Swedish Politics: boring no more?

By Bryan T. Bayne. Special thanks to Jonas Axelsson, who provided valuable commentary and insight.

Swedish politics have a reputation for being a boring, predictable, and consensus-driven low-key affair. Not anymore. Last Thursday (17.06) the formerly-Communist Left Party announced that it no longer had confidence in Stevan Löfven’s Social Democratic government and was leaving the coalition. Today a supermajority in the Riksdag has voted to oust the prime minister and ushered in a new era of political instability in Sweden. At the heart of the issue is a dispute over the housing market, however, its causes harken back to the instability produced by the 2018 elections and broader debates on immigration.

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French Secularism: A Wolf in Sheep’s Clothing

By Dorien Julia Rijkens

Laïcité, the well-loved term referring to secularism in France, has been under excruciating pressure after the recent string of attacks in France, including the brutal beheading of schoolteacher Samuel Paty, performed by a handful of fundamentalist members of the Muslim community. French President Emmanuel Macron declared Paty’s murder to be “a typical Islamist terrorist attack” and claimed the need for France, and the rest of the world, to “fight Islamist separatism,” as Islam is an ideology which claims that “its own law should be superior to those of the Republic.” Macron’s rhetoric and actions stirred outrage all over the Islamic World, from Turkey to Tunisia, from Malaysia to Saudi Arabia, as these statements, justified by French secularism according to Macron, are positioned on the fine line between secularism and islamophobia. In this article, I will argue that President Macron’s rhetoric and actions cannot be justified solely on the basis of secularism because they challenge the established relationship between the “West” and the “East.”

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Citizenship and the Democratic Deficit of the European Union

By María Belén Silva Campos

The European integration began as an economic cooperation that evolved into a political entity after the foundation of the European Union, a sui generis organization that has developed into a new “type of political system by evolving from a horizontal system of interstate cooperation into a vertical and multi-layered policy-making polity.” [1] In this sense, traditional theories, such as federalism, confederalism, functionalism, neo-functionalism, intergovernmentalism or supranationalism, cannot be used to fully explain  nor improve it.

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Crimean Tatars under Stalin: Ethnic cleansing or an act of genocide?

By Kumush Suyunova

Kara-gun (dark day) – May 18, 1944 was a day when the Crimean Tatars learned the full horror of the sanitized term “deportation” as part of Stalin’s ethnic cleansing program. [1] Under the slogan “Za Rodinu”- “For the Motherland” less than a week ago, they fought in the ranks with their multinational compatriots in The Great Patriotic War.

Rifle units of the People’s Commissariat for Internal Affairs surrounded all Tatar suburbs and drove the frightened residents to several specially designated transit points. The mentally injured Tatars were given less than an hour to collect some belongings. Accused of treason, they coped with injuries, death, inadequate living conditions, poverty, lack of community support, even their names were removed from official documents. The authorities wiped their homeland off the map, abolishing the Crimean Autonomous Republic and making Crimea a province. [2] The offensive on the cultural roots of the Crimean Tatars took place after the dispatch from their homeland.

If we refer to the origins, in his masterpiece Axis Rule in Occupied Europe R.Lemkin – the father of the term “genocide”, stated: “genocide … is intended to signify a coordinated plan of different actions aiming at the destruction of essential foundations of the life of national groups… The objectives of such a plan would be the disintegration of the political and social institutions, of culture, language, national feelings, religion, and the economic existence of national groups…”. [3]

A. Jones argues that in the case of the Crimean Tatars intention of genocide implied in its design of phased and general destruction of the nation, rather than in specific and clear desire of killing, as the mass death of the victims had taken place during the transit and after arrival at the place of exile as a side effect. [4]

In the history of forced resettlements, it was during transportation that the death rates were very high. In the 40s, given the situation of infrastructure and vehicles as a result of a long trip to Central Asia (mainly to the Uzbek SSR), the high death rate could certainly be predicted. It is estimated that from 190 thousand Crimean Tatars 70-90 thousand died on the way or in the first years of exile. [5]

