case by case'<a href="#_ftn4">[4]</a>. In this excerpt Levi explains his meaning of a <em>sense of justice</em> when faced with 'controversial cases', in which declaring a situation to be 'democratic' is not sufficient to guarantee justice. Doing so, Levi entered a 'terrifying tangle', as in the many intricate parallels that result from his discussion of Israel and Zionism. He expressed himself on a case by case basis, through a process of <em>combining</em> in order to adopt a position. In the same book edited by Belpoliti, Philip Roth described the whole of Levi&rsquo;s testimony as&nbsp; 'moral biochemistry'<a href="#_ftn5">[5]</a>. And there can be no biochemistry without a study of the interactions and combinations of elements.</p> <p>But let's return to our fundamental interrogation: Levi created a syllogism that was followed by a false syllogism put into the mouth of one of his <em>If not now, when? </em>characters.&nbsp; Once we have determined that the latter is false, it nevertheless proves problematic to accuse of falsification all those who want to understand Levi&rsquo;s combination from a non-syllogistic perspective. Many of these combinations exist in Levi&rsquo;s work and their originality has not been called into question, but it is rare to find traces of them. The problem evidenced by all kinds of falsifications is also that of the context that produced them: the syllogism is false but the combinations that have been pushed to the point of falsification may not be. This does not mean that we are absolving 'the falsifier' &ndash; we are talking about justice, yes, but this is not a worldly justice. Instead, the problem comes from understanding&nbsp; the boundary between combinations and syllogisms, between the production of memories able to host multiplicity and fascist memories. &nbsp;</p> <p>The enormous risk inherent in all comparative forms of reasoning is that of reifying the categories of interpretation that make these comparisons pertinent. Thus, beyond the identity of the author of these comparisons, the issue to be solved in terms of a syllogism (whether true or false) involves the complexity of some forms of sharable or non-sharable reasoning. Case by case, we have to question by which criteria of &ndash;verifiable&ndash; comparability two or more historical, political, juridical, social, and economic situations can be, in this sense, combined.</p> <p>Levi never claimed on his own behalf that 'Palestinians are Israel&rsquo;s Jews', but in both his interview with <em>Il Manifesto</em> and <em>La Repubblica</em> he affirmed the possibility of a comparison, as long as this happens without exploitation and within certain limits. These limits are determined by Levi&rsquo;s positioning and analytical rigour: 'There is a certain analogy. I would not want to push things too far, but the similarities seem to me essentially this. We are talking of what we might call a "Nation" , because in the Arab world things are always difficult to define, which found itself without a country. And this is a point of contact with the Jews. There is a recent Palestinian diaspora that has something in common with the Jewish diaspora of two thousand years ago. But the analogy cannot go much further, in my opinion.'</p> <p>Here, like elsewhere, Levi stopped dead right before the syllogism that was attributed to him. It seems as if for Levi the best way to avoid a trivialisation of the complexity and relative awkwardness of his political reasoning on Israel and Palestine was to avoid&nbsp; thinking in the concise rhetoric of&nbsp; slogan and propaganda. Now that we know what is true and what is false about Levi&rsquo;s words on such a delicate and essential topic, we can cheer up and try to develop our reasoning from his lessons and words. This point of departure for our broader and on-going research on how to develop a political positioning from processes that we can define as combinations, assemblages, albeit vertiginous, is similar to that of Levi&rsquo;s moral bio-chemistry, a bio-chemistry that seems to develop from his reflections on the 'grey zone'&nbsp; in Israel-Palestine too.</p> <hr size="1" /><p><a href="#_ftnref1">[1]</a> P. Levi, 'If this is a State', interview with Gad Lerner, <em>L&rsquo;Espresso</em>, September 1984, in M. Belpoliti, R. Gordon (ed.s), <em>Primo Levi. The Voice of Memory. Interviews 1961-1987</em>, Polity Press, Cambridge, p. 290.</p> <p><a href="#_ftnref2">[2]</a> We reported Levi&rsquo;s false syllogism on our Facebook pages some months ago, not with the aim of embracing the syllogism, but rather in order to develop our on-going process of reflection on what these combinations of historical facts, these 'anachronistic assemblages', entail when&nbsp; constructing memories and their rhizomatic and tree-like variations.</p> <p><a href="#_ftnref3">[3]</a> P. Levi, 'Primo Levi: Begin should go', interview with Gianpaolo Pansa, <em>La Repubblica</em>, 24 September 1982, in M. Belpoliti, R. Gordon (ed.s), <em>Primo Levi. The Voice of Memory. Interviews 1961-1987</em>, cit., p. 284.</p> <p><a href="#_ftnref4">[4]</a> 'Tornare, mangiare, raccontare', interview with Virgilio Lo Presti, 'Lotta Continua', 18 June 1979, in M.Belpoliti (ed.), <em>Primo Levi. Conversazioni e interviste 1963-1987</em>, pp. 52-53, translated into English by the authors of this article.</p> <p><a href="#_ftnref5">[5]</a> P. Levi, 'A Man Saved by his Skills', interview with Philip Roth, <em>The New York Times Books Review</em>, 12 October 1986, now in <em>Ivi</em>, p. 87.</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-read-on"> <div class="field-label"> 'Read On' Sidebox:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>The&nbsp;International Primo Levi Studies Centre<span>&nbsp;</span><a href="http://www.primolevi.it/Web/English/Instruments/The_Center">webpage</a></p> </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/stephen-frosh/victims-are-not-sacrifices">Victims are not sacrifices</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/conflict-Literature/article_1638.jsp">Return to the dark tunnel: the writing cure</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/arts-Literature/ulysses3_3917.jsp">The People on the Street: A Writer&#039;s View of Israel</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/conflict-debate_97/zionism_2766.jsp">Nation as trauma, Zionism as question: Jacqueline Rose interviewed</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Conflict </div> <div class="field-item even"> Culture </div> <div class="field-item odd"> Ideas </div> </div> </div> Conflict Culture Ideas conflicts Francesco Zucconi Nicola Perugini Palestinian Israeli conflict Thu, 23 Aug 2012 17:55:17 +0000 Francesco Zucconi and Nicola Perugini 67705 at https://opendemocracy.net With its firm support for Assad, Tehran is running a great risk https://opendemocracy.net/mareike-enghusen/with-its-firm-support-for-assad-tehran-is-running-great-risk <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>It is no easy thing to let your best friend go. But Iran needs to change its attitude towards the Syrian regime if it wants to stay a relevant player in the Middle East.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><img src="http://www.opendemocracy.net/files/1391162.jpeg" alt="An activist masquerades as Ali Khamenei during a protest - Demotix/Thorsten Strasas. All rights reserved." width="460" height="306" /><span class="image-caption">An activist masquerades as Ali Khamenei during a protest - Demotix/Thorsten Strasas.&nbsp;</span><span class="image-caption">All rights reserved.</span></p><p>At a moment when the fall of Syria&rsquo;s President Bashar al-Assad seems to be only a matter of time, Iran&rsquo;s support for its embattled ally is unwavering. On August 7, the head of Iran&rsquo;s National Security Council, Saeed Jalili, told Syrian state television in Damascus that Iran would not allow the 'enemies' to break the 'axis of resistance', of which Syria is an 'integral part'. Iran&rsquo;s support for Assad is not merely verbal: western secret services assume that Tehran provides Assad with intelligence, communication, and advice. And a UN report from June accuses Iran of sending weapons to Syria, thus violating a UN ban on arm sales by the Islamic Republic.</p> <p>Iran&nbsp;has some good reasons to stand by Assad: Syria is Iran&rsquo;s most important &ndash; in fact its only true &ndash; state ally in the Middle East. The alliance dates back to the Islamic Revolution of 1979, when Syria was the first Arab state to recognize Iran&rsquo;s interim government after the Shah&rsquo;s fall. The two countries cooperated in the early years of the Lebanese civil war and later, from the early 1990s onwards, in supporting Hezbollah and Hamas. Today, this alliance safeguards Iran from regional isolation; and Iran needs Syria for the transit of weapon shipments to Hezbollah in Lebanon. This is why Iran wants to save the alliance with Assad at all costs. Yet this strategy carries great risks.</p> <p>Firstly, Iran is antagonizing the Syrian rebels. On August 4, the Free Syrian Army (FSA) abducted 48 Iranians near Damascus, accused them of being soldiers helping Assad and declared: 'We promise Iran and all those who support this regime... we will attack all (Iranian) targets in Syria.' Iran denied having any soldiers in Syria and claimed the abducted Iranians were pilgrims. It doesn't matter who is right: the fact that the rebels identify Iran as their enemy means that, if Assad falls, any future Syrian government will take a highly suspicious, if not outright hostile, attitude vis-&agrave;-vis Tehran. This would make Iran&rsquo;s geopolitical position much more difficult.</p> <p>Secondly, by fighting against the Syrian rebels, Iran is also fighting against Saudi Arabia and Qatar, who are supplying the FSA with weapons. The rivalry between Shiite Iran and Sunni Arab states dates from before the Arab Spring: since the Islamic Revolution, Iran has supported insurgent Shiite groups throughout the region, a pursuit autocratically-ruled Sunni Arab states with Shiite minorities (such as Saudi Arabia) perceive as a threat to their rule. In 2010, Wikileaks revealed that the Saudi King had even called on the US to attack Iran. On Syrian soil this Sunni-Shiite rivalry is now being transformed into a proxy war, a proxy war Iran is likely to lose.</p> <p>Thirdly, Iran is also ruining its relations with Turkey. Relations between the two countries had greatly improved after the Islamist Justice and Development Party (AKP) gained power in Turkey in 2002, resulting in an exponential growth of bilateral trade and Turkish support for Iran&rsquo;s controversial nuclear programme. Yet in Syria, the two states find themselves on opposing sides. Turkey, troubled by the unrest at its southern border and the influx of Syrian refugees, has called on Assad to step back. Turkey also allows Qatar and Saudi Arabia to use its territory for arms shipments to the FSA, and rumours claim that it is training Syrian rebels. Iran&rsquo;s Chief of Staff Hasan Firuzabadi recently accused Turkey of defending western interests in Syria, to which Turkey&rsquo;s Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdorgan replied:&nbsp;'On Syria,&nbsp;once again&nbsp;I&nbsp;ask the Iranians:&nbsp;does defending&nbsp;a regime that kills its brothers, and I&nbsp;think the number has&nbsp;reached&nbsp;25,000&nbsp;by now,&nbsp;suit our values?'&nbsp;With Turkey, Tehran is losing one of the few countries in the Middle East with which it had somewhat favourable relations. As a result, Assad&rsquo;s fall would leave Iran virtually isolated in the region.</p> <p>Finally, Iran&rsquo;s support for Assad is a propagandistic disaster for Tehran. When the Arab Spring erupted in January 2011, the Iranian government cheered for the protesters in Egypt and Tunisia, portraying the uprising as an imitation of Iran&rsquo;s own Islamic Revolution. Yet when protests broke out in Syria two months later, Iran&rsquo;s leaders did not have one word of criticism for Assad&rsquo;s brutal crackdown. Instead, they portrayed the Syrian protesters as Zionist and US agents. This has cost Iran much credibility on the Arab street. Iran used to be popular among Arabs for its confrontational posture against the US and Israel. Yet opinion polls by the Arab American Institute suggest that Iran&rsquo;s image has worsened dramatically in recent times: while in 2006, 90% of Egyptians perceived Iran&rsquo;s role in the Middle East as positive, only 37% expressed this view in 2011. Among Saudis, the number fell from 85% to 6%.</p> <p>After Assad&rsquo;s fall, Iran will therefore find itself in an extremely weakened position. How will its leaders react? One option is that they will see themselves forced to adopt a more conciliatory foreign policy course, possibly including concessions in the longstanding dispute over the Iranian nuclear programme. Alternatively, Tehran, with its back against the wall, could call on its allies Hezbollah and Hamas to stir up a regional conflict, possibly involving Israel, to redirect the resources and the attention of its rivals elsewhere. And it could feel forced to speed up its nuclear programme as an ultimate defence.</p> <p>Some, such as Vali Nasr, a distinguished Middle East expert, argue that there is another way out of the Iranian dilemma: the US should include Iran in the negotiations about Syria&rsquo;s future. On the one hand, the argument goes, the US needs Iran to use its leverage over Assad to negotiate an orderly transition of power; on the other hand, Iran would be offered a way out of its isolation. This sounds instinctively attractive: such an Iranian-US cooperation, if successful, might not only stop the civil war in Syria, but also mitigate against mutual distrust. Ideally, this would even breathe new life into the nuclear deadlock.</p> <p>Unfortunately, this scenario is unlikely. Washington sees Iran's role in Syria as part of the problem, not of the solution. And the Iranian government has shown very little appetite for compromise in recent years. Moreover, Iran&rsquo;s leaders might fear a further loss of credibility &ndash; also and especially among their own people - if, after all the anti-American-tirades, they were now to sit down with their enemy to discuss the abdication of their friend. Therefore, the most likely scenario for Iran after Assad&rsquo;s fall is further isolation &ndash; and possibly further radicalization.</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>Our continuous <a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/freeform-tags/arab-awakening">coverage</a> of the Arab Awakening</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="/ahmed-e-souaiaia/can-non-violent-resistance-and-armed-rebellion-co-exist">Can non-violent resistance and armed rebellion co-exist?</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/ahmad-barqawi/syria-turning-back-clock-on-arab-spring"> Syria: turning back the clock on the Arab Spring </a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/issa-khalaf/unmaking-of-syria">The unmaking of Syria</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Syria </div> <div class="field-item even"> Iran </div> </div> </div> Iran Syria conflicts Violent transitions Mareike Enghusen Tue, 21 Aug 2012 11:07:42 +0000 Mareike Enghusen 67643 at https://opendemocracy.net China’s veto on Syria: what interests are at play? https://opendemocracy.net/nicholas-wong/china%E2%80%99s-veto-on-syria-what-interests-are-at-play <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>China's motivations regarding how to deal with Syria differ from those of Russia, and constitute a new, more assertive foreign policy. However,&nbsp;engaging the government and its opposition on equal terms might come back to haunt China in the future.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p>Though widely interpreted as the anti-western duo in the UN Security Council, China and Russia in fact have different calculations for casting their respective vetoes on the UN resolution for Syria. With little stakes involved in Syria, Chinese vetoes are a performative move, announcing to the world that the country will take a more proactive approach in future international conflicts.</p> <p>On paper, Russia and China do appear to act as a bloc. The two countries contest the validity of the use of the UN Charter’s Chapter VII, quoted in the British-drafted plan. The west insists the resolution will only authorize further non-military economic sanctions. <a href="http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-middle-east-18914578">Russia instead claims</a> that this plan will open the path to “external military involvement in Syrian domestic affairs.” China’s UN ambassador Li Baodong <a href="http://www.itv.com/news/2012-07-20/china-may-be-betting-on-the-wrong-horse-in-syria/">agrees</a>, adding that the “unbalanced” content of the drafted resolution will only spread violence to other parts of the region.</p> <p>There are a number of plausible explanations regarding Russian interests in Syria. Russia continues to <a href="http://rt.com/politics/russia-syria-arms-farnborough-933/">supply</a> the Syrian government with arms, and has <a href="http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/middleeast/syria/9390177/Russia-sends-warships-to-Syria.html">reportedly dispatched</a> warships to Tartus. The Syrian port city is the location of Russia’s only military facility outside of ex-Soviet space, though it has been pointed out that the base is actually of<a href="http://drezner.foreignpolicy.com/posts/2012/06/28/dear_realists_consevatives_running_russian_foreign_policy_too"> minimal military value</a>. Some commentators turn to the <a href="http://nationalinterest.org/commentary/russias-syrian-base-potemkin-port-7200?page=1http://nationalinterest.org/commentary/russias-syrian-base-potemkin-port-7200?page=1">symbolic nature</a> of Russian presence, said to be crucial for maintaining its influence in the Middle East peace process. Another might say that&nbsp;protecting Syria is about <a href="http://nationalinterest.org/commentary/why-russia-wont-abandon-syria-7140http:/nationalinterest.org/commentary/why-russia-wont-abandon-syria-7140">reassuring authoritarian presidents in the post-Soviet space</a>.</p> <p>The reasoning on the Chinese side is not as obvious. There are certainly tight economic ties; a few years ago China became <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/People&#039;s_Republic_of_China%E2%80%93Syria_relations#cite_note-Reuters-3">Syria’s largest supplier of imported products</a>. China invested in Syria’s oil sector a few years ago, and as late as March <a href="http://www.reuters.com/article/2012/03/30/us-china-iran-syria-idUSBRE82T0D420120330">China reportedly continued to buy oil</a> to support the Syrian regime's survival amid UN sanctions. However, given the scale of the Syrian economy and oil production, such economic interests are not significant enough for China to protect Assad’s government.</p> <p>Given that China imposes strict internet censorship, a review of discourse among Chinese netizens and political commentary on official state media might nevertheless reveal the true nature of Chinese foreign policy towards Syria.</p> <p>A widely circulated realist viewpoint suggests that China’s support for Syria is <a href="http://club.xilu.com/emas/msgview-821955-5009904.html">an act to protect its strategic interests in the Middle East</a>. The logic goes as follows: since Syria is a close ally of Iran, by keeping the Syrian regime intact, or more importantly, preventing a pro-western replacement, China is in fact ensuring that Iran retains its regional support and will not fall prey to another western-led invasion. One forum even <a href="http://news.ifeng.com/world/special/xuliya/content-1/detail_2012_07/23/16226402_0.shtml">erroneously cited</a> Syria to be a major oil-producing country in the region.</p> <p>The underlying message in such assumptions is hinting at a Cold War-style geopolitical game, the players being the West vs China &amp; Russia. This is plausible, but given Syria’s actual military power, its presence and alliance would not have a significant impact even if the west does decide to strike Iran. &nbsp;Discourse of this sort could otherwise be interpreted as a way to manage the nationalist expectations of Chinese citizens.</p> <p>The assumption that China is maintaining its Middle East sphere of influence is consistent with commentaries on Syria <a href="http://news.ifeng.com/world/special/xuliya/content-1/detail_2012_07/23/16226402_0.shtml">published</a><strong> </strong>on the state organ<em> People’s Daily</em>, in which a recurring rhetoric suggests that 'the West' has been acting on a hidden agenda. According to such rhetoric, 'the West' has been trying to push for a power transition of Assad’s government, furthering its <a href="http://world.people.com.cn/n/2012/0720/c1002-18563516.html">geopolitical interests</a>, or <a href="http://world.people.com.cn/n/2012/0710/c1002-18482465.html">maintaining US hegemony in the region</a>. </p> <p>Beyond the usual anti-western rhetoric, China’s official stance on<strong> </strong>Syria throughout the crisis could reveal more about China’s intentions. As early as in June 2011, Chinese Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Hong Lei <a href="http://sy.chineseembassy.org/eng/xwfb/t840658.htm">remarked that</a> China supports “relevant parties in Syria properly resolving internal differences through dialogue and negotiation.” This is what China calls the “political solution line” it has been following all along; pressure must be applied to both parties of the conflict <a href="http://world.people.com.cn/n/2012/0720/c1002-18563516.html">in a balanced manner</a> to push for a peaceful solution, or what a Chinese scholar calls <a href="http://world.people.com.cn/n/2012/0720/c1002-18563516.html">“soft landing”</a> for Syria. Another repeated point of emphasis is that the UN Security Council should act <a href="http://news.163.com/12/0206/19/7PJRVLOE0001124J.html">according to the principles and spirit of the UN Charter</a>, i.e. respecting the sovereignty of all nations, and non-interference in the internal politics of sovereign states.</p> <p>This official Chinese position is reflected in China's recent <a href="http://world.people.com.cn/n/2012/0720/c1002-18563516.html">participation in the Action Group for Syria</a> which convened early July in Geneva, in which all participants signed an agreement to <a href="http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=42383&amp;Cr=Syria&amp;Cr1=">push for a Syrian-led political transition</a> “that would meet the legitimate aspirations of the Syrian people.” Note that China has so far refused to participate in Friends of Syria conferences. After the third Friends of Syria conference on July 6, <a href="http://world.people.com.cn/n/2012/0710/c1002-18482465.html">a commentary published in <em>People’s Daily</em></a> condemned <a href="http://www.cbsnews.com/8301-202_162-57467452/clinton-friends-of-syria-must-unite-to-stop-russia-china-blockading-progress/">Hillary Clinton’s criticism</a> of China and Russia during the conference, as its recommendations worked against the agreement reached at the Action Group for Syria meeting.</p> <p>China’s recent use of vetoes is also somewhat telling. After abstention on Libya’s no-fly zone, China used three vetoes on the Syria crisis alone. This is quite revealing when put in historical context; since the People’s Republic of China entry into the UN in 1971, the country has <a href="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-FG6AMnMPDg&amp;feature=related">only used the veto eight times</a>.