openDemocracy https://www.opendemocracy.net/ en How Russia’s security services target Crimean Tatars as “Islamic terrorists” https://www.opendemocracy.net/od-russia/alona-savchuk/how-russias-security-services-target-crimean-tatars-as-islamic-terrorists <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>In the four years since the peninsula’s annexation, Russian security services have become well practiced at prosecuting Crimean Tatars on terrorism charges. <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/od-russia/alena-savchuk/fsb-preduprezhdaet" target="_self"><em><strong>RU</strong></em></a></p> </div> </div> </div> <p dir="ltr"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none_left caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/564053/Screen Shot 2018-06-11 at 15.03.23_0.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/564053/Screen Shot 2018-06-11 at 15.03.23_0.png" alt="" title="" width="460" height="307" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Evelina, daughter of Arsen and Zarina Dzhepparov, looks at photographs of her parents. Image: Alina Smutko. All rights reserved. </span></span></span>“I will prove by all possible and impossible means that he’s guilty – even if he isn’t guilty.” These were the first words Arsen Dzhepparov’s family heard from the mouth of a Federal Security Service investigator in after his subordinates broke down a gate and entered the family’s yard. The investigator in question was a senior FSB lieutenant named Alexander Kompaneytsev. A former Security Service of Ukraine operative, Kompaneytsev is known for having instigated the beating and arrest of Crimean human rights defender Emir-Usein Kuku, and also for being an active recruiter of “witnesses” for Hizb ut-Tahrir cases in Crimea.</p><p dir="ltr">The FSB paid three visits to Arsen Dzhepparov in April 2016. The first came two weeks before his arrest, and took place at the boiler plant where he was working. Kompaneytsev told Dzhepparov in no certain terms that he must give incriminating evidence against four already-arrested individuals named in the Yalta Hizb ut-Tahrir case. When Arsen refused to comply, he was fired from his job at the FSB’s request.</p><p dir="ltr">The second visit occurred exactly one week later. Dzhepparov was driving to a construction site where he was making some extra money. Another car cut in ahead of him right by a traffic police station. The police immediately stopped Dzhepparov; the offending vehicle, meanwhile, braked to a halt nearby and a group of now-familiar FSB officers, two of them in uniform and armed with automatic weapons, exited. The officers ordered Dzhepparov out of the car together with its other four occupants and proceeded to search it. One of the other guys tried to object, earning himself a blow to the chest with the butt of an automatic. In the meantime, the traffic police were busy deleting CCTV footage of the incident. Asked whether he’d changed his mind about providing incriminating evidence, Dzhepparov replied that he had not. He was then charged with drunk driving, stripped of his license and fined 30,000 roubles (£350).</p><p dir="ltr">“Mate, you need to agree. I don’t know what they want from you, but agree or they’ll just crush you” – these were the last words Arsen Dzhepparov heard from the traffic police officer who wrote the incident report.</p><p dir="ltr"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none_left caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/564053/Screen Shot 2018-06-11 at 15.04.56_0.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/564053/Screen Shot 2018-06-11 at 15.04.56_0.png" alt="" title="" width="460" height="310" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>A Russian security officer during a search of a Crimean Tatar home. Image: Alina Smutko. All rights reserved.</span></span></span>Another week later, at 6am on Monday 18 April 2016, FSB operatives raided Dzhepparov’s home, detained and ultimately arrested him. Dzhepparov’s wife Zarina recalls her husband’s withdrawn, taciturn behaviour in the days leading up to his arrest, and remembers seeing him trawl the internet for information on the unspoken rules of prison conduct.</p><p dir="ltr">“It was too late to leave – he wouldn’t have been allowed to exit Crimea,” Zarina tells me. “But there was no question of his agreeing to their conditions. After all, how can you slander people you’ve never even seen in the flesh? ‘They’ve got their own kids, their own families,’ he told me. ‘How could I explain to my child afterwards what the meaning of conscience and honour is?’”</p><p dir="ltr">On the weekend before his arrest, Arsen drove Zarina down to the Yalta seafront. “He already knew they’d take him away. So we went for one last stroll by the sea,” the young woman recalls. </p><h2 dir="ltr">The faces of Crimean “terrorism”</h2><p dir="ltr">Arsen Dzhepparov is one of 28 individuals to be named in the peninsula’s Hizb ut-Tahrir case. According to the Russian investigation, all of them are members of cells within a “radical Islamist terrorist organisation”. Hizb ut-Tahrir, an organisation which describes its objectives as “reviving the Islamic way of life in countries where it has been abandoned, and disseminating Islamic ideology around the world”, is banned in Russia, but operates in Ukraine. </p><p dir="ltr">In the eyes of Ukrainian and Russian human rights activists, then, these men are political prisoners who are being persecuted for their religious beliefs. Five Crimean Muslims have been convicted of or charged with establishing terrorist organisations, and the remaining 23 with involvement in terrorist activities (Article 205.5 of the Russian Federation’s Criminal Code). The “instigators” face sentences up to and including life imprisonment, with the “participants” facing up to 20 in prison colonies.</p><p dir="ltr"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none_left caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/564053/Screen Shot 2018-06-11 at 15.09.01_0.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/564053/Screen Shot 2018-06-11 at 15.09.01_0.png" alt="" title="" width="460" height="309" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Supporters of imprisoned Crimean Tatars gather outside Crimea’s Supreme Court. Among them are wives and daughters of defendants charged with terrorism. Image: Alina Smutko. All rights reserved.</span></span></span>Four Crimean Tatars have already been sentenced to prison terms by a Russian court. In 2017, Sevastopol residents Rustem Vaitov and Nuri Primov were both sentenced to five years in a standard regime penal colony, Ferat Sayfullaev to seven years in the same, and Ruslan Zeytullayev – charged with establishing a terrorist group – to 15 years in a strict regime colony. However, the first-instance court didn’t find the evidence for his guilt convincing and handed Zeytullayev a seven-year sentence, reclassifying him as a “participant” rather than an “instigator”. His lawyer, Emil Kurbedinov, said that, “given Russian realities,” the court’s ruling must be deemed a “victory”.</p><p dir="ltr">But the state prosecutor challenged the verdict in the Supreme Court of the Russian Federation, which promptly remanded the case for a retrial. Having re-examined the same evidence, the North Caucasian District Military Court in Rostov-on-Don sentenced Ruslan Zeytullayev to 12 years in a strict regime colony in April 2017. Towards the end of the retrial, Zeytullayev went on hunger strike, hoping, if not to influence his sentence, at least to draw greater attention to the persecution of Crimean Tatars across the peninsula: “For over two years now, I have refused to acknowledge any guilt in the commission of the crime imputed to me, and I will not acknowledge it now. And I hope that any reasonable individual can understand why. Because this indictment – one where every single fact is misrepresented – isn’t worth the paper it’s written on.”</p><p>But even 12 years proved insufficient. Once again, the public prosecutor challenged the ruling in the Supreme Court of the Russian Federation, which issued a final sentence in July 2017: 15 years in a strict regime colony. Ruslan Zeytullaev thus became the first Crimean in the history of the peninsula to be convicted by Russia for “organising terrorism”.</p><p dir="ltr"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none_left caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/564053/Screen Shot 2018-06-11 at 15.11.07_0.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/564053/Screen Shot 2018-06-11 at 15.11.07_0.png" alt="" title="" width="460" height="307" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Sabrie, Mumine and Nurie - daughters of Ruslan Zeitullayev play outside their home in Orlinoye, Crimea. Image: Alina Smutko. All rights reserved. </span></span></span>The military court in Rostov is now <a href="https://ru.krymr.com/a/news/29245733.html">examining</a> the second Crimean Hizb ut-Tahrir case. The case is being prosecuted against the so-called “Yalta group”, which includes Arsen Dzepparov. In February 2016, FSB operatives arrested four Muslims from the Yalta area: Muslim Aliyev, chair of the local community group; Emir-Usein Kuku, a human rights activist; Vadim Siruk, a market trader; and Inver Bekirov, a school watchman. Two months later, in April 2016, Dzepparov and Refat Alimov were detained as well.</p><p dir="ltr">Bekirov, Dzhepparov and Alimov lived next door to one another in the village of Krasnokamenka. Refat and Arsen are childhood friends, and Alimov is Bekirov’s nephew. Though urged to testify against his uncle, Alimov refused. The investigation alleges that Dzhepparov and Alimov attended unauthorised meetings in the watchman’s lodge at Bekirov’s school. Relatives and lawyers are convinced that the criminal prosecution of Arsen and Refat is payback for their unwillingness to “collaborate” with the security services – and that it also serves as an exhortation to other “witnesses”: don’t bother standing up to us.</p><h2 dir="ltr">“One tablet of analgin covers every base”</h2><p dir="ltr">The Yalta case’s six defendants have spent the last six months in the pre-trial detention centers of Rostov-on-Don, prior to which they’d been forced to endure the inhuman conditions of Simferopol Remand Prison. According to Russia’s Federal Penitentiary Service (FSIN), this is one of the most overpopulated incarceration facilities under Russian control, according to Russia’s Federal Penitentiary Service (FSIN). A <a href="http://publication.pravo.gov.ru/Document/View/0001201804130011?index=2&amp;rangeSize=1">document</a> published on 6 April 2018 states that “the number of inmates (...) exceeds the maximum official capacity by 1.8 times.” It also refers to the urgently required “reconstruction of the facility’s buildings”, which were built in 1803 and 1965.</p><p dir="ltr">In practice, this means that prisoners take turns to sleep, since there are more people in the cells than beds. Fleas and bedbugs multiply like mad in the completely unsanitary conditions, there are cockroaches in the food, and Muslim inmates are sometimes given pork to eat, even though the prison bosses are fully aware that its consumption is forbidden by Islam. Inmates who fall ill very rarely receive medical visits and aren’t prescribed medications (“one tablet of analgin covers every base”).</p><p dir="ltr"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none_left caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/564053/Screen Shot 2018-06-11 at 15.12.35_0.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/564053/Screen Shot 2018-06-11 at 15.12.35_0.png" alt="" title="" width="460" height="305" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Simferopol Remand Prison. Image: Alina Smutko. All rights reserved.</span></span></span>The prison doctors’ negligence almost killed Arsen Dzepparov. In November 2016, a fistula developed on his buttock, but instead of receiving treatment, Dzhepparov was placed in solitary confinement and left there for ten days because he’d allegedly failed to shave. In the meantime, the fistula ruptured.</p><p dir="ltr">“No one attended to him or did anything to help. He remained in his solitary confinement garb, all wet and dirty, with an untreated wound and cat-sized rats scurrying around him,” says Zarina, paraphrasing her husband’s words. “He was eventually taken to hospital and operated on but then thrown back in his cell before he’d even come to from the anaesthetic.”</p><p dir="ltr">In March 2017, Dzhepparov developed another fistula – this time, it formed behind his left ear. He began to be tortured by headaches so intense he’d lose consciousness. He suffered from high fever and hearing loss. His ear wept pus. The prison doctors failed to respond. Fearful that he would simply perish, Dzhepparov’s family and his lawyer, Dzhemil Temishev, spent weeks penning numerous petitions and complaints to the prison, the prosecutor’s office and the ombudspersons of Crimea and Russia. It was only thanks to their perseverance – and the ensuing blaze of publicity – that Dzhepparov was finally given treatment.</p><p dir="ltr">Two months ago, Uzeyir Abdullayev, another defendant in the Crimean Hizb ut-Tahrir case, <a href="https://lb.ua/society/2018/04/27/396420_sizo_krima_lechat_figuranta_dela.html">fell victim to similar negligence</a>. Abdullayev developed a purulent lesion on his leg, only to be ignored by prison doctors for several days. His leg became so swollen that he could no longer move about, and he was running a 40-degree-plus fever. Abdullayev’s relatives feared that he could end up losing his leg altogether.</p><p dir="ltr">Conditions in Simferopol Remand Prison are so intolerable that suicide attempts among prisoners have become more commonplace. In April of this year, at least four people <a href="https://crimeahrg.org/v-sizo-simferopolya-v-aprele-4-cheloveka-umerli-neestestvennoy-smertyu/">died unnatural deaths</a> while in solitary confinement. The prison administration insists that these deaths were suicides.</p><h2 dir="ltr">Run-of-the-mill terrorists</h2><p dir="ltr">On 14 February, the military court in Rostov-on-Don proceeded to examine the merits of the Yalta Hizb ut-Tahrir case. Charged with orchestrating or contributing to the terrorist group’s activities, the six defendants also stand accused of attempting forcible seizure of power (punishable by up to 20 years imprisonment, as per Article 278 of the Criminal Code). None of the defendants have pleaded guilty to any of these crimes.</p><p dir="ltr">“The charges are absurd in their very essence: how can six people who neither possess vast financial resources, nor enjoy the support of the top brass of Russia’s Armed Forces possibly seize power in a powerful nuclear-armed state with a million-strong army?!” asked an incredulous Emir-Usein Kuku in an <a href="https://lb.ua/society/2018/05/26/398763_tempi_vizvoleniya.html">open statement </a>to the Ukrainian people in May 2018. “Yet the FSB,” he continued, “continues to paint us as terrorists, falsifying ‘evidence’ for our ‘guilt’ in a fashion consistent with most dismal traditions of the NKVD – and thereby demonstrating that little has changed in Russia since Stalin’s time.”</p><p dir="ltr"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none_left caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/564053/Screen Shot 2018-06-11 at 15.30.48_0.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/564053/Screen Shot 2018-06-11 at 15.30.48_0.png" alt="" title="" width="460" height="307" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Dzhemil Temishev, Arsen Dzhepparov’s lawyer, sits on the right during a meeting of families of political prisoners and the Crimean Solidarity movement. Image: Alina Smutko. All rights reserved.</span></span></span>Similarly to its Sevastopol counterpart, the Yalta Hizb ut-Tahrir case is built on the testimonies of secret witnesses and on wiretapped recordings of “run-of-the-mill” conversations engaged in by the defendants – conversations about the political situation in Russia and Ukraine, the fate of Crimea, the place of Islam in both countries, about religious norms. The court has already questioned several prosecution witnesses, with some departing from the testimonies they provided to investigators 12 to 18 months ago and presenting the defendants in a positive light in court hearings. Moreover, one of the secret witnesses declared during questioning that he wanted to testify openly, which left the prosecution in a difficult situation. </p><p dir="ltr">“Shamil Ilyasov stated in court said that he worked at the same school as Inver Bekirov and that Bekirov was well versed in Islam and that many villagers would turn to him for advice on religious issues. In his testimonies to investigators, however, Ilyasov maintained that Inver Bekirov was an adherent of Hizb ut-Tahrir. But he gave these testimonies at the FSB offices, having been taken there after a raid of his home. I believe he was testifying under duress,” says Refat Alimov’s lawyer Eden Semedlyaev, articulating the unified stance of the defence team.</p><p dir="ltr">The FSB then attempted to discredit Ilyasov’s testimony. Viktor Palagin, head of the Crimean FSB, submitted a petition to the court with a request that a note allegedly found at a defendant’s home be entered into the case file. In the alleged note, Muslim Aliyev asks Inver Bekirov to get in touch with three prosecution witnesses and tell them that “giving false testimonies against people is something that shouldn’t be done”. According to the investigation, the note confirms that the defendants attempted to pressure the witnesses.</p><p dir="ltr">Vadim Siruk’s lawyer Emil Kurbedinov issued a brief comment on Palagin’s petition, calling it “the FSB’s revenge” for the witness’s open testimony. Sergey Legostov, defence counsel for Muslim Aliyev, stressed that the note couldn’t have materialised “at a more timely moment as far as the prosecution was concerned,” and that the court decision’s to enter it into the case file ran counter to the law and had no reasonable basis.</p><p dir="ltr">“The note was submitted by a body that isn’t party to the case. There’s a prosecutor in the case, and only that prosecutor has the right to present evidence. Otherwise we’ll have some plumber from the public utilities office turning up at court tomorrow with more evidence to file,” said Kurbedinov. </p><p dir="ltr"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none_left caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/564053/Screen Shot 2018-06-11 at 15.36.42_0.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/564053/Screen Shot 2018-06-11 at 15.36.42_0.png" alt="" title="" width="460" height="313" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Sergey Legostov, lawyer for Muslim Aliyev, a defendant in the Yalta Hizb ut-Tahrir case, and Nadzhie Aliyeva, Muslim’s wife. Image: Alina Smutko. All rights reserved.</span></span></span>The court also questioned FSB investigator Alexander Kompaneytsev, who claimed that Muslim Aliyev was in charge of the “Yalta and Alushta branch” of Hizb ut-Tahrir in Crimea. Aliyev allegedly answered to Inver Bekirov, leader of the “Yalta sub-branch”, who, in turns, answered to Vadim Siruk, “head of the Yalta cell”, and Emir-Usein Kuku, leader of “the cell in Koreiz and Simeiz” in the Yalta area. Bekirov had also allegedly recruited Refat Alimov and Arsen Dhzepparov. </p><p dir="ltr">Kompaneytsev went on to claim that the defendants were all preparing to seize power in Crimea. Inver Bekirov responded by saying that he first saw the FSB operative when he was already in custody at the detention centre, and that Kompaneintsev had come there to induce him to collaborate. Refusal to do so, Kompaneintsev had threatened, would result in the arrest of Bekirov’s nephew, Refat Alimov. Bekirov did indeed refuse – and Alimov was detained a few months later.</p><h2 dir="ltr">Creating and eliminating enemies</h2><p dir="ltr">The international human rights organisation Amnesty International has declared Emir-Usein Kuku a “prisoner of conscience” and called on Russia to halt the prosecution of the “Yalta Six” immediately.</p><p dir="ltr">“Kuku was subjected to repeated pressure from the FSB before his arrest on 12 February, 2016, and his house was searched twice,” said Amnesty International Ukraine’s director Oksana Pokalchuk. “His wife and young son were harassed and intimidated by Russian intelligence agents after the human rights activist was already behind bars.”</p><p dir="ltr">In March of this year, the Russian human rights centre Memorial also <a href="https://memohrc.org/ru/news_old/figuranty-yaltinskogo-dela-hizb-ut-tahrir-politzaklyuchennye">declared</a> defendants in the Yalta Hizb ut-Tahrir case to be political prisoners and demanded their immediate release. According to Memorial, the charges levelled against the six men are unfounded. The human rights activists are adamant: the defendants not only didn’t engage in any terrorist activities, they haven’t even committed any socially-dangerous acts.</p><p dir="ltr">“The ‘Yalta affair’ is part of a repressive campaign unleashed by Russian siloviki across the occupied peninsula. Further, the Hizb ut-Tahrir cases are among so-called ‘serial cases’: the FSB achieves ‘top results’ (dozens of convicted offenders) with minimal effort, launching mass prosecutions without any grounds for doing so,” Memorial said in a statement.</p><p dir="ltr"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none_left caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/564053/Screen Shot 2018-06-11 at 15.37.55_0.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/564053/Screen Shot 2018-06-11 at 15.37.55_0.png" alt="lead " title="" width="460" height="304" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Men pray namaz on the anniversary of the Yalta Four’s arrest at Emir-Usein Kuku’s home. Image: Alina Smutko. All rights reserved.