Turkey – Clarity Amidst Confusion


erdogan-turkey-coup.JPG

It is really hard to get a grip of what is really happening in Turkey.

Media outlets are misleading as usual.

Political interests are at stake and biases are rampant.

It appears Erdogan has retaken power, resisted the coup, and is now in the process of an apparent legal prosecution against all involved.

This is where things are getting murky.

Erdogan hasn’t played the most loyal role as president, often shifting back and forth between extreme left and right politics. This inconsistency is symbolic of Turkey’s state of volatility and instability in the past two decades.

There is much that modern media consumers do not know about international politics. Turkey has endured nearly five coup d’etats in its history. This is the 6th.

What people don’t understand is that democracy can be bought, financially or ideologically, or both. That does not mean that democracy is bad, but that it can be easily infiltrated and exploited to destabilize and cause disorder.

There are many narratives.

Which one is actually feasible and most likely?

Remember that America is the world’s sole superpower, and that it dictates most of what happens internationally. This coup might have been instigated by the US as a result of Erdogan’s policies particularly towards Syria. Anytime a leader of a non-western country becomes influential, he is a perceived threat to the US, even if he has for the most part fallen in line with their demands. Remember Saddam Hussein was initially an American ally against radicalism. But why would America see Erdogan as a threat if he has been, for the most part, enabling the NATO agenda of supplying the Syrian insurgency?

There is a vast difference between rhetoric and reality.

America is playing the game of destabilization once again, but did Erdogan’s team just resist? The irony is that just weeks ago Erdogan had reversed foreign policy and initiated a rapprochement with Russia and Israel, a huge statement to the international community.

When Erdogan first became president he was hailed as the new face of Islamic dignity. At least, that was my interpretation.

He defied Israel with the Gaza flotilla. He embarrassed Simon Perez live on television in the name of Palestinian rights. He bolstered Turkey as a democratic, modern, Islamic nation. He further secured Turkey’s potential integration into the E.U.

What went wrong?

The Syrian conflict created a disaster. A refugee crisis, increased security threat, ideological fundamentalism & terrorism. Providing weaponry to the insurgency and mobility intensified the ripple effects.

Meanwhile, Erdogan was becoming increasingly authoritarian domestically, contrary to his democratic foundations. Aside from the right-wing populist rhetoric, Erdogan began initiating limits on women’s rights & press freedom, two bedrocks of democracy, but perhaps more importantly, two bedrocks of Turkish cultural history.

Naivety cannot be afforded in politics, and perhaps Erdogan was naive to Western interests. Neither democracy nor stability are the West’s priorities, but rather control.

That is why it must be understood that democracy or not, no country can be truly free or stable without respecting its sovereignty.

At this point, we may never know the actual perpetrators, and we will be confused by political rhetoric and unsubstantial media coverage.

What we can know is that even democracies have the potential to violate rights.

There are several possible outcomes depending on who is responsible. I believe Erdogan’s Turkey possesses the power to make serious challenges to Western assertiveness in the region. So far he has expressed willingness to cooperate, up until the recent rapprochement with Russia and Israel.

The most crucial variable in this “coup d’etat attempt” is the “Syrian Crisis”.

Turkey is headed in the opposite direction of NATO.

I think this Turkish crisis gives us the perfect opportunity to address a commonly oversimplified term: “democracy”.

We tend to view things as “democratic or not”, when in reality, democracy is a measure itself, of the ability of a nation to uphold certain principles. Since those principles are hotly debated, it becomes difficult to categorize things as “democratic or not”.

This Turkish crisis is symbolic of the fact that there is a real tension over the definition of “democracy”. Oversimplified understandings will highlight obvious components of democracy like free speech, free elections, term limits – but what about social liberalism, like the freedom of social expression, or, on the other hand, political stability and human security. From this perspective, if we look at the world’s countries, we must gauge the overall relationship between leader and people. This relationship shows how “democratic” a country is. It cannot be understood as solely popular support, because in some cases, more than not, populism leads to immoral decisions, domestically and internationally, like “Brexit” in the UK or the rise of Donald Trump in the US. We cannot accept

Some kings are good. Some are bad.

Some elected officials are good. Some are bad.

The problem is that, elections were largely seen as a check on absolute power.

But what if a democrat becomes an autocrat through authoritarian policies and populist appeals?

