We promised ourselves it would not happen again…

…after the Dersim genocide in North Kurdistan. After the massacre of Qarneqelatan in East Kurdistan. After the Amude cinema fire in West Kurdistan. After the Anfal campaign in South Kurdistan. After Halabja. After the imprisonment and torture of youngsters during the 1980s coup in Turkey. After the Qamishlo massacre in the aftermath of the football game in 2004. After the murder of Shwane Seid Qader in Mahabad. After the assassination of Qassemlou in 1989. After the Roboski massacre. After the Kurdish exodus following the uprising in 1991. After the assassination of our Kurdish heroines Sakine, Fidan and Leyla in Paris this year. 

 

Yet it is happening. Everyday. In front of our eyes, may it be through television screens, Facebook ‘journalism’ or Twitter feeds. We know what is happening and yet we do nothing. We say nothing. We are failing the ones we promised. We are failing ourselves as a group. As an ‘imagined community’ of sisters and brothers. We are failing the people of the West, as Kurds, as fellow war experiencers, as fellow humans.

 

While innocent people are being slaughtered in the Western parts, the leaders of the South decided that the only passage out of enemy hands should be closed. While Kurdish families in Syria are without food and water, Kurdish families in Sweden are discussing which fancy new restaurant to try the coming weekend. While old Kurdish women and men in SereKaniye are taking up arms to defend their families, old Kurds in Europe are discussing whether or not ‘the time for guerilla warfare’ is over and done with.

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And then the always reoccurring questions; but what can we do? How can we help? What can I as an individual change?

 

It was an individual the helped launch the greatest non-violent uprising in the world, it was one young individual who took a bullet for her belief in educating women and opened the eyes of an otherwise sleeping world community. It was the act of one woman on a bus that set of a civil rights movement that would come to change much, if not everything. It was the acts of a group of friends that set of a national struggle and awoke a sleeping Kurdish community in the north.  It was the acts of one man, imprisoned on an island that initiated a peace process between the two giants of the Middle East. It was many individuals and small groups of friends and family who hid illegal immigrants in their homes in Sweden in the 1990s, who hid wounded peshmergas in their homes in Kurdistan during the many Kurdish wars.

 

We as individuals and groups of friends made promises to each other. To the people of our bleeding land. We promised to never let them suffer in pain again without us reaching out. Without us doing whatever we could to stop their agony. Their pain. Their hunger.

 

I am a woman of my promises. Let us honour our words!

 

 

Recent fighting in Til Temir escalates

The following report was submitted by Rodi Khalil

Til Temir is a small town of Kurds, Arabs and Assyrians, situated on the road between Serê Kaniyê and Al-Hasakeh. Despite its population of only 7,000, it is an important town because of its strategic location, serving as a gateway to all Kurdish cities in the region.

teltemirOn 25th April an armed gang, led by Hasan To’ama (Secretary of the Ba’ath Party Brigade in Til Temir) attacked the city centre of the town and shot live bullets to scare and terrorise its citizens, spreading chaos and looting shops. But the Kurdish defense units, YPG (Kurdish initials for Yekîneyên Parastina Gel, or Popular Protection Units in English) immediately intervened to stop them. The armed group shot randomly towards YPG forces, which led to the death of a child and one YPG member.

The YPG forces spread throughout the entire city and gained control all of city outlets. The conflict in Til Temir has links to the conflicts in Serê Kaniyê, which continued for months and ended with the victory of YPG forces against the terrorist armed gangs – including Jabhat Al-Nusra, which has links to Al-Qaeda.

The FSA has put a new plan into place to fight YPG, but different from how it was in Serê Kaniyê. It is designed to push Arab clans to fight YPG in Til Temir by persuading these clans that Kurds are going to take control of the area, and that they will eventually displace Arabs and divide Syria. The FSA is providing Arab clans with money, weapons and training. The result is that FSA’s hands are ‘clean’ as the fighting is only between YPG and Arab clans. The FSA then appears innocent. But in actuality, many FSA groups are fighting with those clans against YPG, for example: Ghuraba Al-Sham, Moota, Omar bin Al-Khattab, Ahfad Al-Rasul, and Al-Faruq. Ten members of these armed gangs were killed in clashes with YPG forces when they tried to storm the city.

The armed gangs have built barriers on the roads around Til Temir, preventing the entrance of foodstuffs, water tanks and medicine to the city. They even stopped Kurdish citizens at the barriers and insulted them, and kidnapped some.

