News from the Revolution in Rojava and Wider Kurdistan
The following article was written and submitted to the Rojava Report by Athithan Jayapalan – an Eelam Tamil activist based in Oslo, Norway.
“Look, from Arabs to Georgians
The Kurds have become like towers,
The Turks and Persians are surrounded by them.
The Kurds are on all four corners.
Both sides have made the Kurdish people,
Targets for the arrows of fate
They are said to be the keys to the borders.
Each tribe forming a formidable bulwark
Whenever the Ottoman sea (Ottomans) and the Tajik Sea (Persians)
Flow out and agitate
The Kurds get soaked in blood.
Separating them (The Turks and Persians) like Isthmus.”
-17th century poem Mem-U-Zin by Kurdish scholar and poet Ahmadi-I-Khani (quoted in McDowell 1996)
The historical and contemporary geo-politics of the Middle-east conditioned by the strategic, military, economic and political considerations of rivalling power establishments, have begotten the spilling of Kurdish blood and the suppression of their national rights. The words of the 17th century Kurdish poet reflect the situation 400 years later, wherein Kurdistan is split among neo-colonial states of the Middle-east, and the Kurdish struggles are caught in the matrix of a global geo-political rivalry encompassing the major regional and international establishments.
The Turkish state unilaterally annulled a ceasefire agreement with the PKK on 29th July 2015, and has since waged a war against Kurdish political rights, the PKK, Kurdish activists and civilians throughout Turkey and North Kurdistan. NATO called a Security Council meeting which approved the Turkish state’s war of aggression and atrocities against the Kurds. Furthermore Turkey, presided over by the USA has proven to be elemental in making ISIS, the al-Nusra Front, al-Sham and their brand of fundamental religious terrorism operational in Syria, in the pursuit of an agenda towards regime change in Damascus (1). These fascist religious groups have since 2011 also been responsible for repeated attacks upon Kurdish civilians and fighters in Rojava, West Kurdistan (2). In the wake of the PKK , PYD and YPGJ/YPG consolidation of power in Western and Southern Kurdistan, and the inadequacy of al-Nusra or ISIS in destroying Kurdish politico-military power, Turkey is now propagandizing the fight against ISIS as a pretext to crush the PKK, Kurdish political rights and self-governance. Such a move follows the 20th July ISIS terrorist attacks against Kurdish and Turkish Leftists in Surec who were en route to deliver humanitarian aid to Kobane. This attack was in turn followed by the 10th October ISIS suicide attacks in Ankara targeting the activists of the pro-Kurdish HDP and Turkish left parties protesting the state war against the PKK and Kurds (3). The sinister motive of Turkish intervention citing ISIS facilitates Turkey and their allies to intervene directly in Iraq and Syria, and weaken the supply lines of Kurdish resistance in Turkey, as well as to condition and dismantle Kurdish self-governance in Rojava (4). These series of actions follow Turkey’s failed attempt to attain international sanction in order to mobilize its troops to occupy Western Kurdistan under the pretext of creating a buffer zone in protection of Turkish borders (5).
The war on PKK despite the ISIS terrorist attacks against Kurdish civilians emerged in the context of the HDP winning a landmark victory in the previous Turkish parliamentary election. The HDP’s electoral gains, partially ended the AKP and Erdogan’s single party majority, and secured the historic entrance of a Kurdish party into the Turkish parliament. Hence President Erdogan, like his predecessors is relying on anti-PKK campaigns, propaganda and the stirring up of anti-Kurdish sentiments in service of the AKP’s parliamentary interests. As the HDP formed the single largest constituency of the opposition, Turkish chauvinists and nationalists alike intend to quell the nominal parliamentary gains of the Kurds by attempting to proscribe the HDP for alleged links to the PKK. For Erdogan such a move would restore AKP majority in the Turkish parliament.
Furthermore in the months following the Turkish aggression against the PKK, the Turkish Special Forces, police forces and army have cordoned off and imposed blockades at various Kurdish towns in south-east Turkey (Northern Kurdistan). While Kurds are being subjected to occupational oppression and atrocities, the international corporate-media conditioned by NATO’s and US support for Turkey has turned a blind eye to Ankara’s war on the Kurds. Turkey, a state embroiled in historical and contemporary genocidal policies against Kurds, Alevi, Armenians, Pontic Greeks and Syriacs, is in official statements condemning the atrocities of the Assad regime while absolving the Islamist violence in Syria, ISIS persecution of Kurds and its own state’s war on Kurds.
Turkish armed forces have for three months beleaguered Kurdish towns and neighbourhoods, imposing curfews and indiscriminately attacking, arresting, torturing and killing Kurds. In the region of Dersim, Turkish security forces have continued the state practice of cultural genocide by desecrating and demolishing Kurdish and Alevi houses of worship, mosques and cemeteries, including the martyrs’ memorial burial in remembrance of the people killed in the Dersim massacres of 1938, perpetuated by the Turkish state (6).
As a consequence of the war carried out by the Turkish state on the Kurds, decades of state oppression and marginalization, and due to the PKK’s ingenious experiments with democratic autonomy, the Kurdish people of North Kurdistan are declaring independence. Subsequently they are attempting to work out self-governance models inspired by the PKK leader Abdullah Ocalan to practice their political rights and protect their people. Rather than to accede to the legitimate rights of the Kurdish people, the fascist state which has officially practiced an aggressive genocidal assimilation policy towards the Kurds, e.g. until recently prohibiting Kurdish language and education, is once more opting to demonize the PKK, subjugate the HDP in parliament and revert back to the denial of Kurdish national existence and consequent rights. Familiar with broken promises and the genocidal policy of Ankara, the Kurds have taken matters into their own hands, following the Rojava revolution in which Kurdish forces of the PYD and YPJ/YPG have successfully established self-governance and self-protection against any external threat whether from the Assad regime’s forces or the Islamists supported by Turkey and the Gulf states.