What is this begins to compromise democratic ideals themselves? Do executive term limits themselves guarantee democracy, or are other components, like free speech, equally important?

If we analyze the world from this angle, we begin to see that, in some cases, the democracy has let to good results; in other bad ones. But to expect that any one country in the world is more democratic than another, we have to analyze it comparatively from all the variables, not just one. Furthermore we cannot measure good or bad based on a twisted conception of democracy or on a prejudiced or predisposed political opinion.

It was likely that Turkey’s attempted coup was a “check” on Erdogan. If he drifts towards a less expansive, and security-driven policy initiative

Could that have been the spark?

All these inconsistencies further blurs the picture.

Why were police officers arresting military personnel? Aren’t the latter more powerful?

If Fethullah, the supposed engineer of the coup according to Erdogan, is in America, how could he have ushered the coup if the US administration stood on the side of Erdogan?

Was this coup staged by the government to bolster fledgling support for Erdogan?

Seeing as how Erdogan is now appealing to post-Syrian Crisis enemies, like Russia for reconciliation, it might be that this coup was a Western backed attempt at a regime-change. Seeing that Turkey’s military has never successfully failed in ushering a coup, this narrative makes sense.

For the sake of democracy this is not good, as dissidents face an increasing and brutal crackdown. Turkey has not been consistent, and this crisis is a product of that position. It has essential played the position of the “rope” in a long tug-o-war between East and West. For the past few centuries, the West tugged harder. Now it seems, they’ve let loose on their grip, and Turkey appears destined towards an alignment with the East.

What does this mean for America and Europe’s interests in the Middle East, Israel and Saudi (the Gulf entirely)?

Another question that comes to mind – where do the millions of democracy advocates who stood with Erdogan stand now, considering his rapprochement with Russia? Many Erdogan supporters supported his stance against President Assad in Syria.

This is where things get murkier.

Erdogan was initially reconciliatory with Assad. Why the sudden shift, particularly given the “Kurdish threat” and rising instability? Erdogan sent a message of defiance to Israel with his Gaza flotilla charade, but then quickly announced reconciliation. How does this make him look? Who really is Erdogan serving – Turkey or himself?

Another possibility is that Erdogan has awoken from his pro-American slumber of naivety. Once again, the Muslim world fell prey to American double-dealing and mischief. If this is the likely scenario, expect the unexpected – an Erdogan-led drift away from democracy in Turkey.

What are the most important elements of democracy? Popular opinion or social equality? If popular opinion advocates for racism, like in Nazi Germany, should the state reject it? These questions are even being asked in America, where right-wing populism also threatens democratic rule – somehow democratically. Are there flaws in the democratic system which are inherent or can they be fixed through greater laws limiting financial influence, media coverage and xenophobic propaganda?

Populism is threatening democracy which suggests that popular sovereignty isn’t the only variable for democracy – there are many. And one of these becomes threatened, it appears none of them will be possible. Erdogan, a democratically elected leader, began trampling on democratic rights, and thus the military, which historically overthrows leaders who drift to far in either direction on the political spectrum, stepped in though without success – also unprecedented.

Whether or not popular rule triumphs in Turkey is less worrying than the potential compromise of Turkey’s traditional culture of tolerance, diversity and secularism. This is being threatened by the extreme right-wing populist appeals of ruling party. In this regard, Erdogan is bad for Turkey. Will he rollback these efforts too as part of his readjustment initiative? It doesn’t appear that Erdogan’s reconciliatory tone towards Russia or even Israel is genuine, since it has been inconsistent. There is reason to believe that such behavior is an act of desperation – a sign of his impending failure.

In order for global stability, peace and prosperity to ensue, the following must happen – led by the only world superpower – the US:

America as a whole must pivot from its half-century long trend of foreign interventionism; replace it with respect for sovereignty; a rejection of populism and neoliberalism/neoconservatism or simply put – neo-imperialism; recognition of cultural distinctions; and a promotion of cooperative political, economic and social relations.

This might have to see the UN become the global spectator; with the US leading the free world; and cooperating with other global and regional powers to ensure prosperity, stability and peace.

