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Fourth Bangladeshi Blogger Murdered, Yet another Attack on the Free Press: New Age Islam’s Selection from World Press, 8 August 2015

New Age Islam Edit Bureau

8 August 2015

  3 U.S. Defeats: Vietnam, Iraq and Now Iran

By David Brooks

 The Death of Mullah Omar: What It Means For Taliban and Afghanistan

By Salih Dogan

 Politics and principle at the Nahdatul Ulema Congress

By Greg Fealy

 Dividing Palestinians

By Uri Anvery

 Turkey’s Policy on ISIL, Kurdish Question and Socio-Political Engineering

By Mustafa Demir

 Yet another Attack on the Free Press

By Mustafa Akyol

 Louder Voices of Saudi Women Can Usher In Change

By Samar Fatany


3 U.S. Defeats: Vietnam, Iraq and Now Iran

By David Brooks

August 7, 2015

The purpose of war, military or economic, is to get your enemy to do something it would rather not do. Over the past several years the United States and other Western powers have engaged in an economic, clandestine and political war against Iran to force it to give up its nuclear program.

Over the course of this siege, American policy makers have been very explicit about their goals. Foremost, to prevent Iran from becoming a nuclear power. Second, as John Kerry has said, to force it to dismantle a large part of its nuclear infrastructure. Third, to take away its power to enrich uranium.

Fourth, as President Obama has said, to close the Fordo enrichment facility. Fifth, as the chief American negotiator, Wendy Sherman, recently testified, to force Iran to come clean on all past nuclear activities by the Iranian military. Sixth, to shut down Iran’s ballistic missile program. Seventh, to have “anywhere, anytime 24/7” access to any nuclear facilities Iran retains. Eighth, as Kerry put it, to not phase down sanctions until after Iran ends its nuclear bomb-making capabilities.

As a report from the Foreign Policy Initiative exhaustively details, the U.S. has not fully achieved any of these objectives. The agreement delays but does not end Iran’s nuclear program. It legitimizes Iran’s status as a nuclear state. Iran will mothball some of its centrifuges, but it will not dismantle or close any of its nuclear facilities. Nuclear research and development will continue.

Iran wins the right to enrich uranium. The agreement does not include “anywhere, anytime” inspections; some inspections would require a 24-day waiting period, giving the Iranians plenty of time to clean things up. After eight years, all restrictions on ballistic missiles are lifted. Sanctions are lifted once Iran has taken its initial actions.

Wars, military or economic, are measured by whether you achieved your stated objectives. By this standard the U.S. and its allies lost the war against Iran, but we were able to negotiate terms that gave only our partial surrender, which forces Iran to at least delay its victory. There have now been three big U.S. strategic defeats over the past several decades: Vietnam, Iraq and now Iran.

The big question is, Why did we lose? Why did the combined powers of the Western world lose to a ragtag regime with a crippled economy and without much popular support?

The first big answer is that the Iranians just wanted victory more than we did. They were willing to withstand the kind of punishment we were prepared to mete out.

Further, the Iranians were confident in their power, while the Obama administration emphasized the limits of America’s ability to influence other nations. It’s striking how little President Obama thought of the tools at his disposal. He effectively took the military option off the table. He didn’t believe much in economic sanctions. “Nothing we know about the Iranian government suggests that it would simply capitulate under that kind of pressure,” he argued.

The president concluded early on that Iran would simply not budge on fundamental things. As he argued in his highhanded and counterproductive speech Wednesday, Iran was never going to compromise its sovereignty (which is the whole point of military or economic warfare).

“The president hoped that a deal would change the moral nature of the regime, so he had an extra incentive to reach a deal.”Here we are...

The president hoped that a deal would change the moral nature of the regime, so he had an extra incentive to reach a deal. And the Western, Russian and Chinese sanctions regime was fragile while the Iranians were able to hang together.

This administration has given us a choice between two terrible options: accept the partial-surrender agreement that was negotiated or reject it and slide immediately into what is in effect our total surrender — a collapsed sanctions regime and a booming Iranian nuclear program.

Many members of Congress will be tempted to accept the terms of our partial surrender as the least bad option in the wake of our defeat. I get that. But in voting for this deal they may be affixing their names to an arrangement that will increase the chance of more comprehensive war further down the road.

Iran is a fanatical, hegemonic, hate-filled regime. If you think its radicalism is going to be softened by a few global trade opportunities, you really haven’t been paying attention to the Middle East over the past four decades.

