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After Paris: Codes of Tolerance as the Bridge

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The slaughter of 17 people in the past week in Paris marks a dark era in Europe in the relationship between European Muslims and the Arab world – just as it were 14 years ago when the 9/11 terror struck in the USA. These terror attacks strike at the heart of Europe. They erupt many emotions in all of us.

This violence in the name of religion penetrates the core of all European countries, the democratic parties, their governments and the general public, the freedom of the press and expression, religious freedom, cultural tolerance and respect towards each other.

Ultimately, the world order of the United Nations Charter and the Universal Declaration on Human Rights is shaken in its core as well.

Ironically, the first victim was a Muslim. 42 year old police officer Ahmed Merabed was  executed at point-blank range in public view on the sidewalk outside of Charlie Hebdo. The shocking video is available on the internet.

These murders and kidnappings were carried out by the perpetrators “in the name of Islam, with vengeance for the Prophet and because of attacks on Muslims.” They triggered massive outrage and fear  of Islam and Muslims worldwide.
They provide the radical nationalists – like the Front National in France or the Pegida movement in Germany – unprecedented breeding ground, more press, more coverage, more popularity.  In all EU countries the mood shifts incrementally with each rebellious act.
For many in the West, Islam has become a menace.  The latest study of the German Bertelsmann Foundation in January 2015 reveals this sentiment.
57% of Germans view Islam as a threat.
61% believe Islam does not fit within western societies.
What do we do now?

This core question was already presented by Lenin at the end of each Politibuero gathering to focus on actions.
What can we, the 3 core groups do?
The 500 million Europeans in the EU
The 44 million Muslims in Europe
The 1.6 billion Muslims in the World

Our world has changed drastically in the last 20 years through globalization. This give us opportunities but these opporutnities don’t come without risks and unrest. Although we band together, we are drawn apart by ideoligies and beliefs. What world will we build, will we choose for our children to live together in harmony as Germans, as Arabs, as Westerners? What will we leave as a legacy to our children, to your children in the world?
Do we take our responsibility as leaders of the Western World serious enough?  Do we understand what it means to live together in harmony, in tolerance, in peaceful co-existence? Or will we sit in desperate passivity and allow the world to crumble around us?
Will we leave a legacy of acquiescence that the radicals will feed off of, that the Radicals will profit from, in a world of fear, comfort and political correctness? Don’t we desparately need a grand strategy, a fundamental understanding, a common soul that works through our shared humanity to establish a code of tolerance?
Without a unified front and power tools, we cannot confront the misguided goals of IS and al-Qaida.  We must  have the courage to stand up.
Consider this double strategy:
•    of the hard and soft factors of fighting for peace
•    of power and diplomacy
•    weaponry, police, state security, military
•    education, dialogue and reconciliation and the will to promote tolerance on all sides

Today I would like to focus on the soft factors that contribute to the Codes of Tolerance.  What must we do to actualize these tenants of assimiliation and understanding?

The world-wide concern about the far-reaching terrorist campaign of IS is not enough.  We need actions. Similarly, acknowledging that the violent acts do not represent the entire body of Islamic believers and its doctrine, is not enough. Violence in the name of the Prophet contradicts what is written in the Qur’an.
But the radicals – like in Paris-  always argue they defend the Prophet as representatives of the true religion fighting for its victory. They cherry-pick some harsh words from the Qur’an which paise fighting the unbelievers.
Tens of thousands of misguided Musims are fighting what they see as unbelievers, killing Christians and mostly Muslims alike in the name of Mohammed in a mistaken fanatical ideology.  Therefore, it is the problem of Islam. It is the fight for its interpretation, the soul of the Holy Qur’an and the ownership of the religion.

This violent detour from the original tenants of Islam has now become a problem for the entire body of the Muslim people.  Moderate and extemists alike. Her Royal Highness Rania, The Queen of Jordan, put her finger into the wound on November 18, 2014 in Abu Dhabi:
„The attacks of radical Islamists are an attack on the values of Islam. But the moderate Muslims are equally to blame: It is said that our silence speaks volumes.“

Egyptian President al-Sisi rightfully determined at the Al Azhar University on New Year’s Day 2015:

”It can not be that the Islamic world is perceived as a haven of danger, of killing and destruction by the rest of the world.”