The Gift [Artwork]


The Gift.jpg

“The Gift”

Art by Nermine Hammam

Executively Produced by KRIKOS

Presented by Colours of the Culture

For Whom The Bell Tolls


4.jpg

What dawns on us but truth,
If not to convince the youth,
Like water from a fountain,
Whatever happens no excuse,
This is conversations with glory,
Face to face with time,
They hold banners of revolution
If the clock ticks past nine,
But after twelve its all hell,
though walls still stand like eyes through veil,
looking for salvation through a peephole in a cell,
like a priest and a king,
having dinner over bells.

What Is Terrorism?


teheran_us_embassy_propaganda_statue_of_liberty.jpg

It has been difficult to form a concise definition of terrorism due to the emotions and political weight carried by the term. But since September 11th, 2001, the term has been used more frequently than before, both inside and outside political science, though sometimes perhaps incorrectly. Lumping tactics, attackers and fear together to define terrorism has been a disservice to the field of political science (Tilly 2004).

It is precisely this which causes bias in the literature and in society when assessing terrorism. Defining terrorism as a tactic reveals that it can and often is practiced by states and insurgents equally.

The more descriptive features, its psychological effect, organizational structure and ideological motive are not as distinct because other military tactics are arguably similar in this regard. The most distinct feature appears to be thetarget of terrorism. That civilian, or non-military (often political figures) populations are targeted, and not military units, is what makes this distinct in nature (Kydd & Walter 2006). This challenges the common perception of terrorism as a new phenomenon as well as one that is practiced only by random and scattered networks with unachievable objectives (Chaliand & Blin 2007). Furthermore, it allows analysts to place terror incidents within the contexts of international politics, instead of isolating them. More recently, the literature has focused heavily on the connection between Islamic radicalism and terrorism, but this ignores the vast instances of terrorism conducted by non-state actors as well as attacks motivated by irreligious purposes, in history and today.

States themselves against their own people or foreign civilians. Focusing on Islamic radicalism ignores the white supremacist network of terrorism, the nationalist spectrum of terrorism, and so forth. It also ignores the countless times in history that the Islamic World has suffered from the specter of terrorism. It could be argued that the US bomb on Japan in 1945 was a form of state terrorism, or that Israel’s disproportionate attack on Gaza in 2014 was a form of state terrorism. Furthermore, early attacks on Palestinians by Jewish militias were forms of terror, such as the Deir Yassin Massacre. This bias normalizes the perspective that Islam is inherently barbaric; and furthermore distracts from the more significant variables that cause violence in the Islamic world; foreign interventionism – which often manifests as state terror.

References:

Andrew Kydd and Barbara F. Walter, “The Strategies of Terrorism,” International Security, Summer 2006.

Charles Tilly. Terror, Terrorism, Terrorists. Sociological Theory, 2004. 22(1), 5-13.

Gerrard Chaliand & Arnaud Blin. The History of Terrorism: From Antiquity to al Qaeda. University of California Press. 2007.

Remembering Anthony Shadid (1968-2012)


FullSizeRender-1

On September 1st, 2011, late journalist & NYT foreign correspondent Anthony Shadid came to speak to UCF students about his recent escapades in the Middle East, namely his most recent experiences in Libya, where Shadid recalled being taken hostage with two other associates for three days.

I am grateful to say I had the opportunity to sit in on his speech. I was even able to meet with Shadid shortly after his speech during which I introduced myself. He was quick to smile with news that I am Syrian. I purchased his most recent book, Night Draws Near, in which he left me a little note, perhaps a little naive in hindsight, or just rashly hopeful as all Arabs tend to be. “See you in Damascus,” he uttered.

Anthony Shadid reminded me what it means to be an Arab, aside from the ordinary customs, our cuisine, language music and traditions. Anthony Shadid reminded me that at the heart of being Arab is the nature of resilience; our ability to laugh and chuckle even amidst the darkest of chaos. I vaguely remember a story told to me by close friend of mine, a Palestinian political activist from Ramallah, Tami Rafidi. Rafidi, whose husband was taken captive by Israeli forces never to be returned, embodied this resilience. Despite her frustrations; anger & suffering, Rafidi recalled memories of running wildly along the rugged Palestinian terrain dodging Israel fire while laughing, telling jokes & drinking the famous Arab liquor – ‘arak’.

Ramallah-16427

In 2006, when Israel began bombing Hezbollah sites in Lebanon, the Lebanese people were seeking refuge by day; clubbing relentlessly by night. Despite all the misery and control, the Arabs found a way; an outlet.