Iran will use its $150 billion windfall to spread terror around the region and exert its power. It will incrementally but dangerously cheat on the accord. Armed with money, ballistic weapons and an eventual nuclear breakout, it will become more aggressive. As the end of the nuclear delay comes into view, the 45th or 46th president will decide that action must be taken.

Economic and political defeats can be as bad as military ones. Sometimes when you surrender to a tyranny you lay the groundwork for a more cataclysmic conflict to come.


The Death of Mullah Omar: What It Means For Taliban and Afghanistan

By Salih Dogan

August 07, 2015

Unnamed sources from the Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF) reported on Wednesday, July 29, that the long-time Taliban leader Mullah Mohammad Omardied in a hospital in Pakistan more than two years ago.

Later in the day, Afghan President Ashraf Ghani's office made a statement saying, "The government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, based on credible information, confirms that Mullah Mohammad Omar, leader of the Taliban, died in April 2013 in Pakistan." The death of Mullah Omar had been speculated about several times before by different intelligence services, but both Taliban spokesmen and Afghan officials repeatedly denied it. This time, within 24 hours of the allegations, the Taliban confirmed the death of Mullah Omar. Although the Taliban confirmed his death, they denied the allegations about the time of his death. The statement remarked, "Some time ago he became ill, which intensified in the last two weeks before he passed away from this world."

The confirmation of Mullah Omar's death by Afghan officials came at a critical time. The first round of formal face-to-face negotiations between the Afghan government and Taliban representatives was held in Pakistan on July 7 under the supervision of American and Chinese officials. The second round of exploratory talks was scheduled for July 31 and a possible temporary cease-fire was to be urged by Afghan officials during the meeting. However, due to the death of Mullah Omar, the second round of the peace talks has been postponed.

In a recent Ramadan Eid message issued on July 15 on the Taliban's official website, Mullah Omar had backed the peace talks. This was a change of position from the Taliban's traditional point of view, since they always required NATO troops to leave the country before such talks and the statement was welcomed by the President Ghani. However, it is not certain who had been writing Mullah Omar's statements in the last two years, including the recent Eid message.

The Taliban leadership appointed the former deputy head of the Taliban (Islamic Emirate), Mullah Akhtar Mohammad Mansoor, as the new leader of the Taliban just a day after the confirmation of Mullah Omar's death. Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid also sent a voice record file to the media on Saturday which included the latest speech of new leader Mullah Mansoor. This was the first time that the Taliban had released a recording of its leader.

Afghan officials have stated that the postponement of peace talks was requested by the Taliban. They previously said they had been told that the Taliban's then-deputy leader Mullah Mansoor endorsed the peace talks on behalf of the reclusive Taliban leader Mullah Omar. Accordingly, Mullah Mansoor's leadership could have been a positive step towards to peace in Afghanistan. However, in the abovementioned audio message, Mullah Mansoor rejected the talks between the Afghan government and the Taliban. He called for the Taliban militants to continue their military campaign, noting: “We don't pay attention to this kind of propaganda, like peace talks or other related issues. Our jihad will continue until the establishment of an Islamic regime in Afghanistan.”

It was not surprising because the Taliban had already made a statement on Wednesday saying that they have established an organ to handle all its political affairs and that this “Political Office” is not aware of any such peace talks. Taliban officials from the group's office in Doha, Qatar, had made a declaration that they were not present at the first July 7 meeting and they didn't approve it. Fidai Mahaz --“the Suicide Front”-- one of the extremist splinter groups of the Taliban, announced last week that they were aware of the death of Mullah Omar and his replacement Mullah Mansoor, and they don't support the peace talks with the Afghan government.

The speculation about the death of Mullah Omar had become intense especially in the last years, and it was the main reason for the separation of some splinter Taliban groups. Some of the Taliban groups even pledged allegiance to the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) due to the uncertain state of the health of Mullah Omar. From now on, it will be more difficult for the Taliban to restrain its militants from joining other groups, in particular ISIL and the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU). The increasing factionalism will mean trouble for the central Taliban administration.

One of the reasons that Mullah Mansoor advised the continuation of jihad could be this separation. The Taliban has only had one leader since its establishment, and now the change of leadership will test the unity of the group for the first time. Mullah Mansoor may have thought that the best way to keep the group together was a call for jihad. Therefore, this will have an adverse impact on the newly started peace talks.

