The Iranian monthly magazine Zanan-e Emruz (“Today’s Women”) had barely reached its tenth issue when it was forced to stop publication following a ruling by the Tehran courts’ Office of Press Control. The announcement was made in April and the news itself is nothing new; over the past fifteen years dozens of newspapers have had authorisations issued and then revoked on the basis of changing internal political events. In the past two years, following the election of President Hasan Rouhani, the social and political atmosphere has certainly changed drastically. Books once censored are now given an imprimatur, banned films have returned to theatres and new newspapers are published. Censorship, however, has not disappeared although the ‘red lines’, the boundaries of what is permissible, have been moved.
Surveil, Arrest, Dominate
The Waning of Egypt's Public Sphere
The Waning of Egypt's Public Sphere
The popular uprising against Hosni Mubarak’s regime opened the Egyptian public sphere up to various groups and movements, but the military intervention in July 2013 has allowed the government to take a number of measures aiming at regaining state control over the public sphere. Reset-DoC’s new articles offer an in-depth analysis of this ongoing process and its actors: four years after Tahrir, digital mass-surveillance, renewed pressure on civil society and on the media, as well as the “Egyptianization” of the war on terror, are rapidly restricting the country’s public space and threatening human rights.
Since the 2011 Arab uprisings gave way to the dreadful combination of civil war and terrorism that has spread from Syria to Libya and Yemen, analysts and political actors from both the Arab world and West have felt an acute need for at least one success story in the region. Tunisia has provided such a tale—despite suffering two lethal terror attacks on its soil so far in 2015, the second being the killing of 38 tourists at a seaside resort in Sousse on June 26. But the reenactment of the emergency law in what is supposed to be a post-transition period, and under a government whose dominant party, NT, based its entire election campaign on “national security,” comes across as both an admission of failure and a threat to hard-won civil liberties. Depending on how it is used, the law may even endanger democracy and pluralism in Tunisia.
From 2004 onwards, with the EU moving eastward, anti-foreigner attitudes reappeared. The beliefs in Polish plumbers invading western regions, Bulgarian workers “stealing” jobs, and Rumanians (allegedly) promoting illegal activities became widespread in some European societies. This mirrors what happened in the past century, including in 1903 when a royal commission report on the so-called “alien immigration” to the UK discussed Central and Eastern European immigration (at the time mostly of Jews), and, to try to ban it, used words which sound very familiar to us: overcrowding, lack of jobs, and shortage of housing. These nationalist anti-immigrant tendencies resurface quite frequently in European history. The difference is how we approach them and how one frames public debates.
On the afternoon of June 29th, while Turkey’s Supreme Military Council held a meeting presided over by the President of the Republic, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Turkish tanks deployed to the border with Oncupinar and Cilevgozu. The border’s airspace was constantly monitored and the army also placed on high alert. Just two days later the contingent on the border received reinforcements, significantly increasing the number of units. Two different army brigades were deployed to Urfa and Gaziantep, with air support taking off from Diyarbakir.
What remains of the sovereignty of the people in next Sunday’s referendum in Greece? Something of course remains, something important. We are, however, far from what those words meant when nation-states defined with certainty the future of their political, economic, military and legal order. The Greeks will announce an apparently clear nai or oxi, a “yes” or a un “no”, addressed, however, at very different national, European and international orders of “sovereignty.”
On June 17th the Hungarian government decided to close its border with Serbia, securing it with metal fencing all along its 175 kilometres. Controversy is rampant. The Serbian government is outraged, with the press reporting on yet another wall in the European fortress. Associations active in the field of migrants’ human rights have, euphemistically speaking, expressed perplexity. According to the Hungarian government, closing the border will stop the flow of migrants that has affected the country in recent months. They almost all transit through Serbia, a fundamental part of the “Balkan route.” Migrants also travel to Europe by land. Frontex, the European agency responsible for monitoring and controlling borders, has reported that, in the first six months of 2015, the same number of people have arrived in Europe from the two Mediterranean routes (one leading to Sicily and the other to Greece) and from the Balkans, amounting to 50,000 migrants.
A moment of sharing and gathering, a vehicle for traditions and a means of communication, food signifies far more than simply providing the body with the energy is requires to work. Food is also a religious symbol; it nourishes the soul and sharing it at the table is a moment of conviviality and intimacy with others. But what happens when we dine with someone only eating halal food? And what attitude should the authorities assume regarding school cafeterias when faced with families refusing to eat pork? And what answer should the state provide to those demanding to know how an animal was butchered before its meat is sold in supermarkets? - Read the special focus
The resounding success of the People’s Democratic Party (HDP) in Turkey’s recent election has raised hope for the pro-Kurdish movement in the country. While the HDP took 13% of the vote, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s Justice and Development Party (AKP) lost its majority, holding onto just 258 of the 276 seats it needed to secure another term of one-party governance. It has been suggested that the reversed fortunes of the AKP are largely a result of Erdoğan’s plan to take power further away from the parliament and bolster his own position if his party won.
