Beyond the Borders…. Evolution of the New Eastern Politics (by Yeghig Tashjian)

3 Nov

Beyond the Borders….

Evolution of the New Eastern Politics

 

In this article I want to discuss about the “New Eastern Politics” Facebook group and blog and will divide the article into three sections. In the first section I will explain about the evolution of this group, why and how it was founded, what were the reasons that lead to its foundation and what purpose does it serves now. Furthermore, I will illustrate the goal of the blog and how it motivates students to publish their articles and academic writings in it. In the second section, I will talk about the networking and communication, how we communicate and build network with members around the globe, what are the topics being discussed in the group and how the socio-political discussions are made. Finally in the third section I will explain how this group expanded the “Armenian Cause”, and build bridges between Armenians and non-Armenians, and how the fact of the Armenian Genocide is being introduced. Finally I will talk about my future goals and strategies to expand the group.

At Haigazian University during the presentation of the NEP group, during conference,Armenian Trans-nationalim, organized  by the Armenian Diaspora Center.

At Haigazian University during the presentation of the NEP group, during conference,Armenian Trans-nationalim, organized by the Armenian Diaspora Center.

The New Eastern Politics (NEP) Facebook group was founded in September 2010. In the early stage, the group was much more as personal initiative, where I would chose a topic on weekly basis and post analytic articles or news related to the subject. During this period one of the hottest debatable topic was the Armenian-Turkish protocol, and I was interested about the opinions of Turkish intellectuals, youth and students about this issue. Therefore, in this period (2010-2011 middle) the main topics that were discussed in the group were related to the Armenian Genocide, Arm-Turko protocols, border issue, and future of Nagorno-Karabakh. The group had about 700 members (70% Armenians and the remaining were Turks, Kurds and Assyrians). After this, I was introduced to Baloch intellectuals and political activists, thus I introduced the members to the Baloch liberation struggle against the Pakistani and Iranian regimes. Thus a Baloch member was appointed as administrator and about 150 Baloch members joined the group. Besides this, new members were added to the group, mostly Palestinians, Armenians (from Armenia), Syriacs/Assyrians, and few Lebanese. As the “Arab Spring” broke out, I took the initiative to invite activists, bloggers, journalists, intellectuals, politicians, students, professors from different Arab and Middle Eastern states, thus big number of Arabs, Jews, Kurds, Turks were joined the group, each having his/her own political belief (Socialists, Liberals, Conservatives, Anarchists, Nationalists…). Thus the group changed from single cultural face (mostly Armenian) to a multicultural one, and in June 2012, an election was organized for administrators, about 5 administrators were elected to organize the group and lead discussions. Already nowadays the group has more than 2000 members and has 7 administrators. The administrators, are elected once in a year (except the founder), in a majoritarian electoral system, sometimes second round elections are organized too, administrators belong to different ethnic and sectarian group, but they abide by the rules of the group and ensure other members are doing the same. Initially, the basic goal of the group was to discuss the problems of the Armenian-Turkish protocols and examine its consequences, but now its main aim is to build a network between Middle Eastern, North African and Caucasian members. To this day the NEP is the only Social Network group that brings these three regions together, where members “freely” discuss social, political, religious, cultural and economic issues that sometimes can’t be even discussed publicly. The group also brings together people and helps them to build friendly relations; it has been cases that members have visited to each other.

The communication and the networking process in the group are done on Facebook by commenting on posts and messaging when inviting new people to join the group. Through the messages/invitations we explain them the aim of the group and brief rules (such as; no insults, racism…). Furthermore, in order to increase the number of the members in the group we advertise our group in other Facebook groups. In order to activate the group sometimes we organize polls and statistics on different subject, one of the polls were related about the “homosexual marriage”, about 60% of the participants voted in favor, 30% against and 10% neutral, the topic received about 300 comments. It has been cases that more than 600 comments were made regarding a political discussion-debate about Syrian crisis. As the “Arab Spring” broke out, many bloggers and journalists started to join and post their articles and turn on discussions. As a result the average of comments increased from around 10-50 in 2011, till around 145-210/day in 2013.

We also encourage members to post news and stories related to their cultures and religious traditions, this will help them to integrate more with each other and show respect towards other cultures. For example; during holidays Christians, Muslims and Jews congratulate each other and explain to the members the importance of their holidays and how and why it is celebrated. Within the group we discuss many topics such as: Armenian cause, Arab-Israeli conflict, Political Islam, minority rights, Turkish domestic and foreign relations, Iranian nuclear program, Arab uprisings…For sure strong ideological debates and disagreements turn around these topics but on some subjects the majority of the members agree on many common points such as recognition of the Armenian Genocide and establishment of a Palestinian state within 1967 borders. In many occasions the group members had sent letters to UN, Armenian foreign ministry and international agencies in support of establishing an independent Palestinian state, and the recognition of the Armenian Genocide to the Turkish intellectuals, and a letter sent to the Palestinians in solidarity with the Gaza’s people against the Israeli military aggression. As a result we have received feedback and built relations with many human rights NGOs around the world. Furthermore some of our articles related to women rights were shared by many blogs and pages such as the “Uprising of Arab Women”. My latest article “Arab women and the walls of Injustice” was shared by around 300 people on Facebook and Twitter and republished in 3 blogs.

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The Armenian members in the group try to introduce their cause to the non-Armenians, such as drawing similarities between the Nagorno Karabakh liberation movement and that of Palestinian and Baloch liberation movements. We also analyze the common points between the Armenian and Assyrian Genocides, and the Jewish Holocaust. We compare the Pan-Turkism to Nazism and how they both used genocidal methods to exterminate the minorities, all these are done by posting historical archives and documents. Here it is important to mention that there are Turkish and Kurdish members who recognize the Armenian Genocide, Turks such as Mustafa Arslan and Sait Cetinoglu who even participate in April 24 commemoration in Istanbul. During the April 24 week, many discussions would take place based on UN Genocide convention and Ottoman archives and pictures would be posted related to the Armenian and Assyrian Genocide. Thus explaining to the non-Armenian members the history of the Genocide and the demands of compensation based on international law.

The number of the members and their activities in the group are in increase and in order to strengthen our network of communication, some members write articles and researches in the blog so that non-members read our opinions regarding regional problems. It is also important to mention that many Armenian members for the first time contacted with Turks and realized that not all Turk deny the Armenian Genocide. The group was also helpful to the Arabs whom started to raise their concerns and started to discuss their domestic problems with others by respecting their diverse opinions. The group also started to support Human Rights activities in the region and encouraged activists to work towards this path. Many group members are activists and participated in protests in Turkey, Egypt, Syria, and Armenia…and were useful to post the protest updates in the group. Furthermore, the group encourages Armenian-Turkish, Arab-Jewish and inter-Arab dialogue .Thus as new activists and journalists are joining the group, on a long run we are trying our best to turn the blog into a “Think tank/Research Center” and organize conferences related different regional topics.

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