Women & children in Rojava / credit: Paulo Nunes dos Santos
It is either a fallacy, or a pure symbolic violence, to continue to assume the "Kurdish Question" as unresolved.
For scholars, policy experts and political bureaucrats the Kurdish Question, with its complex sub and supra-national political implications, remains as the most pertinent dilemma of our modern times. The epic resistance that occurred against Daesh by the YPG-YPJ propelled the Kurdish Question into the international spotlight like never before. Seminar and conferences are held, papers and books are written at a rapid pace and people across social media flock to the hundreds of pro-Kurdish pages and sites thirsty for information.
And perhaps the clinical label of Kurdish Question was employable, for the Kurds and their stubborn refusal to assimilate and Turkify, Arabize or Persianize resulted in increasing levels of violence by the states to address this ‘problem’. Consequently, for decades the Kurds faced ethnic cleansing, ethnic displacement, Arabization policies, genocides, and loss of even the most rudimentary human rights, resulting from the arbitrary and artificial states who themselves were produced by violent colonial pens. Artificial states and their repressive and ideological machinations promoted violent, exclusionary, oppressive unitary identity politics resulting in the construction of imagined national identities and mythical one history, one nation, one language and one flag constructs. This blood saturated identity was not unique to only post-colonial states, but structurally to all modern ‘nation-states’.
The dominant internal and external focus on the so called continuing Kurdish Question involves this discourse: “there is an immense failure on the part of the international system to resolve this dilemma, or even recognize the legitimacy of the Kurdish plight, even in light of the ongoing, vast and disturbingly escalating levels of violence towards the Kurds especially in Turkey”. A new Ferian “la mission civilizatrice”, this Eurocentric-Orientalist logic presumes that the hapless-subjectified Kurds are looking to the neoliberal, state-centric, capitalist west to locate the solution of their ‘problem’—problems which this system is invested in maintaining.
The deliberate colossal levels of damage to historical sites such as Sur, and others like Nusaybin and currently Shex Maqsud proves sufficient evidence of lack of will and interest on the part of this system; in fact the system is invested in breaking the link between identity and the past to weaken Kurdish resolve. As Kurds, our internal dialogue and discourse with the West fails to decisively and unapologetically note the end of the ‘problem’- a term that implies that the fault lies with those whose most fundamental human rights have been violated and their very existence serves as a ‘problem’ to the system- of where the Kurds should locate their ethno-religious rights within the Middle East.
To be sure, the ongoing violence towards the Kurds continues to demonstrate the supremacy and the failure of the Eurocentric, state-centric international system. More importantly it demonstrates the failure of neoliberal democracy, or capitalist parlimentrarianism, as the overarching paradigm of the ‘new world order’. Privatization, marketization, deregulation, outsourcing, disempowering trade unions, reduced taxation for the rich, the ever increasing gap between the rich and the poor, depoliticization, anti intellectualism, the global financial crises, environmental degradation, neo-colonial wars resulting in the disasters that have been Iraq and Afghanistan, the rise of ISIS and other locally grown but internationally stemming terrorist organisations and the associated arms industry are all symptomatic of the failures of Eurocentric, state-centric neoliberal democracy. Even as the Kurds, and other ethnoreligious minorities empowered by the practice of Democratic Confederalism, continue to produce radical grass roots democracies, communes and cooperatives, street, local and regional councils with the purpose of increasing political involvement, participation and ownership; even as they attempt to remove decades of protracted primordial conflicts and hatred and replace it with a relationship based on communal values of tolerance and mutual co-existence.
As Western academics, experts and policy makers continue to grapple with the Kurdish Question, their focus should instead be on the inherent failure of their blood stained capitalist infrastructure and its neoliberal democracy and its inability to effectively respond to, and sufficiently balance the different needs of its own exploited masses as well as minority groups and interests. Instead neoliberal democracy continues to promote aggressive cultural homogeneity even in the most so called ‘democratic’ and ‘multicultural’ societies.
In places like Australia national cohesiveness comes to be expressed through enlightenment racial schema and its offshoot of xenophobic identity politics culminating in the disastrous “Tampa affair”. Turning away the “boat people” or the collective sub-humans at the bottom of the racial schema, the then PM John Howard's decreed that "we decide who comes into this country and the circumstances in which they come", a policy approach which has underpinned later labour governments resulting in the establishment of on and offshore detention centres. Imprisonment, mental illness, murder, rape of already vulnerable children and women seeking refuge, and attempted suicides are some of the resulting by product of forcible detentions for months, if not years on end. Thousands more die across seas attempting to reach ‘safe’ harbours, which are already working hard to build walls of steal to keep them out. Alan Kurdi’s lifeless body spoke of this grisly truth.
In contrast, the Kurdish people and other minorities in the Middle East, empowered and liberated through the practice of Democratic Confederalism are supporting hundreds of thousands of refugees and Internally Displaced People (IDP). The city of Kobane, itself shattered beyond recognition, hosts an IDP camp numbering over 5000. Likewise Cizire and Efrin Cantons embrace thousands of displaced and terrified people escaping Assad regime brutality, or Daesh, or both. True democratic ideologies empower and promote collective human capacity and increase rather than rely and function on decreasing humanitarianism.
In places like America and Britain, neoliberal democracy is well on its way towards decay and in all three of the above countries oligarchs continue to dominate markets and political decision-making in the process, increasing economic inequalities. In Britain, Thatcherite inequality led to the election of a New Labour government, which largely failed in addressing the inherent inequalities of the neoliberal system; what has resulted in the next consecutive centre-left and right wing governments has been economic crises and austerity measures designed to make the rich richer; as the poor struggle to make ends meet.
