Like many analysts, the attempted coup in Turkey took me very much by surprise.I did not know what to make of it initially and my early elation at the possibility of the Erdogan being ousted was tempered with equal trepidation that this may be a US or NATO backed coup that would see Erdogan replaced—for failing in Syria and for his recent overtures to Russia—by a far more troublesome and more pro-US Islamist, Fethullah Gülen. Then, as the events unfolded, and Erdogan was able to quickly subdue the coup and play it very much to his advantage, I began to suspect that he may have had some hand in it or, more likely, had some foreknowledge of the coup and was able to use it as a pretext to eliminate his enemies—real and imagined—within the state. While we may never know for sure, there is no denying that the coup has hitherto turned out to be a political gift horse for Erdogan and his rabid Islamists. Continue reading
It remains to be seen, but if Erdogan’s recent claims are true then one of my initial interpretations of the coup may be correct. In my first post on the situation I lamented that if this coup has US backing then it may see Erdogan replaced by an even worse Islamist and even more pro-western client, Fathallah Gulen. As RT reports, “The Turkish government has indirectly criticized its NATO ally, the US, for harboring Fethullah Gülen, whom Ankara blames for masterminding Friday’s military coup attempt. The cleric is currently living in self-imposed exile in the States” . While it may or may not be true, this was one of my fears from the beginning. I would be extremely pleased to see some form of anti-imperialist secular leadership replace Edrodgan.
But Fethullah Gülen, a cleric and former political ally of Erdogan who has been living in self-imposed exile in the US for years, is the anti-thesis of these and would arguably be far worse for Turkey and the region than Erdogan. When news of the coup first broke I had hopes that it was a genuine domestic coup by the secular anti-Erdogan factions within the military. But if indeed the western client and hard-line Islamist cleric is behind the attempted coup, then it is better that it fails, for Gulen would take Turkey from bad to worse. Continue reading
UPDATE: As new reports continue to come out of Turkey–some claiming that the coup continues while others report that Erdogan has successfully repelled the coup and is arresting and or killing those involved–more and more questions are arising.
A question that was recently raised to me is, considering how quickly Erdogan was (allegedly) able to put down the coup, is it possible that he had foreknowledge of the coup plot and allowed it to play out in order to weed out those not fully loyal to him in the military and make strategic arrests ? If this is the case–and I am not claiming that it is, merely speculating about the various possibilities–and if he is able to remain in power, will we see him introduce even more authoritarian and draconian laws (i.e., anti-treason and or anti-terrorism laws, etc) in the near future and what will this mean for the already autocratic political atmosphere in the country?
For now, there are no definite answers, just mounting questions, as the situation continues to unfold and takes some unexpected twists and turns. As someone that very much would like to see Erdogan and Islamist leadership out of Turkey I wonder and worry about the fate of the country. If Erdogan is able to regain full control of the state, then the country must brace for what is to come.
As the events unfold in Turkey my thoughts are a mixture of tentative exhilaration and possible trepidation. As a secular anti-imperialist, the exhilaration stems from the possibility of seeing one of the region’s most troublesome western imperial-collaborating Islamists finally ousted. But, as a secular anti-imperialist, there is also mounting trepidation that, if this coup turns out to be NATO or US sponsored, Erdogan could be replaced with an even more pro-Empire/pro neoliberal globalization Islamist. The person that comes to mind is Fethullah Gülen, a very pro-US and pro-capitalist Islamist cleric currently living in the US. While I would like to believe that the unfolding coup is the result of an independent, secular, Kamalist military trying to return Turkey to its former secular glory, I also fear that turkey’s military, which is aligned with NATO and western power, may be being used by the west and NATO to punish Erdogan for failing to get rid of Syria’s secular leader, Bashar Al Assad, and for Erdogan’s recent overtures to Russia’s Vladimir Putin. I very much hope the former turns out to be true. But the timing seems strange. Turkey’s secular generals have been at odds with Erdogan since he came to power over a decade ago. Is this a coup fourteen years in the making? Or, is the military but a pawn in a NATO/western scheme to get rid of their existing stooge in hopes of installing a more competent one?
It is still too early to be able to answer any of these questions. We do not presently have enough information to know for certain one way or another.
