The Islamic State Phenomenon

The Islamic State Phenomenon


It has been dominating world headlines for almost two years. Mention of its name – or the wide range of names by which it has been known – stirs up a range of responses and emotions.

The so-called Islamic State –or IS for short – first appeared on the international scene in 2014, seizing large amounts of territory in Syria and Iraq. Images of its black-clad members are often accompanied by reference to its fundamentalist interpretation of Sharia Law, its opposition to Western influence in Muslim world, and footage of its brutality, which includes beheadings and mass executions.

Its influence has since spread to other parts of the Middle East and North Africa, with a number of groups pledging allegiance to it. The IS phenomenon continues to grow, engaging in ever more battles with states and groups in the region, and at the same time raising serious questions about its motives, its intentions, and just how far it’s willing to go to achieve them.

In this the final edition of the Resources for Democracy podcast, we talk to John Turner, Assistant Professor at the Eastern Mediterranean University, who has an extensive research background in Political Islam, the Middle East, and the War on Terror.

Supplementary Resources

What ISIS Really Wants

Could ISIS Exist Without Islam?

ISIS Islamic Extremism | MILITARY AND WAR Channel (vid)


Homegrown Islamic Extremism in 2014: The Rise of ISIS & Sustained Online Recruitment

Counter Extremism Project, ISIS

Life Inside the ISIS Home Base of Raqqa, Syria (vid)

The Guardian. Why ISIS fights

Media, Participation and Democracy

Media, Participation and Democracy

24. DAVID BYRNE Democracy in Action, 2011 multimedia installation with twenty-five digital photo frames overall, 37 1/2 x 78 x 2 1/4 inches

The news media play a critical role in the functioning of democracy. Indeed political systems – whatever shape they take – depend on the media.

Ever since the introduction of the first forms of printed press, the impact of the media has always been present. On the one hand there are notions of the media acting as a “watchdog” of democracy, with the ability to hold elected officials to account by making them answerable for their actions.

On the other however there are instances where the media have demonstrated political bias, often acting as the mouthpieces for political interests.

Such instances, combined with the increasing reliance of the mainstream media on corporate interests, mainly through advertising, has led increasingly to a need for alternative media as a means of informing people about a diversity of news, opinions and voices.

Indeed the last decade has seen the proliferation of new digital technologies that have empowered ordinary citizens to have a voice, and to produce and exchange information; the same voices and information that is often ignored by the mainstream media.

For our interlocutors in this edition of the “Resources for Democracy” podcast, the existence of a power imbalance between the media haves and the have nots is where the crux of the issue lies. With their help and insights, we explore the intricate relationship between democracy, participation, and the media.

Supplementary Resources

LSE Podcasts. Global Media System, Public Knowledge and Democracy (audio)

University of Cambridge. Alastair Campbell: Journalism and democracy: grounds for optimism in the face of the future? (audio)

LSE Podcasts. 2014 Polis Journalism Conference – LSE Media Policy Project session: Watching the watchdogs – Watching the watchdogs (audio)

Harvard University. Partisanship in the Non-Partisan Press: The Implications of Media Bias for Democracy (audio)

LSE Podcasts. Blaming Europe? Citizens, Governments and the Media (audio)

How digital media and big data are redefining democracy: Clifton Van Der Linden at TEDxUofT (vid)

World Forum for Democracy: “Media responsibility and potential to foster democracy” (vid)

DemocracySpot. 12 Papers on Social Media and Political Participation


Spreading the News: The Role of Media in Transitioning Democracies (vid)

States and Sovereignty: Competing Claims to Natural Resources

States and Sovereignty: Competing Claims to Natural Resources

natural resources

Natural resources have become the latest battle ground between states, where competing notions of sovereignty often play out. As states search for new sources of energy to meet growing demands, the boundaries between them have become blurred.

The understanding of sovereignty as ‘permanent’ makes it applicable to the resolution of debates over the resources in projects between states aiming to take advantage of them. The doctrine of ‘Permanent Sovereignty’ is seen as historically linked to the process of decolonisation and the right to self-determination and the ability of states to exercise control over the resources and economic growth.

The recent announcement that the EU will be pushing ahead with a strategy to create an Energy Union has raised eyebrows and furrowed brows amongst member states who see this as further divesting their sovereignty.

Perhaps the most appropriate prism through which to approach the issue of natural resources is that of international law, particularly the ways in which it can resolve contested claims.

In this the second part of the “Resources for Democracy” podcast on sovereignty, we start with Professor Harry Tzimitras outlining the context of international law that frames disputed claims over resources.

Supplementary Resources

General Assembly resolution 1803 (XVII) of 14 December 1962, “Permanent sovereignty over natural resources”


Politics trump economics in the complex game of Eastern Mediterranean hydrocarbons

The Role of International Law in Intrastate Natural Resource Allocation: Sovereignty, Human Rights, and Peoples-Based Development

The Cyprus Hydrocarbons Issue: Context, Positions and Future Scenarios



States, Sovereignty and the Case of Cyprus

States, Sovereignty and the Case of Cyprus


In this edition of the “Resources for Democracy” podcast we unpack the concept of sovereignty.

