Back to Common Ground Archive

Week of March 30, 2004

Program 0413


WMD Failure | Transcript | MP3

Pakistan Shares Nukes | Transcript | MP3

UN Reform Series: Peacekeeping | Transcript | MP3

Lenin Stays Put | Transcript | MP3

Iran Parliamentary Women | Transcript | MP3

Irshad Manji | Transcript | MP3

Turkish Democracy | Transcript | MP3

This text has been professionally transcribed. However, for timely distribution, it has not been edited or proofread against the tape.

JOSEPH CIRINCIONE: Just because we fear that something terrible might occur is no reason to believe that it is in fact likely to occur, particularly when it involves such important matters as war and peace.

GARY SCHMITT: I don’t think the world has to worry about the US sort of rampaging around, sort of looking for shadows and acting on shadows.

KEITH PORTER: This week on Common Ground, the debate over America’s preemptive military doctrine.

KRISTIN MCHUGH: Plus, Pakistan shares its nuclear weapons.

FRANK GAFFNEY: Pakistan has made it very clear for some time that it considered its bomb to be an Islamic bomb.

MCHUGH: And, the United Nations discusses peacekeeping reforms.

SWEDISH UN AMBASADOR PIERRE SCHORI: Keeping the peace, you can do it by force for a while. But you will never get ride of the underlying causes of the conflict.

PORTER: These stories—coming up next.

Top of Page

WMD Failure

Listen to This Segment: MP3

MCHUGH: Common Ground is radio’s weekly program on world affairs. I’m Kristin McHugh.

PORTER: And I’m Keith Porter. The Bush administration’s interpretation of the doctrine of preemptive military action—hitting someone before they hit you—is under pressure in light of all the controversy about the justification for the Iraq war. The right to strike first in the face of an imminent threat, such as an invasion, is a long-recognized principle. But under President Bush the concept has been updated to reflect post-9/11 dangers. Critics argue the Iraq experience proves the revised doctrine is flawed. But supporters continue to defend preemption as vital when confronting terrorists and so-called rogue states. Malcolm Brown takes a look at the future of the concept in light of the Iraq experience.

MALCOLM BROWN: Critics say the Iraq war and the subsequent failure to find any of the actual weapons of mass destruction used as its primary justification have totally undermined the Bush administration’s doctrine of preemption. Daryl Kimball is the Executive Director of the Arms Control Association.

DARYL KIMBALL: It is I think all but impossible to pursue a policy of preemptive military action in other places around the world, because we simply do not know enough to know where the weapons are, or whether the weapons are there, in order to strike them.

BROWN: But supporters of preemptive military action, say the fundamentals remain sound. They include Richard Perle, an influential thinker among those often called neoconservatives, who spoke during a book event at the American Enterprise Institute, where he’s a Resident Fellow.

RICHARD PERLE: The lesson of 9/11 was you can wait too long. We saw Osama bin Laden in Afghanistan. We saw the camps. We knew that they were preparing acts of terror against us, but we chose not to act.

BROWN: One year after the 9/11 attacks, the Bush administration published a new National Security Strategy, which called for action against emerging threats before they are fully formed. It contained ideas already set out in a 2002 graduation speech, delivered by President Bush at the US Military Academy at West Point.

US PRESIDENT GEORGE W. BUSH: If we wait for threats to fully materialize, we will have waited too long. [applause]

BROWN: The full strategy, published later that year, said that international law had long recognized a nation’s right to strike first, if faced with clear evidence that an attack was imminent. The strategy document goes on to argue that the concept of imminent threat must be adapted, to address the danger posed by rogue states and terrorists, armed with weapons of mass destruction. The thinking is that old indicators of an impending attack—like the massing of armies—no longer apply. In his West Point speech, President Bush also argued that the US could no longer rely on the Cold War concepts of deterrence and containment.

US PRESIDENT GEORGE W. BUSH: Deterrence—the promise of massive retaliation against nations—means nothing against shadowy terrorist networks with no nation or citizens to defend. Containment is not possible when unbalanced dictators with weapons of mass destruction can deliver those weapons on missiles or secretly provide them to terrorist allies.

BROWN: However, some experts argue that what the Bush administration is now pursuing is not preemption in the traditional sense. Take the Iraq conflict. Professor Anthony Arend at Georgetown University is an expert on international law as it relates to the use of force. He says that the Iraq invasion looks more like a case of preventive—not preemptive—war.

PROFESSOR ANTHONY AREND: As a general rule, under preemption, there’s some clearly well established sense of imminence. It’s going to happen, it’s just a matter of when and when will be fairly soon. When you talk about preventive war, what we’re really talking about is using force, using military force against a state that at some point in time might be a threat.

BROWN: The distinction matters because a preventive use of force has no sanction under international law. In fact, Article 51 of the United Nations charter talks about the right of self-defense only after an attack has occurred. Whatever you call it, the message from President Bush is that the war on terror will not be won on the defensive. His reasoning is based on a worst-case analysis of future threats, as outlined during a pre-war speech on Iraq delivered in Cincinnati, Ohio.

