A preliminary draft of my master’s thesis


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Conflict in the Caspian: A Comparative Study of Ethnic Inclusion & Conflict in Azerbaijan & Kazakhstan 

Abstract

In this research my aim is to demonstrate a relationship between the extent of political development, indicated by the degree of ethnic inclusion, and the extent of ethnic conflict, defined in the upcoming sections, exhibited in these two oil-rich post-Soviet, predominantly Muslim, Caspian & Turkic states. Beyond their security relevance, Azerbaijan & Kazakhstan serve as prime examples of states with variance in ethnic conflict and institutional development, despite the presence of oil in both states, and a common history. I argue that more politically developed states are more likely to form institutions that protect, preserve and encourage ethnic inclusion. As a result, they exhibit less ethnic conflict. My independent variable is political development. The proxy for the extent of political development is the degree of ethnic exclusion or inclusion. My dependent variable is the degree of ethnic conflict or harmony. I employ both a comparative case study method for generalizability & regional context as well as a logit regression measuring this relationship through 150 cases of ethnic conflict. The research is organized into the following sections respectively: introduction of theory & key concepts therein; summary of shared histories of both cases, Kazakhstan & Azerbaijan; review of data results from logit regression; and finally a conclusion. The comparative case study supplemented by the EPR logit regression results support my hypothesis that there is a positive relationship between ethnic exclusion and ethnic conflict.

 

Introduction

This research is an attempt to answer the question of why ethnic conflict occurs is some states and not others. In order to properly address the question, I’ve chosen a multi-method approach, including a logit regression as well as a comparative case study. I’ve chosen two Caspian states, Kazakhstan & Azerbaijan, rich with oil. The Caspian Sea region, or Central Asia rather, has become of growing importance, particularly since the dissolution of the USSR, but even more so perhaps, following the rise in Islamic fundamentalism. This has resulted in coordination between western and Caspian states like Azerbaijan & Kazakhstan in security measures in attempt to prevent instability.

More importantly for this research, instability has also taken the form of ethnic conflict, such as in the Caucasus, but also in CA states like Tajikistan, Uzbekistan & Kirgizstan. Out of the CA states, only Kazakhstan has oil abundance, and is thus vulnerable to the resource curse argument. That is Kazakhstan has averted any major conflict or crises altogether through a rentier system (Franke et al 2009). To counter this argument, and in order demonstrate that a lack of ethnic conflict (ethnic harmony) is not caused by oil wealth but rather by institutional accommodation I compare Kazakhstan to Azerbaijan.

In this research my aim is to demonstrate a relationship between the extent of political development, indicated by the degree of ethnic inclusion, and the extent of ethnic conflict, defined in the upcoming sections, exhibited in these two oil-rich post-Soviet, predominantly Muslim, Caspian & Turkic states. Beyond their security relevance, Azerbaijan & Kazakhstan serve as prime examples of states with variance in ethnic conflict and institutional development, despite the presence of oil in both states. I argue that more politically developed states are more likely to form institutions that protect, preserve and encourage ethnic inclusion. As a result, they exhibit less ethnic conflict. My independent variable is political development. The proxy for the extent of political development is the degree of ethnic exclusion or inclusion. My dependent variable is the degree of ethnic conflict or harmony. The research is organized into the following sections respectively: introduction of theory & key concepts therein; summary of shared histories of both cases, Kazakhstan & Azerbaijan; review of data results from logit regression; and finally a conclusion.

Theory & Key Concepts

Before analyzing this relationship, it is important to define four major concepts in this research: Ethnicity, Ethnic Conflict, Ethnic Exclusion (discrimination) or Ethnic Inclusion.

Ethnicity is defined as “subjective experienced sense of commnality based on belief in a common ancestry and shared culture. Indicators of common ancestry and culture include common language, phenotypical features, and belonging to same faith (Wimmer, Cederman & Min 2009).

Ethnic conflict is described as mass violence between two communities that each belongs to a distinct cultural group with common heritage and other subjective commonalities. In order to be classified as an ethnic conflict, armed organizations must seek to achieve “ethnonationalist aims, motivations & interests and recruit fighters and forge alliances on the basis of ethnic affiliations” (Wimmer, Cederman & Min 2009). Ethnic conflicts are distinct in their “armed organization, recruitment and alliance structures. In other words, ethnic conflicts are typically fought over ethnonational self-determination, ethnic balance of power in government, ethnoregional autonomy, ethnic and racial discrimination, and language and other cultural rights” (Sambanis 2009).

In many cases, antagonist ethnic groups will not be able to agree on new constitutional arrangements or a peaceful separation. These kind of ethnic disputes consequently become violent, some escalate into all-out inter-ethnic war. This is the situation in Angola, Kashmir, Shi Lanka, Bosnia, and Caucasus. Some scholars explain reasons of ethnic conflicts with collapse of the authoritarian rule. As an example, the main reason why ethnic conflicts have sprung up in Eastern Europe, the former Soviet Union, and elsewhere, because the authoritarian rule has collapsed and made such conflicts possible. This is the conventional wisdom. This argument offers an inadequate explanation of the causes of ethnic conflicts. Scholars generally fail to explain why conflicts have broken out in some places, but not others, and why some ethnic conflicts are more violent than others (Ismayilov 2008). To elaborate further, ethnic conflicts can be defined as conflicts between ethnic groups within a multi-ethnic state, which have been going on some time, which may appear to be unsolvable to the parties caught up in them. An ethnic conflict is a dispute about important political, economic, cultural, or territorial issues between two or more ethnic communities (Brown 1993). The most distinct feature of ethnic conflict is the explicit targeting of a group on the basis of a shared culture (Weber 1978). It is a long lasting tension between two groups that wish to advance their interests (Ismayilov 2008). In non-ethnic conflict, members of the same ethnic group might be in conflict, whereas ethnic conflict is distinctly between two separate groups on the basis of their subjective cultural differences and the political implications therein. As the literature indicates, as with many abstract political concepts, there is little consensus on the definition of ethnicity. The use of ‘subjective’ is to indicate the ‘ambiguity’ of the definition. In Lebanon for example the political system is known as confessionalism, in which religion is deeply tied to ideology and ethnicity, thus making it difficult to really distinguish any ethnic group.

