Attacks on Christians and mood of fear continue as thousands abandon their homes in the capital Bengui, UN agency says.
Kiev avoids "bankruptcy and social collapse" as a result of economic agreement with Moscow, PM Mykola Azarov says.
div class=field field-summary div class=field-items div class=field-item odd pArab Awakening's columnists offer their weekly perspective on what is happening on the ground in the Middle East. Leading the week: a href=http://www.opendemocracy.net/arab-awakening/nikita-malik/water-water-everywhereWater, water, everywhere/a./p /div /div /div lia href=#1Water, water, everywhere/a/li lia href=#2It's raining, it's pouring and a book review/a/li lia href=#3Tunisia: security sector reform/a/li lia href=#4Morsi as symbol/a/li lia href=#5Morsi is not a symbol/a/li lia href=#6General El Sisi and the red sword/a/li h3a name=1/aWater, water, everywhere/h3p class=MsoNormal By a href=http://www.opendemocracy.net/node/77856/Nikita Malik/a/p pThe scarcity of water resources and the relative power of countries that share them has long been a hotly contested topic. In a paper published in 2008, Mark Zeitoun and Naho Mirumachi a href=http://www.uea.ac.uk/polopoly_fs/1.147025!ZeitounMirumachi_TBW_I.pdfargue/a that these ‘transboundary water interactions’ are inherently political processes, determined by broader political conflicts. Nowhere are these processes and conflicts more visible than the Dead Sea to Red Sea project, signed off by Palestine, Israel, and Jordan a href=http://www.reuters.com/article/2013/12/09/us-mideast-water-worldbank-idUSBRE9B819220131209earlier this week/a. Whether this cooperative agreement sustains or transforms the conflict it is intended to resolve is a matter not only of opinion, but also, time./p pYaakov Garb, an Israeli environmental and social studies expert at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, a href=http://www.nytimes.com/2013/12/10/world/middleeast/israel-jordan-and-palestinians-sign-water-project-deal.html?_r=0stated/a to the emNew York Times /emthat he suspects the project is “wrapped up in ‘Saving the Dead Sea’ clothing” in order to attract international financing. Others argue that Red-to-Dead is more concerned with providing freshwater to a desperate region, and less to do with reversing receding water levels in the Dead Sea. It is this demand for fresh water that has caused evaporation of the Jordan River and the Dead Sea in the first place: waters that flow into the Jordan River and the Sea of Galilee are diverted for consumption. This has caused the amount of water that flows freely to Jordan to decrease over time: A 2011 report by the Indian-based think tank Strategic Foresight Group (SFG) a href=http://carnegieendowment.org/2011/01/20/blue-peace-rethinking-middle-east-water/1x6?reloadFlag=1states/a that even as consumption levels increase rapidly, the annual discharge of Jordan River decreased to 200 cubic metresnbsp;in 2011, compared to 1,300nbsp;cubic metresnbsp;in 1960. Conversely, the aggressive adoption of desalination plants, coupled with profitable waste-water reuse policies, has meant that per capita usage of fresh water has steadily a href=http://www.globalwaterforum.org/2013/03/18/tackling-water-scarcity-israels-wastewater-recycling-as-a-model-for-the-worlds-arid-lands/declined in Israel/a: approximately 80% of all waste water is recycled in the nation, more than double the rate of any other country in the world./p pIt is natural that a cumulative decrease in water resources, an absence of water management, and a growing population that creates higher water demand, has culminated in a tense political environment in Jordan as I have a href=http://carnegieendowment.org/sada/2013/09/19/cost-of-syrian-refugees/gnmyargued/a elsewhere. As part of the project, approximately 100 million cubic metres of water will be desalinated in Jordan: the majority of water for drinking and irrigation will be directed to Israel’s Arava desert, but, as part of the cooperation, Israel will provide desperately needed water to Jordan’s Northern front.nbsp;/p pspanA water shortage for Jordanians could fuel growing instability for the Hashemite regime. Citizens without a fundamental human right are likely to express their dissent, voicing protest both on, and off, the streets. The focus for the Hashemite Kingdom remains two-fold: guaranteeing the fulfilment of domestic water needs to improve food security in the nation, and contributing to political stability through equitable sharing of water resources within the wider region.nbsp;/span/p pDespite current challenges, better water management holds possibilities for improved cooperation and trust-building in the future. Potential benefits are clear; indeed, overall welfare of the three participating states is vitally linked by dependence on this shared resource. a href=http://www.maan-ctr.org/pdfs/WateReport.pdfToday/a, Israelis consume a daily average of 350 litres of water per capita, while Jordanians consume roughly 60 litres, and Palestinians, only about 30 litres. In the future, it is hoped that countries along the Jordan River establish a daily per-capita water usage of under 200 litres./p pCurrent negotiations over water management rely on provisional figures from the Oslo Accords of the early 1990s, even though studies a href=http://carnegietsinghua.org/events/?fa=3137show/a that water resources have depleted by 7% since that time. In the past, the lack of confidence between Israelis and Palestinians has been a crucial impediment to improving water resource management between the three nations. It is clear that a paradigm shift is needed to change how these partners view the politics at the crux of their water agreements. Perhaps, the Red-to-Dead deal will provide it./p h3a name=2/aIt's raining, it's pouring and a book review/h3p class=MsoNormal By a href=http://www.opendemocracy.net/node/77877/Efraim Perlmutter/a/p pI ended my last contribution to this forum with Let us all pray for rainy weather in the Negev this winter. Someone seems to have a direct line to the deity as immediately thereafter we were blessed with abundant rain in the Negev and across the rest of the country as well as major parts of the Middle East. The rain gauge in my garden registered more than 100 millimeters while some places not far away registered more than twice that amount. To give you an idea of what that means, the average annual rainfall in our village is 170 millimeters and we haven't achieved even that for the past few years. Just about all of our fields are irrigated and we have a yearly water allocation of about 2,000,000 cubic meters. We were looking at the prospect of running over the limit of our allocation in December, the last month of the year. However in this last rainfall approximately 300,000 cubic meters of rain water fell from the heavens to irrigate our fields. This means that we will end the year with a surplus rather than a deficit in our water accounts. /p pBecause of the inclement weather, classes in some schools were cancelled, including the Bedouin school where I teach. My wife and I drove around our area to see the overflowing wadis (valleys). Our excursion was cut short because some of the highways were flooded out and closed. /ppspan class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'a href=http://dy1m18dp41gup.cloudfront.net/cdn/farfuture/09H3vvJRGVSTeu32gJX8EABZ1gRklhNKNiuCsYGBcx8/mtime:1387288962/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/549460/082.JPG rel=lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline] title=img src=http://dy1m18dp41gup.cloudfront.net/cdn/farfuture/WQwwe1uOlHTCGxlWY1AygtbOtp1had0rHNKGvVyTWyQ/mtime:1387288153/files/imagecache/article_large/wysiwyg_imageupload/549460/082.JPG alt=Efraim Perlmutter title= width=400 height=224 class=imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_large style= //a span class='image_meta'span class='image_title'Efraim Perlmutter. All rights reserved./span/span/span/ppHowever, I managed to get a few photos of rapidly flowing water in what looks like respectable rivers now but in the summer months will revert to their natural state as dry riverbeds./ppspan class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'a href=http://dy1m18dp41gup.cloudfront.net/cdn/farfuture/SF9v5GFfniI9sQqUj4QeHdFWsqsWBQ3rp3obQyz3NZ8/mtime:1387288964/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/549460/091.JPG rel=lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline] title=img src=http://dy1m18dp41gup.cloudfront.net/cdn/farfuture/qW5tiP0LtzJNNN8c_dGnMcrmk8ltn6Lc3SAIFcfJ0Ts/mtime:1387288188/files/imagecache/article_large/wysiwyg_imageupload/549460/091.JPG alt=Efraim Perlmutter title= width=400 height=224 class=imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_large style= //a span class='image_meta'span class='image_title'Efraim Perlmutter. All rights reserved./span/span/span/ppHaving a long weekend and not being able to work on the farm because of the rain, I had a chance to read a book that, in my opinion, can change one's views about how the political world works. The book is The Dictators Handbook: Why Bad Behavior Is Almost Always Good Politics by Bruce Bueno De Mesquita and Alastair Smith. In the interest of total disclosure I should report that Bruce and his wife Arlene were our best friends in graduate school. He went on to a very successful a href=http://www.predictioneersgame.com/authorcareer/a in academia while my wife and I devoted ourselves to growing tomatoes in the Negev. We kept a tenuous connection over the years and recently took advantage of a short trip back to the States to visit with Bruce and Arlene in New York. He gave me a copy of his latest book and I had the chance to read it on my rain-enforced vacation weekend. /p pThe central thesis of the book is that the main goal of political leaders is to remain in office and that they act accordingly. The thesis is used to analyze the behavior of numerous political actors ranging from the city manager and city council of Bell California and the miscreant behavior of the Board of Directors of the Enron Corporation to Sergeant Doe, of Liberia and the Green Bay Packers; with other numerous examples drawn from contemporary events as well as ancient, modern and biblical history along the way. /p pI was particularly impressed and depressed by chapter seven, the analysis of the impact of foreign aid. A couple of decades ago a young Dutch fellow, named Bert, worked as a volunteer in our village. He went on to work in an institution for mentally disabled children in Be'er Sheva. Bert decided to see Africa and took a year off to travel down that continent from Egypt to Cape Town, South Africa. He passed through our village on his way back to Holland and I asked him what he had concluded from his travels. His response was that all foreign aid should be stopped because it was not being used to help the populace but rather to enrich the corrupt leaderships. The Dictator's Handbook takes this observation one step further and argues that foreign aid has been used mainly to keep the corrupt dictators in power. Considering the gazillions of funds that have come from the USA, France, Great Britain, Russia, China and elsewhere that have been used to oppress numerous populations, I must conclude that foreign aid has been, in the main, a crime against humanity. /p pThough a thoroughly depressing work, The Dictator's Handbook does make a positive point that is appropriate for a forum named openDemocracy. It is that while not perfect, democratic systems of government, run by leaderships whose main goal is to stay in power, do, in fact, act in ways that increase the available wealth and spread it around to wider portions of the population while authoritarian regimes do just the opposite. This is the case no matter what the self-proclaimed ideologies of either type of regime happen to be. This may be self-evident to some but I fear that it is not apparent to many. /p pAppropriately, on the morning that the rain stopped and the sun came out, I read a news report about an agreement signed by Israel, Jordan and the Palestinian Authority cooperating on a water producing and sharing project. (For commentary see this a href=http://www.opendemocracy.net/arab-awakening/nikita-malik/water-water-everywherepiece/a.)nbsp;/ppspanBack in the 1950's President Eisenhower sent a water expert to the Middle East to develop a water sharing plan between Lebanon, Syria, Jordan and Israel. There was no Palestinian Authority then as the West Bank was occupied by Jordan. The plan was created to benefit the populations of each state but it was rejected by the Arab States who would do nothing for their own people if it also benefited Israel. As it happened, both Jordan and Israel carried out their parts of the plan independently while Syria took action to disrupt both of their neighbors' water supply. A lot of blood and water has flown under the bridge since then and perhaps the political leadership of Jordan and the Palestinian Authority see their staying in power as being tied to the increased welfare of their people. This would be considered a positive development by the authors of The Dictator's Handbook. The current authoritarian Syrian regime is acting pretty much as expected.nbsp;/span/p pOn second thought rather than praying for more rain in the Negev, let's all pray for me winning the national lottery. Of course it might help if I bought a ticket./p h3a name=3/aTunisia: security sector reform/h3p class=MsoNormal By a href=http://www.opendemocracy.net/node/77846/Robert Joyce/a/p p class=normalIn October, photos surfaced of the savagely beaten body of 32 year old Tunisian mannbsp;a href=http://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/features/2013/11/tunisian-police-accused-torture-2013111011124902997.htmlWalid Denguir/a. Police reportedly arrested Denguir in the Bab Fellah neighborhood of Tunis. Around an hour after his arrest, Denguir’s mother was called on by the police and told her son was dead. Pictures taken after autopsy show Denguir’s skull had caved in and a prominent human rights lawyer said that his injuries resemble the “roasted chicken” position, said to be common to the Ben Ali era, where the victim is hung by four limbs on a pole and beaten with sticks./pp class=normalThree days after Denguir’s death, the Ministry of Interior remarkablynbsp;a href=http://www.tunisia-live.net/2013/11/04/man-dies-after-arrest-officials-admit-excessive-force/released/anbsp;a