A different view on BiH and the EU’s visa free regime

Florian Bieber:

The EU has to insist on countries fulfilling the requirements it sets. It has been weak for some (which were arguably bad conditions), but if it relents just to be ‘nice’ to a country or to not leave anybody behind, why would any politician pass any necessary law anymore? Lowering conditions and requirements would hurt citizens across the region, not least in BiH–not in regard to visa free travel, but in regard to other reforms. Not including all countries at the same time does not mean leaving them behind. If Slovakia had not been lagging behind in the 1990s, there would have been no pressure to get rid of Vladimir Meciar and to begin serious reforms. Had been Slovakia given an easy ride early on, it probably would have been left behind at the end.

One argument put forth in the debate has been that it is mostly Bosniaks who would be left out from visa free travel and Croats already have Croatian passports and Serbs can or have Serbian passports. This is, however, as demagogic argument. First, Croatian passport holders are uneffected, so there is no change there. Second, there is little evidence that Bosnian Serbs have easy access to Serbian passports. According to a report in Danas, only 2,557 Bosnian citizens also have a Serbian passport. While this might be underestimating the real number of double citizens, there is little evidence to suggest that Bosnian Serbs have easy access to Serbian passports. Finally, if Serbia were to provide easy access to Bosnian Serbs, the EC could easily impose similar limitations to Serbian passport holders from Bosnia as there will be for Serbian passport holders from Kosovo.

In a heated facebook debate started by one of my Bosnian friends in response to Bieber’s article (this friend agreed with Bieber), another Bosnian wrote:

This article states: “Lowering conditions and requirements would hurt citizens across the region, not least in BiH–not in regard to visa free travel, but in regard to other reforms” Are we talking about the same principle of conditions and requirements Turkey cannot fulfill for decades, but do not apply for Bulgaria and Romania. Second argument I find at least disturbing here is “First, Croatian passport holders are unaffected, so there is no change there.” Excuse me? That’s like saying there is no discrimination because we gave special privileges to a certain group long time ago.

What disturbs me the most is the claim that “there is little evidence that Bosnian Serbs have easy access to Serbian passports.” Does this person know that the Consulate of the Republic of Serbia was recently opened in Banja Luka with much publicity and the first person to receive the passport was the Prime Minister of the Republika Srpska. You do not have to be a PR expert to see that this was an open call for the citizens of Republika Srpska to stop by and get their passports. The only requirement was to declare Serbia as your homeland.

Would dropping the entry requirements for Bosnia be the least worst course of action — a way to ameliorate the feeling of injustice felt by the half of BiH’s population unable to obtain other passports, and pave the way for better relations between states in the region? Or would it put another dent in the EU’s already damaged ability to enforce  conditions evenly on states seeking accession? The latter could actually end up hurting the chances of Balkan states joining the union in the future, even if it led to short term gains, like inclusion in the visa free regime.

I’m not sure where I stand on this anymore.

Iran panel FAIL, and how you can avert it

Nico Pitney brings upsetting neocon-related news, and articulates the following appeal for a little balance in the upcoming Congressional hearing on Iran:

Neocons invited to Congressional hearing on Iran. Last week, the House Foreign Affairs Committee announced that it was holding a hearing this Wednesday titled, “Iran: Recent Developments and Implications for U.S. Policy.”

My initial thought was that the panel was decent but a bit disappointing, and lacking in progressive voices. Among the initial four witnesses announced were Patrick Clawson, a Bush administration supporter who repeatedly advocated that the U.S. use the threat of military strikes to shift policy in Iran, and Abbas Milani, whose 2004 op-ed arguing that President Bush should resist negotiations and publicly endorse democracy activists in Iran was distributed by the neocon outfit Project for a New American Century. (Milani has since shifted his position on the matter of negotiations.)

Suzanne Maloney, a Bush-era State Department official who notably worked against the administration’s hawkish elements, is also invited to testify. So is Karim Sadjadpour of the Carnegie Endowment, who has generally done excellent work on Iran.

On Friday, I spoke with committee chairman Rep. Howard Berman’s staff and suggested that they invite Trita Parsi, the superb analyst who heads the National Iranian American Council, to testify. I was told that Parsi would be considered but that it was late in the process to add witnesses.

