The October 23rd election in Tunisia has all the characteristics of a historic event, further heightened by a sense of national pride and mixed with the awareness of a watching world. Tunisians speak freely with the hundreds of journalists gathered here to bear witness to the first free elections in 23 years in the country where the Arab Spring began.
Freedom and Democracy
Relations between Coptic Christians and Muslims in Egypt deteriorated during the 1970s due to the converging of two opposing tendencies, with on the one hand the development of radical or extremist Islamism, which from a Muslim perspective exasperated the differentiation and contrast between believers and non-believers. On the other hand, it is however inappropriate to pose the problem of recent sectarian clashes between opposing religious factions, from the December 31st 2010 attack in Alexandria to the more recent clashes between Coptic Christians and the police, in terms of the Muslim majority’s lack of respect for the Coptic minority’s religious freedom.
Are we seeing a revival of hostilities between Muslims and Christians in Egypt? It is true that tensions between the two religions have deteriorated recently, but this does not appear to be the reason for what took place. In fact, it was not an interdenominational clash but rather a deliberate provocation at a peaceful protest held by Coptic Christians who were then brutally assassinated by army units.
All the major events in people’s histories, if not the whole of humanity, drew a lot of their vocabulary and seminal expressions from the works of writers and intellectuals. The reverse has also happened, political repression, torture, and all forms injustice inflicted on people, have been a source of inspiration for great literary works and a passage obligé to understand turning points in people’s histories. Since the Arab world is on the fire of revolution, from the coast to the Gulf, the problematic of literature and revolution imposes itself at different and complicated levels.
One television station has transformed the Middle East over the last decade. There has been nothing like this in history. What is remarkable is not just its causal role in laying the ground over many years of what we have seen is a prodigious mobilization but of doing this by creating what are perhaps best called the cognitive conditions that make possible such changes through mobilizations.
Imposing the State to be neutral about religion doesn’t take a position on religion but at the same time it does not necessarily say religion has nothing to do in the public space: I believe religion has a public role, we cannot really exclude it from politics. I simply make a distinction between State and politics: religion and State are to be separate, but religion and politics can’t and shouldn’t be separated. Believers will act politically as believers, and we have to confront with the paradox to keep State and religion separated in a reality where religion and politics are interconnected.
Ten years have passed since the beginning of Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan. Reintegration and reconciliation, regionalization, security and the battle against drug trafficking are all issues still far from being resolved. At the same time, preparations are taking place for what is described as the country’s “afghanization,” with Afghanistan being returned to the Afghans. One deadline, 2014, has been established, but this is not, after all, that far off, and for now there are those, such as Malalai Joya, a former member of the Afghan parliament forced to resign after reporting the presence of new War Lords and characters linked to the Taliban inside Afghan institutions, who believe that, “after a decade, Afghanistan is still the most unstable, most corrupt and most war-torn country in the world.”
Ennahda. It translates as the reawakening or the rebirth in English. And it is the word upon which the future of the new Tunisia could rest, as it searches for its way after January’s revolution. Ennahda is also the name of the party most likely to have success in the October 23rd elections for the Constituent Assembly. Outlawed until last March, the Mouvement de la tendance islamique, as it was called until 1989, has returned to the political stage in grand style and is based in the financial district of Montplaisir in Tunis.
There are over a hundred political parties in Tunisia, a clear contrast to Ben Ali’s single-party rule. There will be 105 political parties in Tunisia’s general election on October 23rd and 1,742 electoral lists of which there are about 1,600 in Tunisia and slightly over a hundred for Tunisians overseas. Slightly more than half, 845, were deposited by real parties and 678 by independent groups or minor and less well-organized formations. All this for 3.8 million potential voters, those who regularly register at the polling stations and who will vote in the 27 voting precincts, added to this are six overseas constituencies.
During his visit to Cairo, Erdoğan calmly repeated what he thought about democracy, pluralism of faiths and Islam. “I am a non-secular Muslim,” he said, “but I am the prime minister of a secular state and I say, ‘I hope there will be a secular state in Egypt.’ One must not be afraid of secularism. Egypt will grow in democracy and those called upon to draw up the constitution must understand it must respect all religions, while also keep themselves equidistant from the followers of all religions so that people can live in security.”
TURKEY – What consequences will there be for the country’s political and social situation following the resignation of Turkey’s chief of staff and highest-ranking military officers? According to Soli Özel, a political analyst and professor of international relations at the Bilgi University and Kadir Has University in Istanbul, these resignations are the culmination of a demilitarization process in Turkish politics that has lasted for almost ten years. Erdoğan’s Justice and Development Party seems to have managed to overturn – to the advantage of civilian authorities – the previously unshakable power of the Turkish military in politics, mostly in the name of defending secularism. Even when faced with the Arab Spring and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the Turkish government has assumed advantageous positions, even recently defending state secularism. Soli Özel analyzes the new Turkey and its international relations, from Syria to Libya to the United States, identifying Turkey's strategies and objectives as it furthers its new and already decisive political global role.Soli Özel was interviewed in Rome on September 12th, 2011.Watch the video-interview here (short version)
Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan’s visit to Tunisia, Egypt and Libya, the countries most affected by the Arab Spring, shows Turkey is closely involving itself in the changing power balance in North Africa and the Middle East. The model the Turkish leader is presenting to states in transition is that of a secular government in a country with an overwhelming Muslim majority, where Islam and democracy are not mutually exclusive. The goal is to show that Turkey is a credible example to emulate, even if the price is the realignment of the “good neighbour” foreign policy, which has already deteriorated with the Syrian crisis.