This week's editor

En Liang Khong

En Liang Khong is a submissions editor at openDemocracy.

Constitutional conventions: best practice

Fatah's awkward 'independents'

The pressures on Palestine's ruling party come from within its own ranks as well as from its Hamas rivals, reports Yasser Abu Moailek.

Al-Qaida, globalisation and Islam: a response to Faisal Devji

A deliberate ambiguity between the spiritual and the political fuels the symbolic power of the elusive Islamist network, says James Howarth, the translator of Osama bin Laden's "messages to the world".

Endless war

In Afghanistan and Iraq, the opening weeks of 2006 highlight the future direction of United States military strategy.

Undefeated despair

John Berger and his family went to organise painting and drawing workshops for children in Ramallah in November 2005. Here are his reflections.

The United States, nuclear weapons, and Iran

The United States and its British ally are planning to modernise their nuclear-weapons arsenal while castigating Iran for its nuclear-power programme.

Ariel Sharon and Israel's unique democracy

The question of who succeeds Ariel Sharon as Israeli prime minister is less important than to understand what the Israeli polity has become - a new form of democratic governance, says Jim Lederman.

Life after Sharon: Palestinian prospects

What does Ariel Sharon’s sudden departure from politics mean for Palestinians? Jane Kinninmont assesses the outlook for the West Bank and Gaza.

Nepal's folly: talking absolutes at high altitude

The breakdown of the Maoist ceasefire has made for a grim start to 2006 in Nepal. But this is only a symptom of a flawed political culture, says Dharma Adhikari, who appeals for a middle way.

As 2006 dawns, Nepal is at a crossroads. A unilateral ceasefire, declared by the Maoist rebels last year, has broken down and the country is torn between unattractive political alternatives.

A change in the weather

What will happen in 2006? The blinkered logic of United States and British policy on security and the environment offers more fear than hope.

Kashmir Diary

After the immediate shock of the earthquake that hit the Kashmir regions of Pakistan and India, killing nearly 75,000, the approach of winter poses a second deadly threat to the survivors. Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy sends a diary full of tragedy, despair and heroism from a Cuban medical camp in the mountains.

Bissian (12 km from Balakot), Pakistan.

Monday December 12th 2005

A new struggle for Afghanistan

A Taliban revival, drawing on exchanges of military expertise with Iraqi insurgents, promises to make 2006 a difficult year for the United States and its Nato allies in Afghanistan.

Osama bin Laden's message to the world

Osama bin Laden’s urgent attempt to reconstruct a unified and global Islam from its increasing fragmentation is only one form of a wider global predicament, says Faisal Devji, author of “Landscapes of the Jihad”.

In his address to the American people on 29 October 2004, days before they went to the polls in a bitterly contested presidential election, Osama bin Laden spoke of the profound similarities between the Muslim world and the United States.

Diversity in question

2005 has been a bad year for multiculturalism. Does it need to be reformed or replaced? Reena Bhavnani, Max Farrar, Judith Squires, and Sami Zubaida joined an openDemocracy / Open University panel to discuss living with difference. Sarah Lindon summarises a rich discussion which you can watch by webcast.

Victory in Iraq

The Washington neo-conservatives’ new mantra for counter-insurgency efforts in Iraq - “clear, hold, build” – ignores the facts on the ground.

The day Iraqis have waited for

Amidst violence and insecurity, the vote for a new parliament is the most important event of the year in Iraq, says Zaid Al-Ali.

South Africa and Iraq: the missing example

The successful transition to democracy in South Africa could be an inspiration to Iraqis struggling with their own legacy of violence and dictatorship, says David Mikhail.

Muslims in Britain after 7/7: the problem of the few

The July bombs in London have dominated discussion of British Muslims in 2005. But, says Tahir Abbas, even more important than the social problems of young Muslims is the quality and character of Muslim leadership.

Syria and Lebanon: keeping it in the family

The imperial ambition that drives Syria’s claim to hegemony in Lebanon belies the rhetoric of “sisterhood” employed by Damascus, says Hazem Saghieh.

Iran in Israel's firing-range

The likelihood of an Israeli attack on Iran is increasing.