As John Quigley argues that forcing a group out of its home area, as well as its forced assimilation arguably destroys it. As a result of threats or legal prohibitions, a group’s members may refrain from speaking their language, or from practicing their religion or customs, which can lead the group to cease to be identifiable as such. He considers two possible ways of intending to destroy a group: an intent to injure, but short of killing; and an intent to destroy the group’s social identification, like it was planned in the case of Crimean Tatars. [6]

Furthermore, N. Naimark notes that the Genocide Convention did not include crimes against social and political groups, only in order for the USSR to join the Convention. The scientist writes that “according to any objective understanding of international law, Stalin’s violence against the Soviet people could have been included in the Genocide Convention” and that researchers cannot exclude these cases from the study of genocide based on the politically motivated provisions of the Convention. [7]

William A. Schabas argues that genocide as well as ethnic cleansing may have the same goal of removing an undesirable group from a particular place of residence. He admits that ethnic cleansing, called “deportation”, remains a punishable crime against humanity and a war crime. Ethnic cleansing is also a warning sign of the coming genocide. Genocide is the last resort for disillusioned ethnic cleansing. [8]

Only after the death of Stalin in 1956 the Crimean Tatars were released from administrative supervision, but without the right to end the banishment and recovery of forfeit property. In 1967, the Supreme Soviet of the USSR eliminated the treason charge, but this decision was purely hypocritical. When Crimean Tatars tried to return to Crimea, they were sent back, as the ban on their return continued to apply.

Until 1989, no significant measures were taken. The “Declaration on the recognition of illegal and criminal repressive acts against peoples subjected to forced relocation and ensuring their rights” adopted in 1989 became the first official confirmation of victimization of the Crimean Tatars under Stalin. According to Article 2 of the Law of the RSFSR of 26.04.1991 N 1107-1 (ed. from 01.07.1993) “On rehabilitation of repressed peoples” Crimean Tatars were included in the list of repressed people under the Stalinist regime. However, their forced resettlement was mentioned as an act of genocide very vaguely and ambiguously. [9]

It is interesting to note that the question of the fate of the Crimean Tatars, seemingly, received due attention after the events of 2014. The political response by Ukraine to the annexation of Crimea by Russian Federation was the declaration of May 18 as the “Day of remembrance of the victims of the Crimean Tatars genocide”. Following Ukraine, in 2019, the parliaments of Latvia and Lithuania, as well as Canada, recognized the forced resettlement of Crimean Tatars as an act of genocide.

As B. Glyn claims, Stalin used WWII as an opportunity to carry out ethnic cleansing. Already in 1943, Stalin began a series of surprise operations aimed at the destruction of entire national groups, including the Crimean Tatars, who were arbitrarily considered guilty of “mass collaboration” with the Nazis. The accusations of mass national treason were, in all probability, just a pretext for ethnic cleansing of the border areas of the Soviet Union from the non-Slavic, mainly Islamic, population. Stalin actually used the term “Chistit”-“clean” in his orders. [10]

According to Norman Naimark, Stalin may have had some reason for questioning the loyalty of the Crimean Tatars and genuine fears of a military-political nature in connection with the strategic vulnerability of the Crimean Peninsula. However, he believes, that the forced resettlement and persecution of national groups were caused primarily not by real threats of war and infiltration, but by Stalin’s general xenophobia and his pathological fear of losing power. [11]

As a result, the attacks on certain “enemy” nationalities, like in the case of Crimean Tatars took on genocidal characteristics. In 1944, during the war, the Muslim peoples from the northern Caucasus and the Crimea were sent to “spetsposeleniya” in Central Asia. In the process of deportation and resettlement a substantial percentage of those peoples, Crimean Tatars in particular, died. It was not an act of a direct blood purge, however, Naimark claims that at the very least, the attacks against the Crimean Tatars should be considered as attempted cultural genocide. [12]