On 30th April, eight members of armed gangs killed and some were arrested by YPG forces after they shot at vehicles belonging to YPG forces near the village of Ain Al-Abd. Two YPG members sustained injuries. Later, clashes continued near Til Temir and one YPG fighter, Hogir Qahraman, was martyred in the clashes, and more than ten members of the armed gangs were killed.

Military reinforcements of YPG arrived in Til Temir on Wednesday, 1st May. After midnight, Kurdish YPG forces attacked a barrier of armed gangs near village of Ain Al-Abd and killed more than 20 members of the armed gangs there, and one YPG member was injured. YPG forces gained control of the barrier.

YPG forces entered the village of Ain Al-Abd yesterday, 2nd May, and took complete control of the village. Later they went to the villages of Dardara and Mujebra to free them as well from the armed gangs. Clashes are still continuing there.

The armed gangs, including some groups of FSA, are persistent on entering Til Temir and kicking the Kurds out of the city, while the Kurdish defense units are insistent on destroying and controlling all the barriers of the armed gangs around Til Temir.

Ossama Al-Hilali, who led some of FSA groups against Kurds in Serê Kaniyê is now fighting YPG forces in Til Temir, and he is wanted by the Qamişlo court, and Kurdish Asayish are looking for him.

In a call I made to one of the YPG leaders, he told me that YPG advances day by day and they will not leave Til Temir. He also added: “We have enough numbers of fighters and plenty of weapons to defend all of Rojava, and we’ll win in Til Temir as we have done in Serê Kaniyê.”

/Rodi Khalil/

Kurdish school children learn in Kurdish (video)

From ActuKurde: Kurdish children are now educated in their mother tongue in Kurdish regions of Syria. February 3, 2012, a young Kurdish teacher teaches in a school Dêrik (al-Malikiyah, in Arabic).

Mother-tongue education has changed considerably. The creation of the Association of Kurdish has played a part in these advances. In a few months, more than 100 schools were opened throughout Western Kurdistan and a thousand teachers have been trained.

Kurds in Syria and the Old Concept of “Good Kurds” and “Bad Kurds”

republished here with the permission of the author

Kurds in Syria and the Old Concept of “Good Kurds” and “Bad Kurds”
Dr Janroj Keles

My Critique of the Henry Jackson Society’s Report on “Unity or PYD Power Play?: Syrian Kurdish Dynamics After the Erbil Agreement

Compared to the Kurds in Kurdistan regions of Turkey and Iraq, the Kurds in Syria have been invisible in political and public spheres in the Middle East for decades. They have been described as “forgotten people” or “the silenced Kurds” in a few academic works and articles. Indeed they are the largest ethnic group after the Arabs in Syria and are the potential catalyst for a possible pluralistic and democratic process in Syria.

They have suffered for decades under the policies of the Arab imagined political community and their ethnic identity and existence have been denied by “Syrian Arab Republic”. They have been subjected to ethnic discrimination, political prosecution, displaced as part of Syrian government’s Arabization policies. After stripping of Syrian citizenship from 20 percent of Syria’s Kurdish population in 1960 [sic], many Kurds were classified as the Ajanib (foreigners) and maktoumeen (meaning “hidden” or ” muted”) and become refugees in their own country for decades before and during the Bath regime. However since the Kurdish Serhildan (Uprising) in 2004 in Kurdish populated Qamishli and so called “Syrian Revolution” in 2011, the “forgotten people” have been receiving increasing attention from the international communities and also considerable attention from journalists, political analysts and the Middle East “experts” who have been publishing some interesting reports and articles on the Kurds in Syria. But some of these reports and articles are problematical because they look the Kurds in Syria from the perspectives of dominant nationalistic discourses in the region e.g. Turkish and Arab nationalism and/or from the perspective of the “common sense” of global powers. In this sense a recently published report[1] entitled “Unity or PYD Power Play?: Syrian Kurdish Dynamics After the Erbil Agreement” needs to be read critically because it is biased, one-sided and political and makes unsubstantial claims about the Kurds in Syria and about Kurdish political organisations in the region. Moreover it attempts to justify and legitimize the hostile intention of Turkish policies toward Kurds in Turkey and Syria in criminalizing and delegitimizing Kurdish political parties. The authors use an old concept of “good Kurds” and “bad Kurds” without any analytic skill and academic credibility and knowledge of multi-connected, multi-referential relationships among Kurdish organisations, parties and networks and between Kurdish and Syrian groups, parties and people.