In the town of Cizre in Northern Kurdistan, the youth, many of whom are the children of Kurds killed by the Turkish state’s ‘dirty war’ during the 1990s, are today leading the defence of the city against Turkish state repression and brutality (7). In an article on the Turkish alternative newspaper Özgür Gündem titled “Hendeklerin ardındaki yaşam” and translated into English on Rojavareport, the journalist Ismail Eskin covers the stories behind the barricades and trenches of Cizre and indicate the resilient spirit of resistance among the Kurdish people:
“Behind the trenches in Cizîr (Cizre) there is a life closely tied to those who have paid a price for its sake. There is a great enthusiasm and excitement that has not forgotten the sufferings of the past. A people who pay no heed to whether or not the state will continue its attacks put their determination front and center, saying “we have paid such a price that if necessary we will go on paying.” It is easy to understand the meaning of the Cizîr resistance from the solidarity shown behind the trenches.”
The attack on Cizre is followed by attacks on the Kurdish towns and neighbourhoods of Sylvan, which also declared its self-governance recently. In an interview to Özgür Gündem, the co-President of the Democratic Local Government Union, (the executive body of the self-governing regions of North-Kurdistan), Çimen Işık stated:
“Turkey is caught between the nation-state model and the dictatorship of a single man and is attempting to decide between the two. The Kurdish people however have presented the self-government model as a third way. It is the knowledge that this model will not remain among Kurds but will be implemented in the whole of Turkey that is frightening the state. As a result of this fear they are responding to this model of democratic autonomy with terror and massacres… we will follow a common path, together with our people, during both the process of decision making around local government as well as during its implementation. We will not allow any pressure, arrests or other methods to take any steps backwards.” (8)
The co-mayor of Sylvan municipality Vekili Zuhal Tekiner, in a statement to Özgür Gündem, spoke on the self-defence of the Kurdish self-governing units in the spate of relentless attacks from the Turkish state which had arrested mayors and local civic leaders, were attacking Kurdish civilians and enforcing a blockade of public services and basic necessities in the name of ‘public security’.
He stressed the role of self-defence in self-governance and underlined the significance of the efforts of the Kurdish self-defence units, “there is no security of life in places where there are no trenches. In this situation the trenches increase security”.
The Turkish aggression and fascist violence against the Kurds, and the extra-parliamentary manoeuvres of the AKP to secure parliamentary dominance by breeding anti-Kurd racism and orchestrating the repression of Kurdish rights, the HDP and the PKK, proves the entrenched intentions and priorities of the state establishments vis a vis the Kurds.
It is needless to say that such injustice must cease immediately, in order to retain any hope of peacefully resolving the burning Kurdish national question as well as the demands made by the Kurdish people, and the PKK. Holding an election under the prevailing situation of war and oppression cannot facilitate any form of meaningful or genuinely democratic participation from the beleaguered Kurds. Only through negotiation and accommodation of the legitimate demands of the Kurdish people for self-governance, sovereignty and self-determination, can any hope of peace and reconciliation be attained. Contrary to the belief among Turkish state and military circles, Kurdish aspirations and rights cannot be brushed aside or dealt with militarily. History is a testament to the attitude of Turkish armed forces and the dominant political parties whether the AKP, or its predecessors the fascist MHP, or the centre-liberal Kemalists of the CHP, towards Kurdish national rights and self-determination, as they have opted consistently for solutions driven by Turk chauvinism in attempts to subjugate the Kurds. Likewise history is also coloured by the resolute resistance of the Kurdish people towards the entrenched national oppression. If subjugation to chauvinism and genocidal assimilation are the preconditions for Kurds to reconcile, then it is indubitable that the Kurdish peoples’ spirit of resistance and the legitimacy of their struggle must prevail. Also of concern is that the Turkish state is ostensibly employing a genocidal counter-insurgency (COIN) model utilized by Sri Lanka and its external backers in the war against Eelam Tamils and the LTTE (9). This genocidal military solution resulted in the massacres of over 100 000 Tamils in a war which concluded after 4 months on the shores of Mulluvaykal. From Eelam to Kurdistan, despite the military might of the state and its international support, the resolve of the people for emancipation, security and political rights cannot be crushed militarily. Although the LTTE, the politico-military power of the Eelam Tamils was liquidated as a result of the COIN model supervised by the U.S. –U.K. axis and the Indian establishment, the spirit of resistance persists among the Eelam Tamils despite living under hegemonic military occupation. In contrast to the Eelam Tamil case, the Kurdish people and their freedom fighters are blessed with the mountains bordering Turkey, Syria, Iran and Iraq, as well as the PKK having allies in each region. When the world fails, and turns a blind eye, the Kurds take lessons from an old saying among them, “the Kurds have no friends except the mountains”. Apart from the mountains, the Kurds and their heroic struggle have the comradeship of Eelam Tamils who stand in resolute and revolutionary solidarity with the struggling national masses of the Kurdish people and their vanguard military-politico organisations such as the PKK, the YPD and its YPJ/YPG and the PJAK. When geopolitics, whether in rivalry or in collaboration between the world and regional establishments encapsulates the struggle for justice of the oppressed, it is the organic and political ties and the structural similarities between the oppressed which provide allies, comrades and solidarity for the wretched of the earth.
Mcdowell, D. 1996. A Modern History of the Kurds. I.B.Tauris, London, New York.