Global Voices – Informed Comment https://www.juancole.com Thoughts on the Middle East, History and Religion Tue, 20 Sep 2022 04:34:45 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=5.7.7 “Cheb Macron’s” ode to Algerian gas: French President’s Arab Pop Music Reference Backfires https://www.juancole.com/2022/09/presidents-reference-backfires.html Tue, 20 Sep 2022 04:02:47 +0000 https://www.juancole.com/?p=207085 Written by Mariam Abuadas مريم أبو عدس and Faizah Falah فايزة فلاح | –

( Globalvoices.org) – On August 29, French President Emmanuel Macron concluded his three-day visit to Algeria with a historic stopover in the city of Oran, during which he visited the fortress and the Church of Santa Cruz, two of the country’s most significant Christian landmarks. Then he headed to Disco Magreb, a renowned music record shop seen as the home of well-known Algerian raï music. After nearly two years of cold relations between the two countries, Macron’s stop was intended to win over the hearts of the Algerian youth.


French President Emmanuel Macron standing with Boualem Benhaoua the owner of Disco Maghreb at his studio Disco Maghreb. Algeria’s city of Oran, 27 August 2022. Screenshot from a video by AFP. Fair use.

It appears that Macron is aware of rai music. He is seen carrying a cassette for Cheb Hasni while in Disco Maghreb. Cheb Hasni was assassinated by two masked assailants in 1994 at the height of his stardom and youth, shocking Algerians.

Emmanuel Macron photographed with a legendary Cheb Hasni cassette, it’s too crazy

Disco Maghreb has an interesting story. Despite being one of the greatest brands where icons of the Algerian rai world, such Cheb Khaled, Cheb Mami and Cheb Hasni recorded songs, it closed its doors nearly 20 years ago.

Disco Maghreb, however had not drawn its last breath yet — quite the contrary, it was reborn after Franco-Algerian artist DJ snake released a music video called Disco Maghreb, that used a mix of chaoui, Al-Nayli, Al-Qasbah, and Al-Rai rhythms. The video pays tribute to Snake’s Algerian roots — his mother is Algerian.

The artist explained in a tweet that he imagined Disco Maghreb to be “a bridge between different generations and origins, linking North Africa, the Arab world and beyond.

DJ Snake – Disco Maghreb (Official Music Video)

Since its upload on YouTube on May 31, the video has garnered nearly 86 million views, and that number is still growing.

A warm official welcome but an indignant public reception

In his journey, Macron aimed to focus on the future while also revitalizing bilateral cooperation and partnership. For his part, Algerian President Abdelmadjid Tebboune welcomed the “positive dynamic” in the relationship between the two countries and emphasized the promising prospects for their special partnership.

The Algerian people had a different opinion despite the warm official reception and the widely celebrated stopover at Disco Maghreb. Hundreds of Algerians gathered around Macron’s car in Oran, shouting insults, slogans like “one, two, three…viva l’Algérie” (long live Algeria), and accusations Macron only cares about Algerian gas.

Macron apparently misunderstood the message, and returned a cheery hand gesture to express his gratitude, after which he had to cut short his impromptu walkabout.

The episode was captured on video, and went viral:

Our people in Oran received the French president, Emmanuel Macron with this slogan “Vive l’Algerie”. We don’t have anyone to kiss his hand and other parts.

This caricature summed up the stopover at Disco Maghreb and the reaction to it:

Cheb #Macron was in Oran on Saturday to visit a Christian shrine and the legendary #Raï Disco Maghreb store. The president tried his luck on an impromptu walkabout, which was cut short for security reasons. Decidedly, Algeria and France, what a beautiful love story.

“Cheb Macron” became the center of mockery by the Algerian youth soon after.

This picture mocks the man who visited Algeria as a president and left it as “Cheb Macron”

He left you a president and returned to you as “Cheb Macron.” You must be proud.

Algeria and France, a thorny “love story”

Macron’s indignant reception by the Algerian people is not at all surprising. From the popular Algerian perspective, France’s relationship with Algeria is not the “love story” that Macron described during his visit. It is more accurately described as tumultuous, tiresome, and thorny, tainted by an atrocious 132-year history of colonization that culminated in an eight-year brutal revolution, which the region unflinchingly refers to as the revolution of 1.5 million martyrs. In 1962, Algeria snatched its independence from the French.

Algerian influencer PIC, expressed displeasure following Macron’s statements when he described Algeria’s relationship with France as “a love story that has its share of tragedies:”

#France and #Algeria, a dramatic love story, sometimes you have to fight in order to come back and reconcile. How can such people be allowed to enter a country where they committed massacres. They call the killing of more than a million martyrs a dramatic love story?

After Algeria gained its independence, Macron was the first French president to come close to acknowledging the French colonization of Algeria, and the brutal methods France used to suppress the revolutions. During a visit to Algeria in February 2017, he denounced colonialism as a “crime against humanity.”

He went a step farther. On July 24, 2020, he commissioned historian Benjamin Stora, who was born in Algeria to submit a report to “commemorate colonization and the Algerian War.” The Elysee, however, refused to apologize for the occupation of Algeria or the bloody war that ended French rule after receiving the report in January 2021. The decision sparked criticism on the streets of Algeria, even as the Algerian government kept silent.

A few months later, in October 2021, a political storm led to a straining of ties between the two countries. It followed statements by Macron in which he questioned whether there had been an Algerian nation prior to the French colonial rule, and stated that the Algerian “political-military system” rewrote the history of France’s colonialism based on “a grudge against France.”

These statements coincided with France’s celebration of the “harki,” the Algerians who fought in the French army to suppress the Algerian revolutionaries. In addition, France decided to reduce the number of visas granted to people from Algeria, Morocco and Tunisia.

The response of the Algerian authorities at the time was immediate and firm: Algeria banned French planes from using its airspace, reduced trade exchanges, and summoned the French ambassador to Algeria, forcing Macron to finally extend a hand of peace in order to calm things down, but without an official apology.

An ode to Algerian gas

The most recent visit, and the attempts to win the favor of the Algerian people, indicate that there has been a change in Macron’s position on Algeria. His condescending attitude changed to a strong desire to improve relations between the two countries, in the face of a long and harsh winter awaiting Europe, following Russia’s decision to cut off gas, in retaliation for sanctions against its invasion of Ukraine.

Macron’s office insisted that Algerian gas was not a priority on the visit’s agenda; still, the head of the French energy firm Engie, Catherine MacGregor, was on the French delegation. Energy expert Jeff Porter of North Africa Risk Consulting said Macron’s trip had at least two goals: “Feeling out Algeria’s energy sector stability and potential additional export capacity… and trying to woo Algiers away from some of its other diplomatic relationships,” including Russia and China.

