democracy &amp; power cached version 18/04/2018 14:16:56 en Tunisia’s struggle against corruption: time to fight, not forgive <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>A new economic reconciliation law protects clientelist structures in Tunisia and replaces the process of transitional justice, but a real transition away from the old authoritarian social contract will be impossible if it passes.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p class="MsoNormal"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//" alt="" title="" width="460" height="307" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>People hold Tunisia flag and shout protest slogans during a march held by the movement "Manich Msameh. Chedly Ben Ibrahim/SIPA USA/PA Images</span></span></span>Protests against an ‘economic reconciliation law’ are currently drawing attention to Tunisia. Proponents argue that Tunisia’s economy needs a quick way to deal with past economic crimes under Ben Ali in order to create a stable climate that would drive investment. But a grassroots campaign, <em><em><a href="">Manich Msamah</a> </em>(</em><span><em>I shall not forgive)</em>,</span><em> </em>has long mobilised against the bill. It insists that there can be no reconciliation without holding the perpetrators of economic crimes accountable, using the instruments that the official transitional justice process in Tunisia offers. </p><p class="MsoNormal">Protests demanding employment and regional development in the marginalized interior of Tunisia are to a large part triggered by recruitment procedures manipulated by corruption and clientelist networks that still exist today. The increase since 2015 in these contentious practices underlines the importance in taking action against such structures by exposing their past, fighting their continuation, and preventing new ones from emerging. </p><p class="MsoNormal">While the rule of former President Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali was built on repression and control, a network around his wider family controlled all economic activities in the country. As a member of the National Constituent Assembly remarked in a 2014 interview: “Well, people are worried because they have experienced the Ben Ali system. That’s very diffuse, […], that’s many responsible people, […] that’s a clientelist network […].”<span class="FootnoteAnchor"> </span>This system was further described as a ‘market of power’, in which favours were exchanged with or without a financial component. This clientelist network spans across sectors and did not only affect the economy itself. According to one anti-corruption official, the judiciary for instance was deeply affected by the system of favouritism and the (sometimes competing) strife of clan figures for control.<span class="FootnoteAnchor">&nbsp;</span></p><h3 class="MsoNormal"><strong>Ben Ali the ‘tip of the iceberg’</strong><strong>&nbsp;</strong></h3><p class="MsoNormal">Looking back to the year 2011, post-‘Arab Spring’ Tunisia almost immediately started investigating corruption and embezzlement with a dedicated commission (the ‘Amor Commission’, named after its head) to hold figures from the ‘old regime’ accountable for both political and economic crimes, through criminal trials in military and civil courts. Ben Ali and close family members received long prison sentences for their criminal economic activities, but they remain in exile and have not been in the country to be held accountable. Moreover, the electoral law of 2011 regulating the elections for the National Constituent Assembly (NCA) barred former officials of the Ben Ali regime and the ruling party (<em><span>Rassemblement Constitutionnel Démocratique</span></em><em><span>:</span></em><span> </span>RCD) from running for public office.</p><p class="MsoNormal">However, these initial efforts to dismantle the system of corruption and to deal with economic crimes did not provide a sustainable solution for the problem. <span class="mag-quote-right">Corruption and favouritism did not suddenly stop with the ouster of Ben Ali</span>Corruption and favouritism did not suddenly stop and the structures the clientelist system was built upon did not vanish with the ouster of Ben Ali.</p><p class="MsoNormal">In 2014, NCA members noted that Ben Ali was only the tip of the regime’s iceberg, and that ‘the system’ goes deeper and are still there. “The fall of Ben Ali - that was only the fall of the head of the corrupt regime. That was not the fall of the entire corrupt regime. Hence, the corrupt regime still exists.” Moreover, countering the initial vetting and lustration efforts, there has been a trend within the political sphere of letting old regime figures back in. A proposed article in the draft constitution (Article 167) that would have banned those who held positions of responsibility within the former ruling party did not make it through the NCA in mid-2014. And therefore, those who were still there were provided with an avenue back into official politics.</p><h3 class="MsoNormal"><strong>New law a threat to transitional justice</strong><strong>&nbsp;</strong></h3><p class="MsoNormal">In 2012, a structured transitional justice process was initiated by the government at that time, the so-called ‘troika’ led by the moderate Islamist Ennahda party in coalition with two smaller secularist parties. The transitional justice law provides the legal basis for also dealing with economic crimes because it places corruption and embezzlement within the mandate of the transitional justice project. </p><p class="MsoNormal">The Truth and Dignity Commission established in 2014 can investigate these economic crimes and victims can be acknowledged as such. A sub-commission of the Truth and Dignity Commission furthermore deals with arbitration in the realm of economic crimes (which is not possible for human rights violations). With Ben Ali gone but the ‘system’ still in place, many have put their faith in the transitional justice process to dismantle underlying clientelist structures, as there is a strong lack of trust in pre-existing institutions and the ‘ordinary’ justice system</p><p class="MsoNormal">However, in 2015 President Béji Caid Essebsi first initiated a draft ‘economic reconciliation law’ that would decisively curtail the Truth and Dignity Commission’s mandate and create competing competences for corruption, embezzlement and economic crimes. In fact, it would provide avenues for corrupt businessmen to discretely ‘buy themselves out’ of legal trouble with payments to a so-called ‘development fund’ – without dismantling the underlying “<a href="">wheelwork of corruption</a>”.<span class="FootnoteAnchor">&nbsp;</span></p><p class="MsoNormal">Borrowing transitional justice terminology and framing the draft law as a ‘reconciliation’ initiative shows the attempt to undermine the structured transitional justice process. The bill, which has been rejected by the Assembly of the Representatives of the People before, has been reintroduced to Parliament in April, but is still meeting resistance.</p><h3 class="MsoNormal"><strong>The protest movement in rural Tunisia </strong></h3><p class="MsoNormal">The campaign <em>Manich Msamah</em> has just entered its third round of mobilization against the reconciliation law, and many view the campaign as the only expression of public discontent with the way political elites deal with favoritism. In fact, there are larger numbers and more geographically diffuse protests in the socioeconomically marginalized interior regions of Tunisia. They are usually contextualized as public outrage at unemployment and regional marginalization - which they also are. But what is often forgotten is that the triggers of these protests in many cases are corrupt recruitment procedures.</p><p class="MsoNormal">These dynamics date back to pre-2011. The six-month long Gafsa revolt between January and June in 2008, which is today considered as the precursor of the 2010/11 uprising, started when the main employer of the phosphate-mining basin, the<em> Compagnie de Phosphate de Gafsa </em>(CPG), announced lists of new recruits. But they had been manipulated by Amara Abassi, who was the regional head of the trade union federation and at the same time Member of Parliament for the then-ruling party RCD. </p><p class="MsoNormal">Over decades, he had built clientelist networks, and jobs in the public sector company were one resource he could distribute in order to expand his ties. Jobs were distributed to family and clan members, to people with social capital or those who simply paid for jobs. During the course of the protests the demands expanded and integrated calls for regional development and employment in general. They were only brought to halt by the brutal intervention of state security forces.</p><p class="MsoNormal">Corruption and clientelist networks that influence job distribution spark protests until today, mainly in the marginalized interior. The greatest recent incident was the protest wave of January 2016. Although it lasted only 10 days, it topped the <a href="">record number</a> of actions of the revolution of 2010/2011. The protest wave kicked off when 26-year-old Ridha Yahyaoui was electrocuted while climbing a utility pole in Kasserine protesting against his removal from a recruitment list. In 2015, after staging a sit-in, he had been promised a job in the next round of government recruitment. Yet a year later his name had disappeared from the list, something his family explained by <a href="">widespread corruption</a>.</p><h3 class="MsoNormal"><strong>Legitimacy of the new political order</strong></h3><p class="MsoNormal">The general assessment that jobs are still either channeled to political clients or to the ones who can afford to pay was shared in interviews conducted with activists of the Union of Unemployed Graduates (Union des diplômés chômeurs-UDC) and unemployed protesters outside many organizations. One of the UDC’s claims was therefore a reform of recruitment procedures towards more transparency and the establishment of an independent institution supervising job distribution. This would help fighting clientelist networks and practices inherited from the Ben Ali era, and at the same time enhance the credibility of the new political order including new institutions and actors. </p><p class="MsoNormal">The latter so far, and particularly the two major parties in power, Nidaa Tounes and Ennahda, have not managed to win the trust of unemployed people. Ennahda, for instance, was heavily criticized for hiring 18,000 of its own members and sympathizers, justified by the fact that those people had faced great discrimination without access to public resources under Ben Ali. Jobs for them were viewed as a kind of compensation as part of the 2011 law granting amnesty to political prisoners and restitution for victims of the Ben Ali regime. Nidaa Tounes in turn has earned a reputation of being the party of the old regime cronies that have re-entered the political stage.</p><p><span class="mag-quote-left">Successive governments have either neglected socioeconomic protests or delegitimized them as creating chaos</span>Successive governments have either neglected socioeconomic protests or delegitimized them as creating chaos and preparing the ground for terrorists. Repression, mainly in the form of <a href="">arrests and legal prosecution</a>, has increased, too, while the police have been accused of resorting to old, <a href="">abusive tactics</a> in dealing with oppositional forces. And in most cases, when jobs were actually distributed to unemployed protesters, it happened on a random basis. In many cases national government members would approach small groups of protesters without affiliations to parties or civil society organizations and negotiate with them. The aim was to calm the situation by bringing some people into employment. Therefore, the incentive structures have rewarded fragmented protests that focus on personal employment. As a result, socioeconomic protests have become limited in regard to actors and demands.</p><h3 class="MsoNormal"><strong>Sustainable employment and socioeconomic development</strong></h3><p class="MsoNormal">What might have seemed like a smart strategy to avoid wide-reaching demands and alliance-building (inherited from dictatorship when violent repression was always at hand as <em>ultima ratio</em>) has backfired. Firstly, these protests have increased as they seem to be the only way to get a job for those without social or economic capital to invest. Furthermore, these many small protests which often continue for a long time on a low-intensity level can very quickly turn into a regional or even nation-wide wave of protest. </p><p class="MsoNormal">In many cases, the trigger often is, as mentioned above, corruption and clientelism in job distribution. Ultimately, meaningful jobs with the overall aim of sustainable development are completely absent from the equation. Without a change in government policies, job creation will not have any positive economic impact. On the contrary political pressure on the private sector to hire people cannot be exercised anymore than it was under Ben Ali. Only the public sector is still in the hand of political elites and the expenses for new jobs are solely carried by the state budget – a fact that is continuously criticized by the IMF, though the latter’s general call for a reduction of the public sector obviously is hardly the solution to the complex entanglement of power and money.</p><p class="MsoNormal">Given the current dynamics of socioeconomic protests it becomes clear why the ‘economic reconciliation law’ is such an affront – not only for those who want to make old wrongs right – but also for a population that keeps on struggling with the same problems caused by relatively unchanged state practices in the field of employment and regional development. If such a law should replace Tunisia’s structured transitional justice process with regard to corruption and economic crimes, then a real transition away from the old authoritarian social contract seems hardly in sight. </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="/north-africa-west-asia/anouar-jamaoui/tunisia-takes-steps-on-road-toward-democracy">Tunisia takes steps on the road toward democracy</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/north-africa-west-asia/tim-baster-isabelle-merminod/tunisia-elections-justice-and-dignity"> Tunisia: elections, justice and dignity </a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/paul-rogers/tunisia-and-world-roots-of-turmoil">Tunisia and the world: roots of turmoil</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/sana-ajmi/tunisia-recovers-stolen-money-from-former-president-ben-ali">Tunisia recovers stolen money from former President Ben Ali</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/fabio-merone/tunisia-and-divided-arab-spring">Tunisia and the divided Arab Spring </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"> 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> North-Africa West-Asia North-Africa West-Asia Tunisia Civil society Democracy and government democracy & power transitional justice protest Revolution Irene Weipert-Fenner Mariam Salehi Tue, 16 May 2017 12:20:59 +0000 Mariam Salehi and Irene Weipert-Fenner 110868 at Populism, terrorism, and the crisis in western democracies: an interview with Iran’s former president <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Abolhassan Banisadr, Iran's first post-revolutionary president, discusses neo-liberalism, the crisis in western democracies, and the relationship between Islamic terrorism and the rise of far-right politics.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><strong><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//" alt="" title="" width="460" height="307" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Supporters in red "Make America Great Again" hats at a rally held by Donald J. Trump on April 6, 2016. Picture by Monica Jorge/SIPA USA/PA Images. All rights reserved</span></span></span></strong>Abolhassan Banisadr was Iran’s first post-revolutionary president before being overthrown by a coup in 1981. Here, in an interview with Mahmood Delkhasteh, Banisadr discusses the relationship between Islamic terrorism and the rise of far-right politics in the west. He argues that the political and economic models of both the left and right have failed, creating a vacuum filled by populism. A new discourse, rooted in freedom, independence, and human development, is needed to overcome this crisis.</p><p><strong>Mahmoud Delkhasteh: We are observing the rise of anti-democratic and authoritarian far-right movements in Europe, which are shaking the foundations of the European Union. The weakening economic and political power of the U.S. has also enabled Donald Trump to become president of the country on a promise to ‘Make America Great Again.’&nbsp;</strong><strong>What is your analysis of this multi-layered crisis in the west?</strong></p> <p><strong>Abolhassan Banisadr</strong>: We see a defensiveness within the USA and the west as a whole. This is evident in the rapid increase in anti-immigration movements, Islamophobia, and the use of fear in domestic politics, including as government policy. Even in France, with its universal and cosmopolitan culture, the conservative’s presidential candidate Francois Fillon is opposed to multi-culturalism. Previously, in violation of the principle of Laïcité and democratic norms and values, the government, with public support, banned all forms of religious expression in schools and other places. A recent survey showed that many French people think that there are 20 million Muslims in France and that by 2020, Muslims will become the majority – yet their number is less than a quarter of this. Even in Slovakia, home to only a few thousand Muslims, people are up in arms. One political leader there argued that kebab is a sign of Islamization which has to be resisted. This might sound funny, but it shows the level of defensiveness in the west. </p> <p><strong>MD: But it seems that the current fear is not of Islam itself, but of terrorism, which uses Islamic discourses to justify and promote itself. </strong></p> <p><strong>AB</strong>: This is not completely true. Increasing numbers of right and ultra-right-wing thinkers and politicians have invoked Orientalist discourses and openly argue that Islam is an essentially violent, barbaric, stagnant and repressive religion. While we need a clear definition of terrorism, I can say that it has nothing to do with any specific religion or belief system. </p> <p>For example, after World War Two, terrorists used different secular or religious discourses: nationalist, Marxist, Hindu, Buddhist and Islamic. Any form of terrorism is a direct result of relations of domination. It is domination which produces terrorism, and as long as such relations exist we will never see a terror-free world. The reason Islam is now used as a discourse of terror is that Asia is superseding the west in producing wealth and capital. This has put the west in a defensive mode, as it sees the continued domination of Middle Eastern oil as the most important defense against Asian power. </p> <p>The west thus systematically interferes in Middle Eastern countries by trying to topple “unfriendly” regimes and replacing them with “friendly” ones. But this devastating interference, which inflicts misery on the people of the region, creates resistance which manifests in the form of terrorism. While many terrorist organizations like the Taliban in Afghanistan, Al-Qaeda and Isis were initially created and supported by western powers, they recruited and found semi-independent life from a deep resentment and anger against what the west has done, and is doing, in the Middle East. </p> <p>Relations of domination within the Islamic world are not new. However, because western powers are weakening, we see a strategic shift towards such domination. Especially after World War Two, and even before that, the west was in a position of global strength and exercised its hegemony in the region by installing and supporting centralized regimes to crush centrifugal social movements. This was the period of the so-called “modernist dictators” who sought international legitimacy by forcing their countries into the era of modernity. Throughout the region, these “enlightened despots” controlled vast oil reserves. </p> <p>However, as the west lost power it changed its strategy. Since the occupation of Iraq, western countries began supporting centrifugal movements along ethnic and religious lines within Middle Eastern countries, under the banners of democratisation, self-government and human rights. This new strategy allows it to control the mosaic of small countries in the region. When borders can be drawn between neighbours with blood and animosity defining their relations, it is easier for the much-weakened western powers to control them. </p> <p><strong>MD: Why do western powers need to produce and reproduce relations of domination in the Middle East in order to maintain the status quo within their own societies? Is there a relationship between the accumulation of wealth in the west, and war and instability in the Middle East? </strong></p> <p class="mag-quote-right">Western democracies thus have a fundamental problem: they are based on a system of domination.