US PRESIDENT GEORGE W. BUSH: Understanding the threats of our time, knowing the designs and deceptions of the Iraqi regime, we have every reason to assume the worst, and we have an urgent duty to prevent the worst from occurring.

BROWN: That analysis is being challenged by some arms control experts in light of what is now known about Iraq’s weapons capabilities prior to the invasion. A post-war report by the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace accepts that planning for the worst is vital. But it argues that acting on those assumptions could end up making matters worse. Co-author Joseph Cirincione spoke at the report’s launch.

JOSEPH CIRINCIONE: Just because we fear that something terrible might occur is no reason to believe that it is in fact likely to occur, particularly when it involves such important matters as war and peace.

BROWN: Opponents of the Bush administration’s brand of preemption, also point to the failings of the pre-war evidence gathered against Iraq. How can you back military action when you can’t rely on the intelligence, they ask. In a speech defending the CIA from all the criticism it’s faced, the Director of Central Intelligence, George Tenet, highlighted the inherent limitations of the job.

DIRECTOR OF CENTRAL INTELLIGENCE GEORGE TENET: In the intelligence business, you are almost never completely wrong or completely right.

BROWN: But the Carnegie Endowment’s president, Jessica Mathews, says you need to be right, if, as with Iraq, the intelligence is central to the case for war.

CARNEGIE ENDOWMENT’S PRESIDENT JESSICA MATHEWS: In this case, the world’s three best intelligence agencies—the United States, Great Britain and Israel—were unable to provide that level of certainty.

BROWN: Jessica Mathews calls for the US to abandon its doctrine of preemption. What worries critics of the Bush administration is that the National Security Strategy seeks to change the concept of an imminent threat without providing a clear, new definition. The fear is that the US will use the doctrine to justify unilateral military action around the world. Professor Anthony Arend at Georgetown University argues it would be better for the US to address terrorist threats through the United Nations.

PROFESSOR AREND: As we start to relax that particular concept of imminence, then we get into a grey area which becomes very, very scary when one state decides to take those actions. And that’s why I think going to a multilateral body makes a lot more sense.

BROWN: Supporters of preemption advise the critics to look at how the US is approaching other international problems. Gary Schmitt, the Executive Director of the Project for the New American Century, points to North Korea, Iran, and Libya as cases where concerns about weapons of mass destruction are being addressed peacefully.

GARY SCHMITT: I don’t think the world has to worry about the US rampaging around, you know, sort of looking for shadows and you know, acting on shadows. It’s more likely, if you look at the, what’s going on in the world today that they’re actually being reserved in the use of military power and secondarily using other means to try and address these same problems.

BROWN: And in an article in Foreign Affairs magazine earlier this year, the US Secretary of State accused the critics of exaggeration. Colin Powell rejects claims that preemption is central to US strategy. He argues that it’s not so much the policy that’s new; it’s the fact that it has now been stated so explicitly. For Common Ground, I’m Malcolm Brown in Washington.

Top of Page

Pakistan Shares Nukes

Listen to This Segment: MP3

MCHUGH: Libya; Iran; North Korea. These countries came very close to joining the nuclear club. And in North Korea’s case; the jury is still out on whether the secretive nation has actually built an atomic bomb. And how did Tripoli, Tehran and Pyongyang do it? All roads lead back to Islamabad and a man nicknamed “the father of Pakistan’s bomb.” Priscilla Huff has the story.

[The James Bond movie theme song]

PRISCILLA HUFF: Just call him Khan. Abdul Qadeer Khan. He’s not a villain from a James Bond adventure film, but he could be. Abdul Qadeer Khan is the scientist at the heart of Pakistan’s role in the proliferation of nuclear weapons.

DAVID KAY: Essentially A. Q. Khan had been running a Sam’s Club for nuclear weapons.

HUFF: Weapons inspector David Kay summed up what many feared had developed. Dr. A.Q. Khan, having stolen the essential components necessary for Pakistan’s bomb, turned around and put them on the market—a black market in nuclear technology.

KAY: I can think of any—no one who deserves less to be pardoned than A.Q. Khan.

HUFF: And yet that’s exactly what happened.

[The sound of Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf speaking, recommending a pardon for Dr. Khan]

HUFF: Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf pardoned his national hero, Dr. A. Q Khan, after Dr. Khan appeared on Pakistani national television, reading a stilted letter of contrition.

ABDUL QADEER KHAN: [reading his confession] My dear brothers and sisters, I have chosen to appear before you to offer my deepest regrets and unqualified apologies.

HUFF: Dr. Khan was forced to apologize after the evidence against him became impossible to ignore. First, in November 2003, the International Atomic Energy Agency discovered a trace of a precise type of uranium in machinery in Iran—enriched uranium which could only be produced with Pakistani technology. French Foreign Minister Dominique de Villepin was part of the international group that convinced Tehran to cooperate and open their nuclear program to inspections.

FRENCH FOREIGN MINISTER DOMINIQUE DE VILLEPIN: This is we hope a promising start in which everyone has to play its part.

HUFF: Then on December 19, 2003, Libyan leader Moamar Qaddafi suddenly flung open his doors, allowing international weapons inspectors to investigate and remove equipment tied to his nation’s pursuit of nuclear weapons. He’d been presented with incontrovertible proof Libya was buying Pakistani technology.