</p> <p>All this suggests changes in China’s foreign policy strategy. Repeated uses of veto are a clear sign that it will henceforth become more active in international affairs. China is weary of seeing yet another western-led military intervention in the region, under whatever pretext. Selective participation in the Action Group for Syria means that China will only join committees in which it has agenda-setting power. The emphasis on UN principles not only fit in with China’s official doctrine of non-interference, but also indicates that China will carry out this foreign policy strategy within the UN framework, an act that appears legitimate in the international arena.</p> <p>Simon Shen, an International Relations scholar from Hong Kong, believes that if China takes on the responsibility to mediate in a country like Syria, in which it has little stake, in theory it will have the responsibility to mediate in future more important international conflicts. Shen further points out that although the Action Group for Syria was coated in the UN framework, it is in fact a compromise among the powers: the US excluded Iran’s participation, and in retaliation Russia barred Saudi Arabia’s participation. This means that as long as the 5 permanent members of the Security Council are in agreement for a certain arrangement, China will accept its inclusion within the UN framework. [1] This in effect places the P5 in a more important position, transforming the UN into a wrestling ground for big powers and rendering the other member-states less relevant.</p> <p>China’s use of a particular conflict to make its mark in the world is not unprecedented. Parallels can be drawn with the Gulf Crisis. After the Tiananmen Massacre in 1989, Chinese diplomatic relations with the west cooled. The Gulf Crisis in 1990 provided just the perfect opportunity for China to mend its damaged international image. According to scholar Yitzhak Shichor, China took on a double-edged policy; on one hand it supported UN Resolution 660 that approved use of all means to force Iraqi withdrawal from Kuwait, and on the other hand China actively supported efforts to work out a peaceful solution. The then Foreign Minister Qian Qichen travelled back and forth between Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, and Iraq with the stated purpose of exploring the possibility of a peaceful solution with each country’s respective leader. [2] According to Shichor, the result was the immediate improvement of Sino-western relations, and the realization by the international community that settlement of major international problems is impossible without Chinese participation.</p> <p>Mark Qian’s words during the Gulf Crisis: “I have not brought any specific proposal, nor am I going to be a mediator.” Times have clearly changed. </p> <p>There is a catch, however, in China’s newfound strategy on Syria. Active mediation is, in a way, in conflict with China’s stance of non-interference in the internal politics of other states. More importantly, by engaging a government and its opposition on equal terms, it in effect violates what China insists as the UN principle for respecting the sovereignty of that particular government. China itself also faces an internal opposition movement; if China’s stance on Syria is taken as precedent, and should opposition to the CCP garner enough momentum, in theory the international community could apply the same rules to China. This is a potentially tricky situation.</p> <p><strong>References:</strong></p> <p>[1] Shen, Simon. "No Longer Keeping a Low Profile: Change in Diplomacy in China's involvement in Syria ." <em>Ming Pao</em> [Hong Kong] 13 July 2012: A. Print.</p> <p>[2] Shichor, Yitzhak. "China and the Middle East Since Tiananmen." <em>American Academy of Political and Social Science</em> 519 (1992): 86-100. Print.</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> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> International politics </div> </div> </div> Syria International politics china conflicts Geopolitics Nicholas Wong Wed, 25 Jul 2012 12:26:40 +0000 Nicholas Wong 67234 at https://opendemocracy.net Bulgaria, the end of innocence https://opendemocracy.net/john-obrennan/bulgaria-end-of-innocence <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <P> </p><P>The bombing of Israeli tourists in the resort of Burgas&nbsp;suggests that&nbsp;Bulgaria's strategic choices have made it vulnerable&nbsp;to terrorist attack, says John O'Brennan.</p> <P></p> </div> </div> </div> <P>The pattern of events is depressingly familiar. An Israeli tourist group is targeted for attack by an extremist cell. The bomber blows himself up&nbsp;using at least three kilogrammes of TNT and succeeds in killing five Israelis and their bus-driver. Israeli leaders are quick to<A href="http://www.haaretz.com/print-edition/news/victims-of-burgas-attack-flown-home-pm-iran-is-engaged-in-global-terrorism-1.452352"> blame</a> Hizbollah and the movement's Iranian sponsors. But the thing that made this attack different was that it was perpetrated not in the middle east but in Bulgaria, a <A href="http://europa.eu/about-eu/countries/member-countries/bulgaria/index_en.htm">member-state</a> of the European Union. </p> <P>This particular incident took place on 18 July 2012 in Burgas, a resort on the Black Sea <A href="http://go.hrw.com/atlas/norm_htm/bulgaria.htm">coast</a> of Bulgaria, which claimed seven lives and injured thirty-three. It has profoundly shocked Bulgarians, for it is the first terrorist atrocity of this kind on their soil since 1945. A country which is both friendly and open to visitors and peaceable toward its neighbours will now have to reckon with a significantly more challenging security equation. </p> <P>Although the attack seemed to <A href="http://www.setimes.com/cocoon/setimes/xhtml/en_GB/features/setimes/features/2012/07/20/feature-01">come</a> out of the blue, there were at least some indications that Bulgaria could be a target for such a strike. Indeed, commentators have been warning for many years of the vulnerability of the Black Sea coast to such attacks from either violent <EM>jihadists</em> or state-sponsored terror units. There are two main <A href="http://www.novinite.com/view_news.php?id=141491">reasons</a> for this.</p> <P><STRONG>The international dimension</strong></p> <P>First, Israeli citizens have long pursued a love-affair with Bulgaria's coastal resorts. Burgas is a two-hour flight from Tel Aviv, thus easily within reach of Israeli travellers. The Black Sea coast is blessed with wonderful stretches of sandy beach, good food, a reliably warm climate, and an increasingly sophisticated and modern range of shopping options. The tourist infrastructure has rapidly <A href="http://westincorporated.ie/bulgaria-tourism-and-investment.html">developed</a> over the last decade, and though prices have increased considerably the region (and Bulgaria generally) still represent an economical destination. </p> <P>For Israelis, these positive features of the Bulgarian tourist environment are amplified by an important historical connection. The close links between Bulgaria and Israel date the second world war, during which almost all Bulgaria's Jewish population was <A href="http://www.ushmm.org/wlc/en/article.php?ModuleId=10005355">saved</a> from annihilation by the Nazi death-machine. The popular folk-memory of the period includes the often-stated <A href="http://www.novinite.com/view_news.php?id=115297">view</a> that Bulgaria’s King Boris III "saved the Jews". </p> <P>This is not quite true. Boris was a rather weak leader and in the unhappy position of being a supplicant to the Nazis, even if he managed to avoid a direct Nazi invasion. When confronted with multiple and ever more insistent "requests" to surrender Bulgaria’s Jewish population for "transport" to Poland, Boris steadfastly refused to comply. The king’s reasons may have had as much to do with Bulgaria’s domestic politics; and scholarly work demonstrates that it was at local level and through the sustained <A href="http://www.holocaustresearchproject.org/nazioccupation/bulgarianjews.html">efforts</a> of parliamentarians that the "salvation of the Bulgarian Jews" took place (local officials simply refused to surrender "their" Jews, who were considered nothing other than Bulgarians). Moreover, many ordinary people <A href="http://www.bulgaria-embassy.org/WebPage/About%20Bulgaria/The%20Jewish%20Week%20-%20Current.htm">saved</a> the lives of their neighbours. </p> <P>Boris was posthumously awarded the Jewish National Fund's medal of the legion of honour, the first non-Jewish person to receive one of the Jewish community's highest honours. The important legacy of this <A href="http://articles.latimes.com/1994-05-23/news/mn-61215_1_king-boris-iii">episode</a> is that, in the Israeli popular mind, Bulgaria is viewed as the friendliest of European states; by the same token, the propensity of large numbers of Israelis to holiday in Bulgaria has made the Balkan country a target for a variety of terrorist groups. As Dimitar Bechev points out, Burgas alone received 30,000 Israeli visitors in July (see "<A href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/dimitar-bechev/bulgaria-terror-and-aftershock">Bulgaria, terror and aftershock</a>", 20 July 2012).</p> <P>Second, Bulgaria has been a <A href="http://www.bulgarianembassy-london.org/index.php?Itemid=106&amp;id=38&amp;option=com_content&amp;task=view">member</a> of Nato since 2004, and has forged a close foreign-policy relationship with the United States. In the transition from communist rule after 1989, Bulgarian elites placed a high priority on entering Nato, and in particular on achieving the security guarantee implicit in Article 5 of Nato's charter. Bulgarian troops served in Iraq after the United States-led invasion in 2003 and have also been present in Afghanistan since 2001. </p> <P>Bulgaria signed a defence-cooperation <A href="http://bulgaria.usembassy.gov/odc_jtf_factsheet.html">agreement</a> with the United States in 2006. This provided for the presence of up to 2,500 US troops in the country and the use of air-bases at Bezmer, Graf Ignatievo and Novo Selo. The Bezmer air-base in particular is expected to become one of the major US strategic airfields overseas. Crucially, the agreement also allows the US to use the bases "for missions in a third country without a specific authorization from Bulgarian authorities". These bases, known as "forward operating sites", provide the American military with an efficient means of projecting power in the Black Sea region and the middle east. This has become even more significant as Turkey has <A>asserted</a> a more muscular foreign policy, independent of its Nato commitments and traditional close ties to both the US and Israel (in the case of the latter, relations were severely <A href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/kerem-oktem/turkey-and-israel-ends-and-beginnings">damaged</a> by the <EM>Mavi Marmara</em> incident in 2010). </p> <P>The <A href="http://www.novinite.com/view_news.php?id=139518">then</a> Bulgarian president, Georgi Parvanov, called the 2006 agreement "a strategic investment in the security of our country". What Parvanov did not reveal to the Bulgarian public was the degree of risk attached to such a security <A href="http://www.eucom.mil/mission/the-region/bulgaria">partnership</a> in a context where Washington's "war on terror" had already gone global. </p> <P>There are currently 600 Bulgarian <A href="http://www.isaf.nato.int/troop-numbers-and-contributions/bulgaria/index.php">troops</a> stationed in Kandahar as part of the International Security Assistance Force (Isaf)/Nato force in Afghanistan. Bulgaria increased its contribution to Isaf in 2010 after a letter from President Barack Obama to prime minister <A href="http://www.government.bg/cgi-bin/e-cms/vis/vis.pl?s=001&amp;p=0230&amp;g">Boiko Borissov</a>. In it Obama praised Bulgaria’s stance on the proposed Nato defence-shield and its support for containing Iran’s nuclear ambitions. In the latter context, Bulgaria’s foreign minister since January 2010, <A href="http://www.mfa.bg/en/pages/view/4">Nikolay Mladenov</a>, has repeatedly denied that Bezmer would be used by the Americans as the key base from which an attack on Iran would be launched. Mladenov has also pursued a vigorous middle-east policy which involves both closer ties to Israel and reaching out to "Arab spring" leaders. </p> <P>Thus, Bulgaria's security calculus has meant balancing the perceived benefits of being inside the Nato club with the risk attached to being identified as a close ally of the US and Israel. It now seems apparent that its affiliation with the latter marked Bulgaria out as a target by enemies of those states. </p> <P>Bulgarian leaders have been quick to stress that terrorism constitutes a problem for all European states. They must also acknowledge that their own foreign-policy choices may - tragically - have contributed to the Burgas attack.</p> <P><STRONG>The political fallout</strong></p> <P>Bulgaria now has to reckon with the great damage the attack may inflict on its economy. Suicide-bombings by their nature are intended to inculcate apprehension and fear in the areas they take place in. They are not good for business. Bulgaria’s tourism industry, heavily concentrated around the Black Sea coast and contributing over 10% to GDP, has continued to grow even amid the deep and sustained recession across Europe. In the first eight months of 2011, for example, Bulgaria welcomed almost 6.4 million visitors, an increase of 4% on 2010. The World Travel and Tourism Council (<A href="http://www.wttc.org/research/economic-impact-research/country-reports/b/bulgaria/">WTTC</a>) estimates than by 2017 Bulgaria will be attracting almost 16 million visitors per year, which would represent a doubling of numbers from 2009. It is anyone’s guess how much the Burgas bombing will <A href="http://www.haaretz.com/business/israelis-shun-burgas-at-least-for-now-1.452650">affect</a> these estimates.</p> <P>It is worth remembering that, for all its problems - mainly <A href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/democracy-europefuture/bulgaria_3825.jsp">corruption</a>, linked to a voracious post-communist elite’s rent-seeking activity - Bulgaria has made tremendous advances over the past decade. The economy has modernised and begun to deliver a better standard of living for most Bulgarians. The stability of the European Union "anchor" has helped sustain foreign direct investment (FDI), and EU structural funds have helped improve the country’s physical infrastructure. The challenge for Bulgarian policy-makers will be to ensure that Bulgaria’s continued development within the European Union can be balanced with an equally open attitude to its neighbours in the Black Sea and middle east regions. </p> <P>In the short term the attack also poses challenges for inter-ethnic relations <A href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/daniel-smilov/bulgaria%E2%80%99s-tense-week-spark-fire-and-solvent">within</a> Bulgaria. For some time there has been <A href="http://www.reuters.com/article/2009/06/01/us-bulgaria-muslims-idUSTRE55001C20090601">speculation</a> about the activities of <EM>Salafist</em> Saudis and other foreign militants, who have been trying to radicalise some parts of the Bulgarian Muslim communities, which number about 12% of the population. Those communities are extremely <A href="http://www.cornellpress.cornell.edu/book/?GCOI=80140100718690">diverse</a> and do not constitute anything like a monolithic group; but there is fear that militant activity is growing within a very small section of the Muslim population. That may or may not be so, and it is so far unclear whether information <A href="http://www.asharq-e.com/news.asp?section=1&amp;id=30407">about</a> the Burgas suicide-bomber will shed any light on this topic. But there is a sense of disquiet, especially in the east and south-east of the country, about the potential for growing militancy.</p> <P>The Burgas attack has resurrected a familiar set of issues regarding Israel’s relations with its neighbours, and prompted enormous soul searching in Bulgaria. At the very least, it represents the "end of Bulgarian innocence" in the international arena.</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-read-on"> <div class="field-label"> 'Read On' Sidebox:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <P><A href="http://www.widereurope.ie"><SPAN><SPAN>Centre for the Study of Wider Europe</span></span></a></p> <P><A href="http://www.ue-varna.bg/en/">Varna Economics University</a>, Bulgaria</p> <P><A href="http://www.novinite.com/"><EM>Novinite</em></a></p> <P><A href="http://sofiaecho.com/"><EM>Sofia Echo</em></a></p> <P><A href="http://www.mfa.bg/en/pages/menu/14">Bulgaria, foreign policy</a></p> </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-sidebox"> <div class="field-label"> Sidebox:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <P>John O’ Brennan is a lecturer in European politics and societies, and director of the <A href="http://www.widereurope.ie">Centre for the Study of Wider Europe</a>, at the National University of Ireland, Maynooth. He was previously visiting fellow at the Varna Economics University in Bulgaria, and is currently&nbsp;based in Varna</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="/dimitar-bechev/bulgaria-terror-and-aftershock">Bulgaria, terror and aftershock</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/article/georgi-markov-the-truth-that-killed">Georgi Markov: the truth that killed</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/article/bulgaria-and-russia-a-cold-marriage">Bulgaria and Russia: a cold marriage</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/democracy-europefuture/bulgaria_3825.jsp">Bulgaria: the mafia&#039;s dance to Europe</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/daniel-smilov/bulgaria%E2%80%99s-tense-week-spark-fire-and-solvent">Bulgaria’s tense week: spark, fire, and solvent </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/article/europe-s-other-legitimacy-crisis">Europe’s other legitimacy crisis</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/globalization-institutions_government/europe_blackhole_3796.jsp">Between elite and people: Europe&#039;s black hole</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"> Bulgaria </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 class="field-item even"> International politics </div> </div> </div> Bulgaria Democracy and government International politics europe conflicts democracy & power future of europe John O'Brennan Sun, 22 Jul 2012 23:17:20 +0000 John O'Brennan 67164 at https://opendemocracy.net Bulgaria, terror and aftershock https://opendemocracy.net/dimitar-bechev/bulgaria-terror-and-aftershock <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>An attack on Israeli tourists in the Black Sea resort of Burgas is a moment of profound alarm for Bulgaria. It also highlights changes in the country’s international profile, says Dimitar Bechev in Sofia.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p>A bus full of Israeli tourists was blown up on 18 July 2012 at the airport of Burgas, a Bulgarian town on the Black Sea coast. From the evidence so far available, the attack was carried out by a suicide-bomber carrying a backpack laden with explosives. The shock here is profound – the news from Burgas overshadowed the European commission’s regular<a href="http://www.novinite.com/view_news.php?id=141397"> report</a> monitoring judicial reforms and anti-corruption released a few hours earlier.&nbsp;There were six fatalities in addition to the bomber himself, five Israelis and their Bulgarian coach-driver; tens of injured were taken to local hospitals. </p><p>Binyamin Netanyahu, the Israeli prime minister, was quick to <a href="http://www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-4258000,00.html">blame</a> the attack on Iran and the Hizbollah movement it supports. He warned that Israel’s reaction would be “powerful”.&nbsp; It is too early to speculate whether such claims are substantiated, and how far the <a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/paul-rogers/america-israel-syria-iran-war-by-accident">hawkish</a> talk in Israel after the tragedy at Burgas will go. But from the viewpoint of Bulgaria, two points are worth noting.</p><p>First, the 36-year-old Bulgarian casualty, Mustafa Kyosov, was in fact a member of the country’s (Bulgarian-speaking) Muslim <a href="http://www.pomak.eu/">minority </a>called <a href="http://www.vagabond.bg/index.php?option=com_content&amp;task=view&amp;id=121">Pomaks</a>. Thus the <a href="http://www.novinite.com/view_news.php?id=141494">victims</a> of this atrocity were Jews and a Muslim (who compose up to 12% of Bulgaria’s population, the highest share of any European Union member). For his part the suspected perpetrator, as <a href="http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-18909642">captured</a> on security-cameras, hardly matches the stereotype of a darker-skinned middle-easterner. It seems he was carrying a forged United States driver’s license. </p><p>Second, there is an important international dimension. Bulgaria’s relations with Israel have been <a href="http://sofiaecho.com/2011/07/07/1119851_israel-bulgaria-joint-declaration-pledges-wide-ranging-co-operation">developing</a> rapidly for years. The influx of Israeli tourists, especially after the <em>Mavi Marmara</em> <a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/paul-rogers/israel-turkey-united-states-gaza%E2%80%99s-global-moment">crisis </a>with Turkey in 2010, has been remarkable too.&nbsp; The figure for 2012 is 260,000, with 30,000 arriving in Burgas alone in July (many are bound for large resorts such as Sunny Beach). Whether Israelis are a “soft target” or not is now hotly disputed.&nbsp;But whoever takes the blame for failing to avert the attack, it is clear that the Bulgarian security services will have to deepen cooperation with their Israeli counterparts as well as with the US (President Obama, not usually known as a keen follower of Bulgarian affairs, <a href="http://www.usatoday.com/news/world/story/2012-07-18/Israeli-bus-attacked-Bulgaria/56305176/1">produced</a> an almost instant condemnation of the attack). </p><p>When that process gets underway, the resulting intensified international contacts are bound to <a href="http://www.novinite.com/view_news.php?id=141520">expose</a> policy deficits, reform blind-spots and all kinds of <a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/democracy-europefuture/bulgaria_3825.jsp">dirty</a> laundry in Bulgaria. It can only be hoped that the outcome will be a push to make security agencies here more efficient and transparent, and thus begin to cure what has <a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/article/europe-s-other-legitimacy-crisis">since</a> 1989 been a sore spot in Bulgaria’s politics.