MasterwebNews 14/11/15 - Ruminations on a Peace Plan: Initiating Dialogues with ISIL

[ Masterweb Reports: Interview by R Tadros, Belques Addisu and  Zainab Amin  ] - At a speedily arranged informal meeting in Addis Ababa we met Dr KusumGopal an anthropologist and an UN Expert who agreed to discuss with us at short notice the background of the horrific wars that are happening in west Asia, ISIS and the Refugees fleeing to Europe. We doubted peace is possible in the Middle-East. Dr Gopal strongly disagreed stating that the wisdom of the ages would prevail no matter how terrifying the present, the sorrows of people, ultimately humanitarian justice would triumph. The views expressed by Dr Gopal are entirely her own. Some excerpts:


Question: Dr Gopal, you contend humanitarianism will triumph. We ask when and how? As citizens of the countries of the MENA region working in the media and civil society, we are deeply disturbed by these events. There is widespread anger and very little understanding. Can you explain what needs to be done, in steps?


Answer: Yes knowledge needs to be shared and disseminated. Sadly, academics have been remiss, indeed to have relinquished their responsibilities in translating and making available the remarkable scholarship that has and is being produced over the last decade in particular with the opening of the Ottoman archives. Inevitably they are hampered— addendum--  governments and policy makers must be prepared  to listen to them, to learn, to re-evaluate  the outdated preconceived erroneous, belief systems also, the need to engage in these joint conversations--it is of moral and ethical urgency.


Each of us today is a witness to the enormities of human suffering, desolation, indeed, the worst forms of human depravities, borne out of a deep rage that has descended into madness. People in these regions understand much more than we realise, it is the governments and policy makers who need to acknowledge why as a matter of urgency! Indisputably, what is happening today is an outcome of the administrative and legal measures imposed by colonial regimes such as the Black Letter Laws, uninformed partitioning of territories, of separating peoples with shared emotions, histories, cultures, demeanours and natural resources—the root cause of all conflicts in the Indian Subcontinent, in the vast landscapes of Africa, Southeast Asia, Central Asia, eastern Europe as indeed, the MENA region. All this is made more hazardous by the abuse of weaponry of the worst kinds: nerve gas, Agent Orange, nuclear arsenal, other kinds of chemical warfare, cluster bombs, mines and so forth-- impossible to measure appalling aftermaths in human experience. No matter what we cannot switch on the air conditioner and wish it away: it affects all of us in the worst possible way as we live with suspicion, fear, with uncertainty with growth of intolerance and militarism. Nothing can be resolved unless root and branch understandings of human situations are brought to light through serious local and regional evaluations that inform international interventions.


There can no longer be recourse to solutions that offer immediate gratification – not only will it prolong the genocides but strengthen ISIL. Long term solutions to the current crisis lie in acknowledging the pre-colonial Ottoman governance of these regions. We need to initiate a series of dialogues with ISIL and include its supporters – no matter how distasteful the prospect. They must stop butchering and killing people, indeed, using rape as a weapon of warfare -m- of women, girls and men, whilst plundering and destroying ancient sites.  Agreements needs to be reached and safety of the inhabitants ensured as  well as safety for the citizens of the world be they Shi’ii , Sunni  or other forms of Islam, of Christianity, of Judaism and other ancient religious traditions such as Hinduism and so forth.


Question: You say we must negotiate with ISIS. How do we go about that?


Answer: Socrates argued that the invisible world is the most intelligible and that the visible world is the  least knowable, and the most obscure." That is to say what we see happening has many layers – and we need to look beyond the five senses, beyond the material understandings. We live in interconnected worlds—all of us. And, that is why we must begin communicating as the bombing however advanced and powerful will not weaken ISIL or Daesh as they call themselves they will gain a greater following- the ideal of a Caliphate is extremely appealing– and secret cells will mushroom further -- that will have immeasurable repercussions. How much can police or intelligence do? In these days of Face book and What’s App etc—they recruit with impunity snaring young minds by the incorrect interpretations of Islamiyuun although nothing they say or do bears any resemblance to Islam which advocates compassion first and foremost—the sentiments expressed in the Azaan and in teachings of the Holy Qu’ran is testimony to be kind, to go in peace and to do good, regardless.


ISIS or ISIL comprise of  human beings and it is doubtful it commands a unity as a national army does—it is an umbrella network there are many trigger happy soldiers of faith--– led by Saddam Hussein’s army who punish with brutality. We can discuss this later. For a solution the Powers- That- Be- NATO and its allies must be prepared to heed Expert scholarship and there are many based in the USA, UK and other European countries. Many policy structures and government Departments for example Whitehall, the Pentagon, the Kremlin have fixed frameworks operating on inherited governance of yore—with received wisdom that defines the logic of prejudices and entrenched interests: to implement outside these parameters is not acceptable. This is where the real challenge lies—for NATO and its allies, before we can establish some platform for a dialogue – rather than just the military solutions.


To start, Euro-America and Russia need to formally recognise that relentless bombing of these regions by the most advanced weaponry will not eradicate the strength of ISIL or Daesh as they call themselves. Lessons from the past -- Did the 11 million tonnes of agent Orange stop the Vietnamese from winning the war? Did bombing of Afghanistan end the power of Taliban? Al Qaeda still remains powerful in the shadows as also many other groups such as the Haqqanis.  The persistent bombing only fuels deeper anger and hate for western nations.


Governments need to not just commission Experts and most certainly Religious leaders but also incorporate them in these dialogues, allow them to lead the way. For example, .Ulema to initiate dialogues, leaders that Mr. Abu Bakr Baghdadi will be prepared to grant a hearing.  It can be done through for example; Skype or projections --I am not advocating Gandhian principles but rather Ottoman wisdom which people belongiong to this region can accept and  emotionally relate with. Also, simultaneously, the specific histories and cultures of the regions

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