Tag Archives: violence

The beautiful game? Violence, security and safety at Euro 2016

Kate Whiston, University of Nottingham

Source: Wikimedia Commons

Source: Wikimedia Commons

Regardless of whether you have been following the football or not, you won’t have been able to escape the disappointing reports of crowd violence at this year’s Uefa European Championships in France. Since the turn of the century, sports mega-events like the Euros have come under the academic radar, with research drawing attention to issues surrounding surveillance, security, governance, and control (Foucault, eat your heart out!). Geographers in particular have been keen to kick off enquiries into the inherently spatial nature of both surveillance and violence across a variety of spaces. One such paper, published almost a year ago, is Fonio and Pisapia’s (2015) investigation into security and surveillance at the 2010 FIFA World Cup in South Africa. Whilst this paper considered the approaches to surveillance – and their impacts on the community – in Johannesburg, a formerly hazardous city in a developing country, there are some striking comparisons which can be drawn with the disruption at this year’s Euros.

England fans were involved in some of the earliest instances of unruly behaviour in France. Before the tournament had even begun, fighting broke out between England fans and locals in Marseille, causing French riot police to step in. Furthermore, in the build-up to England’s first group game against Russia, Police were forced to use tear gas and a water-cannon, when English, French, and Russian supporters clashed. On the day of the much-anticipated game, the violence continued, this time inside the stadium. Russian fans set off flares during the game and, after scoring a last-minute equaliser, proceeded to charge at English supporters, forcing some to climb over fences to escape.

What is worrying is that this was not an isolated incident. Reports of violence at this year’s tournament have been disturbingly common; fans from Northern Ireland, Hungary, Turkey, Croatia, Belgium, and Portugal, just to name a few, have been charged for violent and racist behaviour. Uefa have tried to curb violence by fining the national football associations involved, and has also threatened clubs with expulsion from the tournament. But what is being done by the French authorities to deal with the violent scenes? And how does their approach relate to the precautions taken for the 2010 FIFA World Cup in South Africa which, despite concerns about the safety of fans and players, was praised for being a safe tournament for all involved?

The terror attacks in Paris in November, in which the Stade de France was one of the targets, meant that this year’s Euros had a heightened level of security. The French packed their defence, employing 90,000 security staff (42,000 national police officers, 30,000 local gendarmes, and 10,000 soldiers) and 12,000 stewards, and erecting 42km of temporary fences (26km of high fences and 16km low barriers). Security checks were undertaken on entry to every stadium, with a long list of prohibited items, and regular bomb sweeps and body checks in fan zones and stadiums were in operation. This year is the third time that France has hosted the Championships – ‘Le Rendez-Vous’ is the tournament’s very fitting slogan – and French Authorities were determined to make this year’s tournament a success.

Such a high level of surveillance is vital to ensuring the safety of everyone affected by such a major sporting event. However, preparation is just as important. Preparation, Fonio and Pisapia (2015) argue, is what contributed to the success of the 2010 FIFA World Cup in South Africa. The tournament, they state, represented a shift in FIFA’s approach to security, from reactive security provisions to more proactive policing. In preparation for the World Cup, South African officials visited the 2006 World Cup in Germany and the 2004 Summer Olympics in Greece; the South Africans had done their homework. During the 2010 tournament, security and surveillance were practised by multiple parties; local police, people within the community, nationally-appointed security forces, and FIFA officials. Focussing on Johannesburg, Fonio and Pisapia (2015) identify two main approaches to security that were used, both of which emphasised the highly spatial – and visual – nature of security at major football tournaments. Firstly, Geographical Information System (GIS) technology proved vital to Johannesburg police, who compiled all the relevant event-information into geographical layers – facilities, transportation hubs and routes, security, traffic black spots, road closures – which could be laid over each other to identify high-risk areas for congregations of people. Such technology was also used to analyse physical and social disorder after the events, which was captured and recorded by policemen using GIS handheld devices. The second approach was to use surveillance cameras, South African authorities developing a network of CCTV systems across the host cities. The use of such surveillance technologies, Fonio and Pisapia (2015) claim, created institutional ‘knowledge networks’, in which knowledge about how to tackle disorderly behaviour was shared and transferred, helping the authorities to prepare.