„We need a religious revolution in Islam“, he declared.

I had the honor to meet the 17 year old Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala in December 2014 in Oslo.  I asked her about suggestions to promote tolerance.
She impressed me deeply in how clearly she defended the true Islam including the right of girls to education.
She speaks openly about risking her and the other girls’ lives while the others remained silent.
It is not embarrassing and a shame that a young Muslim girl is braver than thousands of imams, generals, princes and politicians?
There are Muslim heros, but still too few. Like Lassana Bathily. This 24 year old Muslim was an employee in the Kosher supermarket in Paris. He risked his life to hide several jewish hostages in the walk-in freezer to spare their lives from the Muslim killer.

The thundering silence in the Muslim world must end. Only those who stand up and fight for the true Islam, can win.
He who is silent is lost. The roads to murder are always paved with the silence of the majorities. He who is silent carries the guilt of others. But Islam is all about a joint responsibility.
I miss the fierce Islamic courage and noble bravery that the Prophet demands of his followers. I call this bourgeois silence cowardice and convenience. Both are very dangerous.
From some high-ranking representatives of the Muslims I also hear the argument:
”If we distance ourselves from the killers or the IS, we’re part of their their propaganda. We have nothing to do with them. We do not have to defend for ourselves.”


This unsetting justification is wrong and highly dangerous. We Germans know why?  
In the 1920s and 1930s, the German citizens lost step-by-step the power to define what a good German should do or not, what are the German values and the German culture. The very few, yet steadily increasing number of radical Nazis then defined what was German and what was not. Just like today where the silent majority of Muslims is about to loose moral control about the values of Islam. The majority of the bourgeoise stayed silent and remained passive for too long until it was too late. After that anyone who opened his mouth or resisted, was promptly delivered up to the concentration camps or killed.
Is this cowardice to be repeated in the Arab world now?  Must history repeat itself ?

The Islamic world must reflect on and reclaim the roots of faith and fight for the true Quran and the peaceful wisdom of the prophet openly and actively. The green banner of true Islam must overcome the black banner of the IS-terrorist and other extremists.
Frank, courageous, everywhere. This is the new Djihad of faith.
 
Worldwide, probably less than half a percent of people who are prone to violence, misuse their religion as a mandate to confrontation towards believers of different faith. (Christians, Jews, depending on affiliation, but especially Schiites and Sunnies is Syria, Iraq or Pakistan). That is only two to five of a thousand violence prone people. But put that number in action this tiny minority becomes very loud and dangerous. They own the streets, they have the media’s attention.

The 99% majority of Muslims stays silent, looks away, doesn not protest openly, leaving the few radicals too much space and thus the authority to interpret their Islam. This silent majority does not understand the mechanisms of the seizure of power by resolute totalitarian leaders born out of the violent one percent at the beginning of their crusade.


Official statements, so far, have been too short and superficial. They will not succeed in stopping the wave of ideological violence and misinterpretation. One has to dig much deeper. They have to take to the streets and to the media. They have to fight for their right to peaceful existence, not cower to violence.

We need an uprising of decent Muslims and their spiritual and political leaders in all Muslim countries against extremism and violence.
All true Muslims are called together in the face of this crisis of the perception of Islam to defend their God, the Holy Book and their Prophet Muhammad against the violence and sins of the IS and their deadly tools and other terrorists. This is not a choice, this is a Muslim duty.

This is the path to actively protect the true doctrine, to enlighten misguided youths, to contain the radicals and hinder the growth of distrust against Islam and hence a rupture of European societies and more so the Islamic world. It is there, where most people die at the hand of the few radicals. Islamic Extremism is pricipally a danger to Muslims.

