Diversiteit in Marokko en Tunesië

diversiteit inclusie marokko tunesie  Mijn ontdekkingstocht naar diversiteit & inclusie in Arabische landen gaat verder. Na de start in Jordanië (Jordanië blog 2 en Jordanië blog 1) ging ik aan de slag in Tunesië en Marokko met buitengewoon spannend verlopen trainingen. Niet alleen wisselt steeds de context, zowel nationaal als qua type bedrijven, ook is het bekijken van de wereld door de bril van diversiteit & inclusie een volkomen nieuw gegeven in die landen. Ik betreed dan ook met enige schroom de zaal waar de training plaats vindt. Gaat het programma voldoende passen in hun eigen context? Wat vinden ze ervan dat een Nederlander deze training komt geven? Hoe zal het ditmaal gaan met de taal? Want trainingen geven in het Engels en Frans betekent niet alleen voor mij werken in een tweede taal, ook de deelnemers hebben meestal een andere taal als moedertaal.
Het duurt gelukkig nog geen uur voordat we al helemaal aan elkaar gewend zijn. De inclusiviteit van de bedrijfsculturen die ik heb ervaren, helpt daar enorm bij. Diezelfde inclusiviteit leidt tot bovengemiddeld goede samenwerking als teamopdrachten moeten worden uitgevoerd. In Tunesië maakte ik bovendien discussies mee zoals ik ze zelden hoor bij trainingen in Nederland of Duitsland: de deelnemers waren heel open in het delen van ervaringen en vlogen elkaar hier en daar flink in de haren over de vraag hoe inclusief de organisatie nou werkelijk was > op een inclusieve manier, zonder elkaar te beoordelen of zuur te worden, wat in Noordwest-Europa bij al teveel openheid in bedrijven nog weleens het risico is. Ik was diep onder de indruk en, ook niet onbelangrijk, wat hebben we gelachen. Toen ik de documentaire Danny in Arabistan – Tunesië zag – een aanrader! – herkende ik datzelfde beeld.
diversiteit inclusie marokkoIn Marokko werd ik daarbij nog verrast door de grote persoonlijke warmte van de deelnemers. Hard werken ging er gemakkelijk samen met positieve emotionaliteit, Een deelneemster gaf me na afloop haar prachtige oorbellen mee, als aandenken namens de hele groep.
Wat is het ontzettend leuk om zo samen aan diversiteit & inclusie te werken.

Naziha’s spring – an outstanding IDFA documentary

naziha's spring  It was a coincidence that I went to an IDFA documentary, I never have / take time for things like that but in this case the maker of the documentary was the daughter of a friend with whom I participate in a Turkish litterature club – yes, all Turkish spoken so you understand I do not speak a lot, however I do read all the books (in Turkish) while not every participant does 🙂
I have to say that Gülsah Dogan presented an outstanding documentary that should be obliged learning material for any organisation involved in the problems of Amsterdam-West families. She has succeeded to make an inside picture about one of the (former) most problematic Dutch-Moroccan families Amsterdam-West has known. And anyone in the public can recognize and feel the characters, the conflicts, the existentialist problems that occur in this story. It is very moving – there were many tears – and the complexity of extreme family situations is revealed. This is a documentary that deserves a price and I hope it will win.
See http://www.idfa.nl/industry/tags/project.aspx?id=5273991f-70a3-431d-836f-264b6b41bce6, for more info and also times to visit next wednesday, thursday and saturday 26/27/29 November. Don’t miss this one! For me, it will still be on my mind for many days; it is really, really impressive!

Arab winter or Arab spring in Egypt

  Who ever is looking outside today in Europe, is looking at a frozen world. Life is cold and hard these days. Who wants to be outside? People have been freezing to death out there!
The weather in Egypt is warmer but the climate is even colder than in Europe. The people of Egypt suffer but there is one big hope: they protest. They are aware of their situation and demanding their rights. For sure their road is not going to be easy. That is a sad but realistic conclusion after a spring and summer full of aspirations for a quick and smooth improvement of democracy and freedom. The revolution of the Egyptian people has entered a winter that is not finished yet.
It is strange to see what the signs for a long winter can look like. I noticed that today, in the aftermath of the terrible events in the football stadion of Port Said where 74 people died and hundreds were wounded. Many people blame the government but it is the Egyptian Football League that has been suspended indefinitely. There will be no football matches until August.
August is summer time! This message makes it clear that the political fight is tough and will take a long long time before winter withdraws. The Romans knew this already: that the last thing a people has, is food and games. When the people have no power, the least they need is food and games. If you want to stay in total power and be undemocratic, you have to give it to them. In Egypt, the people are not just deprived of power, they are now also deprived of games. This means the oppression is more than average and lead by leaders who did not learn anything from ancient times – and also that the period to come is going to be severe on the people, and that the people are not going to accept it.
I just wonder: how many deaths and wounded to go the coming period? How much organized destabilization that will be very difficult to repair in the years to come? Still I do believe in the strength of a people who dream and hope and never give up…

Queen’s visit to Oman and UAE: veil or economy?

