Categories
Health Culture Politics

Could Iran Be the Next Country to Legalise Cannabis and Opium?

Marihuana Grafitti. Image: Benzene Aseel/Flickr

This article was originally published by The Conversation on 22 October, 2015.

After Uruguay courageously legalised the use of cannabis under a new drug policy, could Iran be the next country to make it legal? From the outside, the image of Iran as retrograde and inherently conservative hardly fits with the reality of a more dynamic domestic political debate within. But drug policy is one of the areas of debate in which the Islamic Republic has produced some interesting, yet paradoxical, policies.

Iran has a conspicuous drug addiction problem – which officially accounts for more than 2m addicts (though unofficial figures put this as high as 5-6m). Drug traffickers risk harsh punishments that include the death penalty. Yet Iran also has very progressive policies towards drug addiction, which include distribution of clean needles to injecting drug users, methadone substitution programmes (also in prisons) and a vast system of addiction treatment.

Categories
Technology Economy

Can India Make it Without Manufacturing?

Electric fan factory in India. Image: Jorge Royan/Wikimedia

This article was originally published by the East Asia Forum on 26 October, 2015.

There’s one school of thought in Indian academic and policy circles that India represents a completely new model of development on the way to prosperity. India, it’s claimed, will be a services-led growth model, built on the spectacular international success of its IT hub in Bangalore, and its supply of English-literate back office services to the world.

This way of thinking eschews the experiences of Japan, South Korea, Taiwan and indeed China in East Asia that saw prosperity built on investment in competitive manufacturing and skills, and eventually a world-class manufacturing base. No need to try to emulate the Japanese or South Korean industrial powerhouses or Global Factory China in this model: skip all that and go straight to the top of the ladder.

Categories
Humanitarian Issues Conflict Terrorism

‘Ungoverned Space’: the Concept that Puts Humanitarian Aid in the Firing Line of the War on Terror

Syrian Hospital. Source: Syrian Hospital, courtesy of Freedom House

This article was originally published by The Conversation on 16 October, 2015.

The hospital bombed by US troops in Kunduz, Afghanistan, treated trauma patients, no matter whether they were civilians or Taliban fighters. The bombing happened as Afghan and US forces fought to drive Taliban out of the city the latter had captured just days before.

If the targeting of the hospital, which killed at least 22 people, had been an accident, it would leave no doubt about the return of war to the urban centres of Afghanistan. But knowledge of the hospital’s GPS coordinates by the US and Afghan armies and the precision of the attack suggest otherwise.

Both Afghan and US officials at one point in the aftermath suggested that they were targeting Taliban fighters on the hospital’s grounds, something that Médecins Sans Frontières‎, which runs the hospital, denies was the case. If the attack was in fact intentional, how can we make sense of such a breach of the Geneva conventions that forbid attacking humanitarian structures?

Categories
Foreign policy Defense Politics

How Abe is Losing the Narrative on Japan’s New Security Laws

The Prime Minster of Japan, Shinzo Abe. Image: vrchase/Flickr

This article was originally published by the East Asia Forum on 9 October, 2015.

Japan’s new security laws, which were passed on 19 September and allow for limited forms of collective self-defence, have been described as a ‘move away from pacifism’, the opening of a ‘Pandora’s box’ and the ‘unsheathing of a new Japanese sword’. But considering the bill’s extreme limitations and significant domestic constraints — including a greying and shrinking population, mounting domestic debt and deeply embedded pacifist norms — one wonders how and why this narrative has taken root so deeply.

Categories
Government Religion Politics

The Rise of Diyanet: the Politicization of Turkey’s Directorate of Religious Affairs

Official logo of Diyanet, the Turkish Directorate for Religious Affairs. Image: Mark Morgan/Flickr

This article was originally published in the Turkey Analyst, a publication of the Central Asia-Caucasus Institute and Silk Road Studies Program Center on 9 October, 2015.

BACKGROUND: Whether in Ottoman times or in the Republican era, the Turkish state has made control of religious affairs a priority. In Ottoman times, this function was fulfilled by the Ulema under the leadership of the Sheikh ul-Islam, himself appointed by the Sultan. Following the creation of the Republic, the Diyanet Işleri Başkanlığı, or Directorate for Religious Affairs, fulfilled this role. Diyanet was created in order to maintain control over the religious sphere of Islam. All imams in every mosque across Turkey were appointed by Diyanet, which wrote their Friday sermons. Diyanet was a key institution of the Republic: it helped legitimize the modernization and westernization of Turkey from a religious perspective, and prevented the mosque from becoming a central focus point for reactionary activity. In this, it largely succeeded; and it is no coincidence that it is considered among the three key institutions of the republican era, together with the Army and the Ministry of Education.