It is Tami’s resilience, the resilience of the Lebanese people, which echoed the sentiments of Anthony Shadid, who did not stop short of asserting during his speech: “At the heart of the Arab struggle is Palestine, a very dear subject for the Arab & Muslim world. This cannot be understated.”

I admire this man for his courage and resolve.

In 2012, during a trip to Syria where he was capturing stories about the ensuing conflict in the region, Shadid suffered what appeared to be a asthma attack. Shortly after Shadid passed. I was shocked by the news. Without any history of medical complications except for minor sensitivities to allergens, Shadid was not on course for any type of health issues.

FullSizeRender

I remember having met his daughter at the time of his speech. She was quite young, very polite & beautiful. My prayers and thanks are with her, wherever she may be, for having had such an amazing man as a father. My dream is to honor his legacy and the struggle of the Arab people all over the world, which he represented so well.

I did not want to go into any details or elaborate on the possibility of foul-play regarding Shadid’s death, out of respect for him & his family. I will add, however that with regards to the Middle East, there is without a doubt an unrelenting fear among journalists, dissidents or activists of any sort, of persecution for propagating legitimate news, especially if it poses a threat to the interests of particular political actors. His bodies of work, including the aforementioned book, shows no restraint in exposing the consequences of the US government’s disastrous policies which would usher in violent instability & chaos that has yet to conclude, even a decade after the US initiated the invasion.

I pray that in the case of Shadid, his passing was a matter of fate and nature. Nonetheless, his legacy remains & the struggle for Arab dignity continues.

RIP Anthony Shadid. Thank you. May the children of Iraq see justice one day. Long live the Arab struggle for freedom & may Palestine one day be free!

Re-Mixed Economics


To understand America’s race problem, it’s foreign policy problem — TO MAKE SENSE OF ANY of America’s imperfections, one mustn’t overlook perhaps the crux of the entire system’s mishaps altogether: Socio-economics.

When Iggy Azalea recently sounded off on twitter fellow Hip-Hoppers Azealia Banks & Lupe Fiasco got involved. But what caught my attention was Q-Tip’s response, riddled with Marcus Garvey-esque jargon that simply could not escape my attention.

Socio-Economix

The irony is that anarcho-capitalists, in the words of political philosopher Noam Chomsky, libertarians & conservatives alike love to tout capitalism & free market values…but the irony is most of these lobbies & parties are run by individuals who inherited oil-conglomerates, natural gas-conglomerates, & other exploitative & unbalanced business assets.

What kind of self-respect, self-reliance and sense of free market is exhibited here? The capitalist is essentially an insecure business man hungry for power; instead of looking inward at his own merits, he seeks to reap the wealth of the merits of others…even the merits of God by taking ownership of raw materials….

In essence, when practiced, capitalism is exactly the same as communism; focusing all natural wealth at the top, enslaving the majority, & using propaganda to mislead, brainwash & control the masses; suppressing them from even ‘thinking’ they have a chance as socio-economic & political salvation.

Perhaps this is why the United States has never exhibited theoretical capitalism & also why it has drifted closer towards the philosophy of Mixed Economics over the past decade; realizing the inherent flaws behind ‘free-market’ fundamentalism. Perhaps it is also why China drifted further from the extreme left of communism and closer to the center; relinquishing itself from the dogma of all-state-controlled business & political apparatuses. Neither has made a full transition yet; it is difficult to shed the skin of their dogmatic histories. The same is true forRussia.

What is democratic-socialism? How does it differ from capitalism & communism?

In essence democratic-socialism is another name for mixed economics. It is not a pseudo-individualist philosophy, like libertarianism, but rather, places emphasis on individual innovation & places ownership & maintenance of natural-resource-based businesses such as oil, gas, food, water under the auspices of a DEMOCRATICALLY-ELECTED government. While I do think nationalization is an option in some cases, kind of like what Obama did when AIG tanked; I believe we need an unprecedently high tax on the 1% so as to rebalance the economy. This way, all individuals are guaranteed basic human rights & amenities while focusing their time & resources on individual innovation & economic empowerment.

So as Q-Tip explained in his fair warning to Iggy regarding the white community’s place in hip-hop, it is important to understand that this culture emerged as a socio-economic struggle; a response to American negligence & suppression. Before we can overcome issues like race, we must tackle the source of the problem, which is as much caused by hate-filled ideology as it is perpetuated by socio-economic disenfranchisement.