Algérie Black Liste summed up the goals of Macron’s visit to Algeria with a caricature of a cassette tape bearing the image of Cheb Macron. The list of songs include: “Harsh winter,” “Give me a lighter,” Russia did not turn around,” and “The gas went to my head,” among others.

Via Globalvoices.org

Written byMariam Abuadas مريم أبو عدس Written byFaizah Falah فايزة فلاح

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In Turkey’s plunging Economy, Conspiracy and Corruption allegations Abound https://www.juancole.com/2022/09/conspiracy-corruption-allegations.html Sat, 17 Sep 2022 04:06:32 +0000 https://www.juancole.com/?p=207021 By Civic Media Observatory | –

( Globalvoices.org ) – Whether on a date or at a family gathering, one topic of conversation is on everyone’s lips in Turkey: the country’s deepening economic crisis. There are several angles to the story. While Erdoğan’s government argues that the country is in an “economic war” against enemies, the opposition blames it on corruption fuelled by the leading party.

Inflation is soaring. Official estimates place it at 80 per cent, while independent economists believe it goes well above 150 per cent. In concrete terms, a cup of coffee at a café in Istanbul costs 36 lira — the equivalent of €2. While this might not sound like much for coffee drinkers in say, Greece or Germany, in Turkey, it’s a lot. The minimum wage in Turkey is €302 or around 150 coffees.

The causes for Turkey’s frenetic inflation vary, depending on who you ask. Turkey’s economic woes started a few years ago, but the COVID-19 pandemic hit the population and economy hard, and so has Russia’s war on Ukraine. Russia and Ukraine are among Turkey’s biggest trading partners and sources of tourism.

Even so, inflation in Turkey is faring worse than in these warring countries. Many Turks blame the plunging lira on Erdoğan’s government.

Turkey’s elections

Presidential and general elections are scheduled to take place in June 2023, but there is a chance that Erdoğan will call for early elections. According to our researchers, the electoral campaign will be defined by economic narratives: whichever party offers the most convincing storyline about the economic crisis and its solutions will increase its chances of ruling the country in the near future.

Erdoğan’s administration has kept interest rates low to continue to attract investments and save businesses. It has also put a 25 per cent ceiling on rent increases. However, this measure has proven difficult to implement for many people. Rent costs have still doubled (as seen on popular real estate websites). Distrust in the Turkish lira is spreading, leading to a downward spiral as the country gears up for elections.

Turkey’s media landscape

In Turkey, the media is tightly controlled and social media is monitored. Critics of the state “have been muted through a combination of traditional forms of censorship such as arrests, detentions, intimidation, (…) combined with a crackdown on the internet using high level opaque administrative and judicial decisions blocking, banning, and withholding online content,” according to Global Voices’ Unfreedom Monitor report. About a month ago, an investigation revealed that Turkey’s information and communication authority had collected private user data for over a year.

Mass media, therefore, follows the government line: that Turkey has a generally stable economy with some temporary problems. Questioning this stance might have consequences.

Although direct censorship has not been recorded, there is concern that Erdoğan’s party is introducing regulations to block “alternative statistics” — that have not been approved by the Turkish Statistical Institute (TÜİK) — by using prison sentences. This is important in today’s context, as the official inflation rate according to TÜİK is 79.60 per cent, whereas the independent Inflation Research Group (ENAG) says it is 176.04 per cent. TÜİK stopped sharing the list of items that it used to measure the inflation rate last May.

Opposing narratives

Narrative 1: “The Turkish economy is being targeted”

See this narrative analysis in our database here

Erdoğan’s government imagines itself to be in an economic war surrounded by enemy Western nations, who are often labelled as “imperialist” (even if the term isn’t explained). The enemy is painted as a dark and vague alliance of foreign “centers of power” and terrorists and, of course, the “treasonous” opposition in cahoots with all these evil entities. Narratives about external forces sabotaging Turkey’s economics and politics are not new and have been around for at least a decade, but they have intensified in the past months.

The accusations range from the reasonable to the fantastical. For example, members of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) blame the opposition for painting an extremely ugly picture of the economy, which, it says, becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy because it erodes trust. Meanwhile, the AKP is also attempting to hold on to its dwindling voterbase with exciting and sensational stories about hidden powers conspiring against a strong Turkey. Erdoğan is the brave hero fighting against them alone.

How it’s seen on social media

On August 26, in response to a tweet by The Economist about Turkey’s “topsy-turvy” economy, Turkish Minister of Economy Nureddin Nebati claimed that Turkey’s economy is following a government program and that “no obstacle” will stand in the way. The tweet implies that The Economist is part of this “obstacle.”

Back in April, Erdoğan implied that a “power” is trying to hurt Turkey by hitting the economy and that it’s the same actors who have attempted to destabilize Turkey through military tutelage, coups and terrorism in the past. In November last year, pro-government journalist Karagül claimed that there is a “multinational operation” to create an economic crisis in Turkey.

Who “they” are is never directly stated, but only implied. Sometimes it is the Kemalist elite, sometimes opposition parties, sometimes Western countries, and most often, a combination of all of the above.

Narrative 2: “Corruption and nepotism have replaced meritocracy in state institutions”

See this narrative analysis in our database

The political opposition is accusing Erdoğan and the AKP of nepotism and overall inefficacy. The right-wing coalition, led by the Republican People’s Party (CHP), has vociferously blamed the ruling party for its lack of a general economic policy and for promoting corrupt bureaucrats and political allies who increasingly demand palm grease. This narrative is shared by anyone skeptical of Erdoğan’s governance.

There is an overall sense that the opposition — especially the CHP’s coalition — may have a chance of winning Turkey’s next elections.

Yet, economists warn that the opposition should resist the temptation to make populist promises to fix what is beyond its means, as many of the causes of the economic crisis lie beyond Turkey’s immediate control, such as foreign wars, global financial markets, and longstanding structural issues within the country.

Perceptions about corruption

Although economists and sociologists suggest that corruption is not the biggest issue for economic woes globally, the main opposition bloc is arguing that nepotism, a form of corruption, is indeed the source of most of Turkey’s problems. For our researchers, it is strategic rhetoric for the upcoming elections.

Our researchers have also anecdotally pointed out that, culturally, there is a certain tolerance among some sectors of the population for corruption, justified with arguments such as, “they stole but they served the country too”. But now that the vast majority of people are becoming strikingly poorer, nepotism in particular is being reprehended.

How it’s seen on social media

I filed a criminal complaint about the 56 tender of the General Directorate of Highways, to which the AK Party had connected a hose.
The current amount of 56 tenders delivered to the address by bargaining procedure, although the conditions specified in the law are not met:
95,808,900,620 TL!
Who are these companies? ⬇️

CHP lawmaker Deniz Yavuzyılmaz wrote a Twitter thread, backed up by supporting documents, exposing that a government directorate gave 56 state tenders to certain construction firms, allegedly without due process. Yavuzyılmaz is a young first-time lawmaker who has often pointed out corruption. Formerly, he also exposed bureaucrats receiving multiple salaries in an illegitimate fashion.