So what went wrong in France? Whilst the French authorities were seemingly prepared, English eyewitnesses have identified gaps in their defence; they were simply not prepared enough. For fans inside the Marseille stadium watching a rather dull game, waiting for England to inevitably concede a last-minute equaliser, it was obvious that trouble was brewing. The perpetrators were renowned Russian ‘ultras’, hardened hooligans who plan and choreograph violent acts. They were wearing logos identifying their allegiance, well-known to the rest of the world, and, as a result, the French police have been heavily criticised for not being more on the ball. There was also a lack of crowd segregation within the stadium, something unheard of even in most English non-league grounds! It is really disappointing that ‘the beautiful game’ has taken such an ugly turn, but let’s hope that the continued work of geographers into understanding both the socio-spatial dynamics of violence and the use of surveillance technologies, will help turn the game around.

 

books_iconFonio, C. and Pisapia, G. (2015). “Security, surveillance and geographical patterns at the 2010 FIFA World Cup in Johannesburg”, The Geographical Journal, 181(3):242-248.

60-world2BBC Euro 2016: Who is to blame for the Marseille violence? BBC online. 14 June 2016

60-world2Nurse H 2016 Euro 2016: How is French security ensuring fan safety? BBC online. 14 June 2016

60-world2BBC Hungary fans clash with riot police inside Marseille stadium BBC online. 18 June 2016.

60-world2BBC Euro 2016: Hungary, Belgium and Portugal federations charged BBC online 19 June 2016.

 

 

What Does ‘Shared Responsibility’ mean in the Context of the Mérida Agreement?

By Carolyn Gallaher, School of International Service, American University, Washington DC

Protesting against repression in Mexico. Photo Credit: Marcel Oosterwijk

Protesting against repression in Mexico. Photo Credit: Marcel Oosterwijk

In 2008, the U.S. and Mexican governments established the Mérida Initiative, a bilateral security agreement in which the two countries agreed to ‘share responsibility’ for dismantling organized crime groups based in Mexico and operating in the U.S.  In October of this year, the U.S. State Department quietly decided to withhold some of its scheduled aid because of concerns over Mexico’s human rights record.

How did this agreement come to pass, and once it was established, why did it take so long for the U.S. government to respond to evidence that Mexican security forces were violating human rights?

On the first matter, in a paper recently published in The Geographical Journal, I argue that the notion of ‘shared responsibility’ underpinning the Mérida agreement helped thaw the long-frosty relationship between the two countries.

For its part, Mexico has been wary of U.S. motives since the U.S./Mexican War.  Mexico lost nearly a third of its territory in the war, so ‘yanqui imperialism’ continues to be seen as a real threat.  The U.S.’s fears are more recent, but no less trenchant.  On the matter of drugs, for example, the U.S. believes Mexican law enforcement is not a reliable partner because of its history of corruption.

The increase in drug-related violence in the early 2000s only complicated the relationship, and in fact prompted a new debate—were Mexico’s drug cartels terrorists, and if so, was Mexico in danger of failing?

The notion of ‘shared responsibility’ helped pave the way for cooperation on security issues, generally, and drug trafficking more specifically, by doing three things.  First, it clarified the formal position of both governments that Mexico’s drug cartels are criminals—specifically, transnational criminal organizations (TCOs)—instead of terrorists.  By casting the problem as transnational, the United State also agreed to accept some responsibility for it.  Finally, the agreement reaffirmed Mexican sovereignty by putting Mexico in charge of what Mérida money could be used for.

Second, although the Mérida Agreement can be characterized as a ‘paradigm shift’ inasmuch as the two countries now cooperate extensively on security issues—something that would have been unthinkable even a decade ago—it has simultaneously reinforced a militarized status quo in Mexico.

By defining ‘shared responsibility’ as an obligation between states, rather than between states and citizens, Mexican militarization can proceed apace, despite the litany of abuses ascribed to it in places such as Juarez, and Tlatlaya, among others) .

These abuses came to a symbolic head in October 2014 when 43 students from a rural teachers’ college in Iguala, a small town in Guerrero state, were forcibly abducted and disappeared at the hands of Mexican security forces.

When President Obama was asked about the students at a press conference during Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto’s state visit in early January 2015, he reaffirmed the notion of shared responsibility as between states, noting that the U.S.’s “commitment is to be a friend and supporter of Mexico in its efforts to eliminate the scourge of violence.”  It would take another ten months for the U.S. government to reconsider that responsibility.  The amount of aid withheld—a few million out of a $4.2 billion bucket—also gives reason for pause going forward.  The amount is probably not sufficient to stop state abuses.

