The predominant majority of Iraqis identify themselves primarily as Iraqi nationals. However, it is the disagreement over what ‘Iraq-ness’ means that has perpetuated the internal conflict, and prevented Iraqis from defining their political community in an inclusive and pluralistic way. The country has been deeply affected by the lack of an inclusive national narrative and effective political system, and the ‘democratic’ system that emerged in post-Saddam Iraq did not improve the situation.
Freedom and Democracy
The June 1st elections held in Egypt for partially renewing the Shura Council (parliament’s Upper House) marked the beginning of an electoral process that will end with the 2011 presidential elections, which may result in the appointment of a successor to Hosni Mubarak, in power since 1981. The homecoming of the former IAEA secretary and Egyptian diplomat Mohamed El Baradei, who many believe will be the next president, the doubts concerning the elderly Mubarak’s re-election (this would be his sixth consecutive term), and the recent campaign of arrests against the main opposition group, the Islamic Muslim Brotherhood movement, are fuelling many questions about the future stability of this, the most highly populated Arab country. We discuss the matter with the Italian historian and journalist Paola Caridi – author of Hamas. Che cosa è e cosa vuole il movimento radicale palestinese published by Feltrinelli – who for years has followed the evolution of the situation from nearby Jerusalem.
The challenges posed by globalisation, the AKP’s foreign policy, the Kurds and the Armenians. The 2010 Istanbul Seminars ended with a debate on Turkey, a country that in the immediate future will be called upon to face increasingly difficult challenges, not least that of the tricky process of joining the Club of 27. There are still a number of problems to be solved. There is Northern Cyprus, the Armenian and Kurdish issues, but also the completion of modernisation plans to prevent Turkey from drifting towards radical nationalism and religious extremism.
The fragility of the agreements signed is there for everyone to see and contradicts President Al Bashir’s triumphant statements, when, speaking on State television and to the international press, he declared that the civil war in Darfur was “over.” Not all the players in the Sudanese political scenario wish for reconciliation. On the contrary, there have been violent clashes between government troops and the rebels of the Sudan Liberation Army (SLA/SLM), a group that has not signed the truce.
A large green circle held by a human-shaped tree trunk with arms extending like branches laden with leaves and inside the circle the words “Gezi Partisi” is the symbol of the new Turkish political party. It was inspired by the June protests held in the name of individual and collective freedom, opposing the government’s authoritarianism and its economic policies, which caused Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan to quake.
BEIRUT - Every morning I grab a ‘service’ (a Lebanese shared taxi) to go to work at the ‘Cola bridge’ (Jisr Cola near one of the the two city’s bus stations, Cola Station), a mainly Sunni neighbourhood. A few weeks ago the bridge was ‘empty’. You could see and hear cars and noise, chaotic as Beirut is everyday with its pedestrians and urban bustle. Now, more and more Syrian refugees have settled beneath this bridge. Entire families – you can see their children playing early in the morning while their parents try to fix breakfast as best they can.
The Arab Spring, astonishing and admirable, has been dogged from the start by often unrealistic expectations, a growing and deep confusion about the conditions that enable democracy, and a persistent lack of patience not only by participants but by busybody onlookers trying to jumpstart other people's freedom march. The spirit of the original uprisings was rooted in compelling historical necessity and powerful moral conviction. But history is not always predictable and morals a less than sufficient guide for politics.
CAIRO - The army is back. Maybe not in politics and in the street, but at least on the screen. In a statement read out on state television on Monday night, the Egyptian Armed Forces gave Islamist president Mohammed Morsi 48 hours to respond to the wave of mass protest demanding his ouster. “If the demands of the people are not met in this period – the army – will announce a future roadmap and measures to oversee its implementation” the statement said.
Today, two years after the beginning of the “Arab spring”, the region is torn apart by a series of conflicting forces, which go much beyond those who toppled the then current regimes, first in Tunisia, then in Egypt. The clashes witnessed first along Avenue Bourghiba, then in Tahrir Square at the beginning of 2011 pitted authoritarian and largely secular regimes against a protest movement, largely composed of young educated people, who demanded freedom, dignity, justice and, by implication, a measure of democracy. The impression one could receive was that a new generation was in the making that - while not yet a majority in the respective societies - was an indication of their progressive transformation along more modern and open lines, in part thanks to the Internet and the social networks.
Doha – In Qatar the world’s wealthiest citizens live alongside those now considered to be among the most exploited in the world. The emirate has the world’s highest per capita GDP of over $100,000 according to the International Monetary Fund (IMF), thanks to the 77 million tons of LNG (liquefied natural gas) the country produces every year from the world’s largest reserves of natural gas. According to data in the 2013 Report on Wealth in the Middle East published by the Qatar Financial Center Authority in cooperation with Campden Wealth, there are over 4,000 millionaires in Qatar, out of a local population of about 300,000 Qataris and 290 so-called “ultra-rich” citizens with assets worth more than $30,000,000.
On March 18 a symbolic funeral march was staged in front of Turkey's historic left-wing newspaper, the Milliyet, for the silent “death” of one of its most honorable authors. Hasan Cemal, 69 years, “dies” as a provocative columnist after having defended the disclosure of the minutes from a meeting between the representatives of the Kurdish Peace and Democracy Party (BDP) and PKK's leader Abdullah Öcalan. The leaked record helped the nationalist front to criticize the government's negotiation with the Kurdish leader. “If this is journalism, down with it!” cried Prime Minister Erdoğan, and the writer was suddenly suspended.
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.”