Sunday 26 October 2014
Monday 6 October 2014
While IS continue to gain ground in the Middle East it is vital that we all get our heads around who the Kurds are, where they came from, and what they aspire to. Humanity's future is tied up in theirs and they map possibilities we can learn from.
Political maps have a horrid habit of dividing people for the sake of governing over them. Or as a flat-mate of mine used to say "Borders are imaginary lines separating one group of people's imaginary rights from those of another".
The Kurdish ethnic communities, Indo-European in descent and speaking various languages; Iranian, by and large but represented in bordering Iraq, Syria and Turkey are a classic example of the top-down statist nastiness that is 'border control'. And by 'border control' I mean the control of peoples using borders.
A Brief Dystory* of the Kurdish People
As an ethnic group the Kurdish people are a huge melting pot, forming as a people in a place that is such an important geographical axis in world history. It makes them rich in legend, culture, language and diversity. but also disparate and subject to oppression by their many neighbours and - not having a state to represent them - ignored, by and large, by world powers.
Kurdistan, as an entity, came into its own in the medieval period as a series of related but autonomous emirates organised under a shah. In the sixteenth century the Ottoman empire put and end to this with their occupation and centralisation of power, leading to the first organised Kurdish resistance and fight for self-rule, leading to a fully-formed Kurdish nationalism after World War 1 as the western powers carved up the map for their own greedy gain. So a conspiracy of Turkish, Iraqi, British and other European agencies have all but put an end to Kurdish hopes of a nation state to call home - free from persecution; safe from within their borders: their own 'Holy Land' as it were.
Iraq and the KRG
There is, today (since 2006) a Kurdish regional government in Iraq (KRG) with its own Prime Minister, flag, and so on. But the majority of Kurds are resident of Turkey.
Syria and the YPG
The "People's Protection Units" (YPG) are a stateless militia operating in Syria to protect Syrian Kurds from attack with the city of Kobane (a.k.a Ayn al-Arab) in norther Syria being a particular flashpoint and strategic area in the concept of a Kurdish Syria.
Turkey and the PKK
The "Kurdish Workers Party" (PKK) founded way back in 1978, is another armed struggle of resistance against state repression of Kurds: this time in Turkey. The PKK was founded by Abdullah Öcalan "Apo" and is, according to NATO, a terrorist organisation. However, since the PKK are not known to attack unarmed civilians and are busy resisting IS, international politicos may change their mind on this.
Apo was a Leninist organisation at first but has abandoned this agenda for a fluid and contextual form of anarchism, influenced greatly by Mikhail Bakunin and by Murray Bookchin: "Democratic Confederalism".
Today, amidst the chaos of the middle east conflict, aided and abetted by a confused and avaricious Saudi-Western oil pact, the PKK are on the move and on the grow, These are, of course, precarious and unstable times.
Roarmag puts it like this: "The Kurdish struggle, however, is anything but narrowly nationalistic. In the mountains above Erbil, in the ancient heartland of Kurdistan winding across the borders of Turkey, Iran, Iraq and Syria, a social revolution has been born."
The PKK have taken to this Democratic Confederalism and their ecologically-minded and feminist egalitarianism is capturing the imaginations of Kurdish people in Turkey.
Like any organisation there is a shadowy side and many unanswered questions. The PKK is committed to violence as a means to a just end and inevitably this leads to internal contradictions between liberty and authoritarianism.
But what they demonstrate - and this is the exciting bit - is that people can have and do want stateless autonomy. We saw it in Spain in the 1930s and in Korea in the early 20th Century. In both cases it wasn't the unworkability of anarchism that destroyed it but the insatiability of the state from without, imposing its "protection" on otherwise self-organising people.
You won't read much about the PKK, or the YPG in the mainstream press - the revolution will be relativised rather than televised - but keep your radical ear to the ground because change and resistance doesn't mean rockets from drones or 'boots on the ground' it means power from the people building a new world in the shell of the old.
HT: @RevdRay and @AnotherGreen
*Dystory - A History of how it all went wrong!