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When Persepolis was one of the world’s wonders.

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By Natalia Borys

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Persepolis, the archaeological treasure,[1] Western orientalist vision.  I have never imagined that one day I would wander down the streets of Persepolis, that it would be possible.  This majestic site still makes you feel as in a dream, transfers you in the glorious past, to the magnificent history of mankind, especially for history lovers like me.

From the very beginning of  my arrival in Iran, I can’t wait seeing this wonder of the world: to touch ancient stones, full of history, and to wander through this labyrinth city, symbol of Achaemenid Persia, founded in 550 BC by Darius the Great, “King of Kings, King of the World.”[2]

Why Persepolis? Because it is a symbol of a great civilization that has bequeathed so much to mankind. Moreover, Persepolis is one of the most powerful urban constructions in history, a testimony of its incomparable glory.  The emergence of these majestic ruins in the silence of the dawn is unforgettable, the site still fancies a lot.  At the entry, you are welcome by stone lamassu in the Assyrian style, winged human-headed bulls with curly beards,[3] in astonishing splendour, hit the mind and imagination. These ruins are still impressive, and seeing it makes you travel in time and touch the ancient history, the history of the Achaemenid empire of “King of kings”.

On the way to Persepolis

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The figure of the Royal Glory hovered the kings in many scenes at Persepolis. Western scholars consider it as the representation of the supreme God Ahuramazda, while Iranians think it is a symbolic picture of royal glory.

Arriving in Shiraz, from my budget hotel, I took a taxi to Persepolis. The only way to get to the site is by taxi.  Generally, taxis wait on the spot while tourists roam the site. My taxi driver is joyful, as most of Iranians are, want to chat and discuss politics, greets me with a traditional welcome to Iran,” and drops me off at the entrance telling me that an hour or two is more than enough to visit the site. An hour or two? Me, who dreamt of spending a lot of time there. I let him know that I am going to stay longer. My driver must have cursed me and my love for old ruins. The whole day is more appropriate for this meeting with history.

At the foot of Mountain of Mercy, the ruins of Persepolis , the heart of the Achaemenid Empire, stretch as far as the eye can see. The Persian king’s summer residence, which was burned down by Alexander the Great in 330 B.C.[4] and exhumed by archaeologists in 1931, has revealed invaluable details about the first empire of humanity.

An entrance.

12729168_10153926586153770_2428488603171104707_nIt is hot, very hot. I have to wear jeans, a shawl to cover my head and a gold embroidered tunic (Chanel, as it was noted on it) which I had to buy at the bazaar to comply with the Islamic rules of the country.  The sun is blinding and not a single tree at sight. It is February and it is already hot. I can only imagine how hot is in summer. It must be as hot as Hades.  But my enthusiasm is still high. Persepolis!

Near the entrance, in a small museum, I bought myself an expensive little book about Persepolis. Here is the entrance. Today, twenty-six centuries later, Persepolis is still a breathtaking majesty. Ruins of luminous palaces, ancient cross-shaped tombs carved halfway up the cliff, slender columns exposed to the wind and the sun, lavish low-reliefs, everything here permanently captures your imagination. The visitors in the past, like me today, were speechless facing such splendour, which was built to glorify the Great King and the greatest of the Gods, Ahura Mazda.

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Tachara, or The Palace of Darius.

The rise and the fall of the capital.

Persepolis’ palaces and buildings were built mainly during the reign of Darius I the Great (522-486 BC) who emerged, for some, as the true founder of the Achaemenid Empire and, perhaps, its most remarkable ruler. The embellishments of the vast palatial complex were continued by the successors of Darius I, Xerxes and Artaxerxes, during almost sixty years, without being completely finished. A demonstration of the supreme power the large palatial complex was not intended to be the permanent residence of the king. But everything is so big and majestic! The new city of Persepolis was built with the intention to impress visitors, and to be seen by far with its royal palaces, courtrooms, treasure room, majestic doors and stairways, fortifications and harem. Mission accomplished! If even only few ruins of this past splendour remain, they give you an idea how big and majestic it was.

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An enthroned king, two incense burners, a “Median” chiliarch reporting to the king, a towel-bearer, a weapon-bearer, and two pairs of “Persian guards flanking the scene. Who is the king? as Iranian scholars claim, Artaxerxes was still young and had no grown up crown prince. This was evidently the crown of Artaxerxes I, while the former was worn by Xerxes. The audience is held under a royal baldachin with tasselled edges falling in front. Above, five superimposed rows of soldiers.

Persepolis emerged from oblivion in the Middle Ages, when monks, European travellers and notables, in addition to other visitors, reussisited the memory and the past glory of the city. The city was so famous that in 1971, the Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, chose the site to celebrate the 2500th anniversary of the founding of the Persian Empire. If the shah Pahlavi was impressed by the site and dreamt of reviving it, the ayatollahs demanded to destroy the site, as well as other pre-Islamic ruins. To destroy the site would have been a crime against humanity, it was hopefully avoided by a tireless campaign by the governor of Fars Province, lawyer Nosratollah Amini, and the strong protest of Shiraz residents. From 1979, the majestic ruins of Persepolis were classified a UNESCO’s World Heritage List.

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The double griffin protome capital. Since the best opinions to date are that the griffin capital may have been intended for the Unfinished Gate at Persepolis. They became famous by being the symbol of “Homa”, Iranian national airline.

Scholars still try to figure out, what was the main purpose of Persepolis. For some of them, Persepolis was a religious city, a national sanctuary, used to celebrate the Zoroastrian Iranian New Year, called the Nowruz, during the vernal equinox. Some of them think, it was set up as an astronomical city, while others still believe that it was built to impress and to show off the Achaemenid imperial power.  Nevertheless, we now know that over and above its sacred and religious character, Persepolis was also conceived as an administrative and political capital. Archaeological excavations, as well as the cuneiform tablets prove it.

The Hall of hundred columns and its stairways. The Immortals.

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Gate of all Lands, human-headed winged bulls serving as “guardians”.

Today, the visitor ascends the Persepolis platform by climbing up a grand double-flighted staircase, called the Great Double Staircase, was most likely built under Xerxes I. It is composed of two flights of stairs each contains111 steps. These large grey limestone steps measure 7m wide and only 10cm high (which enabled horses to access the other side of the walls) offer visitors a glimpse of what awaits him. The entrance, the Gate of All Lands, was used to welcome visitors and delegations that came from all the satrapies or provinces of the Persian Empire to give allegiance to the Great King.

These monumental staircases are one of the masterpieces of Achaemenid art. They are decorated with low-reliefs representing different people of the Empire bringing offerings to the Great King.  This staircase was lucky to avoid the destruction! It was buried under Apadana roof’s fall when Persepolis was burned down, it is perfectly preserved.

The entrance was flanked by two colossal bulls of 5.5m high and carved on a 1.5m pedestal. They observe and guard the entrance in order to protect the city from any threat from the outside. [5] On the underside and the head of the bulls, one could read an inscription in old Persian, Elamite and Babylonian, proclaiming the greatness of Xerxes, the I am Xerxes the Great King, King of Kings, King of lands and King of many peoples, who by the grace of Ahura Mazda, constructed this Gateway of All Lands”.

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Xerxes’ inscription “A great god is Ahuramazda, who created this earth, who created yonder sky, who created man, who created happiness, of man, who made Xerxes king, one king of many, one lord, of many lords. I am Xerxes the king, Great king of Kings, king of countries containing many kinds of people…”

Undoubtedly, their creators were inspired by the Assyrian tradition, given their resemblance to the bulls of Sargon Palace in Khorsabad.  Like their counterparts, these half-human, half-bulls were considered a mythical symbol of royalty, a reflection of royal power and a kind of guardian angel of the Great King and the Achaemenid Empire as a whole.[6]

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A lamassu is an Assyrian protective deity, often depicted as having a human’s head, a body of a bull or a lion, and bird’s wings. In art, lamassu were depicted as hybrids, with bodies of either winged bulls or lions and heads of human males. The motif of a winged animal with a human head is common to the Near East. Assyrian sculpture typically placed prominent pairs of lamassu at entrances in palaces, facing the street and also internal courtyards. They were represented as “double-aspect” figures on corners, in high relief. From the front they appear to stand, and from the side, walk, and in earlier versions have five legs, as is apparent when viewed obliquely. Lumasi do not generally appear as large figures in the low-relief schemes running round palace rooms, where winged genie figures are common, but they sometimes appear within narrative reliefs, apparently protecting the Assyrians

In the north end, we could see the royal guard, known as the Immortals,[7] as well as the parade in procession with horses and chariots while carrying the royal throne. The procession of gift-bearing delegations is one of the most spectacular elements of the staircase.  During this ceremony, 23 delegations from all satrapies bring offerings and gifts.

Beyond the emotion, grandeur and decadence of the site.

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A royal tomb.

I regrettably have to leave the ruins under a burning sun. Persepolis is undoubtedly breathtaking. It is a wonder of the ancient world. I think of all the other sites of Antiquity and Mesopotamia which weren’t as lucky as Persepolis, and suffered the ravages and damages of recent wars in Iraq and Syria. The Iranian government, however quite reluctantly, has protected its ancient and pre-Islamic history, other regimes and governments did not protect their sites. When I asked Iranians about Achaemenid treasures, stored in Louvre and other world museums, they told me that probably this Iranian past is better guarded there. It is hard to argue about it. Luckily, the great Persepolis adventure lasts, the site continues to reveal its secrets and to make its visitors travel in the glorious past of the Achaemenid Empire of ” the King of Kings …”.

[1]  Founded by Darius I in 518 B.C., Persepolis was the capital of the Achaemenid Empire. It was built on an immense half-artificial, half-natural terrace, where the king of kings created an impressive palace complex inspired by Mesopotamian models.  The importance and quality of the monumental ruins make it a unique archaeological site. https://whc.unesco.org/en/list/114/

[2]  Darius the Great was engraved “I am Darius the Great King, King of Kings, King of countries containing all kinds of men, King in this great earth far and wide, son of Hystaspes, an Achaemenid, a Persian, son of a Persian, an Aryan, having Aryan lineage”in Naqsh-e Rostam.