View our entire Turkey dataset

Subscribe to Undertones

Written byCivic Media Observatory

Via Globalvoices.org

This story is part of Undertones, Global Voices’ Civic Media Observatory’s newsletter. Find out more about our mission, methodology, and publicly available data. Subscribe to Undertones.

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In Turkey, Arrest of Pop Singer for Offending Clerics Prompts Fears of Turn to Fundamentalist Government https://www.juancole.com/2022/09/offending-clerics-prompts.html Sun, 04 Sep 2022 04:04:28 +0000 https://www.juancole.com/?p=206753 By Arzu Geybullayeva | –

Police in Turkey have arrested pop singer Gülşen (full name Gülşen Colakoglu), 46, pending trial, over a comment she made about religious schools, months ago during one of her concerts.

The singer apologized to those who found the comment offensive

Last April, Gülşen, joked about one of her colleagues’ Imam Hatip past during a concert in Istanbul. Imam Hatip high schools are Islamic religious education institutions originally established to train imams but which have become more popular under the Justice and Development Party (AKP) government led by President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.

The singer’s arrest on August 25 prompted fans and rights activists to accuse the state of having a disproportionate justice system that often lets perpetrators of violence against women walk free while quickly arresting Gülşen over a comment not meant to harm anyone. Others alluded to Turkey turning more conservative.

Istanbul Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office launched an investigation on Gülşen’s remarks for allegedly “inciting people to hatred and hostility,” and “humiliation” based on the singer’s words on stage, which led to her arrest.

In a tweet Gülşen shared hours before she was sent to an all-women prison, the singer said:

A joke I made about a friend I have worked with for many years was published by those whose goal is to further polarize the society. I am sorry for letting these people use my words for ill intentions. As I thrive to protect the freedoms I believe in, I have been swept by the radicals I am critical of. I apologize to anyone who got offended watching the video. I should have found a different language; I will find it.

Another singer, Hadise, wrote in support of Gülşen:

I am really upset. We are all humans, we make mistakes, because we are humans. Saying sorry, being able to apologize is a virtue. And there was an apology. I am asking you this, if those men, who savagely kill women, and say they will get out of prison in a month, or men who beat their wives in front of their children, were arrested like Gülşen was arrested today, how many women would still be alive?

Tarkan, a popular Turkish singer and song-writer, also condemned the arrest in a tweet and called for Gülşen’s immediate release:

Those who prosecute culprits for sexually abusing children, killing and raping women, in the absence of arrest, and in some cases letting them walk free, are moving quickly when it is about Gülşen. The justice system that ignores those engaged in corruption, theft, slaughter the nature, break laws, kill animals, use religion for their own bigoted ideas and polarize the society, arrest Gülşen right away.

Twitter user Louis Fishman commented:

Gülşen’s lawyer, Emek Emre, said they will be appealing the court’s decision on the grounds that no real crime was committed and that the court’s decision was disproportionate.

The conservative prism

There are concerns that Gülşen’s arrest may be part of a bigger picture. A Turkish doctor, Alp Sirman, wrote that this was just a glimpse of what awaits Turkey in the upcoming general election next June: “Banned festivals, pressure against Bogazici University, Sedef Kabas, and Gulsen’s arrests. AKP is showing the kind of Turkey it plans to have after the election. If this is what you like, you will vote.”

Just in the last four months, city or district governors have issued bans for some 16 events across Turkey including music festivals and concerts, the most recent being the Milyon Fest in Turkey’s Fethiye province.

Yektan Turkyilmaz, an anthropologist at the Center for Eastern Mediterranean Studies, Central European University in Vienna, told Al-Monitor in an interview in May, “This ban in Turkey is not really about music; rather, it is a ban on gathering. There are public spaces that Erdogan’s regime is concerned about — for example, bars.”

These are the cultural antithesis to what Erdogan stands for; places he knows people are mostly critical of him. Next, there is a social class aspect. These bans are applied to middle and upper-middle groups; they are the ones going to bars or concerts after midnight mostly. Music could generate potentially dangerous messages. Last, Erdogan must now be thinking the time is ripe to alter the cultural codes of Turkey.

The Union of Turkish Bar Associations (TBB), issued a statement after Gülşen’s arrest questioning the independence and impartiality of the judiciary, describing the court’s decision “as means of punishment” and calling for an immediate stop to such unlawful practices.

Underlining that the arbitrary and disproportionate detention measure, without complying with the conditions written in the law, means a violation of the right to personal security and freedom, this unlawful practice should be stopped immediately.

Gülşen is not unfamiliar with conservatives’ criticism. Her choice of costume during her concerts, and her open support of LGBTQ+ rights, have at times made local news headlines. Most recently, last January, the singer was criticized for her revealing style of outfit. In her response, Gülşen tweeted, “I am nobody’s slave. I do not belong to anyone. I am me. I belong to myself.”

Yes, I am a daughter of a mother and father, yes, I am a wife to a man, and a mother to a baby. But more than a father’s daughter, a man’s wife, and a mother, I am a human of reason and thought. And I am more than these attributions.

In many ways, the popular singer is breaking taboos and stereotypes with such statements, which the conservatives supporting the ruling Justice and Development Party can use as an opportunity to promote their own agenda. As was recently pointed out by Kenan Behzat Sharpe, a journalist and academic, in an interview with The Independent, “The more the opposition rallies around Gulsen, the more the conservative segments of society will say this is what Turkey will be if the opposition wins: half-naked women and LGBT flags.”

Arzu Geybullayeva is Azerbaijani columnist and writer, with special focus in digital authoritarianism and its implications on human rights and press freedom in Azerbaijan. Arzu has written for Al Jazeera, Eurasianet, Foreign Policy Democracy Lab, CODA, Open Democracy, Radio Free Europe, and CNN International.

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Iranian Women’s Rights Activists face new online Threats https://www.juancole.com/2022/08/iranian-activists-threats.html Sun, 28 Aug 2022 04:06:33 +0000 https://www.juancole.com/?p=206635 By Azin Mohajerin and Sussan Tahmasebi | –

( Globalvoices.org) – In May 2022, dozens of Instagram pages belonging to Iranian women’s rights activists received thousands of new followers from unknown users. This massive uptick in follows raised concerns in the country’s feminist and women’s rights community, which has often been a target of state-backed attacks. Many were afraid that this was a tactic by Iranian government actors to either infiltrate their pages with bots or abuse the Instagram reporting system to suspend their accounts. All the pages that were targeted covered women’s rights and LGBTQI+ issues, with some based inside the country and others abroad. Many activists whose accounts had broad reach have since decided to make their pages private. Such online harassment is an extension of offline harassment that women’s rights defenders have faced for years and comes amid a recent wave of arrests and interrogations.