statement blaming his death on “excessive violence” while in custody. The officials quickly got back to the normal routine, though, and removed the press release. An investigation is said to be under way from both within the ministry and the external court. Since then, despite continued reporting and civil society pressure no updates have been released. In a show of stunning nerve, the security forces union blamed Denguir’s death on the consumption of cannabis. Local media has run the same cause of death, attributing this to a phantom autopsy report.nbsp;/pp class=normalThe Denguir case serves as a particularly brutal example of the larger issues of police arrest practices. A Human Rights Watch reportnbsp;a href=http://www.hrw.org/news/2013/12/05/tunisia-perils-pre-charge-detentionreleased/anbsp;earlier this month exposed the flaws in existing laws that have yet to be improved since the revolution. Police in Tunisia can hold arrested suspects for six days without pressing charges or processing them in the prison system. During this time as HRW writes, “detainees are particularly vulnerable to mistreatment by law enforcement agents because they have no access to a lawyer or to family visits.”nbsp;/pp class=normalForty of seventy detainees interviewed by HRW reported abuse ranging from rape threats to baton beatings during arrest and interrogation. Anecdotally, in Tunis, I pass two police stations on my way to work everyday and see cops rough up people they are apparently arresting.nbsp;In broad daylight or in the middle of the street police openly rough up anyone they suspect of committing a crime or just insulting them./pp class=normalTwo days after Denguir’s death, a distant relative appeared at the police station in which he was first reported to be killed. Shirtless, screaming and waving a knife he hurled insults at the police and accused them of murder. About twenty cops in all eventually attacked him, repeatedly using a taser even when he was restrained. Worse, when his family arrived at the station, they beat them up and insulted them. One officer chased a woman after she had left the station, kicking and punching her. On a regular basis, groups of people attack this police station, throwing bottles and rocks./pp class=normalAttacking the police is dangerous and certainly not a solution. Security unions in Tunisia have made the reasonable argument that they’ve been unfairly held responsible for the abuses of the former regime, when commanders and politicians are more culpable. Tunisia faces real threats from militants allegedly associated with Ansar al-Sharia and al-Qaeda. In addition to two high profile political assassinations in the past year, a number of soldiers, national guardsmen and police officers have been killed. Tunisia needs a professional security force, but until citizens can depend on the law to bring some justice against police abuses, hate and mistrust of the police will continue.nbsp;nbsp;/pp class=normalTunisia’s Ministry of Interior needs to do better than internal inquiries that lack transparency and lead nowhere. The torture commission law, passed by the NCA in October, will bring more sunlight to detention facilities, opening them up to regular unannounced inspection by human rights experts. The Ministry of Justice, while not without its own structural problems, ought to make every effort to show citizens that their investigative judges take police violence seriously. Tunisians deserve a police force they can trust, rather than fear.nbsp;/p h3a name=4/aMorsi as symbol/h3p class=MsoNormal By a href=http://www.opendemocracy.net/node/77791Islam Abdel-Rahman/a/p pSince the bloody coup that ousted the first democratically elected president in Egypt, Dr. Mohammed Morsi last July, a growing movement against the coup has evolved and progressed, challenging the military authority over the country.nbsp; /p pThis Anti-Coup movement began by demanding the re-instatement of the 2012 constitution and restoration of the Shurah council, the upper house of the parliament, alongside the restoration of Morsi’s presidency. The Rabaa sign (referring to the sit-in where thousands of Anti-Coup movement protesters were killed by security forces last August) has meanwhile become a sign and slogan for that movement, and it remains a movement that contains many who not so long ago were against many of his policies. Why did they make this political choice under the worst of circumstances?/p pMorsi was the first civilian who was elected president of Egypt. While this may sound ordinary in many countries, it has a deep significance in Egypt. For decades, Egypt was ruled by military officers and for centuries it was ruled by monarchs. This was the first time, thanks to the January 25th Revolution, where the Egyptians managed to elect their own ruler among others who competed in an open contest, something Egypt has never witnessed before. Morsi became a symbol for the power of people to choose who rules them./p pThese were fair elections with just a slight margin over the ‘deep state’ candidate, who also belonged to a military institution. This was the fifth electoral contest in a row (two constitutional referendums, two parliamentary elections and a presidential one), and this one occurred in an open political environment dominated by civilian powers with different outlooks and attitudes. This major gain from the revolution opened up the prospects of a viable political life before all Egyptians, who before then were represented solely by the president’s party and a cartoonish opposition./p pAfter the coup, all these fair elections, not only the presidential one but also all the previous political outcomes, were cancelled out and thrown in the bin. Despite a road map that entails new elections under military rule alongside the restoration of Mubarak’s Police State and his politicised judiciary, Morsi’s return soon became the symbol of the civilian politics that led to his election and flourished throughout his sole year of governance./p pIn Egypt, traditionally, not only is the president’s position occupied by an army officer but all the influential positions have been dominated by army personnel. Many positions for governor, city mayor, or manager of state-owned firms were occupied by former army officers so that it has become widely thought that army officers only retire to prepare themselves to hold a position somewhere in the governmental body running Egypt. /p pAlthough Egyptian politics were run mainly by the National Democratic Party of Mubarak, the real powers in the land were the military, who have the decisive say on who will sit on the throne of Egypt. Although this equation was disrupted by the revolution, the military did not give up and tried to regain its privileges. This was very clear in the support that the military candidate in the presidential race, General Ahmed Shafiq, enjoyed. However, Morsi’s electoral victory returned their efforts to square one, and for the first time the commander-in-chief of the army became a civilian. /p pDespite this, although the constitution voted on in 2012 maintained an autonomous position for the army, the army was deeply alarmed at the prospect of losing such tremendous privileges as they had enjoyed in the recent past. In a leaked record from General Sisi, he mentioned that no president whatever his background may be (Islamists, liberal, leftist), would understand the position and importance of the army in Egypt. This is why the Anti-Coup movement supporters insisted on the return of president Morsi. They know that this would be a profound symbol of defeat confronting an institution that has run the country for decades, with iron and lately with blood./p pSome will disagree with the policies or decisions adopted by Morsi; however, there were two moments in particular when he was clearly seen as a symbol for the revolution against its opponents. /p pThe first was in the second round of the presidential race when he stood against the candidate of the military institution supported by remnants of the old regime. The second moment took place in this current crisis, when he refused to bow to military coercion and instead reiterated his claim to being the legitimate president of Egypt within the terms of Egypt’snbsp; constitution. /p pTo this day, the Anti-Coup movement does not recognise what happened in Egypt in July as only a military coup, but as full blown counter-revolution. They emphasise that all the practices and pillars of Mubarak’s regime have been restored at the expense of every gain achieved by the revolution. Setting aside any debate ( and there are many) about how effective the president was in his single turbulent year in office, Morsi is regarded by many as a symbol for the January Revolution against those who used tanks to enforce the will of the counter-revolutionary forces in Egypt.nbsp;/p pFor the reasons mentioned above, Morsi’s symbolism has gone beyond personal or political loyalty to a broader meaning for a country that refuses to relinquish the gains it seized in its revolution three years ago./p h3a name=5/aMorsi is not a symbol/h3p class=MsoNormal By a href=http://www.opendemocracy.net/node/77876/Maged Mandour/a/p pIslam Abdel-Rahman, in a recent a href=http://www.opendemocracy.net/arab-awakening/islam-abdel-rahman/morsi-as-symbolarticle/anbsp;on openDemocracy, argued that President Morsi’s appeal has transected his core constituency, and that he has become a unifying figure for the anti-coup movement. He also argues that the coup is a counter revolutionary event, which returned the military to the Egyptian political scene “after the revolution”, and implicitly of course President Morsi could have removed the military from power. The tone of the article also implies that during presidential elections, Morsi represented revolutionary forces in opposition to the candidate of the “deep state”, and that his success was equivalent to a revolutionary victory. The views expressed in this article are not simply a distortion of the past and present, but also an exercise in selective memory “par excellence”, which suggests that Brotherhood supporters are still not ready to take the necessary steps to redeem that organisation; the first of which should be an honest acknowledgment of its failures and shortcomings, transcending propaganda and political pragmatism. /p pIn order to gain a deeper understanding of the role of the Brotherhood in post-Mubarak Egypt, one needs to understand the role of the Brotherhood under Mubarak and Sadat. The Brotherhood as a mass, conservative, backward looking movement, with a backbone in the rural bourgeoisie, has historically acted as a bulwark against more progressive, national forces. The Brotherhood has maintained this role since its inception in Ismailia in 1928, until the ouster of Morsi by the Egyptian military. One only needs to remember the role of the Brotherhood in supporting the King against the representative of the Egyptian El-Wafd Party’s nationalist movement in pre-1952 Egypt. Add to this, their support of Sadat against the leftist and Nasserist forces of the 1970s and their attempts to defame the January uprising of 1977 by labelling it as a communist conspiracy. Finally comes their support for the Supreme Council of Armed Forces (SCAF) during the first transitional period; crowding out popular protest against the military by holding counter rallies and providing political cover to the numerous massacres conducted by the military through their control of the people’s assembly. /p pIn short, based on their history one can convincingly argue that they themselves are an anti-revolutionary, conservative, status quo force that has always worked within the confines of political systems. One only needs to remember the famous interview given by Morsi during the final years of the Mubarak regime, when he publicly stated that there was electoral coordination between the Brotherhood and the National Democratic Party (NDP), and that the Brotherhood had cleared some “areas” for certain members of the NDP, since they considered them to be “national symbols”. /p pThis is not to argue that the Brotherhood was not subjected to bouts of state repression; the clearest example was the fraudulent parliamentary elections in 2010. However, this repression was based on the needs of the regime, and was used to discipline the Brotherhood when needed. The Brotherhood had a symbiotic relationship with the military-dominated regime, whereby it acted as its arm in civil society, allowing the state to withdraw and retrench after the volcano of 1967, as I havenbsp;a href=http://www.opendemocracy.net/arab-awakening/maged-mandour/egypt-islamist-militaryargued/a elsewhere./p pThis context is necessary for the rebuttal of some points raised by Abdel-Rahman in his article. The article gives the impression that by the time the presidential elections were under way the military was all but sidelined from the Egyptian political scene and that the main powers were “civilian”; insinuating that Morsi’s electoral victory was a death blow to the military. Paradoxically, he also states that Morsi only just beat the “deep state” candidate, which also implies that the “deep state” was still an active participant in Egyptian political life. This view is a simple and superficial view to say the least. It ignores the wider societal context in which these elections took place. Namely, it ignores the failure of revolutionary forces to change existing societal power relations within the Egyptian polity, especially in the realm of political economy and civil society. /p pIn the realm of political economy, the military’s economic empire remained un-assailed, even the most radical revolutionaries failing to create the necessary awareness of this empire and its impact on Egyptian societal development, thus failing to threaten or dismantle it. In the realm of civil society, the power base of the Brotherhood, the revolutionary forces failed to create revolutionary consciousness as a necessary first step for commencing a direct assault on the state and the political system. This failure can be partially attributed to the anti-revolutionary role of the Brotherhood, as they sided with the military against progressive forces, ensuring that the ideological base of the regime remained intact. In short, when presidential elections took place, the military remained the dominant