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The Summer 2023 issue of Index looks at neurodiversity, the term coined in the late 1990s to identify and promote the positives of variation in human thinking which has become more widely used in the past few years. Are old stereotypes still rife? Has the perception of neurodiversity improved? If not, was this because of censorship? Using neurodivergent voices, we wanted to know about this in a global context.
The majority of the articles are written by neurodivergent people, as we wanted to put their voices front and centre. Many said they did have more of a voice, awareness had shot up and the word “neurodiversity” empowered and welcomed a growth in onscreen representation. However, at the same time it was clear that conversations around neurodiversity were playing out along society’s current fault-lines and were far from immune.
Mind matters, by Jemimah Seinfeld: The term neurodiversity has positively challenged how we approach our minds. Has it done enough?
The Index, by Mark Frary: The latest in free expression news, from an explainer on Sudan to a cha-cha-cha starring Meghan and King Charles.
Bars can't stop a bestseller, by Kaya Genç: Fiction is finding its way out of a Turkish prison, says former presidential hopeful and bestselling writer
Don't mention femicide, by Chris Havler-Barrett: Murdered women are an inconvenience for Mexico’s president.
This is no joke, by Qian Gong and Jian Xu: The treatment of China’s comedians is no laughing matter.
Silent Disco, by Andrew Mambondiyani: Politicians are purging playlists in Zimbabwe, and musicians are speaking out.
When the Russians came, by Alina Smutko, Taras Ibragimov and Aliona Savchuk: The view from inside occupied Crimea, through the cameras of photographers banned by the Kremlin.
The language of war and peace, by JP O’Malley: Kremlin-declared “Russophobe foreign agent and traitor” Mikhail Shishkin lays out the impossible choices for Russians.
Writer's block, by Stacey Tsui: Hong Kong’s journalists are making themselves heard, thanks to blockchain technology.
The Russians risking it all, by Katie Dancey-Downs: Forced to sing songs and labelled as extremists, anti-war Russians are finding creative ways to take a stand.
The 'truth' is in the tea, by Jemimah Steinfeld: Spilling the tea on a London venue, which found itself in hot water due to a far-right speaker.
Waiting for China's tap on the shoulder, by Chu Yang: However far they travel, there’s no safe haven for journalists and academics who criticise China.
When the old fox walks the tightrope, by Danson Kahyana: An interview with Stella Nyanzi on Uganda’s latest anti-LGBTQ+ law.
Would the media lie to you?, by Ali Latifi: Fake news is flourishing in Afghanistan, in ways people might not expect.
Britain's Holocaust island, by Martin Bright: Confronting Britain’s painful secret, and why we must acknowledge what happened on Nazi-occupied Alderney.
The thorn in Vietnam's civil society side, by Thiện Việt: Thiện Việt: Responding to mass suppression with well-organised disruption.
Not a slur, by Nick Ransom: What’s in a word? Exploring representation, and the power of the term “neurodiversity” to divide or unite.
Sit down, shut up, by Katharine P Beals: The speech of autistic non-speakers is being hijacked.
Fake it till you break it, by Morgan Barbour: Social media influencers are putting dissociative identity disorder in the spotlight, but some are accused of faking it.
Weaponising difference, by Simone Dias Marques: Ableist slurs in Brazil are equating neurodivergence with criminality.
Autism on screen is gonna be okay, by Katie Dancey-Downs: The Rain Man days are over. Everything’s Gonna Be Okay star Lillian Carrier digs into autism on screen.
Raising Malaysia's roof, by Francis Clarke: In a comedy club in Malaysia’s capital stand up is where people open up, says comedian Juliana Heng.
Living in the Shadows, by Ashley Gjøvik: When successful camouflage has a lasting impact.
Nigeria's crucible, by Ugonna-Ora Owoh: Between silence and lack of understanding, Nigeria’s neurodiverse are being mistreated.
My autism is not a lie, by Meltem Arikan: An autism diagnosis at 52 liberated a dissident playwright, but there’s no space for her truth in Turkey.
