The three day surprise and the unprecedented Eid-al-Fitar  truce (15-17 June, 2018) between the Afghan government and the Taliban was welcomed locally and internationally. The truce was offered by the Afghan President Ashraf Ghani after the condemnation of extremism and violence by religious scholars and clerics in Jakarta and Kabul. It was for the first time in the last 17 years that Afghans have celebrated the occasion with joy and without fears of war and violence. The Taliban fighters without fright of arrest or detention entered the cities, villages and towns to offer Eid-Prayers and met their fellow countrymen and family members. The internet and local media have captured scenes of Afghan soldiers and Taliban fighters embracing each other. The truce was welcomed with the hope that this might be the first important step towards a long enduring path of peace in the country.
For the first time in Turkey, political parties were allowed to build electoral alliances for parliamentary elections, and curious alliances did enter the political stage. Especially the “Nation Alliance” (Millet İttifakı) which was initiated by the centre-left main apposition CHP, the nationalist IYI Party and the small religious party SP constitute an interesting case. This ideologically hybrid alliance aimed to attract different segments of the society in order to overcome the AKP’s majority in parliament. The Nation Alliance, however, won only 33,94% whereas the so called “People’s Alliance (Cumhur İttifakı)” composed of the AKP and the MHP gained 53,66%. This contribution to the blog aims to analyse whether there is more behind the Nation Alliance than short-term election tactics.
Contrary to some predictions prior to the election, the incumbent President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan comfortably succeeded in winning the Presidential election (52.6%) without the need of a second round of voting. His party, the AKP obtained a parliamentary majority (53.7%), in coalition with the far-right MHP. However, the elections were held in an electoral environment characterised by a number of inherently antidemocratic limitations on opposition parties’ campaigns and the widespread occurrence of intimidation and violence. The experiences of the HDP exemplify some of the most blatant features of state led authoritarian interference in the campaign.
Deportations have always been a contested practice. Conservative and right-wing actors have insisted that carrying out deportations is essential for state sovereignty and application of authority. Simultaneously, by taking to the streets civil society, citizens and asylum seekers alike have practiced resistance against deportations in the form of demonstrations, petitions, blockages or hunger strikes. Their anti-deportation protests either claim the right to stay in general or focus exclusively on an acquainted person – like a neighbor or school mate – who is about to be deported. Protests against deportations are sometimes successful by stopping specific deportations; overall, they are also shaping the discourse.
Since 9/11, policymakers and practitioners in the West traditionally employ a mix of hard- and soft-power approaches to counterterrorism. While kinetic measures such as targeted killings and arrests comprise part of the government’s response to terrorism, officials use a range of mechanisms to engage and empower populations as a means to prevent mobilization to terrorist violence. Often under the banner of “Countering Violent Extremism,”(CVE) softer measures, like intervention programming and counter-messaging initiatives, are critical mechanisms for governments and civil society alike. The execution of influential counter-narrative campaigns represents a challenging but necessary tool for stakeholders tasked with preventing and confronting the adoption of extreme ideas and actions.
A new homeland ministry, further debates on Islam and Germany, new places for crucifixes in public buildings – all these political acts show that exclusive identity constructions are perceived as a way to be electorally successful. But they also blur the boundary between politics and almost satirical symbolism-oriented acts. The current politics are part of a political communication that seems to add fuel to the ongoing sociopolitical debate on religious and cultural diversity. However, in a pluralistic country like Germany, a calm and thoughtful political communication is required to increase societal cohesion and not let a presumed heritage determine the shared values of our society.
The African Elephant is a keystone species, strongly affecting the ecosystems in which they live. The recent drop in elephant populations across the African continent are therefore cause for major concern in the realm of wildlife conservation. However, this downturn is not only cause for ecological concern. The illegal trade in ivory is an important source of revenue for armed groups across the African continent, and highlights questions of governance, corruption, and organized crime. What are the key drivers of illegal elephant killing? What consequences does the trade have, ranging from the local to the international level? How can the trade be halted as a means of warfare financing and ongoing corruption?
On Saturday February 3rd, a 28 year old far-right activist Luca Traini went on a shooting rampage in the small town of Macerata in central Italy. Over the course of a few hours, he randomly shot and wounded 5 men and one woman of African origin. He was eventually apprehended by police wrapped in an Italian flag, in front of a monument to Italy’s war dead, performing the Roman salute and screaming “Viva l’Italia”. Traini claimed that he had heard a radio news report detailing the arrest of a Nigerian drug dealer as a suspect related to the local death of a teenage girl Pamela Mastropietro, when he decided to get his legally held gun and “kill them all”, referring to the local African community. Notwithstanding the attack’s evident racial motivations, the aftermath of the shootings has been framed in terms of migrants as a source of tension rather than focusing on the far-right milieu as a generator of political violence.
How robust is the Non-Proliferation Treaty which has recently come under severe attack? In a new article, Carmen Wunderlich and Harald Müller examine contestation within the nuclear nonproliferation regime. They argue that debate over international norms does not necessarily result in erosion, but may also strengthen international norms.
Turkey’s ‘Operation Olive Branch’ is a marked escalation of its campaign against the Kurdish autonomous regions in Syria. The battle for Afrin, a mountainous, well defended region protected by a battle hardened Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) forces will likely be protracted and lead to significant civilian casualties, due to Afrin’s large community of internally displaced Syrians. It will further compound the ongoing conflict against Kurds in Turkey and lead to, as of yet, unclear regional ramifications.