28east

Politics, religion, and culture where East meets West

Archive for March 2012

Headscarves in the Turkish labor market

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The following is a rare sort of study that I’ve been meaning to share for some time now. It is the English version of a Turkish Economic and Social Studies Foundation (TESEV) publication that gained some recognition back in November 2010. It is still relevant, though, and it is worth perusing to gain a data-based sense of perspective that is generally lacking in the scholarship.

The main point of interest is the “spillover effect” that the public sector ban on headscarves has on the private sector—and thereby on women in the labor market as a whole. This effect, according to the study, only serves to aggravate the preexisting rights debate over the headscarf. For the regular readers: I will probably be referring to this study in the future.

PDF: Headscarf Ban and Discrimination

Author: Dilek Cindoğlu

The main purpose of this research is to understand in a sociological framework the mechanisms of discrimination experienced by professional headscarved women in Turkey in 2010 while entering and staying in job markets. Since the 1980s, the headscarf ban has had direct and indirect impacts on headscarved women in higher education and professional jobs. But the scholarship on women and employment in Turkey has not yet discussed the effects of the ban. The right to education and employment is a fundamental constitutional right of citizens in modern societies. The headscarf ban not only prevents the exercise of a most fundamental citizenship right, but also restricts the participation of headscarved women in business life. The present research, therefore, seeks to understand the effects of the headscarf ban on women’s participation in working life.

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Written by M. James

March 31, 2012 at 1:29 am

Syria: On your mark, get set…

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I outlined in my last post the reasons to believe that Bashar al-Assad is on the way out. First, the Saudis are now overtly arming the opposition; and second, the U.S. and Turkey are overtly providing “nonlethal” assistance, a vacuous claim in the face of the undoubtedly coordinated effort with Saudi Arabia.

The real significance is in the first event, however, which establishes an ethnic Arab mandate for NATO to latch on to. This anti-Assad mandate has only been strengthened today by Syria’s “rejection” of “any Arab League initiative” to end the crisis. Bashar al-Assad, already ostracized by the Arab community, will now be perceived as completely beyond reason. He is, effectively, no longer an Arab.

The second event, “nonlethal” assistance, is just a first step toward a now-plausible Plan B—NATO troops on the ground (they’re getting ready). But Plan A is still in effect, and the training, assisting, and arming of the Free Syrian Army (FSA) will continue in Turkey. But even more important will be the training of the Syrian National Council (SNC), which has been officially chosen as the sole representative of the Syrian opposition. Though some assure us that the Syrians are well-equipped for a government restructuring, actions have thus far spoken louder than words. The SNC will have all it can do to convince the world it isn’t just another Libyan NTC.

At the moment, though, there is one missing piece. The Turks, the dogs that barked but wouldn’t bite, suddenly seem ready to bite—after a timely meeting from President Obama. But it would be an oversight to say that the Saudis’ lethal assistance in Syria was the Turks’ breaking point. Although the Turks are not ethnic Arabs, and (given their Ottoman past, especially) need the Arab mandate just as much as the rest of NATO, they have also been undoubtedly fearing one particular result of regime collapse in Syria.

Kurds.

And here’s more reason for the Turks to be afraid:

Most of the opposition factions present signed the statement [to recognize the SNC as the formal representative of the Syrian people] except for a few representatives of Kurdish factions upset over the absence of a reference to a settlement for Kurdish Syrians.

So why, suddenly, is Turkey sending its generals to the Syrian border, hosting the SNC conference, and smiling in the face of Syrian anarchy—and unhappy Kurds?

I imagine it has something to do with what Obama said during that “one-hour and 45 minute meeting” with Erdoğan.

Bashar al-Assad knew that his regime’s collapse would change things in the Middle East. We are about to find out what he meant.

Written by M. James

March 28, 2012 at 11:24 pm

The beginning of the end in Syria

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Eight days ago, an Arab diplomat—on condition of anonymity—claimed that Saudi Arabia is now sending “military equipment” to the Free Syrian Army via Jordan. I posited that this, an overt statement of support for the Syrian opposition by ethnic Arabs, would catalyze NATO into action. With what could pass as a mandate from an Arab country, NATO is finally justified to intervene on humanitarian grounds.