</span></span></span>According to Memorial data, 237 individuals are currently detained or incarcerated in Russia in connection with their alleged involvement with Hizb ut-Tahrir, declared a terrorist organisation by the country’s Supreme Court in 2003. One hundred and eight people have already been convicted: 27 of them have been slapped with terms in excess of 15 years, with a further 13 sentenced to between 10 through 15 years; 33 are currently being tried; and 96 are under investigation. Memorial takes care to <a href="https://memohrc.org/ru/news_old/spisok-presleduemyh-v-svyazi-s-prichastnostyu-k-hizb-ut-tahrir-obnovlyaetsya">stress</a> that the “list is undoubtedly incomplete”.</p><p dir="ltr">Thanks to a <a href="http://nac.gov.ru/zakonodatelstvo/sudebnye-resheniya/reshenie-verhovnogo-suda-rf-ot-14-fevralya.html">ruling</a> by Russia’s Supreme Court, investigators no longer need to prove that defendants are “planning a terrorist attack” – it is sufficient merely to establish a link between them and Hizb ut-Tahrir. But even this sometimes proves an impossible task.</p><p dir="ltr">While outlawed in Russia, Hizb ut-Tahrir is legal in Ukraine. Prior to the annexation of Crimea, its supporters organised conferences and rallies across the peninsula. It seeks to recreate a caliphate that would unite the entire Islamic world, but advances its cause by pointedly non-violent means. Radical Islamist organisations have repeatedly criticised the movement for “shirking jihad”.</p><p dir="ltr">Many independent human rights organisations (Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, the Memorial Human Rights Center, the Civic Assistance Committee, For Human Rights, the SOVA Centre) believe that the organisation’s activities cannot be dubbed terrorism and consider the defendants in the Hizb ut-Tahrir cases to be political prisoners.</p><p dir="ltr">“Hizb ut-Tahrir isn’t recorded as having committed a single terrorist act,” <a href="http://www.kavkaz-uzel.eu/articles/235276/">says </a>Svetlana Gannushkina, chair of the Civic Assistance Committee. “In my opinion, turning the organisation’s leaders into martyrs will only serve to swell its ranks. And trying them for preparing the overthrow of the system is just as illegitimate as trying the Communists for the idea of ​​building worldwide communism or for the theory of the withering away of the state.”</p><p dir="ltr"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none_left caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/564053/Screen Shot 2018-06-11 at 15.39.03_0.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/564053/Screen Shot 2018-06-11 at 15.39.03_0.png" alt="" title="" width="460" height="308" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Emine, mother of Refat Alimov, prays on the anniversary of the arrest of the Yalta Four at Emir-Usein Kuku’s home. Image: Alina Smutko. All rights reserved.</span></span></span>Meanwhile, the prosecution continues to present its evidence in the Yalta Hizb ut-Tahrir case at the Rostov military court. The defendants themselves are pessimistic; so too are their lawyers.</p><p dir="ltr">“We will of course appeal against the verdict in the Supreme Court of Russia,” says Refat Alimov’s lawyer Edem Sememlyaev. “Overall, though, the efforts of the defence teams are geared towards the prospect of the case coming before the European Court of Human Rights.”</p><p dir="ltr">The only hope for political prisoners is exchange, as in the case of Ilmi Umerov and Akhtem Chyigoz, deputy chairs of the Mejlis of the Crimean Tatar People, who were <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/od-russia/anton-korolyov/ill-definitely-go-back-to-crimea-umerov">released in October 2017</a>. But this mechanism, too, is difficult to rely on. “The fact that the release of our political prisoners is being secured at a truly snail-like pace – five people in four years – testifies to the ineffective operation of the relevant state bodies (of Ukraine). It isn’t hard to calculate how long it’s going to take for all our prisoners to be released,” wrote Emir-Usein Kuku in his recent statement.</p><p dir="ltr">“Arsen tells me: a five-year term, well, I could just about live with that. I’d be released at 30. But 12 years or more? My daughter will be an adult by then, she’ll be ripe for marriage,” says Dzhepparov’s wife. Evelina, Arsen and Zarina’s daughter, is now seven. She recently penned a letter to her father: “How are you, my beloved babashechka (daddy – from baba, “father” in Crimean Tatar)? What are you up to? I miss you very much. What food are you eating there? What’s your mood like? Oh, how I miss you. I think about you at night and sometimes I want to cry.”</p><p dir="ltr">&nbsp;</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/od-russia/ganna-grytsenko/this-is-why-ukrainian-film-director-oleg-sentsov-is-on-hunger-strike">Why Ukrainian film director Oleg Sentsov is on hunger strike</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/od-russia/tetiana-kozak/trial-continues-askold-kurov-on-his-visit-to-oleg-sentsov">The trial continues: Askold Kurov on his visit to Ukrainian political prisoner Oleg Sentsov</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/od-russia/maxim-edwards/why-we-should-write-about-the-crimean-tatars">Why we should write about the Crimean Tatars</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/od-russia/dzhemil-insafly/keeping-crimeas-muslims-in-check">Keeping Crimea&#039;s Muslims in check</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/od-russia/egor-skovoroda/crimea-peninsula-of-torture">Crimea: peninsula of torture</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/od-russia/anton-korolyov/ill-definitely-go-back-to-crimea-umerov">“I’ll definitely go back to Crimea”</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> oD Russia oD Russia Alona Savchuk Ukraine Russia Human rights Tue, 19 Jun 2018 20:32:05 +0000 Alona Savchuk 118465 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Desperately seeking socialism: why the Soviet Union's left-wing dissidents matter today https://www.opendemocracy.net/od-russia/gabriel-levy/desperately-seeking-socialism <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>This new collection of essays seeks to rebalance our understanding of dissent in the late Soviet Union, drawing attention to democratic socialists from the 1950s into the 1980s.&nbsp;</p> </div> </div> </div> <p dir="ltr"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/555493/1280px-10_Soviet_Invasion_of_Czechoslovakia_-_Flickr_-_The_Central_Intelligence_Agency.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="309" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>August 1968, Prague. Wikipedia / Public Domain. Some rights reserved.</span></span></span></p><p dir="ltr"><em>This is a response to Dissidents Among Dissidents by <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/author/ilya-budraitskis">Ilya Budraitskis</a>, a new collection of essays published in Russian in 2017 by Free Marxist Publishers. It was originally published on <a href="https://peopleandnature.wordpress.com/">People and Nature</a>.&nbsp;</em></p><p>The <a href="http://www.manifestajournal.org/issues/situation-never-leaves-our-waking-thoughts-long/language-cold-war">“New Cold War”</a> is the subject of the most politically compelling of the essays in this book by the Russian socialist Ilya Budraitskis. He wrote it in the summer of 2014, as Russian troops streamed into eastern Ukraine to fight alongside the Russian-armed militia of the separatist “people’s republics”, and the Russian ultra-nationalists, mercenaries and volunteers who joined them.&nbsp;&nbsp;</p><p dir="ltr">At that time, the existence of a “New Cold War” was already being treated in public discourse as an “obvious and indisputable fact”, Budraitskis argues — but “the production of rhetoric has run way ahead of the reality”.</p><p dir="ltr">To question the assumptions behind the rhetoric further, Budraitskis considers the character of the original Cold War, i.e. between the Soviet bloc and the western powers between the end of the Second World War and 1991, in the essay “Intellectuals and the Cold War”. As he writes, the Cold War was a set of “principles of the world order”, construed by ruling elites and then confirmed in intellectual discourse and in the everyday activity of masses of people.</p><p class="blockquote-new" dir="ltr">The reality of continuous psychological mobilisation, and the nerve-straining expectation of global military conflict, as apprehended by society as a whole, became a means of existence, reproduced over the course of two generations, in which loyalty to beliefs was combined with fear and a feeling of helplessness before fate.</p><p dir="ltr">This proposition, that the Cold War was essentially a means of social control, in which masses of people were systematically deprived of agency, certainly works for me. I wondered whether Budraitskis knows of the attempts, made during the Cold War on the “western” side of the divide, to analyse this central aspect of it — for example, the work of Hillel Ticktin and others in the early issues of the socialist journal <a href="http://www.critiquejournal.net/index.html">Critique</a> (from 1973). Here, Ticktin wrote on the political economy of the Soviet Union, interpreting it in the context of world capitalism.</p><p dir="ltr">Today, the Cold War's binary ideological constraints live on, Budraitskis argues. “The trauma of choice between hostile camps has still today not been overcome”. As an example, he quotes the reactions to Russia's participation in the war in eastern Ukraine by, on one hand, Alexander Dugin, the extreme right-wing Russian “Eurasianist”, and, on the other, the American historian Timothy Snyder. (See <a href="http://evrazia.org/article/2536">here</a> and <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qihk1rfloag">here</a>.)</p><p class="mag-quote-center" dir="ltr">It is undeniable that elite-controlled public forums have increasingly been dominated by the two-sided, one-dimensional discourse of the Cold War</p><p dir="ltr">For Dugin, the military conflict in eastern Ukraine amounted to “the return of Russia to history”. For Snyder, it was confirmation that Ukraine had finally to recognise that it was part of Europe. Dugin's anti-Europe and Snyder's Europe leave no room for a third way, Budraitskis asserts gloomily.</p><p dir="ltr">On this at least, I feel more optimistic. It is undeniable that elite-controlled public forums have increasingly been dominated by the two-sided, one-dimensional discourse of the Cold War. On the “left”, this false dichotomy has been reflected in “geopolitical” stances that base themselves on the relative qualities of imperialist blocs, and deny agency to, or sideline, society generally and social movements particularly. But those social movements exist, and there are voices in the intelligentsia that reflect them.</p><h2>Escaping the binary</h2><p dir="ltr">From the late 1940s, both in the west and in the Soviet Union, the intelligentsia began to be transformed “from a group that was capable simply of implementing an ideological order, to one that was prepared independently to formulate it, make it more precise and reproduce it,”</p><p dir="ltr">Budraitskis writes. In the Soviet Union, the intelligentsia was constrained by the state's imperialistic and chauvinistic approach to politics. That defined not only 1960s debates such as those about the scientific-technical revolution and “socialism with a human face”, but even 1970s Soviet dissidents' discussions of the relationship between “national” and “universal-humanist” values.</p><p dir="ltr">It was “self-evident”, and “required no special confirmation from above”, that a “third way” for intellectuals, that escaped the “binary structure of the East-West conflict [of states]”, was “impossible”, Budraitskis argues. The proof, for him, is that as official “Marxism-Leninism” became completely discredited in the two decades prior to the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, that collapse “could not then be understood otherwise than as the victory of one of the military-political blocs [i.e. the western one]”.</p><p dir="ltr">I read this passage hoping for more caveats and qualifications. I accept that the western liberal narrative about the “collapse of communism” in the 1990s became ubiquitous and overwhelming in those spaces — journalism, academia, etc — that in the west are called public opinion. But surely there were dissenting and critical strands in the intelligentsia — particularly if understood in the wider way that it used to be in Soviet times — both in the west and in the former Soviet states.</p><p dir="ltr">In Russia, those public spaces were taking shape, uncensored, in a new way. Immediately before and after the collapse of the USSR, Russian journalism was in its heyday, lashing out at corruption and the horror of the first war in Chechnya, before corporate control and Putin-era censorship tightened the screws. In film, the reckoning with Stalinism began, running from Elem Klimov's <em>Come and See</em> (1985) to Nikita Mikhalkov's <em>Burnt By The Sun</em> (1994). In literature, Viktor Pelevin's <em>Generation “P” </em>(1999), magnificently, turned Yeltsin's regime into an absurd phantasmagoria.</p><p dir="ltr">These are just the (perhaps rose-tinted?) memories of a western leftist who started travelling to Russia at that time. But I want to know how this rich, chaotic ferment fits in to Budraitskis's argument.</p><h2>The dissidents’ history</h2><p dir="ltr">The centerpiece of Budraitskis’s book is a longer essay, “Dissidents Among Dissidents”, that traces the history of socialist trends in the Soviet dissident milieu between the mid-1950s and the Gorbachev reforms of the mid-1980s. It is a fascinating and valuable piece of work.</p><p dir="ltr">Budraitskis describes how a “wave of social discontent” in the Soviet Union in the late 1950s, echoing the workers' revolts in Hungary, Poland and the German Democratic Republic — from large-scale riots in Chechnya (1958) and Kazakhstan (1959) to protests and attacks on Communist party offices in Murom and Aleksandrov (1961) and culminating in the Novercherkassk rebellion (1962) — formed the background not only to the twentieth Communist Party congress (1956) and Nikita Khrushchev's post-Stalinist “thaw”, but also to the emergence of the first big wave of socialist dissident groups. They were mostly made up of students and young workers in larger cities, they always met in secret, were usually isolated from each other, and their activity was almost always cut short by arrests.</p><p class="mag-quote-center" dir="ltr">In the early 1970s, the conservative wing of the Soviet dissident movement, with Alexander Solzhenitsyn at its head, lurched politically to the right</p><p dir="ltr">There had been precursors, in the last years of Stalin's rule, such as the “Communist Party of Youth” (formed in Voronezh in 1948) and the “Union of Struggle for the Cause of Revolution” (formed in Moscow in 1951). These student groups were soon crushed by arrests and long prison sentences. But the “thaw” of the late 1950s and early 1960s brought such public forums as gatherings in Moscow for poetry reading and discussion at the statue of Vladimir Mayakovsky, and a corresponding widening of political activity.</p><h2>The meaning of socialism, then and now</h2><p>In the early 1970s, the conservative wing of the Soviet dissident movement, with Alexander Solzhenitsyn at its head, lurched politically to the right, and Budraitskis's account of this was for me one of the most interesting passages.</p><p dir="ltr">In 1974, soon after his forced emigration, Solzhenitsyn launched a broadside against the idea of socialism in general, and the socialist dissidents particularly. One of his chief targets was the historian Roy Medvedev, who from the late 1960s, influenced by “Eurocommunism”, had advocated “the democratisation of the economy, education and structures of power”, aims that he believed could be pursued both through samizdat (illegal publications) and through official channels, including pressure on elements in the Communist party.</p><p dir="ltr"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/555493/Aleksandr_Solzhenitsyn_1974b.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="304" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Alexander Solzhenitsyn at Heinrich Böll's home, Germany, 1974. CC BY-SA 3.0 Dutch National Archives / Wikipedia. Some rights reserved.</span></span></span>Budraitskis describes how tensions between Medvedev on one side, and Solzhenitsyn and the physicist Andrei Sakharov on the other, came to a head over, among other things, the wording of an appeal to the Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet in defence of the socialist poet Pablo Neruda. Medvedev scorned a sympathetic reference to Pinochet's “epoch of Chilean renaissance and consolidation” (which had of course been founded on the killing and torture of thousands of his opponents).</p><p dir="ltr">In a collection of essays <em>From Under The Rubble</em> (1974), Solzhenitsyn denounced “cleaned-up” Marxists whose differences with the official line were “insignificant”. He clearly had Medvedev in mind. The latter responded in samizdat that, for Solzhenitsyn, “in general there is no difference at all between the idea of socialism and its implementation in reality”; socialism had won out in countries such as Russia and China precisely because the suffering of millions of people there under capitalism had been so severe. Budraitskis writes:</p><p class="blockquote-new" dir="ltr">For a significant part of the samizdat readership, though, these conclusions were hardly convincing. On the contrary, Medvedev's position was considered to be comfortable and collaborationist, by comparison with the uncompromising author of The Gulag Archipelago [i.e. Solzhenitsyn].</p><p dir="ltr">It was precisely at this time that the dissident milieu began to see the use of Marxist language — which was completely dominant in Soviet politics and academia (where Medvedev worked) — as negative in and of itself. “In oppositional ideological discussions, Marxism was taken to be a ‘Soviet language’, which it was indecent to use.”</p><p dir="ltr">This issue starts, in my view, to get to the heart of the problems faced not only by Soviet dissidents, but by anyone who wants to understand socialism in the light of the Russian revolution and the Soviet experience. My fervent plea to Budraitskis would be to develop this theme further.</p><p dir="ltr">The underground dissident groups of the 1960s and 1970s about which Budraitskis writes, who had neither Medvedev's privileges nor Solzhenitsyn's fame, braved the danger of arrest and imprisonment precisely to try to recover the meaning of “socialism”. Having so inspired 19th-century workers' movements, and the Russian workers, peasants and soldiers who made the 1917 revolution, this idea had — by the post-war period in the Soviet Union — had its meaning completely mangled. The lifeless “Marxist” prose of every school textbook was the butt of a thousand jokes. This language had indeed become indecent. I remember clearly how, when I first visited the Soviet Union, in 1990, I declared myself a socialist to militants in the newly-independent trade union movements — and they looked at me as though I had two heads. The positive connotations of the word in my naive western mind simply did not register with their life experience of “socialism”.</p><p dir="ltr">The socialist idea had been trashed; the meaning of words had been turned inside-out. This was the problem that — unknown to me, and probably unknown to those workers too — the dissidents had been arguing about in the 1970s. Today, in the time of the “socialist” Bashar al-Assad and the “communist” Xi Jinping, it remains unresolved.</p><p dir="ltr">Budraitskis's essay on the centenary of the Russian revolution, “A Heritage Without Inheritors”, did not bring clarity to this issue. He argues that “the aim of the transition to socialism did not arise out of the dynamic of class struggle itself” — rather, it was posed as a Kantian imperative. “The Leninist party took upon itself this moral burden: the transition to socialism in a country that was by any definition unprepared for it.” Fair enough. But what was this “socialism” that the Bolsheviks was trying to build? What was the corrosive effect of this “socialist construction” on the understanding, in Russia and beyond its borders too, of socialism as an aim?</p><p dir="ltr">To my mind, the search for a meaningful soul of socialism is more effectively pursued in Budraitskis’ research of the dissidents. He explains how <em>State and Revolution</em> by Vladimir Lenin became a key text for the socialist dissidents of the 1960s. That most hopeful and democratic of Lenin's pre-revolutionary attempts to discuss what a future socialist state might be like was — unlike many more far-sighted and utopian imaginings by 19th century European socialists and anarchists — officially published, and therefore widely available, in the Soviet Union.</p><p dir="ltr">The Leningrad dissident Mikhail Molostvov, who formed a discussion group in 1956 and was soon afterwards sent to a prison camp for seven years, recalled in his memoirs a worker who went around libraries, underlining in copies of State and Revolution passages calling for the regular election and recall of all officials, and for their pay to be limited to the average. Another dissident of that generation, Boris Vail, met workers in his prison camp who had been arrested after re-covering officially published copies of Lenin's book with jackets picturing barbed wire.