One would have thought that the death of Mullah Omar would weaken the Taliban insurgency and Kabul would have the upper hand in the peace talks; however, the group had accelerated attacks in Afghanistan after NATO concluded its combat mission by the end 2014 and they inflicted a record number of casualties on the Afghan national security forces. Taking the existence of current splinter groups and a possible power struggle within the Taliban administration into account, it will be really difficult for the Afghan government to find one-man leadership to negotiate with.

Salih Dogan is a research fellow at the Turkey Institute, a Ph.D. candidate at Keele University and a research assistant at Turgut Özal University.


Politics and principle at the Nahdatul Ulema Congress

By Greg Fealy

August 08 2015

The 33rd Nahdatul Ulema (NU) national congress (muktamar) in Jombang, East Java, that finished in the early hours of Thursday was among the most dramatic and acrimonious in the organization’s 89-year history.

It was marked by administrative disorder, heated verbal and sometimes physical clashes between delegates, swirling rumors of political interference and manipulation, threats from the vanquished of a rival congress and legal challenges, and a momentous speech by NU’s paramount Ulema, who, having changed the course of the congress, refused to accept the supreme leader (rais aam).

From the outset, this was a congress infected by politics. Whether various political parties and leaders exerted undue influence on the congress is a matter for debate, but undoubtedly most delegates believed it to be the case and this shaped their interpretation of events in a way that brought proceedings to the brink of deadlock at the half-way point of the congress.

Much of the political contention revolved around the bid by NU’s former chairman of the executive board (tanfidziyah), KH Hasyim Muzadi, to become supreme leader of the religious council (syuriah) that, at least on paper, governs the organization.

Hasyim had failed in his bid to become president at the previous congress in Makassar in 2010, and now, at 74, was making a final, concerted pitch for the position against the incumbent, KH Mustofa “Gus Mus” Bisri.

Hasyim has a reputation as an able administrator and a skilled practitioner of the kind of patronage politics that shapes much of NU’s internal power structures. But his detractors questioned whether he had the depth of religious knowledge required to be a credible supreme leader.

This position was normally held by one of NU’s pre-eminent ulema, but Hasyim is not known for his erudition.

Various political actors quickly became invested in either opposing or supporting Hasyim. Leading the charge against him was the National Awakening Party (PKB) and the deputy governor of East Java, Saifullah “Gus Ipul” Yusuf.

NU had played a key role in PKB’s establishment in 1998 but relations between the two organizations had soured under Hasyim’s leadership of NU (1999-2010).

Since 2010, PKB had restored its good relations with NU and went on to record a 40 percent increase in its vote at the 2014 elections, largely campaigning on the slogan that it was “NU’s Party”.

PKB was desperate to keep Hasyim from becoming president, fearing he would again drive a wedge between the two organizations.

Gus Ipul is an NU blue-blood and powerbroker in East Java, who is positioning himself for a run at the governorship at the next provincial election.

He has long had tense relations with Hasyim but especially objected to Hasyim’s support for his main rival in the previous gubernatorial elections. If Hasyim became NU president, Gus Ipul’s chances of election would diminish.

Those supporting Hasyim included Surya Paloh’s NasDem Party, Megawati’s Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P), and the United Development Party (PPP), of which Hasyim was once a member.

All three parties would prefer to see NU either politically neutral or openly anti-PKB, thus allowing them greater opportunity to attract the votes of NU members at the next election.

NasDem, in particular, has sought to make inroads into NU’s heartland by recruiting into provincial leadership positions a succession of disaffected or cast-off PKB politicians.

Broader religio-social contestations were also at play. NU conservatives preferred Hasyim to Gus Mus, whom they saw as too progressive and ineffective in stopping the executive board, and especially its chairman, KH Said Aqil Siradj, from indulging PKB.

Progressives objected to Hasyim because he had spoken out against religious minorities such as the Ahmadis and the Shia, and was also resistant to their advocacy of religious and social reform.

Thus, NU Islamist groups such as Garis Lurus (Straight Line) threw their weight behind Hasyim while many NU intellectuals and affiliated NGOs backed Gus Mus.

Many of the events in the congress were viewed, ultimately, as either pro- or anti-Hasyim.

The best example of this was the attempt of the central board to introduce the system of Ahlul Halli Wal Aqdi (“those with the authority to free and bind”, AHWA) to select the president.

AHWA would comprise nine eminent Ulema who would be appointed through a process of each branch nominating nine candidates. AHWA was supposed to stop the alleged massive vote buying but Hasyim’s supporters rightly saw it as a device to defeat him. He had majority support among the delegates but probably would not have had that on the AHWA.

