democracy &amp; power https://opendemocracy.net/taxonomy/term/72/0 en Erdoğan and Putin: unalike likeness https://opendemocracy.net/dimitar-bechev/erdo%C4%9F-and-putin-unalike-likeness <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>The leaders of Turkey and Russia are often compared. But their differences are more instructive than their similarities.</p><p>(<em>This article was first published on 22 November 2014</em>)</p> </div> </div> </div> <p>Strongmen are in high demand across Europe’s fringes these days. Hungary’s prime minister Victor Orbán hit a raw nerve when, addressing a crowd of admirers in neighbouring Romania in July 2014, he declared that the era of liberal democracy was over. Orbán, the <em>bête noire</em> of many a Europhile, vowed to lead the Hungarian nation with a firm grip and to protect its vital interests against foreign encroachments. Amongst the examples he cited as inspiring this resolve were Russia and Turkey.</p><p>Orbán was not the first, nor will he be the last, to put Vladimir Putin and Recep Tayyip Erdoğan in the same basket. Turkey’s combative prime minister (now president) raised cries of “Putinisation" from his opponents as early as September 2009, when he despatched the tax authorities to impose a $3.8 million fine on Doğan Holding, a powerful media group.&nbsp; </p><p>There were differences: the streetwise businessman turned media mogul Aydın Doğan was treated far less roughly than had been Mikhail Khodorkovsky and his Yukos company.&nbsp; Erdoğan's personal feud, on this occasion at least, sent no one to prison - and Doğan Holding is still around. </p><p>Yet the tax-violation case did echo the painfully familiar Russian maxim: “<em>druzyam - vsyo, vragam - zakon</em>” (“friends get everything, enemies get the law"). The selective application of the law showed who was the boss in Turkey. Soon the spectre of “Putinisation”&nbsp; would overshadow previous concerns that Erdoğan's Justice &amp; Development Party (AKP) was seeking the Islamisation of society and the state. Turkey, it was said, was turning not into the Islamic Republic of Iran but into a second Russia.&nbsp;&nbsp; </p><p>By 2013, with Erdoğan’s security clampdown on the civic protests around Istanbul's Gezi Park - and his enthronement as a sultan-like president a year later - the parallel with the Kremlin's master was becoming even more salient. After all, Putin himself had reoccupied the presidency in 2012 in the wake of the protest rallies at Moscow’s Bolotnaya Square, having proved adept - again like Erdoğan - at exploiting the anger and frustration of a disenchanted urban middle class that had benefited from a decade of robust economic growth but was now feeling less secure. </p><p>Their responses to the protests were similar in style if different in detail. Putin spied a plot to export a "colour revolution", Erdoğan a conspiracy fomented by the global “interest-rate lobby” to thwart Turkey’s inexorable rise. In each case the leader's rhetorical and, latterly real, wars paid off. Putin annexed Crimea and detached parts of eastern Ukraine, in the process showing how foreign policy can be used to consolidate domestic support. Erdoğan had already bolstered his popularity via virulent attacks on Israel as well as the United States, and deployed the same fiery nationalist discourse over the conflict in Syria.&nbsp; </p><p>In both cases too, relations with the European Union have been poisoned amid Moscow and Ankara's frequent recriminations and complaints of unfair treatment. Rejection by Europe has brought the two supposed "rising powers" closer, an embrace helped by the good personal chemistry between Erdoğan and Putin (notwithstanding the indirect clash over Syria, where they back opposing sides). Turkey, a longstanding Nato member, has declined to join western sanctions against Russia over Ukraine; bilateral trade is booming (partly fuelled by the Turkish economy's need for gas); Turkey’s construction companies earn lucrative contracts from Sochi to Moscow; and millions of Russian tourists flock to Turkey's Mediterranean resorts.</p><p><strong>Power and its constraints</strong></p><p>It is to be expected, then, that some analysts see Erdoğan and Putin as two sides of the same coin. Natalie Nougayrède, writing in the <em>Guardian</em>, speaks of “the two angry men on Europe’s borders” who ruthlessly pursue power, exploit historical traumas and myths of victimhood, and mix nationalism and anti-liberal traditionalism to pose a fundamental challenge to European values. Others refer to an "axis of the excluded”. </p><p>There is certainly a grain of truth in these views. Both Turkey's illiberal system and Russia's autocratic regime snub the model projected by the west - and the European Union in particular; both leaders seek inspiration in past empires (Ottoman and Tsarist-Soviet) rather than Brussels’ EU-topia. They are a poignant reminder that liberal democracy with its insistence on the rule of law, pluralism and deliberation is not the only game in town. The alternative they represent - the omnipresent and venerated state, the strong-willed and charismatic leader, the direct appeal to the masses through the skilful use of media, the staunch belief in sovereignty, and the reluctance to delegate or share power (either domestically or in the context of international institutions) - is a radical contrast to the EU’s narrative.</p><p>Yet differences between the two strongmen and their political tactics may outweigh similarities. First, the mismatch between Erdoğan’s anti-western rhetoric and his far more restrained actions is notable. The regional crisis has underscored Turkey’s continued dependence on the west. Erdoğan's anger with the US - over its aid to the Syrian Kurds fighting Islamic State<em> jihadis</em> in Kobane, and its refusal to intervene forcefully against Bashar al-Assad in Damascus - exposes Turkey's continued military dependency: it needs Nato’s Patriot missiles to be deployed along its porous border with Syria, and even more US "boots on the ground" to help address Turkey's vulnerability. </p><p>By contrast, Putin’s grudge is that the the US and EU are meddling in what he sees as Russia's privileged sphere of influence; thus the incursion into Ukraine to expunge western influence away from the post-Soviet space and control Kyiv’s choices by way of creating a new "frozen conflict". </p><p>Second, there are divergences in domestic politics. In Putin’s authoritarian system, elections are a mere sideshow and the <em>Duma</em> rubber-stamps the Kremlin's decisions; under Erdoğan and the AKP, electoral legitimacy matters, and political authority is a function of it. Turkey's polarised society generates a political system, which, for all its flaws, is more competitive than Russia's. It shares and benefits from a longer tradition of (albeit imperfect) democracy. While Putin’s regime is about creating and sustaining fake opposition parties and staging elections, in Turkey ballots do count. Erdoğan’s choice to run for the presidency was conditioned by the AKP's strong showing in the municipal polls of 31 March.&nbsp; </p><p>Looking ahead, the legislative elections of 2015 will be critical for the government as they will decide whether AKP will win enough seats to adopt a new constitutional draft and bring in a presidential system. Again, this confirms the importance of elections and institutions do matter in Turkey compared to Russia. After all, Erdoğan is an electoral politician who worked his way up from the streets of Istanbul to the peak of power; Putin is a security operative whose roots lie in the state's repressive apparatus.</p><p><strong>The roots of difference</strong></p><p>If the outcome in Turkey were highly personalised rule where one individual grabs all levers of power and suppresses dissent, such distinctions might seem irelevant. Here it is important to note that key parts of the AKP pro-democracy narrative of the early 2000s - when the party acted as a champion of Europeanisation, human and minority rights - remain in place. The Kurdish peace (or solution) process has been dealth a heavy blow by Ankara’s alignment with IS and unwillingness to come to the rescue of the Syrian Kurds, yet it survives. Erdoğan, together with the jailed head of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), Abdullah Öcalan, remains at the forefront of efforts to heal a scar that has torn Turkey’s polity for decades. Whether Turkey’s president delivers or not on the promise to settle the conflict will determine the final judgment on his reign. </p><p>Furthermore, Erdoğan and Putin relate in dissimilar ways to tradition and religious identity.&nbsp; The war in Ukraine has exposed the heterogeneous and tenuous nature of the Kremlin’s ideological message, which combines references to Orthodoxy with glorification of the Soviet past. Putin's bid to undermine western ideological hegemony has also seen him join forces with both Europe's far left and the extreme right; in ways reminiscent of Slobodan Milošević’s Serbia, communist-era apparatchiks and security-service types (<em>siloviki</em>) have co-opted culture and faith - and consulted PR experts - to concoct a postmodern pastiche whose sole purpose is legitimising autocracy. </p><p>Again by contrast, the AKP and Erdoğan draw on a longer organic tradition of political Islam whose roots lie in the 1960s (if not earlier). Its central preoccupation is the question of whether and how religious values and modernity can be reconciled. Erdoğan's image as an “authentic“ conservative - as opposed to self-seeking politician using tradition as a mere tool - might be questioned; but it is central to the identity of the AKP’s cohesive party base and its dense grassroots networks. And it's worth recalling that Erdoğan was educated at a religious seminary (<em>imam hatip</em>)&nbsp; - a far cry from the Soviet schools attended by Putin, following by KGB training. </p><p><strong>Empire vs nation-state</strong></p><p>The best way to see this relationship might be in terms of two dissimilar post-imperial situations. Putin is a product of the Soviet empire as well of its collapse in the 1980s-90s. His objective is to restore its power and prestige. Russia, unlike Turkey, never underwent a process of nation-state homogenisation; empire is a vivid reality even in its present confines, rather than a historical artefact and resource of memory (Russia is home to a large Muslim population, Turkey has very few non-Muslims left). </p><p>Erdoğan springs from a distinctively nation-state context, one where key parts of the Ottoman legacy were suppressed. He chose to reinvent Turkey’s identity, pushing (<em>Sunni</em>) Islam and the Ottomans to the forefront to refight a struggle against Kemalists. Rather than redrawing borders, his quasi-imperial mission abroad envisages establishing Turkey as a political and economic model for the Middle East and north Africa.</p><p>But in fairness, the much vaunted bonds between Turkey and its neighbours (cultural, linguistic, migratory) are nowhere near those that connect Russia to its "near abroad". Millions across the ex-Soviet Union, regardless of their ethnicity, have direct access to Putin’s message through the medium of Russian as a <em>lingua franca</em>. Putin’s neighbourhood policy is alive and kicking: the Eurasian Economic Union (EEU) is officially launched on 1 January 2015; Erdoğan’s, after so much effort to harness Ottoman nostalgia, crashed with Syria's war, the military coup in Egypt, and Iraq’s implosion. </p><p>That does not give Putin has an easier ride than Erdoğan. The Kremlin oscillates between inclusive schemes of Eurasian unification where economic integration renews political bonds across the Soviet Union and ethnocentric phantasms of a Russkii Mir (Russian world). Its imperial ambitons are constrained by a xenophobic public opinion in Russia, where a minority of thugs is ever ready to lash out at immigrants from central Asia and the Caucasus. The dilution of borders in the EEU might prove a hard sell, which has not been the case in Turkey’s dealings with its neighbours. Tensions between parochial and exclusionary nationalism and imperial expansionism are a formidable challenge to Putin’s regime.</p><p>Comparing Putin and Erdoğan is an interesting exercise. Juxtaposing them is even more fruitful. For all the commonalities, it is the differences between the two leaders that provide most insight into today’s Turkey and Russia.</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-read-on"> <div class="field-label"> 'Read On' Sidebox:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p><a href="http://www.lse.ac.uk/europeaninstitute/home.aspx">European Institute, LSE</a></p><p>South East European Studies at Oxford (<a href="http://www.sant.ox.ac.uk/seesox/">SEESOX</a>)</p><p><a href="http://www.ecfr.eu/">European Council on Foreign Relations</a></p><p><a href="http://www.isn.ethz.ch/Digital-Library/Publications/Detail/?ots591=0c54e3b3-1e9c-be1e-2c24-a6a8c7060233&amp;lng=en&amp;id=182086"><em>Turkey's Illiberal Turn</em></a> (ECFR, 201) </p> </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"> Russia </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Democracy and government </div> <div 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 3.0 </div> </div> </div> Can Europe make it? Russia Turkey Democracy and government International politics russia & eurasia democracy & power Dimitar Bechev Sat, 28 Nov 2015 07:40:07 +0000 Dimitar Bechev 88071 at https://opendemocracy.net "The BBC stands for what we all have in common". https://opendemocracy.net/ourbeeb/aaron-bastani/bbc-stands-for-what-we-all-have-in-common <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Last week OurBeeb editor Aaron Bastani spoke to Peter Oborne about the BBC, its future and the role of public service broadcasting in modern Britain.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p>Last week I spoke to Peter Oborne, associate editor at the<em> Spectator</em>, about the BBC. It was a fascinating discussion, encompassing everything from the leadership styles of recent director generals to the challenges presented by neoliberalism to public service broadcasting. Have a watch.</p> <iframe width="620" height="424" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/L_TBH3pxkmQ" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen></iframe><div class="field field-au-city"> <div class="field-label">City:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> London </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> UK </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Ideas </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 4.0 </div> </div> </div> OurBeeb OurBeeb uk UK Ideas democracy & power Can we trust the BBC? Aaron Bastani and Peter Oborne Wed, 18 Nov 2015 09:31:05 +0000 Aaron Bastani and Peter Oborne 97737 at https://opendemocracy.net Which source do students trust more? BBC News vs Facebook News Feed https://opendemocracy.net/ourbeeb/angela-phillips/which-source-do-students-trust-more-bbc-news-vs-facebook-news-feed <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Despite growing disenchantment with TV and the press, new research finds students continue to trust the BBC and mainstream media more than their Facebook friends.</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/557910/IMG_8345_0.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/557910/IMG_8345_0.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="345" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span>Traditional media, in particular the BBC, still provide the most trusted sources of relatively uncontaminated information, in the sea of material that washes into the lives of young people. This is one conclusion from an international research study looking at the way in which news is accessed, verified and passed on by university students in the UK, Norway and Israel.&nbsp; </p> <p>We found however that in the UK, levels of trust in news and journalism are particularly low. One student sums it up: “My generation, we have had this sort of exposure to the whole scandal about phone hacking and that sort of thing, and I think, we are quite distrustful of journalism at the moment.”</p> <p>But this does not mean that UK students feel that they have found other, more reliable sources of information.&nbsp; They have even lower levels of confidence in non-mainstream sources – fewer than half even trust their own Facebook friends. So for many, the only faint light in the sea of uncertainty is the BBC; and even here there is no ringing endorsement: “The fact that it’s funded by everybody gives it a certain truth in a way because, there is no really ... there is no one certain set people that is trying to bring out their ideologies.”</p> <p>There is a similar breakdown of trust in journalism in Israel but students tend to use a variety of both mainstream and international news sources in order to locate themselves. Living in conditions of uncertainty these young people can be characterised as ‘news-junkies’, compulsively checking bulletins and their social media throughout the day.&nbsp;</p> <p>In Norway the picture is different again. Norwegian students have a high level of trust in traditional media and tend to use their local newspapers (online) as a prime source of news, while keeping Facebook mainly for social activities. They are also more likely than their Israeli and British peers to regularly access news from foreign sources.</p> <p>UK students on the other hand, are not plugged into any form of national news platform that gives then a diet of information on a daily basis. For those with an interest in news and politics, the Internet provides a wealth of random material, but it doesn’t come with a guide. For those attempting to navigate, the BBC provided at the very least some sort of compass.&nbsp;</p> <p>However, those with no particular prior interest in news appeared to be passive consumers of whatever happened to turn up in their personal news streams.&nbsp; For a large number that means a diet of celebrity and sensation.</p> <p>There is nothing new about this passive approach to news, apart from the circumstances in which it now occurs.&nbsp; International comparative studies of news consumption have demonstrated that there are higher levels of news knowledge, irrespective of social class, in those countries with public service television.&nbsp; This has been put down to the ‘trapping’ or <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hammocking">hammocking</a>&nbsp;effect of news scheduling, which ensures that people who tune in for East Enders, or the prime time show at nine in the evening will be likely to see the news headlines that come afterwards, just because they are still sitting in front of the TV.</p> <p>As young people watch less TV they are increasingly <a href="http://www.digitalnewsreport.org/survey/2015/sources-of-news-2015/">less likely to encounter news broadcasts</a><strong> </strong>passively like this, and as newspaper sales decline they are also unlikely to see headlines on billboards or papers left on kitchen tables. On the other hand they do bump into news in their social media streams, often mixed up with stories that have no basis in reality at all.&nbsp; While they may be aware that some of the stories that come to them are not true, they are not always motivated to try and find out which are which. As one research interviewee told us: “it’s a fun story whether or not it’s true”.&nbsp;</p> <p>Given that Facebook algorithms, and those of other social media tend to feed a reader ‘more of the same’ as soon as they click on a few links, the clear likelihood is that those who are less interested in politics or hard news, will gradually find such stories filtered out of their news stream.&nbsp;&nbsp; This is a major problem not only for the BBC but for the democratic purposes on which the BBC is based.</p><p>If the role of entertaining is out-sourced to commercial services such as Facebook there is no reason to suppose that the other BBC purposes of educating and informing will go with them.&nbsp; As entertainment, news and current affairs are disaggregated into personalised news streams, consumed on demand, we can expect to see an understanding of news and current affairs become the preserve only of the most motivated ‘news junkies’.&nbsp; Evidence coming from the United States indicates that this is already happening there.&nbsp; Working class people in the US are considerably less likely to be well informed about news than are their counterparts in, for example, Finland or Denmark.</p><p>The debate about the future of the BBC needs to turn away from concerns about whether or not <em>Bake Off</em> ought to be a commercial programme and ask a bigger question: how in the future do we want our young people to be educated and informed? Education and information without the leavening of entertainment may look more like a more respectable public purpose but what is the point of a public service that caters only for the minority who would probably pay for it anyway?&nbsp; If the BBC is to be publicly funded it needs to understand what it is for, and that should surely start with working out how to get relatively impartial news in front of even those people who may only consume it by accident.</p> <p><em>This article is based upon a paper “Deep and narrow or shallow and wide:&nbsp; a comparative study of how young people find news via social media”&nbsp;by Angela Phillips, Eiri Elvestad, Mira Feuerstein, presented to the Future of Journalism Conference in Cardiff, September 2015.<br /></em></p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/ourbeeb/alice-enders-leo-watkins-douglas-mccabe/bbc-press-and-online-news">The BBC, the press and online news</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/ourbeeb/michael-klontzas/reimagining-not-diluting-bbc-in-next-decade">Reimagining, not diluting the BBC in the next decade</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/ourbeeb/angela-phillips/what-can-and-should-bbc-do-about-local-news-%C2%A0-0">What can and should the BBC do about local news?  </a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> UK </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-city"> <div class="field-label">City:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> London </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> OurBeeb OurBeeb London UK democracy & power news BBC Charter Angela Phillips Tue, 03 Nov 2015 08:56:20 +0000 Angela Phillips 97333 at https://opendemocracy.net No revolution this year: Sudan’s October Revolution and the Arab Spring https://opendemocracy.net/arab-awakening/arwa-elsanosi/no-revolution-this-october-sudan-s-green-october-and-arab-spring <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Sudan's 1964 revolution brought a military regime to an end. The reasons for the revolt were similar to those of the Arab Spring, and they persist<span style="line-height: 15.6px;">—so why&nbsp;</span>are there no protests?</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/553378/632024.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/553378/632024.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="281" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span><span class="image-caption">Demotix/Rajput Yasir. All rights reserved.</span></p><p>On 21 October 1964, the people of Sudan took to the streets in mass demonstrations and strikes that brought the military regime led by General Ibrahim Abbud to an end; this year marks the fifity-first anniversary of the 'October Revolution'.</p><p>When the wave of revolutions flooded the Arab region in 2011, the Sudanese people rose up in protest against military rule once again. This time it was against the Revolutionary Command Council of National Salvation, led by Omar Al-Bashir, who came to power in a bloodless coup in 1981. </p><p>This coup was later presented as the 'Salvation Revolution' (<em>thawrat al-inqaz</em>), a tactical move that aimed to evoke the legacy of the October Revolution and create a sense of popular support for leadership by the national hero, Al-Bashir. Using the rhetoric of the Salvation Revolution gave legitimacy and further power consolidation to Al-Bashir and his party, the National Congress Party.</p><p>During the Arab Spring others across the region, like the&nbsp;<span>people of&nbsp;</span><span>Sudan, were deeply dissatisfied by the impoverishment caused by high level of corruption, devastating unemployment rates and austerity measures imposed by the government. In Sudan's case, this was while the governing elite, and their close acquaintances, had—and continue to have<span>—</span>exclusive rights to wealth. </span></p><p><span>Even though Sudan has lost billions of dollars in oil receipts since <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/South_Sudanese_independence_referendum,_2011">South Sudan’s independence</a> in July 2011, these elites continue to pursue their lavish life styles, widening the gap between the rich and the poor. Yet there has been a general lack of involvement by political opposition parties in the protests. </span></p><p><span>Opposition parties&nbsp;condemned&nbsp;the government's use of excessive force against the people and its decision to lift fuel subsidies in 2012. However, the leaders of these opposition parties were hesitant to express their stance in support of the protests, which weakened the political weight of the protests. For example, Sadiq al-Mahdi, a leader of the National Umma Party, made no statement supporting the protests, yet some news agencies reported that hundreds of his supporters joined the protests following a speech he delivered at a mosque in Omdurman near his residence. Later on, the Popular Congress Party and its leader Hassan al-Turabi called on their supporters to participate in Arab Spring protests.</span></p><p>In response, the government mobilised riot police at all protests, whether peaceful or violent, and the police did not hesitate to shoot live bullets at the protestors, and used tear gas even inside university campuses. They succeeded in dispursing protestors, and those who were caught were detained for indefinite periods, often without trials. Reports of torture and harassment by the government were made by many protestors.&nbsp;</p><p>The government also cracked down on opposition parties by issuing a decree that bans political parties from meeting without permission. This decree was announced only a week after President Al-Bashir met with opposition party leaders promising a deal that would ensure their freedom to operate and compete in the national elections of 2015, which Omar Al-Bashir won with an unprecedented 94 percent.&nbsp;</p><p>This state of general oppression has also reached cyber space, with the National Intelligence Secret Service's (NISS) creation of the so-called "Electronic Army", an internet-based body that looks for anti-government political activists and threatens them. Some have been prosecuted for their anti-government online activity.</p><p>So, how did Al-Bashir’s regime manage to consolidate power for 26 years? </p><p>Al-Inqaz regime is led by an elite that is distant from the population and that has complete and exclusive control of the military/security and party apparatus. The National Congress Party in Sudan almost fully controls the judiciary, executive and legislative branches of government, creating an almost complete monopoly over government bodies. The government is insulated by a relatively strong administration that depends principally on the military and the NISS. </p><p>Moreover, the regime succeeds in shifting the public's attention by constantly engaging in wars of distraction; the government was initially involved in a civil war with South Sudan for more than two decades, then another war in Darfur that brought about serious charges of crimes against humanity, triggering a vast reaction from the international community and specifically 'the west'<span>—</span>which the government is also at war against. </p><p>Another element of the military regime's consolidation of power is the use of Islam and the introduction of Shari’a law as a means of legitimacy. This was initiated by President Ja’afar Nemeiri in the early 1980s, but it was further implemented by the current government. For a society that has Islamic and Arabic traditions deeply integrated in its culture, and with the continuous marginalisation of African cultural elements, getting the average Sudanese man/woman to revolt against Al-Bashir’s 'Islamic' rule is quite difficult.&nbsp;</p><p>October has come once again, but the Sudanese streets today are quiet, with little activity on social media demanding justice for students killed by riot police, or the immediate release of political activists from prisons. The country continues to have internet blackouts<span>—although&nbsp;</span>less frequently than during the Arab Spring<span>—</span>and austerity measures are no longer a hot topic for discussion and deep resentment.</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/opensecurity/rebecca-tinsley/sudan-nodding-through-dictator%E2%80%99s-reelection">Sudan: nodding through a dictator’s re-election</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/arab-awakening/mohamed-elshabik/looming-threat-of-isis-in-sudan">The looming threat of ISIS in Sudan</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/arab-awakening/walaa-salah/new-amendments-to-sudanese-criminal-law">Amendments to Sudanese criminal law</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/arab-awakening/yosra-akasha/sudan-and-operation-decisive-storm">Sudan and Operation Decisive Storm</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/arab-awakening/lucy-hovil/silence-over-sudan%E2%80%99s-bombing-of-civilians">Silence over Sudan’s bombing of civilians</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/arab-awakening/yosra-akasha/tabit-and-sexual-violence-in-darfur">Tabit and sexual violence in Darfur</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/samuel-godolphin/tea-with-sugar-and-politics-in-sudan">Tea with sugar and politics in Sudan</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"> South Sudan </div> <div class="field-item even"> Sudan </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Civil society </div> <div class="field-item even"> Democracy and government </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> Arab Awakening Arab Awakening Sudan South Sudan Civil society Democracy and government middle east conflicts democracy & power Revolution You tell us Arwa Elsanosi Sun, 01 Nov 2015 13:34:17 +0000 Arwa Elsanosi 97243 at https://opendemocracy.net Argentina and the closing of the cycle https://opendemocracy.net/democraciaabierta/abel-gilbert/argentina-and-closing-of-cycle <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <P>At the runoff on November 22, Argentinians will have to choose their next president, but they have already decided on the closing of the <EM>Kirchnerista</em> cycle. <A href="https://opendemocracy.net/democraciaabierta/abel-gilbert/argentina-y-el-cierre-del-ciclo" target=_blank><STRONG><EM>Español.</em></strong></a> </p> </div> </div> </div> <P><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/557099/Mauricio_Macri_extiende_el_plan_de_wifi_para_bibliotecas_públicas_(7931395250)_1.jpg" alt="" title="" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" width="460" height="270" /> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Mauricio Macri. Creative Commons. Some rights reserved.</span></span></span></p> <P>Historical cycles usually end by social fatigue or the logic of the political pendulum. Sometimes unpredictability confers strength to the signs foreboding the closing of the cycle. This is what appears to be happening in Argentina.</p> <P>The results of the presidential election held on October 25 came as a surprise to pollsters, analysts and the contenders themselves. There will be a runoff on November 22 between the mainstream Peronist candidate, Daniel Scioli, and the Conservative leader, Mauricio Macri. Before the official results came out on Sunday night, the possibility of this scenario was in everyone's mind. What nobody expected was a Scioli victory by only just 2.5 points over the mayor of Buenos Aires who is also the son of one of the wealthiest men in the country. That is, Scioli was the defeated winner. And Macri, the loser, is the one who can best envision the likelihood of a final victory. This is why observers compared the results to an earthquake, or to a restorative hurricane. </p> <P>Scioli was not the only casualty: President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner paid a collateral cost. She had appointed him her heir not on the basis of an irrefutable sum of virtues. Horacio Verbitsky, a columnist who does not conceal his sympathy for the President, noted the original shortfall of Scioli’s candidacy. He was chosen, he said, "through a process of elimination and not out of excitement, which comes to prove Kirchner's inability to arrange a reliable succession not based on family ties, probably her greatest political deficit." Now the succession is highly uncertain. The towering block erected by <EM>Kirchnerismo</em> over the last 12 years was rocked like never before. By now, Macri knows that this is a unique opportunity for him. </p> <P>On Sunday night, Scioli was defeated even though there is still quite a long, steep way to go. A gloomy expression was on his face. He had received less votes than in the open primaries in August. To plan an election campaign with eight or nine points in the lead is not the same as to do it when you have your opponent close on the heels. "Yesterday, the political planetary system underwent a striking rearrangement," said <EM>La Nación</em>’s canny columnist<EM> </em>Carlos Pagni. Pagni compared the upheaval with Raúl Alfonsín’s win in 1983 against Peronism, which believed itself to be unbeatable. There is, however, one fundamental difference. Alfonsín defeated Ítalo Luder with a social democratic program which included the rejection of the so-called self-amnesty law for the officials responsible for the repression under the military dictatorship, and the defense of the civil liberties which had been trampled by the outgoing regime, which was forced to call elections after the Falkland’s War. But Macri’s role model is Spain’s José María Aznar. </p> <P>He has been hiding this in his run for the presidency. The centre-right coalition that supports him goes by the name of <EM>Cambiemos </em>(Let’s change), a proposition many Argentinians find very attractive. "Borders will be open and flags hoisted," says his electoral propaganda. But Macri stores in a closed chest the meaning he gives to the word "change." So far he has said what the listeners want to hear: he will keep the "good" things the current government has done and revise whatever is wrong. He believes this argument will suffice for him to win. It is somewhat paradoxical that Scioli, who shares Macri’s conservative disposition, and who in his tenure as governor of Buenos Aires has carried out hard punitive policies amid strong complaints of police killings and torture allegations, should be defeated while wearing an uncomfortable progressive costume. </p> <P>Last Sunday’s talk about quakes has to do with the fact that Scioli and Cristina, and Cristina and Scioli (the order of the factors, at this point, does not alter the product) experienced a double setback. <EM>Cambiemos</em> snatched control of the Buenos Aires province, which accounts for 38% of the electoral roll. María Eugenia Vidal, who holds a degree in Political Science from the Pontifical Catholic University of Argentina, defeated President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner’s chief of staff, Anibal Fernández. Young, articulate and charismatic, Vidal came out with an electoral offer with strong emotional undertones ("I have heard you with my heart") against a civil servant who carried on his back the weight of unproven media allegations of collusion with drug traffickers. </p> <P>Sergio Massa got 21% of the votes in the election. Until 2011 this belonged, at least in part, to Kirchnerism. But Massa left two years ago, taking with him a share of its political capital. This fracture is another important reason for the results of October 25. There is always an ironic or sarcastic side to politics. Back in 2013, Massa, Macri and even Scioli conspired to form a united anti-<EM>kirchnerista </em>front. Scioli decided at the eleventh hour to stay loyal and wait for a jackpot that may never be. And Macri, following his guru, the Ecuadorean Jaime Durán Barba, understood that he had to go it alone. And when he joined forces with Alfonsín’s <EM>Unión Cívica Radical </em>(Radical Civic Union - UCR), he did so from a position of absolute advantage. </p> <P>Scioli, who a few weeks ago shun a TVdebate with the other contenders because he felt he was clearly in the lead, was asking for a face-to-face debate with Macri the day after the first round of the election. Macri did not say no, and promptly went out to get Massa’s votes. The behaviour of the dissident Peronists will determine the fate of both candidates. Cristina kept her silence and made her calculations: if her ranks do not break off, she will be able to hold the majority in the Senate. In Congress, hers will remain the largest minority group (117 deputies), but she will fall short of an overall majority. If Macri is elected, he will have to negotiate with her. </p> <P>On Monday, Argentina was another country. The run on the dollar stopped. Stocks rose 20% on Wall Street. The market welcomed the good news. Regional expectation is not lower: a shift to the right in Argentina will have immediate effects in Brazil, its main trading partner. It will also weaken Venezuela-friendly countries. And it will bring back the idea of a free trade zone between Latin America and the United States. In 2005 George Bush Jr. named it the Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA). Néstor Kirchner, Hugo Chávez and Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva wrecked it. But the project was never fully sunk: it just waited for a better chance to surface. Will it do so with Mauricio? </p><div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Argentina </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Civil society </div> <div class="field-item even"> Democracy and government </div> <div class="field-item odd"> 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> DemocraciaAbierta Argentina Civil society Democracy and government Ideas International politics latin america democracy & power Abel Gilbert Tue, 27 Oct 2015 15:30:32 +0000 Abel Gilbert 97181 at https://opendemocracy.net Neoliberalismo tardío y sus enemigos https://opendemocracy.net/democraciaabierta/donatella-della-porta/neoliberalismo-tard-o-y-sus-enemigos <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Los movimientos sociales se enfrentan a 3 retos: el reto simbólico de construir algo nuevo; el reto material de movilizar recursos limitados; y el reto estratégico de influenciar un sistema político muy cerrado. <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/wfd/donatella-della-porta/late-neoliberalism-and-its-discontents" target="_blank"><strong><em>English</em></strong></a>. </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/ko.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/557099/ko.png" alt="" title="" width="460" height="49" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span></p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/557099/1vfd.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="306" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Direct Democracy Now! Organiza una protesa en la Plazat Syntagma, Junio 2011. Demotix/ Amira Karoud. Todos los derechos reservados</span></span></span></p><p>Los movimientos sociales han desarrollado una serie de conceptos que resultan útiles para abordar la acción colectiva en tiempos de normalidad –es decir, en tiempos estructurados. En las llamadas democracias avanzadas han servido, sobre todo, para considerar sistemas estructurados. La teorización se ha orientado a la explicación del impacto de las estructuras sobre la acción colectiva. La principal tesis es que las protestas necesitan dos cosas: oportunidades y recursos.</p> <p>Sabemos mucho menos sobre cuestiones que, sin embargo, son de primordial importancia para saldar cuentas con el neoliberalismo tardío y sus enemigos. Veamos distintos enfoques:</p> <ul><li>- &nbsp;Los movimientos en momentos de crisis, cuando lo que provoca las protestas es la amenaza, más que las oportunidades para protestar; </li><li>- &nbsp;Los movimientos en momentos excepcionales, esto es, en tiempos en los que pasan cosas, cuando la acción cambia a fondo las relaciones sociales;&nbsp; </li><li>- &nbsp;Movimientos como procesos, es decir, como productores de sus propios recursos, y como fuente de empoderamiento en sí mismos. </li></ul> <p>En economía política, la investigación ha señalado algunas características generales del neoliberalismo. Por un lado, el libre mercado ha emergido como una ideología que alimenta políticas orientadas no tanto hacia una retirada del mercado por parte del Estado, sino más bien a la rebaja de la inversión en servicios sociales en nombre de la reducción de la desigualdad. Al mismo tiempo, el neoliberalismo se caracteriza por la protección del capitalismo financiero, por la privatización de los bienes públicos y por el rescate de los bancos. Finalmente, aplica la flexibilización del mercado de trabajo, acompañada de ambiciosas actividades de regulación orientadas hacia lo que se espera sean oportunidades incrementales de ventaja especulativa. </p> <p>Estos desarrollos del neoliberalismo tienen consecuencias claras para las bases sociales que alimentan la conflictividad política contemporánea. Las dos olas de protestas del 2011 y el 2013 atrajeron en realidad una nueva preocupación sobre la conflictividad política. En 2011, los manifestantes eran considerados generalmente como miembros de una nueva clase precaria, que había sido golpeada dramáticamente por las políticas de austeridad. Los manifestantes del 2013, a diferencia sus homólogos del 2011, fueron interpretados como parte de un fenómeno protagonizado por &nbsp;“clases medias”.&nbsp; </p> <p>Los datos recogidos sobre la extracción social de los que protestaron durante este periodo no encajan inequívocamente con la tesis de la movilización protagonizada o bien por un nuevo “precariado”, o bien por un movimiento de clase media. En todas estas protestas, aparece un amplio abanico de extracciones sociales: desde estudiantes hasta trabajadores precarios, empleados manuales o no manuales, pequeña burguesía o profesionales. Aunque las protestas están pobladas desproporcionadamente por los jóvenes con estudios superiores, a su lado participan gentes de otras edades. </p> <p>Las distintas campañas de protesta son multi-clasistas, pero no inter-clasistas. De hecho, tienden a reflejar los cambios en las estructuras de clase que han caracterizado al neoliberalismo tardío y su crisis: en particular, la proletarización de la clase media y la precarización de los trabajadores. &nbsp;</p> <p>En lo que se refiere a los primeros, muchas investigaciones han apuntado hacia el declive del poder de las clases medias, con tendencias a la proletarización de varios colectivos, a saber: </p> <p>a) la pequeña burguesía independiente (por ejemplo, las transformaciones en las estructuras comerciales implican la eliminación de pequeños comerciantes independientes a favor del establecimiento de corporaciones multinacionales); </p> <p>b) los profesionales liberales (a través de procesos de privatización de servicios, de la creación de empresas-oligopolio, y de la desprofesionalización a través de la Taylorización de las tareas); </p> <p>c) los empleados públicos (a través de la rebaja de su estatus y salario, de la flexibilización de sus contratos, etc.). </p> <p>En lo que se refiere a los trabajadores, la precarización afecta a empleados dependientes en los sectores industriales (a través del cierre de los sectores tradicionalmente Fordistas junto a la flexibilización de las condiciones de trabajo), así como en el sector terciario, con el aumento del trabajo informal, de trabajos mal pagados, de precarias condiciones de trabajo. &nbsp;</p> <p>En resumen, más que a una sola clase social, las protestas movilizaron a ciudadanos de extracciones sociales diversas. Los movimientos de los años 2000 han sido vistos en realidad como signos de una oposición conjunta a la mercantilización de los espacios públicos; como un intento de ir, en dirección contrario, hacia una “comunización”, en el sentido de considerarlos como bien común. </p> <p>Al movilizar esta amplia y variada base social, los movimientos sociales en momentos de crisis se enfrentan a varios retos específicos, incluidos el reto simbólico de construir algo nuevo; el reto material de movilizar recursos limitados; y el reto estratégico de influenciar un sistema político muy cerrado.&nbsp;</p> <p>Aunque no totalmente ceñidas a estos retos, las respuestas de los movimientos a las crisis están de hecho estructuradas por los recursos materiales existentes (tal como se presentan en las redes de movimientos sociales), así como por los recursos simbólicos (tal como se presentan en la cultura de los movimientos sociales). Esto implica una disminución de las opciones al alcance de los movimientos, pero también impulsa procesos de aprendizaje, incorporando lecciones aprendidas del pasado.</p> <p>Si bien ciertamente constreñidos por las estructuras existentes, una característica de los movimientos en momentos de crisis es su capacidad de crear recursos a través de la invención de nuevos marcos conceptuales, aparatos organizacionales, y formas de acción. </p> <p>En este sentido, para entender la condición de la acción conflictiva, la atención debe desviarse hacia lo que ha venido a llamarse un estado <em>en formación</em>: identidades que aún no existen, sino que más bien están en proceso de formación. Las redes se constituyen al superar las compartimentaciones antiguas. En momentos extraordinarios, cuando las viejas identificaciones y las viejas expectativas son derrotadas, un nuevo espíritu surge a través de la acción. Los movimientos sociales expresan entonces, ante todo, su demanda de existencia.&nbsp; &nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;</p> <p>La aparición de un nuevo espíritu se ha puesto de manifiesto en las plazas ocupadas, que han caracterizado el nuevo repertorio de las protestas. Las acampadas representaron de hecho espacios para la formación de una nueva subjetividad, basada en la recomposición de antiguas compartimentaciones y en la emergencia de nuevas identificaciones. De esta manera, estas protestas pueden interpretarse como productoras de entidades emergentes, que van más allá de sus elementos constitutivos. El acento en su calidad de estado <em>en formación</em> emerge a través de las prácticas que se fijan en la importancia de los encuentros —esa la diversidad, a menudo tan celebrada, de la gente que se encuentra en las distintas plazas.&nbsp; &nbsp;</p> <p>En este sentido, como se ha visto en la evolución de los movimientos en Grecia y en España, incluso cuando parece que remiten, las largas oleadas de protesta han ido adquiriendo personalidad, suspendiendo viejas normas y creando, a través de la acción, unas nuevas. Así es como la democracia se desarrolla en las calles. </p><div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Civil society </div> <div class="field-item even"> Conflict </div> <div class="field-item odd"> Democracy and government </div> <div class="field-item even"> Economics </div> <div class="field-item odd"> Equality </div> <div class="field-item even"> Ideas </div> <div class="field-item odd"> International politics </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> DemocraciaAbierta DemocraciaAbierta Civil society Conflict Democracy and government Economics Equality Ideas International politics mexico latin america europe africa democracy & power Donatella della Porta Tue, 27 Oct 2015 10:37:29 +0000 Donatella della Porta 97165 at https://opendemocracy.net Mientras el mundo anda mirando, hay 59,5 millones de desplazados internos en la tierra https://opendemocracy.net/democraciaabierta/jeremy-fox/mientras-el-mundo-anda-mirando-hay-595-millones-de-desplazados-internos <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Unos 6 millones de colombianos hacen que el segundo país del mundo con más desplazados internos (DIs) por motivos de violencia no esté en Oriente Medio, sino en América Latina. <strong><em><a href="https://opendemocracy.net/democraciaabierta/jeremy-fox/enquanto-o-mundo-assiste-h-595-milh-es-de-deslocados-internos-na-terra" target="_blank">Português</a></em></strong>. <strong><a href="https://opendemocracy.net/jeremy-fox/while-world-watches"><em>English. <br /></em></a></strong></p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/557099/vcv.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="307" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Asentamiento de desplazados internos en Bogotá, Colombia, en 2006. Flickr / UNHCR. Some rights reserved</span></span></span></p><p>Las noticias que día tras día se suceden sobre un sinnúmero de refugiados atravesando Europa en busca de auxilio y amparo, y sobre los millones que se amontonan a las puertas de Europa en Turquía, Jordania y Líbano, no necesitan mayor explicación. Sólo Siria genera casi 4 millones de refugiados, e Irak y Somalia<a href="https://www.refintl.org/get-involved/helpful-facts-%2526-figures"> otros 3 millones</a>. A estos se añaden cientos de miles que provienen de Afganistán, Libia, Eritrea, Nigeria. Son cifras alarmantes, pero que han dejado de sorprendernos porque los medios de comunicación se han encargado de familiarizarnos con ellas.</p> <p>Lo que ya está menos documentado y es menos conocido – ignorado, quizás, porque sus repercusiones apenas alcanzan el Primer Mundo – es que el número de personas que han perdido o han tenido que huir de sus hogares es mucho mayor. ACNUR (el<strong> </strong><em>Alto Comisionado de Naciones Unidas para los Refugiados</em>) estima que el número de personas desplazadas actualmente en el mundo es de <a href="http://www.unhcr.org.uk/about-us/key-facts-and-figures.html">59.5 millones</a>, de los que ‘sólo’ 19.3 millones constan como refugiados o solicitantes de asilo.<a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/C:/Users/user/Downloads/Displaced%20(1).docx#One">[i]</a> En lenguaje oficial, los desplazados que no son refugiados se conocen como DIs (Desplazados Internos).</p> <p><strong>Refugiados y DIs</strong></p> <p>Un refugiado es alguien que ha huido de su país de origen por temor fundado a ser perseguido por razón de raza, religión, nacionalidad, pertenencia o afiliación a determinado grupo social u opinión política y que no puede obtener protección en dicho país.<a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/C:/Users/user/Downloads/Displaced%20(1).docx#Two">[ii]</a>&nbsp;Esta definición, redactada tras la Segunda Guerra Mundial y adoptada formalmente en 1951 con la aprobación de la <a href="http://www.unhcr.org/pages/49da0e466.html">Convención de Naciones Unidas sobre el Estatuto de los Refugiados</a>, era fruto de la historia bélica vivida y restringía el término a esta experiencia reciente. </p> <p>Probablemente a los redactores de la Convención de Ginebra no se les ocurrió que el término podía aplicarse también a aquellas personas que han sido expulsadas de sus hogares pero carecen de recursos para emprender la huida, o que se encuentran con que no hay países que quieran aceptarles, o que desconocen si estos países existen. Si uno está huyendo para salvar la vida en Darfur, independientemente de la distancia que haya recorrido o del motivo de la huida, sólo es un refugiado cuando traspasa una frontera internacional; mientras, es meramente un DI.</p> <p>Casi el 80 por ciento de los 13.9 millones de personas desplazadas en el año 2014 a consecuencia de un conflicto o persecución eran y continúan siendo DIs. La preocupación son los refugiados, que merecen la protección de la comunidad internacional – al menos en teoría. Los DIs, aunque reconocidos y apoyados por ACNUR, ocupan un lugar mucho menor en la conciencia mundial. Y, como veremos, incluso la perspectiva de ACNUR adolece de graves limitaciones.</p> <p>Los dos principales impulsores de desplazamientos internos son la violencia y persecución, y los desastres naturales.</p> <p><strong>DIs – por violencia y persecución</strong></p> <p>No es ninguna sorpresa que Siria cuente actualmente con el mayor número de DIs por motivos de violencia: su número estimado es de entre <a href="http://syrianrefugees.eu/">6.5 millones</a> y <a href="https://www.refintl.org/get-involved/helpful-facts-%2526-figures">7.6 millones</a> — la horquilla se debe a la dificultad de recopilar datos precisos en las zonas en conflicto y a la dinámica incesante característica de los movimientos humanos. Tampoco ningún consumidor de medios de comunicación occidentales se sorprenderá al saber que se calcula que los DIs en Irak son más de 3.5 millones, o que hay unos 1.5 millones de sudaneses del sur y un millón de afganos desplazados en sus propios países. </p> <p>Lo que quizás se conozca menos es que el segundo país del mundo con más desplazados por motivos de violencia no está en Oriente Medio ni en el norte de África, sino en América Latina. Se estima que en Colombia hay unos <a href="http://www.internal-displacement.org/americas/colombia/">6 millones</a> de DIs - víctimas de la violencia interna perpetrada tanto por la guerrilla como por las fuerzas gubernamentales y los paramilitares. Se sabe poco de ellos, quizás porque Colombia no ha sido nunca un campo de batalla ideológico entre Este y Oeste, o entre religiones competidoras, e interesa más a narcotraficantes y a comerciantes de café que a ejecutivos de las corporaciones petroleras.</p> <p><strong>DIs – por desastres naturales</strong></p> <p>Según el <a href="http://www.internal-displacement.org/"><em>Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre</em></a> (Centro de Seguimiento de los Desplazamientos Internos, con sede en Ginebra), entre 2008 y mediados de 2015, el número de personas desplazadas a causa de desastres naturales fue de poco menos de 185 millones. No, no es ningún error de imprenta. Son personas que se han visto obligadas a dejar sus hogares y su modo de vida por terremotos, avalanchas de barro, inundaciones, incendios y sequías. </p> <p>En 2014, la cifra de desplazados por desastres naturales fue relativamente modesta, 19.3 millones (por debajo del promedio anual), y los países más afectados fueron Filipinas, con 5.8 millones, y China e India con unos 3.5 millones cada uno. Las grandes catástrofes suelen salir en titulares en todo el mundo, pero la mayoría se olvidan rápidamente. </p> <p>¿Cuántos de nosotros sabemos que cerca de un millón de chilenos e indonesios, 250.000 malasios, 200.000 bolivianos, 150.000 brasileños y ciudadanos de Sri Lanka, 130.000 sudaneses y 80.000 paraguayos se vieron desplazados el año pasado?</p> <p>Pero ¿son los desastres naturales unos sucesos meramente aleatorios sin relación alguna con lo que los humanos le hacemos a la Tierra? <a href="https://openknowledge.worldbank.org/bitstream/handle/10986/4172/WPS4980.pdf">Según el Banco Mundial</a>, que parece haber aceptado el consenso científico sobre la cuestión, en absoluto. Por añadidura, el número de sucesos graves muestra una clara <a href="http://www.preventionweb.net/files/44281_19802014paketworldusde4zu3.pdf">tendencia al alza</a> – especialmente la frecuencia de grandes tormentas e inundaciones. </p> <p>Si esta tendencia continúa - y a pesar de los esfuerzos de los científicos medioambientales y activistas destacados como <a href="http://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2015/jul/16/al-gore-obama-climate-change-arctic-drilling">Al Gore</a> y <a href="http://www.naomiklein.org/main">Naomi Klein</a>, existen pocos motivos para pensar que no lo hará -, entonces lo que podemos esperar son más desastres naturales y muchas más personas desposeídas y sin hogar.</p> <p><strong>DIs – por desarrollo económico</strong></p> <p>Los proyectos de desarrollo económico son la tercera y probablemente la principal causa de desplazamiento humano y miseria en el planeta, en gran parte ignorada tanto por los medios de comunicación como por los organismos internacionales, incluido ACNUR. Michael Cernea, ex asesor principal del Banco Mundial, es probablemente quien más se ha esforzado por dar la voz de alarma. </p> <p><a href="http://repository.forcedmigration.org/show_metadata.jsp?pid=fmo:1320">En una conferencia en la Universidad de Oxford </a>&nbsp;en 1995, Cernea afirmó que “…en el mundo, unos diez millones de personas entran anualmente en el ciclo de desplazamiento forzoso y reubicación en sólo dos “sectores” – a saber, el de construcción de presas y el sector urbano/transporte… Los desplazamientos provocados por el desarrollo… han resultado ser un proceso mucho mayor que todos los flujos mundiales de refugiados en su conjunto.”</p> <p>Esta cifra de 10 millones es parcial, señaló Cernea, ya que no incluye áreas y sectores como bosques, parques y reservas naturales, minería y centrales térmicas y muchos otros. Su catálogo de los estragos más comunes del desplazamiento por motivos de desarrollo incluye la carencia de tierras, el desempleo, la falta de vivienda, la marginación, la inseguridad alimentaria, el aumento de la morbilidad y la mortalidad, y la desintegración social; y, como él mismo dejaba claro en un informe del <a href="http://www.brookings.edu/blogs/up-front/posts/2014/11/24-safeguards-displacement-ferris">Brookings Institute </a>publicado en 2014, el proceso continúa sin que se le ponga coto.</p> <p>A las víctimas de los grandes proyectos de desarrollo económico rara vez se les compensa o se reubican adecuadamente. Considerando la degradación ambiental y el sufrimiento humano asociados a proyectos como <a href="http://www.ienearth.org/what-we-do/tar-sands/">la explotación de arenas bituminosas</a> en Alberta, Canadá, o la explotación minera de <a href="http://www.tlaxcala-int.org/article.asp?reference=9812">Cerrejón</a> en el norte de Colombia, se hace difícil imaginar qué tipo de compensación podría considerarse realmente restitutiva. </p> <p>En <a href="http://www.penguinbooksindia.com/en/content/everybody-loves-good-drought-0%253Frate=_mh56TtWuTX6JL6Lofzz0vSntj8LgQMRVPBMOdyta1Y.html"><em>Everybody loves a good drought</em></a> (A todo el mundo le gusta una buena sequía), el magistral relato de la vida de los pobres en la India escrito por el periodista Palagummi Sainath, el autor habla de DIs que llevan 45 años esperando ser compensados. Incluso el Banco Mundial se muestra curiosamente lánguido a la hora de proteger los intereses de las personas marginadas por proyectos financiados por el Banco, a pesar de su compromiso formal de hacerlo.