</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-read-on"> <div class="field-label"> 'Read On' Sidebox:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p><a href="http://www.ecfr.eu/">European Council on Foreign Relations</a></p><p><a href="http://www.novinite.com/"><em>Novinite</em></a></p><p><a href="http://sofiaecho.com/"><em>Sofia Echo</em></a></p> </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-sidebox"> <div class="field-label"> Sidebox:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Dimitar Bechev is senior research fellow and head of the Sofia office of the <a href="http://www.ecfr.eu/">European Council on Foreign Relations</a> (ECFR). He is editor of <em><a href="http://ecfr.eu/content/entry/what_does_turkey_think">What Does Turkey Think</a> </em>(ECFR, June 2011), a collection of essays by Turkish analysts, policymakers and academics exploring the country’s rapid domestic transformation and dynamic foreign policy</p><p>This comment was first published on the website of the ECFR</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="/dimitar-bechev/americanisation-of-turkey">The Americanisation of Turkey</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/article/bulgaria-and-russia-a-cold-marriage">Bulgaria and Russia: a cold marriage</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/democracy-europefuture/bulgaria_3825.jsp">Bulgaria: the mafia&#039;s dance to Europe</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/democracy-europefuture/bulgaria_3194.jsp">Bulgaria&amp;#146;s red mafia on Europe&amp;#146;s trail</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/article/georgi-markov-the-truth-that-killed">Georgi Markov: the truth that killed</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/daniel-smilov/bulgaria%E2%80%99s-tense-week-spark-fire-and-solvent">Bulgaria’s tense week: spark, fire, and solvent </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"> Bulgaria </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 class="field-item even"> International politics </div> </div> </div> openSecurity Bulgaria Democracy and government International politics europe conflicts democracy & power future of europe Dimitar Bechev Security in Europe Non-state violence Fri, 20 Jul 2012 15:57:30 +0000 Dimitar Bechev 67139 at https://opendemocracy.net Turkey and the Armenians: politics of history https://opendemocracy.net/vicken-cheterian/turkey-and-armenians-politics-of-history <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>A new generation's&nbsp;encounter with&nbsp;the Armenian&nbsp;genocide&nbsp;of 1915&nbsp;is&nbsp;producing fresh understandings of Turkey's -&nbsp;and the middle east's&nbsp;- modern history,&nbsp;finds Vicken Cheterian. </p> </div> </div> </div> <p>Taner Akçam, the leading Turkish scholar on the history of the Armenian genocide of 1915 and after, delivered a lecture in June 2012 on the subject of "Armenian genocide and Turkey’s national security". He began his address by projecting a map of the late Ottoman empire which showed the many urban centres in Anatolia where Armenians lived (such as Erzincan and Aintab), the routes they were forced to take after their expulsion, and - for those who survived the killings and massacres along the way - their final destinations, such as Deir Ez-Zor deep in the Syrian desert. </p> <p>A curious feature revealed by the map is that several of the towns and cities where the exhausted and brutalised Armenians ended up are today scarred by the Syrian uprising and its violent repression by forces loyal to the <a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/vicken-cheterian/syria%E2%80%99s-broken-spring-damascus-report">Damascus</a> government. If this is a reminder of the continuities of conflict and tragedy in the region, it also suggests the importance of seeing the events of a century ago in a wide <a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/article/a-century-of-genocide-1915-2009">perspective</a> that takes several factors into account: the growing debate within Turkey about the fate of the Ottoman Armenians during the "great war" of 1914-18; the <a href="http://us.macmillan.com/turkeysince1989/KeremÖktem">evolution</a> of Turkey's political culture and its processes of democratisation; and (not least) the experience of other middle-eastern societies whose political space has become increasingly "communitarised", often under the influence of slogans of "progress" or "state security".</p> <p><strong>A prison of security</strong></p> <p><a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/authors/taner_akcam">Taner Akçam's</a> own story is part of these historical currents. The fruits of his brave and pioneering archival work are found in several notable books, such as <a title="http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2006-11/uom-nbb111306.php" href="http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2006-11/uom-nbb111306.php"><em>A Shameful Act: The Armenian Genocide and the Question of Turkish Responsibility</em></a>&nbsp;(2006). But his excavation of buried truths have made him an enemy of powerful forces in Turkish society who would prefer these to remain buried. His name, for example, was one of five on a hit-list discovered during the "Ergenekon" trials (an alleged conspiratorial military-nationalist organisation that aimed to destabilise Turkey and pave the way to a military coup).</p> <p>Another name on the list was Hrant Dink, the Turkish-Armenian journalist and editor of <em>Agos</em>, the Armenian-language weekly paper published in Istanbul. <a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/democracy-turkey/europe_turkey_armenia_3118.jsp">Hrant Dink</a> was <a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/democracy-turkey/murder_freedom_4274.jsp">assassinated</a> near the paper's offices in January 2007 by a young Turkish nationalist suspected to have links with Turkey's "deep state". A third name was <a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/arts-turkey/pamuk_journey_3998.jsp">Orhan Pamuk</a>, Turkey's Nobel literature laureate. These intellectuals are considered by hardline security-obsessed militarists and nationalists to be "traitors" on account of their questioning of the offically sanctioned version of Turkey's history (see Taner Akçam, "<a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/article/turkey_and_history_shoot_the_messenger">Turkey and history: shoot the messenger</a>", 16 August 2007)&nbsp;</p> <p>Akçam, who has experienced many attacks on his work and reputation, says that the supposed protection of "national security" has long been used in Turkey to curb his freedom of speech. The same logic is apparent even in the United States, where congressional debate about the Armenian genocide is said to threaten cooperation with its Turkish ally and the US's national interest in the middle east" . </p> <p>But, responds Akçam, a secure, stable and democratic middle east can only be created if historic understanding is integrated into the political space - and that means overcoming lingering taboos and putting moral values beside <em>Realpolitik</em>. "The problems of the region cannot be solved if historic wrongdoings are not addressed. History is strongly present in the everyday life of the middle east," says Akçam. </p> <p><strong>A rediscovered history</strong></p> <p>Betul Tanbay, a professor of mathematics, was a high-school student in Paris when her history teacher asked her to write a paper on the Armenian genocide: "I come from a leftist, politicised family, and grew up in the Beyoglu district of Istanbul", which had a large, mainly Greek, minority population. Yet she was shocked to realise that she did not know an important part of the history of her own country. Her story is repeated by a numerous other Turkish migrants who in European or north American schools and universities have been invited to articulate what they thought of the "genocide of the Armenians" but were unable to grasp even what the question was about.</p> <p>"In the past", says Tanbay, "we explained the lack of recognition of the Armenian genocide as a matter of lack of knowledge, of ignorance. But after the assassination of Hrant Dink I lost this naiveté. Every single behaviour of the Turkish state reminded me of the continuation of the same mentality. The silent acceptance is unbearable to live with." </p> <p>In the last few years, the debate about formerly taboo subjects such as the Armenian <a href="http://www.genocide-museum.am/eng/index.php">genocide</a> has advanced in Turkey. Rober Koptas, the editor-in-chief of <em>Agos</em> - Hrant Dink's paper - says that the ruling AKP (Justice &amp; Development Party) has taken some positive steps towards Turkey's Armenian community, but not over the genocide issue or the neighbouring Republic of Armenia (see Hratch Tchilingirian, "<a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/democracy-turkey/dink_armenian_4378.jsp">Hrant Dink and Armenians in Turkey</a>", 23 February 2007). It's true that there was a <a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/vicken-cheterian/armenia-turkey-end-of-rapprochement">brief</a> rapprochment between the two states, involving the <a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/article/armenia/the-armenia-turkey-process-don-t-stop-now">signing</a>&nbsp;in 2009&nbsp;of two "protocols" to normalise relations, But, says Koptas, "[the] protocols were the project of President Abdullah Gül and foreign minister Ahmet Davudoglu. The prime minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, was not convinced by [the process] and opposed it, fearing that it would cost him a certain percentage of nationalist votes."</p> <p>More recently, a new force has emerged alongside domestic Turkish nationalism to oppose the recognition of the Armenian genocide within Turkey: the Azerbaijani lobby. <a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/thomas-de-waal/azerbaijan-speed-without-system-1">Azerbaijan</a> and Armenia are engaged in bitter rivalry over the <a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/article/the-caucasus-a-region-in-pieces">disputed</a> region of Nagorno-Karabakh. The oil-rich Azeris are, says Koptas, "working to oppose genocide-recognition, intervening actively inside the Turkish political sphere. Azerbaijan is spending money on NGOs, media, and universities to advance this aim, and in a very aggressive manner." </p> <p><strong>A continuous thread </strong></p> <p>Yet Turkey is a country both economically successful and increasingly important on the international political scene. It has every reason to be confident about facing its own past and acknowledging uncomfortable truths. There is a strong case that its refusal to do so is rooted in the history of which the Armenian genocide is part.</p> <p>Taner Akçam's studies of the subject reveal a deep continuum between the <em>Ittihadists</em> (the Party of Union and Progress, which came to power after the 1908 revolt against the Ottoman Sultan) and those who built the Turkish republic in the aftermath of the first world war and the collapse of the Ottoman empire. He argues that the continuity of elites in power also entailed a continuity of policy (reflected in the Armenian genocide and its denial) and strategy (top-down social engineering). The <em>Ittihadists</em> got rid of the Christian minorities of the empire (a quarter of the empire's entire population); the republic continued the repression, this time against the Kurdish minority and Islamists, in order to forge a unified "Turkish" identity out of a diverse population (see Taner Akçam, <em><a href="http://press.princeton.edu/titles/9678.html">The Young Turk’s Crime Against Humanity : The Armenian Genocide and Ethnic Cleansing in the Ottoman Empire</a></em> [Princeton University Press, 2012]). </p> <p>Akçam says: "Every nation has founding fathers who are presented as heroes of the nation. If Turkey acknowledges the Armenian genocide it will be declaring its founding fathers to be murderers and thieves, since part of them were involved in the mass killings, while others became rich as a result" by pillaging Armenian properties left behind. <a href="http://www.sundayszaman.com/sunday/columnistDetail_getNewsById.action?newsId=278588&amp;columnistId=118">Cengiz Aktar</a>, a university professor and <a href="http://www.orient-online.com/Authors/Dr-Cengiz-Aktar">specialist</a> on Turkey-European Union <a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/katinka-barysch/turkey-and-europe-shifting-axis">relations</a>, says: "Turkey’s main ideological matrix is <em>Ittihadis</em>t-Kemalist, with a social-engineering political culture very similar to the Ba'ath Party, and a total absence of self-criticism." The <em>Ittihadists</em> promised reform and modernisation when they took power in 1908, but the attempt to build a new state with a homogenous population was followed by massive violence against and repression of its own citizens, including Greeks and Assyrians as well as Armenians. </p> <p><strong>A slow unravelling</strong></p> <p>The schism in the official ideology started in 2002-03, after the Islamist-inspired AKP was <a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/democracy-europefuture/article_735.jsp">elected</a>, creating a break with the elites in power since the origins of the Turkish republic (see Gunes Murat Tezcur, "<a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/gunes-murat-tezcur/akp-years-in-turkey-third-stage">The AKP years in Turkey: the third stage</a>", 20 September 2011). Aktar says: "The Islamists are trying to break with this past, and partially managed to settle their accounts with the <em>Ittihadist</em> paradigm." But while "they went as far as to secure their own future" by rehabilitating political Islam in the struggle against Turkish nationalism, they stopped short of a radical revision of history. "As Islamists in power stopped short, the momentum they initiated does not go beyond a certain limit. But society took advantage of this new era, by seizing the chance to revisit the past with their own hands", Aktar concludes. </p> <p>Akçam has come closer to understanding the significance of Armenian property confiscated by the Turkish elites following the 1914-18 war. In order to hide and legitimise this massive expropriation, the Turkish legal system had to take many covert and unacknowledged measures - manipulating citizenship and deforming property rights, among others - in order to maintain the confiscation of Armenian property. </p> <p>Koptas said that a new generation of Turkish citizens is joining the struggle against past taboos. Hilal Kaplan was a 19-year-old university student when she was denied access to a university campus because of her headscarf. She was shocked to hear Turkey's then president, Suleiman Demirel, declare that veiled women had no place in Turkey and could go to Saudi Arabia if they wanted to cover their hair. If the state behaved in such a repressive manner towards the majority Muslim population, she asked herself, how would they behave towards minorities such as the Armenians? Since then, she has "adopted" the Armenian cause, seeing it as part of a Turkish nationalist <a href="http://www.hurriyetdailynews.com/armenian-ethnic-cleansing-as-de-islamization.aspx?pageID=449&amp;nID=19180&amp;NewsCatID=411 ">attack</a> against <em>both</em> ethnic-religious minorities <em>and</em> Islam.</p> <p><em>Agos's</em> editor Koptas says there are different groups today in Turkey, such as those of a Muslim or Kurdish tendency, interested in <a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/article/democracy_power/future_turkey/islamic_reform_roots_reality">revising</a> the official Turkish nationalist narrative: "We tell them they should also consider the Armenian issue, there is no way to avoid it." Here, Koptas added, it was extremely important to create a dialogue between Turkish liberal forces, Armenian intellectuals and Muslim thinkers.</p> <p>The various people I interviewed in Istanbul have little hope of dramatic change in Ankara’s policy in the approach to 2015, the anniversary of the beginning of the genocide. The AKP has become too <a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/bill-park/turkey-vibrant-democracy-vs-majority-rule">established</a> to be interested in such a radical revision. Yet there are signs of incremental change: nine decades after the expropriation of Armenian property, over a dozen properties have in recent years been returned to Armenian churches and foundations in Istanbul. Many more are waiting. The coming period will see more claims, and fresh historical understandings. The process of recovery, of truth and property, is irreversible.</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>Vicken Cheterian, <a href="http://cup.columbia.edu/book/978-0-231-70064-1/war-and-peace-in-the-caucasus"><em><span><span>War and Peace in the Caucasus: Russia’s Troubled Frontier</span></span></em></a> (<a href="http://www.hurstpub.co.uk/BookDetails.aspx?BookId=500"><span><span>C Hurst</span></span></a>, 2009; Columbia University Press, 2009)</p> <p>Taner Akçam, <a href="http://a%20shameful%20act:20/"><em><span><span>A Shameful Act: The Armenian Genocide and the Question of Turkish Responsibility</span></span></em></a> (Henry Holt, 2007)</p> <p>Ben Kiernan, <a href="http://yalepress.yale.edu/yupbooks/book.asp?isbn=9780300100983"><em><span><span>Blood and Soil: A World History of Genocide and Extermination from Sparta to Darfur</span></span></em></a> (Yale University Press, 2007) </p> <p>Taner Akçam, <em>F</em><a href="http://www.zedbooks.co.uk/book.asp?bookdetail=3536"><em><span><span>rom Empire to Republic: Turkish Nationalism and the Armenian Genocide</span></span></em></a> (Zed Books, 2004)</p> <p>Erik J Zürcher, <a href="http://www.ibtauris.com/en/Books/Reference%20information%20%20interdisciplinary%20subjects/Interdisciplinary%20studies/Regional%20studies/Turkey%20A%20Modern%20History.aspx?menuitem=%7B0B224723-C23A-4A0B-87C5-BD37738A8CEB%7D"><em><span><span>Turkey: A Modern History</span></span></em></a> (IB Tauris, 2004)</p> <p>Kerem Oktem, (co-editor, with Celia J Kerslake &amp; Philip Robins) <a href="http://www.palgraveconnect.com/pc/doifinder/10.1057/9780230277397"><em><span><span>Turkey's Engagement with Modernity</span></span></em></a> (Palgrave, 2010)</p> <p>Gunes Murat Tezcur, <a href="http://www.utexas.edu/utpress/books/tezmus.html"><em>Muslim Reformers in Iran and Turkey: The Paradox of Moderation</em></a> (University of Texas Press, 2010)</p> <p>Kerem Oktem<em>, </em><a href="http://www.zedbooks.co.uk/book.asp?bookdetail=4372"><em><span><span>Angry Nation: Turkey since 1989</span></span></em></a> (Zed Books, 2010)</p> <p>Hans-Lukas Kieser, <a href="http://www.palgrave-usa.com/catalog/product.aspx?isbn=1845111419%20bt.yahoo.com"><em><span><span>Turkey Beyond Nationalism: Towards Post-Nationalist Identities</span></span></em></a> (IB Tauris, 2006)</p> <p>Taner Akçam, <em><a href="http://press.princeton.edu/titles/9678.html">The Young Turks' Crime Against Humanity : The Armenian Genocide and Ethnic Cleansing in the Ottoman Empire</a></em> (Princeton University Press, 2012) </p> </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-sidebox"> <div class="field-label"> Sidebox:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Vicken Cheterian is a journalist and political analyst who works for the non-profit governance organisation <a href="http://www.cimera.org/en/about/ind_cheterian.htm" target="_blank"><span><span>CIMERA</span></span></a>, based in Geneva. He is the author of <a href="http://www.hurstpub.co.uk/BookDetails.aspx?BookId=500%20"><em><span><span>War and Peace in the Caucasus: Russia’s Troubled Frontier</span></span></em></a> (<a title="C Hurst" href="http://www.hurstpub.co.uk/BookDetails.aspx?BookId=500"><span><span>C Hurst</span></span></a>, 2009; <a href="http://cup.columbia.edu/book/978-0-231-70064-1/war-and-peace-in-the-caucasus"><span><span>Columbia University Press</span></span></a>, 2009), and <a href="http://www.hurstpub.co.uk/BookDetails.aspx?BookId=658"><em><span><span>From Perestroika to Rainbow Revolutions: Reform and Revolution After Socialism</span></span></em></a> (C Hurst,&nbsp;2012)</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="/vicken-cheterian/armenia-turkey-end-of-rapprochement">Armenia-Turkey: the end of rapprochement </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/article/armenia/armenia-turkey-genocide-blockade-diplomacy">Armenia-Turkey: genocide, blockade, diplomacy</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/article/turkey_and_history_shoot_the_messenger">Turkey and history: shoot the messenger</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/bill-park/turkey-and-ergenekon-from-farce-to-tragedy">Turkey and Ergenekon: from farce to tragedy </a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/article/armenia/armenia-and-turkey-forgetting-genocide">Armenia and Turkey: forgetting genocide </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/krzysztof-bobinski/armenias-election-dark-deeds-slim-hopes">Armenia&#039;s election: dark deeds, slim hopes</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/article/turkey_after_hrant_dink">Turkey after Hrant Dink</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/democracy-turkey/dink_armenian_4378.jsp">Hrant Dink and Armenians in Turkey</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/martin-shaw/politics-of-genocide-rwanda-and-dr-congo">The politics of genocide: Rwanda &amp; DR Congo</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/article/armenia/the-armenia-turkey-process-don-t-stop-now">The Armenia-Turkey process: don’t stop now </a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/vicken-cheterian/armenia-turkey-protocols-year-on-0">The Armenia-Turkey protocols: a year on </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/article/democracy_power/caucasus_fractures/armenia_election">Armenia’s election: the waiting game</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/democracy-turkey/dink_dialogue_4273.jsp">The pigeon sacrificed: Hrant Dink, and a broken dialogue</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/article/armenia-s-mixed-messages">Armenia’s mixed messages</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/kerem-oktem/turkey-and-israel-ends-and-beginnings">Turkey and Israel: ends and beginnings</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/democracy-europefuture/europe_turkey_armenia_3118.jsp">The water finds its crack: an Armenian in Turkey</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/article/a-century-of-genocide-1915-2009">A century of genocide, 1915-2009</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"> Armenia </div> <div class="field-item odd"> Syria </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Civil society </div> <div class="field-item even"> Democracy and government </div> <div class="field-item odd"> International politics </div> </div> </div> Syria Armenia Turkey Civil society Democracy and government International politics conflicts democracy & power the future of turkey caucasus: regional fractures Vicken Cheterian Tue, 03 Jul 2012 17:40:35 +0000 Vicken Cheterian 66787 at https://opendemocracy.net Bosnia twenty years on: victims return to Višegrad to bury their dead https://opendemocracy.net/richard-newell/bosnia-twenty-years-on-victims-return-to-vi%C5%A1egrad-to-bury-their-dead <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>The author recalls the atrocities committed around Višegrad twenty years ago and suggests that even today, twenty years later, ethnic tensions remain a serious problem in Bosnia and Hercegovina and reconciliation between the different ethnic groups is tenuous at best</p> </div> </div> </div> <p>Saturday morning, May 26, 2012, a convoy of 'Centrotrans' buses leaves Sarajevo, the capital of <a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/bedrudin-brljavac/whatever-happened-to-bosnia">Bosnia and Hercegovina</a>, heading eastwards into <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Republika_Srpska">Republika Srpska</a> to Višegrad, a town straddling the Drina, a beautiful river whose green waters cleave northward through the deep, wooded valleys of eastern Bosnia. The buses are headed to the 20th anniversary commemoration of the <a href="http://genocideinvisegrad.wordpress.com/tag/republika-srpska/">town's ethnic cleansing</a>.