The primary understanding of sovereignty – as considered within the discipline of international relations – is that it is the central organising principle of the Westphalian state system.

However, debates over sovereignty have increased as the nation-state has aged, while there are a number of contemporary issues that place limit on the exercise of sovereignty. The rise of non-state actors is just one of those issues.

In this first part of our podcast we have enlisted the support of three experts to help us present and delve into different perspectives of the concept of sovereignty while on the second we hear how the debate over sovereignty is shaped, in the case of Cyprus, by the discovery of natural resources and the ways in which competing claims to these are articulated.

Supplementary Resources:

State Responsibility, Sovereignty, and Failed States

The Concept of Sovereignty Revisited

What is Sovereignty?

Sovereignty in Theory and Practice

Sovereignty – Modern: A New Approach to an Outdated Concept

The Changing Structure of International Law: Sovereignty Transformed?

Citizens in Action: The Search for Missing Persons – and the truth – in Cyprus

Citizens in Action: The Search for Missing Persons – and the truth – in Cyprus

missing persons

One of many scars caused by conflict is that of missing persons, whose enduring impact can leave a painful legacy for societies that can take generations to heal.

In search of a clear definition of a missing person, the International Committee of the Red Cross has set out some two key parameters: a person whose whereabouts are unknown to his/her relatives; and who has been reported missing in accordance with the national legislation in connection to international or non-international armed conflict, internal violence or disturbances, natural catastrophes or any other situation that requires the intervention the State.

The missing persons issue is one of the most difficult consequences of the Cyprus conflict. Over the course of the period 1963 to 1974. The Committee on Missing Persons (CMP), established in 1981 to ‘establish the fate of missing persons’, sets the total number at 1.958 – 1.464 Greek Cypriots and 494 Turkish Cypriots.

However, as the CMP lay dormant for many years, it was left to civil society to fill the void, advocating for common action on what was, after all, a humanitarian issue of relevance to all Cypriots. Thus, in 2005, a new organisation was established, representing families of both Greek and Turkish Cypriot missing persons, emphasising the link between exposing stories of violence and loss, and preventing conflict in the future.

In this, second part of this edition of the Resources for Democracy podcast on Transitional Justice, we hear from Erbay Akansoy and Christos Efhymiou, two members of the Bi-communal Initiative of Relatives of Missing Persons, Victims of Massacres and other Victims of the 1963-74 Events, about their experiences, their work, and their hopes for the future.

Supplementary Resources:

Committee on Missing Persons in Cyprus

Committee on Missing Persons in Cyprus (CMP) – Digging for a Future (vid)

Cyprus: Digging the Past in Search of the Future (documentary) (vid)

Thinking Historically about Missing Persons: A Guide for Teachers, 4. Missing Persons in Cyprus

Transitional Justice in the 21st Century

New Research on Transitional Justice (vid)

Does Transitional Justice Work? (vid)

Consociational Democracy: Civic Participation within a Power Sharing structure

Consociational Democracy: Civic Participation within a Power Sharing structure


For societies divided by ethnic conflict, the practicalities of achieving a functioning democratic polity are all the more difficult. Characterised by a political culture that does not favour compromise, the options for securing a more prosperous future are limited.

In order to change the conflict dynamics in these contexts, the concept of power sharing often presents itself as the most viable solution, where systems of governance attempt to incorporate all major segments of society, relieving tensions through consensus.

The implementation of power sharing models raises interesting questions about the resolution and management of conflicts. Indeed, is power sharing a tool for ending intractable conflict? Or is it simply a way of bringing it – and the different players involved – under control?

In this edition of the Resources for Democracy podcast, we talk to Chrystalla Yakinthou, Research Fellow at Birmingham University with an extensive research background in power sharing between communities in divided societies, particularly in Cyprus and Lebanon.


Supplementary Resources:

Democracy and Power-Sharing in Multi-National States

Complex Power Sharing as Conflict Resolution: South Tyrol in Comparative


Consociationalism (vid)

Seymour Martin Lipset Lecture: Ethnic Power-Sharing and Democracy  (vid)

Seymour Martin Lipset Lecture: Ethnic Power-Sharing and Democracy Part 2 (vid)

Seymour Martin Lipset Lecture: Ethnic Power-Sharing and Democracy Part 3 (vid)


Explaining Citizenship, Identity and Participation: The Case of Cyprus

Explaining Citizenship, Identity and Participation: The Case of Cyprus


There are a number of debates on citizenship, particularly in Europe, where the need for active participation is highlighted as a means of expressing what is to be a citizen.

But what do normative ideas of what citizenship is translate into everyday actions?

Can we really speak of one notion of citizenship?

How far does one identity – or even multiple identities – condition their understanding of citizenship and affect their actions within a society?

In what ways do changing demographics, with the constant mixing of cultures and ethnicities, affect citizenship in the present day?

These are some of the issues we address in this edition of the Resources for Democracy podcast. First, we speak to Dr George Iordanou, who PhD in Political Theory focused on alternative notions of citizenship.

