Turkey and the Istanbul Convention

Turkey is a nation which gave full political rights to women, including the right to vote and to be elected, locally in 1930 and nationwide in 1934, eleven years ahead of France and Italy. However, laws stipulating that women need permission from their husbands to work outside of the home or to travel abroad were only repealed in the nineties. None the less, Turkey was also the first country to sign and ratify the Council of Europe’s treaty to prevent violence against women and domestic violence which is named after its own city, the Istanbul Convention, in 2011. It is also a country, however, which ranked 130th among 149 countries on the World Economic Forum’s Gender Gap Index in 2018. Recently, news that Turkey intends to withdraw from the Istanbul Convention has created shockwaves globally.

The reality of Turkey’s complex relationship with women’s rights is that behind the façade of state feminism, laws protecting women have never been fully implemented. The recent #ChallengeAccepted trend, in which women have been sharing black and white selfies on social media, has spread awareness of the horrifying rates of femicide in Turkey, with countless women being murdered by men in honour killings or out of jealousy. The campaign group ‘We Will Stop Femicide’ began tracking the murders of women in Turkey after discovering that the government does not keep records. Their data shows that despite Turkey signing the Istanbul Convention in 2011, femicide has drastically increased over the years since, with 474 deaths in 2019 alone, almost double the rate of 2013. In most of those cases, the perpetrator was the husband or partner of the victim. In the remainder, they were a family member or stalker.

With the social media campaign sparking global discussion about women’s rights in Turkey, more women have come forward to share their experiences. Many claim that having approached the police for help when they were experiencing domestic violence, they were simply turned away. Protests have also broken out across the country, with women marching together in solidarity. In particular, the brutal murder of Pınar Gültekin in July of this year by a male stalker sparked outrage. Whilst President Erdagon acknowledged the crime, writing on Twitter, ‘I despise all crimes against women’, police were accused of using disproportional force against protestors. In coastal Izmir, some detainees claim to have been beaten and mistreated in custody. Protests demand not only justice for the victims of femicide, but also urgent reform to the justice system. When it comes to sentencing, men who claim that they acted on impulse, or who claim to be religious and dress smartly in court, are handed reduced sentences so often that there is now a term for it – ‘tie reduction’.

At the core of the women’s rights issue is the tension between Turkey and western ideology regarding gender roles. With Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, leader of the Justice and Development Party (AKP), President since 2014, there has been a push towards a more conservative Islamic agenda and certain religious sects have become more vocal. Increasing transparency of political figures’ attitude towards women’s rights, with sexist comments being made publicly, has led up to the decision to withdraw from the Istanbul Convention. A key issue with the Convention is that it defines the term ‘gender’ as ‘the socially constructed roles, behaviours, activities and attributes that a given society considers appropriate for women and men.’ Some countries consider this definition too broad and fear it could be interpreted to make way for the allowance of a third gender. It also requires political parties to allow teaching on non-stereotyped gender roles, which can be regarded as an attempt to enforce a liberal western lifestyle in more traditional societies. Turkish political figures have prevented Turkish women from understanding what the convention really stands for by presenting it as the enemy of the family, arguing that it enables women to desert their homes and that it even encourages homosexuality.

 With the social media campaign attracting a global audience to the events in Turkey and rising tension between protestors and law enforcement, immediate action is required. ‘We Will Stop Femicide’ makes five demands of the Turkish government to resolve gender inequality:

1)         The president, prime minister and the leaders of all political parties should condemn violence against women.

2)         The protection law No. 6284, which aims to protect the family and prevent violence against women, should be officially implemented.

3)         Their legislative proposal to add an additional clause to the Turkish Penal Code regarding ‘aggravated life imprisonment’ should be accepted.

4)         A Ministry of Women should be founded.

5)         A new constitution that prioritises gender and sexual orientation equality should be implemented.

Whilst these present a comprehensive plan for reform, it is unlikely that they can all be implemented in the near future. Now, the Turkish government need to demonstrate the intention of drafting a new human rights treaty to replace the Istanbul Convention, which equally respects the social and religious culture of the nation and the human rights of its female citizens. Ultimately, the government cannot continue suppressing women’s desires for liberation without triggering further conflict; compromise is essential.