[The sound of a heavy crane unloading containers from a ship]

HUFF: Just weeks earlier, a German-owned container ship, the BBC-China, had been boarded and its cargo seized—the load marked “used machinery” was actually newly forged components for high-tech centrifuges made from a complex steel alloy. CIA Director George Tenet considers the operation a success of American intelligence.

DIRECTOR OF CENTRAL INTELLIGENCE GEORGE TENET: Working with our British colleagues we pieced together the picture of the network, revealing its subsidiaries, its scientists, its front companies, its agents, its finances, and manufacturing plants on three continents. Our spies penetrated the network through a series of daring operations over several years. Through this unrelenting effort, we confirmed the network was delivering such things as illicit uranium enrichment centrifuges. And, as you heard me say on the Libya case, we stopped deliveries of prohibited materials.

HUFF: The design was Pakistani, the sales man a Sri Lankan born in India, the parts were made in Malaysia, the trans-shipment port was Dubai, and the destination was Libya. Weapons inspector David Kay.

KAY: The knowledge that some of the centrifuge parts were produced in a special factory in Malaysia and then shipped to Libya is absolutely startling. This idea that you outsource production.

HUFF: This black market production has its roots in a decades-long conflict. Some 30 years ago, in 1974, India—Pakistan’s long-time sworn enemy—tested its first atomic bomb. That Delhi now had the ultimate weapon rattled Islamabad to the core. Then Prime Minister Zulfiqar ali Bhutto promised, his people would eat grass or leaves, if that’s what it took to get a bomb.

[The rumbling sound of an exploding nuclear weapon]

HUFF: Dr. A.Q. Khan was a metallurgist—a specialist in refining uranium, working at a European consortium, Urenco. In 1976, he fled back to his home in Pakistan, having stolen the designs to the centrifuges which spin at high velocity to concentrate uranium into the rare U-235 isotope used for fuel in nuclear weapons. Weapons expert David Albright says this is the root of the culture which lead to proliferation years later.

DAVID ALBRIGHT: Pakistan essentially ran around the world breaking everyone’s laws to acquire the wherewithal to make nuclear weapons. They created a set of people who are, seem to be willing to do that, in essence to pass it along to others illegally or against international norms to make money.

HUFF: That’s one theory why Dr. A.Q. Khan became the lynchpin in the proliferation of nuclear technology. As the key middle man, he became very rich in the process, while allegedly only earning a government salary of $2,000 a month. Another is that he wanted to crack the secret that the West had and he wanted to share that secret with the Muslim world. Frank Gaffney heads the Center for Security Policy.

FRANK GAFFNEY: Pakistan has made it very clear for some time that it considered its bomb to be an Islamic bomb.

HUFF: While Dr. Khan was able to steal much of what he needed to bring Pakistan into the nuclear club, he didn’t have everything. Frank Gaffney

GAFFNEY: What Pakistan was able to do was basically bring Arab money—petrodollars—into the equation and pay for the technology that it aspired to get from its sponsors. China, being in the Cold War time frame, certainly a more likely direct source than the Soviet Union, but after the Soviet Union collapsed, I’m sure it was getting help from that quarter as well.

HUFF: Pakistan succeeded in testing its first atomic weapon in 1998 and Dr. Abdul Qadeer Khan was celebrated as the father of Pakistan’s nuclear bomb, revered as a national hero. In 1999, Pervez Musharraf, head of the Pakistan’s army, became president in a bloodless coup. In 2000, he set up a national command authority to better control Pakistan’s growing nuclear arsenal. In March 2001, a growing pile of evidence pointing to Dr. Khan’s activities as a proliferator, forced President Musharraf to under employ him—that is, ceremonially promote Dr. Khan, instead of outright firing him. David Albright

ALBRIGHT: The Pakistani government decided both to save face and to watch A.Q. Khan, kept him under government employment. They gave him a kind of symbolic promotion, but the way one senior Pakistani official put it to me personally, when, soon after this happened was, you know, “Would you rather we kept him on our payroll or just turn him loose?”

HUFF: Today, Dr. Khan has been pardoned, but a phone call by Secretary of State Colin Powell to President Musharraf made it clear that a full absolution was not acceptable. Islamabad has confirmed, but not detailed, what Mr. Powell said—that Dr. Khan’s pardon is conditional But for proliferation experts like Joseph Cirincione of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, the US may have sat by while Dr. Khan continued to proliferate.

CIRINCIONE: Why haven’t we done more to stop that? Did we just stand by and let that happen? We subordinated that threat to our other concerns.

HUFF: However, this story of Dr. A.Q. Khan has convinced the Bush administration that the war against terrorism has a lot in common with the battle against proliferation. President Bush spelled out the American role in stopping Dr. Khan in a speech he made to the National Defense University, calling for greater efforts on nonproliferation.

US PRESIDENT GEORGE W. BUSH: Every civilized nation has a stake in preventing the spread of weapons of mass destruction. These materials and technologies and the people who traffic in them cross many borders. To stop this trade the nations of the world must be strong and determined. We must work together, we must act effectively.