UPDATE: Reports that Hillary Clinton has voiced support for the Turkish government may suggest that it is a domestic coup but we have to wait and see how it plays out. Also, reports that part of the Turkish military remain loyal to Erdogan and that the military factions are engaged in armed combat against one another raises concern for a potential civil war. There are so many moving parts right now that it is difficult to predict what might happen next. I will be posting on the situation in Turkey as it unfolds.
I don’t often comment on pop culture, especially celebrity culture, but every once in a while something catches my attention that I have to comment on. Last month I read about an Australian cricket player, Chris Gayle, who was fined $10,000 Australian dollars (and almost suspended) for “making inappropriate comments to a female reporter in a live TV interview.” In the interview, Gayle comments on the reporter’s “beautiful eyes” several times and then says he hopes to be able to go on a date with her and calls her “baby.” He was punished for “sexual harassment,” fined and almost suspended for the incident.
Yet today I saw a video of two Hollywood actresses very relentlessly hitting on a male reporter, without any resultant public uproar, fine or reprisal. While the incident may have been scripted (I do not know one way or another), it depicts two women very aggressively objectifying a male reporter and going way beyond anything Chris Gayle said and did in his fine-worthy gaff last month. The women blatantly tell the reporter that he is handsome then point at him, motioning for some other women to come over and have a look at the “hot man.” At one point they even ask the male reporter to undo the buttons on his shirt in order to show them his “swollen” muscles. And the male reporter obliges them as they ogle and comment on his physique and good looks. Even if it was just a stunt (and I suspect it may be scripted) it is presented as a real exchange between these randy women and the “hot” male reporter. There has been no shaming of these women for objectifying him. Instead mainstream entertainment media is applauding the actresses and telling them to “Work it, Ladies!” Continue reading
Having written about the Egyptian revolution and the ensuing political twists and turns since the 2011 uprisings, five years later I look on and wonder about the sum gains and costs. In 2011 I wrote about the importance of coupling any type of street protests and reactionary political momentum with behind the scenes, long term strategic and ideological planning for what comes after the “revolutionary moment.”
While numbers and street protests play a part in popular uprisings, without strategic planning for what comes next (i.e., plans and alternatives for the post-revolutionary trajectory) people’s uprisings can be easily co-opted and revolutionary hopes thwarted. As I noted in an article last year, “the Egyptian revolution originally began with calls for ‘bread, freedom, social justice and human dignity.’ Nowhere in this popular discourse were there demands for greater religiosity or increased state force” . Yet this is the trajectory that the revolution took, with the Muslim Brotherhood co-opting the people’s uprising and coming to power in 2012, to later be ousted by the Mubarak-esque military regime of Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, which, for many, has thus far been as draconian as that of former president Hosni Mubarak.
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It remains to be confirmed, but western officials are already blaming ISIS/ISIL for today’s bombings in Istanbul. The American special envoy to coordinate the fight against the Islamic State, Brett McGurk, has condemned the Istanbul attack. He tweeted: “Strongly condemn suicide attack in heart of Istanbul and stand with the people of Turkey in our common fight against ISIL terrorists.” What is both interesting and extremely frustrating (not least for the poor innocent victims of the bombing, who were mostly German nationals and for the people of Istanbul who will likely live in fear in its aftermath) about the Istanbul bombing is that Turkey (and certain western allies) has been supportive of ISIS.
If ISIS is behind today’s Blue Mosque area bombings, then this is yet another tragic example of blowback; a regime that has supported particular terrorists groups later has to deal with the same group committing violent acts of terrorism on its soil. Turkey is a NATO member and a strategic ally of the US. While western powers like the US readily condemn Islamic terrorism, they seem unwilling to take out terrorist groups like ISIS, despite having the capacity to do so. This is something even the mainstream media acknowledges. After the 2015 Paris attacks, the Guardian lamented that: “we can expect western heads of state to do what they always do in such circumstances: declare total and unremitting war on those who brought it about. They don’t actually mean it. They’ve had the means to uproot and destroy Islamic State within their hands for over a year now. They’ve simply refused to make use of it.”  Continue reading
During the whole Stephen Harper burqa or nikab (face covering worn by some Muslim women) controversy, friends and acquaintances often asked me my opinion on the matter. I assume this is because I write about political and social issues. But it is likely also due to the fact that I am of Middle Eastern origin and was raised by Muslim parents.