Image courtesy FEMENA

“They had threatened or summoned for questioning most account managers who were inside the country, and now these Instagram pages are being attacked, but we won’t stop,” said one women’s rights activist whose page was recently targeted.

This is not the first time that Iranian women’s rights defenders have been targeted online in a coordinated fashion. Over the past few years, there has been a noticeable rise in the harassment of Iranian activists on the internet. This has taken the form of hate speech and direct threats of violence, usually from anonymous or fake named accounts on social media platforms such as Instagram and Twitter.

But, in Iran, such online attacks put a target on the backs of activists and can lead to real-life consequences. In many cases, coordinated online harassment has been a precursor to summons from security agencies as well as prison sentences. Many women’s rights defenders in the country do not report online threats to the authorities because legal provisions are neither clear nor are they supportive, and the defenders run the risk of being detained or prosecuted as a result of their social media posts.

As such, the only recourse for Iranian activists to combat online attacks is to use the complaint mechanisms of social media platforms and, if that fails, to close their accounts or make them private. Given this, social media companies such as Instagram and Twitter have a huge responsibility to protect activists and Iranian users.

The reporting feature on Instagram, Twitter, and other social media platforms has major shortcomings for Iranian activists facing online attacks, who deal with a broad range of harassment, including sexual harassment, cyberbullying, and impersonation. There are also often coordinated attacks launched against them that abuse the reporting mechanisms within social media platforms and allow security agencies to take down the accounts of rights defenders. These operations are sophisticated and in many cases take advantage of bugs in these platforms.

Against this backdrop, it is evident that a core issue is the lack of communication between Iranian activists and the major social media companies. Social media and technology companies need to stay abreast of the Iranian government’s policies because these policies can serve as a guide on how to combat state-sponsored attacks against users and especially rights defenders.

The trials and tribulations that Iranian women’s rights activists are facing online comes at a time when they are more dependent than ever before on the Internet to get their voices heard. Women’s rights have been continuously challenged for decades in Iran. Everyday Iranian women wake up to a new bill, law, or order from the government that restricts their freedom or seeks to push back their social gains. For example, in November 2021, Iran’s Guardian Council approved a law known as the “Rejuvenation of the Population” which severely undermines women’s reproductive health and their bodily autonomy by restricting access to birth control, further outlaws abortion, and even prohibits prenatal testing for pregnant women. Furthermore, women’s rights defenders are regularly targeted by state security forces for interrogation, detention, and even long prison sentences. Many women human rights defenders working in an array of fields advocating women’s rights, workers rights, child rights, access to information, freedom of the press, etc., have been sentenced to prison or are already serving long prison sentences and their numbers are on the rise.

In the face of such repression and ceaseless crackdowns by the government, Iranian women’s rights activists have been forced to reduce their activities in physical spaces and rely more on social media to raise awareness and create momentum for their demands. In particular, feminist activists have relied on Instagram, which is one of the most popular social media platforms in Iran and has not yet been blocked by the government. Activists are increasingly dependent on Instagram to raise awareness about gender discrimination, prevent sexual harassment in public spaces and in the workplace, and promote reproductive justice and women’s bodily rights.

Unsurprisingly, online activism is also not tolerated by the Iranian government, which has worked tirelessly and for decades to close and restrict civic spaces. The latest targeting of women’s rights defenders and women collectives on Instagram, where a massive influx of follow requests are sent to accounts of women human rights defenders and women’s collectives, is in line with past government targeting and online reporting of activists. Over the years, many activists including women’s collectives or women’s rights activists have had their accounts disabled following massive reporting or they have lost their reach on Instagram through “shadow bans,” where stories are not shown and their posts fail to appear on search engines after mass reporting of their accounts.But online targeting by the government has not stopped women’s rights activists who continue their activism online and when possible in real life as well. In turn the state security forces have doubled down on their efforts to render rights defenders inactive and to silence them.

“If you scan feeds on social media, you will notice that feminist and women’s rights voices have been louder than ever, and that’s why the government is now attacking us, to shut down our voices, but we won’t stop,” said the women’s rights activist whose page had recently been the target of attacks.

In response to these developments, on July 25, 2022, a number of rights groups urged Meta, Instagram’s parent company, to protect Iranian women’s rights defenders and cooperate with Iranian civil society in order to create a safer platform. Indeed, major social media companies can act proactively by establishing direct channels of communication with Iranian civil society to have a better understanding of the needs of Iranian civil society, Iran’s social media content and how the government suppresses civil society on online platforms. Such a direct channel would help the tech companies prevent the silencing of Iranian activists on their platforms.

This post is part of Advox, a Global Voices project dedicated to protecting freedom of expression online. All Posts

By Azin Mohajerin and Sussan Tahmasebi.

Via Globalvoices.org)

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Opening of shipping Routes from Ukraine will not Lessen Commodity and Food pressure on the Middle East and North Africa https://www.juancole.com/2022/08/shipping-commodity-pressure.html Mon, 22 Aug 2022 04:02:41 +0000 https://www.juancole.com/?p=206512 By Roman Shemakov | –

Russia and Ukraine are two of the most essential pillars of the global food trade, producing 25 percent of the global wheat supply. More than 160 days after Russia invaded Ukraine, food, commodity, and energy shortages have plunged many economies across the world into recessions, particularly in the Middle East, where some countries are among the world’s largest importers of these commodities.

On average, Ukraine harvested 80 million metric tons of grain annually (wheat, corn, barley). This is enough to feed 200 million people for a year. The Russian invasion has reduced the harvest to less than half of its grain capacity. The naval blockade of the Black Sea has meant that much of Ukraine’s grain could not leave the port. In March, food prices reached a 10-year high and the United Nations warned of multiple famines within the next year.


“A Crop Of Grain” by Ian Sane licensed under CC BY 2.0.

After months of negotiations, on August 1, a ship carrying 26,000 tons of grain left the port of Odessa; the first ship to do so since the start of the war. The agreement reached on July 22 in Istanbul between Ukraine and Russia guarantees continuous passage of grain out of Ukraine. This especially a good sign for countries throughout the Middle East and North Africa, where many states import more than 80 percent of their national grain supply from Ukraine, and are most vulnerable to rising food prices.

But free shipping routes will not abate the growing food crisis. Russian destruction of farmland and heavy machinery has caused more than USD 4.3 billion in damages to the agricultural industry. More than 6 million poultry birds have died and half a billion USD worth of grain has been stolen. Some estimate more than half of Ukraine’s operable farmland is under occupation.

In a video interview with Global Voices, David Rundell, a thirty-year diplomat to the Middle East and author of “Vision or Mirage: Saudi Arabia at the Crossroads,” explained the distributed impact of the war on countries across the region: “There is very little interest across the Middle East for getting in the middle of a fight they don’t believe is theirs. There is much more concern about what impact the war will have on political stability. Many nations are seeing what happened in Sri Lanka and are concerned that similar events will transpire in their own neighborhood.”

