The Transformation of the Summer Pasture: Geography, Migration, and Social Change in the Middle East 

The Transformation of the Summer Pasture: Geography, Migration, and Social Change in the Middle East

Chris Gratien, Ph.D. Candidate, Georgetown University

Summer is upon us and as in many summers past, millions will visit the various beaches of Turkey's Aegean and Mediterranean shores in search of fun and sun at popular holiday destinations such as Bodrum, Ayvalık, Fethiye, and Kaş. The warm coasts of modern Turkey are increasingly a vacation destination for those looking near and far for excitement or relaxation. The phenomenon of beach culture and many of the things that come with it are historically recent on the global stage; yet, summer sojourns to alternative locations are nothing new. In fact, long before the beach resorts of Bodrum, swarms of seasonal travelers once flocked not towards but rather away from the coasts during the hot Mediterranean summers.

The summer destination of choice throughout the Ottoman period was of course the mountains, where cooler air promised health and respite from the scorching heat of the plains and coasts. While for well-to-do city-folk this might have been a trip to a summer home in the mountains, all segments of society participated in this seasonal migration. In particular, pastoralist communities would move their entire herds and property to a summer pasture referred to as a yaylak (or yayla), where they would set up camp until the passing of the hottest months allowed them to migrate back down to the grassy plains for winter grazing. This seasonally migratory pattern arose out of a symbiosis between geography, climate, and human activity that defined life and politics in many parts of the Anatolian countryside.

Changes in the political, economic, and technological contexts of human society have dramatically transformed the function of the yaylas that nonetheless continue to hold symbolic significance for many. The massive migrations of people and animals have become a thing of the past, and while this has meant an overall decrease in the geographical significance of highland plateaus, people continue to find new ways of making use of these spaces. This short essay offers a historical glimpse at summer pastures and the migrations they encouraged over the course of dramatic changes in ecology within Turkey over the past two centuries complete with a compilation of maps new and old.

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Immigration detention centres – “Warehouses” of souls and bodies 

Press announcement – Lawyers for the rights of migrants and refugees.

Athens, 14 August 2013

In crisis-stricken Greece operation ‘Xenios Zeus’ has been used by the Greek government as a means of rounding up a redundant and unemployed segment of the migrant labour force from the center of Athens under the pretext of controlling the legality of their residence.

These people have been transferred to new detention centers (Amygdaleza, Corinth, Xanthi, Komotini, etc.) set up specifically for this purpose but which hardly differ from extant facilities (police stations, former warehouses, etc.) that were the subject of a Public Statement by the Committee for the Prevention of Torture of the Council of Europe in March 2011 and have given rise to a multitude of convictions by the European Court of Human Rights on grounds of the inhuman and degrading treatment of the detainees.

In the Amygdaleza detention centre of Xenios Zeus, the use of containers has exacerbated the torment of the summer heat; in Corinth, a detainee who had been deprived of the necessary medical care was transferred to hospital only to die; reactions and protests from within all new detention facilities in the country are ongoing.

The greatest agony, however, which the people transferred to Amygdaleza and other facilities have to endure, is the prospect of the indefinite extension of their detention. While until 2009 immigrants awaiting deportation were held up to three months, this was increased to six months during the ministerial tenure of Mr Dendias, to twelve months after the start of operation Xenios Zeus and – since the beginning of August – to an unprecedented maximum period of 18 months, an extension which has triggered a series of protests.

Against this unceasing flow of extending the maximum period of detention, nobody builds a dike. Even if the European Court has been convicting Greece in a by now repetitive manner because of the absurd periods of detention in unacceptable facilities, the Greek judges have been validating the indefinite extension of the detention period, even when there is no reasonable prospect of returning these people to their homelands. They have thereby uncritically been siding with the roars of extreme nationalist groups, that apparently wish for solutions more radical than ‘mere’ detention.

The recent unrest in Amygdaleza, however, has shown everybody that even the barefoot ones may rise up – probably because they have nothing to lose. What was the reaction of our State? The authorities pressed rebellion charges against 41 detainees in order to set an example for the rest. This means that for 41 people the maximum period of detention will be surpassed by their incarceration in prison, for a criminal offence this time. And most likely they will be subsequently held for another period of 18 months with a view to deportation that the court will have ordered.

We must ask ourselves however if development via prisons and detention centers is what debt-stricken Greece should be aspiring to. We hereby remind all those who think that the detention of immigrants is not an issue that directly affects them, that the first medical experiments with HIV-positive women and drug addicts (like operation ‘Thetis’ in Amygdaleza detention center earlier this year) are already a fact and that the detention facilities that are currently under construction or planned, will eventually accommodate all outcasts. This is not just a fear but an explicit forewarning put forward from within the podium of the Greek Parliament by a representative of the neo-nazi party.

Already today and tomorrow, it will be decided whether we will continue to hold on remand those who dared to protest against the deplorable conditions and their period of detention.

We anticipate judges who will stand up and stop the slide of this country along dark paths. We remind them of the precedent set a few months ago by the court in Igoumenitsa when it acquitted from all escape charges other prisoners who had been held under similar conditions of detention.
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Lampedusa No Finger Print 

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Global capitalism and 21st century fascism 

An aerial view shows the Zaatari refugee camp on July 18, 2013 near the Jordanian city of Mafraq, some 8 kilometers from the Jordanian-Syrian border. (MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images)

The global economic crisis and the attack on immigrant rights are bound together in a web of 21st century fascism.

[..For instance, the war on immigrants in the United States and elsewhere, and more generally, repression of social movements and vulnerable populations, is an accumulation strategy independent of any political objectives. This war on immigrants is extremely profitable for transnational corporations. In the United States, the private immigrant prison-industrial complex is a boom industry. Undocumented immigrants constitute the fastest growing sector of the US prison population and are detained in private detention centres and deported by private companies contracted out by the US state..]

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Number 9 - Stop violence at the borders! 

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