Singapore to Istanbul:Boundaries of Blood and Tears

Singapore to Istanbul:Boundaries of Blood and Tears

Kevin P Clements


I had an enforced stopover in Singapore of 6 hours, almost as long as it took me to fly from Christchurch. There’s a limit to how many phone calls, e mails, paper you can do in what was effectively the middle of my NZ night…. so I was knackered by the time I finally got to board the plane. I spurned all food and drink, popped a sleeping pill and slept until some kind flight attendant decided it was time for me to greet the dawn.


I greeted it   while flying along the Iran/Iraq border . Its strange that I had been reading about war, writing about the costs of violence and I wake up above the Iran Iraq border!! I’m flying along the Shia Sunni divide; the site of another meaningless war between Sadam Hussein and Ayatollah Khomonei and since the US invasion an epicentre of Middle East instability . I’m flying above a border of blood and tears. From up here it looks like rocky desert with splashes of green coming through. There are villages, cities and people down there with millions of individual and collective memories of that time  when the youth of both places went out with parental blessings to kill each other…..mmmm


Then a little later I discover that I am crossing the Armenian-Turkey border yet another boundary, between Christian Armenia and Moslem ( albeit secular Moslem) Turkey. This is another border etched in the minds of both Turks and Armenians because of genocide. The Turkish assault on Armenians a hundred years ago is dated as 24 April 1915 ( more or less the same time as we remember Gallipoli) when Turks captured Armenians here in Istanbul/Constantinople) and then proceeded to massacre many more both inside Armenia and out. It is remembered in Yerevan as if it were yesterday. I remember being there   about 14 years ago and listening to 18-20 years old talking about Turkish atrocities as though they had experienced them directly themselves.They hadn’t, of course, but their parents and grandparents had transmitted their own chosen and remembered trauma down through time so that today’s Armenian youth might as well have experienced it themselves.


I’m flying into the Capital of the Old Ottoman Empire. But its not just known for being the Centre of the Ottoman Empire. It has been at the heart many Empires. As Constantinople it was the capital of the Roman Empire, followed by the Byzantine, the Latin and finally the Ottaman which lasted for six centuries from 1453 to 1922. It was the seat of the last Caliphate and provides the model for the ISIS caliphate !


In any event this city is probably the most iconic crossroad in the world. Its where the Occident meets the Orient. The geographic meeting point for Asia and Europe.


There are plenty of visible and invisible lines to remind us of the things that separate us . But much to unite us as well. None of these lines are drawn, they are in our minds and imaginations. They have been mapped onto our unconsciousness and consciousness by our childhood story books, songs, poetry, historical narratives and political propaganda. They have been reinforced in concrete terms by military maps, by real lines drawn in sand, by customs posts and border posts, by lines that have been drawn in blood, by religious and political leaders and tribal chiefs and by dark suited men in the Foreign and Colonial Offices of the Western powers. These lines are the outward visible  representations of multiple fears, prejudices, animosities and hostilities which have , in many sad occasions, over the years moved from fear into murderous intent and action.


I am writing this in the plane. I’m looking forward to moving beyond the borders of my mind, the barriers of my own imagination and historical conditioning. I am also looking forward to transcending my own borders, barriers and prejudices with eagerness, anticipation, and delight in all the humanity that I know is here and which we both share…


Here are some photos on the way beginning with a Singaporean Frog… mmmm



 Then some random photographs from the air and on the ground between Singapore and Istanbul


IMG_1869 IMG_1891 IMG_1885 IMG_1879 IMG_1873 IMG_1872 IMG_1871 IMG_1870

Oh and yes, courtesy of Singapore Airlines I have been listening to Beethoven Symphonies all night. I have been rediscovering their beauty, their symmetry,their wisdom, their universality and their timelessness. While shocked by what I am discovering in Adam Hochschild’s book To End All Wars, I am reminding myself that alongside the carnage of both the First and the Second World Wars and every other war, there was and is aesthetic possibility. This possibility generates beauty, grace, wisdom and insight, for all of humanity. Aesthetic possibilities  enable rather than disable, generate rather than destroy. They remind us of what it means to be truly human and to live beyond the borders, boundaries and divisions of everyday life!.