The global media coverage about the terror in Paris somewhat overshadowed, that simultaneously 63 people in Iraq, 26 in Syria and 18 in Aghanistan were killed. I thus demand active reconciliation between Sunnies and Schiites, just like the Lutheran Church reached agreement with the Cathlic Church after centuries of bitter warfare of faith. We in the West must contain xenophobia, Islamophobia, and Neo-Nazis. 35.000 people demonstrated against xenophobia in Dresden on Sunday. In Paris, one million Christians, Muslims and Jews took to the streets. And the Muslims rose on Tuesday at the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin.
More of that! Let’s not stand still. Let’s continue! With many actions worldwide.

Our fight for tolerance is your fight. Your fight for tolerance is our fight. We can only save the world from hate and terror if we contain the different radicals together.

We must actively educate more tolerance and respect towards other religions, ethnic minorities and races globally. We need a Jihad for tolerance.We have to spent hundreds of millions of dollars in grassroots projects, in the Muslim world and in the West. A global action plan is needed to promote the human codes of tolerance and respect and to contain the radicals. We all do too little.
We have to maintain the good human interaction as if it were a beautiful lawn. If we don’t tend to our garden, the weeds will choke out the flowers. Promoting the soft factors of peace and tolerance is like seeding plants, giving daily watering and care.


We need a credible policy of the values for the UN Charter to establish an honest global constitution without political rhetoric.
We need a living soul, not just checkbooks or weapons. This includes the steady promotion of the codes of tolerance towards minorities, the poor and the disenfranchised religions and races. Specific details are described in my most current book “Codes of Tolerance.”


My book has been translated into Arabic and published by Al Arabica Publishing in Cairo.  I would know like to present the first two samples to Dr Mohamad Hamed Alashmary und Professor Mohamed Khallouk.

Codes of Tolerance

This book,  “Codes of Tolerance” depicts a picture of the true peace-loving Islam with many facets and hence a positive message to all: Islam is peaceful in its  roots and tolerant of Christians and Jews.
The book explores 10 Golden Rules of tolerance in Islam: The dominance of goodness and mercy of God in the first sura and all suras of the Qur’an. The Muslim welcome address “Peace be with you”
The Prophet aimed at hilm, a new society of harmony and respect. Punishment on judgment day and not on earth. The state role model through reconciliation after the conquest of Mecca 630 to 632. The Prophet did not enforce a totalitarian theocracy, but left the political system as it was, forced nobody to concert to Islam and and pardoned his enemies.
 

There are many references of the ancient sacred text of the Jews and the Christians, who share 14 prophets with the Muslims.
At least 27 verses in the Qur’an  call on Muslims to practice tolerance and patience to Christians and Jews as other believers to the same God and children of Abraham.
The clear restriction of the use of force only in self-defense in the Quar’an and only as long as the attacker poses an immediate danger.  Violence should never be practiced against innocent civilians.

The Prophet and later the first two caliphs signed 14 tolerance contracts with Christian communities for eternity, protecting the free exercise of religion.There is a strong tolerance tradition with the Christians. Documented by the close alliances of the first 100 Muslims Mohammad sent from hostile Mecca in exile to the Christian Kingdom of the Negus in Abyssinia  615 to 622, as well as in the Golden Age of Islam in the 9th century.



The obligation to comply with all rules of the UN Charter by Sura 17.34 as applicable law in Islamic countries. The radical Muslims misunderstand or ignore these messages of tolerance and the model of Prophet Muhammad.  They cherry-pick only six sentences of the 6236 suras of the Koran in order to ignore 99.99 percent. Thus they put the Islam upside down.

Opposite to the propaganda of the extremists, the true message of the Qur’an and the Prophet are of mercy, the virtue of serenity, harmony (hilm) and for peace (salam).  The position of women in Islam casts Islam in a light of mistrust and disdain in Western countries. I have therefore highlighted the relationship between the Prophet and women in the chapter: “Muhammad: ’I am the best to women.’
“


Central to its comprehension is the description of Khadidjah bint Khuwaylid (ca. 555-620), the first wife of the Prophet. She was an emancipated and very successful businesswoman in Mecca. She employed the younger Muhammad and asked for marriage. Only one world religion was funded by a woman:  Islam.  Not a man, but a woman was “the first Muslim.”
A woman was the most important counselor and supporter of the Prophet.