force in the country, which would automatically limit the power of a new president, whoever he might be./p pAbdel-Rahman, also repeats a false assumption common among members of the Brotherhood, confusing elections with democracy. Abdel-Rahman gives the impression that Morsi’s electoral victory was a victory for democracy, ignoring the fact that elections are only one prerequisite for democracy. Elections, even if they are free, do not necessarily guarantee a democratic state. Democracy involves the elimination of independent power centres that are outside the control of the state, which was not the case, as argued above, and the existence of truly democratic institutions and legal framework, including but not limited to a constitution, which was not ready at the time. Once again the argument that the Egyptian revolution created a real opening in the Egyptian political system remains suspect. The prerequisites of a democratic election did not exist./p pTo drive the point home, one needs to look at Morsi`s policies during his year in office. The main issue was that the Brotherhood behaved eerily similarly to the NDP in terms of economic policies, for example. The Brotherhood seemed to press forward with neoliberal practices that were adopted by the NDP. The clearest example was the Brotherhood`s attempts to obtainnbsp; a loan from the IMF. The Brotherhood also attempted to replicate the repressive tactics of the NDP and it failed to do so, not due to lack of will, rather due to lack of cooperation from security institutions. Finally, and most importantly, the Brotherhood’s rushed constitution that preserved the status of the military as an independent power centre clearly showed whose side they were on. The Brotherhood remained true to its history while in power; they remained an anti-revolutionary force attempting to reach an accord with the military as they slowly attempted tonbsp; consolidate their power base within the state apparatus./p pIn short, the notion that Morsi and the Brotherhood were part, let alone symbols, of the revolutionary movement is a blatant attempt to rewrite history and ignore their own history and the choices they made. Conversely, one could make quite a case for believing that the Brotherhood and Morsi were part of the counter-revolution that started once Mubarak stepped down on 11 February 2011. /p pAs for the claim that after the coup, Morsi`s appeal transcended his core base of Muslim Brotherhood supporters - this is dubious at best. The popularity of the military remains solid for the time being, although it might start to disintegrate as repression increases. Other political forces, opposed to the military, have gone to considerable lengths to distance themselves from the Brotherhood. The Brotherhood failed to garner the support of the urban middle classes, concentrated in Cairo, which severely hindered its ability to effectively oppose the military. It relied historically on numerical superiority in the peripheries, ignoring the centre, a strategy that has proved to be a fatal error. Some might even argue, that the split between the Al-Nour Salafist party, who are now attempting to crowd out the Brotherhood, and the MB has further weakened the Islamist movement and the ability of the Brotherhood to appeal to wider Islamist audiences. Morsi was and is a leader within the confines of the Brotherhood, but he has no wider appeal. The Brotherhood’s failure has severely damaged the revolution and consolidated the position of the military. Morsi is not Mandela and the MB is not the ANC.nbsp; nbsp; nbsp; nbsp;/p h3a name=6/aGeneral El Sisi and the red sword/h3p class=MsoNormal By a href=http://www.opendemocracy.net/node/77869/Amr Osman/a/p pIn a recently released a href=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hXshq-sADWosound clip/a of an interview with General Abdel Fattah El Sisi, Egypt’s Minister of Defense and currentem de facto/em leader, the interviewer (the Editor-in-Chief of emal-Masry al-Youm/em Egyptian newspaper, Yasir Rizk) asks the General if he had ever dreamt of leading the Egyptian army, to which El Sisi replies by asking, “The leadership of the Egyptian army, or something bigger than that?” The General then begins to talk about part of what he describes as “a long history of dreams” that he always believed in, but, for reasons that he does not disclose, has stopped talking about since 2006. /p pAmong the important dreams that he mentions in this context is one with the late President Anwar El Sadat of Egypt (1970-1981). According to El Sisi, Sadat told him that he knew that he [Sadat] would be Egypt’s president, to which El Sisi replied by saying that he, too, knew that he would be Egypt’s president. In another dream, the General was told that he “would be granted something that nobody had been granted before [him]”. In perhaps a related dream, the General is wearing an “Omega watch with a huge green star on it”. When asked why he had that watch that nobody else had, he said: “This watch is mine. It’s Omega and I am Abdel Fattah [his first name].” “I have linked Omega with ‘internationality’ with Abdel Fattah,” he explains./p pA megalomaniac mentality that glorifies political power and material wealth is evident in these dreams, which also demonstrate that the General has had an old ambition and a real desire to “sit on Egypt’s throne,” in Rizk’s words. Arguably, the only viable way for him to do this after the January 2010 revolution was to use the army itself to create a cult of personality around himself. That he has done by exploiting public anger against the Muslim Brotherhood (but we may wonder now what role he may have played in creating and fomenting that anger) to topple President Mohamed Morsi (who had appointed him as Minister of Defense) in a military coup on 3 July, 2013. This was followed immediately by an incredible campaign of scandalous sycophancy that has reached the nadir of a href=http://www.almasryalyoum.com/node/1979821?fb_comment_id=fbc_493802564040994_3220210_494056147348969#f6fc5af502e019an Egyptian journalist offering herself and other Egyptian women as “slave girls”/a to please the new leader. nbsp; nbsp;nbsp;/ppspanBut perhaps the most revealing of the General’s dreams is the one in which, according to himself, he once saw himself carrying a “red sword with ‘There is no God but Allah’” inscribed on it. The significance of this dream is evident. The sword is a tool for killing, and the red color on it indicates that it has already been used for this purpose. What is crucial here, however, is that the sword has the well-known Islamic testimony to God’s oneness on it. In other words, the sword was used in the name of God to kill his opponents. It is a holy war, then, where murder, including mass murder, is not only justifiable, but even meritorious as sanctioned by none other than God Himself./span/p pIt is this same mentality that searches for justification for mass murder that led General El Sisi, a couple of weeks after the coup, to call on Egyptians to give him a “mandate” to deal with “potential violence and terrorism” so that he can use it to kill thousands of his people in the name of the rest of the people, which he has in fact been doing since his coup. Nor is it surprising that Egypt’s former Mufti, Sheikh Ali Gomaa, following in his footsteps was able to openly call on the Egyptian army and police to target the hearts of the “filthy” Egyptians who rejected the military coup. Unsurprisingly, Gomaa said this to an audience that included General El Sisi himself.nbsp;nbsp; /p pObviously, General El Sisi sincerely believes that he is engaging in a holy war, either in the name of God or the name of the Egyptian “people”, which now does not include the Muslim Brotherhood or any person who rejects the coup. /p pAt the moment, a significant segment of Egyptian society is the target of this holy war which does not only include the Muslim Brotherhood, but also anyone who opposes his coup and road map (many Egyptian activists – who are not related to the Brotherhood – have beennbsp;spanrecentlynbsp;/spanspandetained, and remain in detention, for considering El Sisi's tactics a restoration of the Mubarak regime)./span/p pTwo more observations can be made. The first is General El Sisi’s unrelenting willingness to use lethal force to suppress his opponents. His decision to disperse the sit-ins in Cairo mid-August while knowing that thousands could be killed (which did actually happen) is the best demonstration of this. Listening to any of the sound clips that were released in the past few weeks of the same interview (the parts that were released were obviously meant to be confidential), it is also difficult not to be struck by the incredible banality of the way the General thinks and expresses himself. /p pThe kind of mentality that dominates El Sisi’s regime – which dominated the regimes of Saddam Hussein, Colonel Gaddafi, and the Assads in Syria, to name a few Arab dictators – can only survive by creating enemies. When internal enemies are done with, external enemies are created, and El Sisi will summon up and deal with that enemy in the same way he now deals with his internal enemies.nbsp;/pfieldset class=fieldgroup group-sideboxslegendSideboxes/legenddiv class=field field-related-stories div class=field-labelRelated stories:nbsp;/div div class=field-items div class=field-item odd a href=/arab-awakening/nikita-malik/water-water-everywhereWater, water, everywhere/a /div div class=field-item even a href=/arab-awakening/efraim-perlmutter/its-raining-its-pouring-and-book-reviewIt#039;s raining, it#039;s pouring and a book review/a /div div class=field-item odd a href=/arab-awakening/robert-joyce/tunisia-security-sector-reformTunisia: security sector reform/a /div div class=field-item even a href=/arab-awakening/islam-abdel-rahman/morsi-as-symbolMorsi as symbol /a /div div class=field-item odd a href=/arab-awakening/maged-mandour/morsi-is-not-symbolMorsi is not a symbol/a /div div class=field-item even a href=/arab-awakening/amr-osman/general-el-sisi-and-red-swordGeneral El Sisi and the red sword/a /div /div /div /fieldset div class=field field-country div class=field-label Country or region:nbsp;/div div class=field-items div class=field-item odd Israel /div div class=field-item even Palestine /div div class=field-item odd Jordan /div div class=field-item even Egypt /div div class=field-item odd Tunisia /div /div /div
div class=field field-summary div class=field-items div class=field-item odd pResolving gridlock involves the search for a new kind of politics that builds on the many and various partial solutions to global challenges that can be found today. The only alternative is collective drift./p /div /div /div pLast weekend the World Trade Organization’s (WTO) 159 members reached a historic deal to speed up customs and port procedures, helping trade flow more efficiently. While the “Bali Package’s” concrete benefits were rightly celebrated - it could perhaps add $1 trillion to the global economy over time - the real excitement was about the emergence of a deal at all. This was the first multilateral agreement the WTO has reached in its two decades of existence, and comes after the current round of negotiations has been declared dead several times.nbsp;/p pOn the face of it, this is a good sign for multilateralism. It represents a spirit of compromise among a highly diverse world economy. While recognizing the benefits of global trade, the Bali package includes clauses for ‘special and differential treatment’ for imports from poor countries, and exemptions from agricultural subsidy rules for the first four years (the latter a concession to India, which stockpiles grain for food security reasons).nbsp;/p pBut the Bali deal is only the lowest hanging fruit on a very tall tree. Of all the complex issues facing the global trading system, trade facilitation is but one small segment. The harder issues were left off the agenda. The lesson of Bali is that it is not ‘political will’ or intelligent compromise that greases the wheels of global cooperation, but rather the lessening of ambition.nbsp;/p pThis is a bad sign for multilateral cooperation, because across a range of issue areas we need to raise ambition.nbsp; For example, two weeks ago 192 countries met in Warsaw to try to negotiate a solution to climate change. nbsp;In the face of an ongoing climate crisis, governments around the world were supposed to set out a roadmap toward completing a new binding global treaty, setting out commitments to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from 2020 onward. Yet, at the nineteenth such meeting in 19 years no roadmaps were drawn, no emission cuts agreed. The only commitment the participating governments made was to allow additional time for negotiations to set targets, nominally to be reached by 2015.nbsp;/p pOr consider Syria. International institutions have made real progress to remove chemical weapons from the country, upholding one of the key achievements of twentieth century international cooperation. But those same institutions have proven completely unable to address the underlying civil war, which has already cost the lives of over 115,000 people and displaced millions, both within and beyond Syria’s borders./p pWhy has global cooperation stalled? The negotiators who met at Bali and Warsaw -and their counterparts discussing financial regulation, cyber security, or other pressing matters on the global agenda - are consumed by the knotty details of their respective issues. But they in fact face a common set of underlying barriers./p pFirst, the issues under negotiation have grown more complex, penetrating deep into domestic policies.nbsp; Second, nbsp;many multilateral institutions, created in the aftermath of World War II, have proven rigid and difficult to change, nbsp;clinging to outmoded decision-making rules and an established set of interests that fail to reflect the current state of affairs. Third, in many areas international institutions have proliferated with overlapping and contradictory mandates, creating a confusing fragmentation of authority. And last, these trends are compounded by the rise of new powers, such as India, China and Brazil, meaning that a more diverse array of interests have to be hammered into agreement for any global deal to be made./p pa href=http://www.polity.co.uk/book.asp?ref=9780745662398Gridlock/a, then, is not an isolated issue, unique to