Syria, a Changing Middle East and the Construction of Arab Identity: A Conversation with Prof. Christopher Phillips

In an exclusive interview with InPEC, Christopher Phillips, Senior Lecturer in the International Relations of the Middle East at Queen Mary University of London and Associate Fellow at the Chatham House Middle East and North Africa programme, discusses the Syrian civil war’s regional implications, its effect on the discourse of Arab identity, and the possibility for its resolution. He is the author of Everyday Arab Identity: The Daily Reproduction of the Arab World and, most recently, of The Battle for Syria: International Rivalry in the New Middle East. 


By InPEC editor Batul K. Sadliwala, 18th March, 2017

Batul K. Sadliwala (BKS): In your latest book, your argument is that the war in Syria is a byproduct and an accelerator of a shift in the regional order of the Middle East. What is the change taking place? What is this new order you describe? Continue reading

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Achieving Disarmament: Strengths and Weaknesses of International NGOs

The author stresses the importance of NGOs working collectively to reduce risks associated with nuclear weapons proliferation, and highlights how one program, the Strategic Concept for the Removal of Arms and Proliferation (SCRAP), can effectively create the needed synergy between all such NGO’s, while complimenting other existing campaigns to end the risks associated with nuclear weapons proliferation.


By Akhshid Javid,6th December, 2015


The Rise of the Global Movement for Disarmament 

Since 1945, nuclear disarmament has been a concern for many organizations around the world.  Moreover, there have been strong waves of public support for disbandment of nuclear weapons across the globe over the last 50 years.

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On Taiwan: An Option between Total War and Withdrawal for the U.S.

For more than a half century, the United States has been able to help deter the use of force by China and Taiwan.  Yet the new dynamic in the area surrounding Taiwan has increased the likelihood of use of force. How the United States responds will have enormous implications for both the Chinese, and the allies of the U.S. in the South and East China sea. To avoid the catastrophic impact of total war and the implications of abandoning an ally, the author examines one option between the two that the U.S. can adopt.


By Noriya Nakazawa,7th November, 2015

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Interview with the UN High Commissioner for Refugees on the Gender Issues Surrounding the Syrian Crisis

In an exclusive interview with InPEC, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees comments on the gendered environment that can confront women and children in a crisis situation.


By InPEC, 15th June, 2015

Abdulaziz: High Commissioner, thank you for talking with InPEC. The purpose of this interview is to highlight some of the gendered challenges facing some of the refugee women and children. We hope to hear your honest insights on how these challenges may be overcome, to help mitigate the suffering of the millions of people fleeing conflict zones.

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Could Social Impact Bonds Fight Slavery?

Social Impact Bonds as an effective way to tackle the age-old problem of bonded labour in India.


By Dallin Van Leuven, 20th April, 2015 

To pay off a family debt of only $50, 13-year-old Roghini was “mortgaged” to a family that made matchboxes in their home. Paid only 30 cents for every 1,500 boxes she made, Roghini worked alongside 20 other children for 11 hours a day just to try and earn enough to eat—though she often went hungry. The abusive treatment she received drove Roghini into such a deep depression that she tried to end her own life. Finally, three years after she was sold into slavery, a local group was able to pay off the debt and free her.

Millions of men, women, and children are working in India under similar conditions. India’s justice system has tried to free them for decades, to no avail. New strategies are needed where politicians and judges have failed. It is time for investors to step up. Continue reading

Photo essay – Delhi Pride Parade 2014

Hundreds of Delhiites marched together on Sunday, the 30th of November to participate in the city’s seventh LGBTQ pride parade. Stuti Bhattacharya was there. 


By Stuti Bhattacharya, 8th December, 2014 

The Delhi Queer Pride Parade is an annual event that has been held in New Delhi every year since 2007. The parade is a festive event meant to celebrate lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgendered people, while protesting unequal treatment by law and society.

In India, Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code criminalises sexual activities “against the act of nature”, which is defined in a manner that effectively criminalises homosexuality (it also criminalises certain consensual heterosexual acts). The Delhi High Court declared this section to be unconstitutional in 2009. This judgment, however, was overturned by the Supreme Court in 2013. The Supreme Court maintained that only the parliament can repeal Section 377. That is unlikely to happen in the near future as the new government in India is led by the BJP, which is a right-wing conservative party. The BJP has explicitly spoken out against homosexuality.

This is the first pride parade since the Supreme Court verdict and since the new government took office.

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The Case for Kurdistan

 

In making the case for Kurdish independence, the author reviews the favorable prospects of the Kurdish state. He explains that “the West must support Kurdish independence to right the wrongs of the past and create stability in the Middle East.”


By Hawar Shawki, 22nd August, 2014

Straddling the borders where Turkey, Iran, Iraq, and Syria converge in the Middle East, the Kurds constitute the largest number of people in the world without their own independent sovereign state. Long a suppressed minority, the wars against Saddam Hussein in 1991 and 2003 resulted in the creation of a semi-autonomous Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) in the Federal Republic of Iraq. The KRG has inspired the Kurds elsewhere to seek cultural, social, and even political autonomy, if not independence. Kurdish history has seen many nationalist movements, but a fully independent sovereign state has yet to come to fruition and be recognised by the United Nations and other nation-states.

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“Good fences make good neighbors”?

Writing about her visits to the West Bank, the author shares with us her impressions of the separation wall.


By Margaret McKenzie, 5th July, 2014.