She should be the role model for all Muslim women, because God chose an emancipated business woman on purpose. The extremists never heard of her importance and style, but they should.  Khadidjah is the opposite of Muslim teaching today as is propagated by the IS and Boko Haram which restrict and abuse women who neither go to school nor are emancipated “in the name of the Prophet.”

The Prophet encouraged the emancipation of women in the tribal society of the 7th century.  This was a groundbreaking societal right for the female citizen.
The rules of the Quar’an protected the women with not less but six more significant rights: Inheritance, personal property, consent to marriage, and prohibiting the killing of female offspring. The Qu’ran never said: do not give them more rights. It does not limit women rights, but guides towards emancipation.

The Prophet fostered the emancipation of women. The tribal communities of the 7th century did not allow for more. Hence, an important part of the Codes of Tolerace ist the propagation of women in the Islamic world. I appeal to every responsible citizen to become personally involved in the development of this common global village. The codes of tolerance are our common ground, our global ethos we share.

The Codes of Tolerance include 60 rules and paths towards a world policy of human kindness, combined with 79 best practices for the most important groups: All of us in general, parents, religious leaders, the media, politicians, sport and culture.
We can successfully follow the path of tolerance with many good deeds.  The world can silence their haters and nuture their flowers within the spectrum of love for our children of all faiths.
Peaceful cohabitance through tolerance towards other religions, minorities and races is attainable.

An active and fortified tolerance policy is not naïve.  It is not the dream of do-gooders.  It is absolutely essential.
Our world needs a positive vision. A hawk alone cannot bring peace. Only 0.01 percent of our national budgts are spent on reconciliation projects, but 99.99 percent is  used for internal security and defense.
We need a readjustment and an active tolerance policy, which is financed with a least one percent of all expenditures for foreign affairs, development and defense.

We also need zero tolerance towards the intolerant. We must actively oppose the poison of hate.There is the very real threat of a vacuum, of soft politics, that invites the radicals the fill the void. It can also be deadly for Qatar – as for Berlin in 1933.
In future, only those rebels and states should receive support, who abide by the global order rooted in the UN-Chart, include its resolutions and implement them. This is true for any kind of support – currently as in Syria, Egypt, Gaza, Libya or Pakistan.

He who refuses must be isolated. No funding for extremists any more. Let us leave our world not to the haters and evil.
We cannot wait – we have to start now.  Local, creative, active.
We all can start with our small puzzel piece of peace as the first stone in the mosaic of seven billion people.
We can create together as Europeans and as Arabs a new harmonious world of togetherness with more respect and love of humanity in our global village. Our children are our greatest commodity and their future is their right to inherit in a state of peace and security.

Qatar could become the role model in the Islamic world for this new policy. With its creative and flexible foreign policy, Qatar should play a leading role in this policy and the promotion of codes of tolerance in finding projects funded by $1 billion dollars of humanitarian funds. This money may be well spent. It will change the Arabic countries and the world in a positive fashion – in accordance with the wishes of the Prophet. The Qatari television station Al Jazeera and the Qatar Foundation should address these vital issues about promoting peace more now that ever before.

Qatar could lead the way as a very important role model in moral and political leadership for the Arab world. Qatar can silence their critics by shouldering the essential moral responsibility of spreading the word of peace from the Prophet. This country can then fill a moral vacuum and fulfill the dreams of millions of young Arabs. With an initiative to prompt the human codes of tolerance and respect globally, Qatar shines even brighter as a beacon of light . As a moral and Islamic Lighthouse.

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Middle East

China-US and the Iran nuclear deal

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Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi told his Iranian counterpart Hossein Amirabdollahian that Beijing would firmly support a resumption of negotiations on a nuclear pact [China Media Group-CCTV via Reuters]

Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amir Abdollahian met with  Chinese Foreign Minister, Wang Yi on Friday, January 14, 2022 in the city of Wuxi, in China’s Jiangsu province.  Both of them discussed a gamut of issues pertaining to the Iran-China relationship, as well as the security situation in the Middle East.

