Posts Tagged ‘politics’

A new post for CNN, this one expanding on some brief comments in my earlier letter to the Financial Times. I see it has inspired a certain amount of vitriol on their comments. The overall point here is to highlight the fact that a bad situation is being allowed to simply get worse to no-one’s benefit and the long-term implications are going to be negative. Per CNN’s agreement, I have only posted the first 150 odd words here, please follow the hyperlinks to read the whole piece. UPDATE (Oct 20, 2012): I realize I owe Shashank a note of thanks for reading an earlier draft of this.

Analysis: The Lure of the Jihad and the Danger to Europe

By Raffaello Pantucci, Special to CNN

Editor’s note: Raffaello Pantucci is an associate fellow at the International Center for the Study of Radicalisation at King’s College and the author of the forthcoming “We Love Death As You Love Life: Britain’s Suburban Mujahedeen” (Hurst).

A growing number of young Europeans drawn to protect their abandoned Muslim brethren have taken up arms in Syria. It’s a dynamic that Europe has witnessed before.

In the 1990s, young Europeans were enticed by the idea of fighting jihad in Bosnia. Spurred on by radical preachers, young men and women were drawn to fight to protect their Muslim brethren merely a bus ride away.

Before the September 11 attack in 2001, the notion of fighting in a holy war was something far from most people’s minds and reserved for history books about the Crusades. Occasional appearances by fearsome looking radical preachers at rallies where people would shout about holy war were shown every so often on television, but that was the extent of public knowledge of the issue.

But there was more going on, mostly unseen to the average citizen in Europe. In the mid-1990s as Yugoslavia started to fall apart, stories emerged of middle-class Europeans being killed fighting and of Western forces finding groups of fighters with British accents among the Bosnian ranks.

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A new post for the Lowy’s Interpreter blog, this time a set of pictures and text from Kyrgyzstan’s election campaign that we got to see during our recent trip to the region and in particular during a stop-over in Osh. A lot more on the topic of China in the region forthcoming (the principle purpose of the trip), in the meantime, enjoy. Thanks to the lovely Sue Anne Tay for pictures, and to Alexandros for helping with the text.

A Rally in Kyrgyzstan

By Raffaello Pantucci – 26 October 2011 2:14PM

Text by Raffaello Pantucci, a Visiting Scholar at the Shanghai Academy of Social Sciences. Photos by Sue Anne Tay, whose work appears on Shanghai Street Stories.

Kyrgyzstan is in the midst of what appears to be a lively democratic election campaign. Rushing to meetings around Bishkek and then driving to Osh, Kyrgyzstan’s second city, big political posters adorned bridges, tollbooths and places in between. So it was with little surprise that we came across a large-scale rally at the stadium adjacent to our hotel in Osh.

A somewhat lackluster affair on a cold damp afternoon, the rally was in support of Bakir Uulu, a candidate we later discovered was something of a soft-Islamist (something that should have been obvious from the crescent that adorned his campaign logo), eager for the US to move its military presence out of Kyrgyzstan. Azerbaijani dancers pranced around as an apparently famous Kyrgyz MC crooned nationalist songs from behind his shiny suit. Eventually, some of the many policemen standing around chomping on sunflower seeds got interested in our presence and our already tepid interest in the event receded.

But as we were leaving, we walked right into the candidate who was walking from his nearby office (below) to the rally to give the keynote speech. Ever the politician, he pressed the flesh and stood around for some pictures before telling us that we must come back and listen. He pointed to one of his young acolytes to ensure we got good seats.

Unfortunately, this young staffer did not feel it was his role to also translate, so as we sat in the cold listening to the candidate talk we were obliged to simply pick out the odd word that was apparently universal (America, Afghanistan, Europe, Taliban, Hizb ut Tahrir, Uzbek, China etc). The one line our guide did choose to translate was that the candidate thought ‘they had learned a lot from America and Europe.’ Far more active was an excitable drunk sitting behind us who seemed determined to record the entire event on his Motorola phone and get our phone numbers.

Kyrgyzstan is a young country and this was reflected in the crowd, though a number of older Kyrgyz were among those sitting interested and engaged in what the candidate was saying. One group was drafted into participating in a parade that marched around the stadium waving blue flags as part of a cortège that included a unit on horses and three white trucks with campaign posters taped to their sides. At the back of the stadium, a rather hapless group of men alternated between trying to put up large banners of the candidate and smoking cigarettes. They finished their task as the candidate ended his speech.

We made our way back to our hotel with a better understanding of Kyrgyzstan’s dysfunctional politics than anything gleaned from academic analysis.