</p> <p>Entre los proyectos de desarrollo más perjudiciales – esto es, perjudiciales para las personas directamente afectadas – se encuentran las presas a gran escala. Arundhati Roy, en <a href="http://www.narmada.org/gcg/gcg.html"><em>The Greater Common Good</em></a><em> </em>(El mayor bien común), un ensayo escrito con rabia e indignación, ofrece un panorama desgarrador de cómo la construcción de grandes presas ha destrozado la vida de campesinos y aldeanos en la India – especialmente las poblaciones <a href="http://www.ibtimes.com/tribals-india-aboriginal-peoples-without-land-842895">tribales</a> (aborígenes sin tierra). Centenares de pueblos se han perdido bajo las aguas de los pantanos, tierras agrícolas y valiosas zonas forestales se hallan submergidas y los aldeanos han caído en la pobreza y la desesperación. </p> <p>Roy hace referencia en su ensayo a un estudio sobre 54 grandes presas realizado por el Instituto de Administración Pública de la India (IIPA) en el que se estima que el promedio de personas desplazadas por cada presa es de cerca de 45.000. La Comisión Central del Agua de la India mantiene un <a href="http://www.cwc.nic.in/main/downloads/New%2520NRLD.pdf">registro nacional de grandes presas</a>, según el cual el país cuenta actualmente con 4.858 presas terminadas y otras 313 en construcción, lo que arroja un total de 5.171. Tomando una cifra redonda, 5.000 presas, y multiplicándola por una cifra prudente de 20.000 desplazados por presa (en lugar de la estimación mucho mayor del IIPA), llegamos a un resultado de 100 millones de personas desarraigadas por la construcción de presas, sólo en la India.</p> <p>“Las grandes presas,” escribe Roy, “son para el desarrollo de un país lo que las bombas nucleares para su arsenal militar. Ambas son armas de destrucción masiva… símbolos que marcan un punto en el tiempo en el que la inteligencia humana ha sobrepasado su instinto de supervivencia… indicaciones malignas de una civilización revolviéndose contra ella misma.”</p> <p>Pero las presas no son, ni de lejos, las únicas iniciativas de desarrollo que implican desalojos forzosos. La minería, la ganadería, la agroindústria, las plantas papeleras, la construcción de autovías y hasta los campos de tiro militares figuran entre las actividades que requieren – o exigen – sacrificios humanos. </p> <p>Como argumenta el líder Yanomami y defensor de la Amazonía David Kopenawa, “…todas las mercancías que tanto valoran los blancos no tendrán nunca tanto valor como todos los árboles y las frutas y los animales del bosque... Ninguna cantidad de dinero podrá jamás compensar la quema del bosque, la devastación de la tierra y la contaminación de los ríos.”<a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/C:/Users/user/Downloads/Displaced%20(1).docx#Three">[iii]</a>&nbsp; </p> <p>Nos hallamos en un universo incontrolado en el que los ricos, los poderosos y el uso agresivo de las armas más adecuadas a cada circunstancia – ya sean bombas y tanques, o presas, minas e industrias contaminantes – para lograr sus objetivos destruyen la vida de los pobres y vulnerables. Deploramos con razón la trágica situación de los refugiados en nuestras puertas; pero ante los que viven y mueren miserablemente en otros lugares, estamos ciegos o somos indiferentes. </p> <p>Esforzándonos por imponer a los demás nuestra religión, nuestra política, nuestra forma de vida consumista, incluso nuestras fantasías de desarrollo, terminamos destrozándoles a ellos y al medio ambiente del que son custodios. Los imperativos militares y el desarrollo económico son grandes negocios; y no se permite que nada, al parecer, se interponga en su camino.</p> <hr size="0" /> <p><a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/C:/Users/user/Downloads/Displaced%20(1).docx#_ednref1">[i]</a> Un solicitante de asilo es alguien que ha presentado su solicitud pero al que todavía no se le ha concedido la condición de refugiado.</p> <p><a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/C:/Users/user/Downloads/Displaced%20(1).docx#_ednref2">[ii]</a> La definición formal es algo más elaborada.</p> <p><a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/C:/Users/user/Downloads/Displaced%20(1).docx#_ednref3">[iii]</a> David Kopenawa con Bruce Albert, <a href="https://jsa.revues.org/11786?lang=en"><em>La chute du Ciel</em></a> (La caída del cielo), París 2010.</p><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"> Ideas </div> <div class="field-item odd"> International politics </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> DemocraciaAbierta DemocraciaAbierta Civil society Conflict Democracy and government Ideas International politics russia & eurasia middle east latin america europe asia & pacific africa conflicts democracy & power Jeremy Fox Thu, 22 Oct 2015 10:37:34 +0000 Jeremy Fox 97040 at https://opendemocracy.net The mounting paralysis of Latin America’s Left (Part 1) https://opendemocracy.net/democraciaabierta/shaun-lawson/mounting-paralysis-of-latin-america%E2%80%99s-left-part-1 <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>An increasingly exhausted South American Left finds itself trapped between similar contradictions to those undermining its counterparts in Europe. <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/democraciaabierta/shaun-lawson/par%C3%A1lisis-creciente-de-la-izquierda-en-am%C3%A9rica-latina-primera-parte" target="_blank"><strong><em>Español</em></strong></a>. </p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_large/wysiwyg_imageupload/557099/14256976597_8be17e37ef_c.jpg" alt="" title="" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_large" style="" width="460" height="250" /> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>All rights reserved.</span></span></span></p><p>This summer, as the British Labour Party finds itself blindsided by the rise of Leftist populism, a number of&nbsp;<a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/neal-lawson/downfall">analyses</a>&nbsp;have sought to&nbsp;<a href="http://www.newstatesman.com/politics/uk/2015/09/valley-death">counterpose</a>&nbsp;this against broader problems facing the Left&nbsp;<a href="http://www.worldaffairsjournal.org/article/what%E2%80%99s-left-social-democrats-disarray">across Europe</a>. In power in many countries at the time of the 2008 crash, and having embraced free market economics and neoliberalism in <a href="http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/monkey-cage/wp/2015/05/06/moving-to-the-center-can-be-costly-for-left-wing-parties/">many cases</a>, social democratic parties have been left unable to articulate an alternative to traditional supporters enduring falling living standards, rising levels of job insecurity, and who – for the first time since 1945 – see an economic and political system which is palpably failing them. </p><p>In the absence of new ideas, the Left has increasingly taken refuge in old ones, generally defined in opposition to something: most notably, austerity. Paul Mason views this as the start of a long transition signalling the&nbsp;<a href="http://www.theguardian.com/books/2015/jul/17/postcapitalism-end-of-capitalism-begun">end of capitalism</a>&nbsp;as we know it; the trouble is, as whatever will replace it is still entirely unclear, social democratic parties find themselves trapped defending a system which they know no longer works, amid a context of what was once organised labour being dispersed, atomised, by the rise of self-employment, the digital economy and globalisation.</p> <p>In trouble across Europe – only in Italy, where the centre-right was humiliated by various euro-related disasters, are the social democrats still in a position of relative strength – the Left’s only (supposed) success story has been in South America: where it’s dominated over the last decade and more. But even there, its position is now dramatically weakening, for reasons which are depressingly familiar.</p> <p>In any case, we should note that what might seem like ‘success stories’ to unreconstructed Leftists have amounted to little more than ugly, lowest common denominator populism in too many cases. The main driver behind the Left’s rise in South America has been powerful, emotive memories of the 1970s: when the US covertly supported a whole host of murderous, fascist dictatorships, particularly in the continent’s South Cone (encompassing Brazil, Argentina, Chile and Uruguay). As democracy returned, and those who grew up under these regimes came of age, populist, socialist movements grew in influence: most of which styled themselves in opposition to the imperialist meddling of Washington.</p> <p>Yet when they came to power, the response of a number of leaders (particularly in Venezuela, Ecuador, Bolivia and to a lesser extent, Argentina) was to consciously divide their countries between rich and poor. To oppose the demagogue Hugo Chávez in Venezuela was to be depicted as part of some American-backed Fifth Column, trying to bring the horrors of the 1970s back; and while it’s true that the CIA have&nbsp;<a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3ZajyVas4Jg">clearly tried</a>&nbsp;to infiltrate the opposition at times, it’s more accurate to say that under President Obama, the State Department has simply waited for Venezuela to collapse, as it inevitably will.</p> <p>In August 2003, around 3.2m signatures were collected for a recall referendum against Chávez, provided for in the constitution. These were rejected by the National Electoral Council (CNE) on the grounds of being put together before the midpoint of the Presidential term; the government then raided CNE and&nbsp;<a href="http://www.economist.com/node/2054474?zid=305&amp;ah=417bd5664dc76da5d98af4f7a640fd8a">seized the petitions</a>. In September, the opposition collected a new set of signatures, some 3.6m: rejected by the CNE on the grounds that many were invalid. Riots which killed nine and injured 1200 followed this decision. The petitioners appealed to the Electoral Chamber of the Supreme Court, which reinstated 800,000 signatures, bringing the total to well over the 2.4m required; but this was overturned by the Court’s Constitutional Chamber, and again, the government seized the list.</p> <p>Eventually, the referendum was granted – but only after the list of signatories was posted online by Luis&nbsp;Tascón, member of the National Assembly and government supporter. On television,&nbsp;Chávez boasted about the list,&nbsp;<a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G2AmZ6UUP14">warning darkly</a>&nbsp;that&nbsp;“those who sign against Chávez are signing against their country… against the future”; and that <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aFE0na_MecA">all signatories would</a>&nbsp;“remain registered in history, because they’d have to put their name, last name, signature, ID number and fingerprint”.</p> <p>Signatories now found themselves fired, denied jobs, denied official documents, threatened and intimidated by government-backed militias. Many fled the country. When it came, the referendum&nbsp;<a href="http://arxiv.org/pdf/1205.3320.pdf">was rigged</a>, as subsequent elections have been. The list itself can still be bought even now from&nbsp;<a href="https://research.chicagobooth.edu/igm/events/docs/Hsieh-venezuela.pdf">market stalls in Caracas</a>&nbsp;for a few dollars.</p> <p>When supporters of Jeremy Corbyn, or&nbsp;<a href="http://jeremycorbyn.org.uk/articles/venezuela/">the man himself</a>, defend Venezuelan ‘democracy’, they are actually defending a police state: in which opposition leaders <a href="http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-latin-america-34217285">are jailed</a>, and opposition supporters intimidated and worse by militias. Despite being one of the world’s most oil-rich nations, it’s a&nbsp;<a href="http://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/feb/23/venezuela-protests-thuggery-pretty-revolution">basket case</a>. There is no paper or toilet paper on the shelves; the puppet Parliament has given Nicolás Maduro,&nbsp;Chávez’ successor, the right to rule by decree; Maduro falls back on comically suggesting that the Americans will bomb Venezuela, and&nbsp;<a href="http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2015/09/27/has-venezuelan-president-maduro-gone-insane.html">sabre rattling</a>&nbsp;against neighbouring Colombia and Guyana; food shortages remain endemic; murder, kidnapping and violent crime have reached&nbsp;<a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/12/30/venezuela-homocide-rate-2014_n_6395960.html">epidemic proportions</a>. Chávismo, whatever it stood for to begin with, has failed.</p> <p>In Ecuador, meanwhile, President Rafael Correa uses millions of dollars from the country’s intelligence budget to&nbsp;<a href="http://www.buzzfeed.com/jamesball/ecuadors-president-used-millions-of-dollars-of-public-funds?utm_term=.gh7ZO1lKo#.ca0VoYRy0">censor and remove</a>&nbsp;online videos and other information critical of him. The last remaining&nbsp;<a href="http://www.theguardian.com/global-development-professionals-network/2015/sep/09/ngo-alert-ecuadorian-government-orders-press-freedom-group-to-disband">freedom of expression</a>&nbsp;NGO was ordered by the government to close earlier this month, despite recording more than 600 attacks against journalists over the last four years.&nbsp;Amnesty International has accused Correa of restricting “core human rights of freedoms of assembly, association and expression in Ecuador”.</p> <p>And in Argentina, which took to inventing its own&nbsp;<a href="http://www.economist.com/blogs/americasview/2014/09/statistics-argentina">inflation figures</a>&nbsp;out of thin air, has imposed strict currency controls, and where the media has found itself under continual government attack, the as yet unexplained death of Alberto Nisman, a federal prosecutor investigating the 1994 car bombing of the Jewish Centre in Buenos Aires, again brought into focus a country where corruption is rife, the&nbsp;<a href="http://www.theguardian.com/world/2015/jan/28/alberto-nisman-death-cristina-fernandez-de-kirchner-argentina-intelligence-agency">intelligence services</a>&nbsp;have alarming amounts of unchecked power, and where freedom of the press is, in practice, significantly lacking. The peso was&nbsp;<a href="http://www.americasquarterly.org/content/currency-argentinas-devaluation">devalued</a>&nbsp;by 20% in 2014; further devaluation is likely&nbsp;<a href="http://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2015-03-18/argentine-peso-forwards-at-record-show-devaluation-bet-for-2016">next year</a>, and on the black markets, the currency has fallen much further.</p> <p>The response of President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner has been, again, to sabre rattle: against Britain over the Falklands, American hedge fund managers, even Uruguay over a pulp mill. Peronism, a political doctrine which essentially stands for nothing, depends on this sort of populism. It’s a mistake to view Kirchner as a socialist; she’s not. She’s a neo-corporatist who buys off the poor while providing no genuine long term help, while encouraging a cult of personality – anathema to fully functioning republics, as the speech <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xkYEXS16dZA">in this video</a> beautifully explains – common to the leaders mentioned above, as well as Evo Morales in Bolivia. None of these countries are success stories; none should be cited by any sort of serious, grown-up Left as models to be emulated.</p> <p>With the Brazilian economy in crisis, its oligarchs still hugely powerful (demonstrated by the FIFA scandal as much as anything else), and Dilma Rousseff weighed down by corruption allegations, what does that leave? Peru to an extent; Chile and Uruguay. On the South American Left, only the latter two countries (routinely cited in surveys as safest,&nbsp;<a href="https://www.transparency.org/cpi2014/results">least corrupt</a>, and offering the continent’s best quality of life) have been consistent successes over the last decade: in both cases, by remaining moderate, non-ideological, and seeking to bring the whole country with them. Not cynically dividing them and engaging in what, in Argentina to an extent and Venezuela especially, has often amounted to political warfare against legitimate opponents.</p> <p>Michelle Bachelet’s Chile is often&nbsp;<a href="http://www.theglobeandmail.com/globe-debate/editorials/chiles-ascent-from-3rd-to-1st-world/article12298793/">described</a>, albeit dubiously,&nbsp;as South America’s only First World country. The politics of its government? For want of a better term, Blairite. But the country itself is not remotely left wing, and closer ideologically to Colombia (which has increasing ties with the US) than the rest of the continent. Bachelet, moreover, is now enduring historically appalling&nbsp;<a href="http://www.latercera.com/noticia/politica/2015/09/674-645523-9-adimark-bachelet-obtiene-24-de-aprobacion-registrando-la-peor-cifra-en-la.shtml">approval ratings</a>: which encouraged Latin American conspiracy theories regarding Chile’s recent Copa América triumph on home soil, are predicated mostly on a&nbsp;<a href="http://www.ibtimes.co.uk/chilean-president-michelle-bachelets-son-sebastian-davalos-testifies-caval-corruption-scandal-1496219">corruption scandal</a> involving her son and daughter-in-law; and presage, almost certainly, a shift to the Right at the next election. Bachelet’s socialists are in trouble.</p> <p>In summary, then: while populism and rabble rousing were always going to fail in Venezuela or Argentina, the gains made elsewhere in Chile or Brazil have also begun to come unstuck. An increasingly exhausted South American Left finds itself trapped between similar contradictions to those undermining its counterparts in Europe. Nowhere are these starker, or more complex, than in Uruguay: a genuine beacon over the last decade, but which is now sliding into serious economic and political trouble. A detailed analysis of events in the so often neglected Oriental Republic will follow in Part 2.</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/shaun-lawson/par%C3%A1lisis-creciente-de-la-izquierda-en-am%C3%A9rica-latina-primera-parte">Parálisis creciente de la izquierda en América Latina (Primera parte)</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"> Argentina </div> <div class="field-item even"> Brazil </div> <div class="field-item odd"> Uruguay </div> <div class="field-item even"> Chile </div> <div class="field-item odd"> Venezuela </div> <div class="field-item even"> Ecuador </div> <div class="field-item odd"> Bolivia </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Civil society </div> <div class="field-item even"> Democracy and government </div> <div class="field-item odd"> International politics </div> </div> </div> <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 Bolivia Ecuador Venezuela Chile Uruguay Brazil Argentina Civil society Democracy and government International politics latin america democracy & power south america global politics democratic society Shaun Lawson Thu, 01 Oct 2015 09:31:48 +0000 Shaun Lawson 96485 at https://opendemocracy.net Dirty money, damaged democracy: what to do? https://opendemocracy.net/catalina-perdomo/dirty-money-damaged-democracy-what-to-do <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Illicit funds can harm democratic institutions at every level and in all global regions. But there are ways to prevent or at least limit the damage. </p> </div> </div> </div> <p>This summer in Pakistan, a massive corruption scandal erupted involving collusion between between political parties and public officials over illegal land-grabbing in the city of Karachi, capital of the country's most populous province, Sindh. A report published in June 2015 by the Pakistani Rangers, a legal paramilitary force under the direct control of the interior ministry, <a href="http://tribune.com.pk/story/902331/claims-about-illegal-rs230-billion-in-karachi-needs-to-be-backed-by-solid-proof-aitzaz-ahsan/">provided</a> hard evidence of the so-called “evil nexus”.</p><p>The role of political parties is important, for in Pakistan they are perceived - along with the national police force and civil servants - as among the most unreliable and corrupt institutions. Data from <a href="https://www.transparency.org/">Transparency International</a> confirms this distrust, which this most recent scandal did nothing to rebuild. Instead it stands as yet another example of how dirty money, when it seeps into politics, can seriously damage democratic institutions. </p><p>Illicit funds can enter politics in various ways, whether <a href="http://www.idea.int/political-finance/">political-party finance</a> systems, campaign support or allocation of lucrative contracts. In every case, this threatens not only the effectiveness but the legitimacy of all democratic bodies. </p><p>As elected representatives, entrusted to lead the nation, politicians are at the heart of democracy. For the public It is disturbing to see them negotiating deals with networks of criminals engaged in particularly sinister crimes such as human trafficking, drug-smuggling, weapons-trading, counterfeiting or terrorism. Pakistan is not an exception in this regard. The <a href="http://www.dawn.com/news/1187600">corrosive</a> effect of organised crime being able to buy real political influence is a global problem. </p><p>In July 2015, a United Nations <a href="http://cicig.org/index.php?page=about">agency</a> in charge of fighting impunity in Guatemala released a disturbing <a href="http://www.un.org/undpa/americas/cicig">report</a> concluding that alliances with organised crime are one of the most harmful activities for democracy in the country. Here, as in Pakistan and other countries, such alliances and the dirty money they depend on undermine political systems, nourish political violence, contaminate elections and hurt democratic governance (including at the local level). </p><p>That these criminal interests often involve violence heightens the injury to public interest and safety. Money from "blood diamonds", for example, has provided funding for military regimes and insurgencies, prolonging conflicts as well as systematic and gross violations of human rights in African countries. Drug money also <a href="https://www.americanprogress.org/issues/security/report/2015/03/17/108943/to-stem-the-flow-of-illicit-drugs-from-afghanistan-follow-the-money/">fuels</a> insurgencies’ budgets and prolonged conflicts in countries such as Colombia and Afghanistan.&nbsp; </p><p>Moreover, funding from illicit sources undermines electoral processes. Peru, for example, held <a href="http://www.economist.com/news/americas/21623706-corruption-and-political-fragmentation-threaten-perus-democracy-divide-and-bribe">elections</a> in October 2014. Yet less than ten months later, seventeen out of 124 elected representatives - 14% of the total - have been linked with drug cartels or their activities. </p><p>In May 2015, parts of the government apparatus and civil-society organisations in Peru were moved to warn that the country's state institutions are at risk of being<a href="http://www.insightcrime.org/news-briefs/drug-gangs-battle-for-peru-seaport"> infiltrated</a> by the cartels. This would send the country back to the 1990s, when despairing Peruvians felt they were living in a narco-state. This is indeed a worrisome pattern as it damages the legitimacy of elections as well as trust in local governance and decentralisation programmes. </p><p>Such issues are emphasised in a particular regional context by an International IDEA report, <a href="http://www.idea.int/publications/illicit-networks-and-politics-in-latin-america/en.cfm"><em>Illicit Networks and Politics in Latin America</em></a><em></em>, published in November 2014.</p><p>There is no single or fixed recipe for preventing or mitigating the bond between criminal networks and politics. But acknowledging the problem is a first step to finding useful solutions. Disbanding entire <a href="https://www.unodc.org/unodc/en/organized-crime/index.html">criminal networks</a> is perhaps unrealistic, as organised crime will probably always exist. But protecting politics from being taken over by thugs might be a more attainable goal. </p><p>The focus then should be on how to prevent dirty money from getting into politics, or at the very least limit the influence it might buy. It is also necessary to prevent crime groups from forming strong bonds with elected officials, public servants and institutions. The dangers of this process are explored in a 2015 study by the <a href="http://www.globalinitiative.net/">Global Initiative against Transnational Organised Crime</a>, which concludes that decentralisation has provided a golden opportunity for crime groups to "buy" civil servants and politicians at local level in some countries, for example Mali. </p><p>Two key elements here are coordination and transparency. The ability of law-enforcement agencies, electoral-management bodies, banks' and intelligence agencies' financial units to work together in tracking asset-laundering is vital. So is including political parties in exposures of money-laundering, which could mean monitoring political-party funding beyond election times and ensure that cash contributions to candidates are properly reported. </p><p>In countries like Myanmar, where there are great hopes for the current democratic <a href="http://www.mm.undp.org/content/myanmar/en/home/ourwork/democraticgovernance/overview.html">transformation</a>, there is an opportunity to introduce preventative measures early on in the process. In parallel with preparations for open elections in November 2015 (its first in twenty-five years), Myanmar is re-emerging as a key <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2015/06/06/world/asia/profits-from-illicit-drug-trade-at-root-of-myanmars-boom.html?_r=0">player</a> in the illicit-drugs underworld. </p><p>Myanmar is the second largest producer of heroin in the world according to United Nations estimates, and Asia’s leading <a href="http://www.burmanet.org/news/2015/08/07/bbc-news-myanmar-police-seize-100m-worth-of-methamphetamines/">supplier</a> of methamphetamine. Whether it's called junk or heroin, injected or smoked&nbsp; ("chasing-the-dragon" style), heroin could become a major challenge in Myanmar’s transformation to democracy. It is up to democracy-support agencies, national and international, to prevent the current breath of democracy-hope in Myanmar turning into a junk-like smell. </p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-read-on"> <div class="field-label"> 'Read On' Sidebox:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p><a href="http://www.idea.int/publications/illicit-networks-and-politics-in-latin-america/en.cfm"><em>Illicit Networks and Politics in Latin America</em></a> (International IDEA, November 2014)</p><p><a href="http://www.idea.int/index.cfm">International IDEA</a></p><p><a href="http://www.moneyinpolitics.info/">Global Conference on Money and Politics</a> (Mexico City, 3-5 September 2015)</p><p><a href="http://www.globalinitiative.net/">Global Initiative against Transnational Organised Crime</a> </p> </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/samuel-jones/how-to-take-big-money-out-of-uk-politics">How to fix UK political party finance</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> democracy & power Catalina Perdomo Fri, 04 Sep 2015 04:39:15 +0000 Catalina Perdomo 95691 at https://opendemocracy.net The last couple of days in Athens and in solidarity https://opendemocracy.net/can-europe-make-it/michael-chessum/last-couple-of-days-in-athens-and-in-solidarity <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Tribute to the Greek left from a fellow European who won’t forget the run-up to the historic Greek referendum.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p>Today, if the result is ‘Oxi’, the Syriza government will have a mandate to enter a more radical phase of government. A defeat for Syriza would, at least for the moment, extinguish the only left government and much of the credibility that its existence has lent to its counterpart movements all over Europe. More importantly, it would force any Podemos government in Spain to fight, as Syriza has had to, alone. </p> <p>For Greeks, the impact of the vote will be existential and personal.&nbsp; Last night, at the gigantic ‘Oxi’ rally in Syntagma Square – reportedly the largest demonstration in Greece since the fall of the dictatorship – tension was brimming over. What felt like hundreds of thousands of Athenians sang songs and chanted slogans, some new and some decades old. </p> <p>Many may have known the words because of Greece’s much larger and more serious left political traditions. But the passion of the demonstration had nothing to do with any essentialist tropes about the Greeks, and everything to do with the now desperate social situation, which, as many accept, may well deteriorate regardless of the outcome tomorrow, at least in the immediate term. &nbsp;</p> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/rally-thursday-east-end.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/rally-thursday-east-end.jpg" alt="Thursday rally, Athens. Michael Chessum. " title="" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" width="460" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Thursday rally, Athens. Michael Chessum. </span></span></span>In the middle of the crowd, a woman grabbed my attention: “do you know how many people have <a href="http://www.keeptalkinggreece.com/2015/06/11/public-hospital-governor-10000-people-committed-suicide-in-the-5-years-of-greeces-crisis/">committed suicide</a> over the past few years?” After we’d spoken, she added: “We need your support”. Some of the biggest cheers at the rally were also for announcements of solidarity demonstrations taking place abroad, but, for all that, the outcome of the vote will now be determined by the voters of Greece – supposedly. </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/march-thrusday-oxi.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/march-thrusday-oxi.jpg" alt="March, Athens, Thursday. Author's pic." title="" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" width="460" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>March, Athens, Thursday. Author's pic.</span></span></span>Many commentaries on the situation in Greece have described the referendum as a test of national sovereignty – but in reality, any notion that Greece is a truly independent state has already been swept aside by the events of the past few weeks. The Eurozone creditors have made it plain that what they really desire in Greece is not debt repayment (which, as the IMF now admits, needs a long holiday) but regime change, and they have used their financial muscle in the days running up to the referendum in order to deprive the Greek banks of cash. The capital controls that this has incurred are cited by almost everyone as the number one reason for the narrowing of the polls and the growth of the Yes vote. &nbsp;This strategy has willing domestic participants, in the form of every stripe of the old Greek establishment – including some ‘soft left’ figures (take Athens’s mayor for instance) – and the oligarchs who own almost all of the media. </p> <p>What the referendum will really test is the ability of Greece’s left, through its popular support and its sheer grit and willpower, to win in spite of the overwhelming efforts of both Greece’s creditors and the old Greek establishment. Across the country, a ground war has been waged by thousands upon thousands of activists – outside metro stations, in workplaces, on pavements and in local communities. </p> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/friday-big-rally.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/friday-big-rally.jpg" alt="March, Athens, Thursday. Author's pic." title="" width="460" height="345" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Friday, rally, Athens. Author's pic.</span></span></span>‘Hard-working’ doesn’t really cover the attitude of the Greek left. The picture that one gets from spending time around it is one of constant leafleting, demonstrations and rallies. Then there are the workplace struggles, the constant critical engagement and discussion that so many leftwing activists have about the strategy of the government, and for some the community projects supporting those without access to food and basic amenities – not to mention the task of coping personally effects of austerity. Being in eight places at once isn’t possible, but sleeping four hours a night and taking a lot of vitamins is. This is the movement with which the Troika is now at war. </p> <p>The contrast between the Nai (Yes) and Oxi (No) campaigns is visible on every street corner in Athens. The Nai campaign puts large glossy posters on lamp-posts and takes out bus station adverts, usually with the same design. Oxi posters, stickers and graffiti – coming in a hundred different designs and from a hundred different groups – are fly-posted on walls, sprayed on pavements and tied to lamp-posts all over the city. </p> <p>The whole event is a gigantic exercise in mass, bottom-up persuasion. Local Oxi rallies, like one which we attended in the east end of Athens on Thursday night, march noisily around residential areas, drawing fist-pumps and cheers, as well as the odd bucket of water, from balconies. For the Oxi campaign, building a sense of social solidarity, and counteracting the sense of isolation and fear that many wavering voters may be feeling in the wake of the economic gloom, is just as important as convincing people that the Troika’s demands are unreasonable. </p> <p>In a rapidly polarising atmosphere, both sides are throwing everything they have at the campaign. For the Oxi campaign, this means mass mobilisation. For Nai, it means a fusion of mobilisation and mass organised blackmail. The bias of the mainstream media has been well-reported: one of the favourite anecdotes of our contacts in Syriza Youth was that one of the main stations had just tweeted, from its main account: “Do you want access to medicines on Monday? Yes or no”. </p> <p>But beyond the media, the old Greek ruling class is running at full throttle: whole companies have gone on lock-out. Some employers have reportedly threatened their employees with non-payment if they fail to attend Nai rallies, and with mass redundancy if Oxi wins. The Ministry of Labour has responded with a declaration stating that these practices are illegal, and that it will back workers in this position. Leftwing activists are showing up at workplaces with the declaration in hand, but how effective this proves remains to be seen. </p> <p>If the Yes campaign is being conducted in a language of fear, the No campaign is described just as much in terms of dignity as it is in terms of hope. Nonetheless, a victory for Oxi and for Syriza would give hope to millions across Europe. It would represent the victory of a mass movement of the left over the forces of press barons and the old neoliberal political order – in Berlin, Brussels and the richer side of Athens – which seems intent on making a debt colony of Greece. &nbsp;</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-read-on"> <div class="field-label"> 'Read On' Sidebox:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p><a href="https://www.facebook.com/solidaritywithgreece">SolidaritywithGreece</a></p> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Greece </div> <div class="field-item even"> 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"> Economics </div> <div class="field-item odd"> International politics </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> Can Europe make it? Can Europe make it? EU Greece Civil society Conflict Democracy and government Economics International politics democracy & power Michael Chessum Sat, 04 Jul 2015 15:30:29 +0000 Michael Chessum 94103 at https://opendemocracy.net From Dudley to Detroit: a tale of two mosques https://opendemocracy.net/nile-green/from-dudley-to-detroit-tale-of-two-mosques <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>The tensions around new mosques in the west, from their construction to who controls them, are illuminated by the theory of religious economy.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p>Many odd news stories emerged from Britain’s election campaign. None seemed more bizarre than the alleged attempt by a Muslim Conservative candidate to collude with the English Defence League, an anti-Islam group, on the back of opposition to the building of a new mosque in Dudley. The proposed mosque would fall within the constituency of Dudley North, one of two in the town, and the ensuing controversy forced the candidate, Afzal Amin, to resign from his party weeks before the election. </p><p>The tensions surrounding the mosque plans had pre-dated the campaign. Now they trickled further into the provincial politics of the "Black Country", as this part of England's west midlands, a former industrial powerhouse, is still known. Behind Dudley's story of local intrigue lies a much bigger process that will determine the future <a href="http://www.hurstpublishers.com/book/the-infidel-within/">shape</a> of Islam in Britain.&nbsp; </p><p>Few may realise that campaigns to build mosques - and campaigns to prevent them - are far from new. A century ago, they also accompanied the earlier phase of globalisation that saw large-scale Asian immigration not so much to Britain as to the United States. Like the planned mosque in Dudley, the first purpose-built mosque in America was also <a href="http://biid.lsa.umich.edu/archival-project/">linked</a> to the migration of Asian factory workers. Inaugurated in 1921, it stood just outside the birthplace of the production line at Henry Ford’s famous (and now derelict) car factory in Detroit. The parallels with Britain’s major <a href="http://www.manchesteruniversitypress.co.uk/cgi-bin/indexer?product=9780719085147">communities</a> of south Asian, mainly Pakistani, origin - in Bradford and Manchester, Birmingham and Dudley - are clear. </p><p>Though the Detroit mosque long succumbed to the boom-and-bust cycle of America’s industrial cities, today the city’s suburbs are home to America’s largest (and largely middle-class) Muslim community. Despite opposition at the time, the first mosque in the Motor City is no longer newsworthy. Yet its <a href="https://global.oup.com/academic/product/old-islam-in-detroit-9780199372003?cc=gb&amp;lang=en&amp;">history</a> shows that, as a result of labour migration, religion is inseparable from questions of economy. </p><p>Economics not only offers a way of understanding business and finance. It also lends a theory for understanding how religion works in the everyday world of employment and elections, aspirations and protests. New <a href="http://www.cambridge.org/gb/academic/subjects/history/south-asian-history/bombay-islam-religious-economy-west-indian-ocean-18401915">models</a> of "religious economy" suggest that we should think of religion as being promoted through religious "firms" and "entrepreneurs" who, like their commercial counterparts, compete for followers, or "customers", of the different services they offer. Little surprise, then, that one of the reason’s Dudley’s <a href="http://www.birminghammail.co.uk/news/midlands-news/dudley-mega-mosque-plans-approved-after-8087707">proposed</a> "mega-mosque" is so large is that it also offers its would-be customers a sports hall, an education and training centre, computer facilities, multi-storey parking and other services. The various smaller mosques around the Black Country could scarcely compete. Indeed, the new mosque would replace Dudley's existing mosque, where customers and demands have <a href="http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-birmingham-30000775">outgrown</a> the former Church of England school where it is located. </p><p>Religious economy also reveals the false premises around most positions that oppose or favour Dudley’s new mosque and others like it. For the theory teaches us that, like other franchises of religious firms, mosques are powerful institutions because they form mechanisms for the "entrepreneurial" individuals who control them to gather together religious consumers, transform them into a community under the entrepreneur’s leadership, shape their opinions, and mobilise them into society at large. To consider mosques, or for that matter non-Muslim places of worship, as solely "religious" spaces and hence separate from the sphere of "politics" is based on a narrow conception of politics. </p><p>The issue therefore isn’t so much whether mosques should or should not exist in towns like Dudley. In "liberal" religious economies in which the state promises its citizens freedom of religious choice, there is a legal and moral right behind their existence. Rather, the more important issue occluded by the debate around mosque construction relates to <em>who controls these powerful institutions after they are built</em>. This is not so much a question of community that, so often, turns into the broader struggle between proponents of multiculturalism and demonisers of immigration. It is instead a question of individuals, namely religious entrepreneurs. </p><p>The history of the Detroit mosque illustrates this nicely, because a newly immigrant evangelical Muslim preacher from India quickly seized control of the mosque from the Lebanese businessman who paid for it to be built. Clearly, then, the religious entrepreneur is not necessarily the person or committee who oversees a mosque’s construction. Nor is he necessarily a member of the local Muslim community, with their greater familiarity and respect for the surrounding non-Muslim environment. As the Detroit case shows, the most effective religious entrepreneurs are often ambitious immigrant preachers who use the institutional power of mosques to rise from nowhere into figures of collective influence. </p><p>In Britain, the most notorious case was that of Abu Hamza, the Egypt-born imam who took control of the Finsbury Park mosque in north London in 1997 (and in 2015, after a long extradition process, would be convicted by a New York court of supporting terrorism ). Though he was an extreme case, Innes Bowen, author of <a href="http://www.hurstpublishers.com/book/medina-in-birmingham-najaf-in-brent/"><em>Medina in Birmingham, Najaf in Brent</em></a>, has shown that a large proportion of Britain’s mosque preachers are recent immigrants from Pakistan rather than products of Britain’s own more liberal religious landscape. Whether for immigrant or homegrown imams, religion offers an alternative and more attractive means of upward mobility than the factory drudgery of a former generation. </p><p>The opportunities that mosques offer to such religious entrepreneurs become even clearer when we look at the range of activities they offer. Like many churches, mosques gather many spheres of activity under one roof, lending greater authority to those who control the institution as a whole. They offer weddings and funerals, crèches and youth clubs, pilgrimages and fund-drives, along with a myriad other social ventures that forge collective identity. Of course, these are not in themselves dangerous things: as pro-religious conservatives point out, they are the building-blocks of community life. But in amalgamating the wider sphere of social and even recreational activities within a <a href="http://journals.cambridge.org/action/displayAbstract?fromPage=online&amp;aid=8287673">single </a>institution, the services offered by religious institutions make their control - and thence the role of the religious entrepreneur - crucial in shaping the contours of community. </p><p>None of this is unique to Islam and, indeed, religious economy teaches us that the most effective entrepreneurs copy and adapt effective practices from other religions. Here again America offers a useful contrast with Britain. Though I grew up near Dudley I now live in California, which like other US states in the 1970s and 1980s gave birth to the phenomenon of the "mega-church". Superb examples of religious entrepreneurship in a free market of religious rights and freedoms, the mega-churches formed mass venues for the political mobilisation of religious conservatives that reshaped US politics. This is often seen as a uniquely American phenomenon. It is not. The theory of religious economy reveals that the underlying process is transferable: both "mega-churches" and "mega-mosques" place great power in the hands of those who control them because religious institutions are inseparable from the grassroots politics of producing and directing the social power of the individuals gathered within them.</p><p>As well as revealing the hidden politics behind "spiritual freedom" and "community rights", the theory of religious economy also teaches us about the underlying structures of different types of religious marketplace - whether liberal or illiberal, open or closed, dynamic or stagnant. In this regard, the first mosque in France offers an informative contrast with its American counterpart. Reflecting the central role of the state in French religious life, it was <a href="http://structurae.net/structures/great-mosque">constructed</a> in Paris in 1926 as an official government gesture to the thousands of Muslim soldiers who fought for France in the first world war. So, despite the decade of delays by Dudley council, unless its members aspired towards a Gallic coup by overturning the more liberal structure of Britain’s religious economy they had little choice but eventually to agree to the mosque. </p><p>But religious economy points to dynamics as well as structures. In this way, it again holds the lesson that who will control a mosque will very quickly eclipse debate over whether it should be built. And the former, unlike the latter, is something that Dudley’s local council can hardly determine. Instead, it will be determined by the dynamics of religious competition among the Muslims of Dudley, because contests to control of religious resources and institutions are one of the driving forces of religious economies. For any religious entrepreneur, whether Black Country born or recently arrived from a Pakistani <em>madrasa</em>, a "mega-mosque" would be a huge gain. Such high stakes invite another question, of who has the right - Dudley Muslims or Dudley citizens as a whole - to oversee the competition to control so influential a community building-block. If it were posed, everyone might benefit.</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-read-on"> <div class="field-label"> 'Read On' Sidebox:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Nile Green, <a href="http://www.hurstpublishers.com/book/terrains-of-exchange/"><em>Terrains of Exchange: Religious Economies of Global Islam</em></a> (C Hurst, 2015)&nbsp; </p><p><a href="http://www.history.ucla.edu/people/faculty/faculty-1/faculty-1?lid=5192">Nile Green</a></p><p>Innes Bowen, <a href="http://www.hurstpublishers.com/book/medina-in-birmingham-najaf-in-brent/"><em>Medina in Birmingham, Najaf in Brent: Inside British Islam</em></a> (C Hurst, 2014)</p><p>Humayun Ansari, <a href="http://www.hurstpublishers.com/book/the-infidel-within/"><em>'The Infidel Within': Muslims in Britain since 1800</em></a> (C Hurst, 2004)</p><p><a href="http://biid.lsa.umich.edu/archival-project/">Building Islam in Detroit - archival project</a></p> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Civil society </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 3.0 </div> </div> </div> Civil society democracy & power Nile Green Sat, 13 Jun 2015 04:57:20 +0000 Nile Green 93514 at https://opendemocracy.net Armenia, memories of the land https://opendemocracy.net/vicken-cheterian/armenia-memories-of-land <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>A century after the genocide of the Ottoman Armenians, Vicken Cheterian goes in search of its living traces on the modern borderlands where Turkey, Syria and Lebanon meet.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><em>The genocide of Armenians living in the Ottoman empire began in April 1915. Its centenary is being commemorated at a time when the Middle East is undergoing another prolonged and many-sided crisis whose features are disturbingly similar to the era of the catastrophic Great War: massacre, arbitrary arrest and murder, displacement and exile, sectarian violence and indeed genocide. Modern Turkey, the principal inheritor state of the Ottoman empire, is - for reasons of history, geography, demography, and ideology - deeply part of this crisis, while trying desperately to insulate itself from its worst effects. </em></p><p><em>Turkey's struggle with the inheritance of 1915 is highlighted by the contested status of the events of that year in its public culture. This struggle is itself evidence that long repressed histories are being rediscovered, and entering the public arena in new and challenging ways. A vital role in this process is being played by Armenians in Turkey and the region, among them the writer Vicken Cheterian. In the context of current events, his new book </em><em><a href="http://www.hurstpublishers.com/book/open-wounds/"><em><span><span>Open Wounds: Armenians, Turks, and a Century of Genocide</span></span></em></a> (C Hurst, 2015) - at once history, memoir, reportage and travelogue - is a major contribution to understanding the present and future as well as the past.</em></p><p>----------------</p><p><strong><em>Anjar, the only Armenian village of Lebanon</em></strong></p><p>When I first visited Anjar, I was already a university student. I grew up in a country enflamed by a series of wars, and we rarely adventured far from our house. During the war, Anjar was famous for two things: being the only Armenian village in Lebanon and housing the headquarters of the notorious Syrian <em>mukhabarat</em>, the much-feared secret services. Among Lebanese Armenians, Anjar is known for its specific dialect, and for being a stronghold of the Armenian Revolutionary Federation (ARF). The road from Beirut to Anjar goes up to the Lebanese Mountains, passing through Alei and Bhamdoun, then climbs up Mount Lebanon until it reaches the Dahr al-Baydar pass. </p><p>As we began our descent, the lush Bekaa Valley, and on the horizon the Anti-Lebanon Mountain chain and Syria, became visible. The shop of Yesayi Havatian is on the main highway linking Beirut to Damascus, a few hundred meters from the Syrian border. He has a thin, elegant face, with his hair and moustache greying, and his skin tanned from working under the rays of the Bekaa sun. The shop was crowded; villagers were coming in for his advice as much as for buying agricultural products. "When I studied agriculture engineering at the AUB [American University of Beirut], my problem was to exercise a profes- sion which would allow me to live on my land." Although he studied agriculture, and he spends his mornings helping his clients from across the Bekaa Valley to cultivate their land, his nights are dedicated to history, on the past of Musa Dagh and the present of Anjar.</p><p>Armenian Diaspora foundations that received substantial contribu tions from Calouste Gulbenkian bought Anjar to house the Musa Dagh refugees under the authority of the French mandate. Lebanese neighbours in the nearby Majdel Anjar village took the Armenians into their homes during the winter months. Out of the 5,125 refugees, between 800 and 1,000 perished in the first two years due to the cold and diseases such as malaria. The village was slowly constructed. The six neighbourhoods of Anjar are named after the six villages in Musa Dagh. In 1946, when the Soviet Union began to encourage Armenians to repatriate, half of the refugees - primarily those who were sympathetic to the pro-Soviet Hnchagyan Party - decided to move to Soviet Armenia. They currently live in a village called Musa Ler, near Yerevan.</p><p>As one of the villagers was toiling the earth, he made a sensational discovery: the ruins of an Umayyad-era (661–750) town, one of the archaeological gems of eastern Lebanon. The city was built in the eighth century under Caliph Walid Ibn Abd al-Malak (705–715); it was on the crossroads of the trading routes stretching north-south from the plane of Homs to Palestine, and east-west linking the Umayyad capital Damascus with coastal towns such as Beirut and Sidon. The city is divided into quarters and neighbourhoods, with the palace and the mosque occupying the highest point, and the shops of the market stretching out from these buildings; the town was supplied with sewage and water distribution systems, with high city walls supported by forty towers. The town exemplifies the exquisite Arab architecture from the early period of Islam, and in 2010 these Umayyad ruins in Anjar were placed on UNESCO’s list of sites of Outstanding Universal Value.</p><p>Yesayi Havatian, the shop-owner, went to Musa Dagh with his family for the first time in 2001. He was already highly familiar with the place after having read every book or report he could about the home of his ancestors, but he now wanted to see it with his own eyes. He was able to speak to the villagers of Vakifli in his own dialect. He visited the village of his grandparents, Veri Azor, adjacent to Kheder Bey, but no trace of their presence remained. Two major pilgrimages took place in 2004 and 2010, ending with a fiesta on 13 August in which the entire village of Vakifli participated. After sixty-five years, the inhabitants of Vakifli finally felt they were not alone. </p><p><em><strong>Aintab</strong></em></p><p>My maternal grandmother was born in the town of Aintab, from which her entire family, the Nazarians, also hail. The town has since been renamed as "Gazi-Antep" (<em>"gazi</em>" meaning conqueror in Arabic, or holy warrior in Turkish) due to its role in Kemalist mythology, and the battle between Turkish nationalists and the French army in the town (as well as Marash and Urfa) in the Cilician war (May 1920-October 1921).</p><p>I had travelled to Aintab in order to meet some Syrian refugees. On the first evening, I went to a café, Café Papirüs, in a large stone house with some friends when the owner approached us and asked where we were from. I answered, in my limited Turkish, that I was Armenian; he then took my hand and led me to one of the windows, where he showed me an inscription that was clearly written in the Armenian alphabet.</p><p>Hanife, the café owner, invited me to come again the next day, as he would like to give me a tour of the building. Although part of the building was being renovated, what I saw was very impressive. The building had once belonged to a powerful and wealthy Armenian family from Aintab, the Nazaretians. A black-and-white portrait of Nazaretian was placed next to the window of the visiting hall, with colourful paintings of angels and natural scenery decorating the walls. In another room there were black-and-white portraits on the wall, surrounded&nbsp; by beautiful frames. The names read: Mehmet Akif, Mehmetcik, Mithat Pasha, Abdulhak Hamit.</p><p>There is a building in the town, on the Ataturk Boulevard, a short distance from the café, which resembles the architecture of a Catholic church; the façade bears the scars of bullet holes from the War of Liberation. Further up the hill there is an imposing mosque known as "<em>Kurtulush Jami</em>" ("<em>Kurtulush</em>" means "liberated" in Turkish). I was aware that there also used to a big Armenian church here called "<em>Surp Asdvadzadzin</em>", which had been built at the end of the nineteenth century, but which had been converted to a mosque after 1915. I eventually found this building in the middle of a neighbourhood with old, crumbling houses, some of which had windows in the shape of a cross. This was one of the three Armenian neighbourhoods of Aintab known as Kayajik, Kastelbashi and Hayik Hill (now Tepe Başi).</p><p>Surp Asdvadzadzin Church was closed. But there was a guardian sitting in front of it. For a few Turkish liras he opened the door and let me in. I was alone. The emptiness underlined the loneliness of the place. It is a huge building of white stones with a large imposing dome. From the street it looks imposing, as it stands on the side of a hill. A huge Turkish flag was hanging where the altar used to be. In the 1920s, this building had been used as a prison, before being converted to a mosque in the 1980s. The church’s bell-tower had been converted into a minaret, while one of the other minarets that had been added to the building referred to the date of construction: 1985. There is a cultural centre on the same street, 100 metres from the church. This building also used to be an Armenian church - the Surp Bedros Armenian Catholic Church - but it is now called Omer Ersoy Kültür Merkezi. For many years it was used as a warehouse until it was "discovered" and turned into a cultural centre.</p><p>One of the best ways to learn about the hidden history of a city is to find someone with local roots to guide you and introduce you to aspects and individuals that you would otherwise not encounter. When I was in Aintab, my guide was Murad Uçaner. Before relaying the hidden story of the city he unveiled to me, it is important to take note of his life history. </p><p><em><strong>Murad’s story</strong></em></p><p>Murad Uçaner is an electrical engineer who was born and raised in Aintab. In 2005 he was involved in renovating an old house in the Kayacik neighbourhood, in old Aintab, near Papirüs café. While removing some wood that covered the walls in one of the rooms, he discovered a curious picture: it was of a young woman, holding a pistol in one hand and a rifle in another. She had cartridge belt around her waist and two others across her chest. The lower end of the picture contained the words "M.H. Halladjian, Aintab Asia- Minor", which Uçaner assumed to be a reference to the photographer. On the other side of the picture he saw some writing he did not recognise, though it may have been Arabic. It read "21", followed by something which was illegible, and then the year of 1910.</p><p>When Uçaner showed his friends the picture, he was told that the wording was neither Arabic nor Ottoman Turkish. One of his friends suspected that the wording could be Armenian. At a later date, and entirely by chance, he met a group of tourists who were visiting Aintab, and who were talking in a language he did not recognise. He approached one of them and asked them whether they could tell him what was written on the old picture. They could: it was in Armenian. It said: </p><p><em>Hankutsyal heros Kevork Chavushi ayri Heghine. Mer hishadagi nvere 21 hulis 1910, Ho. Hi. Ta</em>. [<em>Heghine widower of hero Kevork Chavush. The gift to our memory. July 21, 1910, ARF</em>.]