Gatestone Institute March 4, 2015
Turkey’s Islamist president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan may have entered a decline after 11 years of increasing national political command.
Erdoğan proclaims Turkey to be a state of law and a defender of freedom of expression, even though its record in the persecution of journalists is among the world’s worst, according to such international media monitors as Freedom House, in its 2014 survey, Democracy in Crisis: Corruption, Media, and Power in Turkey.
On February 2, 2015, the London Guardian reported that the Dutch journalist Fréderike Geerdink was indicted by a Turkish prosecutor for “terrorist propaganda” because of her writing on Kurdish affairs. Representing the leading Dutch daily, Het Parool, and producing a blog from Diyarbakır in eastern Turkey, Geerdink was arrested in a Turkish police raid at her home on January 6, the very day that the Netherlands’ Foreign Minister, Bert Koenders, was in Ankara. Geerdink is due to appear in court on April, and faces a possible sentence of five years in prison if found guilty.
Continue reading Is Turkey’s Erdoğan in Decline? by Veli Sirin
The Weekly Standard Blog January 20, 2015
The hideous practice of female genital mutilation (FGM) is neither an exclusively Muslim nor a principally Middle Eastern phenomenon. It exists among non-Muslims through wide areas of Africa.
But in Iraq and Iran, FGM is mainly associated with Kurds. The Kurdish Regional Government (KRG) in Iraq, which is fighting against the terrorists of the so-called “Islamic State,” has pursued a substantive effort to eradicate FGM. As reported here, the KRG parliament introduced legislation prohibiting FGM in 2007. The law was passed in 2011 and forbade, additionally, child marriage, so-called “honor murders,” and other abuses suffered typically by women. In 2010, the KRG health ministry produced a plan to eliminate FGM and called on Islamic clergy to condemn the custom.
Continue reading Female Genital Mutilation a Growing Problem in Iran by Irfan Al-Alawi and Stephen Schwartz
Gatestone Institute October 26, 2014
Turkish Army tanks at the country's border with Syria -- Photo credit Anadolu Agency.
The world has watched the town of Kobani on the Turkish-Syrian border, where the Wahhabi terrorists of the so-called “Islamic State” [IS], also known as ISIS, ISIL, and, in Arabic, the “Daesh,” are fighting the Kurdish peshmerga, a word meaning “those facing death.” The Turkish authorities, under President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and the Islamist Justice and Development Party [AKP], have stood among the ambivalent observers of the battle for Kobani.
At the same time, he who is called “the man on the island” has put an ultimatum to Erdoğan. Abdullah Öcalan, in jail surrounded by the sea near Istanbul and still the real leader of the Kurdish Workers Party [PKK], has given the Turkish authorities more time to achieve a full agreement with its Kurdish subjects. If it does not, he says he can do “nothing more for the peace process.” But as reported by the London Financial Times on October 22, Öcalan said he remained “optimistic” about relations between Ankara and the Kurdish revolutionaries. The PKK is designated a terrorist group by the United States and various European governments, as well as Turkey.
Continue reading The Kurds in Turkey and the Fight for Kobani by Veli Sirin
The Weekly Standard Blog July 16, 2014
Kurdish Regional Parliament, Erbil – Photograph 2005 (c) Hawi Afandi, Via Wikimedia Commons.
On Friday, July 11, as reported at the Kurdish English-language news portal Rudaw [Events], combat fighters representing the Kurdish Regional Government (KRG) in Iraq, known as Peshmerga, occupied oil fields in Hassan and Makhmour, near the ethnically-mixed city of Kirkuk that the KRG occupied in mid-June. Rudaw asserted the KRG’s claim to the oil fields based on investment in and construction of the facilities by the regional authority. But the Kurdish source also argued it was necessary to protect the assets from the Baghdad government of prime minister Nuri al-Maliki, which has challenged the right of the Kurds to extract and sell their oil for their own benefit.
