“New faces unveil the old graces,” says the timeless adage, teaching that sometimes the newcomers even make you long for the departed who once complained or were undervalued. It may ring true not only in personal encounters with these “faces”, but also in the ebb and flow of the years. Despite our expectation of improvement with each passing year, on the contrary, we always seem to be facing something worse.
There is, of course, no way of knowing whether this will be the case in 2024. But it is fair to say that 2023 stands out as one of the bleakest in recent memory.
In 2023, pre-existing conflicts, left over from previous years, escalated. New wars broke out and death continued relentlessly until the very last moments of the year. In Gaza alone, where the conflict between Israel and Hamas has raged on, more than 20,000 lives, mostly women and children, have been tragically lost in a short space of time.
Meanwhile, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan continued to target Rojava, the Autonomous Administration of North and East Syria, every time he was in need to hide his desperation by triggering chauvenism. Despite his actions against Rojava, including the destruction of many residential areas across the region, are clearly war crimes,he never hesitate to openly defend them.
Last week, for example, while addressing the muhtars (neighbourhood-level local leaders) gathered in his palace, he atrociously said: “Seventy facilities critical to the terrorist organisation have been hit. Among them are oil refineries. We will hit all of them. Then these places will burn for days. And we will not stop.”
When he said this, Erdoğan was in fact massacring civilians, including artists, workers, women and children. His attacks destroyed power plants, factories, agricultural land, houses, water sources, hospitals and schools in the region, all of which are essential for a society to survive.
Notably, not a single military facility was attacked.
Moreover, all of this happened at the same time as the Autonomous Administration was forging ahead with a new social contract, the Rojava Constitution, a promising document that could serve as an example for the entire Middle East and perhaps the world.
But Erdoğan’s atrocities were nothing more than a deep-seated hostility towards the Kurds, an attempt to prevent the recognition of the Kurdish will to govern themselves.
Meanwhile, Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu was doing the same thing in Gaza as Erdoğan was doing in Rojava and Southern Kurdistan.
In the last days of the year, these two leaders also quarrelled with each other.
Erdoğan accused Netanyahu of “committing genocide in Palestine”. Netanyahu, on the other hand, responded to Erdogan by saying, “Erdoğan, who is the last person to give us a moral lesson, is the one who is committing genocide against the Kurds and who holds the world record for imprisoning journalists who oppose his rule.”
Both said the right things, perhaps for the first time, as the final days of the year approach.
But the reality behind these words is this: In 2023, the world was once again confronted with barbaric massacres.
What is disgraceful is the silence that still prevails.
None of the international powers has taken a serious stand against these massacres. Even the harshest words did not go beyond the concept of “we are concerned”. The United Nations may have taken some decisions from time to time, but nobody took these decisions seriously. Unfortunately, this situation has gone down in history as one of the most shameful events of the year 2023.
We are now at the beginning of a new year.
We know that one of the reasons for all these wars and barbarities is the end of the struggles and resistances that prevent the hegemonic powers from achieving what they want. But it seems that resistance and struggle continue to grow everywhere.
The hope is that in 2024 the struggle will succeed and wars and barbarity will be defeated.