The taking over of Mosul and the controlling of several towns by ISIS, the imminent division of Iraq and the three year long civil war in Syria has made it quite clear that the Middle East is in need of a new approach to politics.
Just as we need a new approach to sects and faiths; we also need a new approach to the understanding of the nation in order to solve the current problems.
The root cause of the problems in the Middle East is the curse of nationalism and the nation-state model introduced to the region by capitalist modernity. The level sectarian violence has reached is directly linked to the nationalism and nation-state model introduced to the region. The Middle East has always had despotic states. However, for these states, the main ambition would be to install their all encompassing sovereignty. After the installation of sovereignty these states would largely steer clear of sectarian and ethnic discrimination. In this regard, modernism has increased the reasons for conflict. While Europe was going through the II. World War as a result of the capitalist modernist paradigm, other parts of the World were also going through/are still going through their own reflexive wars towards this paradigm. This is why the Middle East must question the curse of nationalism and the nation-state and strip the region of its menace in order to solve its problems.
I am not saying that there were no wars prior to this in the Middle East. There have always been ethnic and sectarian tensions. Massacres and genocides have occurred; however, these have been prompted by expansionist incentives. In other words, there aren't many instances in which peoples have wanted to annihilate or eradicate a neighbouring ethnicity or sect. Ethnic and sectarian intolerance has come to the level it is at today only after the entrance of capitalist modernity into the Middle East. This truth must be well understood.
The Kurdish people's leader Abdullah Ocalan, has thoroughly analysed the problems that the nation-state has caused throughout the World, its reflections on the Middle East and has taken a detailed look at the history of ethnicity and religion; and as a result, has come up with the concept of "Democratic Nation". He has defined the Democratic Nation as a multi-ethnic, multi-faith and multi-cultural national body, as opposed to the singularisation of the nation-state. In this understanding of the nation, there is no room for a "single nation", "single homeland", "single flag" or a "single state". The Democratic Nation is a place in which different ethnicities and faiths can live together equally and freely, in which the homeland is joint and all sections of society are able to administer themselves in what is called Democratic Autonomy, where each section of society can use its own symbols and freely express its own culture. Rather than the slave-like citizens of the nation-state, the fundamental character of the Democratic Nation is to empower and enhance democratic society, thus liberating the individual and life itself.
The Middle East has always had powerful centralised states. The oldest states were born in this region. Neither Europe or the USA have comparable state histories with the Middle East. This is one of the reasons as to why nationalism and the nation-state never caused as much havoc in the West — its birthplace — as it is did and is doing in the Middle East. The nation-state depends on an individualism isolated from sociality, this is another reason as to why in Europe, the epicentre of capitalist modernity, the transition was less painful. However, in the Middle East, the birthplace of sociality, the introduction of this new system was bound to cause major problems. As a result, those introducing and enforcing the nation-state had to impose much more oppressive and suppressive methods. In this regard, the resistance against the nation-state is stronger in the Middle East then it was in Europe. The advantage of the West was that the concept of the state was not as deep-rooted as it was in the Middle East; this allowed for an easier transition to certain democratic values.
The most appropriate national form for the Middle East is the Democratic Nation. This is because the Democratic Nation is essentially a guarantee for the free and equal existence of all differences in the Middle East. Due to the fact that within the Democratic Nation all differences are able to freely express their culture, they will all be willing to protect the Democratic Nation.
Ethnicities and faiths are different expressions of sociality. In actual fact, all these different ethnicities and faiths have more in common then they do differences. In this regard, there is a strong foundation for a joint future. The only thing is to accept their differences. Once they accept their differences, their similarities will become clear. None of these ethnicities or faiths have come from out of space; they all have their roots in the history of the Middle East. The Democratic Nation is an understanding in which all differences learn, acknowledge and complement each other.
The suffering caused by the nations-state in Europe cannot be forgotten. Europe has learned lessons from this. It cannot be said that Europe has overcome the nation-statist paradigm; however, it has adopted an approach in which the suffering for society is brought down to a minimum. We must see what the nation-statist paradigm has caused in the Middle East. The deep-rooted state structure in the Middle East is being given a nation-statist injection. The latest developments have shown us that only the implementation of the Democratic Nation can solve the problems we are facing today.
Where Democratic Nation is the spirit, Democratic Autonomy is its body. Democratic Autonomy is not the construction of a state, nor is it the construction of federal states. It is the empowerment of society in opposition to the state. It is not power-sharing, it relies on self-administration. The spirit and embodiment of Democratic Nation must urgently be implemented in the Middle East.
Sectarian violence cannot be justified. In Iraq, both the Sunnis and the Shiites have immersed themselves in sectarianism. The Kurds, rather than implement the idea of the Democratic Nation and take the democratic initiative in Iraq, have only insisted on becoming a state for themselves and have left Iraq without an alternative. If there was a movement in Iraq that had promoted the Democratic Nation, today we would not be in this situation.
The Kurdish people's leader Abdullah Ocalan has suggested the Democratic Nation project for Iraq too. He has proposed HDP-like projects for Iraq, Iran and Syria. This has once again only gone to show how much our leader Abdullah Ocalan is in touch with Middle Eastern reality.
- Mustafa Karasu