 
During 1992, Bosnian Serb nationalists, locals who were aided by Serbia proper in the form of the Yugoslav National Army, 'cleansed' the town and the surrounding hamlets of their Muslim neighbours. Their remains can now (not) be found at the bottom of the green Drina or in mass graves around the locale. </p><p>The people filling the buses this grey morning are relatives, refugees and victims, all going back to commemorate or to bury family and friends.

 What took place in Višegrad has yet to be officially labelled as genocide. The <a href="http://www.icty.org/sections/AbouttheICTY">International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY)</a> trials have failed to designate the crimes with that status, yet it is difficult to see it any other way. 

Some 3,000 Bosnian Muslims were identified, seized and then slaughtered by a mixture of local police and the Army of Republika Srpska. On June 14th, 1992 in a house on Pionirska Street, Višegrad, fifty-nine Bosniak women and children, along with the elderly, were burnt alive. <a href="http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/europe/bosnia/5872795/Bosnian-Serb-Milan-Lukic-burned-Muslims-alive-in-houses.html">Milan and Sredoje Lukic</a>, cousins and leaders of the local Serb nationalist militia, then repeated the crime thirteen days later in Bikavac where sixty Bosniak civilians were locked into a house and then burned alive.</p><p>Up in Vilina Vlas, a spa close to the town, <a href="http://genocideinvisegrad.wordpress.com/2009/02/23/rape-warfare-in-visegradvilina-vlas/">a rape camp</a> was established; some reports claim that <a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/aleksandra-nedzi/are-bosnian-and-herzegovinian-victims-of-wartime-rape-finally-being-given-cons">as many as 200 women were held there</a>. It is now a spa once again. You can buy postcards of it in the tourist shop just off the Mehmed Paša Sokolović Bridge. 

This bridge--the beautiful, famous bridge built in 1571 by the Ottoman empire, immortalised and seemingly immortal--is at the heart of a Nobel prize-winning book,<em>The Bridge on the Drina,</em>&nbsp;penned by long time Višegrad resident,&nbsp;<a href="http://www.nobelprize.org/nobel_prizes/literature/laureates/1961/andric-bio.html">Ivo Andric</a>. The bridge was the centre-piece of Višegrad’s beauty, standing unmoved by time and tide with a deft, yet solid elegance as empires rose and fell around it.
 Rumour has it, though, that some among the town’s older generations no longer walk on it. Perhaps they remember when it was awash with blood as their Muslims neighbours were brought to be killed on it, their throats slit before they were pushed into the writhing river below.</p><p>
This event is both a commemoration and a burial. Sixty six people are to be buried, their remains gathered from Lake Perucac, a man-made lake downriver towards Srebrenica. The remains of other victims are gathered from other sites. All DNA identified, they are to be laid to rest in the Muslim <a href="http://genocideinvisegrad.wordpress.com/2012/01/10/straziste-cemetery/">Straziste cemetery</a> which stands just off Ulica Uzitskog Korpusa street, named after the <a href="http://genocideinvisegrad.wordpress.com/tag/uzice-corps/">Uzice Corps</a>, the Serb-led corps of the Yugoslav National Army that took the town in 1992. Next to the cemetery hangs the ubiquitous flag of Republika Srpska.

Višegrad is now a Bosnian Serb town. The cemetery is the only land left to the people who have either lived or died there as Muslims. There are two token mosques, but neither is used.</p><p>The Centrotrans buses, having crossed the beautiful, waterlogged heights of Romanija, bring several thousand people back to a place they once considered home. 
It had rained during the night and the ground is damp; the freshly dug graves have water at the bottom. The prior week, a team of volunteers had come out and cleaned the cemetery, cutting the grass and branches and clearing the place for today.

 As the ceremony begins, a monument, an enlarged replica of Nisan, the headstone erected above Muslim graves, is unveiled, inscribed with text on all four sides. It stands under a newly erected flagpole from whence the Bosnian flag now hangs. The monument is unveiled by two girls who had come to bury their grandfather. They are being filmed by Al Jazeera Balkans as the Bosnian national anthem is heard throughout the town.

The ceremony is long. For non-Bosnians and non-Muslims, it is difficult to follow. Even more difficult is interpreting the mood of the people. Similar to many other such ceremonies across Bosnia, imams stand, chew gum and chat as prayers are called and people are buried. The weeping of widows, sisters and mothers is mixed with general conversation. People answer cell phones with a loud, jocular "<em>Hej, gdje si? Sta ima?</em>” In In previous years people would sit and watch, eating sandwiches, although this custom is&nbsp;now banned. The ceremony culminates with the burials of sixty-six Muslims in the now familiar timber coffins with a green cloth-covered frame, numbers and a name displayed on the front. 
Sixty-six people, twenty years later.</p><p>After this everyone descends through the silent town. Children leaving school stand and stare. They do not remember a Višegrad with a Muslim population; they do not remember a war. They know only what they are taught by their parents and in school. The rest watch impassively from windows and balconies. Everyone is hyper-sensitive to any signs of trouble or provocation. There are none. The younger adults of the town do not hide their smirks, however. We pass "<a href="http://www.balkaninsight.com/en/article/irregularities-in-constructing-kusturica-s-andricgrad-ngo-said">Andricgrad</a>," a new mini- town being built by movie director <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Emir_Kusturica">Emir Kusturica</a> and funded in part by <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Milorad_Dodik">Milorad Dodik</a>, President of Republika Sprska,&nbsp;personally. It will be the set for a film production of <em>Bridge on the Drina. </em>One imagines that in the now homogeneously Serb town of Višegrad the director may well have to reinterpret Andric's depiction of the town (and its bridge) to reflect the new Muslim-less history that is now commonplace in Republika Srpska.

The crowds gather on the bridge, filling it. The sides are lined with roses, and from the parapet of the bridge two long strips of red cloth dangle. Then, more speeches. The cafe adjoining the bridge makes a great place from which to view the proceedings; it is filled with both residents and people who have come for the ceremony. Some of the locals leave; others sit back and watch. Two lads in particular grin and raise their glasses to each other. The cafe owner turns the music up to drown out the speeches; the bouncy euro-techno beat of "<em>Du hast den schonsten arsch der welt</em> " ["You have the most beautiful arse in the world"] drifts out across the river. On the bridge the speeches continue for another half an hour before finally the roses are cast into the water to the sound of Michael Jackson's "Beat It" seeping out from the cafe.</p><p>The Centrotrans buses are now lined up and waiting, and the bridge empties quickly. It is a two and a half hour trip back to Sarajevo.

 Turning back to look as the buses pull away, the bridge stands immortally, hopefully a silent, terrible witness, a monument unintended.&nbsp;And beneath it the green Drina continues to flow.
 I doubt Višegrad will ever be beautiful again.</p><p>&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"> Bosnia and Herzegovina </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-city"> <div class="field-label">City:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Visegrad </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> Visegrad Bosnia and Herzegovina Conflict conflicts Richard Newell Wed, 20 Jun 2012 17:54:30 +0000 Richard Newell 66394 at https://opendemocracy.net War minus the shooting: Russia vs Poland at Euro 2012 https://opendemocracy.net/od-russia/zygmunt-dzieciolowski/war-minus-shooting-russia-vs-poland-at-euro-2012 <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p><img style="float: right;" src="http://www.opendemocracy.net/files/RIAN_01152895.LR_.ru_.jpg" alt="Ukraine_Euro" width="160" /></p> <p>‘War minus the shooting’ was George Orwell’s definition of sport, unpleasantly brought once more to mind during the recent battles between Russian and Polish football fans. There is a long history of animosity over sporting events between the two countries, but there could be a way forward, says Zygmunt Dzieciolowski</p> </div> </div> </div> <p class="p1">The streets of Warsaw turned into a battlefield on Tuesday night, as Russian and Polish football fans clashed before, during and after a Euro 2012 group stage match. The scale of the violence was such that Vladimir Putin took the unusual step of phoning Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk to appeal to his sense of responsibility, and to remind him that, as host country, Poland was under an obligation to guarantee the safety of all football fans who came to watch the championship.&nbsp;Putin also sent his special envoy, Mikhail Fedotov, to Poland to help Polish authorities investigate the clashes.</p> <p class="p1">No other match at Euro 2012 has produced such tensions and emotions as this clash between Poland and Russia. But that perhaps is of little surprise, given the often unhappy history between the countries and the fact that for weeks before the game the Polish media had been so full of speculation about it.</p> <p class="p1">After the match, Poles had many questions. Why were Russian fans allowed to use old Soviet symbols on their flags and t-shirts? Should the hammer and sickle motifs not be read as incendiary communist propaganda? And should the Russian fans be allowed to organize a patriotic march on their way to the Warsaw National stadium to celebrate Russia&rsquo;s Independence Day (the anniversary of the Russian Supreme Soviet declaration of Independence passed on 12 June 1991), which unfortunately coincided with the match day?</p> <p><img src="http://www.opendemocracy.net/files/RIAN_01152895.LR_.ru_.jpg" alt="Riots_Warsaw" width="460" /></p> <p class="image-caption"><em>Polish riot police had a lot to do before and after the Euro 2012 tie between Poland and Russia. Nearly 200 people were arrested following violent clashes between rival fans (photo: Vladimir Pesnya/Ria Novosti)</em></p> <h3>The wrong hotel&nbsp;</h3> <p>But the biggest issue for Polish public opinion was&nbsp;the fact the Russian Football Association&nbsp;had chosen Warsaw&rsquo;s Hotel Bristol as the base for its players. The hotel stands next to the Presidential Palace, the official residence of the Polish head of state and the home of former president Lech Kaczynski, who died in the Smolensk air crash of 2010. For the radical activists of his brother Jaros&#322;aw Kaczy&#324;ski &lsquo;s PiS (Law and Justice) party the palace has become a sacred place. </p> <blockquote>&lsquo;No other match at Euro 2012 has so far produced such tensions and emotions as the one between Poland and Russia on Tuesday 12 June&rsquo;</blockquote> <p>For the last two years, on the 10th day of each month (the crash happened on 10 April), they have come here with flowers and candles to pay tribute to their late hero and to accuse Donald Tusk&rsquo;s government of national betrayal. </p> <p>Most of them believe that the Smolensk crash was not caused by pilot error, but was organized by the Kremlin&rsquo;s Special Services. They regard the Russian government&rsquo;s failure to return the wreck of the aircraft to Poland as prime evidence of its involvement. They also believe Polish President Bronislaw Komorowski and Prime Minister Donald Tusk should share the blame, as they allowed the Russian government to conduct an official investigation into the crash without involving Polish or international experts. The Polish &lsquo;patriotic&rsquo; camp maintains that, in supporting the official Russian version of the disaster, Tusk and Komorowski have become Russia&rsquo;s co-conspirators in its attempt to cover up the truth. This conspiracy theory has unfortunately gained popularity in the last few months and more and more Poles believe that the truth about the crash is still to be uncovered. </p> <p>Aware of the potential risks, the Russian team attempted to disarm Poland&rsquo;s &lsquo;patriotic&rsquo; camp. A delegation of Russian players, together with their <a href="http://news.yahoo.com/advocaat-gets-thumbs-malafeev-101530094--sow.html">coach</a> Dick Advocaat, laid flowers at the Presidential Palace and issued a statement expressing their deepest sympathy with the Poles for the tragic loss of their president. </p> <p>Even though it seemed for a while that some of the pre-match tension had been defused, all the security precautions around the Russian team presence in Poland remained in force. Polish police and army special units continued heavy patrolling of Sulejowek, the little town south of Warsaw where the Russian team has its training base. </p> <p><img class="image-left" src="http://www.opendemocracy.net/files/Bristol.jpg" alt="Bristol-hotel" width="300" /></p> <p><span class="image-caption"><em>Many Poles were upset at Russia's choice of Hotel Bristol in Central Warsaw as a team base.&nbsp;The hotel stands in the old town next to the residence of&nbsp;former president Lech Kaczynski, who died in the Smolensk air crash of 2010&nbsp;(photo:&nbsp;<a class="image-caption" href="http://www.flickr.com/">www.flickr.com</a>&nbsp;/banasy)</em></span></p> <p>Russians marching to the stadium for the match at the newly built Warsaw National Stadium were accompanied by heavily armed Polish riot police. The Polish prime minister confessed that after the match he and the Internal Affairs Minister Marek Cichocki monitored the security situation in Warsaw at the government&rsquo;s Emergency Centre until 2am the following morning.</p> <h3>Sport and politics</h3> <p>And indeed, as might have been expected, the Poland-Russia match was much more than a football game. For Poland it was one more occasion to show its former colonial masters that the old historical wounds have still not healed. The cover of the Polish edition of <em>Newsweek </em>showed the Polish team coach Franciszek Smuda dressed in the uniform of Marshall J&oacute;zef Pi&#322;sudski, who commanded the Polish army at the 1920 Battle of Warsaw in which it defeated the Red Army and thus saved Europe from Bolshevik invasion. </p> <p>Meanwhile the Russian media resorted to similar tactics, printing cartoons showing Russian forces defending the Kremlin against Polish invasion in the early XVII century. </p> <p>For the nations of Eastern Europe, sporting events involving the Soviets and Russians have long been inseparable from politics and history. At the 1956 Olympic Games in Melbourne, the pool was filled with blood when the Hungarian and Soviet water polo teams settled some scores after the Hungarian revolution, which had been brutally suppressed by the Soviet army only weeks before. </p> <blockquote> <p><em>'For the nations of Eastern Europe, sporting events involving the Soviets and Russians have long been inseparable from politics and history.'</em></p></blockquote> <p>In 1969 a hockey match between Czechoslovakia and the Soviet Union led to mass riots in Prague and the burning of the Soviet airline Aeroflot&rsquo;s office, which resulted in an intensification of repressions against former Prague Spring activists by the pro-Kremlin Czechoslovak puppet regime.</p> <p>At the 1982 Mundial in Spain, the Polish football team played against the Soviet Union only a few months after General Jaruzelski&rsquo;s regime had crushed the Solidarno&#347;&#263; trade union and introduced martial law in December 1981. Solidarno&#347;&#263; supporters living in the West travelled to Barcelona to use the match as an opportunity for anti-Jaruzelski and anti-communist protest. They discovered where the TV cameras at the stadium were located and set up their banners in key positions, knowing that Polish TV, using live Spanish TV coverage, could do little to censure them. The whole of Poland was thrilled to see anti-Soviet and anti-regime banners on show at the Barcelona stadium. The match ended in a draw, which helped Poland to qualify for the next round of the tournament. </p> <p>One of the most popular annual sporting events in communist Poland was a bicycle Peace Race which toured Poland, GDR and Czechoslovakia each May. Every third year it ended in Warsaw at the city&rsquo;s main stadium, and the nearly 100&nbsp;000 audience would whistle if the expected winner was to be the Soviet team or a Soviet cyclist. </p> <p>However, perhaps the best remembered &lsquo;anti-Soviet sports moment&rsquo; in the history of communist Poland was the Moscow 1980 Olympic Games, where Wladislaw Kozakiewicz won gold in the pole vault and his victorious jump was met with angry whistles at the Moscow Luzhniki stadium. The TV cameras and censors were too slow in their reactions and the whole world saw the happy Polish athlete responding to his Russian audience with an obscene gesture.&nbsp; The term &lsquo;a Kozakiewicz gesture&rsquo; has since entered the Polish language and is still often used as a euphemistic insult. </p> <h3>The future</h3> <p>But in 2012? Twenty years after the collapse of communism? Do sports arenas still need to be used for political demonstrations? Immediately after the clashes in Warsaw I was flooded with phone calls and e-mails from Russian friends and the Russian media. Their main question was: how long will we be still haunted by the memory of the past? For how many years will the stereotypes formed in the past continue to shape our reactions?</p> <p>Poland and Russia still have a lot of work to do to heal their historical wounds.&nbsp; Russia, unlike Poland, is ruled by an autocratic and corrupt regime trying to restore its influence in the world arena. Poles need to maintain constructive and friendly relations with Russia. Unfortunately, the russophobic attitudes promoted by Polish nationalist groups preserve old stereotypes and make it more difficult for Poles to understand the political and social processes taking place over their Eastern border. Radical anti-Russian slogans create fertile soil for hooligans, hotheads and fundamentalists who continue to see Russia as the Empire of Evil and who believe that attacking Russian football fans will pave the way for restoring historical justice.&nbsp;</p> <blockquote><em>&lsquo;Radical anti-Russian slogans create fertile soil for hooligans, hotheads and fundamentalists who continue to see Russia as the Empire of Evil and who believe that attacking Russian football fans will pave the way for restoring historical justice&rsquo;</em></blockquote> <p>The legendary Polish dissident Adam Michnik likes to describe himself as an Anti-Soviet Russophile. That is even the Russian title of a collection of his essays published in Russia. This kind of approach to Polish-Russian relations seems to be much more constructive. </p> <p><img class="image-left" src="http://www.opendemocracy.net/files/Polish_Russian_flags.jpg" alt="Flags" width="300" /></p> <p class="image-caption"><em>A large section of the Polish public was embarrassed by the Polish hooligans' attacks on Russian fans on June 12. The eminent Polish journalist Daniel Passent appealed to Warsavians to invite Russian fans to their homes. photo: <a class="image-caption" href="http://www.flickr.com/">www.flickr.com,&nbsp; </a><a class="image-caption" href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/tato45/">MassafelliPhotography.com</a>&nbsp;</em></p> <p>Even those Poles who do not remember communist times are great admirers of the late Russian democratic poet and bard <a href="http://www.soviethistory.org/index.php?page=subject&amp;SubjectID=1961okudzhava&amp;Year=1961">Bulat Okudzhava</a>. A recently resumed annual festival of Russian films in Warsaw attracts large audiences. Michnik&rsquo;s formula encourages Poles to become better acquainted with Russia&rsquo;s democratic face, with the present anti-Putin protest movement, with Russia&rsquo;s cultural achievements, with the heritage of academician Sakharov. This democratic and educated Russia has never questioned its country&rsquo;s responsibility for centuries of Polish suffering.</p> <p>But the &lsquo;anti-Soviet&rsquo; component of Michnik&rsquo;s formula means that Poles (together with their Russian friends) should remain highly sensitive to violations of human rights in Russia and to the Russian government&rsquo;s neo-imperialist games. </p> <p>An Anti-Soviet Russophile Poland would feel no need to use violence against Russian fans who come to visit Poland for the Europe Football championship.