Failed Coup in Turkey Provides Cover for Erdoğan

(Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan)

Turkey faces an uncertain future following a failed coup attempt last week. World leaders denounced the attempted overthrow of the government, launched by dissident elements of the country’s military against President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and his ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP).

Amidst appeals for faith in the democratic process and a return to dialogue, however, is the specter of Erdoğan’s increasingly totalitarian regime. Critics fear that the coup – which lacked a strong ideological basis and included some soldiers who were not even fully aware of what they were participating in – has laid the groundwork for a speedy consolidation of power.

Events over the past few days may prove those critics correct. Following the arrest and detention of 6,000 people allegedly involved in the coup attempt, the government initiated a mass purge of government and education workers. More than 1,500 university professors have been asked to resign and authorities have revoked the licenses of 21,000 teachers. As many as 35,000 public servants have now been removed as part of the government’s aggressive turn.

To top all of this off, the government has banned all academics from travel in a nod to polices practiced by the Soviet Union.

The perpetrators of the coup attempt certainly have blood on their hands. At least 161 individuals – including many police officers – were killed, with thousands more wounded. Furthermore, these numbers do not include civilians killed in clashes with renegade military forces. But Erdoğan’s overreaction is morphing into a general round up of dissidents, which is in total contravention with the supposedly pro-democratic rationale for defying the attempted coup.

A statement from Amnesty International called for justice relating to unlawful killings stemming from the coup, but warned against the extreme reaction currently underway:

The sheer number of arrests and suspensions since Friday is alarming and we are monitoring the situation very closely. The coup attempt unleashed appalling violence and those responsible for unlawful killings and other human rights abuses must be brought to justice, but cracking down on dissent and threatening to bring back the death penalty are not justice.

Turkey’s actions may lead to greater isolation from Western bloc countries, and further dampen its prospects at EU membership. The nation, a NATO member, has long been considered an invaluable ally and asset in a region fraught with war and strife. Indeed, the US has nuclear weapons strategically placed in Turkey, which now pose a big question: how secure are these weapons with view to Turkey’s worsening political crisis, happening concurrently with the intransigent conflict in neighboring Syria? How does all this factor into the increasingly visible terrorist attacks perpetrated by ISIS throughout the world?

The political, economic, and security implications are immense. The Tap will continue covering events in Turkey as they relate to the social good.

A Global Response to Zika Virus Begins

(Mosquitos: the chief culprits in the rapid spread of the Zika virus)

On February 1, the World Health Organization declared a global health emergency. The announcement came in response to an extraordinary increase in birth defects in Brazil. During 2015, thousands of infants were born with microcephaly – a disorder that causes fetuses to develop abnormally small heads. Though researchers have not been able to conclusively make the connection, the leading hypothesis holds that the Zika virus is likely responsible for the uptick of this rare birth defect.

WHO Director Margaret Chan declared the pattern in Brazil “an extraordinary event and a public health threat to other parts of the world.”

The crisis certainly has global dimensions. First discovered in the 1940s in Africa, the virus only made its way to Latin America last May, where it has since rapidly spread to 23 nations. Florida Governor Rick Scott has announced a state of emergency after as many as 12 cases emerged in the state. A pregnant woman in Spain recently became the first European Zika virus case. Specialists believe that up to 1.5 million Brazilians alone may have contracted it.

The issuing of the global health emergency will trigger funding for prevention and mosquito eradication – efforts to contain the spread of the virus, which takes its biggest toll on new borns. Women in many affected areas who have contracted the virus, however, are stuck in a difficult position. Many of the countries hit with the outbreak have strict anti-abortion laws in place, meaning that affected pregnant women may have to bring children to term who have severe, debilitating brain-damage. Microcephaly cannot be detected in fetuses until late in the second-trimester, further complicating the situation of Zika-stricken pregnant women residing in nations with restrictive stances on reproduction issues.

While nations like Brazil are reconsidering strict anti-abortion laws in light of the Zika virus outbreak, others are holding fast to their onerous legal codes. El Salvador – where abortion is illegal – has officially suggested that women simply refrain from getting pregnant until 2018.

Authorities have sought to dispel concerns that the virus poses a risk during the upcoming Olympic games, scheduled to be held in Brazil this summer. Government officials cited the relatively cool month of August and rigorous mosquito eradication efforts underway as reasons why visitors for the games will be safe from contracting the virus. Drawing a link between the Zika virus and international sporting events, however, some specialists have speculated that the virus could have been introduced into the country during the 2014 World Cup. So far, no upsurge in ticket returns has occurred in response to recent events.

Key Elements Group LLC will continue covering the global response to the Zika virus as programs get underway and fundraising initiatives begin in support of affected communities.