</p><p>After researching Kevork Chavuch, Uçaner learned that he had been born near Sasoun and that he had been an Armenian <em>fedayee</em> (guerrilla fighter). He took part in the Sasoun uprising in 1894, after which he was arrested and imprisoned. When he managed to escape he took part in the second Sasoun uprising of 1904 after joining the ARF. In 1907 he was wounded in a skirmish with Ottoman army soldiers and later died.</p><p>The discovery of the picture and its story shocked Murad. He did not know that Armenians had lived in his town; nor did he know a great deal about the Armenians in general. This meant he did not know the history of Aintab, the past of his own city. It became his obsession - he even called his cat "Kevork Chavush". One day a group of Armenian tourists were visiting the old town when a colleague of Uçaner shouted out the name of the cat "<em>Kevork Chavush, come back here</em>!" One of the visitors turned around and asked who had given that name to the cat. The man answered that it was Murad Uçaner, but that he was not currently available. The tourist, Armen Aroyan, decided to wait until he came back.</p><p>Aroyan is a Californian Armenian who has organised tourist trips to the Armenian homeland for many decades, and has an encyclopaedic knowledge of Armenia and the history of the Armenians. He has organised over sixty tours to former Armenian monasteries and has visited more than 600 mountain villages. Aroyan gave Uçaner a copy of K. Sarafian’s <em>Brief History of Aintab</em>.</p><p>Uçaner started learning to read and write Armenian in order to learn the true history of his city, which the authorities had tried to destroy or silence. He is currently translating <em>Aintabi Koyamarde</em> (<em>Aintab’s Struggle for Survival,</em> in Armenian) into Turkish.</p><p>During this period he began to research the history of the house he was involved in renovating. He learned that it had once belonged to one of the wealthy Aintab Armenian families, the Danielians. It was currently owned by Ahmet Dai, a local potentate: "Ahmet Dai is not interested in the history of the house," Uçaner told me. "Most wealthy people in this town are not interested in the history of our city, because if they do, they might discover the real face of their grandfathers." Heghine, the young, armed woman in the picture, was the widow of Kevork Chavush. "I presume Heghine visited Aintab and stayed with the Danielian family," Murad said. Aintab had a long tradition of receiving Armenian migrants from Sasoun who were bakers by profession. </p><p>Murad Uçaner is currently working on a book to reconstruct the life of Aintab Armenians in the nineteenth century. I first met Murad in November 2013. He was accompanied by his friend, the former journalist Alev Er, who had founded the <em>Taraf </em>daily newspaper and who was in Aintab to undertake research for a book on Sabiha Gökçen.</p><p>We first visited Surp Asdvadzadzin Church, now known as Kurtulush Camii. As we walked around the church, Uçaner lifted the big Turkish flag which was still hanging on the wall where the church altar used to be to reveal traces of two cross carvings - the flag had not only been placed in the church to indicate that it had been "liberated" but also to hide the remnants of its Christian past. We then toured the narrow streets above the Kurtulush Camii. One of the streets was called "<em>Heyik Mescit Cikmaz Sokak"</em>, while a second was called "<em>Heyik Müslüman Sokak</em>". Then we came to another street where the words "<em>Hayik Imam Sokak</em>" had been written, yet the first word, <em>"Hayik"</em>, had been painted over and changed to "<em>Heyik</em>". In Armenian, the Armenians call themselves "<em>Hay"</em>, with the plural in classic Armenian (<em>krapar</em>) being <em>"Hayk"</em> - "<em>Hayk</em>" had become "<em>Heyik</em>" in reference to the Islamised Armenians who lived in this neighbour hood whose names were used as street names. <em>Hayk</em> in Turkish becomes <em>Heyik</em>, and the mistake on the third street sounds like it was first written in Armenian, and then "corrected" to sound more Turkish. People might forget, but the streets of Aintab remember.</p><p>In the evening, I met Murad Uçaner near the former Catholic church and he led me into an apartment where a party was being held. When I entered, Murad introduced me to Erol Akçay, a jovial man in his late forties who had previously served as a captain in the Turkish army. When I was introduced to him, since I was Armenian his instant reaction was to ask me for forgiveness - he told me that he did this every time he met an Armenian, and that it was a moral imperative to do so. He then told me his story: he had been in the army in the 1990s and was involved in the anti-PKK war, but refused to take part in the slaughter of Kurdish villagers and was imprisoned for eight months, and later stripped of his rank. </p><p>I then asked him how he had come to learn about the Armenians. He told me he had learned about the Armenians as a result of his childhood: he had been born in Aintab, in the Armenian Kestelbashi neighbourhood immediately below Surp Asdvadzadzin church/Kurtulush mosque, and grew up in one of the old Armenian houses. As a teenager, he often wondered why the houses in his neighbourhood were different from those in other parts of the town, and after the ASALA terrorist attacks his interest was further kindled with regard to why the Armenians should be seeking to attack Turks. Although there were few available resources on the Armenians at this time, he eventually read Meguerdich Margosyan’s <em>Gyavur Mahallesi</em> (<em>The Infidels’ Quarter</em>), a book concerned with the Armenians of Diyarbakir. After reading this book he went on to read many more about the Armenians in a range of different cities, and learned about their fate. He said that it was then that he realised that everything he had been taught was a lie, and decided that every time he met an Armenian he would hug them and apologise.</p><p><strong><em>The Aintab volunteers</em></strong></p><p>Prior to the First World War, Aintab had 80,000 inhabitants, 36,000 of whom were Armenian. All of the Armenians were artisans and merchants. The Aintab Armenians were deported and massacred in the dark years of 1915–16, during which half the population per ished. After the war, the population&nbsp; of the city had reduced to 40,000; the surviving Armenians then returned, increasing the population to 55,000 by 1919, among whom 18,000 were Christians. When the French forces replaced the British in Aintab on 29 October 1919, the local Armenian population apparently received them with "cries of joy".</p><p>The French <em>Légion arménienne</em> used Aintab as its headquarters. The local Turkish notables held an antagonistic attitude towards the French forces from the outset, with violent incidents taking place in Aintab as well as in neighbouring Marash. In April 1920, some 150 Armenian men formed a group of volunteer fighters led by Colonel Levonian, and joined the French forces when the town was besieged by the Turks in order to defend the Armenian quarter. At the end of the Cicilian War the city had largely been destroyed - the mosques and converted churches are still peppered with bullet and cannon holes - and the population fell as low as 28,000.9&nbsp; Aintab was a shadow of its past.</p><p>When I asked my friends in Aintab how many Armenians currently lived in the town, they told me there were many thousands, but that no one would be prepared to admit this as they would lose their jobs and it would cause other problems for them too. </p><p><em><strong>From Caesarea to Diyarbakir</strong></em></p><p>When travelling across Turkey, it is very difficult to find traces of Armenian life without trained eyes. I took a night bus to the central Anatolian city of Kayseri, the classic Caesarea. The city is one of the "Anatolian tigers", the capital of the Turkish textile industry. Gregory the Illuminator (302–325), the founder of the Armenian Church, was first introduced to Christianity in Caesarea. The city is one of the few Turkish cities east of Istanbul with an Armenian church: Saint Grigor the Illuminator.</p><p>The neighbourhood around the church is composed of new high-rise buildings and old crumbling houses. The latter were where the once thriving Armenian community had lived. Before the First World War there had been a large and prosperous Armenian community in Kayseri; the province had an Armenian population of over 52,000 living in thirty-one towns and villages, who owned forty churches and seven monasteries, as well as fifty-six schools with 7,019 pupils. In Kayseri itself, a total of 18,907 Armenians lived in the town, constituting 35 per cent of the population.10&nbsp; There are only three Armenian families in the town today. The other church in Kayseri, which stands near the city walls, is called "<em>Surp Asdvadzadzin</em>" (Holy Virgin Mary), but it has since been converted into a sports club.</p><p>The <em>nouveau riche</em> are currently building mansions in Talas, a town located on the side of a mountain a few kilometres away from Kayseri. I began to wonder why the wealthy inhabitants of Kayseri were not renovating the beautiful old houses in the town. Was it because they knew that the houses did not belong to them? At the lower side of the town, the foundations of the Talas American School, a boarding school which once served Greek and Armenian children from the region, can still be found. Inside the town itself there are numerous old houses, mostly inhabited by poor families. The rich here prefer new houses, or to live in high-rise buildings. There is a structure here that is reminiscent of a Byzantine church, the Panaya Greek church, built in 1886, but it is now the "New Talas Mosque".</p><p>As I walked through the former Armenian quarter we found an old mansion that had been left in ruins. The local guide who was accompanying me said that it had once belonged to the Gulbenkian family, the ancestors of the legendary Armenian oil magnate. Although the Gulbenkian family wanted to renovate the house, the Turkish authorities had consistently failed&nbsp; to provide them with the requisite authorisation to do so. Today there is only one Armenian family left in Talas.</p><p>==</p><p>© Hurst Publishers, 2015. This extract from <a href="http://www.hurstpublishers.com/book/open-wounds/"><em><span><span>Open Wounds: Armenians, Turks, and a Century of Genocide</span></span></em></a> is reproduced by kind permission of the <a href="http://www.hurstpublishers.com/about/">publishers</a></p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-read-on"> <div class="field-label"> 'Read On' Sidebox:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Vicken Cheterian, <a href="http://www.hurstpublishers.com/book/open-wounds/"><em><span><span>Open Wounds: Armenians, Turks, and a Century of Genocide</span></span></em></a> (C Hurst, 2015)</p><p>Martin Shaw, <a href="http://www.polity.co.uk/book.asp?ref=9780745631820"><em><span><span>What is Genocide?</span></span></em></a><em> </em>(Polity, 2007)</p><p>Taner Akçam, <em><a href="http://press.princeton.edu/titles/9678.html">The Young Turks’ Crime against Humanity: The Armenian Genocide and Ethnic Cleansing in the Ottoman Empire</a></em> (Princeton University Press, 2012)</p><p>Ben Kiernan, <a href="http://yalepress.yale.edu/yupbooks/book.asp?isbn=9780300100983"><span><span><em>Blood and Soil: A World History of Genocide and Exte</em><em>r</em><em>mination from Sparta to Darfur</em></span></span></a> (Yale University Press, 2007)</p><div><a href="http://statecrime.org/%20"><span><span>Statecrime</span></span></a></div><p><a href="http://www.massviolence.org/"><span><span>Encyclopedia of Mass Violence </span></span></a></p><p>Hannibal Travis, <a href="http://www.cap-press.com/books/isbn/9781594604362/Genocide-in-the-Middle-East"><em><span><span>Genocide in the Middle East: The Ottoman Empire, Iraq and Sudan</span></span></em></a> (Carolina University Press, 2010)</p><p>Ronald Grigor Suny, <em><a href="http://press.princeton.edu/titles/10426.html">"They Can Live in the Desert but Nowhere Else": A History of the Armenian Genocide</a></em> (Princeton University Press, 2015)</p><p>Geoffrey Robertson, <em><a href="https://www.bitebackpublishing.com/books/an-inconvenient-genocide">An Inconvenient Genocide: Who Now Remembers the Armenians?</a></em> (Biteback, 2015)</p><p>Donald Bloxham,&nbsp;<span class="st"><em><a href="https://global.oup.com/academic/product/the-great-game-of-genocide-9780199226887?cc=gb&amp;lang=en&amp;">The Great Game of Genocide: Imperialism, Nationalism, and the Destruction of the Ottoman Armenians</a></em> (Oxford University Press, 2005)</span></p> </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/vicken-cheterian/armenian-genocide-century-on">Armenian genocide, a century on </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/vicken-cheterian/armenia-turkey-end-of-rapprochement">Armenia-Turkey: the end of rapprochement </a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/vicken-cheterian/syria-kessabs-battle-and-armenians-history">Syria: Kessab&#039;s battle and Armenians&#039; history </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/article/armenia/armenia-turkey-genocide-blockade-diplomacy">Armenia-Turkey: genocide, blockade, diplomacy</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/article/turkey_and_history_shoot_the_messenger">Turkey and history: shoot the messenger</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/vicken-cheterian/turkey%E2%80%99s-race-codes-and-ottoman-legacy">Turkey’s &quot;race codes&quot; and the Ottoman legacy</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/vicken-cheterian/armenia-turkey-protocols-year-on-0">The Armenia-Turkey protocols: a year on </a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> International politics </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Copyright </div> </div> </div> International politics democracy & power human rights Vicken Cheterian Thu, 11 Jun 2015 11:38:54 +0000 Vicken Cheterian 93393 at https://opendemocracy.net Bob Dylan: revolution in the head, revisited https://opendemocracy.net/david-hayes/bob-dylan-revolution-in-head-revisited <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>The most influential and original musician of the 1960s generation remains a figure of protean creativity half a century on. The wealth of attention still devoted to Bob Dylan is testament to a career of astonishing range. It also reflects the complex legacy of a formative decade which Dylan’s songs and persona helped to define, says David Hayes.</p> <p><em>(This article was first published on 24 May 2011)</em></p> </div> </div> </div> <p>A great artist’s landmark birthday tends to be a retrospect. Here too Bob Dylan, born on 24 May 1941, extends the pattern of a lifetime in subverting expectations. For the American singer and songwriter, whose pioneering work in the 1960s made him the most influential figure of popular music in that decade, became in his own 60s if anything even more famous than he had been in his meteoric 20s.</p> <p>The media deluge that surrounds his 70th birthday - <a href="http://www.aarp.org/entertainment/arts-music/info-03-2011/bob-dylan-birthday-tribute.html%20">tributes</a>, articles and profiles galore, new books and new editions of books, career reviews, and countless <a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/david-hayes/bob-dylan-conversation">items</a> in the “Dylan and me” sub-genre - is evidence of this rediscovery of a figure who (it is hard to recall now) was regarded during parts of the 1980s and 1990s as no longer of fresh interest artistically.</p> <p>In great part the <a href="http://www1.rollingstone.com/dylan/%20">recognition</a> is owed to Dylan’s immense and diverse creative efforts since the late 1990s. The turning-point <a href="http://www.music-news.com/shownews.asp?H=Dylan-at-70-continues-to-confound-expectation-says-academic&amp;nItemID=41384">may</a> have been 1997, when the singer received emergency medical treatment for a serious heart infection. In the same year Dylan issued the first of what would become a series of three acclaimed albums of original songs (<em>Time Out of Mind</em>, <em>Love and Theft</em>, <em>Together Through Life</em>).</p> <p>These alone represent a musical renaissance in terms of the preceding decade. But there have in the post-1997 years also been well packaged compilations and “official” bootlegs of earlier material from his <a href="http://www.bobdylan.com/albums">prolific</a>&nbsp;&nbsp; oeuvre (including to date nine <a href="http://www.bobdylan.com/music/bootleg-series-vol-1-3">volumes</a> of <em>The Bootleg Series</em>, with many live performances and out-takes), and covers (<em>Christmas in the Heart</em>); an astonishing autobiography, <a href="http://books.simonandschuster.co.uk/Chronicles-Volume-1/Bob-Dylan/9780743478649"><em>Chronicles: Volume One</em></a>, which seems both to absorb and extend the literary lineages it belongs to, much as his music does; hosting an exuberant weekly radio show, <a href="http://www.thebobdylanfanclub.com/themetime/index.htm"><em>Theme Time Radio Hour</em></a>, where songs of many styles and periods loosely connected by subject are presented with an inimitable mix of affection, learning and bone-dry wit; having his drawings and paintings exhibited, and reproduced in book form (<a href="http://www.bobdylanart.com/exhibition.asp"><em>Bob Dylan: The Drawn Blank Series</em></a>); and not least a concert schedule often described as the “never-ending tour”, which has seen Dylan perform live around 100 times a year across two decades and forty countries.</p> <p>Dylan’s appearance in a range of advertisements (for lingerie, cola and cars) has, meanwhile, extended his commercial profile in what would earlier in his career have been unthinkable ways. More beneficial to his artistic reputation has been the work of film directors who have explored his achievement and beguiling persona via documentary (Martin Scorsese’s superb <a href="http://www.pbs.org/wnet/americanmasters/episodes/bob-dylan/about-the-film/574/%20"><em>No Direction Home</em></a> [2005]) and drama (Todd Haynes’s <em>I’m Not There </em>[2007], where six actors portray Dylan at various stages of his life).</p> <p>All this - and there is both more, and more to come - is enough to make Dylan’s “late period” (assuming he really is mortal) worthy of note as a further rich phase of an already epic journey. This “mature” work also casts a fresh light on his career as a whole, in that the 1960s era of cultural and psychological transformation which his music helped define can now more clearly be seen as but one (albeit the founding and decisive) period in an ongoing achievement of astounding range. The arc of <a href="http://moreintelligentlife.com/content/arts/tim-de-lisle/forever-young?page=full">decades</a> now, for example, allows the potent aura of ageless wisdom conveyed by some of the most renowned songs of Dylan’s 20s (<em>Man of Constant Sorrow</em>, <em>All Along the Watchtower</em>) to be heard alongside moving reflections on age, change and mortality (<em>Blind Willie McTell, Not Dark Yet</em>) composed decades on.</p> <p>Bob Dylan has now spent fifty years doing what any great artist does - elaborating and sharing a distinct vision, and seeking to remain true to what he once called “the inspiration behind the inspiration”. The core of this achievement - songs, writings and performances (and some of the best “Dylanologists”, <a href="http://journal.oraltradition.org/authors/show/414">Betsy Bowden</a>, Paul Williams, <a href="http://www.faber.co.uk/work/bob-dylan/9780571254453/">Greil Marcus</a> and <a href="http://www.michaelgray.net/biography.html">Michael Gray</a> among them, emphasise how important the latter are to any assessment of his musical genius) - is more than ever available to anyone who cares and can afford to explore them.</p> <p><strong>Two ways of seeing</strong></p> <p>The sheer fecundity of Dylan’s career since his inaugural explosive, catalysing burst of the 1960s makes it natural that the current celebrations are so <a href="http://dylan-at-seventy.weebly.com/index.html">varied</a>. There is, after all, so much material to <a href="http://www.bbc.co.uk/music/artists/72c536dc-7137-4477-a521-567eeb840fa8">draw</a>&nbsp; on, so many reference-points - not least for members of the generations he did so much to create, even taught how to live and feel, and who have repaid the debt by counting out our lives in Dylan albums.</p> <p>The way Dylan’s music and persona entered the lives and influenced the self-understanding of the generations of the 1960s and after is thus the fuel for countless assessments. In addition to the familiar and satisfying litany of favourite songs, albums, and career moments, many of these strike one of two registers: identifying Dylan’s artistic “elusiveness” or capacity to “reinvent” himself as a key <a href="http://www.independent.co.uk/arts-entertainment/music/features/more-man-music-and-mystique-2287349.html%20">aspect</a> of his enduring appeal, or using the evidence of his own songs and (especially) lyrics to pass judgment on his work.</p> <p>There are critical as well as worshipful variants of each, exemplified in the <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2011/04/10/opinion/10dowd.html">scorn</a> Dylan received from some journalists for allegedly allowing the set-list of his performances in China in May 2011 to be censored by the authorities (a charge the singer denies in a rare statement on his official website) and for making no <a href="http://www.aei.org/article/103453">reference</a> to the plight of the detained Chinese <a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/article/china-s-shadow-sector-power-in-pieces">artist</a> Ai Weiwei.</p> <p>Here, a notable feature of the condemnation of Dylan is that his status as an artist of “social protest” established in the early 1960s - one that from a very early stage Dylan was to question, even disavow - is itself the template against which his violation of a new orthodoxy is measured (in my view an orthodoxy that has less to do with human rights than with the instrumentalist “messaging” of art, <a href="http://www.irishtimes.com/newspaper/opinion/2011/0415/1224294725278.html">including</a> music).</p> <p>These two prominent “ways of seeing” Dylan - elusive or captured, the restless quicksilver troubadour of modern times or the defined-for-all-time quasi-political wordsmith of his youth - are testament to his unmatched ability to enter both the lives of his listeners and the wider public culture. (A small index of the latter is the survey by a Tennessee law professor, Alex Long, who <a href="http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=1837683">charts</a> the wealth of citations from Dylan's lyrics in <a href="http://www.ssblawyers.com/uncategorized/come-gather-round-legal-scholars-for-a-conference-on-dylan">legal</a> opinions and briefs in the United States, including by supreme-court judges). The reach goes so far inside that it shapes even the terms on which the work is experienced.</p> <p>The idea of Dylan as perennially “elusive”, for <a href="http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,1000809,00.html">example</a>, also draws on a classic theme of his own oeuvre (from <em>Wanted Man</em> to <em>I’m Not There</em>). It might be thought that Dylan has done enough in the aforementioned “late period” to dispel it: how many artists, after all, are so available in so many ways to their audiences and fans as Bob Dylan has been in the last two decades? Similarly, the imaginative confinement of Dylan as the eternal rogue escapee from an always-ascribed political <a href="http://www.morningstaronline.co.uk/index.php/content/view/full/104965">commitment</a> - which was exhausted by 1965, never mind 2005 - can be sustained only by a reductive reading of a portion of his early lyrics and associations.</p> <p><strong>The world Dylan made</strong></p> <p>The fact that Dylan’s pervasive presence in the musical and popular culture of the western world since the 1960s shapes routine perceptions of his own work is also testament to the depth of the dynamic released in the era. The profound transformations of that decade - which took a generation to work themselves out - were perhaps above all ones of thinking and feeling: a “revolution in the head”, in the words of <a href="http://www.siue.edu/%7Eaho/musov/Ian.html%20">Ian MacDonald’s</a> pathbreaking book.</p> <p>MacDonald’s argument (elaborated in a brilliant song-by-song musicological analysis of The Beatles’s work, <a href="http://www.randomhouse.co.uk/catalog/book.htm?command=search&amp;db=main.txt&amp;eqisbndata=1844138283"><em>Revolution in the Head: The Beatles' Records and the Sixties</em></a>) that changes of sensibility were central to the experience of the 1960s and the world they made is at once joyous and melancholy: it both maps the liberation in Lennon &amp; McCartney’s sounds and notation and prescribes the impossibility of its promise any longer being realised. Yet the promise is inexhaustible, illimitable, infinitely precious, constitutive of the very meaning of our lives. It demands fulfilment. The evidence of what has come to fill the ensuing gulf is everywhere around.</p> <p>The world Bob Dylan and The Beatles made remains in its moment of creation all the more compelling to those who lived through it (and to many of subsequent generations) for its tantalising glimpse of a different self and an authentic life. When Dylan is lauded for his shapeshifting or criticised for his desertions (which amount to the same thing), part of what is going on is an effort to recuperate imaginatively this forever lost world of psychic possibility.</p> <p>Some of the most powerful forces in present-day cultural-commercial life are symptoms of an enduring generational attachment to this world. They include a drenching and consoling nostalgia (including leftist nostalgia), a voracious desire to identify signs or figures which can be portrayed and sold as authentic or as embodying the romantic outsider, and an assimilative alchemy that works by turning “counterculture” (or “alternative”) to “mainstream” and thus makes the categories explanatorily useless.</p> <p>These forces in one way or another also help to sustain Dylan’s enduring place in the cultural landscape, a place secured by a matchless brand and its multiple “real presences” as well as by the successful mini-industry that his outputs represent. The distance from the promise of the 1960s that he embodied may seem great, yet not so far as to persuade those formed by that decade to “surrender the ideals that it seemed to distil. They continue to invest its agents with the longings of a time when it became possible suddenly to feel freer, clearer and more hopeful. Dylan's continuing creative presence offers both validation and insurance against profound fidelity to that past curdling into mere nostalgia” (see “<a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/arts-Music/dylan_revolution_3583.jsp">Bob Dylan’s revolution in the head</a>”, 24 May 2006).</p> <p><strong>The worlds that made Dylan</strong></p> <p><em>"Everybody knows by now that there's a gazillion books on me either out or coming out in the near future. So I'm encouraging anybody who's ever met me, heard me or even seen me, to get in on the action and scribble their own book. You never know, somebody might have a great book in them"</em> -&nbsp; Bob Dylan, “<a href="http://www.bobdylan.com/news/my-fans-and-followers">To my fans and followers</a>”, 13 May 2011</p> <p>The intensity of current media interest in Dylan may wane after his birthday, but an extraordinary touring schedule, further back-catalogue releases, a sequel to <em>Chronicles</em> and future recordings will more than keep the show on the road. For dedicated followers, there are also a mountain of books, valuable magazines (such as <a href="http://www.two-riders.co.uk/menu.html"><em>The Bridge</em></a>), many websites (including Dylan’s impressive <a href="http://www.bobdylan.com/%20">official</a> one, and the compendious <em><a href="http://expectingrain.com/">Expecting Rain</a></em>), and dozens of articles worth seeking out on every aspect of his work.</p> <p>The fact that, as I <a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/arts-Music/dylan_revolution_3583.jsp">wrote</a> in 2006, “anyone who wants to can find out more information on Bob Dylan than they can ever use” is a situation that changes (in ways yet to be fully explored) the parameters of the relationship between the star, the music, the fan and the wider culture. It also creates new terms (and banishes forever the pre-existing ones) for any fresh journey to and through his music.</p> <p>In this respect some of the most interesting among the voluminous studies of Dylan are those which attempt to retrace his own journey by examining the musical and social worlds that made him, and in which he in turn mined and turned into gold. A fine (and somewhat neglected) study in this respect is the musicologist Wilfred Mellers’s <a href="http://www.taxhelp.com/mellers-faber.html"><em>A Darker Shade of Pale: A Backdrop to Bob Dylan</em></a> (1974), an innovative effort to identify the source of Dylan’s genius in his ability to assimilate, fuse and make his own the many variegated elements of American musical traditions - from native American chants to Appalachian versions of Scots-Irish ballads, from the Scandinavian cadences and polka-tunes of his home region to the folk-country and blues the young boy <a href="http://www.upress.umn.edu/Books/S/sheehy_highway.html">from </a>Hibbing, Minnesota would listen to on distant radio-stations through the 1950s.</p> <p><a href="http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/comment/obituaries/article3963044.ece">Mellers</a> (a pioneering scholar who braved critical disdain in the 1960s by taking The Beatles’s work as seriously as classical music) pursues the theme (suggested by the work’s conclusion, <em>Dylan as Jewish Amerindian and White Negro</em>) with subtle analyses of individual songs and portraits of the social canvas of the musics that Dylan absorbed and carried on the way to Minneapolis, New York, and beyond.</p> <p>Mellers’s mix of musical and social history, not least in relation to Dylan’s northern Minnesota background, allows him to make a persuasive case for <em>Planet Waves</em> (1974) as the unacknowledged masterpiece of his oeuvre and <em>Never Say Goodbye</em> as his greatest song. This regional focus in turn recalls the vivid immersion of the young writer <a href="http://live.psu.edu/story/53506">Toby Thompson</a> in the life-world of the singer’s hometown in his <em>Positively Main Street: An Unorthodox First View of Bob Dylan</em> (1969), reprinted as <a href="http://www.upress.umn.edu/Books/T/thompson_positively.html"><em>Positively Main Street: Bob Dylan’s Minnesota</em></a> (2008).</p> <p>The relationship between Dylan and <a href="http://www.hibbing.mn.us/">Hibbing</a> has been touched by the same sensitivities as affect any renowned artist who comes from a definite place beyond the metropolis, making this resilient city’s <a href="http://dylandays.com/">embrace</a> of its native son (such as the local library’s impressive <a href="http://www.hibbing.mn.us/index.asp?Type=B_BASIC&amp;SEC=%7BBAAB49C0-081F-44C9-9AE9-426B88E5CB4C%7D">resources</a>) all the more notable.</p> <p>(My favourite Bob Dylan story connects him with another of his hometown’s famous sons: Kevin McHale, a star basketball player with the Boston Celtics, sixteen years Dylan’s junior. At the end of a match McHale walks towards the players’ exit and notices Dylan in the crowd. He smiles and exclaims: “Dylan!” Dylan smiles back and says: “Hibbing!”).</p> <p>David Pichaske’s evocative <a href="http://www.continuumbooks.com/books/detail.aspx?BookId=136319&amp;SearchType=Basic"><em>Song of the North Country: A Midwest Framework to the Songs of Bob Dylan</em></a> (2010)&nbsp; extends this theme in a detailed study of the regional context of Dylan’s work and how it is inflected by the particular inheritances of the United States midwest.</p> <p>Sean Wilentz’s <a href="http://www.bodleyhead.co.uk/book.asp?ean=9781847921505%20"><em>Dylan and America</em></a> (2011) brings new textures and warm insights to the study of Dylan’s roots in a rich examination of American sociological and musical influences on his work, from Aaron Copland to the bohemian-political <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2010/09/09/books/excerpt-bob-dylan-in-america.html?ref=books">world</a> of New York where much of the “folk revival” was incubated. Michael Gray too, one of the finest <a href="http://search.japantimes.co.jp/cgi-bin/fl20110522x1.html%20">educators</a> on Dylan’s work in his <em>Song and Dance Man</em> trilogy, has broadened the study of “<a href="http://www.ft.com/cms/s/2/b0625044-8267-11e0-8c49-00144feabdc0.html">planet Dylan</a>” in recent works such as <a href="http://www.continuumbooks.com/books/detail.aspx?BookId=131268&amp;SntUrl=145221"><em>The Bob Dylan Encyclopedia</em></a> &nbsp; and a moving search for the subject of one his most haunting songs, <a href="http://www.bloomsbury.com/nonfiction/Hand-Me-My-Travelin-Shoes/Michael-Gray/books/details/9780747565604">Blind Willie McTell</a>.</p> <p>These studies - a small selection of the worthiest products of “Dylanology” - indicate one life-affirming direction in which study of this protean artist may be going: <a href="http://www.bobdylanroots.com">towards</a> the rediscovery and exploration of the rich histories, cultures and peoples - local, regional, national and in several dimensions Atlantic - that have fed into Dylan's work.</p> <p>Dylan himself, in a century of <em>Theme Time Radio Hour</em> programmes, has done much to revive awareness of some of these. The <a href="http://www.folkways.si.edu/">Smithsonian Folkways</a> project and many other initiatives too are restoring interest in (and original materials of) the worlds that made Dylan. Perhaps this current - there are many others - will help restore connections that have elsewhere been sundered, and find new routes between multiple musical pasts and possible futures.</p> <p>Meanwhile, Bob Dylan at 70 keeps pressing on. It may be many years yet, an awesome thought, before his achievement even begins to be seen in its true scale.</p> <p><em>This article is dedicated to Bechir Bouaicha</em></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-read-on"> <div class="field-label"> 'Read On' Sidebox:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p><a href="http://www.bobdylan.com/">Bob Dylan</a></p> <p>Wilfrid Mellers, <a href="http://www.taxhelp.com/mellers-faber.html"><em>A Darker Shade of Pale: A Backdrop to Bob Dylan</em></a> (Faber, 1984)</p> <p>Bob Dylan, <a href="http://books.simonandschuster.co.uk/Chronicles-Volume-1/Bob-Dylan/9780743478649"><em>Chronicles: Volume One</em></a> (Simon &amp; Schuster, 2005)</p> <p>Michael Gray, <a href="http://www.continuumbooks.com/books/detail.aspx?BookId=131268&amp;SntUrl=145221"><em>The Bob Dylan Encyclopedia</em></a> (Continuum, 2006)&nbsp;</p> <p>Ian MacDonald, <a href="http://www.randomhouse.co.uk/catalog/book.htm?command=search&amp;db=main.txt&amp;eqisbndata=1844138283"><em>Revolution in the Head: The Beatles' Records and the Sixties</em></a> (Fourth Estate, 1994 / Random House, 2008)</p> <p>Michael Gray, <a href="http://www.continuumbooks.com/authors/details.aspx?AuthorId=145221"><em>Song and Dance Man: The Art of Bob Dylan III </em></a>(Continuum, 1999)</p> <p>Toby Thompson,<a href="http://www.upress.umn.edu/Books/T/thompson_positively.html"><em> Positively Main Street: Bob Dylan’s Minnesota</em></a> (University of Minnesota Press, 2008)</p> <p><a href="http://expectingrain.com/">Expecting Rain</a></p> <p>Sean Wilentz, <a href="http://www.randomhouse.com/book/190610/bob-dylan-in-america-by-sean-wilentz"><em>Bob Dylan in America</em></a> (Random House / <a href="http://www.bodleyhead.co.uk/book.asp?ean=9781847921505">Bodley Head</a>, 2010)</p> <p>Greil Marcus, <a href="http://www.faber.co.uk/work/bob-dylan/9780571254453/"><em>Bob Dylan: Writings, 1968-2010</em></a> (Faber, 2011)</p> <p><a href="http://www.hibbing.mn.us/index.asp?Type=B_BASIC&amp;SEC=%7BBAAB49C0-081F-44C9-9AE9-426B88E5CB4C%7D">Hibbing, Minnesota - Dylan collection</a></p> <p><a href="http://www.michaelgray.net/biography.html">Michael Gray</a></p> <p><a href="http://www.two-riders.co.uk/menu.html"><em>The Bridge</em></a></p> <p><a href="http://www1.rollingstone.com/dylan/"><em>Rolling Stone</em> - Dylan at 70</a></p> <p><a href="http://www.aarp.org/entertainment/arts-music/info-03-2011/bob-dylan-birthday-tribute.html">AARP - Bob Dylan, birthday tributes</a></p> <p><a href="http://www.folkways.si.edu/">Smithsonian Folkways</a></p> <p>Colleen J Sheehy &amp; Adam Swiss eds., <a href="http://www.upress.umn.edu/Books/S/sheehy_highway.html"><em>Highway 61 Revisited: Bob Dylan's Road from Minnesota to the World</em></a> (University of Minnesota Press, 2009)</p> <p><a href="http://dylan-at-seventy.weebly.com/index.html">The Seven Ages of Dylan</a> (University of Bristol, 24 May 2011)</p> <p>Betsy Bowden, <em><a href="http://www.taxhelp.com/bowden-performed.html" target="_blank">Performed Literature: Words and Music by Bob Dylan</a></em> (Indiana University Press, 1982)</p> <p>David Pichaske, <a href="http://www.continuumbooks.com/books/detail.aspx?BookId=136319&amp;SearchType=Basic"><em>Song of the North Country: A Midwest Framework to the Songs of Bob Dylan</em></a> (Continuum, 2010)</p> </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-sidebox"> <div class="field-label"> Sidebox:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>David Hayes is deputy editor of <strong>openDemocracy</strong></p> <p>Among his articles on <strong>openDemocracy</strong>:</p> <p>"<a href="article/thinking_of_cambodia">Thinking of Cambodia</a>" (17 April 2003)</p> <p>"<a href="people-vision_reflections/wallace_2774.jsp">William Wallace and reinventing Scotland</a>" (22 August 2005)</p> <p>"<a href="arts-Music/dylan_revolution_3583.jsp">Bob Dylan's revolution in the head</a>" (24 May 2006)</p> <p>"<a href="arts-Music/cardew_4181.jsp">Cornelius Cardew: a life unfinished</a>" (13 December 2007)</p> <p>"<a href="david-hayes/david-hayes/edwin-morgan-1920-2010">Edwin Morgan, 1920-2010</a>" (19 August 2010)</p> <p>"<a href="david-hayes/fred-halliday-unfinished-voyage">Fred Halliday: an unfinished voyage</a>" (21 March 2011)</p> <p>"<a href="david-hayes/ten-years-ten-articles-retrospect">Ten years, ten articles: a retrospect</a>" (12 May 2011)</p> <p>"<a href="david-hayes/in-with-bricks-out-for-life">In with the bricks, out for life</a>" (12 May 2011)</p> <p>"<a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/david-hayes/bob-dylan-conversation">Bob Dylan: a conversation</a>" (23 May 2011)</p> </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/arts-Music/dylan_revolution_3583.jsp">Bob Dylan&#039;s revolution in the head</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/david-hayes/bob-dylan-conversation">Bob Dylan: a conversation</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"> Culture </div> </div> </div> Culture north america europe democracy & power people literature arts & cultures David Hayes Sat, 23 May 2015 23:02:41 +0000 David Hayes 59646 at https://opendemocracy.net Bradford West: politics comes alive https://opendemocracy.net/parveen-akhtar/bradford-west-politics-comes-alive <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>A fusion of history, politics and personality gives the electoral contest in one British constituency a unique flavour. </p> </div> </div> </div> <p>The northern English city of Bradford, a major site of textile manufacturing during the industrial revolution and a place with a rich social and cultural history, is also known for its vigorous political life. Barbara Castle and Denis Healey, two 20th century giants of the Labour Party, are among the figures associated with the city. More recently, Bradford has experienced the same challenge to traditional allegiances that has been a feature of British politics in recent decades, and this is evident in local constituency campaigns for the UK-wide general election on 7 May.&nbsp; </p><p>Bradford, with a population of over half a million, has five parliamentary constituencies: two held by Labour, two by Conservatives, and one by the Liberal Democrats. Each has its special character and personalities, but one of them - Bradford West - has acquired a particularly high profile in recent years. A "hustings" on 16 April, where seven of the candidates gathered for a public meeting, brought many of the ingredients of that profile into focus.&nbsp;&nbsp; </p><p>Bradford is a young city. <a href="http://www.research-lincs.org.uk/UI/Documents/Census%202011%20Constituency%20results%20%20Appendix%20RP13-20.pdf">Data</a> from the 2011 census for parliamentary constituencies in England and Wales (the latest available) shows that 57% of the population in Bradford West is under the age of 25 compared to a national average for England and Wales of 42%. It was therefore fitting that the hustings was hosted by the University of Bradford and open to staff and students of the university and the adjacent Bradford College. To add to the educational theme, Bradford West includes City ward, which contains the city's proposed "<a href="http://www.yorkshirepost.co.uk/news/main-topics/local-stories/bradford-unveils-latest-blueprint-to-regenerate-struggling-centre-1-5310951">learning quarter</a>".&nbsp; <br /><br />The event was eagerly anticipated, not least because the <a href="https://theconversation.com/has-george-galloway-met-his-match-in-bradford-west-39340">first hustings</a> - in the Carlisle business centre - had made international headlines. <br /><br />From 1955, when it was reconstituted after half a century, to 2012, the constituency had an unremarkable history. For two decades it elected Conservative and Labour members of parliament (MPs) by turn. Then, in 1981, Labour's Edward Lyons, the MP since 1974, defected to the newly created Social Democrat Party. In 1983, Lyons stood in his new colours but was defeated by Labour’s Max Madden. He served for fourteen years before being "de-selected" as a candidate in favour of Marsha Singh, who won the seat in the 1997 election and went to serve for fifteen years.<br /><br />At the general election in 2010, Singh won his fourth straight victory, polling 45.4% of the vote on a constituency turnout of 64.9%. But in 2012 he stepped down for health reasons, meaning that there would be a by-election. <br /><br />The Labour Party, by then confident that Bradford West was very much a "safe" seat, anticipated that their man Imran Hussain would sail to victory on the back of the 5,763 majority secured in 2010. Instead, it had a huge <a href="http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-17549388">shock</a>. The Respect Party, whose candidate had polled just 3.1% of the vote last time - less even than the 5% threshold needed to retain the £500 deposit - won by over 10,000 votes. <br /><br />The main reason for the difference was that Respect's 2012 candidate was none other than the party leader himself, George Galloway, a prominent former Labour MP who had been expelled from the party but was elected under his new party banner for an east London constituency in 2005. Galloway, using both old and new electioneering techniques, and deploying his familiar impassioned rhetoric, galvanised the electorate. His open-top bus toured the streets, booming out a message of change to the people of Bradford West, whilst social media coordinate the campaign's logistics. In the end, he polled <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/idea/parveen-akhtar/british-muslims-and-local-democracy-after-bradford">more votes</a> than the other seven candidates put together. <br /><br />Can he repeat the success this time? <br /><br />In 2012, Galloway’s supporters cut across the diverse population of Bradford West, where Pakistanis make up 43.3% of the constituency and whites 37.1% (the rest are various other minorities). In terms of religion, Muslims constitute 51.3% of the population. The support of young British Pakistani Muslims was crucial to Galloway’s victory - especially women, who had until then been effectively disenfranchised from elections in Bradford West through biraderi politics.<br /><br /><em>Biraderi</em>, or kinship networks, played a significant role in the arrival and settlement of Pakistanis in the UK. It was through such links that many newly arrived Pakistanis found work and accommodation, and more broadly navigated the rules and bureaucracy of life in their new country. In the political sphere, kinship networks eventually served as an effective mechanism for electoral mobilisation. Prospective politicians viewed minorities more widely, and Pakistanis in particular, as impenetrable communities. A consequence of this was that politicians sought to build relationships with Pakistani community elders whom they viewed as "gatekeepers" to the community.&nbsp; <br /><br />As a result, there developed a system of "patronage politics" whereby Pakistani community leaders, often biraderi elders, promised to deliver bloc community votes in return for local positions of power and prestige. This system of clientelism became embedded within the local political landscape in constituencies with significant Pakistanis populations. The patriarchal and hierarchical nature of <a href="http://www.palgrave.com/page/detail/british-muslim-politics-parveen-akhtar/?K=9781137275158"><em>biraderi</em> politics</a> meant that young people and women were, in effect, bypassed in the decision-making process. This does not sit well with a new generation of young British Pakistanis interested in politics, who feel alienated from electoral politics. <br /><br />It was in this larger context that George Galloway <a href="http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1467-923X.2012.02352.x/abstract">arrived</a> in Bradford and offered an alternative to the biraderi system in politics - and many young British Pakistanis grabbed it with both hands. Three years on, however, much of the optimism visible in the aftermath of the 2012 by-election has dissipated. <br /><br />Naz Shah is now the Labour Party candidate in the constituency and Galloway’s only real rival in the 2015 campaign. The process around her selection was unusual:&nbsp; the first choice of candidate, Amina Ali, <a href="https://theconversation.com/labour-candidate-hands-back-the-poisoned-chalice-of-bradford-west-38147">stepped down</a> after three days in a haze of local Labour in-fighting. Shah nonetheless seemed a good replacement: Bradford-born, she claims to have voted for Galloway in 2012 and even helped in Respect's battle, but quickly became disillusioned, and that this led her into politics.<br /><br />Shah has a remarkable back-story, and when she wrote about it in the <a href="http://urban-echo.co.uk/exclusive-bradford-west-labour-candidate-naz-shah-reveals-all/"><em>Urban Echo</em></a> it caught the media <a href="http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2015/mar/09/naz-shah-survival-politics-women-labour-candidate-bradford-west">imagination</a>. When a 6 year-old child in Bradford, Shah’s father eloped with the next-door-neighbour’s 16 year-old daughter, leaving her pregnant mother to fend for herself and her two small children. Shah’s mother was illiterate - she had only come to the UK from rural Mirpur a few years earlier - and struggled to make ends meet. When Shah was 12, her mother sent her to Pakistan from fear that the girl would be sexually abused by the man who was abusing her, the man she would eventually poison to death. Shah claims to have been forced into an arranged marriage in Pakistan at the age of 15. Her story of struggle and survival against the odds, so far removed from the traditional template of many Oxbridge career politicians in Westminster, ignited the election atmosphere.&nbsp; <br /><br />At the first hustings, Shah started on the offensive, calling Galloway the "absentee MP" and questioning his voting record in parliament. Galloway fought back hard, and made it personal. He alleged that Shah had asked to stand as the Respect Party <a href="http://www.theguardian.com/politics/2015/apr/09/george-galloway-says-his-labour-opponent-tried-to-join-his-party">candidate</a> in Bradford East after coming bottom of the first Labour Party selection contest in Bradford West. He also claimed that Shah <a href="http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/blogs-trending-32233892">lied</a> about the age of her <em>nikkah</em> (Islamic marriage), and produced a document to that effect. Shah did not deny the defection claim but stated that she had been joking. She accused Galloway of sanctioning the impersonation of her dead father to obtain her <em>nikkah</em> document. She pledged to take Galloway to court after the election.<br /><br />Such political <a href="http://www.thetelegraphandargus.co.uk/news/12885061.War_of_words_intensifies_between_Bradford_West_candidates/">drama</a> has ensured that the Bradford West campaign has received a great deal of prominent media coverage, much of it focusing on the personalities of Galloway and Shah. In the event the university hustings - chaired by Donna Lee, a professor and dean of the faculty of social sciences - was a much more policy-oriented and orderly event.&nbsp; The issues raised by the student-heavy audience ranged from voting age, rogue landlords, tuition fees, and disability rights to an evaluation of the Prevent counter-terrorism strategy.&nbsp;&nbsp; </p><p>An exit poll taken at the end of the night put Naz Shah in first position, followed by the Green Party candidate Celia Hickson, with Galloway third. Even the chair managed to get some votes!<br /><br />There is a real sense of political engagement amongst young people in Bradford: a desire for a better Bradford. The university will, for the first time ever, host a polling station on election day. All the prospective parliamentary candidates know only too well the importance of capturing the young city’s support. Democracy is alive in Bradford. </p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-read-on"> <div class="field-label"> 'Read On' Sidebox:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Parveen Akhtar, <a href="http://www.palgrave.com/page/detail/british-muslim-politics-parveen-akhtar/?K=9781137275158"><em>British Muslim Politics: Examining Pakistani Biraderi Networks</em></a> (Palgrave, 2013)</p> </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/idea/parveen-akhtar/british-muslims-and-local-democracy-after-bradford">British Muslims and local democracy: after Bradford</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Democracy and government </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 3.0 </div> </div> </div> uk Democracy and government democracy & power Parveen Akhtar Thu, 23 Apr 2015 04:02:58 +0000 Parveen Akhtar 92208 at https://opendemocracy.net European vs Arab revolutions: regimes, ideas, violence https://opendemocracy.net/vicken-cheterian/european-vs-arab-revolutions-regimes-ideas-violence <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Why did east-central Europe find a non-violent freedom path in 1989-91, while the Arab world failed to do so after 2011?</p> </div> </div> </div> <p>Gennady Yanayev, the vice-president of the USSR, went on television on 19 August 1991 to declare that he and seven colleagues on a “committee on the state of emergency” were taking control of the world's second most powerful state. The usurpers, key figures in the Soviet leadership, acted in the belief that Mikhail Gorbachev’s <em>perestroika</em> reforms were taking the Soviet Union to the verge of disintegration. The self-appointed committee - having <a href="http://www.spiegel.de/international/europe/the-gorbachev-files-secret-papers-reveal-truth-behind-soviet-collapse-a-779277.html">detained</a> Gorbachev in his holiday <em>dacha</em> on the Black Sea coast - emptied prisons in expectation of the need to make thousands of arrests; seized radio and television outlets; declared a curfew; and deployed columns of elite troops with mechanised infantry to city centres, most importantly Moscow. The "August coup" was underway. <br /><br />Within hours, thousands of citizens were gathering around the parliament of the Russian SSR (known as the “White House”). Some protesters blocked tunnels with buses belonging to the city's transport network to hinder the movement of advancing tanks. Three men facing the tanks were killed: Dmitry Komar, Ilya Krichevsky and Vladimir Usov. The military officers on the ground reported to the coup leaders that they could not <a href="http://www.themoscowtimes.com/news/article/opposition-remembers-1991-coup-attempt/466825.html">achieve</a> their objectives without confronting the crowds. A bloodbath was inevitable. The would-be rulers realised that they did not want a massacre of their own people. On 21 August, they <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2011/08/21/opinion/sunday/the-soviet-coup-that-failed.html?_r=0">bowed</a> to reality, abandoned their plans, and were arrested. <br /><br />This was but the latest episode in the rolling drama of communism's fall across east-central Europe where local ruling elites, in face of mass demonstrations, surrendered power rather than opt for bloody repression. In 1989, escalating popular marches in the DDR (East Germany) led the party-state Erich Honecker to allow free travel to the west and thus the fall of the <a href="http://www.coldwar.org/articles/60s/BerlinWallTimeLine.asp">Berlin wall;</a> this sealed the fate of the regime itself, in a way that made clear that the era of shooting down unarmed civilians was over. A decade later, Serbia's leader Slobodan <span class="st">Milošević </span> was <a href="http://www.aforcemorepowerful.org/films/bdd/">overthrown</a> in October 2000 amid mass demonstrations accusing him of electoral fraud; tens of thousands dead were his legacy, but not a single person was killed in these final days. In later years, a series of similarly non-violent revolutions - the “colour revolutions” - swept Georgia, Ukraine and Kyrgyzstan. <br /><br /><strong>A double contrast </strong><br /><br />At the end of the decade, in December 2010, another world-historical process <a href="http://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/features/2011/01/2011126121815985483.html">began</a> when a young Tunisian called Mohamad Bouazizi set himself on fire and ignited a series of protests that toppled the country's president, Zine El Abidine Ben Ali. The uprising that followed in much of the Arab world led many analysts to imagine that the Middle East was embarking on its own wave of democratisation. The dominant idea was that liberal-democratic change would <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/martin-shaw/global-democratic-revolution-new-stage">transform</a> this last bastion of authoritarian regimes. The rebellion in its initial stages did resemble a democratic revolution, led as it was by a young, urban, educated, middle-class cohort opposing the old regime's corruption and nepotism, and demanding freedom (<em>hurriyeh</em>), peaceful transformation (<em>selmiyeh</em>), democracy and jobs. <br /><br />But more than four years on, most of the Arab world is engaged not in vigorous electoral struggles around parliaments and political platforms but burning in a series of violent conflicts. From Syria to Libya, Yemen to Iraq, war is destroying human lives and even entire civilisations. What went wrong; why was the hunger for a higher form of polity drowned in blood? A clear understanding of this issue is essential if any route out of the spiral of self-destruction is to be found. Here, a comparison with the east European revolutions, on two levels, could be useful (see "<a href="https://opendemocracy.net/vicken-cheterian/arab-revolt-and-colour-revolutions">The Arab revolt and the colour revolutions</a>", 10 March 2011).<br /><br />The first level is the respective regimes and their use of violence. The communist ruling order in eastern Europe had been built on mass violation of human rights, and long after the high point of Stalinism depended for their existence on systematic repression. When Gorbachev came to power in <a href="http://www.spiegel.de/international/milestones-of-perestroika-the-dissolution-of-the-ussr-a-449404.html">1985</a> the Soviet Union still had a vast network of <em>gulags </em>(prison camps) throughout its territory; by the early 1990s, the <span class="st">Milošević</span> regime - after consolidating power in Serbia - was waging genocidal wars across a disintegrating Yugoslavia and employed death-squads to kill domestic opponents. Yet when popular mobilisations gained momentum, the communist ruling elites found themselves divided, suddenly unsure about their legitimacy, and crucially hesitant about using force against angry but peaceful citizens. <br /><br />In the Arab spring, by contrast, ruling regimes were <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/paul-rogers/arab-rebellion-perspectives-of-power">prepared</a> to use force. Even Ben Ali or Hosni Mubarak tried to repress the popular movement by force; by the time Ben Ali left power in mid-January 2011 at least 338 Tunisians had been killed, in the three weeks of mass protest in Egypt that culminated in Mubarak's resignation on 11 February, 800-900 died. In Libya and Yemen, popular uprisings advanced against rulers prepared to use force to protect their power, before each country disintegrated into civil war. In Syria, the ruling caste <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/vicken-cheterian/syrias-activists-politics-of-anger">unleashed</a> a total war against its own population, destroying entire cities by artillery, surface-to-surface missiles, and (a local innovation) barrel-bombs. In other words, power-holders in the Arab world felt themselves justified in using limitless force against those initially pushing for non-violent political change. <br /><br />The second level is the respective idea-systems and intelligentsias. Many east-central European intellectuals had over a century a strong belief in the notion of revolutionary violence as the exclusively legitimate way forward for their societies: overthrowing archaic political regimes and creating a path towards industrialisation. But decades of upheavals, wars, and authoritarian rule in the name of communism were to convince a dissident intelligentsia that violence after all would not deliver. The <a href="http://www.radio.cz/en/section/curraffrs/prague-spring-of-1968-a-time-of-expectations">Prague spring</a> of 1968, with its slogan of “socialism with a human face”, was a turning-point; after it was crushed by the Soviet army's tanks, east European intellectuals more firmly embraced the idea of evolutionary, non-violent change. <br /><br />In the Arab world in 2011, no strategic consensus existed on how to achieve change. Some elements of the urban middle classes had been <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/martin-shaw/paths-to-change-peaceful-vs-violent">inspired</a> by the east European experience, but across society more people were influenced by political Islam - at a time when this current was increasingly <a href="http://www.alaraby.co.uk/english/comment/2015/2/15/arab-revolutions-on-non-violence-and-disappointment">susceptible</a> to a violent interpretation. In this radicalising trend, however, political Islam was not an exception, but rather a continuation; for earlier ideologies in the Arab world had also become infatuated with <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/vicken-cheterian/torture-and-arab-system-old-and-new">violence</a>. The entire region had witnessed generations of political movements with diverse political mythologies - Turkish nationalism, Ba'athist Arabism, Palestinian fractions of nationalist or socialist bent - which nonetheless shared a culture of violence. Political Islam in its early expressions, whether under the flag of Muslim Brotherhood or Hizb ul-Tahrir, had been cautious about violence; but the appearance of a new generation of <em>salafi-jihadi </em>zealots put unlimited and indiscriminate violence at the centre of their outlook. <br /><br /><strong>An endless tunnel</strong><br /><br />In eastern Europe, the intelligentsia proved itself to be a coherent social group.