[3] A lamassu is an Assyrian protective deity, often depicted as having a human’s head, a body of a bull or a lion, and bird’s wings. In art, lamassu were depicted as hybrids, with bodies of either winged bulls or lions and heads of human males. The motif of a winged animal with a human head is common to the Near East. Assyrian sculpture typically placed prominent pairs of lamassu at entrances in palaces, facing the street and also internal courtyards. They were represented as “double-aspect” figures on corners, in high relief. From the front they appear to stand, and from the side, walk, and in earlier versions have five legs, as is apparent when viewed obliquely. Lumasi do not generally appear as large figures in the low-relief schemes running round palace rooms, where winged genie figures are common, but they sometimes appear within narrative reliefs, apparently protecting the Assyrians

[4]  After having conquered the Persian Empire, Alexander the Great ordered the destruction of Persepolis in 330 B.C.  According to sources, the fire in the city was ignited to satisfy the whim of his concubine, Thais, while some, like Diodorus Siculus and Strabo considered it revenge for the abuses committed by Xerxes in Athens and in the Greek temples in 480 B.C. In any case, this fire put an end to a city, thereafter said to be frozen in time, with its ruins and its cuneiform tablets waiting two millennia to share their secrets.

[5] Borrowed from Assyrian iconography, the bulls were associated with the monstrous creatures of Chaos allied with Tiamat (the Goddess of salt water) in the Babylonian poem Enuma Elish, and represented a new allegory of the king’s dominance over the forces of evil.

[6] Each guardian of the door has a curly, geometric beard and curly hair – traits of the Great King himself – a crown or a cylindrical tiara decorated with two rosettes and sepals. These two imposing lamassi stood guard in the direction of the Path of Processions to ensure the palace was protected.

[7] The elite corps of which numbered 10’000 infantrymen and formed the royal guard

The teaching of the putsch attempt of July 2016 in the Turkish schools: towards a new representation of the social in Turkey?

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The title page of the school prospectus 2017-2018 of the Turkish Ministry of Education
The title page of the school prospectus 2017-2018 of the Turkish Ministry of Education

By Camille de Felice

Translated by Anis Arioua

After few weeks of the event of July 15, 2016 during which a section of the Turkish army had sought to seize power by force, During the school year 2016-2017, students of high and elementary schools noticed that a special commemoration program has seen include in their curriculum a special commemoration program consisting of reviewing the putsch attempt and the popular mobilizations that followed. [1].

While the first week was almost exclusively devoted to activities about the « 15-July »[2] – often referred to as the « Legend of 15-July » or even « Victory of Democracy of 15-July »[3] in the speeches of the government and in the press, the first day of classes has nonetheless had the particularity, like A theater play, of being entirely determined by the Ministry of National Education. With a relatively small margin of maneuver, the teachers had to respect the precise directives that the ceremony dedicated to the 15-July held in all schools of Turkey must be almost identical : the discourse, written by Ankara, the theater plays reproducing the events of the putsch, exhibition with photos of the « heroes » of July-15, recitation of poems, and, finally, distribution of a brochure detailing the official version, validated by the regime, of this unavoidable event of the Turkish socio-political life today.

This first day of school set the tone for a whole year of celebrations that was extended until October 29, 2017. Among the organized activities, I can mention the writing of letters in which students could freely express their emotions and impressions, the visits the « places » of 15-July or namely squares and streets, occupied by the population who were mobilized by the government’s calls to defend and claim democracy, the visits to families of heroes and local « martyrs », making boards with citations, drawings and pictures of those who « made 15-July by sacrificing themselves for their country and to preserve democracy » as well as the production of short films, available on the internet site of the schools, including the Ministry of National Education.

During this year of activities, organized in the schools, the government produced a new brochure to be distributed in schools for the beginning of the 2017-2018 scholar year featuring schoolchildren’s works. In parallel with the publication of this special fascicle, the events of the 15th of July have begun to be integrated into the regular curriculum, since sub-chapters are devoted to this subject in the textbooks, in particular in social sciences, but also of Turkish and religion. Nevertheless, the integration of this subject in the schoolbooks has not been carried out homogeneously; only books, published after 2016 included it in the program. However, it is to be expected that gradually the 15-July will be included in other manuals, including those of history, in the coming years.

Eda Saygi 15-7 panosu (1)

In addition to the teaching in the schools, of this attempted putsch, certainly elevated to almost the rank of new year zero by several personalities close to or members of AKP, it is a new representation of the society that is promoted by this way. Indeed the school remains the ideal place, which each authority seeks to seize for ideological purposes in order to impose a representation of the social legitimizing the domination of a group on another one or even by others.

In this case, this involves writing a new history of contemporary Turkey. In fact, when writing history which is an inevitable process during the construction of historical facts, some elements are silenced, the forgetfulness, which is necessary to the foundation of the nationalist discourse according to the sociologist Anthony D. Smith. [4]

The historian Francois Audigier emphasizes the fact that through the disciplines of the social sciences, especially the triad history-geography-civic education- there is a will of the authority to achieve ideological objectives by not only seeking to communicate concepts and values to the next generation but also to transmit, in an underlying way, a shared representation of the given world, to place a consensual referent, acceptable for all. Because of the compulsory nature of the school for the entire population of a state, it remains a privileged place for the fight for symbolic power and the enforcement of a certain representation of the social. The lessons taught are de facto the dominant and orthodox theories of a society at a given epoch.

Eskisehir Burcu Ekinci 28.09.2017 ilk ders 15 temmuz

The introduction of references to July 15 in some schoolbooks is a part of a larger range of school reforms that can be traced back to 2012 and to many notable changes that were approved at that time. When changes occur at the program level, there are also variations in the selection paradigm of what will be taught which are taken into consideration. While retaining a majority of the essentials of the Turkish school traditions, there is a desire to establish the 15th of July as a fundamental date, constitutive not only of Turkish history but in a more transcendent way of its destiny and identity ; being comparable – and in fact compared – to the conquest of Istanbul in 1453, to the victory of Canakkale during the Great War or to the declaration of the Turkish Republic in 1923 by Mustafa Kemal Ataturk.

Education represents for all governments a space to invest in order to establish a certain representation of the social and so, in this case, some idea of Turkey. In this, Recep Tayyib Erdogan, the actual Turkish president, poses himself as a competitor of Mustafa Kemal, by looking to establish his own vision of Turkey but also the national and civic identities. His ambitious aim to overcome and supplant the legendary figure of Ataturk and to reconnect with the Ottoman tradition, that assigned to the territory of Anatolia and to Turkish people, a status of a regional leadership even of the Muslim world.

[1] DE FELICE Camille, L’enseignement du 15-Juillet dans les écoles turques : rupture ou continuité dans le processus de fabrique du citoyen républicain ? Observatoire de la Vie Politique Turque, décembre 2017

[2] 15 Temmuz Destanı

[3] 15 Temmuz Demokrasi Zaferi

[4] SMITH Anthony D., Nations and nationalisms in a Global Era, Polity Press, Cambridge, 1995

The 2016 Turkish coup d’état attempt: A first-hand account

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By Taner Toraman

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Source: https://krytyka.com/sites/krytyka/files/styles/article_image/public/images/opinions/coup-democracy_wins_-_pano1en12rnks3_0.jpg?itok=KeBnafqF

On the night of July 15, 2016 parts of the Turkish Armed Forces attempted to overthrow Turkey’s AKP government. While the coup d’état failed and many questions about it linger to this day, its consequences were enormous and continue to shape Turkish politics.

This is an account of that fateful Friday night by someone who happened to fly to Istanbul during the coup d’état. The person who recounted his experiences wishes to remain anonymous.

The flight

 “I had decided to fly from Switzerland to Istanbul on the 15th of July 2016 to oversee the construction of our house there”

Before I left Switzerland, I hadn’t noticed anything out of the ordinary, with one exception: a banker, friend of mine had heard that I was leaving for Turkey on that day. He wrote me that he had an “intuition” and that I should leave the Istanbul Atatürk Airport immediately on arrival and stay clear of any crowds I might encounter.

The first sign that something unusual was going on happened shortly before touchdown in Istanbul. I’ve flown certainly more than 100 times to Turkey. But this was the first time that our airplane suddenly accelerated and started climbing again when we were only minutes away from landing. When the aircraft aborted the landing, we were so close to the ground that we could clearly see the houses, cars and people of Büyükçekmece. Büyükçekmece is already part of Istanbul, the last district that an aircraft coming from Switzerland overflies before landing at Atatürk International Airport.

Atatürk Intl. Airport

After gaining altitude again, the aircraft veered off towards the Sea of Marmara, over which we were flying a holding pattern for about 15 minutes. This was very strange. Even if it’s peak season, the planes are never put on a holding pattern after having begun the final approach. Normally, that happens much earlier. We finally landed at around 7PM local time.

After the landing, another strange thing happened. After disembarking the aircraft, we had to get on the airport bus. But I had never been on an airport bus that drove around for such a long time on the airport grounds only to get to the arrival terminal. The route the bus took was completely different from the usual one.

At that moment, I thought that these strange occurrences could be explained with the charter flight, which I had booked for the first time to fly to Istanbul. Maybe they were doing things differently. But then we also had to wait unusually long to claim our baggage. I finally left the terminal and took the shuttle bus that connects the airport to Taksim Square, one of the hubs on the European side of Istanbul. Shortly before eight o’clock, the bus departed from the airport.

Jet Coup

The coup

When I got to Taksim Square, I saw people who were singing and playing music. It was almost a festival. There were a lot of people standing by and watching. It was a typical display of the Gezi Park spirit on a Friday evening. The musicians were still the same Gezi Park activists from 2013. There were several groups who were playing music in different languages. There was one group with maybe 50 or 60 spectators and several meters further there was already another music group. It was half past nine at this point.

Then I took the Metro from Taksim Square to Sarıyer, a district on the European coast of the Bosporus. A lot of incidents related to the coup d’état were already taking place at that moment, but because I was in the Metro I didn’t see much of that. In the hotel in which I stayed everything was as usual, there was no palpable difference from the previous times I had checked in there. I laid down for a while in my hotel room because I had a slight headache from the flight. After resting, I wanted to leave the hotel to eat something but I fell asleep.

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Sariyer district

At half past eleven I woke up from a phone call. A relative asked me where I were, if everything were alright, if I were well. She told me that a “darbe” (coup d’état) probably had taken place. I was still so drowsy at first that I thought she was talking about a “deprem” (earthquake) instead of “darbe”.