</p><p><strong>AB</strong>: In the 17th century, the Treaty of the Peace of Westphalia recognized the sovereignty of European states. However, these states were allowed to do whatever they wanted to others in the rest of the world. Scientific progress, industrialization and capitalism put Europe in a dominant position and the era of systematic colonisation and exploitation began. The western democracies that emerged within this context were based on domination, the only exception being the US in the early stages of its foundation. </p> <p>Western democracies thus have a fundamental problem: they are based on a system of domination. In order to become liberated from this de-humanising relation, they need fundamental economic and social changes. However, in the existing capitalist socio-economic system, mass consumption supersedes mass production, destroying societies’ dynamic forces and reversed historical trends of productive economics. This new situation made western countries wealthy, but most of them are in debt, mostly to Asia. </p> <p>In order to make such a seismic change in social structure, people need a guiding principle that can point away from domination towards independence and freedom, in which people are neither dominator nor dominated,<strong> </strong>and towards thinking that embraces rights.</p> <p>The absence of such discourse has left a vacuum which is being filled by right and ultra-right movements which use populist language to deceive people, promoting ‘post-truth’ knowledge and proposing easy solutions to complicated problems. Through a process of ‘othering’, they build high walls of hate, intolerance and suspicion, and are gaining the upper hand. That is not to say that the west does not offer discourses of independence and freedom. Philosophers like John Paul Sartre and Bertrand Russell advocated for such, but as the existing structures were not compatible with their suggestions, the public as a whole did not embrace them. </p> <p><strong>MD: Historically speaking and especially after WW2, the ‘left’ was elected to implement progressive and humanist policies like the welfare state. Why is the left failing now? </strong></p> <p><strong>AB</strong>: The dominant economic and political models of both left and right have been tested, and have failed. Neo-liberalism tried to take advantage of the crisis which gripped the welfare state, and in the form of Reaganism and Thatcherism presented itself as a forward-looking solution promising a plentiful society in which wealth created by a few would ‘trickle down’ to the rest of society. </p> <p class="mag-quote-left">The fatal mistake of the left was to buy into the logic of neo-liberalism by trying to become a milder version of it</p><p>But the wealth stayed up and also sucked up the wealth of the lower social strata and increased inequality and poverty. Through marketisation and the imposition of the logic of profit, even in centres of knowledge production and universities, it gradually encircled and shrunk the possibility of critical thinking, which has little or no value in market capitalism. In effect, it transferred liberalism into wild capitalism and into a totalitarian system which tries to crush freedom and humanity in search of profit. Today’s endemic economic, environmental and social crisis is telling us that neo-liberalism has failed miserably, and that it is hanging on to its only remaining source of legitimacy, the belief that ‘there is no alternative’. </p> <p>The fatal mistake of the left was to buy into the logic of neo-liberalism by trying to become a milder version of it, and hence becoming part of this system which has failed. The failure of the system became the failure of the left as well. Now the left is not only paying the price for selling out, but has missed the opportunity to foresee the impending crisis and create an alternative. The left thus faces a double whammy of losing its identity and becoming a target for the anger and frustration of those whom the system has failed. </p> <p>Some on the left have retained their identity to an extent, like Jeremy Corbyn and Bernie Sanders. In the absence of an alternative, however, even they are trying to patch up a system which has failed, for example, by re-nationalising the rail system in the UK and restoring public higher education in the US. These are good ideas but not systematic responses to multi-layered and systemic problems. The failure of the left has provided an opportunity for the ultra-right to fill this gap. Exploiting the anger and frustration of those disenfranchised by globalization, which is not about removing national borders but giving border control to multinationals/wild capitalism, the ultra-right can present itself as an anti-establishment movement, as Trump has repeatedly argued.</p><p class="mag-quote-center"><span>Today’s endemic economic, environmental and social crisis is telling us that neo-liberalism has failed miserably</span></p> <p><strong>MD: But Trump says he will ‘Make America Great Again.’ What’s wrong with that? </strong></p> <p><strong>AB</strong>: Exactly this plan will make the demise of America as a superpower inevitable. The things which made America a superpower and put it in a dominant position, both domestically and internationally, have changed. For example, when the US became a superpower, Asia was nowhere to be seen. Now it is wealthier and more developed than the US. Without money from Asia, the US budget deficit will skyrocket, which will have disastrous consequences for the American economy. The first victims of this will be the blue-collar Americans who voted for Trump. He might want to rely on US military might. However, despite consuming more than half the world’s military budget and enjoying the most sophisticated weaponry, this military does not have an impressive global CV since the Vietnam War.</p> <p>Even in two small and devastated countries like Iraq and Afghanistan, it still failed to achieve its goals because the people it tried to dominate were not awed by such power. As a rule, the lot of any country which looks at its past with nostalgia, and tries to revive it, will be bankruptcy and devastation. Hitler tried to recreate a golden past, as did Khomeini; the UK is already a poorer country having voted for Brexit. Trump is treading a path which has been tried many times before. </p> <p><strong>MD: How does post-truth language work and how can it be countered? </strong></p> <p><strong>AB</strong>: In our time, one of the first people to use such language in a systematic way was Ayatollah Khomeini. Not only did he try to conceal the truth through charging his followers’ passions, but in later years he openly stated that he was not committed to anything he said and that he could change his mind and words whenever it suited him. Such language can be challenged if we can identify its characteristics. </p> <p class="mag-quote-right">Despite the embedded trickery in post-truth language, it can be critiqued and exposed. </p><p>One characteristic of such language is that it is disconnected from experience and cannot be tested, so its degree of truth cannot be determined. Force is thus its essence, as it can only be implemented when people obey the leader. Any planning made within this language is imperative and its validity only becomes clear after it is forcefully implemented, when damage is already done. We saw this in Nazi Germany, in Stalin’s Russia, in Iran’s current dictatorial regime and, if Trump can get away with what he wants to do, we will see it in Trump’s America. </p> <p>Despite the embedded trickery in post-truth language, it can be critiqued and exposed. The conditions for this are the free flow of information and knowledge and the ability to communicate to those who are smitten with such language. Such language does not reflect reality but manipulates it, or should we say, spins it. Reality cannot be discarded to make a lie, but it must be manipulated because a ‘lie’ is nothing but an attempt to disguise reality. Here, we can see that there is a problem in the Oxford English dictionary’s definition of post-truth, as: “relating to or denoting circumstances in which objective facts are less influential in shaping public opinion than appeals to emotion and personal belief.” Objective facts are not used in objective ways. They are manipulated in order to make lies acceptable rather than less influential. </p> <p>Such language makes people believe that dualism is intrinsic in intellect and life. As a result, the talent of leadership, which is intrinsic in all people, can be redefined as power in the form of authority, which is external to people. When dichotomy becomes a guiding principle, it transfers beliefs (in religions, mysticisms and ideologies) into discourses of power, and people voluntarily concede their right of leadership to representatives of power in secular and religious forms: the philosopher king, the Führer, the guru, the Imam, the lawmaker, the Church or the vanguard party, making themselves instruments of such power.</p> <p>This language never denies universal values like freedom, independence or justice, but reverses their meaning. For example, ultra-right groups may talk about fraternity among equals and turn it into a value. Subsequently, however, they will use values of fraternity and equality to argue against fairness and justice. We see this use of language in Trump’s discourse, which has identified some people who cannot be equal to others in American society and promised to throw them out of the country. </p> <p>We can also see it in the language of the right and ultra-right in France, which gives its own meaning to French identity and accuses those whose identity stands outside this definition of being problematic. The Iranian regime has also systematically divided Iranians into those who are ‘one of us’ (<em>khodi</em>) and those ‘who are not one of us’ (<em>geyre khodi</em>). As a result, the majority of society suffers from forms of discrimination which constantly put them through a process of ‘othering’. </p> <p>Another characteristic of such language is that it conveys that individuals are incapable of doing things and that only power can get things done. This is why they keep talking with nostalgia about ‘authority’ and wishing to bring it back. This language aims to divert people’s attention from the fact that power is the ‘problem maker’ which has made their lives difficult. It prevents people from seeing that it is power which increases consumption over production, and that the consumption of destructive and harmful production is the cause of their hardship. </p> <p>The capitalist system, in order to continue, needs people to consume more than they produce. Through presenting power as the problem-solver, this language prevents people from seeing that the only way to solve their problems is through understanding their rights, exercising their rights, and making connections with others and with nature by doing so. A final characteristic is that such language systematically uses syllogistic logic to prevent the reasonable interpretation of reality by using familiar words but changing their meaning. </p> <p><strong>MD: Can you explain how this logic is used in the current crisis? </strong></p> <p class="mag-quote-left">Governments tell their people that these ‘others’ have become terrorists because they hate ‘us’ and ‘our’ way of living</p><p><strong>AB</strong>: The fountain head of the current crisis is capitalism, which has created a closed circuit of domination in which the dominant class does everything to preserve its position. It has successfully tried to deflect attention from the real problem-maker, which is the relation of domination itself, and presents its victims, the dispossessed who become migrants, as the cause of the problem, or de-contexualizes the by-product of this relation as terrorism. </p> <p>In the first case, for example, Mexican immigrants are presented as the cause of socio-economic problems for blue-collar white American workers, while in Europe, refugees are presented as “swamping” the homogeneity and identity of western countries. In order to hide the fact that such phenomena are a result of exploitative and dehumanising relations, governments tell their people that these ‘others’ have become terrorists because they hate ‘us’ and ‘our’ way of living. They are relatively successful, partly because they use syllogistic logic, and partly because there is no free flow of information and knowledge. They have created a dominant narrative and whoever questions it comes under attack. This is why hardly anyone asks why or how animosity emerges and why violence is used as a method of expressing this animosity. </p> <p><strong>MD: What do you think should be done? What is the way forward? </strong></p> <p><strong>AB</strong>: Naomi Klein, in her book, <em>The Shock Doctrine</em>, explains how neoliberal capitalism creates crisis in order to decrease popular resistance to the implementation of unpopular policies. I would add that this ‘crisis’ also has another outcome, which is that as it forces people out of their comfort zone, it also creates conditions for them to ask questions about the crisis and to seek answers. </p> <p> <span class="mag-quote-right">This crisis of gigantic dimensions provides us with a chance to tell the truth.</span></p><p>However, as the dominant left failed to talk about the structural causes of the meltdown, which is capitalism based on a relation of domination, it failed to come up with a daring alternative. People’s questions remained unanswered and the populist ultra-right, which is a core part of the establishment, presented itself as anti-establishment and championed the cause of the disenfranchised. </p> <p>It did this while portraying the victims of this systemic failure as its cause. This crisis of gigantic dimensions provides us with a chance to tell the truth. Be sure, there will be so many who are ready to listen. We saw their frustration in the tsunami of youth who made an unknown leftist veteran, Jeremy Corbyn, the leader of the Labour Party in the UK, and who championed Bernie Sanders in the US. However, as I already said, Corbyn’s ineffectiveness, particularly in Brexit, tells us that the left is in dire need of a new project and alternative. To create this, it needs to openly address the causes of the problem, and to understand ‘capital’ and ‘labour’ as a zero-sum relationship. It needs to do away with all discourses of power and develop a new ideal type which is formed, designed and understood within a discourse of independence and freedom. </p> <p>To ensure its success, it also needs to develop a type of language and argument which can expose the deceptive and populist language of post-truth politics. Ironically, at a time like this, there is a real opportunity to develop an alternative economic model which serves human development and the protection of nature. This alternative discourse can shift fear into hope, and animosity into friendship, and save life and nature from destruction. It is time, as the thirteenth-century Iranian poet Hafez says, to: “[...] fill the cup with red wine. The firmaments let us shatter. And come with a new design.”&nbsp;</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/north-africa-west-asia/halim-shebaya/trump-and-islamophobia-discrimination-fuels-terror">Trump and Islamophobia: discrimination fuels terror</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/can-europe-make-it/crist-bal-rovira-kaltwasser-kirk-hawkins/explaining-populism">Populism - the eternal ideology</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/openglobalrights/samuel-moyn/trump-and-limits-of-human-rights">Trump and the limits of human rights</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/can-europe-make-it/cas-mudde/populism-in-europe-primer">Populism in Europe: a primer</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"> 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> North-Africa West-Asia North-Africa West-Asia Iran Democracy and government democracy & power populism far right Islamism Geopolitics Mahmood Delkhasteh Abolhassan Banisadr Wed, 22 Mar 2017 10:00:38 +0000 Abolhassan Banisadr and Mahmood Delkhasteh 109527 at Do the people of Kurdistan live in security? <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>The main threat to the people in the Kurdistan Region in Iraq is not ISIL, but failed governance which endangers human security. </p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//" alt="" title="" width="460" height="307" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>A Peshmerga soldier poses for a portrait at the DPK Peshmerga base. Picture by Le Caer Vianney ABACA/PA Images. All rights reserved. </span></span></span>Some people in the Kurdistan region of Iraq think of security in terms of security of Kurdish people and their territory from military attacks by neighboring countries or the self-proclaimed Islamic State of Iraq and Levant (ISIL). This understanding of security, however, is a limited one. Security should be thought of as a shared freedom from fear, from want, from medically preventable deaths, and freedom to live in dignity. Today, the people of Kurdistan and their land are secure from ISIL threats, because Peshmerga forces (literally meaning those facing death or seeking death) were successful in fighting back and protecting the Kurdistan territory from falling into ISIL's hands. However, the main and serious security threats on Kurdish people's lives derive from within the Kurdistan region and the failure of its regional government (KRG).