&nbsp; As the communist nomenklatura lost its authority, rising intellectuals with democratic principles and ethical stature played a key role in ensuring stability and a peaceful transition. Without their contribution, the new order and its political institutions and practices would have been far harder to establish. After all, parliamentary democracy was not the only alternative to the collapsing Soviet system: in former Yugoslavia or in the Caucasus, extreme nationalism led the way to wars and disasters. <br /><br />In the Arab world the intelligentsia is less defined as a coherent social group with a shared culture and references. Nor did the "<a href="https://opendemocracy.net/david-hayes/arab-spring-protest-power-prospect">Arab spring</a>" create this; if in its early days it was possible to talk about Arab youth as the driving force of events, no Arab intelligentsia emerged as a social force <a href="http://www.economist.com/news/leaders/21606284-civilisation-used-lead-world-ruinsand-only-locals-can-rebuild-it">capable</a> of shoring a respected new leadership or directing the movement from below in a positive direction. Instead, competition over leadership of the new social movement nurtured ideological radicalisation, which in the context of war encouraged generalised acceptance of violence. <br /><br />Today, as violence continues to destroy all in its path - industrial zones, residential neighbourhoods, vestiges of past civilisations - few remember why the revolutions started, and what goals the current wars are supposed to achieve. In a region with shifting alliances and a multitude of foreign interventions, a new generation is being sacrificed to the fire of violence. This sacrifice will bring no salvation to anyone, only endless suffering. The Arab world urgently <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/vicken-cheterian/arab-crisis-food-energy-water-justice">needs</a> to remove this culture of violence.<br /><br />On 20 March 2015, four <em>jihadis</em> entered Badr mosque in Sana'a, Yemen, wearing explosive-belts, <a href="http://www.longwarjournal.org/archives/2015/03/islamic-state-claims-suicide-attacks-in-sanaa-mosques.php">killing</a> 137 people as well as themselves. The four <em>jihadis</em> did not attack enemy fighters, but civilians who were worshipping in the mosque. Compare this act with that of <a href="http://www.independent.co.uk/news/obituaries/gennady-yanayev-politician-who-acted-as-figurehead-in-the-attempted-soviet-coup-of-1991-2089142.html">Gennady Yanayev</a> and his seven other colleagues in August 1991, all high political figures in the Soviet Union. After months of planning their military coup, and then executing it, they reached a choice: either to continue their plans and open fire on peaceful demonstrating civilians, or give up their project. They chose to surrender, preferring the lives of people to the state which they were trying to save. </p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-read-on"> <div class="field-label"> 'Read On' Sidebox:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Vicken Cheterian, <a href="http://www.hurstpub.co.uk/BookDetails.aspx?BookId=658"><em>From Perestroika to Rainbow Revolutions: Reform and Revolution After Socialism</em></a> (C Hurst, 2011)</p><p>George Lawson, Chris Armbruster &amp; Michael Cox eds.,<em><a href="http://www.cambridge.org/gb/knowledge/isbn/item5600439/?site_locale=en_GB%20">The Global 1989: Continuity and Change in World Politics</a> </em>(Cambridge University Press, 2010)</p><p>Vicken Cheterian, <a href="http://www.gcsp.ch/Conflict-and-Peacebuilding/Recent-Publications/The-Arab-Revolt-Roots-and-Perspectives"><em>The Arab Revolt: Roots and Perspectives</em></a> (GCSP, Policy Paper 11, February 2011)</p><p><a href="http://chnm.gmu.edu/1989/">Making the History of 1989</a></p><p>Sami Zubaida, <a href="http://www.ibtauris.com/Books/Humanities/History/Regional%20%20national%20history/Asian%20history/Middle%20Eastern%20history/Beyond%20Islam%20A%20New%20Understanding%20of%20the%20Middle%20East.aspx"><em>Beyond Islam: A New Understanding of the Middle East</em></a><em>&nbsp;</em>(IB Tauris, 2011)</p><p>Albert Hourani, <a href="http://www.hup.harvard.edu/catalog.php?isbn=9780674058194"><em>A History of the Arab Peoples</em></a> (1991; Harvard University Press, 2010)</p> </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/vicken-cheterian/arab-revolt-and-colour-revolutions">The Arab revolt and the colour revolutions</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/vicken-cheterian/turkey-and-islamic-state%E2%80%9D">Turkey and the &quot;Islamic State”</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/vicken-cheterian/charlie-hebdo-and-blasphemy-of-censorship">Charlie Hebdo and the blasphemy of censorship</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/vicken-cheterian/armenian-genocide-century-on">Armenian genocide, a century on </a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/vicken-cheterian/turkey%E2%80%99s-race-codes-and-ottoman-legacy">Turkey’s &quot;race codes&quot; and the Ottoman legacy</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/vicken-cheterian/syria-neo-anti-imperialism-vs-reality">Syria: neo-anti-imperialism vs reality</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/vicken-cheterian/libya-oil-state-and-revolution">Libya: oil, the state and the revolution</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/vicken-cheterian/torture-and-arab-system-old-and-new">Torture and the Arab system, old and new</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/article/georgia-between-war-and-a-future">Georgia: between war and a future </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/vicken-cheterian/arab-crisis-food-energy-water-justice">The Arab crisis: food, energy, water, justice</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> International politics </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 3.0 </div> </div> </div> Can Europe make it? Arab Awakening International politics democracy & power global politics Vicken Cheterian Fri, 10 Apr 2015 10:59:00 +0000 Vicken Cheterian 91901 at https://opendemocracy.net Bangladesh: contempt of court vs freedom of speech https://opendemocracy.net/delwar-hussain/bangladesh-contempt-of-court-vs-freedom-of-speech <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>A blogger was convicted in Dhaka for his writing. A group of people who backed him in the press now faces the same charge. Why is this happening in Bangladesh?</p> </div> </div> </div> <p>A court in Bangladesh has initiated contempt of court charges against twenty-three people who had signed a letter in support of British journalist and blogger David Bergman, who himself was convicted of contempt of court in December 2014.<br /><br />The International Crimes Tribunal (<a href="http://www.ict-bd.org/ict1/">ICT</a>), a specially convened court in Dhaka, was set up by the government in 2009 to investigate people accused of carrying out war crimes in the Bangladesh's bloody <a href="http://www.bangla2000.com/bangladesh/war.shtm">war</a> of independence in 1971. It pledged to bring to justice those found to have been involved in what is widely believed to have been genocide. At its start, people across Bangladesh supported the court in the belief that finally there would be restitution for the injustices of the past. To date, the ICT has prosecuted several men for crimes against humanity, sentencing them to life in imprisonment and in some cases death, as well as carrying out an execution.&nbsp; <br /><br />In 2013, the ICT accused Bergman of hurting the “feelings of the nation” for three blog posts he had written. These supposedly questioned the evidence upon which the official death toll during the war is based. The judgment <a href="http://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/dec/02/bangladesh-convicts-british-journalist-david-bergman">stated</a> that “freedom of expression can be exercised in good faith and public interest. David Bergman neither has good faith nor an issue of public interest.”&nbsp; He was given a 5,000 <em>taka</em> fine (£40) as well as a <a href="http://www.dhakatribune.com/crime/2014/dec/03/war-crimes-tribunal-punishes-david-bergman-contempt-court">sentence</a> of imprisonment "till the rising of the court", meaning he had to remain in the courtroom until the judges left their seats.<br /><br />David Bergman, who lives in Dhaka, told reporters afterwards that the ruling was a matter of “great concern to those interested in freedom of speech and the proper scrutiny of state institutions.”<br /><br />Following his conviction, a group of journalists, academics and activists made a statement which was published in the largest circulated newspaper in Bangladesh,<em> Prothom Alo</em> (<em>First Light</em>). I was one such person. <br /><br />The letter expressed concern regarding Bergman’s conviction and the use of the law of contempt of court to curb freedoms of speech and expression in Bangladesh. Very soon afterwards, the statement-makers, as well as <em>Prothom Alo</em> and the <em>New York Times </em>(which had published an <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2014/12/24/opinion/muzzling-speech-in-bangladesh.html ">editorial</a> about the statement), found ourselves in the ICT's <a href="http://www.dhakatribune.com/bangladesh/2015/apr/02/23-citizens-issued-contempt-notice">line</a> of fire.&nbsp;&nbsp; <br /><br />What is most worrying is that the charge against twenty-three of the signatories of the statement comes in the very week that a blogger was brutally killed on the streets of Dhaka. It is widely believed that 27-year-old Washiqur Rahman was<a href="http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/worldviews/wp/2015/03/30/islamists-hack-another-blogger-to-death-in-bangladesh/"> targeted</a> on 30 March by members of an Islamist extremist group who took offence at the contents of his blog which expressed opinions of a secular and atheist nature.&nbsp; <br /><br />This is the second such gruesome murder of a liberal blogger in Bangladesh this year. On 26 February, Avijit Roy, the founder of <em>Mukto-Mona </em>(<em>Free Mind</em>), a popular <a href="https://mukto-mona.com/wordpress/?author=8">website</a> which critiqued religious fundamentalism was <a href="http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-asia-31664262">hacked</a> to death. His wife was seriously injured in the attack. For many years, Roy had received death threats from islamist extremists for his writings and views on secularism and gay rights. On 15 February 2013, Ahmed Rajib Haider, another Dhaka-based atheist blogger, was <a href="https://cpj.org/killed/2013/ahmed-rajib-haider-1.php">murdered</a> in a similar attack on the streets of Dhaka. <br /><br />A month before Rajib’s murder, the atheist blogger Asif Mohiuddin, had been brutally stabbed in the neck. He survived the assault, but was <a href="http://en.rsf.org/bangladesh-blogger-asif-mohiuddin-arrested-03-04-2013,44295.html">arrested</a> by police after he came out of hospital, charged with blasphemy and imprisoned. When I interviewed Asif Mohiuddin in 2014 for a book that I am writing about the city of <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/article/the-felling-of-bungalows-the-building-of-dhaka">Dhaka</a>, he said that the authorities, in a sadistic act, had incarcerated him in the same prison as his and Rajib Haider’s attackers. When he met the young men, they gloated about what they had done and threatened to finish him too. Asif Mohiuddin now lives in a constant state of fear from both state persecution and islamist extremist violence. <br /><br />Of the twenty-three people who signed the letter in support of Bergman now facing charges, most have in someway worked towards bringing greater recognition of the atrocities which occurred during the independence war which the ICT was set up to investigate. Four of the so-called “contemptors” are even recognised freedom fighters. One of them has just <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/leesa-gazi-/birangona-women-of-war_b_5030204.html">toured</a> with a successful one-woman show about the “<em>birongonas</em>”, the hundreds of thousands of women who were raped during the war. Another is a well known authority and academic on the <a href="http://www.cambridge.org/asia/catalogue/catalogue.asp?isbn=9780521679749">history</a> of 1971 and has <a href="https://researchers.anu.edu.au/researchers/d-costa-db">written</a> extensively about the victims. In 1995, Bergman himself was involved in making an award-wining film about it for Channel 4. In 2009, I wrote a <a href="http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2009/oct/07/bangladesh-war-crimes">piece</a> for the <em>Guardian</em> which drew attention to some of those accused of war crimes who fled to the UK after the war. <br /><br /><strong>The wider background</strong><br /><br />What all of this adds up to is a public space within contemporary Bangladesh which is increasingly intolerant, a frightening, <a href="https://cpj.org/killed/2013/ahmed-rajib-haider-1.php">dangerous</a> place for advocates and proponents of free speech and ideas. It is one where alternative opinions, minority beliefs and practices are gradually being silenced and muted. Whether these are voiced or conducted by those who are critical of the ruling party, of ideas of the past, about god and religion, or by essentially rebels against the status-quo - all find themselves <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2015/03/31/world/asia/suspects-held-in-hacking-death-of-bangladeshi-blogger.html?_r=0">between</a> a rock and a hard place. That is, between the future offered by the state and its paramilitary functionaries, and those with an extremist interpretation of Islam. Neither version is what the majority of Bangladeshis need or want.&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; <br /><br />This malaise <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/aponline/2015/04/04/world/asia/ap-as-bangladesh-blogger-deaths.html">reflects</a> a marked narrowing of the political culture in Bangladesh. Over the years the independence of the judiciary has been gradually eroded by consecutive governments, both under democratic regimes and military dictatorships. The elections in 2014, for example, were <a href="http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-asia-25602436">described</a> even by the most sober of observers as a “farce”. The largest opposition party boycotted them, there was large-scale election-related violence, continuing disappearances and illegal detentions of opposition activists, burned-down polling booths, and untold numbers of deaths. The fact that the media is still able to operate freely within the country is something to be thankful for.&nbsp;&nbsp; <br /><br />It might be expected that the most recent murder of a blogger would be followed by the state of Bangladesh sending out a clear message that it believes in freedom of speech and expression. These, after all, are values enshrined in its own constitution, ideals it should protect, that the war of liberation was fought for. Instead, there are now fears that such rights will be further curtailed through a questionable course of action, charging twenty-three people with contempt of court. Bangladeshis pride themselves on having a modern democracy, however imperfect it is - increasingly, it is looking like something else. </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="/delwar-hussain/bangladesh-in-ruins-of-future">Bangladesh, in the ruins of the future</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/faith-protest/bangladeshi_3715.jsp">Bangladeshis in east London: from secular politics to Islam</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/democracy-protest/bangladesh_islam_4238.jsp">Islamism and expediency in Bangladesh</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/article/life-and-death-in-the-bangladesh-india-margins">Life and death in the Bangladesh-India margins</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/article/the-felling-of-bungalows-the-building-of-dhaka">The felling of bungalows, the building of Dhaka</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/article/digital-bangladesh-virtual-dreams-real-lives">Digital Bangladesh: virtual dreams, real lives</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/delwar-hussain/bangladesh-state-of-impunity">Bangladesh: a state of impunity</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"> Bangladesh </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> International politics </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 3.0 </div> </div> </div> Bangladesh International politics democracy & power Delwar Hussain Tue, 07 Apr 2015 04:37:45 +0000 Delwar Hussain 91814 at https://opendemocracy.net Turkey's future: Erdoğan, elections and the Kurds https://opendemocracy.net/nora-fisher-onar/turkey%27s-future-erdo%C4%9F-elections-and-kurds <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Turkey is gearing up for pivotal elections on 7 June. At their heart is a complex interplay between presidential ambitions, party fissures, and Kurdish aspirations. </p> </div> </div> </div> <p>Turkey's election campaign began to the sound of fireworks. The first flash came in late January when the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) announced that it would run candidates under the party banner instead of as independents. The move is bold because Kurds typically field independents to circumvent the high 10% national electoral threshold. If the HDP gamble pays off, the party will win enough seats to <a href="http://www.spiegel.de/international/europe/the-akp-s-disappointing-victory-erdogan-falls-short-of-goal-in-turkish-elections-a-768175.html">prevent</a> the ruling Justice &amp; Development Party (AKP) from securing a two-thirds majority (330 out of 550 seats). Doing so would thwart President Erdoğan from converting the country from a parliamentary set-up to the formal presidential system he desires. This would make the HDP a prominent - possibly the predominant - voice of Turkey's heterogeneous opposition. <br /><br />If the bid fails however, <a href="http://www.tccb.gov.tr/receptayyiperdogan/biography/">Erdoğan</a> would have a <em>carte blanche</em> for his presidential plans, and the Kurds would have no parliamentary voice. This, in turn, could spur Kurds to unilaterally declare a regional parliament. Such an outcome could spark inter-communal clashes across Turkey and force a heavy-hand from Ankara. This would be a dangerous development in a region already grappling with ethnic and sectarian conflict over ever more ambiguous borders. <br /><br />Given the stakes, observers were struck by a second set of fireworks since 21 March: a very public row between leading AKP figures. There have long been rumours of discontent within party ranks at Erdoğan’s moves to project presidential power in areas that are the government’s business.&nbsp; This has become visible in intermittent <a href="http://www.hurriyetdailynews.com/turkish-govt-criticizes-erdogan-over-kurdish-process.aspx?pageID=238&amp;nID=79989&amp;NewsCatID=338">criticism</a> of Erdoğan by deputy prime minister Bulent Arınç. <br /><br />The party heavyweight recently argued that polarising rhetoric by the president is making Turkey ungovernable. He has also challenged the president’s provocative remarks <em>vis-à-vis</em> Ankara’s ongoing dialogue with the Kurds. Erdoğan retorted that he is no “figurehead,” in turn, emboldening stalwarts like Ankara mayor Melih Göçek to accuse Arınç of ties with the Gülen movement - Erdoğan’s present <em>bête noir</em>. Arınç’s response was no less dramatic: describing Göcek as “indecent,” he accused the twenty-year incumbent of having sold Ankara parcel by parcel. <br /><br />The next day, a prosecutor <a href="http://english.yenisafak.com/mobil/politics/investigation-launched-against-arinc-and-gokcek-2109461">launched</a> an investigation into both the allegations of corruption and Arınç's apparent knowledge of such affairs. While both figures were admonished by prime minister Ahmet Davutoğlu for breaching party discipline, the breach is the latest in almost two years of dramatic fallouts within the conservative constituency. The upshot, as one pro-government columnist put it: the AKP's “magic is fading.” <br /><br /><strong>Kurdish daring, and room to move</strong><br /><br />What is the relationship between these developments - the Kurds' all-or-nothing electoral bid, and intra-AKP fissures - and with what ramifications for the <a href="http://www.hurriyetdailynews.com/parties-in-crucial-stage-of-polls-before-deadline.aspx?pageID=517&amp;nID=80618&amp;NewsCatID=338">elections</a> and their aftermath? <br /><br />On the Kurdish <a href="https://rowman.com/ISBN/9781498515122/Understanding-Turkey%27s-Kurdish-Question">side</a>, daring is driven by a visceral sense that Kurds must grasp a once-in-a-century opportunity. It has not been since the end of the first world war - when the <a href="http://www.jstor.org/discover/10.2307/2638042?sid=21105908420051&amp;uid=70&amp;uid=3738032&amp;uid=2129&amp;uid=2&amp;uid=4">stillborn</a> Treaty of Sèvres promised the Kurds a national homeland - that internal, regional, and international alignments have been as conducive to Turkey’s Kurds shaping their own destiny. <br /><br />First, unlike the rest of Turkey’s opposition, the Kurds have compelling leaders. Their imprisoned figurehead Abdullah Öcalan <a href="http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-31673830">appears</a> on the verge of achieving an Arafat-like transformation from terrorist mastermind into august peacemaker. He has done so by investing in an ongoing if substantively ambivalent “peace process” between the government and the militant PKK. The results to date have been modest: a fragile ceasefire and the withdrawal of some fighters to bases in northern Iraq. But the process has helped to <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/bill-park/turkey%E2%80%99s-kurdish-policy-sleepwalking-to-crisis">reframe</a> Turkey’s “Kurdish problem” as a political as much as a security problem. Turks are increasingly reconciled to Kurdish demands for cultural rights and local governance; Kurds are better able to envisage a future in a multicultural Turkish state. <br /><br />A champion of this participatory rather than separatist vision has been the HDP leader Selahattin Demirtaş. The down-to-earth third <a href="http://www.foreignaffairs.com/articles/141881/elmira-bayrasli/turkeys-not-quite-president">candidate</a> in the presidential race of August 2014, Demirtaş raised the party’s vote share from 6.2 to 9.7%. His success is due to savvy projection of an inclusive political language. As the first politician to capitalise on energies unleashed by the Gezi <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/kerem-oktem/turkey-from-tahrir-to-taksim">protests</a> of 2013, Demirtaş appeals to liberal and left-leaning Turks frustrated with Erdoğan’s aggressive rhetoric and AKP primacy. Not a large constituency to be sure, but a million such Turkish votes could <a href="http://www.al-monitor.com/pulse/originals/2015/01/turkey-elections-kurds-win-win.html#">propel </a>the HDP into parliament. <br /><br />There is also a now-or-never sensibility among Turkey’s Kurds <em>vis-à-vis</em> regional dynamics. The existential threat that ISIS represents for many Kurds - epitomised in collective grief and then euphoria <a href="https://www.americanprogress.org/issues/security/report/2015/03/12/108450/kobani-turkeys-kurds-and-the-2015-turkish-parliamentary-elections/">around</a> the loss and recapture of Kobani - has become a font of pan-Kurdish solidarity. Some analysts view this as a nascent transnational Kurdish “public sphere.” <br /><br />The Middle East’s fourth-largest but stateless ethnic group, Kurdish <a href="http://www.merip.org/mer/mer189/kurdish-experience">aspirations</a> to self-rule have long been belied by internal fragmentation and the primacy of central governments. Today - and persistent internal rivalries notwithstanding - Kurds have more <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/bill-park/turkey-kurds-iraq-syria-new-regional-dynamic">room</a> for manoeuvre than ever before. As Baghdad and Damascus grapple with more immediate challenges, there are <em>de facto</em> autonomous entities in the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) of northern Iraq, and in Rojava - the cantons of “Western Kurdistan” controlled by Syrian Kurds. All of these lands <a href="http://go.hrw.com/atlas/norm_htm/turkey.htm">border</a> Turkey. As such, a move by Turkey’s Kurds to pursue intensified relations with brethren across borders - either in protest at being excluded from the national parliament or as part of a post-election bargain - has never been as tenable. <br /><br /><strong>Erdoğan's dilemma, and a time of choice</strong><br /><br />Meanwhile, Kurds have won points in western-cum-international opinion as “boots on the ground” in the<a href="http://www.reuters.com/article/2015/03/14/us-mideast-crisis-islamicstate-chlorine-idUSKBN0MA0OT20150314"> fight</a> against ISIS. The secular-nationalist overtones of Kurdish demands, epitomised in the role of female <em>peshmerga</em> fighters, stands in stark contrast to militant Islamist millennarianism. It arguably is also more intelligible to trans-Atlantic opinion than the anti-western populism of Turkey’s political <a href="http://www.google.co.uk/url?sa=t&amp;rct=j&amp;q=&amp;esrc=s&amp;source=web&amp;cd=1&amp;ved=0CCIQFjAA&amp;url=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.palgrave.com%2Fpage%2Fdetail%2Fpolitical-islam-in-turkey-gareth-jenkins%2F%3FK%3D9781403968838&amp;ei=wFgjVbPBBs_1aqbrgcgO&amp;usg=AFQjCNGaWP55f_WIJneYVuiEFKYGpDHWFg&amp;bvm=bv.89947451,d.d2s">Islamist </a>leadership. At the same time, Kurds’ broadly <em>Sunni</em> orientation may appeal to various regional and international interlocutors as a counterweight to Iranian inroads in the region. For all these reasons, many in the west are likely to be at least somewhat sympathetic to Kurds’ <a href="https://uk.news.yahoo.com/kurds-accuse-turkeys-erdogan-constitutional-dictatorship-162638923.html">framing</a> of post-election processes.&nbsp; <br /><br />But the HDP must still <a href="http://nationalinterest.org/feature/the-kurds-will-decide-turkeys-fate-12517">confront</a> the electoral juggernaut that is the AKP. Under the leadership of Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, the party has since 2002 won eight successive electoral contests. Today, although the president formally cannot campaign, he has made no secret of his partisanship. The party programme now includes a commitment to an eventual presidential system. Erdoğan has much to lose and everything to gain if the victory is anything short of spectacular. Without two-thirds of the vote, the presidency remains a by-and-large symbolic post. This leaves Erdoğan open to forays from the many <a href="http://www.mcclatchydc.com/2014/12/14/250004/turkeys-erdogan-moves-against.html">enemies</a> he has made during his spectacular rise to power. <br /><br />To prevent such an outcome, Erdoğan is faced with a tactical dilemma. He can appeal to religious Kurds by advancing the voice of Turkish-Kurdish fraternity under Islam, a line that has resonated with many Kurdish voters, making the AKP the second most popular party in Kurdish constituencies. <br /><br />Or he can appeal to ultranationalist Turkish-(Islamist) sentiment while provoking Kurds. If this results in violence, the flirtation between Kurds and liberal and leftist Turks would likely fail, keeping the Kurds out of parliament. Recent clashes between the pro-government Islamist Kurdish party <em>Hüda-Par</em> (Free Cause Party) and HDP supporters may be read in this light.&nbsp; <br /><br />If Erdoğan wins the <a href="http://www.the-american-interest.com/2015/03/09/false-dawn-for-turkeys-kurds/">elements</a> are in place to turn Turkey into a system where supreme power accrues to the executive. These include an internet law that mandates sweeping controls and a 132-item security bill that <a href="http://www.todayszaman.com/national_controversial-security-bill-passes-chp-says-will-appeal-to-constitutional-court_376425.html">critics</a> say could make Turkey a police state. Such an outcome hardly bodes well for cultural and political rights and local governance - potentially spurring Kurds to take matters into their own hands. The stakes are thus high for Turkey, its Kurds, and the region.<br /><br />Turkey’s transformation also would resonate with other emerging players like India, Russia, and even the European Union’s own Hungary whose leaders combine populism and illiberal governance to stake <a href="http://www.worldpoliticsreview.com/articles/14562/history-s-postscript-the-populist-threat-to-liberal-democracy">positions</a> that have rendered them, at best, unreliable allies of the west. <br /><br />It is at this juncture that intra-AKP <a href="http://www.middleeasteye.net/news/investigations-launched-after-row-between-leading-akp-politicians-turkey-1118193626">frictions</a> become consequential. For elements in the party who wish to balance Erdoğan’s increasingly untrammelled authority may in fact be reconciled to an underwhelming victory even as they work toward reconciliation with the Kurds. Such an outcome would hand them the government but preserve the parliamentary system. The stances that they take on the Kurdish question in the months ahead thus bear watching.</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-read-on"> <div class="field-label"> 'Read On' Sidebox:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Bill Park, <span class="st"><a href="http://www.routledge.com/books/details/9780415443715/"><em>Modern <em>Turkey</em>: People, State and Foreign Policy in a Globalized World</em></a> (Routledge, 2011)</span></p><p><span class="st">Faleh A Jabar &amp; Hosham Dawod eds., <a href="http://www.saqibooks.co.uk/book/the-kurds/"><em>The Kurds: Nationalism and Politics</em></a> (Saqi, 2006)</span></p><div><p>Kerem Oktem, (co-editor, with Celia J Kerslake &amp; Philip Robins) <a href="http://www.palgraveconnect.com/pc/doifinder/10.1057/9780230277397"><em><span><span>Turkey's Engagement with Modernity</span></span></em></a> (Palgrave, 2010)</p> <p>Kerem Oktem<em><em>, </em><a href="http://www.zedbooks.co.uk/book.asp?bookdetail=4372"><span><span>Angry Nation: Turkey since 1989</span></span></a></em> (Zed Books, 2010)</p> <p>M Hakan Yavuz, <a href="http://www.cup.cam.ac.uk/us/catalogue/catalogue.asp?isbn=9780521717328&amp;ss=fro"><em><span><span>Secularism and Muslim Democracy in Turkey</span></span></em></a> (Cambridge University Press, 2009)</p></div> <p>Erik J Zürcher, <a href="http://www.ibtauris.com/en/Books/Reference%20information%20%20interdisciplinary%20subjects/Interdisciplinary%20studies/Regional%20studies/Turkey%20A%20Modern%20History.aspx?menuitem=%7B0B224723-C23A-4A0B-87C5-BD37738A8CEB%7D"><em><span><span>Turkey: A Modern History</span></span></em></a> (IB Tauris, 2004)</p> </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/nora-fisher-onar/turkeys-democracy-europes-imperative">Turkey&#039;s democracy, Europe&#039;s imperative</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/nora-fisher-onar/europe%E2%80%99s-tipping-point-turkey%E2%80%99s-solution">Europe’s tipping-point, Turkey’s solution</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> 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"> International politics </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 3.0 </div> </div> </div> Turkey International politics democracy & power the future of turkey Turkish Dawn Nora Fisher Onar Tue, 07 Apr 2015 02:11:46 +0000 Nora Fisher Onar 91811 at https://opendemocracy.net Armenian genocide, a century on https://opendemocracy.net/vicken-cheterian/armenian-genocide-century-on <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>A hundred years after the genocide of Armenians in the Ottoman empire, widening acceptance of the crime is shadowed by Ankara's continual evasion.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span><span>Geoffrey Robertson started his talk at the Responsibility 2015 conference in New York by telling the story of his great-uncle. William Robertson was an Australian soldier in the allied forces who in 1915 was sent to fight against the Ottoman army and, hardly twenty-four hours after disembarking at <a href="http://www.anzacsite.gov.au/1landing/">Gallipoli</a> and joining his comrades in a charge on the cliff-top defences, was felled by a sniper or machine‐gunner. </span></span></p><p>Robertson drew an important lesson from this piece of family lore: the importance of distinguishing the killing of a soldier in war, and the annihilation of the entire Armenian population of the Ottoman empire by the <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/ref/timestopics/topics_armeniangenocide.html">orders</a> of their own state. The death of his uncle in the "Great War", as of millions of other soldiers, was tragic and painful, but there is no legal question over this outcome in that William and his comrades were "lawfully killed". By contrast, he added, the forced deportations and massacres of hundreds of thousands of Armenian and other Christian civilians - including the elderly, women, and children, forced on death marches to the <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/vicken-cheterian/syria-kessabs-battle-and-armenians-history">Syrian</a> desert - is a crime against humanity, one that was never punished. This <a href="http://www.armenian-genocide.org/genocidefaq.html">event</a> needs to be remembered, Robertson insisted. </p><p><span>The choice of Robertson to deliver the opening speech at <a href="http://responsibility2015.org">Responsibility 2015</a> </span><span><span>- dedicated to the hundred-year anniversary of the genocide of the Armenians - is symbolically charged. The Australian-born lawyer, long based in London, has had a long career defending sensitive human-rights cases. In 2006 he was the judge heading the United Nations Special Court for Sierra Leone, which indicted former president Charles Taylor for war crimes. Most recently, he was part of the Armenian legal team (alongside Amal Clooney) in a <a href="http://armenianweekly.com/2015/01/28/echr-detailed-report/">case</a> concerning denial of the genocide at the European Court of Human Rights in Brussels, as well as&nbsp;authoring a <a href="https://www.bitebackpublishing.com/books/an‐inconvenient‐genocide">book</a> </span></span><span><span>on the Armenian genocide. Therefore, his presence symbolically bridged between&nbsp;</span></span>the annihilation of Christian minorities in the Ottoman empire a hundred years ago, with current concerns about mass violations of human rights and crimes against humanity.</p><p><strong>It begins with recognition</strong></p><p>Everyone knows that mass killings of Armenians <a href="http://aua.am/2012/human-rights-lawyer-geoffrey-robertson-speaks-at-aua/">happened</a>, but we hardly know anything else. What happened in 1915, and how is it <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/vicken-cheterian/armenian-genocide-and-turkey-then-and-now">relevant</a> to us today? What makes the Armenian genocide important is that it is the first "modern genocide". In pre-modern times, invading armies did massacre local populations and destroy their civilisations - whether it was the Roman armies destroying Carthage, or the invading Mongols destroying Baghdad. </p><p>What makes the Armenian case the prototype of modern genocides is that it is the government itself that turned <a href="http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2006-11/uom-nbb111306.php">against</a> a part of its own population, declaring it as "undesirable" and deciding to annihilate them physically and erase their cultural traces. Under the shadow of the first world war - which the Ottomans joined by their own will on the side of the German empire - the government declared Armenians, all Armenians, as traitors and rebels. First, intellectuals were arrested and executed; second, men serving in the army were disarmed and executed; third, remaining civilians were <a href="http://www.armenian-genocide.org/map-full.html">deported</a> to concentration camps in Der Ez‐Zor, where they were massacred <em>en masse</em>. </p><p>There is a growing scholarly <a href="http://press.princeton.edu/titles/10426.html">literature</a> showing the relationship between the genocide of the Armenians and Nazi crimes in the Holocaust, and how German nationalists took the "successes" of the <a href="http://press.princeton.edu/titles/9678.html">Young Turks</a> in getting rid of their Christian minorities (Armenians, but also Assyrians and Greeks) as a model for their own creation of a "homogenous" German homeland by massacring Jews, Slavs and other populations. At the same time, the Stalinist regime in the Soviet Union was deporting and massacring large part of its population, based on class or ethnic criteria. In later <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/article/a-century-of-genocide-1915-2009">decades</a> there were similar cases of mass murder and liquidation in Cambodia, Bosnia and Rwanda.</p><p>Yet what also distinguishes the genocide of the Armenian from the Jewish Holocaust or, to an extent, these later genocides, is that in the case of the Armenians the perpetrator does not <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/article/armenia/armenia-and-turkey-forgetting-genocide">recognise</a> its crime. For a century, Turkey first tried to erase even the memory of the Armenians; of the 2,500 churches and 500 monasteries in 1914, only forty active Armenian churches remain, and while 2.2 million Armenians lived in Turkey a century ago only 60,000 Armenians are there today. Then, when Armenians persisted in the struggle for truth and justice, Turkey responded by arguing that the deportations (or, as Turkey argues, "relocation") of populations were for military needs; that in fact, it is the Armenians who should be accused, because they were rebellious and collaborated with the enemy.</p><p>Human rights should be the concern of everyone. If we tolerate violations in one place, this could serve as justification for violations <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/article/blood_and_soil_the_global_history_of_genocide">elsewhere</a>, or for use of force out of frustration for lack of justice. The implication is: why not close our eyes to mass murder on the scale of genocide - a crime against an entire people?</p><p>Hayg Oshagan is one of the organisers of the New York conference, which took place under the auspices of the Armenian Revolutionary Federation (ARF, or Tashnaks / Dashnaks). He was confident in the struggle of his own party and of the Armenians in general. "In the last few years the ARF has put its stress on reparations rather than on recognition as it was before. Recognition as an issue has been advanced and successes achieved," he says. What kind of reparations? The first step is a legal act to demand the Turkish government to return the church properties that were confiscated back in 1915, and mostly destroyed. "This could be a first step," Oshagan adds.</p><p><strong>Denial is the last stage</strong></p><p>The commemorations of the centenary of the genocide are taking place in a <a href="http://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/opinion/2015/01/armenia-turkey-war-genocide-centenary-150131061335250.html">mixed</a> emotional atmosphere. On the one hand there is a feeling of success, that even after one hundred years the struggle for justice continues. What was especially encouraging at Responsibility 2015 was the participation of a number of Turkish and Kurdish <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/article/turkey_and_history_shoot_the_messenger">scholars</a> who are working today on the destruction of the Ottoman Armenians, recognising that there can be no rule of law and genuine democracy without <a href="http://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/opinion/2014/04/armenian-genocide-turkey-lost-b-201441772048318940.html">addressing</a> the fundamental sin on which the Turkish republic was built. But at the same time there is apprehension&nbsp;towards what is going on in the Middle East where governments and armed groups have made entire civilian populations the <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/vicken-cheterian/turkey-and-islamic-state%E2%80%9D">target</a> of their destructive policies.</p><p>During a panel looking at artistic works inspired by the genocide - whether photography, novels or <a href="http://www.finboroughtheatre.co.uk/productions/2015/i-wish-to-die-singing.php">plays</a> - one author reminded the audience that we should not give up, that the <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/vicken-cheterian/turkey-and-armenians-politics-of-history">struggle</a> for memory and for justice should continue. "Never forget that we are the majority, and they are a small minority", he insisted. By "we" he meant innocent civilians victimised by "them" - the perpetrators of crimes against humanity.</p><p><span>On 23 April 2014, Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan made an announcement addressed to the Armenians where he talked about conveying his "condolences". Although the message was bewildering - putting the suffering of the victims and the perpetrators on the same level - it was nevertheless the first time in ninety-nine years that a Turkish leader had acknowledged that the Armenians had <a href="http://www.hurriyetdailynews.com/turkish‐pm‐erdogans‐april‐23‐statement‐onarmenian‐">suffered</a> at all.</span><span><span>&nbsp;</span></span><span>There was hope that the Turkish leader would take additional, necessary steps to address this greatest injustice. But today, it seems that what interests Turkish leaders is not justice, but rather public relations.</span></p><p>"Turkey has a big diversion plan," Geoffrey Robertson says. He is referring to Turkish government plans to organise a big celebration of Ottoman victories against the allied forces in Gallipoli in 1915. Traditionally, Turkey has commemorated this battle on 18 March, but this year decided to move the big event to 24 April, when the rest of the world will be remembering the genocide of the Armenians. Denial is the last stage of genocide, but it must contend against justice with truth on its side. </p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-read-on"> <div class="field-label"> 'Read On' Sidebox:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Vicken Cheterian, <a href="http://www.hurstpublishers.com/book/open-wounds/"><em><span><span>Open Wounds: Armenians, Turks, and a Century of Genocide</span></span></em></a> (C Hurst, 2015)</p><p>Martin Shaw, <a href="http://www.polity.co.uk/book.asp?ref=9780745631820"><em><span><span>What is Genocide?</span></span></em></a><em> </em>(Polity, 2007)</p><p>Taner Akçam, <em><a href="http://press.princeton.edu/titles/9678.html">The Young Turks’ Crime against Humanity: The Armenian Genocide and Ethnic Cleansing in the Ottoman Empire</a></em> (Princeton University Press, 2012)</p><p>Ben Kiernan, <a href="http://yalepress.yale.edu/yupbooks/book.asp?isbn=9780300100983"><span><span><em>Blood and Soil: A World History of Genocide and Exte</em><em>r</em><em>mination from Sparta to Darfur</em></span></span></a> (Yale University Press, 2007)</p><div><a href="http://statecrime.org/%20"><span><span>Statecrime</span></span></a></div><p><a href="http://www.massviolence.org/"><span><span>Encyclopedia of Mass Violence </span></span></a></p><p>Hannibal Travis, <a href="http://www.cap-press.com/books/isbn/9781594604362/Genocide-in-the-Middle-East"><em><span><span>Genocide in the Middle East: The Ottoman Empire, Iraq and Sudan</span></span></em></a> (Carolina University Press, 2010)</p><p>Ronald Grigor Suny, <em><a href="http://press.princeton.edu/titles/10426.html">"They Can Live in the Desert but Nowhere Else": A History of the Armenian Genocide</a></em> (Princeton University Press, 2015)</p><p>Geoffrey Robertson, <em><a href="https://www.bitebackpublishing.com/books/an-inconvenient-genocide">An Inconvenient Genocide: Who Now Remembers the Armenians?</a></em> (Biteback, 2015)</p><p>Donald Bloxham,&nbsp;<span class="st"><em><a href="https://global.oup.com/academic/product/the-great-game-of-genocide-9780199226887?cc=gb&amp;lang=en&amp;">The Great Game of Genocide: Imperialism, Nationalism, and the Destruction of the Ottoman Armenians</a></em> (Oxford University Press, 2005)</span></p> </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/article/armenia/armenia-turkey-genocide-blockade-diplomacy">Armenia-Turkey: genocide, blockade, diplomacy</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/vicken-cheterian/turkey-and-islamic-state%E2%80%9D">Turkey and the &quot;Islamic State”</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/article/armenia/armenia-and-turkey-forgetting-genocide">Armenia and Turkey: forgetting genocide </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/article/turkey_and_history_shoot_the_messenger">Turkey and history: shoot the messenger</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/democracy-europefuture/europe_turkey_armenia_3118.jsp">The water finds its crack: an Armenian in Turkey</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/vicken-cheterian/armenia-turkey-end-of-rapprochement">Armenia-Turkey: the end of rapprochement </a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/vicken-cheterian/syria-kessabs-battle-and-armenians-history">Syria: Kessab&#039;s battle and Armenians&#039; history </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/article/a-century-of-genocide-1915-2009">A century of genocide, 1915-2009</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/vicken-cheterian/turkey%E2%80%99s-race-codes-and-ottoman-legacy">Turkey’s &quot;race codes&quot; and the Ottoman legacy</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/vicken-cheterian/armenian-genocide-and-turkey-then-and-now">Armenian genocide and Turkey: then and now </a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/vicken-cheterian/turkey-and-armenians-politics-of-history">Turkey and the Armenians: politics of history</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> International politics </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 3.0 </div> </div> </div> International politics democracy & power human rights Vicken Cheterian Armenian genocide Wed, 18 Mar 2015 05:25:46 +0000 Vicken Cheterian 91317 at https://opendemocracy.net China, the idea-hungry nation https://opendemocracy.net/kerry-brown/china-ideahungry-nation <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>China's restless intellectual&nbsp;energy carries an echo of Austria-Hungary in the pre-1914 years. </p> </div> </div> </div> <p>The centenary of the first world war has led to many parallels being&nbsp;made between the global situation on its eve and the way the world is now.&nbsp;The work of <a href="http://www.harpercollins.com/books/9780061146657">Christopher Clark</a> and&nbsp;fellow historians has shown that&nbsp;there are some areas where&nbsp;the parallels&nbsp;chime, and others where they definitely don’t. </p><p>The&nbsp;most evident&nbsp;similarities lie not where they might be expected,&nbsp;in the practical world of geopolitics and material diplomatic alliances, but rather in the less tangible one of ideas. The great account of pre-1914 Vienna, <a href="http://www.robertmusil.net/">Robert Musil’s</a> epic <em>The Man Without Qualities</em>, captures this when he writes - and it is a motif of this massive novel - of the profusion of ideas and visions that existed at this time. In many ways, it was a golden age of concepts, notions and philosophies, with figures like Einstein, Freud and Lenin radically redrawing understanding of the world and humanity’s role in it. </p><p>"An idea", one character in Musil’s <a href="robert musil man without qualities isbn">novel</a> muses, "is the most paradoxical thing in the world. The flesh in the grip of an idea is like a fetish." And yet, he goes on, "ideas can never maintain themselves in the state in which they are most powerful; they’re like the kind of substance that, exposed to the air, instantly changes into some other, more lasting but corrupted form." </p><p>Thus a central theme emerges in <em>The Man Without Qualities</em>; the search for a "one great redeeming idea" - the idea everybody can agree with and live within. From the war of all the different and contending views, a single one had eventually to dominate and be sustained. The implications are clear: for only in the realm of physical actions was this tension finally sorted out, and at immense, terrifying cost. Competing ideas led to the Great War. Violence resolved that. </p><p><strong>Wanted: a big idea</strong></p><p>A recent conversation with a Chinese observer hinted at the relevance of Musil's world to today's China. While we were talking about China's current situation, he defined what he saw as the main issue. "In the west, at least there is some sort of public and elite consensus on politics, a common framework people work within and are pragmatic about, places where people draw boundaries." In China, he went on, "there is no consensus, no boundaries. We have the institution of the party, and the concept of government, but no real idea of what it stands for and where its limits are. Everyone goes their own way and draws their border where they want to."</p><p>Perhaps this explains why China prompts such immense outpourings of commentary and analysis, inside and outside the country, every day of the year. There is no real dominant idea, no accepted <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/kerry-brown/china-and-habermass-public-sphere">framework</a> - no neat boundaries. The&nbsp;most basic things - like the role of the party, of politics, and of civil society -&nbsp;are contested. Trying to spell out the zone where government ends and the private begins in China is next to impossible. It is not just that outsiders don’t know what to make of it. Even the people right within are beset by different notions of what they are doing and why, and obliged constantly to press and <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/kerry-brown/china-questions-of-loyalty">question</a> everything. </p><p>In this context, China now really does have a similarity to pre-1914 Europe, for it is a theatre of clashing ideas. There are contradictory ideas about the market, the role of the state and the public, the function of authority and its relationship to moral behaviour. These arise simultaneously from inside China's own intellectual traditions and from the outside world. Hybridity dominates the airwaves. This gives China an energetic feel and dynamism that so impresses visitors who on arrival can touch this atmosphere of vibrant discussion. But it also means that the tone of public debate can quickly descend, resembling a situation of warring clans trying to take each other down.&nbsp; </p><p>The search for consensus over the "one big redeeming idea" that might&nbsp;pull everyone together, however, is proving hard - especially because, in contemporary China, it has to be the <em>right</em> idea. The difficuly can be gauged by taking even a cursory look at the work <a href="http://news.xinhuanet.com/english/china/2015-03/16/c_134071473.htm">report</a> delivered by prime minister Li Keqiang to the national people’s congress (NPC) in March 2015. The document betrays a level of hybridity which borders on the incoherent. The policy <a href="http://www.dw.de/china-vows-to-press-on-with-painful-reforms-as-congress-ends/a-18316899">announcements</a> are all reasonable. But the underpinning intellectual rationale veers wildly: asserting Chinese <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/kerry-brown/china-limits-of-exception">exceptionalism</a> in one moment, talking of Marxist state control for the people in the next, before slipping into language which would be perfectly acceptable to capitalist fundraisers and investment bankers in the west. </p><p>Markets, Mao, Marxism, Mercantilism - the whole heady mix can be stimulating, but its net effect is confusion and uncertainty. Perhaps that explains the demand for books addressing the simple question: "What do Chinese leaders think?" The problem is that, judging by their public statements, they seem to be thinking <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/kerry-brown/china-who-is-in-charge">contradictory</a> and competing things at the same time. </p><p>Robert Musil again strikes a modern chord. His central character, Ulrich, in a discussion about how best to celebrate the jubilee of Emperor Franz Ferdinand, remarks that "the world's successful political moulders have a lot in common with hacks who write for commercial theatre". His reasoning? "The lively scenes they create bore us by their lack of ideas and novelty, but by the same token they lull us into a sleepy state of lowered resistance." </p><p>That indeed might be one motivations of elite leaders in China <a href="http://www.palgrave.com/page/detail/contemporary-china-kerry-brown/?k=9781137510099&amp;loc=uk">today</a> - to bore their audience so they just get on with humdrum daily life and leave the thinking to the government. But it is surely a doomed quest. China now is in an age where its <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/kerry-brown/china-between-self-and-society">people</a> swallow up ideas with an inexhaustible hunger. From architecture, to education, to technology and entrepreneurialism, to social and financial experimentation, under the rigid behemoth of the party-state, the place is awash with ideas. The energy they create, the competition and fight, is sometimes slightly terrifying. In response, China's <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/kerry-brown/reading-xi-jinping-in-beijing">leaders</a> are searching urgently for that "one great redeeming idea" able at least to calm people down. </p><p>Creating even a minimal consensus of this kind will prove the toughest thing they have ever had to do. There's only one thing to be certain of: how the Austro-Hungarian empire finally resolved this battle is not an example they will want to repeat.&nbsp; </p><p>&nbsp;</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-read-on"> <div class="field-label"> 'Read On' Sidebox:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Kerry Brown, <span class="st"><a href="http://www.worldscientific.com/worldscibooks/10.1142/p932"><span><em><span>Carnival China</span></em><span>: </span><em><span>China</span></em><span> </span><em><span>in the Era of Hu Jintao and Xi Jinping</span></em></span></a> (Imperial College Press, 2014) </span></p><p><span class="st">Kerry Brown (</span><span class="st">editor-in-chief) <a href="http://www.berkshirepublishing.com/product.aspx?projid=88"><em><span><span>Berkshire Dictionary of Chinese Biography</span></span></em></a> (Berkshire, 2014-15)</span></p><p><span class="st">Kerry Brown ed., <a href=" European Perspectives"><em><span><span>EU-China Relationship: European Perspectives</span></span></em></a> (Imperial College Press / <a href="http://www.worldscientific.com/doi/abs/10.1142/9781783264551_fmatter"><span><span>World Scientific</span></span></a>, 2015)</span></p> </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/kerry-brown/reading-xi-jinping-in-beijing">Reading Xi Jinping in Beijing</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/kerry-brown/china-limits-of-exception">China, the limits of exception</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/kerry-brown/weighing-history-in-china">Weighing history in China</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/kerry-brown/china-questions-of-loyalty">China, questions of loyalty</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/kerry-brown/china-and-habermass-public-sphere">China and Habermas&#039;s public sphere</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/kerry-brown/china-between-self-and-society">China, between self and society</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> China </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> International politics </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 3.0 </div> </div> </div> China International politics democracy & power Kerry Brown Tue, 17 Mar 2015 07:51:25 +0000 Kerry Brown 91303 at https://opendemocracy.net Yemen's frail faultlines https://opendemocracy.net/opensecurity/aaron-edwards/yemen%27s-frail-faultlines <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>The seizure of power in Sanaa by Houthi rebels has alerted the world to the crisis in Yemen. But it never really went away.