Then I saw that my wife, who had not come with me to Turkey, had tried to call me several times while I was asleep, so I called back. She told me that live broadcasts on TV were showing that a putsch was underway in Turkey and that she was worried about me.

She also told me that when she had first heard of the putsch, she was on a visit of relatives. The brother of one of those relatives was living close to the MIT headquarters (the Turkish intelligence organization) in Ankara. He had sent them videos he had recorded, which my wife forwarded to me via WhatsApp. The videos showed helicopters shooting into buildings, apparently belonging to the MIT. I deleted that footage later, in case that I would end up in a security check somewhere. I didn’t want the security forces to think that I was trying to smuggle something out of the country.

Rumelikavağı Boğaziçi İstanbul

After the phone calls, I decided to leave the hotel and go outside because I wanted to see what was going on. It was shortly after midnight.

While I was leaving the hotel, nobody at the reception said anything. The reception was occupied but the man there didn’t speak with me. It was very calm in the hotel, there was no one to be seen.

The hotel I was staying in was in Büyükdere, a neighbourhood close to Sarıyer. I walked down to the main street. That’s where all the restaurants and cafés are. On a typical Friday night, these places are bustling with activity. Now however, I barely saw a car or a person. Everything seemed deserted.

But then I came across an ATM and spotted a crowd. There were about thirty people who were withdrawing money. It seemed that they were afraid that they wouldn’t be able to access their savings anymore because of the coup d’état.

Then I saw three or four of these little grocery shops, which are very typical for Turkey. The gates of these grocery shops were rolled down halfway. They were raised just high enough so people could enter the shops when they crouched. They probably wanted to stock up on necessities. From hearsay, I knew that it is a warning sign in Turkey, when people are starting to withdraw money and buy supplies. They knew that a crisis was imminent. When I saw these people doing that, I knew that things were serious. There were two important streets in the area. One was the main street with the cafés, shops and the banks. And the other was the coastal road that runs parallel to the Bosporus. I walked down to that road at the waterfront. That’s usually a very busy road, even at midnight. Now however, there wasn’t a single vehicle to be seen.

I wanted to take this road and walk to our house, which we were building. I guess the distance I had to walk was about three or four kilometres.

While I was walking towards our house, a fighter jet flew over the area at a very low altitude. It was very confusing, because you couldn’t locate the fighter jet. There was just a very loud noise coming simultaneously from all directions. It suddenly changed when the jet stopped flying over the waters of the Bosporus and started to fly over land. Now, the noise was reverberated by all the buildings.

I soon reached the base of the coast guard in the next neighbourhood. The Regional Command of the Turkish Coast Guard for the Bosporus is stationed in Çayirbasi. They usually control the ships which are traversing the Bosporus. Now the base seemed deserted. In fact, I had not seen a single representative of the state so far. No coast guard, no military, no police.

At this point, I decided to return to the hotel, since there was nobody on the streets and nobody knew where I was. What’s more, I didn’t know to whom the fighter jet belonged to that had overflown the area. Was it an aircraft belonging to the group that supported the coup d’état? Was it flying here to show the military’s strength and presence? To demonstrate that the military had taken control of the government?

On the way back, I wanted to check out three or four cafés in Büyükdere, which were normally frequented by social democrats. I wanted to drop by to see if anybody was there, what they were doing and if everything was ok. Usually, you would have a hard time finding a place to sit in these cafés. Women and men visit these cafés, play carts and stuff like that. It’s a place where people with a certain way of life meet. When I reached the cafés, they were almost empty. I saw maybe five or ten people, who weren’t staying outside but were playing cards inside. There was a TV running, which they were watching while they were playing. I have a friend who is living there and I thought that he might be in the café, but when I couldn’t spot him amongst the guests, I continued my way back to the hotel. It’s also not the best moment to approach these people who have never met you before. They can’t really be sure who you are or what you might be up to. I returned to the hotel because I wanted to follow the events on TV and talk to people in Switzerland. That way I could get much more information.

When I was back at the hotel, it was after one o’clock. I was watching TV and trying to figure out what was happening. On the TV, I saw that at half past eight, pro-coup soldiers had stormed the Atatürk International Airport with tanks. That had taken place about half an hour after I had left the airport. And then I also saw that at half past nine one of the bridges over the Bosporus had been occupied by the military. That footage was shown time and time again.

At that time, several politicians appeared on TV. Ahmet Davutoğlu (then Prime Minister of Turkey) and Abdulla Gül (former President of Turkey) were talking. Abdullah Gül was speaking very aggressively and pugnaciously, which was not his style at all. But what struck me the most was that even though each of them called from a different place, their message was still the same, almost as if it had been agreed upon in advance: That the people should protect and support the government. They were saying that the people should stand up for the government and take to the streets. The government’s demand to take to the streets seemed very strange to me. On the TV you could see that the pro-coup faction had deployed heavy weaponry. And the government was sending unarmed civilians to counter them? That didn’t make sense to me.

Beginning at about two o’clock, the muezzin of every mosque started to recite the call to prayer. And then they started to spread the same message as on the TV: That the people should protect their government and that anyone who was trying to harm the government would be severely punished. I thought that this was very unusual. You weren’t hearing appeals against violence from the minarets, instead they were asking the people to fight.

I stayed awake until six o’clock in the morning and was writing and talking with people in Switzerland. Then I tried to get some sleep.

The aftermath

When I woke up at nine o’clock, the news was reporting how many people working in the state institutions had been arrested. The number they were giving was 3000 people. And apparently those 3000 people weren’t directly involved in the coup d’état but rather alleged supporters. I was wondering how they could identify this quickly who belonged to which side in that chaotic night, let alone apprehend them.

After eating breakfast, I wanted to know what had happened to our house under construction. Outside, everything was still very calm. There wasn’t a single taxi, urban bus or minibus operating. The streets of Istanbul are usually full of these.

Since there was no public transportation available, I had to walk to our house again. On the way, I passed once again the base of the coast guard and then the local police station. There was still nobody around. Only the long urban buses were standing in front of the entrance of the police station. At first, I thought that they were there to bring soldiers quickly from one place to another. Later we learned that they were placed there for the protection of the police buildings. That way, the tanks of the pro-coup faction wouldn’t be able to attack the police as easily. The police were protecting themselves but I didn’t see any protection for the civilians.

But when you did come across some security forces, you didn’t even know on which side they were on. During the whole night, we had heard of the police, army and intelligence service units that were fighting for pro-coup faction. But nobody knew how strong they really were and if some remnants were still operating.

When I reached the construction site of our house, everything was silent. Only one carpenter was working, who was living nearby. The others couldn’t come to work because there were still road blocks in the city. At that time, we could also still hear the mosques every twenty minutes with the same message as during the night.

At noon, the news was becoming increasingly absurd. Using your common sense, you couldn’t possibly reach the same conclusions as the ones the news were broadcasting at that moment. Suddenly the once venerated Fethullah Gülen had become the terrorist Fetö. And even though the coup d’état had completely failed, the news was trying to make it look like as if the entire military, economic and judicial power of Turkey had been controlled by Fethullah Gülen before the putsch.

Then motorcades started to appear in the streets. At first, there were only a few cars who were part of it, maybe five or six. But over the course of the next two days, these motorcades became longer and longer. And vehicles that were belonging to the state became part of these motorcades as well: The garbage trucks and trucks of the municipalities and so on. A lot of people with Turkish flags were on top of these vehicles.

Before the coup, one didn’t have the impression that the supporters of the AKP liked the Turkish flag too much. But suddenly, all these people were flaunting the Turkish flag on their motorcade. And they were playing military marches from the Ottoman Empire. They were screaming “Allahu Akbar” (Allah is the greatest) as well.

On Saturday evening, there was an incident in Büyükdere, at the cafés that were frequented by the social democrats. The people on the motorcades and the visitors of the cafés got into an argument. The social democrats told the supporters of the government that they should refrain from deliberately driving in “their area”. They wouldn’t accept their show of force.

And then you could also see how the nationalist party (MHP) became part of these motorcades. Their nationalistic symbols became more and more visible. On the first day after the coup d’état, the leader of the nationalistic party had assured the government their support. And one could see how the both parties were trying to form an alliance. But there were also people who were demonstrating exclusively for democracy and liberty.

That was the state of affairs, when I returned to Switzerland, after having made sure that the construction of our house was going well.”

 

The impossible mission of infiltrating the Spanish border in four days.

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By Valentina San Martin, translated by Cécile Guiraud

A successful arrival

Amid tensions between Brussels and Rabat[1], it is within a few days that more than 850 African migrants succeeded to reach the Spanish enclave Ceuta from Morocco, pushing through the border fences to do so.

On February 20th, 2017, by 3:30 am, around 600 sub-Saharan migrants tried to enter in Ceuta and “359 succeeded”, claimed the enclave prefecture in a statement.

After breaking the doorways with shears and hammers, they reached the European Union. According to a prefecture spokesperson, these events had already taken place “in the same area, which is difficult to monitor, on February 17th, 2017, where 498 migrants succeeded to enter in the territory at the same spot”.

Rabat-Brussels dispute.

Since Rabat and Brussels have loosened their ties, the country hinted that they could relax the control they have on migrants who, once on the Spanish soil, can seek asylum and get settled in the EU. A dispute does exist between Morocco and the EU regarding the interpretation given to a free-trade agreement on farm and fishing products. In an arbitration given at the end of January, the European Court of Justice stated that the agreement did not apply to Western Sahara, a former Spanish colony that is now controlled by Rabat. The trade exchanges between Morocco and some European countries are therefore being subject to postponement[2].

On February 6th, 2017, the Moroccan Ministry of Agriculture had warned Europe that it was getting exposed to “real risk of spate in the migratory tides”[3].

The good relationship between Spain and Morocco have not been altered

The head of the Spanish government, Mariano Rajoy, has however considered that Morocco had done everything possible to restrain this new wave of refugees. After long journeys, they are thousands to wait in Morocco for the opportunity to push through the fences and to enter in Ceuta or Melilla.

“The Moroccan security officials have put all their efforts together et and I am grateful to them” he said in a press conference in Malaga, on the southern coast of Spain. “What happens is that there are difficult battles” he followed, describing as “wonderful” the collaboration with Morocco and claiming that the relationship between the two countries had never been better[4].