HUFF: And yet some fear it may already be too late. Within Pakistan, there’s the nagging fear its nuclear arsenal is only as secure as the man heading the country. Beyond Pakistan, there is the unanswered question of whether North Korea has actually built an atomic bomb. And, there’s the nightmare scenario—decades of proliferation of a wide range of nuclear technologies may have already allowed some critical components to fall into the wrong hands. For Common Ground, I’m Priscilla Huff.

PORTER: The future of UN peacekeeping, next on Common Ground.

[Musical interlude]

Top of Page

UN Reform Series: Peacekeeping

Listen to This Segment: MP3

PORTER: UN peacekeeping forces are standing between warring factions in dozens of spots on the globe. But the peacekeeping system is showing signs of strain. A high level panel is currently at work on United Nations reforms to meet the changing nature of global security, and peacekeeping will be high on the agenda. Sweden’s ambassador to the UN, Pierre Schori, has been deeply involved in peacekeeping issues. In the final interview of his three-part series, Common Ground‘s Cliff Brockman recently asked Ambassador Schori how peacekeeping has changed over the years.

SWEDISH UN AMBASADOR PIERRE SCHORI: It’s a robust peacekeeping mission in the sense that you get a robust mandate, very clear rules of engagement so you can really act according to your mission. What I mean is that if I take the example of the Democratic Republic of Congo, which I visited recently, the UN peacekeeping operation called MONUC came in there a couple years ago with a rather weak and unclear mandate. That was what I would say an old fashioned, traditional peacekeeping mission. They were in there with their guns to, to keep the peace. But that is not good enough any longer because now you must add to that a lot of societal activities, so to say, which will help you to not only keep the peace but to consolidate it. And therefore you need to involve the rest of the UN family, let’s say. But they, also the peacekeepers perhaps, helping to build a school, contributing to a nutrition center, being out there chasing criminals. All that is say rather those who have violated human rights. To support women who have been sexually harassed or raped. And a whole variety of activities which must be under the guidance of the civil society and the local authorities themselves, of course, in the country. And this I think is a new type which we are seeing and I think that’s a good one.

CLIFF BROCKMAN: That was my next question. Is this a good trend? Do you think it’s made a difference?

AMBASADOR SCHORI: Yes, it makes a difference because keeping the peace you can do by force for a while. But you will never get ride of the underlying causes of the conflict. You must attend to them. And that is, has mainly to do with poverty, lack of development, lack of education, housing, hospitals, and so on. So if you can get in there and separate the warring parties so to say, work on a peace agreement between them—but also at the same time tend to the normal basic requirements of the society, of the people, and showing them that peace makes a difference, that the international community is there to assist you but the process must be under your guidance, then I think it will have a sustainable effect.

BROCKMAN: You’ve called for preventative diplomacy and preventative deployment to keep another for instance, Rwanda genocide, from happening. Usually deployment occurs after the fact, after some atrocity or war has taken place. How would preventative deployment work?

AMBASADOR SCHORI: I think it has to do the underlying root causes of conflict. You have to look at that much more seriously and not just wait until a conflict erupts. And that is basic I think and it has to do with poverty, with injustices, with occupation and other things—lack of education and so on. If you have a society which is not at ease with itself, not in harmony in itself, which is underdeveloped, where a lot of things are lacking, you will get conflicts. So prevention means in the real sense I think, in the lasting sustainable sense, is to get at the root causes of conflict. And you have to analyze that. It is not only necessary to develop much more foreign aid and to live up to the goals we have set up in the Millennium Declaration, but also to give the UN Secretary General a capacity for early warning systems, for instance; to detect at an early stage potential conflicts and then also to send out peacekeepers or another kind of mission—it may be enough with police or just a presence, an international presence, at an early stage. That was what the report was about a couple of years ago. And finally we have reinforced that capacity but not enough to my mind at the UN.

BROCKMAN: Pierre Schori is Sweden’s permanent representative to the United Nations. The UN’s high-level panel on Security in the 21st Century is expected to make recommendations by the end of the year. For Common Ground, I’m Cliff Brockman.

Top of Page

Lenin Stays Put

Listen to This Segment: MP3

PORTER: In January, Russia marked 80 years since the death of Vladimir Lenin, the Soviet leader who led the Bolshevik Revolution in Russia and eventually brought the Communists to power. The great Soviet leader might be long dead, but his body still remains on Red Square more than a decade after the Soviet Union disappeared from the geographical maps. And the debate on whether to keep Lenin in his mausoleum, which began in the early ’90s, still continues in Russia and is likely to go on for a long time. Anya Ardayeva reports from Moscow.

ANYA ARDAYEVA: Shortly after Vladimir Lenin’s death in January 1924, his widow, Nadezhda Krupskaya, said he wanted to be buried next to his mother in a cemetery.

