Sunday, June 24, 2018

"These Turks would rather leave their country than continue living under Erdoğan"

[People walk past an election poster for Turkey's President Erdogan in Istanbul, June 14, 2018.  Credit: 
Huseyin Aldemir/Reuters]

'Bilal Dündarlioğlu, a 34-year-old information technology engineer from Niğde, in Turkey’s Central Anatolia region, says he loves his country.
And in the next breath, he explains why he wants to leave.
“Human and political conditions are not good," he said. "I am not quite happy with the [situation] here — there is no justice."
"I am not happy with the economy either," he added. "Taxes are too high and salaries too low.”
Dündarlioğlu is not alone. In Istanbul, most young people interviewed by PRI say they either know someone who has left Turkey or wants to. Many say they’re thinking about it themselves. In cities from Barcelona and Madrid to Stockholm, Berlin and Athens, researchers say Turkish diaspora communities are growing. And for the first time in modern Turkey's history, it seems the exodus isn’t mainly due to a search for economic opportunity.
There are no official figures on emigration compiled by the Turkish government that break down the motives behind people's departure. But recent emigres and would-be emigres told PRI their decision was about safety from persecution, having a voice in society and, even more crucially, an uncertain future in the so-called “new” Turkey under President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. They say that Turkey went from being a haven of a stability and economic growth in the region to a country with increasing societal divisions, rising violence and a government that continues to become increasingly authoritarian.
Many people — particularly young, secular and educated Turks — say they have had enough.
"Here, unfortunately, a human being has no value and cannot express oneself," said Dündarlioğlu, adding that his final decision to leave will depend on what happens in the June 24 election, which could give Erdoğan even more power. "If you support the government, maybe you will be valued."
Over the 15 years Erdoğan and his Justice and Development Party have been in power, they have eroded freedom of the press, free speech, expanded the role of conservative Islam in the officially secular republic and presided over an increasingly fragile economy, analysts and emigres say.
After an unsuccessful coup attempt in July 2016, Erdoğan and his allies stepped up those efforts to clamp down, instituting a state of emergency that further grants them powers to detain and imprison alleged coup conspirators and sympathizers as well as anyone else who supposedly supports Fethullah Gülen, the Muslim cleric living in exile in the US whom Erdoğan has blamed for organizing the coup.
Hundreds of thousands of teachers, lawyers, intellectuals and artists as well as members of the civil service, the judiciary and the military have been jailed or have lost their jobs.
Then last year, voters approved changes to Turkey’s constitution to abolish the office of the prime minister and transform the country’s now-ceremonial presidency into a full-fledged chief executive. Supporters of the change said it would make the government run more efficiently. Opponents said it was move to give an increasingly authoritarian Erdoğan even more power.
If Erdoğan wins Sunday's election, he could wield near-absolute authority and cement his status as the most important Turkish leader since Kemal Ataturk founded the country in 1923.
Erdoğan is leading in most polls. But his power grab has also galvanized his opponents: He’s forecast to come close to or only slightly top the 50 percent threshold necessary to avoid a runoff election. 
Still, many of these Turks say nothing will change.
"I learned not to be hopeful about the elections because it's the same guys who always win," said a 26-year-old woman studying in Malmö, Sweden, who left Turkey in 2015, saying she couldn't take the oppressive environment any longer.
“I wasn't happy in Turkey as a woman, as a non-Muslim, single woman,” said the student, who asked not to be named out of fear of reprisal against her or her loved ones at home. “Harassment became a part of your everyday life. You just hoped that you'd be one of the lucky ones, so no psycho will kick you in the face in the bus because you were wearing shorts that day.” 
"Those who remain in Turkey face an uphill battle against the changes that have occurred in the country in recent years, especially if Erdoğan wins," she added, explain that she visited Turkey after the coup attempt and found it "scary." 
"I remember thinking, 'Where am I?'" she recalled, after seeing pro-government propaganda in the subways and experiencing the tense feeling. "I felt like the Turkey I knew, the Turkey I left, died on [July 15, 2016]." 
She says she knows at least six people who have left Turkey. "But every time I go back and see my friends, they are all talking about leaving," she said.'

Read more from source at PRI's GlobalPost here.

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Barcelona as a 'shelter city' (on World Refugee Day)

"*The following is an edited transcript of an interview [with Barcelona city council spokesman Marc Serra] conducted for European Alternatives’ forthcoming documentary Demos: Solidarity in Europe.