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p class="image-caption"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/550590/hadi.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/550590/hadi.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="289" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span>That was then: President Hadi (left), now under house arrest, assuming the reins from his authoritarian predecessor, Ali Abdullah Saleh, in 2013. Demotix / <a href="http://www.demotix.com/users/saleh-maglam/profile">Saleh Maglam</a>. All rights reserved.</p><p>In the wake of the recent turbulence in Yemen, reports of a country ‘on the brink’ have become commonplace. Yet Yemen has never really been stable—and, indeed, the whiggish idea that the Arab Spring in some ways prompted an open embrace of Western democracy there has been exposed as an illusion. </p> <p>The United Nations and international powers, such as the US, UK and Russia, clearly support a political transition from autocratic rule towards a more representative system of government, to restore peace and security in Yemen. Less clear, however, is the role regional powers in the Middle East are playing in the unfolding drama in the Arabian peninsula.</p> <p>Historically, the UN left Yemenis to resolve their own problems. In 1967 the UN Mission to South Yemen visited Aden with a view to the dismantling of British colonialism, as a prelude to self-rule. But the mission showed palpable disrespect for local tribal rulers and, after half-hearted meetings with armed opposition groups, its members left in a hurry without bothering to help draft a tangible plan. </p> <p>Amid civil war in North Yemen, the UN again opted out of seeking to end the violence peacefully and ignored the wishes of two major regional powers, Saudi Arabia and Iran. The instability favoured the Egyptians, who continued to sponsor the Movement for Arab Nationalists and its associated armed groups across the region.</p><p><span></span>Over the next 20 years Riyadh would continue to pay stipends to the northern Yemeni Arab Republic and, after he rose to power in 1978, Ali Abdullah Saleh would continue to fall in line with Saudi hostility to the southern Marxists. Conversely, Moscow would continue to back the People’s Democratic Republic of Yemen (PDRY), its surrogate in the south, which would be further backed by Tehran after the Iranian revolution of 1979. By 1990 the two Yemens had come together in a union which reflected the end of the cold war and the termination of Moscow’s support for separate regimes.</p> <p>Given what we know of Saudi Arabian and Iranian influences in other parts of the Middle East, it is unsurprising that we should hear contending narratives from Riyadh and Tehran as to the direction Sanaa should now take.</p> <h2><strong>Capital captured</strong></h2> <p>In January Houthi rebels, drawn from Zaidi Shia Muslims, stormed the capital from the north and defeated the meagre military forces defending the city. Having captured the presidential palace and placed the president, Abdo Rabbo Mansour Hadi, under house arrest, they formed a council of representatives twice the size of the National Dialogue Committee (NCC), which had been sponsored by the Gulf Co-operation Council (GCC) as a vehicle for charting a political transition.</p> <p>The rebels’ problem is that any political process they might engender would be unacceptable to the broad mass of the population, north and south. Their seizure of power has done nothing to unite the country and endangers the regionally-backed initiatives towards national reconciliation. </p> <p>What the Houthi coup has done is to channel through Yemen the wider conflict between Shia and Sunni across the Middle East. It threatens to reinforce the tribal faultines underpinning Yemeni society and politics, and to bring closer a renewed split between north and south.</p> <h2><strong>Proxy war</strong></h2> <p>In September last year Ali Reza Zakani, a representative of the Iranian parliament, <a href="https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/news/middle-east/14389-sanaa-is-the-fourth-arab-capital-to-join-the-iranian-revolution">reportedly</a> said: “Three Arab capitals have today ended up in the hands of Iran and belong to the Islamic Iranian revolution.” Sanaa, he went on to claim, was the fourth, now considered well on its way into Tehran’s sphere of influence. While there is ample evidence to suggest a raging <a href="http://www.chathamhouse.org/publication/yemen-and-saudi-iranian-cold-war">proxy war between Riyadh and Tehran in Yemen</a>, how far this is the case on the ground is however questionable. </p> <p><span class="pullquote-right">Historically, the UN left Yemenis to resolve their own problems.</span></p><p><span></span>The Iranians undoubtedly see the current instability as an opportunity to squeeze the Saudis. At the very least they are sending money and at worst they control the Houthis as ‘useful idiots’—as Lenin would have put it—to create problems in Saudi Arabia’s backyard. Far from seeing their ‘bogeyman’ reputation as a disadvantage in international relations, the Iranians like to capitalise on it: if nothing else it permits them to sow confusion in the minds of their opponents.</p> <p>Most comment so far about Iran’s role, typifying popular media tropes of antagonism and belligerence, has however come from Arab and Sunni-ruled states. And Iran is a very convenient country to blame for everything, even though a lot of the trouble can be traced to indigenous roots. Nevertheless, it has stepped up involvement in capacity-building programmes for youth and women’s groups and covertly supplied arms to the Houthis in northern Yemen.</p> <h2><em>Realpolitik</em><em></em></h2> <p>We must, therefore, be careful when assessing the prospects for sectarian conflict in the Middle East, particularly since religious motivation is not such a clear-cut influence on state behaviour in the region. In a world where <em>Realpolitik</em> rules supreme, Iran will do whatever it takes to preserve its position as a regional power and will, therefore, seek to weaken potential opponents by subterfuge and intrigue, undermining their credibility on the world stage. </p> <p>For Saudi Arabia the Yemen conflict continues to raise alarm. But the antagonism between Riyadh and the Houthis is tempered by the reality that Yemen requires money to keep functioning as a viable state—as even the Houthis have recognised in recent weeks.</p> <p>Yemen will continue along its path of instability until a viable process is found to resolve its outstanding problems. The perennial question remains: how should power be distributed fairly in a society wracked by tribalism, religious sectionalism, secessionism, terrorism and regional-power interests?</p><p><a href="https://www.facebook.com/odopensec" target="_blank"><strong>Like us on Facebook</strong></a><strong>&nbsp;to follow the latest openSecurity articles, and tell the editors what we should publish next</strong>.</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="/open-security/aaron-edwards/yemen-descent-into-anarchy">Yemen: descent into anarchy</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/opensecurity/aaron-edwards/yemen-in-frame-again">Yemen in the frame, again</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/opensecurity/aaron-edwards/yemen%E2%80%99s-troubled-transition">Yemen’s troubled transition</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/opensecurity/erwin-van-veen/yemen%E2%80%99s-future-like-tunisia-or-libya">Yemen’s future: like Tunisia or Libya?</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Yemen </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Conflict </div> </div> </div> openSecurity openSecurity Yemen Conflict middle east democracy & power Aaron Edwards Non-state violence Fri, 06 Mar 2015 16:15:28 +0000 Aaron Edwards 91084 at https://opendemocracy.net The English Defence League and the new far-right https://opendemocracy.net/hsiaohung-pai/english-defence-league-and-new-farright <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>A street demo against "Islamisation" shows the potential for the English far-right to regain lost momentum. </p> </div> </div> </div> <p>Britain's political far-right is in its weakest position for twenty years, according to a report by the campaigning anti-racism movement <a href="http://www.hopenothate.org.uk/news/">Hope Not Hate</a>. That may seems obvious to anyone looking at the condition of two recently high-profile far-right groups, the British National Party (BNP) and the English Defence League (EDL). The former suffered an electoral wipe-out in the European elections of May 2014, the latter splintered and weakened after its leader Tommy Robinson’s departure in autumn 2013. But against these trends, there are now worrying signs of resumed momentum on the far-right.&nbsp; <br /><br />In the west midlands town of Dudley over the weekend of 7 February, for instance, more than 1,200 were <a href="http://www.expressandstar.com/news/crime/2015/02/07/thirty-arrests-as-edl-protests-in-dudley/">present</a> at the EDL’s street movement. That's back to the level of the two demos it held here in 2010, and represents its first surge since the stagnation caused by Robinson’s departure. A depressed town abandoned by manufacturing industries, Dudley offers fertile ground for anti-immigrant and anti-Muslim sentiment to breed. In the early 1960s, British Afro-Caribbean residents were the primary target of racism in such areas; since the 1990s, racism's focus has shifted to British Asians, particularly Muslims. <br /><br />This time, the angry EDL demonstrators - most of them from England's midlands and north-east, where the movement is strongest - were here to oppose the building of a mosque. They see this as symbolising the taking-over of their culture and demographic landscape, although the 2011 census finds that of Dudley metropolitan borough's population of over 300,000 (including 80,000 in the town itself), only 4.1% are Muslims. The EDL also talks of “Islamification”, though by far the most numerous religious group in the borough, at 63.5%, identify as Christians. <br /><br />Matters haven’t been helped by sensationalist media reporting of the mosque issue, nor by the fact that UKIP’s Bill Etheridge, MEP for the area, has also opposed it being built. The local <em>Express &amp; Star</em> published a cropped image of the <a href="http://www.expressandstar.com/news/2014/12/03/edl-planning-to-protest-against-dudley-mosque/">proposed</a> mosque without showing the entire plan of the complex. This includes an enterprise and education centre, a community centre, a sports centre and a 120-space two-storey car park. None of the EDL demonstrators consulted had any idea about the full plan for the building. <br /><br />Many on this demo were optimistic about their future street presence. The EDL’s street movement has benefited from the events of 2014 and early 2015: the Trojan Horse investigation into Birmingham's schools, the Rotherham sex-grooming scandal, and new terrorism threats in Europe (highlighted by the <a href="http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-30708237">Paris</a> and <a href="http://www.aljazeera.com/news/2015/02/shots-fired-denmark-cafe-free-speech-event-150214160339729.html">Copenhagen</a> attacks). The coverage of these events in the mainstream media and the political discourse around them has enabled ideas that were propagated by the EDL to become increasingly acceptable in society. The “clash of civilisations” argument, for instance, has dominated mainstream coverage of the <em>Charlie Hebdo</em> debate, and the "religion-radicalisation" narrative is also the norm (as in the BBC Panorama programme on "<a href="http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b050nj0z">The Battle for British Islam</a>" in January 2015). These fitted well with the EDL activists in Dudley, who claim that Islam itself is the problem.</p><p><strong>A movement of splinters</strong></p><p>Tommy Robinson told me: “When we were talking about these issues since five years ago, we were shunned and called racists. Now, in the last twelve to eighteen months, they, the politicians and media, are all talking about the same issues…My speech at Oxford Union was very well received… These ideas become more mainstream. People are listening to us now. We’ve been proved right.” </p><p>Robinson has been confident in asserting that the EDL is “a force that isn’t going away”, though he himself publicly quit the group to look for a more <a href="http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-oxfordshire-30224738">respectable</a> platform. Many on the Dudley demo also envisage the street movement growing across the country. An EDL activist from Crewe said he would be interested to see what Pegida UK - taking its name from the German "anti-Islamisation" movement - is doing, and sees the potential of EDL and Pegida UK joining forces. Many like him, many in the EDL see themselves as part of an anti-Muslim movement across Europe in which mainstream political discourse has contributed to reinforcing ideologies propagated by the far-right.</p><p>Pegida UK was set up just a week before EDL’s Dudley march. Ideologically it’s a UK extension of the German far-right <a href="http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/world/pegida-protests-dwindle-but-resentment-against-migrants-persists/article23010756/">movement</a>, based in Dresden where its rallies drew around 25,000 people. However, organisationally there’s no direct connection between the two. A day after the Dudley demo, Pegida UK’s representative Matthew Pope published an online video to explain what the group is about - and so far his is the only face of the group. It plans to hold its first rally in Newcastle on 28 February, with similar events to follow in Birmingham and London. Its Facebook post says: "All are welcome to attend. Let’s show the Islamists we show no fear." </p><p>Tommy Robinson said that the core of the group is “ordinary men and women” who are opposed to “Islamification”, just like the EDL. But behind the façade, EDL activists reveal that some of the splinter groups from the EDL have been organising Pegida UK. In particular, Northwest Infidels and Northeast Infidels, consisting of Loyalists and white supremacists, were formed by regional organisers kicked out by Tommy Robinson. They are now pulling football fans into their ranks, to become Pegida’s foot soldiers.&nbsp; Other splinter groups like the English Volunteer Force and South East Alliance are also getting involved. </p><p>“They’re basically providing the venue for people to flock to”, a London-based EDL activist said. “A lot of them are neo-Nazis. They’re fed up with Muslims and they are against all Muslims. But to be honest, their ideas, a lot of them, are respected by mainstream society…”</p><p>“As white Europeans, they’re joining in the Europe-wide movement against Islamification”, he said. “It’s easier for English anti-jihadists to go to work in Germany because they don’t have cameras on every street corner like we do…That’s why Pegida UK organisers have been operating underground, and they’ll remain off the radar. All by Facebook and PO box.”</p><p>It looks like Pegida UK will be a loose aggregate of far-right sympathisers, EDL’s splinter groups and remnants of white-power groups. Tommy Robinson has seen the growth of these nuclei in the past two years. “Since I left, these splinter groups are very active and have developed…,” he said, “There are young kids who come through the EDL and get radicalised in these further right groups. I see the splinter groups as a problem. They’re around the EDL and they are trying to pull people out, to their side.” He showed me a picture of a young boy with a Nazi salute. He knew this boy three years ago - he has joined Northwest Infidels after hanging around them for all that time.</p><p>The mushrooming of these splinters continues to challenge the EDL. “The divide within the EDL is to do with regions…It’s to do with the regional organisers”, said Robinson. “For instance, Paul Pitt, from South East Alliance, he was the regional organiser for Essex. When I kicked him out, some of the people went with him which gave him a support base. The same is happening with Yorkshire…They’re kicking out the organiser for what she said and done [a reference to Gail Speight, found guilty of charity theft]…but the loyal friends and people she’s had around her for four-five years will stay with her. Then what she’ll do is join the local splinter group, Northwest Infidels, bringing her people and bringing up their number. You say EDL are anti-Muslim. Their rhetoric is anti-non-white.” </p><p>The real face of Pegida UK remains to be unveiled. But the estimated few hundred are organising and aiming to draw thousands into its new movement, and they will bring fear and violence to communities wherever they visit. <br /><br /></p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-read-on"> <div class="field-label"> 'Read On' Sidebox:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p><a href="http://www.hopenothate.org.uk/">Hope Not Hate</a></p><p><a href="http://hsiaohung.squarespace.com/">Hsiao-Hung Pai</a>, "<a href="http://www.buzzfeed.com/hsiaohungpai/the-edl-member-who-turned-his-back-on-far-right-politics">The EDL Member Who Turned His Back On Far-Right Politics</a>" (<em>Buzzfeed</em>, 17 December 2014)</p><p><span class="st"><a href="http://www.demos.co.uk/publications/insidetheedl"><em>Inside the EDL</em></a> (Demos, 2011)</span></p><p>Daniel Trilling, <span class="st"><em><a href="http://www.versobooks.com/books/1417-bloody-nasty-people">Bloody Nasty People: The Rise of Britain's Far Right</a> </em>(Verso, 2013)</span></p> </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/hsiao-hung-pai/chinese-women-migrants-hardest-job">Chinese women migrants: the hardest job</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/hsiao-hung-pai/china-view-from-ground">China, the view from the ground</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/hsiao-hung-pai/breaking-rule-partners-under-pressure">A breaking rule: partners under pressure </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/article/people/chinese-migrant-workers-lives-in-shadow">Chinese migrant workers: lives in shadow </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> </div> Civil society democracy & power europe & islam Hsiao-Hung Pai Tue, 17 Feb 2015 19:34:43 +0000 Hsiao-Hung Pai 90616 at https://opendemocracy.net Libya’s downward spiral https://opendemocracy.net/alison-pargeter/libya%E2%80%99s-downward-spiral <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Libya after the Qadhafi regime is witnessing a complex array of struggles in which ambitions for power, claims to legitimacy, the taint of the past, and ownership of the 2011 revolution are among the key dividing lines.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p>The uprisings in Benghazi that sparked the fall of the Qadhafi regime began on 15 February 2011. Four years on from that euphoric time, few could have predicted just how bad things in Libya would become. While the challenges facing the country as it embarked upon the transition from authoritarianism to modern state were evident right from the start, the extent of Libya’s descent into the abyss has still been shocking. </p><p>After four years, the country is riven with competing armed factions and militias that are still fighting over the spoils of war; the political scene is so fractured that there are currently two competing administrations, one in Tripoli and the other in the east of the <a href="http://go.hrw.com/atlas/norm_htm/libya.htm">country</a>, each convinced of its own legitimacy; and militants linked to Islamic State are taking advantage of the lawlessness to implant themselves, including in the capital. </p><p>On the economic front, the situation isn't much better. Despite its enormous oil reserves, the energy sector has been so fraught with <a href="http://www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2015/02/the-battle-for-libyas-oil/385285/">disruptions</a> that the country is hurtling headfirst into financial disaster. The old joke that used to do the rounds when Qadhafi was in power -&nbsp; that when weapons inspectors came to Libya they didn’t find weapons of mass destruction, only mass destruction - seems poignantly more apt than ever.&nbsp; </p><p>Not that there aren’t glimmers of hope. The United Nations-sponsored peace talks that kicked off in Geneva in mid-January are certainly a <a href="http://unsmil.unmissions.org/Default.aspx?tabid=3543&amp;ctl=Details&amp;mid=6187&amp;ItemID=2000313&amp;language=en-US">positive</a> development. Even though one of the key actors - the rump General National Congress - has only just agreed to join the dialogue, and some of the most powerful armed groups operating on the ground remain opposed to the process, the coming together of the participants in these talks is the first sign in a long time that some sort of compromise, however tenuous, may just be possible. </p><p>Yet while the Geneva talks may give rise to a political solution of sorts, such as the formation of a national unity government, they are not going to solve the bigger problems that continue to hamper the country and hinder its <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/alison-pargeter/libya-hard-road-ahead">transition</a>. These problems require a far bigger set of compromises, and a shift in mentality, that will be even harder to achieve but that are essential if the country is ever to get back on its feet.&nbsp; </p><p><strong>Still in revolutionary mode</strong></p><p>Perhaps the biggest obstacle to real change is the fact that <a href="http://www.cambridge.org/gb/academic/subjects/history/middle-east-history/history-modern-libya-2nd-edition?format=PB">Libya</a> still hasn’t moved beyond its revolution. Or, more accurately, there is still a battle going on between those for whom the revolution finished with the fall of Qadhafi and those who believe the job has yet to be completed. The latter camp <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/alison-pargeter/libya-and-islamism-deeper-story">comprises</a> Islamists and those dubbed "revolutionaries": they range from members of Islamist political parties such as the Muslim Brotherhood’s Justice and Construction Party (JCP), former jihadists turned politicians, and fighters who make up the hotchpotch assortment of Islamist brigades and militias that are operating on the ground. It also includes revolutionary <a href="http://elpais.com/elpais/2015/01/20/inenglish/1421760231_731156.html">fighters</a> from Misrata and other allied towns, who may not all share the same ideological outlook as the Islamists but who have made common cause with them nonetheless. </p><p>Those who make up this camp are still in revolutionary mode, believing that nothing short of a total rupture with the past will constitute the completion of the revolution. This group has worked hard since the fall of the former regime to wipe the vestiges of the past off the political map. It was the Islamists and revolutionaries who in May 2013 forced the <a href="http://www.mei.edu/content/libyas-political-isolation-law-politics-and-justice-or-politics-justice">passing</a> of the Political Exclusion Law, a draconian piece of legislation barring anyone with the slightest links to the former regime from holding public office (see "<a href="http://english.dohainstitute.org/release/63d2fbb6-0ea5-486b-b8c7-4695f23fab1d">Insiders and Outsiders in the New Libya</a>", <em>Arab Center for Research and Policy Studies</em>, 1 June 2014).</p><p>However, this camp has come increasingly to adopt a narrative depicting all its opponents as <em>Azlam Qadhafi</em> (Qadhafi’s men), whether they be political figures who defected from the Qadhafi regime to join the revolution, or those armed brigades on the ground who may have fought hard against the former regime but whose ideological or political affiliation does not <a href="http://www.atlanticcouncil.org/blogs/menasource/the-questionable-campaign-behind-libya-s-political-isolation-law">tally</a> with their own. As the well-known Misratan revolutionary leader, Abdulrahman Al-Suwheili declared recently: “Our revolution has been led from the start by renegades from the Qadhafi regime. They only wanted to implement limited reforms, but we wanted to change things completely and create a new Libya.” </p><p>Chief among the accused, however, is General Khalifa Hafter, who is leading a military <a href="http://www.nybooks.com/articles/archives/2015/feb/19/libya-against-itself/">campaign</a> against Islamist militants in Benghazi and beyond. Despite the fact that Hafter defected from Qadhafi’s military in the 1980s and spent years in exile in the United States, he and his followers are still castigated as Azlam Qadhafi by their opponents. Part of the hostility towards Hafter derives from the fact that he has achieved some real success against Islamist militants in Benghazi. However it is also driven by a real fear inside Libya that <a href="http://edition.cnn.com/2011/WORLD/africa/04/04/libya.rebel.leader/">Hafter</a> is Libya’s version of the Egyptian president, Abdulfattah Al-Sissi, and that he is intent on eliminating Islamists and seizing power himself. It is notable that the Islamists’ rhetoric regarding the forces of the past ratcheted up several notches following the overthrow of Mohamed Morsi in Egypt. Thus the Islamist camp has been at pains to portray Hafter as the personification of the counter-revolution and as a kind of re-embodiment of the past. As the head of the Misrata Shura Council, Suleiman Al-Faqih, asserted in March 2014, there was “no difference between Hafter and Qadhafi, and maybe Hafter is worse than Qadhafi.”&nbsp; </p><p>While the discourse adopted by the Islamist and revolutionary camp reflects a genuine desire to achieve a complete break from a regime that was brutal and extreme even by regional standards, it is also a result of the fact that the only legitimacy this camp can lay claim to is a revolutionary one. Having achieved limited success in the three nationwide elections <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/alison-pargeter/libya-tests-of-renewal">held</a> since the fall of the former regime, the Islamists and their revolutionary backers on the ground have taken to positing themselves as defenders of the revolution and guardians of the country’s Islamic identity, as if the two are inextricably intertwined. They have promoted the notion of "true revolutionaries" who are imbued with a kind of moral purity that stands in contrast to those who have sullied the revolution with their connections to the past, however slight these connections might be. Hence as they <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2014/08/25/world/africa/libyan-unrest.html?_r=0">drove</a> their Zintani opponents out of the capital in summer 2014, the Misratan and Islamist brigades, which came together under the loose umbrella of Operation Libya Dawn, portrayed the fight as a battle to take the revolution to its ultimate conclusion, ridding Tripoli of counter-revolutionaries and Qadhafi loyalists (see "<a href="http://studies.aljazeera.net/en/reports/2014/08/201482695235305911.htm">Libya: the politics of revenge</a>", <em>Al-Jazeera Centre for Studies</em>, 26 August 2014). </p><p><strong>The terrorist label</strong></p><p>Yet the Islamists and their allies are not the only camp to have adopted a narrow and simplistic narrative to denigrate their adverarsies. The opposing camp - the so-called liberal current that comprises a mix of political parties and <a href="http://english.alarabiya.net/en/perspective/alarabiya-studies/2014/08/25/Libyan-Dawn-Map-of-allies-and-enemies.html">groupings</a> as well as federalists and some eastern tribes and that is represented by the House of Representatives - has no compunction about lumping their opponents together and dismissing them all as “terrorists”. Referring to Operation Libya Dawn, prime minister Abdullah Al-Thinni of the Al-Baida-based <a href="http://www.enca.com/tripoli-under-militia-control-chaos-deepens">government</a> repeatedly declared that he would not have any dialogue with those “terrorist groups” that had tried to steal power in Tripoli. Likewise, all threats by Hafter and his forces to take the battle to the capital are couched in terms of liberating the west of the country from the clutches of terrorist groups. </p><p>It has inadvertently been made a whole lot easier for these forces to dismiss their opponents as terrorists. The dominant group within the Islamist camp are the militants rather than the moderates and it is those of a more extreme bent who hold greatest sway, including arguably in the political context. The Libyan Muslim Brotherhood has never been able to achieve any real <a href="http://foreignpolicy.com/2014/05/01/libyas-muslim-brotherhood-struggles-to-grow/">foothold</a> in Libya and more extremist groups and elements have always proved more successful, even during Qadhafi’s time. Indeed, the extremity of the Qadhafi regime seemed to breed an extreme response, as evidenced by the scores of hardline Islamist militants who led the fight to topple the mercurial dictator. Even Libya’s Grand Mufti, Sheikh Sadiq Al-Gharianni, sits at the ultra-conservative <a href="http://lyvoices.org/the-grand-muftis-rise-to-controversy/">end</a> of the spectrum, giving the country one of the most extreme official religious establishments anywhere in the region. Thus <em>jihadists</em> and former <em>jihadists</em>, including those from the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group (LIFG), have been right at the fore of the political <a href="http://www.globalsecurity.org/military/world/libya/politics.htm">scene</a> in post-Qadhafi Libya. </p><p>In addition, the political Islamist camp as a whole has been more than willing to support Islamist <a href="http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-middle-east-19744533">brigades</a> on the ground, including those that are extremist in orientation. This includes brigades such as the Libya Revolutionaries Operations Chamber that is led by militant preacher, Hadia Shaban and that was responsible for kidnapping former prime minister, Ali Zeidan in October 2013; the Libya Shield One Brigade that opened fire on unarmed protestors who were demanding its dissolution on what became <a href="http://www.hrw.org/news/2013/06/13/libya-no-impunity-black-saturday-benghazi-deaths">known</a> as "black Saturday" in June 2013; and even Ansar Al-Sharia, which has groups in Benghazi, Derna and Sirte and that is accused of being behind the string of assassinations of security personnel in Benghazi that blighted the country’s second city for months. The prime minister of the Tripoli-based government, Omar Al-Hassi, <a href="http://www.libyaherald.com/2014/11/18/omar-al-hassi-in-beautiful-ansar-row-while-100-gnc-members-meet/#axzz3RGqgP9Tv">described</a> Ansar Al-Sharia in November 2014 as “simple, beautiful and amiable” </p><p>Furthermore, while some of the Misratan brigades and forces are not Islamist in orientation - their alliance with the Islamist camp rooted in their desire to extend their power - many still consider Hafter and his camp to be more of a problem than militant groups such as Ansar Al-Sharia. As the head of one Misratan television station expressed things, “This is about priorities: we first have to defeat Haftar and then get rid of Ansar al-Sharia.” Likewise Misratan MP Fathi Bashaga, who is taking part in the Geneva talks, told the media that the danger posed by Ansar Al-Sharia is “greatly exaggerated” and that the militancy that has taken hold in Derna, where groups linked to Islamic State are now flourishing, “is something that we’ll deal with later on.” Thus for these elements anyone connected to the former regime is a more pressing concern than those the international community has castigated as terrorist entities. </p><p>All these factors make it easier for the opposing side to castigate the forces that make up Operation Libya Dawn as Islamist militants despite the fact that in reality they represent an array of different interests and ideological persuasions. </p><p><strong>Failed politics</strong></p><p>Libya is therefore now polarised between these two competing camps - however fluid and disjointed the camps may be - and both sides are relying on reductive narratives to justify what is essentially a struggle for power and control in which neither side is strong enough to defeat the other. Indeed, one of the reasons why participants were finally persuaded to attend the Geneva peace talks was because the military battle had all but reached a stalemate and neither side had the capacity to extend the battle beyond their own sphere of influence.&nbsp;&nbsp; </p><p>That post-Qadhafi Libya should have descended to such lows is perhaps unsurprising. Having lived through four decades of a regime that banned all political activism outside of Qadhafi’s <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/article/libya-s-regime-at-40-a-state-of-kleptocracy">bizarre</a> <em>Jamahiriyah</em> [State of the Masses], the country has yet to learn how to do politics. When the Qadhafi regime fell, what emerged out of the enormous void that opened up has been a politics that is dominated by what are effectively "small gangs", whether they be tribal, regional or ideological, whose primary aim is to further their own localised or sometimes personal interests. Comments made in January by the oil minister in Tripoli’s National Salvation Government, Mashallah Zwai, are a case in point. Zwai threatened: "If they [the Al-Thinni government] want partition I have a clear message: we the Zwaiya tribe own all oil ports and resources (in the east) which we won't allow to get broken up." </p><p>The situation has been made worse by the lingering suspicion of political parties. Only 80 of the 200 seats in the General National Congress were allocated for political parties and by the time of the elections to its successor, the House of Representatives in June 2014, Libya’s political elite had ruled that every candidate must stand as an individual not as a party. This has left these institutions operating more like <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/igor-cherstich/libyas-revolution-tribe-nation-politics">tribal</a> gatherings than modern political legislatures. </p><p>Meanwhile, the <a href="http://www.un.org/depts/Cartographic/map/profile/libya.pdf">country’s</a> institutions have become little more than political footballs in the battle between the two opposing camps. The central bank, the National Oil Corporation, the judiciary, the presidency of the army and the official religious establishment are all at the centre of the ongoing competition for power between the two dominant currents and have been pulled in both directions and forced to make choices between the two. </p><p>Without robust institutions and the building of a real political culture then the danger for Libya is that revolutionary legitimacy will continue to<a href="http://america.aljazeera.com/opinions/2014/7/libya-council-ofdeputieselectionsislamistssecuritybenghazi.html"> trump</a> electoral legitimacy, meaning that the political establishment will remain at the mercy of the powers on the ground.</p><p>This means that the country will either continue to limp along in its current sorry state, or more likely, will descend into further chaos and violence, leaving ordinary Libyans despairing about what went wrong (see <a href="http://yalebooks.co.uk/display.asp?K=9780300139327"><span><span><em>Libya: The Rise and Fall of Qaddafi</em></span></span></a>&nbsp;[Yale University Press, 2012]). </p><p>The real irony of all this, however, is that while the various competing factions continue to argue about who is a true revolutionary and who is tainted by the former <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/article/libya-s-regime-at-40-a-state-of-kleptocracy">regime</a>, those who could be truly described as Qadhafi’s men, namely those who made up the bulk of the regime’s security apparatus, are sitting on the sidelines, refusing to get involved. This includes some of the country’s most important tribes - the Werfella, the Miqraha and the Qadhadhfa. Although Hafter has tried to bring these tribes on side, so far they have resisted. Indeed, these tribes and the areas associated with them are still bitter about the whole revolutionary experience, believing themselves to have been unfairly scapegoated for their associations with the former regime. Yet these tribes represent a hugely important component in Libya and their absence not only from the Geneva peace <a href="http://unsmil.unmissions.org/Default.aspx?tabid=3559">process</a> but from the entire political scene demonstrates just how far Libya still has to go in order to pull itself out of the crisis. If it is to move beyond the revolution, Libya needs to engage in a comprehensive national-reconciliation programme that brings in those from all sides and that can truly draw a line under the past. </p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-read-on"> <div class="field-label"> 'Read On' Sidebox:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Alison Pargeter, <a href="http://yalebooks.co.uk/display.asp?K=9780300139327"><span><span><em>Libya: The Rise and Fall of Qaddafi</em></span></span></a><a id="link9" title=" The Rise and Fall of Qaddafi" rel="nofollow" href="http://archive.wikiwix.com/opendemocracy/?url=http://yalebooks.co.uk/display.asp?K=9780300139327&amp;title=Libya%3A%20The%20Rise%20and%20Fall%20of%20Qaddafi"><span><span><em>↑</em></span></span></a><em> </em>(Yale University Press, 2012)</p><p>Peter Cole &amp; Brian McQuinn eds., <a href="http://www.britishinfluence.org/"><em>The Libyan Revolution and its Aftermath</em></a> (C Hurst, 2015)</p> <p>Alison Pargeter, <a href="http://www.saqibooks.com/saqi/display.asp?ISB=9780863564758&amp;TAG=&amp;CID%20"><em><span><span>The Muslim Brotherhood: The Burden of Tradition</span></span></em></a> (Saqi, 2010)</p> <p><em><a href="http://www.tripolipost.com/index.asp"><span><span>The Tripoli Post</span></span></a></em></p> <p><a href="http://www.merip.org/index.html"><span><span>Middle East Research and Information Project (MERIP)</span></span></a></p> <p><em><a href="http://www.libyaherald.com/"><span><span>Libya Herald</span></span></a></em></p> <p><em><em><a href="http://www.foreignpolicy.com/"><em><span><span>Foreign Policy</span></span></em></a></em></em></p> <div>Dirk Vandewalle, <em><a href="https://www.cambridge.org/us/catalogue/catalogue.asp?isbn=9780521615549"><span><span>A History of Modern Libya</span></span></a></em> (Cambridge University Press, 2005)&nbsp;</div> <div> <p><a href="http://www.africa-confidential.com/news"><em><span><span>Africa Confidential</span></span></em></a></p> <p>Hisham Matar, <em><a href="http://www.penguin.co.uk/nf/Book/BookDisplay/0,,9780141027036,00.html"><span><span>In the Country of Men</span></span></a></em> (Penguin, 2007)</p> <p>Luis Martinez, <em><a href="http://cup.columbia.edu/book/978-0-231-70021-4/the-libyan-paradox/excerpt"><span><span>The Libyan Paradox</span></span></a></em> (Columbia University Press, 2007)</p></div> </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/alison-pargeter/libya-hard-road-ahead">Libya: a hard road ahead </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/article/libya-s-regime-at-40-a-state-of-kleptocracy">Libya’s regime at 40: a state of kleptocracy </a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/vicken-cheterian/libya-oil-state-and-revolution">Libya: oil, the state and the revolution</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/alison-pargeter/libya-tests-of-renewal">Libya: tests of renewal </a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/mark-taylor/libyas-challenge-democracy-under-gun">Libya&#039;s challenge: democracy under the gun</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/godfrey-hodgson/libya-arab-democracy-and-western-policy">Libya, Arab democracy, and western policy</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/paul-rogers/libyas-war-historys-shadow">Libya&#039;s war, history&#039;s shadow </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/paul-rogers/libya-and-decisive-moment">Libya, and the decisive moment </a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/martin-shaw/libya-popular-revolt-military-intervention">Libya: popular revolt, military intervention </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/igor-cherstich/libyas-revolution-tribe-nation-politics">Libya&#039;s revolution: tribe, nation, politics </a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/alison-pargeter/libya-and-islamism-deeper-story">Libya and Islamism: the deeper story </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"> Libya </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> International politics </div> </div> </div> Arab Awakening Libya International politics democracy & power Alison Pargeter Mon, 09 Feb 2015 17:32:43 +0000 Alison Pargeter 90351 at https://opendemocracy.net The road to hell is paved with rapid reactions https://opendemocracy.net/can-europe-make-it/shahrbanou-tadjbakhsh/road-to-hell-is-paved-with-rapid-reactions <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>In the wake of a vicious crime, caution and restraint are a virtue. </p> </div> </div> </div> <p>Once upon a time, in the realm of Xanadu, two and a half dim-witted but well-armed, well-funded and well-trained professional criminals committed cold-blooded murder, commando-style. While committing their crime, they uttered two sentences vocally and publically, following their script to a T.</p><p>First they cried/lied: “<em>Allah o Akbar</em>.” Obviously, anyone who takes the sacred life of another human being either does not believe in God, or tries to be God himself, in which case he is a lunatic. But the citizens of Xanadu took their words literally and engaged in virulent debates with each other on religion: whether Islam was inherently violent, Muslims innately intolerant, whether they should live their religion or be amalgamated in western societies. Freedom of religion and belief took a first hit when the criminal terrorists rhymed their lie to the sound of automatic rifle.</p><p>The second sentence they uttered, again publically and caught on tape, was: “We avenged the prophet”. Their second lie about their motivation threw the citizens of Xanadu into a parallel hysterical debate that had been brewing for a while. Half of Xanaduians changed their names to Charlie and berated the non-Charlies for siding with terrorists. While the former equated the murders with an assault on the freedom of speech, the latter regretted the abuse of this freedom for offence, bullying, ridicule and outright racism, without justifying the murders. But by now, the condemnation that had seemed like a bad joke a decade ago, “either you are with us or you are with the terrorists”, had been given a second wind.</p><p>As the populace debated, the terrorists were found and taken out, almost live on TV, by the special forces of Xanadu in an efficient operation that restored faith in the capacity of the state to at least protect. But not before they gave interviews to a TV station during which they propagated their disinformation to a nation frantic for any quick-fix spotlight on their motivations. </p><p>Almost immediately afterwards, millions of people marched in the streets of Xanadu with their pens in the air. Dozens of world leaders did not miss the chance to appear in the front row - some in solidarity, some in guilt, and some in opportunity. The republican march made a lot of people aggrieved or jealous, including on behalf of victims of massive attacks that same week in Nigeria and Yemen. But everyone knows that Xanadu is better served by airlines than Kabul and Karachi, Sanaa and Maiduguri, for god’s sake.&nbsp; </p><p>The reactive debates, my friends, not only puffed up the nerves and boiled the bloods in all camps, they were also the beginning of a long descent into hell for the realm of Xanadu and beyond. The Xanaduians became hardened in their views, talked about revenge and hated more and more. In the next elections, the frightening far-right people came near to winning or even did so. Others became (more) radicalised in their narrow views and actions. The government spent more of that much needed money on fighting the new slick Realm of War, somewhere in the Middle East or in cyberspace, an entity with its stylised logo, uniforms, doctrine, army and harem. At home, police rule was reinforced, civil liberties were curtailed, the internet and the streets patrolled more and more. The once splendid and opulent Xanadu gradually turned into intellectual and cultural ruins.</p><p>Thus, my friends, was how the perpetual wars, perpetual revenge and perpetual hatred became sustained for a good new decade. The terrorist criminals rotted under the earth but those who had funded, trained and armed them laughed quite a lot and high-fived each other. They had gained a lot of bang for their bucks. Everyone had behaved exactly as they were supposed to, as per the original script.</p><p>This is a sad tale of people caught in a cycle of provocations, actions and reactions as if on cue, and who, willing or unwillingly, take humanity down the road of hell when they so eagerly jump into divisive discourses, accusations, counter-accusations and hate speech. Needless to say, the alternative is not to love and forgive the murderers (<em>Duh</em>!). But we don’t really have to use a terror act as an excuse to throw up all our discomforts about coexistence, tolerance, and difference. It is that reaction that terrorists expect from us, that politicians take advantage of, and that binds us in further cycles of mistrust, confusion and ultimately hatred.&nbsp;&nbsp; <br /><br />If we are to look for the "why", we need to be ready to go much deeper than some cartoons and further in history than yesterday. But we are not ready and, most importantly, this is not the time. Cold-blooded, politically motivated murder and terror? We should cry, and leave it at that for now, in the heat of things. For it is that assertion that unites most people in Xanadu and beyond.&nbsp; <br /></p><div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Conflict </div> <div class="field-item even"> International politics </div> </div> </div> Can Europe make it? Can Europe make it? Conflict International politics democracy & power Shahrbanou Tadjbakhsh Charlie Hebdo Tue, 13 Jan 2015 08:27:51 +0000 Shahrbanou Tadjbakhsh 89548 at https://opendemocracy.net China, questions of loyalty https://opendemocracy.net/kerry-brown/china-questions-of-loyalty <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>What determines political survival among China's party elite? Where are the traps that ensnare men like Zhou Yongkang and Ling Jihua? The ambiguities of loyalty are a useful way to bring these questions into focus.&nbsp; </p> </div> </div> </div> <p>John Le Carré's <em>A Perfect Spy</em>, published in 1986, is sometimes praised as the best novel in the English writer's distinguished oeuvre. The story of the secret agent Magnus Pym, and his meltdown after being trapped by conflicting loyalties, captures something of the ambiguity of anyone who trades in intelligence - or, for that matter, in national loyalty and what sort of purchase it has on people. Who, finally, do such people belong to? Who, in the end, do they serve?<br /><br />The novel <a href="http://www.newyorker.com/culture/cultural-comment/best-le-carre-novel">invites</a> readers to think more deeply about what precisely loyalty as a quality is. In what ways can a person's being from a place or part of an organisation mean that allegiance can be demanded of them or a certain mode of behaviour required? Throughout the cold war, many people on either side of the "iron curtain" wrestled with the tensions between ideological and emotional commitment. The more infamous spies followed their ideological bent, largely eschewing whatever emotional pull the country of their birth may have made on them. But even in extreme cases - such as <a href="http://www.bloomsbury.com/uk/a-spy-among-friends-9781408851722/">Kim Philby,</a> the most destructively successful of this generation of agents - the accommodations made were never clean or easy. These individuals lived messy, compromised lives as spies, rendered all the more messy and compromised by where they finally placed their allegiances. Lives of such ambiguity are evidently not happy ones, and need to justify themselves by appealing to higher rewards, more remote returns. </p><p><strong>A hard calculation</strong></p><p>The ambiguities of loyalty, to country or ideology, raise interesting questions when applied to the Communist Party of China (CCP) politicians and members. The <a href="http://www.anthempress.com/friends-and-enemies">party</a> survives, long after that of the Soviet Union imploded, and to a certain extent it has the loyalty of its vast membership. But as the anti-corruption campaign <a href=" echo and portent">continues</a> to seep deeply into the ultra-elite, lapping at the doors of yet more politburo figures, the character if this loyalty - which kind is good, and which counterfeit or inauthentic - becomes more urgent. <br /><br />How is it that Zhou Yongkang, now formally <a href="http://www.economist.com/news/china/21636086-zhou-yongkang-may-well-have-been-corrupt-his-real-problem-was-losing-power-struggle-tiger">charged</a> with corruption, and Ling Jihua, former close aide to ex-president <a href="http://www.worldscientific.com/doi/abs/10.1142/9789814350037_fmatter">Hu Jintao</a>, and now under investigation, have <a href="http://www.scmp.com/news/china/article/1671692/china-removes-ling-jihua-ex-hu-jintao-aide-communist-partys-united-front">fallen</a> on the wrong side of the track - while others also associated with vast amounts of reported corruption, such as former premier Wen Jiabao, or even former politburo member Jia Qinglin, have avoided being this fate? Why was Zhou’s <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/kerry-brown/china-politics-of-corruption">corruption</a> the wrong sort? What made it worth the risk of internal <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/kerry-brown/china-who-is-in-charge">instability</a> and fracture to move against him?<br /><br />At the moment, it's possible only to speculate. Even in an era of new-found transparency, the party's Central Discipline and Inspection Commission (<a href="http://journals.cambridge.org/action/displayAbstract?fromPage=online&amp;aid=9370628">CDIC</a>) is unlikely to put online, Wikileaks-style, the full material incriminating Zhou. If it were to do so, it is unlikely the documents would answer the most fundamental questions. <a href="http://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-china-26349305">Zhou’s</a> peers, his colleagues, people who, in a collective leadership, made decisions with him and stood by him while he was in power, have now decided that in fact, all along, he was not truly "loyal", was not a faithful servant of the party mission, was, in effect, a traitor and a renegade. <br /><br />What is revealed here is that ownership of the party <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/kerry-brown/china-between-self-and-society">mission</a> is the key thing. Somehow, Xi Jinping has been given the authority, or been allowed to claim the authority, to speak of this mission and have a kind of ownership over it. It is now becoming clearer that those that subscribe to Xi's "vision" are regarded as being safe or allies, and that those that are antagonistic towards it need to watch their back. <br /><br /><strong>A complex fidelity</strong><br /><br />Those seeking to understand China's elite politics are still trying to work out how this process happened - how this "gift" for Xi was arranged. Was it through a long process of design, dating back into the 1990s when he may already have been sighted as a future elite leader; or through enough members of the current political elite, active or retired, realising that so great is the moral crisis for the party that without radically cleaning up its act it might risk falling from power? Is it simply because the party has heeded the lessons of the Soviet Union and understood that if it just becomes a prey to business and commercial interests it will collapse, and that it must <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/kerry-brown/weighing-history-in-china">redefine</a> its political principles in the 21st century and outline some core beliefs? <br /><br />Maybe it is a combination of all of these factors. It's tempting to think that the Communist Party of China in the modern era has no beliefs beyond a worship of raw power. But this view doesn’t help explain how and why some in the leadership, like Zhou and Ling, fall foul. Surely the party would then find less public ways of dealing with ill-disciplined members than this unseemly clearing-out? These modern purges indicate something else about what the party as an institution <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/kerry-brown/china-limits-of-exception">thinks</a> the right and wrong sorts of loyalty are, and what worthy objects of these loyalties might be. <br /><br />The complex calculation, where fidelity to the party is also fidelity to a vision of China which <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/kerry-brown/china-party-states-test">links</a> the health and fortunes of the two together, is at the heart of the matter. It is a calculation made every hour and every minute of each day in China. Sometimes it is one that leads to individuals being unceremoniously evicted from the party, and sometimes to them being elevated and strengthened, as in the case of Xi. <br /><br />But if there is one <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/kerry-brown/beijinglondon-in-labyrinth">secret </a>formula that observers are always trying to crack about contemporary China, it is this one. Perhaps in 2015, as the era of Xi unfolds, we will come a little closer to working out just how this modern formula about loyalty and faith works, and how it is regarded as delivering a strong party and a strong country in the 21st century. The task of cracking it is unlikely to be easy, however, especially as so many members right at the heart of the party like Zhou and Ling seem to have failed to have made much headway with it. If they had, they wouldn’t now be in such trouble. </p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-read-on"> <div class="field-label"> 'Read On' Sidebox:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Kerry Brown, <span class="st"><a href="http://www.worldscientific.com/worldscibooks/10.1142/p932"><em>Carnival China</em>: <em>China</em> <em>in the Era of Hu Jintao and Xi Jinping</em></a> (Imperial College Press, 2014) </span></p><p><a href="http://sydney.edu.au/china_studies_centre/"><span><span>China Studies Centre, </span></span></a>University of Sydney</p><p><a href="http://www.euecran.eu/"><span><span>Europe China Research and Advice Network</span></span></a></p> <p>Kerry Brown, <a href="http://www.anthempress.com/friends-and-enemies"><span><span><em>Friends and Enemies: The Past, Present and Future of the Communist Party of China</em> </span></span></a>(Anthem Press, 2009)</p> <p>Kerry Brown, <a href="http://www.worldscientific.com/doi/abs/10.1142/9789814350037_fmatter"><em><span><span>Hu Jintao: China's Silent Ruler</span></span></em></a> (World Scientific, 2012)</p> <p>Kerry Brown, <a href="http://www.zedbooks.co.uk/book.asp?bookdetail=4407" target="_blank"><em><span><span>Ballot Box China: Grassroots Democracy in the Final Major One-Party State</span></span></em></a> (Zed Books, 2011) </p> </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/kerry-brown/china-limits-of-exception">China, the limits of exception</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/kerry-brown/china-19892014-one-womans-story">China, 1989-2014: one woman&#039;s story</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/kerry-brown/weighing-history-in-china">Weighing history in China</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/kerry-brown/chinas-past-chinas-present">China&#039;s past, China&#039;s present</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/kerry-brown/china-between-self-and-society">China, between self and society</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> China </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> International politics </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 3.0 </div> </div> </div> China International politics democracy & power Kerry Brown Thu, 01 Jan 2015 07:54:33 +0000 Kerry Brown 89278 at https://opendemocracy.net Iran vs ISIS, stubborn imperial designs https://opendemocracy.net/hazem-saghieh/iran-vs-isis-stubborn-imperial-designs <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>The conflict of radical<em> Shi'a-Sunni </em>forces is fuelled by unyielding absolutisms that oppose the world's leading trends over the past century. </p> </div> </div> </div> <p>For many years, talk of Iran's greedy ambitions in the Gulf region has been a staple theme of political discourse. Some of the chatter is a hangover from the period before the revolution of 1979. In the early period of his regin, Iran's Shah harboured the delusion that he could replace Britain in the Gulf when the Suez calamity of 1956 accelerated the withdrawal of the old colonial power. The Shah sought to activate his grandiose dreams of regional hegemony when he sent forces to occupy three small islands: Greater and Lesser Tunbs, and Abu Musa. <br /><br />These were meagre gains, and the Shah’s <a href="https://strausscenter.org/hormuz/u-s-iran-relations.html">relationship</a> with the United States - the newly dominant external power - was to keep his imperial objectives in check. At the time, some observers regarded the policy of the Shahenshah ("king of kings") as purely strategic with no other dimensions (cultural, economic, or demographic). Some among America’s critics even called the Iranian ruler's expansionary course “sub-imperialism”, undertaken essentially on behalf of Washington. <br /><br />The same argument, regardless of how accurate it was then, is not applicable to the regime founded by <a href="http://www.iranchamber.com/history/rkhomeini/ayatollah_khomeini.php">Ayatollah Khomeini</a>. It operates on a very different scale; it is driven forward by an ideology that encompasses both heaven and earth, offering absolute certainty to those seeking salvation untainted by doubt; and it has shown itself capable of winning influence and adherents far afield (Yemen, Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, and Gaza). <br /><br />Iran’s Khomeinists chose this approach <a href="http://www.iranchamber.com/history/islamic_revolution/islamic_revolution.php">early</a> on in their rule. They eliminated leading figures of the revolution's initial breakthrough such as Mehdi Bazargan, Ebrahim Yazdi, Sadegh Ghotbzadeh, and Abdol-Hassan Bani-Sadr. Each of these men came in one way or another to realise that the combination of aggrandising <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/article/iran-s-revolution-in-global-history">ambition</a> and epic fantasy was no longer compatible with the contemporary world. <br /><br />After all, the disappearance of the Habsburg and Ottoman empires in the wake of the 1914-18 war taught a lesson to powerful states: the only way to <a href="http://westviewpress.com/books/after-empire/">survive</a> was to trim their territories and enter the modern world in the form of nation-states. It's true that the Russians resisted that reality by reproducing the Tsarist empire in communist form, but after long the demise of communism - and against much greater odds - it seems they are still seeking to oppose the world's main dynamics. <br /><br />So too is the unyielding, radical <em>Shi'a</em> core of Iran's regime. Yet its survival today, and ability to get its way (over defending its ally in <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/vicken-cheterian/syria%E2%80%99s-broken-spring-damascus-report">Damascus</a>, or the emerging dialogue with the United States) is also becoming <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/hazem-saghieh/khomeini-to-is-paths-of-revolution">bound</a> up with an equally absolutist ideology among radical Arab <em>Sunnis</em>. The <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/paul-rogers/islamic-state-vs-its-far-enemy">rise</a> of ISIS, whose aim is to restore the transnational “caliphate” abolished by Kemal Ataturk nearly a century ago, is an expression of this latter phenomenon. ISIS's pursuit of its objective entailed both clashes with most traditional <em>Sunni</em> forces and the snubbing of those local and national causes - such as Palestine and most recently the Syrian <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2014/12/28/world/as-syrias-revolution-sputters-a-chaotic-stalemate.html?