[The sound of music and speeches from Lenin’s funeral]

ARDAYEVA: But his party comrades, who mourned their beloved leader, had a better idea. Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin, who came to replace Vladimir Lenin, decided to preserve his remains. A special commission was created. It decided to freeze the body and keep it in a wooden mausoleum on Red Square. Sadly, this didn’t work and the construction took forever and several months after his death, Lenin’s body started to deteriorate. So the decision was made to embalm the leader’s body. His brain was removed and studied in the search for the source of genius. His blood, body fluids, and internal organs were removed, but everything else, including his hair, was kept intact and the main task was make Lenin look like he did when he was alive.

[The sound of chiming bells from Lenin’s tomb]

ARDAYEVA: Today, Lenin’s body is still sealed in a glass sarcophagus inside a massive granite-and-marble mausoleum in the heart of the Russian capital on Red Square. Special lighting gives his face a soft glow; his eyes are closed, and hands are crossed peacefully on his chest. It looks like he is sleeping.

VALERI BYKOV: [via a translator] We can keep this body’s appearance for an indefinite period of time.

ARDAYEVA: Valeri Bykov is a head of a once-secret Russian committee that maintains the embalmed body of Vladimir Lenin, also known as the Mausoleum Group.

BYKOV: [via a translator] The body is in a normal condition; we are able to control it. All our work is aimed at keeping the body life-like.

ARDAYEVA: Professor Bykov is the fourth man to lead the Mausoleum Group since Lenin’s death. His team, based at Moscow’s Biomedical Technology Center, checks Lenin’s body for damage every week. The body’s skin gets close examination to measure its moisture and color. They also change his clothes and use mild bleach to get rid of occasional fungus and mold on Lenin’s face.

[Sounds from the lab at the Biomedical Technology Center]

ARDAYEVA: And every 18 months the Lenin Mausoleum shuts down a complete body treatment, during which it is placed in a bath of chemicals for about 30 days to regain its moisture. According to Valeri Bykov, the government stopped financing the preservation of the body years ago and his center survives on private donations. The first calls to bury Lenin were made shortly before the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991. The former Russian President Boris Yeltsin said that Red Square should not resemble a cemetery and suggested to hold a national referendum on the subject. However, that suggestion has provoked a massive outrage from the Communist Party. Professor Bykov says Lenin should stay where he is.

BYKOV: [via a translator] Lenin is not the only person buried on Red Square. There’s a whole pantheon of people. So we don’t consider it possible to even discuss this subject in any context. There are many other things to discuss, many political issues. We respect our ancestors. Doesn’t matter whether they were wrong or right, we have to respect them.

[The sound of a crowd of tourists in Red Square]

ARDAYEVA: About 1.5 million tourists visited the mausoleum last year and more come every day. The Mausoleum is still regarded as one of Moscow’s main attractions, like the Statue of Liberty in New York or Big Ben in London. Recent polls suggest that more than a half of young and middle-aged Russians think that Lenin should be buried. However, Parliament Speaker Boris Gryzlov said recently that the question of removing Lenin’s body should be solved in due time, after the 100th anniversary of his death in 2024. For Common Ground, I am Anya Ardayeva in Moscow.

MCHUGH: This is Common Ground, radio’s weekly program on world affairs.

[Musical interlude]

KRISTIN MCHUGH: I’m Kristin McHugh.

KEITH PORTER: And I’m Keith Porter. Coming up this half hour on Common Ground, women lawmakers cry foul over Iran’s recent elections.

FATEMEH HAQIQATJOU: [via a translator] We predicted what would happen to the people when their right for free and legal elections would be taken away from them and the legitimacy of the system would face a critical situation.

PORTER: Plus, one woman’s call for Muslim reform. And, Turkey’s plan for democracy.

TURKISH PRIME MINISTER RECEP TAYIP ERDOGAN: The most effective source to make societies more prosperous, open, and democratic and thus render regimes stronger and more peaceful, can be found within those societies themselves.

[Musical interlude]

Top of Page

Iran Parliamentary Women

Listen to This Segment: MP3

MCHUGH: Iran’s conservatives are defending their sweeping win in the country’s contested Parliamentary elections. Reform-minded Iranians have accused them of stealing control of the parliament by barring hundreds of their candidates from running. Some of the disqualified candidates included sitting members of Parliament—and a handful of them were women. Now the women of Iran’s outgoing Parliament, who spent much of their time campaigning for women’s rights, face an uncertain future. Roxana Saberi has more.

[Sounds from Iran’s newly elected parliament]

ROXANA SABERI: Defeat wouldn’t be so bad, Iran’s reformists say, if the other team had played fairly.

FATEMEH HAQIQATJOU: [via a translator] A group of people has decided that the vote of the nation no longer counts and that the Parliament does not represent the people’s virtues.

SABERI: Fatemeh Haqiqatjou is one of the 13 women in Iran’s outgoing Parliament, and one of around 80 lawmakers who were barred from running for reelection on February 20th. The country’s hard-line Guardian Council had disqualified more than 2,000 reform-minded candidates in all. Reformists say they realized even before the elections they’d have to give up control of the Parliament to Iran’s conservatives at the end of May.

HAQIQATJOU: [via a translator] We predicted what would happen to the people when their right for free and legal elections would be taken away from them and the legitimacy of the system would face a critical situation. The parliament would no longer be the essence of the nation’s merits and virtues.

