The International Panel on Exiting Violence (IPEV) has organized with Carnegie Corporation of New York and Carnegie Endowment for International Peace two roundtables in New York and Washington D.C mid-November. The roundtables were hosted by William O’Neill, a member of the IPEV International Advisory Board, director of the « Conflict prevention and peace forum », Social Science Research Council, New York, and by Michele Dunne, senior fellow and director of the Middle East Program at Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.
Nadje al-Ali (Professor of Gender Studies at the Centre for Gender Studies, SOAS, University of London), Mohamed-Ali Adraoui (Senior Fellow at Georgetown University) and Farhad Khosrokhavar (Senior researcher at the Ecole des Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales) presented the major findings of their IPEV Working Groups (based on the first version of the chapter they produced for the report that will be released in June 2018, currently being read by the International Advisory Board) and few recommendations for exiting violence.
Nadje Al-Ali, from the Working Group « Women and violence, with a gendered approach: MENA region and diaspora »
- Violence against women is not just a footnote to understand violence as a whole.
Violence against women is a key strategy and is at the center of sectarian violence.
- There is a link between increased militarisation of society and the increase of gender-based violence.
- A gender perspective on violence points to a continuum of violence
Theoretically, we need to look at violence in a gendered perspective as a continuum of violence for several reasons. First, there is a link between what is happening on the battlefield and the violence happening at home. There is also a link between violence before, during and after conflict. Thus, peace for women does not necesarily mean the end of armed conflict because women will experience violence before, during and after the conflict. That is why post-conflict is not a term that is relevant here and should not be used in this context.
- Looking at regional, national and local factors
In terms of theorizing, we are often falling into the trap of either saying women are victims of violence because of their culture or religion, instead of looking at the changes of political economies, and the role of the state. Moreover, explaining everything away by virtue of colonialism and imperialism is not relevant either. Instead, we need to look at regional, local and national factors. What is more, in many countries, such as in Iraq, Ipoliticians, militants, tribe leaders, religious authorities, families, have all been complicit if not active agents in gender-based violence. This is in addition to the complicity and the turning a blind eye of the occupation. Last but not least we need to look at the Middle East transnationally on these issues, because of migration and political mobilization as well as cultural links.
Strategies for exiting violence
- The politics of gender (contestations about gender norms) can be used as a litmus test.
- Discussions of any form of violence should not be gender blind.
- Exiting violence must include people working on the issues of gender-based equality and justice
- Involving women in decision-making processes.
Exiting Violence must include women. But Nadje Al-Ali warned against quotas that are counter-productive. For example, in Iraq it is often relatives of conservative male politicians who benefit from the quotas and they convey regressive ideas around women.
On the contrary, as an example of a genuine transforming of society in that respect, Nadje Al-Ali mentioned the case of Kurdish regions in Turkey and Syria where there is a rule that any kind of leadership position has to include a man and a women, going alongside a wider commitment to transforming gender norms and relations.
- We should not fetishize nor glorify women fighters as it seems to be happening with Kurdish women fighting Daesh. However, Prof Al-Ali acknowledged that in certain situations armed resistance and struggle might be the only way to prevent more atrocious violence. Women fighters do not just want to fight, they feel this is the only way that they can prevent ISIS from taking over and engaging in atrocities.
- Using carefully foreign policies and discourses that can be also counter-productive.
Prof Al-Ali stressed the importance of foreign policies and discourses. For example, discourses making a clear difference between « their » women and « our » women, the fact of measuring civilisation in terms of what women wear, actually created a backlash against women rights. We have to be very careful in the way that we approach this matter.
Farhad Khosrokhavar, from the Working Group « Radicalisation, a comparative perspective »
- Almost every country has its specificities in the violence displayed.
French jihadists have some similarities with European ones but there are also major differences. We need to understand these important differences through their country of origin. In many countries people of Morrocan origins switching to violence are over represented while people of Turkish origins are underrepresented and we need to understand the reason. There is a kind of snowball effect amongst those young people.
- The community is also another factor to look at.
Some communities are cohesive, helping at each other, but some other do not share these characteristics.
- The question of generation is as much important.
In France a one would say that the second generation is the most dangerous, while this is not the case in Norway or Germany.
- The urban setting is of paramount significance.
Poverty, school drop-out, high rate of unemployment are factors impacting the subjectivity, and fostering the feeling « to be nobody ». There is thus a social dimension in Europe in terms of radicalization. But a minority of young middle class people are also part of the Jihadists.
- We need an anthropological, sociological and psychological point of view as statistics can be misleading.
Depending on the way one looks at radicalization and at statistics, the results are different. To understand these statistical data and give meaning to them, we need an anthropological, sociological and psychological point of view.
- Geopolitics has a role in the process of radicalisation.
The geopolitical situation has also an impact in motivating the potential jihadists. For example, in the United States the Arab diaspora felt an injustice towards Palestinians.
- Jihadisation is autonomous to salafism.
Salafism does not systematically lead to Jihadism, but it depends on the islamisation processes in countries. For example, in France there is a discontinuity between these two phenomenon but in United Kingdom there is rather a continuity.
- False dichotomies have to be rejected.
For example, empirical works show that the two opposite theories of « Islamisation of radicality » and « Radicalisation of Islam » are not accurate, as in France islamisation of radicality may occur more often, while it is not the case in Norway or in Canada. In many countries the two occur successively or jointly.
Mohamed-Ali Adraoui, from the Working Group « Between Salafism, sectarianism and violence: the new faces of radicalization »
- We need to understand the subjectivity of the actors.
What are their narratives and why do they believe in them?
- Salafists have discrepancies when it comes to the methodology.
Some of them create political parties, others avoid being political involved, some go for violence and establish a transnational politicized movement…
- Most of them do not have a religious background.
One does not need to have a strong religious background to become radicalized.
- There is a jihadisation of conflicts.
Jihadists use violence as counter-violence. So there is no jihadist struggle at the very beginning but a jihadisation of struggles. For example, Syria is a cas d’ecole as Religion is a matter but not prominent.
- At a macro level there are porosities between Salafism and Jihadism.
The biggest similarity between them in every country is that they have the feeling that their religion is under threat.
Recommendations for exiting violence:
- Listening to Muslim voices.
The group recommends to listen to Muslim voices when they express their grievances in a strategy of deescalation of the conflict.
- Using a discourse fostering a deescalation of the violent conflict.
Accurate discourses are important ; for example, the pattern « us » versus « them » is inadecuate. The key would be to give a polititical legetimacy to political grievances.