Geneva, Warsaw, Bali, or other arenas of global negotiations. It is a general condition of the contemporary international system, one rooted in deep historical trends./p pIronically, many of the contemporary barriers to cooperation today derive from the deepening of interdependence, a product of successful cooperation in the past. By preventing World War Three and fostering a more open and rule-based global economy, the postwar international order allowed the world to reach an unprecedented level of globalization. This shift allowed countries like China to engage in the international system, and made all countries more dependent on each other. The result has been unprecedented peace and prosperity, but also a new range of challenges that existing institutions are poorly equipped to manage./p pHow can we move ahead in a gridlocked world? The first step is to recognize gridlock as a general, historically contingent phenomenon, not a blockage specific to Syria, trade, climate, or any other area. Instead of simply calling for more “political will,” we need to understand the barriers we face and design strategies accordingly./p pIn some cases, institutional innovation may help. For example, on climate change, a global deal in which emissions targets are assigned from on high and dutifully implemented by national governments has proven infeasible. At the same, a dynamic patchwork of climate actions is emerging, including national commitments and voluntary actions by cities, regions, companies, and civil society groups. Instead of only negotiating emissions limits between countries, the UN talks could engage these “bottom up” actions to bring them to a higher level of scale and ambition./p pBut new institutions can also lead to new problems. On trade, gridlock over hard issues in the WTO has meant that the real negotiations have shifted to the increasing number of regional and bilateral agreements. Many members of the business community see the two as substitutes. The danger, however, is that large regional agreements, nbsp;such as the trans-Pacific and trans-Atlantic deals currently under discussion, entrench rules on issues of, for instance,nbsp; intellectual property or investment protection that emerging economies will be unlikely to accept, making future multilateral deals harder to reach.nbsp;/p pAnd for other issues, Syria for example, the way forward is to live up to the new commitments we have already made. In recent decades the international community has sought to develop and entrench norms to prevent such calamities, affirming that countries have a “responsibility to protect” their populations. But in practice such norms are often implemented in ways more conducive to the interests of the great powers than of the people at risk. To move ahead we must find a minimum consensus on the management of human security needs at the global level, as well as ways to uphold them impartially./p pResolving gridlock involves the search for a new kind of politics that builds on the many and various partial solutions to global challenges that can be found today. This requires preserving and reaffirming multilateral institutions as a space for debating issues of common interest. It also requires the scaling up and expansion of the dynamic patchwork of policy initiatives at the local and regional levels. None of this is easy: but the alternative is collective drift in the face of the global challenges of our time./pdiv class=field field-topics div class=field-labelTopics:nbsp;/div div class=field-items div class=field-item odd Conflict /div div class=field-item even Democracy and government /div div class=field-item odd Economics /div div class=field-item even Equality /div div class=field-item odd International politics /div /div /div
div class=field field-summary div class=field-items div class=field-item odd pTurning reaction into response and being flexible in their moves, Californian campaigners use emcapoeira/em tactics to fight zero-tolerance in schools./p /div /div /div pimg src=http://dy1m18dp41gup.cloudfront.net/cdn/farfuture/8ER3Jw67D7I2IVOHxNTVL5YJWKKyXdG3fwDFJlMNKoU/mtime:1387315289/files/capoeira031.jpg alt= width=460 //pp class=image-captionCapoeiristas in Brazil. Credit: a href=http://www.marginalboundaries.com/http://www.marginalboundaries.com/a. All rights reserved.nbsp;/p blockquotepem“Capoeira é defesa, ataque, a ginga de corpo, e a malandragem.”br / /em“Capoeira is defense, attack, the sway of the body, and deception.”embr / /emTraditional capoeira songem/em/p/blockquote pEvery activist knows that awful moment when they realize their campaign is about to hit a dead end./p pI experienced that moment recently as an organizer with a coalition of youth organizations that were fighting for a href=http://www.nytimes.com/2013/04/04/education/restorative-justice-programs-take-root-in-schools.html?_r=0 target=_blankrestorative justice/anbsp;in public schools in Southern California.nbsp; Unlike harsh and ineffective “zero tolerance” policies, restorative justice programs create a way for those who have committed a crime or misdemeanor to a href=http://www.opendemocracy.net/transformation/molly-rowan-leach/six-boys-one-cop-and-road-to-restorative-justiceengage with those who have been harmed/a by their actions; to understand what happened, agree on a remedy, and build relationships that reduce the possibility of future harm.nbsp; Deep in our bones we want to end the disciplinary policies that push out large numbers of students of color from American schools each year./p pOur campaign formula seemed strong: expose incriminating data about the effects of zero-tolerance from the school district in a forum that would also feature students and parents giving powerful testimonies from their personal experience.nbsp;But pretty quickly we discovered that we had no leverage. None of the school board members were willing to come to the forum. The schools superintendent told us bluntly that our proposals were “dead on arrival.”/p pWe had to make a choice: stick with the tactics we knew and organize a march on the school district, or bust out some brand new moves. We went for the latter, and won a victory that - when multiplied in communities across the country - could deal a serious blow to the a href=http://www.opendemocracy.net/transformation/molly-rowan-leach/six-boys-one-cop-and-road-to-restorative-justiceschool-to-prison pipeline/a in the USA./p pThe funny thing is that the moves we made weren’t new at all. They were moves that any practitioner of the Afro-Brazilian martial art of ema href=http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Capoeiracapoeira/a/emnbsp;(or emcapoeirista/em) would recognize; moves that echoed the powerful liberatory cultural traditions that grew out of the struggles of enslaved Africans and their descendants in Brazil; and moves that I’ve been learning for eight years now./p pI’ve been a student of emcapoeira/emnbsp;since 2005, when I joined thenbsp;ema href=http://www.omulula.org/ target=_blankOmulu Capoeira/a/emnbsp;group in Los Angeles. emCapoeira/em is a cultural expression of survival and resistance that is grounded in a holistic conception of body, mind, and spirit, a vision that is much less fragmented than dominant Western concepts of these attributes as separate elements of our identity./p pAs a total body workout, emcapoeira /emdemands rigorous training and uses movements that stretch the boundaries of human physicality. Played in a circle known as thenbsp;emroda/emnbsp;in Portuguese, these improvised games demand swift thinking and a strategy akin to chess, while moving at 100 miles an hour. The songs and rhythms that serve as the heartbeat for emcapoeira/em give it a distinctly spiritual foundation, but this art form also provides important training for those who work for social justice./p pFor example,strong /strongwhen I first began my training I would often react to attacks with an unthinking reflex, rather than responding to them carefully in ways that set me up for a successful counter-attack.nbsp; Responding in emcapoeira/em requires an immediate synthesis of thought and action. In our original campaign we threw aggressive kicks such as the emmartelo/emnbsp;or “hammer” kick straight at the head of a much larger and more experienced opponent in the form of the school authorities, but then we learned how to recognize and respond to the stubbornness of our targets./p pTake the moment when the schools superintendent decided to boycott our long-planned forum.nbsp; Our gut reaction was to escalate our tactics and organize a large rally outside the school board meeting. Instead, we took some time to develop a more nuanced response. We knew that the school district practiced a “top-down / bottom-up” approach to policy and administration: the board and superintendent set broad policies, and then they gave individual principals a lot of leeway in how to implement them.nbsp;/p pWe also knew that several mid-level district administrators were open to the idea of restorative justice and concerned about the overuse of suspensions in their schools. So our youth leaders and adult organizers met with these administrators to develop a relationship, share stories, and open a dialogue around common concerns. These meetings included allies from the teacher community who shared positive experiences from restorative justice pilot programs in their schools. /p pemCapoeira/em also requires a great deal of physical and mental flexibility.nbsp; The best practitioners have an inspiring ability to change their movements in mid-course while maintaining a beautiful flow. This flexibility connects to another concept of emcapoeira/em - the ability to “fake out” your opponent and make him or her react to a move that you’re not actually going to use. Such flexibility is critically important in social justice work, since the landscape of power and policies is constantly shifting. Leaders and organizers must exercise a continually-moving strategy to take advantage of emerging opportunities and changing relationships between their targets, allies and opponents. But perhaps the most important shift in our strategy was to understand the underlying motivations of the school district and its superintendent. /p pOne of the preeminent figures in capoeira lore is thenbsp;emmalandro/em, which roughly translates to “trickster” or “street hustler.” nbsp;Similar to thenbsp;emmalandro /emdescribed in Nestor Capoeira’s book,emnbsp;a href=http://www.nestorcapoeira.net/video.htmlCapoeira: Roots of the Dance-Fight-Game/a,/emnbsp;we capitalized on our “ability to analyze people and situations with…cunning.”/p blockquotepem“…malandragem is one of the basic tenets in the philosophy of capoeira…Closer to guerrilla warfare than the way of fighting of the traditional army. Closer to the way someone who is oppressed fights than do those in power… The Malandro works through his [or her] intelligence, seduction, charm, and a deep intuitive knowledge of life and human psychology.”/em/p/blockquote pThe ability to feign physical movements and adopt an attitude or expression that will draw your opponent into a set-up for an attack or takedown is a quintessential skill of high-level emcapoeiristas/em. As a relative novice in the decades-long trajectory of capoeira training, this skill is the hardest for me to grasp, but it has probably influenced my thinking about social justice work more than any other./p pFor example, we knew that the superintendent and school district were interested in being leaders among urban school districts, especially in areas like accountability, closing the achievement gap, and equity. So we worked with the State Assembly’s a href=http://assembly.ca.gov/menofcolorSelect Committee on the Status of Boys and Men of Color/a to plan a policy hearing about California’s new school accountability standards. In order to build a bridge with the superintendent, we invited him to be a keynote speaker at the hearing to highlight the district’s leadership on these issues. nbsp;Our emMalandro /emwasn’t mean-spirited however - collaborating with the superintendent opened up new opportunities for dialogue and relationship building. Paying attention to his perspectives allowed us to see him in a different light, an awareness that’s critical to the call-and-response of great emcapoeira/em games, and similar to the empathy that’s required to make restorative justice programs work./p pOur emcapoeira/em-inspired strategy paid off: to our surprise, the superintendent recently informed us that the school district was about to introduce a new resolution on discipline. The School Board voted unanimously in favor, urging “schools to build upon existing efforts to provide alternatives to suspension or expulsion, using multiple strategies…” including restorative practices.nbsp; While this resolution doesn’t represent everything the campaign wants to see, it does provide a strong basis for students and parents to advance restorative justice in schools across the district./p pOur victory was certainly helped by the top-down pressure of new state and federal accountability requirements in the USA that aim to address suspensions in schools. nbsp;But it was the bottom-up pressure of our youth-led campaign that proved decisive, by turning reaction into response, being flexible in our moves, and practicing our own strategy of emmalandragem /emfor social justice./pfieldset class=fieldgroup group-sideboxslegendSideboxes/legenddiv class=field field-related-stories div class=field-labelRelated stories:nbsp;/div div class=field-items div class=field-item odd a href=/transformation/marina-sitrin/postcards-from-horizontal-worldPostcards from a horizontal world/a /div div class=field-item even a href=/transformation/alessandra-pigni/practising-mindfulness-at-checkpointPractising mindfulness at the checkpoint/a /div div class=field-item odd a href=/transformation/mary-mountcastle/moral-mondays-new-face-of-protestMoral Mondays: the new face of protest? /a /div /div /div /fieldset div class=field field-topics div class=field-labelTopics:nbsp;/div div class=field-items div class=field-item odd Civil society /div div class=field-item even Ideas /div /div /div div class=field field-rights div class=field-labelRights:nbsp;/div div class=field-items div class=field-item odd Creative Commons /div /div /div
Doctor Eyad el-Sarraj, renowned Palestinian psychiatrist and human rights defender, dies after long battle with cancer.
