Monthly Archives: August 2016

Black and Blue: Repairing the Bruised Relationship Between the Police and African-Americans in America

by Derek Eggleston, a second year International Relations student. He is currently interning on Capitol Hill in Washington D.C. and focuses on U.S. Foreign Policy. Connect at https://www.linkedin.com/in/derekeggleston

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As an African-American student in Europe, I am always asked about the apparent racial animus that permeates news from my country. Experiencing the recent events from a place of juxtaposition—one who fiercely loves his country but as a black person is painfully aware of its shortcomings—I have been forced to reconcile what I see on the news with the supposed ideals of liberty and equality that America has stood for. These seemingly contradictory ideals can be reconciled, however, if we take the time to listen and articulate a path forward. This article will first outline some of the problems with the legal system before analysing the shortcomings of movements such as Black Lives Matter (BLM) before discussing a possible framework for the advancement of civil rights in the U.S.

Time and time again, the black community is thrown into mourning. Whether it is over to the countless lives lost in urban America centres like Chicago, or the lives lost to those meant to be serving and protecting us, our present is not hopeless but is to an extent the continuation of the plight we have lived through in America’s history. The personal experiences of racism I have encountered as well as the extreme rates of poverty, incarceration, and police brutality appear to paint a bleak picture for a society founded upon its ideals of inclusiveness and liberty for all.

How is this allowed in the U.S. justice system? The answer is that laws are largely based on perception—the cop’s perception, that is. The cop’s perception of danger—substantiated or not—is, in the current legal system, a legitimate defense to avoid prosecution in many instances [1]. However, perception is clearly an arbitrary concept that is open to bias: “When almost 90 percent of white people in America who take the Implicit Association Test show an inherent racial bias for white people versus black people, that means something” [2]. These numbers make it very plausible that when a cop performs his routine duties, interactions with black citizens will be perceived as more threatening than they may be. This perception is then accepted as a legal defense. Effectively, racial bias is indirectly accepted as a legal vindication of the actions of cops.

The other issue is that of proportionate responses—or, the lack thereof. This one is not just a legal issue, but is a mindset one as well. In an international student orientation event with the UK police, one key thing we were told about all interactions with others and the cops is that the response must be proportionate. Seems reasonable, right? In the minds of many in the U.S. regarding cop interactions, this does not exist. Whenever a black man is gunned down there seems to be this false dichotomy that we must determine whether he was completely innocent or guilty and these are black and white. In some instances, such as Philando Castile, the court of public opinion decides he did absolutely nothing wrong therefore did not deserve his fate. However, in other situations people look at the smallest shortcoming as justification for brutality. In response to Mike Brown people said, “He may have stolen a cigar, he should have been following the law”. For Walter Scott people said, “He shouldn’t have run from the cop and should have complied”. And for Laquan McDonald, they say, “He shouldn’t have had a knife”. I am sorry, but since when did theft, running away, or simple possession of a knife warrant the death penalty? Common discourse is seriously flawed and needs to discover a sense of respect for proportionate responses. These scenarios are not black or white where either the suspect is innocent or deserves to die. There are many shades of grey in-between the two, which justly represent a way to deal with black Americans who are doing something they should not be—other than unloading a gun into their body.

These are the problems, so why don’t we fix them? The answer is, we are trying, but not doing so effectively. The problem has to do with the structuring of society which allows for innate biases to permeate society so greatly that they can be present in numbers at 90%+ and can give way to legal justification of murder. However, to combat this, movements have largely gotten it wrong. There are plenty of motivated, brilliant, loving members of BLM who want to see a better future. I myself support the movement in theory: Black Lives Matter and the way our society is structured does not always recognise this fact. However, the movement gets it wrong on many fronts. First off, we must ask: why do so many people disagree with BLM or respond with ‘all lives matter’? People believe the movement is a collection of angry individuals with no end goal in sight, a guise for anti-cop hatred. In the 1960’s extremist groups such as the Black Panthers existed but were not able to drown out the peaceful and just cause of civil rights under Dr. King, so why today is it that concern over the extreme, anti-cop wings of the movement have over-shadowed the legitimate calls to action by millions of sane minorities with legitimate grievances? The movement lacks: moments, leadership, and end goals. Dr. King shook the nation and mankind when he stood on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial and proclaimed to the world his dream of equality. Moments like this and leadership which relentlessly worked with government ultimately manifested itself in clear end goals: most notably The Civil Rights Act of 1964. Who is that voice today for BLM? Who will step up and take a place in the halls of history to firmly proclaim and echo the sentiments of famous abolitionist William Lloyd Garrison that we will not equivocate a single inch until equality is recognised? Leadership in BLM is unorganised at best and, furthermore, there is a refusal on the part of many to engage with mainstream institutions. Advancement for our people in history has not come through shying away from the mainstream institutions we perceive to be the oppressor but rather through direct engagement with these institutions. BLM cannot turn its back on law enforcement and politicians if it is to achieve any of the goals it claims to have.