  The discussion about the veil has re-entered the Dutch political scene on the event of a visit and trade mission of our Queen Beatrix, Prince Willem-Alexander and Princess Máxima to the United Arab Emirates and to Oman. This is a very succesfull visit with warm relationships between our countries and very good business contracts being signed these days (see also: http://www.nu.nl/binnenland/2710537/koningin-onderstreept-belang-handel-met-vae.html).
However, the Dutch political PVV-leader Wilders has drawn the attention of the public to the great debate of the VEIL again, by criticising Queen Beatrix and indirectly Princess Máxima for wearing a veil when entering mosques as he thinks the veil is a means of women oppression and our Queen should never wear it, not even in a mosque.
At the moment of this debate, the Netherlands like many countries are still in the midst of a severe economic crisis. Nevertheless journalists follow massively the discussion about the VEIL much more than the economic results of the trade mission. During the last years, the quality level of journalism has gone down in the Netherlands. They have chosen to report about easy-to-report riots and disputes like the one mentioned above rather than giving an indepth insight in more complex subjects. They have their own concept of the notion ‘news’ and like this they create their own truth and it has empoverished journalistic approaches in the Netherlands.
As for the debate about the veil itself, I have published a blog about it some time ago: http://grethevangeffen.wordpress.com/2011/03/16/veilophobia-veilophilia-the-great-debate-about-the-muslim-veil/. Women were known to wear veils already in Assyria in the 7th century BC and they should choose themselves if and when they want to wear them. And for the rest, we still have an economic crisis to solve…

White anger

  It was friday afternoon on a road from a popular neighbourhood into the park and I think a mosque had just finished prayer because many traditionally dressed Moroccans were there and so was I, dressed in business style on my way to a business appointment. A white Dutch woman came along on her bike, with a dog attached to the side of her bike on a one meter leash. Usually dog owners on a bike keep their dog on a leash that they hold in their hand, to be more flexible in Amsterdam’s dense traffic.
At the entrance of the parc stood some poles on the road (see the photograph), meant to keep cars out of the parc. The woman biked into the parc on one side of the pole, her dog took the other side but the leash attached to the bike was in between. So the dog was stopped and almost thrown against the pole and the bike was also stopped abruptly, the woman almost fell, just almost: bikers in Amsterdam have incredible skills for all kinds of situations.
A Moroccan guy wanted to help her to get herself upright and the dog past the pole but she started to shout in anger. This happened to her, she said, because on the left side a young guy was walking on the biking path and on the right side there was also a couple walking. They left her no space to go and that is why she and her dog ran into the pole. It is one of those irrational situations that can easily go out of hand. The woman had enough space and she had no damage. Her behaviour was very injust and impolite, even agressive and I couldn’t ignore the impression that she was shouting because they were Moroccans. This was the hidden white anger that people say and know is there, but you don’t see or hear it except in moments like this. Also I had the impression that the woman was waiting for a fight, scolding at random, hoping to be a victim and see her prejudices confirmed. Interesting were the doubts of the Moroccans around, I think they had the same impression: so should they take the scolding and get hurt, or defend themselves and get the blame?
The funny thing of appearances is that they can work for you. I was wearing business clothes for a completely different reason, but I could use it to have authority at that moment and solve some things. I took the attitude of a person in charge and told the woman that the men she was shouting at had nothing to do with her nearby accident – and that she had to be more aware herself of the dog stuck on a leash to the bike. That solved it, not for the woman who didn’t stop shouting out her anger but for the men who were shouted at. We continued our walk and when the woman was out of sight, we laughed about it together because it was also funny, the way she and her dog got stuck on a pole, blaming the rest of the world for it. Still, this type of everyday situations worry me: the step to a situation that runs out of hand is all too small. White anger, directed to innocent passengers, seems to lie just below the surface in Amsterdam 2011.

How much spring is the Arab spring?