A Lebanese limbo

The devastating blast that annihilated both Beirut’s famous port and its seaside districts, leaving up to 300,000 people homeless felt like a horrifying, apocalyptic scenario. To many Lebanese, the explosion was also symbolic of Lebanon’s systemic decay, economic stagnation, government neglect and rampant corruption, compounded by the social and economic devastation brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic. Lebanon’s post-civil war reconstruction largely benefited its elites, and the post-explosion reconstruction is bound to do the same. Yet the system is showing cracks. The following personal perspective is from NCF Research Officer Ivan Tarkhanov and does not necessarily represent the view of the Next Century Foundation.

Even without the horror of the Beirut explosions, Lebanon’s economy was already sliding towards disaster. A vicious cycle of stagnant economic growth, subpar infrastructure, unemployment and a lack of investment have left the Lebanese economy hopelessly dependent on diaspora inflows, which have in turn mainly benefited the inefficient real estate sector. In addition to this, an entrenched and monopolistic elite continues to block important reforms. As a result despite Lebanon’s status as a middle-income country, its infrastructure was ranked 113 out of 137 countries by the McKinsey report in 2019. 

Lebanon’s political system, built on sectarian lines in an uneasy post-civil war consensus, has now largely lost legitimacy with the average young Lebanese voter. Even in the economy’s better days, the omnipresence of corruption, nepotism and government incompetence left a great number of Lebanese falling through the cracks of the system. Social inequality arguably remains one of the root causes of Lebanon’s 2019-2020 protests and has been a significant obstacle to economic growth and social prosperity. To make things worse, Lebanon’s vibrant middle class has been eviscerated by the succession of crises, and many Lebanese are desperate for a political solution. The majority of Lebanon’s citizens are now trapped in poverty.

Prime Minister Hassan Diab’s government fell one week after the explosion. This resignation came only one year after then PM Saad Hariri’s announced his resignation in the wake of earlier Lebanese protests. But many Lebanese citizens are no longer satisfied with mere cosmetic changes. They are demanding fundamental change at all levels. 

Some have called for a national unity government. But Lebanon has already been run by a unity government. It mostly failed to provide pragmatic solutions to important issues, instead getting trapped in ideological and sectarian debates.

Lebanon needs immediate change. And this change must come through comprehensive economic reforms. Lebanon does not have many options – the economic limbo of the fiscal crisis was only compounded by the damage caused by the Beirut blast, estimated at 15 billion dollars. 

Pushing through significant economic reforms would qualify Lebanon to receive assistance from the International Monetary Fund. That said, IMF programs are not without very considerable controversy. Even the IMF’s own study into austerity policies concluded that they can increase inequality and hamper long term economic growth. Before the explosion rocked Beirut, PM Hassan Diab said that Lebanon needed $10bn in international support. Self-evidently, its needs now far exceed that. But in my personal view, besides the IMF bailout package, Lebanon currently has few credible options. If Lebanon managed to find an agreement with the IMF, it could unlock further aid packages. Meanwhile, also in my personal view, the so-called ‘Chinese option’ for Lebanon remains insufficiently explored: after all Lebanon’s ports could play a key role in China’s Belt and Road initiative.

Entrenched interests impede economic reform in Lebanon. In the years preceding the fiscal crisis, crucial laws and reforms have been either indefinitely stuck in Parliament or avoided altogether. A hostile and monopolised business environment has both repelled investors and placed a heavy toll on small businesses. To make matters worse, Lebanon’s financial services industry remains overwhelmingly dominated by banking, which impedes the nations’s economic stability.