About the author: Carloyn Gallaher is Associate Professor at the School of International Service, at the American University, Washington DC. She undertakes research in two distinct areas, organised violence by non-state actors, and urban politics. 

books_icon Gallaher, C. (2015), Mexico, the failed state debate, and the Mérida fix. The Geographical Journal. doi: 10.1111/geoj.12166

60-world2 Human Rights Watch 2015 Mexico: Damning Report on Disappearances: Experts dispute official account of 2014 atrocity  

60-world2 Meyer M, Bewer S and Cepeda C 2010 Abused and Afraid in Ciudad Juarez: An analysis of human rights violations by the military in Mexico

60-world2 Partlow J 2015 U.S blocks some anti-drug funds for Mexico over human rights concernsThe Washington Post 

60-world2 WOLA 2015 In Mexico’s Tlatlaya massacre, soldiers were ordered to ‘take them out’ Press Release.

Another Islamic State? The Shifting Tactics of Boko Haram

By Stuart Elden, University of Warwick and Monash University

Military Presence in Maitama, Abuja (image credit: Stuart Elden)

Military Presence in Maitama, Abuja (image credit: Stuart Elden)

The Sunni Islamic group known as ‘Boko Haram’, active in the northeast of the country since at least 2007, came to much wider Western attention in April 2014 with the kidnapping of the school girls at Chibok in Borno state. It then somewhat slipped off the radar with events in Ukraine and the rise of the so-called ‘Islamic State’ in Syria and Iraq. The ‘Islamic State’ was formerly known as al-Qaeda in Iraq, and then as the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham. Al-Sham is frequently translated as either the ‘Levant’ or Syria, but part of the point is to encompass a much wider geographical area, and the group has been explicit about its aim of dissolving colonial-era boundaries between states. Foremost among these is the much-hated ‘Sykes-Picot line’ between Iraq and Syria, the result of the 1915-16 agreement between the French and British about how they would divide the lands of the Ottoman Empire if they were to defeat them in the First World War. The peace of Paris, following the end of that war, did indeed set many of these divisions, though it took two treaties for this region: the Treaty of Sèvres in 1920, which never came into force because of the Turkish war of independence, and then the Treaty of Lausanne in 1923. The borders of Syria, Lebanon, Mandate Palestine, Iraq and Turkey all result from these agreements.

In West Africa, the territories of states are also determined by their inheritance of colonial-era boundaries. Many boundaries run north-south, whereas Muslim-Christian divisions tend to run east-west. What this means, in Nigeria especially, is a seemingly stark division in the country. All of the northern states that have implemented Sharia legal codes voted for Muhammadu Buhari in the last presidential elections, whereas all the southern states except Osun voted for Goodluck Jonathan. When Umaru Musa Yar’Adua died in office in 2010, Jonathan, as his vice-president, succeeded him. Jonathan has since won an election in his own right, and has recently declared he will run again in 2015. To win, he wants to stabilize the situation with Boko Haram, something that seems increasingly out of reach.

Nigeria has seen political violence and challenges to its territorial integrity before, with the Biafran war of independence between 1967 and 1970, and there has been a long-running challenge to the oil industry in the Niger Delta. Boko Haram has to be seen within Nigeria’s political-geographical context, as a group challenging Christian rule, the inequitable distribution of resources within the country, with an aspiration of a stricter form of Islamic law.

But it can also be seen in a wider regional context. Africa has long been seen as a focus of a wider ‘war on terror’, though most attention was paid to the Horn of Africa. But the stationing of a drone base in Niger, the French-led intervention in Mali, and the challenge of al-Qaeda in the Islamic Magreb (AQIM), especially since the fall of Gaddafi’s regime in Libya, has brought more attention to this region. Many claims for Boko Haram’s links to AQIM or to al-Shabaab in Somalia have been made, though these are likely looser than generally suggested.

In the past few weeks Boko Haram has been back in the news, after the Nigerian government announced a ceasefire had been agreed and the release of the Chibok girls was imminent. Unfortunately this turned out not to be the case. Some days later Boko Haram’s leader, Abubaker Shekau, gave an announcement stating that no such agreement had been made, and there have been a series of bombings, kidnappings and battles with the Nigerian military. But alongside these all-too-familiar attacks, Boko Haram have also shifted tactics, seeking to take over territory rather than just launch short raids. Several towns and villages in the northeast have been taken over, including, most recently, Chibok itself. The major town of Mubi was seized and the retaken by the state. Boko Haram have also declared themselves an ‘Islamic State’ and, on some reports, a Caliphate, though by this they likely meant simply an area ruled by Islamic law. While Boko Haram has long worked as more than a military operation, earlier this month former US ambassador John Campbell has suggested they are in the process of ‘moving toward governance’ (2014). Just as Iraq, Nigeria faces a profound challenge to its territorial integrity.