It will have been a decade on July 9 since the International Court of Justice (ICJ) passed its advisory opinion saying Israel must cease construction of the Wall and dismantle sections, compensate for damage caused; and, return Palestinian property or provide compensation if restitution is not possible. The Wall has always been contentious with radically polarizing opinions, exemplified by the many different terms for the Wall depending on who you speak to – “Separation Fence”or “gader hafradeh” in Hebrew, “Apartheid Wall” or “al jidar al azil” in Arabic, are just a few terms used to describe the Wall separating the West Bank from Israel. The Wall depicted in the photos below around the West Bank is illegal under international law.

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Revised Histories of Love and War

Compliant disobedience and remembered forgettings.

By Arvind Iyer, 20th June, 2014

The past: a new and uncertain world. A world of endless possibilities and infinite outcomes. Countless choices define our fate: each choice, each moment – a moment in the ripple of time. Enough ripple, and you change the tide… for the future is never truly set. -Charles Xavier, X-Men:Days of Future Past

Ma-Lo is an amateur short film in Malayalam released in 2012, and was well-received in the film festival circuit in the state of Kerala, widely considered one of the more socially progressive states in India. The film has for its setting the rapidly urbanizing and ambivalently modernizing contemporary Indian mindscape where sexual mores are in flux, forcing a reconsideration of default notions of commitment, fidelity and personal autonomy. The short-film, though admittedly not intended as an activist intervention, lends itself to a wider discussion of the autonomy of individuals and societies in lifestyle choices and policy-making. This discussion considers both the unexploited scope of such autonomy (which postmodernist critiques help bring to light), and also of some objective constraints on such autonomy (which no postmodernist reformulation can wish away). Here, archetypal ‘breakups’ and ‘regime changes’ are treated as illustrations respectively of the individual and collective exercise of human autonomy when faced with an ‘irrevocable past’. The presentation will be in a lounging format that has become popularly associated with the Slovenian cultural critic and translator Slavoj Žižek switching nonchalantly between ‘cultural theory’ and ‘geopolitical commentary’. Much of the article hereonward references the short-film, that can be viewed below.

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South-South Technology Cooperation: The Case of Brazil and China’s Wind Industry

In a piece prepared especially for the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs (UN DESA), the authors look at the “South-South” relationship between China and Brazil to understand the extent, drivers and lessons from their technology cooperation.


By Hyosun Bae & Zoraida Velasco, 7th May, 2014.

Cooperation in the fields of technology is under the constant pressure of global competition. Countries are finding themselves in a race to increase their innovation capacity. This is particularly the case for emerging markets like Brazil and China. This race includes significant multi-dimensional commitments from government towards industry development and collaboration in an effort to develop mutually benefitting opportunities. Fully utilizing their growth in financial and technological capacity, Brazil and China have expanded their collaboration on renewable energy technology. Technology cooperation is a way to develop opportunities for reciprocal knowledge-sharing and investment. Through the use of case study and literature review, this paper analyses the bilateral cooperation between Brazil and China on wind power technology. It focuses on the public and private sectors’ research and development (R&D) of wind technology between the two countries.

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Discovery of India – Chapter 3: Stories of a deity and a human

InPEC brings to you the “Discovery of India” log of Karthik Radhakrishnan, an engineering graduate student from the University of Southern California, Los Angeles, as he travels through India. 

Chapter 1 is available here.

Chapter 2 is available here.


Place: Masinagudi (Nilgiri District, TN)
Date: 19th January, 2014

By Karthik Radhakrishnan, 5th March, 2014

We often use the phrases “Scheduled castes” and “Scheduled tribes” (mostly in the context of beneficiaries of the Indian Reservation system.) But how often do we actually think of the life of a Dalit or a Tribal? Taking nothing away from their sufferings of the past, the Dalit community has progressed since independence (a long way to go still though). But many Tribal communities of India are still untouched, the stories untold.

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The Bear Hug: Russia’s Regional Ambitions

The author explores the ambitions of Russia in the context of its Eurasian Union idea. 


By Richard Wallace, 28th February, 2014

Over the past few months, mass protests have erupted in Kiev, Ukraine in defiance of (now deposed) President Viktor Yanukovich’s 11th hour U-Turn on the signing of an EU Association Agreement that would have been the first major stepping stone to full EU accession. The protests had morphed into a vociferous backlash against the corruption of the ruling elite and its increasing repressive domestic policies. Much of this anger has been directed across the border, to Ukraine’s (not so) brotherly neighbour, Russia. Critics see the hand of Putin behind this policy reversal, a frosty hand that has been slowly but surely tightening its grip around Ukraine’s throat over the last decade in response to its warming towards the West. Yet Ukraine is merely one amongst many states in the region to be embraced by the broadly encompassing and expansionist Russian bear hug, which can in recent years be summed up in 2 dirty words on the streets of Kiev: the Customs Union.

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Law: A statist means of social change, or an instrument of status quo?

In this essay, the author explores the role a state’s legal framework plays in curtailing social change.


By Sabina Yasmin Rahman, 27th February, 2014

“We must have a look at the society and culture at large in order to find the place of law within the total structure.” — E. Adamson Hoebel (1954)

State as a political entity has managed to sustain a curious pattern of existence. Depending on the level of complementarities [and often contradictions] that the state shares with the plethora of available discourses in and around it — individualism, socialism, secularism, postmodernism, neoliberalism, and post-development — all sheltered under the indisputable fact of democracy, makes it very tempting for us to think of legal innovation as effecting social change. In addition, our highly centralized political system, which functions by appeasing the masses on a daily basis through illusory experiences of access to a decentralized machinery, made increasingly seductive by advanced technology and communication apparatuses, fills us with enormous expectations of achieving near utopian social changes through the medium of law. Here, I would like to state a few reasons as to why one must caution oneself against the reality of law. I contend that it is important to recognize law primarily as an instrument of maintaining status quo rather than a revolutionary transformational force geared towards social change.