Following the explosion there was an outpouring of international support for Lebanon. Yet direct economic aid to the Lebanese government has been scarce. An emergency donor conference claimed to have raised 253 million euros for humanitarian relief, but the donors demanded stringent transparency in the management of the aid money and most of this money will never reach Lebanon. This is because many international actors remain conscious of the Lebanese government’s corruption and systemic reluctance to reform. Hezbollah, of course, remains an elephant in the room. Since its parliamentary victory of 2018, the organisation has often proven incapable of delivering on reforms demanded by outsiders. Hezbollah’s strong presence in Lebanese politics has led to unwillingness on the part of the United States, most Gulf States and certain European countries to commit resources to Lebanon.

Hezbollah understandably remains hostile to many of the calls for reform, most notably the IMF-demanded customs reorganisation, which would spell the end of the Hezbollah’s share in the militia monopoly over the sector and its control of large swathes of the Lebanese- Syrian border, along with what I view as its lucrative oversight of smuggling operations into Lebanon.   

Ideas of disarming Hezbollah are unrealistic and risk further antagonising the group. Hope remains that a strong, non-sectarian protest movement might finally lead to a new government and a new system built along non-sectarian lines. In any case, corrupt oligarchies, armed militias and rabid sectarianism have served the Lebanese people’s interests poorly.

Include the Rohingya in Elections

The following has been submitted in the format of an Oral Statement to the 45th session of the UN Human Right’s Council, and was prepared by Next Century Foundation Research Officer, Grace Cornish.

The Next Century Foundation asks the government of the Republic of the Union of Myanmar to re-enfranchise the Rohingya minority in time for the upcoming elections on November 8 2020. By doing so, they would grant the Rohingya the status of a legally recognized ethnic minority. 

At present, the Citizenship Act of 1982 prohibits some 600,000 Rohingya from legal recognition, reinforcing their marginalization. 

The Next Century Foundation recognises the difficulties faced by the Myanmar government in dealing with Buddhist nationalist opposition to the assimilation of the Rohingya. In 2010, the Rohingya were briefly enfranchised, but only if they registered as Bengali at the cost of their ethnic identity.

We note the passing of the ‘Race and Religion Protection Laws’ in 2014, which reduced the autonomy of Rohingya to marry freely, have children and determine their lifestyle.

Underlining which, the inability to influence legislative outcomes has compromised the ability of the Rohingya to enjoy their social human rights. 

Taking note of the 2020 ruling by the International Court of Justice in “Gambia v. Myanmar”, the Next Century Foundation welcomes the consequent military reforms, but encourages the Myanmar government to implement all aspects of the ruling. 

Bearing in mind that UN General Assembly Resolution 69/248, adopted in 2014, demanded ‘equal access to full citizenship of the Rohingya minority’, we ask that Myanmar ratify the Convention relating to the Status of Stateless Persons. This recognises the right to a nationality provided for by Article 15 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, to which Myanmar is a signatory. 

The Next Century Foundation endorses the words of UN Special Rapporteur on Minority Issues, Fernand De Vareness, ‘Without citizenship, people who are stateless become humans without rights’. 

We ask that the Rohingya be given their due electoral rights. 

UN Oral Intervention: Britain’s treatment of Older Persons

The following has been prepared by Next Century Foundation Research Officers Lauretta Garrard and Lara Miriam Ibrahim for submission by the Next Century Foundation as a statement to the 45th session of the UN Human Rights Council:

The Next Century Foundation is deeply concerned by the treatment of older persons during the COVID-19 pandemic in the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. The UK government has failed in their duty of care to prioritise the wellbeing of vulnerable older persons.

The lack of significant levels of COVID-19 testing in the initial stages of the outbreak, together with the inadequate supplies of Personal Protective Equipment and the lack of coherent guidance for care home providers and staff has led to an unnecessarily high death toll for care home residents, who have made up 40% of all registered COVID-19 related deaths in the UK. The UK government has failed to make adequate provision to prevent the recurrence of such circumstances and has not taken concrete steps to hold care providers accountable who continue to fail to follow existing guidance.

This failure to protect the human rights of older people perpetuates a disturbing phenomenon of neglecting the health of older people in Britain. The UK government must look beyond rationing adequate treatment of older persons in order to meet financial constraints and should instead protect the human rights of those at greatest clinical risk.