It is also important to define ethnic exclusion, or discrimination rather, so as to demonstrate how this exclusion is being gauged. Members of an ethnic group that are excluded from government or discriminated against are subject to intentional, targeted disenfranchisement. Discrimination entails limiting access to government positions to citizens who speak a certain language, exhibit phenotypical features or members of a particular faith. Discrimination can be informal too, that is – it can exist without legal enforcement, if a society actively prevents a particular ethnic group from mobilizing in that society (Tezcur & Gurses 2017). An example of ethnic exclusion or discrimination includes African-Americans until the civil rights movement. Some might argue that informal discrimination persists today (Wimmer, Cederman & Min 2009).

On the other hand, inclusion can be described as institutional accommodation, beyond nominal laws, intended to help raise social status and political representation levels of ethnic minorities. The Civil Rights Act of 1995 & Affirmative Action are two examples of such accommodations in the US (Porter 2003).

Inclusion is a key concept in this article, particularly because I focus on Kazakhstan’s unique institutional infrastructure, the APK, which reduces the risk of ethnic conflict. The theoretical basis of my argument on the positive relationship between ethnic inclusion and ethnic conflict draws from Remmer’s model of Natural Cultural Autonomy. Remmer’s model suggests that ethnic inclusion does reduce the chances of ethnic conflict, but that this inclusion must go beyond mere laws. In other words, institutions and policies must be in practice that wholly address and accommodate the needs of ethnic minorities based on their experiences in given states (Porter 2003).

Ethnic conflicts occur in a multi-ethnic state, have been going on some time, and appear to be difficult to resolve. An ethnic conflict is a disagreement about political, economic, cultural, or territorial issues between two or more ethnic communities (Brown 1993).

The most distinct feature of ethnic conflict is the explicit targeting of a group on the basis of a shared culture (Weber 1978). It is a long lasting tension between two groups that wish to advance their interests (Ismayilov 2008). In non-ethnic conflict, members of the same ethnic group might be in conflict, whereas ethnic conflict is distinctly between two separate groups on the basis of their subjective cultural differences and the political implications therein. As the literature indicates, as with many abstract political concepts, there is little consensus on the definition of ethnicity. The use of ‘subjective’ is to indicate the ‘ambiguity’ of the definition. In Lebanon for example the political system is known as confessionalism, in which religion is deeply tied to ideology and ethnicity, thus making it difficult to really distinguish any ethnic group.

The literature is vast on ethnic conflict, but there is almost no focus on the relationship between ethnic exclusion and ethnic conflict (Fearon 2003). Instead most researchers focus on secessionist movements or insurgencies, but not on mere violent clashes, pogroms, and massacres. Furthermore, the literature suggests that most ethnic conflict is the result of collapsing authoritarian regimes, but this does not account for the occurrence of ethnic conflict in one region, and not the other (Ismayilov 2008).

The emergence of ethnic nationalism, such as in Azerbaijan, makes ethnic conflict much more likely. The rise of ethnic nationalism in one group can be seen as threatening by others. But even Kazakhstan, and most other post-soviet states exhibited high rates of nationalism for the sake of nation building. The mere disintegration of the authoritarian, cross-national empire of the USSR left a vacuum of power and the need for new states to emerge and address collective political needs. Not all states exhibited the same degree of nationalism. There is a distinction between Azerbaijan and Kazakhstan in this regard. Neither country is democratic by any means, but Kazakhstan has clear institutional differences in terms of ethnic minority inclusion. So what is this difference? A degree of political development, or institutionalized representation and inclusion has the potential to help mitigate ethnic tension by allowing for the establishment of an inclusive means of governance to address the needs of all ethnic groups in the state. This inclusiveness goes beyond just mere protection of minorities but accommodates and addresses grievances (Porter 2003). Now that we understand these important concepts and their definitions, of ethnicity and ethnic conflict, and the various sources of dispute, and expression of grievances, we can apply this reasoning to the two cases. I’ll begin first with Kazakhstan followed by an assessment of its ethnic harmony and the presence of robust institutions that enable it, followed by a section on ethnic exclusion, discrimination & ethnic conflict.

Shared Histories

The history of the Caspian is rather unique, rich with a prevalence of tribalism, nomadism, and clan relations. This was further enriched by the arrival of Islam, and the legacy of imperial dominance by Russia & Iran. The USSR would eventually encompass the entire region. It’s eventual collapse lead to the modern independent Kazakh & Azerbaijani republics. The purpose of this segment is to demonstrate how these historical similarities, while sharing some resemblance, do not ensure a shared degree of political stability and ethnic harmony.

The history of the Caspian region as populated with nomadic, tribal people with clan-based hierarchies greatly reflects in the political structures of the states therein. Nomadism has played a huge role in the histories of both Kazakhstan & Azerbaijan. In modern times, this is expressed through informal social institutions such as nepotism and patronage. That these societies embrace informality arguably induces corruption. Neither Kazakhstan nor Azerbaijan experienced autonomy until after the dissolution of the USSR. Before the USSR, Kazakhstan was mainly under the auspices of Russia, and Azerbaijan was ruled by Iran.

Traditionally, the influx of ideas, religions and cultures came along what is now called the Silk Route, connecting the east and west through trade networks and other forms of cultural interaction. Prior to the introduction of Islam by Arab warriors into the region in the 8th century, the Caspian region exhibited a diverse religious demography, including the mystical Shamanism, Tengrianism & Buddhism (Edelbay 2011).

USSR & Independence

Kazakhstan & Azerbaijan’s integration into the USSR only reinforced the tradition of authoritarianism and the centralization of power. They have carried on even into the post-soviet era (Tokaev 2004).

The disintegration of the USSR produced a vacuum of power. This vacuum was either to be filled by extremists or a continued legacy of authoritarianism. Kazakhstan & Azerbaijan, like most Caspian states, chose the latter. Similar security measures to the USSR were adopted, continuing the legacy of Soviet-inspired police-state. The only difference was that Moscow had essentially less control over the region it once easily swallowed up.

Azerbaijan & Kazakhstan also share linguistic roots. Both languages are Turkic in origin. This renders them an even more ideal comparison. Perhaps most importantly of all commonalities – both states are among the top twenty-five oil-exporters in the world.

Ethnic Inclusion & Harmony in Kazakhstan

In Kazakhstan, this accommodation exists via the establishment and continued involvement and development of the People’s Assembly of Kazakhstan or APK.

