Disoriented nations

After the speeches of officials and academics on the “key concepts,” several international NGO’s expressed their problems and worries on such and such minority or legal framework. This was a typical meeting that, normally, would have passed without passion. The UN General Assembly is about to deliver a recommendation on criminal justice and minorities. The same UN started a new era in 1992 with the “Declaration on the Rights of Persons Belonging to National or Ethnic, Religious and Linguistic Minorities.” The Council of Europe (CoE) followed up with two major texts: the “Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities” (1995) and the “European Charter for Regional Languages” (1992).

However, the international system still does not have a coercive text with a strong monitoring body, as is the case with the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) through the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR). People belonging to minority groups are still not protected as such.

In Geneva this month, the UN building was busier than usual. The old fashioned meeting rooms were empty while halls and corridors were full of people who had come to visit the “bazaar,” a kind of food fair with crafts from all over the world and where each “nation” had a stand presenting and selling anything from Sudanese sweets to Byelorussian musical instruments and Chinese tea. It was a summit of the folklorization of all nations, which were consequently reduced to touristic attractions. Even the worst dictatorships, in which crimes against humanity have been committed or are still being committed, took their places in this “bazaar,” showing with sincere or fake smiles their multi-coloured trinkets. Nations at the UN are states, far more than they are nations.

In the same corridors, discussions, alas, were not solely about Azerbaijani tablecloths. They also concerned Paris, jihadist movements, terrorism and the fear of being powerless. Every person that I crossed from delegations had the same question, “What do we do?” When I told them that THEY were working at the UN, not me, that they should know better than me, I saw the same teasing and shy smile again and again. International organizations do not know, states do not know, NGO’s do not know and I do not know. Sometimes, maybe, it is good to confess that we are in darkness and to start searching for the light. I can understand that states and governments feel obliged to react immediately and efficiently. But in this haste, I am afraid that they are committing other huge mistakes and inspiring more violent radicalizations. Actually, as Olivier Roy says, maybe we are not facing the radicalization of Islam, but the Islamisation of radicalism that exists sociologically in Europe.

I think, for example, France bombing the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) in Syria in retaliation for the Paris attacks is a mistake. Non-territorial violence cannot have a territorial answer.

I think also that France’s decision to shut down Salafist mosques and to put “radical” imams under house arrest is a mistake. Not because I have sympathy for them, far from it, but because this kind of “oppression” creates a sentiment of revenge and confirms the feeling of discrimination.

I think Russia’s bombings are not focussed solely on ISIL. I do not think they are targeting Turkmens in Iraq either but are specifically focussing on Chechen militants who joined or might join ISIL. Russia’s objectives center on Russia itself, not Islamist radicalization. I think this is an error.

Western European countries facing the rise of far right parties fear refugees escaping the same violence striking them. I think that to pay Turkey for its containment of refugees will prove costly. These refugees do not have any status in Turkey, and the billions of euros, if paid, will never be spent on their welfare.

Turkey reacted in haste when it shot down the Russian warplane because Ankara does not want to see ISIL lose if it means victory to the Kurds. If Turkey continues to act accordingly not only will the region become the scene of a new conflict between NATO and Russia, but the refugee crisis will only grow.

We are living in difficult times, and nobody has a miracle solution to a situation in which several conflicts are imbricated. Geopolitical, tactical, energy, identity and religious dimensions are all creating chaos. In this chaos, simplistic and Manichean policies and discourses are potentially dangerous. Additionally, in today’s world it is quite impossible to separate internal policy, regional policy and global policy, each of them affects the others directly. Intelligent and cold blooded approaches, subtle policies, intellectual knowledge and particularly a lack of arrogance must, more then ever, prevail.


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