Published On: Wed, Dec 9th, 2015

Soccer matches in the Middle East

Jacob Gelt DekkerTamerlane, “Timur the Lame”, The Turco-Mongol Conqueror and Founder of the Timurid Empire, was rededicated in Uzbekistan as "Father of the Nation”. Uzbekistan is an independent nation, newly formed on August 31, 1991, after the disintegration of the former USSR.

The Soviet-era Carl Marx bust in the center of Tashkent, the new capital, was dismantled and replaced by a “Uzbekification” of the Great Tamerlane. A giant mausoleum, full of colorful murals depicting grand mythical battles, which supposedly led to the formation of this great Asian State, is now the focus of "Amir Timur Square", once a holy spot only reserved for Tsars and Soviet Heroes. For the somewhat skeptical Western visitor, the grand marble monument is a display of over-embellishment and creative re-writing of history.

International soccer matches, the Olympic Games, and the United Nations are the venues for similar grandiose displays of inflated nationalism, the by-product of "Nation-States." Many experience deep emotions of national identity and pride as if national attributes have been historical and biological facts since the beginnings of times. Tears, rolling down cheeks during the ceremonial raising of the National Flag while enthralled by National Anthem tunes, are normal, but they are a new phenomenon with strong romantic notions, and so are Nation-States.

Nation-States are the new Marvel and winning concept of political design of the last 400 years. Historians mark the year, 1648, the Peace of Westphalia (Munster and Osnabruck), as the starting point of the formation of Nation-States. Most Nations of today were founded after Napoleonic wars, World War I & II and during the decolonization period of the 1950's and '60's. At the onset of the United Nations in 1948, only 55 Nation-States formed the General Assembly, today 193. The conditions that form and build a Nation-State are not precise, but usually concern a certain territory delineated by natural or artificial borders, occupied by people, or peoples, who have something in common, like race, language, history and culture.

The Middle East war of today is pitching several Nation-States, formed after 1923, against an ambition to recreate the abandoned model of empires. The empires of Darius the Great of Persia, Alexander the Great of Macedonia, the Romans, Seljuks, and Ottomans have not disappeared in the minds of people after diplomats Sykes-Picot drew a few arbitrary lines on the Middle East map in 1923 and created Turkey, Syria, Iraq, Jordan and Israel.

The ISIS and Al Qaeda dreams are to bring back a Sunni world caliphate, thus competing with a similar Iranian strive for a Shi’a one. Turk-Sultanic Erdogan's ambitions for a new Ottoman Empire can also not be dismissed, like those of Russia-Tsarist Putin's. Strong Nationalism of Hezbollah in Lebanon, Hamas in Gaza, Kurds in "Kurdistan", Israel, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, UAE, and Iraq, oppose these neo-imperialistic developments.

The entire matter could be settled peacefully in a couple of soccer matches, but thousands of years of Middle East, Mongolia-Seljuk-Ottoman bloody battles dictate different ways. It may take a while, but even the Great Timur, The Conqueror of Infinite Plains, could be nationalized to a Nation-State, and so will, most likely, be the rest of the Middle East.

By Jacob Gelt Dekker
Opinion columnist for Curaçao Chronicle

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