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  1. Tunisi’s dream, Erdogan’s nightmare

    “Our principles remind us that not justice, but oppression will inevitably result from an unrestrained one-man rule that is unaccountable, unchecked and unstoppable…”.

    lead Portrait of the Kheireddine Pacha on his horse, pre-1890, from the national military museum of Tunisia. Wikicommons/ Ahmed Osman. Some rights reserved.Khayruddin Pasha al-Tunisi (d. 1890) was in many ways a typical nineteenth century Ottoman statesman and reformist thinker, but indisputably unique in many other ways. Serving in the remote principality of Tunisia, he was an adamant advocate for a constitutional regime like his Young Ottoman counterparts in Istanbul. But he stood out in his quest to ground his views on a quite firm Islamic foundation.

    His classical political treatise, The Surest Path (Aqwam al-Masalik) was no less than a modern comparative politics manuscript. He would quote an unlikely figure, Ibn Qayyim al-Jawziyya (d.1350) to justify his reformism: “any path where the road signs of justice are perceptible is the path of the shar’ and religion of God.”[1] This not only opened up an immense space for rational deliberation in Islamic political thinking but placed him among the proto-Islamist political thinkers as well.

    He is known to have helped install the first parliament and constitution in a Muslim-majority administration, Ottoman Tunisia, even before that of the imperial capital. In the Muqaddima to his book, he probed the causes of the rise and fall of nations following his forerunner, Ibn Khaldun (d.1406.) Drawing on his study of the European countries, he identified liberty as the root cause of progress, development, and civilization. Liberty, as a principle of political justice, would be attained by state institutions through “good government,”[2] which in turn could be secured through shura (deliberative decision-making as embodied by parliaments), limited government, transparency and the accountability of public offices. Political and civil liberties for the governed would be guaranteed, especially freedom of the press. Thus, inasmuch as he spelt out these principles as elements of good government, his prescription for saving the Muslim world from decline was primarily a political task, not military or economic. Inasmuch as he spelt out these principles as elements of good government, his prescription for saving the Muslim world from decline was primarily a political task, not military or economic.

    Even though Istanbul’s Islamists of the Second Constitutional Era (1908-1920) are not known for being the direct intellectual descendants of Tunisi as much as of Jamaladdin al-Afghani (d. 1897), Tunisi’s increasing fame eventually led Abdulhamid II (1876-1909) to appoint him in 1878-1879 as the Grand Vizier. However, just like Afghani, Tunisi would soon fall into disrepute at the Sultan’s court, due to his insistence on good government and constitutionalism. Like the former, he would spend the rest of his days in Istanbul and pass away there.

    Subsequent influence

    Notwithstanding their similar agendas, the Young Ottoman Namık Kemal (d. 1888), in his imperial hubris, did not particularly like this Tunisian statesman: “We would not stoop to begging for a Vizier from Tunisia,” he complained in one of his letters, although he would come to admit Tunisi’s moral pre-eminence. Nonetheless, as the fierce opponents of Abdulhamid II’s despotic government, Istanbul’s Afghani-inspired early Islamists surely followed the same line of reasoning: good government, in particular shura and constitutionalism, was the solution to the problem of Muslim decline, and would put them back on the track of civilization and progress.

    Abdulhamid’s violation of these ethico-political principles and his heavy-handed despotism (istibdad) was the chief reason behind the invectives and derogatory poems leading Islamist Mehmed Akif’s (d. 1936) directed against him –poems that would definitely send Akif packing to a life-long imprisonment for insulting the ruler if recited a hundred years down the road against Erdoğan.

    Islamism went through a revival in Turkey through Sayyid Qutb (d.1966) and his contemporaries’ transnational influence some fifty years later. However, its political ethics were rarely high on the agenda in the public debates. Instead, it was discussed mostly as a political problem or a sociological phenomenon during those decades leading up to Erdoğan’s hard slog to near-absolute power. Even during the Justice and Development Party (AKP)’s first decade, Islamism was hardly the main preoccupation of the AKP elite, as they had already turned away to found a religious conservative party.

    However, a sudden spark in July 2012 would create an outpouring of pieces on Turkish Islamism just as the intelligentsia seemed to need to rediscover its whereabouts, as well as clarifying the AKP’s ambiguous relationship with it. The initial two sides of this debate were both non-Gülenist columnists of the Gülenist Zaman newspaper: the doyen ideologue of Turkish Islamism Ali Bulaç and his anti-Islamist, ex-ultranationalist interlocutor, Mümtazer Türköne. Ironically, they are both under arrest now, facing possible life sentences for aiding the Gülenist network, and paying the price for their disobedience to Erdoğan under the pretext of ‘post-coup measures’.

    A true sympathizer of the Muslim Brotherhood’s Hassan al-Banna (d. 1949) and Qutb, Bulaç promoted the formation of such civil societal groups as opposed to the purely political, top-down, and power-ridden AKP. Türköne, in contrast, saw Islamism as the hurdle on the way to a democratic society, but still advised Turkish Islamists to choose Namık Kemal as the “indigenous” proto-Islamist over the highly controversial “import”, Afghani. That final wave of debate on Islamism subsided long ago amidst the incessant political crises that subsequently shrunk any public debate worth mentioning on any issue.

    Political regression

    Against this background, Turkey seems to have experienced yet another major political regression with the April 16 referendum and its predictable long-term effects on Turkish politics. As heir to the Islamist political party tradition, the AKP’s codification of a one-man regime has immense import for the centuries-old Islamic reform (islah) movement as well as Islamism.

    Except for a few minor and ostracized groups, the great majority of Turkish Islamists have mobilized their collective forces to establish Erdoğan as Turkey’s almost completely unaccountable and unlimited leader. Neither the oppressive political context that would render even some minor local elections unfree and unfair, nor reports of fraud widespread enough to jeopardize any political regime and its leader’s legitimacy seem to have bothered them. In this sense, what has happened last month in the referendum is of crucial significance that can be summed up in a sentence: the so-called heirs of Ottoman-Turkish Islamism, which struggled to curb autocratic rule and to establish good government, have mobilized  all their political and intellectual resources to expand the power of one man alone to secure his personality-centred regime. The so-called followers of a tradition known for ethically-grounded political propositions for the “Muslim world’s revival” have now turned towards the pure and naked power politics of a one-man regime.

    Limiting the autocrat’s power has always been deemed a panacea for most followers of the Muslim reform movement. Now those who trace their lineage to this tradition have sought to enlist the Islamist public’s support for the removal of the few remaining constraints, forms of accountability, and checks-and-balances in an already shattered political regime. The so-called followers of a tradition known for ethically-grounded political propositions for the “Muslim world’s revival” have now turned towards the pure and naked power politics of a one-man regime. I argue that the real significance for Islamism of the recent Turkish referendum must be sought in this anomaly.

    Paths diverge

    Let us illustrate this anomaly by contrasting examples of the religious discourses that are deployed for or against the referendum. The “Islamic” case for the recent referendum to enlist the Islamist support was often made via calls for a “greater and stronger Turkey” , the “survival of state and nation,” or “the unity of ummah”. It was, in a short, a case for “Muslim power” under Turkey’s leadership even in its most Islamist tones, where nation, ummah, Turkey, and the Muslim world’s fate were merged together and embodied in Erdoğan. This is a concept of the ‘political’ that is stripped of any ethical reference such as good government or justice. The basic conditions of free and fair elections or at the very least, basic honesty, seem to have failed to figure in their notion of Islamic politics.

    In contrast, those remaining ostracized Islamist groups that campaigned for a ‘no’ vote, e.g. Labor and Justice Coalition (LJC), Platform for Rights and Justice, and the Muslims’ Initiative against Violence against Women (MIVW), have employed a different language that underlines the Qur’anic verse of shura as their ethico-political vantage point. While LJC referred to the “perennial tradition of shura” in its justification of the no vote, the recently formed “Platform for Rights and Justice,” issued a statement that was presciently entitled: “Not Autocratic Rule, but Shura, Rights, and Justice.”

    It said,

    …Turkey needs a new constitution. However, the constitutional package… is far beyond realizing justice for all….Those who have to object to it are first and foremost those who try to uphold rights and justice. Even if we have been subjected to injustices in this society because of our identity, it is an unethical temptation to condone injustices that others will face for the sake of the power we will seize. We must not stand for the right of the might, but the power of the right. Our principles remind us that not justice, but oppression will inevitably result from an unrestrained one-man rule that is unaccountable, unchecked and unstoppable… As the religious references will never approve of a one-man rule, and as the Medina Compact enjoins plurality, power-sharing, and consultative rule, the defense of one-man rule is unfounded… We Muslims have to deliberate with each other for our affairs and there is the chapter on Shura in the Qur’an.… For the sake of power-sharing and shura, and against an autocratic power, for the sake of rights and justice, we say “NO.”

    The women’s group concluded its opposition statement with a declaration:

    Monotonous voices and monopolization of power never favored women, since the overbearing power that suppressed the other voices has first targeted the everyday life of women… As the women who formed a solidarity chain on the Bosphorus Bridge during the February 28 era when the regime targeted hijabi women, we are determined to form a chain of justice and righteousness with those women who are dismissed from their jobs through decrees, who have had to give birth under detention, and who feel their forms of life are threatened… The Prophet who had been entrusted with rectifying the defective scale of justice never suppressed different voices in the name of stability, nor did he impose himself on people, … [but he] remained loyal to the principle that “Carry out your affairs through shura” (Shura, 38).

    Such a striking contrast between modes of justification from the Islamist groups’ YES and NO voters is further confirmation of the antinomy I have sought to draw between Muslimism (a quest for power) and Islamism (a quest for justice). There was indeed hardly any defense of a YES vote among the former based on good and just government, while most of the NO votes among Islamists referred to these ethico-political principles.

    Turning back to Tunisi

    Around a century ago, Muslims from Egypt to Turkey and Iran were going through a “constitutionalism spring”. It faded in a decade or so but its institutional legacy lived on in parliaments and constitutions. Even the most radical Islamist thinkers such as Qutb did not oppose them in toto, but condemned the human arrogation of the powers of the deity through them. He nevertheless argued for shura-based polities.

