The Western left’s narrow focus on Western imperialism overlooks non-Western forms of colonialism, exemplified by Turkey’s colonial actions towards the Kurds, argued UK scholar Kamran Matin in a recent post on X calling for a more inclusive, globally-aware decolonial framework.
Matin, director of the Sussex Centre for Advanced International Theory, brought the issue to light amidst ongoing large-scale protests across Europe and the US against what he described as “Israel’s colonial ethnic cleansing of Gaza”.
Matin acknowledged the protests as inspiring yet criticised the narrow lens through which the Western left perceives colonialism. He particularly highlighted the struggle of the Kurds, pointing out their historical ties with the Palestinian movement.
Drawing a parallel, Matin expressed concern over the lack of attention towards Turkey’s destructive activities in northern Syria, which he attributes to a colonial conquest, followed by a systematic destruction of vital infrastructure. He also emphasised the irony of resettled Arab internally displaced persons (IDPs) and refugees, including Palestinians, protesting in Afrin against Israel’s ‘colonial violence’ while residing in areas usurped from Kurds during Turkey’s 2018 military operation.
Matin’s critique extended to the left’s normative-political compass, which he contended operates on a false dichotomy of ‘Western-imperialism versus anti-western imperialism’. This false dichotomy, he argued, overlooks the imperialist actions of some Eastern nations who, under the guise of ‘anti-Western imperialism’, commit atrocities similar to those they oppose.
For instance, Turkey, while opposing Western imperialism, engages in imperialistic actions against the Kurds, undermining their sovereignty and causing civilian casualties. Similarly, historical figures like Saddam Hussein, who opposed Western imperialism, committed heinous acts like the Halabja massacre.
He stressed that a genuinely decolonial theory and practice should acknowledge the broader scope of colonialism, extending beyond the Western-centric narrative, to include the imperialistic actions of non-Western nations, thereby promoting a more holistic understanding and action towards global decolonisation.