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Human rights law and the cultural barriers in Islamic states

An overview of the Islamic state’s capacity to adopt the current human rights norms – the author holds that the globalization of human rights remains ineffective in transcending cultural barriers. Only when the philosophical ideology is translated into different cultures, as opposed to a more positivist approach, can the gap between globalized human rights and different nations be further mitigated. 


By Shafeea Riza, 8th February 2014

In an increasingly globalising world, where international human rights law plays a dominating role in global politics, one cannot help but wonder whether globalisation of human rights law effectively translates into the domestic realms of the receiving state. I ask this question in relation to Islamic states. Islamic states have responded to the international human rights law norms in different ways. Despite the “universal” aspect of these human rights, and its somewhat adoption by Islamic states, what transpires foremost is the tension between these rights and Islamic traditions.[1] Although there is general consensus of the international human rights law among Islamic states, insistence on holding on to Islamic values appear to be pre-dominant.[2] Such an observation begs the question asked at the beginning of this paper: whether globalisation of human rights truly transcends cultural barriers?

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Fear and Loathing in the Magic Valley of Malana, India’s Cannabis Country

Satellite mapping by the authorities forces India’s famous cannabis growers deeper into the bush. 


By Shweta Desai, 10th January 2014 (Republished with permission) 

Deep in India’s Himalayas, in the remote and isolated Kullu Valley of Himachal Pradesh, is the quiet village of Malana. When autumn arrives each year, Malana is enveloped in what was once a hopeful air brought on by the new harvest, as lanky cannabis trees bloom wild in panoramic fields and against scattered houses. Farmers and villagers begin cultivating in late September, rubbing the buds of fully bloomed plants between their palms to extract the brown hashish resin known mystically as Malana’s crème. Today this time of year carries with it the dark pall of police interference.

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The First World-Problem(s)

Rehyphenating the priorities of the developed and developing worlds.

By Arvind Iyer, 8th January 2014


Background : The Three Worlds theories of the early postcolonial era that might have served to usefully map the sharply polar geopolitics of the time, continue to circumscribe policy imagination as well as commentary in a manner that limits the genuine planet-wide globalizing of best-practices discovered in any of the erstwhile ‘worlds’. The narratives of newly liberated nations making their unique trysts with destiny or the ‘nationalizing’ of ideology as in socialism with Chinese characteristics are far from timeless or timely at this juncture when wars for self-determination are receding into history, thus precluding preoccupations with self-definition, or assertion of identity, or characterization of doctrines. This article treats an increasingly dominant strain of middle-class political attitudes and aspirations in emerging India as a case study of sorts to illustrate how policy pragmatism and catholicity rather than policy puritanism and conservatism maybe both enabled and necessitated in a world where the problems India shares with America are as pressing as the problems endemic to ‘Chindia’ or the BRIC bloc.

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Where is Bosnia and Herzegovina going?

In this article, the author explores the nature of protests taking place in Bosnia and Herzegovina. 


By Alejandro Marx, 26th November, 2013

The year 2013 has seen major protests around the world, including in Turkey, Brazil Romania and the ongoing ones in Bulgaria. The common thread that these protests have had was that they questioned the role of their elected representatives. Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH) has also seen protests, although they haven’t been adequately covered by the international media.

BiH experienced from June 6 2013 a succession of protests in Sarajevo, which later spread to other cities of BiH. The protests were a result of the frustration with the complex working of the State of BiH, created after the 1992-1995 Civil War. BiH is divided into two major entities, Republika Srpska (the Serb entity) and the Bosnian Federation (the Croat and Bosniak entity), plus the Brcko District with is under the control of the both mayor entities. Both entities have their own parliaments. On the national level, the Parliamentary Assembly, with its two chambers (the House of Representatives and the House of Peoples), represents the ethnic groups. Decisions are taken on the basis of an agreement between each of the 3 ethnicities. An ethnic group which considers that a law is against its vital interests can veto it.

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Challenges of grass root rural development in Tamil Nadu

Looking at the adverse effects of pesticide use on health and farmer yields in Erode, Tamil Nadu state in India, the author highlights the needed measures to bridge the gap between the remedies available to the government, NGOs and civil society on one hand, and the sustainable options for the farmers on the other.


By Camille Maubert, 23rd November 2013

India’s outstanding economic development following the Green Revolution (1960s) was characterized by a remarkable increase in agricultural production. In the past decades, India’s crop yield was multiplied by four through the use of enhanced crop varieties, fertilizers, pesticides and other chemicals. However, despite such success on the global scale, concerns are emerging at the micro level regarding the sustainability if intensive agricultural exploitation. The biggest challenge facing farmers is the dramatic decrease in soil fertility. Indeed, after five decades of intense farming, some challenges have become alarmingly recurrent.

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Environment and Society in India – The Challenges Ahead

In this article, the authors provide an overview of the environmental challenges that India faces and how the civil society has stood up to the challenge. 


by Tamanna Adhikari and Anusha Ghosh, 11th November, 2013

Society and environment are intricately intertwined, linked together by societal habits that determine the relationship between a certain community and the environment. With growing urbanization India has witnessed an increase in environmental problems such as land degradation, deforestation, air and water pollution and climate change. Global atmospheric concentrations of carbon dioxide, methane, and nitrous oxide have increased between pre-industrial period and 2005. Air quality data has shown that air pollution and its resultant impacts can be attributed to emissions from vehicular, industrial and domestic activities. Air quality has been, therefore, an issue of social concern in the backdrop of various developmental activities. The total forest cover of the country, as per the 2005 assessment, constitutes 20.60 per cent of the geographic area of the country. Between 2003 and 2005, the total forest cover had decreased by 728 sq. km. With resource needs having remained unchanged, forests have come under increased pressure of encroachment for cultivation, and unsustainable resource use rendering the very resource base unproductive.