What next?

During the night, the local news El Faro de Ceuta was able to film dozens of young Africans in the streets of Ceuta. They danced with joy and kissed the ground of the Spanish enclave crying “Thank you, God” or “I am in Europe!”.

According to Isabel Brasero, spokesperson of the International Committee of the Red Cross in Ceuta, there haven’t been any serious casualties among them. “We have transferred eleven people to the hospital, eight needed stitches and three had to get a scan”, she said. According to the authorities, two civil guards and one immigrant were attended for more serious wounds.

The temporary accommodation centre for migrants is overflowed by asylum applications: “we have around 1400 people in the centre for a reception capacity of 512”, explained the prefecture’s spokesperson.

To offer them a shelter, the spokesperson has asked for lots of tents and a field kitchen, which should be installed on the parking of the neighbouring horse-riding centre. The NGO has also given to each migrant a kit with new clothes, shoes, and blankets while it was rainy and windy.

Nevertheless, it could then be more complicated. The Ceuta enclave is, with Melilla, the only land border between the African continent and the European Union. In these difficult times where nationalist right-wing European party is gaining popularity, a more thorough monitoring could soon be implemented.

While the migratory flux is often assimilated with long and dangerous journeys and a difficult arrival, the disembarkation of February was rather surprising. The international relations remained intact, no one died or was seriously wounded. The event was followed by some singing once arrived on the European land: the crossing went extraordinary well. But what about the international community? Could this sudden arrival frighten a few Europeans? We’ll see. In the meantime, the migratory mission that some wish it were impossible may have a breach, and it is Ceuta.

[1] Claimed by Morocco, the enclave is, with Melilla, the only land border existing between the African continent and the EU. It is a transit point for illegal migratory flux coming from sub‑Saharan Africa and going to Maghreb.  Since the mid-2000s, eight km long of barred double-fencing.

[2] Learn more on this issue on https://www.letemps.ch/monde/2017/02/20/pres-300-migrants-ont-force-frontiere-ceuta; http://www.huffpostmaghreb.com/2017/02/06/maroc-union-europeenne_n_14631432.html (both in French)

[3] http://www.huffpostmaghreb.com/2017/02/06/maroc-union-europeenne_n_14631432.html (in French)

[4] https://www.lorientlejour.com/article/1036261/plus-de-850-clandestins-forcent-la-frontiere-de-ceuta-en-4-jours.html (in French)

Our world simply needs humanity.

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The 18th Geneva International Model United Nations Annual Conference.

By Mawuli Affognon.

This is my last blog post for the 18th Geneva International Model United Nations Annual Conference. I would just like to let you know. I hate writing in the first person. I don’t like talking much about my life not because I don’t think it’s that interesting, but that’s how it is. From 25th to 31st March 2017, I watched young people from all around the world debate a variety of topics. I saw conviction, emotions and bursts of laughter. I worked with ambitious young people; worried about their image and under pressure to be successful in life. It was the first time that I’d spent a few days in Geneva. It’s often just a transit city for other destinations around the world. This Swiss city is beautiful, particularly because of its buildings, but above all these people that come from all seven continents. Over the course of the week, the gaze of the woman who was serving the NATURA menu at the restaurant has intrigued me. I would have liked to have asked her opinion on the issues that our delegates have been discussing over the last six days. Does she have an opinion on international politics?

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Within these beautiful institutions with its impressive walls, sometimes it is easy to forget about the little cogs in the big wheel. The woman who wakes up early in the morning to clean, the gardener who looks after the flowers or the cook behind stoves that light up to the appetite of the undeterred men and women. I drank a lot of coffee to keep up. I arrived in Geneva on the evening of 24 March from Paris, where I had participated in UNESCO’s Mobile Learning Week on behalf of KEKELI LAB based in Togo. In other words, I was tired when I arrived in the city of the Jet d’Eau. But I wanted to do this. I have to admit that I didn’t drink just coffee; vanilla chocolate and vanilla milk were also favourites of mine. I confess. I had the honour of meeting the lady who was in charge of the big coffee machine. Yes, it was an immense honour to meet the person that made magic possible. I think that our world would be more peaceful if we had the humility to observe and to give a voice to those who often do not have one. I’m going to stop there so I don’t miss my train to Lausanne.

In a few years’ time, I hope the young people who had simulated UN negotiations will not lose their innocence, their faith in humanity and their desire for a better world. Many of them will represent governments, multi-nations, powerful lobbyist groups over the coming years, and I hope they don’t succumb to the animal face of humanity. I hope that they don’t succumb to the desire for destruction and the greed that lives in each one of us. As for me, I’ll be heading back to my life as an African student in Europe. Like our world, I think I need love and to smile.

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Long live GIMUN! May peace reign over our families in the regions of the world where the greed for surplus value and the murderous madness of trigger-happy madmen reside.

Iranian Film Fireworks Wednesday: A Gender-Based Analysis.

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By Bita Ibrahimi.

Translated by Matthew

The use cinematography and film-making have become an outlet for creative individuals to analyse, criticise and question society in real-time. In Iran, women are playing an important role in this, even after the Islamic Revolution of 1979. Historically, women have had extremely limited opportunities and were noticeably absent in the film world in Iran, however, the presence of women behind and in front of the camera has steadily increased since the start of the Revolution despite policies that required women to wear hijab[1] and to keep chastity on screen[2]. Asal Bagheri, a cinema expert, has described the current situation of women in Iranian cinema as being part of a “politically engaged” type of cinema[3].

In Iranian films, women are typically casted in subordinate roles to accompany their male counterparts, a lifestyle where they are subordinate to men. Moreover, women are reduced to playing traditional roles, such as the mother, wife and housewife, whose activities are limited to managing their children’s education, appearing desirable their husband, and doing household jobs. These films convey sexist and misogynistic images of the relationship between men and women. Men are generally placed on a pedestal and represent authority whereas women are portrayed in a negative light by encompassing their beauté fatale and a dependence on men. Many films in Iran depict recurring sexist and misogynic clichés.

Over time, the obligation to wear the hijab has become increasingly significant in representing a special image of women in Iranian cinema in comparison to other countries, in particular because of the way it conveys stereotypes and makes them a part of the norms of Iranian society. Gender plays an important part in contemporary Iran, and is at the center of this analysis of the films of Ashgar Farhadi, who is considered to be a prominent screenwriter and film director in Iran and throughout the world of cinema.[4] Farhadi is most famous for his film Fireworks Wednesday, released in 2006, which was given a positive reception and won awards in film festivals in Nantes and Chicago.

 

Tested by Adultery

The film is focused on an Iranian couple whose relationship is tested by adultery. The film takes place during the Iranian New Year, also known as the Festival of Fire (Chaharshanbeh Suri in Persian),[5] which was banned by religious authorities. During the celebrations, lamps and decorations are set up in large towns and cities. This festival provides the backdrop to the dramas between a young Iranian couple, and sheds a light on three main female characters.

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The first female character to appear in this film is a cleaner named Rouhi, who a poor and religious woman who comes from outside the main city and wears the chador.[6] She does the housework on a weekly basis and comes for the traditional final cleaning before the New Year.[7] Throughout the film, she quietly observes all goings-on as a passive spectator and she is portrayed as being content with her life. The viewer discovers parts of the plot through the eyes of Rouhi, and she plays a key role in the film despite her passive nature.

The second female character in the film is Mojdeh, who lives in the home where Rouhi goes to do housework. Mojdeh comes from a modest family background and is not particularly religious.  She has short hair, does not cook, does not respect norms in society regarding the duty of women at home and does not have a typically feminine appearance. The third female character is Simin, a divorced beautician. We do not have a lot of details about Simin, but it is revealed that Mojdeh’s husband Mojtaba is having an affair with Simin.

 

Women under the control of men

The film depicts some of the social, economic and religious pressures faced by women in different social classes in Iran. All Iranian women face enormous pressure, and the man remains the master over his wife. However, in the case of Rouhi, the director shows an example of her disadvantaged background. When Rouhi wants to ask permission from her husband in order to trim her eyebrows, this shocks Mojdeh who asks: “do you need the approval from your husband to trim your eyebrows?” Nevertheless, Rouhi insists that asking permission for something so ordinary is completely normal in Iran.

In comparison to Rouhi, Mojdeh is from a moderate family and she does not have to ask permission from her husband. However, she is subjected to physical violence. In one scene, Mojdeh’s husband hits her, and the camera shows her crying in a taxi. In addition to violence, this scene portrays the low status of women in the patriarchal society of Iran. Mojdeh also cries in the bathroom when she discovers that her husband has been unfaithful. She is helpless to do anything other than crying, and is unable to change her situation. In Iran, women are not afforded the legal right to file for divorce whereas men are able to do so fairly easily.[8] Moreover, in one scene where the Mojdeh’s son is crying, a male friend of Mojtaba says to him: “men never cry!”. In this film, tears are the sign of weakness, and, as women are portrayed as weak, only women should cry.

In addition, Motjaba places the blame on his wife who, in his eyes, is not sufficiently feminine. Motjaba complains that he “can’t remember the last time she cooked. Ask the neighbours if they can smell food being cooked”. Cooking is the main duty of women in Iran, as well as being the sign of their feminine nature and social standing.

 

What is the role of women in cinema in Iran?

Women generally play an important role in Iranian cinema. They were originally caricatured as being dependent on men and, for most of the time, content to be inferior to men, whereas the characters played by men were portrayed as charismatic, confident and firm in standing up for their religious beliefs. Over time, the status of men and women changed in Iranian cinema, and now women are capable of taking the initiative in changing their situation. In the film Fireworks Wednesday, the film director attempts to alter the static position of women in society by demonstrating the plot through the eyes of women and the way they feel, which consequently allows the viewer to feel empathy towards the female characters. However, as it has already been noted, signs of masculine dominance and the masculine viewpoint of the director are shown in an apparent way in the film. Women are reduced to just a few emotions, notably anger, anxiety, irritability and crying. In short, although Asghar Farhadi intended to depict the true nature of the status of women in contemporary Iranian society, it is evident that he has not shown their true position. His interpretation of the role of women has been influenced by the masculine point of view that he has of society, and this consequently has an impact on the way he represents women in Fireworks Wednesday.

