Here we are again, after Ankara and Bruxelles, but also Ivory Cost and Nigeria in the last ten days, speaking about how to fight ISIS and terrorism in general. And here we are again with politicians and leaders missing the point of the whole picture. We cannot “fight” or “battle” against terrorism, as it is like to fight against guns or worst, again ourselves. We can only defeat it or succumb to it. Terrorism is a human product and as Giovanni Falcone, Italian judge killed by the Mafia, once said about Mafia we can say today of terrorism: “is a human phenomenon, and as all human phenomena has a start, an evolution and will have also an end”. We will defeat it in time, the point is how to do it earlier instead than later, that means how to prevent it working on its roots instead of reacting to it just working on its fruits.
If we don’t want to succumb to it for the next decades there are three paths to start, as I already wrote on this blog after Paris last November and Egypt last February 2015: diplomacy, inclusion and protection, which means new approaches to foreign policies, integration policies and security policies.
To change foreign policy in the Middle East, Europe will need to invest in mediation and diplomacy efforts and disinvest in bombing and trading arms to the region: we cannot expect to build sustainable peace and economic development if we keep with the old colonialist approach of wars and power politics, “divide and rule” and profit from selling weapons. Foreign policy should mean first of all diplomacy, this should be the real goal of a successful foreign policy, but after the two world wars Western foreign policy meant mostly military invasions and arms trade. And terrorism is the direct result of this. We need instead change direction, start to support negotiating efforts, like we did with Iran, to help to build a new regional order, involving the regional powers of the Middle East, first of all Turkey, Iran, Egypt and Saudi Arabia, as well as all the other actors, including the non-state actors on the ground, often defined terrorist groups because of their fight for self-determination, like PKK/PYD for Kurds, Hezbollah for Shia in Lebanon and Hamas for Palestinians. Unless we will be able to involve all of the legitimates needs and request of all the actors on the ground, we will never have peace in the Middle East, as these groups will never abandon the armed struggle and transform from armed groups to political parties or social movements.
We will also need to stop fueling sectarianism in the region with identity construction discourses and weapons sale. This will require both a change in the political and media discourse of Western powers and also their industrial transformation in the long run, from economies based on arms production and resources exploitation to new technological productions and green industries. Europe need to stop the flows of money and weapons from some of the Middle East powers, often our allies like Saudi Arabia or Turkey, to DAESH/ISIS and its affiliated terrorist groups, forcing instead these allies to make a real military battle to defeat the ISIS armed group that is controlling the territory between Syria and Iraq, with our external support in particular protecting civilians and minorities. If they will not be able to do it, because of their opposed interests (Sunni versus Shia dominated powers, or Turks versus Arabs versus Kurds), then the external powers, in primis US and Russia, will have to intervene in force, asthey did in the past for common enemies like Nazism. And finally the EU needs to integrate Turkey: only with Turkish membership we will shift towards a real pluralistic Union, not anymore a religiously homogeneous continent but a pluralistic one, as in its ideals, that will welcome moderate Muslim countries and will increase its Muslim population from the current 45 million to 120 million, making the narrative of “clash of civilizations” just a ridiculous rhetoric of the past.
Second, to change the type of integration we have today in Europe we need to create a new social contract in the continent, based on real inclusion and participation and not anymore on the isolation of communities of immigrants that has been created by both multiculturalism and assimilationism, in particular now with the arriving of millions of refugees. This marginalization created the humus for the terrorism, and often not only in the streets or houses but in the prisons, where small criminals become terrorist for a lack of a better future. It is not a case that the last attack has taken place in Bruxelles, the capital of European Union, and Belgium in general, a place where pluralism should be the basic factor but where the “European bureaucrats” don’t create a real Belgium identity, that instead is divided between Fleming and Walloon, making the integration of immigrants, their feeling of belonging to a state, even more difficult. The European Union therefore need to re-discover again its meaning, the foundation of a continent “United in diversity” as its motto says, respecting the differences but giving to everyone the same European identity and equal access to resources, following closer the United States example, who has been more able to put in practice the principles of its Declaration of Independence that says: “all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness”. Until now these unalienable rights have been given only to some part of the European population and so the European dream is still to be realized.
Finally, even if this is the least important of the three, to change the approach to security we will need two processes, one at individual level and one at political level. At individual level we need to learn as citizens to be more aware of our environment, in order to proactively be able to self-protect us more, controlling abandoned packages, reporting suspect people etc. in order to live free to move where we want and at the same time being aware of living in dangerous times. But on the other side, at political level, we need to build a more efficient and less frightening Big Brother, based on real intelligence control, that doesn’t mean necessary loss of privacy or principal freedoms, but instead more integration and exchange of information among European states and agencies, to facilitate a real common police and common security policies. It is not a question of suspending our rules and Constitutions, like France did last year, it is a question of maintaining our freedom and at the same time work in a more efficient way. It is not possible and neither acceptable that one of the most advance security system in Europe, the Belgian police, took 4 months to get one of the attackers of Paris. This is the right thing to do, find the perpetrators and arrest them as normal criminals, without making them dangerous heroes reacting to their action with full military force, but cannot be done in an amateurish way.
If we will be able to do all this, the Jihadist terrorism will end sooner than later. The path is still long though, it will take probably one generation, but we will then be able to go on with the development of the Middle East and also the other excluded parts of the world, in particular Africa, helping the progress of all the nations on the Earth. If we will fail, terrorism will continue for generations to come, at least until some people of the world will be marginalized and will not share an equal Liberté Egalité Fraternité.
