Category Archives: Uncategorized

A rapper will change the Iranian elections!

by Rasmus Christian Elling.

I’m sorry, but this deserves its own post. As I’ve mentioned earlier, there were rumors of presidential candidate and 72-year old revolutionary cleric Hojjatoleslam Mehdi Karubi’s meeting with a group of pop artists recently – among them the underground rapper Sâsi Mânkan (Sasy the Model). It is now more or less confirmed. Since Khatami’s withdrawal, this is the most shocking event of the 2009 presidential elections in Iran!

No doubt, young Iranians can see through this election campaign stunt. Many will see it as a desperate attempt to curry favor with the young. Nonetheless, some will love Karubi for it. It might be a joke, but see what this blogger writes:

“Even if I didn’t vote for the Sheikh [i.e. Karubi] when he promised cash handouts of 50,000 tomân, this will surely make me vote for him! A person who will recognize a guy like Sasy Mankan can be a really fun person; even if [Karubi] did this for the sake of elections and later on states that he does not even know a person called Sasy. Say what you like!

If it becomes clear which one of Karubi’s advisors proposed this meeting, I propose he should become Karubi’s first advisor in the new government.

Yeah, Karubi, you’re so cool, yeah!”

It is also certain that Karubi will be criticized for this over the coming days and weeks. It has been reported that already at the meeting itself, clerical members of Karubi’s entourage objected to the presence of underground rappers. Nonetheless, we should thank Karubi for finally giving this election some color! By the way, Karubi has already said he does not know of any ‘Sasy the Model’ …

Déjà vu! Inciting social unrest in the name of national interest

by Daniella Kuzmanovic

The rapid unfolding and alleged extent of the so-called Ergenekon network in Turkey startles all observers of Turkish affairs. At the heart of this wast and complex case are the allegations that a network of persons within the Turkish state apparatus, or ideologically in tune with the statist Kemalist, nationalist elite, have conspired to cause social unrest in Turkey with the aim of toppling the current AK party government. There are primarily two reasons why these people are upset with the AK party. Firstly, they are convinced that the AK party is in fact undermining the secular order of Turkey, secularism being one of the crucial principles of the Turkish republic. Secondly, they are suspicious of the way in which the AK party has pursued a policy of among other European integration, something which in their view is endangering the national sovereignty of the Turkish republic. Undermining national sovereignty means exposing Turkey (once again) to the influence of foreign powers, severely limiting the ability of Turkey to make decisions with regard to vital national interests on her own, and hence ultimately threatening the existence of the Turkish nation state. In other word these people see themselves as protecting national interests.

It has already been pointed out by various commentators and analysts, how the roots of Ergenekon in Turkey must be traced back to the 1960ies and 1970ies, and the battle against Communism and radical leftists during the Cold War period. The similarities between the strategies of the Ergenekon network and the Operation Gladio of the 1950ies have of course not gone unnoticed either. The methods are supposedly roughly the same; false flag operations in order to frame the enemy (most notably leftists and Communists) thus creating public support and legitimacy for various military and security-related measures taken against such enemies, and causing unrest in order to legitimize the use of force and cohesion to maintain social order. Among the many allegations raised against ‘the Ergenekon gang’ has thus been that they are behind the hand grenade attack in 2006 against the staunchly secular newspaper Cumhuriyet, a newspaper which represents the outlook of the Ergenekon network. In fact several of its editors, journalists and columnists have been arrested as suspects in the Ergenekon case, most notably Mustafa Balbay and Ilhan Selçuk. Another allegation is that Ergenekon was behind the attack on the Turkish council of State (Danıştay) in 2006 leaving one judge dead and four injured. One of the judges was known for ruling against the wearing of the headscarf by school teachers. The shooter yelled ‘God is great’ before he fired so as to make it look like he was seeking revenge on behalf of pro-Islamic forces in Turkey.