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NSA: the Deceptive Scandal

The latest round of leaks on the NSA could end the spying culture through major policy-shifts promised by President Obama though one should remain sceptical.


By Gulshan Roy, 5th November 2013

The average unemployment rate set to hit a record 12% in the EU; the growth rate stagnating at a dire 0.3%; the much fanfared recovery that never turned up; an ever-so-fragile eurozone:  these are the major themes Angela Merkel would have nervously expected to debate as she appeared in Brussels last Friday for this year’s crucial EU summit. Instead, the meeting was (rather conveniently for her) foreshadowed then dominated by America’s intriguing secret curiosity for the contents her cell phone. In yet another round of blows for US National Security Agency (NSA), The Guardian revealed last week that the agency had been monitoring calls of 35 world leaders without their knowledge, let alone their consent. Edward Snowden has his president biting his nails once again for traditional allies of Washington are understandably outraged.

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Fanning the Flames – The Rise of AQAP

An assessment of what has contributed to the swelling of the Al Qaeda ranks in Yemen. Among other factors, this has included the cutting of the remittances from their richer neighbors after the first Gulf War and the security concerns (drone strikes).


By Richard Wallace, 23rd October 2013

Just a couple of months back, news channels were filled with coverage of the impending threat Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP – the Gulf branch of Al-Qaeda) poses to domestic security in Yemen and international security more broadly. Yemen is rarely in the limelight, with much media attention focusing further north on the Middle East states of the Levant and Iran. When it does catch international attention, the media discourse on Yemen is typically highly securitized, to the extent that the country is increasingly cast as the next Afghanistan, the cradle of chaos, and the new haven and hotbed of international terrorism. Whether or not this is really the case, it is clear that Yemen does face serious challenges from AQAP’s local franchise and the danger is real. So just how did it come to this?

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Colourful Challenges: Street Art from the Middle East

The author looks at Street Art in the Middle East (Libya, Egypt, Lebanon, Iran and Palestine). He draws attention to how in some parts it became an apparent means for protest, while in others it is more widely used to endorse the current regime.


By Dallin Van Leuven, 13th October, 2013

The Arab Spring brought far more than a change of leadership to nations in the Middle East and North Africa.  Its political upheaval introduced a marked increase in the freedom of speech, as well as a challenge to the definition of public space.  At the intersection of these two currents lies street art.  Street art – rather than graffiti – is an appropriate term, with vibrant, poignant expressions of free speech capturing the attention of both residents and passers-by. Continue reading

The Bahrain Predicament

This piece was originally written right after a car bomb explosion on July 18 in Riffa south of the capital Manama. The result of resisting the majority’s demands, the author brings into question whether there is any prudence in endorsing their aspirations.


By Massaab Al-Aloosy, 2nd October 2013

Yesterday a car exploded near the Sheikh Khalifah mosque in Manama, Bahrain.  The incident was immediately condemned as a terrorist attack by the government which warned of attempts to tear the social fabric. Although there were no casualties, the explosion is a reminder of how intricate the situation is in Bahrain. For a long time now, the opposition has been calling for democratization of the political system to no avail.

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Tensions Between the Universal Concept of Human Rights and Islamic law – Legal Theory Perspectives

The author applies different legal theories to understand the tension between human rights and Islamic law, and how this tension can be alleviated for greater convergence between the two.


By Shafeea Riza, 22nd September 2013

Introduction

The globalization of human rights through international human rights law systems has received a varying response from the Islamic states. The international human rights law norms, which is provided in the International Bill of Human Rights is contended to entail a universal concept which exemplify the position of public international law on human rights1. In contrast, Islamic law constitutes its very own concept of human rights and related duties2. The tension, therefore, between a universal concept of human rights and Islamic traditions is apparent. Despite the tension, it appears that Islamic states remain receptive to international human rights law instruments3.

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Egypt, the West and the Arab Spring

America’s refusal to condemn the military coup in Egypt has revealed the West’s true hopes for the ‘Arab Spring’


By Gulshan Roy, 11th September, 2013

 “If there is a God, he will have a lot to answer for. If not… well, he had a successful life,” Pope Urban VIII once said of a man who would irreversibly frame the study of diplomatic strategy. The Cardinal of Richelieu became France’s First Minister in 1624 at the time of the bloody war of Counter-reformation in Europe. In spite of France’s Catholic faith, Richelieu refrained from joining his religious allies in the war on Protestant Europe. But far retired from the moral obligations towards peace, his calculus rested instead within the strategic reasoning that a protracted and prolonged bloodbath would inflict damage upon both his allies and enemies, and ultimately serve France’s national objective of acquiring more power in Central Europe. Upon his advice, France simply stood back and watched the bloodshed, waiting for the most opportune moment to enter the fray. As the Obama administration silently watches the unfolding tragedy in Egypt, one can hardly eschew the conclusion that the robed religious tactician has found a host of studious followers in Washington.

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Kyrgyzstan: dangers from outside and inside threaten stability

Kyrgyzstan has recently experienced an upsurge in tensions around the issue of pollution in the Kumtor Gold Mine, which it has not known since the ethnic riots of June 2010. Oppositional nationalists are using this tension to put Kyrgyzstan again on the edge of stability, at a moment when Islamist are growing strong in the region and Afghanistan is going through a security transition that could affect the rest of Central Asia.