</p><p dir="ltr">These stories reminded me that Solzhenitsyn’s early novels — which, notwithstanding his lurch to the right in the 1970s, remain for me a profound contribution to my understanding of Stalinism — are full of references to these very issues. In <em>The First Circle</em>, he riffs on Lenin’s musings in State and Revolution about every cook being able to participate in state administration. Stalin's thoughts, as imagined by Solzhenitsyn, were that Lenin had made</p><p class="blockquote-new" dir="ltr">promises that turned into a rod for Stalin’s back. Every cook will be able to run the state? What on earth was he [Lenin] thinking, concretely? That every cook on Fridays won’t cook, but will go and work in the district executive office? A cook is a cook: she has to prepare meals. But directing people — that is a great calling, which can be trusted only to special cadres, specially selected cadres.</p><p dir="ltr">Characters in <em>The First Circle</em> (chapter 90) discuss the mind-bending “just inequality” (?!) that characterised the Soviet Union. In Cancer Ward, Pavel Rusanov, the personnel officer and bully who personifies the Soviet “workers’ state”, is subject to a withering denunciation by the central hero, Oleg Kostoglotov. What do you know about work, he asks, when you have such lily-white hands?</p><p dir="ltr">In these books, written and published both in samizdat and in the west by the end of the 1960s, Solzhenitsyn had, clearly, already broken free of the constraints of official Soviet “Marxism” and its contorted language — at a time when he had not yet developed a clearly anti-socialist ideology. Did the socialist student and worker dissidents also make such a break? Or did they, like Roy Medvedev, remain constrained in a linguistic, and therefore to some extent ideological, framework, set by officialdom? Budraitskis’ fascinating quotations from their political manifestos, many of which characterised the Soviet economy as exploitative and its political regime as hierarchical, left me wanting to know more.</p><p class="mag-quote-center" dir="ltr">Some of the left-wing dissidents saw the USSR, for all its reactionary characteristics, as a stepping-stone towards a truly socialist society</p><p dir="ltr">There are related questions, about the extent to which the prison camp writers, of which Solzhenitsyn was the best known, influenced the small groups of students and workers that Budraitskis has researched. To what extent did those groups integrate the camps — that in many ways were a world apart&nbsp;— into their understanding of Soviet society and economy? Had they read Solzhenitsyn? And Varlam Shalamov? I imagine he was far closer in spirit than Solzhenitsyn was to the left-wing dissidents — in his socialist humanism, in the way that his politics were shaped when he was young in the workers' movement of the 1920s, and even in the bleak pessimism of his later writings.</p><p dir="ltr">Here too, I am looking with the eyes of an outsider, who read these books not in samizdat but in the comfort of my London home. But I am perhaps not the only western reader for whom Solzhenitsyn and Shalamov were stepping stones, and who needs to try to join these up with the stepping stones that Budraitskis is pointing to.</p><h2>Analysis in the underground</h2><p dir="ltr">Budraitskis’ focus on the small underground groups, who were far less visible than the internationally-known dissidents, is welcome. Those who considered themselves socialists almost all characterised the Soviet system as an exploitative one with class divisions, he explains. Revolt Pimenov, who with Boris Vail established a dissident group in Leningrad in 1956-1957, drafted theses asserting that in the USSR, “the state has become the only capitalist, the only landlord and the only thinker”. For Pimenov, Budraitskis writes, the Soviet economy was “state capitalist”; state property could not be socialised property; and state property and socialism were mutually exclusive. Another Leningrad group, organised by Mikhail Molostvov, while declaring Stalinism and Trotskyism both to have taken a bureaucratic road, nevertheless advanced a political programme that, unlike Pimenov’s, clearly saw the road ahead through reforms, advocating that “the mass of working people are brought into the management of the country”.</p><p dir="ltr">Some of the left-wing dissidents — if I have understood Budraitskis's account correctly — saw the USSR, for all its reactionary characteristics, as a stepping-stone towards a truly socialist society. For example the Union of Communards, set up in Leningrad in the 1960s, entitled its main platform document “from the dictatorship of the bureaucracy to the dictatorship of the proletariat”, and included an epigraph by Lenin advocating a republic where there would be election and recall of all officials, and “no police, no army and no state bureaucracy”.</p><p dir="ltr"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/555493/1989_sacharov_slides10.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="296" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Andrey Sakharov joins Revolt Pimenov during his 1989 election campaign in Syktyvkar, Komi Republic. Source: <a href=http://bogemnyipeterburg.net/>Bohemian Petersburg</a>. </span></span></span>Another significant aspect of the socialist dissidents' politics was their internationalism, which in the 1950s underpinned their support for workers' revolts in eastern Europe, and in 1968 for the “Prague spring”. Budraitskis underlines the role of socialist dissidents in Ukraine and other non-Russian Soviet republics, whose attempts to combine ideas of socialism with those of national liberation from Russian imperialism would stand in sharp contrast to the increasingly strident nationalism of Solzhenitsyn and other right-wing Russian dissidents.</p><p dir="ltr">The end of the Khrushchev political “thaw” in the mid 1960s opened a new chapter in the history of the dissident milieu. The hopes among the most reformist elements for the “self reform” of the Soviet bureaucracy had been dashed. Socialist dissidence, Budraitskis argues, continued in two parallel trends: one that worked in the dissident milieu and human rights organisations in the big cities, including prominent figures such as Roy Medvedev; the other comprising “underground socialist groups, continuing in the traditions of the 'thaw'”.</p><p dir="ltr">In the late 1960s and through the 1970s, such groups appeared and reappeared repeatedly, across the Soviet Union: Budraitskis writes of groups in Chisinau (Moldova), Odessa (Ukraine), Tallinn (Estonia), Voroshilovgrad (now Lugansk, Ukraine), Ryazan, Saratov, Petrozavodsk, Gorky (now Nizhny Novgorod) and Sverdlovsk (now Ekaterinburg), as well as in Leningrad and Moscow. “Practically all of them took positions of Marxism and ‘cleaned-up’ Leninism, considered the [Communist] party to have degenerated and the USSR to be some type or other of exploitative society.” This was the background against which the clash between Medvedev and Solzhenitsyn was played out.</p><p dir="ltr">The Soviet dictatorship relied heavily on controlling and limiting the flow of information (and in this respect at least can not be replicated in the 21st century), and the dissident groups worked in suffocating isolation, often learning of each other's existence only in the prison camps. Budraitskis’ essay is the first I know of by a post-Soviet socialist to start to summarise, compare and think about their experiences collectively — something that was hardly possible at the time. I hope it will soon be translated into other languages, and that the discussion of the dissidents’ legacy will be conducted not only in the former Soviet countries, but internationally, where their heroic battles to recover the meaning of socialism from its Soviet imprisonment are no less significant.</p><p dir="ltr"><strong>Ilya Budraitskis comments: how circumstances defined the possibility of a “third position”</strong></p><p dir="ltr">I may say that I am doubly grateful to Gabriel Levy for his response to my book: this is a review not only by an attentive and educated reader, but also by a politically engaged person, a socialist activist who almost three decades ago witnessed the collapse of the Soviet Union. Levy’s political position helped him to evaluate that dramatic process in all its diversity and contradiction: on one hand, the atmosphere of social animation, the intensive searches for democratic alternatives to the Soviet system, the widespread mineworkers’ strikes, and the rapid growth of the independent trade unions; and, on the other, the brutal primitive accumulation, the destructive transition to the market, the mass impoverishment, and the beginning of the evolution of the post-Soviet political regime, the results of which we are still living through today, with all the consequences.</p><p dir="ltr">This experience gave rise to questions which, in essence, have for the past two decades not been seriously considered on the Russian left. What were the objective reasons for the collapse of “really existing socialism”? What can we, and must we, counterpose to the historical and political speculation on the Soviet legacy both by the authorities and the liberal opposition? And finally, how can we establish a relationship between our own historical continuity and the Russian socialist tradition of the twentieth century?</p><p dir="ltr">My collection <em>Dissidents Among Dissidents </em>obviously did not exhaust these questions, but I hope that it helped to pose them correctly. The texts included in the volume, including the outline of the history of the Soviet Union’s socialist dissidents, are in one way or another related to establishing the possibility of a “third position” between uncritical apologetics for the Soviet system and aggressive anti-communism.</p><p dir="ltr">Today, the rhetoric of the “New Cold War” — the second time it’s returned more as “farce” than “tragedy” — brings back the logic of an enforced choice between two opposing camps, a logic to which so many intellectuals in the past, from Sartre to Sakharov, were subordinated. Attempts to get away from that choice, and from the loss of political independence that it signified, were all too often seen as evasions of responsibility, as indifference to the real struggle for social emancipation or for human rights (which in the binary logic of the cold war were made to stand in opposition to each other).</p><p dir="ltr">In this way, the possibility of a “third position” came to be defined not as a once-and-for-all dogma, but by the force of concrete circumstances. The socialist dissidents, who criticised the Soviet regime from the left, acted under the constant pressure of these circumstances — not only repression by the Soviet regime, but also the “right turn” in the mood of the intelligentsia, so evident from the beginning of the 1970s. (The issue of the contradictory social and political character of the Soviet and post-Soviet intelligentsia is the subject of another of the essays in my collection.)</p><p dir="ltr">The collapse of the USSR resulted in the collapse of the Soviet intelligentsia as a social group, with all the consciousness specific to it. The striking cultural artefacts of the late 1980s and early 1990s that Gabriel mentioned essentially reflected this phase, of both the disintegration of the intelligentsia’s way of thinking, and the fragmentation of social consciousness in general. From the epoch of glasnost (with its bold engagement with the traumas of the past, that had previously been forbidden), the intelligentsia moved to the postmodernism of the 1990s. The other side of that coin often turned out to be dogmatic political judgments — above all, with respect to the eternal ghost of the “Soviet”, which blocked the transition of post-Soviet Russia to global modernity and “normality”. (I wrote about this in the article “The eternal hunt for the Red Man”, also in my book.)&nbsp;&nbsp;</p><p dir="ltr">It seems to me that the ideas presented in Dissidents Among Dissidents may be of significance not only for Russian leftists but also in the context of current discussions internationally of the political nature of modern Russia and its relationship with the Soviet past. </p><p><em>Note from the author: If others wish to join this discussion, please email me with contributions, which – within the usual guidelines (<a href="https://peopleandnature.wordpress.com/about/">see here</a>) – I’ll be happy to publish.</em></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="/od-russia/Michael-Laurence-valery-pavlukevich/samizdat-in-samara">Samizdat in Samara</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/od-russia/ilya-budraitskis/1968-revolution-too-early-to-judge">1968: a revolution too early to judge</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/od-russia/ilya-budraitskis/russian-presidential-elections-2018-predicable-results">Russia’s presidential elections: predictable results with an unpredictable aftermath </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/od-russia/thomas-rowley/talented-solidarity-chronicle-of-current-events">Talented solidarity: why Russia’s oldest human rights journal is important today</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> oD Russia oD Russia Gabriel Levy Russia Tue, 19 Jun 2018 16:12:35 +0000 Gabriel Levy 118460 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Can the Turkish Opposition beat Erdoğan? https://www.opendemocracy.net/can-europe-make-it/luke-frostick-merve-pehlivan/can-turkish-opposition-beat-erdo <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>The most likely challenger on June 24 is the CHP’s candidate Muharrem İnce who will have an uphill battle.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/PA-37060072.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/PA-37060072.jpg" alt="lead lead " title="" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" width="460" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>A huge banner for Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan goes up in Ankara, Turkey, on June 17, 2018. Qin Yanyang/Press Association. All rights reserved.</span></span></span></p><p>Turkish democracy has been in a slow motion crisis for some time now. Turkey’s president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan is frequently mentioned in the same breath as Victor Orban, Rodrigo Duterte, and Vladimir Putin. His Justice and Development Party has been running the country under a state of emergency since the summer of 2016, using anti-terrorism and defamation laws to imprison large numbers of journalists, NGO workers and opposition politicians. Last year, the party won a referendum to grant major new powers for the president. In April this year, Erdoğan called a snap election to vote in the next president of Turkey. The most likely challenger is the CHP’s candidate Muharrem İnce who will have an uphill battle.</p> <h2><strong>The “national willpower”&nbsp;</strong></h2> <p>For the AKP the most important aspect of democracy is the vote, while separation of powers, freedom of the press and independent judiciary are regarded as irrelevant compared to the power of the “the national willpower” as the AKP catchphrase goes. A ballot victory is considered a carte blanche and that’s why elections still matter to the AKP as their sole source of legitimacy. However, their corrupt control of the media and willingness to stoop to all manner of dirty tricks (as seen in the 2015<a href="https://www.osce.org/odihr/elections/turkey/219201?download=true">&nbsp;election</a>&nbsp;and 2017 <a href="https://www.osce.org/odihr/elections/turkey/324816?download=true">referendum</a>) means that elections are far from fair.&nbsp;<span class="mag-quote-center">A ballot victory is considered a carte blanche and that’s why elections still matter to the AKP as their sole source of legitimacy.</span></p> <p>That being said, this election is going to be very tight. Approval ratings suggest that the population is<a href="https://www.americanprogress.org/issues/security/reports/2018/02/11/446164/turkeys-new-nationalism-amid-shifting-politics/">&nbsp;closely divided</a>&nbsp;on the president, and that gap seems to have got even closer. Moreover, in last year’s referendum, despite ample evidence of cheating, the AKP was only able to scrape a small majority. With anecdotal evidence of concern regarding government overreach and a worsening economy (the lira is among the worst performing currencies in the emerging markets; the inflation rate is at 12.64% in May, and <a href="https://www.gazeteduvar.com.tr/ekonomi/2018/05/31/10-maddede-ekonomide-bizi-ne-bekliyor/">expected</a>&nbsp;to rise even further; two of Turkey’s major holding companies, Doğuş and Yıldız, have recently requested debt structuring from<a href="https://www.reuters.com/article/us-turkey-dogus-gyo-debt/turkeys-dogus-in-talks-with-banks-on-debt-restructuring-sources-idUSKBN1HE06U">&nbsp;banks</a>), even loyal followers of AKP are apprehensive of what is yet to come. This presents a real opportunity for an opposition candidate to pick up the votes from wavering AKP voters.</p> <h2><strong>Discriminatory secularism</strong></h2> <p>The biggest presidential contender after Recep Tayyip Erdoğan is Muharrem İnce of The Republican People’s Party, or CHP, the first party of modern Turkey founded by Atatürk. Whether he can beat Erdoğan is a crucial question in Turkish politics. However, the CHP has a long, troubled legacy tarnished with discriminatory secularism that they have to overcome if they are to win this coming election.&nbsp;</p> <p>The first problem facing CHP is the way that the new presidential system works. The move towards executive presidency was engineered by AKP for a number of reasons. The first and the most obvious is that according to the constitution of Turkey, Erdoğan is not able to serve as prime minister again, having to step back to the largely ceremonial office of the president. The other, less clear aspect is the calculation about how to make electoral success more likely for AKP, removing the possibility of a coalition. In June 2015, after thirteen years of single-party rule, AKP lost its parliamentary majority in national elections when the pro-Kurdish HDP won 13% of the votes, getting a sizeable share from the AKP. When coalition talks with the MHP (the nationalist party) and CHP fell apart, the country was rushed into snap elections in November. In the highly turbulent four months that followed, with a resurgence of terror<a href="http://www.euronews.com/2016/01/12/timeline-of-terrorism-in-turkey">&nbsp;attacks</a>&nbsp;and the<a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2015/07/26/world/middleeast/turkey-attacks-kurdish-militant-camps-in-northern-iraq.html">&nbsp;collapse</a>&nbsp;of the ceasefire with PKK, AKP regained power in the parliament, winning 49.5% of the votes. </p> <p>In less than two years after this victory, AKP issued a leaflet for MPs to promote the executive presidency to their constituencies ahead of the 2017 referendum. One of the promised virtues in the leaflet was as<a href="https://www.yenisafak.com/gundem/ak-parti-18-maddelik-cumhurbaskanligi-kilavuzu-hazirladi-2585421">&nbsp;follows</a>: “The executive presidency system leaves no room for a coalition and (therefore) ensures stability.” Erdoğan himself<a href="http://www.gazetevatan.com/cumhurbaskani-erdogan-nusretiye-camisini-ve-misir-carsisini-acti-1163488-gundem/">&nbsp;stated</a>&nbsp;that “there will be no opportunity for a coalition in the new system. With the team he gathers, the president will govern the country for five years.”&nbsp;</p> <p><a href="http://t24.com.tr/haber/secimlere-16-gun-kaldi-gezicinin-son-anketine-gore-hangi-aday-yuzde-kac-oy-aliyor,646333">Polling</a>&nbsp;puts the current ratings for presidential candidates as approximately 48.7%&nbsp;for AKP’s Erdoğan, 25.8% for CHP’s İnce, 14.4% for İYİ’s Akşener, 10.1% for HDP’s Demirtas , 0.6% for Saadet Party’s Karamollaoğlu, 0.4% for Vatan Party’s Perinçek; on paper enough opposition voters to form a coalition in a parliamentary system. In presidential elections there will be two rounds of voting. If one candidate doesn't pass the 51% threshold in the first round, the field will be reduced to two candidates, probably AKP’s Erdoğan at 48.7% and CHP’s İnce at 25.8%. For CHP to win in the presidential system they will have to take voters from the eliminated parties and ideally from the AKP.&nbsp;<span class="mag-quote-center">The CHP is the main political engineer of the top-down secularism that was the dominant force in politics until the AKP rose to power.</span></p> <p>This is where CHP’s own long and troubled history becomes a real obstacle. The CHP is the main political engineer of the top-down secularism that was the dominant force in politics until the AKP rose to power. For a considerable segment of Turkish population, the principle of “secularism” has a toxic history mired in discrimination and humiliation. Throughout the decades, it was implemented as the removal of religion, rather than state impartiality towards all forms of religion. The most palpable and recurrent conflict was related to the headscarf. Women with visible signs of their faith were banned from education and employment in the public sector, with private businesses mimicking the status quo and effectively excluding them. </p> <p>Nur Serter, former vice rector of Istanbul University, set up “persuasion rooms” on the campus to persuade students with headscarf to uncover. Years later, a<a href="http://www.idefix.com/Kitap/Ikna-Odalari/Gulsen-Demirkol-Ozer/Arastirma-Tarih/Politika-Arastirma/Politika/urunno=0000000640259">&nbsp;book</a>&nbsp;that sheds light on what happened in those rooms refers to the experience as “psychological torture.” In the meantime, Ms. Serter enjoyed immunity from prosecution while she served as CHP member of the parliament for eight years and<a href="https://www.sabah.com.tr/gundem/2012/03/29/ikna-odasina-ilk-sorgulama">&nbsp;refused</a>&nbsp;to share the video records of the sessions. Time and again, CHP tried to<a href="http://bianet.org/bianet/bianet/105196-chp-turban-degisikligine-karsi-anayasa-mahkemesi-ne-basvurdu">&nbsp;impede</a>&nbsp;any efforts that would allow the headscarf on university campuses. AKP was the party that eventually<a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2013/10/09/world/europe/turkey-lifts-ban-on-head-scarves-in-state-offices.html">&nbsp;brought</a>&nbsp;the headscarf into public life. It is therefore unsurprising that the group where Erdoğan<a href="https://www.americanprogress.org/issues/security/reports/2018/02/11/446164/turkeys-new-nationalism-amid-shifting-politics/">&nbsp;polls best</a>&nbsp;is amongst women who identify as conservative.