</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-read-on"> <div class="field-label"> 'Read On' Sidebox:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p><a href="http://www.independent.co.uk/sport/football/news-and-comment/poland-v-russia-a-rivalry-most-bitter-7836944.html?origin=internalSearch">Poland v Russia: A rivalry most bitter</a>&nbsp;<em>Shaun Walker, The Independent</em></p> <p><a href="http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2011/feb/23/tortured-polish-russian-story">This tortured Polish-Russian story is something we can all learn from</a>&nbsp;<em>Timothy Garton Ash, The Guardian</em></p> <p><a href="http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/europe/poland/8691941/Russia-Poland-relations-timeline.html">Russia-Poland relations: timeline</a>&nbsp;<em>Andrew </em><em>O</em><em>sborn,The Telegraph</em>&nbsp;</p> <p><a href="http://www.cambridge.org/gb/knowledge/isbn/item1172829/?site_locale=en_GB">Communism and the Emergence of Democracy</a>&nbsp;<em>Harald Wydra, University of Cambridge</em></p> <p><span> </span><span></span><span> </span><span> </span></p> <p class="MsoNormal"><span>&nbsp;</span></p> </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-sidebox"> <div class="field-label"> Sidebox:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p><strong><br /></strong></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/article/openrussia/russia-poland-and-the-history-wars">Russia, Poland and the history wars</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/od-russia/dmitri-trenin/russia-and-poland-friendship-that-must-not-fail">Russia and Poland: a friendship that must not fail</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/od-russia/alexei-levinson/after-plane-crash-russian-attitudes-to-katyn">After the plane crash: Russian attitudes to Katyn</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/od-russia/andrei-kolesnikov/russia-poland-history-too-terrible">Russia-Poland: a history too terrible</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/article/poland-the-future-s-past">Poland: the politics of history </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/article/email/the-embrace-of-stalinism">The Embrace of Stalinism </a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Russia </div> <div class="field-item even"> Poland </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"> International politics </div> </div> </div> oD Russia oD Russia Poland Russia Civil society International politics russia & eurasia russia conflicts Euro 2012 Zygmunt Dzieciolowski Politics History Foreign Fri, 15 Jun 2012 17:28:00 +0000 Zygmunt Dzieciolowski 66494 at https://opendemocracy.net Azerbaijan: the geopolitical conundrum https://opendemocracy.net/od-russia/elkhan-nuriyev/azerbaijan-geopolitical-conundrum <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p><img style="float: right;" src="http://www.opendemocracy.net/files/Apsheron_sunset(red).jpg" alt="Ukraine_Euro" width="160" /></p> <p>The recent Eurovision song contest catapulted Azerbaijan into world news and focused attention on its internal problems. But foreign policy issues are a cause of considerable concern too. The country is caught in between Iran, Russia and the West and finding a way to meet the needs of all of them is going to be extremely difficult, says Elkhan Nuriyev.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p>Azerbaijan is a secular Muslim state at the crossroads between Europe and Asia, Russia and the Middle East.&nbsp;Historically it has provided a link between East and West, and just recently it came to attention as host to the Eurovision Song Contest 2012, eventually won by Sweden with an entry entitled &lsquo;Euphoria.&rsquo;</p> <p>Possibly slightly less euphoric, however, is Azerbaijan&rsquo;s geopolitical situation, caught as it is between the interests of Iran, the West and Russia. Its attempts to preserve its freedom to manoeuvre are akin to a tricky political dance on a tight-rope: the country is young (20 years since the break-up of the USSR) and striving to maintain its independence, while at the same time satisfying the interests of powerful actors, near or far. </p> <h3>Three-way crossroads</h3> <p>Azerbaijan is an energy-rich nation, so the orientation of its foreign policy is an important reference point for the processes of state-building and democratisation, which may (or may not) find support among the elites and ordinary citizens. The geopolitical impact of the Arab Spring has meant that Iran, the US and other Western democracies, and Russia keep a close watch on current developments in and around Azerbaijan. Baku has long pursued an even-handed foreign policy, manoeuvring to move the country into the very focus of the great powers&rsquo; interests. In a rapidly changing regional security environment, Tehran, Washington and Moscow are concerned with what might happen in this Caspian littoral state in future.</p> <blockquote> <p><em>&lsquo;</em><em>Baku has long pursued an even-handed foreign policy, manoeuvring to move the country into the very focus of the great powers&rsquo; interests. In a rapidly changing regional security environment, Tehran, Washington and Moscow are concerned with what might happen in this Caspian littoral state in future.&rsquo;</em></p></blockquote> <p>Despite Azerbaijan&rsquo;s continued efforts to maintain a balanced diplomatic stance, Iran, the US and Russia have all made attempts over the last few years to exert pressure on ruling circles in Baku. They have tried to dissuade them from certain foreign policy conduct or to convince them to act in a manner consistent with great-power interests. Washington and other Western capitals have on several occasions urged Baku to change its domestic politics so as to promote genuine democratic reform, freedom of speech and protection of human rights; Tehran and Moscow have always sought to gain greater political and economic influence in Azerbaijan.</p> <h3>Iran</h3> <p>Paradoxically, during recent months Iranian-Azerbaijani relations have reached unprecedented levels of tension. Azerbaijan has just recalled its ambassador from Iran for consultations, mirroring the action Iran took some weeks ago. </p> <p><img class="image-centred" src="http://www.opendemocracy.net/files/Shusha_Karabakh.jpg" alt="Karabakh" width="360" height="350" /></p> <p class="image-caption">The town of Shusha in the disputed region of Nagorno-Karabakh, an Armenian enclave in Azerbaijan under Armenian control since 1992. The town was virtually destroyed during the military conflict between the two countries, but little has been done to rebuild it. flickr.com/e y e / s e e</p> <p>Tehran has repeatedly accused Baku of expanding cooperation with the US and Israel, and consolidating Western strategic presence in the South Caucasus-Caspian basin. Iran&rsquo;s senior clergy are well aware that Azerbaijan&rsquo;s closer security ties with NATO, the US and Israel could seriously affect Iranian influence in the region. Tehran strongly believes that a politically independent, pro-Western and petroleum-producing neighbour could enter into competition with the Iranian state.</p> <p>In their turn, Azerbaijani authorities are suspicious of Iran&rsquo;s intentions to intensify Islamic influence in their country. Azerbaijan has indeed been significantly affected by the ideology of the Iranian-trained clerics, since Tehran has consistently exploited any unrest to strengthen its political weight there. Azerbaijani leaders have already seen Iran interfering in their country&rsquo;s internal affairs and Baku has long been under pressure to cooperate more closely with the clerical regime in Tehran. As a result, Baku and Tehran struggle to find a language of mutual understanding but have as yet to reach political consensus on many geopolitical issues in the regional context.</p> <p>In reality, Tehran seeks to prevent the emergence of a strong and wealthy Azerbaijan that would act as a magnet for Azerbaijanis living in communities in the northern part of Iran. The large Azeri minority is a growing concern to the Iranian leadership, as Tehran fears increased nationalism among Azerbaijanis could threaten the integrity of the Islamic Republic. This is precisely what informs Iran&rsquo;s policy toward Azerbaijan. If Russia considers the problem of an independent Azerbaijan as one of the elements in a complex of South Caucasus sovereign states, for Iran this problem assumes a somewhat different political form. The very existence of Azerbaijan, even as a purely formal independent state, is quite definitely and not unjustifiably perceived as a real threat to the national security of the Islamic Republic. In other words, the presence of over twenty million Azerbaijanis residing in Iran is the spark which could ignite the fragile powder keg that is the multinational structure of the Iranian state. For that reason, it is not surprising that the interests of Iran could best be served by the simple absorption of Azerbaijan into Russia.</p> <h3>Russia</h3> <p>Russia&rsquo;s attitude to Azerbaijan&rsquo;s geopolitics has been very cautious. Moscow too has a vital interest in undermining American hegemony in the South Caucasus and in restricting the westward orientation of her post-Soviet neighbours. Russia continues to carve out an important political and economic role for itself in Azerbaijan and is actively but subtly competing for influence in her backyard. Baku has given Putin&rsquo;s plan for a Eurasian Union some consideration, but has so far shown no interest in joining a &lsquo;new supra-national union&rsquo; of sovereign states.&nbsp;The Azerbaijani leadership is still opposed to any further encroachment of Russian influence in the region and has therefore been actively lobbying for Western engagement.</p> <blockquote> <p>'Using the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict as leverage, the Kremlin has considerably increased its influence in recent years with the purpose of bringing Azerbaijan back into Russia&rsquo;s orbit.'</p></blockquote> <p>However, Azerbaijan&rsquo;s demands that Russia pay $300 million to extend the lease on a Soviet-era anti-missile radar station in the Azerbaijani town of Qabala remain a continuous point of argument between Baku and Moscow, though the sides have never let the dispute escalate. Ruling circles in Baku know full well that Russia retains powerful economic and political weapons, which, if deployed, could hinder &ndash; or even overturn &ndash; Azerbaijan&rsquo;s development plans. Using the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict as leverage, the Kremlin has considerably increased its influence in recent years with the purpose of bringing Azerbaijan back into Russia&rsquo;s orbit. President Ilham Aliyev&rsquo;s tactics therefore seem to be aimed at addressing Moscow&rsquo;s immediate strategic interests. </p> <p>Yet, with Putin&rsquo;s return to the Russian presidency, the Kremlin is expected to use different political and economic levers to rein back Azerbaijan&rsquo;s independent-minded policy. Russia&rsquo;s closer strategic ties with Iran also serve this purpose, given that both powerful players have found common ground in many regional security issues. Great-power ambitions are increasingly manifested in the desire of the Russian leadership to run the geopolitical show in the South Caucasus and Central Asia. This might even become a reality if the military option against Iran is put into operation. </p> <h3>The US</h3> <p>Over the past few years the changing regional security situation has made Azerbaijan an increasingly crucial component of US foreign policy, though so far American strategy has been focused on grappling with the results of Russian-Iranian geopolitical manoeuvrings that hinder any serious US activity in the post-Soviet southern tier. Moscow and Tehran do not want to see Washington as a major arbitrator in the South Caucasus-Caspian basin, but Azerbaijan is trying to achieve the full involvement of the US and other Western partners in regional geopolitics in order to counterbalance Russian influence in this volatile part of the world. </p> <p>The US and the European Union have repeatedly demanded that the Azerbaijani government remain committed to a long-term, genuine partnership-based strategic relationship and move forward with the evolution of their country into a strong democracy based on the rule of law, political freedoms, open society and market-oriented economy. </p> <p><img class="image-left" src="http://www.opendemocracy.net/files/Aliyev_Clinton.jpg" alt="Clinton_Aliyev" width="354" height="266" /></p> <p class="image-caption">Security, energy, and democratic reform in Azerbaijan were the key issues discussed with the Azerbaijani president Ilham Aliyev by Hillary Clinton during her recent visit to Baku. (photo: www.president.az web site)US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton&rsquo;s recent visit to Azerbaijan as part of her South Caucasus tour in early June was further proof of the geostrategic significance of this Caspian state for the United States at a time of rising tensions in the region. Although the US values Azerbaijan as a strategic ally in the South Caucasus, Washington and Baku still continue to try to thrash out their differences on a number of sensitive issues.</p> <blockquote> <p>'US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton&rsquo;s recent visit to Azerbaijan as part of her South Caucasus tour in early June was further proof of the geostrategic significance of this Caspian state for the United States at a time of rising tensions in the region.'</p></blockquote> <p>Against the backdrop of Moscow's attempts to change the geopolitical dynamics of the region, Washington is keen to learn more about how the Azerbaijani leadership views its relations with Russia and Iran, and to see proof that the government is working towards a democracy. At the June 6 meeting with President Aliyev, Secretary Clinton had detailed talks on security cooperation, energy matters and democratic reforms in the country. While highly appreciating Azerbaijan&rsquo;s contributions to the international security efforts in Afghanistan, she called for Baku and Yerevan to break Nagorno-Karabakh impasse and stressed that the US would be ready to do everything possible to help the two nations arrive at a diplomatic solution to the Armenian-Azerbaijani conflict.</p> <h3>Civil society</h3> <p>It is not surprising, but certainly noteworthy, that the Azerbaijani authorities released Bakhtiyar Hajiyev, a pro-democracy youth activist on the eve of Secretary Clinton&rsquo;s visit. Though the move was regarded as a positive step, one could argue that this was simply gesture politics on the part of the Azerbaijani government. Besides, the decision to release Hajiyev was most likely intended to reduce the tension arising from US concerns about the internal human rights situation. Even so, Hillary Clinton, like senior officials from international organisations, has urged the authorities to respect human rights and democratic principles and to foster freedom of speech by liberating all detained and imprisoned protesters.</p> <p>Clinton apparently had meetings with representatives of civil society groups. Topics for discussion included their relations with the authorities: how effectively they can influence government policy-making, and what contribution they can make to increasing transparency and accountability in the government&rsquo;s disbursement of the state budget and the oil/gas revenues. Civil society leaders received strong assurances from Secretary Clinton that the United States would continue to support the development of civil society in Azerbaijan. </p> <p><img class="image-left" src="http://www.opendemocracy.net/files/Apsheron_sunset_0.jpg" alt="Apsheron" width="360" height="280" /></p> <p class="image-caption">Sunset over the Absheron penninsula in Azerbaijan. In the 19th century it was the site of some of the world's earliest oil production. 150 years later the country has become an important player on the world energy market, producing 800,000 barrels of oil per day and 1 billion cubic meters of gas per year.</p> <p>These meetings demonstrate the seriousness of US concerns about domestic problems; they also send a very clear signal to the Azerbaijani government authorities that they should do all they can to initiate far-reaching democratic reforms. If this does not happen, neither the US nor other Western democracies will be able to offer Azerbaijan a real alternative to Russian policies. This will be the outcome, even if Washington&rsquo;s dual-track approach of pressure and engagement, in which energy resources, security cooperation and democracy are viewed as key elements in US policy toward Azerbaijan, remains in effect.</p> <h3>The way out of the deadlock</h3> <p>After long years of pursuing a balanced interest-based foreign policy, Azerbaijan is faced with intractable geopolitical deadlock. Iran&rsquo;s anti-American policy and the cold relations between Russia and the West have impacted negatively on the formulation of Azerbaijan&rsquo;s strategies in the region. The present-day euphoria at the possibility of US strikes against Iran has already created additional, grave concerns in the Azerbaijani government. President Aliyev and his administration appear to realise that whatever their decision, it has to address the issues that plague their relations with Iran, the US and Russia. This is a very tough call, which will compel Azerbaijan to go either westwards or eastwards. </p> <p>The way forward for the triangular relationship between Iran, the US and Russia is currently the most important strategic factor influencing Azerbaijan&rsquo;s future geopolitics, regional security in the Caucasus and Caspian geo-economics. </p> <blockquote> <p>'President Aliyev and his administration appear to realise that whatever their decision, it has to address the issues that plague their relations with Iran, the US and Russia. This is a very tough call, which will compel Azerbaijan to go either westwards or eastwards.'</p></blockquote> <p>At stake are Azerbaijan&rsquo;s stability and security. President Aliyev appears unsure of how best to proceed. The energy trade will continue to be a significant factor and the quest for diplomatic solutions could be stepped up, but the road ahead will continue to be fraught with pitfalls and new challenges. </p> <p>Most importantly, President Aliyev will manage to resolve his country&rsquo;s geopolitical conundrum only if he can credibly persuade the US and other Western democracies that no one else can guarantee stability, liberalise the political system and bolster the market economy in Azerbaijan. The sooner the leadership makes the necessary adjustments to its domestic and foreign policies, the faster it will discover how to eliminate many of the problems currently gripping the country. The key question, as yet unanswered, is whether the Azerbaijani leadership is capable of a new strategic vision to introduce drastic changes, extensive freedoms and the radical reform of the government.</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-sidebox"> <div class="field-label"> Sidebox:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p><strong>Hillary Clinton, Baku, at the joint press conference with Azerbaijan Foreign Minister Elmar Mammadyarov (June 6th, 2012)</strong></p> <p><strong>Nagorno-Karabakh:</strong></p> <p>We also had in-depth discussions about Nagorno-Karabakh, including the most recent incidents and deaths along the border between Armenia and Azerbaijan. As I said earlier this week in Yerevan, I am deeply concerned about the danger of escalating tension, which could have unpredictable and disastrous consequences. This cycle of violence and retaliation must end, and everyone should work to keep the peace and comply with the obligations under the 1994 ceasefire agreement. I have stressed to President Aliyev that the United States is prepared to do whatever we can to help reach a settlement based upon the principles of the Helsinki Final Act. And I have asked the president, as I have asked the president of Armenia, to work together to exercise restraint and to take the steps necessary for peace, not conflict.</p> <p><strong>Democratic reform:</strong></p> <p>Finally, the president and foreign minister and I spoke about the importance of fostering a vibrant civil society, embracing and furthering democratic reforms, which will add greatly to the long-term success and prosperity of Azerbaijan. The United States remains strongly committed to working with the government and people to advance respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms. And we, as we always do, urge the government to respect their citizens’ right to express views peacefully, to release those who have been detained for doing so in print or on the streets or for defending human rights.