Archive for the ‘Democracy & Human Rights’ Category

6
Jul

By Deniz Torcu, MIR 2014/2015 Current Student

The image that has started to go viral in social media amongst Greek users is simple, yet strong enough to explain the stand of the majority. It says a clear “NO”, however the rejection is composed of the sentence “YES TO THE EURO”.

My recent trip to Athens was a clear depiction of how devastated the country really is. The once busy neighbourhoods filled with restaurants, cafés and shops are now being replaced by two yellow signs that mark the desperation of the people: “for rent” and “for sale”, appearing side by side.

Yes, Greece owes billions of dollars. Yes, Greece cannot pay her debt to the IMF and has to redeem billions of bonds held by the ECB or run the risk of going into default.

These are the dry, non-human facts that we read in the news every day.

However, what we don’t get to read as much is the following: after the measures taken by the Greek governments over the past 5 years, the situation only got worse where the real GDP fell as much as 27%, unemployment rates broke a new record, pensions were cut by 48%, unofficial and non-registered labour started to make up as much as 34% of the entire labour force, and public debt kept growing finally reaching a level of nearly 180% of the GDP.

Do those developments seem as a healthy way to bring back an economy? Maybe to Angela Merkel and the German creditors who hold a majority of Greece’s debt, but definitely not to the Greek people.

Go to Greece, speak to ordinary people on the streets, the cafés, taxis, etc. You will hear stories like that of the taxi driver Antoni, who, despite having two degrees in hospital management, has to work in a rented taxi because the highest salary that he can get practicing his own profession doesn’t even reach 500 euros per month; he is thinking of migrating to Canada with his wife, even though he doesn’t want to leave Greece.

You will encounter the taverna owner Dimitri, who is concerned about the anti-Syriza propaganda that has been going strong from the creditors, pointing out to the fact that two extreme right-wing parties are already backing the government. There are fears that if Syriza is not given a proper chance to try to make things right, the fascist Golden Dawn would gain even more power.

Read more…

Published on 1 July, 2015 in  http://www.katoikos.eu/es/opinion

Deniz Torcu has a degree in Economics and previously worked for the Spanish governmental organization Instituto Cervantes and the Turkish National Commission for UNESCO. She currently studies International Relations at IE School of International Relations in Madrid as the Turkish scholar for 2014-2015.

28
Dec

Tunisia Wins Again

Written on December 28, 2014 by Waya Quiviger in Democracy & Human Rights, Middle East, Op Ed

image post

With the election of its first freely chosen president, Tunisia has taken another important step on its post-Arab Spring transition toward democracy. Although the country faces many difficult challenges, it remains a symbol of hope and sanity in a region consumed by chaos and dominated by authoritarian governments.

The winner, Beji Caid Essebsi, is an 88-year-old former government official and leader of the secular, anti-Islamist party Nidaa Tounes. Mr. Essebsi received 55.68 percent of the vote, while Moncef Marzouki, the interim president, received 44.32 percent.

Mr. Essebsi served as interior minister under Tunisia’s repressive first president, Habib Bourguiba, and as speaker of Parliament under Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali, who was ousted in the 2011 Arab Spring revolution. During the campaign, he promoted himself as an establishment figure whose experience could help ensure Tunisia’s security. Mr. Marzouki, a former human rights advocate, embodied the ideals and fervor of the revolution.

Read more…

8
Nov

Arab Awakening

 Written by Marine Andraud, MIR Student, 2014/2015 Intake, Co-President of the IR Club

The IR Club started off its 2014/2015 Speaker Series with expert Haizam Amirah (@haizamamirah) looking into the aftermath of the “Arab Awakening”. A topic that is of significant interest to many at IE, so much so, that we had a full house and some. Everyone seemed eager, for one reason or another. Eager to learn, contribute, dispute, clarify, question. With an active audience, Haizam began by setting the stage: why had most Arabs been living under their potential for so long, what factors lead to this unprecedented awakening of the Arab world, and why now?

To answer these questions, he first highlighted three overarching societal deficits: freedoms, women empowerment (which, he argued, was a result of a patriarchal society propagated by the mothers themselves) and lastly the spread of knowledge through education. However, as we would come to witness in 2010, societies would no longer stand for these injustices. What Haizam, and many, identify as factor X: a young street vendor setting himself on fire in the middle of a market place in a small town of Tunisia, would soon come to ignite a fire that would consume an entire region. One that, according to Mr. Amirah, had three specific drivers:

  • Demographics, a young population, ⅔ of which was under 30 and whom felt totally disconnected from their aging authoritarian leaders.
  • Equally as important, the women within that youthful population. They had been marginalized for so many generations prior, and who were now seizing the opportunity to become literate, pursue higher educations, and join the workforce.
  • Thirdly, technology, although this one was contested, which for the first time allowed individuals to become producers of information rather than simple consumers.