Prominent ethnic groups include Uzbeks, Tatars, Uighurs, Chechens, Koreans, Turks, Azerbaijanis & Germans (Nyussupova 2011). It is important to note that the population of Russians is the second largest. Before independence, Kazakhstan’s own national ethnic group, the Kazakhs, comprised less than 40% of the total population. During this time Russian was more widely spoken. Following independence however, Kazakh was nationalized as the official language. Furthermore, quite recently, Kazakh’s became the official ethnic majority within their own national boundaries for the first time in their history (Karin 2002).

To highlight the significance of demography, the presence of Uzbeks in southern Kazakhstan provide insight into the assertion that modern Central Asia is an artificial creation traced back to the initial “cutting up” of the region by USSR leaders. It is likely that the environment and conditions created by these “partitions” created much of the imbalance and instability in the region today. Despite being Uzbek by ethnicity, Kazakh Uzbeks are loyal to the soil in which they have inhabited for centuries. That ethnic irredentism really highlights the role of the New Great Game in determining the overall demographic structure and dynamic of Kazakhstan, and Central Asia altogether (Oka 2009).

Relative to his Central Asian neighbors, President Nazarbayev of Kazakhstan has witnessed under his rule a relatively stable and harmonious interethnic relationship in his country. This is most likely attributed to Kazakhstan’s overall moderate approach to policy, which sees a balancing of foreign, domestic, and minority interests, contrary to Ilham Aliyev’s cult-like rule in Azerbaijan.

Nazarbayev rules with more pragmatism. Kazakhstan has witnessed no significant episodes of violent deteriorations of society.

More importantly perhaps, is how Nazarbayev’s vision of stability and harmony expressed itself domestically. Through the establishment of the People’s Assembly of Kazakhstan in 1995, ethnic minorities are represented in this legislative body, which is intended to protect, preserve and celebrate their rights as well as the ethnic pluralism, which defines Kazakhstan. The APK (Assembly of People of Kazakhstan) consists of 384 representatives of all ethnic groups in the state (Jones 2010). The APK elects nine members to the Majlis; Kazakhstan’s lower-chamber of Parliament. Finally, all laws passed by the legislature must meet a certain criteria ensuring ethnic harmony, a significant check on executive power protecting ethnic minorities.

Kazakhstan has successfully employed national efforts to promote cultural tolerance and cohesiveness through its making of the Assembly of Peoples of Kazakhstan. National efforts to promote cultural/ethnic tolerance include: insuring each ethnic group has a voice within the government through policies, organizations, assemblies etc., granting all minorities equal rights and representation within the country, not using ethnicity as a tool for political mobilization but instead creating a “national identity” for everyone to be apart of equally (one that does not have to do with ethnic background at all but rather being a citizen of the said country), creating equal opportunities in the business realm for all ethnic groups, instilling strict laws against ethnic discrimination even down to ethnic slurs, as well as promoting peace through cultural events, parades, and the alike. The APK exemplifies directly national efforts in promoting cultural/ethnic tolerance and cohesiveness.

It has become evident that Kazakhstan’s politicians are aware of the need for inter-ethnic accord, in order to maintain political stability. Institutionally, Kazakhstan’s laws prevented the formation of political parties along ethnic lines; instead, in 1995 – by order of executive decree, President Nursultan Nazarbayev established the Assembly of the People of Kazakhstan in March 1995, a legislative and presidential consultative body, largely touted by Kazakh officials as a representation of the nation’s progressive policies.

Ultimately though, the APK has served mainly as a means for controlling ethnic minorities and securing a national Kazakh identity. This was underscored by the APK’s name-change, which was meant to signify its purpose as a unifying project. In other words, while the mission is to encourage harmony between ethnicities; the more underlying purpose is the stabilization of society under a unifying Kazakh identity.

The main objectives of the APK include the preservation of inter-ethnic harmony and political stability, developing new mechanisms for fostering healthy relations between various ethnicities and nationalities within the state; to promote spiritual and cultural enrichment; development and equality. Despite its ambiguity, and its close ties to the executive branch, considering it was the APK, which proposed extending Nazarbayev’s term, the APK enjoys a level of autonomy and influence on legislative matters, but a new decree centralizing the aim of the APK around Kazakhstani identity might raise some eyebrows (Jones 2010). The APK’s overarching goal is to essentially supervise ethnic groups and their leaders so as to make sure inter-ethnic harmony preserves Kazakhstan’s stability. The APK has been generally used to portray Kazakhstan’s image as an inter-ethnic paradise.

The Assembly of the People of Kazakhstan has generated many benefits for both Kazakh society as well as its political infrastructure. Since its creation over two decades ago, The APK has enabled minority ethnic groups the ability for representation, protection and preservation, a guarantee that does not exists not only in developing states, but in even some of the most developed states in the world experiencing minority and ethnic tensions today.

While many have criticized and simplified the APK has an extension of President Nazarbayev’s arm into political affairs, seeing as he is the official Chairman of the institution, these criticisms are premature and lack a clear objective understanding of the regional landscape and history. This isn’t to suggest that Kazakhstan is a democratic paradise, on the contrary. Kazakhstan exhibits significant shortcomings in press freedom, political opposition, and economic competition. Furthermore, its tremendous oil wealth, dubbed the resource curse, has often paralyzed the process of modernization. Still, the extent of ethnic inclusion, representation and national unity are unprecedentedly higher in Kazakhstan than any other Central Asian state (Oka 2004). As demonstrated in the research, ethnic conflict was rampant in Uzbekistan and Tajikistan. A lack of representation and guaranteed protection for minorities, as well as a robust mechanism for preserving ethnic traditions, was accompanied by violent episodes between ethnic groups. In Azerbaijan, ethnic minorities are suppressed and institutions like the APK in Kazakhstan are absent. There are no constitutional provisions that protect minorities like Uzbeks, Tajiks, Ukrainians, Russians, Germans, Kurds, Armenians, etc.

The mere fact that the APK has legislative authority, representation and leverage as well as the presence of explicit constitutional provisions that protect ethnic minorities both underscore the distinct degree of internal political development in Kazakhstan (Jones 2010) This cannot be easily dismissed as a product of its resource abundance relative to its neighbors, considering, even other post-Soviet states endowed with oil, like Azerbaijan, are substantially more discriminatory towards ethnic minorities. Oil itself has neither stifled nor promoted political development to coincide with economic development. Rather, it has existed as a mere backdrop feature, while ethnic minorities’ fates remain largely in the political landscape and culture of the host nation. That is why in Kazakhstan, cultural and religious tolerance together have resulted in a less contentious atmosphere, the necessary precondition for ethnic inclusion and institutional development in that regard.