</p> </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/od-russia/wayne-merry/karabakh-frozen-conflict-nears-melting-point">Karabakh: &#039;frozen&#039; conflict nears melting point</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/od-russia/elkhan-nuriyev/putin%E2%80%99s-plan-for-russia%E2%80%99s-neighbours-eurasian-union">Putin’s plan for Russia’s neighbours - a Eurasian Union</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/thomas-de-waal/azerbaijani-demolitions-update">Azerbaijani demolitions: an update</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/thomas-de-waal/azerbaijan-speed-without-system-1">Azerbaijan: speed without system</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/od-russia/giorgi-gogia/azerbaijan-rights-situation-no-cause-for-celebration">Azerbaijan: rights situation no cause for celebration </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/thomas-de-waal/lightness-of-history-in-caucasus">The lightness of history in the Caucasus</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"> Azerbaijan </div> <div class="field-item even"> Russia </div> <div class="field-item odd"> Iran </div> <div class="field-item even"> United States </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> International politics </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Creative Commons </div> </div> </div> oD Russia oD Russia United States Iran Russia Azerbaijan International politics russia & eurasia russia conflicts Caucasus Elkhan Nuriyev Politics Human rights Foreign Conflict Thu, 14 Jun 2012 15:13:57 +0000 Elkhan Nuriyev 66472 at https://opendemocracy.net Srebrenica: genocide and memory https://opendemocracy.net/conflict-yugoslavia/srebrenica_2651.jsp <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="https://dy1m18dp41gup.cloudfront.net/cdn/farfuture/HfDgJay4O95OQpqxeWK_KgBt0JagppuNKwpu1XJaMp8/mtime:1406428758/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/546137/Srebenica_0.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="https://dy1m18dp41gup.cloudfront.net/cdn/farfuture/NKpqwwW5ZcHQv_8CuupClMkM3ZBVTc5AlqCicdodyKg/mtime:1406428704/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/546137/Srebenica_0.jpg" alt="Bosnian Muslim citizens weep and pray near coffins prepared for a mass burial at the Memorial Center in Potocari, near Srebenica" 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'>Bosnian Muslim citizens weep and pray in Potocari, near Srebenica, after Mladic arrest, July 2011/Demotix/All rights reserved</span></span></span></p><p>The Bosnian Serb massacre of around 8,000 Bosnian Muslim men and boys in Srebrenica in July 1995 has left deep wounds. Ed Vulliamy revisits the scenes of a terrible crime, meets families and survivors, and reports on the search for human remains and justice.</p><p>The snow lies deep, the air is still and seven degrees below zero – but the shiver is not from cold. It comes from somewhere within this accursed terrain, covered by a layer of virgin white. It comes from within this confounded building, and the memories it holds: a disused warehouse on the country road that runs through the village of Kravica in eastern Bosnia. </p> <p>Ten years ago this July, some 1,200 men and boys were rounded up, packed into this place and summarily annihilated, by machine-gun fire and grenades tossed into the building, in a murderous bloodbath. And Kravica was but one of a number of execution sites – the whole area is haunted by them – that made up what came to be called the massacre of Srebrenica, a small mountain town nearby. </p> <p>Some 7,942 Bosniak Muslim men and boys (according to official Bosnia-Herzegovina government figures) were systematically slaughtered by Serbian troops and paramilitaries within six days, between 6 July and 11 July 1995. It was the <a href="http://www.crimesofwar.org/thebook/perfidy-treachery.html" target="_blank">worst</a> single carnage on European soil since the Third Reich. The brutality, as well as the scale, of the killing knew no bounds: on one infamous <a href="http://www.guardian.co.uk/weekend/story/0,,1472153,00.html" target="_blank">occasion</a>, cited by Judge Fouad Riad at a trial in The Hague some years later, an elderly man was skewered to a tree by a knife and made to eat the innards of his grandson; “truly scenes from hell,” said the judge, “written on the darkest pages of human history”. <span class="pullquote-right"> <strong>A series of events is being held in Britain to mark the tenth anniversary of the Srebrenica massacre. For details, click <a href="http://www.bosnia.org.uk/news/news_body.cfm?newsid=2071" target="_blank">here</a></strong></span></p><p>Ten years on, the phantasmal warehouse at Kravica has changed little since those days of bloodletting. But for the fact that it was summer then, the shooting, the explosions, the screaming, the throes of death could have been a moment ago. But then how long is a moment in a place like this? The cream-coloured external walls are riddled with bullet holes – pockmarks now filled with cement, a futile gesture which conceals nothing. </p> <p>Bullet holes splatter the walls inside too; crates are piled up, industrial plant is stored and a canister of creosote bears the date 1992, the year that Muslims were first killed or else burned and chased out of this area. The crow of a cockerel echoes across the shallow valley along which the road runs; a dog barks. Washing hangs from the balcony of a peasant holding across the byway. </p> <p>A little further on up the road is the <a href="http://www.cij.org/index.cfm?fuseaction=viewReport&amp;reportID=468&amp;tribunalID=1" target="_blank">village of Glogova</a>. Here, some houses remain only as skeletal ruins, incinerated monuments to the orgy of killing and burning in 1992 as the Serbs attacked and “ethnically cleansed” the community (as they did all others, except those around Srebrenica itself, which held out). </p> <p>Other buildings, however, have been rebuilt – monuments this time to the remarkable but precarious return of Muslims to the <a href="http://balkansnet.org/srebrenica.html" target="_blank">area</a>, to live among the executioners of their relatives, and the ghosts of their dead. And just off the road at Glogova is another place that is at once accursed and holy in its way: a field, now snow-covered, where the bodies of those killed at Kravica were ploughed into the earth. </p> <p>A rusty car is now the only skeleton above ground, abandoned on this unnatural sepulture. But there are bones beneath the earth across so much of this terrain; bones shredded by bulldozers as bodies were unearthed and re-buried for concealment, their aura reaching the surface, their presence always there. And still they are being patiently exhumed, one by one, as the remarkable effort continues to match them with the names of those who disappeared during those fateful days ten years ago. </p> Conflict europe conflicts reimagining yugoslavia Ed Vulliamy Creative Commons normal Sat, 09 Jun 2012 01:54:31 +0000 Ed Vulliamy 2651 at https://opendemocracy.net Lines in shifting sands: Russia’s response to the Syrian uprising https://opendemocracy.net/od-russia/margot-light/lines-in-shifting-sands-russia%E2%80%99s-response-to-syrian-uprising <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p><img src="http://www.opendemocracy.net/files/Russia_veto.jpg" alt="" width="160" align="right" />Russian policy in the Middle East has been largely driven by pragmatic calculations of trade and geopolitical influence, in direct opposition to notions of liberal interventionalism and the ‘Arab Spring’. This week’s shocking massacre by Syrian forces in Houla, however, has fundamentally challenged the durability of that approach. Will Russia now fall in line with the position of its western partners? wonders Margot Light.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p>This has been a bad week for the Russian government.&nbsp;After months of agreeing with Syria&rsquo;s President Bashar al-Assad that the opposition was responsible for the continuing violence, Russia&rsquo;s representative to the United Nations was forced to accept evidence that Syrian government forces were guilty of attacking a residential area of <a href="http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-middle-east-18233934">Houla</a> with close-range artillery and tank shells, causing the death of more than100 men, women and children. The UN Security Council (UNSC) issued a press statement &mdash; which requires the agreement of all 15 members &mdash; condemning the outrageous use of force against civilians which violated international law and the commitments given by the Syrian government under previous UN resolutions to stop all violence, including the use of heavy weapons in populated areas. </p> <blockquote> <p><em>'When Putin became president of Russia in 2000, he began to pursue quite clear goals in the Middle East. They included regaining some of the influence the Soviet Union had wielded and expanding Russia&rsquo;s share of Middle Eastern markets.'</em></p></blockquote> <p>It seemed for a while that Russia&rsquo;s attitude had moved a little closer to the position of western countries. However, by the next day the Russian government had backtracked, with Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov insisting that both sides were to blame.&nbsp;Why has Russian policy towards Syria been so much at odds with western policy? </p> <h3>Putin&rsquo;s Middle East policy</h3> <p>When Putin became president of Russia in 2000, he began to pursue quite clear goals in the Middle East. They included regaining some of the influence the Soviet Union had wielded and expanding Russia&rsquo;s share of Middle Eastern markets.&nbsp;Russian policy also aimed at ensuring stability in an area which &ndash; because of its close proximity to Russia&rsquo;s southern neighbours &mdash; is deemed to affect the security of Russia itself.&nbsp;Russia has been thwarted in achieving these goals by western policy and by the &lsquo;Arab spring&rsquo;.</p> <p>Iraq and Syria were two of the fourteen countries with which the Soviet Union concluded treaties of Friendship and Cooperation in the 1970s. Although they had often been uneasy relationships, one way in which Russia hoped to regain influence in the Middle East was by reviving relations with these traditional Soviet allies.&nbsp;Russia could not prevent the attack on Iraq or the fall of Saddam Hussein, and this demonstrated how little influence Moscow really had in the Middle East.&nbsp;It has been determined to avert President Bashar al-Assad succumbing to a similar fate, which would further undermine Russian influence in the area. In fact, if Russia were successful in brokering a deal to bring the conflict to a peaceful end, its continued influence in Syria would be assured and, at the same time, its international prestige would be boosted more generally. </p> <p><img class="image-left" src="http://www.opendemocracy.net/files/Russia_veto.jpg" alt="Russia_veto" width="360" height="240" /></p> <p class="image-caption">The geopolitical and economic significance of the Middle East for Russia have led its diplomats to twice veto UN Security Council resolutions on Syria (photo: flickr.com/freedomhouse)</p> <p>As for the goal of expanding Russia&rsquo;s share of Middle Eastern markets, it has also not been very successful.&nbsp;First, the Iraqi war scuppered all hopes of Russia receiving repayment of the $8 billion Iraqi Soviet-era debt. It also brought an end to the ten-year programme for the Development of Trade, Economic, Industrial and Scientific-Technical Cooperation that Russia had negotiated with Iraq, and was said to be worth $40 billion. Second, when the Libyan uprising began, Russia supported Security Council Resolution 1970 calling for an arms embargo on Tripoli &ndash; at an estimated economic cost of $4 billion in interrupted and lost contracts.&nbsp;Muammar Gaddafi&rsquo;s fall from power inflicted a fatal blow to Russia&rsquo;s commercial relations with Libya. The economic policy of the new Libyan government would almost certainly favour the countries that had facilitated its victory at the expense of existing and future contracts with Russian firms.</p> <p>Russia&rsquo;s economic ties with Syria are more valuable than those with Libya. Syria is an important customer for Russian arms.&nbsp;In 2010 alone, some US$15 billion of contracts were negotiated, and exports are expected to stay at a level of US$10 billion a year until at least 2014.&nbsp; There are also valuable energy links: Gazprom, Tatneft and Stroytransgaz have significant energy exploration and pipeline projects in Syria.&nbsp;Moscow believes that these valuable economic links would be jeopardized if President Bashar al-Assad were to lose power.&nbsp; </p> <blockquote> <p>&lsquo;Russia could not prevent the attack on Iraq or the fall of Saddam Hussein, and this demonstrated how little influence Moscow really had in the Middle East.&nbsp; It has been determined to avert President Bashar al-Assad succumbing to a similar fate, which would further undermine Russian influence in the area.&rsquo;</p></blockquote> <p>In Moscow&rsquo;s view, the &lsquo;Arab spring&rsquo; undermined the stability of an area which was already potentially very volatile, given the intractable Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the danger that western animosity towards Iran would culminate in armed conflict. The attack by Syrian government forces on refugee camps across the Turkish border last month and sectarian clashes in Lebanon last week demonstrate just how important Syria is to regional stability.&nbsp;Syrian stability is, Moscow believes, vital to Middle East stability. But Russia is concerned not just about the stability of the region. Syrian security is important because Syria is essential to Moscow's military strategy. Russia relies heavily on its naval base at the Mediterranean port of Tartus and associated assets at Latakia. </p> <p>Although events in the Middle East have largely been responsible for the difficulties Russia has had in achieving these three goals, Moscow blames western policy for getting in its way.&nbsp; </p> <h3>The different principles underlying Western and Russian foreign policy</h3> <p>Apart from the ways in which western policies have prevented Russia from achieving its specific Middle Eastern goals, Russian policy is frequently at odds with western policy simply because the ideas about international relations on which western countries and Russia base their policy are very different.&nbsp;Indeed, they are often incompatible.&nbsp; </p> <p>Ever since the end of the Cold War, western foreign policy (in particular American policy) has been based on the principles of liberal internationalism.&nbsp;This is a doctrine that argues that liberal states should intervene in other sovereign states in order to pursue liberal objectives. Such intervention can include both military invasion and humanitarian aid and it frequently implies regime change. </p> <p>Since President Putin became president of Russia, by contrast, geopolitical realism has predominated in Russian foreign policy thinking.&nbsp; This means that the highest value is accorded to the preservation of sovereignty, territorial integrity and independence and the most important principle of international law is held to be the principle of non-intervention.&nbsp;Moscow objects most strongly to policies that are undertaken with a view to bringing about regime change.&nbsp; </p> <blockquote> <p><em>&lsquo;Russian policy is frequently at odds with western policy simply because the </em><em>ideas about international relations on which western countries and Russia base their policy are very different.&nbsp; Indeed, they are often incompatible.&rsquo;</em></p></blockquote> <p>President Putin, in particular, believes that when Russia abstained from voting on resolution 1973, thus tacitly agreeing to the imposition of a no-fly zone over Libya, it was conned by western countries into accepting regime change, since the coalition enforcing it (in effect, NATO) immediately began exceeding the terms of the resolution.&nbsp; Not surprisingly, given that they explicitly called for Bashar al-Assad&rsquo;s resignation, Moscow has twice vetoed UNSC resolutions on Syria.&nbsp; </p> <p><img class="image-left" src="http://www.opendemocracy.net/files/Putin_Asad.jpg" alt="Putin_Asad_blood" width="360" height="260" /></p> <p class="image-caption">A placard at an oppostion rally, depicting Vladimir Putin feeding Bashar Assad with their blood.&nbsp;As arguably the most influential foreign power in the region, Russia's realpolitik approach has not been without its critics&nbsp;(photo: flickr.com/freedomhouse)</p> <p>On the other hand, Moscow supported Kofi Annan&rsquo;s peace plan because it called for political negotiation and demanded that both the government and the opposition should cease using armed violence.&nbsp; Despite constant evidence that its terms were being breached, Russia has continued to support the plan and to resist any attempt to set, as Lavrov&rsquo;s put it, &lsquo;ultimatums and artificial deadlines&rsquo;.</p> <h3>Conclusion</h3> <p>The shock of the massacre in Houla may well mean that Russia will attempt to put more pressure on the Syrian government.&nbsp; But this is not the first time that Bashar al-Assad and his government forces have shocked and embarrassed the Russians and Russia has certainly made frequent strenuous efforts to persuade Assad to fulfill the obligations entailed by the Annan plan.&nbsp;The chances are that Assad has shown himself as impervious to Russian appeals as his father was to Soviet pressure in the 1970s and 1980s. And although Moscow has recently appeared to begin to seriously consider the possibility of Assad's early departure, it will have to be a departure to which he himself agrees, because Russia will not support demands for him to relinquish power.&nbsp;Nor will Moscow assent to arming the opposition or agree to foreign military intervention in Syria.</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>Dmitry Trenin, <a href="http://www.foreignaffairs.com/articles/137078/dmitri-trenin/russias-line-in-the-sand-on-syria?page=show">Russia's Line in the Sand on Syria. Why Moscow Wants To Halt the Arab Spring?</a> , Foreign Affairs, Feb. 5, 2012</p> <p>Walter Russell Mead’s blog, <a href="http://blogs.the-american-interest.com/wrm/2012/02/05/russias-syrian-bet-explained/">Russia’s Syrian Bet Explained</a>, The American Interest, Feb. 5, 2012</p> </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/od-russia/elkhan-nuriyev/putin%E2%80%99s-plan-for-russia%E2%80%99s-neighbours-eurasian-union">Putin’s plan for Russia’s neighbours - a Eurasian Union</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/od-russia/susanne-sternthal/putin%E2%80%99s-anti-american-campaign">Putin’s anti-American campaign</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/od-russia/inna-lazareva/putin-medvedev-and-arab-spring-will-russias-foreign-policy-end-up-on-wrong-s">Putin, Medvedev and the Arab Spring: will Russia&#039;s foreign policy end up on the wrong side?</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/od-russia/john-heathershaw-nick-megoran/central-asia-discourse-of-danger">Central Asia: the discourse of danger</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/od-russia/stephen-wheatcroft/arab-spring-and-soviet-parallel">The Arab Spring and the Soviet parallel</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Russia </div> <div 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> </div> oD Russia oD Russia openSecurity Syria Russia Conflict russia & eurasia russia conflicts Margot Light Foreign Conflict Tue, 29 May 2012 13:25:41 +0000 Margot Light 66105 at https://opendemocracy.net Karabakh: 'frozen' conflict nears melting point https://opendemocracy.net/od-russia/wayne-merry/karabakh-frozen-conflict-nears-melting-point <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p><img src="http://www.opendemocracy.net/files/Shushi-Rastislav-Kolesar_0.jpg" alt="" width="160" align="right" />Amid signs that Armenia and Azerbaijan may once more be edging towards armed conflict over the disputed territory of Nagorno-Karabakh, Wayne Merry argues that the West needs to act fast, rather than allow an old and fruitless mediation process to meander on.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p>In the summer of 2008 western governments professed to be surprised by the outbreak of armed conflict in South Ossetia and the resulting short <a href="http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/in_depth/europe/2008/georgia_russia_conflict/default.stm">war</a><sup></sup><sup><a title="archive de war" href="http://archive.wikiwix.com/opendemocracy/?url=http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/in_depth/europe/2008/georgia_russia_conflict/default.stm&amp;title=war">&uarr;</a></sup><sup></sup>between Russia and Georgia. Yet many observers had warned for months of a resort to arms either in South Ossetia or in Abkhazia.</p> <p>In the summer of 2008 western governments professed to be surprised by the outbreak of armed conflict in South Ossetia and the resulting short <a href="http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/in_depth/europe/2008/georgia_russia_conflict/default.stm">war</a><sup></sup><sup><a title="archive de war" href="http://archive.wikiwix.com/opendemocracy/?url=http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/in_depth/europe/2008/georgia_russia_conflict/default.stm&amp;title=war">&uarr;</a></sup><sup></sup>between Russia and Georgia. Yet many observers had warned for months of a resort to arms either in South Ossetia or in Abkhazia. The failure was not of warning but of policy response.