About kevinclements2012

Short CV Professor Kevin P Clements. I am the Foundation Chair of Peace and Conflict Studies and Director of the New Zealand Centre for Peace and Conflict Studies at the University of Otago, Dunedin New Zealand and Secretary General of the Toda Institute for Global Peace and Policy. Prior to taking up these positions I was the Professor of Peace and Conflict Studies and Foundation Director of the Australian Centre for Peace and Conflict Studies at the University of Queensland, Brisbane Australia . I went to Queensland from International Alert where I was Secretary General from January 1999 to September 2003. International Alert is one of the world’s largest NGOs working on conflict transformation. It pioneered innovative policy and practical approaches to conflict prevention and transformation in Africa ,Eurasia and Asia . It has also made a major contribution to the mainstreaming of conflict prevention within European Foreign and Development Ministries, the EU and a variety of UN institutions. During his time there I was on the Board of the European Centre for Conflict Prevention and past President of the European Peace Building Liaison Office in Brussels. Prior to becoming Secretary General of International Alert I was the Vernon and Minnie Lynch Chair of Conflict Resolution at the Institute for Conflict Analysis and Resolution at George Mason University Fairfax Virginia USA 1994-2000 and Director of the Institute from 1994-1999. My career has been a combination of academic analysis and practice in the areas of peacebuilding and conflict transformation. I was, for example, formerly Director of the Quaker United Nations Office in Geneva and Head of the Peace Research Centre at the Australian National University in Canberra .Prior to this I was Senior Lecturer in Sociology and Coordinator of Peace Studies at Canterbury University, Christchurch New Zealand . My first academic position was as a lecturer in Sociology at Hong Kong University . I took up this position from a Post Doctoral Fellowship at Oxford University where I worked on development issues with Paul Streeten and others. I have been an advisor to the New Zealand, Australian , British , Swedish and Dutch governments on conflict prevention , peace, defence and security issues and advised the German Government and the OECD on States and Violence. I was, a member of the New Zealand Government’s Defence Committee of Enquiry in 1985 and I currently conducting Problem Solving Workshops in North East Asia with high level participants from Japan, China and Korea. Iwas President of the International Peace Research Association (IPRA) from 1994-1998, President of the IPRA Foundation from 1995-2000 and Secretary General of the Asia Pacific Peace Research Association. I was Secretary General of the International Peace Research Association 2008-2010. I got my B.A, B.A Hon ( First Class) and Ph.D in Sociology from Victoria University of Wellington New Zealand. and held a Post-Doctoral Fellowship at the University of Oxford from 1970-1971. I have been a regular consultant to a variety of non governmental and intergovernmental organisations on disarmament, arms control, conflict resolution, development and regional security issues and I have written or edited 7 books and over 160 chapters /articles on conflict transformation, peacebuilding, preventive diplomacy and development with a specific focus on the Asia Pacific region. Research Expertise 1. Peace Research Theory- Conflict and Conflict Resolution Theory . Preventive Diplomacy , Development and Peacebuilding 2. International and Regional Regimes-APEC, ASEAN, the ARF, ECOWAS 3. Political Sociology-International Organisations. Multilateral/bilateral negotiating processes. 4. Fragile States, Legitimacy and Political Hybridity 5. Alternative Defence and Security Policies-Peace and Security in the Asia-Pacific region. 6. The politics and ethics of international humanitarian intervention 7. Altruism and Compassion In my spare time I like to paint with acrylics or pastels, go to the theatre, listen to classical music, visit art galleries etc!
This entry was posted in # Honouring the War Dead by abolishing War, #Ottoman Empire, Borders, Boundaries, The aesthetic, Violence. Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to Singapore to Istanbul:Boundaries of Blood and Tears

  1. Daniele says:

    Touche. Solid arguments. Keep up the good spirit.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s