By Alejandro Marx, 8th September, 2013

Since its independence in 1991, with the dissolution of the USSR, Kyrgyzstan has known stability until the ‘Tulip Revolution’ in 2005 when its first president Askar Akayev, elected in 1990 was succeeded by Kurmankek Bakiyev. Bakiyev left Kyrgyzstan in April 2010 as a result of violent street protests, followed soon after by ethnic riots. After the transitional presidency of Roza Otunbaeva, Almazbek Atambaev was inaugurated president  in December 2011. Atambaev is the leader of the Kyrgyzstan Social Democratic Party, which has 26 out of 120 seats in parliament. He previously held the post of prime minister in the governments of Bakiyev and Otunbaeva. His party rules an unstable coalition with the other parties, apart from the nationalist Ata-Jurt party.

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Jihad 2.0: How Social Media Supports Islamist Agendas in Syria

Based on primary information from forums, communiqués and social media activities, this article offers an insight into the online activity of political jihadists and shows how online platforms are being used to support the jihadist cause in Syria.

By Camille Maubert, 4th September, 2013

The notion that the internet is a strong asset for international terrorist groups is not new. Forums have long been acknowledged as the main channel for Al Qaeda to reach out to its followers and articulate its goals and ideology. However, changes in the online environment and the fast development of social media as a preferred way of communication have altered the nature of the jihadi activities online.

Despite complaints by some ideologues that forums are being abandoned by their followers in favor of other medias, these platforms remain an essential part of jihadi media strategies. Some of them, such as Shumukh al-Islam and Ansar al-Mujahedeen, have been active for years and thus benefit from an great credibility with their audience. They are also direct links between AQ central and its supporters, featuring messages from famous jihadi writers and clerics the most prolific of which include Sheikh Abu Muhammad al-Tahawi, Sheikh Abu Basir al-Tartusi, Abu Ubaydah and of course AQ’s current leader Ayman al-Zawahiri.

Aside from official propaganda, forums enable groups and individuals alike to diffuse contents, post comments and share links with other bloggers in a relatively safe environment, ensuring cohesion within the jihadi community. However, developments in the Syrian crisis have created new needs which forums could not fulfill. As a matter of fact, Syria has been described as the first Youtube war, where every unfolding event is reported live by individuals using camera phones and posting images and videos online instantly. Such level of democratization and reactivity cannot be replicated in forums which are by definition restricted to members and censored by an editorial board. As a result, militants have turned to other platforms, namely Twitter and Facebook.

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A Mozambican Newspaper With a Difference

The author brings to light a Mozambican newspaper – named @Verdade – which does not follow traditional financial models, and has in turn become a “tool for change”. The name of the newspaper curiously contains an @ symbol. Their English language website can be found here


By Roberto Valussi, 27th August, 2013

Today marks the 5th anniversary of the birth of a very rare creature in the contemporary media landscape: an independent, respected, profitable, popular and free newspaper. The square was circled not in some glitzy borough of London, but in Maputo, the capital of Mozambique.

The product in question is the weekly newspaper @Verdade (‘Truth’ in Portuguese, the country’s official language), which has become the most read national newspaper since 2010, only two years after its first number was fit to print. Its slogan is ‘A Verdade não tem preço’, which translates to, ‘the Truth is priceless’.

@Verdade is more than a newspaper; as its founder Erik Charas put it, “I did not start the venture for the business or for the media aspect. My intention was to uplift the country, to contribute in order to do change.”

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The Merit Delusion – Caste and Affirmative Action in India

In this article, Satish Chandra questions the accepted definition of “merit” in the caste-based reservations debate in India. 

Editor’s note: SC/ST stands for Scheduled Castes/Scheduled Tribes while OBC stands for Other Backwards Castes. These government caste-groupings are determined by the degree of the lack of socio-economic progress as determined and decided by the government. Studies reveal that SC/STs are on average far poorer, are discriminated against, and lack access to opportunity outside of government mandated reservations when compared to the ‘General’ castes. OBCs are on average better off than SC/STs but worse off than ‘General’ castes. Of course, there are genuine concerns over these government classification of castes, which don’t always accurately reflect the socio-economic conditions of those castes. However, that is a different debate for a different time.

Before reading the article, it would be a good idea to watch the following documentary on caste and untouchability, called India Untouched. It dispels the myth that caste-based discrimination is a thing of the past in India, by capturing – on camera – instances of such discrimination taking place to this day. Alternately, please watch this playlist of very short videos by Video Vounteers.


By Satish Chandra, 2nd August, 2013

Reservations for socially and economically backward castes in academic institutions and government jobs (affirmative action) are a highly contentious issue in India, although mostly for all the wrong reasons. One of those is an argument that reservations dilute merit. Consider this “joke” that was email-forward fodder years ago and is now doing the rounds on social networks. It is good example of how badly caste issues are understood.

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Discovery of India – Chapter 2: Election Freebies, Women and the Mid Day Meal Scheme

InPEC brings to you the “Discovery of India” log of Karthik Radhakrishnan, an engineering graduate student from the University of Southern California, Los Angeles, as he travels through India. This chapter describes the tale of a village in Tamil Nadu which is hit by floods every year and the residents have no means to get by.
Place : Thalainayar (Nagappatinam District, Tamil Nadu)
Date : 22nd July, 2013

By Karthik Radhakrishnan, 29th July, 2013
Thalainayar is a Town Panchayat in the district of Nagappatinam (For people who remember the Tsunami of 2004, Nagappatinam district had the maximum number of casualties in Tamil Nadu.) This is a story of a tiny village in this Panchayat, Santhantheru, whose residents have no food, no drinking water and absolutely no money. This village gets flooded for three months every year and the residents are put up in a nearby school, where close to a hundred families live together with inadequate food and space. The floods take away both the lives and livelihood of these poor people who rely totally on agriculture for their food.