Having framed the Arab awakening, Haizam went on to classify what ensued under the three broad outcomes that aren’t necessarily mutually exclusive. Read more…

31
Oct

IR Guest Speaker_Tom Burns

On Oct. 30th, the IE School of International Relations welcomed Tom Burns, Journalist & Essayist, Managing Partner, Eurocofin for an engaging discussion on different aspects of nationalism. Mr. Burns began his lecture by identifying several key figures in the history of nationalism. He first mentioned Johann Gottfried von Herder, a German philosopher, theologian, poet, and literary critic who emphasized the importance of the German language. Herder rejected the influence of French, so prevalent in cultural circles at the time. He wanted the German people to be proud of their language and their heritage.

Mr. Burns then showcased Sir Walter Scott, a pillar of the Scottish establishment in the 18th century. In addition to being a prolific writer, Sir Walter Scott celebrated the folklore and ballads of Scotland. He made being Scottish acceptable, respectable. A little bit later in the 19th century and early in the 20th, Joan Maragall, a Catalan poet and journalist also took pride in the Catalan culture, and language. This was not necessarily a political movement but was more focused on celebrating the Catalan culture, in line with Herder’s canon earlier. These thinkers and poets sowed the seeds of nationalism in the 18th and early 19th century. Mr. Burns last identified Gavrilo Princep, the Bosnian Serb nationalist who assassinated Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria and his wife, Sophie. To this day, Gavrilo Princep is considered a hero in Serbia. His nationalism was political as opposed to cultural in the above examples cited by Mr. Burns.

Today the resurgence in nationalism in Europe, in Spain and Scotland, is largely due to the recent in economic crisis in 2008. A lot of those clamoring for independence are left leaning blue collar workers who reject big government, globalization, the IMF, austerity measures and the hardship brought on by the crisis. These movements, even if they fail short term, are unlikely to go away any time soon. The MIR students in the audience had many questions for Mr. Burns that he answered with candor and humor. On a more personal note, one student asked Mr. Burns why he had special interest in nationalism. “Because it’s a good story”, was his response. “One of the great stories of our time”. Spoken as a true journalist indeed. 

30
Oct

Tunisia: A Model for Turkey

Written on October 30, 2014 by Waya Quiviger in Democracy & Human Rights, Middle East

Nidaa Tounes supporters 28 Oct 2014

Tunisia, the North African country that initiated the “Arab Spring” in 2011, continues to be the only democratic success story in the Arab world. Last weekend, Tunisians freely and peacefully voted to change their government for the second time since the overthrow of their longtime dictator, Ben Ali, more than three years ago. (Notably, as political scientists point out, democracy begins to take root only when power is changed twice, not just once, via the ballots.) The count was still ongoing as I wrote these lines, but the apparent winner was not the Islamist En-Nahda Party that had won the previous elections in 2011. It was rather their secular rival: Nidaa Tounes.

Yet what really matters is not who won these elections. It is that Tunisians, as a nation, so far have been able to move forward with democracy, without devolving into civil war, such as in Syria, or military coup, such as in Egypt. Moreover, unlike Turkey, which has been yet unable to draft a much-hailed “civilian Constitution” due to political polarization, Tunisia accepted a fairly liberal national charter last February with a very broad national consensus. The civility of the Tunisian political elite, including the wise and humble leader of En-Nahda, Rashid al-Ghannushi, has been key to this success. Instead of mutual demonization and chest-beating, which is so common in this part of the world, Tunisians have opted for concession and consensus.  Al-Ghannushi showed his moderation once again after last weekend’s elections, by congratulating the victory of his secular opponents. (He did not declare, for example, that Nidaa Tounes was a pawn of a Zionist conspiracy or some similar bilge, which is again so common in this part of the world.)

Back in Turkey, I have been watching this democratic experience in Tunisia with admiration, if not envy. As I wrote last February in an International New York Times piece, titled “Turkey’s Model Nation.” I said: “Turkey sorely lacks the consensus-making skills that Tunisians so clearly possess. Turkish politics is poisoned by bitter fighting between leaders who view compromise as cowardice. Quarreling political figures condemn one another for ‘high treason,’ and often resort to extravagant conspiracy theories to delegitimize opponents. The result is that confrontation is common, and agreement all too rare.”

I still think along these lines. Turkey’s true problem, I believe, is not its competing ideologies and identities. It is the arrogant, aggressive, rude, confrontational and paranoid political culture in which they all swim or sink.” None of this is to deny Tunisia’s obvious problems and Turkey’s obvious assets. Turkey’s economy is incomparably more advanced and its democratic experience is much older and deeper. Turkey is also lucky to lack the troubles caused by the Salafis, the ultra-orthodox and ultra-literalist Sunnis, in Tunisia. It is even perhaps fair to say that the liberal-leaning Islamic ideas of al-Ghannushi are more readily accepted among Turkey’s Islamists then those of Tunisia. However, the same Islamists in Turkey also bitterly lack the civilized political language that their Tunisian counterparts have. That is why I keep saying, “they are too Turkish, not too Islamist.” That is also why I am increasingly convinced that if we need a “model” nation in the Muslim Middle East, it should be not Turkey, but Tunisia.

 

Written by Mustafa Akyol; Published on 29 October in http://www.hurriyetdailynews.com/

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