But on Monday morning, the committee announced two new additions to the hearing, both aggressive neoconservatives whose Middle East analysis has proven detrimental. One is Orde F. Kittrie of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, the other is Michael Rubin of the American Enterprise Institute. (These witnesses were chosen by Republican members of the committee.)

Rubin’s addition, in particular, is rather stunning. His career work include aiding Doug Feith in the notorious Office of Special Plans to advance dubious intelligence that helped lead the U.S. into war in Iraq; repeatedly advocating for military action against Iran over the last several years; and, in June, laying out the case for why Ahmadinejad would be preferable to a “more soft-spoken and less defiant” president like Mousavi — “it would be easier for Obama to believe that Iran really was figuratively unclenching a fist when, in fact, it had it had its other hand hidden under its cloak, grasping a dagger.”

This panel really needs some balance. If you’re interested in calling the committee and suggesting Trita Parsi (or someone else) [REZA ASLAN! -Ed], you can reach them at (202) 225-5021.

Go!

Thoughts for the weekend

HOLY SH*T!

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Next time I come across one of those ‘Feminism Killed Romance/Chivalry/Marriage/Civilization’ pieces that seem to be so popular right now, I think I’m going to start projectile vomiting Exorcist-style.

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Dozens killed in suicide bombings: Iraq is going to pieces. I didn’t think the surge would work, but I didn’t want it to fail. On the contrary, I very much wanted to be wrong in my prediction, and I still do.

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I am disappointed that Ashraf Ghani has hired James Carville to advise him in his bid for the Afghan presidency. Carville represents all that is mercenary, cynical and deeply illiberal in American politics.

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A trusted friend sent me a very reassuring email from Sarajevo, basically telling me to chill, and that Dodik knows he has already lost, but enjoys theatrics. Despite the deadlock, we push ahead, keeping sight of larger goals that move us beyond divisive politics –that was his message. This friend of mine is his country’s future, I am convinced.

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Ann Corcoran hates refugees. And Muslims. But more than anything else, she hates vulnerable Muslim minority refugees. Iraqi Palestinians, for example. On my other blog, I wrote about this.

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I keep telling my boss that I have hope that the reformists will win out in Iran. I believe they will, and I look forward to visiting a democratic Iran some day. I want to sit in a cafe in Tehran with my peers and listen to them tell me how they forced their government to recognize them as citizens and not mere subjects, how they won.

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“The most important lesson the struggle taught me and my friends is that no one is endowed with remarkable courage. But courage is another word for learning to live with your fears. Now, after eighteen years and the Chilean Truth Commission, courage has again evolved a new definition: the guts not to give in to easy justice. To live within the confinements of reality, but to search day after day for the progressing of one’s most cherished values.”

-Jose Zalaquett, at the opening of the South African Truth and Reconciliation Commission.

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“One cannot expect morality from politicians, but one can hold them to the ethics of accountability.” -Antjie Krog. From  ‘None More Parted Than Us’ in the amazing book Country of My Skull.

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I know a lot of people think  Amnesty International letter (now email/fax) writing campaigns on behalf of prisoners of conscience are futile, but they’re not, even when the subject of the campaign remains imprisoned. German Chancellor Angela Merkel was right when she said this:

I know from the time of the GDR (East Germany) how important it was that people around the world made sure that the people stuck in (Stasi prisons) Bautzen and Hohenschoenhausen … were not forgotten. Iran must know, particularly in the age of modern communications, that we will do everything in our power to ensure that these people (arrested in Iran during the recent turmoil) are not forgotten about.

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Thinking of Bosnia, of Srebrenica, of the grim anniversary. A powerful letter by a member of Women in Black (Belgrade), translated and published here:

And my dear Senka…

I missed you…so much…yesterday in Srebrenica…Again at the place where crimes were committed in my name, in our name…
Srebrenica…every time…it is an experience that will be remembered…the physical experience above all…which can never be forgotten…it’s here again…in me…and me with her (Srebrenica).

