The Patrimony

In politics, everything is relatives

Tag: religion

Ayatollahs, Khameneis, Khomeinis

by fpman

Given the recent health problems of Iran’s supreme ayatollah, Ali Khamenei, there is speculation about who would follow in case someone needs to replace him.

Here is a great overview of some of the possible candidates, including Mojtaba Khamenei, who is Ali Khamenei’s hardliner son, and Hassan Khomeini, the late ayatollah Khomeini’s grandson who has reformist leanings.

Neither dynastic-like succession, nor a radical or a reformist choice for successor is anything sure yet, it is worth adding.

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Chaebol nobility

by fpman

Korean Air is the latest South Korean chaebol (large family-run conglomerate) hit by a scandal related to family matters. Cho Hyun-ah, company chairman Cho Yang-ho’s daughter, recently made a flight she was on turn back so one of the stewards could be kicked off at the gate. The reason: she was served macadamia nuts in an unopened bag which she, as the person actually in charge of the airline’s in-flight services, thought was not the proper way. According to common descriptions of the story she basically transformed into a dragon in response. She clearly went way too far, and by now she has ended up stripped of all of her company titles and was forced to publicly apologize for her actions.

ChoHyun_ahCho Hyun-ah (centre) with father Cho Yang-ho, apologizing (photo: Song Eun-seok)

The NYT doesn’t fail to add that the incident

“is likely to stoke already seething anger at the country’s family owned conglomerates — or chaebol — whose leaders have a reputation for imperious behavior and treating their employees like feudal subjects.”

It is worth remembering at this point Chonghaejin Marine Company’s case. It was their ship, the MW Sewol ferry which sank in April of this year. Over 300 drowned in that incident caused to a great extent by human errors. On its last journey the ferry was carrying over three times the amount of cargo it was supposed to carry, and the extra load was not properly secured. After a relatively sharp turn by the vessel at one point the cargo shifted and caused the boat to capsize.

Yoo Byung-eun was the head of the family whose business empire extended to control of Chonghaejin, run by Yoo Byung-eun’s sons at the time. In the wake of the ferry disaster, the public mood turned against father Yoo, and South Korean authorities issued an arrest warrant against him related to charges of embezzlement, negligence and tax evasion. His children fled the country, and in the meantime he went into hiding, presumably with the support of the 100,000-strong Evangelical Baptist Church which he co-founded.

Eventually police found a badly decomposed body in the middle of a field in the middle of nowhere, south of the capital Seoul, and based on DNA evidence it was proclaimed that it was Yoo Byung-eun. He was thus pronounced dead. Police is still after Yoo Som-na, a daugther of his who is also accused of embezzlement and is held in prison in France awaiting decision on her extradition. Her defenders argue she would not get a fair trial in South Korea at this point.

The NYT is also referring to a story where a “ruling-family” member at the telecom and petrochemical conglomerate SK group beat up a union activist with an aluminum bat. This exaplains the context where many papers are now calling on government and judicial authorities to set examples with some chaebol princes and princesses to put an end to what they describe as “imperial abuse.”

Ashraf Ghani’s family and the tense situation in Afghanistan

by fpman

Here’s a whole new aspect to the story of kinship ties in politics which we’re covering on this blog.

In case you have not been following what’s been going on, or down, in Afghanistan, there is a situation there. A post-election situation, a case of contested results. The two leading presidential candidates are Ashraf Ghani and Abdullah Abdullah. I could provide here a brief introduction to Afghan politics, but instead I’ll just say one’s a Pashtun (Ghani) and the other is not (Abdullah Abdullah). And while AA won in the first round (non-decisively, getting only 45% of the vote), the second seems to have been taken by Ghani.

The “turnaround” (or what is perceived as such) could produce some tension in any country, probably, but add to this our general notion of how easy it is to conduct completely free and fair elections in Afghanistan, without fraud anywhere. It is hard, so losing is not easy to stomach — not only for the losing candidate but to his camp, too. And while the faultline between the opposing camps is not an ethnic faultline, there is a bit of a Pashtun v. non-Pashtun dimension to this, making it worse.