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An Attempt to Discover India – Chapter 1

InPEC presents to you the “Discovery of India” log of Kartik Radhakrishnan, an engineering graduate student from the University of Southern California, Los Angeles, as he travels through India. In this post, he presents the story about a village in India which “has been forgotten by both the political and administrative executive of the country.”

Place : Aalapalayam (50km North of Coimbatore, Tamil Nadu)
Date : 25th June, 2013


By Kartik Radhakrishnan, 10th July, 2013 (republished)

In the past few months, I have often asked myself the question “What do I consider to be a privilege in my life?” The answer seemed to be obvious “food, shelter and education.” Now that I think about it, this might have been a very shallow response from a guy sitting inside an AC room, oblivious to the actual hardships of the world. How about eating your food without the stench of an exposed drainage that runs around your house? How about a house whose roof falls on your head with every rainfall? How about the absence of an avenue to dispose your dead ones? Continue reading

The North-East in India’s Look East Policy

India’s Look East Policy seems to offer huge potential and developmental scope for India’s North Eastern Region. However, there is an absence of sincere dialogue between the northeastern states and the center, resulting in an obvious gap between policy and implementation.

Editorial Note: While this paper was originally written in 2010, it brings about important perspectives on the developments of India’s internal and foreign relations. For this reason, we found merit in publishing this previously unpublished paper, even though it does not account for developments post 2010.


By Sabina Yasmin Rahman, 15th May 2013 

In the year 1991-92, under the then Prime Minister, P.V. Narasimha Rao, India launched its “Look East” Policy (LEP), an active economic policy of engagement with Southeast Asia to be implemented as an official initiative in achieving two objectives: the encouragement of trade links with individual partners and to provide foreign employment for India’s own expanding work force. This paper is an attempt to critically analyze the various underpinnings of this policy and study the impact it has been able to make so far with special reference to the context of the North-east of India.

Backdrop of the Policy:

With the collapse of the Soviet Union at the end of the Cold War and the onset of the era of globalization and economic liberalization, the need to secure international trade and encourage foreign investments was felt strongly by nations all over the world. The 1990s was a period seeing rapid economic development and growth of Asian countries, especially in Southeast Asia. Southeast Asia came to be recognized a region with vast economic potential and the Indian sub-continent was fast emerging as an economic and political force to be reckoned with. This is when the Indian leadership came up with the concept of “Look East”. India sought to create and expand regional markets for trade, investments and industrial development. It also began strategic and military cooperation with nations concerned by the expansion of China’s economic and strategic influence. Thus, from the very start, India’s strategy has focused on forging close economic and commercial ties, increasing strategic and security cooperation with emphasis on historic cultural and ideological links.

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Can India Deliver on its Clean Energy Promises?

The Editor of InPEC – Siddharth Singh – attended the Clean Energy Ministerial that took place in Delhi on the 17th and 18th April, 2013. The Prime Minister of India, while inaugurating the summit, reiterated several clean energy promises that the Government of India has made in the past. In an article on RTCC (Responding to Climate Change), Siddharth analyses whether India has the capacity and will to keep up with these goals. 


By Siddharth Singh, 24th April, 2013

On a recent RTCC article, I begin,

“(The Prime Minister made…) bold promises about India’s commitment to the cause. These include a goal to double India’s renewable energy capacity from 25000 MW in 2012 to 55000 MW by 2017.

This in turn includes, for instance, the National Solar Mission which has an objective of developing 22000 MW of solar capacity by the year 2022. These are a part of India’s commitment to reduce the energy intensity of its GDP by 20-25% by 2020.”

I present a few reasons why India may find it hard to keep up with these promises. Two of these are, 1. general delays in project implementation and 2. the overbearing fiscal deficit.

“(…) it is commonplace to find projects delayed across sectors. According to a study by the Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation, as of May 2012, 42% of the infrastructure projects in consideration were delayed.

Another issue is the precarious fiscal situation of the government.(…) The impact of this may go either way for the renewables sector. On the one hand, lowering fossil fuel subsidies and the rise of overall electricity prices (by the ways of a loan restructuring arrangement with state electricity companies) may make renewables more competitive with traditional sources.”

To read this article in its entirety, please click here.

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Pyongyang’s Quandary

The provocative rhetoric coming from North Korea could hide a faint sense of desperation.


By Gulshan Roy, 3rd April, 2013

On Saturday 30th March, a statement released by the highest North Korean command warned that it was entering “a state of war” with its feuding southern neighbour. As Koreans on both sides watched the unfolding drama being broadcast on every major international television news channel, Mr Kim Jong-un managed to conjure an even more spectacular artifice by releasing photographs of him discussing with his senior commanders under the backdrop of a ‘Plan to Hit the U.S Mainland’ written in bold. News channels are not often presented with opportunities for such great TV. Yet, Mr Kim’s moment of teeth-showing turned into bathos once it reached its intended audience: instead of injecting any sense of panic on the other side of the Pacific, the images received in Washington were swiftly turned into material fit for some banter over bourbon.

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Open Economy, Sealed Fate

The author investigates whether the proposed reforms in India’s financial, energy and retail sectors really make a difference to the economy which many have said has ‘bottomed out’ this fiscal year. 