</p> <h2><strong>Where Erdoğan polls best</strong></h2> <p>As the most visible marker of Islamic faith, the headscarf is an issue for religious conservatives of both sexes that symbolises their broader experience of discrimination by the secular government. But that discrimination seeped into other parts of conservative lives, particularly in the field of education which was organised by the secularist establishment with a very specific ‘state sanction’ version of Islam. Imam Hatip schools were the only places a person could go to get an Islamic education, but the CHP has a history of hostility towards them: for example when Erdoğan enrolled in the Imam Hatip school in the 1960s it was CHP policy not to open any more. Students that attended them reported discrimination both official and unofficial. In 2013, Erdoğan himself said that, while attending the school, he was told that the only job he could get after graduation was as an undertaker. <span class="mag-quote-center">When Erdoğan talks about the deep state, it isn't entirely a propaganda tool.</span></p> <p>There is also a long history of anti-democratic interventions by secular parties and governments against religious voters in Turkey. When Erdoğan talks about the deep state, it isn't entirely a propaganda tool. The last successful coup d’état&nbsp;was in 1997 when the Kemalist military forced the Islamist prime minister Necmettin Erbakan, Erdoğan’s mentor and predecessor, to resign and dissolve the coalition government. </p> <p>There have been numerous other attempts to make participation in the political system difficult for people outside of the secularist parties. It is something that Erdoğan experienced personally when he was imprisoned in 1998 for reading out a political poem. In 2007, the fifth year of AKP power, the CHP<a href="http://www.hurriyet.com.tr/gundem/anayasa-mahkemesi-367-sart-dedi-6436574">&nbsp;blocked</a> the presidential election to keep Abdullah Gül, an AKP candidate and former foreign minister from taking office. They were solidly backed in this by the constitutional court, the military and other parties. The calculation was simple: with Erdoğan’s party holding both the prime ministry and the office of the speaker of parliament, the secularist establishment attempted to withhold the last pillar of government from Islamists. It worked. Gül was not elected as president. However, the government then called a general election and the Turkish public voted overwhelmingly for the AKP in a backlash vote; and eventually Gul was made president. Only a year later, a prosecutor demanded the closure of AKP and a ban on its leading members from participating in political life on the grounds that the party sought to establish a sharia order. The call was overturned by the constitutional court, but the AKP was<a href="https://www.theguardian.com/world/2008/jul/30/turkey.nato1">&nbsp;stripped</a>&nbsp;of state funding as a penalty.&nbsp;<span class="mag-quote-center">Women with Islamic covering are now everywhere in the public sphere, as paramedics, judges, lawmakers and police officers.</span></p> <p>Gradually, the military control of Turkish politics has been removed, one of the achievements of the early AKP and the EU accession talks. With the AKP gaining in confidence, the headscarf issue was resolved without any public dissent. Women with Islamic covering are now everywhere in the public sphere, as paramedics, judges, lawmakers and police officers. These changes would have been unthinkable under a secularist government. New mosques are being built all across Turkey and the Imam Hatip schools are thriving. Religious voters feel like they have a lot to lose with the return of a secular party in power. </p> <h2><strong>Rapprochement?</strong></h2> <p>Despite the risk of alienating their secular base, the CHP is not unaware of the importance of gaining religious votes and have made attempts at rapprochement. In 2012, on a trip to Bosnia, CHP leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu<a href="http://www.ensonhaber.com/chpde-yeni-model-zarif-dindarlik-2012-04-29.html">&nbsp;mentioned</a><span> </span>that his party adhered to an “elegant form of religiosity”, which is as ambiguous as it sounds. Two years later, they nominated Ekmeleddin İhsanoğlu, former head of the Islamic Cooperation Organization (ICO) for the presidency. Widely regarded as a tactical move to topple Erdoğan with a like-minded rival, AKP loyalists didn’t pay too much attention to his campaign. </p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/PA-37028027.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/PA-37028027.jpg" alt="" title="" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" width="460" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Muharrem Ince speaks during a rally in his hometown Yalova city, June 14, 2018. DepoPhotos/Press Association. All rights reserved.</span></span></span>CHP’s current presidential candidate Muharrem İnce is a practising Muslim, and his wife<a href="http://t24.com.tr/haber/muharrem-incenin-esi-birlikte-misafirlige-gidemeyiz-oturamaz-cunku-sikilir,638032">&nbsp;refers</a>&nbsp;to him as a “strong but private believer” who doesn’t like to display his faith. He doesn’t even mention secularism in his<a href="http://www.muharremince.com.tr/tr/gelecek-bildirgesi">&nbsp;manifesto</a>&nbsp;for the future, concentrating rather on the many urgent priorities on the country’s agenda including the economy, education and foreign policy. He has also <a href="https://www.yenisafak.com/video-galeri/secim/chpnin-basortu-celiskisi-2178684">declared</a>&nbsp;the headscarf “no longer an issue of the people.” He<a href="https://www.gazeteduvar.com.tr/politika/2018/06/07/ince-kavga-etmeyecegim-ama-makarami-yaparim/">&nbsp;refers</a>&nbsp;to AKP voters as “brothers and sisters who have voted AK Party.” <span class="mag-quote-center">Muharrem İnce is a practising Muslim, and his wife<a href="http://t24.com.tr/haber/muharrem-incenin-esi-birlikte-misafirlige-gidemeyiz-oturamaz-cunku-sikilir,638032">&nbsp;</a>refers&nbsp;to him as a “strong but private believer” who doesn’t like to display his faith.</span></p> <p>However, it is questionable whether CHP can win the hearts of the religious electorate. When İnce went to a Friday prayer, onlookers watched for blunders. As he held a gilded frame of the first letter of the Arabic alphabet upside down, his<a href="https://www.instagram.com/p/Bje498oh1f_/">&nbsp;video</a>&nbsp;was ridiculed on social media. </p> <p>More systemic concerns also come to the fore. His party’s election promises include nine-year compulsory primary education. Education, however, is a partisan issue rooted in the shadow of a pre-AKP era when the middle school segments of Imam Hatip schools were shut down and their high school graduates were blocked entry to universities, and consequently into the high-skilled labor market. </p> <p>Today, a significant portion of the government<a href="https://www.reuters.com/article/us-turkey-erdogan-education/special-report-with-more-islamic-schooling-erdogan-aims-to-reshape-turkey-idUSKBN1FE1CD">&nbsp;budget</a>&nbsp;goes into Imam Hatip schools that accept children from age ten. Both conservative media and the<a href="http://t24.com.tr/haber/basbakan-yardimcisi-bozdag-28-subat-zihniyeti-chp-eliyle-yeniden-hortlatilmak-isteniyor,639639">&nbsp;Deputy Prime Minister</a>&nbsp;were quick to attack the CHP’s<a href="http://secim2018.chp.org.tr/files/CHP-SecimBildirgesi-2018-icerik.pdf?1=1">&nbsp;clause</a>&nbsp;as an attempt to return to the days when early entry to Imam Hatip upper schools that offer religious tutoring were blocked. That particular allegation has no substance. However, using their media domination as leverage, the AKP seizes every opportunity to reinforce the lack of trust among religious people for CHP.&nbsp;</p> <h2><strong>Monstrous media control</strong></h2> <p>Any political party that wants to challenge Erdoğan in the coming election will have to deal with all the corrupt methods that the government has used over and over again. They will have to find a way round&nbsp;the monstrous&nbsp;<a href="https://sigmaturkey.com/2018/06/12/turkeys-pro-govt-press/">media control&nbsp;</a>that the government has managed to build for itself. </p> <p>But there is a constituency for change in Turkey from secular and religious people who are concerned about the state of the economy, the authoritarian policies of the government and the severe violations of justice after the coup attempt in July 2016. </p> <p>However, for Erdoğan to be voted out of power on June 24, it will require religious voters to cross the floor and vote for the CHP candidate. But the illiberal methods of the secular establishment in the past are still very much in the political memory of these voters, making it hard for them to put their faith back into a secularist government, and making the re-election of Erdoğan more likely. &nbsp;</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/can-europe-make-it/omer-tekdemir/turkey-s-three-dimensional-populism-three-leaders-and-three-blocs">Turkey’s three-dimensional populism, three leaders and three blocs </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/can-europe-make-it/filiz-kahraman/can-europe-save-turkey-from-sliding-into-authoritarianism">Can Europe save Turkey from sliding into authoritarianism? </a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Turkey </div> <div class="field-item even"> EU </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Civil society </div> <div class="field-item even"> Conflict </div> <div class="field-item odd"> Democracy and government </div> <div class="field-item even"> Equality </div> <div class="field-item odd"> International politics </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> Can Europe make it? Can Europe make it? North-Africa West-Asia EU Turkey Civil society Conflict Democracy and government Equality International politics Turkish Dawn Merve Pehlivan Luke Frostick Tue, 19 Jun 2018 13:47:56 +0000 Luke Frostick and Merve Pehlivan 118470 at https://www.opendemocracy.net The terrible price of zero tolerance immigration https://www.opendemocracy.net/robert-muggah/terrible-price-of-zero-tolerance-immigration <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>The US Attorney General claims these separations are justified by the Bible and will deter illegal immigration, though there is no evidence backing either claim. His is a minority position.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/27985504487_b548bf2c5a_z.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/27985504487_b548bf2c5a_z.jpg" alt="lead " title="" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" width="460" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>A contractor with the federal government has applied to the state of Texas for a license to house up to 240 immigrant children between the ages of 0 and 17 at 415 Emancipation Avenue, Houston, June 16, 2018. Flickr/Patrick Feller. Some rights reserved.</span></span></span></p><p>Within minutes of crossing the border, they are ripped from their mothers arms.&nbsp;The children, some of them still breastfeeding, are shuffled into temporary shelters.&nbsp;Their parents are marched to detention centers where they are kept under lock and key. Stories and images are emerging of toddlers, adolescents and teenagers crammed into cages. After making the treacherous voyage from Central America and Mexico, asylum seekers and migrants are treated like stray dogs on arrival.&nbsp;Even wailing babies find little consolation: government policy is that they are not to be touched.&nbsp;The&nbsp;<a href="https://www.apha.org/news-and-media/news-releases/apha-news-releases/2018/parent-child-separation">psychological damage, stress and emotional trauma</a>&nbsp;they endure is&nbsp;incalculable.</p> <p>Welcome to Donald Trump’s America. Since US Attorney General Jeff Sessions&nbsp;<a href="https://www.justice.gov/opa/pr/attorney-general-announces-zero-tolerance-policy-criminal-illegal-entry">announced the zero tolerance immigration policy</a>&nbsp;two months ago, roughly 2,000 children have been separated from their parents. The reality is no one knows for sure. Sessions claims that these separations are&nbsp;<a href="https://www.npr.org/2018/06/15/620471106/evangelicals-push-back-on-sessions-use-of-bible-passage-to-defend-immigration-po">justified by the Bible</a>&nbsp;and will&nbsp;<a href="http://thehill.com/homenews/administration/392794-private-dhs-documents-show-zero-tolerance-policy-has-not-deterred">deter illegal immigration</a>, though there is&nbsp;<a href="https://www.npr.org/2018/05/18/612441084/how-the-trump-administrations-zero-tolerance-immigration-policy-is-playing-out-i">no evidence</a>&nbsp;backing either claim. His is a minority position. Yet while&nbsp;<a href="https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/zero-tolerance-policy-means-zero-humanity-democrats-decry-trump-immigration-policy-after-tour-of-detention-center/2018/06/17/bbf68b2c-7248-11e8-9780-b1dd6a09b549_story.html?utm_term=.d922588e9706">most critics agree</a>&nbsp;that the new policy is cruel and inhumane, <a href="https://www.cnbc.com/2018/06/18/sessions-and-nielsen-defend-trumps-zero-tolerance-immigration-policy.html">Sessions and others in the Trump administration</a> are undeterred. People seeking safe refugee are being charged with a criminal offence the moment they arrive. US officials don´t care if they have legitimate asylum claims: every new arrival is going straight to jail.</p> <p>The banality of evil is thriving in border states like <a href="https://www.dallasnews.com/news/immigration/2018/06/14/trumps-zero-tolerance-immigration-policy-gets-uneven-enforcement-amid-growing-outrage">Texas</a>, <a href="http://www.santafenewmexican.com/news/local_news/new-mexico-governor-supports-family-separation-policy-at-border/article_962a42f4-e451-5d20-8d3e-7dc76dc1d1fe.html">New Mexico </a>and <a href="https://www.abc15.com/news/national/as-zero-tolerance-immigration-policy-begins-parents-and-lawyers-say-family-separations-surge">Arizona</a>. In implementing zero tolerance, stone-faced patrol officers and over-worked social workers – "neither perverted nor sadistic" – are acting in terrifyingly normal ways. As Hannah Arendt once said of the Nazi lieutenant-colonel Adolph Eichmann, it is their "inability … to think from the standpoint of somebody else" that is leading civil servants to condone monstrous injustices. Their hearts are not filled with malice – but their actions are cruel beyond words.&nbsp;</p> <p>Just consider the impacts of the new zero tolerance policy from the perspective of asylum seekers and migrants. Shortly after stepping on US soil, babies, toddlers and teens are forcibly removed from their parents, sometimes in the most deceitful and horrific ways. Stories are emerging of children being <a href="https://www.businessinsider.com.au/border-agents-use-baths-to-separate-kids-from-parents-2018-6">led away by US customs officials "for a bath"</a>, with questioning parents later told they will not see their children again. Witnesses have described how border guards not only deny information about their children´s whereabouts, but tell the parents that they will be prosecuted and are unwelcome. Virtually all new arrivals are deposited in adult detention centers for "expedited removal", with most deported.</p> <p>Most of the children who are separated from their parents and families are parted for extended periods of time. Once processed by the Department of Homeland Security, they are shuffled through Health and Human Services and deposited in one of the hundred or so temporary shelters set up around the US. In some cases they are united with family members or acquaintances living in the US, assuming they can be found. </p> <p>Most often they are not. There are <a href="https://www.texasmonthly.com/news/whats-really-happening-asylum-seeking-families-separated/">reports emerging</a> of children weeping inconsolably, unable to explain where they come from or make sense of what has happened. There are no adjudication procedures in place allowing&nbsp;parents to be put in alternative detention centers to be reunited with their kids.</p> <p>Making matters worse, detained parents are languishing in their cells for six to eight weeks, sometimes much longer. They are required to wait behind bars while they wait to be awarded a "credible fear" interview, essentially an asylum assessment. Given the hardening of US immigration policy and the limited number of available judges in border towns, only a tiny minority eventually have the opportunity to present their case to an immigration judge. It is rare for any claimant to have access to paid advocates or attorneys.&nbsp;As a result, most arrivals are deported instantly. Those who fight their deportation will likely wait another six months or more for a hearing – in jail.</p> <p>There are also widespread problems with reconnecting parents and separated children after the fact due to the chaotic way in which zero tolerance is being implemented and enforced. The Department of Homeland Security and officials working with Customs and Border Protection separate children from their parents, but they do not care for them for more than a few days. The longer-term welfare support is the jurisdiction of Health and Human Services, the Office of Refugee Resettlement and the Department of Unaccompanied Child Services. There are fears that many children are falling between the cracks, and that family unification is being delayed.</p> <p>Make no mistake, the US´s zero tolerance immigration strategy is not just immoral, it is illegal. In incarcerating all new arrivals the US is sidestepping international and national jurisprudence, including the Refugee Convention. The use of criminal laws to deter asylum seekers is in violation of Article 31, among others. Not surprisingly, the United Nations Commissioner for Human Rights, Zeid Ra'ad al Hussein,&nbsp;<a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2018/06/18/world/europe/trump-migrant-children-un.html">described&nbsp;</a>the zero tolerance policy as unconscionable. While human rights and faith based groups across the US and around the world are&nbsp;<a href="https://edition.cnn.com/2018/06/18/politics/immigration-trump-congress-family-separation/index.html">mobilizing and speaking out</a>, the damage is lasting. This criminal policy will persist so long as ordinary people mindlessly follow orders and stop questioning their actions.&nbsp; &nbsp;</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/daniel-trilling/inside-theresa-mays-hostile-environment">Inside Theresa May&#039;s &quot;hostile environment&quot;</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/uk/nando-sigona/hostile-environment-border-guard-and-border-guardee">Hostile environment: border guards and border guardees</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/nando-sigona/another-dangerous-national-us-you-can-t-have-more-integrated-society-in-hostile-environ">Another dangerous ‘National Us’: you can’t have a more integrated society in a hostile environment </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"> Civil society </div> <div class="field-item even"> Conflict </div> <div class="field-item odd"> Culture </div> <div class="field-item even"> Democracy and government </div> <div class="field-item odd"> International politics </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> United States Civil society Conflict Culture Democracy and government International politics Robert Muggah Tue, 19 Jun 2018 13:42:56 +0000 Robert Muggah 118482 at https://www.opendemocracy.net The politicization of justice in Latin America https://www.opendemocracy.net/democraciaabierta/gaspard-estrada/politicization-of-justice-in-latin-america <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Latin America has extensive experience of politicized justice and judicialized politics. Today, as governments and parliaments face a deep credibility crisis, the judiciary has become a leading political actor. <em><strong><a href="https://opendemocracy.net/democraciaabierta/gaspard-estrada/la-politizaci-n-de-la-just-cia-en-am-rica-latina">Español</a></strong></em></p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/557099/lulalibre.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/557099/lulalibre.png" alt="" title="" width="460" height="245" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Free Lula Demonstration. Source: Nueva Sociedad. All Rights Reserved. </span></span></span></p><p>Last April, former Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva gave himself up to the police to start serving a 12-year prison sentence for passive corruption and money laundering. His was the latest in a series of detentions and prosecutions of political and economic Latin American leaders. </p><p>The trend began four years ago with the outbreak of the Brazilian Odebrecht bribery scandal. However, while taking action against corruption is indeed a necessity of an urgent nature, the increasingly politicized approach of the judicial procedures to this end is placing the entire region upon a slippery slope.