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Ed Webb

Cultural heritage and violence in the Middle East | openDemocracy - 0 views

  • According to reports of the activist Facebook group Le patrimoine archéologique syrien en danger, all six UNESCO World Heritage sites in Syria have been damaged, major museum collections at Homs and Hama have been looted, and dozens of ancient tells have been obliterated by shelling. In Iraq, recent media stories recount ISIS fighters’ use of antiquities to raise revenues. So-called blood antiquities function as cash-cows, fetching high prices from unscrupulous collectors and netting a handsome cut for ISIS. As devastating as this news is, Syria and Iraq are simply additional chapters in the long-running story wherein conflict is characterised by a two-fold assault on humanity: human bodies themselves as well as the objects and sites that people create and infuse with cultural meaning.
  • So-called blood antiquities function as cash-cows, fetching high prices from unscrupulous collectors and netting a handsome cut for ISIS.
  • Current scholarly discussion on the Armenian genocide, however, focuses almost exclusively on the human destruction, not taking into consideration the systematic annihilation of Armenian sites and monuments that has taken place since then
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  • The destruction of human communities is incomplete without cultural violence. This was the conclusion of lawyer and human rights advocate Raphael Lemkin, the Polish-born jurist who coined the term “genocide” and fought successfully for its recognition by international legal bodies as a crime. In Axis Rule in Occupied Europe (1944), he argued: By ‘genocide’ we mean the destruction of a nation or of an ethnic group…[It signifies] a coordinated plan of different actions aiming at the destruction of essential foundations of the life of national groups, with the aim of annihilating the groups themselves. (Lemkin 1944: 80) Among the “essential foundations” of the life of human societies, Lemkin argued, were cultural sites, objects, and practices. The Holocaust galvanised his human rights work, but it was the tragic case of Turkish Armenians during the beginning decades of the twentieth century that served as the basis for Lemkin’s theory of genocide.
  • Also significant in this context was the systematic replacement of Armenian place names (on streets, buildings, neighbourhoods, towns, and villages) with Turkish names. The erasure of Armenians from collective memory was completed during the Turkish Republic; in their history textbooks, Turkish children hear nothing about Armenian culture or learn simply that they were enemies of the Turks.
  • the Turkish state and its governments have systematically removed all markers of the Armenians’ civilisation
  • This is cultural death, and it is especially dangerous because it legitimates the denial of diversity by authoritarian states and their societies.
  • Historical records document previous erasures of peoples and their culture: the Native Americans and First Nations of north America; the Mayas and Aztecs of Mesoamerica; and the Roman destruction of Carthage (north Africa), which some scholars point to as the earliest recorded organised genocide.
  • the harrowing plight of Syrian journalist Ali Mahmoud Othman, co-founder of Le patrimoine archéologique syrien en danger. Othman was arrested by government forces in March 2012 and has not been heard of since his televised “confession” in May 2012
  • Recurring Internet images of ISIS fighters beheading western men obscure the equally outrageous and horrific acts of sexual violence against women, torture of children, and destruction of homes, markets, churches, Shi’a mosques, and ancient monuments. All of this constitutes the challenging environment in which cultural activists must do their work.
  • Lemkin’s teachings still have something to say to us today: without monuments and cultural objects, social groups are atomised into disaffected, soulless individuals
Ed Webb