Meeting with the Women of Srebrenica…meeting with women whose bodies have been emptied of children killed by Serbs in my, in our name…

That’s them, those are “our” women…the same ones that followed the trial of the “Scorpions” with us, the same ones who we visit in Tuzla, and the ones that we meet in Srebrenica every year…You know this best…You know…Home is where you are loved…They always welcome you with a smile in their eyes, the same eyes that will never see their loved ones again…Serbs killed them! And they always open their arms to us, the same arms that will never hold their children again…Serbs killed them! And they come to you with a pure heart and a pure soul…they hug you and kiss you and even say thank you… to us, people from a brutalized, shameful, guilty land…And then you just want to die…to be gone…to vanish…to cease to exist…

And then…after all, after you have been burned by the July sun…wearing black…when you feel so guilty that you think this is it…Srebrenica is inside you…and that, my dear Senka, is confronting the past…our feminist approach…No abstract process…and it’s not happening to someone else, someone  far away…it’s happening to us in a land of  humanity, we who live in a land deprived of its humanity.

And then I remembered you…You, my image of you, every time we would travel back together from Bosnia…that horrible…hard…weight and silence I would see in your eyes…In front of me I see a large eyeball, a mouth of stone, which gives the impression that the verdict is already there…in front of me is a stone jury…
“We are guilty…”

I love you,
Milos

Why shutting up is the best course of action

My friend and colleague (and former TA!)  Steve makes an excellent point about why the Obama Administration is taking the right approach in its response to the ongoing uprising in Iran:

We can think of the international response to the Iranian revolts in terms of sovereignty and intervention, and in particular, pay attention to how other states recognize the external sovereignty of Iran (following the principle of non-intervention) in relation to the popular legitimacy of the state among the people. Because political actors can construct sovereignty and intervention for their own purposes, both the regime and the opposition justify their actions with relation to the regime and other interaction actors, societies, networks, etc. In doing so, they discursively borrow and reinvent old narrative themes to mobilize enough support to overwhelm their opponents. How Iranian actors and interactional actors construct the socially understood meanings of sovereignty and intervention impacts their mobilization. This is why Obama refrains from forcefully supporting the Iranian opposition because it reinforces the narrative of foreign intervention in Iranian politics, one that specifically refers to United States and its support of the Shah. The expression of overt support to one side from a historically hostile hegemonic state might simply shift the focus of the crisis to new social relationships. Mossavi would be altercast as a collaborator and the regime would ride a nationalist backlash.

The problem is really how we recognize the boundaries of the Iranian nation, and discursively act on that definition to contribute to a desired outcome without our fingerprints on it. Hence, Obama says “If the Iranian government seeks the respect of the international community, it must respect the dignity of its own people and govern through consent, not coercion.” Implicit here is consent of the people, which obligates the government to recognize popular discontent in the form of protest. The inability to do so puts the moral onus on the regime, as it fails to recognize the sovereignty of its own people. We play up our soft stance in the name of non-intervention and sovereignty, but of course made sure Twitter kept running, thereby aiding popular mobilization against the regime. Thus, we define boundaries and take actions across them in reference to a popular sovereignty that has yet to fully materialize. Paradoxically, we can only support the Iranian resistance by not directly aiding it, but only by constituting the conditions in which it can fully emerge.

I would add that we might even want to be a little more quiet about constituting the aforementioned conditions in the future — not that US involvement in things like the Twitter maintenance delay should be denied by the administration, but rather the utmost importance of tact  in this very risky area of public diplomacy.

Our indirect assistance to demonstrators should be quiet and humble (and, in this case, very, very geeky). To paraphrase Jon Stewart’s mocking of Congressional Republicans’ criticism of how Obama has addressed the uprising in Iran — it’s (not) all about us! No prominent Iranian dissident has called for the US to take a stronger approach at this time, and several, including Akbar Ganji, have long argued that any support the US government tries to lend dissidents will only undermine pro-democracy forces in Iran. Even the family members of prominent dissidents arrested during the demonstrations of the past two weeks have emphasized this point.

Bottom line: I’m not braving the batons and bullets of the Basij, and neither are John McCain and the astoundingly hypocritical chorus of right-wing bloggers and pundits  — Iranians are. If we can help them organize by keeping informal channels of communication open as the regime struggles to monopolize information, great, but let’s not publicly pat ourselves on the backs for doing that.

Writing this, I’m chuckling, because Steve would use a cruder term than back-patting.

More Shia Family Law stuff

I have no idea what to title these posts at this point.