Lente smileys  During the last months, many politicians and journalists have started to discuss the depth of Arab spring; is it a spring at all? They are cynical because they did not see the Arab world change at once. Hope grows a bit now that Khaddafi is in his final moments, but scepticism is still there.
In an earlier blog http://grethevangeffen.wordpress.com/2011/03/03/the-surprise-of-arab-spring/ I already adressed the one-sided knowledge and expectations politicians and journalists have about the Middle East. Their attitude concerning freedom and democracy in the Middle East is confusing. Everybody knows that freedom does not come at once and is never for free. The same thing counts for democracy. Why on earth do people expect Arab countries that have suffered from lousy dictators during many years to be free and democratic just in the time of a blink of the eye, as by divine commandment? Once the dictators are gone, Arab citizens will still have to fight for freedom and democracy, maybe not with arms but the benefits will not just drop from the sky without human efforts and even sacrifices.
Another thing is that this is an Arab and not a western development. The outcome of Arab ‘spring’ might be a different ‘summer’ than western observers expect. This is what happens when people start to create their own destiny. I am very curious to know what the Arab world will look like in two years!

Northern Cyprus Heritage (11) Maronites

 The Maronite community on Cyprus (both North and South) counts 6000 persons and it is very much alive. Since 1974 the Turkish army took hold of 2 of the 4 Maronite churches / villages, to the great regret of the Maronite community. In Asomatos it is possible to have church services, Agia Marina is so closed that during 36 years nobody could even see the place. A meeting from the Pope and the Turkish Prime Minister last year was necessary to allow an exceptional visit; maybe the first step for more opening? The Maronites see the lost churches / villages as an important part of their heritage, necessary also to live and express their identity.
On special days like Christmas, Easter and the 15th of August (2 photographs below for the breads delivered and the procession around the church – and the Lebanese bishop’s car), the large church of Saint Georgius of Kormakiti is packed; not just church banks are full, also corridors and even outside the doors people stand to follow the service inside. Many of the visitors are young people, aware of their identity and ready to contribute.
      
Maronites live in Cyprus (as well as Lebanon and Malta) since the 8th century. They are part of the Roman Catholic Church but have their own rites in Aramaic and some different rules, f.ex. the priests are married. They were always oppressed: by muslims, by Venetians, by Franciscans, by Greek Orthodox, the latter trying to take over their churches. Under the 1960 Constitution Turkish and Greek Cypriot form two equal communities, the Marionites are seen as a religious minority which means that their ethnicity, culture or language are not recognized. They had to choose a community to belong to and they chose the Greek community. Maronites have one ‘observer seat’ in the Greek Cypriot Parliament so they have a voice but not a vote and depend of Greek Cypriots to defend their interests. However, Greek Cyprus leads a politics of assimiliation. On the Turkish side the Maronite interests are neglected.
The Maronites position is very complicated. They do not want to be involved in the dual conflict of Greeks and Turks. They have the Greek Cypriot nationality because they belong to that community according to the 1960 Constitution but their villages lie since the 1974 division in Northern Cyprus. Recently the Turkish Cypriot nationality was offered to them so that they can have equal rights but accepting that nationality means conflict with the Greek Cypriots who accuse Maronites of bad citizenship and ‘trying to get the best of both worlds’. For the future the entrance of (South-)Cyprus into the EU in 2004 opens new perspectives for the Maronites as the European concept of multicultural diversity is larger than the actual dualism on Cyprus and could improve the position of the ethnic-cultural and religious ‘other’.
In the meantime, there is nothing that withholds the Turkish army to give back the 2 churches / villages to the Maronite community right now.

Wanna read more indepth analysis about Cypriot minorities? Read this book: http://www.amazon.com/Minorities-Cyprus-Development-Patterns-Internal-Exclusion/dp/144380052X or this article: http://www.ahdr.info/ckfinder/userfiles/files/14_andrekos.pdf
Absolutely interesting to look at Cyprus not from Greek or Turkish perceptions, but from the perceptions of Cypriot minorities.

Northern Cyprus Heritage (10) graveyards

  War is not a rational thing. You’d say it is a fight between the living but when the Turkish army took hold ofNorthern Cyprus, also the dead suffered: many Greek graveyards were destroyed with an anger that is surprising. One wonders who would do such a thing. Don’t we all love our dead and cherish the monuments we give them so that they will not be anonymous and have a place of their own?
I remember about ten years ago there were some ideas in Alba Club in Lapta – I think it was the manager – to restore the demolished graveyard that lies in front of the Club. They thought it was a shame to have that at their entrance. I checked this year but no, this has not been done, see the photographs:
         
In Alsancak, close to theRiversideHoliday Village, lies another demolished graveyard. It is not that people here do not know what it should be like; see the photograph on top of this blog showing the Turkish graveyard right beside it: peaceful, nice and well taken care of. Apparently theRiverside does not feel embarrassed to have this so close to their compound and the community of Alsancak does neither.
            