This analysis is in line with broad attitude surveys across the Middle East and North Africa. In an Arab News-YouGov poll of the region, 66 percent of respondents had no stance on the war, 18 percent supported Ukraine and 16 percent supported Russia

Rundell emphasized the outsized impact of commodity shortages on the region: “many countries across the region are very sensitive to the price of wheat, sunflower seed oil, and petroleum. All of these have been adversely affected by shortages or rising global prices. At the moment, the various governments are trying to maintain the subsidies that they have and it is leading to huge budget deficits.”

Nearly every country in the region is hard hit by the war.

The war has inflicted unprecedented inflation shocks on the Egyptian economy. There is almost no tourism from Ukraine and Russia, which normally account for 30 percent of Egypt’s incoming visitors. The manufacturing and construction industries have been most affected due to energy and material prices increases. Egypt, which gets 80 percent of its wheat from Ukraine and Russia, has been forced to look to other countries for grain imports, and the cost of bread has increased by 50 percent since the start of the war. As a result, the Suez Canal raised toll fees and the central bank devalued the currency by 14 percent to support the struggling economy.

Food insecurity is expected to become even more acute in Yemen, which imports 40 percent of its wheat from Ukraine and Russia. The humanitarian crisis in the country that began with the civil war in 2015 is expected to significantly exacerbate. Wheat prices have risen by 35 percent since the start of the war, and at certain times, the grain has completely disappeared from the markets.

Libya imports 90 percent of its wheat from Ukraine and Russia. Across the board, prices of bread, rice, and couscous have risen more than 30 percent. The war has added more than a percentage point to the country’s inflation pressures, bringing the overall rate to 9 percent.

Algeria is the most insulated from adverse impacts of the war. The country imports 3 percent of its wheat from Ukraine and Russia, and domestic supplies are sufficient to outlast shortages until the end of 2023.

Tunisia imports approximately 54 percent of its wheat from Ukraine and Russia. The country already owes USD 300 billion to Ukrainian wheat exporters. The worsening economic outlook, rising inflation, skyrocketing food prices, and a water crisis all have the potential to significantly destabilize the nation further.

More than 80 percent of Lebanon’s wheat comes from Ukraine and Russia. The United Nations has reported that the “number of people in urgent need of support has risen by 46 percent.” The country’s economy is expected to contract by 6 percent in 2022, after double-digit declines in 2021 and 2020. The food shortages and rising energy prices have placed deeper pressure on Lebanon’s 2.2 million vulnerable citizens, 200,000 Palestinian refugees, and 1.5 million Syrian refugees. Hospitals are suffering from staff, medical supply, and energy shortages. The country has faced four successive crises in 2 years: economic recession, COVID-19 pandemic, the port of Beirut explosion, and now the war in Ukraine. Now, more than 80 percent of the population lives below the poverty line.

On July 19, Vladimir Putin visited Tehran as a sign of continuing stability in Russian–Iran relations. Now that both states are constrained by crippling global sanctions, both are competing for oil markets in Asia. The president of Iran’s Oil and Gas Exporters’ Union announced that sales to China had fallen by 34 percent since May. Similar pressures are impacting Iran’s USD 6 billion steel market. Russia remains a key signatory of the 2015 Join [AN: Joint?] Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) on limiting Iran’s nuclear proliferation; in March, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov demanded that the United States ensure certain trade guarantees or it would refuse to support the deal.

The Iraqi government has refrained from taking a stance on the conflict, voting on an Arab League statement that did not assign blame to Russia and abstaining from the UN condemnation of Russian aggression. Russia has more than USD 14 billion invested in Iraqi oil and gas sectors, and Iraq purchases billions of Russian weapons annually. Iraq does not purchase Russian or Ukrainian agricultural products, but the nation imports 50 percent of all food and has been adversely affected by rising food prices. On June 8, the Iraqi parliament passed the “Emergency Law for Food Security and Development,” expanding existing subsidies for food and energy by an additional IQD 25 trillion (about USD 17 billion).

Approximately 90 percent of the West Bank and Gaza’s food supply is imported. More than a third of the national reliance is on Ukrainian wheat. A manager of a flour mill in Gaza noted, that the primary cause of rising food prices “…is the RussianUkraine war. We had stores for two to three months, but when they ran out we were obliged to buy wheat at new prices, and it was very high.” Lack of effective agricultural infrastructure, control over irrigation resources, and a financial crisis is likely to exacerbate the pressure on food supplies.

The government of Israel has been hesitant to support Ukraine unequivocally. Russia’s presence in Syria and Iran — both existential threats to the nation — has drawn Israel closer to Moscow. As a result, Israel has not provided Ukraine with military aid or joined in Western sanctions against Russia. A large majority of Israelis support Ukrainians in the war.

The rise in energy prices has been a financial bonanza for oil-exporting countries throughout the Gulf. A significant portion of the income has been directed to food security ministries and projects. Western solidarity in opposition to the war has been met with cool responses throughout the region, which maintains close alliance with both Russia and China. In a meeting with all the Gulf sheikdoms in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, Biden noted “We will not walk away and leave a vacuum to be filled by China, Russia or Iran, and we’ll seek to build on this moment with active, principled American leadership.”

Rundell concludes, “the inevitable result of collapsing economies and political unrest in the Middle East and Africa will be massive, illegal migration into Europe on a scale far greater than the previous war-related emigration from Syria and Libya. Preventing that outcome will require immediate, large scale, well coordinated, multinational action. It will require far more than a token increase in foreign aid that will merely bid up the price of existing wheat supplies.”

For more information about this topic, see our special coverage Russia invades Ukraine.

Written byRoman Shemakov

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Digital Authoritarianism in Turkey https://www.juancole.com/2022/08/digital-authoritarianism-turkey.html Tue, 16 Aug 2022 04:04:38 +0000 https://www.juancole.com/?p=206394 Written by Arzu Geybullayeva< | -

Authoritarian regimes have long had a complicated relationship with media and communications technologies. The Unfreedom Monitor is a Global Voices Advox research initiative examining the growing phenomenon of networked or digital authoritarianism. This extract, about Turkey’s control and censorship of the internet, is from the series of reports to come out of the research under the Unfreedom Monitor. Read the full report here.

( Middle East Monitor ) – In the early days of the internet, it was hard to imagine how authoritarian regimes could control such a “powerful source of information.” But, as global internet freedoms continue to decline for the eleventh consecutive year, examples of control and censorship are abundant. In 2011, Ronald Deibert and Rafal Rohozinski described at length how authoritarian regimes have become savvy at restricting access to their users, relying on technology, legal and extralegal techniques. To that end, the authors describe these techniques as next-generation information access controls. First-generation controls include “defensive” techniques, such as widespread filtering and direct censorship.