</p> <p>Today, as governments and legislative bodies in Latin America face a deep credibility crisis, the judiciary has become a leading political actor in several countries in the region. </p><p>In Brazil, for example, leading figures involved in the Lava Jato operation (an ongoing investigation into large-scale corruption within the State oil company Petrobras) such as Deltan Dallagnol - attorney of the Federal Public Ministry of Brazil and lead prosecutor of this case - and Sergio Moro - the judge in charge of the investigation - have become true political actors. Their influence far exceeds their role as lawyers, magistrates or first instance court judges.</p> <p>But the real problem is that civil servants like Moro have transformed judicial action against corruption into a moral and political crusade, for the sake of which they are <a href="https://www.conjur.com.br/2016-mar-22/decisao-moro-grampos-lula-foi-inconstitucional-teori" target="_blank">ready and willing to bend the rules of the law</a>.</p><p class="mag-quote-center">The Brazilian Supreme Court judges argue that in order to imprison Lula before the 2018 presidential campaign, Moro bypassed the rules of criminal proceedings and manipulated the preventive detention mechanisms.</p><p>The Brazilian Supreme Court judges argue that in order to imprison Lula before the 2018 presidential campaign, Moro bypassed the rules of criminal proceedings and manipulated the preventive detention mechanisms. </p><p>Moro himself admits in his verdict that he is condemning Lula without any direct evidence from the commission of a wrongful act.</p> <p>Confronting corrupt politicians and business leaders is the kind of cause that would generally gather widespread popular support. However, due to the activist approach of the judiciary, 51% of Brazilians <a href="https://www.ipsos.com/sites/default/files/ct/news/documents/2018-03/barometropoliticoestadaoipsos_fevereiro2018.pdf" target="_blank">disapprove</a> of Moro's actions, including Lula's conviction for corruption.</p> <p>Latin America has extensive experience of politicized justice and judicialized politics. As 19th century Mexican president Benito Juárez said: "Grace and justice to my friends; to my enemies, the law”. Unfortunately, this is still a popular feeling in much of Latin America today.</p> <p>In Mexico, the Office of the Attorney General of the Republic, which has been without leadership for months, has been reluctant to persecute politicians with close ties to the government who, according to the US Department of Justice, were involved in <a href="https://www.justice.gov/opa/press-release/file/919916/download" target="_blank">Odebrecht related bribes</a>. </p><p>On the other hand, the very same Office has eagerly put under investigation Ricardo Anaya, one of the opposition’s presidential candidates, for money laundering.</p> <p>But even though Anaya has now been a victim of judicial activism, it must be remembered that one of his main advisers, Santiago Creel, was responsible for setting up an accusation, 13 years ago, against former mayor of Mexico City Andrés Manuel López Obrador to prevent him from running for president.</p> <p>Yet another example of the politicization of corruption investigations is Peruvian President Pedro Pablo Kuczynski’s resignation, on the eve of an impeachment vote by Congress prompted by his ties to Odebrecht, after video recordings of some of his key allies trying to buy the support of opposition congressmen were released. </p><p>Those videos were not made public as a result of an independent judicial investigation, but rather as part of a political dispute between former dictator Alberto Fujimori’s sons over the control of Congress (and the country).</p> <p class="mag-quote-center">According to a public prosecutor, Rousseff&nbsp;did not commit any crime&nbsp;that would justify her removal from office.</p><p>However, Brazil is the example <em>par excellence</em> of politically motivated judicial proceedings. The majority of Brazilians believe that former President Dilma Rousseff was charged with corruption. </p><p>In fact, she was accused of using an accounting manoeuvre, which had been utilized by previous presidents with no major consequences, to temporarily reduce public deficit. According to a public prosecutor, Rousseff <a href="https://politica.estadao.com.br/noticias/geral,para-mp-pedaladas-do-governo-dilma-nao-sao-crime,10000062862" target="_blank">did not commit any crime</a> that would justify her removal from office.</p> <p>The same cannot be said of Rousseff's replacement, Michel Temer, who has managed to avoid two impeachment attempts by buying political support in Congress. </p><p>In fact, there are <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BP-ChmVX_Xk" target="_blank">recordings</a> of Temer allegedly authorizing payments for silence to Eduardo Cunha, former speaker of the lower house, currently in prison for his involvement in the Petrobras scandal.</p> <p>Aécio Neves, who lost against Rousseff at the 2014 presidential elections, will be tried on charges of corruption and obstruction of justice. But the judges in charge of the investigation have not moved as fast as Moro and his colleagues did in the case of Lula, even though the Neves case is backed by much stronger evidence.</p> <p>"The law is for everyone" say Sergio Moro’s supporters. They are right. But this means that the law must apply to Lula, who has been the victim of a <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2018/01/23/opinion/brazil-lula-democracy-corruption.html" target="_blank">judicial</a>, <a href="http://www.france24.com/en/20180328-brazil-gunshots-fired-lula-da-silva-campaign-bus-caravan" target="_blank">political</a> and <a href="http://www.manchetometro.com.br/" target="_blank">media</a> persecution over the last four years. </p><p><span class="mag-quote-center">From Brazil to Mexico, those who have the responsibility of defending the rule of law are increasingly using the administration of justice for partisan purposes.&nbsp;</span></p><p>This is the reason why <a href="https://www.lemonde.fr/idees/article/2018/05/17/lula-doit-pouvoir-se-presenter-libre-au-suffrage-du-peuple-bresilien_5300201_3232.html" target="_blank">world leaders</a>, <a href="https://www.change.org/p/to-supporters-of-democracy-and-social-justice-throughout-the-world-lula-da-silva-is-a-political-prisoner-free-lula" target="_blank">global academics</a> and <a href="https://www.change.org/p/premio-nobel-de-la-paz-para-lula-da-silva-pr%C3%AAmio-nobel-da-paz-a-lula-da-silva-nobel-peace-prize-to-lula-da-silva-friedensnobelpreis-an-lula-da-silva-premio-nobel-per-la-pace-a-lula-da-silva" target="_blank">Nobel Peace Prize winners</a>&nbsp; including former French President François Hollande, economist Thomas Piketty and activist Adolfo Pérez Esquivel have signed several statements of support to Lula. </p> <p>This is not to say that justice should not prosecute politicians and other powerful figures for corruption. On the contrary: the Lava Jato operation has revealed the incestuous relationship between money and politics in Latin America.</p> <p>But when judges evade the rule of law, they are weakening it. And when their tactics serve political ends, as they have done in Brazil, they are putting democracy itself at risk.</p> <p>In any case, the wave of judicial activism triggered by recent scandals has so far produced little or no real change. Particularly, there has been no electoral or campaign financing reform, because that would require the support of the political and economic actors who benefit from the current system.</p><p> Moro's statement that the Lava Jato operation <a href="https://oglobo.globo.com/brasil/moro-ve-fim-da-lava-jato-em-curitiba-relembre-todas-as-fases-da-operacao-21901157" target="_blank">may be nearing its end</a> has further discouraged any action.</p><p> From Brazil to Mexico, those who have the responsibility of defending the rule of law are increasingly using the administration of justice for partisan purposes. At a time of intensified political polarization, this does not stand Latin America in good stead for the future.&nbsp;</p><p class="blockquote-new">This article has been published as part of the partnership between&nbsp;Nueva Sociedad&nbsp;and democraciaAbierta. You can read the original&nbsp;<a href="http://nuso.org/articulo/justicia-politizada-en-america-latina-/">here&nbsp;</a></p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/democraciaabierta/jaime-amparo-alves/lula-da-silva-brazilian-elites-worst-nightmare">Lula da Silva as a nightmare</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/democraciaabierta/jos-ugaz/peruvian-president-in-his-labyrinth">The Peruvian president in his labyrinth</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/democraciaabierta/carlos-alberto-adrianz-n/risky-business-of-fujimori-s-pardon">The risky business of Fujimori’s pardon</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Civil society </div> <div class="field-item even"> Culture </div> <div class="field-item odd"> Democracy and government </div> <div class="field-item even"> Equality </div> <div class="field-item odd"> International politics </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> DemocraciaAbierta Civil society Culture Democracy and government Equality International politics Gaspard Estrada Tue, 19 Jun 2018 12:21:16 +0000 Gaspard Estrada 118478 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Colombia and the possibility of modernising democracy https://www.opendemocracy.net/democraciaabierta/francesc-badia-i-dalmases-jonatan-rodr-guez/colombia-and-possibility-of-modernisin <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>These elections imply that democracy in Colombia will gradually become more normalised, which until now has been marred with violence, structural deficits and a lack of true alternation. <em><strong><a href="https://opendemocracy.net/democraciaabierta/francesc-badia-i-dalmases-jonatan-rodr-guez/pesar-de-tantas-polarizaciones-y-menti">Español</a></strong></em></p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/557099/PA-29265619_0_0_0_2_0.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/557099/PA-29265619_0_0_0_2_0.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="307" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Two Colombians of different generations engage in a heated discussion en the Plaza Bolívar of Bogotá, 24 November 2016. AP Photo/Ivan Valencia. All Rights Reserved. </span></span></span></p><p>With 10,373,000 votes in his favour, the victory of Democratic Centre candidate Iván Duque means he will now become the youngest president of Colombia at 41 years of age, and continues the pattern of successive right wing governments in the country. </p><p>The next opposition leader will be Gustavo Petro, the most emblematic figure of the progressive movement, who obtained 8,034,000 million votes for the Colombia Humana party which sought to put in place, for the first time in Colombian history, a left-wing leader.&nbsp;</p> <p>The difference of 2,339,000 votes in favour of Duque makes him a leader with enough support to allow him a wide margin for leadership regarding the more complex and baroque issues plaguing internal politics, and for pressing international questions such as the drug trade and Venezuela. </p><p>But even with such an undisputable victory, the popular vote does not provide him with carte blanche given that Duque must govern not just on behalf of his own supporters but also on behalf of the 8 million who voted left, the 800,000 who voted blank, and for the 47% of the electorate who abstained.&nbsp;</p> <p>In any case, these have been monumental elections in the political trajectory of Colombia given that the traditional hegemonic parties have been the biggest losers of the presidential stand-offs. </p><p>The old party formations that previously dominated the Colombian political sphere for years have been knocked out of the game, and it remains to be seen if this change is perhaps even definite.</p> <p>We have seen how political parties have gradually become more fragmented, and this is not necessarily negative. </p><p class="mag-quote-center">These elections have had the highest participation rates in the history of Colombian presidential elections even though the turn out would appear low by western standards.&nbsp;</p><p>In fact, this is proof of democratic progress, and of recognising the plurality of political parties and candidates that exist throughout the country, whilst demonstrating the maturity of an electorate capable of contemplating distinct political stances and positions. </p> <p>Additionally, these elections have had the highest participation rates in the history of Colombian presidential elections even though the turn out would appear low by western standards. This indicates that politics, from this point forward, has changed forever in Colombia.</p> <p>A young president with a renowned international background that appears to contrast his limited previous political experience arrives at the Casa de Nariño. </p><p>His candidacy has been particularly controversial regarding the peace agreements, and these are crucial for the future of the country. It remains unclear what will happen in the post-conflict stage, and whether the rumour that Duque will tear the peace agreement to shreds will actually become reality.&nbsp;</p> <p>Duque took <a href="https://www.elespectador.com/elecciones-2018/noticias/politica/ivan-duque-no-haremos-trizas-el-acuerdo-pero-la-paz-que-anoramos-reclama-correcciones-articulo-794985">it upon himself to refute</a> such a rumour with the assistance of his vice president María Lucía Ramírez (the fact that for the first time in history a woman will take on this position is positive in itself), who considered a very unfortunate phrase of one of the leaders of the Democratic Centre party.</p> <p>According to the vice president elect, that declares her position as independent within the winning candidacy, although in the orbit of the old Conservative Party, the reforms of the Duque/Ramirez administration intend to introduce regarding the peace agreements <a href="https://www.elespectador.com/noticias/politica/marta-lucia-ramirez-desmiente-los-mitos-sobre-ivan-duque-video-794727">are very timely</a>. </p><p>First, dealing with the issue of the drug trafficking and its connection with political crime, and the fact that coca cultivation and drug tradficking activity has in fact increased following the signing of the agreement. Point 3 of the peace agreement does not state any concrete agreement with the FARC regarding this issue which needs to be addressed. </p><p>Second, controlling the impact of drug trafficking and illegal mining funds on voting behaviour (especially in terms of buying votes). And third, (and this is the issue which has created the most controversy as it breaks one of the fundamental pacts of the agreement with the guerrillas), opposition to the fact that the FARC representatives in Congress, once demobilised and converted into a political party, are the same that led the confrontation and as a consequence are susceptible to accusations of crimes against humanity.</p><p class="mag-quote-center">The recognition of the benefits of peace and the backing of the demobilisations that allow for disarmaments to take place, are indisputable points of the peace deal that will be respected by the new president.</p> <p>But the recognition of the benefits of peace, among which is having celebrated the first elections without guerrilla interference, and the backing of the demobilisations that allow for disarmaments to take place, are indisputable points of the peace deal that will be respected by the new president.</p> <p>It is certain that the peace agreements, which have dominated and polarised Colombian political arena over the years, were used treacherously throughout the political campaign. </p><p>Once said campaign had ended, Duque, conscious of the importance of putting an end to the violence, is capable of acting intelligently and taking the advice of various international actors. He could, for intance, take into account the following<a href="http://www.ifit-transitions.org/files/documents/recomendaciones-proximo-gobierno-construccion-de-paz.pdf"> 4 points addressed by IFIT's Colombia Brain Trust</a> to the winner of the presidential elections over the first 100 days, whoever it may be: 1) that the territories most affected by conflict are stabilised; 2) that social and economic development in rural areas is promoted; 3) that victims are guaranteed their rights; and 4) that the political system is consolidated.</p> <p>With 54% of the votes, the next president has assured his governance of the country, but he must take into account the 42% that voted towards the left, an option that has emerged as a real political alternative in Colombia for the first time. </p><p>As leader of the opposition and senator, Gustavo Petro will be able to demand that the next administration deals with corruption head on, that they protect the environment, and that they progress with the building of a stable and lasting peace, even continuing with dialogue with the ELN.</p> <p>Throughout this often tough and tense campaign, in which the centre was finally reduced to 800,000 blank votes, embodied in the 4.6 million votes that went to Sergio Fajardo in the first round but later felt obligated to vote in the second round for a more extreme option, Duque finally managed to bring together the traditionally conservative classes and leverage the political and economic elites even if it meant creating divisions and invoking fear that Colombia could become another Venezuela if it fell into the hands of the left.</p> <p>The other great winner could be considered as ex-president Álvaro Uribe Vélez, the mentor and most solid backer of Duque, who with his enormous social capital mobilised millions of votes in his favour, demonstrating the political weight the hard right retains in the Colombian political system.</p><p class="mag-quote-center">Duque will now have sufficient legitimacy to distance himself from the extreme right, to get rid of his Uribista associations and to carry out his more centrist vision.</p> <p>However, although the backing of Uribe continues to be a determining factor for the future of the country, Duque will now have sufficient legitimacy to distance himself from the extreme right, to get rid of his Uribista associations and to carry out his more centrist vision, if he is to follow, as he says, the liberal leaders which he most admires, such as Justin Trudeau (46 years of age), Emmanuel Macron (40 years of age) or Spanish Albert Ribera (38 years of age), born in the 70s, just like Duque.</p> <p>If Duque manages to separate himself from the long shadow of vengeful Uribe ideology and disprove the accusations that he is a mere puppet of the ex-president, it is possible he could lead the country towards a very necessary process of political normalisation that is more urgent than ever.</p> <p>The people of Colombia have decided that the nation is not yet ready to join the list of Latin American countries that have been governed by the left, but they have given their seal of approval to this progressive alternative, from which if Gustavo Petro manages to create an efficient and constructive opposition, could triumph in the next presidential race in 2022.</p> <p>Regarding the economy, it seems as though with Duque, experienced civil servant of the Inter-American Development Bank, uncertainty about the economic future of the country diminishes. His presidency will see the continuation of the majority of the economic policies of president Santos.</p><p class="mag-quote-center">The challenge is accelerating economic growth that can enable consolidation, ensuring that high earners pay taxes and consolidating the widening of the middle classes in Colombia that will contribute to the reduction of immense inequalities and injustices that plague the country.</p><p>Whilst investors embrace the decision of the new president maintaining an orthodox hold over the economy with fiscal responsibility and a possible reduction on public spending, there are environmental sectors that are particularly worried regarding the exploitation of hydrocarbons and the appearance of fracking as a supposed means to guarantee economic development.</p> <p>The challenge is accelerating economic growth that can enable consolidation, ensuring that high earners pay taxes and consolidating the widening of the middle classes in Colombia that will contribute to the reduction of immense inequalities and injustices that plague the country, which for decades has been unable to create any kind of a welfare state that matches up to its human and natural resources.</p> <p>In this election, and in spite of the polarisation and division that we have witnessed throughout the uproar of the campaign, Colombia may have taken a step towards normalising a democracy historically marked by inequality and violence, and the young generations can look towards the future with more hope and less fear of returning to the country’s bloody past. </p><p>After all, it will be those who manage to occupy the space of political centre that will most likely manage to gain and remain in power.</p> <p>In any case, it does not seem like the new administration will undertake the structural reforms that Colombia has been in dire need of for decades, which would need to start with serious agrarian reforms and a plan for infrastructure that would reconnect a deeply fragmented country where the state remains absent in many territories.</p> <p>But if Duque takes the extreme right of Uribe into account, or if Petro bows to the temptation of an extemporaneous and antiquated expression of the left, the country will have lost out on a historic opportunity for achieving modernity that would distance the state from the setbacks where violence tends to thrive.