We strongly urge member states of the United Nations to demonstrate their continued commitment to the promotion of the human rights of older persons. We hold the UK government accountable for both past and present human rights abuses in regard to its most vulnerable citizens. We urge them to adopt effective measures to monitor the treatment of older persons. Measures adopted should include providing sufficient Personal Protective Equipment and regular testing for care home staff and residents ahead of a likely second wave of the COVID-19 outbreak (something the UK government claims to do but in which it has failed to deliver).

UN Oral Intervention: Modern Slavery in the UK

The following has been prepared by Next Century Foundation Research Officer Naomi Buhmann for submission by the Next Century Foundation as a statement to the 45th session of the UN Human Rights Council:

In the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, thousands of trafficked adolescents are enslaved by criminal gangs on the county lines for drug distribution. The British government should encourage the police to prioritise cases of underage drug couriers and ensure they are covered by the National Referral Mechanism for trafficked people, and that they use more telecommunication restriction orders through the County Lines Taskforce.

Girls acting as couriers on the County Lines are particularly vulnerable. We urge support services to ensure as many victims as possible are introduced to the National Referral Mechanism.

Prostitutes are another vulnerable group about whom we are increasingly concerned since the advent of Covid-19 in the UK. As many of them continue to work, their safety is more at risk. Others are being abandoned by their traffickers and are in need of shelter.

There is insufficient support for those forced into prostitution. Emergency accommodation services do not know where the victims are located. The lack of funding for those that offer emergency accommodation to help prostitutes in need is an acute problem. Her Majesty’s Government has not yet provided sufficient help to support these services.

Since Covid-19, trafficking is more underground and new strategies are needed empowering institutions and structures that can strengthen exit pathways and break the cycle of exploitation.

We wish to see more funding for anti-trafficking support services and charities so they can adapt to new circumstances swiftly.

In order to identify more victims, help hotlines should be better staffed and widely promoted. They need to connect closely with the National Referral Mechanism and with law enforcement officers so all can remain alert in regard to the trafficking issue and the related problem of online sexual exploitation and grooming.

UN Oral Intervention: Deforestation in Cambodia

The following has been prepared by Next Century Foundation Research Officer Udit Mahalingam for submission by the Next Century Foundation as a statement to the 45th session of the UN Human Rights Council:

The world’s attention needs to be drawn to the issue of deforestation in the Kingdom of Cambodia, and the complicity of timber and agribusiness companies in exploiting indigenous groups. 

Losing a quarter of its tree cover in the past twenty years, rapid deforestation existentially threatens indigenous populations within Cambodia, who now face internal displacement and alleged threats of violence from armed forces.  

All the more alarming is the fact that international stakeholders are profiteering from Cambodian deforestation. 

Despite a national ban on luxury hardwood exports, 500,000 cubic metres of timber is transported annually from Cambodia into the Socialist Republic of Vietnam. 

The second largest timber wood product exporter in Asia, Vietnam earned 10.5 billion U.S dollars from wood and woodwork exports in 2019 alone, its biggest markets being the United States of America, Japan, the People’s Republic of China and the European Union in that order.  

Illegally sourced Cambodian luxury timber, often referred to as rosewood, is being exchanged via legally officiated trade mechanisms. These include the 2001 US-Vietnam Bilateral Trade Agreement, the 2015 Protocol to Amend the ASEAN-China Free Trade Agreement, and the 2019 EU-Vietnam FLEGT Voluntary Partnership Agreement. 

We urge that Cambodia, in ratifying its proposed Environmental and Natural Resources Code, accommodate indigenous land claims within existing customary tenure rights provisions, thereby reinforcing crucial subnational protections. 

Nevertheless, given this issue’s international scope, we suggest that the United Nations Human Rights Council assemble a fact-finding mission to determine the extent of corruption in Cambodian natural resource management, and the nature of the transcontinental supply chain which imports large volumes of illegally logged Cambodian timber via Vietnam.  