[Sounds of voters at the polls in the recent Iranian election]

SABERI: Results at the polls show that out of 290 seats around 160 will go to conservatives and hardliners, while only around 40 will be handed to reformists. The rest will go to independents, religious minorities, and candidates awaiting run-off elections. Six of the incoming lawmakers will be women, five of whom are members of the conservative Alliance for the Advancement of Islamic Iran. The women in Iran’s outgoing parliament fought for women’s and children’s rights. Now, as they look back on their term in office, lawmakers like Elahe Koulai say the women legislators accomplished a lot. But she says there’s still much work left to do.

ELAHE KOULAIE: Changes in this part needs time and we must continue our efforts to change the perceptions of the society about women, about their roles, about their rights.

SABERI: Women’s rights have been a divisive issue in Iran both before and after the country’s Islamic Revolution of 1979. During the early years of the revolution, many women left public office for the private sphere. Still, since that time women have taken part in Parliament—their numbers peaking at 14 during one of the conservative dominated parliaments. But some analysts say by far the most active and outspoken group of women lawmakers are those of the outgoing, reformist-controlled Parliament. Some women legislators sit on important committees. Faatemeh Raakei, a woman member of Parliament, was not disqualified from running again, but she didn’t gain enough votes to be reelected.

FAATEMEH RAAKEI: [via a translator] Although we are few in number—no more than 13 people—in the opinion of a lot of lawmakers who are men, fortunately we formed one of the most active and most effective factions of Parliament. What was its name? The faction of women.

SABERI: Raakei says the women legislators presented 35 bills related to women, children, and families. More than half of those have either not yet been acted upon or have been disapproved by the Guardian Council, which not only can bar candidates for national elections but can also veto parliamentary. Still, Raakei says, 17 of those bills became law—each, she believes, advances women’s and human rights. For example, she says the women were able to raise the marriage age of girls from 9 to 13 under most conditions and to make it easier for women to get divorces.

RAAKEI: [via a translator] For example, the testimony of two women witnesses was equivalent to the testimony of one man. We tried to correct these things in this field because human rights matter to us.

[Sounds from a women’s fair]

SABERI: The public’s reaction to the performance of Iran’s current women lawmakers has been mixed. While some women lawyers and analysts easily tick off their accomplishments, some young women at this women’s fair in northern Tehran are either less impressed or less aware of what their women legislators have tried to do.

UNIDENTIFIED IRANIAN WOMAN: [via a translator] I can’t say they were all bad or they were all good, but in general, I, as a young person who lives in this country, I’m maybe 40 percent satisfied with the women members of Parliament.

UNIDENTIFIED IRANIAN WOMAN: [via a translator] My feeling is that it got better and that they had an effect. For example now, in regard to work, a lot of companies and offices give important positions to women. It wasn’t like this before.

SABERI: It remains to be seen how the future conservative-dominated Parliament will treat reforms related to women and other issues. Some reformists warn the next Parliament may reverse recent reforms, for example, by tightening the women’s dress code and increasing restrictions between young men and women in public.

[The sound of a clacking computer keyboard]

SABERI: They also caution that Conservatives will try to clamp down on the Internet and newspapers. But some conservative members of the future Parliament deny these claims. Members of the Alliance for the Advancement of Islamic Iran, which swept Tehran’s polls, say Iranians shouldn’t worry about a rollback of reforms. The alliance said its actions will be based upon the law and Islam.

AHMAD TAVAKKOLI: [via a translator] We ourselves have worked for years to achieve freedom in this country and we’ve invested in it, and we certainly know the value of freedom.

SABERI: But many Iranians say it makes no difference to them if the new Parliament is dominated by conservatives—some more moderate than others—or reformists. In a country where many have become disillusioned with politics, many Iranians are looking for concrete improvements in their lives—like a better economy and more freedoms. It’s the results, many say, that matter most. For Common Ground, I’m Roxana Saberi, in Tehran.

[Musical interlude]

Top of Page

Irshad Manji

Listen to This Segment: MP3

PORTER: Canada’s Irshad Manji is not only a journalist, author, and media executive, she’s a self-proclaimed Muslim refusenik and lesbian. At just 35, Irshad Manji has fired up a storm with her best-selling book, The Trouble with Islam. For some, she’s Osama Bin Laden’s worst nightmare, a label she takes as a compliment. For others, she is the badly needed voice of reform, fresh air for a failing faith. For others still, she’s a lecturing troublemaker, too media savvy and too confident. But no matter what you think of Irshad Manji, she’s certainly a force to be reckoned with.

MCHUGH: When it comes to delivering her message, Irshad Manji doesn’t beat around the bush. In her own words, The Trouble With Islam: A Muslim’s Call for Reform in Her Faith, is an “open letter from a Muslim’s voice of reform to concerned citizens worldwide, Muslims or not.” Irshad Manji, a petite and feisty woman with spiky hair, says the book is about why her faith community needs to come to terms with the diversity of ideas, belief systems in the universe, and how non-Muslims, in her view, have a crucial role to play. Irshad argues too many Muslims participate, even in the West, in what she calls Jew-bashing and Jew-baiting as well as the continuing scourge of slavery in Islamist regions of the world and the ill-treatment of women. It’s a view that has provoked death threats, hate mail, and forced Irshad to hire a bodyguard and install bullet proof windows at home. Irshad says she accepts every faith has its share of literalists.