[1] The hijab – which means headscarf or veil in Arabic – refers to the Islamic headscarf only covering the head. It can surround the whole face or be tied more loosely to reveal some of the women’s hair.

[2] For women in Iran, sexual relations outside of marriage are strictly forbidden, and adultery can be punished by stoning. The control of feminine sexuality represents the guarantee of ensuring chastity. For a full explanation, see https://blogs.mediapart.fr/irani/blog/040416/iran-la-condition-feminine.

[3] Quoted from « Et la censure créa le cinéma des femmes iraniennes » https://www.opinion-internationale.com/2016/01/26/et-la-necessite-crea-le-cinema-des-femmes-iraniennes-entretien-avec-asal-bagheri-specialiste-du-cinema-iranien_23169.html

[4] Read more about Farhadi at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Asghar_Farhadi

[5] The lamps and fire symbolise the hope of the arrival of light and happiness in the following year. There are many fireworks and fires in the streets.

[6] The chador is a type of fabric in the shape of a semi-circle that is worn in Iran. It hides both the head and the body of the women. It has to be held up at all times to avoid falling on the floor. The chador was originally worn during prayers before it became obligatory to wear it all times in public. Reza Shah banned the chador in 1936, but it was reintroduced upon the arrival to power of the Ayatollah Khomeini in 1979.

[7] This is the final cleaning before the start of the New Year, which is called Norouz and takes place on 21 March according to the Iranian calendar.

[8] Only men have the right to ask for divorce according to Islamic law. In Article 1133 of the Islamic civil code, it is stated that “a man can divorce his wife whenever he so chooses”. The current family law on divorce (or talaq in Arabic) supports the right of the husband to ask for a divorce at any time, while at the same time applying some restrictions. For instance, a man has to ask permission at a tribunal to grant a divorce if his wife disagrees. The role of the tribunal is to attempt to reach a mediation between the couple. If a reconciliation is not possible, the man then has the right to a divorce.

 

Reasons for the variable progress towards achieving the Millennium Development Goal targets.

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Source: Http://www.mdgmonitor.org

 

By Florence Goodrham

The MDGs established in 2000 by international agreement are probably the most significant major attempt to defeat poverty ever undertaken.  The UN set out eight development goals to reduce global poverty substantially by 2015.  They are viewed as basic human rights – the rights of every person on earth to health, education, shelter and security.  Reasons for variable progress towards achieving the Millennium Development Goal targets can be determined through examining different regions. These include Sub-Saharan Africa, East Asia, South Asia and Latin America and the Caribbean. Read the rest of this entry »

The Ottoman Empire : is it back to life in modern day Turkey?

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By Camille de Félice.

Translated by Matthew Hall.

The period following the attempted coup d’état on 15 July 2016 in Turkey has been characterised by efforts to reshape our understanding of historic events. This historical revision is a regular occurrence in Turkish history since the foundation of the Republic in 1923 by Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, who placed an emphasis on the pre-Islamic history of the Turkish people and considered that the Ottoman Empire was reactionary and needed to be consigned to the past. This wish to manipulate history saw a turning point through the arrival in power of the AKP (Justice and Development Party) in 2002. The AKP, which inherited the tradition of political Islam in Turkey, has positioned itself to be the voice of a majority that had been too often ignored and even held in contempt by the elites during Atatürk’s rule, and its takeover of political power allowed Turkey to reclaim the Islamic and Ottoman eras as their own. The increase of symbols representative of Ottoman power[1] that are sometimes used as decorations, such as stickers on car windscreens and mobile phone cases, as well as the large number of cafes bearing the name ‘Ottoman’, the growth of ice-cream sellers dressed in clothing corresponding to the image that Europe has of the Ottoman Empire and the popularity of this style in furniture shops, feature among those of the imperial legacy that were previously suppressed. Read the rest of this entry »

The GIMUN Chronicles, 29th of March, 2017.

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EDITORIAL.

By Lama El Khamy & Michelle Bognuda
@Lamaelk_GIMUN | @mbognuda_gimun

image 29_03There were so many of them, and they all arrived in a mass. They came from all over, at different times and in different ways. Some were tired, some were excited. They were all anxious about what lied ahead. Mostly, they came, because they wanted to pave a better future for themselves and those that they cared about.

So many people wanted to cross the border, and not all of them managed to do it. Some had friends from within the walls and knew what to expect, others had no idea whatsoever of what they would find. They swarmed in, all at once, and the locals were overwhelmed.

However, everything turned to be fine. Indeed, it was an utter success. People from all over the world were together, in the same place, and they discussed freely. They exchanged different points of view and they learned from each other. After a week of debating they unfortunately had to leave the Palais des Nations, because the Annual Conference had come to an end. They
loved it though, and leaving was bittersweet. They left the UNOG as better versions of themselves. Their views and horizons were better and grander than they were on registration day at Uni-Bastions. They promised their new friends to keep in touch, and they promised themselves to apply to GIMUN again the year after.

* * *
Yes, dear delegates and staff, this introduction was indeed about the conference, and not about illegal immigrants. But, Marco Sassoli’s contribution to the Human Rights Committee yesterday struck a nerve with us, and we wanted to tease your mind. As you will see if you check our article about his speech, he talked about diversity and immigration, among other things. And he talked about legal immigration as a possibility of solving a lot of the problems that we hear about, like raft accidents and so forth. If you were not there, ask your friends who were to bring you up to speed.

So, work hard in your committees. Learn how to debate, and use this invaluable skill to tackle discussions and topics such as that of Mr. Sassoli, even with people who don’t have your same frame of mind. We need this now, more than ever. Or, as Director General Michael Møller said, tagging us on Twitter, “faites entendre votre voix, participez dans le débat”!

The GIMUN Chronicles, 28th of March, 2017

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EDITORIAL.

By Valentina San Martin & Meryl Brucker
@ValSanMar | @MerylBk_GIMUN

image 28_03Depuis quelques heures, la conférence annuelle de GIMUN 2017 bat son plein. Vous-mêmes, participants, êtes au coeur de cette expérience qui ne fait que débuter. N’est-il pas excitant de savoir que les débats, mais aussi les évènements post-conférence, vont continuer à se succéder au cours de cette semaine, alors que les rencontres et les discussions ne feront que s’intensifier ? Les articles du jour aborderont des thèmes tout à fait sérieux comme les injections létales ou le maintien de la démocratie. Ceux-ci seront agrémentés de clichés de la journée d’hier ainsi que d’autres divertissements variés. De quoi certainement patienter en vue de se retrouver ce soir autour d’une boisson rafraîchissante pour éventuellement élargir les débats. En ce qui vous concerne, sachez, chers participants, que nous savons que vous avez oeuvré pour cette conférence et que le résultat qui s’ensuit n’a pu être possible que grâce à des efforts continuels de la part de chacun d’entre vous. Il est désormais temps d’en récolter les fruits ou plutôt de «manger le gâteau », comme l’a si bien dit notre cher Secrétaire Général, Charles Bonfils-Duclos, lors de sa dernière interview. Nous voulons que vous savouriez ce gâteau, que vous partagiez ce plaisir via Twitter, Instagram ou même Snapchat ! Nous comptons sur vous pour faire de cette conférence la meilleure expérience genevoise possible car vous l’avez bien mérité. Sur ce mot de la fin, nous aimerions vous remercier pour votre ouvrage.

The GIMUN Chronicles, 27th of March, 2017.

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EDITORIAL.

By Lama El Khamy & Michelle Bognuda
@Lamaelk_GIMUN | @mbognuda_gimun

image 27_03

If you are a veteran MUNer, you know what is waiting for you: debates, concentration and fulfillment. If you are new to this world, you will find out that even though we all know that this is a simulation, it is terribly real. Real, because you will meet people who will inspire you. Real, because you will talk about and defend actual issues, that UN committees, literally next door, are also discussing. Real, because you will leave this week feeding for more, and longing for your next conference.

What is so special about MUN, you may ask. Well, first of all, MUN is found in countless countries around the world. But, let’s focus on what’s important here. In general, it helps you understand that in fact there are other youths interested in something grander than themselves. By participating, as you may already know, you realize that your doubts and thoughts about the future have a platform here. You are fighting for a country that most likely is not your own, but you get to learn about a new culture, and when you hear fellow quasi-delegates speak, you realize that everyone is practicing and learning and defending. These are
keywords for virtually everything. Practice makes perfect. Learning feeds the brain, whatever it may be about. Defending what is right, or maybe even wrong, makes you think, and thinking is the invaluable base of everything. MUN is a great opportunity to open your mind to the world, an opportunity that helps you grow as a person. And what better way to do that than in style!

GIMUN, in particular, has its perks. Geneva is a multicultural city, and GIMUN takes place at the actual UN headquarters, thank you very much. You are waiting in line to be vetted by security and you hear real-life delegates chit-chatting. You are waiting in line at the cafeteria and you catch a glance at some super-serious-looking person that’s obviously the real deal. It gives you strength. It shows you what is next, after classes and exams and job applications. You can explore what you want to do next. And while you learn how to debate, a larger than life skill, you can actually see minds at work for the greater good.

In this issue of the GIMUN chronicles, we have prepared a great surprise for you, and it involves a very important UN public figure. We’ve also provided you with several discussions about current topics, which we are sure that you’ll enjoy and discuss with your colleagues. Now, enough of us and read on. Welcome to the Palais des Nations!

Read more here :

The GIMUN chronicles, 25th of March, 2017.