Lived experience, to a point, by Julian Baggini: When it comes to cultural debates, whose expertise carries the most weight?
France: On the road to illiberalism? by Jean-Paul Marthoz: Waving au revoir to the right to criticise.
Monitoring terrorists, gangs - and historians, by Andrew Lownie: The researcher topping the watchlist on his majesty’s secret service.
We are all dissidents, by Ruth Anderson: Calls to disassociate from certain dissidents due to their country of birth are toxic and must be challenged.
Manuscripts don't burn, by Rebecca Ruth Gould: Honouring the writers silenced by execution in Georgia, and unmuzzling their voices.
Obscenely familiar, by Marc Nash: A book arguing for legalised homosexuality is the spark for a fiction rooted in true events.
A truly graphic tale, by Taha Siddiqui and Zofeen T Ebrahim: A new graphic novel lays bare life on Pakistan’s kill list, finding atheism and a blasphemous tattoo.
A censored day? by Kaya Genç: Unravelling the questions that plague the censor, in a new short story from the Turkish author.
Poetry's peacebuilding tentacles, by Natasha Tripney: Literature has proven its powers of peace over the last decade in Kosovo.
Palestine: I still have hope, by Bassem Eid: Turning to Israel and Palestine, where an activist believes the international community is complicit in the conflict.
It’s been a long two decades of dwindling freedoms in Turkey under Recep Tayyip Erdogan. But his control is teetering on a ledge. The election couldn’t have come at a worse time for Erdogan, with his questionable response to the earthquakes and soaring inflation winning him a fresh batch of critics. Last Sunday Turkey headed to the polls. And the winner was… nobody. With neither former Index Tyrant of the Year Erdogan nor opposition leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu reaching the 50% threshold needed to win the presidency, it’s back to the voting booths again.
In the week before the election, PEN Norway’s Turkey adviser shared a stack of interviews with Index, which made for sombre bedtime reading. Eleven representatives from the country’s major political parties discussed the state of free expression — or lack thereof — which Jemimah Steinfeld wrote about.
In one interview, Zeynep Esmeray Özadikti, who is a candidate for MP from Turkey’s Worker Party, wrote about the silencing of the LGBTQ+ community, hoping that if she as a trans woman is elected, it will be an important step: “In Turkey, the LGBTI+ community cannot use their freedom of expression in any way and are criminalised. Rainbow-themed products are banned, rainbow flags are seized in protests, Pride parades and indoor meetings are banned. Associations and organisations working for LGBTI+ rights are targeted and threatened.”
We could fill a whole magazine with stories about Turkey’s rocky relationship with free expression, starting with the repression of LGBTQ+ rights and Kurdish communities, and moving onto the scores of journalists who have been locked up. In our latest issue, our Turkey contributing editor Kaya Genç took a deep dive into one example of a newsroom going against the propaganda-led mainstream, Medyascope. If you want up-to-the-minute news on what’s going on in Turkey, their website is a good place to start (thank goodness for Google translate for those of us who haven’t yet set our Duolingo to Turkish).
In the run-up to the election, Turkish youth have been scouring YouTube for information that doesn’t come with a side-helping of propaganda, and the Turkish government has pulled out all the stops in silencing journalists reporting on the earthquakes, rather than focusing on… well… disaster relief. They haven’t shied away from blocking social media platforms either.
What happens next is important. If Erdogan wins, what will such a close call do to the state of Turkey’s freedoms? The first-round vote landed at 49.51% for Erdogan and 44.88% for Kılıçdaroğlu, and let’s remember who’s got the media on their side. The second round of voting is set for 28 May, and while Index would absolutely never ever back a specific candidate, we are hoping to see democracy prevail over autocracy.
