Samstag, 11. Februar 2017

Religious Diversity And The Alevi Struggle For Equality In Turkey

For full article, please visit:

[...] Alevi is a religious group in Turkey, not to be confused with Alewites in Syria. They are followers of Ali, the brother-in-law of Prophet Muhammed. Alevi is a mystical belief that is rooted in Islam and Sufism with some traditions of Christianity and Shamanism. It is a religion that is based on humanistic ideals of love and tolerance expressed in mystical poems instead of strict rules, passed on through oral tradition. Alevis have been discriminated against and persecuted in Turkey, based on dehumanizing allegations that Alevi rituals include incestual sexual orgies (“mum söndürmek”). [...]

Samstag, 4. Februar 2017

Alevi cem evi—Turkey’s neverending struggle with its diversity

The government’s refusal to-date to recognize cem evis as the legitimate place of worship of Alevis is only one of many aspects of Turkey’s continuous struggle with diversity.  Valuable energies are wasted on efforts to suppress diversity, the differences in people that make any nation great, the reason why many people flock to countries such as the United States of America and claim their unwavering allegiance. Turkey’s ruling party continues its anti-diversity efforts, as if through oppression and denial, diversity will vanish one day and Turkey will finally become some sort of a homogeneous state, and national unity will be guaranteed; as if diversity, and not the constant attempt to suppress, has been the real threat to Turkey’s unity all along.

One Religion, One Place of Worship?
After centuries of denying that the Alevis even existed, Turkey now seems stuck with the inability to admit the obvious, that cem evis are the place of worship of the Alevis, displaying just how difficult it apparently is for some to accept and respect differences. The status-quo further demonstrates that the ruling party’s Alevi opening effort was only intended to gain Alevi support, to be followed by efforts to assimilate the community.

However, nothing demonstrates the ruling party’s disregard for diversity better than Mr. Erdogan’s one religion, one place of worship claim. In spite of the religious and practical differences between Sunnis and Alevis, President Erdogan insists that Alevis and Sunnis worship together in a mosque; an utmost inappropriate suggestion, the very least, for anyone who can appreciate the difference between Alevi and Sunni worship for what they are: differences—not good, not bad, just differences.  

Fighting the inevitable: equal rights for Alevis
The handling of the Alevi question reflects Turkey’s inability to acknowledge and appreciate her diversity and her last attempts to fight the inevitable, creating only more animosity in the meantime. However, change is coming and no one, not even the ruling party, will be able to stop it, because in the 21st century, the majority of Turks are too well-informed and enlightened to buy into dehumanizing and disrespectful narratives about homogeneity. They already decided that such ideals are neither realistic nor welcome any longer.

It is only a matter of time that cem evis will be recognized as a place of worship and Alevis will have access to the rights that they are entitled to. What a shame that they have to wait so long for something so basic such as equal treatment under the law.

Alev Dudek is a German-American researcher, analyst, and author of Turkish descent. As an established scholar in diversity, she served on the executive board of the International Society for Diversity Management, in Berlin, as well as the City of Kalamazoo Community Relations Board. Ms. Dudek received The National Security Education Program (NSEP) award in 2014.

Montag, 9. Januar 2017

Turkey: Paving the path for Erdogan’s autocratic rule

For full article, please visit:


Ensuring National Unity Through Crack-Down On Minorities?

Besides her struggles with free speech and secularization versus freedom of religion conflict, Turkey also has historically had issues with dealing with its minorities. The default course of action has traditionally been to limit the rights of minorities or deny their existence altogether. As if diversity would vanish through oppression and denial, so that Turkey can finally become some sort of a homogenous state and national unity would be guaranteed; as if diversity, and not the constant attempt to oppress, was the real threat to Turkey’s unity.

Mr. Erdogan initially signaled the much needed positive changes in regard to dealing with minorities, particularly affecting the two major groups, the Alevis and the Kurds. He led an Alevi opening and extended rights of Kurds to speak and broadcast in their language. However, his reforms were short-lived as his administration continues to deny equal rights to Alevis and cracks-down on Kurdish media.

Mittwoch, 4. Januar 2017

Sexism in the USA: How will women fare under Trump?

Original Link to the Article Published in The Hill:

We Americans like to think of ourselves as better than most nations. In many ways we are. However, as demonstrated in Donald Trump’s sexist rhetoric during the presidential campaign and his subsequent victory, we are far away from gender equality.

Women in the workforce?

As the most powerful nation in the world, the United States in the global gender gap index ranks 28th place, behind Estonia, Bolivia, Barbados, and Mozambique. And although it’s sixth in economic participation and opportunity, the U.S. ranks only 64th in health and survival and 72nd in political empowerment.

