Armed conflicts, civilians debased by both terrorist groups and dictatorial governments, a worrying repression of dissent and waves of populism and racism experiencing a staggering rise, are in the words of Gianni Ruffini, director of Amnesty International Italia, an indication that the world is moving backwards as far as human rights are concerned.
In October 2015, the Law and Justice Party (PiS), the reference party for Polish conservativism, returned to power obtaining an absolute majority of seats and putting an end to a series of centrist-liberal governments (PO-Civic Platform). As of 2007, this party’s most important representative has been Donald Tusk, former prime minister and current president of the European Council.
In the mid-1970s democracy seemed to have fallen to an all-time low. In Latin America, two of the most successful democratic stories, Uruguay and Chile, were violently overthrown by military coups in 1973, while only two years later Indira Gandhi declared a state of emergency in India, cancelling a general election and eliminating the most basic civil freedoms.
“Political science must be relevant, it does not involve studying butterflies.” Attempting to discover the theory of reality is what the Florentine political analyst Giovanni Sartori, who died on April 1st at the age of almost 93, had tried to do for his entire life. This amusing comment was made by Gianfranco Pasquino, a political scientist, a former senator.
If we want to understand what is going on today in France, we need to start by saying something about the global geopolitical trend, of which France is obviously part. If a single phrase could summarize the global geopolitical trend, we should say that we are witnessing an era of shift of power: in the last four decades, the geopolitical axis of the world has been shifting from the “developed countries” toward the “developing countries”.
In all countries, established political parties have the dangerous propensity to counter this electoral wave of populism by adopting the issues and language used by them. Political scientists have long believed that when a country succeeds in achieving a democratic transition, creating stable institutions and accomplishing a certain level of wealth, it has a rather low risk of an authoritarian backlash.
Alireza was in Kabul when he received his father’s call urging him to leave the country. A letter signed by the Taliban requested the immediate closure of the English institute that Alireza was directing in Ghazni. After having received a second letter including death threats, Alireza understood he and his family had no chance but to flee the country. The father sold his bakery and the house and paid a smuggler 32.000 dollars to get Alireza, his wife and his two other children out of Afghanistan.
The latest of a raft of measures adopted by US President Donald Trump only a few days after he was sworn into office, the executive order on immigration has sparked heavy criticism in the country and around the world. The measure is intended primarily to suspend the national refugee system temporarily, and the Syrian refugees programme indefinitely, and to deny entry to the US to individuals from seven named, majority-Muslim countries (Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, Yemen) for 90 days.
The rise of illiberal trends
From India to Russia, the world is experiencing a new rise of illiberal trends and the return of strongmen. Reset DOC
South Sudanese soldiers allowed to rape women in lieu of wages and an UN Security Council resolution that calls for the repatriation of peacekeeping units whose troops face allegations of sexual abuse. These are the most recent (almost uncovered) news that give evidence of the widespread and systemic sexual exploitation and abuse that occurs not only during conflicts, but also in conflict resolution operations. Atrocities that a group of women from all over the world are trying to fight, increasing female role in the field of international security. A group of women who can now count on the Italian branch, just launched in the Italian Senate by Lia Quartapelle, a Democratic Party young MP, and Irene Fellin, a very active gender expert, Executive Director of Women in International Security (WIIS). «While living in the States working on gender, I was fascinated by WIIS activity and I found my mission: come back home to create the Italian branch» said Irene.
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.
In Iran the time has come to call voters to the polls. “Even an influential minority will make the difference in the next parliament,” said reformist candidate Mohammad-Reza Aref only a few days ago addressing a crowded assembly of young supporters of the National Determination Party (as reported by the Financial Times’ correspondent). Similar appeals have been made by President Hassan Rouhani.
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.
This piece reflects on reputed Italian TV programmes and how they tackle issues of terrorism, Islam and Muslims. Reference will especially be made to these particular programmes and dates, though they do not differ from what I have seen from them for the last six years or so of my stay (studies and work) in this country: Porta a Porta (14/11/2015), Virus and Virus Speciale Parigi (15/11/15; 18/11/15), Ballarò (18/11/15; 24/11/15), Linea Notte TG3 (20/11/15), L’Arena (22/11/15). Among these, Ballarò - and mildly so also Porta a Porta of Bruno Vespa – seems to have discussed the Paris tragedy in the fairest manners, presented by Massimo Giannini who holds the tone of a journalist that tries to present and understand, instead of the tone of provocation and suspicion that Virus and L’Arena have shown on this particular topic. However reputed the list of these programmes may be, and however many fair observers agree with these reflections and findings, one has to underline the fact that this is not a systematic study of all mainstream Italian media. Still, broadly, the mainstream presentation of the issue is simply very negative, biased, dis-informed, and lacks professionalism. The Italian mainstream media is not open, and it entertains itself with the little it knows and does. This makes it fall into prejudices, un-ethical statements, and lack of professionalism with regards to Islam and Muslims whose contribution to society dynamics remains invisible and whose values remain stigmatized, misrepresented and othered.