    Turkey had given hopes to the rest of the world that a popular government coming from an Islamist lineage would finally consolidate good government and democracy. The Arab Spring expanded these hopes that its success could be replicated by fellow religious politicians. At its outset, many thought Egypt would be more like Turkey. As these hopes faded, Turkey became much more like Egypt. At its outset, many thought Egypt would be more like Turkey. As these hopes faded, Turkey became much more like Egypt.

    Perhaps despite the remnants of imperial hubris, Turkey could once again turn towards Tunisia to search for a conception of Muslim politics that embraces good government, compromise, and consensus-building, rather than a zero-sum game of Muslim domination over others, as well as an ethics-free Muslim power.

    Tunisi kept high hopes for Istanbul to take the lead for good government in the Muslim world. He failed as the autocratic one-man rule reigned for thirty more years, leaving a much more feeble legacy of constitutionalism than it could have done.

    A hundred years later Turkey missed yet another big chance to establish a decent regime that would institutionalize the principles of good government and democracy. Those who argued for the possibility of an “Islamic democracy” once again received a heavy blow from the cynics who had already doomed Muslim-majority polities to an irredeemable “Oriental despotism.” Tunisi’s dreams will have to wait for another spring in Turkey if not in Tunisia, while the latter still fights for its democracy’s survival.


    [1] Khayr al-Din al-Tunisi and Leon Carl Brown. The Surest Path (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1967), 126.

    [2] Ibid., 74

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  2. Contending with authoritarian Turkey: a measured realist perspective

    This obsession with personalities can fuel the very passions and tensions that such individuals feed on, and obscure the underlying factors that explain their rise in the first place.

    lead President Inönü of Turkey, confers with President Roosevelt and Prime Minister Churchill at Cairo, December 1943. Wikicommons/United States Library of Congress. Some rights reserved.At a time when loud, angry and divisive men (and a few women) dominate politics and defy established norms of public discourse and diplomacy, it is no surprise that popular attention becomes fixated on the character traits, appearances and speeches (or tweets) of these individuals. Yet shaped by the modern celebrity culture, 24-hour reality shows and image-driven social media platforms, this obsession with personalities can fuel the very passions and tensions that such individuals feed on, and obscure the underlying factors that explain their rise in the first place. For scholars who both live in and aim to understand these unsettled times, the challenge is to deconstruct the larger-than-life portrayals of these individuals and place the period under scrutiny in its proper comparative, historical and geopolitical context.

    This is a particularly difficult – albeit no less urgent – task for scholars who try to make sense of Turkey’s fast-paced decline into authoritarianism, at a time when critical thinkers in general and academics in particular are directly targeted by President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and his Justice and Development Party (AKP) government. But despite Erdoğan’s tightening grip over the country’s politics and institutions, we cannot explain Turkey’s dramatic exit from democracy by pointing to one man’s hubris and single-minded pursuit for power. The larger fact is that, with its geopolitical centrality, resource-poor economy, fragile and contested institutions, and layers of entrenched societal tensions, Turkey has been exceptionally exposed to – and in turn, embodied – the fluctuating currents of global change throughout its modern history; and the present current is a particularly low one. Turkey is a country forged out of the genocidal destruction of multicultural empires in the age of modernisation and nation building, and carries in its social and institutional fabric the scars.

    Turkey is a country forged out of the genocidal destruction of multicultural empires in the age of modernisation and nation building, and carries in its social and institutional fabric the scars, the traumas and the insecurities of this formative period. It has been part of all three major waves, and subsequent counter-waves, of democratisation in the modern era: the constitutional reform movements of the late nineteenth and the early twentieth century gave way, via a decade of warfare and ethnic cleansing, to the consolidation of secular nationalist dictatorship in the interwar era. Its transformation to multiparty democracy in the post-WWII period was truncated by the emergence of military tutelage in the 1960s. And some of its most remarkable democratic reform initiatives, which came at the height of the European Union’s normative influence in the early-to-mid 2000s, are being reversed just as liberal democracies everywhere face existential crises.

    Turkey’s socio-political fortunes have also been tightly intertwined with the ebbs and flows of the global economy, to which it has been deeply integrated since Ottoman times. We cannot fully grasp why Kemalist Turkey abandoned early attempts at economic liberalisation in the 1920s for a decidedly statist path in the 30s without taking into account the limited options facing the young republic in the wake of the Great Depression; nor why it reverted to a capitalist (and pro-western) direction in the late 1940s without reference to the economic crisis of 1946. The labour disputes, ideological tensions and political violence of the 1970s took place in the context of global oil crises and Arab-Israeli conflicts. Likewise, the meteoric rise and the subsequent descent into paranoia and authoritarianism of both Adnan Menderes, the populist prime minister of Turkey during the Democrat Party era, and Recep Tayyip Erdoğan are closely linked to the boom and bust cycles in global liquidity, and the capitalist growth strategies their governments pursued in the 1950s and 2010s, respectively.

    Finally, Turkey’s geopolitics simply renders isolation impossible, as Anatolia has time and again become the passageway, the destination and the source for migrants and refugees. The arrival of millions of destitute Muslims from the Balkans and the Caucasus into the Ottoman Empire at the turn of the twentieth century heightened existential insecurities among the Ottoman Muslim elites and arguably paved the way for the destruction of the empire’s non-Muslim communities. The influx of half a million Iraqi Kurds fleeing Saddam Hussein’s atrocities in 1991 – itself an outcome of the First Gulf War – provided a fresh recruitment base for the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) ahead of some of the most violent years of conflict in Turkey in the mid-90s. The arrival of more than three million Syrians since the outbreak of war in that country in 2011 is sure to have an even more profound, multifaceted and lasting impact on Turkey’s demographic, socio-economic and political dynamics. 

    None of this is to suggest, in the deterministic spirit of Heraclitus or Ibn Khaldun, that Turkey’s fate is preordained by history and geography, and that its political actors possess no agency or responsibility to chart the country’s course. The point, rather, is to emphasise the perseverance of structure and the symbiotic relationship between individuals and their environments, at a time when actors’ roles tend to be blown out of proportion. Structural factors, as thinkers from Bourdieu to Giddens have noted, do not only help form individuals’ habitus – their socialisation, worldview, ambitions and expectations – but also affect and constrain the options available to them. In turn, the decisions made by key political actors at critical junctures of history can set the path of a country for years or even decades, thus reshaping structure.

    It was İsmet İnönü, Turkey’s oft-maligned second president, who chose to keep Turkey out of the Second World War, just as it was Erdoğan, together with his former foreign and prime minister, Ahmet Davutoğlu, who drove Turkey into the quagmire of the Syrian war. It was İnönü who accepted defeat in Turkey’s first democratic election and handed over power peacefully in 1950, while Erdoğan chose to ignore defeat and refused to share power following what may turn out to be the country’s last democratic election, at least for some time, in June 2015. Both sets of choices have been fateful for Turkey’s stability and democracy. Despite their dominant political positions at the time, neither İnönü nor Erdoğan possessed the power to dictate the forces of change inside Turkey, let alone in the wider region. But it seems only İnönü was aware of this reality.

    In the measured realism induced by paying attention to structure, there might be a lesson not only for decision makers, but also for those who try to make sense of Turkey, while hoping and striving for it to one day become a tolerant, pluralistic society. For much of the 2000s, and indeed up until the June 2015 election, many of these observers-cum-activists (this author included) held steadfast to the belief that a truly democratic transformation was within Turkey’s grasp. It appears, in hindsight, that in our enthusiastic idealism we grossly underestimated the astonishing capacity of the Turkish state to categorically annihilate dissent; a capacity that Kurds, Armenians or Alevis know full well, but which secular middle-class Turks have been discovering only recently. We grossly underestimated the astonishing capacity of the Turkish state to categorically annihilate dissent; a capacity that secular middle-class Turks have been discovering only recently.

    Many of us, both in and outside the country, also miscalculated how viciously this capacity could be unleashed at a time of extreme existential angst and insecurity triggered by the dual crises of liberal democracy in the West and state failure in the Middle East. With such hopes crushed and expectations shattered, there is now a new – and equally dangerous – tendency to resort to nostalgia and fatalism, essentialising Turkey either as a hopeless cause from the outset, or a secular paradise lost in the hands of an Islamist strongman.

    Ultimately, both the impatient optimism of yesterday and the despondent pessimism of today stem from a presentist approach to politics and a teleological understanding of history; expecting imminent change, wanting to be a part of it, and abandoning hope when it does not happen. Paying due attention to the deeper structural dynamics at work can have a moderating effect on both dispositions. The revolution may not be coming any time soon, but history is not ending either, and there will be a tomorrow for Turkey.

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  3. Desmond Tutu was right

    As the UK General Election campaign heats up, who says politics and religion don’t mix?

    Vicar’s daughter Theresa May visits Al Madina Mosque, 2015. Credit: Flickr/UK Home Office. Some rights reserved.

    At the height of the struggle against Apartheid in South Africa, Archbishop Desmond Tutu confessed that he was confused about which Bible people were reading when they said that religion and politics do not mix. The Archbishop was right: religion and politics do mix, no matter what hardened secularists might assert about a public sphere free from religion. The more important questions to ask are, ‘what kind of religion and what kind of politics?’

    In recent years the relationship between religious faith and politics has assumed a growing importance for three reasons. First, faith groups continue to possess significant levels of ‘social capital,’ especially in socially excluded communities. The political theologian Chris Baker calls this ‘religious capital’, or resources in the form of buildings, congregations and community activities. In recent decades politicians on both sides of the Atlantic have recognised that faith groups can help them to deliver (sometimes controversial) social policy agendas.

    Second, in an ‘age of austerity,’ faith groups have become increasingly important and visible players in grass-roots campaigning on issues as wide-ranging as low pay, food poverty, racial justice and refugee rights. They have, to a degree, become welfare delivery agencies, filling the gaps previously occupied by the state. Michael Hoelzl and Graham Ward refer to this as “the new visibility of religion.”