Further east, and another country is undergoing a seismic change at the hands of an election held last Sunday. Where Turkey is in political limbo, Thailand is out the other side. Or is it? The country has had a military-backed government since the 2014 coup, but Sunday’s vote sent Thailand spinning off in a new direction, with the progressive Move Forward Party’s Pita Limjaroenrat likely to take the driving seat of a coalition. The party is breaking Thailand’s big taboo with plans to reform the monarchy, which is all the more poignant considering the democracy protests that started in 2020, when demonstrators asked for exactly that to happen. Under the current lese-majeste law, criticising the monarchy usually comes with a stint behind bars of up to 15 years. Thais asked for democracy. They asked for progression. They asked for the right to insult the king without spending over a decade in jail. And if all goes smoothly from here, that’s exactly what they’ll get.
But it is a big “if”. Not only will the House of Representatives (members of which were given their places through Sunday’s election) vote on who will be prime minister, so too will members of the Senate, who were selected by the military. And that’s where the story of Thailand’s democracy could come unstuck.
Turkish citizens are heading to the polls this Sunday to vote in the most fiercely contested election in years. Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who came to power in 2003, is fighting for his political survival amid economic turmoil and wrath over the handling of the February earthquakes. He is being challenged by Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu, a retired bureaucrat who is backed by a six-party National Alliance.
One month before the elections PEN Norway’s Turkey adviser travelled to Istanbul to interview 11 representatives of the major political parties (including Erdogan’s) and question them on issues surrounding free expression in Turkey.
The interviews, which they shared with Index, are a sobering look at how Turkey’s human rights landscape has disintegrated in that time (with the exception of Bülent Turan, from Erdogan’s Justice and Development Party, who goes as far as denying that any journalist is in prison because of their work). The testimonies are tied together by common threads - what attacks have happened and how they have happened (very much over time, not linked to just one single moment or one single piece of legislation). The rule of law comes up time and again. “There is no rule of law in Turkey anymore and the independence of the judiciary has been destroyed,” Dr. Canan Kaftancıoğlu, the Istanbul regional chair of the Republican People’s Party, says bluntly.
They are, unsurprisingly, most damning of Erdogan himself. The lawyer Bahadır Erdem, vice chair of the Iyi Party, one of the most important components of the National Alliance, says Turkey is being ruled by “a one-man regime” and this “system has pushed our country into dire straits”.
But the interviews also strike a note of optimism, a sense that all is not lost. Strong grassroots organisations still exist, as lawyer Züleyha Gülüm, MP for the People’s Democratic Party, points out. And these grassroots organisations, combined with an alliance that has come together around a commitment to improve rights, mean that Turkey’s fate could all change this weekend. Bülent Kaya, legal affairs chairman of the Saadet Party, said that if the National Alliance is successful “everyone will breathe a sigh of relief”. Erdem said: “Once we amend the constitution, an independent judiciary will follow. The press will be independent. We will fully implement the freedom of opinion of individuals. People will be completely free both in social media and as an author in the works they create and write, as an artist in the films they shoot, in the works of art they act in, in the works of art they create. This is the sine qua non of democracy. It’s as natural as breathing.”
Below we share one of the interviews in full, a powerful testimony from Zeynep Esmeray Özadikti, a trans woman who is candidate for MP from Turkey’s Worker Party. She outlines the immense struggles faced by those who are LGBTQI and by women.
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The central theme of the Spring 2023 issue of Index is India under Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
After monitoring Modi’s rule since he was elected in 2014, Index decided to look deeper into the state of free expression inside the world’s largest democracy.
Index spoke to a number of journalists and authors from, or who live in, India; and discovered that on every marker of what a democracy should be, Modi’s India fails. The world is largely silent when it comes to Narendra Modi. Let’s change that.
Can India survive more Modi?, by Jemimah Seinfeld: Nine years into his leadership the world has remained silent on Modi's failed democracy. It's time to turn up the temperature before it's too late.
The Index, by Mark Frary: The latest news from the free speech frontlines. Big impact elections, poignant words from the daughter of a jailed Tunisian opposition politician, and the potential US banning of Tik Tok.