&nbsp; </p><p>Corruption and economic inequality are at their highest, and the KRG is unable to provide salaries for its public employees. Under a recently announced plan named the ‘savings process’, the KRG proposed wage cuts to all public employees in a bid to reduce costs. Government employees are facing cuts ranging between 15 and 75 percent, depending on their position and pay-grade. Furthermore, employees have not been paid four monthly salaries in 2015, and two salaries have been <span><a href="">delayed in 2016</a></span>. Having said that, KRG’s economic reforms are at the expense of poor people: "Making the rich richer and the poor poorer". Many Kurds believe that the ruling political parties are still rich and corrupt, since they still finance their media outlets and institutions, and have even started new projects during the financial crisis, including opening new TV channels. The results are clear: economically speaking, people live in severe conditions, and therefore tens of thousands <span><a href="">migrate</a></span>&nbsp;from the area. Another consequence is that, according to recent reports the <span><a href="">crime rate is going</a><a href=""> up in</a><a href=""> Iraqi Kurdistan</a></span>. </p><p class="mag-quote-left">KRG’s economic reforms are at the expense of poor people: "Making the rich richer and the poor poorer"</p><p class="western">Moreover, the KRG health care system is in poor condition. In theory, hospitals offer free services, but in reality they are badly equipped and poorly serviced. The drug supply business has no quality control and is not regulated. Many Kurdish traders import expired drugs from neighboring countries. In the Kurdistan region, almost 20 percent of the entire medical supply is fake. In 2013, a group politically linked to the ruling party, smuggled a contaminated batch of the cancer-treatment drug Avastin. When the drug was used by a public hospital in Erbil, it blinded 30 patients. The traders who deliberately imported and sold the bad drug were not held responsible. According to Michael Rubin, in <em><a href="">Kurdistan Rising? Considerations for Kurds, their neighbors, and the region</a>,</em> “in March 2012, Kurdish authorities uncovered a counterfeit medicine plant in Erbil packaging substandard drugs with false claims of manufacture in Syria and India, but issued only a reprimand because of its owners’ political connections. Corrupt traders and manufacturers distributed more than 2,500 boxes of defective insulin to Kurdish hospitals. Numerous cancer patients received defective chemotherapy drugs, and patients receiving injections for minor medical issues subsequently suffered life-threatening reactions. A relative of a former KRG prime minister working at a border crossing with Turkey allowed in 20 trucks carrying 400 tons of counterfeit medicine, but the contents of only one truck were ever recovered." Kurdish authorities overlooked an Iraqi Ministry of Health circular to all Iraqi and Iraqi Kurdish hospitals that banned injections of the antibiotics ceftriaxone, resulting in the deaths <span><a href="">of several patients</a></span>. </p><p class="mag-quote-right">The Minister of Justice is sometimes used by the ruling political parties for their own interests.</p> <p class="western">Furthermore, the court system in the Kurdistan region is not independent enough. In a survey conducted by Democracy and Human Rights Development Center (DHRD), among 300 people, fifty percent thought that the independence of the judicial power in Kurdistan is at a bad level, while forty percent believe that it is at a medium level. This may increase the number of retaliations carried out by civilians in society because people do not trust the courts. This is especially true when the perpetrator belongs to the security and police forces at the rank of officer or higher. during an interview on Kurdstat News Channel, Karzan Fazil, a lawyer at DHRD, said that the courts cannot issue an arrest warrant to someone who commits a crime if they are at the level of officer in the security forces. He further mentioned a case where a member of the security services (Asaesh) was accused of murder, but was not brought to court because Asaesh refused to surrender him to justice, and instead asked for his case files telling the court that they will <span><a href="">try him themselves</a></span></p> <p class="western"> There are numerous cases indicating that Asaesh ignored the decision of <span><a href="">the court.</a></span> Furthermore, the Minister of Justice is sometimes used by the ruling political parties for their own interests. For instance, at the request of the deputy speaker of the Kurdistan parliament, who is a senior politician at the PDK, the Kurdistan Consultative Council on 17 August 2015 decided to extend Barzani's term for the next two years. The decision according to the Kurdistan parliament speaker Yusuf Muhammad, was illegal. "We did not ask for an opinion and according to the law, the consultative council does not have the right to issue an obligatory decision" Yusuf Muhammad <span><a href="">said</a></span>. All of these cases imply that in Kurdistan the law can only be enforced upon powerless people. </p><p class="mag-quote-left">The security of the system per se is just a means to serve an end, which is the security of people. </p> <p class="western">Last but not least, the largest Kurdish political party ended the soft treatment of anyone who criticizes the Kurdish political leaders for corruption in the areas under its control. In October 2015, the security forces loyal to the PDK prevented the Kurdistan Parliament Speaker Yusuf Muhammad from entering Erbil just because he was trying to do his job as the speaker to amend presidential law.&nbsp;The KDP has expanded its surveillance system by recruiting more people. They mostly target domestic rivals and civil society activists. NGOs and civil society need prior permission from Asaesh before conducting any activities. Many journalists who work with the opposition groups &nbsp;in Duhok and Erbil&nbsp; left their journalism jobs under pressure. Several religious scholars who have critical voices have also been <span><a href="">fired.</a></span></p> <p class="western">Kurdish officials are the main beneficiaries from the current political system by politicizing all sectors of society while the human security of Kurdish people is under threat. The Kurdistan security strategy should not only focus on external military or terrorist threats. Today Kurdistan is largely stable thanks to the Peshmerga forces, but at the same time it faces many risks that endanger the lives of Kurdish citizens. Moreover, the KRG security and stability should not become a project to serve the political elites and their interests, but a common good benefiting all Kurdish people in the Iraqi Kurdistan. To achieve this goal, politicized sectors such as the military and security forces, economy and oil revenues should be depoliticized. Also, the KRG's security and intelligence services have to assess the level of the mentioned threats, measure their severity, and then try to find ways to resolve them. This is because these threats affect Kurdish people's lives directly, which should come first in the KRG's security strategy. The security of the system per se is just a means to serve an end, which is the security of people. </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="/north-africa-west-asia/hawre-hasan-hama/consequences-of-politicized-forces-in-kurdistan-region-of-iraq">The consequences of politicized forces in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/conflict-iraq/kurdistan_4085.jsp">Kurdistan beyond Iraq</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/north-africa-west-asia/fazil-moradi-hawar-moradi/can-president-of-kurdistan-region-of-iraq-cry">Can the president of the Kurdistan Region of Iraq cry?</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Iraq </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> North-Africa West-Asia North-Africa West-Asia Iraq middle east democracy & power Kurdistan human security You tell us Hawre Hasan Hama Mon, 30 Jan 2017 13:30:11 +0000 Hawre Hasan Hama 108442 at How to make America great again? Bully Mexico. <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p class="MsoNormal" style="text-align: justify;">As President Trump concludes his first week in the White House with extremely protectionist policies, there will be no sigh of relief in Latin America.&nbsp;<strong><em>&nbsp;<a href="">Español</a></em></strong></p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//" alt="" title="" width="460" height="305" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>A ''No Trespassing'' sign marks the U.S./Mexico border wall. PAimages/Graham Charles Hunt Zuma. All rights reserved.</span></span></span></p><p>The inauguration of the new US President, Donald Trump, certainly carried some jingoistic overtones. His electoral success was to a great extent built on his promise to put America first and protect the interests of ‘our people’ and in doing so, he has organised a line-up of usual suspects: the political establishment, the CIA, radical Islam, the press, women’s rights, China, and of course, Mexico. As central points in his campaign, his short-term popularity as a president will be measured on his ability to get visible results in these areas. And anyone unconvinced by the President’s ability to put his words into action should only see his performance during his first week in office.</p> <p>On Mexico, Trump will continue the policy trend set by his two previous incumbents of heightened security on the US-Mexico border and deportations. “We’re going to build that wall” brought Trump’s controversial character into the international spotlight during the Republican primaries. Yet this is a symbolic policy, radical and controversial for the unacceptable prejudice and slurs against Mexicans with which it was delivered, rather than offering a new solution to the challenges of migration.</p> <p>In 2006, both Republicans and Democrats, including Obama, <a href="">voted to fund President Bush’s 1100km double-layer reinforced fencing and enhanced security</a> along parts of its 3,200km southern border with Mexico. Obama further strengthened this policy of securitisation, and was later described as having <a href="">“the most border patrols and border security deployed at the border of any pervious president”</a>. This was the very same president who in 2014 came to earn the nickname <a href="">‘deporter-in-chief’</a>, having deported over 2.5 million immigrants during his two terms in office. US policy on immigration from the South has typically confronted symptoms with force, rather than tackling the root causes – and while Trump will throw a little more fuel on the fire, in doing so he is reinforcing the trend set by his predecessors with added vengeance.</p> <p>Then perhaps it is the new President’s promises to bring factories home and the renegotiation of trade deals that present the biggest threat to Mexico. On a platform of protectionist trade policies, Trump has blamed unfavourable trade deals (namely NAFTA) and transnational supply chains for economic woes back home: job losses, factory closures and wage depression. He has failed, however, to address the real impact of technological change in the US’ post-industrial economy job market. Nevertheless, he has managed to convince much of America and his promise to bring back jobs and dignity to the Midwest - particularly the Rustbelt states of Ohio, Michigan and Indiana – is the reason why so many of his supporters have been able to look past his <em>unpresidential</em> persona.</p><p class="mag-quote-center">No matter how fearless he is of controversy, there is only so far Trump will be able to push his agenda.</p> <p>And before even sitting at his desk in the Oval Office, Trump claimed credit via Twitter for persuading Ford to retain a factory and 700 jobs in Kentucky, instead of moving them to Mexico. (<a href="">The fact that Ford’s planned changes would have resulted in 0 job losses is by the by</a>).</p> <p>Yet Trump will soon come face to face with the real implications of his promises. Let’s take Ohio for example, a state in which he narrowly beat Hilary Clinton with 51.2% and had claimed “manufacturing is down by 30%, 40% sometimes 50%” as a result of NAFTA (again, <a href="">the real impact is actually closer to 1%</a>). This is a state for which Mexico represents its <a href="">second largest export market</a>, mainly in the form of vehicle parts, plastics, iron and steel products. Mexico – as the US’ 3rd largest supplier of import goods – uses these resources to return vehicles ($74m), electrical machinery ($63m), machinery ($49m) and optical/medical instruments ($12m) back into the US market.</p> <p>The agreement has certainly faced just scrutiny, with <a href="">a Center for Global Development report</a> showing the US-Mexico wage gap having grown, <em>not </em>shrunk since 1994, and <a href="">only modest benefits</a> on both sides of the border. But, echoing current post-Brexit discussions in Europe, the solution is not hostility between countries, or the cessation of economic agreements, but more cooperation and better economic integration. </p> <p>Any move to attack the agreement, increase trade restrictions on Mexican imports and disrupt the inter-state supply chain would likely trigger a retaliation from Mexico in equal measure. Prices would rise, as would social tensions, and there is no guarantee that the result would be a net increase in US job opportunities. This impact would be immediate and detrimental for American families in the communities Donald Trump promised to protect. Furthermore, the President would have to pull off a constitutional coup to do so, and this in itself carries political consequences. For short term credit, Trump is more than capable of enacting his executive powers to see this happen and as the <a href="">potential move to impose 20% tax on Mexican goods</a> to fund the construction of the border wall suggests, he is more than willing to take US-Mexico relations to an all-time low. But in shooting America in the foot, he risks destabilising a popular support base and losing political allies. And no matter how fearless he is of controversy, there is only so far Trump will be able to push his agenda.</p> <p>So, Mexico is likely to face more than political posturing from Trump – but at a price. And, “so long as Raul Castro doesn’t go too heavy on the Che Guevara and treat the US like it’s the 1950s” (in the words of <a href="">Forbes</a>), the rest of Latin America is expected to remain with the status quo. But there’s a problem here: the status quo isn’t good enough and Trump’s presidency is likely to produce the political and economic conditions for things to deteriorate.</p> <p><strong>&nbsp;The Chinese factor in Latin America</strong></p> <p>But if the US turns its back to Mexico and Latin America, is the region ready to stand up on its own? The expanding role of China in Latin America has provided an alternative to the unpopular Cold War narrative of <em>American imperialism</em>. Seen by some as the strengthening of South-South cooperation – and a direct challenge to the Northern hegemony – the extractive industries of Latin America were central to fulfilling high levels of Chinese demand, and consequential growth, from the 1990s on. So much so that between the period of 1975 and 2006, bilateral trade grew from $200m to $70bn. And while the recent commodity slump dampened Chinese trade in the region, it has not curbed its activity.</p> <p>Chinese loans in the region <a href="">rose sharply in 2013 and 2014</a>, with $22.1bn of new Chinese loans in 2014 representing more than the combined value of loans from the region’s two traditional multilateral lenders (the World Bank and the Inter-American Development Bank) – particularly in Venezuela, Brazil and Argentina. And while the global financial institutions of the liberal world order attach strict economic and political conditionality to lending, China offers ‘no strings attached’. However this approach can be misleading, and with loans more often than not tied to resource and infrastructure deals, the region is certainly not free from the foreboding figure of imperialism.</p> <p>But how does this all relate to a Trump presidency? Well, aside from its economic objectives in the region, a key pillar of Chinese economic growth is maintaining stability within the regions it trades in. But this stability can come at a cost to democracy. <a href="">Asked in an interview</a> whether China had an interest in changing Latin American politics, a Communist Party of China leader replied:</p> <p><em>&nbsp;“No. Why should we? We are perfectly happy with a democratic system controlled by elites that keeps real popular involvement to a minimum, so long as they continue to enforce the agreements made with us.”</em></p> <p>This is a welcome alternative to the countless covert (or not so covert) US interventions of the past, with their intrusion into Latin American nations’ popular sovereignty and a disregard for their self-determination. However, it is also an absolute withdrawal of responsibility for protecting the quality of democracy and civil liberties in the countries China is engaging with. The objective of stability is therefore an <em>end</em>, but the rule book for the <em>means</em> is thrown out of the window.</p> <p>President Trump’s catch-phrase ‘America first’ echoes this non-interventionist approach, but has wider implications. “We do not seek to impose our way of life on anyone”, he said in his inauguration speech. And yes, again, there might be a justified wave of approving nods from the many who are fed up of ‘Western’ interventions in the name of democracy, but this also gives world leaders a clear message: the rules of the game have changed, and the red-line of <em>shoulds </em>and <em>should nots</em> has just been taken down several notches.</p> <p><strong>A reaction in Latin America</strong></p> <p>There are few places where this will be a more dangerous message than in Latin America. We have already seen China’s ‘no string attached’ approach threaten the rise of inequality, as power and wealth is consolidated by those at the top, at the expense of popular involvement in politics. Donald Trump’s disregard for democracy standards or civil liberties and his war on the media only gives these political elites more tools at their disposal to maintain their preferred status quo and quell the civil societies that have been flourishing in the region over recent years.</p><p class="mag-quote-center">Many politicians, civil society organisations and engaged citizens have shown their capacity of mobilisation in recent years and will fight to ensure the red-line of democratic and civil standards is not forgotten by their country’s leaders.