    Third, this new visibility places the spotlight on the values that drive faith-based action. This question is of vital importance because faith groups can use their religious capital to include or to exclude people, and to challenge injustice or to provide it with a spurious ideological justification.

    What role then should religious leaders and people of faith play in politics, and what kind of theological values do those politicians who proclaim themselves to be people of faith communicate and embody? Should they be satisfied with driving the ambulance to the bottom of the cliff, ready to meet those who fall through the cracks of a shrinking welfare state, or as the German theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer once argued, should people of faith ram a spoke into the wheels of injustice?

    In the recent US Presidential Election Donald Trump courted Evangelical Christians with his promises on healthcare, abortion and the appointment of ‘pro-life’ Justices to the US Supreme Court. His tactics seemed to work, but the months since his election have seen the rise of a faith-based movement ready to challenge his drive to the right.

    The UK is currently in the midst of a similarly-polarised General Election campaign in which the role of faith has also become a source of debate. Tim Farron, the leader of the Liberal Democrats, has been quizzed on his attitude towards homosexuality and abortion. Whilst Christian attitudes towards sexuality are often more progressive than some people might imagine, Farron is shaped by a form of Evangelicalism that condemns homosexuality as ‘sinful.’ As a person of faith myself I want to challenge such notions of the Christian Gospel. That said, Farron’s voting record as a Member of Parliament has been characterised by clear support for equal rights.

    Interestingly, the Conservative leader, Theresa May, has referred to the fact that she is the daughter of a Church of England vicar, and that her Christian upbringing has shaped her political beliefs. But so far, the UK media has not quizzed May on her understanding of Christian values, nor on how her tenure as Conservative Home Secretary and Prime Minister reflect them. The New Statesman recently ran an article entitled, “Just What Kind of Christian is Theresa May?” That raises an important, though much broader, question.

    Faith communities have social action built into their DNA, but their approaches vary significantly. Broadly speaking we can speak of ‘caring’ and ‘campaigning.’ Shaped by a ‘love your neighbour’ ethic of social responsibility, the dominant approach to faith-based social action continues to be the ‘caring’ approach that’s exemplified by soup runs, befriending projects and foodbanks. Such an approach has an honourable history, but it tends not to challenge the political status quo.

    Shaped by a more radical religious tradition, the ‘campaigning’ approach asserts that social justice is a more fundamental theological value than consensual social responsibility. Such activism is generally far less widely welcomed by the political class because it asks fundamental questions about the way things are done, and because it underpins campaigns for far-reaching, systemic social change.

    Two distinct theological frameworks characterise these differing approaches to faith-based activism. ‘Caring’ social action arises from theologies of the common good, which argue that, as a result of our common humanity, all government policies should be judged on the extent to which they enhance the well-being of the most vulnerable members of society. Such an approach seeks to balance the needs of the included and the excluded, but it doesn’t assert the need for fundamental structural changes in society.

    By contrast, ‘campaigning’ social action, whilst committed to building a society that is characterised by a shared commitment to the common good, goes much further. Such activism is, if only implicitly, shaped by the core values of liberation theology, which emerged first in Latin America in the 1970s. Exemplified by the work of Gustavo Gutiérrez, liberation theology argues that in an unjust world, a God who has created all people in the divine image necessarily has a ‘preferential option for the poor’ and oppressed, and that as a consequence, Christian social action must be characterised by support for that option too.

    Such social action argues for deep-seated structural changes that enable the building of a more egalitarian society. So when campaigners knock on people’s doors asking for their vote, they need to ask, ‘Do your policies put the few or the many at the front of the queue? How will your policies transform toxic debates about immigration into a narrative that treasures our diversity as a strength, and not as a problem that needs to be solved?’

    There is no way of knowing how Theresa May’s upbringing as a vicar’s daughter shapes her internal wrestling with the kind of challenge that Jesus lays at the feet of his disciples in Matthew 24:31-46: ‘Have you fed the hungry, welcomed the stranger, and clothed the naked?’ We cannot see into her heart. All we can do is reflect on the impact of her actions as Home Secretary and Prime Minister. However, it is reasonable to pose a number of sample questions in the light of the forthcoming General Election that get at the relationship between faith and politics.

    First, how might refusing to allow child refugees from ‘the jungle’ camp in Calais to settle in the UK, or the implicit xenophobia unleashed by the 2016 Brexit referendum, exemplify an ethic of ‘welcoming the stranger’?

    Second, how might the increasing resort to foodbanks by NHS nurses or the withdrawing of free school lunches for Primary school children embody a commitment to ‘feeding the hungry’?

    Third, how can we square the doubling of homelessness since 2010 or the massive rise in child poverty with ‘clothing the naked’?

    Senior political leaders who consciously self-identify as people of faith would do well to reflect on these questions and others like them when they look in the mirror. Tutu was right: religion and politics do mix, but the more important question is this—does faith give rise to a commitment to building an inclusive and egalitarian society, or is it simply a cynical ploy to get elected?

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  4. No, the link between terrorism and our foreign policy isn’t simple. But Jeremy Corbyn is basically right.

    Look at ISIS's own propaganda and it's clear that Western intervention is a key driver of their violence.

    Jeremy Corbyn's speech on terrorism. BBC, fair use.

    Michael Fallon richly deserved to fall into the trap that Krishnan Guru-Murthy recently sprang on him, which saw him pouring scorn on words previously spoken by foreign secretary Boris Johnson. His spluttering insistence that we not seek to understand the motives of killers such as Salman Abedi represents politics at its most grating – as a brazen insult to the intelligence of the public.

    But behind the attacks faced by Jeremy Corbyn from both right and centre regarding his comments about the failure of the war on terror lies a serious and genuine debate. Can we really say, more than a decade after the Iraq War, that our foreign engagements are a major cause of jihadist terrorism at home?

    In a recent column in the Guardian, Jonathan Freedland pours scorn on what he admits is Jeremy Corbyn’s ‘carefully caveated’ position. His argument is that jihadists are driven primarily by an inward-looking ideology which hates us for who we are, not for what we do. As he points out, within this frame of reference, even inaction by the West – as in Bosnia for example – can be used as material by entrepreneurs of grievance.

    He’s not altogether wrong, but it’s more complicated than that.

    Take, for example, a recent propaganda article by ISIS themselves, with the usefully straightforward title “Why We Hate You and Why We Fight You”.

    The purpose of this article is exactly what it says it is: to clarify, once and for all, in the most straightforward terms, what the self-ascribed meaning of ISIS’s violence is.

    And yet, this being so, the remarkable thing is that the article isn’t clear at all.

    The piece opens by praising Florida nightclub killer Omar Mateen’s “attack on a sodomite, Crusader nightclub”, but goes on to express frustration at the idea that it might be considered a mere hate crime, or, worse, “senseless violence”. As ISIS insist, they have “repeatedly stated their goals, intentions and motivations” for violence, which are, it says, to be understood as “brutal retaliation” against “the crimes of the West against Islam and Muslims”, crimes which include “waging war against the Caliphate”, but also “insulting the Prophet” or “burning the Qur’an”.

    “Although some might argue that your foreign policies are the extent of what drives our hatred, this particular reason for hating you is secondary… the fact is, even if you were to stop bombing us, imprisoning us, torturing us, vilifying us and usurping our lands, we would continue to hate you” the piece insists. And yet, a few paragraphs earlier, it hints at the idea that a temporary cessation of violence might be possible: “even if you were to stop fighting us, your best-case scenario in a state of war would be that we would suspend our attacks against you – if we deemed it necessary – in order to focus on the closer and more immediate threats”.

    Utterly uncompromising as this all sounds, there is still a tension in the words. ISIS wants to declare an unlimited war on unbelief as such; but it also wants to retain the notion that it can use violence as strategic leverage, which requires at least some limited concession to the idea that it could choose to stop (even though it couldn’t choose not to hate). It is worth pointing out that this ideology is no different in its essentials from that upheld by hardline, but officially tolerated scholars in Saudi Arabia too: that there is an obligation for true believers to ‘hate’ all others, even if actual hot conflict can, for reasons of expediency, be put on what might in practice be indefinite hold.

    What conclusion can we draw from this? Certainly not that ISIS is worth cutting deals with. Rather, what it ought to reinforce is the point that ideology is not a sort of ineffable uncaused cause. However rigid and vicious, it doesn’t predict how a group or an individual will behave on its own. Even ISIS, for all its savagery and hatred, didn’t as such start its campaign of killing and direct incitement against Western targets and homelands prior to the first Western air strikes aimed at containing and rolling back its sudden advance into Iraq.

    If we have learned anything from the ‘war on terror’, it is that murderous ideologies (which increasingly often seem to be almost interchangeable), are not just things that fall from the sky, Invasion of the Body Snatchers style, but rather things which, like nettles, flourish in disrupted ground. Where military interventions – even interventions which may have been well-meaning – have led to anarchy, they have created conditions conducive to socialising young people into the habits and attitudes of seemingly incomprehensible violence. Libya is an obvious example.

    In the case of ISIS, a totalistic and expansive ideology may well provide ready justification for violence under almost any circumstance. But radical movements cannot flourish as fragmented archipelagos of true believers. In recent years, research into radicalisation has been increasingly interested in the role of wider milieus of people who have some emotional sympathy for the radicals, even if they don’t accept their specific beliefs. ISIS are well aware of this, and narratives of victimisation of Sunni Muslims are a key part of their attempts to reach a wider audience.

    The morning after the Manchester bombing, I happened to give a lift to a Syrian friend, a former politics professor, whose family had been obliged to leave the country because, among other things, the encroachment of ISIS into their hometown. Naturally, he was full of dismay about the attack, and concern for the victims; but after a few minutes, he added quietly that hardly a week goes by without his hearing from some friend or other about more civilians killed by Western air strikes. He wasn’t, of course, trying to use one to justify the other, or suggesting that the killer had himself been thus motivated. But he was in little doubt that this fact helps at least to blunt the outrage that some might otherwise feel at attacks on Western civilians. According to the monitoring group Airwars, the minimum estimate for civilians killed in Syria and Iraq by Western coalition airstrikes since August 2014 now stands at 3,681.

