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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Making Environments Hostile

A few days ago I got my certificate for Hostile Environment Awareness Training (HEAT) from the Carabinieri in Livorno. The Carabinieri are the Italian counterpart of the Gendarmerie, or Guardia Civil – the police force that depends from the Ministry of Defense. The training was given by the First Paratrooper Regiment (“Tuscania”), who engage in difficult operations abroad, like protecting VIPs in enemy territory or liberating hostages. They are strong, self-confident, good-looking and easy-going Italians, the real stuff, machos beyond posturing. Continue reading

So-called ‘terrorists’ finally receive a democratic platform – as an art project

The setting for the New World Summit in Berlin’s Sophiensaele. The flags are all of organizations on the ‘designated terrorist lists’. Showing one of them might be a crime, but as a whole they qualify as an artwork. All photos courtesy of Jonas Staal and his team

I chaired a summit and helped curate a project designed by the Dutch artist Jonas Staal in Berlin on 4 and 5 May, as part of the Berlin Biennial. Continue reading

Venturing into the Darkness of Europe

During the Middle Ages, hardly any Arabs traveled to Europe – the region simply had nothing to offer. Those who did travel north, however, complained about the “raw” and “animal-like” behavior of the “Francs” – and about their lack of culture. By Mona Naggar

“They lack a warm sense of humor; their bodies are large, their character is coarse, their customs rude, their minds dull and their tongues heavy. Their skin color is of such an extreme white that they appear blue. Their skin is thin and their flesh rough. Their eyes, too, are blue and similar to their skin color; their hair is smooth and reddish due to the damp fog. Their religious beliefs are unreliable, which can be traced to the type of coldness and lack of warmth. The further north they reside, the dumber, more vile and primitive they are.” Continue reading