So, they set out, even before the congress began, to block the AHWA proposal.

This included refusing to fill in the list of nine ulema during registration, which placed in doubt their ability to get the IDs necessary to enter the congress.

At the congress floor there was vociferous opposition from the pro-Hasyim delegates, and often pandemonium. NU’s paramilitary unit, Banser had to prevent fights, forcibly ejecting several irate delegates. By Sunday evening, the congress faced deadlock and rancor was everywhere.

The next morning Gus Mus called a meeting of NU provincial and branch presidents to resolve the crisis. In the early afternoon the congress reconvened and he delivered an impassioned and deeply moving speech, one that few who heard it will soon forget.

With tears in his eyes and a wavering voice, Gus Mus rebuked the delegates for their unruly behaviour and expressed his own sense of shame that the organization founded by great and virtuous Ulema could be capable of such things. He took responsibility for this himself and pleaded for a return to civility.

The mood of the congress changed markedly from that point. There were no more clashes and AHWA was eventually accepted. Gus Mus was appointed president but in a letter to the congress he declined the position, citing the cleavages over AHWA.

He was replaced by the conservative Ulema KH Ma’ruf Amin, the top-ranked AHWA member. Said Agil was re-elected as chairman.

Many delegates left the congress grumbling that it had been ruined by politics. In fact, politics has never been far from any NU congress since the mid-1940s. As Indonesia’s largest Islamic organization, NU has always sought, and been a vehicle for those seeking, power. This congress was no different.

But it did also see the reassertion, to some degree, that the Ulema have voices of moral authority. Gus Mus, always a reluctant organizational leader, has emerged from this ill-tempered congress with his reputation as an Islamic scholar of rare humility, intellect and ethical sensitivity enhanced. Indonesia needs more such people.

The writer is associate professor of Indonesian politics at The Australian National University, Canberra.

He attended the NU Congress at the invitation of the NU central board.


Dividing Palestinians

By Uri Anvery

8 August 2015

Benjamin Netanyahu is not known as a classical scholar, but even so he has adopted the Roman maxim Divide et Impera, divide and rule.

The main (and perhaps only) goal of his policy is to extend the rule of Israel, as the “Nation-State of the Jewish People,” over all of Eretz Israel, the historical land of Palestine. This means ruling all of the West Bank and covering it with Jewish settlements, while denying any civil rights to its 2.5 million plus Arab inhabitants.

East Jerusalem, with its 300,000 Arab inhabitants, has already been formally annexed to Israel, without granting them Israeli citizenship or the right to take part in Knesset elections.

That leaves the Gaza Strip, a tiny enclave with 1.8 million plus Arab inhabitants, most of them descendants of refugees from Israel. The last thing in the world Netanyahu wants is to include these, too, in the Israeli imperium.

There is a historical precedent. After the 1956 Sinai War, when President Eisenhower demanded that Israel immediately return all the Egyptian territory it had conquered, many voices in Israel called for the annexation of the Gaza Strip to Israel. David Ben-Gurion adamantly refused. He did not want hundreds of thousands more Arabs in Israel. So he gave the strip too back to Egypt.

The annexation of Gaza, while keeping the West Bank, would create an Arab majority in the Jewish State. True, a small majority, but a rapidly growing one.

The inhabitants of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip belong to the same Palestinian people. They are closely connected by national identity and family ties. But they are now separate entities, geographically divided by Israeli territory, which at its narrowest point is about 30 miles broad.

Both territories were occupied by Israel in the 1967 Six-day War. But for many years, Palestinians could move freely from one to the other. Palestinians from Gaza could study in the University of Bir Zeit in the West Bank, a woman from Ramallah in the West Bank could marry a man from Beth Hanun in the Gaza strip.

Ironically, this freedom of movement came to an end with the 1994 Oslo “peace” agreement, in which Israel explicitly recognized the West Bank and the Gaza Strip as one single territory, and undertook to open four “free passages” between them. Not a single one was ever opened.

The West Bank is now nominally administered by the Palestinian Authority, also created by the Oslo agreement, which is recognized by the UN and the majority of the world’s nations as the State of Palestine under Israeli military occupation. Its leader, Mahmoud Abbas, a close colleague of the late Yasser Arafat, is committed to the Arab Peace plan, initiated by Saudi Arabia, which recognizes the State of Israel in its pre-1967 borders. No one doubts that he desires peace, based on the Two-State Solution.