Today, the U.S. and Turkey made an official announcement, agreeing to provide “nonlethal” assistance to the Syrian opposition. Officially, that means anything short of guns. Practically, that means U.S. intelligence, advice, and telecommunications.

Fully weaponized and coached, only incompetence stands between a united Syrian opposition and regime change in Damascus. But the incompetence and disunity of the Syrian opposition have long been causes for delay—and the U.S. and Turkey haven’t taken any real policy risks by (overt) support in Syria until this announcement.

Which leads us to believe that the only new development, overt Saudi intervention, is the ticket to guaranteed regime change—and is the reason that NATO is finally willing to stick its neck out. With an Arab mandate, an incompetent opposition will be no obstacle. If the Free Syrian Army can’t pull itself together within the next few months; no-fly zones, Turkish buffer zones, and humanitarian war will all—finally—be justified.

Though the form the opposition will take from now on is still impossible to discern, we can expect that this is the beginning of the end of Bashar al-Assad’s Syria.

Written by M. James

March 25, 2012 at 11:11 pm

Against democracy

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“Many forms of Government have been tried and will be tried in this world of sin and woe. No one pretends that democracy is perfect or all-wise. Indeed, it has been said that democracy is the worst form of government except all those other forms that have been tried from time to time.”

If brazen narcissism like the above quotation, a pithy Churchill-ism, is the most critical view on democracy that you are accustomed to; or if you respond with disbelief when you read that most Libyans aren’t too keen on democracy, then you should—for the sake of sobriety—peruse this substantial collection of anti-democratic sentiments from the desk of the inimitable “Julian Felsenburgh, Esq.”

I particularly recommend a thorough reading of section XXVIII from Carl Schmitt, which very ably characterizes some historical challenges to Turkish democracy.

Here is a (comparatively brief) sampling of the quoted authors:

I. PLATO

{The Republic}

And then democracy comes into being after the poor have conquered their opponents, slaughtering some and banishing some, while to the remainder they give an equal share of freedom and power; and this is the form of government in which the magistrates are commonly elected by lot.

Yes, he said, that is the nature of democracy, whether the revolution has been effected by arms, or whether fear has caused the opposite party to withdraw.

Consider now, I said, what manner of man the individual is, or rather consider, as in the case of the State, how he comes into being.

Neither does he receive or let pass into the fortress any true word of advice; if any one says to him that some pleasures are the satisfactions of good and noble desires, and others of evil desires, and that he ought to use and honour some and chastise and master the others –whenever this is repeated to him he shakes his head and says that they are all alike, and that one is as good as another.

Yes, he said; that is the way with him.

Yes, I said, he lives from day to day indulging the appetite of the hour; and sometimes he is lapped in drink and strains of the flute; then he becomes a water-drinker, and tries to get thin; then he takes a turn at gymnastics; sometimes idling and neglecting everything, then once more living the life of a philosopher; often he-is busy with politics, and starts to his feet and says and does whatever comes into his head; and, if he is emulous of any one who is a warrior, off he is in that direction, or of men of business, once more in that. His life has neither law nor order; and this distracted existence he terms joy and bliss and freedom; and so he goes on.

III. EDMUND BURKE

{Reflections on the Revolution in France}

Read the rest of this entry »

Written by M. James

March 21, 2012 at 12:57 am

Saudis push Syria

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An overt, tangible statement of support for the Syrian uprising (the nearest thing to the “military option” so far) by Saudi Arabia:

Saudi sends military gear to Syria rebels: diplomat
AFP; Mar. 17th, 2012

DUBAI — Saudi Arabia is delivering military equipment to Syrian rebels in an effort to stop bloodshed by President Bashar al-Assad’s regime, a top Arab diplomat said on Saturday.

“Saudi military equipment is on its way to Jordan to arm the Free Syrian Army,” the diplomat told AFP on condition of anonymity.

