Iraqi Kurdistan is an autonomous region in the north-east of the country and has a somewhat fractured relationship with the government in Baghdad. Relations between the two authorities is much better than under Saddam Hussein, although this is a very low bar, but there remains a perception in Erbil that the Iraqi central government is both corrupt and incompetent. It is this perception that last week resulted in leading politicians announcing that the region would hold a referendum on independence from Iraq. This development is something that I have long argued for and could be a game-changer for the Middle East.
One of the most inspirational movements of political history was the movement for female suffrage in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. This was a struggle by a disenfranchised group that sought to radically transform how the existing political order functioned, and succeeded despite the fact that none of their group were in the corridors of power. Men and women came together to rectify an injustice that in modern discourse could only be conceived of as a thought experiment rather than as a serious policy proposal. Thankfully in democratic countries this arbitrary distinction has been removed, but the campaign for women’s suffrage can, in my view, easily compared to the struggle for Kurdish liberation. On the surface this may seem like a bit of stretch but hopefully this article will convince you of my case.
A new year gives us the opportunity to soberly re-evaluate the ongoing crises of our world and one of the most pronounced areas of instability is the fight against ISIS in Iraq and Syria. People like myself who argue against Western intervention in order to undermine ISIS’ narrative of Christian crusaders need to provide a coherent alternative. I think this is possible. At this point in time a lasting political solution to the Syrian crisis look unlikely but those of us who advocate a diplomatic end to the war need to think laterally. Continue reading →
A few weeks ago I wrote a piece about how the Israeli government as planning to build a total of 3,050 new settlements on Palestinian land: 550 in East Jerusalem and 2,500 in the Occupied West Bank. When looking through the headlines I saw a report on the BBC News website which said that Israel was planning to build 3,000 homes in the Occupied Territories. I was slightly confused at first. Despite priding myself on being quite self-aware, for a second I genuinely thought that I had covered a story before the BBC. Unsurprising, I was wrong. Rather than the BBC being late to the party, in a chilling indication of what the next few years will bring, the Israeli government has announced another 3,000 settlements in the West Bank.
When talking about the forefront of the struggle for LGBT equality, many people will think about the horrific treatment of LGBT people in the Middle East. This is perception is warranted, as in many countries in the region face social stigmatisation and legal persecution. However news out of the Middle East in the last 24 hours offers a glimmer of hope. A judge in Lebanon has ruled that homosexual acts are not punishable under the Lebanese legal system. This is an important step forward for Lebanon and the Middle East in a number of different ways.
Hamas and Fatah have agreed to form a new unity government in order to increase pressure to establish a Palestinian state. According to Al Jazeera, the two rival parties agreed at a meeting in Moscow to join forces and create a new National Council. The negotiations in the Russian capital also included the militant Islamic Jihad Movement in Palestine which, like Hamas, is a Sunni terrorist organisation supportive of a Palestinian state. This is an important step forward for the pro-Palestinian cause, even if it involves unsavoury actors.
How debates are framed is very important and it’s hard to change people’s perceptions when they are bombarded with the same types of images for a number of years. For those of us who steadfastly fight against extremism in our own ways, news stories like these are important. Circulating stories like these makes people feel better but it acts as a weapon against group-think and reactionary views. We are conditioned by everything we see and hear, but keeping hold of fundamental truths about the world prevents sloppy thinking from taking root.