In 1996, general elections in both territories were won by Hamas (Arab initials of “Movement of Islamic Resistance“). Under Israeli pressure, the results were annulled. Whereupon Hamas took control of the Gaza Strip. That’s where we are now: Two separate Palestinian entities.

Superficial logic would dictate that the Israeli government support Mahmoud Abbas, who is committed to peace, and help him against Hamas, which at least officially is committed to the destruction of Israel. Well, it ain’t necessarily so.

True, Israel has fought several wars against the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip, but it has made no effort to occupy it again, after withdrawing from it in 2005. Netanyahu, like Ben-Gurion before him, does not want to have all those Arabs. He contents himself with a blockade that turns it into “the world’s largest open-air prison.”

Yet, a year after the last Israel-Gaza war, the region is rife with rumors about indirect negotiations going on in secret between Israel and Gaza about a long-range armistice (’hudna” in Arabic), even bordering on unofficial peace.

How come? Peace with the radical enemy regime in Gaza, while opposing the peace-oriented Palestinian Authority in the West Bank?

Sounds crazy, but actually isn’t. For Netanyahu, Mahmoud Abbas is the greater enemy. He attracts international sympathy, the UN and most of the world’s governments recognize his State of Palestine, he may well be on the way to establish a real independent Palestinian state, including Gaza.

No such danger emanates from the Hamas mini-state in Gaza. It is detested throughout the world.

Simple pragmatic logic would push Israel toward Hamas. The tiny enclave does not present a real danger to the mighty Israeli military machine, at most a small irritation that can be dealt with by a small military operation every few years, as happened during the last few years.

It would be logical for Netanyahu to make unofficial peace with the regime in Gaza and continue the fight against the regime in Ramallah. Why maintain the naval blockade on the Gaza strip? Why not do the opposite? Let the Gazans build a deep-sea harbor, and rebuild their beautiful international airport (which was destroyed by Israel)? It would be easy to put in place an inspection regime to prevent the smuggling in of arms.

Once there was talk of Gaza turning into an Arab Singapore. That is a wild exaggeration, but the Gaza Strip may well become a rich oasis of trade, a harbor of entry for the West Bank, Jordan and beyond.

This would dwarf the PLO regime in the West Bank, deprive it of its international standing and avert the danger of peace. The annexation of the West Bank — now called “Judea and Samaria” even by Israeli leftists – could proceed step by step, first unofficially, then officially. Jewish settlements would cover the land more and more, and in the end nothing else would remain there except some small Palestinian enclaves. Palestinians would be encouraged to leave.

Fortunately (for the Palestinians) such logical thinking is alien to Netanyahu and his cohorts. Faced with two alternatives to choose from, he chooses neither.

While seeking an unofficial hudna with Hamas in Gaza, he keeps up the total blockade of the Gaza Strip. At the same time, he tightens the oppression in the West Bank, where the occupation army now routinely kills some six Palestinians per week.

Behind this non-logic there lurks a dream: The dream that in the end all the Arabs would leave Palestine and just leave us alone.

Was this the hidden hope of Zionism from the beginning? Judging from its literature, the answer is no. In his futuristic novel, “Altneuland,” Theodor Herzl describes a Jewish commonwealth in which Arabs live happily as equal citizens. The young Ben-Gurion tried to prove that the Palestinian Arabs are really Jews who at some time had no choice but to adopt Islam. Vladimir Jabotinsky, the most extremist Zionist and forefather of today’s Likud, wrote a poem in which he foresaw a Jewish state where “The son of Arabia, the son of Nazareth and my son/will flourish together in abundance and happiness.”

Yet many people believe that these were empty words, attuned to the realities of their time, but that underneath it all was the basic will to turn all of Palestine into an exclusively Jewish state. This desire, they believe, has unconsciously directed all Zionist action from then to now.

However, this situation did not result from any diabolical Israeli plan. Israelis don’t plan things, they just push them along.

By splitting into two mutually hating entities, the Palestinian people actually collaborate with this Zionist dream. Instead of uniting against a vastly superior occupier, they undermine each other. In both mini-capitals, Ramallah and Gaza, there rules now a local ruling class, which has a vested interest in sabotaging national unity.

Instead of uniting against Israel, they hate and fight each other. Cutting the small Palestinian nation into two even smaller, mutually hostile entities, both helpless against Israel, is an act of political suicide.

On the face of it, the right-wing Israeli dream has won. The Palestinian people, torn apart and rent by mutual hatreds, are far removed from an effectual struggle for freedom and independence. But this is a temporary situation.