Armenians in Syria and Lebanon: Displaced again | The Economist - 0 views

  • Hagop looked bewildered when asked if he had heard of such a massacre. He says no one was killed—a statement repeated by Anjar’s mayor, Sarkis Pamboukian.The Armenians accuse an old foe for their woes. Scenes of mass panic on the day the town fell were sparked largely by rumours of a Turkish invasion, reopening wounds in the collective memory of the Armenians, victims of what is widely recognised as a genocide at the Turks’ hands in 1915. “I heard explosions, so I called friends, who said there was an attack from the Turkish border,” says Hagop.No Turkish invasion materialised, but Anjar’s residents are adamant their historic adversaries were the masterminds behind the attack. “This is a continuation of Turkey’s project to take Kassab,” says Mr Pamboukian. “The rebels couldn’t have entered without their [Turkey’s] permission,” says Hagop, repeating claims made by non-Armenians too. Turkey’s foreign ministry says the accusations are “entirely baseless”.There are around 100,000 Armenians in Syria, which has been a safe haven for minorities and displaced people including thousands of Palestinians, who are now finding themselves uprooted once more. Partly for this reason, Syrian Armenians and their Lebanese brethren in Anjar share quiet support for Syria’s Assad regime. 
Ed Webb

Will House pass Armenian genocide resolution this time? | McClatchy - 0 views

  • "Our interests remain a full, frank and just acknowledgement of the facts related to the historical events," Secretary of State Hillary Clinton told the House Foreign Affairs Committee last Thursday. "But the best way to do that, with all respect, is for the Armenians and Turkish people themselves to address the facts of their past as part of their efforts to move forward."In a similar vein, Defense Secretary Robert Gates cautioned last month that, "Anything that would impede the success of those (Turkish and Armenian) discussions and negotiations I think is objectionable."
  • The 2000 census recorded 385,000 U.S. residents of Armenian ancestry, three times the number who claim Turkish ancestry.
  • passing the resolution would "make it very difficult if not impossible" for the Turkish legislature to ratify protocols negotiated between Turkey and Armenia. The protocols seek to reconcile the two countries, in part by establishing a historical commission to research what happened during World War I and afterward.
Ed Webb

Armenian PM Pashinyan in Iran after meeting with Putin, Aliyev | Politics News | Al Jaz... - 0 views

  • Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan has held high-level talks in Tehran after a trilateral meeting with Russian and Azerbaijani leaders on fighting in the Caucasus region.
  • Baku and Yerevan “agreed not to use force” and to “settle all disputes solely on the basis of recognition of mutual sovereignty and territorial integrity” in a joint statement released following the Sochi meeting.
  • Tehran has firmly rejected moves by Baku and Ankara aimed at creating a new transport link connecting Azerbaijan’s exclave of Nakhchivan with the Azerbaijani mainland, a route the two have branded the “Zanzegur corridor”.
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  • Iran in late October became the first country to establish a diplomatic mission in the southernmost Armenian province of Syunik, opening a consulate general in Kapan, which is sought after by Baku and Ankara for their corridor.
  • Tehran has also been increasingly vocal about its interest in bolstering bilateral ties with Armenia. Pashinyan’s visit to Tehran on Tuesday was also partly aimed at advancing this goal, with the Armenian leader saying much of the talks with Raisi dealt with improving economic and trade relations.
Ed Webb

The U.S. Army Is Using the Nagorno-Karabakh Conflict to Study Drone Warfare - 1 views

  • When Azerbaijan took over the skies in its fight with Armenia over the disputed enclave of Nagorno-Karabakh last fall, winning the air war with commercial Turkish and kamikaze drones, one thing started to become clear to U.S. Army strategists: It’s becoming easier to hunt and kill troops than ever before—and to do so on the cheap. With inexpensive, combat-ready drones proliferating on battlefields all over the world, in the not-too-distant future unsuspecting soldiers might get killed just by getting out of their positions for a moment to go to the bathroom.
  • poorer nations can buy themselves a respectable air force mostly off the shelf
  • Azerbaijan deployed Turkish Bayraktar TB2 drones and loitering munitions, many of them Israeli-made, to shrink the battlefield and chip away at Armenia’s armored forces as well as the logistical tail that hadn’t even reached the front lines.
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  • Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev even touted a laundry list of Armenian equipment purportedly destroyed or captured, including nearly 250 tanks, 50 infantry fighting vehicles, and four Russian-made S-300 missile defense systems, as well as 198 trucks and 17 self-propelled artillery units. In mid-October, Aliyev credited Turkish drones with helping his military to destroy more than $1 billion worth of Armenian equipment.
  • the tremendous amount of disinformation flying around on open-source networks made it difficult to figure out everything that happened in real time.
  • Automation is likely to move beyond the skies, too. Shaw, an infantry officer by training, sees weaker militaries following the U.S. lead by deploying unmanned ground and sea vehicles
  • unmanned aerial vehicles are becoming more lethal
  • Even communication over FM radio, which was standard operating procedure for U.S. troops fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan over the past two decades, will need to be rethought as countries like Russia are getting much more skilled at locating—and striking—units that are careless about staying unmasked on the electromagnetic spectrum
  • The Army, which has long enjoyed a firepower advantage in static positions, will have to think about reinventing the wheel to be a constantly mobile force, avoiding detection and incoming fire. “If survivability moves are constant, that increases your rate of consumption for food, water, fuel. People have to sleep,” Shaw said. “We’re going to have to have leaders who are comfortable operating under the uncomfortable.”
Ed Webb

