Island Wilayat Rising? Stemming the tide of violent extremism after Marawi

Thanks to a few twists of fate, I’ve got a short (read: heavily redacted) piece on Marawi  published by the Australian National University’s East Asia Forum. It comes in several weeks later than I’d like, but at any rate, I’m posting here an earlier unedited and less circumspect version, written roughly two, three weeks ago.

Marawi was a victory for Islamist extremism in the Philippines and Southeast Asia. The next choices taken by the Philippine government will determine the extent of its spread.

 

It has been more than sixty days since the outbreak of violence in the Islamic City of Marawi, just over 500 miles south of Manila, and kilometre zero of the island-region of Mindanao. What started in the morning of May 23 has led to over 314,000 persons displaced. More than half of the lakeside city is in ruins; approximately 100 civilians and hostages are still trapped in the crossfire. Aerial bombardments and house-to-house fighting continue. As the first widespread incident of urban violence in the Philippines—its partial precursors being Zamboanga in 2013, Ipil in 1995 and the razing of Jolo in 1974—the impact of the Marawi siege is unprecedented, not least in its implications to the rise of violent extremism in the region.

While the reported death of Abu Bakr Baghdadi and the jihadi group’s losses at Mosul and Raqqa signal a transformation of Daesh presence in the Middle East, Marawi by all accounts was a victory for islamist terrorism in the Philippines and Southeast Asia. From a ragtag group of ‘black flag wannabes’ that could barely stage a bomb attack on the US Embassy in Manila in 2016, the Maute group now has enough street cred to attract international interest and support. They have achieved what others have failed to do: signal to the disgruntled and marginalised that violent extremism, particularly through urban warfare, is a viable path forward.

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Implementing Peace and Development in the Bangsamoro: Potentials and Constraints of Socio-Economic Programs for Conflict-Affected Areas in Southern Philippines (1913-2015)

Even as an early-career institution-less wannabe scholar and development worker, I’ve always tried to walk the fine line between theory and practice, research and ground operations. I’ve given up on getting my shit proper journal peer-reviewed so in case anyone has any interest in reading a very roughly written attempt at a history of government development programs for ARMM from 1913-2016, focusing particularly on the mainland (Maguindanao, with spillovers in Ranao)–here you go.

Download a pdf here: Fernandez – P&D in the Bangsamoro 2017-06-20

Main point being to look at potentials and constraints, especially (!) on the sins committed. A key limitation: it looks purely on government policies and interventions, and not on international donor interventions. This is partly true due to data constraints, but also because local decisions and choices will largely determine if any true transformation can arise. And I say this as someone who has served in government but whose bills have been paid for the past few years by the multilaterals.

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Lupa

Writing this quick note to process one of the many strange developments of the week, which included my being roped in last minute to present a study conducted by the World Bank and the International Organization for Migration on marginalization through land dispossession in the Bangsamoro region. Presentations are part of my usual day-to-days but this was unusual—it was a launch at Camp Darapanan, the present headquarters of the largest armed revolutionary group in the Philippines, the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (or MILF, read as M-I-L-F, not the lewd joke familiar to most westerners).

It just so happened that our lead author, Dr. Fermin Adriano, was unable to fly to Cotabato and our rather crazy and generous team leader, Matt, chose to gleefully task me with translating the key technical messages in a vernacular that would be understood by the larger audience, and not just the international actors and VIPs present in the room. And that entailed being the lost young female non-Muslim, non-Mindanawon pseudoacademic on the dais with Mindanao peace process heavy hitters such as Ishak Mastura, Guiamel Alim, Rufa Guiam, peace panel chairs Mohagher Iqbal and Irene Santiago, plus the amerul mujahid himself, Al-haj Murad Ebrahim. Kumbaga sa Tagalog, pinabili lang ng suka, napadpad na sa Darapanan. (Which actually describes a fair chunk of the seven years of this life, to be fair.)

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