    But what if Corbyn is wrong in his assessment? What if there has been an evolution of the almost meteorological system of interaction between state failure, murderous militias, global media, identity crises in crumbling Western communities, and the ‘long tail’ effect whereby, if a group like ISIS solicits widely enough for killers, someone somewhere is bound to answer the call? What if the complex link between terrorism and foreign wars really has broken? Well then, the only real solution is to properly fund interventions at the level of our own communities, by building robust and trusted partnerships; to do that, and to deepen our cooperation with European and other partners. The need for better community policing is perhaps the single intervention most agreed upon by counter-terrorism experts. But police can’t do it if they aren’t resourced to do it, not to mention the many other public servants supposedly charged with a duty of care under the UK’s Prevent strategy. Theresa May can’t have it both ways.

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  5. Turkey’s united front against Kurds and democracy

    The political success of the Kurds – the colonized – has intimidated not just the authoritarian AKP and ultranationalist MHP but also the nationalist, secularist, so-called social democratic CHP.

    lead HDP supporters including Selahattin Demirtaş marching to Cizre after thir convoy was stopped by police. September 2015. Wikicommons/Mahmut Bozarslan (VOA). Some rights reserved.At time of writing, it has only been a month and a half since Turkey’s controversial referendum and the referendum has already fallen off the agenda in Turkey.

    Indeed, only a couple of days after the referendum, the Republican People’s Party (CHP), the second biggest party in Parliament, had instead begun discussing potential candidates for the presidency in the 2019 elections. The CHP, which represents itself as the main opposition party, did object to the election results and submitted an appeal against fraud to the European Court of Human Rights. The party’s leader also stated his disapproval of protests taking place in the streets and called on the crowds denouncing the election results to go back home.

    The party’s representatives now claim that their primary aim is to get ready for the 2019 elections so that they can ‘take Erdoğan down’ and replace him with another president who – like Erdoğan under the new presidential system – would have the power to override parliament and issue decrees.

    In a country where prisons are filled with dissenting voices (including MPs and elected mayors), where emergency decrees have increasingly deprived hundreds of thousands of people of their jobs, and 83 elected mayors have been replaced with government-appointed trustees, it would be naïve to think that CHP representatives really believe that the 2019 elections will be free of fraud and that Erdoğan would accept defeat. Why, then, did the so-called opposition party, which launched a “no” campaign against Erdoğan, object so meekly to the controversial election results and call its supporters off the streets?

    The HDP challenge

    Today, as the authoritarian tendencies and aims of Erdoğan’s Justice and Development Party (AKP) have started to target ever larger swathes of the population, including that segment which enjoys the privilege of being Turkish in a nationalist and profoundly anti-Kurdish society, AKP polices have garnered broader international attention.

    Noting the policies enacted under the current state of emergency and the enormous powers that will be given to the president after the 2019 elections, commentators have claimed that Turkey is undergoing a historical transformation. While it is true that Turkey is going through a historical process of change, this shift has not come about just as a result of state-of-emergency policies which for decades have targeted Kurds and working-class Alevis living in the urban margins.

    No. For the first time in its history, in the elections of June 2015 Turkey witnessed the electoral success of a political party (the People’s Democracy Party, the HDP) emerging from the long criminalized Kurdish liberation movement that includes the Kurdistan Worker’s Party (PKK), a Fanonian party which adopts an anti-colonial resistance strategy against the Turkish State. Indeed, the establishment of an umbrella party that brings Kurds, socialists, feminists, LGBT activists, and critical Muslims together was an aspiration of the PKK leader Abdullah Öcalan, and the HDP was successful in realizing this aspiration.  

    As a result of the election campaign carried out by HDP co-chairs Figen Yüksekdağ, the former chair of the Socialist Party of the Oppressed (ESP), and Selahattin Demirtaş, a Kurdish politician and human rights activist, the HDP passed the 10% threshold in Parliament by receiving 13.12% of votes (six million in total) and gaining 80 seats in the Parliament.

    The party did not only gain the majority of the votes in Turkey’s Kurdistan, where a significant percent of the population have voted for Kurdish candidates for years, but was also successful in the peripheries of the region and in western Turkey. Given the fact that Turkey’s ruling elites have been waging a systematic war against Kurdish civil politics for decades – a situation which Derya Bayır (2014) refers to as “politicide”[1] – a systematic targeting of the Kurdish political leadership and its solutions to the Kurdish problem, the HDP’s electoral success was tremendously significant in ways that basic statistics cannot measure.

    This success not only endorsed the Kurdish liberation movement’s adamant insistence on civil politics in spite of the decades-long lawfare and warfare waged against Kurdish activists: it also demonstrated the possibility of the de-criminalization of stigmatized Kurdish political voices in the eyes of the Turkish public.

    Authoritarianism

    Indeed, aware of the challenges posed by the HDP’s peace and democracy block and seeing the party as an existential threat, the AKP administration cancelled the June 2015 elections, refused to form a coalition government and hastened to re-initiate the war in Turkey’s Kurdistan. According to Turkey’s parliamentary system, if the party which came the first in the elections cannot form a majority government, it has to form a coalition government. And, according to the unwritten traditional rules, if that party cannot or does not form a coalition government, the President must then hand over the authority to form a government to the second biggest party in the parliament. However, Erdoğan did not follow this traditional rule and instead asked for early elections.

    Interestingly, the CHP leadership, who under normal circumstances would be responsible for forming the government, did not remonstrate against Erdoğan’s transgression of this rule. Actually, after the June elections, the CHP leadership objections to Erdoğan remained simply rhetorical and the party became partners with Erdoğan in the large-scale violence directed against Kurds in Turkey.

    Nationalist backlash

    Shortly after the elections in 2015, Turkish military forces occupied Kurdish towns, declared curfews, took lives and left hundreds of thousands of Kurds homeless and dispossessed. Throughout this process, Parliament granted immunity to military personnel who were “serving” in Kurdistan, while members of Parliament were stripped of their immunity with the goal of putting HDP parliamentarians behind bars – a move backed by MPs from the AKP, CHP and Nationalist Movement Party (MHP). As of today, thirteen HDP parliamentarians, including its co-chairs, have been imprisoned on the grounds of encouraging or supporting terrorism, and others expect to be arrested as well.

    Turkey’s long-suppressed Kurdish political struggle found an opening during the brief “peace process” carried out between 2013 and 2015, managing to become the second biggest opposition party in the country. It not only gained the support of Kurds but also Turks who for a long time had turned a blind eye to the various forms of violence inflicted on Kurds.

    At the same time, the PKK and its affiliate, the People’s Defense Units (YPG), took major steps toward building multi-ethnic and multi-religious autonomous areas of governance in Syria (Rojava) and in Iraq (Shingal), thereby becoming key actors in those regions. Yet, AKP, CHP and MHP consider PKK and YPG success outside Turkey a threat to Turkey and they all gave their consent to the Turkish military’s bombardment of the areas in Syria and Iraq that are under the control of these two related organizations. Recently, in April 25, 2017, for instance, Öztürk Yılmaz the Deputy Chairperson of the CHP, argued that Turkey has every right to fight against the PKK inside and outside Turkey, celebrated the AKP-led Turkish military’s air bombing of Derik in Rojava (Syria), and Shingal (Iraq Kurdistan) and argued that the military should have bombed these areas earlier[2].

     It should be noted that the founding national(ist) ideology of Turkey has crafted a narrative in which the Kurds, like other colonized peoples, are “uncivilized” and “ignorant,” and therefore incapable of ruling themselves. This ideology, of course, is not independent of the Turkish ruling elites’ treatment of Kurdistan and former Armenian lands in Turkey’s South East as an internal colony[3] with Kurdish “subjects.” The political success of the Kurds, hence the colonized, has intimidated not just the authoritarian AKP and ultranationalist MHP but also the nationalist, secularist, so-called social democratic CHP.

    When the AKP appointed trustees to 83 Kurdish provinces and jailed elected Kurdish mayors and MPs, the CHP drew upon such a colonial mindset in its refusal to see those moves as a breach of democracy. The CHP gave its tacit consent to large-scale violence in Turkey’s Kurdistan by not objecting, instead adopting a stance of inaction, and choosing to be partners (in crime) with the AKP in silencing Kurdish political voices and putting the elected representatives of Kurds behind the bars.

    It was through just such a colonial mindset – so entrenched in the Turkish political imaginary – that a CHP deputy nevertheless had the audacity to say, in an interview with a Kurdish journalist after the referendum, that “Kurds’ biggest hope [for solving the so-called Kurdish issue] lay with the CHP” — presenting CHP as the future benevolent savior of the Kurds.

    Nightmare

    The AKP and the so-called opposition in parliament are united in their enmity towards Kurdish political voices and practices that have taken action so effectively in Turkey and its neighboring regions. The political success of the Kurdish liberation movement both within and outside Turkey has prompted in those parties a sense of colonial envy, which not only drives them to devalue and criminalize the accomplishments of the colonized but also to try to erase it from the scene. In spite of their supporters’ fear of a non-secular and religious society, the secularist CHP’s alignment with an Islamist party proves that enmity against and fear of Kurds, who do not require their benevolence and already have an effective purchase on politics, is one of the key constitutive nightmares driving Turkish politics and/or its political imaginary.

    Today AKP and its partners in the Parliament are determined to deploy every means to suppress Kurdish political voices and being. Yet, history has also shown us that in spite of the systematic war against the Kurds, Kurds have been a major political force in Turkey over time and that violence against Kurds has not been successful in ending the Kurdish political mobilization. The residents of the cities and towns that suffered the most brutal forms of military violence after June 2015 elections, for instance, did not hesitate to vote almost exclusively “No” for the executive presidency.

    That is to say Kurds will not give up their struggle for democracy and their rights in Turkey and HDP will continue to attract social democratic votes, making it an even  stronger rival to the self-proclaimed social democratic CHP. This rivalry, along with colonial envy, will make CHP a more anti-democratic and pro-violence party in the near future. In effect, the CHP, the biggest opposition party, will continue to legitimize and even strengthen Erdoğan’s power.