_r=0">revolution</a> itself - which for long had preoccupied Arab (and especially <em>Sunni</em>) public opinion.<br /><br /><strong>The nadir of ideology</strong><br /><br />ISIS's origins can in part be traced back to the failure of earlier projects seeking to unite the <a href="http://www.hup.harvard.edu/catalog.php?isbn=9780674058194">Arabs</a>. The tragic climax of those failures came in 1990 when the <em>Sunni</em> Iraqi leader <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/globalization/article_1673.jsp">Saddam Hussein</a> expanded - imperially - into Kuwait in complete disregard for traditional Arab reality and its <a href="http://www.lib.utexas.edu/maps/middle_east_and_asia/txu-oclc-192062619-middle_east_pol_2008.jpg">borders</a>. Saddam in addition threatened western interests, embracing the deranged belief that he could replace the then dying Soviet Union while turning the superpowers' long cold war into a hot war from which he could emerge the triumphant hero of the Arabs. <br /><br />In this larger <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/hazem-saghieh/revolution-in-revolution-century-of-change">scheme</a> of history, it can be said that Tsarism and Stalinism gave birth to Putinism; Shahenshahism to Khomeinism; and Saddamism to ISIS. The difference betwen the first process and the other two, however, is significant. In the Russian case, the hegemonic drive receded after losing its ideological (communist) component; in the <em>Sh'ia</em> and <em>Sunni</em> cases, this ideological ingredient became maximalised. <br /><br />Today, it is obvious that Iran, in its core statehood, has immeasurably better odds than ISIS. Tehran is bargaining with the world using real cards, including its ability to stand alongside the same world powers which are fighting ISIS; by comparison, the cards wielded by <a href="http://www.bbc.com/news/world-middle-east-28560449">Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi’s</a> organisation (the 9/11 legacy, beheadings, extermination of minorities) are reactive and negative. Each side, however, in its own way is trying to halt the dominant <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/arab-awakening/hazem-saghieh/great-unravelling-and-new-map">trends</a> in the world since 1918.&nbsp; <br /><br />The ability of such counter-forces, Russian as well as radical <em>Shi'a</em> and <em>Sunni</em>, to gather some support must be recognised. Disenfranchisement in the modern world contributes to stubborn resistance which can be given shape by a precursory ideological lexicon rife with victimisation, self-righteousness, dreams of glory, and constructed "authenticity". The history of the larger Middle East is a rich source of inspiration for those willing to march forward to total nihilism and self-annihilation. <br /><br /></p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-read-on"> <div class="field-label"> 'Read On' Sidebox:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Albert Hourani, <a href="http://www.hup.harvard.edu/catalog/HOUHIR.html?show=reviews"><em>A History of the Arab Peoples</em></a> (Harvard University Press, 2003)</p><p><a href="http://www.merip.org/">Middle East Research and Information Project (Merip)</a></p><p>Sami Zubaida, <a href="http://www.ibtauris.com/Books/Humanities/History/Regional%20%20national%20history/Asian%20history/Middle%20Eastern%20history/Beyond%20Islam%20A%20New%20Understanding%20of%20the%20Middle%20East.aspx"><em>Beyond Islam: A New Understanding of the Middle East</em></a><em>&nbsp;</em>(IB Tauris, 2011)</p> </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/hazem-saghieh/khomeini-to-is-paths-of-revolution">Khomeini to IS: paths of revolution</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/hazem-saghieh/military-and-islamist-failure-what-next">Military and Islamist failure: what next? </a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/hazem-saghieh/arabs-without-capitals">Arabs without capitals</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/hazem-saghieh/arab-revolutions-end-to-dogma">The Arab revolutions: an end to dogma </a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/hazem-saghieh/islamism-vs-weak-arab-nations">Islamism vs the weak Arab nations</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/hazem-saghieh/critique-of-arab-critique">A critique of Arab critique</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/hazem-saghieh/islamists-without-book">Islamists without a book</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/arab-awakening/hazem-saghieh/great-unravelling-and-new-map">A great unravelling, and a new map</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Conflict </div> <div class="field-item even"> Democracy and government </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 3.0 </div> </div> </div> Democracy and government Conflict democracy & power Hazem Saghieh Mon, 29 Dec 2014 06:29:43 +0000 Hazem Saghieh 89225 at https://opendemocracy.net A war of new connections https://opendemocracy.net/open-security/paul-rogers/war-of-new-connections <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>The close links between American surveillance of Africa and military facilities in England are revealed by campaigners working for non-violent social change. </p> </div> </div> </div> <p>The kidnapping of nearly 300 schoolgirls in April 2014 by the Boko Haram movement in the town of Chibok, northeast Nigeria produced a strong reaction in the western media. Since that incident, and despite the lack of progress in recovering the girls, interest in their fate and the wider Boko Haram campaign has subsided. This withering of coverage, however, gives a misleading impression of the status of the Islamist movement. </p><p>The city of Maiduguri remains at the centre of an <a href="http://edition.cnn.com/2014/04/17/world/africa/boko-haram-explainer/">insurgency</a> that has proved impossible to control, though there have been many violent and costly attempts by the Nigerian security forces to do so. On 19 December, another 185 people were <a href="http://bigstory.ap.org/article/c2c261a539d94ce6b3b3c520b0798aeb/suspected-islamic-extremists-kidnap-185-northeast-nigeria">kidnapped</a> and thirty-five killed&nbsp;&nbsp; This is but one incident that is spreading alarm among the security elites of the United States, France and Britain about the growth of Islamist paramilitaries both in northern Nigeria and the wider Sahel region. Across a range of countries - Libya, Mali, Niger, Nigeria, Somalia and Kenya - Islamist <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/paul-rogers/al-qaida-multiform-idea">movements</a> are on the rise.</p><p>Even the rare glimmers of light amid a cloudy deteriorating security situation can be double-edged. The <a href="http://www.janes.com/article/46631/china-sends-19th-naval-escort-piracy-task-force-to-somalia">arrival</a> of China’s nineteenth naval-escort task-force near the Gulf of Aden to join the international anti-piracy action is an example. China has played a role in the joint naval operations for more than a year, a welcome instance of state cooperation at a time when many anti-piracy forces are operated by private-maritime security companies (see "<a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/paul-rogers/gunship-archipelago">The gunship archipelago</a>", 17 December 2014). Yet China’s contribution can also be seen as an opportunity to increase still further its own <a href="http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2014/08/04/u-s-china-compete-to-woo-africa/">influence</a> in sub-Saharan Africa, in a way that adds to the west's worries. </p><p><strong>A persistent campaign</strong></p><p>Both immediate threats (such as Islamist movements) and longer-term <a href="http://foreignpolicy.com/2014/11/13/china-and-the-united-states-are-preparing-for-war/">rivalries</a> (such as with China) lead the United States's security agencies in particular to the same conclusion: the need to expand their military <a href="http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/worldviews/wp/2014/05/21/map-the-u-s-currently-has-troops-in-these-african-countries/">involvement</a> in the continent. As a priority this means more wide-ranging and effective intelligence-gathering, with an emphasis on signals intelligence that can soak up <a href="https://www.eff.org/nsa-spying">immense</a> amounts of data.</p><p>The <a href="http://www.theguardian.com/us-news/the-nsa-files">revelations</a> of Edward Snowden have drawn attention to the extraordinary level of surveillance possible right across civil society. The latest African developments reveal an extra twist, namely a very substantial increase in activity by US intelligence agencies in Britain. The main focus will not be the established base at <a href="http://www.raf.mod.uk/organisation/rafmenwithhill.cfm">RAF Menwith Hill</a> in north Yorkshire, but - after a rapid expansion - RAF Croughton, close to the M40 motorway a few miles north of Oxford.</p><p>Menwith Hill first came to prominence in 1984 with the publication of Duncan Campbell’s <a href="http://www.duncancampbell.org/content/unsinkable-aircraft-carrier-american-military-power-britain"><em>The Unsinkable Aircraft Carrier.</em></a>&nbsp; More recently, a great deal of new information has emerged thanks to the remarkable persistence of a small group of peace campaigners in the <a href="http://www.caab.org.uk/">Campaign for the Accountability of American Bases</a>. Note the title - this is primarily about accountability, a concern that stems from the profound <a href="http://www.stripes.com/news/mysterious-menwith-hill-nothing-to-see-here-1.235153">secrecy</a> that for so long surrounded the activities of Menwith Hill and other sites, some of which actually increased rather than diminished in size after the end of the cold war.</p><p>CAAB has proved to be a remarkably resilient movement. Its activities have been widely covered both in <a href="http://peacenews.info/taxonomy/term/1454"><em>Peace News</em></a>&nbsp; and on Its own website, which is a real mine of information. Much of its persistence has been exemplified by Lindis Percy and, as long as her health allowed, Anni Rainbow; over more than twenty years their determination, along with others', has been exceptional.&nbsp; </p><p>CAAB's work in non-violent social change is given its due in a marvellously revealing account by Margaret Nunnerley - <a href="http://www.ypdbooks.com/history/1073-surveillance-secrecy-and-sovereignty-how-a-peace-campaign-challenged-the-activities-of-a-us-base-in-britain-YPD01004.html "><em>Surveillance, Secrecy and Sovereignty</em></a>. Its <a href="expansion of US intelligence facilities in Britain">publisher</a> notes that the book:</p><p>“explores the range of issues raised by the campaign, which are of particular relevance today. In particular it examines the use of the base for US military Intelligence gathering and the lack of effective parliamentary oversight of its functions, with the subsequent deficit in democratic accountability. It also examines in detail the important challenges through the courts employed by the campaigners, what they revealed about the methods used by police and courts in responding to peaceful, lawful protest, and the implications for civil liberties in Britain today.”</p><p>Since the book was published in spring 2014, much of CAAB’s concern has been with the developments at Croughton, long known to be linked to Menwith Hill but now in line for a building programme that could see it match the latter's size. In its present form it is clearly visible from the busy A43, with the usual radomes and assorted aerials, although far smaller than the more remote Menwith Hill base in the Yorkshire Dales.&nbsp;&nbsp; </p><p>That is now set to change as <a href="http://www.militaryinstallations.dod.mil/pls/psgprod/f?p=132:CONTENT:0::NO::P4_INST_ID,P4_INST_TYPE:8,INSTALLATION">Croughton</a> benefits from a construction budget of over $181 million ($93 million in fiscal year 2015, already underway), and from the upgrading of a satellite station at RAF Barford St John. The latter, seven miles to the west of Croughton and currently marked on ordnance-survey maps as a “wireless station”, will see its many odd-shaped aerials (reported to be obsolete) replaced by state-of-the-art equipment.</p><p><strong>A single field</strong></p><p>There is real connection to Africa in these developments, in that the expansion of US intelligence facilities in Britain (much of it barely reported) is part of a process of upgrading capabilities to meet the perceived threat to western interests in Africa.&nbsp; CAAB’s website currently shows this by providing a link to the US airforce’s "justification data" submitted to the US Congress earlier in 2014 in support of its military-construction <a href="http://www.saffm.hq.af.mil/shared/media/document/AFD-140310-043.pdf ">programme</a> for FY 2015,&nbsp;&nbsp;</p><p>The data says, on page 107: </p><p>"This project is required to provide a purpose-built Joint Intelligence Analysis and Production Complex which recapitalizes and consolidates all RAF Molesworth (RAFM) Intelligence operations and missions in support of USEUCOM and US African Command (USAFRICOM)."</p><p>If the finance is not forthcoming, the justification data, on page 108, states:</p><p>"Severe facility shortfalls and dispersion will continue to constrain USEUCOM JAC and USAFRICOM J2-M ability to provide responsive and agile intelligence in support of their respective Combatant Commanders."</p><p>A rare <a href="http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/washington-spends-200m-creating-intelligence-hub-in-britain-9391406.html ">report</a> in the UK media says the current Croughton expansion will eventually cost well over $300 million. Many people will have little problem with this because of the perceived threat from terrorism, but the points that the CAAB campaigners constantly make are the lack of transparency and public accountability. Without the persistence of Lindis Percy and the small CAAB community, very little would have entered the public domain. The deaths and counter-effects from the use of armed drones, let alone the recent revelations over rendition and torture, show just how unhealthy and damaging secrecy can be.</p><p>This makes <a href="http://www.ypdbooks.com/466_margaret-nunnerley">Margaret Nunnerley’s</a> book so timely.&nbsp; When it was published I wrote:</p><p>“Since CAAB was established twenty years ago we have seen...a remarkably increased capacity for those in authority to monitor the activities of civil society, not least of campaigners. At anytime this thoughtful and carefully researched book would have been a very valuable contribution but that last aspect makes it especially salient.” </p><p>The expansion now imminent at Croughton, and its relationship to one of the main new phases of the protracted war on terror, makes the point even more salient. The war is connecting dots across the world's map and bringing them closer to each other than ever before.</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-read-on"> <div class="field-label"> 'Read On' Sidebox:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p> <a href="http://www.brad.ac.uk/peace/index.php"><span><span>Department of peace studies, Bradford University</span></span></a></p><p><a href="http://remotecontrolproject.org/">Remote Control Project</a></p><p><a href="http://www.oxfordresearchgroup.org.uk/">Oxford Research Group</a></p><p><a href="http://www.brad.ac.uk/peace/index.php">Paul Rogers, </a><em><a href="http://www.plutobooks.com/display.asp?K=9780745329376&amp;" target="_blank"><span><span>Losing Control: Global Security in the 21st Century</span></span></a></em> (Pluto, 3rd edition, 2010)</p><p><a href="http://www.caab.org.uk/">Campaign for the Accountability of American Bases</a></p><p>Margaret Nunnerley - <a href="http://www.ypdbooks.com/history/1073-surveillance-secrecy-and-sovereignty-how-a-peace-campaign-challenged-the-activities-of-a-us-base-in-britain-YPD01004.html"><em>Surveillance, Secrecy and Sovereignty: How a Peace Campaign Challenged the Activities of a US Base in Britain</em></a> (YPD Books, 2014) </p> </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/paul-rogers/gunship-archipelago">The gunship archipelago</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/paul-rogers/britain-in-bahrain-eyes-wide-shut">Britain in Bahrain: eyes wide shut </a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/paul-rogers/tale-of-useful-bulldozer">The tale of the useful bulldozer</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/paul-rogers/afghanistaniraq-back-to-future">Afghanistan-Iraq: back to the future</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/paul-rogers/red-poppies-and-arms-trade">Red poppies and the arms trade</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/paul-rogers/islamic-state-vs-its-far-enemy">Islamic State vs its far enemy</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/paul-rogers/remote-control-light-on-new-war">Remote control: light on new war </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/paul-rogers/james-oconnell-and-peace-studies">James O&#039;Connell and peace studies</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/paul-rogers/thirtyyear-war-continued">The thirty-year war, continued</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/paul-rogers/non-violence-past-present-future">Non-violence: past, present, future </a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/conflict/alternatives_3405.jsp">There are alternatives</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Conflict </div> <div class="field-item even"> Democracy and government </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 3.0 </div> </div> </div> openSecurity digitaLiberties Can Europe make it? Arab Awakening uk Conflict Democracy and government democracy & power Globalisation global security Snooping on the innocent Paul Rogers Closely observed citizens Wed, 24 Dec 2014 19:36:34 +0000 Paul Rogers 89180 at https://opendemocracy.net Tunisia: the Arab exception's test https://opendemocracy.net/francis-ghil%C3%A8s/tunisia-arab-exception%27s-test <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>The probable election victory of Béji Caid Essebsi is a vital moment in the pioneer country of the Arab revolts. It also reveals the scale of Tunisia's economic challenges.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p>The Arab revolts which started four years ago ushered in a period of change in the Middle East and north Africa which has been more violent and chaotic that most observers foresaw at the time. Syria is self-destructing. Egypt has reverted to military rule. The brutal Islamic State has emerged, leading to growing sectarian division and threatening a region-wide conflagration.&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; <br /><br />Amid the gloom, Tunisia - where the Arab revolts began in December 2010 - stands out as the one glimmer of real hope. Islamists won the general elections there in October 2011 but lost them two years later. A coalition of lay parties, <em>Nidaa Tounes</em>, led by the veteran politician Béji Caid Essebsi, won a plurality of votes in the elections in the country of October 2014. Essebsi is now set to become Tunisia’s fourth president, taking over from the erratic Moncef Marzouki (who is known in Tunis as <em>tartour</em> - the puppet, in his case of the Islamists. Essebsi maybe be 87 but his long career as ministerial colleague of the founder of modern Tunisia, Habib Bourguiba, suggests he will restore much needed dignity to the office of president.<br /><br />The run-up to the election on 21 December 2014 has <a href="http://www.bbc.com/news/world-africa-30569318">polarised</a> Tunisian politics. This is above all because many in both main sides - supporters of the incumbent president and his opponent, as well as foreign observers - regard their confrontation as an extension of the regional clash between revolutionary forces, including Islamists and counter-revolutionary forces. The pattern of voting certainly underlines the chasm between the two camps, which divides social classes and pits the elites of the coast against parts of the south and east. <br /><br />The risk of reviving political conflicts which have roots in the years of independence from France in the early 1950s is real. But the reality on the ground in Tunisia is also more nuanced than the "revolutionary vs counter-revolutionary" paradigm would suggest. The new president will have to reconcile Tunisians and show the region that Tunisia is exceptional in its capacity to forge a new dialogue, a new consensus. The three years of Moncef Marzouki’s presidency have in the end diminished the stature of this former opponent of Bourguiba's authoritarian successor, Zine El Abidine Ben Ali. Will Béji Caid Essebsi, whom early results suggest has indeed <a href="http://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/middle-east/2014/12/21/Tunisians-vote-in-historic-presidential-run-off.html">won</a> the election, do better? <br /><br /><strong>The Bourguiba legacy</strong><br /><br />Habib Bourguiba had his faults, not least his incapacity to choose a successor by proper means when he was ailing in the 1980s. But the architect of Tunisia's independence did put in place some of the essential foundations a modern state. He benefited in turn from reformist predecessors who, well before the French invasion of 1881, had enacted bold constitutional reforms - a paid civil service, the beginnings of a modern army, the Saddiki College in Tunis (modelled on the French <em>lycée</em>), and a certain separation between the state and religion. <br /><br />Bourguiba gave Tunisian women equal rights in 1956 and family planning in 1961. These two major reforms explain the role women and the broader middle class play in the country today, and these two groups' resistance to the Islamists’ attempt to use identity politics and&nbsp; turn the clock back on women’s rights. They are key supporters of Béji Caid Essebsi (who is widely known as "Si Béji"). The early election results indicate that a majority of women voted for Béji, and that regional variations were also substantial: Béji got most votes in the poor eastern region of El Kef and the phosphate mining area of Gafsa in the south, while Marzouki did well in the south-central region of Kasserine and the south-east near the Libyan frontier. <br /><br />When he was Bourguiba's minister - in the prominent departments of foreign affairs, interior and defence - Essebsi acquired an experience in world affairs that should prove very useful today. He understands both the region and the wider world, has always enjoyed good relations with Tunisia’s powerful neighbour to the west, Algeria. This innate grasp will be key at a time when both armies are cooperating in the fight against terrorism, which affects the long border between the two countries. <br /><br />Political trust is a prerequisite to deeper economic cooperation. Algeria gave Tunisia more money than the European Union when Si Béji was prime minister in 2011, and acts as the <em>de facto</em> guarantor of Tunisian stability (with the discreet blessing of the United States). The continuing and dangerous turmoil in Libya reinforces the likelihood that the new president will have the strong support of many countries in the region and beyond. At 88, Si Béji is no budding dictator, and he is in any case fully committed to the rule of law. If Tunisia is to grow deeper democratic roots, making the state more accountable is essential. This especially applies to the judicial system and police.<br /><br />The prime minister he appoints will not necessarily be drawn from the ranks of <em>Nidaa Tounes</em>, the rather ramshackle party he has created and led since 2012, but it will have to be someone of stature. The mix of ministers - some political, some more technocratic - will send a vital signal to the population that the country is back in business. <em>Nidaa Tounes</em> is a coalition of personalities and groups and, in view of Si Béji’s age, a competent government led by a strong prime minister is necessary. New and younger talent should be brought to the fore - and it is available, as it is worth noting that the country’s elite did not flee after the fall of Ben Ali in January 2011. Indeed, thousands of educated Tunisians have come home, hoping to build a beacon of progress in north Africa.<br /><br />The economic platform of <em>Nidaa Tounes</em> is predicated on international financial support to the tune of $5bn annually for the next three years. This comes at a time of intense debate about the economic, demographic and regional challenges Tunisia faces. Pessimists fear the country might be heading for a train-wreck but seasoned observers - particularly those who know Si Béji - remain cautiously optimistic that democracy is putting down healthy roots. <br /><br />On a personal note, I have known him for forty years, and can confirm the impression of an <em>honnête homme</em> given in his fascinating 515-page memoirs - <em>Habib Bourguiba, le bon grain et l'ivraie: m</em><em><span class="st"><em>é</em></span>moires de Béji Caiïd Essebsi</em> (Sud Editions<em>,</em> Tunis, 2009). The memoirs are relatively candid for one who served in high office, and show Béji as usually siding with those who wished to reform the ruling Neo-Destour Party in Bourguiba's time. <br /><br /><strong>The Ben Ali distortion</strong><br /><br />One of the main obstacles to democratisation in the Middle East and north Africa is the opposition of Arab states to any such trend. This has not been the case in Tunisia, but its two neighbours present very contrasting situations. Libya is fast becoming a failed state, while uncertainty over Algeria makes it hard to predict the future course of this pivotal country.&nbsp;&nbsp; <br /><br />The relative benevolence of foreign powers towards Tunisia is explained by the fact that the old Tunisian elites are still in control. North Africa’s smallest country has witnessed a change <em>in</em> the regime but not a change <em>of</em> regime. Algeria’s attitude is shared by the US, the two countries which in 1987 were apprised of the military officer Ben Ali’s intention to oust an ailing President Habib Bourguiba. In 2011 as in 1987, France was keen to maintain the status quo at any cost and did not believe the president’s fall was imminent. The US recognised the legitimacy of the protesters in Tunisia for three reasons which are not found in other Arab countries. The uprising’s lack of political direction was reassuring; it was not exploited by the Islamists; and, last but not least, Tunisia is not strategic in the way that Egypt, Bahrain and Saudi Arabia are. <br /><br />That the protesters were not supported by a foreign country gave their movement credibility and independence. They came from the poorer classes. Many were young people with little hope of regular employment, even when they had university degrees and especially if they lived in the underdeveloped hinterland. They felt crushed, deeply resented their humiliation, and had nothing to lose. By contrast the middle classes and the trades unions (organised in the UGTT) did have something to lose, yet nevertheless they played an important role in organising the second phase of the riots, along with other professional organisations such as the lawyers' federation and the Tunisia League of Human Rights. The army played a decisive role by not intervening; its refusal to fire on demonstrators contrasted with the response of militaries in other Arab states. It has played a key role in helping maintain the peace during the past four turbulent years. <br /><br />In the decade before the uprising, the Ben Ali regime had evolved into a mafia-style system. This kept the middle classes and the many genuine private-sector entrepreneurs at arms' length. Yet contrary to a commonly held view, the existence of a strong middle class in Tunisia did not translate into a process of democratisation. Its members were too dependent on the state and too bureaucratic. A feature of the economy which escaped most outside observers was the growing wealth disparities between the capital and the coast, and the increasingly poor western uplands and south of the country. Tunisians who live in the more affluent regions often hold their less educated and solvent compatriots in contempt. They forget that the profits from the phosphates mined for more than a century in the Gafsa region have never been reinvested there - all the value-added industries based on phosphate rock were built in the ports of Gabès and Sfax. Today, those poorer Tunisians are clamouring for their share of the wealth they created and which they have never enjoyed.<br /><br /><strong>The World Bank illusion</strong><br /><br />Tunisia in the Ben Ali years was held up as the poster-child for Arab economic success. An evaluation on the website of the World Bank on 27 October 2010 gushed with enthusiasm for the country’s economic performance:<br /><br />“Through a range of development loan programs with IRBD, Tunisia has boosted its global competitiveness and seen exports double over a little more than 10 years. The best illustration of Tunisia’s improved competitiveness is it total factor productivity growth, which often drives investment…..While productivity growth in 2000-2006 remained below South Korea’s and Malaysia’s, it represented one of the best performances in the Middle East and North Africa…..Tunisia ranked as Africa’s most competitive country’s in Davos’ 2009 Global Competitiveness Report.”<br /><br />The contrast with the report the World Bank published in September 2014 is stark This states that “although the perception in Tunisia is that the economy is open and relatively well integrated, in fact compared to benchmark countries Tunisia remains less open (as measured by the share of exports and imports to GDP) and quite protected. Beyond the shiny façade presented by the former regime (the economy) was clearly a system asphyxiated by its own corruption.” For the World Bank to eat humble pie is unusual, but its views were shared by the IMF, the European Investment Bank, the Davos Forum and many western governments. <br /><br />Neither of these reports addresses two vital issues, however. The first is the demographic profile of Tunisia. The average young Tunisian woman grew up in a family of seven children but will only bear one or two herself. Her mother was illiterate but her better educated daughter has neither the inclination nor the income to raise a large family. By 2000, Tunisia’s fertility rate had already fallen below replacement and is likely to fall further. One out of ten Tunisians is today an elderly dependant and, as the present generation ages, the ration will rise to about the same level as in western Europe. Even for wealthy western Europe, caring for this army of pensioners will strain resources to the limit. A poor country simply has no way to manage, and Tunisia has not provisioned for its rising number of older people.<br /><br />The second concern is the low level of much university education in Tunisia: roughly one third of secondary school graduates go on to university, but the diplomas they obtain are largely worthless. Diploma mills here as in most Arab and other developing countries deliver paper degrees without merit to half-trained graduates. Any self-respecting middle-class family strives to get its children into French universities. The children of the poorer hinterland, who only started getting into Tunisian universities in recent years, find the sacrifices their parents made in the hope of getting better jobs dashed. Often there simply are no jobs.&nbsp; <br /><br />Elite schools in China and India produce engineering graduates which meet world standards, but Turkey is the only Muslim country in the Middle East which can claim to do the same. Tunisia attracts a modest amount of foreign investment; but outsourcing by foreign companies adds only around 2,000 jobs a year, or one for every 180 university students. Although Tunisian engineers will work for a fifth of the cost of their European counterparts, there are simply not enough good engineers (let alone high-paying jobs even for the best ones). The most qualified university graduates seek greener pastures overseas. This is true not only of Tunisia but of all other Arab countries.<br /><br /><strong>The economic fulcrum</strong><br /><br />Three question remained unanswered when the revolt in Tunisia got underway:<br /><br />* To what degree would an uprising motivated by economic hardship make the very hardships which sparked it more severe as political and social turmoil led to a fall in output and a rise in unemployment? <br /><br />* How would private investors, be they domestic or foreign, react to a deterioration in the political, social and security environment in which they operated? <br /><br />* Would Tunisia’s key economic partners be&nbsp; reluctant to give the financial support that might help underpin more democratic politics and better economic governance? <br /><br />It was of course not Islam or poverty themselves that provoked the uprisings; it was the crushing humiliation that had deprived the majority of Tunisians who are under the age of thirty of the right to assert control over their own lives.<br /><br />In principle, political and economic reform should ideally be conducted concurrently and in an integrated fashion, lest worsening economic conditions and rising unemployment derail political revolutions. But this is usually not possible. The challenges Tunisia has faced over the past four years remain. Economic conditions have deteriorated. Unofficial unemployment has<em> de facto</em> risen. Food staples are much more expensive. Tens of thousands of Tunisians have been added to the state payroll without proper qualification or justification in having such a job. <br /><br />During the two years they governed Tunisia in 2012-13, the Islamists demonstrated their lack of interest, or inability, in addressing the economic and social problems of a modernising society. The Islamists favour free-wheeling - nay, crony - capitalism as do all authoritarian Arab regimes. Even more damming was their failure to control the hardline Salafi Islamists who not only resorted to violence in Tunisia but sent an estimated 3,000 of their number to Syria to join the war there. Such insecurity does little to attract domestic or foreign investment.<br /><br />When the Islamists reluctantly relinquished power in late 2013, the morale of what was arguably one of the best qualified civil services in the Middle East and north Africa had sunk very low. Many of the country’s frontiers were no longer under state control. Regional gangs of traders in illicit goods and guns paraded as Islamists, or vice versa, fuelling a huge growth in the informal sector. The consequences were dire. Cheap imported goods flooded the country and forced the closure of local manufacturing, while the state lost a large chunk of the tax take, thus forcing to it borrow more, notably abroad. This problem must be set in a broader context. Tunisian leaders have long viewed aid from overseas as something they are due. It is about time they faced up to harder options. Why not offer conditions which would attract the Tunisian diaspora to invest in Tunisia? Why not use some the tens of billions of domestic savings invested abroad to develop the country?<br /><br />The technocratic government which took over a year ago delivered a message as brutal as the bare statistics. GDP growth had averaged 2.3% annually since the fall of Ben Ali, 0.8% if government wages are subtracted (100,000 new recruits joined the civil service and state companies - many of the latter post huge deficits). That is the price paid for political expediency. Wages overall have grown by 40%, productivity by 0.2%. The cost of state subsidies to oil and gas products has rocketed by 270% over three years, and amounts to 6% of GDP. They essentially benefit well-off Tunisians. The budget deficit rose in 2013 to 6.5% of GDP, as against 5.7% in 2012, but would have risen much further had it not been for the very strong pressure from the IMF. The current-account deficit reached 9%, essentially the reflection of a deteriorating trade balance. Foreign debt, meanwhile, has increased by over a third to over 50% of GDP. Such figures are unsustainable. <br /><br />Strikes have proliferated as the UGTT, which brokered the Islamists' departure from government, continue to flex its muscles. Regional UGTT barons seem to think that nationalising or renationalising loss-making industries will save the country, and the union’s leadership in Tunis has difficulty in controlling its regional offshoots. The technocratic government led by Mehdi Jomaa did make some timid reforms in the run-up to the latest elections, and took important measures to re-establish security which had deteriorated during the years of Islamist government. But it lacked a clear political mandate. Growth over the past three years has been driven essentially by private consumption. The government started cutting subsidies, notably on fuel. But the aim of the fiscal reform it enacted was limited to increasing tax proceeds rather than making the system more investment-friendly.<br /><br />The latest World Bank report has provoked controversy in Tunis. Former ministers of Ben Ali have argued that the situation in 2010 was not as dire as the report makes out, which invites the retort that they were probably responsible for feeding statistics which were too optimistic and hiding other less savoury aspects of the regime. Not that this lets the World Bank of the hook: whether its mistaken diagnosis was the result of pusillanimity, political pressure in Washington or plain incompetence is hard to tell. To accept blame, however, is all to its credit. This will help redeem its image in Tunisia and allow an increase in loans if and when the new government - which will be appointed after the new president is inaugurated - chooses to seek help. By admitting that corruption was widespread in Tunisia, the report also opens a Pandora's box: is it not widespread in other countries of the region and why does the World Bank not say so? In other words, does the old order need to be overturned and more democratic politics to prevail before the World Bank tells the truth about its other Middle Eastern and North African clients? <br /><br /><strong>The strategic matrix</strong><br /><br />The success or failure of economic reforms in Tunisia will depend on how pragmatic the new government and president chose to be. Few politicians share the pessimistic view that the country’s economy might be facing a slow collapse; that poorer Tunisians will press for their share of the cake more forcefully than hitherto; that if the secular parties fail, the Islamists will get another chance to take the reins of government. The politicians have not convinced many among the under 30s who confronted Ben Ali’s security forces four years ago to vote: 3m Tunisians who are entitled to vote out of a total of 10m are not registered. They are, if anything, less hopeful of getting a job than in 2010.&nbsp; In the first round of presidential elections, younger Tunisian abstained massively. Only half of those entitled to vote cast their ballot. <br /><br />The economic priorities of the new government will have to include building major infrastructure with a view to integrating the poorer western and southern hinterlands into the country’s economy; reforming the bureaucratic manner in which the country is governed, getting rid of the myriad authorisations and rules which hand far too much power to bureaucrats (159 infrastructure projects worth <span class="st">€</span>8.8bn are in abeyance since the end of 2010); and encouraging young people to set up small companies, but at the same time backing those large companies which export goods with real added value. Crony capitalism and helping insiders must be curbed, a cardinal sin in a capital where so many families are related to one another. <br /><br />Aiming state subsidies at those who need them and making the middle classes pay the full price for the foodstuffs and the fuel they consume, and cutting state support for the oil and gas which serves as feedstock for industry, are other requirements. The government could do worse than give much greater support to <em>Enda Inter-Arabe</em>, an ONG founded in 1990 which supports micro-entrepreneurs by providing financial (micro-credit) and non-financial services (training, coaching, trade fairs); 40% of its branches are located in rural areas. A recent visit to their offices, and some beneficiaries in Menzel Temime in the rural Cap Bon area north east of Tunis shows how far a credit of 500 or 1,000 Tunisian <em>dinars</em> (<span class="st">€</span>500 or (<span class="st">€</span>1,000) can go in the hands of determined, modest people. <em>Enda Inter-Arabe</em> certainly puts the <em>Banque Nationale de l’Agriculture</em>, which only lends to wealthy farmers, to shame. <br /><br />But first the governmrnt must bring the informal sector under control and ensure that the state does not lose an estimated half of the tax income it is owed by its citizens. Mopping up the huge amount of informal money washing around Tunisia is essential to get the economy back working and to weaken the criminal networks which have flourished amid the corrosion of state authority. Being transparent, daring to debate publicly - the age of social networks and the internet has smashed censorship - and keeping the powerful trades union UGTT engaged: all this will require high political skills. A new social compact between the government, the unions and the employers' federation UTICA is a must. The economy has proved more resilient than might have been expected; the country’s central bank, buffeted as it has been by strong political and security ill-winds, has played its regulatory role with poise. That role should be reinforced. Meanwhile, the security impact from the chaos in Libya is worrying, though in fact has been rather beneficial in economic terms. <br /><br />The immediate aims of the new government will be twofold. First, to get a budget for 2015 approved by the national assembly. The draft submitted to parliament before the October elections was not even debated by deputies. The UGTT fully agrees that this needs to be passed. Beyond this, bold reforms are unlikely to be enacted quickly. Second, to offer a fresh policy to rekindle foreign interest in exploring for oil and gas (energy accounts for 7.5% of Tunisia's GDP). Agreements need to be concluded with Italy and Algeria concerning the buying and selling of electricity; to build a legal framework which encourages the production of renewable energy and shale gas; and to simply existing rules, which are too many and too complex. Getting the right mix of energy policies is all the more pressing because Tunisia risks losing part of its manufacturing offshore sector to eastern Europe because of rising costs. International aid should be conditioned, to a degree, on the next government enacting a long-term energy policy worthy of what the sector could contribute to Tunisia’s economic recovery.<br /><br />The new Tunisian leaders will also need western countries to put their money where their mouths are. The authoritarian regime of President Ben Ali was not merely an internal affair, but one bolstered by the United States, France and international organisations such as the IRBD. If the Middle East is to be managed for its resource rents or the ability of certain countries to stay stable, then outside powers will have to do much of the management. Lecturing Tunisia, of all countries, on economic reform is almost risible. Tunisia’s resource rents were manipulated and shared by international interests playing their own game. By 2010, the recent IRBD report notes, firms belonging to Ben Ali’s extended family accounted for “a striking 21.3% of all net private sector profits” - which amounts to 0.5% of GDP. <br /><br />The Tunisian people are unlikely to recover the billions worth of property, shares and gold that the Ben Ali clan secreted in France, Switzerland, the US and elsewhere. Would it not be timely for the US, France and the European Union to support the new Tunisian government with a mixture of loans and investment guarantees? Debt write-offs might be superficially attractive, but their net effect would be to damage the country’s signature. A mix of loans and guarantees will help to stabilise the country and prove that democracy delivers - surely a wise investment in the medium term. The great lesson Tunisia has yet to learn is how to mobilise the talent and resources of its diaspora. The Chinese are an example worth examining here; but no Arab country, to date, seems to notice or care.<br /><br /></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="/francis-ghil%C3%A8s/north-african-diversities-tunisian-odyssey">North African diversities: a Tunisian odyssey</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/francis-ghil%C3%A8s/north-african-diversities-personal-odyssey">North African diversities: a personal odyssey</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/francis-ghil%C3%A8s/algeria-football-and-france%27s-black-box">Algeria, football, and France&#039;s &quot;black box&quot;</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/francis-ghil%C3%A8s/north-african-diversities-moroccan-odyssey">North African diversities: a Moroccan odyssey</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/francis-ghil%C3%A8s/north-african-diversities-algeria-in-flux">North African diversities: Algeria in flux</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/francis-ghil%C3%A8s/north-african-diversities-algerian-odyssey">North African diversities: an Algerian odyssey</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/francis-ghil%C3%A8s/north-african-diversities-algerian-tales-maghrebi-dreams">North African diversities: Algerian tales, Maghrebi dreams</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/francis-ghil%C3%A8s/tunisia-from-hope-to-delivery">Tunisia, from hope to delivery</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"> Tunisia </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Democracy and government </div> <div class="field-item even"> International politics </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 3.0 </div> </div> </div> Tunisia Democracy and government International politics middle east democracy & power Globalisation Francis Ghilès Sun, 21 Dec 2014 05:53:09 +0000 Francis Ghilès 89100 at https://opendemocracy.net The presidential election and linguistic violence in Tunisia https://opendemocracy.net/arab-awakening/anouar-jamaoui/presidential-election-and-linguistic-violence-in-tunisia <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>The leading presidential candidates and some of their supporters are setting a bad example&nbsp;<span style="font-size: 12.7272720336914px; line-height: 17.7272720336914px;">with hostile, exclusionist rhetoric,&nbsp;</span><span style="font-size: 12.7272720336914px; line-height: 17.7272720336914px;">fuelling a tense political atmosphere</span><span style="font-size: 13px; line-height: 1.5;">.</span></p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/553378/6340657.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title="First round election results. Demotix/Chedly Ben Ibrahim. All rights reserved."><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/553378/6340657.jpg" alt="" title="First round election results. Demotix/Chedly Ben Ibrahim. All rights reserved." width="460" height="306" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span></p><p class="image-caption">First round election results. Demotix/Chedly Ben Ibrahim. All rights reserved.</p><p><span>One of the striking achievements of Tunisians in the post-revolution era was the adoption of a consensual democratic constitution, securing freedom of expression and free choice of the country’s rulers. The first round of the presidential election, held on 23 November 2014, was a historical opportunity to incarnate the sacrosanct principle of people’s sovereignty, an occasion for Tunisians to freely choose the most competent leader from among the 27 presidential candidates.</span></p> <p><span>Heavy citizen participation in the election—62.9 percent of the total electorate—contributed to the success of Tunisia’s nascent democracy. The results revealed a sharp break with the past, with the grim days of dictatorship when one unrivalled candidate won the majority of votes.</span></p> <p><span>The elections showed that Tunisians’ attitudes toward the choice of their leader have changed. Two candidates made it to the </span><a href="http://www.afp.com/en/news/tunisia-hold-presidential-runoff-dec-21">second round</a><span>: Beji Kaid Essebsi (88 years old) came first with 39.46 percent of the votes, and Mohamed Moncef Marzouki (69 years old) second with 33.43 percent.</span></p> <p><span>The margin between the two candidates did not exceed </span><a href="http://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/nov/25/tunisia-election-essebsi-marzouki-runoff-vote">six percent</a><span>. Such a result indicates clearly enough the integrity and the reliability of the electoral process, as well as Tunisians’ refusal to align themselves with one single person, and their faith in political pluralism as the only viable substitute for repugnant unilateralism.</span></p> <p><span>However, the sense of relief felt in the hearts of Tunisians after assuming their political and electoral duties in an atmosphere of transparency and freedom did not last long. The public speeches of the two winners in the first round, along with the statements made by their respective partisans, proved to be neither reassuring nor encouraging. Both politicians and supporters went so far as to condemn the voters for choosing this or that candidate, making the voter a victim of voicing his or her political point of view.</span></p> <p><span>For example, Beji Kaid Essebsi, who commented on the election results in an </span><a href="http://www.tunisia-live.net/2014/11/25/second-round-presidential-candidates-exchange-blows/">interview</a><span> with the announcer Jean-Jacques Bordan of radio Monte Carlo, claims that those who opted for Marzouki are Salafists, Jihadists, and violent members of the League of Protection of the Revolution. Essebsi added, "unfortunately, there will be a sharp division, a sharp chasm in the texture of our society between Islamists on one level and Democrats and non-Islamists on another."</span></p> <p><span>Describing the electoral behavior in such a manner can only split the electorate in a Manichean way into two groups. The first comprises the supporters of Marzouki (about one million and 92 thousand voters) who are invariably qualified as extremists and heretics. The second includes Essibsi’s supporters who are charged with being accomplices of the Ben Ali regime. Judging part of the electorate by putting them in one basket called "Salafism and extremism" is categorically exclusionist.</span></p> <p><span>Essebsi forgot that there are no detailed statistical data issued by authoritative bodies in relation to the ideological affiliations of the supporters of the acting president. In fact, they come from different intellectual and cultural backgrounds. Many observers have depicted them as a mosaic of Tunisian society. Among them we find ideologues and non-ideologues, heretics and modernists, partisans and non-partisans of political parties, religious groups and secular elites, liberals and conservatives.</span></p> <p><span>These voters cannot be grouped under the banner of one ideology. Moreover, the classification of voters into two categories, Islamists and democrats, is improper as it leads to the division of Tunisians on the basis of ideological allegiances. Division engenders polarisation and exclusion in a nascent democracy. Conversely, the tendency to claim that one candidate is committed heart and soul to the protection of democracy while the other is its eternal foe is undeniably illogical.</span></p> <p><span>Tunisians have chosen a democratic political system, thereby electing the peaceful handover of power as a substitute for the </span><em>coup d’état</em><span>. This is why they walked to the polling centers to cast their votes for one candidate. Their hope is to erect the solid pillars of the civil state. Their simple dream is to safeguard political pluralism.</span></p> <p><span>In a political environment pervaded by verbal violence, a university professor and a partisan of Nidaa Tounes downgraded the supporters of Marzouki as scum. The heightening of political tension has led to this escalation of </span><a href="http://carnegieendowment.org/syriaincrisis/?fa=57409&amp;reloadFlag=1">linguistic violence</a><span> and in turn to a state of social anger. Language has the potential and the energy to propel people into action and reaction.</span></p> <p><span>Thousands of Tunisians walked to the streets in popular rallies to express their dissatisfaction with Essebsi and his biting comments, defending their freedom to vote for the man of their choice. They carried slogans picturing themselves not as terrorists but as civilians. Their chief argument is that they elected Marzouki in in the first round on the grounds that he presented a more promising electoral manifesto. He seems for them more convincing owing to their confidence in his democratic project and his achievements as a defender of human rights.</span></p> <p><span>As regards Marzouki’s assets and the nature of those who elected him, Abdel Moneim Mabrouky, a Tunisian resident in Washington, comments on his Facebook page:</span></p> <p><span class="blockquote-new">"I live in the heart of western modernity and cherish its values of liberty and independence. I love openness and hate fanaticism. I find much pleasure in drinking wine, and I voted for Marzouki because he is a defender of human and civil rights. He safeguards the right to difference and pluralism."</span></p> <p><span>Likewise, Phaedra Motahari wrote on her Facebook page:&nbsp;</span><span>"I chose Marzuki not because I love him, but because of his call for and commitment to the consecration of democracy, and the preservation of the gains of the revolution".</span></p> <p><span>Huda Idris, a university professor, also said:</span></p> <p class="blockquote-new">"I earned a PhD. degree and speak four languages. I studied in Tunisian universities. I love movies and travel...I'm not a Salafist, and I elected Marzouki because of my confidence in his modernist electoral project." </p> <p><span>Against this backdrop, we can see how citizens, by electing the candidate they trust, exercise their freedom of choice, and consider the election not only a right but also a duty that cannot be confiscated and manipulated by any party.</span></p> <p><span>From another angle, Mohamed Moncef Marzouki’s electoral campaign is overshadowed by a variety of abuses and linguist violence. His political discourse has provoked both his political rival and his partisans. On their Facebook pages, Marzouki’s supporters have reiterated a whole host of phrases and statements laden with epithets disparaging Beji Kaid Essebsi as an ugly “traitor,” “ a secret agent,” “a dinosaur,” “a dictator,” and “a mummy.”</span></p> <p><span>Such appellations certainly fall short of providing substantive and objective evaluations of Essebsi’s electoral program and political performance. They are limited to superficial readings of his long political career, readings that revolve only around the demonisation of a presidential candidate rather than around a critical assessment of his skills and defects.