Maliki outraged the KRG by alleging on July 9 that Erbil, the KRG capital, was a “headquarters” for the terrorists of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), now calling itself simply “the Islamic State,” as well as Ba’ath party supporters of the late Saddam Hussein and al Qaeda. Baghdad prohibited air cargo flights into Erbil and the Kurdish city of Suleymaniya the following day after Kurdish ministers boycotted a cabinet meeting. KRG leaders called on Maliki to resign and, in retaliation, barred air traffic from the KRG to the Iraqi capital.
Continue reading Kudos to the Iraqi Kurds by Stephen Schwartz
Gatestone Institute October 11, 2013
Germany’s federal election, held on September 22, had two new consequences, one reported widely in global media – the failure of the centrist Free Democrats [FDP] to retain their presence in the parliament, or Bundestag – and the other observed almost exclusively by Turks, whether in Turkey or in the large Turkish immigrant community in Western Europe. That was the public emergence of an ambitious Islamist party in Germany.
In the political contest in September, for the first time, state-level candidates appeared with an Islamist ideology that values separation from – rather than cooperation with – other German parties. The Islamists are represented by the Alliance for Innovation and Justice, known by its German-language title as BIG, founded in 2010 and currently headed by Haluk Yıldız. A management consultant and leader of the Muslim Council of Bonn, Yıldız was elected in 2009 to the Bonn city council on the ticket of the Alliance for Peace and Fairness [German acronym: BFF], a group that joined in founding BIG.
Continue reading New Islamist Approach to Turks in Germany by Veli Sirin
Gatestone Institute March 22, 2013
A global campaign to eradicate female genital mutilation [FGM], often misnamed “female circumcision,” continues. While foreign NGOs have made Iraqi Kurdistan a center of the effort to do away with this practice, many observers have argued that it is not a “Kurdish” problem.
FGM is also not just a “Muslim” phenomenon. However widespread it may be among Iraqi Sunni Kurds, its acceptance in Islam is limited. According to the German relief organization WADI [The Association for Crisis Assistance and Development Co-operation], in the four provinces of Iraqi Kurdistan, only the farthest north, Dohuk, which borders on Turkey, shows little evidence of FGM at any age. Among the remaining three “governorates,” in the province of Erbil, named for the capital of the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG), 63% of women have undergone the atrocious custom; in Suleymaniya, 78%; and in Garmyan/New Kirkuk, the southernmost, 81%.
A WADI report on FGM in Iraqi Kurdistan, issued in 2010, stated that in the oldest age ranges – women between 50 and 80 years old – 80 to 95% of a statistical sample had been subjected to FGM.
Continue reading The Global Campaign Against Female Genital Mutilation Continues by Irfan Al-Alawi
Gatestone Institute June 29, 2012
A campaign against female genital mutilation (FGM) in Iraq, focusing on Iraqi Kurdistan, has benefited from activism by human rights and women’s groups, but the main responsibility for ending this atrocity belongs with religious leaders. FGM is not a general requirement in the faith of Islam, although some clerics have adopted the pre-Islamic local custom and approve of it. The well-known radical preacher Yusuf Al-Qaradawi has stated that its infliction is grounded in unreliable reports of hadith, the oral commentaries delivered by Muhammad. Nevertheless, Al-Qaradawi has opined that it is acceptable if a girl’s parents so desire.
By contrast, the Iraqi Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) health minister, Taher Hawrami, in appealing for condemnation of FGM, emphasized last year that “Clerics should take on the main role. People need to have better understanding of religion for them to abandon these phenomena.”
The cruel and un-Islamic practice of FGM, involving the cutting of women’s sexual organs, has been recognized internationally as a violation of the rights of girls as well as grown women and an extreme form of discrimination against women. Carried out typically by “traditional” practitioners, FGM includes any procedures that remove partially or totally the external female genitalia, or inflict other injury to women’s sexual organs for non-medical reasons. FGM may be effected by midwives or other supposed FGM “specialists” using broken glass or metal can lids, as well as razors, knives, and scissors, in unhygienic conditions.
Continue reading Campaign Against FGM in Iraq and Middle East by Irfan Al-Alawi
Folksmagazine [India] January 4, 2012
It is customary for columnists to conclude the common year with reflections on that which has just finished and predictions for that which is to come.