The other day, as I was reading about the Events of September 6-7 (1955), also known as the Istanbul pogroms, I could not help but being struck by a déjà vu. Not that this is in any way to be interpreted as an attempt on my behalf to establish any sort of direct links to the present case, although the events seemed to involve a wing of Turkish military known to be acting as a counter-guerilla. Rather than propagating any conspiracy thinking, it simply struck me how these strategies of false flag operations and the stirring of social unrest appear again and again in a number of historical contexts, also in Turkey, in order to protect or strengthen the nation state. That is too say they are instigated in the name of national interest. The wider context of the pogroms was not least the way in which the Cyprus issue had become redefined as a matter of vital Turkish national interest during the early 1950ies, thus being able to serve as a mean to mobilize Turks versus Greeks including Turks versus the Greek minority in Turkey.

The event, which set in motion the Istanbul pogroms, however, was the news of the bombing of the Turkish Consulate in Thessaloniki on September 5th 1955, near the house which was the birthplace of the founder of the Turkish Republic, Mustafa Kemal Atatürk. It was therefore depicted as a plot against Turkey. The following day, as the reports reached Istanbul through the vivid (but not altogether accurate) accounts of the Turkish press, crowds started gathering around Taksim square. The mobilization is suspected to be partly orchestrated by Turkish military and other authorities, partly by civic and political organizations sympathetic to the Turkish nationalistic account of the Cyprus issue. But no doubt the mobilization also gathered strength from the general strong animosities towards the Greeks accentuated by the nationalization of the Cyprus issue and the way this had been exploited by the Democratic Party, the party in power throughout the 1950ies in Turkey, in order to gain public support in the face of economic hardships. The crowds soon began to attack businesses and properties belonging to non-Muslim minorities, particularly Greeks, and the riots spread beyond Taksim. The events lasted until midnight, when the Turkish Army intervened and declared martial law. The results were devastating, although sources vary as to the number of businesses, residences, schools and churches attacked and the number of persons assaulted. The long term effects were that yet many more from the Greek-speaking minority left Turkey, hence contributing to the homogenization of the population bringing it in accordance with the national ideal of the homogenous (ethnic) Turkish nation state.

The déjà vu, though, most of all stems from the fact that the bomber of the Turkish consulate in Thessaloniki, Oktay Engin, turned out to be connected to the Turkish Intelligence Service. In other words it was a false flag operation most probably intended as part of a plot to cause social unrest and incite acts of revenge against Greeks in Turkey. This, of course, all in the name of protecting and advancing national interest.


Studies on Events of September 6-7, 1955:

Güven, Dilek (2006): Cumhuriyet dönemi azınlık politikaları ve stratejileri bağlamında 6-7 Eylül 1955 olayları. İletişim

Vryonis, Speros Jr. (2005): The Mechanism of Catastrophe: The Turkish Pogrom of September 6 – 7, 1955 and the Destruction of the Greek Community of Istanbul. Inc

Obama, Clinton and the need for a new look on the Darfur ‘genocide’

by Anders Hastrup.

The crisis in Darfur has captured public imagination in the US and thus the rest of the Western world in a manner unprecedented for a conflict on the African continent. Not since the anti-apartheid campaigns in the 1980s have students on US campuses been so passionately concerned about the plight of civilian Africans. Never before have the US public and various lobby groups from all sides of the political spectrum and different religious organizations been speaking with such a united voice about ending what former Secretary of State Colin Powell called a “genocide” in 2004. In their respective presidential campaigns both Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton have openly criticised the Bush administration for not putting any action behind the declaration and ending the genocide in Darfur. Before the new US administration takes over and we can expect a tougher line on the Sudanese government responsible for atrocities in Darfur, should Obama put force behind his words, it is of great importance that everyone engaged with the Darfur in the US read this piece and try to revise the root causes of the current tragedy and use these reflections to create a more balanced response. In this piece I wish to highlight some of the problems in labelling Darfur a “genocide” and separating the history of this tragedy from the history of the rest of Sudan.