Image courtesy Ameya Nagarajan

Second generation controls include legal measure techniques that involve the use of legislation to remove content, or implementing technical shutdowns of websites. The third and final generation controls include “offensive” techniques, such as state-sponsored counterinformation campaigns, the use of surveillance, and data mining. The third category is a “highly sophisticated, multidimensional approach to enhancing state control over national cyberspace and building capabilities for competing in informational space with potential adversaries and competitors.”

As the country overview of Turkey below shows, it is possible to trace all three techniques used in Turkey to curtail internet freedoms. When Turkey introduced the infamous Law no. 5651, aka the Internet Bill, in 2007, the state began to implement first and second-generation controls. However, more sophisticated measures began to emerge in the aftermath of countrywide popular unrest in 2013 (the Gezi protests) and the graft scandal targeting key members of the ruling Justice and Development Party, as well as the failed military coup in 2016. “In the aftermath of the Gezi protests and the corruption scandal, the AKP government became acutely aware of the role of social media platforms in political engagement and civic mobilisation, and in building and expanding of online/offline solidarities.” To that end, signs and evidence of third-generation controls put in practice became more evident, pointing to an emergency “of a decentralised and distributed network of online censorship.”

As a result, civil society and the public at large engaged in criticism of the state have been muted through a combination of traditional forms of censorship such as arrests, detentions, intimidation, and critical legal amendments combined with a crackdown on the internet using high level opaque administrative and judicial decisions blocking, banning, and withholding online content.

Arzu Geybullayeva is Azerbaijani columnist and writer, with special focus in digital authoritarianism and its implications on human rights and press freedom in Azerbaijan. Arzu has written for Al Jazeera, Eurasianet, Foreign Policy Democracy Lab, CODA, Open Democracy, Radio Free Europe, and CNN International.

Read the full report here.

The Unfreedom Monitor

Authoritarian regimes have long had a complicated relationship with media and communications technologies. The Unfreedom Monitor is a Global Voices Advox research initiative examining the growing phenomenon of networked or digital authoritarianism.

Download a PDF of the Turkey report.

This post is part of Advox, a Global Voices project dedicated to protecting freedom of expression online. All Posts

Middle East Monitor

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In Turkey, religious Values are used to censor online ontent https://www.juancole.com/2022/08/turkey-religious-values.html Thu, 11 Aug 2022 04:04:54 +0000 https://www.juancole.com/?p=206280 By Arzu Geybullayeva | –

( Globalvoices.org ) – Turkish authorities are increasingly censoring content online that does not fit Turkey’s religious values, morality, and family values in recent years. The most recent example is an investigation launched by the Istanbul Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office against Spotify.

The prosecutor’s office claims Spotify approved the playlist names.

The Office claims the music streaming platform, approved playlists that were “insulting religious values and state officials.” According to reports, the decision to launch the probe came after “the Presidential Communication Center received a large volume of complaints that the playlists were fostering Islamophobia by insulting religious values and state officials.”

Some of the playlist names include “Songs Recep Tayyip Erdogan listens to when drinking raki,” “Songs God listened to when throwing Adam out of heaven,” “Songs prophet Ali listens to when driving high speed,” and a podcast called “Devlet Bahceli [leader of National People Party] concept hotel, Love with a girl wearing Shakira belt,” according to Bianet reporting. It is not the songs specifically but the names of playlists that is drawing officials’ ire.

The prosecutor’s office claims Spotify approved the names of playlists, but according to Spotify rules, an individual user can create as many playlists as they wish without Spotify’s approval or oversight.

One Twitter user shared the names of other playlists too, among them “God’s ringtone,” or “Eve did not hear God’s announcement about banned fruit because she was listening to this playlist.

Others joked about which other platforms are next:

⏰😸windows, excel and winzip are next!

Fear us!

Spotify facing investigation allegedly for ‘insulting religious values and state leaders.’ Istanbul Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office launched an investigation against Spotify due to playlists’ names.

of course we will be investigating spotify when we have no issues thanks to our stellar justice system.

Spotify learned its lesson from generation Z’s humor when creating playlists. Its managers must be in big shock, because this is probably the first time, they have ever faced an investigation of this nature.

This is not the first time Spotify finds itself in hot water in Turkey. In May 2021, the platform was ordered to remove “inappropriate content” from its site. In an interview with ArabNews, Cathryn Grothe, a research associate at Freedom House, said, “Streaming services such as Spotify create a unique space where people can express themselves, relate to loved ones and friends over shared music or podcasts, and engage on a range of important issues, including human rights and politics.”

Screenshot of Netflix’s official Jurassic World Camp Cretaceous trailer via YouTube

Also in August 2022, the Chief Censor of Turkey’s Radio and Television Supreme Council (RTÜK) launched a probe into Netflix’s animated Jurassic World Camp Cretaceous series. “We are determined not to allow content that may negatively impact our children and youth and that disregard our values,” tweeted the head of RTÜK, Ebubekir Sahin. The show reportedly features LGBTQ+ characters.

In December 2021, RTÜK fined Netflix over the film “More the merrier,” claiming its plot and characters were immoral. The chief censor said the movie was “based on a fiction in which homosexuality, incest relationships, and swinging are intensely experienced.” In addition to getting a fine, the streaming platform was ordered to remove the film from its platform in Turkey.

In 2020, Netflix said it won’t proceed with the local production of a film called “If only” (Simdiki Aklim Olsaydi) because RTÜK failed to approve the script of the show in which one of the characters was gay.

In 2019 RTÜK was granted powers to monitor online broadcasting ranging from on-demand platforms such as Netflix to regular and/or scheduled online broadcasts to amateur home video makers. Since then, online broadcasters have been required to obtain a license from RTÜK, meaning the organization frequently censors or rejects content it disapproves of. Netflix applied for a license the same year, while Spotify did so in October 2020 after RTÜK threatened to ban them otherwise.

Arzu Geybullayeva is Azerbaijani columnist and writer, with special focus in digital authoritarianism and its implications on human rights and press freedom in Azerbaijan.

This post is part of Advox, a Global Voices project dedicated to protecting freedom of expression online. All Posts

Written by Arzu Geybullayeva

Globalvoices.org

Featured image: Pixabay

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How this Tunisian Island brings Muslims and Jews Together https://www.juancole.com/2022/07/tunisian-muslims-together.html Sun, 31 Jul 2022 04:06:49 +0000 https://www.juancole.com/?p=206093 By Imen Boudali | Raseef22 | –

This article by Imen Boudali was first published by Raseef22, and is being republished as part of a content-sharing partnership with Global Voices.

( Globalvoices.org ) – In May of each year, Tunisia hosts a unique and extraordinary event. The north African country, home to the oldest synagogue in Africa, celebrates and revives its Jewish roots through the pilgrimage of La Ghriba, an event bringing together different religions on the tranquil island of Djerba.