The most important element of this research is the consideration of the regional implications as well as the theoretical implications. This research does not suggest that Kazakhstan is in any way an advanced democratic state, but rather, that it has made significant and commendable strides to protect its ethnic minorities which have in most other cases suffered tremendous discrimination, violence and destitution. Ethnic minorities in Kazakhstan contrarily, have access to social, political and economic capital to advance their ethnic groups in society, protecting their heritage’s past and future (Oka 2010).

Furthermore other research on the region vindicates these assertions as Kazakhstan has exhibited political stability and interethnic harmony since the dissolution of the USSR in 1991. This has not been the case for other Central Asian & Post-Soviet States, where ethnic conflict and exclusion are simultaneously prevalent. Even where there is abundant oil, or the lack there of – when there are ongoing wars, or the lack thereof – ethnic conflict exists wherever there is an absence of political institutions designed to accommodate and advance their needs.

Even in the US and in most European countries like Germany, Northern Ireland and Denmark, there are various institutions and accommodations designed to integrate minorities into society and politics. The EPR data indicates that in situations where such accommodations are made, ethnic conflict is less likely to occur. Contrarily, the absence of institutional provisions meant to protect and integrate ethnic minorities beyond mere cultural tolerance will result in conflict.

Equally said is the need for more improvement for political development and minority protection in Kazakhstan, given that most provisions are often nominal, at the discretion of the Chairman & President, Nazarbayev. Furthermore, the low level of democracy in Kazakhstan renders even the most genuine of efforts to accommodate minority groups as politicized interests. The APK itself is limited in that it can likely be abolished or ignored at the discretion of Nazarbayev given the two branches clash (Tussupova 2010). As with most cases in Kazakhstan, the executive branch tends to overpower the others. Kazakhstan boasts of a many ethnic minorities, but it appears that granting the APK only 9 seats in parliament or the Majlis, is disproportionate to their population. Such improvements could further legitimize the APK as an institution of minority protection and ethnic harmony. Furthermore, Kazakhstan must work to integrate ethnic minorities into all facets of Kazakh society, include the economy. Limits on free press and political opposition also stifle the representative potential of the APK (Jones 2010).

Still it is worth noting that its mere existence is a stride towards democracy. As demonstrated, in places around the world where ethnic groups are excluded and underrepresented, there is higher chance that conflict might spur (Jones 2010).

Ethnic Exclusion & Conflict in Azerbaijan

In stark contrast, on the other side of the Caspian Sea, is the case of Azerbaijan. There are four major cases of ethnic conflict in Azerbaijan, including tensions with Armenians, Kurds, Lezgins & Talysh. The situation with Armenia is likely the worst, and involves a ‘secessionist’ movement in Nagorno-Karabakh. Therefor the NK conflict can be seen as a product of three ambitions, ethnic power balance in Azerbaijani politics as well as self-determination & territorial secession. The history of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict can be traced to the dissolution of the USSR. The decentralization of power, and the vacuum of power left by the absence of an authoritarian central authority, led to the emergence of nationalist movements. In many cases, arbitrary boundaries and geographic heritages were even further confused. Following the establishment of post-soviet republics such as Azerbaijan and Kazakhstan, conflict ensued between Azerbaijan and its Armenian population. Nagorno-Karabakh is 80% Armenian in population, but remains within the boundaries of Azerbaijan. An utter suppression and discrimination of Armenian culture, language and freedom is part of policy in Azerbaijan. Various pogroms and massacres of Armenians prompted a mass exodus to Armenia and NK from the Azerbaijani mainland. This mass exodus numbers up to 350,000 Armenians (Country Report 2015). Prior to the onset of the conflict, which began in the 80s, inter-ethnic tensions were brewing. A series of pogroms, such as the Sumgait, Baku, Kirovabad or Maraga targeted Armenian minorities in Azerbaijan. In essence, “Armenophobia is institutionalized and engrained into Azerbaijani statehood & Karabakh is at the center of this “policy”.

Some of the approximately 20,000 to 30,000 citizens of Armenian descent living in the country reported discrimination in employment, housing, and the provision of social services. Ethnic Armenians often concealed their ethnicity by legally changing the ethnic designation in their passports. There were no reports of violence against Armenians during the year. Some groups reported sporadic incidents of discrimination, restrictions on their ability to teach in their native languages, and harassment by local authorities. These groups included Talysh in the south, Lezgins in the north, and Meskhetians and Kurds (Country Reports on Human Rights 2015).

Destruction of cemeteries so as to erase Armenian history and heritage, the targeting of religious infrastructure, denying entry, linguistic suppression are all policy practices of the Azerbaijani state, which explicitly target and discriminate against Armenians.

The Lezgins exhibit a different condition. They are now considered the most vocal minority claiming discrimination in Azerbaijan (Fayos 2014). They make up the second-largest group in Azerbaijan. Lezgins often disguise themselves as Azeris to avoid losing job opportunities or discrimination in education. As a result, current official statistics in Azerbaijan have arbitrarily reduced the population.

In 1989, another ethnic minority, the Talysh gained the right to register as a distinct ethnic group. The accurate number of Talysh in Azerbaijan may be much higher than census results, which is due to the suppression of their identity, language and culture, “leading to internalized self-repression”. Azerbaijan lacks any robust, comprehensive legislation regarding ethnic minorities. The presidential decree of 1992 is insufficient in this sense. It lacks a “national framework for minority rights protection” and limits the focus to arts and crafts. Azerbaijan also lacks legislation to tackle anti-discriminations issues (Fayos 2014).

Institutionally level there is no specific body to deal with minority issues, unlike the APK in Kazakhstan. Azerbaijan does have the “Office of the Ombudsman”, which aims to compensate for this void. The focus of the state is less on minority inclusion and more on preventing secessionist movements. Such is symbolic of the paranoia, which dictates the Azerbaijani regime, compared to Kazakhstan’s harmonious and unifying approach.

There are few institutions as mentioned before which aim to support ethnic minorities in Azerbaijan, but none of them, neither the Forum of Religious Communities of Azerbaijan nor the Coordination Council of the Cultural Centers of National Minorities are involved in policy-making . They serve merely as consultative bodies and nominal entities. This is in sharp contrast to the APK in Kazakhstan, which not only protects and preserves ethnic minority culture – it grants them representation in the national legislature and the ability to propose laws.