</p> <p>Latin America is a region of relatively young, and rather fragile democracies. Through increasing citizen participation, and expanding civil societies, countries are finding ways to cultivate their own interpretations of a just and vibrant democracy. But in the face of Trump, a reaction could come: many politicians, civil society organisations and engaged citizens have shown their capacity of mobilisation in recent years and will fight to ensure the red-line of democratic and civil standards is not forgotten by their country’s leaders. Without these standards, countries in the region could quickly slide into a right-wing populism that will erode the decades of hard work put into achieving democracy.</p> <p>As the new President enters the White House, there is no sigh of relief in Latin America. But there is hope in Ecuador’s President Correa's words when he says:</p> <p><em>&nbsp;“[Trump] is so crude that he will generate a reaction in Latin America which will build more support for progressive governments“.</em></p> <p>The upcoming elections in his country, on 19th February, will prove him right or wrong.</p><p>&nbsp;</p><p>&nbsp;</p><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 china & the world american power & the world us & the world democracy & power mexico latin america Trump Piers Purdy Fri, 27 Jan 2017 11:19:21 +0000 Piers Purdy 108394 at Ripping back the veil: an interview with Arun Kundnani <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Trump promises politics in its naked form: the seizure of power for his clan, and be damned with all the rest. As the centre ground collapses, we must not cling to it.&nbsp;</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="// (1).jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title="Trump mask production line, Japan. Eugene Hoshiko/AP/Press Association Images. All rights reserved."><img src="// (1).jpg" alt="Trump mask production line, Japan. Eugene Hoshiko/AP/Press Association Images. All rights reserved." title="Trump mask production line, Japan. Eugene Hoshiko/AP/Press Association Images. All rights reserved." width="460" height="302" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Trump mask production line, Japan. Eugene Hoshiko/AP/Press Association Images. All rights reserved.</span></span></span>What are the roots and ramifications of Donald Trump’s election? As we reel from this seismic event, Arun Kundnani, political commentator and author of <em>The Muslims Are Coming! </em>(Verso, 2014), assesses its domestic and global significance for the innumerable communities on the frontline, with Trump set to inherit the vastest machineries for war and surveillance ever created. We must not accept this as normal, he argues, and we should match in extremity the coming administration’s rhetoric – while campaigning from the margins, with a genuine programme for change.</p><p><strong><strong>Phoebe Braithwaite: What part has racism played in the Trump campaign’s success?</strong></strong></p><p>Arun Kundnani: There are two prevailing ways that people have been looking at the Trump victory. One is focused on class and the other is focused on race. A lot of people are saying this is the revolt of the ‘losers’ in globalisation, focused on the white working class. Actually I don’t think the data supports that, because the most striking thing about the numbers is that support for Trump is not associated with poverty. It is correlated with race. Across all ages, every income category, and across men and women, more whites voted for Trump than Clinton and more non-whites voted for Clinton than Trump.</p><p>But the discussion on this has been limited so far because when people say, ‘Trump won because of his racism’ other people reply, ‘you’re saying that all Trump supporters are racist, but they’re not’. That assumes that racism is about individual attitudes of hate and ignorance. But racism is a system and it’s sustained not by barroom bigots but by a million daily complicities. It’s an inherent part of US society, which claims to be based on liberal values, but necessarily involves violence, oppression and exploitation. That’s why it’s possible for Trump to win on the back of racism without needing to imagine that half the country is in the Klan.</p><p class="mag-quote-right">"A liberal curtain will be pulled back, and then we’ll be dealing with politics in its authentic form – them and us."</p><p>Trump first came to prominence defending racist housing policies in the 1970s and calling for the death penalty for African-American and Hispanic teenagers in the 1980s. Then, through the Birther movement, he is connected to a conspiratorial tradition on the American right, which goes back to the John Birch Society. But today, it’s very much tied up with Islamophobia. The Birther movement was not only about saying that Obama was not American but also that he was secretly Muslim. The real energy of Trump’s campaign initially came from making the arguments about banning Muslims. His critique of Obama was that he was deliberately trying to obscure the nature of the enemy, and we need to be more honest and direct in naming the enemy.</p><p>This connects with the idea of stripping away the pieties of the elite, that if you strip away all of this political correctness, you will reveal politics for the power grab it really is. And what he’s saying is, ‘I will grab power for my people, for my race, for my nation,’ and we don’t need to bother with the pretence of politically correct rules, and so forth. I think that’s a very emotional aspect of his appeal, tied up with that sense that a liberal curtain will be pulled back, and then we’ll be dealing with politics in its authentic form – them and us. And the ‘us’ for him would be, implicitly and often explicitly, white Americans.</p><p>I think we should take absolutely seriously the racism and Islamophobia of it and not just see it as a rhetorical device to get elected. There were two main components to his pitch: racism and anti-elitism. Of course his anti-elitism is a fiction, in the sense that he’s a part of the elite and he stands for the elite and he embodies the elite. In office, he will compromise on his anti-elitism and, to compensate for that, he will go overboard on his racism. So, for example, he’s already said he will be making registration of Muslims in the United States compulsory. I think those aspects will be the immediate priority for us to defend ourselves against.</p><p><strong>PB: Are there appropriate comparisons for this period in history? Can we make parallels?</strong></p><p>AK: The temptation is to say that this looks like a re-run of the election of Nixon or Reagan. And I don’t think it is. Trump’s politics are obviously different in relation to free trade. He’s committed to withdrawing from NAFTA. Compare that with George W. Bush, who was trying to expand NAFTA to South America. NAFTA was a way of locking Mexico into neoliberalism, so it’s striking that Trump seems willing to undo that.&nbsp;</p><p>It’s too early to say how this will play out but is seems like a new paradigm is emerging here. Aspects of the orthodoxy of the last forty years might be getting reworked in quite fundamental ways. Free trade is a sacred value of the establishment. When you look at the different components of Trump’s politics, the particular sections of society it’s appealing to, the fact that racism is central to it, the fact that he wants to dispense with all kinds of liberal values, the fact that he wants centralised state power, you can see the resemblance to fascist ideology. And I don’t think it’s unreasonable to describe this as a new kind of fascism, but it’s a very different kind of fascism from the early twentieth century fascism.</p><p>For one thing, the Italian and German fascisms were responses to leftist working-class revolutionary movements. They were trying to appropriate some of the forms of those mass movements but redirect those energies for the preservation of the capitalist system. Well, there isn’t a threat to the system from a labour insurgency today. But I think there is a sense among the Anglo-American business class that the system has stalled and that maybe there’s a need for some radical rewiring. And I think Trump embodies that possibility.</p><p>It is too early to say what that might look like, but a lot of people in the Trump camp are skeptical of the US playing the role of firefighter and police force for a global free-market system that they think has enriched East Asia and destabilised the Middle East more than it has helped the west. This is not the end of neoliberalism but perhaps a new kind of neoliberalism, in which the aim would be to anchor the power of free markets more in a sense of western cultural identity.</p><p><strong>PB: What role did identity politics play in this election?</strong></p><p>AK: Clintonism – Hillary and Bill’s politics – was about corporate multiculturalism, corporate feminism, saying that people of colour and women can be included in the elites of the neoliberal project that Reagan had advanced before them. There was always a contradiction between the multicultural feel-good vibe of that politics and the realities for actual people of colour and actual women in America who were on the receiving end of the intensifying racism in the criminal justice system, or the cutbacks to welfare, and so forth, that Bill Clinton’s administration was involved in. Again it was the contradiction between the liberal image and the actual brutalities of the system – that’s what Trump was able to exploit. What Trump is saying, in effect, is, ‘Let’s do away with the pretence that this is an inclusive society. It’s a much more brutal society than that and it’s a society based on power, and who can grab power, and I can grab power for you (white people).’&nbsp;</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title="Hillary Clinton. Andrew Harnik/AP/Press Association Images. All rights reserved."><img src="//" alt="Hillary Clinton. Andrew Harnik/AP/Press Association Images. All rights reserved." title="Hillary Clinton. Andrew Harnik/AP/Press Association Images. All rights reserved." width="460" height="307" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Hillary Clinton. Andrew Harnik/AP/Press Association Images. All rights reserved.</span></span></span></p><p class="mag-quote-left">"Racism is a system and it’s sustained not by barroom bigots but by a million daily complicities." </p><p>In terms of how we think about identity politics, I think it’s a complete mistake to frame things in such a way that there is an opposition between feminism or anti-racism or LGBT rights, on the one hand, and class issues on the other hand, as if Clinton stands for gay rights and minorities and women and Trump stands for the white working class. I think that’s a complete misreading of the situation and a bad formulation that unfortunately has become very prominent. Our starting point should be that the US is a class society and a race society and a gender society, and all these social relations are intertwined with each other. So the kind of politics we need is one that can incorporate all these elements. Hillary Clinton’s defeat was, in part, to do with her reliance on the idea that women would vote only as women; in fact, they also voted for their race and their class.</p><p><strong>PB: What should the left be doing differently?</strong></p><p>AK: I think the first thing is to refuse the normalisation of Trump. All that stuff about healing the divides doesn’t grasp what’s happened. We should understand that this is, I think, a break with the last forty years of political and economic orthodoxy – radical not in the genuine sense but in the sense of change from above. The old centre ground of politics is eroding and we should not cling to it.&nbsp;</p><p>I think we should understand that something new is going to have to come in the place of the centre-left and the centre-right, and so far the right has been better at figuring out what that might look like. Trump represents that, Brexit represents that. I think in the first instance it’s going to be a matter of defending communities from attack. I think we need to be building our own walls of resistance to what is going to be heading towards us. There are a lot of people in the crosshairs of this. Clearly, the whole national security apparatus is going to be powered up to recharge the batteries of the war on terror.&nbsp;</p><p>But it’s also about the mob. I think there’s going to be a permanent mobilisation, a Trump movement, that is going to be responsible for racist violence, for all kinds of attacks on minorities. There’s a need to organise self-defence – this is where the lessons of anti-fascism in the twentieth century will have some resonance.</p><p><strong>PB: Is it possible to make foreign policy predictions at this stage?</strong></p><p>AK: It’s hard but there are some certainties. One is that the Trump administration will be fully aligned with the Israeli far-right, and that means moving the US embassy to Jerusalem, criminalising the BDS movement, going after pro-Palestinian groups within the US, all of which is very bad news for the Palestinians and their allies. It looks as if there will also be a rapprochement with Assad in Syria, which is bad news for the Syrian opposition who will be crushed between Russia and the United States.</p><p>More generally, I think what is on the cards is the US playing a different role in the international system. The old assumption that guided much of the last half century of US foreign policy was that the more that free trade was promoted, the more that American-style democracy was promoted, the better that would be for America. Neoliberal globalisation was supposed to be in America’s interests. That looked very convincing in 1994 when NAFTA was passed. But now globalisation does not look like Americanisation – it looks more like a de-centering of the west. What this means is hard to say but it certainly seems like a new era of US foreign policy will emerge that is quite different from the past. Leaders who have ideological similarities to Trump, such as Putin and Modi, can expect to benefit.&nbsp;</p><p><strong>PB: And the rise of the right in Europe?</strong></p><p>AK: The fact that Trump has appointed Stephen K. Bannon as his chief strategist tells you that Trump’s politics is <em>Breitbart</em> politics. What was the <em>Breitbart</em> front page in the days after the election? It was Nigel Farage and Marine Le Pen. Those connections exist between the far-right in Europe and Trump.</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title="Rutgers University students protest against Trump. Mel Evans/AP/Press Association Images. All rights reserved."><img src="//" alt="Rutgers University students protest against Trump. Mel Evans/AP/Press Association Images. All rights reserved." title="Rutgers University students protest against Trump. Mel Evans/AP/Press Association Images. All rights reserved." width="460" height="307" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Rutgers University students protest against Trump. Mel Evans/AP/Press Association Images. All rights reserved.</span></span></span></p><p class="mag-quote-right">"We must match in radicalism Trump’s own rhetoric but ground it in a genuine programme for moving beyond the failures of neoliberalism."</p><p>This is a time of polarisation. There will be, let’s hope, a stronger left mobilisation in the United States than we’ve seen in recent decades. And we shouldn’t forget that millions of Americans voted for Bernie Sanders, someone who uses the label of “socialist”, and that would have been unimaginable relatively recently. That constituency now needs to – and I think will – take to the streets and fight for a genuine radical politics, not the fake anti-elitism of Trump.</p><p><strong>PB: Do you think Sanders could have beaten Trump?</strong></p><p>AK: It’s impossible to know. Certainly Sanders would have done better in the rustbelt states that were crucial to Trump’s victory. But once you swap Sanders for Clinton, then you don’t know what else is going to change. I think that, irrespective of whether he would have won, he was certainly the right candidate, because this is not a time for the status quo. This is a time when the status quo is collapsing, and the left needs to be campaigning from the margins rather than from the centre.</p><p><strong>PB: What is especially to be feared now?</strong></p><p>AK: Trump will inherit this vast armoury from the war on terror, the largest system of surveillance ever created, the capacity to carry out extra-judicial killings anywhere in the world on demand. There is the possibility that he will use those technologies to turn the border with Mexico into a warzone, while making it impossible for undocumented migrants to function within the US. He will have people around him who wish to strip away the civil rights of Muslims in the US and go to war with Iran. The Supreme Court will become more conservative. Corporations will be even less regulated. White supremacy will be regenerated. </p><p>But the real danger is normalisation.&nbsp;Our response cannot be aimed at restoring America to a discredited centrist status quo. We must match in radicalism Trump’s own rhetoric but ground it in a genuine programme for moving beyond the failures of neoliberalism.</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="/arun-kundnani-opendemocracy/violence-comes-home-interview-with-arun-kundnani">Violence comes home: an interview with Arun Kundnani</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/paul-rogers/trump-and-pentagon">Trump and the Pentagon</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/zoe-samudzi/donald-trump-is-not-uniquely-bigoted">Donald Trump is not uniquely bigoted. He&#039;s &#039;as American as apple pie&#039;</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> United States </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Democracy and government </div> <div class="field-item even"> International politics </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> United States Democracy and government International politics Globalisation democracy & terror 9/11 : the 'war on terror' democracy & power north america Understanding the rise of Trump Phoebe Braithwaite Arun Kundnani Sat, 19 Nov 2016 09:45:56 +0000 Arun Kundnani and Phoebe Braithwaite 106915 at Is there a connection between Muslim 'superdiversity' and sectarian violence? <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>What lies behind two intra-Muslim killings in Britain? The question is timely at the unifying moment of a new Muslim year.&nbsp; </p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//" alt="" title="" width="460" height="297" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>East London Mosque, Whitechapel, London. Steve Parsons PA Archive/Press Association Images. All rights reserved.</span></span></span>The start of the new Islamic calendar year falls this time round on 2<span>–</span>3 October, depending of course on global location. The Islamic year 1437 has just ended and 1438 begun. Unlike the Christian new year, which is closely associated with the birth of Christ, the Muslim new year commemorates the migration journey of the Prophet Muhammad from Mecca to Medina in 622 CE. In Islam, the day begins with the sighting of the new moon.