My opinion piece on Jakarta Post
The online declaration of Academics for peace — which has been already hacked and blocked in Turkey — calling for peace in Kurdistan region and accusing the government of a “deliberate and planned massacre in serious violation of Turkey’s own laws and international treaties to which Turkey is a party”, was signed by more than 1,000 Academics, not only in Turkey, including the American philosopher Noam Chomsky and the Slovenian philosopher Slavoj Zizek. Turkish police until now detained 21 academics over “terrorist propaganda” and is investigating others for allegedly violating Article 301 of the Turkish Penal Code, which criminalizes “insulting Turkishness”. Sedat Peker, a notorious figure convicted on organized charges, already said that the blood of those academics will be spilled in case the Muslim Turks’ state will fail. As the US ambassador to Turkey, John Bass, recently declared: “While we may not agree with the opinions expressed by those academics, we are nevertheless concerned about this pressure having a chilling effect on legitimate political discourse across Turkish society regarding the sources of and solutions to the ongoing violence.” The Middle East Studies Association (MESA) of North America and its Committee on Academic Freedom expressed in a letter its serious concern over this situation and British academics also started a petition to support Turkish colleagues. Among American academics there have been different opinions on the declaration because of being very critical of the government without calling for the responsibility also of the PKK in creating the conflict.
I finally decided to send my email in order to sign the petition (but I didn’t receive any confirmation yet, probably even the email of person in charge has been blocked) even if I would have like a more balanced declaration, in order to support targeted academicians for a simple reason: in my country of origins, Italy, Fascism became really Fascism when started to imprison academics and intellectuals criticizing the government. Today Turkey is on a dangerous path, but I believe that with “carrots and sticks” from intellectuals and international community the Turkish state can improve on its path of democratization. I believe in Turkey because I know its people and its institutions and I want a more democratic, not a more autocratic, Turkey because a more democratic Turkey will help not only itself but also the region. This is the path that another academic, today Prime Minister, Ahmet Davutoglu, should push for, trying to control the excesses of President Erdogan. Also the Deputy Prime Minister, Mehmet Simsek, is an ex academic (and he is Kurd) believing that Turkey has still things to do to complete its democratization process. With their more moderate, tolerant and diplomatic approach, these important figures in future Turkish politics can help Erdogan to slow down in his authoritarian desires.
The problem is that today is still very difficult to treat the Kurdish issue in Turkey in a constructive and legitimate way or at least in an academically impartial way. This for many reasons, among which: the Sevres syndrome of Turkey – the idea that some outside Western forces, allied with internal opposition, conspire to weaken and destroy Turkey – constantly reinforced by the government narrative; the low ontological security of Turkey – in particular given the recent Kurdish autonomy in Syria and Iraq; the terrorist label used to delegitimize an ideological guerrilla of self-liberation and everyone who doesn’t stay with the government; the lack of impartial and non-embedded media coverage – and so who knows who kill who, when and where exactly, who broke the truce first, and so on; the definition of minorities – between the “Turks of the mountains” assimilated in once century and who define him/herself as Kurd and not Turk there is an abyss; the gigantic polarization in Turkey between Islamist and secular, right and left, one language and multiculturalism (similar in the past to my country, Italy); and finally the fight for power interests: at the end of the day this is the real struggle as usual among different armed or political actors and the people are in the middle as always.
Therefore all us academics, instead of increasing the politicization and polarization of an issue and a society that is already targeted by opposed propaganda, we should stick to our academic goals: analyze facts and theories to understand the past and interpret the present, try to predict the possible scenarios and help to transform conflicts. And when intellectual feel the need to make a petition for some civilians killed or trapped, they should calibrate the text, appealing to international norms and with the most impartial view, but at the same time they should not been targeted as anti-country supporting terrorism because they are intellectual and scholars, the searchers of truth, the last resorts in every case, either in democracy or autocracy. In particular I repeat in a country like Turkey, where to criticize governments is already difficult because governments are identified with the nation (using the flag of the country during the rally the ruling party make clear that there is no distinction) and where a PhD candidate like me, in visit to do his research, cannot present a scientific paper in a University treating the “securitization of Kurdish region”, without being interrupted by nationalist views that attack the “colonialist academics that try to dismember our dear country” or by Kurdish protesters that believe there is no securitization but civil war caused only by the government. This is the situation today for Turkey, a country that should enter soon in the EU (if France and Germany will overcome the Islamophobia and the ‘Powerphobia’, and Turkey its Sevres syndrome) or is destined to suffer for long time still, after more than 30 years of regional war.
The Middle East is starting now a new generation of conflicts and if Turkey could resolve its internal issues of integration and respect of Kurdish minority of the Eastern region, could really play the role of the pivotal country in the area. Turkey is the bridge not only between East and West, religiousness and secularism or among cultures and religions, but is the bridge between the past and the future, between the Christian, Islamic, nationalist and communist ideologies of the past and the post-ideological future, where all views could cohabit because it is the “citizenship”, in a country or in a continent, the glue of the community, not the sense of belonging to a group or another with the political construction of sectarian cleavages. And we, academics and intellectuals, should work for that, not for building new line ups of white and black between who is with me and who is against me, but for moderation and agreement, investigation of facts and search for peace. The Manichean view is not helpful but destructive, and in our times of destructive cults we need abstract destruction but concrete constructions, as Gramsci would say.