The greatest obstacles to these types of reforms remain largely in the hands of people like the Koch Brothers, AIPAC & every oil, gas & big bank lobbyist. The people must know who they are up against. Our democracy is threatened by a global sense of entitlement & power. Let us fight till the end!

Saudi Arabia: Now What?


The King of Saudi Arabia is dead.

His successor? Crown-Prince Salman bin Abdulaziz Al-Saud.

This is an opportunity for Arabs to vent their frustrations; duly, since Saudi Arabia is one of the wealthiest countries on the planet, while the Arab people remain largely part of the third world.

This vast oil-wealth, coupled with the establishment of Israel in 1948, and generally speaking, Saudi’s negligence towards the plight of the Palestinian, pan-Arab cause has certainly made these criticisms legitimate.

Where are we headed?

It looks like not much can change. The system in Saudi Arabia is deeply rooted. It is the hotbed of ultraconservative Islam & ironically, it is responsible for exporting the ideology, funding & support of international terrorism. Remember, bin Laden was a Saudi. His family is still there.

But while this desire to criticize our fellow Arab leaders is tempting, it is important for us to remember that our aim as an Arab people is to unite, empower one another against our common oppressor.

The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has let down the Arab people. It’s concerns with economic & security interests, as revealed by WikiLeaks documents, take precedence over human rights.

How can Saudi Arabia juggle it’s economic interests & reconcile its relationship with the Arab world; namely the resistance—Palestine that is.

Regardless of our imperfections as an Arab nation we mustn’t forget that our fellow Arabs are not the causes of our misery. Terrorist organizations & extremist groups, & pro-Israeli agents are keen on exploiting our anger. Right now, groups like ISIS & Al Qaeda are working to taint the image of Islam & to distract Arabs from their actual oppression, Israel, and to direct it towards their own leaders. Such is the case with Syria & President Bashar al-Assad.

But not all Arab leaders & not all muslims are fanatic dictators. The erratic cases, such as Saddam Hussein & Gaddafi took care of themselves. But even now, what progress have these countries made? Very little, which goes to show that true change & justice in the Middle East has little to do with revolutions & overthrowing leaders as much as it does with unity, wisdom & loyalty.

May King Abdullah rest in peace. May justice be brought to the Arabian Peninsula & the rest of the Arab world. May the hypocrisies & extremes of few be exposed & distinguished from the light of many. May Palestine one day be free.

Solutions?

Introduce proper economic reforms in order to balance spoils of oil wealth in the region. Reconcile relationships between neighboring countries which have been divided by foreign colonialists; this includes relationship between Iran & Saudi, Syria & Turkey, Egypt & the rest of the Arab world. Essentially what we need is unity, and the greatest threat to this comes in two forms: religious/ideological fanaticism & foreign imperialism, which are in essence inseparable. Socio-economic & political unity are preconditions for improving living conditions for Arabs and most importantly, for focusing on the crux of the pan-Arab tradition; the liberation of Palestine.

Who are the greatest agents of religious extremism & global imperialism? Well let’s just say it comes largely from the West; mainly conservative branches of government; and it just so happens to be their most crucial interest in the region happens to be Israel.

Before accusations of anti-semitism are leveled against me let it be known that the assertion that Judaism & Zionism are indistinguishable is downright incorrect, firstly because Arabs are semites too, and also because criticism of Israeli expansionism has nothing to do with hatred of a group of people as it does with voicing the struggle of an occupied people…as a matter of fact, the irony is that Palestinians are the ones suffering from the racist ideology of Zionism; which is essentially the relentless justification of expansionism & the insistence on the need for an ethno-religious political, ‘Jewish’ entity to exist…despite the terrible consequences & violations of human rights which it entails. Sounds like religious stubbornness to me. And that is precisely what it is.

Here is a quote via The Associated Press, referencing Crown-Prince of Saudi Arabia Salman himself, who will be crowned King on this evening:

In discussions w/ U.S. diplomats in 2007, Salman added that Jewish and Christian extremism has fed Islamic extremism, even warning that the United States will one day see a threat from Jewish and Christian radicals. He told Americans key 2 bringing stability to ME is 2 resolve Israeli-Palestinian conflict, adding Israel is “a burden on the U.S.”

With President Obama & John Kerry snubbing Benjamin Netanyahu’s visit to the US; there is no telling how much longer the strained relationship will endure.