A summary of the meeting published by the Chinese Foreign Ministry underscored the point, that Foreign Ministers of Iran and China agreed on the need for  strengthening bilateral cooperation in a number of areas under the umbrella of the 25 year Agreement known as ‘Comprehensive Cooperation between the Islamic Republic of Iran and the People’s Republic of China’. This agreement had been signed between both countries in March 2021 during the Presidency of Hassan Rouhani, but the Iranian Foreign Minister announced the launch of the agreement on January 14, 2022.

During the meeting between Wang Yi and Hossein Amir Abdollahian there was a realization of the fact, that cooperation between both countries needed to be enhanced not only in areas like energy and infrastructure (the focus of the 25 year comprehensive cooperation was on infrastructure and energy), but also in other spheres like education, people to people contacts, medicine and agriculture. Iran also praised the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) and said that it firmly supported the One China policy.

The timing of this visit is interesting, Iran is in talks with other signatories (including China) to the JCPOA/Iran nuclear deal 2015 for the revival of the 2015 agreement. While Iran has asked for removal of economic sanctions which were imposed by the US after it withdrew from the JCPOA in 2018, the US has said that time is running out, and it is important for Iran to return to full compliance to the 2015 agreement.  US Secretary of State Antony Blinken in an interview said

‘Iran is getting closer and closer to the point where they could produce on very, very short order enough fissile material for a nuclear weapon’

The US Secretary of State also indicated, that if the negotiations were not successful, then US would explore other options along with other allies.

During the course of the meeting on January 14, 2022 Wang Yi is supposed to have told his Chinese counterpart, that while China supported negotiations for the revival of the Iran nuclear deal 2015, the onus for revival was on the US since it had withdrawn in 2018.

The visit of the Iranian Foreign Minister to China was also significant, because Foreign Ministers of four Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries – Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Oman and Bahrain — and Secretary General of GCC,  Nayef Falah Mubarak Al-Hajraf were in China from January 10-14, 2022 with the aim of expanding bilateral ties – especially with regard to energy cooperation and trade. According to many analysts, the visit of GCC officials to China was driven not just by economic factors, but also the growing proximity between Iran and Beijing.

In conclusion, China is important for Iran from an economic perspective. Iran has repeatedly stated, that if US does not remove the economic sanctions it had imposed in 2018, it will focus on strengthening economic links with China (significantly, China has been purchasing oil from Iran over the past three years in spite of the sanctions imposed by the US. The Ebrahim Raisi administration has repeatedly referred to an ‘Asia centric’ policy which prioritises ties with China.

Beijing is seeking to enhance its clout in the Middle East as US ties with certain members of the GCC, especially UAE and Saudi Arabia have witnessed a clear downward spiral in recent months (US has been uncomfortable with the use of China’s 5G technology by UAE and the growing security linkages between Beijing and Saudi Arabia). One of the major economic reasons for the GCC gravitating towards China is Washington’s thrust on reducing its dependence upon GCC for fulfilling its oil needs. Beijing can utilize its good ties with Iran and GCC and play a role in improving links between both.

The geopolitical landscape of the Middle East is likely to become more complex, and while there is not an iota of doubt, that the US influence in the Middle East is likely to remain intact, China is fast catching up.

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Middle East

Egypt vis-à-vis the UAE: Who is Driving Whom?

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Image source: atalayar.com

“Being a big fish in a small pond is better than being a little fish in a large pond” is a maxim that aptly summarizes Egyptian regional foreign policy over the past few decades. However, the blow dealt to the Egyptian State in the course of the 2011 uprising continues to distort its domestic and regional politics and it has also prompted the United Arab Emirates to become heavily engaged in Middle East politics, resulting in the waning of Egypt’s dominant role in the region!

The United Arab Emirates is truly an aspirational, entrepreneurial nation! In fact, the word “entrepreneurship” could have been invented to define the flourishing city of Dubai. The UAE has often declared that as a small nation, it needs to establish alliances to pursue its regional political agenda while Egypt is universally recognized for its regional leadership, has one of the best regional military forces, and has always charmed the Arab world with its soft power. Nonetheless, collaboration between the two nations would not necessarily give rise to an entrepreneurial supremacy force! 