</p> <p>4 years of great challenges lie ahead. Colombia, despite having recently become member of the club of developed nations that make up the <a href="https://www.elespectador.com/opinion/colombia-y-la-ocde-columna-791034">Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development</a>, it continues being one of the most unequal countries in the world, and it continues to produce some of the highest incidences of violence (<a href="https://es.insightcrime.org/noticias/analisis/balance-de-insight-crime-sobre-homicidios-en-latinoamerica-en-2017/">24.4 homicides for every 100,000 inhabitants</a>), including acts by criminal gangs and the murders of significant numbers of social leaders, to a backdrop of post-conflict policies which remain fragile in nature.</p> <p class="mag-quote-center">If Duque takes the extreme right of Uribe into account, or if Petro bows to the temptation of an extemporaneous and antiquated expression of the left, the country will have lost out on a historic opportunity for achieving modernity.</p> <p>However, this traditional hegemonic power of the establishment, that defends the interests of the political and economic elites, has been seen for the first time to be questioned by the left, who call for social change and a government for all Colombians and not for only the winners up-against the losers. Duque will only succeed if he listens to not just the “winners”, but the entire nation.</p> <p>Finally, we can assume that if Duque and Petro play their cards right in the legislature, the definitive consolidation of peace after 50 years of armed conflict, and the establishment of a left-right axis in Colombia could result in the consolidation of a fully functioning liberal democracy, whose strength lies within the real possibility of alternation between parties in power and not in mere replacement.</p> <p>Fortunately, today there are many Colombians that know that after these heated elections, the country will never be the same again.&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="/democraciaabierta/sandra-borda/presidential-elections-in-colombia-polarisation-or-deterioration-of-p">Presidential elections in Colombia: polarisation or deterioration of the political conversation?</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/democraciaabierta/omar-rinc-n/generation-narcissist-outraged-and-disappointed-with-democracy">Generation narcissist in Colombia: outraged and disappointed with democracy </a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/democraciaabierta/lyda-forero-danilo-urrea/petro-vs-duque-colombian-elections-war-and-peace">Petro vs. Duque: Colombian elections, war and peace</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/democraciaabierta/lou-gu-rin/peace-organizations-in-colombia-before-second-round-of-elections">Peace organizations in Colombia before the second round of the elections</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Colombia </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"> Democracy and government </div> <div class="field-item even"> Equality </div> <div class="field-item odd"> International politics </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> DemocraciaAbierta Colombia Civil society Culture Democracy and government Equality International politics Jonatan Rodríguez Francesc Badia i Dalmases Tue, 19 Jun 2018 11:37:06 +0000 Francesc Badia i Dalmases and Jonatan Rodríguez 118476 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Greece: in need of a debt relief that actually works https://www.opendemocracy.net/can-europe-make-it/olivier-vardakoulias/greece-in-need-of-debt-relief-that-actually-works <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>It’s not too late to steer the Greek economy and the EU towards a sustainable development course for the twenty-first century. There are tools to deliver this. Policy-makers should use them. </p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/13796381294_eb34804c1f_k.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/13796381294_eb34804c1f_k.jpg" alt="lead " title="" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" width="460" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>The Ptolemaida lignite plant. Andrea Bonetti / WWF Greece. All rights reserved. </span></span></span>The Greek government and its creditors are once more involved in behind-closed-doors negotiations, busily debating Greece’s fate after the end of the 3rd Adjustment Programme (August 20). Far from the spotlight and opaque Eurogroup negotiations, Greece’s economy, society and – least mentioned in international media – <a href="https://www.wwf.gr/crisis-watch/crisis-watch/economy-development/economy/wwf-addresses-the-imf-eu-ecb-on-greece-s-environmental-rollback">environment</a> are hanging in the balance.&nbsp;&nbsp; </p> <p>Ten years into Greece’s <a href="https://www.google.gr/search?q=greece%27s+great+depression+chart&amp;sa=X&amp;biw=1536&amp;bih=710&amp;tbs=qdr:m&amp;tbm=isch&amp;source=iu&amp;ictx=1&amp;fir=41ecduHlCM6XCM%253A%252CuhavXhYnHX0fEM%252C_&amp;usg=__4DXx1UV-RtOOIzLlC_AU42cYy70%3D&amp;ved=0ahUKEwi-srWL2K_bAhXDbZoKHe-PBvQQ9QEIMTAB#imgrc=41ecduHlCM6XCM:">Great Depression</a>, the three successive Adjustment Programmes have not led to a new, sustainable, development model. Rather they have economically resulted in a huge debt overhang, dramatically undermined social development and jeopardized Greece’s natural wealth. </p> <p>To take but three examples: environmental and employment regulations and legislation have been steadily undermined in the name of a putative “competitiveness”. Creditors’ conditionality is <a href="https://www.wwf.gr/crisis-watch/crisis-watch/energy-climate/energy/eu-pushes-greece-towards-longer-coal-dependence">locking Greece into dirty energy production</a> for decades to come. And the <a href="https://www.wwf.gr/crisis-watch/crisis-watch/biodiversity-natural-resources/biodiversity/hydrocarbon-frenzy-in-greece">current dash-for-oil-and-gas</a> is threatening regions of unique ecological wealth, whose economies heavily rely on healthy ecosystems. <span class="mag-quote-center">The current dash-for-oil-and-gas is threatening regions of unique ecological wealth, whose economies heavily rely on healthy ecosystems. </span></p> <p>What we are witnessing, in short, is a social and environmental race-to-the-bottom, in the name of GDP growth for endless debt repayments. Even if GDP does eventually recover, can we seriously expect the current approach to deliver an economic model that works for Greece’s social economy and environment?&nbsp;&nbsp; </p> <p>Unless adhering to an antiquated worldview whereby GDP is the measure of all things – ignoring equity, social development, and the ecological foundations of our economies – the answer is a resounding “no”. &nbsp;</p> <p>Two years ago, we published a “<a href="http://www.wwf.gr/lessdebtmoreearth/wp-content/uploads/2016/11/Debt_relief_for_a_living_economy_in_Greece_19Oct2016.pdf">Debt relief for a living economy</a>” proposal, which entails a two-legged approach:</p> <p><strong>1) Greece needs a deep debt restructuring.</strong> </p> <p>Greece’s large <a href="https://www.reuters.com/article/eurozone-greece-budget/greek-january-march-government-primary-budget-surplus-beats-target-idUSEONI420SV">fiscal surpluses</a> have been built on the back of an unprecedented decline of social development, and of ecological degradation. Expecting those surpluses to be maintained over the coming decades without wrecking Greece’s social economy is simply unrealistic. </p> <p><a href="https://voxeu.org/article/putting-greek-debt-problem-rest">As analyzed time and again in virtually all serious academic research</a>, Greece needs a much deeper debt relief than the one currently proposed by the Eurogroup. </p> <p><strong>2) Any conditionality associated with debt relief should be fully aligned with achieving Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)</strong>. &nbsp;</p> <p>The United Nations General Assembly has formally adopted a transformative 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, whose objectives include: good governance, poverty, education, industry, climate change and nature conservation, along with 17 concrete Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and 169 specific targets. The EU has explicitly committed to implementing the SDGs <em>both in its internal and external policies. </em></p> <p>If the EU Institutions and EU creditor countries are in any way serious about this commitment, they should be seeking those reforms that can transform Greece into a truly sustainable living economy, rather than pursuing reforms that maximize fiscal surpluses to fully repay the national debt. </p> <p>WWF’s <a href="http://www.wwf.gr/lessdebtmoreearth/wp-content/uploads/2016/11/Debt_relief_for_a_living_economy_in_Greece_19Oct2016.pdf">report</a> includes examples of a number of reforms covering the living economy, progressive public revenue enhancement, clean energy development, nature conservation and environmental protection. </p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/13805952795_f012d578f1_k.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/13805952795_f012d578f1_k.jpg" alt="" title="" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" width="460" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>The Ptolemaida lignite plant. Andrea Bonetti / WWF Greece. All rights reserved. </span></span></span>As Greece’s 3rd Memorandum is nearing its end, it is not too late to change course by steering the Greek economy – and by extension the EU – towards a sustainable development course for the twenty-first century. There are tools to deliver this. Policy-makers should use them. </p><div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Greece </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Culture </div> <div class="field-item even"> Democracy and government </div> <div class="field-item odd"> Economics </div> <div class="field-item even"> International politics </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> Can Europe make it? Can Europe make it? Greece Culture Democracy and government Economics International politics Olivier Vardakoulias Tue, 19 Jun 2018 11:05:24 +0000 Olivier Vardakoulias 118467 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Fighting patriarchy in Kazakhstan: problems and perspectives https://www.opendemocracy.net/od-russia/botagoz-seydakhmetova/fighting-patriarchy-in-kazakhstan <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Kazakhstan’s feminist activists thought it would take 10-15 years for gender inequality issues to be resolved. That was 25 years ago. <strong><em><a href="https://opendemocracy.net/od-russia/botagoz-seidahmetova/feminism-v-kazakhstane" target="_self">RU</a></em></strong></p> </div> </div> </div> <p dir="ltr"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none_left caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/564053/1024px-Кентау._Торговки_хлебом_2007.10.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/564053/1024px-Кентау._Торговки_хлебом_2007.10.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="345" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Women in Kentau. Photo CC BY-SA 3.0: Yuriy75 / Wikipedia. Some rights reserved.</span></span></span>Feminism and gender studies are still a subject for academic research for Kazakhstan’s first generation of feminist activists. The younger generation of activists are defending the rights of the LGBT community, and public officials are simply ignoring feminism and gender equality altogether.</p><p dir="ltr">Kazakhstan is 57th in the world in terms of female members of Parliament. The country’s Senate has only four women members out of 47, and in the lower house of Parliament there are a mere 29 women members out of 107. Admittedly, if we take another set of statistics, the country does have the <a href="https://informburo.kz/novosti/po-chislu-zhenshchin-v-politike-sredi-stran-eaes-kazahstan-ustupaet-tolko-belarusi-.html">second largest number of women</a> occupying senior governmental posts in the Eurasian Customs Union (after Belarus). </p><p dir="ltr">Meanwhile, the top jobs in all kinds of commercial structures are overwhelmingly occupied by men. Only <a href="https://forbes.kz/stats/jenskoe_otstuplenie_1/">11.6% of chief executives of Kazakhstan’s 2,291 mining and quarrying companies are women</a>; just 12.6% of its 867 electricity, gas, steam and air conditioning enterprises are run by women and they head only 12.9% of 9,218 agricultural, timber felling and fish processing firms.</p><p dir="ltr">Family relationships, even in urban centres, remain organised around the “breadwinner” role. Unemployment levels are higher among women (5.5%) than men (4.4%). The <a href="https://www.zakon.kz/4868253-zhenshchiny-v-kazahstane-luchshe.html">highest unemployment levels</a> are to be found among young people aged 25-34 – and here too there are more women (7.7%) than men (6.1%). And it is the same across the country. Both in the north and south of Kazakhstan, there is still a strong feeling that the responsibility for feeding the family lies on the man, and that women readily accept this situation.</p><p dir="ltr">It was only in 2009 that President Nursultan Nazarbayev <a href="https://online.zakon.kz/Document/?doc_id=30525680">signed</a> two gender-orientated laws that feminists had been promoting for many years. Feminist Svetlana Shakirova admits that this development was a complete surprise to activists in Kazakhstan women’s movement, and that the laws were evidently passed to satisfy western countries’ demands on the eve of Kazakhstan’s presidency of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE).</p><p dir="ltr">In an article published in March this year, lawyer Gulmira Akmoldina <a href="https://www.zakon.kz/4907400-gendernoe-ravenstvo.html">writes</a> that “over the 25 years since Kazakhstan became independent, progress has been made in gender equality, but it is still incomplete and it will require great efforts to complete the process, especially given the patriarchal tendencies of our country.”</p><p class="mag-quote-center" dir="ltr">“In 2017, Kazakhstan was number 52 out of 144 countries in terms of gender equality levels”</p><p dir="ltr">Akmoldina cites World Economic Forum tables, according to which, “in 2017, Kazakhstan was number 52 out of 144 countries in terms of gender equality levels” – a high rating for the country. She considers that the two laws passed by Nazarbayev still don’t allow Kazakh law enforcement agencies to help women at risk of domestic violence. One reason, she believes, is that the women themselves “don’t want to air their dirty linen in public”.</p><p dir="ltr">Of course, a more traditional and patriarchal way of life survives in the countryside, small towns and the south of the country – the majority of the Kazakh population lives in Kazakhstan’s southern regions and rural areas. As sociologist Mayra Kabakova <a href="http://e-history.kz/ru/contents/view/440">writes</a>: “a socio-psychological analysis of ethnic Kazakh value systems has revealed that family, children, health and prosperity remain the central values of today’s ethnic Kazakhs.” In general, it is the women living in big cities such as Almaty and the capital Astana who talk about gender equality, domestic violence and inequality at work. Everywhere else, feminist activists have no support from either the authorities or women themselves, who prefer a way of life in which their roles are defined as homemakers, daughters, wives, mothers and grandmothers.</p><h2>What do people know about feminism in Kazakhstan?</h2><p dir="ltr">People in power don’t always have a strong grasp on feminism. A lot of bureaucrats can quote Wikipedia, but that’s not the most reliable source of information. At the same time, it’s impossible to find any official quotes on the subject from Kazakh politicians and bureaucrats. They evidently try to avoid making public statements or asking straight questions.</p><p dir="ltr">Zhanar Sekerbayeva, an activist in the Feminita feminist initiative, believes that the concept of feminism in Kazakhstan is associated with hatred, spite and resentment: “People don’t seem to recognise the term, even if they do accept that women’s rights are infringed, LGBTIQ people are discriminated against, women face sexual harassment at work and domestic violence at home, and so on.”</p><p dir="ltr">The attitudes of Kazakhs, both male and female, to stories of sexual harassment at work are also hard to pin down. It is supposedly the woman’s own fault: she led the man on and awakened his natural desires.</p><p dir="ltr"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none_left caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/564053/04-2-1c823339_0.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/564053/04-2-1c823339_0.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="329" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Zhanar Sekerbayeva. Source: kok.team</span></span></span>Thus, human rights campaigner Valentina Almatinskaya writes in her report, “Sexual Harassment of Women at Work”, that this issue is ignored in Kazakhstan. This research work, made available to me, includes both the personal stories of women as told by them and the famous <a href="https://www.rferl.org/a/kazakhstan-woman-wont-back-down-rare-sexual-harassment-case/28560472.html">“Belousova Case”</a>.</p><p dir="ltr">This case concerned Anna Belousova, a 35-year-old woman living in a village in the Kostanay region of Kazakhstan, who was subjected to sexual harassment by her boss. She reported it to the local police, but they took no action. In 2012, with the help of the Kostanay office of the UNHCR, Belousova contacted the UN’s Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women. Three years later, the committee ruled in her favour and demanded that the Kazakhstan government award her “financial compensation for the moral and material damage incurred as a result of the infringement of her rights”. The government, however, refused to give her any compensation. “This case shows that even with defence mechanisms and international obligations in place, it’s still impossible to exercise your rights,” says Almatinskaya, whose work makes it clear that the government has done nothing to raise awareness of the fact that sexual harassment is a crime.</p><p dir="ltr">Another case, which went <a href="http://today.kz/news/zhizn/2018-02-02/759231-roliki-s-tseluyuschimisya-devushkami-nabirayut-populyarnost-v-seti/">viral on social media</a> in February 2018, is a video of two young women kissing in public. The clip sparked a literal witch hunt against the women by the local guardians of morality, the “uyatmen”, as they are known (in Kazakh, “uyat” means “shame”). The public is divided into two camps: those who support the moralists and are prepared to shame not only these young women, but everyone who rejects the strict code of behaviour imposed on them by their patriarchal upbringing; and those who feel that, in the first place, no one has the right to show a video in public without the permission of its participants and, in the second place, well, there’s a need to discuss the country’s real problems.</p><p dir="ltr">This row is still only gaining momentum, which is evidence that, in Kazakhstan, a new public set of views is forming, however slowly.</p><h2>Islam and feminism</h2><p dir="ltr">The first NGOs run for and by women emerged in Kazakhstan in the mid-1990s. By 1997, their number had risen from six to 30, and by 2000 there were around 200. Centres for gender studies and feminist leagues appeared at the same time.</p><p dir="ltr">These women’s NGOs are funded by international foundations and European embassies in the country, and the main issue they engage on is gender-based discrimination, both open and hidden. Svetlana Shakirova, from Almaty’s Gender Research Centre, has <a href="https://goo.gl/1BoKSX">noted</a> in one of her articles that “gender research developed in Kazakhstan… for the purpose of providing the government with data for annual UN and other international organisations’ reports.”</p><p dir="ltr">Today, the situation has changed to some extent. We have seen the emergence of a new wave of feminists with a western education who are aware of all the latest trends in social development. Such people can be found among the activists in the <a href="http://feminita.kz/">Feminita</a> feminist initiative, who are involved in defending the rights of Kazakhstan’s LGBT community.</p><p dir="ltr"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none_left caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/564053/xOuZo_NOPp8_0.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/564053/xOuZo_NOPp8_0.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="345" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Round table “Harassment is a crime”. Organizers: Inga Imanbay, Gulzada Serzhan. Source: Feminita / Vkontakte.</span></span></span>According to Karlygash Toktybayeva, a German language specialist who works at the Almaty Gender Research Centre, people in the west often have very superficial notions about Asia and Kazakhstan. During a recent discussion entitled “Feminism and Gender Research in Kazakhstan: 2018”, Toktybayeva talked about how westerners “were completely fazed by finding educated, laid back women in fashionable clothes, rather than the downtrodden, shawl-wearing ones they were expecting. On a trip to the States, our group was met by a facilitator who explained that our programme would be very busy and advised us to pray just twice, rather than five times a day.”