IRSHAD MANJI: Only within Islam today is literalism mainstream.

MCHUGH: The reason for this, she says, is a deep-seated superiority complex in the Islamic faith.

IRSHAD MANJI: What is not very well understood among particularly non Muslims, is that, we Muslims, even here in the West, are raised to believe that because the Koran comes after the Torah and the Bible chronologically, it is the final and therefore perfect manifesto of God’s will. And I’m arguing that this supremacy complex that even moderate Christ—sorry, moderate Muslims—carry within ourselves, this supremacy complex with respect to the Koran is dangerous. Not because I think moderate Muslims will suddenly become fundamentalists and start hurling bombs at infidels. I’m arguing that the supremacy complex is dangerous because when abuse happens under the banner of my faith most Muslims, even here, don’t yet know how to debate, dissent, revise, or reform. Some of us do; some of us do know how to do this. Some of within that group actually express our doubts and questions. But most of us don’t yet and I believe that this is the reason for our stony silence in the face of terror.

MCHUGH: Irshad Manji argues it wasn’t always that way. In fact, she says, Islam used to be a religion of enlightenment, with a tradition of independent thinking that’s been lost along the way. Irshad has a mission of her own: to replace the militant concept of jihad, with what she calls Operation Ijtihad—independent reasoning and thinking.

MANJI: Perhaps it is we Muslims in the West who are in the best position to revive Ijtihad, because it is here that we already enjoy precious freedoms to think, express, challenge, and be challenged, all without fear of state reprisal. I’m not talking about discrimination and racial profiling and harassment of Arab-looking or Muslim-looking folks. I am saying that questioning the Koran will not get us in trouble with the state in this part of the world.

MCHUGH: In her mind, Operation Ijtihad revolves around liberating the entrepreneurial talents of Muslim women. She argues this is economic development with a twist, as it liberates the most oppressed from a rigid reading of the Koran, namely women. She explains in her book that the West’s support of such a campaign could help fortify the national security of increasingly open societies such as Iraq.

MANJI: I do think that too many of us, including liberal Muslims, are sweeping our responsibility for our fellow human beings under the rug of theory. This is why I am passionate, this is why I am struggling, this is the first reason I have written The Trouble with Islam.

MCHUGH: Irshad Manji highlights her background as key to understanding her quest for truth in Islam. Her family were refugees from Idi Amin’s Uganda. She went to an Islamic religious school in her spare time, the Madresa, which she says enshrined two major messages, week in and week out—that women are inferior and that Jews are treacherous. She was finally expelled from the school for asking too many questions. It was then that she embarked on a 20-year course of self-study. She admits she is a struggling Muslim. She’s not the first Muslim to distinguish between idealism and realism, but it’s the passivity of most Muslims that upsets her.

MANJI: I do think that too many of us, including liberal Muslims, are sweeping our responsibility for our fellow human beings under the rug of theory. This is why I am passionate, this is why I am struggling, this is the first reason I have written The Trouble with Islam.

MCHUGH: Irshad Manji admits that while many of her readers have been moved by her book, just as many say they cannot act because they fear persecution. She explains this is why she is appealing to the non-Muslim world to play its part.

MANJI: I appeal to non-Muslims to encourage the young people in your lives, not just the Muslims, but those who aren’t as well—encourage the young people in your lives to ask tough questions—about this faith, in addition to anything else. Remember that asking questions is the birth right of this society, anyway. It is not just right, it is a right for us to engage in introspection.

MCHUGH: Irshad Manji’s latest book is titled The Trouble with Islam: A Muslim’s Call for Reform in Her Faith. It was released in the United States in January.

PORTER: Coming up next, democratization in the Middle East. You’re listening to Common Ground, radio’s weekly program on world affairs.

[Musical interlude]

Top of Page

Turkish Democracy

Listen to This Segment: MP3

PORTER: US-Turkish relations have undergone a choppy year in which Ankara denied territorial access to US troops in the Iraq war. But the relationship has apparently bounced back, due in part to the recent efforts of Turkey’s Prime Minister Recep Tayip Erdogan. Now Turkey’s leader is more eager than ever to get the European Union to begin negotiating his country’s membership bid.

MCHUGH: But Turkey’s human rights record and the issue of a divided Cyprus have traditionally thwarted its chances. Meanwhile, Syria has asked Turkey to act as an intermediary in the Middle East peace process—a role Ankara says it’s willing to undertake. As Nina-Maria Potts reports, Recep Tayip Erdogan has been making the international rounds, explaining why Turkey can lead the way to democratization in the Middle East.

[The sound of ethnic Kurdish protestors in Washington, DC rallying against the Turkish government]

NINA-MARIA POTTS: For these Kurds, protesting a recent visit to Washington by Turkish Prime Minister Tayip Erdogan, the words democracy and Turkey are an oxymoron. And yet it is precisely this concept that Turkey’s leader is here to promote.