In America specifically, the rise of Trumpism has demonstrated the failure of the American system, subordinated to think tanks, PACs, lobbying and media conglomerates. This weakening of the democratic checks and balances has resulted in a failure to address the ongoing race related problems, the rise of prison industrial complexes and subsequent police brutality, now so predominantly symbolised in the “Black Lives Matter” movement. At the same time the loss of women’s rights, the ongoing attempts to shut down Planned Parenthood and restricting reproductive rights and women’s bodily autonomy even in the case of rape demonstrates the multifaceted failure of the American neo-liberal democratic model. Meanwhile mega-expensive politics and the unfettered market and lobbying support for candidates has turned the American democratic model to a ghost of a shell, where lobbyists trump democratic elections and voter interests. Nothing personifies this trend more than the spectacular and alarming rise of billionaire presidential candidate Donald Trump, whose platform is based largely on fascist, racist, anti-refugee and fanning already existing Islamophobia, as neo-imperial wars continue overseas.
But Europe is also not free from this withering away of so called capitalist democracy. The most recent Freedom House report warned that “the migration crisis and wrenching economic problems are threatening…the survival of the European Union”. Increased lack of transparency and accountability has resulted in the decline of nascent democracies in the Balkans resulting in disturbing deterioration. Countries like Serbia, Montenegro and Macedonia have used “political strongmen” to wrestle leniency from the EU- and increasingly defunct union of 28 capitalist democracies- whose collective woeful response to the so called “refugee crises” has demonstrated the inherent institutional, normative, and morally bankrupt foundation of the union.
Meanwhile, Turkey has shrewdly used the refugee crises to force more indulgences from the EU in relation to accession talks as it pursues a genocidal approach to the Kurdish Question. The capitalist system’s response is to throw more money at Turkey, even as a recent Amnesty International report highlighted disturbing acts of forced return of Syrian refugees across the border. Capitalist democracy under the illiberal leadership of Angela Merkel has resulted in the subordination of basic elements of democracy, free speech being one element, with German satirists mocking Erdogan silenced and threatened with jail sentences.
The continuing denial of the legitimacy of minority rights, whether engaging in active self-defence and resistance, or through the watering down of legitimate demands and utter eradication of protracted demands for rights evident in the dissolution of the Tamil Tigers through the neoliberal democratic system, Indigenous and Aboriginal communities across the Middle East, Latin America, Asia, America, Canada and Australia continue to be labelled as “terrorists”, as “dissenters”, “radicalised”, uncivilized- read undemocratic- savages.
Turkey’s AKP government, meanwhile, continues to mass murder Kurds to the ongoing silence, and therefore consent, of the international community. It is no wonder that in light of such oppression increasingly “revolutionizes”- because ‘radicalised’ implies a Eurocentric-Orientalist, top down gaze which vilifies the legitimacy of minority rights to self-defence in light of a comprehensive state sponsored terrorism of a disempowered ethno-religious group by NATOs second largest army- youth continue to flock to the mountains of Kurdistan to seek refuge and find the military, but most importantly ideological training necessary to fight the oppressive and genocidal state structures.
The mythical Fukuyamian “End of History,” so confidently professed by the academic and intellectual mouthpieces of the New World Order, led by American hegemony, has proven utterly debunked, as an alternative, locally produced radical democratic model, Democratic Confederalism, demonstrating the failures of capitalist democracy has emerged in the Middle East.
Likewise, Huntington’s prophecy of a “Clash of civilizations” was prophesised between the West and Islam particularly in the post 9/11 world; however it could not conceive that the clash would occur between neoliberal democracy- whose internal decay demonstrates inherent capitalistic inconsistencies and antagonisms- and radical democracy, defined as Democratic Confederalism and developed by Abdullah Ocalan and informed by the works of Murray Bookchin.
Eurocentric, state-centric, neoliberal democracy never imagined that its so called clash of civilizations would be with an alternative democratic system. It assumed that its democratic system would prove the only viable alternative against fascist, terroristic, and violent alternatives; its epistemological blindness could not account for, nor ever consider Occidental rationalism. Instead its inherent Eurocentric-Orientalism blind-sighted the neoliberal hawks who imagined only a world filled with ‘Islamic terrorists’ to fuel their never-ending war machines. The neo-liberals continued to dominate and re-orientate major international bodies and institutions including the U.N, NATO, World Bank, IMF, OECD into promoting its version of capitalist democracy. But, as Mohamad Tavakoli-Targhi notes “alternative non-European”, non West-centric, and social developments and “processes have been characterised as the absence of change and as unhistorical history.”
They never imagined that one of the most deeply oppressed communities in the Middle East would formulate a complex, cohesive, inclusive, multi-cultural, anti-monopolistic, and consensus-oriented cosmology, philosophy and approach to resolving ongoing minority rights, which their system at best had failed to address if not actively repress under the guise of the panopticism of Benthemite utilitarianism designed to serve the interest of elite minority.
But who best to formulate a solution to the position of the oppressed than the most oppressed, the most marginalised?
But it is time.
It is time as Kurdish activists and academics to cease wondering over the apparently ever unresolvable and ongoing “Kurdish Question”. We are not a question to be solved; we are not a mathematical formula! We are a rational collective of deeply oppressed people whose liberation ideology has produced the model for our own and millions of other colonized; a solution which capitalist modernity was at a loss to solve other than through genocides and ethnic cleansing. If we fail to effectively realize the significance of this, then we reduce the significance of the new paradigm, which is proving to be the most effective in challenging 5000 years of state-based exploitation and patriarchy.
It is no longer the Kurdish Question, but the Kurdish Alternative that needs to be the focus of our attention.
The Kurds have proceeded to locate the solution to the problem that they never were.
The true question is how hard the Eurocentric, state-centric, neoliberal democratic system will fight accepting its spectacular defeat.
- Hawzhin Azeez
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