“This is a Saudi initiative to stop the massacres in Syria,” he added, saying that further “details will follow at a later time.”

Arising amidst renewed suggestions of a Turkish military buffer zone for Syrian refugees, this move by the Saudis may be an attempt to catalyze a reluctant NATO into action by demonstrating visible support from the Arab world—a world that NATO has no formal part in.

The statement also comes just hours after a deadly, well-coordinated car bombing in Damascus.

 

Written by M. James

March 18, 2012 at 4:07 am

Overwhelmed by information

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Fifteen years on, here is a still-influential piece about a global information revolution, and why American culture, and military, are unquestionably dominant. Most striking is Peters’s analysis of global disillusionment with American success.

Most citizens of the globe are not economists; they perceive wealth as inelastic, its possession a zero-sum game. If decadent America (as seen on the screen) is so fabulously rich, it can only be because America has looted one’s own impoverished group or country or region.

Our military power is culturally based. They cannot rival us without becoming us. Wise competitors will not even attempt to defeat us on our terms; rather, they will seek to shift the playing field away from military confrontations or turn to terrorism and nontraditional forms of assault on our national integrity.

The world’s response, Peters thought, would be anger at self and at America. Fifteen years on, this has taken shape in the Middle East through revolution—addressing self—and extensive terrorist networks—addressing both America and self.

As more and more human beings are overwhelmed by information, or dispossessed by the effects of information-based technologies, there will be more violence. Information victims will often see no other resort. As work becomes more cerebral, those who fail to find a place will respond by rejecting reason.

A bold claim, especially when the rejection of reason in the Islamic world is generally attributed to Islam itself.

Written by M. James

March 13, 2012 at 2:59 pm

Sectarian perils in the Kingdom

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“The United States should in its own, and in the Gulf States’, interest push for a real reconciliation between the Shiites of Bahrain and Saudi Arabia and their governments. Otherwise, sectarianism will come to dominate the Gulf, to the detriment of all.”

All except Iran.

Saudi Arabia’s Shi’ite Problem
Toby Matthiesen; Foreign Policy; Mar. 7, 2012

At least seven young Shiite Muslims have been shot dead and several dozen wounded by security forces in Eastern Saudi Arabia in recent months. While details of the shootings remain unclear, and the ministry of interior claims those shot were attacking the security forces, mass protests have followed the funerals of the deceased. These events are only the latest developments in the decades-long struggle of the Saudi Shiites, which has taken on a new urgency in the context of 2011’s regional uprisings — but have been largely ignored by mainstream media.

The Eastern Province is home to virtually all of Saudi Arabia’s oil and to a sizeable Shiite minority, estimated at between one and a half and two million people or around 10 percent of Saudi Arabia’s citizen population. The Wahhabi creed of Sunni Islam that the state sponsors in Saudi Arabia has developed a special hostility toward the Shiites. Saudi Shiite citizens in turn have long complained of discrimination in religious practice, government employment, and business, and overall marginalization.

As the protests in Bahrain and particularly in Qatif receive only limited attention on Gulf-owned channels like Al Jazeera and Al Arabiya, local Shiites are forced to watch the Iranian-sponsored Arabic-language Al Alam channel, Lebanese Hezbollah’s Al Manar, Iraq’s Ahlul Bait TV, or increasingly other pro-Assad channels to receive updates on the situation in their areas. The new cold war in the Middle East has turned into a fully-fledged media war, in which media outlets are either with the protests in Bahrain and Qatif and for Assad’s regime, or with the protests in Syria and against the allegedly sectarian protests in Bahrain and Qatif.

The alienation of Shiite youth foments a perfect breeding ground for a new Gulf Shiite opposition movement and plays into the hands of the Iranian regime. Even without external help for the local Shiite protesters, the area looks ripe for a return to the tense sectarian politics of the 1980s. The United States should in its own, and in the Gulf States’, interest push for a real reconciliation between the Shiites of Bahrain and Saudi Arabia and their governments. Otherwise, sectarianism will come to dominate the Gulf, to the detriment of all.

Written by M. James

March 11, 2012 at 6:51 pm