</p> <p>Today there are warning signs of renewed conflict in another part of the Caucasus: between Armenia and Azerbaijan over <a href="http://www.globalsecurity.org/military/world/war/nagorno-karabakh.htm">Nagorno Karabakh</a><sup></sup><sup><a title="archive de Nagorno Karabakh" href="http://archive.wikiwix.com/opendemocracy/?url=http://www.globalsecurity.org/military/world/war/nagorno-karabakh.htm&amp;title=Nagorno%20Karabakh">&uarr;</a></sup><sup></sup>. The ceasefire in place since 1994 is increasingly fragile: serious violations are routine, and a major arms race is under way. Above all, expectations of another war on both sides fuel momentum toward it. Observers of the region in recent months have warned about the danger. The parties to the dispute are unwilling to reverse the trend. Outside powers can either wait until another of the ill-named &lsquo;<a href="http://www.economist.com/node/12494503">frozen conflicts</a><sup></sup><sup><a title="archive de frozen conflicts" href="http://archive.wikiwix.com/opendemocracy/?url=http://www.economist.com/node/12494503&amp;title=frozen%20conflicts">&uarr;</a></sup><sup></sup>&rsquo; goes hot or they can transform their currently stalled mediation efforts.</p> <p>A significant armed conflict over Karabakh could be much more serious than the brief 2008 war, in part because the two sides are more evenly matched and in part because of the proximity &ndash; and vulnerability &ndash; of major oil and gas pipelines. Thus, another Karabakh war could touch Europeans and Americans at one of their most neuralgic points, the &lsquo;price at the pump&rsquo;.</p> <p class="image-left"><img src="http://www.opendemocracy.net/files/Shushi-Rastislav-Kolesar_0.jpg" alt="Shushi_Kolesar" width="530" /></p><p class="image-caption">Nagorno-Karabakh is considered a 'frozen conflict' zone, but a major arms race between Armenia and Azerbaijan is threatening to turn temperatures up way past melting point. (Photo: Rastislav Kolesar / Demotix, all rights reserved)</p> <p>Aware of the increasing worry among informed observers in Washington, I took the opportunity of a recent international conference in the Armenian capital Yerevan to visit Karabakh. Two caveats require emphasis. First, the trip was of a personal nature and in no way sanctioned by the United States Government, despite my former official status in the State and Defense Departments. Second, my visit, although facilitated by Armenian and Karabakh authorities, implies no partisanship on my part. My earlier writings demonstrate my neutrality on the dispute, other than opposition to renewed war. While I did not have authorisation from Azerbaijan, which of course claims Karabakh as its sovereign territory, I have affirmed to its officials both my neutrality and my willingness to make a parallel visit to their side. In short, I visited Karabakh to look, listen and learn because of my concern about the danger of another war.</p> <blockquote>'Karabakh, which was genuinely multi-ethnic during the Soviet period, is now entirely Armenian but with much of the territory and communities formerly occupied by Azerbaijanis simply empty.'</blockquote> <p>Three days in Karabakh deepened that concern, considerably. Through the helpful intervention of some authorities in Washington and Yerevan, I was able to visit units of the Karabakh army, to travel through the restricted zone around the ghost town of Aghdam (a former and potential battlefield), and even to visit the actual <a href="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M1wxzKp9m4A">front trench</a><sup></sup><sup><a title="archive de front trench" href="http://archive.wikiwix.com/opendemocracy/?url=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M1wxzKp9m4A&amp;title=front%20trench">&uarr;</a></sup><sup></sup>along the &lsquo;line of contact&rsquo; facing similar Azerbaijani trenches less than two hundred meters distant. My parallel conversations with Karabakh officials and with seventeen representatives of civil society focused on security issues and the potential for renewed war. While much of what I saw from the ground level was familiar to me from overhead imagery, it was not the trenches, tank traps, mine fields and artillery positions which deepened my concern, but the conversations with both soldiers and civilians.</p> <p>Taking this experience in conjunction with monitoring of the Karabakh dispute since 1991 in a variety of official and non-official capacities, I perceive five interlocking tendencies which could produce another war.</p> <h3>Five drivers towards war</h3> <p>First, the ceasefire of 1994 has not ameliorated the dispute, but rather deepened the estrangement between the parties. The result is not a &lsquo;no-war, no-peace&rsquo;, but rather a pre-war environment. With the ethnic cleansing of the previous Azerbaijani population of Karabakh and the surrounding occupied territories, plus the almost total migration of the respective ethnic communities from Armenia and Azerbaijan, there is almost no non-governmental contact between the two nations. Adversarial propaganda on both sides accentuates stereotypes and hatreds.</p> <p>Karabakh itself, which was genuinely multi-ethnic during the Soviet period, is now entirely Armenian but with much of the territory and communities formerly occupied by Azerbaijanis simply empty. On the edge of Karabakh are the ruins of Aghdam, once a thriving community of forty thousand but today a vast expanse of gutted former dwellings. While some of the surrounding land is cultivated, the Armenian farmers are purely seasonal. Throughout the region is the stark evidence of former inhabitants now living as refugees in Azerbaijan. Often, only their cemeteries remain more or less intact. The younger people with whom I spoke have little or no active memory of an Azerbaijani, and then only in a wartime context. This physical estrangement has resulted in a tendency to dehumanize the &lsquo;other,&rsquo; a pervasive quality in statements from both sides.</p> <p>Second, the mediation of the so-called <a href="http://www.osce.org/mg">Minsk Group</a><sup></sup><sup><a title="archive de Minsk Group" href="http://archive.wikiwix.com/opendemocracy/?url=http://www.osce.org/mg&amp;title=Minsk%20Group">&uarr;</a></sup><sup></sup>co-chairs (Russia, France, the United States) of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe is not, unfortunately, reducing the momentum toward war. The diplomats involved have worked diligently on both the substance and technical issues of a settlement &ndash; much of which is largely complete. However, after two decades the Minsk Group has achieved no visible progress to soothe popular frustrations on both sides. This lack persuades many, especially in Azerbaijan, that diplomacy is not the path to a successful &lsquo;resolution&rsquo; of the conflict. The decades of mediation have produced popular cynicism rather than hope about a peaceful outcome.</p> <blockquote>'The truth is that international mediation has enabled authorities in Baku and Yerevan to avoid their core responsibility to inform and educate their respective populations about the compromises required for a peace settlement.</blockquote> <p>The underlying diplomatic reality is that mediators do not negotiate; mediators mediate. The parties to the conflict could negotiate, but have failed to do so in a serious way while using the Minsk Group as cover. Both governments routinely assert their own readiness for progress and place the entire onus for failure on the other. The truth is that international mediation has enabled authorities in Baku and Yerevan to avoid their core responsibility to inform and educate their respective populations about the compromises required for a peace settlement. Both societies have maximalist expectations for the dispute, expectations which could only be achieved for either side through a successful large-scale war. Some senior observers have speculated that removing the Minsk Group mediators for at least a time might actually improve diplomatic prospects.</p> <p>By &lsquo;parties&rsquo; I mean only the republics of Armenia and Azerbaijan. I do not refer to the self-proclaimed and unrecognised &lsquo;Nagorno Karabakh Republic&rsquo; (also known as Artsakh). Although I conducted friendly discussions with officials of this entity, in my view Karabakh is essentially a prospective province of Armenia and not a separate or self-standing party to the conflict. For example, in the 1991-94 fighting the armed forces of the Armenian Republic participated directly on a large scale and would again in a new war. While there is genuine local governance in Karabakh and broad popular support for its semi-autonomous army, the largely agricultural economy relies on massive subsidies from Yerevan and from the Armenian diaspora (and is critically dependent on Iran for fuel). It is certainly true that, over the past twenty years, Karabakh has often been the tale that wagged the political dog in Yerevan, sometimes violently. Despite these internal tensions, there is only one Armenian party to the dispute. </p> <blockquote>Karabakh, with fewer than its claimed population of 140,000, deploys (depending on your source) something like 300 main battle tanks, which may be the highest per capita armour ratio on earth.</blockquote> <p>Third, a very serious arms race is underway, fueled on the Azerbaijani side by that country&rsquo;s substantial oil and gas revenues and on the Armenian side by transfers from Russia. The scale of this arms race is massive, while the content is modern and highly lethal. To give a single illustration, Karabakh, with fewer than its claimed population of 140,000, deploys (depending on your source) something like 300 main battle tanks, which may be the highest per capita armour ratio on earth. The basic impetus of the arms race is to allow Azerbaijan to acquire by force what it had lost at the time of the 1994 ceasefire or, at least, to encourage Armenian concessions by the credible threat of war. As the Azerbaijani defence budget is now comparable to, if not larger than, the entire Armenian budget, the spending race clearly favors Baku. However, Yerevan obtains Russia-made armaments at rates which are, at least, concessional. As is usual in such circumstances, the programs and policies of defense ministries leave those of diplomatic institutions in the shadow. Thus far, the arms race has not contributed to political flexibility by either side; rather it is contributing to dangerous mutual fears of pre-emption.</p> <p>Fourth, ceasefire violations along the line of contact by both sides are now so routine as not even to be regularly reported abroad. The reciprocal sniping, often targeted on civilian farmers, is different in scale and lethality from the ceasefire violations of only a few years ago. Today there is not a quasi-peace but a quasi-war. This is something which can get out of hand in a hurry, especially as there exist no confidence-building measures between the two sides such as direct communications or notifications of maneuvers. The small OSCE observer mission has an impossible task, given the length of the line of contact and the often formidable terrain, let alone the unwillingness of both sides to dampen tensions.&nbsp;It bears noting that this kind of sniping preceded the August 2008 war over South Ossetia.</p> <p class="image-left"><img src="http://www.opendemocracy.net/files/Shushi-Russell-Pollard_0.jpg" alt="Shushi_Pollard" width="530" /></p><p class="image-caption">There are gaping holes in Nagorno-Karabakh today: not only the physical scars of the 1991-3 war, but also the absence of Azerbaijani people from the collective Karabakh memory. They appear only to be remembered as 'the enemy'. (Photo: Russell Pollard / Demotix, all rights reserved)</p> <p>Fifth, the most worrisome element is the growing expectation on both sides that a renewed war may not only be inevitable but even be desirable. No-one thinks a new war would be a cakewalk &ndash; memories of the human cost of the 1991-94 fighting are too fresh &ndash; but many imagine war would &lsquo;settle&rsquo; the dispute on favorable terms or at least break free from the diplomatic impasse. The danger is perhaps not so much a deliberate and rational resort to war, but rather a developing confrontation in which neither side has the political courage openly to back away from conflict.</p> <p>Each side condescends to its opponent, both politically and militarily. Azerbaijanis argue that the country&rsquo;s massive military spending has altered the previous balance of forces in its favour and, hence, a short if bloody campaign could restore Azerbaijani sovereignty in Karabakh and the national honor. The Armenians believe that Azerbaijani money does not equate to military skill and that Karabakh (plus, of course, Republic of Armenia) forces not only can withstand an Azerbaijani assault but could turn the tables with maneuver warfare aimed to expand Karabakh&rsquo;s current frontiers, or even to take the fighting as far as Baku. Clearly, both sides cannot be correct in their evaluations, but both can be wrong. I believe both are wrong if only because of the probable character of a renewed war.</p> <p><strong> </strong></p><h3><strong>What form would a new war take?</strong></h3> <p>Another Karabakh war would not repeat the one of 1991-94. That conflict was a series of largely infantry campaigns with some armored, artillery and air support in a multi-ethnic demographic. In the intervening years, Karabakh has been systematically transformed into a fortress, combining its natural mountainous topography with thoroughly-prepared echeloned defenses in depth. The strategy is to employ fortifications and firepower, in conjunction with space and topography, to inflict casualties and buy time. I can testify that the Aghdam region is a killing field in waiting.</p> <p>Thus the next Karabakh war will be a siege. Throughout history, sieges have been notorious for brutality, bloodshed and cost to civilian populations. A siege campaign has two components, usually sequential: bombardment and assault (or engagement). The two countries are preparing extensively for a major reciprocal bombardment component, acquiring long-range artillery, multi-launch rocket systems, large munitions stockpiles and surveillance drones. However, no decision could be achieved in such a battle merely by bombarding each other&rsquo;s trenches. It is quite clear that both parties intend to target civilian infrastructure and population areas almost from the outset. Indeed, one source in Yerevan said openly that Armenian targeting would be &lsquo;counter-value&rsquo;. The most valuable and sensitive targets on both sides are well beyond Karabakh in the respective motherlands, including oil and gas pipelines and a nuclear power station, and are vulnerable to strike aircraft.</p> <p>Unless outside pressure brings a ceasefire quickly, the battle will move to a non-static engagement phase. Both sides have large mobile forces, complemented by drones and other high-tech equipment. Armenia should not underestimate the improvement in Azerbaijan&rsquo;s order of battle and combat skills. Even if somewhat ragged in operational art, a large and well-equipped force willing to accept losses can achieve a great deal on the battlefield. Likewise, Azerbaijan should not overestimate its newly-acquired force structure, as Armenia has worked hard to maintain the fighting edge of its smaller army and will take full benefit of its advantages of terrain, fortification and depth. With a little misjudgment on either side, let alone both, an all-arms war could be underway before global media had located Karabakh on the map. Informed outside observers believe the balance favours the defence, but potentially at an exorbitant cost.</p> <p>Beyond the obvious dangers for the parties themselves lies the problem that each has a regional great-power sponsor. Armenia enjoys a treaty-based security alliance and guarantee from Russia. These do not explicitly cover Karabakh, but in a conflict which could overlap Armenia&rsquo;s own frontiers very quickly this would become a distinction without a difference. Russia has far too much at stake with its Armenian client to let it lose a war. Thus, Moscow&rsquo;s influence on Baku at the time would be crucial. Turkey has no legal obligation to its Azerbaijani client, but the Karabakh issue has powerful political resonance within Turkey, and was the rock on which recent efforts to normalize relations with Armenia foundered. In a war, the domestic political impetus to support their ethnic cousins (especially given other Armenian-related irritants for Turkey) could prove very strong. Ankara&rsquo;s new regional stature and its independence of European and American allies would be sorely tested in a Caucasian crisis. (Iran is not as directly engaged, though its trade, especially in fuel, is vital to Armenia, while Tehran has fairly poisonous relations with Azerbaijan.)</p> <p>It is beyond imagination that Russia and Turkey would come to blows themselves (indeed, relations between Moscow and Ankara in most respects are fairly good), but a proxy war fed and supported by regional great powers can assume proportions far beyond the interests of the combatants themselves. Indeed, the combatants would be highly motivated to try to engage their respective patron states, each with a common border with the adversary, if only to threaten the adversary&rsquo;s strategic rear. The consequences are unpredictable and dangerous.</p> <p>A renewed war between Armenia and Azerbaijan may not be inevitable, and is probably not imminent. However, the environment is significantly more dangerous than only a few years ago, with growing momentum toward open conflict. Unless deflected or reversed, that momentum will reach its logical conclusion. The parties are not behaving responsibly, so someone else should.</p> <h3>What needs to be done?</h3> <p>Over the past twenty years, American, French and Russian administrations have attempted at various times to achieve a diplomatic breakthrough on Karabakh by engaging the parties at top political levels, most recently at the summit hosted by President Medvedev in Kazan in June 2011. Sadly, all these presidential initiatives failed, because political leaders in Baku and Yerevan were unwilling or unable to muster the political capital (or courage) to accept the initiatives. Both governments have known for years what a settlement must look like; the Minsk Group mediators have worked this out in considerable detail. Neither government is willing to say so to its own people because both must accept major compromises. The mediators have thus far engaged only governments, not populations.</p> <blockquote>'What is needed is an initiative to achieve a final settlement of the Karabakh issue, rather than continued mediation. This will require major cooperation among the outside powers to encourage, if not actually impose, a treaty-based settlement.'</blockquote> <p>With presidential elections this year in all the Minsk Group co-chair countries, it would be hard to generate initiatives on a supposedly &lsquo;frozen conflict.&rsquo; (Whoever authored that fallacious phrase has much to answer for!) Nonetheless, the situation demands high-level political action by outside powers &ndash; and even some old-fashioned great-power collusion &ndash; to prevent a pair of small countries endangering regional and international interests. Turkey now must be part of the solution. Turkey is not only a Caucasian great power and neighbour to both Armenia and Azerbaijan; it is a vital participant in all regional issues with an increasingly assertive political and security posture. A leading Turkish role should be encouraged and welcomed. Above all, complacency and delay are dangerous. Events in the Caucasus have their own laws and logic, and they wait not on the American, French or Russian political calendars.</p> <p>The August 2008 war arguably made all involved worse off, even those in Abkhazia and South Ossetia who welcomed their formal separation from Georgian sovereignty. That post-war environment looks to be truly frozen for many years to come. While some &ndash; perhaps many &ndash; Armenians and Azerbaijanis imagine that another war would resolve things to their satisfaction, any victory gained would almost certainly be Pyrrhic for either side. What is needed is an initiative to achieve a final settlement of the Karabakh issue along lines already worked out within the Minsk Group rather than continuing to mediate it. This will require major cooperation among the outside powers to encourage if not actually impose a treaty-based settlement involving painful compromises by both parties. Peacekeeping and reconstruction will be vital elements of a settlement.