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EDITORIAL

THE GIMUN CHRONICLES | EDITION VII
GENEVA INTERNATIONAL MODEL UNITED NATIONS
By Meryl Brucker & Valentina San Martin
@MerylBk_GIMUN @ValSanMar

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Dans un monde où il devient de plus en plus difficile de trouver l’équilibre entre liberté d’expression, croyances et coexistence pacifique, la conférence annuelle de GIMUN 2017 ne pourrait pas s’annoncer plus en symbiose avec sa ville-Genève. Symbole de paix, de démocratie et de dialogue elle se démarque par son histoire diplomatique riche et érige un principe qu’elle affectionne tout particulièrement: la neutralité. Il n’en sera pas moins capital ni anodin d’aborder les thèmes de crises socio-politiques qui continuent d’ébranler le monde à ce jour. En tant que conférenciers, il faudra se demander ce qui a poussé, chacun d’entre nous, à participer à ces grandes discussions qui s’étendront sur une semaine entière. Quels sont nos objectifs, nos idéaux? Il n’y a rien de plus porteur d’espoir que de voir de jeunes individus en quête de sens et de solutions se réunir dans l’emblématique Palais des Nations pour partager leur conception de la diplomatie. En cherchant à passer outre les convictions éthiques, politiques ou religieuses de chacun – ce qui semble diviser plus que jamais nos sociétés contemporaines, cette conférence se basera sur l’écoute, le respect et la perspicacité. Notre équipe presse se chargera donc d’informer chaque participants de l’avancée des discussions. Elle tentera également de dépeindre l’actualité internationale et de vous livrer un contenu complet et stimulant. Sur cette note plus que jamais positive, il ne reste plus qu’à souhaiter à chacun d’entre vous une semaine riche en discussions, en rencontres, en émotions et bien entendu en lecture!

The content of the magazine:

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Read more about at:

Economic Empowerment of Women & Girls in a Sustainable Development Perspective. Act, advance and achieve women’s rights!

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Source: NGOCSWGva.

By Nataliya Borys.

capture 1NGO Committee on the Status of Women (NGO CSW Geneva) with the generous support of the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC), organized a forum dedicated to the economic empowerment of women & girls in a sustainable development perspective, the 10th of October 2016 at the Palais des Nations in Geneva.[1] Our editor-in-chief, Nataliya Borys, a feminist and an active supporter of women’s rights, was quite enthusiastic to know about practical solutions to economic empowerment of women & girls by taking some notes. So what do participants offer as tools of economic empowerment of women & girls? What practically can be done? Read the rest of this entry »

Switzerland supports professional training for nursing staff in Kosovo

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Source: http://www.rtklive.com/sq/news-single.php?ID=96153

By  Valentina San Martin, translated by Lori Favier.

In Autumn 2016, Deputy Minister of Health Mevludin Krasniqi called upon the Swiss Chamber of Commerce to offer training for his country’s nursing staff.
Read the rest of this entry »

UN Day 2016: Climate Change, a many-sided, urgent and growing threat

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Source:  http://cdn.phys.org/newman/gfx/news/hires/2012/carbondioxid.jpg

By Flavio Baroffio

On 24th October 2016, GIMUN celebrated the 71st anniversary of the UN Charter, which came into force exactly on this date in 1945, by holding the annual UN Day at the Palais des Nations in Geneva to discuss the current threat of climate change and how young people can tackle it. Read the rest of this entry »

The real winners of the presidential elections in Lebanon

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Source: http://www.dailystar.com.lb/News/Lebanon-News/2016/Sep-28/374147-berri-adjourns-parliament-session-to-oct-31-for-president-vote.ashx

By Nour Honein

As you may know, for almost two and a half years, Lebanon has been without a president. Finally, on the 31st of October 2016, Michel Aoun, Christian leader and founder of the Free Patriotic Movement, has been elected as the new president of Lebanon. But who are the real winners of this election? Read the rest of this entry »

How I created a new MUN Delegation : The importance of Model United Nations

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The MUN Delegation created by Florence at the Withington Girl’s School, UK.

 

By Florence Goodrham

 

« If the United Nations does not attempt to chart a course for the world’s people in the first decades of the new millennium,who will? »

Kofi Annan

Read the rest of this entry »

Refugees and immigrants : open your eyes !

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Source : National Geographic

By Blanca Benitez

The large numbers of refugees coming to Europe over these last years has made lots of us very concerned. Conferences about the topic, politicians trying to offer solutions and great deal of articles in the newspapers… All of this had us wondering what we could do to help the situation. But do we really know what is going on? What can we do to help improve the situation? Two real stories from people who have suffered war, poverty and racism may make people see immigration in a different way. Read the rest of this entry »

Female entrepreneurship: laws are not enough

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By Nour Honein

While there is much concern over the lack of female entrepreneurs in first world countries, the gender gap in developing countries is even greater. Poverty, lack of proper identifying information, and little to no access to banking services leave more than 1.3 billion women out of the formal financial system (World Bank). These women then lack the basic financial tools necessary for asset ownership and economic empowerment. But is this the only obstacle? Read the rest of this entry »

Tunisia : Land of Hope in the Arab World

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©A. LE GALL/DEMOTIX/CORBIS

By Flavio Baroffio

Tunisia is considered to be the cradle of the Arab Spring which has changed drastically the political landscape of the Middle East. It all started in December 2010 when mass protestations broke out in Tunisia because the people were discontent with the economic, political situation and the all-occurring corruption. Shortly after, in January 2011 the former ruler of Tunisia, Ben-Ali, had to step down[1]. Three years later, in 2014, democratic parliamentary elections were held and a new Constitution was adopted. The uprising in Tunisia inspired many other democratic movements in the Arab world, but Tunisia remains the only country where democracy took root. Read the rest of this entry »

Environmentally displaced people: Desertification is creating an inhospitable home for families in the Sahel Zone

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This article was published in the printed version of the GIMUN Chronicles, the newspaper of GIMUN’s Annual Conference 2016, two months ago. We thought we’d give you a chance to rediscover it!

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By Ashli Molina

The Sahel Zone, home to 17 African countries such as Mali, Liberia, Niger, and Chad, has severely felt the effects of climate change. And its people are suffering the irrevocable consequences. Read the rest of this entry »

Time to say goodbye to stereotypes

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This article was published in the printed version of the GIMUN Chronicles, the newspaper of GIMUN’s Annual Conference 2016, two months ago. We thought we’d give you a chance to rediscover it!

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By Michelle Bognuda

In today’s world, people are forced to leave their homeland because of wars. January and February are particularly special months for Ticino’s young people because this is the time when carnival celebrations take place. Although these two statements do not seem to be linked, this year there was a logical connection. Swiss cantons which border other countries, such as Ticino or Geneva, are particularly touchy about immigrants, people in search of political asylum and, last but not least, cross-border workers. Read the rest of this entry »

Super Cyclone Winston hits Fiji, leaving many dead and homeless

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This article was published in the printed version of the GIMUN Chronicles, the newspaper of GIMUN’s Annual Conference 2016, two months ago. Has Fiji had time to recover?

Winston

By Ashli Molina

Super-cyclone Winston, a category five storm, hit Fiji on Sunday, February 21, wiping out entire villages and leaving as many as 42 individuals dead. With winds blasts reaching 325km/h and waves up to 12m high, it has been described as the strongest cyclone in Fiji’s history. Read the rest of this entry »

Calais : the story of a wild “jungle”

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By Sylvia Revello, translated by Gwénaëlle Janiaud

“Rural camp” turned “jungle”: Calais’s refugee camp recently acquired a reputation as “France’s first slum”. The French authorities have spent weeks demolishing the camp. The site, located near the Channel Tunnel, spans several hundred hectares and shelters 3,500-6,000 migrants who have mainly travelled from Syria, Afghanistan, Sudan and Eritrea. Shacks, tents and other makeshift shelters that up until now housed more than 1,000 migrants in the southern part of the camp were torn down by bulldozers and anti-riot police. After a few tense days, which were marked by violent clashes between migrants, activists campaigning against border controls and the police, the evacuation process appears to have been carried out peacefully. As flames slowly engulf the wooden and corrugated iron walls of the migrants’ shacks, some are denouncing this bitter episode, which has done nothing to resolve the migrant crisis. Read the rest of this entry »

Your cameras can free Palestine

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The GIMUN 2016 Annual Conference, held from March 7th to 11th at the Palais des Nations, in Geneva, gathered around 200 students for a model UN. Yes, it was over a month ago, but it turns out the GIMUN Chronicles journalists had not said their last word! When the conference ended, they still had a few more articles left for us…

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Crédit : Facebook / youthagainstsettlement

By Valentina San Martin, translated by John Ryan-Mills

Freedom is relative : although everyone is born free, various laws continually force people to spend their lives living in restricted freedom. As Jean-Jacques Rousseau said, “man is born free, and everywhere he is in chains”.

During the first Arab-Israeli war, which began in 1948,the Israelis took control of a large area of land that still forms part of their state today. The partition which followed this war led to the forced exodus of hundreds of thousands of Palestinians, who for the most part took shelter in neighboring countries such as Lebanon, Jordan, or Syria. At present, Palestine remains an occupied and marginalized territory, owingnotably to the failure of numerous attempts at international negotiation led by powerful nations, but above all to politicians and a dominant media who remain indifferent to a nation that has been subjugated for decades.

This is why in 2012 a non-violent protest group named Youth Against Settlements (YAS) was formed, with the aim of ending the establishment and expansion of illegal Israeli colonies through non-violent protests and civil resistance. Read the rest of this entry »

The (Un)Holy City: Violence Erupts in Jerusalem

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The GIMUN 2016 Annual Conference, held from March 7th to 11th at the Palais des Nations, in Geneva, gathered around 200 students for a model UN. Yes, it was over a month ago, but it turns out the GIMUN Chronicles journalists had not said their last word! When the conference ended, they still had a few more articles left for us…

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epa04298597 Palestinians throw stones on Israeli police (not seen) at Al-Aqsa compound in the old city of Jerusalem, at the end of the first Friday prayer in the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, 04 July 2104. Israeli authorities limited the age of Muslims from West Bank allowed to enter Al-Aqsa Mosque by the age of 50 for men and 40 for women, a very low numbers of Palestinians mange to attend the prayer. EPA/MAHFOUZ ABU TURK

 

By Gilad Bronshtein

Jerusalem has no single past. The historical narrative of the holy city is as changing as its ethnic and religious diversity. Home to some of the holiest sites of Israel’s major religions, the shifting identity of Jerusalem is made and remade with each telling of its long history. However, an unbearable consistency is provided by the reality of conflict within the disputed city. Jerusalem has long been a symbol of the fragile coexistence and volatile tension that underlie the nature of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Read the rest of this entry »

Berta Cáceres : Activist to the last

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By Sylvia Revello, translated by Emily Milne