By Yayaati Joshi, 12th March 2013

To begin with, I deem it appropriate to describe the proposed reforms and the purported merits of those reforms in the financial, energy and retail sectors of India, and mention briefly, the state of the affairs of the Indian economy. The growth of the GDP in the last 5 years has been less than encouraging, to say the least. Looking at the trend of the GDP from 2004—that’s when the Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, the key figure of the 1991 Economic Reform, has been shouldering the responsibility of running the country—it has resembled a sine curve, with the crests and troughs rising and falling dramatically in 2010 onwards.

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Iran: The Waiting Game

As talks have resumed over Iran’s nuclear program in Almaty, the failure of the sanctions regime raises serious questions about mainstream diplomatic commonplaces. Far from being the favour it is portrayed to be, the rapprochement effort towards Tehran from the P5+1 is borne out of necessity.


By Gulshan Roy, 8th March 2013

“Iran won’t retreat one iota from its nuclear program” was Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s declaration on Iranian national television on the 9th of November 2011. The Iranian President is used to defiant flourishes as evidenced by his repeated promises to ‘finish off’ Israel. To his credit, however, his resolve not to sink in the face of gradually increasing pressure from the West has been steadfast. His country is weathering a deadly sanctions regime that has all but crippled the Iranian economy. Last week, the two sides met in Almaty, Kazakhstan in a desperate attempt to salvage the worsening situation. And as a beaming Mr Ali Baqeri (Iran’s deputy chief negotiator) left the fruitless round of negotiations with the P5+1 (the five permanent Security Council members and Germany), sanction-fanatics in the West were uncomfortably loosening their ties and scratching their moist foreheads. They ought to.

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A Mantle of Illusion – The Drone Program and President Obama

The drone program has considerably intensified under the Obama administration. As the American press and congress are only now waking up to this fact, the silent response from the White House shows the president is not quite the peacekeeper he projects himself to be.


By Gulshan Roy, 26th February 2013

Drones. You hear about them spying from everywhere though you can never see them. At last, however, you may now luckily read quite a lot about them in the written press. On February 6th, The New York Times revealed that air-strikes conducted in Yemen came from unmanned armed vehicles (UAVs) from an American military base in Saudi Arabia. Since, every hawk and every dove of every state in America made sure to have their screeching and cooing heard on the issue, drowning the debate in their deafening staccato. Why so much agitation, you may ask?

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Photoessay: 2013 Kumbh Mela, India

InPEC presents a photo essay of the “Kumbh Mela” in India by Hemley Gonzalez, a Cuban-American activist who runs the Responsible Charity in the city of Kolkata.

By Hemley Gonzalez, 21st February, 2013

The Kumbh Mela is a Hindu religious pilgrimage that takes place every twelve years at one of four places: Allahabad, Haridwar, Ujjain and Nashik in India. More than 100 million people will attend the 2013 Kumbha mela.

The major event of the festival is ritual bathing at the banks of the Ganga river. Other activities include religious discussions, devotional singing, mass feeding of holy men and women and the poor, and religious assemblies where doctrines are debated and standardized.

Kumbh Mela is the most sacred of all the pilgrimages. Thousands of holy men and women attend, and the auspiciousness of the festival is in part attributable to this. The sadhus are seen clad in saffron sheets with Vibhuti ashes dabbed on their skin as per the requirements of ancient traditions. Some, called naga sanyasis, may not wear any clothes even in severe winter. Continue reading

‘Iranian Mothers for Peace’ Alert the World on Sanctions and Shortage of Medicines

“The right to health and access to medical treatment and medication is one of the fundamental human rights anywhere in the world. Please do not allow the killing of our sick children, beloved families, and fellow Iranians from the lack of medicine, caught in instrumental policies of coercion and power.”

“Iranian women for Peace”, a human rights organisation in Iran have written an open letter to Ban Ki-moon, the UN Secretary General, and Dr Margaret Chan, the Director General of the World Health Organisation alerting them to the humanitarian crisis unfolding in Iran as a result of the shortage of vital medication due to US/EU led sanctions. In this letter by Farid Marjai and Mehrnaz Shahabi, the intentions of Iranian Mothers for Peace are explained as well as the plea to the UN to respond.

by Farid Marjai and Mehrnaz Shahabi, 4th February 2013. Continue reading

Lifting the Curtain

This week marks the 40th anniversary of Roe vs. Wade, the landmark decision by the US Supreme Court on the issue of abortion. Claire Beckenstein, a political consultant in Washington DC, looks at the political culture surrounding the issue to discuss how far American women have come and how far they still have to go.


By Claire Beckenstein, 22nd January, 2013

Abortion is an issue that evokes visceral responses from people at both ends of the spectrum.  This issue has the ability to divide a nation and separate a family.  It is so powerful that people will even kill in the name of the cause.  On the 40th anniversary of Roe v. Wade, one could exhaust themselves for days thinking of the questions and assumptions around what America would be like without legalised abortion.  If we continue to fight the issues from our past we cannot move forward.  Therefore, it is best to focus on the present and note how monumental this decision has been for women and their health, especially to those women who view abortion as a choice, a freedom and as a right to take control of their future.

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Deja vu: The French Intervention in Mali

On January 11, 2013, French President François Hollande sent a military expedition to rescue Dioncounda Traoré’s government from the “imminent terrorist threat”. Camille Maubert, a security analyst, explores this turn of events. 


By Camille Maubert, 16th January, 2013

Five days after the French “surprise” intervention in Mali, it is – to say the least – not clear what operation Serval is all about. Brandishing UN Article 51 (which proclaims the individual and collective right to protect a member subjected to armed aggression), French President François Hollande sent a military expedition to rescue Dioncounda Traoré’s government from the “imminent terrorist threat”.  750 ground troops, 30 tanks and several Rafale combat planes have thus been mobilised to strike Islamist strongholds in the North and West of Malian territory, making, according to “security sources”, important damage to the groups’ bases and leadership.