After the deportation of Crimean Tatars and the re-formation of the Crimean Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republic into a region in 1945, the Soviet government used enormous resources to eradicate any memory of the existence of an entire culture. Topographical names of historical origin were changed, for example, the area of Ak-Metzit (White mosque) became the Black Sea district, Alushta was renamed in honor of the Russian General Kutuzov, as Alexander Pushkin honored his visit to Bakhchisarai, it was renamed in his name, and so on. Most topographical names have become a reflection of Russian history, in contrast to the Crimean Tatar history. The cultural and administrative Russification of the Crimean Tatar homeland was accompanied by government-sponsored settlement of Russians from other regions in Crimea. [13]

Furthermore, textbooks of the Crimean Tatar language published in the 1920s were burned and many aspects of the centuries-old history of the Crimean Tatars on the Peninsula were destroyed, including religious and cultural architectural elements such as cemeteries, mosques, marble fountains, and other buildings with cultural elements. Large mosques in Crimea were re-registered for use as warehouses, museums or for other purposes, including Kuma-Kami, Kebir-Kami, Khan-Kami, and the Uzbek Khan mosque, while smaller ones were destroyed on the spot. [14]

The question remains open: whether an act of genocide took place or not in the case of Crimean Tatars under Stalin. However, the facts are that half of the nation died due to expulsion, their national identity was suppressed, their cultural and traditional values were destroyed, their historical, linguistic and religious heritage was demolished, and their textbooks and literary works were burned. In addition, they were exiled due to unjustifiably strained charges of treason and were not restored to their rights, were not compensated for any moral or material damage.


References

[1]  Brian Glyn Williams, The Crimean Tatars. From Soviet Genocide to Putin’s Conquest (London: Hurst & Company, 2016), 99.
[2] Adam Jones, Genocide: a Comprehensive Introduction (London: Routledge Taylor & Francis Group, 2017), 344.
[3] Dominik J. Schaller and Zimmerer Jürgen, The Origins of Genocide: Raphael Lemkin as a Historian of Mass Violence (London: Routledge, 2013), 5.
[4] Adam Jones, Genocide: a Comprehensive Introduction (London: Routledge Taylor & Francis Group, 2017), 343.
[5] Brian Glyn Williams, The Crimean Tatars. From Soviet Genocide to Putin’s Conquest (London: Hurst & Company, 2016), 109.
[6] John Quigley, Mark Findlay, and Ralph Henham, The Genocide Convention An International Law Analysis (Abingdon, Oxon: Taylor and Francis, 2016), 101.
[7] Norman M. Naimark, Stalin’s Genocides (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2010), 4.
[8] William Schabas, Genocide in International Law: the Crime of Crimes (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2009), 234.
[9] N. V. Mikhailova, L. M. Savina, Crimean Tatars: Deportation and Rehabilitation, Bulletin of the Moscow University of the Ministry of internal Affairs of Russia, 2015, 32-37. Original title: Н.В. Михайлова, Л.М. Савина, Крымские Татары: Депортация и Реабилитация, Вестник Московского Университета МВД России.
[10] Brian Glyn Williams, The Crimean Tatars. From Soviet Genocide to Putin’s Conquest (London: Hurst & Company, 2016), 98.
[11] Norman M. Naimark, Stalin’s Genocides (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2010), 84.
[12] Ibid, 135.
[13] Ibid, 111.
[14] Ibid, 112.

Picture Credits: National Bank of Ukraine, Flickr.

The Istanbul Convention does not save lives in Turkey anymore

By Kardelen Besime Tepe

What are the first three words one could say about Turkey? The first three words that pop up in my mind are “home”, “disgrace”, and “death.” This is not a pessimistic perspective though, even if it seems so. Facing the facts is one of the most effective ways to deal with all the problematic social issues in Turkey, especially for women, so that we can be aware of the challenges and injustice to rise against them. 

How are women rights protected in Turkey?

The modern Turkish Republic was founded in 1923 from the ashes of the Ottoman Empire. Its unique historical background has caused complexities even after the series of adaptations, reforms and regulations that were adopted by the new Republican authorities, ranging from secularism to gender equality. 