Then what is the way forward when the country has a clear racial bias, and those on the wrong end of this stick have been failed by the movements of social change which seek to rectify their oppression? First off, clear reform is necessary. Cops have a hard job and a dangerous one. As Obama noted recently, the fear blue families have for their loved ones is not dissimilar to the fear black mothers and fathers feel when their teenage son goes out at night. However, the danger of the job should not be a justification for a legal system based on perception. Furthermore, the perception in the first place needs to change, 90% of Americans should not hold intrinsic bias against African Americans. If those numbers exist, how can we get fair treatment when applying for a job or putting our hands on a cop car? However, this bias cannot be dealt with until it is accepted. People stipulate we have come a long way, but this should not be a catalyst for stagnation. We came a long way from 1860 to 1960 but it did not justify Jim Crow laws. We have come a long way from 1960 to 2016 but it does not justify the bias and discrimination our data trends indicate. We must accept this bias to combat it structurally. Furthermore to accept it people have to believe that the message of change isn’t an extreme, Panther-like one but is a peaceful, King-like one. To do this BLM and similar groups must organise and take centre stage. Make clear your demands and demand them.

America has come a long way in 240 years. Nothing worth fighting for in its history has ever been achieved through abandoning the principles which make us American. The founders wrongfully left out many groups of the civil society they created; however, it was the methodology employed by the founders which could be used as a framework to later expand these rights, that they wrongfully limited, to new groups [3]. Citing the Constitution, loving American ideals and engaging with society is how suffragettes got women the vote, abolitionists got freedom and civil rights supporters got legal recognition. We must embrace these things ingrained in who we are and the foundations of our institutions. We must engage with society around us and not isolate ourselves. We must be forceful, persistent, and not equivocate a single inch in order to heal the bruises that plague America today and the bruises that have plagued us African Americans for so long.

Sources:

[1]Goldstein, Joseph. “Is a Police Shooting a Crime? It Depends on the Officer’s Point of View.” The New York Times. July 28, 2016. Accessed August 06, 2016. http://www.nytimes.com/2016/07/29/nyregion/is-a-police-shooting-a-crime-it-depends-on-the-officers-point-of-view.html?_r=0.

[2] Nesbit, Jeff. “America Has a Big Race Problem.” US News. March 28, 2016. Accessed August 02, 2016. http://www.usnews.com/news/articles/2016-03-28/america-has-a-big-race-problem.

[3] Stein, Jeff. “The American Revolution Was a Huge Victory for Equality. Liberals Should Celebrate It.” Vox. July 03, 2016. Accessed August 02, 2016. http://www.vox.com/2016/7/3/12062334/american-revolution-liberals.

 

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The Justice and Development Party (AKP): where Justice and Development have found new definitions

by Diana Ecaterina Borcea, a Romanian native who is also an incoming first year undergraduate at King’s College London. Diana will start pursuing a BA in War Studies this September. Her main interests in the research of international relations cover subjects like security and conflict in Eastern Europe, history of diplomacy & conflicts, military strategy and war in international order.


 

15 Jul 10:30 pm: the seizure of the key locations in Ankara (and the Bosphorus bridges) takes place

15 Jul 11:00 pm: guns are fired in Ankara and tanks start sieging close to the parliament

16 Jul 12:30 am: President Erdoğan’s call for people’s public rally is aired

16 Jul 2:30 am: the parliament is under attack and a coup members’ helicopter is shot down

16 Jul 9:30 am: the main stage of the coup is declared to be over and soldiers start surrendering

16 Jul 3:00 pm: eight coup participants fly to Greece to seek asylum.

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AKP emblem

 

 

Bottom line? Over 270 people killed and almost 1500 wounded. This tragic outcome is deeply overwhelming even for a country where there have been no fewer than five major coups in the past six decades, with the latest one included. With Turkey’s bleeding stability, few days after the failed coup, questions started rising and the importance of the political leadership became a major element in understanding what really happened in Turkey. Identifying both the causes and the potential long-term consequences of the plotter’s overthrow basically means looking into the state’s leading party, which has been holding not only the majority of seats in the Parliament for thirteen years, but also the enthusiasm and support of the Turkish people.