Women represent only approximately 19 percent of the members of the U.S. Congress, which puts us behind countries such as Iraq, Namibia, Mozambique and Afghanistan. Subsequently, in our more than 200 years of history, we have not had a female leader yet, which leaves us behind many countries including Turkey, India, Pakistan, Germany, Malawi, Kosovo — the list goes on.

Similar trends are seen in economic empowerment.

Even though approximately 57.4 percent of students receiving a bachelor’s degree and 62.6 percent of students receiving a master’s degree are women, and they participate in the total U.S. workforce relatively evenly to their proportion in the population, they only make 78.3 cents to every dollar made by men. The top three jobs for women in the United States to date are secretaries/administrative assistants, elementary and middle school teachers and registered nurses.

Women are under-represented in traditional male roles. Among the new hires in the federal government, males account for 80 percent of information technology, 83 percent of engineering, and 92 percent of police officer occupations.

Moreover, women occupy only 4.4 percent of CEO positions at Fortune 500 companies. Barriers for women exist overall in other senior and executive level positions. Subsequently, women over the age of 65 are twice as likely to live in poverty as men of the same age.

Obsessively legislating women’s bodies

While our legislators do little to empower women, they do quite a bit to control them. In the last few years alone, out-of-control legislators have made countless efforts to regulate women’s bodies while they have done little to regulate anything else. God must have told them to do so.

In 2012, the Virginia House of Delegates passed a law that in its original version would have required many women to undergo transvaginal ultrasounds; it was revised due to the outrage that it has sparked. Only then did legislators in Pennsylvania, Alabama and Idaho back down with their own transvaginal requirements.

Prior to that, Republican Rep. Glenn Grothman of Wisconsin, then a state senator, had introduced a bill that declared non-marital parenthood as a contributing factor to child abuse and neglect. In 2013, Rep. Trent Franks of Arizona introduced a national bill that would ban abortions after the 20th week of pregnancy without regard to rape, incest or health of the mother. South Dakota state Rep. Phil Jensen, now a state senator, tried to make killing abortion providers a justifiable homicide. In Alabama, a law was passed to allow the state to represent fetuses.

It must be noted that concern for unborn life is a noble cause. However, the obsession with fetuses in the United States has little to do with respecting life. Otherwise, the same legislators would work to protect those lives after they are born too.

Moving forward: Respecting one another

Donald Trump only brought to surface how we really feel about women in this country, but he also displays what it allegedly means to be a man. This is very important because the key to understanding sexism is, among other things, understanding the stereotypes that we have of men: individuals who are perfectly fine with touching a woman without her consent, objectifying them, lacking respect for their partners, and laughing off degrading comments as locker room talk.

Our society will always be as good as the level of respect we have for one another, regardless of gender, sexual identity, race, and other superficial traits. With a president-elect who has little regard for women as well as for men, we have to make sure that in the next four years of his term, we don’t turn back the clock on progress.

Alev Dudek is a German-American author. As an established scholar in diversity, she served on the executive board of the International Society for Diversity Management in Berlin as well as the City of Kalamazoo (MI) Community Relations Board. She received The National Security Education Program (NSEP) award in 2014.

Dienstag, 27. Dezember 2016

Democratic Party’s Hijacking Of Progressive Votes, A Strategy No Longer Working

When we asked how many times we were supposed to vote for someone against our conscience, as in the case of voting for Hillary Clinton, fellow Democrats told us that this time it was different.

Americans just survived yet another “most important election” of our lives. This one lasted more than 18 months and did little but assault our ears and intelligence. The campaigns tied up valuable resources and distracted the nation from real problems: chronic underemployment, low wages, increasing cost for health insurance, the deterioration of our education system and the loss of respect for human rights best illustrated by the hateful campaign rhetoric of the Republican candidate, Donald Trump.

Mittwoch, 2. November 2016

Voter Fraud Versus Voter Suppression

While the presidential election 2016 is underway, we are again hearing much about voters committing election fraud. Significant number of illegal immigrants are allegedly going to turn out to vote, and eligible Americans are going to cast more than one ballot. This is supposedly going to happen in such high numbers that the fraudulent voters will decide the election.

Irrational claims mainly made by Republicans — as a high voter turnout generally benefits the Democrats — about voter fraud have been a part of the presidential election discourse in this country since the “motor voter” law in 1993, even though countless credible research and government investigations show that voter fraud only happens in negligible numbers.

This is also logical, because there is little incentive for the crime while the punishment is severe: under federal law, people risk five years in prison and up to a $10,000 fine.