Is it possible to hate so much that you also hate the dead of your enemy? Or is it just disinterest and lack of feeling of responsibility, like is the case for other heritage sites? However these were deliberately destroyed and 37 years have passed now: it’s about time to restore the graveyards. Until that time these graveyards lie like open wounds in a society that otherwise is proving to find ways for social and economic development in many aspects.

Northern Cyprus Heritage (4) Ermelaos en Lapta

 Sirinevler is a rather poor village. It is located not on the coastal side of the northern part of Cyprus where life is flourishing but behind the Besparmak ridge in the large Mesaoria plain that lies in between the Besparmak mountains in the North and the Troodos mountains in the South; in the middle of the Mesaoria, the Green Line dividing the island in two parts. On the Turkish side in the Mesaoria there are mainly farmers. Life is hard there, cold in winter, hot in summertime.
Where in the very North the EU is only present with some signs about improvement concerning environment, in the Mesaoria villages we find the EU improving the infrastructure and look of the villages themselves; this is really a poverty issue.
The church in Sirinevler that was called Agios Ermelaos before, is in a terrible state. It is a more simple church than the ones with frescoes and all, but it certainly doesn’t deserve this status. It is a little beauty that deserves to be there in all pride.
     
I think the pictures of Agios Ermelaos are clear: this is dreadfull…

And now a few pictures from two churches in Lapta on the northern side of the Besparmak ridge. There are more than 2 churches in Lapta but the overview is the same: these churches are preserved better and respected more. Lapta is much richer and more international than Sirinevler; this works out well for heritage conservation!

     

So when you are confronted with a diversity issue, do not assume too easily that the problem is diversity itself; it might be poverty and isolation. Solutions that you propose depend highly of the view you have about the situation: go for an indepth analysis!

Veilophobia, veilophilia: the great debate about the Muslim veil

                                                                  

This was the title of Souad Halila’s presentation at the International Diversity Conference in Belfast 2010 where I was a speaker as well about a very different subject: diversity in economical perspective. The debate about the veil is fierce and emotional, also in Tunisia.
Halila showed us that our knowledge about veils starts in Assyria in the 7th century BC. Veils were used by Greeks, Romans, Jews, Christians, Muslims and Hindus and became only a discussion item in the 20th century years ’30, ’40 and ’50 when new leaders in Persia and Turkey declared the veil to be retarded; they promoted a western lifestyle. This is how the veil became a symbol for Muslim identity.
Nowadays, Muslims – also Muslim women – take the debate about the veil in their own hands, the discussion about the veil being retarded is retarded itself. In many places, also in The Netherlands, this debate is dominated by white men – joined by just a few women – telling that they want to liberate women. They like to decide for the women what liberation consists of, they have one concept, one vision and we have to adopt it all. Today they propose to forbid that women, wearing a veil, work in public organisations because the presence of veils would harm the separation between state and religion. As if our public organisations would be more neutral with only white men and Muslim men working there…
Souad Halila asks us to choose between unity in diversity (the concept of the Ummah) or diversity in diversity (room for many different visions). She promotes the second choice and so do I.

The surprise of Arab spring

Today the Dutch newspaper NRC Handelsblad (p.11) publishes an article written by professor of policy science John Grin and myself about the apparent ‘surprise’ of the Arab spring – or in terms of English Al-Jazeera: a region in turmoil. For those who speak Dutch, find it at http://www.seba.nl/publicaties.html

In 2006 an official scientific government advisory board published a report about the dynamics in islamic activism. It was a 3 year study, very well documented, 234 pages, showing how new islamic thinkers and movements were connecting with democracy and human rights. However, in just 1 day most politicians had given strong, condemning reactions, calling the advisory board naive and the report ‘nonsense’. The report was so unwelcome that the board was threatened with reorganisation and even abolishment. There was no discussion about the content, about islam and the development of Dutch foreign policies in the light of new democratic movements in muslim countries, the fear of fundamentalist islam being predominant. John Grin and I published our ideas about this taboo already in 2006 in NRC Handelsblad.
Fear is a bad adviser, also in the debate about islam, human rights and democracy. Now in 2011, we face a lack of insight in what is really happening in Arabic countries and what that means for Dutch foreign policies… as if the turmoil couldn’t have been predicted. Politicians are ‘surprised’ by the events and stay silent. Or is that because they are busy reading the 2006 report after all?