The Misguided Legacy Of The Soviet Union Lives On

Guest article by Michael Cruickshank (twitter)

image2

Military debris left abandoned in Nagorno-Karabakh © Michael Cruickshank

This year, 2017, marks 100 years since the inception of the Soviet Union – the communist mega state which dominated much of Eurasia for the majority of the 20th century. While its achievements and its crimes are well documented, what is often overlooked is the legacy of the USSR fueling very modern violence.

One major achievement of the Soviet Union was to unite a vast array of different ethnic and national groups under a single ideology – namely communism, and a single government – Moscow. To achieve this it used a variety of tactics, ranging from propaganda, to economic development, resettlement, violent suppression, and the occasional act of political concession. But for all of its attempts, it was never particularly successful. Continue reading

Complicity through silence

NATO, Turkey and the inaction of the international community

This article, written by Benjamin Hiller, with additional research from Michael Cruickshank, co-founder of conflict-news, was several weeks in the making (mainly due to the verification process of social media content). After pitching the article to 20+ international newspapers and magazines – with no real feedback – we decided to publish the findings here. 

SONY DSC

Plain cloth police in Nusaybin/Turkey in 2011 © Benjamin Hiller

June 24th, 2011: In the small town of Nusaybin, Turkey, which has roughly 85,000 inhabitants and is nestled directly along the Turkish-Syrian border, temperatures can reach 37 Degrees Celsius over the day. Still in the early evening hours several hundred Kurdish activists gathered to stage a protest march in support of the then active Kurdish party BDP (Peace and Democratic Party) and against the rising crackdown targeting Kurdish activists and politicians. In the wake of the “Arab Spring” Kurds in Turkey hoped that they could archive their long stated goal of federal reforms and full recognition of their minority status. During the summer months, throughout Eastern Turkey, Kurds staged protests and civil disobedience actions like blocking streets and sit-ins. The Turkish state answered with its usual arsenal of tactics: Mass arrests and breaking up protests marches with heavy-handed police force. In Nusaybin everything seemed to go smoothly as the protest march arrived in the city’s central district. But soon a standoff between Turkish riot police and the Kurdish activists started. When youngsters started throwing stones towards the police they reacted with shots in the air, tear gas grenades and the use of water canons. Several people got arrested that night and one 41-year-old protester fell into coma after a tear gas canister hit his head. But most feared by the locals were the plain clothed police forces filtering through the streets, wielding AK47 rifles and filming everybody in the area. During this time the seeds for the upcoming storm were already planted: Kurdish politicians interviewed stated that they could not control the youth anymore. One local district mayor from Diyarbakir said that he always believed in peaceful means of change. But for that he was imprisoned, tortured and later harassed on a daily basis. His children grew up seeing that he is powerless as a politician and saw the PKK as the only option for “resistance”.

Continue reading

Forgotten Fronts: Islamic State in the Philippines

This is the first guest article on my blog. It was written by Michael Cruickshank, co-founder of conflict news. You can follow him on twitter: @MJ_Cruickshank

Abu Sayyaf fighters.png

IS fighters in the Philippines deliver an ultimatum

The Philippines is one of the poorest and most overpopulated countries on Earth. It has a weak and ineffective state, further crippled by corruption and the country’s geopolitical status as an archipelago. Moreover, it is demographically made up of a conservative Christian majority, and a smaller Muslim minority centred on the southern island of Mindanao.

Together this factors have given rise to a number of different shades of armed internal conflict, of which the most prominent has been the country’s fight with Muslim separatists in a region known as Moro located in western Mindanao. There a number of different groups have fought a deadly conflict with the central government for decades.

Most recently, these groups have begun adopting a more Islamist ideology, spurred on by the success of Al Qaeda and other South East Asian groups such as Jemaah Islamiyah. However, in recent years the threat has shifted again, with several of these groups – most notably the ‘Abu Sayaf Group’ – pledging allegiance to the Islamic State (IS).

Elsewhere, these IS affiliates (know by the group as Wiliyat) have come under heavy attack by governments and rival Islamist groups, however in the Philippines, the Islamic State appears to have found fertile ground for its political and military agenda.

Continue reading