The new PKK: unleashing a social revolution in Kurdistan


Fascinating look at the PKK’s adoption of libertarian socialism, a variation of social anarchism originated by American Murray Bookchin. Although there are a number of tensions if not outright contradictions between the PKK’s past/present actions and the ideology, there were numerous stories of social anarchism taking hold in Kurdish areas in northern Syria prior to the fighting around Kobane.

“Öcalan, an atheist, was finally writing as a free-thinker, unshackled from Marxist-Leninist mythology. He indicated that he was seeking an “alternative to capitalism” and a “replacement for the collapsed model of … ‘really existing socialism’,” when he came across Bookchin. His theory of democratic confederalism developed out of a combination of inspiration from communalist intellectuals, “movements like the Zapatistas”, and other historical factors from the struggle in northern Kurdistan (Turkey). Öcalan proclaimed himself a student of Bookchin, and after a failed email correspondence with the elderly theorist, who was to his regret too sick for an exchange on his deathbed in 2004, the PKK celebrated him as “one of the greatest social scientists of the 20th century” on the occasion of Bookchin’s death two years later.”

How Turkey misread the Kurds -Al Jazeera


There was rioting in the Kurdish majority city of Diyarbakir in south eastern Turkey this week. This article provides an interesting overview of the continuing tensions between the Turkish AKP government and the country’s Kurdish population.

“The war in Syria has emerged as a new cause for tension between Turkey’s Kurds and the Turkish government, at times straining the AKP’s ongoing peace talks with the PKK – and the AKP’s Syria border policy and its support for certain extremist opposition groups in Syria is a big reason why.

Ankara is reported to have links to numerous Syrian rebel groups. These links have drawn the ire of many Kurds in both Syria and Turkey, who view much of the Syrian opposition with suspicion due to their conservative outlook and their support for a strong central Syrian government.”

Mission creep concerns raised in Canadian fight against Islamic State -Globe and Mail


Canadian forces engaged in direct combat with ISIS forces in Iraq this week. This was not supposed to happen. However in the words of Field Marshall Helmuth Carl Bernard Graf von Moltke, “no plan of operations extends with any certainty beyond the first contact with the main hostile force”, so whether you think Canada should be in Iraq or not, such assurances must always be taken with a large grain of salt….

“Brig.-Gen. Rouleau also announced that, for the first time, Canadian military advisers have engaged in a firefight with the enemy after coming under attack when they were at the front lines conducting training. He said Canadian troops are spending 20 per cent of their time near the front lines and the exchange of fire happened within “the last seven days.”

Meanwhile, Canadian Foreign Minister John Baird was egged in Ramallah.

See: Palestinians throw eggs at Canada’s John Baird

Are All Terrorists Muslims? It’s Not Even Close -The Daily Beast


This is the second of two posts providing some statistics about two topics getting a lot of coverage in the media: Islamic terrorism and Islamophobia in the EU. This article is a little simplistic in the way it explains how the media works, and there is a tendency toward hyperbole but the basic argument deserves consideration:

“So here are some statistics for those interested. Let’s start with Europe. Want to guess what percent of the terrorist attacks there were committed by Muslims over the past five years? Wrong. That is, unless you said less than 2 percent….. the vast majority of terror attacks in Europe were perpetrated by separatist groups. For example, in 2013, there were 152 terror attacks in Europe. Only two of them were “religiously motivated,” while 84 were predicated upon ethno-nationalist or separatist beliefs.”

“Back in the United States, the percentage of terror attacks committed by Muslims is almost as miniscule as in Europe. An FBI study looking at terrorism committed on U.S. soil between 1980 and 2005 found that 94 percent of the terror attacks were committed by non-Muslims….. as a 2014 study by University of North Carolina found, since the 9/11 attacks, Muslim-linked terrorism has claimed the lives of 37 Americans. In that same time period, more than 190,000 Americans were murdered”

and for some hyerbole: “in 2013, it was actually more likely Americans would be killed by a toddler than a terrorist. In that year, three Americans were killed in the Boston Marathon bombing. How many people did toddlers kill in 2013? Five, all by accidentally shooting a gun.”

Iran’s shallow influence in Yemen -Al Monitor


Interesting analysis of Yemeni politics under the Houthis and how Iran’s position differs than the one the Saudis enjoyed in the past.

“Saudi Arabia relied on Yemen to spread its influence through several axes. Those include the tribal loyalties and the large Yemeni diaspora in Saudi Arabia, which is estimated at millions of people and comprises a remarkable network of traders. The political parties, such as Al-Islah Party, constituted another axis, along with the Yemeni state headed by Saleh. Saudi Arabia was seeking to keep the Yemeni state weak and did not mind supporting it financially if it faced a critical economic situation. Iran, however, is only betting on the religious axis through its media-backed channels such as al-Mayadeen, and the local al-Masirah and al-Sahat channels by buying off journalists”

Read more:

There Are More French Muslims Working for French Security Than for Al Qaeda -Huffington Post


A sober analysis by Olivier Roy, an expert on Political Islam and broadly consistent with an earlier post:

“Radicalized young people, who rely heavily on an imagined Muslim politics (the Ummah of earlier times) are deliberately at odds with the Islam of their parents, as well as Muslim culture overall.

They invent an Islam which opposes itself to the West. They come from the periphery of the Muslim word. They are moved to action by the displays of violence in the media of Western culture. They embody a generational rupture (parents now call the police when their children leave for Syria), and they are not involved with the local religious community and the neighborhood mosques.

These young people practice self-radicalization on the Internet, searching for a global jihad. They are not interested in the tangible concerns of the Muslim world, such as Palestine. In short, they are not seeking the Islamization of the society in which they live but the realization of their sick fantasy of heroism (“We have avenged the Prophet Muhammad,” claimed some of the killers at Charlie Hebdo).”

Obama’s five key Middle East battlegrounds in 2015 -BBC


“The message here is that the US must seek to re-define its core interests in the region more clearly.

Well-meaning statements about the spread of democracy or women’s rights are fine as aspirations, but the West as a whole needs to be more realistic about the time it takes to encourage social change – which in any case must come from within.

A measure of the Obama Administration’s failure to address the complexities of the region is shown by the irrelevance now of Mr Obama’s 2009 Cairo Address which, though hailed at the time as marking a new departure in relations between the US, the Middle East and the wider Muslim world, largely proved to be a false-start.”

Should we be “Charlie Hebdo”?


In the aftermath of this week’s “Charlie Hebdo” attack, many editorialists and much of the public have adopted the slogan: Je Suis “Charlie Hebdo” (“I am Charlie Hebdo”) in solidarity with the slain cartoonists and to demonstrate that they will not be intimidated into giving up their right to freedom of speech. Yet many others are conflicted. While they support the right to freedom of speech and do not advocate censuring publications such as Charlie Hebdo, they find the publication’s material offensive and do not want to let themselves be goaded into proclaiming “Je Suis Charlie Hebdo”.
Here are a couple of articles from both positions:

“The right to blaspheme religion is one of the most elemental exercises of political liberalism. One cannot defend the right without defending the practice.”
“Charlie Hebdo and the Right to Commit Blasphemy” By Jonathan Chait

“I am offended when those already oppressed in a society are deliberately insulted. I don’t want to participate. This crime in Paris does not suspend my political or ethical judgment, or persuade me that scatologically smearing a marginal minority’s identity and beliefs is a reasonable thing to do. Yet this means rejecting the only authorized reaction to the atrocity.”
“Why I am not Charlie”