Turkish-French spring may end early due to new bill over 'genocide' denial - 1 views

  • “Turkey is aware of the relations between the Socialist Party and the Armenian lobby in France. Therefore, Turkey didn’t think that the Armenian claims in France would end with the election of Hollande,”
  • Turkish-French ties deteriorated sharply during Sarkozy’s rule, not only because of the genocide debate but also due to the former French leader’s outspoken opposition to Turkish membership in the EU. Thus, his election defeat in June opened the door for a new era between France and Turkey, with Ankara praising the new administration’s willingness to restore ties. Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan met with Hollande on the sidelines of a UN meeting in Brazil, when the two leaders agreed to turn a “new page” in relations. “Turkey was hopeful of Hollande because the newly elected French president was positive towards Turkey-EU relations. If Hollande brings up the genocide issue as a factor that would affect Turkey’s relations with the EU, then not only would Turkey’s relations with France be affected, but also its relations with the EU would be affected,”
Julianne Greco

Blowback: Why Armenian's can't 'get beyond' the genocide -- - 0 views

  • For Armenians, there is no "getting beyond" the issue of the genocide. Turkey's denial of the genocide, for which it has gone unpunished, is an injustice all Armenians must live with every day.
  • For the West to applaud the agreement reached by Turkey and Armenia, presumably due to geopolitical gains, is to condone sweeping under the rug one of the world's worst unpunished crimes.
Ed Webb

BURAK BEKDİL - What the collective Turkish memory refuses to recall - 0 views

    Comments quite illuminating (at time of bookmarking, anyway)
Ed Webb

Turkey rebuffs Iranian invitation to NAM summit - 1 views

  • Turkey, whose relations with Iran have recently become strained, is not expected to attend the 16th summit of the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) in Tehran later this month, neither at the presidential nor ministerial level, Turkish diplomatic sources told Today's Zaman.
  • Iran perceives the summit as an important opportunity to portray itself as part of the international scene despite concerted efforts by the United States and the European Union to isolate it diplomatically and economically over its disputed nuclear program
  • According to the Now Lebanon News Agency, Iran will submit a proposal to NAM to end the conflict taking place on the soil of it close ally, Syria, Iranian Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi said in comments published on Friday. "[Iran] has a proposal regarding Syria, which it will discuss with countries taking part in the NAM summit," the Fars News Agency and Mehr News Agency quoted Salehi as saying in comments to state television
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  • Iran has temporarily suspended visa-free travel with Turkey. Iran has explained this decision as part of security precautions it is taking in connection with the summit in Tehran, which currently holds the three-year rotating NAM presidency
  • Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi, Cuban leader Raul Castro, Armenian President Serzh Sarksian and Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh are expected to attend the summit. Also, Qatari Emir Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al-Thani and Lebanese President Michel Suleiman are expected. Yet, there is no signal that Iran's close ally, Syria, will attend
  • Israel on Thursday warned Ban and other world leaders not to fall into an Iranian propaganda "trap" when they attend the summit
Ed Webb