In the end, this situation will explode. The Palestine population, growing day by day (or night by night) will come together again and restart the struggle for liberation. Like every other people on earth, they will fight for their freedom.

Therefore, the “divide et impera” principle can turn into a catastrophe. The real long-term interest of Israel is to make peace with the entire Palestinian people, living peacefully in a state of their own, in close cooperation with Israel.


Turkey’s Policy on ISIL, Kurdish Question and Socio-Political Engineering

By Mustafa Demir

August 07, 2015

Turkey could have been the guardian of the Kurds in the Middle East by protecting Kurds from Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) attacks in northern Syria and Iraq. This was the sort of opportunity that may only come once in 100 years. This might have even been a rational choice considering the economic interests Turkey has in the region given trade relations with the Kurdish polity in Iraq and Turkey's dream to be an energy hub to transport resources in Iraq and its Kurdish region to Western energy markets. However, the Turkish ruling elite opted to waste this opportunity. The question people are asking is “Why did the same elite who initiated the settlement process opt to waste this opportunity?”

 Last week Turkey made a decision to change its position on ISIL, initiating air strikes on ISIL-controlled areas in the north of Syria and allowing US-led allies to use its Incirlik Air Base in Adana for the air strike campaign against the terrorist group. This was a policy shift as Turkey had until that point refused to directly combat ISIL and had even been accused of being soft on ISIL, to say the least. However, this change in policy was not exclusive to ISIL but included the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) as well.

 The decision to become involved came a couple of days after a suicide bombing in Suruç that killed 33 Turkish and Kurdish activists planning to take aid to the Kurdish town of Kobani. After this suicide bombing, believed to have been conducted by ISIL, three police officers were killed in an attack claimed by the PKK. The first attack was used as a justification for the government to change its stance regarding the fight against ISIL and the second, toward the PKK. Before elaborating on the possible motives behind these policy changes, we need to make clear that both incidents were terrorist attacks.

 The government has been negotiating with and trying to “persuade” the PKK to lay down its arms since 2009. Whenever the question of ISIL arose, Turkish leaders also brought the PKK issue to the table. Some even suggested that Turkey has been countering the success of Kurdish groups by supporting ISIL.

 Just one day after targeting ISIL enclaves in Syria, Turkey turned to the north of Iraq and hit the PKK's camps in the region. This led to the end of the “tentative cease-fire” the PKK had been observing since 2013.

 Striking both organizations concurrently led ISIL and the PKK to turn their guns on Turkey, as we have been observing since last week. This is not a logical strategy to follow. Why would Turkey's interim government pursue such an irrational policy? I think the answer to this question can be found in domestic politics, and particularly with the corruption allegations in which some members of the government and President Recep Tayyip Erdogan along with his son were alleged to be involved.

 As an immediate consequence of the current strategy, turmoil in the region and within Turkey might divert attention away from domestic politics and provide the interim Turkish government justification for becoming more aggressive in the region.

 It would also enable President Erdogan to show the people how coalition governments can be dangerous to “stability.” Actually, it may be for this reason alone that he seems ready to risk Turkey's political and economic stability just before a possible early election.

Implications of Recent Incidents on Kurdish Question

Attacking the PKK's strongholds in the region has brought an end to the two-year cease-fire and has increased the PKK's attacks. This has been a blow to the already stalled settlement process. Furthermore, and more importantly, this might lead to the marginalization of Kurdish politicians under the shadow of guns. The validity and meaning of the political steps taken by the PKK would lose their meaning, which is well described in the Turkish saying, “The guns are talking.”

The attacks by the PKK have the potential to increase nationalistic sentiments in Turkey and lead Erdogan to adopt harsher nationalist rhetoric. It is also a probability that increasing the visibility of the PKK could marginalize the Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP) among Kurdish voters, too. That would make the HDP a political party that is not “functioning,” particularly in the eyes of its Kurdish voters. This might also be one of the consequences Erdogan has been expecting, his wishful thinking regarding the outcome of this conflict.

All of this appears to indicate that social and political engineering are taking place and that it is being supported by the ultranationalist bureaucratic apparatus of the state, which does not like Kurds seeking or struggling for their rights via politics.

When we go back to the question asked in the beginning, I think the root of all of these irrational steps lies in domestic politics. It seems there is an axis shift towards increasing nationalist sentiments that would help them to "mobilize" the masses and divert attention while justifying the extraordinary measures that would strengthen the government and help them avoid accountability. They seem to be well aware that the existing security-based political culture would be in their favour in this “socio-political engineering.”