    A shorter version of this piece was published at PoLAR Forum on May 11, 2017. I would like to thank Mehmet Rauf Kesici, Barış Ünlü and Mehmet Kurt for their comments on the earlier version of this piece.


    [1] Bayır, Derya. "The role of the judicial system in the politicide of the Kurdish opposition." The Kurdish question in Turkey: New perspectives on violence, representation and reconciliation (2014): 21-46.

    [2] https://www.artigercek.com/chp-den-sengal-operasyonu-aciklamasi-normal-ve-gecikmis

    [3]Beşikçi, İsmail. International Colony Kurdistan. Taderon Press, 2004.

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  6. Will the feline Macron succeed?

    “Enthusiasm for his victory is drawing investment into European equities. And French private sector employment has just reached a post-crisis high, giving a boost to wages.”

    lead lead lead lead French President Emmanuel Macron at the end of the Summit of the Heads of State and of Government of the G7. May 27,2017.Blondet Eliot/Press Association. All rights reserved.“He’s a cat – you throw him through the window and he manages to fall on his feet.”  This is how Alain Minc, an old acquaintance describes the most rapid coming of age in modern French politics. Emmanuel Macron is the youngest president of France in over 150 years. The recent French presidential election was historic because, for the first time since the creation of the Fifth Republic, France’s third longest lasting regime after the monarchy and the Third Republic, the two coalitions which have ruled France since 1958 were in disarray. Divided on the European Union of which France was a founding member, neither the Socialist nor the Républicain party inspired much confidence among the voters.

    Was the election a case of man meeting destiny or a particular set of circumstances allowing one exceptional figure to emerge? That Nicolas Sarkozy, Alain Juppé, François Fillon, François Hollande and Manuel Valls all fell on their sword offered an irresistible opening which, to a degree, was impossible to foresee. When he launched his movement En Marche less than 18 months ago, resigned from the government the following summer and announced he would stand as candidate for the French presidency, Emmanuel Macron was derided by the vast majority of commentators and heavyweight politicians. His election vindicates the judgement of French observers who were convinced their fellow countrymen would avoid following in the populist footsteps of British and American voters.

    They were reassured on the night Macron debated his extreme right wing opponent Marine Le Pen on French television in the run off to the second round. The 39-year old former banker could hardly disguise his combined sense of contempt and amusement at the leader of the National Front. The bleu eyes were steely as Macron pointed out that his opponent was getting her knickers in a twist – not least when she mistook the Euro for the Ecu. Marine le Pen dropped the mask of reasonableness she had worked so hard to put on for five years. Emmanuel Macron came across to millions of French people as an iron fist in a smooth velvet glove.

    The announcement of the new prime minister and government after his election on 14 May broke with all precedent since 1958. Some ministers were from the Républicain party – the Prime Minister Edouard Philippe, the mayor of Le Havre and the all-important minister of finance, Bruno Lemaire. Naming a German-speaking conservative was a smart choice, likely to reassure the number two of the German government, Wolfgang Schäuble. Other ministers hailed from the socialist party such as Gerard Collomb, the respected mayor of Lyon and Jean Yves Le Driant, the new minister of foreign affairs who had been François Hollande’s safe pair of hands at the ministry of defence throughout his presidency. Others hailed from the centre like Sylvie Goulard, at defence while some had refused multiple offers to join governments of left or right such as the very charismatic Nicolas Hulot, the icon of the environmentalists in France. 

    Another inspired choice was Françoise Nyssen at the ministry of culture. She co-founded, with her father, the publishing house Actes Sud in – of all places, Arles in 1978. Actes Sud now challenges the more than century old Gallimard as one of the most successful and high brow publishing house in France. Back in 2015 it could boast, among its authors the Nobel prize for literature, the Byelorussian writer Svetlana Alexievitch, the Goncourt prize for the first novel, Kamel Daoud, an Algerian whose take on Camus’ novel L’Etranger, Meursault, Contre Enquête, has been translated into 30 languages and Mathias Enard, the winner of the Goncourt prize. To entrust a ministry which has often been seen as a cultural trophy to a women who understands culture and is a successful private entrepreneur could give it greater capacity to face the multiple challenges the arts face in today’s increasingly digital world. 

    Sylvie Goulard also offers an interesting case. A centrist deputy in the European parliament, she is articulate an unafraid of defending the centrality of the EU project to France’s future. Unlike many of her peers in France, she refuses to bash Europe to court popularity in France. At the same time she is not afraid of acknowledging the shortcoming of the EU. A good mastery of German and English will help. To critics who point out she has no military experience one could say that her task will be to project the European context of security at a time when Donald Trump’s flip flops on NATO and Brexit – which risk weakening UK military ties to Europe, make for great uncertainty. 

    Emmanuel Macron is an iconoclast, not a populist. His chiselled use of the French language, his love of classical music, his passion for Europe and conviction that France has the talent and capacity to adapt and change – no easy task in a country famous for its conservatism with a small “c”, stands in sharp contrast to the pessimism laced with nationalism which has been characteristic of French politics since the millennium. The new president is, like Tony Blair, a great seducer. He met his wife Brigitte when she taught him drama. He may not have an original mind but he became used, very early on in life to being the smartest person in the room. A friend who met him during the campaign remarked that he was a polymath who quickly absorbs every subject (music, economics etc.) he encounters and has the enormous asset of making everybody he meets feel intelligent. His memory is phenomenal. Macron enjoys arguing with people who disagree with him – his encounter with Whirlpool factory workers who backed Marine Le Pen in the run off of the election was typical of the trust he has in his own charm to win over opponents. 

    The first hurdle of the president’s ability to reform France is electoral and will come in June. If La Republique en Marche candidates gain a majority, that would ease the challenge of economic reform. Economic luck is on his side as he comes to office on the back of a strengthening economy.  As Martin Sandbu noted in the Financial Times Will Emmanuel Macron succeed? on 12 May: “Enthusiasm for his victory is drawing investment into European equities. And French private sector employment has just reached a post-crisis high, giving a boost to wages.” Domestic economic success would offer the president an excellent tool in eurozone diplomacy – not least Germany.

     The second hurdle lies in his ability to convince union leaders to give companies more freedom to discuss working hours and wages with employees rather than comply with rigid sector-wide rules. The good omen here is that for the first time since its creation a century ago, the CFDT supplanted the more hard line CGT as France’s biggest union by winning the largest share of worker representatives in the private sector. This has put its leader, Laurent Berger who believes his union’s momentum provides a historic chance to overhaul France’s often conflict-ridden labour relations and move it closer to the more collaborative German model, in the spotlight.

    Faced with a president who might be tempted to fast track reforms by enacting them through “ordinances”,  Mr Berger is fond of quoting the former prime minister, Michel Rocard - that “the path was as important as the outcome.” The next few months will tell whether Emmanuel Macron’s attempts to reform France succeed and whether a Macron-Merkel axis can strengthen European institutions and overcome widespread disaffection towards the EU which is so visible in France and Italy.

    Laurent Berger, Secretary General of the CFDT, France's biggest union. Wikicommons/ Info-Com CFDT. Some rights reserved.

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  7. Why aren't Egyptians revolting against the price hikes?

    Some are frustrated at the Egyptian public’s ‘non-reaction’ to the waves of successive price hikes and deterioration of living standards. عربي

    Soeren Stache/DPA/PA Images. All rights reserved Soeren Stache/DPA/PA Images. All rights reserved

    The economic measures that the Egyptian state recently implemented are the harshest since Anwar al-Sadat’s lifting of price controls in January 1977, which resulted in the bread riots. However, the public’s reaction does not coincide with the magnitude of these recent changes.

    With every price hike and each decision to increase the price of goods or services, one cannot but wonder, “why isn’t the public taking action?” The repetition of this question is a reminder of a similar one that perplexed the world before the January 2011 revolution, “Why don’t Egyptians revolt?” It wasn’t long before that question was answered.

    The shocking or frustrating public inaction towards the social and economic situation may in fact be itself the justification.

    The latest economic measures, ranging from repeatedly cutting subsidies on fuel while raising the prices of electricity, gas and water, as well as public transportation, in addition to implementing VAT (Value Added Tax) and floating the exchange rate, have led to successive waves of inflation whilst wages stagnated. Spending on wages only rose by 4.5 percent in the 2016/2017 budget, resulting in an actual decrease in real wages and the deterioration in the living standards of most, across classes.

    Perhaps the report published in the Financial Times about Egyptians’ increased bread consumption as a result of the price hike will help clarify the picture. Numerous media outlets have been addressing the impact of these economic policies on the living conditions of the poor.

    The report highlights an increase in the consumption of subsidized bread with a drop in the consumption of other foods due to their inflation in March 2017 by up to forty percent. It does not only reveal the effect of the crisis on the poor, but also the coping mechanism which takes the form of a change in consumption patterns to deal with the price hikes.

    However, the change in consumption patterns is not the only factor discouraging the rise of a popular movement in opposition to these impoverishment policies. The regime’s security policies also play a part. The organized repression of any social or labor protest has been a main feature of the regime’s security policy; from the Alexandria Shipyard workers being tried in military courts, to arresting public transportation workers, prosecuting IFFCO employees and arresting the employees of Telecom Egypt, etc… these are just a few examples. In addition to the regime’s oppressive policies, social activism has been affected by the governments’ absolute media control and its constant use of the threat of terrorism and chaos.

    Despite the clear impact of the regime’s oppressive measures, labor and social protests have not ceased. According to a report by the Egyptian Center for Economic and Social Rights more than 1700 protests were held in 2016, and most of them had to do with labor or opposition.

    There were also spontaneous reactions when subsidies were delayed in some provinces, and when bread rations were cut. However, the decision was quickly retracted after protests flared up.

    What has been stated above does not suffice to understand the popular movement and its reactions to the social and economic situation. Public action, in general, cannot be understood at a certain point in time without context.