Furthermore indicative of Azerbaijan’s ethnic exclusion is the fact that it has still not ratified the European Charter for Regional and Minority Languages. The fact that Azerbaijan actively promotes the usage of the Azeri language underscores the need for some type of institutional protection for ethnic minority groups. Unlike Kazakhstan where the populace relatively respects laws and institutions, the “Law on State Language” in Azerbaijan, undermines any of the constitutional provisions, which guarantee minority ethnic groups linguistic rights. There is, however, a lack of national legislation for preserving and promoting the use of minority languages (Fayos 2014).

The downside of being accepted into greater Azerbaijani society is that minorities risk losing their languages. Indeed, while some minorities appear to be maintaining their level of linguistic other ethnic groups appear to be losing ground to linguistic assimilation; many members of the largest groups (e.g. the Talysh and the Lezgins) have expressed displeasure at this outcome, requesting greater government attention (Marquardt 2011).

Some researchers claim that Azerbaijani policy of appeasing minorities without giving them real rights is in fact comparable to Kazakhstan’s ‘multiculturalism’. I challenge this notion because in Kazakhstan ethnic minorities have legislative representatives that can actually vote on national policy (Marquardt 2011).

To the Azerbaijani state, ethnic identity is associated with the events in Nagorno-Karabakh; the Talysh state which was briefly declared in 1993 and the Lezgins independence movement, which began in the early 1990s. Likewise, these groups are seen as easily manipulated by outside forces that wish to harm Azerbaijan’s territorial integrity. The Azeri government sees all ethnic identity movements as imperial schemes by Russia to instigate separatism, whether it is among the Legniz or the Armenians (Marquardt 2011).

Data

I use Ethnic Power Relations 3.0 to help demonstrate the relationship between ethnic exclusion and ethnic conflict. The dataset identifies 150 politically relevant ethnic groups and their access to state power between 1946-2010. The dataset includes 157 countries and 758 ethnic groups, and measures the degree of exclusion from government ranging from total representation to over discrimination.

Table 1 displays effects of changes in independent variables. By increasing the excluded population from 6% to 32% (Wimmer, Cederman, & Min 2009), it results in a 25% increase in the likelihood of ethnic conflict. Imperial rule between 1816 and independence increases the chance of armed conflict by 13% only. As a whole, the data demonstrates that changes in exclusion of ethnic groups produces the greatest increase in the risk of ethnic conflict.

The regression results in Table 2 & 3 (attached as PDFs due to size & clarity) indicate that variables such imperial past did not have an effect as statistically significant on ethnic conflict as the variable of ethnic exclusion. In other words, the USSR’s legacy of imperialism in the Caspian is not as statistically significant to overall ethnic conflict as one might expect. The same logic applies to oil. The data indicates that oil is nowhere near as significant as ethnic exclusion in its relationship to conflict.

Conclusion

The purpose of this research is to demonstrate that ethnic inclusion leads to ethnic harmony and less conflict. This is because institutional representation of ethnic minorities addresses their grievances. As exhibited in Kazakhstan, proper measures to address ethnic minority rights can mitigate the possibility of conflict altogether. In sharp contrast, Azerbaijan has restricted minority rights, which has coincided with inter-ethnic war with Armenia, pogroms targeting Armenians, desecration of cemeteries, linguistic discrimination, deportation of Kurds, and the suppression of Legniz & Talysh national movements. The presence of the Assembly of the People of Kazakhstan ensures harmony and representation between ethnic groups. Furthermore, it protects, promotes and encourages minority languages, enabling them to be taught in schools and used openly without discrimination. The APK in Kazakhstan serves as a model for other developing countries struggling with ethnic conflict. Better policies aimed at ethnic inclusion and accommodation will lead to more harmony. The research & data indicates that even powerful forces like the resource curse – that is, the abundance of oil, does not ensure a decrease in the risk of ethnic conflict.

Bibliography

Wimmer, Cederman, and Min. 2009. “Ethnic Politics & Armed Conflict. A Configurational Analysis of a New Global Dataset”. American Sociological Review. 74(2).

Sambanis, Nicholas. N.D. “What is an Ethnic War? Organization and Interests in Insurgencies.” Yale: Department of Political Science.

Fearon, James D., and David D. Laitin. 2003. “Ethnicity, insurgency, and civil war.” American Political Science Review. 97:1-16.

Brown, Michael 1993. Ethnic Conflict and International Security.

Weber, Max. 1978. Economy and society: An outline of interpretive sociology. University of California Press.

Ismayilov, Gursel G. 2008. “Ethnic Conflicts and Their Causes.” Khazar Journal of Humanities and Social Sciences 3.4: 50-63.

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Tussupova, Dinara. 2010. “Mass Media and Ethnic Relations in Kazakhstan.” Problems of Post-Communism 57.6. 32-45.

Karin, Erlan, and Andrei Chebotarev. 2002. “The Policy of Kazakhization in State and Government Institutions in Kazakhstan.”

Nyussupova, Gulnara, and Irina Rodionova. 2011. “Demographic situation and the level of human development of the Republic of Kazakhstan: Regional Aspects.” Bulletin of Geography. Socio-economic Series 16: 78-87.

Tokaev, Kassymzhomart. 2004. “Kazakhstan: from renouncing nuclear weapons to building democracy.” American Foreign Policy Interests. 26.2: 93-98.

Edelbay, Saniya. 2012. “Traditional Kazakh Culture and Islam.” International Journal of Business and Social Science 3:11.

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Tezcür, Güneş Murat, and Mehmet Gurses. 2017. “Ethnic Exclusion and Mobilization: The Kurdish Conflict in Turkey.” Comparative Politics 49.2: 213-234.

Fayos. 2014. Minorities in the South Caucasus: New visibility amid old frustrations. European Parliament Policy Department. European Union.

Marquardt, Kyle L. 2011. “Framing language policy in post-Soviet Azerbaijan: political symbolism and interethnic harmony.” Central Asian Survey 30.2: 181-196.

Franke, Anja, Andrea Gawrich, & Gurban Alakbarov. 2009. “Kazakhstan & Azerbaijan as Post-Soviet Rentier States: Resource Incomes and Autocracy as a Double ‘Curse’ in Post-Soviet Regimes.” Europe-Asia Studies 61.1: 109-140.