</p><p dir="ltr">At the same time, though, there is a second new trend in Kazakhstan alongside feminism – <a href="https://ia-centr.ru/experts/timur-isakhanov/polzuchaya-islamizatsiya-v-kazakhstane-uskoryaetsya-na-glazakh/,%20https:/camonitor.kz/27572-ugrozhaet-li-islamizaciya-kazahstana-svetskomu-harakteru-gosudarstva.html">Islamisation</a>. In government and state institutions there are, for example, people who consider themselves Muslims because they observe all the necessary rituals: they fast during Ramadan, they pray five times a day. In government structures, of course, staff follow a European dress code. But outside, in the street, there are more and more young women and men whose clothing distinguishes from their non-religious peers – the women wear long clothes and headscarves, the men beards and skull-caps. The <a href="https://camonitor.kz/27827-kazahstan-religioznoe-protiv-nacionalnogo.html">fashion</a> for wearing hijab arrived in Kazakhstan with the first Turkish high schools, as well as repatriates.</p><p dir="ltr">Is there any crossover between these two new trends? The concept of <a href="http://vostalk.net/islamskij-feminizm/,%20https:/islam-today.ru/blogi/ildar-muhamedzanov/musulmanskij-feminizm-i-ego-sut/">“Islamic Feminism”</a> is, in fact, firmly established in academic discourse in such countries as Egypt, Algeria, Turkey and Pakistan. And some Islamic feminists believe that Islam has been hijacked by men, steeped in a patriarchal mindset.</p><p class="mag-quote-center" dir="ltr">In Kazakhstan, you will not find either any Muslim feminists or any high profile example of Islamic feminism</p><p dir="ltr">In Kazakhstan, however, you will not find either any Muslim feminists or any high profile example of Islamic feminism. This may be because Islamisation is just a recent trend, and also because Kazakhstanis still don’t know enough about Islam.</p><p dir="ltr">On the other hand, both the first Kazakh feminists and the current generation of activists embrace western values, which is why the concept of Islamic feminism hasn’t taken root in Kazakhstan. But this doesn’t mean that there are no practising Muslims among young women with progressive views actively involved in promoting civil rights. Those there are, however, have usually studied at universities in China, Malaysia or Turkey. And they may also be engaged in combating issues such as domestic and sexual violence.</p><h2>Violence in the home</h2><p dir="ltr">According to <a href="https://www.zakon.kz/4892833-do-400-zhenshchin-ezhegodno-pogibaet-v.html">World Health Organisation statistics</a>, around 400 women die annually in Kazakhstan as a result of domestic violence, and one in three women around the world have been subjected to physical or sexual violence.</p><p dir="ltr">Child psychologist Margarita Uskembayeva, Chair of the Institute of Equal Rights and Equal Opportunities of Kazakhstan and director of ARASHA, a refuge for victims of domestic violence, is not only actively engaged in research into gender equality but puts her precepts into practice. And one of her projects is helping to rehabilitate women who have experienced domestic abuse.</p><p dir="ltr">This help comes in a number forms: psychological intervention, financial support and special victim crisis centres. The public foundation she heads raises a variety of national issues, from violence against children in the family to police violence towards victims of domestic abuse. In one interview, Uskembayev <a href="https://www.zakon.kz/4873695-v-almaty-otkryli-prijut-dlja-zhertv.html">remarked</a> that “all the women say that their abusers just buy off the police, doctors and other people”, adding that “everything is for sale here, including male solidarity.”</p><p dir="ltr">Uskembayeva’s crisis centre is not, of course, the only one in Kazakhstan: there are 28 similar centres for victims of domestic violence around the country, supported by public and international organisations. In June 2016, for example, the Prosecutor General launched a project called <a href="http://www.exclusive.kz/expertiza/obshhestvo/13928/,%20https:/the-steppe.com/news/razvitie/2017-12-11/kazahstan-bez-nasiliya-v-seme-intervyu-predstavitelya-genprokuratury-o-novom-proekte">“Kazakhstan without Violence in the Home”</a>, to be carried out by his Office in conjunction with the Presidential National Commission for Women and Demographic Policies; the Ministry of Internal Affairs; UN Women, the global champion of gender equality and an EU programme in Kazakhstan. The very serious social consequences of domestic violence – families destroyed, health broken, women dying – were highlighted at an specialist meeting of the Prosecutor General’s Office in 2016.</p><p dir="ltr"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none_left caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/564053/maxresdefault_8_0.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/564053/maxresdefault_8_0.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="259" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Dina Smailova (on the right). Source: YouTube.</span></span></span>Meanwhile, as regards punitive measures against people inflicting this violence, in July 2017 the president signed a law turning domestic violence into a mere administrative, rather than a criminal offence, attracting a maximum of 15 days under arrest. Dina Smailova, who heads the Nemolchi.kz (“Speak Out.kz”) movement, explains the change by the fact that “it’s a rare woman who is prepared to send her husband to prison, even if has crippled her” – and the new law at least gives her “two weeks of peace”.</p><p dir="ltr">But how can administrative measures change the general domestic violence situation if you don’t also change the patriarchal mentality that has governed family life for centuries? It is crucial to promote intolerance towards domestic violence, and by both men and women. Our only hope in this situation is the new generation of Kazakh feminists, who stress the need to resolve concrete issues in the country’s regions – issues such as domestic violence, the kidnapping of young brides, early marriage and all the other fallout from patriarchal tradition in Kazakhstan.</p><p dir="ltr">&nbsp;</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/od-russia/elena-kostyuchenko/what-i-didnt-write-about-zhanaozen">What I didn’t write about Zhanaozen</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/od-russia/maurizio-totaro/fire-and-oil-in-western-kazakhstan">Fire and oil in western Kazakhstan&#039;s “spiritual renovation”</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/od-russia/owen-hatherley/in-kazakhstan-architectural-heritage">In Kazakhstan, architectural heritage is a path into a forgotten future</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/od-russia/dina-baidildayeva/internet-censorship-in-kazakhstan">Internet censorship in Kazakhstan: more pervasive than you may think</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/od-russia/inga-imanbai-andrey-grishin/whats-behind-chinas-anti-kazakh-campaign%20">What’s behind China’s anti-Kazakh campaign? </a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> oD Russia oD Russia Botagoz Seydakhmetova Kazakhstan Tue, 19 Jun 2018 05:10:09 +0000 Botagoz Seydakhmetova 118433 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Turkey’s three-dimensional populism, three leaders and three blocs https://www.opendemocracy.net/can-europe-make-it/omer-tekdemir/turkey-s-three-dimensional-populism-three-leaders-and-three-blocs <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>The election is therefore offered a choice between three blocs, each of which mobilises people in terms of a different type of populism as expounded by their respective charismatic leader.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/PA-37060713.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/PA-37060713.jpg" alt="lead " title="" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" width="460" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Jailed presidential candidate for Turkey's pro-Kurdish opposition, Selahattin Demirtas, makes his first television appearance in over a year and a half on June 17, 2018. Depo Photos/Press Association. All rights reserved.</span></span></span></p><p>The upcoming presidential election in Turkey is another interesting example of the global populist zeitgeist, albeit taking on diverse forms in different countries in southeast Europe, the east Mediterranean and the Middle East. Turkey has been subject to the power of the right-wing conservative populist, Justice and Development Party (AKP) for the last 16 years under the former football player Recep Tayyip Erdogan (who is in some sense a charismatic leader). </p><p>The AKP’s hold on power has created a sense of despair on the part of the opposition (similar to that during Thatcher’s years in the UK with her claim that ‘there was no alternative’ to the neoliberal order) until June 2013 and the emergence of the Gezi protest movement, which has been compared to other grass roots (or square) movements such as occupy, the anti-austerity movement and the Arab spring.</p> <p>Gezi as an irregular, populist social movement rejected the existing representative democracy by arguing that as the mass of ordinary people, they were not represented by the elitist centre-right and centre-left parties. Instead, the many components of the Gezi movement synergized with the new Kurdish-led and left-leaning populist Peoples’ Democracy Party (HDP) that for the first-time afforded a real opportunity for representation of not only a collective Kurdish political identity but other excluded groups and brought 80 MPs into the Parliament in June 2015.</p> <p>The HDP established a chain of equivalence between its diverse components without essentialising Kurdish identity over other alliances, using radical democracy as a common point of affiliation. The HDP uses a different discourse than the orthodox pro-Kurdish political parties through the charming left-wing populism of the human rights lawyer, Selahattin Demirtas. He is one of the candidates for the presidency in the June 24, 2018 election but has been in prison for over a year facing a prison sentence of up to 142 years on terrorism charges (plus four years for insulting Erdogan) while approximately a hundred mayors of his HDP party have been replaced by government-appointed trustees.</p> <p>The discursive hegemonic approach of Ernesto Laclau identifies populism as something that constructs the political in terms of the people (the underdog) versus elites (the establishment) – although how populism is deployed can either further or frustrate democratic ends. Interestingly, the AKP as a party of the right successfully employed the discourse of ‘the People’ against the Kemalist status quo during the structural crisis of the regime, emphasizing stability and development within a liberal democratic framework, a policy of seeking EU accession and a neoliberal capitalist economy.</p> <p>After some time in power, however, the AKP began to define ‘the People’ in more religious, and recently more nationalist, ways. The party, now acting as a new power elite, offered the rhetoric of creating a ‘new Turkey’ by social engineering and tended towards a majoritarian and illiberal political stance. </p> <p>Within this authoritarian populist context, which we might describe as post-political (where the state-centred policies of the centre parties, both religious and secular, are hard to distinguish apart), the Kurdish political movement realized that it was not enough simply to pursue the demand for Kurdish national rights. Instead, the mainstream Kurdish political agents (such as the Democratic Society Party and the Democratic Regions Party) adapted a ‘progressive nationalism’ (similar to that of the Scottish National Party that electorally replaced the Scottish Labour Party on the left) which reached beyond regional politics and provided the ground for the HDP’s radical democratic project (a project bearing a relationship to Podemos and Catalan nationalism). This radical democratic bloc came to represent the demands of diverse groups based on religion, ethnicity, gender, and sexuality as well as economic minorities, in an inclusive left-wing populism.</p> <h2><strong>The CHP</strong></h2> <p>In the upcoming elections, the main opposition Kemalist secular Republican Peoples’ Party (the CHP and the founder party of the Republic) are using an offensive strategy and promoting their MP Muharrem Ince, a former physics teacher (who comes from a Sunni Muslim and leftist background), as the candidate for the presidency. </p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/PA-36955926.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/PA-36955926.jpg" alt="" title="" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" width="460" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Muharrem Ince speaks during a rally in Diyarbakir city, June 11th, 2018. Depo Photos/Press Association. All rights reserved.</span></span></span>Ince’s humanitarian populist leadership demonstrates a very successful social democratic populism. He personally embraces the diversity of Turkish society and was even against removing parliamentary immunity against prosecution for those HDP MPs accused of promoting terror (namely a separate Kurdish national identity and self-governance) even though his own party, the CHP, supported the AKP’s decision to send them to trial which ended in a significant number of the HDP MPs being arrested or fleeing the country. </p><p>Ince became a hope for the liberal supporters of the CHP by reactivating the social democratic face of the party, although this audience already had had similar experiences with Erdal Inonu’s Social Democratic Populist Party (SHP) and Bulent Ecevit’s Democratic Left Party (DSP).</p> <p>Ince has started to develop a different discourse and has hence promoted a sort of neo-Kemalist six pillars (republicanism, populism, laicism, revolutionism, nationalism and statism) via an egalitarian and libertarian interpretation of Kemalism for his fellow citizens, although from this are excluded Syrian refugees who are accused of being supporters of Erdogan and the backbone of a Salafi Islam as well as an economic burden for the country. The problem here is the resulting ambiguity between the CHP’s institutional/vertical politics and Ince’s individual/horizontal populist leadership.</p> <p>In the recent post-political situation two main blocs have emerged. On the one hand, there is the Islamic-oriented AKP who have created a de facto coalition in the name of a ‘public alliance’ with the ultra-nationalist Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) and Great Unionist Party (BBP). On the other hand, the secular CHP has joined with the Islamist Felicity Party (SP) and the right-wing Good Party (IYI) (former MHP members) to assemble a ‘national alliance’. Both pacts, particularly that led by the CHP, have ruled out bringing the HDP (because of its Kurdish domination) into blocs dominated by the Turkishnesss discourse of a homogenized citizenship, whether in an Islamic or secular form.</p> <h2><strong>Polarisation and tension</strong></h2> <p>The country’s politics and society are now extremely polarized and tense. The government party has established a new political frontier based on a division between us/friend (pro-AKP and support for a one-man rule presidential system) and them/enemy (anti-AKP, pro-parliamentarian democracy) which is different from the old we/they distinction. </p> <p>While the HDP’s position can be read as a Derridian ‘constitutive outsider’, the party has re-constructed an alternative political frontier which is based on an ideology and philosophy that does not moralize politics through the appeal to some sacred values not open to democratic discussion (e.g. Muslimness and Turkishness). Furthermore, the HDP has identified ‘we’, ‘the People’, in terms of an agonistic pluralism that brings the conflict into the centre of politics via a conflictual consensus and promotes compromise in disagreement (such as the association between devout Muslims, Alevis, LGBTs, feminists and Afro-Turks and non-Muslims) and one positioned within a symbolic democratic ground based on the democratic principles of liberty and equality for all.</p> <h2><strong>Choice of three?</strong></h2> <p>The election is therefore offered a choice between three blocs, each of which mobilises people in terms of a different type of populism as expounded by their respective charismatic leader. However, if Ince, in the way of Jeremy Corbyn and the Labour Party, can manage to shift the CHP’s establishment towards advocating a progressive and popular patriotism instead of ethnic nationalism, especially in relation to the so-called ‘Kurdish question’ and, moreover, if he can create a politics grounded on a new hegemonic articulation, with a partisan nature (e.g. left and right) where economic projects replace the prioritizing of state security over society, then this could pave the way towards more social justice, popular sovereignty and the democratisation of the political system.</p> <p>This would also allow scope for the radical democracy bloc to widen and deepen. This in turn might create an opportunity for an agonistic negotiation that seeks to transform an antagonistic enemy (one who needs to be eliminated) into an agonistic adversary (one with whom you can negotiate on different concepts, such as democracy, citizenship, etc.). There would be a chance to build an alternative society based on the diverse collective identities of Turkey, a ‘national alliance’ constituted by a dominant and extensive stratum of the Turkish society. </p> <p>This new initiative could bring new hope for a reconciliation with the Kurdish political groupings and a restoration of democracy away from the current post-democratic system that suffers under the state of emergency, decree law and a toxic demagoguery founded on post-truth and anti-intellectualism.</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/can-europe-make-it/luke-frostick-merve-pehlivan/can-turkish-opposition-beat-erdo">Can the Turkish Opposition beat Erdoğan?</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/can-europe-make-it/filiz-kahraman/can-europe-save-turkey-from-sliding-into-authoritarianism">Can Europe save Turkey from sliding into authoritarianism? </a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Turkey </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Civil society </div> <div class="field-item even"> Conflict </div> <div class="field-item odd"> Culture </div> <div class="field-item even"> Democracy and government </div> <div class="field-item odd"> Ideas </div> <div class="field-item even"> International politics </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> Can Europe make it? Can Europe make it? North-Africa West-Asia Turkey Civil society Conflict Culture Democracy and government Ideas International politics Omer Tekdemir Mon, 18 Jun 2018 20:55:12 +0000 Omer Tekdemir 118464 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Global capitalism in Central Asia and competing economic imaginaries https://www.opendemocracy.net/od-russia/balihar-sanghera-and-elmira-satybaldieva/global-capitalism-in-central-asia <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>For the US, Russia and China, Central Asia is a space of competing economic influences.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p dir="ltr"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none_left caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/564053/10253845646_ba363b44c6_z.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/564053/10253845646_ba363b44c6_z.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="306" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Khan Shatyr entertainment centre. Photo CC BY 2.0: Ben Dalton / Flickr. Some rights reserved.</span></span></span>The US, Russia and China have competing visions and strategies of economic development in Central Asia, partly in response to economic problems and contradictions in their own advanced and emerging capitalist economies. In seeking to regulate Central Asia, the major powers are also competing to shape global capitalism and the international order. Central Asia offers an array of economic opportunities for major powers, including access and control of valuable natural resources, favourable terms of trade and efficient trade routes.</p><p dir="ltr">In recent years, two economic regional integration initiatives have propelled Central Asia&nbsp;<a href="https://publicpolicy.stanford.edu/news/one-belt-one-road-exporting-chinese-model-eurasia">from the periphery to the centre in geopolitics</a>. First,&nbsp;<a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/ernesto-gallo-giovanni-biava/new-eurasian-world-order">the Eurasian Economic Union</a> (EEU) was established by Russia, Belarus and Kazakhstan in 2015, with Armenia and Kyrgyzstan joining later. The EEU introduces the free movement of goods, capital, labour and services, and provides for common policies in macroeconomic and industrial spheres. There are plans for greater economic integration and harmonisation, and for its expansion and cooperation with countries from South Asia and Middle East. It operates through supranational and intergovernmental institutions, and is largely modelled on the European Union.</p><p dir="ltr">Second, in 2013 President Xi Jinping of China proposed the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) to create&nbsp;<a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/od-russia/michael-cecire/china%E2%80%99s-quiet-splash-in-post-soviet-space">trade and infrastructure network</a> connecting Asia with Europe and Africa along ancient trade routes, such as the land and maritime Silk Road.&nbsp;Since then, many Central and South Asian countries have signed cooperation agreements with China to invest in roads, railways and transport hubs, as well as in mines, factories and plants. Many of the BRI investment proposals have been approved and are at the planning stage, and some have been completed, such as the Khorgos Gateway dry port in Kazakhstan.