Why Kurdistan and the Kurdish struggle for freedom matters;
The Kurdish prisoners hungerstrike is now on its 45th day. (It is Friday October 26th 2012) Nearly 800 prisoners including journalists, MPs, local Cllrs, Mayor are taking part. Yet the media and Left are silent.
I am not one for supporting global over local issues, and fighting the enemy at home is always the priority, but I live in north London where 100,000 Kurdish refugees live, driven from their homes by the massive attack on the Kurds over the last 30 years which included a scorched earth policy that destroyed c.4000 villages and created 3 million refugees.
The Kurds are the forgotten (or ignored) freedom movement. They say their only true friends are the mountains. Over 20 million in Turkey suffer massive political and cultural oppression (Kurdish is banned in schools, Law and politics) and millions of those are internal refugees driven out of their villages and forced to migrate to the cities where they live as second class citizens. Yet there story and fight is largely unknown or ignored by the Western Left.
Living in Hackney and Tottenham I always knew of the Kurds but only recently through working against the cuts and after the riots through helping to organise the “Give Our Kids a Future” did I realise that most for the ‘Turks’ I’d worked with and the organisations they are in fact predominantly Kurdish. And while most of them now have british born and educated kids, they homeland still calls.
Kurdistan to most in London seems far away though, like Iraq and Iran, but in fact it’s capital, Amed/Diyabakir is closer to London than Cairo, Damascus or Gaza City! And critically Turkey is, well a little bit, in Europe, and as a state wishes to be in Europe economically and politically.
And Kurdistan is not just some Middle Eastern mountain dispute. Because the Kurds culturally and politically have long been on the Left, and because they are at the cross roads of Syria, Turkey, Iraq and Iran, and have the potential of the Iraq Kurds petro-dollars, the full force of American dollar has come down on them. Little less than bankrolling Israel, Turkey was bankrolled massively by the US up until recently (unlike Israel it can now pay it’s on way) both as a bulwark against pre Col War expansionism but also to stop an independent Kurdistan.
Turkish nationalism, while secular, is fiercely nationalistic and is responsible for the Armenian and Assyrian genocides, the expulsion of tens of thousands of Greeks and cultural and political oppression of the Kurdish which broke into open warfare in the 8ts and 9ts when c.50,000 people died in fighting between the PKK ( Kurdistan Workers Party) and the Turkish army.
While the PKK continues to have thousands of soldiers in the mountain, the Kurdish struggle is now, through the actions of the Turkish state as much in the cities and towns, where most of the Kurds have been driven, where it has hundreds of Cllrs and Mayors in the BDP party. The population of Amed for example rose from 150,000 in 1970 to 1.5million in 2000 due to refugees.
The response of the Turkish state, currently run by the Islamist AKP party of Erdogan, has imprisoned increasing numbers of Kurds in mass round ups, and there are currently 15,000 Kurdish political prisoners.
The Kurdish struggle has been transformed over recent years with its imprisoned leader Abdullah Ocalan moving from a traditional nationalist/Marxist ideology, of creating an independent Kurdish state, to a one of “democratic confederalism”, influenced by the ideas of the ecological Marxist Murray Bookchin, of a democratic revolution throughout Turkey.
And this is why the Kurds struggle is so important and not just to the Turkish state and the Western powers, who will do anything to stop it winning, as what they stand for is revolutionary, not just locally but universally, but to those who are revolutionaries in the West.
While I have always believed you should “think global but act local”, and while I accept that it is right people should protest about the actions of Israel, anyone who lives in north London must show some solidarity with our Kurdish neighbours. While elements of the Left e.g. STW/Respect have organised consistently in support of Palestine amongst UK Muslim communities they have ignored the issue of Kurdistan.
Yet imho the Kurdish struggle and the KCK/PKK are the most progressive revolutionary force in the Middle East today. And the most feminist; women are equal at all levels of the organisation and include over 30% of the fighters in the mountains.