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They Came For Us Too


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This is my Armenian birth & baptism certificate. It was officiated by the Greek Apostolic Church. As a philosophical Abrahamic monotheist, I celebrate this part of my culture as much as my Islamic side.

If there is anything I am paranoid about it is about my fate.

But I have faith.

My faith tells me that there are forces – the agents, after me.

This world is similar to the movie, the Matrix, in some ways. In other ways it is not – naturally.

But time is ticking. There are agents. There are phones. I’m in the white room now. But outside – we have to wait till we get to His throne.

I know where I am headed – but why the need to open up?

Like I said. My story begins with Riyadh. But my family. The KRIKORIAN story started much earlier.

Time are changing. I was supposed to have more resources. My family too.

But we were stripped. It began in Turkey. Like in Germany. The collectivists came after us – demanding they get provisions.

What happened to a world where men sought provisions from God and kept their mouths quiet? Today people complain of systems – the problem is people.

You see what I am realizing is you are what you believe; which impacts what you do; and what you know.

But there are inevitabilities of character – these are what distinguish us from one another. I see devils denying that very reality.

The reality is that, envy is a social phenomenon ailing the world.

That is why capitalism and freedom are necessary.

But there is a vast difference between these ideas and outright racism.

The republican party in America is a group of angry, white men without any respect for personal responsibility, which the so-called right-wing supposedly represents.

Today, hope rests with non-populistic centrists, and that cannot exist on the right side of American political spectrum because it has given way to populism, racism and fear, where as internal disagreements in the democratic branch are merely ideological.

Hopefully, as Turkey begins to behave wildly, America might maneuver to recognize the Armenian Genocide/Holocaust, or Medz Yeghern.

We were even considered to be loyal to the Ottomans, referred to as millet-i sadıka by the Sultan. That is why the modern Turkish creation is an imperial endeavor – a British experiment, as usual, because nationalism results in ethnic, religious and ideological division.

Racism against Armenians is historically engrained.

From the Hamidian Massacres to the Armenian Genocide.

Comparable to Nazi hatred of the Jewish people.

But this isn’t about comparing it is about understanding.

The absence of a modern, liberalized, practical and refined Islamic authority has long been absent. This has encouraged radicalism and primitiveness, and hate.

Turkish nationalism is largely an imperial task of the West – seeking to impose its influence in the region. Orientalism says that Islam could be more developed if it weren’t for colonialism. I wonder, perhaps if the Middle East would even be as “Islamic” so to speak if it weren’t for a history of Western involvement. Ultimately, what determines a nation’s ability to endure, which the Armenians have been able to do, with the blessing of God, is its unity.

The Armenian nation suffered as a result of this forsaken tragedy.

From the top tiers of Armenian society to the bottom. But even the Ottoman Empire itself, the expansion of Islam since the 7th century, greatly undermined Armenian sovereignty.

Islamism – is not new. It is old. Modern nationalism in Islamic societies, is more developed Islam; whereas Islamism is a primitive understanding – innately regressive. The absence of a viable moderate, tolerant and modern Islamic authority, male or female, has cast a dark, fundamentalistic shadow upon Islam which vindicates the narrative that Islam cannot modernize. My mother is a muslim. Philosophically I would consider myself muslim, an adherer of the true Qur’an, but equally I am Christian. More importantly, I am neither, but instead a believer in God, the Creator, and eternal philosophy, or wisdom. The rest is politics – and to be frank; imperialism – political hubris. The sort of force which violates balances of power. The modern nation, Iran, Armenia, Turkey, is disrupted by religious, ideological and ethnocentric viciousness which violates sovereignty and practicality. The cause of this is a blatant American and European disregard for human rights outside their borders. It has propped up radicalism, ultranationalism and prevents individual and national prosperity, thus limiting global competition, and guaranteeing hegemony, even when undeserved, to the West. That isn’t capitalism – that is totalitarianism.

Those who are unable to modernize and adapt to tolerance are gripped by a stubborn ego that latches on to contradictory but nonetheless vociferous and violent ideologies.

But in Syria too, they came for us. Because Syria, unlike most Islamic countries, has been political aligned with anti-colonial states, thus barring it from access to the so-called international community. Now, they’ve come for Syria in the same manner as they came for Iraq and Libya, under the premise of liberalization, despite rampant hypocrisy.

We watch global destruction from America, comfortably, which saddens me deeply. My only hope is that I can alleviate the suffering by fulfilling my individual potential in America, so that I may bring attention to their plight abroad, whether in the Caucasus, or in the Middle East.

Let it be known that we the Armenians, the Muslims and the Jews have suffered similar fates, to varying degrees of course, but still, equally atrocious and appalling. There are many more groups to be included, but these pertain directly to me. I would like to add also the struggle of African-Americans particularly [and all American minorities] who have endured similar if not worse suffering – and who have gifted me with the privilege of getting to know their culture and its immense richness and quality.

But the problem in Turkey was not Islam versus Christianity. This is modern propaganda. Islam and Christianity’s relationship in the Middle East, or the Orient, has largely enjoyed harmony.

Turkish nationalism is the main menace. Nationalism generally, is dangerous. Patriotism is different, we can’t mix the two. Nationalism is justification of some type of othering, as Edward Said might call it. It justifies the alienation of a group that is deemed not part of a nation, and worthy of exploitation. This happens historically to many groups, the Armenians being one among them.

The disintegration of the Ottoman Empires produced disasters for the Arab world in fact, contrary to the original aim of so-called liberation. The idea of freeing itself from Ottoman imperial control was not universally accepted or unanimously felt. The Ottoman Empire was relatively tolerant and secular compared to modern Saudi Arabia, for example. Ironically as previously mentioned, the Armenian population enjoyed a rather privileged status in the Ottoman Empire, due to levels of education and tenacity.

Perhaps the Ottoman Empire was not the best ruler for the Middle East, but it was unifying, and instead of being centralized on ethnic principles, it was based on a respect for the leadership of the greater Middle East. This would likely have persisted or shifted to another empire, as it has historically. But the idea that the world has modernized into nation-states, the premise of realist theory in international relations, largely ignores the reality that Western civilization functions as a unit – the Modern Holy Roman Empire if you will – with Washington D.C. serving as Rome. How else would it survive?

Perhaps this might explain why then the Middle East has become so vulnerable to the West following WWII – which might have been more about completely ending regional sovereignty in all parts of the world outside of the West.