</span></p> <p><span>In an interview with </span><a href="http://www.france24.com/en/20141125-anti-islamist-essebsi-leads-tunisia-presidential-vote/">France24</a><span> on 25 November 2014, Marzouki said: "The accomplices of the dissolved autocratic system of the Democratic Constitutional Rally supported Essebsi." No doubt, such a view requires relativisation. It is true that a significant number of those who voted for the candidate of Nida Tounes are partisans of the old regime. However, many of them are real opponents. Within their ranks, we find Liberals, Nationalists, Leftists, and Bourguibists who backed up aji Caidr Essebsi because of their dismay at the political and economic performance of the Troika coalition government in the transitional period. It follows naturally that one cannot classify all voters as partisans of the ex-regime.</span></p> <p><span>Marzouki went further to proclaim, "the final victory of Beji will push the country towards the brink of political instability." Such an assertion can fall only in the category of psychological intimidation, the ultimate purpose of which is to frighten the electorate of a political rival.</span></p> <p><span>It would be more beneficial for Marzouki to explain the risks that Tunisia may confront if Essebsi ultimately wins the election, including the risks linked to his age, to his complicity with old regime, and to the possibility of the country’s regression to tyranny. Instead, his public speeches were characterized by psychological intimidation that transformed Essebsi into a bogeyman and obliterated his achievements. Despite his flaws one cannot possibly forget his active contribution to the success of the watershed elections of 23 October 2011.</span></p> <p><span>After the declaration of the results of the first round of the election, some of Marzouki’s supporters opted for the tactic of inciting Tunisian southerners against northerners, because the latter voted for Essebsi. But Tunisians have rejected calls to push the country toward civil strife. Currently, there exists a widespread refusal of the political rhetoric calling for revenge and the persecution of those who are nicknamed the old regime’s henchmen. Today, Tunisians know well that the mere recourse to Manichean discourse foreshadows fomenting strife, the division of the country due to regional conflicts, potential threats to social peace, and the failure of the nascent democratic experience.</span></p> <p><span>The majority of Tunisians perceive the election as an assertion of existence and an act of self-expression, thereby turning the Cartesian </span><em>cogito ergo sum</em><span> into "I elect, therefore I am". They can no longer accept any control of their minds, any censorship of their thoughts, and any standardisation of their electoral behaviour. it will be better if politicians appropriate the kind of socio-political consciousness which citizens have gained by respecting their right to vote for the presidential candidate of their choice.</span></p> <p><span>It is vital that politicians hone their awareness of what ought to be said, and when, where, and how to speak. It is crucial that they recognise that apologising to the citizens is part and parcel of decorum. It is essential that they know when language should be channelled and utilised to consolidate national union. They should take into account that political rhetoric has, inevitably, strong effects on the masses. But most of all it is quintessential that they acknowledge that that the chilly logic of exclusion and counter-exclusion can in no way boost democratic coexistence. It can only destroy national unity and facilitate the deviation of political life from the peaceful competition for power to intolerance and anarchy.</span></p> <p><span>If the two presidential candidates really take into consideration the welfare of all Tunisians in their respective political agendas, they have to use language positively. They have to send clear messages reassuring Tunisians. The man who will rule Tunisia ought to appear in the image of a president who does not differentiate between people, but who brings them together under the blue sky of the same country, under the banner of freedom and the right to difference rather than under deceptive slogans of the God-leader who claims to possess the absolute truth.</span></p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/arab-awakening/anouar-jamaoui/decline-of-political-islam-in-tunisia">The decline of political Islam in Tunisia</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/arab-awakening/tim-baster-isabelle-merminod/tunisia-elections-justice-and-dignity"> Tunisia: elections, justice and dignity </a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/arab-awakening/sarah-wolff/tunisia%E2%80%99s-forthcoming-elections-transition-at-risk-and-arms-sales-won%E2%80%99t-r">Tunisia’s forthcoming elections: transition at risk and arms sales won’t rescue</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/ayman-ayoub/tunisias-elections-consolidating-democracy">Tunisia&#039;s elections: consolidating democracy</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"> Tunisia </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Democracy and government </div> </div> </div> Arab Awakening Arab Awakening Tunisia Democracy and government middle east democracy & power elections Arab Awakening Anouar Jamaoui Fri, 19 Dec 2014 01:21:21 +0000 Anouar Jamaoui 88936 at https://opendemocracy.net Britain in Bahrain: eyes wide shut https://opendemocracy.net/paul-rogers/britain-in-bahrain-eyes-wide-shut <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>&nbsp;A new naval base in the Gulf reveals both the flaws in Britain's strategic thinking and the limits of its military capacity. </p> </div> </div> </div> <p>The British government announced on 6 December 2014 that it was expanding its use of port facilities at Mina Salman in Bahrain into a full naval base. The news was greeted by protests from the <em>Shi’a</em> majority in the Gulf <a href="http://go.hrw.com/atlas/norm_htm/bahrain.htm">kingdom</a>; many called for the removal of the United Kingdom's <a href="https://www.gov.uk/government/people/iain-lindsay">ambassador</a>, Iain Lindsay. </p><p>A potent <a href="http://me-confidential.com/8861-expansion-of-british-naval-base-in-bahrain-ignites-demonstrations.html">argument</a> now circulating is that the <em>Sunni</em>-dominated government is paying most of the cost of the new<a href="http://www.aljazeera.com/news/middleeast/2014/12/britain-open-naval-base-bahrain-2014126222429935936.html"> base</a> as a reward for Britain’s turning a blind eye to human-rights abuses in Bahrain - especially since protests erupted there in the early months of the "Arab spring". <a href="https://bahrainwatch.org/ ">Bahrain Watch</a> and other human-rights groups have long <a href="http://www.hrw.org/middle-eastn-africa/bahrain">criticised</a> the government in Manama, but they have had little impact on British government policy.</p><p>The UK base will not be large in comparison to the substantial United States naval headquarters for its fifth fleet, just up the coast. But is still significant, as the first permanent presence "east of Suez" since the Britain <a href="http://www.palgrave.com/page/detail/britain%27s-withdrawal-from-east-of-suez-jeffrey-pickering/?K=9780333695265">withdrew</a> from the region in 1971. In its own way, the symbolism is <a href="http://www.thenational.ae/world/middle-east/bahrain-agrees-to-uk-navy-base">considerable</a>, even though such military commitments overseas are now out of line with domestic opinion. </p><p>The <em>Financial Times</em> reports that: "The base, which is planned to open in 2016, will include accommodation for crews and facilities to support and resupply vessels, as well as support for the long-term deployment of frigates and destroyers” (see Elizabeth Dickinson, "<a href="The base, which is planned to open in 2016, will include accommodation for crews and facilities to support and resupply vessels, ">Bahrain naval base will give UK stronger Gulf presence</a>", <em>Financial Times</em>, 7 December 2014).</p><p>The Royal Navy has deployed small minesweepers out of Bahrain for some years. But when destroyers and other larger vessels use Mina Salman, their crew sleep on board and there are few naval facilities for the larger ships ashore. With a full-scale naval base, such warships will be able to deploy regularly from the site.</p><p>Mina Salman will even be <a href="http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/middleeast/bahrain/11278281/Protests-erupt-over-British-decision-to-open-military-base-in-Bahrain.html">used</a> by the 70,000-ton <em>Queen Elizabeth</em> <a href="http://www.aircraftcarrieralliance.co.uk/the-ships/the-queen-elizabeth-class.aspx">aircraft-carrier</a>. This vessel's ability to roam the seas with aircraft on board will take the UK right back to the 1960s, when the navy had fleet-carriers operating in the Indian Ocean and western Pacific.</p><p><strong>A two-ship navy</strong></p><p>London's official line is that the base will enable the UK to contribute to regional security at a time when it is threatened by a variety of forces, including the Islamic State and <a href="http://www.reuters.com/article/2014/03/06/us-bahrain-iran-unrest-idUSBREA250V920140306">Iranian</a> ambitions. The current overall uncertainties, runs the view, require “mature” states such as Britain to help maintain stability. A further advantage will be improved access to the enormously lucrative <a href="https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/articles/middle-east/10510-gulf-states-among-worlds-largest-arms-importersSee">arms market</a> in the Gulf states, which easily trumps concerns over human rights. An upgraded UK military presence at a time when Saudi Arabia and the local emirates fear increased Iranian influence in the <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Persian_Gulf#mediaviewer/File:Persian_Gulf_map.png">region</a>, especially in Iraq, offers potential <a href="http://www.defenseindustrydaily.com/gulf-states-requesting-abm-capable-systems-04390/">benefits</a> for political and business elites on both sides.</p><p>The justification for the base on the British side avoids any mention of the decline of North Sea oil production, and the UK's probable increasing <a href="http://www.eia.gov/countries/cab.cfm?fips=UK">dependence</a> on Gulf oil, suggesting a touch of smoke-and-mirrors about its narrative. There is also litle effort to address the disconnect with the majority view that opposes military involvement overseas, especially the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq (though this may be combined with support for the armed forces, especially soldiers). The prevailing opinion is that British defence <a href="https://www.rusi.org/news/ref:N54087ED64A525/#.VInNHXvUZOY">policy</a> should be rooted in the defence of the country rather than major overseas operations, which contrasts markedly with that of the defence establishment. The latter believes that Britain must regain a global role as a leading state, not least through maintaining a <a href="https://www.iiss.org/en/publications/strategic%20comments/sections/2014-a6f5/uk-aircraft-carrier--projecting-military-power-e89d">capability</a> for "power projection".</p><p>A <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/paul-rogers/swish-report-25">SWISH report</a> published in October 2014 analysed current British naval policy, pointing out that a large proportion of the navy’s entire force was on the way to having two huge aircraft-carriers, the <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/article/gordon_browns_white_elephants">largest</a> warships ever built for the Royal Navy, together with new submarines for the Trident nuclear force (see also "<a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/paul-rogers/in-defence-of-greatness-britains-carrier-saga">In defence of greatness: Britain's carrier saga</a>", 12 May 2012). This is an enormous commitment, especially in the context of the defence budget as whole. In fact, there is no guarantee that both of the carriers will be deployed; but even if they are, the navy’s <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/conflict/british_seapower_3733.jsp">role</a> will essentially boil down to an ability to have one aircraft-carrier and one ballistic-missile submarine readily deployable at any one time.</p><p>Neither missile submarine nor carrier operates on its own. The submarine is backed up by what is <a href="http://www.royalnavy.mod.uk/news-and-latest-activity/operations/global/continuous-at-sea-deterrent">termed</a> “deterrence support”, which includes nuclear-powered attack-submarines and back-up from surface warships (“skimmers” in submarine parlance). The aircraft-carrier will operate at the centre of a substantial task-group that includes one or two destroyers or frigates, an attack-submarine, and a support-tanker and supplies ship. To have an escort such as a destroyer or a frigate deployed east of Suez requires three ships: one on station, one either sailing to or from the deployment area, and one in repair or replenishment (see "<a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/article/britain_s_defence_all_at_sea">Britain's defence: all at sea</a>", 12 July 2006)</p><p>Overall, the <a href="http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-30355953">new</a> base in the Gulf is part of a transformation of the Royal Navy into what is essentially a two-ship navy with not much else available for other duties. This seems not to matter if Britain can at least give an <a href="https://www.rusi.org/publications/other/ref:N517AA8D59D1B3/">impression</a> of being a major naval power, whatever the reality behind the move.</p><p><strong>A gift to enemies</strong></p><p>A long-serving ministry of defence civil servant, whose early had coincided with the days of <em><a href="http://www.naval-history.net/xGM-Chrono-04CV-Eagle.htm">HMS Eagle</a> </em>and the other fleet-carriers, once remarked that the post-1945 function of Britain’s aircraft-carriers was essentially to have a deck large enough for the band of the Royal Marines to be able to beat the retreat at sunset in a tropical port, watched by the officers’ wives and local dignitaries drinking their Pimm's (suitably enhanced with local tropical fruits). People really had to understand this, he said.</p><p>It may have been a cynical and condescending view, but as so often with civil-service observations it had an element of truth. Even now, elements of the British establishment still hanker after the days of <a href="http://www.britishempire.co.uk/maproom/bahrain.htm">empire</a> - and there are traces of this longing in the new base in the Gulf (see "<a href="http://www.economist.com/news/britain/21636071-new-naval-base-bahrain-echo-past-were-back">Britain in the Middle East: We're back</a>", <em>Economist</em>, 13 December 2014).&nbsp;&nbsp; </p><p>The much bigger issue, though, is that the Bahrain initiative puts the UK much more <a href="http://news.sky.com/story/1386798/britain-beefs-up-military-might-in-bahrain">centrally</a> into conflict in the Middle East. In London the base may be regarded as a positive move in support of British interests, especially as the United States pivots towards the Asia-Pacific region; but in much of the region it will be seen as yet one more example of western interference.</p><p>There will, in short, be a striking coalescence of views between enemies. Extreme <em>Sunni</em> Islamist groups such as the Islamic State will <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/paul-rogers/islamic-state-vs-its-far-enemy">portray</a> Mina Salman as evidence of British support for unacceptable elitist <em>Sunni</em> leaderships; Iran will see it as offering support to the Bahraini royal family as it <a href="http://www.refworld.org/docid/536743ff4.html">suppresses</a> the marginalised <em>Shi’a</em> majority. To be able to antagonise Raqqa and Tehran at the same time is really quite an achievement. The British quest to recapture some degree of status, if not a sense of greatness, risks a heavy price.&nbsp; <br /></p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-read-on"> <div class="field-label"> 'Read On' Sidebox:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p><a href="http://www.brad.ac.uk/peace/index.php"><span><span>Department of peace studies, Bradford University</span></span></a></p><p><a href="https://bahrainwatch.org/">Bahrain Watch</a></p><p><a href="http://www.hrw.org/middle-eastn-africa/bahrain">Human Rights Watch - Bahrain</a></p> <p><a href="http://www.oxfordresearchgroup.org.uk/" target="_blank"><span><span>Oxford Research Group</span></span></a></p><p>Paul Rogers, <em><a href="http://www.plutobooks.com/display.asp?K=9780745329376&amp;" target="_blank"><span><span>Losing Control: Global Security in the 21st Century</span></span></a></em> (Pluto, 3rd edition, 2010)</p> <p>Paul Rogers, <em><a href="http://www.routledge.com/books/details/9780415419383/" target="_blank"><span><span>Global Security and the War on Terror: Elite Power and the Illusion of Control</span></span></a></em> (Routledge, 2007)</p> <p><em><a href="http://www.longwarjournal.org/"><span><span>Long War Journal</span></span></a></em></p> </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/paul-rogers/afghanistaniraq-back-to-future">Afghanistan-Iraq: back to the future</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/paul-rogers/islamic-state-vs-its-far-enemy">Islamic State vs its far enemy</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/paul-rogers/tale-of-useful-bulldozer">The tale of the useful bulldozer</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/paul-rogers/islamic-state-power-of-belief">Islamic State: power of belief</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/paul-rogers/red-poppies-and-arms-trade">Red poppies and the arms trade</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/paul-rogers/remote-control-light-on-new-war">Remote control: light on new war </a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/paul-rogers/islamic-state-war-iraq%27s-echo">The Islamic State war: Iraq&#039;s echo</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/paul-rogers/thirtyyear-war-continued">The thirty-year war, continued</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/article/gordon_browns_white_elephants">Gordon Brown&#039;s white elephants</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/conflict/british_seapower_3733.jsp">British sea power: a 21st-century question</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/paul-rogers/in-defence-of-greatness-britains-carrier-saga">In defence of greatness: Britain&#039;s carrier saga</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"> Bahrain </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 3.0 </div> </div> </div> openSecurity Bahrain middle east democracy & power global security Paul Rogers Thu, 11 Dec 2014 15:44:14 +0000 Paul Rogers 88759 at https://opendemocracy.net Iran’s hidden prisoners https://opendemocracy.net/david-hayes/iran%E2%80%99s-hidden-prisoners <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Those arrested in Iran after the presidential election of June 2009 join the detainees from earlier moments of repression. The blogger and openDemocracy author Hossein Derakhshan is one of the latter. The anniversary of his incarceration is being marked by efforts to publicise his case, reports David Hayes. </p><p><em>(This article was first published on 30 October 2009. Hossein Derakhshan was released from prison on 19 November 2014)</em></p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/512px-Hossein_Derakhshan_(square_crop).jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/512px-Hossein_Derakhshan_(square_crop).jpg" alt="Hossein Derakshan, Iranian-Canadian journalist and blogger, 2004." title="" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" width="460" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Hossein Derakshan, Iranian-Canadian journalist and blogger, 2004. Flickr/Joi Ito. Some rights reserved.</span></span></span>The wave of arrests in Iran that followed the presidential election of 12 June 2009 means that many more Iranians are now experiencing the brutal treatment already endured by thousands of their fellow citizens. For the repressive response to the civic uprising that followed the shocking declaration of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's landslide <a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/article/iran-s-stolen-election-and-what-comes-next">victory</a> has many precedents in the thirty-year history of the Islamic Republic of Iran (as of its imperial predecessor).</p> <p>The capacity of the Iranian regime to render its prisoners invisible and voiceless is one of its most potent weapons. In turn, the dissemination of reliable information on individual cases is a hugely valuable resource for those on the outside - the families, colleagues and friends of those incarcerated, and the justice and human-rights <a href="http://www.hrw.org/en/news/2009/10/26/iran-overturn-death-sentences-other-unfair-convictions">group</a>s working to make Iran a state of law.</p> <p class="pullquote_new"><br /> David Hayes is deputy editor of openDemocracy<br /> <br /> Among his articles on openDemocracy:<br /> <br /> " <a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/democracy-irandemocracy/article_2415.jsp">Iran between revolution and democracy</a>" (10 April 2005)<br /> <br /> " <a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/node/2774">William Wallace and reinventing Scotland</a>" (22 August 2005)<br /> <br /> " <a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/node/46697">The world's American election: a conversation</a>" (4 November 2008)<br /> <br /> " <a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/node/47120">The politics of ME, ME, ME</a>" (9 January 2009) - with Keith Kahn-Harris<br /> <br /> " <a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/node/47776">Iran's election and Iran's system</a>" (21 April 2009) - with Sanam Vakil<br /> <br /> " <a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/node/47979">Cambodia: a patient waiting</a>" (15 May 2009) - with Michel Thieren<br /> <br /> " <a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/article/somalia-between-violence-and-hope">Somalia: between violence and hope</a>" (15 July 2009) - with Harun Hassan</p> <p>Iranian citizens with western connections can often be among the most vulnerable to sudden detention, usually in times of internal political crisis and/or tension between Iran and the west (<a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/globalization/again_3267.jsp">especially</a> the United States). For example, Iranians who have dual citizenship or who work for foreign broadcasters or think-tanks have been a favoured target. At the same time, such connections also mean an opportunity to organise publicity about their fate and campaign for their freedom (see Reza Fiyouzat, "<a href="http://onlinejournal.com/artman/publish/article_4689.shtml">Saberi is free: How about all the others?</a>", <em>OnlineJournal</em>, 12 May 2009).</p> <p>This has in recent times been the experience of, for example, the scholar <a href="http://www.wilsoncenter.org/index.cfm?topic_id=1426&amp;fuseaction=topics.profile&amp;person_id=8940">Haleh Esfandiari</a>; the journalist <a href="http://www.payvand.com/news/08/mar/1052.html">Parnaz Azima</a>; the journalist <a href="http://cpj.org/2009/05/roxana-saberi-released-from-prison-in-iran.php">Roxana Saberi</a>; the businessman and peace activist <a href="http://www.newuniversity.org/2007/10/news/news_in_brief_44/">Ali Shakeri</a>; the diplomatic aide <a href="http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/world/middle_east/article6894601.ece">Hossein Rassam</a>; and the <a href="http://www.newsweek.com/id/218283"><em>Newsweek</em></a> journalist <a href="http://www.google.com/hostednews/ap/article/ALeqM5g5LLg8-1YoJsU_Gb3cT9t8Ylbe0AD9BF22G00">Maziar Bahari</a>. The current haul of detainees includes the scholar <a href="http://www.freekian09.org/">Kian Tajbakhsh</a>, whose case is an instructive example of the psychology animating Iran's hardline core (see Karim Sadjadpour, "<a href="http://www.foreignpolicy.com/articles/2009/10/23/the_new_hostage_crisis">The New Hostage Crisis</a>", <em>Foreign Policy</em>, 23 October 2009).</p> <p>The pioneering blogger Hossein Derakhshan, who was <a href="http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/world/middle_east/article5190462.ece">arrested</a> in Tehran on 2 November 2008, also belongs to this melancholy pattern; though, as do all the above examples, his case has its unique and individual characteristics.</p> <p><strong>A singular journey </strong></p> <p>Hossein Derakhshan (widely known as "Hoder") earned a place in internet as well as Iranian history when - by combining Unicode with Blogger.com's tools to enable Persian characters - he <a href="http://www.wired.com/wired/archive/13.06/posts.html?pg=6">created</a> the first Persian-language blog in Canada in September 2001. He had moved there from Iran in 2000 after writing about technology and the internet for two newspapers: <em>Asr-e Azadegan,</em> and <em>Hatay-e No</em> (for which he wrote a column, <em>Panjere-i roo be hayaat</em> [<em>A Window to the Yard]</em>).</p> <p>His early blog soon <a href="http://advocacy.globalvoicesonline.org/2008/11/18/iranian-blogger-hossein-derakhshan-arrested-in-tehran/">gained</a> a large following; at its high-point, and until Iran's cyberpolice was able in 2004 to jam it, it received 35,000 page-views per day. <em>Editor: Myself</em> was in time supplemented by an English-language version, allowing him to reach an audience eager for insight about Iran via a new medium of exciting potential.</p> <p>Hoder's writing extended to other media, including (in 2004-06) five <a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/author/Hossein_Derakhshan.jsp">articles</a> for <strong>openDemocracy</strong>. He became involved in <em>Stop Censoring Us</em>, a record of internet censorship in Iran. He made two visits to <a href="http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/812597.html">Israel</a> in 2006-07, and in 2007 registered for a master's degree at London's School of Oriental and African Studies (Soas).</p> <p>Hoder returned to Iran in October 2008, and reputedly was positive about his early experiences there. The news of his arrest on 2 November could not be confirmed for several weeks; but on 30 December 2008, a week before Hoder's 34th birthday, Ali Reza Jamshidi - spokesman of the revolutionary court, which oversees cases related to national security - <a href="http://www.cbc.ca/world/story/2008/12/30/iran-blogger.html">announced</a> at a news conference in Tehran that he was being charged with "insulting religious figures".</p> <p>The accusation, a variant of the familiar range of <em>post-facto</em> off-the-shelf charges in the authoritarian's litany, was not supported by any known evidence; and almost a year on, there is no sign that any progress in actually examining it or bringing it to court has been made. Instead, Hoder is confined in Tehran's Evin prison - a <a href="http://www.unpo.org/content/view/7508/236/">place</a> almost always qualified by the term "notorious" - from where only the most meagre reports of what he is going through have emerged.</p> <p>The respected collective known as <a href="http://hra-iran.net/index.php?option=com_content&amp;view=category&amp;layout=blog&amp;id=66&amp;Itemid=293">Human Rights Activists in Iran</a> (HRA) published a brief account of Hoder's incarceration on 17 October 2009. It <a href="http://hra-iran.net/index.php?option=com_content&amp;view=article&amp;id=1911:held-on-an-expired-detention-order-hossein-derakhshan-story&amp;catid=66:304&amp;Itemid=293">says</a>:</p> <p>"HRA has received reports which suggest that the blogger, Hossein Derakhshan, who was arrested on 2 November 2008, has spent the first eight months of his detention in solitary confinement and different wards of the Evin prison upon his return to Iran. During that time he has been subjected to various physical and psychological pressure tactics and multiple transfers.</p> <p class="pullquote_new"><br /> <br /> Hossein Derakhshan's articles for openDemocracy:<br /> <br /> "<a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/media-irandemocracy/article_1683.jsp">Censor this: Iran's web of lies</a>" (22 January 2004)<br /> <br /> "<a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/media-edemocracy/wiki_2725.jsp">Wiki-ocracy</a>" (2 August 2005)<br /> <br /> "<a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/democracy-irandemocracy/article_2502.jsp">Blogging Iran's wired election</a>" (11 May 2005)<br /> <br /> "<a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/democracy-irandemocracy/reform_2649.jsp">Iran's young reformers</a>" (4 July 2005)<br /> <br /> "<a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/democracy-irandemocracy/jahanbegloo_courage_3873.jsp">Ramin Jahanbegloo: the courage to change</a>" (3 September 2006)</p> <p>He has been beaten repeatedly and has been forced to do squats in cold showers. His interrogators have threatened to arrest his father and his sister unless he confessed to espionage charges.</p> <p>With the start of the massive arrests after the presidential election, and as a result of cell shortages in Evin prison, Derakhshan was transferred to Ward 2A of the IRGC [Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps] prison, where he shared his cell with newly arrested people.</p> <p>Derakhshan has been given false promises of his release on multiple occasions: during the <em>Fajr</em> celebrations and <em>Nowrooz</em>. Despite all the promises he is still being held on a temporary detention-order. His detention-order has been renewed several times, the last of which expired on 10 October 2009. Derakhshan reportedly intended to start a hunger-strike if his situation remained unchanged after this date. HRA has no information as to whether he has started the hunger-strike.</p> <p>During his detention, Derakhshan has been pressured by his interrogators to collaborate and confess to the charges brought up against him. In September 2009 he was taken to court to sign documents granting permission to his lawyer to represent him. He told the judge that all his confessions had come under pressure. According to the reports received by HRA, Derakhshan had agreed to televised confessions under pressure, but the matter was cancelled after one recording."</p> <p><strong>A family matter</strong></p> <p>The lack of hard information about what had happened to Hossein Derakhshan after his return to Iran meant that the attention to his <a href="http://thelede.blogs.nytimes.com/2009/10/23/news-of-irans-detained-blogfather/">case</a> was more limited than to other comparable situations. The fact that an unusual intellectual-political trajectory had seen him gradually express a degree of support for the government of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad - and vehement criticism of some of its Iranian critics in the west - probably also contributed to this relatively low-key response.</p> <p>But as awareness of his arrest spread, several initiatives calling for Hoder's release began to appear. They include the strong <a href="http://kamangir.net/2008/12/18/letter-in-defense-of-hossein-derakhshan-hoder/">letter</a> from a group of Iranian bloggers; the "<a href="http://freehoder.wordpress.com/">free Hoder</a>" blog and a <a href="http://www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=37459792838">Facebook group</a>; and efforts by several media organisations and networks (such as <a href="http://www.internetsansfrontieres.com/2009/04/ahmadinedjad-plaide-pour-le-respect-des-droits-de-la-defense-dhossein-derakhshan/"><em>Internet Sans Frontières</em></a>) to highlight his ordeal and keep it in the public eye.</p> <p>The approaching <a href="http://www.iranhumanrights.org/2009/10/releasederakhshan/">anniversary</a> of his detention has now led his family in Iran to take the decision to speak out on his behalf. His younger brother Hamed, in an interview with the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC), criticised the Canadian authorities for their inaction in the case, said that his parents had been able to see Hossein only twice during his incarceration, and explained why the family was only at this stage seeking to draw attention to the case. "My father believed it was better to use the connections, prove that he is loyal to them, work within the system" (see John Nicol, "<a href="http://www.cbc.ca/world/story/2009/10/29/iran-blogger-prison-anniversary.html">Iranian-Canadian blogger's family pleads for help</a>", CBC News, 29 October 2009).</p> <p>Hossein's father has written a letter to Ayatollah Amoli Larijani, the head of Iran's judiciary department, which the reformist newspaper <a href="http://salaamnews.com/"><em>Salaam</em></a> published on its website on 21 October 2009. The California-based journalist, <a href="http://cyrusfarivar.com/blog/">Cyrus Farivar</a>, provides an English translation of the letter on his blog:</p> <p>"To the Presence of Ayatollah Amoli Larijani, the Respected Head of the Judiciary:</p> <p>Greetings and respect to you. One year has passed since the day that my son was arrested.</p> <p>In all these months, days, and hours, my family, my wife and I were hoping that in the arms of Islamic law and the mercy of the Islamic judiciary, Hossein's case will be dealt with in the way it deserves.</p> <p>There is no need to mention the numerous times that we refused the requests of foreign media to explain Hossein's situation.</p> <p>Even when we heard the worst gossip about his treatment in semi-official media, we were silent and in fact, no government organisation has ever denied this worrisome news, not just to calm our very worried hearts down, but at least to respect the independence of judiciary about this case.</p> <p>During this entire time, our son has had just two short meetings with us for only a few minutes. Please imagine that for every six months we just saw him for very few minutes. We have no information about his legal situation.</p> <p>No court has been held yet and we don't even know which institution or security organisation Hossein is under the control of. Many times, from many different ways, we tried to get some precision about his situation, but we couldn't. Does a detainee's dignified manner deserve such treatment?</p> <p>Many times, my son admitted in his writings and conversations that he would love to serve his country. And he came back to Iran on his own to answer his accusations. Does such a person who has come back to his country and his beliefs, deserve such a welcome?</p> <p>Our complaint is not because you are exercising the law, but to the contrary, because of its suspension, lack of information and disrespecting of the law. The accused have rights, the family of the accused has some rights, and we know that the ruler of society has some rights as well, and that rules and regulations are valuable.</p> <p>We are certain that you'd agree that one year of a brutal arrest of a person who has come voluntarily and on his own to the bosom of Iran and dear Islam, is not an appropriate welcome.</p> <p>I, my wife and our family are still looking forward to your just treatment.</p> <p>With respect,</p> <p>Hassan Derakhshan".</p> <p><strong>A case to answer </strong></p> <p>The cycle of arrests, show-trials, incarcerations and <a href="http://rex.ucpress.edu/books/pages/8305.php">violations</a> in Iran continues. The state's internal-security apparatus, emboldened by its ability to contain and then beat back the challenge to its rule following the stolen election, remains unbending.</p> <p>But there is multiple evidence too that the regime's behaviour since the election has resulted in a critical loss of legitimacy in the eyes of Iran's people. Their resourceful search for new and creative forms of opposition is vividly conveyed in a number of <strong>openDemocracy</strong> articles (see Asef Bayat, "<a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/article/iran-a-green-wave-for-life-and-liberty">Iran: a green wave for life and liberty</a>" [7 July 2009], and R Tousi, "<a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/article/iran/iran-s-ocean-of-dissent">Iran's ocean of dissent</a>" [28 October 2009]).</p> <p>Those imprisoned in Iran on account of their peaceful protest, their criticism of the authorities, or merely because they represent a convenient target to unaccountable power, need to be freed in order that they can resume their lives and speak in their own voices. An end to their confinement will be the beginning of the new era of respect for human rights and civic freedoms that Iranians more than ever deserve.</p> <div><p><strong>Also in openDemocracy on Iranian prisoners and human rights:</strong></p></div> <div><p>Masoud Behnoud, "<a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/democracy-irandemocracy/hunger_strike_2683.jsp">Akbar Ganji in the prison of Iran</a>" (17 July 2005)</p></div> <div><p>openDemocracy, "<a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/democracy-irandemocracy/appeal_2688.jsp">Free Akbar Ganji: an appeal to Iran</a>" (19 July 2005)</p></div> <div><p>Nazila Fathi, "<a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/democracy-irandemocracy/ganji_3431.jsp">Akbar Ganji's moment</a>" (6 April 2006)</p></div> <div><p>Rasool Nafisi, "<a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/democracy-irandemocracy/jahanbegloo_3545.jsp">The meaning of Ramin Jahanbegloo's arrest</a>" (16 May 2006)</p></div> <div><p>openDemocracy, "<a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/democracy-irandemocracy/openletter_3578.jsp">Ramin Jahanbegloo: an open letter to Iran's president</a>" (23 May 2006)</p></div> <div><p>Rasool Nafisi, "<a href="http://ramin%20jahanbegloo/">Ramin Jahanbegloo: a repressive release</a>" (1 September 2006)</p></div> <div><p>Danny Postel, "<a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/democracy-irandemocracy/jahanbegloo_postel_3930.jsp">Ramin Jahanbegloo, Hossein Derakhshan and openDemocracy</a>" (21 September 2006)</p></div> <div><p>Nazenin Ansari, "<a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/democracy-irandemocracy/ayatollah_3965.jsp">An ayatollah under siege - in Tehran</a>" (3 October 2006)</p></div> <div><p>Rasool Nafisi, "<a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/democracy-irandemocracy/haleh_mind_4625.jsp">Haleh Esfandiari: Iran's cultural prison</a>" (16 May 2007)</p></div> <div><p>Akbar Ganji, "<a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/article/democracy_power/iran_democracy/akbar_ganji">Iran's future: an open letter</a>" (24 September 2007)</p></div><div><p>R Tousi, "<a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/article/iran/iran-s-ocean-of-dissent">Iran's ocean of dissent</a>" (28 October 2009)</p></div><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-read-on"> <div class="field-label"> 'Read On' Sidebox:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p><a href="http://freehoder.wordpress.com/">Free Hoder </a></p> <p><a href="http://www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=37459792838">Facebook - Free Hossein Derakhshan </a></p> <p><a href="http://hra-iran.net/index.php?option=com_content&amp;view=article&amp;id=1911:held-on-an-expired-detention-order-hossein-derakhshan-story&amp;catid=66:304&amp;Itemid=293">Human Rights Activists in Iran - Hossein Derakhshan</a> (17 October 2009)</p> <p><a href="http://www.iranhumanrights.org/">International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran </a></p> <p>Karim Sadjadpour, "<a href="http://www.foreignpolicy.com/articles/2009/10/23/the_new_hostage_crisis?page=0,0">The New Hostage Crisis</a>" (<em>Foreign Policy</em>, 23 October 2009)</p> <p><a href="http://cyrusfarivar.com/blog/">Cyrus Farivar</a></p> <p>Nasrin Alavi, <a href="http://www.portobellobooks.com/Books/We-Are-Iran-pb"><em>We Are Iran: The Persian Blogs</em></a> (Portobello Books, 2005)</p> <p><a href="http://globalvoicesonline.org/">Global Voices Online </a></p> <p><a href="http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/in_depth/middle_east/2009/iran/default.stm">BBC - Iran crisis</a></p> <p><a href="http://iranppa.blogspot.com/">Iran Political Prisoners Association&nbsp; </a></p> <p><a href="http://tehranbureau.com/category/election-coverage/">Tehran Bureau </a></p> <p><a href="http://www.hrw.org/middle-eastn-africa/iran">Human Rights Watch - Iran </a></p> <p>Ali Gheissari &amp; Vali Nasr, <em><a href="http://www.us.oup.com/us/catalog/general/subject/ReligionTheology/Islam/?view=usa&amp;ci=9780195189674">Democracy in Iran: History and the Quest for Liberty</a></em> (Oxford University Press, 2006)</p> <p>Ali Ansari, <em><a href="http://www.perseusbooks.com/basic/book_detail.jsp?isbn=0465003508">Confronting Iran</a></em> (Basic Books, 2006)</p> <p>Ray Takeyh, <a href="http://www.cfr.org/publication/11118/"><em>Hidden Iran: Paradox and Power in the Islamic Republic</em></a> (CFR, 2006)</p> <p><a href="http://www.iranian.com/main/">Iranian.com</a></p> <p><a href="http://www.roozonline.com/english/">Rooz&nbsp;</a></p><p>&nbsp;</p> </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/media-edemocracy/wiki_2725.jsp">Wiki-ocracy</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/democracy-irandemocracy/reform_2649.jsp">Iran&#039;s young reformers</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"> Iran </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Civil society </div> <div class="field-item even"> Democracy and government </div> </div> </div> Iran Civil society Democracy and government democracy & power democracy & iran David Hayes Fri, 21 Nov 2014 16:22:48 +0000 David Hayes 48896 at https://opendemocracy.net Palestine's statehood options: a dialogue https://opendemocracy.net/arab-awakening/victor-kattan-michael-kearney/palestine%27s-statehood-options-dialogue <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>What are the choices facing Palestinians regarding their state sovereignty, and how best should they be pursued? Two legal scholars debate these increasingly urgent questions.&nbsp; </p> </div> </div> </div> <p><strong>Victor Kattan: Palestine, the United Nations and the International Court of Justice </strong></p><p>At last, it appears that the United Nations General Assembly’s (UNGA) 138-9 majority vote in November 2012 to accord Palestine observer-state <a href="http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=43640">status</a> might finally be bearing fruit. Sweden’s announcement that it will recognise Palestine, the House of Commons's 274-12 majority vote calling on the British government to recognise the state of Palestine alongside the state of Israel, the decision by Spanish lawmakers to hold a similar vote on recognising Palestine in their parliament, and France’s announcement that it will recognise Palestine if negotiations with Israel fail are all steps in this direction.</p><p>Unable to end Israel’s forty-seven-year occupation through negotiations, Palestine's <a href="http://www.president.ps/eng/">president</a>, Mahmoud Abbas, took the first incremental steps towards asserting Palestinian statehood in the international arena by acceding to more than a dozen treaties on human rights and humanitarian law, steps that only states can take. He also took steps to reunify the West Bank and the Gaza Strip as a single political entity under one rule of law, a process that is still underway.</p><p>After Israel’s fifty-one-day assault on the Gaza strip in mid-2014, President Abbas announced a plan to end the occupation. In his UN speech, he said that Palestine and the Arab Group at the UN had started to prepare a draft UN Security Council (UNSC) resolution that would set a timetable for Israel to end the occupation that would be <a href="http://www.thenational.ae/world/palestinian-authority/mahmoud-abbas-demands-end-to-israeli-occupation-in-un-speech">linked</a> “to the immediate resumption of negotiations between Palestine and Israel to demarcate the borders, reach a detailed and comprehensive agreement, and draft a peace treaty between them”.</p><p>There is no guarantee that the UNSC will move to a vote. In the case that it does, the United States has indicated that it will veto the resolution. If this happens, President Abbas has threatened to apply for membership in UN agencies and join the <a href="http://www.icc-cpi.int/en_menus/icc/about%20the%20court/Pages/about%20the%20court.aspx">International Criminal Court</a> (ICC). An application by Palestine for membership in UN agencies and the ICC, however, would result in the loss of much needed Congressional funds, not to mention US political support. Israel could also retaliate in myriad ways. Moreover, membership in the ICC could involve delays and legal complications.</p><p>Does President Abbas have any other options? </p><p>He does. Instead of submitting applications to UN agencies and the ICC in the event of a US veto, President Abbas might consider delaying these moves and ask the UNGA to discuss the steps that member states can take to help end Israel’s occupation of Palestine. Should Israel ignore a call from the UNGA to end the occupation, Palestine and the Arab Group could then ask the UNGA to request an advisory opinion from the <a href="http://www.icj-cij.org/court/index.php?p1=1">International Court of Justice</a> (ICJ) on the legal responsibilities of states and international organisations to end the occupation.</p><p>When the US vetoed a draft UNSC resolution that condemned Israel’s decision to construct the wall in the West Bank in 2003, the UNGA requested an <a href="http://www.icj-cij.org/jurisdiction/index.php?p1=5&amp;p2=2">advisory opinion</a> from the ICJ on the legal consequences of its construction. In July 2004, this led to fourteen of the fifteen judges to declare in their advisory opinion that the settlements, the wall, and their associated regime are contrary to international law. The court also called on states not to aid or assist Israel in the wall’s construction. But because the question addressed to the court in 2003 specifically concerned the wall, the court could not address the larger issue of ending the occupation. In 2003 it was not clear whether a Palestinian state had emerged, and moreover the second <em>intifada</em> was still underway. </p><p>In light of the developments that have taken place in the last decade, President Abbas could ask the UNGA to request a new advisory opinion from the ICJ in the event of a US veto. This time, however, consideration could be given to drafting a question for the UNGA that would: </p><p>* inquire into the legal consequences of Israel’s continued occupation and settlement activity in the state of Palestine in light of the UNGA resolution that accorded Palestine observer state status </p><p>* provide guidance to the UNGA on the responsibilities of states and international organisations to bring to an end the occupation and Israel’s settlement activity.</p><p>The question could make reference to the 134 states that have already recognised Palestine, relevant UN resolutions, applicable treaties, and customary international law. Unlike in 2004, this time the court would have its previous advisory opinion to take into account, Palestine’s application for membership in the UN, its membership in the UN Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organisation (Unesco), and the UN resolution that <a href="http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=43640">accorded</a> Palestine observer-state status. The court would also have to hand a plethora of UN reports, including the <a href="http://www.ohchr.org/en/hrbodies/hrc/regularsessions/session19/pages/israelisettlementsintheopt.aspx">report</a> of the UN Fact-Finding Mission on Israeli Settlements in the Occupied Palestinian Territory.</p><p>There have been a number of legal developments since 2004 as well. In addition to the International Law Commission’s <a href="http://legal.un.org/avl/ha/rsiwa/rsiwa.html">Articles on the Responsibility of States for Internationally Wrongful Acts</a>, the International Law Commission has drafted Articles on the Responsibility of International Organisations. Furthermore, the court would be expected to make reference to the treaties that Palestine acceded to in April 2014. In addition to the 1907 <a href="https://www.icrc.org/ihl/INTRO/195">Hague Regulations</a>, the four <a href="http://www.law.cornell.edu/wex/geneva_conventions">Geneva Conventions</a>, and <a href="https://www.icrc.org/ihl/INTRO/470">Additional Protocol 1</a>, these treaties include the Human Rights Covenants, the <a href="http://www.ohchr.org/EN/ProfessionalInterest/Pages/CERD.aspx">International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination</a>, and the <a href="http://legal.un.org/avl/ha/cspca/cspca.html">Convention on the Suppression and Punishment of the Crime of Apartheid</a>. </p><p>Of course, the question rendered to the court would have to be carefully framed, preferably by lawyers with legal experience and expertise at the ICJ. The emphasis of a question that focuses on legal consequences, the occupation, and Palestine’s statehood would be to inquire into the legality of a prolonged occupation that has prevented the Palestinian people from exercising their right to self-determination. The hope is that the court would call for an end to the occupation as a matter of international law in order to enable the Palestinian people to exercise their right to self-determination within their own state. The question formulated for the court could be linked to President Abbas’s plan to end the occupation.&nbsp; </p><p>There are several advantages of going back to the ICJ as opposed to lodging another application at the ICC. The Palestinians have a good track record at the ICJ. They do not have a good track record at the ICC, which rejected their attempt to grant that court jurisdiction after Operation Cast Lead in January 2009. Although the ICC prosecutor has indicated that the ICC would accept a new application submitted by Palestine to join the court, the final ruling on whether the ICC has jurisdiction would be left up to the judges. Furthermore, the ICC has a mixed record of carrying out investigations or preliminary examinations quickly. Not only would it have to check whether Israel is investigating the crimes that took place in Gaza, it may have to wait for the Israeli legal process to run its course, which would also take time. </p><p>Additionally, because Israel is not a party to the <a href="http://www.ohchr.org/EN/ProfessionalInterest/Pages/InternationalCriminalCourt.aspx">Rome Statute</a>, it has no obligation to cooperate with the ICC; without Israeli cooperation, the process could take even longer. And finally, even if the prosecutor decides to open a full investigation, she would then have to charge and issue arrest warrants for Israelis and Palestinians implicated in crimes under the statute. Yet Israel would be unlikely to hand over any of its nationals to the ICC. With so many possibilities for a stalemate, the ICC route is unlikely to produce the desired results.</p><p>In contrast, an ICJ advisory opinion could be produced in a matter of months. The 9 July 2004 advisory opinion on the wall only took the court five months to <a href="http://www.icj-cij.org/docket/index.php?p1=3&amp;p2=4&amp;case=131&amp;p3=4">deliver</a> after it heard the oral pleadings in February 2004. Admittedly, a question on the legal consequences of Israel’s continued occupation of Palestine, in light of its new statehood status, would raise more intricate legal issues and might take more time. Even so, it would still be a quicker process than anything at the ICC.</p><p>Another advantage that the ICJ has over the ICC is that there is no Congressional legislation that would require the US to withhold funds from the <a href="http://palestine.dk/palestine/government/">Palestinian Authority </a>in the event that the UNGA requests an advisory opinion from the ICJ, because it is not Palestine that would request the opinion but the UNGA. Moreover, the Palestinians and the <a href="http://unterm.un.org/dgaacs/unterm.nsf/8fa942046ff7601c85256983007ca4d8/18d544e3b1f37b95852569fa000053a1?OpenDocument">Arab Group</a> at the UN would have more control over the question that is formulated for the ICJ, because an advisory opinion is a response to a question that has been rendered to it from the UNGA, which Palestine and the Arab Group can influence.</p><p>An opinion that addresses Palestine’s legal status and the territories over which Palestine is entitled to exercise sovereignty could help future applications to join the ICC, UN agencies, and other international institutions. It would also be an opportunity for the court to offer clear guidance on the extent to which Israel is still the occupying power in Gaza (which Israel has disputed since it redeployed its troops in 2005) and provide guidance on the manner in which the Palestinian state came into being in light of the UNGA resolution that accorded Palestine observer-state status despite Israel’s continuing occupation.</p><p>Israel and its allies would find it more difficult to object to a question to the ICJ from the UNGA than a Palestinian application to the ICC. Unlike the ICC, the ICJ cannot try individuals or heads of states for crimes. An appeal to the ICJ could therefore be portrayed as being consistent with a diplomatic effort to reach a negotiated two-state solution by linking it to a need to end the occupation and to stop Israel from building more settlements in East Jerusalem and the West Bank.</p><p>In the event that the UNGA requests an <a href="http://www.icj-cij.org/jurisdiction/index.php?p1=5&amp;p2=2">advisory opinion</a> from the ICJ, member states would be invited to give written statements and make oral submissions to the court. As part of this process, member states would have to clarify their legal positions with respect to Palestine’s statehood, including explaining what steps the UNGA could take to bring an end to Israel’s occupation and settlement activity. Some states may make reference to the manner in which Israel has violated the territorial integrity of the Palestinian state through its construction of the wall in defiance of the court’s previous opinion and through its establishment of settlements and bypass roads. </p><p>They may also suggest to the court that states and international organisations have a responsibility not to aid or assist Israel in maintaining the occupation and its annexation of Jerusalem, possibly even calling on states and international organisations to consider suspending economic, cultural, and trade agreements with Israel to the extent that these agreements apply to the territories that comprise the Palestinian state. Although advisory opinions are not legally binding in the sense that states are not obliged to comply with them (unless the UNSC determines otherwise), in formulating its opinion, the court would be stating what the law is, which would be binding on states irrespective of the legal status of the advisory opinion.</p><p>A favourable and cogent opinion from the ICJ could help shift world public opinion further in <a href="http://uk.reuters.com/article/2014/10/09/uk-palestinians-uk-recognition-idUKKCN0HY14T20141009">favour</a> of Palestinian rights to have a state of their own next to, and at peace with, the state of Israel. At the same time, an advisory opinion may give impetus to Israeli and Palestinian leaders to sit down and negotiate a final status agreement to establish a democratic, contiguous, and independent Palestinian state along the lines of the phased plan to end the occupation that President Abbas <a href="http://www.haaretz.com/news/diplomacy-defense/1.617305">intends</a> to present to the UNSC.</p><p>In the event that Israel ignores the court and chooses to defy the international community by further entrenching the occupation and building more <a href="http://www.btselem.org/topic/settlements">settlements</a>, those states and organisations sitting on the side-lines would be given a reason and an opportunity to take the moral high ground and insist that Israel respects the court’s opinion and the right of the Palestinian people to exercise independence in their own state alongside the state of Israel or face consequences in the form of countermeasures. At that stage, President Abbas could then take steps to join the ICC and UN agencies.</p><p>--------</p><p><strong>Michael Kearney: The ICC as tool of resistance</strong><br /><br />It is claimed an advisory opinion would shift public attitudes towards the Palestinian cause, promote Israel-Palestinian Authority negotiations, give states the moral high ground in their diplomatic outreach to Israel, and ensure continued United States funding of the Palestinian Authority. Joining the International Criminal Court (ICC) is discouraged because the court and its prosecutor operate slowly, Israel will not cooperate, and the US will cut funding to the PA.</p><p>I disagree generally, and on each count. First, as outlined by Al-Shabaka, the function of the "much needed" US-European Union funding is to consolidate a repressive police state. The PA’s existence is premised on its willingness to submit to Washington through collaboration with Israel’s apartheid regime. This unrepresentative institution which the "international community" has chosen to recognise, to the exclusion of all others, as permitted to negotiate on behalf of Palestinians repeatedly demonstrates it servility by failing to defend Palestinian rights. Following US/EU/Israeli orders to refrain from going to the ICC is a clear example.</p><p>Second, global public opinion, as such, is not reliant on the interpretations judges give to international legal texts. Popular initiatives such as Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS) already use international legal standards as a baseline for their goals, but public opinion is shaped by the massacres unleashed against Palestinians before the eyes of the world. What is expected in response to the self-evident crimes of the occupation isn’t merely a reassertion as to what the law says, but rather the total satisfaction of demands for equal rights and justice. In this light it is naive to suggest that another advisory opinion might provide states with the moral high ground by which to act: it can only be sustained political, economic, and legal pressure from within which forces governments to adjust the nature of their relationships with Israel.</p><p>Such pressure can be increased by the state of Palestine ratifying the Rome Statute. It is one of the few international institutions where Palestinians can attempt to assert and reclaim their rights. Mahmoud Abbas’s empty threats to ratify Rome echo and overlap the west’s meaningless motif of commitment to a two-state solution. When the statute was drafted in 1998, Israel voted against because of the inclusion of the war crime, rooted in the 1949 Geneva Conventions, of the transfer of one’s own civilian population into occupied territory, aka "settlement".