Naturally, in a county with over 200 million registered voters, some fraud is statistically going to happen. But, in general, voter fraud is an unrealistic crime, as for such a premeditated crime to occur, there has to be a significant incentive, a meaningful personal, financial or (perceived) psychological gain.

Hardly any voter in their healthy mind would consider committing a serious crime where the intended outcome of their action — to influence the election — is not even remotely guaranteed.

While intentional voter fraud committed by voters are rare, clerical and other honest errors and inaccuracies such as dead individuals remaining in the databases, are more likely to occur. However they too are blown out of proportion in this conversation.

Given the high number of people voter databases capture and the changes that happen in people’s lives, the databases by nature are subject to continuous changes. Meaning, at any given point in time, there is going to be a need to update these databases.

Let us now demystify some of the scenarios that are apparently causing Republicans the most serious headaches:

Ineligible/non-citizens voting

Legal and illegal residents who are not eligible to vote have the least incentive to commit voter fraud. Here is why:

Illegal immigrants: Registering to vote requires a valid social security number. Illegal immigrants generally are unable to obtain one legally, except when they receive amnesty.

However, in that case, they are no longer an illegal immigrant. Illegal immigrants can obtain social security numbers illegally; e.g. so that they can work. In that case, they are unlikely to jeopardize that number by voluntarily providing it to a state government and risk getting caught voting.

Legal immigrants: Legal immigrants generally have a social security number, as they are authorized to reside and work in the U.S.

They can easily register to vote, e.g. when applying for a driver’s license, as states generally don’t verify citizenship of the registrants. However, that does not mean legal immigrants are going to register and turn out to vote, because legal immigrants have the least incentive to commit a stupid crime such as voter fraud.

After residing in the U.S. for a certain period of time, they are eligible to apply for U.S. citizenship; in which case they have to undergo serious background investigations. Legal immigrants are very unlikely to jeopardize such prospects “just” to cast a ballot.

Paid to vote more than once

Paying voters to vote more than once can happen, but that too is a stupid crime to commit. Because the individuals who would pay voters to commit the crime, would not only be making accomplices, they would not even be able to verify if the voters did what they were supposed to do; because with the exception of some states that allow voters to take pictures of their ballots, there is no way of proving how a voter voted.

Voting in more than one state

Eligible voters can easily register to vote in more than one state.

However, registering to vote in more than one state is not a crime, as it can easily happen when people are moving around; but voting in more than one state is. Moreover, many states have joined cross check database systems such as the Electronic Registration Information Center (ERIC) or the Interstate Voter Registration Crosscheck Program which allow for catching voters who are attempting to vote in more than one state.

Voting more than once in the same state 

In compliance with the Help America Vote Act (HAVA) of 2002, most states have established statewide voter registration databases. Voters attempting to vote more than once in the same state can easily be detected.

Representatives of various organizations committing registration fraud

In the past, representatives of various interest groups attempted to register non-existent voters; another thoughtless and unrealistic crime with serious consequences, as in the recent case of a Virginia man.

After successfully registering imaginary voters with a valid social security number, the perpetrator needs to come up with picture IDs and cast ballots without being caught; even if the perpetrator attempts to vote absentee. As first time absentee voters in many states, including Virginia, are required to present a valid ID.

The real election challenge — a history of suppressing African American voices

Republicans who are allegedly committed to the integrity of the elections while happy to invest disproportional amounts of resources to chase ghosts of voters committing voter fraud, they seem to not have a problem with voter suppression.

Consider the case of North Carolina where a federal appeals court struck down a voter ID law, because Republican-controlled general assembly — instead of hoping that their strategies indirectly affect minorities, as customary — actively requested data on voters’ use of various voting practices by race and amended the voter ID bill according to the information at hand to suppress minority votes.

Even though women could not vote until the 1920s and Hispanic voters are also targeted by voter suppression efforts, no group has more precisely been targeted than African Americans. It is clear that the many attempts to correct the wrong (14th Amendment, 15th Amendment, Voting Rights Act etc.) could not eradicate the deeply rooted notions for inequality in this country.

If nothing else, the senseless claims about voter fraud teach us something very important: Our struggles for equal rights continue in the 21st century.

Ms. Dudek is a German-American researcher, analyst, writer, and an experienced Election Officer. She has actively campaigned for many progressive candidates in Michigan and pursued public office in Washington, D.C. in 2010. She regularly contributes to U.S. and German sources such as the Huffington Post and Migazin. A Boren Forum alumna, Ms. Dudek received The National Security Education Program (NSEP) award in 2014.