 Her battle cost her her life. On the 3rd of March, the Honduran environmental activist was murdered in her home in La Esperanza, in the north west of the country, under suspicious circumstances. Described as a “politically motivated crime committed by the government” the tragedy has provoked an international outcry. It demonstrates, if that were even necessary, just how tragically the power struggles between multinational companies and indigenous peoples can turn out. Known for speaking out against the harmful consequences posed to the indigenous Lenca people by the hydroelectric dam, Agua Zarca, the 42-year old activist was no stranger to threats and scare tactics. Now she has paid the price for her freedom of expression. While Amnesty International laments the “numerous flaws in the investigation”, the Honduran authorities maintain that her death was nothing more than a burglary gone wrong. Read the rest of this entry »

Germany: the scale has officially tipped towards the right

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The GIMUN 2016 Annual Conference, held from March 7th to 11th at the Palais des Nations, in Geneva, gathered around 200 students for a model UN. Yes, it was a month ago, but it turns out the GIMUN Chronicles journalists had not said their last word! When the conference ended, they still had a few more articles left for us…

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Michelle Bognuda

About one month ago, Germany had an important weekend. Three state elections happened, and now that the results are published, it is official: radical right-wing parties are gaining more and more power. On March 13th, the states of Saxony-Anhalt, Rhineland-Palatinate and Baden-Württemberg cast their ballots. This is an important test for Angela Merkel and her Christlich Demokratische Union Deutschlands (“Christian Democratic Union of Germany”, CDU) party, because, even though the three states have different political scenarios, polls predicted that radically right-wing Alternative für Deutschland (“Alternative for Germany”, AfD) would have had the best of the race. Read the rest of this entry »

Current state of affairs in Syria

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The GIMUN 2016 Annual Conference, held from March 7th to 11th at the Palais des Nations, in Geneva, gathered around 200 students for a model UN. Yes, it was a month ago, but it turns out the GIMUN Chronicles journalists had not said their last word! When the conference ended, they still had a few more articles left for us…

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Press Conference Intra-Syrian Talks with Bashar Ja’afari representative of the Syrian Arab Republic to the UN, Geneva, 2016.03.16. UN Photo/Anne-Laure Lechat.

 

By Taner Toraman

As the peace talks are gearing up in Geneva, major changes have been recently taking place in Syria. The cessation of hostilities has been holding, by and large, for two weeks now, which enabled humanitarian aid to reach hundreds of thousands of Syrians. During a press encounter on March 9, the United Nations Special Envoy for Syria, Staffan de Mistura, informed the world about what has been achieved so far on the ground. Read the rest of this entry »

The E.U. should not be proud of the new refugee deal with Turkey

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As GIMUN’s Annual Conference 2016 is taking place this week, we will be giving you exclusive access to one article a day published in the conference newspaper, at the same moment as the participants and in both of our languages. Check out GIMUN’s website for the full version of the GIMUN Chronicles!

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By Ashli Molina

While Europe agreed to “close” its migrant route, blocking asylum seekers from reaching its soil, Turkey agreed to welcome them into their camps with open arms. This was made possible by a deal—let’s call it a migrant exchange—formed earlier this week at a summit between the European Union and Turkey, who put up a tough fight. The country demanded a lot of financial aid to help refugees stay in Turkey, accelerated talks about joining the E.U., and visa-free travel within the E.U. for Turkish citizens. The new deal, however, betrays European values, human rights, and fails to provide an adequate response regarding the worsening refugee crisis. It is a quick fix that benefits all of Europe. Read the rest of this entry »

Ethnic Tension in Ethiopia : Oromo Demonstrations Escalate into Violence

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As GIMUN’s Annual Conference 2016 is taking place this week, we will be giving you exclusive access to one article a day published in the conference newspaper, at the same moment as the participants and in both of our languages. Check out GIMUN’s website for the full version of the GIMUN Chronicles!

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sources : http://kwekudee-tripdownmemorylane.blogspot.fr/2013/07/oromo-people-powerful-kushitic-africans.html?m=1

By Gilad Bronshtein

Last February, on the road near the southern Ethiopian town of Shashamane, a bus was carrying a newly-wed bride and her family on their way to a wedding celebration. The party goers were preparing to take part in a traditional Oromo ceremony in a nearby town. With uplifted spirits, the passengers enjoyed traditional Oromo music in anticipation of the happy occasion. The festivities came to an abrupt end when local police pulled the vehicle over and demanded that the celebrations stop. It was not the loud music or a traffic violation that provoked the police. Instead, the officers demanded that the music be turned off, forbidding any display of Oromo tradition in public. After some passengers refused to comply, the officers commenced to pursue and open fire at the vehicle. The celebration quickly turned into a tragedy when two passengers were shot and killed. Read the rest of this entry »

The Nicaraguan government denies that the contras are back

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As GIMUN’s Annual Conference 2016 is taking place this week, we will be giving you exclusive access to one article a day published in the conference newspaper, at the same moment as the participants and in both of our languages. Check out GIMUN’s website for the full version of the GIMUN Chronicles!

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Photo credit: Tiomono

By Ashli Molina

Current Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega owns most of the country, controlling elections, Congress, the police, the media, and fuel companies. But Mr. Ortega was once a regular man. He was once a revolutionary, a part of the Sandinistas who helped topple the Somoza dictatorship during the 1960s and 1970s. Now, he is compared to the Somoza government he vehemently criticized in 1979. Read the rest of this entry »

From Cyber Warfare to Cyber Terrorism: An Inevitable Future

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As GIMUN’s Annual Conference 2016 is taking place this week, we will be giving you exclusive access to one article a day published in the conference newspaper, at the same moment as the participants and in both of our languages. Check out GIMUN’s website for the full version of the GIMUN Chronicles!

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By Gilad Bronshtein

Cyber warfare is commonly conceived of as actions taken by one nation-state against another. The majority of these attacks aim to interfere with essential security systems and expose the target to increased threat and cripple its offensive potential. Perhaps the most notorious cyber-attack in history, the 2009 Stuxnet worm has targeted several Iranian based organizations around the world and remained undetected for years. The attack is believed to have been perpetrated in order to disrupt operations in two locations central to the Iranian nuclear program. Read the rest of this entry »

Britain and the EU: Defining Change

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By Frederick Brock

The Context

A recent poll conducted by ORB International put British support for withdrawing from European Union membership at 52%.[1] This figure fluctuates from month to month, with June-September showing a consistent lead for staying in and current support for remaining in the EU at 48%. With such a close race to the finish and a referendum on membership around the corner in 2017, it seems remarkable that the continental press is paying so little attention to what’s going on. The political ramifications of ‘Brexit’ – aka British exit – could be more far reaching than even the migration crisis in terms of its impact on Europe’s future. Read the rest of this entry »

The Yemen Conflict – What Role Does Iran Play?

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Source : http://elaph.com/

By Camille de Félice, translated by Amy Reid and Emily Milne

In the wake of the Arab Spring, Yemen has experienced a series of significant demonstrations. These demonstrations led to President Saleh stepping down in November 2011, and being replaced by Mansour Hadi in February 2012. Quickly, the north of the country was engulfed in rising tensions, which progressively spread to other provinces. Read the rest of this entry »

State-Sponsored Terrorism: A Landscape in Transition

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In light of recent events, GIMUN’s blog has decided to publish a special series on the theme of terrorism. Today, Nayana Das gives us her analysis on how terrorist organisations are supported by States.

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Source: Creative Commons

The sponsorship of terrorism by sovereign States to further foreign policy agendas represents a lethal source for the sustenance of international terrorism today. Such sponsorship came to the fore as a serious multilateral concern in the aftermath of the attacks of September 11, 2001. Read the rest of this entry »

Scanning ISIS: What has been going on in the past year and a half?

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In light of recent events, GIMUN’s blog has decided to publish a special series on the theme of terrorism. This first article will be followed by different perspectives on this subject over the next few weeks, presented to you by various journalists.

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Source: Creative Commons

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The European Union: Outmanoeuvred by a Populist Century?

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by Frederick Brock

The number of asylum-seekers who reach the Southern coasts of Europe has soared dramatically since last year as numerous violent conflicts such as the one in Syria continue to force migration. Image source: Flickr/ Royal Navy Media Archive (Creative Commons)
The number of people reaching the Southern coasts of Europe in search for asylum has soared dramatically since last year. Image source: Flickr/ Royal Navy Media Archive (Creative Commons).

The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Zeid Ra’ad Al Husein, recently criticised a columnist in a British tabloid for ‘inciting racial hatred’ and referring to migrants attempting the Mediterranean crossing as ‘cockroaches.’ [1] The tabloid in question has the widest readership of any paper in Britain. The High Commissioner went on to compare the xenophobia in elements of the British press as akin to that found in propaganda produced by Rwandan media outlets prior to the genocide in the 1990’s. Self-evidently such sentiment has no place in any society that professes to be civilised, however the increasing confidence and impunity with which those not simply on the fringes of the political spectrum, but the mainstream as well, attack migrants is a worrying development for all in Europe. Our history as a continent is an illustration of where divisive, anti-migrant and nationalist rhetoric can lead. The modern migrant crisis, with 1 in every 122 people displaced due to war, environmental pressures and state oppression, is a situation unprecedented in the years since the formation of the European Union. [2] This article will consider the potential havoc the invocation of resurgent nationalist identities across the continent, partially in response to this crisis, could cause to one of the biggest political projects in the modern world: the European Union.

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A Bright Future for Northern Nigerian Schoolgirls?

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by Modupe Macaulay 

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Photo: UN News Centre UNICEF/NYHQ2014-0710/Eseibo

The 15th of April 2014 marked a turning point in Nigerian politics with the kidnapping of over 200 schoolgirls in Chibok, northern Nigeria. The world awakened to the plight of young girls in developing nations pursuing education in societies blighted by terrorism and patriarchal belief systems. However, amidst the turmoil of unspeakable violence can local girls see any hope for the future? 

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Japan’s ‘Yoshida Doctrine’ as It Stands Today

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by Nayana Das

Statue of former Prime Minister Yoshida Shigeru in Kitanomaru Park in Tokyo, Japan. Photo by  Toshihiro Gamo/ Flickr.
Statue of former Prime Minister Yoshida Shigeru in Kitanomaru Park in Tokyo, Japan.
Photo by Toshihiro Gamo/ Flickr.