Ocalan wrote in 2004
““Our first task,” he wrote, “is to push for democratization, for non-state structures, and communal organization.” Instead of focusing solely on changing the Turkish constitution, he advocated that Kurds create organizations at the local level: local town councils, municipal administrations, down to urban districts, townships, and villages. They should form new local political parties and economic cooperatives, civil society organizations, and those that address human rights, women’s rights, children’s rights, animal rights, and all other issues to be addressed.
“Regional associations of municipal administrations” are needed, so these local organizations and institutions would form a network. At the topmost level, they are to be represented in a “General Congress of the People,” which will address issues of “politics, self-defence, law, morality, economy, science, arts, and welfare by means of institutionalization, rules and control mechanisms.”
Gradually, as the democratic institutions spread, all of Turkey would undergo a democratization. They would network across existing national borders, to accelerate the advent of democratic civilization in the whole region and produce not only freedom for the Kurds but a geopolitical and cultural renewal. Ultimately a democratic confederal union would embrace the whole of the Middle East. He named this Kurdish version of libertarian municipalism “democratic confederalism.”
In March 2005, Öcalan issued a Declaration of Democratic Confederalism in Kurdistan. It called for “a grass-roots democracy … based on the democratic communal structure of natural society.” It “will establish village, towns and city assemblies and their delegates will be entrusted with the real decision-making, which in effect means that the people and the community will decide.” Öcalan’s democratic confederalism preserves his brilliant move of linking the liberation of Kurds to the liberation of humanity. It affirms individual rights and freedom of expression for everyone, regardless of religious, ethnic, and class differences. It “promotes an ecological model of society” and supports women’s liberation. He urged this program upon his people: “I am calling upon all sectors of society, in particular all women and the youth, to set up their own democratic organisations and to govern themselves.” When I visited Diyarbakir in the fall of 2011, I discovered that Kurds in southeastern Anatolia were indeed putting this program into practice. http://new-compass.net/articles/bookchin-%C3%B6calan-and-dialectics-democracy
But what can people in the UK do? Well many on the Left quite rightly have time to protest at the plight of the Palestinians, who have equally suffered colonialism and repression, and the Kurdish plight is no less. With the current situation of hundreds on hungerstrike it seems equally right that there should be a united solidarity campaign.
But protest does not always seem and is not always that useful. But in Turkeys case it can be; the West are desperate to bring in Turkey as a new base for cheap labour production. e.g. the work that the Visteon Ford factory in Enfield that close recently simply transferred to Turkey. The West are trying to portray the Islamist AKP govt as progressive when in fact they are the opposite. Entry to the EU could force Turkey to give significant concessions to the Kurds.
And the UK supplies weapons and tools of repression to Turkey, like with EDO in Brighton supplying bomb parts to Israel that were used in the barbaric Operation Cast lead. The UK is the third biggest exporter of arms to Turkey though it only amounts to 1% of their imports due to the massive US military aid/sales. E.g. Gun mounted British Land Rovers are used extensively in the attacks and forced depopulation of Kurdish villages e.g. 400 Land Rover 110 4×4 vehicles for use by the Gendarmerie, Turkey manufactures under licence Land Rover Scorpion attack and reconnaissance vehicles, British Aerospace exports 36 Rapier surface-to-air missiles, Short Brothers have exported 40 Shorland S550 armoured personnel carriers for the Gendarmerie and British Aerospace has a three year contract to upgrade Rapier missile systems http://www.caat.org.uk/resources/publications/government/turkey-submission-0102.php
If you live in north London there will always be things you can do to support the local Kurdish organisations.
For more info and updates check out;
Peace in Kurdistan Campaign http://peaceinkurdistancampaign.wordpress.com/
http://hevallo.blogspot.co.uk/ or on Facebook Hevallo and twitter hevallo
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6JM8XyhBpQ0 Amed Mayor interview
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jiyct4sfD18 “Fire in the Mountains”
2012 Australian programme about PKK
2012 interviews with PKK