In February 2017 thousands of citizens marched in the city of Barcelona following the mayor’s call to challenge the national government over its failure to accept the country’s quota of refugees set by the EU. Like many other EU members, Spain has not fulfilled this quota, with only 1,279 people entering the country in 2018, while its citizens demand more migrants are welcomed. If cities are ready to house these people, and citizens are willing to cooperate with local institutions, what is stopping the process?
European Alternatives: What is the Shelter Cities program and how does it work?
Marc Serra: The Shelter Cities program started around the summer of 2015, when we witnessed the states’ failure to manage the human rights crisis, the refugee crisis. When the cities verified that the states were auctioning off the cities that could accommodate less refugees, we said that’s enough. It started as a cry of anger. Barcelona said “We are actually willing to take in people looking for shelter, fleeing war (in this case it was above all the conflict in Syria) in our cities.” Then, little by little, other cities joined the cry started in Barcelona. Today, almost three years later, a program called Shelter Cities exists, it combines the initial advocacy –– we have been to the United Nations, the European Commission, the Spanish government, even to the Vatican, to demand safe and legal channels to receive refugees–– with local policies, providing housing, translators, human resources teams (social workers, social educators…) to accommodate the refugees who, despite the difficulties created by the states and the EU, are arriving in our cities and, for whom, therefore, we must provide decent living conditions to – it is our duty and obligation.
European Alternatives: What would you say has been, up until today, the greatest success of the program?
Marc Serra: I believe the greatest success of the Shelter Cities program has been to manage to channel the desire to show solidarity, a growing desire among the citizenship. It has been difficultbut I believe we have been able to seize this opportunity. We must take into account that Barcelona has a very long history of solidarity; that the city had already invested a great deal in welcoming East European refugees fifteen years ago, that there had been protests against the war in Iraq, and that here the biggest protests in Europe and perhaps in the entire world took place in favour of the refugees.
The city has opened up and since the beginning of the term the number of asylum seekers it assists has grown threefold. We took care of 4,400 people applying for asylum in 2017, through our service providing counselling for immigrants and refugees, obviously for free, offering free legal assistance, hosting those in need of emergency housing, and developing a local shelter program for vulnerable families.
I believe that, above all, the program has been able to channel this desire to help despite the institutions, so also counteracting the declarations expressed in the public debate, which treat the issues of migration and refugees in a populist manner, therefore allowing us to take a stand against fascism and extremism.
European Alternatives: You talk about institutions, and right now we are in a situation where, on the one hand, Barcelona is an example of wanting to welcome people coming from countries at war, and on the other, despite the EU has imposed national refugee quotas on member states, in order to try to manage this arrival of people, the nation states are blocking that arrival. How does Barcelona cope with this “duality”, this double policy of these two institutions, at the national level and the European one?
Marc Serra: In light of the Spanish government’s reiterated refusal to fulfill the quotas, we went to Brussels to ask the European Commission to take action, as it has already done with some states that have neglected the quota issue in an even more evident way. The fact is that the deals signed in 2015 are still in force, even though they have expired, because they are agreements made not only with the EU, but also with the entire citizenship. Therefore the European Commission can, and must, initiate disciplinary procedures against the states that have failed to comply with the quota system. We want the Spanish government to actually take in the 17,000 people it has committed to take in. We want it because the citizenship wants it, and we will do everything we can to remind both the Spanish state and the European Commission of this..."

Read more from source at European Alternatives here.

spoke with Marc Serra from the City Council of Barcelona about ‘Shelter Cities’, a program initiated by the city to manage the arrival of asylum seekers at a local level.  
We spoke with Marc Serra from the City Council of Barcelona about ‘Shelter Cities’, a program initiated by the city to manage the arrival of asylum seekers at a local level.  

Saturday, June 16, 2018

"Churnalism" -- My latest article for Catalonia Today magazine

[Photo credit: Cornelia Kraft]

I learnt a new word this week after reading an email from a journalist friend.

Churnalism is defined in the Collins online dictionary as: "a type of journalism that relies on reusing existing material such as press releases and wire service reports instead of original research, especially as a result of an increase in demand for news content. "

The verb 'to churn out' means “to produce large quantities of something very quickly.” Typically, it has been used to mean an industrial process and I want to give you just one example of why churnalism is produced in today's media.