It has really been a quest to find myself. Dear God.

Isn’t it ironic that religious minorities enjoyed more freedom under ottoman rule in ME than under ‘secular’ rule.

And that Islamic civilization was more tolerant and less vulnerable to fanaticism then too. Maybe cause they weren’t under foreign dominion?

Sure Ottoman Turkey was foreign to Arabs but nothing comparable to being ruled by British. In fact Europeans split up the Ottoman Empire, in what is known as the Sykes-Picot, a primarily British and French arrangement.

The beginning of colonialism of the ME.

The death of unity, sovereignty and tolerance ensued. Even Saudi nationalism, was a British Experiment. Maybe Germany nationalism, or Nazism was too, a form of containing in the rise of the “East”. This carries weight since Western sympathies for Nazism were not scarce; particularly as a form of anti-communism.

Modern western political theory, where realism or neorealism prevails, argues that since 1700s, or Westphalia, modern political unit is the State, and not for example, the individual, or the Empire [a collection of states]. This is rooted in temporal reality which may or may not persist. But what if the world operates as a collection of imperial organisms – not states, but states within Empires – based on cultures and/or ideologies? The West, is not a series of states united almost overtly behind American neoliberal hegemony? Does this not function as an empire, despite portrayals of it being otherwise?

We are in America now though. Safe. Thank God.

I only pray that I can be recognized as a US citizen but that means I have to marry an American or get it from my family and hopefully it will happen soon. I would also like to get some financial support or amnesty and recognition for my crafts. Perhaps I will write on Armenia one day, to explain my origin and its legacy. Return dignity to my people.

God willing.

Racism against Armenians in America goes back. I did not know it ran this deep. In the 1920s, Armenians were officially banned from owning businesses of certain kinds as part of an anti-Ottoman policy tradition maintained by the US. The Armenians possess a unique position in history, as a historically Christian nation, swallowed up by the Muslim Ottoman World. Still, their positive reputation for loyalty and competence earned them respect in the Ottoman Empire. It was not until the birth of fascist Turkish ultranationalism that anti-Armenianism became institutionalized. The Armenians have always been harmonious with Muslims and the Turks. This tradition in America, is grounded then in the anti anything that isn’t Anglo-Saxon – aka American racism or White Supremacy.

In relation to Armenian-Islamic or Armenian-Turkish relations however Armenians are not anti-Islamic or anti-Turkish. In fact many like me are from mixed religious families (obviously with the exception of certain fringe groups or peoples). The qualm is against Turkish ultranationalism and the mainly British imperial hand which leveraged it to initiate the Armenian Genocide. Today the Brits are largely replaced by the Americans. Perhaps that is why in both nations, the Genocide remains unrecognized. Neither does Israel, by the way. Peace and love to all.

Who Is Tim Kaine? A Brief History


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Tim Kaine has been officially declared as Hillary Clinton’s vice presidential running mate.

As news tabloids emblazon images of the newly chosen “veep” on television and computer screens, many ordinary Americans are left wondering – who is this guy? It is a fair question, since for most Americans, Tim Kaine is a stranger and a new face in politics.

Similarly, in 2008 many Americans found themselves asking the same question about presidential nominee Barrack Obama.

But this is a much different scenario. Still we are left asking, who really is Tim Kaine and what will he bring to the table, if anything?

As Donald Trump’s campaign continues to dominate the headlines, ordinary Americans are left wondering what is left for Hillary to do. Does she have a chance?

Tim Kaine first rose to national prominence when he was purported to be then presidential candidate Barrack Obama’s VP running mate in 2008. Since then, he has been largely out of the national political discussion, that is until now.

But some characteristics of Tim Kaine give reason to believe that he is someone to pay close attention to.

Kaine born in Minnesota but raised in Kansas City, Missouri. He is of humble beginnings as his father was a welder and was raised Catholic. He received his BA from the University of Missouri Kaine and attended Harvard Law School afterwards. During his tenure at Harvard, Kaine embarked on as a missionary with the Jesuits in Honduras. There he learned to speak Spanish fluently. He has on occasion delivered his speeches to Congress in Spanish. In fact, in 2013, Kaine delivered a speech introducing the bipartisan immigration bill drafted by the “Gang of Eight” entirely in Spanish – an unprecedented feat.

Kaine’s political career only began in 1994, therefor Americans are right to be more than inquisitive about their potential vice president, especially given heightened level of polarization between the two candidates and their parties. He political career took off in Richmond, Virginia where he started working for the City Council. In 1998 Kaine was elected Richmond’s Mayor and in 2005 he became the state’s Governor. From 2006-2011 Kaine served as the Democratic National Committee’s Chair and in 2012 he was elected Senator of Virginia defeating sitting governor George Allen.  It appears Kaine’s ambitions were carefully coordinated and executed. This might be underscored by the fact that Kaine has never lost a single election. Scared yet, GOP?

Still, Kaine does not maintain an impressive feat of policy. He is on neither extreme end of the political spectrum, though it might be appropriate to classify him as center-left, but certainly gravitating towards the center. As Governor, Kaine passed massive budget cuts amounting to nearly five billion dollars, which was quite unpopular in his state. With regard to his political positions, he has generally taken center-left positions, recognizing LGBT rights, climate change and the need for universal healthcare, to name a few. But his budget-cuts, promotion of international free trade and his support of American military operations in Afghanistan are indicative of his centrist affinities too, which makes all the more sense why he would be Clinton’s ideal running mate.

His foreign policy experience is limited, and thus enables little analysis. One particular controversy which occurred with his staffer, Esam Omeish, a Libyan-American doctor, who was appointed to the Virginia Commission on Immigration in 2009. Mr. Omeish expressed criticism for George W. Bush & the Israeli Lobby’s influence on US politics, leading to his resignation.

Albeit Tim Kaine is certainly apt for the job. His experiences and mobilization through the ranks of Virginian politics is evidence of that. But will Kaine be the necessary ingredient to Clinton’s recipe for defeating Donald Trump?

Time will tell – on November 8th, 2016 to be exact.

 

Who is responsible for Istanbul attack?


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On June 28th, a group of suicide bombers conducted an attack on Turkey’s Istanbul Ataturk Airport, killing 41 people and injuring 239. As the world mourns the tragedy, investigators seek to bring justice to the perpetrators. But who is responsible? And Why?

Is it Daesh (ISIS)?

Is it PKK?