</p><p>The ICC can also investigate those Israelis’ responsible for the crime against humanity of apartheid. These core activities of the Israeli state are being perpetrated with impunity and demand opposition at every level and such opposition must utilise the ICC process.</p><p>Amira Hass recently wrote that "The genius of Israeli evil is that it is broken down into an infinite number of atoms, individual cases that the human brain - and even more so a newspaper column - cannot contain in their entirety, and a single definition cannot conceptualize them." International criminal law, pursued through national and international courts, provides one avenue by which the weasel words of western states condemning "illegitimate" settlement expansion can be upended and the inherent criminality of Israel’s occupation, in all its guises, and individual cases, be brought centre-stage.</p><p>While the court’s orders and arrest-warrants might not be binding on Israel, they are binding on its 122 member-states. That would leave most of the EU bound to arrest any Israeli indicted by the court, regardless of their political position. It would also ramp up the possibility that those Europeans, and others, who are aiding and abetting Israeli crimes in Palestine could come within the court’s jurisdiction. It is for this reason that the various Palestinian political groups, Palestinian civil society, and Palestinian public opinion all reject western opposition and are firmly behind going to the ICC. We should support the Palestinians in this choice, working alongside them to expedite any investigatory and prosecution process, by continuing to push for the Palestinian representatives to ratify the statute.</p><p>Israel’s war against Palestinians is accelerating. The UN General Assembly, Arab League, secretary-general, Security Council, ICJ process is a technocratic merry-go-round not to be indulged. The ICC will not stop Israel’s war, but as one tool of resistance amongst many, it must be triggered immediately.</p><p>--------</p><p><strong>Victor Kattan: The ICJ advantage</strong><br /><br />The most persuasive argument in favour of Palestine’s accession to the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court (ICC) is that in the event of a favourable ruling by the pre-trial chamber, the issuance of arrest-warrants would be binding on its 122 member-states. This means that these states would become obliged to arrest Israelis indicted by the court. But it is likely that arrest-warrants will also be directed at Palestinians and would obligate the ICC’s 122 member-states to arrest Palestinians accused of committing crimes as well.<br /><br />Even if the possibility of arresting and transferring Palestinians accused of crimes to the ICC were a price worth paying to constrain the holiday plans of high-ranking Israeli officials, it is not clear how this would assist Palestinian self-determination or safeguard human rights due to the likely repercussions that may follow Palestine’s accession to the Rome Statute. <br /><br />The United States Congress has made it clear that it will withdraw US aid to the Palestinian Authority (PA) if Palestine were to accede to the Rome Statute. The US does not only give money to the PA security sector, it also provides aid for health and humanitarian assistance, economic development, and plays a crucial role in servicing the PA’s substantial debts to the private sector. The PA owes large debts to East Jerusalem hospitals, to which 45% of the PA health-ministry referrals are sent (including from the Gaza strip). <br /><br />Furthermore, the US is the largest single donor to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestinian Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA). At present, over 150,000 Palestinians are employed in the public sector by the PA. The donor community subsidises 50% of these salaries, which include the salaries the PA pays for its employees in the Gaza strip. The US was one of the biggest donors at the October <a href="http://edition.cnn.com/2014/10/12/world/meast/egypt-gaza-reconstruction/">conference</a> in Cairo on raising funds for reconstructing Gaza.<br /><br />The risks of accession to the Rome Statute must be weighed against the costs, including retaliation from Israel and diplomatic fallout. <br /><br />Not only does the ICC operate slowly, but the UN Security Council could intervene to prevent the prosecutor and the court from opening an investigation and exercising jurisdiction even after Palestine has acceded to the Rome Statute. In addition, ICC judges are not obliged to follow the practice of the UN secretariat or resolutions of the UN General Assembly, when it comes to making an assessment as to whether Palestine has the competence to confer jurisdiction on the court for crimes committed under the statute. At present, the Palestinian Authority does not have criminal jurisdiction over Israeli nationals in PA controlled territory due to the continuing applicability of the 1995 Israel-PLO interim agreement. Unless that agreement is denounced it could conflict with the Rome Statute.<br /><br />This is not to say that Palestine should not accede to the Rome Statute. Israel’s settlement policy is in clear violation of the statute, although the court would not necessarily confine itself to that issue even if Palestine were to accede to the Rome Statute. It would make more sense to see what happens in the UN Security Council later in November, and for the results of the UN’s Fact-Finding Mission, before taking steps to accede to the Rome Statute. Triggering the jurisdiction of the ICC immediately would, at this moment, be foolhardy - especially since the PA has become even more dependent on aid as a result of the destruction caused by the IDF in Gaza. EU states are upgrading their relations with Palestine by recognising Palestine as a state, with Sweden leading the way. Immediate accession to the Rome Statute might cause other states to hesitate recognising Palestine.<br /><br />A further advisory opinion would make more sense than immediate accession to the Rome Statute. The UNGA is currently in session and the Palestinians have prepared a draft UN Security Council resolution on ending the occupation. Whilst it is expected that the US will veto this resolution, there are indications that the US, angered by Israel’s behaviour and conduct in Gaza, and worried about the lack of progress in the peace process through Israel’s intransigence, may support it - especially if the PA were to delay accession to the Rome Statute. Of course, this is speculative. But if the US supports Palestine’s draft UN Security Council resolution this would be a huge diplomatic setback for Israel. A Chapter VII Security Council resolution would be binding on all of the 193 UN member-states. Immediate accession to the Rome Statute would ensure a US veto.<br /><br />The benefits of recourse to the International Court of Justice (ICJ) for another advisory opinion should not be lightly dismissed - especially in the event of a US veto or Israel’s refusal to abide by the UN Security Council resolution. The drafting of the question would be crucial - and should focus on settlements and the occupation, and make use of the treaties that Palestine has already acceded to - which include treaties that reference apartheid and segregation. The court would not only have to hand the UN report on Israel’s settlement activities (7 February 2013), it would also have to hand the concluding observations of the committee on the elimination of racial discrimination (9 March 2012). Both of these reports make reference to the way in which Israel’s policies of apartheid and segregation have consolidated Israel’s settlement enterprise and violated the Palestinian people’s right of self-determination.<br /><br />Whilst global public opinion is not reliant on the interpretations judges give to international legal texts, the 2004 opinion of the ICJ did provide a boost to the Stop the Wall campaign and the BDS movement that was established in 2005. The ICJ also helped to delegitimise South Africa’s apartheid policy and its illegal occupation of Namibia by issuing four advisory opinions over two decades (1950, 1955, 1956, and 1971). A favourable ICJ opinion could also assist civil-society efforts to lobby law-based communities like the EU to suspend or terminate cultural and trade agreements with Israel (such as the EU-Israel association agreement of 1995 that is based on respect for human rights). It may even influence political movements within Israel that want an end to the occupation and assist with efforts to isolate Binyamin Netanyahu, the Likud, and his right-wing coalition partners.</p><p>----------</p><p><strong>Michael Kearney: An end to impunity</strong><br /><br />To begin, I think Palestine should use all the options the international legal framework purports to provide for the assertion of basic human rights and accountability for international crimes, including the International Court of Justice and the International Criminal Court.<br /><br />There is the possibility that the International Criminal Court would indict Palestinians alleged to be responsible for war crimes, and this prospect was well known to each of the Palestinian political groups when they signed an agreement in summer 2014 supporting the PA’s consideration of triggering the court’s jurisdiction. If it were to transpire that Palestinians were being seized and sent to The Hague though, this would need to be in connivance with Israel, given that it is Israel which controls all the exits from Palestine. Should there arrive a point where the ICC were to be prosecuting Palestinians handed over by Israel, while Israel continued to shield its own wanted nationals, well, then this would merely illustrate how twisted international law can be in favour of the western powers over the colonised.<br /><br />Regarding the matter of United States funding of the Palestinian civil service and UNRWA, the question to be considered is why an enemy of Palestinians should be funding them in the first instance. It should be clear that the function of this charitable donor aid is to facilitate the minimum adequate living standards so as to attempt to avoid a situation of such desperation that all Palestinians would have no option but to turn to armed or other forms of revolt. In this sense US funding underwrites the occupation and ensures its viability. From the international-law perspective, the Geneva Conventions are clear that it is Israel who has the legal obligation to provide for the needs of the "protected population", those Palestinians living under its military occupation. As for overall debt to the private sector, an independent Palestine would merely be joining pretty much every other country that achieved decolonisation only to find itself perpetually subjugated by debts to western financial institutions.<br /><br />As for Israeli retaliation: what can Israel do if Palestine joins the ICC? Build more settlements, kill more Palestinians, increase levels of administrative detention and torture, hype up the racist and violent rhetoric? All these things are happening anyway. To suggest that a negative cost of going to the ICC will be the cut to aid needed to rebuild Gaza is beyond the point. Gaza will be destroyed again, that's certain. Aid isn’t necessary, justice and liberation are what is demanded.<br /><br />With respect the ICC, the suggestion that Oslo could conflict with the Rome Statute has no basis at all. Neither is there any substance to the suggestion that the judges might not recognise the existence of the state of Palestine. But if they were, somehow, to conclude as such, well perhaps then one might want to see what the ICJ would have to opine. <br /><br />I don’t believe, as suggested, that the US is angry with Israel’s conduct against Palestinians. The US might be miffed at the brusqueness of Israel’s diplomats but remains wholeheartedly a supporter - through finance, the use of the UNSC veto, and the provision of weaponry for Israel’s illegal policies and practices in the occupied territory. Palestine does not need yet another Security Council resolution, but rather the enforcement of all the previous relevant UNSC resolutions calling for an end to then occupation, and the enforcement of the Wall advisory opinion in 2004.<br /><br />The allusion to the European Union as a "law based community" is offensive. It’s common knowledge that the EU has been more than happy to pursue its financial profiteering from the occupation while flouting its so-called "human-rights conditions! in the various trade agreements with Israel. Parallels with the ICJ’s advisory opinions against apartheid South Africa are of limited value with respect to Palestine today. There certainly is no future in which Palestine can wait for successive advisory opinions stating that Israel is acting unlawfully.<br /><br />The situation now, as it has been for a long time, is one where the total impunity afforded to Israel can, and is, fuelling the destruction of the Palestinian people, <em>dunam</em> by <em>dunam</em>, and day by day. This reality can only lead to irrevocable tragedy, continued racial domination, and persecution against the Palestinians. There must be a push for the PA to ratify the Rome Statute immediately, because, and in the full knowledge of all its limitations and the political consequences, this is what the Palestinian political groups, civil society, public, and international solidarity activists are demanding. It is time for the lawyers to contribute by working to change the political language applied to the Israeli politico-military elite from one of illegitimacy/apology/unfortunate to one of criminality/ accountability/ equal rights and justice.</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-read-on"> <div class="field-label"> 'Read On' Sidebox:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p><a href="http://www.icc-cpi.int/en_menus/icc/structure%20of%20the%20court/office%20of%20the%20prosecutor/comm%20and%20ref/pe-cdnp/palestine/Pages/palestine.aspx">International Criminal Court - Palestine</a></p><p>Virgina Tilley ed.,<em> <a href="http://www.plutobooks.com/display.asp?K=9780745332352">Beyond occupation: apartheid, colonialism &amp; international law in the occupied Palestinian territories</a></em> (Pluto, 2012)</p><p><a href="http://iccforum.com/home"><em>ICC Forum</em></a></p><p><a href="http://www.ejiltalk.org/"><em>European Journal of International Law</em></a></p><p><a href="http://jicj.oxfordjournals.org/"><em>Journal of International Criminal Justice</em></a></p><p>-------</p><p>Victor Kattan's opening <a href="http://www.ecfr.eu/article/commentary_palestinian_options_at_the_united_nations_and_the_internation334">contribution</a> to this dialogue was first published by the <a href="http://www.ecfr.eu/">European Council for Foreign Relations</a> on 23 October 2014</p> </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/victor-kattan/palestinian-statehood-turning-point">Palestinian statehood: a turning-point</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/globalization-institutions_government/sudan_icc_4301.jsp">Sudan and the ICC: a question of accountability</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/article/globalisation/international_justice/the-iccs-first-five-years">What is global justice and who is it for? The ICC’s first five years </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/opensecurity/luke-moffett/syria-and-international-criminal-court-justice-denied">Syria and the International Criminal Court: justice denied</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/openglobalrights/mark-kersten/icc-and-its-impact-more-known-unknowns">The ICC and its impact: more known unknowns</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/openglobalrights/priscilla-hayner/does-icc-advance-interests-of-justice">Does the ICC advance the interests of justice?</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/openglobalrights/usha-ramanathan/surprising-impact-of-rome-statute-in-india">The surprising impact of the Rome Statute in India</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/openglobalrights/priscilla-hayner/does-icc-advance-interests-of-justice">Does the ICC advance the interests of justice?</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/article/the-international-criminal-court-success-or-failure">The International Criminal Court: success or failure?</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/article/israel-gaza-and-international-law">Israel, Gaza and international law </a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/article/the-icc-and-the-gaza-war-legal-limits-symbolic-politics">The ICC and the Gaza war: legal limits, symbolic politics </a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Palestine </div> <div class="field-item even"> Israel </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Conflict </div> <div class="field-item even"> Democracy and government </div> <div class="field-item odd"> International politics </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 3.0 </div> </div> </div> Arab Awakening Arab Awakening Israel Palestine Conflict Democracy and government International politics democracy & power israel & palestine - old roads, new maps Michael Kearney Victor Kattan Thu, 06 Nov 2014 20:11:25 +0000 Michael Kearney and Victor Kattan 87239 at https://opendemocracy.net Westphalia to Southphalia https://opendemocracy.net/juan-gabriel-tokatlian/westphalia-to-southphalia <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Does the rise of non-western states such as China, India, South Africa, and Brazil threaten the dominant model of international politics? </p> </div> </div> </div> <p>The Peace of Westphalia in 1648 ended Europe's thirty-year war. It was also, in essence, a diplomatic-institutional agreement that sought to <a href="http://www.oxfordbibliographies.com/view/document/obo-9780199743292/obo-9780199743292-0073.xml">organise</a> the continent's political life on new principles: of national sovereignty and non-intervention, of a country's right to self-defence, of international law moulded by the logic of a balance of power. Over the centuries this European-state-centred dynamic became universal, as - in the wake of European colonial expansion - <a href="http://avalon.law.yale.edu/17th_century/westphal.asp">Westphalia</a> irradiated institutions, rules, practices and concepts that the various peripheries gradually assimilated. <br /><br />This centuries-long development both expressed and exacerbated deep disparities between the world's "have" and "have-not" nations. More recently, in the last three decades, new powers from the global south have risen within Westphalian parameters - including China, India, South Africa, and Brazil. These countries have accordingly <a href="http://europesworld.org/2013/02/01/why-the-world-must-listen-more-carefully-to-asias-rising-powers/#.VFpbaslrtuA">enhanced</a> their world status, but in ways very different from earlier experiences. <br /><br />During the cold war, most successful middle-level regional powers - such as Canada, Sweden, Australia, and Japan - were western and/or pro-western. They were democratic, stable, and satisfied; had low internal inequality; acted moderately on the international stage; and sought to bridge the gap between global north and south and defuse tensions between west and east. In general, their initiatives in foreign policy strengthened the Westphalian system in terms of its core norms, procedures and values. <br /><br />Today's equivalent powers are from the periphery; their political regimes differ; their houses are not completely stable; their economic <a href="http://www.bloomsbury.com/uk/emerging-powers-in-a-comparative-perspective-9781441119865/">position</a> is variable; they are dissatisfied with the current world order; they have high levels of domestic inequality; and their behaviour, in response to the west's demands for more international responsibility, is often unorthodox and <a href="http://nationalinterest.org/blog/the-buzz/westphalia-chinese-characteristics-10947">challenging</a>. In short, these emerging powers have benefited from Westphalia yet in practice also <a href="http://www.postwesternworld.com/">criticise</a> the prevailing system. <br /><br /><strong>Five issues at stake</strong><br /><br />This raises the question: are these countries in effect creating a new model for organising global politics, which could be called "Southphalia"? A way to evaluate this is by reference to several key aspects of the respective models. Here are five, each of which deserves more detailed scrutiny.<br /><br />First, there is the issue of values. The emerging countries of the south complain about the unjust distribution of global power - but they seem to be concerned mainly with expanding their own influence and voice in world affairs. That is, they look more interested in joining the club of the powerful than in empowering their peers from the periphery.&nbsp; <br /><br />Second, there is the issue of policies. Westphalia was marked by the pro-status quo attitude of major powers and their partners. Southphalia acts like a soft reformist, trying to <a href="http://global.oup.com/academic/product/no-ones-world-9780199739394;jsessionid=BDC72557E91E9D4A2B44F3B45043BE6D?cc=gb&amp;lang=en&amp;#">constrain</a> the choices of the powerful and to increase its own autonomy. Its language can sound tough and confrontational, but the most relevant emerging powers are - at least until now, and probably for the near future - less revisionist than dissatisfied actors. They are playing <a href="http://opencanada.org/features/the-think-tank/comments/the-wests-enduring-importance/">within</a>, not against, the rules of the game. <br /><br />Third, there is the issue of institutional development. Westphalia built a network of international regimes that ultimately legitimised the predominance of the most powerful and influential. Southphalia uses the existing institutional architecture, but adds its willingness to amend and transform it. Just as the principal actors of Westphalia combine multilateralism (for example, the United Nations) and minilateralism (for example, the <a href="http://www.european-council.europa.eu/g7brussels">G7</a>) so does Southphalia: <a href="http://www.ibsa-trilateral.org/">IBSA</a> (India, Brazil, and South Africa) and the <a href="http://www.brics5.co.za/about-brics/">BRICS</a> (Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa) are two southern cases of the multilateralism of small numbers. <br /><br />Southphalia does offer a noticeable institutional innovation, however. This is the impulse to construct regional initiatives such as the <a href="http://www.sectsco.org/EN123/">Shanghai Cooperation Organisation</a> (sponsored by China) and the <a href="http://laht.com/article.asp?CategoryId=12394&amp;ArticleId=329400">South American Defence Council</a> (advanced by Brazil). Their benefits include acting as buffer mechanisms, enabling their members to avoid western involvement in crucial diplomatic and military areas. <br /><br />Fourth, there is the issue of ideas. Westphalia established foundational principles that remain the cornerstone of inter-state relations. Now, major actors within the emerging world are voicing new Southphalian concepts. China has <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/william-callahan/china%E2%80%99s-grand-strategy-in-post-western-world">proclaimed</a> the virtues of "<em>hexie shijie</em>" (harmonious world) as a <a href="http://chinadigitaltimes.net/2007/10/harmonious-society-and-harmonious-world-chinas-policy-discourse-under-hu-jintao-zheng-yongnian-eeee%E2%88%9E%E2%88%8Fa%CF%80%C2%A5-and-sow-keat-tok/">guide</a> for global affairs. India has promoted Gandhi’s <a href="http://www.i-genius.org/eprofiles/global-gandhian-trusteeship-corporate-responsibility-foundation-suresh-kr-pramar">notion</a> of "trusteeship" as an expression of the search for collective spiritual development and a more <a href="http://inequality.org/">egalitarian</a> order. Brazil, since the fiasco in Libya in 2011, has been <a href="http://www.postwesternworld.com/2013/08/01/brazils-enigmatic-retreat-the-case-of-the-responsibility-while-protecting-rwp/">calling</a> for “responsibility while protecting” as an alternative to western manipulation and mismanagement of the “responsibility-to-protect” principle. Thus, the south is introducing fresh ideas that contest the west's dominant (but <a href="http://www.postwesternworld.com/">weakening</a>) assumptions. In short, Southphalia is attempting to reconfigure the logic of politics, law and morality by which power, legality, and ethics are intertwined and reinforced.<br /><br />Fifth, there is the issue of leadership. Westphalia has been based on the deliberation of the few and the conventional style of <a href="http://www.foreignaffairs.com/articles/67730/g-john-ikenberry/the-future-of-the-liberal-world-order">leadership</a> of the most powerful. Hegemony by a single power or bloc has been its prevailing mode. Here there is no innovation from the south: Southphalia is not investing in more participatory and pluralistic forms of deliberation, nor stimulating different modes of concerted, joint, collaborative and/or distributive leadership. <br /><br />To sum up, Southphalia shows some elements of continuity and change from Westphalia.&nbsp; Will the coming years see Southphalia's extension, not without resistance from the west, or its assimilation by a Westphalian system displaying a persistent capacity to adjust? </p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-read-on"> <div class="field-label"> 'Read On' Sidebox:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p><a href="http://www.oxfordbibliographies.com/view/document/obo-9780199743292/obo-9780199743292-0073.xml">Peace of Westphalia, 1648</a></p><p><a href="http://www.postwesternworld.com/">Post-Western World</a></p><p><a href="http://www.worldpolicy.org/">World Policy Institute</a></p><p>Dries Lesage &amp; Thijs Van de Graaf eds., <a href="http://www.palgrave.com/page/detail/rising-powers-and-multilateral-institutions-/?K=9781137397591"><em>Rising Powers and Multilateral Institutions</em></a> (Palgrave, 2015)</p><p>Charles A Kupchan, <a href="http://global.oup.com/academic/product/no-ones-world-9780199739394;jsessionid=BDC72557E91E9D4A2B44F3B45043BE6D?cc=gb&amp;lang=en&amp;#"><em>No One's World The West, the Rising Rest, and the Coming Global Turn</em></a> (Oxford University Press, 2012)</p> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Democracy and government </div> <div class="field-item even"> International politics </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 3.0 </div> </div> </div> Democracy and government International politics democracy & power institutions & government Globalisation Juan Gabriel Tokatlian Wed, 05 Nov 2014 13:27:04 +0000 Juan Gabriel Tokatlian 87499 at https://opendemocracy.net Don’t touch my constitution! Burkina Faso's lesson https://opendemocracy.net/yuhniwo-ngenge/don%E2%80%99t-touch-my-constitution-burkina-faso%27s-lesson <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>A popular uprising in the west African country reflects a wider awakening among citizens and young people across the continent.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p>The political and constitutional crisis in Burkina Faso erupted with speed and still has some way to run. Its immediate cause was a scheduled vote to amend the constitution, which would have paved the way for the incumbent president, Blaise Compaoré - who came to power in 1987 - to <a href="http://www.brookings.edu/blogs/africa-in-focus/posts/2014/10/30-burkina-faso-protests-presidential-term-limits-mbaku">prolong</a> his stay. But on Thursday 30 October, protesters took to the streets in the west African country's main cities, Ouagadougou and Bobo Diolaasu, burned down parliament and ensured the vote's postponement. <br /><br />The protests led the army to impose a state of emergency. Compaoré, who had briefly disappeared from the scene, returned to announce the establishment of a twelve-month transitional administration which he <a href="http://edition.cnn.com/2014/10/31/world/africa/burkina-faso-unrest/index.html?hpt=hp_t1">insisted</a> on heading. By noon on Friday 31 October, however, fresh protests <a href="http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-africa-29844123">forced </a>the president to resign. The scene has now shifted to the army, amid concerns that military <a href="http://www.aljazeera.com/news/africa/2014/11/burkina-faso-army-says-it-will-cede-power-201411442519879550.html">leaders</a> are seeking to use the opportunity to take power and <a href="http://www.npr.org/2014/11/04/361320127/burkina-faso-military-urged-to-hand-over-power-to-civilians">deny</a> the people the fruits of their victory.<br /><br />The questions raised by these developments go to the heart of constitutional democracy. They include why term limits have become such a sensitive issue in contemporary Africa, and why and how citizens are taking steps to protect them from abuse. <br /><br />In Burkina Faso's case, Article 37 of the 1991 <a href="https://www.constituteproject.org/search/topics">constitution</a> (which was revised in 2000, 2003 and 2012) imposes a two-term limit for the president. The planned vote was the second time Compaoré had sought to manipulate the rule; the first was in 1997, when he repealed the term-limit provision set in 1991, before civil and political strife forced him to reintroduce it in 2000.<br /><br />Most sub-Saharan countries introduced term-limit provisions as part of a package of reforms in the early and mid-1990s to democratise politics and end the growing phenomenon of "life presidencies" in post-colonial Africa. The events in <a href="http://go.hrw.com/atlas/norm_htm/burkina.htm">Burkina Faso</a> provide a fresh reminder of a disturbing <a href="http://allafrica.com/stories/200908170007.html">trend</a>: presidents introducing constitutional term-limits only to scrap them (or attempt to do so) when they are no longer politically convenient. This has happened in two waves - with a third one now underway.<br /><br /><strong>The political context</strong><br /><br />The first wave came just before and after the turn of the millennium. If Blaise Compaoré in 1997 was the pioneer, he was followed by Sam Nujoma of Namibia (1999), Omar Bongo of Gabon (2003), Lansane Conté of Guinea (2003), Gnassingbé Eyadéma of Togo (2002), and Zine el Abidine Ben Ali of Tunisia in (2002). <br /><br />The second wave <a href="http://www.isn.ethz.ch/Digital-Library/Publications/Detail/?ots591=0c54e3b3-1e9c-be1e-2c24-a6a8c7060233&amp;lng=en&amp;id=102020">picked up</a> from the mid-2000s through the turn of the decade with Idriss Déby of Chad (2005), Yoweri Museveni of Uganda (2005), Paul Biya of Cameroon (2008), Abdelazziz Bouteflika of Algeria (2008). There were also several failed attempts to abolish term-limits, including in Zambia (2001), Malawi (2003), by Olusegun Obasanjo of Nigeria (2006), Mamadou Tandja of Niger in 2009, and Abdoulaye Wade of Senegal (2011).<br /><br />Today, a third wave is <a href="http://www.washingtonpost.com/world/africa/many-african-leaders-seek-to-extend-time-in-power/2014/11/04/200e38b0-643a-11e4-ab86-46000e1d0035_story.html">appearing</a>, even as the crisis in Burkina Faso unfolds. Incumbents in at least three other African countries are currently seeking officially to <a href="http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/monkey-cage/wp/2014/10/28/as-thousands-protest-against-term-limit-extension-in-burkina-faso-will-other-african-presidents-take-note/">scrap</a> term-limit provisions to pave the way for their re-election, while others may discreetly be preparing the ground for it. <br /><br />The first group comprises Joseph-Désiré Kabila in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Pierre Nkurunziza of Burundi, and Denis Sassou Nguesso of Congo-Brazzaville. In a familiar tone, characteristic of how changes have been engineered across the continent, allies of Rwanda’s Paul Kagame have been urging him to stay and are now seeking a vote to allow him a third term, even as the president himself remains suspiciously ambiguous on the subject. The incumbent Yayi Boni In Benin, often considered a rare positive story of francophone Africa’s democratic progress in recent decades, has also proposed reforms to the 1990 constitution which many local actors see as a strategic ploy designed eventually to extend his stay in power. </p><p>These nineteen countries, twelve of them francophone and six anglophone (along with Cameroon which is both) are a sad reminder of the <a href="http://www.africaontheblog.com/africas-elected-monarchs-presidential-term-limits-and-democracy-in-africa/">challenges</a> of entrenching democratic alternation of power and constitutional governance on the continent. In this context, events in Burkina Faso reinforce a glimmer of hope, resonant of the early days of Arab-spring revolts, that the populace can rise up to demand political change. They reveal that Africans, long held back by the chains of a victim mentality or tribal or patronage-based loyalties, are becoming more politically conscious and engaged. Younger Africans in particular are highly distrustful of politicians and becoming more resilient against <a href="https://www.ndi.org/burkina-faso">repressive</a> leadership. In addition they are also becoming more aware of their rights and more willing to fight to protect the constitutions in which these rights are enshrined.<br /><br />The attitude of "<em>touche pas a ma constitution</em>" has inspired a French human-rights <a href="http://touchepasamaconstitution.wordpress.com/a-propos/ ">project&nbsp;</a> with this name and provoked African citizens to widespread protests. In Senegal, the phrase was a <a href="http://www.lavantgarde.org/senegal-%C2%AB-touche-pas-a-ma-constitution-%C2%BB/">rallying-cry</a> for protesters as they fought Abdoulaye Wade's efforts in 2011 to run for a third term. The same was&nbsp; the case in Cameroon in 2008 and more recently in the <a href="http://www.rdcongoinfos.com/?p=7822">DRC</a>. Although the protests have not all been successful, they are significant for two reasons. <br /><br />First, they demonstrate that citizens no longer see constitutions as a matter for politicians <a href="http://www.midco.net/news/read/category/Africa%20News/article/the_associated_press-many_african_leaders_seek_to_extend_time_in_power-ap">alone</a>, but as determining their own relationship with these politicians. In other words, they&nbsp; are&nbsp; beginning to recognise not only what a constitution is but also why it matters for them. <br /><br />Second, they are a signal to authoritarian leaders across the continent that citizens are no longer prepared to remain passive observers while politicians make and break rules and tamper with their constitutions for selfish political interests. <br /><br />It is not hard to see why this is <a href="http://editorials.voa.gov/content/presidential-term-limits-key-to-democracy-in-africa/2487175.html">becoming</a> the case. Multiparty politics, introduced during the democratic reforms of the early and mid-1990s, has failed to take genuine root across most of Africa. A single party dominated by one individual has consistently dominated the political space, due in part to questionable, yet barely&nbsp; challenged, electoral victories.&nbsp; The well-known examples include Robert Mugabe’s Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front (ZANU-PF), Paul Biya’s Cameroon Peoples’ Democratic Movement (CPDM), Sassou Ngessou’s Congolese Party of Labour (CPL), Joseph Kabila’s&nbsp; Peoples’ Party for Reconstruction and Democracy (PPRD), and Kagame’s Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF). <br /><br />Opposition political parties are either too weak to be effective due to an uneven playing-field, persecuted and intimidated into silence, or become victims of different forms of cooptation by the ruling regime. In consequence, such parties split apart or lose public credibility, to the advantage of the ruling party. The examples of manipulation include Cameroon’s Social Democratic Front (SDF) and Zimbabwe’s Movement for Democratic Change (MDC).<br /><br />Moreover, the dominance of one political party has created extremely weak political institutions. Legislatures are dominated by the same party that holds the executive power; judiciaries are packed with sympathetic judges; the military is co-opted with high salaries and other benefits. Thus, parliaments and judiciaries become mere agents of the executive, completely incapable of upholding the principle of separation of powers and providing effective checks on the executive. Unsurprisingly, African heads of state have become increasingly powerful and unaccountable, setting up patronage systems in which friends and sympathisers are rewarded and troublemakers punished. <br /><br />All this has generated greater citizen distrust with the broader political establishment across the continent, often reflected in high voter abstention. Opposition parties as well as the ruling party are increasingly seen as two sides of the same coin, having the capture and retention of political power as their only objective and seeing political office only as a means for self-enrichment. The <a href="http://www.aljazeera.com/news/africa/2014/10/protesters-storm-burkina-faso-parliament-20141030103451460862.html">torching</a> of Burkina Faso’s parliament and the homes of members of parliament from both regime and opposition sides is a clear sign of this broader dissatisfaction.<br /><br /><strong>The lesson</strong><br /><br />So how can the widely observed political apathy in Africa be reconciled with the scenes in Burkina Faso, where citizens risked (and in thirty cases lost) their lives in order to prevent a parliamentary vote? The timing is instructive. That the government was overthrown at the moment it sought to entrench its power in the constitution indicates a growing understanding of the separation of the state (as something owned by the people-as-sovereign) from the government (as transitory managers of the state on behalf of the people). The constitution provides the rules which cannot be broken if this core concept of democratic constitutionalism is to hold.<br /><br />Blaise Compaoré - once regarded by some as Africa’s venerated <a href="http://www.france24.com/en/20141030-blaise-compaore-african-peacemaker-burkina-faso-charles-taylor/">peacemaker</a> - is now gone in disgrace. Will others contemplating a longer stint in power take heed? Perhaps. But one lesson they must learn from Burkina Faso is that sub-Saharan Africa’s citizens and youth are waking up and guarding their constitutions closely. It’s no longer business as usual.<br /><br /></p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-read-on"> <div class="field-label"> 'Read On' Sidebox:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance (<a href="http://www.idea.int/">International IDEA</a>)</p><p><a href="http://www.freedomhouse.org/report/freedom-world/2012/burkina-faso#.VFkCo8lrtuA">Freedom House - Burkina Faso</a></p><p><a href="http://www.loc.gov/law/help/guide/nations/burkina.php">Burkina Faso, constution and law</a></p> </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-sidebox"> <div class="field-label"> Sidebox:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Yuhniwo Ngenge is a programme officer with the International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance (<a href="http://www.idea.int/">International IDEA</a>). He is based with the institute's constitution-building programme in The Hague</p> </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"> Burkina Faso </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Democracy and government </div> <div class="field-item even"> International politics </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 3.0 </div> </div> </div> Burkina Faso Democracy and government International politics democracy & power institutions & government human rights africa & democracy Yuhniwo Ngenge Tue, 04 Nov 2014 10:49:39 +0000 Yuhniwo Ngenge 87465 at https://opendemocracy.net A letter from Raqqa https://opendemocracy.net/paul-rogers/letter-from-raqqa <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>A second letter from an Islamic State adherent operating in the part of Syria controlled by the movement.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p>When I last <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/paul-rogers/war-going-according-to-plan-but-which-plan">wrote</a> I said that I might add something in a couple of months, but the questions you raise have prompted me to make a more immediate response. The first two were: what am I doing here just now, and how did I come to be doing it?&nbsp; </p><p>As you know, I came two years ago to join my brother and fight for the cause of an Islamic Caliphate. My motivation, as was his, was primarily revenge, given that we had lost two uncles and three cousins in fighting the Americans and British, and our father, two aunts and four cousins to airstrikes. That may still be part of our motivation, particularly the death of our beloved father, but we now see a much more positive future as we embrace the prospect that our leaders hold before us of a true Islamist entity. Whether we live to see it in this life is not relevant - that we are already part of it is.</p><p>My original journey here, my haphazard training (quite unlike the professionalism we have now) and my induction into fighting were all over within four weeks when I was caught in a Zionist attack, losing my left arm and very nearly my life. I survived, recovered and was desperate to return to the fight, but our leaders had other plans, telling me bluntly that I could play a far more important role for our cause by joining the analysis team SOBRA. (I understand that this stands for State Office - Briefing Room A, the place in our main bunker where we originally worked).</p><p>After more than eighteen months into this work, I have to accept that they were right - it does make far better use of my Masters degree from SOAS and my three years of living in the UK and USA, and I now lead a small team that monitors western media and government output to prepare briefings for the leadership. I have three people working for me, and our whole section numbers more than twenty, covering all the major western languages as well as Chinese and Russian, and with excellent communications systems that have so far been entirely unaffected by the numerous US airstrikes.</p><p>Most of our output is for the main planning cells, with some of it going right through to the leadership. But we also feed in a constant supply of information to our colleagues in media production. They tend to use our material in a highly nuanced if not frankly propagandistic manner, but I have to admit that when it comes to propaganda they are the very best, and simply streets ahead of their western opponents. Their numbers have increased substantially and there are now over thirty of them, many being recent recruits from among the more knowledgable of our western brothers and sisters.</p><p>That, incidentally, is an area where the rate of expansion is hugely positive. We now have many thousands of young recruits joining us from across the region. Even more importantly, many hundreds a month come from western countries, mostly men but with an increasing number of women.</p><p>You ask how I think the struggle is going, especially with what outsiders see as our failure to take Kobane.&nbsp; I have to say that our leaders have little concern, for two reasons. First, we fully expected that at some stage the Americans would try to start a serious air war and would eventually strong-arm the weak Turks to allow the Iraqi Kurds to help defend the town. Both are proving to be useful training exercises for our less experienced militias.&nbsp; </p><p>Second, as you will recall, our core military leadership has many people who learned how to handle the Americans in Iraq eight to ten years ago, but we have thousands of younger fighters with far less experience. This is what they are now getting. It is going to prove invaluable during the coming winter when the Americans will really step up the air attacks against us here in Raqqa.</p><p>One of the things we are expecting is a determined and sustained effort to wreck our civil infrastructure. Transport and communications will be the priority, together with the sustained disruption of power supplies. One of my recent assignments was to investigate the current status of the American “blackout bomb” that they used in Serbia in 1999, disrupting power supplies over 70% of the country. I’ve found out that it is very much around, designated the BLU-114/B and we expect it to be used frequently this winter, so much so that our leaders are already preparing counter-measures. You have probably never heard of this, so here’s a <a href="http://fas.org/man/dod-101/sys/dumb/blu-114.htm">link.</a></p><p>You also ask me about morale and I can only reply that it is currently very high. As I have said, my main function is to analyse the western media and I must admit that they still have little conception of what they are dealing with.&nbsp; They report, almost jubilantly, our failure to take Kobane but cannot understand that this is little more than a sideshow. Meanwhile, they miss out so many other developments.</p><p>Our mission is to create a new Caliphate, starting here in Syria and Iraq but spreading out over the next decade or more to bring in links right across the Islamic world. Let me just give you just three examples of current progress.&nbsp; </p><p>First, our leaders have now formally stated the connection between our cause and the suffering of our Uyghur cousins in China. Just making that statement, and publicising it widely across our world, begins the process of unification.</p><p>Second, as the Americans and British finally withdraw from Afghanistan, our Taliban cousins spread their control over more and more territory. They are doing it quietly but to great effect and this will continue, with a substantial increase in control after the winter. We do not pretend that we control them, nor do we seek or need to do so.&nbsp; In the wider scheme of things it is enough that they make progress.</p><p>Third, I simply cannot understand how the west, especially the Americans, fails repeatedly to recognise the effect of the actions of the Zionists. Even now, they have no appreciation of how useful the Gaza war was to us and how much anger it induced across the Muslim communities in the west - and still does as the Zionists and the Egyptian leader al-Sisi together block the rebuilding.</p><p>On top of this, Binyamin Netanyahu announces the building of 1,000 new settler homes in East Jerusalem and then closes Haram al Sharif, one of the holiest of all our sites. It is simply unbelievable, and the effect on recruitment to our cause will be a joy to behold.&nbsp; Do you seriously need to ask how we see the future? To say that we see it with confidence is a masterpiece of understatement.</p><p>Raqqa&nbsp; 31 October 2014</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-read-on"> <div class="field-label"> 'Read On' Sidebox:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <div class="content-inset-more"> <p><a href="http://www.brad.ac.uk/acad/peace/" target="_blank"><span><span>Department of peace studies</span></span></a>, Bradford University</p><p><a href="http://www.remotecontrolproject.org">Remote Control</a></p><p>Paul Rogers, <a href="http://eu.wiley.com/WileyCDA/WileyTitle/productCd-0745641962,subjectCd-PO34,descCd-authorInfo.html"><em>Why We’re Losing the War on Terror</em> </a>(Polity, 2007)</p> <p> <a href="http://www.oxfordresearchgroup.org.uk/" target="_blank"><span><span>Oxford Research Group</span></span></a></p><p><em><a href="http://www.longwarjournal.org/" target="_blank"><span><span>Long War Journal</span></span></a></em></p><p>Paul Rogers, <a href="http://www.plutobooks.com/display.asp?K=9780745329376&amp;" target="_blank"><em><span><span>Losing Control: Global Security in the 21st Century</span></span></em></a> (Pluto Press, 3rd edition, 2010)</p> </div> </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/paul-rogers/remote-control-light-on-new-war">Remote control: light on new war </a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Conflict </div> <div class="field-item even"> Democracy and government </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 3.0 </div> </div> </div> Conflict Democracy and government middle east democracy & power global security Paul Rogers Fri, 31 Oct 2014 06:31:08 +0000 Paul Rogers 87309 at https://opendemocracy.net Brazil: the road to 2018 https://opendemocracy.net/arthur-ituassu/brazil-road-to-2018 <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Brazil emerges from the 2014 election with a re-elected president, two problems, and four names in mind.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_right caption-medium'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/537772/5375271808_eb13f97ef1_z.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_medium/wysiwyg_imageupload/537772/5375271808_eb13f97ef1_z.jpg" alt="razilian president Dilma Rousseff. " title="" width="240" height="358" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-medium imagecache imagecache-article_medium" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Brazilian president Dilma Rousseff. Thierry Ehrmann/Flickr. Some rights reserved.</span></span></span>Two problems and four names emerge from the results of the seventh presidential election in Brazil since the return to democracy in 1988.</span></p><p>On Sunday 26 October, more than 110 million Brazilians went to vote after an eventful campaign. The drama continued into the count, which was open almost until the last ballots were inspected. In the end the incumbent president, Dilma Rousseff, was awarded victory and another four-year term against the PSDB candidate, Aécio Neves. Dilma <a href="http://www.electionresources.org/br/president.php?election=2014&amp;state=BR">received</a> 54,501,118 votes (51.64%), and Aécio Neves 51,041,155 (48.36%).</p><p>Brazil now faces challenging <a href="http://www.reuters.com/article/2014/10/27/us-brazil-election-idUSKCN0IE03L20141027">economic</a> and political problems. In the economic field,&nbsp; the country is experiencing low growth and rising inflation. The IMF's World Economic Outlook (October 2014), for example, expects a GDP growth of just 0.3% in 2014 (a reduction from 1.3% in the previous report), and only 1.4% in 2015. On inflation, the IMF expects a rate of 6.3% in 2014 and 5.9% in 2015 (compared to 5.9% and 5.5% in the last report). How Dilma Roussef's "developmentalist" political <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/arthur-ituassu/incredible-dilma-rousseff">character</a> will deal with these signs is a <a href="http://www.economist.com/blogs/americasview/2014/10/brazils-presidential-election-2">question-mark</a> over the next four years.</p><p>In the political field, things will also not be easy for the president. She will probably have to grapple with the current corruption <a href="http://www.washingtonpost.com/world/an-oil-scandal-in-brazil-complicates-the-race-for-incumbent-president-on-eve-of-election/2014/10/01/f2df5d90-c279-11e3-b574-f8748871856a_story.html">scandal</a> at the state-controlled oil company <em>Petrobrás</em> for most of her second term. This&nbsp; promises to be another <em>mensalão</em> - the series of illegal payments to senior politicians and advisors, many of them close to then-president Lula, which <a href="http://www.economist.com/blogs/economist-explains/2013/11/economist-explains-14">overshadowed</a> his second term. A repeat would have terrible consequences for the dynamics of the Brazilian political agenda. In addition, a very fragmented and conservative Congress was elected, with for example eighty evangelicals' representatives in the Chamber of Deputies, and three powerful PSDB politicians - José Serra, Aécio Neves and Tasso Jereissati - back in the Senate.</p><p>Since this will be Dilma Rousseff's last period in office, the election is an opportunity to see the possible <a href="http://abcnews.go.com/International/wireStory/brazils-election-ghosts-versus-monsters-26445526">shape</a> of Brazil's political landscape in the path to 2018. Here the name of the former president, Luis Inácio Lula da Silva, stands out as one to be remebered from the campaign. The popular Workers' Party (PT) leader has shown that he still has a big reserve of political <a href="http://www1.folha.uol.com.br/internacional/en/brazil/2014/10/1540114-former-president-lula-wants-to-interfere-more-in-rousseffs-administration-and-says-he-will-be-candidate-in-2018.shtml">capital</a>, especially in the northeast, where he was decisive in ensuring Dilma's victory. Lula has run five times for president (1989, 1994, 1998, 2002 and 2006), then worked hard in <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/arthur-ituassu/brazil%E2%80%99s-big-election-dilma-vs-jos%C3%A9">2010</a> and 2014 for Dilma Rousseff. Will he seek a "last hurrah"? He will be 74 years old in 2018 and there are some doubts about the condition of his health, factors which may stand against him <a href="http://blogs.ft.com/beyond-brics/2014/10/28/spectre-of-lula-returns-again-to-haunt-dilma/">running</a> in another election. </p><p>Besides Lula, another PT name emerged shining from this election: Fernando Pimentel, the elected <a href="http://agenciabrasil.ebc.com.br/en/politica/noticia/2014-10/pimentel-wins-gubernatorial-election-minas-gerais">governor</a> of Minas Gerais. There, in Aécio Neves's own state, Pimentel won in the first round, becoming an important asset for Dilma in the next four years. In this sense, <a href="http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-latin-america-29769251">Minas Gerais</a> may be a clear target for high federal investments in the 2014-18 period.</p><p>Aécio Neves himself is of course also a <a href="http://www.brasilwire.com/profile-aecio-neves/">name</a> to be remembered from this election. With more than 50 million votes, Neves became the best <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/arthur-ituassu/brazil%27s-election-surprise">performing</a> PSDB candidate since another former president, <a href="http://www.ifhc.org.br/en/fhc/vida/">Fernando Henrique Cardoso</a>. He may want to place himself as the opposition leader in Brazil's Senate and try to maintain some visibility until the next election.</p><p><a href="http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-latin-america-29509998">Aécio's</a> rival for the party nomination next time will be Geraldo Alckmin, the governor of São Paulo. After being re-elected in the first round of the latest election, consolidating a PSDB rule over the biggest state in the <a href="http://www.aboutbrasil.com/modules/brazil-brasil/Quick_facts_About_Brasil_Brazil.php?hoofd=9&amp;sub=50&amp;art=534">country</a> now lasting twenty-four years. <a href="http://www.brasilwire.com/the-governor/">Alckmin</a> also showed strength in backing Aécio's performance in São Paulo, where the candidate had more than 15 million votes against Dilma's 8.5 million. In Alckmin's favour is the fact that Aécio's candidate for governor of Minas Gerais lost to Fernando Pimentel in the first round. The PSDB candidate also lost to the president in his own state, where he had been governor for eight years; Dilma had 5.9 million votes in Minas Gerais, against 5.4 million for Aécio Neves.</p><p>Hence, the four years ahead promise dramatic developments for Brazil's political environment, with economic and political <a href="http://www.thestar.com.my/News/World/2014/10/28/Rousseff-will-struggle-to-restore-Brazils-economic-good-times/">turbulence</a> that will probably make it a difficult period for Dilma Rousseff. These four names - Lula and Fernando Pimentel on the PT side, Aécio Neves and Geraldo Alckmin on the PSDB one - call the attention now as important actors within the emerging political dynamics. They all also seem to represent more a continuity of the "long social-democratic moment" started in 1994 and constituted by the PT-PSDB contest, than a fundamental break with it. </p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-read-on"> <div class="field-label"> 'Read On' Sidebox:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Arthur Ituassu &amp; Rodrigo de Almeida eds., <a href="http://www.zahar.com.br/catalogo_detalhe.asp?id=1174"><em><span><span>O Brasil tem jeito?</span></span></em></a> (Jorge Zahar, 2006)</p><p><a href="http://www.brasilwire.com/"><em>Brasil Wire</em></a></p><div><a href="http://www.brazilpoliticalcomment.com.br/component/option,com_frontpage/Itemid,1/lang,en/"><span><span>Brazil Political and Business Comment</span></span></a></div><p><a href="http://www.brazil.ox.ac.uk/"><span><span>Centre for Brazilian Studies, University of Oxford</span></span></a></p> <p>Leslie Bethell, <a href="http://www.cambridge.org/catalogue/catalogue.asp?isbn=9780521395243&amp;ss=fro"><em><span><span>Cambridge History of Latin Ameria - Vol 9, Brazil since 1930</span></span></em></a> (Cambridge University Press, 2008)</p> </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/arthur-ituassu/brazil%27s-election-surprise">Brazil&#039;s election surprise</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/arthur-ituassu/brazil-in-2013-historic-adventure">Brazil in 2013: a historic adventure</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/arthur-ituassu/brazil%27s-vote-marina-silva%27s-chance">Brazil&#039;s vote, Marina Silva&#039;s chance</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/arthur-ituassu/brazil-protest-and-world-cup">Brazil, protest and the World Cup</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/arthur-ituassu/dilma-rousseff-and-brazil-signs-of-change">Dilma Rousseff and Brazil: signs of change</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/arthur-ituassu/brazil-crisis-of-representation">Brazil, a crisis of representation</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Brazil </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Democracy and government </div> <div class="field-item even"> International politics </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 3.0 </div> </div> </div> Brazil Democracy and government International politics democracy & power institutions & government Arthur Ituassu Wed, 29 Oct 2014 15:58:18 +0000 Arthur Ituassu 87258 at https://opendemocracy.net