The international community’s gluttony for hardwood timber must not come at the cost of the planet’s deforestation, the exploitation of indigenous communities, and the consequent environmental fallout which injures us all.

UN Oral Intervention: Addressing the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam dispute

The following has been prepared by Next Century Foundation Research Officer Udit Mahalingam for submission by the Next Century Foundation as a statement to the 45th session of the UN Human Rights Council:

The Next Century Foundation is troubled by the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam dispute between the Arab Republic of Egypt and the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia. A dispute that also impacts both the Republic of Sudan and the Republic of South Sudan.  

On July 21st 2020, after a season of unusually heavy rain, Ethiopian Premier Abiy Ahmed announced the completion of the Renaissance Dam’s first filling stage.

We are concerned that, in choosing to fill the dam unilaterally, Ethiopia violated the 2015 Agreement on the Declaration of the Principles on the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam, and the fundamental tripartite “spirit of co-operation” contained within the agreement.  

The Next Century Foundation urges Ethiopia, and indeed all other parties to the Declaration of Principles, to respect their associated legal obligations in the implementation and operation of the Renaissance Dam. 

We are aware that Egypt would like the filling process to be conducted over a twenty-year period – a timeframe at odds with Ethiopia’s proposed seven years. 

The Next Century Foundation instead suggests that filling be conducted over fourteen years – a fair compromise in view of Egypt and Ethiopia’s mutual water-sharing interests.  

Nevertheless, we recognise Ethiopia’s sovereign right to construct the dam, and thereby address its own developmental needs. We note Ethiopia’s exclusion from historic Nile water-sharing treaties, such as the 1929 and 1959 Nile Waters Agreements. 

The Next Century Foundation urges the countries affected by the Renaissance Dam dispute to introduce a comprehensive water-sharing agreement within the Nile Basin. 

We note that Egypt, Ethiopia and Sudan have failed to ratify the UN Water Convention and fully incorporate its provisions into existing national laws concerning the use of water. The Next Century Foundation thus implores all Nile Basin states to ratify the UN Water Convention, and thereby facilitate progress towards a comprehensive water-sharing agreement. 

An Update on HRH Princess Basmah’s Current Situation

*An update on Princess Basmah’s Current Situation and a respectful plea to HRH Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman for Princess Basmah to be discharged as quickly as possible.*

In June 2020, the Next Century Foundation appealed to HRH Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia to release HRH Princess Basmah bint Saud and her daughter, Suhoud, from custody. This is a renewed, respectful plea for her release.

In order to provide brief context, HRH Princess Basmah was arrested in March 2019, along with her loyal and devoted 28-year old daughter. On this occasion, eight armed men took her into custody when she wanted to leave the country. Princess Basmah intended to go to Switzerland for medical treatment, however, she was suspected of fleeing Saudi Arabia.

At first, the state security accused her of procuring a false passport, but these charges were dropped quickly – now it is unclear why she is detained. Since March 2019, Princess Basmah has not been seen in public. She is held in the Al-Ha’ir prison (Riyadh) which is normally used for Jihadis in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.

The Next Century Foundation reported that in April 2020 that Princess Basmah’s office had tweeted a statement to ask HRH Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (her cousin) for mercy:

“I am currently being arbitrarily held at Al-Ha’ir prison without […] charges against my person. My health is deteriorating to an extent […] that could lead to my death. I have not received medical care or even response to the letters I dispatched from jail to the Royal Court. I was abducted without an explanation together with one of my daughters and thrown into prison. I am beseeching my uncle […] and my cousin […] to review my case, and to release me as I have done no wrong. My current health status is very critical.”

These tweets were taken down, as well as her website, and on 17 May 2020 Princess Basmah’s media office tweeted again to say:

“The direct and indirect weekly communications from Princess Basmah bint Saud with her family have been cut off completely since the tweet on April 17th, 2020. We have not received any information about her deteriorating health or legal status.”

Princess Basmah and her daughter were unfortunately not released during Ramadan despite these pleas. In addition, they have had no contact with relatives or any of the outside world since April 2020, marking five months since any updates on Princess Basmah’s critical health condition.

