It is apparently a crime now to call you dear. A procedure against your fellow HDP MP Garo Paylan, to rob him of his parliamentary immunity for saying “dear Demirtaş”, is in his dossier. It resonates with the banned “sayın Öcalan”, honourable Öcalan of course, for which so many people have been prosecuted over the years.
In late 2015, not too long after Turkey kicked me out of the country because of my journalism, I saw a short video of, if I recall correctly, a contingent of soldiers leaving Silvan, Diyarbakır, after they had carried out an operation against PKK-affiliated youth. There were not enough vehicles so some of the soldiers marched out of the town. Alongside the road, citizens were watching and protesting what the army had done. The violence, the killing, the destruction. Some youth were coming close to some of the young soldiers, who were at least uncomfortable even though they were in power. An elderly Kurd pushed the youth away and told one of the soldiers: “Don’t worry, the ones you tried to kill will protect you”.
Resisting a system
Why am I sharing this? For me, this is exemplary of the society that the Kurdish political movement has built over the decades. The resistance against suppression is fierce, massive and relentless, and it knows very well that it is resisting a system, not people. Your movement, the movement of all of you, has lived by example and has educated people so incredibly well. Once I described Kurdistan as a land of opposites. It’s muddy with glitters. It’s humble with pride. It’s inaccessible with open arms. You resist with love. You brought out the best of Kurdistan’s complexities and brought it to the core of the struggle.
I had no clue when I headed to Turkey as a freelance correspondent in 2006. No clue whatsoever. Not about Turkey, even less about Kurdistan, and, in retrospect, not a clue about my own country and the system I had been living in. Turkey challenged my thinking, while Kurdistan provided me with a radically different way of looking at the world and at mankind. Although I’m not sure if “different” is the right word. What I found and learned in Kurdistan resonated with me to my core. It started and accelerated my political thinking in a way that could never have happened if I had stayed in the Netherlands. Kurdistan pulled me away from the system I was submerged in and could never see for what it was because I just didn’t have the tools.
Rotten to the core
You know which system. Capitalism, racism, patriarchy, all connected and strengthening each other. Me, profiting from it at some levels but always having felt that something is rotten to the core. I have a deeper understanding now. I have felt reluctant to say that Kurdistan has radicalised me because there are a lot of misunderstandings about that word, but now that I am back living in that system, maybe it’s necessary to say it out loud. To try to find a way to contribute to movements here, often set up and lead by black women, that are dedicated to breaking down power systems just as you are doing, and who are just as relentless as all of you. Just as dedicated. Just as radical. You will definitely win. They will definitely win. We will definitely win. Power systems are not stronger than mankind.
Dear Selahattin, dear Gültan, dear Sebahat, dear Selma, dear revolutionaries of Kurdistan, I am forever indebted to you.
Fréderike Geerdink is an independent journalist. Follow her on Twitter or subscribe to her weekly newsletter Expert Kurdistan.