AFP: Turkey, Armenia due to sign historic reconciliation deal - 1 views

  • Turkey and Armenia will sign landmark deals this weekend to normalise ties, in a major step towards ending nearly a century of hostility over their bloody history, Russian and US officials said Thursday.
  • two protocols, agreed under Swiss mediation, to establish diplomatic ties for the first time and open their border which has been sealed for more than a decade.
  • on Saturday in Zurich
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  • Although both governments have the parliamentary majority for the adoption of the protocols, they are not expected to rush ahead due to domestic opposition.
  • Turkish officials have said that the border will remain closed unless Yerevan and Baku make progress towards resolving the conflict.
  • concessions on Nagorny-Karabakh would not sit well with Armenian public opinion and the influential diaspora that is already uneasy over the protocols
  • an eagerly anticipated a World Cup football qualification match between the two countries
Ed Webb

The West is playing an old game with the minorities of the Orient | Middle East Eye - 0 views

  • This is the big door through which we may penetrate into the affairs of the East …. In addition to the big door there is a smaller one. Syria, and the Christian population of Lebanon in particular, have the right to obtain from the Sultan, by virtue of a European intervention, guarantees, and in particular an administrative regulation, which may provide them with protection from the abuse they suffered under different rulers and that may secure Syria against sliding once more into chaos … We believe that it is the duty of the Christian powers, even their honour, to support this approach and push forward toward accomplishing a positive practical outcome
  • Guizot thought that obtaining the consent of Russia and Austria would neutralise Britain and make it less able to hinder the implementation of his project. Russia had been pursuing an expansionist approach within the Ottoman sphere of influence. It had close links with the Orthodox and Armenians of the Sultanate, who – and not the Catholics – constituted the majority of the Christians of the Orient.
  • The new entity would include the Christians of the East, foremost among them the Catholics of Lebanon, and would be placed under the protection of the European powers, particularly France, Russia and Austria
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  • he was seeking to establish an independent, or semi-independent, administrative status in the district of Jerusalem, which was at the time part of the Damascus governorate
  • What is astonishing is that Guizot did not ask if the Christians of the Orient, who were scattered all over the Orient, would agree to emigrate from their historic homelands to live in such a European protectorate. He did not even ask if the Muslims, who were the majority of the inhabitants of the Jerusalem Province and who also sanctified the city, would accept his project.
  • Reflecting the French Revolution’s legacy, and the spirit of state hegemony over its people, Guizot – throughout his long years in the Ministry of Education in the 1830s – endeavoured to spread public education across the country and establish at least one primary school in every community.In the meantime, the French colonial administration had started to secularise management and education in Algeria, which France had been occupying since 1830. If there is a degree of peculiarity in the Christian foreign policy of a secular and liberal minister, it is even more peculiar that Guizot was not a Catholic but a Protestant.
  • Guizot’s policy was not in any way religiously motivated. Nor was it Catholic. Guizot policy in essence was the policy of supporting minorities and using them to reinforce the status of the European powers in the confrontation with the majorities.
Ed Webb