Home to Africa’s oldest synagogue, Djerba celebrates its Jewish roots annually

As soon as the ferry approaches the coast, Djerba welcomes you with serenity. This island, the historical home of Tunisians of all three major monotheistic faiths and the site of an annual Jewish pilgrimage, is often called the “island of dreams.” It gives visitors a sense of belonging and embraces them like no other place. Palm trees as far as the eye can see, all along the occasionally rudimentary roads, you quickly start seeing Djerba’s signature houses or houche, the island’s small, colourful shops, men in grey jebbas, women in beskris, malhfas (traditional outfits worn only by women of that island) and dhallalas (traditional straw hats) everywhere.


La Ghriba is an event bringing together different religions on the tranquil island of Djerba. Image by Imen Boudali, used with permission.

This scenery is complemented by the smell of the beautiful blue sea, the fishermen and their boats scattered here and there, the vendors of jasmine flower bouquets, the groups of old men playing checkers and the women driving motorbikes. In essence, when you are here, you absorb colours, hues, and shapes, sometimes basic and minimalist, but never dull or wearisome.

But it is not only the heavenly coasts or the incomparable sunsets that make this place unique and beautiful; it’s the people, and, for this, Djerba is not only adored by Tunisians, but by countless visitors from all over the world.

Djerba’s inhabitants have succeeded over the course of the island’s history in maintaining a peaceful coexistence between its Muslim, Christian and Jewish communities that has become exceedingly rare, not just in the Arab region, but also around the world.

Jews of Djerba

Before the creation of Israel in 1948, Tunisia was home to more than 100,000 Jews, but, as years passed, and with the 1967 Arab-Israeli war, many left. However, the country is home to one of the MENA region’s largest Jewish communities with 2,000 Jews, including 1,200 living in Djerba.

To this day, and despite their not very large number, Jewish Tunisians continue to hold an important place in Djerbian society and are, like their non-Jewish neighbors, active in the island’s tourism industry.

Djerba is home to one Jewish school (yeshiva), which offers both secular and religious education for five- and six-year-olds as well as teenagers aged 14 years old. Going through the classrooms, one hears students discussing Torah verses, switching between Tunisian Arabic and the biblical Hebrew of the texts. In another of the island’s schools, Souani Primary School, Muslim and Jewish students study together in the same classrooms, sharing in secular academic pursuit and anchoring the future of their society in principles of inter-religious harmony.

Djerba’s Jewish legacy, as well as the legacy of Tunisia’s religious diversity, is on full display each year during the Ghriba pilgrimage. This annual rendezvous took place this year from May 14 to 22 with various events, including visiting the synagogue, giving alms and doing charity, prayers, and other local traditions.

Non-Jewish Tunisians frequently participate in some of the synagogue’s traditions. For instance, many local women and visitors bring eggs marked with the names of young girls of their families, and leave them in a particular spot at the synagogue. Once the pilgrimage is over, the eggs are taken back to the young girls who then eat them in the hope of boosting their marriage prospects.

A colourful pilgrimage

As you walk towards the synagogue, the security presence is certainly noteworthy. Hundreds of police, special forces and armored vehicles are stationed along the street and around the place of worship to ensure the smooth running of the festivities. Before entering the premises, visitors go through a scanner, and their belongings are thoroughly searched.

When you pass the security apparatus, hundreds of Tunisian flags and the characteristic blue and white of the buildings welcome you.

Music plays in the background. Everyone feels the atmosphere of festivity. Young and old, you can see that everyone dresses in their finest clothing. Under the sun of an April afternoon, groups of visitors flock in festive clothing, quickening their steps to find a seat in the Oukala (a sort of very traditional and cheap hotel in popular Tunisian neighbourhoods) where a music party is organized.

“My mom bought new clothes so I can wear them today. Now I am waiting for my friends to come so we can play together. I am very excited!,” said Ishmail, 8, smiling wholeheartedly alongside his parents and other family members.

Other attendees, more focused on the religious aspect of the event, choose to go directly to the synagogue. Despite its relatively small size, the building’s interior is astoundingly beautiful. The blue earthenware tiles, embracing the four walls up to the ceiling, are striking. The room is teeming with people.

Under the arcades and the eternal lamps, some attendees are seated to read the Torah, others are lighting candles and whispering, discreetly with eyes closed, their long-held wishes.

“I came to deposit this egg in the name of my single niece,” Eliana, a Franco-Tunisian septuagenarian said. “I know she doesn’t really believe in these stories, but since I was little, I used to come to this synagogue and see my mother and my aunts do this. It’s part of our history and our identity, and I’m keeping the heritage alive.”

Touristic relevance, security concerns

This annual pilgrimage is not only important for the local community, but for the whole country, from an economic perspective, through reviving the island’s touristic sector, and politically, since it helps to forge the peaceful and multicultural identity of Tunisia. The event is prepared months in advance, with the participation of various stakeholders, including the Ministry of the Interior — all to avoid any bad surprises.

In recent memory, Tunisia has experienced two tragic attacks on Djerba’s Jewish community. The first was in 1985, when a soldier in charge of maintaining order opened fire inside the Ghriba Synagogue, killing five people. Then, in 2002, a 25-year-old Franco-Tunisian linked to the Al-Qaeda killed 21 people.

With these incidents in mind, the Tunisian authorities sought to make this annual event more secure. Head of Government Najla Bouden, Minister of Tourism Mohamed Moez Belhassine, Governor of Médenine Said Ben Zayed, Chief Rabbi of Tunisia Haïm Bittan, as well as several ambassadors and diplomats from countries like France, Belgium, Germany, Italy and the USA attended the launch of this year’s pilgrimage.

“Djerba remains a melting pot of civilizations and a land of peace and tolerance for all, from which emanates a message of love and peace,” said Bouden.

For his part, Tourism Minister Belhassine said that the pilgrimage of La Ghriba is an important event that kicks off the tourist and summer season and sends multiple messages to the world about peaceful coexistence and tolerance for a better and more open community.

He added that this important event, which, according to him, gathered about 3,000 visitors, 50 journalists and dignitaries from 14 nationalities, is an occasion to not only discover the multi-cultural aspect of the island, but to dive into a rich destination offering endless advantages.

As for the organizers of the pilgrimage, led by Perez Trabelsi (chairman of the Jewish Ghriba Committee and leader of the Jewish community in Djerba), they considered that this year’s visit was exceptional and distinct on several levels. For them, after two years of pandemic, sending a message of peace and coexistence from Tunisia for the rest of the world was crucial in these tumultuous times.

The Bridge features personal essays, commentary, and creative non-fiction that illuminate differences in perception between local and international coverage of news events, from the unique perspective of members of the Global Voices community. Views expressed do not necessarily represent the opinion of the community as a whole. All Posts

By Imen Boudali is a Tunisian journalist who has worked in Tunisia and across the MENA region, contributing in media outlets like Al-Ahram and the Arab Weekly. This article first appeared in Raseef22.

