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New perspectives on queer politics under an Islamist regime – Yale News

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When Yale faculty member Evren Savcı was writing her dissertation on queer politics in her birth country of Turkey a decade ago, she found there was little published on the subject. So she decided to expand her research into a book.

In “Queer in Translation: Sexual Politics Under Neoliberal Islam” (Duke University Press), Savcı, an assistant professor in women’s, gender, and sexuality studies in the Faculty of Arts and Sciences, illuminates the struggles of queer individuals living under Turkey’s Justice and Development Party (known as AKP), a moderate-Islamist political regime which rose to power in 2002. It’s based in part on her ethnographic research on queer activists from 2008 through the 2013 Gezi Park uprising, when thousands of Turkish citizens — among them LGBT rights activists — gathered to protest government plans to convert one of Istanbul’s last city parks into a shopping mall and were met with police violence.

The book also explores the ways Western LGBT political terminology has traveled to and been interpreted in the Muslim-majority nation and offers new ways to think about queer political movements beyond binary interpretations, such as traditional-versus-modern, global-versus-local, or East-versus-West. Among other topics, Savcı investigates the murder of a Kurdish gay man whose father is accused of committing the crime to protect his family’s honor, and portrays the lives of trans sex workers who are increasingly harassed by police in public spaces.

Savcı, a scholar of transnational sexualities who is also affiliated with the Yale MacMillan Center’s Council on Middle East Studies, recently spoke with YaleNews about the book and the fight for LGBT rights in Turkey. The interview is edited and condensed.

When you started your research in Turkey back in 2008, many democratic transformations were taking place. What changed?

Evren Savcı: At the time, the AKP was engaged in democratic openings as part of Turkey’s European Union accession bid. These included the banning of capital punishment, which was a pre-condition of the accession process, changes in misogynistic language in laws, the removal of references to morality and honor from the law, and the introduction of marital rape as a crime. The first state-run Kurdish television station was created and the government was talking about starting diplomatic relationships with Armenia, a country with which there are historic tensions. There was talk about a headscarf opening; headscarves had previously been outlawed in public offices and universities. These changes were mostly welcomed.

But by 2010, as I was getting ready to finish my dissertation, the tone of the country was changing. There were hunger strikes in Kurdish prisons that the government was denouncing. This was at the time of the Arab Spring. The world was talking about Turkey as a model for the Arab world, but it was clear that the government was beginning to repress dissent.

Increasingly there were more demands for submission to the government. Labor unions, feminists, and queer subjects were all critical of the government, and it looked like all the changes were just a very calculated part of the accession process. When that didn’t deliver [accession negotiations have been stalled since 2016], the government didn’t have as much investment in these democratic openings.

Evren Savcı
Evren Savcı

By the time of the Gezi Park protest, journalists were being jailed and many forms of dissent were punished. Were queer people increasingly marginalized?

Savcı: By this time, it started becoming clear that the country was being turned into a privatizing construction machine. A lot of public goods started being privatized and many of these privatization projects were going to direct relatives of people in charge or to close allies. Many of the urban development projects were not only harmful to the social fabric but caused environmental damage. The protestors were contesting the privatization and construction.

The uprising was a big challenge to AKP rule. This was a countrywide protest, and the police used plastic bullets, water cannons, and tear gas on the protestors. Severe police violence became the norm.

U.S. scholars of neoliberalism have written about how this economic system concentrates inequality in the lowest echelons of society. I argue that in Turkey, there has been a deployment of marginality to larger and larger masses of people. Anyone not aligned with the government is seen as a “terrorist” or enemy of the nation.

After the military coup attempt in 2016, President Erdoğan signed many decrees into law. Feminists and queer people were openly targeted by the government as “immoral” subjects. I argue in my book that queer politics is a good place to think about the mechanism of neoliberalism even without Islam because a neoliberal state is itself is a morality regime. There is a belief in individual responsibility and self-entrepreneurism; everyone is expected to ideally create their own job. There is a disappearance of social safety nets like healthcare, social security, and pensions. Any failure is understood as deeply individual, and dissent is viewed by the government as an attack on the national economy, where the economy itself is seen as an object of national security.