 

Adalet ve Kalkınma Partisi (Turkish), internationally known as the Justice and Development Party (AKP) has become the strongest Turkish political association in the past decade and presents itself as a conservative right-wing, democratic party, which does not resemble any components of the Islamic agenda, according to its spokesperson, Hüseyin Çelik. Holding the reins of power in Turkey since 2002, AKP, whose leader was the actual President of the Republic (Recep Tayyip Erdoğan) has, however, consolidated a system leaning towards authoritarianism, facing accusations of having a secret agenda, which does not bear a resemblance to the democratic ideology at all. Moreover, the Western press and important Turkish media insiders have repeatedly underlined that Erdoğan’s party is responsible for acts against Turkish secularism and for the support of the Muslim Brotherhood. Under these controversial circumstances, in its thirteen years of power, AKP has faced numerous closing dates, one of which happened in 2008, when the party confronted dissolution by the Constitutional Court for violating article 86 from the Political Parties Law, because it attempted to change the secularism of the state. These tense moments did not, however, prevent AKP from tightening regulations regarding the usage of internet, abortion and alcohol consumption in 2013. The measures taken in the night between 15th of 16th of July – blocking access to social media (Facebook, YouTube, and Twitter) are identical to the ones imposed in 2014, which demonstrates the authoritarian operational mode of AKP.  So, is Erdoğan’s AKP actually protecting Atatürk’s Republic and its people?

 

The answer could be heard from the voices of the thousands gathered in the Taksim Square (Istanbul), who chanted for democracy and the Republic, but not as they once did for the President. The concerns for the Turkish democracy became stronger, as it is already noted that the first major consequence of the coup is giving the government both the justification and the power to tighten its control over the state, declaring, in the process of finding and eliminating the plotters, a three-month long state of emergency. Despite the waves of Western accusations for being an Islamist-influenced party and for its anti-democratic measures, AKP still has its mass supporters, who have also made their voice heard after the coup. The President’s lasting popularity is based on genuine facts, which include Turkey’s economic revival since 2003, the religious pervasiveness of the party and the very fact that Erdoğan is a man of people. As a result, by representing a conservative, religious lower-class, the President has assured his major support, shadowing the worrying fact that immediately after the coup, his government started a massive purge of soldiers, policemen, judges, prosecutors and even teachers in order to secure the post-coup safety of his governance.

 

What is more, the Turkish leader has publicly refused to eliminate the execution of the coup plotters, stirring EU reactions, which have clearly stated that in such case, Turkey will no longer be able to adhere to the Union. This adds up to the radical constitutional package presented earlier this week, which has also caught the international focus by being denominated as “a constitutional reform package aimed at EU integration.” Following these considerations, AKP’s political strategy does not seem hard to unveil. A foreign isolationist policy combined with the massive media shutdown in Turkey might protect the government’s reputation from the objective, alarming western critique, by which the President himself has proved to be so affected (2014 media access block). Is that, in this case, a well-designed plan to cover the abuses and injustices committed with Ankara’s leadership consent?

 

The certainty illustrates that the aforementioned events are definitely not singular or non-repeatable. The deaths of hundreds of people seem to fade in comparison with Erdoğan’s policy and his party movements, which is why the aforementioned tragic bottom line might as well be a header. On the edge between authoritarianism and military dictatorship, Turkey’s faith is in the hands of the so-called “Justice” and “Development”. Regardless of the isolation-related uncertainties, the future of Ankara relies on the guidelines of the new definitions offered to these two terms, as seen and understood by Erdoğan’s long-lasting impenetrable party.

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What the West Fails to See About the Qandeel Baloch Case

 

by Kiyomi Ran, a Chinese-Japanese-American International Relations student, who is currently interning at the Embassy of Pakistan in Japan.

 

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No one denies what happened to Qandeel Baloch was an act of horrific tragedy that no women should ever go through. The Pakistani celebrity who walked a thin line between being provocative, being fresh, and being disrespectful to the country met a fate no one imagined – or at least, no one in the west did. But to suddenly attack Pakistan’s seemingly-backward policies towards women’s rights like many of the people and news outlets did is also simply wrong, as it only exaggerates Pakistan’s failures. Instead, it is important to remember that this act of honor killing is a cultural practice and like any cultural practices is met with resistance when the voice for change is raised. Of course, that does not mean it should be justified, but with this case, once again the international has denounced the women’s rights activism in Pakistan. And yes, while Pakistani society has systemically subordinated women, there are cultural limitations that exist that are unknown to the outside.