    The most important public outbursts in Egypt took place with a backdrop of a rise in both labor and political movements simultaneously. The January 1977 bread riots, for example, were preceded by a series of workers strikes from the public transportation authority, Helwan and Al-Mahalla. It was also preceded by a political movement where the national cause was key, and universities were the main stage of protests.

    A wave of unprecedented labor strikes broke out in Egypt and lasted for around five years, ultimately leading to the January 2011 revolution. The strikes were also the result of the rise of political and democratic reform which represented remarkable developments in political movements in Egypt.

    The social and popular movements have reached their current stagnant state due to the backdrop of a counter-revolution that was able to set back the public and political situation to the days before the revolution, or even worse. There is no comparison between the situation of the social and popular movement now and before 2013. January 2011 was a turning point in which the popular movement witnessed its most significant rise. But its general setback is due, in large, to the unprecedented oppressive measures of the counter-revolution in Egypt.

    It is important to note that the social movement did not give in to the counter-revolution without a fight. In the wake of the victory of the counter-revolution in 2013, labor and social movements struggled to maintain their right to protest. Main labor centers witnessed remarkable protests such as in Al-Mahalla, Helwan, Alexandria, Suez and others. However, with the counter-revolution, labor strikes were forcibly and violently dispersed, with their leaders arrested and their houses raided. Nonetheless, labor strikes persisted even if on a less frequent basis and the regime was not able to silence them completely.

    The question that arises from time to time, with frustration and lack of faith in people’s movements, is “why aren’t the people taking action against these economic measures?” What this question ignores is that the decline in popular reactions to the economic situation cannot be understood except within the context of the general political stalemate, it cannot be excluded from it.

    This in no way means that the labor and social movements will not gain momentum until a new political movement emerges or the general situation changes. On the contrary, general change depends on the development of social and labor mobility.

    The dynamic between the social and political movements has never been on par at any point in time.

    Before the revolution, for example, the labor movement was positively influenced by the political movement that called for democracy. When the democratic movement witnessed a setback in 2006, the labor movement took several key steps forward and played a key role in reviving the democratic movement.

    The question should be about the absence or weakness in the public’s reaction to the economic policies, and what it brought on in terms of impoverishment and suffering on vast sectors, as well as frustration and mistrust in any popular mass movement. But at the same time it can also be understood to represent an understanding of the importance of a people’s movement and its ability to break this state of oppression and bring about change.

    The popular movement is not seeking to confirm or deny any expectations, or prove sociological theories. It does not function according to the simple saying, “every action has a reaction.” There are many factors that interact and affect its course of action and reaction, insomuch that the popular movement’s reaction is different every time.

    This does not mean that attempts to understand popular movements and their reactions is not important, on the contrary, it is important to try and understand the popular movement and its reactions by looking at its experience, communicating with it and taking part in it. This is the only way to benefit from public action and contribute to its growth. After all, the public always has the last say.

    This piece was first published on The Revolutionary Socialists on 12 May 2017.

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  8. The Ala-Turca presidency: old wine in new bottles in the Kurdish case

    Erdogan may require a more pragmatic approach to the US and Russia, hence indirectly with the PYD and Assad, to open up space for himself in the region’s politics.

    lead View of the building complex of the Tomb of Suleyman Shah (its second location, 1973 – February 2015), seen from the Euphrates river. Wikicommons/Céline Rayne. Some rights reserved.On April 16, Turkey experienced a crucial referendum on amending the constitution after which there was confusion as a result of different vote counts released by two state institutions, the Supreme Election Board (YSK) and the Anatolian News Agency (AA), a state-owned news outlet. This put the legitimacy of the referendum into doubt.

    The pro-‘No’ vote opposition camp led by the Kemalist People’s Republican Party (CHP) and the Kurdish-led, left-leaning populist People’s Democracy Party (HDP) claimed that approximately 2 to 2.5 million ballots counted had no official stamp and that therefore the small majority in favour of ‘Yes’ was invalid. The controversial decision of the YSK (who should uphold the law) declared the ballots with no official seal valid unless there was proof of fraud violating the electoral law which states that ‘each ballot must be stamped with an official seal’.

    The great shift or the ‘Ottoman Republic’

    For some this result is seen as Turkey’s own Brexit: it will alter the Kemalist Republic of Turkey that was founded in 1923 to replace the Ottoman Empire’s Sultanate and Caliphate regime. The new political situation will restructure the parliamentary system by offering a broadening of power to the president Recep Tayyip Erdogan. This new super-presidency system has fleshed out and completed the ‘new Turkey’ policy of the conservative democrat ruling party, the Justice and Development (AKP), which more recently has embraced an increasingly right-wing radical conservative populism with majoritarian, authoritarian and illiberal tendencies.

    This rhetoric of new Turkey emphasises a continuity with an Ottoman identity reconstructed within modern conservativism and Turkish nationalism through contemporary institutions and neoliberal economic principles, accompanied by a regional expansionist policy. The AKP, who claim to act in the name of the people, have adopted a discourse in which ‘the people’ has become a Turkish-Islamic homogeny, a supposedly unitary organic whole that excludes the diverse, multiple and plural identities of post-Ottoman society.

    However, this watershed in current Turkish politics might be full of surprises as no one, including the AKP and President Erdogan, seem quite sure of what will happen next. For Kurdish politics too, the implications of this new order is not very clear, and the future of the ‘Kurdish rights problem’ is subject to much speculation.

    Does this new Turkey mean some sort of renewal of the Ottoman millet system as a project of the Muslim Brotherhood, or does it create an opportunity for self-governance or democratic autonomy for the Kurdish political leadership?

    The AKP’s new Kurdish policy: ‘our/good Kurds’ vs ‘their/bad Kurds’

    In June 2015 the success of the HDP in passing the infamous 10 per cent national threshold by getting 80 members into parliament created hope for many in Turkey and beyond. The HDP had created a political grammar that was different from other pro-Kurdish political parties in its use of a leftist populist discourse, such as ‘we are’ and ‘Turkeyfication’.

    It aimed to radicalise democratic institutions in terms of equality and liberty for all (religious, ethnic minorities, feminists, LGBTs etc.) by mobilising a collective passion arising from the Gezi Park protests in summer 2013 that were a reaction to the AKP’s authoritarian tendency.

    The HDP provided synergies between the pro-Kurdish political parties (e.g. BDP) and the Gezi resistance (social) movement that to a certain extent became part of the global counter-hegemonic culture that includes other square/resistance movements such as the Arab Spring, Occupy, anti-austerity groups, Indignados, Aganaktismenoi, etc and left-wing populist parties such as Syriza and  Podemos.

    However, the failure of the so-called peace process between the AKP and the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) in the period 2013 to 2015 saw a return to the violence and antagonistic relations and eclipsed the new radical political language. The renewed armed conflict between the security forces and the PKK’s youth branch, the Patriotic Revolutionary Youth Movement (the YDG-H), who used for the first time heavy weapons, dug trenches and erected barricades down side streets in the city and towns in settlements such as Cizre, Sur, and Sirnak, hijacked the ‘human security moment’ (human-centric security approach) and put at risk the hope of peace that would end the long-term internal battle in the country.  

    Since Erdogan’s abrogation of the Dolmabahce Agreement (2015), the policy of the AKP government, with the overzealous support of ultra-nationalists such as the National Action Party (MHP) and Homeland Party (VP), showed that they rejected the peaceful channels for conflict resolution.

    With this Turkic-Islamic grouping, the Erdogan administration sought to ‘clean up’ the PKK on the battlefield with a claim that previous governments had been weak in their pursuit of the ‘war on the PKK’ due to the presence of many cliques within the state apparatus (the police, military, and intelligence), whose attention was geared more to a struggle against Kemalists, particularly the Islamic-originated Gulen movement (the so-called FETO) after the failed coup attempt in July 2016. Whilst in contrast, the success of the Democratic Union Party (PYD), which has an organic tie with the PKK, in Rojava (northern Syria) increased the self-confidence of the PKK in pursuing their collective requests in the form of an armed struggle.

    At the moment, both Turkish and Kurdish political actors have a wait and see policy. Erdogan stated in his post-referendum speech that there was a substantial increase in support for him in the east and south east of Turkey, which he saw as a ‘harbinger of a new era’, as the AKP-supported ‘Yes’ vote went up by 11 percentage points to 32% in the Kurdish-dominated region although the ‘No’ (HDP bloc) vote in these areas was between 60 and 70 per cent. However, the HDP claims that the rise of support for the AKP/MHP camp was the result of an increase in fraud, unfairness, and threats, accounting for the majority of  unstamped ballots which were found in the region.

    In this referendum, the Kurdish position might be compared to that of the Scots with regard to Brexit, although in the situation of the Kurds is very different since almost all local government in pro-Kurdish municipalities has been replaced by state-appointed trustees, their elected mayors arrested and the region highly securitised under a draconian state emergency law and its curfews.

    Challenges and opportunities

    In the realpolitik of the Middle East, the Kurdish rights problem has become a matter of a transnational power struggle and is, therefore, subject to multiple internal and external dynamics.

    In the dimension of internal politics, the AKP’s understanding of the millet and milli irade (national will) social project, combined with an authoritarian populist politics and neoliberal economic practices, means that pro-state and pious Muslim Kurdish politicians and their followers (including tariqas) are bound by certain conditions, such as the acceptance of one nation, one language, one state and, more recently, one religion.

    At the same time this non-secular policy demonises Alevis, Yezidis, Zoroastrians, and atheists and also, in a broad sense, secular Kurds. Yet Erdogan appears to be seeking to establish contact with a new political representative from the Kurdish conflict after the inefficient mobilisation and failure of collaboration with the non-PKK-related Kurdistani political parties (who support Kurdish autonomy such as the HAK-PAR, etc.) and their transborder representative, the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) in northern Iraq. However, after the suppression of the HDP, with for instance more than 10 MPs arrested including the co-leaders Selahattin Demirtas and Figen Yuksekdag, the restrictions placed on the role of the HDP in the region has created a hegemonic vacuum which might well be filled by a new actor such as the Huda-Par, a radical Islamist group that has links to Hizbullah, the paramilitary group.