In Turkey, marginality was already experienced by Kurdish people, feminists, and queers. But increasingly, a lot more people were on the “wrong” side of Turkish morality: students in co-ed housing, whether straight or queer, students who were holding hands, women who were laughing in public, women who refuse motherhood — all were viewed by the government as immoral subjects.

You make a connection in your book between those who were advocating for the freedom to wear headscarves in universities and LGBT activists. What is the connection?

Savcı: As the AKP was doing these democratic openings, there was interest in lifting the headscarf ban. Secularists wondered if this meant an Islamization of the country. There were some who said that if the ban was lifted at universities it would mean headscarves would next be allowed at middle and elementary schools. One government minister responded to this debate by saying, “Look, we don’t have to give people everything they want. Homosexual people are asking for the right to get married, are we going to give it to them?”

Gay marriage was not even a debate at the time he said that, but this statement ended up introducing LGBT rights into the national imagination as a potential challenge for the government and pious Muslims. It became a kind of litmus test in the headscarf debate, where headscarf activists were being asked if they also supported LGBT rights. It was a test of their sincerity [about democratic reforms].

There are lots of secular Turkish citizens who do not support LGBT rights, and their access to public education is not curtailed as it is for women who wear headscarves. I wanted to look at the complexity of the discussions that were being had. There was ultimately a falling out between headscarf and LGBT activists, but I believe that there could have been more productive conversations between them if LGBT rights had not been used as a discursive device in the debate.

Do you have any hope that the freedoms queer activists hope to achieve can be realized under the current regime?

Savcı: Not under the current regime, no. But I do have hope. I think that the Turkish people have learned important lessons under painful circumstances, in part because of that arc of democratic openings that then came crashing down.

So many people have been targeted with violating morality standards, and I think it is a good thing that so many more of us — not just Kurdish people or LGBT people or feminists or others who express dissent — are more and more marginalized. This regime will be over some day. I hope that people remember then that marginalization doesn’t have boundaries. It doesn’t stop with this group or that group. If we have a system where some people are pushed out of acceptable existence, anyone can be pushed out.

There have been productive openings for not thinking about Islam in a monolithic way, not thinking about gender and sexual non-normativity in a monolithic way. That genie is out of the bottle. The question is how to create a social, peaceful coexistence in which people know how to talk to each other and don’t see an enemy when they look at a fellow citizen.

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Prince Philip took a keen interest in Canada, but stayed above politics, former GGs and PM say

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When former Canadian prime minister Jean Chrétien met the late Prince Philip for the first time, he told him that for an Englishman, his French was very good.

“He said ‘I’m not English and I’ve spoken French since before you were born,’” Chrétien told the Star Friday, commenting on his many encounters over 50 years with the Duke of Edinburgh.

“He was not dull, let me put it that way,” Chrétien said. “He had some strong views. Sometimes he had to show discipline to not speak up more than he would have wished.”

Philip, born in Greece in 1921 and husband to Queen Elizabeth II for over 73 years, died at the age of 99 on Friday.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who said he first met Philip when he was a little boy, described him as “a man of great purpose and conviction, who was motivated by a sense of duty to others.”

Former prime ministers and governors general spoke of a man who understood his role and knew not to get involved in politics, but who was very knowledgeable about Canada and took a keen interest in the country’s success.

“I was always impressed by their knowledge,” Chrétien said of Philip and the Queen, Canada’s head of state.

He said he can recall Philip asking about the prospect of Quebec separating from the rest of the country. “Not in a very political fashion, just in terms of interest. Of course he was interested to not see Canada break up. He would certainly say that to me.”

 

Statements from former prime ministers Paul Martin and Stephen Harper highlighted Philip’s devotion to the Canadian armed forces and charitable organizations, as well as the Duke of Edinburgh’s Award, an international self-development program for young people.