The CIA archipelago

Europe’s belated shock and outrage at news of America’s transfer of “secret prisoners” may have lasting political effects, says Michael Naumann.

The Arab Gulf states: fighting terror lawfully

Arab as well as western states are introducing new laws for an age of terrorism. Mohamed Al Roken, professor of public law at UAE University, evaluates the counter-terrorist laws passed in two Gulf states in 2004 in light of historical and modern international experience.

'Getting in the way': Christian peacemakers from the West Bank to Iraq

The latest western hostages in Iraq include a 74-year-old member of a Christian group dedicated to mediation in combat zones. John Lynes, a colleague of Norman Kember, gave Andrew Mueller an insight into the group’s ethos when they met on the dangerous ground of Hebron, in the Israel-occupied West Bank.

Kashmir: the tragedy of opportunities

Militant Islamists have served Kashmir’s earthquake victims better than an uncaring India or an incompetent Pakistan, and the consequences for ordinary Kashmiris will be bitter, says Omair Ahmad.

The Kashmir earthquake of 8 October 2005 is now estimated to have killed more than 80,000 people, easily outstripping conservative estimates of the number of people killed in the last sixteen years of violent conflict in the Indian-controlled part of the region, the state of Jammu & Kashmir (J&K).

The European Union's anti-terror plans: lift the secrecy

European justice ministers plan to adopt stringent new anti-terror measures on 1 December without public debate. This is very far from European Union democracy, says Mats Engström.

Israel's political map is redrawn

Ariel Sharon’s split from Likud and Amir Peretz’s election as Labour leader have opened new prospects for Israeli domestic politics, reports Eric Silver in Jerusalem.

America's secret prisons: Alvaro Gil-Robles interviewed

The CIA is accused of operating “black sites” – secret prisons in Europe, using European airports for clandestine flights connected to the transfer of unacknowledged prisoners. Alvaro Gil-Robles, human-rights commissioner for the Council of Europe, tells openDemocracy’s Isabel Hilton that this must stop – and that democrats cannot fight terrorism by abandoning their principles and values.

Washington's mixed signals on Iraq

The Iraq war is provoking bitter opposition, and strategic rethinking about oil dependency, in the United States.

Dayton plus ten: Europe interrogated

The Dayton accords that ended the war in Bosnia in 1995 froze in place an unjust war settlement. Today, their renegotiation is a test of Europe’s moral identity, say Louise L Lambrichs & Michel Thieren.

Dayton's ambiguous legacy

The tenth anniversary of the Dayton peace accords that ended the bloodiest ex-Yugoslav war is marked by a gathering consensus that a new constitutional settlement is needed for Bosnia-Herzegovina. TK Vogel assesses Dayton’s impact and asks what should replace it.

Guantánamo: the United States's torture

The United Nations has cancelled its fact-finding mission to Guantánamo Bay, citing American obfuscation. Isabel Hilton reports from a London conference where ex-Guantánamo detainees reveal what the United States prefers to hide.

Al-Qaida: a question of leadership

An under-reported bomb attack in Karachi is a more significant pointer to the condition of al-Qaida than the latest United States “public enemy”, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi.

The fallout from Amman

The Jordan hotel bombs are a warped success for jihadism. But the path from Sayyid Qutb via Osama bin Laden to Abu Musab al-Zarqawi is one of irrevocable decline for the Islamist movement, argues James Howarth.

Arabs' democracy dialogue: an assessment

Arab intellectuals are engaged in a serious argument about democracy in the Arab world. David Govrin assesses some of the principal lines of thought.

Kashmir's earthquake: don't care or don't know?

The Kashmir death-toll is rising yet aid remains a trickle. Beena Sarwar asks why and calls for action.

My 9-year old daughter Maha knows about the earthquake that devastated Pakistan-controlled Kashmir and parts of Indian-controlled Kashmir on 8 October 2005, but she keeps saying: “hurricane – sorry, I mean earthquake…”. It is hardly surprising – our arrival in Cambridge, Massachusetts from Karachi, Pakistan on 27 August coincided with the build-up of hurricane Katrina before it smashed into Louisiana.

Jordan catches Iraq's fire

The Amman bombs, alongside evidence of Afghans training with Iraq’s insurgents, defy American claims that the “war on terror” is being won.
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