Review of a 2-Day Conference About Tackling Extremism and the Role of Turkey in the Region

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The Venue: University of Cambridge, Cambridge University Centre, Granta Place, Cambridge

A team of global experts came together to launch a new centre aimed at taking on the rise in violent ideologies and will work to halt the spread of extremist views.

The dates: 7th and 8th December 2016

Day 1:

The European Centre for the Study of Extremism, Cambridge (EuroCSE) Launch and conference (WWW.EuroCSE.Org)

How can we combat extremism which has been spreading in recent years all over the world? How can we stop it? Tough questions which the EuroCSE conference tried to answer on the 7th and 8th December 2016 in the heart of Cambridge University.

The Rt Rev and Rt Hon Lord Dr Rowan Williams of Oystermouth, master of Magdalene College, and former Archbishop of Canterbury was the key-note speaker at the launch and the first conference of the European Centre for the Study of Extremism (EuroCSE), which took place at the Cambridge University Centre on Granta Place.

Dr. Williams says extremists believe their point of view is the normative. A modern phenomenon rooted in uncertainty.

We have “Christian fundamentalism and Islamic radicalism.” “Muslim radicals are angry but their anger is mostly directed at their own people. We must search for simple solutions to extreme situations.”

Three members of the House of Lords also spoke at the event, sharing their knowledge of extremism around the world.

The centre has been founded by Arab politics expert Dr Makram Khoury-Machool

Rowan Williams talked about the theological and religious aspects of extremism, and he brought examples from different religions and areas in the world.

“The Rt Rev the Lord Eames OM former Archbishop of Armagh and Primate of All Ireland from 1986-2006 told of the conference of his experience from Ireland, which was fascinating. Lord Eames is not a theoretician or an academic but a passionate practitioner who lived the troubles of Northern Ireland for many years.

Also participating Baroness Uddin who spoke about Islam and women.” Lord Eames: ignorance of others. Ignorance of what others think or want is a reason for people to adopt extremist views.

Dr Khoury-Machool, it’s a job for teachers and academics to tackle extremists as they are radicalised, rather than relying on military force.

We learned that military force alone is not the solution to combating extremism and terrorism. Dialogue, mutual understanding of the other and getting to know what the other is thinking.

The Psychology of Political Extremism

We listened with fascination to Dr. Benina Gould, Dr. Richard Sherry and Dr. Joseph El-Khoury.

They gave us a unique insight into the psychological aspects of extremism a subject which is rarely tackled in the media.

2nd day 8th December Turkey regional and international ramifications

The Turkish panellists focused on the failed Coup d’├ętat in July 2016 and the subsequent developments and they spoke about international issues like the fight against the Kurdish groups like the YPG and PKK. As far as Turkey is concerned these groups are terrorist organizations. The Turkish experts included Selcuk Aydin, Ayse Nur Aydin, Dr. Ayse Sozen Usluer and Dr.Ismail Mesut Sezgin.

The British MP Dr. Paul Monaghan told the audience that Turkey is a developing power and acknowledged that the coup d’├ętat and the aftermath damaged Turkey’s image. However Turkey has a constructive role to play in the Israeli Palestinian dispute having good relations with Israel and Hamas in Gaza.

Monaghan also argued that Turkey’s role should be to fight against terrorism and the also to promote world peace. It is fighting ISIS.

The Panellist Dr. Marcus Papadopoulos editor of Politics First magazine was critical of Turkey’s regional role. He regards Turkey as a destructive force, destabilising Iraq, Libya and Syria. Papadopoulos also criticized Turkey’s invasion of Northern Cyprus in the mid-1970s.

He doesn’t hide the fact that he supports the Assad regime and Russia. But I disagree with him that Russia and Assad are fighting terrorists. ISIS hasn’t been the target of Russian bombing or Assad’s army. My research in the relationship between ISIS and Assad shows that they are colluding indirectly as both are fighting the Free Syrian Army.

However the panellist Afzal Amin CEO of UKS3 Ltd spoke of Turkey’s geopolitical strategic location and its relations with NATO.

Under the title Has Turkey Gone rogue? Tim Ripley Journalist and Author and an expert on Turkish military and relationship with NATO told the conference Turkey was a loyal member of NATO 1949 – 1990, but it refused to join the US attacking Iraq in 2003. He spoke about Turkey’s confrontation with the EU in 2015 over the issue of refugees.

Also Ripley spoke about the impact of the coup and also future developments such as the war in Syria, oil and gas east of the Mediterranean, refugees and confrontation with Russia. When I asked him on the side-lines of the conference would NATO support Turkey if there was a military confrontation between Turkey and Russia? Tim said if it is on Syrian grounds, no. But if Russia launches an attack on Turkey on Turkish territory NATO would help Turkey.

Saruhan Hatipoglu CEO of Business Environment Risk Intelligence

Tackled the subject of Turkey’s State of Emergency and Its Economic future. He pointed out that political development in Turkey impacts foreign investment and business leave also the impact of the July 15th coup. Turkey’s involvement in in Iraq Syria make business nervous.

Shifting Alliances and Rapprochement

In this session

Dr. Salah al Bandar (Safety and community Programme Director and senior member of the Advisory Board of eurocse) spoke eloquently of the geo-political importance of Turkey but warned the conference that we mustn’t ignore oil and gas. Iran Qatar and Russia are the three major players in gas. Turkey must build close co-operation with Iran as this makes sense economically and logistically.

Daniel Faraci Director of the U.S based Grassroots Political Consulting LLC spoke about the Faux Coup and Future of U.S – Turkish Relations Following the US Presidential Elections. The audience liked his style of rapid delivery punctuated with sarcastic remarks and sardonic asides.

There were significant contributions from Dr. Marie-Athena Papathanasiou Attorney at Law and Hugo Charlton a UK criminal barrister.

The final act was the plenary session which summed up the 2 day’s activities was spontaneous and allowed full participation by the members of the audience.

All in all a great conference which is a significant contribution to understanding extremism and the role of Turkey in a turbulent region.

Nehad Ismail is a writer and broadcaster, who writes about issues related to the Middle East from his home in London.