</p> <p>In large measure, the outside powers need to supply the political courage lacking by the parties and to speak truth to their respective populations. The core truth is that two decades ago there was a war with consequences &ndash; not perhaps &lsquo;right,&rsquo; &lsquo;just&rsquo; or &lsquo;fair&rsquo; &ndash; but consequences whose acceptance is far better than another war. It is time for outside powers to serve their own interests by moving beyond mediation. This is a tall order in the present international climate, but managing the Karabakh dispute into a third decade is no solution; neither is waiting for a new 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="/article/email/karabakh-is-war-inevitable">Karabakh: is war inevitable?</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/article/karabakh-peace-war-and-democracy">Karabakh: peace, war and democracy</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/article/email/moldova-recession-hits-a-frozen-conflict">Moldova: recession hits a frozen conflict</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/vicken-cheterian/armenia-turkey-end-of-rapprochement">Armenia-Turkey: the end of rapprochement </a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/armen-haykyan/europe%E2%80%99s-armenian-policy-cost-of-indulgence">Europe’s Armenian policy: the cost of indulgence</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/openrussia/sergei-markedonov/can-armenia-and-turkey-be-reconciled">Can Armenia and Turkey be reconciled?</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> 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 3.0 </div> </div> </div> oD Russia oD Russia openSecurity Conflict russia & eurasia russia conflicts Wayne Merry Politics Nagorno-Karabakh Foreign Conflict Azerbaijan Armenia Security in Middle East and North Africa Peacebuilding Mon, 14 May 2012 11:00:46 +0000 Wayne Merry 65784 at https://opendemocracy.net Mob justice in Lithuania: who can stand up to the madding crowd? https://opendemocracy.net/od-russia/violeta-davoliute/mob-justice-in-lithuania-who-can-stand-up-to-madding-crowd <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p><img src="http://www.opendemocracy.net/files/Protesters_Lithuania.jpg" alt="" width="160" align="right" />Next year Lithuania assumes the European presidency. Host to international conferences and a role model for other ex-communist countries, the country is currently gripped by a titillating case of alleged child abuse. It is being played out against a background of mob rule, support from politicians and complicity on the part of the police. How can this be? asks Violeta&nbsp;Davoliūtė</p> </div> </div> </div> <p class="FreeForm"><em><strong>'Our supreme governors, the mob'</strong></em> (Horace Walpole)</p> <p class="FreeForm">On 3 May, Lithuania played host to an international conference promoting democracy and the rule of law in Eastern Europe. US Senator and former presidential candidate John McCain was the conference&rsquo;s guest of honour, rubbing shoulders with politicians from Belarus, Ukraine, Russia and Georgia. </p> <p class="FreeForm">Events such as these do much to promote the image of the Baltic State as a role model for other former communist countries looking to make the transition to democracy. Indeed, this year the conference was organised to coincide with the 221st&nbsp; anniversary of the constitution adopted by the&nbsp;Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth,&nbsp;one of the first constitutions in Europe.</p> <p class="FreeForm">However, the historical anniversary seems entirely out of touch with some of the more sober realities of life in today&rsquo;s Lithuania, a nation seized by a political, legal and moral crisis. </p> <h3 class="FreeForm">The media frenzy</h3> <p class="FreeForm">On Monday, Lithuanians face another anniversary; one more recent and much more relevant. On&nbsp;that day in&nbsp;2010, the courts settled a long-running child custody battle, deciding that the six-year-old girl in question should live with her mother. Since then, however, the justice system has been unable to implement this decision.</p> <p class="FreeForm">Instead, the girl continues to be held in the house of the father&rsquo;s family, isolated from her mother and kept from going to school. The house is surrounded by an organised and angry crowd of several hundred that has sustained a 24/7 vigil for months on end, determined to prevent the authorities from removing the child. The mob is apparently convinced that the mother has sold the child for sex and that she remains under the control of a powerful, global clan of paedophiles. The besieged house has become the centre of a sustained media frenzy and serves as the headquarters of a powerful populist movement.</p> <p class="FreeForm">The protesters are apparently receiving open and active support from the nation&rsquo;s highest officials, including the current President and a former head of state. Political pressure from above, combined with popular revolt from below, has effectively paralysed the work of government institutions responsible for implementing the court order.</p> <blockquote>&lsquo;The girl continues to be held in the house of the father&rsquo;s family, isolated from her mother and kept from going to school. The house is surrounded by an organised and angry crowd of several hundred that has sustained a 24/7 vigil for months on end.&rsquo;</blockquote> <p class="FreeForm">The mother has filed a case with the European Court of Human Rights and is almost certain to win, according to Lithuania&rsquo;s own representative to the court, Elvyra Baltutyt&#279;. But few expect the decision to change the reality on the ground, until somebody in authority gathers the courage to stand up to the mob. And with Parliamentary elections fast approaching, public courage is not likely to appear anytime soon.</p> <h3 class="FreeForm">The nightmare</h3> <p class="FreeForm">The story began in a wealthy suburb of Kaunas, when Dr&#261;sius Kedys, a hard-nosed businessman with a passion for bodybuilding, launched a battle with his former partner Laima Stankunait&#279; over custody of their daughter.</p> <p class="FreeForm">It was an uneven contest from the very start. Laima was not quite 16 when she embarked on a relationship with Dr&#261;sius, then 29. She came from a poor family with few connections; his family is rich and influential, including a sister who is a judge, a brother-in-law who is a former investigator from an organised crime unit and now a senior partner in a law firm, and a cousin married to an infamous criminal gang figure, to name but a few.</p> <p class="FreeForm"><img src="http://www.opendemocracy.net/files/Protesters_Lithuania.jpg" alt="Protesters_Lithuania" width="400" /></p> <p class="image-caption">Even though custody was settled in court in favour of the girl's mother, a crowd of protesters have stopped the police from implementing the court&rsquo;s verdict. The crowd believe in the existence of a peadophile ring for which there is very little evidence.&nbsp;</p> <p class="FreeForm">The couple split up and two years of legal wrangling over the custody of the daughter ensued.&nbsp; One day Kedys picked the child up from kindergarten and hid her away from her mother and social workers for several months. He then began to accuse the mother of selling their daughter to a group of paedophiles, allegedly including a local politician who had assisted the young mother to secure a lawyer for the custody case, a judge who worked in the same court as his sister, and a third person supposedly named by the child.</p> <p class="FreeForm">Kedys went to the local police. Without any investigation of the accusations, they issued him a note, certifying the allegations as a statement of fact. This document enabled him to secure a court order banning any further contact between the mother and her child. In less than two weeks, the child was officially transferred into the father&rsquo;s custody.</p> <p class="FreeForm">Kedys also filmed his daughter as she provided a graphic account of sexual abuse. He gave the video to the media and posted it on the internet. With the help of his sister and brother-in-law, he filed several legal complaints, but the authorities did not act upon his allegations.</p> <h3 class="FreeForm">The killings</h3> <p class="FreeForm">Everything went public when he took the law into his own hands and shot two people: Stankunait&#279;&rsquo;s sister, whom he accused of organizing contacts with the paedophiles, and the judge mentioned above. The killings caused a furore, largely in support of the murderer. Kedys became a national hero and symbol of rebellion against paedophiles and &lsquo;the system.&rsquo;</p> <p class="FreeForm">He went into hiding. Almost a year later he was found dead with high levels of alcohol in his blood. A post mortem carried out by the Lithuanian police with the assistance of external experts from Sweden came to the same conclusion on the cause of death: Kedys had been drinking heavily and choked on his own vomit. There were no signs of foul play. However, the majority of Lithuanians were convinced that he was killed by &lsquo;the paedophiles.&rsquo;</p> <p class="FreeForm">Even after Kedys had left the scene, the death toll continued to mount. The politician whom he had accused of paedophilia was found dead, apparently as the result of a motorcycle accident that occurred when he was intoxicated. Until his last day the politician vehemently denied any wrongdoing and was suing Kedys for slander. Soon after, the 24-year-old stepson of a colleague of Kedys&rsquo; sister (the judge) was also found dead. The police investigation concluded that the 24-year old had apparently been tortured for several days and then shot.</p> <p class="FreeForm">These deaths caused a great stir in society and spawned a number of wild conspiracy theories about the involvement of the KGB, the Lithuanian secret services, and a powerful global clan of paedophiles.</p> <p class="FreeForm">The child&rsquo;s filmed testimony has always been, and still is, the only evidence of any peadophile activity. According to one psychological assessment, she showed no more inclination to fantasise than other children her age. This would suggest that she is either telling the truth or was coached to say what she did. But for the majority of Lithuanians, the assessment was taken to confirm the truth of her filmed testimony: end of story.</p> <blockquote> <p>&lsquo;The authorities have failed to discover the slightest trace of the alleged pedophile network. After a thorough examination of a 3000-page investigation, the courts determined that the mother was innocent of any wrongdoing and that the child had been taken away from her illegally.&rsquo;</p></blockquote> <p class="FreeForm">Nonetheless, there is significant evidence suggesting that the father and his family have persuaded the child that her mother had handed her over to paedophiles, and would do so again, given the chance. Several months ago, the family took the child to a doctor to get a certificate that would excuse her from attending school. The doctor found no trace of illness, and refused to issue the certificate. According to the doctor&rsquo;s evidence to the police, the family was infuriated, pointed at her and told the child to &lsquo;remember the face of this woman. She is going to hand you over to men who will&hellip;..[graphic description of sexual abuse].&rsquo;</p> <h3 class="FreeForm">The nation&rsquo;s fantasy</h3> <p class="FreeForm">In all this time, the authorities have failed to discover the slightest trace of the alleged paedophile network. After a thorough examination of a 3000-page investigation, the courts determined that the mother was innocent of any wrongdoing and that the child had been taken away from her illegally. On 14 May 2010, the courts issued an order for the child to be returned to the mother. This order has been upheld on appeal, and the police officers who issued the false certificate to Kedys are now being tried.</p> <blockquote> <p class="FreeForm">&lsquo;The girl is constantly shown on TV wearing a purple shirt like the one worn by her father, standing next to signs that read &lsquo;stop the paedophile,&rsquo; and being encouraged to recall, relive and retell the details of her abuse. The public is in thrall to the incessant, titillating representation of the sexual abuse of a child in graphic, lurid detail.&rsquo;</p></blockquote> <p class="FreeForm">However, public opinion has taken a different decision. The circulation of the video, accompanied by &lsquo;expert&rsquo; speculation and wild conspiracy theories, reinforced the belief that the occult influence of a paedophile clan had reached the highest levels of the justice system in Lithuania and beyond. Most importantly, the public took the fact that Kedys killed two people as a sign of his moral conviction and the truth of his cause, as opposed to delusion, malice, or a combination of the two.</p> <p class="FreeForm">After Kedys was found dead, his sister the judge, Neringa Venckien&#279;, picked up the torch of his battle, blaming &lsquo;the system&rsquo; for her brother&rsquo;s death and every possible evil. When her brother went underground, she assumed custody of her niece and has exploited the child to drive a populist media, and now political, campaign.</p> <p class="FreeForm">The girl is constantly shown on TV wearing a purple shirt like the one worn by her father, standing next to signs that read &lsquo;stop the paedophile,&rsquo; and being encouraged to recall, relive and retell the details of her abuse. The public is in thrall to the incessant, titillating representation of the sexual abuse of a child in graphic, lurid detail. Among the many disturbing scenes broadcast repeatedly on national television was the spectacle of the six-year old girl in front of a cheering crowd and being prompted to say that she does not want to return to her mother.</p> <p class="FreeForm">The role of certain media outlets in provoking and perpetuating the wildest flights of public fantasy deserves separate mention. The third broadcast television channel TV3, owned by the <a href="http://www.mtg.se/">Modern Times</a> Group of Sweden, cashed in on stellar ratings for their &lsquo;investigative news&rsquo; programmes that included a psychic revelation of the precise location where the sexual abuse had allegedly taken place. It would be hard to imagine the Modern Times Group pulling the same stunt in Sweden, but they apparently relax their standards of corporate governance and ethics when operating on the &lsquo;frontiers&rsquo; of Europe.</p> <h3 class="FreeForm">The politician&rsquo;s dream</h3> <p class="FreeForm">Venckien&#279;&rsquo;s media campaign resonated powerfully in a country where paedophilia is routinely confused with homosexuality. It intensified popular hostility towards liberal causes like gay rights and expansive definitions of the family that are seen as imposed on Lithuanians by the &lsquo;liberast&rsquo; (liberal + pederast) EU bureaucracy. Opportunist politicians have jumped on the bandwagon, and the key dividing line in Lithuanian politics is no longer between left and right, but between &lsquo;Paedophiles&rsquo; and &lsquo;Kedophiles.&rsquo;</p> <p class="FreeForm">The Kedys family founded a political <a href="http://www.15min.lt/en/article/politics/new-political-parties-rush-to-register-with-justice-ministry-before-general-election-526-203265">party</a> in honour of their dead relative, called 'Dr&#261;sos&nbsp;Kelias', or the Path of Courage, and Venckien&#279; has become one of the most influential media figures in the country. She published a book, toured the country to promote it, and is inciting mob justice. The media is speculating that she intends to run for Parliament, and her chances seem surprisingly strong. She enjoys the support of several radical and ultranationalist politicians, as well as protection from the most prominent politicians in the land.</p> <p class="FreeForm">Indeed, to the bewilderment&nbsp;of those with an elementary understanding of the rule of law and the separation of powers, the President rejected the formal recommendation of the Lithuanian College of Judges to revoke the immunity from prosecution that&nbsp;Venckien&#279;&nbsp;enjoys as a judge. In flat contradiction to the opinion of the court and the vast majority of the legal community, the President<a href="http://www.15min.lt/en/article/opinion/kestutis-girnius-lithuania-s-president-stumbles-again-530-215763"> said</a> that&nbsp;Venckien&#279;&nbsp;is not obstructing justice, but complying with the court order to transfer custody of the child to the mother.</p> <p class="FreeForm"><img src="http://www.opendemocracy.net/files/Drasiaus_Kelias_Party_site.jpg" alt="Kelias_Party" width="460" /></p> <p class="image-caption">A still from the 'Dr&#261;sos&nbsp;Kelias' (Path of Courage) party web site. The party, founded Dr&#261;sius Kedys' family, aims to purge Lithuania from &lsquo;clans of bankers and oligarchs, corrupt officials and peadophile groupings&rsquo;. Critics call it party of &lsquo;kedophiles' and mock its populist slogans. </p> <p class="FreeForm">But while the President at least makes an attempt to appear impartial on the underlying custody issue, <a href="http://www.europarl.europa.eu/meps/en/23746/Vytautas_Landsbergis.html">Vytautas Landsbergis</a>, Lithuania&rsquo;s first head of state and now a Member of the European Parliament, has openly supported the Kedys family from the start. He has doubted the mother in published commentaries, insinuating that she sold her child to paedophiles and intends to do so again, and made bewildering misogynist statements implying her involvement in an abusive sexual relationship with the masked police guards assigned to protect her. (<a href="http://www.lzinios.lt/Komentarai-ir-debatai/Dedes-ir-mergaite">link in Lithuanian</a>). </p> <p class="FreeForm">Furthermore, in a bizarre rhetorical twist, Landsbergis has likened the mob around the house to those Lithuanians who defended the TV tower in 1991 against Soviet troops, and the girl in the house to the student who was crushed by a tank and thus came to symbolise peaceful resistance to totalitarian rule. The image of the mob as inheriting the legacy of the anti-Soviet popular movement has taken hold of the public, and is reinforced by the participation of a growing number of former dissidents and members of the Catholic clergy (the leader of Dr&#261;sos Kelias is a priest).</p> <h3 class="FreeForm">The state in crisis</h3> <p class="FreeForm">In the light of the President&rsquo;s clear signal and the strong support of prominent politicians like Landsbergis, it is not surprising that virtually all government institutions, with the exception of the Ministry of Justice and the Children&rsquo;s Ombudsman, have plunged their heads into the sand, and are busy passing the buck.</p> <p class="FreeForm">For example, the Minister of Social Security declared that his institution is &lsquo;not ready&rsquo; to implement the court order. Despite the court&rsquo;s clear injunction to transfer the child immediately to the mother&rsquo;s care, he said they prefer to await the opinion of the consultants from the Danish Federation of Social Educators, recruited by the supporters of the Kedys family. The Minister&rsquo;s procrastination is quite easily explained. He is member of the conservative party, a resident of the rebellious neighbourhood of Garliava, and will soon be running for Parliament in this bastion of conservative sentiment.</p> <p class="FreeForm">In this context, Lithuanian commentators expect the court order will not be implemented, even if the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg supports the mother&rsquo;s complaint. The situation has become hopelessly politicised, and all major political forces have an interest in prolonging the obstruction of justice, at least until the elections.</p> <blockquote> <p>&lsquo;EU membership appears to have had done little to consolidate democracy and the rule of law in this formerly communist country, and it is hard to grasp how Lithuania will assume the EU Presidency next year.&rsquo;</p></blockquote> <p class="FreeForm">EU membership appears to have had done little to consolidate democracy and the rule of law in this formerly communist country, and it is hard to grasp how Lithuania will assume the EU Presidency next year. Arbitrary mob rule, executive interference with the judicial process, the corruption of government institutions and political parties all make for an extremely worrying spectacle.</p> <p>And even if the President suddenly found the courage to stand up to the mob and defend the integrity of the state and the rights of citizens, it would be too late. This travesty of justice may already have had an enormous effect on the country, but for the child it is both terrible and irreversible.</p><div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Lithuania </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> oD Russia oD Russia openSecurity Lithuania Conflict russia & eurasia russia conflicts Violeta Davoliūtė Justice Conflict Security in Europe Militarisation Policing Fri, 11 May 2012 19:30:03 +0000 Violeta Davoliūtė 65801 at https://opendemocracy.net