Mapping the Journeys of Syria's Artists | The New Yorker - 0 views

  • Last year, wondering what it means to be a Syrian artist when Syria in many ways no longer exists, I began to map the journeys of a hundred artists from the country. As I discovered, a large portion of the older guard of artists has ended up in Paris, thanks to visas issued by the French Embassy in Beirut. Many of the younger generation headed for the creative haven of Berlin, where rent is relatively cheap. Only a scant few remained in the Middle East, which proved expensive or unwelcoming.
  • A few artists remain loyal to the Assad regime, which has long seen itself as a great patron of the arts. Some of the artists who were still in Syria asked not to be mapped, even anonymously, for fear that the regime would perceive them as disloyal and punish their families. A few took issue with the label “Syrian artist” altogether. “I don’t want to become part of the Syrian-refugee industry,” Sulafa Hijazi, a visual artist now living in Berlin, told me
  • the Syria Cultural Index, “an alternative map connecting the Syrian artistic community around the globe and showcasing their work to the world.”
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  • in Germany she found herself crippled with shame at leaving her family behind. She couldn’t sit in the grass without feeling such crushing grief that she had to go inside. Eventually, she went into denial. “You try to pretend that you don’t miss the country and you’re totally O.K. with the idea of not going back,” she said. In some ways, it has worked, but she has also found that leaving Syria has cost her some of her power as an artist. “I feel like I signed an unwritten contract where I gave up part of my skill in exchange for safety,”
  • With the war now entering its eighth year, Barakeh is unable to return to Syria. He has chosen to settle among his fellow-artists in Berlin, and is practicing what he calls “artivism.” Among the projects he is working on is the first Syrian Biennale, a mobile exhibition, currently in pre-production, that will follow the route of Syrian refugees from Lebanon to central Europe and Scandinavia
  • For Zeid, Lebanon was a terrifying experience. The child of Palestinian refugees, she had no passport. Her fear of being sent back to Syria manifested in intense anxiety. While Salman trekked to and from Aleppo to take pictures, Zeid began to have panic attacks. When she learned that Lebanese security forces were tracking her, she knew that she had to get out of the country or risk being deported. A friend told her that the French Consulate in Beirut was allowing artists to enter France as political refugees. She managed to secure safe passage for herself and Salman, and in April, 2014, they left for Paris
  • Living in Berlin among the younger generation of artists, Beik is now concerned with a different kind of revolution. The opening credits of “The Sun’s Incubator” read, “The future of cinematography belongs to a new race of young solitaries who will shoot films by putting their last pennies into it and not let themselves be taken in by the material routines of the trade.”
  • Kaprealian, whose family survived the 1915 Armenian genocide by fleeing to Syria, left the country in 2014, soon after finishing “Houses Without Doors.” He saw no reason to stay; as an artist, he said, he was out of ways to work. He crossed the Lebanese border and now lives in Beirut. “All of my friends are in Europe, in America, or Canada,” he said. “Some of them went on boats. Some of them walked for ten days through Ukraine and other countries.” He added, “All of us are angry.”
Ed Webb

Arabs Across Syria Join the Kurdish-Led Syrian Democratic Forces - MERIP - 1 views