Egypt and the UAE share a common enemy: political Islamists. Yet each nation has its own distinct dynamic and the size of the political Islamist element in each of the two countries is different. The UAE is a politically stable nation and an economic pioneer with a small population – a combination of factors that naturally immunize the nation against the spread of political Islamists across the region. In contrast, Egypt’s economic difficulties, overpopulation, intensifying political repression, along with its high illiteracy rate, constitute an accumulation of elements that serves to intensify the magnitude of the secreted, deep-rooted, Egyptian political Islamists.

The alliance formed between the two nations following the inauguration of Egypt’s President Al Sisi was based on UAE money and Egyptian power. It supported and helped expand the domestic political power of a number of unsubstantiated Arab politicians, such as Libya’s General Khalifa Haftar, Tunisia’s President Kais Saied and the Chairman of Sudan’s Transitional Sovereignty Council, Lieutenant-General Abdel-Fattah Al-Burhan. The common denominator among these politicians is that they are all fundamentally opposed to political Islamists.

Although distancing political Islamists from ruling their nations may constitute a temporary success, it certainly is not enough to strengthen the power of the alliance’s affiliates. The absence of true democracy, intensified repression by Arab rulers and the natural evolution of Arab citizens towards freedom will, for better or for worse, lead to the re-emergence of political Islamists. Meanwhile, Emirati wealth will always attract Arab hustlers ready to offer illusory political promises to cash in the money.   

The UAE has generously injected substantial amounts of money into the Egyptian economy and consequently the Egyptian State has exclusively privileged Emirati enterprises with numerous business opportunities, yet the UAE has not helped Egypt with the most critical regional threat it is confronting: the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam. Meanwhile, Egyptian President Abdel Fatah El Sisi’s exaggerated fascination with UAE modernization has prompted him to duplicate many Emirati projects – building the tallest tower in Africa is one example.

The UAE’s regional foreign policy that hinges upon exploiting its wealth to confront the political Islamist threat is neither comprehensible nor viable. The Emirates, in essence, doesn’t have the capacity to be a regional political player, even given the overriding of Egypt’s waning power. Meanwhile, Al Sisi has been working to depoliticize Egypt completely, perceiving Egypt as an encumbrance rather than a resource-rich nation – a policy that has resulted in narrowing Egypt’s economic and political aspirations, limiting them to the constant seeking of financial aid from wealthy neighbors.

The regional mediating role that Egypt used to play prior to the Arab uprising has been taken over by European nations such France, Germany and Italy, in addition of course to the essential and ongoing role of the United States. Profound bureaucracy and rampant corruption will always keep Egypt from becoming a second UAE! Irrespective of which nation is in the driver’s seat, this partnership has proven to be unsuccessful. Egypt is definitely better off withdrawing from the alliance, even at the expense of forgoing Emirati financial support.

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Kurdish Education in Turkey: A Joint Responsibility

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Turkish elites often see Kurds as posing a mortal threat to their homeland’s territorial integrity. Kurdish elites often harbor pan-Kurdish dreams of their own.

Modern Turkish nationalism based its identity on statist secularism practiced by Muslims who are Turks. The secularist paradigm of a “Turkish Nation” struggled hard with accommodating Christians (Armenians, Greeks, Assyrians) and Kurdish-speaking Muslims. Kurdish coreligionists were expected to become Turks, i.e., to abandon their cultural heritage for the “greater good” of a homogenous Turkish nation.

This cultural-identity conundrum led to a century-long violent conflict, but also to genuine efforts by many Kurds and Turks to reach a common vision that would accommodate both Turkey’s territorial integrity and Kurdish cultural rights.

The rise to power of Erdogan’s Islamist Justice and Development Party (AKP) in 2002 appeared to imply a watershed, bringing about a measure of cultural liberalization toward the Kurds. More Islam seemed at first to signal less nationalistic chauvinism.

IMPACT-se, a think tank focusing on peace and tolerance in school education, pointed out in “Two Languages One Country,” a 2019 report that showed liberal elements being introduced in the Turkish curriculum by the AKP government. These “included the introduction of a Kurdish language elective program, the teaching of evolution, expressions of cultural openness, and displays of tolerance toward minorities.”

