by Nilüfer Koç
Since the US election, and especially since the inauguration of President Biden, we have witnessed the creation of a new atmosphere, one in which many seem to believe that a saviour is coming. It is expected that Biden will do things differently than his predecessor, Donald Trump. He has said as much, and won the votes of tens of millions by simply promising an end to the Trump era. The Trump presidency was a nightmare not only for many Americans, but also for the world. After decades as a real estate developer and media personality, Trump entered American politics as a populist, and immediately embraced sexism, racism, and religious chauvinism as a path to power and as the pillars of his domestic and foreign policy. A megalomaniac with little understanding of history or patience for history, law or moral principles, he made many ill-informed, rash decisions that created major issues in the US and globally that will persist for years to come. Unsurprisingly, many heads of state and opposition politicians around the world have expressed relief and optimism as Biden enters the White House. However, we must manage our expectations.
Lately, I am often asked whether the Biden presidency could bring about a positive change in the political situation in Kurdistan and Turkey. Surely Biden’s approach will be different, and, in regions of crisis and war in which the US is involved, sometimes a 1% change in US policy can be very consequential. It remains to be seen if Biden will use the Turkish state as a permanent threat against the Kurdish people. We cannot forget that Turkey has been a member of NATO, the most powerful military alliance in the world, for nearly 70 years – the first Muslim majority state to join the alliance, and its only member strategically located in the Middle East. The US strives for global hegemony, and this historic US-led military alliance is an important part of US foreign policy.
What remains to be seen is how Biden will react to the Turkish state’s undeniable slide into authoritarianism, and if he will see President Erdogan’s fascism and policies of military aggression as a threat to regional and global security. Furthermore, we do not know if Biden will acknowledge the demands of the Kurdish people for freedom and democracy and see the approach of the Kurds as a solution to the problems plaguing Turkey and the Middle East. The realisation that the dictator Erdogan is the problem and that the Kurdish movement is the solution would signal a decisive change in US foreign policy which could bring peace and prosperity to a region that was the cradle of civilisation. Kurdistan, divided between four key states in the Middle East, can be the oasis of a modern democratic solution according to the grassroots democratic paradigm of Kurdish People’s leader Abdullah Öcalan. Even now, the peoples of North and East Syria are implementing a system guided Öcalan’s ideology and have created a region of peaceful coexistence among Syria’s diverse ethnic and religious groups against the backdrop of a bloody civil war.
One who struggles in the political sphere for their goals and desires will certainly analyse major changes and trends such as the transition of power in the US and ponder their consequences. Such people do not see themselves as objects in politics, but rather as subjects who want to change their circumstances through commitment and resistance. Those who see themselves as objects will leave their fate to the others and wait for a saviour. Kurdistan is a modern-day colony, and the brutal colonialist practices of the Turkish, Arab, and Persian colonisers have denied the existence of the Kurdish people and attacked their very being in every way possible. In today’s Kurdistan, we see many victims of this colonisation who still do not believe that they can achieve anything through their own strength. However, the majority of Kurds have decolonised themselves and gained self-awareness over the last 42 years under the leadership of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK). After the rise of the Islamic State (ISIS) terrorist group in 2014, decolonised Kurds confronted this existential threat and defeated ISIS as the world watched. Despite the coordination of the world’s strongest modern armed forces and most advanced military technology, ISIS was not defeated until the Kurds, with self-confidence and political enlightenment, mobilised and eliminated the so-called “caliphate”.
Some Kurds, and other leftist and liberal activists, have simply pinned their hopes on the new US president instead of remembering their own agency and seeing themselves as actors. If one does not actively develop oneself in the political arena, even possible opportunities such as the election of Biden will not be properly utilised. I personally am enthusiastic about Öcalan’s philosophy of Xwebûn* – be yourself.
We must not accept a passive role; we have our own understanding, and we should have the courage to use it. If we know what we want and we decide to take our future into our own hands, then the new US president will certainly take note and change more than 1% of his policy toward Kurdistan. We must remember to be actors, and not simply wait for change.
Therefore: Xwebûn – be yourself!
*The word “Xwebûn” refers to “self” and “individuality”, especially used of women, in a sense of a woman’s being “of herself ’or “autonomous”.