Stolen Dreams, Living Nightmares – The Kurds and Us
by David Morgan
David Morgan reflects on the latest brutal betrayal of the Kurdish people and argues that their fate matters to all of us.
David Morgan is an editor and writer based in London and Manchester. He is involved mostly in historical research and has edited a number of books for the Socialist History Society: such as ‘1917: The Russian Revolution, Reactions and Impact’ and ‘The Labour Party in Historical Perspective’ to which he contributed essays on Freud and Leonard Woolf respectively. He is currently finishing a book that will reappraise the ideas of John Ruskin.
David also writes on political issues, especially the Kurds in Turkey. He is a long-standing member of the Peace in Kurdistan campaign for which in 2019 he co-edited a book, Peace Poems for Ocalan, with Estella Schmid. David also writes poetry.
The great betrayal of the Kurds in Syria by Washington began with a midnight telephone call on 6th October 2019 between President Erdogan and President Trump, after which the US troops, which had been restraining the Turkish forces, were withdrawn from the Kurdish-controlled territory, giving a greenlight to the long planned Turkish invasion of Northern Syria. Out of the chaos of the Syrian conflict, the Kurds had managed to establish a new society which they named Rojava; it has been run democratically from the grassroots, bringing all communities together and empowering women as never before in this region of the world. Rojava has acted as a beacon of hope and stands as an example of what can be achieved when people join together. Rojava has inspired idealists the world over, but it has filled the corrupt with dread that their grip on power could finally be slipping away. It thus inspired great loyalty in its numerous followers but provoked the intense hatred of its enemies. The battle is by no means over, because it is a struggle for existence that strikes at the very heart of what it means to be fully human and free.
Theft of Our Dreams
Stealing our dreams is a theft of our very humanity. It marks the forcible removal of what is most precious and essential for existence: the possibility of happiness and hope. The snatching away of hope is the worst crime that can be inflicted on a person; to inflict such an injury on an entire people must count as a profound crime against humanity, as one is accustomed to say. The media and professional advocates at law perhaps too glibly speak of abuses of human rights but always only in certain carefully selectively chosen circumstances; the language of rights is degraded by politics and marshalled in the arsenal of opportunism. Those permitted to be deserving of attention are sifted and selected to serve political interests. The universally declared basic freedoms and human rights applied across the board without fair or favour to every living human being on earth has hardly ever been applied in reality despite the florid rhetoric. When people such as the Kurds seek to demand their rights they are rebuffed and the responses to their fate are frequently either silence, blindness or embarrassment from those who like to take it upon themselves to police the world and proclaim these rights, defending and cherishing these values at least in words and inscribed as learned opinions in worthy tomes; their actions too often failing to live up to their ideals. The historic mistreatment of the Kurds is a clear case in point that holds up a mirror to the human rights lobby and our supposed democratic governments; under intense scrutiny, we find them wanting and the world order stands exposed for what it is, rendered naked in its full grotesquery, deception and ugliness.
Too trusting in their allies
The innocent dreamers of Rojava, assailed on all sides by assorted barbarisms and bandits, self-proclaimed admirers of Hitler, death cults, killers and torturers, were compelled out of necessity to bound together and embrace in common cause, the ultimate corporate power, the most ruthless on earth, driven by an utter ruthlessness founded on a belief in its own righteousness; that biggest of the big spenders on armaments, a bully always armed to the teeth and ready for a fight. The fragility of this unlikely alignment of opposites was fated from the outset to be but a temporary engagement, but never in modern memory has an ally been so brutally and abruptly betrayed.
The world looked on aghast as the Syrian Kurds were thrown to the wolves, whose plight, as the Turks were given the signal to invade, was to be callously dismissed by the Commander in Chief of the Army and Navy of the United States with words that sounded as if they had come straight from a second rate comedy script, ‘they have a lot of sand to play with’; whatever that was supposed to mean. More worrisome for those who still adhere to principles of truth and justice are the euphemisms employed by the media outlets who repeatedly describe the Turkish military’s invasion of Rojava, including the once celebrated Kobane, as an ‘incursion’. This is quite unforgiveable because they should know better; in fact they do know better; they are consciously employing such euphemisms because they are attempting to manipulate the facts to render Turkey’s actions innocuous and even invisible; using choice of words to disguise the brutal invasion that is unfolding on the ground, and which continues to be ruthlessly executed as the world’s powers sit on the side-lines and avert their eyes as horrendous crimes are committed.
All countries have their own challenges and political preoccupations on their domestic agendas which consume all their waking hours; they have their own priorities such as Brexit and reducing the use of plastic shopping bags, so maybe they must be forgiven if they cannot live up to their responsibilities to take action to avert massacres in distant lands. ‘The Kurds are worse than ISIS’, the American people have been told by their Commander in Chief; an office whose present occupant is noted at least for speaking in simple language that the people can always understand. Clearly, when he remarks that the Kurds are worse than ISIS he must be telling the truth; he is a man who can be trusted, he doesn’t swim in the swamp, and wouldn’t ever attempt to pull the wool over his people’s eyes. And President Erdogan may use blood curdling rhetoric a little too frequently for comfort and his admiration of Herr Hitler is somewhat suspect, but he is at least on the side of the West and must inevitably be considered one of the angels. Those rumours that he has been working covertly with ISIS are surely but the invention of untrustworthy radicals and anarchists who hate democracy and the free world. So goes the logic.
