BookTalkUNA presents

India, Turkey, and the Return of Strongmen

Join us for our spring BookTalk discussion with

Author and journalist

Thursday, March 23, 2017

6 p.m. | Reception
6:30 p.m. | Presentation
7:15 p.m. | Book Signing

Institute of International Education
809 United Nations Plaza, Kaufman Center
New York, NY


NOTE: Due to circumstances beyond our control, this UNA-NY BookTalk is cancelled. We look forward to seeing you at another event soon.

What happens when a democratically elected leader evolves into an authoritarian ruler, limiting press freedom, civil liberties and religious and ethnic tolerance?

India and Turkey are two of the world's biggest democracies multi-ethnic nations that rose from their imperial past to be founded on the values of modernity. They have fair elections, open markets, and freedom of religion.

Yet, in A QUESTION OF ORDER, Basharat Peer, one of India's finest nonfiction writers, offers a vivid, urgent account of how two democratically elected leaders India's Narendra Modi, and Turkey's Recep Tayyip Erdogan have used a combination of right-wing populism, majoritarian politics, and aggressive nationalism to push their countries away from democratic traditions. As Peer shows, the illiberal drift of these two countries is alarming and has exacted a terrible human toll.

Peer explains how Modi and Erdogan swept into power and quickly evolved into aggressive strongmen. Strongmen, he writes, "are united by their promises to make their countries great again. And they master the art of converting the fears and insecurities of citizens into electoral support. They position themselves as saviors on white horses, big-chested men who alone can rescue their nations in peril." Since Modi took over, a majoritarian onslaught and violence against India's minorities has dominated the national conversation. In Turkey, Erdogan restarted a war with Kurdish minorities, prosecuted critical journalists, turned a blind eye while ISIS fighters used Turkey as a base, and ordered a ruthless purge after the July coup against the government.

However, A QUESTION OF ORDER is not just the story of these two powerful men. It is also the story of the politicians, journalists, activists of all ages, and ordinary citizens who have pushed back against their strongmen rulers. Some have lost their lives in the process. Peer spent more than a year and a half traveling through India and Turkey to bring us unforgettable examples of what life is like for individuals when democratic ideals recede.

Among those Peer interviews are Qutub Ansari, who narrowly escaped death during the 2002 Gujarat riots; Hindu nationalists who are social media warriors for Modi; Ravza Kavakci, a Turkish lawmaker who paved the way for the rise of Erdogan when she was banned over wearing a head scarf in parliament; and the family of Haci Birlik, whose dead body was dragged behind a police vehicle in Kurdistan. Peer says, "I want the reader to get to know the people and see what's happening in their lives, and to think about illiberal democracies and authoritarianism as they are lived by warm bodies. The book is fundamentally about the human condition, about human dignity."

Join us tonight for our spring BookTalkUNA presentation and allow Basharat Peer to bring us his timely, brave report from the front lines of democracy in peril. Copies of the book will be for sale.


"A Kashmiri journalist examines a new generation of tyrants threatening the (illusory) promises of liberal democracy and astutely delineates a troubling global move toward the right wing." Kirkus Reviews

"Basharat Peer's new book is impeccably timed. Amid all this loose talk of an authoritarian wave, an in-depth comparison of two oft-cited cases is welcome." Bookforum

BASHARAT PEER is an opinion editor at The New York Times.

Curfewed Night (Scribner), his memoir of war in Kashmir, won India's Crossword Award for Non-Fiction and was chosen as a Book of the Year by both The New Yorker and The Economist in 2010.

He has worked as an editor at Foreign Affairs, edited the New York Times' India Ink blog, and written for The New Yorker, Granta, Foreign Affairs, n+1, and The Guardian. He studied journalism and politics at the Columbia University School of Journalism and currently lives in New Delhi.

About Columbia Global Reports

Columbia Global Reports is a publishing imprint from Columbia University under the direction of Nicholas Lemann that commissions authors to do original on-site reporting around the globe on a wide range of issues. The resulting novella-length books offer new ways to look at and understand the world that can be read in a few hours. Most readers are curious and busy. Our books are for them.

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