Other famous prisoners who are also thought to be in Al-Ha’ir prison such as Salman al-Awdah and Loujain Al-Hathloul have not been in communication with anyone outside of the prison since May and June, respectively. This has become incredibly concerning.

The Next Century Foundation respectfully pleas to HRH Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia to discharge HRH Princess Basmah bint Saud and her daughter, Suhoud, and allow them access to communications with the outside world.

HRH Princess Basmah represents little or no real threat to the status quo in Saudi Arabia. A revision of her case would undoubtedly be a kind gesture. Indeed, viewed from a Western perspective, she could be regarded as a credit to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.

Covid-19, Sanctions and Venezuela

The following has been prepared by Next Century Foundation Research Officer Alexander Shah for submission by the Next Century Foundation as a statement to the 45th session of the UN Human Rights Council:

The Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela has suffered over the past decade. Poverty rates have skyrocketed, basic goods have become scarce, and millions have fled the country. Covid-19 presents a dangerous new challenge to the country. The Venezuelan healthcare system is under tremendous pressure, having to deal with hospital overcrowding, insufficient equipment, and a limited ability to conduct testing. Only a quarter of doctors in the country have access to a reliable supply of clean water and two-thirds lack soap, gloves or masks. A new surge in Covid-19 cases could prove disastrous for the already collapsing healthcare system. 

Venezuela is hindered from delivering a rapid and efficient response to the Covid-19 crisis because of crippling sanctions imposed by the United States of America. The U.S. has continually ignored appeals by the Venezuelan government to ease sanctions, despite their clearly deleterious effect on the state’s citizens. 

Prior to any easing of sanctions, the United States has demanded that Venezuela’s President Nicolás Maduro, accused of authoritarian abuses of power, step down in order to hold new elections. The U.S. has charged President Maduro with the crime of “narco-terrorism” in an attempt to further this process. This move has further embittered President Maduro and narrowed the potential for discussion. 

The Next Century Foundation calls on the United States of America to end its debilitating sanctions on Venezuela in order to enable the country to adequately deal with the Covid-19 crisis. Likewise, we call on President Maduro to engage in discussions with Mr. Juan Guaidó, leader of the opposition, over how to effectively tackle the pandemic, and to potentially come to some sort of democratic power-sharing agreement as a precursor to free and fair elections.

Push to build Canal to restore Nile water level after Ethiopian Dam

The following has been submitted by the Next Century Foundation as a statement to the 45th session of the UN Human Rights Council:

The Next Century Foundation is concerned about the ramifications of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam. Nile River water levels will be significantly reduced during the years over which the dam is being filled by the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia. This affects the Arab Republic of Egypt, as well as of course the Republic of Sudan and the Republic of South Sudan.

We note recent discussions between the Governments of Egypt and the Republic of South Sudan on the viability of the Jonglei Canal’s construction in the Sudd wetland. This draining of the wetlands could compensate for downstream Nile River water loss caused by dam construction in the short term, and restore the Nile to historic water levels in the longer term.

The Sudd is one of the world’s largest wetlands, but it loses more than 50% of its water to evaporation annually, lessening downstream states’ water availability. The proposed canal (or more probably two canals) could divert approximately 4.8 cubic gigameters that would otherwise evaporate over the wetland. As well as restoring short term water level loss from dam construction, in the longer term it could ameliorate losses as a consequence of drought.

Such a project would be beneficial to the agricultural development of South Sudan. We urge Ethiopia, Egypt and Sudan to cooperate with South Sudan and investigate the viability of the Jonglei Canal. But we advise countries concerned to remember of the project’s potential ecological and environmental ramifications:

  • The displacement of riparian populations along the Sudd wetlands.
  • Disruptions to seasonal movement of livestock and wildlife.
  • Reduction of rainfall in the Sudd region, spurred by the diversion of water.
  • Any potential increase in the release of global warming associated gasses as the wetlands are drained.

With those caveats we regard this project as urgent.

