The Smith College Relief Unit, Near East Relief and visions of Armenian reconstruction, 1919–21
In 1919, Smith College – a liberal women’s college in Massachusetts – seconded five of its graduates to Near East Relief’s humanitarian operations in the crumbling Ottoman Empire. Once they arrived, the five joined different relief parties and were spread widely throughout Near East Relief’s theatre of operations for the next eighteen months – from the Caucasus to Aleppo, and doing everything from clerical work, to running orphanages and rescue homes, and managing a medical lab. The Smith girls’ correspondence and photograph albums thus give us a rich, bottom-up view of many different fields and facets of NER’s relief operations. This chapter uses the previously unexplored archive of the ‘Smith Unit’ to provide the beginnings of a social history of NER relief workers and relief practices. It focuses on the varying humanitarian visions of NER policy-makers and their different types of relief worker, and the ensuing contestations, collaborations and innovations in practice on the ground. The discussion is framed within debates over the history of relief in Ottoman and post-Ottoman lands, the gendered politics of relief, and the transition from the ‘civilising mission’ to ‘modern’ humanitarianism after the First World War.
Etienne Brasil and Brazilian engagement with Armenia, 1912–22
This chapter examines how a humanitarian agenda towards Armenians arrived in Brazil became part of Brazilian foreign policy through the work of Etienne Brasil. The Armenian cause was incorporated into this policy agenda by a small interest group that had been able to obtain access to decision-makers through personal connections and intensive press propaganda. Brazil was trying to realign itself within the international system as a key player after the First World War. In this context, the Armenian cause was presented as an opportunity to show to the Great Powers that Brazil was ready to deal with challenges in the new global scenario and, therefore, deserved the prominent place that it had received at the Paris Peace Conference in 1919 and at the League of Nations. The hypothesis is that Brazilian support towards the Armenians was a pragmatic act that sought, through a humanitarian agenda, to gain prestige at the global level. Brazil’s attempt to act as mediator in the conflict between Armenians and Turks was therefore imbued with modern humanitarianism ideas, guided by the pragmatism and desire for prestige in the international system.
This chapter looks at the contemporary case of Syrian Armenians taking refuge/migrating to Armenia as a result of the current conflict in Syria. It looks at the different local, national and international actors involved in dealing with the Syrian humanitarian crisis in Armenia, engaging with their discourse, narratives, policies and practice, and crucially how these are being played out on the ground. The chapter is based on field research in Armenia in November 2016. It looks at how international organisations like the UNHCR as well as diaspora institutions like the AGBU are tackling the Syrian refugee crisis in Armenia. It also situates these activities in relation to how the Armenian government is dealing with the Syrians. In addition, the chapter examines the crucial role played by local civil society groups set up by Syrian Armenians in Armenia. The Syrian Armenians are the latest significant wave of diasporan Armenians seeking refuge from troubled homes. While it is yet unclear how many of these refugees will stay in Armenia in the long-term, this chapter addresses the problematic concepts and realities of diasporan ‘home’, ‘homeland’ and ‘return’, within the Armenian state and society.
Humanitarian interventions after the 1988 earthquake in Armenia
The 1988 earthquake in Armenia is frequently anecdotally referred to as a turning point in international humanitarian relief operations due to both the scale of destruction and the appeal of the Soviet authorities for international assistance, which followed in its wake. Such an appeal brought international relief workers to a Soviet republic for the first time in decades. At the same time, limited scholarly attention has been accorded to the way humanitarian aid impacted trajectories of change within Soviet Armenia during the final days of the Soviet Union. In light of this, the chapter looks at the changing character of the humanitarian cooperation between the Soviet Union and the West. It pays particular attention to the response of the Armenian diaspora to the earthquake and their changing relationship to the newly independent Republic of Armenia.
This chapter investigates fundraising and financial governance on the part of Al Qaeda from the 1990s to 2014. First, it outlines detail of US-directed interventions in Afghanistan during the Afghan–Soviet War (1979–1989). Building on the description of these interventions before the declaration of the establishment of Al Qaeda in 1988, the analysis then explores the relative significance for Al Qaeda fundraising of wealthy donors and charities in the Middle Eastern region, alternative remittance systems, and broader commercial activities. Insights from declassified Western government intelligence material, testimony from figures within these organisations, and reliable information from think tanks are applied to the documentary discussion of Al Qaeda finance. The concluding section of the chapter discusses precepts of Islamic finance that conflict with the political and economic policies of neoliberalism, including neoliberal economic managerial mechanisms. Collectively, the chapter explores how Al Qaeda’s financial behaviour can be understood as representing the organisation’s collective expression of ‘habitus’ within a ‘field’ and ‘doxa’ of normalised neoliberal political-economic relations.