About the author: Stuart Elden is Professor of Political Theory and Geography at the University of Warwick, in the Politics and International Studies department. In this role Stuart spends two months a year at the Centre for Urban Science and Progress at New York University, and at Monash University where he holds an adjunct appointment as Monash Warwick Professor in the Faculty of Arts.

books_icon Campbell, J (2014) ‘Nigeria’s Boko Haram Moving Toward Governance?’, Africa in Transition: Council for Foreign Relations, November 7

books_icon Elden, S. (2009) Terror and Territory: The Spatial Extent of Sovereignty, Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.

60-world2 Elden, S. (2014a) Boko Haram: An Annotated Bibliography. Progressive Geographies [open access]

books_icon Elden, S. (2014b) The Geopolitics of Boko Haram and Nigeria’s ‘War on Terror’, The Geographical Journal 180 (4), 414-25

60-world2 International Crisis Group (2014) Curbing Violence in Nigeria (II): The Boko Haram Insurgency, Africa Report 216 [open access]

60-world2 Mantzikos, Ioannis ed. (2013) Boko Haram: Anatomy of a Crisis, Bristol: e-International Relations [open access]

60-world2 Walker, Andrew (2012) “What is Boko Haram?”, United States Institute of Peace Special Report [open access]

 

RGS-IBG New Content Alert: Early View Articles (16th June 2012)

The following Early View articles are now available on Wiley Online Library.

Original Articles

Visualising postcode data for urban analysis and planning: the Amsterdam City Monitor
Karin Pfeffer, Marinus C Deurloo and Els M Veldhuizen
Article first published online: 28 MAY 2012 | DOI: 10.1111/j.1475-4762.2012.01096.x

Changing countries, changing climates: achieving thermal comfort through adaptation in everyday activities
Sara Fuller and Harriet Bulkeley
Article first published online: 28 MAY 2012 | DOI: 10.1111/j.1475-4762.2012.01105.x

Rethinking community and public space from the margins: a study of community libraries in Bangalore’s slums
Ajit K Pyati and Ahmad M Kamal
Article first published online: 25 MAY 2012 | DOI: 10.1111/j.1475-4762.2012.01100.x

Practising workplace geographies: embodied labour as method in human geography
Chris McMorran
Article first published online: 25 MAY 2012 | DOI: 10.1111/j.1475-4762.2012.01101.x

Original Articles

Muslim geographies, violence and the antinomies of community in eastern Sri Lanka
Shahul Hasbullah and Benedikt Korf
Article first published online: 11 JUN 2012 | DOI: 10.1111/j.1475-4959.2012.00470.x

Characterising urban sprawl on a local scale with accessibility measures
Jungyul Sohn, Songhyun Choi, Rebecca Lewis and Gerrit Knaap
Article first published online: 29 MAY 2012 | DOI: 10.1111/j.1475-4959.2012.00468.x

The geodemographics of access and participation in Geography
Alex D Singleton
Article first published online: 29 MAY 2012 | DOI: 10.1111/j.1475-4959.2012.00467.x

Original Articles

Towards geographies of ‘alternative’ education: a case study of UK home schooling families
Peter Kraftl
Article first published online: 8 JUN 2012 | DOI: 10.1111/j.1475-5661.2012.00536.x

Boundary Crossings

Geographies of environmental restoration: a human geography critique of restored nature
Laura Smith
Article first published online: 8 JUN 2012 | DOI: 10.1111/j.1475-5661.2012.00537.x

A policymaker’s puzzle, or how to cross the boundary from agent-based model to land-use policymaking?
Nick Green
Article first published online: 25 MAY 2012 | DOI: 10.1111/j.1475-5661.2012.00532.x

Area Content Alert: 44, 2 (June 2012)

Cover image for Vol. 44 Issue 2The latest issue of Area (Volume 44, Issue 2, pages 134–268, June 2012) is available on Wiley Online Library.

Click past the break for a full list of articles in this issue.

Continue reading

Syria at the Apex

The peaceful Burj eslam coast belies Syria's current crisis between Ba'ath loyalists and the populist reform movement. © 2012 Wikimedia Commons.

Benjamin Sacks

In civilisation’s development, geographical location dealt Syria a bad hand. The ancient (and historically contested) region of Aleppo is hemmed in by a powerful Turkey to the north. To the west, an unstable Iraq straddles the Syrian Al-Hasakah and Deir ez-Zor governorates. Damascus, Syria’s capital, lies at an apex between Palestine, a hostile Israel, the eastern Mediterranean, Anatolia, and Jordan. Its centrality, claimed J L Porter FRGS in 1856, had been consistently underestimated by contemporary Western geographers (p. 43). A century and a half later, Syria’s violent upheaval would have not then likely surprised Porter. This is a landscape scarred by time and space, culture and religion. It was – and remains – one of the ‘geographical pivot[s] of history’.