div class=field field-summary div class=field-items div class=field-item odd pA new report by the Council of Europe provides detailed evidence that austerity measures have corroded civil and political rights, made economic, social and cultural rights less attainable, and entrenched social injustice and inequalities.nbsp; Will the governments of Europe recognise the social cost of austerity – and can ‘human rights’ work as a tool of resistance?/p /div /div /div pspan class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'img src=http://dy1m18dp41gup.cloudfront.net/cdn/farfuture/URdGcfY3lLkk2wZx1t1FXLM_882A3S8FT2jlpPU1uNE/mtime:1387361836/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/521587/EricVernier-GreekCops.jpg alt=Greek riot police cascading down steps of a state building title= width=460 height=305 class=imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge style= / span class='image_meta'span class='image_title'Greek riot police. Photo: Eric Vernier/Flickr/span/span/span/ppA report by the Council of Europe, released earlier this month, provides detailed evidence that European austerity measures have corroded civil and political rights, made economic, social and cultural rights less attainable, and entrenched social injustice and inequalities – and, crucially, it highlights how these different spheres interact to disproportionately harm Europe’s poorest and most marginalised./p pThe report by the Human Rights Commissioner of the Council of Europe, ‘a href=https://wcd.coe.int/com.instranet.InstraServlet?command=com.instranet.CmdBlobGetamp;InstranetImage=2407768amp;SecMode=1amp;DocId=2088892amp;Usage=2Safeguarding human rights in times of economic crisis/a’ consolidates evidence that measured presented under the emergency cloak of ‘austerity’ – from reduced workers’ rights to cuts to public services, combined with an assault on longstanding civil and political rights necessary for liberal democracy – work as a whole to shift the entire relationship between citizen and the state, and undermine, in the report’s words, ‘the spectrum of human rights’.nbsp; /p pThe Human Rights Commissioner’s report is one of the most significant criticisms of ‘austerity’ from within the European human rights system – and has been widely received as a a href=http://www.epsu.org/a/10034damning verdict/a on the Barroso Commission and the EU for its failure to safeguard rights, as well as a clear criticism of the policies pursued by many national European governments and Council of Europe member states over the last three years./p pThe report is striking not just as a clear voice from emwithin/em the European human rights system criticising ‘austerity’ as a whole and the national governmental policies that have been advanced in its name, but also in terms of how it presents the overall landscape of the rights that Europeans have lost.nbsp; Both civil and political rights on the one hand and economic, social and cultural rights on the other are under threat – and the presentation of these two ‘types’ of rights as equally significant is an indirect criticism of the discourse within the EU and in western statecraft, and the way in which it has sought to downplay the necessity of securing economic, social and cultural rights in order for democracy to meaningfully function.nbsp; /p pThe report highlights a number of ways in which what could be characterised as classically ‘civil and political rights’ have been threatened by policies and tactics advanced as part of austerity programmes.nbsp; The undermining of civil and political rights of citizens in cyclical emresponse/em to popular a href=http://www.aljazeera.com/news/europe/2013/06/2013619152349261.htmlresistance/a to austerity is also outlined.nbsp; Spain’s proposed 2013 law curtailing the a href=http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2013/nov/25/quebec-spain-anti-protest-laws-democracyright to protest/a on the grounds of ‘security’ is highlighted as an example of an encroachment of freedom of assembly and part of a broader shift towards stripping away long-standing traditions of civil and political rights. In addition, the report highlights how the civil and political rights of marginalised groups and ethnic minorities have been corroded in numerous countries which are Council of Europe member states, due to the policies of xenophobic and right-wing governments that have a href=http://www.nytimes.com/2013/11/09/world/europe/right-wings-surge-in-europe-has-the-establishment-rattled.html?_r=0strengthened their regional power across Europe/a since 2008./p pBut while documenting the curtailing of civil and political rights under austerity is an important step in making the case that the guise of ‘austerity’ has been used to stifle dissent and curb meaningful democratic participation, perhaps the more significant part of the Council of Europe report is where it outlines the ways in which economic, social and cultural rights have been jeopardised by European governments in the wake of the financial crisis and recession.nbsp; The report presents concerns to the encroachment on this sphere of rights on equal terms to civil and political rights.nbsp; It reminds states of their commitments under international human rights law enshrined in a href=http://www.ohchr.org/EN/ProfessionalInterest/Pages/CESCR.aspxthe International Convenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights/a, and documents how ‘austerity’ policies such as reduced a href=http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2012/mar/29/austerity-pain-in-spainprotection of labour rights/a, cuts to vital public services such as healthcare and education, and pension reforms in countries such as Spain, Greece and Britain are a violation of these rights.nbsp; /p pOne of the report’s key recommendations is that governments should “ensure social protection floors for all” by maintaining social security guarantees for basic income and healthcare “to ensure access to essential goods and services during the crisis.” Not only are these measures taken under the guise of ‘austerity’ interplaying with historically high levels of unemployment to entrench pre-existing social inequalities and modalities of discrimination, but – according to the case built by the Council of Europe – they are also a violation of economic, social and cultural rights from the right to adequate housing to the right to education.nbsp; /p pemAll rights must be secured for any to be meaningful/em/p pIt’s true that there are differences between civil and political rights on the one hand, and economic, social and cultural rights on the other – and ‘western’ governments have at times sought to exploit this difference to their advantage, by denigrating the centrality of economic, social and cultural rights within the framings of human rights. The a href=http://www.ohchr.org/EN/Issues/ESCR/Pages/WhataretheobligationsofStatesonESCR.aspxlanguage/a of international human rights law concerning economic, social and cultural rights – demanding governments make use of all ‘available’ resources and framing commitments in terms of ‘progressive realisation’ – makes this set of rights qualitatively different to civil and political rights: what exactly is entailed by a government’s pledge to something like ‘ensure adequate education’ is necessarily different to the more negative-liberty framings of many civil and political rights such as freedom of assembly and freedom of expression./p pThese qualitative differences, however, do not position the two ‘types’ of rights in a hierarchical relationship with one another, and only came to be seen as such with the evolution of human rights legal systems throughout the twentieth century, as the development of international human rights mechanisms was a href=http://www.ohchr.org/EN/Issues/ESCR/Pages/AreESCRfundamentallydifferentfromcivilandpoliticalrights.aspxpolitically utilised/a as a terrain firstly for Cold War politics and then for post-2001 ‘war on terror’ rhetoric.nbsp; The Council of Europe’s 2013 report is significant in how, without denying the economic, social and cultural rights are emdifferent/em from civil and political rights in terms of how they are secured and protected, it reasserts their emcentrality/em within human rights – and to democracy./p pWhat we know, from the last three years, ‘austerity’ means in reality – loss of labour rights, the gutting of essential social provisions from adequate housing to access to health services, from education and a href=http://www.theguardian.com/society/2013/dec/10/welfare-reforms-cut-family-food-budgets?CMP=twt_gufood/a, to a href=http://www.theguardian.com/society/2013/nov/20/bedroom-tax-hardest-hit-wales-ukregressive taxation/a that further punishes the poorest parts of society – nbsp;combines to form a mass violation of a series of key human rights, and creates a climate in which democracy cannot meaningfully function.nbsp; And in a time when civil and political rights such as freedom of expression and assembly are also under threat.nbsp; And in a period of mass unemployment.nbsp; (And, to take a further step back, in a period marked by pockets of a href=http://www.opendemocracy.net/mariano-aguirre/far-right-takes-root-in-europeresurgent xenophobia/a and extremism).nbsp; It is this whole picture – the civil and political rights corroded; the failure to meet citizen’s economic, social and cultural rights – that enmeshes social injustice.nbsp; Across the board, in every area of a citizen’s life, from their employment to a href=http://www.nihrc.org/index.php/news/item/730housing/a, to their health and education opportunities, to their right to participate in democracy, ‘austerity’ entails social injustice whilst ensuring citizens have little chance to fairly resist it. /p pemHuman rights as a tool to fight ‘austerity’ as shock doctrine?/em/p pThe argument that austerity entails a violation of the emwhole range /emof human rights would a href=http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/libertycentral/2011/jan/25/human-rights-fairness-austerity-cutshelp to formulate the case against European austerity policies as a whole/a – rather than the fragmentation of resistance since 2010, as the cuts and regressive measures worked in tandem with the strain of mass unemployment, in which austerity often had to be resisted piecemeal, exhaustingly countering each attack in turn.nbsp;nbsp; And while various progressive and left-wing perspectives have at times dismissed human rights’ emphasis on the individual as too atomistic to be a useful framework for working for the goals of social justice, the lens of rights may work where language of social inequality has failed – partly by highlighting how each different facet of austerity harms us (as individuals and as communities) in different ways – and by highlighting how each of the social goods or provisions that have been threatened by national European austerity projects are necessary as part of a wider whole.nbsp; /p pFaced with the ‘austerity’ situation in which your right to protest, your right to adequate housing, your right to education, and your worker’s rights are emall/em on the line, a comprehensive resistance – and comprehensive refutation of the whole ‘austerity’ project – could be built by asserting clearly again why emall/em of these key rights and entitlements are needed.nbsp;nbsp; ‘Human rights’ can do this if we salvage them from the western, Cold War-era framing in which the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural rights lost its equal footing alongside the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.nbsp; /p pThese binaries have been surpassed in human rights theory by ideas relating to human development and capabilities.nbsp; The capability approach developed by Amartya Sen, Martha Nussbaum and others has cumulatively built the case that civil and political rights on the one hand and economic, social and cultural rights on the other are inherently interrelated and must be secured in tandem for any core rights or entitlements to be meaningfully practiced or fulfilled.nbsp; Regarding the more practical question of how a href=http://theeuropeancitizen.blogspot.co.uk/2012/08/amartya-sen-democracy-austerity-and.htmlresistance to ‘austerity’ can be reframed/a, the Council of Europe report on austerity and human rights works as a reminder that government policies in the United Kingdom, Spain, Greece and elsewhere are failing to uphold their commitments in international human rights law by violating, by stealth, their citizens’ economic, social and cultural rights./p pFor there is a flipside to the idea outlined above that civil and political rights on the one hand and economic, social and cultural rights on the other are interrelated and must be secured in tandem.nbsp; It also means that all ‘types’ of rights unravel in tandem too – as we have witnessed over the last three years.nbsp; This is the combined legacy of government policies enacted under the guise of ‘austerity’ when taken as a whole – civil and political rights are stripped away just as many would draw upon them to express their lack of consent to the austerity project of reducing vital public services and other economic and social rights.nbsp; /p pThe Council of Europe report lines up in a row what have often been separate conversations and concerns – the encroachment of civil and political rights and the steady criminalisation of dissent, alongside the gutting of social provisions and community services – whilst linking them to the entrenchment of pre-existing forms of discriminations and modalities of social exclusion, leaving the marginalised and vulnerable within societies poorer, weaker, demonised – in short, attacked on all sides./p pThe policy frameworks of ‘austerity’ do not operate on exactly the same lines as the ‘disaster-capitalism’ outlined by Naomi Klein in her work a href=http://www.theguardian.com/books/2007/sep/15/politicsThe Shock Doctrine/a, in which neo-liberal economic restructuring is imposed as citizens, laid low by disaster, crisis or coup, are too weak to resist.nbsp; But there has been a similar dynamic at play in the last three years in terms of the relationship between the criminalisation of dissent (Spain’s anti-protest draft law being the most recent striking example), continued high levels of unemployment, and government policies that cut public expenditure whilst re-writing the state-citizen relationship increasingly favour of the state./p pLooking at European ‘austerity’ as a whole project, and its effects on a range of social goods necessary for both social justice and democracy, the picture points to the idea that the most effective way of framing resistance to austerity is through a re-assertion of human rights – and one that, in turns, asserts human rights as they were conceived in the immediately post-war era, and as they have been further imagined under the capability approach – in which all rights must be secured at once for any one right to be meaningful. nbsp;Resistance to austerity must be re-framed to urgently highlight how we have lost or are losing all of these rights, cut by cut and law by law.nbsp;/pfieldset class=fieldgroup group-sideboxslegendSideboxes/legenddiv class=field field-related-stories div class=field-labelRelated stories:nbsp;/div div class=field-items div class=field-item odd a href=/ourkingdom/aoife-nolan/is-governments-austerity-programme-breaking-human-rights-lawIs the government#039;s austerity programme breaking human rights law?/a /div div class=field-item even a href=/peter-rossman/austerity-corporate-tax-evasion-and-human-rights-why-anti-austerity-movement-needs-somAusterity, corporate tax evasion and human rights: why the anti-austerity movement needs some Lagarde lists of our own/a /div div class=field-item odd a href=/5050/heather-mcrobie/when-austerity-sounds-like-backlash-gender-and-economic-crisisWhen austerity sounds like backlash: gender and the economic crisis/a /div div class=field-item even a href=/ourkingdom/aisha-maniar/show-me-money-can-human-rights-offer-alternative-discourse-of-resistance-to-Show me the money: can human rights offer an alternative discourse of resistance to austerity?/a /div div class=field-item odd a href=/5050/dawn-foster/from-heart-attacks-to-maternal-care-human-cost-of-austerity-in-greeceFrom heart attacks to maternal care: the human cost of austerity in Greece/a /div div class=field-item even a href=/5050/maxine-molyneux/of-rights-and-risks-are-women%E2%80%99s-human-rights-in-jeopardyOf rights and risks: are women’s human rights in jeopardy?/a /div div class=field-item odd a href=/5050/cathy-albisa-meredith-tax/human-rights-social-justice-and-us-exceptionalismHuman rights, social justice, and US exceptionalism /a /div div class=field-item even a href=/5050/yakin-erturk-and-jennifer-allsopp/due-diligence-for-womens-human-rights-transgressing-conventioDue diligence for women#039;s human rights: transgressing conventional lines /a /div /div /div /fieldset