Globalvoices.org

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Environment: Iraqis and Iranians continue to oppose Turkey’s hydroelectric projects on the Tigris River https://www.juancole.com/2022/07/iranians-continue-hydroelectric.html Thu, 21 Jul 2022 04:04:04 +0000 https://www.juancole.com/?p=205895 By Roman Shemakov | –

The following story is part of series on Turkey’s Ilisu Dam project and the flooding of Hasankeyf.

The Ilisu Dam, completed as part of Turkey’s Güneydoğu Anadolu Projesi (Southeastern Anatolian Development Project or GAP for short in Turkish) in 2019, has faced heavy criticism from both local as well as international observers and downstream countries on the Tigris. Standing at 135 meters high and with total water storage of 10.6 billion cubic meters, the Ilisu Dam is the second largest within Turkey, after Atatürk Dam, and is the world’s largest when measured by filling volume among “concrete faced rockfill dams.”


A 2008 picture of the now-flooded Hasankeyf by Senol Demir via CC BY 2.0

The dam was first envisioned more than 70 years ago. But funding concerns and international pressure delayed its construction. In an interview with Global Voices, journalist Mehmet Kizmaz explained that when the construction of Ilisu Dam was decided in 2006, several earlier backers of the construction pulled out their export credit guarantees after realizing the environmental, cultural, and historical damage the construction would cause to the local residents.

By 2008, European companies that were part of the funding consortium transferred their shares to an Austrian company Andritz, which remained in the project throughout the planning and building stages. In 2010, with loans from mostly Turkish banks backed by the Turkish government, the construction finally began. Korkmaz added that at the start of planning, the estimated cost of the dam was at least EUR 2.5 billion, of which EUR 800 million was spent on expropriation and “resettlement” works. Kizmaz continued:

The actual costs are thought to be higher. Spending such a large amount of money on a devastating project that has brought nothing but poverty left the region that was already lagging economically, even poorer.

The dam became operational in 2019. However, in the process of creating a water storage reservoir, the 12,000-year-old city of Hasankeyf was flooded. At the time, the Turkish government emphasized that 1,200-megawatt (MW) power capacity would produce 4.1 billion kWh of electricity per year (approximately TRY 3 billion in annual revenue — USD 300 million). The expected energy, irrigation, and tourism income were used to justify the flooding of the ancient city and the relocation of the city residents.


Map: Global Voices Created with Datawrapper

It is still difficult to estimate the dam’s economic impact on the region. In 2014, the MP from Hakkâri noted the skewed impact of development, explaining that the “land values in some cities were intentionally expanded through planning and zoning. This is an intentional state policy, the introduction of wild capitalism into the region. This is a skewed development policy and social engineering, an attempt to shape a new identity.” On balance, the Ilisu Dam did not reduce inequality, “the project allowed 61.4 percent of small agricultural enterprises to cultivate only 10.5 percent of the land, while 6.2 percent of large agricultural enterprises cultivated almost half of the land.”

While the economic benefits of the dam are still unclear, the ecological and social damage remain front and center for residents in the area. Ridvan Ayhan, a resident and activist from Hasankeyf who spoke to Global Voices, said people lost their vineyards, gardens, land, and homes as they all got flooded. “Some 80,000–100,000 people had to migrate,” explained Ayhan, adding, “there is no future without a past, they destroyed our history, our culture, this history is not only ours, it is the history of humanity, this is a historical massacre.”

The flooding of the historical city of Hasankeyf has been at the heart of the organized opposition to the dam. Among the most vocal opponents is Ismail Can, the head of excavation at Karahan Tepe, one of Turkey’s oldest archeological sites, who spoke to Global Voices about the extent of destruction:

Since the world has existed, mankind has constantly worked to leave a mark on this world wherever it has lived. They have left behind magnificent structures that represent them, and unfortunately, we are not even aware of what kind of humanity we have destroyed. Hasankeyf has hosted dozens of civilizations. All of this we have now destroyed for the sake of a dam. It is impossible to compare the cultural heritage of thousands year old Hasankeyf, one of the main cradles of human civilization, with some income from the Ilisu Dam Hydroelectric Power Plant.

GAP’s international consequences

The Ilisu Dam doesn’t just impact the citizens of Turkey.

In 2002, a delegation of three UK nongovernmental organizations — The Ilisu Dam Campaign, the Kurdish Human Rights Project, and the Corner House — released a report on the potential downstream effects of the dams. According to the report, “The GAP dams have already caused significant change in the flow regime of the Euphrates and to a lesser extent the Tigris, both in terms of quality and quantity. The reduced flow of the Euphrates has already caused increased salinity in the lower reaches of the river, seriously affecting agriculture, and the full implementation of GAP would have major adverse consequences for large numbers of people living in [Syria and Iraq]” and that “Turkey is in violation of the letter or spirit of, or is failing to comply with… International conventions on water sharing and use, in particular the UN convention on the law of Non-Navigable Uses of International Watercourses.”

The governments of Iraq and Iran, whose people heavily rely on the Tigris River, have vocally opposed GAP and the Ilisu Dam. In 2018, Iraqi Prime Minister Haidar al-Abadi accused the Turkish government of abusing the Ilisu Dam for political reasons, Iraqi officials noted that dams along dozens of tributaries have cut more than half the water that flowed to Iraq compared with 20 years ago. The Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian has long criticized Turkey’s hydrology projects, in May of 2022 calling them “unacceptable,” and extremely damaging to the citizens of Iran.

An Iranian Change.org petition to stop Turkey from constructing more dams.

Considering that more than 50 percent of all regional water sources are shared between more than one country, Mehmet Kizmaz concluded with the oversized implications of the GAP projects internationally, “the Ilisu Dam had a very negative impact on the downstream of the Tigris River; Serious problems arose in the supply of drinking water in many Iraqi cities, especially Baghdad and Mosul. Iraqi agriculture, which was largely based on irrigation from rivers, came under great risk too. The Iranian environmental organizations announced that the Ilisu Dam Project, would accelerate environmental issues and exacerbate the dust clouds formed by the drying up of the Mesopotamian Marshes (Ahwar), which will be destroyed by the Ilisu Dam.”

Local and international resistance to future Turkish river development remains limited. A Change.org petition has been started by Iranian activists in order to prevent further hydroelectric development that are responsible for droughts throughout Iran. Years of protests in Southern Iraq have similarly accused Turkish dams of worsening water scarcity concerns. Kizmaz concluded that locally “there is no reaction in Hasankeyf at the moment. Because people rightly think that everything is over. Because of this, everyone was silent. This also applies to other people, especially activists and journalists, who have been fighting for years. I also have this feeling. Is there any chance of bringing the dead back to life?”

Roman Shemakov is Eastern Europe Editor of Globalvoices.org.

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