Original Link:

Sonntag, 30. Oktober 2016

U.S. Health Care System: American Taxpayers Paying A Lot, Getting Little In Return—A German-American Perspective

U.S. public officials often argue that the U.S.A. has the best health care system in the world and therefore are resisting change in view of President Obama’s health care reform efforts. The American health care system certainly has many advantages, particularly for the more fortunate citizens. Shorter wait times, sound facilities, clearly identified processes, uniform procedures, and easy access to medicine illustrate the strength of the system. However, besides other serious flaws such as being heavily symptom- instead of cause-oriented, Americans are paying exorbitant amounts for their health care and getting relatively little in return. Even individuals with health insurances in the U.S.A. are not protected from incurring financially debilitating bills due to the high deductibles.

Among the Organisation for Economic Co-Operation and Development (OECD) nations, the U.S.A. is one of the highest spenders on health care, in private, as well as public spending. U.S. private spending on health care is the highest among all OECD nations. Public spending is also very high. However, in spite of the money spent, the U.S.A. has one of the fewest acute care hospital beds per 1,000 populations: 2.5; Japan has 7.9, and Germany 5.3. The money that Americans are spending is not translating into a healthier population, either. In mortality from cancer, the U.S.A. ranks 25 out of 34, more than one-third (36.5 percent) of adults are obese. The USA also lags behind other developed nations in infant mortality, and well above the OECD average (6.9) in prevalence of diabetes (9.6), and the list goes on.

The U.S. health care system is a highly profit-oriented business. American companies are able to do in the United States what they often cannot do in other countries, not only morally, but also legally. For example, they can charge U.S. consumers more than customers abroad, even for drugs that were developed with U.S. tax money, of which the EpiPen is only one example among many. Care generally addresses the symptoms, instead of the underlying causes: Physicians are extremely prone to prescribing pills for which they receive kickbacks from pharmaceutical companies. Extensive reliance on pills keeps patients coming back for more of the same, and additional pills, to counteract the side-effects of the pills that they are already taking.

This explains why natural approaches to health are detached from the mainstream approach as much as it is the case in the U.S.A. A health system that does not see a holistic approach as a foundation of care, not consider using the body’s own healing powers in the healing process, and not include natural healing methods, does not have the best interest of patients in mind. In comparison, in Germany, for example, alternative medicine is a lot more integrated into the mainstream health care system. Main stream physicians in Germany are very well-versed on natural medicines and can officially recommend (“prescribe”) them, in which case, some insurances even cover the cost. Retreating to spas that health insurance pays for is also a given component of their health care system. Such retreats include massages, natural baths, and dancing. Americans pay a lot, but don’t come nearly close to receiving the same services.

However, the status-quo of the U.S. health care system should not come as a surprise. In 2013 the highest average profit margin achieved by a U.S. company was by the Pfizer corporation (42 percent), substantially more than banks (29 percent) and oil and gas companies (24 percent). Excessive profits and money also means power and control. Pharmaceutical companies exert those in various ways. For example, medical schools in the U.S.A. receive funds by the pharmaceutical and other health-industry sources. Subsequently, the companies can control the curriculum. Moreover, they can influence research, and also outcomes. Universities are hired to conduct crucial research for the companies, as they have the necessary credentials and enjoy the public’s trust as a place of intellectual integrity.

For the cost of health care, some like to conveniently blame the “Mexicans” and other minorities, or undocumented individuals, for exploiting the social services systems. Some people, of course, may “exploit” the system. However, that is a given in any system that involves humans. But the exploitation of the system by patients is not the cause of why Americans are spending a lot and are receiving relatively little in return, neither is the size of the country—an argument that is often used when comparing U.S. public services performance with other developed nations. The disconnection is caused by the lack of legal and moral limitations, such as on how much American patients can be charged and an undifferentiated “business over public services” ideology that turns even the most basic services into a money-making machine--a highly exploitative health care system, in this case.

We could go on and on about health care in the U.S.A. However, in a nutshell, the American health care system has serious moral and practical flaws that need to be fixed. At the same time, suspicion toward the current health care reform is well-granted. Given the predominantly undifferentiated mindset toward business over public services and the indifference regarding excessive profits in this country, any system, regardless how perfect, will turn into an exploitative system that does little but extort money from citizens. Until the indifference toward exploitative business practices changes, there is little use to change the health care, or any other system in the United States, because without ethics and limitations to profit-making, most every system we create is going to fail our country’s ordinary citizens in the long-run.

Ms. Dudek is a German-American researcher, analyst, and writer. She regularly contributes to U.S. and German sources such as Huffington Post and the Hill

Original Link to the Article: