Somaliland gearing up for elections

Democratic elections may be most interesting at the fringes of the democratic world. Whereas elections in Europe only become slightly exciting when lunatics or dangerous nationalistic movements participate, here in Somaliland the upcoming presidential elections of 13/11 are an uplifting experience.

I am the first to rail about ‘elections without democratization’ and the imposition of the model of representative elections (which is arguably starting to fail in the West) on  developing countries under the ‘There Is No Alternatiive’ motto, stifling local political forms and vitality.

Nonetheless the electoral campaign here in Somaliland is stirring up a positive mood in society. I  have even decided to stay in Hargeisa during the elections and may be part an Electoral Observation Mission.

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Lessons from Somaliland for Kurds and Catalans

The Kurds and the Catalans are voting for self-determination. It seems nothing can stop a people who have decided to vote for self-determination, although it seems not a single state is ready to accept it. The lesson from Somaliland, an unrecognised country since 1991, is: there is no need to worry about not achieving international recognition: you can live very well without.

Certainly these elections will be held, one way or another, and the outcome is predictable: overwhelming support for independence.

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New World Summit in Rojava – Day 1

The 5th edition of the New World Summit opened today in Derik / Al Malikiyyah in northwestern Syria. The Dutch artist Jonas Staal and his team, in tandem with the authorities of the autonomous canton of Cizire, drew full audiences with a thorough, two-day discussion of ‘Democratic Confederalism’ by international delegates and local specialists. Continue reading

Life and death in Rojava

Day 2 in Northwestern Syria

Commander Axin and soldier Haifa talking with our delegation

Commander A… and soldier H… of the YPJ talking with our Filipina delegation member Ilena, with our translator Nahla in the midst

Today we were confronted more squarely with the war being fought in Syria, and the intensity of life and death in a beleaguered war zone; although we also got the chance to visit the 4000 year old archaeological site of Urkesh, one of the earliest cities.

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Can we still believe in revolution?

Day 1 in Northwestern Syria

Street scene in village between Derik and Qamishlo

Street scene in village between Derik and Qamishlo

My first impression in Rojava, the autonomous Kurdish area in northeastern Syria, is that everything seems quite normal. For a small region still engaged in the fight against the Islamic State (although only three people die on the front per day, as compared to 20-30 a few months ago) and in the stranglehold of Erdogan’s Turkey, the area is remarkably quiet, and even seems prosperous, with shops full of goods and the fields and herds well-tended to.

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Rich and Poor on the Outskirts of Kabul

Today we first went to visit the new city of Omid-e Sabz. It is located improbably far from the city center, about 10 minutes drive West of Darulaman Palace, and close to the southeastern rim of Dasht-e Barchi.

In a way it's lucky Kabul is surrounded by mountains, otherwise the city would never stop expanding.

In a way it’s lucky Kabul is surrounded by mountains, otherwise the city would never stop expanding.

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Kabul rising and getting high, 2013

Today I guided a Dutch architect researching urban developments in Kabul. After fixing the roaming internet connection on his Apple computer in a record time – praise be to the helpfulness and tech savviness of Afghan shopowners – we drove up TV mountain to take some pictures. He had the good camera, I my phone. The weather was heavily overcast with occasional sunbursts.

Wide road up the mountain

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Dostum apologizes for war crimes

Below is the full English version text of Dostum’s apology, read on 7 October 2013. I edited the translation, using the Dari original of the speech to ensure it corresponds closely.


The apology created a huge commotion, as it is the first of its kind. Dostum encourages other warlords to apologize too, noting he has taken the first step (pishqadami). Reactions from across the (social) media were very positive. Continue reading