Former governors general David Johnston and Michaëlle Jean, through their role as the Queen’s representative in Canada, were also able to get to know Philip more intimately, particularly at the Queen’s Balmoral Castle estate in Scotland.

Jean recalls being “overwhelmed” by all the protocol recommendations ahead of a Balmoral visit with her husband and six-year-old daughter prior to taking office in 2005, only to find Philip and the Queen greeting them at the door, with Philip paying special attention to her daughter.

“The memory I keep of Prince Philip is that of an affable, caring, elegant and warm man,” Jean told the Star, adding he was a man who was very attentive to detail.

She recalled attending a barbecue on the Balmoral estate, just the four of them, and Philip telling her, “Don’t forget to congratulate Her Majesty for her salad dressing, because she made it herself.”

What Jean also saw was a man sometimes hampered by the limitations of his role, like when he talked about one of his favourite topics, the environment.

“He said ‘I do a lot about it, I raise awareness, I take actions…I feel that whatever I do, no one cares,’” Jean recounted. “What I got from that is how lonely he felt…There was a sense of not feeling appreciated in proportion to his contributions, a feeling of being misunderstood.”

Johnston, who succeeded Jean, said Canada’s constitutional monarchy — where the head of state is politically neutral and separate from elected office — is an “important and precious” form of government, and Philip was key to making it work.

Philip showed leadership as a servant, Johnston said, “not taking centre stage, but by ensuring that the Queen and the monarchy were front row and centre.

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“He played such an important structural role, and did that with great diligence and commitment. He was selfless in that respect,” Johnston said in an interview.

For Matthew Rowe, who works on the Royal Family’s charitable endeavours in Canada, the Duke of Edinburgh’s political value to Canada was precisely that he was not political — that he, along with the rest of the monarchy, provided a stabilizing force outside of the partisan fray.

He was dynamic, irascible, exasperating, intriguing. And he was always three steps behind his wife, Queen Elizabeth, who utterly adored him throughout their 73-year marriage, flaws, faux pas and all.

“His presence, and the role of Her Majesty and other members of the Royal Family, has been to be able to represent the nation, to represent Canadian interests, and commemorate Canadian achievements without being tied to a particular political ideology or regional faction,” Rowe, who met Philip at a ceremony at Rideau Hall in 2010, said in an interview.

 

Philip’s role meant he could speak more frankly than the Queen in public, and spoke “quite thoughtfully” about the constitutional monarchy in Canada, said University of Toronto history instructor Carolyn Harris.

At a press conference in Ottawa in 1969, Philip famously said that the monarchy doesn’t exist “in the interests of the monarch…It exists solely in the interest of the people. We don’t come here for our health. We can think of other ways of enjoying ourselves.”

Philip had a good, joking relationship with Johnston’s wife, Sharon. He recounted how the two joined the Queen and Prince Philip at Balmoral in August 2010, prior to Johnston’s swearing-in later that year.

One evening, they were returning to the castle from a barbecue at a renovated shepherd’s hut on the estate — just the four of them, the Queen driving with Johnston in one land rover, and Philip driving with Sharon in the other ahead of them on narrow, highland roads.

“We were coming home at about 10 p.m., as black as could be, he and Sharon were ahead, kind of weaving, and we could hear these gales of laughter coming out. They were cracking jokes at one another,” Johnston said.

“I had a vision of him going over the edge and down half a mile into the valley, and my first thought is: Do the Queen and I rustle down to rescue them?”

Chrétien said “it must be terrible” for the Queen to now find herself alone after a marriage that lasted for more than 70 years. He noted it’s been almost seven months to the day since he lost his wife, Aline.

 

“It’s a big change in life but she’s an extremely courageous person and she will face the situation with the strength that she has been able to show to the world for the almost 70 years she’s been queen,” Chrétien said.