div class=field field-summary div class=field-items div class=field-item odd pPolicy aiming to address Turkey's real and persistent problem of gender inequality must be formulated in consultation with feminists. Unfortunately, there is ample reason to doubt that a government that refuses to name a problem can solve it, says Özlem Altıok. /p /div /div /div pOn October 14, a href=http://www.aa.com.tr/tr/politika/240018--ak-partiden-tbmm-ictuzugunde-degisiklik-teklifiAnadolu Ajansi (AA)/a, Turkey's official news agency, reported that a href=http://www.tbmm.gov.tr/komisyon/kefe/act.htm“The Committee on Equality of Opportunity for Women and Men”/a (KEFEK) would be replaced with a “Committee on Family and Social Policies” as part of draft legislation to change parliamentary bylaws. A few weeks later -nbsp; because their attention was focused at the time on another piece of draft legislation dubbed the “women's employment package” -nbsp; feminists called on the government to halt any such change until they could comment. /p pGiven Turkey's many pressing issues -nbsp; including what Deniz Kandiyoti calls a atangled web/a of religion and politics that the ruling Justice and Development Party (JDP) helps to weave, and the unhappy marriage between a href=http://www.mei.edu/content/turkish-“democratization-packagedemocratizing reforms/aspan /spanundertaken to facilitate Turkey's accession to the EU and the a href=http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/libertycentral/2011/dec/11/turkey-progressive-repressionrepression of political dissent/a -nbsp; this issue may appear inconsequential. But what may seem like a simple change in name is important because it illustrates the fragility of the institutional mechanisms for protecting women's rights and ensuring gender equality in Turkey. /p pThere is some irony, too, in the fact that feminists now find themselves defending a name they did not initially like. When the Turkish parliament voted in January 2009 for the creation of a permanent “Committee for Equality of Women and Men,” feminists, who had worked for this outcome for a decade, felt victorious and happy. But their joy was dampened when, in a last minute maneuver, the JDP changed the name to “The Committee on Equality of Opportunity for Women and Men.” /p pIn a fax signed by more than 100 women's organizations, women's rights activists objected that their goal was “equality in practice,” not “equality of opportunity.” Arguing that the state must ensure equality between women and men by taking positive action and instituting positive discrimination, women's organizations urged parliament to keep the original name, which had enjoyed widespread support. Ultimately, they failed to remove “of opportunity” from the committee's name. /p pSo why does the change in the name of this parliamentary committee – one that women's rights activists did not even like in the beginning – upset them today? /p pstrongNaming the problem/strong/p pWomen's rights activists see the new name, which removesnbsp; “women” and emany/em mention of “equality” from its title, as yet another illustration of the continued framing of women's social and economic rights in terms of their roles as mothers and wives. /p pThe State Statistics Institute a href=http://www.keig.org/content/english/genelge%202012%20ing.pdfdata/a show that out of 100 women in Turkey, 29 participate in the labour force and 26 are gainfully employed. In comparison, out of 100 men, 72 participate in the labour force and 65 are gainfully employed. These inequalities further women's dependency on men. They hinder their ability to make important life decisions, including leaving unhappy and violent marriages. /p pTo its credit, as part of the country's bid to join the European Union, Turkey's ruling party is constructing a legal framework to increase women's participation in the labour force. In a 2010 a href=http://www.resmigazete.gov.tr/eskiler/2010/05/20100525-12.htm%20Directive/a, the Prime Minister's Office makes a commitment to “Increase Women's Employment and Ensure the Equality of Opportunity.” However, both the government and employers' associations frame the problem in terms of “social and economic development,” “human capital investments,” and “waste of labour force.” /p pRecently, the government announced that it was a href=http://turkey.setimes.com/en_GB/articles/ses/articles/features/departments/national/2013/10/24/feature-01working on legislation/a to provide incentives for employers to increase part-time and “flexible” employment and set up child care facilities, with a heavy emphasis on the former. The government's main objectives with this law have been summarized by the a href=http://www.bianet.org/biamag/bianet/150037-fatma-sahin-hem-istihdam-hem-aile-uyumu%20Minister of the Family and Social Policies/a herself: “to increase the population and to support family and work life. To support the activities of women in all these activities.” Tellingly, “ensuring gender equality” is not among the main objectives. /p pWhile “equal pay for equal work” is among the stated objectives of the Prime Minister's 2010 Directive, in designating child care as a woman's primary job, and primarily a woman's job, the government fails to address the fundamental causes of gendered income inequalities. /p pstrongWhy do women earn less than men in Turkey?/strong/p pIn every country women earn less than men on average, partly because many women “opt out” of paid work to take care of children and perform other unpaid household labor. Turkish Statistical Institute adata/a shows that 62% of women give “being busy with housework” as the main reason for not participating in the labour force. Considering that 71% of women do not participate in the labour force at all, this finding shows the extent to which the gendered division of labour in the household accounts for women's economic disadvantage. /p pWomen also suffer from aa href=http://economix.blogs.nytimes.com/2010/03/09/the-gender-wage-gap-around-the-world/?_r=0 gender pay gap/a: the average salary for working women is less than that of men in all countries. How wide this gap is varies by country, industry, and sector.nbsp; In Turkey, women employed in the private sector earn 70% of what men do according to one study by a href=http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=1011284%20İlkkaracan and Selim (2007)/a. The gap is wider in agriculture, where women's earnings are 43% of men's.nbsp; A a href=http://www.keig.org/content/english/genelge%202012%20ing.pdfWomen's Labor and Employment Initiative report/a shows, out of the 100 women who are employed in Turkey, 42 work in agriculture (43 work in services, and a mere 15 in industry).nbsp; /p pWhile men are evenly distributed across industries and jobs, women are concentrated in non-union firms and sectors, in low-wage, part-time and temporary jobs -nbsp; a phenomenon observed in many a href=http://www.stanford.edu/group/scspi/_media/pdf/key_issues/gender_research.pdf%20other countries/a. Similarly, ninety percent of the gender pay gap in Turkey can be a href=http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=1011284%20explained/a by workplace variables (the type of firm, sector, and collective bargaining status of the jobs where women are concentrated), and human capital endowments (women's education, average years of work experience, and job tenure). a href=http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=1011284%20İlkkaracan and Selim (2007)/a find that women's lower levels of work experience and short tenure on the job are the leading reasons for the persistent pay gap between men and women in Turkey. /p pClearly the gendered division of labour in the household accounts for women's interrupted and intermittent work lives (which also impact their pension in old age). These gendered ideas and practicesnbsp; structure women's “a href=http://www.americanprogress.org/issues/labor/news/2013/04/09/59658/what-causes-the-gender-wage-gap/.%20choices/a” to work fewer hours, take low-wage jobs, and take time off from work to care for children and other family members. /p pIf the gendered division of labour in the household is a significant cause for women's substantively lower earnings, how can policies that naturalize the gendered division of labour in the household – in the name of “protecting the family” –nbsp; bring about gender equality?nbsp; /p pstrongPro-family does not mean pro-woman/strong/p pFeminists start from the simple premise that women are individual human beings in their own right –nbsp; that a href=http://wwhr.org/category/about-uswomen's rights are human rights./a Certainly, many women identify as mothers, wives and daughters. Moreover, political motherhood can expand women's and human rights as evidenced by the a href=http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-latin-america-17847134Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo/a, a href=http://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/alda-facio/political-motherhood-vs-violence-against-mothersActivist Mothers of Xalapa/a and a href=https://twitter.com/cumartesiannesiCumartesi Anneleri/a (Saturday Mothers) and many others. /p pWhile a href=http://www.stopvaw.org/turkeynever free from power relations/a, “the family” is experienced as a place of refuge, support, love, and labour, for many women and men.nbsp; The problem lies not in this fact, but rather in the tendency of policies promulgated by conservative parties, under the rubric of “protecting the family,” to obscure and perpetuate prevailing gender inequalities.nbsp; Symptomatically, JDP's focus on the family fails to address either the problem of women's low rates of labour force participation or the pay gap between men and women. This is why feminists reacted to the initial news of the committee's name change. /p pThe AA news had implied that the draft needed only PM Erdoğan's review and approval on its way to a rubber-stamp vote in Parliament.nbsp; As activists scrambled for confirmation and details, the picture only grew murkier, with the KEFEK chairwoman denying knowledge of any such pending change.nbsp; Dozens of women's organizations issued a broad call, published in a href=http://www.hurriyet.com.tr/gundem/25274721.asp%20full-page ads/a in two national dailies, to halt the name change.nbsp; Only after the ads had appeared, Mustafa Elitaş, a ranking JDP politician announced that he had already “tweeted” that the government had no such plans. /p pElitaş accused women's organizations of “not acting in good faith,” but feminists see it the other way around. For a href=http://www.hurriyetdailynews.com/akp-seeking-to-create-own-womens-movement-lawyer.aspx?pageID=238amp;nID=42245amp;NewsCatID=339%20Hülya Gülbahar/a, former president of a href=http://www.ka-der.org.tr/KA-DER/a, and co-founder of a href=https://twitter.com/esitizESITIZ/a, it is the government -nbsp; led by a prime minister who publicly states that he does a href=http://www.spiegel.de/international/europe/turkish-prime-minister-erdogan-targets-women-s-rights-a-839568.html%20“not believe in the equality of women and men” /a-nbsp;nbsp; that does not act in good faith. By opposing a name change for KEFEK, feminists reiterate their opposition to policies that subsume women's problems under presumably more pressing issues of a href=http://contexts.org/articles/spring-2013/reproducing-the-nation/“family,” “population” and “development”/a -nbsp; evidenced by the rolling out of laws that reflect the Prime Minister's stated goal to increase Turkey's population growth rate, in part by a href=http://contexts.org/articles/spring-2013/reproducing-the-nation/banning abortions and restricting Caesareans./a /p pAt the time of writing, feminist vigilance and activism seems to have paid off.nbsp; On December 5, Minister Şahin said that there were no plans to close or change the name of the committee. However, this is not enough to assuage feminists' concern that the short and unhappy life of this committee may come to an end, or that its effectiveness will not be undermined by “pro-family” policies focusing on “the family.”/p pThis episode also suggests that any policy aiming to address Turkey's real and persistent problem of gender inequality must be formulated in consultation with feminists. Unfortunately, there is ample reason to doubt that a government that refuses to name a problem can solve it. /p pnbsp;/p pstrongnbsp;/strong/p pnbsp;/pfieldset class=fieldgroup group-sideboxslegendSideboxes/legenddiv class=field field-related-stories div class=field-labelRelated stories:nbsp;/div div class=field-items div class=field-item odd a href=/5050/deniz-kandiyoti/tangled-web-politics-of-gender-in-turkeyA tangled web: the politics of gender in Turkey/a /div div class=field-item even a href=/5050/pinar-ilkkaracan/turkish-model-for-whomThe quot;Turkish modelquot; : for whom?/a /div div class=field-item odd a href=/5050/ayse-bugra/turkey-what-lies-behind-nationwide-protestsTurkey: what lies behind the nationwide protests? /a /div div class=field-item even a href=/5050/serta%C3%A7-sehliko%C4%9Flu/vaginal-obsessions-in-turkey-islamic-perspectiveVaginal obsessions in Turkey: an Islamic perspective /a /div div class=field-item odd a href=/5050/maxine-molyneux/of-rights-and-risks-are-women%E2%80%99s-human-rights-in-jeopardyOf rights and risks: are women’s human rights in jeopardy?/a /div div class=field-item even a href=/democracy-institutions_government/girls_rights_4386.jspDo women and girls have human rights?/a /div /div /div /fieldset div class=field field-country div class=field-label Country or region:nbsp;/div div class=field-items div class=field-item odd Turkey /div /div /div div class=field field-topics div class=field-labelTopics:nbsp;/div div class=field-items div class=field-item odd Equality /div /div /div
President Benigno Aquino allocates $8.17bn to rebuild homes, create jobs and infrastructure damaged by Typhoon Haiyan.
