Charles Dickens's famous opening line in "A Tale of Two Cities," first published in 1859, seems apt to describe the confusion and hope in regard to the present state of the world: "It was the best of times, it was the worst of times ..." Seeing the catastrophic changes of his age, Dickens went on to say: "... it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair..." As we leave 2014 behind and enter a new year, the present state of the world is as fractured and chaotic as ever but it is also as promising as Dickens description of London and Paris in the 18th century.
2014 has been a bad year for global justice. War, terrorism, poverty, epidemics, natural and man-made disasters have claimed the lives of thousands of people around the world. One of the painful lessons of 2014 is the recognition of the failure of the international system to solve the deepening problems of the globe from Ukraine to Syria.
The Syrian war, which began in early 2011 with peaceful protests, has entered its fourth year with a devastation unequalled in recent history. As it happens with all protracted conflicts, the Syrian war has become a sideline event for major powers. The death of hundreds of people every week is routine news now. The major powers of the global system, fighting their own proxy wars, have either stultified or killed any serious attempt to change the parameters of the conflict. The U.N. has been utterly ineffective. The result is a modern human suffering the likes of which we have not seen in a very long time.
One of the disastrous consequences of the Syrian war has been the rise of the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS). Using a bloody and dirty war as its recruiting ground and financial source, ISIS has shown a surprising ability to organize itself as the most effective terrorist organization in the Middle East. Today, it controls vast swathes of land in both Syria and Iraq. ISIS has little chance to take root in the Muslim world, but the damage it has caused is serious enough already. What is clear is that ISIS will not be eliminated as long as the war in Syria continues and Iraq remains fractured and weak.
Despite several attempts, the Palestinian issue was not resolved in 2014 and 2015 does not look any brighter. Palestinian lands remain under occupation, Palestinians are subject to daily humiliation, harassment and persecution. The policies of the government of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu have practically killed whatever is left of the peace process. Netanyahu has done everything possible to kill the two-state solution as well - he has continued settlements, allowed Jewish extremists to attack Al-Aqsa Mosque, attacked Gaza, squeezed the West Bank, fought against the recognition of the future Palestinian state and played the Hamas bogymen to sell his failed policies to his far-right base and to the West. On top of that, the Palestinians are paying the price of internal divisions again. Prospects for a free, democratic, peaceful and prosperous order in Egypt, Yemen and Libya remain small and fragile. Internecine fighting has already claimed many lives. But most importantly, it has undermined the promise of the Arab revolutions for a better and just socio-political order.
Racism and the radical right has been on the rise in Europe. Islamophobia has become more widespread and dangerous. The recent demonstrations in Germany show the alarming level of xenophobia in one of the key countries of Europe. In Sweden, one of the most liberal and tolerant countries in the world, three acts of vandalism and arson attack have been carried out against mosques and worshipers in less than a month.
Attempts are being made to normalize socially acceptable old-fashioned racism in the name of fighting religious extremism. European political leaders have been rather slow in reacting to this growing danger which singles out Islam and Muslims as the root cause of the problem. In addition to openly racist groups, far-right and anti-immigration parties such as National Front in France, National Democratic Party in Germany, Party for Freedom in the Netherlands, Jobbik in Hungary, Golden Dawn in Greece and Ataka in Bulgaria are likely to use the social and economic grievances of European citizens to bolster their positions in 2015.
Dickens had left things in the "barzakh," i.e., the intermediary state of hope and despair. He said the contrast as follows: "...we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way ..."
As we enter 2015, the current state of the world is not any different. Turning despair to hope, darkness to light, ignorance to knowledge, cruelty to justice, war to peace should be the resolution of all resolutions for everyone.
About the author
Presidential spokesperson for the Republic of Turkey