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The power struggle within Saudi Arabia

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In the current vision of the Crown Prince Muhammad bin Salman, the Saudi national anti-corruption Commission “Nazaha” has worked very well. The anti-corruption Nazaha is a complex organization, with a large set of international and local rules, always explicitly referring to the UN – and anyway international – best practice.

It will not be so easy to define Mohammed bin Salman’s fight against corruption as an “ideological operation” or, even worse, “primitive”.

The issue of corruption has been at the core of the Saudi political debate for years.

As early as 2013, the Riyadh Economic Forum had placed the issue of public and private corruption at the centre of Saudi government actions, while the Commission was established officially with King Abdullah’s Executive Order No. A/65 of March 2011.

A wide mandate having strong political impact, designed since its inception – even before the current Crown  Prince – to be the main tool for the King’s control over his vast and chaotic ruling class, regardless of their being blue-blooded or not.

So far the Saudi Nazaha, similar to many other anti-graft agencies operating throughout the Sunni Arab world, has collected data on over 2,000 sensitive cases and imposed penalties in 94% of initial reports.

Certainly Prince Muhammad bin Salman is using Nazaha’s power to eliminate his political enemies, but this is quite obvious in a struggle for absolute power following Machiavellian (and Quranic) rules whereby the property of subjects, in particular, must be rescued.

“Nevertheless, a prince ought to inspire fear in such a way that, if he does not win love, he avoids hatred; because he can endure very well being feared whilst  he is not hated, which will always be as long as he abstains from the property of his citizens and subjects and from their women “(The Prince, Chapter XVII).

The Quran reads as follows: “Devour not your wealth among yourselves vainly, nor present it to the judges that you may devour a part of the wealth of other men sinfully and knowingly” (Al-Baqarah, Surah “The Cow,” verse 188).

Furthermore, Muhammad’s doctrine on corruption contains many other Quranic and Sunnah verses, which there is no point in quoting here.

The Islamic legal tradition, however, is very strict: in fact, a hadith of the Prophet simply condemns bribery – both those who grant and those who receive bribes, along with the intermediary – all placed by the Prophet on an equal footing.

The granting of illegal assets to favour and facilitate a subsequent transaction, however, is an offense to divine law, not just to corporate law, in the meaning that we Westerners attribute to the concept of “civil law”.

Hence the doctrinal basis on which the Saudi anti-corruption Commission relies is theologically wide and sufficiently complex.

Nevertheless, with a view to understanding the political logic of the Saudi anti-corruption Commission, we must at first see who and how has been hit by the Saudi penalties imposed by the Nazaha in Riyadh, upon Saudi royal orders.

As many as 512 Saudi citizens have been hit – for various reasons – by the anti-corruption sweep of Prince Muhammad bin Salman’s Commission.

Moreover 1,286 private and corporate current accounts have been frozen so far.

It should also be noted that many Saudi people targeted by this anti-corruption probe – which is more rational to define as a bloodless coup – are part of the three branches forming the Riyadh Intelligence Services.

Firstly, as is well-known, there is the General Intelligence Presidency (GIP), the Mukhabarat al-A’amah, whose old leader Khalid Bin Alì al-Humaidan has been put aside.

The other intelligence services, namely the internal security police and, above all, the Mabahit, responsible for counter-espionage and internal and political security, have also been decapitated by the current graft crackdown of the Heir to the Throne.

In particular, Prince Muhammad bin Salman wants to capitalize on the current honeymoon with Trump Presidency, as well as avoid the coup that was probably looming large for Salman and his son Mohammed.

He also wants to acquire absolute hegemony over the Sunni world against the Iranian Shiite operations  which will be tolerated at best in Central Asia, but never in the Persian Gulf.

If the Saudi King had abdicated in favour of his son Mohammed – as he had long been planning to do – he would soon have put aside Prince Muhammad bin Nayef, the Interior Minister and direct heir to the Saudi Kingdom in the traditional line of  succession.

In fact, on June 21, 2017 Bin Nayef was replaced by Muhammad bin Salman.

Let us better analyse, however, the list of the main people accused of corruption: as already noted, there is Muhammad al-Walid bin Talal, together with the President of the Middle East Broadcasting Center (MEBC), namely  Walid Ibrahim al-Ibrahim, who had avoided to sell his  broadcasters to the Crown Prince, Mohammed Bin Salman.

Al-Ibrahim was also President of the United Press International (UPI) until the annus mirabilis of the old Saudi power, namely 2000 – the year of Bin Laden’s ambiguity.

However, we will revert to this issue at a later stage.