First of all I would emphasize that I agree with some issues highlighted in conclusion in particular issues related to the KNC and PYD that they should find a rational ways to respect their political differences and share power for a pluralistic and democratic process in the Kurdish populated region. I also firmly agree with the authors that both KNC and PYD should be integrated into the political establishment in the region. However I think the report is also problematic in various respects. Firstly the report divides the Kurdish political groups sharply into “good Kurds” and “bad Kurds”. This old concept has been used by the regional countries and also by USA in accordance to their “national interests” and at the expense of subordinated Kurds. This report repeats the same, old and trivial concept. The “bad Kurds” who are “the militant”(p6),” terrorist” (p11), “radicals in the PKK linked Democratic Union Party (PYD)” (p5), “the Turkish PKK” (p17) and the “good Kurds” who are “moderate Kurds”. It is unclear what the characteristic of “moderate Kurds” (p6) are and how they are qualified as being “good Kurds” and who decides on which criteria that certain groups are “moderate” and others “radical” and therefore need to be isolated (p24). There is a discourse throughout this report based on creating a “folk devil”, a political group who is labeled as a threat. It does not matter for me whether this otherized group is PYD or any other political group. My concern is that a particular group which has considerable popular support in Kurdistan region in Syria is labeled and its legitimacy questioned because it has ideological and political links with the PKK.

Secondly I also criticize the report for ignoring multi-connected, multi-referential relationships among Kurdish organizations, parties and networks and between Kurdish and Syrian groups, parties and people as well as between Kurdish leaders, parties and Turkish government. These multi-connected, multi-referential relationships influence the political position of differently positioned groups, parties and even governments. Let me clarify this with an example. On his way back from a visit to Germany, the Turkish Prime minster Mr Erdogan responded to a question about the “threat” of PYD in Syria and to Turkey as follows: ‘…Barzani… even tried to explain that PYD is not like PKK’ (Barzani … hatta PYD’nin PKK olmadığını anlatmaya çalıştı bize (Hurriyet, 02 November 2012). This statement shows clearly that President of Kurdistan Regional Government, Mr. Barzani mediates between PYD and Turkey in an indirect way and attempts to include PYD into the political field in the region. So the division between “bad Kurds “ and “good Kurds” are not as clearly delineated, because of their multiple connection, attachment, loyalties etc. Therefore I find the language used in this report is based on the deictic juxtaposition and distance rhetoric which attempt to show the “good Kurds” as “moderate” and “bad Kurds” as “threat”. I think that there are no such sharp boundaries in the region. The political positions of parties and groups in the Kurdish populated region and in Syria are constantly changeable due to local, regional and international conditions, search of security within an instable region and hunger for power.

My third reservation about this report is that the accusation of PYD working with Assad regime has been mentioned in this and other reports without any reliable evidence. Instead there is a reliance on suspicions as in the following sentence: “Nevertheless, the fact that the regime ceded such large swaths of territory to the PYD without a struggle raises suspicions that this was a tactical move designed to strengthen the PYD in order to enervate Turkey, which views any build-up of a PKK apparatus in northern Syria as a direct national security threat” (p11). The only supporting statement for this claim highlighted in the report is that “analysts and scholars have speculated as to whether or not the Assad regime withdrew independently from Kurdish areas, or whether it did so in direct collaboration with the PYD” (p11), however there is not any reference to those “analysts and scholars”. Some Kurdish groups I talked to, see such claims made in Turkish and Arab sources as a “conspiracy theory” to delegitimize the political production and position of a certain powerful Kurdish political group within Syria and beyond, in particular on the international level. The report repeats the same “conspiracy theory” without providing any reliable evidence to its readers. The Christian and Druze communities in Syria have been blamed by the so called “Free Syrian Army” in a similar way for working with the regime. I have to emphasize that I do not have any evidence for or against the truth of this claim. I assume that only after the fall of the regime we will know this.

The authors provide space for such accusations made by Syrian-Arabs and highlight that there is a “frustration and anger at the Kurds for not sufficiently participating in our uprising” (p15). However there is no statement of some Kurdish groups who are for a “peaceful transition from dictatorial regime to a democratic and pluralistic system”. There are clearly two different positions. The first one (mainly Sunni-Arabs) believe that Assad regime can be changed by armed struggle, the other one (mainly held by minority groups including Kurds, Christians, Armenians, Assyrians and Druze) who distrust the Muslim brotherhood and nationalists and prefer to seek a peaceful rather than militant solution, they are scared both of the regime and also of the Islamist opposition.