The migratory flow from the south towards Europe was “scientifically” announced at least 25 years ago. Faced with problems concerning immigrants between Great Britain and France, between France and Italy, faced with walls and railway stations under siege in Hungary, Germany’s Chancellor Angela Merkel has reproposed the European Union as an “community based on law” with the laws of individual states subordinated to the common interest and principles of openness and immigration policies.
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.
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.
Poland is a country with a traditionally confrontational public debate. As a result, many messages are formulated in a particularly expressive way, especially when compared with the relatively peaceful political process. But in the last 18 months one could observe a process of radicalization of Polish public debate, as well as shifting the borders of what is permissible in public pronouncements.
Last week in Turkey will be remembered for a long time in the country’s recent history. Late on Sunday, September 6th, news of clashes came from the border, obliging Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu to leave immediately for Ankara to chair a special national security summit. That same evening, Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, appearing on CNN, commented on the news arriving from the south-east, saying, “If one party had obtained 400 MPs and reformed the constitution, we would not be in this situation.” As president of the republic, and thus an impartial figure, Erdogan did not mention which party, but he certainly was not referring to the pro-Kurdish HDP, which he considers the political wing of the PKK, which “with the HDP now represented in parliament, has become stronger and is now attacking.” Turkey would only hear about the 16 soldiers killed in Daglica, on the Iraqi border, following an attack by the PKK, the next afternoon.
At the end of a divisive, toxic and often deceptive campaign, UK voters chose to leave the European Union on June 23rd. The economic fallout from Brexit is already apparent, with the pound going through the floor and credit ratings agencies engaging in rather gloomy forecasts for the British economy. What happens next politically is everybody’s guess.
The result of the elections in Turkey was surprising for two main reasons, the downturn experienced by the governing Justice and Development Party – Erdoğan’s AKP – and the pro-Kurdish HDP’s arrival in parliament, also representing in a broader manner the Turkish democratic and pluralist left. The challenge was not an easy one due to the enormous disproportion of resources and the very loud and violent tone of the electoral campaign. Furthermore, there was the 10% threshold established following the 1980 coup d’état, which for decades altered real representation in parliament.
I can still remember that Saturday, October 12th 2013. We were preparing to open our workshop on “Civil Society’s Role in the Success of National Dialogue” when, all of a sudden, a group of police officers came into the room and searched it thoroughly. We learned later that they had been warned about the presence of a suspicious object. Having started later than scheduled, the workshop was still in the middle of its opening session when a militia group invaded the conference hall to disrupt our work, incessantly chanting slogans against dialogue. We had invited the representatives of all the most important political parties, but the Nida Tounes (Call for Tunisia) representative had been prevented from entering.
A new tessera seems to have recently been added to the intricate Middle Eastern puzzle; that of the Yazidis (or Yezidis) fighting Islamic extremism and often mentioned by the press, especially since August 2014, when, while facing Kurdish anti-ISIS resistance in Kobane, the "Stalingrad of the Middle East”, the so-called “Islamic State” started to seriously persecute the Yazidis. IS did this with an emblematic event, trapping about 30,000 Yazidis on the Sinjar mountains (an area in northern Iraq about 50 km from the Syrian border and close to Iraqi Kurdistan). This was followed by airlifts to release them organised by the United States, Australia and France. But who are the Yazidis, and what is their position on the religious geopolitical chessboard that stretches from the Caucasus to the Mediterranean?
The official motto of the Unites States of America, now engraved on all its coins, states “In God we trust”. Many have added the words “all others pay cash” to cash registers in many shops in the suburbs and in many large American cities. That God, in His three variations and identities, is dominant in a forever quarrelled-over Jerusalem. There are few, however, who trust in Him or think He might be helpful in resolving a territorial conflict that has become increasingly being dragged out or linked to religious motivations. The September 13th clashes (on the eve of the Jewish new year, Rosh Hashanah) at the Al Aqsa mosque complex, and those in the days that followed, are a sign of rising disquiet and opposing strategies that in truth contain little that is truly religious.