  • Led by Kurds, the YPG evolved over time into the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF): a multi-ethnic, multi-religious force in which all the indigenous peoples of the region are represented. Arabs, Assyrians, Armenians, Yezidis, Circassians and Turkmen have fought alongside Kurds to defend their homeland. By 2019, when the SDF had liberated all of Syrian territory from ISIS control, there were some 100,000 fighters (including SDF and Internal Security Forces) under the leadership of SDF commander-in-chief Mazlum Abdi, a Syrian Kurd and former Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) cadre.[2] The majority of his rank-and-file fighters, however, were Arabs.
  • My field survey of over 300 SDF members reveals that there are three main reasons for the SDF’s success in recruiting and retaining Arabs: First, the SDF offered material incentives such as salaries and training opportunities.[3] Second, the existence of a common threat—first ISIS and now Turkey—solidified bonds between Kurds and Arabs and also prompted many to enlist. Third, the survey shows that many Arab members of the SDF support at least some, if not all, of the basic political principles upon which the SDF and the Autonomous Administration of North and East Syria (AANES) are based.
  • In September 2014, a joint operations room was established between the Free Syrian Army (FSA) and the YPG, known as Burkan al-Firat (Euphrates Volcano).[4] The ISIS siege of Kobane and ensuing US military support cemented the alliance between the YPG and a number of Arab units within the FSA, which led to the emergence of the SDF in October 2015.
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  • the SDF became the main partner force for the United States on the ground in Syria. In order to defeat ISIS, it was necessary to further expand the geographical reach of the SDF to Arab-majority cities such as Manbij, Raqqa, Tabqa and Deir Ezzor. In the course of this expansion, some Arab women were recruited as well. In July 2017, the YPJ (the women’s branch of the YPG) announced the creation of the first battalion of Arab women, the “Brigade of the Martyr Amara.”[5]
  • the expansion of the SDF and self-administration across north and east Syria was not always welcomed by Arab communities. The increase in Arab rank-and-file fighters has not yet been accompanied by an equally significant increase of Arabs in leadership positions, although Arabs have been promoted within both the military and civilian structures of the Autonomous Administration of North and East Syria. The secular and gender-egalitarian ideology is not embraced by some more conservative members of society
  • In an attempt to undo tribal hierarchies, administration officials are encouraging people to use the term al-raey, which means shepherd
  • during my visits to ramshackle YPJ outposts in Manbij, Raqqa, Al-Sheddadi, Tabqa, Ain Issa, Al-Hasakah and elsewhere, I met many Arab women. They had all enlisted in the YPJ voluntarily, as there is no conscription for women. Many of them were eager to tell their stories
  • name of the governing entity was changed to the Autonomous Administration of North and East Syria and the Kurdish term Rojava was dropped in December 2016.[10] Although this decision angered some Kurdish nationalists, it was justified by the expansion of the territory beyond Kurdish-majority areas. The official logo recognizes the linguistic diversity of the region, and is in four languages: Arabic, Kurdish, Syriac-Aramaic and Turkish. Furthermore, in 2018 the de-facto capital or administrative center of the region was moved from Qamishli to Ain Issa, an Arab town
  • By 2019, the SDF was in de-facto control of approximately one-third of Syria. The territory they defend from incursions by ISIS, the Turkish government and Syrian government forces is an ethnically and religiously diverse region. These six regions—Jazira, Deir Ezzor, Raqqa, Tabqa, Manbij and Euphrates—are governed by the Autonomous Administration of North and East Syria, which operates semi-independently of Damascus. The Arabs who inhabit these six regions are not a homogenous group. While some Arabs have protested the policies of the Autonomous Administration, others openly endorse the new political project.
  • Inspired by an eclectic assortment of scholars, ranging from Murray Bookchin to Immanuel Wallerstein, the ideology that emerged is referred to as Democratic Confederalism. The nation-state is no longer a prize to be obtained but is now seen as part of the problem that led to the subjugation of Kurds in the first place, along with that of women and other minorities, and therefore to be avoided.
  • The emergence of Arab Apocis may be one of the many unexpected twists of the Syrian conflict, signifying the appeal of the Rojava revolution beyond Rojava.
  • A co-chair system was established where all leadership positions—from the most powerful institutions down to neighborhood communes—are held jointly by a man and a woman
  • here I focus on Arabs since they now constitute the majority of rank-and-file fighters and yet are frequently omitted from analyses of the SDF. Scholars, journalists, think tank analysts and government officials still incorrectly refer to the SDF as a Kurdish force.
  • joining the SDF entailed risks, especially for women. Anyone who joined the SDF from a city that was under the control of ISIS, or who joined from territory never controlled by the SDF, did so at great personal risk
  • The Syrian Democratic Forces is the only armed group in Syria that has a policy of not discriminating on the basis of race, ethnicity, religion or gender, which has allowed the SDF to develop into a truly multi-ethnic and multi-religious force. This radical egalitarianism clearly appealed to non-Arab minorities who suffered under decades of pan-Arabism promoted by the Baathist regime of the Asad family. Kurds from the far corners of Kurdistan were galvanized by the promise of the Rojava revolution. What is less well appreciated is that Arabs have also embraced these ideals and practices.
  • a large number of Arab respondents rejected the Turkish occupation of Syria and demanded that the land be returned to Syria. Contrary to analysts who portray the conflict as one solely between Turkey and the Kurds, my survey shows that Arab SDF members also view the Turkish incursions and expanding Turkish presence as an illegitimate foreign occupation of Syrian land
  • The SDF faces ongoing threats from the Asad regime, Turkey and ISIS cells. The Turkish intervention in October 2019, however, did not lead to a disintegration of the SDF, or even to any serious defections, as some had predicted.[14]
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