However, doubts are rising as to what the ins and outs of the intervention are in a context where reliable information is scarce. Indeed, most of the information publically available relies on two sources. On the one hand there are the official communiqués published by the various actors’ communication outlets which are often politically biased, and which are therefore unreliable and/or contradictory. For instance, while French defence spokesperson announces 60 terrorist casualties, the Malian army increases their number to “hundreds” and Islamic groups refuse to make any statements. On the other hand, the local press predominantly relies on witness accounts from the population and “local officials”. The weakness of such sources is patent, as they are based on what people saw, or think they saw, and therefore produces subjective and incomplete interpretations.

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Photoessay: Delhi Rape Protests

On the 16th of December, 2012, a 23 year old paramedical student was gang raped in a moving bus in India’s capital city of Delhi. The girl has since been in a critical condition in a government hospital. Delhi has a reputation of being notoriously unsafe for women. Owing to a perceived lack of appropriate response by the government, protesters – ranging from university students to political parties and civil society groups – turned up at the centre of the government setup in Delhi. Many were demanding the capital punishment for this case as well as a new legislation that would bring the capital punishment to all rapists. This photoessay by Raghu Karla documents the protests that took place on the 22nd of December, 2012. The police used tear gas shells, water cannons and lathicharge (a term used to describe a charge with batons against protesters) when the crowds began to storm the Raisina Hill, on which the main ministry office buildings (including the Prime Minister’s Office) and the Presidential Estate are situated.


By Raghu Kalra, 22nd December, 2012

Raghu Kalra writes,

“The situation was tense. Most of the crowd comprised of school and college students demanding justice for the 23 year old rape victim. This protest was not guided by any leaders. It was a spontaneous gathering of a lot of people who were angered and shaken up by what had happened in the capital only a few days ago. The protest was peaceful for most part of the day until a few tried to go over the weak barricading put up by the police, which ultimately led to the tear gassing and use of water cannons. This made the situation worse. It is expected that the crowds of protesters will grow on Sunday.”

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Infographic: Literacy in India

Upon tasking himself with creating an infographic on primary education in India, Akshan Ish found that while India’s literacy rate is steadily growing, and the country boasts of having one of the largest workforces in the world by 2020, the education system fails to equip students with fundamental skills at the elmentary level – leaving a huge chunk incompetent to contribute to the fast growing economy. 

In this post, InPEC has also included Akshan’s background notes, which gives the reader a look into the process of infographic design.


By Akshan Ish, 19th December, 2012

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The Impact of Sanctions on Iranian Society and Artists

Economic sanctions are not only shattering the lives of the Iranian people but also strangling Iran’s social and cultural development. Iran is headed for a humanitarian catastrophe unless steps are taken to avert it.

[This article is based on a talk presented by independent researcher Mehrnaz Shahabi on November 17 at the Nour Festival of Arts in London, which seeks to celebrate, explore and promote culture and arts in the Middle East and North Africa.]


By Mehrnaz Shahabi, 17th December, 2012

For 33 years now, since the 1979 Iranian Revolution, Iran has been the target of US economic sanctions, which have increased in scope and severity over time. The impact of sanctions on populations is not always quantifiable and can be contradictory. Despite their negative impact in isolating and hindering Iran’s economic progress, and the tragic loss of life due to the boycott of spare parts for the aging Iranian airline, in so far as necessity is the mother of invention, sanctions in many instances have acted as an impetus for technological progress; and the experience of success and survival through adversity has infused a collective sense of empowerment and self-confidence.

When I was asked in July to talk about the impact of sanctions on Iranian society, the idea was to place some emphasis on the arts and artists. Since then, the reality of the humanitarian catastrophe unfolding as a result of the economic warfare on Iran has shifted the emphasis, by necessity, from the artists to their audience, since it is inconceivable to think of arts separately from the audience at which it is directed. Continue reading

Feminicidio: la cara oculta de la guerra contra las drogas

En esta entrevista, la abogada chilena Patsilí Toledo nos presenta sus perspectivas en torno a los feminicidios en América Latina, después de haber investigado sobre estos fenómenos durante algunos años. La abogada comparte con nosotros su visión sobre la actual política anti-drogas que, lejos de disminuir el conflicto que existe con el narcotráfico, contribuye a aumentarlo.


Alba Franco, 10 de diciembre de 2012

Patsilí Toledo nace en Chile en 1976. Es Licenciada en Derecho por la Universidad de Barcelona y Doctorada en Derecho Público por la Universidad Autónoma de Barcelona. Su tesis está dedicada a la investigación de la tipificación del feminicidio-femicidio en países latinoamericanos, haciendo investigación de campo en Costa Rica, Guatemala, Colombia y Chile.

Entrevista concedida en fecha 10 de octubre 2012 en el bar “La candela”, Barcelona. Continue reading

“Global warming and climate change is a bigger security issue than military war”

The world has the money needed to address climate change; it is the will that is lacking, says the Rafto winner Nnimmo Bassey in this interview with Karina Reigstad. He believes renewable energy in small-scale energy systems will play an important role in Africa – and is strongly opposed to oil exploration in the Arctic.

Nnimmo Bassey was last Sunday awarded the Rafto Prize of 2012 for his longstanding commitment to the environment and human rights in Nigeria. Bassey is also chairman of the organization Friends of the Earth International. I met him for an interview in connection with his visit to Bergen, Norway, to receive the prize at an event at the National Theatre. The winner was also honored with a torchlight parade through the city.


By Karina Reigstad, 12th November, 2012. Continue reading