Below is the email that my friend forwarded to me. It is apparently a leaked email sent to the subbing [editing] team at one of Australia's biggest commercial newspapers by the chief sub [editor], a British man. It was written after a strike by journalists over the sacking of yet another group of staff. He writes:

"I thought I would spell out expectations for the new gig, which has an open-ended contract (meaning there is no set time frame ... good news). The MINIMUM story output for a 4-hour shift is 16. Obviously we will give everyone a few weeks to...adjust to the new protocols. But if you fail to hit the numbers on a regular basis, we will have THE TALK! Copy flow is still appalling.... Many of you are still subbing normally...Forget it. I know it will come hard to those subs, like myself, who have been in this business for many years. You are now copy-fitting. When the story [gets to us], as far as [this company] is concerned, it is ready to print. We give it a (very) quick read, touch up any minor mistakes [then] get rid of it...We assume the story is perfect, not to be changed...and, please, do not change ANYTHING without first getting approval unless it is glaring obvious...because there will be no checking process. We will have neither the numbers nor the time to check. So make sure you get the magic zero fit...We WILL be reading pages throughout the night, but that’s the best I can do with the budget. It’s also what [this media company] is paying for...and all they want."

I now want to do a little analysis of what some of the words of this chief editor say, compared to what I believe they really mean to the journalists/sub-editors who have to read them and try to work using this email.

"new gig:" meaning you are working in the short-term contracts /freelance gig-economy now.
" open-ended contract: " conditions completely in favour of the employer.
" new protocols" changed rules that demand more production from the worker.
" hit the numbers on a regular basis:" you are on a factory production line and your output is being closely monitored and measured against your colleagues.
" Many of you" (repeated twice for emphasis) meaning: I don't know and don't care enough to communicate with you personally, giving the added benefit of confusing you about which category you might be in.
" copy-fitting:" meaning doing a lot of verbatim cutting and pasting directly from corporate and government press releases.
" we will have THE TALK! " meaning you will be warned that you will be fired unless you meet management's "expectations."
"Copy flow:" you don't write articles. You ensure a flow of content. You simply give order to the words that fill the spaces in the newspaper.
" I know it will come hard to those subs, like myself:” an attempt to convince the journalist that they have a shared past in common, pretending to care and understand how their work conditions are now worse.
" it is ready to print:" I am reinforcing that you will be doing my editing job for me.

I cannot begin to say how happy I am that I do not work for an organisation like the one above.

[This article was first published in Catalonia Today magazine, June 2017.]

Sunday, June 10, 2018

How Britain's Country Farms have halved in last 40 years

"The extent of County Farms in England has halved in the last 40 years, an investigation by Who Owns England can reveal.
County Farms are farms owned by [public] Local Authorities and let out to young and first-time farmers, sometimes at below-market rents. They’re a vital ‘first rung on the farming ladder’ for newcomers to a sector that has high up-front capital costs: by providing the land and buildings, the public sector is helping get fresh blood into an industry where the average age of farmers is 60.
Yet the acreage of County Farms across England has plummeted from 426,695 acres in 1977 to just 215,155 acres in 2017, as data outlined below shows.
The revelation of the shocking decline in County Farms nationwide comes after Dorset County Council recently earmarked 6 of its County Farms for disposal and sale – 14% of its entire estate. This is despite the council officer’s report warning the sales would result in the loss of £95,000 in annual rents, and despite firm objections from the local branches of the Tenant Farmers’ Association (TFA) and Country Land & Business Association (CLA).
In his widely-praised Oxford Farming Conference speech this January, Environment Secretary Michael Gove spoke about equipping the “next generation of farmers” to grow better-quality food and do more to protect the environment post-Brexit. 
But the ongoing sale of County Farms runs precisely counter to that: undermining prospects for the next generation of farmers, just like the housing crisis is damaging prospects for young adults more broadly.


The origins of County Farms lie in the late-Victorian agricultural depression, during which widespread cries for land reform led radical Liberal MP Joseph Chamberlain (Theresa May’s political hero) to stand for election on the promise of “three acres and a cow” for landless tenant farmers. 
He went on to propose a solution whereby councils would buy up land and lease it out to small tenant farmers on cheap rents. A succession of government Acts in 18921908 and 1925 created County Farms, sometimes called County Smallholdings."
More from Guy Shrubsole's article here.

Sunday, June 3, 2018

Spain leads world in number of jailed artists

"Spain leads the world in the number of jailed artists, says Kamchatka, quoting ‘the Danish-based Freemuse organisation which warns of the emergence of "a new global culture to silence others" [something] which is repeated in all countries of the world, "even in the traditional democracies of the West".

This independent organisation, which is responsible for monitoring the state of freedom of artistic expression, has published its annual report, in which it identifies Spain as one of the countries in which the repression of [culture] creators has increased the most. 

Specifically, Spain leads the ranking of artists imprisoned in 2017, with a total of 13, ahead of China, Iran, Egypt and Turkey, and is the third in creators prosecuted, lying only behind Egypt and Ethiopia..."

(Article found through the excellent Business Over Tapas, which calls itself 'a weekly non-commercial newsletter about Spain...without fluff nor filler.')