</p><p>The Islamic new year, also known as <em>Hijiri</em> (after the <em>hijira </em>or migration) also marks the first day of the month of Muharram, the second holiest month of the Islamic calendar after Ramadan. It marks the anniversary of Karbala, the battle in which much of the Prophet’s family was killed, including his grandson Imam Hussein Ibn Ali. The battle of Karbala was about the Caliphate, defining the identity of the rightful successor to Muhammad, and it is here where the sectarian divisions between Shi’ite and Sunni Muslims have their origin. </p><p>Shi’ites believes that Imam Hussein was denied the Caliphate, which would not have happened if Imam Hussein’s father, Ali (the Prophet’s son-in-law) had succeeded Muhammad after his death. Instead, the mantle passed to Abu Bakr Sadiq.</p><p>This background indicates that the new year in Islam carries symbolic importance in relation to both migration and sectarianism. In Britain in the passing year, whether the Islamic or Gregorian calendar is referred to, these themes have been prominent in two separate murders where a Muslim was killed for being the 'wrong' kind of Muslim.</p><p class="mag-quote-center">As Muslim communities in the UK and western Europe become more diverse, such sectarian killings could become more commonplace.</p><p>The first victim, Asad Shah, was an <a href="">Ahmadiyya</a>. He was <a href="">murdered</a> by a Sunni Barelwi for 'disrespecting' the Prophet of Islam, Muhammad. The second target was himself a Sunni Barelwi, killed by a Salafi who believed his practice of <em>ta’widh</em> (amulets) took him outside the fold of Islam. The worry is that as Muslim communities in the UK and western Europe become more diverse, such sectarian killings could become more commonplace.</p><p>In recent years, key policy and scholarly debates about Islam in the west have centred on questions about the compatibility of the respective values and lifestyles of Muslim and non-Muslim populations in western liberal states. The two murders point to the need to examine the reality of and potential for sectarianism within Muslim communities in the west. </p><h2><strong>The routes of belief</strong></h2><p>In August this year, Tanveer Ahmed, a Muslim taxi-driver from Bradford, was <a href="">sentenced</a> to 27 years in prison for the murder of Asad Shah, a Glasgow shopkeeper. Ahmed had driven to Scotland to confront Shah about his beliefs. The Ahmadiyya do not believe that the Prophet of Islam, Muhammad, was the last and final prophet, a view that is considered heretical by many Muslims and blasphemous by Sunni Muslims. In a statement released by Ahmed after his conviction, he asserted that the murder was in defence of the Prophet: "Asad Shah disrespected the messenger of Islam, the Prophet Muhammad peace be upon him".</p><p class="mag-quote-center">Migration to western Europe is forcing Muslims to confront different ways of practising Islam.</p><p>Ahmed’s actions were inspired by another, in Pakistan in 2011: the assassination of Salmaan Taseer, the governor of Punjab. The man convicted of the crime, Mumtaz Qadri, a police officer and Taseer’s former bodyguard, was sentenced to death and <a href="">hanged</a> in February 2016. Taseer had supported reform of Pakistan’s blasphemy laws and backed Asia Bibi, a Christian woman who had been sentenced to death for insulting the Prophet. In murdering the Punjab governor, Qadri believed he was defending the honour of the Prophet. His own funeral was <a href="">attended</a> by thousands of mourners and today, Qadri is revered by some Sunni Muslims as a martyr and a saint. </p><p>Transnational connections add further dimensions to these incidents. The Bradford murderer Tanveer Ahmed was one of those who considered Mumtaz Qadri a martyr, writing to him in prison whilst Qadri was awaiting execution. Both men were Sunni Barelwi, who are ordinarily associated with the spiritual aspects of faith. Indeed, they are often the ones persecuted for not being 'proper' Muslims because their populist branch of Islam includes practices such as devotional <em>Qawwali</em> music and the following of saints, rituals both considered <em><a href="">shirk</a></em> (or out of the bounds of Islam) by literalists such as Wahhabis and Salafis. </p><p>The second sectarian killing in Britain this year was of a Barelwi, the 71-year-old Jalal Uddin, originally from Bangladesh. He was targeted by two men in their early 20s and murdered as he made his way through the streets of Rochdale. One of the assailants was sentenced to prison for a minimum of <a href="">24 years</a>, whilst the other man fled to Turkey and is believed to have crossed the border into <a href="">Syria</a> to fight for Islamic State.</p><p class="mag-quote-center">This sectarianism within Islam... can be traced to two key factors: greater diversity of Muslims settling in Europe, and the mobilisation of sectarian divisions via the internet.</p><p>That the faith of the perpetrator in the Asad Shah murder was the faith of the victim in the Jalal Uddin case highlights the complexities of sectarian divisions within Islam. Barelwis revere the Prophet and have killed to defend his honour. Salafis detest such reverence as false idolisation and link Barelwi customs to 'black magic'.</p><h2><strong>The effects of change</strong></h2><p>This sectarianism within Islam in the west is a recent development. It can be traced to two key factors: greater diversity of Muslims settling in Europe, and the mobilisation of sectarian divisions via the internet.</p><p>Migration to western Europe is forcing Muslims to confront different ways of practising Islam. Muslim communities in the UK, for example, have changed rapidly in the past twenty years. Changes in migration <a href="">patterns</a> have contributed to the development of a highly diverse Muslim population.&nbsp; </p><p>Between the 1950s and the late 1980s, migration of <a href="">Muslims</a> to Britain consisted of many&nbsp;<span>–</span><span>&nbsp;</span>primarily economic&nbsp;<span>–</span>&nbsp;migrants from a few former colonial countries, who settled in specific industrial urban locations. Uncertain in their status, these Muslims were content with a less visible faith. In the last two decades, fewer migrants from a larger number of countries&nbsp;<span>–</span>&nbsp;as diverse as Afghanistan, Iraq, Somalia, Bosnia and Nigeria&nbsp;<span>–</span>&nbsp;have made these urban centres their home. These new Muslim migrants share mosques, halal butchers, Islamic bookshops and community centres. This process of the diversification of diversity, or "<a href="">superdiversity</a>", as Steven Vertovec calls it, is not limited to Muslim migrants, but reflects a wider development of super-diverse migration patterns.</p><p class="mag-quote-center">&nbsp;There is a real internal debate within communities, often with a streak of intolerance.</p><p>There has, of course, always been diversity amongst Muslims in the UK along sectarian and theological lines. However, post-war migration resulted in the establishment of significant Muslim communities drawn largely from the Indian subcontinent (India,&nbsp;<a href="">Pakistan</a> and Bangladesh) whose key dividing lines were ethnic, reflected in 'Pakistani' and 'Bangladeshi' mosques. What is novel about the present situation is the combination of the pace and scale of difference, with the availability of religious information and sectarian mobilisation on the internet.&nbsp; </p><p>Unlike many of the pioneer generation of post-war Muslim migrants, the descendants are fully literate and able to access theological material, especially on the internet. They are also much more aware then their parents’ generation of the differences within Islam. There is a real internal debate within communities, often with a streak of intolerance.</p><p>Research on established Muslim communities finds that <a href="">"the diasporic encounter with other Muslims"</a> is crucial in the development of the religion, since the <a href="">"experience of meeting other modes of Islamic cultural expression with equally strong claims to validity as one’s own raises questions as to the exclusive legitimacy of any one particular mode"</a>. Mixing with other Muslims can inspire theological debate and has the potential to bear significantly on religious identity and a process of transformation, as <a href="">Vertovec</a> states. But it can also, as demonstrated by the cases above, lead to sectarianism and violence.</p><p>The month of Muharram and the beginning of the new Islamic year is traditionally a time of prayer and contemplation. One prayer that Muslims may want to consider is that Muslim 'superdiversity' in Europe does not lead to greater sectarian violence.</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=""><em>British Muslim Politics: Examining Pakistani Biraderi Networks</em></a> (Palgrave, 2013)</p><p>Humayun Ansari, <a href=""><em>The Infidel Within: Muslims in Britain since 1800</em></a> (C Hurst, 2004)</p><p>Jørgen S. Nielsen &amp; Jonas Otterbeck, <a href=""><em>Muslims in Western Europe</em></a> (Edinburgh University Press, 4th edition, 2015)</p><p>Pnina Werbner, <a href=""><em>The Migration Process: Capital, Gifts and Offerings among British Pakistanis</em></a> (Bloomsbury, 2015)</p><p>Simon Cottee, <a href=""><em>The Apostates: When Muslims Leave Islam</em></a> (C Hurst, 2015)</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="/parveen-akhtar/bradford-west-politics-comes-alive">Bradford West: politics comes alive</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/idea/parveen-akhtar/british-muslims-and-local-democracy-after-bradford">British Muslims and local democracy: after Bradford</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/parveen-akhtar/bradford-west-democracy-in-technicolour">Bradford West, democracy in technicolour</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/globalization/british_muslims_4048.jsp">British Muslims: ends and beginnings</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/conflict-terrorism/british_sufis_2786.jsp">British Muslims must stop the war</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/conflict-terrorism/identity_2721.jsp">Muslims in Britain: generations, experiences, futures</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/nile-green/from-dudley-to-detroit-tale-of-two-mosques">From Dudley to Detroit: a tale of two mosques</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> Can Europe make it? uk democracy & power Parveen Akhtar Wed, 05 Oct 2016 11:40:47 +0000 Parveen Akhtar 105725 at Horse trading in the UN <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>The leading candidate to succeed Mr. Ban Ki-Moon as new Secretary General of the UN is former Portuguese PM Antonio Guterres. The election procedure, however, is as undemocratic as ever. <strong><em><a href="">Português</a></em></strong>&nbsp;<strong><em><a href="" target="_self">Español &nbsp;</a></em></strong></p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//" alt="" title="" width="460" height="306" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>U.N. Secretary General candidate Antonio Guterres delivers his remarks in the United Nations Trusteeship Council Chamber, Tuesday, April 12, 2016. AP Photo/Richard Drew.</span></span></span></p><p><span>As the United Nations celebrates its 70</span>th<span> birthday this year, the position of Secretary General has not become any easier. The spokesman for the interests of the peoples of the world has multiple fires to put off. How to deal with an unprecedented humanitarian crisis in the Mediterranean and the insecurity metastasis in Syria, how to address climate change, how to tackle rising populism and terrorism worldwide - the list goes on. Empowering the next Secretary General is a particularly pressing issue at this point in time, as the transition from the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), which are coming to an end this year, to the </span><a href="">Sustainable Development Goals</a><span>, which will replace them, opens up a new, crucial phase for the organization. This could provide an opportunity for the UN to reflect, among other issues, on how its Secretary General is appointed. The election of the right person to lead the institution should not be seen as yet another instance of </span><em>horse trading</em><span>, but rather as an opportunity to strengthen the moral authority and influence of the person who nowadays comes closer to being our shared </span><em>leader.</em></p> <p><strong>A diplomat and a civil servant</strong></p> <p>The Secretary General is the symbolic head of the United Nations. As <a href="">chapter XV</a> of the United Nations Charter stipulates, he is the “chief administrative officer of the organization”. He must report to the General Assembly annually – a particularly useful mechanism to influence the world agenda – and he enjoys discretionary power to bring to the attention of the Security Council any threat arising against international peace and security.</p> <p>The Charter, however, does not include an explicit job description. Obviously, this is a job that is influenced by the political context at all times. Depending on each circumstance, the Secretary General must strive to find the middle ground between pumping up his role or limiting it to the letter of the Charter. </p> <p>Its considerable leverage must be true to the principles of independence, impartiality and integrity. The Secretary General cannot exhibit allegiance to any particular state. His loyalty lies with the United Nations and he must make his decisions regardless of his state of origin. Depending, as he does, on the support of the member states, he or she must find a balance between their interests and those of the UN. For good reason the role of Secretary General has been described as being that of “<a href="">a diplomat, an advocate and a civil servant</a>” – in equal parts. </p> <p>Eight individuals have served as Secretary General of the UN in the past. The current incumbent, <a href="">Mr. Ban Ki-Moon</a>, was the first East Asian to hold office. He was first elected on June, 21st, 2011, and his second term began on January, 1st, 2012. Many consider that his performance has been disappointing. In fact, Mr. Ban Ki-Moon has done exactly what those who elected him knew he would do.</p> <p><strong>A game-changing exercise?</strong></p> <p>Article 97 of the <a href="">United Nations Charter</a> establishes that the Secretary General “shall be appointed by the General Assembly upon the recommendation of the Security Council”. </p> <p>Traditionally, the Security Council recommends only one candidate. It is its prerogative to privately pick a candidate, and then <a href="">adopt a resolution setting out</a> its recommendation. Nothing in the Charter prevents the Security Council from recommending several candidates, but <a href="">GA Resolution 11 (I)</a> states that it is “desirable for the Security Council to proffer only one candidate”. </p> <p>Since Mr. Ban Ki-Moon is to step down on December, 31st, 2016, the process to elect a new Secretary General is currently under way. The process is as undemocratic as ever, but, for the first time, some transparency has been added to it. </p> <p>The UN asked candidates to send formal application letters, and to make a presentation of their vision of the UN <a href="">at a public hearing</a>. This unprecedented move takes no power away from the Security Council, which will ultimately decide on the candidate it wants to recommend, but it nonetheless signals a new openness which, as Mogens Lykketoft, the <a href="" target="_blank">outgoing</a> President of the General Assembly says, may be “<a href="">potentially a game-changing exercise</a>”. </p> <p><strong>Is it time for a woman to get the job?</strong></p> <p><a href="">Antonio Guterres</a>, the former Portuguese prime-minister who served as UN High Commissioner for Refugees, is the front runner, according to the UN Security Council´s straw polls held to date. </p> <p>The 15 members of the Security Council, though informal ballots, choose to “encourage”, “discourage” or issue no opinion on any given candidate. In order to become the next Secretary General, a candidate <a href="">requires the affirmative vote of nine of its members</a>, and must not be vetoed by any of the five permanent members of the Council (China, Russia, France, the United Kingdom and the United States), known as the “Big Five” or “P-5”. </p> <p>After holding the <a href="">fourth straw poll on September, 9</a>, Antonio Guterres has consolidated his lead over the ten remaining candidates (<em>now nine, as</em> <em>Costa Rica’s Christiana Figueres withdrew from the race on September, 12</em>) to replace Mr. Ban Ki-Moon. Mr. Guterres received twelve “encourage” votes, two “discourage” votes, and one “no opinion” vote. Miroslav Lajčák, Slovakia´s foreign minister, came second, with ten “encourage votes”, four “discourage” votes, and one “no opinion", followed by Vuk Jeremić, Serbia´s former foreign minister, and Srgjan Kerim, the Macedonian former president of the General Assembly. <a href="">Irina Bokova</a>, UNESCO´s director general, and apparently the only woman still in the race, came fifth, after having ranked third <a href="">in the previous straw poll</a>. </p> <p>It should be noted that all the ballots that have taken place so far have been undifferentiated straw polls. A clearer picture is expected to surface in early October when, through a colour-coded straw poll, we will know if the “discourage” votes have been cast by <em>elected</em> or <em>permanent</em> members of the Security Council.</p> <p>Historically, the Secretary General has been selected according to an <a href="">informal system of regional rotation</a>. During this last year, there has been mounting pressure for having a <a href="">woman</a> as next UN Secretary General, as well as a widespread campaign to appoint a candidate from Eastern Europe. Neither a woman nor an Eastern European has ever been appointed.