These are both valid suggestions, based on the history of violence among both groups.

Based on the PKK’s terrorism tactic, the attack in Istanbul does not necessarily fit their profile. According to news sources, though unconfirmed, the PKK usually target Turkish nationals. The conflict between the PKK and the Turkish government surrounds the Kurdish question of identity and statehood in the Middle East. The Kurds have been without an autonomous country and do not enjoy equal rights in Turkey. Iraqi Kurdistan is the only region where Kurds enjoy a degree of nationalism but it is far from being a nation-state.

Why would Daesh or ISIS commit the attacks?

Turkey has been supporting the armed insurgency against Syrian president Bashar al-Assad since its inception. The majority of Daesh or ISIS fighters are not Syrian but foreign nationals, from Turkey, the Arabian peninsula, North Africa and Central Asia, which raises the question as to whether this a so-called civil war between state and opposition or an international conflict between states. Is Syria a proxy conflict waged between global powers? Is this the continuation of the so-called “Great Game”?

If Turkey has stood against the Syrian government, thereby granting ISIS leverage directly or indirectly, then why would such an attack take place?

Since the emergence of ISIS, and the corresponding terrorist attacks globally which have victimized France, America and Turkey to name just a few, the political dynamic of the Syrian conflict has shifted. The ouster of Assad, like that of Mubarak, Morsi, Ben Ali, Abdullah Saleh, Saddam Hussein and Gaddafi, was originally argued as the procurement of stability and justice in the Middle East. The outcomes have proven otherwise. The tyrannical leadership of these autocrats is undoubtable, but is there another force enabling this instability to begin with?

As a result of ISIS’ apparent indiscriminate violence, fundamentalism and fickleness, Turkey has, like the US, altered its position internationally. Just last week, Turkey announced reconciliation efforts with its historical arch-rivals, Israel and Russia. Russia has arguably maintained the Syrian government since its intervention.

Could this rapprochement have provoked backlash from ISIS against Turkey? Were these two gestures of international rapprochements with ISIS’ nemeses, Israel & Russia viewed as a form of betrayal by the terror group?

As investigations continue, emerging facts will likely give this blurry picture some lucidity.

But a shifting world order is evidentially not as far off as one might have expected, particularly after England’s vote to leave the EU.

As the migrant crisis continues, and Middle Eastern instability intensifies, one might ask why foreign powers have prioritized their ambitions over practical politics.

One cannot speak of justice in the Middle East while neglecting the bedrock of human security – sovereignty.

Until this is realized, fanaticism and instability will continue to overshadow justice in the Middle East.

 

 

Reading the Trump Card


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Donald Trump has amassed quite the voter base.

This doesn’t come as a surprise to those of us who understand the historical roots of racism in America.

For those who are in denial about it, it appears more difficult to grasp.

Let us remember that today, minorities suffer the worst economic hardships in America.

Public services are more than limited; and representation in politics is scarce.

Even then, the American people have resisted drastic political changes that might address our domestic inequalities. Furthermore, Americans are blindly obedient to media-disbursed narratives about our national security, which also ignore the complicity of America’s past century of foreign policy decisions that have made us the target of terrorists and provoked the rise of radicalism to begin with.

Donald Trump is exploiting the cultural paranoias afflicting the ordinary white man in America today who is too disillusioned with America’s apparent stagnation.

But the struggles of the white man are incomparable to those endured by the disenfranchised communities of minorities.

Progressivism itself has taken a halt due to the resilience of right-wing nationalism, which has crept into the left-wing too, via the likes of Hillary Clinton and that camp of centrist democrats.

But as previously mentioned this comes as no surprise.

The cultural revolution and awakening in America must address the grievances of immigrants and minorities as it does those of the average white American in order for change to be possible.

Bernie Sanders was unable to rally much of the minority communities, though his run remains impressive. His unconventional policies are ideal, but far from complete.

He hasn’t fully conceded yet, but the likely battle will be fought between Trump and Clinton.

Regardless, Clinton is better for the world than Trump, but she is worse than Bernie.

Our choices are not diverse; and our powers are limited.

Change must happen; but depending on political outcomes; it might get ugly before it gets pretty.

We Major! Minorities in America in 2016 & Beyond


 

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White Supremacy is real.

At one time in America’s history, it was a norm.

Today, it is more veiled – nonetheless in today’s political arena, we are witnessing the ugliness of America’s culture of bigotry creep in.

The Republican party has been reduced to a conservative, racist party of white men & their brainwashed minority of immigrants – Carson & Rubio.

But the vast majority is more of the Paul Ryan look.

These Republicans are against a real competition – which is ironic because they run on the platform of free markets & individual liberty. What the GOP really means is exclusive markets & liberty for White America.

In other words – apartheid. Even though White Americans make up the majority of the US population, the nation will be a majority-minority nation by 2050.

Maybe the GOP realizes this and is working against it.

But why work towards depriving human beings of democracy? Why can’t we all have a shot? Why can’t we all have individual rights and access to the free market?

And why do Republicans act like used public services and collective initiatives are not equally responsible as their own individual initiatives in helping them to achieve their status?

Republicans want to paint anybody who supports freedom for all minorities too – as a danger to America; as a danger to the values of free markets; etc.

But how could this be possible in a democracy, where limits on the executive and elections limit tyranny?

It appears that, in a democracy, Republicanism functions more like Communists in an authoritarian regime – both seek to preserve an elite exclusive culture as the expense of equal opportunities for all.

These dudes just fear competition – an old guard.

And they don’t like the idea of a Black president; a Hispanic CEO; a Jewish athlete; a Muslim doctor; a gay teacher; etc. But these are all the fruits of a truly free society, that encourages competition and dignity for all – democracy ; whereas the GOP’s brand, called capitalism, echoes communism; and means freedom for a small bunch of white dudes.

Initiatives such as ending immigration reform; preventing prison reform; these are continuations of an age-long American/Anglo-Saxon tradition of politicized, institutionalized superiority complexes.

You see this in the ongoing police brutality which has claimed a disturbing number of lives of innocent African-American…youth.

But we have been desensitized by the media which conflates the victim’s flaws; and justifies the oppression.

I do think that with more legal action and reform, we can stamp out the “culture of racism” which has been disguised as “freedom-loving” in the US once and for all and provide a future for our children, of all colors and orientations, that gives them all the opportunity to either fail – or succeed – but nonetheless – giving them the opportunity – at best.