Even though the success of these adaptations is still questioned, Turkey has been trying to improve its regional policy and to receive structural funds by embracing the influence of Europeanisation after the Helsinki Summit of 1999. These efforts are directed at achieving European Union (EU) standards and have challenged traditional Turkish governing institutions. Thus, the country’s gender equality policies after 2000 could be seen as motivated mostly by Turkey’s preparations for EU accession. 

The necessary legal mechanisms for the protection of women against violence already exist. In 2012, Turkey was the first country to ratify the Council of Europe Convention on Preventing and Combating Violence Against Women and Domestic Violence, also known as the Istanbul Convention

In the same year, the Turkish government also passed Law Number 6248 to Protect the Family and Prevent Violence Against Women and introduced gender equality policies. Still, violence against women can be observed in every aspect of Turkish society and, unfortunately, there are nearly no authentic actions taken by the government to truly protect women’s rights. 

The Withdrawal from the Istanbul Convention

Even though the ratification of international treaties rests with the TBMM (Grand National Assembly of Turkey), on March 20, 2021, just twelve days after the International Women’s Day, Turkey withdrew from the Istanbul Convention with an official presidential announcement. This withdrawal was spearheaded by conservative forces blaming the Convention for harming traditional values of family structure, advocating for the LGBTQ+ community and promoting homosexuality, given the pact’s non-discrimination on grounds of sexual orientation. 

President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s cabinet is trying to comfort people with an official declaration by the Foreign Ministry, Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu, who declared that “[t]he elements of the convention and various practices created sensitivity in the public opinion and caused criticism…. Women’s rights in the national legislation of the Republic of Turkey is safeguarded by the most advanced forms.”

The latter also argued that the withdrawal from the Convention will not cause corruption on domestic regulations focusing on women’s rights and that Turkey did not need an international treaty to protect women’s rights. However, because of this withdrawal, women in Turkey are no longer under the protection of a Pan-European legal framework. 

Turkey’s decision regarding the Istanbul Convention faced brutal but reasonable international backlash. The High Representative of the European Union, Josep Borrell warned and urged the Turkish government to reconsider its decision to withdraw from the treaty by declaring: “This decision risks compromising the protection and fundamental rights of women and girls in Turkey. It also sends a dangerous message across the world. We therefore cannot but urge Turkey to reverse its decision. We hope that Turkey will soon join again the European Union in defending the rights of women and girls, a fundamental element of human rights, peace, security, and equality in the 21st century.

A unsurprising move

Turkey’s insistence on sticking to old-fashioned mindsets and understanding of gender roles, rather than implementing key changes, fuels toxic masculinity and nurtures violence against women. There is a shortage of reliable political and judicial administration to enforce for the protection of women, combined with systematic government propaganda that puts even more pressure on women in this patriarchal society.

Gender roles for women commonly include motherhood and faithfulness. As in other cultures, women are associated with motherhood characteristics. But Turkish culture requires them to devote themselves and fulfill their duties for their families and children, thus openly equating womanhood with motherhood.  

In 2014, Erdoğan also said in a speech that women and men could not be treated equally “because it goes against the laws of nature.” He simply disregarded and ignored women’s rights despite the legal tools that exist and of the laws that were passed by his own government. He and his cabinet members have increased their statements and imputations about women, ranging from abortion to having a career, over the years.

If a woman wants to work, according to Erdoğan, it means she is “a woman who rejects motherhood, who refrains from being around the house” and however successful her working life is, it is “deficient and incomplete”. When women are married and use the birth control pill, they are committing “treason.”

The political shaming, oppression, and constant statements about women, unfortunately, take away the joy out of their lives and possibly encourages the idea that women are worthless compared to men no matter what they do. In this context, Turkish women endeavor for surviving in an environment shaped and ruled by politicians who prioritize males and their needs and where women are not seen as equal partners in life. 

Femicides in Turkey: an endless problem?

The construction of such a discriminatory discourse and the difficulties it creates for women, lead to the devaluation of women in Turkey in terms of defending and protecting their rights, especially within legal institutions. In Turkey, women have been killed inhumanly, most of the time after extended torture. 