It comes as little surprise that the Royal Geographical Society was involved in the surveying and analysis of Syria and its environs. Some research, as that undertaken by Dale R Lightfoot, takes on a decidedly geological twist, exploring the ancient (but still occasionally used) underground aqueducts (known as “qanat Romani” in Syria) that typify the region’s long-standing quest for water. His archaeological work provides a fascinating backdrop to Hussein A Amery’s more contemporary review of the Fertile Crescent’s ever-rising need for irrigation and drinking water.

Yet Syria’s strategic location has also piqued interest in the Royal Geographical Society’s historical role as an arm of imperial power. Under the efforts of Major Thomas Best Jervis, the Royal Geographical Society gained valuable experience in 1830s India, providing information to military and civil authorities (Heffernan 1996: pp. 505-506). ‘War’, as Michael Heffernan reminded us, ‘has been one of the greatest geographers’ (p. 504). During the First World War, the Royal Geographical Society ‘remained on an emergency, wartime footing’, benefiting in particular from T E Lawrence’s new surveys of Damascus and the Syrian plains (p. 515). The so-called ‘road to Damascus’ took on important overtones in the inter-war shuffling of European colonial designs in the Middle East, with Syria at its’ centre (see Farmer 1983: p. 73).

Echoes of Syria’s current chaos can be found in W W Harris’s classic ‘War and Settlement Change: The Golan Heights and the Jordan Rift, 1967-77′. Written when Israel’s seizure of the Golan Heights from Syria was still fresh in international minds, Harris investigated both sides’ respective claims on the region, as well as hinting at Syria’s domestic instability, supposedly quashed by the then-nascent Ba’ath Party movement. What remains constant through these accounts is the sense of Syria’s often dangerous position at the intersection of local and international desires.


J L Porter, ‘Memoir on the Map of Damascus, Hauran, and the Lebanon Mountains‘, Journal of the Royal Geographical Society of London 26 (1856): 43-55.

H J Mackinder, ‘The Geographical Pivot of History (1904)‘, The Geographical Journal 170.4 Halford Mackinder and the ‘Geographical Pivot of History’ (Dec., 2004): 298-321.

Dale R Lightfoot, ‘The Origin and Diffusion of Qanats in Arabia: New Evidence from the Northern and Southern Peninsula‘, The Geographical Journal 166.3 (Sep., 2000): 215-26.

Hussein A Amery, ‘Water Wars in the Middle East: A Looming Threat‘, The Geographical Journal 168.4 Water Wars? Geographical Perspectives (Dec., 2002): 313-23.

Michael Heffernan, ‘Geography, Cartography and Military Intelligence: The Royal Geographical Society and the First World War‘, Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers New Series 21.3 (1996): 504-33.

B H Farmer, British Geographers Overseas, 1933-1983‘, Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers New Series 8.1 The Institute of British Geographers 1933-1983: A Special Issue of Transactions to Mark the Fiftieth Anniversary of the Institute (1983): 70-79.

W W Harris, ‘War and Settlement Change: The Golan Heights and the Jordan Rift, 1967-77‘, Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers New Series 3.3 Settlement and Conflict in the Mediterranean World (1978): 309-30.

Content Alert: New Articles (2nd March 2012)

These Early View articles are now available on Wiley Online Library.

Original Articles

Land degradation in Mediterranean urban areas: an unexplored link with planning?
Luca Salvati, Roberta Gemmiti and Luigi Perini
Article first published online: 24 FEB 2012 | DOI: 10.1111/j.1475-4762.2012.01083.x

Neoliberalising violence: of the exceptional and the exemplary in coalescing moments
Simon Springer
Article first published online: 24 FEB 2012 | DOI: 10.1111/j.1475-4762.2012.01084.x

Who loses if flood risk is reduced: should we be concerned?
Edmund C Penning-Rowsell and Joanna Pardoe
Article first published online: 28 FEB 2012 | DOI: 10.1111/j.1475-4762.2012.01085.x

‘At the next junction, turn left’: attitudes towards Sat Nav use
Stephen Axon, Janet Speake and Kevin Crawford
Article first published online: 28 FEB 2012 | DOI: 10.1111/j.1475-4762.2012.01086.x

Original Articles

Scarcity, frontiers and development
Edward B Barbier
Article first published online: 24 FEB 2012 | DOI: 10.1111/j.1475-4959.2012.00462.x

Commentary

Beyond trial justice in the former Yugoslavia
Alex Jeffrey and Michaelina Jakala
Article first published online: 24 FEB 2012 | DOI: 10.1111/j.1475-4959.2012.00461.x