The basic premise for Japan’s foreign policy in the aftermath of World War II was laid by then Prime Minister Yoshida Shigeru’s diplomatic ‘grand strategy’ known as the Yoshida Doctrine. The strategy which sought to make reconstruction of Japan’s domestic economy as the top policy priority, comprises of three key elements: reconstruction of domestic economy through an emphasis on economic relations overseas, maintenance of a low profile in international politics and reliance on security guarantees from the United States.

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Terrorism and National Liberation Struggles

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reprinted from GIMUN Chronicles

by Camille de Félice, translated by James Hewlett

Flickr/ Israel Defense Forces
Flickr/ Israel Defense Forces

At a time when the use of the word ‘terrorism’ and its derivatives are becoming more and more frequent, and when not even a day goes by without us hearing about Islamist Terrorism, State Terrorism or even the Global War on Terrorism, it is important to remember that, despite various attempts by the United Nations to define it, there is still no universal legal definition for the word.

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Bumeràn Chavez: the Truth about Venezuela?

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by Francesca Paschetta

Cover image of
Cover image of “Bumeràn Chavez” by Emili Blasco.

Last February the agents of the Venezuelan security service arrested the mayor of Caracas, Antonio Ledezma, who is now detained in a military jail on charges of attempting a coup to overthrow President Maduro. It is not the first time that a member of the opposition is arrested, but what happened a few months ago represents an escalation in the regime’s repression, because Ledezma is an elected mayor.

The President has ordered the repression of all his political opponents. Many have been barred from the parliament or even exiled. Ordinary citizens who oppose the left-wing regime are barred from jobs in the public sector and from government benefits. Demonstrations, so far, have ended with the death of many protesters, including a number of students.
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China: Expelling “Western Values” from the Classroom

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Reprinted from GIMUN Chronicles

By Caroline Mountfield

AP Photo/Colour China Photo
AP/Colour China Photo

China has greatly expanded its higher education system as its economy has grown, with the total number of universities and colleges more than doubling in the past decade. Such an impressive outcome was only accomplished by giving priority to providing quality tertiary education across the country. In enacting an “educational innovation system”, China’s objective was to provide a proficient workforce to feed its socio-economic development. This implied setting up courses in key disciplines, talent development, improving research, widening participation and enhancing collaboration between institutions. As elsewhere, academic opportunities in China are shaped by a range of non-educational factors, such as social attitudes and changing patterns of employment and prosperity. However, traditional perspectives and Marxist commitments to fixed social roles and collective identities create a very distinctive structure when moving towards a more inclusive education system. China’s ruling Communist Party has long railed against Western values, including concepts like multi-party democracy, individualism and self-advocacy.

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Education of Young Girls During war: A Look at the Global Situation

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Reprinted from GIMUN Chronicles

By Ghada Ben Saïd

Translated by Amy Reid

Photo: flickr.com/World Bank Photo Collection
Photo: flickr.com/World Bank Photo Collection

In the event of a crisis, it is children who are the first to suffer the effects of the political and economic instability of a country. In a country in conflict, schools are very often damaged or even destroyed, something which encourages parents to refuse to send their children to school. School buildings are also used as temporary residences or for military means. The authorities are so preoccupied with war that the education of these children is often pushed into the background. Many flee from zones of conflict, but for those who do not migrate, life becomes all the more difficult.  This is the case for example, in Syria. Since the beginning of the war, the rate of schooling in the country has dropped drastically.  Syria, despite having a rate of schooling of 95% in 2006, today has the second lowest rate of schooling in the world. Young girls are the first to bear the brunt of this.  Since the beginning of the war, the number of forced marriages amongst young Syrian girls has doubled.  Of the 101 million out-of-school children in the world today, the majority are girls, excluded from the education system and deprived of their basic right to education.

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The Role of Women in the Pacification Process – Interview with Mrs. Fatou Bensouda, Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court

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By Alice d’Eramo

Translated by Amy Wilcock

Mrs. Fatou Bensouda, Chief Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court Source : FIFDH, crédits photo : Miguel Bueno

On 8 March 2015, International Women’s Day, the International Film Festival and Forum on Human Rights (FIFDH) organised a discussion in Geneva, on the role on women in the peace process.

The film Pray the Devil back to Hell, by Gini Reticker and Abigail E. Disney was shown during the event. The documentary tells the story of thousands of Liberian women who decided to join forces in spite of their religious differences in order to restore peace to their country. Indeed, between 1989 and 2003, civil war ravaged Liberia and Sierra Leone, causing more than 400,000 deaths. Traumatised and exhausted, these women together denounced the sordid daily life of conflict, including drugged child soldiers, sexual torture, packed and raided refugee camps, greed and the exploitation of natural resources. With their peaceful protests, they succeeded in putting pressure on political leaders to reach a peace agreement. They then pushed for the country’s disarmament and were involved in the democratic elections where the first female African president, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, was elected.

Finally, in 2012, Charles Taylor, former President of Liberia and rebel leader, was sentenced to 50 years in prison by the Special Court for Sierra Leone, for crimes against humanity and war crimes.

These events illustrate the tremendous power of peacekeeping intervention that women can have, as much on a local as on a global level. Therefore, better integrating women into the peacekeeping process is absolutely essential.

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Peaceful protest of Liberian women in Monrovia in July 2003, during the civil war -A shot from the documentary “Pray the Devil back to Hell”. Photo credits: Pewee Flomoku

Keeping the Liberian case in mind, outstanding figures were invited to discuss  the issue of the participation of women in the peacekeeping process, including; Fatou Bensouda, Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court; Alejandra Ancheita, Human Rights Activist, Mexican lawyer and 2014 Martin Ennals Award Laureate; and Bineta Diop, founder and President of Femmes Africa Solidarité (FAS), and Special Envoy to the Chairperson of the African Union Commission for Women, Peace and Security. The discussion was moderated by RTS journalist, Laurence Difelix.

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European Socialism: An Identity Crisis?

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By Frederick Brock

Photo by permission from Socialist Party, USA
Photo by permission from Socialist Party, USA

In recent years the socialist movements of Western Europe have been relatively quiet. Europe has experienced a significant economic crisis leading to unrest, uncertainty and usurpation by pre-crisis minority parties. Historically, turbulence such as this has acted as a catalyst for the emergence of radical movements and innovative ideas. This article focuses upon the apparent absence of these movements and ideas in contemporary socialism, considering three countries in detail: France, the United Kingdom and Spain.

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‘Crops’ or ‘Carats’? Gold mining and cocoa production in Ghana

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By Stephen Yeboah, Research Fellow, Africa Progress Panel

For the past two decades, gold mining and agriculture have contributed consistently to economic growth and development in Ghana. In 2013, gold mining contributed US$3,673 million in exports. Agriculture employed about 60 per cent of the active labour force and cocoa, the leading cash crop, contributed an estimated US$1,731 million in exports in 2013 (Government of Ghana 2013). While farming is the traditional source of livelihood, artisanal and small-scale mining (ASM) has emerged in communities endowed with natural resources as a lucrative activity due to its remarkable income-generating potential.

Mining and agriculture may co-exist and interact to generate economic and social benefits, but at the same time they compete for land, water resources and labour. On the one hand, land is seized for mining that otherwise could be used for farming; labour is attracted away from agriculture into mining; and mining pollutes water needed for farm irrigation. On the other hand, mining generates money that supplements the income of farmers who branch out into mining, allowing them to improve the productivity of their farms through buying inputs like fertilizers, and hiring labour (see: Hilson and Garforth 2012; 2013). Despite the importance of mining and agriculture to socio-economic development, the dynamics of their interaction have seldom received attention and are sometimes underestimated by scholars, governments, corporate entities and donors. There is a need for greater understanding of the mining–agriculture nexus to ensure that the two interact in a positive and balanced manner, producing social and economic development without disrupting the livelihoods of rural people whose lives are tied to farming. Read the rest of this entry »

The New Appeal of the South

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http://blogs.scientificamerican.com/observations/files/2014/03/600-Abel-and-Sander-2014_Fig4_GlobalMigration.jpeg
http://blogs.scientificamerican.com/observations/files/2014/03/600-Abel-and-Sander-2014_Fig4_GlobalMigration.jpeg

By Alina Suvila

The flows of migrants have been enormous for long but the direction is currently changing. People from the Global South are now staying there instead of migrating to the North. The effects can be seen in power relations and the global economy where groups of emerging economies are dominating.

Emeritus professor Bimal Gosh from the Colombian School of Public Administration gave a presentation on the subject of migration on 8th May 2014 at the Graduate Institute (IHEID) in Geneva. In his presentation ‘The Changing Configuration of Global Migration: Why South-South migration matters’ he addresses the reasons of the change in directions of migration flows. Read the rest of this entry »

The European Asylum Policy – Failure of the Dublin III Regulation?

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 by Jan Alexander Linxweiler

It is already hard to imagine what it must feel like to be displaced, to be forced to leave home, to be persecuted and not welcomed anywhere. Even harder to imagine is the horror and despair of those who die while trying to come to a presumed secure and just system – to the EU. On the 30th of September 2013 more then 300 refugees experienced this ordeal off the Italian island of Lampedusa and died in the cause. Since then reports of tragic deaths at the European boarders are becoming more and more frequent, as the number of refugees are increasing. Subsequently the influx of refugees into the EU is increasing as well. At the same time the Common European Asylum System seams to fail in providing adequate protection and reception conditions; resulting in inhuman treatment and deaths.

This paper wants to offer a reasonable and possible solution within the existing Asylum System. Therefore it presents the Refuge Protection within the two dimensions: the Geneva Convention relating to the Status of Refugees and the Common European Asylum System. Within the Common European Asylum System the paper focuses upon the definition of the refugee status and the Dublin System. After presenting and discussing the weaknesses of this exact System the paper will present (in short) a possible solution to the raised problems and weaknesses. Read the rest of this entry »

Land grabbing – NGOs giving the UN a push

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by Tuuli Orasmaa

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On 15th April, the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) released a news brief celebrating a second multinational company’s, PepsiCo’s, decision to support international guidelines on sustainable land tenure governance. The first one, Coca-Cola Company, made the move in November 2013. But why is this news worth noting? First of all, this may be seen as an important step in the fight against the global “land grabbing” phenomenon and secondly, this shows the power civil society organizations may have in issues the United Nations is struggling with. Read the rest of this entry »