Losing the precious legal tool that constitutes the Istanbul Convention will have critical repercussions on their lives. Even before and after the ratification of the Convention, barbarous femicides happened in Turkey. Domestic violence is a grave problem in Turkey with reports revealing that “90% of Turkish women [are] experiencing violence at the hands of their husbands and boyfriends.”

A monstrous example most common in the East of Turkey was the case of Güldünya Tören. She was raped by a relative and then got pregnant. Later, she was killed by a family decision, in 2004 because her pregnancy was compromising the family’s honor.

The killing of women and girls happens when a woman allegedly steps outside her socially designated role, particularly, but not only, with regard to her sexuality and to her interaction with men outside her family. The notion of “honor” forms part of a whole system based on a code of behavior imposed on women and girls. 

In this system, a man’s honor is perceived to be his status as a member of the community (şeref) or as defined by the chastity of his female family members (namus). A threat to the namus encourages the man to act in defense of their “honor.” When namus has been lost by unchaste conduct, it can only be restored by killing its offender.  

Because of this behavior code; getting a divorce – or even asking for ome – is another reason for femicide. As a Kurdish woman born and raised in Turkey, I have witnessed this violence myself, as Gamze Gezeroğlu, my own cousin, was stabbed 12 times and killed by her husband just because she wanted to get divorced, in 2011.

Even after divorce, women are under threat. This was the case of Emine Bulut, whose ex-husband killed her in front of her 10-year-old daughter at a cafe. A video posted on social media showed the mother screaming “I do not want to die” and holding her neck as her 10-year-old daughter begged her not to die.

Women think twice before starting a relationship, starting a job, or even going out because they witness inhumane murders by strangers, stalkers, bosses, and boyfriends. A murder by a stranger: Özgecan Aslan, who was beaten, stabbed, and burned to death by a bus driver just because she resisted rape, in 2015. Her death shocked the public and in a way proved that violence against women does not necessarily need a bond. Activists demanded the Turkish government to pass an “Özgecan Aslan law”, which would prohibit judges from reducing a man’s sentence for having been “provoked” into the murder of a woman.  Unfortunately, this request has not been approved yet. 

Turkey has been plagued by countless gruesome similar stories where women have been victims of men’s violence. From the murder of Pinar Gültekin, to that of Münevver Karabulut and Şule Çet, femicides have sparked protests initiated by organizations such as the We Will Stop Femicide platform and support on social media for the victims’ families, both in Turkey and internationally.

Since Turkey does not keep official statistics on femicide and does not release any regular data about the murders of women, most statistics come from human rights NGOs that jointly try to collect data. According to Bianet’s data, from 2014 to 2020, at least 1.983 women were killed in Turkey.

Is Turkey giving up on women’s rights?

The İstanbul Convention was critically important because it requires the force of a nation to achieve real gender equality, and it sets the standards for the member countries. It aims for a zero-tolerance approach against violence against women and domestic violence. 

With this Treaty, the statement of the plaintiff is essential and, if there is a proven violence threat, authorities must ensure that violence will be prevented before it escalates. The prevention of violence against women has the strength to save lives and to improve the condition of life.

Finally, the Convention launched Grevio, an objective expert committee, whose sole mission is to monitor the legal necessities and adaptations of its governing members. The European Court of Human Rights, as the overarching legal guider, then supervises the implementation of the Convention in the member states.20 
Consequently, withdrawing from the Convention is like losing one of the few legal shields that protect women in Turkey. Still the decision confronts resistance from the public. Women gather for demonstrations to reverse this decision. They truly cannot stand losing one more of them. May they never walk alone.


Picture text translation: “We cannot stand losing one more of us”

Picture Credits: Melike Yavuz (@melikeyphotography) – 25/11/2020

COVID-19 crisis: an opportunity for the EU to expand its competences in public health?