Cultural amnesia in Cairo, by Nick Hilden: Artists are under attack in the Egyptian capital where signs of revolution are scrubbed from the street.
‘Crimea has turned into a concentration camp’, by Nariman Dzhelal: Exclusive essay from the leader of the Crimean Tatars, introduced by Ukranian author Andrey Kurkov.
Fighting information termination, by Jo-Ann Mort: How the USA's abortion information wars are being fought online.
A race to the bottom, by Simeon Tegel: Corruption is corroding the once-democratic Peru as people take to the streets.
When comics came out, by Sara Century: The landscape of expression that gave way to a new era of queer comics, and why the censors are still fighting back.
In Iran women’s bodies are the battleground, by Kamin Mohammadi: The recent protests, growing up in the Shah's Iran where women were told to de-robe, and the terrible u-turn after.
Face to face with Iran’s authorities, by Ramita Navai: The award-winning war correspondent tells Index's Mark Frary about the time she was detained in Tehran, what the current protests mean and her Homeland cameo.
Scope for truth, by Kaya Genç: The Turkish novelist visits a media organisation built on dissenting voices, just weeks before devastating earthquakes hit his homeland.
Ukraine’s media battleground, by Emily Couch: Two powerful examples of how fraught reporting on this country under siege has become.
Storytime is dragged into the guns row, by Francis Clarke: Relaxed gun laws and the rise of LGBTQ+ sentiment is silencing minority communities in the USA.
Those we must not leave behind, by Martin Bright: As the UK government has failed in its task to rescue Afghans, Index's editor at large speaks to members of a new Index network aiming to help those whose lives are in imminent danger.
Modi’s singular vision for India, by Salil Tripathi: India used to be a country for everyone. Now it's only for Hindus - and uncritical ones at that.
Blessed are the persecuted, by Hanan Zaffar: As Christians face an increasing number of attacks in India, the journalist speaks to people who have been targeted.
India’s Great Firewall, by Aishwarya Jagani: The vision of a 'digital India' has simply been a way for the authoritarian government to cement its control.
Stomping on India’s rights, by Marnie Duke: The members of the RSS are synonymous with Modi. Who are they, and why are they so controversial?
Bollywood’s Code Orange, by Debasish Roy Chowdhury: The Bollywood movie powerhouse has gone from being celebrated to being used as a tool for propaganda.
Bulldozing freedom, by Bilal Ahmad Pandow: Narendra Modi's rule in Jammu and Kashmir has seen buildings dismantled in line with people's broader rights.
Let’s talk about sex, by Mehk Chakraborty: In a country where sexual violence is abundant and sex education is taboo, the journalist explores the politics of pleasure in India.
Uncle is watching, by Anindita Ghose: The journalist and author shines a spotlight on the vigilantes in India who try to control women.
Keep calm and let Confucius Institutes carry on, by Kerry Brown: Banning Confucius Institutes will do nothing to stop Chinese soft power. It'll just cripple our ability to understand the country.
A papal precaution, by Robin Vose: Censorship on campus and taking lessons from the Catholic Church's doomed index of banned works.
The democratic federation stands strong, by Ruth Anderson: Putin's assault on freedoms continues but so too does the bravery of those fighting him.
Left behind and with no voice, by Lijia Zhang and Jemimah Steinfeld: China's children are told to keep quiet. The culture of silence goes right the way up.
Zimbabwe’s nervous condition, by Tsitsi Dangarembga: The Zimbabwean filmmaker and author tells Index's Katie Dancey-Downes about her home country's upcoming election, being arrested for a simple protest and her most liberating writing experience yet.
Statues within a plinth of their life, by Marc Nash: Can you imagine a world without statues? And what might fill those empty plinths? The London-based novelist talks to Index's Francis Clarke about his new short story, which creates exactly that.
Crimea’s feared dawn chorus, by Martin Bright: A new play takes audiences inside the homes and families of Crimean Tatars as they are rounded up.
From hijacker to media mogul, Soe Myint: The activist and journalist on keeping hope alive in Myanmar.