Twenty years have gone by, but the Tiananmen Square Massacre is still a taboo. Andrew J. Nathan - professor of Political Science at Columbia University, one of the leading scholars of modern Chinese politics and human rights, co-editor of the book The Tiananmen Papers, a collection of the Chinese government's secret deliberations from April to June 1989 – explains what happened and the impact the event has had on Chinese politics and international relations.
Dialogue of Cultures
In Afghanistan recently approved laws abolish all the most fundamental rights given to women in recent years. Emma Bonino has yet again launched an appeal from the website of Resetdoc (a website devoted to dialogue between civilisations) asking the Afghan Parliament and President to abolish this legislation and asking everyone with human rights close to their hearts, to sign the petition with her. At this point I believe it is absolutely necessary that the appeal should also be signed by those Islamic intellectuals who in recent years expressed positions advocating the modernisation of Islam. As Muslims speaking to other Muslims one must state that Afghanistan’s return to Taliban positions in Family Law does not respect the Koran. On the contrary it violates it and is instead a reaction to the exasperation of a backward culture with which no one should any longer identify.
Abu Zaid’s condemnation of the Afghan law is extremely clear. It is of the utmost importance that texts such as these should be made known and valorised. The first problem however, consists in making heard the words of people like Abu Zayd in the countries in which the Taleban’s power is increasing, and hence also in Afghanistan. It is here that I uneasily observe the increasing responsibilities of an Islamic intellectual who more than any other manages to ensure people listen to him, and whose voice therefore has the greatest echo, Tariq Ramadan. If one cannot find the courage to speak out about what one considers right on the basis of the Koran on such subjects, then it would be best to give up being a maitre à penser.
Resetdoc actively joined in the international debate about the Afghan “Family Law for Shiites”. On our website we published the appeal and on-line petition to the Afghan government made by Emma Bonino, and this initiative did not escape the attention of Giuliano Amato, who asked why do moderate Muslims such as Nasr Hamid Abu Zayd and Tariq Ramadan remain silent. Abu Zayd has clarified his positions. Ramadan has not yet responded, but he will do it at the next Resetdoc Istanbul Seminars.
How do the next presidential elections in Iran appear to be shaping-up? Who are the candidates, what are the expectations? And what are the main themes for political change in the Islamic Republic, which has been at the centre of attraction in recent years due to issues involving nuclear power and human rights. We discuss all this with Farian Sabahi, a journalist and a professor of the History of Islamic Countries at Turin University, as well as of Islam and Democracy for the Human Rights and Genocide Studies Masters Course in Siena. Her books include ‘A History of Iran’ (Bruno Mondadori 2009) and ‘A Summer in Teheran’ (Laterza 2007).
“The Obama administration’s opening to Teheran is already producing results.” Gary G. Sick, senior research scholar at Columbia University’s School of International and Public Affairs in New York, sounds quite optimistic on the future of Iran-U.S. relations. Sick – who served on the staff of the National Security Council under Presidents Ford, Carter, and Reagan, and was the principal White House aide for Persian Gulf during the Iranian Revolution and the hostage crisis – notes that “The White House, without really making any tangible offer to Iran, has inspired a very healthy discussion in the Iranian presidential campaign about what kind of relations the country should have with the U.S. and the West.”
“This general election is an event that deserves to be celebrated not only in India but all over the world.” The famous Indian historian Ramachandra Guha celebrates the largest democracy in the world, which will be voting for a new Parliament until May 13th. Guha, the author of “India after Gandhi” and a columnist for various newspapers, observes, however, that Indian politics are still influenced by two evils: misgovernment and the imbalance between regional and national interests. In this interview, among other things, he explains the weaknesses of the two great national political parties, the Congress Party and the BJP.
In the former Soviet republic of Azerbaijan a referendum (March 18) lifted term limits on the presidency granting approval to President Ilham Aliyev to serve as many times as he wishes after his second term finishes in 2013. To the surprise of democracy optimists, the breakup of Communist rule saw the emergence of authoritarian or semi-authoritarian regimes. These regimes have all adopted Western-style institutional and legal setups but the state was typically exploited for private gain.
Israel has lost its political vision and military might without a clear political sense dominating its actions. Military power, freed from subordination to political goals, is blind and brutal. No one in the Israeli leadership has a political vision. Many who advocate a two-state solution also know that their future relations with a Palestinian state would be less like those between Italy and Austria than like those between Tibet and China. But suppose there were a confederation in Israel-Palestine. This confederation could become the kernel of a Middle Eastern Union of Peoples, in which Turkey, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Jordan and many other states would conjoin together much along the model of the European Union.
For the tired and disenchanted Arab and Muslim world, exasperated by a long history of humiliations and defeats now strengthened by the war in Gaza, the interview President Obama released to al-Arabiya is more than a breath of fresh air: it's a sign of change and political turnover, something we weren't ready to expect from the United States. The cultural shift couldn't be more sharper. It has evident symbolical issues: Obama chose an Arab network for his first international interview, knowing that its impact would have been global. It was something new even on the linguistic side: “We are going to use the language of respect” is something that Arab and Muslims are not used to hear from the United States.
No surprises, nothing at stake, even less a competition, as formal as they may be, the presidential election to be held on April 9th in Algeria will simply be a formality for continuity. Nothing will prevent the president in power, Mr. Abdelaziz Bouteflika, running as an “independent candidate” from succeeding himself to hold his third mandate as Head of State. How did this come about?! And why has change been discarded as an option?
“Peace has never been completely restored, one cannot however deny that we are no longer experiencing the dark days of the Nineties. As far modernisation of the economy is concerned, I believe that the objective has also not been achieved.” Benjamin Stora, Professor of History at the INALCO in Paris and a great expert on the history of the Maghreb, takes stock of contemporary Algeria. He is the author of numerous essays on the war in Algeria, among them Histoire de la guerre d'Algérie. An interview by Marco Cesario.