In fact, Pakistan has a huge rich and poor, urban and rural divide. The women in more modernized cities like Lahore and Karachi enjoy more freedom than before. Yet, most of the 182 million people in Pakistan live in the rural, tribal areas where violence against women exist the most. This divide is a major issue in Pakistan, as the difference in the level of modernization makes changes forceful if the government seeks to implement and execute laws in the tribal areas.

In a country that carries numerous problems, the government needs the support of the people in the tribal areas in combatting other issues like terrorism, poverty, and literacy. This gives the government difficulty in trying to implement change while also gaining respect and trust from the people. For example, the jirgas – or traditional assembly of tribal leaders – in these areas that convene on matters of territorial security and terrorism organized by the national military are still only limited to men, though there is a reason to that. According to Colonel Zulifqar Bhatty, Army and Air Adviser at High Commission of Pakistan in London, the Pakistani government need to recognize and respect these traditions first in order to gain trust, which can then lead to a better, collective solution to terrorism. In fact, the north-west border of Pakistan has been perhaps one of the only successful attempts to eradicate terrorist threats owing to these efforts.

Pakistan is a faith and culture-oriented country with diverse groups; many developed countries have wiped away culture, but it would be unfair to radically demand that to Pakistan, so the problem of women’s rights should not focus on how “malicious” the culture is and how to change the culture, but rather on what else can be done to improve the issue.

And like many developing countries, important infrastructure like roads and hospitals and social programs such as healthcare and education, are still limitedly available to over 100 million rural population of Pakistan, which pose a problem in trying to enforce and change the mindset on gender subordination. While non-governmental organizations such as Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch denounce the increase of honor killing cases in Pakistan, this is because more cases have been reported due to the better infrastructure and technology. In fact, there has been a decrease of violence in places where infrastructure has been developed as it gives easier access to law enforcement. Furthermore, education can be the key to decreasing the number of violence. Education can not only teach young children a changing mindset, but also allow them to possibly travel to more urban and developed areas of Pakistan to see the change themselves. Education can also alleviate poverty in a society in the long-run. Development in healthcare can help the victims with both physical and psychological traumata to not continue the negative cycle of violence providing them with support groups and safe havens.

This proves that if the western media really wants to see change, they should invest more on these infrastructures rather than simply condemning the government’s inability. If they don’t want to, that’s fine too – changes are more effective when they come from within anyways.

Apart from making sensible cultural considerations and developing infrastructure, there also needs to be a stricter application of law. In Pakistan, there are already many laws that protect women from all kinds of violence. For example, the Acid Control and Acid Crime Prevention Bill was signed into law in 2011 unanimously by the Parliament holds acid attackers to face life in prison.

The Punjab Protection of Women Against Violence Act 2015 passed in 2016 marked a great victory for women’s rights activists in Pakistan, where the country’s most populous province vowed to respond to any form of abuse towards women. Recent initiatives include setting up a direct helpline, increasing female protection officers, creating housing for victims, and providing financial support to these women. There is also a movement to rewrite the law on honor killings with the loophole allowing the killer to be acquitted if the family forgives him. These bills serve as an important step towards prevention of violence against women in Pakistan.

But again, there were far more articles written on Qandeel Baloch than on any bills that support internal changes in women’s rights.

Of course, again it is hard to enforce laws in rural areas where these crimes occur the most, as there is less information and less access to these regions, and the western media doesn’t really report these positive changes. But the historical Act passed in 2016 has already been received by much public praise, though was very limitedly reported outside the country, and it will take some time before the full effect finally sinks in. Pakistan needs time to adopt, to adjust, and to enforce.
Cultural considerations, infrastructural development, and law application are all initiatives that could bring positive change to women’s rights in Pakistan – and they all indeed come from within Pakistan. With the recent Qandeel Baloch case, Pakistan was once again under international scrutiny for its failure to protect its women. Yet, these outside outlets give only a negative rapport to the country’s image and does not give enough credit to the positive aspects.

For example, there are more females represented in the Parliament than many developed countries such as Japan, the United States, and Liechtenstein, and the highest ranked female general in Pakistan has more stars than in the United Kingdom. The country has also recently created an initiative to increase the number of female police officers in the most conservative part of the country. Then, to blatantly say that Pakistan has horrible women’s rights is misleading. Like any developed country, Pakistan is struggling to cope with the division among the people, and it has done so much to try to amend it. The international scrutiny is nothing but another punch to Pakistan’s confidence, as it only deprecates the changes the country has tried to instrument. Therefore, changes can only come from within, as it is more effective coming from those who actually know the limitations in trying to modernize. One thing for sure, is that the women’s rights in Pakistan is only moving forward, and never backward.

Image source:

http://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-35943732

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