Supplementary Resources

On the Borders of Europe: Citizenship Education and Identity in Cyprus

World Heritage as a Model for Citizenship: the case of Cyprus

Transitional Justice & Citizens’ contribution to Dealing with the Past

Transitional Justice & Citizens’ contribution to Dealing with the Past


Since the turn of the century, the practice and discipline of transitional justice has spread as an effort to apportion justice in times of transition from conflict or state repression. According to the International Centre for Transitional Justice – a global non-governmental organisation based in New York – the term refers to the set of judicial and non-judicial measures that have been implemented by different countries in order to redress the legacies of massive human rights abuses. They all aim to bring perpetrators to account, while at the same time provide recognition of the rights of, and redress through reparations for, the victims. Transitional justice also seeks to promote trust across societies, and the strengthening of the democratic rule of law so as to avoid repeats in the future.

Moreover, the evolution of transitional justice as a social science discipline has enabled research to shed light on some of the previously under-explored impact of legacies of conflict and violence.

What scholars have identified however is that in post-conflict situations there is no ‘one size fits all’ solution. The transition from conflict is always a unique experience, and the challenges faced by each country are always greater than expected. Transitions provide an opportunity for change i.e. for the establishment of modern democratic structures, however there is also the potential for the consolidation of old power structures.

Civil society has a very important role to play in transitional justice processes. Indeed, it is from civil society that much of the input towards transitional justice comes from. The International Day of the Disappeared, celebrated every year on August 30, was the result of efforts by the Latin American Federation of Associations for Relatives of Detained-Disappeared, a non-governmental organisation founded in 1981 in Costa Rica that brought together local and regional groups working against state practices such as arbitrary imprisonment and enforced disappearances in Latin America.


Supplementary Resources:

Coming to Terms with the Past

The Disappeared and Invisible: Revealing the Enduring Impact of Enforced Disappearance on Women

United Nations Approach to Transitional Justice

Whose Justice: Rethinking transitional Justice from the Bottom-up

Nationalism in Context: the case of Greece

Nationalism in Context: the case of Greece


Few years ago some scholars moved quickly to proclaim the end of the ‘age of nationalism’, under the assumption that concepts such as religion and culture would predominate in international politics in the 21st century.

However, a glance around the world and one may surmise that there really has been no end to nationalism. In emerging economies, nationalism, remains extremely prevalent while we observe the emergence of new forms of nationalism, fused with religion, in Jihadist organizations.

What is more, in some member states of the European Union, a continent stricken by the destructive effects of two world wars, nationalist ideologies have resurged becoming entangled with extreme conceptions of the ‘nation’, some even bordering on fascism.

But nationalism is a complex phenomenon that needs to be examined both as an overarching concept as well as a within specific contexts.

In this edition of the “Resources for Democracy” podcast we speak to Daphne Halikiopoulou, Lecturer in Comparative Politics at the University of Reading who discusses the different variations of nationalism, with a strong focus on Greece.

Supplementary Resources

Right-Wing Extremism in Europe: Country Analyses, Counter Strategies and Labor-Market Oriented Exit Strategies

Nationalism and international relations

Populism, Euro-Scepticism and Nationalism in Europe: Rising Tides? (vid)

Rising Influence of Right Wing Groups in Europe – What’s Behind this? (vid)

The Rise of ‘Golden Dawn’ in Greece – Mini-documentary by ‘The Guardian’ (English subtitles) (vid)

The rise of the Golden Dawn and extremism in Greece can be seen as part of a broader phenomenon of a culture of intolerance, which is maintained and perpetuated through the Greek education system.

Understanding the electoral breakthrough of Golden Dawn in Greece. A demand and supply perspective

Golden Dawn and its appeal to Greek youth

 The Rise of Golden Dawn: The New Face of the Far Right in Greece

National populism and xenophobia in Greece

Reclaiming Xenophobia: The Rise of Ultra-Nationalism in Greece


Democratic crisis: how do we stem the remorseless rise of nationalists and populists?

Gender, Exclusion and Conflict

Gender, Exclusion and Conflict


For a large majority of people, the terms “gender” and “sex” are used interchangeably. However, the idea that we are born, assigned a sex, and that is that, is now being questioned and challenged.

In fact gender is all around us, and we are conditioned from a very early age to think in a ‘gendered’ way. Meanings and messages are transposed through the way we bring up children, through the education system, through the media, as well as religion, affecting our view of the world.

In most societies, exclusion on the grounds of gender is widespread, both directly and indirectly. This exclusion restricts people’s economic mobility and equality, stops them from gaining positions of political significance, and can deny access to benefits accorded to other members of society.

In this edition of the Resources for Democracy podcast, we talk to Magda Zenon, a women’s rights activist, who tackles the issue of gender from the perspective of women, and explores the interrelation with conflict and how this has played out within the context of Cyprus.

Supplementary Resources

Gender Politics in Trade Unions. The Representation of Women between Exclusion and Inclusion

Women’s Peace in Cyprus

Exclusion of Women (vid)

“Suitably Dressed? How women’s choices have become symbols of belonging or exclusion” (vid)

Gender Inequality and Power (vid)

LSE Gender Institute Podcasts