“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.
How Unique Is Democracy?
Democracy currently enjoys almost unanimous consensus and is considered the only scrupulously legitimate political system. This consensus however entails a hidden danger since it presupposes that there is only one genuine form of democracy – allegedly the one developed by Western civilization. Is that true? Or is it possible to acknowledge a plurality of “cultures of democracy”, whose roots grow within diverse civilization and modernization processes?
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.
The centenary of the Armenian genocide will go down in history, if for no other reason that Pope Francis’ words will still echo powerfully over the days and years to come. Many things have been said and written about Jorge Bergoglio’s speech and there is no need to add anything. Here the issue of the genocide’s centenary starts from a different perspective, to be more specific from a location; Gallipoli.
After a hundred individuals were kept in arbitrary detention at the Karmooz Police station in Alexandria, Egypt, they began a hunger strike to bring international attention to their plight. But their last battle started in October 2014. The majority of the 74 refugees-detainees in Karmooz police station are part of a group of Syrian and Palestinian-Syrians that left from Turkey by boat on 23 October last year. They wanted to reach their family members in Europe, but they were arrested in early November 2014 by Egyptian coast guards, after becoming victims of the smuggler mafia.
Philosophical investigations in Delhi: about moral choices, intellectual honesty and political freedom
Delhi - In the weeks just before and after the new year, when the overall atmosphere of the capital was vitiated on account of the government’s attempts to override Christmas as a Christian observance and an official holiday, replacing it with a so-called “Good Governance Day” and the birth anniversaries of Madan Mohan Malaviya and Atal Bihari Vajpayee, brief visits by two eminent philosophers provided some relief. The visitors were the Bengali philosopher, Arindam Chakrabarti, who teaches at the University of Hawaii in Manoa, and the Iranian philosopher, Ramin Jahanbegloo, who teaches at York University in Canada. Both lectured at public fora, met with students and scholars, and brought to the denizens of beleaguered Delhi a much-needed reminder of the importance of philosophy as the core of humanistic intellectual inquiry and democratic dissent.
The Arab media are steering political discourse to a direction totally contradictory to the spirit of the Arab uprisings. Arabs came together, regardless of their religious and ethnic affiliation, to overthrow the dictatorships and establish democratic states where individuals are valued and respected as citizens. They wanted to put an end to the culture of subjecthood. But reality is staggering and disappointing sometimes. What we are witnessing these days is a rhetorical shift from the peaceful revolution, which is a patchwork, made of all Arab social and religious fabric, to the revival of old-fashioned confessional, religious and ethnic discords.
While Bahrain’s government concentrated last weekend exclusively on organizing the Formula 1 GP, those who for over a year have been the victims of a repression shrouded in silence, took advantage of this event to attract the world’s attention to their cause. The winds of the Arab Spring had reached Manama on February 4th 2011, when protesters decided to take to the streets demanding political reform and the departure of the Al-Khalifas, the Sunni royal family that rules the country where there is a Shiite majority. The harshest repression began on March 14th when the government allowed troops into the country sent by the Cooperation Council for the Arab States in the Gulf. One thousand soldiers sent by Saudi King Abdallah arrived in Bahrain with a specific mandate; stop the protests and save King Hamad.
It may surprise some to discover that the vice president of the Freedom and Justice party, the Muslim Brotherhood’s most important political party obliged for decades to exist underground, is a Coptic Christian. And yet it is true. Professor Rafiq Habib, an academic who has for some time been studying Islam, is a Christian who has accepted to work with the new Islamic party, believing that at this time the Freedom and Justice Party represents the main nucleus of Egyptian society. “At the moment the Muslim culture can be a way of finding shared values, capable of strengthening a society pulverised in recent decades by a regime wishing to keep people divided. Its fundamental values are shared by the majority of the Egyptian people,” explains Habib.
President Abdelaziz Bouteflika has described the elections as “a crucial bet that we have no choice but to win”, but the entire Algerian political world is looking to these May 10th elections with hope and with fear. What is at stake involves avoiding a new Arab Spring, with which there has only been a brush, for the moment, and the great risk of a low voter turnout.
Unlike the rest of the countries in the Middle East region, Morocco has been quick to pursue constitutional changes, which try to address the aspirations the Moroccans have been calling for. A small minority remains unsatisfied with these changes, a larger minority has shown contentment with some reservations, and the majority supports the changes. This tells me that the referendum scheduled for July 1st is heading toward majority support.
When I arrived at the entrance of the Barbo Palace in Tunis to meet Samir Dilou, the acting Human Rights and Justice Minister and spokesman for Hamadi Jebali’s government, the building was besieged by groups of people waiting to enter. One man said that every day he goes to the high gates of the Palace (which in the days of Ben Ali’s regime was the headquarters of the Chamber of Councillors) simply to exercise his post-revolution rights. Like all the others, this man is angry, so visibly angry that the guards have placed a table in front of the door to avoid it being knocked down, a sign that tension in Tunisia still runs high although the atmosphere is lighter in the streets of Tunis and there is a new vitality.
Saadallah Wannous is unlike any other playwright or intellectual. He is of a unique type “governed by hope.” He belongs to the brand of intellectuals who relish challenging difficulties and do not surrender despite successive defeats. The defunct invented the most beautiful shelter for anyone who tried to make change and felt overtaken by despair. This wide open, borderless space is hope.
Deputy Foreign Minister Lapo Pistelli is the Italian government’s delegate for the Middle East and in the past was a professor and OSCE representative as well as being a former member of the Italian and European parliaments’ Foreign Affairs Committees. Pistelli’s long summer started when he returned to Italy with the last flight out of Erbil before U.S. air strikes on ISIS jihadists began. There he saw first-hand Iraq’s wounded image in refugee camps, filled with those who had already abandoned everything to flee the men led by “Caliph” al-Baghdadi, and were now preparing to flee once again. Today, he believes, such an international crisis or the decision-making system in place called upon to remedy matters, are no longer issues to be addressed by desk-strategists, because when events are this harsh, a backlash can only be prevented by the United Nations’ centrality and the flexible of politics and diplomacy.
In less than one month, they have already collected more than 3 million signatures. In a moment of increasing delusion for the social, political and economic evolution of the country, Egyptian activists decided to get back to the street. This time they do not march in the usual demonstrations. They are asking commuters to fill out photocopied pieces of paper with the heading: “Rebel campaign: to withdraw trust from the Brotherhood’s regime.”
The road towards an Euro-Mediterranean political partnership is currently facing a huge credibility problem, lying on the lack of a common regional stand up regarding the Israeli-Palestinian and the Syrian crises. While governments and regional organizations are facing an impasse, what has been first conceived as a corollary of the process has actually taken the initiative: civil society, in its non-for-profit, professional and academic constituents from all over the region, recently gathered in Marseille in order to identify and discuss possible solutions for the common challenges.