With files from Alex Boutilier and Kieran Leavitt

 

 

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After warning, McConnell softens posture on corporations’ taking political stances

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Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., softened his stance on corporations’ getting involved in politics Wednesday, a day after he warned companies not to weigh in on hot button issues.

“I didn’t say that very artfully yesterday. They’re certainly entitled to be involved in politics. They are,” McConnell told reporters. “My principal complaint is they didn’t read the darn bill.

“They got intimidated into adopting an interpretation … given by the Georgia Democrats in order to help get their way,” he said.

McConnell was referring to a controversial voting law recently passed in Georgia, which came about in the aftermath of former President Donald Trump’s campaign of falsehoods about the election result in the state last fall.

The law led the CEOs of Delta and Coca-Cola — which are based in Atlanta — to condemn the measure. And last week, Major League Baseball pulled this year’s All-Star Game out of Atlanta in protest. The game will, instead, be played in Colorado.

In recent weeks, McConnell has excoriated corporate America for boycotting states over various GOP-led bills. He said Tuesday that it is “stupid” for corporations to take positions on divisive political issues but noted that his criticism did not extend to their donations.

“So my warning, if you will, to corporate America is to stay out of politics,” McConnell said in Louisville, Kentucky. “It’s not what you’re designed for. And don’t be intimidated by the left into taking up causes that put you right in the middle of one of America’s greatest political debates.”

Major League Baseball’s decision drew the most outrage from Republicans, as Trump called for a boycott of baseball and other companies that spoke out against the Georgia law. McConnell said Tuesday that the latest moves are “irritating one hell of a lot of Republican fans.”

McConnell, long a champion of big money in politics, however, noted Tuesday that corporations “have a right to participate in a political process” but said they should do so without alienating “an awful lot of people.”

“I’m not talking about political contributions,” he said. “I’m talking about taking a position on a highly incendiary issue like this and punishing a community or a state because you don’t like a particular law that passed. I just think it’s stupid.”

Source:- NBC News

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Facebook Removes 1,000 Fake Accounts Seeking to Sway Global Politics

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(Bloomberg) — Facebook Inc. said it removed 14 networks representing more than 1,000 accounts seeking to sway politics around the world, including in Iran and El Salvador, while misleading the public about their identity.

Most of the removed networks were in the early stages of building their audiences, the Menlo Park, California-based company said Tuesday. Facebook’s announcement on Tuesday, part of its monthly reporting on efforts to rid its platforms of fake accounts, represents one of the larger crack downs by the company in recent months.

“We have been growing this program for several years,” said David Agranovich, Facebook’s global threat disruption lead. “I would expect to see this drum beat of take downs to continue.”

In one example, the company removed a network of more than 300 accounts, pages and groups on Facebook and the photo-sharing app Instagram that appear to be run by a years-old troll farm located in Albania and operated by the Mujahedeen-e-Khalq opposition group. The group appeared to target Iran, but also other audiences with content about Iran, according to a report released by Facebook.

The group was most active in 2017, but increased its activity again in the latter half of 2020. It was one of a handful of the influence campaigns that likely used machine learning technologies capable of creating realistic profile photos to the naked eye, Facebook said in the report.

The company also removed 118 accounts, eight pages and 10 Instagram accounts based in Spain and El Salvador for violating the company’s foreign interference policy. The group amplified criticism of Henry Flores, a mayoral candidate in Santa Tecla, El Savador and supportive commentary of his rivals, the company said.

The social media giant also took down a network of 29 Facebook accounts, two pages, one group and 10 Instagram accounts based in Iran that was targeting Israel. The people behind the network posed as locals and posted criticism about Isreali prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu, according to Facebook. The company also took down networks based in Argentina, Mexico, Egypt and other nations.

Nathaniel Gleicher, Facebook’s head of security policy, said the company has improved its ability to identify inauthentic accounts, but said bad actors continue to change their strategies to avoid Facebook’s detection.

©2021 Bloomberg L.P.

Source:- BNN

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