Healing the Nations: Libya

Libya is a beautiful country with many resources and a wild history; we’ve passed through many tragedies and conflicts and we’ve survived them all, because we acted united with one voice and one hope.

Basically, by the end of Gaddafi’s rule, we had lived four decades believing that any troubles that don’t concern us directly aren’t too important – as long as we have “safety” everything is okay.

So of course, after the long period of fighting for freedom, we’re not going to accept another dictator. That would be one step back, like replacing an executioner with another. That is not respect for our martyrs, the youths who lost their lives for us.

But sadly since 2011, irresponsible and irrational young men carrying guns and using all kind of weapons, without training. Raids through civilian neighborhoods, we lost entire families, houses got destroyed, hospitals, airports and universities got raided, and they even put mines in houses.

What I want to say is we need a government that can support the citizens; that takes a stand controlling the streets militia, and that is willing and able to prevent any attacks without international involvement.

What Libyans need and yes I’m speaking on behalf of all Libyans, the people who have no interests in what’s going on, we need a strong civilian government, and trained police and army forces who are following this government, their loyalty must be for Libya only. The grudges and the lamentation over the past should stop, we should move on towards a brighter future. That’s what Libyans have hoped for and are still hoping for.

 

A Better Understanding of China’s Thinking

Why has China risked international condemnation with their treatment of ethnic minorities in Xinjiang? Why do they feel the need to exert such a high level of control over civil society? This blog will attempt to demystify China’s thinking behind these controversial decisions.

Whilst it would be all too easy to attribute current policy programmes to the authoritarian nature of the current Chinese state, China’s history of empire, domination and the formulation of Han nationalism against a backdrop of a diverse number of ethnic minorities should be given greater importance.

The ‘100 Years of Humiliation’, a period ending in the mid-20th century, is key to understanding how China has regarded their position on the international stage. This period saw decades of economic exploitation by Western imperialists and political domination from Japan and Russia. Considering the length at which China experienced such foreign interference, it is unsurprising that they pursue an agenda to strengthen both their nationalist identity, but also their identity as a strong, independent political actor (examples here can include their treatment of ethnic minorities and Hong Kong). Indeed, in 2013, current President Xi Jinping emphasised the ‘Chinese Dream’, referring in part to the need to ‘rejuvenate’ China as a nation.

China has portrayed the detention of Eastern Turkic Muslims, specifically the Uighurs in the autonomous region of Xinjiang, as a necessary step in the reduction of terrorism. China’s official justification to the existence of these ‘Vocational Training Centres’ is that they need to protect their populations against a terrorist threat and need to pre-emptively reduce the spread of extremism.The state has connected the terrorist threat to the Eastern Turkestan Islamic Movement, a separatist, militant Uighur group. However, whilst China is officially an atheist state and wary of religious separatism, this alone cannot explain the prosecution of an entire ethnicity.

Considering how far reaching China’s economic investments are, it is likely that they recognise their influence, subsequently discouraging challenges to China from other states. China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) would help illustrate this, specifically in the case of Kazakhstan. Despite reports stating there to be thousands of Kazakhs imprisoned in ‘Vocational Training Camps’ in Xinjiang, the Kazakhstan government has so far remained quiet on this gross abuse of Human Rights. According to the Council of Foreign Relations, BRI countries’ debt to China has increased significantly since their participation in this infrastructure scheme. In Kazakhstan, which joined the initiative in 2013, the percentage of debt owed to China increased by 8.3% by 2016. This raises the possibility that Kazakhstan has felt unable to challenge China on its treatment of Kazakhs due to the economic significance of their relationship.

All in all, the driving factors behind China’s decision-making process are linked to strengthening the image of a strong, singular identity of the Han Chinese people, a fixation encouraged by a history of exploitation by foreign powers. In addition to this underlying theme, their economic omnipresence has led to a fear of opposition to such a policy. China perceives the Uighurs to be a threat to ethnic nationalism, rather than a genuine threat to their national security, a perception which has been moulded by a history of fragmentation, and confidently carried out against a backdrop of economic dominance.