This chapter commences an account of Al Qaeda’s political-economic propaganda. The discussion and analysis are influenced by interpretations of neo-jihadism articulated in the work of the activist-scholars Iain Boal, T. J. Clark, Joseph Matthews, and Michael Watts, as well as insights from investigative journalism in the Global War on Terror. The analysis in this chapter foregrounds Islamist ideologues that influenced Al Qaeda at its 1988 inception, before reflecting on how the organisation’s political-economic propaganda engaged with dominant anti-capitalist and anti-US perspectives prior to and following 11 September 2001, and after the 2008 Global Financial Crisis. The investigation addresses the discourse of prominent figures who influenced Al Qaeda in history and who spoke on behalf of the organisation, including Osama Bin Laden, Abdullah Azzam, Aymenn al-Zawahiri, and Adam Gadahn. Drawing on Bourdieusian theory, it explores how Al Qaeda leaders appeal to social, cultural, and symbolic capital through their propaganda, while their collective expression of an anti-capitalist ‘habitus’ corresponds to a changing ‘field’ of anti-capitalism that developed over time.
Extending Bourdieu’s theory and a peace-studies approach, the concluding chapter of this book reflects on the significance of the research in light of political-economic developments in neo-jihadism from 2017 to 2020, and within the global economic system. It incorporates a comparative consideration of other political movements: anarchism, left-wing activism, the Global War on Terrorism, and a twenty-first-century rise in right-wing extremism. It also considers evolutionary developments within the phenomenon of neo-jihadism, including the possible future political activities of Al Qaeda and Islamic State. Drawing on theoretical and strategic inferences of the variegated nature of neo-jihadism, and empirical insights from research presented in this book, it ultimately suggests reframing strategic emphasis on surface-level contradictions or paradoxical relationships between the political-economic propaganda and financial practices of neo-jihadist organisations. As an alternative to this approach, it advocates paying greater attention to underlying structural connections between such organisations and the Western neoliberal entities and societal systems they externally oppose.
The Introduction sets out the rationale for and approach of the book, clarifies several important characteristics of the phenomena of neo-jihadism and neoliberalism, and explains the evolutionary attributes of neo-jihadism that inform the following chapters. Differing from other, strategic analyses of these groups, this chapter argues that the various ways in which these organisations repurpose and reconstitute neoliberalism are in certain respects unsurprising. It suggests that in their finance, propaganda, and state- and community-building, Al Qaeda and Islamic State reconstruct elitist and oppressive political-economic hierarchies in a similar manner to historical examples of power-cum-resistance during the 1917 Russian Revolution, Mao Zedong’s China in the 1930s, and the US-backed ‘Purple’, ‘Orange’, ‘Cedar’, and ‘Rose’ revolutions in Iraq, Ukraine, Lebanon, and Georgia in the 1990s and 2000s. Far from endorsing the violence of organisations such as Al Qaeda and Islamic State, the chapter argues that understanding neo-jihadism in dialectical relation to the dominant political-economic environments it operates within provides an avenue through which to address a prevailing ‘epistemological crisis’ in contemporary counterterrorism.
This chapter accounts for US-led interventions in Iraq from the 1990s to 2003 and discusses key fundraising and financial management practices on the part of Islamic State from 2014 to 2017. Drawing on think-tank research, declassified intelligence reports, and administrative materials produced by Islamic State actors, the analysis reflects on the relative importance of financial institutions, oil and gas, other natural resources, and financial governance within the Caliphate, and the organisation’s historical fundraising. Islamic State’s actions are in this context interpreted in relation to the impact of neoliberal economic restructuring in the Middle Eastern region, drawing on Jamie Peck’s theory of ‘neoliberal layering’. Islamic State’s practices are also analysed for their neoliberal features, with reference to Bourdieusian and neo-Marxist ideas. Using a neo-Marxist lens to compare the financial behaviour of Al Qaeda and Islamic State, the discussion further considers the extent to which their different financial behaviour exists in a recursive relationship with each organisation’s geo-economic orientation. The divergent geo-economic and territorial interests of Al Qaeda and Islamic State are a point of focus in this chapter, as is the extent to which these characteristics can be said to characterise differentiated organisational models of neo-jihadism.