div class=field field-summary div class=field-items div class=field-item odd p class=BodyThe results of a referendum on the definition of marriage in Croatia were disappointing for those who hoped EU accession indicated a shift towards tolerance in the country.nbsp; But a conservative-created wedge issue might be the spark for progressive Croatians to push for more long-term change./p /div /div /div p class=BodyLast Sunday, one quarter of the Croatian electorate a href=http://www.balkaninsight.com/en/article/croats-decide-to-ban-same-sex-marriagevoted/a to amend the country’s constitution to define marriage as a union between a man and a woman.nbsp; Gay marriage had never been legal. Nor had the country’s top politicians, who publicly support the LGBT minority, spearhead any credible efforts to make it so.nbsp;/p p class=BodySo why the referendum?nbsp; Some see it as a a href=http://world.time.com/2013/12/01/croatians-vote-in-favor-of-banning-same-sex-marriage/test/a to see how much influence the church and the political conservatives hold in Croatia.nbsp; Indeed it shows the strength of the first non-nationalistic conservative movement in the EU’s newest member, though with 86 percent of the population nominally Catholic, it also points to the a href=http://www.balkaninsight.com/en/article/anti-gay-marriage-ballot-has-croatian-liberals-worriedlimits/a of the church’s power./p pA total of 66 percent of voters were in favor, with only two counties voting against the definition.nbsp;nbsp; Yet the 37 percent turnout was the lowest for a nation-wide election in the country’s 20 years as a democracy. The low turn-out may be as significant as the result of the referendum itself./p p class=BodyCenter-left Prime Minister Zoran Milanovic decried the result and announced that a new law on civil partnerships giving “all couples, regardless of sex orientation, the same rights” would be a href=http://www.balkaninsight.com/en/article/croatian-pm-denounces-anti-gay-marriage-votepassed/a expeditiously.nbsp; President Ivo Josipovic also criticized the referendum, albeit with more tepid remarks./p p class=BodyMilanovic also said that new laws on referenda would be passed lowering the bar for getting an initiative on the ballot, but ensuring that no amendments be added to the Constitution unless more than 40 percent of the eligible population vote./p p class=Body“This was the last referendum in which a majority limits the rights of a minority,” he said.nbsp;The irony is that the government had eased the rules on referenda in advance of the 2012 vote to enter the European Union./p p class=BodyThe proposed revisions to the referendum law would also ban issues of minority rights from being included in ballot initiatives.nbsp; Citizens of the northeastern area of Vukovar, one of the first major flashpoints in the 1990s wars for Yugoslav succession, have said they collected enough signatures to hold a referendum to a href=http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/afp/131118/croatias-vukovar-commemoration-turns-anti-governmentban signs/a in the Cyrillic alphabet. A similar law was passed in 1941 when the Croatian fascist Ustasha government.nbsp;/p p class=BodyThe vote was held as a Croatian football player Josip Simunic came under fire for a href=http://www.espn.co.uk/football/sport/story/259313.htmlchanting a slogan from the WWII-era Croatian Ustasha regime/a, which helped the Nazis kill tens of thousands of Jews, Serbs, and political prisoners in concentration camps.nbsp; The most alarming part of the controversy is that when Simunic shouted “For the Homeland!” 30,000 fans responded “Ready,” the second half of the chant.nbsp;/p p class=BodyThis is the third referendum Croatians have voted in their twenty years of democracy.nbsp; The first, a vote to leave Yugoslavia, paved the way to bloodshed.nbsp; The second, to join the European Union, was a vote for a Western future.nbsp; And this third vote finds that Croatia’s is still somewhere between Western Europe and its Balkan neighbors.nbsp;/p p class=BodyThe referendum is not a welcome sign, and raises concerns about Croatia’s voice both at home and within the EU.nbsp; But the LGBT community receive much more governmental support than other former Yugoslav republics of a href=http://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/valerie-hopkins/will-homophobia-rain-off-serbias-paradeSerbia/a, a href=http://opendemocracy.net/5050/valerie-hopkins/lgbt-violence-in-balkansBosnia, Kosovo, Montenegro, and Macedonia/a.nbsp; High level politicians march in the annual pride parades in Croatia, where President Josipovic said on Sunday that “anbsp;nation is judged by its attitude toward minorities.”nbsp; To place this in the context of the region it is worth bearing in mind that a href=http://www.economist.com/blogs/easternapproaches/2013/12/balkans-slide-showMacedonia/a does not even have gender discrimination included in the 2011 anti-discrimination law./p p class=BodyAnd it is worth bearing in mind that in this case Croatia is unfortunately in keeping with several of the older members of the EU.nbsp; The referendum came several weeks after the European Court of Justice decided to grant asylum to LGBT persons facing discrimination outside of the EU despite the fact that a number of its members have a href=http://www.foreignpolicy.com/articles/2013/11/15/a_home_truth_LGBT_rights_europerestrictive policies against same-sex couples, not to mention violent, prejudiced populaces/a./p p class=BodyFive other EU members explicitly ban same-sex marriage: Poland, Lithuania, Latvia, Hungary and Bulgaria.nbsp; Ten mostly Northern and Western European countries allow it, and 14 recognize same-sex unions in one form or another.nbsp; Serbia received much criticism from EU members for banning a planned pride march in September: EU Enlargement Commissioner Stefan Fule called the decision to ban the parade a href=http://www.reuters.com/article/2013/09/27/us-serbia-gaypride-idUSBRE98Q1A820130927a missed opportunity to show respect for fundamental human rights/a./p p class=BodyBut Brussels has been silent about the results of Croatia’s referendum. Despite calls from individual members of the European Parliament to encourage Croatians to vote against the referendum, the EU itself said that as long as family laws don’t violate the European and international human rights conventions, they are not in the EU’s domain./p p class=BodyIn the United States, a href=http://harvardmagazine.com/2013/03/how-same-sex-marriage-came-to-bemarriage equality had not been a priority for LGBT activists/a until well-organized conservative groups began pushing for laws to define marriage as a union between a man and a woman.nbsp; LGBT groups, which had been more focused on anti-discrimination legislation and decriminalizing homosexual sex, mobilized to fight back in the face of the conservative-created wedge issue.nbsp; There is still a long way to go, but now 16 states have legalized gay marriage.nbsp;/p p class=BodyDisturbing episodes of violence and prejudice against minorities are becoming all too common across Europe, but perhaps in the case of Croatia, the wedge issues being pushed by conservatives can – with an organized social movement – be harnessed to bring about long-term progress./pfieldset class=fieldgroup group-sideboxslegendSideboxes/legenddiv class=field field-related-stories div class=field-labelRelated stories:nbsp;/div div class=field-items div class=field-item odd a href=/5050/valerie-hopkins/lgbt-violence-in-balkansLGBT violence in the Balkans/a /div div class=field-item even a href=/5050/valerie-hopkins/will-homophobia-rain-off-serbias-paradeWill homophobia rain off Serbia#039;s parade?/a /div div class=field-item odd a href=/5050/lauren-suchman/what-is-same-sex-marriageWhat is quot;same-sexquot; marriage? /a /div div class=field-item even a href=/peter-dreier/two-us-battles-for-marriage-equalityTwo US battles for marriage equality /a /div /div /div /fieldset
US pledges to review arrest of diplomat in New York, following outcry in India over her "public humiliation".
div class=field field-summary div class=field-items div class=field-item odd pFahem Boukadous,nbsp;span style=line-height: 1.5;an outspoken critic of Tunisia’s record on press freedom,/spanspan style=line-height: 1.5;nbsp;speaks about the political challenges facing Tunisia, three years after the Jasmine Revolution which ended the repressive regime of Ben Ali. Interview by Malachy Browne./span/p /div /div /div pspanThis interview was held on November 26 during the Arab Free Press Forum in Tunis organised by WAN-IFRA. Orally translated by journalist Ghias Aljundi./span/pdivpMB: emHow free is the media in Tunisia in 2013? How has it changed since Ben Ali’s time?/em/ppFB: The most important factor since 2010 has been the collapse of the fear establishment. For the most part, journalists are not afraid [of reprisals by security forces] any more, and this could contribute to establishing a free and diverse media in Tunisia.nbsp;spanThe revolution also opened the door wide for young journalists to emerge with their different and new perspectives. Hundreds of new media outlets and printed newspapers have emerged; 50 radio stations, 20 television broadcasters, dozens of websites. This has helped massively to break the monopoly of the state and business who controlled the media. Cooperative news agencies appeared and this helped to move citizens from consumers to participators in media decision-making./span/ppMB: emWhat about allegations that some media organisations are compromised by political bias?/em/ppFB: This dramatic change [in the media landscape] has had many complications in the transitional period. First, the intrusion of political money into media, money intended to influence media politically. This damaged the code of ethics in journalism, which has disappeared. Editorial boards have essentially disappeared. The businessmen who own the media agencies control them completely and act as if they were their own [editorial outlets]./ppOn another point, for five decades the political police were the main threat to media freedom of expression in Tunisia. After the revolution new violators emerged; government-supported militias, supporters of the unions and of the criminal groups. In the last year, 320 attacks on media professionals and journalists have been recorded. Journalists have become less courageous; investigations of economic and administrative corruption have become less frequent, [as have] investigations into government performance and cases in torture in prisons and police custody - attacks mostly carried out by police and security forces./ppMB: emHave police and others been held accountable for human rights violations?/em/ppFB: Impunity is a big issue in Tunisia. Because of the economic difficulties and the social atmosphere, the government built connections with ex-regime criminals and have tried to share power with them. They have not only failed to bring criminals of past injustices to account, but have brought them back to power.nbsp;/ppMB: emAn activist investigating human rights abuses by security forces said that the majority of the records have been destroyed or are in the hands of the security forces. Can these records be recovered?/em/ppFB: Records may have been destroyed, but that’s not the end of it. Activists and journalists have records to prove criminality. The government is not taking into consideration the fact that accountability doesn’t just die away. Look at Argentina; 20 years after crimes [‘disappearances’] were committed, the abusers were held to account./ppMB: emTwo prominent opposition leaders, Chokri Belaid and Mohamed al-Brahimi, were assassinated in 2013. What do these killings signify?/em/ppFB: These assassinations are a clear message that supporters of the government want to end the first ever attempt to unify a broad-based opposition - the Third Way - [comprising] nationalists, liberals and leftists who would oppose the government and the remains of the [Ben Ali] regime./ppSecondly, these actions were an attempt to blackmail the Tunisian people into one of two options. Either accept what the government is doing now and plans to do, or accept a chaotic society pervaded by elements of terrorism. After these assassinations, some government officials used rhetoric about the ‘Lebanonisation’ of Tunisia - that the country would become like Lebanon, Somalia, Iraq and Afghanistan./ppMB: emWhat is the importance of a code of ethics for journalists in the transitional period?/em/ppFB: This is an essential point. There is growing talk by government officials about the focus on the ethical codes. They do this in order to justify attacks on journalists. They want to divert attention from one essential point which is freedom of information./ppThree issues must be addressed: the protection of journalists; legislative reform; and training and education combined with the development of economic models for media institutions who aim to promote transparency, good judgement and responsibility./ppMost of the work now focuses on enhancing freedoms, as this is the starting point. Freedoms are very fragile at the moment. We want laws to promote freedoms rather than restrict them./ppTwo laws relating to media freedoms were established after the revolution; Decree-Law 115 relating to the freedom of the printing press and publications, and Decree-Law 116 which established the audio-visual commission. In general these are progressive laws. But the judicial system in Tunisia doesn’t refer to these laws but relies on older laws from the prior regime. There are many cases of defamation law [Article 128 under the penal code] being used against journalists to stifle free speech, so the progressive laws are essentially dead./ppWe have adopted a strategy related to this. We said it’s not important to pass progressive laws alone, but also, the government must prevent the judicial system from interfering in media issues.nbsp;spanWe are also focusing on gender issues and strengthening the role of female journalists./span/ppMB: emYou have been attending a forum on press freedom with delegates from across the Arab world. Do you think forums like this help in changing the media landscape?/em/ppFB: It’s important to exchange experience and knowledge. To run forums with different journalists from the Middle East and North Africa, and to acknowledge the implementation of different laws. This is important./ppWhat is more important is solidarity among all journalists. A petition signed by 200 international journalists will have more influence than a single forum. This is where the freedom of the media begins./phr /pemVisitnbsp;a href=http://www.ctlj.org/ target=_blankwww.ctlj.org/anbsp;for more information on violations against journalists in Tunisia./em/p/divfieldset class=fieldgroup group-sideboxslegendSideboxes/legenddiv class=field field-related-stories div class=field-labelRelated stories:nbsp;/div div class=field-items div class=field-item odd a href=/arab-awakening/mohamed-salah-omri/tunisian-revolution-three-years-onThe Tunisian revolution three years on/a /div div class=field-item even a href=/arab-awakening/robert-joyce/tunisia-security-sector-reformTunisia: security sector reform/a /div /div /div /fieldset div class=field field-country div class=field-label Country or region:nbsp;/div div class=field-items div class=field-item odd Tunisia /div /div /div
Ronnie Biggs, one of Britain's most notorious criminals, robbed a train in 1963, making off with millions of pounds.
Amnesty International urges officials to intervene to help labourers collect up to a year's worth of overdue salaries.
Turkey, Iran and China top list of world's worst jailers of journalists in 2013, with most held on anti-state charges.
