Occupying democracy

First published on Open Democracy

The replacement of democratically elected HDP/DBP mayors and local municipality workers by AKP appointees is a grave threat to democracy in Turkish Kurdistan and the larger region.

In the aftermath of the July 2016 coup d’état attempt in Turkey, president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s Justice and Development Party (AKP) has dismissed, detained and in some cases imprisoned co-mayors from 51 majority Kurdish local authorities across South East Turkey (North Kurdistan), replacing them with appointees from the AKP. The majority of these co-mayors belong to the AKP’s leading opposition parties, the People’s Democratic Party (HDP) and its Kurdistan branch the Democratic Regions Party (DBP). Mass layoffs and detentions of municipality workers, again a majority of whom were Kurdish, followed, alongside an occupation of the municipality buildings by the Turkish constabulary forces. Amongst the seized municipalities are North Kurdistan’s de-facto capital city of Diyarbakir (Amed) and other politically consequential cities such as Van, Mardin, Siirt and Dersim.

The capture and occupation of the local authorities is symbolic of a new phase in repression against the democratic opposition in Turkey, following the failed military coup in July 2016. Continue reading

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Migrants, Modernity and the ‘Islamisation of Europe’

I also come from a Muslim, Iranian, migrant background – where many in my family migrated to the U.S. from Iran in 1979 and throughout the 1980s as both economic migrants and refugees from the Iran-Iraq war – though we never considered ourselves that. In America, at least in the 1980’s, immigrants weren’t categorised as such–we just became ‘Americans’ for better or worse!

So, for me, though I did a PhD on the subject of Islam and feminism, my ‘expertise’ (if I have any to impart) is sourced at the intersection of my studies as well as my life experience. Continue reading

#FreeWalli

Walli Ullah Safi, 21 years of age, has been in Cloverhill prison for more than two weeks.

In very different circumstances, I was in prison at the same age for two weeks after protesting the ongoing wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. It was one of hundreds of demonstrations I had been on after returning to the United States from Iraq. I had first travelled to Iraq, just barely 18 years of age, with a campaigning group who had highlighted the humanitarian crisis Iraqis faced under the sanctions. In the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks, the group had rallied in opposition to the Iraq war, mobilising thousands onto the streets. Continue reading

Impossible Solidarities: Islam, Feminism and (fortress) Europe’s Shifting Frontiers

Impossible Solidarities: Islam, Feminism and (fortress) Europe’s shifting frontiers

Whilst co-organising a vigil this past week commemorating those who drowned in the Mediterranean attempting to breach fortress Europe, I came across a passage by the late James Baldwin that I haven’t been able to stop thinking about. The passage comes from an interview Baldwin did for the NY Times on the occasion of his 52nd birthday and his return to New York after more than a decade in Paris. Time constraints won’t allow me to give you much of a background, but given the ways in which racism and the tropes it perpetuates again and again remain as prevalent today as they were in 1977 when this article was published, it’s perhaps better you hear it as if Baldwin is speaking about Baltimore or Ferguson or even Lampadusa or Calais when he says,

there is a history we all have to contend with…For a long while, liberty was a privilege in this country–if you’re doing well, you can shout to your heart’s content, provided no one starts listening to you and your message doesn’t threaten too many people. We act as if this is a free country, until the White people tell us its not by jailing us or killing us. And a lot of us have been locked up or murdered over the centuries we’ve been here. Its a hard thing to talk about…Some people have tears in their eyes and let me know how awful they feel about the way our poor live, our blacks, or those in dozens of other countries, but people can cry much easier than they can change.

Continue reading