    The first problem with this political project is that the people still remember the brutal violence of the Hizbullah in its armed struggle carried out against the PKK rather than the state, a political manoeuvre that has planted doubt about the role of Hizbullah in the region. Indeed Hizbullah are referred to as ‘Hizbul-kontra’ (a reference to them as counter-guerrillas) and are accused of being agents of the ‘deep state’ whose purpose is to frustrate the Kurdish national demands of those Kurds who are either secular or Sufi and culturally Muslim but who do not politicise their Islam in daily life.

    Secondly, the secular pro-Kurdish political actors (the BDP, PKK KCK and the Kurdish-led HDP) are still dominant, particularly after the Kobane victory against IS/ISIS in Rojava by their ‘sister party’ the PYD. Both these factors create difficulties for the AKP in constructing such a political project on the ground.

    The game shifts again

    In terms of international politics, it seems that the game is changing for Turkey and the Middle East. Just before Erdogan’s visit to Donald Trump, the president of the United States, as an ‘honored’ guest on May 16, he was forced to witness the substantial military aid given by the US government to the PYD in Syria that operates under the multi-ethnic and multi-religious Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) in their battle against IS/ISIS.

    The problem for Turkey is that Turkey, along with a few other countries such as Qatar, define the PYD as a ‘terrorist’ organisation because of its organic ties with the PKK. The US and the EU (who declare the PKK as a ‘terrorist’ group) and Russia (who does not) do not agree with Turkey on this and moreover see the PYD as a most effective partner in the war against IS/ISIS in Syria and Iraq (along with the Kurdish Peshmerga, the army of the KRG).

    This new situational partnership of the US and Russia supports the PYD’s secular and liberal identity (for example in the promotion of gender equality) against the fundamental and radical Islamist Middle East. At the same time it creates an opportunity for Syrian Kurds to establish extensive territory with long borders with Turkey similar to that which occurred after the coalition of Iraqi Kurds and the US which destroyed the Saddam regime (2003) and gave the Kurds a chance to have some independence.

    In the region, the recently de facto independent KRG, who consist of Sunni Muslim Kurds, has become one of the most reliable political and economic partners of Turkey in the sectarian power struggle with non-Sunni Iran, the central Iraqi government and Assad’s Syria, although until recently the Iraqi Kurdish leaders, Masoud Barzani and Jalal Talabani, were treated as ‘tribal leaders’ and there was Turkish hostility against any Kurdish progress in Iraq. Now President Erdogan, having strengthened his governmental power, seeks, as part of his increased responsibility, a greater stability in the country’s political and economic life.

    This may require a more pragmatic approach with regard to relations with the US and Russia, and hence indirectly with the PYD and Assad, in order to open up space for himself in the region’s politics. Rather than clash with these international powers, including the EU, which would have significant political and economic consequences for the country, there could be a new politics that legitimises the PYD by distinguishing it from the PKK (as Trump did in his speech during Erdogan’s visit) and with some reservation recognises it as another Kurdish neighbour and partner.

    After all, a couple of years ago Salih Muslim, the leader of the PYD, visited Ankara and in 2015, when ISIS threatened to destroy the historic tomb of Suleyman Shah (the grandfather of the founder of the Ottoman Empire, Osman I), the Turkish army undertook a joint operation with the PYD’s armed forces People’s Protection Units (YPG) to save the tomb and put it under the regional control of the PYD because of its national significance.

    In this respect, any positive relations with such ‘external Kurds’ creates the possibility or necessity of another attempt at some form of conflict resolution (it would be too early to say peace) with the Kurdish armed political actor in Turkey (otherwise known as the PKK) and gives some possible hope for peace in the distant future.

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  9. Trump is a global anomaly rather than the new normal

    But, in the Republican Party, he is utterly representative: the symptom and not the disease. 

    Andrew Harrer-Pool/PA Images. All rights reserved.We have a problem. We also have an unprecedented opportunity to solve it. Recently, at the Women for Women Summit in New York City, Hillary Clinton went on the record to say that she is "part of the resistance." Though she's emphasized on several occasions that she will not be running for political office in future, her statement contains a profound promise. It comes with the backing of the vast majority of American voters: a 66 million-strong army of supporters. 

    We must first diagnose our national problem clearly. Despite what some of my friends might say, the Democrats, having run an impressive 2016 campaign and earned the second largest number of votes in US history have not "lost their way." 

    Then there's the other side. 

    Last year, I wrote that: “the Republicans are no longer a political party. They have grown into a cancer that infects the body-politic of this nation.” My statement was controversial at the time. I’d like to double down on it.

    The United States does not have two parties with major flaws. It has one party with flaws (the Democrats) and another that has provided a central platform for the lunatic fringe of the American political spectrum (the GOP). The problem lies squarely with the Republican Party.

    Whatever issues exist within the Democratic Party’s infrastructure, I can only hope that the majority of Sanders supporters, Hillary Clinton supporters, and everyone else who understands the danger of the huge incompetence that a vote for Trump brings to the Oval Office, can set aside their differences. We’re going to need all the unity we can muster for the nascent resistance.

    And this resistance cannot be one of liberals vs conservatives, left vs right, or red states vs blue. It has to embrace every American who believes we require a kind of leadership Donald Trump is unable to provide.  

    To be clear, the Democrats could deliver a “win” in 2020 – but it would most likely look like Hillary’s “win” of 2016, which saw her accruing millions of votes more than her opponent and made her the second most popular candidate in recent history, after Obama in ’08. Of course she then found herself conceding to an unpopular candidate who edged over the finish line by a margin of 70,000 votes in three electoral districts.

    I am not arguing against the Electoral College at this stage. I am concerned about a much larger issue.

    Donald Trump has found a natural home in the grotesque caricature of conservatism that has replaced the GOP.

    The Republican Party has moved to another planet, and Donald Trump, who found a natural home in the grotesque caricature of conservatism that has replaced the GOP, is a symptom of this problem, not the disease itself. 

    We need to stop clinging to any "intervention" fantasy that entails Republicans curbing Trump. We may have once thought that he was the anomaly but this is the party that has put a forward a candidate who brutally bullied a gay classmate (Mitt Romney); another who has been flirting with its lunatic fringe despite our continued hopes that he'll one day come back to his senses (McCain/Palin); and then there's the one who presented alternative facts to the United Nations in order to justify beginning a deeply costly war (George W Bush).

    To be sure, some of the ideas that Trump has articulated could easily be seen as the seeds for a perfectly respectable doctrine of governance: "we are adopting a principled realism, rooted in common values and shared interests," he said in recent speech in Riyadh. 

    But, in the spirit of realism, one is forced to confront the obvious question: how can any doctrine be developed by a president who seems to have no command of situational awareness let alone the strategic thinking that could lead to an administrative outlook? The Republican party, who for a long time served us masterclasses after masterclass on how to not run a country have now given us a president who seems to have a 30 second attention span, shows a level of corruption we've never seen on such open display in Washington, leaks classified intelligence to adversaries rather than share this information through the regular channels of the intelligence community while chairing an administration that leaks intelligence that damages the national security of our closest allies and causes them to doubt whether vital intelligence can be safely shared with the United States. I could go on but add the weekly scandals and constitutional crises to the mix and you get the idea. 

    Trump's disregard for policy and the very lowest standards of good statecraft link him to the GOP. But his character does too.

    We might have liked to believe that Trump's vicious mockery of a disabled reporter marked him out as an anomaly, the GOP's latest experiment with a "healthcare bill" should leave no doubt about their true nature: they are ready to defund vital programmes for children with disabilities. 

    Trump fits in like a glove. 

    Coming back to the 2016 election, let’s set aside well-sourced Russian involvement, even though the attacks on the US democratic system were the largest since the Cold War. Forget the daily Wikileaks dumps that came at strategic times and targeted specific states in sophisticated ways. Never mind that they exclusively targeted the Democrats. Ignore the weaponisation of a supposedly non-partisan law enforcement agency that was filled with pro-Trump advocates of the obsessive and recursive "let's investigate Hillary Clinton" variety.

    The truth is that this fight wasn't fair from the moment Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders released their tax returns to the American people. The Republicans entertained a candidate who would not abide by that basic norm. They are playing an entirely different game, and we won’t be able to prevail if we don't figure out how to compete – the next Democratic candidate will be as doomed as Hillary Clinton, Merrick Garland or the obstructed Obama Administration which endured two shutdowns of the federal government. 

    When we hear that the left must “reclaim” its ideals, let’s not forget that the Republicans did not win this election on the basis of ideals or, frankly, popular appeal.

    And forget about the “forgotten man” narrative. Hillary Clinton consistently acknowledged the plight of rural, working class voters. She wrote about them in 1969 just as she spoke about them consistently through 2016: 

    “And yes, let’s put ourselves in the shoes of Donald Trump’s supporters. We may disagree on the causes and the solutions to the challenges we face – but I believe, like anyone else, they’re trying to figure out their place in a fast-changing America. They want to know how to make a good living and how to give their kids better futures and opportunities. That’s why we’ve got to reclaim the promise of America for all our people, no matter who they vote for.” 

    When we hear that the left must “reclaim” its ideals, let’s not forget that the Republicans did not win this election on the basis of ideals or, frankly, popular appeal. 

    On top of all that, votes in places like New York and California count for a small fraction of the determining vote compared to rural (and largely red) states. Blue states are the economic drivers in our country, accumulating a GDP that’s worth twice as much as the states that went for Trump. And now we have to respond to threats to cut federal funding to sanctuary states and cities. 

    Are you starting to seethe? You're not alone. In the last month, we have been witnessing the biggest protests in US history.

    Local governments have most at stake here. We will need a coordinated effort from governors and mayors as the Trump administration continues to test the limits. If we take a page out of the foreign policy playbook, our response to the threat should be to call Trump’s bluff. Governor Jerry Brown of California would be a natural choice to mouthpiece this effort given his record and recent activity.