</p> <p>Unfortunately, <a href="">as the latest straw-poll results reflect</a>, women candidates trail behind the favourites. The UN Women Secretary General, Ms. Mlambo-Ngcuka, expressed her “disappointment and surprise” at the outcome of the polls. Irina Bokova, the best-placed to challenge Mr. Guterres, came only fifth, while the remaining female candidates (Susana Malcorra, Helen Clark, Christiana Figueres and Natalia Gherman) stood at the bottom of the list. Hopes for a woman to be appointed thus seem to be fading. Still, addressing the gender gap at the UN will surely remain a priority, <a href="">independently of who gets the job</a>. </p> <p><strong>Calls for reform</strong></p> <p>Beyond the valid claims for a woman and/or an Eastern European to assume the role of Secretary General, the <em>undemocratic nature</em> of the election procedure remains a key issue to address. </p> <p>Calls for reform are not new. Back in 2014, <a href="">WFM-IGP</a> and several NGO partners sent an open letter to both the General Assembly and the heads of government of the member states, suggesting several proposals to put an end to the current election procedure. </p> <p>The <a href="">1 for 7 billion campaign</a> -- supported by more than 750 organizations around the world – &nbsp;has called for a more transparent procedure, for public hearings to take place, and for the Security Council to recommend at least two candidates. </p> <p>Some of these demands have been met. For the first time, public hearings have taken place; <a href="">member states have been asked to nominate candidates</a>; and candidates have not been chosen behind closed doors. Yet, the final election procedure remains far from being democratic, secretive and outdated: it leaves it up to five countries to <em>make a recommendation</em> that concerns us all. </p> <p><strong>Looking ahead</strong></p> <p>This procedure needs to be changed if the UN is to avoid making the same mistakes all over again. Merit alone should guide the election procedure, for the UN needs the best candidate for the post, an individual who is capable of transcending the role of mere intermediary, and who is willing, if need be, to go beyond the letter of the Charter. Gender and geographical balance should also be requirements of the new procedure. </p> <p>The <a href="">1 for 7 billion campaign</a> recommendations on the term of office and the number of candidates should also be implemented. Independence would be reinforced by limiting the mandate to a 7-year single term, as the candidate would not have to think about getting himself re-elected for a second term. Democracy would also benefit if <a href="">two or more candidates were recommended</a> by the Security Council for the General Assembly to choose from, enhancing debate within the institution. </p> <p>Transparency, at a time when confidence in institutions has globally reached a new low, should be a must. In <em>practice</em>, the permanent members of the Security Council are the ones who choose the nearest thing we have <em>to a global leader</em>. Therefore, it is only logical that citizens and member countries should understand how they do it. The Security Council should provide information about the results of the straw polls and formal voting, clearly differentiating the votes of the permanent members from the rest. </p> <p>Under the current framework, and independently of the candidate recommended, we can only hope for a candidate that is not <em>too objectionable</em>, as happened in 2006. Incapable as we are, for the time being, to limit the power of the Security Council to make decisions in our name, we should do the next best thing: hold it accountable. The “Big Five” may not agree on the need for a strong, dynamic and idealistic Secretary General. But the world surely does.&nbsp;</p><p><span>Meanwhile, the Portuguese government is </span><a href=";utm_medium=twitter&amp;utm_campaign=Feed%3A+sicnoticias-mundo+%28Sic+Not%C3%ADcias+-+mundo%29">confident</a><span> that Mr. Guterres´s merits will lead him to take over as UN Secretary General.</span></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"> Equality </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 Civil society Conflict Democracy and government Equality Ideas International politics democracy & power russia & eurasia north america middle east latin america europe asia & pacific africa Manuel Nunes Ramires Serrano Thu, 15 Sep 2016 16:13:36 +0000 Manuel Nunes Ramires Serrano 105350 at How the Democrats left the door wide open for Donald Trump <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>The Democrats ditched the working class in favour of a professional elite leaving Trump&nbsp;<span style="line-height: 1.5;">–</span><span style="line-height: 1.5;">&nbsp;a master of 'resentment politics'&nbsp;</span><span style="line-height: 1.5;">–</span><span style="line-height: 1.5;">&nbsp;to hoover up their votes. An interview with&nbsp;</span><em>Listen Liberal! </em><span style="line-height: 1.5;">author Thomas Frank.</span></p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//" alt=" Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks during a campaign rally in July 2016. Credit: Evan Vucci / AP/Press Asso" title="" width="460" height="307" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'> Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks during a campaign rally in July 2016. Credit: Evan Vucci / AP/Press Association Images. All rights reserved. </span></span></span>Now that the Republican Party has chosen a </span><a href="">coiffured gargoyle</a><span> as its nominee for president, the panicked eyes of the world turn to the Democrats, who have just selected&nbsp;Hillary Clinton at their national convention in Philadelphia.&nbsp;Author and historian </span><a href="">Thomas Frank</a><span> has seen his fair share of party conventions, having covered US politics for over 25 years. I spoke to him recently about his new book&nbsp;</span><a href=";*Version*=1&amp;*entries*=0"><em>Listen, Liberal</em></a><span> and the state of the union ahead of November’s election.</span></p> <p>“The Democrats are not a Left party,” he tells me. “In fact there really isn’t one in the US.” Frank’s book is no broadside against liberals by a weary defector, but a Left critique of the Democratic Party. He charts its mutation over recent decades from being a workers party into the party of the 'professional class' – the experts, bankers, academics and tech-masters, who imagine themselves the natural winners of the great American lottery. </p> <p>Frank names Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama as typical specimens – and since we spoke, the president has expressed an interest in working with <a href="">“Silicon Valley and venture capital”</a> after leaving office…</p> <p>How is this reflected in the country’s two-party system? “They represent two different hierarchies of power,” Frank explains. “One, the Republicans, who represent business and the hierarchy of money – the Koch brothers and the 1% – and the Democrats, who represent the hierarchy of status, the professional class. One is the <em>Wall Street Journal</em>, the other is the <em>New York Times</em>.”</p> <p>Does this mean there’s little to choose between the two parties? “They tend to have similar views on economic matters, but they come from different places. And they’re very different on the cultural issues&nbsp;<span>–</span><span>&nbsp;the abortion issue for example, the guns, for god’s sake. Some of these things are enormously important.”</span></p> <p>He adds: “I would also say the Democrats are of course marginally better on things like the welfare state. But then again, as soon as I say that, as soon as those words passed my lips, Bill Clinton and welfare reform – a Republican could probably have never got that done, because the Democrats would have fought him to the death to stop something like that. But with Clinton doing it, it suddenly becomes okay.”</p> <p>Frank’s book demolishes Bill Clinton’s presidency, the legacy of which is key to understanding the anger of this year’s campaign, from Donald Trump to Black Lives Matter, to Bernie Sanders supporters booing at the Democrats convention. Clinton’s dismantling of welfare, draconian criminal justice laws, job-exporting trade deals, and deregulation of Wall Street, have resurfaced as major issues in this year’s campaign – and not just because his wife is running for president.</p> <p>“People look back on those years with such fondness now,” Frank says. "The things that he actually got done were awful things. I thought it was really important to go back and correct the record.” </p> <p>Is Frank apprehensive about the prospect of Bill Clinton being back in the White House? “Well, unlike nearly everybody I know, I think I like Hillary more than I like Bill. I think she’ll be better than he was. But yes, of course I’m apprehensive about it.</p><p class="mag-quote-right">People like me are going to be voting for Hillary because Donald Trump is so frightening</p> <p>“This is the sort of quintessentially American situation that we’re in here, where it’s a two party system, and given that, you have to constantly choose someone who’s not optimal for the situation, in order to avoid something that’s really dreadful. People like me are going to be voting for Hillary because Donald Trump is so frightening.”</p> <p>Trump seems to have walked out of the pages of Frank’s earlier books, <em>Pity the Billionaire</em> and <em>What’s the Matter with Kansas? </em>– a silver-spoon demagogue railing against the 'rigged system' he has profited from and the 'elite' of which he is a member. His ability to hoover up votes from the Democrats' natural constituency is partly explained in those books – Trump has mastered the resentment politics of the 'culture wars' – but as <em>Listen, Liberal </em>makes clear, the door was left open to him by the Democrats themselves. </p> <p>This is even reflected in the way liberals have responded to the book. “There’s deep suspicion of working class people among the kind of liberals I’m describing,” he says. “They don’t like working class people. They just don’t like them.” Surely that’s a bit harsh? “That’s the sense that I get from these people. That’s not the kind of party they want to be in.”</p> <p>“Trump has brought everything to a head,” he adds, “the fact that he’s got these working-class supporters. There’s a lot of contempt for these people. The Trump supporters are generally thought to be figures of idiocy.”</p> <p>Given this, I asked Frank about the subject of those earlier books, the conservative ‘backlash’ critique of liberalism, which portrayed liberals as snobbish, well-educated, rich, and uncaring about working-class people. Was there more truth in that critique than he might have previously allowed? </p> <p>“Conservatives have been saying this about Democrats for years,” he said, “but it’s never rigorous, they don’t really follow through, they don’t do their research. And their intention is always to show that liberals are in fact socialists, and that’s just completely wrong. </p> <p>“So yes, there’s some validity to the conservative critique, but it’s so scattershot and wild, and it really misses the sociological reality of who these people are.”</p> <p class="mag-quote-left">Things are getting worse and worse for working people, and have been for quite a while in this country</p><p>One thing conservatives paper over – or did pre-Tea Party-and-successor-Donald Trump – is how economic forces, rather than a ‘liberal elite’, are kicking people in the rump every day.</p><p> “Things are getting worse and worse for working people, and have been for quite a while in this country,” says Frank. “We call it inequality, but it’s a much bigger problem than that implies. It’s the middle class coming apart, it’s working class people being unable to afford a middle class standard of living any longer.”</p> <p>“A big part of the American population is in a state of decline,” he adds. “And they know it.</p> <p>“People know that the standard of living they had in 2007 is never coming back, and they are upset about it – they’re very angry. But the impulse among liberals is to deny it. To say, look, everything is fine, the sky is blue, it’s a wonderful world out there. On paper, America is doing great. So turn that frown upside down.”</p> <p>Frank is merciless about the 'Let them eat cake' brigade, and takes a scalpel to the self-serving idea of America as a meritocracy. “What you discover when you write about the professional class is that it is profoundly unaware of itself as a class,” he says. "They act like a class, and they do all these things that social classes do, but they don’t think of themselves as a class. They think of themselves as ‘the best’. We are who we are because we’re the smartest.”</p> <p>A punk rocker at heart, (he wrote this book listening to Joy Division and Iggy Pop), Frank delights in blasting those living high on the hog – an instinct that gives him, as a Kansan who went on to get a History PhD at the University of Chicago, an edge over his liberal fraternity. <em>&nbsp;</em></p> <p>“I feel much more at home mocking professional class liberals than writing about people in Kansas,” he says. “I’m describing highly educated and prosperous people, people with every advantage, and people who are very familiar with ideas, and who nevertheless go through this pantomime with themselves. I had no trouble switching on the inner HL Mencken when I went to Martha’s Vineyard. I was completely at home mocking those people.”</p> <p>As the gala of self-congratulation among Democrats continues, and will likely continue up to November and beyond, it’s worth recalling that their conceit – they who, having ditched working people, now use the threat of a President Trump to discipline those same people into voting ‘correctly’– is not just about place and position, but about moral superiority too. </p> <p>“One of the rewards of being a liberal is you think you’re very virtuous,” Frank says. “Once you start digging though, this is a movement that is profoundly self-interested. They love to look in that mirror and think about how fine and noble they are. My objective is to put a crack in that mirror.”</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/uk/adam-lent/centrists-must-embrace-anti-elitism-or-face-extinction">Centrists must embrace anti-elitism or face extinction.</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/mariano-aguirre/why-donald-trump-could-be-president">Why Donald Trump could be president</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/jim-sleeper/not-hitler-or-augustus-but-hybrid-that-shows-what-american-polity-is-becoming">Not Hitler or Augustus, but a hybrid that shows what the American polity is becoming</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 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> Democracy and government International politics us & the world north america democracy & power american power & the world Adam Barnett Wed, 27 Jul 2016 17:37:00 +0000 Adam Barnett 104340 at How the BBC can create a better digital public sphere <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p class="MsoNormal"><span style="font-family: Arial, sans-serif;"><span style="font-size: 14.6667px; line-height: 22px;">The BBC’s remit is not just broadcast. It has the power to improve our experiences online, and to realise the digital public sphere we want.</span></span></p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title="Andrew Matthews / PA Wire/Press Association Images. All rights reserved."><img src="//" alt="" title="Andrew Matthews / PA Wire/Press Association Images. All rights reserved." class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" width="460" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Andrew Matthews/PA Wire/Press Association Images. All rights reserved.</span></span></span>When it transpired in May this year that the BBC would remove its database of recipes from the web in response to the Government’s accusation that such online endeavours represent “<a href="">imperial ambition</a>”, the country was up in arms. Petitions were launched. Celebrity chefs were asked to respond. I was struck with sadness by how low our ambitions had sunk. Because twelve years ago we’d thought the BBC could do what it does now with cake recipes with <em>everything it has ever made</em>. </p> <p>The BBC is a unique institution, a beautiful example of collective investment in the public sphere, and that is why so many people love it. It’s also why twelve years ago, when the <a href="">BBC announced its ambition</a> to put much of its archive online, published (like much of the content on this website) under a Creative Commons licence that allows people to watch, re-appropriate and republish it freely, that idea made so much sense. The Creative Archive, as it was then known, died a death at the altar of rights ownership – sacrificed in part to the BBC’s awareness of its dominant position in the market and its role in stimulating the independent television industry. Instead we got the iPlayer: a fantastic project that nonetheless, when set against the potential of the BBC to enrich and define the digital public sphere, begins to look slightly pathetic.</p> <p>Writing on Medium this May, Lloyd Shepherd, who had worked on the recipes database during a brief stint at the BBC, <a href="">complained</a>:</p><p class="blockquote-new">“The BBC could have a powerful public sphere strategy — a big public discussion about how the networked digital world needs a public space in the same way as telly and radio did, and how it is the BBC’s role to do that. But it won’t make the case for it…” </p><p>At first glance, treating the digital public sphere the same way we treat radio and TV seems wrong. Unlike radio and TV, which are broadcast on a limited resource – called “spectrum” – the internet is unbounded, limitless. The web pioneers of the nineties and early 2000s believed the internet would usher in an age of radical plurality. Give everyone a voice, a machine to encode it and a network of limitless bandwidth over which to transmit it, they said, and you’d get a public sphere so rich it would make Jürgen Habermas blush. But the digital public sphere we have today is a long way off from that vision, because it turns out that a really good way to make money online is by teaching computers how to entertain people with their own prejudices, and then selling their eyeballs to the highest bidder.</p> <p>Commercial online endeavours build what Tim O’Reilly in 2004 called “<a href="">architectures of participation</a>”: websites and platforms that transform the contributions of each user into more than the sum of their parts, through structured databases and machine-learning. But these all too soon become architectures of control, as we find ourselves locked in to platforms like Facebook and YouTube, stranded in silos designed to parcel us off to advertisers. </p> <h2>The online echo chamber</h2> <p>In his 2011 book, <em>The Filter Bubble: What the internet is hiding from you</em>, Eli Pariser portrays today’s online environment as a place where technology corporations and the advertisers they serve use algorithms to define the news you see based on your salary, education and – crucially – your social milieu. The internet has ushered in an age of “me media” which consists of echo chambers. And the problem with these echo chambers is that when they come into contact with one another, conflict ensues. This is not good news for the public sphere.</p> <p>If commercial interests create a digital public sphere that simply consists of separate communities that cannot meaningfully engage with one another, then we need non-commercial interests to counter that. We need market intervention. In short, we need to begin imagining the digital public sphere we want and working out how we might shape it. James Bennett's <a href="">thinking on public service algorithms</a> is just one idea to consider.</p> <h2>Achieving the digital public sphere we want </h2><p class="mag-quote-left">The BBC needs to accept that its identity now extends beyond broadcast.