</p><p dir="ltr">Russia’s EEU and China’s BRI contrast with the dominant neoliberal Washington Consensus model, which is promoted by US-backed international financial institutions, such as the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the World Bank and the Asian Development Bank. Since the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, neoliberal reforms have been standard economic prescriptions in Central Asia and other parts of the world.&nbsp;Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan have adopted many of the measures, such as the IMF macroeconomic framework and de-regulation of trade and capital, though other Central Asian economies have been more cautious, and have retained strong state controls over industries and markets.&nbsp;</p><h2>The Washington Consensus</h2><p dir="ltr">Neoliberalism developed as a macroeconomic doctrine in response to the crisis of Atlantic Fordism in the west. It was used to valorise private enterprise, to be suspicious of the state, and to fetishise the free market. For over two decades, western-dominated international development agencies promoted structural and institutional market reforms in transition and developing economies under the banner of the Washington Consensus policy agenda. Their “super-vision” resulted in de-territorialisation, globalisation and market integration between developed and developing economies. Neoliberal reforms opened up key economic sectors to foreign investment, reduced trade tariffs and subsidies, de-regulated and privatised public utilities, and strengthened and expanded private property and the judiciary. Foreign and private investors seized opportunities to extract rent through&nbsp;<a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/beyondslavery/andrew-sayer/moral-economy-different-way-of-thinking-about-economics-for-future">the ownership and control of key assets</a>, such as oil fields, mines, quasi-monopolies and money.&nbsp;The neoliberal economic growth regime has been characterised by David Harvey as <a href="https://socialistregister.com/index.php/srv/article/view/5811/2707">“accumulation by dispossession”</a>.</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none_left caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/564053/800px-Jack-up-rig-in-the-caspian-sea.JPG" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/564053/800px-Jack-up-rig-in-the-caspian-sea.JPG" alt="" title="" width="460" height="296" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Drilling platform “Iran Khazar” in operation on a Dragon Oil production platform in the Cheleken field, Turkmenistan. Photo CC BY-SA 3.0: Wikimedia Commons. Some rights reserved.</span></span></span>After the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, western development agencies helped to frame and regulate the transition to&nbsp;<a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/od-russia/balihar-sanghera/unmasking-central-asias-neoliberal-judges">a market economy in Central Asia</a>. Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan were favourably compared to other countries in the region on a number of indicators of market transition, including price liberalisation, large-and small-scale privatisation, and trade and foreign exchange system. Western companies were among the major beneficiaries of neoliberal reforms, acquiring and controlling lucrative assets, including quasi-monopolies.</p><p dir="ltr">The US is one of the leading sources of&nbsp;<a href="https://www.state.gov/e/eb/rls/othr/ics/2017/sca/270019.htm">foreign capital in Kazakhstan</a>, and the majority of its investment is in&nbsp;the oil and gas sector. US corporations were among the first foreign investors to establish ownership and control in the sector. In 1993, two US oil corporations, Chevron and ExxonMobil, established a 75% stake in Tengizchevroil, a leading Kazakhstani oil company.&nbsp;Recently, the US corporation General Electric <a href="http://getransportation.com/ge-transportation-signs-locomotive-and-service-agreements-valued-over-900-million-kazakhstan">signed a strategic partnership</a> with the Kazakhstani state railway company, Temir Zholy, giving the former 50% stake in the latter.</p><p dir="ltr">In addition, the neoliberal reforms sought to separate commercial banks from the central bank, liberalise interest rates, restructure and privatise state banks, and allow the entry of foreign banks. Since the early 1990s, western-backed international financial institutions have provided substantial credit and technical training to many banks and microfinance institutions in Central Asia, in particular Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan.</p><p class="mag-quote-center" dir="ltr">US-led financial institutions were instrumental in creating open spaces of trade, capital and finance flows in Central Asia</p><p dir="ltr">Commercial banks and microfinance institutions in Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan are strongly integrated into the global circuit of capital. In the 1990s and 2000s, these states heavily borrowed from US and other western financial institutions through syndicated loans, securitisation and issuance of bonded debt to fund a rapid expansion of credit. In Kazakhstan,&nbsp;<a href="https://www.imf.org/external/pubs/ft/scr/2010/cr10241.pdf">the share of foreign currency lending</a> (especially in US dollar) in the total bank credit was 71% in 2001, and 47% in 2009.</p><p dir="ltr">US-led financial institutions were instrumental in creating open spaces of trade, capital and finance flows in Central Asia, in particular Kazakhstan. Western companies seized opportunities to extract rent through the ownership and control of scarce assets, including natural resources and money.</p><p dir="ltr">The&nbsp;<a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/od-russia/balihar-sanghera/economic-dystopia-in-kyrgyzstan">neoliberal economic imaginary</a> also resulted in volatility, debt, insecurity, criminality and violence in Central Asia. For instance, in 2014 and 2015, the&nbsp;Kazakhstani&nbsp;tenge devalued against the US dollar that increased the debt of individuals and companies who had borrowed in dollars. The rate of non-performing loans rose to alarming levels, and some major banks were bailed out by the state. The easy access to off- and onshore centres, in particular the City of London, incentivised public corruption and rent-seeking activities by political elites, and facilitated&nbsp;<a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/od-russia/john-heathershaw-alexander-cooley/dictators-without-borders">illicit and licit outflows of capital from Central Asia</a>. In Kyrgyzstan, the <a href="https://www.globalwitness.org/en/campaigns/corruption-and-money-laundering/anonymous-company-owners/grave-secrecy/">scale of looting by Maxim Bakiyev</a>, the son of the then-president, contributed to the overthrow of the government in 2010. These negative externalities of the Washington Consensus were borne by ordinary Central Asian people, who lacked the economic and social capital to protect themselves.&nbsp;</p><h2>Russia’s Eurasian Economic Union</h2><p dir="ltr">The EEU can be interpreted as&nbsp;<a href="http://eprints.lse.ac.uk/72026/1/blogs.lse.ac.uk-Eurasian%20integration%20could%20offer%20a%20counterpoint%20to%20the%20EU%20and%20the%20United%20States%20but%20only%20in%20close%20co-.pdf">a movement in progress</a>, responding to the chaos and crises of neoliberalism and globalisation. The 1998 financial crisis exposed the vulnerability of Russia and other post-Soviet states to powerful external forces and organisations beyond the control of single nation states. This crisis prompted Russia to have an interest in regional economic integration, which previously it was ambivalent about. The 2007-2008 global financial crisis accelerated the pace of economic integration. Russia betted on the fact that its economy would be less affected by disruptive global economic forces if it was embedded in a larger, more diverse, economic community.</p><p dir="ltr">The EEU has similar measures to the European Union to deepen regional integration. It allows for the free movement of labour and services, not just trade and capital.&nbsp;<a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/od-russia/ekaterina-neroznikova/strangers-in-village">Migrant labour from Central Asia</a> has helped Russia to tackle its labour shortages. A major part of Eurasian regional integration is the customs union, which was formed in 2010 and induced a trade diversion towards Russian manufactures, because the member countries applied Russia’s tariff schedule as their common external tariff for third countries. Kazakhstan’s average tariff almost doubled in the first year of the customs union, improving Russia’s competitiveness.&nbsp;Kazakhstan’s imports from Russia substantially increased, displacing imports from the rest of the world. This resulted in growing&nbsp;<a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/od-russia/luca-anceschi-paolo-sorbello/kazakhstan-and-eeu-rise-of-eurasian-scepticism">scepticism about Eurasian</a>&nbsp;integration in the country.</p><p class="mag-quote-center" dir="ltr">The formation of the Eurasian Economic Union has allowed Russian industries to be price competitive within the EEU, exploit migrant labour, modernise production, and conduct transactions in roubles</p><p dir="ltr">Deep regional integration also seeks to encourage productive investment and cooperation within member countries. The EEU aims to modernise the sphere of production, which was neglected in the 1990s. In 2006 Russia and Kazakhstan established the Eurasian Development Bank to support regional integration through large-scale productive investment. Russia and Kazakhstan have developed cooperative projects in several priority sectors, such as chemical manufacturing and mechanical engineering.</p><p dir="ltr">Russia gave soft loans, subsidies and guarantees to secure poorer member countries’ commitment to deepen integration, and to address uneven development within the EEU. In 2015 Russia gave loans totalling USD 500 million to establish the Russian-Kyrgyz Development Fund. The Fund’s goals include the&nbsp;modernisation of Kyrgyzstan’s export-oriented industries (including agribusiness and clothing) to ensure a smooth transition to the economic union. The Fund also issues business loans for productive investment only, and caps interest rates well below the market rates.</p><p dir="ltr">To deepen economic integration, Russia, Kazakhstan and Belarus envision&nbsp;<a href="http://www.pravdareport.com/russia/economics/10-04-2014/127325-russia_kazakhstan_belarus_new_currency-0/">a new common currency</a> possibly by 2025. This would ensure greater monetary control and stability, and would insulate member countries from disruptive global economic crises. It would also counter the hegemony of the US dollar and its ‘exorbitant privilege’. The international monetary system has been criticised for sustaining the US’s excessive military and consumer spending, without imposing austerity cuts to address the US’s budget and trade account deficits.</p><p dir="ltr">The EEU attempts to&nbsp;<a href="https://www.rt.com/business/416636-russia-ruble-dollar-dependence/">de-dollarise the region</a>.&nbsp;Between 2012-2017 the share of rouble settlements in the <a href="https://www.rt.com/business/416636-russia-ruble-dollar-dependence/">EEU increased from 56% to 75%, while the share of the US dollar decreased from 35% to 19%</a>. In addition,&nbsp;<a href="https://www.globalresearch.ca/de-dollarization-and-the-resistance-economy-president-putin-in-tehran-negotiating-a-multi-billion-petro-ruble-oil-deal/5616906">Russia promotes the rouble</a> in trade negotiations with numerous countries. For instance, Russia signed&nbsp;billions worth of tripartite hydrocarbon deals in roubles with Iran and Azerbaijan.&nbsp;</p><p dir="ltr">The formation of the Eurasian Economic Union has allowed Russian industries to be price competitive within the EEU, exploit migrant labour, modernise production, and conduct transactions in roubles. But the EEU faces some obstacles. As the EEU market size is small, Russian companies can struggle to fully realise their economies of scale. The EEU’s trade barriers can restrict imports of high quality and innovative products, thereby damaging member countries’ technical and long-term competitiveness. Tension and conflicts between member states can threaten the EEU’s future viability, as members disagree over key issues, including political sovereignty.&nbsp;Member states also face challenges arising from western-backed sanctions against Russia over its annexation of Crimea.&nbsp;</p><h2>China’s Belt and Road Initiative</h2><p dir="ltr">By the late 2000s,&nbsp;China faced <a href="http://isj.org.uk/chinas-capitalism-and-the-crisis/">an overaccumulation crisis</a>, stemming from both overproduction and demand deficiency. Capital accumulated at a rate higher than what could prevented the average rate of profit from falling. Economic decentralisation created a fragmented national economy, in which local governments engaged in anarchic competition to attract foreign direct investment. This nurtured overinvestment and uncoordinated construction of redundant production capacity and infrastructure.</p><p dir="ltr">China’s economic crisis was exacerbated by its response to the 2008 global financial crisis. Fearing a downturn in global trade would trigger a collapse of the export sector, and then an economic recession and a loss of political legitimacy, the Communist Party quickly introduced a 570 billion USD stimulus package of government spending and credit. The stimulus package did little to re-balance China’s economy and its dependence on exports to western markets.</p><p dir="ltr">China’s BRI is an economic imaginary that attempts to address the tensions and contradictions of its capitalist economy. It re-affirms the model of&nbsp;<a href="http://isj.org.uk/chinas-capitalism-and-the-crisis/">investment-driven and export-oriented economic growth</a>. It relieves and displaces the crisis in regions of overaccumulation by moving capital to new territories at home and abroad. The existing regime of capital accumulation is enlarged and transformed, as new spatial networks are created, and capital is re-routed to areas that can ensure more profitable returns. The new space is endowed with the necessary infrastructure to create different and faster circuits of production, distribution and consumption.</p><p class="mag-quote-center" dir="ltr">The three economic imaginaries of Central Asia are attempts by major global powers to address specific dilemmas, contradictions and crises within their own capitalist economies</p><p dir="ltr">The BRI attempts to&nbsp;<a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/democraciaabierta/alejandro-frenkel/brics-and-chinese-expansive-multilateralism">rebalance the Chinese economy</a> by creating new trade routes and markets in Eurasia, South Asia and the Middle East, so that it can become resilient to debt deflation and economic slowdown in the west. The 2008 financial crisis exposed the vulnerable nature of China’s economic dependence on the US and Europe for exports and capital accumulation.</p><p dir="ltr">China views&nbsp;<a href="http://centralasiaprogram.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/12/OBOR_Book_.pdf">Central Asia as a strategic region</a> for trade and access to natural resource reserves, such as oil and gas from Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan, and minerals and precious metals from Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan. China used its surplus capital to give loans to Central Asian states to secure energy and resources. For instance, in 2009 China provided 10 billion USD in loans to Kazakhstan in return for access to its oil and gas sector, about 15% of the total oil output.</p><p dir="ltr">China helped to fund and build transport infrastructure in Central Asia to increase and speed up transcontinental trade.&nbsp;<a href="http://centralasiaprogram.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/12/OBOR_Book_.pdf">Kazakhstan’s Khorgos</a> has become a key transit hub and logistical centre for cargo on the Silk Road between China and Europe. Khorgos is one the BRI’s flagship projects, and is being developed as the world largest dry port. Freight trains from China to Europe increased from 1,000 in 2016 to 1,612 in 2017, though not all of them went through Kazakhstan.</p><p dir="ltr">China is also running new freight services to emerging markets. For instance, in 2016 cargo trains started to operate between China and Iran via Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan. In addition, a proposal is likely to be approved to construct&nbsp;<a href="https://www.timesca.com/index.php/news/26-opinion-head/19193-china-kyrgyzstan-uzbekistan-railway-to-improve-attractiveness-of-central-asia">a new railway from China to Uzbekistan</a> that will shorten the delivery time of Chinese products to the Persian Gulf countries by 7-8 days.</p><p dir="ltr">Several local protests have broken out in Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan over China’s access to agricultural land and mines, its environmental damage and pollution, and the use of Chinese workers over local labour. Furthermore, the lack of transparency of the BRI projects’ terms and conditions has raised fears that political elites in Central Asia are involved in corruption and fraud.</p><h2>The economic imaginaries compared</h2><p dir="ltr">The three economic imaginaries of Central Asia (the Washington Consensus, the EEU and the BRI) are attempts by major global powers to address specific dilemmas, contradictions and crises within their own capitalist economies. In trying to manage the crisis of Atlantic Fordism, the US opened up and liberalised other economies to US trade, investment and finance. Russia’s strategy to promote deep regional integration and&nbsp;productive investment evolved in response to the neoliberal shock therapy and the 2007-2008 global financial crisis. China’s ‘going out’ strategy aimed to invest surplus capital into other countries’ infrastructure and productive projects so as to tackle its overaccumulation crisis.</p><p dir="ltr">Despite their historical differences,&nbsp;the global powers’ economic imaginaries have treated some capitalist dilemmas and contradictions in a similar way. For instance, in order to secure cost advantages at home and abroad, the US, Russia and China emphasised the importance of the wage as a cost of production. This meant that the US weakened collective labour power at home and moved its production abroad to low-wage countries. Russia used migrant labour from Central Asia to depress domestic wages and to be price competitive within the EEU. China maintained tight controls on wages to secure its export-growth strategy.</p><p dir="ltr">The economic imaginaries also highlighted the role of the state to secure internal and external conditions for&nbsp;the valorisation of capital. Their&nbsp;integration into the world economy and the global circuit of capital partly explains these similarities. While there were differences in their treatment of rentier activities and collective production, they recognised the importance of capital as an abstract value in motion.</p><p dir="ltr">The global powers’ economic imaginaries of Central Asia involved significant discursive, cultural and historical elements. The neoliberal discourse in the post-Soviet space was powerful, because market reforms were associated with broader economic and political values, such as choice, enterprise, individualism, freedom and pluralism. While Central Asia’s middle class groups found ideas of openness and competition attractive, the ruling elites were more cautious.</p><p dir="ltr">Despite ethnic and religious differences, EEU member countries had strong cultural, linguistic and symbolic ties, because of their shared Soviet history, though this also caused Central Asia countries to be wary of reproducing any remnant of the past. China re-invented the historical connections between China and Central Asia, by comparing the BRI to the Silk Road’s ancient network of trade routes. But a history of territorial disputes and Chinese persecution of Turkic ethnic groups such as the Uyghurs have shaped regional distrust of Chinese expansion.</p><p dir="ltr">The political legitimacy of global powers’ economic imaginaries, or social fixes, have not gone unchallenged, partly because of negative effects in Central Asia. For instance, neoliberalisation in Kyrgyzstan generated social discontent over foreign and elite acquisition of assets, predatory lending practices and household indebtedness. After entering the EEU, both Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan experienced economic difficulties. Households either bought inferior Russian commodities or paid higher prices for non-EEU goods. Some Chinese-financed projects were embroiled in controversies over Central Asian kleptocracy. For example, Tajikistan’s ruling elites were accused of fraud when they transformed a BRI highway project into a toll road.</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="/od-russia/john-heathershaw-nick-megoran/central-asia-discourse-of-danger">Central Asia: the discourse of danger</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/od-russia/daniele-rumolo/%E2%80%98switzerland-of-central-asia%E2%80%99-is-not-looking-very-swiss">The ‘Switzerland of Central Asia’ is not looking very Swiss</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/od-russia/balihar-sanghera/economic-dystopia-in-kyrgyzstan">Economic dystopia in Kyrgyzstan</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> oD Russia oD Russia Elmira Satybaldieva Balihar Sanghera Russia Kazakhstan Economy Mon, 18 Jun 2018 14:26:20 +0000 Balihar Sanghera and Elmira Satybaldieva 118405 at https://www.opendemocracy.net