Al Jazeera investigates how Gaddafi dissidents were tortured into giving false information about innocent Libyans.
div class=field field-summary div class=field-items div class=field-item odd pIt is not possible on the basis of the perceptions of those surveyed, alone, to infer the extent to which anti-Semitism exists in the EU; nor is it possible to determine the degree to which it has – or has not – changed for the worse./p /div /div /div pHistorically, the relationship of Jewry to Europe has been ambiguous. On the one hand, Europe has been the homeland for generations of Jews since antiquity. This is reflected in the names of two of the main ethnic categories of Jews in the world: Sephardi (‘Spanish’) and Ashkenazi (‘German’). In modern times, Europe has incubated Jewish movements as diverse as Hasidism and the Haskalah (Jewish Enlightenment), Zionism, and Bundism. On the other hand, it also gave birth to anti-Semitism, culminating in the Nazi Holocaust: the mass murder of millions of Jews across the continent and the wholesale destruction of Jewish life in eastern Europe. For this reason, Europe is sometimes seen as the Jewish graveyard rather than the Jewish homeland./p pAt first sight, a href=http://fra.europa.eu/sites/default/files/fra-2013-discrimination-hate-crime-against-jews-eu-member-states_en.pdfa recent survey/a by the European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights (FRA), “Discrimination and hate crime against Jews in EU Member States: experiences and perceptions of antisemitism” (November 2013), might appear to lend support to the latter view and cast doubt on whether there is a long-term future for Jews in Europe. A headline in the emJewish Daily Forward/em asks, “a href=http://forward.com/articles/188156/could-spreading-european-anti-semitism-drive-jews/?p=allCould Spreading European Anti-Semitism Drive Jews From Homelands?/a” Shimon Ohayon, Likud Yisrael Beitenu MK and chair of the Knesset Lobby for the Struggle against Antisemitism, a href=http://www.jewishpress.com/news/breaking-news/mk-ohayon-to-eu-officials-dont-let-antisemites-define-hate/2013/11/05/remarked/a: “There are now places on the continent where Jews can no longer live and many others where no outward expressions of Jewishness are tolerated.” The “rise in hate,” he said, “is creating an untenable situation for the Jews of Europe.”/p pThe FRA report presents the results of an open online survey of 5,847 people in eight European Union (EU) countries where about 90 percent of the estimated Jewish population in the EU live: Belgium, France, Germany, Hungary, Italy, Latvia, Sweden, and the United Kingdom (UK). (Romania was included initially but the number of responses was so low that the data were not included in the main body of the report.) The survey, which was conducted about a year ago by a consortium of the UK-based Institute for Jewish Policy Research (JPR) and Ipsos MORI, was open to individuals 16 years or older who live in the selected countries and who identify as Jewish. For the most part, the questionnaire was quantitative, though at the end respondents could add comments in their own words./p pThe picture that emerges from this survey is certainly troubling: “Two thirds of the respondents (66 percent) consider anti-Semitism to be ‘a very big’ or ‘a fairly big problem’ in the country where they live” (p. 15). Some 76 percent “consider that antisemitism has worsened over the past five years in the country where they live” (p. 16). Overall, 75 percent “consider antisemitism online as a problem today in the country where they live” (p. 19), while 73 percent “perceive that antisemitism online has increased over the last five years” (p. 20). Some 59 percent “feel that antisemitism in the media is ‘a very big’ or ‘a fairly big problem’, while 54 percent say the same about expressions of hostility towards Jews in the street and other public places” (p. 19). Moreover, 46 percent “worry about becoming a victim of an antisemitic verbal insult or harassment in the next 12 months, while one third (33 percent) worry about being physically attacked in that same period” (p. 32). In addition, 29 percent “have considered emigrating in the past five years because they did not feel safe there as Jews” (p. 37)./p pThe picture that emerges is troubling because it shows that many Jews in Europe are not living with the peace of mind and sense of security that every ethnic and religious group ought to enjoy. It is troubling also because there is bound to be emsome/em basis in reality for this state of affairs. Nor is this news: no one with a sense of history can doubt that the well of anti-Semitism runs deep in Europe and anyone following current events will know that the well has not run dry. However, the statistics I have quoted from the report are about what the survey respondents ‘consider’, ‘perceive’, ‘feel’ and ‘worry about’. It is not possible on this basis alone to infer the extent to which anti-Semitism exists in the EU, nor is it possible to determine the degree to which it has – or has not – changed for the worse./p pNonetheless, the liberal-left UK daily the emGuardian /ema href=http://www.theguardian.com/world/2013/nov/08/antisemitism-rise-european-surveycovered the report/a under the headline “Antisemitism on the rise, says European survey.” Similarly, emAljazeera/em a href=http://www.aljazeera.com/news/europe/2013/11/anti-semitism-rise-europe-2013118135939749261.htmlran the headline/a “Anti-Semitism on rise in Europe.” (The subhead said that the FRA survey “shows an anti-Semitism increase across Europe over the past five years.”) Both headlines appear to jump to conclusions. Compare the a href=http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-24857207more accurate BBC headline/a: “Anti-Semitism ‘on the rise’ say Europe’s Jews.”/p pIn a press release, the European Jewish Congress made the more a href=http://fra.europa.eu/sites/default/files/ejc-fra-survey-press-release_en.pdfspecific claim/a that the survey shows “a substantial rise in the number of Jews who have been subjected to anti-Semitic attacks.” It is difficult to see how this interpretation can be justified. Chapter 2 of the report includes data on anti-Semitic incidents, classified either as ‘verbal insult’ or ‘harassment’ or ‘physical attack’. One in five respondents experienced at least one such incident in the previous 12 months (of which 2 percent were physical attacks), but no indication is given as to whether this represents a rise or fall (or neither) over previous years (p. 29). Chapter 3, which homes in on specific types of harassment and violence, distinguishes between a shorter and longer term (but without a year-by-year breakdown). Some 7 percent of respondents experienced an incident of anti-Semitic violence (or threat of violence) in the past 5 years and 4 percent in the previous 12 months. (p. 42). Some 33 percent of respondents experienced anti-Semitic harassment at least once in the past 5 years and 26 percent in the past 12 months (p. 43). These figures do not indicate that such incidents have increased./p pFurthermore, the report comments that due to “a relatively low number of incidents – both as regards physical attacks/threats and harassment – no country breakdowns are presented here” (p. 47). In a similar vein, it says: “The few cases of antisemitic vandalism in the past five years (5 percent of all respondents, n=264), and physical violence or threat of physical violence over the same time period (7 percent of all respondents, n=403) pose an obstacle for a more detailed analysis of the incidents” (p. 50). It is hard to see how this adds up to “a substantial rise in the number of Jews who have been subjected to anti-Semitic attacks.”/p pThis is not to deny the seriousness of the problem of anti-Semitism in Europe; it is only to say that the FRA survey is not designed to answer questions about whether anti-Semitism is or is not on the rise or whether anti-Semitic incidents, including physical attacks, have or have not increased. It is a mistake even to try to extract conclusions of this kind from the report, a mistake that implies a failure to understand where the value of this report lies. It lies chiefly (as the section “Why is this survey needed?” explains) in providing “comparable data on the emperceived/em extent and nature of anti-Semitism among Jews in the EU” (p. 7, emphasis added). This is a useful contribution to our knowledge, but the value of this contribution is inherently limited./p pThe survey is limited in at least three other respects. First, there is its reliance on an open online questionnaire. The report explains the advantages but frankly admits that this method is “unable to deliver a random probability sample fulfilling the statistical criteria for representativeness” (p. 7). Moreover, as the annex on survey methodology comments, “the chosen survey mode is likely to have excluded some eligible members of the target population” (p. 70). In particular, it can be ‘assumed’ that unaffiliated Jews (Jews who are not members of a synagogue or some other Jewish community organisation) “are underrepresented in the current sample” (p. 74). Whether and to what extent this affects the findings is a matter of speculation./p pSecond, the focus on emperception/em introduces a large element of subjectivity. What, for example, counts as an anti-Semitic view or comment? a href=http://fra.europa.eu/sites/default/files/fra-2013-antisemitism-survey-technical-report_en.pdfQuestion B15b/a gives a list of eight potentially offensive statements. It includes the statement “Israelis behave ‘like Nazis’ towards the Palestinians.” nbsp;In the opinion of 81 percent of respondents, a non-Jew who says this is anti-Semitic (p. 23). Question B17 gives a list of six possible views or actions by non-Jews. It includes “Supports boycotts of Israeli goods/products” and “Criticises Israel.” These were considered anti-Semitic by 72 percent and 34 percent of respondents, respectively (p. 27). These opinions about what constitutes anti-Semitism are all debatable. Given the way the survey is constructed, it is impossible to assess the extent to which they affect overall estimates of anti-Semitism./p pThird, the survey does not allow comparisons to be made that would help put the data on European Jewish perceptions of anti-Semitism into perspective. It would be useful to make a comparison with perceptions in other regions. (In the a href=http://www.ajc.org/site/apps/nlnet/content3.aspx?c=7oJILSPwFfJSGamp;b=8478375amp;ct=13377533AJC 2013 Survey of American Jewish Opinion/a, 81 percent of respondents consider anti-Semitism to be a problem in the United States. Compare this with 66 percent of respondents in the FRA survey who consider anti-Semitism to be a problem in their countries (p. 15).) It would also be useful to be able to compare Jewish perception of anti-Semitism with, say, Muslim perception of Islamophobia or migrants’ perception of xenophobia, or the perception by any other group of the racism that targets that group. On the strength of this report, it is not possible to say whether the Jewish case is exceptional or, on the contrary, representative of minority ethnic or religious groups in Europe./p pThe questionnaire does, however, include two questions that allow a comparison to be made between Jewish perceptions of anti-Semitism and Jewish perceptions of racism. Question B03 asks respondents to say whether they think that anti-Semitism and racism have increased or decreased or stayed the same over the past five years. Some 76 percent think that anti-Semitism has gotten worse (p. 16), but, unless I have missed a trick, the report does not give the data on perceptions of racism. This is tantalizing, especially in view of the answers to the previous question (B02), which asks respondents to rate nine issues in terms of the magnitude of the problem in the country in which they live. On average, respondents put racism (along with unemployment and the state of the economy) ahead of anti-Semitism (p. 15). In other words, respondents, on average, think that racism is a greater problem than anti-Semitism./p pAll surveys have limitations. A limitation is not a defect, but it is necessary to keep the limitations of a survey in mind in order to assess its findings. The FRA report holds up a mirror to the EU Jewish population, giving us a glimpse of how European Jews perceive and experience anti-Semitism today. In this way, it contributes to our understanding. It does what it does, no more, no less. It does not license sweeping statements about the rise of anti-Semitism, nor does it warrant gloomy prognostications about Jews leaving Europe in droves./p pThere is one finding from the survey that JPR (which conducted the research) emphasizes in a a href=http://www.jpr.org.uk/publication?id=3041separate publication/a: “The vast majority of Jews in the sample feel a strong sense of belonging to the country in which they reside, and are highly integrated into mainstream society.” It is a pity that this finding did not make it into the FRA report. Arguably, it has a bearing on the question of the Jewish future in Europe./ppemThis piece a href=http://councilforeuropeanstudies.org/critcom/anti-semitism-and-the-jewish-future-in-europe/originally appeared/a on December 10, 2013 in the Reviews and Critical Commentary pages of the Council for European Studies/em./p pstrongnbsp;/strong The survey questionnaire is included as annex 1 in the Technical Report accompanying the FRA survey. /p pstrongnbsp;/strong In all three cases, the percentage scores combine two affirmative responses: “Yes, definitely” and “Yes, probably.”/p pstrongnbsp; /strongwww.thejc.com/news/world-news/113213/eu-survey-shows-high-anxiety-threat-level-remains-hidden/p pnbsp;/pdiv class=field field-country div class=field-label Country or region:nbsp;/div div class=field-items div class=field-item odd EU /div /div /div div class=field field-topics div class=field-labelTopics:nbsp;/div div class=field-items div class=field-item odd Civil society /div div class=field-item even Conflict /div div class=field-item odd Culture /div div class=field-item even Democracy and government /div div class=field-item odd Equality /div div class=field-item even Ideas /div div class=field-item odd International politics /div /div /div
Lower house of parliament passes independent ombudsman bill, creating institution to probe corruption in government.
Over fifty crew members of USS Ronald Reagan, who partook in mission after Japan's 2010 tsunami, diagnosed with cancer.
Police arrest 20-year-old student for calling in bomb threat in bid to get out of taking a final exam, prosecutors say.