</p> <p>Right now, government intervention in the online space falls into two categories. The first is bandwidth, evidenced by the Government’s ambitions to introduce a universal service obligation (USO) for broadband. This will be the first time a USO has been imposed on a historically commercial service – electricity, gas, post and telephone networks all have histories of public ownership. The second is protection from harmful or illicit content, embodied in various legislative and non-legislative (voluntary) schemes imposed on internet service providers. &nbsp;</p> <p>This regulatory picture reveals how comfortable those in power are protecting the internet as a wholly profit-led information space. Indeed, digital rights campaigners, myself included, are guilty of aiding and abetting the complacency as they justifiably resist “freedom from” intervention (disconnection for copyright infringers, family-friendly filters) while remaining silent on the need for positive intervention in the digital public sphere. For a start, we should be making a lot more fuss over the Government’s proposals to remove from the BBC’s new Charter its sixth purpose, “to develop emerging communications technologies and services”. </p> <p>It is the sixth purpose that currently protects the BBC’s ventures into online services, experimentation that has been ongoing for almost two decades. The BBC’s online endeavours have always been contentious: at the beginning because they only benefitted the small percentage of licence fee payers who had got themselves online; later because they were accused of taking business away from commercial online content providers. But enabling the BBC to continue experimenting online is more vital than ever.</p> <p>We are only just starting to see how digital technology is changing the contours of the public sphere. We know in the future that all media – newspapers, books, music, video, games – will converge online. What we may glimpse today without fully understanding is how information economics will dictate our discovery of and engagement with that media. Removing the sixth purpose now prevents the BBC from taking a more active role in this future and crafting it for the good of all.</p><p class="mag-quote-right">We know in the future that all media – newspapers, books, music, video, games – will converge online.</p> <h2>&nbsp;What role for the BBC? </h2> <p>&nbsp;There are roles here both for the BBC and for its new regulator, OfCom. OfCom should deploy its internationally-recognised expertise and research resources to begin enriching our understanding of the digital public sphere, and the role it plays in our democracy. And the BBC needs to accept that its identity now extends beyond broadcast, by systematising and privileging its continued experimentation online. To do this, both institutions need to get a little braver than they have been to date about the need for intervention in this space.</p><p>Public service media is market intervention, and that’s fine. Labelling the BBC’s ambitions online “imperial” is disingenuous, because it conflates markets with democracies. Democracies need strong public spheres, and information markets, both online and off, may not deliver strong public spheres. Living in information echo chambers makes us not only more commercially exploitable but also more politically exploitable. Now more than ever, we need media to challenge our prejudices, not media to entrench them. </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/jon-alexander/bbc-30-will-not-be-broadcaster">BBC 3.0 will not be a broadcaster</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/ourbeeb/sam-caleb/bbc-beta-%E2%80%93-any-better">BBC beta – Any better?</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-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Culture </div> <div class="field-item even"> Internet </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> OurBeeb OurBeeb uk UK Culture Internet media & the net democracy & power Digital Commons BBC Internet democratic media Debate A post-broadcast BBC Becky Hogge Tue, 19 Jul 2016 14:23:03 +0000 Becky Hogge 104065 at Erdoğan 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="">European Institute, LSE</a></p><p>South East European Studies at Oxford (<a href="">SEESOX</a>)</p><p><a href="">European Council on Foreign Relations</a></p><p><a href=";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 democracy & power russia & eurasia Dimitar Bechev Sat, 28 Nov 2015 07:40:07 +0000 Dimitar Bechev 88071 at "The 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="" 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 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="//" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//" 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="">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="">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 No revolution this year: Sudan’s October Revolution and the 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="//" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//" 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=",_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="/north-africa-west-asia/mohamed-elshabik/looming-threat-of-isis-in-sudan">The looming threat of ISIS in Sudan</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/north-africa-west-asia/walaa-salah/new-amendments-to-sudanese-criminal-law">Amendments to Sudanese criminal law</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/north-africa-west-asia/yosra-akasha/sudan-and-operation-decisive-storm">Sudan and Operation Decisive Storm</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/north-africa-west-asia/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="/north-africa-west-asia/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> North-Africa West-Asia North-Africa West-Asia Sudan South Sudan Civil society Democracy and government democracy & power conflicts middle east You tell us Revolution Arwa Elsanosi Sun, 01 Nov 2015 13:34:17 +0000 Arwa Elsanosi 97243 at Argentina and the closing of the 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="" target=_blank><STRONG><EM>Español.</em></strong></a> </p> </div> </div> </div> <P><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><img src="//úblicas_(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 democracy & power latin america Abel Gilbert Tue, 27 Oct 2015 15:30:32 +0000 Abel Gilbert 97181 at Neoliberalismo tardío 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="" target="_blank"><strong><em>English</em></strong></a>. </p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//" 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="//" 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 democracy & power mexico latin america europe africa Donatella della Porta Tue, 27 Oct 2015 10:37:29 +0000 Donatella della Porta 97165 at Mientras el mundo anda mirando, hay 59,5 millones de desplazados internos en la tierra <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="" target="_blank">Português</a></em></strong>. <strong><a href=""><em>English. <br /></em></a></strong></p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><img src="//" 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=""> 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="">59.5 millones</a>, de los que ‘sólo’ 19.3 millones constan como refugiados o solicitantes de asilo.<a href="">[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="">[ii]</a>&nbsp;Esta definición, redactada tras la Segunda Guerra Mundial y adoptada formalmente en 1951 con la aprobación de la <a href="">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="">6.5 millones</a> y <a href="">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="">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=""><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="">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="">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="">Al Gore</a> y <a href="">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="">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="">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="">la explotación de arenas bituminosas</a> en Alberta, Canadá, o la explotación minera de <a href="">Cerrejón</a> en el norte de Colombia, se hace difícil imaginar qué tipo de compensación podría considerarse realmente restitutiva. </p> <p>En <a href=""><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=""><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="">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="">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="">[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="">[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="">[ii]</a> La definición formal es algo más elaborada.</p> <p><a href="">[iii]</a> David Kopenawa con Bruce Albert, <a href=""><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 democracy & power conflicts russia & eurasia middle east latin america europe asia & pacific africa Jeremy Fox Thu, 22 Oct 2015 10:37:34 +0000 Jeremy Fox 97040 at The mounting paralysis of Latin America’s 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="" target="_blank"><strong><em>Español</em></strong></a>. </p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><img src="//" 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="">analyses</a>&nbsp;have sought to&nbsp;<a href="">counterpose</a>&nbsp;this against broader problems facing the Left&nbsp;<a href="">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="">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="">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="">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=";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="">warning darkly</a>&nbsp;that&nbsp;“those who sign against Chávez are signing against their country… against the future”; and that <a href="">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="">was rigged</a>, as subsequent elections have been. The list itself can still be bought even now from&nbsp;<a href="">market stalls in Caracas</a>&nbsp;for a few dollars.</p> <p>When supporters of Jeremy Corbyn, or&nbsp;<a href="">the man himself</a>, defend Venezuelan ‘democracy’, they are actually defending a police state: in which opposition leaders <a href="">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="">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="">sabre rattling</a>&nbsp;against neighbouring Colombia and Guyana; food shortages remain endemic; murder, kidnapping and violent crime have reached&nbsp;<a href="">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="">censor and remove</a>&nbsp;online videos and other information critical of him. The last remaining&nbsp;<a href="">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="">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="">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="">devalued</a>&nbsp;by 20% in 2014; further devaluation is likely&nbsp;<a href="">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="">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="">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="">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="">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="">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 south america global politics democratic society democracy & power latin america Shaun Lawson Thu, 01 Oct 2015 09:31:48 +0000 Shaun Lawson 96485 at 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="">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="">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="">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="">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="">agency</a> in charge of fighting impunity in Guatemala released a disturbing <a href="">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="">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="">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=""> 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=""><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="">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="">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="">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="">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="">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=""><em>Illicit Networks and Politics in Latin America</em></a> (International IDEA, November 2014)</p><p><a href="">International IDEA</a></p><p><a href="">Global Conference on Money and Politics</a> (Mexico City, 3-5 September 2015)</p><p><a href="">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 The 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="//" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//" 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="">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="//" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//" 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="//" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//" 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="">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 From Dudley to Detroit: a 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="">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="">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="">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=";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="">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="">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="">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=""><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=";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="">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=""><em>Terrains of Exchange: Religious Economies of Global Islam</em></a> (C Hurst, 2015)&nbsp; </p><p><a href="">Nile Green</a></p><p>Innes Bowen, <a href=""><em>Medina in Birmingham, Najaf in Brent: Inside British Islam</em></a> (C Hurst, 2014)</p><p>Humayun Ansari, <a href=""><em>'The Infidel Within': Muslims in Britain since 1800</em></a> (C Hurst, 2004)</p><p><a href="">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 Armenia, memories of the 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=""><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=""><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="">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=""><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=""><em><span><span>What is Genocide?</span></span></em></a><em> </em>(Polity, 2007)</p><p>Taner Akçam, <em><a href="">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=""><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=""><span><span>Statecrime</span></span></a></div><p><a href=""><span><span>Encyclopedia of Mass Violence </span></span></a></p><p>Hannibal Travis, <a href=""><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="">"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="">An Inconvenient Genocide: Who Now Remembers the Armenians?</a></em> (Biteback, 2015)</p><p>Donald Bloxham,&nbsp;<span class="st"><em><a href=";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 human rights democracy & power Vicken Cheterian Thu, 11 Jun 2015 11:38:54 +0000 Vicken Cheterian 93393 at Bob Dylan: revolution in the 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="">tributes</a>, articles and profiles galore, new books and new editions of books, career reviews, and countless <a href="">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="">recognition</a> is owed to Dylan’s immense and diverse creative efforts since the late 1990s. The turning-point <a href=";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="">prolific</a>&nbsp;&nbsp; oeuvre (including to date nine <a href="">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=""><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=""><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=""><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=""><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="">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="">Betsy Bowden</a>, Paul Williams, <a href="">Greil Marcus</a> and <a href="">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="">varied</a>. There is, after all, so much material to <a href="">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="">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="">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="">reference</a> to the plight of the detained Chinese <a href="">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="">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="">charts</a> the wealth of citations from Dylan's lyrics in <a href="">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=",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="">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="">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=";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="">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="">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=""><em>The Bridge</em></a>), many websites (including Dylan’s impressive <a href="">official</a> one, and the compendious <em><a href="">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="">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=""><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="">from </a>Hibbing, Minnesota would listen to on distant radio-stations through the 1950s.</p> <p><a href="">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="">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=""><em>Positively Main Street: Bob Dylan’s Minnesota</em></a> (2008).</p> <p>The relationship between Dylan and <a href="">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="">embrace</a> of its native son (such as the local library’s impressive <a href=";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=";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=""><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="">world</a> of New York where much of the “folk revival” was incubated. Michael Gray too, one of the finest <a href="">educators</a> on Dylan’s work in his <em>Song and Dance Man</em> trilogy, has broadened the study of “<a href="">planet Dylan</a>” in recent works such as <a href=";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="">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="">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="">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="">Bob Dylan</a></p> <p>Wilfrid Mellers, <a href=""><em>A Darker Shade of Pale: A Backdrop to Bob Dylan</em></a> (Faber, 1984)</p> <p>Bob Dylan, <a href=""><em>Chronicles: Volume One</em></a> (Simon &amp; Schuster, 2005)</p> <p>Michael Gray, <a href=";SntUrl=145221"><em>The Bob Dylan Encyclopedia</em></a> (Continuum, 2006)&nbsp;</p> <p>Ian MacDonald, <a href=""><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=""><em>Song and Dance Man: The Art of Bob Dylan III </em></a>(Continuum, 2002)</p> <p>Toby Thompson,<a href=""><em> Positively Main Street: Bob Dylan’s Minnesota</em></a> (University of Minnesota Press, 2008)</p> <p><a href="">Expecting Rain</a></p> <p>Sean Wilentz, <a href=""><em>Bob Dylan in America</em></a> (Random House, 2010)</p> <p>Greil Marcus, <a href=""><em>Bob Dylan: Writings, 1968-2010</em></a> (Faber, 2011)</p> <p><a href=";SEC=%7BBAAB49C0-081F-44C9-9AE9-426B88E5CB4C%7D">Hibbing, Minnesota - Dylan collection</a></p> <p><a href="">Michael Gray</a></p> <p><a href=""><em>The Bridge</em></a></p> <p><a href=""><em>Rolling Stone</em> - Dylan at 70</a></p> <p><a href="">AARP - Bob Dylan, birthday tributes</a></p> <p><a href="">Smithsonian Folkways</a></p> <p>Colleen J Sheehy &amp; Adam Swiss eds., <a href=""><em>Highway 61 Revisited: Bob Dylan's Road from Minnesota to the World</em></a> (University of Minnesota Press, 2009)</p> <p><a href="">The Seven Ages of Dylan</a> (University of Bristol, 24 May 2011)</p> <p>Betsy Bowden, <em><a href="" target="_blank">Performed Literature: Words and Music by Bob Dylan</a></em> (Indiana University Press, 1982)</p> <p>David Pichaske, <a href=""><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="">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 people literature arts & cultures democracy & power north america europe David Hayes Sat, 23 May 2015 23:02:41 +0000 David Hayes 59646 at 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="">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="">learning quarter</a>".