Before moving on with some of the shortcomings of seeing Darfur as an unprecedented catastrophe in both the history of Sudan and Africa, let me say that I thoroughly appreciate the efforts of individuals, students, journalists, celebrities, community organisations, religious and political figures in the US who have put an incredible amount of energy in speaking out for the plight of the suffering civilians of Darfur. I myself have lived in Sudan for more than 2 years and have spent more than 1 one year working with the many internally displaced persons in the huge camps in Darfur. I have witnessed a humanitarian situation that has only deteriorated, families fleeing their homes for the second and third time all telling their stories of husbands slain in front of their wives, sexual violence and burnt down villages. I have met women gang-raped so violently they were unable to walk months after it took place, I have seen infants on the brink of starvation who I know can no longer possibly be alive as humanitarian access has been hindered by the deliberate attacks on NGO and UN vehicles all through Darfur.

I do not wish to downplay the need for action and upgraded international engagement, yet in my view a continued uncritical use of the term “genocide” where “Arabs” kill “Africans” to describe the horrors in Darfur is not only historically wrong, it may potentially be counterproductive and reproduce the current patterns of conflict, where civilians pay the highest price. Here is why:

•    The Sudanese government armed loyal Arab militias, the janjaweed, to carry out a scorched earth campaign as a counter insurgency strategy crushing an armed rebellion against the Khartoum government in 2003-2004. This led to the displacement of more than 2 million people, mostly non- Arab Africans throughout Darfur. However, many senior janjaweed commanders did not feel they where adequately rewarded by the Sudanese government wherefore they turned against Khartoum. In some cases these Arab rebels formed new alliances with the rebels they had set out to crush. Across ethnic boundaries they came together in unified resistance to Khartoum.
•    Since the failed Darfur Peace Agreement in 2006, where only one of the rebel-fractions signed a deal with Khartoum a new front has opened between the two major African tribes in Darfur, the SLA/M, who signed the deal, and SLA/AW who didn’t. The SLA/M has carried out campaigns against civilians allegedly supporting SLA/AW in a very brutal manner. So brutal, in fact, that the SLA/M soldiers have been nicknamed “janjaweed 2”, their use of scorched earth campaigns and sexual violence a repetition of the horrors initially imposed on themselves and their fellow Africans by the horse-mounted Arab militiamen.
•    The reasons for joining the janjaweed militias were, and are primarily economic. It is not the first time the Sudanese government arms Arab militias and make them do the dirty job. In the eighties they were known as murahaliin and were instrumental in securing the border South of Darfur against the rebel group SPLA. They also carried out massacres against the civilian African population of the Dinka tribe in the South Darfur/South Sudan borderland. These militias who undertake such atrocities are not a master-race of Arabs from Khartoum but traditionally the poorest and most desperate of Darfur’s population. Unfortunately, NGOs have failed to grasp this socio-economic dimension as a major root cause of the conflict. Very few food aid or development programs have integrated the Arabs, whose livelihood opportunities are as destroyed as those of the “Africans”. Because of the “genocide” term and the continuing use of the “Arab” vs. “African” dichotomy by western media and lobby groups, giving food aid to Arabs is not politically correct. Many Arabs are thus marginalised by both the Sudanese government and the international agencies in the most expensive relief operation in the world. The pull towards human rights abusing militias thus remains compelling should the Arab tribes continue to feel this double marginalisation.

I have previously written a thesis on the history of displacement in Sudan using my year working in the biggest camp for the displaced in Darfur where these points are put in an elaborate historical perspective. A summary of my fieldwork and a discussion of the coexistence between an international vocabulary of human rights and universal justice and the local experiences of the displaced of Darfur can be found in the article “Violating Darfur. The Emergent truth of Categories in my own and Sune Haugbolle’s “The Politics of Violence, Truth and Reconciliation in the Arab Middle East”.

Let me conclude these remarks by reiterating my gratefulness to all individuals far away from Darfur and most notably in the US, where a tougher Darfur policy can be expected from the Obama administration, for their compassion with the Darfurians and their earnest desire to end the current catastrophe. Perhaps because I have been there so long and seen the situation change and words and meanings shift that I am uncomfortable uncritically applying the term “genocide”.