The report goes further: “The KNC failed to reach an agreement with the SNC, as was demonstrated in the July Istanbul meeting, and the PYD refused to even attend”. However the Kurds I spoke to blame the SNC for blocking the Kurdish active participation in “revolution” because SNC insists to continue the policies of Baath regime in the way in which SNC has reject the Kurdish demands for constitutional recognition of Kurdish ethnic group and their political representation through autonomy or federalism, secularist, pluralistic and democratic Syria. The Kurds from Kurdistan region in Syria I have connection with, see SNC as “still an Arab nationalist organization with strong tendencies of Arab Islamists” which does not recognize the ethnic and religious plurality of the country’s population.

I am really disappointed to see that “intellectual and moral leadership” in the political reproduction of the hegemonic form of Turkish and/or Arab nationalism over subordinated Kurdish people are legitimized through Henry Jackson Society.

25.10.2012, London

The State of My Country, Kurdistan, and My People 2 November 2012

Eastern Kurdistan (Iran): Thousands of prisoners of conscience are being tortured, abused and treated in the most inhumane way possible. Many of whom have been executed in the past such as Shirin Elemhuli and Farzad Kemangar, and many are under threat of execution as I am writing this. Kemangar being merely a teacher with a strong civic conscience and a fearless belief in the unity of the people once said to his students in a letter from prison: “I leave you to the wind and to the sun so that, in the near future, you will sing lessons of love and sincerity to our land”. New reports on executions reach me on a daily basis as well as reports on Kurdish workers on the borders between the Kurdish parts being killed by Iranian military. Furthermore, Kurdish women and children are yet again discriminated against by the anti-female policies of the Iranian state. Imagine living as a young Kurdish woman in the anti Kurdish, anti female, anti youth society of Iran.

Southern Kurdistan (Iraq): Despite having a Kurdish Regional Government (KRG), which deals with the international community as a de facto state, more than merely having autonomy within Iraq, the Kurdish region is always under the threat of the Iraqi regime. Forced displacement of Kurds from the time of Saddam Hussein’s rule are still not reimbursed or even dealt with properly with refugee camps for Kurds within the multicultural city of Kirkuk which if anything should be declared a Kurdish- Arabic- Turcoman city.  Never mind the constant bombardment of Kurdistan by Turkey, as if this land was only a sovereign region ruled by Kurds on paper, never mind the many civilian deaths due to this shelling or the environmental damages done to our precious landscapes of Kurdistan but yet Turkey has the audacity to intervene when murdered Kurdish guerrillas are being sent back to the KRG region for burial?!  Seems Saddam Hussein’s ways just won’t leave the rulers of Iraq and thus also affecting South Kurdistan.

Northern Kurdistan (Turkey): With more than 700 Kurdish prisoners hunger striking for more than 52 days, this if anything should tell you how the Kurds are doing in Turkey. Use of chemical weapons against Kurdish guerrillas, Mass arrests, torture, disappearances, rape, burning of Kurdish forests and crop fields, disturbance during Newroz celebrations, closure of news papers, TV stations, political parties, forced name changes of scientific objects as to erase the Kurdish reference to certain objects, prohibition of use of letters X, W and Q, imprisonment of children under 15 years old and of women above 70 years old for participating in demonstrations etc.  While the Turkish PM acts as saviour of the Palestinians, the Syrians, the Somalis and more or less anybody who is a Muslim, he keeps forgetting that he is treating his own Muslim population which is Kurdish more inhumanely than the world will ever know.

 

Western Kurdistan (Syria): Last but not east, Syria.With news reports of the so called ‘Free Syrian Army’ killing the female YPG commander named Nujin Derik yesterday, I can think of many more suitable names for the FSA. While Turkey is doing its best to intervene and disturb the unstable unity shown between the different Kurdish groups in Syria, the FSA is instead aiming at erasing Kurds, no matter whom, one by one.  Strategic planning by those who do not want to see another free Kurdish region, have disturbed many good projects which the Kurds in Syria had planned and set up such as Kurdish language schools and Kurdish security forces for protection. While the world looks on, the FSA is ruining the historic wealth of Syria, killing any counterpart to their aims, no matter anti-Assad or not and first and fore most EVERYTHING pro-Kurdish, leaving me worried for whatever evil which will replace the current evil in Syria.