On the streets of Istanbul, it seems a typically democratic election season, with multicolored flags and posters of more than 6 parties, each hoping to pass a 10% -of-the-vote hurdle to obtain seats in the National Assembly. But when Turks go to the polls this Sunday, they will either accelerate or put the brakes on their 93-year old republic’s departure from its founder Kemal Ataturk’s vision of the secular, democratic, Western-facing polity toward a more authoritarian, neo-Ottoman regime that President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his ruling Justice and Development Party (AK-Parti) have been engineering ambitiously for several years. This election is as fateful as the Gezi Park demonstrations that first alerted millions of Turks and roiled much of the rest of the country.
Tehran - One front page headline reads “Delegation of U.S. oil companies to visit Tehran.” Others instead announced that “Trade delegations follow one another.” There have even been headlines stating “Crowds of foreign investors prepare to invade Iran,” with English-language Iranian newspapers not holding back in their use of superlatives and one column saying that Iran is the “last frontier” for international investors. Expectations are high, extremely high.
When reading the Russian press one can deduct that patriotism has become a fundamental key for understanding the Russian Federation’s foreign policy. It is interesting to study the different analyses of this phenomenon, from the most conservative to those most critical of the regime. What does Russian patriotism consist of? According to Andrej Il’nitskij – a political analyst and a member of Putin’s “United Russia” party - there is now a “democratic patriotism” in Russia. It is a peculiar ideology that starts with a negation of what the country is not – neither a fascist government like Kiev’s nor plutocratic liberalism following the Western model – and protects the state’s traditional values. Russian patriotism is “democratic” – since it is supported by the majority of the country, but also “creative” because it is free from the impediments typical of the liberal ideology. Its pillars are the educational system, the army, the media and the Russian intelligentsia.
Seventy years have gone by since the end of World War II and, since this marks another decade, in Moscow the commemorations will be grand. Fifteen thousand soldiers will march in the usual military parade in Red Square on May 9th, the day on which Russians commemorate victory in the “Great Patriotic War.” The ground of this great Muscovite square will not only reverberate to the sound of marching boots, but also to the passing artillery pieces, armoured vehicles, missiles and tanks, including the T-14 Armata Tank. This is a new and very modern tank that will be officially presented on May 9th. For the moment no photographs of the tank are in circulation, with the exception of one published on the Russian Defence Ministry’s website. The turret is not visible in this photograph and this has increased expectations regarding this display of grandeur. It is a shame that the most important Western leaders will not see it in real life as they are not travelling to Moscow. Turbulent times added to the great Ukrainian crisis have discouraged visits.
As the people of Israel were honoring the victims of the Holocaust (April 16) and in the rest of the world people were remembering the day in which the gates of Auschwitz were opened, Israel’s Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman chose to offend memory and narrative for mere political reasons. He, as other Israeli leaders including Yair Lapid of the centrist party Yesh Atid (“There is a future”) criticized the request by 16 European Union foreign ministers to label Israeli products made beyond the 1949 armistice line as “Made in the West Bank.” A legitimate attack (from the point of those that sustain the ongoing process of colonization of the Palestinian territories) if not for the idea offered by the man responsible for the foreign policy of that country.
“Prime Minister Erdoğan’s statement of condolence to the Armenians was a milestone in Turkey’s history.” This was the first sentence of my column in daily Hürriyet on April 26 last year. The then Prime Minister Erdoğan had made an unprecedented move in Turkish history by issuing an official statement offering condolences to Armenians on April 24, the 99th anniversary of the Armenian massacres. This year, however, April 24 arrives in Turkey in a totally different atmosphere. The declaration of Pope Francis last Sunday that “the Armenian Genocide is the first genocide of the 20th century” and the resolution adopted by the European Parliament last week urging Turkey to recognize the genocide have rekindled the longstanding genocide debate in the country.
The historic political framework agreement reached by Iran and the world powers last April 2 in Lausanne, Switzerland, on Tehran's nuclear program has the potential of changing the entire landscape in the Middle East and beyond. Iran and the group called 5+1 (the permanent members of the UN Security Council plus Germany) have indeed found a formula that would reassure the international community on the peaceful nature of the Iranian nuclear program, while terminating all unilateral and multilateral economic sanctions imposed on Tehran. If they succeed in developing a comprehensive deal by the end of June, as it is expected, it will certainly mark a major geopolitical shift, as it will probably open the way for cooperation between Iran and the United States well beyond the nuclear file, on other areas of common interest.