Refugee Relief Efforts Face Bankruptcy

(Photo: Arbat Transit Camp for Syrian Refugees in Sulaymaniyah, Iraqi Kurdistan)

As part of our ongoing coverage of the global refugee crisis, today we look at how UN agencies are quickly running out of cash and consequently edging closer to bankruptcy.

In an interview with The Guardian, UN High Commissioner for Refugees António Guterres relayed a dim situation marked by increased need and declining budgets:

If you look at those displaced by conflict per day, in 2010 it was 11,000; last year there were 42,000. This means a dramatic increase in need, from shelter to water and sanitation, food, medical assistance, education. The budgets cannot be compared with the growth in need. Our income in 2015 will be around 10% less than in 2014. The global humanitarian community is not broken – as a whole they are more effective than ever before. But we are financially broke.

As world governments struggle to cope with the glut in refugees fleeing war torn countries including Syria, Afghanistan, and Eritrea, it is unclear how aid agencies will be able to raise the necessary funds to keep aid programs afloat. The Syria Regional Response Plan – the overarching program to assist Syrians displaced by their nation’s intractable civil war – is barely 23 percent funded. Funding across the board is inadequate: relief efforts in Yemen are only 20 percent funded, programs to help internally displaced populations in Iraq are only 30 percent funded, and aid for Nepal earthquake victims is currently only 33 percent of the overall projected amount necessary.

Budget shortfalls take a large toll on refugees’ living standards, with UN agencies and aid providers cutting food rations and medical services. Refugees from Darfur received the distressing news that their food rations may end toward the end of the year. The World Food Program – the UN’s food agency – will suspend aid to 1.7 million Syrians because of funding shortages. Considering that displaced peoples possess virtually no means to generate income or sustenance, these realities pose tall and difficult challenges.

Unlike other arms of the UN, humanitarian efforts do not receive regular contributions from world governments. In other words, relief agencies – including the UNHCR and Unicef – depend on additional voluntary gifts from governments, as well as philanthropic contributions from individual global citizens.

Underfunded programs impact ongoing crises in a number of ways. Refugees that make the risky and potentially fatal trip by boat to Greece’s archipelago have told frontline UNHCR workers that they were compelled to flee camps in Jordan because of a dearth of food rations, declining living conditions, and the fraught and tense situation with native residents resulting from these worsening social conditions. This means that underfunded aid programs contribute to the mass migration fanning out through the Middle East and Europe.

Additionally, analysts are concerned that harrowing camp conditions could be a large boon for extremist organizations. Reports from refugee camps inside Turkey indicate that ISIS recruiters operate with relative impunity, attracting disaffected and hungry refugees lured by the promise of steady pay and food.

The amount of funding needed to fully support relief programs will unlikely come from private and voluntary gifts The total necessary is simply too high. Guterres and others are openly calling for reform that would require governments to contribute more mandatory funding for relief efforts. The commissioner remarked that to not “spend more on humanitarian aid is a bad strategy, not to say a suicidal one.” As programs begin unraveling due to the stress of higher demand sapping fewer resources, relief programs may indeed make situations even worse than they currently are.

Targeted, Nonprofits in Russia Flee

A number of high-profile nonprofits in Russia are fleeing, as the country’s governing elite moves to ostracize and persecute international NGOs.

Russia’s upper house of parliament has constructed a “patriotic stop list” that includes a host of international NGOs that Russian authorities feel either pose a threat to their hegemony or are antithetical to Russian principles. A number of renowned organizations face scrutiny, including Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, Carnegie Moscow Center, the MacArthur Foundation, and the C.S. Mott Foundation. The latter two organizations have already announced plans to cease operations in the country.

Russian legislators have paved the way for fines and jail time for individuals caught violating laws barring certain nonprofits from pursuing their organizational missions.

This is not the first instance of nonprofit groups running afoul of overbearing authorities under Putin’s reign. Environmental groups and LGBTQ rights organizations have long faced persecution at the hands of the nation’s security apparatus.

What the exodus of international foundations from the country means for Russian citizens and culture remains to be seen. Organizations such as the MacArthur Foundation elevate intellectual and artistic genius to the international stage. With the grant-making organization’s departure, Russian citizens will be deprived of invaluable grants promoting Russian art and thought. Furthermore, the absence of human rights organization will only further obscure the plight of marginalized communities in Russia, such as the nation’s LGBTQ community and Central Asian immigrants.

FIFA Fumbles Its Nonprofit Mission

On May 27, nine FIFA representatives – along with a handful of sports media executives – were arrested on corruption charges in Geneva, Switzerland. The United States-led case against soccer’s most powerful nonprofit institution is less surprising in the content of its allegations (bribery, racketeering, and fraud) than the extent of the indictments.