He also founded Al Arabiya, as an alternative to the Qatari Al-Jazeera, still in the hands of the “Muslim Brotherhood”.

It is worth noting that currently all coups start for and end in the media ownership or control.

The people arrested on November 4 last include also Mutaib bin Abdullah, former Minister of the Saudi National Guard.

He graduated from the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst as a lieutenant in 1974 and was former representative of the Ford Motors Co. He was at the helm of the Saudi military organizations.

The list of arrested people includes also Turki bin Abdullah al Saud, former Governor of Riyadh until 2015, who is charged with corruption in the  Riyadh Metro project still to be completed, for having taken advantage of his role and influence to award contracts to his own companies. He is the seventh son of King Abdullah and graduated in “strategic studies” at the University of Leeds, Great Britain. He was also a manager of the King Abdulaziz Foundation, as well as promoter and organizer of various transactions with British and US companies.

Another Prince arrested in the November “corruption crackdown” is Turki bin Nasser al Saud, a prince of the Royal Family and Head of the Saudi National Meteorology and Environment Service.

This agency also deals with environmental protection and pollution control.

This is an important sign: probably Nasser al Saud covered up the environmentally damaging affairs of some Saudi companies, but this is certainly not the reason why Nasser al Saud was arrested.

Rumours are rife about his business in the Lebanon, where he received funds from a local politician, Mohammed Safadi – and he is also reported of having been under scrutiny by the UK Serious Fraud Office as early as 2005.

Old stories about the Saudi Royal Family coming out again when it is more convenient for the new Crown Prince.

Also Fahd bin Abdullah Saud, former deputy-Defence Minister, was arrested.

He studied at the Naval Staff and Command College and was former Commander of the Saudi Navy. He has always played a leading role in the balance of power within the Kingdom and the al Saud Family, by deciding and managing many military and civilian careers.

Also King Fahd’s son, namely Abdul Aziz bin Fahd, was arrested on November 4 last. He is supposed to have been killed during the arrest, but the government denies the police shot him.

He lived mainly in Switzerland and travelled to Saudi Arabia only for official meetings.

Removed from his assignments as early as 2011, he was mainly a businessman: he was the long arm of the Saudi Oger, a real estate company.

Said company was initially owned by Rafik Hariri, the Lebanese leader assassinated in 2005, and went bankrupt on July 2017.

Oger Communications, however, keeps on supplying Internet, fixed and mobile telephone services in Turkey, Saudi Arabia, the Lebanon, Jordan and South Africa.

Today the power uses and is mainly focused on the Internet and mobile telephone services.

Al Fahd has a “confidential” portfolio of at least one billion dollars in the United States – as recently ascertained by the New York Supreme Court – and other real estate properties in Minneapolis, which have recently gone bankrupt.

He is (was) de facto owner of the already mentioned MEBC.

As already reported in other articles, the non-noble people arrested include Khaled Al Tuwajiri, Head of the Saudi Royal Court with King Abdullah.

In 2012 he had harshly criticized the “Westernization” process underway in Saudi Arabia. He was removed from his post at the Court, on which he had very strong influence, through the old King Abdullah and his son Miteb, the Minister of the National Guard.

Another detainee is Adel Fakeih, former mayor of Jeddah, and later Labour Minister, Health Minister and, since April 2015, Minister for Economy and Planning.

Besides his public service (although the watershed between these two worlds is somehow blurred in the Saudi Kingdom), he worked for the Al Marai Group, operating in the food, building and finance sectors, as well as President of the Aljazira Bank. Later he also worked for the Saudi Glass Company and as top manager of the Savola Group, a food company selling sugar, cooking oil, dairy and catering products in Africa, Saudi Arabia, the whole Middle East, Africa and Turkey.

Incidentally, we will shortly witness large economic and political movements in Turkey, just as a result of the Saudi “bloodless coup”.

Fakeih was also in charge of the global and Middle East markets for the Saudi British Bank.

Said banking network is supposed to have organized the coup against Salman and his son under the banner of  “return to traditions” and, possibly, by raising the old issue of social justice.

The “purged” people – almost as in an old Soviet palace coup – include Amr al-Dabbagh, President and founder of the Al Dabbagh Group, who graduated in management in California and is very active in the non-profit sector.

The Al Dabbagh Group controls 57 companies in the food, oil, automotive, real estate and packaging sectors.

In all likelihood, Mohammad bin Salman wants to hit precisely the old Saudi “global enterprises” in order to avoid an overlapping of financial and political power, with a highly enterprise-oriented elite.

Another detainee is Ibrahim Abdulaziz Al Assaf, former Saudi Finance Minister and State Minister of the Saudi Kingdom.

He was arrested on charges of purchasing land around the Great Mosque of Mecca, in view of its planned expansion, by taking advantage of his public role and influence.

Former Saudi Arabia’s representative to the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank, and later vice-Governor of the Saudi Monetary Authority, Al Assaf is still member of the Board of Directors of Saudi ARAMCO – the “jewel of the crown” of the future privatization advocated by Prince Muhammad Bin Salman – and, before his arrest, also President of the Saudi Development Fund.

He had attended the recent G20 Summit in Hamburg, but it did not bring him luck.

Another detainee is Khalid Abdullah al-Mohem, who had studied electrical engineering in the United States and was later appointed General Manager of Saudia, the commercial airline of the Kingdom.

Manager of the well-known Saudi British Bank and of the above-mentioned Almarai, a large food and dairy company, he held countless assignments in the food, catering, telecommunications and cement sectors, as well in the HBSC, the Saudi Investment Bank, and in the airlines of the Kingdom.

The list of people arrested include also Saleh Abdullah Kamel, founder of the Dallah al Baraka Group, a multinational dealing with healthcare (private hospitals), financial investment, real estate, banks, transport and logistics.

President of the General Council of Islamic Banks and Financial Institutions, he also led the Arab Thought Foundation and the Saudi Chambers of Commerce.

Another too powerful tycoon to be tolerated by the new Heir to the Throne.

The Crown Prince no longer wants the Islamism naïvely defined as “radical”, but rather the pursuit of Saudi national interest.

Muhammad bin Salman’s “bloodless coup” has put an end to the geopolitical link between Saudi interest and global jihad.

From now on, the “holy war” will be regional or waged wherever the Saudi interest is focused, at least as to the  share of jihad funded by Saudi Arabia.

Another well-known personality arrested is Bakr bin Laden, the true “King of Jeddah” – as people call him – and also half-brother of the much more notorious Osama bin Laden.

It should be made very clear that this is not an “anti-terrorism” operation.

Bakr bin Laden currently works in Qatar for his family-run company operating in the traditional real estate sector, but he is still one of the primary economic links between the United States and the Saudi world.

The detainees include also Abdullah bin Sultan bin Mohammed al-Sultan, the founder of the already mentioned  Almarai.

A country and the education and training of its ruling class, in particular, may also be controlled through the distribution of food and its organization.

He was also Admiral of the Saudi Royal Navy.

Also Mohammad al-Tobaishi, former Head of Protocol at the Royal Court of Riyadh, was arrested.

Probably the United States should better analyse what this “bloodless coup” means for its new equilibria in the Middle East.

The former CEO of the “Saudi Telecom Company”, namely Saoud Al Dawish, was arrested.

He had already been convicted of bribery in 2012. This is another sign that the Crown Prince is catching in his net  both the economic leaders who are most interesting for him in the telecom, banking, real estate and retail sectors, and the old corrupt bribers already well-known to the Royal House and the Saudi people, with whom Muhammad bin Salman wants to recreate a charismatic bond.

It is certainly an advertising operation, albeit well-studied, regardless of the real faults of the arrested people.

Last but not least, we must also mention Nasser Al Tayar, President and CEO of the Al Tayar tourist Group.

With a view to targeting the relations between Saudi Arabia  and the rest of the world, also the management of tourist companies must be undermined.

Furthermore, until his arrest on November 4 last, Tayar was also President of the Arab Publisher House, “Medina Press”, but the Al Tayar Group operates also in the real estate, hoteling, aviation and food sectors.

Crown Prince’s current anti-graft sweep is focused on the food, real estate and telecommunication sectors. The aim is to hit and decapitate the primary sectors of economic and media consensus to rebuild a new network of relations in the Middle East and respond to the Shiite operations even with a military clash.

The primary goal of the West – firstly the United States and secondly the now irrelevant Europe – will be to avoid the clash, as well as mediate, defuse and use it for its own purposes.

I am not optimistic that it will pursue said goal.

Advisory Board Co-chair Honoris Causa Professor Giancarlo Elia Valori is an eminent Italian economist and businessman. He holds prestigious academic distinctions and national orders. Mr. Valori has lectured on international affairs and economics at the world’s leading universities such as Peking University, the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and the Yeshiva University in New York. He currently chairs “International World Group”, he is also the honorary president of Huawei Italy, economic adviser to the Chinese giant HNA Group. In 1992 he was appointed Officier de la Légion d’Honneur de la République Francaise, with this motivation: “A man who can see across borders to understand the world” and in 2002 he received the title “Honorable” of the Académie des Sciences de l’Institut de France. “

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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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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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