By Paola Gosio

As stated by Helmut Schmidt “the European Union lives of crises”. [1] Since its inception, the EU has undergone a series of emergencies of diverse nature that challenged its governance and furthered the debate on intergovernmentalism versus supranationalism. The Coronavirus outbreak arose in this context, which seems to represent the latest crossroads in front of which it will be possible to assess whether the European Union will be able to expand its competences, specifically in the public health sector, to be able to manage future crisis situations in this area.

The coronavirus pandemic was indeed first and foremost a health crisis. However, due to the subsidiarity principle reigning in the EU, the European institutions could not intervene in the public health matters of every Member State. This, because public health measures are primarily a Member State competence, and therefore the Union can only be called upon to perform an additional and/or auxiliary action, but without replacing EU Governments.

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The right to privacy in the fight against terrorism

By María Belén Silva Campos

The events of  September 11, 2001 led, aside from the emergence of a new international political-legal order, to the rise of a new phenomenon: global terrorism. Since then, the fight against this phenomenon has increasingly required global efforts to cope with the challenges and significant implications that it has for security, the rule of law, the fundamental values of States, as well as human rights (HHRR). 

The international community has enhanced its cooperation by promoting actions and  legislation in order to effectively respond to terrorist attacks, end their spread, and protect the core values of States, as well as individual rights. Nevertheless, terrorism is not only directly impacting the respect for HHRR, but it is also placing States in a difficult position as to what extent these rights can be guaranteed within its fight. 

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#StandWithBelarus: Interview with a Belarusian Activist

This article is part of a project designed to raise awareness about what has been happening in Belarus since August 2020, at the occasion of the Day of Solidarity with Belarus launched by Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya. In order to understand the past and current events better, The Euroculturer Magazine organized a live interview with a belarusian Euroculture Alumni who kindly agreed to give us her insights on the situation. For the sake of this person, this interview will be anonymized.

Interview conducted by Leyre Castro & Hannah Bieber and transcripted by Bryan T. Bayne & Katarina Jarc

Euroculturer Magazine (EM): How do the events in Belarus affect you personally?

Of course the event affected all people in Belarus because the scale of the violence produced by the police in Minsk was so unpredictable and unproportional, especially August 2020. It produced collective trauma not only for people who participated in the protests, but also for those who couldn’t participate. People were tortured and killed and this was something nobody expected because a protest of this scale has never happened in Belarus. It was very hard for me because I am an activist in Belarus and I know a lot of people protesting. Most of my friends were protesting and many were detained. One was arrested on the very first day and he’s still in prison.

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#StandWithBelarus: Looking back at six months of protests

By Leyre Castro and Hannah Bieber

This article is part of a project designed to raise awareness about what has been happening in Belarus since August 2020, at the occasion of the Day of Solidarity with Belarus launched by Sviatlana Tikhanovskaya. In order to understand the past and current events better, The Euroculturer Magazine will organize a live interview with a belarusian Euroculture alumni on 07/02/2021. Scroll down to the end of the article for more information!

The elections that sparked the rebellion

On August 9, 2020, Alexander Lukashenko, often referred to as the last dictator of Europe and who has been ruling Belarus for 26 years, claimed he had  been re-elected with 80% of the votes after the presidential elections. His main challenger, Sviatlana Tikhanovskaya, had allegedly collected only 10% of the votes, despite her strong popular support. This announcement sparked unprecedented protests right after polls had closed. 

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When the EU sends mixed-signals: the example of plant-based food labelling

By Katarina Jarc

You don’t have to murder to call it a burger, but when it comes to dairy, the situation is hairy

A few years ago, I took up the challenge of substituting dairy products with plant-based alternatives. Even though cheese IS life, I have to say I still succeeded in eliminating that deliciousness from my life for slightly longer than one year. It was far from easy, honestly. But, as with every period of our lives, this one also brought new habits, and to this day I still continuously saunter over to the aisles offering plant-based alternatives to meat and dairy products. Needless to say, finding the right substitute to the mouth-watering taste and texture of cheese is not an easy task, especially with a lack of descriptive nomination on product labelling.

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