Former US Defense Secretary, Donald Rumsfeld is reputed to have once said, “It’s not our fault that God put America’s oil underneath other people’s countries”
While this Rumsfeld quote is almost certainly apocryphal, Trump is quite boastful of his intentions in the Middle East and of Syria he told press outside the White House, ‘I like oil. We’re keeping the oil’.
Remarks made during press questions, 1 November 2019
In truth, the move to snuff out the Rojava experiment is an attack on every person who has invested hope in this unique achievement that has come to embody the struggle for freedom of oppressed humanity everywhere. It has given hope that another world is not only possible but within our grasp right now within our own lifetime and not a distant dream emerging at some indeterminate moment in a future that never comes.
Its very existence and survival against the odds for so long has always posed a challenge to the old autocratic elites who have prevailed for centuries, ruling with brute force in their own self-interest by treating the lands and people over whom they hold sway as personal fiefdoms and mere resources to be raped and exploited without restraint for private gain. The impoverishment and enslavement of the vast majority expose the callous lies at the heart of liberal political economy whose dogmas of “trickle down” and “opportunities for all” are merely cruel jokes when the imposition of social disciplines are so mercilessly brutal.
This is a region where evils of medieval magnitude long thrive, strengthened by new technologies of oppression and crucially by alliances of convenience with international partners who ostensibly espouse far different values of liberty and human rights that barely exist locally. Unwilling flesh is coaxed, tethered and displayed for sale in the slave markets for the gratification of the lusts of those who lord it over the subject nations. Actual slavery as unendurable as any such in previous periods of the shared history of human misery now thrives amidst all the failed states, too numerous to count, the deliberate impoverishment of millions, the glaring chasms of wealth and power on a scale unimagined in past centuries.
Turkey, brooding across the border, always viewed this US-Kurdish association in war-torn Syria with deep suspicion. Their success in pushing back and defeating ISIS was greeted with a degree of trepidation in Ankara. Kurdish spokesmen have frequently warned that Erdogan was not only a friend of the Islamists but was coordinating his military activities with them; even that Turkey was aiding and supplying the jihadists. Erdogan has certainly always reserved his wrath for the Kurds, branding the Syrian Democratic Forces or SDF, as a front for the PKK. The People’s Protection Units, or YPG, whose ranks of men and women, mainly Syrian Kurds, found themselves fighting alongside the US to repel ISIS achieved great victories on the ground but at tremendous cost to themselves in the loss of many thousands of lives.
The Kurds had earned worldwide acclaim for destroying the jihadist dream of establishing a caliphate in the region, but Turkey did not join in the applause for one single moment. There was to be no alteration to Erdogan’s preparations to expunge what he stubbornly viewed as ‘terrorists’ and a mere extension of the PKK, which he demonises as the sworn enemies of the Turkish nation, despite all the appeals for a peaceful accommodation and negotiated settlement coming from the Kurds, not least from their jailed leader, Abdullah Ocalan.
In a typical display of sophistry the operation in Syria was given the code name, “Operation Peace Spring”, when the action meant anything but bringing peace. The Turkish onslaught has seen brute force inflicted against Kurdish defence units and civilians alike, showing no mercy or discrimination; it has caused mass panic and misery, huge dislocation of the local population including the uprooting of more than 300,000 people in a matter of a few days. The Turkish operations continue to this day despite a temporary ceasefire. The stated aim is to create a Turkish run ‘buffer zone’ along the Syrian border, in lands previously controlled by the Kurds, replicating on a vast scale what Turkey had earlier done in Afrin, which is basically ethnic cleansing. Turkey is seeking to replace the Kurds with the refugees from the Syrian conflict presently residing inside Turkey. This is to treat people on all sides as if they were mere pawns or counters to be moved around a chessboard. This is clearly a case of ethnic cleansing and it is appalling that the so-called international community is doing so little to call a halt. The world’s greatest power and self-appointed global policeman has, in fact, blatantly colluded with Erdogan and facilitated his crimes. Trump’s statement that the Kurds are in many ways ‘worse than ISIS’ was not an indication of presidential senility, but a conscious decision to realign United States policy with Turkey and also to undercut any accusation that the Kurds have been betrayed in a most brutal way.
Hold onto the Dream
The destruction of Rojava must not be allowed to happen. We need our dreams as much as we need air to breathe. Breathing the air of freedom is the ultimate fulfilment of all our dreams. As darkness descends on a generation, the resistance and the dreams cannot be stifled forever even if setbacks seem like fatal body blows. Many people all over the world have been inspired by the courage and resilience of the Kurdish men and women who have been fighting against great odds and malignant forces ranged against them. By so doing, they point to humanity’s enduring capacity to reshape the world in the interests of the common people rather than the corporations and dictators. The corporate powers and cynical politicians along with their hired pundits and hacks in the media want to steal the dreams of the people and to deny them the hope of a better future. This can no longer be permitted. The fate of Rojava is the fate of all of us.
© David Morgan