The 14th of July, or Bastille Day, is the French National Day. What is supposed to be a day for family and celebration was quickly turned into a day for death and mourning this year. It is deeply saddening and unsettling that one man was able to take 84 lives on that night in Nice by crushing down pedestrians with a lorry. This was taken place on the Promenade des Anglais – a highly popular destination for tourists.
It is sad, yet expected, that this tragedy that has been labelled as an act of terrorism will incite more discriminatory language against Muslims around the world. The perpetrator, Mohamed Lahouaiej Bouhlel, is a French Tunisian man. Being Muslim by origin, it has been reported by his family that he was never religious and had always been disinterested in religion. Under false pretences, his actions will fuel the narrative that terrorism happens solely in the name of Islam. People will not know that more than a third of the victims were Muslim. I firmly believe that Islamophobic language, whereby we think ISIS represents the values of Islam, is deeply poisoning to our Western liberal societies.
Five years ago, on the 22nd of July in Norway, Anders Breivik mass murdered 77 members of the Workers’ Youth League on the Island of Utøya. Due to a blind focus on Islamic extremism, this act of far-right radicalism has not merited to be called an act of terrorism by western media. Whilst the Nice perpetrator had an Arabic name, he did not identify himself as religious. Therefore, we should not paint all Muslims with a broad brush. We should not be accepting of Trumps language to segregate a portion of the American population, just because they share the same religion as fanatics. As we act and speak, let us not become the terror that we deplore.
Since the beginning of 2016, Turkey has been one of the world’s preeminent locations for terrorist attacks. There have been two strikes in Ankara and four in Istanbul so far this year – the July 28 attack on Atatürk Airport being the last of these. These exclude the numerous incidents that have taken place in the provinces of Sirnak and Diyarbakir that have not gained international media attention. The nation has been consumed by fear as it wonders when the next terrorist attack might happen.
Uncertainty concerning the state of affairs in Turkey was heightened with the failed military coup on the night of July 15. The AKP has been in power for the last 14 years. President Erdogan has been an ambivalent international partner over the last few years, turning a blind eye to the influx of foreign Daesh fighters through Turkey to the battlegrounds of Syria and Iraq.
Since the failed coup, Erdogan has exploited the crisis to arrest nearly 8000 alleged plotters. In his attempt to crush all opposition to his rule, he has been able to gain greater power over Turkish society. The coup has demonstrated two sides of the coin: a powerful backing by a wide proportion of the population who protested the military coup on the streets of Ankara and Istanbul, as well as a breathing space for discontent among Turkish nationals. Lest we forget, President Erdogan won the 2014 presidential elections by a mere 51.79%, reminding us that there is a considerable opposition to his increasingly Islamic-conservative rule.
Turkey, itself a NATO member, has a history of silencing the civil rights of its minority Kurdish population and has recently raised the prospect of reintroducing the death penalty. With his increase in power after the failed coup, President Erdogan should tread lightly so as to not send damaging reverberations across an already tumultuous region, most especially if Turkey is to consider a bid for EU membership.
It has now been over five years since Libya, once the richest nation in Africa, started its spiralling collapse into chaos. After the ousting of Muammar Gaddafi bringing an end to his 42-year rule, the internationally recognised government struggles to achieve legitimacy and unity among the people of Libya remains a distant dream. An atmosphere of resignation has been permeating the clashing factions, parties, and ISIS. The political vacuum has fostered ISIS influence and caused instability in Libya which has in turn promoted migration.
On World Refugee Week, the Next Century Foundation and the Initiatives of Change hosted a conference “Migration Crisis” regarding the Middle East and North Africa. Whilst international attention has been diverted towards Syria’s crisis, it is important for us to not overlook sensitive humanitarian calamities in other countries, such as Libya.
Due to the violence that has come with a lack of government centralisation, Libya runs the risk of creating new internally displaced persons (IDP). Meanwhile, only small numbers of Libyans are currently migrating to Europe, however numbers could rise. People in Libya fear becoming refugees. The current atmosphere also discourages those who have emigrated to want to come back. These are important people needed for the reconstruction of Libya – a new Libya outside of Gaddafi’s rule.
Former UK Ambassador to Libya, Sir Vincent Fean, remarked that the tribes still maintain a strong degree of influence in the nation. However, whilst the tribes can be a short-term unifier for the nation, they may not be a durable long-term institutional solution for Libya. Despite being large, the tribal system is not applicable everywhere. Tripoli, for example, is disconnected from it and rejects tribal involvement.
Although the tribal system may not be a unifying force for the Libyan government, perhaps the anti-ISIS effort could be a catalysing force between the people in order to unite the nation for good.