Mustafa Demir is the co-director and a research fellow of the London-based Turkey Institute and holds a Ph.D. in politics and international relations from Keele University in the United Kingdom.


Turkey Debates Renewing Election amid Anti-ISIL Fight

By Murat Yetkin


You can read the details in Serkan Demirtas’s story in today’s edition of Hürriyet Daily News; Turkey’s Incirlik air base is soon to become the hub for military operations against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) by the U.S.-led coalition of countries.

According to Western diplomatic sources, the Turkish Air Force will “very soon” start to hit ISIL targets in civil war-struck Syria as soon as U.S. and other coalition planes arrive in Turkey. Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavusoglu recently said the “real fight” would begin then.

In retaliation to attacks by the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), Turkish forces have escalated operations on PKK bases in northern Iraq, which has caused criticism in the West, with claims of weakening the fight against ISIL. When asked on Aug. 6, U.S. President Barack Obama said Turkey had the right to defend itself against the PKK but the focus of his deal with Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan, which was sealed during a telephone conversation on July 22, was on ISIL. British Ambassador to Ankara Richard Moore said on Aug. 7 the PKK should stop its armed attacks for the resumption of the dialogue with the government and a peaceful solution to the Kurdish issue.

When the “real fight” starts against ISIL, as the minister stated, the security situation in Turkey could get worse, with repercussions from both ISIL and the PKK if there is no improvement in the PKK situation by then.

Under these circumstances, Turkish politics has not been able to produce a coalition government since Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu’s Justice and Development Party (AK Parti) government lost its parliamentary majority in the June 7 election.

Following weeks-long meetings between the delegations of the two parties, PM Davutoglu and Kemal Kiliçdaroglu, the leader of the social democratic Republican People’s Party (CHP), are scheduled to meet on the evening of Aug. 10.

Kiliçdaroglu said recently he believed Davutoglu “sincerely” wanted to form a coalition government with the CHP, but he didn’t believe Erdogan would let him do so. CHPpeople believe Erdogan wanted to drag the country to another election under the current circumstances, amid the anti-ISIL fight for example, in order to try his chances once again to get a parliamentary majority for the AK Parti, so that he could exercise full executive powers, with or without a constitutional change.

When it was announced the CHP was going to gather all its MPs and provincial chiefs together on Aug. 12 in Ankara, commentators thought it might be related to a possible coalition with the AK Parti. But ranking sources told Hürriyet Daily News the agenda was actually to get ready for an election, with concerns there would be no coalition and the AK Parti was playing with time. CHP people think if the AK Parti would not let the president form an election government - since Erdogan does not want to appoint ministers from the Kurdish problem-focused Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) - and attempt to produce a parliamentary decision by by-passing the law, they could take the issue to the Constitutional Court and make life equally difficult for them.


Yet another Attack on the Free Press

By Mustafa Akyol


This week, as usual, lots of crazy things happened in Turkey. The most mind-boggling one for me, however, was an indictment prepared by the Istanbul Chief Prosecutor’s Office against 18 journalists. They were accused of “making propaganda for a terrorist organization,” with the prosecutor asking for up to 7.5 years in prison for each. Conspicuously enough, all these accused journalists were from newspapers that are either opposed to the government or at least critical of it.

The “terrorist organization” to which the prosecutor referred in the indictment is indeed a terrorist organization. It is the Revolutionary People’s Liberation Party-Front (DHKP-C), a violent Marxist-Leninist group that has attacked Turkish police repeatedly over the years. It even tried to bomb the U.S. Embassy in Ankara in 2013.

The more specific crime that the indictment referred to was the murder of Mehmet Selim Kiraz, an Istanbul prosecutor. Mr. Kiraz was first taken hostage for hours then murdered in his very office by two gunmen that acted on behalf of the DHKP-C in March. The murderers, who were shot dead by the police seconds after their crime, had released a photo of the prosecutor over the internet. It was a photo that showed the captive with a gun pointed at his head, and a red, DHKP-C flag hanging behind him.

It is the mere publishing of this photo, the Istanbul Chief Prosecutor’s Office now argues, that amounts to “terrorist propaganda.” The photo, the indictment tells us, portrayed the terrorist organization as “strong and capable enough for any action.” With the same logic, all Western media outlets that run photos of Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) crimes are guilty of “terrorist propaganda,” for they want to depict ISIL as “strong and capable enough for any action.” With the same logic, in fact, there is no terror news in the world which cannot be accused of being “terrorist propaganda.”