I make no pretensions to prophecy, aside from occasional analysis based on news reports. I am, however, a Muslim believer, and will therefore reverse the usual order of such discourses, beginning with what I and those with whom I cooperate in the Center for Islamic Pluralism (CIP) hope will come about, and dedicating the rest of this contribution to a look back at 2011.
First, let those of us who are Muslims pray and work for an end to violence, whether between Muslims, or inflicted by Muslims on non-Muslims and by non-Muslims on Muslims.
Let us pray and work for a positive victory over the dictatorship of Bashar Al-Assad in Syria.
Let us pray and work against the so-called “Boko Haram” cult that, claiming to act in the interest of Sunni Islam, has carried out brutal attacks on Christians in Nigeria.
Let us pray and work for social reform to prevail over Wahhabi reaction in Saudi Arabia.
Let us pray and work for global leaders to avoid the lure of a “new” Islamist ideology reigning over Turkey, Tunisia, Egypt, and other countries – of which, more below.
Continue reading Prayers for 2012 and Reflections on 2011
by Stephen Schwartz
The Weekly Standard Blog December 1, 2011
The Citadel of Hewlêr (Erbil), ca. 5,000 years BCE, Kurdistan – Photograph 2005 Via Wikimedia Commons.
Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad will travel soon to the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) for a discussion of border disputes and trade relations, reports the Iraqi news agency Aswat al-Iraq. Ahmadinejad will meet with KRG president Massoud Barzani, who visited Tehran at the end of October with a delegation of KRG ministers and governors. Barzani, as pointed out in THE WEEKLY STANDARD by Frederick W. Kagan, Kim Kagan, and Marisa Cochrane Sullivan, was considered previously “the Kurdish leader most staunchly opposed to Iran.” In Tehran, Barzani and Iranian foreign minister Ali Akbar Salehi announced that Kurdish rebel actions against Iran, along the border with the KRG, had ended.
Iran is looking for auxiliaries to its considerable and menacing influence over the Iraqi central government, perhaps out of mere desire for aggrandizement. But Tehran may also fear that Arab Shias in Baghdad will prove a troublesome partner in its anticipated alliance of Shia-ruled Middle East states, once the U.S. leaves. Iraq’s Shias, a majority of the country’s population, do not accept the political model of the Iranian clerical state, or “vilayet-e faqih” (governance by religious jurists). Hostility between Iranian and Iraqi Arab Shias, as described by Nathaniel Rabkin writing for THE WEEKLY STANDARD in 2007, is reflected in religious literature produced by Iraq’s Shia religious authorities, or marjae. And of course the Iraq-Iran war of 1980-88 has not been forgotten.
Continue reading Iran Interferes in Iraqi Kurdistan by Stephen Schwartz
Hudson Institute New York August 18, 2011
Kurdish Regional Parliament, Arbil, Iraq, 2005 — Photograph (c) Hawi Afandi, via Wikimedia Commons
In June, the parliament of Iraq’s autonomous Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) adopted a ban on domestic violence, including female genital mutilation (FGM), a “procedure” that is widespread among Iraqi Kurds. The law will come into effect once it is signed by KRG president Mesud Barzani, who represents the Kurdistan Democratic Party.
But a local cleric, Ismail Sussai, in the major Iraqi Kurdish city of Arbil, has delivered a televised sermon in which he described FGM as “obligatory,” called on fathers to kill themselves, on pain of losing their “honor,” if they are legally prevented from abusing their daughters for using mobile phones; and he defended the beating of wives and children.
The Kurdish cleric was particularly offended by use of mobile phones among girls, as well as by suggestions that the beating of women and children should be legislatively curbed, along with the FGM that was inflicted on the mothers and grandmothers of present-day Iraqi Kurdish leaders, and is still suffered by a majority of Kurdish girls.
He went on to threaten political opposition to the KRG if Barzani signs the law against domestic violence and FGM.
Continue reading Female Genital Mutilation “An Obligation” According to Iraqi Muslim Cleric by Irfan Al-Alawi