US Secretary of State John Kerry managed to broker a deal between the two sides in July — a vote recount, mutual acceptance of the results of the recount in advance, and a promise… to be gentle afterwards in forming a government of national unity of some kind (though the two candidates differ on what that exactly means).

kerry-afghan-electionsCelebration: Kerry (left), Ghani (middle), Abdullah Abdullah (right) — source: AP

Not everyone among their supporters is taking it kindly, though, and tension continues to simmer.

A case in point is Atta Mohammad Noor, a powerful non-Pashtun politician, longtime governor of Balkh province in northern Afghanistan. Besides promising not to accept “a one-sided recount,” he was also happy to specify what kind of uprising would follow in such an eventuality:

“I say uprising against the one who arrives through fraud, against the one winning by corrupted votes – uprising against the one who doesn’t know about religion and whose children and wife are not Afghans.”

“The one” he is referring to is Ashraf Ghani, of course. Between 1977 (when he went to the US to study at Columbia where he went on to earn a PhD) and 2001 (when the Taliban were ousted from power, after 9/11), Ghani did not return to Afghanistan. First because of the Communists, then because of the civil war that followed, and then because of the Taliban’s rule. This is reason enough for many in Afghan politics nowadays to attack him.

Actually, it has become a bit of a tradition to refer to those public figures who have returned to Afghanistan after 2001 as “dog-washers.” Atta Mohammad Noor at least didn’t say “uprising against the one who is a dog-washer” so there is still hope that this can be handled in a civilised manner. But he did say a few rude things about Ghani’s family, using that to try and discredit him.

Ghani met his wife in Lebanon. Her name is Rula, she is Arab, and she is from a Christian family.

Supporters and opposers go out of their way to make something of that. One side says Rula converted to Islam. A commenter here remarks that in his view, Rula “can challenge you in a test on Islam and she will obliterate you.” The other side keeps claiming that Ashraf Ghani is going to church with Rula when outside Afghanistan. On various Afghan discussion forums, the conspiracy mill is in overdrive spreading all kinds of sh*t about her, including that she is the agent of a Judeo-Christian plot to convert Afghan women to Christianity.

So yeah, that reference to Ghani’s wife did have some malevolent undertones.

But hey, Afghanistan’s got plenty of other problems, too. No reason to be overly concerned with this one.

How an Islamic State media officer views the issue of family

by fpman

The following dialogue is heard in the second part of a documentary shot by Vice News in Islamic State territory recently. It takes place inside a car where, while waiting, the journalist, Medyan Dairieh, is asking questions in Arabic from a representative of the Islamic State, by the name of Abu Mosa, essentially a media officer — or Dairieh’s minder.

Medyan Dairieh: “The war has been going on for a while. Don’t you have recreation time that you spend with the family?”

Abu Mosa: “To be honest, no. In my case, no. In the last few Eid celebrations, I told my children that I’ll not buy any sweets for Eid until the children of Daraa and Homs are able to celebrate, too. I don’t return home for pleasure, I only go when it’s important or I’m sick. I don’t, I don’t go at all.”

Medyan Dairieh: “Does that mean that you live for war all the time?”

Abu Mosa: “Yes. The family, honestly, is the least important thing. There is a higher purpose. No one would defend Muslims if we all sat at home with the family.”

Abu Mosa is no top decision-maker, of course, but he is a representative of a recently declared state (or political entity, to use a less loaded term). While his person may initially make this seem like an off-topic post for this blog, the subject he is talking about, and the similarity of thinking across the Islamic State’s jihadi leadership — given that their whole world view is in effect about demanding and expecting homogeneity of thinking, or the unity of the umma, i.e. the “community of the believers” — makes Abu Mosa’s comments significant on a larger scale.

This is a peculiar case — in reference back to our first post here where we said politicians having family comes with both good and bad sides in terms of political implications. Here the readiness on the part of at least some of the people in question to disregard even the bond to their own families, along with much else, in the name of their “higher purpose,” is… concerning. That, probably, is the scientifically accurate expression of what it is.

By the way, the documentary discussed here has five parts and you find the first of the five here.