Now, I grant that “terrorist propaganda” can be a real problem and a real crime as well. If any of the Turkish newspapers that published the photo of the slain prosecutor had written things like, “Glorious Attack!” or “Bourgeois Official Deserves What He Gets,” that would be “terrorist propaganda.” But alas, all Turkish newspapers published the photo with headlines and commentaries that condemned the act. The editor-in-chief of Cumhuriyet, Can Dündar, who is one of the accused, reiterated this week that his newspaper “intended to portray the dark and ugly face of terrorism; not to legitimize it.”

But such nuances are never noted in Turkey, especially in today’s madly polarized Turkey. People interpret your intentions in the worst possible way, and then don’t see any difference between that subjective interpretation and the objective fact. It is futile to try to prove to them that you are not a lover of terrorists, or “coup makers,” or foreign spies, or domestic saboteurs.

As we understand from the indictment, this sort of mindset has a dangerous influence over the judiciary. The real responsibility, however, is on the executive. For it is the government that accused opposition newspapers of “terrorist propaganda,” merely for publishing the prosecutor’s photo, from the very first day.  The judiciary only seems to be following the government’s line.

And you know what the funniest thing is? A few pro-government newspapers and TV stations published the same photo, too. But nobody ever accused them of “terrorist propaganda.” They are, after all, the good guys – as duly noted not just by the government, but also by the judiciary.


Louder Voices of Saudi Women Can Usher In Change

By Samar Fatany

08 August 2015

In a recent interview for Al-Ekhbariya local news channel, business consultant Fatin Bundagji stated that policies that limit the contribution of women in the business community stand in the way of progress and economic prosperity in Saudi Arabia today.

Indeed the biggest challenge that is facing our nation today is the participation of women in national development.

We need more women experts like Fatin to be vocal in the media and on talk shows and active on social media to criticize policies and social norms that harm the economy and are detrimental to progress.

Issues like the participation of women in municipal voting, job opportunities and judicial restrictions should be addressed in a serious and urgent manner by women who are experts in the field.

Hardliners still insist on exerting control over the lives of women and resist initiatives to recognize their achievements and contributions toward nation-building.

It is time for women to boldly defy this hardline position that hampers their determination to excel and serve their nation.

Fundamentalists continue to exercise a powerful influence over policy-making and social norms. The absence of women’s voices in the decision-making process encourages extremism and promotes an intolerant society.

The stronger and more assertive voices of women can improve their position and increase their chances to contribute as qualified experts and professionals in the development of the nation.

There should be louder demands from women for laws that are based on the principle of equality in order to protect the rights of women employees creating a healthier and more productive work environment.

The state can no longer afford to marginalize the role of 50 percent of the population that includes highly educated and qualified citizens.

The government has taken steps toward recognizing the role of women in society; however, women have not been vocal enough in their demands for a change in the status quo that is still discriminating and unjust.

Women today constitute an important segment of the population and they should have a say in decisions that affect their lives and the future of their children.

The expertise of women can contribute to a better national strategy addressing economic and cultural challenges. Unemployment, domestic abuse, sexual harassment, emotional blackmail and the disrespectful attitude that is prevalent in some segments of Saudi society are major issues of concern.

The prosperity of the country should be the duty of all citizens, men and women alike. The absence of women policy-makers allows hard-line male decision-makers to impose anti-women rules that are discriminatory and detrimental to national prosperity.

According to Saudi social scientists, the reasons behind the exploitation of women by husbands and guardians are mainly due to the absence of deterrent laws or the failure to implement those laws which do exist.  

The voices of women should be allowed to reach across our borders. The wisdom of strong and educated women could bridge the gap between Saudi Arabia and the world.

The rigid image of Saudi women has harmed the position of Muslims everywhere. It has compromised the role of Saudi Arabia as the leader of the Muslim world.

The world needs to hear strong statements from modern professional women leaders in our country condemning extremism, violence and sectarianism and declaring the position of women on controversial global issues.

The empowerment of women remains a major religious encounter with modernity. Women must lead a stronger social and religious debate and engage religious scholars and reformers to address the current political and civil laws that marginalize their role in society.

The continued confrontation between tradition and modernity is a threat to the security and economic prosperity of Saudi Arabia.

Louder voices of women can be a positive force to influence change and reverse the negative intolerant attitude that dominates certain segments of our society.

Samar Fatany is a radio broadcaster and writer.