&nbsp; <br /><br />The event was eagerly anticipated, not least because the <a href="">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="">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="">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=""><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="">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="">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=""><em>Urban Echo</em></a> it caught the media <a href="">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="">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="">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="">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=""><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 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="">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="">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="">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="">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="">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="">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="">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="">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="">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="">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="">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="">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="">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="">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="">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="">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="">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="">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="">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="">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=""><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="">The Global 1989: Continuity and Change in World Politics</a> </em>(Cambridge University Press, 2010)</p><p>Vicken Cheterian, <a href=""><em>The Arab Revolt: Roots and Perspectives</em></a> (GCSP, Policy Paper 11, February 2011)</p><p><a href="">Making the History of 1989</a></p><p>Sami Zubaida, <a href=""><em>Beyond Islam: A New Understanding of the Middle East</em></a><em>&nbsp;</em>(IB Tauris, 2011)</p><p>Albert Hourani, <a href=""><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? North-Africa West-Asia International politics global politics democracy & power Vicken Cheterian Fri, 10 Apr 2015 10:59:00 +0000 Vicken Cheterian 91901 at 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="">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="">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="">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="">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=" ">editorial</a> about the statement), found ourselves in the ICT's <a href="">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=""> 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="">website</a> which critiqued religious fundamentalism was <a href="">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="">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=",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="">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="">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="">history</a> of 1971 and has <a href="">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="">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="">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="">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="">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="">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 Turkey's future: Erdoğan, elections and the 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="">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="">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=";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="">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=";nID=80618&amp;NewsCatID=338">elections</a> and their aftermath? <br /><br />On the Kurdish <a href="">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=";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="">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="">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="">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="">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="">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="">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="">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="">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="">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=""> 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=";rct=j&amp;q=&amp;esrc=s&amp;source=web&amp;cd=1&amp;ved=0CCIQFjAA&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="">framing</a> of post-election processes.&nbsp; <br /><br />But the HDP must still <a href="">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="">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="">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="">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="">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="">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=""><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=""><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=""><em><span><span>Turkey's Engagement with Modernity</span></span></em></a> (Palgrave, 2010)</p> <p>Kerem Oktem<em><em>, </em><a href=""><span><span>Angry Nation: Turkey since 1989</span></span></a></em> (Zed Books, 2010)</p> <p>M Hakan Yavuz, <a href=";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=""><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 the future of turkey democracy & power Turkish Dawn Nora Fisher Onar Tue, 07 Apr 2015 02:11:46 +0000 Nora Fisher Onar 91811 at Armenian genocide, a 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="">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="">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="">Syrian</a> desert - is a crime against humanity, one that was never punished. This <a href="">event</a> needs to be remembered, Robertson insisted. </p><p><span>The choice of Robertson to deliver the opening speech at <a href="">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="">case</a> concerning denial of the genocide at the European Court of Human Rights in Brussels, as well as&nbsp;authoring a <a href="‐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="">happened</a>, but we hardly know anything else. What happened in 1915, and how is it <a href="">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="">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="">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="">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="">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="">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="">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="">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="">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="">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="">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="">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="">plays</a> - one author reminded the audience that we should not give up, that the <a href="">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="‐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=""><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=""><em><span><span>What is Genocide?</span></span></em></a><em> </em>(Polity, 2007)</p><p>Taner Akçam, <em><a href="">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=""><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=""><span><span>Statecrime</span></span></a></div><p><a href=""><span><span>Encyclopedia of Mass Violence </span></span></a></p><p>Hannibal Travis, <a href=""><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="">"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="">An Inconvenient Genocide: Who Now Remembers the Armenians?</a></em> (Biteback, 2015)</p><p>Donald Bloxham,&nbsp;<span class="st"><em><a href=";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 human rights democracy & power Vicken Cheterian Armenian genocide Wed, 18 Mar 2015 05:25:46 +0000 Vicken Cheterian 91317 at China, the idea-hungry 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="">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="">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="">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="">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="">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="">announcements</a> are all reasonable. But the underpinning intellectual rationale veers wildly: asserting Chinese <a href="">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="">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=";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="">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="">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=""><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=""><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=""><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 Yemen's 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="//" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//" 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="">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="">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="">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="" 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 democracy & power middle east Aaron Edwards Non-state violence Fri, 06 Mar 2015 16:15:28 +0000 Aaron Edwards 91084 at The English Defence League and the new far-right <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="">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="">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="">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="">Paris</a> and <a href="">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="">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="">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="">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="">Hope Not Hate</a></p><p><a href="">Hsiao-Hung Pai</a>, "<a href="">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=""><em>Inside the EDL</em></a> (Demos, 2011)</span></p><p>Daniel Trilling, <span class="st"><em><a href="">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 europe & islam democracy & power Hsiao-Hung Pai Tue, 17 Feb 2015 19:34:43 +0000 Hsiao-Hung Pai 90616 at Libya’s 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="">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="">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=";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="">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="">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="">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="">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="">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="">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="">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="">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="">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="">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="">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="">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="">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="">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="">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="">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="">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="">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="">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="">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="">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="">tribal</a> gatherings than modern political legislatures. </p><p>Meanwhile, the <a href="">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=""> 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=""><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="">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="">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=""><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=";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=""><em>The Libyan Revolution and its Aftermath</em></a> (C Hurst, 2015)</p> <p>Alison Pargeter, <a href=";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=""><span><span>The Tripoli Post</span></span></a></em></p> <p><a href=""><span><span>Middle East Research and Information Project (MERIP)</span></span></a></p> <p><em><a href=""><span><span>Libya Herald</span></span></a></em></p> <p><em><em><a href=""><em><span><span>Foreign Policy</span></span></em></a></em></em></p> <div>Dirk Vandewalle, <em><a href=""><span><span>A History of Modern Libya</span></span></a></em> (Cambridge University Press, 2005)&nbsp;</div> <div> <p><a href=""><em><span><span>Africa Confidential</span></span></em></a></p> <p>Hisham Matar, <em><a href=",,9780141027036,00.html"><span><span>In the Country of Men</span></span></a></em> (Penguin, 2007)</p> <p>Luis Martinez, <em><a href=""><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> North-Africa West-Asia Libya International politics democracy & power Alison Pargeter Mon, 09 Feb 2015 17:32:43 +0000 Alison Pargeter 90351 at The 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 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="">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="">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="">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="">charged</a> with corruption, and Ling Jihua, former close aide to ex-president <a href="">Hu Jintao</a>, and now under investigation, have <a href="">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="">corruption</a> the wrong sort? What made it worth the risk of internal <a href="">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=";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="">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="">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="">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="">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="">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="">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=""><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=""><span><span>China Studies Centre, </span></span></a>University of Sydney</p><p><a href=""><span><span>Europe China Research and Advice Network</span></span></a></p> <p>Kerry Brown, <a href=""><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=""><em><span><span>Hu Jintao: China's Silent Ruler</span></span></em></a> (World Scientific, 2012)</p> <p>Kerry Brown, <a href="" 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 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="">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="">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="">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="">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="">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="">Damascus</a>, or the emerging dialogue with the United States) is also becoming <a href="">bound</a> up with an equally absolutist ideology among radical Arab <em>Sunnis</em>. The <a href="">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="">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="">Arabs</a>. The tragic climax of those failures came in 1990 when the <em>Sunni</em> Iraqi leader <a href="">Saddam Hussein</a> expanded - imperially - into Kuwait in complete disregard for traditional Arab reality and its <a href="">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="">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="">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="">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=""><em>A History of the Arab Peoples</em></a> (Harvard University Press, 2003)</p><p><a href="">Middle East Research and Information Project (Merip)</a></p><p>Sami Zubaida, <a href=""><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="/north-africa-west-asia/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 A 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="">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="">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="">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="">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="">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="">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="">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="">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="">immense</a> amounts of data.</p><p>The <a href="">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="">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=""><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="">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="">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=""><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=" "><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=",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=" ">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=" ">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="">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=""><span><span>Department of peace studies, Bradford University</span></span></a></p><p><a href="">Remote Control Project</a></p><p><a href="">Oxford Research Group</a></p><p><a href="">Paul Rogers, </a><em><a href=";" target="_blank"><span><span>Losing Control: Global Security in the 21st Century</span></span></a></em> (Pluto, 3rd edition, 2010)</p><p><a href="">Campaign for the Accountability of American Bases</a></p><p>Margaret Nunnerley - <a href=""><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? North-Africa West-Asia uk Conflict Democracy and government Globalisation global security democracy & power Snooping on the innocent Paul Rogers Closely observed citizens Wed, 24 Dec 2014 19:36:34 +0000 Paul Rogers 89180 at