[The sound of ethnic Kurdish protestors in Washington, DC rallying against the Turkish government]

POTTS: This demonstration was broken up by police shortly before Tayip Erdogan arrived to speak at a Washington think-tank. Enraged by US President Bush’s recent assurances to Turkey that the US is committed to a territorially intact Iraq. Turkey fears a breakaway Iraqi-Kurd state. One protestor explained why he believes Turkey is undemocratic.

ANTI-TURKISH PROTESTOR: Turkey is a repressive militaristic state that took a whole part of Cyprus by military force and they’re coming here and they’re talking about democracy. That’s a total shame. Mr. Erdogan shouldn’t talk about democracy. Hypocrisy when they’re occupying Cyprus. They’re meddling terror, they’re doing terroristic acts in Iraqi Kurdistan and it’s just a shame. And shame for the United States to let somebody like him to come here and claim democracy.

POTTS: And yet Mr. Erdogan argues that not only is democracy alive in Turkey, but his country is in a position to lead the whole region towards democratization. Mr. Erdogan’s record to date marks an impressive departure from his predecessors. He appears genuinely committed to further democratic reform in Turkey, evidenced by constitutional reform in the areas of press, political, and religious freedom, as well as efforts to improve human rights and free speech. He has also walked the tight rope between keeping his own party happy and the military, which wields significant power in Turkey. In foreign policy, Mr. Erdogan has shown his willingness to resolve the Cyprus issue by forcing Turkish-Cypriot leader Rauf Dentkash—largely seen to have been the stumbling block to a peace settlement—back to the negotiating table. But Mr. Erdogan faces plenty of resistance to reform from within. His efforts to persuade his government to let American troops access Turkish territory to launch a ground attack on Iraq failed spectacularly, costing the country $24 billion dollars in American loans and grants. And Turkey’s reaction to Kurdish separatist activity in northern Iraq remains a thorny issue; a test even, in the eyes of the international community, to Turkey’s real commitment to ethnic minority rights. In Washington, Mr. Erdogan explained why Turkey can serve as the West’s window on the Middle East:

TURKISH PRIME MINISTER RECEP TAYIP ERDOGAN: As a society consisting predominantly of Muslims, Turkey will continue to make contributions towards disseminating and developing universal values in this region. Turkey feels this responsibility as a result of its democratic structure, rich historical legacy and identity, economic potential, and its membership in Western institutions. Moreover, these givens also shape Turkey’s national interests. To be successful in this endeavor we are first establishing these values firmly at home. And we will continue to do that.

POTTS: But Mr. Erdogan does not believe in imposing democracy from the outside.

PRIME MINISTER ERDOGAN: The most effective source to make societies more prosperous, open, and democratic and thus render regimes stronger and more peaceful, can be found within those societies themselves.

POTTS: The Turkish leader acknowledged the challenges of pioneering democracy in the region.

PRIME MINISTER ERDOGAN: Historically, Judaism, Christianity, and Islam have all played a central role in forming this collective wisdom. However, the present instability and the conflicts in the very region which gave birth to these three great religions, prevent the realization of the vast potential which exists there and stalls collective wisdom.

POTTS: Prime Minister Erdogan also underlined efforts by his government to introduce two new political approaches at home—conservative democracy and what he describes as “deep democracy.” He says conservative democracy in Turkey responds to the needs of the Turkish people:

PRIME MINISTER ERDOGAN: This approach rests upon Turkey’s experience as a meeting point of civilizations, its values, and its people’s wish and desire to adapt to contemporary values.

POTTS: Mr. Erdogan believes Turkey’s new approach of conservative democracy has a significance that goes beyond the borders of Turkey.

PRIME MINISTER ERDOGAN: A significant part of the Turkish society desires to adopt a concept of modernity that does not reject tradition; a belief of universalism that accepts localism, and understanding a rationalism that does not disregard the spiritual meaning of life. And a choice for change that is not fundamentalist. The concept of conservative democracy is in fact an answer to this desire of the Turkish people.

POTTS: But conservative democracy must not be simply cosmetic, says Mr. Erdogan, highlighting his belief in so-called “deep’ democracy.”

PRIME MINISTER ERDOGAN: Much distance has been covered in Turkey towards establishing and institutionalizing democracy in its fullest sense—a democracy which incorporates pluralism and tolerance, not a self-styled democracy. The ideal is not to have a mechanical democracy that is reduced to elections and certain institutions but an organic democracy that pervades into the administrative, social, and political fields.

[The sound of ethnic Kurdish protestors rallying against the Turkish government]

POTTS: Recep Tayip Erdogan’s talk of democracy in Turkey is no doubt music to the ears of the Bush administration….

[The sound of ethnic Kurdish protestors in Washington, DC rallying against the Turkish government]

POTTS: …But for these Kurdish demonstrators at least, Turkey still has a long way to go to prove itself in the area of human rights and genuine democratic reform. For Common Ground, I’m Nina-Maria Potts in Washington.

Our theme music was created by B.J. Leiderman. Common Ground was produced and funded by the Stanley Foundation.

Copyright © Stanley Center for Peace and Security

Top of Page