And while no open debate was permitted, IMPACT-se noted “a slight improvement over past textbooks in recognizing the Kurds, although they are still generally ignored.” Yet, the name “Kurd” is no longer obliterated from the curriculum. Kurdish-language textbooks were authored as part of a wider Turkish-Kurdish rapprochement.

In June 2012, the Turkish government announced for the first time, that a Kurdish elective language course entitled: “Living Languages and Dialects” (Yaşayan Diller ve Lehçeler), would be offered as an elective language for Grades 5–7 for two hours per week.

IMPACT-se studied these textbooks (published in 2014 and 2015 in Kurmanji and Zazaki) in its report  and found that the elective Kurdish-language program strengthens Kurdish culture and identity, while assuming a pan-Kurdish worldview devoid of hate against Turks. Included are Kurdish-historic places in Turkey, Iran and Iraq (but not Syria). The textbooks cover issues such as the Kurdish diaspora in Europe, the Kurdish national holiday of Newroz, with the underlying revolutionary message of uprising against tyranny. Children’s names are exclusively Kurdish. Turks and Turkey are not represented in the elective Kurdish books (but are obviously present across the rest of the curriculum).

The latter is a surprising and counter-intuitive finding. Textbooks published by Turkey’s Ministry of Education focus solely on the Kurdish side, with pan-Kurdish messaging, and no Turkish context. There could be several explanations for this, but the fact remains that Turkish-Kurdish relations are still not present in Turkey’s Kurdish language program.

The overall conclusion of IMPACT-se has been that this program is pioneering and generally excellent. There are some problems, however. One problem is that the elective program is minimalistic and does not meet Kurdish cultural needs. However, the program ignores the Turkish-Kurdish dilemma, hence projecting an inverted mirror image of the Turkish curriculum at large, which ignores the Kurdish question. There is no peace education in either curriculum. Therefore, IMPACT-se recommended enhancing the Kurdish-language program, while adding a healthy dose of pertinent peace education to the curriculum’s Turkish and Kurdish textbooks.

Sadly, the last few years have also seen broader moves by the Turkish government to quash Kurdish cultural and educational freedoms. The armed conflict between separatist groups and the Turkish military resumed in 2015, followed by the 2016 detention of high-ranking officials of the peaceful pro-minority People’s Democratic Party (HDP). By 2020, 59 out of 65 elected Kurdish mayors on the HDP ticket in previous years had been forced out or arrested by security forces.

Simultaneously, elective programs such as Kurdish have been neglected and largely replaced by religious “elective” courses, which are often mandatory. Specifically, elective Kurdish courses are being clamped down or de facto erased in certain schools (despite being originally offered in 28 cities and with an expected enrollment as high as 160,000).

And then there is the question of full education in Kurdish. Article 42 of the Turkish Constitution bans the “teaching of any language other than Turkish as a mother tongue to Turkish citizens at any institution of education.” And yet, Turkish authorities looked the other way between 2013 and 2016, as five fully Kurdish elementary private schools were opened in the southeastern provinces of Diyarbakır, Şırnak and Hakkari. The last of these schools, Ferzad Kemanger in Diyarbakır, was closed on October 9, 2016. Apparently these schools conveyed pan-Kurdish messaging (Ferzad Kemanger was an Iranian-Kurdish elementary school teacher. He was wrongly accused of being a terrorist and executed by Tehran in 2010).

There can be no Kurdish heritage without Kurdish languages, making the current situation untenable. Kurdish education should become a priority again.

But this is not enough. A common Turkish-Kurdish vision should be developed. Educationally, a serious effort should be directed toward educating both Turks and Kurds about the other’s identity, culture, shared history, commonalties, conflicts and interactions. 

Two ethnicities sharing one homeland in a volatile region pose a great challenge for both. A careful educational plan can lay the groundwork for peace and prosperity. Kurdish education in Turkey should be considered a joint responsibility leading to a common vision.

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect an official position of IMPACT-se.

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