Anyway, an expert (to see who, go to the comment thread) wrote the following at Registan.

Just a quick point on this law — it is certainly a bad development from a political point of view, for the reasons enumerated above.

However, purely as a law, it has been caricatured as the ‘marital rape’ law. In fact, the Dari version shows it to be basically pretty middle of the road Shi’a jurisprudence, slightly to the right of Iran, but not egregiously so.

The particular provision that has been mistranslated and misinterpreted as ‘allowing’ marital rape doesn’t do so, legally speaking: article 132 includes the following relevant provisions:
(1) The spouses are obliged to socialize with one another and their parents and family.
(2) The spouses are obliged to cooperate and collaborate for welfare of their families and children.
(3) The spouses must abstain from any actions that would cause the hatred and displeasure of one another; whenever the husband wants his wife to attend to her appearance, the wife is obliged to do so.
(4) The husband is obliged, except during period of travel, to spend the night in one place with his wife at least one night out of four, except when it is harmful to one of the spouses or one of them suffers from a venereal disease. It is the duty of the wife to tend to the husband’s inclination for sexual liaison. The husband is obliged to not postpone intimacy with his wife for more than four months without his wife’s consent.
(5) Whenever a man has more than one wife, he is obliged to spend at least one night out of four in view of section (4). The right of the wife (to intimacy) may, upon her consent, be transferred to the husband and other spouses.
(6) The husband may increase the rights (of intimacy) to more than one night, on the condition that no harm or shame comes to the other spouses.
(7) The wife is obliged to manage and perform those areas of domestic chores that the husband has specified in the marriage contract; otherwise, the wife is not obliged to perform domestic chores.

As you can see, this is not an explicit endorsement of marital rape. From a purely legal point of view, the offending language in section (4) (”It is the duty of the wife to tend to the husband’s inclination for sexual liaison”) has to be read in light of section (3)’s injunction against actions that would cause “hatred or displeasure”. And under basic jurisprudential principles the article could be interpreted so as to prohibit rape, in fact.

No question that the language about the wife’s obligation to satisfy the husband’s sexual needs is highly problematic. But the point of article 132 is to govern the mutual responsibilities of spouses (including up to four wives) in the sexual sphere.

No question this is absolutely discriminatory toward women, and deeply troubling, given Afghanistan’s current political climate, as well as the absence of a functioning judiciary, and the absolute lack of state protection for women, in particular Shi’a women.

But it is not a ‘marital rape’ law, and by casting it thus, the Western media and policy makers have actually given a sop to Mohseni and others who make a living by positioning themselves as defenders of Islam against Western interlopers. The law should never have been rammed though, but the Wolesi and Mishrano Jirgas’ foolishness, and Karzai’s weakness, are other issues.

Now, Afghan civil society and their international supporters should focus on ameliorating some of the political damage, and not try to engage in a debate on Shi’a jurisprudence.

In another case of “the rule of law: ur doin it wrong”…

Mischa writes to me:

And then after, it’s retroactively still not illegal.

That said, leftists feeling betrayed should ask themselves when he ever promised anything on this.

Think positive.  Think positive.

The worst part just hit me.

“It would be unfair to prosecute dedicated men and women working to protect America for conduct that was sanctioned in advance by the Justice Department.”

I can see how they want to avoid it being Abu Ghraib  — lock up some peons for the cameras, etc.  But when you think about that statement for a moment.  The Holderobama DoJ has just approved the Nuremberg Defense.

My boss said it was OK.  That is, in effect, the Nuremberg Defense.  Only this time, it wasn’t done by people following the orders of a totalitarian regime, so it’s less morally excusable.

oh well, Befehl ist Befehl.

Protests against and for the Shia Family Law

There were at least two organized demonstrations today, a large one against the law (attended by at least hundreds of Hazara university students, the MPs one would expect there, and some other civil society folks) and a smaller counterprotest by religious students in  support of the law. The third demonstration –if you can call it that– was, from the reports I’m reading, basically a mob of stone-wielding, spitting men who attacked the women demonstrating against the law. Later on, Mohseni supporters attacked the co-ed Lycee, and more clashes took place outside Mohseni’s madrassa.

The sh*tstorm continues.

More here and here.