    We have them surrounded and outnumbered. Trump entered the White House with record low approval ratings and spends most his time in two cities that voted overwhelmingly against him. We’ve got economic leverage too. Let’s unify and call on our leaders to act like it. Let’s call their bluff by reciprocating the sanctions. “65 Million Americans Should Threaten to Not Pay Taxes” called Time Magazine – but I don’t think it’ll come to that.

    Whenever foreign leaders, Xi Jinping and Enrique Peña Nieto among them, called Trump’s bluff, it worked out for them quite nicely. The president of the United States is, as he has been throughout his life, all bluster and no substance. 

    Small wonder Trump has taken to the American political system with such enthusiasm he has found the one system that's so broken that it pays dividends to fail in it.   

    Small wonder Trump has taken to the American political system with such enthusiasm. For the first time in his long career of bankruptcies and failures, he has found the one system that's so broken that it pays dividends to fail in it.  

    As people celebrate the fact the French avoided the lunatic fringe, they should remember that in the United States, we narrowly missed the same outcome. Macron's election doesn't prove that a "tide against globalism" is receding throughout the world. It should be clear that, following bitter defeats of xenophobic/protectionist movements from Austria to the Netherlands and now France, Trump is an American embarrassment, not a global phenomenon. 

    During the campaign, Hillary Clinton threw Republican leadership a lifeline. It was a pragmatic measure. These were men she needed to work with. But pragmatism or goodwill aside, she was wrong to do so. The GOP is beyond salvation or repair. 

    It must be reiterated: the Republicans gave a platform to someone who started his campaign by calling Mexicans "rapists." The sheer cruelty of the healthcare bill that the Republicans pushed through Congress reveals a lot. Even if it dies on the Senate floor, the bill reveals a party unashamed to cruelly punish the most vulnerable.

    The GOP nominated one of their own. They stuck with him through the election and they will unify to keep his unpopular administration afloat for as long as it serves their needs.

    “This man is the nominee of the party of Lincoln,” said Hillary Clinton back in August. “We are watching it become the party of Trump. And that’s not just a huge loss for our democracy - it is a threat to it.”

    Indeed: that threat is existential. We must respond to it in creative ways. Most counter-intuitively of all, we must work to rebuild a strong conservative party in the United States. No grassroots movement, especially in the face of ancient and ossified US institutions, will likely succeed in solving our problem.

    There should be no doubt that true American conservatives, who realise the Republican Party is no longer their home, must be part of this resistance. Figures like Evan McMullan have emerged as true champions of conservative values, values which uphold the fundamental democratic ability to collaborate with those on opposing sides of the political spectrum, as well as the basic vision required to identify the incendiary currents that fall outside our spectrum entirely

    We need a Conservative party that can serve as a home to figures like McMullin and others without tainting them with the brand of social lunacy, legislative cruelty or political incompetence. What's the point of impeaching Trump if there's nothing viable to replace him? 

    The GOP has turned into something cruel and unusual. Where there once stood a strong conservative party, there is now a vacuum. We must all help to fill that void if we are to stand any chance at survival.

    If we succeed, if we realise that we must all ‘Feel the Bern’ as well as be ‘Stronger Together,’ and imagine what slogan may have captured the spirit of a normal American Republican candidate in 2016, then we may galvanise unprecedented forces, leading to greater economic justice and social equality than ever before. If we fail, we’ve had a good 240 years and that’s all we get.

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  10. Call for participants: Egypt, Middle East Forum

    يبحث موقع openDemocracy عن مشاركين لمنتدى الشرق الأوسط  في مصر.

    openDemocracy is looking for participants for the Middle East Forum for Egypt.

    The Middle East Forum is a project that encourages emerging young voices to express themselves, exchange views and be heard. The project provides participants with a series of workshops to develop writing skills, media presence, and digital security as well as a free discussion space where they have the capacity to debate constructively. Participants in the forum host speakers, acquire skills, share knowledge, and give feedback to one another.

    We are currently looking for 7 participants in Egypt to join the project. If you are interested in participating in this project and developing your journalistic skills read the information below and send in your application.

    Participants:

    We expect that each participant will have the opportunity to achieve the following benefits:

    • - Career-related experience
    • - Practical and increased practice-based knowledge of journalistic writing, debate, social media
    • - Training which enhances digital security and the handling of human rights issues
    • - Increased knowledge and experience on how to create an online journalistic presence

    Participants will be expected to:

    • - Adhere to policies, procedures, and rules governing professional behavior;
    • - maintain a punctual and reliable working relationship, abiding by the scheduled sessions and number of articles agreed to;
    • - communicate regularly with the facilitator, particularly in situations where the participant may need to adjust the terms of the working relationship (e.g., to reschedule a meeting/session);
    • - respect the opinions expressed and confidentiality of the group;
    • - take the initiative to volunteer for tasks or projects that the participant finds interesting.

    Requirements

    In addition to these general expectations, the participant will also be required to meet the following requirements during the program:

    • - Meet a minimum commitment of 12 sessions;
    • - develop a working relationship with the facilitator, such that he or she can adequately serve as a mentor;
    • - actively engage in debate, with a focus on the topics and how the discussions unfold;
    • - actively take notes during each session, to be shared amongst the group;
    • - actively engage and participate in developing an online space for debate;
    • - actively produce a minimum of one article per month, based on the discussions that take place;
    • - understand how to and actively promote your work;
    • - evaluate and monitor your own success in terms of reach;
    • - upon completion of the program, reflect upon and write about your experience during the program.

    Who can apply?

    You can apply for the position if you fall under any of the following:

    • Between the age of 21 - 30;
    • Are an aspiring journalist or blogger;
    • Possess knowledge in the specific region of the program;
    • Have an excellent command of Arabic and/or English.

    How to apply?

    • - Send in a sample piece of 1000-1500 words in Arabic or English of something that interests you - a conversation that took place that struck a chord, an observation from your surroundings, a cultural event, an interesting initiative, your point of view on the politics of the region or why you would like to take part in this program.
    • - Your resume.

    Deadline for applicaiton: June 1st.

    منتدى الشرق الأوسط هو مشروع يشجّع الأجيال الصاعدة الشابّة على التعبير عن نفسها وتبادل الآراء وإيصال صوتها. يقدّم المشروع للمشاركين سلسلة من ورش العمل لتطوير مهاراتهم في الكتابة والحضور الإعلامي والأمن الرقمي كما يوفّر المشروع فضاء للمناقشات يمنح المشاركين فرصة التحاور بطريقة بنّاءة. يستضيف المشاركون في المنتدى متحدثين ويكتسبون مهارات ويتشاركون المعلومات ويعبّرون عن رأيهم بعمل زملائهم.

    نبحث عن 7 مشتركين في مصر للانضمام إلى المشروع. إذا كنت مهتماً بالمشاركة في المشروع وبتطوير مهاراتك الصحفية، تابع القراءة وأرسل طلبك.

    المشتركون:

    سيحظى كلّ مشترك بفرصة اكتساب الأمور التالية: 

    -       خبرة مهنية

    -       معرفة عملية بالكتابة الصحفية والمناظرات ووسائل التواصل الاجتماعي

    -       تدريب يعزّز الإلمام بالأمن الرقمي والتطرّق إلى قضايا حقوق الإنسان

    -       إلمام إضافي وخبرة في كيفية تعزيز الحضور الصحفي على الإنترنت

    يُتوّقع من المشتركين:

    -       احترام السياسات والإجراءات والقواعد الملائمة للسلوك المحترف

    -       المحافظة على علاقة عمل دقيقة وموثوقة والالتزام بالجلسات المعيّنة وبعدد المقالات المتفق عليه

    -       التواصل بانتظام مع الميسّر، وتحديداً في المواقف التي يحتاج فيها المشترك إلى تعديل شروط علاقة العمل (مثلاً، تغيير موعد الحصة/الاجتماع)

    -       احترام السرية والآراء المعبّر عنها ضمن المجموعة

    -       أخذ المبادرة للتطوّع لمهمات أو مشاريع يجدها المشترك مثيرة للاهتمام

    المتطلّبات:

    بالإضافة إلى المتطلبات العامة، يجب أن يلتزم المشترك بالتالي خلال البرنامج:

    -       الالتزام بحدّ أدنى من الحصص يساوي 12حصة

    -       تطوير علاقة عمل مع الميسّر للعب دور المرشد بشكل صحيح

    -       المشاركة بالمناظرات بنشاط والتركيز على المواضيع وكيفية تبلور النقاش

    -       تدوين الملاحظات فعلياً خلال كلّ حصة وتشاركها مع المجموعة

    -       الانخراط في تطوير فضاء إلكتروني للمناظرات والمشاركة فيه

    -       كتابة مقال واحد على الأقلّ في الشهر، استناداً إلى المناقشات التي حصلت

    -       فهم كيفية تحسين عملك وتطبيق ذلك

    -       تقييم ومراقبة نجاحك استناداً إلى اتساع نطاق تأثيرك

    -       التفكير في تجربتك والكتابة عنها لدى إتمام البرنامج

    مَن المرشّحون لهذا التدريب؟

    يمكنك التقدّم بطلب إذا:

    -       كنت بين سنّ 21 و30؛

    -       كنت تطمح لتصبح صحفياً أو مدوّناً؛

    -       لديك إطّلاع واسع على المنطقة المحددة للبرنامج؛

    -       تتكلّم وتكتب العربية و/أو الإنكليزية بطلاقة.

    كيف يمكن التقدّم للتدريب؟

    أرسِل نصّاً من  1000 – 1500 كلمة باللغة الإنكليزية أو العربية عن موضوع يهمّك، مثلاً حوار أثّر فيك أو مراقبتك لمحيطك أو حدث ثقافي أو مبادرة مثيرة للاهتمام أو وجهة نظرك حول سياسات المنطقة أو سبب اهتمامك بالمشاركة في البرنامج بالاضافة الى سيرتك.

    الرجاء إرسال جميع الطلبات والمستندات المرتبطة بها إلى موقع arabawakeningteam@opendemocracy.net والموعد النهائي للتقديم هو 4 يونيو

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