While I do have an opinion on the matter I have purposely stayed away from the topic for a few reasons. The main reason is that I am not a proponent of identity politics and am not really able to comment on, or even think about, single issue politics (in this case, “women’s issues”) without a broader look at the political, economic, and geo-political factors involved. Second, as a staunch critic of Empire, I cannot comment on the issue without eventually commenting on the history of imperialism in the Muslim world, and that may get a bit wordy for some people’s tastes (and for a single article).
Moreover, I would not want my personal opinion on the burqa to be unwittingly used—as some female Muslim commentators’ views have been—to feed or justify some disingenuous imperial pretext of opposing and destabilizing Muslim countries in part to “liberate” oppressed Muslim women. As noted scholar and author Leila Ahmed argued in her work entitled “The Discourse of the Veil,” western imperialists (she was writing about the British Empire in Egypt) do not care about women’s rights anywhere, including in their own countries. They simply use the liberation of veiled Muslim women as part of an excuse to invade, occupy and exploit certain nations.  Continue reading
It is being reported that one of Trudeau’s first moves as new PM has been to inform Barack Obama that Canada plans to pull its fighter jets from the air strikes on ISIS in Syria and Iraq, taking Canada out of the fight again the terrorist group. Some media outlets such as the Toronto Sun are bashing the move as dictatorial since Trudeau did not consult other members of government such as his cabinet or the Minister of Defence, both of which have yet to be officially named. While the decision is admittedly unilateral (given that the rest of the government has yet to be formed), it is still a necessary first step towards undoing some of the geopolitical follies of the Harper government.
Rather than simply lament what some see as a negative move, Canadian media should take a far step back and critically examine how ISIS came to be in Syria in the first place. This requires moving beyond myopic historical and geopolitical amnesia. The situation in Syria is very complex and is not always accurately portrayed, not least given that the US and its allies (including Canada and other NATO states) are currently, and ironically, attempting to take out a terrorist group that they helped—through military aid, training, armaments, border access through fellow NATO member Turkey, etc—put in Syria (as a way to undermine it) in the first place. While Canada was not directly involved, given the Harper regimes acquiescence to US foreign policy in the region and its agenda there, Canada is indirectly linked at the very least. Continue reading
The Election is over and Justin Trudeau, leader of the Liberals and son of the late Pierre Trudeau, has taken the reigns with a majority government. Like many Canadians, I am ecstatic at the exit of Stephen Harper, who during his three mandate-term reign managed to turn Canada into a junior neo-con imperial pariah (not that Canada does not have a long imperial history, but it was greatly amped up under the America-loving Harper). So intense was the hatred of many Canadians for Harper that one has to wonder whether Justin Trudeau’s victory is a result of his and his team’s clever campaigning or a matter of fortune and good timing; running against a man Canadians had grown to hate and were eager to see gone?!
No matter the reasons for his sweeping victory, there is one thing that struck me as eerily surreal and potentially worrying during Trudeau’s campaigning. Trudeau spoke a lot about, and promised Canadians, hope and real change. “Hope and change,” does this slogan sound familiar? It should. A then would-be presidential hopeful and political new comer, Barak Obama, promised these same things to desperate Americans back in 2008. Americans believed him and looked to him to undo the disastrous foreign and domestic policies of George W. Bush’s neo-con agenda. But while Barack talked a smooth game—much smoother than Justin—in the end, he failed to deliver either change or hope and reneged on almost every campaign promise he had made (i.e., closing Guantanamo Bay, ending the war in Iraq, fixing the economy, creating employment, empowering the poor, etc).
While Justin is not as smooth or charismatic as Obama was back then (though both shared in an appeal to youthful exuberance), he has made similar overtones–one of his campaign slogans was change together now/changer ensemble maintenant–and made certain promises (decriminalizing marijuana, for example, which is not a comprehensive policy but a token gesture) and vowed to return Canada to a purer time (Canada as global “peace keeper,” etc). It remains to be seen what he may or not improve in the next four years. Will he bring real hope and change, or should Canadians brace for an Obama-style disappointment?