News reports appeared last year showing that FIFA officials may have received bribes from vested interests in Qatar for lobbying on the Middle Eastern country’s behalf in the campaign for the World Cup. Indeed, the last year has seen a host of stories concerning the less salubrious aspects of FIFA’s operations, including the nonprofit’s undue pressure on governments to change local laws in order accommodate sponsors’ interests. While these and other controversies were hardly secret, the multi-billion dollar institution exuded an air of invincibility, weathering criticism through its immense influence as the international administrator of the world’s most popular sport.

Sports are big business, and nonprofit sports institutions are not immune to the corrosive influence of billions of dollars in profits. Whether it is the exploitive profiteering of the NCAA or the evasiveness and obscurity of the NFL’s (now bygone) tax exemption status, United States sports fans have seen the unsavory – if not entirely illegal – side of sports nonprofits. Taken to the world stage, the picture gets even shadier. The larger scope often means that the corruption is more sinister, involving governments and business interests that are not held to the same human rights checks that U.S. sports fans naturally expect domestic institutions to adhere to.

Enter Qatar: the highly controversial recipient of the 2022 World Cup. One of the chief issues at play in last month’s indictments against FIFA representatives is the bribery of officials by Qatari interests – backroom arrangements involving illicit cash transfers that may have ultimately secured the rights to the World Cup for the Gulf state.

Outside of the excruciatingly high and perhaps disqualifying temperatures in Qatar (desert conditions can reach as high as 120 degrees Fahrenheit), critics also say that the nation’s abusive labor practices should bar it from hosting the Cup. The massive development projects currently underway to build stadiums for the tournament depend on inhumanely treated and miserably compensated migrant workers from Southeastern Asia, including Nepalese, Sri Lankan, Bangladeshi, and Indian workers. According to reports, as many as 1,200 workers have died since construction projects began in 2010. To put this in perspective, the closest contemporary fatality rate for a massive world sports competition development project was the Sochi Olympics, which saw the deaths of 60 workers. The Guardian projects that migrant worker deaths in Qatar could reach as high as 4,000 by the completion of the project.

Qatar’s ruthless labor practices don’t stop there. Reports indicate that workers are compelled to work in scorching weather with little to no access to water. Often hired through third-party brokers, workers have their passports confiscated by employers upon arrival and face hefty contractor fees that largely negate their salaries. Recently, Nepalese workers were denied the right to return home to attend funerals for family members that perished in Nepal’s catastrophic earthquake.

Taken together, all of these components paint a picture of virtual slavery, tacitly endorsed by a mum FIFA.

Additionally, FIFA’s damaging effects on developing countries emerged as a big issue during the Brazil Cup. An ordinance that barred alcohol sales during soccer matches – legislation that, after it was passed, drastically decreased violence during sporting events in Brazil – was rescinded in order to placate Budweiser, one of FIFA’s biggest sponsors. FIFA shrugged off criticism concerning its stance on local autonomy, flippantly suggested that Brazilian authorities simply had no say as to whether or not its own laws were enforced.

The supposed economic benefits of hosting the game was also proven erroneous. Brazil constructed the second most expensive stadium ever built, and it is now used primarily as a parking lot for public buses. The nation saw widespread demonstrations and unrest due to the perceived waste of government spending for a temporary event that catered primarily to foreign tourists and fans to the detriment of Brazilian citizens.

In the world of global sports, FIFA ranks among the most profitable organizations. This is due largely to the fact that soccer is by-and-large the world’s most popular sport. Between 2011 and 2014, FIFA earned around $5.7 billion, $1.6 billion of which came from corporate sponsorships alone. With labor abuses and internal corruption, FIFA’s unethical practices and sizable profit margin distract from the lofty principles of peaceful and honorable competition.

Whether or not the United States-led indictments lead to an overhaul of FIFA’s operations remains to be seen. Sepp Blatter – the long-time, controversial president of FIFA – was recently reelected to his position despite the scandal. Infamous for his suggestion that women’s soccer would be more popular if the athletes wore tighter uniforms, Blatter is criticized as out-of-touch and emblematic of the entrenched elite that control the mechanisms behind the institution.

The definition of what constitutes a nonprofit varies around the world, but at the core of the definition is the idea that an organization empowers people or otherwise contributes positively to human experience by promoting constructive causes. Sports are certainly an empowering cause, helping further everything from gender equality to health, economic opportunity to cultural understanding. FIFA’s stated mission is dedicated to “the constant improvement of football.” Whether or not it actually pursues this goal according to the values expected of an international nonprofit institution is contingent on rooting out structural abuses and aggressively advocating international standards of human rights for the benefit of all people from around the globe.

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