Tag Archives: Kurdistan

Ethno-nationalism on the march. Next stop Europe?

imagesindex

The referendums of Lombardia-Veneto in Italy and moreover Catalonia in Spain (with voices of new referendums in the UK), on the wave of the referendum in Iraqi Kurdistan, show that nation states are in a transition phase in Europe. The nation state, born four hundreds years ago and reinforced through the centuries, traditionally based on a very centralized state and an homogeneous nation, is changing skin, being eroded from above and from below. And the citizens of these nation states, at least in the so called “West” part of the world, seems to want to change their national identity skin, and in the process trying to rewrite the social contract with a new self-determination wave.

The European cases are different obviously from Kurdish one, as in Europe there are democracies, there has been no decolonization or genocide attempt against these minorities and autonomies are already strong, both in federated states like Germany, Austria, Switzerland, or Belgium, but even in non-federations such as Spain, United Kingdom, or Italy (with regional assemblies for special regions) that can be defined as “asymmetric federalism.” But new nationalism, based on ethnicity as in the Catalan case, are on the rise as reaction to globalization, migrations and new identities, and politicians are using that narrative together with populist attitudes to capitalize political power.

But changing borders is not a game and can end up with fatal consequences. The are several separatist movements in Europe and beyond. If all of them seek independence that would create a big mess in world politics in terms of humanitarian consequences and economic costs. An independent Catalonia for example could shake the foundations of the European Union. Should Sicily and Lombardia seek independence after that? If we witness an increasing of ethno-nationalist wave, we will have serious problems in the European integration, even if we will not go back to the Europe of fifteenth century.

The self-determination is the right of the people to determine their own political status without external interference but is becoming more and more a complex and delicate issue. Self-determination is mentioned only two times in the United Nations charter, in the context of developing “friendly relations among states” and “equal rights.” Even if during the 1960s it was interpreted as the right of colonies to become independent, distinct ethnic groups within colonies did not have a right to separate. Since the 1990s—under international law—this right is tangled with human rights and democratic norms. And today it is not free from political manipulation, with interests that go beyond the “autonomization” of nations, ethnic groups or cultures, as we saw with recent referenda.

Many compare the case of Kosovo with Catalonia. Kosovo is the newest European state to have gained independence, but the country did not just decide to secede for no reason. Independence was essential for the survival of its people who were being ethnically cleansed, persecuted, and tortured for decades. Kosovo and Kurdistan are much more comparable cases, even if Kosovo is a sui generis case: the only time when the West initiated a military humanitarian intervention to prevent another Srebrenica. This is not to say that Catalans or Venetians do not deserve more autonomy or even independence in the future. The argument though is that the world is evolving and so is the understanding of self-determination.

Nation states are not eternal. But monoethnic nation states are not the solution. Few countries in the world are ethnically homogenous and will be less and less in the future. Pluralistic nation states, with federations, autonomies, decentralization, and even cities included in the participation to the national “public affairs”, the Res-publica, are more successful, democratic, and stable. Independence and secession should be the extrema ratio for self-determination of the people. The normal process should be the negotiations, the eternal “market of points of view” that would allow to respond to the needs of all parts in a consensual decision making.

Real democracy, substantive, meaningful and liberal democracy means power “from by and to” the people, and so inclusiveness of all parts of society. Level of inclusion, through “autonomization” of regions that feel repressed and people that feel not recognized should be the criteria to measure democracies. This for both authoctonous and new minorities. Immigrants arriving to a new country should be granted if not citizenship at least the status of refugee, and their children given the jus solis principle of citizenship based on birth.

But we need to take care of political strumentalization in the process. Referendum can be a great instrument of democracy (like the ones asking on civil rights) but also a great instrument of manipulation. We have seen them used as power tool in many countries, from Venezuela to Ukraine, from Turkey to Europe today.  Constitutions are still the main social contract that state must abide to. If new sensibilities and social change require to change Constitutions that must be done with negotiations.

The world, and states in particular that don’t represent their diversity, because of their history of conquer, nationalist institutions and politics of repression, from Middle East to Africa to Europe, are in great distress. But we need to take care that this process doesn’t become a tragedy for the people, manipulated by political forces. The real solution is dialogue. Spanish and Catalan representatives, as well as Italians and Venetians or British and Scottish, should negotiate and reach a compromise, probably a federalized state structure, for the satisfactions of all the parts and the continuation of the important European integration that is under stress from above and from below.

Visar Xhambazi and Maurizio Geri

 

 

Advertisements

Why I decided to sign the petition of “Academics for peace” in Turkey

indexindex

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.